Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tales From California's Central Valley-- A Bipartisan Means Of Holding TPP Backers Accountable


Ever been to Turlock, Jeff Denham's hometown

Tuesday the Blue America accountability truck rolled into Modesto, the big city in Jeff Denham's Central Valley district (CA-10). Denham is one of the most vulnerable congressional Republicans, not just in California, but anywhere in the country-- and Modesto is the biggest city in the district. Obama won Modesto both times he ran. In fact, Obama won CA-10 both times, holding McCain to 48% in 2008 and Romney to 47% four years later. CA-16 is much bluer and Obama beat McCain 58-40% and then beat Romney 59-39%. Republican-voting Jim Costa is hated by local Democrats and independents and he came within inches of losing his seat in 2014, beating his GOP opponent by just a few votes after a bitterly contested recount. Having come from visits along to 99 Highway to Merced, Atwater and Livingston, the truck spent a few hours in Turlock, Denham's hometown, before heading up to Modesto. Today, he's heading down to Fresno, the center of Costa's domain.

Greg, our driver, stunned by the unprecedented attention the billboards on either side of the truck were making on people, decided to stop by the Modesto Bee and invite the reporters to take some pictures of the truck. We immediately got a response from one of the paper's top reporters, Nan Austin: "The Blue America Pac has a sign truck traveling our area criticizing Costa and Denham for voting yes on the trade bill. But the big message says they 'just voted to cut your mom's Medicare by $700 million to finance a trade agenda that sends your job to China.' The only Medicare provision I see was cut from the final bill-- what am I missing? Any comments would be welcome."

Luckily, Gaius was able to answer her questions about Costa's and Denham's votes on the complicated package of bills that made up the TPP and shed did a more than reasonable job writing it up. Take a look; it's worth the read. It's important to remember that on June 12, both conservative congressmen voted FOR giving Obama Fast Track authority to negotiate the TPP treaty without any interference from Congress. You can see their votes here. The provision that cuts Medicare by $700 million had been sent over to the House from the Senate, where it had already passed, as part of a "final deal" that could not be changed. It appeared when Denham and Costa voted that it was a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. You want the TPP... then the Medicare cuts were something you had to swallow. Although stealing $700 million from Medicare was something the Republicans were excited by, it was so unpopular among Democrats that only a small handful of the worst Blue Dogs (like Costa) and New Dems voted with the GOP and the Medicare provision was eventually cut from the final bill-- although Denham had no idea it would be cut. Costa didn't care one way or the other and he even voted Yes to the cuts explicitly in a separate vote, although Denham knew what awaited him if he stuck with the GOP on that one... and he didn't. It didn't matter. But bottom line is, any vote for Fast Track in the House before the House leaders (basically, just Boehner and McCarthy) split the vote was a vote to move the Senate package-- with the Medicare cuts-- over the finish line. The vote referenced above-- which both Costa and Denham backed and voted for-- was Boehner's attempt to see if they could pass the whole Senate package. Since the bills hadn't been split in reality (only temporarily by a leadership-backed Rule), any Yes was a yes to get the Senate combo package that included the $700 million in Medicare cuts to Obama's desk intact. It wasn't until 6 days later, on June 18, that there was a real split of the bills and therefor possible to back the TPP without voting for Medicare cuts. It didn't matter to Costa one way or the other, but Denham knows his district well enough to have been looking for cover. But both were already on the record-- in the Congressional Record-- for having voted for the package.

Remember, the only real bill before the House until June 18 was the combined Senate bill with Medicare cuts in it. Costa and Denham supported it and worked for its passage. Any attempt to move that, in whole or in parts, to Obama's desk was an attempt to pass those dreadful cuts. It wasn't until the 18th, a week later, that the two bills, TAA and TPA, were formally split apart. Prior to that, a vote for any part of the Senate package bill was a vote to advance the whole package (with those inconvenient Medicare cuts the GOP forced into the legislation but don't want to take "credit" for).

By the way, the truck was paid for by contributions to the Blue America PAC. Feel free to contribute whatever you'd like-- and we'll keep the truck on the road longer-- or make one for backstabbing New Dems Ami Bera (CA) or Kathleen Rice (NY).

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