What Congress Must Do In 2021
We have to get a step ahead of the Court!
This week will be a very telling week. President Trump announced his Supreme Court nomination on Saturday, and the Senate has vowed to immediately take up her confirmation. Tuesday night sees the first debate between candidates Trump and Biden. Trump's tax returns appear to have been revealed, and many are in an uproar over the fact that he has paid fewer taxes than a restaurant server or grocery clerk. As colder weather is rolling for autumn, COVID-19 numbers have again begun to rise. The election is just over a month away. This next week could be a turning point in campaigns for the many Senate and House seats up for grabs. The hope is that the Democrats can keep control of the House, and turn control of the Senate.
If this is accomplished, Congress will have much work to do in order to stay ahead of the Supreme Court, and protect the rights of Americans! It is the Court's duty to enforce the law, not make law. As such, their interpretations set policy that isn't necessarily permanent. New judges, new decisions...the rights and protections of millions of Americans are at risk.
Congress MUST take up legislation to protect immigrants we know as DREAMERS. These are people who were brought to this country as children by undocumented immigrants, many at ages so young that they have no memory of the country they were born in. These people didn't have a choice and have lived in this country most of their lives. The DREAMERS program was created to help these people not have to return to countries they didn't know. Applying for status does cost several hundred dollars, and they have to have not had a criminal record to qualify. Gaining status gives these people social security numbers and makes them taxpayers. While being taxpayers, they do not have access to government programs.
The program for DREAMERS is in danger because there is no actual law that allows for its existence. This means that a decision by the Supreme Court could end the program, leaving thousands of people in danger of being deported to countries they do not know. Congress must take up legislation to create a path to citizenship for people who are brought to this country when they are too young to make the decision on their own and grow up as Americans.
Recently, the Supreme Court decided that the Civil Rights Act covered sexual orientation and gender identification. Per their decision, employers cannot discriminate against individuals based on these identifiers. However, the Civil Rights Act does not specifically address this. In order to protect the LGBTQ+ community, Congress needs to take up legislation to update the Civil Rights Act to add these protections. Because current protections under the Civil Rights Act are based on a Supreme Court decision, and not actual law, anyone else can file a new case to make it's way to the Supreme Court, hoping that the more conservative court will reverse their decision using a more literal interpretation of the law. We have to make it actual law to safeguard these protections.
ROE VS WADE
Probably one of the most controversial decisions ever made by the Supreme Court was Roe vs. Wade. This decision has set the precedent that a woman's choice to have an abortion is her own, and that laws cannot be made to take away that choice. Again, this is a Court decision, not law. Congress has not taken up legislation to protect a woman's right to make decisions about her own body. It is the touchiest of subjects, and everyone is afraid of political fallout if such protections were put into place with law. With the growing number of bills being passed at the state level putting certain restrictions on abortions, we need some sort of legislation that protects a woman's right to her own body.
REASONABLE GUN REFORMS
Second Amendment rights are a hot topic and one that is being mentioned often in the discussion about filling the Supreme Court vacancy. Those of us who have been calling for responsible gun reform have not asked for a total repeal of the Second Amendment. All we want are certain changes in who has access to guns and types of weapons. Under Obama, the policy was made that required the Social Security Administration to report to the central database people who were receiving disability payments for certain types of mental disorders. It has been long agreed on both sides that people with certain mental illnesses should not own guns. However, this policy was reversed by the Trump Administration because Second Amendment supporters claim that no person should be denied access to a gun! Yet, when there is a mass shooting, these very same people blame mental illness, not how easy it is to get a gun in this country!
Over 20 years ago, legislation was passed creating the central database for background checks. It was originally required that all law enforcement agencies must report to this database certain arrests and convictions, as people with these things on their record were to be denied the ability to legally purchase guns. The NRA then funded the case Printz vs. The United States of America, stating that local and state law enforcement agencies could not be required to perform any work for the US government per The Constitution. I say that because the Social Security Administration is a Federal agency...not a local or state agency. If it can be agreed that people with certain mental illnesses should not own guns, it makes sense to have the SSA report those on disability for those illnesses to the central background search database preventing the gun purchase.
This is just part of the argument. There are so many other reforms that need to be made, and Congress needs to get ahead of the Supreme Court on these.
Many can agree that the Affordable Care Act has its flaws, but it also has some good points. Protections for pre-existing conditions, for example. Congress has acknowledged that in the time since the passing of the ACA, they can see areas that need improvement. If the ACA is ruled unconstitutional in its entirety, millions of Americans will be left without health coverage for one reason or another. COVID-19 has shown us that access to health care is an essential need. Legislation needs to be taken up to fix problems with the ACA. We also need some legislation to help regulate prescription prices in this country, which are out of control thanks to greedy pharmaceutical companies.
We need to get out and vote! We need to put those people in office who will decide these matters and put things into law before they can be heard by a newly very conservative-leaning Supreme Court. "But what about adding justices?" This is an option, but it isn't ideal. Why? Because it opens the door for the GOP to do the very same thing should they get control of the government again to tilt the Court their way, instead of being limited by Supreme Court vacancies. The better plan is to put things into law so that the Supreme Court has no choice but to uphold those laws. In order to do that, we must get out and vote!