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Summer Vacation for Congress — Report Card Grades Are In

Ian S. Thompson,
Senior Legislative Advocate,
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August 4, 2008

Well, it’s that time here in D.C. that people in this town look forward to all year — the month-long August congressional recess (aka “summer vacation”). As representatives and senators head back home to their states and districts across the country to campaign for reelection in November, this time provides us with an opportunity to reflect on where our various elected officials have stood on the critical civil liberties and civil rights issues to come before the 110th Congress.

To help keep our members and activists informed about how their representatives and senators vote, the ACLU maintains a congressional scorecard. It contains all of the important votes to come before the House of Representatives and Senate that are of interest to the ACLU, as well as listing why we either supported or opposed a particular piece of legislation.

The full range of this organization’s issues — from civil rights to 1st Amendment protections to halting abuses stemming from the Bush administration’s national security policies — are covered in our congressional scorecard.

Just a sampling from the current congressional session includes positive votes to strengthen the Americans with Disabilities Act; prevent discrimination on the basis of religion in Head Start; requiring the videotaping of detainee interrogations; and strengthening the ability to prosecute hate crimes committed against those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Sadly, there are also numerous votes where representatives and senators voted to weaken important civil liberties and civil rights protections and safeguards (FISA gutting ring a bell anyone?). Some of these include passage of the FISA Amendments Act and the failure of the Senate to pass legislation that would restore protections in wage discrimination that were undermined by a recent Supreme Court decision.

While your senators and representatives are back home in search of your all-important votes in November, be sure to express your opinion to them on the important civil liberties and civil rights votes they are casting here in Washington. We can talk until we are blue in the face, but there is nothing as powerful to them as hearing directly from their constituents. Don’t be afraid to hold their feet to the fire!

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