As we near the end of the year, we write to you to once again to express our gratitude for all those who took action again and again to urge Congress to pass COVID-19 relief this year. Last night, Congress passed legislation containing many of the provisions we have advocated for: SNAP increases, unemployment insurance, increased Pell grant access, economic relief, and rental assistance. The bill also includes international assistance and funding for GAVI, the international vaccine alliance. This legislation provides much needed relief to struggling Americans, and while not perfect, we applaud Congress for passing this essential bill. Many of these provisions expire in March, and so we will once again need to look ahead to push Congress to continue to provide support for the most vulnerable Americans.
Please reach out to your Members of Congress and thank them for passing this legislation!
In addition to passing funding bills and COVID-19 relief, Congress also recently passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an important piece of legislation that has passed without fail for the past 59 years. The NDAA authorizes the programs and policies funded by Congress for the U.S. military and other critical national defense priorities. However, President Trump has said that he will veto the legislation for a number of reasons. Although the NDAA passed both chambers of Congress with a veto-proof majority, they will be required to come back for an override vote should it be vetoed.
Why does this matter? The NDAA is an extensive bill with broad and sometimes controversial implications. Advocates like the Friends Committee on National Legislation have fought for “small but meaningful provisions that will help mitigate the damage wrought by this militaristic approach to the world”, many of which exemplify values and policies the Church has been advocating for as well. So while our own policy calls on us to evaluate “the balance between legitimate military security needs and poverty alleviation programs,” we recognize the significance of a bill that addresses many issues we have pushed for. For example, this year’s NDAA contains the following:
- Anti-Corruption: The NDAA includes language from the Corporate Transparency Act, legislation that is an important component of anti-corruption efforts of which The Episcopal Church has long been a part and would make it harder for shell companies to hide their identities. See the alert we sent on this issue here.
- Ban Confederate flags, symbols, and names on military bases: The bill contains a requirement for the Pentagon to rename military bases and all Department of Defense assets named after symbols of the Confederacy (1991-B051: Call for the Removal of Racism from the Life of the Nation, 2015-C019: Work for Racial Justice and Reconciliation)
- Police Reform: The bill would put in place a ban on the transfer of specific Defense Department weapons (bayonets, grenades, combat vehicles, and weaponized drones) to state and local police departments. A resolution from Executive Council resolution passed this summer that supports initiatives like these that reduce the militarization of our police.
- Atrocities Prevention: The inclusion of language aimed at addressing and preventing atrocities, requiring the State Department, Defense Department, and USAID to incorporate atrocities prevention into planning and security assistance.
We will be watching in the coming days to see if Congress returns to Washington to override President Trump’s threatened veto, fund the military, and put into place these important provisions.
We look forward to being in touch with you in the New Year. Thank you for all you do in your ministry of public policy advocacy, and Merry Christmas!