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Frustrations are building among congressional Democrats as the party’s priorities pile up in the Senate.

Legislation granting statehood to Washington, D.C., approved by the House on Thursday, is just the latest big agenda item that is set to stall out on the other side of Capitol Hill.

In the majority-run House, Democrats are passing the party’s big priorities along party lines. In the Senate, Republicans can block most legislation with the filibuster, putting the focus on approving President Biden’s nominees and moving smaller bipartisan measures.

Irritation between members of the same party over the differences between the chambers are a time-honored tradition, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying to those living through them.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) characterized himself as “frustrated.”

“Hopefully, at some point in time, the people themselves will say to the United States Senate, and their representatives in the United States Senate will say, it is undemocratic, with a small D. It is un-American to have the minority hold the majority hostage,” Hoyer told reporters.

A group of House Democrats held a press conference on Thursday to urge Senate Democrats to get rid of the 60-vote legislative filibuster.

“My constituents do not care about arcane Senate rules and procedures. … We have sent bill after bill after bill to that side of the Capitol,” said Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a military veteran who flipped a red seat in 2018.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, warned that if Democrats let the filibuster block big pieces of the party’s agenda there would be blowback in the next election.

“They’re either not going to come out and vote for you next time or they’re going to vote for the other guy,” she said.

Democrats pledged to go “bold” if they won back control of Congress, with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowing to shake off the chamber’s “legislative graveyard” status after House Democrats watched their priorities get ignored by the GOP-controlled Senate in the final two years of the Trump administration.

“Today, with the filibuster in place, with Democrats in control in the Senate, it’s still Mitch McConnell’s graveyard,” Jayapal said, referring to the Senate Republican leader.

House Democrats have already passed a laundry list of big priorities for Biden and progressives: a sweeping election reform bill, a bill to expand background checks, legal protections for some undocumented immigrants, a measure strengthening the voting rights bill and LGBTQ protections.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declined to weigh in on the filibuster debate, saying whether or not Democrats would “have any progress on all these fronts … well, that’s a debate for the Senate.”

Democrats don’t have the 50 votes needed to nix the filibuster and change the rules, a perennial sore spot for the party’s base.

“You know I’d abolish the filibuster tomorrow. I’m sick and tired of what’s been happening in the gridlock in the Senate on voting rights and on so many other things,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, said during an interview with MSNBC.

But the problem is bigger than just the legislative filibuster. Some parts of the party’s agenda don’t even have 50 votes in the Senate.

There are still five Senate Democrats who haven’t signed on to a bill supporting D.C. statehood. That puts the bill short of the votes needed to pass even if Democrats got rid of the filibuster.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who supports D.C. statehood, called linking nixing the filibuster to getting rid of D.C. statehood “premature.”

“I don’t think just in a matter of what we’re going to be dealing with – the biggest priority is infrastructure and voting rights, those are the first two. So I don’t foresee there’s going to be floor action on this anytime soon, so I would say let’s get through the things that are the ones that we have kind of embraced as the urgent ones,” Kaine said. 

Senate Democrats are digging in on infrastructure. And after passing an anti-Asian hate crimes bill, they are expected to spend next week on Biden nominees and a water bill. 

Schumer is supportive of D.C. statehood, which he described as “an idea whose time has come,” but hasn’t pledged to give it a vote.

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“We’re going to do everything we can to pass it,” he told reporters.

It’s isn’t just D.C. statehood – the Rules Committee will mark up a sweeping election reform bill early next month. But it’s deeply opposed by Republicans, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has drawn a line saying that any bill should be bipartisan, potentially depriving it of 50 votes. 

After eight Democrats joined all Republicans in opposing a $15 per hour minimum wage proposal in coronavirus relief legislation, the issue has largely fallen to the backburner. Other buzzy progressive goals, including the Green New Deal or expanding the Supreme Court, lose more Democratic support and are unlikely to get brought to the House floor, much less the Senate.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who made an unsuccessful bid for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination, said he didn’t support expanding the Supreme Court.

“I don’t think the American public is interested in having the Supreme Court expanded,” he said.

Instead, the strategy on the filibuster among Senate Democrats is to bring up bills that garner 50 votes within their own caucus. The hope is two-fold: First, that it will force Republicans to go on the record against popular ideas, and second, it will show holdouts that without changes, big pieces of their agenda won’t be able to make it to Biden’s desk.

“We can’t just assume that they’ll block them. We have to give them opportunities to get on board and then if they block things that we have a mandate to do … that will also be instructive,” Kaine said.

There are some signs of bipartisan progress on certain issues.

After police reform stalled out last year in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) say they are making progress and are hoping for language in a matter of weeks.

But Bass also acknowledged that there was frustration among House Democrats about the lack of progress on bills being sent over to the Senate, saying: “Of course. Of course there is.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is leading a bipartisan group that he says includes 10 Republicans – the number needed to break a filibuster – on immigration reform that would marry protections for “Dreamers” and agricultural workers with some border elements like more immigration judges or technology.

And Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is holding talks with Republicans on gun reforms, predicting he’ll know by the end of next month if there’s likely to be an agreement.

If the talks fall apart, however, it’s likely to pour fuel onto calls from those within their own party to change the rules.

“The Republicans make the case that the filibuster is an incentive for bipartisanship,” Murphy said. “So let’s test the theory. Let’s see if Republicans really do come to the table on an issue like guns. If they don’t, given how much I’m willing to engage, then it’s increased evidence that the current rules don’t work.

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Jan 6th Commission

[VIDEO] Trey Gowdy accuses the media of being ‘too scared’ to ask Pelosi questions

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‘Sunday Night in America’ slammed the Speaker for rejecting GOP picks for Jan. 6 committee.

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These immigrants have one shot to come to the US. But Biden has to act.

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Three years ago, amid negotiations over immigration reform, then-President Donald Trump infamously questioned why the US was taking in immigrants from “Shithole countries.”

He was referring to people from African nations who often have no legal pathway to come to the US except through a program known as the “diversity visa lottery.” Every year, roughly 55,000 people from countries with low levels of immigration to the US are chosen via a lottery to apply for a visa through the program. For many of them, it’s a golden ticket to a better life.

It wasn’t the first time the program had been targeted and misrepresented by Trump. He blamed a 2017 terrorists attack in New York on the program, vowing to end it. And he presented it as antithetical to his proposal for a “marit-based” immigration system, under which the US would select visa applicants based on desirable labor market attributes — defined so as to make the immigrant population whiter and richer.

Trump never actually managed to end the program, but his administration deprioritized the applicants relative to other immigrants. President Joe Biden’s election was supposed to bring diversity visa applicants relief. He had promised on the campaign trail that he would keep the program intact, and soon after his inauguration, he pledged to expand the program by 25,000 visasannually as part of his proposed comprehensive immigration reform package.

But well into the first year of his presidency, that hasn’t come to fruition. Rather, diversity visa lottery winners who applied for visas amid the Covid-19 pandemic now risk losing their opportunity to come to the US — in part because the State Department has continued the Trump-era policy of deprioritizing their applications.

“What the Biden administration has done to the diversity visa program in deprioritizing, it contravenes those campaign promises, and we’re worse off because of it,” said Rafael Urena, an American attorney representing diversity visa applicants affected by the policy. “We really draw from the strength of our diverse population.”

In response to a request for comment, a State Department official emailed me a statement on the condition of anonymity saying that the US government’s capacity to review these applications and schedule the required interviews depends on US embassies and consulates abroad, many of which are backlogged due to closures and capacity limits amid the pandemic.

They have been prioritizing services to US citizens overseas and issuing visas in urgent or emergency situations, such as for people seeking to aid America’s response to the pandemic. Immediate family members of US citizens, international adoptions, and engaged couples are next on the priority list. Diversity visa applicants are at the very bottom.

“Because of the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, it is impossible to forecast how many [diversity visas] we will issue this year, but we want to set appropriate expectations and say that it is very likely we will not issue the full allotment allowed,” the official said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in profound reductions in the Department’s visa processing capacity,” the official added. “Additionally, a range of presidential proclamations restricting travel in response to the pandemic have resulted in further constraints on visa issuances worldwide.”

That means diversity visa applicants could miss a once-in-a-lifetime chance to come to the US. The government has to process their applications by a September 30 deadline; otherwise, they lose their spot. And they likely won’t win the lottery again — they have a less than 1 percent chance of being selected from among more than 23 million entrants.

“It’s once in a lifetime,” said Maxwell Goodluck, a diversity visa lottery winner from Ghana who applied every year for 12 years before he was eventually selected. “If we lose this opportunity, it would take the grace of God for it to come back again,” he told me, referring to himself and the other applicants in the same position. “We don’t know what to do.”

The administration’s failure to issue diversity visas has left thousands in limbo

Severals lawsuits  brought by roughly 25,000 diversity visa lottery winners from 141 countries altogether have argued that the federal government faces a legal obligation to review the applications of people who won the lottery and that the US’s vast resources can make that happen. But if that’s not possible, they say they should still have the opportunity to be issued a visa beyond the September 30 deadline.

For Lizbeth Rosales, a diversity visa lottery winner from Lima, Peru, that’s just what seems right. “We don’t have anything against the country or the citizens of America. We just want whatever is fair. That’s it,” she said. “We are not just case numbers. We are people. We have feelings, we have hopes, dreams. This is our only chance for a better future.”

The uncertainty as to whether diversity visa lottery winners will eventually be able to come to the US has left many putting their plans on hold and living with constant anxiety.

Rosales, who also applied for diversity visas on behalf of her husband and their two young children, w as planning to move to New Orleans, where she previously spent a year working in the hospitality industry as an intern on a student visa.

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She has friends there who encouraged her to apply for the visa lottery in the first place, and her husband, who works as a cook on a cruise ship, would also be able to find work. They were also hoping to pursue better educational opportunities for themselves and for their 4-year-old son and almost 1-year-old daughter.

Given that the pandemic has hit Peru particularly hard, leading to one of the highest per capita death rates in the world and a deep economics recessions, Rosales said that moving to the US at this particular moment seems especially attractive. But the uncertainty has been tough to live with. She has commiserated with other diversity visa lottery winners in the region on WhatsApp groups.

“For some of them, this is their only way out. This really breaks my heart because I consider myself to be in a better position than others. It may be God making me experience all of this to better understand or value my life,” she said. “I feel affected not only for me but for the rest. You feel touched by other people’s suffering. So this definitely creates sadness and anxiety as well. I wish the reality was different.”

Goodluck, the lottery winner from Ghana, says he and others are experiencing this anxiety. “We hardly sleep these days,” he told me. “Sometimes, you can’t even concentrate. You’re thinking about it 24/7. To console ourselves, we end up crying.”

He has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and is working in the IT department for Ghana’s education department, but he says he has always wanted to pursue cybersecurity, which would require further education. He has a cousin in Colorado who has promised to support him in that goal if he moves to the US.

His backup plan is to pursue a master’s degree in computer science in Ghana. In order to study cybersecurity, he would have to take an online course. But the fees are high, and he doesn’t want to start the program without knowing whether he will stay in the country.

“It’s a nightmare,” he said.

Democrats in Congress have proposed legislation to help — but it might not go far enough

House Democrats have been trying to remedy the plight of diversity visa lottery winners from 2020 and 2021, but it’s not clear they will succeed.

Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) has put forth an amendments to a Homeland Security appropriations bill that would allow unused diversity visas from 2020 and 2021 to remain available after the fiscal year ends on September 30. That means that a portion of the 55,000 or so diversity visas allocated for next year would go to people who had applied in previous years.

Though the amendment has passed in the relevant House committee, the entire bill still has to survive a full floor vote in the House. And it has yet to be considered by the Senate, where it is likely to face opposition from GOP members.

In May, Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) also introduced legislation that would aid the almost 21,000 people who were either granted diversity visas or had applied for them but were prevented from entering the country under Trump-era bans. However, it hasn’t gained any traction in the months since.

But neither of those bills addresses the lengthy wait times that diversity visa applicants are likely to face, even if they remain eligible beyond the September deadline. And diversity visa applicants from years past would take away spots from future applicants under Meng’s amendment.

“It would solve the issue of loss of eligibility,” Urena, the attorney representing diversity visa applicants, said. “But actually getting them into the country — the Biden administration would have to refocus its efforts on adjudicating diversity visas. We’re looking at long wait times and basically losing eligibility every year for [new] diversity visa applicants.”

Urena said the cost of waiting can be high. He had one client who had won the diversity visa lottery in 2020 but died while he was waiting for his visa to be issued. His older children had been hoping to come to the US on diversity visas and start a new life, but that won’t be possible now because they are no longer eligible through their father.

It’s a frustrating reality for families that are just trying to find a legal pathway to come to the US. “We didn’t do anything against the law. We just follow what is supposed to be followed,” Rosales said. “If we really are treated with fairness, we can be a good asset to the country.”

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[VIDEO] GOP Lawmaker Says His District Is ‘Under Direct Assault’ From Biden’s Border Policies

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In the House GOP weekly address, Rep. August Pfluger (R-TX) blamed President Biden’s policies for harming his district and others across the country.

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