IEB’s Seat at the Power Table

Editor’s note: When you know you’re making a difference: IEB’s Governance Committee member and co-lead of Indivisible CA-11 United, Kristen Law was invited by Representative Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) to join him at the Ultimate Women’s Power Luncheon and Issues Conference on October 19, 2017 at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. The event was hosted by Nancy Pelosi and paid for by the DCCC (not authorized by any candidate or committee). The following is Kristen’s report from the conference.

The Ultimate Women’s Power Luncheon and Issues Conference began with welcoming remarks from Representative Nancy Pelosi, acknowledging the heartbreak and devastation of the recent fires. Along with gratitude for all those who have stepped up to help, Rep. Pelosi provided weblinks for Napa relief and Sonoma relief. Rep. Pelosi also touched on questions that she often receives about communications with constituents, redistricting and voter suppression and the need to leverage the grassroots movement, and acknowledged women congressional candidates in attendance: Angie Craig (MN-2), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-6), Abby Finkenauer (IA-1), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-2), and Susie Lee (NV-3). Also on the subject of elections, she acknowledged the event’s “power couple,” Ann and Jerry Brown, whom she described as committed to flipping seats in California.

Panel 1: Political Updates

This panel consisted of DCCC Chair Ben Ray Lujan, DCCC Recruitment Vice Chair Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-5), and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19).

Lujan began by providing an update on the national environment. He struck an optimistic note, saying “history is on our side and we need to make history repeat itself”: after Clinton came Bush, after Bush came Obama, and after Obama came 45 – who is below 40% approval. Lujan honored the importance of grassroots work for taking down Trumpcare, and noted that the Democrats need to work directly with people and must inspire America. Republicans are under water in many red districts, so people in blue areas should adopt a precinct to flip. Lujan spoke of the need to defend against fake news and trolls.

Rep. Clark expressed deep gratitude for the Left Coast. She recognized the success of local engagement, especially citing the success of Town Halls. Like several others at the event, she focused on the Women’s March (the “You know there’s trouble when librarians are here” poster was one of her favorites because her mom was a librarian). The Women’s March, she said, has translated into an increase in women wanting to run for elected seats. As of late September, 84 women were running for office in 80 Congressional districts. When women run for office, she said, they focus on issues such as the wage gap, the struggle to care for parents and children at the same time, and the cost of education. Women’s issues are economic issues, and women candidates “stand for you and giving your family a shot at the American dream,” so supporting women candidates is supporting our values as a country.

Rep. Lofgren advised that we focus on flippable seats here in California. There were seven Republican seats where Trump lost in 2016:

      • CA-10: There are currently 8 Democrats running against Rep. Jeff Denham
      • CA-21: (Kern area) Trump lost by 16 points – there is one Democrat running against Rep. David Valadao
      • CA-25: This is the last Republican seat in LA County
      • CA-39: This is a majority minority district in Orange County and is experiencing a dramatic demographic shift
      • CA-45: (Irvine) A number of strong Democrats may run against Republican Rep. Mimi Walters
      • CA-48: (Laguna) Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is considered “Russia’s Congressman” and has a number of competitive Democratic challengers
      • CA-49: (San Diego/Oceanside) Rep. Darrell Issa won by under 200 votes in the last election, and recent polls show him losing to a fictitious Democrat!

To this list, Rep. Lofgren added CA-50 (San Diego), where Rep. Duncan D. Hunter is under investigation for using campaign funds for such things as groceries, kid’s college tuition and shipping a rabbit by plane (you read that correctly); and CA-22 (Tulare County). Lofgren warned that we need to make sure that we are protecting incumbents. There has never been a time like now where we NEED to win: The president is doing everything in his power to depress us, but  the power is in our hands.

Question topics for this panel included voter suppression. The panel replied that there are several avenues being explored, including the Democratic Redistricting Committee chaired by former Attorney General Eric Holder, and plans to launch on the ground campaigns earlier than ever before. Rep. Pelosi closed the panel, again emphasizing the power of mobilizing the grassroots and stating that the community wants to select their leaders.

Ultimate Women's Luncheon panel: Reps Anna Eshoo and Mark DeSaulnier, and Tom Steyer
Ultimate Women’s Luncheon panel: Reps Anna Eshoo and Mark DeSaulnier, and Tom Steyer. Photo by Kristen Law

Panel 2: Infrastructure and Jobs of the Future

 

Rep. Pelosi introduced this panel by stating that our primary goal should be “Build. Build. Build!” – We need to build infrastructure, we need to build education/human resources, and we need to build our democracy.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (CA-18) talked about the new Innovation Agenda 2.0. Ten years ago the Democrats created the first Innovation Agenda: of 22 proposals, 21 became law (all except comprehensive immigration reform). There are three pillars to the new Innovation Agenda:

    1. Create and Support Workforce.
    2. Recommit to Basic Research: government funded research leads to innovations, protects people’s health and safety and creates jobs.
    3. Modernize Government: Government should keep up with technology and scientific advancement, should be tech savvy, should enhance policies to protect security, and should draw on the private sector. Government must be accessible to the average person: the public should be able to access data because “knowledge is power” and we need knowledgeable citizens.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) started off, as he generally does, by encouraging everyone to read Dark Money and then Democracy in Chains. He said that under Trump there have been far fewer oversight committee meetings than under Obama. Regarding infrastructure, Rep. DeSaulnier said there are trillions of dollars in backlog. Tech centers are driving young people to urban centers, creating huge challenges around providing infrastructure for so many people to get around. We need mobility and government needs to provide it, but Republicans don’t want to invest. Regarding workforce/labor, DeSaulnier (who recently held his 50th Town Hall) said he has repeatedly heard how people are suffering and heard a sense of urgency. As we in California have leapt forward in advancement, we have left too many people behind; we need to focus on bringing everyone along with us. For example: in the transportation field, as we transition to self-driving trucks we need to prepare for what to do with the current workforce of truck drivers, with employers contributing to training and retooling and helping to mitigate the cost (like CEQA in the environmental field). Rep. DeSaulnier authored the Smart City Program, a competition that Columbus OH won in 2016, gaining them $40 million from the USDOT (plus more from corporate grants); DeSaulnier hopes that the San Francisco Bay Area wins next time.

Environmentalist, mega-donor and sometime political candidate Tom Steyer spoke (not surprisingly) about the need to put investments into leveraging the grassroots. Infrastructure is investment, he said, but it isn’t enough to just build – we need to build smart infrastructure and a smart, clean United States with renewable energy, denser living spaces, open spaces, and public transportation. Infrastructure requires connectivity: the ability to connect to a rapidly changing world, including physical connection, training, and emotional connectivity. People’s feelings of disconnectedness, Steyer said, led to the Trump election. On the other hand, Steyer pointed out, we have had some big wins: GM is going electric, the tar sands pipeline was shut down, the new refinery proposal on the California coast was closed. We have the technology and the ability to build a fantastic future but we need to think about it on a human basis. Job creation has to include every community, from inner city to rural. New technology means health and justice: no one wants to be a coal miner and no one wants to live near coal mines (and the Republicans’ insistence on coal hurts the poor). Investing in schools, training and health is about social justice and the rights of Americans.

In the Q&A period, the panelists discussed the need for government to invest in community colleges, which 2.2 million students attend in California; Rep. DeSaulnier says that free, high quality community colleges are essential to our future.

Panel 3: National Security

According to Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-14), “President Trump is a National Security risk,”  primarily because he won’t listen to the generals. How are we doing? Let me count the ways: He has undermined allies, insulted other leaders, and picked fights with our closest allies; he sided with Saudi Arabia against Qatar and his first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia, the country where 15 of the 9-11 terrorists came from; he has provoked North Korea, a belligerent nuclear power, with “Fire and Fury” text messages; degraded the intelligence community, applauded the president of the Philippines; he has isolated the US from the Paris Climate Treaty, terminated the Iran deal for no apparent reason (other than its having been signed by Obama); he has allowed China to move toward being the World’s primary superpower while our allies are drifting away … Rep. Speier recommends, as the first solution, invoking the 25th Amendment; and she also recommends reading The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.

Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13) said flatly that Donald Trump is dangerous and is is ruining our standing in the world – but that the world is with us (though not with the administration). She focused on peace and diplomacy: we need to include more women in peace negotiations and international relations and look at international ways of achieving peace such as the United Nations. Rep. Lee urged support for HR 669, which would prevent a president from a nuclear first strike without Congressional approval, and also for repealing the AUMF, which allows commitment of money and personnel to wars without Congressional approval. (Repeal of the AUMF received bipartisan support until Speaker Ryan torpedoed it.) Rep. Lee urged support for “the three D’s”: Reinvesting in Development, Diplomacy and smart Defense.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) chairs the Future Forum, a group of the youngest members of Congress. The Forum travels the country listening to millennials; one young Marine told Rep. Swalwell “this is not what we fought for,” and said that he fought for freedom. Swalwell stated that freedom is under attack: freedom to have clean air; freedom to work; freedom for a woman to make a choice about her health with her doctor; freedom to stay healthy without going broke. Even freedom to make a choice in voting because our own democracy is under attack – Russia chose our president. We are 22 votes short of an independent review of how Russian interference affected the election, but to get this we need to flip seats.

Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan and Lieutenant General (ret.) Karl Eikenberry talked about four big trends posing challenges: the diffusion of global policy; the diffusion of technology – we are in a time when the “weak” can coerce the “strong”; the increasing difficulty of global governance of states; and the fact that we live in a world where nations need to cooperate and the other three trends are eroding this. Ambassador Eikenberry gave a shout-out to Rep. Lee for her long efforts to try to repeal the AUMF, saying he believes that the power to declare war belongs with the Congress and that Congress needs to step up to enforce this.

The event ended with a celebratory luncheon honoring power couple Ann and Jerry Brown and featuring a performance from local musicians. The five Congressional candidates spoke about themselves and their campaigns, including these highlights:

  • Chrissy Houlahan from Pennsylvania is former US Air Force Captain, a third generation military officer, former teacher, businesswoman and president of a non-profit, who never saw herself running until 45 was elected and she wanted to be able to answer with pride when her children and grandchildren asked what she did during these bad times.
  • Abby Finkenauer from Iowa is in her 20’s, a first generation college student who has raised more than $300k since announcing in April – a lot of money for that district!
  • Angie Craig from Minnesota is a firecracker! She lost the last election by two points and is running again. She lives with her wife and four teenage sons, worked two jobs to pay for college after watching her mom work for nearly 10 years to get her college degree. Her opponent, Jason Lewis, is considered one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in the country.
Ultimate Women's Luncheon and Issues Conference. IEB member Kristen Law and Joan Carpenter, Contra Costa Board of Supervisors
Ultimate Women’s Luncheon and Issues Conference. IEB member Kristen Law and Joan Carpenter, Contra Costa Board of Supervisors

I was grateful and delighted to be Rep. DeSaulnier’s guest at the event and table partner at the luncheon. DeSaulnier has made an effort to work with Indivisible chapters on grassroots issues, and makes himself available to his constituents; if you live in his district and would like to be involved, you can contact me on IEB’s CA-11 Slack channel @klaw. Not on Slack? Email info@indivisibleeb.org. I look forward to working with you!

– Kristen Law

Sojourn in Southern California for Senator Feinstein

Senator Feinstein spoke to the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce at a luncheon on Wednesday October 11. As you’d expect the 400 or so attendees were mostly business people among whom the senator seemed very comfortable.

We’re not making any accusations—and it was likely just that the hosts were so  in sync with their guest—but the questions seemed to be exactly what the senator would have chosen to be asked at her first public appearance since announcing her reelection campaign. And she was clearly very prepared, down to statistics on how the elimination of the state and local tax deduction would hurt middle income Riverside residents.

Sen. Feinstein and moderator Jack Clarke talked about terrifying weapons: the senator’s gun control legislation, the nuclear agreement with Iran, and the potential crisis brewing between the United States and North Korea— “the longer it lasts this way, the easier it is for one of the two leaders to make a slip in rhetoric and something happens that we don’t want.”

Asked about tax “reform” the senator  was very clear that the Republicans do not have bill. They have “a framework—whatever that is.” And she predicted that if they attempted to jam something through without hearings and “regular order” that it would certainly fail. Let’s hope she has Senator McCain’s word on that. (Note: He voted against the 2001 Bush tax cuts; she voted for them.)

She spoke at length about saving the Affordable Care Act and stabilizing and improving the marketplaces, and about the nearby airport and what it means for the local economy and infrastructure.


Clarke also read three audience questions off of cards collected at the event including one about the future of DACA. She was, of course, strongly in favor of the DREAM Act. But she made some statements that were troublingly supportive of a deal on border security, against the wishes of the DREAMers themselves who don’t want their safety traded for policies that harm other immigrants. She said, “we can use more border patrol,” which might be a reasonable argument to make if the immigration enforcement we currently have was doing a decent job protecting the rights and humanity of the people it interacts with.

For young people who want to be involved in politics and the future of this country, she said: “Instead of sitting back and criticising, get out and run for something…people jump up and down, and you ask them what they really want and it’s some vague statement.”

Clearly she’s not talking about Indivisible East Bay. While we do jump up and down quite a bit, our statements are anything but vague. We certainly criticize, but we don’t sit back. We know what we want and we’ve learned how to translate that into requests for specific votes and legislation, and oversight, because that is the most effective way to maximize our power. But as the senator well knows (and, to be fair, has demonstrated many times) part of the job she took on when she asked to represent us, is the task of taking her constituents’ vague statements and finding the way to address those needs through policy.

And as for the admonition to “get out and run for something.” It’s not bad advice. More of us need to do that. But more of us also need to realize that it’s not the only way. Many of us Indivisibles across the country ourselves realized only recently that democracy doesn’t have to just mean voting and running for office. It can mean working as constituents together with our elected representative to govern ourselves.

Call to Restrict First Use of Nuclear Weapons

Seems obvious, right? With tiny tweeting hands on the trigger, the time is now to ramp up Senate support for S.200, the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act, and H.R.669, the companion bill in the House of Representatives written by Rep Ted Lieu of California.  Both bills would ban a presidential nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. If it passes by a veto proof margin (i.e. doesn’t need POTUS signature to become law), soldiers or whoever are in command, can disobey and face no consequences, thanks to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Senator Feinstein and Representative Lee were early supporters of these bills. Please thank them and ask them to get their colleagues on board. Ask Senator Harris and Representatives DeSaulnier and Swalwell to support the legislation as well.

Tell your MoCs:  

My name is _____, I’m with Indivisible East Bay from [zip code]. I support the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act and I want you to fight for its immediate passage. The President should not be able to launch a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. Thank you.”

And please encourage your friends and family in other states to get their MoCs to co-sponsor and fight for S.200/H.R.669. We must all work for this legislation as though our lives depended on it – because one day soon they might!

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email)
(415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Sen. Kamala Harris (email)
(415) 355-9041 • 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

Are you on Twitter? Representative Ted Lieu is a master tweeter, follow and RT him: @tedlieu.

Indivisible East Bay Meets With Sen Harris’s Staff

Meeting with Daniel Chen

Walking into the IEB meeting with Daniel Chen, Senator Kamala Harris’s District Director on August 2, 2017, we had varying opinions on most issues we wanted to discuss – but we were INDIVISIBLY united on one question: when would Senator Harris hold a Bay Area Town Hall?

Unfortunately we left the meeting without an answer. Daniel clearly heard our message – it is not acceptable that Senator Harris hasn’t held ANY town halls in Northern California – but the most he would say was that an August Town Hall was a “number one priority” for Harris.

Daniel didn’t give many firm answers to the rest of our questions, but he took notes and said he’d convey our suggestions and concerns to the Senator.

Meeting with Daniel Chen

A rundown of the main issues we covered:

  • Health Care: We asked Senator Harris to join Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) in committing to make no cuts to Medicaid before agreeing to any bipartisan health care bill. Daniel acknowledged and thanked Indivisible’s extensive grassroots work fighting for our health care.
  • Budget and Defense Spending: Daniel will ask Harris to issue a statement on why she agreed to co-sponsor Senate Bill 1414. The SHIPS Act mandates expansion of military spending on battle force ships, up from 276 to support a minimum of 355. The bill is primarily a reward to military contractors.
  • Department of Homeland Security Oversight: Daniel said that the Senator is currently mainly focused on retaining Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). She is aware that ICE and border control have been turning away asylum seekers without granting legally mandated hearings, and she’s seeking documentation of this in the field. Daniel will convey our suggestion that she consider visiting the border to greet asylum seekers.
  • Defense Appropriations and Constitutional Role of Congress: We expressed our concern that the executive branch’s impulsive, undisciplined, and unreliable approach to foreign policy is leading to escalated U.S. involvement in conflicts abroad without strategy or accountability. Daniel will talk to the Senator about supporting a bill to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, work that Rep. Barbara Lee has been doing for years and that recently gained significant support from both sides of the aisle before being removed from the House Defense Appropriations Bill at the direction of Paul Ryan.
  • LGBTQ Rights: Daniel will convey our request that Harris co-sponsor S. 1303. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act prohibits discrimination in adoption or foster care placements based on the sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of any prospective adoptive or foster parent, or the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child.
  • Reproductive Rights: He will also convey our deep concern about the DCCC’s announcement that they’re willing to fund Democratic candidates who don’t support abortion rights, and about the failure to mention abortion rights in the Democrats’ “Better Deal” agenda. We stated that abortion rights should definitely be a litmus test for Dem candidates.
  • Obstruction of Justice: We were disappointed by Harris’s vote to confirm Christopher Wray as the new FBI Director. Daniel told us she was convinced by his responses at the hearing that Wray would remain independent, and gave us her statement regarding her vote.

It’s nearly a week since we met with Daniel, and still no word on an August recess Town Hall with Senator Harris. Please contact Senator Harris and tell her you want her to meet with her Bay Area constituents!

Update: Senator Harris asked for constituent input on priorities, please use this form to give her feedback.

It’s August and we’re all still here

We marked our 6-month anniversary of visits to Senator Feinstein’s office with another wide ranging policy discussion. Her state director, Sean Elsbernd, doesn’t expect bipartisan progress on health care until after the upcoming budget fight, which itself isn’t likely to be resolved before the government runs out of money at the end of September. We talked about the need to keep a close watch on the beleaguered Jeff Sessions (Sean joked that we finally had something in common with the president) and asked the Senator to throw her weight behind Barbara Lee’s AUMF repeal, which has rankled Republican leadership despite – or perhaps because of – its support from the Republican rank and file. We learned that one of Senator Feinstein’s top climate change policy priorities is a carbon fee and that while the Senator likes our idea of whistleblower protections for those exposing torture, her intelligence staff is already overtaxed by the day-to-day crises of this administration. We also checked in about the Senator’s concerns regarding the falling standards in the Judiciary Committee’s evaluation of nominees for the Federal Bench: Chairman Grassley is rushing nominees through without waiting for the traditional review from either Senators from the courts’ home states or the non-partisan American Bar Association. And we reminded Sean that we are anxiously awaiting our next chance to discuss all these issues and more with the Senator in person at her August town hall (even if we have to travel to San Diego or Fresno).

United We Stand: Resistance Fair July 29th

We the People

Together we shall stand indivisible!

Join Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA District 11), Indivisible Guide co-author Jeremy Haile, and activists from more than 30 groups at a Resistance Fair on Saturday, July 29th at Diablo Valley College Commons Area, 321 Golf Club Rd, Pleasant Hill, California.

Congressman DeSaulnier and special guest Jeremy Haile will speak from 10 to 11 am. Please RSVP for this part of the program. It’s free, but registration is required due to limited seating.

The Resistance Fair will be held from 10 am to 12 pm (free, no RSVP needed). Meet representatives from more than 30 advocacy and electoral groups who’re organizing on many different issues in our broad progressive movement. Make connections, network, ask questions and find out how you can help!

DeSaulnier Resistance Fair

Some of the groups who’ll be there:

  • ACLU
  • Indivisible East Bay
  • Indivisible East Contra Costa County
  • Indivisible 4C
  • Swing Left
  • Working America, Central Valley
  • Citizens’ Climate Lobby
  • Asian Pacific Environmental Network
  • Healthy Richmond
  • ​​Organizing for Action Contra Costa
  • Empathy Tent
  • Women’s March Walnut Creek
  • CA Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA)
  • CC County Action Team
  • Contra Costa Progressives
  • Health Care for All, Contra Costa County
  • Together We Will Contra Costa (TWWCC)
  • Lamorinda Dem Club
  • Meals on Wheels
  • Rainbow Street
  • Move to Amend
  • San Ramon Valley Democratic Club
  • Diablo Valley Democrats
  • ICCCC
  • Maplight
  • End Poverty in Contra Costa County
  • SURJ Bay Area

The Resistance Fair is hosted by DeSaulnier for Congress in conjunction with Indivisible CA-11 United. Park in Lot 8 off Golf Club Rd.

Any questions? Contact indivisibleca11@gmail.com

 

IEB at Die-In: #KillTheBill

Killthebill Indivisible East Bay joined Indivisible SF and allies on July 18th to participate in the first Indivisible National Day of Action to fight the Republicans’ relentless attempts to steal health care and insurance from millions of people.

Killthebill signs

We celebrated the previous day’s big win, the defeat of the latest horrendous incarnation of Trump’s Zombie WealthCare bill in the Senate. But until the bill has a stake through its heart, we continue to resist! 

Killthebill

We wrote cards and signed “Certificates of Appreciation” to Senators Feinstein and Harris for their tireless work in fighting the repeal of the ACA.

Killthebill postcards

We spoke the truth of our personal stories about pre-existing conditions, exorbitant medication costs, and the critical need to have adequate health insurance to cover cancer treatments.

Killthebill open mic

Those without creaky bones even performed a compelling die-in on the sidewalk.

Killthebill Die In

The Senator’s staffer Tom Paulino arrived to listen to our comments and field questions about Feinstein’s positions on a range of issues. He thanked us warmly for our phone calls, texts and faxes, and for sharing personal stories with the Senator’s office that she incorporates into her strategy to fight the administration.

Killthebill Tom Paulino

On health care, we asked Tom what the Senator would do about reining in big pharma, and whether the Democrats could seize the opportunity to push ahead offensively on health care. Several people pressed Tom about Feinstein’s stated position on single-payer (“I’m not there”). He said that hasn’t changed – and that any official statements would appear on her website.   This is Feinstein’s statement, released today, on health care. Although Tom took notes to bring back to the Senator, he unfortunately offered little concrete information.  

Indivisible SF live-streamed the event for those who couldn’t attend.

By Heidi Rand

Barbara Lee Speaks for the Constitution

Update: Today, August 8, we heard from the President the threat to unleash “Fire and Fury like the world has never seen” on North Korea.  This completely unhinged and destabilizing statement reminds us again of the need for Congress to re-assert its constitutionally mandated power to authorize and regulate military force.  All our members of Congress would be well advised to take up and pass immediately the bill banning presidential nuclear first strike authored by another California legislator, Ted Lieu (a senate version of the bill was introduced by Ed Markey of Massachusetts).


For the first time in almost sixteen years, there’s a chance for a real debate in the Congress about our seemingly endless war in the Middle East – thanks to East Bay hero Rep. Barbara Lee.

Regulation of the military as well as authorization and funding of war is a power granted solely to Congress in Article I, Sec. 8 of the Constitution; yet under the hastily drawn 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), the President has been able to act unilaterally to commit blood and treasure without Congress’s approval. CA-13’s Rep. Lee has toiled, often alone, to force a debate on this issue on the House floor, and now Congress may finally follow her lead and do its job after too many years of silence. On June 29, a House Appropriations Committee meeting on Defense spending gave Rep. Lee the go-ahead (and a round of applause) for an amendment to the FY 2018 defense spending bill that would repeal the AUMF. All the Committee Democrats and all but one of Rep. Lee’s GOP colleagues joined in supporting this amendment, which would give Congress eight months to debate and formulate a new, more targeted Authorization for use of military force for current activities in the Middle East.

Though the amendment’s passage out of committee is a significant milestone, it by no means signals smooth sailing and final passage. There are already objections to authorization (or de-authorization language) in a spending bill, and its ultimate fate still depends on the rest of the House and Senate. But this is at last the start of a real and serious debate within and without the halls of Congress about not just the legality but the prudence of granting the executive unlimited war powers authorization. Whatever procedural objections members of Congress may have to the Lee Amendment, they will will have to weigh that objection against a Commander in Chief who lacks the attention span and skill needed to oversee an expansive war in the Middle East.

Though often dismissed as a Bay Area radical, Barbara Lee’s consistent and dogged leadership on repeal of the 2001 AUMF these last fifteen-plus years shows her to be the real steward of the Constitution. Congress has both the legal and moral authority to check the executive – if only it would exercise that authority. We owe it to Barbara Lee to advocate for not just the amendment but also for Constitutional constraint of the executive.

Phone Bank to Save the ACA

By Ann Daniels

By now you’ve read about the Senate’s heartless WealthCare bill that will gut Medicaid, send health insurance premiums skyrocketing, cause 15 million people to lose health care by next year, punish people who don’t keep continuous coverage by preventing them from getting insurance for six months, and many other terribles.

This bill is evil. It is so cravenly, obviously evil that even Senate Republicans are starting to admit that it will do nothing to help their constituents. But they’re not getting there on their own – the sustained calls and protests by constituents across the country are demonstrating to Republicans that passing this bill will be political suicide.

We need to flip three Republicans to kill the Senate bill. Some sources report that Senators like Rand Paul also oppose the bill, but we can’t count on them. They oppose the bill because it’s not cruel enough, and there’s still time for the majority leaders to get their support by amending the bill to make it worse.

That’s why Indivisible East Bay’s primary action this week is phone banking into states with Republican Senators, urging constituents there to call their representatives and demand that they vote NO on repealing the ACA.

Join us on Wednesday, June 28, from 3-7 for a joint phone bank with Indivisible Berkeley at the Ed Roberts Campus (please use the link to RSVP if possible). Or use one of these tools to locate other phone banks this week!

Wednesday, June 28, 3-7 PM (come for part or all!)
Ed Roberts Campus, 3075 Adeline St, Berkeley, CA 94703
Bring a phone, headphones and a laptop or tablet! Training and refreshments will be provided.
Ed Roberts Campus is directly above Ashby BART. An elevator takes you directly there from the BART station and the campus is accessible. Parking is available in the ERC lot or across the street at BART.

Feinstein Beats Warriors!

By Leslie Price

While hundreds of thousands of excited fans gathered in Oakland on June 15 for the Warriors’ victory parade, nine dedicated folks from Indivisible East Bay and other local groups met with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s State Director Sean Elsbernd and Field Representative Abby Ellis. Both were open, gracious, and genuinely impressed that we skipped the festivities and fought the crowds to make it to their office.

We spent a substantial portion of the meeting discussing health care. Though Senator Feinstein wouldn’t commit to withhold consent because she feels other important business would suffer, she is willing to work hard to slow down a vote on Trumpcare. She’s considering filibustering by amendment during vote-a-rama, but she’s (unsurprisingly) not planning to do anything showy like holding her own hearing on the Capitol steps with the other female senators.

We also talked extensively about corruption in the White House and among the Republican members of Congress. The senator will not join the members of Congress suing the President for accepting foreign emoluments out of concern that her opponents might use such action to claim that she is biased, impeding her efforts on other fronts. For example, she is working with the GOP on investigations concerning the FBI and had a hand in getting Senator Grassley on board, and she is working hard to maintain the blue slip process and to push the Russia investigation.

We asked whether the cuts to the USDA budget have encouraged California’s Republican representatives to stand up to some of the Trump Administration’s most harmful actions. Sean said cuts to the EPA are actually most upsetting to the representatives and their constituents, because these will affect air quality, which then affects children and the elderly. (According to Sean, those elected officials didn’t think Trump would really do something so drastic.) Our group had a positive discussion about how much air quality has improved over the years and how anything that affects the young and old tends to get people thinking beyond party affiliation.

Our group also asked some tough questions regarding civilian oversight of the military: specifically, about a strategy for Syria and whether Senator Feinstein will work to avoid funding a war with no limit. Sean was impressed and indicated that we are the only group that has ever presented Senator Feinstein’s staff with in-depth questions about this. Although the staff generally talks to the Senator about issues pushed by the most constituents, Sean and Abby agreed to bring our concerns to the Senator, and encouraged us to continue to bring it up with other groups to help bring more attention to the issue. We also talked about the urgent need for congressional oversight of military intelligence when the White House can’t be trusted to tell or discern the truth.

We had very positive discussion and agreement about prioritizing census funding, enhancing whistleblower protections, and a weekend summertime town hall, or two, or four (likely in August near San Diego and/or Fresno). Overall, our meeting was productive and positive, and Sean and Abby seemed to appreciate our interest and energy. We are getting to be regular guests, and the Senator’s staff reminded us that they’re happy to host us or make the trek out to us. (The fact we always bring treats probably doesn’t hurt either!)