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The PRO Act’s many cons
House expected to take up a bill that would hurt millions of small businesses and workers

The Democrat-controlled House is expected to pass the PRO Act this month — a bill that in its present form would hurt millions of small businesses and workers and upend the franchise industry, Cresanti writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — In a divided Congress, Republicans and Democrats often pass legislation to signal what they’ll pursue if they gain complete control over the levers of federal power. That’s why the Protect the Right to Organize Act demands attention. The Democrat-controlled House is expected to pass the bill in the coming weeks, even though in its present form it would hurt millions of small businesses and workers and upend one of the most important parts of the American economy: the franchise industry.

The PRO Act, as it’s called, is a Frankenstein bill that cobbles together more than 20 dangerous provisions, some new and some rejected numerous times by previous Congresses. The trouble with each of these provisions is they tip the scales against small businesses in solution of a problem that doesn’t exist — employees already have the right to organize small businesses under federal law. One section mandates that companies provide workers’ personal information to unions; another would repeal state right-to-work laws by forcing all employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Across the board, the bill rolls back balanced protections for workers and employers while tilting the playing field decisively toward unions.

Asking the hard questions to implement the National Defense Strategy
Conversation on the changing role of America’s military needs to expand beyond Washington

Oklahoma Sen. James M. Inhofe is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — Two years ago, the National Defense Strategy, or NDS, shifted America’s military focus to a new era of great-power competition, especially with China and Russia. Welcomed with broad bipartisan support, this groundbreaking document calls on us to make tough choices to reshape our military, reform the Department of Defense, and recommit to strengthening alliances and attracting new partners around the world.

President Donald Trump has committed to rebuilding the foundations of American military power. The NDS provides the blueprint to achieve that objective, and it must be fully implemented. That is why we have made it our priority on the Senate and House Armed Services committees to ensure that we turn the NDS from a strategy on paper into a strategy in action.

Booker’s CROWN Act would ban discrimination against black hairstyles
Federal initiative is part of state-by-state push by group that includes Dove products

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is among those calling for more federal protections against discrimination of hairstyles commonly worn by African Americans. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Nappy. Kinky. Too curly. These are adjectives sometimes used to describe natural black hair. While they can be insulting, some lawmakers say these perceptions also lead to discrimination against African Americans.

Several recent high-profile incidents involving discrimination and racial insensitivity have convinced lawmakers that more federal protections need to be put in place to prevent prejudice against hairstyles associated with black culture.

Missouri Democrat underscores challenge to Rep. Ann Wagner with eyebrow-raising 24-hour haul
Democrats are targeting St. Louis-area district in quest for further gains in the suburbs

Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner has drawn a higher-profile Democratic challenger. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Missouri Democratic state Sen. Jill Schupp, who is challenging Republican Rep. Ann Wagner in a St. Louis-area district, raised over $225,000 in the 24 hours after she launched her bid Tuesday, her campaign said. 

Democrats are sure to seize upon the number as a sign of continued leftward momentum in the suburbs. 

House Democrats to move on temporary ‘SALT’ cap increase
Ways and Means panel could take up legislation as early as next week, Pascrell says

New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. says the House Ways and Means Committee could take up legislation to increase the SALT deduction cap as early as next week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Ways and Means Committee could take up legislation as early as next week that would increase a limit on state and local tax deductions that has riled Democrats from high-cost regions, according to a senior panel member.

The “SALT” bill, which has not yet been released, is still in flux, but the $10,000 deduction limit set by the Republican-backed tax code overhaul would be raised to an as-yet undetermined level for three years, according to Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr.. A final figure hasn’t been decided on, the New Jersey Democrat said, describing it as “maybe $15,000 or $20,000, whatever that figure’s going to be.”

The center of Mitch McConnell’s legacy-building
Political Theater podcast, Episode 103

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell uses the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center to hold discussions with his allies, adversaries and other dignitaries. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not shy about using his namesake McConnell Center at the University of Louisville as a platform for showcasing his allies, adversaries and his own ability to steer the national conversation.

Just this week, Kentucky’s senior senator and proud Louisville alumnus spoke with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pompeo, currently enmeshed in key elements of the Ukraine saga and the impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump, is McConnell’s preferred candidate to run for Senate in Kansas, where GOP Sen. Pat Roberts is retiring.

American competitiveness requires a smarter Congress
Increasing science and technology advice would be an important first step

As technological innovations rapidly reshape the American economy, it’s time Congress took notice and brought itself up to speed, Grumet and Johnson write. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — Technological advancements are rapidly changing the American economy and workforce. At the same time, lawmakers increasingly appear to lack the capability to understand and respond effectively to this transformation. Flip phone-wielding lawmakers may have been cutting edge in the 1990s, but not in today’s Congress, which routinely grapples with complex scientific and technological issues such as gene editing, cryptocurrency, facial recognition and digital privacy. Not to mention, they must oversee $150 billion in federal R&D funding that helps fuel future innovations.

Out of 541 members, the current Congress has only two scientists and eleven engineers. Most have backgrounds in law or business, which is obvious when hearings start to get technical. This gap has to be filled by congressional staff and support agencies. Yet only 15 percent of senior congressional aides themselves think staff have the knowledge, skills and abilities to support members’ official duties. And just 24 percent think staff have enough access to high-quality, nonpartisan expertise within the legislative branch, according to a 2017 survey.

It’s time to regulate olive oil
Half of all extra virgin olive oil on supermarket shelves still fails to meet accepted standards

An audit done between 2015 and 2019 found that half of all extra virgin olive oil on supermarket shelves still fails to meet accepted standards for the grade, Greenberg writes.. (Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images file photo)

OPINION — Everyone has to eat. Across all borders and cultures, we all rely on food. But this universal truth makes consumers vulnerable to unscrupulous food industry players who engage in unethical, if not illegal, labeling practices.

In the U.S., the federal government has developed hundreds of enforceable quality standards to protect consumers from contaminated products by requiring accurate ingredients lists and cracking down on false health claims. From meat to macaroni and canned prunes to canned tuna, consumers are protected against fraud in these categories because the government has stepped into the void.

GOP group launches TV and digital ads thanking Elise Stefanik
New York Republican’s profile has risen during the impeachment inquiry

American Action Network is launching a new ad campaign to boost Rep. Elise Stefanik in her upstate New York district. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

An outside group aligned with House Republican leadership is launching new television and digital ads thanking New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, whose national profile has risen during the impeachment inquiry.

Stefanik is the only Republican woman on the House Intelligence Committee, which began public hearings last week in the probe of President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. The group, American Action Network, is spending $150,000 on the new ad campaign in Stefanik's upstate New York district, according to an announcement shared first with CQ Roll Call.

Bloomberg, Biden, Buttigieg and the bunch apologize. Should black voters listen, forgive and vote?
Minority voters have settled on imperfect candidates before, but this time may be different

Michael Bloomberg, center, appears Sunday at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he apologized for supporting “stop and frisk.” He’s not the only Democratic candidate expressing regret to minority voters, Curtis writes. (Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

OPINION — Of course, Michael Bloomberg went there — there being a black church to ask for forgiveness. As he tentatively dips his toe and his billions into the Democratic presidential race, joining a scrum that expands even as it shrinks, Bloomberg, perhaps realizing that the path to the presidency must include the enthusiastic support of black and brown voters, has rethought his enthusiastic support of “stop and frisk.”

“I got something important really wrong,” he told the congregation at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn on Sunday. “I didn’t understand back then the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities.”