U.S. Politics

Nancy Pelosi Demands Congressional Action To Stop Trigger-Happy Trump From Blowing Up The World

Nancy Pelosi Demands Congressional Action To Stop Trigger-Happy Trump From Blowing Up The World

POLITICUS USA

With Trump in charge of America’s nuclear arsenal – like a toddler playing with a loaded firearm – Congressional oversight is a necessity

After a week in which Donald Trump launched airstrikes on an empty airfield in Syria, dropped a massive bomb in Afghanistan, and is said to be planning a preemptive strike on North Korea, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is saying enough is enough.

In a statement released Thursday, Pelosi said Congress must immediately be called back into session to receive briefings and debate Trump’s increasing use of force.

The full statement:

Every day, the President gives Congress reason to return and debate the use of force.  The President’s escalation in Syria and his saber-rattling on North Korea demand serious and immediate Congressional scrutiny.

 

Speaker Ryan must call Congress back into session for classified briefings and debate.  Congress must do its duty and honor our responsibility to the Constitution.

In normal circumstances with a normal president in the White House, Congressional oversight on matters of war and peace is critical. With Trump in charge of America’s nuclear arsenal – like a toddler playing with a loaded firearm – this becomes even more necessary.

For the safety and security of the United States and the rest of the world, House Speaker Paul Ryan should call Congress back and work to ensure that Donald Trump’s quick and reckless military escalations face some level of oversight from the legislative branch.

This president can’t be trusted to conduct himself like an adult in his Twitter posts, much less be responsible for America’s nuclear arsenal.

As Hillary Clinton said frequently during the 2016 presidential campaign, “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”

Now he has the nuclear weapons, and he still can’t be trusted.

 

U.S. Politics

Trump’s Wall Is Already Collapsing

Trump’s Wall Is Already Collapsing

attribution: none

THE NATIONAL MEMO

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Donald Trump spent more than a year rousing crowds with a simple promise: “I’ll build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will have Mexico pay for that wall.” As the campaign wore on, it got so he could ask “Who’s gonna pay for the wall?” and the audience would roar, “Mexico!”

It was fun while it lasted. But now, in the cold light of day, some facts are coming into focus: It may not exactly be a wall. It won’t be paid for by Mexico. And it may not get built.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is one of the people backing off from this promise. Non-wall options, such as electronic sensors, will have to be considered in some places, he said. You see, “the border is complicated, as far as building a physical wall.”

Not only that but where would we locate it? “The Rio Grande, what side of the river are you going to put the wall?” Zinke asked. “We’re not going to put it on our side and cede the river to Mexico. And we’re probably not going to put it in the middle of the river.” The Mexicans won’t invite us to erect the structure on their side. So siting may be a problem.

That’s not all the Mexicans won’t do. President Enrique Pena Nieto has said repeatedly and unequivocally that his government will not bear the cost. Trump had the chance to out-negotiate Pena on the wall when he met with him in Mexico City last summer — but Trump chose not to even raise the payment issue.

The Mexican president was supposed to come to Washington for a White House meeting in January. But when Trump said it would be better to cancel the trip if Mexico was not willing to pay for the wall, Pena canceled the trip.

Trump said that rather than make Mexico pay for it upfront, “we’ll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico.” So we’ll send the invoice and they’ll mail a check? Well, not exactly. “There will be a payment,” he told ABC News. “It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form.”

No one on Capitol Hill seems to share Trump’s confidence. When Politico’s Jake Sherman asked Mitch McConnell whether Mexico will pay for the wall, the Senate Republican leader couldn’t suppress his mirth at the very idea. “‘Uh, no,’ he shot back, chuckling,” Politico reported.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said with solemn vagueness, “We will be working with (Trump) to finance the construction of the physical barrier, including the wall, on the southern border.” Faced with the funding disagreement with Mexico, Trump included money for the wall in his budget outline, with the funds taken from other programs.

Republican enthusiasm is not abundant. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said recently that “billions of dollars on a wall is not the right way to proceed.” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina agreed it is “probably not a smart investment.”

Democrats have promised to block any bill that includes money for the wall, which means they could force a government shutdown if Republicans attach it to the emergency spending measure that needs to be approved by April 28. Ryan said Thursday that the wall appropriation will be dropped to avert a shutdown.

But there may not be much interest in funding it afterward, either. The House Freedom Caucus is generally not fond of spending money, and Trump’s declaration of war on the group will not make its members more eager to indulge him.

Plenty of Senate Republicans are also skeptical. “If you’re going to spend that kind of money, you’re going to have to show me where you’re going to get that money,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said in February. “We can’t pay for it out of thin air,” said Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma.

There don’t seem to be many people in Washington who think the wall can be built as Trump claimed or that it would work very well. Not to mention that it sounded a lot better when Mexico was going to pay for it.

Trump fooled a lot of voters when he made that promise, and he may have even fooled himself. But at some point, you run out of fools.

By Steve Chapman (website at http://www.creators.com)

U.S. Politics

Congressional Republicans just voted to let ISPs sell your browsing history to advertisers

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) sponsored the legislation to roll back FCC privacy rules.Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

VOX

In a party-line 215 to 205 vote, the House of Representatives has approved legislation to allow internet service providers to sell information about their customers’ web browsing histories to advertisers and other third parties. The legislation has already been passed by the Republican-controlled Senate, so it is now headed to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature.

“We are one vote away from a world where your ISP can track your every move online and sell that information to the highest bidder,” wrote Kate Tummarello of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that advocates for online privacy rights, ahead of today’s vote.

The bill overturns regulations the Federal Communications Commission passed in the waning months of the Obama administration. Those regulations, explained in detail by Ars Technica, required ISPs to get approval from their customers before they could sell information about what websites they visit to third parties.

But a 1996 law called the Congressional Review Act set up an expedited procedure for Congress to overturn regulations by agencies like the FCC. Republicans in Congress have seized on the CRA as a way to roll back parts of Obama’s regulatory agenda.

The Senate passed legislation blocking the FCC rules on a strict party-line vote, with 50 Republicans voting yes and 48 Democrats voting no. The House vote was also highly partisan, with most Republicans voting yes and most Democrats voting no.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), the lead sponsor of the Senate legislation, described it as “the first step toward restoring a consumer-friendly approach to internet privacy regulation that empowers consumers to make informed choices on if and how their data can be shared.” But the legislation doesn’t so much increase consumer choice as change the default: allowing ISPs to sell your data unless you specifically ask them not to.

ISPs hope to boost profits by selling customer data to advertisers

AT&T Reports 81 Percent Rise In Q2 ProfitTim Boyle/Getty Images

Traditionally, internet service providers make money by directly charging their customers for connectivity. But in recent years, ISPs have been looking for ways to use their unique access to information about their customers’ online activities to generate additional revenues.

AT&T has led the way here. “Starting in 2013, AT&T charged fiber Internet customers at least $29 extra each month unless they opted in to a system that scanned customers’ Internet traffic in order to deliver personalized ads,” writes Ars Technica’s Jon Brodkin. “AT&T killed this ‘Internet Preferences’ program shortly before the FCC finalized its privacy rules.”

ISPs argue that this is little different from the business models pursued by internet giants like Google and Facebook. These companies develop profiles of their customers and then use this information to help advertisers show ads that are most likely to be relevant to each customer’s interests.

And ISPs could have a unique advantage in this market, because they can see all of the websites their customers visit, not just the ones that happen to participate in a particular company’s ad network. If you visit a lot of travel sites, for example, your ISP might have software that tells ad networks to show you more ads for airline flights or hotel rooms.

But privacy advocates see this as a violation of customer trust. In their view, ISPs’ greater access to their customers browsing history comes with a correspondingly higher responsibility to keep that information private. They say it’s wrong for an ISP to collect or share this information without a customer’s explicit permission.

The FCC regulations established an “opt-in” rule for programs like this. ISPs could only sell customer data to third parties if customers explicitly signed up for this kind of information sharing — something few customers are likely to do. But if President Trump signs the bill the House passed today, that default could switch. ISPs could potentially start sharing customer information by default, with the only notification being some boilerplate buried in the terms of service that few customers ever read.

Customers likely would retain the right to opt out of information sharing. But privacy advocates worry that most customers won’t know their information is being shared or how to opt out.

“Any Member of Congress who thinks this bill is a good idea ought to release their personal browsing history to their constituents,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), an opponent of the legislation, in an emailed statement before the vote. “It’s only fair.”

Timothy B. Lee

U.S. Politics

Top Republican runs to White House to share leaked intelligence; it’s time for a special prosecutor

GettyImages-635272440

attribution: Getty Images

DAILY KOS

The state of the so-called House investigation into state-sponsored Russian attacks on the 2016 elections—and possible collusion from the Republican presidential campaign—just took a hell of a turn, as the House Republican who supposedly is leading that investigation just announced he was headed to the White House to brief the targets of that investigation on incendiary new details about the state of the investigation against them.

Members of the Donald Trump transition team, possibly including Trump himself, were under U.S. government surveillance following November’s presidential election, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) told reporters Wednesday.

To sum up, Rep. Devin Nunes—who was himself an executive member of Trump’s transition team during the period in question—says he was tipped off that the U.S. counterintelligence investigation had resulted in “incidental” collection of conversations of Trump staffers during the transition, possibly including Trump himself. This was, Nunes himself asserted, apparently legal; under FISA rules, this would generally have occurred if those staffers were in communication, “incidental” or otherwise, with foreign targets of an investigation.

Nunes did not share this information with Democratic members of his committee, but instead announced that he will be heading to the White House to brief the administration directly on these new details about … the investigation against them.

He appears to believe that the news that U.S. investigations meant to gather information on foreign intelligence efforts have discovered links to multiple members of the campaign, possibly including Trump himself, is somehow good news for Trump. Or perhaps he’s just publicly announcing those details and briefing Trump’s team on them for other reasons.

__________________

Again, Rep. Nunes is allegedly the person leading the House investigation on Russian acts during the election and, as confirmed by FBI Director James Comey during a recent hearing, possible Republican campaign collusion with those acts. And immediately after being tipped off to new information about potential ties to foreign agents and the Trump campaign, he’s meeting at the White House to let them know the information leaked to him.

Simply calling for an independent, non-partisan investigation into the election at this point seems almost beside the point. Trump transition member Nunes continues to work to sabotage the work of the investigators; he may be at this point a target of the investigation himself.

TRUMP-NUNES
U.S. Politics

Russian Election Interference Demands A Special Prosecutor

Russian Election Interference Demands A Special Prosecutor

Donald Trump sits with U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., October 7, 2016 | REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

THE NATIONAL MEMO

President Donald J. Trump has repeatedly claimed that Hillary Clinton’s supporters committed massive voter fraud and that he would have won the popular vote, in addition to the Electoral College, if there had not been a well-organized campaign to cast illegal ballots.

That’s a lie. There is not one scintilla of evidence to suggest that Clinton’s popular vote victory — she garnered nearly 3 million more votes nationwide than Trump — was the result of illicit activity.

As usual, Trump has turned the truth on its head. Any illegal activity associated with the last presidential election was committed by the foreign power with which Trump is so peculiarly aligned: Russia. Here’s what is true: A well-organized and illicit offensive to influence the election did take place, and Trump was its beneficiary.

This may easily be the worst scandal in American political history, and it demands the appointment of a special prosecutor. The involvement of a foreign power in a presidential election — perhaps with the complicity of American citizens — is deeply disturbing and clearly dangerous, a threat to the republic. It is certainly far worse than anything Bill Clinton did with Monica Lewinsky.

Yet, leading Republicans, who have previously been skeptical of Russia and critical of its authoritarian leader, Vladimir Putin, see nothing amiss. While a few, such as Arizona Sen. John McCain, have called for an independent investigation of Russian interference in the election, most are minimizing it. Indeed, on Thursday, U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, GOP chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a not-so-veiled threat to reporters who insisted on asking questions: “Do you want us to conduct an investigation on you or other Americans because you were talking to the Russian Embassy?”

Then there is Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has sold himself to the public as a stickler for the letter of the law. He lied to Congress about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the campaign, when he was already acting as a Trump surrogate. That should not only disqualify him from overseeing an investigation into Russian involvement in the election, but it should also force him from office.

Certainly, we are in a hyper-partisan age. But does that mean partisans set aside every principle they ever held dear and watch democratic norms be destroyed just to protect a president from their party? Are institutional checks and balances meaningless?

Denials notwithstanding, it is apparent that Putin, a ruthless dictator who should be considered an enemy of American interests, approved a shrewd cyber campaign that leaked private emails and documents linked to Clinton, dribbling them out so that they dominated several news cycles.

While the revelations were hardly damning, they were controversial enough to suck the oxygen out of Clinton’s efforts to convey an effective message. In other words, Clinton had difficulty getting reporters to talk about her plans for, say, a higher minimum wage when they were breathlessly discussing infighting among Clinton’s aides.

And there are strong intimations that Putin’s government did not act in a vacuum. While we don’t yet know whether there was coordination between Trump’s campaign and the Russians — that’s why a special prosecutor is necessary — it looks as though several of Trump’s allies and campaign surrogates met with Russians here and abroad. (That is odd enough to raise several bright red flags.)

According to the New York Times, U.S. intelligence agencies have amassed reams of evidence documenting those contacts. The Times says the Obama administration worked hard to get that evidence compiled before Trump’s inauguration, fearing that his administration might try to hide or destroy it.

Already, one Trump aide, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, has been forced to resign because he lied about possibly illicit conversations with Russian officials. There’s no telling how many of Trump’s aides were ultimately involved or how close to treason they went.

We will find out sooner or later. This is such a grotesque and wide-ranging perversion of democratic principles and basic national security standards that journalists will continue to ask probing questions and intelligence operatives will continue to leak what they know.

The only question is whether the United States, as we know it, will still be standing when all is revealed.

Cynthia Tucker

U.S. Politics

Congress should prioritize protection of online privacy

Congress should prioritize protection of online privacy

© Getty Images

THE HILL

In the coming weeks and months, Congress will debate issues critical to online privacy. Before Congress starts these debates, it is necessary to ask “what is privacy and why is it important?”

Broadly stated, online privacy is an individual’s ability to control personal information disclosure over the Internet and to “control who could access that information.” Because there are many facets of this definition, it is imperative to establish a few perimeters.

Since Congress will be debating laws impacting the relationship of the citizen to the government, this discussion will remain within the confines of that relationship. This discussion will not be an expose about how companies are trying to cull consumer data to better predict shopping patterns and needs.

Two of the topics Congress will address this year could impact how the government collects various types of information about citizens. Because the topics relate to how the government collects information, the online privacy debate is best understood by briefly examining how the British government utilized warrants prior to the Revolutionary War. The Founding Father’s disdain for general warrants and writs of assistance birthed the Fourth Amendment. The British government’s use of general warrants, incidentally, creates an interesting connection between free speech and privacy.

Prior to discussing online privacy, it is important to dispel a myth. Supporting privacy does not mean opposing law enforcement. Privacy advocates look to the text of the Fourth Amendment, which permits law enforcement to conduct searches after obtaining warrants. The Fourth Amendment guarantees the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrant shall issue, but upon probable cause…”

There is no opposition to lawful investigations targeted at specific individuals. Most privacy advocates will agree that if law enforcement agencies have probable cause indicating evidence of a crime exists on electronic devices, the police may obtain warrants to search the devices.

Online privacy advocates draw the line where law enforcement agencies use technology to gather large amounts of data from innocent citizens. Technology does not provide law enforcement carte blanche to access a person’s sensitive information. Technology employed by law enforcement today allows agencies to track all cellphones within a certain radius of a cell site simulator. Technology employed by law enforcement allows police to record and catalogue license plates. Technology today permitsfederal agencies to install software on computers that allows it to access files, activate cameras, and track a person’s Internet browsing patterns.

Technology permits law enforcement to capture sensitive data in dragnet fashion. In many respects, law enforcement agencies can cull the data looking for evidence suggesting that people have committed crimes. For most of the citizens whose data has been captured, they have neither committed an offense nor do police have reason to believe a crime has been committed.

In the 1700s, the British government utilized general warrants to search the houses of individuals suspected of criticizing the king and Parliament. The printing press as a technology had come into its own. Authors anonymously published pamphlets expressing their displeasure about the government. The king’s agents would break into the houses of publishers and suspected authors in efforts to discover evidence of speech crimes. They would take locked boxes filled with writings, confiscate drawers filled with papers and other files, and take suspects’ books. The agents often did not have any evidence linking the suspects to speech crimes, but were instead on a quest to find the incriminating evidence.

Writs of assistance worked much the same way, and were considered a type of general warrant. The British government needed to pay for the French and Indian War. One of the methods it employed was to crack down on merchants smuggling goods into the American colonies. The writs provided customs officials the authority to enter any house or place of business in search of those smuggled goods. The colonists reacted strongly to the writs, since the government’s agents did not need any evidence the home or business owner possessed smuggled goods. The writs were often used to harass people, to build cases against business owners, or both.

Online privacy means ensuring law enforcement agencies at all levels cannot engage in dragnet-type information gathering activities. It also means ensuring law enforcement has access to electronic information when investigations are targeted at specific suspects and where the government has properly obtained warrants.

People should have the authority to control who has access to their personal data. When the government employs technology to capture the data of individuals not suspected of crimes, the relationship between the citizen and government fundamentally changes. The government becomes big brother and the average citizen a perpetual suspect.

Jonathon Hauenschild, J.D., is a technology policy analyst. He is the founder and principal of Franklin Adams & Co., LLC.

U.S. Politics

GOP Resists Calls For Independent Russia-Trump Probe

GOP Resists Calls For Independent Russia-Trump Probe

A woman passes a billboard showing a pictures of US president-elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Danilovgrad, Montenegro, November 16, 2016 | REUTERS/Stevo Vasiljevic

THE NATIONAL MEMO

The White House hasn’t ruled out a recusal from the attorney general on probes into Russian meddling in the election as prominent Republicans continue to resist calls for an independent investigation.

Republicans on the Sunday morning news shows either downplayed a need for an independent probe into Russia’s activities or rejected the idea entirely while Democrats continued to call for greater urgency amid FBI investigations and in light of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ support for Donald Trump during the primary campaign.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy White House secretary, insisted on ABC’s “This Week” that the FBI views reports of administration contacts with Russian officials as “BS” and said calls for Sessions to step aside are premature.

“We’re confident whatever review that Congress wants to do, I think that’s the first step. If they want to take that on, which there are two committees that are currently doing that, we’re extremely confident that, whatever review, they’re all going to come to the same conclusion—that we had no involvement in this,” Sanders said. “I don’t think we’re there yet. Let’s work through this process. You guys want to jump to the very end of the line. That’s not how this works. Typically, you go through a congressional oversight review. We’re doing that. Let’s not go to the very end of the extreme. Let’s let this play out the way it should.”

Her calls to let the process “play out” were echoed by Republican Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio. “Let’s let the process work…Let the intel committees work. If there’s more investigation that’s needed, I’m on the oversight committee, we’ve never been shy about digging into issues and we’ll do that. No one’s ever accused me of going easy on my own party. So we’ll do that,” he said on ABC.

Trump frequently spoke admiringly of Russian President Vladimir Putin on the campaign trail and has been vexed by continued questions as to the nature of his associates’ relationships, if any, to Russian officials. The questions intensified after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had sponsored hacking into the presidential election and have grown louder with recent controversies. His administration already has lost its first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, over his misrepresentations of a call discussing U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador. This week, CNN broke the news that the FBI rejected the White House’s requests to make public comments denouncing news stories on contacts between the Trump team and Russia, and the Washington Post reported that the administration has enlisted intelligence officials and members of Congress to push back on such stories.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr, is beginning its own review of Flynn’s conversations and possible Trump team contacts with Russia, although Democrats continue to call for either a special prosecutor or a select committee of Congress to investigate.

Republican Darrell Issa, a Trump ally, has joined Democrats’ calls for a special prosecutor. “You cannot have somebody, a friend of mine, Jeff Sessions, who was on the campaign and who is an appointee. You’re going to need to use the special prosecutor’s statute,” Issa said on HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher.” However, Issa said Saturday that Sessions should pick the prosecutor.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the former head of Trump’s transition team and an ex-U.S. attorney, disagrees with the California Republican.

“The Justice Department, over the course of time, has shown itself, with the professionals that are there, to have the ability to investigate these type of things,” Christie said. “When a special prosecutor gets involved, the thing gets completely out of control. And I think that doesn’t serve anybody’s purposes. We have a lot of important problems to deal with in this country. And this is—I’m not saying that is not one of them, but I believe the Justice Department can handle it.”

Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that politicians are “getting ahead of ourselves” with calls for a select committee or special prosecutor. “There’s no allegations of any crime occurring. There’s not even an indication that there’s criminal investigations underway by the F.B.I., as opposed to counterintelligence investigations, which the F.B.I. conducts all the time as our main counterintelligence bureau. If we get down that road, that’s a decision that Attorney General Sessions can make at the time,” Cotton said.

The new chairman of the DNC and the House Democratic leader both said on ABC on Sunday that Sessions couldn’t possibly be impartial should the DOJ lead an investigation.

“What we need to be looking at is whether this election was rigged by Donald Trump and his buddy Vladimir Putin,” said DNC chairman Tom Perez. “Having Jeff Sessions oversee such an investigation, it’s really unfair to any foxes across America to say that would be the fox guarding the henhouse. We need an independent investigation, because that is a serious, serious issue…And when Sessions and Flynn are out there together campaigning, they clearly lack the authority and the objectivity to conduct that investigation.”

Minority leader Nancy Pelosi flatly rejected Sessions’ potential involvement. “The attorney general must recuse himself,” she said. “But let’s just take it back a step, you have seen a flurry of activities that are completely inappropriate, encouraging lawmakers, encouraging intelligence officials to say that something is one way or another. Let’s have the investigation and find out the truth.”

U.S. Politics

How The Obamacare Town Hall Script Totally Flipped This Week

Tom Williams | TPM “Senior” Graphic

TPM DC

Darren Knowles never met with Mike Coffman in the seven years the congressman had been serving Colorado’s 6th Congressional District. But Knowles and his wife, concerned about congressional Republicans’ imminent plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, made the decision to drive over to Coffman’s town hall event Saturday at Aurora Central Library.

A special education teacher who said he voted for George W. Bush twice and cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton in the November election, Knowles was surprised to find the lobby filled beyond capacity with Coloradans from across the ideological spectrum hoping to get reassurance from Coffman that they would not lose health care coverage. He observed that many attendees were white and older, and that a number were physically disabled. The Knowleses waited two hours to speak to their congressman, who met with constituents in groups for four or five minutes apiece, but never got the chance. A local journalist called to the scene by the frustrated crowd eventually caught Coffman sneaking out the backdoor of the library before his scheduled time had expired.

Knowles left exasperated, and was further irritated by a statement Coffman released blaming “partisan activists” for trying to disrupt his event.

“That really got my blood boiling,” he told TPM in a phone interview. “He said he’d stand up to Trump and this is like Trump’s playbook right here: blame the people who stand up to you. I don’t know what representative Coffman wanted. If we’re concerned, are we not supposed to show up and voice our concerns?”

The August congressional recess prior to the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act was marked by testy town hall clashes between lawmakers and constituents who opposed the health care legislation. Now, more than seven years later, Republicans’ attempted repeal of that legislation is unfolding in the same public, messy way.

Since Congress passed a budget resolution last week allowing repeal to proceed, voters who have personally benefited from the law have appealed to Republican members of Congress at town hall events in their districts. Others have linked up with members of local progressive groups formed since the election to pressure the incoming Trump administration, or participated in nationwide rallies organized by Democratic leadership.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) was drowned out with chants of “save our healthcare” as she spoke at a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day rally in Spokane. More than 250 people turned out to the Gerald R. Ford Library in Grand Rapids on Tuesday to question Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) about Medicaid cuts and the details of an ACA replacement plan, prompting security to turn dozens away. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) was surprised to find himself facing angry questions from a group of 50 at a Houston Chamber of Commerce session billed as an opportunity for locals “affected by Obamacare” to share stories about “rising costs and loss of coverage.”

With all three branches of government soon to be under GOP control, these voters know they may not be able to prevent Republicans from charging ahead with repeal. But they aren’t going to let it happen without a fight.

After learning about the meeting with Brady through a progressive Facebook group, Emily Hopper said she showed up with her 2-year-old son to ask how women’s health care would be affected by the millions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements that Planned Parenthood stands to lose when the ACA is repealed.

“Rep. Brady did not adequately address anyone’s questions, in my opinion,” Hopper told TPM in an email. “He repeatedly assured attendees that they would not lose the parts of ACA that they like (protections for pre-existing conditions and coverage of dependent adult children) while simultaneously promising to do away with the mandate and taxes. That’s a two-legged stool waiting to fall over.”

Other progressives were working alongside the national Democratic Party to kick up a public fuss over ACA repeal. Thousands showed up to a Sunday “Save Our Healthcare” rally led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in Macomb County, Michigan, which went for Trump. Numerous smaller satellite demonstrations were held across the country as well.

In Keene, New Hampshire, multimedia artist and diehard Sanders fan Heather Stockwell helped draw around 200 people out to a Sunday rally. The support from the national Democratic party was “great for getting numbers out,” Stockwell told TPM.

After being involved with a number of regional liberal organizations over the course of the 2016 election, Stockwell this week helped consolidate several of those groups into the Monadnock Progressive Alliance, an umbrella organization focused on taking an issue-oriented, hyper-local approach to progressive change.

Stockwell said she drew inspiration for the MPA in part from the Indivisible Guide, an online handbook put together by former Congressional aides that encourages Democrats to take a page out of the tea party playbook in order to derail the Trump-Paul Ryan policy agenda. Their advice boiled down to the following: confront your representatives on their home turf, organize locally and direct resources towards stopping specific pieces of legislation.

Harvard University professor Theda Skocpol, who co-wrote “The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism,” said she saw some tea party tactics at play in this week’s coordinated protests in favor of the ACA.

“In the past, Democrats have tended to focus on Washington” when they disagreed with elected officials on policy issues, Skocpol told TPM.

“Democrats also see protest as something that’s aimed at the media,” she said. “I think the added ingredient here borrowed from the tea party is that it’s really effective to speak up both publicly and in terms of contacting local offices of their representatives in Congress.”

The key distinction, according to Skocpol, is that the tea party coalesced in backlash at the institutional GOP that allowed Barack Obama to be elected, while Democratic leadership is actively encouraging and participating in the current public outcry over ACA repeal.

Health care is also a uniquely easy rallying point for progressives hoping to mobilize resistance against the new administration because the need for health insurance transcends political boundaries.

“Any cuts that occur in this law are going to hit Trump voters very hard, and the areas that supported him too,” Skocpol said. “They’re going to hit older, non-urban whites just as hard as they’re going to hit the Democratic constituencies.”

After using the ACA as a political punching bag for years and failing to agree on a replacement plan, Republican lawmakers are finally facing the real-life consequences of inaction, from voters on both sides of the aisle.

ALLEGRA KIRKLAND

Have more stories about lawmakers facing pushback over ACA repeal or organizing efforts around the issue? Let us know at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

U.S. Politics

In one night, the GOP voted to take away these 6 essential health benefits

Vice President-elect Mike Pence, flanked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. John Barrasso CREDIT: AP Photo/Cliff Owen

THINK PROGRESS

Last night while you were sleeping, the Senate debated and ultimately passed a budget resolution that provides a pathway for Republicans to strip health care coverage away from 30 million Americans without having a single Democratic vote.

As the Senate debated the resolution that provides a blueprint to repeal the Affordable Care Act, both Republicans and Democrats had the opportunity to offer a flurry of rapid-fire amendments in a process known as “vote-a-rama.” While these votes are non-binding, the exercise provides an opportunity for senators to show where their colleagues stand on a number of key issues. And the results are not pretty.

Senate Republicans took several votes that showed they are not on your side. Last night, Republicans voted against amendments that would:

1. Protect people with pre-existing conditions

Republicans blocked an amendment that would have made it harder to take away coverage from Americans with preexisting medical conditions. 52 million people — about 1 in 4 non-elderly Americans — have preexisting conditions. These Americans are more likely to face significant health costs, and before the Affordable Care Act, were often denied coverage entirely. The amendment also would have protected coverage for people disabilities or chronic health conditions, and prevent plans from discriminating based on health. Republicans currently have no alternative plan to insure people with preexisting conditions. Only two Republicans — Maine’s Susan Collins and Nevada’s Dean Heller — voted for the amendment.

2. Let young adults stay on their parents’ plan

Republicans blocked an amendment by Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin that would have made it easier young people to stay on their parents’ health care plan until they are 26 — one of the most popular and effective provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Over 6 million young adults have gained health insurance since the law was implemented in 2010, and young Americans now report better physical and mental health. The provision is also overwhelmingly popular — 85 percent favor keeping young people on their parents’ insurance plans. Sens. Heller and Collins were the only two senators who bucked their party on this vote.

3. Maintain access to contraceptive coverage

Thanks to Obamacare, birth control is more affordable than ever. Spending on contraceptive health care has gone down by 20 percent since the Affordable Care Act took effect. An amendment by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sought to continue this momentum. Unsurprisingly, Republicans blocked the provision 49–49. Sens. Collins and Heller both voted with Democrats.

4. Ensure Medicaid expansion stays in place

Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act benefited 11 million low-income Americans in 2015 alone and has created thousands of jobs for direct care workers. An amendment by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) would have sought to continue Medicaid expansion, but it was blocked by Republicans — 48–50.

5. Protect children on Medicaid or CHIP

Republicans blocked an amendment offered by Senator Brown (D-OH) that would ensure children could keep their health coverage on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), both of which provide comprehensive health care services for children including key preventive and developmental care.

6. Protect veterans’ health care

Republicans blocked an amendment by Sen. Tester (D-MT) that would have made it harder to restrict veterans’ ability to access VA health care. While Democrats have sought to provide better funding and health care access at the VA, Donald Trump has proposed eliminating the agency altogether through privatization. A poll in 2015 found that almost two-thirds of survey respondents oppose plans to replace VA health care with a voucher system, an idea backed by many Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates.


Republicans say they want to replace Obamacare with something better. But in just one night’s votes, they indicated that they are not willing to take a stand to ensure that people with pre-existing conditions, women, children, veterans, young adults, people with disabilities, and struggling families can continue to access the affordable coverage they need going forward.

Melissa Boteach and Jeremy Slevin

Melissa Boteach is the Vice President of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF), and Jeremy Slevin is the Associate Director of Advocacy for the same program. ThinkProgress is an editorially independent site housed at CAPAF.

U.S. Politics

Bernie Gives Us Hope, Promises To Protect Minorities Under Trump Administration

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 23: Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, (I-VT) speaks during a news conference December 23, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Sanders, who is seeking the nomination from the Democratic Party talked about police reform and preventing people of color from being victimized by police officers across the country. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Checks and balances | The system of checks and balances is used to keep the government from getting too powerful in one branch. For example, the Executive Branch can veto bills from the Legislative Branch, but the Legislative Branch can override the veto.

ADDICTING INFO

The unthinkable has happened, and we are now all forced to live under a Donald Trump administration for the next four years. This is especially terrifying to minorities, since the man that was just declared our next president is a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic bigot, and his vice president-elect, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, is just as bad — only much more quietly. Well, there is one person in the United States Senate who won’t stand for any of that bigotry when it comes to lawmaking: Bernie Sanders.

While Bernie has promised to work with a Trump administration where they can find common ground, he has already warned Trump that there will be no funny business on his watch when it comes to going after minorities. Bernie tweeted:

This isn’t the first time since Trump’s victory that Bernie has warned him against aggressively attacking the rights of minorities, either. On Wednesday, he said:

“To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him,” the Vermont senator said in a statement released Wednesday.”

“To the degree that he pursues racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-environment policies, we will vigorously oppose him.”

This is reassuring, because while the situation is certainly dismal, there are Democrats and Independents in the Senate who still have enough seats to block the Republicans and a Trump Administration from appointing anti-LGBTQ, anti-women, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant justices to the Supreme Court. While this might, optics wise, looks like Democrats offering retribution for the GOP’s refusal to give President Obama’s appointee, Merrick Garland, a hearing and a vote, indeed it is not. It is a way to keep Republicans from stripping the basic human rights from groups of Americans they hate.

Thank you, Bernie, for having our back. Let’s hope that you and Senate Democrats are successful in protecting us for the next four years as we live out this literal nightmare.

Shannon Barber