NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, March 21st, 2022

A late winter thaw in Congress yields another long-haul win for Senator Patty Murray

Con­gress expe­ri­enced a thaw in frozen posi­tions and grid­lock late this win­ter, its dura­tion unknown but wor­thy of recog­ni­tion. Up for reelec­tion, Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray, D‑Washington, could take to the evening news with a pair of achievements.

Repub­li­cans didn’t shut down the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, which bespeaks their hopes of cap­tur­ing Con­gress in the 2022 midterm elections.

The Sen­ate passed, on a bipar­ti­san 68–31 vote, a 2,700-page, $1.5 tril­lion omnibus bill that will keep the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment run­ning until September.

Okay, it was five months into the cur­rent fis­cal year, but craft­ing a com­pro­mise can take that long. The leg­is­la­tion pro­vides a $46 bil­lion or 6.7 per­cent increase in non-defense spend­ing, insist­ed on by Democ­rats, with a $2 bil­lion, 5.6 per­cent defense boost at the insis­tence of Republicans.

Repub­li­can attacks on vac­cine man­dates were bat­ted away. A $13.8 bil­lion Ukrain­ian aid pack­age was includ­ed, opposed only by the far, far right.

The spend­ing bill reau­tho­rizes, until 2027, the land­mark Vio­lence Against Women Act, orig­i­nal­ly enact­ed in 1994 with Mur­ray and then-Sen­a­tor Joe Biden, D‑Delaware, as lead spon­sors. The act had expired in Feb­ru­ary of 2019, and expired ear­ly in the past decade as Con­gress fought over its 2013 extension.

VAWA emerged stronger. It expands spe­cial crim­i­nal juris­dic­tion of trib­al courts to cov­er non-Native per­pe­tra­tors of sex­u­al assault, child abuse, stalk­ing, sex traf­fick­ing and assaults on trib­al police that take place on trib­al lands.

Get VAWA Done Rally

Scene from a Get VAWA Done ral­ly in 2013 with US Sen­a­tor Daniel Aka­ka. NCAI First Vice Pres­i­dent Jua­na Majel Dixon, Tulalip Tribes Vice Pres­i­dent Deb­o­rah Park­er, and Ter­ri Hen­ry, Co-chair of the NCAI Task Force on Vio­lence Against Women (Pho­to: Nation­al Con­gress of Amer­i­can Indi­ans, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

The leg­is­la­tion boosts ser­vices and sup­port for under­served and mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties – includ­ing LGBTQ+ sur­vivors of domes­tic vio­lence, vic­tims of dat­ing vio­lence, and stalk­ing. It pro­vides mon­ey for sur­vivor-based, com­mu­ni­ty cen­tered sup­port services.

“The trib­al pro­vi­sions in the VAWA reau­tho­riza­tion is real­ly a big deal,” said Sen­a­tor Kyrsten Sine­ma, D‑Arizona. It didn’t come with­out a pro­longed fight.

A decade ago, Repub­li­cans were cool to trib­al pro­tec­tion, and opposed pro­tec­tion of same-sex vic­tims, and fought against allow­ing bat­tered undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants tem­po­rary visas while their cas­es were heard.

Democ­rats have yet to secure pro­vi­sions bar­ring those con­vict­ed of vio­lence against women from the future pur­chase of firearms.

The VAWA bat­tles have shown Murray’s tenacity.

The Repub­li­can-run House tried to run a weak­er bill in 2013, recruit­ing Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers, R‑Washington, as prime sponsor.

They final­ly yield­ed to a vote.

The weak­er Repub­li­can bill went down to defeat, the stronger leg­is­la­tion cham­pi­oned by Mur­ray was sent to Pres­i­dent Oba­ma for signature.

A sec­ond major accom­plish­ment of Con­gress, the long-sought Postal Ser­vice Reform Act, will put the U.S. Postal Ser­vice back on its fis­cal feet. It passed on bipar­ti­san votes of 79–19 in the Sen­ate and 342–92 in the House.

The leg­is­la­tion requires retired Postal Ser­vice employ­ees to enroll in Medicare, drop­ping Con­gress’ pre­vi­ous man­date that forced the USPS to cov­er its health care costs years in advance.

The Act will save an esti­mat­ed $50 bil­lion over the com­ing decade.

The Post Office gets no appro­pri­a­tion but must rely on its own revenues.

The Postal Ser­vice Reform Act would require that USPS cre­ate an online dash­board with local and nation­al data on the deliv­ery of mail.

It also ensures con­tin­u­a­tion of six-day mail deliv­ery: Dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, many Amer­i­cans have depend­ed on the Post Office for com­merce and per­son­al communication.

With­out removal of the health care require­ment, the USPS was in dan­ger of run­ning out of mon­ey in 2024. As Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Chuck Schumer not­ed, “The Post Office usu­al­ly deliv­ers for us, but today we’re going to deliv­er for them.”

On short notice, the U.S. Sen­ate has also approved on a voice vote leg­is­la­tion that would make Day­light Sav­ing Time per­ma­nent across Amer­i­ca, except in Ari­zona and Hawaii, where res­i­dents do not switch their clocks. If approved by the House, the Sun­shine Pro­tec­tion Act would take effect in Novem­ber of 2023.

The coun­try tried year-around Day­light Sav­ing Time in the 1970s, dur­ing the Arab Oil Embar­go, but dark ear­ly morn­ings caused Con­gress to go back to semi­an­nu­al clock switch­es. The Sun­shine Pro­tec­tion Act was cham­pi­oned by the unusu­al duo of Mur­ray and Mar­co Rubio, R‑Florida. “We’re one step clos­er to nev­er hav­ing to change our clocks again,” Mur­ray said after the Sen­ate vote.

The leg­is­la­tion elicit­ed a grumpy response from Washington’s Repub­li­can State Chair­man Caleb Heim­lich. “I am glad we are doing away with chang­ing our clocks,” Heim­lich tweet­ed. “I just wish Pat­ty Mur­ray had any oth­er leg­isla­tive accom­plish­ments over the past thir­ty years.”

What about the Vio­lence Against Women Act, passed twen­ty-eight years ago and reen­act­ed with­in the same week? Doesn’t go with the Repub­li­can nar­ra­tive, espe­cial­ly when Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers tried to weak­en VAWA and fel­low Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Doc Hast­ings vot­ed against the 2013 VAWA reauthorization.

Adjacent posts

  • Enjoyed what you just read? Make a donation

    Thank you for read­ing The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s jour­nal of world, nation­al, and local politics.

    Found­ed in March of 2004, The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate has been help­ing peo­ple through­out the Pacif­ic North­west and beyond make sense of cur­rent events with rig­or­ous analy­sis and thought-pro­vok­ing com­men­tary for more than fif­teen years. The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate is fund­ed by read­ers like you and trust­ed spon­sors. We don’t run ads or pub­lish con­tent in exchange for money.

    Help us keep The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate edi­to­ri­al­ly inde­pen­dent and freely avail­able to all by becom­ing a mem­ber of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute today. Or make a dona­tion to sus­tain our essen­tial research and advo­ca­cy journalism.

    Your con­tri­bu­tion will allow us to con­tin­ue bring­ing you fea­tures like Last Week In Con­gress, live cov­er­age of events like Net­roots Nation or the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, and reviews of books and doc­u­men­tary films.

    Become an NPI mem­ber Make a one-time donation

  • NPI’s essential research and advocacy is sponsored by: