the Senate ~~~ CONGRESS 4/17 ~~~ the House

demsVrepubThe Senate stands adjourned until 2:00pm on Monday, April 20, 2015.

Following any Leader remarks, the Senate will resume consideration of S.178, Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking. At 5:00pm, the Senate will enter Executive Session to consider Executive Calendar #24, George C. Hanks, Jr., of Texas, to be US District Judge for the Southern District of Texas. There will be 30 minutes for debate equally divided and upon the use or yielding back of time (approximately 5:30pm) the Senate will vote on confirmation of the nomination.

As a reminder, during Thursday’s session, the Senate reached an agreement that at a time to be determined by the Majority Leader, with concurrence of the Democratic Leader, the Senate proceed to vote on the motion to proceed to Calendar #54, S.615, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.

Monday, April 20 at 5:30pm—1 roll call vote

  1. Confirmation of Executive Calendar #24, George C. Hanks Jr., of Texas, to be US District Judge for the Southern District of Texas


Last Floor Action:
10:33:02 A.M. – The Speaker announced that the House do now adjourn.

The next meeting is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on April 20, 2015.

10:30:39 A.M. The House convened, starting a new legislative day.
10:30:53 A.M. The Speaker designated the Honorable Charles W. Boustany Jr. to act as Speaker pro tempore for today.
10:31:08 A.M. Today’s prayer was offered by the House Chaplain, Rev. Patrick J. Conroy.
10:32:19 A.M. The Speaker announced approval of the Journal. Pursuant to clause 1, rule I, the Journal stands approved.
10:32:27 A.M. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE – The Chair led the House in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
10:33:02 A.M. The Speaker announced that the House do now adjourn. The next meeting is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on April 20, 2015.


Tell the Labor Department to support equal pay ~ a repost

BudgetEconomyTell the Labor Department to support equal pay

Did you know that some employers tell their workers that they cannot talk about their wages? Or that some workers could be punished for having a conversation with a co-worker about their paychecks?

For too many, that’s the truth. More than 6 in 10 private-sector workers say their employer either bars or discourages them from sharing information about their pay.

This unfair practice allows companies to keep wage discrepancies hidden. It also contributes to discrimination in the workplace. And that’s bad news for our work on equal pay.

But there’s good news, too: The Department of Labor is working on a plan to end these salary gag rules. Here’s your chance to tell it you support these efforts.

Tell the Department of Labor you support
this equal pay rule
Send a comment to the Department of Labor telling it that workersshould not be punished for talking about their pay.Take Action

If workers could talk about their wages openly and without fear, they could find out if they’re being paid less and determine if the discrepancy is due to discrimination based on their gender, race, or ethnicity.

And of course, women are hit hardest by wage discrepancies. Overall, women make just 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. African American women face a larger gap when their wages are compared to white men, making just 64 cents on the dollar. And Latinas make only 56 cents compared to white men.

Plus, the proposed rule wouldn’t just prohibit retaliation against workers who discuss their pay. It would also require contractors to give employees clear information about how they’re protected from retaliation for discussing pay.

Help us fight for equal pay for women today. Send a comment to the Department of Labor.

Thank you for taking action.

Fatima Goss Graves
Vice President for Education and Employment
National Women’s Law Center

This Could Be Gerrymandering


The Supreme Court Gives a Second Chance to Opponents of North Carolina’s Redistricting Plan

The Supreme Court gave good news to opponents of North Carolina’s gerrymandered redistricting map — and supporters of representative government! — yesterday. The high court ordered that North Carolina take another look at a challenge to the state’s election map. In December, the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld a redistricting map drawn by the Republican legislature that packs African-American voters into a few districts, diluting the overall power of their vote. The Supreme Court did not issue a formal decision on the case, but the justices ordered the state supreme court to reexamine the case, which is an important first step in ensuring that the state’s election maps are fairly considered.

African American voters in North Carolina saw a drastic change in representation after the 2010 census, when the map in question was drawn. Before 2011, North Carolina had ten majority black state House districts. After, the number more than doubled to 23. Concentrating black voters into a handful of districts dilutes the group’s voting strength by increasing the proportion of white voters in other districts. For example, in 2012, while more than half of North Carolina voters voted for Democratic representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans filled about 70 percent of the seats.

Much controversy surrounds the drawing of North Carolina’s redistricting maps. Through a project called the Redistricting Majority Project, the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), worked with many states, including North Carolina, to draw election maps that would rig the game in their favor.

The RSLC was looking to influence the outcome of these gerrymandered maps in other ways as well. The group was by far the largest contributor in the last two North Carolina Supreme Court races, which both took place after this court case was filed and while the appeal was pending, calling into question the partiality of the court’s decision. The Center for American Progress looks deeper into the influence of the RSLC and other conservative groups on judicial races and looks at some of the return on investments these groups are getting.
Yesterday’s decision represents some momentum for advocates of good government. It built off of a similar ruling on Alabama’s election map that the court handed down in March. The Alabama decision asked a lower court to consider whether concentrating minority voters into a handful of districts could violate the Voting Rights Act by limiting the number of districts in which minorities could influence elections. These two orders from the Supreme Court are a good sign that the highest court is taking a harder look at racial gerrymandering.

BOTTOM LINE: The Supreme Court’s order to revive the challenge to North Carolina’s unfair election map is a step in the right direction. Fixing the state’s election map is just one of many steps that will need to be taken to ensure that conservatives cannot continue stacking the deck in their favor by suppressing the voice of others.

Sheldon’s Lap Dogs


2016 Republican Hopefuls Head To The “Sheldon Adelson Primary” To Speak Before The GOP Megadonor

This weekend, 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls will head to Nevada to the Republican Jewish Coalition’s spring meeting – a confab that the media have widely taken to calling the “Sheldon Adelson Primary” because of the billionaire casino mogul’s connection to the group. At the meeting, the 2016 hopefuls will have a chance to parade before Adelson and each make the case for why they should be next to move into the White House. Ted Cruz and Rick Perry are making an appearance at the coalition’s meeting this year, while Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio, the current “clear front-runner” in the Adelson sweepstakes according to sources, have met with Adelson previously.

As explained in a new CAP Action issue brief, the 2016 contenders’ appearance at the “Sheldon Adelson Primary” is no small thing. In 2012, Adelson and his wife sent $98 million to conservative outside spending groups and candidates, and possibly another $45-$55 million to dark money spending groups. The Adelsons can be powerful friends to have: as the campaign of 2012 Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich began to founder, an Adelson-funded super PAC “single-handedly kept Gingrich’s presidential bid alive,” before the Adelsons moved on and became some of the biggest contributors to outside spending groups supporting Mitt Romney’s bid.

While we don’t know exactly what the GOP hopefuls will say this weekend, we do know that they’re committed to policies that provide more for the wealthy few but make it harder for working families to get ahead. Four of the top 2016 candidates support tax policies that could result in huge tax savings for Adelson and his wife. Under Bush, the Adelsons could cut an estimated $139.7 million of his total tax bill; with tax plans supported by Cruz and Perry, the Adelsons could save $144.1 million and $141.9 million respectively.

However, each of these 2016 hopefuls has opposed the Affordable Care Act, a key protection for hundreds of thousands of working Nevadans. The law has helped more than 280,000 Nevadans get access to health coverage through the insurance marketplace and the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, leading the uninsured rate in the state to decline by 4.3 percentage points, from 20 to 15.7 percent.

BOTTOM LINE: 2016 GOP contenders are showering Sheldon Adelson with attention, who together with his wife spent anywhere from $100-150 million in the 2012 election. The GOP’s presidential hopefuls may frame their pitches to the mogul by pledging to grow our economy and attack inequality, but their records reveal their support for policies that will give Adelson and the wealthy few still more ways to avoid paying their fair share while dismantling supports for working families. They may promise Adelson a windfall, but the GOP hopefuls’ policies are a bad deal for everyone else.

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Deepwater Horizon Disaster: Five Years Later


Learning From Catastrophe Will Help Us Build A Healthier Planet And A Stronger Economy

Today marks the five year anniversary of the BP oil spill, the worst oil disaster in American history. On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that BP operated in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing 11 people. For the next 87 days, oil spewed into the Gulf, releasing at least 3 million barrels of oil into the water. The immediate and ongoing damage to human health, the environment, and the economy are impossible to truly quantify and the Gulf is still feeling the impacts today:

  • Impacts to human health: Preliminary results from a recent long-term study found that a lot of anger, anxiety, and depression was reported by Gulf residents related to income insecurity. According to the research, the spill destroyed livelihoods for fishermen and others who depended on a healthy Gulf. While it’s difficult to truly quantify the spill’s overall impacts on public health, the initial research by the National Institute of Health also found that oil-cleanup workers felt more physical and mental symptoms in the aftermath than non-cleanup workers did.
  • Tar continuing to wash ashore: Even though it has been five years since the spill, tar balls and mats continue to spread throughout the Gulf and wash up along its coastline. BP denied that these were still harmful to the environment, but experts say that they are made of the same toxic oil compounds that threaten ecosystems.
  • Oil on the sea floor: Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the oil spill is that a significant portion of the oil currently has sunk to the ocean floor where it has smothered seabed ecosystems, meaning it will likely never be cleaned up. According to the Smithsonian Institute, potentially 20 percent of the 3 million barrels of oil is down there and researchers have found that this oil is present in the food chain, which could seriously impact commercial fisheries and marine life throughout the Gulf.
  • More threatened species: Along the same lines, the oil still present in the Gulf continues to hurt a large number of native species. The National Wildlife Federation found that at least 20 animal species continue to be adversely impacted by the spill, including dolphins, pelicans, sea turtles, and fish like red snapper and tuna.

BP, which has tried and failed to challenge the 2012 settlement in the past, claims that it has paid a total of $28 billion on the spill, a figure that includes response, cleanup, claims payments and some restoration work. There is still a lot of work to be done in the Gulf, and recently a federal District Court judge found that BP is potentially liable for an additional fine, capped at $13.7 billion, which the oil giant is in the process of fighting.

BOTTOM LINE: Despite the dangers of drilling deep underwater, offshore drilling has only increased – there are 37 percent more wells since the spill and the average well is 40 percent deeper now than five years ago. While Big Polluters and their allies push for increased oil and gas exploration, drilling has devastating health, environmental and ecological consequences. Rather than doubling down on dirty energy, we should do what is necessary and popular by investing in the renewable energies that will help us transition to an economy that’s better for our health and our planet.