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Dear senators: More conflict please

Maybe a little MORE conflict is what the Senate needs to get out of its funk. (Laura Patterson/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Maybe a little MORE conflict is what the Senate needs to get out of its funk. (Laura Patterson/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate pushed the nuclear option, again, to change its rules so judicial and executive nominees are subject to less debate. With a debate that featured Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delivering such eloquent bon mots as “He started it!” at Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, it’s fair to ask what it will take to restore the chamber to a place that looks like it’s populated with adults. 

“Ironically, I think it’s going to take more conflict,” says James Wallner, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute, former Senate aide and all-around procedural badass.

Wallner notes that senators seemed to want political wins with little-to-no effort. Combine that with a light schedule that has them working little more than three days at a time in Washington, and you get a complacent, lifeless chamber that shows little respect for actual discourse and legislation. So it will require shaking the place up even more, he speculates, along the lines of that seen in the late 1950s and 1960s to arrive at a place where the Senate might reclaim the moniker of World’s Greatest Deliberative Body. 

This week’s Political Theater Podcast with Wallner and Niels Lesniewski has more. Much, much more:

‘Queer Eye’ chronicles

UNITED STATES - APRIL 4: From left, Bobby Berk, Tan France, foreground, Jonathan Van Ness, and Antoni Porowski from the Netflix series Queer Eye, are seen in the Capitol after meeting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Thursday, April 4, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
What do the “Queer Eye” guys do when they visit the Capitol? Check their phones. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

No, that screaming you heard Thursday wasn’t coming from a marathon Rules Committee meeting. It was likely the parade seeking out the “Queer Eye” guys: Bobby Berk, Tan France, Jonathan Van Ness and Antoni Porowski, who star in the hit Netflix makeover show and met with House Democratic leaders to weigh in for passage of the Equality Act, an update to the 1964 Civil Rights Act that would add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. The fifth member of the cast, Kamaro Brown, wasn’t around. He might still be recovering from his visit with President Donald Trump last year. 

Swamp thing/creature

UNITED STATES - APRIL 4: Clean Water Fund’s
Clean Water Fund’s “Swamp Creature” returns to the Senate on Thursday for the Energy and Natural Resources markup of David Bernhardt’s nomination to be Interior secretary. The group is protesting Bernhardt’s ties to the oil and gas industry. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Just curious what the “Queer Eye” guys would think of the “Swamp Creature” outfit making the rounds of several Hill hearings this week. 

We may never know what they would have made of how to decorate the office of New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezwho seemed to yearn for some QE advice for her Cannon Building digs. House ethics guidelines. They can put a crimp on accepting free stuff. 

An empty chair

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross did not appear before the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross did not appear before the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

It wasn’t a Samuel Beckett play, but it was close. After Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross refused to show up for a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing Wednesday, the panel just set up an empty chair. After addressing the void standing in for the charismatic Cabinet member, panel members let the furniture walk. 

Peak subpoenas

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