By Catya de Neergaard
Thirteen members of Indivisible East Bay joined Senator Feinstein’s State Director, Sean Elsbernd, on January 11 for a visit complete with IEB birthday cupcakes and and a list of concerns. Unlike recent previous visits where we went over a long list of issues, the focus was to delve deeper into some of the issues with all participants invited to share if they chose.
We presented Sean with the following asks and he took notes:
- request for another Town Hall
- Puerto Rico relief
- immigration (numerous subtopics included the Contra Costa West County Detention Facility and Operation JANUS)
- prioritizing funding for massive transit over a second bay crossing
- investigation into increasing US childhood death rate
- healthcare including stable funding for CHIP and the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program
- Judiciary Committee issues including concerns about committee practices of short notice of meetings and Q&A format of nomination hearings, and judicial nominee Ryan T. Holte
- the US Embassy move to Jerusalem, and FISA reauthorization and its threats to the fourth amendment
A Few Highlights
Sometimes, we swing for the fences. One request was to ask Senator Feinstein to ask UC Berkeley to do better at delivering legal services to their undocumented student population, to prevent cases such as that of Luis Mora. We saw this as a way to reduce cases for the Senator’s staff; however, Sean thought this particular ask was not a priority for Senator Feinstein at this time. Similarly, we asked if Senator Feinstein could look into the asylum case of the Vasquez family in Texas, as it appears that DHS/CBP is in violation of court orders and policy pronouncements from its former director about how to treat asylum seekers with minor children. The reply was that the Senator is helping many immigrant families in California which is her constituency, not Texas. Well, you never know until you ask.
One of my longtime concerns has been healthcare for all. At our November and December lobby visits, IEB asked Senator Feinstein to support and consider co-sponsoring Senator Sanders’ Medicare for All (i.e. Single Payer) Healthcare bill. Previously Sean had stonewalled, allowing that the Senator might speak at some point with Senator Sanders. When I brought up the subject this time, he summarized her concerns about Single Payer as follows: (1) how shall we pay for it, (2) how to transition for people in company plans, (3) how people can keep their doctor of choice, and (4) a series of implementation questions. Regarding how to fix the mandate hole in the ACA, Sean mentioned that Senator Feinstein had spoken with Peter Lee, the executive director of Covered California, and he had offered recommendations. Next time, I hope we can present answers to these questions as further evidence for Single Payer.
IEB member Donna raised questions about improving the Judiciary Committee process. Sean said that like many other things discussed, committee process will improve if and when the Democrats take the Senate. So, let’s take that note into 2018.
In addition to eating cupcakes, we thanked Senator Feinstein especially for voting NO on the December 22 Continuing Resolution to fund the government because it did not include DACA or long term CHIP funding, for bravely releasing the Fusion GPS transcript, and for opposing Trump’s effort to open additional territory to offshore drilling.
Catya de Neergaard is a gardener, artist, and environmental activist working within a variety of organizations including Quaker Earthcare Witness, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Kensington Green, and, of course, Indivisible.