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It’s October—Which Means Another Recess


We know it often seems like Congress spends more time “in recess” than it does working on legislation. But let’s be honest, given the Republican priorities—taking healthcare away from 32 million Americans, passing massive tax cuts for rich people and corporations—maybe keeping Members of Congress outside of DC is not a bad thing. Plus it’s the best time for you, their constituents, to talk to them face-to-face, if they’re not hiding from you.

The Senate goes on recess first from Oct. 9-13, followed the following week by the House from Oct. 16-20. Remember, this is your time and when you have the most power. Exercise it.

Policy Priorities

You should always make sure to discuss with your 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.


Trump’s Tax Scam

Here’s the first thing to know: this is not going to be true tax reform. Calling it “tax reform” suggests they intend to close corporate loopholes or address the growing wealth inequality that the current tax code fuels. But that’s not what Republicans have in mind.

Instead, they want tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations paid for by adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit—which will force deep cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security down the road.

The entire tax plan is a scam—so make sure you call it that. Trump says it’s about the middle class and small business but the non-partisan analysis from Tax Policy Center and Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy shows something else: the vast majority of benefits flow to the wealthy and corporations. Our full explainer on tax cuts for the rich is here, and our explainer on corporate tax cuts is here, and our explainer on the process is here. But here are some highlights:

Republicans are pivoting hard to their Tax Scam—and they think they can trick you into supporting it.

Congress thinks they can score an easy win right after recess pushing “tax reform.” Who doesn’t like a tax cut, right? The problem is, their tax cuts are geared almost exclusively for the wealthy and corporations, leaving the middle class falling further behind with barely any reduction in their taxes—just enough to trick you into falling for it. For example, under Trump’s tax plan, the middle class would see a 1.5% tax cut—but the wealthy would get a 14.1% tax cut.

The Trump Tax Scam is the next big legislative fight in Congress—and the first step is opposing the budget resolution. We stopped TrumpCare, and now it’s time to stop these tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations that would force deep cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Republicans want to use the special process in the Senate called “reconciliation” to pass the Trump Tax Scam with only 51 votes. To unlock that process, first they have to pass a budget resolution that gives them the tax instructions. And because their plan to use the budget resolution to pass the Trump Tax Scam isn’t destructive enough, they’ve also included a policy rider that would open up the Arctic Refuge to drilling for oil and gas. With oil supplies at historic highs and gas prices at long-term lows, we can’t let them hijack the budget to ram through this toxic policy that would never pass in the light of day. We can shut down the Trump Tax Scam AND protect the environment if we defeat the budget resolution.  

Sample Town Hall Questions

For Senate Republicans

  1. The Senate budget resolution reported out of committee last week adds $1.5 trillion to the deficit. There’s no way that will be made up for in “new growth”—we all know tax cuts don’t “pay for themselves” like the trickle down theory says. So the $1.5 trillion added to the deficit will force deep cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security down the road. You have always talked about the need for fiscal responsibility and you call yourself a fiscal conservative. Will you put your money where your mouth is and oppose the budget resolution because it adds $1.5 trillion to the deficit?
  2. The Senate budget resolution reported out of committee last week would open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling by oil and gas companies. This kind of underhanded, short-term thinking will lead to the destruction of one of our most beautiful, valuable natural resources—and to the end of the last truly wild space in America. Will you protect our natural resources by opposing this disastrous budget resolution?

For House Republicans

  1. The budget resolution passed by the House on October 5 is terrible. It cuts $1 trillion from Medicaid and $480 million from Medicare—all so you can give tax cuts to the rich and corporations. The Senate is working on their own version of the budget resolution that would add $1.5 trillion to the deficit to give tax cuts to the rich and corporations. You have always talked about the need for fiscal responsibility and you call yourself a fiscal conservative. Will you put your money where your mouth is and oppose any conference agreement on the budget resolution that adds to the deficit?

For All Republicans

  1. I don’t believe that cutting taxes for the rich will do anything for the economy, except to make the rich richer. I’ve paid taxes my whole life and think that you, as my Representative, should be prioritizing me and my family, not the wealthy. Will you commit to me, your constituent, that you will oppose any tax plan that cuts taxes for millionaires?
  2. Few corporations actually pay their fair share in taxes. Many pay none at all. A majority of Americans think corporations should pay MORE in taxes, not less. Even Donald Trump is bragging about how corporate profits have never been higher. If that’s true, then why do they need a huge tax cut? Will you commit to me, your constituent, that you will oppose any tax plan that cuts taxes for corporations or leaves corporate tax loopholes in place?
  3. Without his tax returns, the American people have no way of knowing how much tax cuts will benefit Trump and his businesses. The taxpayers deserve to know if our hard-earned money is going to the President’s personal gain. Will oppose any tax cuts until President Trump release his tax returns so that the American people can fully understand how it will personally benefit him and his businesses?

For Senate Democrats

  1. Republicans will stop at nothing to jam the Trump Tax Scam through the Senate. It will be just like TrumpCare: secret negotiations and every procedural trick they can think of to pass it with speed and secrecy. One of the best things Democrats did during the TrumpCare fight to draw attention to the disaster of TrumpCare was withhold consent. Will you commit to me that you will use every procedural tool at your disposal—including withholding consent if necessary—to defeat the Trump Tax Scam?

For All Democrats

  1. Few corporations actually pay their fair share in taxes. Many pay none at all. A majority of Americans think corporations should pay MORE in taxes, not less. The economic body of research on this is clear: cutting the corporate tax rate doesn’t help workers—it helps CEOs and shareholders. I know we have a high STATUTORY rate, but the EFFECTIVE rate—what corporations ACTUALLY pay—is in line with the rest of the world. There’s no evidence to suggest that lowering our corporate tax rate will increase American competitiveness. Will you commit to me, your constituent, that you will oppose any tax plan that lowers the corporate tax rate?

DREAMers Need Immediate Relief

On Sept. 5, Trump announced that he was terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Obama-era program provides relief from deportation for an estimated 800,000 young immigrants. These immigrants have gone to our schools, they live and work in our communities, they have families, and now they’re at an even greater risk of deportation. Congress must act immediately to protect DREAMers.

DACA provides relief from deportation to certain young immigrants. In 2012, President Obama created the DACA program to grant relief from deportation to individuals who came to the U.S. as children, if they met a number of requirements (like extensive background checks). The Obama Administration recognized that there were millions of undocumented young immigrants who grew up in the U.S., who were essentially American in every sense, except on paper. The program has allowed approximately 800,000 young people the opportunity to live and work lawfully in the U.S. It does not provide a path to citizenship. Check out this short video explaining the program.

DACA is constitutional. Opponents of DACA, including Trump, are falsely claiming that DACA is unconstitutional. But nationally renowned constitutional scholars have weighed in, like in this letter to Trump, arguing that not only is DACA constitutional, but that previous presidents from both parties have used the same process to grant relief from deportation to other immigrants.

Congress needs to pass the DREAM Act—now. There is bipartisan support for the DREAM Act in both the Senate and House. And the bill enjoys massive support from the American public. Now that Donald Trump has yanked protection away from immigrant youth, it is now up to Congress to take action.

The biggest leverage we have is on the December spending bill. You should continue to demand that Congress pass the DREAM Act. Now. Every day that goes by is a day in which the lives of immigrant youth remain at risk. Unfortunately, we don’t set the agenda in Congress, making it difficult to push for policies like the DREAM Act. However, we have leverage coming up in December that Democrats can use to pass the DREAM Act, but it’ll work only if they are willing to play hardball.

Ask for Democrats: Take the “DREAMer Pledge.” What is the DREAMer Pledge? It’s simple. If Congress hasn’t passed the DREAM Act by Dec. 8—when funding for the government expires—then they will insist on it being a part of the December spending bill. The pledge is that they will commit to voting against the Dec. “continuing resolution” unless it contains a clean DREAM Act.

Ask for Republicans: Sign-on to the DREAM Act. Every Member of Congress should be on the DREAM Act, and in fact there are a couple of Republicans who have joined their Democratic colleagues in co-sponsoring. Is your Republican Senator(s) or Representative signed-on? You can check here for your senators and here for your Representative.

SAMPLE TOWN HALL QUESTIONS

  • [For Democrats] In September, Democratic leadership committed to using the December deadline to fund the government to pass the DREAM Act. After striking a deal with Donald Trump, in which Democrats secured a three-month government spending bill and a temporary raise to the debt ceiling, Democrats promised that they would use their new leverage in December to pass a clean DREAM Act. As your constituent, will you take the “DREAMer Pledge”? In other words, will you commit to voting NO on any December spending bill if it does not include a clean DREAM Act?
  • [For Republicans] DREAMers are members of our communities, they have gone to our schools, they have built lives in America. Donald Trump has placed nearly a million of them at risk by eliminating the DACA program. Not only is this un-American, and an attack against our own, but it will also cost our country nearly half a trillion dollars in lost GDP, including [x dollars] in our state. Will you commit to me, your constituent, that you will co-sponsor the DREAM Act?

Trump is a National Security Threat

Trump has brought us to the brink of two totally unnecessary potential new wars. The first is a Trump-made crisis with North Korea in which two volatile leaders of nuclear-armed countries trade increasingly hostile insults and threats. The second involves Trump preparing to blow up an international deal that verifiably blocks Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Congress needs to jump in—now! While your MoCs are at home on recess, hold them to account for not doing enough to rein in Trump’s dangerous warmongering. Here’s what you need to know.

Trump’s Brinksmanship with North Korea

The rhetoric is at a fever pitch on North Korea. Trump threatened to “destroy” the rogue nation, and has since tweeted that they “won’t be around much longer.” Building upon Trump’s dangerous tweets and promises of “fire and fury,” Defense Secretary Mattis has warned of a “massive military response,” and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley declared that North Korea is “begging for war.”

North Korea’s Foreign Minister has said that these comments amount to a “declaration of war” and has threatened to shoot down U.S. bombers. This comes after the country tested its sixth and most powerful nuclear bomb, prompting an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council. The rogue nation claimed its new weapon was a hydrogen bomb small enough to fit on an intercontinental ballistic missile, making rapid progress towards its ability to strike the United States.

Trump is Risking War with Iran

The Iran deal is keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The United States and Iran, along with five partner nations, reached an agreement in 2015 under President Obama’s leadership after careful and complicated negotiations. This “Iran Deal” cuts off Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon and, in exchange, gives them relief from tough nuclear-related economic sanctions.

Trump will try to decertify the deal. Every 90 days, Trump has to decide if he’s going to “certify” the deal and keep it going. If Trump follows through on his threat to decertify the deal (he has to decide next by October 15), Congress would have 60 days to kill the deal under an expedited procedure. A filibuster would not be possible, meaning Democrats alone could not save the deal.

Trump will likely try to destroy the Iran Deal—and that will be a devastating crisis. Just imagine if the United States were to unilaterally pull out of the Iran Deal, even though Iran is complying with the deal and the rest of our allies are committed to the agreement. This would broadcast to the world that we can’t be trusted in negotiations, and that there’s no point in talking to us or striking deals. Iran would probably immediately resume its nuclear weapons development, giving Trump an excuse to bomb them. That would mean a catastrophic new war for no reason, and the end of any hope for a diplomatic solution with either Iran or North Korea.

The deal is working, and Congress can save it. International inspectors confirm that Iran is adhering to the agreement. No nuclear weapon for Iran, no new war for us, and not a single bullet fired to achieve this. Yet, just because this was a success of the Obama administration, Trump (along with the old Iraq War supporters) are chomping at the bit to pull out of the deal and start a new war with Iran.

In the 60 days after Trump tries to tear it up, Congress still has to vote to affirmatively kill the deal. There is already a lot of anxiety among the warmongers that they might not have enough votes—we can win this.

Let’s call this what it is: Trump is a national security threat. His rhetoric is upsetting allies and provoking conflict. His policies put us in the path of unnecessary war and place us all at risk of a nuclear showdown. We need measured leadership that leverages every diplomatic tool to de-escalate tensions—not reckless tweets that fuel the flames.

Your Members of Congress should be leading efforts to pull us back from the brink of war—there’s no excuse for them to stay silent. While they’re at home, hold them accountable.

SAMPLE TOWN HALL QUESTIONS

  • I am horrified by the reckless threats and insults coming out of the White House on North Korea. We shouldn’t be risking nuclear war for no reason, we should be using every diplomatic tool we have to de-escalate the situation. Will you commit to making a clear public statement denouncing Trump’s warmongering with North Korea and urging diplomacy?
  • Congress, and not the President, has the constitutional responsibility to decide when and where we go to war. From Syria to North Korea, it’s clear this administration doesn’t think it needs to come to Congress if it wants to use new military force. As a Member of Congress, it is your responsibility to make sure Congress asserts its constitutional role. Will you co-sponsor the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017, making explicit that Trump cannot launch a nuclear strike absent a declaration of war from Congress? Will you also co-sponsor the bipartisan No Unconstitutional Strike Against North Korea Act, by Reps. Conyers and Massie?
  • The Iran Deal is working. According to experts, international monitors and the U.S. government itself, Iran is complying with its requirements and is not pursuing a nuclear weapon. Plus, our international partners have said there’s no better deal—this is it. Yet Trump has said he wants to pull out of the deal unilaterally. This would insult our allies and could lead us to new war with Iran. We can’t trust Trump to handle this—he needs to leave it alone and let it work, or else we’ll have another North Korea. Will you publicly commit to voting against any efforts to kill the deal, which would lead us into war with Iran?

Clean Extension of CHIP

The Children’s Health Insurance Program ensures nearly 9 million children have health insurance. CHIP is a federal-state partnership where the federal government provides most—or in some cases, all—of the funding necessary to cover uninsured children. Health insurance for American kids should be a top priority for Congress, but what we’ve seen so far is that is isn’t. Demand that your MoCs make it a top priority.

Hard as it is to believe, Congress let CHIP funding expire. Republicans invested so much time and energy in making one last push to pass TrumpCare, that they couldn’t find time to reauthorize a program giving 9 million kids health insurance before the September 30 deadline. Let that sink in.

If Congress doesn’t act soon, states will start running out of money. Some states have already stopped taking new applications for CHIP. And some Republicans want to extract serious policy concessions from Democrats in exchange for funding health care for uninsured children.

We need a clean extension of CHIP funding, before states run out of money. (Find out when that happens for your state with our explainer, here.) There is no reason why children’s health should be placed in jeopardy, or held hostage. But that’s exactly what some Republicans are doing. House Republicans are insisting on cuts to Medicare and additional attacks on the Affordable Care Act in exchange for funding CHIP. Tell your MoCs that you want them to pass a clean extension of CHIP funding, immediately.

SAMPLE TOWN HALL QUESTION

  1. It’s terrible that Congress let funding for CHIP expire. Nine million children rely on CHIP for health care, and many states, [including ours], start running out of money this month. I expect you to extend CHIP funding without playing politics with children’s health insurance. Will you commit to supporting a CLEAN CHIP extension?

After Vegas, There Are No Excuses for Congress Not to Prevent Gun Violence

Late in the evening of October 1, a shooter opened fire on a crowd gathered for a concert in Las Vegas. This act of terror, inflicted by a single individual, killed at least 50 people and wounded at least 500. We stand in solidarity with, and extend our warmest comfort to, all impacted by this horrific terrorist attack. Donald Trump and all U.S. officials must condemn this violence in the same way they would condemn a shooter of color—and call it what it is: terrorism.

It is time for Congress to do something to stop this type of gun violence. By now we’ve all seen the chilling videos on social media, with loud gunfire echoing in the background, causing people to flee for their safety. A survivor of the 2006 Virginia Tech massacre recounts here how the sound of gunfire meant the difference between life or death. Can you imagine the kind of damage that could have been done in Las Vegas if the sound of gunfire was distorted by a silencer? This is exactly what Congress is currently considering.

Congress is considering making it easier for shooters like the one in Vegas. Almost unbelievably, legislation has moved forward in the House of Representatives that would make it easier for people to obtain silencers for guns. As part of a larger legislative package called the SHARE Act (Sportsman Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, or H.R. 3668), Congress is considering the so-called “Hearing Protection Act” (H.R. ) that is backed by the gun lobby and would pave the way for convicted felons, domestic abusers, and others to more easily access silencers.

Silencers have no purpose beyond muffling the sounds of gunshots. This makes it more difficult for people to escape gunfire or to intervene and protect others. There is absolutely no reason for this provision to become law. It has already made it out of committee and could be moved to the floor of the House for a vote at any time.

Congress also has an immediate opportunity to restrict access to “bump stocks,” and should do it now. A bump stock is the machinery used by the Vegas shooter to convert semiautomatic guns into fully automatic weapons, similar to machine guns. Bump stocks allow bullets to be fired rapidly, and allow shooters to kill more people more quickly. This is completely unacceptable, and there is no reason for civilians to gain access to bump stocks.

There is growing bipartisan support to ban bump stocks. Democratic Senator Feinstein has introduced legislation in the Senate, and Republican Representative Curbelo is preparing a similar bill in the House of Representatives, to block access to bump stocks. Paul Ryan and other congressional leaders have even indicated they’re open to this.

It’s still not enough, but the very least that Congress can do right now to protect against gun violence is to strip the silencer provision out of the SHARE Act and ban bump stocks. As we mourn the violence in Vegas, call out your MoCs while they’re on recess and tell them that “thoughts and prayers” are not enough.

TOWN HALL QUESTIONS

  • I am shocked and horrified by the mass shooting that took place in Las Vegas, and I’m tired of hearing from Congress that they send “thoughts and prayers” or that “now isn’t the time” to talk about how we can stop this. Will you commit to speaking out publicly, urging Congress and the administration to seriously address this crisis with common sense gun safety measures?
  • Congress is soon supposed to vote on the “SHARE Act,” which has a provision making it easier for people to get silencers for their guns. I can’t imagine how much worse these shootings would be if the sounds of gunfire were masked, preventing people from fleeing or first responders from locating the source. Are you prepared to vote no on the SHARE Act if the silencer provision is not removed? Will you support stripping out the silencer provision?
  • I’ve heard many congressional leaders express support for banning “bump stocks”—accessories that allow semiautomatic weapons to function like machine guns. Even the NRA has said they think bump stocks need more regulation. Will you co-sponsor and support legislation to ban bump stocks?

STANDING UP FOR PUERTO RICO AND RESPONDING TO FUTURE DISASTERS

The U.S. Response to Hurricane Maria is a national catastrophe. Weeks after the hurricane made landfall, the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still fighting for their lives, with insufficient support from the federal government.  

Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The hurricane made landfall in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on September 20 as a Category 4 storm, and the devastation it wrought has quickly snowballed into a humanitarian crisis. The official death toll is at 34, but could rise into the hundreds as officials find additional victims on more remote areas of the island. Nearly the entire island is without electricity, and it could take six months or longer to restore power.

Puerto Ricans need our help. Critical supplies, such as food, water, and fuel for medical facilities are dwindling, and aid is stuck in warehouses because of logistical breakdowns. The people of Puerto Rico face immense challenges in the days to come as they return home to document the damage done to their property, and as they seek to rebuild their homes and lives. They need significant help from the federal government to recover from this catastrophe.

SAMPLE TOWN HALL QUESTIONS

  1. Nearly half of Puerto Ricans rely on the island’s Medicaid program, and more will likely come to depend on it given the level of destruction. However, unlike with Medicaid programs on the mainland, the money that Puerto Rico can receive from the federal government is capped—potentially leaving hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans without adequate access to health care during this critical period. Will you commit to fully funding Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program to ensure that this doesn’t happen to our fellow Americans?
  2. The Jones Act, signed into law in 1920, proved to be a barrier to quickly delivering aid to Puerto Rico. While the administration quickly waived the Jones Act after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma so that the flow of oil wouldn’t be interrupted, President Trump said he was hesitant to do so for Puerto Rico because “a lot of people who are in the shipping industry” didn’t want him to. Disaster relief should not be contingent on political considerations. Now the waiver for Puerto Rico runs out on October 7. As Puerto Rico continues to recover, will you push the Trump Administration to extend its Jones Act waiver for a year? Will you commit to amending the Jones Act so that it is automatically waived for any area receiving federal disaster aid?
  3. Under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, people who receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as “food stamps”) cannot use those benefits on hot food or food that will be eaten in the store. After Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the administration waived that restriction to ensure that low-income hurricane victims would be able to get food—but they initially denied Puerto Rico’s request to be treated the same way, before reversing course when that denial became public. Will you commit to amending this law to automatically waive this restriction for people in areas receiving federal disaster aid so that future administrations cannot play politics with poor people’s access to food during a crisis?