Softer Tones Cannot Mask Harmful Policies

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Gage Skidmore

In the president’s first speech to Congress, Mr. Trump managed to maintain his composure without resorting to the usual antics that have become a hallmark of his speeches. Still, his softer tone cannot mask his harmful policies that have affected millions of Americans.

We are deeply concerned by the president’s pursuit of policies that undermine the significant progress that our community, and other diverse communities across the country, have made in recent years. Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to vital programs, his refugee travel ban, and his inhumane, un-American executive orders on immigration have a real and lasting impact: the erosion of the civil rights of a significant number of our citizens, the separation of families, and the gutting of important education, housing, and health initiatives that will affect millions.

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Congress Must Do More to Help Working Families

By Amelia Collins, Associate Policy Analyst, NCLR

According to new data from the U.S. Census Current Population Survey (CPS), income levels and poverty rates for most Americans are unchanged from last year and vast disparities persist between Hispanics and Whites. The Census released the latest data on income and poverty in the United States late last week and includes the CPS, the source for the national official poverty measure. The second set of data released, the American Community Survey (ACS), offers an economic picture at the state and local levels.

Overall, 14.8% of Americans live in poverty. For Whites, the poverty rate in 2014 was 10.1%, less than half the rate of 23.6% for Hispanics.

The median income in 2014 for Hispanics remains below prerecession levels at $42,491. The median income for Whites in 2014 was 42% higher at $60,256.

Although, according to the CPS, there has been no significant change in the overall poverty rate for Latinos over the past year, the number of Hispanics living in poverty has decreased, even with an uptick in the overall Latino population. According to the ACS, in 2014, 252,000 fewer Hispanics, including about 160,000 Latino kids, lived in poverty. This decrease comes even as the total Latino population grew by 1.3 million, including 97,000 children, from 2013 to 2014.

While academics can debate the best source to determine poverty rates, there is no questioning what Congress should do in response to these new numbers: they must pass legislation to help hardworking American families stay out of poverty.

Improving jobs and the economy remain a top priority for the Latino community. A 2014 poll by Latino Decisions and NCLR found that a majority of Latinos continue to worry about their financial security, with 70% concerned they are not earning enough to cover their basic expenses. Unfortunately, Congress has yet to take action on policies that would help millions of Americans stay above the poverty line. Two policies Congress should advance this year to respond to Latino voters’ economic priorities are:

  • Save expiring provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). The EITC and the CTC are refundable tax credits for American families. Improvements to these pro-work programs made in 2009 are set to expire in 2017. If Congress does not act to make those critical expansions permanent, five million Latino families stand to lose an average of $1,000 each. In total, 16 million Americans will be pushed into or deeper into poverty.
  • Raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $12 an hour. Doing so would increase the income for millions of working families, including 5 million Latino workers, who are concentrated in low-wage jobs. Persistent wage stagnation has left many families without the means necessary to cover necessary expenses. According to U.S. Census data, over 1.2 million Hispanics who worked full-time year-round lived below the poverty line. These hardworking families deserve to earn a living wage.

As the Latino population continues to grow and their share of the electorate increases, politicians must pay increasing attention to the economic well-being and the priorities of the Latino community. It starts with action for working families.

Weekly Washington Outlook — June 22, 2015

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What to Watch This Week:

 Congress:

House:

On Monday, the House is not in session.

On Tuesday, the House will meet at meet at 12:00 p.m. for morning hour and 2:00 p.m. for legislative business. Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m and the House will consider legislation under suspension of the rules:

1) H.R. 805 – Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters (DOTCOM) Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. John Shimkus / Energy and Commerce Committee)

2) H.R. 2576 – TSCA Modernization Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. John Shimkus / Energy and Commerce Committee)

3) H.R. 893 – Boys Town Centennial Commemorative Coin Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry / Financial Services Committee)

4) H.R. 1698 – Bullion and Collectible Coin Production Efficiency and Cost Savings Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Huizenga / Financial Services Committee)

5) H.R. 2620 – To amend the United States Cotton Futures Act to exclude certain cotton futures contracts from coverage under such Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. David Scott / Agriculture Committee)

6) H.R. 1633 – DHS Paid Administrative Leave Accountability Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Barry Loudermilk / Homeland Security Committee)

7) H.R. 1615 – DHS FOIA Efficiency Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Buddy Carter / Homeland Security Committee)

8) H.R. 1640 – Department of Homeland Security Headquarters Consolidation Accountability Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Mark Walker / Homeland Security Committee)

9) H.R. 1626 – DHS IT Duplication Reduction Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Will Hurd / Homeland Security Committee)

10) H.R. 2390 – Homeland Security University-based Centers Review Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bennie Thompson / Homeland Security Committee)

11) H.R. 1637 – Federally Funded Research and Development Sunshine Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. John Ratcliffe / Homeland Security Committee)

12) H.R. 2200 – CBRN Intelligence and Information Sharing Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally / Homeland Security Committee)

13) H.R. 1646 – Homeland Security Drone Assessment and Analysis Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman / Homeland Security Committee)

14) Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 615 – Department of Homeland Security Interoperable Communications (Sponsored by Rep. Donald Payne / Homeland Security Committee)

Also Tuesday, complete consideration of H.R. 1190 – Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act of 2015 (Subject to a Closed Rule, No Further Debate) (Sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe / Ways and Means Committee / Energy and Commerce Committee).

On Wednesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business and will consider H.R. 2042 – Ratepayer Protection Act of 2015, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Ed Whitfield / Energy and Commerce Committee).

On Thursday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.

On Friday, the House will meet at 9:00 a.m. for legislative business. Last votes expected no later than 3:00 p.m. with consideration of H.R. 2822 – Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Ken Calvert / Appropriations Committee). There might also be consideration of legislation related to trade.

Senate:

Today, the Senate will vote on two nominations. Tomorrow and the remainder of the week, the Senate will focus on trade, with a vote on a procedural motion to limit debate on “fast-track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation. Senate passage would clear the bill for the president’s signature. There will also be a cloture vote later this week on the legislative vehicle for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). If passed by the Senate, that bill would go back to the House, where its passage is anything but assured.

White House:

On Monday, the president will host an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan at the White House.

On Tuesday, President Obama will attend meetings at the White House.

On Wednesday, the president will host a reception at the White House in recognition of LGBT Pride Month.

On Thursday and Friday, President Obama will attend meetings at the White House.

Supreme Court

By the end of June, the Supreme Court is set to hand down numerous decisions, including on three significant cases. As noted above, King v. Burwell will decide the availability of tax subsidies for those who enrolled in health insurance through the federal exchange under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with a decision against the government potentially leading to the disruption of health care coverage for millions of people. A decision on Obergefell v. Hodges will determine if the Constitution requires states to allow same-sex marriages and if states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states that allow it. In Texas Department of Housing and Community Affiars v. The Inclusive Communities Project the Court will decide on whether disparate-impact claims are viable under the Fair Housing Act.

Also This Week:

Appropriations – The Senate Appropriations Subcommittees will continue mark-up of their versions of spending bills for FY2016. Up on Tuesday are Transportation-HUD and Labor-HHS-Education. Senate Democrats have vowed to vote against procedural motions on the floor for any appropriations bill that upholds sequestration spending levels. The House Appropriations Committee plans a mark-up Wednesday on their Labor-HHS-Education spending bill. The measure would slash programs by $3.7 billion, with education taking the biggest hit.

Education – The Student Success Act (H.R. 5) remains off this week’s House schedule despite its inclusion in Majority Leader McCarthy’s memo for this work period. Instead, attention remains on the Senate where members are preparing ESEA reauthorization for introduction after the July 4 recess, at the earliest. The business and civil rights community is continuing to work toward bipartisan support of an amendment to strengthen the accountability system in the bill.

Health – The House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee is holding a hearing on Wednesday on health insurance premiums under the ACA. In anticipation of a King v. Burwell decision, House and Senate Republicans are preparing a response. Senator Johnson (R-Wis.) has crafted the most likely legislative proposal, which would reportedly block new enrollments in the federal health care exchange, but would extend tax credits for two years for those already enrolled. Repeal of the ACA would increase the budget deficit by an estimated $353 billion according to a recent Congressional Budget Office assessment.

The House Education and the Workforce Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee is holding a hearing on Wednesday titled “Child Nutrition Assistance: Looking at the Cost of Compliance for States and Schools” and the House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee and House Agriculture Committee Nutrition Subcommittee are holding a joint hearing on the “Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: How Our Welfare System Can Discourage Work.”

Labor – The Department of Labor is expected to announce a long-awaited overtime rule that could double the salary level of workers able to claim time-and-a-half payments. Republicans are expected to fight the rule, with a House Education and Workforce hearing earlier this month indicating staunch opposition to any regulatory proposal seen as an overreach.

Consumer Protections – This Thursday the House Financial Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee is holding a hearing on “Examining Continuing Allegations of Discrimination and Retaliation at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” with testimony from two whistleblowers after reports that worker complaints against the agency have increased.

Civil Rights – The House Judiciary Committee is holding a listening session on criminal justice reform this Thursday and the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice will hold a Friday hearing titled “The State of Property Rights in America Ten Years After Kelo v. City of New London.”

Weekly Washington Outlook — May 4, 2015

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What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

The House is in recess, returning the week of May 11th.

Senate:

On Monday evening, the Senate will vote to override the President’s veto of S.J. Res. 8, a bill that would block a proposed National Labor Relations Board rule on expediting workplace elections in certain circumstances. On Tuesday, the Senate will resume consideration of legislation that would give Congress the authority to review any nuclear agreement with Iran. The Senate also plans to vote this week on a conference report of a joint budget resolution.

White House:

On Monday, the President will travel to New York City to deliver remarks at an event at Lehman College launching the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a new non-profit organization. He will also tape an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, and attend DNC events.

On Tuesday, the President will host a Cinco de Mayo reception at the White House.

On Wednesday, the President will attend meetings at the White House.

On Thursday, the President will welcome the United States Air Force Academy football team to the White House to present them with the 2014 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. In the afternoon, the President will travel to the Portland, Oregon area to attend a DNC event.

On Friday, the President will attend an event held at Nike headquarters to discuss how workers will benefit from progressive, high-standards trade agreements that would open up new markets and support high-quality jobs both for Oregon small businesses and large companies like Nike. The President will also make the case that strong bipartisan trade promotion legislation – introduced this month by Senators Ron Wyden and Orrin Hatch – is an important step to ensure our trade policy works for the middle class through strong enforcement provisions, transparency, and the requirement that our trade agreements include high-standards to bring greater opportunity to American businesses, level the playing field for American workers, protect the environment, and raise human rights and labor standards around the world. Afterward, the President will travel to Watertown, South Dakota to deliver the commencement address for the graduating class at Lake Area Technical Institute. Lake Area Technical Institute is one of the top community colleges in the nation, and is recognized for rigorously preparing its students with the skills they need to compete in the 21st Century economy. With a two-year graduation rate more than twice the national average, Lake Area Technical Institute focuses on providing its graduates smooth pathways to high skilled careers with private-sector businesses.

Also This Week:

Immigration – The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will mark-up several bills on Wednesday, including S. 750, “Arizona Borderlands Protection and Preservation Act.” This bill would allow Customs and Border Protection access to federal lands in Arizona for their patrols. It has been criticized by environmental groups, immigration advocates, and others.

Appropriations – The Senate Appropriations Committee continues to hold hearings this week. The Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White and the Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission Tim Massad will both appear on Tuesday before the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee. Attorney General Loretta Lynch will make her first appearance in her new role on Thursday before the Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee. When the House returns from recess, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has indicated he plans to bring the Legislative Branch funding bill to the floor before the end of the work period.

Budget – The Senate is scheduled to vote this week on a conference report on a joint budget resolution for FY2016. The measure maintains discretionary domestic spending at sequester levels, but increases defense spending by $96 billion. It also includes reconciliation instructions, setting the stage for a fight over repealing the Affordable Care Act later this summer. The House passed the conference report last week.

Education – Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) wrote in his May memo that he still plans to bring H.R. 5, the “Student Success Act” to the floor in the coming weeks. Without any Democratic support, however, the legislation is rumored to still be short of votes needed for passage. Acknowledging this, Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) has recently signaled openness to a different legislative vehicle for passing legislation to rewrite ESEA. The Senate is likely to take up a bipartisan reauthorization bill in early June. The “Every Child Achieves Act,” which passed unanimously out of the HELP Committee earlier in April, still faces challenges from civil rights groups and others about what has been perceived as a weak accountability system.

Weekly Washington Outlook — April 6, 2015

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What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

The House is in recess, returning the week of April 13.

Senate:

The Senate is in recess, returning the week of April 13.

White House:

On Monday, the president and the his family will participate in the White House Easter Egg Roll. The event will feature live music, sports courts, cooking stations, storytelling, and Easter egg rolling.

On Tuesday, President Obama will host an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House; the vice president will also attend.

On Wednesday, the president will depart the White House en route to Kingston, Jamaica.

On Thursday, President Obama will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller of Jamaica and participate in a meeting with Caribbean Community leaders. The president will also participate in a town hall with young leaders. In the evening, President Obama will depart Kingston en route to Panama City, Panama.

On Friday, the president will hold a bilateral meeting with Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela and participate in the Summit of the Americas CEO Forum. In the evening President Obama will attend the Summit of the Americas Opening Ceremonies.

On Saturday, the president will attend official Summit of the Americas events. The President will participate in a press conference before departing Panama en route to Washington.

Coming Up Next Week:

Budget – When Congress returns on the April 13, the budget process will continue, with House Budget Committee Chairman Price (R-Ga.) and Senate Budget Chairman Enzi (R-Wyo.) wanting to resolve differences in the budget by April 15, the statutory deadline for adopting a concurrent resolution. There is no penalty for failing to meet the deadline, whether by adopting a budget late or not adopting one at all. If no agreement is reached, each chamber can deem its resolution as binding on the spending and revenue bills that come later.

Nominations – When the Senate returns, the chamber may resume consideration of a stalled anti-trafficking bill that has become mired in abortion politics. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said repeatedly that the Senate must complete work on this legislation before he will move to confirm Loretta Lynch to be Attorney General. Last week Senator Kirk (R-Ill.) became the fifth Republican to say he will vote to confirm Lynch, hypothetically assuring her confirmation.

Health – The Senate is expected to vote in mid-April on legislation that would permanently alter Medicare’s sustainable growth rate. This legislation also extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two years. It passed overwhelmingly in the House on March 26.

Education – There is considerable speculation House Leadership will try again to pass H.R. 5, an ESEA reauthorization bill, after the recess. The legislation had to be pulled from the floor in February and it is still unclear whether the measure has enough Republican support. In the Senate, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Murray (D-Wash.) are continuing to negotiate a bipartisan ESEA reauthorization bill.  A mark-up has been scheduled for the week of April 13, and it is possible details may soon be announced.