May 08, 2019

Not So Fast McConnell

While our Representatives in the House are advancing legislation that benefits the country, our Senators are hiding behind a blockade in the Senate.

by Susan E. Stutz

asset 1

https://www.cagle.com/john-cole/2013/07/mcconnell-the-turtle

We all know that Congress isn’t functioning as it should, that the people charged with running our country have instead chosen to run amok. While our Representatives in the House are advancing legislation that benefits the country, our Senators are hiding behind a blockade in the Senate. That blockade is made up of just one man — majority leader, Mitch McConnell. When it comes to legislation that McConnell does not support, he has refused to even entertain a vote on the Senate floor.

But, there’s a catch — McConnell’s isn’t the last word. Any senator can propose that a piece of legislation get a vote and if enough of them want the vote — 51 or more — they can make sure a vote takes place. Those are the rules. The problem is that for the last 60+ years, the Senate has engaged in a practice of forfeiting that power to the majority leader in order to guard against division within the ranks of the majority party. And, a unified front is great and all, but there are real consequences for the rest of us.

H.R. 1: For the People Act

America didn’t need Mueller’s report to tell us that Russia interfered with our elections. We’ve known that from some time thanks to the conclusions from the FBI, DNI, and others. Russia attacked what is at the very core of what it means to call ourselves a democracy and that cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged. Voting is vital to our existence. This is evidenced by the fact that since the beginning of this year, almost 3,000 pieces of voter-related legislation have been introduced at the state level. While some of this legislation would make voting easier by combining the process of driver’s license and state ID application and renewal with voter’s registration, much of it seeks to make voting harder by creating new or more stringent voter ID laws that disproportionately affect people of color and those who are low wage earners.

One of the ways that we can protect our democracy is with the passage of H.R.1 the For The People Act. This legislation calls for:

  1. Increased election security and election integrity.
  2. Nonpartisan redistricting commissions which would mean we could say goodbye to political gerrymandering by any party.
  3. Campaign contributions and spending, including expanding the ban on contributions by foreign nationals.
  4. Election Day would become a federal holiday which means that no one would be barred from voting because their job keeps from them the polls. McConnell famously called this provision a “power grab” and a “new paid holiday for government workers.”

This legislation is full of really good ideas that should not be ignored just because McConnell says no. At a minimum, H.R. 1 deserves a fruitful debate in the Senate—the entire point of the so-called greatest deliberative body in the world. More on H.R. 1 here:

Taking Back Democracy

H.R. 1644: Save the Internet Act

Net neutrality regulations were scrapped in late 2017 in a hugely unpopular move by FCC Chair Ajit Pai. They required that companies such as Verizon and Comcast which provide internet to our homes, cars, and cell phones, do not get to play favorites. They must treat companies and customers equally. From the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

H.R. 1644 restores the FCC’s ability to police unjust and unreasonable conduct by ISPs. Unfair ISP practices recently took center stage nationally when Verizon was found throttling the wireless service of the Santa Clara Fire Department while the department was fighting a massive fire. The bill also reinstates the competition policies of the Telecommunications Act for the broadband access market, a measure that’s widely supported by the small competitors to incumbents like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.

While this legislation has passed in the House, it has been met with the back of McConnell’s hand in the Senate. Enactment of H.R. 1644, the Save the Internet Act, and its companion in the Senate, S. 682 would declare once and for all that the internet is a public utility and a users access is up to them, and only them, not their ISP or the government. The exchange of information over the internet is part and parcel to being a free society and critical to freedom of speech. Gone are the days of only being able to get our information from a hard-copy newspaper or Encyclopedia Britannia. We are a people of the world-wide-web and nothing will ever turn that clock back. More on net neutrality here:

Your Cable Company Loves Ajit Pai

How to Take Action

Reach out to your legislators and remind them that they have the power to plow right through McConnell’s blockade. Send SENATE to Resistbot and encourage your Senator to call for a vote on these pieces of legislation and pressure McConnell. You can talk to Resistbot on Facebook Messenger, Telegram, or Twitter direct message. If none of those work for you, Resistbot also supports old fashioned SMS: text RESIST to 50409 to get started. It takes 2 minutes to make a difference.

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