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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Milquetoast Conservative or Ally of the Radical Right?

Congressman Richard Hanna (R-22NY) votes against progressive interests every chance he gets.  He started out his congressional career by sponsoring legislation that would lower the corporate tax rate from 25% to 15%, and shortly thereafter he voted to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, while voting to cut funding for Food Stamps, Meals on Wheels, and Head Start.  He has voted for successive Ryan Budgets that managed to cut just about every helpful program for many of his local constituents, including section VIII housing, Medicaid extension, health care coverage for the uninsured, and student loans and grants.  He proudly proclaims that he voted against the successful Affordable Care Act, and since it became the Law, has voted to repeal it every time he has had the chance, even though his district has some of the worst poverty in the state!  And, when he voted YEA for the Paul Ryan budget for 2015, he did what he has done in the past:  he voted for breaks for the rich and cuts for the poor and middle class.  No matter how you slice it, the Republican Party, and that includes Mr. Hanna, is not on your side.   They are your adversaries!

Oh, I know-- he's a nice guy, and a self-made millionaire, and his votes are sometimes quite moderate.  But that is not the point!  The point is, that every time he gets the chance, he votes for his real constituency - his big donors - and votes against the interests of ordinary citizens.  Yes, I know he sticks up for Remington Arms and DFAS, and local farmers, and I hear his constituency services are pretty good as well.  But, I submit to you one basic fact -- every Congressman, Republican or Democrat -- would do the same in those areas.  After all, Chuck Schumer, a Democratic Senator, has demonstrated his concern for our area by advocating for DFAS, as well as for Remington Arms remaining in Ilion.  He has even secured some additional federal gun contracts for them!  In matters like this, Hanna is just doing what others would do, and have done.  He advocates for businesses in our area, and for individuals who bring him problems he can help to resolve.  None of this makes him an outstanding Congressman; it just shows he has a job to do in certain areas that doesn't change much, but goes on no matter who occupies that seat.

But let's get down to brass tacks.  Mr. Hanna has now affiliated himself with the destructively radical Tea Party crowd.  On healthcare alone, he completely parrots their distortions and lies regarding Obamacare, evident in a recent brochure in which he touted his fervent opposition to the ACA by exclusively citing Tea Party distortions of that Law.  He unequivocally supported the 2015 Ryan Budget (as he did with the last few Ryan Budgets) that fervently advocates the undermining of healthcare expansion through Medicaid and other means.  If the Republicans keep the House and gain control of the Senate, they will almost immediately repeal the very successful ACA so that millions of people will continue to be uncovered or inadequately covered for health insurance, and upwards of 14 million people will suffer the loss of the coverage they just gained under Obamacare.  And, his excuse will be that he cannot support anything that increases our debt again parroting the Radical Right-wing.

Strange then, that he has consistently supported the huge increases proposed in Defense spending, as shown in all the Ryan budgets for which he has voted.  It's necessary to keep our nation strong, he will say.  But our nation needs to cut back its profligate spending for wars that are finally over, and have had substantial troop deductions.  We don't need to spend huge sums for a standing army.  That is the stuff of which a bellicose nation is made.  The Republican mantra is that we must always "be prepared" for war.  Why? because they - the Republican hawks - are always ready to start one!  Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Ukraine.  You name it -- wherever there is an international "incident" the Republican Party's first response is always to want to send troops in to protect our freedoms and to show those bullies that we mean business!  Mr. Hanna has aligned himself with that crowd, and he is not to be trusted.

One of his constituents reports other ways in which he cannot be trusted, having to do with his tendency to walk on both sides of a fence  and say anything to survive the moment. “When I spoke with him at his 'meet and greet' in Oneida last spring I introduced myself as  a registered Democrat who regularly voted for (his Republican predecessor) until he became an outspoken supporter of the Iraq War, and said I was disappointed that he (Hanna) voted for the Ryan Budget. He responded that "The Ryan Budget isn't going anywhere and it's a sh___y (he used that expletive) budget." Then why does he continue to vote for it? At his town hall meeting at the Colgate Inn last summer, I publicly asked why House Republicans repeatedly voted to repeal or defund Obamacare 40 times (then the count) rather than suggest needed changes. He admitted that voting to repeal something 40 times is ‘insane’ or the ‘height of insanity.’ Yet he has continued to do just that.”  If he votes over and over for something that is equivalent to excrement, and if voting against health care reform over 50 times is insanity, how can we trust his judgment or his veracity?

Perhaps even more egregious than that, Mr. Hanna has failed to lead the way on anything substantial relevant to this district,  in regard to a national purpose.  I have communicated with him about many issues on which he refused to take a stand until I began to wonder if the fence he sits on is beginning to make him weak-minded.  He never leads; he most often follows:  "I'm waiting to hear what the debate has to offer"; "I'm collecting information on that,    "It's unclear how I will vote until I know more about the implications."  Here are some of the issues I have brought to him or his staff:

* setting a minimum income tax for businesses and rich individuals
* expanding gun checks for guns sold at gun shows or by private dealers outside the federally regulated public vendors 
* co-sponsoring a discharge petition to get legislation out of Committee and onto the House floor for a vote
* support (and co-sponsorship) of a comprehensive immigration reform bill
* support for the rich paying their fair share in taxes
* vote against the sequester budget
* vote against shutting-down the government
* vote for re-opening of government  (to his credit, he did)
* take leadership on sponsoring legislation that would actually reform elections
* restore and extend unemployment insurance benefits
* raise the minimum wage

More than once, it seemed that Mr. Hanna would support something, as he did in one or two of the above cases.  But mostly, in the end he would back off, and more or less follow the dictates of his Party or of his Party's leadership.  Once in a great while, he did buck the Party with his vote, but mainly when there was no chance that the legislation involved would pass the Senate.  This way, he was able to appear to be voting for something that was moderate, but mainly he was using the system to look like a moderate. 

While in his home district, Hanna has most often managed to meet with editorial boards, with the heads of businesses, with the NY Farm Bureau in Albany, and with Business leader groups like the one in Hamilton, NY.  These are his usual haunts, along with several Rotary, Kiwanis, and Chamber of Commerce organizations.  The groups are pretty far removed from other constituents such as the poor, minorities, students and people who are sick or disabled. Although he has been known to meet with representatives of these groups, he doesn't usually sit down and talk directly to the people who must live with these exigencies every day.   I suspect he is more comfortable avoiding certain of his constituents who probably affiliate with another political Party.  His financial situation may have something to do with this tendency.  The second-term lawmaker and construction company founder made the 50 Richest list in Congress again this year with a reported minimum net worth of $14.38 million (putting him at #25), most of which is spread among dozens of mutual funds and individual stocks.  He reported making a loan of at least $250,000 to his last congressional campaign. 

Let me now tell you some of what he has voted against (as reported by "That's My Congress" and "Votesmart.org"), much of which might have benefited you, the reader.

Rep. Hanna's Conservative Action Score: 56
The Conservative Action Score is calculated by compiling a series of observably conservative roll call votes and bill co-sponsorships in the 113th Congress and comparing Richard Hanna's behavior against that conservative standard:

  • Disregard for constitutional protections of American civil liberty
  • Secrecy and exclusion of citizens from government
  • Support for discriminatory policy
  • The symbolic denigration and practical undermining of science and education in America
  • Active harm to the environment or passive allowance for environmental destruction
  • Pursuit of further advantage for those in America who are already its richest
  • Dismissal of peaceful possibilities and obeisance to the military-industrial complex

H. Con. Res. 25 Amendment 3
If the Back To Work Budget from the Congressional Progressive Caucus had passed, it would have increased income taxes for millionaires and billionaires, eliminated tax loopholes for households with an annual income of over $250,000, brought education budgets back up to responsible levels, restored funding for jobs programs in impoverished communities, put income from investments at the same level of taxation as income from work, and ended tax breaks that reward outsourcing of jobs to overseas sweatshops. The Back to Work Budget would have shut down the pipeline of subsidies to polluting fossil fuels companies, reduced military spending to 2006 levels, and set a price for the emission of carbon pollution that causes disastrous climate change. The Back To Work Budget would have cleaned up both the environment and the economy. 
Hanna voted against it.

H.R. 1072
For decades, spokespersons for corporate interests have come up with many theoretical reasons why private-for-profit programs should be more efficient than government-run programs. However, empirical research into the matter has failed to consistently find an economic or operational benefit of privatization. Privatization of military operations, for instance, has led to infamous fraud, waste, delays and other abuses. Privatization of other government services has interfered with oversight and transparency. Despite this, corporate interests in Congress continue to push privatization. In the late Winter of 2013, Congressman John Duncan introduced H.R. 1072, legislation that requires the privatization of government services in many agencies, without the context of study into whether such privatization would actually do any good.
Rep. Hanna co-sponsored this bill.

H. Amdt. 308 to H.R. 2609
H.R. 2609 (the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act) is a cash cow for connected corporations in the fossil fuels industry. These hugely profitable companies like to complain about government regulations, but they love the money that the federal government pays them to help boost their corporate profits. The subsidies that Congress awards to these corporations more than compensates those corporations for their costs in deploying lobbyists and writing checks. In introducing an amendment to H.R. 2609, Representative Jackie Speier attempted to interrupt this flow of funds. If passed, Speier's amendment would have removed $30 million in extra government payments to oil, gas, and coal corporations that had been added on at the last minute by recipients of fossil fuel corporate largesse.
Rep. Hanna voted against this bill and the amendment

Amendment 100 to H.R. 2397
The National Security Agency, a U.S. military spying organization, has been caught seizing massive numbers of private telephone records, grabbing information about who Americans are talking to the telephone and when these calls occur. This surveillance includes practically every telephone communication within U.S. borders, and has been conducted without any evidence connected with criminal activity. The Amash amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act would have required the NSA to specify particular individuals as targets in its investigations, rather than conducting a massive dragnet of all telephone communications
Rep. Hanna voted against this amendment

H.R. 1506
Hardly before the 113th Congress had even begun, severe cuts began to education, housing, science, transportation, medicine, and other essential domestic programs. Even meat inspectors and nutrition for pregnant women and babies were being cut. In these circumstances, it is outrageous that funding for unnecessary military weapons programs survived. U.S. Representative Ed Markey responded to this problem with H.R. 1506, which would, if passed, block funding for new long-range bomber aircraft, reduce the number of American nuclear-powered submarines cruising the world's oceans, and cut the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear weapons.
Rep. Hanna  failed to support H.R. 1506

H.R. 1554
H.R. 1554, the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, would, if passed into law, close the loopholes that corporations and wealthy individuals use to avoid paying their fair share of the dues that keep American society going, tighten prohibitions on foreign tax shelters and punish those who conspire to devise systems through which their wealthy clients can engage in tax evasion.
Rep. Hanna failed to support H.R. 1554. 

Just to round out this voting record, here are a few items in brief that reveal Mr. Hanna's true identity as an ally of the radical Right-wing of his Party:
*Voted to pass a bill that increases the number of hours from 30 to 40 that an employee is required to work per week in order to be considered a full-time employee for the purpose of employer-sponsored health care coverage
*Voted to return to less stringent standards regarding coal-mining waste
*Voted to adopt an amendment that prohibits the social cost of carbon from being used in an environmental review or decision-making process of a regulatory agency.
*Voted to pass a bill that authorizes a chamber of Congress to sue the President or an employee of the federal government if Congress believes the individual violated the constitutional requirement to faithfully enforce any provision of a federal statute, rule, or regulation; includes the establishment or implementation of a formal or informal policy, practice, or procedure to refrain from enforcing, applying, following, or administering any provision of a federal statute, rule, regulation, program, policy, or other law (Sec. 2).
*Voted to pass a bill that prohibits the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from issuing, revising, or finalizing any regulation that was in effect on January 1, 2010 regarding an organization that claims a tax exempt status under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code.
*Co-sponsored and voted for a bill in 2011 designed to terminate provisions of the Internal Revenue Code that provide for taxpayer financing of Presidential Election Campaigns after December 31, 2009.
*Co-sponsored and voted to pass a bill that requires states to recognize permits issued by another state that authorize the concealed carry of a firearm

Now this is not to say that Mr. Hanna hasn't voted for some legislation that leaned toward the moderate side.  He did vote against defunding Planned Parenthood, NPR, the National Endowment for the Arts, and he voted for the Senate version of Violence Against Women Act.; he earned a score of 21 for such progressive votes.  But, once again, he has failed so many times to take the route of co-sponsorship and actually voting for progressive legislation, that his record shows his in-grained conservative attitudes.  His unfortunate tendency has been to vote against something in an amendment and then vote for the same thing in a larger Republican budget bill. When it comes to crucial big Republican issues in legislation, he usually falls in line with his Party. However, his alignment with the radical Right over healthcare is an indication of where you can expect him to go in another term.  Most assuredly, he will not be representing you if you make less than, say $250,000 per year, but he will represent those who make more than that. 

While he should be praised for the few times he has taken an independent route in his voting, it is clear that Mr. Hanna is not on the side of a goodly portion of his local constituency.  And here's the real problem:  he's not going to change; he's not going to lead; he's not going to become some sort of Progressive, taking on the philosophy and values that disturb him or introducing legislation favorable to the working poor or the paycheck-to-paycheck middle class. 

What can you do?  If Mr. Hanna runs unopposed, as it appears he will be able to do this coming November, start finding out what it takes to submit a write-in vote (go to surveymonkey.com and take the survey titled: "Democratic Action Network survey" if you want to express an opinion and find out what you can do).  On the other hand, if you are satisfied with a "conservative milquetoast" now allied with the Radical Right,  then don't worry about it.  Just sit back and let the waves of austerity, inflation, increased taxes and fewer services wash right over you.  Feel the warmth of  those who repeal your healthcare, your unemployment compensation, a decent minimum wage and the training you were seeking for a new job.  The Republicans don't care and Mr. Hanna is not about to go out on a limb for you either.  Sorry....