Today, a broad coalition of more than 50 media guilds, press freedom, civil liberties, and government transparency organizations joined Demand Progress and Freedom of the Press Foundation in a letter to the Senate urging the blocking of a dangerous new amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would censor the online publication of information about members of Congress and those connected to them.
“Senators Klobuchar and Cruz’s internet censorship amendment will have a heavy toll on journalists, non-profits, and members of the public who seek to use their First Amendment rights to identify corruption at the highest levels, all while failing to provide members of Congress the security they need,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress. “We must know whether our representatives are honest, and Senate Amendment 218 to the NDAA would empower them to remove true facts from the internet and databases, an invitation to the grossest abuses of power where political figures and their staff can pick and choose what speech they like and censor the rest.”
The internet censorship amendment, Senate Amendment 218, offered by Sens. Klobuchar and Cruz to the must-pass Senate NDAA, is largely identical to the Judicial Security and Privacy Act that was slipped in at the last minute to last year’s NDAA, but this amendment is focused on Congress, not federal judges. It has serious First Amendment problems because it lets members of Congress forcefully coerce the removal of certain information about them or their families from the internet. It is very broad as it can apply to their parents, adult kids, siblings, roommates, and staff, and can cause the removal of basic information such as properties that they own, where they are located, and their email addresses.
Continue reading “50+ Orgs Join Demand Progress and Freedom of Press Foundation to Fight Internet Censorship Provision in NDAA”
The House Judiciary Committee favorably reported the Protecting Reporters from Exploitative State Spying Act (PRESS) Act, 23-0. This is positive news that we welcome, as the PRESS Act is critical legislation that would protect reporters and their technology providers from revealing their confidential sources and underscores the importance of protecting a free press from federal abuse of subpoena power.
“Journalists must be able to freely report on government actions without fear the government will compel them to reveal their sources,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress. “We commend the House Judiciary Committee for its bipartisan support of the PRESS Act, legislation to protect First Amendment freedoms and shield journalists from being compelled to disclose their sources. The Senate must act now to advance this important legislation.”
The PRESS Act would protect reporters and their technology providers from revealing their confidential sources and from federal abuse of subpoena power, a legal protection already available in 49 states. The bill provides some exceptions to these prohibitions such as in cases involving risk of imminent personal bodily harm or death, terrorism, the commission of crimes unrelated to journalism, and slander, libel, and defamation.
Administrations of both parties have often gone after journalists who have exposed the truth about waste, fraud, abuse, and malfeasance to intimidate them. Although the Department of Justice last year adopted a new policy restricting subpoenas and seizures from journalists, it could just as easily be suspended, ignored, or secretly altered. Importantly, the PRESS Act would codify into law this prohibition, making it real and permanent.
This week, as part of a coalition led by Pay Our Interns, we sent a letter to leadership of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch asking them to include at least $7 million in dedicated funding to compensate Senate committee interns.
Ensuring Senate committee interns can get paid removes personal wealth as a precondition for public service. That’s important for Senate committees to foster a more inclusive and diverse internship program that attracts individuals from different socioeconomic backgrounds, not just those of means who can afford to live in one of the most expensive US cities while not getting paid. Ultimately, this will improve the Senate’s ability to recruit interns into the congressional staff pipeline who better reflect the diversity of America.
Besides that, while the House currently has such a policy, the disparity between the two chambers can cause confusion to prospective interns. Imagine you were choosing an internship on the Hill — would you aim for the one you know has dedicated funding in the House or take your chances on a Senate committee that may or may not have a budget to pay you?
Dedicated funding enables Senate committees to set clear objectives, establish structured programs separate from the personal office funding, and provide necessary resources and support for interns.
Read the letter here.
Today, several congressional offices — including the House Education and Workforce Committee’s Democratic staff — have filed union petitions in the House. Staffers in Reps. Val Hoyle, Sylvia Garcia, and Mark DeSaulnier have all recently filed union petitions while a majority of staffers in the offices of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mark Pocan, Mark Takano, Sean Casten, and Dina Titus have each formally voted to form unions.
“We commend the courageous congressional staff — including those on the House Education and Workforce Committee — who are organizing to create better working conditions on Capitol Hill, especially in the wake of new House Rules aimed at rolling back the rights of House staff to unionize,” said Taylor J. Swift, senior policy advisor at Demand Progress. “These offices continue to pave the way for Congress to be a more fair and democratic employer that can better attract and retain a workforce reflective of our nation.”
In a report released earlier this year, Demand Progress Education Fund analyzed the House Rules for the 118th Congress and affirmed the right to unionize by congressional staff following the passage of H.Res.1096 just over a year ago. We continue to urge the Senate to pass a similar resolution approving unionization for staff in the chamber.
In advance of tomorrow’s House Administration Oversight Subcommittee hearing on the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), 35 organizations and individuals across the political spectrum sent a letter today to leaders of the House Administration Oversight Subcommittee urging them to protect and further strengthen the OCE in its mission. Notably, the coalition asks for the removal of a new hiring provision instituted by the House Rules for the 118th Congress that could effectively prevent OCE from having staff and functioning.
The House Rules adopted by the 118th Congress imposed a two-term limit for Board members and required the Board to appoint OCE staff and set their compensation within 30 calendar days of adoption of the Rules resolution. The confluence of these two provisions might inadvertently result in a Board unable to appoint staff within the required timeframe.
This Rules change is the latest in a succession of moves to weaken the independent watchdog or zero out its funding.
The coalition led by Demand Progress and Public Citizen recommends the removal of the 30-calendar-day hiring provision. Board members are appointed by the Speaker and Minority Leader respectively, and should the Board lack a quorum and those appointments be delayed, the effect could be the constructive dismissal of all OCE staff with no ability to hire them.
Continue reading “Bipartisan Coalition of 35 Organizations and Individuals Urge House to Protect and Strengthen the Office of Congressional Ethics”
The letter is below and also available here.
Demand Progress Action and the Fred T. Korematsu Institute led a coalition of 85 civil society organizations to call on Congress to support a new bicameral legislative package introduced today by Senators Hirono and Duckworth and Reps. Takano and Tokuda that recognizes civil rights hero Fred Korematsu for his activism against US incarceration of American citizens and residents of Japanese ancestry in concentration camps during World War II.
“The legislation introduced by Senators Hirono and Duckworth and Reps. Takano and Tokuda honors the legacy of civil rights hero Fred Korematsu, who bravely challenged our government’s policy of forcing Americans and residents of Japanese ancestry into concentration camps during World War II,” said Hajar Hammado policy advisor of Demand Progress. “As xenophobia, racism, and anti-Asian violence surge in America, it’s critically important to elevate this grim history for all Americans to learn from it and to affirm the liberties that we must always be on guard to protect, just as Fred Korematsu did.”
Continue reading “83 Organizations Join Demand Progress Action and the Fred T. Korematsu Institute to Support Passage of Legislative Package Honoring World War II-Era Civil Rights Hero Fred Korematsu Who Fought Against US Concentration Camps”
Demand Progress Education Fund and Freedom of the Press Foundation led a broad coalition of press freedom organizations, government accountability and civil liberties organizations, and media outlets in urging House leadership to let C-SPAN have independent control of cameras that broadcast and stream House floor proceedings.
The group sent a letter today to Speaker McCarthy and Democratic Leader Jeffries endorsed by organizations spanning the ideological spectrum.
“When C-SPAN is able to call its own shots, the American public benefits by getting an authentic and transparent view of how Congress functions and the mood of the chamber,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress Education Fund. “We can see what really happens on the House floor, such as unexpected bipartisan negotiations like when Reps. Ocasio-Cortez and Gosar had a one-on-one conversation during the Speaker vote-a-rama.”
Continue reading “Demand Progress Education Fund, Freedom of Press Foundation Lead 43 Organizations Calling on House to Let C-SPAN Control Cameras on the House Floor”
Within a week of our action with allies Congressional Progressive Staff Association (CPSA) and the Congressional Workers Union, the House approved overtime pay regulations for House staff to go into effect next year.
Outgoing CHA Chair Rep. Zoe Lofgren introduced a resolution Monday to implement the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights (OCWR) regulations to update Fair Labor Standards Act overtime provisions for congressional staff with a “nifty procedural move” according to CQ Roll Call’s Jim Saksa.
This is one of many reforms the House has passed this year to improve congressional staff pay and benefits that we have championed.
“This is an incredible investment in the congressional workforce and affirms the House’s commitment to improve workplace conditions, benefits, and pay for congressional staff” said Taylor J. Swift, senior policy advisor at Demand Progress. “This has been a paramount year for improving staffers’ rights in the House, and now it’s time for the Senate to take action to ensure their staff have the same overtime pay rights. We applaud congressional leadership for approving this overtime pay provision, and we laud outgoing CHA Chair Lofgren for her swift action to include it in the Continuing Resolution.”
We will continue to work with our coalition partners on the Hill to ensure Senate staff can enjoy the same rights.
Demand Progress Action joined forces with the Congressional Progressive Staff Association (CPSA) and the Congressional Workers Union to implore leaders from both chambers to enact Office of Congressional Workplace Rights (OCWR) regulations to update Fair Labor Standards Act overtime provisions for congressional staff before the lame duck session ends. Demand Progress sent letters today to House and Senate leaders. The CPSA letter endorsed by the Congressional Workers Union and more than 220 congressional staffers is here.
Back in September, the OCWR described the current regulations as “woefully outdated” when it issued new guidelines that would bring congressional overtime pay to parity with the executive branch and private sector. The newly proposed regulations cannot go into effect until approved separately or collectively by each chamber of Congress.
Continue reading “Demand Progress, Congressional Progressive Staff Association, and Congressional Workers Union Urge Congress to Approve Congressional Staff Pay Overtime Regulations”
The progressive grassroots policy advocacy organization Demand Progress and the right-leaning technology nonprofit Lincoln Network have joined forces to urge the House of Representatives to adopt modern rules that improve congressional transparency, oversight, technology, and more. The bipartisan recommendations issued today by the two groups emphasize changes to House Rules that give more power to the rank-and-file members to shape legislation.
The recommendations are timely, as the House Rules Committee hears today from members concerning the Rules they want adopted at the start of the 118th Congress in January.
“There’s too much concentrated power in congressional leadership, which distorts the legislative process and stifles collaboration by members who share common interests,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress. “These common-sense recommendations restore balance in the House so that all members can meaningfully engage in policymaking.”
“The Rules the House enacts will shape how Congress will function and who will have power,” said Zach Graves, executive director of Lincoln Network. “It’s important to democratize the House so more rank-and-file members have a say in the legislation that gets considered and so that committees don’t have their roles usurped by leadership. All members are elected to Congress and each one has a duty and obligation to represent their constituents.”
The package of bipartisan Rules recommendations identifies improvements the House should adopt to improve transparency of legislative information, internal operations and scheduling, congressional efficiency and oversight, congressional security, congressional capacity and staff, and ethics, as well as which Rules to retain from the previous two Congresses.
Continue reading “Demand Progress and Lincoln Network Issue Bipartisan House Rules Recommendations Calling for Rebalancing Power in the 118th Congress”