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Federal Legislative Update June 2013

 

June 28, 2013
June 21, 2013
June 14, 2013
June 7, 2013

June 28, 2013

SENATE APPROVES COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL—NOW URGE THE HOUSE TO ACT


With broad bipartisan support, the Senate passed the landmark Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) on June 27 by a vote of 68-32. NEA strongly urged Senators to vote yes on the historic measure. Now, it’s up to the House to take action.

The Senate bill includes these key priorities for students and their families:

  • A pathway to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans
  • Ensuring and promoting family unity
  • The DREAM Act, which provides an expedited, five-year path to citizenship for eligible high school graduates

Although the bipartisan “Little DREAMers” amendment that would put eligible elementary and middle-school students on the same five-year path to citizenship as their older siblings did notreceive a vote, efforts will continue to make it part of a final bill.

“Immigration policy profoundly impacts NEA members and their students,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “The U.S. House of Representatives holds the key to open the door wide open for these aspiring new Americans. It can make or break their American dreams. We urge the Republican leaders of the House to do what is right and just, and follow in the footsteps of the Senate to swiftly pass immigration reform.”

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

STUDENT LOAN INTEREST RATE DOUBLES ON JULY 1—TELL CONGRESS TO ROLL IT BACK


With Congress unable to reach agreement, the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans rises to 6.8 percent on July 1—double what it is now. To allow time to develop a long-term solution, the NEA-supported Keep Student Loans Affordable Act of 2013 (S. 1238), would maintain the current 3.4 percent interest rate for one more year. The Senate is expected to vote on S. 1238 when it returns from recess the week of July 8.

Other proposals would balance the budget on the backs of low- and middle-income students struggling to pay for college and allow rates to fluctuate, and possibly spike, during a students’ time in school. Last year, total student debt passed the $1 trillion mark. Already, 35 percent of our nation’s 37 million students are behind on their loan payments.

Adding to the student loan debt burden will not only harm students, it will adversely affect America’s economy—those who face crushing debt cannot buy homes or cars, start businesses, support families, or invest, invent, innovate or otherwise contribute to economic growth. All students who wish to do so should be able to pursue higher education and their dreams, regardless of ability to pay.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • E-mail Congress—Tell your Senators and Representative to maintain the current 3.4 interest rate to allow time to develop a long-term solution.

HOUSE POISED TO ACT ON ESEA REAUTHORIZATION


The Republican leadership of the House is planning to bring the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) to the floor in July. NEA opposed H.R. 5 in committee for a number of reasons, but particularly raised concerns that it would erode the historical federal role in public education of targeting resources to marginalized student populations as a means of helping to ensure equity of opportunity for all students.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has approved a Democrat-backed ESEA reauthorization plan, the Strengthening America’s Schools Act (S. 1094), but floor action appears unlikely at this time.

NEA is urging Congress to provide flexibility, empower educators, and focus on ESEA’s original promise of equity and fairness for students. That message resonates powerfully, especially when it comes from those who know best: classroom teachers and education support professionals.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • E-mail Congress—Tell your Representative and Senators to get ESEA reauthorization right.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Al Franken (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) for introducing S. 1238, which would keep student loan rates at 3.4 percent for another year.

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68 U.S. Senators who voted YES on comprehensive immigration reform, including these 14 Republicans who joined all 52 Democrats and 2 Independents in supporting the bill: Lamar Alexander (TN), Kelly Ayotte (NH), Jeff Chiesa (NJ), Susan Collins (ME), Bob Corker (TN), Jeff Flake (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), Orrin Hatch (UT), Dean Heller (NV), John Hoeven (ND), Mark Kirk (IL), John McCain (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Marco Rubio (FL).

Jeers to:

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the dwindling number of GOP senators who continue to oppose allowing a Senate-House conference committee to negotiate a fiscal year 2014 budget—in the nearly 100 days since the Senate passed a budget, they have blocked 15 attempts to do so.

June 21, 2013


SENATE APPROVES COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL—NOW URGE THE HOUSE TO ACT


With broad bipartisan support, the Senate passed the landmark Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) on June 27 by a vote of 68-32. NEA strongly urged Senators to vote yes on the historic measure. Now, it’s up to the House to take action.

The Senate bill includes these key priorities for students and their families:

  • A pathway to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans
  • Ensuring and promoting family unity
  • The DREAM Act, which provides an expedited, five-year path to citizenship for eligible high school graduates

Although the bipartisan “Little DREAMers” amendment that would put eligible elementary and middle-school students on the same five-year path to citizenship as their older siblings did notreceive a vote, efforts will continue to make it part of a final bill.

“Immigration policy profoundly impacts NEA members and their students,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “The U.S. House of Representatives holds the key to open the door wide open for these aspiring new Americans. It can make or break their American dreams. We urge the Republican leaders of the House to do what is right and just, and follow in the footsteps of the Senate to swiftly pass immigration reform.”

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

STUDENT LOAN INTEREST RATE DOUBLES ON JULY 1—TELL CONGRESS TO ROLL IT BACK


With Congress unable to reach agreement, the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans rises to 6.8 percent on July 1—double what it is now. To allow time to develop a long-term solution, the NEA-supported Keep Student Loans Affordable Act of 2013 (S. 1238), would maintain the current 3.4 percent interest rate for one more year. The Senate is expected to vote on S. 1238 when it returns from recess the week of July 8.

Other proposals would balance the budget on the backs of low- and middle-income students struggling to pay for college and allow rates to fluctuate, and possibly spike, during a students’ time in school. Last year, total student debt passed the $1 trillion mark. Already, 35 percent of our nation’s 37 million students are behind on their loan payments.

Adding to the student loan debt burden will not only harm students, it will adversely affect America’s economy—those who face crushing debt cannot buy homes or cars, start businesses, support families, or invest, invent, innovate or otherwise contribute to economic growth. All students who wish to do so should be able to pursue higher education and their dreams, regardless of ability to pay.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • E-mail Congress—Tell your Senators and Representative to maintain the current 3.4 interest rate to allow time to develop a long-term solution.

HOUSE POISED TO ACT ON ESEA REAUTHORIZATION


The Republican leadership of the House is planning to bring the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) to the floor in July. NEA opposed H.R. 5 in committee for a number of reasons, but particularly raised concerns that it would erode the historical federal role in public education of targeting resources to marginalized student populations as a means of helping to ensure equity of opportunity for all students.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has approved a Democrat-backed ESEA reauthorization plan, the Strengthening America’s Schools Act (S. 1094), but floor action appears unlikely at this time.

NEA is urging Congress to provide flexibility, empower educators, and focus on ESEA’s original promise of equity and fairness for students. That message resonates powerfully, especially when it comes from those who know best: classroom teachers and education support professionals.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • E-mail Congress—Tell your Representative and Senators to get ESEA reauthorization right.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Al Franken (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) for introducing S. 1238, which would keep student loan rates at 3.4 percent for another year.

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68 U.S. Senators who voted YES on comprehensive immigration reform, including these 14 Republicans who joined all 52 Democrats and 2 Independents in supporting the bill: Lamar Alexander (TN), Kelly Ayotte (NH), Jeff Chiesa (NJ), Susan Collins (ME), Bob Corker (TN), Jeff Flake (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), Orrin Hatch (UT), Dean Heller (NV), John Hoeven (ND), Mark Kirk (IL), John McCain (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Marco Rubio (FL).

Jeers to:

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the dwindling number of GOP senators who continue to oppose allowing a Senate-House conference committee to negotiate a fiscal year 2014 budget—in the nearly 100 days since the Senate passed a budget, they have blocked 15 attempts to do so.

HOUSE GOP ESEA BILL ADVANCES TO FLOOR — TELL CONGRESS TO GET IT RIGHT


The House Education and Workforce Committee on Wednesday approved, on a 23 — 16 party line vote, the ESEA reauthorization bill introduced by Chairman John Kline (R-MN), the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). NEA opposed the bill for a number of reasons, but particularly raised concerns that it would erode the historical federal role in public education of targeting resources to marginalized student populations as a means of helping to ensure equity of opportunity for all students. The Republican leadership of the House has indicated that it plans to bring the bill to the floor in July, possibly toward the end of the month. Just last week, the Senate HELP Committee approved a Democratic-backed ESEA reauthorization plan, but floor action is not likely at this time.

NEA is urging Congress to provide flexibility, empower educators, and focus on ESEA’s original promise of equity and fairness for students. That message resonates powerfully, especially when it comes from those who know best: classroom teachers and education support professionals.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • E-mail Congress—Tell your Senator and Representatives to get ESEA reauthorization right.

LET CONGRESS KNOW YOU SUPPORT IMMIGRATION REFORM AND ‘LITTLE DREAMERS’ AMENDMENT


The Senate continues work on immigration reform with the goal of approving the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) by the end of next week. This week, Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), introduced the NEA-supported “Little DREAMers” amendment that would put eligible elementary and middle-school students on the same five-year path to citizenship as their older siblings. “Educators know that providing our students—including our Little DREAMers—every opportunity to succeed is part of the fabric of our schools, communities, and our country,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “The Little DREAMers amendment upholds these principles to do right by children so they can achieve their full potential.” A vote on the amendment is possible next week.

S. 744 includes NEA’s priorities for students and their families:

  • A pathway to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans
  • Ensuring and promoting family unity
  • The DREAM Act, which provides an expedited, five-year path to citizenship for eligible high school graduates

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

URGE CONGRESS TO ACT, PREVENT DOUBLING OF STUDENT LOAN RATES ON JULY 1


Unless Congress acts, student loan rates will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1. Negotiations are ongoing between the Senate, House and White House, with action on a compromise at least possible next week.

Some 60 percent of students must borrow to attend college. Last year, total student debt passed the $1 trillion mark. Already, 35 percent of our nation’s 37 million students are behind on their loan payments—a number that will only grow if interest rates and the cost of borrowing rise. Adding to the student loan debt burden will not only harm students, it will adversely affect America’s economy—those who face crushing debt cannot buy homes or cars, start businesses, support families, or invest, invent, innovate or otherwise contribute to economic growth.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • E-mail Congress—Tell your Senators and Representative not to let student loan rates double.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) for being lead sponsors of the Little DREAMers amendment to the immigration reform bill, and Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) for co-sponsoring it.

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Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) for offering an amendment to the House farm bill to restore $20.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Representatives Michael Grimm (R-NY), David Joyce (R-OH), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Christopher Smith (R-NJ), and Don Young (R-AK) for crossing party lines and supporting the amendment, which was voted down 234-188. As Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said about cutting SNAP benefits, “It is cruel, it is unnecessary and it’s an abdication of our responsibility to the American people.” See whether your representative voted to restore SNAP funding. Ironically, not 24 hours later, the House rejected the entire Farm Bill in a bi-partisan vote, nullifying (for now) the very deep SNAP cuts.

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To several members for their actions and words at the House ESEA markup, including: Representative Joe Heck (R-NV) for introducing an amendment to the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), adopted by voice vote, that would make dual enrollment and early college high schools allowable uses of ESEA funding.

  • Representative Ruben Hinojosa (D- TX) for his powerful statement about the importance of involving educators in the development of their evaluation systems and the importance of professional development.
  • Representative Frederica Wilson (D-FL) for her statements about ensuring equity and opportunity for all students.
  • Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) for her strong statement in support of educators and her public commitment to improving education for all children.

Jeers to:

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Senate Appropriations Committee Republicans for opposing the fiscal year 2014 funding allocation, proposed by Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), that would replace continuing cuts from sequestration, and boost the funding allocation for the Labor/HHS/Education appropriations bill by more than $14 billion over the final “sequestered” FY13 level.

June 14, 2013

ONE ESEA REAUTHORIZATION MARKUP DOWN, ONE TO GO: TELL CONGRESS TO GET IT RIGHT

Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is moving. This week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved Chairman Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) reauthorization bill, the Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013 (S. 1094), on a 12-10 party-line vote. NEA urged the committee to keep equity and fairness front and center, along with shared responsibility for student success, and to adopt amendments that help achieve that goal and reject those that do not. NEA took no position on the base bill, finding some promising improvements in it but too many areas still needing work. There is no immediate timeline for the bill to reach the Senate floor.

On June 19, the House Education and the Workforce Committee will markup its version of ESEA reauthorization, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) put forward by Chairman John Kline (R-MN). Like the Senate bill, the House version is expected to emerge from a partisan markup. House Republican leadership has indicated it plans to take up its ESEA measure on the House floor in July.

NEA is urging Congress to provide flexibility, empower educators, and focus on ESEA’s original promise of equity and fairness for students. That message resonates powerfully, especially when it comes from those who know best: classroom teachers and education support professionals.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • E-mail Congress—Tell your Senator and Representatives to get ESEA reauthorization right.

URGE THE SENATE TO PASS IMMIGRATION REFORM, TREAT STUDENTS FAIRLY


The Senate voted 82-15 this week to begin debating the bipartisan Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744)—a watershed moment that paves the way for fierce battles over amendments before a final vote, which leadership hopes to hold before the July recess. Last week, more than 5,000 educators participated in a telephone town hall to hear the latest news on immigration reform and to discuss maintaining their hard-won momentum.

NEA sent a letter encouraging Senators to act swiftly and pass S. 744, which includes NEA’s priorities for students and their families:

  • A pathway to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans
  • Ensuring and promoting family unity
  • Inclusion of the DREAM Act, which provides an expedited, five-year path to citizenship for eligible high school graduates

We also continue advocating adoption of a “Little DREAMers amendment by Sen. Blumenthal (D-CT), which puts younger, eligible children on the expedited, five-year path to citizenship.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

TELL MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO SUPPORT, CO-SPONSOR BILL REPEALING GPO/WEP PENALTIES


The bipartisan Social Security Fairness Act of 2013 (H.R. 1795/S. 896), recently introduced in both the House and the Senate, would repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO), which reduces public employees’ Social Security spousal or survivor benefits by two-thirds of their public pension, and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), which reduces the earned Social Security benefits of an individual who also receives a public pension from a job not covered by Social Security. GPO and WEP are unfair—they deprive educators and other public employees of Social Security benefits they have earned.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • E-mail Congress—Urge your Senators and Representative to support and co-sponsor the Social Security Fairness Act of 2013.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for her amendment to the Senate HELP Committee ESEA reauthorization bill to ensure that charter schools are held to the same accountability standards as traditional public schools. Unfortunately, she was forced to withdraw the amendment due to concerns raised by charter school operators.

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Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) for his amendment to ESEA to allow parents and educators to determine appropriate standards and assessments for students with disabilities. The Committee rejected the amendment on a vote of 9-12.

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Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) for his amendment to ESEA to prioritize Title II formula funds to better direct them toward students in poverty. The Committee rejected the amendment on a vote of 8-14.

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All Senate HELP Committee Democrats and Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) for opposing a private school voucher amendment to ESEA offered by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). The amendment failed on a vote of 8-14.

Jeers to:

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for proposing a private school voucher amendment to the Senate HELP Committee’s ESEA bill. His amendment failed on a vote of 8-14.

thumbsdown House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who is calling for another round of spending cuts beyond the sequester. “I believe that if we’re going to increase the debt limit, there ought to be cuts and reforms in place that are greater than the increase in the debt limit,” Boehner said June 11 in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
thumbsdown Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for erecting a roadblock to moving fiscal year 2014 appropriations bills by vowing to oppose funding levels unless they continue the devastating sequester.

June 7, 2013

SENATE AND HOUSE BEGIN MOVING ON ESEA REAUTHORIZATION - TELL CONGRESS TO GET IT RIGHT


Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) will be front and center in the next few weeks. On June 11, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will start “marking up” Chairman Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) reauthorization bill, the Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013, released this week. Ranking Member Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) also released the Republicans’ reauthorization bill, the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2013. Each is a partisan bill after negotiations between the parties came up short. The markup is expected to last a couple days.

Also this week, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) introduced the House Republican reauthorization bill, the Student Success Act, with Committee action set for June 19. House leadership has indicated it plans to take up the ESEA measure on the House floor in July.

Ahead of the committee markups, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said, “The time has come for Congress to craft a fair, flexible, and innovative K-12 law that leads to real sustainable change for our children, while keeping the ESEA goals of equity and shared responsibility front and center.”

Collectively, the 3 reauthorization proposals are nearly 2,000 pages long. While intensive review of each continues, the time is now for educators to tell Congress to provide flexibility, empower educators, and focus on ESEA’s original promise of equity and fairness for students.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • E-mail Congress—Tell your Senator and Representatives what to get it right on ESEA reauthorization.

DEBATE UNDERWAY: URGE SENATE TO PASS COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL


Educators took part in NEA’s week of action for Comprehensive Immigration Reform as Americans everywhere downloaded NEA’s new graphic, DREAMers welcome. The Senate has begun debate on the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S. 744) and is expected to continue working on the bill for the rest of June. Votes could include the NEA-supported Little DREAMers amendment by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), which would extend the expedited 5-year path to citizenship for “DREAMers” for younger, eligible children.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

SPEAK UP FOR AFFORDABLE STUDENT LOANS


This week, student leaders from NEA and partner organizations met with legislators on Capitol Hill to build support for making federally subsidized student loans affordable and to prevent a doubling of interest rates. But for now, gridlock prevails. The Senate came up short of the needed 60 votes to advance an NEA-supported bill, S. 953, by Senators Reed (D-RI), Harkin (D-IA) and Reid (R-NV) that would freeze the current 3.4 percent interest rate for two years, and it rejected an NEA-opposed Republican bill (S. 1003) that would tie it to uncapped market rates, plus 3 percent. Click here for NEA’s letter to Congress on the issue.

The votes were not entirely along party lines. Sens. Manchin (D-WV) and King (I-ME) joined Republicans to block S. 953 by a vote of 51-46. Sens. Crapo (R-ID), Paul (R-KY), Risch (R-ID), and Toomey (R-PA) joined Democrats to block S. 1003 by a vote of 40-57.

Absent agreement by Congress and the White House, student loan rates will double on July 1.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • E-mail Congress—Tell your Senators and Representative to prevent rates from doubling and to make student loans affordable.
  • Check out NEA’s latest “meme” on this and urge friends and family to share their stories - whether they're a parent, student, recent graduate or educator - about how student loan debt has affected them.

PRESIDENT TO EXPAND, MODERNIZE E-RATE PROGRAM


President Obama announced this week a new expansion and modernization of the E-rate program, which has had overwhelming success in connecting our nation’s schools and classrooms to the Internet. The goal is to equip students with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in today’s global economy. Known as ConnectED, the new initiative, which only needs FCC approval, not Congressional approval , will:

  • Upgrade connectivity so that within five years, 99 percent of America’s students can access next-generation broadband and high-speed wireless in their schools and libraries.
  • Provide training for teachers to help them keep pace with changing technological and professional demands.
Build on private-sector innovation to enable teachers and students to take full advantage of feature-rich devices that are gateways to content aligned with college- and career-ready standards.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) for setting a new record for longest-serving member in the history of the U.S. Congress: 20,997 days.

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36 Republican House members for crossing party lines to join Democrats in voting down an anti-labor amendment to a military appropriations bill. See the roll call vote here.

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The 6 Republican House members — Reps. Spencer Bachus (AL), Jeff Denham (CA), Michael Grimm (NY), Devin Nunes (CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL) and David Valadao (CA) — who joined most Democrats in opposing an amendment to the Homeland Security appropriations bill to deny funding to implement the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects innocent children (DREAMers) from deportation. Click here for NEA’s letter of opposition to the amendment.

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Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) for introducing the Student Non-discrimination Act (S. 1088), which would protect students from school-based discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) who highlighted on the House floor the sequester-caused pending furloughs of educators at Department of Defense schools during debate on a funding measure, and to Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) for highlighting the impact that sequester cuts are having on Texas students and schools.

Jeers to:

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The 224 members of the House who voted for an amendment to the Homeland Security appropriations bill to deny funding to implement the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects innocent children (DREAMers) from deportation. Three Democrats — Reps. John Barrow (GA), Mike McIntyre (NC) and Nick Rahall (WV) — joined 221 Republicans in voting for the amendment. Click here for NEA’s letter of opposition to the amendment.