After seven weeks of vacation -- certainly one of the longest in modern history -- Congress is finally back in session this week. And there's a long to-do list waiting for them:
Today, Vice President Joe Biden is headed to the Hill to join Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Congressional Democrats in urging Republicans in Congress to take action on the critical issues facing the American people.
Here's a few things you should know about three urgent priorities the GOP in Congress have been actively ignoring:
Zika Virus Emergency Response
For months, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health have been predicting that the Zika virus would turn into a public health crisis during the summer season. That's why President Obama sent Congress a request for emergency funding in February, well in advance of the oncoming emergency. "
So here's what you should know, by the numbers:
- Over 16,800: Number of cases of Zika infection in the U.S. and its territories, according to the CDC
- 1,595: Number of pregnant women who've been infected with the virus
- 17: Number of babies that have been born in the U.S. with birth defects related to Zika
- $1-10 million: Amount a family could pay to care for a child born with microcephaly, a birth defect caused by Zika
- Over 200: Number of days since President Obama asked Congress to pass emergency funding
The Supreme Court Vacancy
One month after he asked Congress to act on Zika, President Obama nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, in an unprecedented move, Senate Republicans have simply refused to even hold a hearing for the President's nominee to judge whether he is qualified for the position, let alone vote on whether to confirm him or not. So here's a not-so-fun fact for democracy: Judge Garland, who has the most federal judiciary experience of any Supreme Court nominee in history, has now waited longer than any other nominee in history.
Here's a look at Supreme Court vacancy, by the numbers:
- 176: Number of days Judge Garland has been waiting for a hearing
- 1875: Since 1875, every Supreme Court nominee who has not been withdrawn has received a Senate
- 2: Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution is clear about the Senate's responsibility to advise and consent on the President's Supreme Court nominees
- 4-4: As we've seen, a 4-4 split by the Supreme Court can mean that federal laws that should apply to the whole country are constitutional in some parts but unconstitutional in others
Gun Violence Prevention
The vast majority of Americans, including the vast majority fo gun owners, believe that we can and must take sensible steps to address gun violence. This January, President Obama took executive action to do what he could to reduce gun violence and make our communities safer. However, there's more that Congress can do to help pass sensible violence prevention measures -- ones that'd institute stronger background check rules or that'd prevent those on the no-fly list from purchasing a gun.
Here are a few numbers to remember on gun violence in America:
- More than 100,000: Number of Americans who've been killed as a result of gun violence over the past decade
- 1,333: Average number of guns recovered in criminal investigations each year that were lost or stolen
- 54: Number of Senators who voted in favor of responsible, gun violence prevention legislation in the months after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Sixty were needed to move forward.