In a time when politics have become a literal circus: where perjury is barely touched and when our nation’s leader takes to Twitter with baseless claims (or in my opinion, smart strategic distraction tactics) it can be easy to forget that it’s not all about Trump.
Trump is the head of one branch of our government. But there is another, more powerful branch that needs our attention right now. Circulating social media last week was a list of ten bills/pieces of legislation that YOU need to know about. It’s easy to become shrill and panicky and see something that seems too awful you either A) cannot believe it’s true or B) it must be true and so you sound the alarm.
I’ve taken the time to investigate what’s true and what’s not. What are exaggerations, what does the bill’s language actually say, and how that can be interpreted.
We live in a time when you cannot afford to be silent. And you can’t afford to be ignorant. One has to be informed whether they do nothing with the information, or simply use it to “prepare” rather than resist – knowledge is power. So people, consider reading this as a way to take a little of your power back. What you do, or if you do anything, with that power is entirely up to you.
- HR 861 Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency
The entire text of this bill is one sentence long: “The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018.” It’s hard to argue what this bill will actually do because it’s there in plain English. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) who introduced the bill has stated that it will not impact the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which among other things, records rising sea levels due to climate change. Gaetz has said that all existing EPA regulations will fall to the states in terms of if they should be upheld and enforced, etc.
Believe It: You cannot have a simpler bill – it does what it says it’s going to do. Trump repeatedly stated that he intended to terminate the EPA and the man he put to head up the organization (Scott Pruitt) has made a career out of suing the EPA repeatedly.
This Bleeding Heart’s Take: This bill is awful and only benefits the greedy. (I don’t have to be judicious or diplomatic with my opinions.) I honestly worry about the state of the world for my children and my children’s children. Climate change is real, and naysayers only argue it because it gets in the way of higher profits, but it is scientific certainty – like gravity. People may argue if gravity is a thing, but their feet will stay firmly planted on the ground because in fact it is a thing. I’m worried that the termination of the EPA will only make issues like climate change worse.
- HR 610 Vouchers for Public Education
Finally a bill that has some meat to it. This bill changes the way federal tax dollars are distributed to qualified states of education spending. What changes? This bill stipulates that ALL monies must be awarded in the form of block grants with a portion of those grants only being allowed to be awarded as vouchers for parents who want their children to attend private school or be home schooled. This bill will limit how the government awards monies given to the states, and due to the requirement that a portion of those monies only be reserved for educational vouchers, so it partially defunds public schools. However many on the left are stating or insinuating that this bill defunds public schools completely. That is false, but whatever portion is awarded for the voucher system will come out of monies that would have gone to public education, so yes it does defund public schools by whatever percentage is required to be awarded to education vouchers. At this time, there has been no indication on how small or large that “required portion” will be.
This Bleeding Heart’s Take: This bill is deceptive in the way that it’s being used as the “beginning” over a very slippery slope that ends in defunding public school. It’s simply legislation opening the door. States are able to setup educational voucher systems if they choose (seventeen states have, as well as D.C.) so there is no need for federal tax dollars to go towards these programs. These programs have shown to be inaccessible to many students, including those that live in rural areas. Furthermore, as a taxpayer, I don’t want to have my taxes go towards an inflated bill for private school. #justnope
- HR 899 Terminate the Department of Education
“This bill terminates the Department of Education on December 31, 2018.” This is the text available on congress.gov. Like other bills, it is simple and to the point. It was proposed by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and has six co-sponsors including Gaetz.
Believe It: For people who cannot believe this bill has the necessary support behind it, think again. The Voucher legislation has been Betsy DeVos’ top priority, something that was never a secret – quite the opposite. DeVos has even commented on this bill saying she would be happy to be worked out of a job.
This Bleeding Heart’s Take: This would be tragic. I understand that people believe we need education reform but it’s impossible to reform an organization that no longer exists – that’s fact. The fact of the matter is that states do need some oversight (though just how much is debatable) to ensure that all children between the ages of five and seventeen have access to a free education. I worry that some states, for example Kentucky, will not put a priority on education or lack the resources as opposed to someone in Colorado. I also worry about children with disabilities. Everything in life can seem like an uphill battle, but it is the Department of Education that requires that education be accessible for children with disabilities. I’m disabled, and I have my Bachelor’s and my Master’s. I’m educated, but I relied on a public education and reasonable accommodations. Without the Department of Education, I doubt I would be the same educated individual that I am today.
- HJR 69 Repeal Rule Protecting Wildlife
Another meaty bill, this would negate current Fish and Wildlife Service regulations in terms of non-subsistence hunting on federally protected lands in Alaska. Here is everything this bill would allow:
- Taking black or brown bear cubs or sows with cubs (exception allowed for resident hunters to take black bear cubs or sows with cubs under customary and traditional use activities at a den site October 15-April 30 in specific game management units in accordance with State law);
- Taking brown bears over bait;
- Taking of bears using traps or snares;
- Taking wolves and coyotes during the denning season (May 1-August 9); and
- Taking bears from an aircraft or on the same day as air travel has occurred. The take of wolves or wolverines from an aircraft or on the same day as air travel has occurred is already prohibited under current refuge regulations.
To put things into perspective, brown bears are considered Threatened (likely to become endangered of extinction in the near future in most of America – the United States and Mexico). Black bears however are not threatened. Wolves are Endangered of becoming extinct throughout the United States and Mexico with the exception of three states: Minnesota, Montana, and Idaho. That means in Alaska, wolves are endangered of becoming extinct (as in gone forever). This bill allows hunters to kill wolves, which are officially endangered there, during denning season. This bill was introduced by (Don Young R-Alaska) and is popular among Alaskans because the regulations in question have been wildly unpopular. But to conservationists and animal lovers – this bill is a gross miscarriage of justice that could cause the local extinction of three animal species.
This Bleeding Heart’s Take: No, just no. First of all, the animals were here first, we’re the trespassers. On a less shrill note, the idea that we lift hunting restrictions on an actual endangered species (Alaskan wolves) – I don’t even understand who we could be talking about this. I am 100% against this bill, but perhaps my biggest issue is having wolves grouped with the bears, because wolves are facing the possibility of extinction. Why would anyone make it easier for this beautiful creature to be snuffed out and cease to exist? It’s just wrong, and animal lovers everywhere should be horrified.
- HR 370 Repeal Affordable Care Act
The GOP has tried to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act in part or full more than sixty times. So is it really a surprise that one of the first bills introduced was to repeal the ACA? This bill does not cover replacement or even stipulate that there must be a replacement plan in place when the ACA is repealed. It’s just about getting rid of the ACA by January 1, 2020. This is a hot button issue but at the end of the day, millions of people who could not get affordable healthcare due to income, employment or preexisting conditions are able to under the ACA. Furthermore, repealing the bill would cost this country billions of dollars. While I obviously lean left, so those who lean right may not believe me, why has the GOP barred the Office of Management and Budget from doing an audit to show just what this would mean for our national budget? Even on congress’s official site, it reads at the bottom: “The budgetary effects of this bill must not be entered on the PAYGO scorecards maintained by the Office of Management and Budget.” See for yourself: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/370
This Bleeding Heart’s Take: The effects of the repeal of ACA would be catastrophic. Multiple sources estimate that the repeal of ACA could result in 36,000-43,000 deaths per year. This number has solid numerical data backing – of course the interpretation of that data can be argued, which is why I said “could” instead of “will”. Trust me when I say I actually think the word “will” is more appropriate. I understand there is a lot of anger generated by ACA. I think a lot of that is due to ignorance and simply not knowing or understanding facts and just grasping at GOP political platforms, but obviously this isn’t always the case and neither is greed. The ACA isn’t perfect, but the GOP has spent so much time trying to dismantle it for purely political reasons (which have to do with insurance company profits) that they haven’t tried to tweak the law to make it more “workable” for them. It makes more sense to fine tune something that to completely start over. Particularly when the ACA has meant more accessible healthcare to more people (again, more than twenty million – that’s a lot). If the GOP really were thinking of “the people”, they would try to reform the existing law instead of trying to repeal and replace. The fact that they have barred the Office of Management and Budget from telling the people just how much it will cost to repeal the law speaks volumes. I hope GOP constituents are listening.
- HR 354 Defund Planned Parenthood
This is a deceptive bill because it says one thing but means another. According to its language, this bill would prohibit the distribution of federal funds to Planned Parenthood and any of its affiliates unless they can prove that none of those funds will go toward providing abortions. It seems simple and to those looking for compromise on this topic, maybe even reasonable. However this is already law. The use of federal funds for abortion services is already prohibited. So why this bill? Because it’s a sneaky tactic to deny funding to Planned Parenthood and its affiliates by getting tripped up by “the burden of proof”. Planned Parenthood claims that abortion services only make up three percent of their total services and only roughly ten percent of their clients receive abortions. (These figures are disputed, but never far off from these numbers.)
This Bleeding Heart’s Take: This is an obvious attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, which is vital in providing health services to women and low-income families. We’re talking kids’ checkups and lifesaving mammograms. Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit, doing important work. This bill is just a way to stop them, without looking at the facts of what they actually do. Like the ACA, the GOP has tried to defund Planned Parenthood on several occasions. If this was just about not using federal monies for abortion services – that’s already the law. Which proves this bill is more than it says it is. It’s the backdoor or something else, something dangerous. And with the fate of ACA up in the air, people are going to rely on Planned Parenthood and other organizations like it more than ever.
- HR 785 National Right to Work (this one ends unions)
This bill would prohibit labor unions and employers from requiring workers to join unions to get or keep jobs. Currently 28 states have “Right to Work” laws but the GOP wants to take this authority away from the states and make it a matter of federal law. (Yes, I know it goes against the “states retaining their power” founding principal, but it’s their bill and that is what it does.)
This Bleeding Heart’s Take: I know that on the surface this bill may seem benign, but only to people who are not familiar with workforce studies, data, statistics and inner-workings. “Right to Work” laws have resulted in lower union membership and therefore weaker unions. Doesn’t sound so bad if you’re not in a union or intend to join one, right? Well, this in turn has led to lower wages in most states with this type of legislation. A big argument for this is that it can improve employment, but a 2009 analysis found no improvement in employment rates in states with this legislation. (Though I do not believe that they showed a decline either, just lower wages across the board.) Bottom line, the trend in states with this law has consistently shown workers getting lower wages than they once were. This isn’t coincidental when you consider the data, that this is not a new type of law, and there is sufficient data available to show impact of lack thereof. Lower wages means that a person is less likely to make a livable wage. This is a problem and it should matter to everyone.
- HR 83 Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Bill
This bill punishes “sanctuary cities” (Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, and Boston for example) that refuse to comply with federal immigration policies (such as handing over undocumented immigrants for immediate deportation). This bill states that any local jurisdiction that does not comply with federal immigration regulations “shall be ineligible to receive Federal financial assistance for a minimum period of one year.”
A few things: Sanctuary cities are cities that limit how much the local police can cooperate with federal immigration agents. For example, if someone is found to be undocumented, policy dictates they be jailed and turned over to federal agents for deportation. Cities like Denver, Chicago and Dallas (including those already mentioned and more) say, “Nope.” It doesn’t mean illegal immigrants are “safe” in these cities – it just means that local agencies will not assist in the arrest, incarceration or deportation processes. That’s it.
Cutting such cities off from any financial assistance would affect healthcare, education and other areas that have nothing to do with immigration.
Two days after this bill was introduced, Trump signed an executive order essentially stating exactly this, but most politicians have found it to be unconstitutional (overreach of power) so this bill is still relevant.
This Bleeding Heart’s Take: I’m not going to say “we were all immigrants once” because nothing seems to tick off those in favor of mass deportations faster. Instead, I will state that I do believe immigrants are what make America great – culturally, politically etc. I will also state that a fundamental principle of Republicanism is that the federal government stay out of local government/affairs. The idea that certain cities/counties have elected (the people and their local government) not to assist in federal cases should be their fundamental right according to GOP doctrine. I’m pointing that out because it’s important. This bill essentially strips local government of their power and authority. It punishes them for listening to their constituents – the people. This is wrong. Furthermore, it’s not like an illegal immigrant gets a “get out of jail free card” in these sanctuary cities. It just means that local institutions will not assist in apprehending its undocumented immigrants or hand them over when given a list. If ICE officers came and took an immigrant from a sanctuary city, it would play out according to federal policy. Finally, because I really need to say this, “How can a human being be illegal?” and “We were all immigrants once.” There, I feel better.
- HR 147 Criminalizing Abortion (“Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act”)
Unlike how it is being reported, this bill does not necessarily (keyword there) criminalize abortions. It simply criminalizes abortions in certain circumstances:
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, color 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.
Much like the bill to defund Planned Parenthood, don’t let it’s language fool you – it’s another backdoor bill. By creating several sets of circumstances where abortion becomes a criminal act, it tries to scare women and keep them from obtaining abortions through official channels, endangering the lives of the women seeking an abortion. For example, how does one prove that a parent wishes to terminate a pregnancy due to the gender of their child? They can’t. But they can try and take their chances with a jury. Also, the fourth and last circumstance is dangerous because it could be common. If a woman lives in a state like Texas, it may be more difficult to obtain an abortion. If they went to Louisiana or Oklahoma to obtain one because they were more accessible, they would be guilty under this bill. And sent to prison. It’s not my liberal take, it’s there in plain English.
This Bleeding Heart’s Take: This bill is so terrifying because all I can do is think about “the after”. I think about abortions via clothes hangers and infants thrown in garbage cans – that is the reality the GOP is hoping for. Bottom line, infanticide goes down when birth control and abortion services are accessible. I care more about a baby that has been born than I do a six-week fetus. I want kids more than anything, and can’t produce them biologically, so if there is anyone who thinks “how could someone do that” or seeing the potential life there – it would be me. It is still a woman’s body and therefore her choice. This bill is another backdoor measure that is going to be used to incite fear reminiscent of the McCarthy era. To strongly discourage and intimidate women from getting abortions, knowing that without cause or reason, a politician can claim they made their choice due to the baby’s gender, race, etc. or if they have to get the abortion in another state due to local restrictions. This is unacceptable and wrong. When we start making laws about men’s testes and sperm distribution then perhaps I’ll be more understanding, but until then – nope.
- HR 808 Sanctions against Iran
This bill lists new sanctions to place on Iran, some of which means punishing Iran for following the agreement they reached under the Obama administration, which gave them sanction relief if they stopped their nuclear weapons program. While this bill lists things like “human rights abuses” and other things that sound wonderful, one must remember how long it took to get Iran to cease its nuclear program. If they refused, they could get back into the nuclear game, which is something no American wants.
This Bleeding Heart’s Take: I believe in diplomacy over military force and feel like military force should only be used as a last resort. So this bill to me seems both reckless and dangerous. Our War on Terror in the Middle East arguably set the stage for ISIS and other terror organizations. That was our use of military force. I support the military, I have loved ones enlisted, but that doesn’t mean I have to support the war – just those fighting it. I would love for this bill to become a reality through diplomacy. These sanctions sound too good to be true, which means they are. I don’t have a different ideal than what’s in this bill, but I believe this legislation will backfire, increasing terrorism on our soil, further destabilizing the Middle East, getting Iran back into the nuclear weapons game and sending our troops off to another unwinnable, completely preventable war. Bottom line – it’s not worth it. At all!
What a long (and hopefully informative) post. But worth it. Look beyond all of the distraction – there is so much, and I can’t imagine it’s accidental or unintentional. Do your research on these pieces of legislation. Decide where you stand and then ACT. Let your representatives know. Let your voice be heard. Because no one can afford to wait on the sidelines any longer. Silence equals death!