As Congress returns and as leaders of the Senate and House continue their desperate search for ways to pass their health and budget proposals, I have one simple question for those whose votes will decide these matters: Is this really why you came to Washington, to take health care from the sick and food from the hungry?
Pollution, poverty, and war take their toll on our health in ways beyond our control, and yet health care in our nation is still treated as a commodity for those who can afford it, rather than as a right for all. It is unthinkable that our nation can build pipelines that poison clean drinking water but expect citizens to suffer without affordable treatment due to lead exposure. It is unacceptable that some communities are trapped in cycles of poverty through discrimination often born of racism but cannot afford the medicine they need because their money must go to cheap, often less-nutritious food. And while it is unconscionable that our nation spends more on destroying lives abroad than it does on saving lives at home, the damage from war exceeds mere monetary cost. Investing in fighting an enemy abroad fuels enmity and distrust at home, putting undo stress on us and eroding our sense of compassion.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened on March 27 to cut off U.S. Justice Department grants to cities that fail to assist federal immigration authorities, moving the Trump administration closer to a potential clash with leaders of America's largest urban centers.
Sessions' statements were aimed at a dozens of cities and other local governments, including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, that have joined a growing "sanctuary" movement aimed at shielding illegal immigrants from stepped-up deportation efforts.
People of faith should be about forming a circle of protection when it comes to kids’ safety, flourishing, and equal access to great education. In these times, we also need robust debate about what policies best reflect our values. We, and our kids, will all be better for it.
The United States Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early 1960s, according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center.
Nearly 91 percent of members of the 115th Congress convening on Jan. 3 describe themselves as Christian, compared to 95 percent of Congress members serving from 1961 to 1962, according to congressional data compiled by CQ Roll Call and analyzed by Pew.
Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, has come under fire for his friendship with Russian president Vladimir Putin – who is suspected of trying to tip the election to Trump – his lack of diplomatic experience, and the fact that he is a corporate bigwig who champions fossil fuels, even as the threat of global warming grows.
But Tillerson, whose nomination was announced on Dec. 13, may also face criticism from an unexpected quarter – social conservatives whose support was critical to Trump’s unexpected election last month.
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.