163 Members of Congress Demand a Vote, Not Silence, to Prevent Gun Violence

Gun

Reps. Shea-Porter, Thompson Lead 163 House Members in Calling for a Vote on Gun Violence Prevention Legislation

WASHINGTON, DC – In the wake of recent shootings in Portland, Las Vegas, and Santa Barbara, Representatives Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), a member of the House’s Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, and Task Force Chairman Mike Thompson (CA-05) led a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) signed by 163 Members of Congress demanding a vote on substantive legislation to address gun violence.

“Our nation has suffered at least 74 school shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre,” Shea-Porter, Thompson, and 161 of their colleagues wrote. “The factors allowing these rampages are no mystery: loopholes in the background check laws, straw purchases, restrictions on law enforcement, and gaps in our mental health system. Dozens of legislative proposals that address these factors have been introduced and await consideration. But despite wake-up call after wake-up call, a shameful tradition of Congressional inaction continues.”

“Moments of silence on the floor of the House are not enough.  The last thing these victims and their families need is further silence from this Congress. They deserve a vote,” they continued.

Recently on the floor of the House of Representatives, Shea-Porter called on Speaker Boehner to allow a vote on legislation to help prevent more deaths from senseless gun violence.

The Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, which is chaired by Thompson, released a comprehensive set of policy principles that will reduce gun violence and respect the Second Amendment.

Of those recommendations, one of the most important pieces is H.R. 1565, bipartisan legislation written by Reps. Thompson and Peter King (R-NY) and cosponsored by Rep. Shea-Porter, to strengthen and expand background checks. This legislation bolsters the Second Amendment rights of lawful gun owners and helps keep guns from criminals, terrorists, and the dangerously mentally ill.

Right now, a criminal in many states can buy a firearm at a gun show, over the internet, or through a newspaper ad because those sales don’t require a background check.  H.R. 1565 requires comprehensive and enforceable background checks on all commercial gun sales, including those at gun shows, over the Internet, or through classified ads, while providing reasonable exceptions for family and friends. Background checks would be conducted though a licensed dealer in the same manner as they have been for more than 40 years. The Thompson-King bill bans the creation of a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

“Congressional silence is not a sign of respect, but rather an institutional indictment. We must right this wrong. You must allow a vote on substantive legislation to address gun violence,” Shea-Porter, Thompson and others concluded in their letter.

Full text of the letter to Speaker John Boehner is below. The full list of signatories can be found here.

+++

June 26, 2014
Speaker John Boehner
Office of the Speaker
H-232, US Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:

We agree with you that we must honor the victims of the recent shootings in Portland, Las Vegas and Santa Barbara. But moments of silence on the floor of the House are not enough.  The last thing these victims and their families need is further silence from this Congress. They deserve a vote.

Our nation has suffered at least 74 school shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre. The factors allowing these rampages are no mystery: loopholes in the background check laws, straw purchases, restrictions on law enforcement, and gaps in our mental health system. Dozens of legislative proposals that address these factors have been introduced and await consideration. But despite wake-up call after wake-up call, a shameful tradition of Congressional inaction continues.

Gun violence has affected constituents in every Congressional district, and as their representatives, Members of Congress deserve the opportunity to vote on bills that would address this epidemic. 

Congressional silence is not a sign of respect, but rather an institutional indictment. We must right this wrong. You must allow a vote on substantive legislation to address gun violence.

Sincerely,

 

Granite Stater Talks To Small Business Subcommittee On Importance Of US Manufacturing

Annie Kuster

Kuster Introduces Windham Resident at U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee Hearing

Business analyst Shirley Mills testified about the importance of bringing manufacturing jobs back from overseas to strengthen the New Hampshire economy

Annie Kuster

Congresswoman Kuster welcomes Windham resident Shirley Mills to the U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – This afternoon, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) introduced Windham resident Shirley Mills at a  House Subcommittee Hearing, where Mills testified on the importance of American-made manufacturing. The hearing was held by the U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access.

Shirley Mills is a business analyst at the Boston Company who has done extensive research on how American-made manufacturing can strengthen our economy. During her testimony, she highlighted companies’ efforts to bring manufacturing jobs back from overseas, a practice commonly referred to as “reshoring.” Mills argued that bringing these jobs back home is not only a smart financial move for American companies, but it will also support badly needed job creation across the United States. She outlined the steps that must be taken for reshoring to continue on a large scale, and discussed regulatory measures Congress should support in order to encourage growth and job creation in the manufacturing sector.

“By supporting New Hampshire companies that are bringing jobs home from overseas, we can continue to grow our manufacturing sector and create good, middle class jobs for years to come,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “At today’s hearing, I was thrilled to introduce Ms. Mills, whose clear research demonstrates how American-made manufacturing can strengthen New Hampshire businesses and improve America’s economy overall. I sincerely thank her for sharing her expertise with us today.”

Ms. Mills highlighted how the “clustering” of industrial infrastructure can encourage manufacturers to bring jobs back to the United States.  To support clustering and improve the competitiveness of American manufacturing, Kuster is a cosponsor of the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act, bipartisan legislation to authorize a network of centers of manufacturing innovation.

As a member of the House Small Business Committee, Kuster has prioritized efforts to foster job creation, grow the economy, and support New Hampshire’s manufacturing industry. She recently unveiled her Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Agenda, a blueprint based on meetings with Granite State residents, families, business owners and others, that outlines common sense steps to help create jobs in New Hampshire and around the country. She has also supported a series of “Make It In America” proposals focused on reshoring jobs and reviving the U.S. manufacturing economy, and has fought to establish a Manufacturing Innovation Institute in New Hampshire.

At Armed Services Hearing Shea-Porter Reiterates Opposition to Base Relocation and Closure (BRAC)

Submarine enroute to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
Submarine enroute to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Submarine enroute to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

 

WASHINGTON, DC –During a House Armed Services Committee hearing this afternoon on the Navy’s FY 2015 budget request, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) spoke directly to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus about her opposition to additional rounds of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).

“I have the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in my district, and you know how famous they are for the great work they do…their record is absolutely wonderful,” Shea-Porter said. “My question is very simple. In considering a future BRAC, is the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in that equation at all? I believe their work is essential, and my question is, do you and does the Navy?”

Mabus noted that all of America’s Naval Shipyards, including Portsmouth do “incredibly good work.” He also noted that because the Navy has not been authorized to do a BRAC, he could not comment on how a potential BRAC evaluation would look.

Congresswoman Shea-Porter continues to believe that the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is essential to our nation’s security.

“When you see the work that they’re doing and recognize how essential it is for national security, I hope that will get a full measure of consideration,” Shea-Porter added.

As a member of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, Shea-Porter helped pass a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act explicitly prohibiting additional rounds of BRAC. The legislation stated “nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an additional Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round, and none of the funds appropriated pursuant to the authorization of appropriations contained in this Act may be used to propose, plan for, or execute an additional BRAC round.” That language is now federal law.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is one of four public shipyards in the United States, and it’s the only public Shipyard on the East Coast.

Senator Shaheen Introduces Bill To Help Students Manage Debt

SenJeanneShaheen

Shaheen’s legislation would give students access to comprehensive online database to manage debt and better navigate repayment 

SenJeanneShaheen

Senator Jeanne Shaheen
Image from WikiCommons

(Washington, DC) – In a new effort to help students better manage their debt burden, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced legislation today that will strengthen an existing federal student loan data system to give students more comprehensive access to and a better understanding of debt and repayment options. Shaheen’s proposal, the Simplifying Access to Student Loan Information Act, calls for the development of a central online portal that will allow students to review all their public and private student loans as well as repayment options in one place, which would in turn help students better manage, understand and repay their debt.

“While higher education is one of the best investments we can make to keep our country a magnet for jobs and economic opportunity, the soaring costs of higher education are pushing middle class families and students into debt,” Shaheen said. “For many Americans, student debt prevents them from buying a home, getting married, starting a family and pursuing career goals.”

“We need to not only make college more affordable and accessible, but better help students manage their costs and debts after they graduate,” Shaheen continued. “My proposal will give students in New Hampshire and across the country tools to help better manage repayment, know their options and get help when they need it.”

Nationally, students hold nearly $1.2 trillion in student debt, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Project on Student Debt estimates that 74 percent of New Hampshire students leave school carrying loan debt. In total, the group also estimates average debt for New Hampshire students is nearly $33,000. Shaheen’s legislation would help students manage their debt burden and navigate the borrowing and repayment processes with confidence.

Specifically, the Simplifying Access to Student Loan Information Act would amend the Higher Education Act and the Truth in Lending Act to expand the National Student Loan Data System to include comprehensive student loan information for both private and public student loans. Currently, only federal student loan information is available within the database. Shaheen’s proposal would create a virtual one-stop shop where students and borrowers can better manage their debt and gain easier, more comprehensive access to debt and repayment options. Additionally, the legislation Shaheen introduced today would require the Secretary of Education to establish a competitive five-year pilot program to encourage non-traditional, personalized outreach to student borrowers to encourage better communication, which would ultimately lead to the development of suggested best practices for reducing default, forbearance and deferment rates.

Throughout her career Shaheen has worked to make college more affordable and accessible, leading efforts to increase access to higher education for New Hampshire students and voting to maintain low interest rates for Stafford loans  and the Pay As You Earn repayment plan to help students and families manage college tuition. Shaheen’s legislation follows a recent call to the President, urging him to work with Congress on a plan to lower student debt.

The full text of the Simplifying Access to Student Loan Information Act is available here, and the following organizations, colleges and universities have endorsed Shaheen’s bill:

 

·         Colby Sawyer College

·         Community College System of New Hampshire

·         Dartmouth College

·         Franklin Pierce University

·         Granite State College

·         Keene State College

·         National Association for College Admission Counseling

·         New England Association for College Admission Counseling

·         New England College

·         New Hampshire Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators

·         New Hampshire College & University Council

·         New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation

·         New Hampshire Institute of Art

·         Plymouth State University

·         Rivier University

·         Saint Anselm College

·         Southern New Hampshire University

·         University of New Hampshire

 

What The F&@#: Issa Proposes End To Six Day Delivery To Save Military Retirees COLA’s

Image from the Muskegon Chronicle
http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2010/03/no_saturday_mail_delivery_no_p.html
Image from the Muskegon Chronicle http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2010/03/no_saturday_mail_delivery_no_p.html

Image from the Muskegon Chronicle

The depth of Congressman Darrell Issa’s distain for the unionized workers at the US Postal Service knows no bounds.  Now he is pitting the USPS against the US Military.

Government Executive reported this morning:

A new bill would undo the recent cuts made to certain military retirees’ pensions, and in exchange allow the U.S. Postal Service to end Saturday mail delivery.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on Thursday proposed legislation that would restore full cost-of-living adjustments for young military retirees.”

To recap, the bi-partisan budget deal that everyone was giddy over last month made cuts to Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) for veterans who retire after twenty years of service, but have not reached the full retirement age of 62.  To put this into context, this would be a person who could be as young as 38 years old, receiving a military pension, who would receive 1% less in a COLA increase than those retiree’s over the age of 62.

I am against cutting benefits to any worker who has done their time and completed their service after the fact.  That is not the case here.  This change means that these working age retirees will not get the full cost of living increase, which does not mean they are going to see their paychecks go down, as some are implying.  Also nowhere does it say that a retired veteran cannot get another job after they leave the military.  Just look at all the government contractors like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, who routinely hire veterans as military specialists.

You know who else hires a ton of veterans, especially those who have been medically discharged?  The US Postal Service, that is who.  In 2007 the USPS employed over 680,000 people and of that 25% were veterans. (Note 8% of total workforce is listed as disabled veterans).

While that information is great to have, it is not the true point of this post.  The fact that Congressman Issa is, yet again, proposing to cut the Postal Service to five-day delivery is a sham.  He is trying to pull the wool over your eyes, by saying that eliminating Saturday delivery will save the government enough money to offset the retiree’s COLA cuts.

The fact is that the USPS does not take any money from the US Government.  The USPS is a completely self-funded operation, paid in full by the postage on the parcel.  The real issue the USPS is facing is the pre-funding mandate set forth by Congress in 2006.  That mandate requires the USPS to pre-fund all retiree benefits for the next 75 years before 2016.

Congressman Issa and the Postmaster General have used this mandate to make claims that the USPS is going bankrupt.  It is true the USPS cannot afford to pre-pay retiree benefits at 7-times (7X) the normal rate. What corporation could afford that?  They are using this as a way to push the USPS, and its unionized workforce out, and replace it with private companies like UPS and FedEx, who make more money for the 1% on Wall Street.   Let us not forget how UPS and FedEx botched holiday deliveries, while the slow and steady postal service delivered all their packages on time.

This legislation is the biggest shell game I have ever seen.  Instead of just reinstating the cuts to retiree’s, Congressman Issa is suggesting that we steal money from the USPS (which he claims is going bankrupt), and give it to these retiree’s.

If the USPS is failing, as Congressman Issa has said over and over, how exactly is stealing more money from them going to save it?

Rep. Peter DeFazio: "There's no substitute for a universal postal system. The private sector can't fill that gap."  WATCH: http://on.msnbc.com/1dWH1vi  Image from the ED Show

Rep. Peter DeFazio:
There’s no substitute for a universal postal system. The private sector can’t fill that gap.”
WATCH: http://on.msnbc.com/1dWH1vi
Image from the ED Show

Deportation, Physical Abuse, & Stolen Paperwork; What Will It Take For A Vote On Immigration?

Don't deport my mom

Don't deport my momEveryone is jumping up and down over the fact the House of Representative finally did something!  Yeah, they passed a bill!  The fact is that passing this budget is a big deal for a couple of reasons.

Passing this budget means that we will not be forced into another government shutdown.  The budget funds the government for the next two years.  This also means that Congress will not be jumping from crisis to crisis every three months.

Passing this budget also means that the house can actually put aside their ideologies and pass legislation is a bi-partisan way.  Speaker John Boehner did something nobody expected him to, and chastised the right-wing conservative groups for trying to block this budget.   The question is whether or not Speaker Boehner will continue this rebellion and start to actually pass a few bills in the house.

I know just where Boehner can start, comprehensive immigration reform.  You know the bill that already passed the Senate with strong bi-partisan support, and is just waiting for the House to pass it.  The Speaker has said on multiple occasions that passing immigration reform is a major part of the Republican agenda and it should be done.

Sadly the House of Representative closed up shop for the year. They went back home to their districts without even discussing immigration.  Now we must wait until early January until we see if John Boehner will bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

“Our immigration system desperately needs reform. Our broken system puts significant strain on our communities. It also hurts American workers and legal immigrants, not to mention illegal immigrants, whose families live on the margins of our society,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH).

That means we will have to wait about 25-30 days before the House reconvenes and a vote can be held.  In those 30 days over 30,000 aspiring citizens will be deported.  30,000 families ripped apart.  On average 1,100 aspiring  citizens are deported every day.

To add further insult to these people who are chasing their own version of the American Dream, the Immigration Policy Center reports that immigrants are being mistreated while in US custody.

“Overall, we find that the physical and verbal mistreatment of migrants is not a random, sporadic occurrence but, rather, a systematic practice. One indication of this is that 11% of deportees report some form of physical abuse and 23% report verbal mistreatment while in U.S. custody”. (Emphasis added)

If we put these figures into action that would mean that in the next 30 days while Congress is on vacation and not passing immigration reform, 3,000 immigrants will be physically abused during their deportation.

As if physically abusing immigrants already in custody is not enough, it is now being reported that over “one-third (1/3) of all immigrants taken into US custody had their belonging taken from them and not returned.”  Some items may be trivial, but not all of them. “Among deportees who were carrying Mexican identification cards, 1 out of every 4 had their card taken and not returned. The taking of possessions, particularly identity documents, can have serious consequences and is an expression of how dysfunctional the deportation system is.

The Immigration Policy Center continues:

 Our study finds that migrants processed through Operation Streamline, or held in detention for a week or longer, are most likely to have their possessions taken and not returned.”

How can this be happening?  Just because they are not American citizens does not mean that the US Government can trample their rights.  This is just another reason we need to pass immigration reform.  We must put an end to the daily deportation of these aspiring  Americans.

To bring attention to the need for real immigration reform advocates began a ‘Fast for Families’ on the National Mall.  Many of the faster’s are well known in the ongoing fight for immigration reform, including Eliseo Medina.  The Fast For Families includes bio’s of all of the faster’s, and this is what they said about Eliseo:

Eliseo Medina is described by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the most successful labor organizers in the country” and was named one of the “Top 50 Most Powerful Latino Leaders” in Poder Magazine. Medina served as the International Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for 17 years (1996 – 2013)

They began their fast with a declaration.

What is our faith, our words and our history worth if not translated into action, sacrifice and redemption? The world has witnessed the beliefs and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez translate in courageous acts of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance to gain justice for a community of people who were underserved and discriminated against. We now humbly attempt to follow the examples of these great teachers and the teachings of Scripture to align our own hearts with the heart of God, who desires justice for immigrants and immediate justice for the 11 million undocumented immigrant brothers and sisters within our borders. Our faith requires nothing less. Today begins our vow to abstain from sustenance.”

(Read the full Fast for Citizenship: The Moral Obligation to Pass Immigration Reform)

These brave men and women have been fasting for over 35 days now.  They have received visits from many supporters including President and Mrs Obama, Rep John Lewis (D-MS), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), and many more.  To bring more attention to their fast, members sent multiple letters to Speaker Boehner asking him to bring the bill up for a vote.

After 30 days of surviving on nothing but water, the fasters have handed the torch over to a new group of fasters.  Congressional Representatives and union leaders quickly stepped up to fast for immigration reform. Every day since, members of Congress and immigration advocates have come forward to fast on the National Mall in their place.

How many families will have to be ripped apart by deportation before Speaker John Boehner will bring an immigration bill to the floor of the house?

How many people will be physically abused, and have their property and identification cards stolen from them before Speaker Boehner will bring an immigration bill to the floor?

What does it take to convince the Speaker that we need immigration reform now!

Head of Largest Federal Employee Union Blames Congressional Policies for Low Morale at Government Agencies

AFGE Logo 2

Federal employees feel “devalued, dispirited and discouraged” due to budget cutbacks, AFGE leader says 

WASHINGTON – Federal employee morale is at an all-time low according to a new governmentwide survey, and the leader of the nation’s largest federal employee union faulted Congress for pushing policies that favor spending cuts over economic growth.

“Pay freezes, furloughs and budget cutbacks are the reasons why federal employee morale is in the dumps, and lawmakers who have been leading the charge to slash government spending with abandon have no one to blame but themselves,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

A report released today by the Partnership for Public Service, “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government,” says 57.8 percent of federal employees are satisfied in their jobs, which is the lowest it’s been since the survey began in 2003. The Partnership report is based on the Office of Personnel Management’s annual survey of the government’s more than 2 million workers.

Federal employees have had their pay frozen for an unprecedented three consecutive years, and many lost a week of wages this summer due to sequestration-related furloughs. New federal employees are being required to pay substantially more toward their retirement to help pay down the U.S. deficit. Meanwhile, budget cuts due to sequestration have resulted in hiring freezes, cutbacks in employee training and other reductions that have impaired service delivery to the public at many agencies.

“Politicians have been telling federal employees for years that they’re not worth receiving a fair wage, that their jobs aren’t worth funding, that the services they deliver to the American people aren’t as important as continuing to subsidize Wall Street corporations with lucrative tax breaks,” Cox said.

“Should it come as any surprise that federal employees feel devalued, dispirited and discouraged? Federal employees join the government to serve their country and give back to the community, but some politicians have turned them into the enemy and made them the scapegoat for all of the country’s problems.”

Rather than targeting federal employees and services for harmful cuts, Congress should focus on reforming our broken tax system and investing in programs and projects that will create good-paying jobs and restore the U.S. as an economic leader in the 21st century, Cox said.

“Slashing government spending for vital programs that benefit millions of Americans won’t create a single new job, and going after the pay and benefits of federal employees won’t make the government more efficient,” Cox said. “Hopefully this report will serve as a wake-up call to members of Congress.”

Senator Ayotte says (unofficially): Balance the budget on the backs of Federal Workers, not Military Veterans

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

Balance the budget on the backs of…..

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

This week the Senate will vote on the bi-partisan budget deal that was crafted by Rep Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray.   Everyone has a bone to pick with this budget, but that will not going to keep it from passing.

The budget bill has already passed the House and there was opposition from both sides of the aisle.  The bill is now moving to the Senate where New Hampshire’s own, Senator Kelly Ayotte, joined a few of her fellow Republicans to oppose the budget bill.

From the Washington Post:

“In a joint statement last week, Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said they cannot support the legislation because it “disproportionately and unfairly targets those who have put their lives on the line to defend our country.”

“The budget agreement, crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), would reduce cost-of-living adjustments for working-age military retirees by 1 percent starting in December 2015, although the existing rate would apply again once former service members reach age 62.”

The proposed change is projected to save the government $6 billion, but Ayotte said it “pays for more federal spending on the backs of our active duty and military retirees.”

Wait a minute; Senator Ayotte is opposing the budget because it takes 1% or $6 billion dollars away from the Veterans retirement program that only affects Veterans who retire prior to age 62.  That is right, that is what she is opposing.

My question is why is she not opposing the budget over the $6 billion dollars that federal workers are going to have to make up with higher retirement contributions?  The Association of Federal Government Employees (AFGE) released a statement opposing the bill for just that reason.

“AFGE rejects the notion that there should be a trade-off between funding the programs to which federal employees have devoted their lives, and their own livelihoods.”

Where was Senator Ayotte’s opposition when the non-military federal employees were getting beat down by Congress?

“Unions and employee groups have been fighting the pension change. They say federal workers have already “sacrificed over $113 billion for deficit reduction since 2011″ — the figure being based on 3 years without a pay hike and the bigger contribution new hires must put toward pensions.” (Money.CNN)

She was right there voting with the Party to continue to balance the budget on the backs of federal workers, just not the military veterans.

The truth is that this ‘strong opposition’ is nothing more than grandstanding by a Senator who has become the darling of the Republican Party.  Her opposition engages the hard right Republicans who already oppose the budget because it increases spending.  She can use her opposition to fundraise from those same far right Republicans.

The truth is this budget bill will pass, even with Senator Ayotte’s opposition.  She will not be alone in her ‘Nay’ vote for this budget but with the Democratic majority in the Senate, the bill will pass.  Basically it is a free vote for her, to FAKE – I mean – MAKE a stand against the overspending Democrats who are out to harm the beloved military veterans.

With such strong opposition to proposed cuts to our veterans, you would expect Senator Ayotte to be demanding for restoration of all the cuts made to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Accordingly to a report out this week from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, approximately 900,000 veterans are currently dependent, in whole or part, on food stamp benefits to care for their themselves and their families.” (Forbes 10/30/13)

Not one state in the entire union has less than 2,200 veterans who are collecting food stamps under the SNAP program this month. (Read the full story about Veterans and SNAP benefits here) 

Senator, don’t tell us your outraged at these cuts to the veterans pensions, while you do nothing for the nearly 1 million veterans who are living off food stamps.  I respect and honor the service these men and women have done for out country, but you need to be consistent in your outrage.

Are they heroes who cannot afford cuts to their retirement, or are they ‘one of those people’ who are living off food stamps?

The truth is, they are both and Senator Ayotte, you should remember that the next time they want to make budget cuts to all of theses social programs.

Homeless VeteransUPDATED: 12-17-13

After I published this story, Senator Ayotte was interviewed for a story in the Union Leader where she stated:
the $6.3 billion could be found elsewhere in the budget, possibly by changing eligibility requirements for food stamps.
So it seems I was right, she does not seem to care about the people who are living in poverty or working for the government, only the working age retired Veterans who make great photo opportunities.

One Year After Newtown And I Am Still Angry

Image from NHPR Reporter Michael Brinkley Tweet

Author’s Note: Some of you may be wondering what is a labor union advocate doing talking about gun control and Sandy Hook.  The answer is simple.  I have three children who attend an elementary school just like Sandy Hook.  I would also like to point out that two of the largest labor unions in New Hampshire are the teachers unions (NEA-NH and AFT-NH).

One year ago we all were stunned by the horrific event at a little elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.  This tragic event that took the lives of twenty innocent school children, and six brave educators.   As Adam Lanza entered the school, with guns blazing he managed to fire over 150 rounds from his mother semi-automatic rifle with 30 round magazines.

The day after the shooting the American Federation of Teachers released this short video honoring the brave educators who sacrificed their lives to protect the children in their care.

That day, and every day since, people have been asking ‘what are we going to do about Newtown’?  For the first weeks that followed the shooting, people across the country were up in arms and calling on Congress to pass sweeping gun reforms.  A completely organic grassroots organization called ‘Moms Demand Action’ started pushing for background checks and smaller magazines on all weapons sales.

MomsDemandAction_Logo-375x300The argument quickly became a fight between common sense, and the National Rifle Association.   Across the country labor unions and other groups like Moms Demand Action, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and Americans for Responsible Solutions (Gabby and Mark Giffords PAC) began an all out war with the NRA right on the steps of the Capitol.

“We demand a vote, Gabby Giffords demands a vote” cried President Obama during his State of The Union address.  As every day passed more pressure was being put on Congress to pass the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act, commonly referred to as the background check bill.  A bill that would require background check on all gun sales, closing the loophole that allows people to buy guns without a background check at gun shows and on the internet.  The bill also placed a limit on the size of magazines, and ultimately pushed for a ban on all assault rifles.

Momentum and public support grew every single day leading up to the vote.  People overwhelmingly supported background check on all gun sales.  The court of public opinion was completely against the NRA, who led the charge to kill the bill.

The bill failed to break the 60-vote threshold (54-46) to overcome the Republican Filibuster.  The vote was strictly down party lines except for one stray Republican (John McCain) who voted with Democrats to pass the bill to strengthen the background check system.  (Note: four Democratic Senators voted against the bill: Baucus (D-MT), Begich (D-AK), Heitkamp (D-ND), Pryor (D-AR))

After the Senate failed to pass the Safe Communities, Safer Schools Act people became even more outraged. Demand Action – a campaign by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns — started calling out every single Senator who voted against the bill with ads like this.

SHAME ON YOU KELLY Even after the failed vote teachers unions and educators continued to speak out for stronger gun laws.  The American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told the crowd at a Netroots Nation event, “I am glad to be on the list of people they (NRA) hate.

The National Rifle Association even floated the idea that we should arm teachers with guns, because ‘the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.’  Many people, including myself thought that was just too much.  We are trying to keep the guns out of our schools and the NRA wants every teacher to be packing heat.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia completely rejected this idea of arming teachers.  Lily represents over three million educators nationwide.  As she phrased it, “People that would put our children, teachers, and janitors at risk do not deserve their office.”

AFT Remember Newtown via AFT Facebook page

AFT Remember Newtown via AFT Facebook page

Here we are, one year later, and what have we accomplished?  What have we done to stop the carnage of gun violence in America?  The Boston Globe reports:

A Law Center scorecard shows that 18 states weakened their gun restrictions in 2013, 11 states and the District of Columbia strengthened them, and 10 states passed a combination. Both sides in the gun debate, however, manage to find hopeful signs in that tally.”

Where is that outrage that we all felt last December 14th as we were all forced to see the images of teachers and children running away from the Sandy Hook Elementary School, or the images of the twenty children and six heroic teachers who we will never see again.   Where is that outrage now as the majority of the nation has yet to see any change in our gun laws?

As of today (12-13-13) there have been 11,436 or more gun related deaths since Newtown.  (Check out SLATE.COM’s most amazing interactive graphic that continues to update with the names and locations of gun related deaths since Newtown.)  This number does not include the thousands of people who commit suicide every year.  The CDC estimates that 33,000 people will die in gun related deaths this year.

The group Moms Demand Action released a statement along with a very powerful advertisement calling for an end to the ‘silence’.   Moms Demand Action are hosting ‘end the silence’ rallies all across the country to make the plea that we do not need more moments of silence, we need stronger gun laws to prevent these types of tragedies.

“One year ago, 20 beautiful children and six brave teachers and administrators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in a tragedy that is still impossible to comprehend,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein. “On that morning, a deranged killer shot his way into what should have been a safe place, with an assault weapon and enough high-capacity ammunition magazines to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. The massacre was the product, in large part, of our nation’s weak gun laws—laws that allow military-style assault weapons to be sold legally and that permit criminals and domestic abusers to easily obtain weapons at gun shows and over the Internet without a background check.”

Since Newtown there has been at least 20 different schools shooting claiming the lives of dozens of innocent people.  When will it stop? When will Congress wake up and do what is right for public safety?  I refuse to let this be another flash in the pan that fizzles out after time.  I hope that this one-year anniversary of the tragedy at Newtown reignites the fire we once had to effect much needed changes in our gun laws.  I am also proud of the labor leaders like Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen Garcia who using their positions as labor leaders to continue to fight for stronger and more effective gun laws.

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For those in the New Hampshire area here, is a list of some of the Newtown Anniversary events going on throughout the weekend.

Related articles on the NH Labor News:

AFT President Randi Weingarten Honors Newtown (2013)

When Tragedy Strike, Heroes Emerge. In Sandy Hook, The Educators Are The Heroes

Teachers’ Unions Make A Call For Common Sense Gun Reform

 

Is The Congressional Budget Committee Really Out To Destroy The Post Office?

United States Postal Service fleet; U.S.A.

United States Postal Service fleet; U.S.A.Some on the Congressional Budget Committee seem to be misguided on what their task is by seriously considering a proposal to eliminate Saturday mail delivery. The Postal Service has reported an operating profit of $600 Million for Fiscal Year 2013. Its first profit since 2008. Parcel revenue soared to an all time record high of $12.5 Billion. Increasing 8% over last year. So you would think that this is a time to increase service not to decrease it. The USPS is growing to the point that some parts of the country have instituted a limited 7 day’s a week parcel service. Its time to grow the service not shrink it.

This week the Congressional Budget Committee is considering sneaking in a poison pill that would in all probability kill the Postal Service over time and eliminate thousands of jobs immediately. This Budget Committee was set up to mitigate the harmful effects of the Federal Shutdown and sequestration on jobs and public services.   Instead  incredibly they are  exacerbating the problem on both fronts by reducing arguably the most popular and effective part of the Federal Government.

Letter Carrier US Postal Service Though the Postal Service makes an operating profit it is under constant attack by some members of Congress because it provides a popular government service delivered by unionized workers. Government Services and unions are the top targets of the privation zeal of the right-wing. Ideology trumps common sense with these politicians. Somehow they never mention that the worlds best Postal Service does not use ONE CENT of tax payer money

This committee is also attacking the entire Federal workforce by taking $20 billion out of government workers paychecks by increasing workers share of retirement costs.

These same members of this budget committee seem to have no issues with spending billions of dollars every year on a F-35 fighter jet program that literally can’t get off the ground. Yet seem hell-bent on reducing a cost neutral public service that unites our entire country.

The Postal Service financial report is only made gloomy due to an unprecedented retiree health care mandate. The mandate requires the Postal Service to fully fund retiree health care benefits decades in advance, was responsible of 100% of FY 2013 losses and 80% of losses implemented in 2007. This mandate has manufactured a postal crisis that is being used by some politicians to dismantle it.

Apparently the elimination of Saturday delivery will be tied to a trigger that can easily be manipulated by congress and result in disaster for millions of Americans who rely on the Postal Service. These same phony triggers were included in Michigan’s notorious anti union legislation Public Act 4. That destructive law was fortunately repealed by voters last month. We must prevent this Budget Committee from making a similar mistake.

Congress expects to unveil its 2014 budget plan on Friday so the time is short to let members of congress know that eliminating Saturday mail delivery is not an option that makes economic sense. It’s a false choice that the Postal Service must shrink to survive.