So you’re meeting with a staffer. Now what?

During the Cornyn Stakeout last week, I, on impulse, walked into the Chase Bank Building, rode the elevator to the 15th floor, and knocked on the door to Cornyn’s office. Next thing I knew I was sitting face to face with a young staffer. Now what?

I had my talking points about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s–and especially John Cornyn’s–lackluster response to Russian election interference, but it seemed weird to launch into that. When there is a human being sitting a few feet away, the dynamic is very different compared to speaking on the phone or firing off angry tweets.

She may have been more nervous than I was. I’m a tall man in an Indivisible Austin t-shirt and for all she knows I am about to start shrieking at her, or worse. So I explained, calmly, that I was from Indivisible Austin, one of the organizers of the stakeout, and that we aren’t scary. I joked that most of the Indivisible activists look like our moms, and in fact, my mother is an Indivisible activist in rural Texas. (See, we’re not all Austin hippies, either.)

The staffer smiled, and let her guard down a bit. Sure, she was being paid to listen to my concerns, and we might disagree vigorously on many things; but it was clear that a human connection was forming.

I believe these human connections, seeking common ground, will save our Democracy.

Paraphrasing what I said:

On the AHCA

“Getting people to question facts is a hallmark of authoritarianism. When John Cornyn called CBO data ‘fake news,’ that sent a dangerous signal. The CBO score may not be perfect, but it’s the only data we have, and the Congressional Budget Office is as nonpartisan as it gets. For our Democracy to function, we need to have agreed-upon facts. If we can’t agree on facts, our Democracy dies.”

On withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord

“Sen. Cornyn signed a letter encouraging Trump to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Cornyn and other Republicans like to point out that the treaty is not legally binding. But one thing we have learned from the Trump presidency is that norms and traditions uphold our Democracy far more than laws do. By withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, we send a message that we no longer take seriously the bonds, however symbolic, between the U.S. and our global allies. Additionally, climate change is a nonpartisan issue, affecting everyone. We can disagree about the means with which to solve the problem, but we first need to agree on the basic fact that it is happening.”

On Russian election interference

“The original purpose of the Cornyn Stakeout was to send a message to Sen. Cornyn that Americans take very seriously the issue of a foreign power interfering in our Democratic process. Sen. Cornyn’s seemingly flippant attitude toward his own committee’s investigation is inappropriate. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. If Russia, or any foreign power, is influencing our elections in any way, that is dangerous to both parties, and to our nation as a whole. We need Sen. Cornyn to take this issue more seriously.”

I spent 15 to 20 minutes sharing my concerns with the staffer, who was very professional and polite, and took notes that she said she would deliver to the senator. It is quite possible that she was seething inwardly, disagreeing with everything I said… but I don’t really think so. Human beings are social creatures and instinctively seek common ground. And it is much easier to find that common ground in person, than on social media or phone calls.

This summer we’ll be kicking off a series of “air-conditioned activism”* events, centered around meetings with congressional staffers. We’re planning a toolkit to make your meetings with staffers as effective as can be, and we would love to hear what has and has not worked for you. We would especially welcome feedback from staffers. Please email vp@indivisibleaustin.com or leave a comment here.


*Many thanks to the Indivisible TX-25 Eanes / West Austin group for coining the term “Air-Conditioned Activism.”

 

 

How to Tell Your Senators to Oppose Trumpcare (Without Accidentally Letting Them Off the Hook!)

Cross-posted, with permission, from Cover Texas Now

Over the next couple weeks, it’s critical that we continue to raise our voices about health care in phone calls and emails to our U.S. Senators, rallies in our communities, social media posts, letters to editor, and any other ways you can think of.

We also need to make sure our message doesn’t let them off the hook.

Many Senators are saying that they won’t support “the House bill.” They say they’re working on “improving” the bill

So if we just ask them to “oppose the House bill,” we run the risk of letting them off the hook.

That’s why we recommend delivering this message to our Senators:

Oppose ANY legislation that:

  • Causes millions of Americans to lose health coverage;
  • Slashes Medicaid for kids, seniors, pregnant women, and people with disabilities;
  • Guts protections for people with pre-existing conditions;
  • Cuts billions in health care funding to pay for billions in tax cuts to large corporations and wealthy individuals.

We also urge you to take a moment to explain why protecting health care is personally important to you.

Here are the phone numbers to contact our Senators:

Thank you for raising your voice!

Five questions to ask John Cornyn and Ted Cruz about the AHCA

From Indivisible Project’s “Defend the ACA and Medicaid”:

Since the fight to save the ACA is now in the Senate, the following question are for your two senators. Questions for your representative, see here.

  1. Republicans in the House sided with Trump over the wellbeing of their constituents when they voted to pass TrumpCare. They voted for it without a CBO score, meaning that they didn’t even know how much it would harm their constituents. We now have a CBO score and know that TrumpCare would kick 23 million people off of their health care. As your constituent, can you promise me that you:
    • “…won’t vote for a bill that would lead to millions of Americans losing their health coverage?”
    • “…won’t vote for a bill without first knowing its full implications from a CBO score?”
  2. I don’t believe that ensuring “access” to health care, which doesn’t take into account affordability or quality of care, is good enough. Can you guarantee that any replacement plan will cover AT LEAST as many people that would be covered under the ACA? Can you guarantee that no one will lose their coverage as a result of your vote?
  3. I [or someone I know] has “x” condition and I’m afraid that I [they] will be unable to obtain affordable health coverage because of my [their] pre-existing condition. I want to know if you can assure me that I’ll be able to get the same consumer protections as the ACA, including for a pre-existing condition?
  4. Thanks to the ACA, I was able to enroll in my state’s Medicaid program for the first time. I’m afraid that a replacement plan will end funding for state Medicaid expansions. Can you assure me that funding for Medicaid won’t get cut under ANY replacement plan?
  5. Currently, anyone who is eligible for Medicaid is able to get it. I’m one of those people. I’m afraid that I may lose my Medicaid coverage if the program is restructured. Can you also assure me that Medicaid will remain an entitlement, and that anyone eligible will be guaranteed coverage?

New Analysis of U.S. House Health Care Repeal Proves How Damaging it Would Be

By Stacey Pogue, Center for Public Policy Priorities, May 25, 2017

Today the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its “score” of the U.S. House-passed health care repeal bill. Earlier this month the House took the short-sighted and unusual step of voting to pass the “American Health Care Act” before the CBO scored it, and now we can see why. The score reveals terrible news that House members did not want to face as they rammed the health care repeal bill through.  The bill will cause millions of people to lose their health insurance coverage in order to pay for big tax breaks for wealthy individuals, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance companies.

The CBO is the non-partisan, official number cruncher for Congress. The “score” lets Congress and the public know both how much the bill will cost to the federal budget, and how many millions of people will lose health insurance coverage. Full analyses will take more time, but our initial analysis shows that compared to current law under the Affordable Care Act / ObamaCare:

  • In 2018, 14 million more Americans will be uninsured under the AHCA than would have been under the ACA, and by 2026 that number will grow to 23 million more uninsured. Of that 23 million:
  • 14 million Americans will lose coverage in Medicaid by 2026, due to deep cuts ($834 billion over ten years) to the program. In Texas, Medicaid pays for more than half of all births, covers more than 40 percent of all children, and pays for the care of two-thirds of people in nursing homes. The dramatic cuts to Medicaid will harm millions of low-income Texans and our health care system and put strains and local governments and taxpayers.
  • 9 million additional Americans will lose private health insurance by 2026, 6 million in the individual market and 3 million losing employer-sponsored coverage. The AHCA slashes subsidies, and out-of-pocket premiums increase for people who buy on their own insurance — especially for people age 50-64, people in rural areas, and people who are low-income. The bill would reduce funds for premium subsidies by $276 billion over 10 years.
  • $664 billion in tax cuts to wealthy individuals, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance companies paid for by huge cuts to the programs that keep insurance affordable for low- and moderate-income Americans: Medicaid and subsidies in the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Now the U.S. Senate has taken up this bad bill. Small tweaks cannot solve all of the problems the AHCA creates. The Senate should scrap the AHCA and start over again with promises that:

  1. CBO Score: The Senate will not vote on a bill until the CBO has scored the version of the bill they are actually voting on;
  2. Coverage losses are unacceptable. At least as many people should have coverage under the AHCA as the ACA;
  3. Medicaid will be protected, not raided to pay for tax cuts; and
  4. Premiums and out-of-pocket costs will not be increased shifting the heaviest burdens to the lowest income, people in rural areas, people ages 50-65, and people with pre-existing conditions. Simply making bare-bones coverage cheap for people who are young and healthy, while raising costs and causing coverage losses or grossly inadequate benefits among all others is not a real—or acceptable— policy solution

How Your Voices Made a Difference Last Week: Payback Recess Success

Courtesy of 5 Minute Activism

John Cornyn wants to hear your Obamacare stories

From Sen. John Cornyn’s newsletter:

Health care affects each and every Texan’s life. As the United States Senate continues the process of replacing President Obama’s healthcare law, I want to hear about your experiences and how we can do better.

Texans across our state have told me that under Obamacare, they haven’t been able to keep their doctors, plans have disappeared, and high deductibles and double-digit premium hikes have made coverage unaffordable. 

But, I’d like to hear from you. Let me know how Obamacare has impacted your family, your loved ones, or your business by replying to this email. As Congress crafts a new health care law, I want to be sure your voice is included in the conversation.

You can send your stories to newsletter_@cornyn.senate.gov with the subject “Tell Me Your Obamacare Story”

Update to the Update:

May 11, 2017: A reliable source tells us that Cornyn’s office is seeing your ACA stories; they are just having trouble with the auto-responder. So keep emailing!

Update

Emails are bouncing back with this message:

This is the original email, which we pasted verbatim (including links):

It is unclear whether Cornyn’s office is actually receiving messages, and forgot to turn off their auto-responder, or whether your ACA stories are going into a black hole.

Please call, fax, and snail-mail your ACA stories to  Sen. Cornyn’s offices and ask why your email bounced back!

Washington, DC Office
517 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Main: 202-224-2934

Central Texas:
Chase Tower
221 West Sixth Street
Suite 1530
Austin, TX 78701
Main: 512-469-6034
Fax: 512-469-6020

East Texas:
Regions Bank Building
100 E. Ferguson Street, Suite 1004
Tyler, TX 75702
Main: 903-593-0902
Fax: 903-593-0920

North Texas:
5001 Spring Valley Road
Suite 1125 E
Dallas, TX 75244
Main: 972-239-1310
Fax: 972-239-2110

South Texas:
222 East Van Buren
Suite 404
Harlingen, TX 78550
Main: 956-423-0162
Fax: 956-423-0193

Southeast Texas:
5300 Memorial Drive Suite 980
Houston, TX 77007
Main: 713-572-3337
Fax: 713-572-3777

South Central Texas:
600 Navarro
Suite 210
San Antonio, TX 78205
Main: 210-224-7485
Fax: 210-224-8569

West Texas:
Wells Fargo Center
1500 Broadway, Suite 1230
Lubbock, TX 79401
Main: 806-472-7533
Fax: 806-472-7536

How your voices made a difference last week: AHCA is one small battle in a war we are winning

Courtesy of 5 Minute Activism

The abysmal health care plan recklessly rammed through the House by the GOP was a hard pill to swallow.

But there’s ample reason not to despair.

This is only one small battle in the larger war we’re waging against the Republican administration’s gutting of our democracy. The bill still has to pass the Senate–which, within hours of the vote, had already promised to scrap it entirely and start over. If it passes, that bill will then have to once again pass in the House in its new form…and then be approved again by both houses. That’s a long road, with opposition at every step from us and an increasingly angry electorate that shows steadily growing approval of the existing Affordable Care Act. In fact, despite the GOP’s rabid emphasis on “repeal and replace,” the Affordable Care Act is proving far more popular–on both sides of the aisle–than they may have expected, a recent poll shows. Far more popular than Donald’s own approval ratings, in fact–55% of Americans approve of Obamacare, versus an approval rating for Donny hovering around a paltry 40%. And a broad swath of doctors, hospitals, and insurers have condemned the TrumpCare plan.
That means this recent legislation is likely to be an unpopular decision with voters–especially once the Congressional Budget Office report comes out in the next weeks (because the GOP didn’t think it important to wait for it, though they insisted on it for the ACA). By then most House Republicans will be officially on the record as having voted for a plan that the CBO report is likely to show will cost millions their coverage, and this hasty, ill-considered forced vote is likely to backfire in Republicans’ faces.

How do you like them apples? Here’s more good news:

For a guy who prides himself on his negotiating skills, Donald had to make so many concessions in his budget proposal to keep the government open that several news outlets assessed it as resembling “more of an Obama administration-era budget than a Trump one.” No border wall, half the military funding he promised, no EPA staff cuts and only a 1% budget hit to the department, and no defunding of Planned Parenthood were just some of the concessions Donny got out-negotiated into. In a statement the White House suggested that a government shut-down might be necessary if Democrats keep “mistreating” Donald and hurting his feelings. No, seriously

Mark Green, Donald’s second nominee for army secretary, has withdrawn from consideration amid an avalanche of outcry against his Islamophobic, anti-LGBTQ words and actions in the past

FOX News’s apparent culture of sexual harassment and racism faces yet another blow this week, when network copresident Bill Shine resigned amid yet another harassment scandal, this time for turning a willfully blind eye to complaints about sexual harassment and racism, and possibly helping to conceal it. And yet another lawsuit has been filed against the network, this time for gender bias, completing the network’s dubious trinity of sexual, racial, and gender discrimination

When Donald’s administration launched the entirely unnecessary racist-propaganda VOICE hot line for people who were victimized by a crime by illegal immigrants, the Twitterverse put out a call and you marvelous people inundated the ridiculous, racist hot line with reports of extraterrestrials abusing Earthlings.

Austin-Area “Payback Recess” AHCA Events

The House voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a cruel bill designed to strip healthcare from millions of Americans while giving a tax cut to the rich.

So now it’s payback time. We’ll update this page with more detail as events unfold.

Tuesday, May 23

Noon. Die-In at John Cornyn’s Austin office, hosted by Indivisible TX-10.

TOPIC:

The senate is currently working on a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and implement “TrumpCare 2.0.” We must send a strong message to Senator Cornyn that stripping away healthcare from millions of Americans is simply unacceptable. A “die-in” creates a stark visual to remind our representatives that if protections for essential benefits and those with pre-existing conditions are erased, millions of Americans will lose their access to affordable healthcare, and people will die from preventable conditions. We cannot let this disaster of a plan pass. We must show Senator Cornyn what his actions will do. Join us for a die-in and bring a headstone with a message for the senator.

WHAT TO BRING:

  • Signs in the shape of headstones with sayings like, “Lived under ACA, died under Trumpcare,” or “R.I.P. Affordable Healthcare.”
  • A blanket or mat
  • NOTE – This is a busy area of town, so people should lay single-file if necessary to avoid blocking the street and sidewalk and to maintain everyone’s safety.

WHAT TO WEAR:

  • Black or grey clothing
  • Costumes and/or masks such as the grim reaper
  • Any theatrical elements you think are appropriate

WHEN:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017, 12:00 pm

WHERE:

Senator John Cornyn’s Austin Office
221 W 6th St #1530
Austin, TX 78701

PARKING INFO:
There are some metered spots along the street, and there are several parking garages in the area. Please arrive at least 15 minutes early to find parking and walk to the location.

Share as widely as possible! Looking forward to seeing you there!

Facebook event:
https://www.facebook.com/events/408221736227492/

VIRTUAL PHONE BANK to stop AHCA!

This is a request URGENT assistance from Will Hurd’s district, TX23. He is still undecided on the vote, according to his staff. If you can make some phone calls tonight and tomorrow, please help!

Hello Austin Resistors! As you know there may be a vote on the GOP Health Care Bill very soon. This bill is even more dangerous than the first GOP Health Care bill because it strips away protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

We stopped this bill once, and if we work together we can stop it again! There are lots of exciting things happening tomorrow in San Antonio to pressure Rep. Will Hurd to vote no. And there are many ways you can help!

  1. Come to the “die-in” and rally they are staging at Hurd’s north side office at noon: https://www.facebook.com/events/210978522738386/
  2. Make calls TONIGHT and TOMORROW to constituents in TX23, to ask them call Hurd’s office and urge him to vote no. You can do this by clicking this link: https://www.openvpb.com/vpb_bycode/960422Q-9588
  3. Make calls TONIGHT to recruit other resistors to attend the “die-in” and day of action. To do this please private message your email address to Amy Kroll.

Thanks for fighting with us!

Conference Call with NARAL Pro Choice TX and CPPP: May 9, 2017 at 8 p.m. CT

Please join our next conference call on Tuesday, May 9 at 8 p.m. CT.

Guest speakers:

  • Dr. Valerie R. Peterson, who is on the Board of Directors of NARAL Pro Choice Texas. Dr. Peterson also shared her personal abortion story in the New York Times and continues to be engaged with reproductive rights in the Texas Legislature.
  • Stacey Pogue, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP)