house of representatives

House Passes Bill Requiring FEMA to Deliver Storm Aid to Houses of Worship

Following more than 200 houses of worship being denied FEMA aid following Superstorm Sandy, on Feb. 13, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 592 with a vote of 354-72, to clarify that houses of worship are “eligible for certain disaster relief and emergency assistance on terms equal to other eligible private nonprofit facilities, and for other purposes.” From The Hill:

Supporters of the bipartisan bill, H.R. 592, said federal aid to houses of worship is not a violation of the Constitution when that aid is meant to be used broadly for a range of affected entities. In those cases, federal aid need not be withheld from houses of worship that are, like many others, seeking to repair their buildings from storm damage.

"There is no intrinsically religious purpose in providing disaster assistance," said Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), a supporter of the bill.

Read more HERE.

McCaskill: House 'Should Be Ashamed' on Violence Against Women Act

Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

Sen. Claire McCaskill (left) speaks with Stephanie Cutter and others about the women's vote. Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

Everyone in the political sphere, on cable television, and most certainly in Washington, D.C., has only one thing on the mind pre-Christmas, and it isn’t the fat guy in the red suit (and/or Jesus). It’s the fiscal cliff. 

And while it’s an incredibly important — and incredibly complex — debate, it’s not the only one worth having right now. 

There’s this other thing — this thing that has been happening on a bipartisan basis for eighteen years — that is sitting in the House of Representatives right now while our national confidence in Congress sits at about 6 percent, and our senators are filibustering their own bills. It’s the Violence Against Women Act. This seemingly procedural piece of legislation — which usually is reauthorized without question whenever it comes up — is in danger of expiring if the House doesn’t act before the end of session. 

“This should not be controversial. This is something that should be capable of passing on a voice vote,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D – Mo.) said on Wednesday at a panel discussion on the women’s vote. 

New Congress More Religiously Diverse, Less Protestant

Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, RNS photo courtesy Tulsi Gabbard's campaign

Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, RNS photo courtesy Tulsi Gabbard's campaign

Three Buddhists, a Hindu, and a “none” will walk into the 113th Congress, and it’s no joke. Rather, it’s a series of “firsts” that reflect the growing religious diversity of the country.

When the new Congress is sworn in next January, Hawaii Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran, will represent the state’s 2nd Congressional District and will become the first Hindu in either chamber on Capitol Hill.

The 31-year-old Gabbard was born in American Samoa to a Catholic father and a Hindu mother, and moved to Hawaii as a child. She follows the Vaishnava branch of Hinduism, which venerates the deity Lord Vishnu and his primary incarnations.

Gabbard takes over the seat held by Rep. Mazie K. Hirono, who won a Senate race on Nov. 6 and will become the first Buddhist to sit in the upper chamber. There were already two other Buddhists in the House of Representatives, both of whom won re-election: Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat, and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a fellow Hawaii Democrat.

'I Expect Better of the Congress:' Rep. McGovern on SNAP Cuts

U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass. Courtesy McGovern office.

U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass. Courtesy McGovern office.

Editor's Note: On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee voted to slash $16.5 billion in nutrition assistance funding in the farm bill. Rep. James McGovern led efforts to stop the drastic cuts to anti-hunger programs. He offers his thoughts to Sojourners on the committee decision.

I am disappointed that a majority of the House Agriculture Committee voted against my amendment to eliminate the $16.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, included in the Farm Bill. These cuts are detrimental, cruel, and immoral. They literally take food away from hungry people; people who are poor; people who struggle to feed their families. SNAP is the most effective and efficient federal program. Let me repeat that – the most effective and efficient program. In fact, the error rate was 3.81 % in 2010, the lowest in the history of the program. And that rate continues to decrease.

It is false to say that these cuts won’t affect benefits or that they are merely closing loopholes. They will result in less food for hungry, low-income Americans – period.

U.S. House Chaplain Talks Conflict and His Unusual Congregation

U.S. Capitol, Gary Blakeley /

U.S. Capitol, Gary Blakeley /

After almost a year as chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, which The New York Times called "one of the most reviled congregations in the country," the Rev. Patrick Conroy was back in Portland, Ore., for a few days to meet with his Jesuit counterparts.

Conroy, 61, was a theology teacher at Jesuit High School here when the opportunity to be House chaplain arose. He was sworn in May 25 as the chamber's 60th chaplain. In a recent interview, he talked about the challenges of his job and issued a challenge of his own to American citizens. His answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Afternoon News Bytes: Jan. 13, 2012

Evangelical Leaders Struggle To Crown A Candidate; George W. Bush Cancels Visit To Swiss Charity Gala Over Fears He Could Be Arrested On Torture Charges;Class Conflict Awareness Rose Significantly From 2009 To 2011: Report; Evangelicals Taking Second Look At Romney; In The Fight Against Poverty, It’s Time for A Revolution (OPINION); Iranian Government Delays Pastor's Death Sentence For Apostasy One Year Hoping Media Will Forget; Tavis Smiley, Of Poverty Tour, Hosts “Reawakening America” With Panelists Cornel West, Suze Orman, Michael Moore; A Pro Snowboarder's Guide To Climate Change; Okay Progressives, What's Your Alternative To Ron Paul?; Congressional Chaplains Minister To A Sharply Divided Flock.

"Love Your Enemies" = "Don't Shoot Them, Either."

Non-Violence Gun Sculpture in Sweden. Image by Francois Polito via Wiki Commons.

Non-Violence Gun Sculpture in Sweden. Image by Francois Polito via Wiki Commons. (double licence GFDL et Creative Commons CC-BY-

The House of Representatives just passed a law that would allow gun-owners to carry their guns through other states based on the Constitutional right to bear arms (as opposed to the right to bear legs — once global warming kicks it up a notch expect to see this one on the floor soon).

As a native Illinoisan, I’m not sure how I should feel about this bill. Illinois is one of two states (not including Washington D.C.) that don’t have concealed carry provisions. This provision would allow Missourians and Michiganders and people from Indiana to waltz right through our state with their guns as they please. I see the merit and legality to the 2nd Amendment, yet at the same time, I recognize we have a gun violence problem in America. 

Here’s how dialogue around gun control goes these days:

For: Guns kill people.

Against: Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.

For: People kill people using guns

Against: And the Second Amendment?

For: Shoot… No, wait!   

God and Class Warfare

Wall Street has been devastating Main Street for some time. And when the politicians -- most of them bought by Wall Street -- say nothing, it's called "responsible economics." But when somebody, anybody, complains about people suffering and that the political deck in official Washington has been stacked in favor of Wall Street, the accusation of class warfare quickly emerges. "Just who do these people think they are," they ask. The truth is that the people screaming about class warfare this week aren't really concerned about the warfare. They're just concerned that their class -- or the class that has bought and paid for their political careers -- continues to win the war.

So where is God in all of this? Is God into class warfare? No, of course not. God really does love us all, sinners and saints alike, rich and poor, mansion dwellers and ghetto dwellers. But the God of the Bible has a special concern for the poor and is openly suspicious of the rich. And if that is not clear in the Bible nothing is.

Picture This

Picture this: Hundreds of thousands of women, men, and children plod across barren cracked earth. Dead cows and human corpses litter the roads, revealing to us evidence of two things: 1) the hottest summer on record in Somalia, which caused the worst drought and famine in 60 years; and 2) twenty years of a truly failed Somali government swallowed up in cycles of violence.

Picture this: Posturing politicians claim to stand up for the rights of Americans, even as they hijack the proverbial steering wheel of America. They hold a proverbial gun to the heads of every American, and say outright that they'd have no problem driving us all off a proverbial cliff if millionaires and billionaires don't remain protected from raised taxes, and if we don't cut more programs that protect working and poor people.