ESSENCE On The Hill: 7 Things You Need To Know In Politics This Week 
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African American lawmakers grilled Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a House Judiciary Committee hearing this week about President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and possible Russian collusion:

During his line of questioning, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) asked Sessions how many African-Americans were on the senior staff at the Department of Justice.

“I do not have a senior staff member at this time that’s an African-American,” said the Attorney General. “I would note in Alabama, I participated in recommending an African-American judge, and I’ve had recommended judges before and…”

“We’re talking about this administration, though,” said Richmond. “Of all of the U.S. Attorneys that have been nominated or confirmed, how many have been African-American?”

“One in Alabama, that I’ve recommended, that I knew,” said Sessions.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) also queried the former Senator about a recently leaked FBI report on so-called “Black identity extremists.” The document appears to falsely equate activism with violence against police. “Is there a term or a report on white identity extremists? You mentioned you were familiar with black people who identify with their racial identity,” said Bass.

“Yes. …but it’s not coming to me at this moment,” said Sessions, chuckling.

“Has the FBI done a report on white identity extremists that are likely motivated to target law enforcement officers?,” Bass asked. “I’m not aware of that,” Sessions replied.

Democrats blasted passage of the Republican Tax Plan:

The GOP bill passed on Thursday mostly along party lines by a vote of 227 to 205.

“It does nothing to reform the system, and instead offers a multi-trillion dollar giveaway to the wealthiest and raises taxes on the middle class and working families,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), who termed the measure a “tax scam,” in a statement. The Congresswoman vowed to continue fighting the plan as it moves through the Senate. “Americans still have time to make their voices heard to prevent this heartless proposal from ever becoming law.”

In speaking about the tax code overhaul, Democratic National Committee (DNC) officials noted that the median income for Black households was just under $40,000 last year, and “a quarter of people in this tax bracket would see their taxes increase.”

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY) is championing the Black immigrant community by urging the Trump Administration and Congress to protect those with Temporary Protected Status, aka TPS:

Clarke worked with advocates and community leaders before introducing the ASPIRE TPS Act this week. The bipartisan legislation would allow TPS eligible individuals to apply for lawful permanent resident status, and allow those who have been in the U.S. for more than five years to legally remain through a newly proposed “protected” status.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) has introduced the Simple FASFA Act of 2017:

H.R. 4416 would amend the Higher Education Act to remove barriers for students seeking federal financial aid by reducing the complexity and length of the FAFSA form.

“For many students, obtaining a college education or post-graduate certification is their ticket to a fulfilling career and a good paying job, but for students seeking federal financial aid [the] FAFSA imposes burdensome requirements that too often create a barrier to entry for federal grants and loans, not a window of opportunity,” said Blunt Rochester, who collaborated with Bobby Scott (D-VA) and fellow members of the Committee on Education and the Workforce on the measure.

Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL) hosted a recent briefing on Maternal Health & Mortality in the United States:

The session, held in partnership with the Reproductive Justice Initiative and the National Minority Quality Forum, drew a capacity crowd, including medical professionals, advocates and Judge Glenda Hatchett (star of the onetime courtroom TV show) whose daughter-in-law died following childbirth.

“Compared to other developed nations, the U.S. comes in dead last for maternal health and mortality,” said Kelly, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust. “In 2017, starting or growing your family shouldn’t mean putting your life at risk.”

An aide to the Congresswoman told ESSENCE they expect to introduce related legislation in early 2018.

The Congressional Black Caucus is urging the White House and fellow lawmakers to modernize federal disaster policies in the devastating wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria:

The CBC sent a letter to congressional leaders and copied President Trump, urging them to modernize federal policies and procedures. The goal, say CBC leaders, is to ensure people most affected by natural disasters receive the assistance needed to get back on their feet. 

The NAACP and the Clean Air Task Force have co-authored a major report about health risks to Black and low income communities caused by airborne pollutants from oil and natural gas companies:

The study, Fumes Across the Fence-Line: The Health Impacts of Air Pollution from Oil and Gas Facilities on African American Communities, was released during a briefing at the National Press Club attended by Congressman Al Green (D-TX) and environmental justice advocates.    

Per the report: 91 counties across the country are building oil refineries or refineries already exist close to nearly 7 million African Americans. Dr. Doris Browne, president of the National Medical Association, the Black physicians’ group which supported the study, says disproportionate exposure to toxic and hazardous emissions can cause asthma, cancer, and other serious health consequences.

Octavia Dryden, part of a group called Delaware Residents for Environmental Justice, traveled to D.C. just to attend the press conference. “I’m from a Black community near a landfill, a chemical plant and a port. Many residents—including me and my parents—wound up with cancer,” she told ESSENCE. “You start to ask, `What is going on?’”

 Quote of the Week:

“At present, our country needs women’s idealism and determination, perhaps more in politics than anywhere else.” – Shirley Chisholm