Email #145: “listening to the people”?

Your colleague Florida Rep. Ted Yoho deserves some credit. Though his membership in the House Freedom Caucus places him further to the right than you, he still showed up for a town hall meeting with 500 constituents in Gainsville during the Congress’ two-week recess this month. It was Yoho’s second town hall this year. And while he said it was “the rowdiest crowd,” even one of his sharpest critics praised him afterwards:

“I appreciate him actually holding the town hall. I think that’s important. We don’t agree on a lot of things, but I’m glad he’s here listening to the people.”

I wish I could say the same of you. On Thursday, the Staunton City Council voted to “pass along a request by our citizens” for a public town hall meeting. Not only are you rejecting the invitation, you worked behind the scenes to try to prevent the council from even making it. When your staff noticed the item listed on the city council agenda, you personally contacted one of the council members to lobby her to block the decision.

According to Councilwoman Andrea Oakes, you are “trying, at this point, to hold off until the attitudes are more relaxed.” You are giving “the emotional state of the country … a little time to settle.” Oakes was the only member of the Staunton City Council to vote against the invitation.

Rep. Yoho didn’t try to influence the city council of Gainseville to prevent his town hall. He just showed up and did his job. I’m also impressed by Yoho’s willingness to change his position on an issue of shared principle. A local Florida newspaper reported:

“Yoho told audience members that at first, he didn’t care if Trump released the returns because it wasn’t something required by the constitution. However, when the anti-Trump activist visited his office to explain how suspicious Trump’s international business dealings were in relation to his presidency, Yoho had a change of heart…. this is the first time Yoho has publicly called for Trump to release his tax returns.”

I also have written to you about Trump’s tax records and repeatedly asked to meet with you to discuss his failure to release them, but all I have ever received is an automated email.

I never thought I would prefer a member of the rightwing Freedom Caucus as my Representative, but at least Congressman Yoho is willing to listen—and even once in a great change his mind.

You told Oakes the country is enduring “tense political times.” Your behavior is fueling that tension. Avoiding town halls doesn’t “relax” and “settle” “emotional” constituents. It infuriates them further. The Trump administration’s 100th day has passed. How much more “little time” do you need?


Email #144: “honest inquiry”?

President Trump said last Saturday:

“My administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks. As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.”

This is an extraordinary statement from someone who for ideological reasons denies the scientific community’s overwhelming conclusion about climate change.

Donald Trump said in 2015: “I’m not a believer in man-made global warming.”

He said in 2013: “Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!”

He said in 2012: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

Rather than advancing scientific research on the environment, his proposed budget would eliminate it. His budget director Mick Mulvaney explained: “We’re not spending money on that anymore; we consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.” As a Congressman, Mulveney was an outspoken climate-change denier, referring to “baseless claims regarding global warming.”

It isn’t surprising then that Gallup reports an “11-percentage-point increase from 2016 to 2017 among Republicans saying the environment is excellent or good,” “the largest year-to-year change in Republicans’ environmental ratings since Gallup began asking the question.” This leap is a direct result of the ideologically based false information promoted by the Trump administration.

You, however, said in 2010:

“There is no doubt that the earth’s climate is changing. The earth and its climate are dynamic, and have changed throughout history even without human activity. We have reached a point where some experts concur that the earth is once again warming. Regardless of the reason, the debate over climate change should remind us that we should be good stewards of our planet.”

While you hedged about causes, your statement contradicts the President. Or at least his current opinion. In 2009, he co-signed a letter to President Obama expressing exactly the opposite opinion:

“We support your effort to ensure meaningful and effective measures to control climate change, an immediate challenge facing the United States and the world today. If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.”

Have you also reversed your opinion? You often support the President’s claims regardless of evidence: he said there was massive voter fraud and you agreed despite a complete absence of evidence; he said President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the election and you called for an investigation despite a complete absence of evidence.

There is, however, overwhelming scientific evidence of “man-made global warming,” but the President doesn’t care. Does that mean you don’t care too?

Email #143: “What matters in long run”?

Why is the House moving in the wrong direction on health care?

The new plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act brought the far-right Freedom Caucus on board, but at the cost of making the bill even less attractive to moderates and centrists.  Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman had planned to vote for the previous version, but now he’s only a “maybe.” Why? Because the new bill is worse. New Jersey Republican Rep. Leonard Lance is rejecting it because he has “always campaigned on making sure that no one is denied coverage based on pre-existing condition.” You said you wanted the ban on pre-existing conditions to continue too, but now states would be able to strike that provision along with any of the ACA’s essential benefits:

(1) ambulatory patient services

(2) emergency services

(3) hospitalization

(4) maternity and newborn care

(5) mental health and substance use disorder services including behavioral health treatment

(6) prescription drugs

(7) rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices

(8) laboratory services

(9) preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management

(10) pediatric services, including oral and vision care

Which of those would you personally go without? Which do you think your family members don’t really need?

The Freedom Caucus compromise has taken the extremely unpopular American Health Care Act—it was polling at a 17% approval rate while the ACA was tipping over 50%–and made a bill that is even less likely to become law. The ACHA wouldn’t have passed in the Senate. Aside from drawing no Democrats, four Republicans–Portman, Capito, Gardner, and Murkowski–wrote to Majority Leader McConnell to openly oppose it: “We will not support a plan that does not include stability for Medicaid expansion populations or flexibility for states.” Like the ACHA, the new bill would cut Medicaid. But unlike the ACHA, it would strip away more benefits and protections. That’s not a compromise. That’s a bad bill made worse.

Republican Senator Cotton said it best in his March tweets: “House health-care bill can’t pass Senate w/o major changes. To my friends in House: pause, start over. Get it right, don’t get it fast… What matters in long run is better, more affordable health care for Americans”

So why is the House pushing forward a bill that can’t pass? More importantly, why are any Republicans supporting a bill that hurts those Americans who need health care most?

Email #142: “drastic implications for our Republic”?

On January 25, President Trump signed an executive order that empowered “State and local law enforcement agencies across the country to perform the functions of an immigration officer” and declared that “jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply … are not eligible to receive Federal grants.”In short, any place that doesn’t spend its resources enforcing immigration laws loses its federal funding.

But, as you know, only Congress can place those kinds of conditions on federal dollars, and so on Tuesday, Judge William H. Orrick ruled that the President was overstepping his powers and blocked his executive order. San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera responded:

“This is why we have courts — to halt the overreach of a president and an attorney general who either don’t understand the Constitution or chose to ignore it.”

Although you dislike so-called Sanctuary Cities like San Francisco, you must still be pleased with the judge’s ruling. As you have pointed out many times in your own statements:

“Our constitutional system of three co-equal branches of government and a Bill of Rights therefore prevent one branch from assuming too much authority without a challenge from the other branches of government.”

As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, that responsibility of challenging the executive branch falls on you. You were vigilant about it in the past. You wrote in April 2016 in response to the Supreme Court case challenging President Obama’s executive actions on immigration:

“The case … is fundamentally about preserving the separation of powers and its outcome will have drastic implications for our Republic…. he does not have the authority to change our nation’s immigration laws on his own. I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will stop President Obama’s lawlessness so that we protect the Constitution and the intent of the Founding Fathers that the legislative branch, which reflects the will of and is accountable to the American people, makes the laws, not the President.”

Since Donald Trump became President, however, you seem unconcerned about such “lawlessness.” I assume this is because the President is also the leader of the Republican party, and so you are in the difficult position of having to challenge your own boss.

Alternatively, your criticisms of Obama were never principled: you were only using the Constitution as a prop to feign outrage and score political points. In which case your failure to hold the executive branch accountable now is consistent: you prioritize your duties to your party over your duties to your country.

Fortunately, Judge Orrick has stepped in and done your job for you.

Email # 141: “prime the pump”?

In September 2008, you voted against a $60 billion stimulus package that included major transportation infrastructure spending. This was during the Bush administration’s final months as the U.S. economy was plunging further into a historic recession.

In January 2009, you voted against a $825 billion for economic recovery package that also included major infrastructure spending.  This was President Obama’s first month in office, as the economy continued to spiral into its worse state since the Great Depression.

Six months later, you once again voted against an additional $192 billion anti-recession stimulus spending bill, despite the continuing economic troubles.

Clearly you do not believe in stimulus packages, no matter how dire the economic situation. Gladly, the U.S. economy recovered from its 19-month recession, and current economic indicators promise continuing growth. And yet President Trump claims he has inherited an economic “mess” and has promised a $1 trillion stimulus package for transportation infrastructure spending. He said:

“We’re also going to prime the pump. You know what I mean by ‘prime the pump’? In order to get this going, and going big league, and having the jobs coming in and the taxes that will be cut very substantially and the regulations that’ll be going, we’re going to have to prime the pump to some extent. In other words: Spend money to make a lot more money in the future. And that’ll happen.”

Given your adamant opposition to President Obama’s infrastructure spending bills, I assume you will also reject President Trump’s. This seems especially obvious since Obama was responding to an economy a year into recession and our current economy has seen several years of continuous growth.

Why then haven’t you already spoken out against the President’s call for such an unnecessary and massive stimulus package? He says it’s going to be the biggest infrastructure spending since the Eisenhower administration’s highway-building plan. Shouldn’t he be told that his plan has no chance of passing a House filled with GOP deficit hawks such as yourself?

Email #140: “taking the time to meet with me”?

Jacque Carroll has a picture on her Facebook page of you and her posing together in your DC office. She writes:

“Thank you Representative Bob Goodlatte for taking the time to meet with me and talk about what we can do in Virginia’s schools and to get more funding … to bring more sexual assault nurses to my community.”

Jacque Carroll is Miss Virginia 2017. Apparently winning a beauty pageant is one way to get a meeting with you. Although I don’t know if Ms. Carroll is a resident of Virginia’s district 6, I have no objection to your meeting with her. She appears to have spoken to you about an especially worthy cause, and I would vigorously applaud you if you carried through on your meeting by voting to raise funding for rape victims. Given that our President has bragged about committing sexual assault (whether he also committed such crimes or not), such funding would be extremely welcome.

Although you included the same photo of your meeting with Ms. Carroll in one of your newsletters, you neglected to mention her advocacy on behalf of rape victims. I assume this omission was accidental, since you would not want to create the impression that you met with her only because she is a beauty pageant winner—especially given the gravity of the topic you discussed. Would you please include in your next newsletter an update on the steps you have since taken to provide sexual assault nurses to Ms. Carroll’s community?

Ms. Carroll also writes on her Facebook page: “One of the most important lessons in life my mother taught me was to never be quiet.” That’s a lesson millions have been following across every district in the country. We can’t all get meetings with you and our other Congressional leaders, but, like Ms. Carroll, we are not allowing that to keep us quiet. And, although I may not be as pretty as Ms. Carroll, I remain hopeful that you will still respond to my many, many meeting requests.

Email #139: “ridiculous”?

Next Saturday is a huge day. It’s the deadline for Congress to avoid a government shutdown, and it marks President Trump’s 100th day in office. The two dates coincide because the Trump administration asked for a delay on passing a 2017 spending bill—even though the 2017 fiscal year officially began October 1. The President seems to be asking for an extension on his first 100 days too, now calling it a “ridiculous standard,” even though his campaign promoted the idea with a “contract” listing all the accomplishments he promised by April 29th.

The President’s most repeated and most popular campaign promise was to build a “Great Wall.” His “100-day action plan to Make America Great Again” called for an Act that “Fully-funds the construction of a wall on our southern border with the full understanding that the country of Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall.” Even polls in January showed only 19% of Americans believed him, but according to him: “The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed), will be paid back by Mexico later!” Even Senate leader McConnell contradicted that claim.

The President also claimed it would cost far less than the widely estimated $25 million: “I am reading that the great border WALL will cost more than the government originally thought, but I have not gotten involved in the design or negotiations yet. When I do, price will come WAY DOWN!” But General Kelly, President’s choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security, says it will actually cost way more: “A physical barrier, in and of itself, will not do the job. If you were to build a wall from the pacific to the Gulf of Mexico, you’d still have to back that wall up with patrolling by human beings, by sensors, observation devices.” That means that cost isn’t just construction. A wall would also require additional sensors, cameras, and patrollers, which, on top of maintenance, would add continuing annual costs too.

I fear the President is so desperate for the appearance of accomplishment that Congress will use the budget deadline to try to push through a rushed and ill-advised spending bill that includes wall construction. That attempt will shut the government down as the GOP shut it down in 2013 and twice in 1996. Those times Congress had Clinton or Obama in the White House to rally against. This time Republicans control every branch of government, making it impossible to blame Democrats for another unpopular shutdown.

Other deficit hawks have signaled they will not support adding deficit-deepening wall construction in the next appropriations bill. You, however, said in January that you support the President’s “Great Wall” plan. If you still do, I hope you recognize how “ridiculous” it would be to attempt to enact it this of all weeks.

Please vote to maintain current spending levels in the continuing resolution that Congress must pass by Saturday.