Yesterday, both the House and the Senate passed a continuing resolution to continue funding the federal government for the next two weeks. While the majority of the vote was along party lines, some members of each party defected from their party’s stance. But this doesn’t mean the fight over the budget is over. In just two weeks, Congress will face the same problem, and there’s many issues they must confront before then.
The first priority involves more than 800,000 young people. Congress must take action on a clean Dream Act, as 122 DACA recipients are losing their protections every single day, meaning more than 11,000 have already lost protection. The two-week punt by Republicans means that more than 1,700 more DACA recipients will likely lose their protection before Congress gets back to work. This opens up these young people to threats of deportation, loss of jobs, and separation from families. Trump struck a deal with congressional leaders to fix the problem he created when he abruptly cancelled those protections, but now he’s trying to back out of it in order to score political points with his base. Another less known priority Congress must address is the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which expired in October. Some states have already sent out letters notifying recipients of the loss of coverage, given that many states’ funds are set to expire at the end of the year. Next year, over a million children will lose coverage if no action is taken. Instead of political games, members of Congress must take action to protect some of the most vulnerable in our society.
But there is little hope that Trump, the leader of the Republican party—and the country—actually wants to avoid a government shutdown. In years past, Trump has championed shutdown politics. Earlier this year, Trump tweeted that the U.S. needs a “good shutdown”, and last month he reportedly told advisors that a shutdown would be good for him politically. Trump appears to be viewing a shutdown as a chance to win political points; but, shutdowns have real consequences. You might remember in 2013 when the government actually did shutdown. There was mass outrage over the closing of national parks and monuments, specifically veterans’ memorials. People who were receiving experimental treatments from the National Institutes of Health were turned away. And, the shutdown cost the government billions of dollars and negatively impacted the economy.
ACTION OF THE DAY
#DreamActNow. It’s a myth that Congress has until March to act on DACA – approximately 22,000 DACA recipients are currently losing protection from deportation and work permits because President Trump ended DACA in September. Until March 5, 2018, more than 850 young people will lose protection every week that Congress fails to pass legislation to protect Dreamers. After that, the number of unprotected Dreamers will skyrocket. But you can take action today! Head to DreamActToolkit.org to call and tweet at key members of Congress who will cast deciding votes on the Dream Act. Then, if you live in Florida, Nevada, Tennessee, or Texas, check out which community and business leaders in your state support a clean Dream Act.
Broken Promises. On early Saturday morning, Senator Susan Collins of Maine voted yes for the Senate majority’s tax bill, as she was assured that Congress would pass two bills she said would protect the insurance marketplace against negative consequences caused by the repeal of the individual mandate. (To be clear, these bills would offer little protection against the devastating impacts of the individual mandate repeal.) But Collins was promised those bills by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has little influence over the final version passed by the House. In fact, House Speaker Paul Ryan said of the deal, “I’m not deeply familiar with those conversations,” indicating that the bargain may be little more than empty words. And the White House has refused to come out explicitly in support of the two bills Collins is pushing for, saying that they are focused on the repeal of the individual mandate.
Handmaid’s Tale-Esque. Yesterday, the first GOP representative announced his resignation, in the midst of a wave of members of Congress stepping down due to allegations of sexual misconduct. Representative Trent Franks of Texas reportedly asked two of his younger, female staffers at some point to bear his children as surrogates. Franks’ resignation letter was particularly unusual, mentioning that his children have begged for siblings and including a lengthy discussion about surrogacy. Sounding a little too much like The Handmaid’s Tale, the allegations were being investigated by the House Ethics Committee, but Franks has now decided to resign before the investigation could be completed. However, Franks may not be the last of the resignations, as new reports indicate that CNN and The Washington Post are “working on exposing 20-30 congressional members” of sexual misconduct.
Another Witch Hunt. Last December, Senator Chuck Grassley sent a letter to the FBI, asking them to investigate the claims made against Planned Parenthood regarding the transfer of fetal tissues. Now, it looks like the Justice Department may be opening that investigation. Despite being widely discredited, the controversy over the fetal tissue transfers has remained a key talking point for conservatives who have pushed for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. The move by the Justice Department isn’t too surprising, given Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ anti-choice views. This is clearly another attempt by the Trump administration to launch an attack on women’s health and reproductive justice – something that isn’t new at all for this administration.
Flake’s On a Plane. Senator Jeff Flake got more than he bargained for when he boarded a plane last night. He was confronted by Ady Barkan, a father, lawyer, and ALS patient about the congressional Republicans’ tax bill. Barkan challenges Flake about the tax bill’s impact on Medicare, health care, and the deficit, and the need for Congress to act on children’s health and the Dreamers. Barkan ends by telling Flake, “You have the chance to be an American hero,” by voting no on the final version of the tax bill. But it’s clear that Barkan is the real hero here.
UNDER THE RADAR
Last Chance to Get Covered. The deadline to sign up for coverage is December 15th. That means there’s only one week left to sign up for health insurance! There has been a consistently strong rate of sign-ups this year, and it’s crucial that we spread the word about health coverage as far as possible. Worried that health care is too expensive for you? A new analysis shows county level data on FREE plans available to young Americans through HealthCare.gov. Find out which counties are offering plans with $0 premiums. Then, head to HealthCare.gov to enroll today! And don’t forget to spread the word to family and friends – GetCoveredAmerica.org has some great resources to get you started.