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Biden Pushes for Assault Weapons Ban

In the wake of a shooting in Boulder, Colorado, President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass legislation that would outlaw certain types of semi-automatic guns and high-capacity magazines. He also wants federal background checks to cover more gun sales. Such legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate.

 

Banning semi-automatic weapons with certain military features, often labeled as “assault weapons,” has long been something that Democrats have wanted enacted. The House of Representatives also recently passed two bills that would mandate federal background checks on more gun purchases and transfers. However, there is resistance in the Senate to passing such legislation.

 

Proponents of these bills argue that they will help stop gun violence. They point to mass shooters using assault weapons to commit their crimes and argue that banning these guns would save lives. Opponents, however, contend that the only thing that makes a semi-automatic gun an “assault weapon” is how it looks, since the ban is focused on cosmetic features. They note that criminals and mass shooters will evade gun control laws, which will only disarm law-abiding people.

 

With the House of Representatives controlled by Democrats, it has been easy to move gun control legislation through that chamber. When the Senate was controlled by Republicans, they had no desire to bring up any of these bills for a vote. Now that the Senate is evenly divided, Republicans cannot block gun control. However, Democrats from states like West Virginia, Arizona, and Montana -- which all have significant gun-owning populations -- are reluctant to support bills that impose new federal laws on guns.

 

Do you think federal gun control laws should be stricter?

House Passes Two Immigration Bills

Children brought to the U.S. illegally and foreign farmworkers will see major changes in their legal status under legislation passed by the House of Representatives this week.

 

The two bills were HR 6 and HR 1603. Here's how VoteSpotter described HR 6, which passed by a vote of 228-197:

 

To provide a pathway to citizenship for children who were brought to the U.S. illegally who meet certain conditions, such as serving in the military or attending college.

 

And here is how VoteSpotter described HR 1603, which passed by a vote of 247-174:

 

To allow some agricultural workers who entered the U.S. illegally to avoid deportation after paying a fine and meeting other conditions. The legislation also expands the farmworker visa program and requires agricultural companies to verify a worker’s immigration status with the federal government.

 

These two bills deal with issues where there have been areas of bipartisan agreement. HR 6 deals with "Dreamers," unauthorized aliens who came to the U.S. as children with their parents and who have gotten jobs, entered college, or joined the military. President Obama attempted to shield these individuals from deportation under the DACA program but it came under legal fire. HR 1603 concerns the call by farmers to allow more foreign workers into the U.S. to pick crops.

 

In the past, Republicans have supported a path to citizenship or a shield from deportation for Dreamers and have also supported calls for a revised agriculture guest worker program. However, neither bill gained significant GOP support. Republicans in Congress argue that these bills are rewarding illegal activity and should be paired with greater security on the U.S.-Mexican border. Democrats say that these bills are a fair way to treat people who have been in the U.S. for decades, obeying the law and contributing to society.

 

This legislation does have some Republican support in the Senate, so it is possible that it could pass in modified form.

 

Do you think there should be a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers? Should the U.S. allow more foreign agriculture workers to enter the U.S. for limited periods of time?

 

 

House Again Votes to Eliminate ERA Deadline

This week, the House of Representatives voted once again to remove the deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

 

Congress passed the ERA in 1972 and sent it to states for ratification. The original resolution required that the necessary number of states (38, or three-fourths of the states) must act within 7 years or the amendment would die. Not enough states ratified the amendment within that time, so Congress extended the deadline to 1982. Even with this extended deadline, the ERA still failed to meet the necessary number of states for ratification.

 

By a vote of 222-204, the House voted this week to remove that 1982 deadline.

 

This is an issue due to Virginia’s passage of the ERA in 2020. This was the latest state action regarding ratification. During the time between 1972 and 1982, 35 states ratified the ERA. However, as controversy grew over the amendment, 5 states rescinded their ratification. Since 2017, 3 states have ratified the ERA. With Virginia’s vote, this means that the ERA has met the threshold in the Constitution for ratification, as long as the states who rescinded ratification are not included and if the ratification deadline was removed.

 

Upon Virginia’s vote, the Trump Administration said that the deadline is enforceable, so it did not add the ERA to the Constitution. Some legal scholars disagree, however. Congressional action is aimed at resolving the controversy. The view of its sponsors is if Congress imposed the deadline, Congress can remove it. Opponents argue that the deadline is passed so this issue is over.

 

The ERA states:

 

Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

 

For the deadline to be removed, the Senate would also have to vote to rescind it.

 

Do you think the ERA should be part of the Constitution?

GOP Energy Plan Focuses on Natural Gas, Nuclear, and Hydro

President Biden's energy plan focuses on renewable sources like wind and solar. Today Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee unveiled their own energy platform and it goes in a far different direction than the president's.

 

Under this proposal, the federal government would

  • streamline the process for approving nuclear power plants
  • authorize construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline
  • prohibit hydraulic fracturing bans
  • streamline the permitting process for natural gas pipelines
  • update they hydropower licensing process

 

This stands in stark contrast to the energy agenda being pursued by President Biden. Under his plan, the U.S. would move towards far greater use of solar, wind, and renewable resources. The president has also revoked the cross-border permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, effectively killing it, and placed a moratorium on oil and gas leasing on federal land. 

 

The GOP representatives promoting this proposal argue that it will create jobs and strengthen U.S. energy security. They say that the federal government should encourage the development of U.S. energy resources, not stifle such production. Opponents, however, argue that promoting the use of oil and natural gas will make climate change worse. They assert that it's wiser for the federal government to promote clean energy to make the U.S. a world leader in that area.

 

With Democrats controlling the House of Representatives, these Republican energy ideas are unlikely to get any consideration. However, they do indicate what could be a future congressional agenda if Republicans take control of the House in 2022.

 

Do you think that U.S. energy policy should focus on developing our nation's oil and gas resources or should the U.S. transition to carbon-free energy sources?

Senators are Fighting for Permanent Daylight Saving Time

It’s time to turn our clocks forward this weekend, but some members of Congress are working to end this practice.

 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has once again introduced a bill, S. 623, that would make Daylight Saving Time (DST) permanent. It has 9 cosponsors, with members of both parties joining in the quest to set one permanent time for the U.S.

 

The idea to change clocks between Standard Time and DST dates back to World War I. Initially the idea was that it would save energy by aligning the clocks with natural sunlight. It was imposed by the federal government during both world wars, but then was up to state and local preference until 1966. That year, President Lyndon Johnson signed the law giving states either the option of choosing Standard Time or Daylight Saving Time during a uniform period of time.

 

Those who favor instituting permanent Daylight Saving Time point to evidence that the twice-a-year ritual of changing clocks has adverse effects on health and the economy. Those opposed to a change note that it would mean darker mornings in the winter, with children going to school before the sun comes up.

 

Sixteen states, including Florida, have passed legislation in support of year-round DST. However, federal legislation is needed in order to make this change.

 

Do you support year-round Daylight Saving Time?

House Passes Two Gun Background Check Bills

Two bills that would tighten federal background checks for gun purchases passed the House of Representatives this week

 

By a vote of 219-210 the House approved HR 1446 and by a vote of 227-203 the House passed HR 8. Here is how VoteSpotter describes HR 1446:

 

To increase from 3 to 10 days the maximum time period that an individual must wait to receive a completed background check under an "instant background check" system. Most background checks are completed while a customer waits, and current law establishes that if not completed within 3 days a federally-licensed gun dealer may transfer a gun to a buyer. Under this bill, if a check is not completed after 10 days, the potential buyer could petition for a final determination. If an additional 10 days go by without a completed check, the gun dealer could then sell the gun to the buyer.

 

And here is how VoteSpotter describes HR 8:

 

To require individuals who transfer a firearm to another person to do so through a federal firearms licensed gun dealer, who must conduct a background check on the individual receiving the gun. Currently, retail gun dealers must complete background checks prior to selling a gun to an individual. This legislation expands that requirement to transfers between private individuals except for some limited circumstances such as a parent giving a child a gun or a gift from a spouse.

 

Backers of these bills argued that they are needed to close loopholes that allow felons and other dangerous people to obtain guns. They argue that there should be universal background checks for gun purchases and people should not be able to circumvent these checks by going through private sellers. Opponents of the bills said that they would add complex and expensive steps to simple gun transfers such as someone loaning a hunting rifle to a friend. They also argued that criminals would not comply with the laws.

 

Gun control has been an increasingly hot topic in Congress. For years, even Democrats shied away from bills that increased federal restrictions on gun ownership or sales, fearing a backlash from voters. In recent years, however, Democrats in the House have been pushing gun legislation.

 

These bills passed on largely party-line votes. Their future in the Senate remains uncertain.

 

Do you think that every gun sale or transfer should go through a licensed gun dealer who can perform a background check?

House Votes to End Right-to-Work Laws

The House of Representatives passed sweeping legislation this week that would change a variety of federal laws, including one that allows states to pass right-to-work laws.

 

By a vote of 225-206, the House passed HR 842 on Tuesday. Here is how VoteSpotter describes the legislation:

 

To amend several longstanding federal labor and employment laws, with the effect among others of repealing the authority of states to enact "right to work" laws. These laws prohibit requiring employees in a workplace that at some time was organized by a union from having to pay fees or dues to the union as a condition of employment. The bill would also expand restrictions on whether workers can be classified as independent contractors (Uber drivers the most common example); ban employers from permanently replacing striking workers; and permit "secondary strikes," where workers in one industry go on strike to support strikes against a different industry; and more.

 

This legislation encompasses many of the policy priorities that unions have sought for decades. Ending right-to-work laws has long been something that unions have desired. Authorized by a 1947 federal statute, there are now 27 states that have such laws. In the past decade, some states that have traditionally been strongholds of union activity, such as Michigan and West Virginia, have adopted such laws.

 

There has also been recent activity in the states about how to classify independent contractors. With apps such as Uber and Lyft making it easier for individuals to work in the "gig economy," unions have expressed concerns that employers are abusing the independent contractor designation in order to avoid paying benefits. California adopted a law that restricts how independent contractors can be classified, but voters modified parts of the law dealing with some workers in the 2020 election.

 

Supporters of this legislation argue that workers deserve more protection in today's economy and strengthening federal labor laws will help stop them from being exploited. They contend that executives and shareholders are reaping most of the benefits from economic growth so changing the system to share the wealth with workers is fair. Opponents, however, contend that placing new restrictions on business owners will hurt the economy and workers who depend on these businesses for jobs. They contend that this law will drive businesses overseas.

 

The support for the legislation was largely along partisan lines. Only 5 Republicans voted for it and 1 Democrat opposed it. The Senate is unlikely to favor this bill in its current form.

 

Do you think that the federal government should prevent states from passing right-to-work laws? 

Congressman Introduces Balanced Budget Amendment

The federal government has never been required to balance its budget every year. A U.S. House member wants to amend the Constitution to change this.

 

Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) has proposed a balanced budget constitutional amendment. This would require that the federal government have a balanced budget except in cases of emergency, such as war. Congress could vote by a super-majority to waive the balanced budget requirement in those times.

 

Supporters of this amendment argue that with a record federal debt -- over $28 trillion -- and high yearly deficits, it's clear that Congress and the president cannot be trusted to balance the budget. They contend that a constitutional requirement is needed to prevent fiscal catastrophe. Opponents, however, counter that deficit spending can be good in many instances, such as providing money to states that are struggling and who cannot borrow like the federal government does. They note that if the amendment took effect it would mean deep spending cuts and big tax increases, or both.

 

A balanced budget amendment is not a new idea in Congress. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was a prominent part of much of the discussion over federal spending. In 1982, the Senate passed the amendment but it failed in the House. In 1995, it passed the House but failed in the Senate.

 

It is unlikely that Speaker Pelosi will bring the balanced budget amendment to a vote during this session of Congress.

 

Do you support amending the Constitution to require that the federal budget be balanced?

House Passes Bill to Limit Police Practices

This week the House of Representatives passed legislation named after George Floyd that would impose new federal restrictions on how local and state police agencies act.

 

By a vote of 220-212, the House passed HR 1280. This will would:

 

  • Strip federal money from police agencies that use chokeholds
  • Remove immunity from lawsuits for police officers
  • Require the use of body cameras
  • Prohibit the use of military-style weapons and equipment in police work
  • Limit the use of no-knock warrants
  • Establish a national database for officers who have a record of abuse complaints

 

Democrats backing this bill argued that these reforms are necessary to end rampant abuses by law enforcement. They argue that the death of George Floyd is only one of many examples of police misconduct, and it is long overdue for the federal government to step in and curb abusive police activity.

 

Republicans pushed back, pointing out that this would be a large federal takeover of state and local authority. They also noted that many Americans welcome police presence to protect lives and property, especially in the wake of riots and other disorders that occurred in cities over the past couple of years.

 

In some cities, activists and politicians are demanding that police department budgets be cut or that some troubled departments be disbanded. While this legislation would not accomplish either of those goals, it would impose new federal restrictions on how police operate.

 

Only 2 Democrats opposed the legislation. One Republican voted in favor of it but later tweeted that he made a mistake and meant to vote against it.

 

Do you support federal restrictions on how local and state police agencies operate?

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?

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?

 

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?

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?

 

 

House to Fine Members who Evade Metal Detectors

After the January 6 riot, House Speaker Pelosi installed metal detectors outside the House chambers to screen members before they enter. Now members who do not comply with these screenings face a $10,000 fine.

 

Traditionally, members of Congress have been free from being screened by metal detectors when they enter congressional buildings. After the Capitol riot, however, some members said they felt unsafe in the House chamber. There were reports of House members carrying guns there, which is not allowed under House rules. In response, Speaker Pelosi ordered metal detectors set up outside the doors to the chamber.

 

While these detectors were present, there was no way to force members to use them or to comply with Capitol Police officers who were doing the screening. This week, the House voted to impose fines on members who do not complete a security check before entering the House chamber. The first offense will be $5,000 and subsequent offenses will be $10,000. If members do not pay, the amounts will be deducted from their paychecks.

 

Supporters of this measure argue that it is dangerous for members to carry guns on the floor of the House. They contend that with rising tensions in Congress, members should not be armed. Imposing a security check is the only way to guarantee this. Opponents, however, decry this measure as a break from long-standing tradition. They note that the presence of metal detectors imply that some members of Congress are a threat to others -- a charge these members denounce. They also note that there are constitutional questions with the imposition of fines on House members.

 

It remains to be seen if opposing House members will comply with security checks, even with a fine looming. With constitutional questions about the ability to collect the fine, some may seek to challenge this new rule in court.


The vote was 216-210 in favor of the resolution.

 

Do you support fining House members $10,000 if they do not complete a security check before entering the House chamber?

 

Progressives Push for Recurring Coronavirus Stimulus Payments

Some members of Congress want President Joe Biden to support legislation that would provide recurring payment from the government for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

In a letter to the president, members of the progressive wing of the Democratic caucus urged President Biden to include recurring payments in a coronavirus relief bill. They support payments that continue until the economy recovers, is prioritizes for poorer families, and includes "all immigrant workers."

 

Congress and the Biden Administration are in talks about what a new coronavirus relief bill will contain. The president supports a new round of stimulus payments. His proposal would not be recurring, however. Instead, it would be a one-time payment of up to $1,400. 

 

More liberal members of Congress say this is not generous enough. They argue that the economic disruption from the pandemic is too widespread to be solved by one-time payments. Instead, they contend that only recurring payments would provide a long-term solution. They also frame these payments as an act of social justice, saying that the economic problems have hit minority communities hardest.

 

This proposal will be controversial in Congress, however. There is already significant opposition to another relief bill, with Republicans arguing that new legislation is much too expensive. Critics point to the high cost of past bills and say that new direct payments will be costly. They note that the federal deficit is at record levels and future coronavirus legislation will add to it.

 

Do you think that a new coronavirus aid bill should contain recurring payments?

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