Today, from the Senate floor, Senator Al Franken announced his resignation from Congress. His resignation comes after a number of women stepped forward, alleging inappropriate touching and sexual misconduct from Franken. Several Democratic female members of Congress came out yesterday to lead the charge of urging Franken to resign. Similar allegations against Democratic Representative John Conyers Jr. led to his retirement earlier this week.
These departures make it clear: individuals who have engaged in sexual misconduct in any form–whether harassment or assault or other types of inappropriate conduct–must be held accountable for their actions. Members of Congress have a responsibility to lead by example and show that abusing their power to harm women is absolutely unacceptable. This issue should not be partisan–when it comes to sexual harassment, we should only have one zero tolerance policy. But, as the New York Times notes, “by and large, Republicans have seemed more tolerant” of sexual assault and harassment allegations when they are leveled against members of their own party. Take President Trump, who has been accused by more than a dozen women. Or look at Representative Blake Farenthold, who “used $84,000 from a secret taxpayer fund to settle a lurid sexual harassment case filed against him.” And don’t forget Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused by nine women of sexual misconduct, assault, and other predatory behavior, including some women who were teenagers when the attacks occurred.
But remember: these types of misconduct don’t just occur in Congress or Hollywood. This is a societal problem that we must confront together as a country. What can be done to change the culture that makes sexual harassment and abuse so rampant? First, we must elect more women to positions of political power, to push for wider structural problems to be addressed. Second, attempts to dismantle protections for women through legislation must be halted, from women’s health care being slashed in the tax bill or reproductive justice facing constant attacks. Finally, all workplaces in all industries must strengthen policies surrounding sexual harassment, as well as reporting mechanisms. Until we all ask tough questions about the pervasive sexual misconduct we see in our society, there won’t be true change.
ACTION OF THE DAY
The Tax Fight Isn’t Over. The House and Senate tax bills are all set to go to conference, after the Senate voted to move the legislation to conference and leaders of both parties named their conferees. This process is a chance for the House and the Senate to resolve differences between the two versions of the bill, which means the fight to stop this horrific bill isn’t over. Congressional Republicans are already signaling that they will use the huge increase in the deficit caused by the tax bill to justify cutting key programs, like Social Security and Medicare. Let’s stop them in their tracks. Call and tweet at key members of Congress now using TrumpTaxToolkit.org.
Another Mass Shooting. This morning, a gunman entered Aztec High School in New Mexico and opened fire, wounding several and killing at least three people (the story is still developing). There have been 266 school shootings since Newtown, yet members of Congress still refuse to take action. In fact, just yesterday, the House passed the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would force states to honor the concealed carry permits issued by every other state, even states with much weaker standards, meaning that states would not be able to control who is allowed to carry loaded, concealed guns in their communities. If we keep pursuing the same dangerous policies, we can’t expect anything to change, which means our children are at risk every time they enter school.
Judicial Takeover. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on three of Trump’s extreme nominees to the federal appeals court: Steven Grasz, Don Willett, and James Ho. These nominees are poised to receive lifetime appointments, allowing them to impact the judiciary for decades to come. Why is this so harmful with these three individuals? Both Grasz and Willett have long-time track records of opposing marriage equality and other rights for LGBTQ individuals. Grasz, unanimously rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association, once tried to pass a local law that would have opened the doors for businesses to discriminate “in the name of religious freedom” (sound familiar?). Willett, who holds views similar to Grasz, is known for his presence on Twitter, taking jabs at transgender individuals and joking about a “constitutional right to marry bacon.” Adding to discriminatory policies and viewpoints, these nominees also back voter suppression practices. Trump is ramming through these nominees at breakneck speed, rushing by their lack of qualifications and discriminatory statements. Follow this fight at @WhyCourtsMatter.
#PollutingPruitt. After nearly a year of serving as EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt today faced his first public questions from Congress since being confirmed – the longest it’s ever taken for an EPA Administrator to appear before the committee that oversees the agency. Today’s hearing comes just after a new investigation by Politico revealed that while serving as Attorney General of Oklahoma, Pruitt attempted to conceal an audit of industry activities related to a taxpayer funded federal bailout of an Oklahoma superfund site in Tar Creek. In his tenure at EPA, Pruitt has wasted more than $900,000 of taxpayer dollars, ignored scientific recommendations by undoing basic protections against chemicals that harm brain development in children and so much more. As one mom put it, Pruitt’s “Mission” for the EPA has become a “nightmare” and Pruitt has a lot to answer for in front of Congress today.
Whose Shutdown? If you watch Fox News or read certain newspapers, you probably have seen this headline: “Democrats pushing for shutdown.” But this is misleading, at best. It is Republicans that control the House, the Senate, and the White House. And although no president has ever shut down the government that it controls completely, Trump may be driving the country toward the shutdown he’s always wanted. Some in the media have reported that Trump is telling trusted confidants that he believes a shutdown now could help him politically, especially if he frames it as “following through on his campaign promises to Build the Wall and attack immigrants.” But a quick look at his Twitter history shows that Trump has long championed shutdown politics. Four years ago, Trump encouraged congressional Republicans to shut down the government, urged them to maintain total unity, and attacked those who he viewed as wavering. So why would 2017 be any different? It was only a few months ago that he tweeted that the country needs “good ‘shutdown.’” As we head to a showdown over government funding and the need to pass the #DreamActNow, don’t let anyone forget that Republicans control every branch of government, Trump has long championed shutdown politics, and his first move every time is to attack immigrant communities. It’s time for them to put politics aside and govern.
UNDER THE RADAR
Investment in Our Future. Today, the Center for American Progress released a new analysis, showing that the Child Care for Working Families Act, introduced by Senator Patty Murray and Representative Robert “Bobby” Scott will create 2.3 million new jobs. It achieves this significant increase in jobs by making child care more affordable, improving access to child care for families, and investing in the early childhood workforce. This increase in access to affordable child care would also allow 1.6 million parents to join the labor force. This is a bold vision for America’s child care infrastructure that helps address the real needs of parents, unlike the efforts of Congressional Republicans to dismantle support systems for families. Urge your senator and representative to support the Child Care for Working Families Act and invest in our country’s future.