Late last year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his Democratic colleagues used the so-called nuclear option to do away with the filibuster for Executive Branch nominees and those for the Judicial Branch, excepting the Supreme Court. Only 51 votes, rather than 60, are now needed to end debate on such nominees. That also means a practice called the hold for nominees is far less potent. A hold, according to a Senate glossary, is an “informal practice by which a senator informs his or her floor leader that he or she does not wish a particular bill or other measure to reach the floor for consideration.” If the item in question does come up, the holding Senator can easily object to a unanimous consent agreement. Now a holding Senator must convince a number of his majority colleagues to side with him in a filibuster, which is unlikely to happen. Roll Call’s rules maven Niels Lesniewski suggests that the hold may now be useful more for “generating headlines” rather than anything else.
Earlier this week, we wrote about how minimum wage legislation is not yet being advanced in the Senate. However, that does not mean that a number of lawmakers are not trying to work on the issue. The Democratic leadership has said that they will advance legislation raising the hourly minimum wage to $10.10, but some of their Members might be open to alternatives. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, for interest, has expressed reservations about raising the wage that high, because of its effects on the economy; however, he as indicated he might support a smaller increase. On the Republican side of the aisle, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, for example, indicated he would consider a bill that both raised minimum wage and encouraged businesses to take on new workers.
For most people, leaving school means that they no longer have to go through the dreaded ordeal of receiving report cards. Not so with Members of Congress. Each year various issue organizations release ratings and scorecards that track how closely a lawmaker supported their policies. “In some cases, groups use these grades to pressure lawmakers even before the vote. It’s all legitimate advocacy—but it can cause tension, especially when these recommendations stall or derail legislation”, writes Billy House of National Journal. In other words, lawmakers fearful of receiving a low rating from a respected organization may vote the way the outsiders wish, even if they privately would like to take another position.
Stay calm, everybody. Speaker of the House John Boehner is staying right where he is and personally told reporters that he would not be retiring. The Speaker recently purchased a condo in Florida—in an area with many fine golf courses, perfect for him to indulge in a favorite pastime—prompting speculation that he might be eying the exits. (Of course there was speculation that he was retiring, but why would he want to at this point? Republicans have good chances to take back the Senate next year, meaning that his power would be greatly increased if they succeed.) A spokesman explained that the Boehner family frequently vacations in the area and thought it would make more sense to buy rather than rent each time they visited.
Lights, Camera, Faction! Hollywood is traditionally the domain of Democrats and sundry other liberals, even though every so often you get an email or stumble across a BuzzFeed post about Republicans among their ranks. Even though Republicans in the entertainment industry are still a minority, it looks like the rest of Hollywood is starting to act more favorably to them too. According to The Wall Street Journal, entertainment executives are starting to donate more heavily to Republican organizations than in the past. The aesthetic and cultural values of Hollywood might align more closely with those of liberals than conservatives, but Republicans generally support certain policies that are more favorable to the entertainment industry’s interests, like free trade and lower taxes. (Consider, for instance, that Canada instituted tax breaks for filmmakers in 1997 so as to create a favorable environment for the entertainment industry. A couple years ago, the Canadian government even got in spat over the matter with Mark Wahlberg, who thought the incentives had been reduced. The accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has a useful interactive graphic detailing Canadian film tax breaks.) But perhaps Hollywood’s turn to the right will be well received by the party whose most revered figure in the last 50 years or so is Ronald Reagan, who served multiple terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild.
And for our latest post: Are Most Members of Congress Really Millionaires?