Washington Update (October 11, 2013)

While the legislative and executive branches of the federal government remain locked in a stalemate over fiscal matters, the most visible portion of the third branch of government — the U.S. Supreme Court — had its big day this week.

That day was Monday, when the U.S. Supreme Court began its 2013-2014 term. Between now and June, the nine justices of the highest court in the country will hear approximately 80 cases and issue rulings that could impact our lives for decades to come. So far, we know the Court will hear cases touching on reproductive rights, racial discrimination, campaign finance, and state-sanctioned prayer, and it is likely to hear a challenge to contraceptive insurance coverage.

Not sure what any of that means? I will be leading a conference call on Thursday, October 24, at 8:30 p.m. ET just for AAUW members like you to learn about what the Supreme Court has on its docket for this year. RSVP today for this exclusive member opportunity!

Look forward to speaking with you on October 24,

Mollie Lam

AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund Program Manager

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ONE THING YOU MUST DO

We’re over a week into the federal government shutdown, and it just keeps getting worse. Please contact your lawmakers again to urge them to shut down the shutdown – and keep writing until they get their act together!

BUT BECAUSE YOU WANT TO DO MORE

Mark your calendar to pick up the phone first-thing Monday morning, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121, and deliver this simple message to your member of Congress:

“Hi, my name is ____________, and I’m a constituent. I join with AAUW in urging the representative to end this harmful shutdown, avoid government default, and protect critical programs such as Social Security.”

GET SOCIAL

Today AAUW and other members of the United Nations community celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child. Learn more on AAUW’s blog and spread the word with the following Facebook post or tweet.

Copy and paste for Facebook or Twitter:

The future of the world rests in the hands of girls. Happy International Day of the Girl http://bit.ly/19EJEhr

NEW RESOURCES

Unsure of the differences between the shutdown, potential default, and a grand bargain? AAUW’s recent blog post “Debt Ceilings and Grand Bargains and Continuing Resolutions, Oh My!” explains the differences and potential implications of each.

Are you a middle or high school gender studies teacher? Don’t miss the opportunity to register for the AAUW Gender Studies Symposium, Creating Classrooms of Justice: Teacher Gender Studies in School, featuring high school teacher and esteemed activist Ileana Jimenez. This exciting one-day event will be at the University of Missouri, St. Louis on Saturday, October 26, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Less than two weeks left to apply for a 2013–2014 Campus Action Project grant! This year’s grants will focus on the issues raised in the research report Women in Community Colleges: Access to Success. Teams of college students, faculty adviser(s), and AAUW branch liaisons must implement their projects during the 2014 spring semester. Application deadline is Monday, October 21.


TOP STORIES

Lawmakers Put Forward Multiple Debt Ceiling Increase Proposals

House Republicans announced Thursday they would be open to a short-term debt ceiling increase to avoid a government default. The proposed deal would lift the debt ceiling for six weeks but would not reopen the government. Another proposal by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) would raise the debt ceiling, reopen government, repeal the Affordable Care Act’s tax on medical devices, and maintain sequestration cuts. The U.S. is expected to hit the debt ceiling by October 17 if no action is taken.

Shutdown Impacts Become Clearer

In the week since we last reported on the impacts of the federal government shutdown, more impacts have become clear. The federal judiciary announced Wednesday that it will have to cut back court operations after October 17 if the shutdown persists, and citizens were outraged when they learned that families of fallen soldiers were unable to receive death benefits due to the shutdown. After private donors offered to pay the death benefits to families and hundreds of people signed an AAUW petition on the issue, the House and Senate passed legislation to reinstate the payments, and President Obama signed the legislation into law on Thursday. Private donors also offered $10 million to re-open Head Start programs in six states. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans met with President Obama on Friday to continue their negotiations.

Obama Nominates Janet Yellen to Lead Federal Reserve

President Obama nominated Janet Yellen to lead the U.S. Federal Reserve this week. If confirmed by the Senate, Yellen would be the first woman to serve in this role and one of the most qualified nominees for the position. She currently serves as vice chair of the Federal Reserve and has previously headed the San Francisco Federal Reserve and the Council of Economic Advisors.


STATE SPOTLIGHT: Arizona

Attorney General Restricts Voting in State, Local Elections

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne issued a legal opinion this week holding that voters who registered using a federal registration form will be ineligible to vote in state and local elections if they did not present proof of citizenship when they filled out the form (even though proof of citizenship is not required at the federal level). The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that federal law trumps Arizona’s 2004 law requiring voters to present proof of citizenship when registering – however, Horne’s new legal opinion argues that the court’s ruling only impacts federal elections, not state and local elections, thus giving him the power to block certain voters from participating in state and local elections. As a result, counties will likely have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to print different ballots for different citizens, and some voters will find themselves unable to vote in state and local elections.


CHEER OF THE WEEK

Check out AAUW of Ohio State Public Policy Chair Karen Rainey’s comments about the “We Won’t Go Back Rally,” held last week at the Ohio State Capitol! On October 2, AAUW of Ohio members joined hundreds of other women’s health advocates in rallying against the recently signed budget bill, which, among other provisions, defunds women’s health clinics, requires doctors to perform ultrasounds to search for a fetal heartbeat before performing abortions, and permits TANF (welfare) funds to be funneled to unregulated “crisis pregnancy centers.”


JEER OF THE WEEK

A New York Judge ruled unpaid interns cannot file sexual harassment lawsuits against their employers under the New York City Human Rights Law. Interns are also not protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, making them particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment.  NYC Councilwoman Gale Brewer said she plans to introduce legislation to close the loophole in city law.


BITS AND PIECES

  • Yesterday AAUW announced the names of 10 talented college students selected to serve on the 2013–14 National Student Advisory Council (SAC). These young women will take a leadership role in organizing students on campuses across the country on critical AAUW issues.
  • On Monday, the College Board issued a supplement to their 2013 Education Pays report to clarify the difference in earnings and other benefits that college graduates experience compared to high school graduates. The 2013 Education Pays report found that lifetime median earnings of college graduates are 65 percent higher than those of a high school graduate. The report also found that the median earnings gap between female college and high school graduates has declined from 79 percent in 2008 to 70 percent in 2011.
  • Taxpayers are on track to spend $1 billion a year on school voucher programs, despite a lack of reliable evidence that vouchers produce better scores in reading, math and science or that vouchers raise high school graduation rates.
  • Cuyahoga County Council in Ohio voted this week to spend up to $250,000 to study its contracting practices for race and gender-based disparities. The move is a likely first step toward creating the county’s first program to encourage hiring more women- and minority-owned firms.
  • For an analysis of how one can reasonably criticize the Affordable Care Act without going to the extreme, check out this Huffington Post op-ed.

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