Congressional Digest

UPDATES


    NY Times Poll Shows Supreme Court Approval in Decline

By , Editor,
June 15, 2012
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As the Washington political class waits for the U.S. Supreme Court to hand down decisions in such hotly contested cases as the challenge to the Affordable Care Act and the constitutionality of Arizona’s immigration law, there is evidence that the public at large is losing confidence in the Court as an impartial arbiter of justice. In a New York Times/CBS poll released last week, only 44 percent of Americans approved of the job the Court is doing — down from a highs in the mid-60s during the late 1980s. This rating is even lower than the results in a Pew…

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    President Implements DREAM Act Provisions by Executive Order

By , Editor,
June 15, 2012
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The Obama Administration announced today that it will stop deporting and start granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who meet specific criteria. The new policy is consistent with the DREAM Act, legislation to streamline the legalization process for young undocumented immigrants. That legislation has stalled in Congress since December 2010, when the Senate bill fell short (55 to 41) of the 60 votes needed to prevent a Republican filibuster. (For background on this issue, see the November 2010 Congressional Digest, “The DREAM Act.”) Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced the new policy, stating: “Our Nation’s immigration laws must…

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    Down to the Wire on Student Loan Rates

By , Editor,
June 03, 2012
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Unless Washington lawmakers intervene, subsidized Stafford student loan rates will double next month to 6.8 percent. Although President Obama and the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, have both said that Congress must act, Democrats and Republicans so far have been unable to agree on how to offset the $5.9 billion cost of extending the current 3.4 percent rate for one year. How did this happen? In 2007, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed into law a bill that reduced the interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans, but only until July 1 of this year. With one out…

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    First Circuit Appeals Court Deals Blow to Defense of Marriage Act

By , Editor,
June 01, 2012
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In a decision that seems certain to be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that a key provision of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. In a 3-to-0 decision, the appeals court struck down a portion of the Act that prevents individuals in same-sex marriages recognized by States from receiving Federal benefits conferred on married couples, such as being able to receive spousal Social Security benefits and file taxes jointly. The circuit court held that such a prohibition violated principles of Federalism and unlawfully targeted minority interests…

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    Roadblocks Ahead on Domestic Violence Bill

By , Editor,
May 21, 2012
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Legislation to renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is currently at an impasse, following House passage of a bill substantially different from the Senate-approved version. Although Congress has renewed the Act in the past with overwhelming bipartisan support, this year’s effort has been marred by political divisions and controversy over whom the law should cover. (See the June 2012 issue of Congressional Digest, Violence Against Women.) On May 16, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed H.R. 4970 by a vote of 225 to 205. The bill represents a stark contrast to the Senate bill (S. 1925), which expands coverage…

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    Annan Briefs UN Security Council on Syrian Situation

By , Editor,
May 09, 2012
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Yesterday, former United Nations Secretary-General and current Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States on the Syrian Crisis Kofi Annan gave a report to the UN Security Council  on the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria. Via a videolink from Geneva, Switzerland, Annan told the Council that the UN may be the “only remaining chance” to stabilize the Middle Eastern country. “There is a profound concern that the country could otherwise descend into full civil war, and the implications of that are quite frightening,” he said. “We cannot allow that to happen.” There are currently 300…

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    Obama Signs Afghanistan Pact, Sets Terms for Future U.S. Involvement

By , Editor,
May 02, 2012
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In an unannounced trip to Afghanistan on May 1, President Obama spoke to the troops and to an American television audience, and signed a strategic partnership agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The visit took place on the first anniversary of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in neighboring Pakistan, giving it historical and symbolic significance. The day was the latest milestone in what has been a costly and protracted war marked by surges, setbacks, and some success in stemming the tide of the insurgency and reestablishing Afghan Government control. In June 2011, President Obama announced a gradual drawdown…

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    Paying for Student Loan Rate Cuts Is Point of Contention

By , Editor,
April 29, 2012
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Approximately 7.4 million students will see their Federal student loan rates double on July 1 if Congress fails to pass legislation to keep rates at the current 3.4 percent. A law passed in 2007 reduced the interest rate on subsidized Stafford Loans to undergraduate students for four academic years. Unless the interest rate break is continued, the average student will pay an additional $1,000 in interest each year. On his recent visits to universities, President Obama called on Congress to extend the rate cut. Although his presumptive Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, also urged lawmakers to act, the issue has since…

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    Senate Throws the Postal Service a Lifeline

By , Editor,
April 26, 2012
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Legislation approved by the Senate on April 25 is aimed at saving the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), which has been losing money daily and plans to make drastic changes if Congress doesn’t act by May 15. Postmaster Patrick Donahue had proposed a series of cost-cutting measures, including eliminating Saturday and overnight delivery and closing up to 3,700 local post offices, mostly in small towns, and replacing them with automated centers operating out of local businesses. (See the February 2012 issue of Congressional Digest, “Saving the U.S. Postal Service.”) Donahue said that he had to cut $22 million in operating costs…

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    Health Care Reform on Trial – Day 3

By , Editor,
March 28, 2012
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The Supreme Court wrapped up its third and final day of oral arguments on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act today, as it considered two distinct questions. The first case dealt with how much of the reform law should survive if the Court strikes down the mandate that most Americans must buy health insurance or pay a penalty. Lawyers for the opponents of the law argued that the entire Act must be thrown out. The Obama Administration position is that the prohibition against insurers discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions, as well as insurance rate controls, would be invalidated….

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