Get Out The Vote!

If you're a resident of Washington state and reading this blog, there's a pretty good chance you've already sent in your primary ballot. But what about your friends? It certainly can't hurt to send out a reminder over social media ...

It's been a hectic few days touring the state and meeting with volunteers from Spokane to Vancouver. I saw a lot of people fired up about supporting Democrats and getting out the vote.

I'm excited to see the vote totals coming in tonight!

Here are a few photos that show the level of enthusiasm I saw all over the state:

Tacoma on Friday

Tacoma on Friday

Vancouver on Friday

Vancouver on Friday

Spokane on Saturday

Spokane on Saturday

Everett on Monday

Everett on Monday

Seattle on Monday

Seattle on Monday

What's At Stake: Affordable Health Care

This post provides a summary of Republican legal efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and describes the impact that will be felt if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice.

Important cases:

Seven-Sky v. Holder (2011)
NFIB v. Sebelius (2012)
King v. Burwell (2015)
Texas v. United States - ACA Complaint (2018)

The 2010 Act of Congress, often referred to as "ObamaCare", but officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was written at a time when millions of Americans either couldn't afford or couldn't qualify for health insurance. At that time, a Harvard study concluded that 45,000 preventable deaths a year were attributed to lack of health insurance.

The Affordable Care Act is a straightforward solution to a difficult problem. It saves lives and it saves money. It replaced a complex set of rules that made insurance unaffordable for many, and often unobtainable for those who needed it most. The ACA accomplished this by creating incentives that encourage everyone to purchase health insurance, and by subsidizing insurance for those who cannot afford it. With more people covered, overall costs are reduced and pre-existing conditions are no longer a barrier to coverage. And as a result, people are healthier

In 2016, two years after the ACA took full effect, more than 20 million Americans had gained coverage through the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. And in 2015, a Congressional Budget Office report concluded that eliminating efficiencies created by the ACA could increase the budget deficit by more than 100 billion dollars over the course of ten years.

But Republicans never met a government program they didn't hate, even if it ultimately saves millions of lives and billions of dollars. And Donald Trump is only too happy to cater to his base, regardless of who is harmed or what it costs the country.

In June 2015, Donald Trump tweeted: "If I win the presidency, my judicial appointments will do the right thing unlike Bush's appointee John Roberts on ObamaCare."

In spite of — or perhaps because of — the ACA's success, conservatives want to take down "ObamaCare" any way they can. By nominating Brett Kavanaugh, the Republicans will gain the ability to do in the courts what they couldn't do in Congress — eliminate the Affordable Care Act.

Their effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act has been prosecuted across all three branches of the government: it's involved a series of failed votes in Congress, plus two unsuccessful Supreme Court challenges, and most recently, the Trump Administration has begun exercising its discretionary authority to the detriment of the ACA.

The history of Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act through the courts is complex, but it will be important to understand this history in the upcoming confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh.

- In 2012, the first legal challenge to the ACA reached the Supreme Court. The Court verified in NFIB v. Sebelius that incentives for having health insurance coverage are constitutional under the congressional power to tax.

- The ACA also withstood the next Supreme Court challenge, King v. Burwell (2015). This case questioned the legitimacy of offering tax credits to individuals in certain states that elected not to create state-sponsored health insurance exchanges in accordance with the Act. The complaint was based on ambiguous language contained in the original bill and was resolved by the Supreme Court to support the evident intent of Congress. 

- In 2018, thirty state governments led by Texas, filed a complaint against the U. S. Government. Citing the Supreme Court decision in NFIB v. Sebelius, the Texas complaint claims that the Affordable Care Act is no longer functional due to changes imposed by the Republican-led Congress.

- Although sworn to faithfully uphold and maintain the laws of the United States, the Trump Administration's Justice Department has recently declined to defend the ACA against the Texas complaint. This challenge may soon be on its way to the Supreme Court.

For many with serious medical conditions, this is a life-and-death matter. The fact that the ACA keeps facing new threats dreamed up by Republicans is a cruel and unnecessary burden on those most at risk. The Republicans can't seem to allow the ACA to succeed, so they have created instability and anxiety around medical coverage ever since it was passed.

Interestingly, in the complex maneuvering around the attempted destruction of the ACA, Judge Kavanaugh issued a dissent in the related case known as Seven-Sky v. Holder. This opinion was mistakenly interpreted as favorable to the ACA by some conservatives, which led them to question Judge Kavanaugh's commitment to abolishing the ACA. But two former high court clerks have weighed in to assure fellow conservatives that Kavanaugh's actions were only laying the groundwork for the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act:

- Former Supreme Court clerk, Justin Walker: "I am very familiar with that opinion, because I served as Kennedy’s law clerk that term. I can tell you with certainty that the only justices following a roadmap from Brett Kavanaugh were the ones who said Obamacare was unconstitutional."

- Former Kavanaugh clerk, Sarah Pitlyk: "No other contender on President Trump’s list is on record so vigorously criticizing the law. And as another of Judge Kavanaugh’s former law clerks has explained in depth, any suggestion that his decision paved the way for the Supreme Court’s disastrous ruling is, as Justice Scalia would later put it in an Obamacare dissent, "pure applesauce." The Supreme Court Justices who followed Judge Kavanaugh in the Obamacare case were the dissenters, Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy."

In his 2011 dissent in Seven Sky, Judge Kavanaugh referred to the ACA's system of incentives for health insurance as "a law that is unprecedented on the federal level in American history," and its implications, as envisioned by Judge Kavanaugh, presented "a jarring prospect."

More bluntly, speaking to fellow conservatives at the Heritage Foundation in September of 2017, Kavanaugh insisted that the Supreme Court should not have upheld the ACA in NFIB v. Sibelius.

Republicans have done everything in their power to subvert the Affordable Care Act. With Brett Kavanaugh on the Court, they will finally finish the job.

Thanks for reading, please share this article with others concerned about protecting the Affordable Care Act.

A Supreme Court Nominee Deserves Careful Consideration, Not Political Theater

If you're a fan of political theater, you'll recognize today's Republican press conference as an instant classic in the "huge stack of documents" genre. While you watch it, keep in mind that all those documents they're talking about could easily fit on a USB drive. Yes, you could carry them in your pocket.

But also keep in mind that the question Democrats are asking and Republicans are trying to dodge is a serious one. We need to know if current Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh deliberately misled Congress about his role in the Bush Administration, and his involvement in sensitive issues like warrantless wiretaps and "enhanced interrogation."

As my colleague Sen. Leahy has explained in a recent editorial, there's good reason to believe Kavanaugh did mislead Congress during his 2006 confirmation hearings.

Leahy further states:

"The methodical review of a federal court nominee’s record is not optional. It is the most fundamental part of the Senate’s constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent. Just last week, such vetting led to the withdrawal of a circuit court nominee with a record of offensive college writings. This process must be even more exhaustive for nominees to our nation’s highest court. And not long ago it was treated that way on both sides of the aisle."

Sen. Patrick Leahy, New York Times, July 23, 2018

The records we're requesting and Republicans are withholding will help us find the truth. If there's nothing to the allegations, we can put these questions to rest and move on.

But instead, Republicans would prefer to focus everyone's attention on a symbolic stack of boxes "taller than the Taj Mahal."

Unfortunately for them, that won't make the questions go away.

The American people expect us to carefully consider Judge Kavanaugh's nomination. Two questions we need to answer are: 1) Was he truthful in his last confirmation hearing? 2) What role did he play in the Bush Administration's surveillance and torture policies?

So far, all we have from the Republicans is theater of the absurd.

Lights Are Blinking Red

It's hard to miss the message being communicated by America's intelligence community over the last few weeks. Our country has been under cyber-attack for years and remains under attack to this day.

Foreign interests have been working methodically to undermine our elections infrastructure, our political parties, our communications networks, our energy grid, our markets, our nuclear plants, and more.

This is a new reality of the world-wide connected economy and we have been shockingly slow to respond.

On Tuesday, July 31st, I participated in a meeting of the Senate Committee on Commerce & Science's Subcommittee on Communications & the Internet, where the main topic of discussion was cyber-security. All of the experts testifying to the committee, including former Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff, raised serious concerns over our lack of preparedness.

Last week, I signed on to co-sponsor a bi-partisan bill that will deter and punish foreign interference in our politics and our infrastructure. Also last week, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and I sent a letter to the President, urging the Administration to tell us exactly what they are doing to combat attacks on our nation's critical infrastructure.

The President lacks an aggressive response. It's now beyond urgent that we do everything in our power to protect ourselves — even if we have to find ways to move forward without the President's leadership.

What's at Stake: Presidential Accountability

Key precedents:
    United States v. Nixon (1974)
    Morrison v. Olson (1988)

When the Executive branch of our government can no longer be relied upon to put the people of this country ahead of their own personal interests, our country is in a dangerous position. The framers of the Constitution understood this and gave Congress authority to review the actions of the President and apply a variety of remedies, as required.

Thankfully, when Americans realized the extent of Richard Nixon's corruption in the early 70's, these systems and processes worked. In particular, Congress learned that Nixon had been recording his conversations in the Oval Office and they requested the recordings. Nixon refused to provide them, but the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Nixon that he was obligated to do so. Shortly after surrendering the tapes, which included clear evidence of the President's involvement in wrongdoing, Nixon resigned.

Donald Trump's most recent nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, has stated that the Court's unanimous 9-0 opinion in United States v. Nixon was wrongly decided. Perhaps, Judge Kavanaugh speculated, "the tension of the times" led the entire Supreme Court to make the same mistake in unison. Or, perhaps it's Kavanaugh who is mistaken? It is certainly the case that Judge Kavanaugh's deferential views on Presidential authority are way outside of the mainstream. 

Now more than ever, we need to fully understand the President's activities. After his disgraceful performance in Helsinki, we have a right to know where his loyalties lie, and we have an obligation to find out. Among all the names on the list of approved judicial candidates provided by the Federalist Society, Judge Kavanaugh stands out as the one most willing to limit Congress' ability to investigate the President and hold him accountable. It seems likely he was selected because of this.

A further example of Judge Kavanaugh's philosophy is provided in remarks he made regarding the Supreme Court decision, Morrison v. Olson (1988). In Morrison v. Olson, the legality of the Independent Counsel Act was challenged, and the court held 7-2 that the Independent Counsel Act was constitutional. Judge Kavanaugh is not a fan of Independent Counsels, because he believes they undermine Executive authority. When asked recently what Supreme Court ruling he would most like to see overturned, Kavanaugh quipped the he would like to "put the final nail" in the coffin of Olson v. Morrison.

Judge Kavanaugh's opinions on executive privilege are clear. He's stated that he does not believe Presidents should not be forced to participate in legal proceedings, such as investigations and lawsuits. Presidents should not be "distracted" by legal obligations during their term of office.

This is probably the worst philosophy we could add to the Supreme Court right now. In the coming months and years, we are likely to see important cases involving Presidential accountability. These cases may relate to the work of Independent Counsels, violations of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause (which prohibits the president from profiting off of the office), the President's obligation to respond to subpoenas, or even whether the President is allowed to pardon himself.

Although legal scholars and ordinary Americans alike find Judge Kavanaugh's opinions on executive authority excessive, his message has played well to an audience of one — the President. 

We must not add Brett Kavanaugh to the Court while an Independent Counsel, who has already secured multiple indictments and guilty pleas from the President's closest associates, continues his investigation.

Thanks for reading, please share this article with others who are concerned about the direction of the Supreme Court.

Where Things Stand: 07/30/2018

Day 2 of 100

Today, Democrats in the Senate are requesting adequate time to go over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's extensive history as an Appellate Judge and as a member of the Bush White House.

Republicans want to speed through the process and are trying to hold back a number of documents related to Judge Kavanaugh's work in the Bush Administration. As Senator Leahy recently explained, these documents should be released to either prove or disprove reports that Judge Kavanaugh misled the Judiciary Committee in his 2006 confirmation hearings.

I know the American people expect us to conduct a careful review of Judge Kavanaugh's record and philosophy. To do this, we need the facts.

Over the next week or two, I'll be posting a series of backgrounders prepared by my campaign staff on important issues likely to be impacted by the choice of a new Supreme Court Justice. It's already clear that a broad range of fundamental American rights and values are at stake.

We'll have pieces focused on the Affordable Care Act (i.e. coverage for pre-existing conditions), the Right to Choose, Presidential Accountability, Marriage Equality, Immigration, Citizen's United, and more.

Our goal is to provide information that voters can use to quickly get up to speed on the upcoming Supreme Court debate, and to provide it in a format you can easily share with others who care about these issues.

The more people are informed and engaged right now the better.

One hundred days, two critical votes

Day 1 of 100

Within the next 100 days, two extraordinarily important votes will take place. While the results are difficult to predict, it's already clear they will have a profound impact on the future of our country.

Sometime soon, the Senate is expected to vote on the confirmation of a new Supreme Court Justice, a decision that will alter the balance of the Court. And on November 6th, the most consequential mid-term elections in recent history will be held, and these elections will determine control of Congress. Together, these decisions will set our nation's course for generations to come.

I cannot overstate the importance of these votes to me personally, to my constituents, and to our country. I'll be spending the next 100 days working as hard as I can to bring about the best possible outcome for our country.

Let me be clear about where I stand. I do not wish to see the Supreme Court shift in a direction opposed by the vast majority of the American people. And I demand that those who gain power by illegitimate means must be held accountable by Congress. I seek to prevent the choice of a new Justice until after the Mueller investigation is completed, and I view the upcoming mid-term elections as a crucial opportunity for us to re-establish our priorities as a nation.

I cannot be certain either of these votes will go as I hope. To quote our first Supreme Court Justice, John Jay, these things are "more to be wished than expected." But I believe it's possible to prevail if we as Americans are willing to stand up for our rights and the values we believe in at the ballot box, as we always have.

This blog will serve as a way for me to ensure that my constituents know about the actions I'm taking, to keep everyone informed about the opportunities and the obstacles that lie ahead, and to let you know what you can do to help.

By reporting on what I'm seeing, and what I and my colleagues are doing, and highlighting when and where we need help, I hope this blog will contribute to our country making wise decisions over the course of the next 100 days. I have faith that democracy and the will of the people can prevail. 

As a nation, we are facing a challenge. When we look back on what we did during these 100 days, will we be proud?