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!

Cornyn Stakeout: A Statewide Success

Cross-posted from cornynstakeout.com

The stakeout was amazing, y’all. Thirty-one groups came together from all over the state to hold John Cornyn accountable at each of his Texas offices, all day long, for four days. (See highlights here.)

As an all-volunteer community of citizen activists, this was a big commitment of time and energy, and we definitely got Sen. Cornyn’s attention. (We know because we talked to staff.) What Cornyn chooses to do now that he knows he’s under scrutiny is on him. So far he seems to be doubling down on his fecklessness. That will change, or he will be voted out.

But this is just the beginning. We Texans are stronger together, and won’t let our beautiful, but vast, geography get in the way of organizing. These are the groups that organized the stakeout, to whom we owe a Texas-size thank you.

Austin

TX21 Indivisible

TX25 Indivisible Eanes (West Austin)

Pantsuit Austin

TX-10 Indivisible

Indivisible South ATX

Indivisible TX-17

Women’s Action Group – Cedar Park/Round Rock

Wilco Indivisible

Dallas

Indivisible TX-03

Indivisible Oak Cliff

Indivisible TX-24

Indivisible06

Houston

Neighbors in Action – Indivisible!

PSR Houston

Visible Indivisible

Indivisible Houston

Indivisible Katy Huddle

Liberty County Indivisible

PSR Houston

Indivisible Cypress

Golden Triangle Indivisible

Indivisible TX-02

Indivisible TX-36

Emerson UU Advocates Indivisible Action Team

Lubbock

West Texans Concerned About Vladimir Putin

San Antonio

TX21 Indivisible

Indivisible Seguin

Concerned TX-27 Democrat

TX20 Indivisible

Indivisible NB

Tyler

Indivisible Smith County

Day One: Why We Need the Cornyn Stakeout

Cross-posted from cornynstakeout.com

Today is the first day of the Cornyn Stakeout. Citizen activists are making their concerns known at Sen. Cornyn’s offices all over the state.

Sen. Cornyn himself has reacted, if obliquely. His Houston office has a sign on the door cautioning protestors not to demonstrate on private property.

And there was this tweet:

Put aside that the article Cornyn’s references in the tweet gives clear examples of the mounting evidence that Russian interference tipped the election to Trump. As a member of the Senate Intel and Judiciary committees, it is John Cornyn’s JOB to find and parse that evidence, and above all to take that evidence SERIOUSLY.

This is why we are protesting. This is why, statewide, we are rallying outside Cornyn’s offices. John Cornyn’s fecklessness on Russia and other issues has entered dangerous new territory.

It’s not just Russia. Take this tweet, sent over the weekend:

What John Cornyn calls “fake news” is data from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO)! If this is fake news, then there is no such thing as real news. This is so completely irresponsible of the second-most powerful person in the Senate, and he needs to hear about it, loudly and frequently.

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?

Has Anyone Seen Ted Cruz?

Cross-posted from Progress Texas and Indivisible HTX

As the United States grapples with a White House in chaos, Texans are looking for leadership to stand up to questionable activities of the administration. Yet one of our most prominent representatives in Washington, Senator Ted Cruz, is nowhere to be found.

It seems that Ted Cruz is instead following the lead of Republican representatives who continue to avoid their constituents at any cost.

Texans are not the type to be ignored.

On issues ranging from healthcare, immigration, LGBTQ equality, to voting rights and more – Texans are demanding answers. But to date, Ted Cruz has not made meetings widely available and it appears that his office isn’t even answering phones. This isn’t the first time Ted Cruz has been absent: shortly after his presidential campaign ended, we wrote about how Cruz went missing in 2016.

Houstonians are taking matters into their own hands, carrying out a “search campaign” to find the missing, or hiding, Ted Cruz.

They are demanding Cruz meet with the people he represents and hear their concerns, posting “Missing” flyers on telephone poles and bulletin boards around the city. The flyers state that he “answers to the name Ted” and “will attempt to repeal ACA if cornered.”

This is the latest in a series of events where Texans are taking action and demanding accountability from elected officials. The bipartisan movement sends a strong message to elected officials that they need to do their job or lose it. Houstonians are holding a Town Hall for Texans to gather in hopes Cruz will show up. The “Ted Cruz is Missing” campaign has garnered a groundswell of support and enthusiasm from constituents who refuse to be avoided by a man who, as a public servant, works for and represents them.

You can find details and RSVP to the event here.

Progress Texas has spent quite a bit of time chronicling the weird, extreme, and absenteeism of Ted Cruz. Visit CruzWatch.com to for articles ranging from climate denialism to his hatred for avocados.

Take action TODAY to stop ACA repeal

The vote to repeal the ACA is now scheduled for TODAY!

If you can go to your representative’s office and make your case in person, today’s the day!

If you can’t, keep making calls!

Here are the changes to the bill demanded by the House Freedom Caucus that make it so much worse. Remember, this bill didn’t get a vote yesterday because some members thought it was brutal enough.

This bill is terrible and it’s getting worse. What moderates may not know is just how bad eliminating essential health benefits are.

  • Covering pre-existing conditions would only be on paper. Plans will not over basic services, even prescription drugs, that people need to treat their conditions to stay healthy.
  • Charging women more than men. No longer requiring plans to cover maternity care would mean that insurance companies would once again be able to penalize women and charge them more.
  • Removing Essential Health Benefits effectively obliterates out-of-pocket caps and reinstates annual and lifetime limits. Because annual and lifetime limits apply only to essential health benefits, insurers could once again put a cap on how much care one receives but not on how much people owe. Those with employer-sponsored coverage will be at risk too.

ASK: Vote no. We need every member to PUBLICLY oppose the health care repeal bill as soon as possible. We need people to publicly say they are going to vote no so when the time comes for them to vote we already have them on record so they will be less likely to flip.

CBO Score on repeal is out P.S. we’re all screwed

The Congressional Budget Office score is out, and #Trumpcare will throw 14 million people off insurance by 2018, rising to 24 million by 2026. All for a savings on the deficit  $337 billion over 10 years (which is virtually nothing–the US budget for 2015 was $3.8 TRILLION).
 
Per the CBO:
  • Premiums would rise by 15 to 20 percent in the near term
  • 7 million people would lose their employer coverage
  • Increased deductibles and out-of-pocket costs
  • 25% cut to Medicaid by 2026 (still affects states like Texas that didn’t expand Medicaid)
  • The monthly health insurance premium for a single 64-year-old who makes $26,500 would jump more than 700% (from $1,700 to $14,600)
 
You know what to do! Start making those calls NOW:
 
Sen. Cornyn, 512-469-6034
Sen. Cruz, 512-916-5834
Rep. McCaul, 512-473-2357
Rep. Flores, 512-373-3378
Rep. Smith, 512-912-7508
Rep. Williams, 512-473-8910
Rep. Carter, 512-246-1600
Rep. Doggett, 512-916-5921

How Your Voices Made a Difference Last Week: Feb. 19, 2017

Here’s how your voices made a difference last week.

  • National Security Adviser (and Islamophobe) Michael Flynn resigned amid proof that he discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Russian intelligence prior to Donald taking office, and lied about it to the VP and the FBI. Subsequent findings showed that many in the Republican administration have had contact with Russian intelligence as long ago as a year. Heat is rising from the spotlight this shines on the Republican administration, and many are calling for a full investigation into Flynn, Donald Trump, and this admin’s Russian ties.
  • Tax swindler and immigration hypocrite Andrew Puzder withdrew as the Labor Secretary nominee largely thanks to public outcry that turned four GOP senators against his nomination. Moderate Republicans look to finally be beginning to take a stand against Donald.
  • GOP Senator John McCain is amping up his opposition to Donald and his admin with a withering critique in a speech in Munich Friday, and calling Donald’s attempts to discredit the media “how dictators get started.”
These are the first real signs of breaks between the Republican administration and the Republican Congress–so it’s more important than ever to keep the heat on your Members of Congress.

Reminder: Tell your Senators don’t confirm Betsy DeVos

Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, may be the worst of them all. Of course, it’s hard to say in his cabinet of horrors. She was one of his first candidates for the cabinet in exchange for giving nearly $200,000 to the Republican National Committee and millions more to super PACs aiding Trump and GOP senators’ campaigns—including one founded by the Koch brothers this year.

She said, “collectively (it) is possible” her family has given around $200 million to Republican causes over the years. She has also donated to at least four of the senators who heard her initial testimony, and none of them recused themselves from the vote. “My family is the biggest contributor of soft money to the Republican National Committee,” she wrote in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. “I have decided to stop taking offense,” she wrote, “at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return.”

DeVos and her husband have given hundreds of thousands to Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group whose founder called the battle against LGBT rights a “second civil war,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group has also pushed so-called “conversion therapy” — discredited practices aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation — according to the Human Rights Campaign. Betsy and Dick DeVos, have spent heavily in opposition to same-sex-marriage laws in states all over the country.

She didn’t go to public schools, was never a teacher at public schools, didn’t have her children go to public schools and didn’t run a school district or state education agency, and is quoted as saying “government really sucks” and the public school system is “a dead end.” She once described education reform as a way to “advance God’s kingdom.” She supports diverting public funds to pay for kids to attend private, religious schools.

Under oath she said she wouldn’t enforce the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act which requires that public schools provide children with disabilities a “free and appropriate” education just like other students.

She refused to promise that she would not privatize and stop funding from public schools.
She didn’t seem to understand very basic federal education laws.

She declined to say whether she believes that all schools receiving taxpayer funding — public, public charter, or private — should be held accountable to the same performance standards. She also declined to say whether such schools should be required to report suspensions and expulsions, and incidents of bullying and harassment, to the federal government.

She has no experience with college financial aid or management of higher education which is a huge part of her department.

Her only work in education has been to gut Detroit’s struggling school system which has turned their schools –including the private charters- into some of the worst in the nation.

If Trump’s voucher agenda moves forward, it is also possible that the federal government could send Title 1 funding, a $15 billion program that exclusively funds low-income public schools, to high-income private and religious schools.

Without great public education there is no hope for our democracy. We can already see the effects of schools failing to teach history, civics, critical thinking, math, science, and the arts as schools have become horribly underfunded in these last generations.

Watch this video of Tim Kaine asking her about policy https://www.washingtonpost.com/vide…

Call your Texas senators today and every and day and ask them to reject DeVos.

John Cornyn at (202) 224-2934
And Ted Cruz (202) 224-5922

Here is a link to the rest in case you’re not reading from Texas. Just put them in your phone’s contacts and it’s super easy to call every day. (Although if I ever see an incoming call from Ted Cruz I’m going to totally freak out.)

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?OrderBy=state

And a script from Indivisibleatx:
My name is ____ and I live in ____ I am calling to urge you to vote “NO” on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. DeVos has no training or experience in education and supports dangerous and unproven policies that would funnel billions of taxpayer dollars to private entrepreneurs. This is both unconstitutional and against the values of the millions of Texans who believe in the value of public education. Our children deserve better – vote “NO.”

And here is a works cited & other articles:

Out of options
School choice gutted Detroit’s public schools. The rest of the country is next. https://news.vice.com/story/school-…

Betsy DeVos’s Accountability Problem https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/01/betsy-devoss-accountability-problem/513047/?utm_source=twb

Trump’s Pick for Education Could Face Unusually Stiff Resistance
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/12/us/politics/betsy-devos-education.html?_r=0

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education Pick, Seems Unfamiliar With A Major Federal Education Law
Sens. Tim Kaine and Maggie Hassan were beside themselves at her confirmation hearing during a back-and-forth over students with disabilities.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/betsy-devos-trumps-education-pick-seems-unfamiliar-with-a-major-federal-education-law_us_587f7c0fe4b0c147f0bc01ea

Betsy DeVos: Donald Trump’s education secretary pick shows school vouchers are at the top of his agenda
http://www.vox.com/2016/11/23/13735102/betsy-devos-education-donald-trump

Trump education pick painted by Dems as unqualified http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/17/politics/betsy-devos-education-nominee-donald-trump/index.html?sr=twCNN011817betsy-devos-education-nominee-donald-trump0114PMVODtopLink&linkId=33507830

BETSY DEVOS, TRUMP’S BIG-DONOR EDUCATION SECRETARY
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/betsy-devos-trumps-big-donor-education-secretary

Questions and conflicts: Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s secretary of education choice, is surrounded by controversies
http://www.salon.com/2017/01/17/questions-and-conflicts-betsy-devos-donald-trumps-secretary-of-education-choice-is-surrounded-by-controversies_partner/

Trump’s Billionaire Education Secretary Has Been Trying to Gut Public Schools for Years
Meet Betsy DeVos, the anti-union, pro-voucher surprise nominee.
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/11/education-secretary-betsy-devos-vouchers-michigan-trump