Senate Strikes Funding Deal in the Saint Nick of Time

Senate Strikes Funding Deal in the Saint Nick of Time

December 3, 2021

If federal workers were hoping for an early start on their Christmas vacation, they're out of luck! No one is turning off the government's lights any time soon, thanks to a deal struck in the Senate late Thursday night. With Friday's shutdown deadline breathing down Democrats' necks, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) decided that maybe it wasn't such a good idea for his party to preside over another disaster and finally caved to the conservatives' demand: a vote on the vaccine mandate.

Look, Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kans.) said on the floor, "No precedent exists in American history for punishing private employers who don't enforce government vaccination edicts." He, together with Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), had been adamant that the last thing the government needed to fund were efforts like Joe Biden forcing the vaccine on Americans against their will. "This [amendment]," Marshall argued, "is an opportunity to right a wrong... Let's give employers certainty and employees peace of mind that they will still have a job in the new year. Make no mistake: These vaccine mandates are not about public health or science. If they were, the White House would recognize the 92 percent of Americans who have already built up immunity to this virus between vaccines and natural immunity..."

Marshall, a doctor and outspoken advocate for life and conscience, went to the mat against Schumer, threatening with Cruz and Lee to block the continuing resolution (CR) that needed all 100 senators to proceed. "I've offered a very simple solution, a very reasonable solution," Lee told reporters. "I just want to vote on one amendment." In the end, their determination paid off. Boxed in, and weary of the public blame game, Schumer relented.

Unfortunately, the trio's amendment to stop enforcement of Biden's mandate fell just short -- failing 48-50 because two Republicans were traveling and Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the possible swing vote, didn't want to shut the government down during a pandemic. Still, Marshall's stand was a victory where it counted: making Schumer blink -- and getting every Democratic senator on record in support of an unconstitutional mandate that a majority of Americans oppose.

A few hours earlier, Marshall explained on "Washington Watch" that he isn't anti-vaccine, but he is anti-tyranny. "We don't want an economic shutdown. And if there were no more federal mandates, we'd be okay with this [CR]. But specifically, we don't want a federal mandate requiring businesses [to demand vaccinations or face fines]... In Kansas, Arizona, a million jobs will be impacted. In Georgia, 1.8 million people would lose their jobs as well." And it's not like the GOP just decided to throw a wrench in the government's funding plans. "We asked Leader Schumer, months ago to fix this problem before we [got] to this date. He's waited until today to take a peek at this again."

The question is: what are Democrats afraid of? If the mandate is such a good idea, why not just schedule a vote and be done with it? Why put the funding of the entire government on the line? Because deep down, the Left knows the president's vaccine mandates are losing in the court of popular opinion -- and in the courts themselves! For a party with the slimmest possible majority, that's a tough vote to swallow. As Marshall pointed out, it's not just about personal freedom, it's about Americans' livelihoods -- and more. "It's going to impact national security. It's going to impact supply chains and increase inflation."

For now, at least, Republicans have made their point. As for the actual continuing resolution, while it may be a stretch to say there's a silver lining, but there is an upside. Since the two sides can't seem to come to any sort of agreement on spending bills, this bridge funding to February 18 at least guarantees that Democrats can't strip out any of the important pro-life, pro-freedom riders that existed on the budget bills under Donald Trump. Passing these CRs is one way Republicans can guarantee that the government doesn't run out of money -- or principles on things like taxpayer-funded abortion.

The House has done its best to undermine the GOP's work under Trump, radically rewriting nine of the 12 agency funding bills. So far, the Senate hasn't taken up a single one. And when they do, conservatives are in no mood to compromise. When reporters asked Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) if the Republicans were going to stonewall until the Left dropped its "poison pills," the ranking Appropriations member replied, "That's our plan."

Our hats go off to all of the Senate (and House) conservatives fighting to hold the line on the Democrats' extremism. The American people are looking to Republicans in Congress to stand up to the overreach of the Biden administration -- and thanks to Senators Marshall, Lee, Cruz, and so many others, they haven't been disappointed. We're grateful for men and women who stand up for our convictions -- and force the Left to defend their own.

Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Profiles in Courage -- and Cowardice

December 3, 2021

A global social media movement asking #WhereIsPengShuai has yet to find convincing answers. The Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai disappeared after she publicly accused a former vice premier of China of sexually assaulting her. The social media posts in which she made the accusation were removed within 20 minutes of posting. But Peng's fans were faster than Chinese censors, saving her posts and demanding answers about her disappearance.

Since then, Peng has been seen in what looks like staged appearances. Once at a restaurant and tennis event, and once in a video call with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) -- the footage of which the IOC refuses to release. Peng's act of speaking out against a powerful Chinese Communist Party (CCP) member was incredibly brave. But fans are now left to fear what the consequences for her bravery might be.

The disappearance has rocked the sports world and exposed the cowardly as well as the courageous. Perhaps unexpectedly, Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Chairman and CEO Steve Simon has managed to do what few sports leagues, international corporations, and even governments dare to -- stand up to China and be willing to pay the price for doing so.

Concerned about the former world No. 1 doubles player, the WTA has repeatedly called for an investigation into Peng's sexual assault allegations and maintains "serious doubts that she is free, safe, and not subject to censorship, coercion, and intimidation." In addition to speaking out, the organization took action.

On December 2, the WTA announced that it was immediately suspending all WTA tournaments in China. In a statement, Simon said, "If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded -- equality for women -- would suffer an immense setback. I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players." The WTA isn't placated by Peng's staged appearances and doesn't take for granted that any of its players will be safe in China when the government makes high-profile athletes disappear over a social media post.

The CCP's move to silence Peng is far more common than it should be. And the gross lack of respect for human rights demonstrated in this case extends to the very top of CCP leadership. Leaked documents recently translated and published by Uyghur Tribunal, an independent group that examined evidence of the CCP's repression of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, prove this.

The leaked documents, dubbed the "Xinjiang Papers," demonstrate a direct link between central Chinese government figures and the horrific actions being carried out in Xinjiang, including mass internment, coercive labor transfers, and criminalizing customary religious practices.

According to the documents, Chinese President Xi Jinping said about the Uyghur people: "[T]hose who should be seized should be seized, and those who should be sentenced should be sentenced." It's a statement that should make its way to history books. But this isn't a history lesson yet; it's happening in real time. There is still time to act in defense of vulnerable individuals like Peng Shuai and beleaguered groups including the Uyghur people.

Meanwhile, for all his tough talk on the campaign trail, President Biden has acted, as some are saying, functionally pro-China. As the CCP grows increasingly bold in committing human rights violations on display for the world to see, now is not the time to back down. The Biden administration and American corporations should take a lesson from the WTA. We can stand up to the CCP -- and for the sake of its victims, we must.

Powerful Words about Biden's 'Unconscionable Retreat' in Nigeria

December 3, 2021

For several years, Family Research Council has focused attention on the troubled African country of Nigeria. We have frequently reported about the rampant violence and killing of Christians by radical Islamist terrorists -- in the eyes of many seen as a "slow-motion genocide." In early 2021, FRC updated an extensive report on the relentless violations of religious freedom in that vast and influential African nation.

Then, just a year ago, we were grateful and encouraged to learn that then-Sec. of State Mike Pompeo had designated Nigeria as a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC). That designation is applied to countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.

Sadly, Nigeria's designation was short-lived.

On "Washington Watch," Tony Perkins invited Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) to discuss the shocking and unexplainable actions of Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Nigeria. Just hours after Blinken launched the Biden administration's first diplomatic outreach to Africa, the U.S. inexplicably removed Nigeria from its State Department CPC list -- an outrageous betrayal of an already brutalized Christian community.

Tony described how the consequences of this betrayal were tragically illustrated by recent events.

"Last Friday, heavily armed jihadist Fulani herdsmen reportedly attacked villagers in Nigeria's plateau state where ten Christians were killed, and 100 homes were burned down. Just this Monday, we heard reports of threats being made to the Christian community in Nigeria's southern Zamfara state, where churches were warned to stop worshiping and shut down or face fierce attacks. Meanwhile, more than 60 worshipers from a Baptist church in Kaduna State who were kidnapped on October 31st are still being held for ransom. And these incidences are just the tip of the iceberg."

Such abuses aren't just the deadly work of groups like Boko Haram or ISWAP (Islamic State West Africa Province). The government of Nigeria also shares responsibility for them. For example, on December 2, International Christian Concern (ICC) released a report profiling Nigerian Governor Nasir El-Rufai, analyzing his years-long pattern of punishing Christian communities in Kaduna State. "Since taking office as governor in May 2015, El-Rufai has repeatedly endangered Christian communities by ordering them into strict lockdowns. These lockdown orders -- which trap villagers in their homes -- prevent villagers from organizing early warning systems needed to flee impending attacks."

Smith, who co-chairs the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, was openly distressed about the Nigeria situation:

"It was an unconscionable retreat when the Secretary of State met with Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari. He wanted to give goodies to a president who does not deserve it. Blinken should have been holding him to account for the ongoing and pervasive slaughter of Christians and other Muslims. Some try to say this is a fight between herdsmen and farmers. That's not what this is all about. This is about police that fail to respond, as yet another slaughter was occurring at a church or in a village. The Fulani assailants arrive on motorcycles and others means of transportation. They do a blitz command and start slaughtering people for hours. Then they leave. Police show up many, many hours later to do a casualty count. And there are no -- I'll say it again -- NO consequences.

President Buhari is an ethnic Fulani, and he has unfortunately turned his back with gross callousness and indifference to this suffering. I chaired two major hearings about this a year ago. In one very good hearing -- a very troubling hearing -- we had Nigerians, including a bishop who testified. These witnesses talked about huge, massive ongoing killings.

And as for the CPC, as you know, the statute couldn't be clearer: Even if there's leadership indifference to what the country is doing, that still puts them on the CPC list. If they look the other way or look askance to what is happening, they still belong on the list. And that's just what Buhari is doing."

When asked why the CPC capitulation took place, Smith replied,

"It was a purely political move on the part of the Secretary of State Blinken. Nigeria needs to be sanctioned, and there are a number of other things prescribed in the International Religious Freedom Act. But unfortunately, instead this removal of the CPC designation gives the green or light to those who are committing genocide. Nigeria is a huge country and to allow this to fester like this... I am so disappointed. I can't even begin to tell you."

It's no wonder he's disappointed. More than 11,000 Christians have been killed in Nigeria since June 2015, and close to 300 churches attacked or destroyed since January 2012. International Christian Concern reports that in the last 18 years, an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians have been murdered by radical Islamic militant groups, while another 2 million people have been displaced. As Christians, we certainly need to pray. But we also need to hold our U.S. government accountable for its "unconscionable retreat." At the same time, Nigeria's leadership must bear responsibility for their relentless cruelties to our Christian brothers and sisters.