Moderate Moment | Moderate Moms

Happy Holidays?

Whether you follow the weather, it seems inevitable that weather will find you, in a form and at a time you can least expect. The change of Seasons used to be reasonably predictable. Now, it is anything but. And it isn’t just the weather that is stirred up and unpredictable, is it?

The American psyche seems just as vulnerable.

Maybe it isn’t just the National Guard that is tired these days. Can we blame them? First, they were evacuating Americans in Afghanistan and then they were called to nursing homes to give baths to the elderly as part of an effort to relieve burned out Health care workers. No doubt, they’re worn out.

But so is the average American, it seems.

Here we are, in the midst of this third wave of the Coronavirus pandemic, asking ourselves what role climate change, if any, plays in all of this. Why is the latest version of Coronavirus, the Omnicron variant, which is reportedly as contagious as measles, spreading as fast as it is? Are we somehow more vulnerable than we might have been any other Winter when a cold or flu knocked on our door? We seem to be. Except the CDC tells us this is no cold or flu. And given that people who aren’t vaccinated are, in some cases, winding up in the hospital, most of us will get the vaccine. If only it were that easy.

We will get it and we will give a billion doses away to countries that can’t afford it. And the United States will be pounded for not doing enough.

Yes, there are podcasts, there are Scientific journals and virologists to quote. But if you don’t have time to catch the latest update or recognize that even the authorities get it wrong sometimes, you may be left to your own devices. The recommendations this Christmas were that it would be safe to gather without masks indoors, if everyone was vaccinated. We did. And, it wasn’t.

Maybe you are fed up with having to decipher acronyms, like WTO, WHO and mRNA versus regular old RNA and DNA.

I spent my holidays ordering N95 masks and extra tests. All this while trying to parse the difference between quarantining and isolating as the recommendations changed from a 10 day quarantine after exposure to 5, seemingly overnight. That was two weeks ago. Just this morning, after hearing we had had it in this house, a visitor asked if we might wait to have visitors until 14 days after the last sick person left.

Americans are used to seeing caravans on the news. Migrants trying to get into the United States on our Southern border, sub-Saharan refugees fleeing War and famine. They’re not used to a caravan of cars, occupied by families, travelers and even a Senator and former Governor, getting stuck for 24 hours, on one of the most trafficked stretches of Interstate in the Country in a major blizzard. One that has certainly seen its’ share of Winter snow before. The reason? Disabled trucks.

Surley, there is more going on here.

A fire that started as the year was winding down in Colorado has sent fire experts there back to the drawing board. According to the Wall Street Journal, Hurricane strength winds carried embers further and faster than investigators knew they could. In Colorado; in December.

This after a record setting tornado left a multi-state scar where homes, businesses, schools, hospitals and places of worship once stood. It was the biggest and widest footprint for a tornado in the United States.

If you dont think fire investigators are a little worn out in CO after that devestating run of wildfires through the Rockies the Summer before last, think again. Let’s not forget the mudslides that closed part of another major interstate, Highway 70 in Glenwood Springs.

Again, people want answers to what role climate plays? These weather emergencies belie an underlying urgency that is going unaddressed.

New book details how California prosecutors took…

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Not One More

Not One More

Today I listened as national news outlets compared Texans to Floridians, unfairly maligning them for caring less in the days following the recent school shooting in Santa Fe, TX than Floridians did in the weeks after the Parkland school massacre in Florida.

I sat there stunned. Almost half of all Texans are in favor of revisiting gun laws. The idea that people here don’t care just isn’t true.

Mother after Mother, Father after Father, Concerned Citizen after Concerned Citizen here all agree. We must draw a line on school shootings. We can’t have another. Not one more student can lose their life at school.

So why isn’t that message playing out across the Country? I hear it. Why doesn’t the general public?

It is true that Texas is generally a safe and well run place to live. It is also true that guns are part of the culture here; both for sport and protection. What’s also true is that the Republican leadership in this State is holding hearings today through Thursday to take public comment on the issue. That’s right. The Republican leadership is acknowledging the need to do better.

I watched my own son graduate from high school just two days after those ten children lost their lives so unexpectedly in Santa Fe, TX. It was on our minds and in our hearts but like so many tragedies almost unspeakable. One of the ten students who was killed has a red streak in her hair and liked to sign (she studied American Sign Language) just like a friend of his. It hits home. And it should.

How heartbreaking it was to hear the girl’s Mother interviewed on CNN Sunday night. But how impressive to hear that she is reaching out to leaders and committing to a life of activism in honor of her daughter.

The time to speak up has come and gone. It is now time for action.

We must secure our schools. We have to provide the resources and funding to identify kids under pressure, kids who are marginalized, the students who are being bullied and the mindset that it can’t happen here. It is happening here, there and almost everywhere it seems.

It isn’t Texas’ fault. But Texas is in a unique position to lead the kind of forward movement that needs to happen now. More people are moving to this State than any other in the Country right now. There’s a reason. It is a can do place. Texas can do this. And it should.

We must not be afraid of special interest groups who put their legislative agendas ahead of our children’s basic rights. We must find our voices to effect change. We have to make it safe for gun reason to prevail in our nation’s Capitol. This isn’t a challenge to the 2nd Amendment and we will no longer vote for politicians who intentionally stoke fear by conflating the issue.
Gun Reason is not gun control. It is dealing with the reality that there is too much access to weapons that are too lethal. Those weapons are being used too frequently to settle problems. Yes to offering thoughts and prayers. A resounding No to stopping at that.


“What are we going to do for Barbara?”

If there is a single person who represents the way a modern Moderate Republican woman thinks, it is Barbara Bush. Our local CBS affiliate in Houston is now reporting that Mrs. Bush passed away after declining extraordinary intervention.

For someone who loves words and wit, her blending of both has been extraordinary. Her timing spot on. Politically, she was ahead of her time, as the following quotes show in uncanny hindsight:

On Politics “The personal things should be left out of platforms at conventions. You can argue
yourself blue in the face, and you’re not going to change each other’s minds. It’s a waste of your time and my time.”

“I hate the fact that people think compromise is a dirty word.”

“I don’t think that’s healthy for the Country when anyone thinks their morals are better than anyone else’s.”

“Political posturing is not governing and Naysaying is not Leadership.”

On a Woman President “Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow my footsteps, and preside over the White House as the President’s spouse.
I wish him well.”

On Diversity “Bias has to be taught. If you hear your parents downgrading women or people of different backgrounds, why, you are going to do that.”

On Potential “If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather than dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities.”

On Reading “Everything I worry about would be better if more people could read, write and comprehend.”

On Choice “I hate abortions but just could not make that choice for someone else.”

On #43: “I may be the only Mother in America who knows exactly what her child is up to all the time.”

Unfortunately, we will probably never know the exact shade of words she chose in response to son Jeb, a Candidate for President, being labeled weak with low energy or when George W., was caricatured for his faith and accused of suffering from dyslexia, something another sibling had been diagnosed with. Hopefully, she shrugged it off. I just found, in an old archived article from the New Yorker, this steely stalwart of a different era was wary about chatting with reporters off-the-record. A Silver Fox with a silver tongue knows sometimes you get Gold by saying nothing. If Barbara Bush didn’t laugh about the “barbs”, at least she got the last laugh by realizing off-the-record may not always be.

I remember reading that her husband’s supporters were advising Barbara Bush to color her hair, which had turned white prematurely. This was before I had worked in politics or started to color my own. I was dumbfounded. I read they wanted her to look younger than her husband. I thought that was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. But, a New York Times article, shows it was a serious topic of discussion. (NYT Archives 1988) She told the Times, “When George was first going to run for President, a member of our family said, “What are we going to do about Barbara?” Now the question needs to be, “What are we going to do for Barbara?” As far as what to do about Barbara, let’s acknowledge how right she was on so many contemporary topics like Tolerance, Choice, Civil Rights and Gun Reason.

Appearing at a 1992 Bush Quayle NH campaign stop, on a day which started at 4:30 a.m. in Washington, the First Lady said about her schedulers, “I’m not sure they know how old I am.” No, they didn’t know. And neither did we. We just saw you for the character you were and the character you had, beyond the color of your hair, the privilege of class and the generations between us.” Barbara Bush blurred those lines because she cared about things that were universal: equal rights, clean air and water, sick children, the importance of early intervention in education.

I don’t think it is insignificant that, in that clip from that New Hampshire campaign stop, Mrs. Bush is in the background with a sea of well-wishers between her and the cameras. You can barely see her back there. It is almost humorous by today’s standards of media coverage. She clearly wasn’t worried about face time or getting her good side on television. When a supporter holds the local paper up, to show her she is front page news, she rushes to throw a hand over the top-of-the fold photo.

Her stump speech is sweet and supportive, “In our 47 years together, he has been right a lot.” On her marriage to George, “I was and I am in awe.” On the run up to the second Gulf War, “The only thing that remained steady, calm and sure was George Bush.” “I may be slightly biased but I really think George Bush is a spectacular President.”

While the former First Lady may have deferred to her life’s partner over the course of her career, she can’t block our view of her accomplishments as easily today. As God gently reached out to Barbara Bush, and as she patiently awaited Him, we need to acknowledge how her words have shaped the current generation.
One granddaughter, her namesake, runs the Global Health Corps, an organization dedicating to helping the sick and poor, particularly in Africa, access medicines and treatments readily available in the first world. The younger Barbara Bush took an early and very public position in favor of a Gay Marriage ballot initiative in New York years before it was made legal nationwide; Jenna Bush Hager is a Today show correspondent. The former First Lady’s Grandson, George Prescott Bush, is running for re-election for Texas Land Commissioner and could be the first Mexican-American President. As Commissioner, Jeb’s son George “P.”, who is helping to rebuild parts of the state ravaged by Harvey, doesn’t seem able to and maybe isn’t trying to avoid a trait that is synonymous with being a Bush Republican. According to the Texas Tribune, he “maintained a low profile”, in his bid for Texas Land Commissioner, “emphasizing his conservative values while his critics accused him of being a Moderate.” Son Neil and his wife head up the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation.

There is a lot of talk about the men of the Greatest Generation. And certainly, President George H.W. Bush’s life was shaped by the values that generation is noted for: frugality, modesty, service to others. But it should be noted his wife, who he was married to for 73 years, stands out as one of the Greatest Women in that Generation. Looking at a list of U.S. Navy Ships named for women, there are ships named for Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford, Astronaut Sally Ride and even, Sacagawea. When I think about Barbara Bush, I am reminded of these mighty vessels and wondering if it isn’t time for the Navy to add another woman’s name to one of its’ ships. Friday night’s use of force to destroy Syria’s alleged cache of chemical weapons, which Bashar al Assad had reportedly used again on his own people, led me to think, “This one’s for you, Mrs. Bush.”

With five kids of her own, Barbara Bush joked about being “Everybody’s Mother.” She supervised 29 household moves. As a young Mother, on a trip north to summer in Maine with her children and staff in tow, Barbara Bush refused to eat or sleep in any establishments along the way that wouldn’t serve her two African-American maids. She served on the Board of Morehouse College and named Frederick Douglas as her favorite historical figure. She recognized what it meant for racists to talk in code, something getting renewed attention in the media today.

The name Barbara means traveler to a foreign land. And yet Barbara Bush’s view of what lay ahead, once she declined further medical care, felt like it was more familiar to her than most. It could be her faith. It could also be the Angel she has waiting there for her and George H.W., the daughter she lost to Leukemia when she was just 3 years old.

Robin, your Mother bears good news.

The survival rate for the most common type of childhood leukemia has increased from 4 percent in 1962 to 90 percent today. According to St., 98 percent of children diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia will go into remission within weeks of starting treatment. Thanks to innovations with vaccines and immunotherapy, cancer patients across the board are not just surviving, some are thriving post-recovery, something unimaginable in the 1950’s.

According to the World Health Organization, new HIV infections fell by 39 percent between 2000 and 2006.

The Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.

According to, the effort to promote literacy has given us a greater understanding of the connection between low literacy and poverty, low literacy and health outcomes, low literacy and incarceration.

High schoolers across the Nation have found a voice in bravely organizing and demanding changes in how the United States is dealing with gun violence.

According to American, African American women earned more than half of all science and engineering degrees attained by African Americans.

The Centers for Disease Control tells us teenage pregnancies in the Hispanic and African American population have dropped by 51 and 40 percent, respectively, in the last decade.

A powerful and affluent class of Influentials is emerging in the African-American community. As Nielsen reports, the incomes of African-Americans earning more than 200,000 dollars a year jumped 138 percent between 2005 to 2013.

Declining medical intervention, Barbara Bush had reportedly said she hoped God would still recognize her with all the replacement parts she had been carrying. As we pray for her loved ones, I want them to know this moderate Republican woman will always recognize her as the First Lady who made it cool to wear fake, who got a you-hurt-my-feelings letter from Marge Simpson, who made it okay to vent. She probably knows she had me at “It rhymes with rich.” The perfect word is, after all, the perfect word. I would love to tell her something she may not know, too. Yes, it was you Mrs. Bush who inspired my older Sister to give my Mother a surprise gift – a Springer Spaniel who looked like Millie – when my Mother was living in a house in Florida with alligators in the pond out back. (Note to my own children – Don’t ever do that.)

I always joke with my kids that I never did or said anything someone else could call smart until I called out the Republican party for failing to work across the aisle and for hamstringing itself over social issues.

Reflecting on your words here now, Mrs. Bush, I see how influenced I was by your way of thinking, something I don’t think I was aware of before now. Reading does change lives. You and it have changed mine.

Not even an ‘assault weapons ban’ could stop all school shooters. So what could?

Article reposted with permission from Miami Herald

One hundred and sixty three people have died in school shootings since the government began counting in the early 1980s. Needless to say, “never again” is hardly a controversial idea — no one wants another school shooting.

The controversy begins when politicians start talking solutions. At the crux of the arguments: What laws would keep students safe while maintaining citizens’ Second Amendment rights? With varying levels of support, ideas currently debated in Florida include: an “assault weapons ban,” red flag laws, stronger background checks and waiting periods, age limits for weapons purchases, and banning bump stocks.

A look at the deadliest school shootings in United States history shows that no single idea —from the right or left — would have prevented every school shooting. But each proposal may have prevented at least one of them, experts say.

The Sandy Hook shooter who killed 27 stole the rifle from his mother, so a better background check and a three-day waiting period that included mental health reviews wouldn’t have prevented the possibly schizophrenic young man from having a weapon. The Virginia Tech shooter who killed 33 students in the deadliest school shooting in history used two pistols, not a rifle, so the “assault weapons ban” as it’s being called, wouldn’t have changed anything. He was also 23, so no proposed age limit would have stopped him either.

“The only thing that would actually stop school shootings is if you got rid of guns in America, and that is not feasible or possible in this moment,” said Mike McLively, an expert on the Second Amendment at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a nonprofit named after then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot and seriously wounded in 2011 outside a grocery store in Arizona. Six people died.

But that’s no excuse for nonaction, McLively said. “Any one of these policies may not have stopped the Parkland shooting, but any one of them might also stop the next shooting that happens somewhere else.”

So how would the major gun reform proposals being argued in Tallahassee work? Would they have stopped the shooters in the deadliest shootings in history?

Semiautomatic rifles seem to be the weapon en vogue for mass shooters — Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, the Pulse nightclub and the list goes on.

In response, Stoneman Douglas survivors have been clear — they want an “assault weapons ban,” as do most Floridians, according to a recent poll. But the school safety bill moving through the Florida Senate doesn’t include such a ban.

Banning “assault weapons” is not easy, firearms expert and Global Journalist Security consultant Michael Limatola pointed out. And the problem is in large part technical. First, there is no agreed-upon definition of “assault weapons” and the term is often misused to imply semiautomatic rifles. Outlawing all semiautomatic rifles would, by definition, also ban millions of hunting rifles, making the idea too broad for many to consider.

Laws like the now-defunct 1994 federal “assault weapons” ban (which some politicians want to bring back) defined an “assault rifle” as any rifle that could accept a detachable magazine, and had at least two parts on a list of mostly cosmetic features associated with military weapons — a telescopic lens, for example. The law also banned specific guns by name.

That last part didn’t work: Manufacturers just renamed the rifles. And the definition of “assault rifle” didn’t prevent manufacturers from producing deadly semiautomatic rifles for civilian sale either. “The problem with banning cosmetic features is that they can be removed,” said Limatola. Even without those features, the rifles remain essentially the same.

The semiautomatic rifle used in the Columbine massacre was legal under the 1994 assault weapons ban, which was in force at the time. The Bushmaster XM15-E2S used to kill kindergarteners at Sandy Hook was also an AR-15 rifle modified to be legal under the 1994 ban.

Some states, like California and New York, have changed the “assault weapons” definition to one feature on the list, not two, and include some semiautomatic handguns and shot guns. As part of its ban, California also restricts the size of the magazine that a civilian can buy to 10 rounds — the same size Nikolas Cruz carried to Stoneman Douglas.

“There’s a critical moment when someone has to pause to reload,” said McLively. “With a smaller magazine, they are going to have to reload multiple times. So that presents an opportunity to tackle the person or run away.” Cruz’s gun is reported to have jammed as he tried to reload for at least the 10th time, forcing him to stop shooting.

But at the end of the day, experts agree that an assault weapons ban would not have prevented all, or even most, of school shootings. Why? Because semiautomatic handguns, not rifles, are still the weapon of choice in most mass shootings. In the 2015 Umpqua Community College shooting where nine were killed, the shooter favored a smaller handgun, never firing the rifle he brought to the Oregon campus. Many other shooters didn’t carry a rifle at all.

“We have too many firearms and even if they are not assault weapons, you can shoot and kill a lot of people,” said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy & Research.

The problem with preventing school shooters usually isn’t a lack of warning signs. The problem, said McLively, is that in many states, law enforcement officials don’t have the legal framework to take guns away from individuals who appear to be a danger to themselves or others.

The answer proposed by Florida legislators: a so-called “Red Flag” law, or a gun violence protection order.

A “Red Flag Law” allows a family member or law enforcement official to petition a court for a restraining order that would temporarily prohibit an unstable or dangerous individual from owning or possessing a gun. Essentially, if a family member could show the court that their loved one was a danger to themselves or others, that person’s guns could be taken away. It would happen quickly. And it would be temporary, extended past 12 months only if the court found adequate reason.

In the case of Cruz, a family member tried to have his guns taken by the Broward Sheriff’s Office, which said there was little it could do. “Take Parkland for example, had we been able to limit the shooter’s access to guns, you potentially saved 17 lives with a single restraining order,” McLively said. The same went for Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter. FBI records revealed a neighbor who claimed she told police that Lanza had an AR-15-style weapon and wanted to kill his mother and the children at Sandy Hook Elementary — a chilling premonition he would later fulfill.

In Lanza’s case, he stole the weapon from his mother. Still, McLively said courts could probably also order family members to lock up the weapons, or remove them from the house entirely under a red flag law. There is no precedent.

Critics worry that the law could be applied frivolously, but McLively says there is no evidence of that being the case. Red flag laws tend to have bipartisan support, although lawmakers argue over who exactly would have the right to petition the court for the restraining order.

The age limit for buying handguns is already 21 in Florida. The logic: Young adults account for well over a majority of all weapons incidents, according to FBI data. But an 18-year-old can still buy a rifle.

“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that you can’t rent a car, you can’t drink alcohol at 18, but you can get your hands on a weapon of this kind,” said McLively. “There’s a lot of research out there showing that the human brain isn’t fully developed when it comes to rational decision-making until age 25.”

Some school shooters were under 21, including three out of the top four most deadly — the shooters at Sandy Hook, Stoneman Douglas and Columbine — all of whom used some sort of semiautomatic rifle. Since the Valentine’s Day attack, some politicians including Florida Gov. Rick Scott and President Donald Trump have supported raising the age for buying a rifle to 21.

But many underage school shooters still found a way to buy a firearm. A photo on Cruz’s Instagram revealed that the teen also owned a handgun — something that would already be illegal for a teen under Florida law. But Cruz probably bought the weapon online or from an individual, said Webster from Johns Hopkins, and the law does not require private sellers to run a background check on a buyer — a check that would have revealed Cruz’s age.

Right now in Florida, almost any adult can walk into a gun store and walk out 10 minutes later with a semiautomatic rifle. That would include the two-minute background check that screens the buyer for disqualifiers: a criminal record, a history of domestic violence, or a serious and adjudicated mental illness.

The process is convenient, but makes it too easy for a momentarily unstable person — either enraged or suicidal — to gain access to a gun, Webster said. The three-day waiting period would allow that person to cool off, he said.

“In the moment you’re heated and you’re going to do something violent with the gun. But that generally goes away in a few days,” said McLively, of the Giffords Law Center. Most school shooters, however, bought their weapon months in advance or stole it from a family member.

The waiting period would also allow time for a more thorough background check, and is already required for handgun sales in Florida.

A more comprehensive background and records check might have prevented some school shootings. The FBI background check system came under fire in 2007 after the Virginia Tech shooter was allowed to purchase his weapon despite mental health red flags that should have prevented him from purchasing a weapon. In his case, it was determined that the records had not been uploaded to the federal system — a shortcoming that has improved in recent years but continues to be a problem, according to experts.

Background checks for weapons sales are required for registered gun stores, but private individuals who sell at gun shows or online are exempt. They can accept a cash payment for a weapon, and take the buyer’s word for the rest.

“Whether we are talking about red flag laws, or assault weapons bans, if you leave really important holes in the system, those measures are going to be less effective,” said Webster. He said most people agree that there are certain individuals who shouldn’t have guns.

Background checks coupled with some sort of licensing or permitting process overseen by law enforcement officials are most effective in keeping guns out of the wrong hands, Webster said.

Bump stocks gained infamy when the Las Vegas shooter used them to modify an AR-15 to a crude version of an automatic weapon. The idea that a legal weapon could be turned into an automatic weapon terrified people. That said, bump stocks have never been used in a school shooting. Banning them is popular, since almost everyone agrees they serve little legitimate purpose.

“Those devices are for people who get excited about rapid rates of fire,” McLively said. “Really, at the end of the day, it makes your gun a toy because it makes it shoot faster.”

Most of what has been discussed are proactive policies, aimed at stopping a potential shooter before they take deadly action. But the school safety bill being considered in Florida also includes measures to combat an active school shooter, such as funding for bulletproof glass and metal detectors, mandatory school resource officers, and the most controversial: arming teachers.

McLively remains most skeptical about arming teachers, pointing to the coincidental case of a Georgia teacher who allegedly opened fire in his classroom Wednesday. “It’s a probability game and the chances of something like this are just much more likely than the notion of an armed teacher turned Rambo who saves the day.”

An earlier version of this story misstated the time and place that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot.

Shutdown Deal Turns Democrats on Each Other Before Midterms

Article reposted with permission from Bloomberg Politics

For Democrats, the recriminations began even before the final votes were cast to end the three-day government shutdown — hinting at divisions that could complicate their efforts in November’s congressional races.

Most of the blame fell squarely on Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who was assailed by party colleagues for accepting a Republican offer on immigration that fell far short of Democratic demands.

“Why do Democrats always fall into some stupid trap,” asked Representative Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat. “We’re taking a great hit. Totally unjustified. And our people just seem to take it flat-footed.”

Slaughter was one of many liberals who unloaded on Schumer’s decision to go to the brink with the shutdown only to step back without gaining any meaningful concessions in a key policy area for the party in an election year.

Democrats have banked on President Donald Trump’s low approval ratings and their own enthusiastic base to yield big gains in Congress in the midterm elections, including a possible majority in the House. Party operatives and activists had hoped for the shutdown to represent a watershed moment in Democrats’ battle over immigration. Now, they hope it will be a distant memory come November.

No Commitment

“The bottom line for us is that Democrats caved. I don’t see how anyone could characterize it as anything but that,” said Angel Padilla, policy director of Indivisible, a grassroots group that has grown from opposition to Trump. “I don’t see what they got out of this.”

While the funding vote came with one Democrat policy ask — a funding extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Plan — it included only a verbal agreement that the Senate would try to take action on immigration legislation. There was no commitment to restore protections for the some 690,000 young immigrants as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, comes to an end in early March.

Trump quickly seized on the deal to claim victory.

“Big win for Republicans as Democrats cave on Shutdown,” Trump said in a tweet on Monday. “Now I want a big win for everyone, including Republicans, Democrats and DACA, but especially for our Great Military and Border Security. Should be able to get there. See you at the negotiating table!”

Since another short-term funding bill was passed in December, progressive and pro-immigration activists had been pressuring Democratic lawmakers to refuse to fund the government without getting an agreement on DACA. The vast majority of House and Senate Democrats did just that on Friday, but by Monday it was largely the left flank of the party that voted against reopening the government. That group included several senators who’ve been discussed as possible 2020 presidential candidates, including Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

‘Kicks the Can’
“This simply kicks the can down the road with no assurance that we will protect Dreamers from deportation or fight Republican attempts to curtail or eliminate legal immigration,” Illinois Representative Luis Gutierrez said in a statement. “This shows me that when it comes to immigrants, Latinos and their families, Democrats are still not willing to go to the mat to allow people in my community to live in our country legally.”

Billionaire donor Tom Steyer, who’s pledged to spend $30 million this year helping turn out Democratic voters, vented in a statement. “Democrats need to ask themselves: what do they really care about — human beings or irrelevant political grandstanding? If the answer isn’t people, then are we any better?”

Democrats still have to prove that they’re going to fight the Republicans on issues that affect working families, said Stephanie Taylor, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. If Democrats continue to back down from fights “it’s gonna drag down the Democratic tickets as a whole” she said.

A poll conducted for Senate Majority PAC in December in 12 battleground states found voters in more conservative states dividing blame for a shutdown among Trump and both parties in Congress. If told a shutdown was be linked to the status of DACA recipients, those polled assigned more of the blame to Democrats. The Washington Post reported the poll on Sunday.

“I hear our numbers are dropping like a rock because, supposedly, we closed the government down,” Slaughter said, without pointing to any specific polls.

Some Democrats said Schumer handled the situation well.

‘Weak Hand’
“He made the best possible of an inherently weak hand,” said Matt Miller, who was communications director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee when Schumer was its chairman.

It was worth going into a shutdown “on the chance you might pressure Trump into a deal,” but a longer shutdown didn’t make sense once clear that Republicans weren’t going to budge on DACA, Miller said. “Politically, Democrats have the wind at their backs so why juggle a live grenade that might go off in their face and change the dynamic?”

Faiz Shakir, the ACLU’s National Political Director, said it didn’t “feel like there was a great exit strategy in place before entering into this.” He said he worries the Democratic leadership had erred not just by appearing to fold Monday, but by appearing to agree to separate the DACA issue from must-pass spending bills, and conceding in negotiations they’d be willing to give the president funding for a border wall.

“The jury is essentially out” on questions of Schumer’s leadership abilities, Shakir said, adding that it was fair to reserve judgment to see if the Senate’s top Democrat would be able to secure protection for dreamers before the DACA program expires in March.

Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat up for re-election this fall, said he wasn’t surprised that activists were upset with lawmakers from their party who voted to end the government shutdown.

“People are not going to be happy. People weren’t happy with the shutdown, people weren’t happy with the vote last week, they’re not happy with the vote today,” he said. “These are big, tough, challenging issues and I understand that there are going to be folks that don’t like it.”

The Daily Dose

Article reposted with permission from Stars and Stripes

WASHINGTON — The families of two U.S. soldiers killed in a helicopter crash Saturday will get death benefits from an area nonprofit, despite the government shutdown. Fisher House Foundation in Rockville, Md., which helped Gold Star families who lost benefits during the 2013 shutdown, is stepping up again.

“Families like the ones we helped in 2013 are very deserving. They are deeply dedicated to overcoming the challenges they confront,” Ken Fisher, chairman and CEO of his family’s nonprofit, said in a statement Saturday. “Helping them isn’t charity but rather this nation’s solemn duty. In these very tough situations, they don’t quit. Neither should we.”

Families of the two soldiers killed in Fort Irwin., Calif., should be eligible for the help. The government’s death benefit program for servicemembers includes an immediate $100,000 payment to each military family. The program is halted during a shutdown, along with other funds that cover funeral, burial and related travel expenses as well as a temporary housing allowances.

“Government rules and regulations can often prevent it from doing what is best for our military,” Fisher said. “A perfect example of this occurred during the 2013 government shutdown when the (Department of Defense) could not pay the benefits earned by servicemembers through their ultimate sacrifice.”
In 2013, the Fisher House provided $750,000 in grants to 30 families during the 16-day shutdown.

On Friday, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., reached out to Fisher, and the nonprofit agreed to offer the families an advance grant until the government can make reimbursements, Manchin’s office said. The Fisher House will also cover flights, hotels and other incidentals for family members at a time of “unfathomable loss,” his office said.

“I applaud Ken and the Fisher House for their dedication to serving our soldiers and their families during their time of need and especially as this senseless shutdown looms,” Manchin said ahead of Saturday’s shutdown. “It’s shameful that our military families could bear the consequences of this shutdown.”

In October 2013, the families of four soldiers who were killed in combat in Afghanistan didn’t see the death benefits for days, forcing them to alter plans to meet the bodies of their slain relatives at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Such incidents triggered an angry backlash from the military and their supporters as well as congressional promises to rectify the problem. But there’s been no legislation to fix it, and supporters of Gold Star families are worried about a repeat of such ordeals.

“These families have to deal with the tragic loss of their loved ones as well as suffer the loss of the monetary support for our government when they need it the most,” said Keith Humphrey of Kansas, a Navy veteran and father-in-law to a fallen Marine Corps servicemember who has been working on a legislative fix.

Humphrey’s family received their death benefit immediately, but he was angered when he heard of the 2013 cases and it inspired him to get involved. Humphrey has since made it his life mission to close the gap in coverage.

The news of the shutdown, followed by the Fort Irwin deaths, “is like a shot to the gut,” he said. “It immediately took me back to relive the day my son-in-law was killed. The death gratuity payment that (proposed legislation) secures during a government shutdown won’t be paid — this bill should have been passed a long time ago.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., has sponsored the legislation, the Families of Fallen Servicemembers First Act, during every congressional term since the 2013 shutdown, but bill has languished in the committee stage. Each year, however, the plan has grown in support, going from 8 cosponsors in 2013 to 108 this year.

“What happened during the 2013 shutdown was shameful,” Connolly said in December. “With the near quarterly threats of a government shutdown, enacting the Families of Fallen Servicemembers First Act is more important than ever.”

In Kansas, Humphrey saw quick success, where the state in 2013 enacted a law to cover such benefits when the federal government can’t during a shutdown.

Humphrey since pushed for the federal government to follow suit. This year, Humphrey has helped Connolly’s legislation reach its 108 cosponsors – about one-quarter of the House.

A cost estimate maybe hurting the bill’s chances. In 2013, the Congressional Budget Office, which evaluates and estimates the cost of legislation, gave a similar plan a $150 million price tag.

Supporters of a permanent fix have said the estimate is too high, and seems to assume the government would remain in shutdown mode in perpetuity.

While the shutdown doesn’t impact insurance-related death payments – such as ones from the Servicemember’s Group Life Insurance program – those funds can take weeks to reach families.

More than halfway through the October 2013 shutdown, the Pentagon struck a deal with Fisher House to provide the benefits to families of the fallen as a contractor.

“I am offended, outraged, and embarrassed that the government shutdown had prevented the Department of Defense from fulfilling this most sacred responsibility in a timely manner,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said at the time. “In the days before the shutdown, we warned Congress and the American people that DOD would not have the legal authority to make these payments during a lapse in appropriations.”

In the end, the Fisher House issued payments of $25,000 to about 30 Gold Star families who lost members of the military in combat, training or other incidents during the shutdown, Fisher said.

The nonprofit, which provides temporary housing all over the world for military families in need, such as people with a servicemember who is hospitalized, raised a large portion of that money privately.

“We have to learn from our mistakes. Too often history repeats itself and we need to make sure that is not the case,” Fisher said last month. “It’s not just about making sure the death benefits are paid, it’s honoring the sacrifices these people have made.”


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