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 delivered his seventh State of the Union address. 

 

President Obama laid out a robust agenda tonight to make our economy work for everyone. The president’s proposals to create opportunity for hard-working Americans are encouraging steps towards making 2015 the last year the term ‘low-wage worker’ is used in the wealthiest nation in the world. 

 

“Working Americans are better off today than they were during President Obama’s first State of the Union, and much of what he outlined tonight will continue that record of success. We applaud the president’s plan to raise the capital gains tax to support investments in working families; we hope that he will stand strong on comprehensive tax reform that raises revenue to reverse our upside-down tax policy. His call for family and sick leave will go a long way to making life easier for working families. The president’s proposal to cut methane emissions and his continued push for a strong carbon rule are important efforts to stop a changing climate. 

 

“Too many Americans are struggling to afford basic necessities and find good-paying jobs. Congress must act to end harmful budget cuts, expand Social Security benefits, increase access to affordable higher education, and put Americans back to work by rebuilding our roads, schools and bridges. But putting working families first also means we cannot enter into trade deals that allow corporations to ship jobs overseas. The Congressional Progressive Caucus will not support a trade deal that increases trade deficits and undermines the security of the middle class. 

 

“The president showed strong leadership in 2014 and tonight he laid out a concrete path towards a stronger and more inclusive economy in 2015.  We support his executive action in the face of Republican intransigence, and look forward to working with his administration to continue expanding our middle class.” 

 

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Washington, D.C. – Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement on the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.

 

“It has been five years since the Supreme Court gave corporate money unlimited influence over our elections,” said Reps. Grijalva and Ellison. “Since then, corporations, special interests, and the mega-rich have spent millions of untraceable dollars to flood our electoral process – effectively silencing the American people.”

 

“In the 2014 midterms alone, Super PACs spent more than $170 million dollars influencing electoral outcomes. Corporations are not people and elections should never be bought. Campaign contribution limits were set for a reason: to protect the voice of the people. It’s time we amend the constitution to overturn the Citizens United to end the influence of dark money over our political process and prove once and for all that the will of the American people is not for sale to the highest bidder.” 

 

In 2012, the Congressional Progressive Caucus formally adopted a declaration stating:

 

“We declare our support for amending the Constitution of the United States to restore the rights of the American people, undermined by Citizens United and related cases, to protect the integrity of our elections and limit the corrosive influence of money in our democratic process.” 

 

Rep. Ellison also introduced the Get Corporate Money out of Politics Constitutional Amendment (H.J. Res. 92) in 2012, which Rep. Grijalva co-sponsored. The Amendment reaffirmed the importance of a level playing field and authorized Congress and the States to regulate election contributions of for-profit corporations. 

 

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WASHINGTON, DC – Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), released the following statement after the President announced initiatives to push for paid leave including directing federal agencies to allow workers to use up to six weeks after the birth or adoption of a child. 

“We applaud President Obama for his push for paid leave and support of the Healthy Families Act. The wealthiest nation must join the rest of the world in affording mothers and fathers time to spend with their children.  Whether it is for birth or to care for a sick child, there is no question about what is right for American families.

“Offering adequate paid leave is not just morally right, it’s economically smart. Many Americans face the dilemma of what to do when they themselves or a member of their family is sick. Workers without paid sick days must choose to go to work sick or stay home and risk their pay and possibly their job. Allowing paid leave prevents the spread of illness and increases workforce productivity, which benefits employers.

“Paid leave is not a progressive issue—it is a family issue. American workers should never be forced to choose between their jobs and the health of themselves or their families. There is absolutely no reason that Speaker Boehner should not support paid sick and family leave. We urge our friends across the aisle to join us and swiftly pass the Healthy Families Act.” 

CPC member Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) first introduced the Healthy Families Act in 2005, and has reintroduced the bill in every Congress since then. Currently, only three states – California, New Jersey and Rhode Island – offer paid family and medical leave, and one state, Massachusetts will start offering paid sick days in July 2015.

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WASHINGTON, DC –Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), voted against a Department of Homeland Security funding bill that blocks funds for President Obama’s immigration executive action.

“While Republicans claim to be the party of security, nothing could be more dangerous than playing political games with funding for the Department of Homeland Security – especially at a time of heightened alert,” Rep. Grijalva said. “It’s absurd and irresponsible to hold this budget hostage, and to once again threaten a partial government shutdown. These funds are intended to keep Americans safe – not serve the ideological agendas of politicians with axes to grind.  The Republicans continue to include senseless bed mandates and harmful family detention funding in their funding bills, it’s time they get a reality check on the security needs of this country.

“For nearly two years, this country waited for Congressional Republicans to join their Senate colleagues in addressing our broken immigration system,” Rep. Grijalva continued. “As if their refusal to act wasn’t bad enough, their current tactics make clear that they’d rather enflame our immigration problems than ever see them solved. But undermining the public’s security is a length to which no politician should be willing to go for the sake of a political victory. It’s an abdication of their duties as elected leaders, and a violation of the oath of office they took just days ago.”

"House Republicans refused to act on the Senate's bipartisan immigration reform bill for five hundred days; now they’re threatening the Department of Homeland Security because the president took bold action for families who couldn't wait any longer,” Rep. Ellison said. “Pushing the government into a crisis when you don’t get what you want is quickly becoming a hallmark of Speaker Boehner's leadership. 

“If Republicans want to debate comprehensive immigration reform or the Affordable Care Act, they should come to the table with their own ideas – not threaten agencies critical to preventing and responding to emergencies,” Rep. Ellison continued. “Sadly, the investments working families need to succeed are neglected while bills that attack new Americans and provide benefits for mega-banks are fast-tracked. We urge Speaker Boehner to stop the brinksmanship and bring a clean Department of Homeland Security spending bill to the floor." 

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WASHINGTON, DC –Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), released the following statement after submitting an amendment today to the Rules Committee which would substitute the text of H.R. 37 delaying the Volcker Rule with language that repeals limits on discretionary spending created in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

“House Republicans are opening the 114th Congress by putting the profits of mega-banks over investments in hard-working Americans. While they are championing failed policies of trickle-down economics, we know our economy works best when we put Americans back to work. If Republicans are serious about creating jobs, they should focus on ending harmful budget cuts. That’s why the Progressive Caucus is proposing to replace H.R. 37 – a bill that would delay a requirement for the largest banks to sell possibly risky investments in their portfolios– with investments that will create jobs across the country.

“Our priority should be American families, not bank CEOs. We can rebuild our roads and bridges, upgrade our transit systems and electrical grids, and continue important science research while putting Americans back into decent paying jobs if we get rid of the budget sequester once and for all.”

The full text of the amendment can be found below.

Amendment to H.R 37

Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the following:

Section 1 Repeal of Discretionary Spending Caps.

The discretionary spending limits for each of fiscal years 2015 through 2021 as set forth in section 251 of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 shall have no force or effect.

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WASHINGTON, DC –Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), along with 50 members of Congress sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting the Department of Justice (DOJ) collect and publicly release data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers.

The letter was also signed by Reps. Alan Grayson (D-FL), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Corrine Brown (D-FL), André Carson (D-IN), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), José Serrano (D-NY), Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Maxine Waters D-CA), Dianna DeGette (D-CO), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), John Yarmuth (D-KY), James Clyburn (D-SC), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Mike Honda (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D- CA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), John Conyers (D-MI), Danny Davis (D-IL), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Sam Farr (D-CA), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL),  Janice Hahn (D-CA), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA),  Cedric Richmond (D-LA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Alma Adams (D-NC), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX).

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

Dear Attorney General Holder:

We share a strong commitment to building a fairer, more equitable criminal justice system and write today to request the Department of Justice (DOJ) collect data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers in the United States and produce a publicly available annual summary of the data. [1] This reporting is currently required under [the] Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, however according to media reports the most recent report was issues in 2001. [2]

Recent events in Sanford, Ferguson, Staten Island, and Cleveland illustrate a significant need for criminal justice reform. Reliable information is necessary in order to implement meaningful change. Experience in our communities indicates that the use of excessive force disproportionally affects communities of color, but we lack the empirical data from the Department of Justice.

In order to ensure that [the] criminal justice system provides equal justice for all, the DOJ should establish a standardized procedure by which local law enforcement agencies collect and report relevant data. This procedure should leave it to local authorities to judge what is “excessive”, but rather should provide DOJ with sufficient information to allow DOJ to make that judgment.

We request that you respond to our request and report on the steps that the DOJ will take to ensure that instances of excessive force are tracked and reported. Recent events make it clear that this is an urgent matter.

[1] Section 210402(a) of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (42 U.S.C 14142) requires the Attorney General to compile data on the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers. Subsection (c) requires the production of an annual summary of the data that is compiled.

[2] Ross, Keith, “How Many Police Shootings Have There Been? In The Aftermath of Michael Brown’s Death, The Absence of Police Shooting Statistics Leaves The Question Unanswered,” The International Business Times (Aug. 15, 2014).

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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) released the following statement today after President Obama announced a new policy towards Cuba.

“The United States isolated Cuba for 53 years in a failed attempt to promote democracy and freedom. President Obama’s new course recognizes our old approach towards Cuba didn’t work.

“Isolating Cuba separated the people of Cuba and their Cuban-American family members, and impaired our ability to build constructive relationships in Latin America. By restarting diplomatic relations and establishing a new embassy, the U.S. can start conversations on issues like commerce and human rights that have been dormant between our nations for too long. We applaud President Obama for his bold new approach and welcome news that, for the first time, both the U.S. and Cuba will attend the Summit of the America’s in 2015.

“The president has laid out a promising path forward and now it is up to Congress to act. Congress must lift the trade embargo and normalize travel between our two nations, which are only 90 miles apart. The Congressional Progressive Caucus looks forward to working with President Obama and members of Congress who want to stabilize relations between the U.S. and Cuba.”

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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 ahead of a House Rules Committee hearing on a deal to partially fund the government through September of next year.

“We support a government funding bill that invests in creating jobs and American families. Unfortunately, the CROmnibus fails to do that.  

“Republicans, who learned nothing from the financial crisis of 2008, included a provision that allows Wall Street to engage in some of the same risky practices that crashed the world economy. The short-term funding of the Department of Homeland Security sets up another government shutdown battle in February and is motivated by Republicans who refuse to fix our broken immigration system.  Continuing cuts to education and environmental protections while spending billions on endless wars is the wrong priority for American families.  Sneaking in last minute provisions, like turning our democracy into an auction house by raising campaign contribution limits, is the wrong way to govern.

“Republicans are once again using a potential crisis with the federal budget to hurt working families. The Progressive Caucus stands with the American people and opposes the bill.” 

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WASHINGTON, DC – Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement today after Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) released the 500 page executive summary of the CIA torture report, which chronicles the use of torture at secret facilities abroad by the CIA from late 2001 through January 2009.

“The report released today describes torture policies that are contrary to American values and to our Constitution. The Bush administration’s oversight failures tarnished our standing within the international community. The report proves that compromising our values as a nation will not make us any safer.

“No country should be allowed to violate human rights with impunity. We thank Senator Feinstein for releasing this report and for holding our nation accountable. We applaud President Obama’s leadership in ending the use of torture when he came to office in 2009 and for supporting the release of the report.

“Now that we know the extent of this dark chapter in our history, the work of reconciliation can begin. Seeing these crimes in the light of day is the only way we can ensure our nation never allows the use of torture again.” 

The Progressive Caucus will always be committed to ending torture and has long called for the closing of the detention center at Guantánamo Bay. Most recently, the CPC sent a letter to President Obama requesting the release of video recordings to members of Congress reportedly showing Guantánamo Bay detainees who are being force-fed while on hunger-strike.

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