Bring Back the Senate for Gun Control

What a shame Congress can’t do anything to stop this country’s epidemic of mass shootings and deaths by white supremacist gun violence. Except, oh wait, they can. And they have. Or rather, they would. Except Mitch McConnell won’t let them.

The House of Representatives passed two gun control bills in February 2019: H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which would require background checks for private gun sales (think online sales and gun shows); and H.R. 1112, which would extend the waiting period from the background check system before a sale can proceed, from the current three days to ten days. Normally, the bills would now go to the Senate and be referred to the appropriate committees. Instead, McConnell placed them on the Senate calendar, which sounds good but isn’t, it actually means they’re just … sitting there, while more people die.

In addition, the Senate has before it S. 42, introduced in January 2019 and cosponsored by both Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, which would prohibit a firearm transfer between private parties unless a licensed gun dealer, manufacturer, or importer first takes possession of the firearm to conduct a background check. The bill is in the Judiciary Committee, which both of our Senators sit on – and which is chaired by Lindsey Graham, whose support for gun control is limited to talking about “red flag” laws, which allow local law enforcement officials to temporarily seize guns from people who may pose a risk to themselves or others.

Meanwhile, mass shootings go on. And on. And the Senate is in recess, with the GOP offering its usual thoughts and prayers.

Senators Feinstein and Harris have both called for the Senate to act:

The House has already passed a universal background check bill that would make it harder for dangerous people to buy guns. The Senate could return to Washington this week and vote on that bill, but Senate Republican leaders continue to say no.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, August 4, 2019 

The Bipartisan Background Checks Act passed the House in February—but it hasn’t even received a hearing in the Senate. It’s past time to take action. To Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans, I say: have some courage. Let’s vote.

Sen. Kamala Harris, August 5, 2019 

Amen, and amen.

What you can do:

1. Call Sens. Feinstein and Harris. It may not seem like they need your call since they’re already doing the right thing, but remember: the NRA will always mobilize its membership and you can be sure that our Senators are hearing loud and clear from gun control opponents. They need to hear from US!

What to say:

My name is ____________, my zip code is _________ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank Senator _________ for supporting gun control legislation. The Senator is right: the Senate needs to reconvene, now, to vote on H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112. Trump is cheering on white supremacist violence and Mitch McConnell is enabling it by refusing to let the Senate vote on these bills. Also, I hope the Senator will use her position on the Judiciary Committee to do everything possible to pass S. 42.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

2. Support these organizations:

 

Graphic: “U.S. Senate To Increase Work Days” by Mike Licht

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

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 

Trump Sides With Russia, The Resistance Sides with America

By Nancy Latham

Ever since Trump careened onto the national political stage, the American people have been bombarded with news about him. Mostly the stories hover at a dull roar of sleaze and villainy, but every so often there is a trumpian screech that brings our grief and outrage to new heights. Mexicans are rapists. African countries are shitholes. Some Nazis, on the other hand, are very fine people. Child abuse is our immigration policy … Each time, we wonder for a moment: “has he finally gone too far?” Then we come to our senses – of course Trump will survive this. He has obliterated our collective sense of what too far even means.

But can Trump’s nauseating prostration before Putin in Helsinki have finally done it?

July 16, 2018, the day of all the Helsinki Summit news coverage, something seemed different. The chronically spineless Paul “We should not be criticizing our president while he’s overseas” Ryan came out with this statement: “The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.” And Mitch “party over country” McConnell said “The Russians are not our friends. And I entirely believe the assessment of our intelligence community.”

Even more startling than rebukes from lawmakers were those from Fox MediaAbby Huntsman, a host of Fox & Friends, tweeted, “No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus.” From Neil Cavuto, a host of Fox Business: “It’s not a right or left thing to me – it’s just wrong.” The Fox propaganda sustains the belief system of Trump voters; the day that Fox stops shilling for the administration could just be the day that the the fervor of Trump supporters starts to cool.

In this extraordinary moment, Trump’s staunchest and highest-profile supporters began to turn against him. Why? Because Trump made the mistake of activating their identities as Americans, rather than their identities as Republicans.

The increasing polarization of Republicans and Democrats – growing for decades – has turned every policy issue into a question not of what works and what doesn’t, but of who wins and who loses. Every time our party identities are activated, we see the world through the lens of rivalry with the opposing party, and are swept away by a powerful tribalism. And social science tells us that the only thing that can overcome divisive identities is a “superordinate identity”: a social category to which competing groups can all belong. For Republicans and Democrats, that “superordinate identity” is “American.”

By siding with an international adversary against his own country, Trump shone klieg lights on our American identity, obscuring our competing political identities. Listen to the language Republicans have been using:

  • John McCain: “Our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad.”
  • Lisa Murkowski: “Sadly President Trump did not defend America to the Russian president, and for the world to see. Instead, what I saw today was not ‘America First,’ it was simply a sad diminishment of our great nation.”
  • John Kasich: “We need to be clear. Russia is our foe. Putin is actively trying to hurt our country. America needs to speak with one voice AGAINST Russia.”
  • Joe Walsh, former Congressman and fervent Trump supporter (until July 16th): “Trump was a traitor today. I cannot & will not support a traitor. No decent American should.”

One day later, Trump’s advisors had managed to corral him, and he walked back his Helsinki remarks. His claim that he had simply misspoken was ludicrous enough that even dictionary.com made fun of it, providing the usage quote “Trump blames his support of Russia on a double negative and no one’s buying it.” But that didn’t matter. It will be enough for craven Republican lawmakers to find political cover so they can stick with Trump while he continues to deliver on hard right policies.

But I’m not so sure we’re back where we were before Helsinki. Perhaps this is just the fever dream of a Resistance fighter – but I wonder if we have glimpsed the beginning of the end for Trump. By so dramatically highlighting our common identity as Americans, he unwittingly handed us a powerful tool we can use to shape the conversation. On protest signs, in rally speeches, in letters to the editor, in blog posts, in tweets – everywhere – we should relentlessly declare that the deeper fight is not between Republicans and Democrats, but between America and a foreign rival. It is between free elections and the enemies of our institutions. Trump has chosen his side, and – no matter how he tries to wiggle out of what we all heard him say – he has sided with Putin. We must call on all patriots to choose our side: here with American democracy.

The Resistance has been aghast for almost two years about this administration’s assault on democracy. We can barely contain our rage at the Republicans who batter our institutions daily for the sake of entrenching their power. So let’s push the public discourse to remind us all of our shared identity. Let’s keep saying what we’ve been saying all along, and what has now been proven for the whole world to see: Trump is a traitor. Let’s say over and over where the real threat lies, and what’s at stake. Republicans are Americans too, and they might surprise us by rising – finally – to the defense of their country.

Nancy Latham is on IEB’s Governing Committee, and is a passionate member of the Resistance. In her day job, she works with non-profits, foundations, and government agencies that support greater equity and justice through initiatives in youth development, education, housing, and community development.