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digital gap act
The Digital Global Access Policy (GAP) Act was passed in the House of Representatives on January 24, 2017. This bill is a vital step in reducing global poverty in developing nations, creating more interconnectedness between people and nations and saving millions of lives.

Currently, nearly 60 percent of the world’s 7.6 billion people remain offline. In this increasingly global society, access to the internet is becoming a necessary service alongside electricity and running water. Developing nations and governments need internet access to connect systems, provide services to residents and lift themselves out of poverty to participate in global markets.

The Digital GAP Act, introduced by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), had overwhelming bipartisan support in the House. On its way to the Senate, the bill will bring mobile or broadband internet access to 1.5 billion people for the first time. The passing of the Digital GAP Act will spur economic growth in developing nations, save millions of lives through increasing global health and crisis response and fight to bring more women online in the fight for global equality and human rights.

Economic Benefits of the Digital GAP Act

Closing the digital divide would boost global commerce by billions of dollars. Providing internet access to communities will increase thhe earning potential of individuals and communities, allowing for more prosperous people.

The availability of internet means emerging markets in need of data plans. The new sales of platforms and data plans open up a market opportunity worth $50 to $70 billion. Furthermore, the addition of internet access to disadvantaged communities will allow companies and businesses to invest in the area. The creation and attraction of local and foreign businesses to establish themselves within communities previously without internet access will drum up industry and increase economic growth and opportunity.

The More Women Online, the More Prosperity

On the House floor, prior to the vote which passed the Digital GAP Act, Rep. Chairman Ed Royce highlighted the way women are disproportionately affected by the digital gap and the importance to bringing more women online. “[Women are] …serving as the principal consumers, caregivers, educators, peacemakers and income-earners across the developing world. Bringing women online will not only deepen the benefit of existing investments in governance and global health, it will accelerate economic growth,” Rep. Royce said.

Intel Corporation argues that bringing even just 150 million more women online has immense benefits for the women themselves, their families and their communities. Seeing another 600 million women online would contribute an estimated $13 to $18 billion to the annual GDP across 144 developing countries.

Providing internet access to more women would expand opportunities as 180 million women would see improved abilities to generate income for themselves and their families. Passing the Digital GAP Act would see nearly 500 million women able to improve their education and see greater freedom and connectivity to the public sphere as a result of being online.

Increasing Global Health and Crisis Response Saves Lives

In 2014, the Ebola virus claimed over 11,000 lives, with Liberia suffering the worst. Liberia, without reliable internet access, saw community health centers struggle to coordinate efforts to save lives. With 60 percent of the world left out of the technological revolution, there is a lack of coordination, communication and response to global health crises. The lack of internet access resulted in more deaths from Ebola.

Today, many communities struggle with the Zika virus, which disproportionately affects women and infants. Without internet access, communities are unable to track the virus. This means individuals in communities affected by the virus will remain completely unaware of its presence until it is too late. This allows the virus to spread over borders with more ease.

Not only does the addition of internet access increase crisis response capacity, but it also increases education surrounding global health. With access to information about disease, sanitation and general health and well-being, communities have more tools to prevent health crises. In rural areas where clinics may be expensive or difficult to travel to, access to health advice and knowledge about ailments can allow communities to make better decisions regarding global health.

Passed in the House and on its way to the Senate, the Digital GAP Act can save lives, spur economic growth and opportunity and achieve gender equality. Now more than ever, it is important to support poverty reducing legislation that will make a difference in millions of lives.

– Kelilani Johnson

Photo: Flickr

be a senator
The United States Congress is made up of two chambers: an upper chamber known as the Senate and a lower chamber known as the House of Representatives. This is modeled after the British Parliament bicameral (two chamber) system. In England, this system is composed of a House of Lords and a House of Commons.

Today, the United States Congress is made up of 100 senators and 435 representatives. That is two senators from each state and one representative from each of the 435 recognized congressional districts in the United States. Members of Congress are voted in by the public and serve a six-year term if elected to Senate and a two-year term if elected to the House of Representatives.

When one considers the history, size and power of the United States Congress, there are many questions that may come to mind. One common question asked is: how old do you have to be to be a senator? To answer this question, one can look to the United States Constitution for the answer.

The Constitution reads, “No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.” From this, one can see that the answer to the question of how old one must be to be a senator in the United States is a minimum of  30 years old.

Answering this question often leads to another question: why did the writers of the United States Constitution choose this age as opposed to other ages? In addition to the structure of the two chamber congress system, the framers of the Constitution also looked to England when trying to determine the details for what the requirements to be a member of Congress would be.

At the time of the writing of the United States Constitution, England’s law required members of Parliament to be a minimum of  21 years old. Though the United States did not adopt the same age requirement, the adoption of an age requirement at all was significant.

Ultimately, it was determined that one must be 25 years of age to be a representative in the House of Representatives, a number similar to England’s, and 30 years of age to be a senator. The answer to the question of why 30 is the age that was determined by the writers of the Constitution is addressed by James Madison in The Federalist, No.  62. Madison explained that because of Senate’s deliberative nature, the “senatorial trust,” called for a “greater extent of information and stability of character,” than would be needed in the more democratic House of Representatives.

The United States Congress is a complex and integral part of the United States government. When determining the requirements to be a member of Congress, the framers of the Constitution had many factors to consider. Ultimately, they determined that as far as the requirement of age went, 30 was the appropriate age for a member of the Senate.

– Nicole Stout

Photo: Flickr

The Link Between Poverty and EpidemicsOn Jan. 18, 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to continue funding for H.R. 1660, or the Global Health Innovation Act, with an overwhelming vote of 423-3. The Global Health Innovation Act will support the progress of health innovations for USAID, the top U.S. government agency that works to end global poverty.

According to the original bill H.R. 2241, nearly nine million people die per year due to diseases and health conditions, many of which are preventable. USAID’s goal is to lower this statistic as much as possible and create democratic governments within underdeveloped societies.

The Global Health Innovation Act was reintroduced by Democratic Representative Albio Sires and other U.S. Representatives on March 21, 2017. Republican U.S. Representative of Florida Mario Diaz-Balart stated in a press release, “I am proud to reintroduce this critical piece of legislation with my friend, Rep. Albio Sires. It is more important than ever that the United States invest in global health and continue to deliver state-of-the-art medical devices and technologies.”

The Global Health Innovation Act will cost an estimated $500,000 or less from 2018-2022. This estimated amount by the Congressional Budget Office is subject to the availability of funds during each fiscal year. The bill would require USAID to track and report four annual updates to Congress of the developed health innovations and programs implemented.

These annual reports would track the extent to which health innovations have advanced, how progress is being measured and how these innovations are reaching set goals. The reports will also describe drugs, devices, vaccines, medical devices and technologies which are funded by the act. This detail is included to guarantee U.S. tax dollars are being spent in a logical and effective manner.

What work does USAID do?

USAID works toward sustainable global health by prioritizing three major goals: preventing child and mother deaths, controlling the HIV and AIDs epidemic and fighting infectious diseases. The overall goal of USAID is to improve health globally by bringing attainable medical innovations to impoverished countries in order to build better health systems. Through donors and partners, USAID has been working toward these goals and the Global Health Innovation Act will help bring these goals to reality.

Who is rallying for the Global Health Innovation Act?

U.S. Democratic Representatives Gerald Connolly (VA), Eliot Engel (NY), Brad Sherman (CA), David Cicilline (RI) and William Keating (WA) cosponsored the H.R. 1660 bill on March 21, 2017. Slowly, more Democratic Representatives joined them, including Suzan DelBene (WA), Joyce Beatty (OH), Nydia Velazquez (NY), Zoe Lofgren (CA), Ted Lieu (CA) and Timothy Walz (MN). Now that the bill has passed in the House of Representatives, it is important to continue rallying for its success as it still must pass in the Senate and be signed by President Trump.

How does it benefit the U.S.?

Global health is an important humanitarian concern as well as a business investment. Investing in global health creates new jobs and economic growth. According to Congressman Sires, between 2007 and 2015 global health investments generated $33 billion and 200,000 jobs. Investing in global health research and development has already impacted the U.S. with new health technologies. H.R. 1660 will continue to open doors for not only global health but also for the U.S. economy and technology.

What can be done to mobilize Congress?

Constituents across the U.S. can rally in support of the Global Health Innovation Act by calling or emailing Congress through a very simple process. Find the contact information for the appropriate Representatives here and Senators here. The Borgen Project has also provided a helpful tool to send emails through a template to Congress, which can be found here.

Contacting U.S. Senators and Representatives is effective because Congress staffers take a tally of every issue that constituents reach out for. This small bit of activism keeps important bills on the radar for Congressional leaders and can make a significant difference in a bill’s success. Even the smallest efforts can help create global change for people facing poverty.

– Courtney Hambrecht

Photo: Flickr


The differences between congressmen and senators are often confusing. Oftentimes, the two roles are used interchangeably to represent someone who works and composes the legislature of the United States. However, the roles, influences and powers of congressmen and senators vary.

Congress refers to both the Senate and the House of Representatives. A congressman is any member of either the Senate or the House of Representatives. There are a total of 535 voting congressmen, 435 of which are representatives and 100 which are senators.

To become a senator of the U.S., the potential candidate must be elected by the people of the state. Like any election, the candidate with the most votes wins. Each senator has an office in Washington, D.C., as well as one in the home state.

Senators are members of the legislative branch – their job is to represent the people living in their state. For example, to support a bill which aims to reduce poverty, individuals can contact their state senator. These bills are voted on and passed by the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, which are then signed by the president to become law. Each state within the U.S. has two senators representing it, regardless of the size or population of the state.

In accordance with the Constitution, “all legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” The Constitution grants the Senate its own unique power: ratifying treaties, approving presidential appointments and a two-thirds vote of Senate is required before a person is impeached from office.

The differences between congressmen and senators also relates to their level of authority. Congress has an important role in national defense, including the power to declare war, raise and maintain armed forces and create rules for the military.

The Senate and the House of Representatives must approve and ratify legislation before it is executed.

– Jennifer Serrato

Photo: Flickr

United States' Role in Global EducationIn late July 2017, a resolution was introduced to the House of Representatives supporting the United States’ role in global education. The resolution aims to ensure the U.S.’s assistance in the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), which grants children access to quality education in the world’s most impoverished countries.

In April 2017, the GPE called for a 3-year plan to support a large number of developing countries in their effort to improve the quality of education and provide proper access for approximately 870 million children.

The resolution, which was referred to the Committee of Foreign Affairs, was introduced by Republican Representative David Reichert of Washington. It voices the ongoing concerns about disenfranchised children in other parts of the world who have limited or no access to quality education.

It was resolved that the House of Representatives considers it the United States’ role and duty to improve access to quality education to marginalized children worldwide. Additionally, it was resolved that the House encourages commitment and investments by the U.S. government, international donors, private foundations and private sector donors through the GPE to fund the ongoing global effort to promote education for children and youth worldwide.

The resolution addresses the issues of lack of basic literacy and numerical skills in approximately 250 million children worldwide. It also outlined the benefits of improving the quality of education. It stated, for example, that, “access to quality education reduces poverty, advances economic prosperity, improves peace and security and strengthens public health.” The investment in global education could positively affect these situations.

The incentives to invest in global education via the GPE were made clear as well. The World Bank has found that every year of school decreases the chance of male youth in violence by around 20 percent. The Global Education Monitoring Report found that the majority of the world’s children who do not attend school live in areas wrought with violence and conflict. Education also impacts health: the Global Education Monitoring Report found that an educated mother is more likely to have her children vaccinated. The report also found that girls who attend school are less likely to be infected with HIV.

In 2014, support for the Global Partnership for Education led to approximately 64 million more children attending primary school than 2002, as well a 10 percent increase in primary school completion over the same period.

To ensure the access of education to children worldwide and increase the United States’ role in global education, you can ask your representative to cosponsor House Resolution 466.

Melanie Snyder

Photo: Flickr

Bipartisan measuresOn July 27, 2017, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed nine new bipartisan measures, including the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act. This bill recognizes the need for comprehensive primary and secondary education for refugee children, especially women and girls, as they systematically face greater obstacles in obtaining an education. If passed, this bill would ensure Congress works with both private and multilateral organizations to implement educational programs abroad.

Democratic Rep. Robin Kelly, a co-sponsor of the bill along with Republican Rep. Steve Chabot, spoke for the bill in a markup. Kelly pointed out that 65 million people, half of whom are under 18, have been displaced since the beginning of 2017, and four million displaced children lack access to elementary education.

Kelly claimed that displaced children are more vulnerable to abduction, poverty, and early marriage when they cannot attend school and that school can help displaced children cope with trauma and overcome feelings of isolation by providing a community.

Related measures passed include the North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2017, which supports North Korean refugees and advocates for radio broadcasting in North Korea, as well as the resolution entitled “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.” All of the measures passed received bipartisan support, and several have bipartisan sponsorship.

During markups, Congressional committees discuss, amend and rewrite proposed legislation. In this markup, seven of the nine measures discussed were amended, but all passed at the end of the session. Rep. Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, reported the measures favorably and was authorized to seek House consideration of the measures under suspension of the rules.

“Suspension of the rules” is a procedure used to save time when discussing relatively uncontroversial bills. Rep. Royce likely ordered a suspension of the rules based on the bipartisan nature of the measures discussed. This fact means that when the measures are discussed next in the House, they will be unamendable and debate will be limited to forty minutes.

As these bipartisan measures all passed without much dispute, they will likely continue to move quickly through the House of Representatives.

Caroline Meyers

Photo: Flickr

When the founding fathers of the United States sought independence from the British Empire, they were determined to create a government based on representation. Many settlers in the new world were not happy being taxed by a government in which they did not have a voice. The desire for a fair democracy that represented the interests of its citizens was manifested in the House of Representatives. The process for how members of the House of Representatives are elected was first laid out in the Constitution, but the process has evolved over time.

The legislative branch was first defined in Article I of the United States Constitution. It is comprised of two chambers, the upper chamber (the Senate) and the lower chamber (the House of Representatives). Article I Section II clarified that members of the house are to represent the interests of the people. Representatives do not have to be residents of the districts they seek to represent, but they are required to be residents of that district’s state. This rule was created to ensure that representatives worked in the interest of the state’s voters.

At the time of the Constitution’s inception, only a few states were part of the union. As states were admitted, the number of representatives was adjusted to ensure equal representation. The House would use the census every 10 years to determine or adjust representative districts. In 1929, the Permanent Apportion Act capped the number of house seats at 435, the same as the number of representatives at the time. This act sought to keep the House of Representatives from growing to an unmanageable number.

Members of the house each serve two-year terms, as opposed to the six-year terms of senators. While the Senate is split into three classes, with one class up for election every two years, the entire House of Representatives is up for election every two years.

Term length aside, the process for electing members of the House of Representatives follows the standard for presidential and senate elections. Party primaries are held first to determine who the individual political parties nominate as their candidate for the seat. The primary is the widest field of candidates for voters. Once parties choose their candidates, a general election is held in November of even calendar years. Whoever receives the popular vote within the specific house district is the declared winner of that House Seat. Since there are no specified term limits for any member in the House of Representatives, it is possible for a representative to hold their seat for the remainder of his or her life.

Jeffery Silvey

Photo: Flickr

Legislature
Within the legislature of the federal government, there are two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Senators and Congressman work within these two lawmaking bodies. Both are representative voices for their constituents, but their roles differ in terms of  length, power and apportionment. Here are some key facts on the differences between Senators and Congressmen.

House of Representatives

  1. Each state represented in Congress is entitled to at least one representative, but the number per state is determined according to population. Under the constitutional rule regarding the size of the House, “the number of Representatives shall not exceed one of every thirty Thousand.”
  2. There are currently 435 Congressional seats.
  3. A Congressperson’s term lasts two years.
  4. The minimum age for a member of the House is 25 and the elected official must have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years.
  5. The six non-voting members in Congress are the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands. Although these districts are unable to vote, they may vote in a House committee and introduce legislation.
  6. In the legislature, only the House of Representatives can introduce spending bills.

Senate

  1. Each state has a total of two senators, regardless of the state’s size. For this reason, there are always 100 senators during a given period.
  2. A senator’s term lasts six years. Only one-third of the Senate seats are elected every two years. That way, only 33 or 34 seats are up for election at a given time.
  3. The minimum age for a senator is 30, and that person must be a U.S. citizen for at least nine years.
  4. The Senate has sole power of approval for foreign treatises and cabinet and judicial nominations, including appointments to the Supreme Court.
  5. The Senate is headed by the Vice President, who only votes in case of a tie.

Nora Harless

Sources: Diffen.com, USGovInfo
Photo: Flickr

Global Food Security Act
Global poverty touches the lives of millions of people. Currently, close to 3 billion people lack access to toilets and 1 billion lack access to clean drinking water. In addition, 2.7 million newborns worldwide die within their first month of life.

Seven countries are home to 58 percent of the world’s hungry: India, China, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Tanzania.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization states that 795 million people suffer from chronic hunger. It is clear that there is much work to do in confronting the problems associated with ending global poverty.

The Global Food Security Act aims to address these problems head-on. The bill is a “comprehensive strategic approach for U.S. foreign assistance to developing countries” according to the text of the bill and hopes ‘to reduce global poverty and hunger, achieve food and nutrition security, promote inclusive, sustainable, agricultural-led economic growth, improve nutritional outcomes” among other objectives.

First introduced in March of last year, The Global Food Security Act has carried much bipartisan support due to its proposed benefits. According to InternAction, a group of non-governmental agencies in Washington D.C, a program launched due to the Act, Feed the Future, Initiative, “improved the nutrition of 12.5 million children and assisted nearly 7 million farmers and producers in improving their use of technology and land management practices.”

On March 10, 2016, the Global Food Security Act (S.1252) moved from the Senate floor to committee. The bill, which was introduced by Senator Robert “Bob” Casey Jr. from Pennsylvania, gained three new cosponsors in February, Senator Benjamin Cardin [D-MD], Senator Bob Corker [R-TN] and Senator Daniel Coats [R-IN]. The new additions bring the total number of cosponsors to 13, seven republicans and six democrats.

The House version of the bill (H.R.1567) that has been in committee since April of last year, also has three recent cosponsors, consisting of Congressman Steve Womack [R-AR3], Congressman Lacy Clay [D-MO1] and Congressman Lee Zeldin [R-NY1] which brings the total number to 123, 82 democrats and 42 republicans.

The Global Food Security Act can have huge potential benefits. The World Bank indicates, “that growth in agriculture is on average at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth outside agriculture… Agricultural growth reduces poverty directly, by raising farm incomes, and indirectly, through generating employment and reducing food prices.” By passing the Global Food Security Act, the United States can take decisive action in reducing global poverty.

Michael Clark

Sources: The Borgen Project, GovTrack 1, GovTrack 2, GovTrack 3, InterAction, Bread for the World, World Bank
Photo: Flickr

House of Representatives
A United States congressperson is tasked with the duty of directly representing the people by introducing bills, resolutions and amendments and serving on committees to support the needs of their constituents. Our Founding Fathers wanted members of the House of Representatives to be, above all, close to the people.

House members face the least stringent requirements of any position in office. There are only three requirements, as expressed in the U.S. Constitution:

  1. You must be 25 years of age or older.
  2. You must have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years.
  3. You must live in the state you are to represent.

James Madison articulated the open nature of the position when he wrote, “Under these reasonable limitations, the door of this part of the federal government is open to merit of every description, whether native or adoptive, whether young or old, and without regard to poverty or wealth, or to any particular profession of religious faith.”

The origins of these stipulations lie in aspects of British law.

The minimum age requirement was initially set for the voting age of 21. However, during the Constitutional Convention of 1787, George Mason strongly disagreed with this minimum age, reasoning that it was “absurd that a man today should not be permitted by the law to make a bargain for himself, and tomorrow should be authorized to manage the affairs of a great nation.”

Despite Pennsylvania’s James Wilson’s argument that restricting the minimum age of office to 25 would “damp the efforts of genius, and of laudable ambition,” many at the convention felt that the House of Representatives was not a training ground for neophytes but a vital endeavor to be taken up by an experienced professional. Mason’s movement to change the age to 25 passed seven states to three.

As for citizenship, British law stipulated that Commons members be lifelong citizens of England. However, the Founding Fathers did not want to discourage immigration. Therefore, mandating seven years of citizenship before a congressperson could take office balanced the desire to prevent foreign interests taking priority over domestic politics and the desire to keep the House of Representatives as close to the people as possible, including new immigrants.

House of Commons members were also required to reside in the shires or boroughs they represented. Our Founding Fathers assimilated this rule into the Constitution because they wanted House members to truly represent the people by being genuinely familiar with their needs.

Besides being an accessible position, a congressperson is subject to frequent reelection. Representatives are elected to a two-year term. As decided in 1911, the number of representatives in office is 435, with the number per state proportionate to the population.

Before engaging in the duties of the office, members of the House of Representatives must swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

As a representative of the people, a congressperson needs to hear the voices of his or her constituents to adequately address relevant issues. You can contact your representatives to express your needs and the needs of your community.

Mary Furth

Sources: U.S. House of Representatives, Constitution Convention of 1787, Vol. 1,, The Congressional Record
Photo: Flickr