This is a 100% volunteer effort brought to you by a handful of progressive Democrats and Independents who share a vision of a more informed electorate. We want to offer a big thank you to the Demcast and Pennsylvania Statewide Indivisible organizations who host our report and help us share it out to the residents of our Commonwealth!
Tracking Congress in the Age of Trump
|Member of Congress||This week’s score||Change from last report|
|Senator Bob Casey (D)||29.3%||-0.2%|
|Senator Pat Toomey (R)||88.1%||+0.1%|
|PA-01 Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R)||64.0%||-0.4%|
|PA-02 Rep. Brendan Boyle (D)||13.1%||+0.5%|
|PA-03 Rep. Dwight Evans (D)||11.6%||0.0%|
|PA-04 Rep. Madeleine Dean (D)||3.7%||-0.1%|
|PA-05 Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D)||6.0%||0.0%|
|PA-06 Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D)||4.9%||-0.1%|
|PA-07 Rep. Susan Wild (D)||8.3%||-0.1%|
|PA-08 Rep. Matt Cartwright (D)||19.3%||-0.1%|
|PA-09 Rep. Dan Meuser (R)||97.4%||-1.3%|
|PA-10 Rep. Scott Perry (R)||90.2%||0.0%|
|PA-11 Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R)||95.3%||-0.6%|
|PA-12 Rep. Fred Keller (R)||94.1%||-1.9%|
|PA-13 Rep. John Joyce (R)||97.5%||-1.2%|
|PA-14 Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R)||94.9%||-1.3%|
|PA-15 Rep. Glenn W. Thompson (R)||97.7%||-0.6%|
|PA-16 Rep. Mike Kelly (R)||96.6%||0.0%|
|PA-17 Rep. Conor Lamb (D)||22.6%||-0.3%|
|PA-18 Rep. Mike Doyle (D)||14.9%||+0.4%|
Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website assesses the voting records of our MoCs to provide this index, by comparing any bills where President Trump has stated a position, and comparing the vote of the legislator to that opinion. The votes scored this week are a Senate confirmation vote and the House vote on the National Defense Authorization package.
Want to see exactly what votes went into giving your MoC the numbers above? Click on the name of any legislator and you will be brought to their 538 webpage, where all of the positions that went into the index are listed in an easy-to-read format.
Words From Our Nation’s Sages
“Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”
— the late civil right leader and Representative John Lewis, speaking on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 1, 2020
National Defense Authorization Votes
Much of the action in both the House and the Senate relate to the “minibus” spending packages needed to fund the government for the 2021 fiscal year. The votes detailed below were taken in both houses in relation to our Defense spending package.
The House passes the NDAA for 2021
While the Defense spending authorization bill contains text to rename confederate military bases (something many media outlets have centered their coverage upon) this bill for nearly three quarters of a trillion dollars contains MANY other provisions. From GovTrack:
The bill authorizes appropriations to DOD for Procurement, including aircraft, weapons and tracked combat vehicles, shipbuilding and conversion, and missiles; Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation; Operation and Maintenance; Working Capital Funds; Chemical Agents and Munitions Destruction; Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities; the Defense Inspector General; the National Defense Sealift Fund; the Defense Health Program; the Armed Forces Retirement Home; the Space Force; Overseas Contingency Operations; and Military Construction.
The bill also authorizes the FY2021 personnel strengths for active duty and reserve forces and sets forth policies regarding military personnel; acquisition policy and management; international programs; National Guard and Reserve Force facilities; compensation and other personnel benefits; health care; matters relating to COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019); DOD organization and management; civilian personnel matters; matters relating to foreign nations; and strategic programs, cyber, and intelligence matters. The bill authorizes appropriations for base realignment and closure activities, and maritime matters.
The bill authorizes appropriations and sets forth policies for Department of Energy national security programs, including the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. The bill also sets forth policies regarding certain federal activities related to artificial intelligence, including implementation by the President of a National Artificial Intelligence Initiative to support research and development, education, and training programs.
Vote date: Tuesday, July 21, 2020 Vote Tally: 295-125
Party Breakdown: The majority of both parties voted for this bill. For Democrats, there were 43 NO votes (18.7% of those present). The Republicans were more closely split, with 81 NO votes (42.6% of those present). Libertarian Justin Amash voted NO as well. If the 295 lawmakers who voted YES hold to their initial position, this is a veto-proof majority.
House Amendments of Note
Often the roll call votes relating to amendments are the most interesting part of Congressional proceedings on these big appropriations bills. Below you find some of the hundreds of amendments offered and how our Pennsylvania lawmakers voted.
To save time, about 100 amendments were compiled “en bloc” into House Report 116-457 so that only one vote needed to be taken upon the lot of them. In light of the sheer quantity of those amendments, only items introduced by Pennsylvania lawmakers are highlighted below:
- “Creates a cyber attack exception under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) to protect U.S. nationals against foreign state-sponsored cyber attacks.” (amdt 2, sponsored by PA-01’s Brian Fitzpatrick, PA-10’s Scott Perry and PA-14’s Guy Reschenthaler along with about two dozen other MoCs of both parties)
- “Establishes a National Cyber Director within the Executive Office of the President” (amdt 15, sponsored by PA-08’s Matt Cartwright among a dozen other lawmakers)
- “Provides protections from forced arbitration to service members in disputes covered under the Service Members Civil Relief Act” (amdt 23, sponsored by PA-14’s Guy Reschenthaler among a handful of other MoCs)
- “Expresses the Sense of Congress that the United States should reaffirm support for an enduring strategic partnership between the United States and Ukraine and support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” (amdt 50, sponsored by PA-01’s Brian Fitzpatrick and PA-02’s Brendan Boyle)
- “Prohibits federal employees from downloading or using TikTok on any technology device issued by the United States government.” (amdt 58, from PA-10’s Scott Perry among a dozen other MoCs)
- Requires a report on “how the Secretary of Defense determined whether to authorize fulltime National Guard duty for states’ COVID-19 response” (amdt 60, from PA-01’s Brian Fitzpatrick and a handful of other MoCs)
- “Directs the Administrator of USAID to incorporate early childhood development into current programming and in partner countries” (amdt 69, from PA-01’s Brian Fitzpatrick and one other MoC)
- Inserts a section of the HEROES Act which “Re-establishes the government-wide lead for pandemic response, establishes an lnteragency Review Council charged with implementing U.S. commitments under the Global Health Security Agenda, and requires a global health security strategy” (amdt 90, from PA-01’s Brian Fitzpatrick and a handful of other MoCs)
- “Clarifies that qualifying subcontractors and subgrantees are afforded whistleblower protections against reprisal when disclosing information about gross mismanagement or waste of federal funds” (amdt 92, from PA-01’s Brian Fitzpatrick and one other MoC)
- Requires the DOD to give “the transitional health benefits provided to a separating active-duty reservist” to NAtional Guard members (amdt 112, from PA-01’s Brian Fitzpatrick and a handful of other MoCs)
- Requires “manufacturers to disclose all PFAS discharges” over a certain amount (amdt 121, from PA-01’s Brian Fitzpatrick and a handful of other MoCs)
- “Allows participants in a contracting program to extend their participation for an additional year” (amdt 133, from PA-03’s Dwight Evans and one other MoC)
- “Improves Department of Defense and landlord response to identification and remediation of severe environmental health hazards in military housing.” (amdt 135, from PA-01’s Brian Fitzpatrick and one other MoC)
- “Requires a contracting officer to consider the relevant past performance experience of first-tier small business subcontractors and small business joint venture members.” (amdt 165, from PA-03’s Dwight Evans and one other MoC)
This LONG cluster of amendments was voted on as House Amendment 841, and it passed 336-71. The Pennsylvania delegation voted 16-2, with PA-10’s Scott Perry and PA-12’s Fred Keller as the only NO votes.
There were also several stand-alone amendments that received roll call votes. Four of those amendments were of particular note:
- Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) introduced Amendment 833, to “require certifications be made to Congress when the President deploys active duty military within the United States during civil unrest by amending the Insurrection Act.” This measure passed 215-190. The Pennsylvania vote was 8-10, with PA-17’s Conor Lamb joining with all the Republicans to vote NO.
- Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT) introduced Amendment 834, to “prohibit any funding for new nuclear testing.” This passed in a 227-179 vote. Our PA MoCs went 10-8 in support of this amendment, with PA-01’s Brian Fitzpatrick joining all the Democrats in voting YES.
- Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) introduced Amendment 835, to establish an “accelerated withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.” This measure failed 129-284. Democrats were split on the issue (55%-45%) but only 2 Republicans and Libertarian Justin Amash supported the amendment. Here in Pennsylvania the vote was 5-13, with the YES votes coming from PA-02’s Brendan Boyle, PA-03’s Dwight Evans, PA-04’s Madeleine Dean, PA-05’s Mary Gay Scanlon, and PA-18’s Mike Doyle.
- Our own Rep. Madeleine Dean of PA-04 introduced Amendment 840, to “provide up to $10,000 in immediate assistance to pay down the balance of private student loans.” This measure passed, 217-198. Our PA lawmakers voted 10-8 in support of this amendment, with PA-01’s Brian Fitzpatrick joining the Democrats in voting YES.
The Senate passes the NDAA for 2021
The Senate voted on their own version of the 2021 NDAA. It covers the same departments outlined above in the House version. Much as in the House, our Senators had to make their way through a variety of amendments. But unlike the House, Senate amendments must pass with a 60% supermajority.
There were several amendments that reflect upon major policy debates of the day. First, Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and James Inhofe (D-OK) offered competing visions on how to handle transfers of military surplus items to local law enforcement departments. Sen. Schatz’s amendment was the more progressive option, but it failed to get a supermajority – the vote was 51-49, with Casey voting YES and Toomey voting NO. Sen. Inhofe’s amendment was more limited in scope, and it passed, 90-10 (Casey and Toomey both voted YES).
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) offered an amendment to “reduce the bloated Pentagon budget by 10 percent and invest that money in jobs, education, health care, and housing in communities in the United States in which the poverty rate is not less than 25 percent.” This failed in a 23-77 vote. Senate Casey voted YES and Senator Toomey voted NO.
Vote date: Thursday, July 23, 2020 Vote Tally: 86-14
Party Breakdown: Four Republicans voted NO on this bill – Mike Braun of Indiana, Rand Paul of kentucky, John Kennedy of Louisiana and Mike Lee of Utah. The Independents were split, with Angus King of Maine voting YES and Bernie Sanders of Vermont voting NO. And nine Democrats voted NO – Kamala Harris of California, Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
Bob Casey voted YES and Pat Toomey voted YES.
Additional Reading on the 2021 NDAA:
- “House, Senate near NDAA endgame,” from Politico
- “Senate passes 2021 NDAA with veto-proof majority,” from Washington Technology
- “House passes NDAA, White House threatens veto,” from Space News
- “House passes NDAA with TikTok ban,” from Federal Computer Week
- “House passes $740 billion funding bill that would remove Confederate names from military bases,” from CNN Politics
- “Annual leave carryover, new anti-discrimination safeguards for feds in House NDAA,” from Federal News Netowrk
The two versions of the 2021 NDAA need to be reconciled before going to President Trump’s desk. The president has threatened a veto, but both chambers passed their bills with veto-proof majorities.
Another “2021 minibus” funding package passes the House
This is one of the dozen “minibus” (as opposed to omnibus) bills that must be passed each year to fund various portions of the government. According to the summary provided on GovTrack, this bill covers the State Department for Administration of Foreign Affairs, International Organizations, and International Commissions; the U.S. Agency for Global Media, the Asia Foundation, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Center for Middle Eastern-Western Dialogue Trust Fund, the Eisenhower Exchange Fellowship Program, the Israeli Arab Scholarship Program, the East-West Center, and the National Endowment for Democracy; the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Congressional-Executive Commission on the People’s Republic of China, and the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission; the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peace Corps, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Inter-American Foundation, and the U.S. African Development Foundation; and the Department of the Treasury, the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
Vote date: Friday, July 24, 2020 Vote Tally: 224-189
Party Breakdown: All Republicans voted NO on this funding bill. They were joined by Libertarian Justin Amash and seven Democrats who represent both ends of the political spectrum on the felt side of the aisle – Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar and Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Ben McAdams of Utah.
Please note that while many articles covered the Defense Authorization package, there were few pieces about the entire appropriation bill. The few I could find dealt with narrow provisions in the bill from interest group and international publications.
- “House approves to double budget of Special Envoy to combat antisemitism,” from The Jerusalem Post
- “House Passes USDA Funding Bill, but White House Opposes it,” from Progressive Farmer
- “Amendment in Support of Demining in Artsakh Passes the House,” from The Massis Post (the English language presence of an Armenian-language publication)
House Amendments of Note:
Much as it was with the Defense Authorization vote, the amendments on the State Department appropriations package were the most interesting part of the legislative process. Here are some of the amendments offered, as well as how our Pennsylvania lawmakers split on those issues:
One of the procedures that the House usus to conserve time is that they will bundle amendments “en bloc” and vote for them as a chunk. They did that with 29 amendments offered by Democrats. Some of the provisions encompassed in House amendment 851 include:
- Prohibiting funds from being used to withdraw from the U.S.-South Korea Mutual Defense Treaty (amdt 3)
- Discouraging “the State Department from pushing aside the modern human rights that the United States helped establish in favor of narrower protections for women, including reproductive rights; for members of the LGBTQI community” (amdt 4)
- Prohibiting funds from being used “to enter into any new contract, grant, or cooperative agreement with any Trump related business” (amdt 5)
- Prohibiting funds from being used “to facilitate the transfer or sale of air-to-ground munitions to Saudi Arabia and the UAE” (amdt 18)
- Prohibiting funds from being used to withdraw from NATO and the WHO (amdts 23 & 24)
- Prohibiting funds from being used “to offer any tracts available for oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge” (amdt 83)
Text quoted above is from the listing of amendments in House Report 116-459. This cluster of amendments passed 223-194. The Pennsylvania delegation was split 9-9, but not along party lines. PA-17’s Conor Lamb voted with most of the Republicans, while PA-01’s Brian Fitzpatrick voted with all the other Democrats.
The second “en bloc” cluster of amendments offered in House Amendment 852 were proposed by Republicans. The contents of those amendments include:
- Prohibiting “federal contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), and the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which advise governments around the world on climate change” (amdt 15)
- “States that none of the funds made available by this Act may be used for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency” amdt 25, from PA-10’s Rep. Scott Perry)
- Prohibiting funds from being used in opposition to two of President Trump’s executive orders related to the environment (amdts 76, 77 & 88)
- Prohibiting the EPA from using funds “in response to the Watershed Implementation Plan” (amdt 95, from PA-10’s Scott Perry and PA-13’s John Joyce)
- “Strikes language that impedes the President’s border wall construction” (amdt 120)
The text quoted above is also from the listing of amendments in House Report 116-459. This measure failed 187-230. Our PA lawmakers voted 8-10 for this bloc, with Rep. Fitzpatrick joining the nine Democrats in voting NO.
As with most bills, the final vote was preceded by a motion to recommit with instructions. In this case, the Republicans wanted the bill to be recommitted (sent back to committee) “to transfer $102,500,500 from the Economic Support Fund to the Development Assistance Fund” per the Congressional website. This measure failed, 183-228. The vote from our Pennsylvania delegation was 10-8, with PA-17’s rep. Conor Lamb joining the Republicans in voting YES.
It is unclear how many of these amendments, or even the provisions agreed to in the rest of the appropriations package, will make it into the final bill once it gets to the Senate. This is a “must-pass” bill, but it is likely that a very different version will pass under Mitch McConnell, and then both houses will have to go to conference to resolve their differences.
Funds and Protections delivered for our Nation’s Parks and Wilderness Areas
This bill is a collection of initiatives that deal with issues facing our National parks and wilderness programs. First it will permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a program that protects federal public lands and waters and encourages voluntary conservation of private lands. This excellent program is funded not by taxpayer dollars, but by using fees paid by fossil fuel extraction corporations who pay the federal government to lease public lands. Specifically, it permanently sets aside $900 million in oil and gas revenues to fund the LWCF.
There has also been a large backlog of renovation and maintenance tasks in our national parks. This bill appropriates $6.5 billion to address those issues.
From a political perspective, many believe this bill was put on the floor of the Senate for a vote back in June because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wanted to provide some campaign assistance to a pair of his most vulnerable GOP senators – Cory Gardener of Colorado and Steve Daines of Montana – as this is legislation that is quite popular in western states. That aim was telegraphed best by a tweet from President Trump, that applauded the pair for their efforts in putting this bill together. While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scheduled the bill for a vote because it represents topics that are in line with Democratic goals, there is no doubt the passage of this bill will bolster the political profile of the House Republicans who supported it, including PA-01’s Brian Fitzpatrick.
Vote date: Wednesday, July 22, 2020 Vote Tally: 310-107
Party Breakdown: Republicans were split 81-104 on this vote, with 56% of the party voting NO. They were joined in their NO votes by Libertarian Justin Amash and two Democrats, Peter Visclosky of Indiana and Cedric Richmond of Louisiana. All but those two Democrats voted YES.
- “The Great American Outdoors Act passes with bipartisan support,” from The Hill
- “Great American Outdoors Act Hailed as Landmark Conservation Bill,” from Democracy Now!
- “House approves Great American Outdoors Act, which is expected to create thousands of jobs,” from The Denver Channel
- “Great American Outdoors Act Would Improve National Parks—and U.S. Economy,” from Pew Trusts
The House Approves Replacement of Statues of Racists in Capitol Buildings
House Vote on H.R. 7573: To direct the Joint Committee on the Library to replace the bust of Roger Brooke Taney in the Old Supreme Court Chamber of the United States Capitol with a bust of Thurgood Marshall
As the title of this bill indicates, it would replace the bust of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the segregationist who wrote the 1857 Dred Scott ruling, with the bust of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Further, it tasks the Library of Congress to remove the statues of Charles Brantley Aycock, John Caldwell Calhoun, James Paul Clarke, and John Cabell Breckinridge. Lastly, the bill amends the federal code related to the National Statuary Hall, so that anyone who voluntarily served in the Confederate Army would be excluded from being present in the hall.
Vote date: Wednesday, July 22, 2020 Vote Tally: 305-113
Party Breakdown: All Democrats voted YES, and they were joined by 72 Republicans (39%) and Libertarian Justin Amash. Of the remaining Republicans, 113 voted NO and 13 did not vote.
Bureaucratic Confirmation – Office of Management and Budget
Senate Confirmation Vote on Russell Vought to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Prior to his time serving the Trump Administration, Russell Vought served as the Vice President of Heritage Action, a conservative advocacy group that works in concert with the Heritage Foundation. He also worked as the policy director for the House Republicans. He moved into the number two position at the Office of Management and Budget in March 2018, and took effective leadership of the OMB in early 2019, when Mick Mulvaney was moved into the White House as President Trump’s Chief of Staff.
The party line vote in the Senate on the confirmation of Vought can be at least partly attributed to his actions to stonewall congressional oversight. Vought also defied a subpoena during the impeachment process, when he was called to testify on what he knew related to the freeze on aid payments to Ukraine.
Vote date: Monday, July 20, 2020 Vote Tally: 51-45
Party Breakdown: This was a pure party line vote, with all Democrats and Independents voting NO and all Republicans voting YES.
- “Senate confirms Russ Vought to be White House budget chief,” from Politico
- “Russell Vought Confirmed to Lead OMB,” from Meritalk
- “Senate Confirms Russell Vought as Head of White House Budget Office,” from The Wall Street Journal
Bob Casey voted NO and Pat Toomey voted YES.
Unanimously passed legislation
The following bills were passed through unanimous consent or voice vote (which presumes unanimity, as any member can object to the voice vote and ask for a roll call). This list excludes bills related to post offices, stamps, memorials, awareness weeks and other ceremonial activities.
- H.Res.1054 – Expressing the profound sorrow of the House of Representatives on the death of the Honorable John Lewis
- S.3607 – Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act
- S.3637 – A bill to amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to extend lease protections for servicemembers under stop movement orders in response to a local, national, or global emergency
- S.4148 – A bill to extend the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Program of the Department of Homeland Security
- H.Res.1058 – Electing a Member to certain standing committees of the House of Representatives (this assigned Rep. Chris Jacobs, the Republican who won the special election in Ny-27, to the House Committees on Agriculture and the Budget.)
- S.3989 – United States Semiquincentennial Commission Amendments Act (this measure, introduced by our own Se. Toomey, amends the existing commissions tasked to plan the nation’s celebrations on our 250th anniversary, to introduce new funding and intellectual property measures)
- S.906 – Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act
- S.4065 – Reinforcing American-Made Products Act
- S.3841 – A bill to protect 2020 recovery rebates for individuals from assignment or garnishment
- H.Con.Res.105 – Permitting the remains of the Honorable John Lewis, late a Representative from the State of Georgia, to lie in state in the rotunda of the Capitol
A final legislative note on the Muslim Ban reversal
MocTrack apologizes for being unable to cover this bill in today’s report. Several lawmakers took to Twitter to cheer about the passing of a “Muslim Civil rights bill”. And an article from Time notes that “the House on Wednesday voted to repeal the Trump administration’s travel ban and further restrict the president’s power to limit entry to the U.S., a symbolic victory for Muslim American and civil rights groups.” That same article notes that the bill passed 233-183.
The only bill to pass last week with that tally was tied to H.R. 2486: FUTURE Act (a bill about funding historically black colleges and universities) and has a somewhat obscure note “it was not the final House vote on the bill…. on Concurring in the Senate Amdt with Amdt Specified in Section 4(a) of H. Res. 891 in the House.” And that resolution is a deep tangle of nested Rules Committee reports, references and clauses.
We are uncomfortable providing any sort of recaps on bills that we here at MoCTrack cannot untangle and read for ourselves… so while this issue is important and we are thrilled when civil rights are extended to any group that needs additional protections, we cannot provide a rundown of the legislative action in this case.
What’s going on with the next Phase of Coronavirus rescue legislation
Many key provisions of the past three phases of pandemic rescue bills are going to expire at the end of the month. The $600 increases to unemployment payments, as well as protections against foreclosures and evictions will end, leaving millions of Americans in danger of losing everything right in the midst of this national health emergency.
The House passed the HEROES Act (H.R. 6800) to address these concerns and help out state and local governments over two months ago, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has shown no interest in picking up on that package.
Politico has a daily newsletter that contains legislative updates (you can subscribe here) called Huddle. This is how Friday’s Huddle described the current situation on coronavirus relief:
The Senate left town for the weekend without the GOP releasing their proposal for a coronavirus recovery package — and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said its introduction will slip to next week. The reason? Well, after a week of internal bickering, the White House and GOP have struggled to coalesce around a broad relief package. And in a sign of how well things are going, lawmakers apparently spent more time talking about alligator soup than the coronavirus negotiations during yesterday’s GOP lunch.
Keep in mind, this is just the GOP’s opening offering — we haven’t even gotten to the tougher negotiations with Democrats yet. So if Republicans can’t even agree on their own proposal, how are they supposed to quickly cut a deal with Democrats? The flailing almost guarantees that the enhanced unemployment benefits will expire next week. Or, as Marianne and Bres write, “Senate Republicans and the White House wasted a week at the worst possible time.”
From Bres and Marianne: “The main area of dispute was over extension of federal unemployment assistance for workers that have lost their jobs as the United States economy shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic. … Beyond the snafu over unemployment payments, there were other differences among Senate Republicans and the White House that took days to iron out. There will be no payroll tax cut sought by Trump in the new plan.”
Another potential hang-up, per WaPo: “Complicating matters, the White House renewed its push for language related to the location of the Federal Bureau of Investigation building in downtown Washington — which is cater-cornered from Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave NW — according to two people with knowledge of the talks who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss them. Trump has expressed interest in the location of the FBI’s headquarters for some time.”
If you find this state of affairs – looming evictions and foreclosures at a moment when Americans should be staying in their homes as much as possible – YOU ARE NOT ALONE. See this week’s Call to Action at the end of the report for more about what you can do.
MoC Twitter Action
Courtesy of contributor Susan Vogel
Twitter Action – Coronavirus relief
🔵 Senator Bob Casey, @SenBobCasey, 07/21/20:
“This week in the Senate:
Republicans will use the pandemic as an excuse to dole out favors to corporate interests while slashing the $600 extra benefit for unemployed workers.
And @SenateDems will fight like hell for #COVID19 relief that goes to working families.
🔴 PA-01’s Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, @RepBrianFitz, 07/24/20:
“My bipartisan bill would extend the timeframe to use Coronavirus Relief Funds. This will allow our counties, which have all been impacted, more time to utilize funds allocated through the CARES Act and better serve our constituents in to next year.” tweeted with a link to a Ripon Advance piece titled “Fitzpatrick proposes bill to extend timeframe for federal reimbursements to local governments”
🔵 PA-02’s Rep. Brendan Boyle, @CongBoyle, 07/25/20:
“The weekly $600 unemployment benefit we passed in the CARES Act is the reason so many families have been able to keep their homes and feed their children during the pandemic. The Senate must not let them expire on July 31. #PassTheHeroesAct” tweeted with a link to a WHYY article titled “As deadline looms to renew $600 jobless benefits, Pa. ‘workers are terrified’”
🔵 PA-03’s Rep. Dwight Evans, @DwightEvansPA, 07/21/20:
“”Hazard pay grants now available for front-line workers” >> https://bit.ly/30k6GOF
I voted for the CARES Act to secure the funding our frontline workers need and deserve. Thank you,
@GovernorTomWolf, for putting this money to very good use here in Pennsylvania.”
🔵 PA-04’s Rep. Madeleine Dean, @RepDean, 07/21/20:
“.@SenWarren is exactly right. As we control the virus, bring resources to our daycares & schools, and deliver direct cash to workers & families; these steps will fix the economy. @senatemajldr needs to stop prolonging this crisis — we need strong relief now.” content added by the MoC when retweeting material from Senator Elizabeth Warren that read “The Senate needs to act now to contain this virus and provide the funding so our economy, schools, and families can begin to recover.”
🔵 PA-06’s Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, @RepHoulahan, 07/20/20:
“The PPP has helped save thousands of jobs in our community and kept afloat many of our smallest of small businesses. Through our town halls and continuous outreach, my office has become a crucial resource for small businesses during these uncertain times.” tweeted with a link to a Daily Local article titled “Houlahan: Paycheck Protection Program has saved 190,000 jobs”
🔵 PA-07’s Rep. Susan Wild, @RepSusanWild, 07/23/20:
“Families can’t pay rent. Schools can’t afford masks. Testing supplies are running out.
The situation is dire – why are they acting like every hour delayed doesn’t cost American lives?”
Tweeted with a Politico article titled “Republican infighting leads to embarrassing setback on aid”
🔴 PA-10’s Rep. Scott Perry, @RepScottPerry, 07/21/20:
“Republicans are working to move our Nation forward. We’ll continue to support our healthcare system, while helping our businesses reopen and our students return to school.” content added by the MoC when retweeting materials from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy
🔴 PA-12’s Rep. Fred Keller, @RepFredKeller, 07/22/20:
“What needs to be in the next COVID package are things that incentivize people to work and help our businesses retain their workforce because the best kind of stimulus is a job! #PA12” tweeted with a WTNH article titled “Second stimulus check: Latest on individual payments, $600-a-week unemployment bonus”
🔴 PA-15’s Rep. Glenn W. Thompson, @CongressmanGT, 07/23/20:
“On Floor to support HR 7175, the Paycheck Protection for Producers Act I cosponsored with Reps @RepJohnJoyce, Kind, & Brindisi. The bill is simple & expands access to #PPP for #farmers & #ranchers – folks who are no stranger to economic hardship. #agriculture #farmersfeed”
🔵 PA-17’s Rep. Conor Lamb, @RepConorLamb, 07/25/20:
“Congress must provide significant funding to help schools meet the challenges posed by #COVID19. I joined a bipartisan group of Members calling for $13 billion in the next emergency legislative package for schools to support students w/ disabilities. #PA17 https://bit.ly/3jAuMNS”
🔵 PA-18’s Rep. Mike Doyle, @USRepMikeDoyle, 07/23/20:
• US #COVID19 cases hit 4 million
• US #COVID19 cases double in the last 6 weeks
• Daily US #COVID19 deaths exceed 1,100 for the first time since May
• Total US #COVID19 deaths exceed 140,000
@senatemajldr pass the #HeroesActNow!
Twitter Action – MoCs on Legislation
🔵 Senator Bob Casey, @SenBobCasey, 07/23/20:
“Yesterday I led 36 of my colleagues in requesting that Ldr McConnell support the funding & flexibility for state and local governments included in the House-passed HEROES Act. Existing funding is not enough for jurisdictions grappling with these extraordinary #COVID shortfalls.”
🔴 PA-01’s Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, @RepBrianFitz, 07/21/20:
“Today, I voted in favor of the #FY21NDAA. This bipartisan legislation will strengthen our national security, support our troops, and help our veterans. I was proud to join my colleagues in showing strong support for the brave men and women who choose to serve our country.”
🔵 PA-02’s Rep. Brendan Boyle, @CongBoyle, 07/22/20:
“Deadline Approaching: You can weigh in and voice your opinion on the George Floyd #JusticeInPolicing Act by July 23. Become a citizen cosponsor and learn more at http://JusticeInPolicing.us.”
🔵 PA-03’s Rep. Dwight Evans, @RepDwightEvans, 07/22/20:
“It’s been more than THREE WEEKS since @HouseDemocrats passed the #GeorgeFloydLaw #JusticeInPolicing Act. Now it’s time for the Senate GOP to do their job and hold a vote.”
🔵 PA-04’s Rep. Madeleine Dean, @RepDean, 07/24/20:
“The Muslim Ban is just one example of the President’s xenophobic and hateful agenda. This week the House voted to overturn this discriminatory bill. We cannot and we will not restrict immigration based on faith. #NoBanAct”
🔵 PA-05’s Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, @RepMGS, 07/26/20:
“Today marks the 30th anniversary of the ADA. When it comes to ensuring equality, inclusivity, and accessibility for Americans with disabilities, there is still much work to be done — especially when it comes to voting rights. #ADA30
Learn more about the legislation I introduced this week, alongside @RepRaskin, to expand voting rights for Americans with disabilities.” tweeted with a link to a Medium piece about the bill
🔵 PA-06’s Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, @RepHoulahan, 07/21/20:
“We should be concerned. It’s why I offered an amendment that would require federal agents deployed by the Insurrection Act to be properly identified.” tweeted with alink to a Politico article titled “Esper concerned over federal agents dressed like military troops in U.S. cities”
🔵 PA-07’s Rep. Susan Wild, @RepSusanWild, 07/23/20:
“#TBT to when the House passed #HR3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act…7+ months ago.
It is vital, now more than ever, that we put the health of the American people first & ensure they NEVER have to choose between paying for their life-saving medications & caring for their families.”
🔵 PA-08’s Rep. Matt Cartwright, @RepCartwright, 07/23/20:
“2 months of stalling on the #HeroesAct.
1 week of trying to cobble together his own bill with nothing to show for it.
Enhanced unemployment benefits, #smallbiz loans, foreclosure protections ending in days.
And this is all Mr. McConnell has for today.
Take up the #HeroesAct.”
🔴 PA-10’s Rep. Scott Perry, @RepScottPerry, 07/21/20:
“House Dems politicized the #NDAA. Their proposals to limit the President’s Constitutional authorities as Commander-in-Chief are negligent and unacceptable. As a combat Veteran, and someone who fully understands the ramifications of this act – I voted no.” tweeted with a link to his official website statement
🔴 PA-11’s Rep. Lloyd Smucker, @RepSmucker, 07/21/20:
“H.R. 6395, the National Defense Authorization Act, ensures that the brave men and women of our armed forces have the resources they need to carry out their mission and keep our nation safe. I voted yes. My full statement below⬇️” tweeted with a link to his official website statement
🔴 PA-12’s Rep. Fred Keller, @RepFredKeller, 07/24/20:
“This week in Washington, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act with my amendment, held a hearing on safely re-opening schools, discussed my RURAL HELP Act, and continued stimulus negotiations.
Check out our weekly recap for more on the week:” tweeted with embedded video
🔴 PA-13’s Rep. John Joyce, @RepJohnJoyce, 07/22/20:
“The #CCP lied to the world about coroanvirus, endangering lives & livelihoods. By stopping travel from China this spring, President Trump acted to slow the spread of this virus. The #NoBanAct is reckless and would prevent presidents from protecting Americans.”
🔴 PA-14’s Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, @GReschenthaler, 07/21/20:
“Today I voted for the #NDAA which includes provisions to counter China and Russia while providing additional resources for our servicemembers and their families.
The NDAA also provides the necessary resources to continue rebuilding readiness & protect our troops during #COVID.”
🔴 PA-15’s Rep. Glenn W. Thompson, @CongressmanGT, 07/21/20:
XX”On the Floor to urge my colleagues to support the HEALTH Act a bipartisan effort I introduced to help increase access to local #telehealth The bill will codify #Medicare reimbursement for community health centers & rural health clinics for #telemedicine”
🔴 PA-16’s Rep. Mike Kelly, @MikeKellyPA, 07/16/20:
“When we support small businesses like local music venues, we’re supporting our communities. The #RESTART Act will build on the success of #PPP by helping companies survive and workers thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
🔵 PA-17’s Rep. Conor Lamb, @RepConorLamb, 07/21/20:
“Today the House passed a bipartisan Defense spending bill that included a 3% raise for our troops & $1 billion for pandemic preparedness.
It included several amendments I led including a provision I worked on with @unionveterans to ensure that servicemembers from the Coast Guard can utilize the Dept. of Defense SkillsBridge program as they transition to civilian life. #PA17”
🔵 PA-18’s Rep. Mike Doyle, @USRepMikeDoyle, 07/22/20:
“Today the House passed the Great American Outdoors Act with my support! I was proud to cosponsor this important bill , as it will provide permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. #GADA #FundLWCF
In the age of #COVID, when people are expected to avoid crowds, it is important now more than ever to restore and preserve our national parks for this and subsequent generations. Since
@realdonaldtrump and his phony @EPA and @Interior are doing everything to destroy environmental protections, we must take every opportunity to ensure our nation’s natural assets are protected for the benefit of all. #GAOA” tweeted with a link to a Washington Post article titled “America’s great outdoors is showing its age. Congress is proposing a facelift.”
Tweet of the Week
🔵 Senator Bob Casey, @SenBobCasey, 07/25/20:
“Emmett Till should have turned 79 today.
It’s long past time for Congress to pass the anti-lynching legislation that bears his name. #BlackLivesMatter shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”
🔴 Senator Pat Toomey, @SenToomey, 07/22/20:
“The Blue Jays in Pittsburgh would have meant more hours for some ballpark workers, increased tax revenue for the city, and a small yet meaningful boost for a number of local businesses struggling during the pandemic. I hope the Governor will change his mind before the Blue Jays find somewhere else to call home this summer.”
🔴 PA-01’s Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, @RepBrianFitz, 07/24/20:
“This is great news and a big win for the residents of Falls Township. I have long opposed this project, and I am proud of our community for coming together to express our collective concerns about the facility’s environmental impact.“ tweeted with a link to a Levittown Now article titled “Elcon Withdraws Controversial Waste Treatment Facility Proposal”
🔵 PA-02’s Rep. Brendan Boyle, @CongBoyle, 07/25/20:
“The Census builds America, so the Census should look like America. Every person counted in the Census equates to roughly an extra $2,000 to state and local governments. Fill out yours at http://my2020Census.gov.”
🔵 PA-03’s Rep. Dwight Evans, @DwightEvansPA, 07/14/20:
“Every individual who wishes to, should have unfettered access to the ballot box to exercise that great American tradition – democracy. I am pleased to join in this effort to fight for that right,” said Congressman Evans.” tweeted with a link to a Penn Live article titled “Democrats file lawsuit to ‘protect the franchise of absentee and mail-in voters’”
🔵 PA-04’s Rep. Madeleine Dean, @RepDean, 07/20/20:
”We must act on this student debt crisis that is only worsened by this pandemic.”
tweeted with embedded video
🔵 PA-05’s Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, @RepMGS, 07/25/20:
XX”We MUST continue to do our part to keep each other safe. Wash your hands. Practice social distancing. Wear a mask! #MaskUpPA” tweeted with a link to a Wall Street Journal article titled “Face Masks Really Do Matter. The Scientific Evidence Is Growing.”
🔵 PA-06’s Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, @RepHoulahan, 07/22/20:
“As a former educator, I couldn’t be prouder to help support this vital program.” content added by the MoC when retweeting materials from the National Head Start Association
🔵 PA-07’s Rep. Susan Wild, @RepSusanWild, 07/21/20:
“750,000+ parents depend on @NatlHeadStart programs to care for their children while they are at work – but this #COVID19 pandemic has threatened their ability to continue to serve families right when we need them most. We have to fund these programs in the next relief package”
🔵 PA-08’s Rep. Matt Cartwright, @RepCartwright, 07/23/20:
“Scranton’s Johnson College is putting their innovative 3-D printing technology to work to make PPE and donating it to our brave health care workers. It’s encouraging to see how everyone is stepping up to help in the fight against #COVID19.” tweeted with an article in the Tri-County Independent titled “Johnson College makes, donates PPE”
🔴 PA-09’s Rep. Dan Meuser, @RepMeuser, 07/20/20:
“Tomorrow at 5:45PM, I will host a telephone town hall to update the 9th District on important legislative issues facing our region and the nation.
(877) 229-8493 PIN:118349
LISTEN ONLINE” tweeted with a link to where the call was available streaming
🔴 PA-10’s Rep. Scott Perry, @RepScottPerry, 07/23/20:
“A study conducted by a University of Wisconsin health researcher on 3,000 students found that 65% reported anxiety symptoms and 68% reported mild to severe depression during the Spring 2020 school closure due to COVID-19.
The current science is squarely in the corner of schools reopening this fall. Our children can’t be locked out of the classroom and destined for home confinement based on politics and unfounded claims that reopening schools puts the health of our communities at increased risk.” tweeted with a link to the study
🔴 PA-11’s Rep. Lloyd Smucker, @RepSmucker, 07/19/20:
“Earlier this week, I held a telephone town hall with constituents across #PA11 to provide an update on what’s going on in Washington and to answer your questions.” tweeted with a YouTube link, where the contents of the call may be heard
🔴 PA-12’s Rep. Fred Keller, @RepFredKeller, 07/23/20:
“After talking with our small businesses and workers, it is clear that to return to widespread economic prosperity, we must continue to safely reopen our economy.” More coverage from last week’s visits with small businesses.” tweeted with a link to the Pennsylvania Business Report
🔴 PA-13’s Rep. John Joyce, @RepJohnJoyce, 07/24/20:
“Welcome back to Pennsylvania, @HUDgov Secretary Carson! Thanks for your work to support hardworking PA families.” tweeted with a link to a CBS article about Secretary Carson’s visit
🔴 PA-14’s Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, @GReschenthaler, 07/26/20:
“.@SecPompeo is right. It is time for us to “distrust and verify” China. We’ve been giving the CCP all the benefits of being a cooperative player on the world stage while they have manipulated the world economy, covered up #COVID19 and stolen our intellectual property.” tweeted with embedded Newsmax video
🔴 PA-15’s Rep. Glenn W. Thompson, @CongressmanGT, 07/24/20:
“You may have heard I’m a bit talkative! 📢 Speaking on the House floor gives me an opportunity to share the stories of my constituents, and I’m grateful each and every day that I get to be a voice for the people of Pennsylvania’s 15th Congressional District.” tweeted with an embedded GIF
🔴 PA-16’s Rep. Mike Kelly, @MikeKellyPA did not tweet this week.
🔵 PA-17’s Rep. Conor Lamb, @RepConorLamb, 07/23/20:
“Today @VetAffairsDems held a hearing on several important bills. We are committed to ensuring that veterans are receiving quality care & the benefits they have earned. #PA17”
🔵 PA-18’s Rep. Mike Doyle, @USRepMikeDoyle, 07/24/20:
“Sunday marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We’ve made a lot of progress in expanding opportunity & access for all, but there’s still much more to be done! We must continue to work to address the challenges facing people with disabilities. #ADA30”
Casey in the News
Courtesy of contributor Linda Houk
“Complying with the [judge’s] order by separating children from their families would merely be substituting one harm to the child for another… Moreover, forcing parents to choose between keeping their child detained or separating from them is unconscionable and inherently coercive.”
—from an article on WFMZ 69 News, titled “Casey calls on ICE to release families from Berks center Agency has until Friday to comply with judge’s order”
“A democracy doesn’t have secret police & a paramilitary force… What we saw in Portland is performative fascism meant to inflame tensions & rally the President’s base ahead of an election. This should not be happening in America and we cannot allow it to continue.”
—from an article in Penn Live, titled “Gov. Wolf says federal officers would be unwelcome in Pa. but Trump ‘doesn’t listen to me’”
“The idea that you’re going to take away those unemployment benefits makes no sense.”
— from an article on 3 CBS Philly, titled “Unemployed Philadelphians Are A ‘Nervous Wreck’ As Unemployment Money From Federal Stimulus Set To Expire”
“Hispanic and Black individuals are three times as likely to become infected with the virus and … twice as likely to die from the virus as whites.”
“We have a chance right now in the next three weeks to begin to address these injustices…. We hope to put ourselves on the road to actually correcting these injustices and thereby to advance the cause of justice for communities of color all across America.”
“We must do all of this and more to protect aging Americans of color… the actions we take in the short term are not a solution to issues that have plagued communities of color for decades.”
— from an article in WITF, titled “Senator Bob Casey pushes for more money to protect aging communities of color from coronavirus”
“The right to vote is one of the fundamental pillars of American democracy, but that right is under threat due to barriers that prevent or make it hard for seniors and people with disabilities to cast their ballots.
“The Accessible Voting Act would remove the barriers and ensure the full process of voting — from registering to vote, to casting a ballot in person or by mail — is accessible for everyone.”
— from an article in the Daily Local News, titled “Scanlon votes to expand voting rights” (the article is about Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, but the quote is from Senator Casey)
“The bill has to work for state and local governments… All of them have to balance budgets, but they can’t do that when a big hole has been blown in the side of their budget.
Providing additional funds to state and local governments will ensure that jurisdictions have the financial resources to fund first responders, and the life-saving work is done in our public hospitals and by public health departments in communities large and small.
[Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s framework] falls disastrously short. Everything that makes our state safe and strong will be compromised.”
—from an article in the Daily Item, titled “Union president: Next COVID-19 aid package should help workers on front lines”
Toomey in the News
Courtesy of contributor Elayne Baker
“Much of it has been distributed, much of it has not yet. There’s over a billion dollars the governor has not yet allocated yet… Where does this need to go? Is it well targeted? Is there accountability for the existing spending?”
— from a 07/24/20 Radio.com article titled “Toomey Questions Need for State and Local COVID Relief”
“We’ve already spent $3 trillion. For us to load the money cannon again and say, ‘Let’s spend literally trillions more,’ that’s a tough sell.”
— from an 07/25/20 Altoona Mirror article titled “Lawmakers brace for relief battle”
“I think Michael Flynn should be pardoned. He has not been convicted of anything. The prosecutorial discretion that ought to be afforded to the Justice Department as it is in every other case — they recognize that he should not be prosecuted.”
— from a 07/22/20 Washington Examiner article titled “GOP senator who opposed Roger Stone commutation says Trump should pardon Michael Flynn”
“The unemployment benefit exceeds what people earn working and that’s a very bad policy.”
— from a 07/22/20 CBS Philly article titled “Unemployed Philadelphians Are A ‘Nervous Wreck’ As Unemployment Money From Federal Stimulus Set To Expire”
“We have never said let’s make sure that people are paid more not to work than they get paid working. We hear everyone talking about how they want to get everyone back to work but at the same time some people are advocating a system that we know discourages people from going back to work.”
— from a 07/22/20 Hartford Courant article titled “The $600-a-week unemployment lifeline is about to run out as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Lawmakers are debating whether the program should be extended.”
Senator Toomey also did an extended interview that appeared in the 07/23/20 Westfield FreePress Courier, under the title “Sen. Toomey encourages mask use, wants Pa. back to normal with caution.” Here are some excerpts from that piece.
On risk factors: “Kids have very, very little risk to coronavirus and young adults have very, very low risk.”
On fatalities: “We already have a much lower fatality rate than we used to have; we have a much lower hospitalization rate than we used to have. That’s going to continue to get better. And it’s going to enable us to live with this virus, which is what we have to learn to do.”
On school reopening: “I’ve got a 10-year-old son and he’s ready to go into fourth grade. I hope he is able to go to school and go to fourth grade because … it’s better for him to be in school than not to be in school.”
On masks: “I think people should be wearing masks when they’re out in public and interacting with people in close proximity, and all the other protocols are important. But … people are going to lose their livelihood, people are going to lose their life savings if we continue down this road. In a way, it’s kind of similar to the way I think about speed limits. I have a car. I drive my car. And the speed limit infringes on my freedom to drive it faster. But that’s a reasonable thing, because the person who gets hurt may not just be me if I drive my car too fast,” Toomey said. “Similarly, with a mask, by people wearing a mask, we’re protecting other people from the risk that they could unknowingly have the virus and could be spreading it to other people.”
On the economy: “I think the shut down of the economy, forbidding people from going to work, that very subjective and arbitrary process of determining which businesses could stay open and which ones can’t — that was all very problematic.”
Committee Corner – the Helsinki Commission
Courtesy of contributor @jgcOCANADA
There was an important hearing at the bipartisan U.S. Helsinki Commission (@HelsinkiComm) on July 23, 2020, chaired by Congressman Steve Cohen, concerning press freedom in the United States. This hearing was particularly focused on the recent trend toward violence against journalists covering the Black Lives Matters protests, and how these events in the US impact free speech and how recent treatment of journalists by the Trump administration is viewed by other governments and people around the world.
The Helsinki Commission monitors human rights and international cooperation in the 57 countries of the OSCE (Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe – csce.gov). To be named to this commission is an honor, both domestically and internationally, and has profound influence in world diplomacy. The list of nine House and nine Senate Commissioners can be found here. One of those eighteen lawmakers comes from Pennsylvania – PA-01’s Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick.
In this hearing, titled “Human Rights at Home: Media, Politics, and Safety of Journalists,” witnesses Christiane Amanpour of CNN, David A. Kaye of UC Irvine Law, and Dr. Courtney Radsch of the Committee to Protect Journalists presented their informed opinions on recent attacks against journalists in the U.S.
Impressions from viewing the hearing: The hearing was lightly attended by the members of the US Helsinki Commission. There were many questions probed by guest chairperson Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), with thoughtful answers from the expert panel, mainly concerning the current lack of engagement by the United States to protect worldwide human rights and a free press, previously a top diplomatic presence throughout all modern administrations until the Trump administration. The Obama administration did not escape criticism by the expert panel; the Obama administration’s pressure to punish “leakers” was noted as having a chilling effect on free speech and the work of the journalist, a process accelerating under the Trump administration.
The last part of the hearing engaged US Helsinki Commission member Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX) and hearing participant Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-FL) who asked questions surrounding the domestic Black Lives Matters protests, and the law enforcement response to the journalists professionally covering these events. Particular concern was given to the militarization of US police departments.
Panelists Dr. Courtney Radsch and David Kaye finished the hearing by giving their expert advice on how to address the escalating militarization of law enforcement and preserve First Amendment rights for all:
- More education and refresher courses given to “rank and file” police officers on journalists’ rights and on the First Amendment, including specific training on how to manage protests– including what is violence against peaceful protesters.
- More accountability in police departments (there is a current lack of enforcement and consequences). There needs a “change in tone” from the most senior officials, following the Trump administration’s messaging “Enemy of the People” which gives a feeling of “impunity” in police interactions with journalists.
- Commitment to thorough investigation and transparency by police departments in regard to complaints from the community
- Pare back the militarization of domestic law enforcement: uniforms, tactics. The expanding surveillance apparatus poses threats to all Americans’ First Amendment rights. “This is not Afghanistan. This is not the Arab Spring.”
In reference to #PA01, former FBI agent Rep Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican-appointed member of the bipartisan U.S. Helsinki Commission, did not avail himself to ask questions directly to the expert panel on press freedom in the United States; this, in spite of Congressman Fitzpatrick’s demand to the Department of Justice and to Attorney General William Barr that elements associated with antifa be declared a “domestic terrorist organization” in order to “protect journalists” and First Amendment rights. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick did not appear for this panel,
Rep. Steve Cohen, who led the hearing, noted that the commissioners each have 48 hours to provide remarks that will be included with the hearing materials for the record. As this hearing took palace on Sunday, two full business days have not elapsed before publication of this report. We at MoCTrack will be on the lookout to see if Rep. Fitzpatrick sends over remarks, which would appear at the hearing page on the U.S. Helsinki Commission website.
Civics Class – Appropriations and Authorizations
In light of this week’s spending bill packages, it feels like a good time to revisit one of the first civics segments that ever appeared in MoCTrack from back in September 2017 on budget buzzwords.
The Constitution gives the power of the purse to the House of Representatives. In Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 it says, “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.” With that wording in our founding document, it is no surprize that one type of bill is an “Appropriation.” The other type is an “Authorization.”
Appropriations set spending limits for departments, agencies and programs. They are usually voted on for a single fiscal year.
Authorizations make rules about how appropriated funds can and cannot be spent. The Senate’s glossary of terms says “A law that establishes or continues one or more Federal agencies or programs, establishes the terms and conditions under which they operate, authorizes the enactment of appropriations, and specifies how appropriated funds are to be used. Authorization acts sometimes provide permanent appropriations.”
Call to Action – Tell Senator Toomey to Renew Pandemic Rescue Programs!
A number of programs created by the Families First and CARES Act to help Americans weather this unprecedented pandemic are set to expire in less than a week. Some of those programs include expanded nutrition assistance (SNAP), the $600 unemployment boost, and eviction and foreclosure protections. These are programs that are helping millions of Pennsylvanians, and keeping over ten million Americans from falling into poverty.
“It’s not obvious to me that we need to load the money cannon and fire that off again,” – Pat Toomey on June 18th
“For us to load the money cannon again and say, ‘Let’s spend literally trillions more,’ that’s a tough sell.” – Pat Toomey on July 25th
Senator Toomey is one of the Republican senators who has been the most outspoken in his desire to NOT see another rescue bill. So it is our job to make him FEEL otherwise.
Since we need to appeal to emotions, a script is not going to cut it. These messages need to come from the heart. But here are some tips you can use to making a successful emotional appeal:
- Start off the message with what you want.
- Tie your request to how you are feeling – anxious, scared, fearful, hopeless, etc.
- Give a personal example of what you are experiencing that is causing your emotional state; OR
- Include info about a person you love, and how this situation is affecting them.
- Close by reiterating your request of the Senator.
Here is an example message, using these tips:
I have contacted the Senator to ask him to support efforts to help us all by supporting the extension of coronavirus rescue programs (1). I know that they end in less than a week, and I am scared of what will happen then (2). My husband’s industry has been affected by this downturn, and I am terrified that without the boost of these programs, he will lose his job (3, 4). We can’t just be left high and dry on July 31st. We need Senator Casey to help Pennsylvanians, and support the renewal of the SNAP and unemployment programs, as well as foreclosure and eviction protections. (5)
Emotional pleas work best when they are crafted out of personal experience, so please take a moment and craft your own message. We only have a short time to work on Senator Toomey, so please contact him each day this week via one of these methods:
Option ONE: CALL
TOLL FREE – (855) 552-1831 Allentown – (610) 434-1444
Erie – (814) 453-3010 Harrisburg – (717) 782-3951
Johnstown – (814) 266-5970 Philadelphia – (215) 241-1090
Pittsburgh – (412) 803-3501 Washington – (202) 224-4254
Wilkes Barre – (570) 820-4088
Option TWO: RESISTBOT
Text RESIST to 50409 or on Twitter, direct message “Resist” to @Resistbot
Then follow their directions. It takes about one to two minutes to complete a full letter
Option THREE: FAX
Send a free FAX straight to Toomey https://faxzero.com/fax_senate/T000461
Option FOUR: TWEET
Use the Hashtags #HEROESAct, #COVID19, and #Coronavirus
Or search for those hashtags, and like/retweet content people have already composed to amplify their messaging.
Option FIVE: Senator Toomey’s Website Contact Form
Use this site – https://www.toomey.senate.gov/?p=contact – to send an email to the Senator.
This report was brought to you by the Pennsylvania MoCTrack team…
CC Linda Houk
Elayne Baker Kierstyn Piotrowski Zolfo
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