May 25, 2017

Notes From Capitol Hill – Congressional Session

Photo by Gianna Scavo
Photo by Gianna Scavo
Photo by Gianna Scavo

I’ve yet to fulfill my promise to provide a retelling of DCs political news. This is largely due to the fact that, although DC is certainly full of brilliant and politically passionate people with a lot of power who don’t stop moving, it isn’t dripping in political column worthy sentiments. DC is bustling with the politics that people don’t really think about–bureaucracy. The Presidential Election certainly isn’t happening here–it is happening in Iowa and Ohio and all of the other battleground states. And Congress just finished up it’s summer session at the end of September, so the Hill is quiet.

 

The people working here keep the country running by managing important research projects, regulatory paperwork, and advocacy work–all of which are big, hard to grasp, and slow moving. It isn’t all campaign buttons and back-door deals, a lot of people are doing faithful work to keep the government going. Sure, there’s been a few presidential debates, but they’ve come and gone with better commentary than I could provide you. There will always be plenty of scandals and plenty of important issues I could call to your attention. But instead, I’d rather point you to people who know policy better (like The Center for Public Justice’s Shared Justice publication) for the issue-oriented stuff.

 

Nevertheless, during this last session of Congress a handful of big things have happened that you as responsible, Christian citizens should know about that you may not of seen in the news.  So, here’s a quick guide on what you missed during the 114th Congress’s latest session.

 

The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, passed Sept. 28th, 2016 after being vetoed by President Obama on Sept. 23rd. This is the first time Obama’s Presidential veto has been overridden by Congress. The Act allows those affected by the 9/11 attacks to sue the government of Saudi Arabia, something both houses of Congress almost unanimously decided was a step towards justice after the traumatic terror attacks. The Obama administration advocated loudly against the bill, touting its extremely worrisome implications for the US military abroad. The precedent not only may set the precedent for foreign citizens to sue the United States, it poses a big question about the sovereign immunity that keeps nationstates out of court.

 

Congress passed a budget, well, a Continuing Resolution to keep the government running until they can hopefully pass a real budget during the lame duck session (a procrastination process that’s been happening for years).  For a second there, it looked like everything might shut down down again, but the CR quickly passed and even included $1.1 billion to combat the Zika, $170 million to aid the Flint water crisis, and $500 million to Louisiana flood disaster relief.

 

Protecting Internet Freedom Act didn’t come to a vote. On October 1st, the Obama administration passed off the supervision of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization that governs web domains, from the Department of Commerce to an international body. Senator Ted Cruz fought hard to prevent the transition with the act that would require Congress to authorize the transition, claiming it puts the internet in the hands of authoritarians like Russia and China. His opponents say he’s simply out of touch and this is just the logical progression of technology. Nevertheless, the act remained on the table and domain name jurisdiction moved out of the hands of the US government.

 

Bonus:

DAPA will die in Court.

In June, the Supreme Court landed on a four-four decision in Texas v United States that left Obama’s recent immigration policies and programs at the hands of a lower court decision. Such policies that were suggested include the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The two programs are grandchildren of the DREAM act that allowed unauthorized immigrant children brought to the US as children to attend college and work towards citizenship. Controversially, DAPA awarded more rights than ever before to the parents of unauthorized immigrant children. Because the judges were gridlocked with the death of Justice Scalia, the case was referred to the discretion of a Texas district judged that blocked the two programs for being unconstitutional because of presidential overreach. The Department of Justice and President both petitioned the court to rehear the case, the denied to do so in early October.

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