Thursday, August 14, 2014

Two Months Ago, Congress Voted 355 to 62 to Keep Militarizing the Police

Earlier tonight, when reading about how the Pentagon gave the Ferguson Police Department military-grade weapons, I remembered a vote Congress took two months ago. I wrote about it back then and am reproducing it below given its relevance to the nightmarish situation occurring right outside of St. Louis.

--
Friday, June 20, 2014

During the amendment voting for "defense" appropriations last night, Alan Grayson (FL-09) introduced an amendment to prohibit the use of funds to transfer aircraft (including unmanned aerial vehicles), armored vehicles, grenade launchers, silencers, toxicological agents, launch vehicles, guided missiles, ballistic missiles, rockets, torpedoes, bombs, mines, or nuclear weapons through the DOD Excess Personal Property Program established pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997.

There was a great article in the New York Times last week on the militarization of local police. Giving military weapons to local police departments is at best a colossal waste of money. At its worst, it can ruin--or end--innocent lives.

The amendment failed 62 to 355. 19 Republicans and 43 Democrats voted for it. 210 Republicans and 145 Democrats voted against it.

Here are the 19 Republicans:

Justin Amash (MI-03)
Jim Bridenstine (OK-01)
Paul Broun (GA-10)
Jimmy Duncan (TN-02)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Morgan Griffith (VA-09)
Walter Jones (NC-03)
Jim Jordan (OH-04)
Jack Kingston (GA-01)
Raul Labrador (ID-01)
Tom Massie (KY-04)
Tom McClintock (CA-04)
Scott Perry (PA-04)
Tom Petri (WI-06)
Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48)
Mark Sanford (SC-01)
John Shimkus (IL-15)
Chris Stewart (UT-02)
Steve Stockman (TX-36)

Here are the 43 Democrats:

John Barrow (GA-12)
Earl Blumenauer (OR-03)
Bruce Braley (IA-01)
Tony Cárdenas (CA-29)
Matt Cartwright (PA-17)
Kathy Castor (FL)
Judy Chu (CA-27)
John Conyers (MI-13)
Donna Edwards (MD-04)
Keith Ellison (MN-05)
Alan Grayson (FL-09)
Raul Grijalva (AZ-03)
Rush Holt (NJ-12)
Mike Honda (CA-17)
Hank Johnson (GA)
Barbara Lee (CA-13)
John Lewis (GA-05)
Dan Maffei (NY-24)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Doris Matsui (CA-06)
Jim McDermott (WA-07)
Jim McGovern (CA-02)
Jerry McNerney (CA-09)
George Miller (CA-11)
Jerry Nadler (NY-10)
Gloria Negrete McLeod (CA-35)
Beto O'Rourke (TX-16)
Frank Pallone (NJ-06)
Ed Perlmutter(CO-07)
Mark Pocan (WI-02)
Loretta Sanchez (CA-46)
John Sarbanes (MD-02)
Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)
Bobby Scott (VA-03)
Jose Serrano (NY-15)
Louise Slaughter (NY-25)
Adam Smith (WA-09)
Jackie Speier (CA-14)
Mark Takano (CA-41)
John Tierney (MA-06)
Paul Tonko (NY-20)
Nydia Velázquez (NY-07)
Maxine Waters (CA-43)

--

Ferguson's own representative, Democrat Lacy Clay (MO-01), voted against the amendment.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

37 House Democrats Urge Administration Against Atlantic Drilling

We elected the candidate with the "Drill, Baby, Drill!" slogan, right? No? Well, "all of the above" isn't that much different:
All signs point toward the administration giving the thumbs up to Atlantic drilling. In June, the administration gave its strongest signal to date that the Atlantic would likely be included in the Interior Department's five-year lease plan for 2017-2022, by opening it up to new oil and gas exploration for the first time in 30 years.
That decision followed the Interior Department’s release of an environmental review in February, setting guidelines for seismic surveys to test Atlantic waters for potential energy sources.
"It does not look good because, if he weren’t going to allow drilling, then he wouldn’t have opened the Atlantic to seismic tests," said Sara Young, a marine scientist for Oceana, a conservation group.
Geophysical research companies contracted by the oil and gas industry will need to apply for individual permits before conducting tests in the Atlantic for oil and gas deposits, and undergo further environmental reviews, but the decision was a clear victory for industry.
Last week, Representatives David Price (NC-04), Rush Holt (NJ-12), Niki Tsongas (MA-03), and Gerry Connolly (VA-11) led 32 other colleagues in the House in writing to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in opposition to Atlantic drilling.

Here is the text of the letter:
Dear Dr. Cruickshank:
We are writing in response to the initial Request for Information on the preparation of the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (Five-Year Program). As members of Congress with an interest in the health and economic vitality of the Atlantic Ocean, we would like to specifically request that all planning areas in the Atlantic be excluded from the 2017-2022 Five-Year Leasing Program.
Under the current 2012-2017 Five-Year Program the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) determined that lease sales in the Atlantic would not be appropriate due to the lack of infrastructure to support oil and gas exploration and development, as well as spill preparedness and response. Complex issues relating to potentially conflicting uses, including those of the Department of Defense, were also factors in making the determination under the current Five-Year Program.
We believe that the circumstances that informed the exclusion of Atlantic planning areas under the existing Five-Year Program remain unchanged. Additionally, significant federal, state, and local resources have been expended in an effort to improve the health of Atlantic fisheries, protect endangered and threatened species that rely on the Atlantic Ocean and coast, and ensure the continued economic vitality of coastal areas through recreation and tourism. We believe that allowing oil and gas development in the Atlantic would be inconsistent with and contrary to these ongoing efforts.
We are not opposed to offshore energy development in the Atlantic when that development is done carefully, sustainably, and protects critical coastal and marine environments and industries. We commend BOEM for its effort to lease and permit offshore wind energy projects along the Atlantic seaboard. The development of wind energy resources in the Atlantic will support jobs, generate revenues, and provide much needed clean, sustainable energy without threatening existing jobs and economic activity that would be endangered by oil and gas activities in the Atlantic. Advances in tidal and marine hydrokinetic power may similarly provide opportunities to harvest the energy potential of our oceans without subjecting our coasts and the marine environment to the threats associated with offshore oil and gas production.
Furthermore, climate change and ocean acidification have already begun to stress the Atlantic environment and ecosystem. Sea level rise and extreme weather events, exacerbated by warmer air and ocean temperatures, already threaten coastal communities. The massive destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy emphasized these risks and demonstrated the fragility of our coasts. We appreciate the work that BOEM has done to help our communities rebuild, but are concerned that these rebuilding efforts could be severely undermined by offshore oil and gas leasing. The Atlantic Ocean and the individuals that depend on this area, whether for their livelihoods or as recreational users, should not also be forced to contend with the threats of a major oil spill, or for that matter the widespread industrial development that would be necessary for developing an oil and gas industry in the Atlantic.
While states bordering the North Atlantic Planning Area are united in their opposition to offshore oil and gas drilling, we understand that elsewhere in the Atlantic there is likely to be interest in proceeding with oil and gas exploration and development. We believe that an analysis of drilling in the Atlantic should be holistic: ocean currents and marine species do not recognize artificially drawn planning boundaries, and the consideration of any individual Atlantic planning area should also include an analysis of the potential effects on neighboring planning areas and throughout the entire ocean ecosystem.
We appreciate the efforts of the Department of the Interior to improve the safety and oversight of offshore drilling, but we are simply unwilling to accept the tremendous risks of an oil spill in the Atlantic, which would vastly outweigh any potential gains from drilling. We again thank you for excluding Atlantic leasing from the 2012-2017 program and ask that you consider our strong opposition to future leasing in the Atlantic through all stages of development of the 2017-2022 Five-Year Program.

Sincerely,
Here are the 37 total co-signers, organized by state:
 
Connecticut Delegation

Rosa DeLauro (CT-03)

Delaware Delegation
John Carney

District of Columbia Delegation
Eleanor Holmes Norton

Florida Delegation

Corinne Brown (FL-05)
Kathy Castor (FL-14)
Alcee Hastings (FL-20)
Ted Deutch (FL-21)
Lois Frankel (FL-22)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23)

Maine Delegation
Chellie Pingree (ME-01)
Mike Michaud (ME-02)

Maryland Delegation
John Sarbanes (MD-03)
Chris Van Hollen (MD-08)

Massachusetts Delegation
Richard Neal (MA-01)
Jim McGovern (MA-02)
Niki Tsongas (MA-03)
Joe Kennedy (MA-04)
Katherine Clark (MA-05)
John Tierney (MA-06)
Mike Capuano (MA-07)
Stephen Lynch (MA-08)
Bill Keating (MA-09)

New Hampshire Delegation

Annie Kuster (NH-02)
Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01)

New Jersey Delegation

Frank Pallone (NJ-06)
Albio Sires (NJ-08)
Bill Pascrell (NJ-09)
Rush Holt (NJ-12)

New York Delegation
Grace Meng (NY-06)
Paul Tonko (NY-20)

North Carolina Delegation
David Price (NC-04)

Rhode Island Delegation
David Cicilline (RI-01)
Jim Langevin (RI-02)

Virginia Delegation
Bobby Scott (VA-03)
Jim Moran (VA-08)
Gerry Connolly (VA-11)

As you can see, it had the support of the full Congressional delegations of Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. It also had the support of all members of the Democratic delegation from Virginia.

Most, but not all, of the co-signers represent coastal districts.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Robert Gibbs, Ben LaBolt Leave Liberal PR Firm to Join "War" Against Teachers Unions

A little over a month ago, I wrote about how Robert Gibbs and Ben LaBolt, Obama's former Press Secretary and Campaign Spokesman, had taken on a new project at their PR agency: helping former CNN anchor Campbell Brown in her war against teacher tenure.

Well, that new client didn't sit well with New Partners, the Democratic PR firm where their agency (The Incite Agency) is housed. And when Gibbs and LaBolt had to decide whether it was New Partners or the "war" against teachers, they chose war:
Through their firm, The Incite Agency, Labolt and Gibbs are supporting former CNN anchor Campbell Brown's fight against teacher tenure. Brown is wading into education politics through a group she calls the Partnership for Education Justice, which aims to tackle teachers' work protections by taking the fight to court. A week ago, her group filed a lawsuit in New York state that organized local families as plaintiffs in an effort to have tenure deemed unconstitutional.
"We are in a war, not a fight," Brown said in July at a charter schools convention in Las Vegas. "This is not partisan, we don't care what side of the aisle they're on. ... This is simply right versus wrong."
Gibbs' former co-workers saw it the same way. When he signed on with Brown, he was working with the Democratic firm New Partners. His liberal colleagues reacted angrily when news of the marriage surfaced, and the American Federation of Teachers made its displeasure known.
Gibbs and LaBolt had launched The Incite Agency in June 2013. It was housed within New Partners, but had its own employees and clients, Gibbs said, describing what is a fairly common business relationship in Washington.
Gibbs said the teachers union put pressure on New Partners as a result of his new client. "On Friday, June 27th, the principals at New Partners had a conference call to discuss the situation," Gibbs said in an email. "Only a couple of minutes into the call, I said I believed that there were only two paths forward -- either Incite dropped the client or Incite left New Partners. I announced I had no intention of dropping the client and that I had decided to leave New Partners, effective at the end of the day on June 30th."
 Change you can believe in....

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Israel-Palestine Blogging

Two pieces that I didn't get around to copying over from Daily Kos this week:

(1) A diary chronicling how the White House and Congress aid, abet, or encourage Israel's war crimes in Gaza

(2) A diary on the House vote to give Israel $225 million in supplemental military aid (above and beyond the $3.1 billion it already gets annually)

Let's hope this week is less depressing on this front.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Which 14 Democrats Joined the GOP to Weaken the Endangered Species Act?

Today, the House passed the "21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act,"which, of course, was designed to weaken this landmark environmental law.

The bill, as Republican environmental laws are wont to do, tries to burden the overseeing agency, redirect its funds, and restrict the role of citizens and scientists in decision-making.

Here's an overview of the bill:
This bill is a combination of four Republican-sponsored bills being brought to the Floor under the guise of increasing transparency in the listing of endangered species. However, their true aim is to create redundancy and force agencies to waste already-limited funds working through burdensome procedures instead of enforcing important environmental protections.
The first bill, H.R. 4315, would require the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce to make publicly available online scientific and commercial data related to the listing of a species as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  No additional funding would be made available to complete this time-consuming, costly task.
The second bill, H.R. 4316, would amend the ESA to require the Secretary of the Interior to both submit and make publicly available and searchable online an annual report detailing federal expenditures for lawsuits brought under the ESA making claims against the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service, or the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The third bill, H.R. 4317, would amend the ESA to require the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce to provide to affected states all data that is used as the basis for the determination to list a species as endangered or threatened.  They would further be forced to accept data submitted by a state, tribal, or county governments as “best scientific and commercial data available” in these determinations – regardless of its accuracy, basis in actual science, or confliction with other submitted data.  No additional funding would be made available to complete these tasks.

The fourth bill, H.R. 4318, would amend the ESA to replace the current standard for awarding court costs, including limiting attorney fees, in citizen suits to a prevailing party – making it nearly impossible for most ordinary citizens to afford the costs of pursuing endangered species claims.
It passed 233 to 190, on a mostly party line vote. 
 
14 Democrats, however, voted for it:
John Barrow (GA-12)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Bill Enyart (IL-12)
John Garamendi (CA-03)
Gene Green (TX-29)
Steven Horsford (NV-04)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Gary Peters (MI-14)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Kurt Schrader (OR-05)
Filemon Vela (TX-34)

And 8 Republicans voted against it:

Vern Buchanan (FL-16)
Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Michael Grimm (NY-11)
Richard Hanna (NY-22)
Leonard Lance (NJ-07)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02)
Chris Smith (NJ-04)

The House voted on two Democratic amendments.

The first was an amendment from Rush Holt (NJ-12) to strike the provision that automatically defines all data submitted by State, County or Tribal governments as the "best available science," regardless of its merit.

It failed 204 to 215.

Only two Democrats voted against it: Jim Matheson (UT-04) and Collin Peterson (MN-07).

10 Republicans voted for it:

Vern Buchanan (FL-16)
Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Michael Grimm (NY-11)
Ralph Hall (TX-04)
Richard Hanna (NY-22)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02)
Erik Paulsen (MN-03)
Chris Smith (NJ-04)
Ed Whitfield (KY-01)

The other amendment was from Pete DeFazio (OR-04), and it was designed to exclude scientific information published solely in internal Interior Department publications from the definition of "best available science."

It failed 188 to 227.

3 Democrats joined the full Republican caucus in voting it down: Jim Matheson (UT-04), Collin Peterson (MN-07), and Tim Walz (MN-01).

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Which 37 House Democrats Voted with the GOP to Poison Your Water?

Today, the House brought up several bills in suspension in order to finish off with some issues before the August recess.

I would like to highlight one of those bills: H. R. 935.

H. R. 935 would eliminate Clean Water Act protections for waterways that are being sprayed with pesticides. Let me let the NRDC explain:
Since 2011, anyone who plans to apply a pesticide into a body of water must first comply with a permit. It’s a simple permit that gives the public information about what pesticides are going into their local waterways. It is very commonsense. For example, if a lake is already heavily contaminated with a particular pesticide, this permit says that an applicator cannot put MORE of that particular pesticide into the lake.
This permit applies to sprayers who are applying directly into waters – so to treat for algae, weeds, invasive species, and mosquitos. It doesn’t affect farmers’ ability to use pesticides on land. (In fact, run off of irrigation water into waterways from farmland that contains pesticides has always been exempt from the Clean Water Act.)
EPA’s pesticide office has even said that they have received ZERO complaints about the permit or enforcement of the permit. Nothing from the states. Nothing from the applicators. Nothing.
Basically, it's a bill designed to make the life of polluters easier at the expense of your health and the environment. 
 
Since it was brought up under suspension (which requires a 2/3 majority for passage), the bill failed. But it has the votes to pass. 216 Republicans and 37 Democrats voted for it. 148 Democrats voted against it.

Which 37 Democrats want to pollute your water to appease big polluters?

Ron Barber (AZ-02)
John Barrow (GA-12)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
G. K. Butterfield (NC-01)
Lois Capps (CA-24)
John Carney (DE-AL)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
Joe Courtney (CT-02)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Suzan DelBene (WA-01)
Bill Enyart (IL-12)
Sam Farr (CA-20)
Chaka Fattah (PA-02)
John Garamendi (CA-03)
Joe Garcia (FL-26)
Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18)
Annie Kuster (NH-02)
David Loebsack (IA-02)
Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01)
Sean Maloney (NY-18)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Mike Michaud (ME-020
Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
Bill Owens (NY-21)
Ed Perlmutter (CO-07)
Gary Peters (MI-14)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Kurt Schrader (OR-05)
David Scott (GA-13)
Terri Sewell (AL-07)
Kysrten Sinema (AZ-09)
Filemon Vela (TX-34)
Tim Walz (MN-01)
Pete Welch (VT-AL)

Friday, July 25, 2014

GOP Votes to Block Immigrant Families from Getting the Child Tax Credit. Which 25 Dems Joined Them?

Continuing its piecemeal approach to passing tax extenders, the House voted today to extend the Child Tax Credit--and to make it more regressive.

The GOP bill increases the Child Tax Credit for higher-income taxpayers and reduces it for lower-income taxpayers. It also includes a provision designed to prevent immigrant families from getting access to the credit:
Currently, the Child Tax Credit offers a $1,000 credit for each child under age 17 - which begins to phase out for unmarried individuals at $75,000 and married couples at $110,000. This bill would modify the credit, allowing married taxpayers with higher incomes to claim its benefit, by increasing the income amount at which it phases out from $110,000 to $150,000 for married couples (but leaving the $75,000 threshold for unmarried filers unchanged) and indexing the $1,000 credit and income thresholds to inflation.

While its changes are permanent, the bill fails to extend the refundable portion of the current Child Tax Credit, passed as part of the Recovery Act and extended only through 2017 in the “fiscal cliff deal,” which is directed specifically toward lower income taxpayers. The net effect is to reduce the Child Tax Credit for low income taxpayers while increasing it for higher income taxpayers.
Additionally, after the bill was reported out of committee on a partisan vote, Republicans added a misguided provision that would require the Social Security Number of a filer be disclosed in order to claim the refundable portion of the credit – making it impossible for immigrant parents who file federal taxes using Taxpayer Identification Numbers to benefit from the credit even in cases where their children have a Social Security Number.
The Democratic leadership urged its members to vote no both because of these changes and because of their rejection of the piecemeal approach to tax extenders. 
 
The White House has also threatened to veto it:
"H.R. 4935 would immediately eliminate the Child Tax Credit for millions of American children whose parents immigrated to this country, including U.S. citizen children and 'Dreamers,' and would push many of these children into or deeper into poverty."
However, that didn't stop some Democrats from voting for it. 
 
It passed 237 to 173. 212 Republicans and 25 Democrats voted for it. 168 Democrats and 5 Republicans voted against it.

Here are the 25 Democrats:

Ron Barber (AZ-02)
John Barrow (GA-12)
Ami Bera (CA-07)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Bruce Braley (IA-01)
Julia Brownley (CA-26)
Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
Bill Enyart (IL-12)
Pete Gallego (TX-23)
John Garamendi (CA-03)
Joe Garcia (FL-26)
Annie Kuster (NH-02)
David Loebsack (IA-02)
Dan Maffei (NY-24)
Sean Maloney (NY-18)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
Gary Peters (MI-14)
Scott Peters (CA-52)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
Bradley Schneider (IL-10)
Kysrten Sinema (AZ-09)

The five Republicans who voted against it were Jeff Denham (CA-10), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), Walter Jones (NC-03), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (IL-27), and David Valadao (CA-21). I cannot speak to Jones's reasoning, but the other four are in districts with large Latino populations.