2013 Federal Legislation


The Best and Worst of 2013

By Randy Shaw

Beyond Chron

Post- presidential re-election years are rarely memorable, but 2013 was an exception. Nationally, fast food, Walmart and other low-wage workers engaged in their most powerful strikes and protests in decades. President Obama was spurred to call growing inequality the defining issue of our times, reaffirming the Occupy movement's chief message. Immigrant rights activists battled all year for immigration reform, winning Senate passage and putting House Republicans on the defensive.

California Schools: New State, Federal Strategies Flawed, Familiar

Lisa SchiffBy Lisa Schiff

Almost as much has happened in the two weeks since public schools let out for the summer than in the entire second semester. In the first part of June, a revised version of federal education policy was introduced in the Senate and a California state budget has all but passed that includes dramatic funding changes for our state's schools.

An Alternative to Austerity? Thousands Say "Tax Wall Street"

By Chuck Idelson
National Nurses United

They came, they danced, they marched, 2,000 people spirited and strong, Robin Hood's merry band of men and women, through the streets of Washington April 20.

Ending up astride a prominent government building, christened with a new name and a naming ceremony. No more U.S. Treasury, now, the banner declared, "The U.S. Treasury. A Citigroup Subsidiary. Jack Lew, Inc., CEO."

"We could end AIDS, reverse climate change, fund jobs and health care. Who do you work for Secretary Lew?" asked Jennifer Flynn, managing director of Health GAP (Global Action Project). "You work for the people, not Wall Street."

Don't Blame Obama for Gun Control Defeat

By Randy Shaw

NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd has never liked Barack Obama, so it was fitting that she blamed him for the Senate's failure to break a GOP-led filibuster on gun control bills. According to Dowd, Obama "doesn't know how to work the system" and "still has not learned how to govern." But while Obama's lack of political skill still bedevils supporters, he did "work the system" to pass gun control.

Showdown Fatigue

By Robert Reich

We're one week away from a massive cut in federal spending - cuts that will hurt millions of lower-income Americans who'll lose nutrition assistance, housing, and money for their schools, among other things; that will furlough or lay off millions of government employees, reduce inspections of the nation's meat and poultry and pharmaceuticals and workplaces, eliminate the jobs of hundreds of thousands of people working for government contractors, and, according to Leon Panetta and other military leaders, seriously compromise the nation's defenses.

Welcome to the Golden Age of Arms Dealing

By Tina Dupuy

In 2004, the families of eight gunshot victims sued the manufacturer and dealer of the Bushmaster XM-15 used in the DC Sniper rampage for negligence. They won. The New York Times reported, "Under the terms of the settlement, Bushmaster Firearms Inc. of Windham, Maine, the gun's maker, will pay $550,000 to the victims' families; Bull's Eye Shooter Supply of Tacoma, Washington, the gun dealer, will pay $2 million."

What about the families from the Amish schoolhouse shootings? Virginia Tech? The 2007 Northern Illinois University shooting? The Gabby Giffords shooting in Tucson? The Carson City, Nevada IHOP massacre in 2011? The Aurora Theater shooting? Or the parents of the first-graders gunned down in Newtown?

Immigration Reform Reality Check

By Victoria DeFrancesco Soto

In 2007 the U.S. Senate choked the life out of the last major immigration reform initiative. Republican Senators, fourteen to be exact, refused to give President George W. Bush the votes needed for cloture.

Today, this same chamber is giving life to the issue they squashed no more than five years ago. And more importantly, back-of-the envelope math shows that with 55 Democrats, two Independents, and the four Republicans who helped draft the immigration reform, there will not be a replay of the Senate immigration showdown.

Immigration reform also has an active advocate in President Obama and a Senate chamber that can make the push. That's the good news.

Will Congress Deny 280,000 Low Income Children a Free School Lunch?

By Dana Woldow

Last year, when Congress failed to pass a new farm bill, an often-repeated claim was that the version of the bill proposed by the House Agricultural Committee would throw 280,000 children off the free school lunch rolls. Less clear was who exactly these kids would be, why some members of Congress thought it was a good idea to literally take food out of the mouths of low income children, and whether those families could just work around such legislation and still get free school lunch.

Great Migrations: Our Civil Rights Laws and Their Legacy

By Rev. Jim Conn

In an action that already feels like ancient history, Congress voted earlier this month to avoid the "fiscal cliff." While much remains to be settled, the revenue side of the issue got resolved because 84 House Republicans joined 172 Democrats to support the solution negotiated between the President and the Senate. In some ways, such bipartisanship was a moment of déjà vu from a time, nearly 50 years ago, when two pivotal civil rights bills were being considered. Then, Lyndon Johnson was President and both houses of Congress were in the hands of Democrats. Martin Luther King was in the streets. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was registering voters. The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act were passed by Republicans joining Democrats to move the President's legislation into law.

Obama's Organizing for Action: A Boost for Progressives

By Randy Shaw

President Obama's second inaugural address struck a populist tone, but the real news for progressives came last Friday when it was announced that Obama's campaign organization would continue under a new name, Organizing for Action. Headed by Obama 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina, the new organization will initially focus on three key progressive issues: gun control, immigration reform, and climate change. The decision to use the Obama campaign base to mobilize around issues reverses the mistake made after the 2008 victory, when the huge Obama for America grassroots base was cut adrift from mobilizing behind the President's first term agenda.