Confirmation hearings on the new Administration's Cabinet choices are continuing. Senate Judiciary will vote tomorrow on the proposed Attorney General, Jeff Session. We've been asking you to call your Senators on this and upcoming floor votes, even when we think your Senator will probably vote NO. In part it is to give Senators who are in agreement with us the "weight" of citizen response, and in part because even those on our side are getting pushed by supporters to vote Yes.
Dianne Feinstein of California indicated she'd had far too few calls concerning Mr. Sessions and might, therefore, have to vote for him. Now, after she was inundated by your calls, those from the NAACP, and many other human rights groups, she has asked for a delay in the vote because Mr. Sessions has failed to answer questions posed to him before the hearings began. She has been strengthened by your response.
Please understand that whatever an elected official's own beliefs about any given issue, if there is no real citizen support for that position within his or her constituency, it makes holding the line on the vote very, very difficult. That's why we encourage your voices to be raised. Your voice has "weight" in every serious matter.
The reason we don't suggest that you call the chair or ranking member of a committee at the federal leve is that if you are not a constituent and the person in that position is not interested in higher office, the voices outside their constituency (district or state) hold very little influence if any. You may, of course, do it, but it expends your energies for little return. So we focus on your representatives.
The upcoming hearings are as follows:
Senator Tom Price for Health and Human Services. He has repeatdly advocated overturning the Affordable Care Act and has proffered outright lies about how it is working. He is deeply opposed to women making their own decisions about their reproductive care including access to birth control and abortion. He also has ignored the existing laws (the Hyde Amendment of long standing) that prevent federal funds being used to pay for abortion and pretends they still do, using that as an excuse to remove access to Planned Parenthood and other women's health services. Moreover, he supports the general conservative goal of ending - yes ending - Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Veternas Tricare, and VA health care by privatizing them or turning them into tax credits. None of those strategies would offer the care we have today, not for our elders, not for the poor, not for veterans. He faced a second committee hearing due to undisclosed financial interests in major pharmaceutical corporations among other issues. He has a likely smooth passage through a floor vote, but we need to keep up the opposition to his leadership of these key issues.
Senate Committe on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) will hear the second round of questions for Betsy DeVos, candidate for Secretary of Education. The hearing is scheduled for Thursday, February 2. Ms. DeVos, wife of the Amway products founder, is a rabid opponent of public schools and is in favor of using tax dollars - our money - for private schools both secular and religious. She has never shown an ounce of understanding of what public schools need; her family have all been schooled privately, and she has a strong conservative religious agenda she wishes to have implemented in both those charter schools and public schools regardless of parents' and children's beliefs. She once advocated making poor children work, saying even jobs in mining would be good. Shades of the 1890s! She showed in the first round of questioning that she has no interest in or understanding of curricula or child development or what constitutes real achievement.
Senate HELP Committee has schedule February 2 to question fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder in his quest for Secretary of Labor. Mr. Puzder has expressed opposition to not only the "Fight for $15" minimum wage movement but to minimum wage. His own fast-food empire, CKE Restaurants (Carl's Jr. and Hardee's) is a chronic violator of basic labor standards. He expressed an interest in purusing automation to replace workers not help them do better. He wants to remove all liability on both his corporation and its franchise owners for harm done to workers - a standard even Andrew Carnegie rejected. And he wants to make union organizing very difficult if not impossible to further these anti-worker goals.
No matter who is now up before committee or who has passed to floor votes, please let your Senators know of your opposition. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was CEO of the company that ignored federal safety standards resulting in the deaths of 12 miners at his Sago Coal Mine. He operates most of his businesses outside the U.S. and has strong and dubious ties to Russian interests. Mick Mulvaney, candidate for Director of the Office of Managment and Budget was one of the legislators shutting down the government in 23 and 2015. Steven Mnuchin, candidate for Secretary of the Treasury, played a pivotal role in the financial crisis of 2007-08 while he was head of the branch that promoted toxic mortgages. He was called the foreclosure king of Wall Street, once trying to take back the home of a 90-year-old woman over a $.29 calculation error. He withheld payments to survivors of Hurricane Sandy. He has no government experience so tends to view the federal finances for what benefits corporate interests, not the public.
With all of these candidates whose moral values are, in our view, sadly lacking and whose experience has never been in the public interest, we urge constant vigilance and strong opposition.
To call your Senators please dial 202-224-3121 or connect to them for district phones and FAX or email contact at:
These people will have a great deal of say over our future, how we live, what benefits we will receive and how, whether we may operate freely or be constrained by unknown limitations. This is on all of us to oppose. Make your voice heard today, tomorrow, through the confirmation floor votes so that you send the message that we will NOT go back to an insecure time when corporations rule, and we suffer.