If Only Congress Had Listened To Alan Grayson And Donna Edwards Last June
Patrick Murphy has called himself a Democrat for around 4 years now
Chris Van Hollen, the Establishment Dem running against Donna Edwards for the Democratic Senate nomination in Maryland, is not a Blue Dog or a New Dem. Nor is he a progressive. He's just sort of in the middle. When Donna was fighting to expand Social Security and Medicare benefits for retirees, Van Hollen was backing Simpson-Bowles and talking about "compromising" away seniors' benefits.
And last year when Alan Grayson introduced a bill to stop the militarization of local police, Donna voted for the amendment, while Van Hollen voted with the GOP against it. The conservative New Dem, Patrick Murphy, whom Grayson is opposing in the race for the Florida Senate seat also voted against the amendment-- as did Blue Dog Dan Lipinski and Republicans Dave Reichert and Fred Upton. What Grayson and Edwards were trying to accomplish was a prohibition on use of funds to transfer "aircraft (including unmanned aerial vehicles), armored vehicles, grenade launchers, silencers, toxicological agents, launch vehicles, guided missiles, ballistic missiles, rockets, torpedoes, bombs, mines, or nuclear weapons through the DOD Excess Personal Property Program established pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997."
It's very similar to yesterday's executive order banning military equipment transfers to police. Obama's order includes armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers, and large-caliber firearms. Yesterday both Grayson and Edwards expressed their gratitude that President Obama acted where Congress refused. "I’m pleased," Grayson told us, "that the President wants just as much as I do to avoid the militarization of our streets and neighborhoods, and that he recognizes that the Grayson Amendment is the solution to that problem." That's very different from what Grayson said on the House floor last June when his amendment was being debated-- and killed by elites like Patrick Murphy, Dan Lipinski and Chris Van Hollen.
"I think this is appalling," Grayson said at the time. "That is why my amendment would prohibit the Department of Defense from gifting excess equipment, such as aircraft-- including drones-- armored vehicles, grenade launchers, silencers, and bombs to local police departments. Those weapons have no place in our streets, regardless of who may be deploying them... I don’t think this is the way I want my America to be. I think we should help our police act like public servants, not like warriors at war. I think we should facilitate a view of America where the streets are safe and they don’t resemble a war zone, no matter who is deploying that equipment. We don’t want America to look like an occupied territory."
Yesterday, Donna reminded Maryland voters she was ahead of the curve that blindsided Van Hollen last June. She told Maryland voters: "As a co-sponsor of the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act, I applaud the President for taking the appropriate steps to enhance accountability, increase transparency, and ultimately create better, innovative ways to serve the needs of law enforcement and our communities. We must strike the appropriate balance between protecting those officers who put their lives on the line and ensuring those communities trust them. Last June, I was only one of 62 House members (43 Democrats) to support an amendment that would have prevented the Department of Defense from distributing heavy weapons and vehicles to local police forces. While I applaud the efforts and courage our police departments continue to show each and every day, I feel that militarizing them will not solve the unrest that continues among our communities. I thank the President for leading on this ongoing issue of building strong relationships between law enforcement officers and those who they serve and protect."
Helping Donna and Alan win their Senate races-- against two congressmen who voted to continue the military buildup of local police-- is an act to substantively improve the functioning of American society. And Blue America has a page for Senate candidates, all of whom oppose police over-militarization.