Making Their Mark: Senators Booker and Harris Stand for Justice
“Gentlemen, I have always been persuaded that the stability and success of the National Government, and consequently the happiness of the People of the United States, would depend in a considerable degree on the Interpretation and Execution of its Laws. In my opinion, therefore, it is important that the Judiciary System should not only be independent in its operations, but as perfect as possible in its formation.”
— President George Washington, From George Washington to the United States Supreme Court, April 3, 1790
After four contentious days of testimony, one thing is absolutely clear from the Senate confirmation hearing for President Donald Trump’s hand-picked Supreme Court nominee: there is no love lost between Senate Democrats and Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Democrats were combative, and in some cases, defiant, as Kavanaugh’s high-stakes confirmation hearing played out for the American public to see. Trump’s nominee could drastically remake the court, cementing a conservative ideological balance that would affect many of the rights and fundamental liberties many Americans take for granted for generations to come.
Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California were particularly forceful in their exchanges with Kavanaugh—and given what’s at stake for our nation—rightfully so.
Sen. Harris interrupted the opening hearings over the loud objections of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, demanding a postponement, especially in light of Republican’s releasing over 40,000 pages of documents on Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House the night before the start of the hearings. As Sen. Harris noted, given the time and sheer volume of documents, the confirmation process needed to be delayed. But despite Sen. Harris’ commonsense objection, the Republicans decided the show much go on.
Documents became a running theme in the Democrats’ resistance to Kavanaugh’s nomination. In a break with protocol, Sen. Booker released a trove of emails Republicans wanted to keep secret, arguing that there was no reason for them to be marked confidential. Republicans roundly dismissed Sen. Booker’s attempt to shed further light on Kavanaugh, a potential lifetime appointee to the Supreme Court, as “theatrics.” Senator John Cornyn, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, framed Sen. Booker’s document release as grandstanding, saying that, “Running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate or of confidentiality of the documents that we are privy to.”
Whether the questioning was difficult, such as the exchanges between Kavanaugh and Sen. Harris on Robert Mueller or a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions; or the document was salient to understanding how Kavanaugh might rule as a Supreme Court justice, such as Sen. Booker’s release of an email previously marked confidential entitled, “racial profiling,” Republicans distilled any attempt by Democrats to provide the American public with more information than Republicans were willing to provide down to cheap political posturing.
No matter where you may fall on the motivations of either senator, or any senator on the opposite side of the aisle, there was a concerted effort to provide their constituents and their nation with as much information as possible on Kavanaugh, because, ultimately, this nomination has been nothing if not rushed and utterly devoid of meaningful vetting.
Republicans, who currently have a 51-49 majority in the Senate and do not require a single vote from Senate Democrats to confirm Kavanaugh, are sharing as little as possible about Trump’s nominee. According to CNN, Kavanaugh has “the lowest level of support for a Supreme Court nominee since Robert Bork, whose nomination was rejected by the Senate in 1987.” Rather than worry about shoring up the public’s confidence in our nation’s highest court, Republicans are worried that the more we know, the less likelier the chance of a consequence-free Kavanaugh confirmation.
If you are troubled by what hangs in the balance—a woman’s right to choose, a citizen’s constitutional right to vote, a consenting couples’ right to marry, the limits of executive power, addressing climate change, and more—call your senators immediately at 202-224-3121 and tell them that you expect them to either vote “no” on Kavanaugh, or vote “yes” at grave professional risk.
Confirmation of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would represent a grave subversion of the will of the people, and the utter abandonment of the Senate’s duty to advise and consent. We cannot allow such an abuse of power to go unchecked.
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Statement on the Appointment of Dr. Leana Wen as the New President Of Planned Parenthood
WASHINGTON, DC (September 12, 2018)—Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) released the following statement today on the announcement that Dr. Leana Wen, Health Commissioner for Baltimore City, has been named the new President of Planned Parenthood:
“I join in congratulating Dr. Leana Wen on becoming the new president of Planned Parenthood. She has done an outstanding job in Baltimore as an advocate for public health and overseeing programs serving the most vulnerable populations in the city. She successfully took on the Trump Administration in court after it tried to rescind federal funding for preventing teen pregnancy and fought to keep clinics serving low-income families open. Planned Parenthood is fortunate to have her at the helm during this critical time in its history, as the organization continues to help lead the fight for women to have access to the full range of health care options, including reproductive care.
“Planned Parenthood plays a crucial role in providing care to women and their families in communities across the country, and I will continue to stand up for its funding and the safety of its patients, physicians, and staff. I look forward to working with Dr. Wen to ensure that Congress recognizes the organization’s important work and does not impede its ability to provide these critical services wherever they are needed. I thank outgoing president Cecile Richards again for her years of service.”
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The Test of Our Progress
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
These words are from President Franklin Roosevelt’s second inaugural address given January 20, 1937. The President was speaking to a nation crawling out of the Great Depression. Progress had been made but President Roosevelt knew a great nation was still capable of so much more. Below is what preceded that passage:
“[H]ere is the challenge to our democracy: In this nation I see tens of millions of its citizens—a substantial part of its whole population—who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what the very lowest standards of today call the necessities of life.
I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day.
I see millions whose daily lives in city and on farm continue under conditions labeled indecent by a so-called polite society half a century ago.
I see millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children. …
It is not in despair that I paint you that picture. I paint it for you in hope—because the Nation, seeing and understanding the injustice in it, proposes to paint it out. We are determined to make every American citizen the subject of his country’s interest and concern; and we will never regard any faithful law-abiding group within our borders as superfluous.”
We are facing another test of our moral progress today—and we are failing. U.S. Census Bureau figures for 2017 released this week show nearly 1 in 5 children in America still lives in poverty making them the poorest age group in our country. Almost one-third of the 39.7 million poor people in the United States are children. While the data show a slight reduction in child poverty in 2017 compared to 2016, the number of poor children—12.8 million, 17.5 percent of all children—remains indecently high. And though unemployment numbers continue to fall, these gains have not kept families and children out of poverty. More than 70 percent of poor children come from working families who often face low and stagnant wages.
The fact that nearly 1 in 5 children in America lives in poverty is morally and practically unacceptable and economically costly. That our youngest children are the poorest group of children during their years of greatest brain development is a shameful indictment of our values and our common sense given our very wealthy nation’s failure to invest in our vulnerable young. More than 1 in 5 children under six are poor in 20 states and the District of Columbia. More than two-thirds of poor children are children of color who will soon be a majority of our child population responsible for supporting our increasingly aging population into the future. Only five states have Black child poverty rates under 20 percent.
How shockingly wrong-headed, immoral and costly it is that as they learn 12.8 million children are struggling to grow up in poverty, the Trump Administration and Republican controlled Congress propose to throw money at non-needy millionaires and billionaires over babies. In 2017 the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act gave massive tax cuts to billionaires, millionaires and powerful corporations at the expense of the majority of taxpayers and children at a cost of $1.9 trillion over the next 11 years. To fill this huge deficit hole, the Trump Administration and Republican leaders in Congress have threatened cuts to critical investments in child health, nutrition, housing and education.
This very week, House Republicans introduced their Tax Plan 2.0 that would again reward the wealthy and continue to increase already indefensible inequality. If enacted it would permanently extend the 2017 tax law’s individual provisions slated to expire after 2025 that benefit the top one percent of households twice as much as those in the bottom 60 percent. Initial estimates indicate Tax Plan 2.0 would add around $3 trillion more to the originally projected $1.9 trillion deficit in the first 10 years after the individual provisions become permanent. And with significantly higher projected deficits the threat remains that the Trump White House will continue to propose debilitating cuts to starve survival programs poor children and their families desperately need to buy groceries, see the doctor and find a safe affordable place to live in order to pay for huge tax breaks for wealthy corporations and individuals. Has our nation completely lost all sense of decency and justice?
Babies’ survival needs should trump billionaires’ and millionaires’ greed. Our children’s present and future lives are too valuable to let these profoundly unjust practices continue. This new Tax Plan 2.0 and any additional cuts to key survival programs must be rejected. And every single person in America needs to speak out and mount a campaign to end child poverty now.
How will we test our progress today? Will our President continue to ignore the 12.8 million poor children and their families? How many Congressional leaders will stand up for those who have too little – or will they join the frenzied Republican leadership attempts to give more permanent tax breaks to those who have too much?
The recent Census Bureau report shows how key investments can help end child and family poverty. We must provide jobs and decent wages and support investments in child and family basic needs. Supplemental Poverty Measure data which expand on the Official Poverty Measure by including the impact of some government and other programs on family resources show that in 2017 millions of children were lifted above the poverty line by the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other refundable credits (4.5 million), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (1.5 million), the National School Lunch Program (722,000), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) (156,000), housing subsidies (897,000), the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program (472,000), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and general assistance (296,000).
We can and must provide enough for our young who have too little instead of padding the pockets of millionaires and billionaires who have far more than their fair share of public welfare. No child in our nation should live in poverty. Shielding children from the lifelong consequences of poverty will improve child lives now and reduce future child poverty. We have all the resources and know how to end child poverty and cannot wait. Our children’s and nation’s future depend on acting right now.
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