Democrats take control of Congress today. Indivisible and other grassroots groups helped make that happen. Rather than rest on their laurels, they're switching to an offensive posture and trying to find out what their newly-elected (or re-elected) representatives are going to do with a reasonably healthy majority in the House. On Thursday morning, they're hosting rallies all over the country to find out.
Seattle-area Indivisible groups are organizing a rally at 10:45 a.m. at the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building downtown. District directors from Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Adam Smith's offices are expected to outline their respective rep's agendas for the first 100 days of the new session. After the speeches, Indivisible members will hold a "listening session" with the directors to provide "frank input about their Congressional priorities," according to a press release.
Later in the day, organizers with Indivisible WA 8 are hosting a rally at 4:30 p.m. at Issaquah City Hall. There, they hope to speak with Rep. Kim Schrier's district director about whether she plans to support H.R. 1, a pro-Democracy / anti-corruption / coalition-building / impossible-not-to-like bill that resembles the actions taken by the Democrats in the Washington State legislature last year (minus that whole thing where they voted to protect themselves from public disclosure laws).
Since the "listening session" in Seattle is closed to press, I called Seattle Indivisible rep Tyna Ek to figure out what they're hoping to hear from the reps they worked to elect.
Ek said Seattle Indivisible wants to hear Smith and Jayapal's staff speak in specific terms about health care, immigration, and strategies for re-opening the government.
"We know Congresswoman Jayapal is taking on a major role in health care reform...and we want to hear more details about how they’re actually pushing in this session to get that done," Ek said.
On immigration, Ek said Trump's and the GOP's policies are "just shameful." She said her group asked Senator Patty Murray's office to look into sending more judges and administrators to process asylum claims faster, but she wants to know how U.S. House members are planning to address our slow and brutal system. "We don’t need military down there stringing barbed wire. We need judges down there and people to process the asylum claims as fast as possible," she said.
Rep. Jayapal laid out her ideas for immigration reform at a press event earlier in December. Some of those policies include the passage of a clean DREAM Act, protecting people with TPS from Trump's executive orders, bringing back Family Case Management support for asylum seekers, raising the cap on worker visas, continuing to make the argument for family immigration, helping immigrants learn to speak English while preserving their own languages, and pushing for diplomatic solutions to problems in the Northern Triangle of Central America.
A Republican-controlled Senate and a revanchist, irascible, deeply stupid President means Democratic proposals will likely face near-total obstruction and derision, but Congressman Adam Smith (WA-9) said that shouldn't stop Democrats from offering "a clear and coherent policy agenda."
For Smith, that clear and coherent agenda, which his district director will more or less lay out at today's rally, includes many different policies. He thinks we need to improve the Affordable Care Act while also "building toward a universal access program," adding that he'd like to see the House "pass a universal health care bill in this term." In the face of constant Republican attempts to destroy the ACA, though, Smith said he "doesn't want to make the perfect the enemy of the good."
Rep. Smith would like to see his fellow Democrats "take steps on climate change," as well. He applauded likely incoming House Speaker Nanci Pelosi's decision to resurrect the House's Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and install Rep. Kathy Castor as its chair, and says he also supports the creation of a Select Committee for a Green New Deal to explore Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's latest version of the sweeping proposal. Smith said he "can't support the Green New Deal yet" because it hasn't been introduced. "I want to see what it is first," he said.
Congressman Smith also wants to prioritize a series of gun control measures, including universal background checks, an assault weapons ban, a requirement that guns be stored properly, and raising the age of purchasing semi-automatic rifles to 21.
As the incoming chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Smith wants to "streamline the Pentagon, make it more efficient, and increase oversight on Pentagon spending and Trump's various military actions across the globe." He hopes to "build toward a more sensible defense budget that is less than many in the military-industrial complex would like to see, but better reflects our budget needs while still meeting our national security needs."
And back home, Smith personally wants to continue looking at the many problems facing SeaTac airport—"the noise, the air pollution, and the long-term air transportation needs."
If you think Smith's or Jayapal's priorities are misguided (or good, or need improvement), show up at the Federal Building Thursday morning and let their district directors know.