|Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 6.26.17
A Win for Religious Freedom
On June 26, the Supreme Court ruled in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, Director, Missouri Department of Natural Resources that religious institutions cannot be prevented from receiving funds solely because they are a religious organization. The case originated in Missouri, where a church applied for funding from the state to replace a pea gravel playground surface with a safer material made from recycled tires. Although the church placed high enough under the state criteria among the applicants to receive the money, the state did not grant funding because the playground belonged to a church.
However, the Supreme Court said that this logic is unconstitutional, and in a 7-2 vote they ruled that religious institutions cannot be barred from funding to improve playground safety, or any other state funding provided for safety or other secular purposes.
The House of Representatives is working to improve our broken immigration system and a bill commonly known as Kateâ€™s Law is one I support. You probably remember the tragic murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco. She was a young woman who was shot by an illegal immigrant who was previously deported five times. He had several run-ins with the law, but was released onto the streets because of San Franciscoâ€™s so called â€śsanctuaryâ€ť policy, in which they refuse to cooperate with the federal immigration authorities.
Kateâ€™s Law establishes increased and mandatory penalties for illegal immigrants who unlawfully reenter our country after being removed. If someone repeatedly and blatantly disobeys our laws by jumping the line and entering our country illegally, it only makes sense that they should face significant consequences. Iâ€™ve always been proud that the United States is a melting pot and welcomed immigrants who follow the rules and respect our laws. But we cannot suspend the rule of law for those who donâ€™t, and I hope Kateâ€™s Law will deter future unlawful, criminal entry.
The House passed Kateâ€™s Law last Congress, but it did not move onto the President after a 60 vote filibuster in the Senate. With President Trumpâ€™s support, I hope the Senate will pass this bill so it can become law.
No Sanctuary for Criminals Act
The House is also scheduled to vote on another bill, called the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act. This bill addresses the cities that declare themselves â€śsanctuary cities.â€ť States and localities have jurisdiction in many areas, but they do not have the right to ignore federal immigration laws. The bill says that no entity or individual can prohibit a government entity from complying with federal immigration laws. It also ends certain Homeland Security and Justice Department grants to cities that declare themselves â€śsanctuaryâ€ť and fail to comply with lawful requests from the federal government related to immigration.
I am in support of this bill as well.
Senate Health Care Bill
The Senate recently unveiled their Obamacare repeal and replacement plan. I am in the process of reviewing it. It is very difficult to fix a problem as complex and complicated as the American health insurance system post passage of Obamacare. But, it is clear that Obamacare has failed, as many predicted from the start. From the disastrous roll out of the online marketplace, to the many insurance companies that announced they canâ€™t afford to participate in the exchanges, it is clear the status quo is not an option.
As I write this column, five Senators have indicated they canâ€™t vote the bill as it is currently written. Some who are opposed lean moderate, and some lean more conservative. Mitch McConnell has indicated he wants a health care vote soon, but it may take time to reach a consensus. Because the status quo is not an option, the Senate must reach an agreement. Because of so many broken promises in Obamacare, nothing we do will satisfy everyone. But, we will continue working to increase choices and lower health insurance costs.
Again, because the status quo is not an option, I will consider whatever language the Senate finally adopts. But, I will be guided in making a final decision by the billâ€™s efforts to lower insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles, etc., in order for American families to be able to afford real health insurance.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at