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.

Indivisible Austin Files Freedom of Information Act for Trump Tax Cut

Indivisible Austin has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the U.S. Department of Treasury to demand answers for how Trump’s tax cut will benefit Austin’s wealthiest corporations.

The request, filed with the Office of Tax Policy, seeks any internal documents related to “projections, forecasts, and evaluations made by the OTP of expected changes to the Austin MSA’s tax revenue as a result of the implementation of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”

“The Trump tax law takes hard-earned tax dollars from middle-class families and gives them to the wealthiest Americans,” said Lisa Goodgame, Board President of Indivisible Austin. “If Steve Mnuchin and the Treasury have information on how this corporate giveaway will impact Austin residents, then Austin residents deserve to know, too.”

As one of the biggest tax cuts in American history, Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut is especially benefiting corporations, commercial real estate interests, and private equity managers, among others.

The tax cut comes as Austin City Council deliberates whether to require private employers to provide mandatory paid sick time to Austin families. According to the Work Strong Austin coalition, an estimated 37% of Austin residents do not receive paid sick time from their employer. The vote is currently scheduled for February 15, 2018.

Read the full FOIA letter

12/18: How Congress Stole Christmas: Santa Resists

View & RSVP to this event on Facebook

How Congress Stole Christmas: Santa Resists

Does this holiday season leave you feeling like it’s a wonderful life… if you’re in the 1%?

It’s never too late to tell our elected officials how we feel, and probably more important now than it’s been all year, with competing heinous versions of tax bills dancing like rotten sugarplums through our nightmares. So join Santa Claus in a visit to Senators Cruz and Cornyn, to let them know why they are getting stockings full of coal for Christmas 2017.

We’ll kick off a short program with a guest speaker or two at 3pm outside Sen. Cruz’s office, and then take some video of regular constituents telling why they are giving him a lump of coal in his stocking. When the stocking is full, Santa and his elves will present Sen. Cruz’s staff with the stocking, and the rest of us will carol our way 6 blocks to Sen. Cornyn’s office by about 3:45 for the same (program, video, Santa visit). We plan to end at 4:30 with some closing thoughts about this year of resistance.

We will have some paper and markers at both offices for you to write your reasons for giving lumps of coal, but if you want to come prepared, make sure you write yours on black paper or cardstock because that’s the color of coal! And that’s all they get.

Sponsors:
ADAPT of Texas
Austin DSA
Children’s Defense Fund- Texas
Indivisible Austin
Indivisible Rosedale Huddle
Indivisible SATX
Indivisible TX 25 East
Left Up To Us
Muslim Solidarity ATX
Our Revolution Central Texas
Our Revolution South Austin
Personal Attendant Coalition of Texas (PACT)
Planned Parenthood Texas Votes
Progress Texas
TARA (Texas Alliance of Retired Americans)Austin chapter
Texas Sierra Club
The Texas Drought Project
TX-10 Indivisible
TX21Indivisible
University Democrats
Workers Defense Project

Check back for updates in the coming days as we add event sponsors, speakers, and other details, and refine the timeline.

Rally Against Robbery: Shine a Light on the GOP Tax Scam

No #GOPTaxScam - Rally Against Robbery

View this event on Facebook

WHEN: Thursday at 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM
WHERE: Austin City Hall. 301 W 2nd St.

If you think the tax bill being considered by Congress will harm Texans, please come to this nonviolent rally to send a powerful message to ALL Texas politicians both in the US Congress and the Texas Legislature. IF NOT NOW – WHEN!!!

Schedule of Events:

30-minute program outside City Hall, after which we’ll be marching to and lining up on both sides of Congress Avenue Bridge

Speakers:

Gina Hinojosa, Texas House of Representatives
Greg Casar, Austin City Council
Cristina Tzintzun, Jolt
Selina Fernandez, Southwestern University student & activist
…more to be announced

What to bring:

FLASHLIGHTS (to form a light brigade on the overpass)
Signs and posters of your own making
Dress for cold weather and possible rain

Co-hosts:
ADAPT of Texas
ADC-Austin Chapter
Austin DSA
Children’s Defense Fund – Texas
Indivisible Austin
Indivisible SATX
Jolt
Left Up To Us
Muslim Solidarity ATX
NASW Texas
Our Revolution Central Texas
Personal Attendant Coalition of Texas
TARA (Texas Alliance for Retired Americans) Austin
TX10 Indivisible
TX21 Indivisible
TXLEGE Indivisible
Voto Latino

Video and Photos from the Street Theater Outside John Cornyn’s Office Protesting the #TrumpTaxScam

On the national day of action to protest the Trump Tax Scam, a troupe of activists calling themselves Tiny Jazz Hands put on quite a show outside Sen. John Cornyn’s office.

How Your Voices Are Making a Difference: Flippin’ Flynn

This week brought an intriguing development in the latest Russia report: Michael Flynn abruptly cut off all direct contact with Donald and his team—a pretty good sign that he may be working to cut a deal with Robert Mueller…in other words, to roll on what he may know about Donald and the campaign’s Russia ties. Pass the popcorn, please.

After announcing an end to the Obama-era ban on importing elephant “trophies” from nations without adequate protections for the endangered animals, Donald flip-flopped at loud, immediate bipartisan outcry, and has decided to uphold the ban (for now).

More Republican senators are waffling on the GOP tax scam, endangering its chances of passing in the Senate.

Donald’s tanking approval ratings are even spreading to FOX—FOX News host Neil Cavuto aimed a scathing reprimand at Donald over his tweets that he should have left the UCLA basketball players in jail: “Forget about either comment not being presidential. At what point does the president see such remarks don’t even border on being human?… Last time I checked, you are the president of the United States,” he said. “Why don’t you act like it?”

Ex-RNC chair Michael Steele called Donny’s backing of sexual predator Roy Moore “sickening” and “beyond stupid” and said he was doing “irreparable harm” to our country.

(Kim Jong Un, as always, takes things a linguistically memorable step further, calling Donald an “old lunatic, mean trickster and human reject.”)

Unlikely superhero Walter Shaub, former head of the Office of Government Ethics, filed a complaint with his former agency regarding Kellyanne Conway’s comments advocating for Roy Moore while in her official capacity—a potential violation of the Hatch Act, a law that forbids federal employees from using their positions for political purposes. Shaub resigned halfway into Donald’s first year, after heroic battles with the new administration, which refused to observe rules and norms the office was designed to enforce, and has been eloquently outspoken since about the many ongoing violations of ethics of Donald and his minions.

Amid claims against one of Roy Moore’s accusers that his campaign refuses to substantiateMoore’s communications director has resigned.

Richard Spencer-organized event was abruptly called to a halt smack in the middle of it when the farmers who managed the venue in Maryland where it was being held learned white nationalist Spencer was behind it and kicked the entire gathering out. Management refunded the group’s money, but stood by its refusal to host the group as “strongly in opposition to our values…including welcoming people of all backgrounds, race, ethnicities, cultures, and religions.”

A second federal judge has ruled Donald’s ban on transgender people serving in the military is unconstitutional—and goes one step farther, ruling that the White House cannot deny funding for certain medical treatments—including gender reassignment surgery.

Another federal judge issued an injunction to permanently block the federal government from withholding funds from “sanctuary cities,” citing the White House policy as a violation of the Fifth and Tenth Amendments, and of the separation of powers doctrine.

Right now, federal judges are helping keep Donald’s unconstitutional attempts in check—but what should scare all of us is how he and Jeff Sessions are feverishly appointing judges to the bench—aided by the GOP’s blockading of legitimate appointments during Obama’s administration, and by their steamrolling the rule that prevents nominees from office if a certain number of senators from the nominee’s home state object (the “blue slip” rule). If conservatives get their way,Donald will add twice as many lifetime members to the federal judiciary in the next 12 months (650) as Barack Obama named in eight years (325). This is a major battle that’s not in the spotlight—and as long as it isn’t the GOP can keep railroading onto the bench extreme-conservative, unqualified, young judges who could change the face of our judiciary for the next 50 years (appointed by an attorney general who was himself judged too racist to serve as a federal judge). Fight, warriors—this will have repercussions for years to come, and generations after us.

How Your Voices Are Making a Difference: Speaking Up for the Truth

In the wake of the House tax plan passing, nobody seems very happy about the Senate GOP tax plan—including a lot of the GOP. This week brought stirrings of discontent among Republican lawmakers as the GOP tax scam—aka tax shelter for the wealthy (including a provision offering tax breaks for private jets…seriously)—draws closer to the floor. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson is balking because it disproportionately benefits corporations at the expense of other businesses; Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and John McCain—generally the sole GOP senators courageous enough to stand against the party and protect their constituents—are once again also on the fence, particularly if the tax plan sneaks in the repeal of the individual mandate for insurance, which would effectively erase any tax gains for middle and lower-income Americans through higher health care premiums.

Local officials around the country from both major parties decried proposals that they say threaten housing and infrastructure projects by eliminating ways to pay for themThree former defense secretaries have rejected the bill for inadequate provisions for defense spending and creating a threat to national security. In fact, only a quarter of the country approves of the planThe tax plan also sneaks in the definition of “personhood” beginning at conception, an insidious undermining of Roe v Wade that may be a harbinger of more attacks to come. The GOP can lose only two votes and still get their tax package passed. CALL OR FAX OR TEXT YOUR SENATORS and demand they vote no—especially unless these sneaky inclusions are removed.

More than 400 millionaires and billionaires signed a letter to the White House asking Donald not to cut their taxesnot to pass any tax bill that “further exacerbates inequality” and adds to the national debt. “Repealing the estate tax alone would lose an estimated $269 billion over 10 years — more than we would spend on the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control, and Environmental Protection Agency combined,” the letter said.

The House joined the Senate in adopting mandatory anti-sexual-harassment training.

Speaking of sexual misconduct, Senate Republicans have finally united against Roy Moore (including, shockingly, calls for him to step down from former endorsers Cornyn and Cruz). The GOP apparently can support Moore’s flouting of the law and record of racist, homophobic, and anti-Muslim statements and actions, but at least multiple allegations of pedophilia are a bridge too far for them (except in Alabama—no, really). The Republican National Committee pulled out of funding his race for Congress, after the Republican Senatorial Committee did the same thing last week, leaving the Alabama Republican Party as Moore’s only remaining GOP fundraising partner. Although the Alabama GOP refuses to withdraw support from Moore despite an additional three women coming forward alleging inappropriate sexual advances (making it nine in total, if you have a score card), on the plus side in pollsMoore is trailing his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones. (And yes, nine accusations of sexual misconduct, some against minors, and still he trails by only 8 points.)

A federal judge ruled that Donny’s White House can’t withhold federal law-enforcement grants from sanctuary cities.

In Russian news—Jared Kushner forwarded emails he previously failed to disclose about a “Russian backdoor overture” to campaign officials. He’s been asked to turn over all relevant documents. Meanwhile, Mueller has subpoenaed more than a dozen of Donald’s campaign officials for Russia-related documents. And the British publicist who arranged the infamous Trump Tower meeting for Kushner and Don Jr. has agreed to come to the States to talk to Mueller’s investigation.

Despite rustlings spurred by an antsy White House desperately trying to deflect attention from itself as Mueller’s investigation closes in, Jeff Sessions announced there is not enough basis to appoint special counsel to investigate Hillary. Again.

Six Democrats have introduced articles of impeachment against the “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”

In the first 11 days of open enrollment, nearly 1.5 million people have signed up for Obamacare—beating last year’s totals for this time by 500K.

bipartisan group of senators introduced gun-control legislation that would instigate penalties for state and federal agencies that fail to report records relevant in background checks and incentivize states to improve reporting.

Ohio Republican House rep Wes Goodman—a religious conservative vocal proponent of “natural marriage” between a man and a woman, and who is “straight-married” himself—resigned this week after being caught in a consensual instance of “inappropriate behavior” in his office…with another man.

This happened.

Remind yourself of our many victories, warriors, and stay vocal, active, and engaged. We are literally the defenders of our nation and governance against the current administration’s self-stated efforts to dismantle it. We have to keep speaking up for the truth—democracy literally depends upon it.

Take this quiz to see if you get a tax break from the Trump Tax Scam

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Call Senators Cornyn and Cruz NOW

Caller: Hello! My name is [NAME] and I’m calling from [part of state]. I’m calling to let Senator [Cruz / Cornyn] know that I strongly oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This tax bill is a scam that will give massive cuts to the wealthy, paid for by leaving tens of thousands of people in Texas uninsured, raising premiums, and raising taxes on middle-class families.

Staffer: The Senator is in favor of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. He thinks it is important that we reform our broken, complex tax code so that middle-class families can benefit.

Caller: This tax bill won’t help middle class families get ahead. Every single provision intended to help the middle-class expires, but the corporate tax cuts are forever. Even worse, the CBO estimates that health insurance premiums will increase 10% more per year than they would without this bill and we know 13 million more people will be uninsured!

Staffer: I’ll pass your thoughts along to the Senator.

Caller: Yes please do, and please take down my contact information so you can let me know what the Senator decides to do.