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November 7, 2019

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Mitch McConnell is leaving behind important issues for the American people in his legislative graveyard.
House Dems mourn bills buried in McConnell's ‘legislative graveyard’ - from Roll Call

The Senate has not passed many of the meaningful legislative reforms it’s received from the House.
“If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 2:1-11, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
President Buchanan called the Senate “the greatest deliberative body in the world.” Baked into the Senate rules of conduct is a slow and deliberative process that gives each Senator vast power over consideration of legislation. Traditionally, the House churns out legislation and the Senate slows things down and takes a more contemplative approach, considering legislation with a sharp eye toward viability. This is the goal, at least. But the Senate has been hijacked by the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, who, instead of leading the Senate in its role to thoughtfully debate and consider legislation, has stalled everything that comes his way.

The nominations and confirmations of federal judges are the only things speeding through the Senate. Judicial nominees who are at the very least unqualified, and often deeply problematic, for these lifetime appointments. You don’t need to take my word for it; we have Mr. McConnell’s words from earlier this year, “They won’t even be voted on. So think of me as the Grim Reaper, the guy who is going to make sure that socialism doesn’t land on the president’s desk."

This means languishing in the legislative graveyard are bills to protect vulnerable populations including women, working families, the LGBTQ+ community, the immigrant community, and our democracy.

Here’s just a sampling of the legislation being held up by the Senate Majority Leader:
  • HR 1, The For the People Act: Legislation devoted to upholding and protecting democracy, including strengthen voting rights, ethics reforms, and campaign finance laws. It was passed by the House in March.
  • HR 5, The Equality Act: Now more than ever it is critical to protect LGBTQ+ folks from discrimination. This bipartisan bill to do just that was received by the Senate in May.
  • HR 6, The American Dream and Promise Act: Protecting the over 800,000 Dreamers in our communities should be a priority for Congress. Instead, Dreamers have been used repeatedly as a political bargaining chip. The Senate should take up the American Dream and Promise Act to protect DREAMers like Elias
  • HR 7, The Paycheck Fairness Act: Ensuring equal pay for all shouldn’t be put on the backburner and this bill will help close the wage gap. This bill passed the House in March.
  • Bipartisan Background Checks: Eight months ago, the House passed legislation to address gun violence. Thousands more have died and been affected by gun violence since then. Enough is enough; the Senate must act.
This is just a sampling; consider also the Violence Against Women Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, other pieces of legislation to protect healthcare, families and elections. Each piece of legislation that languishes in the legislative graveyard has the potential to help communities all across the country.
I wish so often to participate in the vibrant, active and pragmatic congress in my imagination, where people disagree but compromise and where silly stunts are considered beneath the dignity of Congress rather than their bread and butter. Isn’t that what Congress should and can be? A body of elected legislators who come together to tackle the really hard problems, who find ways to order our common life for the common good? Clearly this isn’t happening. What can we do about it?  

First, call. If you live in Kentucky, tell Mitch McConnell this isn’t why he was elected to Congress, and his constituents are holding him accountable. If you do not live in Kentucky, tell your Kentucky friends to make sure they are sharing their and our frustrations with the Senate Majority Leader, their elected representative.  

Then, vote. Show up. Help your friends and family show up. Take steps to protect access to voting in your states and communities. Each deliberate step is pushing back against this darkness. That’s what I’m holding onto. 

I’m reminded of Vaclav Havel’s words on hope: “Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Either we have hope within or we don’t; it is a dimension of the soul not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. Hope is an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more propitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper the hope is. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.”
Adapted from UCC Our Faith Our Vote Prayers

Again and again you call us to care for widows and orphans, to advocate for those in prison, to welcome the strangers. God, we hear your call, but all around us we hear the cry that there is not enough for all, and that some are undeserving. 

Again and again you call us to love you with our whole heart, understanding, and strength; such love demands that we seek justice for those who are oppressed, poor, and forgotten. God, we hear your call, But all around us are competing calls of worldly loyalties, political parties, and public acclaim. 

Again and again you urge us not to lean on our own understanding but in all our ways to acknowledge you, and yet we are often distracted by the clamor of fear dressed up as reason. 

As we prepare our hearts and minds for the upcoming elections, at times we forget to observe your statutes of compassion and your ordinances of justice. Again, you remind us to follow you so that it may go well for us, our neighbors, our nation, and our world.
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