Morning Reading List 07.23.13

House Republicans’ recess plans — Congress is preparing for the August recess, and, as Roll Call’s Matt Fuller reports, House Republicans will be returning to their home districts with an “exceptionally detailed guide” on how to convince their constituents that Washington is in the crapper. The House Republican Conference issued the guide, titled “Fighting Washington for All Americans,” and it seems to have a strange obsession with social media, especially with the video app Vine. Among the 31 pages of the packet are how-to’s for everything from holding an “Emergency Health Care Town Hall” to writing op-eds (samples included) to going on tours of farms and ag-related businesses. Lines in the sample op-eds that Fuller quotes are enough to make anyone gag. The one titled “Fighting Washington for You” warns that “Washington is out of control.” But the congressman who will use to change a few words and then publish it is, of course, not at fault, because “Every day I serve in Congress, I work to fight Washington.” There’s more, but we’ll spare you. The guide also suggests that members host a job fair and invite veterans and college students, as long as they can speak and accompany the media on a tour of the fair. With all the events, the guide obsessively encourages live-tweeting and using hashtags. And make sure to put something on Vine. And Instagram, #nofilter.

Why you should read it: It’s a good, weird, inside look at what House Republicans doing when they head home for the recess. Also, Fuller read through all 31 pages that we’re sure were full of more gag-worthy “Washington is out of control” rhetoric.

Senate is working better, maybe — Vicki Kennedy, widow of the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, doesn’t think the Senate is a well-oiled machine, but she says her husband would say that it’s getting better. As USA Today’s Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page writes, she remembers how worried her husband was about the growing gridlock and partisan polarization of the Senate. But looking to “interesting coalitions” and the recent immigration package that was passed, Kennedy said the body is showing signs of becoming more functional. The gridlock of Congress in recent years has caused young people once eager about politics to become cynical of elected office, said Kennedy, who is a member of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission of Political Reform. In a bit of self-promotion, Page mentions that Kennedy is speaking at a town-hall-style meeting at the National Constitution Center, which happens to be sponsored by USA Today and BPC. Though obviously interested in politics, Kennedy said she has no interest in taking over her husband’s seat because, “That was his job.” Though she said it “would be up to the president,” she didn’t rule out the possibility of a job in the Obama Administration. She said she has “great admiration” for President Obama, but said the White House fell short in selling the Affordable Care Act. “There needs to be more tooting of the horn,” she said.

Why you should read it: It’s always good, and uncommon, to hear someone say that any part of Congress is working well, or at least improving. And Kennedy is no stranger to Congress, so just maybe she knows what she’s talking about.


It’s not over yet The debate on the Keystone pipeline has been a big player in the news cycle for years. But, as Deron Lee reports for Columbia Journalism Review, many midwest publications are tired of reporting on it. As The Daily Oklahoman pointed out in February, “1,616 days, 12 hours, 27 minutes and 57 seconds have gone by since the permit applications was filed.” As many other publications echoed, that is a hell of a long time to be reporting on an issue that seems to be going in circles, but Lee argues that the story is far from over. Rather, Lee writes, the fight is unresolved and “as intense as ever.” He cites a few reasons why midwest publications could be ready to take a break from the coverage. Lobbying, Lee points out, has had quite an influence on the Keystone discussion. But Nebraska media is hardly mentioning it. As Lee notes, the state and its media aren’t used to being the center of a national political controversy. President Obama’s decision on the application is pending, and Lee says this is the next turn in the story, if the media can hang on that long. Then the media can test the claims that TransCanada, the company attempting to build the pipeline, has made that it will boost the economy and reduce foreign oil dependency.

Why you should read it: Keystone has been in the media for years, but as Obama nears a decision on it, it becomes an issue of growing importance. It would be especially helpful to read if you’re a reporter for a midwest publication.