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Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: congress

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October 20, 2014 at 12:02 PM

Dave Chappelle’s status as racial commentator-in-chief reflects loss of faith in leaders and institutions

There was a time when Barack Obama was the go-to figure in conversations about race for most of white America.

As a 2008 presidential candidate, he riveted the populous with an exploration of the nation’s “racial stalemate.”

Those days are over, thanks largely to the popularity loss that comes with being a two-term president. And Obama hasn’t helped his own case as the nation’s racial healer-in-chief.

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Comments | Topics: barack obama, cdc, congress

July 14, 2014 at 6:20 AM

What candidates really mean when they say “secure the border”

Interviewing Congressional candidates over the past two weeks, The Seattle Times editorial board kept a tally of vague but repetitive phrases. Top of the list: “secure the border first.” I asked candidate after candidate to define “secure,” and got more vacuous rhetoric. Why is that so hard? Because the candidates aren’t saying what they really think. Christopher Wilson,…

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Comments | Topics: border security, congress, illegal immigration

June 30, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Patty Murray walks her way to political compromise; Obama and Boehner should do the same

As you can see in the photos below, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., likes to walk and talk and negotiate with Republicans. These are more or less photo ops, but they send a powerful message to the people: Politics involves negotiations, guts and old-fashioned getting along.  I can’t think of another Democrat who has had…

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Comments | Topics: boehner, compromise, congress

May 28, 2014 at 8:20 AM

Export-Import Bank more than just the ‘Bank of Boeing’

Boeing 777X

Boeing 777X

In this Washington, the idea that a federal agency helped Boeing sell 106 airliners last year might have us doing handstands, especially when we learn that it didn’t cost taxpayers a dime. The Export-Import Bank of the United States did it by offering $7.9 billion in loans, loan guarantees and credit insurance to foreign purchasers of Boeing aircraft, the same sort of thing it has done for the last 80 years.

Leave it to the other Washington to turn things upside down. Critics in Congress say this represents failure. They are leading a crusade to shut down the bank, on grounds that its lending to large corporations represents “corporate welfare” and crony capitalism.”

Somehow conservative rhetoric has been harnessed for a cause that will hamper America’s ability to compete in markets abroad, and the argument is so lofty it drifts in the direction of outer space. But here’s what counts. If Congress fails to reauthorize the bank by Oct. 1, the little guy gets whacked just like Boeing does. It’s not just the Bank of Boeing.

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Comments | Topics: congress, credit, ex-im

May 20, 2014 at 6:03 AM

U.S. House should pass anti-sex trafficking bills, crack down on Backpage.com

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote as early as Tuesday on several anti-sex trafficking bills. With broad support from members of both parties, these sweeping measures ought to have no problems getting passed off the floor and sent over to the U.S. Senate.

Take a look at the problem by the numbers:

  • In the U.S., up to 300,000 children are at risk of being sold for sex each year. (Source: U.S. Department of Justice)
  • Pimps and traffickers report making between $5,000 and $32,833 each week. (Source: Urban Institute)
  • In King County, conservative estimates show that between 300 and 500 boys and girls under the age of 18 are victims of commercial sexual exploitation every day. (Source: King County)

If they do indeed pull it off, then Americans should give lawmakers a rare pat on the back for working through their normally toxic relationship. Uniting behind victims of sexual exploitation is a no-brainer. But the legislation before the U.S. House this week creates some substantive changes. (The Seattle Times editorial board published a May 11 editorial in support of three of the proposed laws.) If Congress feels inspired enough to find consensus on this widespread problem, who knows. It could create enough goodwill for members to return to the table to resolve other stalled reform efforts (i.e. immigration).

One of the bills up for consideration, the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act, has caught some flak from Internet freedom advocates. To address their concerns, Samantha Vardaman, the senior director of policy for Shared Hope International, says the House Judiciary Committee amended the legislation on May 15 to ensure that federal charges and penalties are applied only to those websites that “knowingly” advertise minors.

That wording change raises the burden of proof for prosecutors and means the SAVE Act might not stop the posting of advertisements featuring commercially sexually exploited children. What’s to stop Backpage.com and its copycats from simply saying they didn’t know that photos posted on their sites are underage or victims of trafficking?

The SAVE Act is still a first step toward better, stronger policies in the future.

“It’s a thoughtful approach to introducing liability in a way that doesn’t exist currently,” Vardaman said over the phone.

Below is a list of the bills expected to be fast-tracked on Tuesday, courtesy of House Republican leadership:

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Comments | Topics: backpage, congress, sex trafficking

April 8, 2014 at 6:22 AM

U.S. Senate passes unemployment insurance extension, House should follow

U.S. House Republican leaders continue to make themselves easy targets for ridicule on issues that should have bipartisan support. Last year, they nearly derailed the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. For months, they have refused to consider comprehensive immigration reform. And now, they appear ready to deny unemployment benefits to more than two million Americans in desperate need of help as they continue to seek jobs.

Speaker John Boehner and his lieutenants, including U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane, are in no rush to provide temporary assistance to those trying to re-enter the work force. Meanwhile, struggling job-seekers such as Calvin Graedel of West Seattle find themselves spending their life savings and selling their homes to make ends meet.

Watch Graedel share his story in the video below, which was shot last month. (View the editorial board’s page featuring previous editorials, more videos, reader views and resources.)

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to extend emergency unemployment insurance benefits. All Democrats and six Republicans signed on. But according to The Huffington Post, the bill’s future in the House is bleak.

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Comments | Topics: congress, extension, unemployment

March 14, 2014 at 12:27 PM

Video: Workers struggle with loss of federal unemployment benefits

Corrected version

Unemployment is not an easy topic to write about. Much of the focus in media coverage is on faceless numbers and reports. Too often, Republicans and Democrats twist those figures for political purposes, sometimes accusing the jobless of abusing government assistance and refusing to better themselves. The naysayers forget the unemployed are real people struggling to raise families and make ends meet. The challenges they face are vastly different from one another, too.

Nearly 2 million Americans are struggling with long-term unemployment, which means they have not been able to find work after receiving a total of 26 weeks of state jobless benefits. Since 2008, Congress has kicked in emergency assistance at the 27-week mark to help these workers pay their bills as they continue to look for work. In December, Congress failed to extend this important lifeline, profoundly affecting the lives of people who are used to working, paying taxes and contributing to their local economies.

Calvin Graedel and Nichole Clemens are among the nearly tens of thousands of long-term unemployed Washington residents who stopped receiving temporary assistance after Dec. 28.

Watch their stories below.

Graedel, 60, worked as a regional sales manager until he lost his job in November 2012. Though he did well, saved his money and  invested in retirement, finding work has been anything but easy. He recently shared his story with us from his West Seattle home, which he is planning to put on the market this month:

Clemens, 36, worked as a medical-records clerk until March 2013. The single mother of two daughters says she was making $16 an hour. She feels the longer she has gone without work, the harder it has become to get an interview. She shared her story from an apartment in Kent, where she is behind on rent.

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Comments | More in Video | Topics: congress, federal unemployment extension, poverty

March 4, 2014 at 6:11 AM

Readers share stories of losing federal unemployment benefits

Opinion Northwest recently asked for readers’ thoughts on Congress’ failure so far to extend federal unemployment insurance. The Feb. 21 blog post followed this editorial calling on lawmakers to help struggling but active job-seekers.

Within days, the post received more than 300 responses from across the country — the map at the top of this post shows locations of responses we received. Many people explained how the temporary assistance had helped them to keep their families housed and their Internet connections available so that they could post their resumes online. A few disagreed with the extension, saying it discourages the long-term unemployed from trying harder to find work. Older workers offered heart-wrenching stories about the difficulty of getting an interview and holding on to a position in today’s economy. During the process of verifying a few different writers’ identities, a few phone numbers were disconnected.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Senate is plotting again to pass an extension measure with the help of some Republicans. The Congressional Budget Office outlined the benefits of a short-term fix in this Dec. 3 analysis. “Recipients of the additional benefits would increase their spending on consumer goods and services. That increase in aggregate demand would encourage businesses to boost production and hire more workers than they otherwise would, particularly given the expected slack in the capital and labor markets,” the report concludes.

Here in Washington state, the Employment Security Department reports about 28,000 people exhausted their federal benefits on Dec. 28 after Congress failed to act. Since then, the agency estimates thousands more drop out of the system every week.

What happens to them now?

Scroll down to read some of their stories.

Support a federal extension of unemployment insurance:

I support the extension due to the fact that I lost my job of 29 years in June. My benefits ran out in January. No one will hire me due to my age. I’m 64 years old. Having 26 weeks is not long enough to find a job at my age. It is devastating to our budget with first the loss of a long-term job, and then no unemployment to help with expenses. My job loss was due to my position being eliminated. I would have loved to continue working until I was old enough to retire, but my employer had other plans. We have now had to put our home up for sale, we sold our second vehicle and have cut out anything possible to cut back. I’ve gone from a job that paid over $3,000 a month, to unemployment at less than half of that amount, and now down to zero for my income — it is hard to live on just my husband’s Social Security. I need to work, and have worked since I was a teenager. I need the extra weeks of unemployment to carry me until I can find a job. It is not right to not extend the benefits to those of us who are struggling to find a job. Something needs to be done to help all us who are out of work.

— Sharon Washburn, Yakima

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Comments | Topics: congress, federal unemployment, jobless benefits

February 21, 2014 at 6:03 AM

Tell us how unemployment benefits affect you

The Seattle Times’ Monday editorial calling on Congress to extend unemployment benefits has received some heavy online traffic. Obviously, this issue hits a nerve for many of you out there who are searching for work or know someone who is. Here is an excerpt from the editorial:

In Washington state, at least 28,000 job-seekers so far have lost a critical financial lifeline. Many have put this money immediately into their local economies. It’s how they have afforded basic necessities such as rent, gas, groceries and utilities…

Without an extension, thousands more throughout Washington will continue to lose emergency federal assistance each week after their regular state benefits run out at 26 weeks.

Workers looking for jobs beyond that period now make up nearly 30 percent of the state’s unemployed population. There is an average of three applicants for every job opening.

There’s good reason for lawmakers to return from recess and re-start this debate. According to a January Quinnipiac University poll, 58 percent of respondents support continuing this financial lifeline for those who’ve exhausted their state benefits.

Share your thoughts with us in the form below.

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Comments | Topics: congress, federal government, unemployment insurance

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