Nel's New Day

January 10, 2014

GOP ‘Obsessed’ with Abortion

Just because the U.S. Congress is not enacting much legislation doesn’t mean that state legislators aren’t working. The problem with the GOP-run states, however, is that they’re all working against women.  During the past three years, state legislators in GOP-controlled states enacted 205 laws to restrict reproductive rights for women, more than the previous decade when states passed just 189 abortion restrictions.

The top year was 2011 with 93 anti-choice laws. Things looked a bit better for women in the next year with “only” 42 laws, but the number climbed to 70 in 2013. That increase came from just a few states that passed 26 of these bills: North Dakota, Texas, Arkansas, and North Carolina.

graph abortion restrictions

 Almost half of the abortion restrictions enacted since 2011 fall into four categories: targeted restrictions on abortion providers (TRAP), limitations on insurance coverage of abortion, 20-week abortion bans, and restrictions for medication abortion. States have also adopted restrictions including parental notification, waiting periods, counseling, and ultrasounds, among other issues.

A study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology shows that being forced to view ultrasound images has minimal effect on a woman’s decision to have an abortion, a requirement in seven states. The hypothesis that this visual can create fetal bonding for women who want an abortion has been debunked. In a study of 15,575 medical records, 98.4 percent of women terminated their pregnancies even when forced to look at the ultrasounds.

The sweep of Tea Party politicians in 2010 started the anti-choice trend. Candidates campaigned on fiscal issues and immediately moved on to social issues as soon as they were elected. The Guttmacher Institute identified 13 states as “hostile” to abortion rights in 2000 with more than four anti-choice laws; the number more than doubled to 27 by 2013. Over 31 percent of women in the United States live in these 27 states. States designated as “supportive” to women’s abortion rights dropped from 17 to 13 in the same period of time. California actually expanded women’s access to abortion and prevented clinics from being unfairly targeted. Both Pennsylvania and New York are making moves to follow California’s example.

The most recent state bill designed to restrict women’s reproductive rights comes from Mississippi State Rep. Sam Mims, who initiated the bill meant to shutter the only clinic in the state that provided abortions. His current bill would limit over-the-counter access to emergency contraception to people age 18 and over. Minors would be forced to either get a prescription or obtain the medication from a doctor or other health provider.  

Last August, Plan B was approved for pharmacy shelves without a prescription, but it is still very difficult to obtain in many places. An investigation revealed that Native Americans living on reservations have almost no access because stores are not stocking the drug. These areas tend to be remote and have above average levels of sexual assault. Even stores in cities as diverse as Portland (OR) and Louisville (KY) keep Plan B behind the counter rather than on the shelves as required by law.

These stores also demand ID or refuse to sell Plan B if the customer is under 18. A study in the Journal of Adolescent Health published in December shows that 20 percent of almost 1,000 pharmacies stated that only females at least 18 years of age could purchase Plan B.

Mississippi is following the direction of Oklahoma which passed a law making emergency contraception available only to those 17 and over and forcing everyone to show ID for its purchase. A state judge later blocked the law from going into effect, partly because it violated the “single subject” rule, restricting a bill to only one issue. When the state legislature tried to re-pass the restriction, the bill failed to get out of committee. Mississippi remains one of the two states in the United States with the highest number of teen pregnancies and banning all contraceptive information except abstinence in schools.

The first bill that the Tea Party introduced when they were elected to the U.S. House in 2010 was on anti-choice. Then they held committee hearings about contraception without allowing women to participate. Yesterday they did both.

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, with not one woman among its 12 members, is considering the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7). Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who heads the subcommittee, denied a request from Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District of Columbia, to testify although H.R. 7 specifically affects her district. Subcommittee member Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) made a motion for Norton to testify, but that motion was also denied.

The bill bans subsidies and insurance coverage for abortion in Affordable Care Act state-level insurance marketplaces. It also requires small businesses to pay more for health benefits if they choose to offer insurance plans that cover abortions. And it changes the tax code to eliminate medical-expense deductions for abortion care, except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. That could require the IRS to audit any women who claims one of these exceptions, forcing the women to relive their horrible experiences.

Before the Affordable Care Act went into effect this month, over 80 percent of private insurance plans covered abortion just as any other medical procedure. State legislatures, such as Michigan, have begun banning the insurance coverage of abortion, hoping that women cannot afford to pay for the procedure. In Michigan, the law passed without a governor’s veto requires a special insurance rider for abortion even in the case of rape.

In D.C. the proposed bill prevents the District from spending its own local funds on abortion care for low-income women. Norton wrote that the subcommittee is obsessed with dual objectives: infringing on the District’s right to self-government and interfering with the reproductive health of the District’s female residents, particularly its low-income women. Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, agrees, calling the GOP behavior “obsessive.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) promised to fight for a rider in next week’s appropriations package to allow employers to refuse to cover contraception in their health insurance plans for moral reasons. The Republican National Committee will delay its annual winter meeting and bus members to the annual March for Life, an anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C.

The judicial system has been an integral part of decisions regarding anti-choice laws, generally overturning them as unconstitutional. Fortunately, the conservative U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an Oklahoma case limiting medication-induced abortions. SCOTUS’s decision let stand the lower court ruling, overturning the Oklahoma law to limit these abortions. The decision may also affect the other 15 states that passed similar laws.

At this time, 17 percent of abortions in the U.S. are medication-induced, an advantage after GOP-controlled states have greatly restricted the number of clinics and doctors. Medication is also a benefit, especially for women with ectopic pregnancies from a fertilized egg implanted outside the uterus, because this type of abortion does not need general anesthesia. Oklahoma has only two clinics where women can get abortions, forcing women to drive up to four hours one way to see a provider.

In Texas, a brain-dead woman is being forced to stay on life support until her fetus is harvested. When Marlise Munoz collapsed last November, perhaps because of a pulmonary embolism, she was 14 weeks pregnant. Her brain did not recover because of no oxygen for an extended period of time, but electric shock revived her heart. She had been very clear about not wanting to be on life support, but a state law forces her to remain there for the length of her pregnancy, despite the strong possibility that the fetus is also brain-dead after the same lack of oxygen. Texas is one of 12 U.S. states invalidating a pregnant woman’s end-of-life wishes.

LifeSupport_MapThree experts hold the position that her situation is not covered by the Texas law. Dr. Robert Fine, clinical director of the office of clinical ethics and palliative care for Baylor Health Care System, said, “Under Texas law, this patient is legally dead.” John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth pointed to a provision of the Texas Advance Directives Act: “A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient.” Tom Mayo, a Southern Methodist University law professor, said the hospital would not have absolute immunity from a civil or criminal case. Meanwhile the hospital refuses to take Munoz off life support.

There is some hope in Vermont. State legislators have introduced a bill this month that would affirm a woman’s right to an abortion and repeal all pre-Roe v. Wade Vermont statutes that criminalize performing abortions or advertising abortion services.

While people have lost their unemployment benefits, going hungry because the minimum wage is so low, and being separated from families through deportation, GOP continue their efforts to stop abortions and prevent people from getting low-cost health care. At the same time, they fight contraception, forcing women to get pregnant.

July 8, 2013

Raise Insurance on People with Guns

Since the horrific Newtown massacre last December, at least 114 children died because of guns—four of them in the week before the Fourth of July, celebrating “independence.” There could have been many more because the government is prevented by law, passed by conservatives, to track these deaths.

In Kentucky a four-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his six-year old sister after their grandfather left a gun unattended without checking to see if it was loaded. In Ohio, 12-year-old Austin Wiseman shot and killed his nine-year-old brother, Blake Campbell when they were left unattended by their grandparents in a home with multiple weapons. In Louisiana, a five-year-old girl shot and killed herself, probably by accident, after she was locked alone in a bedroom while her mother went to the store.

Many more small children have become killers, but they aren’t the only ones. The same week that the four children were killed, 38-year-old Sgt. Lance McLean of the Hood County Sheriff’s Office (Texas) was shot and killed with an assault-type rifle by Ricky McCommas, an avid gun enthusiast who sold guns from his home. McCommas had recently been charged with sexually assaulting his wife’s niece a year ago.  He had gone to the victim’s home with a gun to convince her to drop the charges. After the shooting, police seized over two dozen guns and 20 cases of ammunition from McCommas’ home.

In the same state, the Armed Citizen Project (ACP) in Houston (TX) is giving away free shotguns to single women and residents of neighborhoods with high crime rates. The group plans to extend the giveaways to 15 cities. People who support the Second Amendment are concerned about more gun-related deaths rather than less crime because of the ACP’s actions.

David Hemenway, a professor of health policy and management at the Harvard School of Public Health, cited studies showing that gun ownership is correlated with more crime. “When there is a gun in the mix, there is much more likely to be somebody dying or somebody incredibly hurt,” he said. Single-mother Cheryl Strain hopes that she will be less nervous firing the shotgun with more training. She’s also having her 12-year-old son Rory practicing.

The more guns people have, the more guns other people can steal. For example, 21-year-old Justin Jaspar drove a stolen pickup to the University of Washington in Seattle to “argue with some legislators” with maps of three college campuses as well as weapons that included a deer rifle, a double-barrel shotgun, Molotov cocktails, and military-grade body armor. He had taken these from long-haul trucker Erik Henderson of Butte (MT) who gave Jasper a ride from Idaho and left him at his house while he went onto another haul. Henderson said he didn’t want to prosecute Jaspar because it would take too much time.

Henderson’s experience is not unique. After President Obama announced his plans to make it more difficult for criminals and people with mental illness to get guns, he ordered the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to provide an annual report on lost and stolen firearms in the United States. The first one, for the year 2012, came out the end of June, hidden under the excitement of NSA surveillance, IRS so-called targeting, etc.

Nationwide, National Crime Information Center (NCIC) received reports of 190,342 lost and stolen firearms. Texas had the most, 18,874 stolen weapons. Gun dealers reported the loss of 9 percent of the total, 16,667. Of those 5,762 were reported as stolen. The remaining 10,915 firearms were reported as lost. Gun dealers lost over 10,000 guns. The real numbers are certainly much worse because non-dealers are not required to report any missing guns. People are also not required to maintain records of guns they own, including the serial numbers.

Because of the nation’s archaic laws, the ATF traces guns, in the words of The Daily Beast’s Adam Winkler, “the way 17th-century monks copied texts: by hand.” He explained:

“When a gun is found at a crime scene, ATF agents can’t just look up who owned the gun in a computer database. They first have to call the gun manufacturer and find out which wholesaler purchased it. Then they have to get the wholesaler on the line and find out which dealer purchased the gun from the wholesaler. Then they have to call the gun dealer and have the dealer’s files searched by hand to identify the first consumer to purchase the gun. If the gun dealer is no longer in business, ATF agents have to search through files—many of them handwritten—maintained in cardboard boxes, one by one. Because we don’t require background checks on all gun sales, all this work may be for naught. Even if the person who bought the gun is identified, he may just say he sold the gun to an unknown person. For this secondary transaction, which is perfectly legal, there won’t be any files to sift through.”

The ATF goes through this process over 300,000 a year in wasted time costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Law-breaking gun dealers are protected by the law that limits inspections to once a year. With 70,000 licensed gun dealers in the country, the ATF would need seven years to inspect each one because of their limited funding and personnel. In one of the few gun laws this year—all of them supporting gun violence—Congress reduced the penalty for falsifying records from a felony to a misdemeanor.

To make violence in the country worse, conservative states are passing the so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws that encourage more killing. A prime case is the current George Zimmerman trial in Florida. Almost 18 months ago, a man took his gun, got into his truck, and tracked a teenager who was walking through the neighborhood minding his own business. Even after the police told Zimmerman to leave the teenager alone, he got out of his truck and approached Trayvon Martin. What happened from there, no one exactly know, but Zimmerman precipitated the entire situation up until then against special directions from the police. This wasn’t the first time that Zimmerman had stalked people and the police had told him not to do this. Now he claims that it was self-defense.

Zimmerman’s actions follow then Vice-President Dick Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine precipitated by the World Trade Center disaster of 9/11. Cheney’s method of protecting the country from danger is that people are encouraged to destroy the potential adversary with just one-percent suspicion of harm. George W. Bush used the one-percent solution to attack Iraq based on faulty intelligence. “It is not about our intelligence,” the vice president declared. “It is about our response.”

The jury’s decision in the Zimmerman trial will affect thousands of lives across the United States. His exoneration would send the message that creating a situation in which one can cry “self-defense” gives license to kill anyone. As Hemenway said,“Firearms are used far more often to frighten and intimidate than they are used in self-defense.” When arguments get out of control, one or both of those involved may reach for a gun and kill the other.

One study shows that judges perceive shootings by people who claim self-defense, as described by the shooter, are usually not legal uses of self-defense and could be avoided. Approximately half of convicted felons who used a gun in their crimes claim they did so in self-defense. These claims for shootings often come from the desire to shoot a person because someone “disrespected” them with a comment or look–that the person “had it coming to them.”

The greatest proof of guns being dangerous comes from the EMC Insurance Company that ensures 90 percent of Kansas schools. The company won’t give coverage to districts which allow teachers to carry guns. The Wright Speciality and Continental Western Group insurance providers said the same thing. EMC gave “the financial security of our company” as the reason for this refusal.

Maybe this can start a trend. Insurance for smokers skyrocketed in costs. People who have dogs in one or more 11 breeds have to pay extra for their insurance. Insurance companies should do the same thing for gun owners.

December 8, 2012

NOW Comes to Town, Part 3

The first two blogs about NOW issues discussed women’s reproductive rights, violence against women, and racism. Following are additional issues regarding the current inequality of women.

Lesbian Rights: Currently the GOP is spending our taxpayer money, by now over $1.5 million, to continue the ban on marriage equality. Inability to be married discriminates against same-sex couples in more than 1000 federal laws, many of them costing a great deal of money. Although lesbians and gays are now permitted to openly serve in the military, their partners lack the same rights as married partners, refusing them housing and other benefits. People complain about the possibility of paying taxes on health benefits from their employers, but gays and lesbians are already forced to do this if their employers insure their partners.

During its current term, the U.S. Supreme Court will determine whether LGBT people will continue to endure these inequities.

Economic Justice: During the fall campaign, conservatives kept claiming that women cared far less about reproductive rights than they did in the economy. They refused to recognize that reproductive rights influence women’s economic status: if women cannot plan their families, they have less chance to meet their economic needs. In addition to reproductive rights, NOW addresses a wide range of women’s economic justice issues including welfare reform, livable wages, job discrimination, pay equity, housing, social security, and pension reform.

The GOP denies the fact that women are paid over 20 percent less than men for the same types of jobs. Conservatives also want to reduce Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid payments which many women desperate need because of their lower pay. Over a lifetime, women will receive almost $500,000 on average less than men during a 40-year career, which then figures into less savings and Social Security benefits. More than twice as many women seniors live in poverty than male seniors.

The poverty rate for women is almost 40 percent higher than for men; 14.5 percent of all women lived in poverty in 2010. More than 17 million women live in poverty compared to 12.6 million men. A greater number of Hispanic women, 25 percent, live in poverty, and 25.6 percent of black women are at or below the poverty level. More than 40 percent of single mothers now live in poverty. The GOP solution is marriage, but conservatives ignore problems of domestic abuse and the poverty of men who would become their husbands. 

When women banded together to fight these economic inequities, the Supreme Court struck them down. Twelve years ago, a lawsuit, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, exposed the company’s discrimination against women in pay and promotions, but SCOTUS said that women could not file a class-action suit because the group was too large to share “common claims.”

After the court reinforced the practice of discrimination, Congress introduced the Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act (EEORA). The majority of GOP representatives resulting from conservative state legislators’ gerrymandering will surely keep this act from passing the House. The Senate has already failed to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act because the GOP filibustered it, requiring 60 votes to move forward, eight votes more than it had—a majority of the Senate.

The most recent accomplishment for women’s economy was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill that President Obama signed into law. The law overturned SCOTUS’s ruling that complaints have to filed within the first six months after receiving a pay check whether the employee knows if there is any discrimination. Fortunately, Mitt Romney was not elected president because he would never say whether he would try to overturn the Ledbetter Act.

Most of the public is aware that women are paid less than men. Not as many people know that women are charged more than men for goods and services. And there’s no federal law against this discrimination. People would never accept a difference in charges on the basis of race, but they seem to accept that one gender has to pay more than another for the same thing.

 Insurance companies charge women $1 billion more than men for the same coverage, according to a recent report from the National Women’s Law Center. The reason isn’t maternity care; almost one-third of plans without this provision have higher charges for women of at least 30 percent or more. This inequity will stop as part of Obamacare at the beginning of 2014 unless conservatives overturn this law.

Cleaners charge more for “blouses” than men’s “shirts.” Women’s deodorant costs 30 cents more than men’s. Hair cuts are more expensive for women even if they get the same service. Men’s sneakers are taxed at 8.5 percent, while women’s sneakers are taxed at 10 percent.

In 2006, the Consumer Federation of America reported that women were 32 percent more likely than men to get saddled with costly, high-interest subprime loans–even in cases in which their credit ratings and credit histories were better than the men’s. As a result, women have been forced to pay thousands more in interest.

Twenty years ago, Ayres published a landmark study proving that women consistently paid more for cars than men did. Studies since then have shown that women continue to pay more. Black women suffered the most in extra charges when purchasing cars, an average of $400 more than men.

Equal Rights Amendment: Over 90 years ago,   Alice Paul, who was sometimes imprisoned for her activism in the women’s suffrage movement, wrote the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The text was a simple sentence: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Introduced to Congress for the first time in 1923 and every year until it finally passed 40 years ago in 1972, the ERA was given only 7 years to gain ratification by three-fourths of the states. Richard Nixon endorsed the ERA after its passage in 1972, and 30 states ratified the ERA within the first year. The impetus slowed, however, and some states rescinded the ratification leaving the ERA with only 35 of 38 states required for becoming an amendment. Failing this, the ERA continues to be introduced and continues to fail every year since 1972.

Winning this equality continues to be one of NOW’s top priorities. For more NOW issues concerned with equality for all women, go to NOW’s website. And find a NOW chapter near you.

December 5, 2012

Conservatives Meet to Work against Majority

ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council responsible for creating such laws as those that promote anti-immigration, stand-your-ground, and voter suppression, met a couple of weeks ago to decide how to destroy the people in the United States. The Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk discussed “how to limit union influence,” and the finance committee heard a presentation on “The Effects of Dodd Frank on the States,” sure to be an unhappy perspective on ways to help consumers.

Task force documents showed that the meeting concentrated on which of its destructive bills to “sunset” and retain, perhaps a response to the past year’s intense criticism when over 40 large corporations cut their links with ALEC. The organization also suffers from multiple complaints that it has violated its charitable 501(c)(3) status allowing special interest groups to write off lobbying expenses. As people became more savvy about ALEC’s actions, they got more vocal about elected officials who are more accountable to special interests than to their voters.

Before last year, ALEC successfully moved to privatize everything from schools to prisons and put legislators under corporate control. It was when identical bills popped up in a large number of states that journalists started looking into the background of these bills. By November, negative publicity caused 117 ALEC members to lose their elections.

Starting last April, ALEC struggled to erase trails for their most controversial legislation, and in July they promised to expand membership among “underrepresented segments,” probably meaning people of color and progressives. They hid their activities by sending members a link, that expires in 72 hours, to an Internet drop box instead of communicating through emails that might be discovered through an open records request.

ALEC is also using a public relations firm to examine public interest groups seeking information about its activities and then libel these groups to its legislative members.

The shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida, when the killer claimed to be self-defense, brought information about ALEC to the forefront. Now another black 17-year-old has been killed, and again the killer is using ALEC’s law as his justification. As Jordan Russell Davis sat in his car with friends, 45-year-old Michael David Dunn fired nine shots into the car after complaining that their music was too loud. None of the teenagers was armed.

Even if ALEC just stuck to economic issues, it would cause great damage to the people. A study released last week by the Iowa Policy Project and Good Jobs First shows the correlations between ALEC policies and less prosperous state economies and concludes: “A hard look at the actual data finds that the ALEC…recommendations not only fail to predict positive results for state economies — the policies they endorse actually forecast worse state outcomes for job creation and paychecks. ”

According to the study, instead of boosting states’ fortunes, ALEC’s preferred policies provide “a recipe for economic inequality, wage suppression, and stagnant incomes, and for depriving state and local governments of the revenue needed to maintain the public infrastructure and education systems that are the true foundations of long term economic growth and shared prosperity.”

As if ALEC wasn’t bad enough, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) have joined forces to destroy the new health care act. Because they receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the insurance industry, they need to keep funneling money to private insurers. Currently they want to repeal a provision imposing a fee on some insurance policies to help subsidize coverage for millions of uninsured low-income people.

If they succeed, insurers can sell a highly profitable insurance product to small employers with mostly young and healthy male workers, allowing these employers to avoid the future state insurance exchanges for worker coverage. The employers would be exempt from complying with important consumer protections in the health law and make coverage only affordable and available to those stay healthy.

The Chamber and the NFIB took their fight to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners that just finished meeting in Washington. There, the Chamber pressured the NAIC to ease the way for insurers to sell this “stop-loss” coverage to small businesses which could then side-step state regulations. Stop-loss means that the employer assumes the risk of paying medical claims, but only to a previously-negotiated amount when the stop-loss insurer pays. The policy would be a disaster for employers with young female and older workers; doing this would drive up costs for small businesses who have these employees.

Leading the charge is the Illinois Chamber of Commerce with some of the biggest sellers of stop-loss insurance–WellPoint, UnitedHealthcare, Humana and Cigna—on its board. Part of NAIC understands that this will subvert the purpose of the health care act; another committee is keeping NAIC from voting it down by asking another committee to gather more information.

Today’s Asides from the News: Walmart could have prevented November’s fire in Dhaka that killed over 100 people if they had signed a contract agreeing to pay higher prices so the 4,500 Bangladesh clothing factories could afford fire safety improvements. The company met with others purchasers of the factories’ clothing—Gap, JC Penney, Sears, etc.—in April when Walmart set the tone by refusing to do this. According to a study by the Worker Rights Consortium, the cost to Walmart would have been less than 10 cents per garment. PVH Corp., which owns the Tommy Hilfiger brand, and the German retailer Tchibo signed on to the fire safety measures memorandum. You can sign a petition asking that Walmart meet basic safety and human rights for its workers. 

There were a few places where Arizona governor Jan Brewer wasn’t this week: she didn’t attend the state ceremony certifying the delayed election results, and she couldn’t be found among members of the National Governor’s Association who met with the President to discuss how the “fiscal cliff” will impact states. It seems she was found in Afghanistan. Is it possible that she now knows that she can’t run for a third term as governor and is aiming for the president’s position?

Mitt Romney  found a job—back with Marriott, the company that got in trouble with the IRS because of the ways it avoided taxes in the 1900s. Romney headed the audit committee in 1993 to 2001 when Marriott had a tax shelter known to attorneys as “Son of BOSS.” Marriott lost their court rulings in both 2008 and 2009.

Good news for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)! He just finished paying off his student loans.  He said that when he graduated from law school in 1996 he had almost $150,000 in student debt, a sum ridiculed by wealthy Republicans who think that it’s outrageous that students are allowed to run up debts like this. Two years ago, he had between $100,001 and $250,000 in debt, but now he’s paid back the student loan—with the proceeds of his book, An American Son, which he touted at the Jack Kemp Foundation Awards dinner as “the perfect holiday gift and available on Amazon for only $11.99.” I wonder if he had copies there to sell.

The most amazing news of the day is that the Senate passed the $631 billion defense authorization bill, The National Defense Authorizations Act, unanimously with a vote of 98-0. The bill restores threatened Pentagon biofuels programs, issues new sanctions against Iran, and changes U.S. detention policy for American citizens. A unanimous vote has occurred for the defense bill in the Senate only twice in 51 years. The Pentagon policy bill now heads to a House-Senate conference committee, where there are numerous differences that must be resolved including a ban on same-sex wedding ceremonies on military bases. It’s not a done deal yet!

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