Fighting Back: “The question we’ll be asked – what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?”

 
 

This past week, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, made a strong closing statement following a hearing into the blatant criminality of Donald J. Trump – as a businessman, as a candidate, as the leader of the Republican Party, and as the Republicans’ president.

(From MSNBC: In an emotional statement addressing Michael Cohen and the chamber, Rep. Elijah Cummings offers closing thoughts after about eight hours of questions and testimony.)

The greatest gift that [we] can give to our children, is making sure we give them a democracy that is intact. A democracy better than the one we came upon. And I’m hoping that, the things you said today will help us again to get back there. […]

I’m hoping that all of us can get back to this democracy that we want, and that we should be passing on our children so they can do better than what we did.[…]

When we’re dancing with the angels, the question we’ll be asked: In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?

Transcript: Baltimore Sun: Rep. Elijah Cummings’ closing statements at Michael Cohen hearingtitle

You know I’ve sat here, and I’ve listened to all this, and it’s very painful. It’s very painful. You made a lot of mistakes, Mr. Cohen — and you’ve admitted that. And, you know, one of the saddest parts of this whole thing is that some very innocent people are hurting too. And you acknowledged that. And, um, that’s your family.

And, so you come here today, you… deep in my heart … when I practiced law I represented a lot of lawyers who got in trouble. And, you come saying I have made my mistakes, but now I want to change my life. And you know, if we … as a nation did not give people an opportunity after they’ve made mistakes to change their lives, a whole lot of people would not do very well.

I don’t know where you go from here. As I sat here and I listened to both sides, I just felt as if … and you know… people are now using my words, that they took from me, that didn’t give me any credit. We are better than this. … We really are. As a country, we are so much better than this.

And, you know, I told you, and for some reason, Mr. Cohen, I tell my children, I say ‘When bad things happen to you, do not ask the question “Why did it happen to me?” Ask the question, “Why did it happen for me?” I don’t know why this is happening for you. But it’s my hope that a small part of it is for our country to be better. If I hear you correctly, it sounds like you’re crying out for a new normal — for us getting back to normal. It sounds to me like you want to make sure that our democracy stays intact.

The one meeting I had with President Trump, I said to him ‘the greatest gift that you and I, Mr. President, can give to our children, is making sure we give them a democracy that is intact. A … democracy better than the one we came upon. And I’m hoping that, the things you said today will help us again to get back there.

You know, I mean come on now. I mean, when you got, according to The Washington Post, our president has made at least 8,718 … false or misleading statements. That’s stunning. That’s not what we teach our children. I don’t teach mine that. And, for whatever reason, it sounds like you got caught up in it. You got caught up in it. You got caught up in it.

And, some kind of way, I hope that you will, I know that it’s painful going to prison. I know it’s got to be painful being called a rat. And let me explain, a lot of people don’t know the significance of that, but I live in the inner city of Baltimore, all right? And when you call somebody a rat, that’s one of the worst things you can call them because when they go to prison, that means a snitch. I’m just saying. And so, the president called you a rat. We’re better than that! We really are. And I’m hoping that all of us can get back to this democracy that we want, and that we should be passing on our children so they can do better than what we did.

So you wonder whether people believe you — I don’t know. I don’t know whether they believe you. But the fact is, that you’ve come, you have your head down, and this has got to be one of the hardest things that you could do.

Let me tell you the picture that really, really pained me. You were leaving the prison, you were leaving the courthouse, and, I guess it’s your daughter, had braces or something on. Man that thing, man that thing hurt me. As a father of two daughters, it hurt me. And I can imagine how it must feel for you. But I’m just saying to you — I want to first of all thank you. I know that this has been hard. I know that you’ve faced a lot. I know that you are worried about your family. But this is a part of your destiny. And hopefully this portion of your destiny will lead to a better, a better, a better Michael Cohen, a better Donald Trump, a better United States of America, and a better world. And I mean that from the depths of my heart.

When we’re dancing with the angels, the question we’ll be asked: In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing? …

And I’m tired of statements saying … people come in here and say ‘Oh, oh this is the first hearing.’ It is not the first hearing. The first hearing was with regard to prescription drugs. Remember, a little girl, a lady sat there… Her daughter died because she could not get $330 a month in insulin. That was our first hearing. Second hearing: H.R. 1, voting rights, corruption in government. Come on now. We can do more than one thing. And we have got to get back to normal. With that, this meeting is adjourned.

Any bolding has been added.

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Note: The Democratic Party Weekly address was assigned to Senate Democrats this week and can be viewed on CSPAN when it becomes available. (CSPAN link to Weekly Democratic Address: here).
Update: The address was by Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico on the Republican president*’s border wall.

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s weekly news conference from Thursday:

Transcript: Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference

Speaker Pelosi. Good morning.

With all the excitement that is going on around here and in the world, thank you for being here this morning. We talk about – while that’s all going on, we’re keeping the House running here.

I’m very proud of Joaquin Castro’s legislation to overturn the President’s ill‑conceived idea about undermining the Constitution of the United States. I’m very proud of the work he did to have us be ready when the President made – took his action, so that the Congress, the House was ready to honor the institution which we serve. Article I of the Constitution, the legislative branch. We sent the legislation now over to the Senate.

Yesterday was a big day for us. For many of us who have worked for years on gun violence prevention, it was a big day when the Bipartisan Background Check Act of 2019 passed with such a strong vote on the Floor of the House.

The night before, many of us were at the – to observe the 25th anniversary of Brady Bill. That was historic when it happened and has saved many lives since. Millions of people have not been able to get – not millions of people – millions of times, people have not been able to get a gun who shouldn’t have a gun. But now we had to expand it to include online sales and gun show sales as well, which happened yesterday.

Just anecdotally, I was especially happy because of all – Mike Thompson worked for such a long time, the Chair of our Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. It’s a bipartisan bill with Congressman King of New York. To have Congresswoman McBath tell the story, her story of her son losing his life. It was policy and personal.

I just anecdotally tell the story of when we passed the bill before, the Brady Bill. I was a relatively new Member of Congress. Chuck Schumer, now the Leader in the Senate, was our champion. He led the way and he was fearless. But some of us had just the grassroots, the retail, Member‑to‑Member contacts. And the first time, we did not succeed to pass a rule.

So, some of us went over to see Mr. Brady, a person from your profession. Really such a talented man, who, as you know, was shot at the same time President Reagan sadly was. He and Sarah have been such an inspiration. She is a guardian angel of it all for so many years, even after his passing.

But anyway, that day we went over, some of us, and we were so in awe of Jim Brady. And so we went over, after we had lost the vote, and said, “We are here for two reasons: to whip the rule and to pay our respects to you.” To which he said, without a second, said, “Well, at least you accomplished one of those things.”

Anyway, they were relentless. They made a difference. The beat goes on as we continue.

At the same time, we’re following through with what we promised in the campaign For the People. One, to lower the cost of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs and to preserve the pre‑existing condition benefit. The Energy and Commerce Committee has already had a hearing on the prescription drug costs. The Ways and Means will do so very shortly. They have also in the Committee had hearings on the Affordable Care Act and protecting the pre‑existing condition.

Lower health care costs, bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America in a green, modern way. And in that regard, one committee, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has had their hearings with governors and others, mayors, to build the record as we go forward for legislation.

Yesterday, in the Education and [Labor] Committee, they already marked up a bill for school construction, which would be part of the infrastructure legislation. Build infrastructure, bigger paychecks. Part of the bigger paychecks is the equal pay for equal work legislation which was marked up in committee yesterday, too.

So of the three things: lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, the third, H.R. 1, cleaner government. That bill is marked up. It will come to the Floor perhaps next week. We are very excited about it because it reduces the role of big, dark special interest money in politics, and it also strives to reduce the voter suppression that is so prevalent in our country.

We were pleased to establish, re-establish, the Elections Subcommittee in the House Administration Committee, headed by Marcia Fudge. She had the first hearing out of Washington, in Brownsville, Texas, a couple weeks ago – very well‑attended, very important.

Part of H.R. 1, though, is also to re-assert and re-pass the H.R. 4, which is the Voting Rights Act headed by Terri Sewell of Alabama. We introduced it this week in preparation for the visit to Selma this weekend – the first weekend in March, as you know.

So those are the three.

In addition to that, we said we were going to pass gun violence prevention. We did yesterday in the House and now it goes on. We have another bill on the Floor today to expand on that, in terms of a timetable.

We said we were going to do the Equality Act, and we will be marking that up. We’ll be announcing that in about ten days, two weeks, perhaps.

We’re going do Dreamers and TPS in the same timeframe. And as I said, we will continue with the equal pay for equal work.

So, again, there are a lot of high-profile events going on around here, but our work to support the financial well‑being of America’s working families goes on.

The President is returning from Vietnam, from his meeting with Kim Jong‑un. I guess it took two meetings for him to realize that Kim Jong‑un is not on the level. He was a big winner – he, Kim Jong‑un – in getting to sit face‑to‑face with the most powerful person in the world, the President of the United States.

And, really, it’s good that the President did not give him anything for the little that he was proposing. As you probably know, he said he would shut down one of his, just one of his, well, he said he was going to – the Yongbyon. Yongbyon has been a subject for a long time. He would shut that down.

But what we want is denuclearization. They didn’t agree to it in the first meeting. They didn’t agree to it in the second meeting. And as you know, they wanted lifting sanctions without the denuclearization. I’m glad that the President walked away from that.

Diplomacy is important, we always support it, but the prospect for success seemed dim in light of the insincerity of Kim Jong‑un.

I’ve been, as many of you know, to North Korea, to Pyongyang, beyond the DMZ, and it’s very serious, concerns about North Korea. Always hopeful that diplomacy can take us to a place; ever suspicious of the motivations of a person like Kim Jong‑un. So, I am glad that that didn’t work.

Earlier, last weekend, I was pleased to lead a delegation to the Munich Security Conference and then on to Brussels for NATO meetings. I’m proud to say that our delegation was part of other delegations that went.

Over 50 Members of Congress were there – House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans – reasserting our commitment to the transatlantic relationship between the U.S. and Europe, as well as our commitment to NATO – to strengthen it. People seemed very happy to see such bipartisanship, House and Senate, with a very positive message of the importance of that region to us.

So, those are some of the things that have been going on here. And right now we’re debating the second bill, H.R. 1112, for gun violence prevention. So if I run out the door, it’s because I have to go make a vote.

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Yes, ma’am?

Press questioning followed (see transcript)

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Pelosi Remarks at Press Event Introducing H.R. 4, Voting Rights Advancement Act

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Congresswoman Terri Sewell and House Democrats for a press event introducing H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bill would create a new coverage formula to determine which states and localities with repeated voting rights violations must preclear election changes with the Department of Justice. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi. Good afternoon everyone. Welcome the Rayburn Room. Welcome back to the House side to the distinguished Leader, Democratic Leader of the Senate, Senator Schumer.

I’m glad that he is joined by the distinguished Senator [Leahy] from Vermont, former Chair of the Judiciary Committee, a leader on the Appropriations Committee. And one of the newest members of the Senate Democratic Caucus, Senator Jones of Alabama. Welcome to the House side to all of you!

Thank you. We’re glad you’re here with us.

One of the people who was there in 2006 when we wrote the most recent, soon-to-be less-than-most-recent Voting Rights Act in 2006 was John Lewis. He was at the table when that bill was written, he was on the steps of the Capitol when we marched then.

Remember, Steny? House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans with over 300 votes in the House, unanimous vote in the Senate for the Voting Rights Act, signed by President Bush. John Lewis was there for the writing, for the celebration, for the signing. But John Lewis was also there 54 years ago: this weekend will be the anniversary of the March.

For over 50 years, as we know, the Voting Rights Act is enshrined into law – the sacred right to be heard at the ballot box – and now it is under threat.

As we gather here today, let us salute the relentless leadership of Representative Terri Sewell of Alabama on the historic legislation to advance justice.

We commend Congressman Maria Fudge for her leadership, holding hearings around the country, starting in Brownsville, Texas.

This is an issue that, in terms of the African American community, the Asian American community represented by Judy Chu here, and the Hispanic community represented by Ben Ray Luján here – but they represent not only their communities but all of America’s communities.

Again, more than 50 years ago, this took place under the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, but inspired by students who were the inspiration for the march and then thousands of men and women inspired by the students marched from Selma to lay the claim to the most fundamental right in our democracy.

We must finish the long march to progress, passing H.R. 4 to protect the ballot and advance justice for all. The Voting Rights Advancement Act will restore the Voting Rights Act’s ability to combat voter discrimination across America. And again, liberty and justice to all, it’s a pledge we take to the flag every day.

Bolding added.

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  2 comments for “Fighting Back: “The question we’ll be asked – what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?”

  1. JanF
    March 2, 2019 at 8:31 am

    Pelosi Statement on Women’s History Month

    San Francisco – Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement in recognition of Women’s History Month:

    “Each Women’s History Month, Americans celebrate the extraordinary contributions that generations of women have made to our nation. Americans across the country lift up the legacy of every woman who has stepped forward to demand and expand freedom, forging remarkable progress for all Americans.

    “This year, we mark Women’s History Month in the same Congress that we commemorate 100 years since women won the right to vote, and as we welcome more than 100 women to serve in the Congress – the highest number in our history. These historic milestones honor the ingenuity, leadership, creativity and patriotism of American women who struggled, sacrificed and persevered to transform our government, our society and the world. Through overwhelming challenges and remarkable achievements, American women have used their vision and values to bring our nation closer to fulfilling our ideals of equality and opportunity for all.

    “Today, countless American women from every corner of the country, every industry and every walk of life are showing their power and enriching our nation by standing up, speaking out and demanding their voices be heard. Much more must be done to unleash the full power of women in our nation, and Democrats are working to ensure that our government, our economy and our society reflect the full promise of America. We will fight to secure equal pay for equal work, protect every woman’s right to quality, affordable health care, and ensure paid sick leave and affordable child care to reaffirm the vital truth that when women succeed, America succeeds.”

  2. JanF
    March 4, 2019 at 6:13 am

    Cory Booker in Selma Alabama, Sunday March 3rd.

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