Top 3 Things You Need to Know - January 30, 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017



Washington Update

Trump Cabinet Confirmation Hearings 
President Trump was inaugurated on January 20, and his administration has dived headfirst into their agenda for the first 100 days of his leadership. Last week, the Senate held confirmation hearings for several of President Trump’s cabinet picks including, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley for Ambassador to the United Nations, Senator Jefferson Sessions for U.S. Attorney General, Represe Tom Price for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Ms. Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.

Of the several nominees being considered, two that the National Urban League has particular concerns about are Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education and Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. 

Upon reviewing Ms. DeVos’ responses during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), the National Urban League cannot in good conscience support Betsy DeVos’ to lead the U.S. Department of Education. 

DeVos displayed a clear lack of understanding for basic education issues and federal education policy. She supports the privatization of schools, does not support equal accountability in schools, and would not enforce federal civil rights protections for students. 

The National Urban League sent a letter to the Senate HELP Committee urging them to vote against her confirmation. You can find a link to our letter below, which spells out why we simply cannot trust Ms. DeVos to further education opportunities and equity in the U.S.

The Senate Judiciary Committee have also completed its hearings on whether Senator Jefferson Sessions should assume our nation’s top law enforcement position as the U.S. Attorney General. The next step is a vote in the Committee on whether he should be confirmed by the entire Senate.

Our President and CEO, Marc H. Morial, sent a letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee urging them to reject his nomination as Attorney General. The National Urban League, along with our partner civil and human rights organizations, have done a thorough review of Senator Sessions and have found that his past and current record reveals that he would rollback the hard fought progress we’ve made in criminal justice and civil rights over the past 50 years, and particularly during the Obama Administration. 

We cannot afford to lose ground now. Included in this newsletter, you will find an action alert with more information on Senator Sessions’ record and information for you to contact your senators and urge them to vote “no” on his confirmation. 

Rolling Back Housing Progress
Just hours after Donald J. Trump was sworn-in as the 45th President of the United States, he signed an executive order to rollback the reduction in Federal Housing Administration mortgage insurance premiums that was implemented by former U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julian Castro in early January.

The National Urban League strongly opposes this rollback as it will cause up to 850,000 homebuyers to face higher costs and up to 40,000 new homebuyers to be shut out of the housing market altogether. 

We are currently writing HUD to urge the agency to re-implement this reduction, which helps hard-working Americans to access the American dream through homeownership.  We will be sure to keep you informed of any developments.


Senate Staff Diversity 
On January 5, the National Urban League Washington Bureau hosted a panel discussion on the importance of Senate staff diversity and offered suggestions for how the U.S. Senate can improve its hiring practices and promote diversity and inclusion in its highest ranks. 

Senate staff diversity is critically important to having a senate that works for all people. Senators cannot adequately legislate on behalf of the communities they serve if they don’t have diverse voices at the table that can advocate for minority and marginalized groups. 

Since the panel, one African American Chief of Staff has been appointed by Senator Jerry Moran from Kansas, bringing the count to a whopping two black chiefs of staff in the entire U.S. Senate--both of whom work for Republican members of Congress.
As a former Chief of Staff in the U.S. Senate, and the only Black Chief at the time, we will continue to lead and work with partners in this space to develop a systematic plan to attract and retain diverse senior staff to the nation’s two highest legislative bodies. 

To stay abreast of our actions on this issue, be sure to follow us on Twitter at NULPolicy and use the hashtag Senate Staff Diversity