Last week, representatives from northern Michigan Indivisible Groups sat down with Senator Debbie Stabenow. Here is a summary of our conversation with her:
The Senator feels Indivisible activism is making a difference. She pointed to what’s happened to Healthcare. Republicans could not get the ACA repealed by January 27. Citizenry got involved, hospitals, doctors, women’s marches. Sen. Stabenow thinks this made a difference. The hope is the AHCA will not be passed in the Senate. The fact that the White House, Senate, and House hasn’t been able to get it through speaks to our activism. Sen. Stabenow feels that where we are right now as a win because of the stall out. She advised keep paying attention. If we are slowing them down or irritating them, it’s important.
Question: Is the Senator getting Trump agenda support calls to her office?
Stabenow: Trump supporters haven’t really organized or been pushing back. It’s mostly been “stop picking on the President” messages, and “you’re doing this because you don’t support the President.” When she asks them, “do you really think we should roll back pre-existing conditions?” They answer, “Well, no.” Their response is the same when she asks, “Do you think people in nursing homes should lose their health care?” She advised not to get discouraged—keep Bergman on notice and keep the pressure up on him.
Question: Do you think the Republicans will throw money into the next election and try to unseat you?
Stabenow: Yes. There are 10 Trump states that Republicans are going to focus on. They are laser focused on herself. Commenting on Social Media, she is concerned that more people get their news from Facebook shares than they do from the mainline news. ‘Like’ her FB page. There are Bot computer programs that shoot out negative comments on Twitter comments. There is so much misinformation out there now it is scary.
Sen. Stabenow feels we urgently need to construct new locks at the Soo. She urged working with our Congressman in the area. She doesn’t really know Jack Bergman. She suggests trying to organize bi-partisan trips throughout Michigan to help build rapport to get everyone on the same page to build the second lock.
Question: Trump is always writing Executive Orders. How do Executive Orders work?
Stabenow: Trump's ordering his departments to do things via Executive Orders that do not have the force of law. However, he can require his appointees to follow them. For example, Obama issued an Executive Order that required government contractors to pay a higher minimum wage, and safer working conditions. A lot of what Trump is doing is for show. It’s all about ordering a “study” rather than doing anything productive. It’s pretend stuff that doesn’t have a lot of teeth. She explained that there is a law on the books that says during the first 60 days, Congress and the President can look at rolling back rules set up during the prior 60 days. One of the things the Democrats organized was to oppose Trump appointments and let the clock run out. Democrats objected on every one of Trump's nominees. Instead of getting 50 rules repealed, they were able to repeal only10 executive orders from Obama. Republicans did repeal governments being able to set up a 401K plans for people who wouldn’t normally get a pension. Federal Housing Adm. fees were raised $500. They repealed the measure that if you give gifts to the leaders of foreign countries, you’d have to disclose it. That applies to companies like Exxon Mobile. Safety rule pullbacks were also disappointing.
On the Paris Climate Agreement pull out, Stabenow related that utility companies are exceeding the 6% goal of curbing CO2 emissions, and achieving 25%. Car manufacturers and other manufacturers are exceeding the Paris Climate goals. A coalition of mayors is working on putting together clean energy targets and programs: Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, and Traverse City building trades have been at 100% employment for months. Some of the coal plants are going to run out the life of the plant.
The Senator is very concerned in how we look in the eyes of the Europeans. If America doesn’t keep our agreements, we will not be seen as the leaders of the free world.
The arms deal with the Saudis was done during the Obama administration. Trump tried to make it look like he did it, and got credit for it.
“Look over here factor.” Trump is desperate to keep his base with White House strategies to create diversions. His fake news accusations. His claims that hired hackers are undermining the electric grid. The entire Russian budget military is less than the increase Trump asked for in his budget. The Russians are spending more on how to hack us.
Sen. Stabenow feels we will get a decent investigation out of Bob Mueller. Mueller is following the money. The Senate Intelligence Committee driven by Mark Warner in the Senate has managed to corral the Chairman in a spot where they have to work together. About half the Republicans and all the Democrats are on board with the investigation. We need not to have this be about politics.
The Senator said there a tipping point where the House and Senate Republicans will take into account their own careers, and decide not go down with the Trump ship. She hears things privately from a few Republican Senators. They should have already stepped away from Trump, but haven’t yet.
The Trump White House: There were people who got into this that weren’t very bright (my words, not the Senator's). Donald Trump could not get American financing for his projects anymore and turned primarily to Russia. A little to China. She feels that’s where following the money investigation will be helpful. Putin’s goal is to undermine the NATO alliance so that Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, etc. can be reincorporated into the former Soviet structure.
The Democrats put together an infrastructure bill and sent it to Trump in January, but have heard nothing back from the White House. Toll roads as a way to pay for some infrastructure would never work in Michigan. Democrats proposed roads, bridge, water and sewer improvements with broadband available everywhere. Rural broadband is critical. Rural kids need to be able to be do their homework online.
Question: Who else can we influence?
Stabenow: Urges going to the head of committees. Chairman Lamar Alexander needs to hear from us. He’s very sensitive to citizens and voters calling his office even those not from his State. www.thomas.gov is where to look to get committee information. Per Stabenow, if you really want to make a difference in this country get involved in gerrymandering reform by joining Voters Not Politicians, and CountMIVote. This will make a long-lasting difference in the direction of our country. Citizens United and political gerrymandering will be overturned by the voters, but voting has to be fair. Sen. Stabenow recommends reading, Dark Money, if you have not already read it.