The World-Herald’s Washington Bureau rounds up news highlights from Capitol Hill and beyond.
It was a busy week in Washington, with trade disputes rattling the markets, tensions mounting with Iran and the administration unveiling new immigration proposals.
Among the other events around town:
In what is quickly becoming a pattern, House Democrats continue to pass bills unlikely to go anywhere in the Republican-controlled Senate or to be signed by President Donald Trump.
But the measures serve as an expression of the party’s values and will no doubt be held up on the campaign trail next year as a blueprint for what they would like to accomplish if they take control of the Senate and White House.
The latest example is the Equality Act, which would provide broad new anti-discrimination protections to LGBT people. The House approved it Friday on a 236-173 vote, with only eight Republicans voting for it and no Democrats voting against it.
All four House Republicans from Nebraska and Iowa voted against the legislation, while Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, supported it.
Democrats said the bill is important in protecting LGBT people from discrimination in areas ranging from employment to housing.
“This bill will help move our nation closer to fulfilling the promise of equality, opportunity and justice for all,” Axne said in a press release. “I will continue to fight in Washington to make sure that we end discrimination against our LGBTQ community.”
But Republicans said the bill represents more government overreach that would have unintended consequences, such as paving the way for biological men to compete in women’s sporting events.
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And they said the bill violates the First Amendment by impinging on the rights of religious groups.
Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., said that LGBT citizens need equal protection but that those protections must respect religious groups who hold traditional marriage views.
He said Democrats could have included strong religious freedom protections in the bill but instead intentionally ruled them out.
“People have had deeply held religious beliefs going back millennia,” Bacon told The World-Herald. “We need to protect LGBT, but we also have to respect faith-based organizations.”
Bacon recently joined the Congressional Servicewomen and Women Veterans Caucus, a group that includes lawmakers from both parties and both genders.
Bacon said he knows the group’s founder, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., and wants to support the effort as a fellow veteran.
The caucus is hoping to tackle issues ranging from sexual assault in the military to VA care for the rising number of female veterans.
Bacon, a retired Air Force brigadier general, cited one of the pressing issues for the caucus — a shortage of child care options driving away female service members.
“We want to make sure we’re making it easier for moms to be able to stay in,” Bacon said.
Honoring those who serve
It’s been two decades since Nebraska State Patrol Trooper Mark Wagner of North Platte was killed in a training accident.
In observance of the 20th anniversary of his death, his wife, Denise, brought a large group of family members to Washington last week for National Police Week.
She said the memorial events in Washington underscored the support, particularly among the law enforcement community, that exists for families of those killed in the line of duty.
“It’s just true that you never are forgotten,” she said.
Meet the Nebraska state senators
Here are the 49 state senators of Nebraska's 106th Legislature. You can click here to find your state senator.