IEB Meeting with Sen. Feinstein Staff June 2019

Meeting with Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Staff, June 20, 2019
1 Post St., San Francisco

From Sen. Feinstein’s office: Jim Lazarus, State Director; Abigail Ellis, Field Representative; two interns

Read Indivisible East Bay’s pre-meeting memorandum

TOPICS DISCUSSED:

  • Climate Change & Infrastructure: Climate change and rising sea levels (a consequence of climate change) affect infrastructure, including roads and bridges. We asked whether Sen. Feinstein is working to include climate change in infrastructure legislation; Jim Lazarus said not that he knew of, but that he’d let the Senator know about our concern.
  • Iran and the Middle East/AUMF Repeal & Defense Appropriations Bill: Lazarus expressed frustration that Sen. Feinstein has tried repeatedly to contact Secretary of State Pompeo, who hasn’t returned any of her calls. He said that Feinstein supports the nuclear treaty with Iran and does not support the US withdrawal from it OR the unilateral use of force without authorization from Congress. Ellis said that Feinstein supports the repeal of the 2001 AUMF; Lazarus continued that in political reality, there will be a defense appropriations bill, and it will probably include a compromise on the AUMF repeal.
  • ICE and CBP Detention Facilities/Border Supplemental Appropriations Bill: We presented background information and recommended that the Senator view the recent argument of a Justice Department lawyer before a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel that CBP needed the authority to deny children sleep as well as access to basic hygiene. Lazarus agreed to do this. Feinstein’s staff has visited the detention facilities, and she is extremely concerned about how the children are being treated; Ellis said that the facilities are exploiting loopholes, which the Senator wants to close via legislation. As far as her staff knows, her thinking on the role of ICE has not changed.
  • American Dream and Promise Act: We asked Sen. Feinstein to move to proceed to a floor vote on the bill. Lazarus asked if anyone asked Sen. McConnell, and we pointed out that by Senate rules, any Senator can make a motion for a floor vote.
  • Judicial Nominations: We have asked Sen. Feinstein to vote NO on the floor on Trump’s judicial nominations even if she votes YES in the Judiciary committee. According to her staff, she has to maintain relationships and cooperation with some Republicans: for example, when Sen. Feinstein might seek support from some Republican Senators for judicial nominations she favors, especially of nominees from California—or of other legislative goals she supports.
  • Election Security: The Senator is concerned about election security. We urged Sen. Feinstein (and other Democratic Senators) to push back on Sen. McConnell, and were skeptical of Lazarus’ explanation that the GOP opposes election-security legislation because it traditionally favors “local control” and fears possible overreach from federal government standards for elections.
  • American Family Act of 2019: We expressed disappointment that Sen. Feinstein still hasn’t joined 38 of her colleagues in cosponsoring this legislation to help families with children. Lazarus said he didn’t know of any concerns keeping her from cosponsoring and implied she might be exploring alternatives.
  • Investigations & Oversight: We expressed concern that the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are not obtaining adequate information about the Mueller investigations and the previous FBI counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference in our 2016 election. Lazarus was unable to tell us what Sen. Feinstein is doing to ensure that the Senate Intelligence Committee, of which she is the ranking member, will finally obtain all the information it needs. 

 

– By IEB member Phil

Make the candidates speak out

Deadline: through June 26, and even after – Do you have a favorite Presidential candidate yet? Do you know where the candidates stand on the big issues – and if you do, do you know it from their own statements?

Many of the candidates, to our dismay, haven’t taken a stand or enunciated a plan on some of the major issues facing us: climate change, endless war, women’s or LGBTQ+ rights, and more. We know: you’d probably vote for Godzilla over the Current Occupant. But we’re betting you’d rather make a more refined decision.


What you can do:

Let’s call (or email, or tweet, or your platform of choice) them on it.

Step one: Check what they say – or don’t say.

Below you’ll find a list of some of our top priorities – not meant to be exclusive! – and a list of the candidates’ websites. Do some cross-referencing. Start with your own favorite candidate, if you have one, and move on to others from there: What do the candidates say about your key issues, in how much detail, and how easy is it to find? A general rule for candidates’ sites: the easier something is to find on a site, the more important it is to the candidate.

Step two: Tell the candidates what you think.

To say what we all know: Candidates have been known to change their positions based on pressure. Are you pleased with the priority they’re giving your issues and what they’re saying? Thank them. Have they failed to address an issue? Demand that they address it, and tell them what you hope they’ll say. Have they taken a position you don’t like? Tell them. Especially tell the candidates if their position, or lack of a position, makes the difference between you supporting them, opposing them, or considering supporting someone else. After all, it’s all about getting your vote!

We’ve made it easy for you to contact the candidates. Click on their names in the list below to get to their campaign websites, which have ways you can contact them; we also list their campaigns’ facebook pages and twitter accounts.

Step three: Get your friends involved.

Got friends who don’t like the Current Occupant? Of course you do! Invite them to join you in the research. Encourage each other to speak up. You don’t even have to favor the same candidate to all support the work of pushing the candidates to take positions you want on the issues you care about.

And use your own social media. Try this cool tool from Indivisible National: you record a video telling the presidential candidates what you want to hear from the debate stage, and they’ll format and subtitle it and send you a link that you can spread by email and on your social media.

Step four: Let us know how it’s going!

We’d like to know who you’ve contacted on what issues, and if you hear back from them. Email us at info@indivisibleeb.org


Our (non-exclusive) list of priority issues, in alphabetical order:

  • Climate change
  • Cybersecurity
  • Economic justice
  • Education
  • Election security
  • Endless war
  • Healthcare
  • Immigration
  • Impeachment
  • Incarceration
  • Judiciary
  • LGBTQ+ rights
  • Reproductive rights
  • Science and technology
  • Social justice
  • Voters’ rights
  • Women’s rights


The
candidates, in alphabetical order (their names are links to their campaign websites).

 

Graphic “Debate picture” by Blok Glo

 

 

Meeting with Feinstein staff March 2019

Indivisible East Bay met with Senator Feinstein’s state director Jim Lazarus and returning field representative Caitlin Meyer on March 14 in the senator’s San Francisco office. You can see our detailed pre-meeting memo here.

Our smaller-than-average delegation covered a lot of topics:

Climate Change: We told Jim that beyond the in-person interaction the senator had with young students in her office, we are disappointed that Sen. Feinstein — who we used to see leading on protecting our environment and addressing climate change — was dismissing this exciting new movement of energized youth activists by calling their ideas unrealistic. We asked her to support the Green New Deal resolution. We suggested that she doesn’t need to agree with every detail of their approach in order to celebrate their contributions and build up momentum to see how far this movement can take us toward our shared goal of a sustainable future. Jim said that he thought this perceived conflict was really mostly a communication issue and would be resolved as we move toward actual climate legislation. For example, the senator is currently working on carbon pricing legislation, which is not part of the current Green New Deal proposal but could complement it as part of the final legislation.

Immigration: We followed up on our repeated request that Sen. Feinstein visit the southern border and immigration detention facilities throughout the state — she says she wants to, but still has not — and we asked her to prioritize getting more funding in place for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for Afghan allies. There is a current backlog of 16,700 SIV-eligible individuals, including family members, and 4,400 applications are currently pending. In FY 2018, only 1,649 visas were issued, down from 4,120 in FY 2017.

Public banking: We asked the Senator to support public banking in California. Jim said it was an area that he hadn’t had many discussions with her about, but that he knew she supported local, accessible banking options like credit unions. He also expressed skepticism that public banking was the solution to the cannabis industry’s banking problems.

Census: We were glad to hear that Sen. Feinstein and her office have been very much on top of getting ready to make sure her constituents are all counted in the census. Caitlin told us that the office has been in touch with the Alameda County Complete Count Committee. We have a lot of hard to count populations here in the East Bay, such as immigrants and unhoused people.

And more: We also asked the Senator to:

  • work to fund desperately needed food stamps in Puerto Rico — she finally did the right thing on this after pressure from Sen. Schumer
  • cosponsor the EACH Woman Act (reproductive rights)
  • cosponsor The American Family Act (child allowance)—she hasn’t yet
  • hold a Town Hall—she seems as unlikely as ever to do so.

 

Let it shine: Thanks to Rep. Swalwell for backing GND

By Alan Marling

On March 7, Indivisible East Bay projected a big thank you – literally – to Representative Eric Swalwell for backing the Green New Deal. That night, a group of IEB members visited Hayward City Hall and a building downtown on Foothill Boulevard to shine their gratitude. The Green New Deal (GND) resolution, introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the House, and by Sen. Edward Markey in the Senate, is bold, intended to stop climate change and restart our economy with a just transition to a better future. Rep. Swalwell showed vision and leadership in backing the resolution, and IEB wanted to let him know that we have his back.

Projection is an exciting new form of free speech, painting buildings with light without causing any lasting change to them. You can see more political images and video projected around the Bay Area at this Resistance SF facebook page.

The group is on the lookout for more interesting places to project their thanks in CA-15, Rep. Swalwell’s district. Have ideas, or want to participate with IEB’s CA-15 team? Contact Ward on IEB’s Slack at @ward or by email at wardkanowsky@gmail.com.

Read our recent articles for info and background about the Green New Deal, and actions you can take NOW to support it:

Alan Marling is a local activist and writer who uses light to project resistance art.

Photographs by Charles Moehle, of Pro Bono Photography, and Alan Marling

Bring the Resolution (for a Green New Deal)

You may have heard since our last post on the Green New Deal that we now have a pair of resolutions in the House and the Senate “Recognizing the Duty of the Federal Government to enact a Green New Deal”! To keep the Green New Deal on our policy agenda, call your representatives and urge them:

  • to vote for the resolutions if they have the chance, and
  • to keep pushing for legislation to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs in our growing green economy, and support all communities and workers through the transition.

See the call scripts at the end of this post; read on for an update on the Green New Deal resolutions and other, related legislation, and what the Republicans are doing in response.

Senate Resolution 59, introduced February 7th, and House Resolution 109, introduced February 8th, are identical resolutions that in some form include all of the Green New Deal features we’ve described in our previous blog posts: to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs and ensure economic security for all people, invest in sustainable infrastructure, secure a clean and healthy environment, and promote justice and equity for Indigenous peoples, people of color, immigrants, rural communities, and other groups experiencing discrimination or disinvestment. In response, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced Senate Joint Resolution 8 as a trolling attempt to to sow division among Democrats who have differing policy views on how to address the climate crisis. S.J.Res.8 – which has the best shot at getting a vote this Congress of the three resolutions – contains the same text as the Democrats’ resolutions, but could, if it passed both houses, theoretically go to the President for his signature, unlike the Democrats’ simple resolutions.

To achieve the ends of the GND, the resolution text describes a 10-year “national mobilization,” including a long list of goals and projects that range from investment in climate resiliency projects to overhauling the transportation system to cleaning up hazardous waste sites to promoting international technology exchange. The resolution plans to achieve these goals through “transparent and inclusive consultation” with affected communities and workers, training and education, research and development of renewable energy technologies, creation of jobs with family-sustaining wages, and enacting and enforcing rules and regulations to protect workers and the environment.

The resolutions recommend concrete, achievable, affordable, and necessary solutions. Two economists writing for Forbes argue that increased taxes on the wealthiest people and increased borrowing are safe, sustainable, and effective funding sources, and that our economy has the capacity to increase productivity enough to provide jobs for all those who want one. Research efforts have identified detailed solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reaching 100% renewable energy in the US. Experts agree that the technology already exists to achieve the Green New Deal’s environmental goals.

While we definitely want to go out dancing to celebrate this awesome step towards addressing climate change, and while we support these pieces of legislation and urge our Members of Congress to vote for them, we also want to point out that these are resolutions, not bills. They are symbolic statements of position or intent by the voting chamber; they do not require any action once passed, and will not lead to concrete change without further legislative action. In essence, the resolutions are an important first step, and since they’re a symbolic gesture without any commitment of resources, they allow our representatives to show support for the big ideas that we need in order to tackle climate change, while leaving debates over the details for a later discussion. As Vox climate writer David Roberts put it, the resolutions aren’t intended to serve as a policy blueprint, but are “a prelude to two years of intense policy development” – so Democrats should unite around the Green New Deal’s goals, which means supporting them even in the form of McConnell’s S.J.Res.8  if and when it comes up for a vote.

We in the East Bay are fortunate that our MoCs have solid pro-environment track records. However, our Senators and Representatives all have nuances in their policy approach and varied areas of interest for climate action. See what they say and how they vote below (NOTE: All vote scores are based on the League of Conservation Voters Lifetime National Environmental Scorecard).

What you can do:

Call your Members of Congress NOW and keep calling! We don’t know yet if or when a vote on the Green New Deal will be held, so we need to keep the pressure on.

What to say:

For Sen. Feinstein:

My name is ____, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank the Senator for her continued and vocal support of federal action on climate change, and for returning donations that violated her No Fossil Fuel Money pledge. I also want the Senator to vote in favor of the Green New Deal resolution, not just vote “Present.” Climate change is the most urgent challenge of our time, and supporting the Green New Deal would demonstrate that the Senator understands the kind of action we need to take to prevent catastrophic levels of global warming.

For Sen. Harris:

My name is ____, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank Senator Harris for co-sponsoring Senate Resolution 59 in support of a Green New Deal.  This is an important first step that we need to take in order to address the current climate crisis. I want the Senator to continue to publicly push for a Green New Deal, to talk with her colleagues to encourage their support, and to pressure the Senate leadership to put this resolution up for a vote.

For Reps. DeSaulnier, Lee and Swalwell:

My name is ____, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank Representative ________ for co-sponsoring House Resolution 109 in support of a Green New Deal. This is an important first step that we need to take in order to address the current climate crisis. I want Representative ________ to continue to publicly push for a Green New Deal, to talk with (her/his) colleagues to encourage their support, and to pressure the House leadership to put this resolution up for a vote.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

Your East Bay MoCs and the Green New Deal

 Sen. Dianne FeinsteinSen. Kamala HarrisRep. Mark DeSaulnierRep. Barbara LeeRep. Eric Swalwell
Supports the Green New Deal?In spirit, yes, but she she has her own draft resolution (on hold for now).

Cosponsor of S.Res.59

Cosponsor of H.Res.109

Cosponsor of H.Res.109

Cosponsor of H.Res.109
What have they said?Feinstein is a solid supporter of science, and says “Climate change policy should always be based on objective science and never on politically biased panels.”

Read Feinstein’s latest statement here.
Harris has made a clear statement of support on GND in her most recent Medium Post.

NOTE: Equity must be at the center of environmental policy for Harris, as noted when we went to visit her in DC.
No public statement on the GND.

DeSaulnier has prioritized protecting fuel efficiency standards & promoting zero-emissions vehicles.
“We must take action on climate change — now.”

Lee was an earlier supporter of the GND, and supported a proposal for a Select Committee for the GND.
“I am working to encourage innovation in the field of renewable energy and energy conservation.”

Check out his strong track record from previous sessions of Congress.
How have they voted on environmental legislation?*90%
Pro-🌍
100%
Pro-🌍
99%
Pro-🌍
96%
Pro-🌍
95%
Pro-🌍
*Note: All vote scores are based on the League of Conservation Voters Lifetime National Environmental Scorecard

Elizabeth Douglas and Sylvia Chi contributed to this article.

Photograph “Green New Deal Presser” © Senate Democrats 

Tell CalPERS to divest from fossil fuels

By Sara Theiss

Are you a CalPERS member or beneficiary? A California taxpayer? Someone who cares about the future of our planet? If so, please join Fossil Free California in Sacramento on March 18, 2019, when we’ll tell the Board of Directors of the CalPERS pension plan, the largest pension plan in the U.S., to divest from fossil fuels! On that day, the CalPERS board will meet to update its sustainable investing program – and we will be there to hold them accountable, for CalPERS beneficiaries, California taxpayers, and future generations.

Anyone can can speak for up to three minutes during the public comment period. See the list below of some of the many reasons for divestment. While the CalPERS board has a fiduciary duty to act on behalf of its beneficiaries, as public officials they also have a responsibility to act in the best interest of all Californians.

Please join us at 9 AM on Monday March 18, at the CalPERS Auditorium, Lincoln Plaza North, 400 Q Street, Sacramento, CA 95811. The Board needs to hear a broad spectrum of voices, including yours.

To join us on March 18, or for more information, including about car pools, please contact STheiss@ffca.org

Why should CalPERS divest?

Fossil Free California is a nonprofit organization that works to end financial support for climate-damaging fossil fuel. Graphic © Fossil Free California 

Sara Theiss decided to focus on climate issues after retiring from the California Office of the State Public Defender in 2017, and now volunteers with Fossil Free California (FFCA) to end financial support for the fossil fuel industry. She is a CalPERS retiree and leads FFCA’s campaign on CalPERS divestment.

IEB Meets with Senator Harris’ Staff, January 2019

By Leslie A. Burton

On January 15, 2019, Indivisible East Bay met with Senator Kamala Harris’ State Director, Julie Rodriguez, and other office staff at the Senator’s downtown San Francisco office.  

Shutdown. We opened with the government shutdown, at that point on its 24th day – the longest in U.S. history (and still ongoing as of this writing). We asked that the Senator not back down on her opposition to the border wall. We pointed out the need to  disseminate more positive stories about immigrants and noted environmental hazards to wildlife caused by the wall. Julie acknowledged the problems with privatizing immigration detention centers. We asked that Senator Harris consider forcing a vote on the budget by making a motion to proceed, but Julie didn’t think that the senator was inclined to do that.

Barr for Attorney General. Although we disapprove of the appointment of William Barr as AG, Julie explained that though Harris will likely oppose (and she officially announced opposition soon after our meeting) his appointment is likely a “done deal.”

Judicial appointments. We expressed our dismay that judges who have been found “not qualified” by the American Bar Association are being approved.  ABA approval should be a non-negotiable qualification. We asked that each judicial candidate be put through the entire vetting and approval process, with no concessions to speed up the process. Julie noted that the Blue Slip process, which had been the protocol for every other administration, is not being followed now, and said she hopes in the future we can move to restore the previous protocol to confirm judges.

Julie was pleased, though, with the decision of the federal court in Manhattan that will prevent citizenship questions from being asked on the 2020 census. She is also heartened that Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts seems to be moving a little to the left.

Nuclear arms. We voiced concern over Senator Jon Kyl’s proposals to stockpile more nuclear warheads. Rep. Engel is willing to open debate on repeal of AUMF in the House. Sen. Merkley’s AUMF repeal framework includes tying humanitarian goals into any repeal legislation. We support Engel and Merkley and would like to know how Senator Harris stands on these issues. We would like her to support a No First Use (of nuclear weapons) policy. Julie was not aware of Sen. Harris’ stance on these issues but she promised that she would discuss them with her. Senator Harris, like us, is concerned that we have the right checks and balances in place when an unstable person is in charge of nuclear arms.

Defense Budget/Budget Control Act Caps. Senator Harris supports parity between military and non-military spending. Julie doesn’t know about the proposal to discontinue humanitarian aid to Yemen, but she will look into it, as well as into the proposal to bring the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act below $700 billion.

DHS/HHS appropriations for immigration centers. Two children have died in ICE custody at the border without explanation; there is no oversight or responsibility to prevent abuses by ICE; there are no background checks on ICE employees; anti-immigration actions are taking funds from cancer and HIV research. Julie explained that most of the monetary aspect of Homeland Security goes through the Office of Management and Budget, and not through the Senate. But the Senator is concerned with the locking up of children and families and the lack of humanity exhibited in these facilities. Harris also sponsored the non-expansion act that would prohibit the expansion of immigration detention and improve oversight of these facilities. The Senator will be flagging Rep. Norma Torres’s H. Amdt. 314 to H.R. 3354, which would prevent the re-allocation of non-immigration detention funds in DHS towards immigration detention, for her immigration team to study.

Climate Change. We inquired about Harris’ approach to controlling greenhouse gases. We pointed out that lower standards are being proposed for Superfund cleanups, which will hurt communities. Julie stated that California is at the forefront of environmental issues, including environmental justice. Among other clean energy proposals, Harris is seeking federal funding for electric buses in rural areas. Climate change will be on the agenda for her next town hall.

Green New Deal. We told Julie that proposals are afloat for a system of public banks or agencies to finance energy infrastructure, which will transform the economy while addressing environmental issues. These banks would be accountable to the people and could be used to give micro-loans for communities and for conservation projects and other projects and endeavors, including the cannabis industry. Julie was very interested and asked us to provide her with good examples of successful programs.

Income Inequality and Taxes. We asked whether Harris supports Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal to increase the highest tax rate to 70 percent. Julie acknowledged that taxes need to be reformed, with the goal of getting money into the hands of the people. She noted that the majority of Americans are $500 away from life-changing status (such as homelessness) and that the Senator supports the “Lift the Middle-Class Tax Act,” which will give $500 annually to those who spend more than 30% of their income on rent.

Criminal Justice Reform and First Step. We aired our concerns over some of the terms of the criminal justice reform bill First Step Act, including its reliance on algorithms for predicting recidivism. Harris believes that AG Barr’s oversight of the First Step criminal reform bill will not be a serious concern because she has faith in the career employees at the Department of Justice who will handle most of the hands-on day-to-day administration of First Step. But the senator shares concerns over the recidivism calculations.

Drug Policy. Senator Harris supported the Marijuana Justice Act.  The next step is to help the cannabis industry transition to a fully legal business. Harris supports removing it from Schedule 1 of Controlled Substances. In response to her question to Barr about federal prosecution of users who are not violating state laws, he said he would not prosecute those cases.

Next Town Hall. Senator Harris will announce a Town Hall soon. We will let you know the date as soon as we find out.

 

Leslie A. Burton is a former lawyer and law professor. She is now a traveling professor, teaching Introduction to US Law classes and Legal Writing seminars in law firms and universities around the world.

Keep the Pressure on for a Green New Deal

As Democrats are considering incorporating the Green New Deal (GND) into 2019’s congressional agenda (see our previous blog post for more on this proposal), a new poll shows strong bipartisan support for the idea of transforming the economy through fighting climate change. Despite the Green New Deal’s popularity, however, the House of Representative’s plan for action on climate change does not appear to be as strong as we had hoped – and may not include the Green New Deal at all. Read on for more details on these recent developments, and see the sample scripts at the bottom of this post to tell your Representatives that we need a Green New Deal now!

Tackling Climate Change in the Blue House

With Democrats taking control of the House in the new year, climate change is back on the legislative agenda. Representative Nancy Pelosi (incoming House Speaker-designate) and other Democratic leaders have pushed for reinstating the Select Committee on Climate Change, which Republicans killed eight years ago. However, climate activists, along with Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who worry that action from this committee will not be aggressive or swift enough, have proposed establishing a Select Committee for a Green New Deal, which would be tasked with developing a national plan to eliminate carbon emissions while guaranteeing jobs and environmental justice by 2020.  What form the climate change committee will take will be determined on January 3, 2019, when the House convenes and votes on its rules for the upcoming session.

Who Likes the Green New Deal? Everyone!

The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication recently conducted a poll of registered voters’ opinions of the GND. Based on the poll, the authors estimate that 81% of registered voters support the GND’s policy goals, including 64% of all Republicans and 57% of conservative Republicans. That’s more than half of conservative Republicans! Another important finding: 82% of respondents had not heard of the GND before the survey, meaning that most people are likely to support the Green New Deal if it’s described to them, but that word hasn’t gotten out about it.

Bipartisan support for action on climate change isn’t just found in the polls; a bipartisan carbon tax bill was introduced last week in the Senate. The bill was not expected to pass, but some see it as a starting point for bipartisan negotiation. Some Republicans have shown indications that they may be ready to compromise as the devastating effects of a changing climate become ever clearer.

Climate Action is Coming – But is it Enough?

The Green New Deal is a crucial opportunity that we cannot afford to miss. With a blue House, an energized progressive base, and bipartisan support, the House leadership has an opportunity to direct the policy agenda on this issue. Unfortunately, a few recent news items have put into question whether they will take this opportunity or let it pass.

First, Maryland Democratic Representative Steny Hoyer, the incoming majority leader, stated on December 19, 2018, that the committee that will tackle climate change – whatever that committee may be – will not have subpoena power, the legal authority to demand documents and testimony from relevant players. While the committee would likely have no problem collecting documents and testimony from climate scientists, a lack of subpoena power would prevent the committee from compelling testimony from the fossil fuel industry. Such testimony would allow the committee to establish key findings about issues such as fossil fuel funding for climate change denying think tanks and lobby groups and other bad faith efforts (some quite extraordinary – the Heartland Institute took out a billboard comparing the Unabomber and Osama Bin Laden to people concerned about global warming!), which could motivate strong action and justify the scope of the legislation.

Second, on December 20, 2018, Florida Democrat Kathy Castor (who has a 93% lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters) announced that she was chosen to lead a new committee on climate change in the next Congress. The details of the committee have not yet been made public, but Representative Castor stated that although a Green New Deal would be a consideration in the committee, “that’s not going to be our sole focus.” She also indicated that they were not planning to disqualify members from serving on the committee if they take money from fossil fuel companies. While the new committee shows that the leadership is planning to focus on climate change, it is also seen as an indication that they are not moving forward with a Green New Deal as proposed.

What you can do – call your Members of Congress NOW

Green New Deal supporters in Congress have said that they have not heard opposition from Democratic leadership to the GND’s proposed policies, but “they’re not willing to go out on a limb” because they aren’t sure of support from their caucus and they’re concerned about overstepping other committees’ jurisdiction. So far, only 43 of the 235 Democratic representatives have spoken out in favor of the Green New Deal. This means that Democratic leadership needs to hear from caucus members (our representatives) that there is solid support for a robust committee to work on the Green New Deal plan by 2020; and that in order to support the plan, the committee needs subpoena power to be able to compel testimony from relevant players.

You know what that means … time to call your Members of Congress and let them know we need immediate action on Climate Change through a national Green New Deal. Despite the government shutdown and the recess between Congressional sessions, Capitol offices are open and the staff is there to record your comments (though you may have to leave a message as some offices are short-staffed). Asking our MoCs to publicly support the Green New Deal is the best way to show leadership that the House needs to take it up as soon as possible.

Representative Barbara Lee has already shown public support for the plan. Representatives Eric Swalwell and Mark DeSaulnier have previously been strong advocates for action on climate change and the environment, but have not yet publicly supported the Green New Deal.

You can also contact your local and state representatives to sign on to the platform – read our previous article about the movement to get local and state leaders on-board. The more pressure to act on a Green New Deal, the better!

WHAT TO SAY:

If you are represented by Rep. Lee (CA-13):

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for supporting the Green New Deal. The United States needs to take immediate action on climate change while supporting our economy and workers. Please continue your commitment to sustainability and use your influence to ensure that a committee with subpoena power is established and takes up the Green New Deal in its agenda.

Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612

If you are represented by Rep. DeSaulnier (CA-11) or Swalwell (CA-15):

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. The United States needs to take immediate action on climate change, and I know it can be done in a way that supports our economy and our workers. I ask you to publicly support the Green New Deal, which is the only concrete proposal to ensure action on climate change. Please continue your commitment to sustainability and use your influence to ensure that a committee with subpoena power is established and takes up the Green New Deal in its agenda.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804

Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

To check on who your representative is, please enter your zip code at this link to verify.

December 2018 meeting with Feinstein staff

On December 10, 2018, Indivisible East Bay had our first meeting with Senator Feinstein’s new interim state director Peter Muller. We met field representative Abby Ellis in the senator’s San Francisco office and Peter, who is based in Los Angeles, joined us by phone.

While climate change is always a high priority for IEB and usually makes our meeting agendas in some form, it’s rarely at the very top of our memo — mainly because that space is generally filled by a reaction to the latest crisis coming out of the White House. So it was a promising sign of the power shift in DC that we started with a discussion of the Green New Deal (GND). Peter said that while Sen. Feinstein isn’t yet familiar with the details of the Green New Deal proposal, as far as he could tell she’s generally supportive of the program and would invest more time in learning about it once it’s a bit further advanced in the House.

We brought up the plan Feinstein supports to extend certain controversial provisions in the WIIN Act, a water bill which, among other things, diverts water south of the Delta. We shared our concerns that the extension of those provisions could result in harm the Delta ecosystem, but Peter said that Sen. Feinstein’s office has examined the matter carefully and doesn’t believe the provisions have been harmful so far or will become so if extended.

We also talked about asylum seekers at the California-Mexico border and those being detained (along with other immigrants) throughout the state. Sen. Feinstein still wants to visit the detention facilities herself, but doesn’t yet have plans to do so. Meanwhile, her staff has visited every facility in California in which immigrants are detained, as well as some in Texas. But it’s been hard to perform oversight, because the facilities know they are coming and are able to prepare. Sen. Feinstein continues to work on getting legislation ready to pass at the earliest opportunity. (First we need to elect more Democrats.) We asked her to prioritize addressing the seemingly unnecessary “metering” at ports of entry that is causing a humanitarian crisis in which asylum seekers are forced to choose between waiting in overflowing shelters in Mexico — with complete uncertainty about having their claims heard — or attempting dangerous, illegal crossings and turning themselves in at understaffed remote outposts. And meanwhile we asked her to look at ways she could collaborate with the House concerning funding for immigration enforcement, particularly with respect to making sure the executive branch spends the money in the way Congress intended.

We discussed delays in funding transit projects — Sen. Feinstein does her best to advocate for projects in California but doesn’t have much influence otherwise; Attorney General nominee William Barr — she shares our concerns about his civil rights record and biases; judiciary appointments — Republicans are happy with how this is going. so we are likely to see more of the same; and homelessness — she has a bill ready and is looking for a Republican co-sponsor.

Finally, we asked what the senator’s hopes and dreams are for working with our new blue House. Peter listed:

  • Immigration
  • Gun Control – Peter said that Sen. Feinstein saw a strong opportunity for a bump stock ban (which the White House announced only days later)
  • Environment
  • Homelessness
  • Immigration enforcement oversight
  • Appropriations – put more constraints on the administration
  • Health care
  • 2016 election investigation – help her better leverage her position on the Judiciary Committee