We’re Waiting … Will Sen. Heller Vote NAY on Yet Another High Profile Female?

Senate Republicans Must Stop Delaying Attorney General Confirmation

— by CAP Action War Room

It has been 124 days since Loretta Lynch was nominated to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General. In that time, the 50th anniversary of Selma reminded us that we have a long way to go to achieve equal voting rights; Ferguson re-entered the news with a report detailing egregious racism in the police department and its repercussions; a new coalition of groups working on criminal justice demonstrated a bipartisan commitment to reform; and a moving tribute at the Grammy awards proved that these issues go far beyond politics.

In all of these issues, the Department of Justice plays a vital role. And its head, as the top law enforcement officer in the United States, leads the way. Ms. Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, is a highly qualified nominee for the position. While some Republicans used her confirmation hearing as a chance to voice their out-of-touch views on President Obama’s recent immigration action or the departing Attorney General, she excelled in answering questions and impressing a bipartisan group of Senators.

So what is the hold up? Here are 5 reasons to quit delaying and confirm Loretta Lynch as Attorney General.

  1. She has been more than fully vetted. On top of her confirmation hearings, Lynch submitted detailed responses to 900 written questions and met individually with at least 59 senators.
  2. She is a proven, well-qualified leader. Lynch has a proven record of prosecuting hate crimes and corruption, and a reputation of being committed to protecting human rights and ensuring equal opportunity.
  3. She has a wide array of support. Senators from both sides of the aisle support Lynch, along with 25 former U.S. Attorneys from Republican and Democratic administrations. Rudy Giuliani said, “if I were in the Senate, I would confirm her.” Rudy Giuliani!
  4. She has waited longer than any other Attorney General nominee. Loretta Lynch’s nomination has been pending for 124 days, more than a month longer than any other in history
  5. She would make history. Loretta Lynch would make history by being the first African-American woman to become Attorney General. What better way for the Senate to celebrate Women’s History Month and the legacy of Selma than to confirm Lynch.

Bonus: The movie Goodfellas was based on one of Loretta Lynch’s cases. She’s got what it takes.

BOTTOM LINE: When issues of racial inequality, voting rights, criminal justice, and more are front and center in our nation’s dialogue, it is no time to be playing games with our nation’s top law enforcement officer. Loretta Lynch has proven herself, and the Senate has had ample time to deliberate. Now its time to bring the nomination to the floor, and vote to confirm.

 


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.  Like CAP Action on Facebookand follow us on Twitter.

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The War on Veterans

Congress and the White House are much better at starting wars than cleaning up after them.

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Do you remember Cory Remsburg? He’s the Army Ranger who received a standing ovation from Congress during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address a few weeks ago.

Applause is nice, especially from such influential people. It sure beats those cuts the Pentagon wants to make to veteran benefits.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is now trying to sell vets on his plan to scale back the number of U.S. troops, as well as what taxpayers are spending on active-duty and retired forces. After he announced his ideas, Hagel brought them straight to a town hall meeting with soldiers at Fort Eustis in Virginia. “There was no applause,” Military.com reported.

Before and After a War, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

Before and After a War, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

Whenever Washington winds down its wars and our troops become needy veterans, interest in their welfare always flags. Senate Republicans just blocked a comprehensive $21 billion bill that would have beefed up veteran education, health, and other benefits.

But that’s not all. Food stamps were just cut for some 170,000 vets, pensions will soon decline, and the Department of Veterans Affairs admits a backlog of 393,000 benefit claims after making great progress toward getting caught up.

About 30 percent of the vets who serve in war zones return from the battlefield with undiagnosed or untreated post-traumatic stress disorder. Some half a million are suffering from it now.

Clearly, Congress and the White House are much better at starting wars than cleaning up after them.

Military debates in Washington generally revolve around the costs of manpower, equipment, and logistics. Finding the money needed to cover the medical bills and pensions of veterans is always harder to squeeze into the federal budget.

The Pentagon only lists 19,000 troops officially wounded by enemy action in Afghanistan and gives them good care. The other hundreds of thousands with mysterious brain or emotional injuries have to prove it. But first they need to succeed in gaining an appointment at the Department of Veterans Affairs — better known as simply the VA — and demonstrating that they were honorably discharged.

That can be tough.

William Dolphin, a Purple Heart Vietnam veteran, is now fighting for that right in federal court. The Army gave him a bad conduct discharge years ago for being AWOL upon confusion over where he was supposed to convalesce after leaving the hospital. He’s been suffering from PTSD for four decades.

“All I’m asking is that the Army recognize that I served my country proudly,” Dolphin says.

There’s another new lawsuit filed in March by a group of Vietnam vets who went through a similar ordeal. It’s seeking class-action status.

And things haven’t changed much since the Vietnam War. Washington still sees wasting record sums of money on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as a high priority while vast numbers injured veterans go without adequate psychiatric care. At least 55,000 veterans remain homeless despite the existence of dozens of programs that specifically target this problem.

If our leaders really want to honor Cory Remsburg, they should stop making people go through what he experienced. It’s time to stop waging unnecessary wars and start taking better care of our wounded warriors.

Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. Follow her on Twitter @ESGrecoOtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. OtherWords.org

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Crushing College Dreams

On the very day that student loan debt reached the $1-trillion mark, Senate Republicans blocked a vote to extend the 3.4-percent interest rate on student loans for another year.

By Marc Morial

Marc Morial

As graduation season swings into high gear, a new economic crisis confronts thousands of this year’s high school and college grads — crushing college student loan debt.

America’s student loan debt recently reached the $1-trillion mark. That’s more than our total credit card and other consumer debt.

Ninety-four percent of the students who get a college degree take out these loans, up from 45 percent in 1993, according to The New York Times. The average college grad is saddled with more than $20,000 in debt by the time she dons her cap and gown. This is a tremendous burden for young graduates, many of whom are having trouble landing that first job.

Indentured Student (DonkeyHotey/Flickr)
Indentured Student (DonkeyHotey/Flickr)

Faced with the prospect of even more debt, many delay plans to attend graduate school. And for those lucky enough to find work, high monthly student loan bills may mean working two jobs or moving back in with mom and dad. While everyone agrees that a college education is the pathway to greater success in America, student loan debt is leaving too many graduates stalled at the starting gate.

"Higher education can’t be a luxury," says President Barack Obama. "It is an economic imperative that every family should be able to afford."

Recognizing the relationship between education and economic growth, Obama has made boosting America’s lagging college graduation rates one of his top priorities. It’s no secret that rising tuition costs are a major cause of stagnant or declining graduation rates, especially in communities of color. Currently, Obama is urging Congress to renew a 2007 bill that lowered the federal student loan interest rate from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent. If Congress fails to act, the current rate will double by July 1, increasing the average student debt burden by $1,000 over the life of the loan.

The irony of this debate is that both sides in Congress support an extension of the 3.4-percent rate. But like earlier fights over raising the debt ceiling and extending the payroll tax cut, lawmakers are arguing over how to pay for it. Senate Democrats would cover the $6-billion cost of the bill by closing some tax loopholes on high earners. Republicans continue to balk at any perceived tax hikes on the richest Americans and have made a counter-proposal to cut funding for a preventive health initiative that is part of Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

On the very day that student loan debt reached the $1-trillion mark, Senate Republicans blocked a vote to extend the 3.4-percent interest rate on student loans for another year. It reminded me of an old African proverb: "When elephants fight, the grass suffers." Thousands of low-income students and their families are suffering while the two sides in Congress engage in ideological warfare.

College graduation is as important to our national security as a strong military. But when it comes to funding, education seems to always take a back seat to war. How much would graduation rates for African Americans and Latinos rise if they did not have to overcome the added economic barrier of high student loan debt?


Marc Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League and the former mayor of New Orleans. www.nul.org  Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)