Roll Call Opinion and Analysis

Criminal justice reform had a bipartisan minute. Then 2020 reared its head
Republicans are falling in line and reverting to their ‘law and order’ past

In a recent speech, Attorney General William Barr took a partisan blowtorch to the legitimacy of duly elected prosecutors, Curtis writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — That didn’t last long.

For a while, it looked as though the distance between the parties had narrowed on the issue of criminal justice reform. Bipartisan cooperation passed the First Step Act, a small step indeed toward remedying America’s mass incarceration crisis that disproportionately, in a historically skewed system, burdens minorities and the poor in everything from arrests to sentencing. Increasingly, though, the rhetoric resembles a partisan return to form.

What makes America great is what makes American startups thrive
On Congressional Startup Day, we honor and elevate the entrepreneurs and small businesses that drive our economy

Pennsylvania Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, third from left, visits with employees at Berks LaunchBox, a startup based in Reading, Pa. (Courtesy Office of Rep. Chrissy Houlahan)

OPINION — Benjamin Franklin once said, “Motivation is when your dreams put on work clothes.”

Our Founding Fathers built the greatest country in the world through harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit. They had a wholly original concept from which was borne the United States of America. Centuries later, our country, from Pennsylvania in the east to Washington in the west, continues to reap the benefits of American entrepreneurship and zeal that empowers people to take an idea and make it a reality.

Congress has college affordability in its grasp. They should vote for ISAs
Income share agreements reduce risk for students while incentivizing schools

Income sharing agreements protect students from paying for educational experiences that don’t create value for them in the labor market, Price writes. (Courtesy iStock)

OPINION — Each year, our higher education system confers roughly two million bachelor’s degrees. Unfortunately, it also produces one million student loan defaults. This isn’t simply “two steps forward, one step back.” This is a system-wide failure that, while creating immeasurable value for some, is financially crippling many others along the way. We need college to generate more value for more students.

Some on Capitol Hill are vying for free college. While aspirational, such calls are unlikely to succeed in today’s political environment, and don’t address the broken business model of traditional higher education in the first place. Instead, Congress needs to address not just how much students pay for college, but also “how” they pay. Income share agreements, or ISAs, are an option worth considering.

Ken Cuccinelli wants to be a poet. First he needs a history lesson
It’s easier to rewrite Emma Lazarus than face up to the past

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, has spent his week revising poetry — and evading history, Curtis writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — It happened like clockwork. Every few weeks, especially in the winter months, when snowbirds traveled to my then-home in Tucson, Arizona, from parts north that included Michigan and Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois, a letter to the editor would turn up at the paper where I worked. With slight changes, it would go something like: “I stopped in a store and overheard some people speaking Spanish. Why don’t they speak English?”

It took a little bit of time and a lot of convincing to explain that the families of many of these folks had been on the land the new arrivals so expansively and immediately claimed for generations, in the state since before it was a state, which Arizona didn’t become until 1912. It also has the greatest percentage of its acreage designated as Indian tribal land in the United States. And would it hurt you to know a word or two of Spanish?

When we stop talking to each other, democracy dies in silence
Social media is valuable for our political discourse, but it‘s time to tone down the rhetoric

A protester takes photos in front of the White House at an anti-Trump rally in July 2018. The anonymity of social media and its reach are rapidly changing the country’s political environment and not for the better, Winston writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — What happens to a democracy when people stop talking to one another about what matters to them and the country?  When people are afraid to speak their minds because they fear the personal blowback likely to come their way? Or worse, when they come to believe that their concerns, their views and their values just don’t matter to anyone anymore, and so they “turn off and tune out,” to quote an old line?

What happens?  That’s when democracy dies. Not necessarily in darkness but in silence. 

The lessons of Toni Morrison: Words matter, now more than ever
Trump may be missing what America needs, but late author’s writings light a path forward

With the death of Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison, the world lost a giant when so many of our leaders are so small, Curtis writes. (Brad Barket/Getty Images file photo)

OPINION — “Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names.”

Of course, that language from Toni Morrison perfectly suits this time, when the names we give the things that scare us hardly seem enough.

How about a crime bill for white people instead of black people?
Crimes that keep Americans up at night are no longer out of some scene from “Law & Order”

It’s time to pass a new crime bill for the mostly white, almost entirely male, population of mass shooters who are steadily transforming our country into a shooting range to make up for their own sick frustrations with life, Murphy writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — At nearly every Democratic presidential event I’ve been to this year, the candidates have talked about the devastating effects of the 1994 crime bill on the black community.

The legislation, which President Bill Clinton signed and Joe Biden, then a Delaware senator, pushed through the Judiciary Committee, was written as a response to an explosion in violent crime in urban areas across the country. In New York City, for example, there had been 2,245 murders in 1990. (There were 289 last year.)

The Baltimore that raised me is America too
As Trump revs up his base, he is tearing the country apart

What President Donald Trump said about the congressional district of Rep. Elijah Cummings is simplistic and ridiculously incomplete, writes Curtis, who called West Baltimore home. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — It was one of those Baltimore row houses that have come to define the city, three stories high, with a set of white marble steps out front. I will never forget those steps, the ones I had to scrub weekly, brush in one hand, Bon Ami cleanser in the other. And when I was finished, I had to do the same for older neighbors who needed the help. But those folks did their part, my mother reminded me, watching over the neighborhood from their windows when the block’s men, women and children were away working, running errands or attending school.

That’s what neighbors do for neighbors, all over America. And yes, that includes West Baltimore, about which Donald Trump tweeted: “No human being would want to live there.”

Capitol Ink | Family Road Trip

Tobacco policy shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all
Premium cigars aren’t contributing to the rise in teen tobacco use so why should this niche industry be penalized?

Premium cigars do not pose the same health risks as other tobacco products, Pearce and Habursky write. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — Tobacco policy is back again on the main stage of political discourse, thanks to the rise in youth usage of vaping and e-cigarettes. We recognize the need to address adolescent nicotine addiction prompted by this new popularity and the public health effects.

However, not all tobacco products are the same. Unequivocally, premium cigars are not part of this youth access issue. Data recorded by the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration in their Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health, or PATH, study asserts that the average age of people enjoying their first premium cigar is 30.