VoteSpotter | VoteSpotters Community

Commentary & Community

House to Consider Bill to Raise Immigration Detention Standards

The situation at the U.S.-Mexican border continues to be the center of attention for many elected officials. Both President Trump and Democrats in Congress are focusing on this issue, though with widely different ideas on how to solve the problems on the southern border. This week the House of Representatives will vote on one idea put forward by Democrats – increasing the standards of care for those detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

 

Some observers have criticized the CBP for detaining individuals under inhumane conditions. Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) has introduced H.R. 3239, the “Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act.” This bill would require that CBP provide the following services to those in its custody:

  • A health screening
  • Emergency medical care
  • Access to drinking water and hygiene facilities
  • Adequate meals

 

The legislation also sets standards for the buildings housing detainees and forbids unaccompanied minors from being housed with adults. In addition, the bill would require that members of Congress have access to these facilities.

 

Following visits to CBP facilities, some members of Congress have decried the conditions there and have complained about their treatment by CBP staff. Some have even labeled such facilities as “concentration camps.” This charges have met pushbacks by Trump Administration officials, who say that detainees are being treated as well as possible under the circumstances of a rising tide of illegal immigration.


The House is expected to pass H.R. 3239 this week. However, it is unlikely to receive a vote in the Senate.

 

Do you think that Congress should pass legislation to mandate certain standards of care for immigration detention facilities?

 

 

 

 

House Passes $15 Minimum Wage


Supporters of the “Fight for 15” achieved a victory yesterday, as the House of Representatives passed legislation to increase the minimum wage.

 

By a vote of 231-199, the House passed H.R. 582. Here is how VoteSpotter describes the bill:

 

To increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, phased in over 5 years. This legislation would also end the ability of nonprofits to offer work paying below the minimum wage to people with disabilities and end the different minimum wage rates for tipped and newly-hired employees.

 

This legislation would gradually increase the minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour over 7 years. Ever year during that time, the minimum wage would automatically go up. Then, after the seventh year, the Department of Labor would increase the minimum wage based on the increase in the median hourly wage for all employees.

 

In addition, this bill would end the ability of employers to pay lower waged to tipped workers and younger workers who are new hires. The federal program that allows some nonprofits to pay wages that are based on productivity but are below the minimum wage to people with disabilities would also end.

 

Supporters of this proposal say that workers should be paid a “living wage,” and that $15 an hour will help accomplish this. They also argue that this boost in wages will put more money into the economy, helping businesses. Opponents counter that this higher minimum wage will boost the pay of some workers, but will destroy the jobs of others. They contend that businesses will be hurt with the new burden of paying higher wages, since they will face the choice of raising prices or letting people go.

 

A recent Congressional Budget Office study concluded that a $15 minimum wage would increase the wages of 17 million workers while eliminating the jobs of 1.3 million workers and reducing business income.

 

This legislation now heads to the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is unlikely to schedule it for a vote.

 

Do you support a $15 an hour minimum wage?

House Votes to Hold Barr, Ross in Contempt

The House of Representatives is in an ongoing dispute with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Attorney General William Barr over documents related to the 2020 census. Yesterday, the House voted to hold both of these cabinet officials in criminal contempt.

 

By a vote of 230-198, the House approved House Resolution 497, “Recommending that the House of Representatives find William P. Barr, Attorney General of the United States, and Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., Secretary of Commerce, in contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with subpoenas duly issued by the Committee on Oversight and Reform.”

 

The issue in question is the attempt by the Trump Administration to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has subpoenaed documents from both the Commerce Department and Justice Department about how and why such a question was added. President Trump has exerted executive privilege over some of this information, so the two cabinet secretaries have not fully complied with the subpoena.

 

Both secretaries argue that they are complying to the fullest extent possible with the subpoenas. However, House Democratic leadership is not satisfied and pushed for a criminal contempt vote. Only four Democrats voted “no,” while no Republicans supported the measure. Rep. Justin Amash, who recently left the Republican Party to become an independent, voted “yes.”

 

This action sends the contempt finding to the Justice Department for prosecution. It is unlikely if the Attorney General will pursue such criminal contempt charges against himself and Secretary Ross.

 

Do you think that the House was right to hold Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross in contempt for not complying fully with subpoenas regarding the 2020 census?

House to Consider Moving Forward on Impeachment

Yesterday, Rep. Al Green (D-TX) introduced articles of impeachment against President Trump. In those articles, Rep. Green accuses President Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors for his comments about four members of Congress. Rep. Green’s motion is a privileged motion, which means that it requires a vote within two days. Today, the House of Representatives will vote on a procedural motion that could either begin or kill impeachment proceedings. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to make a motion to table, or indefinitely delay, consideration of these articles.

 

Impeachment is the bringing of charges against the president, vice president, or other “civil officials,” such as cabinet officers. Impeachment does not remove them from office, however. Instead, impeachment refers charges to the Senate, which then must vote to remove that person from office.

 

Impeachment and the Constitution

 

The Constitution establishes the impeachment and removal process, explaining it in a few key sections:

 

  • Article I, Section 2: The House of Representatives “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.”

 

  • Article I, Section 3: “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present. Judgment in Cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.”

 

  • Article II, Section 4: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

 

The U.S. impeachment and removal process is similar to the process that existed in Britain during the writing of the Constitution. However, the British Parliament impeaches and removes officials in one action. The framers of the U.S. Constitution made impeachment and removal two separate processes, thus weakening the ability of the legislative branch to remove executive branch officials.

 

How Impeachment and Removal Works

 

The House Judiciary Committee begins the impeachment process. Its members consider articles of impeachment, with approval coming with a majority vote. If approved, these articles of impeachment move to the full House of Representatives for a vote. The House then debates and votes on these articles. If a majority approves them, then that person has been impeached.

 

The Senate then begins its role. With the Chief Justice of the U.S. presiding, the Senate conducts a trial. The House of Representatives appoints members to manage the case before the Senate, laying out the charges contained in the articles of impeachment. The Senate then votes, with a two-thirds vote being necessary to remove that person from office.

 

Impeachment and removal may be for a public official’s criminal act, but they are not criminal proceedings. The only penalty, as the Constitution stipulates, is removal from office. The underlying crimes can be prosecuted by civil authorities, however, which may result in criminal conviction and penalties after impeachment and removal from office.

 

The History of Impeachment

 

The House of Representatives has considered over 60 impeachment cases, but most have failed. There have only been 8 instances where individuals have been impeached and removed from office. Fifteen judges have been impeached, as have 2 presidents:

 

  • Andrew Johnson: The House passed 11 articles of impeachment against Andrew Johnson in 1868. The Senate came within one vote of removing him from office.

 

  • Bill Clinton: The House passed 2 articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton in 1998. The Senate vote to remove him from office failed.

 

In 1974, the House began the impeachment process against President Richard Nixon. The House Judiciary Committee approved 3 articles of impeachment against him, but Nixon resigned prior to a full House vote.

 

Federal Judge G. Thomas Porteous, Jr., was the last official impeached and removed from office. His impeachment and conviction occurred in 2010.

 

The Clinton Impeachment

 

The last presidential impeachment and trial took place over 20 years ago, when the House of Representatives impeached President Bill Clinton. If there are proceedings initiated against President Trump, it would likely follow the pattern set during these proceedings.

 

In 1998, Independent Counsel Ken Starr provided a report to Congress that contained evidence gathered in the course of his investigation into various allegations against President Clinton. The House Judiciary Committee passed four articles of impeachment. Two were for perjury, one was for obstruction of justice, and one was for abuse of power. The full House of Representatives passed two of those articles of impeachment, one for perjury and one for obstruction of justice, on December 19, 1998.

 

The House of Representatives appointed thirteen managers to present their case to the Senate, which began its trial on January 7, 1999. Chief Justice William Rehnquist presided. The trial lasted a month, with the Senate beginning closed-door deliberations on February 9. The Senate took a vote on February 13 on the articles of impeachment. The Senate defeated the perjury charge by a vote of 45-55 and the obstruction of justice charge by 50-50. Sixty-seven votes would have been necessary to convict the president and remove him from office.

 

While both the votes in the House and Senate were largely along party lines, there were members of Congress who broke with their party leadership on impeachment or conviction. Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican senator from Pennsylvania (who later became a Democrat), voted “not proved.” Many observers saw these proceedings as an example of partisanship on both sides. This is in contrast with the impeachment proceedings that had begun against President Nixon, where a bipartisan consensus was forming to impeach and remove him from office prior to his resignation.

 

What This Means for You

 

Aside from Rep. Green's motion, there is growing movement in the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump. These members accuse the president of obstructing justice and other crimes, saying that it is the House’s duty to impeach under these circumstances. Speaker Pelosi has cautioned members that such a move is politically risky, pointing out that Republicans lost popularity when they impeached President Clinton in the 1990s. Her move to table Rep. Green's articles fit in with her longstanding reluctance to launch an inquiry that could lead to impeachment.

 

With Democrats controlling the House of Representatives, there is a possibility that it could pass impeachment articles. However, it is unlikely that the Senate would follow suit, given Republican control of the chamber. If the Senate would convict the president and remove him from office under this situation, then the vice president would assume office.

House Democrats Ready Resolution to Condemn Trump’s Tweets

President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on Twitter is once again causing controversy. This time it may lead to a formal vote of condemnation in the House of Representatives.

 

On Sunday, President Trump tweeted that four Democratic members of Congress -- Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) – should “go back” to their home countries. Rep. Omar is the only one of these four who was born outside the U.S.

 

This brought swift condemnation from many for being racist and for trying to silence his critics. In a series of continuing tweets, the president denied that he was racist. He also continued attacking these members of Congress, saying that they hate America and should apologize to him, the U.S., and Israel for their actions.

 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans a vote on House Resolution 489 this week. The resolution reads, in part:

 

Whereas President Donald Trump’s racist comments have legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color: Now, therefore, be it

 

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

 

(1) believes that immigrants and their descendants have made America stronger, and that those who take the oath of citizenship are every bit as American as those whose families have lived in the United States for many generations;

 

(2) is committed to keeping America open to those lawfully seeking refuge and asylum from violence and oppression, and those who are willing to work hard to live the American Dream, no matter their race, ethnicity, faith, or country of origin; and

 

(3) strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should “go back” to other countries, by referring to immigrants and asylum seekers as “invaders,” and by saying that Members of Congress who are immigrants (or those of our colleagues who are wrongly assumed to be immigrants) do not belong in Congress or in the United States of America.

 

This resolution will have no force of law, but it would indicate that the House of Representatives disapproves of the president’s attacks its members.

 

Do you think that the House of Representatives should vote to condemn President Trump’s attacks on some members of Congress? Do you think that telling minority members of Congress to “go back” to their home countries is racist?

 

 

Biden Backs Government Health Care Buy-In Plan

Health care is likely to be a big issue during the 2020 presidential campaign. Former Vice President Joe Biden today waded into this debate, unveiling his plan to reshape America’s health care sector. But his ideas are drawing a sharp distinction between him and more liberal members of his party.

 

Under Biden’s plan, the federal government would operate a health care program where any American could buy into. This resurrects the “public option” program that was initially part of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. President Obama pushed for this type of government buy-in, but members of Congress thought that it was too problematic. It did not make it into the final version of Obamacare.

 

This public option stands in stark contrast to an idea that is increasingly popular with progressive Democratic politicians: a single-payer system, where private insurance is outlawed and the government runs the health care sector. Sen. Bernie Sanders has championed this most actively, but this idea has also gained ground with other candidates for president.

 

Biden points out that single-payer, also called Medicare for All, involves ending Obamacare. Biden said he is proud of that law and wants to build on it, not repeal it. He also notes that many people like their private insurance, so outlawing that would be a major disruption for millions of Americans.

 

Under the Biden plan, there would also be expanded subsidies for insurance purchases as well as allowing more people to access Medicaid. Biden also wants to provide more funding to Planned Parenthood. He would pay for these ideas with a new tax on investment income earned by taxpayers with higher incomes.

 

Whether it is a public option or single-payer, any such system must be approved by Congress. If Republicans maintain control of either chamber after the 2020 election, either idea seems unlikely. In fact, it is unclear how much support either idea has among Democratic members of Congress.

 

Do you support a government health care program that allows people to buy into it but still allows private insurance? Should there be a single-payer system where there is no private insurance? Or should there be some other health care reform?

Immigration Reform Advancing in Congress

Immigration has been a major issue throughout President Trump’s time in office. This week Congress tackled that subject, with the House passing a bill that would allow more high-skilled immigrants into the country.

 

HR 1044 would eliminate the 7% cap on employment-based immigrant visas, and end the country-based caps on high-skilled immigrants or investor immigrants. In addition, it would also increase the country-based cap for family-based immigrants.

 

The House passed this legislation by a vote of 365-65.

 

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has introduced legislation in the Senate that would accomplish similar goals. His bill, S. 2091, would nearly double the number of employment-based immigration visas (from 140,000 to 270,000), end the country-based caps on employment-based immigration, lower the burdens on hiring immigrants in occupations deemed to have a shortage of workers, and ease rules on work for some family members of those who hold work visas.

 

These bills are not comprehensive immigration reform, but they do address issues for higher-skilled immigrants. As reflected in the bipartisan support for HR 1044, there is consensus across the political spectrum that it should be easier for high-skilled immigrants or immigrants who have a job waiting for them to enter the U.S.

 

Even with this consensus, it is unclear if President Trump would sign such legislation. The president has said he would like any immigration reform to deal with border security.

 

Do you think that the U.S. should allow more high-skilled immigrants into the country?

Trump Hosts Social Media Summit

 

President Trump is no stranger to social media. His tweets make news on an almost daily basis, and have helped shape his presidency. But the president has issues with social media companies, saying they discriminate against conservative viewpoints. Today he hosted a summit at the White House to discuss these concerns.

 

The president invited members of Congress, think tank analysts, campaign strategists, and some online personalities to attend the summit. He tweeted that he was concerned about “be the tremendous dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression practiced by certain companies.” This echoes complaints of some conservative activists that Google, Facebook, and Twitter have tried to silence them.

 

Tech companies deny they have a bias against conservative voices. However, President Trump and his allies argue that they are engaging in censorship and may need stronger federal regulation. Others push back against this suggestion, saying that it would violate the Constitution for the government to interfere with how these companies operate their platforms.

 

It is unclear if there will be any policy goals that emerge from this social media summit, but President Trump will likely continue to decry what he sees as unfair treatment from technology companies.

 

Do you think that social media companies are biased against conservatives? Should the federal government regulate how these companies treat users?

California Sets Limits on Police Shootings

In the wake of controversy over the shooting of unarmed suspects by police, California legislators have passed a law that would make a big change to the law governing when law enforcement officers may fire their guns.

 

Around the nation, there has been increasing attention to police shooting and killing unarmed suspects. In California, protests erupted when Sacramento police shot and killed Stephon Clark. He was unarmed but was holding a cell phone that officers said looked like a gun.

 

Current law allows police leeway to shoot suspects if they think they have a reasonable fear of imminent danger. This standard has led to few police officers being charged and convicted in these types of shootings.

 

Under a bill that passed both houses of the California legislature by large margins, police would only be able to shoot someone if it is necessary to defend themselves from imminent harm. This would make it easier to prosecute officers for killing unarmed suspects.

 

Some critics say that this legislation would make it more difficult for police to do their jobs. They say that it will put them in harm’s way since officers will be worried about using their firearms for fear of being prosecuted if they make a mistake. Supporters counter that it would end the situation where officers can kill unarmed people with no chance of accountability.

 

Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign this legislation.

 

Should there be stricter standards for when police can use deadly force? Should it be easier to prosecute police who shoot unarmed suspects?

$15 Minimum Wage Would Cost Jobs, Study Finds

The “Fight for 15” is a popular idea within the Democratic Party and progressive political circles. A study released yesterday concluded that hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour would indeed give some people a wage boost, but it would cost others their jobs.

 

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) looked at three options for raising the minimum wage above its current level of $7.25 an hour. The three wage levels it looked at were $10 an hour, $12 an hour, and $15 an hour. Here’s what the CBO concluded about what the effects of a $15 an hour minimum wage would be:

 

In an average week in 2025, the $15 option would boost the wages of 17 million workers who would otherwise earn less than $15 per hour. Another 10 million workers otherwise earning slightly more than $15 per hour might see their wages rise as well. But 1.3 million other workers would become jobless, according to CBO’s median estimate. There is a two-thirds chance that the change in employment would be between about zero and a decrease of 3.7 million workers. The number of people with annual income below the poverty threshold in 2025 would fall by 1.3 million.

 

The CBO also concluded that a $15 minimum wage would have impacts on family income:

 

  • Real earnings for workers while they remained employed would increase by $64 billion,
  • Real earnings for workers while they were jobless would decrease by $20 billion,
  • Real income for business owners would decrease by $14 billion, and
  • Real income for consumers would decrease by $39 billion.

 

This study points to the trade-offs that would come from a minimum wage hike. Some workers would see an immediate wage hike, but other workers would lose jobs. Businesses and consumers would also be affected by such a hike. With this issue likely to be a part of the 2020 presidential race, the CBO’s study gives more information on the effects of a minimum wage increase to inform the debate.

 

Do you think that the federal minimum wage should be raised to $15? Is the trade-off of higher wages for some workers worth it if other workers lose their jobs?

Push to Increase Congressional Pay Gains Bipartisan Support

Last month, House Democrats pulled legislation that would have increased congressional salaries. But now Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is saying that a cost-of-living raise would be a good idea. And it appears that a top House Republican supports the idea, too.

 

The House was set to consider the annual funding legislation for Congress last month. The bill contains a provision that would reinstate annual cost-of-living raises for members of Congress. The last time such a raise occurred was 15 years ago. However, some members objected to this raise, and that legislation was pulled from the floor.

 

Members of Congress currently make $174,000 a year.

 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently said that she supports such an increase. She argued that unless members of Congress are well compensated, then they would turn to more lucrative careers – such as lobbying. She also said that this isn’t really a raise; it’s just keeping congressional salaries in line with inflation.

 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) appeared to agree with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. He urged consideration of the issue, saying that Congress should not be a place where only millionaires can serve.

 

The House of Representatives and Senate are returning from their Independence Day recess this week. It is unclear when the Legislative Branch appropriations bill will be considered and if it will contain the automatic cost-of-living pay increase when it is.

 

Do you support giving members of Congress a yearly cost-of-living pay increase? Does stopping annual congressional pay increases give members of Congress an incentive to go into lobbying, where they will earn more money?

Court Won’t Let Border Wall Plans Move Forward

The Trump Administration wants to move forward with building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, but lawsuits are stopping this from happening. A federal appeals court this week declined to issue a stay that would allow the wall work to proceed.

 

President Trump has made a border wall a top priority for his administration. Congress, however, has failed to provide money to build one. After a government shutdown earlier this year over the issue, the president used his emergency power to re-allocate funds to build such a wall. Residents in the border area went to court to stop this construction.

 

These residents argued that the president is violating the Constitution and federal law by his emergency action. They say that Congress did not appropriate funds for a border wall, so the president should not be able to build a wall. Federal courts have agreed with this argument, stopping the Trump Administration from proceeding with border barriers.

 

The Justice Department asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to stay these lower court orders, which would allowed construction to begin. By a 2-1 decision, a panel of this court’s judges disagreed. They wrote that the president is indeed misusing his authority:

 

The Constitution assigns to Congress the power of the purse. Under the Appropriations Clause, it is Congress that is to make decisions regarding how to spend taxpayer dollars. Congress did not appropriate money to build the border barriers Defendants seek to build here. Congress presumably decided such construction at this time was not in the public interest. It is not for us to reach a different conclusion.

 

The Trump Administration argues that the wall is necessary to secure the border from drug traffickers and illegal immigrants.

 

This decision by the 9th Circuit judges does not end the matter. The Justice Department can continue its legal fight in favor of the border wall, which means the Supreme Court may ultimately decide this matter.

 

Do you think that President Trump misused his power to spend money for a border wall when Congress did not authorize such spending?

#

Happy Independence Day

We at VoteSpotter are wishing you a happy Independence Day. The United States turns 243 years old today, and that is a cause for celebration.

 

Whatever your plans are for today, it's always good to consider the reason for the holiday. A great way to do this is to read the Declaration of Independence and ponder the meaning behinds its words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

 

Take a few minutes today to read the whole document and think about the situation facing the Founding Fathers when they wrote these words. Thanks to their actions and the timeless principles of the Declaration of Independence, we are able to continue enjoying our representative form of government centuries after our nation was created.

Judge Blocks Indefinite Detention of Asylum-Seekers

A federal judge dealt the Trump Administration another setback in its quest to reshape the nation’s immigration policy. Judge Marsha J. Pechman issued a nationwide injunction stopping the administration’s plan to end bail hearings for some asylum seekers. The White House blasted the judge, saying she had no authority to do this.

 

Judge Pechman’s order affected a decision by Attorney General William Barr to end bail hearings for some people who have entered the U.S. seeking asylum. This order would have left these individuals in detention indefinitely, without any chance to request a hearing for release.

 

In the judge’s decision, she wrote “that plaintiffs have established a constitutionally protected interest in their liberty, a right to due process, which includes a hearing before a neutral decision maker to assess the necessity of their detention and a likelihood of success on the merits of that issue.”

 

She then ordered that these asylum seekers must either have a bond hearing within seven days of detention or be released.

 

In response, White House spokesperson Stephanie Grisham released a statement saying, “The decision only incentivizes smugglers and traffickers, which will lead to the further overwhelming of our immigration system by illegal aliens. No single district judge has legitimate authority to impose his or her open borders views on the country.”

 

This case is the latest in a series of decisions where federal judges have blocked or overturned aspects of the Trump Administration’s changes to immigration policy.

 

Do you think that asylum seekers should be able to be held without a bail hearing? Should a federal judge be able to block implementation of a policy nationwide?

Booker Calls for Fixes to Immigration Detention Policy

Sen. Cory Booker laid out an immigration plan today that he said he would implement if elected president. The New Jersey senator’s proposal would be a big break from President Trump’s immigration actions.

 

Decrying the current situation at the border, Sen. Booker pledged to use executive action to remedy what he sees as inhumane conditions for individuals being held in detention. His proposal includes new standards for immigration detention facilities and an end to for-profit companies operating such facilities.

 

Sen. Booker also said he would reverse many of President Trump’s immigration actions. These steps would include stopping construction of the border wall with Mexico, reinstating the policy protecting “Dreamers” who came to the country illegally as children, ending the “remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers, and revoking the ban on people entering the U.S. from several majority-Muslim nations.

 

President Trump has imposed many of these policies through executive action, so they can be undone by the next president without congressional approval. This is what Sen. Booker said he would to accomplish if he is elected president.

 

Sen. Booker is part of a crowded field of challengers seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, all of whom have expressed some level of disagreement with how President Trump is pursuing immigration policy.

 

Do you think that there should be higher standards for immigration detention facilities? Should for-profit companies be prohibited from operating these facilities? How should the federal government treat immigration detainees?

New Jersey Millionaire Tax Fails

Governor Phil Murphy pushed hard to impose a new tax on millionaires in New Jersey. But on Sunday he signed a budget bill into law without the tax, which kept the government open but dealt the governor’s progressive agenda a defeat.

 

The governor was pushing to increase the tax rate on income over $1 million from 8.97% to 10.75% as part of an overall spending plan for the state. Legislators balked at this tax increase, however, saying that the state already had an overly high tax burden. They removed the governor’s millionaire tax from the budget, and sent it to him for his signature. Gov. Murphy decided to sign the bill without his tax increase. Vetoing the bill would have shut down the state government.

 

Gov. Murphy is a Democrat and the state legislature is controlled by Democrats. However, the governor has pursued a more liberal agenda than many legislators are comfortable supporting. He has advocated legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, for instance, which failed. This millionaire tax was another proposal that went too far for Democratic lawmakers, and they dealt the governor another defeat on it.

 

The removal of the millionaire tax was noticed by President Trump, who tweeted his approval.

 

Do you think that there should be a special tax rate on income over $1 million?

High Court Rules Partisan Gerrymandering is Political, not Legal, Issue

The Supreme Court refused to wade into the fight over partisan gerrymandering. By a 5-4 decision, the high court held that drawing congressional district lines to gain a political advantage is something that should be solved the political process, not court cases.

 

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, rejecting pleas to intervene in cases where politicians had drawn congressional district lines to maximize seats for their party’s candidates. In his decision, Chief Justice Roberts wrote:

 

We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts. Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions.

 

The justices were deliberating on cases involving gerrymandering in both Maryland and North Carolina. In each state, legislators had devised congressional districts that were drawn in ways that gave maximum advantage to candidates from one party and made it difficult for candidates of the other party to win. Voters in each state sued, saying that this type of partisan gerrymandering deprived them of their right to fair representation.

 

A majority of justices did not necessarily disagree that these maps were unfair. Instead, they held that the solution to this problem is through the elections, not going to court. The four dissenting justices disagreed, saying that there was indeed a constitutional violation in these cases. They argued that such gerrymandering threatens free and fair elections.

 

In most states, elected officials (usually legislators) draw the lines of congressional and legislative districts. However, some states have empowered independent commissions to devise these lines, which supporters claim lessens partisan meddling in the process.

 

Do you think that partisan gerrymandering should be unconstitutional? Should legislators or independent commissions draw congressional and legislative district lines?

Most Democrats Embrace Iran Deal During Debate

The large field of Democratic candidates held their first debate last night, with a variety of issues being discussed. One thing where nearly all candidates agreed was reviving the nuclear deal with Iran. Everyone on stage except Sen. Cory Booker raised his or her hand when asked if they supported the deal.

 

In 2015, President Barack Obama entered the U.S. into a multinational agreement that was aimed at keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Many on the right criticized him for this, saying that it would ultimately lead to a nuclear-armed Iran. President Trump withdrew the U.S. from this deal, saying it was “disastrous.”

 

The question about the U.S. once again joining this agreement came during a period of increased tensions with Iran. That nation shot down a U.S. drone last week. President Trump considered retaliating with a military strike, but ultimately did not do so. He imposed sanctions, instead. The president has verbally sparred with the Iranian leadership during the course of his term, at times threatening war with the nation. He recently ordered more military personnel to the Middle East.

 

Senator Cory Booker broke with his fellow Democratic candidates in supporting the Iran deal. He backed it in 2015, but now says that conditions have changed. He said he supported some kind of agreement with Iran, but it would differ from the one agreed to by President Obama.

 

Do you think the U.S. should re-enter the multinational nuclear deal with Iran? Should the U.S. take military action against Iran?

Warren Unveils Federal Voting Mandates

With 50 states comes 50 different procedures for voting. Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants to see this end – at least for federal elections. This week she unveiled a proposal that would mandate a number of procedures that states must follow for federal races. She’s hoping this will appeal to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party that has been vocal about voting rights.

 

Sen. Warren’s plan has a number of new mandates on states, including:

  • Automatic voter registration (with individuals being able to opt out)
  • Same-day voter registration
  • Prohibiting the removal of people from the voting rolls unless states have objective evidence of a reason to remove them
  • Fifteen days of early voting
  • Voting by mail
  • A uniform federal ballot

 

The proposal would also prohibit gerrymandering for political reasons, requiring states to use independent commissions to draw congressional district lines. Election Day would be a federal holiday.

 

These requirements would only be mandatory for federal elections. However, since many races for state and local office also occur at the same time as federal elections, it is likely that states would use the same procedures for these non-federal races. In effect, Sen. Warren’s proposal would impose uniform federal rules for elections nationwide.

 

Supporters of these ideas argue that they are necessary to prevent states from enacting voting rules that reduce turnout for minority voters or voters from certain political parties. They say that the U.S. should not have a patchwork of rules for voting. Opponents counter that this is another federal power grab from states that have always had the power to set election rules to meet local concerns.

 

Sen. Warren’s proposal is unlikely to see any legislative action in the Republican-controlled Senate. However, she will use it as part of her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

 

Do you think that the federal government should mandate uniform federal rules for elections? Should states implement automatic voter registration and same-day registration?

Sanders Proposed Canceling Student Loan Debt

In his second campaign for the presidency, Sen. Bernie Sanders thinks he has an issue that will attract the votes of millennial voters – student loan debt forgiveness.

 

Under legislation that Sen. Sanders plans to introduce, nearly all individuals who have taken out student loans would see their debt wiped out. His plan includes:

  • Complete forgiveness of outstanding debt for any student loans made, guaranteed, or insured by the federal government;
  • Federal purchase and forgiveness of outstanding private loan debt upon application by the person who incurred the debt;
  • Providing new student loans through the federal government and capping these loans’ interest rates at 1.88%;
  • The elimination of tuition at public colleges; and
  • New subsidies for low-income students attending private colleges.

 

Under this plan, there would be no limits on eligibility based on family income. To pay for this $2.2 trillion plan, Sen. Sanders proposed a new tax on Wall Street transactions.

 

Sen. Sanders says that his plan will be Wall Street bailing out the average American. He argues that debt-free education should be something that every American is entitled to have. Opponents note that his plan would benefit the rich as well as the average American, and would be extremely expensive.

 

Do you think that the federal government should forgive all student loan debt, regardless of the income of the borrowers? Should public universities and colleges be tuition-free?

Copyright © 2018 Votespotter Inc. All rights reserved.