How three new House progressives plan to make a mark in their first term
Plus: Atlanta’s rep on Biden’s MLK weekend visit, one-word reactions to the anti-abortion measures that passed the House this week and why lawmakers want more WH action to ease the housing crisis.
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Welcome to Supercreator, your weekly guide to the politicians, power brokers and policies shaping how online creators and the people who support their work and live in the new economy.
If you followed the House Speaker election last week, you know how bonkers the whole 15-vote spectacle that ended in Kevin McCarthy achieving his career-long pursuit of the top gavel was. I was featured in The Washington Post for a story about what it was like to cover history.
And ICYMI, I wrote two subscriber exclusives on why House Democrats think that the speaker’s fight was the first of many chaotic moments ahead and some useful context on the separate border trips President Joe Biden and a group of US senators took as House Republicans are expected to bring two anti-immigration bills to the floor in the coming weeks. They’re both worth the read and are made possible thanks to the support of paid subscribers.
Now back to this week’s top story:
It took a few days longer than they expected, but members of Congress are finally sworn in
“My main issues right now are really dealing with the ongoing housing crisis in Vermont and the mental health crisis. I feel like those are issues that cut across partisan lines,” Democratic Rep. Becca Balint of Vermont said to Supercreator in an interview. “It’s critically important and what I’ve noticed is the more I talk about mental health, in particular, the more people are like, ‘Yeah, we need to be talking about that.’”
Balint, the first woman and first LGBTQ person to represent Vermont in Congress, added that she hopes her new platform will also help remove the disempowering associations that have silenced people from sharing their experiences.
“I came up through the Vermont legislature and it was something that was important to me that entire time and I’ve been really open about my own struggles with anxiety and depression and how we have to destigmatize it,” she said. “And we do that by talking about and investing in it.”
Nicole Rapfogel, health policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, said in an email to Supercreator that policymakers like Balint are recognizing the importance of addressing mental health care, which is unaffordable and inaccessible for many Americans despite recent investments to expand the Affordable Care Act.
“If members of Congress can take action to achieve parity between physical and mental health, improve insurance networks and coverage, and build a strong, diverse mental health care workforce, millions of Americans could begin to access the care that they need.
For Rep. Greg Casar of Texas, whose district includes portions of San Antonio and Austin, protecting and expanding abortion rights is a focus of his first-term, in addition to continuing his work on labor rights and worker’s rights.
“One thing we already have gotten to work on was abortion access in Texas. We’ve been pushing and working with the White House on the clear path for people to legally send via US Mail abortion medication from blue states to places like Texas that have an abortion ban,” Casar said to Supercreator in an interview. “So kind of regardless of the dysfunction and division the extreme right has going on in the building, we’ve kind of already been at work on that.”
This is welcome news for advocacy groups, like NARAL Pro-Choice America, that are leading the charge against extreme anti-abortion proposals and laws at all levels of government.
“With some of the most extreme members of the GOP at the wheel in the House, we’ll be on defense in the chamber as Republicans introduce a slew of anti-choice bills,” NARAL spokesperson Ally Boguhn said in a statement to Supercreator. “With anti-choice extremists laser-focused on decimating reproductive freedom, it’s critical for lawmakers in Congress to continue fighting for our fundamental rights.”
In addition to ultimately passing the Women’s Health Protection Act, Boghun said that the organization is heartened to see our Democratic allies introducing bills on the right to travel for abortion, the right to birth control, and other key issues.
“Meanwhile, in the Senate, we’ll be continuing to support the swift confirmations of President Biden’s historic slate of judicial nominees,” she added. “We are thrilled to be working alongside so many progressive news members as we keep up the fight to restore and expand access to abortion.
Summer Lee, the first Black congresswoman to serve the state of Pennsylvania, said to Supercreator that the foundation of her work in Congress would zero in on getting money out of politics, also a prime concern of watchdog groups, including Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
“Our elections have become a competition for money, not just votes,” CREW Policy Director Debra Perlin said in a statement to Supercreator. “It is past time for Congress to repair our broken campaign finance system, a system that [Republican] Rep. [George] Santos seems to have expertly manipulated on his road to election based on a fraudulent resume.” (Santos is under pressure to resign his seat in the Long Island, New York district that Biden won by 10 points in 2020 in part to questions about how he funded his campaign.)
“[Dark money] is I think the big underlying issue with so much of everything that we do, whether you’re fighting for education or for gun reform or environmental racism — they’re all impeded by money in politics,” Lee said. “So we can’t get folks who have nefarious intentions, especially for progressives particularly, then we aren’t going to be able to prevail on any of those things.”
One-word reactions: House Dems on the GOP’s tandem anti-abortion bills
House Republicans on Wednesday afternoon passed two anti-abortion measures as part of a flurry of messaging bills on hot-button issues that signal to conservative voters
The first requires a doctor the same standard of medical care for an infant born during an abortion procedure as they would for any other infant, which House Democrats who voted against the bill told Supercreator existing law already mandates. The bill also requires abortion providers to transport a newborn infant to a hospital even in cases where that is not in the interest of the infant’s health, setting aside the medical judgment of the provider. Violations of the bill would penalize providers with up to five years of imprisonment.
And while the other vote was for a resolution that condemned vandalism and attacks on pro-life facilities, House Democratic Leadership whipped against it because it didn’t acknowledge the violent attacks on abortion care providers and facilities, which were up 128 percent last year over 2020.
After the votes, Supercreator caught up with a few House Democrats to get their one-word reaction to the bills.
Rep. Lauren Underwood of Illinois said the bills were “horrifying.”
“Outrageous” was the word Rep. Ritchie Torres offered as he walked out of the House chamber.
And Delia Ramirez, a first-term progressive who also serves in the Illinois congressional delegation, said the bills were “nuts.”
Rep. Jasmine Crockett of Texas said that she was “appreciative” that House Republican leadership put the bills on the floor because with each one they are pushing forward knowing that they won’t pass the Senate or never be signed into law by President Joe Biden, they are digging a hole that Democrats can exploit as they attempt to take back the House in 2024.
“These bills are doomed in the Senate,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “American women deserve to have their right to healthcare protected, not undermined.”
Despite the belief that the other side is doing the heavy lifting by keeping abortion top of mind for voters, Crockett told Supercreator that it was up to her and her colleagues to go back to their districts and translate the difference between Republicans and Democrats and what that means for overall freedom, not just reproductive freedom.
“It’s incumbent upon us to continue to have the conversations at home and not just let it go,” she said. “Because we know that the president is never going to sign it. We know that we’ll never get past the Senate. We know it’s not going anywhere. But we’ve got to talk about how they are a real threat and how [Republicans] really do want a nationwide abortion ban.”
Bowman, congressional Dems urge WH to take action on housing crisis
Democratic Rep. Jamall Bowman of New York and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on Monday led their colleagues in a letter to President Biden urging his administration to take additional executive action to protect renters against price gouging.
“Simply put, the rent is too high and millions of people across this country are struggling to stay stably housed as a result,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “Housing is the largest monthly expense for most Americans, and skyrocketing rental costs increase the likelihood of evictions, foreclosures, homelessness, and health issues for people across the country.”
Bowman told Supercreator in an interview that passing common-sense legislation is like turning the Titanic, which is why he and his colleagues are calling on the president to step in.
“With the stroke of a pen, he can provide relief to millions of renters across the country.”
An administration official confirmed to Supercreator that the White House has received the letter and that it held several constructive conversations with staff from Bowman and Warren’s offices about their shared commitment to ensuring rental markets are fair and affordable for renters.
“As we previewed during our November meeting with tenants, organizers, housing providers, and researchers, we are exploring a broad set of administrative actions that further our commitment to ensuring a fair and affordable market for renters across the nation,” White House spokesperson Robyn Patterson said in a statement to Supercreator. “We look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers to strengthen tenant protections and improve rental affordability.”
The congressman also said that he is encouraged that the White House is engaging with tenants across the country so administration officials know what’s going on the ground.
“But landlords, with unjust evictions, raising rents, et cetera, have been abusing the housing market for a very long time, even prior to the pandemic,” Bowman added. “Housing stock is small, there’s not enough. And corporate landlords are the ones we need to hold accountable because they have the wealth to provide affordable housing.”
Biden to travel to ATL to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy
President Biden on Sunday will travel to Atlanta on Sunday to speak at Ebenezer Church, where Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia serves as pastor, on what would have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 94th birthday.
Democratic Rep. Nikema Williams of Georgia, whose district includes the church, said to Supercreator that she welcomed any visit from government leaders to the state, which she described as the center of the political universe. (Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, you may recall, echoed similar sentiments to Supercreator about Atlanta last month.)
“For years, we have celebrated the King Day ceremony not just on one day and this is an opportunity for us to celebrate on multiple days for the legacy that Dr. King has left behind,” Williams said. “I welcome the president visiting the district at any time, especially to uplift a legacy such as Atlanta’s in our history of being the city that is too busy to hate.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the King holiday has always been a critical moment for Biden and mentioned civil rights as one of the reasons he ran for president.
“He has an administration that makes sure that no one is forgotten, that he has an administration that represents the country,” she said. “And that also shows a commitment to how he believes to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy as well and making sure that we walk in that legacy every day.”
In practice, Rep. Williams, who succeeded the late congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis and is a third-generation HBCU graduate representing the largest consortium of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the nation, said that this includes lifting up the opportunity for free and fair access to the ballot.
“This is a perfect opportunity for us to come together on bipartisan issues, like funding for HBCUs and making sure that the next generation of Black excellence is getting what they need.”
Jean-Pierre declined to share any additional details about the president’s speech but said it would focus not just on what Dr. King meant to the Black community but to every community across America. Senior Advisor Keisha Lance Bottoms is expected to preview the significance of the remarks tomorrow at the White House daily press briefing.
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IN THE KNOW
Nearly 16 million people have signed up for health coverage in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces since the start of open enrollment on Nov. 1, 2022, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. The new record represents a 13-percent increase over the last year, including over three million people new to the marketplaces. Open enrollment closes on Jan. 15. Read the full announcement
Related: The Department of Health and Human Services announced key dates for the first year of the Medicare Drug Negotiation Program under the Inflation Reduction Act, the health care, climate justice and tax law Congress passed last summer. By Sep. 1, 2023, CMS will publish the first 10 Medicare Part D drugs selected for the program; the drug prices CMS negotiates will be announced on the same day next year and will go into effect starting Jan. 1, 2026. CMS will select 15 more Part D drugs for negotiation for the following year, 15 more Part B or Part D drugs for 2028, and 20 more Part B or Part D drugs for each year after that as outlined in the IRA. Read the full announcement
President Biden on Wednesday morning joined First Lady Dr. Jill Biden at Walter Reed National Medical Center for her scheduled outpatient procedure, commonly known as Mohs surgery. The surgery was to remove a small legion above Dr. Biden’s eye during a routine cancer screening last week and recommended to her by doctors out of an abundance of caution.
The president will travel to Canada in March, per the White House. The announcement came after Biden on Wednesday met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico. Read the readout of the meeting
Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan and Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania reintroduced a bill that would expand Medicare to cover hearing aids for beneficiaries, which have an average price of about $2,500, according to the members. Congressional Democrats attempted to negotiate this provision in the Inflation Reduction Act but it was ultimately dropped from the final package. Read the full announcement
Thirteen voting members of the new Congress identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, the highest number of openly LGB members in history, according to the Pew Research Center. The number, which has tripled in recent years, includes one Senate Democrat, 11 House Democrats and one House Republican. Read the full analysis
The Environmental Protection Agency announced the availability of almost $100 million for environmental justice projects in underserved communities across the country. The funds are made possible through the Inflation Reduction Act and represent the largest grant program in the EPA’s history, which advances a Biden administration initiative that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to overburdened communities affected by disproportionately high and adverse health and environmental impacts. Read the full announcement
The State Department announced Without Just Cause, a new initiative to raise awareness of the plight of political prisoners and their families. The campaign will also advocate for the release of all wrongful detainees around the world and include diplomatic engagement and public diplomacy in Washington, DC and by US embassies abroad. Read more about the initiative
The Department of Defense rescinded its vaccine requirement for armed forces after the mandate was repealed in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act that Congress passed last month. “The health and readiness of the Force are crucial to the Department’s ability to defend our nation,” the agency said in a statement. “Secretary [Lloyd] Austin continues to encourage all service members, civilian employees and contractor personnel to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 to ensure total force readiness.” Read the full rescission memo
Demar Hamlin on Wednesday was released from the hospital nine days after the 24-year-old Buffalo Bills safety collapsed during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals ten days ago. The Bills face the Miami Dolphins in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs on Saturday in Buffalo and fans are fingers-crossed that Hamlin will be in attendance. Read the full announcement
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