So now that Democrats have taken back control of the House, there is the internal (eternal) argument between the progressives and what I would call the pragmatists as to whether to act immediately to impeach Trump or use their powers for good and solve the ailing problems of the nation (health care, immigration reform, infrastructure, criminal justice reform, voting rights). As if that were even possible, given Mitch McConnell’s death grip over the Senate, and Trump’s likely veto.
But Democrats can do both – develop, debate and pass necessary legislation on health care, drug prices, protecting DACA recipients, rational immigration reform, gun violence prevention, campaign finance – and still hold the hearings and fulfill their Constitutional obligation for oversight and checks-and-balance on government.
Trump must be impeached. And it doesn’t matter if impeachment is likely to fail in the Senate where it is unlikely to get 67 votes. In the best of all worlds, the evidence would be so compelling, so damning, that even Republicans will go to Trump (as they did to Nixon), and say: resign or else (the “else” would be prosecution of Trump for high-crimes, along with his children; threats to prosecute his close associates would likely not bother Trump at all.) That is, if Republicans retain even a scintilla of actual patriotism and concern for the national good rather than retaining power, no matter how unscrupulously.
Certainly, Democrats should wait until the Mueller investigation is concluded – or re-start the hearings that should have taken place in Congress until sabotaged by the likes of Devin Nunes and others more loyal to Trump than to their oath of office. (Nunes, don’t forget, was on the transition team that brought Michael Flynn in as National Security Adviser.) Those hearings need to be held because the Republicans did a superb job of protecting and insulating Trump and preventing any real understanding or defense against what Russia did and how they did it, opening the way for others – be it China, Israel or North Korea, or a billionaire with a mission like Sheldon Adelson or the Kochs – to replicate the process with even greater sophistication and efficiency in the future.
Despite the fact impeachment would likely fail to get the 67 votes needed in the Senate, if Trump is not prosecuted for the slew of “high crimes and misdemeanors” already committed (violation of Emoluments Clause, repeated obstruction of justice, abuse of power, likely violations of Federal campaign laws and tax evasion, not to mention the likely conspiracy or collusion with Russia and other felons who hacked into the DNC), that sets a new standard for what a candidate and a president can do.
Either you have an Emoluments Clause or you don’t. Either you impeach for “high crimes and misdemeanors” or you say that actual “high crimes and misdemeanors” has nothing to do with it, impeachment is “political” with a political standard of criminality so that unless you lie about committing adultery when your opponents control Congress, nothing you do is illegal. You can violate Federal Elections law, hack voting machines, steal absentee ballots, but if you win and become president through such criminality, well then, tough luck for the rest of the world that has to abide by laws. If impeachment is only based on who has the majority, then there is no real Rule of Law, and no bedrock principle that “no man is above the law.” This would incentivize the next billionaire Mafioso who can offer $1 million and a pardon to a henchman to flip votes or hack or undertake a propaganda campaign (and shouldn’t there be some sort of “Truth in Advertising” standard for political messaging?).
In all of American history, there has never been a person endowed with the powers of the presidency who has been this blatantly corrupt and the very epitome of the monarch wannabe the Founders feared and thought they had inoculated the country against. It’s as if Trump things if he commits crimes openly, the outrageousness of it inoculates him. The Founders may have had their bouts with fake news but could not have anticipated data mining and Facebook and gerrymandering with the precision of knowing how to cut through a single block to produce an edge. They couldn’t have predicted black-box voting, the ability to hack into election rolls, to purge voter lists based on their propensity to vote for the other party, the mathematical calculations that go into shutting down polling places and devices.
The Justice Department has a “policy” against indicting a sitting president? Well, it’s just a policy. The Constitution actually requires the Senate to “advise and consent” on Supreme Court nominees, but that didn’t stop Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from doing the unprecedented thing of blocking Obama’s nominee for a year to save the seat for a radically right wing “justice.” The Justice Department has never been faced with a sitting president who has been named as Individual #1 in multiple felonies.
“Policy” didn’t stop the Supreme Court from ruling that a civil suit against President Bill Clinton having nothing to do with his presidency or crimes against the state, should go forward, or requiring him to give testimony under oath, or for that matter the Republican Congress from impeaching him, rather than censuring him, for lying about a consensual adulterous affair.
So far, Trump, who reacted to the sentencing memos against his consigliere Michael Cohen, and his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, both of whom had pleaded guilty, that included him as “Individual #1” as if he had somehow been absolved because he wasn’t actually named, and instead of the word “collusion,” Mueller used a synonym, “synergy.” Trump may also be thinking that because Russia had worked with his flunkies, even for their own reasons (Manafort to pay off his debt?) or to enrich the Trump Organization rather than win, not realizing that Putin was out to win the presidency, that therefore he will be absolved of actual “collusion” or “conspiracy.”
“Totally clears the President. Thank you!” Trump tweeted, very possibly because he didn’t actually read the sentencing memos or doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “synergy.”
But if Trump is not impeached and his campaign’s criminal activity that amounted to stealing an election are not held to account, what will stop the next celebrity billionaire from buying his way onto the ticket, paying for a propaganda campaign, possibly paying off hackers to switch just enough votes with the promise of a hefty cash reward and likely pardon, or collaborating with a foreign power to use the full force of its intelligence/cyber apparatus? (Answer: Nothing. It will become the new modus operandi, and you don’t even need a foreign power to collude.)
The argument that Democrats need to be focused on “solving the problems” of the nation is sweet and sentimental, but the reality is anything that comes out of the Democratic-controlled House will be stopped in the Republican-controlled Senate, or by Trump veto. And when progressives realize that Democrats were ineffectual, instead of rallying in 2020, they will punish Democrats, as they did in 2010 (recall Sanders led that charge, then too, and got progressives to “protest” by staying home) and 2014 (when I bet Hispanics punished Obama for failing to get Comprehensive Immigration Reform through) despite McConnell having said right after Obama’s election that his priority was to make him one-term president. You can see it already in the way the progressive wing is determined to destroy any ability of Democrats to be successful by attacking Nancy Pelosi instead of advancing one of the young bucks into a different leadership position so they can be groomed when she does in fact step aside.
But if Trump is not impeached for high-crimes and misdemeanors, for obstruction of justice (firing Comey, Sessions, to list just two); abuse of power (sending US military to the border for a political purpose); campaign finance violations; violations of the Emoluments Clause and using foreign policy for personal enrichment (Russia, Qatar, UAE, China, India), tax fraud, money laundering, then what would be impeachable? Lying about adultery? (Oh, he did that too).
The Women’s March the day after Trump’s Inauguration in January 2017, in Washington and across America, was the largest day of protest in American history; subsequent protests throughout his tenure – for climate action, gun reform, immigrants – have also been massive.
The Women’s Movement has been rekindled with the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Trump has signaled he has had enough of protest. He prefers what Putin and Kim Jong-un have: a way of suppressing all opposition, be it a free press or protest.
It filters down from Trump (or from Fox to Trump) to the Republican talking heads eerily mimicking the same phrases and charge: the protesters were paid by George Soros (versus the astroturf Tea Partyers literally paid by Koch Brothers). We can’t have “mob rule.” We must uphold the “Rule of Law” – a laughably ironic statement coming from this mobster-in-chief, whose kinship with Kavanaugh – credibly accused of sexual assault, and now vulnerable, as Trump is, to blackmail – is cemented by Kavanaugh’s promise to shield Trump from investigation or indictment, and his pronounced threat against the “conspiracy” of liberals, Democrats and Clinton supporters. “What goes around, comes around,” the pretender “umpire calling strikes and balls,” menaced.
It is yet another example of Trump (and Republicans) accusing opponents of the criminality they themselves commit – “Rigged election.” “Politicized FBI.” “Pay to Play” (Lock her up!). Voter Fraud (a red-herring to justify Voter Suppression). And the most laughable: accusing Democrats of “unprecedented” obstruction, as if being a Democrat means you are a persona non grata in Trump’s America.
Trump has used this technique to intimidate Democrats from questioning the 2016 Election, accused Democrats of obstructing his agenda and appointments (while also boasting he has gotten a record number of judges appointed), and basically ignoring the majority of Americans in this supposed democracy on everything from gun reform to environmental protection to health care.
He has used his words to raise suspicion and discredit the Mueller investigation, about the FBI and CIA intelligence, about the New York Times and Washington Post’s investigations into campaign finance activity and now the tax evasion (and fraud) that enabled him and his family to cheat the American people out of $500 million. Now he expects this technique to either shut down protest or discredit whatever investigations and reports emerge.
Trump has been playing the “victim” card that he attacks women for: Oh pity the poor, aggrieved white men who need to fear being held to account for wrong-doing. Can’t have that.
He has attacked Senate Democrats who were doing their due diligence in investigating Kavanaugh’s fitness (unfitness) for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court attacking them as “evil,” and accusing them of “con” (that’s really rich).
“Honestly, it’s a very dangerous period in our country,” Trump said at the New York City press conference, just ahead of the Kavanaugh vote. “And it’s being perpetrated by some very evil people. Some of them are Democrats, I must say. Because some of them know that this is just a game that they’re playing. It’s a con game. It’s at the highest level. We’re talking about the United States Supreme Court.”
He is desperate to use Kavanaugh to turn out his voters because he fears a Blue Wave will result in investigations, actual oversight and maybe even impeachment if Democrats get a majority in Congress. So he manufactures a message of aggrievement, of discrediting victims of sexual violence, which is a form of subjugation
More menacingly, he is signaling that he will summon the forces of the state to suppress opposition.
I watched as dozens of protesters on the Capitol steps arrested (300 on Thursday, 124 on Saturday) while Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed with the smallest number of votes ever, a mere 50. Nearly 300 had been arrested on Thursday, after the sham FBI report was “released” using a level of secrecy that Trump did not see fit to use to protect the Russian investigation’s sources, methods and lives. You would think the arrests contradicted the Constitution’s protection of the right to assemble and petition our government.
How does exercising the Constitutional right to assemble and petition our government warrant arrest? But in Trump’s America, can’t have that.
Kavanaugh becomes one of four sitting Supreme Court Justices named by presidents (George W. Bush and Trump) who lost the popular vote; meanwhile, those 50 Senators who confirmed Kavanaugh represent about 40% of Americans but now, those Justices have the majority to control the lives of millions of people for generations to come.
So a minority is exerting its tyranny over the majority – taking over each and every one of its institutions, the White House, the Congress and now the Supreme Court (and all the other lesser courts).
So people are taking to the streets. And Trump can’t have that.
This faux “Law and Order” Putin-wannabe is signaling with his use of terms like “mob rule” and screams that protest somehow violates the “Rule of Law” (as opposed to his own evasion of accountability for sexual assault, tax evasion, campaign finance violations, conspiracy with a foreign adversary to steal the election) that he will call out enforcement to shut down protest. In his mind, even not applauding his State of the Union is tantamount to treason.
He will use all the tools and powers at his command, including whatever is possible to suppress the vote, under the guise of preventing voter fraud, or just impeding access to the polls.
Techniques the Republicans have used effectively include locating polling places so they are less accessible to certain voters, purging voter lists, challenging voter IDs if the name isn’t exact (an excellent technique to prevent women from voting); limiting hours, having employers refuse to give time off (or pay) to go vote, having too few voting machines, forcing people to stand on line for hours, then shutting the doors when time’s up, and even having thugs stand outside. Wouldn’t put it past them to set up road blocks.
This actually has happened where those entrusted with enforcing the law does the bidding of those wielding political power.
At the New-York Historical Society, there is a chilling exhibit, “Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow,” a punch-to-the-gut examination of how the Emancipation Proclamation, Civil War, and most significantly, Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, led to an institutionalized system of terror and subjugation of African Americans. This included the complicity of the Supreme Court which issued decisions dating back to Dred Scott, that perpetuated subjugation.
The 1857 Dred Scott case ruled that though Scott was in territory that did not have slavery, Scott had no right to sue because he was not a US citizen, and no black person, free or slave, could be a US citizen. (This was overturned with the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection clause that covered any person in the US, which is why undocumented immigrants also have rights under the Constitution). :“All persons born or naturalized in the United States…are citizens of the United States…No State shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”)
Nonetheless, the Supreme Court for a century was complicit in systemic subjugation of blacks, minorities, immigrants and women.
Despite the 15th Amendment guarantee of voting rights (“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude”) states which had allowed non-propertied white men to vote in 1828 (where is the Constitutional amendment for that?), now passed laws restricting voting only to white men, which the Supreme Court did not overturn.
After Congress, in 1875, passed a civil rights act banning discrimination in public places, the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1883.
In 1882, the federal government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, restricting Chinese immigration and prohibiting the courts from naturalizing Chinese as citizens. (No doubt, Kavanaugh will raise this as “precedent” for backing a Muslim Travel Ban.)
In 1884, The Supreme Court ruled that the 14th and 15th amendments do not grant citizenship to Native Americans. (Today, new Voter ID laws could limit access to polls by Native Americans in North Dakota and Trump’s Justice Department is no longer prosecuting voting rights abuses.)
In 1890, as Mississippi and other southern states formalized disenfranchisement of African Americans, the Supreme Court upheld them because voting restrictions did not specifically mention “race.”
In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v Ferguson that it’s A-OK for segregated facilities to be “separate, but equal.”
Meanwhile, the Ku Klux Klan was rising, terrorizing Blacks, especially those who sought to run for political office. Blacks were lynched for nothing more than being accused of looking at a white woman (making Trump’s faux victimization of white men credibly accused of sexual assault even more absurd). More than 4,000 African Americans were publically lynched from 1877 to the 1950s, in a great many cases, aided and abetted by local police.
Interestingly, anti-lynching efforts were led by women’s organizations, and an anti-lynching bill was put forward in 1937, though none got passed the filibusters of the southern Dixiecrats.
Just as today, the Ku Klux Klan and White Supremacists used the guise of righteous “glory be to God” to subjugate, terrorize and retain power.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went nuclear in overturning the filibuster, even as the United States’ gap in populations of large and small states mushroomed from the time of the Founders’ compromise that gave each state, large and small, two senators each. Wyoming with a population of 579,000 has equal voting power to California with 40 million. A similar imbalance in the Electoral College shows the fraud of “one-person, one vote” (a Wyoming voter has 4 times the weight of a Californian), and the lie to the Republicans’ false flag of “voter fraud” to justify its voter suppression. The majority no longer rules, not in the White House, not in the House, where gerrymandering entrenches the minority Republican party, not in the Senate and not in the Supreme Court.
As for that ridiculous assertion by Senator Susan Collins of Maine that a PAC accumulating money to use against her reelection in 2020 was akin to bribery? What a joke, since the pro-Kavanaugh right-wing groups, led by the Judicial Crisis Center, spent $7 million on its campaign to get Kavanaugh confirmed. The imbalance in campaign spending, thanks to the Scalia Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision, has given special interests ownership of politicians and policy. Glad to hear Collins is upset about that, but I doubt she will do anything about it.
This Kavanaugh battle has illustrated a number of things: Might makes right. Power begets power. Women who have been assaulted or harassed will get no justice. There’s no such thing as “No man is above the law” which means that there is no actual “Rule of Law.”
Women’s rights activists. Gun Rights Activists. Climate Activists. Workers Rights activists, Immigrant Rights activists cannot be cowed. Yes, it is crucial to turn out and vote in these midterms – and it will take a Blue Wave of more than 60% just to get to 51% majority in Congress. But if the Republicans are able to keep control with all the levers and advantages of using power to keep power (gerrymandering, voter suppression, campaign spending, propaganda and outright election hacking), then those peaceful protests protected under the Constitution may in fact turn into an angry mob of unleashed frustration and victimization.
Well, it happened. Despite overwhelming opposition, Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai, the former Verizon thug, overturned Net Neutrality rules. The proof of how evil this is: the next day, moments before Pai was to speak at the Neo-Nazi CPAC convention, the NRA honored him with the “Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award” for repealing the net neutrality rules.
They weren’t allowed to bring Pai’s “prize” on stage – a handmade rifle (how ironic) – but it was forthcoming.
Pai, a former Verizon lawyer who joked in December about being “Verizon’s puppet” argued that the net neutrality rules were too “heavy handed.” But net neutrality proponents – including consumer advocacy groups and tech companies – counter that the rules are necessary to prevent monopolistic broadband providers from engaging in censorship and from harming competitors.
February 27 was Operation: #OneMoreVote day of action to save net neutrality. “There needs to be a massive outcry from Americans across the country to stop Ajit Pai and the FCC from handing over control of the internet to companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T,” writes Katie O’Connell, Digital Communications Coordinator for People for the American Way (pfaw.org)
“Despite enormous public opposition, the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality has officially been entered into the Federal Register. Now the Senate must act in the next 60 days to stop the repeal and save the internet or big cable companies will have the control over the internet they’ve always wanted.”
Overturning Net Neutrality rules mean that Big Cable companies can censor content, slow or throttle sites, inhibit newcomers from ever taking hold, and shake down viewers for more and higher fees. It means it will be harder for the next innovator, the next Facebook or Reddit or Twitter or Netflix to get a foothold.
For instance, Comcast owns NBC Universal and, before, was not allowed to throttle Netflix streaming speeds to make it less desirable for viewers compared to its own NBC Universal content.
You would think this means that Google can accede to massive pressure to shut down NRATV, but that is doubtful. The NRA isn’t worried because they know that in the new paradigm, money talks, just as Citizens United turned political campaigns into a Fantasy League sport of billionaires.
Proof of how politicized and self-serving Pai is: he is under investigation by the FCC Inspector General for greasing the wheels for the Sinclair media company to acquire Tribune Media – which would create the largest TV broadcast company in the nation’ and result in unacceptable levels of media concentration – access to 70% of households, when 39% is the limit. This is a media company even more overtly political and conservative than (if you can believe it), News Corp/Fox. In 2016, Jared Kushner bragged that the campaign had struck a deal with Sinclair to provide access to his father-in-law, Donald Trump, in exchange for broadcasting pro-Trump segments without commentary, writes Murshed Zaheed, Political Director of CREDO Action from Working Assets.
Meanwhile, the Trump Administration set its Department of Justice to coerce Time Warner to shed CNN (vilified by Trump as a “fake news” monger) in order to allow the merger with AT&T to go forward.
A coalition of 23 state attorneys general are challenging the repeal of net neutrality rules in court, as are Mozilla, Vimeo and consumer advocacy groups. Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) said last week after Pai issued the new rules that he is pressing forward with a resolution to scrap the FCC’s recent move. So far, that effort has garnered the support of 50 senators. Just one more vote in the Senate could overturn the repeal.
Under provision of the Congressional Review Act, a simple majority of Congress in both the House and the Senate can overturn the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality if they act within 60 legislative days (which takes 4-6 months)—and the pro-Big Cable leadership can’t stop them.
Senator Chuck Schumer has announced that he’ll force a vote on reinstating net neutrality protections. A number of Republicans have at least claimed to support net neutrality in the past. On the other hand, there are so many deadlines and issues that have come to the fore – gun control, the federal budget – it will be easy for the Trump Administration to bury it.
A survey conducted by the University of Maryland late last year revealed that 83% of Americans — including 75% of Republicans — disapproved of the planned repeal. Last year, millions urged the FCC to keep net neutrality rules in place.(Though, ironically, despite evidence of millions of Russian bots, some using stolen identities, inserting comments, Pai refused to delay the vote, as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and others urged.)
A free and open internet provides an important platform and access for small companies and communities of color. “The open internet allows people of color and other vulnerable communities to bypass traditional media gatekeepers. Without Net Neutrality, ISPs could block speech and prevent dissident voices from speaking freely online. Without Net Neutrality, people of color would lose a vital platform,” writes Free Press Action Fund. “Small businesses depend on fair and free communications to get the word out about their services and products, too. Imagine if a company could sell premium space to the highest bidder? How would we ever find that great mom-owned business, or start-up service in our town? We wouldn’t.”
The Trump Administration, which from public education to health care to Social Security, energy, environmental, trade and foreign policy has demonstrated that money talks, has nothing but contempt for free and fair flow of media. The federal budget proposes to slash funding altogether for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS and NPR), yet has done little to force Facebook and Twitter to adhere to the same disclosure rules as every television and radio station, newspaper and magazine must adhere to, to prevent Russian agents from undertaking propaganda and disinformation campaigns intended to suppress voting and sow conflict and discontent.
But here’s the thing: news was supposed to be freely accessed in order to have an “educated” citizenry capable of casting ballots. Instead, free broadcast was replaced by the need to subscribe to some sort of cable or satellite provider; an internet provider; a cell telephone provider. I don’t know about you but I’m spending well over $200/month just on “telecommunications”.
Media providers become the conduit to culture, and culture is values. News Corp, Disney, Comcast, Universal – which dominate media – can decide which programs convey the social message they want and price accordingly, both to the content provider and the consumer: NRATV promoting gun violence under guise of “Second Amendment freedom? Free. Documentary on Elizabeth Warren and a fair deal for all? Expensive for both the producer and for consumers to subscribe to see it. Or think of charging a premium to producers of Will & Grace, a show which helped America see LGBT community as real people, or Murphy Brown, which promoted women’s rights, but giving evangelist Franklin Graham unlimited distribution.
Seem fantastical? Well, Facebook systematically charged the Clinton campaign significantly more for ad space than the Trump campaign because Clinton’s ads were less “provocative.” They could claim the difference in cost is how fast they want their video to download. Let’s remember that the Supreme Court “Citizens United” case that opened the floodgates to political spending was a group that had produced an anti-Hillary Clinton hit-piece (Scalia, an activist, not an ‘originalist’ jurist, resurrected the case in order to establish the precedent that cash is equivalent to speech.)
It goes to the overall theme of Trumpism: weaponizing wealth – dollars are not just “free speech” (as Scalia and the right-wing Supreme Court said in Citizens United) but a measure and means of political power – and pulling up the ladder to upward mobility for everyone else – public education, public access TV and radio.
Instead of “Got Milk?” Trump administration slogan is “Got Cash?”
Congress needs to act and legislate the reality that the online world, the Internet, the world-wide-web is an essential utility, a critical tool for nationhood and democracy, and access and messaging should not be determined by money.
You would think after the unimaginable carnage at a country music concert in Las Vegas, that would have been enough, at least to ban bump stocks which Republicans signaled they were receptive to. Then nothing. Well not really nothing: instead of banning bump stocks, Congressional Republicans adopted Conceal Carry Reciprocity, which would essentially negate every state’s gun control regulations (so much for sacred State’s Rights). Imagine someone whipping out a concealed semi-automatic handgun in the rush hour crowd at Penn Station. Even with the heavily armed national guardsmen who patrol, 50 could be dead in the spate of seconds before anyone even realized what was happening. Now imagine another 10 people whipping out their concealed carry guns and firing in all directions.
You would think after an ex-Air Force gunman, court-martialed for domestic violence, killed 26 people at a smalltown Texas church, there would have been legislation to beef up background checks, which the vast majority of Americans, including NRA members and Republicans support. Dream on.
You would think that after Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Congress would have reauthorized the assault weapons ban that George W. Bush allowed to expire in 2006, or enacted universal background checks. Or, given that Republicans and the NRA always fall-back to mental illness, not the easy access and availability of semi-automatic high-capacity guns as the cause of massive carnage, to stiffen restrictions against those with mental illness, including veterans with PTSD, to acquire guns. Oh yes, Obama actually did that, only to have Donald Trump and Senator Charles Grassley (who ironically reflexively called for more controls to prevent mentally ill from acquiring guns), to rescind the regulation. Or after the San Bernardino terror shooting, Congress would have adopted the “No Fly, No Buy” rule. Or after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot, would have limited the capacity of ammo clips.
An ongoing Washington Post analysis has found that more than 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. After each, there is a spurt of “thoughts and prayers” and then nothing.
Seventeen school shootings, 34 mass shootings, 2008 deaths from gun violence. That’s just the body count for the first 7 weeks of 2018.
As a New York Times editorial noted, “The journal Pediatrics reported last June that gunfire, each week, kills an average of 25 children ages 17 and under. A 2016 study in The American Journal of Medicine calculated that among two dozen of the world’s wealthiest nations, this country alone accounted for 91 percent of firearms deaths among children 14 and under.
Instead, the only “solution” Congress seems to be interested in is mandating Conceal Carry Reciprocity nationwide, to “harden” schools and allow (even require) teachers to carry guns, effectively deputizing them as soldiers in this war-of-choice. (If that is the case, teachers should get battlefield pay.) The only response has been to do the NRA’s bidding: more guns.
But now, perhaps after this latest school shooting, something is different. Because the survivors are 17 and 18 year olds – a cohort of 3.9 million – who will be eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election if not the 2018 midterms. They know how to marshal the power of social media and organize an ongoing campaign; they are articulate, passionate, and have the energy to keep this going. And they are still idealistic enough to think they can actually force politicians to do their will, naively unaware or underestimating the political perils.
It is reminiscent, in fact, of the anti-Vietnam youth movement of the 1960s. By the time it ended, 58,200 Americans had lost their lives in a decade of fighting a war predicated on politically expedient lies.
But this is war on the homefront. This is a public health scourge in our neighborhoods: guns kill 33,000 Americans a year, the equivalent of a 9/11 each month and injure another 100,000 each year whose lives, like the 14 injured Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. will be forever altered – sports scholarships lost, college savings lost, career track altered. Since Sept. 11, 2001, 95 Americans have been murdered on US soil by terrorists (every one an American citizen or legal resident), but in that same timeframe, guns killed 561,000.
Will this stab at activism be different?
My question is how soon will they become frustrated and beat down by the political song-and-dance? Or will they be snuckered by promises, as hollow as the bullets that the NRA defends that can pierce police protective vests?
Indeed, after traveling by bus for six hours to plead their case at the State House in Tallahassee, 100 of the Parkland students were promptly shut down by a swift 2 to 1 vote to table any discussion of banning assault weapons.
Trump, who made a show of visiting two victims in the hospital and praising first responders (not heroic teachers who now as part of their duties have to make themselves human shields, like the three murdered in Parkland), said he might “consider” a bipartisan bill improving background checks, a statement so remarkable, it warranted front-page headlines.
He is talking about the Cronyn bill, which came out of the Texas massacre, but it only requires the military to do what they were legally supposed to have done: notifying the federal database of military who committed domestic violence and shouldn’t be able to buy a gun anyway. He made a show of ordering the Department of Justice to “examine” the possibility of new regulations banning bump stocks or any device that turns a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun. But automatic weapons are already illegal for civilian use. And heaven knows how long it will take Attorney General Jeff Sessions to come up with such regulations. Meantime, Congress is off the hook from actually doing anything that resembles even a modest stab at gun control. No slippery slope there.
And even in his phrasing, “I will be open to a bipartisan bill” to improve background checks sounds like the same bullshit he used when he betrayed Dreamers.
The reality behind his bullshit is that Trump’s budget would cut 19% from funding for background checks, and thanks to George W Bush’s Attorney General John Ashcroft, background checks have to be completed within just three days, and the records destroyed (that’s how the Charleston massacre was able to get his gun).
Over and over, Trump has pledged his fealty to the NRA, which apart and in concert with the Russians, did more to send him to the Oval Office than anyone or anything – $30 million in spending, split between pro-Trump and anti-Clinton campaigns. And even now, it compromises the bulk of his precious, unshakeable “base.”
In his State of the Union, he said, “My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans, to protect their safety, their families, their communities,” which sounded as if he might finally call for action to restrain the scourge of gun violence, especially after the two most monstrous massacres in history. Instead, his next line was, “We are totally defending our Second Amendment…”
The reality is, it is easier to buy an assault rifle than buy alcohol or access reproductive health care or register to vote; it is easier to get a gun license than a drivers license, to get a gun than register a car; there are more gun stores than grocery stores, McDonalds and Starbucks combined.
Young people, don’t be played! Here’s what should constitute gun reform:
Restore the ban on assault weapons; limit the capacity of ammunition clips; ban bump stocks.
Require universal background checks including gun shows and private sales and online sales; remove the artificial limit in time for the check to be completed or increase the waiting period beyond 3 day.
Require training and licensing and a national database of gun registration; and renewal program for license and registration (just as for a car).
Bar felons, domestic abusers, those diagnosed mentally ill, anyone under the age of 21 from buying a gun, and those on a terror watch list (“No Fly, No Buy”)
Tax purchases of guns and ammunition, the money going into a victims fund to pay compensation to survivors and for health care.
Require gun owners to take out liability insurance, just as automobile insurance.
Overturn Stand Your Ground laws; defeat Conceal Carry Reciprocity.
Make parents responsible for safe storage of guns; liable and subject to manslaughter prosecution if their children use guns to kill.
Treat gun violence as public health epidemic; end gag order on CDC to research gun violence and recommend protections.
Emma Gonzalez, one of the Parkland school survivors, properly called out the “bullshit.”
“The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and our parents to call BS,” she said in an impassioned and on-target speech. “Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS.
“They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.
“If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind.”(Crowd chants) “Throw them out.” (Listen to her powerful speech)
Ironically, this new student movement may have a dreaded “unintended consequence” for Republicans: if the NRA lackeys are swept out of office in favor of politicians who enact true gun reform, that might also result in campaign finance reform, overturning Citizens United and requiring Disclosure of who is supplying money, finally breaking the shackles the NRA (which may well have funneled Russian money in the $55 million it spent in the 2016 campaign, including $30 million spent to elect Trump) has on lawmakers.
That would be killing two birds with one stone, not an AR15.
[Note: In an unprecedented action, the White House originally sent out a transcript in which Donald Trump’s statement, in which he seemed to agree with Senator Feinstein on passing a “clean DACA” was modified. When the change was discovered, the White House sent out a corrected transcript.]
Donald Trump may think that his bipartisan meeting on resolving the DACA issue went swimmingly, but it is not at all clear that the Republicans and Democrats can come together on a clean DACA fix, with or without the “security” elements (which Trump understands to mean a wall but Congress seems to acknowledge means a range of solutions) by March 5th, the date that Trump himself set as the expiration of protections for Dreamers, much less by January 19th, the date when government could shut down if the budget resolution is not adopted.
[Adding to the drama, a federal judge in California issued a nationwide injunction late Tuesday ordering the Trump administration to restart the DACA program because the way it was ended “arbitrarily: and “capriciously” and questioned the contention that Obama did not have the authority to implement it to begin with.]
Still, the to-and-fro was eerily civil – probably because the worst hard-liners were left off the guest-list and the Congressmembers in the room were for the most part were veterans of years of negotiating immigration reform.
There was no discussion of making legal immigration actually work – having enough immigration judges to hear applications, giving parents of legal American children a means toward a legal status.
But in the end, Trump said he would sign whatever Congress came up with – a clear display that he does not actually care or have a grasp of policy. He contradicted himself numerous times, and went back-and-forth seeming to agree with whoever was speaking. He even seemed to moderate his concept of what a “wall” – “a great, beautiful wall” – would be, appearing to agree with Democrats that “wall” was a metaphor for border security, not one contiguous structure like the Great Wall of China, but fencing, mountains, rivers. But he insisted he could build it for less money and ahead of schedule than what is being proposed ($18 Billion is requested; estimates go as high as $45 billion), like Wolman ice rink in Central Park. No different than that. Indeed, throughout, Trump kept suggesting that it was a “simple” matter to solve immigration.
It should be – 86 percent of Americans favor a fix for DACA, and the vast majority support immigration reform. Yet just a few days after Trump appeared to come to agreement with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on DACA, for which Trump received rare praise, he hardened his line because of the reaction of the hardliners who are his base. There was universal wonder whether that would happen again.
And it is really interesting that the very day this civilized discussion of a “bill of love”, as Trump termed a DACA fix, was taking place, the Trump Administration announced it was kicking out some 200,000 Salvadorans, along with hundreds of thousands of Haitians and Nicaraguans, who had come here after some disaster as much as 20 years ago, who have children who are American citizens.
In Tuesday’s meeting, Trump’s tone was calm, even conciliatory – politely calling on the Senators and Representatives, not insulting Democrats and especially Democratic women – even urging the sides to come together, go out to dinner, bury the hatchets – a clear effort to counter the image that emerges from Michael Wolff’s inflammatory “Fire and Fury”. Trump only veered off topic a few times – notably, in extolling the virtues of bringing back earmarks as the best tool for forging (buying) compromise (whereas now, there is no incentive), and the need to build up the military.
The exchanges are rather extraordinary – most notably because the press was not thrown out after the photo op, but were allowed to listen in for 55 minutes.
Most astonishing was the comment by Senator Charles Grassley that he would support a pathway to citizenship as part of comprehensive immigration reform. (A bill that had all the elements currently being discussed was passed 68-32 in the Senate in 2013, only to be tabled and effectively killed in the Republican-controlled House, leading President Obama to adopt DACA provision rather than have no action at all. That sparked the controversy that Obama trespassed into territory that belonged to Congress, even though Congress had abdicated its role. But there is no such criticism of Trump who through executive orders and administrative policy is defying the Affordable Care Act in an effort to sabotage Obamacare into oblivion.)
The climax to the bipartisan meeting – considered extraordinary for being bipartisan after an entire year of Republicans acting on their own, deliberately excluding Democrats on significant issues including health care and tax reform – was Trump’s reply to what sounded like a plea from Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been working on immigration for a decade, “If you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat,” POTUS said. “You are not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform.”
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much, everyone, for being here. I’m thrilled to be with a distinguished group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers from both the House and the Senate. We have something in common, we’d like to see this get done, and you know what this means.
We are here today to advance bipartisan immigration reform that serves the needs of the American families, workers, and taxpayers. It’s DACA. We’ve been talking about DACA for a long time. I’ve been hearing about it for years, long before I decided to go into this particular line of work. And maybe we can do something.
We have a lot of good people in this room. A lot of people that have a great spirit for taking care of the people we represent — we all represent. For that reason, any legislation on DACA, we feel — at least a strong part of this group feels — has to accomplish three vital goals.
And Chairman Goodlatte will be submitting a bill over the next two to three days that will cover many of the things. And, obviously, that will — if it gets passed, it will go to the Senate and we can negotiate and we’ll see how it turns out. But I feel having the Democrats in with us is absolutely vital because it should be a bipartisan bill. It should be a bill of love. Truly, it should bea bill of love, and we can do that.
But it also has to be a bill where we’re able to secure our border. Drugs are pouring into our country at a record pace and a lot of people are coming in that we can’t have. We’ve greatly stiffened, as you know, and fewer people are trying to come in.
But we have tremendous numbers of people and drugs pouring into our country.
So, in order to secure it, we need a wall. We need closing enforcement — we have to close enforcement loopholes. Give immigration officers — and these are tremendous people, the border security agents, the ICE agents — we have to give them the equipment they need, we have to close loopholes, and this really does include a very strong amount of different things for border security.
I think everybody in the room would agree to that. I think that we — it’s a question of the amounts. But I think everyone agrees we have to have border security. I don’t think there would be anybody that says “no.”
Second, it has to be a bill to end chain migration. Chain migration is bringing in many, many people with one, and often it doesn’t work out very well. Those many people are not doing us right. And I think a lot of people in the room — and I’m not sure I can speak for everybody, but a lot of the people in this room want to see chain migration ended.
And we have a recent case along the West Side Highway, having to do with chain migration, where a man ran over — killed eight people and many people injured badly. Loss of arms, loss of legs. Horrible thing happened, and then you look at the chain and all of the people that came in because of him. Terrible situation.
[False: Had nothing to do with chain migration]
And the other is — cancel the lottery program. They call it “visa lottery,” I just call it “lottery.” But countries come in and they put names in a hopper. They’re not giving you their best names; common sense means they’re not giving you their best names. They’re giving you people that they don’t want. And then we take them out of the lottery. And when they do it by hand — where they put the hand in a bowl — they’re probably — what’s in their hand are the worst of the worst.
[False. Not how visa lottery works. People in visa lottery are vetted.]
But they put people that they don’t want into a lottery and the United States takes those people. And again, they’re going back to that same person who came in through the lottery program. They went — they visited his neighborhood and the people in the neighborhood said, “oh my God, we suffered with this man — the rudeness, the horrible way he treated us right from the beginning.” So we don’t want the lottery system or the visa lottery system. We want it ended.
So those three things are paramount. These are measures that will make our community safer and more prosperous. These reforms are supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans. They’re from every standpoint, from every poll, and they’re being requested by law enforcement officers.
I had the big meeting with ICE last week; I had a big meeting with the Border Patrol agents last week. Nobody knows it better than them. As an example, on the wall, they say, “sir, we desperately need the wall.”
And we don’t need a 2,000-mile wall. We don’t need a wall where you have rivers and mountains and everything else protecting it. But we do need a wall for a fairly good portion. We also — as you know, it was passed in 2006 — a essentially similar thing, which — a fence, a very substantial fence was passed. But, unfortunately, I don’t know, they never got it done. But they need it.
So I’m appealing to everyone in the room to put the country before party, and to sit down and negotiate and to compromise, and let’s see if we can get something done. I really think that we have a chance to do it. I think it’s very important. You’re talking about 800,000 people — and we’re talking about lots of other people are also affected, including people that live in our country. That’s from the security standpoint.
So maybe the press can stay for a little while and a couple of folks can make statements and I don’t mind the statements. We want to have this as a very open forum. I will say, though, that I really do believe Democratic and Republican — the people sitting around this table — want to get something done in good faith. And I think we’re on our way to do it.
This was an idea I had last week. I was sitting with some of our great Republican senators and we all agreed on everything. It was a great meeting. Right? David, right? We had a great meeting — Tom. It was perfect.
Then I said, “yeah, but we’d like to get some Democrats. Well, what do they say?” And I say, “let’s have the same meeting, but let’s add the Democrats.” And that’s what we’ve done. And I think we’re going to come up with an answer. I hope we’re going to come up with an answer for DACA, and then we go further than that later on down the road.
Dick, perhaps you’d like to say a few words?
SENATOR DURBIN: Thanks, Mr. President, for inviting us. We’re all honored to be a part of this conversation.
September the 5th, you challenged us. You challenged Congress. You said we’re going to end DACA, not replace it. As of today, we have not done that. We face a deadline of March 5th, which you created with your elimination of DACA, and we know that, in the meantime, there have been efforts underway by Senator Graham and I.
We sat down with a bipartisan group of senators. We have worked long and hard, many hours have been put into it. And we feel that we can put together a combination for the future of DACA as well as border security, and that there are elements you’re going to find Democrats support when it comes to border security. We want a safe border in America, period, both when it comes to the issues of illegal migration, but also when it comes to drugs and all these other areas.
Now, I will say that there is a sense of urgency that’s felt by many of us when it comes to this issue. There are many of these young people who are losing the protection of DACA on a daily basis. As of March 5th, a thousand a day will lose DACA protection. Nine hundred of them are members of the U.S. military. Twenty thousand of them are schoolteachers. In my state of Illinois and the city of Chicago, there are 25 of them in medical school who can’t apply for a residency if they lose their DACA status.
So lives are hanging in the balance of our getting the job done. We’ve got the time to do it. In a matter of days — literally of days — we can come together and reach an agreement. And when that happens, I think good things will happen in other places. And we’ll see some progress in Washington.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree with that, Dick. I very much agree with that. Tom, would you like to say something? Tom Cotton.
SENATOR COTTON: Thank you for inviting us all here and I’m glad to be here with Democrats and with House members as well. You know, I think, on this issue, there’s a lack of trust and has been, for many years, a lack of trust between Republicans and Democrats; a lack of trust among Republicans; most fundamentally, a lack of trust between the American people and our elected leaders on not delivering a solution for many, many years about some of these problems.
And I hope that this meeting can be the beginning of building trust between our parties, between the chambers, because I know, for fact, all the Republicans around the table are committed to finding a solution, and I believe all the Democrats are as well.
So I think this is a good first step in building the trust we need for a good bill, Mr. President, that will achieve the objectives that you stated: providing legal protection for the DACA population, while also securing our border and ending chain migration and the diversity lottery.
Thank you for the invitation.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: Mr. President, thank you very much for having us down here. I agree with Tom Cotton that the American public are very frustrated with us. One of the reasons they’re frustrated with us is because we continue to couple things on which we have large agreement with things in which we do not agree. This is a perfect example of that.
Eighty-six percent of the American people in the most recent poll are for ensuring, as you have said, not providing for DACA-protected kids to go to a place that they don’t know, they didn’t grow up in, and it’s not their home. They’re Americans. They don’t have a piece of paper that says they’re Americans, but they’re Americans.
And it seems to me, Mr. President, if we’re going to move ahead in a constructive way, that we take that on which we agree — pass it. The American public will be pleased with all of us if we do that. Just as, in September, you recall, we did the extension of the CR. No drama. We were all for it. You and the four leaders met, we came to an agreement, and we passed that CR.
In my view, we can pass the protection in the — well, I understand your position is procedurally it was not done correctly. You then, as Dick has said, challenged us — pass it correctly.
If it’s put on the floor, Mr. President, I believe we will have the overwhelming majority in both the House — and Senator Graham thinks that we’ll have a substantial majority in the United States Senate as well. That, I think, is the first step, Tom, to creating some degree of confidence.
Democrats are for security at the borders; I want to state that emphatically. There is not a Democrat that is not for having secure borders.
There are obviously differences however, Mr. President, on how you effect that. You just indicated that yourself. And you indicated this would be a first step, and then we continue to talk as we’re talking today about how we best secure the border. There are differences of opinion within your party and within in our party.
So I would urge that we move forward on protecting the DACA-protected individuals — young people, young adults, as you pointed out in one of your statements — who are productive parts of our community — that we protect them and get that done. And then, because I think everybody around the table, as you pointed out, is for security — and then the issue is going to be how do we best effect that border security.
So I would urge us to move, as Senator Durbin has urged us to move, on the DACA students. As a matter of fact, the Speaker, I think today, but maybe yesterday, said, we need to solve the DACA issue, and we need to solve it in a way that is permanent, not temporary. And I agree with him on that issue.
THE PRESIDENT: And, interestingly, when you say that, President Obama, when he signed the executive order, actually said he doesn’t have the right to do this. And so you do have to go through Congress, and you do have to make it permanent, whether he does, whether he doesn’t — let’s assume he doesn’t, he said it — and that was a temporary stopgap, I don’t think we want that. I think we want to have a permanent solution to this. And I think everybody in this room feels that way very strongly.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: What happened, Mr. President, I think, is that the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill, as you know. We did not consider it in the House, so we didn’t reach those issues.
Very frankly, on border security, Mr. McCaul, the Chairman of the committee, reported out a unanimous security solution, which we then included in the bill that we filed on comprehensive immigration reform. So I think we can reach agreement.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I also think that, after we do DACA — and I really believe we should be able to be successful — I really think we should look in terms of your permanent solution and to the whole situation with immigration. I think a lot of people in this room would agree to that also, but we’ll do it in steps. And most people agree with that, I think, that we’ll do the steps. Even you say, ‘let’s do this, and then we go phase two.’
Kevin, what would you like to say?
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: Well, first, I want to thank you for bringing everybody together. You got the Senate, you got the House, you got both parties. And I like the exchange of ideas, and I think everybody has a point here.
The one thing I don’t want to have happen here is what I saw in the past. There were four bills that were passed on border security years ago that never got finished. There were immigration bills passed that — we’re right back at the table with the same problem. Let’s make a commitment to each one, and, most importantly, to the American people, that, when we get done and come to an agreement, that we’re not back at this problem three, four years from now.
That’s why — yes, we’ve got to do DACA, and I agree with you 100 percent — but if we do not do something with the security, if we do not do something with the chain migration, we are fooling each other that we solved the problem. You know how difficult this issue is. So let’s collectively — we’re here at the table together. I’ll be the first one to tell you, we’re all going to have to give a little, and I’ll be the first one willing to.
But let’s solve the problem — but let’s not tell the American public at the end that it’s solved when it’s not.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think a good starting point would be Bob Goodlatte, who has done a bill, and I understand you’re ready to submit it. And you’re going to take that and you’ll submit it and they’ll negotiate it in Congress or the House. And then it goes to the Senate, and they’ll negotiate — both Republican and Democrat. But it could be a good way of starting.
Now, if anyone has an idea different from that — but, I think, starting in the House. Starting in the House — Mike, you good? You’re ready. I think you’re ready to go.
REPRESENTATIVE MCCAUL: We are, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: I would like to add the words “merit” into any bill that’s submitted because I think we should have merit-based immigration like they have in Canada, like they have in Australia.So we have people coming in that have a great track record, as opposed to what we’re doing now, to be honest with you.
But I think merit-based should be absolutely added to any bill, even if it has to do with DACA.That would be added to the things I said. I think it would be popular. I can tell you, the American public very much wants that.
But, Bob, where are you with the bill?
REPRESENTATIVE GOODLATTE: So, tomorrow, Chairman McCaul and Congresswoman McSally and Congressman Labrador — we’re the chairmen of the two committees and the chairmen of the two subcommittees — are going to introduce a bill that addresses the DACA concerns.
And let me thank you, Mr. President, both — I was an immigration lawyer before I was elected to Congress. I want to thank you both for campaigning on securing our borders and the interior of our country, but also on addressing DACA in a way that makes sense. Don’t do it ad hoc; do it through the congressional process. So you’ve challenged us, and we should step up to that challenge. And we’re going to do it in a bipartisan fashion, but we have to put our best foot forward.
And we’re going to do that with this legislation. It’s going to address DACA in a permanent way, not a temporary short-term thing. We’re going to address the border enforcement and security and the wall. We’re going to address — in Mr. McCaul’s bill, we’re going to address interior enforcement, but not everything that the administration had on its list.
We’re going to address chain migration. We’re going to end the visa lottery program. We’re going to address sanctuary cities and Kate’s Law.
We think it is a good bill that will both address the two things our Speaker told us right after you made your decision, which is, we have to address the problem we have with the DACA kids being in limbo, as Dick Dubin described it, and I agree with that. But we also have to make sure this does not happen again.
THE PRESIDENT: And, Dick, you and the Democrats are going to have a lot of things that they’re not going to agree — you’re going to talk to us about it. I just felt that this is something that was long overdue. You’d have a meeting and you’d say, this is what we want. We’d have a meeting — and this has been going on for years. And I just — you know, at a certain point, maybe I’ll just lock the doors and I won’t let anybody out — (laughter) — until they come and agree.
Michael, do you have something to say about the bill?
REPRESENTATIVE MCCAUL: Yes, I’ve been in Congress for seven terms. I’ve been trying to get this border secure for seven terms in Congress. I think this is a bipartisan issue. I think DACA is a bipartisan issue.
We have an opportunity, I think, before us to get this done for the American people. When it comes to chain migration and the lottery system, we saw two recent terror attacks in New York that were the result of this, I think, failed immigration policy. We’d like to see that fixed for the American people and along with, as Bob talked about, sanctuary cities.
Now, you and I talked about this extensively. So we think our bill, our House bill would be a good starting ground for this negotiation. And I, too, want to commend you for bringing everybody together.
I think what we don’t want to see happen is for the conditions for DACA to occur again. We want to get security done so we don’t have to deal with this problem five more years down the road.
So thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there are so many points of agreement, and a lot of it is common sense. And I really think we’re going to come out very well.
David Perdue, do you have something to say?
REPRESENTATIVE PERDUE: Well, yeah, my observation is that three times in the last eleven years, well-intentioned people, some of whom are in this room, attempted to do what we’re starting to try to do today, and we failed. And I think the difference is, is their mission creep ended up in an effort that became too comprehensive.
And so, today, my encouragement for all of us is to do what Dick has been trying to do and talks about repeatedly, and that is to limit the scope of this. And I like the idea that both sides have pressure to solve the DACA issue. But I think the bigger issue here is not just the DACA issue, but what we can do to start the path to the steps that solve this immigration problem. For several reasons — there are social issues; there are political issues; there are economic issues about our workforce that have to be addressed.
But limiting this to the legal immigration side and combining the balance between various solutions on DACA; DREAMers, if it gets in the conversation; as well border security and chain migration, I think therein lies the balance of a good deal that can be done.
And I don’t think — I agree with Dick. I don’t think it’s going to take long to get it done if we just lock ourselves in a room and make it happen.
THE PRESIDENT: I think you’re right. I think it could be done very quickly.
Would anybody have anything to say prior to the press leaving?
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Mr. President, I just have one comment.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Senator Durbin mentioned that lives are hanging in the balance. As we come up on the January 19th deadline, the lives that are hanging in the balance are those of our military that are needing the equipment and the funding and everything they need in order to keep us safe, and we should not playing politics on this issue to stop our military from getting the funding that they need.
I think we have the right people in the room to solve this issue. The deadline is March 5th. Let’s roll up our sleeves and work together on this. But those who need us right now before the January 19 deadline is our military. And let’s not play politics with that. Let’s give them what they need to keep us safe.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. And I think a lot of people would agree with that. We need our military — I can’t say more than ever before. We had wars. Right, Lindsey? We had a lot of other areas and times. But we need our military desperately. Our military has been very depleted. We’re rebuilding, and we’re building it up quickly, and we’re negotiating much better deals with your purveyors and with your manufacturers and with your equipment-makers — much better than it was before.
I looked at boats that started off at $1.5 billion, and they’re up to $18 billion, and they’re still not finished. In this case, a particular aircraft carrier. I think it’s outrageous. So we’re very much agreeing with you on that one.
Would anybody like to say? Yes, Steny, go ahead.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: I want to follow up on that. There are no Democrats that don’t want to make sure that the military is funded properly. And over the last four years, we had an agreement between Mr. Ryan and Senator Murray — Speaker Ryan and — that we understand that our military is critically important. But we also understand that our domestic issues, whether it’s education, whether it’s healthcare, whether it’s environment, whether it’s transportation and infrastructure, they’re important, as well.
And both the defense and non-defense sides of the budget are hurt when you have a CR, because they cannot blink and they cannot get contracts if they don’t have any money to do so. So that, very frankly, I think Ms. McSally is correct. But what we ought to have done over the last six months — particularly when we did the September and we gave 90 days — is to reach some agreement on what the caps are going to be. The Murray-Ryan agreements were parity. We believe that’s very important.
So we can get to where we should get and want to get there, but we ought to have an agreement based upon what the last —
THE PRESIDENT: But, Steny, we do have to take politics out of the military. We need that military. All the other things we talk about, we’re not going to be here if we don’t have the right military. And we need our military, and we need it stronger than ever before, and we’re ready to do it. But we have to take politics out of the military.
One thing that I think we can really get along with on a bipartisan basis — and maybe I’m stronger on this than a lot of the people on the Republican side, but I will tell you, we have great support from the Republicans — is infrastructure. I think we can do a great infrastructure bill. I think we’re going to have a lot of support from both sides, and I’d like to get it done as quickly as possible.
[Trump doesn’t seem to get it: social spending – health care, education – are equally important to military spending.]
SENATOR CORNYN: Mr. President, I, too, want to thank you for getting us together. You made the point last week when Republicans were meeting with you that, why are we continuing to have these meetings just among ourselves when what we need to do to get to a solution is to meet, as we are today, as you insisted, on bipartisan basis.
[The only reason there is any interest at all in “bipartisan” solution – to DACA, immigration, infrastructure, the budget – is because they need 60 votes, not 51, to get measures through the Senate, unless McConnell does what Trump wants and gets rid of the filibuster.]
But part of my job is to count votes in the Senate. And as you know when you hosted us, the leadership, at Camp David this weekend, I believe both the Speaker and Majority Leader McConnell made crystal clear that they would not proceed with a bill on the floor of the Senate or the House unless it had your support, unless you would sign it.
So that’s, I think, the picture we need to be looking through — the lens we need to be looking through is not only what could we agree to among ourselves on a bipartisan basis, but what will you sign into law. Because we all want to get to a solution here, and we realize the clock is ticking.
But I think that for me frames the issue about as well as I can.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Very well said. One of the reasons I’m here, Chuck, so importantly, is exactly that. I mean, normally you wouldn’t have a President coming to this meeting. Normally, frankly, you’d have Democrats, Republicans, and maybe nothing would get done.
Our system lends itself to not getting things done, and I hear so much about earmarks — the old earmark system — how there was a great friendliness when you had earmarks. But of course, they had other problems with earmarks. But maybe all of you should start thinking about going back to a form of earmarks. Because this system — (laughter) —
PARTICIPANT: Yes, yes, yes. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: This system — (laughter) — but you should do it, and I’m there with you, because this system really lends itself to not getting along. It lends itself to hostility and anger, and they hate the Republicans. And they hate the Democrats. And in the old days of earmarks, you can say what you want about certain Presidents and others, where they all talk about they went out to dinner at night and they all got along, and they passed bills. That was an earmark system, and maybe we should think about it.
[This is true: earmarks allow for horse-trading, for a President like Johnson, but not Obama who did not have the benefit of earmarks, to make deals. Without it, politicians have no incentive to “compromise” and every incentive to revert to partisan fringes because all they have to fear is being primaried. Trump wants to return to using earmarks, so he can quite literally buy votes with taxpayer money. That is what is behind the infrastructure plan – it turn the US Treasury into a political slush fund to benefit Trump and the Republicans.]
And we have to put better controls because it got a little bit out of hand, but maybe that brings people together. Because our system right now, the way it’s set up, will never bring people together.
Now, I think we’re going to get this done — DACA. I think we’re going to get — I hope we’re going to get infrastructure done in the same way.
But I think you should look at a form of earmarks. I see Lindsey nodding very hard “yes.”
SENATOR GRAHAM:Starting with the Port of Charleston. Absolutely. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT:A lot of the pros are saying that if you want to get along and if you want to get this country really rolling again, you have to look at a different form, because this is obviously out of control.
The levels of hatred — and I’m not talking about Trump. I’m talking you go back throughout the eight years of Obama and you go before that, the animosity and the hatred between Republicans and Democrats.
I remember when I used to go out in Washington, and I’d see Democrats having dinner with Republicans. And they were best friends, and everybody got along. You don’t see that too much anymore. In all due respect, you really don’t see that. When was the last time you took a Republican out? Why don’t you guys go and have dinner together? (Laughter.)
But you don’t see it. So maybe, and very importantly, totally different from this meeting, because we’re going to get DACA done — I hope we’re going to get DACA done, and we’re going to all try very hard — but maybe you should start bringing back a concept of earmarks. It’s going to bring you together. You’re going to do it honestly. You’re going to get rid of the problems that the other system had — and it did have some problems. But one thing it did is it brought everyone together. And this country has to be brought together. Okay? Thank you.
SENATOR GRAHAM: Well, at 6:40 p.m., I’m going to go to Menendez’s office, and he’s taking me to dinner. (Laughter.)
And he’s buying.
THE PRESIDENT: Sounds like fun.
SENATOR GRAHAM: He didn’t know that, but he’s buying. We’re going to Morton’s. You’re all welcome to come. (Laughter.)
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: We can usually get bipartisan agreement when the other guy buys. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I think it’s a very important thing, because our system is designed, right now, that everybody should hate each other. And we can’t have that. You know, we have a great country. We have a country that’s doing very well in many respects. We’re just hitting a new high on the stock market again, and that means jobs. I don’t look at the stocks, I look at the jobs. I look at the 401(k)s, I look at what’s happening, where police come up to me and they say, “Thank you. You’re making me look like a financial genius” — literally — meaning about them. And their wives never thought that was possible, right?
No, the country is doing well in so many ways, but there’s such divisiveness, such division. And I really believe we can solve that. I think this system is a very bad system in terms of getting together. And I’m going to leave it up to you, but I really believe you can do something to bring it together.
SENATOR GRAHAM: Other than going to dinner with Bob — I’ve been doing this for 10 years — I don’t think I’ve seen a better chance to get it done than I do right now, because of you. John’s right — I’m not going to support a deal if you don’t support it. I’ve had my head beat out a bunch; I’m still standing. I’m “Lindsey Grahamnesty,” “Lindsey Gomez” — you name every name you want to give to me, it’s been assigned to me. And I’m still standing.
The people of South Carolina want a result. How can I get a letter? I’ve been for a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people because I have no animosity toward them. I don’t want crooks, I don’t want “bad hombres.” I want to get a merit-based immigration system to make sure we can succeed in the 21st century, and I’m willing to be more than fair to the 11 million. I just don’t want to do this every 20 years.
Now, we made a decision, Mr. President, not to do it comprehensively. I think that’s a smart decision but a hard decision. We’ve passed three comprehensive bills out of the Senate with over 55 votes. They go to the House and die, and I’m not being disparaging to my House colleagues, this is tough politics if you’re a Republican House member turning on the radio.
To my Democratic friends, thanks for coming. The Resist Movement hates this guy. They don’t want him to be successful at all. You turn on Fox News, and I can hear the drumbeat coming. Right-wing radio and TV talk show hosts are going to beat the crap out of us because it’s going to be amnesty all over again. I don’t know if the Republican and Democratic Party can define love, but I think what we can do is do what the American people want us to do.
Sixty-two percent of the Trump voters support a pathway to citizenship for the DACA kids if you have strong borders. You have created an opportunity in here, Mr. President, and you need to close the deal.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Lindsey. You know, it’s very interesting because I do have people that are — just to use a very common term — very far right and very far left. They’re very unhappy about what we’re doing, but I really don’t believe they have to be, because I really think this sells itself. And, you know, when you talk about comprehensive immigration reform, which is where I would like to get to eventually — if we do the right bill here, we are not very far way. You know, we’ve done most of it. You want to know the truth, Dick? If we do this properly, DACA, you’re not so far away from comprehensive immigration reform.
And if you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat, I don’t care. I don’t care — I’ll take all the heat you want to give me, and I’ll take the heat off both the Democrats and the Republicans. My whole life has been heat. (Laughter.) I like heat, in a certain way. But I will.
I mean, you are somewhat more traditional politicians. Two and a half years ago, I was never thinking in terms of politics. Now I’m a politician. You people have been doing it, many of you, all your lives. I’ll take all the heat you want. But you are not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform. And if you wanted to go that final step, I think you should do it. And if you want to study earmarks to bring us all together, so we all get together and do something, I think you should study it.
Chuck, did you have something to say?
SENATOR GRASSLEY: I’d like to talk about the reality of the whole situation and take off from what Cornyn and Graham have said of the necessity of you working with us. And you are doing that by having this meeting and other meetings as well. But we’ve always talked in the United States Senate about the necessity of getting 60 votes. And that’s pretty darn tough.
But if we would write a bill that you don’t like and you veto it, we’re talking about a 67-vote threshold — two-thirds in the United States Senate. So that’s the reality of negotiating in good faith and getting something you can sign.
The second reality is the March 5th date that’s coming up. Because if we don’t do some good-faith negotiation and make progress, and get a bill on the floor of the United States Senate, our leader is going to have to bring up either the House bill or the bill that some of us have introduced in the United States Senate, and we’re going to have a vote on it. And those people that don’t want to vote to legalize DACA kids are going to have to explain why they haven’t wanted to protect the vulnerable people that we’re all here talking about. We’re talking about everything except doing something for the DACA kids.
You know, I would vote for a path to citizenship, which isn’t very easy for me, but I would do it just as an effort. But there are certain things that we got to guarantee that we’re going to do.
THE PRESIDENT: Chuck, that’s going to be brought up. I really believe that will be brought up as part of what we’re talking about, at some point. It’s an incentive for people to do a good job, if you want to know the truth. That whole path is an incentive for people — and they’re not all kids. I mean, we’re used to talking about kids. They’re not really kids. You have them 39, 40 years old, in some cases. But it would be an incentive for people to work hard and do a good job. So that could very well be brought up.
SENATOR GRASSLEY: We’re talking about legalizing people here that didn’t break the law because their parents, who broke the law, brought them here. And we ought to be talking about what we can do for the people that had no fault of their own, and get the job done, and not worry about a lot of other things that we’re involved in. And that means that we got to make sure that we tell the American people, when we’re taking this step, that we’re doing something that all the people agree to.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: Mr. President, let me just say, I think Dick and I agree with what Chuck Grassley just said.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s hard to believe. When was the last time that happened? (Laughter.)
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: We need to take care of these DACA kids, and we all agree on that. Eighty-six percent of the American public agrees on that.
With all due respect, Bob, and Mike, and Lindsey, there are some things that you’re proposing that are going to be very controversial and will be an impediment to agreement.
THE PRESIDENT: But you’re going to negotiate those things. You’re going to sit down and you’re going to say, listen, we can’t agree here, we’ll give you half of that, we’re going to — you’re going to negotiate those things.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: Mr. President, comprehensive means comprehensive.
THE PRESIDENT: No, we’re not talking about comprehensive. Now we’re talking about —
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: No, we are. We are talking about comprehensive.
THE PRESIDENT: If you want to go there, it’s okay because you’re not that far away.
SENATOR HOYER: Mr. President, many of the things that are mentioned ought be a part of the negotiations regarding comprehensive immigration reform.
THE PRESIDENT: I think if you want to take it a step further, you may — I’m going to have to rely on you, Dick — but you may complicate it and you may delay DACA somewhat.
SENATOR DURBIN: I don’t want to do that.
SENATOR HOYER: You can’t do that.
SENATOR DURBIN: You said at the outset that we need to phase this. I think the first phase is what Chuck and Steny and I have mentioned, and others as well: We have a deadline looming and a lot of lives hanging. We can agree on some very fundamental and important things together on border security, on chain, on the future of diversity visas. Comprehensive, though, I worked on it for six months with Michael Bennet, and a number of — Bob Menendez, and Schumer, and McCain, and Jeff Flake — and it took us six months to put it together. We don’t have six months for the DACA bill.
PARTICIPANT: We’re not talking about comprehensive immigration.
PARTICIPANT: Take a look at our bill and let’s talk some.
PARTICIPANT: I hear you.
SENATOR DURBIN: You’ve mentioned a number of factors that are going to be controversial, as Steny has mentioned.
THE PRESIDENT: But you’re going to negotiate. Dick, you’re going to negotiate. Maybe we will agree and maybe we won’t. I mean, it’s possible we’re not going to agree with you and it’s possible we will, but there should be no reason for us not to get this done.
And, Chuck, I will say, when this group comes back — hopefully with an agreement — this group and others from the Senate, from the House, comes back with an agreement, I’m signing it. I mean, I will be signing it. I’m not going to say, “Oh, gee, I want this or I want that.” I’ll be signing it, because I have a lot of confidence in the people in this room that they’re going to come up with something really good.
Senator, would you like to say something?
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: I would. As you know, we tried for comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate. It was on the floor, there were a number of amendments, it got a lot of attention in the judiciary committee, and then the House didn’t take it up.
I think there needs to be a willingness on both sides. And I think — and I don’t know how you would feel about this, but I’d like to ask the question: What about a clean DACA bill now, with a commitment that we go into a comprehensive immigration reform procedure? Like we did back — oh, I remember when Kennedy was here and it was really a major, major effort, and it was a great disappointment that it went nowhere.
THE PRESIDENT: I remember that. I have no problem. I think that’s basically what Dick is saying. We’re going to come up with DACA. We’re going to do DACA, and then we can start immediately on the phase two, which would be comprehensive.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Would you be agreeable to that?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I would like — I would like to do that.* Go ahead. I think a lot of people would like to see that, but I think we have to do DACA first.
[The original transcript, which was modified by the White House to change what Trump actually said, read: THE PRESIDENT: I think a lot of people would like to see that, but I think we have to do DACA first.]
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: Mr. President, you need to be clear though. I think what Senator Feinstein is asking here: When we talk about just DACA, we don’t want to be back here two years later. We have to have security, as the Secretary would tell you.
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: But I think that’s what she’s saying.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: What do you think I’m saying?
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: I’m thinking you’re saying DACA is not secure. Are you talking about security as well?
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Well, I think if we have some meaningful comprehensive immigration reform, that’s really where the security goes. And if we can get the DACA bill, because March is coming and people are losing their status every day —
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: But, let’s be honest. Security was voted on just a few years ago, and, no disrespect, there’s people in the room on the other side of the aisle who voted for it. If I recall, Senator Clinton voted for it. So I don’t think that’s comprehensive; I think that’s dealing with DACA at the same time. I think that’s really what the President is making.
It’s kind of like three pillars: DACA, because we’re all in the room want to do it; border security, so we’re not back out here; and chain migration. It’s just three items, and then everything else that’s comprehensive is kind of moved to the side.
So I believe when the (inaudible) —
THE PRESIDENT: And the lottery.
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: And the lottery.
THE PRESIDENT: And I think you should add merit. I mean, if you can, add merit-based. (Laughter.) I don’t think — I don’t know who is going to argue with merit-based? Who can argue with merit-based?
Dianne, go ahead.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Can I ask a question? Do you really think that there can be agreement on all of that, quickly, to get DACA passed in time? I wanted to ask Mr. McCarthy a question. Do you really think there can be agreement on those three difficult subjects you raised in time to get DACA passed and effective?
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: Yes, because you have heard from Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan, who said they will put the bill onto the floor if the President agrees to it. And us getting to the room, I haven’t seen us be this close and having this discussion in quite a few years — or the whole last four years.
So I think, yes, we can make this happen. We all know it. We’ve done it before. You and I spent a long time — we did probably one of the most difficult things to do in California — water. And I believe we can get there and we can just keep working each day on this.
THE PRESIDENT: I think what we’re all saying is we’ll do DACA and we can certainly start comprehensive immigration reform the following afternoon. Okay? We’ll take an hour off and then we’ll start.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Okay.
THE PRESIDENT: I do believe that. Because once we get DACA done — if it’s done properly — with, you know, security, and everything else —
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: That’s the point.
THE PRESIDENT: If it’s done properly, we have taken a big chunk of comprehensive out of the negotiation, and I don’t think it’s going to be that complicated.
SENATOR PERDUE: Mr. President, we have —
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
SENATOR PERDUE: We have to be very clear though.
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead.
SENATOR PERDUE: In my opinion, we’ll be right back here either five years, thirty years, whatever. But this, the chain migration, is so insidious; it is the fundamental flaw in the immigration policy of the United States. If any conversation about DACA is being held without that consideration — I agree with border security as well — but any conversation about that is not going to go anywhere in the United States Senate. And if we think we’re going to divide one side versus the other, that’s just not going to happen on this issue.
THE PRESIDENT: David, I think chain migration has taken a very big hit over the last six months. People are seeing what’s happening.
People — for instance, the man on the Westside Highway that killed the people and so badly wounded. You know, it’s incredible when they talk about wounded, they don’t say that arms are off, and legs are off, one person lost two legs. You know, nobody talks about it. They said eight died, but they don’t talk about the twelve people that have no legs, no arms, and all of the things. So I’m talking about everybody.
I really believe that when you talk about the subject that we’re all mentioning right now, I think they had — how many people came in? Twenty-two to twenty-four people came in through him. He’s a killer. He’s a guy who ran over eight — many people — eight died; ten to twelve are really badly injured. So I really think that a lot of people are going to agree with us now on that subject. I really don’t see there’s a big —
SENATOR PERDUE: Seventy percent of Americans want the immigration policy to be, the family — the nuclear family and the workers. Seventy percent.
THE PRESIDENT: David, the chain immigration, though, has taken a very big hit in the last year with what’s happening. I mean, you’re looking at these killers — whether you like or not — we’re looking at these killers and then you see, 18 people came in, 22 people came in, 30 people came in, with this one person that just killed a lot of people. I really don’t believe there are a lot of Democrats saying, “We will be supporting chain migration,” anymore.
PARTICIPANT: Mr. President, should we get the Homeland Security Secretary —
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Yeah, if you don’t mind. Just on a couple of things on border security. I just want to try to make sure we’re all linking.
The reason that border security is so important to have as part of this discussion is that it doesn’t solve the problem if we can apprehend people but we can’t remove them. So we need the wall system, which is some physical infrastructure as the President described — personnel and technology — but we have to close those legal loopholes, because the effect is that is this incredible pull up from Central America that just continues to exacerbate the problem. So border security has to be part of this or we will be here again in three, four, five years again — maybe, unfortunately, sooner.
The other point I would just make is, the President asked DHS — he asked the men and women of DHS, what do you need to do your job? Congress and the American people have entrusted to you, the security of our country. What is it that you need? The list that we have provided is what we need to do our mission that you asked us to do. It’s not less than, it’s not more than; it is what we need to close those loopholes to be able to protect our country.
So I would just encourage — everyone, much more eloquently than I can, described all the reasons why we all, I think, are committed to helping the DACA population. But to truly solve the problem, it’s got to be in conjunction with border security.
THE PRESIDENT: Jeff.
SENATOR FLAKE: I would just echo what has been said by some here. Those of us who have been through comprehension reform, that was six, seven months of every night negotiating, staff on weekends. And a lot of things we’re talking about on border security and some of the interior things have trade-offs, and we made those during that process. I don’t see how we get there before March 5th.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s okay. So I think that’s why we make it a phase two. We do a phase one, which is DACA and security,and we do phase two, which is comprehensive immigration. And I think we should go right to it, I really do. We do one and we then do the other. But we go right to it.
REPRESENTATIVE DIAZ-BALART: Mr. President, I think it’s important to thank you for your flexibility and your leadership. And so I think what all of us have to do is have the same willingness to have a little bit of flexibility to get this issue done. And, obviously, I want to do a lot more than DACA. But the urgent thing now, for obvious reasons, are these young men and women who we have to deal with, first and foremost.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree.
REPRESENTATIVE DIAZ-BALART: And to Steny’s point, there are two issues which we keep hearing that everybody agrees to, and that is dealing with these individuals on a permanent and real solution, and border security.
So I don’t see why we shouldn’t be able to do that, and I’m hoping that that will then lead us — to Senator Collins’ point, there’s a lot of lack of trust. If we can get real border security and deal with these individuals, if we can get that done, then I think, my gosh, it all opens up to do a lot more things in the future for the Americans.
REPRESENTATIVE GOODLATTE: I just want to reemphasize what Secretary Nielsen said. It is so important they understand when you talk about border security, if you apprehend somebody at the border, but then you cannot send them back outside the United States, even though they’re unlawfully present in the United States, you have not solved this problem, because they’re then released into the interior of the country and the problem persists. And that sends a message back to wherever they come from.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree, Bob. And you know what? We’re going to negotiate that. I agree, and I think a lot of people agree on both sides.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Thank you, Mr. President. And I agree with my good friend, Mario, in the sense that if we focus on DACA and border security, I think we can address this. Issues of chain migration or the other issues, I think that should be looked at in the second phase.
But again, I say this with all due respect to both Democrats, Republicans — but being from the border, I always get a kick out of people that go down, spend a few hours, and they think they know the border better than Cornyn — or some of us there, because we’ve lived there all our life.
Let me explain this. For example, if you look at the latest DEA — you’re worried about drugs, look at the latest DEA report — more drugs come through the ports of entry than in between ports. But we’re not even talking about ports of entry, number one.
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Our bill does.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: No, I know — I’m just saying. I’m saying. (Laughter.) I’m just saying ports — let’s finish this. And some of us have been working this longer than some other folks.
Number one, if you look at the 11 or 12 million undocumented aliens, which is the second phase, 40 percent of them came through visa overstays. So you can put the most beautiful wall out there, it’s not going to stop them there because they’ll either come by plane, boat, or vehicle itself.
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: That’s in our bill, too.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yeah, and I know. So the other thing is, the other thing that we had looked at — the wall itself, Mr. President — if you talk to your Border Patrol chief or the former Border Patrol chiefs, I’ve asked them, how much time does a wall buy you? They’ll say a couple minutes or a few seconds. And this is our own Border Patrol chiefs that have said that.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: It’s not mine. Mine has made clear the wall works.
THE PRESIDENT: Not the ones I spoke to.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: They have not. The wall works.
THE PRESIDENT: Not the ones I spoke to. They say, without the wall, we cannot have border security.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: All right. Okay. Let me show you.
THE PRESIDENT: All you have to do is ask Israel. Look what happened with them.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: No, ask Yuma. Ask San Diego. The wall works.
THE PRESIDENT: Henry, without the wall, you can’t have it.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: All right. Homeland Appropriations, your chief that was there, and the former chiefs have all said that.
Now, the other thing is —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they didn’t do a very good job.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Well, if you look at — this is where the wall — Mr. President, if you look at where the walls are at right now, this is where the activity is where the walls are at right now.
THE PRESIDENT: We have massive miles of area where people are pouring through. Now, one of the good things, because of our rhetoric or because of the perceived — you know, my perceived attitude — fewer people are trying to come through. That’s a great thing.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Right.
THE PRESIDENT: And therefore — I mean, our numbers have been fantastic, maybe for all the right reasons.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: But let me just finish my thought. I want to ask you that — we’re playing — you saw the game last night. It was a good game last night.
THE PRESIDENT: I did. Very good game.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: We’re playing defense on the one-yard line called the U.S. border. We spend over $18 billion a year on the border.
If we think about playing defense on the 20-yard line — if you look at what Mexico has done, they stop thousands of people on the southern border with Guatemala. We ought to be looking at working with them.
THE PRESIDENT: Henry, we stopped them. We stopped them. You know why? Mexico told me, the President told me, everybody tells me — not as many people are coming through their southern border because they don’t think they can get through our southern border and therefore they don’t come. That’s what happened with Mexico. We did Mexico a tremendous favor.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: We actually put appropriations to help them with the southern border.
THE PRESIDENT: The point is — I know, we always give everybody — every other nation gets money except ours.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: But finally —
THE PRESIDENT: We’re always looking for money. We give the money to other nations. That we have to stop.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: But finally, the last point, Mr. President, is instead of playing defense on the one-yard line, if you look — this is your material — we know where the stash houses are at, we know where the hotels are at, we know where they cross the river —
THE PRESIDENT: Right. And we’re going after those.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Why stop — why play defense on the one-yard line called the U.S. —
THE PRESIDENT: Henry, we’re going after them like never before. We’re going after the stash houses —
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: All I’m saying is, if we focus on DACA, we can work on the other things separately — on sensible border security, listen to the folks that are from the border, and we can work with the —
THE PRESIDENT: And you folks are going to have to — you’re one voice — you folks are going to have to come up with a solution.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: And if you do, I’m going to sign that solution.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: We have a lot of smart people in this room. Really smart people. We have a lot of people that are good people, big hearts. They want to get it done.
I think almost everybody — I can think of one or two I don’t particularly like, but that’s okay. (Laughter.)
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Where is he looking?
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Who is he looking at? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I’m trying to figure that out. Everybody wants a solution. You want it, Henry.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yes, sir. I want to work with you on this.
THE PRESIDENT: I think we have a great group of people to sit down and get this done. In fact, when the media leaves, which I think should be probably pretty soon. (Laughter.) But I like — but I will tell you, I like opening it up to the media because I think they’re seeing, more than anything else, that we’re all very much on a similar page. We’re on the same page.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: We are. We are.
THE PRESIDENT: And, Henry, I think we can really get something done.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: So why don’t we ask the media to leave. We appreciate you being here.
Q Is there any agreement without the wall?
THE PRESIDENT: No, there wouldn’t be. You need it. John, you need the wall. I mean, it’s wonderful — I’d love not to build the wall, but you need the wall.
And I will tell you this, the ICE officers and the Border Patrol agents — I had them just recently on — they say, if you don’t have the wall — you know, in certain areas, obviously, that aren’t protected by nature — if you don’t have the wall, you cannot have security. You just can’t have it. It doesn’t work.
And part of the problem we have is walls and fences that we currently have are in very bad shape. They’re broken. We have to get them fixed or rebuilt.
But, you know, you speak to the agents, and I spoke to all of them. I spoke — I lived with them. They endorsed me for President, which they’ve never done before — the Border Patrol agents and ICE. They both endorsed Trump.And they never did that before. And I have a great relationship with them. They say, sir, without the wall, security doesn’t work; we’re all wasting time.
Now, that doesn’t mean 2,000 miles of wall because you just don’t need that because of nature, because of mountains and rivers and lots of other things. But we need a certain portion of that border to have the wall. If we don’t have it, you can never have security. You could never stop that portion of drugs that comes through that area.
Yes, it comes through planes and lots of other ways and ships. But a lot of it comes through the southern border. You can never fix the situation without additional wall. And we have to fix existing wall that we already have.
Q So you would not be for what Senator Feinstein asked you, which would be a clean DACA bill that doesn’t —
THE PRESIDENT: No, I think a clean DACA bill, to me, is a DACA bill where we take care of the 800,000 people. They are actually not necessarily young people; everyone talks about young — you know, they could be 40 years old, 41 years old, but they’re also 16 years old.
But I think, to me, a clean bill is a bill of DACA. We take care of them and we also take care of security. That’s very important.
And I think the Democrats want security too. I mean, we started off with Steny saying, we want security also. Everybody wants security. And then we can go to comprehensive later on, and maybe that is a longer subject and a bigger subject, and I think we can get that done too.
But we’ll get it done at a later date.
Yes, ma’am. Go ahead.
SENATOR HIRONO: Mr. President, I’m Senator Hirono from Hawaii.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I know.
SENATOR HIRONO: And as the only immigrant serving in the United States Senate right now, I would like nothing better than for us to get to comprehensive immigration reform. But what I’m hearing around the table right now is a commitment to resolving the DACA situation because there is a sense of urgency.
You have put it out there that you want $18 billion for a wall or else there will be no DACA. Is that still your position?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. I can build it for less, by the way.
SENATOR HIRONO: But you want that wall?
THE PRESIDENT: I must tell you, I’m looking at these prices. Somebody said $42 billion. This is like the aircraft carrier. It started off at a billion and a half, and it’s now at $18 billion.
No, we can do it for less. We can do a great job. We can do a great wall. But you need the wall. And I’m now getting involved. I like to build under budget, okay? I like to go under-budget, ahead of schedule.
There’s no reason for seven years, also. I heard the other day — please, don’t do that to me. (Laughter.) Seven years to build the wall. We can build the wall in one year, and we can build it for much less money than what they’re talking about. And any excess funds — and we’ll have a lot of — whether it’s a Wollman Rink or whether it’s any — I build under budget and I build ahead of schedule. There is no reason to ever mention seven years again, please. I heard that and I said — I wanted to come out with a major news conference, Tom, yesterday.
No. It can go up quickly, it can go up effectively, and we can fix a lot of the areas right now that are really satisfactory if we renovate those walls.
SENATOR HIRONO: And can you tell us how many miles of wall you’re contemplating? Whether it’s $17 million or $13 million or whatever is — can you tell us?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, we’re doing a study on that right now. But there are large areas where you don’t need a wall because you have a mountain and you have a river — you have a violent river — and you don’t need it. Okay?
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Senator, I’m happy to come visit you this week to walk you through the numbers.
Q I’m not the most politically astute person in the world, but it seems to me not much has actually changed here in terms of your position at this particular meeting.
THE PRESIDENT: No, I think it’s changed. I think my positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with. I am very much reliant on the people in this room. I know most of the people on both sides. I have a lot of respect for the people on both sides. And my — what I approve is going to be very much reliant on what the people in this room come to me with. I have great confidence in the people. If they come to me with things that I’m not in love with, I’m going to do it because I respect them.
Thank you all very much.
Q Think you could beat Oprah, by the way?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I’ll beat Oprah. Oprah would be a lot of fun. I know her very well. You know I did one of her last shows. She had Donald Trump — this is before politics — her last week. And she had Donald Trump and my family. It was very nice. No, I like Oprah. I don’t think she’s going to run. I don’t think she’s going to run. I know her very well.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, it’s phase two. I think comprehensive will be phase two. I think — I really agree with Dick. I think we get the one thing done and then we go into comprehensive the following day. I think it’ll happen.
Thank you all very much. I hope we’ve given you enough material. That should cover you for about two weeks. (Laughter.)
This is supposedly the season of “giving,” of “good will to all mankind.” Not with Donald Trump in the White House.
Trump is so giddy to take credit for displacing “Happy Holidays” with “Merry Christmas.” That’s all he cares about. But just as Trump, who makes money off of hotels but has no concept of “hospitality” and is more like the craven Snidely Whiplash than Barron Hilton, he has no clue and no care what “Christmas” means.
Indeed, this Christmas, 9 million children and pregnant women are losing access to health care and the ability to live a good life or realize their full potential. 13 million Americans don’t know if they will be able to afford or access health care. 800,000 Dreamers don’t know whether they will be thrown out of jobs, housing, and the nation, exiled to a country that is completely foreign to them. Seniors and retirees don’t know if they will be able to continue to afford living in their homes and whether their Medicare and Social Security benefits will be cut.
The Tax Scam rammed through by Republicans is just the beginning: they are giddy about how adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt, the same amount (coincidentally) that it redistributes from working people to the already obscenely rich and richest corporations sitting on $2 trillion in cash they refuse to use to raise wages will “justify” slashing the social safety net, cutting Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid – you know the so-called “entitlements” that working people have paid into their entire working lives.
Trump made it clear, in his ignorant, short-hand way, what will come next, in his speech in St. Louis:
“Then we will have done tax cuts, the biggest in history…I know people, they work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who’s not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off. And it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen. (Applause.) So we’re going to go into welfare reform.”
You only have to look at what is happening in every quarter of civic life which is shifting the balance to the wealthiest while cutting off upward mobility for anyone else. The Trump FCC’s plan to overturn net neutrality is exactly that: it cements the control that the internet oligopoly wields not only to keep out upstart competitors but control what information or culture gets wide viewing. What Pai wants is for money to rule both content and access (that’s what “free market” means). Don’t have money to keep an internet subscription so you can access news, information or jobs? Tough luck. But the FCC intends to couple this with more government surveillance of what goes up over the Internet – quite literally the worst of both worlds.
It is apparent also in how Trump is pawning off national monuments to commercial exploitation – Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, the Arctic Refuge and the Atlantic Marine Sanctuary – basically stealing what is our collective heritage and birthright to give to commercial interests. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has no compunction to waste taxpayer money for his own use, is even raising admission fees to the national parks, further putting what is owned by all Americans off limits for those who can’t pay the freight.
Money is the new “entitlement.” It determines who can afford to weigh the scales of justice in their favor, and, thanks to Citizens United, who runs for election and wins, and therefore what policy gets written and enacted, and even who has access to the voting booth. Billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins actually said that out loud: “But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How’s that?” Indeed.
This mentality is actually seeping down even into the disasters that have become all too common and catastrophic because of climate change: Freakonomics did a segment that a free market rather than anti-gouging laws should come into play after a disaster. A shopkeeper should be able to sell a bottle of water for $1000 to the father with a child dying of thirst if he wants to, because at $2 a bottle, someone will hoard. (The absurdity is that purchases are rationed for the rich and the poor.)
Another segment suggested that people should be able to pay their way (a premium) to jump a line – that’s okay for a themepark, but they are suggesting the same for access to life-saving organ donation.
Trump is the first president to dare do what the Republicans have been salivating over since the New Deal but dared not do. It’s not that the Republicans haven’t had their sights set on reversing every progressive policy since the 1860s. (Alabama Senate candidate, the defrocked judge Roy Moore, said that every Amendment after the 10th, the state’s rights one, should be abolished, including the 13th amendment ending slavery, 14th amendment giving due process, the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. Meanwhile, the Republicans are about to cancel the 10th amendment’s State’s Rights provision in order to require New York State to accept Conceal Carry Reciprocity and overturn its own gun safety laws.)
You actually have Senator Chuck Grassley defending abolishing the estate tax which affects only a tiny fraction of the wealthiest families and was intended since the founding to prevent an institutionalized aristocracy, argue that the previous tax code favors poor and working-class Americans who were “just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”
Utah’s Orrin Hatch, justifying shifting $1.5 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations and slashing the social safety net, declared, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.”
Merry Christmas? Bah humbug.
“And so how do we as Christians respond, who serve a God whose prophets call for welcoming immigrants (Deuteronomy, Leviticus), caring for the orphans and widows (Jeremiah, Ezekiel), establishing fair housing (Isaiah), seeking justice (Micah 6), and providing health care (Isaiah),” a twitter conversation between MSNBC’s Joy Reid and Susan Gilbert Zencka wrote.
“What you’re witnessing tonight in the United States Senate is the weaponization of pure, unmitigated greed,” Joy Reid wrote after the Senate’s adoption of its tax plan. “Lobbyists are writing the bill in pen at the last minute. And Republicans are no longer even pretending to care about anyone but the super rich,“ wrote Joy Reid.
The America that Trump and the Republicans envision is not one of an American Dream where anyone who has the ability and works hard enough can rise up, but one in which communities must beg billionaires for funding for a public school, a library, a hospital, and be very grateful for their charity.
Tell me how this is not a modern, nonfiction version of Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
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.)
“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.”
“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.”
Trump Earth Day Message Fails to Mention Climate Change
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.
“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.
“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.
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.”
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 andlower-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.”
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.