This Week in Congress: Dreamers, Muslims, and ‘Holy Crap’

How Western Washington lawmakers are reacting to Trump.

For the time being, we still live in a constitutional republic, which means that our congressional leaders still have some say in how the country is run.

To that end, local lawmakers have been introducing a flurry of legislation aimed at checking some of President Donald Trump’s more controversial decisions in his first two weeks in office. Due to aforementioned constitution, and given the fact that Republicans have a majority in both houses of congress, the efforts by Democrats may have a tough road to becoming law. But it’s nonetheless important to note how our elected officials are positioning themselves for the fight.

Here’s a rundown of a few bills that have been introduced this week:

Protecting Dreamers

H.R. 496 is actually cosponsored by Rep. Dave Reichert, an Auburn Republican, and Seattle’s super-lefty Rep. Pramila Jayapal. The bill would protect from deportation people who were brought to the United States as undocumented immigrants when they were children. The Obama administration established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012 by executive order, which aimed to shield these people, known as “Dreamers,” from deportation so long as they acted as good citizens. On the campaign trail, Trump vowed to “immediately” kill the policy. However, in an otherwise nightmare week for immigration advocates, the Trump administration actually seemed to soften on the DACA. As Politico reports, that’s angered immigration hardliners.

H.R. 496, which Reichert and Jayapal call—in the proud D.C. tradition of forced acronyms—the Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy (BRIDGE) Act, would codify DACA into law.

“We can and should defend the children who were brought to our nation many years ago outside of their own control,” said Reichert, who, it must be noted, was fairly silent on other immigration issues this past week.

“It’s our moral responsibility to protect children who were brought here years ago through no fault of their own. Not only because they are our friends, neighbors and loved ones, but because it’s right thing to do,” said Congresswoman Jayapal.

Rein In Bannon

Meanwhile, in one of the more colorful press releases to come out of Washington’s congressional delegation this week, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, who represents Northwestern Washington, cited a “holy crap moment” when he introduced a bill to require Trump to keep senior military and intelligence leaders in central roles on the National Security Council.

The bill comes in response to the news that Trump had dismissed both the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence from the principals committee of the council—which sets vital national defense policy. Meanwhile, Trump added his chief strategist (and self-described Darth Vader) Steve Bannon to the same principals committee. In sum, Bannon would presumably be privy to more intelligence and decision making that either the heads of the military or intelligence.

“This is indeed a ‘holy crap’ moment,” Larsen, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “Replacing trusted military and intelligence advisers with someone accountable only to the President is extremely reckless.” Larsen’s bill would require that the chairman of the joint chiefs and the director of national intelligence have an equal or greater role that “any individual whose responsibilities are primarily political.”

Fight the ‘Muslim Ban’

And lastly, Jayapal joined dozens of Democratic lawmakers on Thursday to introduce a bill that would “prohibit barring immigrants, refugees, and international visitors from entry on the basis of religion.”

The bill is a refutation of Trump’s executive order blocking refugees and restricting immigration to the United States from seven majority-Muslim nations. Of course, Republicans will argue that Trump’s executive order was not based on religion, but plenty of people beg to differ. As the New York Times effectively distills the rhetoric leading up to the executive order:

“His campaign website still calls for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” After the decision was announced, one of his advisers, Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, said in an interview that Mr. Trump had wanted a Muslim ban but needed “the right way to do it legally.” Mr. Trump then said in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network that Christian refugees would be given priority for entry visas to the United States.”

dperson@seattleweekly.com

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