Week Ending June 5, 2015
Hill Offices Flooded with Calls Against Fast Track
On Wednesday, union members, environmentalists, seniors, consumer activists, faith activists and others from around the country flooded members of the House with calls, urging a vote against fast track trade legislation. AFSCME members joined the national call-in day and placed nearly 1,200 calls.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced on Thursday that the House would not debate the fast track bill next week, indicating that proponents do not have enough votes to pass the legislation. However, dozens of Representatives remain undecided about the bill. Undecided Democrats are being pressed hard by President Obama to vote in favor, while Speaker Boehner is working to line up votes among Republicans.
Defeating fast track in the House hinges on the efforts of union members and activists in the states. If you did not call on Wednesday, please call your member of Congress today. Leave a message for your Representative urging him/her to vote no on fast track.
House Passes Commerce-Justice-Science Spending Bill after Significant Changes
On Wednesday the House passed a $51.4 billion Commerce-Justice-Science fiscal year 2016 spending bill (H.R. 2578) after a lengthy amendment process. The 242 to 183 vote was largely along party-lines, with 12 Democrats joining the majority and 10 Republicans voting against. Notably, the House passed an amendment introduced by Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) to restore $100 million for the COPS Hiring program, which had been eliminated in committee.
House members also used this appropriations bill to pass an amendment that would block the Obama administration from continuing to pursue its legal defense of the President’s November 2014 immigration actions. These actions established a Deferred Action for Parental Responsibility (DAPA) program to give temporary legal status to parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, and an expansion of the established Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The amendment, introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), passed on a party-line vote of 222 to 214, with 19 Republicans joining all Democrats in opposition.
The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy earlier in the week threatening to veto the legislation should it reach his desk, citing the low funding levels across all agencies. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he will work to oppose under-funded spending bills along with similar efforts by House Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
33 Senators Urge Humane Policies for Families Fleeing Violence in Central America
One third of the Senate, representing the vast majority of the Democratic caucus, sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson this week, urging him to end the practice of presumptive detention of families caught crossing our southern border. This follows a letter signed by 136 House members sent to Secretary Johnson last week, also urging an end to family detention. Since summer 2014, the capacity for family detention grew from fewer than 100 beds to an anticipated 3,700 beds by 2016. Most of the Central American families detained by the DHS have come to the U.S. seeking refugee protection, having fled one of the most dangerous regions in the world. Eighty-eight percent of detained families have demonstrated to a DHS asylum officer that they have a credible fear of persecution if deported. For years, families seeking asylum met their legal requirements without the harm of detention.
In May, a federal judge ruled tentatively that detaining mothers and children violates a legal agreement reached between the federal government and immigrant rights advocates in 1997 pertaining to the housing and care of migrant children. Negotiations are underway now with the U.S. Department of Justice to attempt to satisfy the court’s concerns. If they cannot reach an agreement, the judge could issue a final ruling that would have sweeping implications for the administration’s family detention policies.
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