Week Ending May 30, 2014
The Time is Now for the House to Act on Immigration Reform
The next two months are likely the last window of opportunity this year for the House to pass legislation reforming our broken immigration system. It has been almost a year since the Senate passed its comprehensive, bipartisan bill (S. 744), but House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) continues to stonewall any floor votes even though enough votes currently exist to pass a bill similar to the Senate’s. President Obama announced this week that he is postponing any executive action to ease harsh deportation policies — which were to be announced by June 12 – until the end of summer to allow the House to legislate before the August recess. If it fails to do so, we expect the Department of Homeland Security will announce new, less severe, deportation policies.
House Advances Commerce-Science-Justice Spending Bill, Restores Spending on Critical COPS Hiring Grants
The House of Representatives late Thursday night passed a bill establishing spending levels for programs related to Commerce, Science and Justice for the next fiscal year. A number of changes were made from the version approved by the House Appropriations Committee. The full House adopted Rep. Dave Reichert’s (R-WA) amendment to restore $110 million to Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring grants – $40 million more than the funding originally provided by the committee. This amendment brings total spending on COPS Hiring grants to $180 million, equal to current levels. The bill maintains level funding of $376 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG), including $22.5 million for bulletproof vest partnership grants. AFSCME worked with a coalition of 53 national organizations representing the juvenile and criminal justice systems to fight cuts to these critical programs.
The House also approved, by a vote of 218 to 193, an amendment offered by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to direct $5 million from the Department of Justice’s budget to support an investigation into the Department of Homeland Security’s use of “prosecutorial discretion” after apprehending undocumented immigrants. Rather than moving forward to fix our broken immigration system, the GOP House majority continues to promote punitive policies against immigrants who would be eligible to legalize their status under the comprehensive immigration reform legislation (S. 744) passed overwhelmingly by the Senate almost one year ago.
In order to keep the pressure on the House to act on immigration reform, AFSCME is working with labor and other coalition partners in the Alliance for Citizenship to drive thousands of calls each week to our top legislative targets. AFSCME has dedicated a toll-free congressional hotline to connect to your House Representative. Please call 1-888-853-7037 now! Demand a vote on comprehensive immigration reform today.
House Agriculture Committee Rejects Requiring Improvements in School Meals
The Agriculture spending bill was approved by the House Appropriations Committee after prolonged debate concerning a controversial provision that would allow any school district which operates its meal program at a loss for at least six months to seek a one-year waiver from complying with new, healthier school food standards. Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) offered an amendment to strip out this provision, but it failed on a party-line vote of 22 to 29. AFSCME urged the committee to support the new standards and reject the waiver both to improve children’s health and to safeguard the investment of taxpayer dollars that are helping schools meet the new requirements. Studies indicate that since the healthier school food standards were enacted, kids are eating more fruits and vegetables, school lunch revenue is up by approximately $200 million, and more than 90% of schools are meeting the new requirements. This spending bill is expected to move to the House floor for a vote by late June or early July, with the full Senate voting shortly thereafter. The waiver language is likely to remain in the House bill and out of the Senate bill, so a conference committee will be needed to resolve the differences.
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