Issues / Legislation » Legislative Weekly Reports

Week Ending December 6, 2019

House takes significant step to restore voting rights, and end voter suppression and systemic voter discrimination.

  • The Voting Rights Advancement Act
  • Congress Working to Prevent a Year-End Government Shutdown
  • Calls Needed to Pass Bill to Lower Prescription Drug Costs

The Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA)

This week, members of the House of Representatives voted to restore key aspects of the historic Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965. The House passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA) (H.R. 4), which addresses several components of the act that were weakened by the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder.

  • Why H.R. 4 is Necessary: Forty-eight years after the VRA was signed into law, the 2013 Supreme Court ruling eliminated the requirement for states and localities with a well-documented history of discrimination to “pre-clear” any new changes to voting practices and procedures. This significantly weakened efforts to address voter suppression and systemic voter discrimination in the states.
  • The Aftermath of Shelby: Since the Shelby decision, dozens of states and localities have implemented restrictive voter ID laws, closed or consolidated polling locations, and imposed other measures to restrict voter access. AFSCME President Lee Saunders stated, “There is perhaps no more important pillar of our democracy than the right to vote. The 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision shamefully gutted voting protections for millions of Americans ... . Restoring equal access to the ballot box is long overdue, especially for those who have historically faced systematic discrimination and voter suppression.”

What You Need to Know: Fairness matters. H.R. 4 seeks to build a representative democracy where all people can work together and exercise their most basic rights. Members of the House took a bold new step to resolve the disenfranchisement that many working families, people of color and the elderly felt by passing this bill. AFSCME and a number of our affiliates sent letters of support and worked to pass H.R. 4. We now demand that  the Senate take up this legislation.

Congress Working to Prevent a Year-End Government Shutdown

The House and Senate Appropriations chairs have agreed on the top-line spending levels, known as 302 (b) allocations, for all 12 annual federal spending bills. And, while they would like to finalize all 12 appropriations bills by the Dec. 20 deadline when the current continuing resolution (CR) expires, several hurdles remain.  

  • Negotiation Hold Up:  President Donald Trump wants $5 billion for his unneeded border wall to be transferred from the Homeland Security spending bill and $3.6 billion from the Military Construction-VA bill. Democrats refuse to provide funding for the wall, which Congress has consistently rejected. 

What You Need to Know: If border wall funding is not resolved, the Homeland Security bill might be left out of the large end-of-year spending package and Homeland Security and any other unfinished bills would need to be funded through another CR. If the appropriations bills are not finished by Dec. 20, there might be another short-term CR or even another government shutdown. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has notified members of Congress that they might be in Washington after Dec. 20 if they can’t finish the budget. Failure to reach agreement could also mean full-year funding at current levels and the loss of funding increases vital to state and local government budgets.

--

The House will soon vote on important legislation to lower prescription costs.

Call your Representative today at 1-866-957-9069.

Urge your Representative to support H.R. 3, the “Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019,” to help working families and retirees afford the medicines they need.

Get news & updates from AFSCME