Planting Time

This winter was harder than most.

It wasn’t the weather. In fact, the weather was unseasonably warm. But there was a darkness beyond the early nightfall that nobody could shake.

Now the days are getting longer again.

It’s planting time.

It’s time to start sowing the seeds of the resistance, too. And as we tend to our figurative garden, we need to decide what seeds we water, and what plants we neglect. Just like the old Cherokee parable about the battle between the two internal wolfs (one “wolf” representing anger, sorrow, regret, self-pity, inferiority, lies, and ego, and the other representing joy, hope, kindness, humility, empathy, generosity, compassion and faith), the wolf – or seed – that we tend to is the one that becomes the strongest.

What seed we feed is a decision that we make.

As I was preparing my spring garden this weekend I was elbow-deep in compost. Compost is like magic – add it to your garden and just stand back and the plants practically race out of the ground, sturdy and hardy and ready for anything that comes their way.

But, of course, compost is not *actually* magic. It’s just crap + time.

And right now we have a mountain of crap. So we can choose to use it as fertilizer to help us get stronger, hardier, and ready for anything that comes our way – or we can choose to let it pile up and fester and rot.

So, as the resistance wages on, and the crap continues to pile up, keep in mind that we have the power to choose what we tend to and what we strengthen, and we can choose how we use the crap that piles up each day. I choose to tend to hope, to kindness, to compassion, to faith – to our belief that what we are doing matters, that what we believe in matters, and that together we can change the course of our country. And I choose to use the crap that piles up to strengthen my resolve and my belief in our power. In order to succeed, we need to believe we can . So let’s keep that belief strong.

This week I wanted to plant a few seeds of recent good news with you:

  • A court in Miami-Dade county ruled that Miami’s policy of holding inmates for ICE was unconstitutional.
  • The Fourth Circuit held that assault weapons are not protected by the Second Amendment.
  • The Supreme Court dealt a blow to gerrymandering.
  • Some members of the GOP (like Ben Sasse and Lindsay Graham) are standing up to POTUS’s most recent Twitter tirades.
  • The GOP’s super secret ACA plan has become a joke all on its own.
  • A judge in Texas halted Medicaid cuts to Planned Parenthood – keeping the 30 centers serving 12,500 patients going for now (a trial on the merits is scheduled for later this year).
  • We may be experiencing a new cultural and spiritual awakening – evidenced by a banding together of like-minded citizens to protect our country from Trumpian morality, increased value in history, civics, journalism – and even comedy.

And that’s just a smattering. And as we grow and learn from our victories and mistakes, there will be even more.

So let’s get to it!

Actions:

Monday’s Action:

Background: This week we saw even more unraveling of the Russian story. Jeff Sessions met with the Russian ambassador and subsequently lied about it during his Senate confirmation hearing. He then recused himself from the investigation. More meetings and connections between the Trump campaign and administration appeared as we learned that Jared Kushner apparently joined in the meetings with Flynn and Russian diplomats; Carter Page (member of the Trump campaign, who was named in the Steele dossier) admitted to meeting with the Russian ambassador at the GOP convention.

In other words, we’re still knee-deep in Russian interference news.

Action: Support Senate Bill 27**:

Call: Your senators. First check here to see if your Senator is one of the 21 co-sponsors – there have been some recent additions.

Script (Senator): Hello, my name is _____. I’m calling to again ask that Senator ___ support Senate Bill 27, which creates an independent committee to investigate Russian interference and connections. We need a bipartisan, transparent and independent committee to handle this – and Senate Bill 27 provides for that. What is Senator _____’s position on this independent investigation? Does Senator _____ oppose fully and fairly investigating the Russian interference in the election?  Has the Senator publicly supported an independent investigation? If not, why not? If so, why hasn’t the Senator co-signed Senate Bill 27?

(**Yes, I know that week after week I continue beating the drum about this bill. But until we get answers and a true investigation, we should keep up our collective pressure.)

Tuesday’s Action:

As I noted above, this week we saw a lot of development in the Russian connection story. (There is a wonderful up-to-date timeline at The Resistance Manual here.) So today’s action is to read the New Yorker’s article Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War, if you haven’t already. It’s a deep dive into the issues, people, and implications of this story and it’s not a quick read. But, like I said, it’s worth it.

Wednesday’s Action:

Background:

Class actions – lawsuits in which many people join together – have been under attack for years. The “Fairness in Class Action” Act (H.R. 985)  makes it more difficult to form class actions, and has a variety of provisions that make class actions riskier for lawyers to take on. The sponsor says that the act discourages lawyer-driven litigation, but it really just discourages class actions altogether. That doesn’t benefit people like you and me – it benefits big corporations.

The legislation is currently in the Judiciary Committee in the House, but it looks like there might be a vote on it this week.

Action: Oppose H.R. 985

Call: Your Representative

Script: My name is ______. I’m calling to ask Representative ____ to oppose HR 985, the Fairness in Class Litigation Act of 2017. This legislation primarily benefits big corporations that want to discourage class actions and makes it more difficult for attorneys to advocate for people like me. My ability to seek justice through a class action suit seems to be more critical now than ever, and I resent any congressional interference in that ability. I’ll be watching Representative ____’s vote on this legislation.

Thursday’s Action:

If you’re craving some more good news, sign up for a good news newsletter here. It’s a great break from the daily emergencies, and you’ll find feel-good stories about people helping people.

Friday’s Action:

Background:

The REINS Act already passed the house; the companion is in the Senate, where it’s with the Homeland Security Committee.

The REINS Act is terrifying, and I’ve discussed it before but it’s worth repeating the background. It’s being sold as a cost-saving measure and a way to “rein” in governing by agency. You can see the GOP “sales pitch” here and a great summary from the NRDC of the consequences of REINS here. Here’s the long and the short of it. Under the Act, any regulation with an impact of over $100 million (which is not that high of a threshold to meet when addressing regulations of a national impact) has to be approved by both chambers within 70 days or it will not become law. Currently it’s the other way around – agency regulations that are passed through regular rulemaking procedures become law unless Congress acts to invalidate them under the Congressional Review Act of 1996. So, Congress already has a way to pull back an over-reaching agency – the GOP just hasn’t had the votes to do so. But, with this regulation Congress has to affirmatively act in order to retain the regulation.

Here’s how it would work in practice, with just a smidge of background to help explain:

It’s important to understand that Congress actually has to give an agency the authority to issue regulations on any issue. So Congress may say that government should limit pollutants, but delegates specifics – like what level of a pollutant is dangerous – to an agency. Basically, through legislation Congress makes the broad sweeping policy decisions and tasks agencies with the granular decisions that will implement that policy.

The agency then studies the issue – often for years – by doing studies, engaging scientists and experts, consulting with industry and holding public hearings. It then issues the rule – which Congress can then invalidate if both houses vote to do so.

Under the REINS Act, the agency would still go through all of these steps – costly and time consuming studies, analysis, industry consultation and hearings. But after it issues rules through that deliberative process, both houses of Congress would have to affirmatively vote in favor of them within 70 days for them to take effect. In the course of deciding whether to vote yay or nay within those 70 days, Congress would probably hold hearings and second-guess the reasoned and articulated decisions of agency and industry experts – who they entrusted to make those decisions in the first place. If they don’t have time to read the bills that are before them now, I have no idea how they’ll review and act on the agency’s rulemaking record within 70 days.

This is micromanagement in its worst – and most political – form. What happens if a new rule impacts big oil? Would a congressman who gets a large amount of his/her donations from big oil be able to vote for that rule? How would industry behave if they know that they can lobby/purchase votes from members of Congress after the whole rulemaking process is over anyway? What happens when a member of Congress gets pushback from their constituents that they approve of too many regulations – do they then vote “no” on a regulation just to appear reasonable? Do they horsetrade a vote against a regulation from the EPA this week for a vote on a bill coming up next week?

You can see why I’m concerned.

Action: Call your Senator to oppose the REINS Act

Here’s a script that you can use as a template for your comments:

My name is _____. I am concerned about S.21, the REINS Act, which is currently in the Homeland Security Committee. What is Senator ____’s position on that legislation?

[If they say “I don’t know,” or “he/she hasn’t made a statement”]: I know that the Senator believes in preserving our democratic system of government – and that she/he is in favor of making sure that lobbyists and big businesses can’t purchase votes. But by requiring Congress to vote on regulations, the REINS Act gives lobbyists a chance to lobby members of Congress to vote for their interests – rather than mine. This Act encourages more backroom politics and horse trading.

I’m also concerned with how wasteful REINS is, and I don’t want my tax dollars spent this way. Every regulation would have to be reviewed by your office, and if Congress has hearings on a regulation that will cost even more. Who’s going to pay for all of this? If a regulation is invalidated, that’s millions of taxpayer dollars wasted. What’s the point of even having the agencies decide something if big business is just going to lobby Congress to vote for it? It’s just more wasteful corruption that I thought we voted against in November.

If you don’t want an agency to make regulations, you can take back the authority you gave them in their enabling statute. Or you can vote against a particular regulation under the Congressional Review Act of 1996.

 

So, that’s it, folks. Thank you for another week, and for your belief in tomorrow.

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. ~Audrey Hepburn

Let’s Get to Work

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