Category Archives: Policy Update

Senate Republicans Block the DISCLOSE Act, Leaving Elections Vulnerable to Influence by dark money

Dark Money Remains Unchecked in U.S. Elections

Senate Republicans Block the DISCLOSE Act, Leaving Elections Vulnerable to Influence by dark money 

Thursday, September 22nd– Senate Republicans Block the DISCLOSE Act, leaving elections vulnerable to influence by dark money. The legislation (the DISCLOSE Act of 2021, or S.4822) was reintroduced to remove the influence of anonymously donated funds in politics. It would have required major political donors (those who give more than $10,000) to disclose their identity. And it would have increased the transparency of political advertisements by requiring donors that underwrite ads supporting or attacking judicial nominees, to reveal their identities.

This legislation was designed to ensure free and fair elections and protect the right of voters to have their voices heard in a truly representative, multi-racial, and multi-faith democracy.

Unfortunately, Republican Senators filibustered to block debate on the issue. Their refusal to collaborate with their colleagues across the aisle to protect our democracy from the inappropriate influence of dark money, is an affront to the Constitution. They have shirked their legislative duty and responsibility to voters. It is another disappointing example of Republican Senators prioritizing corporate interest over the people in our country.

The optics of their action suggests a concerted effort to preserve the ability to line their coffers with large sums of money without transparency. And it leaves the fairness of election results to hang in the balance as deep-pocketed lobbyists and donors enjoy an open lane to subvert the will of the people with their dark funds.

“The gall of senators who blocked even moving forward with debate on secret money and the DISCLOSE Act is a slap in the face to our democratic ideals and should leave every American deeply concerned. Without legislation like the DISCLOSE Act shining a light on secret financial donations, corporations, billionaires, and foreign interests that are seeking to influence our elections will continue to have free rein to continue their anonymous spending.”

       Christine Wood, co-Director for the Declaration for American Democracy   NETWORK’s Democracy Reform coalition partner 

At a time when extremist legislators across the country are erecting barriers to voting and trying to sabotage future elections, Senate Republicans had the opportunity to prevent special interests, corporations, billionaires, and foreign interests from perverting elections and possibly gaining control of our government. They chose not to.

Our Constitution calls for a democratic republic where legislators are elected to craft policies and laws that serve the will of the people. These Senators prioritized greedy lobbyists, special interests, and the like who prefer to do their political maneuvering in the dark. How does giving them free reign to influence our elected officials serve the will of the electorate?    

NETWORK will continue our faithful advocacy for federal democracy reforms. And we need your advocacy too! Prepare with NETWORK staff to be a multi-issue Pope Francis Voter and transform our politics! Sign up for the next workshop here. Can you invite three (3) friends to sign up, too?  

Now that Congress has failed to weed dark money out of politics, It is up to the Biden Administration to protect and strengthen our democracy. President Biden can sign executive orders to help shine a light on secret money spending by contractors that receive federal dollars, ensuring transparency, so that American voters can identify the influencers of our federal elections. 

Resources

How would Pope Francis Vote?
We invite you to speak out too by signing this letter
NETWORK Voter Training: learn how faith, social justice, and voting help us build anew

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice Urges Yes Vote on Respect for Marriage Act

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice Urges Yes Vote on Respect for Marriage Act

Audrey Carroll
August 1, 2022

Today NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice sent a vote recommendation to Senators calling on them to vote YES on the Respect for Marriage Act. The legislation repeals the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act and codifies the right to civil marriage, regardless of sexual orientation or race. The Respect for Marriage Act recently passed in the House of Representatives with a 267 – 157 vote.

See a copy of the letter to the Senate below:

Biden Administration Restored Pre-Trump Era Public Charge Regulations

The Biden Administration Restored Pre-Trump Era Public Charge Regulations (And Makes an Improvement)

Biden Administration Restored Pre-Trump Era Public Charge Regulations

On Friday, September 9, 2022, The Biden Administration restored pre-Trump era public charge regulations when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a final public charge regulation that provides critical protections to secure immigrant families’ access to health and social services. This is a welcome update to the policy shift (flagged in March 2021) made to public charge regulations instituted in 2019 under the Trump administration

“The 2019 public charge rule was not in keeping with our nation’s values. It penalized those who access health benefits and other government services available to them,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. (DHS)

The Trump administration upended public charge rules that had existed for 20 years prior to their one term in office. Their changes were not consistent with Catholic Social Justice or NETWORK’s Build Anew Agenda, That administration considered noncash public benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, or housing assistance, in applications for green cards or temporary visas. immigrant persons, families, and children.

The Biden administration’s reversal not only restores the policy to the pre-Trump era, it also includes an improvement sought by more than 1,000 organizations coordinated by the Protecting Immigrant Families coalition (PIF): DHS will not consider use of health care, nutrition, or housing programs when making immigration decisions. NETWORK Lobby is in the PIF coalition.

Reacting to the publication of the final public charge regulation, PIF issued the following statement:

“The final Biden public charge regulation is a major win for immigrant families. We know that anti-immigrant politicians will attack this reform through partisan litigation, but there are solid grounds for a court to uphold the rule. The new rule clarifies what is and is not considered in a public charge determination, providing assurances that eligible immigrant families can use health care, nutrition, and housing programs without public charge concerns.

“The more than 600 members of the PIF coalition are emboldened in our broader fight to repeal provisions in immigration law that are racist and discriminate against low-income people of color. Congress must strike public charge from the law and eliminate other barriers to the health and social services safety net. We will continue to push our leaders for action.” (PIF director, Adriana Cadena)

Note: This DHS decision was met with broad support by House Leadership. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) applauded the Biden Administration’s final rule restoring longstanding policy on the treatment of noncitizens seeking government assistance.

Additional background

The Trump-era regulations had a chilling effect on immigrants, causing many fearful to reach out for public assistance. An Urban Institute study examined immigrant families living with children under the age of 19 under the Trump policy in a Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey. The study found a significant preference to avoid health and social services benefits in order not to jeopardize their immigration application. This, of course, compromised their safety and well-being (and that of their children)–especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One in 5 adults in immigrant families with children (20.0 percent) and almost 3 in 10 of those in low-income immigrant families with children (28.8 percent) reported that they or a family member avoided one or more noncash public benefits or other help with basic needs in 2020 because of concerns about green card status or other immigration-related reasons. (Urban Institute)

Learn more with these resources:

A promise made! A promise kept!

Jarrett Smith
August 31, 2022

The elimination of student debt was one of President Biden’s campaign promises. Earlier this month,  I was heartened to learn that he followed through with his pledge:  forgiveness for some student loan debt. There are an estimated 43 million Americans who eligible to participate in the upcoming program.

In real terms, this means millions of U.S. students will see an increase in their discretionary income. They will have more freedom to save for a down payment for a house, reduce medical expenses, save for a child’s future education, open a business, and more because of this policy decision.  While not all in Congress support this move, the possibility of tangible improvements for so many struggling to make ends meet at the end of the month is now encoded in law.

Key elements of the White House student loan forgiveness plan include:

  • Provide up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation to non-Pell Grant recipients. Borrowers who earn less than $125,000 per year or households earning less than $250,000 are eligible for debt cancellation;
  • Extend the federal student loan pause a final time through December 31, 2022 to provide borrowers a smooth transition back to repayment; and
  • Make the student loan system more manageable for current and future borrowers by cutting monthly payments in half for undergraduate loans and holding schools accountable when they hike up prices.

Student loan borrowers can go to studentaid.gov/debtrelief to receive more details on the plan from the Department of Education.

The President’s new policy is in line with NETWORK’s mission as his action reflects Catholic Social Justice.  As people of faith, we are called to live the Gospel in a broken and suffering world. With college costs, and loan borrowing to meet the high costs, soaring well beyond the means of wage-earners, and our nation still in recovery from a pandemic, we must advocate for a federal government that promotes human dignity. By providing much-needed relief to federal student loan borrowers, our nation took another step towards the common good.

CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 Promotes Gender and Racial Equity in STEM Workplaces

CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 Promotes Gender and Racial Equity in STEM Workplaces

Gina Kelley
August 4, 2022

In a difficult year for the care economy, there has been a small but impactful victory.

The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, passed on July 28, includes a key caregiving provision. The provision entitled “Broadening Participation in Science” increases flexibility for individuals working in the sciences when they have caregiving responsibilities. This increased flexibility promotes gender and racial equity in STEM workplaces and ensures people have the time they need to care for their loved ones.

NETWORK has worked on the need for paid family and medical leave and other policies that support caregivers for decades. While many industries still struggle to create environments that encourage equity and diversity, women and especially women of color in STEM fields are faced with both barriers to entry and internal barriers to full participation.

This provision is a critical step towards ensuring no people in STEM fields are penalized for having caregiving responsibilities. Specifically, the provision requires every federal science agency to establish policies that allow for flexibility regarding the timing of federal research grants if a principal investigator of a grant has a caregiving role. This provision does not alter the benefit policies at any individual institution but instead removes barriers currently in place by encouraging flexibility for specifically outlined responsibilities.

Providing support to families in the STEM field is a necessary step to preventing impossible decisions between economic stability and their loved ones needs. This provision will help women in STEM fields stay working and combat biases that are present in the workplace while simultaneously encouraging more men to take on more caregiving responsibilities at home.

In June, NETWORK joined our organizational partners in sending a letter to the Conference Committee on Bipartisan Innovation and Competition Legislation in support of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. See the letter here:

USICA-COMPETES_ Caregiving Provision Support Letter

New Agreement Would Advance Healthcare, Tax Justice, and Climate Protections

New Agreement Would Advance Healthcare, Tax Justice, and Climate Protections

Laura Peralta-Schulte
August 1, 2022

On Wednesday, July 27, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) issued a joint statement announcing an agreement on moving the fiscal year 2022 budget reconciliation process forward. This announcement was welcome after months of ups and downs in Senate negotiations since the House passed its budget reconciliation package last fall.

This new bill—the Inflation Reduction Act—addresses tax reform, prescription drug reform and healthcare costs, as well as climate change. If passed, this bill would be a huge accomplishment by beginning to require the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, while tackling the long-standing crises of healthcare costs and climate change.

Key tax provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act include:

  • $313 billion in revenue raised from a 15% corporate minimum tax. This is critical to ensure that wealthy corporations pay taxes.
  • $124 billion in revenue raised from better IRS tax enforcement. This provides the IRS with money to improve customer service systems as well as ensuring the wealthy pay what they owe.
  • $14 billion in revenue raised from closing the carried interest loophole.

Key healthcare provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act include:

  • Prescription Drug Pricing: The legislation empowers Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices directly, ensuring that seniors get better deals on their medications, and caps Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket costs for drugs at $2,000 per year.
  • ACA Premium Tax Credits: The Inflation Reduction Act extends enhanced Affordable Care Act premium tax credits for the next three years to enable working families and individuals support to pay for insurance through the exchange.

Key climate provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act include:

  • Incentives for Consumers to Go Green: The legislation provides money for home energy rebates, consumer tax credits for energy-efficient homes and vehicles, and grants to make affordable housing more energy efficient. These measures would help reduce energy costs for families by more than 10% on average.

Unfortunately, this package leaves out high-level policy priorities for us at NETWORK including Medicaid expansion, paid leave, funding for affordable housing, expanding the Child Tax Credit, and more. However, given the political and time constraints, this bill will do a lot to advance economic justice and address other problems in healthcare and climate.

No Republican Senators support this bill, and one Senator, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), is the only Democratic member who has not yet expressed her full support for the bill. Democrats need all 50 members of their caucus to vote “yes” to pass the legislation. Senate Democratic leadership is planning a vote on this package later this week.

Sign the Petition to Lament the Loss of Transformative Policy

Sign the Petition to Lament the Loss of Transformative Policy

We suffer when Congress fails to address the crises facing people and our planet

President Biden’s ‘Build Back Better Act’ would have reversed 40 years of trickle-down tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations, provided funds for healthcare, eased financial barriers to childcare and early education, invested in wildfire prevention and drought relief efforts, and more. The House passed the BBB plan, but the Senate did not.

Instead of taking moral action, the Senate prioritized the wealthy and corporations over the people and communities that would have benefited from the jobs and equitable access to life-giving resources that the transformative legislation would have provided.

Who would have benefited from BBB? Working people, school-aged children, Black and Brown people, tax payers, rural communities, the climate and ecological concerns, Tribal lands and citizens, college students, immigrants…all of us. Congress is in the final days of budget reconciliation negotiations for less impactful, piecemeal solutions as an alternative to BBB.

We lament the investments in affordable housing, support for children and families, and efforts to combat climate change missing from the budget reconciliation package. It is shameful that our country will suffer as a result of Congress’s moral failure. Join your lament with ours and sign the petition to lament the loss of transformative policy.

We invite you to sign our petition

Sign-on to Help Protect Asylum Seekers

Encourage Senators Booker and Menendez to Continue Advocating for Asylum Seekers!

Dear Senator Booker and Senator Menendez,

Thank you for supporting a just and humane immigration system. We, people of faith living in New Jersey, support your efforts to ensure the Senate and the Biden administration restore the asylum process.

Your work to protect asylum is important to us because as people of faith, we value the inherent human dignity of each person and recognize their right to seek asylum.

The upcoming congressional work period will be pivotal for immigration. As Congress creates next year’s federal budget, we urge you to continue working to ensure that Congressional leadership does not allow the continuation of Title 42 expulsions to be codified into law. We also ask that you urge your colleagues working on bipartisan immigration reform to support policies that are just and refuse to divide up or preference immigrant communities.

Thank you for your commitment to advancing the common good. Together, we can build a nation that lives up to our values.

In Solidarity,

New Jersey Residents – Add Your Name

20+ Faith Organizations Send Letter to Senate in Support of Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

20+ Faith Organizations Send Letter to Senate in Support of Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Gina Kelley
June 23, 2022

In this 117th Congress, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is closer than ever to becoming law. For 10 years, a broad range of organizations have worked to get this critical piece of legislation to where it is today. Now, with strong bipartisan support and enough votes to overcome the filibuster, the faith community has come together to show the urgency and need for its passage. More than 20 leading faith organizations have sent a letter to every Senate office urging each Senator to prioritize the bill and to vote in support of the legislation.

The letter’s message: “The faith community values the dignity of work and the family. Pregnant workers and their families need the Senate’s action. In the face of infant formula shortages and national economic difficulties, families across the country need the PWFA. We also know that support for healthy pregnancies means support for pregnant workers. The Senate must deliver on the promise of a dignified life for working families.”

The time is now to give pregnant workers the dignity they deserve— it is time to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

Read the full letter here.

The letter was signed by the following organizations: Catholic Labor Network; Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice; Church World Service; Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S.; Council on American-Islamic Relations; Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Washington D.C.; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Franciscan Action Network; Friends Committee on National Legislation; ICNA Council for Social Justice; Justice Revival; Leadership Conference of Women Religious; National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd; National Council of Jewish Women; Pax Christi USA; Sojourners; The Episcopal Church; Union for Reform Judaism