House, Senate Plan Post-Recess Agendas
Congress will return from its annual August recess next week, and party leaders in both the House and Senate are preparing a host of measures in the run up to campaign season. Roll Call is reporting that House Speaker John Boehner told his Republican colleagues on a conference call that they would try to distinguish themselves from the Senate by passing several bills which aim to reduce unemployment and save Americans money. Democrats in the Senate, meanwhile, could hold votes on a bill to raise the Federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10—a major priority for the Democratic base. They may also vote on a bill permitting people to apply for lower interest rates on student loans. Congress is expected to adjourn again on September 23 so Members can devote more time to their reelection campaigns.
Political Questions Plaguing ISIS Response
The two Chambers’ own goals aside, one of the major issues they will have to face is the threat posed to national and international security by the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, also ISIS or ISIL). The Obama Administration has not yet released information on its plan to address IS, and one of the critical questions President Obama will have to face is whether he will ask Congress for authorization for his plans. He will also have to determine which Democrats in Congress he can count on for support. Some Democrats, like Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, are open to more aggressive options than others. Aside from his considering support within his own party, he will also have to determine how much he should listen to the so-called “hawks”, like Senator John McCain of Arizona. And of course, there is always the question of what the public thinks. The public reportedly wants a response to ISIS, but most do not support the use of ground troops to fight them.
Senator Coburn: Call an Amendment Convention
Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is retiring at the end of the year, and he already knows exactly what he is going to do with his newly found free time: work to call a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution. The Framers of the Constitution provided two ways of amending the document. Per Article V, Congress could consider amendments, and if two-thirds of both Chambers agreed, the new provisions would be sent to the states for ratification. Otherwise, two-thirds of the states could call for a convention to propose amendments, which would also have to be ratified by the states. The country has never used a convention to amend the Constitution. Calling a convention to adopt amendments is fraught with murky constitutional questions. Some question, for instance, whether the gathering could only consider questions it has a mandate for. Although the country has never had an amendment convention before, there have been movements in the past. According to Philip Bump of The Washington Post, there was a strong movement to call a convention to draft an amendment providing for the direct election of Senators (rather than election by state legislatures, per the Constitution’s original provisions), and in the face of public demand, Congress proposed an amendment to the same effect, which eventually became the 17th Amendment. Senator Coburn says he would like to see the Constitution amended to include term limits, a requirement that the Federal budget be balanced, limit the President’s regulatory power and strengthen congressional powers.
And for our latest post: Perry’s Veto Case: A New–and Potentially Dangerous–Form of Judicial Review?