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House Takes On Voting Rights

After years of Republican rule, the House takes on voting rights. Truthout: " The bill before the judiciary committee is known as the For the People Act, and its proposed reforms would address virtually every high-profile electoral controversy that has arisen over the past decade. The bill would establish national automatic voter registration, set rules to curb partisan gerrymandering and restore voting rights for people with felony convictions in states that have not already done so, a major goal for racial justice groups. The bill also directly targets the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, which unleashed massive corporate political spending. The legislation declares Congress’s intent to amend the Constitution and re-establish its ability to enforce campaign finance and donor disclosure rules, although doing so would require a broader move to pass a constitutional amendment. Another proposal for public campaign financing would match small donations to candidates. “As federal elections have become increasingly dominated by a handful of wealthy donors, small-dollar matching offers a means to advance the First Amendment right of ordinary citizens to have a voice in the political process,” said Adav Noti, chief of staff at the Campaign Legal Center, in testimony submitted to the committee. The legislation would also reduce the number of commissioners on the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) from six to five, breaking its current partisan stalemate. With three Republicans and three Democrats, votes often end in a tie, which has prevented the FEC from cracking down on suspected campaign finance violations. The agency has also “fallen down on the job” with regard to foreign election interference. “We have hostile foreign powers that are trying to undermine our democracy in a variety of ways, and if we don’t shore it up, then it becomes a lot easier to do this,” Weiser said. Republicans have seized on the FEC and campaign finance proposals in an attempt to characterize the bill as a partisan power grab that expands the federal government’s grip on local and state elections and threatens the First Amendment rights of political donors. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declared the legislation dead on arrival in the Senate. The Democrats are pushing the bill ahead anyway in an effort to force Republicans to take a position on issues like voting rights, redistricting and money in politics ahead of the 2020 elections. While the legislation addresses ballot access for Native voters, separate legislation introduced in House and Senate would also protect voting rights for Native Americans, who have reported widespread voting suppression since the Voting Rights Act was gutted and in the lead-up to 2018 midterms, according to Landreth."

Green New Deal Bills In Congress

With Ocasio-Cortez/Markey bill reportedly on horizon, expert says Green New Deal must include 'fossil fuel phaseout'. Common Dreams: "Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.) are working on Green New Deal legislation that the pair may unveil as soon as next week, Axios reported late Wednesday. Those plans were confirmed by a spokeswoman for Markey as well as Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, the youth-led advocacy group that has led powerful protests across the country—including at the D.C. office of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.)—in favor of the proposal, which would combine bold climate action with green jobs and other measures aimed at creating a more just economy. The text of the bill, however, has not been finalized, according to Axios—meaning it is still unclear how closely it will align with the draft legislative document promoted by Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise Movement. That proposal called for a transition to 100 percent renewable energy within the next decade, a federal jobs guarantee program, universal healthcare, and a House Select Committee to hammer out the details.While welcoming the news, Greenpeace USA climate director Janet Redman said in a statement that any Green New Deal bill must include a "fossil fuel phaseout" for it to be taken seriously. The idea behind their proposal, she said, 'is inspiring, bold, and transformative—but it won't get us to a future in which the most vulnerable are protected and global temperatures stop rising if it doesn't include a hard stop on fossil fuel expansion.'"

NJ's Booker Announces Bid

Cory Booker announces he is running for president. CNN: "Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat who rose to prominence as Newark's charismatic and ambitious mayor, announced Friday that he is running for president. Booker chose the first day of Black History Month to launch his campaign, timing that nods to Booker's own heritage and suggests he will put it at the center of his pitch to voters. "The history of our nation is defined by collective action; by interwoven destinies of slaves and abolitionists; of those born here and those who chose America as home; of those who took up arms to defend our country, and those who linked arms to challenge and change it," Booker narrates in a video released on Friday morning, which features him walking through his Newark neighborhood. Booker joins a crowded and growing Democratic field that is already the most diverse in history -- with multiple women, one gay candidate, a Latino and, with Booker now in the mix, two black candidates.
His announcement comes nearly a year to the day from the Iowa caucuses and the start of the primary calendar. Booker plans to head to Iowa February 8-9 and then to South Carolina on February 10. He also intends to visit New Hampshire over Presidents Day weekend. Booker is one of several senators running for president or seriously considering it. At 49, he is the youngest among his Senate colleagues in the race. His age is not all that sets him apart: Booker is unmarried and vegan, two unique qualities among the emerging Democratic field. In his announcement video, Booker also notes that he is "the only senator who goes home to a low-income, inner city community" in Newark, "the first community that took a chance on me."

Trump, Pelosi In Immigration Standoff

Trump and Pelosi harden stances on immigration standoff. WaPo: "There are two more weeks left to negotiate a border security agreement before the government could shut down for the second time. But the major players on both sides are refusing to give an inch, greatly increasing the chances of failure to craft a game-changing immigration deal that will satisfy both President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “I don't think they're going to make a deal,” Trump told reporters yesterday in the Oval Office, uninterested in at least even pretending the bipartisan group of House and Senate negotiators will successfully resolve the messy border wall standoff he started. “I see what’s happening. They’re all saying, ‘Oh, let’s do this but we’re not giving one dime to the wall.’ That’s okay.” “There’s not going to be any wall money in the legislation,” the speaker said flatly in a news conference Thursday, report our colleagues Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim and John Wagner. The speaker said “enhanced fencing” could have a role in a comprehensive border security solution, adding that “if the president wants to call that a wall, he can call it a wall.”

Steve King Faces More Censure

Congressman Alerts Ethics Committee Over Steve King’s Continued White Nationalism. HuffPost: "Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) alerted the House Ethics Committee this week that racist Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) continues to use his official government website to promote a white nationalist blog — potentially reviving Ryan’s effort to censure King or even expel him from Congress. Ryan sent a letter to the Ethics Committee on Tuesday stating he wanted to “make the Committee aware of the continued use of government resources on the part of Rep. King to promote and advance white nationalism.” “A HuffPost report published today, January 29, details how King is continuing to use his government website to promote the white nationalist website,” the letter reads, referring to this HuffPost report. VDare is an anti-immigrant hate site named after Virginia Dare, said to be the first white baby born in the New World. The site regularly publishes the writing of prominent white supremacists and fascists, including Richard Spencer, Kevin MacDonald, Sam Francis and Jared Taylor. King, who represents Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, has continued to use his website to direct constituents to an article on VDare. “Rep. King’s behavior brings shame on the House of Representatives as a representative institution,” Ryan wrote in his letter, addressed to committee chairman Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and ranking Republican member Kenny Marchant (R-Texas). The letter raises the possibility that King could still face censure or expulsion over his white nationalist activity."

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