Update House Passes Bill Making the Hyde & Helms Amendment Permanent + More

Here’s an update to yesterday’s blog on H.R. 7, aka  the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.”

Last night at 4:49 pm, the House of Representatives by a vote of 238 to 183 with 11 members not voting, passed this ideological, antiwomen’s reproductive healthcare bill. The 238 yea votes included 3 Democrats (Cuellar, Lipinski, Peterson) and every Republican who voted.

I checked out the roll-call vote.  Here are the Ayes. These so called Representatives voted to make the Hyde Amendment and the Global Gag Rule (the Helms Amendment) permanent. And in addition, this vote denies federal subsidies to any person or small businesses who have healthcare plans under the Affordable Care Act that cover abortion. Contact them and express your outrage at their lack of concern for women’s lives.

—- AYES    238 —

Abraham
Aderholt
Allen
Amash
Amodei
Arrington
Babin
Bacon
Banks (IN)
Barletta
Barr
Barton
Bergman
Biggs
Bilirakis
Bishop (MI)
Bishop (UT)
Black
Blackburn
Blum
Bost
Brady (TX)
Brat
Bridenstine
Brooks (AL)
Brooks (IN)
Buchanan
Buck
Bucshon
Budd
Burgess
Byrne
Calvert
Carter (GA)
Carter (TX)
Chabot
Chaffetz
Cheney
Coffman
Cole
Collins (GA)
Collins (NY)
Comer
Comstock
Conaway
Cook
Costello (PA)
Cramer
Crawford
Cuellar
Culberson
Curbelo (FL)
Davidson
Davis, Rodney
Denham
Dent
DeSantis
DesJarlais
Diaz-Balart
Donovan
Duffy
Duncan (SC)
Duncan (TN)
Dunn
Emmer
Farenthold
Faso
Ferguson
Fitzpatrick
Fleischmann
Flores
Fortenberry
Foxx
Franks (AZ)
Frelinghuysen
Gaetz
Gallagher
Garrett
Gibbs
Gohmert
Goodlatte
Gosar
Gowdy
Granger
Graves (GA)
Graves (LA)
Graves (MO)
Griffith
Grothman
Guthrie
Harper
Harris
Hartzler
Hensarling
Herrera Beutler
Hice, Jody B.
Higgins (LA)
Hill
Holding
Hollingsworth
Hudson
Huizenga
Hultgren
Hunter
Hurd
Issa
Jenkins (KS)
Jenkins (WV)
Johnson (LA)
Johnson (OH)
Johnson, Sam
Jordan
Joyce (OH)
Katko
Kelly (MS)
Kelly (PA)
King (IA)
King (NY)
Kinzinger
Knight
Kustoff (TN)
Labrador
LaHood
LaMalfa
Lamborn
Lance
Latta
Lewis (MN)
Lipinski
LoBiondo
Long
Loudermilk
Love
Lucas
Luetkemeyer
MacArthur
Marchant
Marino
Marshall
Massie
Mast
McCarthy
McCaul
McClintock
McHenry
McKinley
McMorris Rodgers
McSally
Meadows
Meehan
Messer
Mitchell
Moolenaar
Mooney (WV)
Mullin
Murphy (PA)
Newhouse
Noem
Nunes
Olson
Palazzo
Palmer
Paulsen
Pearce
Perry
Peterson
Pittenger
Poe (TX)
Poliquin
Posey
Ratcliffe
Reed
Reichert
Renacci
Rice (SC)
Roby
Roe (TN)
Rogers (AL)
Rogers (KY)
Rohrabacher
Rokita
Rooney, Francis
Rooney, Thomas J.
Ros-Lehtinen
Roskam
Ross
Rothfus
Rouzer
Royce (CA)
Russell
Rutherford
Sanford
Scalise
Schweikert
Scott, Austin
Sensenbrenner
Sessions
Shimkus
Shuster
Simpson
Smith (MO)
Smith (NE)
Smith (NJ)
Smith (TX)
Smucker
Stefanik
Stewart
Stivers
Taylor
Tenney
Thompson (PA)
Thornberry
Tiberi
Tipton
Trott
Turner
Upton
Valadao
Wagner
Walberg
Walden
Walker
Walorski
Walters, Mimi
Weber (TX)
Webster (FL)
Wenstrup
Westerman
Williams
Wilson (SC)
Wittman
Womack
Woodall
Yoder
Yoho
Young (AK)
Young (IA)
Zeldin

And here are the Noes. These Representatives voted to protect women’s reproductive healthcare.  Contact these people and thank them for their support of women and their lives.

 —- NOES    183 —

Adams
Aguilar
Barragán
Bass
Beatty
Bera
Beyer
Bishop (GA)
Blunt Rochester
Bonamici
Boyle, Brendan F.
Brady (PA)
Brown (MD)
Brownley (CA)
Bustos
Butterfield
Capuano
Carbajal
Cárdenas
Carson (IN)
Cartwright
Castor (FL)
Castro (TX)
Chu, Judy
Cicilline
Clark (MA)
Clarke (NY)
Clay
Cleaver
Clyburn
Cohen
Connolly
Conyers
Cooper
Correa
Courtney
Crist
Crowley
Cummings
Davis (CA)
Davis, Danny
DeFazio
DeGette
Delaney
DeLauro
DelBene
Demings
DeSaulnier
Deutch
Dingell
Doggett
Doyle, Michael F.
Ellison
Engel
Eshoo
Espaillat
Esty
Evans
Foster
Frankel (FL)
Fudge
Gallego
Garamendi
Gonzalez (TX)
Gottheimer
Green, Al
Green, Gene
Grijalva
Gutiérrez
Hanabusa
Hastings
Heck
Higgins (NY)
Himes
Hoyer
Huffman
Jackson Lee
Jayapal
Jeffries
Johnson (GA)
Kaptur
Keating
Kelly (IL)
Kennedy
Khanna
Kihuen
Kildee
Kilmer
Kind
Krishnamoorthi
Kuster (NH)
Langevin
Larsen (WA)
Larson (CT)
Lawrence
Lawson (FL)
Lee
Levin
Lewis (GA)
Loebsack
Lofgren
Lowenthal
Lowey
Lujan Grisham, M.
Luján, Ben Ray
Lynch
Maloney, Carolyn B.
Maloney, Sean
Matsui
McCollum
McEachin
McGovern
McNerney
Meeks
Meng
Moore
Moulton
Murphy (FL)
Nadler
Napolitano
Neal
Nolan
Norcross
O’Halleran
O’Rourke
Pallone
Panetta
Pascrell
Payne
Pelosi
Perlmutter
Peters
Pingree
Pocan
Polis
Price (NC)
Quigley
Raskin
Rice (NY)
Richmond
Rosen
Roybal-Allard
Ruiz
Ruppersberger
Ryan (OH)
Sánchez
Sarbanes
Schakowsky
Schiff
Schneider
Schrader
Scott (VA)
Scott, David
Serrano
Sewell (AL)
Shea-Porter
Sherman
Sinema
Sires
Smith (WA)
Soto
Speier
Suozzi
Swalwell (CA)
Takano
Thompson (CA)
Thompson (MS)
Titus
Tonko
Torres
Tsongas
Vargas
Veasey
Vela
Velázquez
Visclosky
Walz
Wasserman Schultz
Waters, Maxine
Watson Coleman
Welch
Wilson (FL)
Yarmuth

I did find a video of the Rules Committee hearing on this bill (held January 23, the day before the final vote in the house).  It’s about 90 minutes with most of the speakers in support of threatening women’s lives.

Immediately after the vote, a motion to reconsider was laid on the table. This motion was accepted without objection.  So once they remove this temporary hold, the bill will be sent to the US Senate for review, hearings, and a vote.  As soon as I find out which Senate committee this is going to, I’ll let you know.

You can meanwhile set up meetings, calls, and emails to your two Senators and strongly encourage them to vote against H.R. 7. If you click here, you can find your Senators’ web pages and contact information.  Some of these websites may also include announcements of townhall meetings.  If there is one of these in your area, GO! to the townhall meeting and let them know that women’s lives need to be protected and to vote NO on H.R. 7.

Picture of a gun with a knotted barrel with the words "Stop the Violence" surrounding the gun.

Lighting the Way: National Speakout

Picture of a gun with a knotted barrel with the words "Stop the Violence" surrounding the gun.

Stop Gun Violence

Congressman John Lewis is leading a national speak-out on gun violence. He put together this video to share with everyone why we need to come together and why the “Black Caucus Demands Congress Hold Vote After Shootings”


Organizers hope that folks who live nearby will come to the west side of the US Capitol and fill the mall with our bodies, signs and voices. You can rsvp for the rally here.  If you can’t make this rally, please find your Members of Congress when they come home from the break and ask them to support real gun safety measures before more people die. The killer in Dallas had been “less than honorably” discharged from the military and he should have failed a background check.

Democrats to Hold  ‘ Lighting the Way’

National Speak Out: The Path Forward on Gun Violence

 WHO: Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn (D-SC), Representative John Lewis (D-GA), Congressional Black Caucus, and Members of the House Democratic Caucus

WHAT and WHY: The House will be adjourning for a VERY long recess and this rally is to point out that they have failed to act on bills to promote gun safety.  If miracles happen, this will be a celebration.

  • Ensuring Universal Background Checks H.R. 1217, Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act
  •  Enacting No Fly, No Buy H.R. 1076, Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act
  • Closing the Charleston Loophole H.R. 3051, Background Check Completion Act
  • Barring Firearm Sales to Hate Crime Offenders H.R. 4603, Hate Crimes Prevention Act

WHEN: Thursday, July 14th at 7:30 PM

 WHERE:  West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building

logo banner used by Nancy Pelosi when she sends out news in her position as the House Democratic Leader

Democratic Members Speak Out on Republicans’ Select Committee to Attack Women’s Health

I received the following transcript of a press conference led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi  from a contact of mine in Washington, DC.  I thought you might like to hear what the Democratic Members of the Republicans’ Select Committee to Attack Women’s Health have to say about the ongoing attacks on women’s reproductive health.

logo banner used by Nancy Pelosi when she sends out news in her position as the House Democratic Leader

News Reports from Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi

 May 13, 2016

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Members of the Republicans’ Select Committee to Attack Women’s Health held a press conference today.  Below is a transcript of the press conference.  

Leader Pelosi.  Good morning, everyone.  As our Members file out, I’m very proud to be here with the Members of the Committee to Attack Women’s Health, as we call this misguided initiative on the part of the Republican majority.  I’m so pleased that other Members have joined the Members of the Committee, Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky, Congressman Jerry Nadler, also on the Committee, Congresswoman Diana DeGette, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. G abusive investigation which is directly aimed at preventing women from accessing health services including abortions and ending scientific research that uses fetal tissue. This witch hunt is being conducted in violation of House Committee rules and practices and is putting the lives of doctors, researchers and those connected with them in grave danger. This investigation has never been – and has no promise of becoming fair or fact-based.  The apparent goal is to punish women, providers and researchers who are following the law.

This Committee is today’s version of the one driven by Senator Joe McCarthy and his companions on the House Un-American Activities Committee, using subpoena authority – the most powerful investigative tool of Congress – to force universities and clinics to “name names”, in this case of anyone involved in fetal tissue research or reproductive health care without any legitimate reason for doing so; 29 of the 35 subpoenas that have gone out have gone to individuals or entities never given the chance to comply voluntarily with the Chair’s demands.

Democrats have repeatedly objected to the Chair’s demand for the names of researchers, graduate students, lab technicians, residents, clinic personnel, and doctors over the last five years.   We see no reason why the Panel needs to amass a dangerous database of names in order to complete its work, and the Chair has refused to provide any justification.  Her unjustified demand to “name names” goes beyond the bullying and abusive behavior of Senator Joe McCarthy because she is putting people’s lives, not just their livelihoods, at risk.

Chair Blackburn’s action Wednesday went beyond all measures of decency when she issued a press release naming a health care provider – whom the panel had never reached out to before – and making inflammatory accusations with no evidence of wrongdoing. This reckless panel is acting as judge, jury and executioner.

These risks are not hypothetical. The provider named in the press release has been the target of anti-abortion extremists for decades. A fire destroyed his family farm, killing 17 horses and family pets in claimed retaliation for the care he provided for women. The Chair’s complete disregard for this doctor’s safety, particularly in light of the long history of harassment and violence that has been directed at him, is further evidence that this dangerous witch hunt must end.

The murderer at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic echoed words repeatedly spoken by the Republicans on the Committee – “no more baby body parts.” Words really matter.

In our letter to Speaker Ryan we told him that quote, “one deponent has already appealed to the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and to you, Speaker Ryan, in an effort to get basic protection for individual privacy and safety. Those requests have been rejected or met with deafening silence. Facing the threat of contempt, that person appeared before the Panel last week. During 8 hours of questioning, she was asked to quote “name names” by Republican staff who refused to explain how their requests bore any relation to a legitimate investigative aim,” unquote.  If you have any more questions, [Congressman] Jerry Nadler was actually at that deposition.

This and other witnesses have been berated, demeaned, and threatened with contempt of Congress.  Because I am concerned that the written transcript of these proceedings will not capture full interactions between witnesses, Members, and counsel, I sent a letter this morning asking the Clerk of the House to ensure that audio recordings of these depositions are preserved.

Doctors and clinic staff who provide reproductive health care in this country are at grave risk. Their workplaces are picketed and bombed, they and their families are targeted on web sites and receive harassing mail and phone calls and some have been murdered.  Scientists conducting life-saving research have also been the target of threats and harassment, particularly since the July 2015 release of the fraudulent videos alleging unlawful sale of fetal tissue.

The consequences of these attacks for the women of America and our ability to conduct critical medical research are perhaps the most devastating result of this so-called Investigative Panel. We were already told by one witness at a hearing that he had to disband promising fetal tissue research on Multiple Sclerosis, because his supply of fetal tissue had dried up.  Our ability to address Zika and its effects on fetuses, depends on fetal tissue research, and this research – which once had overwhelming bi-partisan support – is responsible for most of our lifesaving vaccines.

Women’s ability to access the reproductive services they need and choose is under unprecedented attack, and this panel has become the spearhead for those efforts nationally. This so-called investigation, like the three previous Republican-led House Committee investigations has uncovered no evidence of wrongdoing and Chair Blackburn’s unjustified witch hunt is putting lives and life-saving research and health care at risk. This investigation discredits and dishonors the House of Representatives. We call on Speaker Ryan to disband the Panel without further delay.

I want to thank all the rest of the my colleagues for coming here today.  This represents a strong belief of our Democratic Caucus who is joining in calling on Speaker Ryan to disband this panel.  And if you have any questions, we’re happy to answer them.

Q:  Congresswoman Schakowsky, obviously, comparisons of Joseph McCarthy are not, you know, used lightly.  Can you explain what you see the parallels between this and the McCarthy hearings?

Ranking Member Schakowsky.  As we said, this is not only about the livelihoods of people as the McCarthy hearings, which went after this fantasy about the danger of communists everywhere, asking for names to be named.  This is also ideologically driven.  This is an attack on women’s health care, their right to choose an abortion and on the use of fetal tissue research, which it appears that they would like to end – at least that’s the way the witnesses and the questioning has gone.  It is not fact-based like the McCarthy hearings and the consequences of what they are doing are dangerous.  It is dangerous for individual lives – as the McCarthy hearings were dangerous for individual livelihoods.  But beyond that, this has dramatic effects on how we conduct health care and research in this country.  So, we are not using that comparison lightly at all.  We think this is very, very dangerous and should be ended before it escalates any further.

Congressman Nadler.  Thank you.  One of the key similarities is that the purpose of the McCarthy depredations was not really to do research into American communism.  The purpose was to intimidate people from exercising their rights and to punish them for having exercised their constitutional rights in past years.  The purpose of these hearings seems to be to intimidate people, to intimidate clinics from performing abortions, to intimidate universities or clinics or anybody else from affording fetal tissue and to intimidate doctors from participating in any of this.  The kinds of questions that were asked:  “Did someone at the hospital suggest to you to work at the women’s center?  Were you encouraged?”  What business is that of Congress?

The very press release that you saw: ‘Select Panel begins investigation of late-term abortionists’ – I won’t mention his name.  The only purpose of that is to endanger that person’s life further.  That person travels with security.  He has been firebombed.  He has been threatened.  And if you look at everything they say they want to investigate, they are criminal allegations – no business of Congress.  If they have evidence of any of this, they should refer it to the U.S. Attorney.

Congress is not or should not be in the business of criminal investigation and of labeling someone a bad person or whatever – that’s not our functions.  That’s McCarthy’s function and that’s what they are doing here  and they are threatening the witnesses.  And the other thing is: ‘name names.’  When you come in under subpoena and you are told: you must name the name.  What person assisted in this?  What portion did you know here?  And you know, that if you name that name, that person will be endangered.   So you refuse to do it and you’re threatened with contempt.  That was the essence of McCarthyism, except it’s worse here because we are threatening people’s lives, not only their jobs.

Ranking Member Schakowsky.  Yes?

Q:  Today the Department of Justice and the Department of Education are issuing guidance to the public schools on allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their gender preference.  And I wanted to ask you: should the federal government force public schools to let biological males who identify as females compete in female athletics?

Leader Pelosi.  I’d be absolutely pleased to answer your question.  We’re going to stay focused on this for now.  Questions other than that we’ll take right now.  Thanks.

Q:  Representative, The Federalist reported that you received $13,000 from Planned Parenthood, $64,000 from EMILY’s List, $9,500 from NARAL – how is that not a conflict of interest to be investigating those organizations?

Ranking Member Schakowsky.  Let me point out to you that abortion is legal in the United States of America.  That is a very important fact.  And I am, as I believe all the people are here, are pro-choice, believe that constitutional right needs to be protected, proudly work with organizations that represent that view.  What we’re seeing here is a Republican so-called ‘investigative committee’ working with people who have been connected to abortion extremists, people who have been contributing to their so-called documents that have been offered as exhibits in this and I have no apologies for working closely with these organizations.  A conflict of interest to defend the Constitution and constitutional ruling of the Supreme Court I don’t see as any conflict of interest.

Q:  So no conflict of interest in receiving that money then investigating those same organizations? 

Leader Pelosi.  The point is that the issues of women’s reproductive health is the subject of debate in the Congress.  Everyone knows that.  There are those who have a different view than we have in terms of our respect for a woman to make that judgement with her God, her doctor, her family.  And that’s a legitimate debate in the Congress of the United States.  There are people on both sides who support people who support their point of view.

So, that is not to distract what is happening today because what is happening in the Congress today goes well beyond the debate of a women’s right to choose and disagreeing or agreeing with the Supreme Court decision.  What’s going on in the Congress today is, to borrow a phrase, un-American.  And that is why it is very similar to the House un-American committee investigation.  It inspired vigilantes, it provokes a vigilante behavior.  In the letter, I’m not sure it went into full detail of the bombing of the doctor’s barn where horses and animals were killed.  It’s beyond the legitimate disagreement in a debate.  It is provocative, it is dangerous, it is not within the purview of Congress to have this kind of an investigation and I thank the Members of the Committee for the important work that they have done.

Ranking Member Schakowsky.  Let me just also say that three House panels, 12 states and a grand jury have looked into these allegations against Planned Parenthood.  In fact, the grand jury that was to look into Planned Parenthood – rather than indicting the accused indicted the accuser David Daleiden, one of the people who manufactured the tape that led to this investigation.  The fact that this whole investigation now is based on completely and totally discredited videos – this is not an investigation, a real investigation of Planned Parenthood.  Those have already been conducted by these committees and by these states and by the grand jury.  Nothing has been found.

Leader Pelosi.  And that’s all on top of them defunding Planned Parenthood.  Look, we have even within our own families, some disagreements on the issue of a woman’s right to choose.  So that’s a legitimate debate.  The fact is; in this Congress, there is an obsession to the point of saying that family planning should not be supported.  But we’re not even talking about that right now.  We’re talking about going so far beyond that and also to undermine fetal tissue research.  And so it is an abuse of power.

Congresswoman DelBene.  I just want to say given the actions of this Committee, if this were a business and Paul Ryan were the CEO, he should bring Chairwoman Blackburn into his office and tell her, ‘You’re fired.’  This isn’t just about a business bottom line.  What’s at stake here is people’s lives.  That’s an incredibly important issue that we should stay focused on.

Ranking Member Schakowsky.  What else?

Leader Pelosi.  Any other Members want to comment on that?

Congresswoman Watson Coleman.  I just want to make sure that we understand the reason that we are here today is that all of the seven months, eight months that we’ve been engaged in this this has been nothing but a witch hunt.  This is very frightening, this is very un-American and this is an abuse of power that we just should find offensive in the United States of America, in the United States Congress.  And for that reason, we strongly request that Speaker Ryan should shut this investigation, shut this façade, shut this fraud, and shut this witch hunt down.

Congresswoman Speier.  I think it’s very important to appreciate that we are not going to stand by and let this Committee crucify upstanding, law-abiding Americans who are providing important health care research.  We’re not going to stand by while they attempt to crucify law-abiding Americans who are providing reproductive health care to women that is legal.  And that’s precisely what this Committee is doing.  They are putting a target on the back of those individuals that they subpoena so that unstable people, as we have already seen, can take shots – literally take shots at them.  We cannot forget that in Colorado, three people are dead today because an unstable man went to a Planned Parenthood clinic and decided that because of ‘baby body parts’, he was going to nail Americans.

Ranking Member Schakowsky.  Thank you very much everybody.  Appreciate it.

Leader Pelosi.  Let me just say that I’m very proud of the Administration for the directive that they have given to schools across the country – the Justice Department and the Department of Education.  It is nothing new.  It is nothing new.  It is just a guidance to these schools.

Q:  Can you answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ whether schools should force biological males that identify as women to enter athletics.

Leader Pelosi.  Well, we are talking about transgender people and we are protecting their rights to participate as they identify.  Thank you.

# # #

Contact: Drew Hammill/Evangeline George — 202-226-7616

The Federal State-Based Universal Health Care Waiver Act of 2015

banner picture of Universal Healthcare from http://www.healthcareforallcolorado.org/

One Agenda: Universal Health Care.
Picture courtesy of Healthcare for All Colorado

As part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), states have been given the ability to innovate or create their own form of health care insurance or coverage starting on January 1, 2017 AS LONG AS “benefits are at least as comprehensive and affordable as those offered by Qualified Health Plans available on the Exchanges,” according to Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA-7).

As a result, at least 14 states—California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, , New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington—have community advocates and state legislators working towards implementing a state-level form of universal health care. They have been working for affordable healthcare access for all residents of their states before and since the Affordable Care Act – aka Obamacare – was passed in 2010.

Now that the US Supreme Court has basically settled the fact that the ACA is constitutional both on June 28, 2012 (Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services) and again on June 25, 2015 (King v. Burwell), we can consider ways to improve our healthcare system at both the state and federal level. As a medical doctor and a member of Congress, McDermott voted for the ACA. He also recognizes that “still more needs  to be done to control costs, improve care, and cover everyone.”

One way to further control these costs and improve health care while covering everyone is to create a universal health care system which I’ve previously blogged about (see here, here, here, here, and here). That means we either have the federal government create a federal single payer plan OR we use the waiver clause in the ACA to help states create their own universal single-payer health care program.

Yet even with the waiver currently allowed within the ACA for innovative state-based health care plans, creating a state-based universal care plan that saves funds for states and individuals while providing health care access to all has a big hurdle to overcome. Rep. McDermott explained this issue in a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives on July 28:

One of the many achievements of the Affordable Care Act is its provisions that grant states the authority to innovate in their health care systems. Under Section 1332 of the law, a state may apply for a State Innovation Waiver that will provide it with control of federal dollars that otherwise would have been spent on premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions for its residents. Through this waiver, a state may design a system to cover its residents, so long as benefits are at least as comprehensive and affordable as those offered by Qualified Health Plans available on the Exchanges.

However, even with this flexibility, numerous barriers limit states’ ability to design true single-payer systems. Existing waivers are narrow in scope, requiring states to seek out imperfect and convoluted solutions to circumvent federal limitations. A sweeping preemption provision in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) denies states authority to regulate employer-sponsored health plans. And, due to the complexities of our existing federal health programs, it is essentially impossible for a state to design a single benefit package that can be administered simply and efficiently on behalf of all of its residents.

This speech was McDermott’s announcement that he was introducing HR 3241, aka the “State-Based Universal Health Care Act of 2015:” If passed, this bill would allow states to apply for a universal health care waiver that would allow them to have access to and authority over federal health care dollars that would otherwise be spent on the residents of that state. More specifically, this additional waiver act goes beyond the ACA to deal with the hurdles mentioned above. The new provisions of this law, according to McDermott, would waive all of the following:

  • The rules governing premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, as provided for in existing waiver authority under Section 1332 of the ACA.

  • Provisions necessary for states to pool funds that otherwise would be spent on behalf of residents enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, TRICARE, and the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

  • ERISA’s preemption clause, which cur-rently forbids states from enacting legislation relating to employee health benefit program

After the introduction of HR 3241, the House referred this bill to five committees — the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Committee on Ways and Means, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Committee on Armed Services, and the Committee on Education and the Workforce. I believe that the large number of committee referrals was done because of the need to review all of the different laws that this waiver would impact.

You can read the bill in its entirety here.

I am pleased that this bill has been introduced. It however needs many co-sponsors and advocates to pressure Congress to actually hear, review, and pass this legislation. Please contact your US Representative and ask her/him to co-sponsor Representative Jim McDermott, MD’s bill HR 3241. Here’s the lookup page to find your US. Representative by zip code.

As this is the summer, your Representative should be in the home district. Call, write, set up a meeting and tell her/him why you want to see a universal health care program in your state and why this bill is so necessary. If your Representative agrees to sign on, have him/her contact Mr. McDermott’s aides that are focusing on this issue. They are Jayme Shoun, located in Seattle at (206) 553-7170 and Daniel Foster, Health Counsel in the DC Office at (202) 225-3106.

Thanks.

Updates: PSU sanctions KDR & House Appropriations Committee calls for DOJ action on Cyber Bullying

Since March of this year, I have periodically blogged about online attacks on women who either use or are targeted through the use of social media. One was a video created by some of the women who have been cyber-bullied reading a few of the online threats they have received so that the public can see what they are facing. One dealt with the statistics associated with cyber-bullying. Another announced a Congressional briefing held on this issue on April 15. Another dealt with a proposed piece of legislation that might help reduce this form of violence. And the first one dealt with use of rape myths and social media by a fraternity at Penn State University to allegedly harass young college women. Congresswoman Katherine Clark.

Today, I have two updates.  One deals with Kappa Delta Rho (KDR), the Penn State University fraternity discussed in my first blog.  And the second one is the first outcome of a letter sent to the US House Appropriations Committee in March that was followed by Congressional briefing on Capital Hill in April.

Picture of a sign at the Window of Opportunity rally that says "End Rape Culture."

Sign seen at a rally in State College PA on a need to end rape culture.

PSU Sanctions KDR for Harassment, Cyber-Bullying, and Other Issues

Penn State University announced yesterday that KDR has been suspended for at least three years. The administration reversed the student-led Inter-Fraternity  Council (IFC) decision not to revoke recognition of KDR; the “sanction” recommended by the IFC was only to provide “a comprehensive new member education program and participation in sexual assault and bystander intervention training.” 

Instead, the University posted a news article on their website yesterday that clearly sanctions KDR for their cyber-bullying and maltreatment of women.  Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs, notified the IFC about the 3-year sanction in a letter stating,

“We base this decision on the sum of misbehaviors exhibited by various members of Kappa Delta Rho. Not every member of the chapter was equally culpable for violation of the University’s expectations for recognized student organizations. Even so, the sum of the organizational misbehaviors is far more than the University can tolerate from a student organization that seeks its imprimatur.”

The University cited hazing, underage drinking, the sale drugs, and the “persistent” harassment of two women along with the “photographing [of] individuals in extremely compromising positions and posting these photos [online].” Click here to read the entire letter.

picture of the US Capital

View of the US Capital that Rep. Katherine Clark associated with her press release regarding the House Appropriations Committee call for DOJ action on cyber stalking on May 27, 2015.

House Appropriations Committee Calls Upon Department of Justice to “Intensify” Efforts to Combat Cyber-Stalking and Bullying.

Meanwhile, this afternoon, I received an email from Steve Thornton, Legislative Aide to Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA-5) regarding the cyber threat appropriations letter Montana NOW, Pennsylvania NOW, and National NOW all signed onto in March that went to the House Committee on Appropriations.

Here’s a copy of the letter that Representative Clark sent to the Appropriations Committee.

Cyber Abuse Dear Colleague (2)

And here’s what the Committee is requesting the US Department of Justice to do to address the issue of cyber stalking and cyber terrorism of women:

Enforcement of Federal cyber-stalking and threat crimes.—The Committee is aware of concerns regarding increased instances of severe harassment, stalking, and threats transmitted in interstate commerce in violation of Federal law. These targeted attacks against Internet users, particularly women, have resulted in the release of personal information, forced individuals to flee their homes, has had a chilling effect on free expression, and are limiting access to economic opportunity. The Committee strongly urges the Department to intensify its efforts to combat this destructive abuse and expects to see increased investigations and prosecutions of these crimes. (p.31 of the Committee on Appropriations report in explanation of the accompanying bill making appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016).

In her press release, Representative Clark applauded the Committee’s action.  She stated,

“Too many women have had their lives upended by the severe threats and harassment they have received online, and they often feel they have nowhere to turn for help. These threats cause fear for personal safety, create a chilling effect on free speech, and have a negative economic impact for women conducting business online. That is why we [asked] the Department of Justice to enforce laws that are already on the books, and make these cases a priority.”

That’s Two for Two

Two successes within 24 hours of each other.  NICE!  Thanks PSU. Representative Clark, and all of the US Representatives, advocates, and organizations for your efforts to address these issues in an appropriate manner.

Fair Elections

vote button

Fair campaign finance reform is needed for our government. There are two bills in the US Congress that could do this at the federal level.

We need to support Fair Elections and return our government to one that’s of, by, & for the people–not bought & paid for by special interests. There are two bills in Congress that would make this happen – 1) the Government by the People Act (HR. 20) and 2) the Fair Elections Now Act (S. 2023).

The lead co-sponsors of The Government by the People Act (HR. 20) are House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.)This bill allows “everyday Americans [to take] a $25 refundable My Voice tax credit to help spur small-dollar contributions to candidates for Congressional office” and establishes “a Freedom from Influence Fund to multiply the impact of small-dollar donations ($150 or less).” There are 138 additional co-sponsors.  In addition, organizations such as Alliance for Justice, Americans for Democratic Action, Common Cause, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the Sierra Club have endorsed this bill. Currently, there are over 50 organizations who have signed on as supporters of this bill.  You can see the full list of Congressional co-sponsors and organizational endorsers here.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has introduced The Fair Elections Now Act (S. 2023).  This bill that would allow Senate candidates to run for office by relying on small donations from people back home.  Currently, there are 15 additional Senators who are co-sponsoring this bill.  Organizations such as the Brennan Center for Justice, Credo Action, League of Conservation Voters, NAACP, and Working Families have endorsed this bill. Currently, there are 38 organizations that have signed on as supporters of this bill. You can see a full list of the Senatorial co-sponsors and organizational endorsers here.

You too can publicly support these bills.  Public Campaign and a coalition of organizations are working to return our government to one that is of, by, and for the people–not bought and paid for by special interests.  They have created a website for individuals and organizations to sign on in support of these bills.

As an individual, You can sign on the Government By the People Act / Fair Elections Now Act website as a “citizen cosponsor”  of the Government by the People Act. If you represent an organization, your organization can endorse the Government by the People Act here.

There is not a sign-up page on this website for signing on to the Fair Elections Now bill as either a citizen co-sponsor or as an organizational endorser.  I don’t know why. If you are interested in signing on in to the Fair Elections Now bill, I suggest you contact them and make this request as I believe both bills need grassroots support. They do have an email address where you can contact them via email at ofby@publicampaign.org or by sending a letter to Public Campaign, 1133 19th Street NW, 9th Floor, Washington, DC 20009.

In either case, you can also follow this campaign for fair elections on Twitter by following @ofbyus.

Let’s get this done. Return our elections to the people. Pass both the Government By the People Act and the Fair Elections Now Act.

How Much Pay has Congress Made Since They Shut Down the Government?

While over 800,000 federal employees were sent home without pay on October 1 when Congress failed to pass a Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government, members of Congress still continue to receive their salary.  I just came across a graphic that shows, in real-time, how much all 535 members of Congress – the 435 members of the House of Representatives and the 100 members of the Senate – have earned since the day Congress shut down most of the federal government programs.

Take a look via CongressStillGetsPaid.com.

Congress, this is outrageous.  Get the federal government back to work.  Rather than attempting to end Obamacare and/or cutting Social Security – both detrimental to a huge swath of the American public – JUST PASS A CLEAN CONTINUING RESOLUTION!

Call for Paycheck Fairness Act Co-Sponsorship

The wage gap shows that women, particularly women of color are paid significantly less than white men.

The Wage Gap: Lack of Equal Pay

On April 9, I did a blog on Equal Pay Day discussing the lack of equity in pay between men and women’s work.  In that blog, I discussed the need to pass the federal Paycheck Fairness Act.

Part of the process of obtaining passage of a bill is to get as many legislators as possible to sign on as a co-sponsor of the bill you are interested in.  In the US House of Representatives, there are currently 206 co-sponsors of the House version of the bill – H.R. 377. In the US Senate, there are currently 46 co-sponsors of the Senate version, S. 84.

The main coalition pushing for paycheck fairness and pay equity is the National Committee on Pay Equity.  This morning, I opened up an email from a listserv I’m on regarding the Paycheck Fairness Act. Michele Leber, Chair of the National Committee on Pay Equity sent out the following message, asking everyone to spread the word to their friends and colleagues in Virginia. Here’s what she said:

“We learned yesterday [April 24] from the office of Rosa DeLauro, our pay equity champion in the House of Representatives, that every Democrat in the House is now a PFA cosponsor! To reach that goal in the Senate, we need just a few more Democrats, among them Mark Warner of Virginia.

At a meeting yesterday in Warner’s office, his legislative aide said the best way to get Warner’s cosponsorship was to send the senator messages of support for the bill. So please rally any contacts, groups, or chapters that you have in Virginia, asking persons to contact Sen. Warner’s office by phone at 202-224-2023 and/or by e-mail at http://www.warner.senate.gov/public//index.cfm?p=ContactPage, asking him to cosponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act, S.84.

With the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Equal Pay Act coming up on June 10, this is particularly important now.”

So…

If you live in Virginia and are a constituent, please follow Michelle’s request and contact Senator Warner regarding co-sponsorship.

If you don’t live in Virginia, you can find out where your US legislators stand on the Paycheck Fairness Act by going to http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php. In the search box in the middle of the page, type in “Paycheck Fairness Act” and click search.  On the next page, two bills will show up—S. 84 and H.R. 377.  This page provides several links to information about both of these bills—text, bill history, co-sponsors, etc. If you click on “cosponsors” for each bill, you can determine if your representatives are publicly supporting the bill or not. If they are a sponsor, thank them and then ask them to call for a hearing and vote on the bill.  If they are not, ask them to sign on.

Thanks.

What is Equal Pay Day and Why Should I Care?

For the last three years, my local NOW chapter—Ni-Ta-Nee NOW—has organized community education events surrounding Equal Pay Day and paycheck fairness.

A frequent question we have is, “What’s Equal Pay Day and why should I care?”  To help answer that question, we have done op-eds and interviews with the local press (See here and here).  We also create a flyer that we update each year.  As President of Pennsylvania NOW, I wrote another blog on this issue in 2011. And elsewhere on my blog site, I have commented on the need for fairness in pay.

Today, we will once again be distributing Equal Pay Day flyers in front of the gates of The Pennsylvania State University over the dinner hour today.

Why today? Because Equal Pay Day moves from year to year. For 2013, that day is April 9.

The following is a web-based version of this flyer.  The hard-copy version focuses on Pennsylvania.  I have kept that information here; I’ve also added commentary and links for information and contacts in other states.

TUESDAY APRIL 9TH 2013

EQUAL PAY DAY

IT’S THE DAY ON WHICH WOMEN’S WAGES CATCH UP WITH MEN’S WAGES FROM THE PREVIOUS YEAR.

Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work full-time, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year.  In 2013, it took 2 days MORE than in 2011 and 8 days LESS than in 2012 for a woman to earn as much as a man earned in the entire year.

THE WAGE GAP

National Perspective

The wage gap shows that women, particularly women of color are paid significantly less than white men.

The Wage Gap: Lack of Equal Pay

The wage gap is the ratio of women’s to men’s median annual earnings for full-time, full-year workers. Based on these earnings, women earned just 82% of what men earned (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013).

Nationally, Asian American women have the smallest wage gap, earning 88% of what the average white man earned in 2012. White women are next, earning approximately 81% of white men’s average income. African-American women (68%) and Hispanic women (59%) have the largest wage gaps compared to white men (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, March 2013).

A typical woman earns $431,000 less in pay over 40 years due to this wage gap. (Center for American Progress, 2012)

At the current rate of progress, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that it will be 2057 before women’s wages reach parity and Equal Pay Day will finally be on December 31 rather than somewhere in April of the following year!

Pennsylvania Perspective

The wage gap is just as bad, if not worse, in our state. When ranked among the other 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, Pennsylvania’s wage gap placed it 34th (Women’s Law Center calculation based on American Community Survey Briefs, April 2013).  You can look up your state’s pay equity ranking at this site as well if you don’t live in Pennsylvania.

The median annual income for a woman working full-time, year round in Pennsylvania in 2011 was $37,089, compared to men’s $47,956. This is a wage gap of 77% (Women’s Law Center calculation based on American Community Survey Briefs, April 2013). A typical woman in PA earns $459,000 less in pay over 40 years due to this wage gap. This gap rises to $722,000 for women who have earned college degrees. (Center for American Progress, 2010)

WHAT CAN I DO??

If You are an Employer

If you are an employer, you can get help in examining pay practices by conducting an equal pay self-audit using the guidelines from the US Department of Labor (available at www.pay-equity.org/cando-audit.html).

If You Believe You Are Experiencing Wage-Based Discrimination

Tell your employer if you are being paid less than your male co-workers. Click here for some tips on negotiating for pay equity.

If there’s a union, ask for their help.

If discrimination persists: There are three places to file complaints – at the federal level, at the state level, and at the local level.

At the Federal Level

You can file under federal law with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Go to this link and follow the instructions.

At the State Level

You can find your state’s anti-discrimination agency website and contact information in a pdf file created by Legal Momentum starting on page 28.  Most of the agencies have a website address that you can copy and paste into your browser.  All of the agencies have a phone number that you can call for assistance.

If you live in Pennsylvania, you can file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in Harrisburg.  Contact information is available by region.  Just go to their website and look for your county’s name.  The phone number and address for your regional office is listed directly above the names of the counties served by each office.

At the Local Level

There are a few communities throughout the country that have created local ordinances that include the state-based anti-discrimination protections and have also expanded coverage to other areas (such as protections based on sexual orientation, family status, and/or family responsibilities across the life-span).

You should therefore check to see if your local county, city, or community has an ordinance providing similar protections for wage-based discrimination. If so, you can more conveniently file a wage-based complaint at the local level.  Check with your state’s anti-discrimination agency (see info above under “At the State Level”) to see if there is a local ordinance in your community.

In Pennsylvania, there are about 30 communities with such an ordinance. Your regional office of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission can give you this information, along with whom to contact.

One of these 30 communities in Pennsylvania is State College, PA, where the main campus of The Pennsylvania State University is located. Their ordinance covers wage-based discrimination based on sex as well as color (race), religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status, marital status, age, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids.  If you work within the State College, PA borough, you can file a complaint with them under their Employment Anti-Discrimination Ordinance at 814.234.7110 (Side note: I was one of the people instrumental in crafting this ordinance).

Supporting and Advocating for Paycheck Fairness

Ask your Congressional representatives to co-sponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act – HR 377 in the US House of Representatives and S 84 in the US Senate).  The Paycheck Fairness Act updates and strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963. It gives women the tools they need to challenge the wage gap itself.

You can find out where your representatives stand on the Paycheck Fairness Act by going to http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php. In the search box in the middle of the page, type in “Paycheck Fairness Act” and click search.  On the next page, two bills will show up—SR 84 and HR 377.  This page provides several links to information about both of these bills—text, bill history, co-sponsors, etc. If you click on “cosponsors” for each bill, you can determine if your representatives are publicly supporting the bill or not. If they are a sponsor, thank them and then ask them to call for a hearing on vote on the bill.  If they are not, ask them to sign on.

And For More Information

Visit http://www.pay-equity.org – the website created by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE).  NCPE is a coalition of women’s and civil rights organizations; labor unions; religious, professional, legal, and educational associations, commissions on women, state and local pay equity coalitions and individuals.”  They are dedicated to ending wage-based discrimination and achieving pay equity. If you like what they are doing, you can join and become a member.

Update on the Status of VAWA in the US House of Representatives

This is an update from my friend Pat Reuss who wrote yesterday’s blog on the House version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA):

Dear Friends,

There has been an important and TIME SENSITIVE development with VAWA.

  • On WEDNESDAY, February 27th, the House will vote on a rule to proceed with consideration of VAWA.  We want them to vote YES on the Rule because that rule allows a vote on the Senate VAWA if the substitute is defeated.
  • On THURSDAY, February 28th, the vote on the actual bill will occur.  We want them to vote NO on the House substitute bill, which will come up first,  and YES on the ensuing Senate version of VAWA.

Your Congress Members are listening to you!  We only have a few hours to act so please call today and tomorrow morning. Members must hear loud and clear that they need to defeat the substitute and pass the bipartisan Senate version of VAWA!  Your work has gotten us this far – let’s get this done!

URGENT ACTION ITEM: 

To reach your Congress Member, call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or look them up here http://www.house.gov/representatives/.   When you’re connected to their offices, ask to speak to the staff person who handles VAWA.

MESSAGE: 

I am a constituent from (city and state) and my name is _________.  I’m calling about the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  I urge Congress Member ________ to vote NO on the House substitute bill and then vote YES on the bipartisan Senate version of S. 47.  VAWA can and must protect all victims.

Tweet to your Congress Member:

@[congress person’s handle]: On 2/28 vote NO on the House substitute bill and then vote YES on the bipartisan Senate version of S. 47. #VAWA