Senator Angus King: Potential Republican Conferee?
The Senate has two Members who are officially political independents, but they both caucus with the Democrats. That may change in the next Congress. No, the two independents are not in danger of losing. Rather, Senator Angus King of Maine has said that he would consider caucusing with the Republicans next year. “I’ll make my decision at the time based on what I think is best for Maine,” he told The Hill. King has been a fairly regular vote for the Democrats; a number of Democrats vote more frequently with Republicans than he does. However, just this week he did vote against their bill that aimed to eliminate sex discrimination in doling out wages. Although technically an independent, caucusing with a party is crucial because it guarantees committee assignments. Members of Congress occasionally switch parties, especially if they are lured away by the opposition by promises of excellent committee assignments or if their defection will cause a change in control of the body. Some are speculating about whether King is more likely to change parties if doing so will give Republicans control of the Senate.
Vermont: A Senate Powerhouse
Switching parties probably won’t do much damage to diminish King’s power in the Senate, since he has very little seniority. Seniority, the length of time one has spent in the Chamber, is one key to accruing power in the Senate—and some states have plenty of power, particularly Vermont, thanks to its two Senators, Democrat Patrick Leahy and independent/socialist Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats. Leahy, the President pro tempore, is the most senior Member of the Senate, so he has numerous advantages over his colleagues. Both Senators are also committee Chairmen: Leahy for the Judiciary and Sanders for Veterans’ Affairs. It also helps that neither Senator faces any serious competition in his reelection races.
Ways and Means Pushes for Criminal Charges in IRS Case
The House Ways and Means Committee voted to ask the Justice Department to pursue criminal charges against former IRS official Lois Lerner. The panel alleges that she singled out a conservative group, Crossroads GPS, for heightened scrutiny by her office. Her lawyer, William Taylor III, denies any wrongdoing on Lerner’s part. According to Politico, he said, “She did not violate any law or regulation. She did not mislead Congress. She did not interfere with the rights of any organization to a tax exemption. Those are the facts.” The Committee Democrats are dismissing the action as a campaign stunt. The vote to push for charges fell squarely along party lines, 23-14.
Senators Booker and Scott to Promote Apprenticeships
Bipartisanship might be flagging, but it’s not dead yet. Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina and Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey have joined forces to work on a bill to promote the hiring of apprentices. Their bill, called the LEAP Act (Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs), will give a $1500 tax write-off for businesses that hire apprentices under 25 years of age, and a $1000 write-off to those who hire apprentices over 25. The credits would be financed by prohibiting the government from printing documents that are available online (with a few exceptions). According to Senator Booker’s website, the United States has 358,000 apprentices, only a small fraction of the number in other countries.
And for our latest post: Cracks in the Senatorial Saucer: Filling the Tree, Cloture, and Curtailing Senate Debate