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28117"The Congressional Progressive Caucus folds" by Norman Soloman

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  • Rick Kissell
    Mar 5, 2013
    • 0 Attachment
      Congressional Progressive Caucus folds
      by NormanSoloman

      For the social compact of the United States, most of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has gone missing.

      While still on the caucus roster, three-quarters of the 70-member
      caucus seem lost in political smog. Those 54 members of the Progressive
      Caucus haven’t signed the current letter that makes a vital commitment:
      “we will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits — including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.”

      More than 10 days ago, Congressmen Alan Grayson and Mark Takano
      initiated the forthright letter, circulating it among House colleagues.
      Addressed to President Obama, the letter has enabled members of Congress to take a historic stand: joining together in a public pledge not to
      vote for any cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

      The Grayson-Takano letter is a breath of fresh progressive air,
      blowing away the customary fog that hangs over such matters on Capitol

      The Progressive Caucus co-chairs, Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison,
      signed the letter. So did Barbara Lee, the caucus whip. But no signer
      can be found among the five vice chairs of the Progressive Caucus: Judy
      Chu, David Cicilline, Michael Honda, Sheila Jackson-Lee and Jan
      Schakowsky. The letter’s current list of signers includes just 16
      members of the Progressive Caucus (along with five other House signers
      who aren’t part of the caucus).

      What about the other 54 members of the Progressive Caucus? Their
      absence from the letter is a clear message to the Obama White House,
      which has repeatedly declared its desire to cut the Social Security cost of living adjustment as well as Medicare. In effect, those 54
      non-signers are signaling: Mr. President, we call ourselves
      “progressive” but we are unwilling to stick our necks out by challenging you in defense of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; we want some
      wiggle room that you can exploit.

      In contrast, the House members on the short list of the letter’s
      signers deserve our praise for taking a clear stand: Brown, Cartwright,
      Conyers, DeFazio, Ellison, Faleomavaega, Grayson, G. Green, Grijalva,
      Gutierrez, A. Hastings, Kaptur, Lee, McGovern, Nadler, Napolitano,
      Nolan, Serrano, Takano, Velazquez and Waters.

      If you don’t see the name of your representative in the above
      paragraph, you might want to have a few words. (For a list of the 54
      Progressive Caucus members who haven’t signed the letter, click here.)

      It’s one thing — a fairly easy thing — to tell someone else what you
      hope they’ll do, as 107 House Democrats did recently in a different
      letter to President Obama: “We write to affirm our vigorous opposition
      to cutting Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits. . . . We
      urge you to reject any proposals to cut benefits.”

      It’s much more difficult — and far more crucial — for members of
      Congress to publicly commit themselves not to vote for any cuts in those programs, which are matters of life and death for vast numbers of

      Even a signed pledge to do or not do something, in terms of a floor
      vote, is no guarantee that a member of Congress will actually follow
      through. But in a situation like this, the pledge is significant — and
      even more significant is a refusal to make such a pledge.

      As of now, 54 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have
      taken a historic dive. We should take note — and not forget who they

      Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books
      include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits  Keep Spinning Us to
      Death.   He writes the Political Culture 2013 column.

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