DelBene, Heck, Kilmer, and Larsen vote with Repugs to cut food stamps

Reps. Suzan DelBene, Denny Heck, Derek Kilmer, and Rick Larsen joined all four Washington Republicans in voting to cut an addition $9 billion from the food stamps program, SNAP.

Kudos to Jim McDermott and Adam Smith for voting against the House farm bill that slashed food stamps while protecting most corporate pork. The Senate is expected to pass the bill, and President Obama is expected to sign it.

According to the Mother Jones article Republicans Just Won the Food Stamp War:

When the final bill came up for a vote in the House, the Congressional Progressive Caucus advised its 76 members to vote against the bill. But not enough Dems voted to block the cuts. One hundred three Democrats voted against the farm bill, but 89 voted in favor. If 43 more Democrats had voted no, the farm bill would have failed. “Dems are…complicit in changing [the] law, when they could just [block the bill] and let that status quo continue,” the Democratic aide says.

“I cannot, in good conscience, vote to give money to big farms while we leave crumbs for our poor, elderly and disabled in the name of austerity. It isn’t moral and it isn’t fiscally responsible. You can read my statement on why I voted against the FARM bill today at the link below.” Congressman Jim McDermott

Rep. Adam Smith expresses skepticism about Syrian war

Kudos to Rep. Adam Smith (WA – 9th CD) for expressing serious doubts about the wisdom of war in Syria in this NPR interview.

Everybody blames us for everything over there. And I think we need to take a step back and say look, we don’t have the support of the Arab League on this. We don’t have the support of the U.N. We don’t have the support of NATO. I think this is an international responsibility, not necessarily just a U.S. responsibility. …

I think part of it is accepting the fact that what we can do might not be enough, that there is no immediate solution to it. There’s all kinds of countries throughout the world that are suffering internal strife. These are all awful things, all things that we wish hadn’t happened. But can we create a situation where the U.S. is, as the cliche goes, the global policeman that’s going to somehow going to step in there and fix all of these problems? I’m quite certain that the answer to that is no, we can’t; we have to be selective about what problems we can fix. The question is: Is this one where this particular action is worth it?

Smith is the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. In the past his Congressional district served military bases, and he sponsored NDAA. In recent years, he has tacked to the left, as his district has become more liberal due to redistricting.

I wrote on his facebook page, as a comment on a link to his NPR interview: “We are sick of war. Recent wars have been unjustified, corrupt, and/or mismanaged. Trillions of dollars and untold lives have been wasted.”

Credo Action calls for constituents to hold Adam Smith accountable

Credo Action has sent out the following email calling on constituents of Rep. Adam Smith to phone the representative and complain about his vote against the Amash/Conyers amendment that would have reined in NSA spying on Americans.

Rep. Smith is ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, and his old district, near Olympia, included several military bases. So, perhaps Smith (no relation) probably felt obligated to support the military and security state. Most Democrats supported the amendment.

Make a call to hold Rep. Smith accountable for betraying the Constitution.

Last week Rep. Smith voted to allow the NSA to continue its indiscriminate collection of phone call records of Americans suspected of no wrongdoing.

Call Rep. Smith and tell him that his vote against the Amash/Conyers amendment was a betrayal of his duty to uphold and defend the Constitution.

Dear Don,

Don't let the NSA spy on us . click here to take action.

Last week, the House narrowly voted down an amendment that would have reined in the NSA’s indiscriminate practice of collecting the phone call records of all Americans.

The amendment, sponsored by Republican Jason Amash and progressive champion John Conyers, brought together a coalition of unlikely bedfellows from across the political spectrum, all united in opposition to the PATRIOT Act’s unconstitutional intrusion into the lives of Americans suspected of no wrongdoing.

There is something fundamentally un-American and deeply undemocratic about this kind of government surveillance.

Yet your member of Congress, Adam Smith, voted to continue allowing the NSA to spy on us.

Call Rep. Smith and and tell him that you will hold him accountable for his vote on the Amash/Conyers amendment. Click here for the number to call and a sample script.

The vote last week was the first chance for members of the House to respond to the recent, shocking revelations about NSA spying.

Despite the White House and Republican Leadership doing everything they could to stop it — including holding an emergency, classified members-only briefing after it became clear the amendment would be voted on — the Amash/Conyers amendment only lost by 12 votes.

While we lost this vote, we will continue to build on this result. And if we play our cards right, this is a fight we can win.

But in order to emerge stronger, we need to speak out now to make sure that the members who voted the wrong way hear from constituents who will hold them accountable for their betrayal of our constitutional rights.

Call Rep. Smith and and tell him that you will hold him accountable for his vote on the Amash/Conyers amendment. Click here for the number to call and a sample script.

Thank you for standing up for our civil liberties.

Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Adam Smith's request for constituents'preferences about issues

Below is a copy of an email I received from Rep. Adam Smith asking about issues Congress should work on. I realize that the email is sent to various constituents, not all of whom are progressives or Democrats.

The issue named “Tax Reform” is ambiguous.  Yes, I’m for tax reform, but it depends on what type you mean. A flat tax would be bad “reform.”  Elimination of tax loopholes and an increase in tax on capital gains would be good, as would eliminating the cap on Social Security contributions.

The issue “Education Reform” is even more problematic, because nowadays that usually means charter schools, whose supporters are mostly hoping to weaken public education.

The biggest issues facing the nation are probably (1) climate change, (2) reducing the influence of money on politics (including overturning Citizens United), (3) reducing the power and cost of the military and security state, (4) establishing a progressive and fair tax system that eliminates loopholes, (5) student debt, and (6) unemployment.

Which of these pending issues do you believe is most important for Congress to address before the end of the year?
Gun Law Reforms
Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Affordable Care Act Implementation
The Debt Ceiling
Tax Reform
SNAP/Food Stamp Reauthorization
Financial Services Reform
Climate Change
Education Reform

Click to open this link in a new window

I know this list doesn’t cover every issue. If there’s something more specific you’d like Congress to work on, I encourage you to contact me here . Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with me.

Report on Adam Smith Town Hall in Newcastle: centrism rules

Only about 40 people showed up at Rep. Adam Smith’s Town Hall Meeting in Newcastle on Thursday evening.

Smith said that Americans are deeply in denial about the choices we face.  When polled, people say they want the same or more government spending on education, health care, research, etc., and even the military. But nobody wants to pay taxes (unless someone else pays them, Smith said — a right wing talking point).   Some people say the deficit is not a big problem.  Smith disagrees and so does the public, he said:  the public is quite concerned about the budget deficit. Afterwards I challenged him on this. I told him that I read that the budget deficit is low on the list of voters’ concerns. He backtracked and said, I didn’t say it was number one.

Smith blamed both the citizens — who expect government services, low taxes, and balanced budgets — and politicians — who promise the impossible.

Q: Why does Congress have lower approval rating than used car salesmen?

A: They would hate us more if we actually did anything (raise taxes or cut spending).

Smith cosponsored a bill to collect taxes on Internet sales.

Q: Long term, what’s needed to fix the dysfunction in D.C.?

Some people say the problem is that Dems won’t cut spending and Repubs won’t raise taxes. But it’s worse than that, Smith said. Because cutting taxes polls so well, even Democrats do it with gusto;  Democrats gave away $125 billion in tax cuts. And during the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans attacked Democrats for cutting Medicare benefits! That was their #1 attack  ad.  Go figure.

On the topic of education, Smith said he supports collective bargaining and public education. But he thinks teachers need to be more realistic. He quoted teachers who say, “I don’t want my pay to depend on the whims of my boss.” People in private sector jobs have to face that all the time.

Q:  Are you pushing the Obama Administration to regulate greenhouse gases?

A: I’m not, but I may sign onto a letter if asked.

Q: Would term limits help?

A:  No, new candidates would be subject to the same lobbying and would still need to raise campaign funds. Do you want elected officials who are even less accountable to voters?

Smith said some progressive things. He said the New Year fiscal cliff deal that made 90% of tax cuts permanent was a big mistake. “Way, way, way too much” in tax cuts.

Q:  What top two or three things would you do?

A:  Make a 10 year budget deal that brings back some of the taxes, creates cost controls on health care, and devotes some money to needed infrastructure repairs.

Someone asked whether Smith has the “guts” to sign the Grayson-Takano letter pledging not to cut Social Security.  He said he hasn’t signed the pledge because he thinks there are cost savings to be had.   Medicare and Social Security are part of mandatory spending, and unless we can rein in costs, there’ll be too little money left for discretionary spending.

There weren’t enough progressives in the audience to strongly defend Social Security and Medicare and to mention progressive talking points (concentration of wealth, corporations not paying taxes, negotiation of drug prices, insurance overheads, off-shoring of jobs, etc).  I got to ask only one question, because others wanted their turn.

Adam Smith in Newcastle Adam Smith in Newcastle

Smith is the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Serviced Committee, so he is especially important for the issue of military spending.  Several people applauded when I made the case for cuts to the military budget. I said that the U.S. spends more than the next 20 nations combined; that we’ve engaged in repeated disastrous, corrupt wars; and that the military classifies anything that might embarrass it.

Smith said that the military consumes 18% of the budget. Acquisition reform is starting to work, at last. “We do need to stop the wars.” For example, in Syria.  It’s not our job to fix every international crisis.

Someone asked a follow-up question in which they mentioned that the U.S. has over 500 military bases in 137 countries.  “That’s not defense, it’s colonization.” Smith said that there are even more than 500 bases. But not all bases are the same. Some of them are very small. Yes, he opposes major ground invasions, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, he agrees there are costs savings to be had. He much prefers the model of operations in the Horn of Africa, where a triple-digit number of troops and operatives — the exact number is classified — have stopped Muslim extremists. The questioner asked whether the US can be the policeman of the world. Smith said that we still need some presence overseas. “I am not an isolationist. Because we are the United States we face threats.”  We’re the guarantor vs. North Korea, for example. We stopped Sadaam Hussein, who wouldn’t have stopped in Kuwait.  We can’t let Iran block the Strait of Hormuz. Then there’s Mali, Somalia, and Yemen. We can do less. 5100 nuclear weapons is too many.

A tough-looking ex-soldier (military attache) made the case for counting service in Africa as combat duty. He went on to use jargon that I didn’t understand, but Adam Smith apparently did.

Someone asked about the growing threat from China. Smith said that he’s more worried about North Korea, Iran, and Al Qaeda.

Q:  When are we going to stop the NRA running our government policies?

A: Smith agreed and said that he supports the right to own guns but thinks we need common sense regulations about background checks and high-capacity magazines.

Many people in the audience expressed strong opposition to allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens. Adam Smith supports a path to legalization and took some heat for his position.

I was surprised to hear the passion concerning illegal immigration. Several people asked why illegal immigrants are allowed to break the law and receive various benefits, including Social Security.   Smith said that illegal immigrants can’t receive Social Security benefits, unless they pay into the program in their paychecks. (To be fair, I heard from a friend of a case where an illegal immigrant used a deceased person’s social security number.) Someone said, “I don’t see how you can vote to let illegals in.  I taught at schools with lots of free lunch students. We require our students to follow rules.  Send them [illegals] back!”  Smith said that we need to give the immigrants a pathway to citizenship because rounding them up and sending them overseas would turn the country into a police state. Also, many illegals are solid, tax-paying citizens who perform needed jobs.   People imagine that many of them are criminals. Well, many American citizens are criminals too.   Smith mentioned that President Obama has deported more people than ever before.  We already have a border fence, etc.

During discussions on other topics, some of the anti-immigration people shouted out interjections “legal people only!”

In general, Smith’s response to every question was, “Yes, but.” He can see both sides of most issues and tried to satisfy all voters. I can understand why politicians would be tempted to aim for the center. Unfortunately, the center has moved to the right in recent years. We need to shift it back to the left.

For a related article see Adam Smith and Suzan DelBene defend their votes on Social Security and the budget.