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February Recess Policy Priorities and Town Hall Questions

Republicans think that they’re in the clear after all the terrible votes they took last year on TrumpCare, the Trump Tax Scam, and deporting Dreamers. But now it’s time for the first congressional recess of 2018, and your first chance to let them know that you’ll remember all the times they sold you out when you go to vote in November.

Remember, recess is your time. It’s meant to allow constituents to offer direct feedback to their representatives in Congress. Make sure you take full advantage of it.  Both the House and Senate will be off from February 17-25, which means you have a golden opportunity to start this year off on the right foot and build momentum going into election season.

Policy Priorities

You should always make sure to discuss with your Members of Congress (MoCs) the things that matter most to you. Here are Indivisible’s suggested items, which is where your groups can have the most impact on the things Congress is working on right now—and there’s a lot going on. We have included sample town hall questions to help you pressure your MoCs.

Policy Priority Number One

Top Tier Policy Priorities

Second Tier Policy Priorities

Demand Relief for Dreamers Now

Republicans Refuse to Fix A Trump-Created Crisis. Donald Trump created the Dreamer crisis when he ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in September 2017. By doing so, he put the lives of 800,000 Dreamers and their families at risk. He didn’t have to do it, but he — and Stephen Miller — are trying to hold Dreamers hostage in order to advance their white supremacist immigration plan. And Republicans are helping him.

Senate Republicans Block Relief for Dreamers. Last week, the Senate took a series of immigration votes, purportedly aimed at providing relief for Dreamers. But only one of the four bills voted on, the McCain-Coons bill, would have provided relief for Dreamers, without requiring an expansion to Trump’s deportation machine. Republicans tried to push the White House immigration plan through, only to have it soundly rejected with 60 senators—both Republican and Democrat—voting against it. Unfortunately, McCain-Coons failed to move forward after Republicans blocked it.  

The March 5 DACA Cliff is Fast Approaching. 122 DACA recipients are losing their protections every day, and starting on March 5 that number will rise to 1,200 per day. The Trump administration has already made clear Dreamers whose protections have expired will be subject to deportation immediately. Considering Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has already started detaining parents dropping their kids at school, children who are in the hospital, longtime members of the community, and leading activists, that is a threat we must take seriously.

Demand that your Member of Congress Support Dreamers, Not Trump. This recess, tell your MoC that you demand that they pass immediate relief for Dreamers, before it’s too late. But make sure to tell them that relief must not require that Dreamers sacrifice their families in exchange. Trump wants more immigration agents, a $25 billion border wall, and to restrict family reunification. We can’t let that happen. Tell your MoC to support Dreamers, not Trump’s deportation machine.

Sample town hall questions for your MoC or Challengers

For all Republican MoCs

  • Donald Trump and Congressional leaders of both parties in the House and Senate support making a deal that will protect Dreamers, yet Republicans have repeatedly allowed Trump’s racism to derail potential deals. Will you commit to me, your constituent, that you will stop covering for Trump’s racist policies by voting to protect Dreamers before the DACA cliff on March 5?

For all Democratic MoCs

  • It’s clear that Democrats are the only ones in Congress negotiating in good faith on providing relief for Dreamers. Republicans continue to use Dreamers as a bargaining chip to try to extract as many concessions from Democrats as possible. Will you commit not to vote for any deal that would enhance internal enforcement, restrict family migration, or eliminate the Diversity Visa program?

Demand action to prevent further gun violence

On February 14, 2018, a high school in Broward County, Florida, experienced a mass shooting when a former student used a legally-purchased assault weapon to kill at least 17 students. This marked the thirtieth mass shooting and eighteenth school shooting to that point in 2018.

Donald Trump and Members of Congress continue to extend “thoughts and prayers,” but it’s not enough. It is time for Congress to do something to stop this type of gun violence.

But instead, Congress is considering making mass shootings easier, not preventing them.

The gun lobby’s top priorities enjoy wide support in Congress. On December 6, 2017, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. This legislation was a top priority of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and, if enacted into law, would cause a race to the bottom on gun safety standards. The Senate is expected to take up this same bill this year. We can’t let that happen.

Under this legislation, states would be required to recognize other states’ standards governing the possession of concealed firearms in public. This means that even though one state may have stringent regulations such as a permit or training requirement, that state would have to allow people from other states with lower standards - with perhaps no permit or training required at all - to carry concealed firearms without following the more stringent regulations.

This legislation would deprive states and localities from fully determining the appropriate gun safety protocols for their communities, and would allow the lowest common denominator to prevail. This will make concealed and loaded firearms more readily available at lower safety standards, raising the risk of gun violence for everyone.

Click here for the full list of how the House of Representatives voted on the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act.

If you are a constituent of one of the MoCs who voted in favor of this bill in the house, this is an opportunity to hold them accountable. For your senators, it’s an opportunity to press them to do the right thing before it’s too late.

All MoCs must commit not just to preventing current laws from getting weaker, but to find every opportunity to actually pass new legislation to make the laws stronger, to prevent further gun violence.

Sample town hall questions for your MoC or Challengers

For senators: The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act is a bill under consideration in Congress that would override existing state laws and mandate that every state recognize concealed carry standards from other states—this would jeopardize America’s public safety and make it much harder for police to enforce gun laws that save lives. How do you plan to vote on this bill? Can we, as your constituents, depend on you to have our backs and stand up to the gun lobby by opposing this dangerous legislation?

For House Representatives who voted FOR the bad guns bill (click here to see how your MoC voted): I’m really disappointed that you voted in favor of H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. This is the NRA’s top legislative priority and will create a race to the bottom in gun safety standards. Will you explain to your constituents why you sided with the NRA instead of our lives? Will you commit to voting against any further bills that would weaken current gun safety laws?

For all MoCs and challengers: We’ve seen over and over how the over-availability and lax regulations surrounding guns have caused mass shootings, terror and loss of life. Gun violence is one of the top security threats we face. Will you commit to finding every opportunity not just to stop current laws from getting worse, but to make them stronger in order to protect more lives from gun violence?

Accountability for the GOP Tax Scam

On December 20, 2017, Republicans passed the GOP Tax Scam. And in doing so, they demonstrated that they only care about power and the short-term enrichment of themselves and their wealthy donors—not their constituents, democratic institutions, or even objective reality.

The GOP Tax Scam is a huge giveaway to the wealthy and corporations, paid for by the rest of us. Republicans admitted they didn’t know what was in this bill when they passed it. They admitted they didn’t know how it came together. They admitted they didn’t know how it would impact the economy. But their donors gave them a job to do, and they did it.

Every single Member of Congress that voted for this needs to hear from you, and know that their vote will define the rest of their political career. Republicans think they can coast to victory in the midterms by touting their scam of a tax bill. Let’s tell them we’re not falling for it.

Sample town hall questions for your MoC or Challengers

For all Republican MoCs

  • The tax bill you supported will enrich Members of Congress like you. So that I can compare my tax cut to yours, will you release your tax returns? If not, why not? Will you at least tell us how much money you got back in your paycheck this month?
  • We’ve all gotten a paycheck or two in February, since the IRS changed tax withholdings after the tax bill was signed into law. It’s true that many of us are seeing more money in our paychecks, but it doesn’t add up to very much. And it sure doesn’t come anywhere close to the $6 billion tax cut that companies like Exxon are getting. Many of the companies that have announced bonuses, citing the tax law, are also announcing layoffs and closures. Why did you support a massive corporate tax cut that clearly isn’t helping the middle class?
  • You’ve said that you’re fiscally conservative and that you’re concerned about the country’s budget deficit. But you voted for the tax bill that will add $1.5 trillion to the deficit. It’s not a matter of opinion whether these tax cuts are “paying for themselves”: it’s an objective fact that they’re not. The Treasury Department had to move up the deadline to raise the debt ceiling because revenues are lower following the debt ceiling. If you’re really a fiscal conservative like you say you are, why did you vote for a bill that will add $1.5 trillion to the deficit?

For all Democratic MoCs

  • The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will add over a trillion dollars to the deficit and force deep cuts to programs we care about. Its tax cuts overwhelming favor the wealthy and corporations, leaving the rest of us behind. Will you commit to repealing this law when Democrats retake your chamber of Congress?

Stop the Dodd-Frank Rollback in the Senate

After this recess week, the Senate is expected to vote the week of March 5 on legislation that would lift some of the safeguards put in place after the financial crisis. House Republicans voted to gut the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law this past summer with legislation called the “Financial Choice Act.” Now, on the heels of a huge giveaway to the rich and corporations with the GOP Tax Scam, the Senate is back with its own version of Wall Street de-regulation in the form of the deceivingly-titled “Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act” (S. 2155).

The Wall Street reform law requires that the country’s largest banks be subject to responsible oversight, to safeguard against another crisis that the collapse of a large bank could cause. This new bill would lift those standards for all banks smaller than $250 billion, which means two dozen of the country’s largest banks—that together received $47 billion in TARP “bailout” funds—would escape the oversight intended to prevent another financial crisis. These are banks as big as the toxic subprime lender Countrywide. It also means that banks that are currently failing government “stress tests”—periodic checks to ensure that they won't blow up the economy—would no longer have to undergo the current tests.

This new law would also make it easier for racial discrimination in mortgage lending to go unchecked, and erode consumer protections. The vast majority of mortgage lenders would be exempted from new data collection requirements passed after the subprime crash that are intended to protect against systemic racial inequality in lending—leading to an information vacuum that will hurt communities of color. On top of that, a number of key consumer protections put in place by Dodd-Frank to protect everyday homebuyers (such as guaranteed protection from surprise insurance fees and predatory loan terms that are only presented at the time of closing) would be repealed or eroded by this bill.

At this time of record inequality, it is absurd to think that what we need is a “financial reform” bill that favors banks over people and increases risk in our financial system. All MoCs—including Democrats—should have to answer for why they support a bill that will benefit Deutsche Bank and Barclays at the expense of working families.

Sample town hall questions for your MoC or Challengers

For all Senators

  • The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act goes too far. It repeals important safeguards that were put in place after 2008 to protect our country from another financial crisis. I recognize that in some cases, it makes sense to have different standards for community banks and credit unions. But this bill isn’t just about helping community banks. In fact, some of the banks that escape federal regulation under this bill are Deutsche Bank, Barclays, and Santander. Those are foreign banks -- not community banks. Will you commit to me that you will oppose the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act?

For Democratic Senators

  • The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act goes too far. It repeals important safeguards that were put in place after 2008 to protect our country from another financial crisis. It also repeals important consumer protections, especially for rural communities. It even allows racial discrimination in mortgage lending to go unchecked! I understand the need for helping community banks -- but this bill goes way too far beyond helping community banks for you to support it. Will you commit to me that you will oppose this Republican downpayment on ending regulation of Wall Street?

Stop the Trump Tolls

Infrastructure is what binds this country together. Roads, transit systems, and broadband keep our economy going; electric grids and water systems power our everyday lives; schools, hospitals, and affordable housing support our communities. But our infrastructure—much of it built for the first time in the 1950’s and 60’s—is getting old. Roads are riddled with potholes and bridges are crumbling. Water and sewer systems are failing to deliver safe drinking water. Our electric grids are becoming less reliable and vulnerable to attack.

We need 21st century infrastructure that is modern and safe and that supports our communities. And we need an infrastructure plan that gets us there.  

Trump’s infrastructure plan is a scam that will result in public assets being privatized and costs going up for taxpayers through user fees and tolls. It will NOT result in good jobs or better infrastructure—but it would be a massive handout to hedge funds and an environmental catastrophe that leaves behind the serious needs of too many communities.

Sample town hall questions for your MoC or Challengers

For all MoCs

  • The leaked infrastructure framework from the White House would result in the privatization of public assets and increased tolls and user fees for our roads. Will you commit to me that you will oppose any infrastructure plan that would raise tolls and fees on the roads and transit systems your constituents use?
  • Many of our nation’s road and bridges are in disrepair. And that’s because we don’t make enough federal investment to fix them. Trump’s so-called “$1.5 trillion infrastructure plan” is really $200 billion in federal funding that will be offset by cuts to other programs. We know this because that’s what is called for in the President’s budget released last week! To make matters worse, the rest of the funding will come from state and local governments by raising taxes or privatizing assets. Will you commit to me that you will oppose any plan that leaves state and local governments on the hook for covering 80% of project costs?
  • Many of our nation’s road and bridges are in disrepair. But that’s because of a lack of funding to fix them -- not because of the permitting process. When Donald Trump talks about “streamlining” he is really talking about gutting protections that keep our air and water clean. Will you commit to me that you will oppose any plan that undermines current environmental standards?

For House Democrats

  • Democrats need to present an alternative to Trump’s infrastructure scam so that people know that we have a real, positive alternative to the Republican plan. Will you commit to me that you will co-sponsor House Concurrent Resolution 63, which lays out principles for a bold jobs and infrastructure package that benefits all Americans?

Protect Net Neutrality

Net neutrality is the concept that all internet traffic should be treated equally, and that your Internet Service Provider (your ISP) shouldn’t be able to block or slow down certain sites you’re trying to access—or charge you more for certain services. Now, our free and open internet is under attack by the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Trump’s pick for Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, has been a long-time opponent of net neutrality. On December 15, he led the FCC, in a 3-2 vote, to essentially wipe out net neutrality by repealing the FCC’s 2015 rules. This new rule, misleadingly called the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order,” that will allow ISPs to throttle and prioritize traffic. Instead of the “open” Internet, where all traffic must be treated equally, ISPs will be able to strike deals with specific companies to prioritize their services over others. (For example, Google could throttle Bing searches on their Fiber networks so that Google searches would produce results much faster than for an equivalent Bing search). This will stifle startup companies’ ability to leverage the open Internet to grow rapidly, and could result in censorship of the web by ISPs.

However, Senator Ed Markey, joined by over a dozen other Democrats, plan to fight back. They are going to introduce a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to stop the FCC from destroying the internet as we know it. The CRA is a law that allows Congress to undo any regulation that an agency (like the FCC) has recently finalized by passing a “resolution of disapproval.” The unusual part of the CRA is that it allows the minority party in the Senate to force floor consideration of a resolution of disapproval.

Net neutrality enjoys overwhelming public support. Every MoC should be champing at the bit to sign on to Senator Markey’s resolution of disapproval, and the companion resolution introduced by Rep. Mike Doyle in the House. Urge your MoC to stand with their constituents instead of Verizon and Comcast by supporting the resolution of disapproval to protect net neutrality.

Sample town hall questions for your MoC or Challengers

For all members of the House

  • The FCC voted 3-2 in December to overturn the rule protecting net neutrality, despite massive public opposition and evidence of interference with the public comment period. Congress has the chance to right this wrong and protect the open internet using the Congressional Review Act. Will you commit to me, your constituent, that you will sign on to Representative Doyle’s discharge petition and resolution of disapproval to protect net neutrality?

For all Senators

  • The FCC voted 3-2 in December to overturn the rule protecting net neutrality, despite massive public opposition and evidence of interference with the public comment period. Congress has the chance to right this wrong and protect the open internet using the Congressional Review Act. Will you commit to me, your constituent, that you will sign on to Senator Markey’s resolution of disapproval to protect net neutrality?

Protect our Democracy

Robert Mueller is the special counsel hired by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. He was appointed after then-FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the investigation into Russian interference, was fired by Donald Trump. After immense public pressure to insulate the investigation from political interference, Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller to lead an independent investigation. Mueller is a Republican, respected by both sides of the aisle, who previously served as FBI director under President George W. Bush and also President Obama.

Firing Comey was obstruction of justice, pure and simple. But firing Mueller would be far worse—because the entire reason Mueller has this job is to protect the investigation from political interference. No one is above the law, especially not the President of the United States. Mueller’s investigation has already yielded a string of high-profile indictments, including those of former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. His investigation must be allowed to proceed to its conclusion without Trump’s (or Congressional Republicans’) interference.

As Mueller’s probe moves further into Trump’s orbit, the risk that Trump will impede the investigation only grows. The New York Times reported that Trump tried to fire Mueller last summer, and his enablers in Congress (like Devin Nunes) have been working overtime to muddy the waters.

MoCs must speak out and make it clear that it is unacceptable for Trump to cross a red line by impeding the investigation. Those “red lines” include Trump firing Mueller or Rosenstein, pardoning key witnesses or taking another action that prevents the investigation from being conducted freely.  

MoCs should also support one of the bipartisan bills in the Senate that would insulate the Mueller investigation from White House interference. These bills include S. 1735 led by Senators Graham and Booker, and S. 1741 led by Senators Coons and Tillis.

Sample town hall questions

For all MoCs

  • There is clearly an ongoing smear attack against the Russia investigation and the work that Special Counsel Mueller is doing. This includes the recent “memo” fake scandal. It is vital that our democratic institutions remain strong, yet Trump and allies are leading a charge against the foundations of our democracy. There are a number of ways Trump could create a constitutional crisis by impeding the Mueller investigation. Will you issue a public statement condemning firing Mueller or Rosenstein as red lines that Trump must not cross?

For all Senators 

  • The New York Times reported that Trump has already tried to fire Special Counsel Mueller. There are currently two bipartisan bills in the Senate that would protect the Mueller investigation, and given the risk that Trump could create a constitutional crisis by firing Muller, Congress must immediately pass this legislation. Have you co-sponsored either of these bills? If not, why?