THE COMPLETE 17 PERCENT: More Than a Movement

The full rundown from our February 25, 2021 newsletter.

Chanikarn Thongsupa

LBJ Library

Brendan Smialowski, Agence France-Presse

The Blog
The Blog

THE COMPLETE 17 PERCENT: More Than a Movement

Colin Allred (D; TX-32)

9 Degrees

The news of the power outages in Texas is no secret by now and Colin is smack dab in the middle of it. Representing the Dallas area, Colin noted it as unacceptable that the Dallas skyline was lit up while “residents were literally freezing in their homes” (amen to that). What he also has noted in the aftermath of all of this, like many other politicians and officials, is that Texas’s independent power grid, while it has its benefits, has been exposed as being ill prepared for weather below 10 degrees (the temperatures dropped to 9 degrees during the freeze). Now, he’s spearheading bipartisan efforts to improve infrastructure, particularly through a bill passed last Congress to update electrical grids to promote renewable energy and battery storage while also making sure the grids are resilient. Resiliency, we’re seeing, is key!

Sharice Davids (D; KS-3)

No Good Deed

Pandemic relief loans to small businesses were meant to do just that – relieve. However, people took advantage (sigh… of course) and filed for them under fraudulent businesses, specifically in counties that Sharice represents. She has now written to the federal Small Business Association calling for an investigation into these fraudulent loans, which used addresses and names of at least 35 residents of her district. Sharice wants to ensure that these individuals won’t be held accountable for activity that wasn’t their fault. On a larger scale, this incident exposes a system that is rife with fraud – approximately $1.1 billion were given to potentially ineligible businesses. Cool, cool, cool.

Conor Lamb (D; PA-17)

Intolerable Wages

Imagine making $15,000 a year working a full-time job. That is the reality for many Americans (including essential workers) who work jobs that pay the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Conor has joined the chorus of Democrats who support the measure to gradually increase the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2025. “It’s inconsistent with everything I’ve ever learned about leadership and service,” he said while discussing the proposal’s inclusion in the upcoming Covid relief bill that will make its way (along party lines) through Congress. There’s been debate not only about the implications of raising the minimum wage on some small businesses, but also about even including the measure in the bill that the House and Senate will vote on. Despite these potential hiccups, Conor is not holding back in his full-throttled support. Could this have something to do with a rumored Senate run? We won’t speculate…

Seth Moulton (D; MA-6)

Choo Choo

Modern American infrastructure doesn’t exactly scream high-tech trains, but Seth wants to change that. In December, he introduced the American High-Speed Rail Act which would invest $205 billion federal dollars into a high-speed rail system, create 2.6 million American jobs over 5 years and (finally) launch our transportation system into the modern era. Now, with a new, young Secretary of Transportation(Pete Buttegeig), Seth’s proposal is planned to be the starting point for a revamping of our rail system, which Buttegeig wants to rival the best in the world. Though there’s sure to be debate and disagreement over the price tag of this project, it’s refreshing to see new ideas introduced and executed by young members of government gaining steam.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D; NY-14)

Money Machine

AOC’s fundraising prowess is not unknown and she’s taking it to new heights, even for her. She recently traveled to Texas to assist in aid efforts and, of course, raise some funds for Texans in need along the way. She announced fundraising efforts Thursday afternoon and within two hours the haul pulled in $325,000 (now the figure stands closer to $5 MILLION!). The money will reportedly go to food banks, eldercare facilities, and homeless centers. Alexandria acknowledges, though, that money will only go so far – “We need to make sure that we make short and long term policy decisions so that this… never happens again.”

Abigail Spanberger (D; VA-7)

Weather be Damned

As vaccine efforts continue to ramp up, the shockingly horrific weather that swept the South had a significant effect on distribution. Last week, Abigail visited a vaccine clinic at the Richmond Raceway, where members of the community have been getting their shots. About 4,000 people who were supposed to get their vaccines last Thursday and Friday had to be rescheduled. She assured the operators of the vaccine site that the Covid bill about to move through Congress (almost certainly along party lines) will bring additional federal resources to Central Virginia. This weekend, the Raceway is planning to give second doses to 5,000 seniors – you love to see it!

Rashida Tlaib (D; MI-13)

Cut Off

The water crisis in Flint drew national attention (and still has yet to be fully dealt with, by the way), but Rashida and fellow Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) recently wrote an op-ed outlining how America’s water crisis is widespread and growing. They point to the more than 3,000 Michigan families who have been cut off from water access, the 500,000 Virginia residents who are behind on water bills, and more. “Most (water departments) are public utilities. A few, regrettably, are private, for-profit systems. Almost all are monopolies,” they wrote. Their answer lies in a measure they introduced that would provide a $1.5 billion fund for local communities to assist low-income residents in paying water bills. Of course, they noted, Covid has only made the need for clean water worse and harder to afford.

Mike Gallagher (R; WI-8)

Diversity of Opinions

The infighting in the Republican party ever since the riots at the Capitol has been front-page news. Mike is taking a stand on this, insisting that a “GOP civil war will be counterproductive”. He insists that the Republican party can be a big tent party and welcome a diversity of opinions and ideas. With Trump still having a pretty clear hold on much of the Republican voter-base, Mike distanced himself from the idea that Trump’s presence could be all-out harmful. He stressed, instead, that the party be a “party of ideas, not individual personalities”. His opinion may very well be held among other GOP lawmakers, but the sensationalism of Trump’s loyalists sure seems to be dominating the news at the moment – only time will tell.

Jaime Herrera Beutler (R; WA-3)

Thrust into the Spotlight

Jaime has made her decade-long Congressional career about not making waves, getting the job done, and serving her constituents. That, however, all came crashing down when she voted to impeach Trump last month and then released a statement that Trump had rebuffed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) request to call off the rioters on January 6th. While she was not called to be a witness in the impeachment trial (an idea floated around for a day or so), she has indeed become a target of Trump Republicans, many of whom gathered outside her Congressional office in Washington to protest. There is a growing list of Republican challengers for her seat in 2022 – will Jaime’s head-down, workhorse attitude survive?

Adam Kinzinger (R; IL-16)

“Thanks for Playing”

Those were the blunt words Adam sent in reply to his county’s GOP vote to censure him. He joins a handful of other Republicans who voted to impeach Trump and have since been censured by their local Republican Party. There is speculation among some that Adam’s efforts to impeach Trump were retaliation for Trump not appointing him as Secretary of the Air Force (of which Adam is a veteran) – Adam, unsurprisingly, rejects that claim. The Will County GOP called him out for starting a PAC that will champion Republicans who align with his anti-Trump views, insisting that Adam “no longer represents the 9,000 plus voters in the Will County portion of the district that supported President Trump”. The attacks didn’t just come from his local GOP, but members of Adam’s own family wrote him a letter disowning him for his vote – harsh…

Guy Reschenthaler (R; PA-14)

Right to Know

Guy has long been a fighter to end the opioid epidemic in America and has recently introduced a bipartisan bill, the Opioid Patients’ Right to Know Act, which would require prescribers to notify patients or their parents/guardians about the addictive nature of opioids, as well as alternatives prior to prescribing. A similar act was implemented in New Jersey that proved to be wildly successful. In New Jersey, only 18% of participants warned patients about the risk of addiction before the law was passed, compared to 95% after its passage. We’ll check our math, but that’s a BIG. DIFFERENCE.

Greg Steube (R; FL-17)

All About the Oranges

One of the areas hit particularly hard by the pandemic has been U.S. agriculture and the supply chains it relies on. Greg has reintroduced a bill, the U.S. Citrus Protection Act that would prohibit importation of commercially produced fresh citrus fruit from China. Greg, blaming China for the outbreak of Covid-19, champions this proposal to help the over 47,000 commercial farms and ranches in Florida. Fun fact – his district produces more citrus than any other in the U.S. Though this bill doesn’t yet have a companion measure in the Senate (which would be necessary for it to become law), Greg’s focus on agriculture remains steadfast. He also has proposed to move the agriculture labor H-2A visa program that ensures temporary agriculture jobs from the U.S. Labor Department to the Agriculture Department. Lots of farming, lots of fruit, Greg’s on it!

Tom Cotton (R; AK)

Pressure King

With Biden’s cabinet hearings in the Senate well underway, Tom is playing a leading role in opposing several nominees including Xavier Baccera, the pick to run the Dept. of Health and Human Services. Though Republicans know they probably cannot block the confirmation of Baccera, Tom is wasting no time making sure that vulnerable Democrats like Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA) know the possible implications in casting a yay vote. An adviser of Tom’s put it simply – “Everything that goes wrong with healthcare over the next couple years, and there will inevitably be things that go wrong, can be tied back to this vote.” Additionally, Tom has somewhat surprisingly come out (with fellow GOP Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT)) advocating for gradually raising the minimum wage – didn’t see that one coming!

Ritchie Torres (D; NY-15)

Busting Child Poverty

Childhood poverty in Ritchie’s district sits around 45% (yes, you read that correctly), but he has a plan to reduce it to just north of 20% through a measure he’s advocated to be included in the upcoming relief package, the American Rescue Act. The measure would increase the child tax credit for all families (currently there is a minimum income requirement to receive the full amount) from $2,000 for children under 17 to $3,000 for children ages 7-17 and $3,600 for children under age 6. Research at Columbia University shows that raising the child tax credit improves earnings and health and lowers infant mortality, welfare requests, and interactions with criminal justice. Ritchie grew up in housing projects in The Bronx and pledged to address child poverty – always nice to see a politician follow through on his word.


Jamaal Bowman (D; NY-16)

R.I.P.

Jamaal lost his mother after her several week-long battle with Covid-19, announcing her passing in a Tweet and drawing an outpouring of support from many other members of Congress. While Jamaal continues to work on initiatives like education reform and racial justice, his mother’s passing is yet another solemn reminder of the world we’re living in. Another? The U.S. just passed 500,000 Covid-related deaths. Wear your mask, wash your hands, and stay safe, friends!

Cori Bush (D; MO-1)

Permanent Sanctuary

A Honduran immigrant named Alex Garcia, who has lived in the U.S. for 17 years after fleeing violence and poverty, has been hiding in sanctuary at a St. Louis church for the last 3 ½ years to avoid deportation by federal officials. Cori has introduced a ‘private bill’ (as it applies only to one individual) that would grant Garcia permanent residency, given that he has been working for the entirety of his time in America, has no criminal record, and his wife and children are citizens. Only four of these kinds of bills have been passed into law in the last 14 years, but Cori is not discouraged. She insists that even if the bill can pass committee in the House, Garcia will be granted some protection. She also is hopeful that this case can “pave the way for broader reforms”.


David Valadeo (R; CA-21)

Our Friends in Armenia

Last fall, Turkish and Azerbaijani forces attacked Armenian civilians, which led to weeks of fighting – killing an estimated 5,000 and forcing more than 100,000 Armenians to flee. David sits on the House Armenian Caucus and just joined 99 fellow members in a letter to newly-confirmed Sec. of State Blinken and Sec. of Defense Austin urging a strong relationship between the U.S. and Armenia. Specifically, the letter notes that although a cease-fire was reached, there is still a humanitarian crisis that goes unaddressed. Whether through threat of sanctions or other measures, David and his colleagues are making sure attention doesn’t dwindle away from the vulnerable region.

Kat Cammack (R; FL-3)

A Voice for the Voiceless

When Kat worked for Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) she oversaw a task force that dealt with human trafficking. Now, as a member of Congress in her own right, she’s taking on the issue with increased fervor. She recently held a roundtable with Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) that included local officials, representatives of the Dept. of Homeland Security, and a member of a specialty task force on trafficking. Kat noted the unfortunate stigmas and stereotypes associated with human trafficking, invoking a sexist comment she heard from a Florida Sherrif, describing a program to combat the issue as a “hug a ho” program. The trafficking problem in Florida ranges from big events in big cities being used as funnels for the practice to massage parlors, adult entertainment venues, and of course, online activity.

Byron Donalds (R;FL-19)

Calling Out the Waste

The size of Biden’s Covid relief package with its $1.9 trillion price tag has many Republicans like Byron pushing back on what exactly this money is going towards and, specifically, criticizing some measures Democrats are including in the bill that don’t necessarily seem Covid-related. In a recent interview, Byron insisted that the bill is filled with wasteful spending and prioritizes a “liberal wishlist” instead of the pared down economic relief many Republicans would prefer to see. He says that by essentially using earmarks (which had previously been phased out of Congress) Democrats are jamming through parts of their overall agenda. Does the proposed, widespread spending sound like a good idea to you or are you with Bryon on this one?

Ashley Hinson (R; IO-1)

Sorry, but No

Though local leaders have pressured Ashley to support the Covid bill that will make its way through Congress soon, she has insisted that she can’t support the bill as long as it includes a minimum wage hike and “bailout” money to state governments. While she remains in support of direct payments to those out of work, to business, and to schools, the larger proposals by Democrats of a $15/hour minimum wage by 2025 and assistance to states will hurt Iowans economically. Iowa still holds the federal minimum wage of $7.25, which hasn’t increased since 2009, but Ashley, along with many other Republicans, maintains that the proposed federal increase will only have a negative effect.

Victoria Spartz (R; IN-5)

Freeeeedom

You know ‘The Squad’, now meet ‘The Force’ – the Freedom Force to be exact – a group of four Republicans, including Victoria and fellow Political Playlist leader Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY). All four members grew up in or have parents who were from socialist countries (the former Soviet Union and Cuba for Victoria and Nicole). Their charge going forward is to expose the pitfalls of socialism and stop sweeping legislation like the Green New Deal from taking effect. In a recent op-ed penned by the four members, they push back against the renaming of schools, bolster the necessity of freemarkets, and call upon the new, more diverse, generation of Republican politicians and voters to join them.

Tony Gonzales (R; TX-23)

They Don’t Get It

In the wake of the power outages and extreme weather in Texas, how to deal with illegal immigrants in the region has taken center stage and Tony has some answers. In a recent interview, he criticized the Biden administration putting an increased burden on local governments and border patrol. He also spoke about border security legislation he introduced recently, the Security First Act, which would increase work visa opportunities, double funding for law enforcement, and recruit and retain border patrol agents. With an already complex and flawed immigration system and the partisan politics it inflames, Tony’s got a long road ahead of him, but as he put it, “Asking liberals to tackle border security is like asking vegetarians where the best steakhouse in town is – they simply don’t get it.”


Blake Moore (R; UT-1)

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

While the partisan politics of Congress are frustrating at best and nauseating at worst, Blake entered Congress advocating for a different type of demeanor and, thus far, he reports he’s happy to see it alive and well in most aspects of his new job. He has noticed “plenty of good back-and-forth dialogue going on” on the committees he sits on – Armed Services and Natural Resources. He’s determined to counter the common belief that DC is an inherently broken place. He did, however, offer criticism of Biden’s use of executive orders noting that, “I want somebody that can help Congress work better together… then we won’t have a president constantly going in and just undoing what the previous president’s done.”

August Pfluger (R; TX-11)

All or Nothing

Last week, August wrote to President Biden requesting approval of Governor Abbott’s (R-TX) Major Disaster Declaration for the state. The request was approved, but Biden only approved 77 out of 254 counties for individual assistance. Now, August leads a bipartisan follow-up letter with 26 other Texas lawmakers asking Biden to immediately approve the Individual Assistance Program for ALL Texas counties. The program, provided by FEMA, is intended to help with recovery efforts as millions of Texans are still without water, power, and are faced with a lessening food supply.

Pete Aguilar (D; CA-31)

White Supremacists Need Not Apply

15% of the current 230 people charged in the Capitol attacks were current or former military members. Quite a shocking number and part of the reason why Pete introduced the Shielding Our Military from Extremists Act. The act would require the Secretary of Defense to adapt a series of recommendations made in an October 2020 Pentagon report on how to keep “domestic extremists,” namely white supremacists, out of the U.S. armed forces. This would give the Department of Defense access to the FBI’s database of extremist tattoos and create clearer security clearance questions about white nationalism. A bill like this could also help curb police brutality across the country and might be something to consider on a state legislator level.

Brendan Boyle (D; PA-2)

Congratulations, Now Go Vote

If you know anyone who has become a U.S. citizen lately, you have probably heard how tough the process is and you might be surprised to find out how much U.S. history they learned for their citizenship test. Brendan re-introduced legislation, the Citizenship Empowerment Act, that would require officials to provide voter registration forms in the citizenship packets provided to all newly sworn-in U.S. citizens, and would also allow election officials to set up informational tables outside naturalization ceremonies. This would make it easier for them to exercise their fundamental right as a citizen: the right to vote. Voting should not be a partisan issue, so hopefully Brendan can find some support for his bill across the aisle.

Jared Golden (D; ME-2)

Jumbo Lobster – $15/lb.!

You may have read some of our coverage of the National Apprenticeship Act that passed earlier this month which allowed for $3.5 billion to expand apprenticeships across the U.S. Jared was able to include one of his amendments to make agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting eligible for the money through the U.S. Department of Labor. His amendment was intended to “make sure Maine logging, lobstering, farming, and other industries are eligible to use the grants in the bill to offer more apprenticeships to Mainers who want to learn a trade.” Jared is not only helping his local fisherman at home, but he has also been named to be the vice chair of the House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee which oversees naval acquisition and military shipbuilding. Looks like Jared’s gonna need a wetsuit.

Andy Kim (D; NJ-3)

Stop the Hate Crimes

Sadly, we are hearing stories across America about the increase in a number of hate crimes against the Asian community. When will it stop? Dirty looks and verbal assaults have escalated to physical attacks and violence against innocent Asian Americans. Andy says the videos have left a personal impression on him and his colleagues. “The 91-year-old man being pushed, his body literally airborne… I saw in that image someone that could’ve been my father or my grandfather.” Needless to say, our government needs to take action, but unfortunately that might not be enough to stop these attacks.

Joe Neguse (D; CO-2)

The Rising New Star

After President Trump’s second impeachment hearing, Joe emerged as the Democrats’ new star. You might be one of his 60,000+ new Twitter followers so this could be old news to you, but his 16-minute speech was a plea to Republicans to put country over party and drew from his upbringing as the son of Eritrean refugees. Some are comparing this to President Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. Where to next though? In his home state of Colorado, the Governor and Senators are favorites and locked in so we might see Joe pivot to some new areas of leadership. But where does Joe see himself 5 years from now? “I hope I’m coaching my daughter’s Little League team.” Early Nominee for Best Dad Award in 2026.

Chris Pappas (D; NH-1)

E.Q.U.A.L.I.T.Y.

As co-chair of the House Equality Caucus and the first openly gay man to represent New Hampshire in Congress, Chris is at the forefront of LGBTQ+ issues. He originally introduced the Equality Act in the last Congressional session but is re-introducing it now – earlier today it just passed the House and makes its way to a Democratic Senate and potentially White House. The Act amends existing civil rights statutes to provide LGBTQ+ Americans with the same protections that all other Americans enjoy in key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, public services, and education. Despite significant progress in recent years, half of LGBTQ Americans still live in states without nondiscrimination protections across all areas of life. The time is now, jump on the CHANGE TRAIN… CHOO CHOO!

Darren Soto (D; FL-9)

Eleven Million More

President Biden made media waves when he announced a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants providing Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and some farmworkers with an expedited three-year path to citizenship. As well, it would give all other undocumented immigrants who pass background checks and pay taxes an eight-year path to citizenship without fear of deportation. Darren is Whip of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and original co-sponsor of the U.S. Citizenship Act. “It’s a new day for Latinos and immigrant communities across America.” Let’s face it, this is one of the moves Republicans have feared most so it will be interesting to see how this plays out… brace yourself!

Eric Swalwell (D; CA-15)

Swept Under the Rug?

It comes to no surprise that President Trump was not convicted by the Senate, but many Democratic politicians took the process as a chance to let their voice (and the voices of many of their constituents) be heard. One might call it a “therapy session”…and Eric took advantage. As one of the President’s biggest opponents, Eric’s speech on the House floor talked about the difference between protestors and rioters and how the former President undoubtedly incited the riot. With this now behind us, Eric is calling for a return to bipartisanship. We hope this is true, but have a sneaking suspicion that those were the last digs Eric will ever take at Trump.

Lauren Underwood (D; IL-14)

A Big F**king Deal

You probably heard of the maternal health bill that Lauren introduced a few weeks ago (if you missed it, check out your last newsletter!). Well, if you did not know already it is a big freakin deal and it is picking up steam across the country from various medical groups. The Black Maternal ‘Momnibus’ Act of 2021 is designed to address racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes. It has been endorsed by over 190 organizations and counting. One of the bills in the act is set to improve the integration of Telehealth services into maternal healthcare programs and establish grant programs. We mentioned before this is shaping up to be a partisan issue, most likely because of the high costs to implement, but like we said, it’s picking up steam and could have huge implications if Lauren gets some cosponsors from across the aisle.

Jim Banks (R; IN-3)

Bad China, Bad

Relations between the US and China are at an all-time low and a group of Republican lawmakers are starting to push the Biden administration to stay tough on China. Many Republicans have already said President Biden’s policies on China are “bad policies, bad personnel.” Jim is head of the Republican Study Committee which introduced 5 bills to counter the Chinese Communist Party. The list discusses restricting Chinese companies from buying American companies, banning downloading software from China, restricting national security professionals from working for certain foreign governments, and foreign espionage. China was a hot issue last session. Do you think our relationship with China will get better or worse?

Matt Gaetz (R; FL-1)

Spring Break in Cancun!

Lucky for some, if you’re a Republican politician who does something that looks bad (like flying to Cancun in the middle of your state’s humanitarian crisis), you can most likely find a defender in Matt. Other than loyally supporting President Trump, Matt gave a “helping voice” to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), taking to Twitter to say, “Ted Cruz should not have apologized.” Many people jumped on this tweet calling for Cruz’ resignation. On both sides of the aisle, we are seeing these blatant acts of power by politicians that make it seem they are above us. Remember the Pelosi haircut scandal, Newsom at the French Laundry, or even former Senator Loeffler buying stock after a COVID meeting? Even if Matt’s there to fight the haters, it’s past due that politicians think just a little bit smarter.

Lance Gooden (R; TX-5)

Big Tech on the Bipartisan Chopping Block

It is quite amazing when we see our politicians work on something together. THANK GOD ROBINHOOD HALTED TRADING ON GAMESTOP because it finally allowed the Republicans and Democrats to come together in sweet, joint criticism. If there is one issue we will see this Congress work together on, it will be tech-related. Congress loves nothing more than voicing their distrust over Big Tech while also, for the most part, not fully understanding what these tech companies actually do (insert Facebook hearings). At the Gamestop hearing, Lance was one of the politicians who joined progressive Democrats to criticize tech execs and Wall Street giants. Sometimes it takes something awful or major to see these two parties join forces.

Dusty Johnson (R; SD)

Shame. Shame. EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was in some hot water for prioritizing Big Oil interests over family farmers in the Midwest. A big NO NO. The EPA gave out dozens of small refinery waivers which resulted in over 4 billion gallons of biofuels being removed from the market, reducing demand and creating uncertainty for producers. Dusty introduced bipartisan legislation, The Renewable Fuel Standard Integrity Act, which would increase transparency by mandating the public disclosure of data surrounding small refinery exemptions – a process that had little to no congressional oversight. Thankfully Dusty and Angie are there to keep a close eye on the people who are breaking the rules. As well, Dusty, a father of 3 boys, wrote a thoughtful weekly column on putting students first and getting them back in the classroom.

Markwayne Mullin (R; OK-2)

Minimum Wage War

President Biden threw people into a frenzy when one of his executive orders called for raising the minimum wage to $15/hour. At a high level this probably sounds great to many people but understanding the mechanics and math behind it is key. This proposal has now become a highly partisan issue and Markwayne posted his thoughts on the issue calling it a step too far to appease the Socialist Democrats. He noted that raising the minimum wage will increase the national deficit by $54 billion, threaten the livelihoods of millions of small business employees, and raise the prices of goods and services. In Oklahoma, 99 percent of businesses are small businesses. Looks like we need Congress to get the calculator out and show us the math!

Bryan Steil (R; WI-1)

Disabled Workers at Risk

In our last newsletter, we discussed Bryan touring KANDU Industries to examine the employment opportunities they offer for workers with cognitive disabilities. Now, the new COVID relief package calls for the termination of Section 14(C) from the Fair Labor Standard Act. Currently, this section gives employers the ability to apply for certificates that allow them to pay below minimum wage to workers with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Bryan and his Republican colleagues, including PP leader Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), believe preventing companies from paying cognitively disabled workers below minimum wage will cause thousands of those workers to lose their jobs. This is one of those humble reminders that legislation has a truly direct impact on people’s lives.

Lee Zeldin (R; NY-1)

The Cuomo Controversy

If you are a New Yorker, the only thing in the news right now is the Cuomo Controversy – his decision to withhold some nursing home Covid deaths from public reporting during the height of the crisis in NY. Talk about a quick fall from grace. Lee has been highly critical of Governor Cuomo, calling on New Yorkers to save the state. “I think it’s really important for voters to take control of our destiny and save the state and get this guy out of office next November.” Amid all this talk, some are saying Lee might become one of the top Republican challengers for the Governor’s seat. The last Republican Governor in New York was in 2002, so it might be a long shot, but no time like a controversy to throw your hat in the ring!

Kyrsten Sinema (D; AZ)

Kyrsten with a Y

If you have Kyrsten on your playlist get ready because you are in for a ride. You’re about to hear A LOT about her on the national stage – she might be voting opposite her party on a variety of issues and bills. She already publicly criticized the new COVID relief bill and the $15 minimum wage proposal. Most recently, she was named the Chair of a new Senate subcommittee, Government Operations and Border Management. Her main topics that she will focus on will be border security and improving the functions and reliability of the U.S. Postal Service. As the senior Senator from Arizona, border security is always a top priority. And make sure you spell her first name right… it took us a few tries as well.

Jake Auchincloss (D; MA-4)

Pick a Number

There seems to be varying interest in who wants to get the Covid vaccine, but one thing is for sure – distribution has been slower and, in some cases, more confusing than expected. This is why Jake, along with other Massachusetts politicians are calling for a centralized COVID-19 vaccine sign up system to let all residents preregister for shots, confirm eligibility and receive a notification when an appointment becomes available at a nearby location. Jake is acting like a politician should right now – he is voicing his concern on the process, trying to get a better system in place and even visiting a company that is making and distributing the vaccine. This is priority number one and Jake is making his voice heard for his constituents.

Sara Jacobs (D; CA-53)

The Truth Commission

Regardless of what side you are on it is important to know the facts and when large events happen, our politicians should get to the bottom of it. After the Capitol attacks happened, Sara suggested there should be some form of a “truth commission” to figure out exactly what happened. And to Sara’s credit, Speaker Pelosi announced that there will be an independent commission, like the 9/11-style commission, to investigate the Capitol attacks. “With so much disinformation surrounding the attack on the Capitol, we need a commission to fully establish everything that happened on January 6 and why.”

Madison Cawthorn (R; NC-11)

Pope Rules

Quick geography lesson for everyone out there. Do you know where the Vatican City is? If you do not, it is located right outside of Rome, Italy, and is considered its own sovereign state. The Vatican issued a statement saying that any Vatican employee who refuses to get the COVID-19 vaccine will be fired. Madison, or one of his staff members, tweeted “This doesn’t sound legal…” in response to the news. In reality, the Pope can create any rule he pleases and Madison was faced with criticism from a variety of angles as to why he was even mentioning it…did he think the city was in the United States, and if he didn’t, why is he bringing light to it when it is not a U.S. issue? A careful reminder to think twice before you tweet.

Peter Meijer (R; MI-3)

You Are Censured… Whatever

Peter may have avoided censure from his state Republican party, but it did not stop two counties, Barry and Calhoun Counties, from censuring him. In Calhoun County, they said this was the first time in history the organization has issued a censure of a sitting official. All we wonder here at Political Playlist is, does the Calhoun County Republican Party have anything better to do? Perhaps not. This censure also comes after the state censure did not pass. So why do it? Our country will continue to divide then come together, then divide again, but we hope for Peter’s sake, and other politicians watching, this doesn’t deter them from making bold decisions.

Jake LaTurner (R; KS-2)

They Appointed WHO?

When Jake ran for office, he was the current Kansas State Treasurer and until recently, the spot remained vacant. Kansas has a Democratic Governor, Laura Kelly, who just appointed her 2018 running mate, former Lieutenant Governor Lynn Rogers, as the new State Treasurer. The Kansas Republican Party had tweeted shortly after the announcement that Kelly’s appointment was “a partisan attack on democracy” because voters elected a GOP treasurer in 2018. Governors have a variety of powers that differ from state to state and one of the most notable is being able to appoint people to vacant seats. This move pushed the Kansas House to bring a bill that would allow the departing officials party to decide the vote. Will other states take note?

Nancy Mace (R; SC-1)

Jumping on the Bandwagon

Nancy joined her Republican Oversight Committee members to urge Democratic Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) to subpoena New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to testify before the panel on the controversy surrounding nursing home COVID-19 deaths in his state. The letter says that for nine months, Republicans from the select subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis have repeatedly demanded accountability and transparency (it is important to note that Nancy is newly elected and is not part of that subcommittee for coronavirus). Democrats have declined to join in the action, but what started as a New York issue is now attracting attention from out-of-state lawmakers like Nancy.

Nicole Malliotakis (R; NY-11)

Cuomo’s Final Days

If you are a Republican politician from New York, it’s Cuomo, Cuomo, Cuomo. However, it’s not just Republicans. Both sides are criticizing him and many are calling for his resignation. Nicole believes that Cuomo’s days are finished as Governor after the news of the nursing home scandal broke. She noted that thousands of New Yorkers have gone to her website to sign the petition calling for his resignation. The Associated Press found that nearly 15,000 long-term care patients died of COVID-19 at nursing homes, up from the roughly 8,500 deaths previously disclosed. How do you feel about this issue? Should Cuomo stay or should he go?

Jon Ossoff (D; GA)

Leader Emerged

Jon has been appointed to lead the Senate subcommittee that investigates crime and corruption within the U.S. government and its agencies. Recent probes by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations covered topics such as organized crime, terrorism, the SARS outbreak, security of the U.S. energy system and the 2008 financial crisis. The committee was founded in 1941 and Jon will be the 12th chairman and yes. you guessed it, the youngest ever at 34-years-old. Oh, and Jon was named as Time Magazine 100 emerging leaders who are shaping the future… that’s pretty cool!

Nanette Diaz Barragan (D; CA-44)

No Community Left Behind

Nanette has joined forces with fellow under-45er Cori Bush (D-MO) to sound the alarm about the low Covid-19 vaccination rates occurring within communities of color. But Nanette’s concerns didn’t just begin with the slow national vaccine rollout. Her district is comprised of 90% Black and Latino constituents and during this pandemic these particular demographics have been disproportionately affected by Covid in both cases and deaths. When Moderna was conducting its vaccine trials, it released data showing that only 18% of all participants were racially diverse, which only contributed to further distrust toward the vaccine among the Black community. Ultimately, their letter to President Biden urges him to earmark certain vaccine shipments for the most underserved communities that have tragically seen the highest rates of mortality.

Jason Crow (D; CO-4)

Let’s Leave… Responsibly

Jason is keenly aware of a fast-approaching May 1, 2021 deadline for pulling US Troops out of Afghanistan and issued a statement regarding his commitment to working with the Biden Administration to end the war in Afghanistan. As an Army Ranger twice deployed there, he’s seen first hand “what makes the U.S. military the strongest in the world”, but has also come to know its limitations. He added, candidly, “If there was a military solution to the war in Afghanistan, we would have found one years ago.” Despite the strong call to end the war, he is a firm believer in doing it smartly and safely, which is why he joined Republican Liz Cheney in co-authoring an amendment in the NDAA signed in December that mandates a troop drawdown is subject to congressional oversight, so as not to impede our counterterrorism mission or endanger our national security.

Antonio Delgado (D; NY-19)

I Want The Truth!

The latest scandal brewing in New York politics is a devastating revelation surrounding its Governor, Andrew Cuomo. Antonio has joined a bipartisan group condemning the alleged actions as well as calling for a thorough investigation. Those actions involve an audio leak of the Governor’s top aide saying they intentionally withheld data of Covid nursing home deaths due to fear of federal investigation and potential prosecution. “Politics should never come before people’s lives,” Antonio said, and went on to demand answers and accountability. No surprise that all the Republicans in the state have condemned the Gov’na, but when the Dems are joining in, you know it ain’t so good.

Ruben Gallego (D; AZ-7)

ICE ‘em Out

Ruben was one of a few dozen congressional leaders to sign a letter to newly minted Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas calling for ICE to sever ties with local police. Under the Trump administration, revised immigration policies enabled local law enforcement to act as ICE Detainers, whereby they were authorized to detain suspected undocumented immigrants and hold them for longer periods of time in local jails, until ICE officers could retrieve them. From 2016 to 2020, nearly 2,300 ICE Detainers were authorized in Arizona. While immigration and border security are critical, the letter argues that these practices actually make minority communities less safe because they now live in fear of deportation via local law enforcement and are deterred to seek local government assistance in a variety of human service areas. Also noteworthy this week was Ruben’s name being floated for a possible gubernatorial run in his state, who’s Governor Doug Ducey terms out next year.

Josh Harder (D; CA-10)

But What About Us??

Vaccine distribution is, let’s just say, a bit of a mess. Josh has taken up the mantle to ensure that vulnerable counties in his district are getting the help they need, noting that they’re still receiving an “unequal and inadequate supply of vaccines compared to other parts of the state”. After reaching out to both the Health Resources and Services Admin. and the CDC about federal coordination on these efforts, he has yet to hear back. We know Josh is not alone in his woes so we wish him and other lawmakers dealing with vaccine rollout, but in this case, misery does not love company.

Ro Khanna (D; CA-17)

Strategy Reboot

During the Trump Administration, Ro defined himself in Congress as one for the most progressive, and vocal voices when it came to foreign policy. He’s credited with having put the Saudi-led war in Yemen on the Congressional radar, as well as leading the charge to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and re-enter the Iran Nuclear Deal. But perhaps one of his most notable positions gaining attention is his belief that we must change strategy with China to one that doesn’t just “default to a new Cold War paradigm that fuels anti-Asian xenophobia.” He believes the US must be tough on economic issues, but also recognize that the two super-powers must cooperate on Climate as well as lead in critical technologies. And maybe his biggest strategy advice: Stop spending money on wars!

Mike Levin (D; CA-49)

Listening With Levin

Mike is known for holding frequent town halls, which had to shift from in-person to virtual during the pandemic. Now, Mike is taking it one tech-step further and is coming to an App Store near you with the launch of his new podcast called Listening With Levin. On the eve of its release, Mike reminded folks that his “most important responsibility is keeping my constituents informed about my work and my policies.” In the first episode, he updates folks on the latest Covid news, before talking Climate with Dr. David Victor. Indeed, information is power, and it’s always great to see our elected officials actually communicating with their constituents. Speaking of, does your Congressperson have a podcast yet? Maybe it’s time to “@” them.

Stephanie Murphy (D; FL-7)

Lookin’ Out For The Old—er, Mature.

Stephanie called out the Biden Administration’s proposed vaccine distribution plan, saying it will unfairly hurt states with lots of senior residents. Currently, the plan calls to distribute vaccines based on a state’s population of 18-years of age and above. Yet, Stephanie is quick to point out that states like Maine and Florida, whose over-65 population is about 21% (i.e. high risk) should be prioritized. She argues that while this “single-factor formula has the benefit of simplicity, it also has obvious flaws.” She’s asking the administration to consider prioritizing her state’s 4.4 million seniors, of which approximately 35% have been vaccinated. In subtler news, a subtle change in Stephanie’s web domain name got many speculating that she could be eyeing a state-wide office run in the near future. Consider us interested!

Ilhan Omar (D; MN-5)

Stepping Up Her Game

Ilhan was recently named vice-chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and with this new leadership role in overseeing military deployments, aide and diplomatic policy, she is looking to make sanction reform one of her key issues. President Biden has called for a review of existing sanctions policy, but Ilhan is asking him to go further. In a recent letter to his Administration, she urged them to “consider the humanitarian impact of sanctions more broadly” saying that our reliance on an outdated and limited playbook often yields counter-productive results that hurt the people they’re trying to help. Having grown up as a refugee in war-torn Somalia, she defines her approach to foreign policy as one that “centers on the experience of people that are directly affected by conflict.” But perhaps most encouraging in all this is the fact that our Under-45ers continue to gain positions of leadership.

Elissa Slotkin (D; MI-8)

Woman With A Plan

Elissa gave a live “state of the district” on Facebook a few weeks back. A few remarkable takeaways… The first, is the very concept of a state of the district address, which seems like something every Congressperson should be doing. Secondly, she portrayed her role as a member of Congress being not all that different from her role as a 14-year CIA veteran. It was first about the security of American citizens, and now it has reshaped itself to encompass the security—health, economic, and physical—of Michiganders, and letting them know it’s going to be okay. And perhaps what’s most notable and impressive about all this is just how incredibly thorough and detailed her agenda is laid out in her press release. This is precisely what people ought to demand from their Congressperson and certainly one of the things the folks of Michigan’s 8th have to be thankful for!

Haley Stevens (D; MI-11)

#WOW

Regardless of your politics, it’s always great to see young leaders taking initiatives to champion those who might not traditionally have support. Whether that’s starting a SuperPAC to support Republican women running for Congress (Elise Stefanik, R-NY), or in Haley’s case, supporting women-owned small businesses. Last week, Haley launched Women-Owned Wednesdays, an initiative to highlight women-owned businesses in her district and create a forum for them to speak directly with Haley about the challenges and concerns they face. To kick off the initiative, she visited Hatteras Inc., a printing manufacturer that recently made 15,000 masks for the Inauguration in partnership with Ford. Plenty of folks talk the talk when it comes to these things but Haley sure walks the walk.

Kelly Armstrong (R; ND)

Capture This

Kelly led a bipartisan effort this week to reintroduce an energy bill that has a name longer than there is space in this newsletter. But, suffice it to say, it hopes to spur development of carbon capture technologies and take a big step towards net-zero carbon dioxide emissions. For those not familiar, carbon capture is a process whereby you capture waste carbon dioxide and store it so that it won’t enter the atmosphere. The legislation extends the deadline for new projects to qualify for a significant tax credit, incentivizing developers to increase their carbon capture capabilities. Kelly reminded folks that North Dakota energy producers “are leaders in carbon capture technology… and this will help preserve the future of our energy resources.” Oh, and Bill Gates is a pretty big proponent of this too, which is a pretty good endorsement.

Dan Crenshaw (R; TX-2)

Letters Are For Manners, Tweets Are For Jabs

Over the past two weeks, Dan has quite literally been on the ground weathering the storm in Texas, helping his constituents with everything from getting water to helpful tips and information. And while that’s more than you can say about some of his fellow Texas colleagues—well, one in particular—Dan has also not missed an opportunity to use his megaphone to blame the local catastrophe on renewable energy, saying “Texas’ biggest mistake was learning too many lessons from California.” However, in a letter to President Biden, Dan and several of his colleagues struck a different tone, saying “We do not write to point fingers… no one policy decision, source of energy… is to blame.” A markedly different tone than the one he’s taken on twitter and the TV, Dan’s letter pledges a willingness to cooperate in exchange for infrastructure improvements on all sectors of energy, not just renewable-based.

Anthony Gonzalez (R; OH-16)

Every Vote Matters

Anthony has already felt the effects of his impeachment vote after being censured by his state GOP and it looks like the hits keep coming, now in the form of a primary challenger for 2022. Yes, it’s bonkers that we’re already talking about an election next year, but when Anthony was one of only ten Republicans to vote to impeach former President Trump, he likely knew there would be blowback. Max Miller, a former Trump aide from Ohio, looks to be mounting a challenge after several conversations with big donors in the state as well as recently purchasing a house in the district. Anthony, the former Ohio State and Indianapolis Colt, remarked “You have to love your country and adhere to your oath more strongly than you do your job. If my fate is ultimately that I don’t get to come back, I will do that at peace.” But don’t count this Buckeye out just yet.

Trey Hollingsworth (R; IN-9)

Hoosier For Life, Congressman For… Only A Little While

Trey first ran on a promise to fix what he saw was a broken Washington and one of his signature platforms was, and remains, imposing congressional term limits. Our man from Indiana has pledged to only serve 4 terms (8 years in total), and now, as he enters his third term, he has reintroduced legislation that would legally impose that same duration constraint on his colleagues. He argues that the Founders’ idea for our government was that it be “made up of dutiful public servants that would use their personal life experiences with the goal of returning to live under the laws they enacted.” While this will likely never become law, it is worth asking, would your Congressperson still have time left on the clock, or have they been growing a bit too nice and comfy in their office?

Brian Mast (R; FL-18)

You Sunk My Battleship!

Brian has long fought for the waters in and around his home state, sponsoring legislation that promotes and protects fragile ecosystems and this week has joined nearly all Congressional Floridians in calling for a decommissioned battleship to be sunk off its coast. After the USS Bonhomme Richard suffered a major fire, the Navy intended to scrap it, to the tune of $30 million. But this bipartisan letter offers a better, and cheaper idea: let’s sink it off the Florida coast and use it as an artificial reef! They point to precedence, having done this several times with other ships before, all of which boosted ecosystems and now make the case that this would bring a welcomed environmental and economic benefit to the state. In that case, let’s sink this thing!

Elise Stefanik (R; NY-21)

From Bad To Worse

If you follow NY Politics, or have even a cursory whiff of it, then you’ve probably already heard Elise rigorously blast her state’s embroiled Governor over an alleged cover up scandal. Now, she’s doubling down on her calls for him to resign by citing new sexual harassment allegations against him. After a former aide detailed an incident in an online essay, Elise immediately branded him “a criminal sexual predator” and said that anyone not immediately calling for him to resign is “complicit.” This is obviously a serious allegation, one that has much of the New York Delegation consumed, and for good reason. Given Elise’s disgust of the Governor’s political doings, this recent development has likely only solidified her determination to see him leave office. You can read her full statement here.

William Timmons (R; SC-4)

Make Gov Work Better

William came to Washington with a signature goal of reform and he deepened that commitment by taking the Vice-chairman reins of the Select Committee of Modernization in Congress. The Modernization Committee, created in 2019, aims to do just that: modernize Congress and make it work better. Since its recent inception, they’ve passed 97 recommendations on making Congress more efficient, effective and ultimately more transparent. Minority Leader McCarthy praised William as “an effective leader”, having proved himself last term on the committee. Our pitch to Will? Make everything into an app. It’s simple, easy to use, and everyone, including Congress, is on their phone all day long anyway.

Josh Hawley (R; MO)

Into The Policy Weeds We Go

As the Biden administration barrels towards passing a $1.9 Trillion stimulus package, many Republicans are furious over its large size, in particular a $15 dollar minimum wage increase. Among those sounding the fiscal alarm is Josh, though instead of just talking about it, he’s put forth an alternative proposal he’s calling “The Blue-Collar Bonus.” In a split from the mainstream GOP, Josh agrees the minimum wage is too low, and says he’d support a $15 minimum for corporations making over a$1 Billion in revenue. But to help control costs for small businesses, his proposed bill would instead set a median wage of $16.50, and then allow someone (using somewhat complicated accounting) to claim a refundable tax credit based off of the difference of their earned wage, which would then be paid out to them quarterly. Regardless of whether or not this will pass, being a leader starts with putting forth an actual plan, and not just 142 characters of rhetoric.

Mondaire Jones (D; NY-17)

If At First (or Fifth) You Don’t Succeed…

Every year since 2013, Congresswoman Susan Davis of California introduced an anti-LGBTQ discrimination in jury selection bill that hit a wall each time. So when she retired this past year (and was succeeded by Under-45er Sara Jacobs) it looked as though the bill was not meant to be. That is, until Mondaire stepped in and “picked up the mantel.” As one of two gay, Black men in Congress, the issue of fair LQBTQ representation on a jury is a personal one – “Our Constitution guarantees the right to trial by a jury of one’s peers, but LGBTQ defendants are deprived of that right.” The proposed legislation would effectively add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of discriminatory reasons for which you cannot strike a juror. While the Senate may still remain an unclearable hurdle, Jones remains optimistic, as do many others.

Nikema Williams (D; GA-5)

Leave The Newsletters To Us

Who knew there was such a thing as a House Democrat Freshman Class President, but there is, and Nikema currently holds that rank. This week, she launched #NikemasNotes which looks to update her constituents via a weekly newsletter (ahem, this sounds familiar) on all her hard work being done on behalf of Georgia’s 5th. Highlighted this week was her cosponsoring of the U.S. Citizenship Act, which looks to create an earned roadmap to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, among other provisions. She is also busy drafting a companion legislation to Under-45er Jon Ossoff’s Senate resolution honoring the late John Lewis, who’s congressional seat Nikema now holds. It’s great to see freshman Congressional leaders as active as Nikema. All we ask is that you don’t poach our followers *praying hands emoji*.

Lauren Boebert (R; CO-3)

Glossing Up the Message

As more politicians take to social media to get their message out, the crowded landscape has forced them to step up their content and quality games. So in taking a page out of the Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) playbook, Lauren has released a new, highly polished video slamming the $1.9 Trillion stimulus package calling it “a Democratic wish-list.” Armed with photos and graphics, Lauren skewers the “blue state bailout” proposal for its funding of Planned Parenthood, which she says is not the “women’s health organization” that they claim to be. She lists several exam services that are down, and calls out what she says are way up, specifically “abortions, Government funding, and donations to Democrats.” She doesn’t offer any statistical data in this video, but as an ardent pro-life supporter, she does offer some parting words to the so-called women’s health org: Go Fund Yourself!

Tracey Mann (R; KS-1)

Legislation That’s Personal

Tracey led an overwhelmingly bipartisan, bicameral coalition to introduce a resolution honoring the National FFA, a 93-year-old organization that promotes agricultural education to middle school and high school students across the country. The resolution designates February 20-27 National FFA Week, recognizing its more than 8 million alumni worldwide as well as highlighting the organization’s creation of career opportunities for young people. Tracey himself is a proud FFA alumnus and his district, colloquially known as “The Big 1st,” encompasses much of the state’s agriculture industry. In his floor speech, Tracey noted “as the average age of the American farmer continues to grow, it is important we invest in the next generation of food and agriculture.”

Andrew Garbarino (R; NY-2)

The Best Offense Is A Strong Defense

Andrew has been on a legislative tear recently, and among the bills he’s introduced is one that looks to combat the high suicide rate among Vets. The suicide rates among veterans is one and half times higher than those who didn’t serve in the military and, according to the VA’s annual report, nearly 18 veterans take their own life every day. Andrew, along with several colleagues, have introduced the Veteran Suicide Prevention Act, a bipartisan bill that directs the VA to compile a publicly available review of suicides over the last five years to better understand the recent uptick in veteran suicides and help the VA treat and prevent this tragic escalation. Informed policy most often results in better policy and this is precisely what Andrew is trying to do. To that, we say, keep up the good work!