Wednesday, Bloody Wednesday (but take action starting MONDAY)

This Wednesday is a big day. It seems that the Republicans have purposefully over-scheduled in order to keep those of us at home stretched too thin to pay attention. It also has the added effect of stretching the Senators too thin – a few of them sit on committees that have simultaneous hearings.

There’s a Pink Floyd song I always thought belonged in a movie where a bunch of villains are secretly meeting.

Cabinet nominees are voted on by the Senate. We need three Republican Senators to defect from their party and vote with Democrats in order to win any given battle. Three will be the magic number for the next two years.

The most effective way to raise hell is to pick up your phone and call your representatives. The Office of Government Ethics has not had a chance to adequately investigate these nominees, and Republicans are trying to ram them through the process before that chance is granted. In addition, some of the background checks will not be completed. Our overall goal should be to delay these hearings so that they can have an ethics review (which are required since the Ethics in Government Act was passed after the Watergate debacle). An ethics review will decrease the chances that these corrupt individuals make it into the Cabinet, because we only need THREE Republicans to have a conscience but we need the evidence put forth first.

We can lobby for our Republican committee members to agree to the probes, and our Democratic committee members to be ruthless in grilling the nominees at their hearings.

Here’s a breakdown of some of what’s happening, not necessarily limited to Wednesday. It’s not comprehensive but it’s the biggies.


Tuesday, January 10th

Jeff Sessions, Attorney General (hearing at 9:30am ET)

Background on the position:

The Attorney General leads the US Justice Department. Generally, the AG advises the President and other executive branch officials on legal matters, and sometimes appears before the Supreme Court in person. The AG also exerts a lot of influence on the President’s nominees to federal courts. These judges have a huge impact on issues such as voting rights, abortion restrictions, gun laws, etc. throughout the country, and have a lot of control over what cases make it to the Supreme Court.

About the nominee:

jeff-sessionsjpg-7ba0ede4a30895b3Sessions is an attorney who has served as a Senator in Alabama for 20 years. He is controversial for having been rejected by the Senate for a federal judgeship during Reagan’s presidency, based on claims from his colleagues that he was too racist.

The allegations primarily stem from him prosecuting three civil rights activists for mail fraud (they had dropped off absentee ballots for elderly black people), seeking about 100 years jail time for them combined.

He is widely expected to spend most of his resources targeting immigrants and voting rights. Despite voting for its renewal in 2006, Sessions opposed many parts of the Voting Rights Act and has called it an “intrusive piece of legislation.” In a moment where we liberals have a heightened focus on the unfair treatment of people of color by the law, it is important we stand by them by loudly objecting to this nominee.

Sessions’ net worth is estimated to be $7.5 million.

What to do:

Call the offices of your Senators, and also call the Senate Judiciary Committee (which can be reached at 202.224.5225). The committee needs to be convinced to scrutinize his civil rights record.


Wednesday, January 11th

This is the day where the Republicans are trying to make sure no one nominee’s skeletons dominate the news cycle. Commit yourself to an extraordinary amount of anger!

Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State (hearings all day)

Background on the position:

The SoS serves as the chief adviser to the President on foreign affairs, as well as the US representative on the world stage. The SoS negotiates with foreign entities, attends conferences and meetings of multinational organizations, and acts as the American people’s source of information on foreign affairs. He or she also has a hand in appointing ambassadors, consuls, foreign ministers, etc.

About the nominee:

rex-tillerson-oil-companies-ceo-testify-senate-mlapzrmin0rlRex Tillerson is a businessman who just this week stepped down (with a nine figure payout) from his position as CEO of ExxonMobile. While it was necessary for him to leave that position, it’s too little too late for his massive conflicts of interest.

While at ExxonMobile, Tillerson received the Russian Order of Friendship for his work with ExxonMobile’s Russian branch, and some Russian energy companies. The Order of Friendship is not actually an indication that Tillerson is Putin’s friend, or even that he’s pro-Russia. However, given Trump’s fierce allyship with Putin, it seems perfect reasonable to question a SECRETARY OF STATE on the issue.

More important than the Order of Friendship are potential conflicts. For instance, US sanctions against Russia after they annexed Crimea are actually blocking a deal Tillerson was involved with to cooperate with the Russians on Arctic drilling. Were the deal to move forward, Tillerson’s stock would increase in value.

Tillerson’s net worth is estimated to be $150 million.

What to do:

Call the offices of your Senators, and the office of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 202.224.4651. They need to be convinced that we do not know the extent of Tillerson’s involvement in business interests abroad and further investigation is needed.

Senator Marco Rubio is a Republican on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee who is very uneasy with the ties to Russia. If you live in Florida, try to convince him to lead his party with his instincts.

Betsy DeVos, Education Secretary (hearing at 10am ET)

Background on the position:

The Sec. of Education is responsible for the coordination of all activities of the Department of Education, and is the chief adviser to the President on all Federal policies relating to education. The department oversees federal financial aid, affecting students’ access to higher education. It also collects data and forms policies to address certain issues – whether they be curricula-related issues (perhaps based on low test scores), drug and school safety issues, or funding issues.

About the nominee:

b99466374z-1_20161118183635_000_g3r17uut3-1-0DeVos is a businesswoman, heiress, and education activist from Michigan. She is not, and has never been, an educator. She is chiefly known for promoting School Choice, which at first glance is a very positive and helpful thing, but upon deeper examination is simply a drive to privatize public school and bleed the public education system of funding. She has revealed herself to be a noted enemy of public education. The biggest problem with this is that private education is less regulated, and these systems end up diverting public funding toward religious institutions.

Also significant is her drive to bring god into schools. As we know, the end result of this will be to ostracize non-Christian students, limit the scope and truth of science and history curricula, and to limit sex education (even more). This would absolutely cripple our future generations for competition in the world economy, and on a wider scale, can have broad effects like climate change denial and a misunderstanding of our government and history.

She is a megadonor, and has given a lot of money to the very people who will decide whether to confirm her or not. This makes our job difficult.

Betsy DeVos’ net worth is estimated at $5.1 billion (yes, with a “b”).

What do to:

In addition to calling your Senators, call the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions at 202.224.5375. They must be convinced that as an opponent of public education, she will both violate the general tenet of church-state separation, and she will rob our nation’s most vulnerable children of their chance of even a basic education.

Elaine Chao, Transportation Secretary (hearing at 10:15am ET)

Background on the position:

The Transportation Secretary is the adviser to the president when it comes to any federal transportation programs. She would be the leader of the department, her office overseeing any transportation policy, international transportation agreements, legislation related to air travel, and also dealing with alcohol and drug trafficking and use in transit systems.

About the nominee:

elaine-chao-300

Chao, a Taiwanese immigrant, has some impressive history under her belt: as G.W. Bush’s Secretary of Labor, she was the first Asian American woman appointed to a US President’s Cabinet. She is married to noted hypocrite Mitch McConnell, so undoubtedly they have some unsavory things in common ideology-wise. However, we don’t judge a woman by her husband, do we now? (no)

Chao is a member of the “establishment” more than any of these others, as she has been in Washington navigating these waters for decades. I don’t personally view “job experience” as a negative like our counterparts across the aisle, but I do view the following as negative: as labor secretary, she was often accused of being so pro-business so as to disregard pesky issues such as worker safety.

Chao’s net worth (independent of her husband) is estimated at $24 million.

What to do:

Overall, I actually don’t think our efforts are well spent on Chao, as she is actually highly qualified for this job and doesn’t have much bad behavior in her past.

However, she’s not great, so if you do oppose her, call your Senators and also call the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation at either 202.224.1251 (majority office) or 202.224.0411 (minority office).

Mike Pompeo, CIA Director (hearing at 10am ET)

Background on the position:

The CIA collects, evaluates, and disseminates foreign intelligence in order to advise the President and other high-ranking policymakers in their decision-making national security. The director of the agency manages the budgeting, personnel, and operations.

About the nominee:

2016-11-18t13-34-51-2z-1280x720-nbcnews-ux-1080-600Mike Pompeo is a Representative (from Kansas) who has served on the House’s Intelligence Committee. His history shows that he is fairly unconcerned with human rights and war crimes. Pompeo supported the vastly unpopular practice of collecting Americans’ phone records, is a defender of torture, and has opposed the closing of Gitmo. He also generally supports a powerful CIA. Interesting, for that last one.

In recent days, Trump has tried to discredit the agency because they have revealed information on Russia’s direct and purposeful interference in our election, to get Trump elected. This makes the pick interesting – I’m going to have to assume that even if Trump wants the CIA to be less powerful, he believes anyone he picks to lead the agency will be on his “side.”

The jury is out on whether Trump knew or had anything to do with this, but his complete and unequivocal disavowing of the US intelligence community (rather than the Russians) and his promise to scale it back is telling us, at the very least, how unsound his decision-making process is. Who would fault him if he and his campaign were not involved? We can surely fault him on his response, however. By framing this as some sort of corruption of the intelligence community, AT BEST he is willing to put his own ego before our national security. At best.

For that reason, I feel that almost any nominee that the Trump team puts forth without significant bipartisan support is guaranteed to be a bad choice, but Pompeo stands as a bad choice with or without Trump’s corruption, because he is basically the personification of almost every quality that Republicans (and many Democrats) hated about Obama and Hillary Clinton.

His estimated net worth is $500,000.

What to do:

In addition to calling your Senators, call the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence at 202.224.1700. For this one, I’m not sure stalling will help anything, but we do need to voice our loud opposition to protect the integrity of our intelligence community.

John Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security (hearing at 2pm)

Background on the position:

The Secretary of Homeland Security runs the agency, whose responsibilities include protecting us from terror threats (both domestic and foreign), overseeing immigration and naturalization (so it overseas US Customs, the Coast Guard, Secret Service, and Immigration and Naturalization Service), and also is responsible for responding to natural disasters (so it oversees FEMA). This department is the largest Cabinet-level department.

The department was created in response to 9-11, but its purpose has shifted to mostly be focused on immigration issues, and for some reason, the department is ill-managed and known for low employee morale.

About the nominee:

part-was-was8410391-1-1-0

John Kelly is an ex-marine whose resumé includes overseeing operations at Gitmo and a position as the head of the US Southern Command (dealing with drug trafficking in South and Central America). He has been a loud and outspoken critic of Obama’s push to close Gitmo.

In the context of the Trump presidency, I believe the most important thing to know is this staunch anti-immigration advocate will be in charge of Trump’s promised crackdown on immigrants, including the damn moneypit border wall. He seems to indicate that he will be very aggressive on this front.

Kelly is tough-talking and incredibly popular among Republicans. He fits solidly in line with their stance on immigration, and he is well-liked as a nominee because of his expertise regarding our southern border.

It’s worth noting that Kelly lost his son in combat in Afghanistan, and has taken a softer stance on some of Trump’s more extreme stances. For instance, he has no desire to implement a Muslim ban:

While the president-elect once called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, Kelly has said U.S. troops “respect and even fight for the right of your neighbor to venerate any God he or she damn well pleases.”

No net worth available, probably not a big deal.

What to do:

In addition to calling your Senators, call the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs at 202.224.4751. Kelly is expected to get through the hearings with no problem, so it’s possible our opposition is more symbolic. However, the symbol of standing next to our brothers and sisters of color, and displaying our commitment to keeping the US a welcoming place for immigrants and refugees, is very important.

And that concludes Wednesday. Jesus.


Thursday, January 12th

General James Mattis, Defense Secretary (hearing time TBD)

Background on the position:

The Defense Secretary serves as the principle adviser to the President on defense policy matters, and heads up the Department of Defense (DoD), determining its direction under the authority of the President. The department not only employees the military, but also the civilians working within the military, making it the largest department in terms of number of employees.

About the nominee:

James MattisAnother tough-talking ex-marine, James Mattis (known as “Mad Dog” led troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and has been largely lauded as a war hero after leading US operations through the Iraq Battle of Falluja (apparently the bloodiest of the war). He attracted controversy in 2005 by joking about how fun it is to shoot some people (referring to Afghani men who abuse women).

As opposed to Trump, Mattis is actually an opponent of beefing up our nuclear arsenal. He differs from the President-elect in other ways, such as supporting keeping the Iran Deal in tact so as to avoid war (even though he doesn’t exactly support the deal itself), and keeping a watchful eye on Russia. He wants our military presence in the world substantially increased, but as a deterrent to war.

My personal feelings are that I am generally opposed to an increase in military spending, but based on everything I have found out, I actually get a little comfort from the idea of Mattis’s presence in the President’s crowd of military advisers, because he is largely anti-war, is anti-Russia, is not anti-Muslim, and he could offer a check against Mike Flynn (who I believe may be a hidden antichrist in this living nightmare). Of course, the bar for being “acceptable” is really low in this situation, but at the same time, I’m not going to get a friend in there, so I’d rather have someone who is the enemy of my enemy.

I could not find an estimated net worth for him.

What to do:

Mattis needs to get a waiver from Congress, as he is has technically not been retired from the military long enough to hold this position. If you oppose Mattis, you can call your Senators and the Senate Armed Services Committee at 202.224.3871 and ask them to deny the waiver.

FUN FACT: The waiver requires a Senate super majority (60 votes) and so Democrats can block this nominee that way. In my opinion, this is more important as a source of leverage than anything.

Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce (hearing at 10am ET)

Correction: I originally thought this one was not scheduled.

Background on the position:

The Secretary of Commerce oversees the Commerce Department, which is concerned with promoting economic growth. It gathers economic and demographic data, and sets industrial standards. It has significant influence over the President in issues of trade.

About the nominee:

rossarticlelargeWilbur Ross is a billionaire businessman most known for buying failed companies, restructuring them (with significant layoffs), and selling them at a profit. He served under President Bill Clinton on the board of a US-Russia investment fund.

Ross is loaded with potential conflicts of interest: he has vested interests in the US not “going tough” on China; by being able to control policies on certain industries like steel, he stands to make money; and dismissed huge worker safety violations that led to 12 deaths in a mine in West Virginia.

Ross’s net worth is estimated at $2.5 billion (with a b!)

What to do:

Call your Senators, and contact the Senate Commerce Committee (majority number: 202-224-1251, minority number: 202-224-7824). We need to advocate for an ethics investigation here.


Wednesday, January 18th

Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services (hearing time TBD)

Background on the position:

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is responsible for all programs concerning the health and welfare of Americans, particularly those least able to help themselves. The department is responsible for overseeing Medicaid and Medicare, as well as controlling the safety standards for health institutions, drugs, and food. So, in other words, this department is responsible for the CDCs, FDA, the office of the Surgeon General, and more. The Secretary oversees this department.

About the nominee:

President-Elect Donald Trump Holds Meetings At His Trump Tower Residence In New YorkTom Price is a House representative from Georgia, who is also a physician. He is a staunch critic of Obamacare, but he has at least written a plan for replacing it. However, the plan ignores one of Obamacare’s most popular and most important components: the pre-existing condition clause.

Perhaps most alarming to me, is that Tom Price has a very clear record of targeting women’s healthcare. He has introduced legislation in the past that is strictly anti-choice, including being anti-birth control and anti-emergency contraception. As Secretary of the HHS, he would be on the front lines for defunding Planned Parenthood, which is something he fully intends to do.

Estimated net worth: $13.6 million.

What to do:

Senate Democrats are calling for a delay for his hearing to get him an ethics probe, as he is being accused of insider trading – within the healthcare industry, no less. So the potential conflicts of interest are strong with this one. Our best shot at getting this sexist piece of garbage out of the picture is getting this probe. Call your Senators and call the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions at 202.224.5375 to demand the ethics investigation.

Price’s anti-choice stance is in line with Republicans, and will be hard to defeat, so the insider trading angle might be the best one. However, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are Republican senators who are historically moderate on the issue of abortion and Planned Parenthood.


Unscheduled

The following are not yet scheduled, but it does not hurt to read up on these guys to be prepared. This list is incomplete.

I know we have been experiencing setbacks. Remember that is not a surprise. While expected, they are nonetheless disheartening. The point of resistance is to try and fail, over and over, because if we were expected to win, we wouldn’t be in the position of resistance. We need to get used to resisting through failure. We will slowly win the war if we can exhibit strong, steady, consistent force and bringing in as many people as we can. Cultivate your anger – nurture it, keep it healthy and strong.


Action Items

  • Call your Senators to oppose any of the above cabinet picks in time for their hearings.
  • Abbreviated list of Senate committee phone numbers to call to oppose any of the above Cabinet nominees:
    • Judiciary Committee (to oppose Jeff Sessions). 202.224.5225
    • Foreign Relations Committee (to oppose Rex Tillerson). 202.224.4651
    • Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (to oppose Besty DeVos). 202.224.5375
    • Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation (to oppose Elaine Chao), at either 202.224.1251 (majority office) or 202.224.0411 (minority office).
    • Select Committee on Intelligence (to oppose Mike Pompeo). 202.224.1700
    • Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs (to oppose John Kelly). 202.224.4751
    • Armed Services Committee (to oppose General James Mattis). 202.224.3871
    • Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation (to oppose Wilbur Ross), at either 202.224.1251 (majority office) or 202.224.0411 (minority office).
    • Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (to oppose Tom Price). 202.224.5375
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Author: Melissa

Melissa is an artist and half-architect living in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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