Category Archives: Policy Update

NETWORK Calls for Just Response to COVID-19

NETWORK Calls for a Just Response to COVID-19

This webpage will be updated with the latest developments as the United States faces the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge all elected officials to prioritize those who are most vulnerable and those at the economic margins as they respond to this crisis.

Share your story with NETWORK

Tell us what you, your family, and your community are going through. We will make sure our nation’s elected officials know what families across the country are experiencing, and advocate for policies that heal our nation, not further harm.

Monday, April 6, 2020
NETWORK Webinar: The COVID-19 Response

On this webinar, NETWORK’s Government Relations team will review the three packages and explain what Congress still needs to do to ensure that all people are cared for and receive access to the medical and financial assistance they need.

Friday, March 27, 2020
Congress passes Coronavirus Economic Package

After critical negotiations, both the Senate and the House have passed the $2 trillion bailout package for workers and hospitals. This package will begin to provide security for many in this time of crisis, while ensuring that no tax-payer dollars go to corporate stock buy-backs or executive raises and bonuses.

Read NETWORK’s press release responding to the legislation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Senate Nearing Vote on Economic Package

NETWORK urges all Senators to vote yes on S.3548, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, immediately. We are pleased this bill includes many of NETWORK’s recommendations and approves much needed funds for hospitals, state, and local governments; extends unemployment insurance for workers; and puts conditions on business assistance, in the interest of workers and the economic stabilization and financial security of their families. In short, this bill puts people first

Read the letter NETWORK sent to Senators.

Monday, March 23, 2020
Political Leaders Still Have Not Reached Agreement on Economic Stimulus Plan

Today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continue negotiating a $1.6 trillion-plus emergency rescue package, hoping to reach agreement and pass a bill before the end of the day. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is releasing her own plan today.

Read more from Politico.com.

While the negotiations continue, NETWORK and our advocacy partners supported Members of Congress who signed onto a letter written by Representative T.J. Cox (CA-21) calling for immigrants to be included in access to COVID-19 testing and treatment regardless of immigration status.

Read the letter.

Friday, March 20, 2020
Economic Stimulus Negotiations Continue

Following Senate Republicans’ release of their proposed economic stimulus package yesterday, Senators from both parties were in negotiations to come to an agreement before midnight tonight. This afternoon Senate Finance Democrats proposed their own legislation. Negotiations are ongoing — call your Senators now using the phone number above and tell them to support workers and families in this economic stimulus package!

NETWORK calls for Congress to:

  1. Issue full value cash assistance to low- and moderate-income individuals and expand the EITC and Child Tax Credit to more low-income households;
  1. Strengthen, expand, and modernize Unemployment Insurance in order to provide higher benefits and greater flexibility, account for the changing workforce (such as the gig economy), and cover workers who may lose their jobs or face new caregiving responsibilities due to the virus;
  2. Boost nutrition benefits and flexibility for all households receiving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);
  3. Increase Medicaid funding for states by fulling covering the state share to adequately address the increased demand for health care and related costs;
  4. Increase homelessness assistance funding. Individuals experiencing homelessness are at increased risk of serious infection because they often live in congregated communities (like shelters and encampments), cannot self-quarantine, and often lack access to running water and other methods to prevent infection;
  5. Expand paid sick leave for every person, regardless of employer or employer size;
  6. Give special care and attention to individuals at increased risk of infection, including incarcerated individuals, immigrants and children in detention, tribes and Native communities, and people experiencing homelessness;
  7. Require funding for corporations to be focused on ensuring that people continue to be paid and receive benefits. Strong guardrails need to be in place to ensure that families and those who need it most get assistance and that companies in the future do not recklessly profit off of taxpayer funding at the expense of workers; and
  8. Expand federal funding for Tribes and Tribal Organizations for robust health services access in Indian Country.

Additionally, regarding the individual payments proposed in the Republican plan, ITEP estimates that only 20% ( $215 billion) out of a $1 trillion bill would be spent on individual payments, demonstrating that the Republican stimulus chiefly benefits businesses.
Read more from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Thursday, March 19, 2020
Third Package Negotiations Heat Up

The Senate is rapidly writing their third response package and needs to hear from you now.  Please call using the phone number above. Right now, Senator Mitch McConnell is leading the GOP in the Senate in developing the “economic stimulus” package. Our concern is that they are not correctly viewing what KIND of stimulus is needed since this is not a “normal” market crash and will have unknown, long-term impacts on peoples’ lives.  They need to understand that people oppose another big-business bailout predicated on trickle-down economics.

While the need to address industry-wide economic fall-out is important, stimulus aid must have conditions attached to ensure that workers are supported rather than only subsidizing financial markets or corporate profits. In 2008, the federal government provided hundreds of billions of dollars to Wall Street to respond to the financial crisis, with no strings attached. The results for Wall Street were tremendous – a quick return to profitability, large executive compensation packages, major stock buy-backs, and more. The results for working families were disappointing, and most never fully recovered. Financial support this time should be targeted and contingent upon maintaining protections for workers.

Direct benefits to low- and moderate-income households is a powerful and effective economic stimulant. We support a targeted measure to support households most in need. A payroll tax cut does not make sense for this crisis, but refundable tax credits targeted to low- and moderate-income individuals and families could have a powerful stabilizing effect. Expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit would give families and individuals additional relief over time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020
NETWORK Priorities for Third Coronavirus Package

After finalizing the first two packages responding to coronavirus, the Senate focuses on a third package, an “economic stimulus” package. NETWORK supports including the following financial supports in this economic stimulus. Read all of NETWORK’s recommendations for an economic stimulus package here.
To support people:

  • Target rebate checks and refundable tax credit to low- and moderate-income individuals
  • Strengthen, expand, and modernize Unemployment Insurance and paid medical and family leave
  • Boost nutrition assistance
  • Increase homelessness assistance funding
  • Halt evictions and foreclosures
  • Give special attention to at-risk communities

To support states, municipalities, and health care:

  • Increase Medicaid funding for states and stabilization funds for Community Health Centers and critical related programs

To support business:

  • Ensure federal funds given to support businesses reach workers
Senate Passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act, President Trump signs it into law

The Senate voted to approve the Families First Coronavirus Response Act with a 90-8 vote. President Trump signed the bill into law Wednesday evening.

Read more from www.nbcnews.com.

Monday, March 16, 2020
NETWORK Recommends Senators Vote Yes on H.R.6021

At the conclusion of a 3-day Senate recess, NETWORK sent the following vote recommendation to U.S. Senators calling on them to pass H.R.6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Read NETWORK’s Senate vote recommendation.

Saturday, March 14, 2020
House Passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R.6021)

In a letter to all Members of Congress, NETWORK urged Congress to ensure coronavirus testing is affordable, expand paid sick leave, increase assistance for low-income workers and families, and give special attention to groups with increased risk of infection in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Read NETWORK’s letter to Congress.

Dreamers Brace for SCOTUS Decision

Dreamers Brace for SCOTUS Decision

Giovana Oaxaca
March 19, 2020

The executive action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has withstood a number of legal challenges over the years. In a few months, however, the delicate future of more than 700,000 DACA recipients will face yet another test. Let the Senate know that immigrants are welcome in our nation by signing our petition.

On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the DACA cases that the Supreme Court considered for review in the fall 2019 term. Although there exist legislative solutions, such as the Dream and Promise Act which passed the House and the Dream Act and SECURE Act (introduced in the Senate), Congress has so far failed to pass meaningful protections for undocumented immigrants eligible for deferred action and temporary protected status. This has deferred the DACA matter to court cases, which have put a halt to the Trump administration’s decision to terminate DACA in September 2017. The Supreme Court’s decision will have far-reaching effects by deciding the fate of the program for the near future.

Watch interfaith leaders pray for the protection of immigrants, refugees, and DACA recipients in the #Faith4DACA vigil.

The stakes have never been higher. In a recent survey, over fifty percent of DACA recipients reported that they fear being detained or deported from the United States at least once a day. An even greater share of DACA recipients surveyed reported that they feared being separated from their children. The Supreme Court’s decision will alter the reality for the millions of DACA recipients living and working in the U.S. If the Supreme Court rules with the Trump Administration, this would leave thousands stranded with few recourses, in the very place they call home.

Brief Overview

On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was terminating DACA, a decision that was been met with instant legal pushback. More than ten cases were filed challenging the administration’s decision. After a number of judges issued preliminary injunctions protecting the program, the administration appealed to the Supreme Court.  Late last year, the Supreme Court granted the administration’s petition, agreeing to hear arguments for three cases on November 12th, 2019. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the DACA cases and an array of other high-profile cases are expected in June 2020.

Speculated Outcomes

Legal advocates, allies, and organizations are bracing for the court’s ruling.

  • The court may conclude it may review the administration’s decision. It may then rule that the termination is unlawful or lawful. A ruling stating that the action was unlawful would be good for DACA recipients because it would mean that the administration should not have terminated DACA under its reasoning at the time. The court may rule that the administration’s decision was lawful. This would be bad for DACA recipients because it would mean the administration could begin rolling back the program. It is also possible that the court could find DACA itself unlawful at this time. This would mean that the government could stop accepting renewals of applications.
  • The Supreme Court may decide not to review the administration’s decision to terminate. A ruling along these lines would mean that the administration could commence rolling back the program; it could also mean that a future administration could reinstate it.

High-profile businesseshigher education institutions, former national security officials, and religious organizations have joined a litany of amicus briefs in support of DACA recipients. The plight of Dreamers clearly resonates with the majority of Americans. As it stands, an overwhelming majority of Americans support a pathway to citizenship. For now, the decision to stay DACA rests in the hands of the Supreme Court.


Restoring the Right to Unionize

Restoring the Right to Unionize

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
February 12, 2020

For nearly a century, the right of workers to unionize for fair pay and working conditions has been a cornerstone of a fair and functional labor market. Established as a way to protect workers from dehumanizing exploitation during the Industrial Revolution, over the decades unions have represented workers in a variety of industries. Unions can ensure that workers are paid fairly, with benefits, and under reasonable working conditions.  Unions give workers a unified voice through collective bargaining, a process of negotiations between employers and employees. When unions are strong, they are able to set wage standards throughout an entire industry. For decades, unions have contributed to a vibrant middle class and have lessened income inequality and narrowed racial and gender wage gaps.

Union membership, however, has been steadily declining. Some estimates show that union membership has decreased by 3 million workers over the past 30 years.  Unfortunately, the decline of unions is not because they are no longer needed but because the fundamental right to unionize has been eroding year after year.  Employers exploit weaknesses in current labor laws to undermine workers’ rights—and face no real consequences for doing so. The result has been stagnant wages, unsafe workplaces, and rising inequality, especially for women and communities of color.

It is time to fully restore the right of our nation’s workers to unionize. Fortunately, the House of Representatives passed a bill last week that ensures that all private sector workers can bargain for just wages and benefits: The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474 and S. 1306).

The PRO Act encourages workers to unionize and collectively bargain, and it introduces vital protections for workers who choose to do so. Even though it is illegal, there are currently no consequences for employers who retaliate against workers attempting to organize in the workplace. The PRO Act would finally hold those employers financially accountable for illegally retaliating against their employees. The PRO Act also gives workers more freedom to organize and reach an initial agreement with their employers. As the Economic Policy Institute explains, the PRO Act overrides “right to work” state laws by requiring all workers who are covered by—and therefore benefit from—a union to contribute “fair-share fees” to support the cost of collective bargaining efforts.

The PRO Act enables workers to more readily organize by streamlining the process for forming a union, ensuring that new unions are able to negotiate a first collective bargaining agreement, and holding employers accountable when they violate workers’ rights.

In order to reverse decades of damage done to our nation’s labor laws, we now call on the Senate to pass strong legislation empowering workers to organize and bargain without fear of retaliation. Passing the PRO Act will help rebuild workplace democracy by ensuring every worker has a voice and will even the power imbalance between employers and workers.

Sister Simone’s Testimony on Child Poverty

Sister Simone’s Testimony on Child Poverty

On February 5, 2020, Sister Simone testified in front of the House Oversight Committee Subcommittee on Government Operations about the Trump administration’s harmful proposal to change the poverty line calculation. Read Sister Simone’s written testimony below, and watch the recorded hearing at networklobby.org/ogrtestimonystream.

 

This new rule will in all likelihood lead to a poverty measure that further underestimates the material hardship experienced in the U.S., thus exacerbating what is already a dire situation for our children.  It is expensive to be poor and new studies show that it is costing more every year.  Various factors contribute to the dynamic, but inflation has a lot to do with it.  Rich and poor households experience inflation differently.  Research indicates that low-income households experience higher rates of inflation than those with middle or high-incomes.  Inflation inequality refers to this heavier burden of inflation on low-income families due to their lack of options to “shop around” and substitute lower-priced goods.  Low-income households often lack access to a diverse set of retailers due to neighborhood conditions, barriers to transportation, or lack of access to the internet.  This is exactly what people have told us repeatedly in our travels.

Therefore, the current measure of inflation already tends to under-estimates the cost burdens of being poor.  If the OMB adopts the Chained CPI it will exacerbate this invisible squeeze on people living in poverty—and that exacerbation will be compounded over time.  Moreover, the statistics generated by this adjusted measure would effectively mask the reality of U.S. poverty, thus increasing the threshold for accessing needed supports.

The Administration has glossed over the fact that these proposed changes are predicted to preclude millions of struggling families from receiving crucial social safety net benefits. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) poverty guidelines are based on the OPM.  Therefore, changing the measure would affect how HHS determines eligibility and benefits for a broad array of crucial federal social safety net programs.  Moreover, children are more likely than any other age group to participate in these means-tested programs. Below are just a few of those key programs proven to benefit children’s health, education and food security and to lift millions of children out of poverty each year. The change to the applied inflation measure would have very real impacts on how many children can access these programs.

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
    SNAP is the first line of defense against child hunger and food insecurity, a persistent problem for 17 percent of children in the United States. It is estimated that 200,000 participants would lose eligibility for SNAP as a result of this rule change.

WIC is an especially important program for ensuring children’s health and wellbeing by supporting pregnant and postpartum women, infants and young children who are at risk of going hungry. The program serves nearly half of all infants born in the U.S. and targets some of the most vulnerable women and children in the country. More than three quarters of WIC’s 7.6 million recipients are children under the age of 5. An estimate 40,000 children and infants could lose access in 10 years under this rule change.

  • Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
    Together, these programs provide crucial healthcare to more than one in three children in the United States.  Adjusting the inflation measure as proposed could reduce access for 300,000 children in a decade.
  • Community Health Centers (CHC’s)
    CHC’s provide accessible, lower-cost primary care to roughly 28 million people across the country, nearly a third of whom are children. Applying the proposed changes could reduce the number of patients eligible for service.
Download the full written testimony here.

SCOTUS Punishes Vulnerable Immigrant Families

SCOTUS Punishes Vulnerable Immigrant Families

Laura Peralta-Schulte
January 27, 2020

A narrowly divided Supreme Court today allowed the Trump administration to begin enforcing a wealth test, called “Public Charge,” for immigrants seeking a green card. Under this rule, immigration officials could deny green cards or visas to legal immigrants seeking permanent residency if they’ve used Medicaid, nutrition assistance, or other safety-net programs, or if they’re considered likely to do so. The justices voted 5-4 along ideological lines. This controversial immigration rule will go into effect now, even as lower courts wrestle with multiple legal challenges against them.

Today’s court decision will increase confusion and fear broadly across immigrant families about using public programs for themselves and their children, regardless of whether they are directly affected by the changes. There have already been significant reports of families who are not affected by the ruling taking themselves or their children off lifesaving programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program and SNAP.

Public charge is just one of many attacks on low-income families, immigrant families, and communities of color by the Trump Administration.

Read more from Bloomberg News:

“The Trump rule changes what critics say is a longstanding understanding of federal immigration law and its bar on permanent residency for ‘public charges.’ The new rule expands the definition of public charge and gives officials broad power to determine that someone is at risk of falling into that category.

The rule will ‘radically disrupt over a century of settled immigration policy and public-benefits programs,’ New York, Vermont, Connecticut and New York City argued in a filing that urged the court to leave the rule on hold.”

The Supreme Court Holds Lives of Millions in Their Hands

The Supreme Court Holds Lives of Millions in Their Hands

Joan Neal
November 26, 2019

As the Supreme Court deliberates the fate of more than a million young undocumented immigrants who arrived or were brought to this country as children, it is important to be clear about their real identity and history. Contrary to the prevailing rhetoric in some corners of our country, recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, are educated, hardworking, upstanding, tax paying, individuals who are American in every way except legal citizen status.

The Center for Migration Studies, a research and think tank organization headquartered in New York, has just released a comprehensive statistical study of this group of more than 1 million people. The report also documents the many ways in which these young immigrants have and continue to contribute to the United States, which for most of them is the only country they have ever known.

CMS’ timely report shows how deeply DACA recipients are embedded in society and the web of ties that bind them to their communities and country. It shows how they are spread out across the United States, how educated they are as compared to the general population, and how extensively they participate in the U.S. labor market. Perhaps some readers will be surprised by these findings. Some may even ignore them, or worse yet, refuse to believe them. But facts are facts, and CMS’ research is comprehensive and verifiable. The report clearly shows that, over time, these undocumented immigrants have made our country stronger, more diverse, and more economically productive. Rather than being a drag on our country, DACA recipients as a group have contributed significantly to American society and prosperity.

It is imperative, therefore, that the Supreme Court avail itself of all of the relevant facts surrounding DACA recipients and those who would be eligible if the program were still in force. And so should we. Read the report at https://cmsny.org/publications/daca-supreme-court-alulema-111119/. Then pass it on. The lives of millions of people, indeed the future of our country, depends on what we do next.

NETWORK FY 2020 Appropriations Updates

NETWORK FY 2020 Appropriations Updates

Appropriations Bill
House
Senate
Subcommittee Committee Floor Subcommittee Committee Floor    Reconciled?
Labor-HHS-Education (H.R.2740) Passed
(April 30)
Passed
(May 8)
Passed
(June 19)
Transportation-HUD (H.R.3163) Passed
(May 23)
Passed
(June 4)
Passed
(June 25)
Passed
(September 17)
Passed
(September 19)
Passed
(October 31)
Commerce-Justice-Science (H.R.3055) Passed
(May 17)
Passed
(May 22)
Passed
(June 25)
Passed
(September 24)
Passed
(September 26)
Passed (October 31)
Financial Services Passed
(June 3)
Passed
(June 11)
Passed
(June 26)
Passed
(September 17)
Passed
(September 19)
Department of Homeland Security Passed
(June 5)
Passed
(June 11)
Passed
(September 24)
Passed
(September 26)

Friday, November 22, 2019

Yesterday, President Trump signed a short-term funding bill into law, temporarily preventing a government shutdown. This Continuing Resolution (CR) funds the government until December 20, 2019. Before then, the House and the Senate need to reach agreement on funding the government for Fiscal Year 2020, which they have yet to do, or risk a shutdown. We are disappointed our elected officials still have not found a way to pass a full year budget that promotes the common good, nearly two months into this fiscal year.

There is good news, however, in funding for the 2020 Census. In the CR, the 2020 Census received a special funding boost of $7.3 billion to prepare for the upcoming national count. This amount is $2 billion more than the insufficient funding President Trump’s budget would have allocated to the Census and will allow the Census Bureau to adequately plan and put plans in motion for the upcoming Census.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

On October 31, 2019, the Senate passed its first “minibus” or package of four appropriations bills, which included funding for Transportation-Housing and Urban Development as well as Commerce, Justice, and Science. The bill passed out of the Senate by a vote of 84-9. In the four-bill package, the Senate included $6.7 billion for funding the 2020 Census, which is $1.37 billion above the president’s budget but $804 million lower than the House approved level. The minibus bill also included an increase of $1.37 billion for affordable housing programs, which is $6.352 billion above the president’s budget but $941 million lower than the House approved version.

We are deeply concerned that the uncertainty around the FY 2020 appropriations cycle will cause undue hardship on census activities and more than 80 safety net programs. Particularly, the 2020 Census is at-risk to be woefully ineffective if lawmakers fail to negotiate a final agreement on spending allocations by the November 21 deadline. Currently, lawmakers are negotiating details of another continuing resolution that will extend funding through December 13 or 31.

To that end, NETWORK urges the Senate to Prioritize our Democracy: fund the 2020 Census, do not short change human needs programs for the border wall, and extend expiring health care programs. These programs serve the common good and provide critical support to communities; continued funding lapses will have devastating rippling effects.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Yesterday, Congress and the Trump administration reached agreement on a 2-year budget deal to raise our nation’s spending limit. The main points of debate were the Trump administration’s desire for significant spending cuts, and Congressional Democrats’ desire to curb the administration’s ability to transfer federal funds to finance the construction of a border wall.

This deal would raise spending by $320 billion over existing caps and raise the debt limit to allow the government to keep borrowing money. Spending on domestic and military programs would both increase, a key demand of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. This increase is offset by $77.4 billion in spending cuts, half the $150 billion in cuts the White House initially demanded. By lifting spending caps for the next two years, this deal will effectively dissolve the “sequester” imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) which was written to take effect through 2021. This is a huge relief, as NETWORK and partners have been fighting sequestration that leads to cuts to human needs programs every year since the BCA was passed.

Now that the budget deal is agreed upon, the House of Representatives needs to act quickly and pass the budget bill before they leave for August recess next week. The Senate has been waiting for a budget deal before beginning its appropriations work, so we may see the Senate appropriations bills beginning to take shape soon.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The House passed the Fiscal Year 2020 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill on a 224 to 196 vote. In total, the bill includes $24.55 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $1.4 billion over the 2019 enacted level and $355.5 million over the President’s 2020 budget request. Additionally, the bill includes a provision to increase Federal civilian pay by 3.1% in 2020.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Today, the House passed its second “minibus” or package of spending bills, this time including funding for Transportation-Housing and Urban Development as well as Commerce, Justice, and Science. In the $383 billion five-bill package, the House included language to block a citizenship question on the 2020 Census and bar the Department of Justice from using federal funds to dismantle Obamacare in the courts. The final vote was 227-194.

Before the vote, NETWORK sent the a vote recommendation to the House in support of the funding package. Read the vote recommendation here.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Today, the House began consideration on another package of spending bills, this time including Transportation-Housing and Urban Development as well as Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations. The House is expected to vote on this package tomorrow. These appropriations bills are critical to provide funding to housing programs serving millions of families and the Census Bureau to execute a fair and accurate census.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Tonight, the House of Representatives voted 226 – 203 to pass a package of four appropriations bills, including Labor-HHS-Education appropriations. These appropriations would provide critical funding for the Office of Refugee and Resettlement and support for children at the Southern Border. We encourage the Senate to pass similar appropriations to care for vulnerable children and families at the border.

Before the vote, NETWORK released a statement encouraging members of the House to vote yes on the package. Read NETWORK’s statement of support here.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Right now, Congress is working on federal budget appropriations for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020). This process is critical because the result determines how much funding federal programs that mend the gaps receive for the following year.

Appropriations Background

Members of Congress decide our nation’s federal budget every year through a process of writing 12 different appropriations (or spending) bills before the annual fiscal deadline of September 30. The process begins in the House after the President submits a budget proposal to Congress for consideration (which is usually rejected all or in part by Congress). House and Senate Appropriations Committees draft and modify spending bills through a series of committee votes before advancing the bills to the full House or Senate for another round of votes.  Typically, the House and Senate bills are not identical and thus must be reconciled before sending a final bill to the President for enactment.

However, in recent years due to partisan politics over spending allocations, many of the spending measures bypass floor debate after committee action and are instead consolidated into an omnibus or minibus spending bill.  Above, you can see the progress of the bills that include NETWORK priorities.

This year, the appropriations process has added uncertainty because there has not been any agreement between the House and the Senate on overall funding levels. This sets up a future showdown with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and President Trump on one side and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on the other; likely coming down to the amount of funding President Trump wants to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border or other controversial issues.

House Appropriations State of Play

So far, the House Appropriations Committee has passed 10 of the 12 appropriations bills. These 10 bills are now ready for votes on the House floor. The committee expects to complete their work on all 12 appropriations bills this week. Democratic leaders want to pass all the appropriations bills on the House floor by the end of June to allow time for negotiations with the Senate before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

They plan to do this by first passing a package of five bills (totaling nearly $1 trillion in spending), which they began considering this week. Passing this package of bills could take several days. The package includes the two biggest appropriations bills: Defense (HR 2968) and Labor-Health and Human Services- Education (HR 2740) as well as the Energy-Water (HR 2960), State-Foreign Operations (HR 2839) and Legislative Branch (HR 2779) bills. After this five-bill package, House Democrats plan to combine the remaining seven bills into additional packages.

Homeland Security and Financial Services appropriations bills will be taken up by the House full appropriations committee this week. NETWORK is following Homeland Security appropriations closely and calls on appropriators to reduce funding for deportation, immigrant detention, and border militarization and instead to prioritize alternatives to detention, implement robust Congressional oversight over Homeland Security practices, and support refugee resettlement and asylum seekers.

Another NETWORK funding priority is Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) appropriations. This bill, as it emerged from the House Appropriations Committee included $7.5 billion in new funding for the 2020 Census, as well as a restriction against using the Census appropriations to fund a citizenship question on the Census questionnaire. The House CJS appropriations bill also restricted funds from being used to be used to hire more immigration judges, and instead would establish a pilot legal advocacy program for nonprofit organizations to provide legal representation to immigrants seeking asylum and other forms of legal protection in the United States.

Of course, federal housing programs, which are included in the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (T-HUD) appropriations bill, are a NETWORK focus. While President Trump’s budget proposed cutting Housing and Urban Development funding by $9.6 billion, the House Appropriations Committee’s bill provides a total of $50.1 billion for HUD, an additional $5.9 billion over the FY19 funding.

Senate Appropriations State of Play

Appropriators in the Senate have held off working on any of their bills so far. They are waiting while talks proceed on a budget deal to set overall spending levels.

On Tuesday, June 11, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and other Republican appropriators met with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Russ Vought. They discussed making a budget deal with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown or automatic spending cuts in October, and have agreed to proceed with bringing the President’s $4.5 billion southern border humanitarian aid package to the floor next week.

Restoring Trust and Faith in Our Democracy

Restoring Trust and Faith in Our Democracy

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
November 5, 2019

We know how quickly a year passes. Today is the first Tuesday of November; we have exactly one year before Election Day 2020 and so much is at stake. The presidency and control of Congress depend on the outcome next November, but the well-being of our democracy itself also hangs in the balance.

Winston Churchill once said “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried.” Over 70 years later, his assessment still rings true.

Our democracy has never been perfect, but in 2020 we are at a pivotal moment for the democratic ideals of our nation. It is time to affirm that the people elect their government and that every vote counts.  Creating a fairer, more representative democracy should always be the goal.

While our democracy has always been a work in progress, there are key ways that it’s been undermined, particularly in the past 20 years. We are watching as these broken pieces come together, culminating in very real implications for how our government works — or doesn’t — and who benefits. NETWORK and our partners in the faith community are marking this benchmark occasion with a call to Restore the Voters Covenant. Our statement of purpose highlights the moral concerns about the state of our democracy in 2020 and articulates the principles we hold dear.

We at NETWORK are working with the Faithful Democracy coalition, a multifaith collaborative effort.  We are united around these basic democratic principles and are called to draw attention to the ways that our foundational democratic systems are under threat. Our community of congregations and faith-based advocacy organizations are ready to take a faithful and hard look at the state of our democracy. Together we will commemorate this important year by highlighting some of our biggest democratic hurdles and how we can overcome them as faithful individuals, communities and policy makers. Beginning in late November 2019, Faithful Democracy will roll-out bimonthly toolkits, each focusing on a different threat to our democratic systems.  It is time to faithfully repair the voters’ trust in our elections and ensure that our system aligns with our democratic ideals.

Stay tuned for future information about:

  • Protecting the right to vote and equal access to the ballot
  • Ending the corrosive influence of money on our democracy
  • Securing the integrity of our elections systems from foreign interference
  • Ensuring that redistricting and representation is fair and reflective of voters
  • Getting out the vote!

DACA Heads to the Supreme Court

DACA Heads to the Supreme Court

Giovana Oaxaca
October 16, 2019

The executive action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has withstood a number of legal challenges over the years. In a few short weeks, however, the delicate future of more than 700,000 DACA recipients will face yet another test. On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for the DACA cases that the Supreme Court is considering to review this fall term. Although there exist legislative solutions, such as the Dream and Promise Act which passed the House and the Dream Act and SECURE Act (introduced in the Senate), Congress has so far failed to pass meaningful protections for undocumented immigrants eligible for deferred action and temporary protected status. This has deferred the DACA matter to court cases, which have put a halt to the Trump administration’s decision to terminate DACA in September 2017. The Supreme Court’s decision will have far-reaching effects by deciding the fate of the program for the near future.

The stakes have never been higher. In a recent survey, over fifty percent of DACA recipients reported that they fear being detained or deported from the United States at least once a day. An even greater share of DACA recipients surveyed reported that they feared being separated from their children. The Supreme Court’s decision will alter the reality for the millions of DACA recipients living and working in the U.S. If the Supreme Court rules with the Trump Administration, this would leave thousands stranded with few recourses, in the very place they call home.

Brief Overview

On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was terminating DACA, a decision that was been met with instant legal pushback. More than ten cases were filed challenging the administration’s decision. After a number of judges issued preliminary injunctions protecting the program, the administration appealed to the Supreme Court.  Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court granted the administration’s petition, agreeing to hear arguments for three cases on November 12th, 2019. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the DACA cases and an array of other high-profile cases are expected in June 2020.

Speculated Outcomes

Legal advocates, allies, and organizations are bracing for the court’s ruling.

  • The court may conclude it may review the administration’s decision. It may then rule that the termination is unlawful or lawful. A ruling stating that the action was unlawful would be good for DACA recipients because it would mean that the administration should not have terminated DACA under its reasoning at the time. The court may rule that the administration’s decision was lawful. This would be bad for DACA recipients because it would mean the administration could begin rolling back the program. It is also possible that the court could find DACA itself unlawful at this time. This would mean that the government could stop accepting renewals of applications.
  • The Supreme Court may decide not to review the administration’s decision to terminate. A ruling along these lines would mean that the administration could commence rolling back the program; it could also mean that a future administration could reinstate it.

High-profile businesses, higher education institutions, former national security officials, and religious organizations have joined a litany of amicus briefs in support of DACA recipients. The plight of Dreamers clearly resonates with the majority of Americans. As it stands, an overwhelming majority of Americans support a pathway to citizenship. For now, the decision to stay DACA rests in the hands of the Supreme Court.

Sister Quincy Talks Faithful Democracy on Capitol Hill

Sister Quincy Talks Faithful Democracy on Capitol Hill

Colleen Ross
September 25, 2019

Last Friday, Sister Quincy Howard, OP joined New Mexico Senator Tom Udall and interfaith partners on Capitol Hill to discuss democracy reform efforts. Video of the discussion can be found here.

From Senator Udall’s website:

“There is a direct link between our broken campaign finance system and our voting rights system that puts up barriers to the ballot box, and the issues of concern to the faith community,” Udall said. “Issues like gun violence, food security, economic justice, and climate change. The American people, in overwhelming numbers, want Congress to address these issues. But we are not because the representatives in Congress are not representing the American people…We need to put an end to the idea that money equals free speech.  And that corporations are people.  And reign in an out of control campaign finance system.”

The Faithful Democracy Coalition is an inter-denominational campaign that began in the wake of the Citizens United decision.  The Coalition advocates for ending the dominance of big money out of politics, examining the issue from both a faith-based and legislative perspective, and focuses their campaign on the issues of climate change, gun violence prevention, immigration, and private prisons.

“The faith community recognizes how our democratic processes are corrupted at every level: from gerrymandering to voter suppression to campaign finance to foreign intrusion,” said Sr. Quincy Howard, of the NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “In a secular democracy, elections are the closest thing we have to a sacrament.  NETWORK Lobby and our faith partners call on our government to restore the people’s faith in our democratic systems by securing our elections, ensuring fair representation of the people, and rooting out the corrupting influence of money in politics.”

Read more:

https://www.tomudall.senate.gov/news/press-releases/_photo-and-video-udall-leads-discussion-with-interfaith-leaders-on-democracy-reform