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Democrats In Washington Push For $12 Minimum Wage By 2020 and Receive Praise From Labor

12 by 2020 (Patty Murray)

Bill introduction by Sen. Patty Murray. Image from Sen Patty Murray on Twitter.

(WASHINGTON, DC) –  “We are introducing this bill because we believe hard work should pay off,” said Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) as she introduced a bold new plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $12 per hour by the year 2020. “Let’s help more families make ends meet, expand economic opportunity, and grow our economy from the middle out.”  A matching House bill was introduced by Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.).

According to Economic Policy Institute analysis, “37.7 million workers would benefit from this increase, including 21.1 million women. 37 percent of African American workers and 40 percent of Hispanic workers would receive wage increases. 90 percent of workers who would be affected by the Raise the Wage Act are 20 years old or older, 27.6 percent have children, and half have total family incomes of less than $40,000 a year. 47 percent of workers who would be affected by the Raise the Wage Act have at least some college experience. Over the last 40 years, the federal minimum wage has lost more than 30 percent of its buying power; if it had kept pace with the increased cost of living, the minimum wage would currently be $10.80 per hour.”

After the bill was introduced, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released the following statement:

“Today’s introduction of new minimum wage legislation represents significant progress in the powerful, collective movement to raise wages. It’s inspiring to see the momentum generated by working people across the country influence some of the largest corporations and the most powerful political forces.

Raising wages for working people is the defining issue of our time and workers are capturing and expanding it. While we strongly encourage Congress to support this effort, we must remember that a minimum wage increase alone will not remedy decades of failed policies that have only benefitted those at the very top. The true measure of progress must include opposing Fast Track and bad trade deals and a dedication to expanding the rights of workers to collectively bargain.”

In response to the new legislation, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, released the following statement:

“The Raise the Wage Act would boost our economy and strengthen our families. This bill would raise wages for more than 37 million people: 1 in 4 workers, 1 in 3 wage-earning women and more than 1 in 3 working people of color. Higher wages will help ensure that no one who works full time lives in poverty, and help working people provide a better life for their children and their families.

“This bill shows that working men and women, standing up and speaking out, are being heard. They’re taking their case to the streets and to the ballot box for an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few.

“Low wages are the crisis of our time. To solve this crisis, our country needs a minimum wage that families can live on, and workers must be free to join together in a union and fight for the higher pay they deserve. I applaud Senator Murray  and Congressman Scott  for their leadership.”

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)  is an original cosponsor of the Raise the Wage Act, would increase wages for nearly thirty eight million Americans. The legislation would be particularly beneficial to New Hampshire, which does not have a state minimum wage law and instead relies on the current federal minimum wage.

“No one who is working full time should live in poverty,” Shaheen said. “Hard working people and families in New Hampshire and across the country are long overdue for a raise. Nationally, nearly two-thirds of minimum wage earners are women, and in New Hampshire seventy percent of minimum wage earners are women. I hope my colleagues in the Senate will join me in supporting the Raise the Wage Act so that we can help lift families out of poverty and improve our economy.”

Of course NH’s other Senator, Kelly Ayotte has opposed an increase in the minimum wage in the past.

“Kelly Ayotte has consistently voted against a minimum wage increase that would help working families make ends meet,” said Sadie Weiner, DSCC National Press Secretary (see references at the bottom)


. “Men and women who are willing to work hard for a living deserve a livable wage that doesn’t leave them and their families struggling, and Kelly Ayotte is going to have a hard time defending her callous votes against a minimum wage increase.”

Raising the federal minimum wage to $12.00 would result in an average annual raise of $2,800 for more than 147,000 Granite Staters. The Raise the Wage Act would put more than $411 million into New Hampshire worker’s pockets, improving financial security for families and boosting the economy.

The Raise the Wage Act would also index the minimum wage to the national median wage starting in 2021. It would also eliminate the tipped minimum wage by gradually raising the cash wage over ten years from the current $2.13 per hour to match to the new regular minimum wage of $12 per hour.

Almost everyone agrees that something needs to be done and that we must raise the minimum wage. The question is, is $12 by 2020 enough of a raise?

“We are encouraged to see that our elected leaders are beginning to hear our calls for change and discussing wages and inequality in our country,” said Sacramento Walmart worker Shannon Henderson. “While $12 by 2020 would be a good first step, it still falls short of what working Americans need to raise our families. At just $10 an hour with no guarantee of full-time hours, I’m struggling today to care for my two young children. I simply can’t wait until 2020 for a decent wage. That’s why we’ll keep standing up for $15 an hour and access to full-time consistent schedules at Walmart.”


2014: Ayotte Voted Against Bill To Increase The Federal Minimum Wage To $10.10. [Vote 117, 4/30/14]

  • Increasing The Federal Minimum Wage To $10.10 Would Have Meant A Raise For More Than 100k Workers In New Hampshire. Increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 would mean a raise for 113,000 New Hampshire workers. [Economic Policy Institute, 12/19/13]

2015: Ayotte Voted Against An Increase In The Minimum Wage. [Vote 93, 3/26/15]

On Tax Day, Small Group Of Activists Explain Where Your Tax Dollars Are Going

Tax Day at Kelly Ayotte

On Tax Day, April 15th, a small group of activists took to the streets to inform citizens of how their government is spending their tax dollars.

Tax Day Flier 2015 IMAGE‘Activists affiliated with NH Citizens Alliance for Action, The American Friends Service Committee New Hampshire Program’s Governing Under the Influence project, and NH Peace Action stood outside Senator Kelly Ayotte’s office on Tax Day to draw attention to what they see as the Senators, “Misplaced Priorities”.

There is no denying that we as U.S. citizens are funding the worlds police force, aka the U.S. Department of Defense, with our tax dollars while nearly one-in-three children live in poverty.  The U.S. Government spends $640 billion dollars on the military and only spends $71 on education.  The government has lost sight of it’s priorities and duties to the people. We spend more on the military than the next eight highest spending countries combined.

Some of the reasons our government has lost sight of its true goals is because, lobbyists and military manufacturers are buying politicians.  Defense contractors are spending millions of dollars lobbying Congress to win lucrative contracts manufacturing equipment that we may or may-not even need.

Tax Day Flier Backside 2015 CD2-IMAGEOne activist, Iraq War Veteran, and Director of NH Peace Action, Will Hopkins said, “Senator Ayotte received over $30,000 each from Raytheon, Honeywell, BAE, and Lockheed Martin, and it is their interests that she has served in Washington.  We are here on tax day because the Senator has shown that she is willing to support planes that don’t fly, and tanks that go straight to boneyards any time a campaign donor has a profit to make.”

Over $120,000 dollars just from defense contractors here in New England.  Every dollar spent on lobbying returns $720 in return.

The small group stood outside for two hours on Wednesday and handed out leaflets on the federal budget, and US military spending compared to the rest of the world.'(images on the right).

On Equal Pay Day, Granite Staters Reminded of Kelly Ayotte’s Opposition to Paycheck Fairness

The NH Paycheck Fairness Act Passed the State Senate Unanimously, Yet Ayotte Has Voted Four Times Against the Paycheck Fairness Act in Washington

Concord, N.H. – On Equal Pay Day, Granite Staters are reminded that despite the broad bipartisan support for the NH Paycheck Fairness Act (which passed unanimously in the State Senate), Kelly Ayotte has voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act four times in Washington.

Equal Pay Day marks how many days into this year women have to work in order to earn the same amount that men earned last year.

“Last year, I was proud to see members of both parties come together to pass the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act to ensure that women can earn equal pay for equal work,” said former New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Kathy Sullivan. “It’s clear that Kelly Ayotte is representing the interests of her party’s leadership in Washington, not the interests of the people of New Hampshire who overwhelmingly support equal pay legislation, regardless of party affiliation.”

Ayotte Voted Against The Paycheck Fairness Act Four Times. [Vote 82, 3/24/15; Vote 262, 9/15/14; Vote 103, 4/9/14; Vote 115, 6/5/12]

Kelly Ayotte Travels to NYC for Another Fundraiser with Anti-Wall St. Reform Mega Donor Paul Singer

Fundraiser Comes Less than Two Weeks after Ayotte Voted for Wall Street-Supported Attack on Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, A Top Target of Singer’s

Concord, N.H. – Vice Presidential wannabe Kelly Ayotte travelled to New York City today for another Wall Street fundraiser co-hosted by anti-Wall Street reform GOP mega donor Paul Singer, whose hedge fund company Elliott Management is Ayotte’s top all-time donor with nearly $100k in contributions.

The fundraiser comes less than two weeks after Ayotte voted for “a Wall Street-supported amendment attacking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” (CFPB). The CFPB has received more than 2,000 consumer complaints from New Hampshire residents since December 2011.

Singer, a “vocal opponent” of  the Wall Street reform bill that created the CFPB, has also held other fundraisers for Senate candidates, including Ayotte, who oppose Wall Street reform.

“Kelly Ayotte has consistently proven that she will always put her special interest donors first while making New Hampshire consumers pay the price. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is critical for protecting the financial well being of our citizens from the worst practices of Wall Street, yet Ayotte is now taking even more money from Wall Street mega donors trying to bring the CFPB down,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley.

“While Ayotte’s staunch opposition to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may be popular with her Wall Street mega donors, New Hampshire voters will not forget that Ayotte sold us out to protect her Wall Street cronies,” added Buckley.

BACKGROUND

Paul Singer’s Hedge Fund Company Elliott Management Is Ayotte’s Top All-Time Donor With Nearly $100k In Contributions. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Ayotte had received $95,442 from Elliott Management over her career as a federal candidate. No other entity has contributed more to Ayotte. [Center for Responsive Politics, Accessed 3/30/15].

Less than Two Weeks Ago, Ayotte Voted For “A Wall Street-Supported Amendment Attacking The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” That Would Let Republicans Slash Its Funding. According to the Huffington Post, “The amendment, offered by Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), is a resolution to move the CFPB’s funding away from the Federal Reserve and put it under the direct control of Congress through the appropriations process. This would not only give Republicans an opportunity to slash the bureau’s funding, but to leverage its budgeting control to pressure the agency against cracking down on lenders.  […] Three of the Republicans who voted for the bill are up for re-election in 2016 in swing states, including Toomey and Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio). “ [Huffington Post, 3/20/15]

Ayotte Also Voted Against Confirming Richard Cordray To Be Director Of CFPB. In July 2013, Ayotte voted against confirmation of President Barack Obama’s nomination of Richard Cordray of Ohio to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. [CQ; Vote 174, 7/16/13]

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Had Received More Than 2,000 Consumer Complaints From New Hampshire Since December 2011. [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Consumer Complaint Database, Accessed 3/23/15]

Washington Post’s The Fix: Singer Was “A Vocal Opponent” Of Wall Street Reform. “Soon after Congress passed the Dodd-Frank bill — of which he is a vocal opponent — in 2010, he held a fundraiser at his house in Central Park West for seven senate candidates who had opposed the legislation.’” [Washington Post, The Fix 4/4/14]

According To A Fundraiser Invite, Singer Held A Fundraiser At His New York City Home For Ayotte. In February 2010, Ayotte was scheduled to attend a fundraiser hosted by Singer at his home in New York City. Ayotte was listed among the beneficiaries of the fundraiser, along with other Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. [Singer Fundraiser Invite, 2/24/10]

Kelly Ayotte Votes Against New Hampshire’s Best Interests In Budget

Senator Kelly Ayotte 2 (Gage Skidmore)

Senator Kelly Ayotte at CPAC in 2013 (Image by Gage Skidmore FLIKR)

As the Senate wrapped up a slew of budget amendment votes Kelly Ayotte’s priorities were on full display, and now she has to begin the difficult work of trying to explain her indefensible votes to her constituents back home.

Below is just a sampling of where Kelly Ayotte voted against New Hampshire’s best interests:

  • Voted against an amendment to prevent companies from getting tax benefits for shipping jobs overseas. Over 106,000 jobs in New Hampshire are at risk of being outsourced
  • Opposed an amendment to adopt the Paycheck Fairness Act to give women more tools to fight pay discrimination.
  • Voted against measures to protect Social Security against privatization and benefit cuts and prevent Medicare from being turned into a voucher program
  • Voted against an amendment that would let young people refinance their student loans, which would help 129,000 borrowers in New Hampshire, and against restoring cuts to the Pell Grant program
  • Opposed a measure to provide two free years of community college by raising revenue through requiring millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share of taxes

Kelly Ayotte’s priorities are clear, and New Hampshire students, seniors families and workers don’t make the list.

“If anyone wasn’t clear about how extreme Kelly Ayotte truly is, they don’t need to look any further than her votes on this budget against New Hampshire students, seniors, families and workers,” said Sadie Weiner, DSCC National Press Secretary. “New Hampshire voters deserve better than Kelly Ayotte’s refusal to stand up for their best interests and they’ll hold her accountable in 2016.”

These are not the priorities of New Hampshire working families.  These are the priorities of the rich, elite 1% who want to take more from the hard working middle class and refuse to pay their fair share.

“From voting to protect tax benefits for companies that outsource jobs to opposing a measure that would let young people refinance their student loans, Kelly Ayotte proved once again that her focus in Washington is looking out for her special interest allies and not the best interests of New Hampshire,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley.

This budget will not help Granite State families, it will only hurt them.  Slashing social programs that low income families rely on, reducing benefits to seniors who are already struggling to pay their bills on a fixed income, and gives more tax breaks to wealthy corporations who skirt paying their fair share in taxes.

It is obvious that Senator Ayotte is more interested in following her out of touch party leadership than doing what is right for New Hampshire families.  She is also setting herself up nicely for a potential GOP Vice President nomination, building a hefty war chest and voting right down party lines.

Kelly Ayotte Confronted by Affordable Care Act Success Story Moments After Doubling Down on Repeal Pledge

Concord, N.H. – Just moments after pledging that the Affordable Care Act is “a bill that I have voted to repeal and it’s one that I would vote to do so again,” Kelly Ayotte came face-to-face with one of the tens of thousands of Granite Staters who would be hurt if Republican efforts to repeal the law prevailed.

The constituent, a farmer, explained that without the Affordable Care Act,  “We as farmers, who provide food for the country, would not be covered, we would not have health care, we would get sick, we could die.” Adding that thanks to the ACA, she and her husband now have “incredible health care” for roughly $300 per month.

“Even now, after more than 70,000 Granite Staters have enrolled in quality, affordable health coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Kelly Ayotte is still pledging to fight for a full repeal of the law,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “It is disappointing that instead of working towards bipartisan solutions that will expand middle class opportunity and strengthen our economy, Kelly Ayotte is trying yet again to repeal health coverage from tens of thousands of Granite Staters, putting her party’s base and her national ambitions ahead of the people of New Hampshire.”

Watch the video here

Defense Bill Includes Shaheen, Ayotte Priorities To Strengthen Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Bill authorizes funding for KC-46A, two Virginia Class submarines, and facilities construction at Pease 

(Washington, DC)- U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced today that the negotiated version of the fiscal year (FY) 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes provisions championed by the senators that will strengthen Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Pease Air National Guard Base. The annual defense bill includes provisions Shaheen and Ayotte fought for that authorize funding for the KC-46A aerial refueling tankers, the procurement of two Virginia Class submarines, as well as modernization and upgrades to the Pease Air National Guard Base and energy conservation projects at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.  As Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Armed Services Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee, Shaheen and Ayotte also opposed the Administration’s request for another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round.

“The annual defense bill we’ve agreed upon both supports our national security and makes targeted investments in New Hampshire that will benefit jobs and the economy,” Shaheen said. “New Hampshire has always played an important role in the security of the United States. Support for the KC-46 at Pease and the procurement of Virginia Class submarines will keep the Granite State at the forefront of our national defense.”

“This bipartisan legislation includes important measures to support military readiness and provide our troops with the equipment and resources they need,” said Ayotte. “I’m especially pleased that this bill addresses key priorities at the shipyard and Pease – including authorizing funding for important projects at Pease to prepare for the arrival of the KC-46A, as well as the production of two Virginia class submarines which, with the help of the skilled workers at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, will protect vital shipping lanes and U.S. national security interests around the world for decades to come.  These measures will help ensure that Portsmouth and Pease remain invaluable national security assets.”

The NDAA authorizes full funding for the KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling tanker program. The new tankers will replace the Air Force’s current fleet of 1950’s era KC-135s, and Pease – home to the New Hampshire Air National Guard’s 157th Air Refueling Wing – is slated to be the first Air National Guard unit to receive the next generation tanker in fiscal year 2018. The bill also authorizes funding for infrastructure upgrades and facilities construction at Pease Air National Guard Base in preparation for receiving the KC-46A air refueling tanker. Shaheen and Ayotte have advocated for Pease to receive the tanker since 2011, and last year, they announced that the Air Force had designated Pease as the first Air National Guard unit to receive the KC-46A.

In addition, the bill authorizes the procurement of two Virginia Class submarines in FY2015 and provides advanced procurement funding for two boats in FY2016. Shaheen and Ayotte have touted Portsmouth Naval Shipyard’s superior record of performing fast attack submarine maintenance, modernization, and repair under budget and ahead of schedule, and they have advocated for investments in the Navy’s attack submarine fleet, which remains one of the most important assets for the Department of Defense.

Last Thursday, the House of Representatives approved the National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 300 to 119.  The Senate is expected to take up the legislation as soon as this week.

New Poll: New Hampshire Voters Want Senator-Elect Shaheen to Tackle Climate Crisis

Survey Shows Strong Support for Clean Energy and the Clean Power Plan

See The Results Here

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Sierra Club released the results of a new post-election poll conducted by Hart Research Associates showing that, regardless of whom they voted for, New Hampshire voters who participated in the 2014 midterms want the next Congress to act on the climate crisis now.

In New Hampshire, fully 66 percent of voters want Senator-elect Jeanne Shaheen to support efforts to protect communities from climate disruption.

“These findings make it clear that no matter which party they identify with or who they supported in the midterm elections, New Hampshire voters did not vote for dirty air, dirty water, or climate denial,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “Large majorities of voters support the President’s plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants and want policies to grow New Hampshire’s clean energy economy. The next Congress better listen up.”

In fact, this new poll shows 65 percent of voters favor the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to limit carbon emissions from power plants for the first time ever, while 69 percent indicated they are more likely to support a candidate who wants to increase the use of renewable energy.

A Summary of Key Findings in New Hampshire:

     65 percent of voters favor the EPA’s plan to limit carbon emissions from power plants — including 93 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of independents, and 42 percent of Republicans.

     66 percent of New Hampshire voters would be more likely to support a candidate who supports that EPA plan over a candidate that does not.

     66 percent of voters favor candidates who accept the scientific consensus on climate disruption over those candidates who do not.

     66 percent of voters want Senator-elect Shaheen to support efforts to address the effects of climate change.

     69 percent of voters are more likely to support a candidate who wants to increase the use of renewable energy rather than a candidate pushing to increase the use of traditional energy.

This poll was conducted as part of a battleground state survey by Hart Research Associates for The Sierra Club. Approximately 500 voters in each of six states — including Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania – were interviewed via landline and cell phone between November 6 and 10, immediately following the mid-term elections. The margin of error is ±4 percentage points for each statewide sample.

See The Results Here

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters nationwide. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation. For more information, visit http://www.sierraclub.org.

Democracy Movement Takes a Message to Senator Ayotte (InZane Times)

 

p9110113

NASHUA, NH — The “Democracy for All Amendment” failed on a procedural vote today in the US Senate, but not before a dozen New Hampshire activists made one more attempt to get Senator Kelly Ayotte to support overturning the US SupremeP9110119Court’s “Citizens United” decision.

“Corporations are not people.  They should not control our political process,” Representative Sylvia Gale of Nashua said to the group assembled at City Hall Plaza at 9 am this morning.

The group was small, but they are part of a large movement of people concerned that “corporate people” and the wealthiest Americans have the legal ability to drown out competing voices in the political process.

“I don’t have a lot of money and I want my voice to be heard,” explained Fred Robinson, who drove to Nashua from Goffstown to participate.   

“Democracy should work for people,” offered Dr. Thabile Mnisi-Misibi, an ANC member visiting from South Africa.

The contingent of 13 people walked with signs and chants througP9110155h the downtown district to the Senator’s office.  There, they delivered a petition with 12,000 New Hampshire names calling on Senator Ayotte to support the constitutional change.   

“This is an issue for all of New Hampshire, and Senator Ayotte needs to get involved,” said Dan Weeks of the Coalition for Open Democracy, the group which led the organizing of today’s action.

Weeks handed the petitions and supporting material to Simon Thomson, an aide to Senator Ayotte, who met the group on the sidewalk outside her office.

Dan Weeks presenting petitions to Simon Thomson.

A similar action took place last week at Senator Ayotte’s Portsmouth office.

Ayotte voted Monday for a motion that allowed consideration of the amendment to go forward, but today joined her GOP colleagues voting against ending debate, thereby blocking the measure from an up or down vote on its merits.   New Hampshire’s other Senator, Jeanne Shaheen, was a co-sponsor of the amendment proposal.

The notion that the Supreme Court believes corporations are people, that money is speech, and that therefore corporations can spend without limits to affect election campaigns has provoked a reaction expressed through petitions, resolutions, and proposals for constitutional change.  SJ Resolution 19, the proposal defeated today in the P9110141US Senate, is just one of a couple dozen advanced by members of Congress in response to Citizens United.  Some groups, such as Move To Amend, have made it clear they think it doesn’t go far enough to reverse corporate constitutional rights.  But it was the only proposal likely to get considered in the foreseeable future, so many groups calling for constitutional change were on board. 

Writing in his blog at The Nation earlier this week, John Nichols said:

The amendment that is being considered is a consequential, if relatively constrained, proposal, which focuses on core money in political concerns but which does not go as far as many Americans would like when it comes to establishing that money is not speech, corporations are not people and elections should not be up for sale to the highest bidder.

Yet it is difficult to underestimate the importance of the debate that will unfold this week. The debate signals that a grassroots movement has established the rational response to a political crisis created by US Supreme Court rulings (including, but certainly not exclusively, the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions) that have opened the floodgates for domination of political debates by billionaire campaign donors and corporate cash.

No one expected the amendment to get the two-thirds vote it would need to pass or get a vote at all in John Boehner’s House of Representatives.   But the fact that any vote took place is evidence of a significant expression oP9110133f public sentiment that the“Citizens United” decision did serious damage to fundamental issues.  The questions now are whether the movement will grow or fizzle, and whether the pro-amendment groups will intensify their demands for more aggressive language or head down the familiar road of further compromise.  A decision to water down the language in hopes of gaining votes at this point would be a huge mistake.

“Constitutional amendments become viable when support for them grows so overwhelming that traditional partisan and ideological boundaries are broken,” wrote Nichols, who will speak at an AFSC dinner in Concord on September 27.  “When this happens, the divide becomes less a matter of Republican versus Democrat or left versus right and more a matter of a broken present versus a functional future.”

What happened in the US Senate yesterday? (Hint: They’re not trying to overturn Citizens United anymore.)

Money Corrputs by Light Brigading via Flikr

photo by Light Brigading via flikr

Yesterday, the Senate GOP voted to block any further consideration of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

That means the amendment won’t go over to the House of Representatives for a vote.

And it won’t go out to the 50 states for a ratification vote.

The proposed amendment would have explicitly authorized Congress and state legislatures to set campaign finance limits. (Read more about Citizens United and the resulting “unprecedented amounts of outside spending” in the 2010 and 2012 elections here.)

So… those 16 states that have already voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United? Sorry, folks.

All those other states – including New Hampshire – whose state Legislatures have shown interest in a constitutional amendment? Sorry, folks.

Those 80% of ordinary Americans – including 72% of ordinary Republicans – who oppose Citizens United? Sorry, folks.

The Senate GOP knows better than you do.

So you don’t get a vote on this.

Who to thank, for taking the states’ vote away? The 42 GOP Senators who voted to block the amendment yesterday.

citizens_united_switched_votesOr, more bizarrely, the 25 Senators who on Monday night voted to let the amendment proceed – but by Thursday afternoon, had changed their votes to block it. (And yes, that would include New Hampshire’s own Senator Kelly Ayotte.)

If those 25 Senators had voted the same way on Thursday as they voted on Monday, the constitutional amendment would be going to the House. And then, maybe, out to the 50 states for ratification votes.

So… what happened during those 68 hours, to make those 25 Senators change their votes?

Can’t tell for sure, from out here in the hinterlands. The news is full of the Oscar Pistorius case… 9/11 remembrances… the Ray Rice case… ISIS and the spectre of terrorism. But there’s relatively little press coverage of this attempt to amend our Constitution.  The 80% of Americans who oppose Citizens United probably don’t even know that the Senate took a vote yesterday.

Here’s my best guess: I think Mitch McConnell happened. I’m guessing that the Senate GOP Leader told them how to vote… and the 25 Senators did. (Even Arizona Sen. John McCain, one of the sponsors of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, more commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act.)

That’s just a gut-instinct guess, but there are two things behind it.  First, during Committee consideration of the amendment, the GOP members marched in lockstep to oppose the amendment. Every recorded Subcommittee and Committee vote was strictly along party lines.

Second reason: GOP Leader McConnell has opposed campaign finance limits since… well, it seems like forever.

Take some time and listen to the GOP Leader’s speech at a June “retreat” for billionaires organized by the Koch Brothers.

In his remarks, GOP Leader McConnell tracks the history of campaign finance reform efforts “back to the beginning of the 20th century” … and how they “petered out” during “the great prosperity” of the 1920s. (Do you think he remembers how the 1920s ended?)

He reminisces about his own efforts to block passage of campaign finance reform:

We had filibuster after filibuster, which in my first term in the Senate I was leading. And then it came back again in the first two years of Clinton. The bill would pass the House, the bill would pass the Senate, and then it would go to conference. And I was so determined, I came up with a new filibuster. That’s all I’d ever done before was filibuster and go in, go into conference. We had to do it all night long. Under (inaudible) procedure every senator had an hour, and if you didn’t show up right on time, you were out of luck.

Everybody rallied together. This was about two months before the great fall election of 1994. Everybody rallied together. We went around the clock. Everybody showed up on time. And I thought, well, maybe we’re finally through with this nonsense.

He says “The worst day of my political life was when President George W. Bush signed McCain-Feingold into law.”

He talks about his own lawsuit to overturn McCain-Feingold. (You can read the Supreme Court decision here.)

He talks about what has happened since his lawsuit.

So what really then changed the Court was President Bush’s appointment of John Roberts. The most important was Sam Alito because we lost the McCain-Feingold case five to four because of Sandra Day O’Connor. The majority was all liberal. Then she retired, and Sam Alito replaced her, and we now have the best Supreme Court in anybody’s memory… Now, that’s where we are today. I’m really proud of this Supreme Court and the way they’ve been dealing with the issue of First Amendment political speech. It’s only five to four, and I pray for the health of the five.

And then he talks about some other things of interest to his audience of billionaires: like minimum wage… environmental regulation… regulation of the financial services industry. And he promises to use federal spending bills to “go after” those issues.

And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board (inaudible).

And – in response to a mostly-inaudible question from David Koch about “free speech” and amending the Constitution – GOP Leader McConnell says:

Having, having struck out at the Supreme Court, David, they now want to amend the Constitution. … These people need to be stopped, and believe me, something that I thought to do (inaudible) what is spent (inaudible) independent coordination?
(Laughter.)
(Applause.)

Yeah, read that again: “These people need to be stopped.”

THAT’s why I’m guessing “Mitch McConnell happened” to those 25 Senators who switched their votes between Monday and Thursday.

What can we do about it, now? What can we – the 80% of Americans who oppose Citizens United – do, now that the Senate GOP has blocked the amendment?

We can make it a campaign issue.

Scott Brown in 2010 Image by Wiki Commons

Scott Brown in 2010
Image by Wiki Commons

Starting here in New Hampshire, with Scott Brown… who, as Massachusetts Senator, helped block the DISCLOSE Act back in 2010. Here in New Hampshire, 69% of us want a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Even among Granite State Republicans, six out of 10 want a constitutional amendment. (Sen. Ayotte: who were you listening to, when you voted yesterday?) How do you think Scott Brown will vote on this, if he is elected in November?

We need to make Citizens United an issue in the 2014 campaigns.

There’s not all that much else we can do, at this point.

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If you want to wander through Leader McConnell’s campaign finance disclosure records – including $14.8 million in “large individual contributions” – click here. Remember: that’s just contributions to his official campaign.

“Outside spending” is much harder to track. So far, during this election season, McConnell has also “been boosted by $2.2 million in positive ads, mainly by the [U.S.] Chamber. Outside Republican PACs have already spent $7 million on ads attacking his Democratic challenger, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.”

A running tally of money that “non-profits” have spent on electioneering so far in the 2014 campaign is available here.

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More information about grassroots efforts to support the “Democracy for All” amendment is available here.

Tuesday’s NHLN story about the amendment is here.

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