Healthcare ‘Sick-In’ Storms Harrisburg

Medicaid expansion proponents to sleep in the Capitol ‘until their voices are heard’

medicaid expansion.jpg

Proponents of Medicaid expansion will sleep in the capitol building Wednesday night. (Anna Orso)

By Anna Orso

Beaver county Blue via

June 26, 2013 – Hannah Williams is a 21-year-old gregarious single parent who works full time and is studying to become a nurse. Her daughter, Grace, has medical needs like any other 3-year-old kid.

So when the cash-strapped Williams foots the bill for those needs, money gets tight.

“It’s a big burden,” she said. “When you’re a single parent, you are the provider, the nurturer and I’m stuck with next to nothing.”

Williams, of Pittsburgh, is one of about 500,000 people in Pennsylvania who don’t qualify for Medicaid, but would if lawmakers decide to expand the medical assistance program by accepting federal funding.


Medicaid expansion supporters march to the governor’s residence Wednesday to stage a "sick-in."

The expansion, as proposed by the Affordable Care Act, would make all adults between the age of 19 and 64 who are at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level eligible to receive Medicaid.

Continue reading Healthcare ‘Sick-In’ Storms Harrisburg

August 24, 2013: March for Freedom, Jobs and Voting Rights. We Need EVERYONE OUT to Defend the Dream

Our 12th CD PDA Chapter is part of this Committee. We are working to make this an important national event. HELP US FILL THE BUSES!

Contact Tina Shannon if you want to go,

via email or 724-683-1925



50th Anniversary

March on Washington

Come with the MLK 50th Anniversary Committee

to a March on Washington

August 24th 2013

to continue the fight for jobs and voting rights

Leaving from IBEW Hall, Sassafras Lane in Vanport/Beaver

Departure time : 3am Returning: 11pm

Supreme Court Voids Voting Rights: Texas Attacks Minority Voters

Two Hours After The Supreme Court Gutted The Voting Rights Act, Texas AG Suppresses Minority Voters

By Aviva Shen on Jun 25, 2013 at 3:30 pm

(Credit: AP)

Just two hours after the Supreme Court reasoned that discrimination is not rampant enough in Southern states to warrant restrictions under the Voting Rights Act, Texas is already advancing a voter ID law and a redistricting map blocked last year for discriminating against black and Latino residents. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued a statement declaring that both measures may go into effect immediately, now that there is no law stopping them from discriminating against minorities.

In 2012, the Justice Department blocked these measures under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Federal courts agreed that both the strict voter ID law and the redistricting map would disproportionately target the state’s fast-growing minority communities. Still, Texas filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court over the Voting Rights Act case complaining that the DOJ had used “abusive and heavy-handed tactics” to thwart the state’s attempts at voter suppression.

In the case of the new electoral map, a panel of federal judges found that “substantial surgery” was done to predominantly black districts, cutting off representatives’ offices from their strongest fundraising bases. Meanwhile, white Congress members’ districts were either preserved or “redrawn to include particular country clubs and, in one case, the school belonging to the incumbent’s grandchildren.” The new map was also drawn in secret by white Republican representatives, without notifying their black and Latino peers. After the court blocked the map, the legislature approved small changes to appease Democratic lawmakers last week. Now that they are free to use the old maps, however, Gov. Rick Perry (R) could simply veto the new plan and use the more discriminatory maps.

The strict photo ID requirement blocked by the DOJ and a federal court would require Texans to show one of a very narrow list of acceptable photo IDs. Expired gun licenses from other states are considered valid, but Social Security cards and student IDs are not. If voters do not have an ID — as many minorities, seniors, and poor people do not — they must travel at their own expense, produce their birth certificate, and in many cases pay a fee to get an ID.

Continue reading Supreme Court Voids Voting Rights: Texas Attacks Minority Voters

Democrat and Tea Party Votes Defeat Republican Farm Bill

Congressional Progressive Caucus member Rep. Jim McGovern speaks on House floor against cuts to food stamp program
Congressional Progressive Caucus member Rep. Jim McGovern speaks on House floor against cuts to food stamp program

by Randy Shannon

The House Farm bill was just defeated by 62 Republicans and 133 Democrats. This was a major defeat for the House Republican leadership. It highlights the unpredictability of the far-right Tea Party caucus .

On Monday June 17th Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) held demonstrations across the country at the offices of Democratic Representatives demanding a ‘No’ vote on the Farm Bill. It contained $20 billion cuts in SNAP, aka food stamps.

Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus challenged other Democratic representatives to join them in a one week food stamp diet to dramatize the impact of the proposed cuts.

On Wednesday June 19th PDA members visited over 150 Congressional district offices to demand a ‘No’ vote on the Farm Bill. The swing of a large majority of Democrats against the bill was aided by President Obama’s statement that he would veto a Farm Bill with massive cuts to food assistance. The AFL-CIO also stated its opposition to the cuts.

Members of the PA 12th CD Chapter visited the Beaver office of Representative Rothfus and faxed letters stating our opposition to cuts in food assistance. Representative Rothfus, a Tea Party caucus member, voted against the Farm Bill even though is was sponsored by his own party leadership. Rothfus made no comment on the House floor in the debate over the Farm Bill.

Calls to Rothfus office failed to elicit a statement or comment on this vote. When asked, Rothfus Washington staff stated that the reason for his vote was not “a secret.” Rothfus’ office promised that a “letter explaining his position” will be mailed in the future.

The commentary below was just published in the Washington Post. It analyzes the situation within the Republican Party. The Democrats voted against the bill because the cuts in food stamps were too much; the Tea Party voted against the bill because the cuts were not deep enough.

The 2014 election will go a long way in determining whether people in the US will starve or continue to get food aid while the economic crisis drags on.

The failure of the farm bill — and why House Republicans can’t be led

By Chris Cillizza, Updated: June 20, 2013

The House Republican conference simply cannot be led.

That reality hit home — hard — this afternoon when the House failed to pass a farm bill. The bill failed 234-195 with 62 Republicans voting against it and just 24 Democrats voting for it.

Republican insiders immediately tried to foist the blame on Democrats, insisting that 40 “yea” votes had been promised and the vote count was dependent on those votes being delivered.  (Worth noting: The administration made clear in a statement Monday that President Obama would veto the bill if it passed, a declaration that undoubtedly had a chilling effect on Democratic votes in favor of the legislation.)

Continue reading Democrat and Tea Party Votes Defeat Republican Farm Bill

PDA Demands Feed People not Pentagon

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We Say Feed the People NOT the Pentagon!

Dear Supporter,

Video: A Defining Moment

It’s down to this; the Senate says cut $4 billion from the food stamps program, the House says cut $20 billion. The “compromise” will no doubt be somewhere in between.

We say no.

We join with Rep. Jim McGovern to ask for a “No!” vote on the farm bill, if these awful cuts remain.

We say no more hunger, at a time when more people rely on food stamps than ever before.

We say no to cutting up to 2 million poor people from food stamps, including hundreds of thousands of hungry children.

We say either restore the food stamp cuts, or vote No on the farm bill.

If you agree with us, join our “Educate Congress” letter drops this week. If you agree with us, please call and email your elected officials. We are progressives. And progressives do not pick on the weak, the poor, the hungry. Progressives do not add to the military budget, while carving up the food stamp budget.

Restore the food stamp cuts, or vote No on the farm bill.

Peace and Justice,

Tim Carpenter
Executive Director, PDA

P.S.–Please join our “Educate Congress” letter drops this week. You can click here for more details. And if you agree with PDA’s work to fight hunger, to fight these nasty cuts in the food stamp program, please donate here.

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Progressive Democrats Demand Release of Trade Agreement Details

Alan GraysonWASHINGTON — Progressive Democrats in Congress are ramping up pressure on the Obama administration to release the text of Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretive free trade agreement with 10 other nations, amid intensifying controversy over the administration’s transparency record and its treatment of classified information.

The only publicly available information on the terms of the deal has come from leaks, some of which have alarmed public health experts, environmentalist groups and consumer advocates. According to a document leaked in the summer of 2012, the deal would allow corporations to directly challenge government laws and regulations in international courts.

Members of Congress have been provided with only limited access to the negotiation documents. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) told HuffPost on Monday that he viewed an edited version of the negotiation texts last week, but that secrecy policies at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative created scheduling difficulties that delayed his access for nearly six weeks. The Obama administration has barred any Congressional staffers from reviewing the text and prohibited members of Congress from discussing the specific terms of the text with trade experts and reporters.

“This, more than anything, shows the abuse of the classified information system,” Grayson told HuffPost. “They maintain that the text is classified information. And I get clearance because I’m a member of Congress, but now they tell me that they don’t want me to talk to anybody about it because if I did, I’d be releasing classified information.”

Continue reading Progressive Democrats Demand Release of Trade Agreement Details

Mayors Oppose Cuts in Food Stamps

Jun 18, 2013  |

Mayor Bloomberg and 17 mayors from cities across the country today wrote to Members of Congress to outline the importance of maintaining funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps).

SNAP is a critical program for 47 million Americans, particularly children and seniors, who rely on food stamps to protect against hunger and poverty during periods of financial hardship.

The proposed Farm Bill on the floor of the House of Representatives this week would cut over $20 billion from SNAP, severely impacting the ability of these vulnerable families to put nutritious meals on the table. Instead of cutting benefits for these families, Congress should look at ways to strengthen the SNAP program. They should test and evaluate approaches that would limit SNAP’s subsidization of products, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, that are contributing disproportionately to obesity and instead provide incentives to promote healthful eating through the consumption of fruits and vegetables.

In New York City more than $4 billion is spent annually on health care costs related to obesity and the SNAP program should be at the forefront of promoting good nutrition. Congress should also strengthen SNAP by partnering with state and local governments to enhance anti-fraud efforts among SNAP retailers. This will ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used for SNAP benefits and not lining the pockets of fraudulent retailers.

Continue reading Mayors Oppose Cuts in Food Stamps

House Votes to End Funding for War in Afghanistan

June 13, 2013

Stephen Miles, 504-289-3594

Win Without War Applauds House Passage of McGovern-Jones Afghanistan Amendment to the FY2014 NDAA

Washington, DC- Win Without War applauds the passage by the House of Representatives of legislation supporting a full and accelerated end to the war in Afghanistan and expressing the sense of Congress that any post-2014 US military force in Afghanistan requires new and explicit authorization.

“Today’s overwhelming vote is an important milestone as, for the first time, a majority of the U.S. House of Representatives joined with the American public in demanding an end to America’s longest war,” said Stephen Miles, Coalition Coordinator of Win Without War. “Unfortunately today’s vote comes too late for the more than 2,200 American servicemembers who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.”

The bi-partisan amendment was sponsored by Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Barbara Lee (D-CA), John Garamendi (D-CA) and Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith (D-WA) and was adopted by a vote of 305-121. The amendment specifically strikes language from the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act that supported a continued US military presence post 2014 and expressed the sense of Congress that any such presence requires specific Congressional authorization by June 1, 2014.

Today’s vote was the culmination of several years of legislative efforts led by Reps. McGovern and Jones. After coming close to victory in 2011, House Republican leadership refused to allow a vote on similar legislation in 2012. Legislation modeled on this initiative and offered by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) was however passed by a vote of 62-33 in 2012 in the U.S. Senate.

“Today there are more than 60,000 troops in Afghanistan, fighting a battle that has no military solution. It’s long past time we brought them home before any more blood is shed and any more tax dollars are wasted,” said Miles.


PDA Calls for June 17th Actions vs. Cuts in Food Stamps

Food Stamps on the Chopping Block

Washington’s attack on the poor continues as the Senate votes for big cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

BY Cole Stangler

“If the Democratic Party doesn’t stand with the poor and the vulnerable then I don’t know what the hell we stand for,” says Rep. Jim McGovern.

Meanwhile, on June 17, the earliest date that the House could take up the farm bill, Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) will hold a series of demonstrations across the country calling on influential Democratic members of Congress to prevent the cuts from taking place. PDA is holding actions at the district offices of Pelosi, Hoyer, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.), Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

On Monday evening, the Senate voted to cut roughly $4 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), m

Congressional Progressive Caucus member Rep. Jim McGovern speaks on House floor against cuts to food stamp program
Congressional Progressive Caucus member Rep. Jim McGovern speaks on House floor against cuts to food stamp program

ore commonly known by its former name, food stamps. The 66-27 vote on the farm bill—a massive omnibus bill that funds federal agricultural and food policy through the Department of Agriculture—could pave the way for even more substantial cuts to SNAP to take place. By the end of the month, the House is expected to take up its own version of the farm bill, which includes a staggering $20 billion in cuts to the program over the next ten years. Depending on how the House votes and the way in which the bills are reconciled, millions of food stamp beneficiaries could be at risk.

While not as drastic as the House’s version, which substantially alters eligibility requirements for the program and threatens to throw millions off the program’s rolls, the Senate’s cuts to SNAP are far from negligible. The legislation passed includes new limits on SNAP eligibility for college students and restrictions on the ability of states to disburse food stamp benefits in conjunction with the low-income heating-assistance program. It even includes a seemingly non-sequitur provision that would prevent lottery winners from receiving benefits.

Only two Democratic senators voted against the bill—Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, both of Rhode Island. Supporters of the Senate bill included liberals who oppose the cuts in the House version, like Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). Many of these Democrats seemed willing to accept some SNAP cuts in exchange for making some progress on passing a farm bill.

“While I dislike the SNAP cuts in the Senate bill, I believe that Senator Stabenow”—the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee—“has done her best to minimize the SNAP cuts, especially relative to the House bill, which indiscriminately and needlessly slashes the SNAP program,” Harkin told In These Times.

The focus now turns to the House, which could take up its version of the farm bill as early as June 17. The massive cuts in its bill come from eliminating the “categorical eligibility” option offered by some states. The existing provision allows households with gross incomes above the eligibility requirement, but with disposable incomes below the federal poverty line, to qualify for SNAP benefits—a situation that often applies to households with high child-care or housing costs. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this change in eligibility requirements would eliminate benefits for almost two million Americans, many of whom are children and the elderly. Eliminating “categorical eligibility” would also mean that hundreds of thousands of children who receive free school meals—in particular, those whose eligibility is based on receipt of SNAP benefits—would lose access to that program.

One of the most common criticisms of SNAP, whose number of beneficiaries has increased by 70% as a result of the economic crisis, is that the program has become too bloated and increasingly subject to fraud. But Kari Hamerschlag, a senior food and agriculture analyst at the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit research and advocacy organization that focuses on public health and the environment, disputed those charges. She acknowledged that unemployment and the expansion of jobs in low-wage sectors have meant that more people need food stamps than ever before. But she said the prominence of critiques that target the program’s effectiveness have more to do with the political interests of legislators than with any meaningful problems with SNAP.

“It’s actually one of the most efficient programs we have, and one of the programs with the least amount of fraud,” Hamerschlag said. “In fact, the crop insurance program [which both versions of the farm bill expand] has far more fraud than the SNAP program. The difference between the two is that if you receive SNAP benefits, there is a means test and it’s always the very poor that benefit from this program. It’s very different from the crop insurance program where the very rich can benefit from the program.”

At this stage, it will likely be difficult to prevent any cuts from taking place. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who has emerged as one of the most vocal opponents of the cuts in Congress, conceded that “the odds are against us.” McGovern has co-authored an amendment to restore funding to SNAP, which has garnered the support of over 130 Democrats in the House so far.

In an interview with In These Times, McGovern blamed the Republican Party’s hostility toward social spending and general ignorance of the issues facing low-income people for the severity of the cuts. But he also expressed frustration with members of his own party for failing to speak out on the issue. “If the Democratic Party doesn’t stand with the poor and the vulnerable then I don’t know what the hell we stand for,” McGovern said.

Neither House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) nor House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) have signed on to the amendment calling to restore SNAP funding.

“There’s this view that there’s no political consequence, if you cut programs to hurt poor people, then you won’t lose an election,” McGovern said. “Whereas if you overturn a tax cut or if you vote against a trade agreement or vote against the gun lobby, there’s a political consequence. I think many of my colleagues are gambling that if they vote to chip away at the safety net in this country, then nobody will notice, nobody will care, [and] that they won’t lose their election.”

While the response to SNAP cuts in Washington has so far been limited, opponents of the cuts are planning on ramping up their pressure on Congress in the coming weeks.

Twenty-six members of Congress, including McGovern, have pledged to live on a SNAP budget between June 13 and 19. They will be joined by representatives from an array of anti-poverty organizations, like the Food Research and Action Center, NeighborWorks America, the American Association of Retired Persons and religious groups.

Meanwhile, on June 17, the earliest date that the House could take up the farm bill, Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) will hold a series of demonstrations across the country calling on influential Democratic members of Congress to prevent the cuts from taking place. PDA is holding actions at the district offices of Pelosi, Hoyer, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.), Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

In particular, PDA’s actions aim to connect the massive cuts to SNAP with a $5.1 billion increase in military spending the House is simultaneously considering as part of the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act.

“The organizing we’re doing is to make those connections to show wasteful military spending in the face of worsening unmet human needs,” PDA Executive Director Tim Carpenter told In These Times.

PDA, like Rep. McGovern and others, is pushing to restore all funding to SNAP. If that effort fails, McGovern said he plans to oppose the bill in its entirety. In that scenario, blocking cuts to SNAP in the House could depend on an unlikely alliance of Democrats and Tea Party Republicans defeating the bill. Ironically, the House’s right-wing fringe—a voting bloc of about 50 Republicans who believe the spending cuts do not go far enough—may prove instrumental in postponing cuts to food stamps.