People from all over the Seattle area meet with our Senators’ staffers at the Federal Building in Seattle 12:30-1:30 every Tuesday.
It is extremely helpful to hear from those who work professionally in politics – and other Indivisibles. We also rally 11:45-12:30.
This page is updated by 3pm each Wednesday. From 12/12: notes & rally: 32:24. Other Tuesdays’ notes.
These notes from December 19th 2017 from all attendees; calls to action and links provided by me. Rally vid: 36:37.
New information in the meeting is black.
The Senators’ offices close over the Holidays. The next Tuesday meeting is January 9th.
Rally was indoors, because it was too rainy! Vid: 36:37.
Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
Ryan’s ‘Entitlement Reform’
Ryan’s framing: “we need to convert our health care system to a patient-centered system, so that people have more choices, we have more competition, … (and) We think it’s important to get people from welfare to work,”: Edition.CNN.com. He would use PAYGO’s guidelines to slash ‘entitlement’ spending.
PAYGO (pay as you go)
If there is a vote to cut Medicare funding to be within PAYGO’s guidelines, will Democrats vote for it? What would their incentive be to vote for or against it? We don’t know. PAYGO is a requirement that spending does not increase the deficit: “A budget rule requiring that new legislation affecting revenues and spending on entitlement programs, taken as a whole, does not increase projected budget deficits.”: TaxPolicyCenter.org.
2017’s Budget by Comparison
With the new tax scam, we are predicted to go a further $140bn in the hole each year
($1.4 trillion over 10 years: WaPo).
Social Security: $944 billion ~ Medicare: $593 billion ~ Medicaid: $393 billion
Source: Nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, August 2016 Projections: FedWeb.com.
Senate Democrats Ceded Time
Senate Democrats ceded 5 hours of their debate time on the tax bill. The time could have been used to denounce the tax bill and educate the American public. Ceding this time will be seen as just giving up. Democratic voters see this as ceding leverage. Democratic communication on this issue could be much better. Senators need to hammer home whenever they are interviewed that they have no leverage.
Republicans are saying that Democrats chose not to participate on tax bill – where really, the Republicans have shut them out of the process. An attendee watched the reconciliation hearing and said each and every Democrat denounced this bill and the process used to create it, she was happy with the Democratic Senators’ statements.
The hearing, with Sen. Cantwell fighting for tax credits for housing at minute 49: Speaker.gov
Our senators are not giving up. Ceding debate time is a common practice, especially since the Republicans will not consider any Democratic amendments. Senator Murray is prepped to oppose any cuts to Medicare and Social Security.
The Johnson Amendment is not included in the tax bill. The Johnson Amendment is a provision that has been in the U.S. tax code since 1954 that prohibits all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. It would allow churches to financially endorse political candidates, and make those payments tax-deductible. The Democrats asked the parliamentarian, Elizabeth_MacDonough and she ruled that it was against the Byrd Rule. The Byrd Rule bans “extraneous matter” (riders) from bills: House.gov
Lawsuits Resulting from the Tax Cuts Act?
It Affects Blue States Disproportionately
Are there law suits planned with regard to the tax bill, since it targets blue states? It does this mainly by taking away deductions for SALT (State And Local Tax) taxes, targeting states like New York and California who pay higher SALT taxes: CNBC.com. So do Washingtonians.
The Corker Kickback
The Corker Kickback is a case of open bribery. Now that there’s a new provision that was not in either the Senate nor House tax bills, he will vote for it. It allows owners of large real estate holdings through LLCs to deduct a percentage of their “pass through” income from their taxes. The provision will allow Drumpf, Corker, Paul Ryan and 11 other member so Congress to pay even less in taxes than before reconciliation. The International Business Times estimated the Corker Kickback will save Corker himself over $1 million.
Corporate Tax Rates Expiry
We don’t know if the corporate tax cuts would be permanent when the bill expires in ten years. Since the cuts are for 10 years, it seems like they would need to be renewed.
The Byrd Bath Challenge!
Senator Murray brought in the Byrd bath challenge to stop riders in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: like removing the reference to human life beginning at conception. The Byrd Rule bans “extraneous matter” (riders) from bills: House.gov. Republicans have many ways they could insert “life at conception” into legislation, so it’s not over.
The reference to the fetus in the bill actually referred to being able to pay into college savings with a tax advantage for a child at that time of life:
Democrats tried to use the Byrd Rule to remove Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge drilling from the bill, but since drilling in ANWR is claimed to bring in revenue (even if not within 10 years) the Senate parliamentarian allowed ANWR drilling to stay.
Republicans are pushing this legislation through so quickly because they don’t want it fresh in voters’ minds in 2018, when all of the Representatives and 1/6 of Senators are up for re-election.
Republican Senators up for re-election in 2018:
Roger Wicker (MS);
Deb Fischer (NE) (one term Senator);
Cruz (TX) (one term Senator);
Orrin Hatch (UT), longtime (since ’76);
and John Barrasso (WY): Wikipedia.org.
Why aren’t Democrats using more legislative process to slow this down? They are in the minority in the House and Senate. Also, they used the budget reconciliation process to pass part of the ACA.
They also couldn’t propose an alternative tax plan because they couldn’t get it to the floor. As the majority, the Republicans control the agenda. Senator Cantwell suggested a change to the low income tax credit that was not adopted.
SNAP funding is taken care of through the Farm Bill. it comes up for the vote every 5 years. It comes up again in 2018. We can expect Ryan to come after it.
The Federal Budget
What Would Happen if the Government Shut Down?
Non-essential services would be shut down: some Members of Congress would temporarily lay staff off, parks would close, etc. “Government Shutdown: Explained with Examples”: theBalance.com / USAtoday.
The government is now financed through December 23rd.
It took 9 months for the VA to catch up with appointments after a previous government shutdown. The effects of the 2013 government shutdown on veteran’s benefits: USAToday.com.
Democrats Hold Unofficial Hearings
There is no to way to hold unofficial hearings in chambers, though similar media events have happened, just not in Congressional chambers.
New Border Control Agents
There is concern about the LA Times article on federal government plans to hire 5,000 new border patrol agents using private contractors. Part of the concern is the amount the contractor is being paid: “If the contract runs its full five years and is fully paid out, the agency will spend $39,600 per hire. That’s just below the $39,738 starting pay for a customs officer.”
The Senators will look into it.
A Clean Dream Act
Senator Murray will be speaking on the Senate floor on Thursday to advocate for a clean Dream Act. A clean Dream Act is one that not only offers a temporary residency and work / study permit for qualified individuals, like DACA (a 2 year, renewable program); it also offers a path for qualified individuals to move towards citizenship. This affects around 800, 000 people. About DACA: NPR.org.
S 1615 & HR 3440 are clean Dream Acts supported by both parties: they just need to be brought to the vote. S. 1615 is trapped in the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. Contact its Republican members.
We ask our Senators to oppose any efforts to modify NSA surveillance, especially section 702. There is an attempt to add re-authorization of FISA as part of the budget. This needs to be a discussion separate from the budget. It expires December 31st. It is “A controversial provision in U.S. law that gives the National Security Agency broad authority to spy on people overseas”: PCWorld.com.
“Erik Prince … lobbied … to provide the CIA with a private network of intelligence contractors”: Edition.CNN.com. The Senators have no comment on that, but the referenced article makes it sound dead.
Sen. Cantwell had an online town hall on Tuesday morning with Mignon Clyburn on net neutrality. Twitter vid: 50:09. To protect net neutrality, we need more Republicans on board.
Our Senators are looking at the Congressional Review Act and how it might be used on the FCC’s take down of net-neutrality. The Congressional Review Act gives Congress authority to review regulatory actions within 60 days. It only needs a simple majority to pass a bill over-riding a regulatory change. It still would need Drumpf to sign it, and it would need Ryan or McConnell to bring to floor. The CRA: Wikipedia.org.
Peterson withdrew his application to be a Federal judge. He mentally stumbled on camera, an example of social media influencing politics: YouTube.
The CDC’s List of Banned Words
‘Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention … are now under order by the Drumpf administration to stop using words including … :
“diversity,” “fetus,” “transgender,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “science-based” and “evidence-based.”‘: Edition.CNN.com.
Senator Murray is working on a letter for other Democrats to sign to send to the CDC demonstrating outrage.
Puget Sound Clean up
Puget Sound has been awarded $25 million in grant money for clean up projects. We thought we’d only get $5 million.
The projects that will be funded:
“The restoration of an additional 5,000 acres of key Orca and salmon habitat;
The re-opening of about 4,000 acres of shellfish beds in Puget Sound; and
Improvement of biological condition from fair to good for at least 30 streams.”: Murray.Senate.gov.