Nel's New Day

January 14, 2019

H.R. 1:  Imagine If the Swamp Really Got Drained

Day 24 of the government shutdown: A record-breaking snowfall has shut down Washington while Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) left on a trip to New Orleans to speak at the National Farm Bureau Federation. He told them he liked farmers and that everything would be fine with the shutdown before he launched into a gory description of a woman attack at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Fox network cut away from the speech after DDT began talking about how undocumented immigrants appear at court hearings are “not smart.” Demonstrators outside the convention center chanted “lock him up.” Earlier DDT tweeted that his speech was in Nashville (TN). [Left: The Korean War Memorial, Kevin Ambrose]

In a Washington Post-ABC News poll, a majority of people opposes the wall (54 percent) and blames DDT and the GOP for the shutdown (53 percent). The new CNN poll is higher—56 percent opposing a wall and 55 percent blaming the GOP. Opposition to the declaration of a national emergency to build a wall is at 66 percent, but only 24 percent believes DDT’s description of a “crisis” at the Mexico border.

Those who claim that DDT is not a racist should note how he made his case for wall with his tweet touting Pat Buchanan’s recent column:

“The more multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual America becomes—the less it looks like Ronald Reagan’s America—the more dependably Democratic it will become. The Democratic Party is hostile to white men, because the smaller the share of the U.S. population that white men become, the sooner that Democrats inherit the national estate.”

Nothing says GOP like the color white.

My favorite shutdown story of the week: Today Kate Brown, elected twice for Oregon governor, was sworn in. Three days ago, she tweeted the story of how her husband, Dan Little, recently cleaned up a bathroom at the Mt. Hood National Forest Sno-Park southeast of Portland. This photo shows what the public does to public spaces if there is no staff to clean up after them. Little cleaned up the bathroom, hauled off the trash, and then sent a bill of $28 for “Trash Removal” to DDT. Like other national parks, Sno-Park is still open with the public leaving trash and human waste everywhere. The story is an example of how people care about their surroundings even if others don’t mind making them into a pigsty.

Instead of working to open the federal government, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) scheduled a third week trying to give states the right to discriminate against companies that boycott Israel. McConnell is sticking to his program of not putting forward any bills that DDT doesn’t like.

DDT may be backing off on his suggestion of declaring a “national emergency” to get his wall. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) always echoes DDT’s approach. A few days ago, he said “Build a wall!” Last Sunday, he went to the “last option” statement. The House conservative Freedom Caucus also opposes the emergency excuse because of legal standoffs and the strategy leading to tactics for Medicare for all or other progressive “emergency” ideas. Meanwhile DDT sat in the White House last weekend and waited for Democrats to come to him and give him his wall while legislators in both parties went home for the weekend. The House has already approved four funding bills to reopen parts of the government.

Two more weeks of the shutdown will cost the U.S. economy more than building the DDT’s vanity wall. If the government shutdown lasts another two weeks, the total cost to the U.S. economy would exceed the price of building the proposed border wall. In this estimate, S&P Global Ratings included lost productivity by furloughed workers and dropping sales for government contractors. No paychecks for 800,000 federal workers or IRS tax refunds equals at last $2 billion per week, according to Wells Fargo analysts. The 16-day shutdown in 2013 cut 0.4 percent from the fourth quarter GDP that year.

During DDT’s campaign, people believed his lie that he wants to help the working people. The shutdown is another example of how he has no concern for the plight for the workers; he’s ruining federal workers in the same way that he has spent decades cheating the people who worked for his business by refusing to pay for their work. He claims that he needs to keep his promise to get the wall—skipping the part of the promise about Mexico paying for the wall—but he has broken his promise to coal miners who have lost health protections, safety, wages, and even their jobs, just to mention a few ways that he has cheated his base.

Although Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) accuses the Democrats of inaction, the House has already passed four bills to open the government and fund several of the agencies. In addition, the House added these new rules to its operations: a ban on members serving on corporate boards, a requirement that members take ethics training every year, and a ban on employment discrimination against LGBTQ staffers and jobseekers. In the first few days, the House also created For the People Act, H.R.1, the number given to the bill considered the most important of the session. Provisions of this bill are intended to overcome the travesties of GOP actions in the 21st century–i.e., to “drain the swamp.” DDT’s and the GOP behavior has given an extensive list of ideas for reform. Following are some of the bill’s provisions:

Voting Rights

Access:

  • Removes barriers to the ballot box such as difficult registration systems and limited voting hours.
  • Creates nationwide automatic voter registration.
  • Restores voting fights to people who complete felony sentences.
  • Expands voting by mail.
  • Mandates a minimum of two weeks for early voting with locations accessible by public transportation.
  • Eliminate postage for absentee ballots.
  • Guarantees that ballots cast in the wrong precinct but within the home county will be counted.
  • Requires all provisional ballots to be counted.
  • Prevents states from imposing restrictions on voting by mail.
  • Creates options for same-day and online registration.
  • Designate colleges and universities as registration agencies.
  • Make Election Day a holiday for federal workers.

Integrity:

  • Affirms congressional right to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which granted the Justice Department veto power over jurisdictions with histories of voting discrimination.
  • Confirms the federal government’s power to protect Native American voting.
  • Prohibits voter roll purges by overturning a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that put the onus on voters instead of government to keep registrations up to date.
  • Ends partisan gerrymandering by requiring a nonpartisan redistricting commission in every state.

Security:

  • Eliminates involvement in elections by foreign countries.
  • Pays for modernized voting systems.
  • Supports voting system security including paper ballots.
  • Increases oversight over election vendors.

Campaign Finance

Disclosure:

  • Requires super PACs and other organizations involved in political activity to disclose donors giving more than $10,000.
  • Mandates that large digital platforms maintain a public archive of all political ads and prevent foreigners from directly or indirectly buying ads.
  • Requires government contractors and presidential inaugural committees to disclose their political spending.

Empowerment:

  • Creates a multiple matching system for small donations.
  • Reaffirms congressional authority of regulation of money in politics.
  • Asserts that Citizens United was wrongly decided by the Supreme Court and Congress has authority to regulate campaign contributions and expenditures.

Oversight: 

  • Bans the use of shell companies that funnel foreign money into U.S. campaigns and campaign contributions from corporations with significant foreign ownership.
  • Calls for the IRS to create new rules for non-profit political spending.
  • Defines a “coordinated” expense among political allies.

Enforce existing laws:

  • Tightens rules on super PACs.
  • Restructures the Federal Election Commission to break gridlock and enhance its enforcement mechanisms.
  • Repeals Senate riders that prevent government agencies from requiring commonsense disclosure of political spending.

Ethics and Accountability

Fortification of Ethics Law:

  • Expands conflict of interest law and divestment requirements.
  • Prevents members of Congress from serving on corporate boards
  • Requires presidential candidates to disclose ten years of tax returns.

Greater Ethics Enforcement:

  • Overhauls the Office of Government Ethics.
  • Provides sufficient resources to watchdogs to enforce the law.
  • Creates a code of ethics for the Supreme Court to govern conflicts of interest and recusals.
  • Requires that ethics waivers be publicly disclosed.
  • Governs possible conflicts of interest from previously received political contributions.
  • Gives the director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) final approval over executive branch recusals, exemptions, or waivers from ethics laws or regulations.
  • Allows the OGE to investigate violations of ethics laws and author to provide remedies.
  • Limits the President’s ability to remove the director of OGE only for cause.

Foreign lobbying:

  • Closes registration loopholes for lobbyists and foreign agents.
  • Gives the OGE authority to levy civil fines for offenders.

Reading through this wish list of reforms, people will claim that Republicans will never agree—and they are right. The GOP of the 21st century knows that they cannot elect their candidates if everyone votes. That’s the reason that they violate ethics, codes of conduct, conflicts of interest, fair voting practices, transparent donations—in short, cheat to get their own way. Republicans no longer believe in democracy; they just want to get their own way. [Caveat: if the GOP embrace these ideas, I will profusely apologize.]

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