Congress: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Barb Wire

By Tony Perkins

Despite Congress’s gridlock on a host of issues related to our national security and economic stability, last week included two bright spots for conservatives interested in common-sense policy reforms. The good news: coming just a day after news of Meriam Ibrahim’s safe travels with her family to Italy, Congress gave advocates of international religious freedom one more reason to celebrate. Late Friday, the House passed by unanimous consent S. 653, the Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act of 2014, a bill which establishes a Special Envoy to advocate for religious minorities in the region of the world most impacted by the violent persecution of believers.

Human rights advocates like Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va.) have long championed this bill as a necessary tool for forcing the State Department to prioritize the protection of religious freedom in our diplomacy abroad; with the House agreeing unanimously to approve Senator Roy Blunt’s (R-Mo.) Senate-passed companion bill, the legislation now heads to the President’s desk for his signature. Given this administration’s anemic defense of religious liberty abroad — including on behalf of those Americans still detained in foreign prisons like Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran — this legislation is critical. As we continue to see in Iraq, when the U.S. remains silent regarding the targeted annihilation of religious minorities, radical groups advance their bloody agenda unchecked. These vulnerable religious communities desperately need defenders, and with passage of S. 653, the administration may at long last be forced to take up their case.

Passage of this bill and criticism of the Administration’s mishandling of religious liberty surely played into the President’s nine month overdue nomination for the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. It is important that Senators ask questions of the President’s nominee, Rabbi David Saperstein, regarding his view of religious freedom since he has criticized the Hobby Lobby ruling as “deeply troubling.” He is an adjunct professor at Washington’s Georgetown University, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and a board member of People for the American Way. Any nominee should support the fundamental principle that religious liberty is not confined to one’s house of worship or for only some people.

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More good news included the fact that the House also took up the case of families on Friday — passing H.R. 4935, the Child Tax Credit Improvement Act. Long championed by FRC, the Child Tax Credit (CTC) recognizes the importance of the family in society and the importance of children to future economic growth. The House took action to not only index the credit for inflation, but also to eliminate existing marriage penalties in the credit. Congressman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee spoke about FRC’s support during floor debate on Friday, noting that “A fair system of taxation does not penalize marriage and family.” We couldn’t agree more.

The bad news: the Senate is unlikely to join the House in advancing the Child Tax Credit Improvement Act — the common-sense tax proposal passed in the House will likely go nowhere in the Senate. Instead, the ugly news: under Majority Leader Reid’s (D-Nev.) leadership, the Senate continues to confirm extreme liberal justices to federal courts. Today, the Senate confirmed progressive liberal justice Pamela Harris to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals by the narrowest vote possible, 50-43. Her confirmation is a reminder that our efforts to support good legislative outcomes like those highlighted in the House last week aren’t enough — we still must work to defeat radical judicial nominees and slow the progressive liberal agenda in the Senate.

Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.

(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

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