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Garrett Russo 202.408.5565
The House and Senate Ethics Committees should see their workload increase in the 112th Congress, as at least five of America's Most Crooked Candidates are now heading to Washington
(crooked candidate Dino Rossi's race against incumbent Patty Murray still has not been decided). With the Republicans now set to take control of the House in January, it will be incumbent on presumptive Speaker Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to put polices in place to ensure that these new members of Congress don't grow up to become some of the Most Corrupt Members of Congress, 20 of whom were reelected Tuesday. That number could rise to 21 if Senator Lisa Murkowski succeeds in her write in campaign.
"If Mr. Boehner follows through on his recent comments, one of the best tools for keeping Congress honest, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), may soon be a thing of the past," said Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) Executive Director Melanie Sloan. "Yet, with at least five crooked candidates on their way to Washington, and at least 20 of the Most Corrupt Members of Congress recently reelected, Mr. Boehner should be working on ways to strengthen the OCE, not eviscerate it."
Voters rejected some most ethically challenged candidates. Former Congressman and convicted felon James Traficant (I-OH) was crushed by Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH). Meanwhile in Delaware, Democrat Chris Coons won Delaware's open Senate seat in a landslide, giving Republican Christine O'Donnell more time to devote to planning her future legal defense. In September, CREW filed complaints with the FEC and the United States Attorney alleging Ms. O'Donnell had stolen her campaign funds for her own personal use.
There's good news and bad news in Florida. Although two crooked candidates, Gov. Charlie Crist and Rep. Kendrick Meek, were disappointed by the outcome, the news from the Sunshine State is not entirely sunny. The third candidate in the race, Republican Senator-elect Marco Rubio also has his ethics foibles.
"Looking at the class of incoming freshmen, there is an enormous amount of work to be done of the ethics front," said Ms. Sloan. "Now that the election is over, both Republicans and Democrats are talking about the spirit of bipartisanship. One of the best ways they can turn that talk into action is by providing the OCE with the tools it needs to police unethical conduct and help ensure that we have a Congress worthy of the American people."
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials -- regardless of party affiliation -- who sacrifice the common good to special interests. CREW advances its mission using a combination of research, litigation and media outreach.
"MAGA Republicans want to reach into our pockets and steal our earned Social Security and Medicare benefits," responded one advocacy group.
After securing a debt ceiling agreement that caps federal spending and threatens food aid for hundreds of thousands of poor adults, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy made clear Wednesday that Republicans are not finished targeting the nation's safety net programs—and signaled a coming effort by the GOP to slash Social Security and Medicare.
In a Fox News appearance ahead of the House's passage of the debt limit legislation, McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the measure is just "the first step" of the GOP's broader agenda, which includes further cuts to federal programs and massive tax breaks for the wealthy.
"This isn't the end. This doesn't solve all the problems," the Republican leader said of the House-passed bill, which would lift the debt ceiling until January 2025—setting up another potential standoff shortly after the 2024 elections.
McCarthy lamented that President Joe Biden "walled off" major components of the federal budget, including Social Security and Medicare, from cuts as part of the debt ceiling agreement—though McCarthy himself agreed to "take those off the table" in late January.
"The majority driver of the budget is mandatory spending. It's Medicare, Social Security, interest on the debt," the Republican speaker said Wednesday, adding that he intends to announce a bipartisan "commission" to examine ways to cut such spending.
The progressive group Our Revolution responded that "it's never enough for the right wing."
"They want it all," the group wrote on Twitter. "We have to tell them NO."
Watch McCarthy's comments:
\u201cHouse Speaker Kevin McCarthy announces he is assembling \u201ca commission\u201d to look at potential cuts in entitlement programs:\n\n\u201cThe president walled off all the others. The majority driver of the budget is mandatory spending. It\u2019s Medicare, Social Security, interest on the debt.\u201d\u201d— The Recount (@The Recount) 1685548097
The idea of forming a bipartisan commission to study and propose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other non-discretionary spending is hardly new.
In 2021, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) led a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers—including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.)—in unveiling legislation that would establish bipartisan panels to study and recommend changes to the nation's trust funds, a scheme modeled after the Obama-era Simpson-Bowles commission that recommended Social Security cuts.
The changes proposed by the so-called "rescue committees" would then receive expedited votes in the House and Senate.
Advocacy groups have described the Romney legislation, known as the TRUST Act, as an insidious ploy to cut Medicare and Social Security behind closed doors. Republicans have also proposed raising the Social Security retirement age, a move that would slash benefits across the board.
Social Security Works, which has been speaking out against the TRUST Act for years, said Wednesday that "MAGA Republicans want to reach into our pockets and steal our earned Social Security and Medicare benefits."
Jon Bauman, president of the Social Security Works PAC, urged the public to "beware the 'Problem Solvers' and 'No Labels'-style Democrats who would be willing to 'serve' on McCarthy's commission to cut your earned benefits."
"They are problem MAKERS," he wrote.
“We cannot continue to capitulate to a far-right Republican Party and their extreme demands while they inflict policy violence on working-class people, gut our bedrock environmental protections, and decimate our planet," said Rep. Rashida Tlaib.
Nearly 40 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus broke with the majority of their House Democratic colleagues late Wednesday to vote against the debt ceiling agreement negotiated by President Joe Biden and Republican leaders.
The legislation, which would lift the debt ceiling until January 2025 and enact painful caps on non-military federal spending, passed the GOP-controlled House by a vote of 314 to 117, with 165 Democrats joining 149 Republicans in supporting the measure.
The bill's passage came after weeks of talks between the White House—which repeatedly said it would not negotiate over the debt ceiling—and Republicans who manufactured the standoff to pursue austerity for low-income Americans, gifts for rich tax cheats, and handouts to the fossil fuel industry.
While Republicans didn't get anything close to what they called for in legislation they passed in late April, progressives who voted against the bill on Wednesday said the final agreement will harm vulnerable people and the planet by imposing new work requirements on aid recipients and approving the Mountain Valley Pipeline—a top priority of fossil fuel industry ally Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
Progressives also raised alarm over a provision that would codify the end of the student loan payment pause, setting the stage for a disaster if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Biden administration's debt cancellation plan.
"I cannot vote for a bill that guts key environmental protections and greenlights dirty fossil fuel projects for corporate polluters who are poisoning our communities, pushes our residents deeper into poverty by implementing cruel and ineffective work requirements for our low-income neighbors who rely on SNAP and TANF for food and housing, terminates the student loan payment pause, and slashes IRS funding to make it easier for the rich to cheat on their taxes," Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said in a statement.
"We cannot continue to capitulate to a far-right Republican Party and their extreme demands while they inflict policy violence on working-class people, gut our bedrock environmental protections, and decimate our planet," Tlaib added, referring to the bill's work requirements for food aid.
In total, 38 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) voted against the legislation:
Reps. Tlaib, Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Summer Lee (D-Pa.), Greg Casar (D-Texas), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Ro Khanna, (D-Calif.), Chuy García (D-(Ill.), Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), Val Hoyle (D-Ore.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.).
But the CPC members who joined Republicans in voting yes on the bill, including prominent progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), outnumbered those who opposed it.
Jayapal, the CPC chair, said Wednesday that she could not in good conscience be part of the Republican Party's "extortion scheme" by voting for legislation that "rips food assistance away from poor people and disproportionately Black and brown women, pushes forward pro-corporate permitting policies and a pipeline in direct violation of the community's input, and claws back nearly 25% of the funding Democrats allocated for the IRS to go after wealthy tax cheats."
Bush, who represents St. Louis, added that "this agreement, whose worst elements are undoubtedly the fault of MAGA Republicans who shamefully took our economy hostage, pairs raising the debt limit with many policies that will harm our most vulnerable communities."
"I am disgusted with the chief hostage taker Kevin McCarthy and his MAGA insurrectionist conference for threatening economic catastrophe," said the Missouri Democrat. "For the good of our country, and to prevent the GOP from politicizing the debt ceiling to harm our communities moving forward, I believe we must eliminate the debt ceiling altogether."
The bill now heads to the Senate, where lawmakers are expected to act before the June 5 debt-limit deadline set by the Treasury Department.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the lone Senate member of the CPC, announced ahead of Wednesday's House vote that he will oppose the legislation, calling it "a bill that takes vital nutrition assistance away from women, infants, children, and seniors while refusing to ask billionaires who have never had it so good to pay a penny more in taxes."
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the measure's new work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients would put nearly 750,000 low-income adults between the ages of 50 and 54 at risk of losing food aid.
"The fact of the matter is that this bill is totally unnecessary," Sanders said. "The president has the authority and the ability to eliminate the debt ceiling today by invoking the 14th Amendment. I look forward to the day when he exercises this authority and puts an end, once and for all, to the outrageous actions of the extreme right-wing to hold our entire economy hostage in order to get what they want."
This story has been corrected to include Reps. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) on the list of no votes.
"President Biden and the Democratic Party should know the passage of this negotiation is the type of harmful decision that makes our generation feel disillusioned and defeated," said the Sunrise Movement's leader.
As the U.S. House of Representatives prepared to vote on President Joe Biden's debt limit deal with GOP negotiators Wednesday evening, the youth-led Sunrise Movement warned Democrats that the so-called Fiscal Responsibility Act could have a major impact on the 2024 elections.
"When we're knocking on doors and on college campuses, we constantly hear young people in our generation feel like the government doesn't work for them," said Sunrise Movement executive director Varshini Prakash in a statement. "This debt ceiling deal tells these young people that the U.S. will keep polluting our air and water by approving the Mountain Valley Pipeline, that our government will make life harder for working people, and that our system values billionaires over students."
"Democrats must stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline and achieve their climate goals if they want to energize Gen Z to get out and vote in 2024."
While the proposal would suspend the debt ceiling until 2025, in addition to greenlighting the contested gas pipeline, it would freeze nonmilitary spending, impose new work requirements for federal aid like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), resume student loan repayments, controversially reform permitting for energy projects, and repeal some funding intended to help the Internal Revenue Service crack down on rich tax cheats.
"President Biden and the Democratic Party should know the passage of this negotiation is the type of harmful decision that makes our generation feel disillusioned and defeated about the state of our politics," Prakash warned Wednesday.
"Building new fossil fuel infrastructure right after the approval of the Willow project is politically and morally dangerous, but it's not too late to fix this," the climate activist continued, referring to ConocoPhillips' oil development in Alaska. "Democrats must stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline and achieve their climate goals if they want to energize Gen Z to get out and vote in 2024."
\u201cThe GOP doesn\u2019t have the votes they need to pass this deal. If Democrats hold the line, we can stop it.\n\nTell Dems to vote for a clean debt ceiling deal \u27a1\ufe0f https://t.co/PmR7HGH6F1\u201d— Sunrise Movement \ud83c\udf05 (@Sunrise Movement \ud83c\udf05) 1685464612
Last year, as Common Dreamsreported at the time, young voters played a key role in preventing a "red wave" that political pollsters and pundits anticipated based on previous midterm elections, helping Democrats secure major congressional and gubernatorial victories as well as advancing a variety of progressive ballot measures.
Biden is seeking reelection next year and former President Donald Trump is leading polls for the GOP primary, followed at a distance by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. There will also be fierce battles for both chambers of Congress—currently, the fractured Republican Party holds a slim House majority, and Democrats control the Senate but lack enough votes to defeat filibusters.
Since Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) finalized their deal over the weekend—after Republicans refused to vote on a clean debt ceiling hike, despite U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's warnings of an economically catastrophic default by June 5—a growing number of progressive lawmakers have come out against the White House's compromise.
As Common Dreams reported earlier Wednesday, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) decried the GOP's "reckless hostage-taking" and highlighted that "House Republicans raised the debt ceiling with no preconditions three times under the Trump administration."
Other House progressives who have made their opposition to the Fiscal Responsibility Act clear include Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC).
"Tonight I'll be voting NO on Republicans' hostage bill that maliciously weaponized the debt limit. I came to Congress to stand up for our NY-16 community, kids, and families, but this austerity bill will only end up hurting the people I came here to fight for," Bowman said. "This bill will make the poor poorer, hungrier, and sicker, while further enriching the rich through the prison, fossil fuel, and military-industrial complex."
\u201c"...I cannot, in good conscience, vote for a bill that makes it easier for fossil fuel companies to pollute and destroy the planet by fast-tracking the disastrous Mountain Valley Pipeline."\n\nThank you for standing up for our generation, @SenSanders.\u201d— Sunrise Movement \ud83c\udf05 (@Sunrise Movement \ud83c\udf05) 1685562682
After U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) came out against the bill on Wednesday, other progressives in the upper chamber joined him—including Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who tweeted that "I will not support a deal to fast-track dirty fossil fuel projects at the expense of environmental justice. I will not give polluters a Get Out of Jail Free card. I will vote NO on the default deal."
"Republicans racked up trillions in debt under Trump and would now rather deprive struggling families of food and financial security than ask the wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes," Markey added, as Republican lawmakers plan to unveil a tax proposal that would further serve rich individuals and corporations.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) also came out against the bill. Along with detailing his critiques of several provisions in a lengthy statement, he warned that "yielding to this blackmail only guarantees that Republicans will use the debt limit to hold America hostage time and time again."