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House Passes Sweeping Election Law Changes

This week the House of Representatives passed legislation that would impose a variety of federal requirements on states' election practices.

 

By a vote of 220-210, the House voted in favor of HR 1 late on the night of March 3. Here is how VoteSpotter describes HR 1:

 

To amend federal election laws and impose federal rules on state election procedures. These changes include mandating that certain nonprofit corporations engaging in political speech report their donors to the government; mandating that social media companies report the names of political ad donors to the government; requiring members of Congress to use personal funds to settle employment discrimination suits; requiring states to implement automatic, online and same-day voter registration; mandating how states remove ineligible voters from the rolls; requiring that redistricting be done by an independent commission; mandating that presidential candidates publicly disclose their income tax returns; and establishing a pilot program to provide government funding for citizens to contribute to candidates, among other things.

 

This legislation combines a number of Democratic election law priorities. Enacting these, supporters argue, would reduce barriers to voting, help eliminate racially-biased voting laws, and ensure wider participation in elections. Republicans pushed back against these claims, however. They said that many of these practices would open the door to voter fraud. They also noted that conducting elections is a state, not federal, responsibility. They said that this law was an unconstitutional intrusion into state laws.

 

The vote on HR 1 comes after a contentious 2020 election that saw election laws altered in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans charged that these changes led to voter fraud but Democrats lauded them as long overdue. Many states are now considering bills that would reduce early voting and similar measures.

 

Only one Democrat voted against HR 1 and no Republican supported it. The bill's prospects in the Senate look uncertain. If it is enacted, it will face lawsuits from state officials who will echo GOP arguments that many of its provisions are unconstitutional.

 

Do you support the federal government mandating that states allow same-day voter registration and make other changes to their election laws?

House Defeats Push to Mandate Voting Rights for Felons, Incarcerated

The progressive caucus in the Democratic Party has long pushed to expand voting rights to felons and individuals in jail. This week, however, they could not even garner a majority of their Democratic colleagues to support that in the House of Representatives.

 

While considering HR 1, a bill that contains a variety of provisions related to federal election law, Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) introduced an amendment that would mandate that states allow felons and otherwise eligible voters in jail to vote. She said that those who are sent to prison are still people and should retain their rights. Supporters argue that denying the incarcerated their right to vote disproportionately affects minorities and that it is a social justice issue to allow them to vote.

 

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly disagreed, however. The amendment failed by a vote of 97-328. No Republican voted in favor of it, but 119 Democrats also opposed the amendment. 

 

Opponents argued that the federal government should not be telling states that they must allow felons or the incarcerated to vote. They also argued that stripping voting rights from those in jail was part of a proper punishment for their crimes.

 

There have been efforts in states to restore voting rights to felons, although maintaining voting rights for the incarcerated is more controversial. Rep. Bush said that while this amendment may have failed, it would help spark a national conversation on this issue.

 

Do you think that people in jail should be able to vote?

Senate Working on $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Bill

Congress is considering legislation to spend nearly $2 trillion on economic stimulus as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Last week, the House of Representatives passed HR 1319. Here is how VoteSpotter describes this bill:

 

To spend $1.9 trillion on economic stimulus and increase the federal minimum wage to $15-per-hour. This legislation includes $1,400 in checks to most taxpayers, an additional $300 per week in unemployment benefits, $50 billion for coronavirus testing and tracing, $350 billion for local and state governments, $130 billion for schools, $25 billion for restaurants and bars, $1.5 billion to Amtrak, and $3 billion to aircraft manufacturers, among other things.

 

House members approved it by a narrow vote of 219-212

 

Unlike past coronavirus aid bills that have cleared Congress, this legislation does not have bipartisan support. In the House, every Republican and two Democrats voted against it. Republicans in the Senate have also signaled they will not support it.

 

The legislation has garnered GOP ire because of its large price tag and provisions that they say are unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic. They point to aid to state and local governments, for instance, arguing that these governments that have fiscal problems do so not because of the pandemic but because of spending excessively for years previously.

 

Another point of contention is the minimum wage increase. Because this stimulus bill is being advanced as part of the budget process, it is being considered under rules known as reconciliation. The Senate parliamentarian has ruled that the minimum wage increase cannot be part of the Senate legislation. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi kept the provision in the legislation that passed that chamber, but it will be removed in the Senate.

 

Backers of this bill say that Americans need aid and they need it now. They contend that without action it will lead to people losing their homes and jobs. They contend that Republicans had few objections when Congress considered expensive legislation under President Trump, so their concerns about fiscal responsibility are hypocritical now.

 

The Senate will debate the legislation this week.


Do you support the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill?

House Passes Bill to Ban Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity

Last week the House of Representatives passed a bill that expands federal discrimination protections to individuals based on their sexual orientation or their gender identity.

 

By a vote of 224-206, the House passed HR 5, dubbed the EQUALITY Act. Here is how VoteSpotter describes HR 5:

 

To enact a new federal law that would prohibit discrimination in public accommodations, employment and public education based on an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill would also prohibit a business, school, or other location from denying access to a bathroom, locker room, dressing room, or other facility based on an individual's gender identity.

 

Supporters of this bill say it is necessary to have a federal ban on this type of discrimination. They argue that gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals are being denied basic rights and should be protected by law. Opponents contend that this will infringe upon the religious beliefs of those who think that homosexuality and being transgender are sinful. They contend this is federal overreach.

 

Currently, some states have laws banning discrimination based on someone's gender identity. These laws can include a requirement that individuals can use the bathrooms or dressing rooms of their gender identity not their biological sex. The Supreme Court also ruled in 2020 that the Constitution forbids anti-gay discrimination.

 

It remains unclear if the Senate will consider this legislation. With Democrats having control only through Vice President Harris presiding over the chamber, many controversial bills like this face an uphill battle there. It is unlikely that if considered it could garner the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster.


Do you support a federal ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity?

 

Parliamentarian Deals Blow to Hopes of $15 Minimum Wage

 

Democrats were hoping to use the coronavirus relief bill to enact a $15-per-hour minimum wage. Yesterday, the Senate parliamentarian issued an opinion that erects a major roadblock to their efforts. 

 

Members of Congress are using the budget process to advance another coronavirus relief bill. The budget process allows legislation to move through Congress through reconciliation, which is exempt from the Senate filibuster. Essentially it is a way to pass legislation with only a majority vote. This legislation must concern federal spending, however. 

 

Supporters of an increased federal minimum wage have argued that this policy proposal is indeed related to federal spending and budgetary matters. That has been greeted by skepticism even from some members of the Democratic Party, however. The Senate parliamentarian also disagreed. She ruled that reconciliation could not be used to advance the minimum wage in that body.

 

House Speaker Pelosi said that she would still include a minimum wage increase in the House's version of COVID relief. When that reaches the Senate, however, the rules will require that it be removed. 

 

This does not end the fight for a higher minimum wage. Some Republicans, such as Senators Josh Hawley and Mitt Romney, support increasing it, although not to $15. Even though a minimum wage bill cannot be advanced via reconciliation, it can be considered under normal Senate rules. For it to pass, however, supporters would need to garner 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.


Do you think that the minimum wage should be increased? If so, should it be increased to $15 or a lower amount?

Cities Mandating Hazard Pay for Grocery Workers

With the coronavirus pandemic lasting almost a year, cities are beginning to mandate that grocery stores offer their workers temporary bonuses. The elected officials supporting these mandates argue that grocery store workers deserve pay for serving through the pandemic, but they have led to some grocery stores closing their doors.

 

Cities including Los Angeles, Seattle, and Long Beach have passed laws requiring that grocery stores pay their workers temporary bonuses. The Long Beach law, for instance, requires stores whose business is 70% devoted to food and employ more than 300 employees nationally to pay their employees in that city an extra $4 per hour. These government-mandated raises would last for 120 days.

 

With grocery store employees putting in long hours and facing customers who may have coronavirus, the supporters of these mandates argue that it is only fair for them to get a raise. They also say that grocery chains have seen a big increase in business, so they should pass a cut of their profits to workers. Opponents counter that grocery stores have spent significant money on coronavirus-related safety procedures. They also note that these stores' margins are very thin, so a government-mandated wage increase will lead to some stores closing down.

 

Some grocery chains have indeed announced that they would close stores or reduce hours in areas that impose a bonus pay mandate. They are also suing to overturn these requirements.

 

Do you think that cities should require that grocery stores raise their workers' pay?

Tennessee Legislators Urge Schools to Punish Kneeling Athletes

Some Tennessee legislators are upset that student athletes are kneeling during the national anthem. They want the state's universities to punish those students who do, prompting concerns about the athletes' First Amendment rights.

 

Last week, students from East Tennessee State University kneeled during the national anthem before a game at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. These students said they did so to protest racial inequality, but legislators say that the action was disrespectful. 

 

This week, every Republican senator in the Tennessee legislature signed a letter asking the state's university presidents to adopt policies that would prevent such actions. They argued that the students were representing their schools and the people of Tennessee, so the school should ensure they do not kneel during the national anthem. 

 

Lawyers, however, contend that any action to restrict the ability of students to protest would run afoul of the First Amendment. As public schools, state universities are restricted by the Constitution in how they infringe upon the free speech rights of students.

 

Given the constitutional issues, it is unlikely that any of Tennessee's universities will act in ways that will restrict student protests. It remains to be seen how legislators will react if no action occurs.

 

Do you think that schools should punish students who kneel for the national anthem?

North Dakota May Ban Mask Mandates

The North Dakota House of Representatives doesn't like face mask mandates. In fact, its members dislike them so much they have approved a bill that would prohibit such mandates in the state.

 

Under this legislation, the state government could not require that individuals wear face masks, nor could local governments or school districts. Gov. Doug Burgum imposed a mask mandate in November.

 

According to the bill's sponsor, requiring that people wear masks to combat the spread of the coronavirus is "silliness." He says that a mask-wearing mandate restricts liberties. Supporters of a mask mandate, such as the governor, counter that they are based on science and are a vital part of the effort to save lives.

 

The debate over masks in North Dakota is part of a larger national debate over coronavirus-related rules and restrictions. Legislators and governors are battling in various state capitals over how state and local governments should respond to the pandemic. On the one side are those arguing for aggressive government action to stop the virus's spread. These include mask mandates, lockdowns, and restrictions on gatherings. On the other side, primarily driven by legislators, are those who argue that governors have overstepped their authority and imposed restrictions on individual liberty and economic freedom.

 

The House approved the mask mandate ban legislation by a vote of 50-44. It now heads to the Senate.

 

Do you think that states should prohibit local governments and schools from requiring the wearing of face masks?

Ohio Legislators Seek to Remove Business Penalties for Violating Coronavirus Orders

Some Ohio legislators are not happy that businesses are being fined for violating coronavirus orders. They are pushing legislation that would eliminate these penalties.

 

Under a bill being sponsored by Republican Rep. Derek Merrin, businesses that were fined for violating the governor's coronavirus orders would have those fines removed. It would also expunge any record of such violations. This comes as part of a group of bills aimed at rolling back or restricting the governor's powers to issue emergency orders.

 

Rep. Merrin argues that the Ohio legislature has passed expungement legislation for other crimes in recent years, so there's a precedent for this move. He says that some businesses have been fined thousands of dollars and they should see that money returned to them. Opponents of the legislation contend that it would undercut vital public health measures aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

 

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has faced opposition from some of his fellow Republicans in Columbus for his coronavirus-related actions. Members of the GOP-dominated legislature have introduced multiple bills that would restrain his authority to issue emergency orders or roll back the orders he has already put in place. 

 

Do you think that businesses that violated coronavirus orders should have their fines eliminated?

U.S. Re-enters Paris Climate Agreement

Today the U.S. formally re-entered the Paris Climate Agreement.

 

The day he took office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to rejoin the accord. However, the process to do this takes 30 days to complete, so today is the first official day the U.S. is once again a member.

 

The Paris Agreement has been controversial from its beginning. Signatories have pledged to take steps to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius based on pre-industrial levels. President Obama signed the accord but never submitted it to the Senate for ratification. Under the Constitution, any treaties must be approved by the Senate. President Obama argued that this was an agreement, not a treaty, so it did not require a Senate vote. President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement and now President Biden has re-joined it.

 

Critics argue that this agreement will hurt the U.S. economy by restricting the use of affordable fossil fuels. They contend that it will put the U.S. at a disadvantage. They also note that since it was not ratified by the Senate, it cannot be enforced. President Biden, however, argues that it's vital to cooperate internationally to combat climate change. He says that if the U.S. does not act it will lead to devastation for future generations.

 

Do you think the U.S. should be part of the Paris Climate Agreement?

Biden Dismisses Large Student Loan Debt Forgiveness

President Joe Biden this week shot down talk of him issuing an executive order on large-scale student loan debt forgiveness.

 

Some Democratic members of Congress have urged him to issue an executive order that eliminates $50,000 in student loan debt for each individual. On Tuesday he said he would not do that. Instead, he said he was open to forgiving $10,000 in student loan debt. This has prompted a backlash by more liberal members of the Democratic Party. 

 

President Biden argues that higher levels of debt relief would benefit wealthier Americans. He said that he would rather spend money on government programs like early childhood education than on forgiving debt of high-income earners.

 

Supporters of this debt forgiveness contend that student loans are crushing Americans and that even those who earn higher incomes deserve relief. They contend that this will free up money to stimulate the economy and help provide relief to working Americans. 

 

The idea of a unilateral executive action to forgive student loan debt is one that is growing in popularity among Democratic politicians and activists. Sen. Elizabeth Warren ran for president touting this idea. However, some legal experts argue that such action would not be legal. Others are worried that such forgiveness will imperil federal lending for future student loans.

 

While President Biden supports forgiving $10,000 in student loan debt, it is unclear if he will issue an executive order to do so or instead support legislation in Congress to accomplish this.

 

Do you think President Biden should issue an executive order to forgive student loan debt?

House Exploring Slavery Reparations

Reparations for slavery are on the agenda for the House of Representatives today.

 

The Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties is holding a hearing on HR 40, legislation that would establish a commission to study reparations. This commission would study how the federal and state governments supported slavery, what types of discrimination continues to exit, and how the effects of slavery still affect African Americans today. The commission would then recommend remedies in the form of reparations based on its findings.

 

 

Backers of this legislation say that it is a vital part of how the U.S. will address the wrongs of the past that have led to the current situation of African Americans. They argue that the legacy of slavery has led to inequalities today, so reparations will help rectify this situation. They also contend that federal actions over the past 160 years such as mandatory discrimination and the refusal of federal agencies to lend to African Americans illustrates the justice of reparations.


Critics of the measure push back against these claims, arguing that slavery ended long ago and that no one living was a slave. Reparations, they say, are appropriate for individuals hurt by a government action, but not for their descendants 100  years later. They also point out that there are already many federal programs that seek to alleviate inequality. 

 

The idea of reparations has gained strength in recent years. Both President Biden and Vice President Harris have endorsed the idea of studying the issue, although they have not supported specifics. 

 

Do you support studying whether or not the federal government should pay slavery reparations?

 

Senate Fails to Convict Trump

Donald Trump once again survived a Senate trial as senators failed this weekend to muster enough votes to convict the former president of inciting the January 6 Capitol riot.

 

On Saturday, the Senate voted 57-43 to approve House Resolution 24, which was the article of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives. That resolution stated, in part, that on January 6 Donald Trump

reiterated false claims that “we won this election, and we won it by a landslide”. He also willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged—and foreseeably resulted in—lawless action at the Capitol, such as: “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore”. Thus incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts.

 

While a majority of senators agreed with this statement, the vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for conviction.

 

The House managers used hours of video of the January 6 riots to illustrate the danger that the rioters posed to members of Congress and the vice president. They said that Trump's words inspired the riots, pointing to statements by rioters who said they were acting on the orders of Trump. They argued that it was necessary to send a message that these actions deserve punishment.

 

Many of those voting against conviction argued that while Trump shared blame for the riot, Senate conviction was not the answer for these actions. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that Trump could face criminal sanction. One of the main objections by these members was that Trump is now a private citizen and that impeachment and conviction should be reserved for officials who are in office. While conviction does mean that an official would be removed from office, another penalty that can be applied is disqualification from serving in public office again.

 

Seven Republicans joined all the Democrats in voting for conviction.

 

Do you think the Senate should have convicted Trump?

 

Biden Administration to Revoke Medicaid Work Requirement

Under the Trump Administration, states began to require some Medicaid recipients to seek work. This week, the Biden Administration is planning to revoke federal permission for states to do this.

 

These work requirements differed across the states, but they generally mandated that individuals  eligible for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, must meet certain work requirements or undertake work-related activity. These requirements applied only to those recipients in the Medicaid expansion population – able-bodied adults without children who are between 18 and 62. There are also exceptions for people who are unable to work.

 

States had asked the Obama Administration for permission to enact Medicaid work requirements, but the Department of Health and Human Services at the time did not approve them. The Trump Administration did. However, federal judges have blocked many of these requirements from going into effect. This spawned court battles, with lower courts ruling against the Trump Administration.

 

The legal issues center on whether federal law permits states to add a work requirement to Medicaid recipients. Medicaid is funded in part by the federal government, but states opt into it and have some leeway to design their programs. The Trump Administration supported states that said they have the authority to require work for some able-bodied recipients. Federal courts have ruled that Congress must amend the program to allow this. The Supreme Court is scheduled to take up this argument in March. 

 

While no states have Medicaid work requirements that have gone into effect because of these legal battles, they are still approved by the federal government. The Biden Administration is set to revoke these approvals, which may make the Supreme Court case moot.

 

Supporters of work requirements argue that they are helping Medicaid recipients by giving them an incentive to go to work, where they may be able to obtain private health insurance eventually. They also argue that childless, able-bodied adults -- the group covered by the work requirement -- should be working. Opponents, however, see these requirements as a way to limit participating in Medicaid, noting that 18,000 people lost eligibility once Arkansas put its requirement in place. They also contend that the work verification rules are too difficult for many to comply with.

 

Do you support requiring able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work or seek work?

 

Indiana May Pass Cigarette Tax Hike

Smokers in Indiana may soon be paying more for their cigarettes.

 

Under a proposal advancing in the legislature, the state could increase its tax on cigarettes by $1 per pack. A House committee approved the tax increase as part of the state budget this week. However, it requires the approval of another committee before going to the full House for a vote.

 

Under this proposal, Indiana's cigarette tax would increase from 50 cents a pack to $1.50 per pack. The legislation would also increase the tax on e-cigarettes by 10%. Indiana currently has one of the lowest cigarette tax rates in the nation. 

 

Supporters of the tax increase argue that it will help discourage people, especially kids, from starting smoking and it will encourage smokers to quit. They say the money will be used to help address health problems in Indiana. Opponents contend that smokers will visit other states to buy cigarettes, hurting Indiana businesses.

 

While there was no vote against this tax increase in committee, some members of the Indiana House have expressed opposition. It remains to be seen if it will survive a vote of the full House, which could occur next week. If it passes, the Senate will the consider it.

 

Do you support increasing taxes on cigarettes?

Sen. Manchin Wants Biden to Approve Keystone Pipeline

President Joe Biden's decision to revoke the Keystone XL Pipeline's permit has met with strong criticism from Republicans -- and at least one Democrat. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has written to the president asking him to reverse his decision.

 

The Keystone XL Pipeline has long been a source of controversy. The international pipeline was planned over a decade ago to bring Canadian crude oil into the United States. President Obama rejected an application to have the pipeline cross an international border. President Trump reversed course and approved this permit. During his first day in office, President Biden once again revoked the permit. This effectively stops the international aspect of the pipeline, although portions of it have been built in the U.S.

 

 

In his letter, Sen. Manchin wrote, "Pipelines continue to be the safest mode to transport our oil and natural gas resources and they support thousands of high-paying, American union jobs." He urged the president to consider these benefits and give the pipeline approval to be built across the U.S. Canadian border.

 

Opponents of the pipeline argue that its use will exacerbate climate change and perpetuate a dependence on fossil fuels. They also say that it will not benefit the U.S. but will instead be used to move oil for export. Supporters contend that the U.S. will be using fossil fuels for decades to come. As Sen. Manchin argued, this oil will be moved by pipeline or by truck, and pipelines are safer.

 

Sen. Manchin has long supported American fossil fuel energy, especially coal. This has often put him at odds with other elected Democrats, who often oppose oil, natural gas, and coal development. 

 

Do you think that President Biden should reverse course and approve the Keystone XL Pipeline?

Trump Senate Trial Starts Today

The Senate begins deliberating the fate of Donald Trump today. Senators are beginning their trial of the former president after the House of Representatives impeached him last month.

 

House impeachment managers will be laying out a case that Trump’s words on January 6 incited the Capitol riot that led to the death of two police officers as well as widespread destruction. The president’s lawyers, however, have argued in legal briefs that the trial is unconstitutional and, regardless, Trump’s words are protected by the First Amendment.


This is the first trial of a former president. While he was impeached while still in office, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel refused to call the Senate back into session to hold the trial before President Biden was inaugurated. Chief Justice John Roberts, who would preside over a trial of a sitting president, has declined to participate. This gives the president’s lawyers room to argue that the trial is illegitimate, which they support by also pointing to language in the Constitution that talks about removal from office being the penalty for a Senate trial.

 

The House impeachment managers disagree with that view. They note that the Senate has held trials for other impeached officials who left office. They also point to language in the Constitution that says that another penalty for a guilty verdict is disqualification from holding future office. In late January, the Senate voted 55-45 to reject a point of order raised by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) that a Senate trial of a former president is unconstitutional.

 

It is unclear how long the Senate trial will take. Two-thirds of the senators must vote to convict Trump in order to find him guilty.

 

Do you think the Senate trial of former president Trump is unconstitutional?

Iowa Enacts In-Person Schooling Bill

Iowa parents will soon be able to send their children to school five days a week. New legislation requires school districts to offer this option starting next week.

 

In January, Gov. Kim Reynolds called on the legislature to pass legislation that would give parents the option of sending their children to school if they wished. This was in response to Iowa school districts offering only online schooling, something that many parents opposed. Legislators quickly responded, with the Republican majority passing a bill to do this. Gov. Reynolds signed the bill on January 29. It will go into effect on February 15.

 

Gov. Reynolds and those supporting this legislation contend that online-only and hybrid schooling is hurting students. They argue that students' education and mental health is suffering. They say that parents should have the option to send their children to school if they think it is safe. Some teachers oppose this, arguing that in-person schooling puts them at risk. They say that students should not return to school until the coronavirus pandemic is better contained.

 

The situation in Iowa is part of a larger national debate over how children should be educated during the pandemic. On one side are some parents who are frustrated with online-only schooling or hybrid education models. On the other side are teachers and their unions who think in-person schooling is too dangerous. In some cases elected officials have ordered schools open but teachers have called out sick, forcing students to continue in-home education.

 

Do you think that parents should have the option of sending their children to school in-person?

 

 

 

Virginia Set to End Death Penalty

The Virginia legislature voted this week to abolish capital punishment in the state.

 

The House of Delegates supported a death penalty repeal bill this week, following prior action in the State Senate. The House vote was largely along partisan lines, with all the Democrats supporting it and all but two Republicans opposing it. The two chambers passed slightly different versions of the bill, with one containing language that allows judges to impose a maximum sentence of life without parole while the other allows for parole in limited instances. A conference committee will reconcile these differences. Once a final version of the legislation passes the legislature, Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to sign it.

 

Upon enactment of this bill, Virginia will be the first Southern state to end the use of capital punishment. There has been a movement across U.S. states to abolish the death penalty, but its use has survived in the South. With Democrats now controlling the legislature and governorship in Virginia, that state is set to break with its neighbors on this issue.

 

Supporters of ending the death penalty contend that it is a barbaric practice that has no place in civilized society. They also say that innocent people may be put to death. Opponents of repeal say that there are some crimes so heinous that they deserve to be punished by death. They argue that ending the death penalty will send the wrong message to criminals.

 

Do you think states should stop using capital punishment?

House Votes to Strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Committee Assignments

In a rarely-taken step, the House of Representatives voted today to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of her assignments to the Education and Labor Committee and the Budget Committee.

 

By a vote of 230-199, House members approved a resolution that ended Taylor Greene's brief tenure on these two committees. The freshman Republican from Georgia had been sworn in on January 3 and received her committee assignments later that month. 

 

This vote came in the wake of reports detailing Taylor Greene's long history of controversial remarks and actions. In the past, she had expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory, indicated that she believed that Muslims could not serve in the U.S. Congress, and raised questions about whether a space laser had started a forest fire in California. In a speech on the House floor, she said that she no longer believes some of these things.

 

Republicans in the House have condemned Taylor Greene's past statements, but they decided not to take action on her committee assignments. These assignments are determined by party leadership and when members of the House have been removed from committees in the past, it has been by party leadership. With the Republicans failing to do this, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was up to the full House to vote on the matter.

 

Those who supported the action against Taylor Greene argue that the House should take the action to express its strong disagreement with her statements. Some House members said they feel unsafe around Taylor Greene and argue that she does not belong in the House at all. Republicans said they do not support her more extreme views, but the people of Georgia elected her and it is not up to other House members to punish her for actions taken prior to her joining that body.

 

Do you think the House should have taken away Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's committee assignments?

 

 

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