D.C. Justice Updates
From the UCC Justice and Witness Ministries staff in Washington, D.C.

Monday, April 26, 2021 • Justice Update

 

  • Biden “State of the Union”: The President will address the nation on April 28th (9pm ET/6PM PT) It is anticipated that he will unveil the “American Families Plan” which includes expansions to national child care, prekindergarten, paid family leave and tuition-free community college, and an increase in health insurance subsidies through the Affordable Care Act exchanges. It will be at least partially funded by about a half-dozen tax hikes on high-income Americans and investors (which have already drawn criticism). And also the “American Jobs Plan” which focuses on infrastructure (clean water, housing, roads/bridges, climate).

 

  • Census: The first data from the census was released today. Six states (Texas, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Montana, Oregon) will gain additional seats in the House of Representatives because of population shifts over the last decade, while seven states (California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia) will lose one congressional seat.

 

  • Climate: Last week the Biden administration announced a new target for the United States to achieve a 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution in 2030.

 

  • Anti-discrimination bills: The Senate passed, with one “no” vote from Sen. Hawley (R-MI), the “COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act” it is now pending in the House.
     

  • DC Statehood: On April 22 the House passed a bill ushering the way for DC to become the 51st state.  It is now pending in the Senate, there is no information on when that might happen.
     

  • Refugees: The NO BAN Act which would prevent any future president from enacting discriminatory travel bans, passed the House on April 21.
     

  • India: The state of COVID in India is really dire, with the highest amount of recorded COVID cases in one day.  The U.S. has pledged to help with testing, therapies and vaccines, with details pending. 
     

  • International Vaccine Access:  Ongoing negotiations at the WTO, proposed by South Africa and India, that would waive the intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical companies to allow developing countries to produce vaccines have been blocked by the United States and other countries. Lawmakers and non-profits put pressure on the administration to reverse their current stance, the next WTO meeting is May 5, at which point that might happen. The Biden administration is preparing to send up to 60 million AstraZeneca doses to countries in need over the next several months
     

  • Gun Violence: The Supreme Court will announced it will hear New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Corlett, a case that could transform the judiciary’s understanding of the Second Amendment and lay waste to many of the nation’s gun laws.
     

  • Armenian Genocide: The Biden administration recognized the massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as a genocide, that ultimately killed 1.5 million people.
     

  • Yemen: On April 21, the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations subcommittees held two hearings on the crisis in Yemen with lawmakers pressing the U.S. special envoy about support for the war.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021 • Justice Update
 

  • Reparations: Last week a House committee approved H.R. 40legislation to study reparations for Black Americans.  The bill does this by creating a 13-person federal commission to study American slavery, its effects, and what the government might do to mitigate those effects. After completing its study, the commission would be required to issue recommendations on possible reparations to Congress.
     

  • Afghanistan: President Biden announced this week that he will be withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11. Since 2001, at least 171,000 people have been killed in war in Afghanistan, including more than 47,000 Afghan civilians. The war has also forcibly displaced at least 5.3 million Afghans and cost the United States over $2 trillion.
     

  • COVID Hate Crimes: As a response to the rise in hate crimes directed at Asian American and Pacific Islanders the Senate is considering , S. 937 (COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act) this week.  It could be a test vote for filibuster reform as well.

 

  • Climate Change: The Green New Deal resolution was re-introduced on Tuesday by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Markey. Legislation was also introduced on Monday that would spend up to $172 billion on public housing over 10 years calling it a Green New Deal for Housing

 

  • D.C. Statehood: On Thursday (4/22) the House is poised to vote on D.C. statehood.  The White House has issued a statement of strong support.  

 

  • Democracy: On Tuesday the Senate Judiciary committee held a hearing called “Jim Crow 2021: The Latest Assault on the Right to Vote.” Florida is the latest state to move forward with legislation to limit access to voting, with legislation that severely curtails voting protections including barring outside groups from giving water to voters, adding identification requirements for absentee ballots and empowers partisan observers during the ballot tabulating process. H.R. 1, which would help mitigate these state bills, is still pending Senate passage and will likely require changes to the Senate filibuster for passage.

 

  • Refugees: Last week the Administration announced they would not be lifting the historically low cap of 15,000 refugees for admittance for 2021. A White House official told the New York Times that the decision to maintain the 15,000 admissions goal was due to concerns over increases in unaccompanied migrant children seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.After a swift backlash from a number of organizations (including the UCC) they backed off that and later issued another statement, indicating the administration’s plans to re-issue a new, higher admissions goal by May 15.

    • The House is also considering passage of the NO BAN Act, H.R. 1333. The bill would seek to prevent future presidents from reissuing the so-called Muslim travel ban, which former President Donald Trump imposed against individuals from several majority-Muslim countries during his administration.

 

  • Police Violence: Derek Chauvin, was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. The police killing of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, just 10 miles from where Derek Chauvin is on trial for the murder of George Floyd, added to the trauma of a community already reeling from racial inequality in the justice system. Congress has yet to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020.

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In responding faithfully to God’s call for abundant life for all people, a common life in which no one is left behind, we are drawn inevitably to engage in public policy advocacy and decision-making.   

The UCC Washington DC Office was called into being by a resolution at General Synod 10 in 1975. This predecessor body to Justice and Witness Ministries (then called the Office for Church in Society) was created to assume a leadership function for social action concerns in the UCC and to provide resources to the national, conference and local churches. 

THE GOAL of the UCC JWM Washington office is to make a better world possible by addressing the systemic problems that we face as a country and as part of the world. Hunger, poverty, peace and security, racism, care for the earth. These are among the types of justice issues that we work to improve through federal policies.