Weekly Washington Outlook — March 7, 2016

By Vinoth Chandar (Flickr: Capitol Hill - Washington, DC) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Vinoth Chandar (Flickr: Capitol Hill – Washington, DC) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What to Watch This Week: 

Congress:

House:

The House is in recess this week, returning Monday, March 14.

Senate:

On Monday, the Senate will resume consideration of S. 524, the Comprehensive Addition and Recovery Act of 2015. The Senate may also vote on final passage of energy legislation S. 2012. The measure has been stalled as Senators seek a path forward on an amendment that would assist municipalities such as Flint, Mich., clean up tainted drinking water supplies.

White House:

On Monday, the president will host a meeting at the White House with financial regulators to receive an update on their progress in implementing Wall Street Reform. Eight years after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the participants will discuss efforts to continue to implement the strongest consumer financial protections in history that have afforded millions of hard-working Americans new protections from the kinds of abusive practices that predated the crisis.

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

On Thursday, the president and the first lady will welcome The Right Honorable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada, and Mrs. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau to the White House for an Official Visit with a State Dinner. The visit is intended to advance cooperation on important bilateral and multilateral issues, such as energy and climate change, security, and the economy.

On Friday, President Obama will travel to Austin, Texas to participate in South by Southwest Interactive. The President will sit down with Editor-in-Chief of The Texas Tribune, Evan Smith, for a conversation about civic engagement in the 21st Century. In the lead-up to the event, The Texas Tribune will also source questions for the discussion from its online audience. Afterwards, the President will attend DNC events.

On Saturday, President Obama will attend a DNC and DSCC event before returning to Washington, D.C.

Also this Week:

Budget/Appropriations – The Senate Appropriations Committee will continue to hear from Administration officials regarding the President’s budget request for the upcoming fiscal year. Among those scheduled to testify before their Subcommittees of jurisdiction are Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on Tuesday; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday; Education Secretary John King on Thursday; and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro on Thursday. In addition, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will appear Tuesday before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to discuss the Department’s budget request.

Health – The Senate Finance Committee plans a hearing Thursday on the HealthCare.gov website. The Health and Human Services Department’s Inspector General released a report last month providing some insight into the site’s troubled 2013 rollout. A member of the Inspector General’s office, as well as an official from the Government Accountability Office, are expected to testify. Elsewhere, Senate Leadership is seeking a path forward to vote on an amendment that would authorize a loan to municipalities like Flint, Mich. to clean up tainted drinking water. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is blocking the measure arguing “federal aid is not needed at this time.” Finally, the Senate HELP Committee plans to consider legislation (S. 2512) on Wednesday to encourage the Food and Drug Administration to incentivize private drug-makers to develop a Zika vaccine.

Education – The Senate HELP Committee is expected to vote on the nomination of Dr. John B. King to be Education Secretary on Wednesday.  Dr. King’s nomination could be considered by the full Senate before the end of March.

Criminal Justice – The Senate Judiciary Committee approved bipartisan sentencing reform legislation, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, in the Fall of 2015. The legislation’s sponsors, including Sen. Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Cornyn (R-Texas), Sen. Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and others have been asking Senate Leadership to bring the legislation to the Senate floor for a vote. However, some conservative Senators including Sen. Cotton (R-Ark.) have argued that the legislation will result in the release of certain violent offenders.  To address this concern, it is likely that the sponsors of the bill will introduce as soon as this week a compromise to pave the way for floor consideration.

And Justice for All: An NCLR Blog Series on Latinos and Policing Practices

Though headlines refer to the “shocking” details of those killed by law enforcement in the past year, the sad reality is that these events aren’t shocking to the millions of Americans living in communities full of distrust for local police. Due to the extremely complicated history between minorities and authorities in this country, many Latinos in the United States share a fear and suspicion of the figures meant to protect them.

This tense dynamic of distrusting those relied on for safety comes through in poll data from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Latino Decisions. Results show that though 84% of Latinos believe police are there to protect them, 68% also worry law enforcement is willing to use excessive force against Latinos; 18% report having friends or family members who have experienced police brutality.

So far this year, 125 Latinos have been killed by police, according to The Guardian. Of those 125, 57% of them were not carrying a firearm and 20% were completely unarmed. With the prevalence of smartphones and new media, recordings of questionable police practices are publicizing problems that are centuries old. People have taken to Twitter and Facebook to share their stories of mistreatment from authorities, illuminating what is common knowledge in some communities, but previously unheard of in others.

As more people speak up, more will take note of the prevalence of these issues. This is why NCLR is launching “And Justice for All,” a blog series profiling Latino relations with local police. By lifting Latino experiences to the national level, otherwise untold stories can contribute to these long-overdue conversations. The overwhelming interest in our workshop “An Untold Story: Abusive Policing and Lost Latino Lives” at the NCLR Annual Conference in July underscored the need to raise more Latino voices now.

In the series, you’ll hear from an Affiliate who sees injustice in the community every day and has engaged local police about it. A police officer will share an insider’s perspective of current law enforcement practices. Youth who otherwise felt silenced will finally be able to speak.

As we’ve all seen, talking about these issues can lead to uncomfortable—and sometimes intense—discussions. These stories are not always easy to tell or hear, but change cannot happen unless we agree that it must.