Posts tagged with: senate

fight-for-15-and-a-union-672x372Sometimes predicting the future is difficult (ask anyone who thought we’d have flying cars by now). But sometimes foreseeing what is going to happen — at least to a high degree of probability — is all too easy.

For example, it’s fairly simple to ascertain that sometime in 2017 or 2018 we will see a huge spike in the unemployment for the working poor and increasing the replacement of low-skilled jobs with automation (i.e., robots). The reason: the $15 minimum wage.

Earlier this year the first and fourth most populous states in the U.S. — California and New York — adopted the increase to $15. Numerous cities have also adopted the higher wage floor. But perhaps the most significant step forward for the “Fight for $15” movement is that it is being adopted by the entire Democratic Party.

On Friday, the Democratic National Committee released a draft of the proposed party platform that includes a number of economically destructive proposals, including a federal minimum wage of $15:
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Americans are growing in their distrust of the U.S. government and its leaders, with polls typically showing approval of Congress somewhere around 11%. As Senator Ben Sasse put it in his first remarks to the U.S. Senate, “The people despise us all.”

“No one in this body thinks the Senate is laser-focused on the most pressing issues facing the nation,” he said, “No one. Some of us lament this; some are angered by it; many are resigned to it; some try to dispassionately explain how they think it came to be. But no one disputes it.”

In a recent interview with Peter Robinson on Uncommon Knowledge, Sasse expounds on this further, noting that the problems in Congress have less to do with nefariousness (though that surely exists) than with efficacy. “There is a gigantic deficit of vision,” he says. “We have generational challenges, just at the level of federal policy.”

Sasse traces the decline of American government from Teddy Roosevelt onward, highlighting the 1960s as the eventual tipping point away from constrained constitutional governance. The federal government has now expanded into far too many areas, he argues, and the culture has responded in turn. (more…)

patriot-actWhy is the Patriot Act back in the news?

Last night three key provisions of the law were allowed to expire (at least temporarily) after Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked an extension of the program during a Sunday session of the Senate.

What is the Patriot Act?

The official title of the law is the USA Patriot Act of 2001, an acronym for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.” The 320-page law, signed a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and a series of bioterrorism incidents (i.e., anthrax attacks), was intended to “deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes.”

Beginning on December 31, 2005, many provisions of the act were set to expire unless Congress reauthorized them. Out of the sixteen sections, 13 were allowed to expire while three were reauthorized. After approval by Congress, President Bush signed an extension in 2006 and President Obama signed an extension in 2011. On June 1, 2015 the last three sections expired.

What were those last three sections that just expired?

The three sections that recently expired were:
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tppThe controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), backed by many Republicans and President Obama, hit a snag Tuesday when key Democrats spoke out against the agreement.

What exactly is the TPP? It is a free trade agreement with 12 nations (including China and Japan) that purports to increase economic growth, jobs and free trade. However, there is much opposition in Congress.

Leading opponents of the measure in the Senate have pushed for additional protections for U.S. workers and address concerns about alleged foreign-currency manipulation by China that makes American products too expensive.

“It’s a betrayal of workers and small business in our communities to pass fast track, to put it on the president’s desk without enforcement  … and without helping workers,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told The Washington Post.

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child trafficking tearsA bill designed to aid victims of human trafficking in the U.S. should not be divisive. It should not be stalled in the House of Representatives. It should be enacted swiftly, so as to get help to as many victims as possible, as quickly as possible.

This bill would improve programs already in place that are specifically designed to aid underage victims of trafficking, increase the ease of which local law enforcement and prosecutors can investigate possible trafficking and child pornography, and establish more services for child victims of trafficking.

So, why is this bill stalled? (more…)

Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Case Challenging Affordable Care ActArchbishop William Lori of Baltimore and Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, are asking the Catholic faithful and others to reach out to their senators in response to a piece of legislation known as “Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act of 2014” (S. 2578.) Lori is the chairman for the United State’s Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, and O’Malley serves as chair for the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

According to the letter on the USCCB website, the legislation is an attempt to reduce religious freedom, and puts health coverage above one of America’s most cherished freedoms. The bishops list several concerns:

  • This new legislation “appears to override  ‘any other provision of Federal law’ that protects religious freedom or rights of conscience regarding health coverage mandates.”
  • This bill would “rollback” not only federally-protected conscience clauses regarding artificial birth control “but to any ‘specific health care item or service’ that is mandated by any federal law or regulation.” In the future, if the executive branch decides to add late-term abortions (for example) to mandated health care coverage, employers would have no recourse.
  • This bill applies to all employers, not simply for-profit employers.
  • The bill would extend its reach past employees, to their dependents. For instance, a teen girl may wish to have an abortion over her parent’s objection, and the parent’s health care package would have to pay for it. The daughter would be federally-entitled to the abortion coverage.
  • The bishops believe this type of legislation will lead to employers dropping health care coverage for employees all together.

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GOP-Civil-WarThere’s a fascinating profile of Jim DeMint, the new president of the Heritage Foundation, in BusinessWeek, which makes a good pairing for this NYT piece that focuses on the GOP’s “civil war” between establishment Republicans and Tea Partiers.

But one of the comments that really stuck out to me concerning DeMint’s move from the Senate to a think tank was his realization about what it would take to change the political culture in Washington. As Joshua Green writes, DeMint had previously worked to get a new brand of GOP legislator elected to Congress, including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. But later “DeMint gave up trying to purify the party from within.”
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