Tag Archives: House

Extensive stock trading by Trump’s pick for Health and Human Services raises questions

Public Citizen says the Office of Congressional Ethics and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission should look more closely at the stock trading activity of U.S. Reps. Tom Price of Georgia and Chris Collins of New York for conflicts of interest and possible insider trading.

Price is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for director of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Extensive stock trading activity in industries that Price and Collins oversee as congressmen, and unusually good timing and financial benefits of those stock trades, raise red flags about the potential use of insider information,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The public information available falls short of hard evidence of insider trading, but the patterns of trading activity certainly warrant further investigation to determine if it occurred.”

Since 2009, according to congressional financial disclosure reports, Price has conducted over 630 trades on the stock market, many of which involve the pharmaceutical and health care sectors that he oversees as chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee and as a member of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health.

Price’s colleague Collins also is a prolific trader of health care investments on the stock market, according to news and disclosure reports.

Collins, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, is a board member and the largest shareholder of a major biotech company, Australia’s Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited — a company in which both Price and Collins made major stock purchases within days of each other, according to financial disclosure reports.

“Collins purchased 4 million shares in August in the company whose board he sits on , and Price followed up with his own major stock purchase in the company two days later,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The stock value doubled in the three months following their investments. That’s quite good luck. This is worthy of investigation to determine whether any wrongful conduct occurred.”

Since passage of the STOCK Act in 2012, members of Congress have been subject to the same laws against insider trading that apply to everyone else. Additionally, congressional ethics rules warn members to avoid substantial conflicts of interest that may cast aspersions on the integrity of their office. Rules also mandate that members may not use their office for personal gain.

Public Citizen’s letter asks that the OCE and SEC investigate the stock trading activity of Price and Collins for potential violations of insider trading laws and conflict of interest rules and regulations.

On the Web

Read Public Citizen’s letter.

Vowing to jettison Obamacare, Republicans face immediate resistance and risks

The 115th Congress started work Tuesday with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate in agreement on their top priority — to repeal and replace the 2010 health law, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“The Obamacare experience has proven it’s a failure,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters at an opening day news conference.

But that may be where the agreement among Republicans ends.

Nearly seven years after its passage, Republicans still have no consensus on how to repeal and replace the measure.

“It is risky business,” said Thomas Miller, a conservative economist and former Capitol Hill aide now at the American Enterprise Institute.

Republicans, he said at a recent AEI forum, are “very good at fire, aim, ready.” But with more than 20 million Americans getting coverage under the law, GOP lawmakers will have to tread carefully, Miller warned. “The hard one is when you’re trying to defuse what’s already been out there, cutting the wires on the bombs sequentially” so as to avoid a messy and destructive explosion.

Republicans are reportedly discussing a range of options for disassembling Obamacare, but analysts who have been involved in the intricacies of health policy for decades warn no replacement strategy will be easy.

The most immediate problem for the GOP is that even with majorities in both chambers of Congress, they do not have the 60 votes needed to overcome Democrats’ objections in the Senate. (There are 52 Republicans in the Senate now.) That means they won’t be able to pass a full repeal of the law on their own and it is unlikely eight Democrats would join to overturn President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.

Even if they did have the votes standing by, they don’t have anything teed up to replace the health law.

“It’s not that Republicans don’t have replace bills. They have a couple dozen,” said Douglas Badger, who oversaw health policy in the White House for President George W. Bush and worked for the Senate GOP leadership prior to that. “The problem is they don’t have consensus,” he said at the AEI forum.

Still, doing nothing, or even waiting, is not an option given that these lawmakers have been vowing to repeal the law almost since the day it passed in 2010.

“You have to pass something,” said Miller, “and whatever you pass you call repeal.”

The leading option under consideration is “repeal and delay.” The idea is to use the budget process to overturn the tax-and-spending parts of the law, but delaying the effective date to buy time for Republicans to agree on a replacement bill.

But there are problems with that strategy. One is political — Democrats are already crying foul.

“It’s not acceptable to repeal the law, throw our health care system into chaos and then leave the hard work for another day,” incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday.

Added Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., “it’s not repeal and delay, it’s repeal and retreat.”

The plan also has raised concerns in the health industry. The goal of delaying the repeal date is to let people who have obtained insurance under the health law keep it while a replacement is formulated. But that is by no means guaranteed.

Insurance analysts have said that any more uncertainty in an already fragile marketplace could easily prompt insurers to leave the individual market, which would put at risk coverage for not just the roughly 10 million people who are purchasing plans there under the health law, but also the roughly 10 million people who previously had individual policies. (Another 10 million people have gained coverage under the health law through an expanded Medicaid program for those with low incomes.)

Without specific help for insurers from Congress, which would likely include insurance payments Republicans have called bailouts, “the market will begin to crumble” quickly, said Robert Reischauer, former president of the Urban Institute.

House Majority Leader McCarthy told reporters Tuesday that “no decisions have been made yet” on how Republicans might want to help stabilize the insurance market while they seek a replacement plan.

The individual insurance market could also be rattled if the incoming Trump administration decides not to appeal a lawsuit brought by congressional Republicans who argued that the Obama administration was illegally using money to pay insurers to subsidize health costs for some low-income customers buying individual plans on the health law’s marketplaces. If the new administration bows out of the suit and those subsidies, insurers would not get reimbursed for the expenses, and some analysts predict it could force companies to leave the market.

On the other hand, attempting to repeal and replace the law in a single bill also could pose problems.

Repealing and replacing together “looks less like repealing than fixing,” said Badger. “That could cause some angst” among the GOP base that wants Obamacare to be fully eliminated.

And Democrats point out that Republicans are equally guilty of overpromising the benefits of overhauling the health care system, albeit in a very different way.

The goals currently being talked about by Republicans — including making health care more affordable, covering more people, reducing government spending and giving states more flexibility — “are impossible to achieve,” within acceptable GOP budget limits, said Reischauer at the AEI event. “There are going to have to be some tradeoffs,” he said, as Democrats found when they tried to accomplish roughly those same goals.

Made available from Kaiser Health News under a creative commons agreement. KHN is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

House Republicans change course on gutting ethics board

House Republicans, under pressure from President-elect Donald Trump, Democrats and good-government watchdogs, reversed course on a plan to gut an independent ethics board, according to a report from The AP.

The reversal came as representatives came together for the first day of the 115th Congress.

House Republicans had come under attack from Democrats, watchdog groups and also Trump over a secretive move to place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under their control.

One vocal critic was U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., who said the “effort to take all investigative and oversight authority away from the independent Office of Congressional Ethics was a shameful first action for the new Congress.”

In an emergency meeting, faced with criticism, House Republicans voted to undo the change.

“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority,” was the statement on Trump’s Twitter account.

Congress should be focused on tax reform and health care, the statement said, and there was a reference to draining the swamp.

“We were elected on a promise to drain the swamp and starting the session by relaxing ethics rules is a very bad start,” GOP Rep. Tom McClintock of California said, according to the AP.

Republican  Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma: “People didn’t want this story on opening day.”

The ethics office was created in 2008 after several bribery and corruption cases in the House.

Regarding Republicans’ amendment dealing with the ethics office, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., had issued this statement defending the move: “After eight years of operation, many members believe the Office of Congressional Ethics is in need of reform to protect due process and ensure it is operating according to its stated mission. I want to make clear that this House will hold its members to the highest ethical standards and the Office will continue to operate independently to provide public accountability to Congress. The Office will continue to be governed by a bipartisan independent outside board with ultimate decision-making authority. The Office is still expected to take in complaints of wrongdoing from the public. It will still investigate them thoroughly and independently. And the outside board will still decide whether or not evidence exists to warrant a full investigation by the House Ethics Committee. With the amendment adopted last night, the bipartisan, evenly-divided House Ethics Committee will now have oversight of the complaints office. But the Office is not controlled by the Committee, and I expect that oversight authority to be exercised solely to ensure the Office is properly following its rules and laws, just as any government entity should. I have made clear to the new Chair of the House Ethics Committee that it is not to interfere with the Office’s investigations or prevent it from doing its job. All members of Congress are required to earn the public’s trust every single day, and this House will hold members accountable to the people.”

Kind stated, “I am glad my colleagues realized this mistake and decided not to pursue the change. At a time when the people of Wisconsin have lost trust in Washington further weakening transparency and accountability for members of Congress is not the way to rebuild that trust. I will continue to stand up for Wisconsinites by fighting against any future attempts to limit the transparency and accountability of government.”

Republicans plan to fine Democrats for publicizing House protests

GOP leaders are planning a vote on a set of rules changes when Congress convenes in January that includes fines for members who use electronic devices to take pictures or video from the House floor.

The proposal comes six months after Democrats live-streamed a sit-in on the House floor for 26 hours last June to call attention to their demand for votes on gun-control bills.

Republican leaders shut off the cameras in the House gallery throughout most of the protest, but Democrats used their cellphones to transmit video on social media. C-SPAN broadcast live video streamed on Periscope and Facebook from lawmakers’ accounts.

The proposed fines — $500 for a first offense and $2,500 for any subsequent offense — would be docked from the salaries of offending lawmakers. The new rules would not be retroactive, so those who participated in the sit in last summer won’t be penalized.

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said the changes “will help ensure that order and decorum are preserved in the House of Representatives so lawmakers can do the people’s work.”

Democrats staged the sit-in after 49 people were killed in a mass shooting at the Orlando, Florida nightclub Pulse.

A spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Democrats will continue to speak out on the “daily tragedy” of gun violence.

“House Republicans continue to act as the handmaidens of the gun lobby refusing to pass sensible, bipartisan legislation to expand background checks and keep guns out of the hands of terrorists,” said spokesman Drew Hammill.

The proposed rules would also clarify that members or employees of the House cannot engage in “disorderly or disruptive conduct” by intentionally blocking another member from moving in the chamber, or using an exhibit or other means to disturb legislative proceedings.

Trump action on health care could cost Planned Parenthood

One of President-elect Donald Trump’s first, and defining, acts next year could come on Republican legislation to cut off taxpayer money from Planned Parenthood.

Trump sent mixed signals during the campaign about the 100-year-old organization, which provides birth control, abortions and various women’s health services. Trump said “millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood,” but he also endorsed efforts to defund it. Trump once described himself as “very pro-choice.” Now he’s in the anti-abortion camp.

The Republican also has been steadfast in calling for repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care law and the GOP-led Congress is eager to comply.

One of the first pieces of legislation will be a repeal measure that’s paired with cutting off money for Planned Parenthood.

While the GOP may delay the impact of scuttling the law for almost four years, denying Planned Parenthood roughly $400 million in Medicaid funds would take effect immediately.

“We’ve already shown what we believe with respect to funding of Planned Parenthood,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters last month. “Our position has not changed.”

Legislation to both repeal the law and cut Planned Parenthood funds for services to low-income women moved through Congress along party lines last year. Obama vetoed it; Trump’s win removes any obstacle.

Cutting off Planned Parenthood from taxpayer money is a long-sought dream of social conservatives, but it’s a loser in the minds of some GOP strategists.

Planned Parenthood is loathed by anti-abortion activists who are the backbone of the GOP coalition. Polls, however, show that the group is favorably viewed by a sizable majority of Americans — 59 percent in a Gallup survey last year, including more than one-third of Republicans.

“Defunding Planned Parenthood as one of their first acts in the New Year would be devastating for millions of families and a huge mistake by Republicans,” said incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

Democrats pledge to defend the group and they point to the issue of birth control and women’s health as helping them win Senate races in New Hampshire and Nevada this year. They argue that Trump would be leading off with a political loser.

But if he were to have second thoughts and if the Planned Parenthood provision were to be dropped from the health law repeal, then social conservatives probably would erupt.

“They may well be able to succeed, but the women of America are going to know what that means,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., citing reduced access to services Planned Parenthood clinics provide. “And we’re going to call Republicans on the carpet for that.”

At least one Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine, may oppose the effort.

Collins has defended Planned Parenthood, saying it “provides important family planning, cancer screening, and basic preventive health care services to millions of women across the country.” She voted against the health overhaul repeal last year as a result.

Continued opposition from Collins, which appears likely, would put the repeal measure on a knife’s edge in the Senate, where Republicans will have a 52-48 majority next year.

Senate GOP leaders could afford to lose just one other Republican.

Anti-abortion conservatives have long tried to cut Planned Parenthood funds, arguing that reimbursements for nonabortion services such as gynecological exams help subsidize abortions. Though Planned Parenthood says it performed 324,000 abortions in 2014, the most recent year tallied, the vast majority of women seek out contraception, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and other services including cancer screenings.

The defunding measure would take away roughly $400 million in Medicaid money from the group in the year after enactment, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, and would result in roughly 400,000 women losing access to care.

One factor is that being enrolled in Medicaid doesn’t guarantee access to a doctor, so women denied Medicaid services from Planned Parenthood may not be able to find replacement care.

Planned Parenthood says private contributions are way up since the election, but that they are not a permanent replacement for federal reimbursements. “We’re going to fight like hell to make sure our doors stay open,” said Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Erica Sackin.

What the 114th Congress did and didn’t do

Congress has wrapped up the 114th session, a tumultuous two years marked by the resignation of a House speaker, a fight over a Supreme Court vacancy, bipartisan bills on health care and education and inaction on immigration and criminal justice.

The new Congress will be sworn-in Jan. 3.

What Congress passed or approved

  • A hard-fought budget and debt agreement that provided two years of relief from unpopular automatic budget cuts and extended the government’s borrowing cap through next March.
  • The end of a 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports.
  • A rescue package for financially strapped Puerto Rico, creating an oversight board to supervise some debt restructuring and negotiate with creditors.
  • A sweeping biomedical bill that would help drug and medical device companies win swifter government approval of their products, boost disease research and drug-abuse spending and revamp federal mental health programs. It would also include money for preventing and treating abuse of addictive drugs like opioids.
  • The first overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act since it was approved in 1976.
  • A sweeping rewrite of education law, giving states more power to decide how to use the results of federally mandated math and reading tests in evaluating teachers and schools.
  • An aviation bill that attempts to close gaps in airport security and shorten screening lines.
  • An extension of a federal loan program that provides low-interest money to the neediest college students.
  • The USA Freedom Act, which extends some expiring surveillance provisions of the USA Patriot Act passed after the 9/11 attacks.
  • A bipartisan measure that recasts how Medicare reimburses doctors for treating over 50 million elderly people.
  • Legislation reviving the federal Export-Import Bank, a small federal agency that makes and guarantees loans to help foreign customers buy U.S. goods.
  • $1.1 billion to combat the threat of the Zika virus.
  • Defense legislation rebuffing President Barack Obama’s attempts to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and blocking the Pentagon from starting a new round of military base closings.
  • Legislation authorizing hundreds of water projects, including measures to help Flint, Michigan, rid its water of poisonous lead, and to allow more of California’s limited water resources to flow to Central Valley farmers hurt by the state’s lengthy drought.
  • Expanded law enforcement tools to target sex traffickers.
  • Legislation that would tighten several security requirements of the visa waiver program, which allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the U.S. without visas.
  • Cybersecurity legislation that would encourage companies to share cyber-threat information with the government.
  • A renewal of health care and disability payments to 9/11 first responders who worked in the toxic ruins of the World Trade Center.
  • A bill allowing families of Sept. 11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts for its alleged backing of the attackers, enacted in Obama’s first veto override.
  • A permanent ban on state and local government Internet taxes.
  • A bill that boosts government suicide prevention efforts for military veterans.
  • Confirmation of Eric Fanning to be Army secretary, making him the first openly gay leader of a U.S. military service.
  • The election of a new House speaker, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

What Congress did not pass or approve

  • Confirmation of Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.
  • Confirmation of 51 federal judges nominated by Obama, including 44 district court nominees and seven appeals court nominees.
  • Gun control legislation.
  • Bills that would have halted federal payments to Planned Parenthood.
  • Comprehensive or incremental changes to immigration law.
  • $1 trillion worth of agency budget bills that will be kicked into next year, complicated by a familiar battle over the balance between Pentagon spending and domestic programs and a desire by Republicans to get a better deal next year from the Trump administration. Congress passed a four-month extension of current spending instead.
  • A bipartisan criminal justice bill that would have reduced some mandatory sentences for low-level drug offenders and increased rehabilitation programs.
  • The first comprehensive energy bill in nearly a decade, which would speed exports of liquefied natural gas and create a new way to budget for wildfires.
  • War powers for Obama to fight Islamic State militants.
  • A bill forcing the president to allow construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. Obama rejected the pipeline in 2015 after seven years of indecision.
  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multinational trade agreement involving 11 other Pacific Rim countries. Congress did give the president Trade Promotion Authority, allowing Congress to ratify or reject trade agreements negotiated by the executive branch, but not change or filibuster them.
  • Child nutrition bills that would have scaled back the Obama administration’s standards for healthier school meals.

Gwen Moore earns endorsement from LGBT group against gun violence

Pride Fund to End Gun Violence PAC, an LGBT organization focused on gun violence prevention, has endorsed U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., for re-election.

The group this week announced 16 endorsements for U.S. House and one for U.S. Senate.

Pride Fund endorsed Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon, Terri Bonoff of Minnesota, Salud Carbajal of California, Gerry Connolly of Virginia, Eliot Engel of New York, Bill Foster of Illinois, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, Dan Kildee of Michigan, Sander Levin of Michigan, Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, Jerry Nadler of New York, John Sarbanes of Maryland, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Carol Shea Porter of New Hampshire, Adam Smith of Washington and Brady Walkinshaw of Washington.

The group also endorsed Tammy Duckworth for U.S. Senate in Illinois.

“We support these candidates because of their demonstrated commitment to support equality and safety for all, and for their commitment to acting on common sense gun reforms,” said Jason Lindsay, founder and executive director of Pride Fund. “We need elected officials who will stand up for people — not for the profits of the corporate gun manufacturers.”

In its announcement, the Pride Fund said, “With this election, we have an opportunity to reclaim our communities from the threat of gun violence. Pride Fund is turning anger into action by working to elect candidates who have committed to making our cities, our states, and our country safer for everyone.”

The Pride Fund endorsed candidates have pledged to support the following key issues:

  • Expanding background checks to cover all gun sales
  • Prohibiting suspected terrorists from purchasing guns
  • Restricting access to assault weapons and high-capacity magazines
  • Supporting federally funded research on gun violence
  • Preventing individuals convicted of committing hate crimes from purchasing guns

On the Web

To learn more, visit www.pridefund.org.

Wisconsin Dems look to make gains in Legislature

Come Election Day, all eyes in Wisconsin will be on the presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. But voters face a choice likely to shape their lives closer to home — whether to hand Republicans or Democrats control of the state Legislature.

Here are the key things to know about state legislative races:

WHO CONTROLS THE LEGISLATURE RIGHT NOW?

Republicans have had complete control of state government since 2011, when Scott Walker won the governor’s office and the GOP won majorities in the both the Senate and Assembly. The GOP enters Election Day with a 63-36 advantage in the Assembly and a 17-14 edge in the Senate.

WHY IS CONTROL SO IMPORTANT?

The majority sets the political agenda. Walker isn’t up for re-election until 2018, so if the GOP keeps both houses they’ll be able to pass anything they can agree on and Democrats will be powerless to stop them for the next two years. If the Democrats wrest control of either house, they can block Walker’s initiatives and create gridlock in Madison. The Legislature’s first task will be putting together the state budget; divided control could delay the spending plan’s approval beyond the beginning of the next fiscal year in July.

DO THE DEMOCRATS HAVE A SHOT IN EITHER CHAMBER?

Not in the Assembly. All 99 seats are up, but Republicans’ majority appears insurmountable. Seventeen GOP incumbents don’t even have opponents.

Things look a little brighter for Democrats in the Senate. Eight seats are in play, including five held by Republicans and three by Democrats. The Democrats need to take six of those eight to win the majority.

DO ASSEMBLY DEMOCRATS BELIEVE THEY CAN MAKE ANY HEADWAY?

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca has his sights on three open seats. He’s banking Mandy Wright can defeat Republican Patrick Snyder for a seat representing north-central Wisconsin. Wright held the seat until she lost it to Republican Dave Heaton in 2014. Heaton is not running for re-election. He also has high hopes that Dennis Hunt can beat Republican Rob Summerfield for an open seat representing northwestern Wisconsin and Scott Nelson can defeat Republican Shannon Zimmerman for an open seat representing the Hudson area across the border from Minnesota’s Twin Cities.

As for targeted GOP incumbents, there aren’t many. Democrats want to unseat freshman Todd Novak in southwestern Wisconsin’s 51st district and two-termer Kathy Bernier in the 61st, which includes parts of Eau Claire, Chippewa and Clark counties.

WHAT ABOUT THE SENATE?

Democrats have targeted an open seat in the 18th Senate district, which includes parts of Winnebago and Fond du Lac counties. Democrats have put their faith in Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris to defeat Fond du Lac Republican Dan Feyen. Walker signed a bill earlier this year barring county executives from serving simultaneously in the Legislature, which means Harris would have to trade his $102,800 county job for a $50,950 senator’s salary. Democrats complained the bill was designed to make Harris quit the race but Harris has refused to drop out.

Democrats also believe Sen. Luther Olsen, a moderate Republican from Ripon, Sen. Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst, who made a name for himself by writing a bill that relaxed Wisconsin’s iron mining regulations, and Sen. Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls are vulnerable.

HAVE REPUBLICANS TARGETED ANY SENATE DEMOCRATS?

They’re going after the Democrats’ most powerful figure in the chamber, Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling. She faces a challenge from Dan Kapanke for her seat representing the La Crosse area. Shilling took the seat from Kapanke during the 2011 recall elections spurred by anger over Walker’s public union restrictions.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Republicans also are targeting Julie Lassa, who represents the Stevens Point area, and Dave Hansen, who represents the Green Bay area.

Fitzgerald said he believes support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will ripple down the ballot and help the state GOP. He predicted Republicans will come back with 19 seats again this session.

House Democrats stage sit-in, demand vote on gun control

Democrats staged a 1960s-style sit-in on the U.S. House floor June 22–23, chanting, “No bill. No Break.” The protest was intended to call attention to Republicans’ inaction against gun violence in the wake of the largest mass shooting in modern history at a gay dance club in Orlando.

House Speaker Paul Ryan responded by shutting off all public access to the scene.

“Speaker Ryan may have turned off the floor cameras in an attempt to silence us, but we will continue to stand up and give a voice to the majority of Americans who demand commonsense gun safety reforms,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a longtime veteran of the civil rights movement, organized the protest along with Reps. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and David Cicilline of Rhode Island.

In the hours that Democrats held the floor, they spoke about an epidemic of violence in the United States. With the blackout on C-SPAN’s coverage — the service does not control the floor cameras — members took videos of each other to share on social media.

California Democrat Eric Swalwell videotaped New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler’s speech, delivered at about 2 a.m. June 23.

“No other country in the world other than those involved in active wars have gun deaths more than three digits,” Nadler said. … We have 33,000 a year. We’re told this is because of insanity. Because we have mentally ill people. But we don’t have thousands of times more mentally ill people than other countries.”

Nadler said if House Republicans refuse to pass an assault weapons ban or prohibit large capacity clips, they could at least close the loopholes in background checks and bar people on the no-fly list from gun purchases.

Ryan dismissed the sit-in as a political stunt.

He also dismissed the idea of “no fly, no buy,” saying it would deprive people of due process and the constitutional right to possess guns.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate, Democrats continued to press for reform even after failed votes on measures to expand background checks and keep people on the no-fly list from getting guns.

President Barack Obama and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton echoed the calls for tighter gun laws. Clinton, early in her campaign, made enacting gun control measures a priority.

Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee for president, suggested the solution to gun violence is arming more people with guns.

“It’s too bad that some of the young people that were killed over the weekend didn’t have guns, you know, attached to their hips, and you know where bullets could have flown in the opposite direction,” Trump told radio host Howie Carr on June 13, the day after the shooting in Orlando. Later, Trump said he was referring to guards and employees.

Chad Griffin, the president and CEO of the Human Rights Campaign, said the shooting was a “toxic combination of two things: a deranged, unstable individual who had been conditioned to hate people and easy access to military-style guns.”

HRC is the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group. In late June, its board of directors adopted a resolution on gun control measures, an unprecedented move for the group.

Americans are divided on gun control.

Polls put those favoring gun control over gun rights at about 50 percent, down from 57 percent in 2000. Those who favor gun rights over gun control increased from about 29 percent in 2000 to 47 percent in 2015.

When particular gun control steps are considered, however, the picture changes. A Pew poll conducted last August showed:

• 85 percent of people support background checks for purchases at gun shows and in private sales.

• 79 percent support laws to prevent the mentally ill from buying guns.

• 70 percent support a federal database to track gun sales.

• 57 percent support a ban on assault weapons.

“Congress can’t even pass mild, commonsense gun control legislation supported by vast majorities of Americans,” said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the activist group CODEPINK, which recently staged a die-in at NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia. “The stranglehold the NRA has on our elected officials is breathtaking, and its effects are devastating to our families and communities.”

 

 

Big bucks for big guns

Gun rights groups contributed $33,925 to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, who is running for re-election in Wisconsin against Democrat Russ Feingold.

The No. 2 payout was to U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, whose campaign has received $29,295 from gun rights groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Since the start of 2015, Senate Republicans have received $304,319 from gun rights groups. During that same period, Democrats have received $7,250.

Candidates line up in Wisconsin congressional races

A trio of ambitious elected officials, a pair of farmers, a former Marine with close ties to Gov. Scott Walker and a convicted federal felon are vying for votes as Wisconsin residents get ready to winnow down a crowded field of congressional candidates in the state’s Aug. 9 primary.

Barring partisan challenges or findings that candidates lack enough viable signatures, it appears candidates in six of the state’s eight congressional districts will find themselves in primary battles for the right to advance to November’s general election.

The messiest race looks like northeastern Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District, where Republican incumbent Reid Ribble’s decision not to seek re-election has led no fewer than six major party candidates to declare they’re running the race.

The line-up is a colorful one.

The Democratic field included Jerry Kobishop, a Sturgeon Bay-based country singer who advanced to the second round of auditions on NBC’s “The Voice” in 2015.

But Government Accountability Board records showed he didn’t file any nomination papers by the deadline, so he’s out of the running.

That leaves Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson as the lone Democrat in the race. Nelson, a former legislator, staged a one-man sit-in in the Assembly chamber for five days in 2007 in an effort to push Republicans and Democrats into agreement on the state budget. GAB records showed he had filed 1,459 signatures, 459 more than the 1,000 names congressional candidates need to get on the ballot.

The Republican side features former Hilbert Village Board member Gary Schomburg; Terry McNulty, who runs a survey business in Forestville; current state Sen. Frank Lasee of De Pere, and Mike Gallagher of Green Bay, a former Marine who served as national security adviser for Walker’s short-lived presidential campaign last summer. McNulty, Lasee and Gallagher all filed more than 1,000 signatures, according to GAB records; Schomburg filed only 906.

Meanwhile in northwestern Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District, three Democrats are fighting for nomination. The field includes Mary Hoeft of Rice Lake, a communications instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Barron County; Ethel Quisler of Wausau, who provides services for the disabled; and Marathon County Supervisor Joel Lewis. Hoeft and Lewis had filed enough nomination signatures with the GAB to get on the ballot. Quisler had filed nothing.

The 7th’s Republican incumbent, Sean Duffy, faces a primary challenger in the form of Donald Raihala of Superior. Raihala ran as a Republican for the same seat in 2014, after running for the seat as a Democrat in 2010. GAB records showed Raihala turned in his nomination signatures but didn’t indicate a total.

In southeastern Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District, Democrats Sarah Lloyd, a Wisconsin Dells farmer, and Michael Slattery, a Maribel farmer, will square off in hopes of facing Republican incumbent Glenn Grothman in November. Both filed enough signatures to get on the ballot.

Three other congressional incumbents face longshot challengers.

Williams Bay inventor Paul Nehlen will try to unseat Paul Ryan, the House speaker who represents south-central Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, in a Republican primary. Nehlen reported raising no money during the first quarter of the year; Ryan raised $9.1 million. Nehlen’s campaign said he filed about 1,810 nomination signatures.

Wisconsin Democratic Party treasurer Ryan Solen and Janesville plumber Tom Breu were set to face each other for the Democratic nomination in the 1st. Solen had filed 1,044 signatures. GAB records showed Breu had filed his signatures as well but didn’t include a total.

In western Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Ron Kind faces a challenge from former high school teacher Myron Buchholz of Eau Claire. Whoever wins the primary wins the seat; no Republicans have declared their candidacy in the district. Buchholz faces an uphill fight against Kind, though; he raised $20,000 in the first quarter compared with Kind’s $1.6 million. GAB records indicated Buchholz filed nomination signatures but didn’t include a total.

Incumbent Democrat Gwen Moore will face former state Sen. Gary George in a primary in southeastern Wisconsin’s 4th Congressional District. George was sentenced to four years in federal prison after he was convicted of a felony in a kickback scheme in 2004. GAB records didn’t show how many signatures George filed. Nothing prevents felons from running for Congress.