A Day on the Hill

(Read about day 1 of my trip to D.C.)

Bright and early last Thursday morning I headed to the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center for the weekly coffee with Sen. John Cornyn, which I RSVP-ed for in advance (and I don’t know if they spend any time researching attendees, but I suspect they do).

Texas flag sign that say says Texas Thursday Coffee Senator John Cornyn
Even Texas signs are bigger

It was gorgeous DC day, and this sort of picture-perfect postcard view of the Capitol is enough to give even the most jaded Texas gal a little hope.

U.S. Capitol dome
Our Capitol is beautiful, majestic, and inspiring.

I joined about 50 other fellow Texans at the coffee, which was held in a large meeting room in the visitors center. I had a few minimum expectations about this event, and I had prepared for any opportunity to speak to or ask questions of the senior senator from Texas. I was ready to talk to him about the family separation policy, gun safety reform, and health care. I was also aware that I was in a room full of people who likely had diverse views on all these issues.

I got my coffee and filled out my photo information form. And then waited for something to happen.

At about 9:50 a staffer (not intern–though they were mostly young white male interns) came in and made a beeline to an older gentleman wearing a Make America Great Again hat. She spent a fair bit of time talking to him and his (I assume) wife.

A few other staffers came in and each spoke with a few folks. In the meantime, they started to line us up to take our photos with the senator. Finally Sen. Cornyn came in and went straight to the flags for photos. We were hustled through very quickly, maybe 15 seconds each, and since no one else was chatting him up I didn’t either. That was a crucial mistake.

More than 50 constituents came to the coffee, and our senator didn’t take any time to speak with us, except for banalities while shaking hands and taking a picture. He whizzed in, took photos for 10 minutes, and then disappeared. There was no welcome from him or from his staff. There was no acknowledgement that most people in the room had traveled from Texas to be there. And there was absolutely no opportunity to engage with our senator about any of the critical policy issues.

I have been to D.C. for enough meetings with members of Congress over the years to have had a certain set of expectations about what happens when 50 constituents are in the room. I learned my lesson and I’m passing it on to you: go to the coffee, get the photo, but also make the appointment and go to the office.

As interns started coming into the room to give people information about their tours, I took my last opportunity to connect with staff. I hand-delivered 300 postcards constituents had signed over the last couple of months, asking Sen. Cornyn to pass basic gun safety reforms that the vast majority of Texans and Americans support. If you wrote a postcard to Sen. Cornyn at the March for Our Lives or the Town Hall for Our Lives, they were delivered, and I hope you get a response. Please share it if you do!

Approximately 300 postcards from Sen. John Cornyn's constituents, asking for strong gun safety measures to protect our children.
Approximately 300 postcards from Sen. John Cornyn’s constituents, asking for strong gun safety measures to protect our children.

My next meeting on the hill couldn’t have been more different. I had reached out to Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s D.C. office the week before my trip and asked if I could stop by and meet some of the staffers so I could put names to faces. I expected to spend about 15-30 minutes at the office at most, but was treated to the opportunity to spend some time with each member of the congressman’s policy team. All my preparation paid off!

In the time I spent with the congressman’s staff, we discussed family separation and what’s happening here in Austin, as well as upcoming Congressional trips to the border; gun violence prevention actions and the hearing on red flag laws and safe gun storage at the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence committee on June 25; work being done to address out-of-control drug prices; the immigration bills that will hit the House floor this week (they are both bad, so call your reps!); the new poll on support for Medicaid expansion in Texas. We probably touched on a few other things I’ve forgotten.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett and Lisa Goodgame
Thank you for taking a few minutes to chat!

As I was about to leave, Rep. Doggett appeared, and he generously gave me a few minutes. We talked about several of the items on the list above, but most specifically about the actions Democratic members of Congress are taking to address family separation. Something is happening out there, and people are deeply moved by the horror we’re seeing play out at the border. I’m thankful for the members who are putting this issue front and center, and I hope it will drive some change in Congress. But when we see Texas members of Congress hailing the policy as a positive development while also lying that it’s happening because of a law passed by Democrats it’s hard to imagine any sort of solution. Also, do they not hear themselves contradicting themselves in that lie?

With just about an hour left in my schedule, I quickly headed to the offices of Rep. Flores, Rep. Smith, and Rep. McCaul to drop off more postcards asking for stronger gun safety measures, as well as some letters from voters. I have a plan to visit Sen. Cruz’s office next time I’m in D.C.

I caught a member of Rep. McCaul’s staff in the middle of lunch, but I made him listen to me for several minutes as I shared my concerns on the policy of family separation, the criminalization of asylum-seekers, and the need to change this inhumane response to people fleeing violence. He listened, was reasonably friendly, and promised to put my concerns in the database. I’ll let you know if I get a response.

Here’s my key takeaway from this trip: really bad shit is happening in our government every single day and the executive branch agencies are being gutted and destroyed by political appointees. We can campaign our butts off trying to get new people elected in November, but right now most of our representatives are co-signing everything the president wants. Our representatives have traded away a lot of their decency for tax cuts. Each day that we don’t call or take action and engage the people who represent us right now, we are tacitly telling them that we’re OK with what they’re doing and how they are representing us.

We. Are. Not. Don’t let them forget it.

Rally for Peace at John Cornyn’s Office – Nov. 9 at 12:30 p.m.

Sponsored by Indivisible Austin, Beyond the Bomb Austin Chapter, and TX10 Indivisible

President Trump is attempting to normalize the idea of a nuclear war with North Korea. Such a war would have devastating human, and environmental consequences. Senator John Cornyn is the second ranking member in the Senate and sits on the Senate Intelligence committee.

On Thursday, November 9th from 12:30 to 2:30 we will rally at Cornyn’s office to oppose nuclear war and support legislation placing checks and balances on the President’s current unilateral ability to launch a nuclear weapon.

WHAT TO BRING: – Bring a sign stating you oppose nuclear war. Or a sign stating why you support removing first strike capability. Or a sign supporting peace or opposing war generally. – Wear a poppy as a reminder of Armistice day which is celebrated on November 11th and is the day the first “War to end all wars” (WWI) ended.

MEETING SPOT: -We will meet on the corner of 6th and Colorado promptly at 12:30 PM

PARKING OPTIONS: – Chase Bank Tower Parking is $11.00 (entrance on Colorado between 6th and 5th) – There is metered parking in the surrounding area as well – TX State and Capital lots will not be available because they are reserved on weekdays

Come Early, Be Loud, & Help Save the Planet!

View this event on Facebook >>

Yes, Trump Can Start A Nuclear War. Yes, We Can Stop Him.

Hey y’all! As my first blog post for Indivisible Austin I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Billie Green, I’m a UT Alumni, and I really don’t want Trump to start a nuclear war.

I’ve been working directly with Global Zero and William Perry on current nuclear weapons issues. Our primary concern is Trump’s ability to order a unilateral launch against any country at any time, and how his dangerous rhetoric with North Korea is inching us closer to a military confrontation. This incredible piece by nuclear weapons historian Alex Wellerstein dives into the question: “Can the President use nuclear weapons when he wants, and can anyone stop him?” The short answer is No. No one can stop Trump once the order is given. Generals Mattis or Kelly will do all they can to discourage him, but if Trump validates the decision, chain of command will be initiated.

It is incredibly important for us to be vocal about this issue. If we can manage to take Trump’s finger off the literal “Apocalypse” button, then maybe we won’t feel like every ridiculous decision his administration makes is the end of the world. We have to get our representatives on board saying they will only support diplomacy, deterrence, and no preventative (nuclear 1st strike) military options. There’s already been indication that the GOP is sincerely concerned about Trump’s instability (e.g. Corker saying Trump could start World War III) but we need them to take tangible action. This is where we, the masses, step in.

I’ve recently created Global Zero – Austin TX. The focus of this group will be to educate the public about the relevant dangers of nuclear weapons and what we can do to stop/limit said dangers. Currently, Global Zero has planned a Week of Action for the first week of November, but has encouraged their remote activists across the nation to reach out to their communities and start recruiting members for local chapters. As an immediate action, we can call on Cruz and Cornyn to support legislation introduced by Ted Lieu and Ed Markey, that would constrain Trump’s authority to use nuclear weapons.

I know we live in Texas. I’m aware that Cruz and Cornyn are hardliners. But this issue should be bipartisan. Here are two scripts from the Indivisible Project to use when you call:

  1. Donald Trump has frighteningly few checks on his authority to launch a nuclear weapon. That’s why Senator Markey and Congressman Lieu have introduced bipartisan legislation that would make explicit that the President cannot launch a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. Will you help constrain Trump’s authority to use nuclear weapons by co-sponsoring the bipartisan “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act”? (H.R. 669 in the House and S. 200 in the Senate)
  2. Trump’s dangerous rhetoric is fanning the flames with North Korea. His words could provoke the unstable Kim Jong Un and further escalate tensions when our top priority should be de-escalation and diplomacy. Will you denounce Trump’s dangerous rhetoric that puts our national security at risk? Will you demand he come to Congress first before engaging in any sort of military operation against North Korea?

And remember to sign up for the new Global Zero – Austin, TX Facebook Group.

How Your Voices Made a Difference: McCain Has the Stones

John McCain once again has the stones (and character) to defy his party to do what he feels is best for his constituents, announcing he “cannot in good conscience” vote for the half-baked Cassidy-Graham health care bill (zombie TrumpCare 3.0) that will jeopardize health care for the elderly, the ill, and women, and has been denounced by a growing number of Republican governors (as well as the bipartisan Medicaid directors from all 50 states, the American Medical Association, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, AARP, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kaiser Permanente, the American Heart Association, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the American Cancer Society). The battle isn’t yet won, though—the GOP could still muster 50 votes if there are no more defections from the party line, and in that case Mike Pence would cast the tie-breaking vote. (And we can all imagine which way that would go down.) Keep calling and showing up at your senators’ offices!

Despite Donald John’s federal ban on sanctuary cities, California—lately serving as America’s conscience in lieu of any guidance in that arena from the White House—voted to make itself an entire sanctuary state. If passed, this legislation will prevent already overburdened state and local law enforcement from being pressed into service as an ad hoc ICE force, and keep communities safer by preventing racial profiling and residents too afraid of being deported to report crimes and help in prosecutions.

Don John’s superfluous election commission, his vanity project whose real goal is to suppress Democrat votes, shake the country’s faith in our election process, and manufacture justification (and perhaps an ego salve) for his baseless claims of massive voter fraud in the 2016 election he lost by more than 3 million popular votes, is running into rough road. First an email came to light from one of the most conservative members of Donald’s vanity project in which the committee’s intent to exclude moderate Republicans and Democrats was spelled out; followed by a fact-free op-ed by chairman Kris Kobach in alt-right news site Breitbart calling into question—with no evidence—the results of New Hampshire’s most recent U.S. Senate race; and then another committee member feuded on Twitter with a journalist whose academic credentials he claimed she’d fabricated (she hadn’t). Now even some Republicans are beginning to question the purpose, motives, and methods of the spurious committee.

Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is developing interesting tentacles. His techniques—including aggressively pursuing Donald intimates Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn—are consistent with other investigations that attempt to find the weak link in a chain of illegalities and pull hard on it to yield the big fish (to mix metaphors). For now the White House seems to have deemed it wiser to cooperate—or at least appear to—than to continue dismissing the investigation as a “witch-hunt” and attack Mueller (despite some Keystone Kops-type public vacillating by two of Donald’s lawyers, overheard by the NY Times’s top political reporter). A great rundown on both these stories can be heard on the New York Times’s excellent Daily podcast from September 19, here. Meanwhile, Mueller stepped things up yet again this past week with a request to the White House for 13 categories of extensive records and email correspondence. Seems like he’s circling in on something pretty juicy…. If I were somehow involved in activities on the end of these ever-escalating investigations, I think I might be sweating pretty hard at this point. Maybe trying like hell to distract attention with, say, world-ending threats to a nuke-happy adversary, or recklessly conceived health care legislation, or a complete 180-degree flip on a key campaign issue along with unprecedented bipartisan outreach. Or something like that.

In a delightfully ironic way of drawing attention to the United States’ abnegation of our moral standards under the “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” (thanks, Kim Jong Un) in shutting out so many seeking asylum here (including Donald’s suppression of reports from his own Department of Health and Human Services that found that refugees contribute more than $261 billion to our economy…unlike Donald, whose taxes seem to contribute zero), during the UN General Assembly in New York global aid organization Oxfam rented Donald’s childhood home in Queens to house refugees.

We’re Showing Up for Texas Today

Today we have a message for the president. Texans are hurting from Hurricane Harvey, and it will take us years to recover. While it will be some time before the full damage estimates and economic impact of the storm are assessed, we can be sure that our great state’s recovery will take a long time. But we’re Texans, and we’re not afraid of the hard work ahead of us.

Texas has never seen a storm like Harvey. It is epochal.

On his Texas visit today the president will likely take advantage of some photo opportunities, and speak some self-described perfect words. He will no doubt make promises and try to burnish his presidential image. But the real measure of his response will not be if he appears more presidential, but rather his administration’s accomplishments in the weeks, months, and years ahead. Will that response tackle not only the misfortunes of the affluent in this disaster, but also the misfortunes of those his administration has habitually targeted from its start?

It is difficult to reconcile the forthcoming pledges to rebuild impacted areas of Texas with the president’s pardon of Joe Arpaio as the storm was bearing down on Houston (for ratings, he said), his refusal to close border patrol checkpoints on evacuation routes out of South Texas, his destruction of some of our state’s most treasured natural gems to make way for his border wall, and his imminent repeal of DACA. That’s why we’re showing up for Texas today during the president’s visit.

There has never ever been a natural disaster in the U.S. during which public officials have had to clarify numerous times that those seeking shelter from the storm and  flooding will not be deported.

The test is simple. Will this administration start to take the threat of climate change seriously and begin tackling the technological and infrastructure challenges necessary to reduce the impact of future disasters like this one? Will this administration make sure that the poorest communities and communities of color – which suffer disparate impacts of natural disasters – recover from this storm? Or will those communities be offered only platitudes and empty gestures? Time will tell, but the recent actions of this administration make clear its steadfast refusal to extend the same consideration to those communities that it extends to the well-to-do. We are showing up today to make sure the administration knows we will not allow these concerns to be swept under the rug in the usual post-disaster niceties.

We also cannot forget that many other policies this administration pursues have negative impacts on our state, and when combined with the devastation from Harvey, further harm our state and our people.

The proposed border wall means Texans will lose their land through eminent domain, and fragile ecological regions will be decimated; even our own Senator John Cornyn’s recent border “security” bill doesn’t include funding for the president’s vision of this folly.

The nation’s largest inland port, Laredo, is on the front lines of the president’s Twitter war against against NAFTA. In 2015, Texas exported nearly $100 billion in goods to Mexico, and some 382,000 Texas jobs are linked to trade with Mexico. Targeting NAFTA hurts Texans and hurts our economy.

The president’s intention to rescind DACA, which is expected to happen this week, will have a disproportionate impact in Texas. Of the nearly 800,000 young adults whose DACA status has been approved, more than 25 percent of them live in Texas. They may have come to the U.S. as undocumented children through no fault of their own, but they have followed specific requirements to remain in the U.S. legally. As a result, they have graduated from colleges, started Texas businesses, bought homes, and built lives in Texas. For that they are being used to score political points by an administration determined to take a hard line on all immigrants regardless of status. He has used them as scapegoats. He lies about crime statistics to stigmatize a vulnerable group, and to stoke fear and hatred of all immigrants.

Trump’s policies will harm the Texas economy, which will be deeply strained during the long road of recovery from Harvey. We are already gearing up for the budget fights in Congress that could stifle the emergency relief we so desperately need.

Harvey has to be our top priority right now, as we anticipate thousands of evacuees coming to Austin. We have been and will continue supporting the rescuers and aid givers who need our volunteer hours and our financial and material assistance. But today we also need to send a message: Texans are great, resilient people, and we will do all we can to protect our state from policies that harm our residents and their livelihoods. 

Indivisible Austin
Wilco Indivisible
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TX10 Indivisible
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TX35 Indivisible

 

What our MoCs said about Syria in 2013 vs. 2017

First of all:

A-men to that. We are not Syria experts. But we do know a thing or two about our Members of Congress, and their tendency to contradict themselves depending on who happens to be president at the time. Assad has used chemical weapons before, in 2013, and Obama considered responding with a military strike. We’ll update this post as more lawmakers issue statements.

Sen. John Cornyn

2013

2017

 

Sen. Ted Cruz

2013

“I emphatically condemn Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his people, and all Americans mourn the loss of innocent lives in Syria’s civil war.

But I do not believe a limited airstrike, as proposed by the president, will lead to success or improve conditions in Syria. There are other actions we can and should take to confront this atrocity, starting with forcing a vote in the U.N. Security Council condemning Assad for this attack; doing so would unify the world against the regime and expose China’s and Russia’s support for this tyrant.”

Source: Ted Cruz: Why I’ll vote no on Syria strike, Washington Post

2017

“Any military action in Syria must be justified as protecting the vital national security interests of America – including decisive action to prevent chemical weapons from falling into the hands of radical Islamic terrorists,” Cruz said in a statement.

“I look forward to our Commander-in-Chief making the case to Congress and the American people how we should do so in the coming days,” Cruz said.

Source: Cruz: Trump should make the case for military action in Syria (The Hill)

 

Rep. Michael McCaul (TX-10)

2013

“Any U.S. military strikes against the Assad Regime will also benefit the extremists fighting him who will undoubtedly use Assad’s weapons against American allies and interests and possibly even our homeland if given the chance.”

Source: Chairman McCaul Statement at Full Committee Hearing: Crisis in Syria: Implications for Homeland Security

2017

“I commend President Trump’s decisive actions in Syria and fundamentally believe that the United States cannot and must not accept the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime on innocent civilians to become the norm. While the U.S. would prefer a political rather than a military solution to this conflict, the fact remains that you cannot negotiate with tyrants. Passiveness in Syria is what has exacerbated this situation and allowed for adversaries such as Russia and Iran to exert their influence at the expense of U.S. national security, all the while allowing ISIS to flourish. Tonight’s military strikes in Syria are a signal to the world that the days of blank threats are long gone and under this Administration credibility will be restored.”

Source: McCaul Statement on Military Strikes in Syria

Rep. Bill Flores (TX-17)

2013

“President Obama did not lay out a compelling case that Syria represents a clear and present danger to the U.S., nor that military operations in Syria are in the strategic interests of our country. There continues to be a lack of a comprehensive strategy to commit the U.S. military to intervene in Syria’s civil war. In addition, few Americans have confidence in the president’s diplomatic and military initiatives in the Middle East as evidenced by the administration’s failures in Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Libya.”

Source: Flores Responds to Presidential Address on Syria

Rep. Lamar Smith (TX-21)

2013

“If the House were to vote today on launching military strikes against Syria, I and a majority of Members would vote ‘no.’

“Over the last two weeks, I have spoken with hundreds of constituents who are overwhelmingly opposed to a military attack on Syria. I have received over 2,000 emails, letters, and phone calls from constituents and 95% oppose attacking Syria.

“I share my constituents’ concerns. We should not commit our Armed Forces to an uncertain goal, with few allies, and no friends in another country’s civil war. The President said on August 31 that ‘we cannot resolve the underlying conflict with our military.’ That’s a reason to oppose military action, not endorse it.”

Source: Smith Opposes Military Strike on Syria

Rep. Roger Williams (TX-25)

2013

“It is not the responsibility of our men and women in uniform to risk their lives and enforce the president’s red line when our own national security is not at stake.”

2015

Rep. Roger Williams announces legislation to prevent additional refugees

2017

Rep. John Carter (TX-31)

2013

U.S. Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock) said Monday in Killeen that he was waiting to find out what the federal government really knows about the situation. “I think we all as members of Congress owe a duty to the American people to get all the information and find out where the intelligence comes from,” he said. “Quite honestly, we’ve had some bad situations in the past on intelligence.”

Source: Austin Congressman Opposes Military Action in Syria (KUT)

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (TX-35)

2013

“The President is right to explore international control of Syria’s chemical weapons and to postpone any Congressional action. This is a challenging approach but better than a go-it-alone strike that effectively leaves Assad controlling all of those chemical weapons. I do not support authorizing an American attack that could entangle us in a bloody, costly regional conflict.”

Source: Where Lawmakers Stand on Military Action in Syria (NY Times)

How Your Voices Made a Difference Last Week: Feb. 19, 2017

Here’s how your voices made a difference last week.

  • National Security Adviser (and Islamophobe) Michael Flynn resigned amid proof that he discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Russian intelligence prior to Donald taking office, and lied about it to the VP and the FBI. Subsequent findings showed that many in the Republican administration have had contact with Russian intelligence as long ago as a year. Heat is rising from the spotlight this shines on the Republican administration, and many are calling for a full investigation into Flynn, Donald Trump, and this admin’s Russian ties.
  • Tax swindler and immigration hypocrite Andrew Puzder withdrew as the Labor Secretary nominee largely thanks to public outcry that turned four GOP senators against his nomination. Moderate Republicans look to finally be beginning to take a stand against Donald.
  • GOP Senator John McCain is amping up his opposition to Donald and his admin with a withering critique in a speech in Munich Friday, and calling Donald’s attempts to discredit the media “how dictators get started.”
These are the first real signs of breaks between the Republican administration and the Republican Congress–so it’s more important than ever to keep the heat on your Members of Congress.

CALLS TO ACTION for Friday, Jan. 27!

CALLS TO ACTION!!! – JAN. 27th, 2017 – TEMPLE PROTEST and PHONE CALLS TO CORNYN AND YOUR HOUSE MEMBER!

REMINDER! Many Indivisible folks will be heading to Temple this afternoon to join the Bell County Democrats in a protest outside the Convention Center where Sen. Cornyn is the key speaker.

There aren’t many opportunities for action against our senators directly, so come if you can make it! With Trump’s latest talk about walls and tariffs getting pushback from Texas Republicans, this is a perfect time to encourage them to defy the White House! Check out the the event page (where you can probably find a carpool if you need it!):

https://www.facebook.com/events/1141159165982939/

IF YOU CAN’T MAKE IT TO TEMPLE, you can still CALL Cornyn’s office and your rep’s office!

Trump has really put Texas Republicans in a tough spot. Economists expect any tariff on Mexico to negatively impact the Texas economy. Many of them are already considering opposing him on this. This is just the kind of issue that can drive a wedge between Trump and Congressional Republicans, so we’ve got to let our reps know that we want them to defy him!

CALL SEN. CORNYN and YOUR REP and ask them to oppose any Trump plan for financing the wall that negatively impacts the Texas economy!

SAMPLE SCRIPT:

“Hello, my name is ______________ and I am a constituent of [Sen. Cornyn or YOUR REP]. I’m calling to ask him to OPPOSE the 20% tariff on Mexican imports and any other plan that asks Texans to unfairly bear the burden of paying for Trump’s wall. Texas officials and businesses AGREE that this plan would threaten Texas jobs, weaken the Texas economy and drive up the cost of living for Texas families. I’m counting on my representatives to put the interests of their constituents first. Thank you.”

CONTACT INFO:

Sen. John Cornyn
Central Texas office: (512) 469-6034
Washington, DC office: (202) 224-2934

Congressional District 10
Congressman Michael McCaul
Austin office: 512-473-2357

Congressional District 17
Congressman Bill Flores
Austin office: (512) 373-3378

Congressional District 21
Congressman Lamar Smith
Austin office: (512) 912-7508

Congressional District 25
Congressman Roger Williams
Austin office: (512) 473-8910

Congressional District 31
Congressman John Carter
Austin office: (512) 246-1600

Congressional District 35
Congressman Lloyd Doggett
Austin office: (512) 916-5921

for more info:

http://www.chron.com/…/Trump-proposal-for-20-percent-tax-on…

http://www.khou.com/…/trumps-import-tax-on-mexico…/393802314

http://www.dallasnews.com/…/trumps-20-percent-tax-mexican-i…