Updated 3pm Wednesday. 6/5/18 notes from visiting WA’s senators’ staffers. Rally vid: 31:11. Our meeting: notes.
Deep dive questions 5/29 notes & rally vid: 35.23. FAQs & Archive. Online info about our senators.
By Holly Brewer and Loren Bast.
Kate Baumgartner, Sen. Murray’s Seattle Director ~ Main P: (202) 224-2621 / (866) 481-9186 ~ F: (202) 224-0238
Tommy Bauer, Sen. Cantwell’s Seattle Outreach Director ~ Main P: (202) 224-3441 ~ F: (202) 228-0514
– he left at 1 for another meeting.
Dan Gillman, President of Vets4Peace: Local Chapter 92 spoke on the federal budget, cutting military spending, and the threat of privatizing the VA.
Also, Lilly Addams from Physicians for Social Responsibility, which has been working for more than 50 years to create a healthy, just and peaceful world for present and future generations. PSR is the U.S. affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, a non-partisan federation of national medical groups in 64 countries that share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation.
The rally vid: 31.11
Busy Week in Sen. Murray’s Office
We met Claire, Sen. Murray’s new intern.
Sen. Murray’s staffers will be in meetings all this week or on a flight to DC: so calls will go to voicemail. We are welcome to call the DC office at: (202) 224-2621 / Toll Free: (866) 481-9186 – also, their voicemail box is bigger. Sen. Murray is mainly working on nominations this week.
Sen. McConnell has Cancelled the August Work Period
Sen. McConnell cancelled the August work period (sometimes called recess) – on Twitter.
Democrats Vow to Use the Increased Work Hours to Move Health Care Forward
Sen. Murray joined with Sen. Schumer and other senators in a press conference to say that they will push forward with health care in the increased time that they now have in DC: ModernHeathCare.com.
Health Care Ongoing in WA
Every county in Washington state has a health care provider ongoing: but rates are up because of no individual mandate (because of the omnibus appropriations bill in March) and no Cost Share Reduction payments since Trump took them. Insurers have also been scared by the administration’s proposal of junk health care plans and the uncertainty that would come with them.
The administration is planning to take Title X funding from any clinic or provider that offers abortion – or mentions places that do. This would primarily affect rural and poor populations: TheHill.com. This is the gag rule.
Submit an Official Comment to the HHS
50, 000 comments about the huge proposed fee hikes in some national parks forced them not to do it: WaPo.com. Please comment. Many times. It works.
Email Your Personal Stories
Email Senator Murray and tell her how this gag order will affect you, your family, your loved ones, your community or you in your profession: Murray.Senate.gov. This is an example of Sen. Murray using a personal story on the Senate floor: Twitter.com. She asks permission.
Get Text Alerts
To join actions to protect Planned Parenthood, Text nogag to this number: 22422. Planned Parenthood health centers serve 41 percent of all Title X patients. More: PlannedParenthoodAction.org.
The HHS is sending the proposal to the Office of the Federal Register: OFR.gov. Once it is in the Federal Register: GPO.gov (which will probably take months), we will have the opportunity to comment on it on regulations.gov.
Highlights of recent rally at the City Hall Plaza: YouTube.com 12.34.
Sen. Murray’s Statements About the Gag Rule
Sen. Murray wrote a resolution with Sen. Gillibrand & Baldwin: “politicians should not interfere with a woman’s personal health care decisions or attempt to prevent providers from offering their full medical recommendations to their patients.” The HELP Committee press release: HELP.Senate.gov. The resolution: PDF.
Cheaper Pharmaceuticals From Abroad
S. 469: Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act: 20 Dem & 1 I cosponsors.
This bill has been cosponsored by Sen. Cantwell: but not Sen. Murray. She is looking at the bill.
Congress’ Relationship with Pharmaceutical Companies
“Pharmaceutical companies spend big in Congress, while increasing drug prices”: King5.com: “Meanwhile, Congress has punted on new legislation that could have reined in prices all the while accepting campaign contributions from big pharmaceutical companies. Members of Congress have received $22,109,838, according to campaign contributions since 2015.
Near the top of that list was Washington Senator Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate’s committee on health. Murray received $292,309 for her re-election this year.” (2016)
Sen. Murray’s Work Reducing Drug Prices
Sen. Murray worked to reduce drug prices for those on Medicare in the Affordable Care Act: Murray.Senate.gov.
Sens. Murray and Cantwell Voted Against Drug Importation
“Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell reportedly joined 11 other party colleagues last week in opposing an amendment to the budget reconciliation bill to allow pharmacies, wholesalers and individuals to import medicines.”
“The amendment failed with 46 votes.”
“In her Senate career, Murray has received $515,089 in campaign contributions from pharmaceutical manufacturers, according to the watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics. Cantwell has received $74,750.”: King5.com.
A 2017 Hearing in the HELP Committee
A HELP Committee hearing on pharmaceutical prices from October 2017: HELP.Senate.gov.
Sen. Murray’s Letter Challenging Drug Prices
“Senator Patty Murray … sent a letter … demanding answers regarding the initial proposed pricing scheme for Marathon Pharmaceuticals’ recently approved steroid for use in patients with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).”: HELP.Senate.gov.
Many Bills to Reduce Prices Have Failed
“Clearly, drug makers are opening their checkbooks to those they see as having power.”: King5.com.
Sen. Murray’s Bill to Work on the Opioid Crisis
This bill will go through appropriations as its next step.
Opioid Staffer to Speak About the Epidemic
Kate is looking into having the DC staffer that specializes in the opioid epidemic come in to one of our Tuesday meetings in the next month or two.
The Opioid Bill
S. 2680: Opioid Crisis Response Act (OCRA)
Sen. Murray’s and Sen. Lamar Alexander’s bipartisan Opioid Crisis Response Act has been passed unanimously out of the HELP Committee and is notable for its patient/family/community-centered health focus, compared to the administration’s law enforcement approach.
Sen. Murray’s statement: HELP.Senate.gov. Video of her speech in committee: YouTube.com.
Funding For OCRA
There is $3.3bn allocated for it from the omnibus bill: TheHill.com. This is not enough. The Council of Economic Advisors said that in 2015 it would take $504billion to fully solve the problem. Their Nov. 2017 report: WhiteHouse.gov. There is $100bn allocated for treatment of those with HIV / AIDS, for context.
Trump’s Corrupt Relationship With ZTE
(bold text mine) “Members of Congress, including Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, have sought to rein in ZTE, which they see as a threat to national security whose products could contribute to the theft of intellectual property.”: Reuters.com.
Pelosi and Schumer’s response to this is irresponsibly tepid: WSJ.com.
Michael Bennett is Coming to Seattle
He is coming to promote his new book, “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable.” He will speak on June 18 at Temple De Hirsch Sinai and on June 19 at Seattle First Baptist Church.
Stop Families Being Separated at the Border & Investigate Detention Centers
Sen. Merkley is working on a bill with Sen. Cantwell to stop families being separated at the southern border. The families are separated because the parents are placed in prison awaiting hearings: and the children cannot be in prison. His statement about his findings so far: Merkley.Senate.gov.
Sen. Merkley at the Detention Center
The video he made at the Texas detention center: FB: 24 mins.
This Southwest Key Programs (SKP) center is in Brownsville, Texas.
“Merkley claimed he saw children in “cages” similar to those in a 2014 image recently circulated across social media — people sleeping on concrete floors, wire fencing, with only thin “space blankets” as to cover them.
“Yesterday morning at the McAllen Border Station, at the processing center, they have big cages made out of fencing and wire and nets stretched across the top of them so people can’t climb out of them,” the senator said. “Every time I probed yesterday on the circumstances (of why they were held this way) the response was just basically a generic, ‘That is what’s required for security, this is what is required for control.'”: CNN.com.
Fact checker from WaPo: WaPo.com.
“Why is Juan Sánchez paid $770,860 to house children ripped from their families in a Wal-Mart in Brownsville?” & “the department has awarded SKP a combined total of $310,824,288 in fiscal year 2018 so far, with the most recent awards being granted on May 10 in three installments amounting to $99,679,090.”: Yahoo.com.
Trump Accuses Dems of Separating Families
Trump Yelled at HHS Secretary
“Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, told colleagues she was close to resigning after President Trump berated her on Wednesday in front of the entire cabinet for what he said was her failure to adequately secure the nation’s borders”: NYTimes.com.
There Aren’t More Deportations
“although immigration arrests are up, a burgeoning backlog in U.S. immigration courts has slowed the removal of immigrants who claim they will be harmed if they are deported to their home countries.”: Reuters.com.
We Want Our Senators to be More Outspoken
There was a protest June 4th at the detention center in Tacoma: FB.com; and one on Tuesday morning in downtown Seattle: TheStranger.com. 9 people were arrested at that one. It was against the youth detention center.
We feel that 40 US senators should have been there when Merkley was at the Texas detention center: or the democrats will always be in the minority. We want our senators to be more vocal to the press.
What Our Senators Can Do
There is no special committee to look into it because it is under the HHS. The lack of recess time in August also takes time away from the senators: that they could have used looking into detention centers.
The minority could ask for an investigation by the Department of Justice: and Sen. Murray can continue to call for the resignation of the head of the ORR. There have been some tough conversations about pregnant teens and women in detention: CNN.com.
This is a human rights emergency.
Who is in Charge? Where Do They Go?
When families are separated it is managed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Their program for handing unaccompanied minors: ACF.HHS.gov. FAQs about the treatment of unaccompanied minors: ACF.HHS.gov. They try to find the best place for the children. First, they try to place them with their immediate family in the US. If not, with an extended family or family friend. They sometimes have to pass the children to other organizations for care.
Where Immigrant Children Can Be Held
The Lutheran Church is very involved: ELCA.org. More about the problems and solutions: NYTimes.com. The Trump administration might hold children caught crossing border on military bases: CNN.com. Another option is the foster care system, which is already overstretched: “About 520,000 … end up in foster care each year — double the number 25 years ago.”: ABCNews.Go.com.
Scott Lloyd’s Abuse of Power
Scott Lloyd is the Federal Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
3/1/18: “The Trump administration’s policy of halting abortions among undocumented minors was established by email through an ad hoc process without formal legal vetting,”: Politico.com. The ACLU has challenged and publicized this. Sen. Murray’s statement on this: Murray.Senate.gov.
3/14/18: Sen. Murray joins multiple Democrats in calling for his resignation / firing: HELP.Senate.gov.
PAHPA / FEMA & Puerto Rico
The 2018 Caribbean hurricane season has begun, and while the estimates are that it will be “average-to-above-average”, that’s little comfort to those in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Gulf states, and numerous other Caribbean countries and islands wrecked by last year’s storms: Wired.com. The results of a Harvard-led study indicated that as many as 4,600 deaths in Puerto Rico were attributed to Hurricane Maria, one of the worst disaster death tolls from a single event in modern American history; this after Trump praised his administration’s response to Puerto Rico soon after the storm devastated the island: TheAtlantic.com, WaPo.com. Are FEMA and other federal emergency agencies prepared for this year?
Sen. Murray is Working on Re-authorizing PAHPA
Washington state’s representatives are doing what they can to ready those agencies. Sen. Patty Murray is working with Sen. Richard Burr on a re-authorization of the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA). (PHE.gov, HomeLandPrepNews.com) Sen. Murray highlighted the need for PAHPA’s reauthorization earlier this year during the worse-than-normal influenza season: Murray.Senate.gov.
5/9/18: “Cantwell questions Whitefish contract, exorbitant rates, and price gouging”: Cantwell.Senate.gov.
5/29/18: “Puerto Rico will receive $51.2 million for restoration efforts”: EnGadget.com.
Oprah Has Bought a House in Orcas Island
Indivisible Orcas Island has a new member ;-): King5.com.
Gun Safety Legislation
As per CNN, there has been on average one school shooting per week in 2018: CNN.com. Washington state officials and scientists are working on legislation, research, and workarounds to address the lack of action on gun violence from their Republican counterparts.
Senator Patty Murray has been quizzing the heads of the Dept. of Education and the Dept of Health on the disappointing follow-ups from their departments; Sen. Murray has been actively working on behalf of school kids on enacting sensible gun regulations for years: Murray.Senate.gov, Murray.Senate.gov, Murray.Senate.gov.
A University of Washington researcher has recently joined a funded consortium of scientists on advanced gun research: LabBlog.UofMHealth.org.
There is a Public Comment Period
This is to re-classify some guns as machine guns – subject to different rules, in other words. More: Regulations.gov. Deadline: June 27.
We are welcome to comment more than once. Please share: Regulations.gov.
Sen Nelson’s Legislation
Nationally, Sen. Nelson of Florida has proposed an amendment to Section 923 of US Code Title 18, which would allow the creation of a gun-records database for law enforcement to use in researching crimes (an electronic database for gun owners is currently banned): BillNelson.Senate.gov.
Amendment to the Dickey Amendment
Senate Democrats have been working on a workaround to the Dickey amendment, which has prevented the CDC from researching gun violence: TheVerge.com. Possible solutions include fingerprint locks, which have shown to reduce accidental deaths in households that have guns: WaPo.com.
March For Our Lives are Still Working!
They are now operating Vote for our Lives: a new campaign. Start a local chapter: MarchForOurLives.com.
Sen. Murray is very supportive of them:
It is National Gun Violence Awareness Weekend
Sen. Murray’s video from Twitter
Are Gun Owners Responsible for their Guns?
In WA, they are: RCW 9.41.113.
Mexicans are Afraid Because of US Guns
“Law-abiding Mexicans who want a gun to defend themselves have no good options. Either they fight government red tape to get a legal permit, or they buy one on the black market.”: NPR.org
Melania was missing from the 10th of May through today. Fun hashtag: Twitter.
In New York
Animation: she flies up off the screen
The Farm Bill
The Farm bill is this week. What are they most concerned about in it?
SNAP and agriculture. WA has the second most diverse agriculture in the USA. We grow many things, including asparagus, lentils, potatoes, rhubarb, raspberries: AGR.WA.gov – and the Farm bill pays for WSU research. We need to get pulse crops to schools. Republican want to give the poor MRES. Agricultural insurance could be an issue. They aren’t on the committee that decides these things.
Meals Ready to Eat
“Should welfare and food stamps recipients only receive healthy MRE style food, instead of money from the government?”: Quora.com.
The Farm Bill 2018 and SNAP
SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
One of the anticipated legislative priorities in the House for the Spring session is the Farm Bill, which goes up for renewal every 5 years. For more information about the Farm Bill and its history, see FRAC.org. The SNAP Program is within the Farm Bill.
An early draft of the bill has some changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is more commonly known as “food stamps”. For historical reasons, federal food stamps programs are overseen by the Agricultural department instead of the Health department. About 46 million low-income Americans receive an allowance to buy meat, fruit, vegetables, and other nutritious food via SNAP. Despite their popularity, Republicans have been trying to kill funding and requirements for food stamps for years, and they may get many of their wishes via the SNAP changes in the draft.
Harvest in a Box
One of the changes is Trump’s proposal to eliminate food stamps and replace them with a “Harvest in a Box”. Officials and health experts have criticized the proposal as not viable, and have accused the administration of deliberately suggesting the changes to stir outrage amongst Democrats and the left: NYTimes.com.
Other Programs in the Farm Bill
In addition to SNAP changes, the existing Farm Bill will have programs that will expire if they are not brought up in a floor debate. More information about these programs and their impact is being gathered. It’s not known if the Democrats will filibuster if draconian changes to the existing Farm Bill are attempted.
First Strike Bills
S. 2047: Preventing Preemptive War in North Korea Act of 2017: 12 Dems, 1 I cosponsors
S. 2016: No Unconstitutional Strike Against North Korea Act of 2017: 2 Dems, 1 I cosponsors
We want our senators to cosponsor these bills: to prevent our president single-handedly striking at a foreign power.
Sister bills in the House:
H.R.4837: No Unconstitutional Strike against North Korea Act: 70 (incl. 2 Rep.s) cosponsors
H.R.4140: No Unconstitutional Strike against North Korea Act: 61 (incl. 2 Rep.s) cosponsors
Rep. Jayapal is the only Rep. in WA who has cosponsored these.
H.R.5434: Preventing Preemptive War in North Korea Act of 2018: introduced in April. 0 cosponsors.
What are we paying for?
$1.3 trillion: $1, 300, 000, 000, 000: the cost of The March Omnibus appropriations bill.
$700 billion: $700, 000, 000, 000 was allocated for the military: “The military budget approved on Friday is packed with funding for new weapons as well as upgrades for older systems.”: CNN.com.
AH-64 Apache helicopter
To compare historic US spending on the military: Wikipedia.org.
The budget under Obama: NationalPriorities.org:
“Of the discretionary spending total, $622.6 billion, or 54 percent, would be set aside for the Pentagon, nuclear weapons and related items.”
This latest omnibus budget’s allocation of funding for the military is even worse. And there will be cuts to education and housing.
H.R.5515: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019
The bill is moving toward the Senate. When it is in the Senate the bill will go through markup: and when there are proposed cuts to people’s benefits, Sen. Murray always insists on matching cuts to military spending.
Justice for Palestinians
S. 170: Combating BDS Act of 2017: 32 R & 15 D cosponsors, including Sen. Cantwell
H.R.4391: Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act: 26 Dem cosponsors. Rep. Jayapal is the only WA Rep.
Sen. Cantwell has cosponsored this legislation to prevent us boycotting Israel. About the bill: “In particular, it appears to target the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS is an international movement calling on individuals, institutions, and governments to boycott Israeli products until it ends its occupation of Palestinian lands. … The proposed Israel Anti-Boycott Act would make it a felony for Americans to support BDS, with a penalty of up to $1 million and 20 years in prison.”: TheNation.com.
There are mass killings in Gaza: Haaretz.com.
The U.S. have blocked a statement by the UN:
“Kuwait … had tried to get council members to sign on Monday to a statement that would have demanded that all countries comply with a decades-old Security Council resolution that called on them not to have embassies in contested Jerusalem.
The draft statement, obtained by The Associated Press, also expressed “outrage and sorrow” at the killings, sought an “independent and transparent investigation,” and called on all sides to exercise restraint.
The U.S. blocked it. The State Department said Tuesday the draft “was too one-sided” and unacceptable to the U.S. because it did not mention Hamas’ incitement of violence along the Gaza border.”