Report Card for “Bri-Fi,” 2018

September 10, 2018

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As we know, the mid-term elections are fast approaching, so I thought now was as good a time as any to take a look at what our Wet Noodle 2.0 U.S. House Rep for PA-01 was up to (I’m referring to Brian Fitzpatrick of course).

To begin, it should be noted that Bri-Fi sought to burnish his “pro-life” bona fides by voting for a 20-week abortion ban (that and other votes are noted here – fortunately, as noted here, the ban was rejected by the U.S. Senate in January).

As noted here, though…

Nearly 99 percent of abortions occur before 21 weeks, but when they are needed later in pregnancy, it’s often in very complex circumstances. For example, severe fetal anomalies and serious risks to the woman’s health — the kind of situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available.

20-week bans are also highly unpopular throughout the country. 61% of all voters say abortion should be legal after 20 weeks. Plus, Democrats (78%), Republicans (62%), and Independents (71%) say this is the wrong issue for lawmakers to be spending time on.

Fitzpatrick also voted for a permanent ban on federal funds for abortions or health coverage that includes abortions (which is pointless because federal funding for abortions is already banned under the Hyde Amendment, named after a serial philanderer in Congress – more here).

When it comes to civil liberties, Fitzpatrick also voted to reauthorize warrantless spying under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA); Republicans managed to make it worse in the process according to some fourth amendment advocates (a group which should include everyone I realize).

As noted here

“Not only does the (reauthorized) bill say you have our blessing to collect communications that contain a target’s email address, it also endorses collecting communications that merely contain a reference to the target,” says Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security program at New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. “So literally if you and I sent an email to each other that had the word ISIS in it, if you and I send an email that talks about ISIS, under this bill the government is authorized to collect it.” (Assuming ISIS is a group that the NSA is specifically targeting.)

The bill does impose a warrant requirement upon the FBI, but the way it’s written appears to weaken privacy protections rather than strengthen them, says Goitein. Under the legislation, FBI agents need a warrant to search the Section 702 database when a criminal investigation has already been opened, but not when national security is involved. That means the FBI can query the database on nothing more than a tip. “It incentivizes doing searches earlier and earlier, when it’s less and less justified,” says Goitein.

Fitzpatrick also voted along with Generalissimo Trump (which he has done about 83 percent of the time according to Nate Silver) in the matter of disciplining VA whistleblowers (here).

Also, as noted here

The U.S. Government Accountability Office’s report says VA whistleblowers are far more likely than their colleagues to face discipline or removal after reporting misconduct.

The number of VA workers fired is up under President Trump. But congressional Democrats and the VA’s union cite VA data showing that the vast majority of those fired in the first five months of 2018 were low-level food service, laundry and custodial staff the majority of whom are veterans. In that same period, only 15 out of 1,096 employees fired were supervisors.

This report comes as the VA’s own inspector general has publicly clashed recently with the VA leadership over access to documents and information about whistleblower adjudication.

A recent NPR investigation showed a pattern of often vicious whistleblower retaliation at the VA in central Alabama and sidelining of whistleblowers in Indiana.

There’s also a news report this week that the VA, under Acting Secretary Peter O’Rourke, is aggressively reassigning or forcing out VA staff members thought to be disloyal to President Trump and his agenda for the agency.

I realize that we’ve had VA issues with both Democratic and Republican presidents (probably the result of too many damn wars and too many of our heroes getting maimed in our country’s service and putting a strain on available resources), but I don’t know of anyone being forced out for being “disloyal” to President Obama.

And speaking of Number 44, Fitzpatrick repeatedly attacked Obama-era rules, including a rule blocking states from defunding Planned Parenthood (here) as well as another rule requiring employers to keep better record of workplace injuries (here). He also voted to overturn a rule prohibiting labor law violators from eligibility for federal contracts, allowing these companies to underpay their workers once more and evade safety regulations (here).

Fitzpatrick also voted to overturn an Obama rule banning drug testing jobless applying for unemployment. As noted here

As things have long stood, states only had the authority to institute drug tests for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash welfare program. Thus far, 13 states have instituted such regimes. But what their experience has proven year after year is that the tests, while costly to administer, turn up very few positive test results. Out of about 250,000 applicants and recipients among these states in 2016, just 369 tested positive; in four states, exactly zero people tested positive for illegal drug use. In the states with positive results, they ranged from a low of 0.07 percent of all applicants to a high of 2.14 percent, rates far below the nearly 10 percent drug use rate among the general population.

Meanwhile, states collectively spent $1.6 million on drug testing, on top of the nearly $2 million spent during the previous two years, despite the apparent ineffectiveness of these programs. That’s money that could instead be used to expand welfare benefits or even drug treatment programs.

Another vote from Fitzpatrick to overturn Internet privacy rules allowed internet service providers, or ISPs, to sell “financial and medical information. Social Security numbers, web browsing history, mobile app usage (and) even the content of your emails and online chats,” according to Sam Gustin of the web site Motherboard (vote is here).

Fitzpatrick also voted to end federal checks preventing more than 167,000 veterans deemed “mentally incompetent” from keeping or purchasing firearms (H.R. 1181). This is part and parcel of Bri-Fi’s utterly craven voting recording in near-total fealty to the NRA. As noted here:

  • In February 2017, Fitzpatrick voted to block the Social Security Administration from sharing information with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System on people with mental disorders in order to prevent them from purchasing firearms.
  • In November, 2017 Fitzpatrick voted twice to block the establishment of a select committee on gun violence prevention.
  • In December 2017, Fitzpatrick said he supports concealed carry reciprocity which would force states like Pennsylvania to defer to the concealed carry weapon laws of more pro-gun states like Texas.
  • In February 2018, Fitzpatrick voted to kill consideration of legislation on gun regulations.
  • In March 2018, Fitzpatrick voted to block three bills to close gun safety loopholes including the gun show, internet sale, and classified ad background check loopholes to prevent the sale of guns without a completed background check.
  • Fitzpatrick also voted to prohibit Department of Justice (DOJ) settlements requiring parties to donate monies to outside groups. This may seem a bit obscure, but as a result, the following should be noted from here

    The decision (to distribute settlement funds only to those directly harmed by wrongdoing) by the Justice Department throws into question an upcoming $12 million settlement against Harley-Davidson. As part of the settlement, the motorcycle manufacturer agreed to stop selling illegal after-market devices that increase the air pollution emitted by the motorcycles.

    Harley-Davidson had agreed to donate $3 million to a project to reduce air pollution, the Justice Department said in August. With Sessions’s decision Monday, that settlement’s fate is now up in the air.

    Also, Fitzpatrick voted to get rid of financial protection regulations, otherwise known as the Dodd-Frank Act, put in place to increase financial stability and consumer protections in the wake of the 2008 recession. As Gregg Gelzinis of the Center for American Progress notes here

    The CHOICE Act also allows banks of any size to opt out of a suite of crucial regulations—such as stress testing, living wills, risk-based capital requirements, liquidity requirements and more—if they maintain a leverage ratio of 10 percent. And it repeals the Volcker Rule’s ban on risky proprietary trading bets. A 10 percent leverage ratio is not nearly enough capital to justify such drastic deregulation.

    Furthermore, the CHOICE Act shreds the authority and resources of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, the council of financial regulators tasked with looking at risks across the financial system. FSOC would no longer have the power to address dangers that emerge outside of the traditional banking sector, putting taxpayers at risk. The bill also eliminates the Office of Financial Research, which provides data-driven research support to FSOC to help identify emerging risks.

    Tax Cuts_Bri-Fi3 (1)

    And speaking of money matters, Fitzpatrick also voted for his party’s so-called tax reform bill last December, which adds about $1 trillion to the deficit (which, of course, Republicans only care about when they’re trying to utterly gut the social safety net). The non-partisan Tax Policy Center found that after the tax plan has taken full effect in 2027, 80 percent of the benefits would go to the top 1 percent of earners in this country. When it comes to tax cuts, the top 1 percent will get an average cut of $1,022,120, while the middle 20 percent will get an average cut of $420, eviscerating any notion that the middle class are the key beneficiaries of the Republicans’ “Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code.”

    As noted here

    Should Trump-state Senate Democrats who voted against the tax bill, like Claire McCaskill (Missouri), Joe Manchin (West Virginia), Joe Donnelly (Indiana), and Jon Tester (Montana), really fear electoral backlash?

    Absolutely not, according to our analysis. In fact, they should highlight their opposition to Trump’s tax bill even in these red states.

    Most polling about the bill has been national, and it suggests broad unpopularity. Our analysis of exclusive national data to model state support for the tax bill suggests that Democrats have little to fear from the GOP law and should embrace progressive policies to mobilize opposition.

    Update 10/5/18: For the record, here is Fitzpatrick’s vote from December, and here is a recent vote to make the tax cuts for the rich permanent – heckuva job!

    And for anyone out there who may have bought into the “trickle down” lie still after all this time, I give you the following (here)…

    In the first six months after the Trump tax cuts were passed, corporate investment in equipment declined, America’s projected long-term deficit swelled by nearly $2 trillion, and wages for the vast majority of American workers fell on an inflation-adjusted basis.

    And there is no sign that reality will start comporting with the GOP’s predictions any time soon. As the Washington Post’s Heather Long notes, Morgan Stanley reported last month that America’s businesses are planning less future capital spending now than they were a few months ago. And that finding is bolstered by a recent survey of 393 businesses from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the audit firm RSM, which found that only 38 percent of those firms plan to increase investment over the next three years.

    Instead of channeling their profits into productive investment, S&P 500 companies are on pace to plow a record-setting $800 billion into buying back their own stocks. The point of such “stock buybacks” is to increase a firm’s share price (and thus, in many cases, the performance-based pay of its CEO) by reducing the supply of shares on the market.

    Oh, and for good measure, it should be noted that, according to Nate Silver, Fitzpatrick voted no to impeachment resolutions against Trump at least twice (I realize this isn’t shocking given that they’re in the same party, but it should be pointed out for the record).

    By himself, as far as I’m concerned, Brian Fitzpatrick hasn’t done nearly enough to merit another two years in the U.S. Congress. Worse, he’s part of a majority that has done nothing whatsoever to rein in a calamitously unqualified individual currently taking up space in An Oval Office.

    Given that, I see absolutely no alternative than to vote for Scott Wallace for Congress from PA-01 on November 6th.

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    Friday Mashup (2/21/14)

    February 21, 2014
  • Jonah Goldberg, apparently vying for the title of Most Idiotic Pundit in the Universe, inflicts the following while bashing Number 44 overall for a variety of alleged reasons (here)…

    The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to treat carbon dioxide as a “pollutant” is an outrageous expansion of executive power. But Obama (didn’t) tout that as a bullet point (last week at a Democratic retreat); he let the EPA take the political heat for that decision a while ago.

    So much stoo-pid, so little time – as noted here

    In March 2012 the Environmental Protection Agency released a draft rule limiting carbon pollution from new power plants. This standard was promulgated in response to the 2007 Supreme Court ruling requiring the agency to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act if it found that carbon dioxide emissions endangered public health and the environment. The agency published such a finding in 2009, noting that carbon-pollution-associated climate change will increase the frequency of unusually higher temperatures and heat waves.

    Increased temperatures can increase the risk for formation of ground level ozone or smog. Breathing ozone may lead to shortness of breath and chest pain; increased risk of asthma attacks; increased susceptibility to respiratory infections; need for medical treatment and for hospitalization for people with lung diseases, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; and premature death. Children and senior citizens are most vulnerable to harm from smog.

    The Environmental Protection Agency held several listening sessions while drafting the proposal, held two public hearings on the proposed rule, and extended the comment period to 73 days. Almost 3 million comments were sent to the agency in favor of reducing carbon pollution from both new and existing power plants—a record for an Environmental Protection Agency rule proposal. The agency is now in the midst of finalizing its rule.

    Actually, based on this, the EPA finalized the rule last December 19th; carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology is “decades old,” though apparently it is still a relatively expensive technology (don’t know enough to say whether or not it should be subsidized by the federal government or if it is already, but if it isn’t, why not?).

    Of course, if Goldberg had an inclination towards actual journalism instead of hack punditry, he might be disposed to try and find that out (yes I know – if I ruled the world, every day would be the first day of spring…).

  • Next, I give you the latest from Repug U.S. Senator John Barrasso via Fix Noise in the “Let’s Bash Number 44” slug fest (here, opining about the fifth anniversary of the stimulus last Monday)…

    President Obama said that he was going to use the money to fund “shovel-ready” construction projects. Many of those projects stalled because of burdensome red tape, and Washington regulations. A couple of years later, the president even joked that “shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.”

    In response, to give you an idea of how many jobs were saved or created the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, I would ask that you read the following from here.

    And what have Barrasso and his fellow U.S. Congressional Republican pals done in response (aside from saying that the stimulus “failed” even though they patted themselves on the back for bringing stimulus funds back to their states or congressional districts, as noted here)?

  • Obama’s jobs plan blocked in the Senate in October 2011 (here).
  • A $60 billion infrastructure spending bill was also blocked in the Senate in November 2011 (heregee, ya’ think that would have helped with repairing our roads crumbling from this awful winter? And do you remember this stellar related moment?).
  • Obama’s 2011 American Jobs Act was also blocked in the U.S. House (here).
  • A veterans’ jobs bill was also blocked in the Senate in September 2012 (here).
  • Of course, an extension of unemployment benefits that would create 2 million jobs was also blocked (here).
  • Here’s a more comprehensive list of legislation backed by Obama that has been blocked by Republicans in Congress (and here is another typical Barrasso move).

  • Continuing, I give you the latest from the perpetually angry Brent Bozell (here)…

    Media liberals are howling at the apparent injustice of the “anti-Clinton” Washington Free Beacon website, which has dared to paw through old Hillary Clinton history. The hypocrisy is stunning. Let us recall the avalanche of mean-spirited and sleazy “fair game” the networks assembled for us just a few years ago in the last election cycle.

    Bozell then goes on to list a whole bunch of imagined media slights involving Republicans, which I won’t bother to address here lest this entire subject grow too tiresome than it already is. However, I’m going to say something about this because 1) Without giving away the game too much, I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to be dealing with an upcoming presidential election cycle involving Hillary Clinton, and 2) Our wingnut brethren, if Bozell is any indication, have already decided to start dumping on the former First Lady, Secretary of State and U.S. Senator from New York regardless (it’s ALWAYS good sport for conservatives to dump on the Clintons, which, if nothing else, tells you how pitiable these people truly are).

    Bozell also mentioned something about the Washington Free Beacon (whatever that is). In response, this Media Matters post tells us that the “Free Beacon” relied on a report from a group called OPSEC to attack Hillary Clinton – this tells us more about the group:

    …OPSEC, a right-wing group made up of retired intelligence and Special Forces operatives, has partisan ties and a history of disingenuously attacking the Obama administration. The group “first surfaced during the 2012 presidential campaign,” when they produced a 22-minute film and TV ads accusing President Obama of “seeking political gain from the May 2011 military operation that killed Osama bin Laden.” (PolitiFact rated the claims made in the ads as “false” and “mostly false.”) Key members of the group have current and former affiliations with the Republican Party, and Reuters uncovered that more than a quarter of OPSEC’s 2012 funding was raised by Campaign Solutions, a political consultancy which represents Republican candidates.

    OPSEC’s president, Scott Taylor, has also previously been accused of “shady campaign tactics” in his multiple bids for Republican state office, and as Business Insider noted, the group’s maneuvers reveal they are more interested in attacking President Obama and the Obama administration than promoting any national security interests. According to OpenSecrets, OPSEC spent almost $500,000 in the 2012 election cycle on “electioneering communications” alone.

    Official investigations have found Secretary Clinton, the Obama administration, and the military did everything within their power to rescue the Americans stationed in Benghazi at the time. The official inquiry into the State Department’s role conducted by the independent, nonpartisan Accountability Review Board found that security at Benghazi was inadequate and offered recommendations for State to prevent future attacks, all of which are being implemented, but found Clinton personally blameless.

    Yes, having to counter the nonsense from Bozell and his ilk is time not spent trying to persuade anyone still on the fence at this point why they should vote for a Democrat in the upcoming and all future election cycles. But this is an exercise that must be done, since the “noise machine” will crank up ever louder, immune to facts and reason as always.

  • Further, I have to comment on the following here (staying with clownhall.com, and apparently still in need of an editor)…

    More than half of Americans oppose Obamacare and 56% claim the law is more about bolstering government control than it is about helping individuals gethealth care (sic).

    The millions kicked off their insurance certainly do not find the policy freeing, neither do millennials forced to pay for healthcare feel liberated.

    Obamacare is precisely the type of overbearing government policy that the Founders would have fought against…

    Oh? So the Founding Fathers would have opposed “Obamacare”?

    This tells us about the U.S. Marine Hospital, founded in 1798, under President John Adams (it eventually became our Public Health Service, led by the Surgeon General). And as noted here, the hospital was also supported by Thomas Jefferson, hardly an acolyte of “big gumint.”

    And did I tell you that Benjamin Franklin co-founded the nation’s first public hospital offering free health care, as noted here (which became Pennsylvania Hospital)? Gosh, I didn’t know our founding fathers were such a bunch of damn socialists (removing my tongue from my cheek).

    As long as I’m on this subject, though, I should point out that this tells us that the number of health care repeal votes in the U.S. House under Republican Party “leadership” has now ballooned to 47. And that means that I’ve fallen behind a bit on my count, based on my pledge to highlight a different U.S. House Republican for each repeal vote:

    Here is the tally so far:

    #1 – #31 is here.
    #32 – #40 is here.
    #41 – #42 is here.

    So without any more ado, let’s pick up the count, shall we?

    meadows

    #43 – Mark Meadows (NC – 11)

    As far as I’m concerned, Meadows is infamous for only one act, but it was a real doozy, and that would be last year’s government shut down; as noted here, he was more responsible for it than any other person in the U.S. Congress.

    And just to refresh our memories, these in part were the results:

  • Disadvantaged women and infants relying on nutrition programs, as well as anyone relying on Head Start, individuals with disabilities and people needing heating assistance were all hurt (here).
  • Processing of veterans’ compensation, pension and education benefits was delayed; the shutdown was projected to drain about $10 billion out of our economy (here).
  • Passport applications were delayed as well, and shutting down sites in the U.S. Parks service hurt tourism as well as related businesses relying on tourist dollars, OSHA halted inspections, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission halted investigations of fraudulent trading practices – processing of Pell Grants and student loan assistance was also slowed (here).
  • FEMA ended up furloughing 86 percent of their employees during the height of the hurricane season (here).
  • So yeah, if Mark Meadows does absolutely nothing else of consequence one way or the other for the remainder of his public life, he will always be remembered for the utterly ruinous 2013 government shutdown, as well he should.

    ellmers

    #44 – Renee Ellmers (NC – 02)

    What a prize of an elected official…

  • Speaking of the shut down, Ellmers voted for it of course, but when asked why she wouldn’t donate her salary, said “I need my paycheck” here (as Laura Clawson says, as if Head Start teachers don’t?).
  • Oh, and an unsecured AR-15 rifle was stolen from her home here (smooth move).
  • Here, she introduced a “bill” to provide “rights” to disabled (injured and amputee) veterans that they already have.
  • As noted here, Ellmers introduced a resolution to honor Jesse Helms (ding ding ding! We have a winner in the “Wingnut of the Week” contest!).
  • Also, I’m not the biggest fan of Clay Aiken either, and I know politics ain’t beanbag as somebody once said, but I thought it definitely showed a lack of class on her part to mock his singing here.
  • reid-ribble-oops

    #45 – Reid Ribble (WI – 08)

  • This tells us that a petition with 120,000 signatures was delivered to Ribble’s office telling him not to include Social Security cuts in fiscal discussions last year, which Ribble intended to do regardless of the fact Social Security does not contribute to the federal deficit…remember the whole “chained CPI” thing, which apparently has come around again as an issue as noted here?
  • And speaking of Social Security, he wants anyone relying on that popular federal program to get it in the proverbial neck, as it were, as noted here.
  • In a truly guttural move, Ribble actually scolded Sister Simone Campbell for asking government to help the poor (nice).
  • Here, Ribble ducked out early from a jobs fair to attend a campaign fundraiser (what a swell guy).
  • Ribble said here that government shouldn’t borrow, even though he personally carries a couple of hundred thousand in debt (the latter isn’t a crime, but don’t be so damn two-faced about it).
  • And OF COURSE he’s a member of the “Koch Caucus” (here).
  • SteveStockman

    #46 – Steve Stockman (TX – 36)

    I don’t know if Stockman is the biggest goof ball on this list or not, but if he isn’t, he’s certainly in the top two…

  • There’s lots of stuff on Stockman from this great post – take your pick.
  • He also thinks Ted Nugent is a patriot (here).
  • Stockman invited the rodeo clown wearing an Obama mask noted here to perform in his district (nice).
  • He apparently went missing also (here), but he turned up later (here), thinking the whole “missing” thing was a joke apparently (of course, if you want to read something really funny, take a look at this…wonder if the Teahadists will do the U.S. Senate Democrats another favor?).
  • As noted here, Stockman is also apparently a fan of that show “Duck Dynasty,” along with a lot of others I know (in response, I give you this…anyone who buys into that show is a total rube).
  • Update 3/4/14: HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

    Neugebauer

    #47 – Randy Neugebauer (TX – 19)

  • Yes, it’s true – as the picture shows, any discussion of Neugebauer has to begin with his truly infamous episode where he yelled at a U.S. Park Ranger for closing the WWII memorial during the shut down his party initiated (here).
  • He also yelled out “baby killer,” presumably at former Dem U.S. House Rep Bart Stupak, during Stupak’s speech on the House floor at about the same time as the vote for the Affordable Care Law in 2010, which is truly idiotic but particularly in the case of pro-lifer Stupak (here)…and yes, he apologized.
  • Oh, and when asked here, he wouldn’t provide a copy of his birth certificate, even though Neugebauer is a “birther” himself, as noted here (uh oh).
  • Neugebauer was also one of the House Repugs who voted for farm aid (receiving about $4 grand in subsidies) while also voting to cut food stamps (here…also, he’s very definitely a member of the “Koch Caucus” along with Reid Ribble, noted in the link above).
  • So I think that brings the official count up to date; I should also start thinking about a proper commemoration for the eventual 50th repeal vote. Because, knowing this bunch in the House, that vote will surely come.

  • Rep_Holt_Official_Headshot

  • Finally, as long as I’ve devoted so much space to Congressional miscreants, allow me to finish by bidding a fond farewell to a retiring Dem who set, I believe, a sterling example of how Democrats are supposed to advocate for their constituencies and what kind of legislation they are supposed to author and/or support. And that would be Rush Holt of New Jersey (here).

    As noted below (citing what I know is an incomplete list of accomplishments)…

  • He spoke out against the ever-pervasive surveillance state here.
  • On a related note, he sponsored the RESTORE Act in 2007 here (earning the enmity of Joke Line, among others).
  • He was also a visionary on climate change (here).
  • He helped secure $3 million to keep the NJ Technology Center at Ft. Monmouth open (here).
  • He was a staunch defender of Social Security (here).
  • He won congressional approval of a measure to mandate video recording of interrogations (here).
  • Holt once introduced a bill to ensure a paper ballot in elections here (that issue more or less got swept under the rug, but last I checked, it still needed to be addressed).
  • We are truly losing some giants on our side in the House between Holt, Henry Waxman and George Miller. However, it is only right to cycle in new blood, as it were, and to also give thanks for the exemplary precedent set by those who have done their time and have now earned a well-deserved rest, providing the way forward for future heroes on our side, championing future causes for the good of our country. And may we see the day when their hard work comes to joyful fruition for us all.


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