The Republican Congress is at it again, casting votes that hurt average working families struggling to maintain their middle class status. If simply working harder or longer hours is what led to success in this country our middle class would be as strong as ever, but instead many are being crippled by slow economic growth, increasing wealth disparity and a Congress always for sale to the highest bidder. Following the lead of Speaker Boehner, Houston Congressman Randy Weber has been complicit in ensuring the deconstruction of America's middle class by putting Chinese bondholders over working families and decreasing what protections those working still have.
Weber voted for a Republican bill coyly titled, "Working Families Flexibility Act" that should have been more aptly called the, "Pay Working Families Less Act," because it undermines the 40 hour work, and makes it harder for workers to take advantage of the vacation days they earned. Instead of voting to increase the minimum wage, promoting fair pay, or ensuring fair scheduling practices, the purveyors of so called family values are doing just the opposite. According to the nonpartisan National Partnership for Women and Families, "The mis-named Act will mean a pay cut for workers without any guaranteed flexibility or time off" and also, "erodes the basic guarantees of the Fair Labor Standards Act: fair pay for overtime work and time off from work."
These policies promote the type of working conditions one might expect in countries who have lower standards for human rights, like China, and it may be no coincidence.
If you watch The Daily Show you may have seen the ironic skit about how members of Congress voted to fix the part of the sequester that prevented their flights from leaving on time. They fixed the part that affected them while the rest of the across the board cuts continue to hit the middle class and working poor, and threaten our border security. Unfortunately freshman Congressman Randy Weber has chosen to align himself more with Ted Cruz, like voting against Hurricane Sandy relief , than his own more moderate Speaker John Boehner. Boehner said of the Sequester, "When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the White House, I got 98% of what I wanted. I'm pretty happy,". Being partisan for the sake of being partisan is bad for Texans and its ultimately it will prove to be bad for the Republican Party. For a complete breakdown of what the sequester cuts will look like by agency the Washington Post has put together this great everything-you-need-to-know guide with lots of charts.
Emily Bittner of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released this statement:
"Earlier this month cancer clinics announced that they would have to turn away thousands of Medicare patients because of the sequester, local schools are kicking kids out of Head Start and our military doesn't have the resources needed to keep us safe, but Congressman Weber's top priority was to protect himself and millionaire campaign contributors - not the millions in the middle class who are getting squeezed,"
Congress is considering extending the program of block grants to States for the temporary assistance for needy families (TANF). Congressman Doggett (D-Austin) expressed his disappointment that more is not being done to create a long term bipartisan solution to poverty. Instead of reducing welfare rolls by denying assistance and reinforcing "old welfare Cadillac stereotypes", the Congressman believes we should provide real opportunity for people to lift themselves up the socioeconomic ladder. He noted only 1% of poor adults in America are participating in a TANF work program, and that a larger portion of our population is now living near the poverty line than when welfare reform was implemented in the 90s.
"If you evaluate the TANF program and how it has operated over the last decade and a half based upon the number of poor people who have been denied assistance it has been a tremendous success. But if you evaluate it based upon the number of poor people, who have been able to utilize it to secure a good, long term job, at a livable wage, its success is, at best, spotty."
For weeks Congressional Republicans, including Texas' own Senator John Cornyn criticized the President's comprehensive immigration reform proposal because they thought border security should be the top priority. On Tuesday Rep. Pete Gallego who represents the longest stretch of Texas-Mexico in Congress made it clear that the single biggest threat to border security is actually sequestration. In his first floor speech he admonished Congress for its finger pointing on the issue and challenged members to work together to solve the nation's problems.
"In small town West Texas when there's a fire everyone works together to put the fire out and no one focuses on how the fire started or who started the fire until after the fire is out. Here and now in Washington many folks are more focused on who is to blame for the sequester than trying to do something about it." - Rep. Gallego
The Congressman characterized the across the board cuts as having both economic and national security implications, saying, "Not having a vote this week is a decision by some in Congress for decreased border security, job loss and furloughs, and it devastates local communities and the state of Texas." His district contains a number of strategic military bases including Ft. Bliss in El Paso and Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio that could face furloughs in the tens of thousands.
His office also released this handy infographic of the impact of sequestration on the US-Mexico border. You can follow him on twitter at @RepPeteGallego and see his house floor speech below the jump.
Texas may not yet be blue but our border certainly is. In the state House, Texas Democrats represent the entirety of the Texas-Mexico border, while freshman Congressman Pete Gallego's 23rd district represents 800 of the 1,954 total miles along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Congressman appeared on MSNBC's Jansing & Co. to talk about the fate of Comprehensive Immigration Reform in this session of Congress.
I think immigration reform gets done this session of Congress. From the perspective of both parties it is time...I think the Republicans saw with what happened with the latino electorate last and time and in places like Texas thats a really significant thing. -Congressman Gallego
Obama won the 2012 election with over 70% of the Hispanic vote, and announcing Comprehensive Immigration Reform as a top 2nd term priority during the State of the Union has left Republicans both nationally and in Texas struggling to find a viable position on the issue.
Most people don't really care where the idea comes from, I think they want action, they want something to happen, they're tired of the prolonged conversations. -Congresman Gallego
A new House of Congress was seated this week. The 113th Congress. Sadly based on the initial uttering s from some of the old protagonists, much will remain the same. Unless Speaker Boehner decide to do his job as speaker of the House and not just speaker of the Republicans, this Congress will suffer the fate of the last Congress, the worst relative performing Congress in history.
Let us talk about these issues. Give me a call or listen in.
Today Market Watch listed TX-14 in its "5 races Investors Must Watch on Election Day", saying, "Lampson has made this race closer than expected" and giving him the momentum. Last week his opponent Randy Weber was busy answering questions over illegal campaign contributions, and this week he's explaining why he broke an election law. The bill, passed in 2007, restricts anyone from "use[ing] any mechanical or electronic means of recording images or sound within 100 feet of a voting station.", and this week the Weber campaign featured photos of the candidate voting (presumably for himself). At the time of this posting his Facebook page still featured the illegal photos with the slogan "Aqui VOTE" - yes I think there's a joke in there somewhere. It's clear that Weber has sounded the alarm because the RNCC, Ted Cruz and now Rick Perry have all come to his rescue. His campaign has failed to raise the funds, gain the support and build that sense of inevitability that Republican's expected when they redrew this district.
Lampson refuses to be outdone - including in star power. Last week he shared the stage with former President Bill Clinton. Clinton came to the new coastal district to remind them of the good ol' days when he was in the White House and Lampson was in the Capitol. Those days were marked by bipartisan legislation, budget surpluses and balanced federal checkbook. Clinton told the estimated crowd of 2,000 Southeast Texas voters:
I like Nick Lampson…He believes in arithmetic over illusion, evidence over ideology, shared prosperity and opportunity and responsibility over trickle down. And I know he believes we’re all in this together.
That concept has been Lampson's message from day one, in ads, emails and on the ground. His record of working across the aisle is fondly remembered for civility sake, but more importantly, the substance of balanced budgets and surpluses is something that hasn't been done since Lampson was in Congress. Though Lampson has very high name ID district-wide (65%+) these type of high profile events help expose him to those less familiar, like students. They may have heard of Lampson's prior service but many were too young to remember and such events give an opportunity to see the candidate in action. First time voters attending the rally at Vincent Beck Stadium had across the board positive reaction (from KIITV):
I feel very very confident about my decision. I've been watching both parties and I do feel that he is really putting more emphasis on people in my position and people who are relying on student loans, people who are in school, so I do have more confidence. -Lamar University student, Erin Wilrich
I had knowledge of it and after tonight, I have even more knowledge. I just feel really good about all the plans that he has for the Democratic party so if feel confident. -First time voter, Jasmine Reeves
I think it's pretty important and it gives me perspective on people who aren't the presidential candidate on the congressman. I really didn't know anything about that and I feel more confident in voting than I was earlier tonight. -First time voter, Rowan Waedemon
The momentum seems to be with Lampson on a number of important fronts; in the bank, across the airwaves and on the ground. Jefferson County has experienced record early voting this election and the campaign believes if it receive 60% there, Lampson will win the election.
On Sunday the Lampson for Congress campaign received an extra boost just before Early Voting began with the endorsement of all 3 major daily newspapers in TX-14; Houston Chronicle, Beaumont Enterprise and Galveston Daily News. These endorsements were not based on any promises Nick Lampson made this election cycle but on his "solid track record as a moderate who works hard for Southeast Texas." The editorial boards of the Houston Chronicle and Beaumont Enterprise are generally conservative and that will give credit to Lampson's claim that he can work across the isle. As for his opponent, Randy Weber, it shows that getting "the number one conservative rating in the House" isn't necessarily a badge of honor. Federal funds for transportation and infrastructure are crucial to the port cities along the Texas coast and these fast growing areas can't afford another Dr. No.
Weber has spent the entire campaign trying to label Lampson as part of an Obama-Pelosi-Lampson ticket but that notion was soundly rejected as all 3 papers, to my chargrin, also endorsed Mitt Romney. True for now, it may be a waste of ink for a Texas paper to endorse a Democratic President, but Lampson has a record recognizing the needs of this area and delivering. At times Weber has sounded more like he was running against "Obamacare" instead of a moderate opponent with 64% name ID. His website literally says, "Vote to Repeal Obama's Agenda...Vote for Randy Weber". It may be fashionable to bash Obama and the federal government but as the Galveston Daily News said, "attention to what's happening here, as opposed to what's happening elsewhere, would be welcome." That one criticism puts this entire race into perspective. Nick Lampson deserves another stint in Congress because he is a statesman who puts the interests of Southeast Texas over partisanship.
Early voting starts today and runs through Nov. 2nd. Election Day is Nov. 6th. Here are Early Voting Locations for Brazoria, Galveston, and Jefferson Counties.
Today the Lampson for Congress campaign reported strong fundraising numbers and building momentum across the district. The campaign currently has $421,518 cash on hand and has raised over $1 million from at least 2 thousands contributors. "When you have popular ideas you get popular support." Lampson said today on a conference call. His campaign manager referred to it as the "Lampson brand", but the former Congressman said of himself, "Voters know I'm an independent voice. He [Randy Weber] has a 100% partisan rating and I've done my best to pay attention to the needs of my district."
Lampson got a real boost to his bi-partisan credentials last week when he received the "Problem-Solver Seal" from the No Labels PAC. The 501 (c)(4) organization awards the seal to those candidates who agree to join the "Problem-Solvers Bloc" in congress, an emerging group dedicated to "working across the aisle to discuss effective, principled and pragmatic solutions to our country's problems." No Lables Co-Founder William Galston said of Lampson, "[He] is running for Congress to serve the American people, not partisan interests. His commitment to putting country first makes him a welcome addition to the Problem-Solvers Bloc."
Lampson has represented 80% of the new Tx-14 and most constituents are familiar with his a record of bi-partisanship, yet Weber has staked his campaign on tying Nick Lampson to Nancy Pelosi and pledging to repeal "Obamacare". Putting country first is also the subject of team Lampson's TV ad campaign which helps to highlight the major difference in how these two candidates would legislate. The first ad to hit the airways began with, "There's seems to be a lot of whining and crying in Congress today. We can get so much more done when we work together." In the latest ad they highlight Rep. Randy Weber's votes to give tax breaks to companies that send jobs overseas alongside Lampson's own efforts in Congress that helped create local jobs.
That contrast was on display in a recent debate where Lampson pointed out some of those votes that Weber touted as "tough decisions". Weber said,
We cut 27 billion-with-a-b dollars from our budget, we know what it is to live with in our means, I've proven that with my votes. You know you don't get the number one conservative rating in the House being a go along to get a long guy.
To which Lampson replied,
Randy you cut the Children's heath Insurance Program, that left 1.2 million Texas children without insurance. Those were the easy votes because you balanced the budget on the back of our children. You cut $6 billion out of education. If every child in this country is going have the opportunity to go work at NASA and become an astronaut then were not going to get there by cutting back on education, cutting back on healthcare by doing away with the things that have build a strong community and strong families.
This is one of the closest and most important races in the country and one of the few that are competitive in Texas. Lampson is far from the tax and spend liberal that Weber is hoping to portray him as. Lampson proudly noted that he never voted to raise the debt ceiling and worked on the last balanced budget Congress passed in a generation. The biggest problem for Weber is that many voters still remember. But, If you'd like to help by sending them a reminder, you can donate to Nick Lampson for Congress at our Burnt Orange to Blue page.