Category Archives: Congress

Texas Catastrophe Points to Need to Prioritize Climate Action, Re-Prioritize Federal Budget (Mother Nature Can Be A Real Bitch)

The climate catastrophe in Texas should be a wake-up call to prod Trump Administration, Scott Pruitt of the EPA and Congress to prioritize climate action, not a border wall, in the federal budget © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

With Harvey reaping its terror and Hurricane Irma warming up for its debut, Texas’ climate catastrophe is the latest example of how tragically foolish it is to invest billions to combat ISIS (hardly an existential threat), $70 billion to build a wall along the Mexico border, $1 trillion to rebuild the nuclear weapons arsenal, yet deny the reality of climate change with the attendant costs in the multi-billions of every single one of these climate catastrophes – the cost to the Treasury and taxpayers to rebuild infrastructure, to pay for public health consequences, to lose the productivity of the workforce.

“This is the costliest and worst natural disaster in American history,” Dr. Joel N. Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather, stated. “AccuWeather has raised its estimate of the impact to the nation’s gross national produce, or GDP, to $190 billion or a full one percent, which exceeds totals of economic impact of Katrina and Sandy combined. The GDP is $19 trillion currently. Business leaders and the Federal Reserve, major banks, insurance companies, etc. should begin to factor in the negative impact this catastrophe will have on business, corporate earnings and employment. The disaster is just beginning in certain areas. Parts of Houston, the United States’ fourth largest city will be uninhabitable for weeks and possibly months due to water damage, mold, disease-ridden water and all that will follow this 1,000-year flood.”

Meanwhile, around the globe there are even greater flooding disasters –1,200 have died so far and 900,000 homes destroyed in floods in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, taking with it farms and crops that will lead to the next climate catastrophe, famine.

Now Congress will soon take up a budget that proposes to slash the EPA into nothing (Scott Pruitt has already scrubbed any research and mention of climate change from the website and is doing his level best to stop any data collection), cuts to FEMA that was already $25 billion in debt before Harvey, cuts to Health & Human Services and every other social safety net. But Trump threatens to shut down government if he doesn’t get nearly $2 billion (a downpayment on $70 billion) for his border wall with Mexico.

Dozens of Long Islanders, constituents of Congressman Peter King turned out for a rally at his Massapequa office to demand he reject cuts to the EPA budget.

Which has posed more of a national security threat to Americans? Climate disasters or ISIS? The wrong-headed approach to national security came to a head with a rally that drew about 60 people on short notice on Thursday, August 31 at the Massapequa, Long Island office of Congressman Peter King, who makes a great show of concern for protecting national security but drops the ball on the national security implications of climate change.  (See story)

You only have to compare the horrid waste of blood and treasure because of a disdain for addressing the realities of climate change to the results of the efforts of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) consisting of New York State along with eight other Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states (not New Jersey because Governor Chris Christie thought it would better position him to become the GOP presidential candidate if he withdrew from RGGI and denied the reality of climate change). Founded in 2005, the RGGI, the nation’s first program to use an innovative market-based mechanism to cap and cost-effectively reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change, is updating its goal to lower carbon pollution by reducing the cap on power plant emissions an additional 30% below 2020 levels by 2030. With this change, the regional cap in 2030 will be 65% below the 2009 starting level.

RGGI has already contributed to a 50% percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from affected power plants in New York, and a 90% reduction in coal-fired power generation in the state. To date, New York has generated more than $1 billion in RGGI proceeds, which are applied to fund energy efficiency, clean energy and emission reduction programs.

RGGI continues to exceed expectations and has provided more than $2 billion in regional economic benefits and $5.7 billion in public health benefits while reducing emissions in excess of the declining cap’s requirements. Analysis by Abt Associates – found participating member states had 16,000 avoided respiratory illnesses, as many as 390 avoided heart attacks, and 300 to 830 avoided deaths by reducing pollution. The health benefits in New York alone are estimated to have exceeded $1.7 billion in avoided costs and other economic benefits.

And contrary to the lie that clean, renewable energy and sustainable development will hurt the economy and increase consumer costs, the economies of RGGI states are outpacing the rest of the country and regional electricity prices have fallen even as prices in other states have increased. So even as the RGGI states reduced their carbon emissions by 16% more than other states, they are experiencing 3.6% more in economic growth. Each of the three-year control periods contributed approximately 4,500 job years to New York’s economy and 14,000 to 16,000 job years region-wide.

Meanwhile, New York consumers who have participated in RGGI-supported projects through December 2016 will realize $3.7 billion in cumulative energy bill savings over the lifetime of the projects, according to New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

New York is actively promoting clean energy innovation through its Reforming the Energy Vision strategy and initiatives. Additionally, programs including the Clean Energy Fund, $1 billion NY-Sun Initiative, $1 billion NY Green Bank, $40 million NY-Prize competition for community microgrids, and others, ensure that progress toward reducing emissions will be accelerated.

New York has devised a host of programs to incentivize local projects aimed at developing clean, renewable energy and sustainability. Most recently, NYSERDA has developed a Solar PILOT Toolkit to assist municipalities in negotiating payment-in-lieu-of taxes (PILOT) agreements for solar projects larger than 1 MW, including community solar projects.

How ironic is the climate catastrophe in Texas, the leading proponent of fossil fuels and opponent of programs incentivizing the transition to clean, renewable energy (and the localized independence that wind, solar and geothermal bring), that Harvey has damaged its oil refining infrastructure, which is already resulting in higher gas prices, not to mention taxpayer money that will be channeled to rebuild the devastation. None of those private, profit-making companies which have gouged and inflicted public health horrors should get funding from taxpayers.

Now Texas will be coming to Congress for billions in aid.

Congress should pass a law: no federal help for states that deny climate change (Florida and North Carolina actually have legislation banning the use of the term) and therefore do nothing to mitigate the consequences, and which deny altogether the concept of a federal, “one nation” government to collect taxes and provide services on behalf of all. Texas, which has cheered the notion of secession, continually supports policies intended to shrink the federal government to a size it can be flushed down a toilet, including dismantling the Environmental Protection Administration and ending environmental regulations. So let them see what that actually means. Let’s also be reminded the Texas’ Republican delegation obstructed federal aid to New York and New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy.

Destruction at Breezy Point, New York after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Texas Congressmen voted against giving aid, now will seek tens of billions to rebuild after Harvey. But the Trump Administration and Congress fail to learn the lessons, reflected in policy and budgeting, that would mitigate such costly climate catastrophes © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Too harsh? The climate deniers are dooming the entire nation and the planet to such tragic, devastating and costly climate catastrophes. Hundreds of thousands of Texans will emerge from Harvey with their homes, retirement, college funds decimated, very possibly their jobs flushed away along with the floodwaters. Tens of thousands will become climate refugees – just a small fraction of the estimated 200 million worldwide who will be forced to flee flooded coasts as sea levels continue to rise, and storms continue to ravage.

But, since Trump is so keen to dish out taxpayer billions to those he considers his base (one wonders what would happen if and when California is hit with an earthquake), Congress should impose conditions on the billions that will be sent to Texas to rebuild its infrastructure and housing: Texas should do what every other community has done that underwent such devastation: rebuild and transition to clean, renewable energy sources and sustainable, climate-friendly, low-carbon emitting structures.

Congress, which Trump just dared to defy on his tax “reform” (that is, giveaway to the wealthiest 1% and corporations while starving federal government of funding), should make sure that EPA has the people and resources it needs, that climate action is a priority, that the Interior Department does not give away Americans’ legacy (and property) for environment-destroying development, that FEMA and Housing & Human Services (now in the command of a man who dismisses poverty and bad things that happen to some dereliction of personal responsibility) are properly funded and staffed.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

New Yorkers Among Multitudes in Cities Around the World Marching for Science on Earth Day

Science is Golden. Marchers for Science pass in front of Trump International Hotel, NYC © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Tens of thousands of people in Washington DC and 600 cities around the world on Earth Day, April 22, joined in the first-ever global March for Science, co-organized by the Earth Day Network.

“We’ve just lived through the three hottest years on record, and yet, we continue to see policymakers politicize climate change, roll it back, and ignore it,” stated Kishore Hari, one of the March for Science organizers. “We need to show policymakers that we will not be complacent as they make cuts to life-saving scientific research. That’s why it’s important for us to show up in big numbers and prove that we will not let science be ignored.

“Scientific discovery and innovation are a critical part of our nation and our future — science extends our lives, protects our planet, puts food on our table, contributes to the economy, and allows us to communicate and collaborate with people around the world,” said Caroline Weinberg, National Co-Chair, March for Science. “Despite this fact, science and scientists, and evidence based policies are under attack. Policymakers threaten our present and future by ignoring scientific evidence when crafting policy, threatening scientific advancement through budget cuts, and limiting the public’s knowledge by silencing scientists. On April 22, scientists and science supporters will unite worldwide to protest these actions. Thousands of people in almost 500 cities around the world will march together in support of science’s role in society and policy and to ensure our future.”

March for Science, New York City © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“The March for Science is an unprecedented call to action for everyone who knows that science is essential to public health, global and economic security, and the livelihood of communities around the world,” said Christine McEntee, Executive Director & CEO, American Geophysical Union. “This moment is bigger than the scientific community. It is truly an important moment for all people, not just scientists, to make a strong statement in support of policy that is informed by evidence-based science, and to promote the free and open exchange of ideas, innovation and discovery, diversity and inclusion, and to stand up for the people and programs who make it possible.”

Here in New York City, some 20,000 joined the march which extended from Central Park West down to Times Square, with the loudest cheers and jeers recorded as the marchers passed by the Trump International Hotel across from the entrance to Central Park.

“This is what intelligence looks like.” They chanted.

“Hey hey what do you say, let’s all save the EPA.”

Grab ‘em by the Data © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Signs were hand-drawn but heart-felt: “Data, Not Deceit.” “Make America Smart Again.” “Science, Saving Humanity Since 1612.” “Science, not Silence” “Science is like Magic but Real.”

“You Can’t Spell Existence Without Science.”  “A Planet is a Terrible Thing to Waste.”

“Don’t Acid Rain on My Parade.” “More Science. Less Fear.”

Indeed, at the rally that preceded the march, several speakers – including scientists and science teachers – thanked the science community for saving their life.

Some of the public school speakers at the March for Science, New York City © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Several pre-teen girls and boys from the city’s public schools extolled the value of science education, of science that has made America the great innovator in the world, responsible for the Internet, driverless cars and manned spaceflight, and lectured the government officials on the importance of funding education and innovation.

“The progress we have made would not have happened without science,” one said. “Einstein. Tesla. Anything created came from science. Our parents, our doctors use science. Medicine was created by science. Everything is Science.”

“Science is everything that happens in this world” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Lily Beshell, a young girl straining on a crate to reach the microphone, who proudly declared herself to be one of the “black girls who code,” said, “Science is everything that happens in this world – even when you drop a pencil. That may not be so exciting, but if you think how the pencil drops – by gravity. “

Ferdinand, representing the STEM Teachers of NYC and one of 150 marching today, said he is a prostate cancer survivor whose life was saved by science. “Learning how to do science is important for all kids – they gain knowledge and power over their lives. They use evidence, not opinion or heresay or authority, to decide how to think about the world.”

An 18-year old, working in stem cell research at the Centers for Excellence in Youth Education program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said he had developed a passion for mitigating the effect of global climate change, “the greatest threat, and I hope to be part of the solution.

Here, thanks to Science © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Hundreds of years ago, it was believed that evil spirits and bad air caused sickness. Today we now know disease is caused by microbes and we have developed cures.”

Debbie Lee Cohen of Cafeteria Culture – also a cancer survivor – teaches scientific principles through creating things, like the massive puppets built out of toxic, polluting Styrofoam plates that were used to convince the City Council to ban them from school lunches.

Teaching through doing: Debbie Lee Cohen of Cafeteria Culture, has kids create giant puppets out of cafeteria styrofoam to demonstrate public health hazard of environmental pollution © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We need science to show how environmental protection is linked to public health. We need the US EPA to protect our health, NOAA, NASA, we need publicly funded science for basic survival. Climate crises are affecting us, especially kids. Science is fundamental to a healthy democracy, a healthy planet for all.”

Ross Cagen, a professor at Mount Sinai working on next-gen cancer therapies, said, “We are part of the greatest scientific community the world has ever seen. We value knowledge, discovery, facts [rolling cheers through the crowd for “facts”]; use evidence to make basic decisions, we value diversity.

“In a world where standing up for scientific evidence is suddenly a political act, curing disease is losing its standing as a priority…. Let’s march.”

“These are scary times. I feel your anxiety, concerns. As scientists, we never wanted to merge science and politics. But that is happening to us.

“For parents with cancer scared for themselves and their children, science offers hope. The American population lives 30 years longer than years ago because of science…. We need courage to stand against those who would destroy our freedoms.

“In a world where standing up for scientific evidence is suddenly a political act, curing disease is losing its standing as a priority…. Let’s march.”

New York City March for Science organizers: Let the force be with you © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And to the strains of Star Wars, and an invocation, “May the force be with you,” they set off down Broadway.

The New York City march was one of several hundred around the world in a global effort to push back against a political climate that has become increasingly hostile toward sound, evidence-based science and its value to society. The flagship event took place on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Organizers have partnered with over 170 organizations to make an impact throughout the world, including Earth Day Network, American Geophysical Union, National Science Teachers Association, and Carnegie Science. (A full list of partner organizations can be found here.)

“Make America Smart Again” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We are thrilled by the outpouring of support from museums, aquaria, scientific societies, NGOs, universities, religious groups and citizen science organizations,” said Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Co-Director of Partnerships, March for Science. “This grassroots movement — with 198 partner organizations (and counting!) — represents a broad, diverse, and inclusive coalition in support of science and evidence-based policy making.”

“An ethical science is meaningful to us all and its role in our communities, our homes and policy making should be protected and celebrated,” said Kristian Aloma, Director, March for Science Chicago. “Chicago is a science city, and we look forward to joining communities throughout the world marching in support of science that can help answer the important questions that affect us all.”

Fact: We Are Made of Stars. Your Science Today. Our Jobs Tomorrow. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Defending science, innovation, and discovery is an absolute must in every community throughout the world,” said Claudio Paganini, Organizer, March for Science Berlin. “We are proud to join each of the marches on April 22 to say in one, unified, global voice that science is essential to our futures.”

More information is at www.marchforscience.com.

Trump Earth Day Message Fails to Mention Climate Change

I’m not a Zoologist but I know that’s a Cheatah © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As if to confirm the protesters’ worst fears, Trump released a statement for Earth Day which did not mention Climate Change, but did emphasize prioritizing the economy over environment.

“Our Nation is blessed with abundant natural resources and awe-inspiring beauty.  Americans are rightly grateful for these God-given gifts and have an obligation to safeguard them for future generations.  My Administration is committed to keeping our air and water clean, to preserving our forests, lakes, and open spaces, and to protecting endangered species.

“Real News. Lying President.” New Yorkers March for Science © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Economic growth enhances environmental protection.  We can and must protect our environment without harming America’s working families.  That is why my Administration is reducing unnecessary burdens on American workers and American companies, while being mindful that our actions must also protect the environment.

Dump responsibly © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Rigorous science is critical to my Administration’s efforts to achieve the twin goals of economic growth and environmental protection.  My Administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks.  As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.

“This April 22nd, as we observe Earth Day, I hope that our Nation can come together to give thanks for the land we all love and call home,” Trump’s statement read.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

New York Blasts Republican Plan That Would Replace Obamacare; Singles Out Collins Amendment

Governor Andrew Cuomo commenting on the Republican plan to replace Obamacare: “I can’t make up 2, 3 billion dollars. It would wreak havoc in this state.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Governor Andrew Cuomo, in response to a question posed by Mark Halperin on MSNBC, said:  “Obviously the consequences for a state like New York could be devastating. Depending on what they do, you have 3 million people who are insured under Obamacare. What are you going to do with the 3 million people? Medicaid is a big piece of our budget. They talk about block grants, turning it over to the state. That sounds great. The question is when they block grant it, do they actually transfer the money? Remember the old expression, passing the buck without passing the bucks. Governor of New York, my fear is the rhetoric of give it back to the states sounds great, but if they give it back to the states and they cut the funding, you put the states in a really terrible situation. So I get the political appeal of repeal Obamacare, but you know, be careful what you ask for and I think this is the dog that chases the car. What are they going to do? And you have millions and millions of people who are affected and you could devastate the budget. I just did my budget. I said, “Look, I don’t have a contingency plan.” Because I don’t know what they’re going to do, and frankly, they could take an action for which there is no contingency plan. There are rumors that they could cut the state of New York 2, 3 billion dollars. I can’t make up 2, 3 billion dollars. It would wreak havoc in this state. So it’s their move and I want to see what they come up with.”

Lt.  Governor Kathy Hochul, commenting on a proposed amendment from Congressman Collins (R-NY), said:

“Our Founding Fathers warned us this day would come. Partisan politics would overtake good government for the people.  The Medicaid changes being proposed in Washington would cut taxes for wealthy special interests while devastating New York State’s finances and all but eliminating health care for the most vulnerable New Yorkers.

“What’s worse, a New York Republican Congressman, Chris Collins is offering an amendment that would wreak havoc on the state. While I understand that the Democrats in Washington are attacking Collins on ethics issues and are having a heated political fight, they shouldn’t be played out at the expense of everyday New Yorkers.

“Here are the facts: The overall Medicaid plan would cost the state billions of dollars of lost federal funds and jeopardize hospital stability.  As if that were not enough, Rep. Collins would have the state assume the counties’ share of Medicaid expenses outside of New York City. The current breakdown is 13 percent county, 36 percent state, and 51 percent federal. This ill-conceived plan would cost his home state approximately $2.3 billion. Unbelievably, that’s on top of the cost of the Republican Affordable Care Act repeal plan – another $2.4 billion.

“Translation: Rep. Collins is proposing a tax increase on New Yorkers to the tune of $4.7 billion.  This one-two punch would destroy all the hard work the Governor and Legislature have accomplished in the last six years to lower taxes across the board and achieve the lowest spending increases in recorded history. New Yorkers will be at risk of losing their healthcare, hospitals will be forced to lay off workers, and our vulnerable elderly will find it much harder to afford nursing home care.

“On the merits, the counties have no right to claim this is an undue burden. They paid a percentage of health care costs even before Medicaid – and in fact, currently have a more favorable agreement than in decades.

“In 1960 – well before New York State and most counties had any sales tax revenue to pay for it – Congress passed the Kerr-Mills Act, which created a national role in funding health care for the elderly. Under this program, the counties in New York paid approximately 44 percent of the cost of care, the state paid about 38 percent, and the federal government paid around 18 percent.

“In 1965, Medicaid replaced that program and the counties paid 25 percent. That same year, the state began giving counties the option of collecting sales tax on their behalf. Every county in New York has subsequently agreed to this option. Many counties in the nation don’t get sales tax, and most of those receive less than our counties. Moreover, the state recently agreed to give the counties additional help – after hearing the counties’ complaints of the growing Medicaid costs, the state has held them harmless for any increases since 2011.

“As a result, the counties’ share for Medicaid is down from 25 percent to 13 percent, and the state assumed this cost while still living within the 2 percent spending cap, and all while cutting taxes. The state is not asking the counties to do anything more than we have done ourselves. In fact, the state has done far more.  If the Collins amendment passed, the state would need to raise income taxes or the counties would have to forego their share of sales tax in exchange for the state picking up the additional Medicaid costs.

“In short, Rep. Collins’ amendment and the Affordable Care Act repeal would transfer $4.7 billion in costs to the state which would translate into a new tax for New Yorkers. I know firsthand that the people of the 27th Congressional District face enough challenges in their lives – they don’t need to worry about increasing health care costs or new taxes.

“Rep. Collins should stop prioritizing his wealthy friends and start helping his home state by protecting the most vulnerable from losing their healthcare and putting the state budget at risk. Remember, as my mentor Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to always point out, New York is a donor state – we pay more in federal taxes than we receive back.

“Mr. Collins, try practicing good government rather than partisan politics.”

One Million New Yorkers Could Lose Health Care Under Republican Plan, NYS Analysis Shows

NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo: “Affordable healthcare is not a partisan issue. New York’s entire delegation – democrats and republicans – need to stand up and they need to fight, stand against this regressive plan, and protect the people they are sworn to represent. There is no going back.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

More than one million New Yorkers may lose their health care coverage if the House Republican’s American Health Care Act is enacted. That is the assessment of the state’s Department of Health analysis.

“Health care is a human right, not a luxury,” Governor Andrew M. Cuomo stated. “After seven years of progress under the Affordable Care Act, the Republican Congress has proposed an inadequate, ill-conceived and unacceptable plan that places the coverage of more than 1 million New Yorkers in jeopardy and, once fully phased in, would shift more than $2.4 billion in costs onto taxpayers and hospitals each year.

“Healthcare experts across the Country have rejected the Republican plan outright citing the devastating impact on patients and provides. The AARP says it will weaken Medicare and hike premiums for everyone over 50. Millions of seniors could lose home care and nursing home coverage. Hospital leaders say staffing and services will be cut.

“Furthermore, this plan is a direct assault on New York values – defunding Planned Parenthood, restricting access to abortion and reproductive health services, and eliminating $400 million in means tested credits that lowered insurance costs for low-income New Yorkers, while slashing taxes on the wealthy.

“In the end, people who will still have insurance will fall into two groups under this plan: older Americans and lower-income people who will pay more for coverage or lose it altogether, and higher-income people who will pay less.

“As bad as this bill is, it may get worse. Far-right opponents of the bill in Congress are demanding changes. As disturbing and devastating as the proposed cuts would be, the final result could be downright bone chilling.

“Affordable healthcare is not a partisan issue. New York’s entire delegation – democrats and republicans – need to stand up and they need to fight, stand against this regressive plan, and protect the people they are sworn to represent. There is no going back.”

The Department of Health’s analysis of the House Republican’s American Health Care Act concludes that:

  • Over 1 million New Yorkers would face a significant loss in health care coverage under the plan.
  • Over $4.5 billion in costs would be shifted to state, counties, and safety net hospitals over the next four years increasing the tax burden on residents and putting countless healthcare providers in jeopardy.
  • At least $2.4 billion of these costs will be shifted annually beginning in 2020. This burden could grow even larger when the impact of Medicaid block grants is taken into account.
  • $400 million in tax credits used by New Yorkers to purchase health insurance on the New York State of Health insurance exchange would be lost and replaced in some cases with alternative subsidies which are not related ability to pay.
  • Wide range of benefits provided for under the Affordable Care Act are removed and savings are shifted to wealthy individuals and corporations.

The Republican controlled Congress is pushing full-steam ahead to “repeal and replace” Obamacare before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has had a chance to “score” it for the cost and the impacts.

Trump Casts Himself Savior in Sugar-Coated Dystopian Vision of America in Joint Address to Congress

Donald Trump takes in the adulation from Republicans, with VP Mike Pence and Speaker Paul Ryan giddy with joy, during Trump’s first speech to a joint session of Congress, and his first speech where half the audience opposed his policies © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donald Trump gave his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. In general, he was given praise for the demeanor and tone, in contrast to the rabid hostility of his speeches to the Republican National Convention and the inauguration. But the bar was low; expectations were low. In essence, the speech was a sugary re-do of those speeches; the policies advocated no less punitive and founded in a dystopian fantasy,  in which he makes himself the Savior. The speech was completely full of hyperbolic claims and promises, devoid of specifics and premised on myths and lies. 

Democratic women wore white, a reference to the Suffragettes. Several Democrats wore blue ribbons, in solidarity with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Generally, Democrats were subdued but respectful. 

These are the remarks as prepared for delivery and provided by the White House, highlighted and annotated with remarks —Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP’S ADDRESS TO A JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS

Remarks as prepared for delivery, provided by the White House

TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES:

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, the First Lady of the United States, and Citizens of America:

Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our Nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains.  Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.

Sounds like this was just added on.

Wouldn’t be surprised if daughter Ivanka Trump and husband and Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner wrote the opening lines denouncing the wave of anti-Semitic incidents and the shooting in Kansas of two Indian engineers., which “remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice –- in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present.

That torch is now in our hands.  And we will use it to light up the world.  I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart.

A desperate attempt to change tone.

A new chapter of American Greatness is now beginning.

A new national pride is sweeping across our Nation.

And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp.

What we are witnessing today is the Renewal of the American Spirit.

                        I don’t feel spirit renewed; I feel my spirit sapped from my soul. 

Our allies will find that America is once again ready to lead. 

                        Once again? In classic fashion, Trump creates a false narrative. The US under Obama was the world leader on climate change, coalition against ISIS, Russian aggression, nuclear disarmament. Trump’s America First is a retreat from global citizenship. 

All the nations of the world — friend or foe — will find that America is strong, America is proud, and America is free.

In 9 years, the United States will celebrate the 250th anniversary of our founding — 250 years since the day we declared our Independence.

It will be one of the great milestones in the history of the world.

But what will America look like as we reach our 250th year? What kind of country will we leave for our children?

I will not allow the mistakes of recent decades past to define the course of our future.

For too long, we’ve watched our middle class shrink as we’ve exported our jobs and wealth to foreign countries.

We’ve financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit — and so many other places throughout our land.

We’ve defended the borders of other nations, while leaving our own borders wide open, for anyone to cross — and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate.

And we’ve spent trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled.

Then, in 2016, the earth shifted beneath our feet.  The rebellion started as a quiet protest, spoken by families of all colors and creeds -– families who just wanted a fair shot for their children, and a fair hearing for their concerns.

                        More fantastical, mythological, magical thinking in which Trump portrays himself as the savior. 


Trump: “Then, in 2016, the earth shifted beneath our feet…Finally, the chorus became an earthquake – and the people turned out by the tens of millions, and they were all united by one very simple, but crucial demand, that America must put its own citizens first.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But then the quiet voices became a loud chorus — as thousands of citizens now spoke out together, from cities small and large, all across our country.

Finally, the chorus became an earthquake – and the people turned out by the tens of millions, and they were all united by one very simple, but crucial demand, that America must put its own citizens first … because only then, can we truly MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

                        But tens of millions – 3 million more than came out for Trump – came out in opposition, for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic agenda.

Dying industries will come roaring back to life.  Heroic veterans will get the care they so desperately need.

Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve.

Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land.

Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and ultimately, stop.

And our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity.

                                 Trump’s speech is remarkably devoid of any specifics (remember how they chided Obama for not being specific when he laid out an actual agenda, described actual programs?). This is the same as the RNC speech, the inaugural speech, making fantastical promises with no way of achieving anything.

Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people.

It’s been a little over a month since my inauguration, and I want to take this moment to update the Nation on the progress I’ve made in keeping those promises.

Since my election, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors, Sprint, Softbank, Lockheed, Intel, Walmart, and many others, have announced that they will invest billions of dollars in the United States and will create tens of thousands of new American jobs.

The stock market has gained almost three trillion dollars in value since the election on November 8th, a record.

Of course, because Wall Street and bankers are giddy over his Billionaire Cabinet, roll-back of financial protections and regulations that protect consumers, like rolling back fiduciary responsibility rule, his promise to cut taxes for the wealthiest and corporations. What’s not to like. Laissez-faire license to steal is back, baby! 

We’ve saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by bringing down the price of the fantastic new F-35 jet fighter, and will be saving billions more dollars on contracts all across our Government.  We have placed a hiring freeze on non-military and non-essential Federal workers.

                        Such arbitrary restrictions actually hurts the ability for government to deliver needed services. And by the way, the unemployment during the Bush Great Recession reflected millions of public service workers being thrown out of their jobs. 


Trump, with his billionaire Cabinet directly in front of him, drew laughter when he listed as an accomplishment “We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a 5 year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials –- and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government.

This caused audible laughter because Trump has brought in every billionaire, every multi-millionaire, every major Republican donor, every puppet of Big Business and Special Interest to run his cabinet.

We have undertaken a historic effort to massively reduce job‑crushing regulations, creating a deregulation task force inside of every Government agency; imposing a new rule which mandates that for every 1 new regulation, 2 old regulations must be eliminated; and stopping a regulation that threatens the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.

Regulations that protect the air and water, food safety, financial protections, the environment generally, all so that corporations can pocket more money and foist their damage onto people.

We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines — thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs — and I’ve issued a new directive that new American pipelines be made with American steel.

False premise that pipelines create jobs – they create temporary jobs, but leave society hostage to Fossil Fuel industry that continues to contribute to global warming, instead of promoting the transition to clean, renewable, decentralized energy that would really free people from their bondage.

We have withdrawn the United States from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership.

TPP was bad in this respect: the corporate dominated Settlements Court that could overrule national, state and local environmental regulations, which could have been amended. But pulling out will leave the Pacific open to China’s domination. Global trade is not just vital for American companies and jobs (95% of the world’s market is outside the US), but is key to fostering cooperation instead of conflict among nations, who become partners instead of adversaries. Trade spreads American values and culture. China knows this, which is why they are building in Africa.

With the help of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, we have formed a Council with our neighbors in Canada to help ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to the networks, markets and capital they need to start a business and live out their financial dreams.

To protect our citizens, I have directed the Department of Justice to form a Task Force on Reducing Violent Crime.

I have further ordered the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, along with the Department of State and the Director of National Intelligence, to coordinate an aggressive strategy to dismantle the criminal cartels that have spread across our Nation.

We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth — and we will expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted.

At the same time, my Administration has answered the pleas of the American people for immigration enforcement and border security.  By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone.  We want all Americans to succeed –- but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos.  We must restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders.

Once again, false premise to set up his dystopic agenda.

For that reason, we will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border. It will be started ahead of schedule and, when finished, it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime. 

                        Nonsense. 

As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens.  Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised. 

                        Not true. They are deporting anyone they get their hands on, regardless.

To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws,

There is no one in Congress who does not want laws adhered to, or who does not want undocumented immigrations who commit crimes to be deported. But by the way, Obama’s prioritizing who ICE should deport, which is what Trump claims to be doing, is no different than Trump telling authorities not to bother to enforce the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) mandate. 

I would ask you this question:  what would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?

Our obligation is to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States.  We are also taking strong measures to protect our Nation from Radical Islamic Terrorism. 

                        There, he said it. Radical Islamic Terrorism. Now that solves the that problem. Terrorism is ended because he said the phrase out loud. And mixing up undocumented immigrants with terrorism is disgusting. 

According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country.  We have seen the attacks at home -– from Boston to San Bernardino to the Pentagon and yes, even the World Trade Center.

Trump continues his broad attack on immigrants.

We have seen the attacks in France, in Belgium, in Germany and all over the world.

It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur.  Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values.

         Except that the Obama Administration did implement extreeeeemmme vetting, which is why it takes years for a family, which has been recommended by the UN, to go through a process that involves 25 agencies, and if there is a lack of information or any doubt, they are not admitted as refugees. Trump has NEVER specified the weakness in the vetting process. And no refugee who has come in under the Obama process has been involved in terrorism.

We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America — we cannot allow our Nation to become a sanctuary for extremists. 

                        Mythical thinking. 

That is why my Administration has been working on improved vetting procedures, and we will shortly take new steps to keep our Nation safe –– and to keep out those who would do us harm.

Once again, Trump had promised that he had the answers, but clearly he has none.

As promised, I directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to demolish and destroy ISISa network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians, and men, women, and children of all faiths and beliefsWe will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet. 

                        But during the campaign, Trump insisted he had a plan, a secret plan, that he couldn’t divulge because then it wouldn’t be secret. He already had a plan, then said he would give his generals a month to deliver a plan. It is more than a month. Where’s the plan? In fact, the plan is the same plan as Obama had implemented, successfully cutting back territory ISIS controlled to a fraction, with Mosul in the last throes of ISIS control. Though Trump did say at one point that he wanted to send in hundreds more soldiers. He didn’t mention it in his speech. 

I have also imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals who support Iran’s ballistic missile program, and reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the State of Israel.

Five of the 8 Supremes attended Trump’s joint address to Congress: Roberts, Kennedy, Kagen, Sotomayor, Breyer; Alito and Thomas typically stay home, but Ginsburg uncharacteristically did not attend. Trump made a pitch for Democrats to cooperate on the confirmation of his nominee, Gorsuch, ignoring the fact that Obama’s nominee, Garland, had no hearing at all. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Finally, I have kept my promise to appoint a Justice to the United States Supreme Court — from my list of 20 judges — who will defend our Constitution.  I am honored to have Maureen Scalia with us in the gallery tonight.  Her late, great husband, Antonin Scalia, will forever be a symbol of American justice.  To fill his seat, we have chosen Judge Neil Gorsuch, a man of incredible skill, and deep devotion to the law.  He was confirmed unanimously to the Court of Appeals, and I am asking the Senate to swiftly approve his nomination.

Tonight, as I outline the next steps we must take as a country, we must honestly acknowledge the circumstances we inherited. 

                        That would be nice if he would “honestly acknowledge” the fact that he inherited a strong economy, saved from a Great Recession by Obama despite unprecedented obstruction from Republicans who refused to do what they have done through every other Recession, commit to spending on Infrastructure,  that Obama brought the unemployment rate down from 10% to 4.9%, tripled the stock market, created 15 million new jobs, record number of months of solid jobs growth, restored manufacturing, saw the first wage growth in years,  enabled 20 million Americans to have access to health insurance and brought the uninsured rate to the lowest in history. And more. 

Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force.

This is a meaningless figure because it covers people from age 15 – people who are in high school and college, disabled, parents preferring to stay at home with children, retirees (who can now afford to retire because their retirement funds have been restored under the Obama economy, and had access to Obamacare if they weren’t yet 65 and eligible for Medicare).

Over 43 million people are now living in poverty, and over 43 million Americans are on food stamps.

Inherited from decades-old policies that exacerbate the gap between rich and poor, that destroy the middle class, and that contributed to the Bush Great Recession which plunged people into poverty. As the economy has improved, instead of raising wages, employers have chosen to pocket the cash.

More than 1 in 5 people in their prime working years are not working.

Again, this includes people in school, who choose to stay home with children, who are disabled.

We have the worst financial recovery in 65 years.

In the last 8 years, the past Administration has put on more new debt than nearly all other Presidents combined.

That’s thanks to the Bush tax cuts followed by Iraq and Afghanistan wars ($1 trillion worth) that Bush put on the national credit card, but Obama a took responsibility for, even as he brought down the budget deficit faster than any president. 

We’ve lost more than one-fourth of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was approved, and we’ve lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

As every economist has now pointed out, the loss of manufacturing jobs is not entirely due to trade (which in fact, supports as many jobs through US exports as outsources), but more because of automation, which is continuing. Obama and Clinton offered plans for retraining, for new apprenticeships, for public-private cooperation with community colleges and vocational schools, and for reinvestment in advanced precision manufacturing and new sustainable industries. 

Our trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly $800 billion dollars.

Trump’s plan to impoverish Mexico and other countries through his trade barriers, tariffs (which will only spark a trade war) will rebound against national security, when people become desperately poor. 

And overseas, we have inherited a series of tragic foreign policy disasters.

Solving these, and so many other pressing problems, will require us to work past the differences of party.  It will require us to tap into the American spirit that has overcome every challenge throughout our long and storied history.

But to accomplish our goals at home and abroad, we must restart the engine of the American economy — making it easier for companies to do business in the United States, and much harder for companies to leave.

Right now, American companies are taxed at one of the highest rates anywhere in the world.

Except that profitable companies like GE and Apple don’t pay any US taxes because of the ease with which they can offshore profits. Trump should know how easy it is to evade taxes – he is still collecting on  a $1 billion LOSS. While the nominal corporate tax rate is high, NO COMPANY pays it, because of the ease with which they take deductions. The difference is made up by individual working stiffs. 

My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone.  At the same time, we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class.

Once again, Trump in the campaign said he had plans. He had none. He has none.    

We must create a level playing field for American companies and workers.

Currently, when we ship products out of America, many other countries make us pay very high tariffs and taxes — but when foreign companies ship their products into America, we charge them almost nothing.

I just met with officials and workers from a great American company, Harley-Davidson.  In fact, they proudly displayed five of their magnificent motorcycles, made in the USA, on the front lawn of the White House.

At our meeting, I asked them, how are you doing, how is business?  They said that it’s good.  I asked them further how they are doing with other countries, mainly international sales.  They told me — without even complaining because they have been mistreated for so long that they have become used to it — that it is very hard to do business with other countries because they tax our goods at such a high rate.  They said that in one case another country taxed their motorcycles at 100 percent.

     They weren’t even asking for change.  But I am.

I believe strongly in free trade but it also has to be FAIR TRADE.

Republicans seem to have accepted Trump’s breaks with Republican dogma of free trade in laying out plans for tariffs © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, warned that the “abandonment of the protective policy by the American Government [will] produce want and ruin among our people.”

Lincoln was right — and it is time we heeded his words. I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers, be taken advantage of anymore.

If he bothered to learn anything from history, he would see what tariffs do to international trade, how they contributed to the Great Recession, and would be even worse now because as he clearly hasn’t noticed, the economy is global.

I am going to bring back millions of jobs.  Protecting our workers also means reforming our system of legal immigration.  The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers.

Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others –- have a merit-based immigration system.  It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially.  Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon.  According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs America’s taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.

None of this is based on fact. So much for “give us your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” So much for America as a beacon of freedom and safety from terror and violence. 

Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, will have many benefits:  it will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families –- including immigrant families –- enter the middle class.

                 Interesting how he tosses out “bring back millions of jobs” and ties to immigrants. It is doubtful whether the undocumented immigrants take American jobs. But Trump’s notion, to shift to a merit system, means that middle class, college graduates will actually be the ones to find job opportunities more limited.

I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation’s security, and to restore respect for our laws.

What this country needs immediately is a way for the undocumented immigrants to be legalized, to come out of the shadows, to be able to work and drive legally, to no longer live with the terror of being rounded up and separated from their families and the homes they have built. Democrats should set aside the “path to citizenship” as core to comprehensive immigration reform. That issue should come in the future. The problem exists because there has not been an adequate framework – only 300 immigration judges. Trump’s militarized sweeps and use of private prisons as detention centers is inhumane. 

If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades. 

                        That’s the big ‘IF’. Trump is Anti-American, in the sense that he has no compassion for an individual American. 

Another Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, initiated the last truly great national infrastructure program –- the building of the interstate highway system.  The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding.

America has spent approximately six trillion dollars in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling.  With this six trillion dollars we could have rebuilt our country –- twice.  And maybe even three times if we had people who had the ability to negotiate.

To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States — financed through both public and private capital –- creating millions of new jobs.

                        Democrats have been pushing for this for years. Obama proposed an Infrastructure Bank which Republicans refused. Obama had an American Jobs Act, which Republicans blocked. 

This effort will be guided by two core principles:  Buy American, and Hire American.

Melania Trump © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better Healthcare.

                        Interesting how he slips from infrastructure to Obamacare without a beat. But where is the plan?

Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America.  The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we will do.

Obamacare did lower the cost of health insurance, by requiring that 80% of the premium go toward patient care instead of corporate profits, marketing, administration.

Obamacare premiums nationwide have increased by double and triple digits.  As an example, Arizona went up 116 percent last year alone.  Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky just said Obamacare is failing in his State — it is unsustainable and collapsing.

             The reason premiums went up in the second year was because companies had to guesstimate  in the first year, and because Republicans put every obstacle in place to make it difficult for insurance companies to be successful. Mend it, don’t end it.

One third of counties have only one insurer on the exchanges –- leaving many Americans with no choice at all.

Remember when you were told that you could keep your doctor, and keep your plan?

We now know that all of those promises have been broken.

You never could keep your doctor; plans were changing all the time. Obama misspoke.

     Obamacare is collapsing –- and we must act decisively to protect all Americans.  Action is not a choice –- it is a necessity.

Not true.

So I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans in the Congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster.

Here are the principles that should guide the Congress as we move to create a better healthcare system for all Americans:

First, we should ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage, and that we have a stable transition for Americans currently enrolled in the healthcare exchanges.

Secondly, we should help Americans purchase their own coverage, through the use of tax credits and expanded Health Savings Accounts –- but it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by the Government.

Tax credits only help those earning enough to afford health care in the first place; the scheme they want is to give tax credits based on age, not income, so Rex Tillerson would get $3000 tax credit and a 30-year old grocery clerk would get $2000 – a pittance compared to the premium cost. Health Savings Accounts also only work to benefit the wealthy, not those who already have enough problems paying rent, food, transportation to work. And what if you have a cancer diagnosis the same week you open a Health Savings Account? This is a shell game.

Thirdly, we should give our great State Governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.

The block grants proposed are not enough money and those Governors tend to apply block grants to their budget deficit so they can lower taxes on businesses and the wealthy. And the amount proposed would not reflect the numbers of individuals needing help. 

Fourthly, we should implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance –

  Ah, the long-sought tort reform that Republicans are obsessed about.

and work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs and bring them down immediately.

                        At last, something that Democrats can support. Republicans are not likely to.

Finally, the time has come to give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across State lines –- creating a truly competitive national marketplace that will bring cost way down and provide far better care.

What this means is that states like New York that have strict standards, would no longer be able to insist on protections for their residents. It would result in a few companies dominating the insurance market. 

Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed.  Every problem can be solved.  And every hurting family can find healing, and hope.

                        Ah, here is the optimism that everyone is so relieved to hear from Trump.

Our citizens deserve this, and so much more –- so why not join forces to finally get it done?  On this and so many other things, Democrats and Republicans should get together and unite for the good of our country, and for the good of the American people.

Democratic women wore white, a reference to the Suffragettes and were generally unimpressed by what they heard from Trump. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make childcare accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women’s health, and to promote clean air and clear water, and to rebuild our military and our infrastructure. 

                        Sounds great. Democrats would be on board. As for ‘promote clean air and clean water’ – so far, his executive orders overturn environmental protections. 

True love for our people requires us to find common ground, to advance the common good, and to cooperate on behalf of every American child who deserves a brighter future. 

            Once again, such lovely sentiment! But the way Trump and Republicans mean “common ground” is that Democrats accept their agenda, not that Republicans find a policy that forges consensus.

An incredible young woman is with us this evening who should serve as an inspiration to us all.

Today is Rare Disease day, and joining us in the gallery is a Rare Disease Survivor, Megan Crowley.  Megan was diagnosed with Pompe Disease, a rare and serious illness, when she was 15 months old.  She was not expected to live past 5.

On receiving this news, Megan’s dad, John, fought with everything he had to save the life of his precious child.  He founded a company to look for a cure, and helped develop the drug that saved Megan’s life.  Today she is 20 years old — and a sophomore at Notre Dame.

Megan’s story is about the unbounded power of a father’s love for a daughter.

But our slow and burdensome approval process at the Food and Drug Administration keeps too many advances, like the one that saved Megan’s life, from reaching those in need.

If we slash the restraints, not just at the FDA but across our Government, then we will be blessed with far more miracles like Megan.

In fact, our children will grow up in a Nation of miracles.

But to achieve this future, we must enrich the mind –- and the souls –- of every American child.

Education is the civil rights issue of our time.

I am calling upon Members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children.  These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.

“School choice” is the backdoor to shifting public resources to for-profit schools and parochial schools in a violation of separation of Church and State. Meanwhile, no proof – in fact just the opposite – that charter schools, for-profit schools, parochial schools produce better results than public schools, if public schools are properly funded and have adequate resources. Also, public schools are forced to adhere to mandates which charter schools, private schools, parochial schools don’t, and do not have the same accountability for how they use funds or the educational results.

Joining us tonight in the gallery is a remarkable woman, Denisha Merriweather.  As a young girl, Denisha struggled in school and failed third grade twice.  But then she was able to enroll in a private center for learning, with the help of a tax credit scholarship program.  Today, she is the first in her family to graduate, not just from high school, but from college.  Later this year she will get her masters degree in social work.

We want all children to be able to break the cycle of poverty just like Denisha.

But to break the cycle of poverty, we must also break the cycle of violence.

The murder rate in 2015 experienced its largest single-year increase in nearly half a century.

Cherry picking a year because the result was up from a low year; historically, crime has been going down. But where is the focus on the easy access to guns?

In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone –- and the murder rate so far this year has been even higher.

This is not acceptable in our society.

So where is the discussion of controlling access to guns? Instead, Trump just signed Republican bill overturning the background check that would have made it harder for mentally ill to acquire assault weapons. Here again, his flowery language has nothing to do with actual policy. 

Every American child should be able to grow up in a safe community, to attend a great school, and to have access to a high-paying job.

But to create this future, we must work with –- not against -– the men and women of law enforcement.

We must build bridges of cooperation and trust –- not drive the wedge of disunity and division.

                        And how would he do that? He dismisses the reality of police brutality, institutional bias. He has no plan, no interest in addressing these issues. 

Police and sheriffs are members of our community.  They are friends and neighbors, they are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters – and they leave behind loved ones every day who worry whether or not they’ll come home safe and sound.

We must support the incredible men and women of law enforcement.

Trump devoted most of his speech to some bashing immigrants, whether he was talking about jobs, trade, crime, law enforcement or terrorism. The only concrete proposal he described was to order Homeland Security to create an office to serve American Victims, VOICE –- Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement. “We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And we must support the victims of crime.

I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American Victims.  The office is called VOICE –- Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement.  We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.

So, the only victims of crime he gives a hoot about are those committed by immigrants, just as he has redefined “terrorism” to only address incidents by foreigners, not domestic terror acts, such as White Supremacists. This is the most callous statement of all, and shows Trump’s true stripe.

Joining us in the audience tonight are four very brave Americans whose government failed them.

Their names are Jamiel Shaw, Susan Oliver, Jenna Oliver, and Jessica Davis.

Jamiel’s 17-year-old son was viciously murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member, who had just been released from prison.  Jamiel Shaw Jr. was an incredible young man, with unlimited potential who was getting ready to go to college where he would have excelled as a great quarterback.  But he never got the chance.  His father, who is in the audience tonight, has become a good friend of mine.

Also with us are Susan Oliver and Jessica Davis.  Their husbands –- Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver and Detective Michael Davis –- were slain in the line of duty in California.  They were pillars of their community.  These brave men were viciously gunned down by an illegal immigrant with a criminal record and two prior deportations.

Sitting with Susan is her daughter, Jenna.  Jenna:  I want you to know that your father was a hero, and that tonight you have the love of an entire country supporting you and praying for you.

To Jamiel, Jenna, Susan and Jessica:  I want you to know –- we will never stop fighting for justice.  Your loved ones will never be forgotten, we will always honor their memory.

Finally, to keep America Safe we must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need to prevent war and –- if they must –- to fight and to win.

I am sending the Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the Defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.

                        The US already spends more than the next 7 nations combined, including China and Russia, which each spend a fraction. The US was able to wind down spending as it wound down involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

My budget will also increase funding for our veterans.

Our veterans have delivered for this Nation –- and now we must deliver for them.

The challenges we face as a Nation are great.  But our people are even greater.

And none are greater or braver than those who fight for America in uniform.

A sustained, record-breaking two-minute standing applause for Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens, with Ivanka Trump looking on © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens.  Ryan died as he lived:  a warrior, and a hero –- battling against terrorism and securing our Nation.

I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, “Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.”  Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity.  For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom –- we will never forget him. 

                        This was a sick exploitation of this family’s grief, in order to evade his responsibility for his ignorance in ordering an attack that was not adequately planned because he had no clue and no care. Trump blames everyone else for its colossal failure including the loss of Owens’ life as well as dozens of civilians. He blames the generals. He blames Obama. But he made the decision in an offhand manner, over dinner. He summons the Bible, the holiness, the nobility of Owens’ sacrifice, just as Bush/Cheney did to deflect their utter failure after 9/11. If this were Obama or Clinton, there would have been howls for investigations and hounding for months, years, millions of dollars and commissions and investigations just as they did into Benghazi.

To those allies who wonder what kind of friend America will be, look no further than the heroes who wear our uniform.

Trump uses Secretary of Defense Mattis to affirm the success of the Yemen mission. He talked big about building up the military – but nothing about how he intends to strip funds from the State Department and foreign aid. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Our foreign policy calls for a direct, robust and meaningful engagement with the world.  It is American leadership based on vital security interests that we share with our allies across the globe.

We strongly support NATO, an alliance forged through the bonds of two World Wars that dethroned fascism, and a Cold War that defeated communism.

But our partners must meet their financial obligations. 

            BIG BUT. Trump says one thing at the beginning, but basically says, the US will only stand up when it is in our interest. 

And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that.

We expect our partners, whether in NATO, in the Middle East, or the Pacific –- to take a direct and meaningful role in both strategic and military operations, and pay their fair share of the cost.

We will respect historic institutions, but we will also respect the sovereign rights of nations.

Free nations are the best vehicle for expressing the will of the people –- and America respects the right of all nations to chart their own path.  My job is not to represent the world.  My job is to represent the United States of America. But we know that America is better off, when there is less conflict — not more.

We must learn from the mistakes of the past –- we have seen the war and destruction that have raged across our world.

The only long-term solution for these humanitarian disasters is to create the conditions where displaced persons can safely return home and begin the long process of rebuilding.

America is willing to find new friends, and to forge new partnerships, where shared interests align.  We want harmony and stability, not war and conflict.

We want peace, wherever peace can be found.  America is friends today with former enemies.  Some of our closest allies, decades ago, fought on the opposite side of these World Wars.  This history should give us all faith in the possibilities for a better world.

Hopefully, the 250th year for America will see a world that is more peaceful, more just and more free.

On our 100th anniversary, in 1876, citizens from across our Nation came to Philadelphia to celebrate America’s centennial.  At that celebration, the country’s builders and artists and inventors showed off their creations.

Alexander Graham Bell displayed his telephone for the first time.

Remington unveiled the first typewriter.  An early attempt was made at electric light.

Thomas Edison showed an automatic telegraph and an electric pen.

Imagine the wonders our country could know in America’s 250th year.

Think of the marvels we can achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people.

Cures to illnesses that have always plagued us are not too much to hope.

American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.

Millions lifted from welfare to work is not too much to expect.

And streets where mothers are safe from fear — schools where children learn in peace — and jobs where Americans prosper and grow — are not too much to ask.

When we have all of this, we will have made America greater than ever before. For all Americans.

This is our vision. This is our mission.

But we can only get there together.

We are one people, with one destiny.

We all bleed the same blood.

We all salute the same flag.

And we are all made by the same God.

And when we fulfill this vision; when we celebrate our 250 years of glorious freedom, we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American Greatness began.

                        Trump, the Savior.

Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader, restrains emotion. Trump ‘s call for “unity” and for Democrats to set aside “trivial” fights, is really telling Democrats to accept the Republican agenda. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The time for small thinking is over.  The time for trivial fights is behind us.

                        Trivial fights? Is it trivial to fight for health care. That is life and death. Is it trivial to protect the environment, to stop the progress toward climate change? That is an existential fight. Is it trivial to want to preserve a woman’s right to choose? That is a matter of her entire future. Only Trump would see these “differences” as “trivial” and merely “political” just as he dismisses the millions of protesters as “paid professional activists.”

We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts.

                        An, so simple. Everything is simple. Especially when you don’t know anything. Like health care. “Who knew health care was so complicated?” Everybody.

The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls.

And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action.

From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears –-

     inspired by the future, not bound by the failures of the past –-

     and guided by our vision, not blinded by our doubts.

I am asking all citizens to embrace this Renewal of the American Spirit.

Actually, my spirit is sucked out of me. I see the rest of my life suffering under the calamities that Trump is fomenting. This entire nation has been rendered unrecognizable in just one month’s time. For the rest of my life, I will never see the America that we should have had.

I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big, and bold and daring things for our country.  And I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment and —

Believe in yourselves.

Believe in your future.

And believe, once more, in America.

Thank you, God bless you, and God Bless these United States.

Once again, Trump casts himself as the Savior, by first casting this dystopian image of America.

 

 

Newly Minted Democratic Congressman from Long Island Expresses Optimism in Bridging Partisan Divide to Work for ‘A Better World’

 

Newly sworn in Congressman Tom Suozzi with family and well-wishers Congressman Tom Suozzi with well wishers after being sworn in © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Newly sworn in Congressman Tom Suozzi with family and well-wishers Congressman Tom Suozzi with well wishers after being sworn in © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

The first thing I noticed on the bus from Christopher Morley Park in Roslyn, Long Island enroute to the Capitol Building in Washington DC to greet Tom Suozzi as a freshman Congressman representing Long Island, was how diverse our group was. This was even more pronounced when we gathered together with more than 100 for a reception.

Suozzi, a Democrat, moments after being officially sworn in on the House floor by reelected Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), noted as much himself in his good-natured way, pointing to the Pakistanis, the Indians (Sikhs, Hindus), Chinese, Jews, Latinos, Catholics, Italians., Irish, Polish, African-Americans (really too many to list) just in that tiny room.

The Capitol Building is “The People’s House” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The Capitol Building is “The People’s House” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The observation was even more poignant after we had been treated to a tour of the Capitol Building, which begins with a film, “Out of One, Many” – E Pluribus Unum, the nation’s motto. The theme of the movie was how the Congress is organized to bring together representatives of a broad mosaic of Americans with different beliefs and perspectives, and how (and this is the part I thought was a quaint notion if ever it were true), Congress was designed for compromise. “Congress is where we can find common ground.”

Clearly the filmmakers and the nation’s founders, did not take into account the extreme partisanship that has taken hold of Washington since 1994, with Newt Gingrich’s Contract on America (yes I know it was titled, “Contract for America.”), before the speaker had to resign in disgrace (and pop up again in the Donald Trump campaign).

But Tom Suozzi campaigned on his intention and his ability to bridge the divide, to work with Republicans and Democrats to forge consensus. And he repeated that pledge in remarks to the well-wishers who crammed the room in the Cannon House office building.

Congressman Tom Suozzi poses with well wishers after being sworn in © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Congressman Tom Suozzi poses with well wishers after being sworn in © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“With all the differences that different people have, with all our different backgrounds, faiths, traditions, cultures, foods, customs, most of what we believe in is all the same,” he declared. “There are some things that divide us, but 99% of what we all believe in is all the same. And for me, that comes down to ‘Love thy neighbor.’ And love thy neighbor is about trying to help other people to make the world a better place to live in.

“Politics is the vehicle by which we try to do that in our country. It’s a wonderful tradition. It’s one of the most unique places in the world that has that tradition. And you being here to support me gives me the strength, and the courage and the ability to have this wonderful, unique opportunity that has only been shared by a few people throughout the whole course of history of the United States of America.”

Congressman Tom Suozzi and his “wall of heroes” in his new office  © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Congressman Tom Suozzi and his “wall of heroes” in his new office © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

He went back to a speech that he said he used to give all the time, but hadn’t during his campaign for Congress. “It’s the speech my grandfather used to give to the new couples.

“Life is like a marriage, is like a long journey with a lot of ups and a lot of downs. But that’s okay, because in life, you can’t have a rose without the thorns. You can’t have the beautiful things in life without the suffering as well, you couldn’t appreciate the good things in life without the tough times as well.

“We see things in newspapers, on TV, we see things happening in our communities, and we have things happening in our families that are so difficult and tragic.

“But today we are celebrating the roses of life.. the best part of life, with friends and family and Americans all get together to say, listen, Let’s work together to make things better for everyone, because there are too many problems we face.

Newly sworn in Congressman Tom Suozzi, Democrat from Long Island: “If we all work together, we can solve any problem in the world.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Newly sworn in Congressman Tom Suozzi, Democrat from Long Island: “If we all work together, we can solve any problem in the world.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“As Democrats and Republicans they all want to help the same people – there are too many people poor people, too many addicted to drugs, too many wars going on, too many refugees, too many worrying about losing health care, too many problems in the world, too much suffering.

“But if we all work together, and we remember the values that we all share among all faiths, and all our traditions, and all the things we all believe in, then we can solve any problem in the world and with your help, we can do it.”

Ryan, Pelosi Make Pledges

Just minutes earlier on the floor of the House when he was handed the gavel and before issuing the oath to Suozzi and the other Congressmembers, Speaker Ryan had made the same appeal to work together, though it remains to be seen whether it was just the rhetorical flourish of the historic moment, or to opportunistically chide Democrats not to do to Donald Trump what the Republicans did to Barack Obama, when Republicans declared on his first day that their primary mission, their Job #1, instead of saving jobs, homes, health care, college funds and retirement savings, was to make Obama a failed president (Senator Charles Schumer, D-NY, newly elected Minority Leader, said that Democrats would look for compromise and to work with Trump and the Republicans on those issues that did not involve abandoning the party’s values).

Members of the 115th Congress take oath © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Members of the 115th Congress take oath © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We were able to watch Ryan and the swearing in on a TV monitor, and hear Ryan say, “There’s no sense of foreboding today. There’s only a sense of potential… But there’s another reason for optimism…Just months ago, our country held a great, electoral contest…. The clash of opinions . . . the hue and cry of campaigns . . . the rancor and the dissension . . . in the end, they all dissolve in the silent and peaceful transfer of power.

“And so in just a few weeks’ time we will welcome a new president . . . who offers us yet another new beginning—a new chance to work toward that more perfect union.

“For all our arguments and all our differences, we are all united by a deep, abiding love of our country. It is the slender but sturdy thread that holds us together. We always forget about it. But it has never failed us. That is why when the votes are counted and the people have spoken, all of us accept the verdict. We come back from the campaign trail. We put away the yard signs. And today, as one body, we pledge allegiance to one flag: the red, white, and blue.

“I don’t care what your party is. Find one person in this House who doesn’t want the best for America. Find one person who doesn’t want to help the unemployed, or care for the sick, or educate the young, or honor our troops. Who here among us does not want to open wide the door to opportunity? Who here among us does not want every American—of every creed and every color—to cross the threshold? You can’t find one person—not a one. And that is a true cause for celebration.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) administers oath to members of the 115th Congress © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) administers oath to members of the 115th Congress © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“That being said, this is no time to rest on our laurels, but to redouble our efforts. It’s no secret that millions of Americans across the country are deeply dissatisfied with their current situation. They’ve looked to Washington for leadership, and all they’ve gotten is condescension. For years, they’ve suffered quietly—amid shuttered factories and shattered lives. But now they’ve let out a great roar. Now, we, their elected representatives, must listen. And so I want to say to the American people, “We hear you. We will do right by you. And we will deliver.”

“It is not enough to say that the condition of your birth should not determine the outcome of your life—no matter how much we mean it. In a few years’ time, I hope people will say of the 115th Congress that we didn’t just pay lip service to this beautiful American Idea; we made it a reality. We are not here to be; we are here to do. We are here to improve people’s lives. Grow our economy. Keep us safe. Improve our health care and our infrastructure. Fight poverty. Restore self-government. We’ve got our work cut out for us. And as your speaker, I intend to keep this place running at full speed.”

In a statement that suggests what kind of challenge Suozzi will face as a newly minted Congressman, Ryan promised to let the Minority party have a voice (but apparently, no actual say).

“And so to the minority, I want to say, ‘We’ve never shied away from our disagreements. And I do not expect anyone to do so now. But however bright of a contrast we draw between us, it must never blind us to the common ground we share. We must never shy away from making progress for the American people, wherever we can. And so, as your speaker, I promise to uphold the rights of the minority. I promise to hear you out, and let you have your say. If I had to sum up my approach, it would be, ‘Agreement whenever possible, but at all times respect.’

“And to the majority, especially to our returning members, I want to say, ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’ This is the kind of thing that most of us only dream about. I know—because I used to dream about it. The people have given us unified government. And it wasn’t because they were feeling generous. It’s because they wanted results. How could we live with ourselves if we let them down? How could we let ourselves down? I have for many months been asking our members to raise their gaze and aim high. Now, let us not be timid, but rather reach for that brighter horizon.”

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi passes gavel to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan at the opening of the 115th Congress © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi passes gavel to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan at the opening of the 115th Congress © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also called for working on behalf of the American people, but she also declared, “We will stand our ground.”

“In that spirit, in order to meet the needs of the American people, House Democrats pledge to seek common ground wherever we can: To forge a bipartisan path forward on job-creating infrastructure, to make taxes and foreign trade fair to American workers, to help Americans balance work and family life, and to ‘drain the swamp’ of big money from our campaigns, all of these provisions, President-elect Trump has pledged.

“We will seek common ground.  But we will stand our ground wherever in good conscience we must.

“If there is an attempt to destroy the guarantee of Medicare, harm [Medicaid], Social Security, or the Affordable Care Act, Democrats will stand our ground.

“If there is an assault on clean air and clean water; on civil rights, women’s rights, or LGBT rights; if DREAMers and their immigrant families face the nightmare of deportation, Democrats will stand our ground.

“And if there is an attempt to silence our voices for common sense gun violence prevention, with Gabby Giffords here in the chamber as our witness — Democrats will stand our ground.”

_______________

© 2016 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

 

Do-Nothing-But-Harm Congress Needs to Set Aside Anti-Abortion Fanatacism and Fund Zika Prevention

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl), a rabid opponent of abortion rights who has said that birth defects should not warrant an exemption, has told Congress to set aside ideology on Zika funding – because of the harm to Florida’s tourism industry and his reelection campaign © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl), a rabid opponent of abortion rights who has said that birth defects should not warrant an exemption, has told Congress to set aside ideology on Zika funding – because of the harm to Florida’s tourism industry and his reelection campaign © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Zika is a small label from a tiny source that has world-shattering implications for families, for communities, for society and the economy.

It is also shorthand for everything that has been so absolutely wrong with the Republican-controlled Congress. It is no longer sufficient to describe it as “Do Nothing.” It is more appropriate to describe how their dysfunction, inaction, their idolatry to ideology has become destructive. Rather than a government with “limited power,” the right-wing ideology has intruded into our personal lives in such devastating.

Rather than treat Zika – a neurotropic virus that grows in target brain cells, literally destroying the fetal brain as it develops –  as the public health crisis that it is, the Right Wingers who control Congress have wrapped it up with abortion as an excuse to derail a vote.

The party that purports to hold a lock on family values? Pregnancy is stressful enough, but instead of being excited and happy at a pregnancy, a woman would be consumed by anxiety, and even hatred for the fetus and the baby that emerges.

When Zika first came to the world’s attention in Brazil, I was thinking that Americans were luckier than the hapless Brazilian women, who were being told to defer child-bearing for four years, because while abortion is illegal in that Catholic country, it is a Constitutionally protected right here in the US – except that the Right Wingers have found ways to throw up so many obstacles to a woman’s reproductive freedom, even declaring that a mother is a mere “vessel” to incubate the fetus, rather than a person with the same rights of self-determination as men.

Meanwhile, there are now approximately 18,000 confirmed case of the Zika Virus in the United States and territories, including 1,751 pregnant women infected, and that number is rising daily.

Earlier this year, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan Zika funding measure by a vote of 89-8. Even Marco Rubio, now running for reelection to the Senate he demeaned during his run for the Presidency, who has said that birth defects should not be an “exemption” for an abortion, told his colleagues that Zika warranted setting ideology aside, but that was because of the harm it was having to Florida’s tourism industry.

But then Republicans changed course, packing the bill full of partisan political riders — like demanding a ban on funding to Planned Parenthood, undermining key provisions of the Clean Water Act, even allowing Confederate flags in cemeteries— and shut Democrats out of the debate.

Now, the money that had been available to the CDC, $292 million “ is out the door already and there are things we wish we could do but can’t because we don’t have the resources,” Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said on “The Takeaway” on NPR. “The decisions made today, or not made, will have implications for decades to come.”

There is so much that is not known about Zika – funding is needed for research for a vaccine, to diagnose, on better ways to control its spread, to understand the impacts of development for infants that do not manifest microcephaly immediately (Hearing loss? Learning disability?) and whether there are latent impacts that could impact even adults (a connection to Alzheimer’s has been raised).

“We need the dollars and the legal authorities so that when there is an emergency, we can treat it as emergency.

“If get in early, can avoid problems – with an earthquake or flood you are providing assistance and picking up the pieces. But with an epidemic, if we can get there early enough, we can do the equivalent of stopping an earthquake…

“The long delay in providing additional supplemental funding makes it difficult to have robust response, and makes it more important to have an infectious disease rapid response fund so we can spend money quickly and effectively. Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate are on board with creating such a fund,” he said.

“Zika will be around for years to come, so it is important to invest now in better ways to stop it. The sooner we get the funding, we can embark on those projects,” he said.

The failure to act on Zika is part and parcel of the right wingers’ continued assault on abortion rights –– essentially a woman’s right to choose, to control her own body and her own destiny, a family’s right to protect itself and create the best environment for its children. They have gone so far as to block the use of an abortion pill that is safer and easier to use than surgical procedure, and even preventing doctors from using a safer regimen of the medication.

This is not about “life” – as we now see in Texas where their anti-woman, anti-choice ideological crusade has resulted in closure of dozens of Planned Parenthood clinics, with the result that the rate of maternal mortality has exploded.

“From 2000 to the end of 2010, Texas’s estimated maternal mortality rate hovered between 17.7 and 18.6 per 100,000 births. But after 2010, that rate had leaped to 33 deaths per 100,000, and in 2014 it was 35.8. Between 2010 and 2014, more than 600 women died for reasons related to their pregnancies.

“No other state saw a comparable increase,” writes Molly Redden in The Guardian. Those rates put Texas on par with the Third World, where having a baby is the most dangerous thing a woman can do.

This is further proof that the right-wingers who control Congress do not care about “life” they care about control. This is about modern-day enslavement of women. They see a woman as a vessel, a vassal, not as a free person with the rights to make their own life’s choices. While they say they want individuals to be able to care for themselves, producing a generation born with microcephaly means they and their families will have to be dependent upon the state.

This cavalier attitude to life – particularly children – is also manifest in Congress’ failure to act on lead in the drinking water in Flint and other urban areas, likely impairing their normal brain development, contributing to learning and behavioral problems and lowering their IQ’s—and poor and minority children are unfairly at the greatest risk of lead poisoning. Half a million kids in the US already have elevated levels of lead in their blood and millions more are at risk.

The consequences for local school budgets – just as one example – to have to accommodate the special needs of children impacted by lead and now Zika-caused microcephaly – is mindboggling, making the challenge for school districts to keep Mylan’s overpriced Epipens on hand seem like small potatoes.

The Republican controlled Congress’ refusal to come to consensus and treat Zika as the public health emergency it is – no different than a terror attack – but instead, to hamstring it with poison pills that make it unpalatable to pass is not like the Do-Nothing-But-Harm Congress hasn’t been doing mischief since its return from a 7-week vacation. This includes three bills designed to overturn Dodd-Frank protections of the financial system, a bill to neuter Obamacare, a possible impeachment of the IRS Commissioner, and a yet a new investigation, investigating the FBI investigators into Hillary Clinton’s emails (is that the 9th or 10th Congressional investigation?).

But let’s look at what the Do-Nothing-But-Harm Congress has done nothing about: gun violence prevention (No Fly, No Buy), the Flint water crisis, confirming Merritt Garland to the Supreme Court,  and they are even dragging feet about adopting a Continuing Resolution in order to avoid yet another Republican government shutdown.

Congress needs to fund Zika programs and create an infectious disease emergency response fund, which, apparently is actually supported (at least with lip service) by Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate.

After his meeting with Congressional leaders on Monday, Obama expressed confidence there would be no government shut down and there would be funding for Zika.

Ah, President Obama, ever the optimist. We’ll see.