Saturday, August 8, 2020

Congressional Outlook

Congress Last Week

Limited disappointment in failed negotiations

After coronavirus spending negotiations broke down this week, a couple reporters noted that Speaker Pelosi offered to reduce spending by $1 trillion if Republicans would increase spending by $1 trillion.

If the reader thinks that meant they offered to cut spending amounts or slow the rate of spending over the duration of the spending deal by a third of their $3 trillion bill, the reader would be mistaken.

As Roll Call reported, the only cuts the Democrats were offering was for how long the programs would last, “by moving up expiration dates of relief programs, not cutting the amount of aid they want to provide.” Buy two thirds now, get the other third later.

It's no surprise, then, that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows “dismissed that as a budget gimmick.” Further, Roll Call noted, “It’s unclear even if Republicans had agreed to Democrats’ offer to cut the cost of the package by about $1 trillion if they could do that just by moving around expiration dates.”

The funding sticking points were “on state and local and unemployment.” Democrats are demanding “giving state and local governments $915 billion” and “extending enhanced unemployment benefits at $600 per week.”

Shining a light on blasphemy laws

Thursday, Senator Lankford of Oklahoma requested the Senate call “for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws” by agreeing to S.Res. 458.

From the Congressional Record:
Mr. LANKFORD. Mr. President, thousands of radical Islamists rallied on Friday in Northwestern Pakistan in support of a man who earlier this week walked into a courtroom in the city of Peshawar and gunned down a U.S. citizen on trial for blasphemy.

That is how the New York Times started its article on this issue last week. The American, Tahir Naseem, died of his wounds before he could be taken to the hospital while the gunman was taken into custody.

The U.S. State Department said Naseem was standing trial after being lured to Pakistan from his home in Illinois. He was entrapped by the country's controversial blasphemy law, which international rights groups have sought to have repealed.

The blasphemy law calls for the death penalty for anyone found guilty of insulting Islam, but, in Pakistan, the mere allegation of blasphemy can cause mobs to riot and vigilantes to kill those who have been accused.

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