The shutdown is our national emergency

It’s obvious to anyone who thinks before talking (or tweeting) that the government shutdown harms everyone, not just Democrats. But when pants are on fire, we need more than what’s obvious – we all need to be able to stand up and tell the truth. No, the people who long for this administration to fulfill prophecies of the end of the world won’t care, but there are millions of people who do. And so we offer this short collection of info about how the government shutdown is harming real people and the real world:

Who’s not getting paid?

  • When people think of federal employees, they may think of elected officials or high-paid white collar jobs. But federal workers as a whole make just slightly over the national average and include workers like food preparers, who make under $12/hour. These aren’t people who can afford to go without their paychecks.
  • From a National Park Service employee: “Our HR folks managed to get our Dec. 31 payroll in but who knows what’s next. It’s the lower graded employees who REALLY suffer. Some are seeking out temp jobs to fill the gap!”
  • A federal court employee reports that court employees have not been guaranteed that they’ll get paid for work beyond January 11, although they will be required to report to work as usual with or without pay. “I know several coworkers off the top of my head that can’t live without a paycheck. What are they supposed to do? I read today that some federal employees are applying for unemployment and can receive up to $450 a week but will have to return the funds once they get paid from the government. This shutdown has us scared and sick, not knowing the impact it will have on us personally and as a nation.”
  • Another federal worker: “I was planning to retire later this year but I can’t even get the paperwork going on that during the shutdown.”
  • The shutdown affects people who aren’t federal workers, too. The office that handles food stamps is staffed by federal workers, and although food stamps are essential to the people who get them, these workers aren’t considered “essential” – meaning that they aren’t coming to work and people aren’t getting the aid they need in order to eat.
  • Money and aid get held up in all kinds of ways: first-year students at a PA medical school received an e-mail saying they would get their student loan money for the upcoming term, but the funds were already late by the time the email arrived. For many people, getting money late can have serious repercussions.
  • See more personal stories here.

Health and Safety

The Environment

  • National Parks are basically semi-closed. The bathrooms are completely closed. People are driving off-road, doing what bears do in the woods, and more.
  • A park service employee reports “loss of control over schedules. … we are working on a tight timeline that is tied to many other events in the park with locked in dates. And of course, with skeleton staffs, there are serious negative impacts to delicate natural and cultural (not to mention HUMAN) resources that are being put at unnecessary risk.”
  • Wildfire prevention on federal lands – yes, the kind of thing needed to avoid huge loss of property and resources and life, especially in states like California and Nevada which are at least half federal land – has come to a halt. Of course, this is a health and safety issue as well.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency is running on skeleton staffing and little to no funding as a result of the shutdown. (Let’s not even go into how that fits into this administration’s view of that agency …)

What you can do:

Call Our Senators: The House of Representatives has a bill to reopen the government without money for the Wall; we want the Senate to refuse to advance any legislation except that bill. And just before Trump gave his speech and Stormy Daniels folded her laundry on January 8, our Senators did just that. Please call Sen. Feinstein at 202-224-3841, and Sen. Harris at 202-224-3553 to say thanks, and tell them:

My name is ____, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator Feinstein/Harris for voting against advancing legislation that wouldn’t have reopened the government without funding for the Wall. Please keep it up: vote NO on everything that isn’t the House bill to reopen the government without money for the Wall.

Help those in need: In times of trouble, people always need food. Donate or volunteer at these worthy organizations:

Photograph “Open Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry” by Alan Levine 

ISO Happy Ending: Comment by 10/31 on Emissions Standards for Power Plants

Once upon a time, there was an administration that protected its people from dangerous modern fire-breathing dragons. Then in August 2018, the big bad wolf-ogre-gremlin-current administration announced plans to undo Obama rules limiting harmful emissions from fossil fuel power plants. The plot: to repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, and put in its place a wicked changeling, a watered down alternative dubbed the Affordable Clean Energy rule.

But as in all good stories, there’s time for a dramatic rescue! The law requires that the public can comment on this proposed change until Oct 31, 2018.

How to comment

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will accept comment on the proposed Affordable Clean Energy rule through October 31, 2018.  Comments should be identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0355 and may be submitted by one of the following methods.

Some things you can say in your comments:

  • The bottom line: oppose repealing the Clean Power Plan (CPP) and replacing it with the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, because it’s imperative to reduce fossil fuel emissions and the ACE is much weaker than the CPP.
  • EPA evidence in the record shows the CPP would prevent 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and 1,700 heart attacks each year
  • The EPA’s own calculations show that the proposed ACE would result in an additional 1,400 deaths and 48,000 new asthma attacks yearly compared to the CPP
  • Under the CPP the federal government sets emission targets for states, but the ACE allows states to set the targets themselves, which promotes a “race to the bottom”
  • The goal of the CPP (backed by evidence in EPA’s regulatory record) was to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 32% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. The EPA’s own calculations indicate the proposed ACE would only reduce emissions by somewhere between 0.7 and 1.5%
  • EPA’s proposed ACE uses deceptive accounting gimmicks to artificially inflate the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to minimize the health benefits of the original CPP. This means its cost-benefit analysis is flawed and unreliable
  • The Regulatory Impact Analysis shows that under every illustrative scenario EPA analyzed, the ACE would result in more CO2, SO2, and NOx than the CPP
  • The EPA’s analysis radically under-counts the deaths, illnesses, and climate damages from power plants’ soot, smog, and carbon pollution. This is contrary to sound science and economics
  • The ACE proposal drastically undercounts the real costs of climate pollution for all Americans by ignoring global impacts. Climate pollution has worldwide impacts, but the proposal counts only those impacts that are expected to occur within U.S. borders.
  • The EPA’s own estimates show that, compared to the Clean Power Plan, the ACE plan would impose up to $10.8 billion in annual net costs on Americans in 2030, when accounting for compliance costs and the loss of the CPP’s benefits for climate and public health. By contrast, the CPP was designed to save consumers hard-earned money on electric bills
  • We cannot afford further delay in confronting the threat of climate change by repealing the CPP and replacing it with the much weaker ACE. Even the current administration’s reports contain overwhelming evidence that we need to cut fossil fuel emissions, including:
    • The 11/17 Climate Science Special Report – the combined work of 13 federal agencies including the EPA – which contains overwhelming evidence that human-generated carbon emissions are the dominant cause of global warming with all of its effects on the U.S. and the world, including floods, heat waves, rising sea levels, hurricanes and storms
    • The 8/18 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about federal fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks showing that with our present rate of greenhouse gas emissions, the planet is expected to experience a disastrous warming of 7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century

More info:

The Clean Power Plan (CPP) was adopted by the Obama Administration in 2015.  Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is legally obligated to regulate carbon dioxide from major sources in the United States. That’s why, in 2015, the EPA released its first standard aimed at cutting carbon emissions from power plants, known as the “Clean Power Plan.” The power sector is second only to the transportation sector as a source of emissions in the US.

The CPP aimed to cut emissions from the electricity sector by an estimated 32% below 2005 levels by 2030—a modest but important first step.  Cost-benefit analysis consistently showed a net economic gain from the CPP. It was adopted after a robust, years-long regulatory process in which the EPA held numerous hearings and received millions of comments.

The Trump Administration was hostile to the CPP from the beginning and solicitous of the coal industry and fossil fuel sectors generally. Trump directed the EPA to begin the process of repealing the CPP and replacing it with what EPA dubbed the “Affordable Clean Energy” (ACE) rule. That regulatory process is now pending and, as required by federal law, EPA is now accepting public comments on this proposed repeal and replace. The deadline for commenting on the proposed ACE is October 31, 2018.

Keep California Air Clean

By Christina Tarr

Deadline – October 2, 2018

Back in 2012, the Obama administration (remember them? Sniff…) set an ambitious target for emissions standards: Cars and trucks would achieve a standard of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

There are so many obvious reasons this is a good idea that it seems pointless to even mention them, but here are a few anyway:

Unfortunately, the current administration hates the environment. On August 2, 2018, the Trump Administration released its long-threatened proposal to weaken antipollution and fuel efficiency standards, revoking the 54.5 MPG goal and freezing standards at about 37 MPG after 2021. But wait, it gets worse: the 1970 Clean Air Act grants a waiver to California allowing us to set our pollution standards at a tougher level than the federal government; 13 other states now follow our lead. Currently, 40% of all car sales in the United States take place in California and the thirteen other states operating under waiver — and California’s tougher standard is now the de facto national standard. Big Oil’s Friend in the White House wants to revoke this waiver, meaning that the new, lower federal standard will be the law of the entire land. This is a direct hit at California.

Here’s a great video from Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) explaining the whole story.

What you can do:

Submit a comment at Regulations.gov:  

The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation are taking comments on this ill-advised rollback until end of day (Eastern time) October 2, 2018; and you can write to them here.  Include these points in your comment:

  • Climate change is real. We need to reduce our use of fossil fuels.
  • The automobile industry needs a goal to work toward. It’s in no one’s interest to move the goalposts.
  • Clean air is important for public health.

Take action in California:

Governor Jerry Brown said, “California will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible.” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, 16 other states and the District of Columbia already sued the EPA in May in anticipation of this recent action, and now Attorney General Becerra is planning to lead 19 attorneys general in a new lawsuit against the actual proposal.

Write to Brown and Becerra and thank them for taking action to preserve our state and our nation’s clean car emissions standards:

Governor Edmund G. Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160
Or by email

Attorney General Xavier Becerra
California Department of Justice
Attn: Public Inquiry Unit
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550

Phone: (800) 952-5225
Fax: (916) 323-5341
Or by email

Let your Members of Congress know your thoughts about the need for strong emission standards for automobiles, and the need for California to set its own standards. Include the same points as above:

  • 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

 

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.

Tell EPA Not to Remove Pollution Controls from Oil & Gas Companies

Let’s start with the basics:

  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency currently has guidelines that allow states to control emissions from the oil and natural gas industry.
  • The oil and gas industry is the largest single industrial source of dangerous chemicals in smog and major contributors to emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • The deadly duo of Trump/Pruitt wants to get rid of those guidelines.
  • With five refinery communities in the Bay Area plus the traffic we all love so well, oil and gas industry emissions affect our health, and the health of those we love, every single day.
  • The public has until April 23, 2018 to comment on the proposed withdrawal of the guidelines. 

These guidelines gives states non-binding “control techniques guidelines” (CTG) with information on recommended techniques for emissions by the oil and gas sector, with leeway for states to choose other techniques if they prefer. However, if there are ozone smog problems, when EPA issues a CTG, under the Clean Air Act a state must revise its clean air plans to require “reasonably available control technology” for oil and gas industry equipment. The EPA estimates that the guideline has the potential for annual pollution reductions of over 64,000 tons of volatile organic compounds, which create smog; nearly 200,000 tons of the greenhouse gas methane; and 2,400 tons of other hazardous air pollutants that can cause serious health effects. Without the CTG, oil and gas company equipment could spew pollutants even where there are reasonably available ways to control the pollution.

In other words: get rid of the guidelines, unnecessarily increase air pollution and increase the harm to our health and the health of our environment.

Submit comments here by April 23, 2018, 11:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time (8:59 PM in California). More info, including talking points, here; more info, including a link to other people’s comments, here.

Want to do more environmental action?

It’s time for Scott Pruitt to go

By Christina Tarr

Let us name the reasons.

He is corrupt.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is almost literally in bed with the oil and gas folks. He has been paying a measly $50 a night for a two-bedroom Washington D.C. apartment, charged only for the nights he was actually present. How’s he getting such a great deal? Maybe because the apartment is owned by the wife of Pruitt’s lobbying buddy Steven Hart, who represents a stable of energy industry clients like Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co., which paid Hart’s firm $400,000 in 2017. Since Hart’s clients may well be regulated by the EPA, Pruitt might just be inclined to return this little favor to his friend. Fun fact: below-market-rate accommodations can fall into the category of prohibited gifts under ethics rules for Executive Branch officials and experts stress that officials like Pruitt should decline even permissible gifts to maintain the appearance of propriety.

On the other hand, Pruitt doesn’t mind spending the taxpayers’ dime for first class flights (to avoid unpleasant interactions with the hoi polloi) and pricy trips around the world. One such trip to Morocco last December included discussions of potential sales of liquid natural gas to Morocco. Liquid natural gas is the product of Cheniere Industries, a client of … wait for it … Steven Hart. Cheniere claimed no knowledge of the trip and also claimed to have ended its relationship with Hart’s firm in December. We think that none of this passes the smell test.

And what exactly is Pruitt talking about to his buddies? Whatever it is, he’s ordered a soundproof security booth for his office that, when all’s said and done, is going to cost the taxpayers over $40,000.

He is destroying the EPA

In a recent report, Pruitt states:

We have been hard at work enacting President Donald Trump’s agenda during my first year as EPA Administrator. His courage and leadership have been key to our success. From his decision to exit the Paris Accord to his executive order empowering EPA to review and rescind the Clean Power Plan, the President is delivering on his promises and getting results for the American people.

The EPA’s job, lest we forget, is to protect human health and enforce environmental regulations; here, from Vox, is a list of some of Pruitt’s accomplishments at its helm:

  • The EPA announced it was seeking a two-year delay in implementing the 2015 Clean Water Rule, which defines the waterways that are regulated by the agency under the Clean Water Act.
  • In May 2017, the EPA dialed back tracking the health impacts of more than a dozen hazardous chemicals.
  • The agency has said nothing about counties that failed to meet new ozone standards by an October 2017 deadline and now face fines.
  • Environmental law enforcement has declined overall: by September 2017, the Trump administration launched 30 percent fewer cases and collected about 60 percent fewer fines than in the same period under President Obama.
  • The EPA punted on regulations on dangerous solvents like methylene chloride, a paint stripper, that were already on track to be banned, instead moving the process to “long-term action.”
  • The EPA asked for a six-year schedule to review 17-year-old regulations on lead paint.
  • The implementation date of new safety procedures at chemical plants to prevent explosions and spills was pushed back to 2019.
  • Pruitt issued a directive to end “Sue & Settle,” a legal strategy that fast-tracks settlements for litigation filed against the EPA to force the agency to do its job. The agency will now spend more time in courts fighting cases that it’s likely to lose.
  • The agency’s enforcement division now has to get approval from headquarters before investigating potential violations of environmental regulations, slowing down efforts to catch violators of laws like the Clean Water Act.

We don’t have time to wait.

Pruitt has announced terrifying plans to act in the very near future to restrict the EPA’s use of science in regulation, in the name of “science reform.” Most likely, the EPA will be required to rely only on scientific studies where the underlying data are made public, a plan Congressional Republicans have been pushing for decades. Many scientific studies, however, rely on data that can’t be made public for reasons like patient privacy concerns or industry confidentiality. Relying only on publicly available results will severely hamstring the EPA’s attempts to do its job – to protect human health and the environment.

Pruitt’s next plan is to roll back emissions regulations and fuel economy standards for automakers. This move, which undercuts one of President Obama’s signature moves to confront climate change, will be couched in terms of cutting bothersome regulations and providing affordable cars to Americans – and, according to Fortune magazine, is “a solution to a problem that doesn’t seem to exist.” According to the EPA, Obama’s rules would require automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Fully implemented, the rules will cut oil consumption by about 12 billion barrels and reduce carbon dioxide pollution by about six billion tons over the lifetime of all the cars affected by the regulations. If Pruitt weakens the regulations, not only will all that carbon reduction not happen in the U.S., but other countries may also weaken their standards as well. (Read this New Yorker article, which discusses the lab the EPA has to test auto emissions, allowing them to compute the cost of required changes down to the last screw.) And, the $100 the consumer saved by not being required to buy a car with a catalytic converter will be dwarfed by the thousands of dollars spent on illness caused by pollution and a changing climate.

Finally, Pruitt has instructed the EPA to discuss climate change in the language of the deniers. A recent memo to employees lists eight things they may say publicly about climate change, including acknowledging the impact of human activity but asserting that “[t]he ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue … clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it. … it is important for the Agency to strive for a better understanding of these gaps given their potential significant influence on our country’s domestic economic viability.” The vast weight of reputable scientific evidence, of course, says nothing of the kind; this is the language of the deniers, and those with financial interests in

The time to act is NOW

Congress has oversight over the EPA, and to quote Richard Painter, “It’s time for them to get off their butts and act.” There is precedent. During the Reagan years, the agency was run by Anne Gorsuch, a conservative state legislator from Colorado (and mother of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch). Gorsuch, like Pruitt, cut enforcement, accommodated polluters, and antagonized career staff. According to the New Yorker, “she resigned after being held in contempt of Congress, for refusing to comply with a corruption investigation targeting a Superfund administrator.”

What you can do:

  • Call your Members of Congress and tell them you want them to exercise their oversight responsibility and take action against Scott Pruitt who is decimating the EPA.
    • 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
  • Call the governor of California, and your state representatives, and tell them you want them to fight for California’s stricter emission control standards. Needing to maintain two standards may make auto manufacturers more open to manufacturing to California’s higher standards, which are followed by 12 other states, including New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. Jerry Brown (916) 445-2841; find your state representative here
  • Call the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and tell them you are interested in innovation and want to buy a car that will meet Obama’s CAFE standard, and will not buy a car that does not. (202) 326-5500; (916) 447-7315
  • Sign the Boot Pruitt petition, sponsored by a coalition of progressive and environmental groups including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Green Latinos, Defend Our Future, Hip Hop Caucus, and others (more info here).

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.

Environmental Justice: a meeting with AG Becerra’s office

By Elizabeth Douglas

On February 22, 2018, I joined folks from Bay Area Indivisible chapters (IEB, SF, and Berkeley), the Center for Biological Diversity, and 350.org to meet with members of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s staff. This was my first activity with IEB and my first time as a California resident – I’m a DC escapee – engaging face to face with my state policy makers. Below are some highlights and some personal reflections from this incredibly educational and uplifting experience.   

What We Learned from Becerra’s Staff

Assistant Secretary for Environmental Justice Arsenio Mataka and External Affairs Representative Betty Cao were welcoming, enthusiastic and appreciative of our groups’ efforts to show up and take action. It helps that Arsenio has been a lifelong environmental justice activist; he told us stories of his parents taking him to meetings where they would challenge the institutions that drove environmental policy decisions -some of the same institutions and agencies that he works for today.  His empathy for the issues that our consortium of environmental activists brought to the table was a common thread to his responses.

On the EPA and Superfund Enforcement:

We shared our concern that the EPA budget cuts and scaling back of the EPA Superfund enforcement could allow irregular compliance enforcement between states. Arsenio assured us that California is going to work hard to fight against cross-border pollution. Furthermore, he said that “compliance with state laws, where they are stricter than federal law, is a mandate. So states do have clout if the feds aren’t doing their job.”

On Investigating Exxon Mobil and the PCB Monsanto lawsuit:

Attorney General Becerra understands the severity of claims regarding Exxon’s efforts to defraud investors and the public, as well as the Oregon Attorney General’s actions against Monsanto for PCB pollution contaminating dozens of waterways and leaching into ground soil. Arsenio is also very aware of both issues. However, he said, the Attorney General has a policy not to comment on investigations – including whether or not they exist.

On Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

We had the pleasure of learning the story behind Attorney General Beccera’s thoughtful and impassioned NY Times Op-Ed regarding how California’s coastal economy would be affected by the Administration’s proposed offshore drilling 5 year plan. Arsenio believes there are significant hurdles for the plan to actually be implemented, but insisted that we must continue to comment and keep the pressure on from the comment period (ending March 9, 2018) to well into next year.

We discussed a host of other topics as well, from Clean Car Standards to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan. Arsenio shared that these are of great concern to the Attorney General, and while he cited procedural or bureaucratic limitations to going into much depth at the moment he made it clear that this was to be an ongoing conversation.

What I Learned from my First Indivisible Action: A Personal Reflection

While I’m no stranger to activism, this was the first time I’ve done anything with Indivisible. Ever since Trump was elected I’ve wanted to take action, but wasn’t quite sure where the right fit was — this was my first time being a mother and a start-up employee as well as an activist. I didn’t want my son to feel like anything took precedence over him. But as I sat with him on my lap watching “An Inconvenient Sequel” last year, I realized my overwhelming sense of need for action stemmed from my desire to make the world better for him. He is my inspiration and I believe working towards solutions to improve our environment is a unifying, not divisive, force. I had never met any of the lovely people in the picture accompanying this article before the pre-brief for our meeting with the Attorney General, and had only been to a single IEB meeting in January, yet this group unhesitatingly welcomed me with open arms and gave me a seat at the table on an issue that is truly close to my heart. So to Indivisible and especially Indivisible East Bay, thank you for allowing me the opportunity for immediate action… and for welcoming my son into your meetings to eat your cake and resistance cookies! 

Your Action: Do Not Give Up Hope

I know acting on climate change issues can seem difficult at a time when we are dangling off the edge of a tipping point, unable to return to any sense of climate stability across the globe. Yet there are people in power, and people speaking truth to power, we can lean on. As of this writing, Attorney General Becerra’s office has filed at least 24 lawsuits — maybe more! — against the Trump administration, about a third on environmental issues. They understand that the effects of climate change disproportionately affect the poor, people of color, and women. To quote Arsenio, “pollution doesn’t know boundary lines,” and what happens in one city, state, or country affects us all.

Here are some suggested immediate actions from Attorney General Becerra’s office:

Elizabeth Douglas is a mom, runner, and activist from Alameda. She is also a Climate Reality Leader (Seattle 2017) with a strong interest in protecting our ocean and corals.

Photo credit Indivisible SF

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!)