Alan Grayson's Journal
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A few days ago, I pointed out that the House Republicans' five-page bill to raise the debt ceiling offends two different provisions in the Constitution. I wish this were an isolated instance. It's not.
Most House Republicans are Tea Partiers, and Tea Partiers are in love with three things:
1. those three-sided felt hats;
In my last campaign, the loser (in every sense of the word) who ran against me painted himself as a "constitutional conservative." He swore that his only goal was to return to the governing principles of our Founding Fathers. But as far as I could tell, the only part of the original Constitution that he liked was the part about black slaves counting as only three-fifths of a human being.
For months, I had to listen to the unhinged "constitutional" rants of that right-wing crank. Here is a list of some of the all-too-familiar Tea Party proposals he made that are blatantly unconstitutional:
1. banning abortion;
The worst part of this is that he fancied himself quite the constitutional scholar, thank-you-very-much. But he must have slept through his law school course on constitutional law. Every single one of these proposals is unconstitutional, and unequivocally unconstitutional, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. But this same Tea Party acolyte did not hesitate to declare Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, federal aid to schools, student loans, paper money and - of course - Obamacare all unconstitutional. Why? Because he said so.
And don't even get me started on his obsession over the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. Apparently, he never noticed that under our Constitution, the federal government can:
1. force you to fill out a census form;
And I'm supposed to believe that this same government can't get you to pay for your own emergency room care, or charge you what it costs if you don't? Come on.
Look, they don't own the American flag, they don't own God, and they don't own Constitution, either. It's our Constitution.
I invite my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to sit down and read - at least those who know how to read - the document that they have sworn to uphold. In less time than they would waste listening to Sean Hannity's errant nonsense one evening, they can get through the whole thing.
There's some interesting stuff in there. For instance, it's pretty clear that the Founding Fathers did not contemplate a standing army, much less an army standing in Kabul. And I invite you to show me exactly where it says in there that our military can occupy a foreign country.
But that's the real Constitution, not the fake one in their heads. Their version reads like Humpty Dumpty's: "'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.'"
Congressman Alan Grayson
"Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." - The Red Queen in Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, ch. 5 (1871).
Posted by Alan Grayson | Thu Jan 31, 2013, 05:17 PM (5 replies)
This week, the Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives did something that you wouldn’t think is even possible: they introduced (and then the House passed) a five-page bill that, despite its brevity, may violate two separate provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
The bill increases the debt limit by some unspecified amount, but only for those expenditures “necessary to fund a commitment by the Federal Government that required payment before May 19, 2013.” What does “necessary” mean here? I don’t know, and the bill doesn’t say. What about “commitment” and “required” – what do they mean? Don’t know; doesn’t say. Given sovereign immunity, I’m not sure that any payments by the federal government are ever “required” per se. What if the Government said, “are you going to make me?”
Up until now, the federal debt limit has been a number. Now it’s a concept, and an undefined one at that. I find it hard to square that vagueness with Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which states that: “The validity of the public debt . . . shall not be questioned.”
Not content with establishing that constitutional dilemma alone, the Republican leadership then made Congressional pay dependent on passing a budget. The bill says that if the Senate doesn’t pass a budget, then Senate pay (which is monthly) is postponed to the first week of 2015. Specifically, it changes pay from $14,500 a month to zero per month, and then something like a $300,000 lump sum on Jan. 2, 2015.
I imagine that the polling on that looks good, but what about the 27th Amendment? The 27th Amendment provides: “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.” The Republican leadership bill “varies” Senate compensation by postponing it for two years. (It also sticks a finger in the eye of the Senate, but what else is new?)
If you follow Tea Party yammerings, as I do, then you recognize that this “no budget, no pay” idea had been floating around in the Tea Party porcelain bowl for several years now. Right after it was introduced, the Republican Chairman of the Government Operations Committee (who presumably knows a thing or two about government operations) pointed out that this postponement would violate the 27th Amendment to the Constitution. (As Texas Gov. Rick Perry would say, “Oops.”) Then he said he was mistaken. But maybe when he said that he was mistaken, that’s when he was mistaken.
For goodness sake, we Members of Congress all swore to uphold the Constitution just two weeks earlier. The leader of the House Republican Caucus actually administered that oath to us. Couldn’t they at least have waited a little longer?
To make things even worse, just a few days before this bill came up, the House Republicans arranged to have Members of the House read the Constitution out loud on the Floor of the House. Were they all wearing earplugs?
And yet these right-wingers keep telling us that they are “constitutional conservatives.”
Anyway, I voted “no.” Because there is no way to vote “this is absurd.”
Tea Party Republicans, please don’t propose any bills that directly contravene the plain wording of the Constitution. If you were capable of embarrassment, you would be embarrassing yourselves.
Congressman Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Sun Jan 27, 2013, 04:02 PM (23 replies)
In our Inauguration Breakfast drawing, our national winner is Kathleen K., in New York City. Our local winner is Catherine S., in Orlando. We got off to a slow start, but in the end, almost 2000 of our supporters participated. Thank you to each one of you.
I know that this may come as a shock, but I actually read, personally, many of the comments that are sent to our campaign. I can’t respond to each one, of course – there are thousands and thousands. But I try to listen and learn.
Several of our supporters pointed out that they couldn’t participate in the drawing, because they have to work on Inauguration Day. That’s an interesting point, because this year, Inauguration Day happens to coincide with a federal holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. Regular readers will recall that on Thanksgiving Day, I visited a WalMart in Orlando, and handed out turkey sandwiches and chips to WalMart employees who unfortunately had to work that evening. I feel the same way about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. If you can’t go to see your President’s inauguration because you are being forced to work on a federal holiday, then something is wrong with that picture. That’s why I introduced the Paid Vacation Act in 2009, which would give every worker at large companies at least five days of paid vacation, of their own choosing, each year. There are more than 20 million working Americans who never get a day off. If you happen to be one of them, then I’m sorry, and I’m trying to help.
Several other supporters said that they just don’t have $25 to give to our campaign, for this reason or any other. I understand that, too. There have been times in my own life when the same thing was true for me. It galls me to see someone toss off $100,000,000 to buy and sell political candidates, when some of us have trouble coming up with $25. But from time to time, I’m going to ask you to help anyway, because I’d rather ask Mr. or Ms. $25 for support than to have to beg Mr. $100M. Our campaign demonstrates, time after time, that all those sawbucks, added together, are enough to win. And if enough People Power candidates win, then the People win Power.
Every once in a while, a whole bunch of small fish eat that big fish.
Congressman Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Thu Jan 17, 2013, 10:14 PM (4 replies)
OK, so here’s the deal, as I’ve explained before: If you contribute $25 or more to our campaign between now and 11:59 EST tonight, then you will be part of our drawing to choose two people – one from the Orlando area, and one from anywhere in the country – to join us for breakfast on Inauguration Day. We will provide transportation and accommodations. Multiple contributions count as multiple entries.
I’m repeating myself, I know. But here’s why I’m repeating myself:
1.) Maybe you have been on some other planet for the past week. Seriously, I’m not responsible for your whereabouts. If you want to go to Neptune, that’s fine with me.
2.) Maybe you just like the sound of my voice, even when it’s in writing.
3.) Maybe the other e-mails that I sent on this subject were a little too . . . metaphorical. I get that way sometimes. I’m sorry; no more figures of speech, tropes, euphemisms, circumlocutions, parodies, synecdoche, oxymorons and bathos. Especially bathos, on my honor!
Now I have to tell you that at this point, more than a thousand of our supporters are participating. So if you are the kind of person who likes to jump on a bandwagon, it’s time to jump on this one.
I want to have breakfast with you. Is that so wrong?
If you win, then it’s you and me, babe. In DC, on Inauguration Day. And if you lose, then for goodness’s sake, you’ve made a decent contribution to a decent cause.
Are you feeling lucky?
Congressman Alan Grayson
If you would like a chance to join Congressman Grayson for breakfast on Inauguration Day in Washington, DC, on January 21st, please contribute $25 or more to our campaign by 11:59 pm EST TONIGHT. (Or you can send an e-mail to email@example.com.)
Posted by Alan Grayson | Tue Jan 15, 2013, 05:00 PM (0 replies)
When I was elected to Congress in 2008, I asked to join the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). Why? Because I was a government employee. The AFGE negotiates benefits for government employees, including me. If I were going to benefit from that, I felt that I should pay my dues. I'm not the "free rider" type.
I was told that this was an unusual request. In fact, no one could remember any Member of Congress making that request before. That didn't bother me in the least. I joined the AFGE, and paid my dues.
There is another, deeper reason why I wanted to join the union: I don't see a lot of other organizations fighting for the common good.
After I was elected again in November, I was inundated with correspondence from all sorts of groups who wanted me to do something for them. Not for us. For them. Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme. Now, to be fair, some of these requests were for worthwhile causes. More were not. Either way, it was "gimme."
With one exception.
Here is a letter that I received from Joseph Hansen, the President of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW):
Congratulations on your election to the 113th Congress.
The American people spoke loud and clear on Election Day.
They want a Congress that works for all Americans, not just a wealthy few.
They want a Congress that fights for Main Street, not Wall Street.
They want a Congress that helps create good-paying jobs that can support a family.
They want a Congress that balances the budget responsibly, by asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share while protecting programs like Social Security and Medicare.
They want a Congress that protects the rights of workers, women, and minorities.
Most of all, they want a Congress that works with President Obama to give more families access to the American Dream.
I look forward to working with you toward that end.
Sincerely, Joseph T. Hansen.
Amen to that, brother. Yes, President Hansen, I look forward to working with you toward that end.
You see what's missing from this UFCW letter? Gimme, gimme, gimme.
On the letterhead of the UFCW's stationery is the motto, "A VOICE for working America." That's something that I would be proud to have on my stationery, too.
This is a time of hyper-partisan warfare, when selfishness parades itself as a virtue. But amidst all that smoke there are still some of us – the UFCW, me – who can discern the bare outlines of something called "the common good." The common good -- that's our flag. And that's why unions are different.
And the rocket's red glare,
The bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night,
That our flag was still there.
Congressman Alan Grayson
If you would like a chance to join Congressman Alan Grayson for breakfast on Inauguration Day, please contribute $25 or more to his campaign by midnight tomorrow, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Tue Jan 15, 2013, 12:56 PM (2 replies)
Right from Day One of the new Congress, Congressman Alan Grayson has been saying what needs to be said, and fighting for what's right. Here is an MSNBC interview of Alan from a few days ago, regarding the agenda in Congress:
Craig Melvin: President Obama is saying that he does not want to negotiate over the debt ceiling, and says he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling. From the looks of things, it could be the next big fight in Washington. Joining me now is a man who has never backed away from a fight: Congressman Alan Grayson, Florida Democrat. Congressman, always good to see you.
Congressman Alan Grayson: Thanks.
Craig: You are back in Congress after losing your seat in 2010. First of all, how does it feel being back?
Alan: Oh, it's great. It's great to be back in the saddle again, and we had the greatest comeback in the history of the House of Representatives. We won by 25 points.
Craig: We've talked about the debt ceiling over the past week or so, and I want to read you something that John Cornyn wrote. This is an op-ed from Senator John Cornyn. This is what he wrote about how things could go down here in the next month or so: "It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well-being of our country rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain." Pat Toomey said almost the same thing on "Morning Joe" this past week. Are we headed for a government shutdown in the next few months?
Alan: If the Republicans are crazy enough to want to do that, it's possible that they'll be able to pull that off. It's a very divided party on the other side—divided between the far right wing and the extreme right wing. The extreme right wing wants to shut down the government because they just don't like government at all. They'd rather have no government than even good government. So it's a possibility.
Craig: Does the extreme right wing of the GOP still yield that much power?
Alan: Well, sure. From what I can see, their caucus is divided almost equally between the corporate shills and the Tea Party. That's what passes for diversity on the other side of the aisle. The Tea Party represents a good hundred votes on the other side.
Craig: Republicans of course would argue that we just passed this fiscal cliff deal, and we should note th no spending cuts. The national debt is now more than $16 trillion and the Democrats, a lot of them aren't wild about the idea of making cuts to entitlements. How does that work?
Alan: Listen, if they were serious about reducing the debt then they would be serious about taxing people who have money. It seems the only people that the Right Wing is willing to tax are the people without money. The people with money are those whom they regard as untouchable. If they'd do that, they'll reduce the deficit, just as we did during the Clinton Administration. The Clinton Administration ran three or four different surpluses, one after another, because the income tax rate was high enough to pay for the needs of the government and the needs of the people. But look at what they want to do instead: they want to cut Social Security benefits and they want to cut Medicare benefits. And those are the parts we actually make a profit on. The Social Security Administration has run a profit every single year since it was created. Medicare also runs a profit each year. It doesn't make any sense. They're basically trying to cut those programs because of some sadistic attitude toward old folks.
Craig: The President has indicated he might be willing to cut Medicare, and also willing to make an adjustment to the cost of living calculations used with Social Security.
Alan: Well, no. I think you have to be very specific when talking about this. What the President has generally indicated is to make these programs more efficient. I don't think the President has come out in favor of actual benefit cuts. These are two fundamentally different things. We're all interested in making the programs more efficient, at least people on our side of the aisle are. We're not interested in cutting the benefits.
Craig: There are so many issues still outstanding from the 112th Congress that you guys have to deal with. The sequester, of course, that's coming up March 1st, the Farm Bill, the Violence Against Women Act, and even more aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Make a prediction for us, if you can. What, if anything, is going to get done with the 113th Congress at the helm?
Alan: Well, the Congress will deal with the crises as they come up, but remember that a lot of these crises are artificial crises. Some of them are created specifically for the purpose of trying to get things done that could never get done by the will of the people through the regular order. Naomi Klein has written about this in the book, "The Shock Doctrine." What we've seen is a series of artificial crises in order to steal from the Middle Class.
Craig: Again, going back to a prediction for what's going to be the first or even the second order of business. Are we talking about immigration? Are we talking about gun control? What might we be looking at here for the next six months?
Alan: Oh, I think we'll have to deal first with the sequester, a completely artificial contrivance created by the Republicans to cut Social Security benefits and Medicare benefits. That's what's coming up first and right after that, possibly right before that, depending on Tim Geithner's private calculations, we'll have to deal with the debt limit.
Craig: How real is the concern among Congressional Democrats that as you crawl from crisis to crisis that it prevents the Administration from advancing any sort of long-range policies with regards to immigration or energy or climate change, or even gun control?
Alan: I don't think it should. I think that the Administration has enormous powers under existing law. For instance, the Administration probably could institute large parts of the Cap and Trade bill, which passed the House but not the Senate when I was in Congress, through regulation, through rulemaking. The President actually did institute a large part of what would have been our bill on immigration, the Dream Act, through administrative action. The President has a lot of power, and he should use it to solve the country's problems.
Craig: How would you characterize your last stint in Congress? How would you characterize that compared to this upcoming stint?
Alan: Well, we did a lot of good for a lot of people, particularly in our district, and I think they'll be able to do it again. A lot of the best things that we did for people in our district had nothing to do with votes on the Floor . The job creates opportunities to do good things, and we'll do our best.
Craig: We certainly hope. We certainly hope that you will do your best and that your colleagues will also fall in line and do yours as well. Do come back again—I always enjoy our conversations and congrats to you.
Alan: Thank you.
Congressman Alan Grayson – telling it like it is. If you would like a chance to join Congressman Grayson for breakfast on Inauguration Day in Washington, DC, on January 21st, please contribute $25 or more to our campaign] by Tuesday night. (Or you can send an e-mail to email@example.com.)
Posted by Alan Grayson | Fri Jan 11, 2013, 10:06 PM (3 replies)
Right from Day One of the new Congress, Congressman Alan Grayson has been saying what needs to be said, and fighting for what's right. Here is an MSNBC interview of Alan, on the day that he was sworn into office again:
Rev. Al Sharpton: Today we welcome back a new Congress. We welcomed in a new Congress in Washington, and with it a new number of battles. We know the Right is coming. On the debt ceiling. On Medicare. On Social Security. They're ready to fight. So now, more than ever, the Democrats need strong voices -- Progressives who are willing to fight for causes they believe in. Who aren't afraid to land a political punch. Look out Republicans -- Heeeeeee's baaaaaack!
—video of Congressman Grayson's "Don't Get Sick" floor speech—
Congressman Alan Grayson: The Republican's Healthcare Plan for America: Don't get sick. That's right. Don't. Get. Sick. If you have insurance, don't get sick. If you don't have insurance, don't get sick. If you're sick, don't get sick. Just don't get sick.
—video of Congressman Grayson floor speech on unemployment—
Alan: Let's give three million Americans a working wage. An honest day's pay for an honest day's work. They will spend it on the things they need to do to stay alive. Instead of the alternative, the Republican-favored alternative, which is to have them lose their jobs, keep unemployed, and move into their cars.
—video of Congressman Grayson floor speech on Republican opposition to Barack Obama—
Alan: If Barack Obama were somehow able to cure hunger in the world, the Republicans would blame him for overpopulation. Understand that if Barack Obama has a BLT sandwich for lunch tomorrow, they will try to ban bacon.
—end video montage—
Rev. Al: Joining me now is the man himself, Congressman Alan Grayson, Democrat from Florida. He was reelected this past year, and was sworn in today as a part of the 113th Congress. Congressman Grayson, congratulations, and thanks for being here.
Alan: Thank you. As Steven Tyler would say, I'm back in the saddle again.
Rev. Al: (laughter) I imagine the Republicans didn't exactly roll out the red carpet for you today.
Alan: No, but that's okay. I think we're going to have to find some way to get along with each other, I guess. But time will tell.
Rev. Al: Now, talking about getting along. They've already said they are willing to hold the debt ceiling hostage. That's quite a reversal from a few years ago. Listen to this:
—C-SPAN video of Congressman Paul Ryan in January 2011—
Congressman Ryan: Does…will the debt ceiling be raised? Or does it have to be raised? Yeah. You can't not raise the debt ceiling. Default is the unworkable solution. Obviously you cannot default.
—CNN video of Senator Lindsey Graham in January 2011—
Senator Graham: Well, let me tell you what will happen if we don't lift the death ceiling—debt ceiling, excuse me. Financial collapse, and calamity throughout the world. That's not lost upon me.
—Fox News Sunday video of Speaker John Boehner in January 2011—
Speaker Boehner: That would be a financial disaster not only for our country but for the worldwide economy.
Interviewer: So, defaulting, on the full faith and credit, is unacceptable?
Speaker Boehner: I, uh, don't think, uh . . . I don't think it's even a question that's on the table.
<p align="center" style="text-align: center">—end video montage—
Rev. Al: So, were they kidding then, or are they kidding now? Why the big change, Congressman, and how do we deal with it?
Alan: Well, they changed their minds because they see that it's a device for them to extract concessions they would otherwise never be able to accomplish. That's why. It's legislative terrorism. They're using the debt ceiling as a means to cut Social Security benefits, cut Medicare benefits, cut unemployment insurance, cut anything of any use to any ordinary human being in this country, simply because they want more money for tax cuts for the rich.
Rev. Al: Legislative terrorism. Holding the economy hostage, I would take from that. Mr. Boehner, the Speaker, reportedly told the GOP that he's done negotiating one-on-one with President Obama. What do you make of that?
Alan: Well, look, Boehner is a chief with no Indians. We saw it again today. When he reached the end of the roll call, he didn't have enough votes to be Speaker. You need 218 votes to be Speaker. When everybody had already voted, he was at 216. They had to drag Bachmann in for her vote. He ended up voting for himself, which he didn't do the first time around. Then he managed to eke out a two-vote victory in a House where he has 25, well, sorry, 18 extra votes now. And that shows how weak he is. He's a weak, weak man, a weak Speaker, and therefore, he can't negotiate with the President because the President can actually make commitments, make decisions. can say, "When you send me a bill, I'll sign it." What can Boehner say? Nothing.
Rev. Al: So, you led the charge against the GOP tax cuts in 2010. Let me play for people what you did.
—video of Congressman Grayson's floor speech on tax cuts—
Alan: Every single year for the next ten years, the Republican tax plan is to give millionaires enough money for a Mercedes Benz. They can buy a bottle of wine from 1787 every year, for the next decade. Thank you, Republican Party. Here's something else they can do—they can buy 20,000 jars of their favorite mustard, Grey Poupon.
Here's an idea. Let's take that $100 billion, and give 3 million Americans a job.
Rev. Al: Now, that was you fighting in 2010 against tax cuts for the rich. Now that they've made some concessions on taxes, do you think that they'll be easier to negotiate with on revenue?
Alan: No. And frankly, let me use a term that you may have heard once or twice in New York. I'm tired of their mishegoss. They keep nattering over and over about debt-deficit-deficit-deficit-debt-debt-debt-deficit-deficit. But when it comes time to actually do something about it, meaning tax increases for people who actually have money they can pay to the government, somehow that's beyond the pale. They want to tax the poor, who have no money, instead of taxing the rich, who have all the money. It just doesn't make any sense, and I think people are starting to see through it.
Rev. Al: "Mishegoss." Didn't make my side of Brooklyn, but I'll use it. Congressman Alan Grayson, thanks for your time tonight, and good luck.
Alan: Thank you, Reverend.
Congressman Alan Grayson – telling it like it is. If you would like a chance to join Congressman Grayson for breakfast on Inauguration Day in Washington, DC, on January 21st, please contribute $25 or more to our campaign by Tuesday night. (Or you can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Posted by Alan Grayson | Thu Jan 10, 2013, 10:59 PM (2 replies)
There is this thing going on in Washington, D.C., on January 21st. Maybe you've heard about it. The President's Inauguration. Last time, four years ago, it drew almost two million people.
That's at noon. On the same day, earlier, there will be another major event – I'll be eating breakfast.
Would you like to join me?]
We will invite two of our supporters – one from the Orlando area, and one from anywhere in the United States – to join us. We will choose them from among the supporters who contribute $25 or more to our campaign between now and 11:59 pm EDT on the night of Tuesday, Jan. 15. (Or you can send an e-mail to email@example.com.) If you make two or more qualifying contributions, that will count as two or more entries. We will notify the winners on Wednesday, and provide transportation and accommodation. Void where prohibited, subject to change, blah, blah, blah.
Now think about this. Unless you're on some kind of lunch/dinner diet, you know that you're going to have breakfast that day. So why not have breakfast with me? I promise to chew quietly, dab the corners of my mouth with the napkin when needed, and use the small fork before the large fork.
And then there is that other thing at noon, which our winners can see because they will be in D.C.
So what do you say? If you are just salivating at the thought of a good breakfast, and that other thing, then go to https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/breakfastwithgrayson.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Wed Jan 9, 2013, 03:59 PM (7 replies)
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