Article 1 – Legislative Branch
AP English Worldstream – English, 09/13/18
Congress passes spending deal, bids to avert gov’t shutdown
This article is a brief overview of the compromise spending deals awaiting the pass of Congress and signage of President Donald Trump, also being called the “three-bill-bundle” deal. This bill was suggested as a short-term fix for the long-promised wall on the Mexican border which the parties have yet to agree on. The Senate feels the best time to focus on this is after the November election, so the short-term three-way bundle is step one for now and the following year. This is all to avoid a government shut-down, which the president has threatened to do if his request does not go through.
This three-bill-bundle includes the following: $97.1 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs and military construction, along with $1.1 billion increase to pay for a law Trump signed to give veterans more freedom to see doctors outside the VA system; $44.6 billion for energy and water programs, including programs to ensure nuclear stockpile readiness and spur innovation in energy research. This bill also funds flood-control projects and addresses regional ports and waterways; and finally, $4.8 billion for the legislative branch, including Congress and the Capitol police.
The article suggests that if each of these bills are passed by Congress and signed by the president, they will account for nearly 90% of annual federal spending, including the military and most civilian agencies.
This spending package is not just the continuing resolution, it’s also the defense appropriation bill. For example, the funding of the Pentagon.
An appropriation bill is defined as a proposed law that authorizes the expenditure of government funds. It is a bill that sets money aside for specific spending.
In more detail, since Donald Trump’s presidency, the White House has consisted mostly of Republicans, and very few Democrats, causing a whole lot of disagreement. The reason this compromise bill even arose was because the democrats of the House have yet to agree on building the border along Mexico like Trump had promised during his election days. Because he’s not been given the go-ahead on this request, he’s threatened to shut down government completely since they’ve clearly proven they can’t seem to agree. To avoid this, both sides have agreed to this compromise bill, as explained above, and aim to drag it out at the very least until the end of the November elections. All in all, it is ultimately Trump’s decision as to whether or not he goes through with the bill, but realistically, it would hurt him to do otherwise.
There’s a small group in the White House who have said that this may be the last time the President has any significant leverage on a spending bill. So, Trump really has the upper-hand at this point. It’s up to him to either use that to his advantage or wait until after the elections have taken place, which could prove to be both good or bad. If he chooses to wait, he may be able to better control both parties and receive a more rational vote or he could go ahead but risk losing his own fight. The House may flip in November, and with Democrats in charge, or about to take charge, there would be no chance of future wall funding. So, Trump’s thinking (i.e. the shutdown) actually proves a good point. But if he’s going to do anything remotely close to a shut-down, now would be the time to do so.
As explained above, it’s clear to see why the parties have chosen to go through with the three-bill-bundle. However, through Trump’s perspective, a shut-down may be the way to go. In terms of sustaining temporary peace between both parties, however, this bill definitely does its job in doing so.
Article 2 – Executive Branch
AP Regional State Report – Oregon, 09/01/2018
Oregon lawmakers battle labor commission’s #MeToo probe
This article investigates the ongoing problem surrounding sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct within the government and work environment. But more specifically, the accusations made by Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian towards fellow Democrats Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek, where he’s claimed that the two authorities have allowed a sexually hostile environment to remain and have proven to be slow in dealing with the issue of protecting women from Republican Senator Jeff Kruse.
A few unnamed sources (interns of the Senator) had complained through the Commissioner and claimed that Kruse had previously touched them unwantedly and made inappropriate comments to them on several occasions.
Kruse resigned soon after these accusations had been made and an investigation had been carried out which proved that he had inappropriately touched women in the Capitol. Not to mention the abundance of media and news stories sweeping over the nations in politics, entertainment and other industries.
In terms of the accusation made towards the Senate President and House Speaker, Oregon’s legislature has said that Avakian lacks jurisdiction and so to investigate sexual harassment in the capitol would violate the privacy of those who have come forward with complaints. This response proves a good point but with the statements and complaints overflowing the media on this issue in particular, it would be ignorant to think no further action will take place. In fact, Avakian’s Legislative Director, Christine Lewis, stated that questions over the authority of the Bureau of Labor and Industry to investigate would be addressed at a hearing later.
Lewis also said in an emailed statement that BOLI’s investigation is open, and that investigators are looking into not just the specific allegations of a hostile environment within the Capitol but also the systems in place––the systems for maintaining the Capitol in “a safe and healthy manner.”
Similar to Oregon’s Legislature’s claim on Avakian, Harnden said the labor bureau does not have jurisdiction over the Legislature’s rules and policies over the discipline of members (the labor bureau is a unit of the United States Department of Labor and of the executive branch of government).
Kristine Edmunson, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum’s spokeswoman, has said that Rosenblum is distancing herself from the dispute. Edmunson stated that they have chosen to provide legal advice to neither the Legislature nor to BOLI due to at the very least, a conflict.
Since the #MeToo movement began, legislatures in about one-fifth of America’s states, such as California and New Mexico, have added provisions allowing for the external investigation of complaints.
Things have started moving––whether for the better or worse remains unknown––ever since Kotek and Courtney asked the Oregon Law Commission to review policies on such harassment and recommend ways to improve them by the end of this year, and they both deny the accusations made by Avakian.
For a situation that could’ve been issued through a collaboration to a solution, the authorities instead decided to make it a litigation process (a litigation process is a case brought before a court of law suitably empowered to hear the case, by the parties involved for resolution).
The resolution to this problem lies in the willingness of those to come forward regarding inappropriate behavior. Whether or not those raising their complaints feel their privacy is protected may be the only thing stopping these investigations from going somewhere.
Article 3 – Judicial Branch
AP Regional State Report – Minnesota, 10/17/18
Chief Justice stresses independence in Minnesota speech
This article stresses the apparent need for the judicial branch to remain independent. Along with this statement, Chief Justice John Roberts took note of the debate over the confirmation of Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh to say that the high court makes mistakes sometimes and made sure to point out that this usually happens when the court yields itself to political pressures for the sake of its peers.
Roberts wanted to be sure to clarify the role of the judicial branch as oppose to those elected by the people. He stated that it is the judicial branch who interprets the Constitution and laws of the United States and ensures that the political branches act within them.
Roberts felt that it was unfair the way the debate was carried out because he wasn’t there to criticize Congress or the executive branch, and that if he had been, the debate would’ve gone very differently.
To restate his point more clearly, he used the “shameful” case of World War II that upheld the internment of Japanese-American citizens, stating that the court has often times erred greatly. Adding that when it has, it has been due to the court yielding to political pressure.
The Chief Justice continued with his archaic mindset stressing the value of tradition within the judicial court. He believes that the shaking of hands prior to the justices taking their seats to hear a case or before entering a conference room to discuss it remains vital to the structure and collegiality of their system.
Recently appointed Associate Justice and colleague to the Chief Justice, Brett Kavanaugh backs Roberts point by stating that as a single branch of government, they do not sit on opposite sides, caucus in separate rooms, or serve only one party or interest. “We serve one nation,” he says. He made it clear, too, that whether the times are calm or contentious, the branch, and the court, will do its best to serve and serve well.
In the past, Roberts has stated his concern in speeches regarding the Court being portrayed as a partisan political institution. To Roberts’ benefit, other court justices have said the same. They have recently voiced their concerns about the public’s perception of the integrity of the court and the need to sustain collegiality between the branches of government in and outside the court room.
Justice Elena Kagan feels exactly the same. She expressed her opinion that everyone must realize how precious the court’s legitimacy is. She made it clear that they have no army and no money. So, she feels the only way to get the people to do what the court thinks they should do is by building respect. With respect comes trust and with that, assurance.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor followed Kagan’s point in saying that the nine justices must “rise above partisanship” in their personal relationships. Just as the people expect respect and dignity from them, so too must the justices treat each other in such ways. This is necessary if the government is going to succeed the way they and the people want it to. The rest of the world doesn’t always have such relationships and as a default, risks the stability of their nation or organization and themselves. Sotomayor wants no such thing and speaks for many of her colleagues in saying that, “we have to treat each other with respect and dignity and a sense of amicability that the rest of the world doesn’t always share,” as explained above.
All this going to show the extreme importance of a strong and stable, not forgetting independent, judicial branch is for the authorities of this side of the government. Their passion and concern show greatly. Now, whether or not action is taken to enforce this further remains uncertain. However, if something is done about it, our government’s future could show to be quite promising.
AP Top News Package, 07/25/2018
Tears, hugs, and help: Church groups assist reunited families
This article surveys a small part of the life of immigrant families and their personal experiences with government in terms of assistance and care. We’re shown the background of several immigrant families as they migrate from all over in hopes to find safety and shelter in the city of San Antonio, Texas.
More often than not, the process of migrating their country and immigrating abroad proves to be more difficult than you’d imagine. Of course, there are laws set in place for important reasons (i.e. illegal immigration for drugs, work, etc.) but for many of these immigrants, they’re leaving their country not just because they’ve chosen to but because they have no other choice.
In this article, Brazilian mother Natalia Oliveira da Silva and her daughter Sara, age 5, are described reuniting for the first time in a long time among hundreds of other families who are doing the same. These two are but one of many examples of just the types of people the Texas government is doing its best to assist at the moment.
At the time of publishing, the Texas government faces a soon approaching deadline to reunite these hundreds of families and provide each with food and shelter in faith-based groups primarily located in Texas and Arizona.
These families have faced such trauma and remain shell-shocked from the long period of government detention they were forced to undergo. Sadly, a select few immigrant infants and babies failed to recognize their mothers and fathers from several months of being separated, and as a result, stood more confused and scared than immigrants of older age.
Although the national and state governments take illegal immigration very seriously, state governments will more often do what they can to help those seriously in need. National governments would like to help just as well but as a whole, they have the entire nation to care for rather than just one single state.
To put their trauma into perspective, until just recently, five-year-old Sara had been moved to a shelter for immigrant minors in Chicago, while her mother stood waiting in San Antonio, Texas for over a month, more than one-thousand miles away from her child.
Catholic Charities additionally take in families that ICE drops specifically at the neighborhood transport station––those who may somehow, or another need to remain there short-term or change a few transports over to reach their final destination. Here, the charities will often provide families with clothes, which the families are free to go through in the many of boxes of donations in the facility, daily meals (usually breakfast, lunch and dinner, and sometimes snacks) and even another section of donation boxes made specifically for the children whom the charity gives the opportunity to pick a toy each in an effort to help lighten their spirits undergoing so much change.
The process behind moving these families from the government detention spaces to the charity facilities can prove to be more difficult than preferred. In one case, one of the very first group of families expected to stay in the San Antonio Catholic facility were found instead dropped off directly to the bus station rather than the shelter. This isn’t uncommon but still, Matthew Martinez, the group’s vice president of administration, doesn’t understand the logic behind this decision. To change the process would require direct consultation to the state government, and this could prove to be more of a hassle than anything else, and so volunteers will usually just wait outside the station prepared to transport the families safely to the shelter.
With over $127,000 of funds raised and more than 300 volunteer staff, the charity is more than able to provide families with the help they need to get settled.
The Texas Government is doing very well in its effort to help these families. However, in some cases, the lawyers of these families haven’t been notified of their departure until the family has already arrived in another area. To fix this problem and bring these families directly to their shelters rather than the bus station would help the success of this charity tremendously.