Week ahead: Green, labor groups seize on pope's visit

Pope Francis's visit to Washington has a number of special interest groups hoping the pontiff will address their causes when he delivers an address Thursday to a joint session of Congress.

Groups are using the historic visit to push for issues including tougher gun laws, climate change, income inequality and reining in Wall Street.

Environmental activists will be rallying Thursday on the National Mall to draw attention to climate change. http://bit.ly/1QMHAMp


The pope recently called climate change "one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day" and is expected to raise the issue before Congress.

Gun control advocates, who have been pressing for stronger background checks to little avail in Washington, also hope the pope will push their cause forward.

"The pope has used his platform to speak out on a number of important issues," said Everytown for Gun Safety spokeswoman Erika Soto Lamb. "We hope he spends some time addressing the gun violence that kills 88 Americans every day on his visit next week."

Labor groups are pressing Francis to address income inequality. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents millions of public sector workers across the country, hopes the pontiff will draw attention to not only income inequality, but also immigration, racial justice and climate change.

"Workers from across the country and from across our membership will journey to Washington," the SEIU noted Friday in a tipsheet.

And a group of low-wage Capitol workers who cook for and clean up after lawmakers are requesting a meeting with the pope. The workers, who have been pressing lawmakers to pay them $15 an hour, sent a letter to the pontiff. http://bit.ly/1JZd1As

"We want you to know that even though we serve the wealthy and the powerful in the Congress, we earn so little that we live in utter poverty," the Capitol workers wrote. "We sleep on the streets, because we cannot pay the rent. We go to bed hungry, because we can't put food on the table."

Also on Capitol Hill, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday to talk about how to improve accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs and examine firsthand accounts from agency whistleblowers.

Elsewhere, the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust will look at how consolidation in the health insurance industry is affecting consumers.

And on Wednesday, the Senate Homeland Security subcommittee on federal management will hold a hearing to examine the use of agency regulatory guidance.



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