In addition to the general public, SAFE strives to sell the members of Congress, Delaware legislators, and other influential people (administrative officials, regulators, political candidates, media figures, etc.) on our smaller, more focused, less costly government agenda.
The “Contacting Legislators” page of this website provides a record of SAFE letters since 2005, including links to the letters (and responses received, posted at the end). These documents are archived in reverse chronological order (see folders on the right side of the page, 2020, 2019, *** 2014, 2013 and earlier).
Over time, we have experimented with various approaches. Content (what issues to raise at any given time) – length (we generally send one-page letters with links to supporting materials) – addressees (selected based on hoped-for receptivity and ability to have an impact).
As a case in point, who should or can SAFE contact about the miserable results of congressional activity in 2019, e.g., a misguided effort to impeach the president, breakdown of the budget system, and undesirable riders in the “must pass” appropriation bills that were pushed through to avert a government shutdown just before the holidays? Once again, Congress delivered subpar results, 1/13/20.
Our initial choice was to share our concerns with the three members of Congress from Delaware (hereinafter collectively referred to as the DE members), which was done by a letter e-mailed to their respective websites on 12/2/19.
Now why should SAFE bring up such deeply politicized issues versus simply focusing on policy recommendations? Our theory is that the political system in DC is veering out of control, and that unless and until that’s fixed it will be impossible to make progress on policy issues.
What subject or issue should be assigned for this letter to the DE members? Differing choices were provided by their respective websites. The best ones seemed to be “Budget” on Sen. Carper’s list, “Budget and Appropriations” on Sen. Coons’ list, and “Congress” or “Other” on Rep. Blunt Rochester’s list.
A response was received from Sen. Coons’ office on Dec. 18 (same day that the House articles of impeachment were passed), which made some effort to minimize our concerns (in part by ignoring several points SAFE had raised). If the House voted to impeach, then there should be a "full and fair trial." Multiemployer pension plans needed to be supported, no quantification of the cost. The USMCA treaty should be approved. We didn't hear from the other DE members.
Subsequently, we were invited to participate in a Sen. Coons’ website survey re satisfaction with their procedures for handling constituent correspondence. Our input was duly provided.
SAFE’s assessment of the December congressional activity was presented in last week’s blog entry, and we summed it up in a Jan. 16 letter to the DE members. This letter is posted below for ready reference, together with some thoughts prompted by the constituent inquiry survey.
I. Letter to DE Members
SECURE AMERICA’S FUTURE ECONOMY, advocating smaller, more focused, less costly government since 1996
January 16, 2020
Sen. Tom Carper, Sen. Chris Coons & Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester
We recently shared SAFE’s concerns about several matters that were pending in Congress. Secure America’s Future Economy – Outreach – Letters – 12/2/19 (a response from Sen. Coons’ office is posted at the end).
1. In our view, the House impeachment inquiry was “being pursued for reasons of political payback vs. principle.” Secure America’s Future Economy – Blog – 11/18/19 & 11/25/19.
Update: The House passed articles of impeachment on Dec. 18, based on dubious charges and an obviously incomplete evidentiary record, but waited until Jan. 15 to deliver said articles to the Senate (which is scheduled to begin the trial on Jan. 21). Pelosi impeachment offenses, Wall Street Journal, 1/15/20.
“. . . having failed to make an adequate case to remove Mr. Trump, Democrats are trying to drag out impeachment to further tarnish his reputation and mousetrap Senate Republicans running for re-election. [Speaker Pelosi] demands what she calls a ‘fair trial’ after preventing a fair impeachment probe in the House. This is an abuse of the impeachment power.”
2. Meanwhile, Congress had been neglecting its legislative responsibilities. Indeed, the 116th Congress had yet to pass and send to the president for signature ANY legislation of substance including the appropriation bills for FY 2020 that should have been enacted by October 1 under the congressional budget rules.
Why not try to make up for lost time in December? To this end, we suggested that Congress should (a) come to a sensible agreement re border barrier funding ($1.4 billion was obviously inadequate); (b) speed the USMCA on its way to approval; and (c) block attempts to lard the FY 2020 appropriation bills with unwise/ irresponsible provisions that couldn’t readily be passed on a standalone basis. .
Update: The House passed the USMCA on Dec. 18 after months of delay and the Senate passed it on Jan. 16, in both cases by overwhelming margins. Otherwise, all the surprises in December were losses instead of wins.
The UMW bailout set a precedent for bailing out nearly 1,400 other multiemployer pension plans not to mention many underfunded state and local pension plans (total potential price tag of some $6 trillion).
No understanding was reached on border barrier funding, so the administration will continue to re-designate defense construction funds for this purpose (and legal challenges will continue in the courts). Given the relatively modest amounts involved ($7.2 billion was just re-designated for FY 2020), that’s a sloppy way to run a government!
There were also other dubious actions, such as renewing the lapsed Export-Import Bank charter (which numerous conservative groups, including SAFE, had opposed) and stealthily perpetuating a raft of special interest tax breaks. Deficits already projected at some $1 trillion will be increased as a result of these and other "riders," all without any real discussion about what is happening. Secure America’s Future Economy – Blog – 1/13/20.
3. Longer term, Congress is committing institutional suicide by failing to exercise its exclusive legislative powers (Constitution, Article I, Section 1) and forcing the executive branch to fill the resulting vacuum by aggressively interpreting its administrative powers. And this problem isn’t new, it began developing years ago. Secure America’s Future Economy – Blog - 12/2/19 (part 4).
In view of the gravity of this situation, we wanted to bring it your attention again. We would welcome your support in getting Congress back on track. Please advise if you have any questions or we can help further.
II. Hoped-for consideration – The previously mentioned survey from Sen. Coons’ website asked an interesting question, which was not only how many inquiries we had submitted over the past year or so (about half a dozen) but also what the primary reason was for submitting them. We selected communicating our views on the issues of the day as opposed to the other choices that were offered.
Query: Is it reasonable to expect the DE members to stop the impeachment inquiry, force Congress to do its appropriation bills on time and in a businesslike manner, and stop passing legislation that relentlessly expands the size, scope and cost of government? Even if persuaded by us, they aren’t likely to be able to change the decision on such issues given their limited share of the overall voting power. Who else can we write to, however, bearing in mind that the other members of Congress don’t view themselves as representing anyone other than the residents of their respective states?
What about the effort required to send letters via the DE member websites? In our view, the submission procedures are OK, although the subject lists might be improved in some instances.
Are we receiving responses in a timely manner? SAFE’s experience has varied: quick – slow – never. Also, it would be helpful to reference the date of our letters in responses to assure we match them up correctly.
Did we have an issue with the content of responses, and if so what was it? One of the choices offered, if memory serves, was whether the responses supported our views. In this regard, SAFE does not believe the DE members should necessarily support us. And in the case of the impeachment proceeding, all three of them are aligned with their political party in support of what has been going on. Carper: Trump is afraid of losing to Biden, Meredith Newman, News Journal, 1/19/20. We would hope that our letters will be thoughtfully reviewed, however, including consideration of supporting references, e.g., the blog entries cited in our 12/2/19 letter to the DE members. Maybe if the impeachment proceeding turns out as we expect, they will realize that it was not such a great idea after all.
OK, they probably receive thousands of inquiries from Delawareans so why should they give special attention to letters from SAFE? Our thought here is that few individuals or groups can match our record of constructive feedback to the DE members over the years, and to other legislators, etc. for that matter.
Since 1996 (even though our letters to legislators page wasn’t started until 2005) – independent of any political party or economic interest group – backed by information from authoritative sources – conclusively validated by experience in many cases, e.g., our advocacy of increased US oil production (letter 5/5/08 re common sense solutions to high gasoline prices, which unfortunately is missing from our archives) and warnings about the ill-advised healthcare legislation (aka Obamacare) that was enacted in 2010 (participation in listening session with Sen. Tom Carper, 9/7/09).