Coming on the heels of a filibuster in the Senate, House Democrats are staging their own act of political theater in a push for legislation on gun violence.
Led by Civil Rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a group of Democrats are holding a sit-in on the floor of the House.
Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), plan to bring forward a bipartisan bill that would block people on two different terrorist watch lists from buying guns.
The Senate is set to begin voting on four gun control bills this evening, due largely to Sen. Chris Murphy’s (D-Conn.) filibuster begun June 15 and carried into the early morning the next day.
After one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, Murphy said he’d had enough.
“I'm prepared to stand on this floor and talk […] for, frankly, as long as I can because I know that we can come together on this issue.”
That’s how Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) explained his mission on June 15 — to hold the floor until the Senate decides to act on gun violence prevention. Murphy has temporarily yielded to other senators, most notably his fellow democratic Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal, but his filibuster is still going, hours after it started at 11:21 a.m.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is occupying the floor of the U.S. Senate until the chamber agrees to pass gun violence legislation, reports The Hill.
So far, Murphy has yielded the floor a few times — without losing the right to keep speaking afterwards — to both Republican and Democratic senators so that they can ask questions or make comments.
Black clergy from across the country are expressing moral outrage about the Republican-led Senate’s vow to block any nominee President Obama picks to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, saying it reflects racism and disrespect. The Rev. Freddy Haynes of Dallas said on March 4 that Senate Republicans have condemned statements about racism by the leading GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump but he said they need to act on those words.
President Obama has secured the votes required to pass the Iran nuclear deal, reports The New York Times.
Senator Barbara Mikulski became the 34th Democrat in favor of the deal one day after Senators Chris Coons of Delaware and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania pledged their support.
The Senate has confirmed Rabbi David Saperstein as the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, making him the first non-Christian to hold the job.
Saperstein, who led the Reform Jewish movement’s Washington office for 40 years, focusing on social justice and religious freedom issues, was nominated by President Obama in July and confirmed by a 62-35 vote on Dec. 12.
Saperstein takes a liberal bent on domestic issues, and all but one of the votes against him came from a Republican.
“Religious freedom faces daunting and alarming challenges worldwide,” Saperstein said at his confirmation hearing in September. “If confirmed, I will do everything within my abilities and influence to engage every sector of the State Department and the rest of the U.S. government to integrate religious freedom into our nation’s statecraft and foreign policies.”
Saperstein, named the most influential rabbi in America by Newsweek magazine in 2009, will head the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, where he will be tasked with monitoring religious freedom abuses around the world.
I stood in line and waited until they called my number.
“Neeeext,” the woman behind the counter called!
The woman put out an energy that dared anyone to cross her, challenge her, even speak to her. She gave me a pile of papers to fill out “over there,” she waved her hands dismissively in the general direction of all the other losers sitting in rows of old school desks — the kind where the chair and the desk are attached. They were all fully engrossed in one task: filling out their unemployment insurance applications. I joined them.
Of course we weren’t losers, but it felt like we were. We were grown adults. We represented many races: white, black, Latino, and Asian. We represented a small fraction of the sea of people who were out of work at the height of the economic crisis. If you had come to us only weeks before we were school teachers and firemen, opera singers, Wall Street brokers, and justice advocates (like me). But now we were all numbers, experiencing the same humiliating moment together.
But, how much more humiliating it would have been to be thrown out of my apartment? How much more dehumanizing would it have been to become homeless or go without food?
As an icy wind whipped the sides of a packed tent, five activists committed themselves Tuesday to fast from food and drink and to camp in front of the U.S. Capitol until Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform.
“I know that there are going to be difficult days ahead of me,” said Eliseo Medina from the Service Employees International Union. “I know that going without food will not be easy and I know that I will suffer physical hunger."
“But there is a deeper hunger within me, a hunger for an end to a system that creates such misery among those who come here to escape poverty and violence in search of the American dream.”
Religious and labor leaders joined immigration activists at the launch of the “Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship.” Many will participate as “solidarity fasters,” fasting for a shorter time.
“Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” (Luke 3:11)
Many of us are blessed enough to not know what it is like to be hungry, to regularly miss meals, or to consume a diet void of essential nutrients for a healthy life. But now, millions of our brothers and sisters here in the United States may, sadly, be facing these situations because of a reduction in their food stamp benefits.
Starting Friday, all households receiving food stamp benefits will see their food budgets shrink as a temporary increase expires. A family of four could lose up to $36 a month in food stamps (also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP).
An effort to tweak President Obama’s health care reform bill to fill a gap for church health insurance plans could fail because of Republicans’ insistence on repealing the law.
Without a fix, United Methodist Church leaders say some of their churches could drop current coverage for employees once “Obamacare” takes full effect next year, according to Colette Nies, spokeswoman for the UMC’s General Board of Pension and Health Benefits.
Under Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act, more than 50 percent of UMC clergy would qualify for tax credits available to lower- and middle-class families to purchase insurance. But because of the way the law was written, those tax credits cannot be used toward insurance plans churches can offer through government-run exchanges.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio said in an interview with CBS on Sunday that “immigration reform isn’t about him.” Denying CBS’s Bob Corner insight in to his own personal views on immigration, Boehner refused to share details about what parts of the immigration bill he feels should pass the House when it comes time for their final debates. Boehner, who is opposed to granting citizenship for illegal immigrants, claimed the bill which passed the Senate last month will “not pass the House.”
The Guardian reports:
The Senate has passed a sweeping, bipartisan immigration bill that includes a pathway to citizenship, which Republican opponents have called an "amnesty" that would reward lawbreakers and attract more illegal immigrants. Boehner said taking a personal stand on the issue would make it harder for him to find consensus on immigration in the House.
Read more here.
Following Monday’s three hour closed-door caucus, members of the Senate have begun the confirmation process of President Barack Obama’s executive branch nominees, avoiding what the Washington Post calls a "constitutional showdown.” The Washington Post reports:
Senate negotiators met until about midnight searching for a deal that would avert a showdown on the Senate floor. Rank-and-file senators came out of the meeting late Monday reporting progress on the confirmation prospects of Obama’s selections to head low-profile but influential agencies.
Read more here.
The number of those who’ve benefitted from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has increased nearly seven percent from 8.7 in 2007 to 15.2 in its most recent study. Despite the economic challenges America has faced over the past several years, the Houses’ decision to do away with food stamps has not only caused controversy between the House and the Senate but has caused controversy between the government and the American people. The New York Times reports:
Something terrible has happened to the soul of the Republican Party. We’ve gone beyond bad economic doctrine. We’ve even gone beyond selfishness and special interests. At this point we’re talking about a state of mind that takes positive glee in inflicting further suffering on the already miserable.
Read more here.
With only hours left until the Senate releases the final tally of those in favor of immigration reform, House Speaker John Boehner and others prepare as controversial issues are bound to arise at the July 10 “closed-door” conference. The Daily Beast reports:
The closed-door powwow promises to be an electrifying exercise in spleen venting, thrust upon them by their Senate brethren. At some point in the next day or two, the upper chamber is expected to pass its sprawling, blood-sweat-and-tears-drenched overhaul of our FUBAR immigration system. In the run-up to voting, Hill watchers have been aflutter over whether the bill can pull enough Republican support to hit 70 “yeas”—maybe even 71! A procedural test vote Monday topped out at a mildly disappointing 67 (including 15 Rs). But the last-minute horse-trading continues, and reform advocates remain optimistic that the final tally will be big and bipartisan enough to goose the House into passing something similarly sweeping.
Read more here.
The Farm Bill might not sound like the most exciting piece of legislation ever to come out of Congress, but it has huge implications for nutrition in the United States. Among other things, the Farm Bill determines support to small farms, promoting farmers’ markets, and, oh yeah, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), what we used to call food stamps.
SNAP is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs, set to expand with increased need and decrease when people no longer need help. Most benefits are modest, and the majority of recipients who are able to work do. In fact, SNAP is effective because it not only helps people get the food they need, but its benefits encourage them to find work.
Unfortunately, it seems like both houses in Congress are set on changing the SNAP program for the worse. Putting aside the cuts the House has planned for nutrition assistance that would kick 2 million people off the program, the Senate recently accepted a change to SNAP that flies in the face of the criminal justice system and will probably have racially discriminating effects.
Tuesday the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a new five-year farm bill. The bill cuts subsidy payments and the food stamp program while expanding crop insurance. The Senate bill will reduce spending by $24 billion over 10 years. The bill passed 15-5 in committee with a full Senate vote expected later this month. USA Today reports:
The farm bill passed on Tuesday eliminates $17 billion in farm subsidies, $5 billion a year in direct payments given to farmers regardless of need and reduces $4 billion from conservation programs largely through consolidation. Spending for food stamp programs, used by 48 million Americans, also would be cut by $4 billion.
Read more here.
The Gang of Eight is banding together across party lines to fend off attacks to the guest worker program in the immigration bill. Members of the gang have been working behind the scenes to ensure only amendments they support are proposed. This has upset Democrats and Republicans who feel the bipartisan coalition has too much power over the immigration bill. Politico reports:
"One of the things that most upsets the American people about Washington is drafting a bill with special interests in secret and jamming it across the finish line in a way that minimizes public involvement and input,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said recently. “This legislation needs improvement and openness.”