WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) and CPC member Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell today about voter registration for millions of Americans through the federal exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) requires the federal government to provide Americans with the opportunity to register to vote when it delivers public assistance. Evidence from the recent ACA open enrollment indicates that the federal exchanges may not be in compliance with the NVRA.

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

Dear Secretary Burwell:

Congratulations on your confirmation as Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). We know you will continue to build on the first Affordable Care Act open enrollment period and work to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care coverage.

We write to request a meeting with you to discuss bringing the federally-facilitated Health Benefits Exchanges (FFEs) into compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).   

As you know, a healthy democracy demands the highest possible rate of voter participation.  The National Voter Registration Act makes voter registration easier and more accessible by requiring voter registration services to be provided where government delivers public services to its citizens.  Since 1995, states have offered citizens the opportunity to register to vote whenever they obtain a driver’s license or apply for Medicaid, and in some states, at public libraries. 

FFEs are subject to the NVRA, which requires all “offices in the state that provide public assistance” to provide specified voter registration services.[1]  The NVRA specifies that “providing public assistance” includes administration of the application process for public assistance.  The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires Exchanges to provide a “single streamlined application” for enrollment in insurance affordability programs and other health care programs like CHIP and Medicaid, which means they provide public assistance under the NVRA.[2]  In fact, the Exchange application process is the only way to apply for Medicaid in several states.  FFE processes, therefore, must comply with the requirements of the NVRA like all other public assistance offices.

It has been brought to our attention that the health care enrollment process of the FFEs may not be providing adequate access to voter registration applications. The State of California has committed to making its Exchange fully compliant with NVRA; avoter registration mailing went to the almost 5 million people who applied for benefits since October 1, 2013. We hope that the federal exchanges can follow the example of California in reaching full compliance with NVRA.

We request that you meet with Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) to discuss updating the FFEs so that they comply with the NVRA.  Michael Darner, Executive Director of the CPC at michael.darner@mail.house.gov will contact your office to set up the meeting.  We look forward to working with you on this important issue of improving access to voter registration.

 

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[1]42 U.S.C. § 1973gg-5(a)(2)(A)

[2]45 C.F.R. § 155.405(a)

WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement today after House Republicans voted down an amendment introduced by the CPC to disqualify certain federal contracts for any corporation that committed wage theft or other violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“Contractors pocket taxpayer money and then commit wage theft by denying workers overtime pay or forcing them to work off the clock. A recent National Employment Law Project (NELP) survey found that 21 percent of federal contract workers surveyed were not paid overtime and 11% have been forced to work ‘off the clock.’ The federal government could lead the way by disqualifying contractors who practice wage theft, but House Republicans voted today against an amendment to do exactly that.

“The failure of this amendment illustrates who Republicans defend. Speaker Boehner refuses to allow a vote to raise the federal minimum wage or renew unemployment insurance. House Republicans have focused relentlessly on taking away affordable health care and investigating Benghazi because they believe that is how they will win November. Unfortunately, working families have been left out of the Republican political strategy.

“Taxpayer money must be spent wisely. As the largest purchaser of goods and services in the nation, the federal government must find a way to make sure funds are going to companies that treat their workers fairly and give American families a chance to succeed.” 

WASHINGTON— Co-Chairs of the Progressive Caucus (CPC) Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Rubén Hinojosa (D-Texas) and Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Judy Chu (D-Calif.) applauded the passage by voice vote through the House of Representatives an amendment to prevent the Department of Justice, the FBI and local law enforcement from using money in the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to engage in profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender and sexual orientation.

“My home state has witnessed firsthand what profiling can do to a community,” said Rep. Grijalva, “Judging a person based on their skin tone or appearance isn’t only damaging to that person, the impacts of distrust and disdain ripple through that community. Federal dollars should never be spent on programs that endorse these actions.”

“Diversity is at the core of our nation’s strength,” Rep. Ellison said. “Discrimination and profiling of minority communities by law enforcement undermines that strength. We stand together today to say no more. The amendment passed by the House of Representatives will protect Americans from counterproductive and unconstitutional racial profiling.”

"I applaud the passage of the Quad Caucus amendment that addresses racial profiling,” said Rep. Marcia L. Fudge. “This nation stands on the principles of liberty and justice for all. Thus, we must ensure policies are in place to prevent discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender and sexual orientation. This amendment is an example of what is necessary to move this nation forward.”

"No one in our country should ever be singled out and targeted unfairly,” Rep. Hinojosa said. “Profiling someone based on their race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender or sexual orientation is simply wrong and does nothing to prevent crime. This amendment to the 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act is a solid mechanism that will help local law enforcement, the FBI, and the Department of Justice uphold our American ideal of equal protection for all."

 “When law enforcement uses profiling against a group, it replaces trust with fear and makes communities less safe,” Rep. Chu said. “We must ensure that communities and law enforcement are partners in preventing crimes, and that means ending profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, and sexual orientation once and for all.”

The CPC, CBC, CHC and CAPAC leaders recently sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on the Department of Justice’s guidelines on racial profiling.

WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement today after President Obama announced he will keep a residual force of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan after 2014.

“It’s time to end the longest war in American history. It’s time for our servicemembers in Afghanistan to safely come home to their families. We cannot afford to spend trillions of dollars on wars, while working families here at home are forced to get by without unemployment insurance and nutrition assistance. A troop presence in Afghanistan could last indefinitely, which would mean fewer resources for investments in infrastructure, education, and sustainable jobs for the middle class here at home. 

“No decisions should be made on a lasting troop presence in Afghanistan until Congress weighs in. Last week, Republicans denied the House of Representatives an up-or-down vote to end the war. We urge the Congressional Leadership in the House and Senate to schedule a vote on the war in Afghanistan as soon as possible. 

“President Obama promised he would end the war in Afghanistan. We are glad the original combat mission in Afghanistan is coming to a close, but keeping a residual force of over 9,800 in the country after 2014 is not ending the war.”

The CPC has long opposed unlimited involvement in Afghanistan. Our men and women in uniform deserve to come home, and the Afghan people deserve a new approach to our relationship that emphasizes humanitarian aid and capacity-building rather than focusing, as we have done in the past, almost exclusively on military objectives

WASHINGTON – Ahead of tomorrow’s Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) meeting to propose new Internet speed and pricing policies, Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) sent FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler a letter today urging strong consumer protections that will prevent anti-competitive behavior that could impact consumer access to online content. The letter, co-signed by 34 House Democratic colleagues, calls on Wheeler to “adopt strong and enforceable open Internet rules that proactively protect Internet users from unfair practices, including the blockage of lawful traffic or discrimination among content providers[.]”

The letter supports Net Neutrality, which would preserve high-speed Internet service for the entire country and prevent Internet service providers (ISP) from enacting pricing schemes, where web companies would have to pay higher fees to gain access to an internet “fast lane.” Net Neutrality also prevents Internet service providers from favoring some sites over others at customers’ expense.

As the letter says, “Recognizing our nation’s communications providers as common carriers under the law is common sense. Reclassification would also complement the Commission’s efforts to promote innovation, competition and investment in universally available, reliable and affordable broadband infrastructure. Over one million people have already gone on the record in support of reclassification.”

The FCC will meet tomorrow amid widespread public demand for the preservation of Net Neutrality and continued government support for equal access to the Internet.

In addition to Grijalva and Ellison, signatories include Reps. Barbara Lee, Conyers, John Lewis, McGovern, Grayson, Huffman, Takano, Edwards, Pocan, Honda, Cicilline, Nadler, Norton, Lowenthal, Kaptur, Holt, Defazio, Capuano, Serrano, Schakowsky, Carson, Blumenauer, Tierney, Shea-Porter,  Farr, Rangel, McCollum, McDermott, Lofgren, O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, Bobby Scott, Sarbanes, Michaud and Visclosky. The letter is endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Free Press, Democracy for America, Moveon.org, CREDO Action, Demand Progress, Daily Kos, The Other 98%, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Color of Change and Presente.org.

The text of the letter is below. A PDF with signatures is available at http://1.usa.gov/T7os3E

Dear Chairman Wheeler,

As you develop a proposal to oversee access to the Internet, we urge you to adopt strong and enforceable open Internet rules that proactively protect Internet users from unfair practices, including the blockage of lawful traffic or discrimination among content providers by Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The rules must preserve the Internet as the open platform that it is today by recognizing our nation’s communications providers as common carriers. Without strong protections, the Internet could devolve into a closed platform in which those who pay the most can overwhelm other views and ideas.

We agree with your previous statements and those from President Obama that expressed similar concerns. ISPs will continue to explore ways to boost revenue by imposing discriminatory charges that will decrease the openness of the Internet. There is ample evidence that protecting the open Internet against such threats is critical for users and businesses alike. However, reports indicate that the current FCC proposal creates an Internet fast lane that would prioritize some Internet traffic and allow ISPs to discriminate against everyone else. The FCC cannot protect the open Internet by allowing discrimination. 

We urge the FCC to use its clear authority under Title II of the Communications Act to reclassify the transmission component of broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service.  Recognizing our nation’s communications providers as common carriers under the law is common sense. Reclassification would also complement the Commission’s efforts to promote innovation, competition and investment in universally available, reliable and affordable broadband infrastructure.

Over one million people have already gone on the record in support of reclassification.  We urge the FCC to consider this support for strong, enforceable open Internet rules as it moves forward with the rulemaking process.

Sincerely,

CC:      Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission

            Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission

            Ajit Pai, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission

            Michael O’Reilly, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission

Leaders from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus sent a letter to Attorney General Holder yesterday asking for a meeting on new guidelines for racial profiling. The quad-caucus letter was signed by Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) for the Progressive Caucus, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) for the Black Caucus, Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas) for the Hispanic Caucus and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) for the Asian Pacific American Caucus. The text of the letter is below and a .pdf version can be found here.

May 7,2014

As leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and as the representatives of millions of Americans who will be affected by the Department of Justice’s revisions to its 2003 guidance on racial profiling, we write to respectfully request a meeting with you before the new guidance is finalized.

We appreciate the difficult job the Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies do to pursue justice for Americans and keep our country safe. Recent news reports indicate that the Department of Justice plans to strengthen anti-profiling provisions, but that federal law enforcement agencies would still be able to engage in profiling that could violate the constitutional rights of American citizens. It is critical that the revised guidance prohibit profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity. It must also eliminate loopholes for border and national security, apply to state and local law enforcement agencies that partner with the federal government or receive federal finding, and cover surveillance activities.

These improvements will help ensure that the rights of our nation’s increasingly diverse citizens are protected from the inappropriate use of profiling by law enforcement officials. The revised guidance should reduce instances of Customs and Border Protection agents routinely stopping law-abiding Latino-Americans on suspected immigration violations, and the FBI’s practice of mapping entire ethnic communities without any basis for individualized suspicion, including African-Americans, Russian-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans. The revised guidance

must mitigate the invasive searches Sikh-Americans endure at airport security simply because of their appearance, and the interrogations Muslim-Americans sometimes experience regarding their constitutionally protected religious beliefs and political activities.

We appreciate your commitment to ending racial profiling in all its forms and look forward to meeting with you to discuss how law enforcement agencies can do their job while upholding their obligation to treat all Americans fairly and equally under the law.

Sincerely,

 

Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement this afternoon on the new U.S. National Climate Assessment.

“The report released today makes it clear the United States is not living within its ecological means. If we refuse to change course, we undermine our economy, our climate and our way of life. The worst effects of global heating can be avoidedonly with swift action. Congress must create jobs by putting a price on carbon and investing in clean energy, modern transportation systems and a twenty-first century energy grid.

“The damage caused by climate change is already disproportionately affecting communities of color and low-income communities. The lessons of Hurricane Katrina have not reached the halls of Congress. We can create jobs and protect our environment at the same time. If we don’t, severe storms and hurricanes will continue to destroy homes, shortages of clean water will become more acute in resource-poor areas, and extreme heat will cause food supply shortages and price spikesfor years to come. Those and other hardships will hit communities of color and low-income communities hardest. Waiting for more disasters to strike will only make the transition to a warmer world more difficult and more expensive.

“Doing what we’ve always done benefits the wealthy few at the expense of everyone else. Congress should take action now – action that we know is in our own best interest. Taxpayer subsidies for oil companies making record profits are not in our best interest. Building the Keystone XL pipeline to allow a Canadian company to export dirty tar sands to China is not in our best interest. Weand the American peoplebelieve we must do better. We stand with the president in supporting strong limits on climate pollution from power plants, rejecting the ‘carbon bomb’ known as tar sands oil and the pipelines that transport it like Keystone XL, and calling on Congress to pass meaningful, job-creating climate legislation.”

WASHINGTON – Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) released the following statement today after Senate Republicans blocked a bill to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and increase the tipped minimum wage: 

“We are deeply disappointed that Republicans in the House and Senate continue to fight for the world’s biggest corporations and ignore working families who can’t survive on $14,500 a year. The cost of food and childcare has increased, while the minimum wage is lower than it was in 1968 after calculating for inflation.  

“A stagnant federal minimum wage is a stain on our nation. It tells working Americans putting in fifty or sixty hours a week that it doesn’t matter how hard they work—they will never get ahead. Approximately 28 million people would see a pay increase if we increased the minimum wage to $10.10 and 900,000 would be lifted out of poverty. Raising the minimum is the right choice for American businesses who are starving for customers. It would create a needed increase in economic activity, which allows businesses to grow and hire more people.”

“A fair minimum wage that is enough to put a roof over your head and food on the table should be a basic promise Congress makes to America’s families. Today’s vote is not the last. The Congressional Progressive Caucus will continue to organize and advocate for an increase in the federal minimum wage until President Obama signs the bill.”  

Increasing transparency makes it easier for workers to know if they're underpaid. These two orders give more power to the hard-working people who serve the federal government in contract positions. We applaud the president's leadership and we urge the Senate to build on it by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act tomorrow. The private sector should follow the government's example and close the pay gap for all workers.
Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. RaĂșl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), along with Progressive Caucus Members Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Andre Carson (D-IN), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Steve Cohen (D-TN), John Conyers (D-MI), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Sam Farr (D-CA), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Mike Honda (D-CA), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Barbara Lee (D-CA) Gwen Moore (D-WI), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Mark Takano (D-CA) applauded the passage of an extension of emergency unemployment insurance by the Senate and called on Speaker Boehner to put the bill on the floor of the House of Representatives as soon as possible.