Weekly Washington Outlook — March 28, 2016

White House at Night

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

The House is in recess this week and next, returning Tuesday, April 12.

Senate:

The Senate is in recess this week, returning Monday, April 4.

White House:

On Monday, the president and the first lady will host the 2016 White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn. The event will feature live music, sports courts, cooking stations, storytelling and, of course, Easter egg rolling. In the evening, President Obama will deliver the keynote address at the awards dinner for Syracuse University’s Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting, which recognizes the importance of quality, fact-based political journalism.

On Tuesday, the president will travel to Atlanta, where he will speak at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit, an annual summit that is the largest national collaboration of professionals and advocates impacted by prescription drug abuse and heroin use. President Obama has made clear that addressing this epidemic is a priority for his Administration and put forward a request earlier this year for $1.1 billion in new funding — most of which would go directly to States — to ensure that every American who wants treatment can get the help they need.

On Wednesday, the president will host an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House.

On Thursday and Friday, President Obama will host a fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit. The Summit will be held March 31-April 1, 2016, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington. The Summit will convene delegations from more than 50 nations that will continue discussion on the evolving threat and highlight steps that can be taken together to minimize the use of highly-enriched uranium, secure vulnerable materials, counter nuclear smuggling and deter, detect, and disrupt attempts at nuclear terrorism. In addition, this year’s Summit includes a special session that will focus leaders on the threat of groups like ISIL attacking urban areas across the globe.

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Now Is the Time to Build on the ACA’s Gains, Not Dismantle Them

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Last week, President Obama vetoed a bill that would have left millions of Americans without health insurance and access to affordable, quality care. Since the law’s implementation, nearly 18 million people—including four million Latinos—have gained health coverage. Despite those important gains, efforts have continued by Republicans in Congress to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), culminating most recently in the passage of a bill repealing the ACA. Thanks to the President’s veto, the ACA continues to be the law of the land. Rather than focusing on stripping health insurance away from millions of people, Congress should work to build off existing gains and increase the opportunity for even more individuals and families to enjoy the peace of mind and financial security that comes with having insurance.

Despite the historic gains in insurance coverage, Latinos still have the highest uninsured rate in the nation, with one in five lacking health coverage. That is nearly three times the rate of non-Hispanic Whites. Our community stands to gain a great deal under the ACA as organizations like NCLR and our community partners in the NCLR Affiliate Network work to connect Latinos with the information and resources to enroll in health coverage that best meets their needs. At NCLR, we know there is more work to be done to ensure that everyone has access to quality, affordable health coverage. Now is the time to double down on these efforts, not reverse them.

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As we look to the work ahead, Medicaid expansion—a critical opportunity to further increase the number of insured individuals—remains a key piece of unfinished business under the ACA. While 30 governors have accepted federal funds through the ACA, which allow more low-income people in their states to be eligible for Medicaid, the rest of our nation’s governors have not. These state decisions leave some of our most vulnerable without any opportunity for health coverage, putting them at greater risk of illness and medical debt. If states such as Texas and Florida—which have large Latino populations—expanded Medicaid eligibility, they could make a big difference in reducing the number of uninsured. In fact, if every state expanded Medicaid, nearly 3.7 million Latinos could gain health insurance. We need leaders to step up and do what’s right on behalf of their most vulnerable residents.

Health care is an important issue to many Americans, including Latinos. A recent Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans believe that government should be responsible for ensuring that everyone has health coverage. When Gallup compared the views of Whites and Non-Whites, 65 percent of Non-Whites agreed that the government should be responsible for ensuring health coverage, compared with 44 percent of Whites. The Latino community has experienced historic gains in coverage thanks to the ACA, and we need leaders with the vision and commitment to advance these gains for the well-being and future success of our families and our country.

Weekly Washington Outlook — January 11, 2016

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What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

On Monday, the House will vote on the following legislation under suspension of the rules:

  • 142 – Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
  • R. 757 – North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act of 2016, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Ed Royce / Foreign Affairs Committee)
  • R. 1777 – Presidential Allowance Modernization Act (Sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
  • R. 1069 – Presidential Library Donation Reform Act of 2016, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Duncan / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
  • 1629 – District of Columbia Courts, Public Defender Service, and Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Sen. Ron Johnson / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
  • 1115 – Grants Oversight and New Efficiency (GONE) Act (Sponsored by Sen. Deb Fischer / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
  • R. 598 – Taxpayers Right-To-Know Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Tim Walberg / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
  • R. 653 – FOIA Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
  • R. 3231 – Federal Intern Protection Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Elijah Cummings / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

On Tuesday, the House will consider H.R. 1644 – STREAM Act (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Alex Mooney / Natural Resources Committee) before recessing in the evening for a Joint Session of Congress to receive the President’s State of the Union Address.

On Wednesday and Thursday the House will vote on the following:

  • R. 3662 – Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Russell / Foreign Affairs Committee)
  • J. Res. 22 – Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency relating to the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)

Senate:

The Senate returns from its winter break on Monday and plans to consider the nomination of Luis Restrepo to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Third Circuit. Later in the week, the Senate plans to take a procedural vote on S.2232, legislation to audit the Federal Reserve.

White House:

On Monday, the president will attend meetings at the White House.

On Tuesday, President Obama will deliver his final State of the Union Address at 9:00 PM EST. The vice president, the first lady, and Dr. Biden will attend.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the president will travel to Omaha, Neb. and then to Baton Rouge, La. to highlight the progress made in each state since he took office and what more can be done in the next year to move the country forward.

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

Supreme Court:

On Monday, the Court will hear oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The case seeks to overturn a 1977 ruling that allows public-sector unions to charge “fair share fees” to non-members benefitting from collective bargaining. More information available.

On Friday, the Court could decide whether or not to hear arguments in the Fifth Circuit litigation on DAPA and expanded DACA.

Also this Week:

Criminal Justice – The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a mark-up on Tuesday of the first pieces of a criminal justice reform package. H.R. 3406 would reauthorize adult and juvenile offer re-entry programs and H.R. 1854 would authorize programs related to the intersection of mental health and the criminal justice system. Chairman Goodlatte (R-VA) has indicated a willingness to address criminal justice and sentencing reform issues through a piecemeal approach, focusing on elements that have broad bipartisan support. In contrast, the Senate could vote in the coming weeks on bipartisan sentencing and prison reform legislation.

Puerto Rico – At the end of last year, Republican leadership in the House pledged to take action on Puerto Rico by the end of March. The House Judiciary Committee originally planned to hold a hearing in early January, but this has not yet been scheduled. However, the House Natural Resources Committee’s Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee will convene a hearing a Tuesday on energy and electricity issues on the island. House Speaker Paul Ryan has set a March 31st deadline for the House to act on Puerto Rico’s financial crisis.

Budget – The Congressional Budget Office will release next Tuesday, January 19th its annual budget and economic outlook. The release will come in two parts: a broad overview and the report itself.

Republican Retreat – House and Senate Republican members will hold a joint retreat in Baltimore this week to map out a 2016 agenda. While Speaker Ryan has recently spoken on the need to provide a positive vision for the party, it is widely expected members will push for additional votes to repeal the ACA and other conservative priorities headed into the election.

State of the Union – The President is expected to use his last State of the Union to draw a contrast with some Presidential campaign rhetoric to make the case that America is on the right track. He is likely to have an aspirational message and it has been reported he will spend little time focusing on legislative priorities or accomplishments. More details. Guests of the first lady will include a Dreamer, a Syrian refugee, and activists and law enforcement officials working on criminal justice reform, among others.

White House Offers Immigrant Integration Recommendations

Last Spring, the White House Task Force on New Americans released 48 recommendations for federal agencies to work better at facilitating immigrant integration.  This week, the Task Force released its progress report.  Read the whole report below.

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Millions of American Families Still in Need of Immigration Relief

Southwest-Key_005Late last night, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld an earlier ruling in Texas v. United States, temporarily blocking implementation of President Obama’s executive actions to provide deportation relief through an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the creation of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program.

We are deeply disappointed by the decision, which ignores decades of legal precedent and leaves millions of American families in limbo.

“The record is clear—since the end of World War II, presidents of both parties have used discretionary powers on multiple occasions and for an extensively wide range of reasons to protect various groups from deportation,” said  NCLR President and CEO, Janet Murguía, in a statement. “This decision disregards both this precedent and the necessity and practicality of setting priorities when it comes to immigration enforcement,”

The Department of Justice expressed its disagreement with the appeals court and has indicated that it will ask the Supreme Court to review the Fifth Circuit’s decision.

US Supreme Court“Ultimately, we believe that a higher court will and should overturn this decision and history will show that President Obama’s actions prevented the separation of families, began to fix a badly broken immigration system, and enriched the economy” said Murguía.

In the statement, Murguía also noted the lengthy review period the Fifth Circuit took to hand down its decision.

“As many have noted, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the decision is not just incorrect but was delayed unnecessarily,” said Murguía. “We cannot permit those opposed to this measure to simply ‘run out the clock’ because we are confident that, when brought before the Supreme Court, the justices will agree that the president was well within his legal authority to provide relief for millions of families.”

Although implementation of these specific programs remains halted, eligible applicants may still participate in DACA. For more information on how to apply for DACA, please visit uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals.