The U.S. Congress has passed fair sentencing legislation, for which Illinois' own Sen. Dick Durbin was a sponsor. The bill alters
a 1986 law by lowering the mandatory prison sentence for someone caught
with crack cocaine. This is the first time Congress has repealed a
mandatory minimum sentence in 40 years.
Although comprehensive immigration reform is shelved for the time
being, new reports today suggest there is still an outside chance that
Congress will take up the DREAM Act this year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told TPM's Christina Bellantonitoday
that he might introduce the legislation -- which would provide 2.1
million immigrant youth with an avenue toward citizenship if they
enroll in college or the military -- as a standalone bill this fall if
there aren't enough votes for a broader package to defeat a Republican
filibuster. Aides to Illinois' own Sen. Dick Durbin, who wrote the
bill, told The Atlantic they are open to that idea. Still, Democrats remain divided on that political strategy.
"[I]f I never do another thing in the rest of my Senatorial career," Durbin said in March, "I'm going to pass that DREAM Act." It was a bold statement from the state's senior senator, considering the fractious politics of immigration reform. Let's hope he finds a way to follow through on his promise.
the Senate Republican caucus -- along with Democrat Ben Nelson (NE) -- stood firm today in their opposition
to a jobs bill that would have extended the filing deadline on
emergency unemployment benefits through November, voting 41-57 to block cloture on the legislation (H.R. 4213). Immediately following the roll call, Minority
Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) submitted a motion to extend the filing
deadline one additional month using a small portion of the funding
identified in the bill.
That's when Illinois' own Sen. Dick Durbin
unloaded on the minority party, suggesting that political posturing, rather than concern about the deficit, is driving their obstruction. "The record is clear: It is a party of no that is hoping that the voters will vote yes in November," he said. "I hope they remember that the Republicans had no alternative [proposal] when it came to this disastrous economic situation." Watch it:
While a standalone bill extending the benefit deadline might surface next, the entire effort has been derailed for the time being. As of tomorrow, the National Employment Law Project projects that 1.2 million Americans will have lost their unemployment aid as a result.
It's been 21 days since the filing deadline for unemployment
benefits expired and the U.S. Senate doesn't look like they are any
closer to fixing the problem. Last week, U.S. Senate Republicans blocked a procedural vote on the Democratic jobs bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said yesterday that the upper chamber "could" take up a slimmed-down version later this week, but Illinois' own Sen. Dick Durbin told WBEZ this morning
that he would count on such action because no GOPers are
willing to cross the aisle. AFSCME and the liberal group Americans
United for Change are turning up the heat on two of the obstructionist Republicans, Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. They're spending
at least $75,000 this week to run a television ad called "Kids." Their
pitch is simple: If the government creates jobs now, the increased tax
revenue and consumer spending will ease the debt load in the long-run.
The National Employment Law Project is also sharing
stories this week of unemployed workers fighting to survive now that
their insurance (and COBRA health care assistance) has expired. Click through to read the story of C.R., a former non-profit executive from Minnesota. Closer to home, the Sun-Times profiled Vanessa Garrett, a laid-off Chicago Transit Authority bus driver.
Illinois' own Sen. Dick Durbin is requesting information on how Peabody Energy Corporation is guarding the safety
of its workers at an Illinois mine that has paid $230,000 in safety
violation fines since 2008. Last week a panel that deals with disputes
over mining violations had agreed to speed up its review of this
particular mine after federal regulators argued that workers are threatened by the conditions.
Coal mines are collapsing, oil is flowing into the Gulf Coast (with no end in sight),
and the U.S. Senate is ... dithering. In the wake of the BP disaster, the
conventional wisdom in Washington is that the upper
chamber is now less likely to pass comprehensive climate change
legislation in 2010. With the GOP poised to gain seats this November,
that means action to curb carbon emissions could be put off for years.
National Resources Defense Council is sick of waiting. Today, the group
unveiled a new eight-state ad campaign pressuring Senate leaders to
begin reducing America's reliance on dirty energy this year. Watch the
video running in Illinois below: