By Elise Foley

The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON -- Progressives in Congress are fighting back against growing calls to change laws meant to protect unaccompanied minors, but are up against a president, Republicans and even some Democrats who say doing so may be necessary to solve the current border crisis.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus adopted a proposal on Wednesday evening to deal with the crisis of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors crossing the border illegally, and it specifically says existing laws on unaccompanied children should remain intact.

They called to protect asylum laws, which others have said are plagued with fraud from people seeking to stay in the country.

"To see politicians oversimplifying this desperate plea for help as an immigration enforcement issue is concerning, and to see their willingness to weaken the protections of the [2008 law on unaccompanied minors] is even more so," Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said in a statement. "We must place the well being of these kids first. We should allow the protections in our existing laws to play their intended role."

The government has been scrambling to deal with the rapid influx of young immigrants crossing the border illegally in recent months, in part because of a 2008 law that allows unaccompanied minors from countries other than Mexico and Canada to go through more extensive immigration hearings. That means they can't be deported as rapidly, particularly given a backlog in immigration courts, and instead by law must be placed with family members or others as they await immigration hearings.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday requested funding meant to speed up deportations, but he also plans to push for changes to the 2008 law to give the Department of Homeland Security more flexibility to handle cases of unaccompanied minors from non-contiguous countries the same way as it does those from Mexico and Canada.

Many members of Congress, particularly Republicans, have said the 2008 law must be changed. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) introduced an amendment on Wednesday -- joined by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), David Vitter (R-La.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) -- that would change the law.

The calls are also coming from the Democratic side, although to a lesser extent. Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar is planning to introduce a similar bill. The House working group slated with recommending a solution to the border crisis released a statement on Wednesday saying any efforts "will require a revision" of the 2008 law.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said during a Wednesday press conference that he would support changing the law, but he did not get into specifics.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during a separate Wednesday press conference that she does not support modifying the 2008 law, but said "it's not a deal breaker" given the urgency of getting the funding. She said the caucus isn't divided on that point, although she acknowledged there is at least "one dissident voice."

"If that's the face-saver for them, let them have their face-saver," she said of those demanding changes in order to approve funding. "But let us have the resources to do what we have to do."

The Progressive Caucus, which is co-chaired by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), said in its recommendations that the "response must recognize that this is largely a refugee crisis and must place the best interest of the children first."

The caucus also called for improved conditions in facilities holding unaccompanied minors, and for a DHS report on allegations of mistreatment and screenings to be made by appropriately trained agents. They also said that the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the part of the Department of Health and Human Services that cares for unaccompanied minors, should ensure children are placed with family as often as possible, and should not consider the relative's legal status in making that determination. All decisions should be made by considering the best interest of the child, they said.

"Failed coordination and misplaced resources have amplified the crisis on the southern border and has led to inadequate care and conditions for unaccompanied immigrant children," the Progressive Caucus wrote in its report. "These children are more than just numbers."

UPDATE: 1:30 p.m. -- Drew Hammill, Pelosi's communications director, sent a statement to clarify her position on the 2008 law.

“What the Republicans want to do to modify current law goes in the wrong direction," he said. "In the Leader’s view and as she stated today, we should change the law to treat Mexican children the same as we now treat children from Central America. But if any changes to the 2008 law are made, they must ensure due process for these children.”

By Erika Eichelberger

Mother Jones

Last week, House Republicans voted to protect companies that steal workers' wages.

According to the Department of Labor, many big firms that receive hundreds of millions of dollars a year in federal contracts—including Hewlett Packard, AT&T, and Lockheed Martin—have a history of wage theft. Wage theft refers to employer practices such as not paying overtime, paying employees with debit cards that charge usage fees, or requiring workers to arrive to work early to get ready without paying them for that extra time. On Thursday, House liberals introduced an amendment to a defense spending bill that would forbid the government from handing out contracts to companies that jack their employees' pay. The amendment barely passed, with 25 Republicans voting with Democrats in favor of the measure. But most GOPers—204 of them—voted against the change. (The full list is below.)

The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), a group of about 70 liberal Dems in the House, has introduced the same anti-wage-theft amendment to other spending bills in recent weeks, in the hope that it will make it into the final version of one of those spending bills and be signed by President Barack Obama.

In May, House Republicans voted down the anti-wage-theft amendment when it was attached to a spending bill that funds several government agencies. (Ten GOPers voted in favor.) That led to some bad press for GOPers—perhaps one reason why, when the CPC added the same provision to a defense spending bill Thursday, it passed, with 15 more Republicans crossing over to vote with Democrats.

Obama has cracked down on federal contractors in other ways this year. In February, the president signed an executive order mandating a minimum wage of $10.10 for federal contractor employees. In April, he signed another directive which forbids contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their pay with each other.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.)

Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.)

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas)

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.)

Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.)

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.)

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas)

Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.)

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas)

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.)

Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio)

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.)

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas)

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) 

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.)

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.)

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.)

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.)

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.)

Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.)

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.)

Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.)

Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa)

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas)

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.)

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.)

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas)

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas)

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.)

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas)

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.)

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio)

Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.)

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho)

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.)

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.)

Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.)

Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas)

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.)

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.)

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.)

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.)

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.)

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.)

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah)

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.)

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas)

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.)

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.)

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.)

Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.)

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.)

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas)

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)

Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.)

Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.)

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.)

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) 

Rep. Mike D. Rogers (R-Ala.)

Rep. Michael Turner  (R-Ohio)

Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas)

Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.)

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) 

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.)

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.)

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.)

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)

Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas)

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas)

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.)

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.)

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas)

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.)

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.)

Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.)

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.)

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)

Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.)

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.)

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)

Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.)

Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.)

Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio)

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.)

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.)

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.)

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.)

Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.)

Rep. John C. Fleming (R-La.)

Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.)

Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.)

Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.)

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.)

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.)

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.)

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.)

Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas)

Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.)

Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.)

Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.)

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.)

Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.)

Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.)

Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.)

Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.)

Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.)

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.)

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.)

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.)

Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.)

Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.)

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.)

Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.)

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ariz.)

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.)

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.)

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.)

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.)

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.)

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas)

Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.)

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.)

Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas)

Rep. Cory Gardner (Colo.)

Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio)

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.)

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.)

Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ariz.)

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.)

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.)

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.)

Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.)

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.)

By Steven Dennis

Roll Call

The Congressional Progressive Caucuses trolled the White House Monday after the legal memo justifying the killing of Americans was partially released by court order.

New Press Secretary Josh Earnest defended the earlier decision not to release the memo to the public.

“We worked with — through the legal system and those who are most interested in seeing it to produce a redacted document, that redacted national security interests while at the same time trying to live up to our commitment to transparency that the president has talked about quite a bit. So I think in this case — I think even the groups that sharply criticized us would call this a win for transparency.”

The actual press release was more pedestrian, but noted the Progressive Caucus has been pushing for transparency on drones.

WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) joined CPC Whip Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) in applauding the release of a White House memo outlining the government’s authority for using drones to kill U.S. citizens overseas.

“With the release of this memo, the American people have a glimpse into decisions made in our name where lives hang in the balance,” said Rep. Grijalva. “The fact that American lives are on the line too should give all of us pause. It’s time to end the secrecy surrounding our drone policies, and I applaud the administration’s move to release this memo. It’s a far cry from outright transparency, but it is a good first step.”

“The American people have a right to know their government’s justification for the use of force abroad,” Rep. Ellison said. “We need to restrict in the use of drones in Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere. The American people can now learn more about a program that has claimed the lives of innocents and damaged our reputation abroad. The release of this secret memo is a victory for transparency. But more must be done to inform the public and have accountable policies.”

“The release of this secret memo is a good step toward transparency but we have a long way to go,” Rep. Lee said. “Congress must repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which is has allowed endless war with little Congressional debate, input or oversight.”

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has led the way on transparency in the U.S. drone program, holding an ad-hoc hearing last summer and endorsing legislation to bring the legal reasoning behind the drone program into the light.


By Dave Jamieson

Huffington Post

WASHINGTON -- A growing number of House Republicans agree with their Democratic colleagues that the federal government needs to stop giving contracts to companies that rip off their workers.

Late Thursday, progressives successfully passed an amendment to the House defense spending bill that would bar the Defense Department from granting contracts to firms that have a record of wage theft. GOP support for the measure was far from overwhelming, but the 25 Republicans who crossed the aisle to join Democrats were crucial to the amendment's passage.

A similar amendment passed on a voice vote last week during debate over the transportation and housing spending bill. The first time Democrats tried to attach such an amendment to a spending bill it failed, with only 10 Republicans voting to add it to the funding bill for commerce, justice and science.

"Sometimes, federal contractors who serve the federal government do not pay these workers… I'm here to tell you that it is a serious problem," Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and sponsor of the amendment, said on the House floor late Thursday. "Republicans can agree that if you are a federal contractor and you want to do business with the United States, you should be fair to your workers."

The amendment forbids federal dollars from going to companies that have wage theft convictions or civil penalties reported in the government's contracting database. The two measures that have passed so far stand a good chance of being approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate, though they would only apply to the agencies covered under their respective appropriations bills.

Ellison said earlier this week that he plans on asking the White House to issue an executive order that includes such language for all federal contracts.

"We can demonstrate that good standards at the workplace is what the federal government wants," Ellison said on a call with reporters. "We're going to prioritize those companies that have a good record, and we're going to exclude companies that don't have a good record."

Liberals have long maintained that the federal government can help set higher labor standards in the private sector by exerting its contracting power. As part of that strategy, President Barack Obama has recently decided to move forward with a handful of orders related to the workplace, including a $10.10 minimum wage and new LGBT protections for workers under federal contracts.

Progressives would like to see the president go further. In a new report issued this week, the think tank Demos found that 8 million workers -- most of them women -- currently have low-wage jobs funded through federal contracts. The report called for a comprehensive "good jobs" executive order that would raise labor standards in contracting by reaffirming collective bargaining rights, mandating living wages and sick leave and putting caps on executive compensation.

"[W]e have largely overlooked what may be the most effective untapped resource for creating good jobs and growing the middle class -- our federal purchasing footprint," the report stated.

There's already evidence that wage theft is a legitimate problem among government contractors, not to mention the economy at large. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, released an analysis in December finding that "many of the most flagrant violators of federal workplace safety and wage laws are also recipients of large federal contracts."

To hear the rhetoric these days, you'd think faster job creation was impossible–we're stuck with structural unemployment, depressed labor force participation, and weak wage growth. You'd think growth deficits and debt were inevitable unless we're willing to sacrifice our social insurance programs and our safety net. You'd think investment in opportunity and mobility targeted at the least advantaged among us had to be sacrificed in order to achieve fiscal balance. You'd think we have to disinvest in our children today in order to save them from inheriting "mountains of debt" tomorrow.Nope.
The best way to respond to potential output lost to economic slack is to rebuild it through a period of rapid economic growth–and the CPC budget not only provides for this period of rapid growth, it does it through public investments that are likely to be extraordinarily productive given the long period of comparative neglect of key infrastructure.
There is another way forward, one that has received far too little attention in discussions of budgetary options. Last month the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) released its "Better Off Budget," a sort of mirror image of the Ryan plan that invests in new infrastructure, protects the social safety net, closes corporate tax loopholes, and reduces Pentagon spending by $255 billion over the next decade. Most importantly, it would end war funding -- known in Washington-ese as spending for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) -- in the FY 2015 budget, providing enough money to wind down the Afghan war, but no more. It would not allow OCO funding to serve as an ongoing slush fund for the Pentagon.
The federal budget should serve each and every taxpayer. That's not a pie-in-the-sky dream for the future – it's a bedrock principle of democracy. The government works for you no matter how much money you make or how many lobbyists you can afford. That's what the Better Off Budget is all about.
Predecessors of the Better Off Budget won praise from well-respected and mainstream economists, including Paul Krugman and Dean Baker. And while you might expect such approval from progressive intellectuals, the proposal has fans elsewhere on the ideological spectrum. The Economist has called it "courageous" and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget commended it as well.