Spending Deals and Poland

Grind for December 20th
“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”

Serves You Right

The Headline

Congress approves $1.3 trillion spending deal

The Grind

Lawmakers this week celebrated a $1.3 trillion spending package that keeps the government up and running through September 30th, 2020.

The deal provides funding for several national priorities including:

— $425 million for election security

— $7.6 billion for the 2020 census

— $25 million for gun violence research

— 3.1% pay raise for federal workers and service members

— $1.4 billion for border security

— $41.7 billion for medical research at the NIH

— $9 billion for the EPA

The deal also guarantees pensions and healthcare for coal miners, raises the minimum age for tobacco use to 21, eliminates “Cadillac taxes,” and boosts state opioid response grants by $1.5 billion.

The Details

The package includes a $738 billion defense budget, which authorizes historic sanctions on Iran, Syria, and Russia for war crimes against civilians in Syria.

“Fifty hospitals have been bombed since April 2019,” says Syrian-American immigration lawyer Muna Jondy. “There will be financial consequences.”

The sanctions, which begin within six months, could target government officials, military leaders, civilian leaders, Russian- and Iranian-backed mercenary groups, international energy companies working in Syria, companies that supply parts for aircraft, and banks that provide loans to the Syrian regime.

The sanctions are expected to hinder Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s efforts to solicit foreign aid for reconstruction.

Not Fair

The Headline

Poland could be forced to leave the European Union over judicial reform proposals that punish judges for engaging in “political activity”

The Grind

Judicial reform proposals brought forth by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) could force the nation to leave the European Union, warned Poland’s Supreme Court this week.

Under the new rules, judges who engage in “political activity” or who question the government’s procedures could be fined or dismissed.

“Contradictions between Polish and EU law…will in all likelihood lead to an intervention by EU institutions regarding an infringement of EU treaties, and in the longer run [will lead to] the need to leave the European Union,” stated the Supreme Court.

The Details

The EU accuses PiS of politicizing the judicial system, while PiS insists the reforms are necessary to fight corruption.

Speaking of corruption, the PiS in 2018 changed an existing law regarding the National Judicial Council – the body responsible for nominating Polish judges – so that it could unilaterally appoint judges to the council.

Later that year, the European Network of Councils suspended Poland’s membership based on its conclusion that the NJC was no longer politically independent.

The issue of Poland’s proposed reforms has been referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which recently decided that a 2017 Polish law regarding judges’ retirement ages violated EU law.

The law established a lower retirement age for women than for men and gave the Justice Minster the power to decide whether a judge could continue to practice once he or she reached that age.

Roughly 100 judges lost their jobs before the law was reversed.

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