The Washington Memo

February 10, 2015

Prophetic Witness: 2014

As the year 2014 drew to a close, numerous events should lead us to ask the fundamental question: “what kind of country are we?”

The current issue of the print Washington Memo newsletter takes us through these and other developments of the past year.

Through it all we are grateful for your faithfulness to God’s call to provide a prophetic witness on these matters of life and death for so many of God’s children.

Download the full version here (pdf)

Policy updates

Climate change: As part of the Keystone XL debate in the Senate, the Senate passed an amendment 98-1 stating that "It is the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax."  Two other amendments failed, falling short of the 60 votes needed to pass--59 Senators agreed that human activity contributes to climate change, while 50 agreed it "significantly" contributes. 

Criminal justice: On February 4, the Justice Safety Valve Act was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and in the House by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.). The bill is aimed at reducing the staggering population in U.S. prisons by giving federal judges the authority to hand out sentences that are below the current mandatory minimums. The current laws regarding mandatory minimums are the primary cause of mass incarceration in the United States over the past few decades. 

Immigration: The House passed a Homeland Security funding bill prohibiting President Obama’s executive actions for immigrants. The House bill is not expected to pass in the Senate but it is unclear if the Senate can pass a “clean” funding bill before temporary funding runs out February 27. The House postponed a vote on a $10 billion border security bill after conservative members raised concerns the bill could be used as an alternative to prohibiting Obama’s executive actions.

Iran: Several weeks ago Congress seemed poised to quickly move legislation imposing new sanctions on Iran, despite statements from Obama administration officials that this would derail negotiations with Iran. But backlash over Speaker Boehner’s invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress has led some Members of Congress to re-think their support for sanctions. Now it appears sanctions legislation is not likely to be considered until at least late March.

Upcoming events

  • April 17-20: Plan now to attend the 2015 Ecumenical Advocacy Days national gathering in Washington D.C. The theme will be “Breaking the chains: Mass incarceration and systems of exploitation.” Register here.
  • May 17-18: Save the date for this year's Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia: Tomorrow's Peace Starts Today. Sunday, May 17 churches are invited to a day of prayer in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Colombia and on Monday, May 18 a day of action. Stay tuned for more info regarding worship & advocacy resources!

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MCC immigration toolbox, including a bulletin insert and other resources

Staff updates

Joshua Russell attended the Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare at Princeton Theological Seminary from January 23-25.

Eliza Wilkins, a senior at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School in Lansdale, Pa., spent January 21-24 in our office as part of a "job shadow" opportunity. Read her reflection on the experience. 

Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach participated in the Advisory Council meeting for Mennonite Church USA's Peace & Justice Support Network, February 5-8 on the U.S.-Mexico border.