civil-rights

Democrats Fume Over Transfer of FEMA Money to ICE Before Hurricanes
Agency officials, some Republicans say funds could not be used for response

Sen. Jeff Merkley has released documents showing that nearly $10 million from FEMA’s budget was diverted to fund ICE’s detention facilities and deportation operations. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

On the eve of Hurricane Florence hitting the U.S. coast, Democratic lawmakers expressed outrage that the Homeland Security Department transferred nearly $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a reprogramming move this summer.

Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office on Wednesday released documents confirming that $9.8 million from FEMA’s operations and support budget was diverted to fund ICE’s detention facilities and deportation operations.

Civil Rights Commission Calls for Action on Voting Rights Fix
State actions since 2013 have hurt minority voting rights, new report says

Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, second from right, at a rally outside the Supreme Court in January to oppose an Ohio voter purge law. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights urged Congress on Wednesday to update the landmark law that protects voter rights, finding in a new report that a 2013 Supreme Court decision helped lead to elections with voting measures in place that discriminate against minorities.

But opposition from Republican lawmakers has stalled legislation to change the Voting Rights Act of 1965 since the 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder that struck down a key enforcement mechanism in the law. Current efforts appear stuck for the same reason.

Steny Hoyer Touts Oversight and Ethics Standards as Key to Trust in Government
Eyeing majority, Maryland Democrat and minority whip looks at transparency as winning issue

Hoyer layed out proposals to boost transparency, oversight and to strengthen ethics standards. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Efforts to boost transparency, ethics and oversight are among House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer’s strategies for restoring Americans’ trust in government if Democrats win the House majority for the next congress.

“Our people believe their government is rigged against them. This belief undermines trust in government and impedes our ability to govern,” the Maryland Democrat told a crowd Wednesday.

46 Republicans Call on Ryan, McCarthy to Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act
Time is short on legislative calendar before Sept. 30 expiration

A group of House Republicans are calling for action on the Violence Against Women Act before it expires at the end of the month. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Nearly 50 House Republicans are calling on Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to bring a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act to the floor before it expires Sept. 30.

“Since being signed into law in 1994, VAWA has helped to protect and support millions of Americans who have faced domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking,” the group, led by New Yorkers John Katko and Elise Stefanik, wrote in a letter.

Kamala Harris, Brett Kavanaugh and ‘Racial Dog Whistles’
Potential 2020 presidential candidate found nominee’s answer ‘very troubling’

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., attends the Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. She has accused the nominee of using racial “dog whistles.” (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Kamala Harris, a potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said Friday she was not satisfied with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s answers this week when she asked him about his use of a term she dubbed a racial “dog whistle.”

During a Senate Judiciary confirmation session Friday with legal experts and other witnesses, the California Democrat returned to a line of questioning she had with the federal appellate judge on Wednesday. During the first full day of questioning Kavanaugh, she asked him to explain why he, in an op-ed, once used the term “racial spoils system.”

Aretha Franklin Gets R-E-S-P-E-C-T From Lawmakers
Members of Congress recall personal connections, dedication to civil rights

Aretha Franklin sings during the inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama on the West Front of the Capitol on Jan. 20, 2009. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As the news of the death of Aretha Franklin circulated, members of Congress recalled their personal connections to the Queen of Soul, as well as her long advocacy of civil rights. 

“What made her talent so great was her capacity to live what she sang. Her music was deepened by her connection to the struggles and the triumphs of the African American experience growing up in her father’s church, the community of Detroit, and her awareness of the turmoil of the South. She had a lifelong, unwavering commitment to civil rights and was one of the strongest supporters of the movement,” Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon in his own right, said in a statement. 

For Former Felons, Voting Rights Could Be a Click Away
Website aims to help millions of new voters register

A new website launched by an organization dedicated to voting rights could to help former felons navigate confusing voting laws in states like Alabama, where December’s special Senate election was decided by 20,000 ballots. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Millions of new voters could register across the country, starting Tuesday, with the launch of an online tool meant to help former felons restore their right to vote.

The Campaign Legal Center’s website, restoreyourvote.org, attempts to guide users through a sometimes confusing jumble of state laws to determine whether past convictions or unpaid fines would keep them from the ballot box.

Jones’ Bill Would Declassify, Release Civil Rights Cold Cases
Alabama Democratic senator says bill would help public circumvent problems with Freedom of Information Act

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., introduced a bill Tuesday that would make public a trove of documents related to unsolved civil rights cases from decades past. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Doug Jones introduced a new bill Tuesday to create a panel to systematically review, declassify, and release government documents and information related to unsolved criminal civil rights cases from decades ago.

Executive branch officials process Freedom of Information Act requests to see documents related to such cases too slowly, Jones’ office argued in a news release Tuesday, and the scope of what they hand over when they finally do can often be too narrow.

Democrats Will Make Fairer Districts, Democrats Say
But historically, gerrymandering isn’t just a Republican issue

People demonstrate against partisan gerrymandering outside the Supreme Court last October. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats say there’s one easy way to create more equitable and fair districts throughout the country: Elect more Democrats.

“More Democrats in office will give us fairer lines,” Sabrina Singh, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, said in an interview before the Supreme Court kicked back two cases on partisan gerrymandering to the lower courts on procedural grounds. 

What Lawmakers Do When They Leave After Harassment Allegations
Six have left so far this Congress

Former Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., here at a news conference in December 2016, resigned his seat last October amid revelations of an extramarital affair. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Six members of Congress have left office in the past few months after allegations ranging from firing female staffers who rejected sexual advances to pressuring a lover to get an abortion.

While their resignations mean they no longer have a vote in Congress, that doesn’t mean their careers are over. Former lawmakers are moving forward by flying under the radar, grabbing the sides of a lectern or sticking with politics.