The DISCLOSE Act Deserved a Vote in the Senate

(Good to see you, Senator!   – promoted by ProgressiveCowgirl)

I joined the Citizens United Task force in the Senate because of the damage the ruling has caused. Coloradans are enduring advertisement after advertisement advocating for, and mostly against, candidates and issues. Many of these ads are funded by a only a small number of people through groups with phony names.  And in a lot of cases, even if they wanted to, voters can’t find out who is donating to these fake committees.

We’ve introduced the DISCLOSE Act, which would create greater transparency in elections through new disclosure rules.  Disclosure isn’t the only solution, but it is one that has traditionally received bipartisan support in the past. And eight of nine Supreme Court Justices have said it’s constitutional.  

 

Justice Scalia even said it is a desired result:

“Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed. For my part, I do not look forward to a society which, thanks to the Supreme Court, campaigns anonymously and even exercises the direct democracy of initiative and referendum hidden from public scrutiny and protected from the accountability of criticism. This does not resemble the Home of the Brave.”

It takes courage to put your name on something. It takes courage to stand for something that’s unpopular. It doesn’t take a lot of courage to let somebody use your money in a way that keeps you completely anonymous and imposes something on families in our state, who are trying to make a fundamental American decision to vote in a democracy.  

We’re also facing the danger of allowing only a few individuals to use Super PACs to drown out the voice of the rest of the country.   One individual, who has given more money to super PACs in 2012 than anyone else in the country, has a net worth of $24.9 billion. His $35 million in spending is the equivalent of the average family giving $108. To give a sense of perspective, the median household income in Colorado is roughly $56,000.  If family earning $56,000 every year never paid any taxes and didn’t spend a nickel, it take them 441,000 years before it added up to what this one guy has.

Earlier this week the taskforce attempted to bring the DISCLOSE Act to the Senate floor for debate. Unfortunately, a minority of senators used a procedural tactic to prevent us from even debating the bill. The taskforce responded on the Senate floor late into the night.

A poll follows. My staff and I will do our best to answer questions and respond to comments throughout the day.

 

Do you support the DISCLOSE Act?

View Results

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Tell Washington No Default

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Washington’s partisan bickering is standing in the way of a solution to the debt ceiling crisis. Every day that we delay, we draw closer to defaulting on the full faith and credit of the United States. Washington’s fecklessness and its cartoonish debate are putting our economy and the creditworthiness of the country at risk. We need to put ideology aside and reach an agreement to prevent a default on the national debt.

Sign the petition now.

If 100 Coloradans were put in a room and asked to come up with a solution to our deficit challenges, I’m absolutely confident that they would get it done. In my town hall meetings Coloradans all across the state have told me they want a deficit reduction plan that materially addresses the debt and deficit crisis, ensures everyone is in it together and is bipartisan. It’s time Washington showed the same level of courage and common sense. But we need your voice.  

That’s why I am asking you to sign a petition urging Washington to reach an agreement to prevent default on our nation’s debt. Please take the time to pass this along to your friends and family too.

It is time to act. Let’s make sure Washington hears Colorado’s voice loud and clear. It’s time to get our fiscal house in order and work together to secure the country’s economic future.

DOMA Has to Go

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Crossposted at Huffington Post

Fifteen years ago, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The law remains on the books today, and it is a stark reminder of why so many Americans are so disgusted with the politics of Washington.

People in my state don’t see eye to eye on everything, but most Coloradans are worried about the same basic issues. They want an economy that’s innovating, that’s growing jobs here in the United States, instead of shipping them overseas. They want an energy policy that breaks our reliance on foreign oil, especially from the Persian Gulf. They want us to educate our children for the 21st century, not the 19th century. They want us to rationally deal with a deficit that’s threatening to constrain the choices of our kids.

In the past two decades, Congress has done too little on all these fronts. Yet Washington has been all too effective at engaging in cynical politics over social issues – and exhibit A is DOMA.

DOMA has two major provisions. First, it defines marriage explicitly, at the federal level, as a union between one man and one woman. Second, it stipulates that a state may choose not to legally recognize same-sex marriages authorized by another state.

Both of these provisions are bad policy, and they may also be unconstitutional. The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution directs states to recognize the “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.” On that basis alone, DOMA runs counter to the legal architecture our Founding Fathers established. DOMA has also been repeatedly challenged as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. The reason is simple: by definition, DOMA provides weaker legal protection to one class of American citizens, which is why the Obama Administration announced it can no longer legitimately defend the law’s constitutionality.

Beyond the legal wrangling, there are fundamental problems with DOMA. By picking and choosing which marriages to recognize, DOMA inserted the federal government deep into the weeds of marriage policy, an area that has always been and should remain a state issue. Laws like DOMA, which exist to propagate inequality, have the potential to block same-sex couples from receiving a range of benefits that my wife Susan and I take for granted – basic fundamentals like hospital visitation rights, family health plans, spousal social security benefits, family and medical leave, the right to file joint federal income taxes, and more. And the legislation enshrines a discriminatory definition of marriage into federal law – a continuing slap in the face to millions of Americans who want nothing more than to pursue adult, consensual and healthy relationships.

DOMA undermines the premise of equal opportunity that is fundamental to our democratic system. It’s bad policy, and it’s wrong. We must repeal it, and we should do it today.

That’s why I’ve cosponsored the Respect for Marriage Act, groundbreaking legislation that would repeal DOMA and allow married same-sex couples to receive the same federal marriage benefits as everyone else. This bill preserves the role of states in the recognition of marriage, but would allow legally married same-sex couples to continue receiving federal benefits regardless of their state of residence.

The fact is that history is on our side. A growing chorus on the left and the right have come out against DOMA, including conservative former Republican Congressman Bob Barr, the flawed law’s original author. Polls indicate that the majority of Americans are for repeal – and young people, the future of the country, who think the culture wars are a relic from another era, support repeal overwhelmingly. The recent passage of the historic marriage law in New York further demonstrates the building momentum for equality.

Congress needs the courage and the will to act. Once DOMA is off the books, we need to leave divisive rhetoric behind, and start working together across party lines in support of solutions that help American families.

Follow Sen. Michael Bennet on Twitter: www.twitter.com/senbennetco

Keeping the DREAM Alive

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Late last year, the U.S. Senate tried but failed to muster the courage or the votes necessary to pass the DREAM Act – a narrowly missed opportunity for lawmakers to put politics aside and do the right thing for our country and our economy. But despite the failure of the past year, there’s still reason to hope.

Today, I joined Sen. Dick Durbin in re-introducing the DREAM Act in the Senate, reviving the effort to allow some of the best and brightest young students to give back to the country they call home through military service or by getting a college degree.

The DREAM Act is by no means a silver bullet. Washington must take action to provide a common-sense fix to our broken immigration system that secures the border, cracks down on employers who willfully break the law and requires the undocumented to pay a fine, pay their taxes, learn English and pass criminal background checks. We have waited far too long to reform our immigration laws. Washington inaction has come at the expense of our families, small business owners, farmers, and students.

But in the absence of comprehensive reform, we should work to boost our economy, strengthen our Armed Forces and help hard-working kids fulfill their full potential by passing the DREAM Act. The American people support the bill, and so does a majority of the U.S. Senate. But for many kids, the clock is ticking. The Administration can and should act now to grant deferred action to exemplary students who meet the rigorous requirements for eligibility under the DREAM Act. Not only will these children be better off for it – our country will be better off as well.

When I was superintendent of Denver Public Schools, I saw the potential of some of our best and brightest students cut short, punished for the actions of others – kids who had grown up and done well in our school system, and kids who know no other home but America. This is unacceptable.

A student who has excelled in the classroom should have the opportunity to attend college and become a productive, taxpaying member of society. Upon receiving a college education, these youth will be able to transition into higher paying jobs and will be paying their fair share in taxes. In fact, a recent UCLA study concluded that DREAM Act participants could contribute as much as $3.6 trillion to the U.S. economy during their working lives.

If we are going to get our fiscal house in order, we need to make sure we are getting the full return on our investment and not closing the door on new tax revenues as these young people become contributors to our economy. The DREAM Act will require these young people to pay their fair share of taxes. We are acting against our own financial interests by keeping these youth in uncertain legal status.

And if we fail to pass the DREAM Act, we are also acting against our own national security interests by denying patriotic youth the ability to serve in our military. According to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, about 35,000 non-citizens serve and 8,000 permanent resident aliens enlist in our Armed Forces every year. The DREAM Act represents an opportunity to assist with military recruiting and readiness.

With the reintroduction of the DREAM Act, Congress once again has the chance to do the right thing… but it needs some nudging. That’s where you come in. I need your help. Will you take a moment to submit an online video telling Congress why you support the DREAM Act? Will you share your story? And just as important, will you encourage your friends and family to do the same?

Post an online video telling Congress why you support the DREAM Act at YouTube or Vimeo with the tag “Why I Support the DREAM Act.”

Supporting the DREAM Act is not only the right thing to do; it is also a practical solution. We owe it to the taxpayers who have invested in the education of these youth, the teachers who have fostered their development, and military leaders who can benefit from these new recruits to move forward on the DREAM Act without delay.

Crossposted at Huffington Post

Help Cut Red Tape in Education: Share Your Story

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

As a school superintendent, I learned that school reform is hard but absolutely necessary.  And I know that well-intentioned ideas from the central office-and from Washington-often make no sense to the people working in our schools. Too often, good ideas run into walls of bureaucracy or get caught up in red tape before they can even get off the ground.

That’s why I’ve made it a priority to get out into Colorado classrooms and learn what’s working. This month I’ve been visiting schools across Colorado, and engaging in conversations with parents, principals, students and teachers that helped to build consensus and understanding. It’s something I’ve done since I was Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, where I scheduled daily meetings with teachers, principals, and members of the community.

Now I’d like to hear from you.  So I’m asking you for your stories and ideas, so we can work together to create reforms that improve our schools, not stand in the way of progress. Coloradans can submit their specific ideas on how to improve our education system, in writing or send a web video to http://bennet.senate.gov/edust… .

I’ll share some of the stories on my website to help show Washington the need to reform our education system. The best ideas come from outside of Washington. It’s time to bring the voices, ideas and aspirations of teachers, principals, parents and students to the U.S. Senate.  

Reforming the Senate

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

(Cross-posted at Huffington Post.)

One thing I hear time and again from Coloradans in every corner of our state is that Washington needs to quit the bickering and partisan politics. We need to reform Washington now more than ever to make sure it works for Coloradans and all Americans.  A key piece of that reform is fixing the rules of the Senate itself.

I’ve been pushing for reform of the filibuster and other arcane procedures since I came to Washington. The Senate’s rules and traditions are supposed to encourage Senators to get along, foster debate and get the people’s business done.  Yet a few rules are doing just the opposite, blocking progress on our most pressing challenges.  We’ve been prevented from moving forward on important issues like strengthening our economic recovery and creating jobs, and it’s not just about having a majority of support.

Often times, political games prevent Senators from even beginning to debate some of the most important issues. Good ideas, solutions from both parties, get tossed by the wayside because of obstruction. Improving some of the rules under which the Senate functions can begin to replace some of the bad habits Washington has developed, with better ones.

Now, it is time for action. This week, several of my colleagues and I have begun a process to challenge the broken rules in the Senate and reform the filibuster.   We will face resistance, but it is critical that we move forward on reform so we can get back to doing Colorado’s business.

My Plan to Reform the Filibuster:

• End the filibuster for motions to proceed

• Require 41 Senators to show up to vote in order to block cloture

• Encourage bipartisanship

• End Secret Holds