113th United States Congress
In addition to its diversity, the composition of the 113th Congress is notable for its inexperience. In Feb. 2013, the Washington Post published a story exploring how the current generation of congressional committee leaders see the dismantlement of traditional lawmaking procedure, and their roles within it, as a consequence of Congress' recent bulge of freshmen members. Reinforcing their theory, the report cited that over one third of House members, and 32 of the Senate's 100 members, have "served two years or less."
On June 20, 2013 the House voted down its own version of the massive farm bill that would have set the course of U.S. food policy for the next half-decade. The House version was 629 pages long, costing approximately $939.5 billion over 10 years.
Members voted down the bill in a 195-234 vote that only won 24 Democratic votes. Most Democrats voted against the bill because it cut food stamp programs by more than $20 billion, while many Republicans also voted no, saying it was too expensive a bill to pass when the country has $17 trillion in debt. The major items included in the bill are:
- Food stamps and nutrition: $743.9 billion over 10 years. This is by far the biggest part of the farm bill, with the bulk taken up by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps low-income families pay for food. It’s also the most controversial part of the House version of the farm bill. The House bill contains a number of restrictions on eligibility and money to combat food-stamp trafficking, and the House bill cuts food-stamp spending more than $20.5 billion compared to what would happen if current policy was kept in place. Some Republicans want to restrict spending even further, and have offered several amendments in order to do so, including everything from drug-testing for recipients to creating a “food-stamp registry.”
- Commodity programs: $40.1 billion over 10 years. This section includes a variety of programs to shield farmers against sharp fluctuations in prices, particularly corn, wheat, soybean, cotton, rice, peanut, and dairy producers. In past bills this was an even bigger portion overall, which often provided “direct payments” to farmers regardless of how much they actually planted or how much they would sell their crops for. This latest farm bill would cut most of these direct payments, saving about $18.6 billion over 10 years. The proposed cuts are arguably the biggest policy change in both the House and Senate bills, although much of the savings have been channeled into other types of farm aid, including billions of dollars in disaster assistance and subsidized loans for farmers.
- Crop insurance: $93 billion over 10 years. For decades, farmers have been able to buy crop insurance in case their crops fail or prices decline. This is another of the more contentious parts of the farm bill. Some critics have warned that this insurance program could cost far more than expected, depending on how crop prices shift, and the Environmental Working Group has argued that one-third of these subsidies go to the largest 4 percent of farm operators. Some House Republicans have offered amendments to cut the insurance program further.
- Conservation: $56.7 billion over 10 years. This includes programs to help farmers protect against soil erosion and to use ecologically friendly methods like drop irrigation. It also includes programs that pay farmers to grow on less land.
- Trade: $3.6 billion over 10 years. This money is used to promote U.S. crops overseas and provide food aid abroad. The government also offers some technical assistance to farmers in developing countries.
- Energy: $243 million over 10 years. This includes money for biofuels as well as for energy-efficiency programs in rural areas. It also provides funding to help develop biochemicals and bioplastics industries, in an attempt to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.
- Miscellaneous: approximately $1.5 billion over 10 years. This includes everything from forestry programs to rural development to research and development. There are programs for promoting farmers markets, selling off timber on federal lands, and even research into organic agriculture and citrus diseases. The Senate bill would create a new R&D agency akin to the National Institutes of Health.
On June 10, 2013 the Senate voted 66 to 27 to approve a farm bill that is expected to help set the course of U.S. food policy. The old farm bill expired in 2012, and the new Senate farm bill is 1,150 pages long, costing approximately $955 billion over 10 years. The major items included in the bill are:
- Food stamps and nutrition: $760.5 billion over 10 years. This is again by far the biggest part of the farm bill, with the bulk taken up by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps low-income families pay for food The Senate bill tweaks some of the rules governing eligibility and cut spending slightly by $3.9 billion compared to what would happen if current policy was kept. The bill also includes a controversial amendment by David Vitter (R) of Louisiana] to ban anyone convicted of a violent crime from food stamps for life. The House bill makes deeper cuts here, reducing food-stamp payments by $20.5 billion over 10 years compared to current policy.
- Commodity programs: $41.3 billion over 10 years. This section includes a variety of programs to shield farmers against sharp fluctuations in prices, particularly corn, wheat, soybean, cotton, rice, peanut, and dairy producers. This latest farm bill would cut most of these direct payments, saving about $17.44 billion over 10 years.
- Crop insurance: $89 billion over 10 years. For decades, farmers have been able to buy crop insurance in case their crops fail or prices decline. Under the new Senate farm bill, the government would also spend an additional $5 billion per year covering the deductibles that farmers have to pay before the insurance kicks in. This is supposed to help cushion the blow from the loss of direct payments. This is one of the more contentious parts of the farm bill and some critics have warned that this insurance program could cost far more than expected. In response, the Senate added a slight change to shrink subsidies for farmers earning more than $750,000 per year.
- Conservation: $58 billion over 10 years. This includes programs to help farmers protect against soil erosion and to use ecologically friendly methods like drop irrigation. It also includes programs that pay farmers to grow on less land. According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis, this part of the farm bill was cut by about $3.5 billion, in part because the government will be supervising a smaller total area.
- Trade: $3.6 billion over 10 years. This money is used to promote U.S. crops overseas and provide food aid abroad. The government also offers some technical assistance to farmers in developing countries. President Obama had earlier called for an overhaul of the food aid program, where instead of buying food from U.S. farmers and shipping it overseas some of the money would just be sent directly to poor countries.The Senate ended up keeping the food-aid program intact, albeit with an extra $60 million to buy food locally in developing countries.
- Energy: $1.1 billion over 10 years. This includes money for biofuels as well as for energy-efficiency programs in rural areas. It also provides funding to help develop biochemicals and bioplastics industries, in an attempt to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.
- Miscellaneous, about $1.1 billion over 10 years. This includes everything from forestry programs to rural development to research and development. There are programs for promoting farmers markets, selling off timber on federal lands, and even research into organic agriculture and citrus diseases. The Senate bill would create a new R&D agency akin to the National Institutes of Health.
Comparing the bills
Compared with the Senate bill, the House bill had less money for food stamps and nutrition. There was also somewhat less money for conservation, slightly deeper cuts to commodity payments, and a bit more money for crop insurance, due to a number of different rules used to calculate payments.
House vote on abortion ban
On June 18, 2013 the House voted 228-196, mostly along party lines, to approve a ban on late-term abortions, or abortions occurring after 20 weeks of pregnancy A number of members crossed over party lines in their votes. The vote was largely symbolic as the bill is not expected to be taken up in the Senate and the White House has threatened to veto the legislation. Some of the notable votes included:
2013 Budget Proposals
Paul Ryan Budget Plan
In March 2013 the Republican controlled House passed the budget proposal set out by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (R) for the third straight year. However, not all Republican representatives voted in favor of the proposal. 10 Republican Representatives voted against Ryan's budget proposal. The 10 Republican Representatives included Justin Amash, Paul Broun, Rick Crawford, Randy Forbes, Chris Gibson, Phil Gingrey, Joe Heck, Walter Jones, Tom Massie and David McKinley.
The proposal would have cut about $5 trillion over the next decade and aimed to balance the budget by the end of the 10-year period. The 2013 bill had opposition from 10 Republicans — the same number that voted against it in 2012. In 2011 only four Republicans cast a vote in opposition. Democrats have unanimously voted against the bill every year.
Senate Budget Proposal
On March 23, after an all-night debate that ended just before 5 a.m., by a 50 to 49 vote the Democratically controlled Senate approved its first budget in four years. No Republicans voted for the Senate plan, and four Democrats, Mark Pryor, Kay Hagan, Mark Begich and Max Baucus, opposed it. All four are from red states and are up for re-election in 2014.
The approved plan is a $3.7 trillion budget for 2014 and would provide a fast track for passage of tax increases, trim spending modestly and leave the government still deeply in the red for the next decade.
The approval of a budget in the Senate began the process of setting up contentious, and potentially fruitless, negotiations with the Republican-controlled House starting in April to reconcile two vastly different plans for dealing with the nation’s economic and budgetary problems.
The House plan brings the government’s taxes and spending into balance by 2023 with cuts to domestic spending even below the levels of automatic across-the-board cuts for federal programs now, and it orders up dramatic and controversial changes to Medicare and the tax code.
The Senate plan differs greatly, and includes $100 billion in upfront infrastructure spending to bolster the economy and calls for special fast-track rules to overhaul the tax code and raise $975 billion over 10 years in legislation that could not be filibustered. Even with that tax increase and prescribed spending cuts, the plan approved by the Senate would leave the government with a $566 billion annual deficit in 10 years, and $5.2 trillion in additional debt over that window.
March 2013 filibuster
“I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer speak,” With these words Sen. Rand Paul initiated a filibuster to delay the senate vote on the confirmation of the President's nominee to the head of the CIA and to draw attention to the questions surrounding the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or "drones" by the executive branch. Paul began speaking shortly before noon on Wednesday and continued to speak for 12 hours and 52 minutes, which marks his speech as the 9th longest filibuster in the history of the Senate. When asked why this sort of event does not occur more frequently, Paul explained that since who speaks on the Senate floor is decided by the leadership of the Senate, it's often difficult to begin a traditional filibuster. "One of the reasons filibusters don't occur is because they carefully guard the floor from letting it happen. And it was left unguarded," he said,"We had no plan and I had the wrong shoes on, my feet were hurting the whole day," 
The main topic of Paul's speech was the use of drones as a means of attacking American citizens on U.S. soil, asking "Your notification is the buzz of propellers on the drone as it flies overhead in the seconds before you're killed. Is that what we really want from our government?" . Paul protested the lack of transparency in the drone program, asking "What will be the standard for how we kill Americans in America?... Could political dissent be part of the standard for drone strikes?" Paul questioned the President's refusal to state publicly that such strikes would not be used against citizens on U.S. soil saying, "[Obama] says trust him because he hasn’t done it yet. He says he doesn’t intend to do so, but he might. Mr. President, that’s not good enough . . . so I’ve come here to speak for as long as I can to draw attention to something that I find to really be very disturbing.” Paul concluded his remarks asking for his counterparts on the other side of the aisle to join him in his efforts to obtain clarification from the president.
A total of 14 senators joined Paul in the filibuster -- 13 Republicans and one Democrat. According to the website Breitbart, 30 Republican senators did not support the filibuster. The day after the filibuster, Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Paul, responding to the filibuster. Holder wrote, "Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil? The answer to that is no."
|President of the Senate||Joe Biden||Democratic|
|Senate Majority Leadership|
|President pro tempore||Patrick Leahy||Democratic|
|Senate Majority Leader||Harry Reid||Democratic|
|Senate Majority Whip||Richard Durbin||Democratic|
|Senate Minority Leadership|
|Senate Minority Leader||Mitch McConnell||Republican|
|Senate Minority Whip||John Cornyn||Republican|
House of Representatives
|Speaker of the House||John Boehner||Republican|
|House Majority Leadership|
|House Majority Leader||Eric Cantor||Republican|
|House Majority Whip||Kevin McCarthy||Republican|
|House Minority Leadership|
|House Minority Leader||Nancy Pelosi||Democratic|
|House Minority Whip||Steny Hoyer||Democratic|
Speaker of the House Election
During the 113th Congress swearing in ceremony and election for Speaker of the House, Ohio representative and Speaker of the 112th Congress John Boehner (R) saw nine Republican members of congress either vote for someone else or abstain and vote present. This is a change from the Speaker election in 2010, where Boehner received votes from the entire 241 member Republican caucus. Boehner won re-election to the speakership with 220 votes. He needed a majority of members voting, which would be 214 of the 426 who voted. Former Speaker and California representative Nancy Pelosi (D) in turn received 192 votes.
The nine Republican members who voted for someone other than Boehner include: Justin Amash, Steve Pearce, Jim Bridenstine, Ted Yoho, Paul Broun, Louie Gohmert, Walter Jones, Thomas Massie and Tim Huelskamp. Not all members who voted for someone other the Boehner or Pelosi voted for a current member of the U.S. House. Outgoing member Allen West, former Comptroller General David Walker, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell all received votes. This highlights the fact that the speaker does not have to be a member of the U.S. House, although all previous speakers have been.
See the List of current members of the U.S. Congress page for a list of current members.
The following data lists the professions of the members of the U.S. Senate and the change in their numbers from the 112th congress.
- 45 lawyers (-1)
- 22 businesspeople (0)
- 9 career politicians and government employees (-1)
- 7 educators (0)
- 4 nonprofit and community workers (+1)
- 3 medical professionals (0)
- 3 farmers and ranchers (+1)
- 3 career military and law enforcement (+1)
- 2 entertainment and media (-1)
- 2 other (+1): 1 social worker, 1 engineer
The following data lists the professions of the members of the U.S. House and the change in their numbers from the 112th congress.
- 128 lawyers (+3)
- 108 businesspeople (-7)
- 55 career politicians and government employees (+2)
- 44 educators (+2)
- 29 medical professionals (+1)
- 19 career military and law enforcement (+2)
- 12 farmers and ranchers (-1)
- 10 nonprofit and community workers (0)
- 8 entertainment and media (+4)
- 7 accountants (0)
- 13 other (-4): 2 social workers, 1 microbiologist, 1 legal secretary, 2 clergy, 2 engineers, 1 youth camp director, 1 mill supervisor, 1 physicist, 1 carpenter, 1 union rep
Election rivals serving concurrently
There are several members of the U.S. House that were one-time rivals who faced off in previous elections. This is not a normal occurrence but does happen after redistricting or when a former candidate moves. The following is a list of such cases in the 113th Congress.
- Florida delegation
- Illinois delegation
- Nevada delegation
- Washington delegation
Lobbying positions after leaving office
In March 2013 USA Today compiled a list of sixteen former lawmakers who took on a lobbying related positions after leaving office. Included on the list were Steven C. LaTourette, Jo Ann Emerson, Denny Rehberg, Howard Berman, Scott Brown, Kathy Hochul, Jon Kyl and Joe Lieberman. The 16 former lawmakers were out of the 98 total lawmakers who have retired or were ousted by voters since January 2011 hold lobbying-related jobs. USA Today looked at lawmakers who retired, resigned or lost their seats in the last Congress — along with the handful who left their posts during the first months of the new 113th Congress.
Despite rules in place to prevent the constant rotation of lawmakers into lobbying positions, 16 former lawmakers have recently entered into positions with either lobbying firms or trade associations. Former House members are barred from lobbying their former colleagues for a year, and former senators, are barred for two years.
There are no restrictions, however, on providing behind-the-scenes advice to corporations and others seeking to shape federal legislation. Ex-lawmakers can immediately lobby the executive branch and officials in state and local governments. Many former lawmakers are taking advantage of this slight distinction, and are taking positions after their political careers end as consultants and strategists.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 The Washington Post, "The 113th Congress is the most diverse in history," January 3, 2013
- ↑ Slate.com "For the First Time Ever, We'll Have Two Black Senators Serving at the Same Time," January 30, 2013
- ↑ The Washington Post, "Congress's committee chairmen push to reassert their power," February 13, 2013
- ↑ 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 Washington Post "The House is voting on a $940 billion farm bill. Here’s what’s in it." Accessed June 20, 2013
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 The Hill "House rejects farm bill" Accessed June 20, 2013
- ↑ 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 6.16 6.17 Washington Post "The Senate is voting on a $955 billion farm bill. Here’s what’s in it." Accessed June 20, 2013
- ↑ Congressional Research Service "The 2013 Farm Bill: A Comparison of the Senate-Passed Bill (S. 954) and House-Reported Bill (H.R. 1947) with Current Law" Accessed June 20, 2013
- ↑ CNN "House passes late term abortion ban" Accessed June 20, 2013
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 U.S. House "June 18 Roll Call Vote" Accessed June 20, 2013
- ↑ Politico "House OKs 20-week abortion ban bill" Accessed June 20, 2013
- ↑ Examiner "Two Georgia Republicans voted against abortion ban (Video)" Accessed June 20, 2013
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 Washington Post "10 House Republicans Vote Against Ryan Budget" Accessed March 22, 2013
- ↑ CBS News "Senate Rejects Paul Ryan Budget" Accessed March 22, 2013
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 New York Times "Senate Passes $3.7 Trillion Budget, Setting Up Contentious Negotiations" Accessed March 25, 2013
- ↑ Washingtontimes.com"After almost 13 hours, Rand Paul ends Brennan filibuster" March 7, 2013
- ↑ NYTimes.com Republicans, Led by Rand Paul, Finally End Filibuster March 7, 2013
- ↑ CNN Poliitical ticker "Rand Paul on filibuster: 'We had no plan March 7, 2013
- ↑ FoxNews.com "Sen. Paul declares 'victory' after Holder offers assurance on drones" March 2013
- ↑ NYTimes.com "Republicans, Led by Rand Paul, Finally End Filibuster March 7,2013
- ↑ Washingtonexaminer.com "Rand Paul filibustering over drones: I will not let Obama ‘shred the Constitution’" March 7, 2013
- ↑ USA Today "Rand Paul filibuster ranks among Senate's longest" March 7, 2013
- ↑ CNN "Rand Paul says he's heard from White House after filibuster," March 7, 2013
- ↑ USA Today "Rand Paul filibuster ranks among Senate's longest," March 7, 2013
- ↑ ABC News "Rand Paul Wins Applause From GOP and Liberals," March 7, 2013
- ↑ Breitbart "AWOL: Meet The GOP Senators Who Refused to Stand With Rand," March 7, 2013
- ↑ Politico "Rand Paul filibuster blasted by Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham," March 7, 2013
- ↑ Washington Post "Eric Holder responds to Rand Paul with ‘no’," March 7, 2013
- ↑ 28.0 28.1 The Hill "Boehner reelected as Speaker; nine Republicans defect in vote," January 3, 2013
- ↑ Office of the Clerk "House Leadership & Officers," accessed January 3, 2013
- ↑ 30.0 30.1 Bloomberg Businessweek, "The 113th Congress, by the Numbers," January 10, 2013
- ↑ 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 31.4 31.5 31.6 31.7 31.8 USA Today "Former lawmakers lobbying jobs" Accessed March 27, 2013