Actions for the Week of 9/22, 2017

email Senator Cantwell: Phone: (202) 224-3441 Fax: (202) 228-0514
email Senator Murray: Phone: (202) 224-2621 Fax: (202) 224-0238
email Representative Kilmer: Phone: (202) 225-5916
More health care actions and contact info here.

THE GOOD NEWS: Donations to pay for lawyers could be anonymous for about three days. For details, see below.
Our state Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, is suing the GEO Group. For details, see below.

THE BAD NEWS: The Senate Republicans are once again trying to repeal Obamacare. Several new nominees for positions in the Trump administration are just as bad as Trump’s cabinet picks. HHS Secretary Tom Price spent over $300,000 of taxpayer money in four months on charter flights.

Healthcare – the Graham-Cassidy bill

Senate Republicans are once again trying to repeal Obamacare. Their new bill, called Graham-Cassidy, only requires 50 votes to repeal (with Pence providing the tie-breaking 51st vote). House speaker, Paul Ryan, has promised to rubber stamp the Senate bill. The vote is scheduled for next Wednesday, 9/27. For more disgusting details, see below.

Actions

Democratic senators intend to throw every obstacle in the way of passage before the clock runs out on 9/30. Contact our senators to express your support for their efforts to “run out the clock.” More health care actions and contact info here.

Rallies

Today, (Friday, 9/22): Join the 4th Branch for a rally against the Graham-Cassidy bill at Waypoint Park, by the ferry terminal 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Bring your signs. FB event.
Sunday, 9/24 5-6:30pm rally at Waypoint Park, by the ferry terminal: Bring signs or a smile and be heard. No experience necessary! FB event.
Monday, 9/25 4-7pm rally with North Seattle Indivisible and others at UW. FB event.

Encourage friends in Alaska, Arizona and Maine to urge Senators Murkowski, McCain and Collins, respectively, to vote no. Don’t count on Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) to vote no (because, he says, the bill is not conservative enough); he said no but voted yes on the previous repeal bill. Contacting people in other states: TrumpCareTen & SADfor.us.

Trump nominees

Damien Schiff has been nominated as a judge to the Court of Federal Claims and is another anti-environment Trump nominee. He has claimed the Endangered Species Act is unconstitutional. For details, see below.

Trump has nominated Jim Bridenstine to be the next NASA administrator. Bridenstine would be the first elected politician to head NASA. For details, see below.

Stephen McAllister has been nominated for a U.S. Attorney slot. For details, see below.

Actions

Contact our senators and ask them to vote “no” on Damien Schiff, Jim Bridenstine and Stephen McAllister.

HHS Secretary Tom Price

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price spent over $300,000 of taxpayer money on charter flights since May, often flying to cities with frequent, inexpensive commercial options.

Actions

Contact our senators and Representative Kilmer to demand the HHS Inspector General investigate Tom Price and his pricey travel habits.

Health care details

This new strategy by Mitch McConnell tosses aside the work our senator, Patty Murray, has done with Senator Lamar Alexander to strengthen and improve Obamacare. The new bill eliminates Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, block grants federal dollars to the states using a formula that favors rural states over urban states (like Washington), eliminates federal subsidies on the Obamacare exchanges, abolishes the employer and individual mandate, allows insurers to impose lifetime caps and to charge more to insure people with pre-existing conditions (for example, an estimate $50,000 a year for heart disease). The block grants end in 2026.1

Washington is estimated to lose coverage for 657,000 people.3

The bill will also start banning abortion coverage in Obamacare plans within three months of passage.2

The number of people who will lose health care insurance is unknown because the Congressional Budget Office has not been given enough time to score it, but it is likely to be as high as the previous repeal bill at 32 million people.3

This bill is being met with overwhelming criticism. Why do Republican senators want to pass a bill that is so universally hated? It appears that big Republican donors (such as the Koch brothers) are threatening to withhold funds unless their agenda is passed.4

Republicans say their bill will give states the ability to design health care systems best suited to their populations. But John Kennedy (R-LA) has introduced an amendment that would disallow single-payer plans.

1 newyorker.com
2 vox.com
3 americanprogress.org
4 salon.com
5 businessinsider.com

Trump Nominee Details

Damien Schiff is “one of the most disheartening of President Trump’s judicial nominees,” wrote the Ohio Environmental Council. Schiff “will soon go before the U.S. Senate to be confirmed as a judge for the Court of Federal Claims. Mr. Schiff has a long history of fighting against the environment and the rights of marginalized communities, and simply lacks the temperament needed to protect our rights. We need the Senate to protect our courts and environment and oppose his nomination.” 1

Jim Bridenstine represents Oklahoma’s 1st congressional district in the U.S. House and is a proponent of commercial access to space. Bridenstine thinks NASA should return to the moon so that lunar water can be processed into LOX/hydrogen fuel, which would be used by businesses to maintain their commercial satelites. 2

Bridenstine has also dismissed the science behind climate change. In a speech on the House floor in 2013, he said “Global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago. Global temperature changes, when they exist, correlate with sun output and ocean cycles.”3

If confirmed, Bridenstine will be the first elected politician to be NASA administrator. Past NASA administrators have been scientists, engineers and astronauts. “The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician,” said Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fl.). Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) agreed but may vote for Bridenstine anyway. 3

Stephen McAllister

As Kansas solicitor general, McAllister made headlines when he defended a Kansas anti-abortion law by citing the Dred Scott decision which is widely regarded as one of the worst decisions ever made by the U.S. Supreme Court.

1 theoec.org.
2 TheHill.com.
3 USA Today

HHS Secretary Tom Price Details

Price has a habit: flying corporate jets around the country to the tune of over $300,000 in four months, even though federal policy is to use commercial airlines when feasible. His office says it just wasn’t feasible to fly, for example, to Nashville from Washington, D.C., which has four regular non-stop flights to that city from from 6:59 a.m. and 8:50 a.m. at a round-trip cost of $202.

By contrast, Price’s immediate predecessor, Kathleen Sebelius, flew commercially and only chartered a plane when going to a remote area of Alaska.

“In June, Price spoke at a physicians association conference in San Diego, where he vowed to wring out wasteful spending in the government’s health care programs. Getting ‘value’ for spending ‘is incredibly important,’ he said. Price took a private plane to get to the meeting, which was one stop on a five-state sprint of charter travel that cost $50,420. 1

1 politico.com

Anonymous donations

When President Obama was in the White House, the United States Office of Government Ethics ruled that donors could not make anonymous donations to pay for lawyers for White House aides. Under President Trump, the United States Office of Government Ethics (under a new head since Walter Schaub resigned saying the U.S. is “close to a laughing stock” under Trump) reversed that rule.

Then the rule was quietly reversed a few days later. “Trump administrations’ efforts to reverse this rule got hammered and that led them to reverse their reversal. Now, secret donations as of tonight are back to being banned. This pressure worked at least for now,” said Ari Melber on “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” on 9/15/2017.

Ferguson’s lawsuit

Washington state Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, has filed a lawsuit against the GEO Group over a work program that, according to Ferguson, violates the state’s minimum wage law of $11 an hour. The GEO Group runs the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. The center houses up to 1,575 detainees in ICE custody as they wait for deportation or a court hearing. While in detention, detainees can volunteer* to prepare food, do laundry and clean for which they are paid $1 a day no matter how many hours they work. They may also be paid in “snack” food, such as chicken. ICE pays the Geo Group $115.95 per detainee per day. 1

*The GEO Group is also being sued in Colorado. In a deposition for the Colorado lawsuit, detainees claimed they were threatened with solitary confinement if they did not “volunteer.” The “voluntary” program in Tacoma is so successful that “virtually all non-security functions” at the facility are performed by “volunteers.”

1 motherjones.com.

Questions? holly@hollybrewer.com.