Wednesday, February 25, 2015

DHS: Whole Lotta Hubbub

The National Journal website has a ticker counting down the seconds to a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security, when funding for the Department runs out at midnight on Friday, February 27. Counting the October 2013 full government shutdown, if Congress can't reach agreement on some kind of funding package for DHS, this would be second shutdown of the Department in less than 18 months due to legislative brinksmanship.

But while that brinksmanship might make good beltway newspaper copy, in practicality, the shutting down of DHS will have little meaningful impact on the day to day function of the various agencies under the Department's purview. Essential functions, like the TSA folks who screen your person and your packed bags at the airport will all report for duty; likewise the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard. According to the Congressional Research Service, and as reported in the National Journal, 85% of DHS employees continued working during the 2013 shutdown.

The optics on this appear terrible for Republicans, who eight weeks ago were talking a lot about "showing the American people we can govern." Generally speaking, governing would not include the (semi) regular shuttering of entire government departments. And to confirm that past is indeed prologue, while they controlled just one chamber of Congress in 2013, they took the majority of blame for that shutdown. With control of both chambers in 2015, I believe they will take virtually all of the blame this time around; and as Charlie Dent and Lindsay Graham (Republicans from the House and Senate, respectively) have indicated, I am not the only one who feels this way.

So the question remains, if the department will carry on fairly normally, and the polling indicates Republicans will take the lion's share of the blame, why does the path forward on keeping DHS funded seem so murky; why won't the GOP simply decide the juice is not worth the squeeze, pass a clean funding bill, and then move to consider a standalone piece of legislation to undo or dramatically reform the President's December 2014 immigration executive order?

Indications are that the Senate will do just that, probably at the last minute, after spending a full month of floor time to achieve nothing except a very predictable outcome. So predictable in fact that when DHS was left out of the long-term funding agreement passed in December, you didn't have to be Lyndon Johnson to figure out that this was going to happen, and what I mean when I say 'this' is: roughly 8 weeks of progressively high-volume posturing followed by a meek as a mouse agreement to keep DHS funded. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, we can count on the Senate to do the right thing, after it has exhausted all other options.           

Which leaves the House. With the Senate perhaps clearing the way for a clean DHS funding bill, Speaker Boehner and his leadership team need to make the decision whether to bring forward a clean bill, and likely pass it with all the Democrats, and moderate Republicans; or do they abide by the Hastert Rule, and decline to bring anything to the House floor that does not have the support of a majority of the majority?

I am not sure how many times John Boehner, an eminently reasonable and results-oriented fellow, who has been known to refer to some in his own caucus as 'knuckledheads,' can roll his caucus and maintain his hold on the Speaker's gavel. But for a huge portion of his caucus, those Republican House members who come from the reddest districts and who will face zero negative push back for a DHS shutdown (but who would get immense push back if they don't take action against Obama's E.O.), there is nothing Boehner can offer to keep them in line and collectively the will force his hand. This will be the paradigm John Boehner faces for at least the next two years, if he can hang on that long.      

Assuming the Senate clears a clean DHS funding bill, Boehner will have to make the tough call: roll the caucus now, or roll them once the blame has been assigned. No one envies the Speaker these days.

Updated @ 4:04PM on 2/25: After not speaking to one another for 2 weeks, Speaker Boehner was seen entering Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office this afternoon. Boehner has said that the House would not move forward until the Senate path became more clear. The Senate is set to vote on a clean DHS bill tomorrow, Thursday 2/26. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Carter Farm Growth Allocation Public Hearing TONIGHT

Centreville - There is going to be lots more here on this topic in the coming weeks, but tonight the Centreville Town Council will be hosting a public hearing on the growth allocation for the development of the Carter Farm in northwest Centreville.

First, you might be asking: where is the Carter Farm? Well, its the property that surrounds the large pillared home on Chesterfield Avenue, (it will be on the right if you are headed to Doc's from downtown Centreville). The development in question would border Chesterfield Avenue past the Carter Home, and would widen out like a fan behind the Carter home, filling the field that you currently see just beyond the white split-rail fence.

The Carter Farm site is just under 47 acres, and the current proposal for the development would feature 138 total residences, including 93 single family detached homes, 44 townhomes, and the existing residence (i.e. the Carter house).

It is likely worth noting that the current proposal for the Carter Farm is a reduction from an earlier proposal, wherein condominums were removed and replaced with single family homes and townhomes; the development was also scaled back from 195 units to the current 138 units.  

You may want to pay attention to the ongoing development of the Carter Farm property. If fully built out and with an average of 3 persons per household, the Carter Farm development would add approximately 400 residents to Centreville, a nearly 10% increase in population for the town.
The meeting of the Town Council is tonight, February 19, 2015 at 7PM in the Liberty Building.


Contact: StevenKKline(at)gmail(dot)com   

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


As some of you might have noticed, Kline Online took a bit of a hiatus from about Thanksgiving until, well, until right now. What even fewer of you realize is the reason was largely legitimate and not linked to my overall laziness or lack of gumption: I was asked to be a member of Governor Hogan's Department of Natural Resources Transition Team in December, and out of respect for that process, and out of deference to Governor Hogan's prerogatives, I decided to stop blogging and focus on that endeavor without public comment or opinion.  That process has now concluded, and while I certainly hope to remain active in the ongoing decisions that Governor Hogan and DNR Secretary-designee Mark Belton will make in the field of Maryland's natural resources, my formal role in that process has concluded for the time being.

Of course, I also got stomped like a narc at a biker rally (tip of the hat to Dennis Miller for that illustrative reference) on Election Day, being one of only two Republicans in all of Queen Anne's County to lose an election. (And I didn't just lose, I lost. With emphasis.) But that was mostly because no one knew I was a Republican (Board of Education is a non-partisan race) and not from any obvious personal shortcomings. Indeed, I got a lot of pretty positive feedback from my performance at candidate's forums, but about 1/1000th of one percent of voters attended those forums, so it was not what one would call a target rich environment. It's hard to get folks to pay attention to a Board of Education race; but the election taught me a lot of valuable things; things I may or may not ever blog about, but may just pepper into other posts about other things. 

And there are lots of other things. The Department of Natural Resources is considering legalizing the commercial sale of wild venison; striped bass management seems to be an ongoing question, major residential development may be coming to Centreville, Governor Hogan has staked out his positions on the "Rain Tax" and the Phosphorous Management Tool, Congress might well take up (for the third time!) a Bipartisan Sportsmen's package, and of course the 2016 election season bears down on us like an inevitable gray cloud mass on the Western horizon, inching ever-closer with its gloom. So like I said, there is lots to write about.

I have thoroughly missed this. I take this writing more seriously than you might imagine, I use it as a way to glean knowledge: less about informing others, more about informing myself. Navigating around a story, learning its ins and outs, talking to folks, becoming familiar enough to write the story, and often to craft a thoughtful and defensible opinion, is as much for me about personal discovery as it is about convincing anyone of anything. I lobby for a living; this blog is not meant to lobby anyone, there are much better ways of doing that.

In the last 18 months, my words have appeared regularly in publication under someone else's name. I have been remunerated well for those services, but would be remiss if I didn't point out that writing for others' attribution bears a stunning resemblance to the world's oldest profession.  I am proud that my writing is fit for publication, proud that it can help to pay the bills, and it certainly has helped as the family has gotten larger. But this blog, appearing under my own name, has been incredibly therapeutic for me for years, as a way of going on the record and taking a firm stand on the issues I find important. Perhaps this blog in its frankness, in its disregard for popularity, is a liability to my ambition, but perhaps this blog, this unvarnished writing, should be a bigger part of my greater ambition. That is a standing question that every day I get closer to answering.