Minimum wage vote – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a procedural vote on legislation that would raise the minimum wage gradually from $7.25 to $10.10. No Republicans have said they’ll vote for it, and some Democrats haven’t said for sure. Even if, somehow, a minimum wage increase could pass the Senate, there’s little chance House Republicans would allow a vote.
So anyone interested in actually seeing a higher minimum wage should not hold their breath for this vote.
But that won’t stop President Obama from appearing Wednesday afternoon to complain that Republicans are standing in the way. Democrats clearly want to use the minimum wage as a wedge issue in 2014.
Why? It’s popular.
Recent surveys all indicate strong support for the proposal. A CBS poll from February shows 65% support; the idea got 60% support in an ABC News/Washington Post poll from January and 73% support in a Pew Research Center poll from January. According to a Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this month, half of registered voters surveyed nationwide said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports raising the minimum wage. A Bloomberg survey in March, like the previous polls, indicated a partisan divide: a majority of Democrats and independents but less than 50% of Republicans supporting raising the wage.
New emails fuel Benghazi inquiry – Read the whole story from CNN's Jake Tapper, who wrote:
New documents obtained by conservative watchdog Judicial Watch reinforce that the White House strongly argued that an anti-Muslim video was the reason for the deadly 2012 terror attacks on U.S. compounds in Benghazi.
This was done even though intelligence and diplomatic sources on the ground were more convinced the attacks that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in eastern Libya were carried out by terrorists and not the spontaneous work of an angry mob.
The new documents can be seen here."
Immigration prospects – House Speaker John Boehner sort of apologized Tuesday for last week mocking his GOP colleagues’ unwillingness to vote on hard issues like immigration.
"Our members know me, all right? And, but you know, sometimes I can rip people just a little too much, sometimes,” he said. “This wouldn't be the first time.”
Boehner said there’s no secret conspiracy to pass a bill, but if Obama works with Congress on other issues, there is the potential for some sort of immigration accord.
Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York told the New York Daily News there would be an immigration bill on President Obama’s desk by June or July.
Schumer said it likely would not be the bipartisan comprehensive plan passed in 2013 by the Senate - but predicting any kind of a reform bill was bold.
It is hard to see how anybody can craft a bill in the next few months that would satisfy Democrats - who insist there should be a pathway to citizenship for otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants – as well as Republicans, who insist the opposite.
Supreme Court has canary in the mine for coal states – Did the Supreme Court give Obama the go-ahead to unilaterally regulate greenhouse gases? It upheld federal regulations on emissions that cross over state lines.
As CNN’s Bill Mears wrote: “A 6-2 majority of justices issued a decision upholding federal agency rules to control coal-fired power plant emissions from 28 states. It was a rare environmental victory in a conservative majority court that has in recent years generally sided against the federal government's nationwide clean air policies. The issue was complex - whether an ‘upwind’ state that is polluting a ‘downwind’ state is free of any obligations under the so-called Good Neighbor provision, unless and until federal regulators have quantified the upwind state's contribution to downwind state's air pollution problems.”
The EPA is expected to propose new emissions regulations for power plants by June. The president has broad power under the Clean Air Act to move unilaterally. Democrats passed a sweeping climate change bill through the House in 2009, but it foundered in the Senate, even though they enjoyed a broad majority at the time.
It was in part due to conservative backlash against the House climate change bill that Democrats lost control of the House in 2010. Unilateral movement by the White House in June could lead to similar political repercussions.
The administration has delayed action on another politically charged issue with an environmental angle: the Keystone XL pipeline.
Paul Ryan takes on poverty and race with Congressional Black Caucus – Rep. Paul Ryan came under some scrutiny earlier this year when he talked about urban blight and jobless men and referenced “The Bell Curve” author Charles Murray.
Ryan referred to a “tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.”
He later apologized but defended his larger point “that government and families have to do more and rethink our approach to fighting poverty.”
On Wednesday, Ryan holds a closed-door poverty summit with the Congressional Black Caucus. They’re not going to solve all the world’s problems, but most CBC members want the government to do more to help in the inner cities and more to help the poor.
Ryan wants the government to do less. He wants to cut spending on social programs and instead give states and local governments more leeway to use the fewer federal dollars he’d allocate.
It’s hard to find the middle ground there, but Ryan deserves credit for trying to broaden outreach. He gave a major poverty speech as a candidate for vice president too.
Ryan’s summit with the Congressional Black Caucus comes at a time when the issue of race is very much in the headlines.
The comments of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the lifetime ban the NBA levied against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling have touched nerves.
Resistance to Obamacare blamed on racism – Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, argued on a Nation of Islam radio show posted by Buzzfeed that his state’s white Republican governor, Phil Bryant, refused to expand the state’s Medicaid program under Obamacare “just because a black man created it.”
Thompson put a more pointed riff on comments made recently by Attorney General Eric Holder that he and Obama have not been treated respectfully by Republicans on Capitol Hill.
“I’ve been in Washington. I saw three presidents now,” said Thompson. “I never saw George Bush treated like this. I never saw Bill Clinton treated like this, with such disrespect,” he said. “That Mitch McConnell would have the audacity to tell the President of the United States — not the chief executive, but the commanderinchief — that ‘I don’t care what you come up with, we’re going to be against it’ - now if that’s not a racist statement, I don’t know what is.”