Tutor profile: Reed P.
Subject: US Government and Politics
What is a blue slip in the US Senate?
In the US Senate, a blue slip is a legislative tradition in Congress where a form is given to a US Senator to write their opinion about a federal judicial nominee from their home state. While not codified in any procedure or law, the practice began in 1917. It is considered a courtesy to value that state's senators in the nomination/confirmation process. While informal and often informative, it did/does not always mean the opinion determines what happens. Various chairs of the Senate Judiciary Committee have determined its weight. In 2019, Eric Miller of Washington would become the first federal judicial nominee since the inception of the blue slips to be confirmed by the Senate without positive blue slips from either senator.
Subject: Political Science
Midterm elections are often a backlash of the incumbent president. While presidential elections can lead to sweeping change, midterm elections get less focus. What is a significant midterm election in American politics and why?
Personally, the most transformational individual to America's legislative branch in the last hundred years is Newt Gingrich. He was a Congressman from Georgia (1979-1999) and served as Speaker of the House (1995-1999). While there are many, many details of his speakership that fundamentally changed Congress to how we know it today, it is all because of the midterm election of 1994. With a PhD in history, Newt Gingrich understood at every level how Congress worked throughout history. Laying the groundwork during the Reagan years, he assumed to House Minority Whip in 1989. In the 1994 midterm elections, Gingrich led an effort to unite Republican factions and convince Americans to vote Republican. While that sounds generic and that every party seems to do that every year, 1994 was not your average election night. Newt Gingrich along with other Republicans created Contract with America- a legislative agenda that led out in detail ten policies they promised to do in the first 100 days if they won in November. It included policies regarding welfare reform, government efficiency, foreign policy, and a balanced budget among other ideas while leaving out polarizing topics such as abortion or school prayer. Almost every Republican candidate (incumbent and challenger) signed on. In a backlash to (mainly) President Bill Clinton's healthcare reform and Whitewater investigation, Election Day would be a lot different from 1992. The result of the general election led to the GOP picking up 54 seats in the lower chamber- leading to a Republican-controlled US House of Representatives for the first time since 1955. They had previous had two Congresses (1947-1949 and 1953-1955) but other than that, they had been in the minority since 1931. Seemingly overnight, the entire institution's makeup changed. Not only had the Republican Leader Bob Michel retired which put #2 Newt Gingrich in charge, but Speaker Tom Foley lost his election in his home district in Washington- becoming the first sitting Speaker of the House to lose re-election in their district since 1863. In all, 34 incumbent Democrats would lose and Republicans would outnumber Democrats in the south for the first time since Reconstruction. Republicans would maintain control of the US House of Representatives until the 2006 midterms. In the Senate, Republicans would pick up eight seats- gaining majority for the first time since the 1986 elections and the first net-gain of senate seats since 1980.
Subject: US History
We often talk about the Louisiana Purchase or Purchase of Alaska but an often overlooked land acquisition is the Gadsden Purchase. What is it and what is it's significance?
The Gadsden Purchase was a land acquisition with Mexico to acquire what is now the southern parts of present day New Mexico and Arizona. The cost was $10 million. So what's the deal with this seemingly little sliver of land (in comparison to Alaska or Louisiana purchases)? Well first off, it was important to have the land to build the southern part of the Transcontinental Railroad. Though the United States had just gotten out of a war with Mexico and received much land (Mexican Cession of 1848), purchasing the land rather than an annexation or conquering would legitimize ownership of the land for the United States and Mexico would no longer have claim to the land (which otherwise could incentivize them to go to war to reclaim it). As with other land expansion, the question on people's minds is if this led to more states in the Union: slave state or free state? The balance of the US Senate from an equal number of slave/free states was always on everyone's mind and would dictate much of the early/mid 1800s. Both Northerners and Southerners were concerned the Gadsden Purchase would tip the balance. Additionally, while today there is seemingly a sentiment to have strict borders with Mexico- it was very different 150 years ago. There was actually a faction of Americans who wanted to invade Mexico! The Manifest Destiny belief pushed Americans to expand from coast to coast; the Gadsden Purchase is one of many events that incrementally made that happen. Tip if you want to never forget about the Gadsden Purchase: There is a short Jimmy Fallon bit all about the Gadsden Purchase you can find on YouTube and you'll never forget it! It was shown to me by my AP US History teacher in class and I've always remembered it.
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