WASHINGTON—Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) and 28 of their colleagues introduced the Pay Workers a Living Wage Act today, which raises the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. Details on the bill can be found here. A letter signed by over two-hundred economists support of raising the federal minimum wage to $15 can be found here.

 “In the year 2015, a job must lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it.  The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage and must be raised to a living wage," said Sen. Bernie Sanders. 

“In the richest nation on Earth, full-time work should be compensated with more than a never-ending struggle to make ends meet,” Rep. Grijalva said. “We believe in the dignity of hard work – we should demand the dignity of fair compensation, too. Every American forced to accept less than their worth for labor is an American who cannot contribute fully to our economy, which is why Congress should pass the Pay Workers a Living Wage Act immediately.”

“When I’m on picket lines around the country, people tell me they’re protesting because they’re working harder than ever and still can’t make ends meet,” Rep. Ellison said. “The Progressive Caucus stands in solidarity with the working Americans putting in longer hours and seeing smaller paychecks. In the richest nation in the world, no business should be able to pay so little their workers are forced to find second and third jobs to feed their kids. The Pay Workers a Living Wage Act will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and ensure hard work pays in America.” 

“Raising the minimum wage to $15 would give at least 25 million hard-working Americans – including six million working moms – a raise, lift as many as six million people out of poverty, and infuse more than $32 billion into our national economy,” Rep. Jackson Lee said. “Raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do.”

“Recent calls for an increase in the minimum wage have been displaced by the increasing cost of living in our country,” Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton said.  “Today, $15 an hour is the minimum wage a worker needs in order to make a decent living.”

“The low federal minimum wage amounts to corporate welfare,” Rep. Janice Hahn said. “American taxpayers are subsidizing rich corporations by covering the cost of food stamps and healthcare for underpaid and exploited workers.”

“Raising the minimum wage is good for our workers and our economy,” Rep. Grayson said. “People who earn minimum wage put their earnings back into our economy by buying food, clothes, baby supplies, and other necessities. A higher minimum wage also means fewer people collecting government assistance like food stamps. Almost 60% of minimum wage earners in this country are women. A large percentage of them are single mothers. They deserve a salary that reflects the true costs they face. The American worker is long overdue for a raise. No one who works full time should live in poverty.”

Original Co-sponsors: Reps. Adams (D-WA), Blumenauer (D-OR), Chu (D-CA), Clarke (D-NY), Cohen (D-TN), Conyers (D-MI), Edwards (D-MD), Ellison (D-MN), Farr (D-CA), Hahn (D-CA), Honda (D-CA), Gallego (D-AZ), Grijalva (D-AZ), Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Lee (D-CA), Lewis (D-GA), Lowenthal (D-CA), McDermott (D-WA), Meeks (D-NY), Nadler (D-NY), Norton (D-DC), Pallone (D-NJ), Pocan (D-WI), Rangel (D-NY), Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Schakowsky (D-IL), Takano (D-CA), Van Hollen (D-MD), Velazquez (D-NY), Watson-Coleman (D-NJ).

The Pay Workers a Living Wage Act is supported by Service Employees International Union (SEIU), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Restaurant Opportunities Center, and Communications Workers of America.

WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), along with 18 House Democrats sent a letter to President Barack Obama and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson urging the DHS to issue an updated report on domestic right-wing extremism and reopen the Extremism and Radicalization Branch of the Homeland Environment Threat Analysis Division.

The letter was also signed by Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Judy Chu (D-CA), John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Mike Honda (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Mark Takano (D-CA), Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), and Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ). 

The text of the letter is below and a signed letter can be found here.

Barack H. Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Secretary of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
3801 Nebraska Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Mr. President and Secretary Johnson:

We write to urge the Department of Homeland Security to issue an updated assessment on the threat posed by domestic right-wing extremist groups and to reopen the Extremism and Radicalization Branch of the Homeland Environment Threat Analysis Division at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Dylann Roof’s attempt to “start a race war” by murdering nine people at the historic Black Church Emanuel AME in Charleston is a painful reminder that violent white supremacist groups represent a continued threat to Americans.

According to a study from the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center, right-wing extremist groups launched an average of 337 attacks per year, killing 254 people from 2001 to 2011. State and local law enforcement agencies often cite anti-government extremism as a top concern. In a study conducted by Police Executive Research Forum, 74% of the 382 law enforcement agencies polled cited anti-government extremism as a top three terrorist threat. The Southern Poverty Law Center has long documented the dramatic rise in right-wing hate groups, noting the number of white supremacist hate groups has increased by 30 percent since 2000. Reports indicate that in February, DHS released a report to law enforcement agencies noting the threat that sovereign citizen extremists (SCEs) pose to communities and law enforcement in particular.

Despite these statistics and warnings, the United States allocates significant resources towards combatting Islamic violent extremism while failing to devote adequate resources to right-wing extremism. The problem goes beyond a skewed allocation of resources. When efforts are made to address right-wing extremism, they are often met with significant political backlash.

For example, in 2009 when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a Department wide report on right-wing extremism there was so much political pushback that DHS repudiated the study and disbanded the Extremism and Radicalization Branch of the Homeland Environment Threat Analysis Division, the unit responsible for the report. This lack of political will comes at a heavy price of repeated attacks on churches, temples and community centers for African American Christians, Sikh Americans and Jewish Americans.

Our government needs to do more to address the threat of right-wing extremism. Countering violent extremism requires a comprehensive strategy that begins with a commitment to address hate crime in all its forms.

We believe reopening the Extremism and Radicalization Branch at DHS and updating the 2009 report is necessary to address this growing domestic terrorist threat.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), and CPC Peace and Security Task Force Chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) applauded the P5+1 negotiators after they reached a final agreement with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“The historic agreement struck today between the United States, our allies, and Iran is a triumph of international relations,” said Rep. Grijalva. “President Obama, Secretary Kerry and our P5+1 partners have proven that there is a better paradigm for foreign engagement than the constant threat of military action: it’s called diplomacy.  This deal is the responsible way to avert nuclear ambitions, and to ensure that we all share a safer and more peaceful world.”

The historic agreement reached today proves the power of engagement over isolation — we can choose peace over war. The world is safer thanks to the patient diplomacy and determination of President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and our P5+1 negotiating partners,” said Rep. Ellison. “In the coming weeks, the focus will be on the U.S. Congress to see if Republicans take this deal away from the world. We will stop those who want to push us closer to war.” 

“Today’s announced deal with Iran, if fully implemented, will prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon while ensuring greater stability in the Middle East. I applaud President Obama, Secretary Kerry and our P5+1 partners for their tireless work to obtain a deal that promotes global peace and security,” said Rep. Lee. “In the coming weeks, the world’s attention will shift from Vienna to the halls of Congress. I hope my Republicans colleagues will put partisan politics aside and support this deal instead of pushing us one step closer to another war.”

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WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement after President Obama announced a proposal to raise the overtime threshold to $50,440. The previous threshold was $23,660.  

“We applaud President Obama for standing with American families who deserve fair pay for their hard work. People all over the country are working longer hours, but their paychecks continue to come up short. The Progressive Caucus believes that in the richest nation on earth, no one working overtime should worry about making ends meet. This new overtime rule is a powerful step towards that goal, helping nearly 5 million Americans feed their families, pay their rent, or clothe their children. We look forward to working with President Obama to continue putting more money in the pockets of America’s working families.” 

The Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs signed a letter led by CPC member Rep. Mark Takano to President Obama in January asking for an increase in the overtime threshold. The CPC also called for an increase in the overtime threshold in its Fiscal Year 2016 Alternative Budget.  

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WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), along with CPC First Vice Chair Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) released the following statement after the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that the Constitution protects the marriage rights of same-sex couples.

“Today, the Supreme Court enshrined in law what so many of us have known in our hearts: that the freedom to marry belongs to every American, no matter who they love or where they live,” Rep. Grijalva said. “This is a tremendous victory for our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community, and for the institution of marriage in our country. From this day forward, the protections and benefits afforded through marriage will finally extend to every individual in this nation.

“I am thrilled for every couple whose love is validated at long last by this decision,” Rep. Grijalva continued. “But this is far from the end of the fight for equality. In too many states, it is still legal to fire or deny housing to Americans based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Our job is not done until all people are treated as equals, regardless of who they are or who they love.”

“Yesterday, Americans in 13 states couldn’t marry the people they love. Today, thanks to the work of millions, that number is zero,” Rep. Ellison said. “The Supreme Court decision today means no state can discriminate against an American because of who they love.

“The fight for equal rights is not over – too many gay and lesbian Americans are fired from their jobs and pushed out of their communities because of who they love. But today all people committed to equality can celebrate,” Rep. Ellison continued. “Martin Luther King Jr. said the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. The Supreme Court’s decision reminds us that when we organize and stand together, it bends a little bit faster.”

“Today, the Supreme Court has reaffirmed what a majority of Americans already know: all couples should have the right to marry, regardless of who they love,” Rep. Pocan said. “This a historic step forward toward fulfilling the promise of equality for all Americans.”

"As we celebrate this victory, we must also recognize that we still have work to do to ensure all Americans are treated fairly under the law, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” Rep. Pocan continued. “In a majority of states you can now marry freely, but can still be fired because of who you love.”

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WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement after the Supreme Court upheld healthcare subsidies in states with federal exchanges. 

“The Affordable Care Act provides coverage to millions of previously uninsured Americans. The Supreme Court decision in King v. Burwell brings relief to Americans who can now continue their coverage. The ruling means kids won’t miss checkups, seniors will get the medicine they need, and Americans won’t break the bank by going to the hospital when they get sick.

“The Republican effort to take affordable health care away from American families is done. It’s time for us to work together to ensure more Americans can afford the care they need. It’s time for every state to do the right thing to help those still struggling by adopting the Medicaid expansion. It’s time for American families to live without  fear that the next unexpected health care bill will make it impossible to make ends meet. It’s time for Congress to start a discussion about how we can build on this landmark law to lower costs, expand access, and put health care security for every American above the profits of the private industry.

“The Affordable Care Act is saving lives. And now, for the second time, the Supreme Court has affirmed it is the law of the land.”

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WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement after the House Rules Committee rejected a CPC amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act requiring the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community to audit the use of targeted lethal force operations conducted by unmanned aerial vehicles.

“Congress must exercise its oversight authority and demand more transparency in the U.S. drone program. The White House acknowledged last month that a drone accidentally killed Warren Weinstein, an American hostage, while targeting al-Qaeda operatives.  Mr. Weinstein’s death is not an isolated tragedy; U.S. drone strikes have killed at least five Americans since 2002.  

“Targeted drone strikes claim the lives of innocent civilians too often, creating deep resentment towards the U.S. around the world. We are disappointed that the Rules Committee rejected this opportunity to begin bringing accountability to this program.”

The Progressive Caucus amendment would have required that the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community audit the effectiveness of existing U.S. efforts to report, track and investigate civilian deaths caused by the drone program. The Progressive Caucus also attempted to offer this amendment on last year’s intelligence authorization bill and has held ad-hoc hearings on accountability for the drone program.

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WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement after The Trade Act failed on the floor of the House of Representatives after the defeat of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which included Medicare cuts.

“The defeat of The Trade Act is a big step towards stopping the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership. Today’s victory belongs to people who rely on Medicare, union members, environmental organizers and every single working family in America.  

“The fight is far from over. President Obama and the Republican majority will not stop pushing until they get the rubber-stamp they need to sign another bad trade deal. The Progressive Caucus will push too, but on the side of Americans who are already struggling to make ends meet. We will oppose any trade deal that lowers wages, endangers our air, land and water and supports human trafficking.” 

A vote on the Trade Adjustment Assistance portion that failed is expected as early as next week. 

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WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement after introducing an amendment to The Trade Act in the Rules Committee.

“The Trade Act continues to force seniors to pay for trade deals that destroy American jobs. Chairman Ryan is attempting to change how Trade Adjustment Assistance is funded in a separate bill, but it’s nothing more than a bait-and-switch effort to gin up support for a quick passage of Trade Promotion Authority. There is no guarantee the Senate will pass the separate bill removing Medicare cuts. The only way to ensure seniors won’t be hurt is to remove these cuts from The Trade Act itself. If Chairman Ryan recognizes the need to protect seniors from these cuts in separate legislation, why not remove the cuts completely?

“Seniors should not have to pay when trade deals go bad. A vote for The Trade Act is a vote to cut Medicare. Progressives will oppose any bill that includes Medicare cuts.”

The Progressive Caucus amendment removes the Medicare cut, increases overall funding for Trade Adjustment Assistance to $575 million and expands Trade Adjustment Assistance to include public sector workers.

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WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), reacted after the Department of Education outlined its debt relief process for students who attended Corinthian Colleges. 

“Yesterday, the Department of Education took the first step in providing relief for student debt resulting from the Corinthian College for-profit scheme,” Rep. Grijalva said. “I am glad to see progress in helping some students who are now unfairly burdened with debt for an education they never received, but I urge the department to take their actions further and ensure all students who are in a similar situation receive relief from these deceptive practices of for-profit schools. We have an obligation to ensure no one is unfairly burdened from these schemes, and we must live up to that commitment.”

“The Department of Education’s announcement is a good first step, but the process to get debt-relief will be very difficult for students who were ripped off by Corinthian,” Rep. Ellison said. “The Progressive Caucus urged Secretary Duncan to issue automatic and class-wide discharge of debt for students. Instead, the Department of Education placed the burden of proof on individuals. The Progressive Caucus will keep pushing for a better deal for students.” 

The Progressive Caucus previously sent a letter to Secretary Duncan in April urging the Department of Education to forgive loans incurred by all students attending Corinthian Colleges. 

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