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From the Senate delay case files

By Dylan Matthews

The Senate's inability to get anything done has been highlighted so often with big, visible fights -- climate change, nominations, unemployment insurance, etc. -- that it's easy to forget that plenty of other issues are getting neglected along the way. I spent much of the day yesterday at the Campus Progress National Conference, and the best speech by far was from Kevin Sanchez, a former gang member who spoke in favor of the Youth Promise Act, which provides funding for juvenile delinquency intervention and prevention programs in inner cities. This is the sort of bill that Congress should be able to get passed easily. It focuses on evaluating programs for effectiveness and scaling up existing programs that have worked, including ones that have shown dramatic reductions in gang membership and related violence; you can read a PDF summary from the Children's Defense Fund, which is a big backer, here. It has 234 co-sponsors in the House, enough to pass on the floor, and with Olympia Snowe co-sponsoring the Senate version, passage should be possible if Senate Democrats keep it together and especially if Mitch McConnell decides it would be unseemly to filibuster a bill combating youth violence. Some conservatives are opposed, but the best the Heritage Foundation could offer was a bit of hand-wringing verging on self-parody about how the act goes against the spirit of federalism.

But it doesn't appear likely the bill will come to a vote in either chamber this session. I'm hoping activists fighting for it will prove me wrong on that, but with jobs legislation, climate change, the Disclose Act and immigration reform all ahead of it on the docket, it's hard to see how either chamber has time. They would, if the Senate operated at a pace befitting a modern legislature, but it doesn't, and so inner cities will likely go another few years without funding to keep kids out of gangs. Rhetoric about the Senate's role as a cooling saucer gets a lot less romantic when you consider what's being cooled.

-- Dylan Matthews is a student at Harvard and a researcher at The Washington Post.

By Washington Post editor  |  July 8, 2010; 11:10 AM ET
Categories:  Congress  
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Thank you very much Dylan for blogging about Kevin's speech and the Youth PROMISE Act! One thing Kevin stressed in his speech was that everyone can support the Youth PROMISE Act by signing a petition at that will be delivered to Senators this summer. We are determined to pass this breakthrough piece legislation THIS session. We can not afford to lose more lives, and millions of dollars, to the violence within our communities.

Every young person deserves the support that Kevin received from Barrios Unidos to turn his life around. Help us ensure that EVERY young person has that same opportunity.

Posted by: JuliaSM | July 8, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I watched Kevin's speech and was moved by his passion for helping save the lives of our at-risk youth population. The Youth PROMISE act sounds like a good investment in our future, and something that would provide immediate payback. How do we get the Senate moving on this?

Posted by: tnunnser | July 8, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

@tnunnser : elect more and better democrats and change the unanimous consent rule so the repubs can't simply stall their way through the sessions.

Posted by: srw3 | July 8, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

--"[T]he best the Heritage Foundation could offer was a bit of hand-wringing verging on self-parody about how the act goes against the spirit of federalism."--

Yeah, that quaint old Constitution, again.

Harvard boy has no idea what it is he's trading away, and the ruination it will cause untold people. He's on the road to hell, with a fool's grin on his face.

Posted by: msoja | July 8, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

@msoja : I don't believe that keeping kids out of gangs violates the constitution. If it really were unconstitutional, I bet that some enterprising republican would be all over the media letting everyone know about it.

Posted by: srw3 | July 8, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

--"I don't believe that keeping kids out of gangs violates the constitution."--

Well, when you put it like that...

It reveals you don't really have an argument.

From the Heritage link:
YOPS grants are of questionable constitutionality because these grants would fund the routine, day-to-day operations of state and local law enforcement. When Congress subsidizes local law enforcement in this manner, it effectively reassigns to the federal government the powers and responsibilities that fall squarely within the expertise, historical control, and constitutional authority of state and local governments.[ix] The responsibility to combat ordinary crime at the local level belongs wholly, if not exclusively, to state and local governments.
//end cite

But, you know, Harvard boy doesn't care. He's playing with other people's money now, and it makes him feel good about things.

Posted by: msoja | July 8, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Whether or not the Act is constitutional at the federal level, presumably individual states could decide to pursue their own versions of the Act without waiting for the Senate.

Posted by: tomtildrum | July 8, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

msoja, either Harvard boy doesn't know OR he knows exactly what the most likely (political) effect will be of these "war on poverty" programs.

Posted by: Lisa421 | July 13, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

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