Indivisible Gets Visible at Local Congressional Offices, National City Hearing
By Doug Porter
Mitch McConnell and his Republican friends in the United States Senate handed the resistance movement a gift on Tuesday night when they invoked an obscure rule to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren as she read from a letter by Coretta Scott King concerning the record of Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions.
The letter was addressed to then-Sen. Strom Thurmond in 1986. In it, King objected to Sessions nomination to be a federal judge due to his use of “the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens.” King continued, “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of this office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.”
Senate leader Mitch McConnell barred Warren from speaking any further for breaking rule 19: “No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words, impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct for motive unworthy or becoming a Senator.”
Following a Senate vote along party lines and an unsuccessful appeal by Democrats, Warren was barred from speaking again during the nomination hearing.
“She was warned, she was given an explanation,” McConnell said. “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
From the Washington Post:
To be sure, the crackdown on Warren has already backfired in significant ways for Republicans. It is already drawing more attention to Coretta Scott King’s remarks about Sessions than Warren or Democrats could ever dream would happen. Warren read the full letter outside the Senate chamber, which was a great gesture. As Warren put it: “I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate.”
The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent correctly assumes that Republicans don’t care about the message this sends since they have the votes to confirm Sessions and hand the Democrats a string of defeats in Congress.
What he fails to realize is the long term downside for the GOP. He assumes the public outcry will fade as time goes on.
Sargent is wrong. This is a pivotal moment. The Good Old Boys of the Senate have insulted an entire class of voters who happen to be a majority of the population and are taking a leadership role in ending the reactionaries reign of error.
One need look no further in history than California in the 1990s to realize the toxic nature of this sort of behavior. Sure, voters approved then-Gov. Pete Wilson’s ballot measure cracking down on immigrants. Twenty years later, there effectively is no Republican party in the Golden State.
Here’s Kelly Macias at Daily Kos:
By now we’ve all seen the shameful way that Mitch McConnell and company silenced Sen. Elizabeth Warren from reading Coretta Scott King’s letter on Sen. Jeff Sessions on Tuesday night. But here’s something else that you should know—on Wednesday morning, so far, two other senators have now read that same letter on the floor of the Senate without any objection whatsoever. It’s worth noting that both of those senators (Sen. Jeff Merkley and Sen. Udall) are white and male.
So what exactly is the deal here? How is it possible that Warren was censored for the remaining 30 hours of debate while two other Democrats get to read the exact same document she was rebuked for reading? Of course, it’s easy to assume that this is yet another flagrant example of the racism and misogyny of the GOP leadership; and make no mistake, it most certainly is. But it also suggests something that we’ve suspected all along—that the Republican leadership is absolutely scared shitless of Elizabeth Warren.
Gag Rule Explained
The Senate’s Rule 19 grew out of the early contentious debates over slavery. (Ironic, how everything always goes back to race, huh?)
Here’s Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine:
In 1836, at the behest of slave interests in the South, Congress created a rule prohibiting any debate over slavery in either House. The putative rationale for the rule was that Congress had no authority over slavery, therefore the issue was irrelevant, and any petition addressing slavery would be immediately tabled. John Quincy Adams, a former president turned member of the House and anti-slavery activist, called this the “gag rule…”
…Many historians of the 19th century believe the gag rule backfired against the South. It dramatized the undemocratic nature of the “Slave Power,” changed the subject from the merits of slavery to the merits of being allowed to debate slavery (thus broadening the opposing coalition), and ultimately created far more publicity for anti-slavery petitions. Mitch McConnell’s gag rule on Elizabeth Warren will likely have the same effect. Sessions has the votes for confirmation, but the grossness with which his colleagues have suppressed criticism of his record has given the opposition a platform, and a cause.
The GOP Ineffectual Push Back
Here’s manly man Ted Cruz, spinning lies as best he knows how:
Ted Cruz, attacking Elizabeth Warren on Fox: “the Democrats are the party of the Ku Klux Klan”
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) February 8, 2017
Along with the history of the past 50 years, Cruz undoubtedly has forgotten his speech accusing Sen. McConnell of lying to his colleagues in July 2015.
Here’s Utah Senator Orrin Hatch clutching his pearls, via Think Progress:
A top Republican senator was “astounded” that Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) lacked the “etiquette and courtesy” to “think of the wife” of colleague Jeff Sessions, the U.S. attorney general nominee, before criticizing his record on voting rights.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) took to the Senate floor Tuesday night to accuse Warren of lacking the appropriate decorum. In his speech, Hatch accused Warren of being indelicate in her opposition, saying that senators “ought to be ashamed of ourselves” and that he “resented the constant diatribe against a fellow senator.”
Finally, some wisdom on where we go from here:
— Yashar (@yashar) February 8, 2017
Locally, Resist Trump Tuesdays Get Real
In the weeks since the inauguration, more than 4,500 chapters of Indivisible have sprung up around the country.
The organization takes its name from Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda, a 23-page document written by congressional staffers who experienced the Tea Party’s impact.
Most of the people I’ve seen involved in Indivisible are not long term political activists. People from MoveOn, San Diego Progressives, Occupy San Diego, Together We Will (an offshoot of the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation), former organizers for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, and many others are now joining forces with the group. The organization is being built in such a way that it is grassroots driven, with a national network to coordinate and publicize actions.
Undoubtedly there will be a lot of “concern” from liberal pundits over this style of organization. In a society where right wing trolls can be mobilized overnight to attack a CNN news anchor for daring to ask hard questions, a horizontal style of leadership makes tons of sense.
The emerging network has made it clear they are determined to unite under the Indivisible banner to pressure elected officials to support their views or be voted out of office.
Yesterday, the local chapters of Indivisible flexed their still developing political muscle, sending people to the district offices of Reps. Darrell Issa, and Duncan Hunter, along with Senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris.
The message at each office was tailored differently. The Republican House members staffers heard about demands for local in-person town halls, the executive order on immigration, and the Affordable Care Act.
Activists appearing at Senate offices were supportive of progressive actions taken by Feinstein and Harris, and pressured them to keep holding Republicans feet to the fire on upcoming confirmation votes.
Here’s a snip from the Union-Tribune coverage:
Harris and Feinstein appear to be aligned with the protesters causes. But Kathy Stadler, an organizer with Indivisible San Diego, the group that planned the event, said the two senators need to know that their constituents want them to aggressively oppose the administration.
“We want them to fight as hard as possible,” Stadler said.
Some of the roughly 150 people who gathered outside Issa’s Vista office said they are taking cues from the Indivisible Guide, a kind of blueprint for political activism that borrows from the tea party playbook and walks people through the process of reaching out to their congressional representatives.
‘Welcoming’ Sabotaged in National City
The advocacy didn’t end there, however. Last night hundreds of people appeared a National City Council hearing on a motion to strengthen their Welcoming City Resolution.
As defined by Welcoming America, the network coordinating such efforts, this is what National City was seeking to endorse:
A Welcoming City or County is one that joins the Welcoming America network and works across multiple sectors, such as government, business, and non-profit, to create inclusive policies and practices such as making it easier for entrepreneurs to start a business or having government documents available in multiple languages. Welcoming Cities are guided by the principles of inclusion and creating communities that prosper because everyone feels welcome, including immigrants and refugees.
Anti-immigrant groups were expected to oppose the measure, given that the very idea is being blasted as a United Nations/George Soros conspiracy in rightwing media.
What supporters of the resolution didn’t expect was political sabotage from within the city council.
From a resolution supporter’s Facebook feed:
What a gut-wrenching end to a thoughtful and heartful meeting. For 90 minutes, National City residents and locals expressed their strong support and hope for the Welcoming City resolution to be passed. No one present spoke in opposition, except Mayor Morrison and Vice Mayor Mendivil.
At the last moment, Mayor Morrison presented a “substitute” resolution that he did not share with the rest of the councilmembers beforehand, and which he did not make available to them until after he had read it aloud. Gone were the words “Welcoming”, “Immigrant” and “Refugee”. Scrubbed was an entire paragraph about not letting city police be used by ICE and US Border Patrol. This alternate resolution passed, to shouts of “Cowards!” and “Shame!” from the chamber gallery.
Councilmember Soleto-Solis met us, in tears, outside the chamber while the meeting continued. Residents are resolute about voting out Mayor Morrison, and anyone else on the council who they feel does not represent them. We witnessed an absolutely disgusting bait-and-switch tonight.
Tribes Plan DC #NODAPL Protest March 10
Following orders from the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of the Army is preparing to green light the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe issued the following statement in response (emphasis mine):
“The drinking water of millions of Americans is now at risk. We are a sovereign nation and we will fight to protect our water and sacred places from the brazen private interests trying to push this pipeline through to benefit a few wealthy Americans with financial ties to the Trump administration,” said Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “Americans have come together in support of the Tribe asking for a fair, balanced and lawful pipeline process. The environmental impact statement was wrongfully terminated. This pipeline was unfairly rerouted across our treaty lands. The Trump administration – yet again – is poised to set a precedent that defies the law and the will of Americans and our allies around the world.”
Attorneys for the Tribe emphasize that the easement cannot be granted legally at this time. “The Obama administration correctly found that the Tribe’s treaty rights needed to be acknowledged and protected, and that the easement should not be granted without further review and consideration of alternative crossing locations,” said Jan Hasselman, lead attorney for the Tribe. “Trump’s reversal of that decision continues a historic pattern of broken promises to Indian Tribes and unlawful violation of Treaty rights. They will be held accountable in court.”
Next steps for Tribe and allies
- The Tribe will challenge any easement decision on the grounds that the EIS was wrongfully terminated. The Tribe will demand a fair, accurate and lawful environmental impact statement to identify true risks to its treaty rights, including its water supply and sacred places.
- The Tribe has asked the court for DAPL to disclose its oil spill and risk assessment records for full transparency and review by the public.
- If DAPL is successful in constructing and operating the pipeline, the Tribe will seek to shut the pipeline operations down.
- A Native Nations march on Washington is scheduled for March 10. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and tribes across the country invite allies in America and from around the world to join the march.
“We ask that our allies join us in demanding that Congress demand a fair and accurate process,” Archambault II said. “Our fight is no longer at the North Dakota site itself. Our fight is with Congress and the Trump administration. Meet us in Washington on March 10.”
Archambault II said he knows the Standing Rock movement has inspired people around the world to shape their world at home and abroad.
“As Native peoples, we have been knocked down again, but we will get back up, we will rise above the greed and corruption that has plagued our peoples since first contact. We call on the Native Nations of the United States to stand together, unite and fight back. Under this administration, all of our rights, everything that makes us who we are is at risk. Please respect our people and do not come to Standing Rock and instead exercise your First Amendment rights and take this fight to your respective state capitols, to your members of Congress, and to Washington, DC.”
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
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