Category: U.S. Congress

A whole slate of endorsements, because it’s time to hold Trump accountable

I’m going to announce a whole slate of endorsements in a number of elections across the country, including special elections this year, Democratic primaries for general elections this year, and Democratic primaries for general elections in 2018.

6th Congressional District of Georgia special election – Jon Ossoff

Early voting is underway in the special election to replace Republican U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in the U.S. House of Representatives, and it is likely that Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff will get a plurality of the votes in the April 6 election, and, if no candidate gets a majority in the special election, a runoff between the two candidates who receive the highest number of votes in the April 6 election would be held on June 20. Prior to entering electoral politics, Ossoff was Han Solo an investigative filmmaker and a baseball player. As an investigative filmmaker, Ossoff exposed judicial corruption in the African country of Ghana and uncovered acts of brutality committed by ISIS in Iraq. Republicans are so frightened that Ossoff might win one way or another, Republican-aligned political organizations have spent tons of money on television ads attacking him because he’s a fan of Star Wars. While I’m no fan of Star Wars, that is one of the most ridiculous things to attack a candidate for public office over. Should a runoff be needed, Ossoff’s most likely GOP runoff opponent would probably be Karen Handel, who, when she was the vice president for public policy at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, cut off Komen’s funding to Planned Parenthood, an organization that…you guessed it…provides breast cancer screenings to women! Only Karen Handel could mess up a charity seeking to eradicate breast cancer. I endorse Jon Ossoff’s campaign, and I encourage voters in the 6th Congressional District of Georgia to vote for Ossoff on April 6, and, if necessary, on June 20.

8th Congressional District of Massachusetts Democratic primary – Brianna Wu

I proudly endorse video game developer Brianna Wu in next year’s Democratic primary in the 8th Congressional District of Massachusetts. Prior to entering electoral politics, Wu, who was born in West Virginia and grew up in Mississippi but now lives in Massachusetts, was repeatedly harassed and doxxed online by a bunch of misogynists as part of Gamergate. Wu supports collective bargaining, internet privacy rights, and other progressive ideals.

At-large Congressional District of Montana special election – Rob Quist

Another special election is taking place across the entire state of Montana for the U.S. House seat vacated by Republican U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Democrats have nominated musician and former Montana Arts Council member Rob Quist in the upcoming special election for the seat. Quist was born and raised in Montana, and he supports closing corporate tax loopholes and opposes Donald Trump’s efforts to take health insurance away from millions of Americans. Quist’s GOP challenger is Greg Gianforte, a wealthy carpetbagger from New Jersey who supports the Trump agenda and wants to bring New Jersey values to Montana. The special election in Montana will take place May 25.

Governor of New Jersey Democratic primary – John Wisniewski

Speaking of New Jersey, I proudly endorse John Wisniewski for the Democratic nomination for the office of Governor of New Jersey. Wisniewski has been perhaps the most vocal critic of Chris Christie there ever is, the most vocal critic of Chris Christie there was, and the most vocal critic of Chris Christie there will ever be, particularly in regards to the Bridgegate scandal. If nominated for and elected governor, Wisniewski will take on both the Republicans and the George Norcross machine that is holding back the New Jersey Democratic Party, and he’ll be a steadfast advocate for progressive ideals. New Jersey holds its gubernatorial election this year.

Governor of Virginia Democratic primary – Tom Perriello

I proudly endorse former U.S. Representative and former diplomat Tom Perriello for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Virginia. If nominated for and elected governor, Perriello will be a fighter for the people of Virginia by standing up for women’s reproductive rights, rebuilding Virginia’s crumbling infrastructure, expand broadband internet access in Virginia, and treat opioid addiction as a treatable illness, not a criminal act. Like New Jersey, Virginia holds its gubernatorial election this year.

Republicans are making their atrocious health care bill even worse to appease the far-right

If you thought the Trumpcare bill in Congress was bad, well, Republicans are now trying to make Trumpcare, which is the proposed legal vehicle for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that provided millions of Americans with health insurance, a lot worse in order to appease members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of far-right Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Republicans have, since Monday, made two major amendments to the original Trumpcare bill.

The first is the so-called “manager’s amendment”. What the manager’s amendment, if enacted, would end the popular and effective Medicaid expansion a lot sooner than the original bill would have, allows states to raid federal Medicaid funds and use them for purposes other than Medicaid, and makes the Medicaid funding cuts from the original bill a lot more severe, giving state governments, particularly those controlled by Republicans, an opportunity to deprive large numbers of people of health insurance. ThinkProgress, a left-leaning website, gave a more detailed description of the manager’s amendment here.

The second is the Meadows Amendment, named after U.S. Representative and House Freedom Caucus member Mark Meadows (R-NC). Among other things, the Meadows Amendment would allow private-sector health insurers to:

  • deny health insurance to those with pre-existing medical conditions
  • force women to pay more money for the same exact health insurance that men receive
  • enact annual and/or lifetime limits on health care coverage
  • force people to pay money out-of-pocket for vital preventative care, such as mammograms and vaccinations

It’s not hard to understand why most Americans don’t like Trumpcare.

Paul Ryan and John Shimkus don’t understand the concept of insurance

It has become inherently clear that the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress have zero concept of how insurance is supposed to work. Broadly speaking, insurance is a method of protecting one’s self from financial loss, and insurance can be an individual policy (such as a car insurance policy through a private-sector entity like State Farm, GEICO, or one of their competitors), a group policy (such as group health insurance plans provided by employers through a private-sector health insurance firm to the employers’ employees), or a government policy (such as the federal Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program commonly called Social Security). Likewise, health insurance is a method of protecting one’s self from financial loss associated with medical expenses, and can be an individual policy, a group policy, or a government policy. In order for insurance policies to be financially sustainable, those who do not need the benefits of the insurance policy in question must, by buying into the policy (which can be by paying premiums, taxes, and/or other means), effectively subsidize those who do need the benefits of the insurance policy in question.

The problem is, Republicans, who want to repeal most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), don’t understand how a financially-sustainable health insurance policy works.

At a recent press conference, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin bizarrely claimed that health insurance doesn’t work if healthy people have to effectively subsidize people people who are ill and/or injured:

…He even lost the suit coat and broke out the PowerPoint on Thursday. It was like watching something on cable access late at night, or a flop-sweaty rookie substitute teacher, and it was hilarious—except for the parts where people will lose their health insurance and die, of course. And this is what he said and, peace be unto Dave Barry, I am not making it up, either:

Paul Ryan said that insurance cannot work if healthy people have to pay more to subsidize the sick.

As if Ryan wasn’t far enough out of touch with reality, the person who legally represents me and several hundred thousand other people in downstate Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives, John Shimkus, made the sexist motivation behind repealing the ACA publicly known in committee:

But Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois took the cake on Thursday night when he questioned why men aren’t exempt from paying into insurance plans that cover prenatal care. “What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” the congressman said. “Is that not correct? And should they?”

Let me ask a similar question: Why should women have to purchase health insurance for prostrate cancer treatments? Clearly, men never need prenatal care, and women never need prostate cancer treatments. However, if only women had to pay for health insurance covering prenatal care, such a system, regardless of whether the public sector or the private sector were to administer it, would be financially unsustainable. The same problem would be the result if only men had to pay for health insurance covering prostate cancer treatments. This is because a large percentage of women will need prenatal care for at least several months of their lives, so it would be only women who never get pregnant effectively subsidizing those who get pregnant any number of times in their lives. Health insurance covering gender-specific health illnesses/procedures can only be financially sustainable if both men and women pay into a health plan covering prenatal care, prostate cancer treatments, etc..

While I’d never run for public office myself, John Shimkus may legally represent all people in the 15th Congressional District of Illinois, but a significant minority of voters in the 15th district, including me, understand that Shimkus doesn’t understand how health insurance works.

IMPEACH SESSIONS

While under oath during his confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, then-U.S. Senator, and now-U.S. Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III claimed, “…I did not have contact with the Russians.”

As multiple media outlets are now reporting, Sessions did, in fact, have contact with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, on at least two occassions during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice last year with the top Russian diplomat in Washington whose interactions with President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn led to Flynn’s firing, according to the Justice Department.

[…]

Sessions met with (Sergey) Kislyak twice, in July on the sidelines of the Republican convention, and in September in his office when Sessions was a member of the Senate Armed Services committee. Sessions was an early Trump backer and regular surrogate for him as a candidate.

Regardless of what type of communication took place between Sessions and Kislyak, two indisputable facts are important here. First, Sessions told a U.S. Senate committee that he “…did not have contact with the Russians”. Secondly, and contrary to Sessions’s statement under oath, there are at least two documented instances of Sessions meeting with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

The fact that Sessions committed perjury during his confirmation hearing for U.S. Attorney General is grounds for impeachment. U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has called for Sessions to resign the office of U.S. Attorney General. I am not an attorney or a Member of Congress, but Sessions should either resign from office or face at least one impeachment charge (for perjury).

The Resistance comes to GOP town halls in Iowa

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The topic of this blog post was chosen in a Twitter poll, although only one person voted in the poll.


Both of Iowa’s U.S. Senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst (both Republicans), held town hall events in their home states yesterday. Needless to say, the people of Iowa were not impressed with Grassley and Ernst siding with the Donald Trump agenda to destroy America, and they had serious concerns about a wide range of issues, including immigration and foreign influence in U.S. elections.

During Grassley’s town hall in Iowa Falls, Grassley was asked by Zalmay Niazy, an Afgan man who assisted U.S. forces as a translator and is now in the U.S., about Trump’s Muslim ban:

At a town hall in Iowa Falls, Iowa, Tuesday, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley received a question from an Afghan man who asked him for help to stay in the US in the face of the Trump administration’s immigration executive order.

Multiple federal courts across the country have granted requests to temporarily halt enforcement of the order, which bars foreign nationals from Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Yemen from entering the country for 90 days, all refugees for 120 days and all refugees from Syria indefinitely.

[…]

“Who is going to save me?” he asked Grassley. “I am a person from a Muslim country and I am a Muslim. Who is going to save me here? Who is going to stand behind me?”

In Maquoketa, Ernst was asked a question by a U.S. Army Reserves veteran about Donald Trump’s ties to Vladimir Putin and the Russian government:

Trinity Ray, a 41-year-old veteran from Iowa City who spent eight years in the Army Reserves, pressed Ernst to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia and alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 American election.

“I appreciate that a lot, because I have said repeatedly that Russia is not our friend,” Ernst said, as Ray yelled that she should “say it louder.” She added that Trump “needs to stand up against Vladimir Putin.”

Ray wasn’t satisfied.

“If you were serious about this situation, you wouldn’t rest until you had an answer,” he said afterward. “We swore to defend against enemies domestic and foreign.”

Ernst refused to support a special congressional committee to investigate Russian influence in the November 2016 U.S. elections.

Rural America is beginning to realize that Trump and his Republican cohorts are not acting in the best interests of Greater America. People who are attending town halls in an attempt to let their voices be heard are not paid protesters. They’re ordinary people.

One of the most right-wing newspapers in the entire country couldn’t find a single Betsy DeVos supporter in the education community

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post was originally written on Medium by the administrator of this blog and has been republished in full.


Above the fold on the front page of today’s issue of The News-Gazette, a Champaign, Illinois-based newspaper that covers the east-central part of Illinois and has a very right-wing reputation, was this story about how many in the public education community are opposed to the nomination of Betsy DeVos to the office of U.S. Secretary of Education.

In The News-Gazette’s attempt to find a DeVos supporter, they couldn’t find a single one in the educational community in East Central Illinois.

The strongest opposition to DeVos came obviously from teachers’ union leaders, although many in management (i.e., public school administrators) strongly opposed DeVos as well. Sheila Greenwood, the superintendent of schools in the Bement, Illinois public school system (covering southern portions of Piatt County, Illinois), said this about DeVos:

Bement Superintendent Sheila Greenwood was so appalled by how DeVos answered senators’ questions last month that she contacted her legislators, “begging them to put a stop to this insanity.”

“She couldn’t answer basic questions about schools, funding or assessment. She is uber-wealthy and has no experiences with public education because she lives like the 1 percent and knows nothing,” Greenwood said. “I think Trump will have his puppet and others will run the department.

Jeremy Darnell, the superintendent of the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley public school system in Illinois (map of district here), said this about DeVos:

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Superintendent Jeremy Darnell was unimpressed with her hearing, as well, saying it was “very evident” she lacks understanding of current education issues.

[…]

“Votes should be cast on merit, preparation and the ability to effectively fill an essential role in our national government, not party line politics,” Darnell said. “All appointments should be considered for their ability to effectively advise our elected leadership. No leader can be a master at all so the essential need to surround yourself with experts in their field is more important today than ever.

The Bement and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley school districts are located in some of the most Republican areas in all of Illinois, and voters in both school districts voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

The closest person that The News-Gazette could find to a DeVos supporter was Mr. Seth Miller, the superintendent of the public school system that I attended, the Westville Community Unit School District in Illinois. I’m paraphrasing, but Mr. Miller’s thoughts about DeVos were basically of the “give DeVos a chance if she’s confirmed” mentality without offering any explicit support of DeVos:

“We have the best educational system in the world. A leader who is committed to children, who need access to public education, would receive my support,” Miller said. “… Spirited debate with informed constituents helps make us a strong country — big enough and brave enough for diverse opinions. It is my hope that whoever is confirmed as the next secretary of education will help perpetuate this democratic ideal in our public school system.”

Having seen video clips of the Betsy DeVos confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, it is clear to me that, if confirmed, DeVos would be a downright horrible Education Secretary.

Peter Roskam is afraid of his constituents

The resistance has officially come to the Chicago suburbs:

The protests earlier today against Congressman Peter Roskam of our state’s 6th Congressional District were in response to Roskam’s congressional staffers canceling a constituent meeting because he’s afraid of being held accountable the media:

Rep. Peter Roskam’s (R-IL) office cancelled a meeting with constituents about Obamacare on Wednesday when a staffer for the congressman learned that a reporter was present, according to the Aurora Beacon-News.

Constituent Sandra Alexander told the Beacon-News that she arranged the meeting about the Affordable Care Act with Roskam’s staff ahead of time and informed them that she would be bringing along a small group.

But staffers cancelled the meeting before it could begin, ostensibly because there were members of the media present

Even though Roskam’s district was gerrymandered for him thanks to Mike Madigan and his cronies, there is a huge opportunity for a Democratic candidate to run against Roskam and possibly ride a wave of left-wing backlash towards the Donald Trump-era Republican Party all the way to a congressional victory.

PETITION: Tell the Senate to hold confirmation hearings on Steve Bannon’s appointment to the National Security Council

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post contains the body of an online petition, written by the author of this blog post, republished in full.


President Donald Trump has appointed Stephen Kevin “Steve” Bannon, one of Trump’s closest allies and a top White House adviser to Trump, to a seat on the National Security Council (NSC). The NSC is responsible for advising the President on matters affecting America’s national security.

A federal statutory law, section (a)(6) of federal statute 50 U.S. Code 3021, requires that civilian appointees to the NSC receive confirmation by the U.S. Senate for appointment to the NSC. Although the creator of this petition is not an attorney, it appears that Bannon, whose legally holds the offices of Senior Counselor to the President and White House Chief Strategist, would qualify as an individual of the (a)(6) category, meaning that Bannon would be legally required to receive Senate confirmation in order to legally become a member of the NSC.

Confirmation hearings for Bannon’s appointment to the NSC would give Senators opportunities to question Bannon over his work at the far-right website Breitbart, allegations that he physically beat his wife, and his offensive anti-Semitic remarks. It is very much possible that, even with Republicans holding a 52-48 majority in the Senate, Bannon may be rejected by the Senate.

We, the signatories of this petition, hereby call for the U.S. Senate to hold confirmation hearings for the appointment of Stephen Kevin “Steve” Bannon to the National Security Council.

You can sign the petition here.

The women of America are leading the opposition to Donald Trump

madison-wi-women-march-1-21-2017
Sign carried by a participant in the Madison, Wisconsin Women’s March (Photo taken by Kari Nelson and provided by Sarah Lloyd)

Ladies and gentlemen, the opposition to President Donald Trump is officially here!

Earlier today, millions of people across the United States and on all seven continents around the world (including Antarctica!) participated in Women’s Marches in Washington, D.C. and numerous other locales. The Women’s Marches are the single largest action by the women’s rights movement that I have witnessed in my lifetime by far.

Although I was unable to attend any of the Women’s Marches, here are some observations from the Women’s Marches (all of these are courtesy of either social media of participants or news sources with an online operation of some kind):

The opposition to Donald Trump is not going to be led by a single person. It’s going to be led by a large segment of the American people.

Betsy DeVos confirmation hearing POSTPONED because Trump’s appointees aren’t being properly vetted

The controversy regarding Republican President-elect Donald Trump and his Republican allies in Congress attempting to ram through Trump’s appointees without Trump’s appointees being properly vetted by federal ethics officials is not going away. In fact, one of Trump’s appointees, Betsy DeVos, who is Trump’s pick for U.S. Education Secretary, has had her confirmation hearing postponed until next week because the federal Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has not been able to complete its end of the vetting process:

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee announced late Monday that it had rescheduled the confirmation hearing for Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos.

“At the request of the Senate leadership to accommodate the Senate schedule, we have agreed to move the nomination hearing of Betsy DeVos to Tuesday, January 17th at 5:00 p.m.,” Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a release late Monday.

While Betsy DeVos has made it clear for a long time that she wants to destroy public education in America, what is an even bigger problem than that is the fact that multiple Trump appointees, apparently including DeVos, have not been properly vetted to the legal standard, not a political standard, for vetting a presidential appointment. I’ll even add that, given the seriousness of the fact that OGE has not been able to properly vet Trump’s appointees, the letter from the OGE Director regarding the issue should have been addressed to the entire Senate, not just Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).