The weekly Fighting Back post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.
Found on the Internets …
The Weekly Democratic Party Address was delivered by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat from Rhode Island, discussing the Neil Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination.
“Judge Gorsuch needed to convince me he would not join the posse of Republican appointees that has relentlessly stretched the law to benefit Republican partisans and corporations at the expense of everyone else. He needed to convince me he would stand up to real threats to our democracy like dark money. Over and over again during his hearing, he dodged and ducked and failed.”
(CSPAN link to Weekly Democratic Address: here)
(Link to Nancy Pelosi Newsroom here)
“Hi, I’m Sheldon Whitehouse. I serve the people of Rhode Island in the United States Senate and I sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is in charge of considering nominees for the United States Supreme Court—the most powerful court in the world and one of our most important American institutions.
“Right now, the Committee is preparing to vote on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, a federal appellate judge, to be our next Associate Justice on the Court. I want to give you an update on what I’ve learned about Judge Gorsuch during his confirmation process – and what I haven’t.
“We began the hearing with a predicament: over the last decade or so, when Republican appointees were a five-justice majority on the Court, a distinct pattern emerged of 5-4 decisions benefiting Republicans at the polls and big corporations pretty much everywhere. The results became predictable.
“The evidence is hard to overlook. In election-related rulings involving issues like gerrymandering, state efforts to suppress Democratic-leaning voters, or flooding our elections with Republican-leaning corporate spending, the score ended up 6-0, coming down on the side favoring Republican interests at the polls.
“In rulings where corporations stood to benefit versus humans, it’s even more of a rout. Businesses over unions. Corporations’ rights over women’s rights. Gun manufacturers, investment banks, and big polluters over individual citizens’ safety, finances, and health. Companies got to chip away at consumers’ Seventh Amendment right to the civil jury. And, of course, the rulings on corporate political spending benefitted the big corporations, out peddling their influence. By the count I used in the hearing, the score on that front is 16-0 for corporations.
“During the hearing, I asked Judge Gorsuch about some of these important decisions and what he might do when presented with similar questions on the Supreme Court bench.
“In particular, I asked him about all the “dark money” in our politics, which has smothered the voices of individual Americans and obscures the hands behind the dark money.
“You’ve all seen the ads: phony front groups with funny names like People for Puppies and Prosperity, telling you in an ominous voice why Senator Smith wants to end America as you know it. Behind that front group, someone is paying for that airtime. Thanks to Citizens United, unlimited money can flow through those dark money entities, letting corporations and their ultra-wealthy owners buy unprecedented influence.
“That’s why I wanted to hear what Judge Gorsuch thinks about unlimited dark money flooding our politics. In particular, I wanted to know what he thought about the shadowy dark money group that has spent $17 million to back him and oppose last year’s well-qualified nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.
“Judge Gorsuch couldn’t answer the question. In fact, when I pressed him and asked what made him so much more appealing than Judge Garland to the backers of this dark money group, here’s what he said.[Video of exchange]
Sen. Whitehouse: What’s interesting is that this group sees a huge difference between you that I don’t understand. The dark money group that is spending money on your election spent at least $7 million against him getting a hearing and a confirmation here and indeed produced that result by spending that money. And then, now, we have $10 million going the other way. That’s $17 million delta, and, for the life of me, I’m trying to figure out what they see in you that makes that $17 million delta worth their spending. Do you have any answer to that?
Judge Gorsuch: You would have to ask them.
Sen. Whitehouse: I can’t because I don’t know who they are. It’s just a front group.
“The Supreme Court has a very big and important job to do. Our Constitution grants the Supreme Court the indispensable job of protecting our democracy, the integrity of our elections, and the voices of individual citizens. The next Supreme Court Justice has to understand that job and to see with clear eyes the threats that can silence our citizens.
“Dark money is one of the biggest of those threats.
“Judge Gorsuch needed to convince me he would not join the posse of Republican appointees that has relentlessly stretched the law to benefit Republican partisans and corporations at the expense of everyone else. He needed to convince me he would stand up to real threats to our democracy like dark money. Over and over again during his hearing, he dodged and ducked and failed.
“My colleagues and I are calling on Judge Gorsuch to ask this dark money group backing his nomination to tell us who’s really behind them. We’re also calling on the group directly to come clean to the American people about their backers. We need that answer before the vote on Monday.”
Any bolding has been added.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s weekly news conference on Thursday:
Transcript: Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference
Leader Pelosi. We had votes, so we will have to go quickly here. Sorry for the delay. Last time we were together was following the collapse of TrumpCare. And since then, President Trump has said it wasn’t his idea in the first place, he wanted to do tax reform first anyway. The Speaker has now said he needed TrumpCare first. I don’t know if you saw this morning he said – this was very instructive. I usually don’t come here and talk about what the Speaker said on TV in the morning. But what he said was, we couldn’t have done taxes first because we had to do the repeal first, because we needed that $1 trillion in order to do the tax reform.
So he really admitted that he needed to take the money out of the pockets of working families in our country to give money to the richest people in our country. As I always said, this was not a health plan.
First of all, let’s just stipulate to some facts here. The Republicans never really wanted the health reform, they never did, the Republicans that are in Congress now. The bill that we have is a Republican idea, it was RomneyCare in Massachusetts, developed by the Heritage Foundation for individual responsibility and recognizing that subsidies would be needed to honor that responsibility. So it is a free market, private sector initiative to honor our belief that health care is a right for all Americans, not just a privilege for the few. That belief is not shared by the Republicans. They never wanted to go there, consistent with their view that Medicare should wither on the vine, and that the Speaker, in his budget, has said – calls for removing the guarantee of Medicare. Medicare is a guarantee. To remove the guarantee is to, in some sense, shopping with a voucher similar – a little bit better, but not much than what was before Medicare existed. As you know, they are trying to completely dismantle and underfund Medicaid.
So a public role in terms of gaining access, quality, affordable access for all Americans is not in their value system. And so what was interesting in the follow up since I saw you last, I got all sorts of feedback from so many people across the country who are making calls and having conversations with congressional offices, and they said really the bill was dead. And so the public had spoken, they did not want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and they were rejecting the Republican proposal. Well, because that wasn’t enough to get the votes of the members of the Republican caucus, they moved further to the right with the action they took on the essential health plan provisions.
When they did that, it was explosive out there, because then it said that it deferred to the States, but not a Federal requirement that the health care plans would have to have these essential provisions. And they were about maternal care, prenatal care, affecting children and moms. It was about hospitalization, about prescription drug care, about mental health. Taking out practically every – why would you even buy a policy? It covered almost nothing. But it not only showed that they were going to lose on their vote, but it showed that they did not share the values of the American people, and that it not only hurt their chances of passing a bill, it hurt their reputations. So they did themselves some very serious damage. And I know some Members are saying whatever they are going to try to do now is saving Speaker Ryan from that disastrous performance last week.
But that isn’t what is important. What is important is what it means to the American people. And that is where we are now. They are going to try to put repeal on the table. We must resist repeal. There is a strong sentiment for that in the country. And the second thing we must do is to stop their sabotaging of the Affordable Care Act, because they have within their power, or at least they will assert it, that they can stop the subsidies. Stop them from sabotaging it. They have to enforce the law. They said it is the law of the land. And if they don’t, it will have a direct impact on the premiums that the American people pay. And the cost of premiums, deductibles, the out-of-pocket costs will go up if they – two things that they can do; that they threaten to do, that will increase the out of pocket costs. One is to not honor the subsidies, and the other is to not enforce the mandate. You combine the two of them, the out-of-pocket costs can go up – premiums and other out-of-pocket costs could go up 35, 40 percent. It is so totally irresponsible. But they want it to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Affordable Care Act, by and large, is meeting its goals of lowering costs, improving benefits, and expanding access. Is it perfect? No. There are some things we have to do to make sure that all markets are served, in the rural areas, and it works for young people and small business, and also to make sure that the law is enforced, which they haven’t done since they took the majority in certain respects. Now they want to make matters worse.
So, anyway, here we are, an admission on the part of the Speaker that this was not a health care bill, it was a tax bill. A statement from the Speaker that he doesn’t want the President to work with the Democrats in any way on this, that they will be left to their own devices to come up with their proposal. They must take repeal off the table, and they must stop sabotaging the Affordable Care Act. And sabotaging the Affordable Care Act is sabotaging the good health of America’s families.
So that is the fight that we are engaged in. One area that the President said we could work together on is reducing the cost of prescription drugs. So maybe they are against our cooperating on that score, on the Republican side of the aisle.
Moving on, 71 days since the inauguration, President Trump and the GOP Congress have done nothing, nothing to create jobs or raise wages for hard working American families. Instead, they have been undermining the health and opportunities and rights of working families at every turn. Just look at their budget. The President’s budget is a plan to devastate America’s investments in jobs, education, clean energy, lifesaving medical research, with particularly severe impacts on rural communities, rural America. Clean power plants: shocking, almost sinful, really sinful to be so degrading of God’s creation. The administration’s attack on science and the Clean Power Plan will not bring back jobs to coal country, it will only poison our air and undermine America’s ability to win good paying, clean jobs of the future.
What really gets me about this is he is doing this at the same time we are fighting the Republicans to honor the responsibility we have to America’s families who are engaged in the coal industry. Coal miners are in my office, I have their symbol of a coal miner made – of coal there. You can see it if you come by my office. We are fighting to get them the benefits that they earned and deserved, their benefits in the terms of health care and their pension, and we had to fight the Republicans do it, while they are – this President is defying science and our moral responsibility to preserve this planet in a responsible way, God’s creation.
Stunning, the FCC internet privacy. You should be very, very scared, each and every one of you. Very, very scared. The Republicans voted to allow internet service providers to sell your most intimate personal information without your knowledge or your consent. They are doing everything they can to keep President Trump’s tax returns private, and they are doing everything they can to sell your most personal information, whether it is your children’s location, your browsing history, everything that has to do with your personal life and how you engage on the internet is now. If they have their way with the CRA, which they will – we are hoping. Is this hopeless? We are hoping that President Trump, with his valuing of his own privacy, will respect the privacy of the American people and not sign this terrible, terrible bill. I understand there are some people who are trying to get the money together to buy the privacy of the Members of Congress who voted for this violation of privacy of the American people.
So here we are, the House Republicans are desperately scrambling and stonewalling to divert attention from the explosive and expanding revelations about the Trump-Russia connections. Since last week, the House Intelligence chairman, his conduct has become even more bizarre, more compromised, and more inexcusable, still refusing to share his alleged documents from the White House rendezvous, and canceling an open hearing with former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. Just beyond bizarre. What is beyond bizarre? Off the cliff. I don’t know.
The House Intelligence Committee has a deadly serious responsibility to our country. People serve there with a responsibility to the caucus, to the Congress, and to the country. And I, as you know, have a very long history with the Intelligence Committee. This is about, when I first went on now maybe over 20 years ago, it was largely about force protection. How do we protect our men and women in uniform by, first of all, having the intelligence to prevent the initiation of hostilities or engagement in military – use of military force. But if they go in, that we have the intelligence they need to be safe and to be successful. Terrorism has raised the ante on so many of those issues. So for the chairman – I served with Republican chairmen and Democratic chairmen along the way – this is a very responsible position. For this chairman to be acting in a bizarre way is beyond bizarre. The committee has an obligation to – this is one person on the committee acting that way. And in the public arena, it looks like the whole committee is dysfunctional. No, they have a dysfunctional chairman. The committee isn’t dysfunctional. They have a dysfunctional chairman. I am very proud of the leadership of Adam Schiff, our ranking member on the committee.
So here we are, the American people deserve answers. What do the Russians – I say over and over, what do the Russians have on Donald Trump politically, personally, and financially that the Republicans are doing everything in their power to keep the truth from the American people? So I am encouraged by what some of the Republicans are saying in the House and in the Senate. I hope that we could have a bipartisan, independent, outside commission, removing it from the Congress so that we can get to the bottom of this, because this is about our national security. Russia is our adversary. It is about our national security, and it’s about securing our democracy. They disrupted our election. We have to make sure it doesn’t happen again in our country and make sure the rest of the world is aware of what the Russians have been up to. Any questions?
Press questioning followed (see transcript)
Nancy Pelosi’s and Chuck Schumer’s letter to Donald Trump: Don’t Sabotage, Work With Democrats to Continue to Bring Down Americans’ Health Costs
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under attack!
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives shepherded the Dodd-Frank Act into enactment, issued the following statement today on joining an en banc amicus brief (PDF) filed with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals which will rehear a divided three-judge panel decision finding the CFPB’s leadership structure unconstitutional and severing the provision that made the Director of the CFPB removable only for cause:
“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was designed by Congress to have the independence to protect consumers from the against the unfair, deceptive and abusive financial marketplace practices that ignited the last financial meltdown. In its short history, the CFPB has provided more than $12 billion in restitution for more than 29 million consumers and servicemembers harmed by violations of financial consumer protection laws.
“Under the Constitution, Congress has considerable latitude to shape the structure of independent agencies. The CFBP’s independence is critical to its role as a watchdog for consumers, shielded from Wall Street’s vast political influence. Allowing the Administration to replace the Director of the CFBP for any reason beside cause would give the special interests the ability to silence one of American consumers’ greatest guardians.
“The CFBP is a vital bulwark against allowing Wall Street to prey on working families again. While the Trump Administration wasted no time in putting its Wall Street friends first, House Democrats remain unyielding in our commitment to protect America’s hard-working families.”
You need to login in order to like this post: click here