The company that manufactured the toxic chemicals that were released and incinerated in the wake of the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment this winter gave $2 million to the primary Senate GOP super PAC as bipartisan rail safety legislation stalled in Congress. The manufacturer, Occidental Petroleum, has been lobbying on rail and tank car safety, and its lobbying group, the American Chemistry Council — which also donated $250,000 to the main House GOP super PAC — had pushed for changes weakening the bill in committee. The railroad legislation, introduced in the immediate aftermath of the East Palestine disaster, was once seen as the first real shot at imposing new regulations on the railroad industry in years.
House Republicans last week announced that they would quickly create a special committee that they referred to as the Church Committee II. Formally, they named it the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. The subcommittee was created on a straight party-line vote: All 221 Republicans voted in favor while all 211 Democrats were opposed. It will be chaired by far-right Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, the former wrestling coach at Ohio State University whom six former wrestlers accused of doing nothing to help them, despite the fact that he knew they were being molested by the team doctor. Jordan is also the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; in one of life’s ironies, despite graduating from an obscure law school in central Ohio, he never bothered to take the bar exam.
By Igor Bobic for The Huffington Post - WILLINGBORO, N.J. ― Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), who helped revive efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, on Wednesday became the latest Republican lawmaker to face angry voters at a town hall, just days after he voted for a House bill that would make sweeping changes to the nation’s health care system. Appearing at a crime victims center in a Democratic pocket of his New Jersey district, MacArthur fielded questions for nearly five hours from a loud and feisty crowd about his role in crafting the GOP health care bill and its effect on the insurance marketplace. A few constituents also demanded that he call for a special prosecutor to investigate whether President Donald Trump’s aides colluded with Russia during the presidential campaign. Throughout, MacArthur defended the so-called American Health Care Act over boos and jeers from constituents, many of whom charged that the congressman would have blood on his hands if the bill becomes law. Several times during the event, MacArthur struggled to retain control of the room, getting shouted down even as he told the story of the 1996 death of his 11-year-old daughter, who was born with special needs. “I’m asking you guys to have some respect,” he pleaded exasperatedly at one point.
By Michelle Chen for Truthout - Donna Smith has braved cancer, battled predatory insurance companies and fought relentlessly for health care reform for more than a decade. But she's not sure she'll survive the aftermath of Election Day. "Every single morning since November 8, I sit and wonder if this will be the day that I have enough guts finally to end my life," she says. Smith, a 62-year-old cancer survivor and campaigner for universal health care, is one of millions stuck between the death throes of the Obama administration's half-baked health care reform plan and the Trump regime's agenda of ending health insurance for millions. But beyond fighting political havoc in the Republican-led Congress, Smith is mostly racing against time now: If the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed, as Trump and the Republican Congress have promised -- possibly in the next few weeks -- Smith will be forced to lean on her extended family's savings to pay for her care.
By Deirdre Fulton for Common Dreams - The speaker is not holding any hometown district meetings this week but is reportedly fundraising in several Texas cities. Constituents have for weeks been complaining of difficulty reaching House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) by phone, so on Wednesday a national advocacy group brought their messages right to the congressman's doorstep—"the old-fashioned way." He'll get them when he returns from a fundraising jaunt in Texas, presumably. Women's advocacy group UltraViolet organized the drop-off of 86,000 postcards, bearing custom notes from people around the country, along with a cake and a singing telegram. The postcards were delivered to Ryan's Janesville, Wisconsin, office in a truck carrying a giant, glittery slogan: "Special Delivery: To the Speaker of the House. From: Concerned Americans."
By Gregory Krieg for CNN - South Dakota Republicans on Thursday repealed a historic anti-corruption law approved by voters in a statewide referendum on Election Day. The measure, which passed with more than 51% backing in November, would have created an independent ethics commission, limited lobbyist gifts to lawmakers, banned officials from joining lobbying firms for two years after leaving office and created so-called "Democracy vouchers" for registered voters to steer toward their preferred candidates. But state GOP lawmakers said they didn't think voters knew what they were doing.
By Susan J. Douglas for In These Times - Donald Trump, at age 70, will be the oldest person to assume the presidency. He is part of a major demographic revolution—the aging of the baby boom—which received minimal attention during the campaign. But now Trump seems poised to declare war on his own generation, or at least the portion that doesn’t live in gilt towers in Manhattan. And judging from the comments section on the AARP website, his cohort is more than ready to fight back. In typical Trump fashion, the candidate who promised not to cut Medicare or Social Security now has a new pledge: to “modernize” Medicare, which in Trump-speak may mean “annihilate.”
By Amanda Terkel for The Huffington Post - The Rev. William Barber, head of the North Carolina NAACP and a leading voice on civil rights, is calling for a national economic boycott of his state due in part to its General Assembly’s failure to repeal the anti-LGBTQ law known as HB2. “We did it in South Carolina when they raised the Confederate flag,” he said. “We must do it, we believe, as this new legislature is trying to raise a new Confederacy, in policy, right here in North Carolina.” Barber said Thursday that his chapter would draft a letter to the national board of the NAACP later this month and ask for a boycott.
By Michael Corcoran for FAIR - Members of the GOP leadership were likely jubilant when they read the New York Times (12/15/16) and saw the following headline: “GOP Plans to Repeal Health Law with ‘Universal Access.’” The Times’ decision to include the words “universal,” “health” and “plan” in the headline was extremely misleading and irresponsible. It gave readers the distinct—and deceptive—impression that Republicans have something resembling a “universal” health plan, and will use it to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It appears that the same corporate media who misled us into the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (Extra!, 4/10) are now misleading us out of it—and the Times’reporting on the GOP’s health care agenda is a particularly egregious example of this.
By Josh Shaffer for The Charlotte Observer - Hundreds protested at the state legislature Thursday morning and again Thursday night, accusing the GOP majority of using Hurricane Matthew victims as pawns in a ploy to seize power from Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper. At least 20 people were arrested in the later demonstration, which caused the public galleries to be cleared in both the House and the Senate. A crowd of roughly 300 gathered outside the chamber, cheering as officers led away the arrested protesters who had refused to leave the House gallery. A chant of “All political power belongs to the people” rang out uninterrupted for about 15 minutes.
By Georgia Bristow for Bipartisan Report - As of last week North Carolina’s chief epidemiologist, Megan Davies resigned after accusing GOP state lawmakers of purposely misleading the states residents when it comes to the safety of their drinking water. The decision to leave didn’t come lightly. After calling out the biggest utility in the state and Republican Governor Pat McCrory, she gave up her job of nearly seven years and an annual salary of $188,000. In 2014 a Duke Energy power plant had a spill that resulted in 40,000 tons of toxic coal ash and 27 million gallons of wastewater spilling over into the Dan River.
By Lauren McCauley for Common Dreams - Environmental groups that have become targets of a Republican-led effort to insulate ExxonMobil against accusations of fraud and climate science suppression dug in a bit deeper on Wednesday by refusing to submit to a Congressional inquiry on the matter. As Common Dreams previously reported, House Republicans with the Committee on Space, Science and Technology sent a letter (pdf) on May 18th to 17 attorneys general and eight environmental organizations—including 350.org, Greenpeace, and the Union of Concerned Scientists
By Staff of Occupy Wall Street - 'We are the 99%, in all of our tremendous diversity. We are the students and young people, the homeowners, the workers, the families, the immigrants, the seniors and retirees, and every other American sick of seeing their democracy serve only the interests of the 1%. United by a common vision, a common strategy, and a set of simple, clear guidelines, we work together in a decentralized movement where every community is empowered to take independent, creative action and every member is encouraged to develop as a leader.'
With poverty at 15 percent, inequality rising and Republican politicians talking about addressing the problem by cutting federal programs that help the poor, one might expect poverty to occupy a solid spot on media agendas. This isn’t the case, according to a new FAIR study of nightly network news shows. The study looked at ABC World News, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News for a 14-month period (1/1/13– 2/28/14) in the wake of the 2012 elections. FAIR examined stories in the Nexis news database that included and discussed the terms “poverty,” “low income,” “food stamps,” “welfare” or “homeless.” (Stories that included only passing mentions of these terms, without even a minimal discussion, were excluded.) A total of 23 such segments were found, three of which were “rip and read” briefs, anchor-read stories containing no sources. The other pieces included a total of 54 sources, less than half of which—22—were people personally affected by poverty. That means, on average, someone affected by poverty appeared on any nightly news show only once every 20 days.