Tuesday October 31st 2017

Met with

Kate Baumgartner, Senator Murray’s Seattle Metropolitan Director.
Email: Kate_baumgartner@murray.senate.gov
Senator Murray: Email ~ P: (202) 224-2621 / Toll Free: (866) 481-9186 ~ F: (202) 224-0238

Tommy Bauer, Senator Cantwell’s Seattle Outreach Director.
Email: tommy_bauer@cantwell.senate.gov
Senator Cantwell: Email ~ P: (202) 224-3441 ~ F: (202) 228-0514


This week’s rally, about challenges to funding for women’s health care.
Our speaker was from NARAL, ProChoiceWashington.org.
They have a voters’ guide, and grade candidates on their views.

Our senators have not received many calls lately.

Mueller’s Investigation

Senator Murray is focused on allowing Mueller to have the resources that he needs to investigate this administration. The only people that can cosponsor the bills to protect Mueller are those on the Judiciary Committee.
The bills: S.1741 – Special Counsel Integrity Act &
S.1735 – Special Counsel Independence Protection Act
Please contact the Republican Members of the Judiciary Committee and tell them that you want the investigation to continue.

Health Care

Alexander-Murray Health Care Bill

Sen. Murray and Sen. Alexander’s health care bill will be voted for by 60 Senators, so it can pass. It is waiting for Sen. McConnell to take it to the floor for a vote; and he is waiting for Trump to approve it. There is no other way to get it to the floor, other than tagging it onto another bill.
They got the CBO score on Wednesday. It indicates that it would reduce the deficit by $3.8bn over ten years: BusinessInsider.com.
The report: CBO.gov ~ The PDF.

ACA Signups

Senator Murray will tweet and speak about the signups.
Senator Murray speaking about the ACA signup crisis: [ YouTube Video 8:19 ]. The transcript. Tweet reminding people to sign up A tweet about the signups. I could not find any mention on Sen. Cantwell’s Facebook page or Twitter feed.

Essential Health Benefits

HHS has decided to give states the liberty to disregard part of the Essential Health Care Benefits: WaPo.
Essential Health Benefits – CNN.
The document outlining the plan: “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; HHS Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2019” (The full name of ACA / Obamacare is ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’):
Public-Inspection.FederalRegister.gov.

CHIP

Children’s Health Insurance Program is a Federal program for people who “earned too much money to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford private health insurance premiums”. Congress “missed its Oct. 1 deadline to fund CHIP, which covers 8.3 million children nationwide with low-cost health insurance.” PBS.org. We (Washington State) recently received $10m as a short term fix for this. It takes $64m a year.

“House Republicans initially planned to pay for the CHIP re-authorization by raising Medicare premiums on seniors that made $500,000 or more. This would be in addition to cuts to a disease prevention fund in Obamacare and the shortening of a grace period where Obamacare customers could pay their premiums without insurance being cut off.” WashingtonExaminer.com. There have been payments to individual states to continue coverage, but the program will be out of money at the end of November.

‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Ban

The bill: HR 490.
A sub-committee in the Judiciary is considering a ‘heartbeat’ abortion ban, a ban on abortion at 6 weeks’ pregnancy: Slate.com. The witnesses, it starts at 17:09: Video: 1:32. This is their rationale: “It is important that Congress passes such a strong pro-life bill now because President Trump will hopefully appoint one or two more justices to the Supreme Court, making this a profound moment in the pro-life movement”: TheHill.com.

Protecting Abuse Survivors

Sen. Murray has re-introduced the SAFE Act, murray.senate.gov. “The SAFE Act would ensure survivors who need services like medical attention and legal assistance can take safe leave from work, allow survivors who have to leave their jobs to receive unemployment insurance, protect survivors from being fired because of harassment by an abuser or because they requested protections at work to stay safe, and invest in a national awareness campaign to encourage a culture of prevention and support.”

Sen. Murray has also cosponsored the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act.

Climate Change

“The effects of climate change are already costing the federal government hundreds of billions of dollars, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found.
In a report released late Monday, the GAO tallied the total cost of disaster assistance and flood and crop insurance losses at $350 billion over the last decade, not including the most recent hurricanes and wildfires.” TheHill.
“Senators Maria Cantwell … and Susan Collins … jointly requested the report, said between the lines of a conservative government audit was an urgent economic message that Washington should heed.” nytimes.com.
Senator Cantwell speaking on the Senate floor ~ another video: Facebook.
“The U.S. federal government should adopt a strategy to manage climate change risks, as their cost to the government may rise as much as $35 billion per year by mid-century” reuters. This is according to the GAO, the non-partisan Congressional watchdog. The report.

Our Parks

Comment on Proposed Increase in Some Park Visit Fees

It is proposed that fees increase from $25 to $70 to park at major parks to increase revenues.
Comment here. Written comments can be sent to 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240.
There is a huge deficit in funding of parks maintenance. They have “a $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog” NPCA.org.
“the National Park Service (NPS) is considering increases to fees at highly visited national parks during peak visitor seasons.” NPS.gov. Fact sheet – PDF
They expect to raise $70m. The deficit is $12bn, so $70m would be a drop in the ocean. Also, there is a proposed slash in parks budget. Go figure…

Zinke is expediting fossil fuel drilling next to our parks: NewRepublic.com.

We can donate to parks: NPS.gov.

There is a provision in S. 1460 to enrich our experiences in our parks. The bill is Sen. Murkowski’s energy bill, sponsored only by Sen. Cantwell.

Watch the Ken Burns series about parks: PBS.org.

The Budget

Pramila Jayapal’s town hall about the tax ‘cuts’ on Monday night: Facebook.com: Video: 82:41

It was planned that the House budget would be ready for the vote on Wednesday the 1st of November, and the Senate version next week. It is slipping – just like the health care bill did. The CBO scores take a week or more, depending on the complexity and the detail included in the bill. Our senators need to let us know when the Senate bill is available for comment.

Here is recommended reading: Paul Krugman (NYT) about the budget.

SALT

“The state and local tax deduction (SALT for short) is the most significant tax break eliminated under the tax reform “framework” … “it … makes residents of high-tax states … defenders of the deduction. Many of those residents … live … in states like New York, New Jersey, and California, and those suburbs tend to be in swing congressional districts held by vulnerable House Republicans.” vox.com.

Drilling in ANWR

The administration seeks to offset deficits that would be caused by the huge tax cuts by drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: NYTimes.
“Three Senate Democrats—Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)—tried on Thursday to remove the refuge drilling plan from the budget bill, but their amendment failed, 48 to 52. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican to join the ranks of Democrats who supported the amendment; Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted against the measure.” InsideClimateNews.org.

401(k) Contributions

The Republican plan to reduce taxes on the wealthiest and corporations may mean a reduction in the amount that people can put into their 401(k)s pre-tax, and therefore reduce the amount that they can save for it: NYTimes.

The Special Election in Alabama

There is a push to get the budget voted through before the new Senator from Alabama is elected in in the Special election in Alabama because whoever is elected in will not support it. The president wants the budget finished by Thanksgiving.

“The campaign to fill Alabama’s Senate seat has had all the elements of a political carnival with appearances from the president, current and former vice presidents, political personalities and celebrities.”: AL.com

PR Whitefish Fiasco

“Whitefish Energy, which is based in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown in Montana, signed a $300 million contract to help overhaul the island’s grid following Hurricane Maria.”TheHill.com
Sen.s Cantwell and Wyden have written to the Government Accountability Office about this:
“We are intent, along with many of our colleagues in Congress, on providing the hardworking federal workers, private sector workers, utility crews, and Puerto Ricans the necessary federal resources to restore electric power immediately on the island and to rebuild the grid in a more resilient way that facilitates long-term growth,” the statement said: Twitter.com.

Affordable Housing

Please sign Sen. Cantwell’s petition to support affordable housing: Cantwell.com. She continues to push the agenda of affordable housing – LIHTC, The Low Income Housing Tax Credit: C-Span.org.

Net Neutrality

No new news about net neutrality. Both of our senators signed onto a letter supporting affordable rural broadband: FeedStuffs.com.

How Do We Know About How Bills Progress?

Find the bill, for example S. 1460 Then set up alerts about it. Please see this:

DeVos’ Deferment of Regulations Restricting For-Profit Schools

Senator Murray protests the protection given to the for-profit schools. The ruling would “delay the effective date of the “borrower defense” rule for another two years, which provides relief to students who have been defrauded by predatory for-profit colleges, including Corinthian Colleges.” The ruling: FederalRegister.gov

The DREAMers

Our senators cannot be cosigners on the DREAMers bill until Republicans do. It takes one Republican and one Democrat to cosign together to ensure that the bill is bipartisan.

The Iranian Sanctions

Trump is endangering the multinational sanctions agreement against Iran’s development of weapons. There is a 60 day window to remedy it: Vox.com.

To talk to Republican friends and acquaintances, find common ground; talk to them about politics in a relatable way – tell farmers that their fields flood because of global warming; property owners that their trees burn due to global warming; people with high medical bills that Federal health care funding would solve that, etc. It is also a good idea to ask Indivisibles if they need help calling or funding initiatives. Find a group.

A more radical – and awesome – way is to get people newspaper subscriptions for Thanksgiving / Christmas. It is the gift that keeps on giving!