Tuesday June 18, 2019
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Democrats in Congress Ready To Take Control

This is about us lifting up the voices, the stories, the struggles, the innovation and the ideas of the people that we represent.

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Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, left, speaks at a small rally outside an orientation meeting for incoming members of Congress at Harvard University. Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley, right, and Rep.-elect Lori Trahan, second from right, look on in Cambridge, Mass. VOA

Incoming members of the Democratic Party’s new U.S. House majority say they’re ready to turn the energy of their campaigns into real power on Capitol Hill.

Rep.-elects Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and a handful of other liberal-leaning incoming Democrats used an orientation event for freshman lawmakers Tuesday sponsored by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics to stake out some of their top issues – from gun violence to health care to climate change.

They say they’re ready to leverage their victories at the ballot box into victories in Congress — an institution that prizes seniority.

Pressley said power is about more than just how many terms a lawmaker has served.

“It’s a confluence of things. It’s about the committees that we’ll be appointed to. It’s about the values- and issues-based caucuses that we’ll serve on. And it’s about us simply leveraging the platform that we have available to us as well as our social media networks,” Pressley said.

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Democratic congressional candidate Ilhan Omar reacts after appearing at her midterm election night party in Minneapolis, Minnesota. VOA

Pressley won election to the House by beating a fellow Democrat – longtime U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano – in a September primary.

Ocasio-Cortez said like-minded incoming Democratic members of the House have the numbers needed to press their case for change.

“We have a magic number in the House … and it’s 218,” she said. “Two hundred and eighteen is the magic number to get things done and how many member Democratic freshmen do we have? Sixty Three. Sixty-three of that 218 is brand new and 35 of that 63 have rejected corporate PAC money, 35 of that 63 is not funded by opioid companies, not funded by the NRA, not funded by for-profit health care, not funded by fossil fuels. Thirty-five are independent of the interests of corporate influence.”

Like Pressley, Ocasio-Cortez also won election by defeating another veteran Democratic incumbent – Joe Crowley – in New York’s June primary.

Ocasio-Cortez said Democrats have to fight back against an opposition she said “is predicated on us being turned against each other, of us accepting the idea of zero-sum thinking that one community’s gain must be another community’s loss.”

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Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat-New York, talks during a news conference with members of the Progressive Caucus in Washington. VOA

“We know that all of our issues are tied and are the same,” she added. “There is no health care justice without gun violence reform.”

Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley have both pledged to support Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker after Democrats take control of the House in January.

Other new and incoming Democratic House members who spoke at Tuesday’s event include Lori Trahan of Massachusetts, Mary Gay Scanlon of Pennsylvania and Andy Levin of Michigan.

Pressley said the timing of Tuesday’s press conference wasn’t meant as a rejection of the Harvard orientation event.

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On its website the school says the sessions are designed to help incoming House members “forge bipartisan relationships and learn practical skills of lawmaking just one month prior to taking the oath of office.” Since 1972, the program has hosted nearly 700 current and new member of Congress.

“There is nothing adversarial,” Pressley said. “This is about us lifting up the voices, the stories, the struggles, the innovation and the ideas of the people that we represent. So I think it’s a good thing.” (VOA)

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Sanders Kicks Fight Against Trump into High Gear as Democrats Swarm San Francisco

The San Francisco convention became a window into the forces at work in the Democratic Party

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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during the 2019 California Democratic Party State Organizing Convention in San Francisco, June 2, 2019. VOA

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Sunday called on California Democrats to unite against Donald Trump, kicking the 2020 presidential campaign into high gear with jabs against the Republican president and a veiled swipe at Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Sanders called Trump “a racist, a sexist, a homophobe and a religious bigot” in a speech capping off a state Democratic convention that drew fourteen of the 24 candidates to make their case before 5,000 delegates, guests and press in the most populous – and most heavily Democratic – U.S. state.

“Together we are going to defeat a president who has the most corrupt administration in history,” Sanders said, “and a president who knows nothing about real American values.”

The San Francisco convention became a window into the forces at work in the Democratic Party as it seeks to recover from Trump’s populist-fueled victory in 2016.

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Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, cheer during the 2019 California Democratic Party State Organizing Convention in San Francisco, June 2, 2019. VOA

The party’s left-leaning delegates greeted Sanders and liberal U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren like rock stars.

Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper drew boos when he said socialist policies would not propel the party to victory, and other moderates were booed for rejecting the idea of a universal public health care system, or Medicare for All.

Former vice president Joe Biden, who leads Sanders in polls for the Democratic nomination in California and nationwide, did not attend the convention, drawing barely veiled criticism from Sanders.

Sanders noted that the fourteen candidates who addressed the convention, as well as some who had “chosen for whatever reason not to be in this room,” offer a variety of ways to approach a campaign against Trump. But Sanders rejected the centrist approach favored by Biden and some other candidates.

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On issues like health care, pharmaceutical prices and climate change wracking the country, “there is no middle ground,” Sanders said.

Addressing concerns among some Democrats that a moderate would be more electable than a fiery progressive, Sanders said such an approach would not generate the enthusiasm needed to defeat Trump.

“We will not defeat Donald Trump unless we bring excitement and energy into the campaign and unless we give millions of working people and young people a reason to vote and a reason to believe that politics is relevant to their lives,” Sanders said.

California, which will send nearly 500 delegates to the party’s nominating convention next year, took on new heft for the 2020 campaign after moving its nominating election to March from June. Democrats hold all statewide elective offices in the state, and dominate both houses of the legislature.

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Sunday called on California Democrats to unite against Donald Trump. Pixabay

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, a native daughter who has been eclipsed in early polling in California by Biden and Sanders, made clear she was not taking her home state for granted.

On Saturday, supporters with signs bearing her name and shouting “Kamala! Kamala!” formed a gauntlet that Sanders was forced to walk through on his way into a labor union breakfast.

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“I am here to earn everyone’s support, and I’m going to fight to earn it,” Harris said at a breakfast held by the party’s women’s caucus. (VOA)