GOP Leaders Set Record for Most Undemocratic Congress in History
House Republican leaders have made this Congress the most undemocratic and authoritarian in our Nation’s history.
Republican leaders have broken their promise to restore Regular Order – the process by which every bill and amendment is heard and given an up or down vote in Congress. And they’ve done it in record setting fashion. When the GOP–dominated Rules Committee sent their 84th bill to the floor of the House under a “closed” rule last month – meaning no amendments or changes allowed – they officially established the 115th Congress as the most undemocratic, authoritarian Congress in our Nation’s history.
Every new Member of Congress, Democrat and Republican, comes to Washington with good ideas and a desire to make government work better for people. Closed rules smother good ideas, cut off debate, prevent us from finding areas of agreement, and substitute political posturing for problem solving.
In other words, process matters. When Regular Order breaks down and amendments that would likely pass with solid bipartisan support can’t even be considered, important bills fail and gridlock worsens. Moreover, bills that do pass – affecting critical matters like Veterans benefits, drinking water, child nutrition, the environment, and national security, just to name a few – aren’t nearly as good as they could be.
According to the Library of Congress, since the GOP took over the House in 2011, just five percent of all the bills and resolutions that came to the floor were considered under an open rule – where any Member can offer an amendment. The other 95 percent of bills presented on the floor were considered under closed rules with no amendments, or restricted to a few amendments preordained by the powerful Rules Committee.
It wasn’t always that way. During the first term of my earlier service in Congress – from 1975 to 1977 – 91 percent of all the bills presented on the floor of the House were considered under open rules, with just nine percent restricted to so-called "structured," or closed rules.
That Congress, and many that followed, were far more productive and bipartisan in nature. In those days, we averaged some 8,000 hearings and meetings a year where we dug for facts and hashed out bipartisan agreements. Today, less than half that number of hearings and meetings are held, and most of them are pro-forma without much substance.
Congress will never regain the confidence of the American people until the process is opened up and Regular Order and democracy are restored. That’s the plain and simple fact.
We will keep you posted as events proceed. Meanwhile, I want to hear your thoughts. Feel free to contact any of our offices listed below or send me an email.
More Jobs in May - but Middle Class Wages Stay Flat
These marchers have it right. We can best grow our Nation’s economy by making the minimum wage a living wage, and by supporting the Union movement that has contributed so much to creating the greatest middle class the world has ever known.
Good thing the U.S. economy added some 223,000 new jobs in May, because as I’ve pointed out many times before, in places like Minnesota’s rural Eighth District it can take two or three of those jobs just to make a living – and for good reason. Companies are hiring but middle class wages are stuck in the mud.
While the rich are getting richer at degrees unparalleled in our history, and corporate profits and executive salaries are skyrocketing, the average wage increase during the month of May - just over two percent - barely allows working families to keep up with inflation.
In fact, as Senator Bernie Sanders and others have pointed out, average annual middle class family buying power has declined by about $5,000 since 1999 due to the skyrocketing cost of homes, college tuition, prescription drugs and health care, among other factors.
If the President and Republican leaders were really serious about boosting middle class wages that drive long-term economic growth, they would join me and most other Democrats in supporting legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 dollars per hour. And they would call a halt to their war on unions. The simple fact is that workers in anti-union states with so-called “right to work” laws earn, on average, $6,500 less every year than workers in states like Minnesota, where laws support collective bargaining and union representation.
Administration Leaves Defrauded Students Holding the Bag for Millions in Loans
Our good friend, Pulitzer Prize winning Star Tribune cartoonist Steve Sack, captures the way tens of thousands of students must feel about being stuck with millions of dollars in loans after being defrauded by private for-profit colleges.
Thousands of people defrauded by private, for-profit colleges have been left holding the bag for millions of dollars in student loans, and neither the President nor Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are lifting a finger to do anything about it. This shameful and disgraceful situation requires action by the Congress.
Specifically, the Administration’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has shut down the unit that investigated college fraud cases, and Secretary DeVos has dismantled the fraud unit at the Department of Education, effectively killing all investigations into predatory behavior, inadequate curriculum, and false job placement rates.
Late last year, Secretary DeVos actually suspended the “Borrowers Defense to Repayment” rule – a provision that has allowed students who have been victimized by fraud to recover their tuition and pay back their loans. But in a victory of sorts for borrowers, the courts stepped in late last week and ruled that the Department of Education could not employ a far weaker version of the rule that only gives partial loan forgiveness to some defrauded students. And for good measure, the judge ruled that the Department had violated the Privacy Act by illegally tapping into borrowers’ federal earnings information.
Moreover, Secretary DeVos has failed to meet the April 24th deadline to respond to inquiries from me and five other members of the Minnesota Congressional Delegation requesting detailed information on 1,044 outstanding borrower defense debt relief claims for Minnesota students who were defrauded by for-profit colleges.
As we pointed out to the Secretary, more than 65,000 people are in terrible debt due to criminal behavior by for-profit colleges. Rest assured we will continue to press this issue with Secretary DeVos until the victims are fully compensated.
National Support Builds for Nolan-Sanders "Medicare for All" Health Care Plan
Americans spend, on average, about $10,000 a year on health care, while nations with universal health care systems - Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany for example, spend about half that amount and get better outcomes. It’s time for the United States to join every other industrialized nation in providing accessible, cost-controlled, top-quality universal health care for all our people, and nationwide, support is growing by leaps and bounds.
In fact, according to a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 59 percent of Americans support the “Medicare for All” plan encompassed by legislation Senator Bernie Sanders and I and many of our House and Senate colleagues have introduced.
Under our plan, everyone would be covered for every essential service – preventative care, primary care, inpatient care, outpatient care, emergency care, prescription drugs, hearing services, long term care, mental health care and substance abuse treatment – just to name a few.
Even more striking, the poll shows that 75 percent of Americans would support a “public option” under which people could voluntarily sign up and pay a modest premium for a government-sponsored plan patterned after Medicare.
Simply stated, even with reforms included in the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care), our current health care system is unsustainable. Every American who has health insurance has a different plan, and that’s a big part of the reason administrative costs and premiums continue to skyrocket out of control.
Some 40 years ago, during my first period of service in Congress, I joined a handful of my colleagues in introducing the very first universal health care bill. Few took us seriously, but now it’s a different story. The Medicare for All legislation (H.R. 676) – which I introduced last fall along with Senator Bernie Sanders and others – now has 122 co-sponsors in the House. And the Senate version has an unprecedented 17 cosponsors. So we are clearly moving in the right direction.
Our Week in Duluth
Members of the Sea Grant Advisory Council in Duluth held a briefing on Sea Grant Minnesota last week. I have been so proud to fight for Sea Grant funding and their activities across the state of Minnesota. Sea Grant is credited with adding nearly $19 million in economic market and non-market effects derived from programs, services and activities between 2015-2017. During the same time, they awarded more than $1.9 million in grants which have helped fight Aquatic Invasive Species and harmful algal blooms. Hats off to Director John Downing and his crew for a job well done!
Texas Congressman Mike McCaul, Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, stopped in Duluth last week to meet with representatives of St. Louis County, local law enforcement (St. Louis County Sheriff's office and the Duluth Police Department), Customs and Border Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Port of Duluth to discuss port and northern border security. I was pleased that Chairman McCaul and others recognized my bipartisan work to upgrade and secure the Soo Locks, which are vital to commerce leaving and arriving to Duluth and Superior.
The St. Louis County Mental Health Task Force met at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth to discuss details on the proposed Regional Crisis Center that the Arrowhead Region will be submitting to the legislature for funding next year. The final hurdles were getting the 2018 bonding bill signed by the governor and providing the necessary data gathered from this region.
Our Week in Brainerd
Brainerd Area residents gathered to honor our fallen soldiers this Memorial Day at several ceremonies throughout the region. Pictured here: The color guard marches into the ceremony at Evergreen Cemetery as part of the parade.
Our Week in Pine City
Dustin Goslin, Economic Development Director for Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures, presented current and future projects to the quarterly Pine County, Cities and Townships Joint Meeting.
Our Week in Sunrise Township
American Legion Post #139 from Harris led the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Sunrise Cemetery in Sunrise Township.
Our Week in Hibbing
A Memorial Day celebration was held at the Maple Hill Cemetery in Hibbing. Pictured above are the boots and helmet that make up a portion of the fallen soldier battle cross.
Coming Up in Washington
- The House is expected to take up H.R.1026, the North Country National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment Act, under suspension of the rules. The bill, which would reroute the trail in northeastern Minnesota and extend it into Vermont, is widely supported by local communities and conservation groups.
America's Newest Quarter Honors Voyageurs National Park and the Minnesota Loon
Heads up to coin collectors and fans of Voyageurs National Park and our Minnesota loons – the U.S. Mint will be releasing this beautiful new quarter on June 11th – part of a series of 56 commemoratives highlighting America’s national parks. Ceremonies are scheduled for June 14th in International Falls. The new quarter pictures a Minnesota loon with a rock cliff in the background – a scene so wonderfully familiar to all of us who love and appreciate Voyageurs National Park and our great Minnesota outdoors.