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.

 

A Matter of Life, Death, and the Rule of Law

Somewhere in Northern Mexico, an exhausted nine-year-old girl stumbles. She’s traveling with her maternal grandmother, her legal guardian since her mother died, but they don’t have a paper explaining that, so if they are separated at the border, she will never be reunited with her family. She’s already walked 1,100 miles, but she’s still hundreds of miles away from the U.S. border and finding out what trauma awaits her there.

But the administration isn’t satisfied with baby jails, toddlers separated from parents and forced to appear alone in court, or families who, the administration now says, won’t be sufficiently ID’ed to be reunited for two years. On April 7, Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) resigned at the request of the Baby-Jailer-in-Chief. Kevin McAleenan, whom Trump tapped for acting Secretary, has a terrible record. As head of Customs and Border Protection, McAleenan defended his agency’s use of tear gas on children and families. He also repeatedly broke the law to implement Trump’s travel ban, and ignored the death of a seven year-old girl in CBP custody in his Congressional testimony. In a broad purge, Trump also forced the resignations of the head of the Secret Service, the director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, the DHS General Counsel, and the DHS undersecretary for management, and withdrew his nominated Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying he wanted the agency to go in a “tougher” direction. It’s hard to imagine what that could even be, in a civilized country.

What to do:

Trump will nominate a replacement DHS Secretary who will need Senate approval. Tell our Senators, NOW: Don’t approve anyone with a history of promoting, tolerating, or overlooking human rights abuses of any kind. We need someone far better than Nielsen — not someone even worse! Senator Kamala Harris was the first Senator to call for Nielsen to resign in a July 2018 statement, and she continues to speak out strongly against the family separation policy, including tweeting on April 8: “The next DHS Secretary must unequivocally denounce this abusive policy. We deserve better.” Senator Dianne Feinstein, however, has only expressed sympathy for the “thankless” task performed by Nielsen and the “hope” that McAleenan will be “able to propose and implement more sensible, humane and bipartisan solutions to the problems we face” — a hope that appears to have no foundation in reality.

What to say:

For Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator Harris for speaking out against the family separation policy that former DHS Secretary Nielsen oversaw. I hope that when the nominee for Nielsen’s replacement is in confirmation hearings, Senator Harris will do everything possible to prevent the confirmation of anyone with a history of promoting, tolerating, or overlooking human rights abuses of any kind. We need someone far better than Nielsen — not someone even worse!

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

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m concerned that Senator Feinstein has spoken sympathetically about former DHS Secretary Nielsen and Acting DHS Secretary McAleenan, and hasn’t spoken out about the abuses they have perpetrated. I hope that when the nominee for Nielsen’s replacement is in confirmation hearings, Senator Feinstein will do everything possible to prevent the confirmation of anyone with a history of promoting, tolerating, or overlooking human rights abuses of any kind. We need someone far better than Nielsen — not someone even worse!

More info:

Kirstjen Nielsen presided over implementation of the administration’s April 2018 “zero tolerance policy” to deter migrants, separating families and caging the children to deter others from seeking asylum. She then lied to Congress about it, saying, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.” Thousands of children have been separated from their parents, and the government has missed several court-imposed deadlines for reuniting families, conceding that it has failed to keep records and claiming that as a result it may take over two years to reunite them—or will never reunite them, in the case of refugees traveling with legal guardians.

After public outcry and a series of adverse court decisions, the zero-tolerance policy was rescinded by executive order, but family separations have continued. Even more troubling, because refugees keep coming, the Scofflaw-in-Chief now wants immigration officials to stop following U.S. statutes and court orders and instead to close the southern borders to asylum—or to close it entirely, to everyone, with the resulting enormous economic disruption. At the border recently, he instructed agents to refuse to follow court orders and to say instead, “sorry, Judge, I can’t do it.” He reportedly fired Nielsen because she opposed his requested actions as counterproductive and against the law and applicable court orders.

The new DHS Secretary must be required to commit to follow — and must actually follow — applicable statutes and court orders, not just the whims of the President. By the time she reaches our borders, it would be good if the nine-year-old Guatemalan girl still found a country with the rule of law.

Photograph: “Women Disobey protest against US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy separating children and families at the US/Mexico border,” copyright Sarahmirk

Save our healthcare, save our lives

Deadline: Do it now! – Our healthcare is under attack by the GOP, again — or to be accurate — STILL!

In December 2018, the trial court in Texas v. US, a lawsuit brought in February 2018 by several states’ conservative Attorneys General, ruled that the entire Affordable Care Act is invalid. That’s bad, but it’s just a single trial court. The case is now on appeal to the powerful Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where on March 25, 2019 the Department of Justice agreed, urging the appeals court to strike down the entire ACA. That’s scary, but it gets worse: the DOJ’s reversal of its position was apparently taken over the objections of its own Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and those of Attorney General William Barr.

This is of course just the administration’s latest try to kill the ACA (and many many of us, along with it) — but it’s a doozy. As Indivisible National says:

This is the Trump administration’s clearest attempt yet, not just to sabotage, but to completely annihilate the ACA — and in doing so, unleash chaos on our health care system and on millions of Americans lives.

We’re pissed. And we know you are too.

→ It would jeopardize Medicaid expansion in 37 states.
→ It would end protections for preexisting conditions.
→ It would end coverage for young people who’d otherwise be able to stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26.
→ It would end required coverage of preventive care — like cancer screenings, vaccines, birth control, blood pressure tests and more.

And so, so much more.

You’ve fought for the ACA and sane healthcare policies before. It’s time to join the battle again!

What you can do:

  • Learn more about the legal case in Indivisible’s article
  • Thank California Attorney General Xavier Becerra – he’s one of the state AGs defending the ACA in Texas v. US, and he has announced that he and other AGs will appeal the district court’s ruling striking down the ACA to the Fifth Circuit.
    • Attorney General Xavier Becerra:  (email);  (800) 953-5335 [select English or Spanish, then press 0]
  • Thank your Representative for cosponsoring Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s (WA-07) Medicare for All Act (H.R. 1384), and ask them to continue to speak out publicly and to do all they can to support the ACA and to reform our health care system to guarantee health care coverage for all. For more info about the Act, read Indivisible’s article
  • Thank Senator Feinstein and Senator Harris for speaking out, and ask them to continue to do all they can to support the ACA and to reform our health care system to guarantee health care coverage for all
  • Watch for a bill House Democrats unveiled on March 26, the Protecting Pre-Existing Conditions & Making Health Care More Affordable Act, which Leader Pelosi said “lowers health care insurance premiums, stops junk plans, strengthens protections for pre-existing conditions and reverses the GOP health care sabotage.” She also commented, about the DOJ’s position in the Texas v. US lawsuit: “.. . . [T]he Department of Justice becomes the Department of Injustice when it wants to tear down health care benefits.  Because as Dr. King said, ‘people could die’ – people could die.”

Call now!

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841; 1 Post Street, Suite 2450, San Francisco CA 94104
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553; 333 Bush Street, Suite 3225, San Francisco CA 94104
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

Repeal the Hyde Amendment for EACH Woman

In 1973, abortion was legalized throughout the US in Roe v. Wade. A short three years later, low-income women all over the country effectively had that right put out of reach by the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited federal Medicaid funding for almost all abortion services. The Hyde Amendment has been an impenetrable fortress in Congress year after year. But this might be the year it finally falls – thanks in large part to Members of Congress from the East Bay.

The Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Woman Act would in effect overturn the Hyde Amendment. In the House, H.R. 771 is sponsored by Representative Barbara Lee, who first introduced it in 2015. Our other East Bay Representatives, Eric Swalwell and Mark DeSaulnier, have signed on as cosponsors. The bill was introduced in the Senate on March 12, 2019 as S. 758, with Senator Kamala Harris as an original sponsor. Senator Feinstein is not yet a cosponsor – however, she has a long history of being pro-choice. (IEB is talking to Sen. Feinstein’s staff about her position on the legislation and we’ll update this article as soon as we have any news.)

As the fact sheet about the EACH Woman Act says:

1. First, it sets up the federal government as a standard-bearer, ensuring that every woman who receives care or insurance through the federal government will have coverage for abortion services. The EACH Woman Act restores abortion coverage to those:

  • enrolled in a government health insurance plan (i.e., Medicaid, Medicare), including those who live in the District of Columbia;
  • enrolled in a government-managed health insurance program (i.e., FEHBP, TRICARE) due to an employment relationship; or
  • receiving health care from a government provider or program (i.e., Indian Health Services, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Veterans Administration).

2. Second, it prohibits political interference with decisions by private health insurance companies to offer coverage for abortion care. Federal, state and local legislators will not be able to interfere with the private insurance market, including the insurance marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act, to prevent insurance companies from providing abortion coverage.

Said Senator Harris:

No woman should ever be denied her fundamental reproductive rights. The Hyde amendment disproportionately targets the most vulnerable populations. I’m proud to co-sponsor the EACH Woman Act, protecting reproductive rights and increasing access to critical health care for all women.

And Rep. Lee:

No woman should be denied the full spectrum of reproductive health care because of her zip code or income level – yet that is the reality for too many low-income women and women of color. The EACH Woman Act ensures that every woman is empowered to make critical decisions about her own pregnancy – and has coverage for all pregnancy-related health care, including abortion – regardless of her financial situation. I am proud to reintroduce this bill with the support of my colleagues and the trailblazing women leading the fight for reproductive justice around the country.

This push for pro-choice, pro-woman legislation is good news indeed. And the timing couldn’t be better, coming hard on the heels of the decision of the Sixth Circuit in Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio v. Hodges that the state can cut funding to Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions. That decision was handed down by six judges, four of whom were appointed by the Current Occupant. Boys and girls, in case you haven’t figured it out by now – this is why voting matters.

What you can do:

You better believe that the anti-choice forces will be screaming about the EACH Woman Act, and will have their members screaming at all the cosponsors. Our MoCs need to hear from us that they’re doing the right thing. Thank them and tell them that part of the reason you support them is that they are pro-choice – and you want them to be proactive about it!

What to say:

For Senator Harris:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for sponsoring S. 758, the EACH Woman Act. We need this legislation to overturn the Hyde Amendment. I support you because you’re pro-choice and I want you to keep being a leader to improve reproductive rights and make things better for women in California and throughout the U.S.

For Senator Feinstein:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want Senator Feinstein to cosponsor S. 758, the EACH Woman Act. We need this legislation to overturn the Hyde Amendment. I support Sen. Feinstein because she’s pro-choice and she’s been a strong advocate for women’s rights and reproductive rights. I hope she will sign on to S. 758 very soon.

For Representative Lee:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for sponsoring H.R. 771, the EACH Woman Act. We need this legislation to overturn the Hyde Amendment. I support you because you’re pro-choice and I want you to keep being a leader to improve reproductive rights and make things better for women in California and throughout the U.S.

For Reps. Swalwell and DeSaulnier:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for cosponsoring H.R. 771, the EACH Woman Act. We need this legislation to overturn the Hyde Amendment. I support you because you’re pro-choice and I want you to be a leader to improve reproductive rights and make things better for women in California and throughout the U.S.

  • 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

Dumpster Fire’s Budget: $8.6 B for the wall, slash social services

One thing we can say for the Dumpster Fire-in-Chief: he doesn’t give up. OK, we could say more, but let’s stick with that for the moment. He doesn’t give up. His budget for 2020 is out, and he’s still at it with the damn funding for the damn Wall. 8.6 billion dollars, to be specific, which as Reuters points out is “more than six times what Congress allocated for border projects in each of the past two fiscal years, and 6 percent more than Trump has corralled by invoking emergency powers this year.” The budget also includes “an overall 5 percent increase to the Department of Homeland Security budget over fiscal 2019 appropriations, including $3.3 billion, or 22 percent more, for Customs and Border Protection, and $1.2 billion more for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a 16 percent hike, officials said.”

Where’s that money gonna come from?

Check out the horrifying chart in this article from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Our Members of Congress have already spoken out: Senator Feinstein released a statement; Senator Harris posted several tweets, and appeared in a Newsweek article; Representatives DeSaulnier, Swalwell and Lee all tweeted in opposition to the budget.

What you can do:

It’s true that Congress rarely approves a presidential budget, but our Members of Congress need our support as they take strong stands in opposition to Trump’s budget and its disgusting priorities. Thank them for what they’ve done, and tell them to keep fighting!

  • 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

What to say:

My name is ____, my zip code is ____ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I am appalled by Trump’s budget for 2020 – $8.6 billion for the wall, more money for homeland security, keeping tax cuts for the rich and a huge deficit but slashing the EPA and social services. I want to thank _____ for speaking out against the budget, and I want _______ to continue to speak out against it. Our budget should prioritize taking care of our environment and our people, especially those most in need.

 

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 

Repeal the AUMF, NOW

Deadline: Before we bomb anywhere else –

After 9/11, Congress enacted Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to retaliate against Al Qaeda and to wage war in Iraq. Congress never intended those AUMFs to be open-ended blank checks for presidents to create or pursue wars on their own; yet 18 years later, they are still being used as the legal pretext for American combat operations in close to 20 nations around the world. Young men and women not even born when those AUMFs were enacted are now fighting the endless wars the AUMFs have spawned – all in violation of the Constitution and the War Powers Act of 1973, which require an Act of Congress for the country to enter into war.

And now the Trump administration is threatening to start new wars against Iran and Venezuela. Tell our Members of Congress: It’s time to call a halt to all of these endless wars. Read on for what you can do; more background follows the call scripts and contact info.

What you can do:

On February 14, 2019, Representative Barbara Lee introduced H.R. 1274, a bill which would repeal the 2001 AUMF. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier has cosponsored it; Rep. Eric Swalwell has not. There is no similar legislation in the Senate to date. Tell your Members of Congress that you want them to:

  • take all appropriate action to repeal previous AUMFs,
  • halt/oppose US military intervention taken without Congressional authorization, and
  • reject the administration’s assertion that the AUMFs permit Trump to order further military strikes without Congressional authorization.

What to say:

For Representative Barbara Lee, email; (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661

My name is ___________,  my zip code is _______ and I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Rep. Lee for introducing H.R. 1274 to repeal the 2001 AUMF, and I hope she will also introduce a bill to repeal the 2002 AUMF. I also want Rep. Lee to publicly reject the administration’s claims that the AUMFs provide a legal basis for military action or intervention against Iran, Venezuela, or anywhere else, without specific congressional authorization.

For Representative Mark DeSaulnier, email; (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095

My name is ___________,  my zip code is ________ and I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Rep. DeSaulnier for cosponsoring HR. 1274 to repeal the 2001 AUMF, and I hope he will also introduce and support legislation to repeal the 2002 AUMF. I also want Rep. DeSaulnier to publicly reject the administration’s claims that the AUMFs provide a legal basis for military action or intervention against Iran, Venezuela, or anywhere else, without specific congressional authorization.

For Representative Eric Swalwell, email; (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

My name is ___________,  my zip code is ___________ and I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want Rep. Swalwell to co-sponsor and vote for HR. 1274 to repeal the 2001 AUMF, and also to introduce and support legislation to repeal the 2002 AUMF. I also want Rep. Swalwell to publicly reject the administration’s claims that the AUMFs provide a legal basis for military action or intervention against Iran, Venezuela, or anywhere else, without specific congressional authorization.

For Senators Feinstein and Harris:

My name is ___________,  my zip code is _________ and I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want Senator ____ to introduce and support legislation similar to H.R.1274 to repeal the  2001 AUMF, and also to introduce and support legislation to repeal the 2002 AUMF. I also want the Senator to publicly reject the administration’s claims that the AUMFs provide a legal basis for military action or intervention against Iran, Venezuela, or anywhere else, without specific congressional authorization.

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

Background:

Immediately after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Congress enacted an AUMF that instructed the President:

to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons …

At the time this was commonly understood to authorize military action against Al Qaeda and against the Taliban in Afghanistan and possibly Libya and Somalia – and nowhere else.

In 2002, Bush-II convinced Congress to enact another AUMF, authorizing military force to overthrow the government of Saddam Hussein. This led to the Second Iraq War; it has been used to justify U.S. military operations that continue in Iraq to the present day, and  the American military presence in Syria.

According to a 2016 report by the Congressional Research Service, in the intervening 16 years these two AUMFs were cited 37 times in connection with military actions in 14 countries and on the high seas. Since that report was written in 2016, they continue to be cited as the legal basis for military intervention around the world, with U.S. military personnel deployed and equipped for combat in Afghanistan, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria,  Turkey, Uganda, and Yemen. The AUMF has even been cited by the Department of Justice as authority for engaging in electronic surveillance of Americans in ACLU v. NSA – without obtaining a warrant of the special court as required by the Constitution.

Under the U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Act, enacted in 1973 to prevent another undeclared war like Vietnam, only Congress can declare war – yet our country is involved in armed interventions against an ever-increasing number of organizations, factions, and clans, at great and increasing cost in lives and treasure. Now it could get worse, as some of the war hawks in the Trump administration seem to be signaling a plan to claim that the AUMF provides a legal basis for U.S. military strikes against Iran without further congressional authorization. Military strikes against Iran would be a huge, and possibly catastrophic escalation with unforeseeable consequences. Meanwhile, Trump is asserting his willingness to intervene militarily in Venezuela to overthrow the current government and install one that he favors – exactly the kind of unilateral presidential adventurism the War Powers Act was enacted to prevent.

Enough. Too much. We need to keep this from spreading, and more: we need to withdraw the authority already granted before further damage is done. We need to repeal the AUMFs, NOW.

Meeting with Feinstein State Director 2/6

By Larry Baskett

On February 6, 2019, Indivisible East Bay braved the rain to attend our first meeting with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s state director, Jim Lazarus, who is newly in the role but has worked for Feinstein on and off ever since she was mayor of San Francisco (his most recent job was for the SF Chamber of Commerce). Field Representative Abby Ellis, who has met with us before, joined in.

We led with an ask to stop Trump’s expanded plans for nuclear weapons development (including low-yield nukes) and space-based missile defense (“space wall,” i.e. Reagan’s “Star Wars” redux). The new nuclear arms race is bad news even before one considers who’s in charge. There weren’t ideas on how to stop withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. When we asked for Sen. Feinstein to use her position on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to work on the issue with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, as well as whether Feinstein was committed to a long-term goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons, Lazarus said they would check with the DC office. On the no-nukes goal, we recommended contacting former Clinton Defense Secretary William Perry.

On Trump’s racist southern border policies, we asked for Feinstein to follow up on her efforts to legislate restrictions on Trump using funds via “emergency declaration.” For instance, she could work with ranking Senate Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Member John Tester to strip out language that would allow it. Lazarus and Ellis said they’d follow up. They said that the federal bureaucracy is pretty independent and that city bureaucracies seem more responsive on the matter. Lazarus also said when Feinstein’s staff visited the San Diego youth immigrant facility (ahem, prison), the conditions were better than one might expect from reporting elsewhere… which was good to hear, but not very reassuring, seeing as how the whole system is a gross injustice. We asked for Feinstein to visit personally, as she has previously committed to doing.

Also, we asked Feinstein to cosponsor the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2018, S.2522. Currently foreign adoptees with American parents, children who would have qualified for citizenship but who for whatever reason didn’t go through the regular process, don’t have a formal recourse to become citizens. This issue personally impacts a loved one of one of our members.

Regarding the rapid pace of confirmations of conservative hack judges and Sen. Mitch McConnell’s plan to accelerate them, we asked for more outspoken protest and procedural hardball from Feinstein, citing Sen. Mazie Hirono’s close questioning and consistent “nay” votes and Sen. Harris’ recent commitment to vote NO on all judges in protest.

We also asked for opposition to attorney general appointee William Barr, noting that a president under investigation shouldn’t get his own pick of AG. We didn’t get much of a response on this; Feinstein did subsequently vote against Barr.

We brought up ever-rising health care costs, including the recent SF General Hospital scandal about soaking non-Medicare patients. We asked Feinstein to support a bill to outlaw “surprise medical billing” with a policy that would put the onus on providers to work out billing with insurers rather than with patients.

We also asked for support of single-payer insurance (Medicare for All). Ellis said that Feinstein supports a public option and broadening California Access Care; she also asked how we’d fund single-payer. Lazarus pointed out that other countries with public systems started them a long time ago and that even Medicare today takes private supplemental insurance for better coverage. This was not encouraging.

We discussed the idea of public banking to fund Green New Deal programs and tied it into developing efforts with Public Bank East Bay and the California Public Banking Alliance. Lazarus said he’d look into it and mentioned the possibility of a statewide public bank as well as banking services for the now-legalized marijuana industry.

We asked whether Feinstein was open to following Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s lead on a 70% or higher top marginal tax rate and/or Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s lead on a wealth tax, for economic justice and fairness. Lazarus didn’t know Feinstein’s position. He brought up how the Constitution was amended to authorize an income tax, and while he cast doubt upon a federal wealth tax’s constitutionality, he noted that many states do have an asset tax, in the form of a property tax. He was also concerned about wealth flight overseas. Again, the direction of the conversation wasn’t very encouraging.

Feinstein has found an as-yet-not-public cosponsor for her homelessness relief bill. It would involve grants via the Health and Human Services Administration to fund a variety of nonprofits and local agencies in support of housing for the poor. The emphasis would be on the states most impacted, like California, New York, and Florida.

Finally, we asked for a public town hall meeting with the Senator. Lazarus wasn’t sure and said that it depended upon the Senate’s schedule, with the likeliest time being during an August recess. Next time, hopefully we can get more specificity from Lazarus on Feinstein’s public positions and responses to our requests.

Larry Baskett is a mechanical engineer from Berkeley who spent a year on staff at the California State Senate and who previously volunteered with Wolf PAC, the campaign finance reform organization.

 

Tell our MoCs: no raiding the budget for wall funding

Our Members of Congress have been consistent opponents of Trump’s efforts to increase militarization of our country’s southern border. But on February 14, all of them other than Senator Kamala Harris voted for H.J. Res. 31, providing $1.375 billion for border “fencing,” rejecting Democrats’ demands to limits on funding for immigrant detention funding for ICE, and – perhaps most dangerously – setting no bounds on Trump’s ability to take funds granted to the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or the Army Corps of Engineers, and use those funds instead to build his border wall.

Please thank Senator Harris and put the others on notice that now that we’ve won the House, control of immigration detention funding is not something to compromise on. Read on for more info; call scripts and contact info below.

We get it – no one wanted to be responsible for another government shutdown. But as we said in our action blog post last week, the threat of shutting down the government if H.J.Res. 31 failed was a false choice, and our MoCs should not have caved to the administration’s bullying. And we can of course hope for the best but we are sincerely disappointed if any of our MoCs who voted for this plan actually believe that this administration will “ensure … the humane treatment of immigrants.”

We are thankful this is the first time since ICE was created In 2002 that a new spending bill didn’t increase its funding and that “the deal” only affects Customs and Border Patrol funding at ports of entry. But we are done settling for stopping things from getting worse. We elected a Democratic House of Representatives to make things better and going forward we expect our representatives not just to rein in, but also to cut spending on harmful immigration enforcement.

The semi-good news is that there’s always something down the road, and in this case it’s a short road. In less than three weeks, the president’s Office of Management and Budget will release the president’s budget. We expect plenty of horrible funding requests on all sorts of issues, including requests for yet more “border security” and yet more detention funding. We want our MoCs to reject these, and we want them to go further – we want them to revoke “reprogramming and transfer authority” for all agencies that Trump is commandeering for this war on immigrants and asylum seekers. Specifically, we want our MoCs to vote to prohibit Trump from taking money allocated to the Department of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, or any other agencies, and using it for his wall and inhumane immigration policies. Congress must seriously examine why there is so much slop in the system that these agencies can have billions – in some cases over $6 billion – that can be reprogrammed and transferred, in defiance of Congressional appropriations authority.

What you can do: Contact your Members of Congress

For Sen. Kamala Harris (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553:

My name is ____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for voting against H.J.Res. 31. I’m very disappointed that so many Democrats agreed to a spending deal that didn’t cut funding for detention beds and didn’t limit DHS’s ability to use money Congress designated for other purposes as a slush fund for its harmful immigration enforcement policies. I hope Senator Harris stands firm and works to make sure that next year’s bill does both those things.

For Sen. Feinstein and all three Reps:

My name is ____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m very disappointed that the Democrats agreed to a spending deal that didn’t cut funding for detention beds and didn’t limit DHS’s ability to use money Congress designated for other purposes as a slush fund for its harmful immigration enforcement policies. I want ______ to work to ensure that next year’s bill does both those things.

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

 

No Nukes, Two Ways

Deadline: Before the world blows up – The good news: some of our Members of Congress are trying hard to keep the U.S. from getting into a nuclear war. The not so good news: some are missing in action. Your mission: thank the first group, tell the second to get in line.

1. Hold the LYNE

Actually, you can tell them to get in LYNE: specifically, the bicameral Hold the LYNE (Low-Yield Nuclear Explosive) Act, which would prohibit research, development, production, and deployment of low-yield nuclear warheads for submarine-launched ballistic missiles. This is crucial for our national security: These nuclear weapons have the potential to lower the threshold for using nuclear weapons and thus increase the risk of entering the U.S. into nuclear war. The administration has already started the process of converting some of our existing stockpiles to low-yield warheads, with plans for delivery to the Navy as early as September of this year. We have time to stop this program.

Representative Barbara Lee is an original cosponsor of the Hold the LYNE Act in the House, as is Senator Dianne Feinstein in the Senate. However, Reps. Mark DeSaulnier and Eric Swalwell, and Senator Kamala Harris have not yet spoken up. Please thank Rep. Lee and Sen. Feinstein, and ask Sen. Harris – and Rep. DeSaulnier or Swalwell, if you are a constituent – to step up. Their contact info is at the bottom of this article.

What to say:

For Senator Feinstein and Representative Lee:

My name is ____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for cosponsoring the Hold the LYNE Act. I agree that low-yield nuclear weapons increase the chance that the U.S. could enter into a nuclear war. I want legislation that puts a stop to their research, development, production, and deployment.

For Senator Harris and Reps. DeSaulnier and Swalwell:

My name is ____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want _____ to cosponsor the Hold the LYNE Act. I believe that low-yield nuclear weapons increase the chance that the US could enter into a nuclear war. I want legislation that puts a stop to their research, development, production and deployment. I hope that ____ speaks out soon.

2. No first use of nukes!

We’ve been asking Senator Harris since 2017 to cosponsor S. 200, which would prohibit the conduct of a first-use nuclear strike absent a declaration of war by Congress. Senator Feinstein has cosponsored this bill, as she cosponsored similar bills in previous legislative sessions. Sen. Harris is, to put it bluntly, MIA. We don’t know why. We can’t think of a good reason.

In addition, Democrats led by Adam Smith in the House and Elizabeth Warren in the Senate have introduced H.R.921/S.272 – The No First Use Act. The House version has not yet been cosponsored by any of our Representatives; the Senate version has been cosponsored by Sen. Feinstein but not by Sen. Harris.

What to say:

For Senator Feinstein:

My name is ____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for cosponsoring S. 200 and S. 272. It’s incredibly important to prohibit the first use of nuclear weapons without a declaration of war by Congress. I appreciate your cosponsorship of S. 200 this session and in the past, and now of the No First Use Act.

For Senator Harris:

My name is ____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want Senator Harris to cosponsor  S. 200. It’s incredibly important to prohibit the first use of nuclear weapons without a declaration of war by Congress. I don’t understand why Senator Harris has not cosponsored this bill this session or in the past. I hope she does so very soon. I also want her to cosponsor S. 272, the No First Use Act.

For Reps. Lee, DeSaulnier and Swalwell:

My name is ____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want Rep. _____ to cosponsor H.R. 921. It’s incredibly important for the President not to be able to authorize first use of nuclear weapons without a declaration of war by Congress. We need legislation to keep this from happening.

How to reach them:

  • 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