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What Has Your Congress Been Up To?

Jasmine Elliott,
Washington Legislative Office
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June 8, 2010

The representatives and senators of Congress are returning from a week-long recess. Their break probably entailed a little rest and relaxation and a lot of campaign strategizing. With the November mid-term elections in sight, they are coming into these last few months ready to fight for your votes. Get ready for an onslaught of yard signs and politically charged TV commercials (and some mudslinging).

If you want something more substantive than flashy campaign ads and gimmicks, look to the ACLU to tell you what your congressmen and women have been up to. We recently updated the ACLU Congressional Scorecard to inform our members, activists and the public at large about how their representatives and senators have been voting on the critical civil rights and civil liberties issues of the day. Votes range from federally-funded private and religious school vouchers to the use of full body scanners in airports. The scorecard covers all of the votes for this Congress on civil rights and civil liberties issues and gives a summary of the ACLU’s stance on each issue. It is also broken down by representative or senator and has an easy-to-use search engine to show votes cast by your specific members of Congress.

The 111th Congress has made some great strides at protecting and advancing the civil rights and liberties. Recently, the House passed an amendment to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” a landmark advancement that will allow for those who are lesbian, gay and bisexual to soon serve openly in the armed forces. The House has also passed an act to expand protections for victims of hate crimes, while still preserving fundamental First Amendment speech and association rights. Congress also passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which will fight wage disparities based on sex, race, religion, age, national origin, or disability.

Yet, this Congress has not always upheld or protected your civil rights and liberties. The House passed an amendment during the health care battle that would restrict women’s access to abortions. The Senate allowed an amendment to an appropriations bill that would mandate the use of the fatally- flawed Employment Verification (E-Verify) program. This faulty program fails to properly address immigration issues and jeopardizes the jobs of many U.S. citizen and lawful immigrant workers.

Armed with the Congressional Scorecard, you will be able to make your representative and senators earn your vote in November. These next few months provide Congress with one of their last chances to impress its constituents. Voice your opinions to your members of Congress. Tell them what they can do to get your vote. Take action to preserve your rights and liberties.

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