House Majority Leader: No Longer a Stepping Stone

When people talk about the leadership hierarchy in the House, many assume the position of House Majority Leader is a stepping-stone to the Speaker’s office. For about 70 years, from 1925 to 1995, that was largely the case. However, the last time a Majority Leader became Speaker was in 1989, with the rise of Tom Foley of Washington. Since then, the Speakers have previously served as Minority Leaders or party whips. According to Sarah Binder, a professor of political science at The George Washington University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, the increased competition for the House majority and errors in judgment on the part of Majority Leaders have contributed to the trend. Furthermore, former Speaker Dennis Hastert suggests that the difficulty in pleasing different members of one’s party also makes the quest for the gavel less predictable.

National Journal: Why It’s So Hard to Move Up from Majority Leader to Speaker

DC Delegate Norton Goes to Bat for Pot Push

The Washington, DC, Board of Elections unanimously voted on Wednesday to allow residents to vote on marijuana legalization. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city’s non-voting Delegate in the House, has pledged to defend the move, if Congress tries to prohibit it. Congress blocked the legalization of medical marijuana in 1998. “We will not let history repeat itself”, Norton said in a statement. Unlike states where the direct power of the Federal government is limited in many respects, Congress has final authority over the District of Columbia. Representative Andy Harris of Maryland has already indicated that he would try to prevent the legalization of marijuana in Washington.

Washingtonians will vote on marijuana legalization in November. A January 2014 Washington Post poll suggested that support for legalization in DC was strong. The two main candidates in the mayoral race, Democrat Muriel Bowser and independent David Catania, have expressed support for the measure and would continue to examine pot policy as mayor.

Roll Call: Norton Vows to Defend DC’s Pot Legalization Initiative from Congress

Wall Street Journal: Pot Legalization Will Be on Ballot in Washington, DC

President Stands by Executive Actions

At a press conference closing the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, President Barack Obama stood by his use of Executive actions to address issues related to immigration reform. “The American people don’t want me standing around twiddling my thumbs waiting for Congress to do something,” he said. On the other hand, he acknowledged that he could only go as far as the law allows. “I never have a green light. I’m bound by the Constitution. I’m bound by the separation of powers”, he said. The President’s acknowledgement of the limits of his power comes shortly after the House of Representatives approved a resolution allowing the Speaker to initiate lawsuits against the Administration for failing to implement Obamacare as enacted. House Republicans have also frequently said they do not trust him to execute immigration laws currently on the books. The President has also faced significant criticism from pundits on the right, such as Ross Douthat and Megan McArdle. “Whatever your opinion on immigration policy, I hope it doesn’t involve supporting giving the president extremely broad powers to simply rewrite any law that he thinks ought to be different”, McArdle wrote on Wednesday.

The Hill: Obama Defends Executive Action

Bloomberg View: Opinion: Mr. President, You Can’t Do Whatever You Want

And for our latest post: Supreme Court on Recess Appointments: The President Loses, Congress Partially Wins