Fighting Back: “Shame on Senate Republicans”

 
 

The Weekly Democratic Party Address was delivered by Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut calling out Senate Republicans for refusing to bring to the floor the bipartisan background checks bill H.R.8 supported by 90% of Americans. Shame on Mitch McConnell and shame on cowardly Republicans for putting campaign donations over American lives.

(Following the one year anniversary of the House-passage of H.R.8., the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, and a devastating mass shooting that claimed the lives of five people in Milwaukee, Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) delivers this week’s Weekly Democratic Address.)

“One year ago, the House of Representatives approved a bipartisan bill that boasts a ninety percent approval rate from the American people.

“The goal of H.R. 8 – the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 – is simple: to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. The bill doesn’t impose any additional restrictions on gun ownership, it just ensures that if you shouldn’t have access to a firearm – if you’ve committed a felony, for example – you can’t skirt the law by buying a gun online or at a gun show. […]

“When I think about this issue, what I recall is what I heard from the Senate galleries after we failed to reach the required sixty-vote threshold to approve expanded background checks after the Sandy Hook shooting, when one of the Newtown parents shouted “Shame!”

“Shame is exactly what the Republican majority in the Senate should feel for its failure to act on background checks and other commonsense gun violence prevention measures.[…]

“I’ll be very blunt: my Republican colleagues can either stand with the American people on this issue or stand with the NRA. Opponents of gun violence prevention are on the wrong side of the issue, they’re on the wrong side of public opinion, and they’re on the wrong side of history.”

(CSPAN link to Weekly Democratic Address: here)

Transcript: Senator Blumenthal Delivers Weekly Democratic Address

Washington, D.C. – Following the one year anniversary of the House-passage of H.R.8., the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, and a devastating mass shooting that claimed the lives of five people in Milwaukee, Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) delivers this week’s Weekly Democratic Address. In the address Senator Blumenthal begins by highlighting that this bill, which will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and close the online and gun show loopholes, has a 90% approval rating among the American people, including the majority of gun owners. Keeping guns out of the hands of criminals should not be controversial, yet Leader McConnell refuses to bring this legislation up for a vote in the Senate. In closing, Senator Blumenthal demands that Senate Republicans do their job and argues that opponents of this bill will be on the wrong side of the history.

“Hello. I’m Richard Blumenthal. I am proud to represent Connecticut in the United States Senate.

“One year ago, the House of Representatives approved a bipartisan bill that boasts a ninety percent approval rate from the American people.

“The goal of H.R. 8 – the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 – is simple: to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. The bill doesn’t impose any additional restrictions on gun ownership, it just ensures that if you shouldn’t have access to a firearm – if you’ve committed a felony, for example – you can’t skirt the law by buying a gun online or at a gun show.

“That’s it. An enforcement mechanism to prevent dangerous people from accessing weapons.

“If that doesn’t sound controversial, that’s because it isn’t – it’s supported by nearly all Americans, including the vast majority of gun owners.

“But this basic, commonsense bill has been stonewalled in the Senate by Leader Mitch McConnell and a Republican majority that cares more about their NRA rating than the lives of their constituents.

“When I think about this issue, what I recall is what I heard from the Senate galleries after we failed to reach the required sixty-vote threshold to approve expanded background checks after the Sandy Hook shooting, when one of the Newtown parents shouted “Shame!”

“Shame is exactly what the Republican majority in the Senate should feel for its failure to act on background checks and other commonsense gun violence prevention measures.

“Shame is exactly what my Republican colleagues should feel every single day as one hundred additional American lives are lost to gun violence, including at least five workers shot and killed at Molson Coors brewery in Milwaukee earlier this week.

“I’ll be very blunt: my Republican colleagues can either stand with the American people on this issue or stand with the NRA. The American people are watching.

“I’ve been advocating for stronger gun violence prevention measures for most of my public life, and I’m often asked why this moment is different.

“Here’s the answer: We have built a grassroots movement that is effecting seismic change.

“Led by gun violence survivors, students and young people, family members, emergency room doctors, and others, the American public is standing up and saying, “enough.”

“This incredible activism is why states are taking action where Congress has failed. A Republican legislature in Florida approved a number of gun violence prevention measures after Parkland and they were signed into law by a Republican governor. Eighteen states have emergency risk protection order statutes on the books. Twelve states require universal background checks.

“The ground is shifting seismically.

“But state action doesn’t absolve Senator McConnell and Republicans in Congress from doing their job.

“Guns don’t observe state boundaries. States with the strongest, most effective gun violence prevention laws are at the mercy of those with the weakest.

“And that’s why we need to pass H.R. 8.

“And that’s why we should close the Charleston loophole, pass a federal “red flag” statute, ensure that domestic abusers are no longer allowed to possess a firearm, and eliminate the sweetheart deal that protects gun manufacturers from legal liability.

“Opponents of gun violence prevention are on the wrong side of this issue, they’re on the wrong side of public opinion, and they’re on the wrong side of history.”

Any bolding has been added.

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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, everyone.

This morning, Leader Schumer and I put out a statement on the coronavirus threat. It probably is in your inbox, but in case you don’t look there, we said, ‘The United States Government must address the spread of this deadly coronavirus in a smart, strategic, and serious way. We stand ready to work in a bipartisan fashion in Congress and with the administration to achieve the necessary goal. Lives are at stake. This is not a time for name‑calling or playing politics.

‘The first step the Congress must take is to ensure that the government has the resources needed to combat this deadly virus and keep Americans safe.’

And then we go on to some of the provisions that we think need to go with it. But that’s, again, in your inbox.

Earlier this week, yesterday actually, I said that ‘the American people need a coordinated, whole‑of‑government, fully-funded response to keep us safe from the coronavirus threat. Unfortunately’ – and this is the purpose of my telling this – ‘unfortunately, up until now the Trump Administration has mounted an opaque and often chaotic response to this outbreak.’

They left critical positions vacant in charge of managing pandemics at the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security. They left them vacant. They dismissed the people and never filled the slots. They were there from the previous Administration.

The Trump budget calls for slashing almost $700 million from the Centers for Disease Control. And this was the budget which came out after we knew about the coronavirus threat. And now it continues to devalue our health needs by ransacking other public health needs, whether it’s the Ebola fund or others. So that was up until now.

Now, we are trying to work in a bipartisan way, and that’s one of the reasons that I was delayed in meeting with you this morning. We’re trying to – we’re coming close to a bipartisan agreement in the Congress as to how we can go forward with a number that is a good start. We don’t know how much we will need. Hopefully, not so much more because prevention will work. But, nonetheless, we have to be ready to do what we need to do.

And in that regard, we want to make sure that the President cannot transfer any of these new funds – this is part of the statement from Chuck and me, from Leader Schumer and me, the President cannot transfer any of these new funds to anything other than use for the coronavirus threat.

That we perhaps will have interest‑free loans made available to small businesses which are suffering from the coronavirus. Some will maybe have to shut down because of that.

Vaccines. We want to make sure that the vaccines are affordable. Affordable. And we think it’s important to make that point because of what Secretary Azar said yesterday, ‘We would want to ensure that we can work to make it affordable, but we can’t control the price, because we need the private sector to invest.’

Really? This would be a vaccine that is developed with taxpayer dollars to, again, prevent, and we think that should be available to everyone, not dependent on Big Pharma. I guess yesterday when the Secretary made that ill‑advised statement he was wearing his Pharma hat, which he wore before he came here.

And then we want to be sure that state and local governments are reimbursed for costs incurred while assisting the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Again, I met with – I spoke with the Vice President this morning, made some of these concerns known to him. We have always had a very candid relationship, and I expressed to him the concern that I had of his being in this position, while I look forward to working with him, about his, when he was Governor of Indiana, slashing the public health budget and having some clinics – one, especially a Planned Parenthood clinic, closed, which was the only place in Scott County where you could get tested for HIV and AIDS. There was an outbreak.

Again, he will have his side of that story. But the fact is, is that the health professional, the director of the health [commission] in Indiana at the time, Jerome Adams, was the Vice President, then-Governor Pence’s [State Health Commissioner]. He is now the Surgeon General of the United States.

So this is about the forces. It’s also about personnel. It’s also about respect for science, for evidence‑based decision-making. And it’s about having so much of that talent that we are so proud of in our public health sector be available in other countries so that we can get a true – a true, accurate – a true and accurate assessment of what is happening in other countries.

They may be having the best intentions, but they may not have, shall we say, even with the most talent they may have, they don’t have the value added that someone from our country could lend.

So, in any event, we look forward, as I say, to working together in a bipartisan way and hopefully, you know, again, in a very candid way, about our concerns about past performance or statements that are made. Let’s put that in perspective as we move forward to have the adequate funding, the respect for science and evidence‑based decision-making, and again, reimbursement for state and local government, and understanding the impact that this has on our communities.

And speaking of community, I had the privilege on Monday of having a walk through Chinatown. I always love to go there. I feel very proud of it. I always feel very privileged to – and say, ‘Oh, my poor colleagues when they come home, they don’t have the advantage of this beautiful diversity that I have in my district.’

But, sadly, Chinatown is being very hard hit by the lack of tourism and the rest, of the coronavirus. So a number of us went there – many press came, too – to see us go to temple, light the candle, have lunch, dim sum that was, go visit and make fortune cookies in a fortune cookie factory.

By the way, the fortune cookie machine, which is fabulous, is made in America, and fortune cookies are an American phenomenon. It’s not something you really find in China, or at least it didn’t begin there.

In any event, in the shops and all the rest, to show confidence, not fear, in terms of the virus.

So, again, in every way, we want to be fully prepared, but not panicking or fearful of what is happening.

Then today – tomorrow on the Floor of the House, we have very important legislation. It is to stop the youth tobacco epidemic that we’re experiencing. Also, it’s on the public health front. The House will vote on H.R. 2339, strong legislation to combat the growing use of tobacco and the e‑cigarette crisis.

More than 5.3 million middle school and high school students are using e‑cigarettes, more than twice as many as two years ago. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, youth e‑cigarette use is an epidemic.

The bill protects our children with strong measures: preventing marketing to youth under 21, banning all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and e‑cigarettes.

Big Tobacco is just on its usual rampage. It uses flavors like gummy bear, bubble gum and cotton [candy] to ensnare and addict our children to tobacco. Ninety‑seven percent of youth using e‑cigarettes use flavored cigarettes.

So here we are. This bill would reduce health disparities that spring from cigarette smoking.

And this is something, a statement that was put out by the National Medical Association, which is African American doctors, the National Black Nurses Association, the NAACP, Black Women’s Health Imperative, the Association of Black Cardiologists, the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. The list goes on and on.

There are 75 organizations representing public health, communities of color and teachers in support of the bill, from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the National Association of School Nurses, Society of Thoracic Surgeons – again, affecting lung cancer. And this statement says to Congress, ‘End the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and flavored e‑cigarettes. Support H.R. 2339 to protect our kids.’

It really – I don’t know if you’ve seen this statement. Let me read it. ‘For decades, Big Tobacco has targeted African Americans with menthol cigarettes with devastating consequences. Menthol cigarettes have addicted generations of African Americans, resulting in high death rates from lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and other smoking‑related illnesses. Seven out of ten African American youth smokers smoke menthol, making them more likely to become addicted smokers. Today, the tobacco industry is using e‑cigarettes to hook a new generation with flavors like bubble gum, mint, mango and menthol. It is a public health crisis affecting over 1.53 million kids.’ The NAACP, the National Medical Association, the Black docs, the National Black Nurses Association, Black Women’s Health Imperative, Association of Black Cardiologists, the list goes on and on – I repeat those who have signed onto this. So we’re hoping to have a good vote tomorrow on that.

And today is a very sad day for us because it was one year ago today that we passed H.R. 8 and sent it over to the Senate. H.R. 8 is our legislation, as you know, for commonsense background checks. And it is – it’s very sad that the ‘Grim Reaper’ has decided that more people will die because he is the ‘Grim Reaper.’ A hundred people a day – my understanding is – die from gun violence. Not all of them can be saved by this legislation, but many could.

So, we did H.R. 8 today – one year – and then tomorrow H.R. 1112, the South Carolina loophole that enabled hate crime to be performed at Mother Emanuel Church. Well, this would close that loophole – Mr. Clyburn’s bill.

So, here we are, 90 percent of the public support commonsense background checks – Democrats, Republicans, Independents, gun owners, because most of them have engaged in background checks. This would be only a simple matter of expanding it to sales on the internet, issues at gun shows. The internet sales have come about more abundantly since the bill was originally passed. So this is only an expansion of all of that, and we would hope that we could save lives doing that.

Anyway, I have some other things to talk about. Perhaps we can do it in the Q&A. Any questions?

Press questioning followed (see transcript)

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Pelosi Remarks at Bicameral Press Event on One Year Anniversary of House Passage of Bipartisan Background Checks Legislation

February 27, 2020
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined a bicameral press event with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House and Senate Democrats marking one year since the House of Representatives passed bipartisan background checks legislation, and called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to finally bring the legislation to the Senate Floor for a vote.

Speaker Pelosi. Good afternoon everyone. As our Members gather and as our special guests gather, I want to acknowledge some of the participating groups who are here. Everytown, Moms Demand Action, March For Our Lives, American Federation of Teachers, Brady Campaign, Center for American Progress, Doctors For America, Giffords, National Education Association, NETWORK, Newtown Action Alliance, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Sandy Hook Promise, and I know some people from Trinity College, my alma mater, are here as well. […]

One year ago, one year ago today, the House passed H.R. 8, commonsense, bipartisan background check legislation, and then we passed H.R. 1112, closing the Charleston loophole that enabled the hate crime at Mother Emanuel AME. But, for 365 days, Senator McConnell has let those bills gather dust on his desk over in the Senate. Every single day that he does not act, 100 Americans die from gun violence and 47 children and teens are shot or killed by gun violence.

Senator McConnell, we have a question for you? Why do you think your political survival is more important than the survival of our children? Give us a vote. Give us a vote.

More at the link.

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Pelosi Statement on McGahn Ruling

February 28, 2020
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled to vacate the District Court ruling requiring former White House Counsel Don McGahn to comply with the House’s subpoena to testify before Congress:

“Today’s split Court of Appeals ruling in the McGahn case does not contradict what the Courts have continued to rule: that the President’s claims of ‘absolute immunity’ from Congress’s subpoenas are false.

The Court of Appeals’ claim that ‘Article III of the Constitution forbids federal courts from resolving this kind of interbranch information dispute’ is contrary to reason and precedent, as was recognized by the dissent. Even President Trump’s own lawyers told the American people over and over again during the impeachment trial that the House should have gone to court to enforce its subpoenas – while at the same time arguing the exact opposite in the courtroom.

The House will now pursue an en banc rehearing of this decision. We will continue to honor our responsibility to exercise our constitutional authority to conduct oversight on behalf of the American people, including by issuing our lawful and legitimate subpoenas.”

Bolding added.

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Pelosi, Schumer Joint Statement on Congressional Action to Combat the Coronavirus

February 27, 2020
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today issued the following statement regarding Congressional action to combat the coronavirus:

“The United States government must do more to address the spread of the deadly coronavirus in a smart, strategic, and serious way and we stand ready to work in a bipartisan fashion in Congress and with the administration to achieve this necessary goal. Lives are at stake—this is not the time for name-calling or playing politics.

“The first step the Congress must take is to ensure the government has the resources needed to combat this deadly virus and keep Americans safe.

“Any emergency funding supplemental the Congress approves must be entirely new funding—not stolen from other accounts—and include, at a minimum, strong provisions that ensure that:

1. The president cannot transfer these new funds to anything other than the coronavirus and fighting infectious diseases;

2. Vaccines are affordable and available to all that need it; and

3. Interest-free loans are made available for small businesses impacted by the outbreak; and

4. The state and local governments are reimbursed for costs incurred while assisting the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak.”

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A question from Thursday’s press conference regarding the stock market and the COVID-19 virus.

Q: How concerned are you about the stock market drops that we saw this week in response to coronavirus fears? And how much do you think that those market jitters should be taken into account both here on the Hill and in the White House when you are delivering messages about coronavirus?

Speaker Pelosi. Well, we are hoping to work in a bipartisan way to stop the spread, to have serious prevention, science‑based, evidence‑based decision-making with professionals who know the territory of science and epidemiology to do the job. The market drop – now, it’s what, 3,000, 2,500, as of last night, 3,000 – is disturbing. But, again, we want to instill confidence. We want to prevent without panicking people about this. But the market will do what it does, with the invisible hand that it always does.

It does show some fragility on the part of the market that it would drop so much. But, again, it can’t affect what we do if what we’re there to do is to prevent and not panic people on the subject.

The President said something so strange that you really have to wonder. He said the reason the market dropped is because of the debate the other night. Well, the market had dropped 1,800 points before the debate the other night. The market [futures] dropped while he was speaking yesterday in his press conference. So, you know, let’s not – let’s not be silly about what that is.

Clearly, the lack of ability to get some of the product to sell and the rest has an impact on the bottom line of some of these companies. We don’t like seeing the market drop, that’s for sure. We hope that this will have a turnaround. But it cannot affect how we address the issue.

Our issue is public health. Our issue is prevention. And we would hope that that would not lower the market but raise the market, because we want to show that decisions have been made to put this in good hands now.

Bolding added

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  1 comment for “Fighting Back: “Shame on Senate Republicans”

  1. JanF
    February 29, 2020 at 6:43 am

    At Thursday’s press conference Speaker Pelosi was asked about Bernie Sanders’ toxic coattails. (Lightly edited)

    Q: Your agenda differs somewhat from Senator Sander’s agenda. You’re not advocating, for instance, Medicare for All.

    Speaker Pelosi. That’s right.

    Q: So, I’m wondering, do you believe Senator Sanders’ agenda is mainstream and nonmenacing?

    Speaker Pelosi. Well, I think that health care is the most important issue in the campaign. There are three issues: health care, health care, and health care.

    That’s why part one of our agenda, and how we won the election last time, was to lower the cost of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs.

    Second was to build bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America in a green way.

    And the third was cleaner government.

    On the first two, I think we can find some common ground to work with the Administration on lowering the cost of prescription drugs. I hope so. Building the infrastructure of America, I hope so. Cleaner government, not so. But that’s where we are.

    Now, it is not unusual for the party platform or the candidates for President to have their own agenda that they would put forth, and it’s not unusual for the House of Representatives to have its agenda as well.

    We have to win in certain, particular areas. We’re not about a popular vote in the country or in particular states in terms of the Electoral College. We are district by district.

    And that’s how we won last time. We demonstrated that we know how to win. […]

    Whoever our nominee is, we will support with respect for his or her positions and, hopefully, [they will show] their respect for our positions as well.

    Our country is a great country. It’s a great country. It’s so resilient that it could even withstand one term of Donald Trump. Two terms and the damage that he’s doing to the rule of the law, of the court system in our country, the air our children breathe, the denial of climate and the rest – just time will take a toll.

    So, it’s absolutely essential that we win. Whoever the nominee is will have our wholehearted support. Unity, unity, unity. We’ve made a decision to win.

    It is clear that Nancy Pelosi does not want her members running on the agenda of the presidential nominee if he or she has radical notions about the issue that won back the House in 2018. Let’s give her a hand and find a nominee that wants to preserve what is working and make it better, not one that wants to bern it all down and start over.

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