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Our work of Mercy involves meeting the needs of the suffering wherever they are: feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and imprisoned. Additionally, Mercy demands attention to structural sin and the root causes of poverty and injustice, including advocating for better policies and laws to support the most vulnerable.

Jump to our summary of a legislative priority topic:


“Lame Duck” Session 2022

The U.S. Congress has reconvened after the mid-term elections to close out the final weeks of the 2021–2 legislative session. The top priority is approving appropriations legislation to fund the federal government. Within that process, there are opportunities to fund programs that assist struggling families and children. Congress can also focus on other issues of concern. The Mercy Justice Team is focusing advocacy on these items in the closing weeks of this year, encouraging legislators to:

  • Promote continuous and expanded Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage, increase Medicaid funding to the U.S. territories, and pass the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act (S. 346/H.R. 959) to address the Black maternal health crisis.
  • Expand the Child Tax Credit for the 19 million children who receive less than the full credit. Temporary expansion under the American Rescue Plan – passed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic – sharply reduced childhood poverty. 
  • Pass Electoral Count Act reform with voting rights protections to defend our democracy and the sacred right to vote. While modernizing the 135-year-old law governing the counting of electoral votes is important, it is insufficient if we don’t also ensure that all eligible Americans get to cast a vote to be counted.
  • For senators, pass a bill to ban assault weapons as one important step to stemming our society’s epidemic of gun violence. The House of Representatives passed this bill in July but it has been stuck in committee in the Senate.
  • Pass immigration legislation to provide permanent status to Dreamers and other undocumented youth, as well as farmworkers and recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS). 

Here’s an overview of the legislation and actions by Congress and the Biden administration which the Mercy Justice Team is currently watching, particularly around the Critical Concerns.

Climate

President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law on Aug. 16, 2022. The bill, which includes $369 billion for climate and clean energy provisions, is projected to cut U.S. carbon emissions by roughly 40% by 2030. The bill is an important step in moving toward a renewable energy economy, but is lacking in true climate justice, with support for offshore oil and gas drilling and for unproven carbon capture and storage technology that enables continued pollution that disproportionately harms Black, brown and low-income communities. Fortunately, a side deal to fast-track permitting for energy projects was removed from must-pass legislation to fund the federal government, due to pushback from communities most threatened by those projects and their allies.

The Justice Team supports halting deforestation through measures such as the FOREST Act of 2021 that bans imports into the U.S. of goods produced through illegal deforestation. And we are calling for protection of natural areas and Indigenous communities when mining for minerals critical to the renewable energy transition, as well for as alternatives to mining such as mineral re-use and recycling.

Voting Rights

The U.S. Senate failed to advance the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act in a series of votes early this year. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has now introduced the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act (S. 4573), which puts critical safeguards in place to protect our democracy. We support these measures while also continuing to call for removing barriers to voting that disproportionately disenfranchise Black, brown and young voters. Both are critical to the integrity of our electoral system.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

Mercy supported the recently passed historic legislation aimed at gun violence prevention following the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. This bill offers the most comprehensive attempts at strengthening the nation’s gun laws in almost thirty years:

  • enhances background checks for gun buyers under the age of 21
  • provides $750 million to assist states in implementing Red Flag laws
  • closes the “boyfriend loophole” by disarming domestic abusers even if they are not married
  • establishes the first-ever federal laws against gun trafficking across state lines and straw purchases
  • provides $250 million in funding for evidence-based community violence prevention programs
  • expands school safety measures and mental health services and access in communities and schools

Even as we celebrate this victory in reducing gun violence in our communities, we continue to advocate for proven measures that were unaddressed by this legislation including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The House passed this ban in July and we call on the Senate to do the same to address the violence enabled by civilian access to military-style weapons of war.

Administration Policies on Treatment of Migrants

Advocacy continues around urging the Biden administration to restart a safe and fair asylum process at the border, particularly as public health order Title 42 (barring immigrants from entering the country) has been stopped.  We will continue to advocate that anti-immigrant Members of Congress not attempt to codify Title 42 into law.

Immigration protections and pathway to citizenship

We continue to push for legislation that provides permanent protections for immigrants – including a pathway to citizenship – for DACA recipients (Dreamers), farmworkers, essential workers, and others with temporary status. We are challenging lawmakers who push an extreme anti-immigrant agenda, using immigrants as pawns to score political points and advocating instead for legislative solutions to protect and empower hardworking immigrant families.

Pentagon Spending

Consistent with our commitment to nonviolence, we continue to call for cuts in military spending and the redirection of funds to programs that address the greatest threats to our security — climate change, ongoing systemic racial oppression, pandemic disease and growing economic inequality. Particularly in light of the war in Ukraine, we continue to urge policymakers to put greater priority on strengthening global diplomacy and other nonviolent alternatives to war, and on addressing root causes of conflict.

Reparations

A bill that would create a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations to African-Americans (HR40) has passed out of a committee in the House of Representatives and advocates are now calling for a full House vote.  We also are urging the Biden Administration to create a commission to study reparations for the legacy of slavery. This advocacy has received a boost from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which in its period review of the United States last month highlighted the need for such a commission. The Mercy Justice Team is participating in this work as a signatory to the H.R. 40 Can’t Wait campaign.