Model Congress Returns to Western for a 17th Year


Credit: Emerson Ritter

A Senate committee votes on a bill, determining whether or not it will be able to move on to the Senate floor.

Opal Kendall and Staff Reports

Model Congress is, perhaps, the pinnacle of history and civic education at Western. During Model Congress and the weeks leading up to it, seniors write, debate, revise and vote on bills in the hope that they will be signed into law by the president.

As always, this year’s Congress features a range of bills, addressing the many facets of the American political landscape. This includes one bill intended to legalize the use of steroids, one promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the classroom, one bill which would legalize sex work, bills to reform gun laws, one to end the ATF, bills to change the laws around cryptocurrency, one to increase the country’s reliance on nuclear energy, a bill to address the housing crisis on reservations, one bill to switch the country to the metric system, one to improve public transportation systems, and even a bill making the Monday following the Super Bowl a national holiday.

Government teacher Walker Richmond says, “We have been talking all year about different way we can actively engage in democracy in order to nurture a strong, healthy democracy. Model Congress gives us a chance to actually practice that engagement in a very real way and to have important discussions about both the issues facing America and ways we can address those issues.”

Throughout the day, our staff will be providing live updates on the events of Model Congress and how the senior class feels about those goings-on. Those updates can be found here, on our website, and our Instagram (@thewesternhemisphere).

Morning Committee Sessions

9:09 – Senate Health and Education Committee Passes the Health Transparency Act

The Health Transparency Act, which works in efforts to reduce healthcare costs, has been passed by the Senate Health and Education Committee. In passing the bill, a provision was added to include an itemized bill in hospital costs.

~ Annabelle Mackey, Staff Writer

9:14  – Senate Budget, Commerce and Transportation Committee Passes the Support Foster Child Futures Act

The Senate Committee on Budget, Commerce, and Transportation opened the day with a bill aimed at improving the prospects of former foster children with additional adoption incentives and grants for ex-foster children attending college or trade internships. With overwhelming support, this bill passed 12 to 0.

~ Gray Tracey, Staff Writer

9:20 – House Judiciary Committee on Law Enforcement Passes the Protecting the Rights of the Incarcerated

The House Majority Leader Ellie Self’s bill, co-sponsored by Sophia Ma, which is centered around criminal justice reform, has passed the House Judiciary Committee on Law Enforcement. This bill would abolish the death penalty, put and end to felon disenfranchisement and minimum sentencing laws, and institutes a rehabilitative approach to justice. This bill happens to be among those that are being prioritized by the Democratic Party today and despite some concerns about how this law would affect those on death row, the bill passed through the committee, paving its way to the House floor vote.

~ Annie Flamm, Staff Writer

9:24 – Senate Committee on Budget, Commerce, and Transportation Passes the Support Foster Child Futures Act

Nora Wood’s bill, SB 321, or the Support Foster Child Education Act has passed by an overwhelming margin of 12 to 0. The bill aims to provide financial support for foster children seeking college education. While no specific amount per child has been set, the bill would reform the FAFSA application to permit allow greater funds for foster children.

~ Annabelle Mackey, Staff Writer

9:27 – House Health and Human Services Committee Passes the District of Columbia Representation and Empowerment Plan

Sponsored by Ryan Kennedy, this bill proposes shrinking Washington DC and redistricting the land to be a part of Maryland, ultimately limiting the population of  Washington D.C to 700,000 people. The committee discussed the benefits of redistricting with Maryland, in that it wouldn’t disrupt the political landscape, rather than redistricting in conjunction with Virginia, which would result in the state becoming a swing state. With no major arguments against the bill, it passed committee and will move on to the House floor.

~ Ike Noth, Staff Writer

9:27 – Senate Committee on Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Passes the Nuclear Reactor Revival Act

The Nuclear Reactor Revival Act seeks to replace fossil fuels with nuclear energy. Among other measures, it redirects coal subsidies towards reinstating old nuclear plants and provides more accurate and up-to-date information on nuclear power to the public. Despite numerous other bills with similar goals, this bill passed committee 9 to 3. This bill will likely have a tough path ahead of it because nuclear power is so controversial. One nuclear energy bill made it to the president’s desk last year, only for it to be vetoed by President Larson.

~ Gray Tracey, Staff Writer

9:36 – Senate Committee on Budget, Commerce, and Transportation Passes the Patient and Hospital Affordability Act

Debate is fierce over Senator Darius Mehta’s Patient and Hospital Affordability Act. Mehta seeks to expand insurance for medication and reduce price gouging of medical supplies, but critics claim the provisions would make hospitals’ financial losses even worse. Despite the intense debate, the bill was almost unanimously passed, a strong sign for the Republican party, who hopes to get this bill to the president’s desk.

~ Gray Tracey, Staff Writer

9:39 – House Committee on Homeland Security, Foreign Relations, and Veteran’s Affairs Passes the Death Star Act

Sponsored by Luke Kielbasa, The Death Star act will commission NASA to build a government funded Death Star to shoot down nuclear attacks from space, in the hope that with the implementation of this policy, nuclear warfare will cease to exist. To further this approach, committee members proposed that a government funded cleanup crew be funded after the “Death Star” is used, to minimize its environmental impacts. The bill passed with overwhelming support.

~ Annie Flamm, Staff Writer

9:45 – House Committee on Health and Human Services Fails the Alcohol for Adults Bill

Sponsored by Ian Ratcliffe, this bill allowed people 18 years or older to buy alcohol. Opposition to this bill suggested that with this new precedent, 18-year-olds would frequently buy alcohol for those under 18, promoting under age drinking. Facing this strong opposition, the bill was amended so that 18-year- olds could buy beer  and but not hard liquor, maintaining the age requirement of 21 years. Despite these attempts to sway the opinion of the committee, the bill failed.

~ Ike Noth, Staff Writer

9:56 – Senate Committee on Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Passes the Urbanization and Sustainability of Agriculture Act

Senator Ilse La Fleur’s bill, SB 208, on modernizing the agriculture industry has passed unanimously its Senate committee. According to La Fleur, the need for this bill has increased in recent years, as weather conditions have become unreliable due to global warming. Included in the bill are incentives for farmers to explore non-traditional and environmentally friendly farming methods in the hope that they will “increase profit margins.” 

~ Annabelle Mackey and Gray Tracey, Staff Writers

9:59 – Senate Committee on Health and Education Passes School Safety Promise Act

SB 319, sponsored by Ollie Sauerwein, would require all school employees who work with students to be certified in first-aid techniques including CPR/AED and Stop the Bleed. The training will be funded by schools when possible, and slowly rolled out over the next three years. Amendments were proposed to simplify the logistics by reducing the number of staff required to have this certification, but sponsor  Sauerwein argued that in an emergency, everyone needs to be able to act. This bill ultimately passed and will move onto the Senate floor.

~ Gray Tracey, Staff Writer

10:09 – Senate Committee on Budget, Commerce, and Transportation Passes the Epinephrine Price Reduction Act

Senator Michael Mitchell’s Epinephrine Price Reduction Act has unanimously passed its committee. The bill seeks to reduce prices of the anaphylaxis drug, EpiPen, which according to Mitchell, “costs about $30 to make, [but consumers are] being charged $350” by Mylan Pharmaceuticals.  If this bill were to go into effect, Emergency Medical Services and hospitals will receive discounts on epinephrine, and an insurance program targeted at anaphylaxis patients, called EpiPension, will be created as well.  “This drug isn’t a luxury. It’s a lifesaver,” said Mitchell.

~ Annabelle Mackey, Staff Writer

10:17 – Senate Committee on Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Passes Building Up Taxation To End Emissions Responsibly Act

With her bill, SB 202, Senator Sofia Beard seeks to reduce the US’ carbon emissions by implementing carbon tax on fossil-fuel vehicles and high-emitting industrial farms. The bill would also improve clean-energy infrastructure by revitalizing public transportation and creating more EV chargers.  The tax would slowly increase over time as technology progresses, and the money would go into research on how to improve the technology further. Critics argued that heavy machinery used in farming and construction is impossible to make clean, and that the tax would unfairly burden these industries. While Senator Beard countered that the income from this tax would be focused into research and development on this very issue, the health of the agriculture industry is still the center of debate. Ultimately, despite the reservations of some, this bill passed committee and will move onto the Senate floor.

~ Gray Tracey, Staff Writer

10:31 – House Committee on Ways & Means, Budget, and Commerce Fails Introduction to Trades

The Introduction to Trades Act, sponsored by Andrew Ballas, supports trade schools across the country in the hope to nurture trade skills in future generations. Under this bill,  all administrative work and funding would be run and provided by the Department of Education. This program would cost an estimated 1 billion dollars, and because the bill failed to fully account for the source of this funding, the bill failed 2 to 20.

~ Lily Kline, Staff Writer

10:32 – Senate Judiciary Committee on Constitutional Affairs Fails the Drug Test Refusal Act

Senator Grayson Payne introduced the Drug Test Refusal Act which allows athletes of certain classifications to refuse drug tests, effectively legalizing steroids, in an effort to give athletes a “cutting edge.” The bill was immediately shut down by Senator Kennedy Buntrock, who said that it encouraged athletes to partake in drug use, and that the only way a bill on drug testing would pass committee would be if it supported mandatory drug testing.  Senator Payne argued that the bill would have no effect, saying that athletes already take drugs. Reflecting this fiery opposition, this bill failed committee, halting its progress towards Western’s Oval Office.

~ Zoey Sauerwein, Assistant Editor

10:32 – Senate Committee on Health and Education Passes Computer Accessibility for Public Schools

Senator Ryan Jeronimus’s bill, Computer Accessibility for Public Schools, has passed unanimously in the Senate Committee on Health and Education. The bill will invest $1 billion providing computer and internet access to public school systems. “Currently, only 60% of public schools meet the requirements, so we’re talking about funding 40% of public schools,” said Jeronimus.

~ Annabelle Mackey, Staff Writer

10:32 – House Committee on Homeland Security, Foreign Relations, and Veteran’s Affairs Fails the Airport Welcome Act

As the last bill on the table in this committee, Jasmine Erkel argued for her Airport Welcome Act to “improve people’s experiences in American airports.” She firmly believes that how people from all around the world are welcomed into America is a large part of how American citizens are perceived in foreign countries, saying “How people are welcomed into America is possibly the most important aspect of American stereotypes. This act started for the people. Not just the people of America, but the people of the world.” Many fellow committee members were skeptical of both how this act would work logistically and its relevance. Because of this overwhelming pushback, this bill failed in committee.

~ Ava Ellis, Staff Writer

10:49 – Representatives Discuss Bill Legalizing Steroids

As morning committees drew to a close, a bill seeking to legalize steroid use in sports was the subject of much talk. An incredulous Senator Veronica Strider asked, “Who’s in your committee that would pass this?” Senator Liam Fontenot, on the other hand, said he found the idea funny. “It would make sports much more exciting, to see all these 15-year-olds on ‘roids.” Even though the bill hadn’t even passed committee, it was still the subject of much debate.

~ Gray Tracey, Staff Writer

Morning Caucus Meetings

10:58 – Senate Democrats Party Caucus Meeting

The Democrats of the Senate Party caucused to discuss their priorities in the upcoming afternoon session. Among them are bills to reduce gerrymandering, reform juvenile justice, and improve life outcomes for foster kids. Notably, one of these priority bills was the Nuclear Reactor Revival Act, a Republican energy bill. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Jack Tueting said that “Nuclear is not a bad word.” With a concession to add a carbon tax, he argued that this bill was a good compromise that would effectively reduce carbon emissions. Bipartisanship also came into play regarding a bill to cap drug prices, proposed by Republican Darius Mehta. With regards to another high-priority bill, this one to expand gun control, Tueting urged Democrats, “Stand your ground. It’s ‘human lives matter more.’” Democrats closed out the agenda with the Microbeads and Plastics Act to clarify labeling and reduce microplastic waste.

~ Gray Tracey, Staff Writer

Floor Session I

11:23 – House of Representatives Passes the Protecting the Rights of the Incarcerated Act

The Rights of the Incarcerated Act opened the first floor session of the House of Representatives, with measures to abolish the death penalty and send drug users to rehab instead of traditional prisons. Opponents argued that some prisoners would prefer execution to life imprisonment and that disenfranchisement is a valid response to certain crimes, but the bill’s supporters countered that imprisonment is a form of servitude and that ex-convicts’ right to vote is protected by the 15th Amendment. Ultimately this bill passed, which bodes well for the Democratic leadership who have prioritized this bill in their efforts to get certain bills signed into law.

~ Gray Tracey, Staff Writer

11:40 – House of Representatives Fails the Death Star Act

Senator Luke Kielbasa took his controversial Death Star Act to the floor, arguing that shooting down nuclear missiles from space with a massive web of weaponized satellites would have benefits that far outweigh the costs. He dismissed concerns about the environmental and human impact by saying “do you want to kill a million Americans or twenty?” Ultimately, the bill’s supporters were amused to hear that the Death Star Act received exactly 69 “yea” votes, although somewhat disappointed to hear that that wasn’t enough to pass it.

~ Gray Tracey, Staff Writer

11:49 – House of Representatives Passes the Kunkel Snip I

Sponsor Sofia Kunkel proposes that the ACA should be expanded to cover a form of effective, reversible birth control for male people – the vasectomy. Some representatives argued that the bill was unnecessary, but Kunkel responded that it simply improved accessibility with no negative effects. Some more extreme members of the Republican Caucus argued that all forms of birth control should not be covered by the federal government, but others argued their support for the bill under the reasoning that its implementation would reduce the need for abortions. With this support, the bill passed the House floor and will next face a vote from a Senate committee.

~ Gray Tracey, Staff Writer

11:57 – House of Representatives Passes the AI Opioid Act

The AI Opioid Act, proposed by Lucy Evans, passed easily. The bill would utilize artificial intelligence to track and recognize patterns of illegal opioid transportation and alert authorities to these patterns, resulting in faster investigation time.  According to Evans, the AI program already exists, and has been proven effective, so it would not take any money away from other places and would not raise taxes.

~ Maria Kinnan, Staff Writer

11:59 – House of Representatives Passes Cybersecurity for America

The Cybersecurity for American Act was introduced to the House floor with the intention of protecting America and its citizens from cyberattacks. Among other measures, it allocates 5%of the defense budget, or $40,000,000,000 to cyberdefense and requires companies to keep customers’ data behind additional security. With strong support, this bill passed the House floor.

~ Gray Tracey, Staff Writer

12:11 – House of Representatives Passes the DEITY Act

The DEITY Act intends to create a safer and more equitable school system, using a DEI, diversity, equity, and inclusion, curriculum, under which DEI must be embodied in academics and teachers must undergo DEI training. Representatives asked about how this bill would be funded and how parental rights would play a part in determining with curriculum. Sponsor Maya Kim explained that funding would not be an issue because funds would come from the Department of Education’s budget and parents would be able to address iterations of the policy at committee meetings. Despite fiery debate over the importance of the policy, this bill was successfully passed.

~ Lily Kline, Staff Writer

12:27 – House of Representatives Passes the National Police Reform Act

The National Police Reform Act, sponsored by Jaden Steppe passed very easily.  The bill proposes an increase in police training from 18 weeks to 24 weeks, and will add to the curriculum training in how to de-escalate situations. The bill would also require police to wear body cameras and microphones while on duty.  The bill will draw from already allocated funds, so it will not result in an increase in taxes.

~Maria Kinnan, Staff Writer

12:40 – House of Representatives Passes the Abortion Reform Act

The Abortion Reform Act is perhaps one of the most unexpected bills of this year’s Model Congress, not because of the content, for abortion is among the biggest issues in politics today, but because of its content- it was proposed by a Republican representative. This bill, if signed into law, would protect abortion in all fifty states up to 22 weeks, which can be extended if the pregnant person’s life is in danger. In debate, one representative argued that “This is not a far away issue. It’s a right here issue.” Although this bill is usually very polarizing along party lines, this bill was able to garner some bipartisan support, perhaps because its sponsor, Zachary Layman, is a Republican. With this support, the bill passed the House.

~ Lily Kline, Staff Writer

12:49 – Senate Debates on Numerous Bills in Morning Floor Session

Multiple bills have passed the Senate thus far in the morning floor session. The Limitation of Youth Incarceration Act, which would protect juveniles in the criminal justice system by prohibiting those charged with nonviolent crimes from being charged as adults and being placed in juvenile detention, ensuring that mental health care and education are prioritized in juvenile detention centers, and outlawing solitary confinement, strip searches, and chemical sprays for minors, passed in a 36 – 25 vote. Notably, this bill was among those that Senate Republican leadership instructed their caucus to oppose. SB 301 bill, which increases the Pell Grant for low-income families passed, once amended to require the maintenance of a 3.0 GPA rather than a 2.0. Finally, SB 223, which would officially make Puerto Rico a state and provide voting rights to Puerto Rican citizens passed the Senate as well.

~ Annabelle Mackey, Staff Writer

12:51 – House of Representatives Passes Just Throw the Problem Away

The Just Throw the Problem Away Act, proposed by Khi Hylton, passed by a landslide.  The goal of the bill is to “Protect the Earth, the oceans, and create a better future for all,” which policy wise means replacing single use plastics with other, more sustainable options, such as using biodegradable materials instead. 

~ Maria Kinnan, Staff Writer