Since long before the inauguration on 20 January, we have been focused on a series of news stories that keep us all reading, watching, listening, and for some of us, writing until long after the candles have burned low. For the last two weeks or so, the big stories have surrounded Mike Flynn, who was forced to resign just 24 days after being sworn in as National Security Advisor, Jeff Sessions, who lied under oath about possible Russian connections and meetings, and Jared Kushner. We have focused on the confirmation process for a number of Trump’s cabinet selections, including Sessions, DeVos, Pruitt and others. We have followed closely Trump’s disastrous ban on travelers from seven Middle Eastern, primarily Muslim nations and its aftermath. But with our attention pulled in so many different directions, trying to stay abreast of the important things and the trivial as well, like Trump’s Trivial Tweets, we have not been particularly enlightened about the legislation being somewhat more quietly proposed in Congress.
Perhaps in part we have failed to focus on Congressional activity because for the past four years, there has been relatively little and we have, for the most part, come to expect little, if any, work from our well-paid elected officials. But that is changing, as they seem motivated to push forth as much damage as possible before many are ousted in 20 months.
The following are just nine bills that have been proposed in the House of Representatives in the past two months. Each contains a link, who proposed the bill, and a brief summary where available.
Proposed by Florida freshman representative Matt Gaetz, below is the full text of the bill (no summary needed):
“The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”
The likelihood of this bill ever being passed into law is slim, but I find the very notion of it to be chilling nonetheless.
Proposed in January by Representative Steve King of Iowa
This bill proposes a federal school voucher program; limits the authority of Deptartment of Education, repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, and repeals the No Hungry Kids Act that set nutritional guidelines for schools.
Numerous reliable studies have found that there is little, if any benefit in using public monies to provide private school educations to a few, and it deprives the majority of children from a quality public school education: Fordham Foundation, Brookings Institute
Interestingly, Steve King actually re-introduced the No Hungry Kids Act in 2015 and is now calling for its repeal!
Proposed by Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky
Full text of bill: “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”
“Neither Congress nor the President, through his appointees, has the constitutional authority to dictate how and what our children must learn,” Massie said in a press release announcing the bill.
This, like the termination of the EPA, has few teeth and next to no chance of becoming law, but again … the implication is chilling.
Proposed by Representative Don Young of Alaska, already passed in House of Representatives
This bill would repeal protections for ‘non-subsistence’ killing of wildlife in Alaska, in other words allow for unlimited hunting and killing of animals for sport.
Proposed by Representative Bill Flores of Texas
The bill would simply ‘undo’ ACA with no replacement yet proposed, leaving more than 20 million people without health insurance.
Introduced by Representative Diane Black of Tennessee
The bill would prohibit for any use, funds for Planned Parenthood unless they certify that the affiliates and clinics will not perform, and will not provide any funds to any other entity that performs, an abortion. Exceptions are made in cases of rape, incest or where the woman’s life is in danger.
This is worthy of an entire post, but in short, Planned Parenthood provides so many services that safeguard women’s health and have nothing to do with abortion, that the concept of punitive withholding of funds is nothing short of shameful! In fact, many of the services it provides actually help reduce the number of abortions.
Proposed by Representative Steve King of Iowa (busy little daemon, isn’t he?)
“Right to work” is a shorthand for laws throughout the country that prohibit labour unions from requiring workers to pay dues as a condition of employment. Proponents say the law is necessary to end “forced unionism.”
Without unions financially able to go to bat for them, the working class will almost inevitably see lower wages and fewer benefits. Long term, the bill would effectively end labour unions altogether.
Proposed by Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania
This bill prohibits a state or local government from receiving federal financial assistance for a minimum of one year if it restricts or prohibits a government entity or official from: (1) sending to or receiving from the responsible federal immigration agency information regarding an individual’s citizenship or immigration status, or (2) maintaining or exchanging information about an individual’s status.
Another move to make wide scale deportation of immigrants easier for federal agencies.
Proposed by Representative Trent Franks of Arizona
This bill imposes criminal penalties on anyone who knowingly or knowingly attempts to: (1) perform an abortion knowing that the abortion is sought based on the sex, gender, colour or race of the child, or the race of a parent; (2) use force or the threat of force to intentionally injure or intimidate any person for the purpose of coercing a sex-selection or race-selection abortion; (3) solicit or accept funds for the performance of such an abortion; or (4) transport a woman into the United States or across a state line for the purpose of obtaining such an abortion. Violations or attempted violations shall result in fines and/or imprisonment for up to five years.”
While the wording may seem harmless enough … only abortions for the purpose of gender/race selection would be subject … the potential for abuse and discrimination is 100% guaranteed. This bill would be an abomination to a woman’s right to make choices about her own body and would penalize minorities and low-income women.
I cannot write in-depth about any one of these bills in this post — almost every one could constitute an entire post by itself. My intent here is only to make the reader aware of some of the bills being proposed and considered by our not-so-illustrious House of Representatives while our focus has been elsewhere.
While it is good to see Congress actually working, I would prefer they put their efforts toward building good legislation, rather than tearing down some of the better laws we already have, such as those protecting our environment, educating our children, and protecting workers, women’s rights, healthcare, immigrants, etc. It should be noted that the 113th and 114th passed 296 and 329 laws, respectively. It is estimated that only 5%-10% of all bills ever get signed into law. We can only hope that the nine I listed above fall into oblivion, as they are neither worthy of, nor in the best interest of We The People. In order to help this happen, we must all do our part, contacting our Congressmen and letting them know our feelings, whether by email, letter, phone call or personal visit!