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tv   Politics Public Policy Today  CSPAN  March 24, 2015 11:00am-1:01pm EDT

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didn't have the minimum of a hammer hanging over their head, but statistics indicate that's not the case. because over the last year, the percentage of defendants pleading guilty in drug cases has remained the same. actually, it's gone up half a percentage as it was prior to the time that we instituted smart on crime. likewise, the percentage of drug defendants who are cooperating in drug cases has remain eded the same. and as a prosecutor who was doing this before we had some of these mandatory minimums or the sentencing glooin sentencing guidelines, i wasn't surprised because the defendant will also have an incentive to get a lower sentence. so not only from a gut feeling did i not think that would be the case, the em per cal evidence indicates. >> i don't want to presume when you said it would make a safer, but you noted earlier the vast
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expenditure of our federal resources in incarceration and the i think the average on mandatory minimums is about 11-year incarceration and so without going too far, are you suggesting that those resources could be applied in other ways to make us safer? >> absolutely. as i've looked at the spending of the department of justice and seeing that the bureau of prisons each and every year takes up a larger and larger percentage of the department of justice budget, that money has to come from somewhere and where it's been coming from is money for agents and prosecutors and also critically importantly money for state and law enforcement assistance for the cop on the street. those are the things that i believe keep our country safe. now, let me say there are some defendants who need those long sentences. there are some who need to be this prison for a very long time. because they are dangerous and our society needs to be protected from them but i think we need to use those lengthy
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sentences in a smart way to keep our country safe. >> that's why senator lee and i have not eliminated any mandatory minimums when it comes to the maximum side nor for any crimes. we are trying to narrow this into the category least likely to be a threat if their sentences were shortened. thank you for your testimony. >> thank you, senator. >> thank you senator durbin and thank you for your work with me on this smarter sentencing act and your insights into that proposal. which i wholeheartedly support and am honored to be working on with senator durbin and others. first of all miss yates, i want to congratulate you on your nomination and thank you for coming here to answer questions today. i also want to thank kelly and quilt for joining you and being willing to support you in this effort. as i'm sure you've come to
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appreciate, the attorney general the deputy attorney general is in many ways, the functional head of the u.s. department of justice. the attorney general ultimately sets department policy about the most important matters but the day-to-day responsibility of carrying out those policies and overseeing the department of justice's work falls to the deputy. you and i have met a couple of times now and i've vuch enjoyed our conversations. i've appreciated and been impressed with your credentials, your experience, approachable manner for what seems to be a very good judgment on a whole host of issues. i'm sure chose qualityies serve you well and will continue to do so if you're confirmed. want to ask you about two areas of concern that we've discussed before. first, the broader responsibility of the department
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of justice to give competent, credible and independent advice and second, what you would do or have done as deputy to restore the trust and confidence of the congress and of the american people generally in the work that's carried out by the department. on the first category, the department of justice is of course the u.s. government's legal arm. some might describe it as the federal government's internal law firm. as a member of its senior leadership and as its second highest ranking lawyer in this position, who do you think is your client? is is the client the president is it the attorney general? is is it congress? who is the client? >> there's a very clear answer to that senator, and that is the people of the united states. it's not the president. it's not the congress. it's the people of the united
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states. >> and so, that requires a degree of independence in a sense, doesn't it? >> it absolutely does, yes, sir. >> okay. i think that's important to remember and you know, lawyers generally always do well to remember who their client is. and in many cases, deciding who speaks for the client can be a difficult task that becomes especially difficult when dealing with government, especially a large one. to that end let's talk about the president's executive action on immigration. for a minute. i'm referring here to the executive action announced in november of 014. now, before the president took that particular executive action some 22 times prior to that the president disclaimed any legal authority to regularize the status of individuals, immigrants here unlawfully. then came along an opinion from
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the office of legal counsel part of the department of justice, explaining why a combination of maximumly exercised discretion and strained inferences from past practices made it legal for the president of the united states not only to refuse to carry out the immigration laws against entire broad categories of individuals, but also to affirmatively issue work permits. to individuals that congress had deemed ineligible for work permits. now, i'm going to ask you about that opinion in a minute, but i want to review the landscape for a minute. when miss lynch came before a committee for her confirmation hearing a few weeks ago she testified that she had found that opinion reasonable and i think made clear enough that she thought it was correct. since then, since that hearing was held a few weeks ago, there
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is something significant that has changed in that a federal district court in texas the u.s. district court for the southern district of texas issued a lengthy opinion in the context of a preliminary injunction rejecting the analysis and imposing an injunction against the president's action. now, the department of course is now fighting that and we all have to wait and see how the fifth circuit resolves that dispute, but i want to ask you, are you familiar more or less with that opinion or at least what it does and in light of the opinion, in light of its findings, its conclusions and analysis do you think reasonable minds can at least differ as to whether the president's conclusions were lawful? >> well, thank you for raising this issue, senator, and this is obviously an issue on which people have very strongly held views. and i think that's certainly
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very understandable. and it is an issue on which reasonable people can disagree. the fact of the matter is as you have pointed out, this matter is in the court's now. and as everybody here knows the texas district court has ruled and the department of justice is going to abide by that ruling, not just in texas, but across the country. unless and until a higher court reaches a different decision and so, this issue is now in the courts to be resolved and we will observe that ruling, whatever it turns out to be. >> okay. i appreciate hearing from you that this is an issue on which reasonable minds can reach different conclusions. and have you read the office of legal counsel memorandum that i'm describing? >> i have, yes, i'm generally familiar with it, sir. >> and i know you worked in your current position, you weren't serving as the acting deputy general at the time that was issued but have you since
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formed your own legal opinion as to whether the legal analysis in that opinion was correct? >> well, as you noted, senator, since mid january, i've been serving as the acting deputy attorney general of the department of justice and the department of justice is now currently involved in litigation on precise lyly this matter. and as the acting deputy attorney general, it's really not appropriate for me to be giving my personal opinion on any matter in which the department is involved which would include this matter as well. the department's position is set forth in the pleadings and i stand by those. >> are there limits? >> yes senator there. >> if a future president decided that he or she would direct all personnel within that presidential administration not to enforce any tax rate above
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25%, would that strike you as an appropriate use of prosecutorial discretion discretion? >> i think there are limits, both legal and constitutional to prosecutorial discretion and to the president's authority, but defining and drawing those lines really requires knowing all of the facts and looking at the law, and examining that and considering that and i wouldn't be much of a lawyer if i gave you a knee jerk reaction to that. >> sure, sure, but there may be occasions if you're confirmed as the deputy attorney general when you might be serving for one reason or another as the acting attorney general and in that capacity, there might be times when you get a call from the white house saying hey, what do you think of what you might be asked to offer up your reaction. i assume your knee jerk reaction would include a healthy amount of skepticism. hey, i can reduce the tax code by executive action by saying no
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taxes will be collected above 25%. would you agree with that? >> well, certainly, if i remember called upon to give me on the spot reaction, i would give a gut reaction as all of us have or do when confirmed with things, but before i would ever give a legal opinion on anything, i'm a careful lawyer and i would want to look at the law and talk with folks who are experts and i would want to think about the ramifications of it and make sure i was giving a reasoned and considered opinion. >> but that sounds a little different than prosecutorial discretion, that one. >> i think that again, it doesn't sound quite like something i would think was probably a good idea, but before i could give you a legal conclusion on that, i would want to do all of the things i just described. >> thank you very much. i see my time's expired. senator purdue. >> thank you, senator lee. and thank you, miss yates, for being here this morning. i appreciate fut putting your family through this today, kelly and quinn. i don't know what it was like for kelly and quinn growing up
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in a house of a top prosecutor, but the fact that they've survived is i would commend them on that. i've watched -- >> they weren't the least bit intimidated, i can tell you that. >> i'm sure. i've watched your career in georgia, being from georgia. i've watched you go after the human traffickers, the sex offenders, the drug cartels and even the gangs the mexican gangs we've talked about today. the ms 13 among others, but i also saw you go against white collar criminals and even elected official even an ex-mayor in a public corruption case in georgia and i xhebd you for that. in your comments, you made the comments your loyalties were the people of the u.s. and the u.s. constitution and that the deputy attorney general has to be first and last, independent and not partisan and i would second that. i would also put for the record, my observation that's exactly what you did in your role in
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georgia and i hope you bring that to this role in the justice department here in washington. i want to talk about the, you mentioned earlier that you would be the coo in effect of the justice department and i think that's right at a deputy attorney general. it's a $27 billion budget. that would put you among the top probably 100, 150 top commercial organizations in the country if not the world. you've been there about three months. i think we started about the same time and have been drinking from a fire hose, but i'd love your observations about your priorities now that you've been there and what reforms and changes would you like to make as priorities now as the coo of our justice department? >> thank you for the question and thank you for your kind introduction this morning. you're right. i've been here since mid january, about the same time you started and i have been drinking from a fire hose but during this time, i've tried to bring
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the same management skills that i had as u.s. attorney this atlanta to the department of justice. it's the same thing, but on a much larger scale. obviously. one of the things that i've tried to do there is is to make sure that we are setting goals. i'm big believer that you need to have strategic objectives and that's down to each and every component and employee of the department of justice having a strategy and goals they're setting. so that's something we're working on now. what are the things that we're going to proactively push forward in the department? so, as a manager i'm trying to gather the information there and to be able to set some of those goals going forward the next two years. one of the i think critically important thing that we do at the department of justice is to continuely reassess what our great es law enforcement challenges are and to ensure we are devoting our resources to those issues and those challenges, rather than just continuing to do is same old
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thing we've been doing before, so i'm asking our law enforcement agents as well as our 38 components to go and do a current assessment as to what our challenges are so we can better focus our resources there going forward. i know that being a chief operating officer and a business person is something you have experience at and so i would welcome any advice from you as to things of ways we can best manage. >> spend less money. >> let me follow up on you served as a vice chair of attorney generals advisory committee in your role in georgia for several years if i remember correctly. you were involved in their smart on crime initiative. if i'm correct. can you discuss why you thought smart on crime was necessary and what your role in the design implementation of that was and why it's pertinent today? >> thank you senator and as a business person, it's something you could relate to. because smart on crime was really about ensure thag we were using our limited federal
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resources. our prosecutive resources and resources of prison vet space in a way that would keep our country as safe as possible. the smart on crime was designed to identify those defendants causing the greatest havoc in our communities and to ensure our lengthy prison sentences are reserved for those defendants so we can free up the other resources we so greatly need in the area of prosecutors and in the area of investigators and in being able to provide resources to our state and local officers. having a cop on the street is one of the most important things we can do for public safety. >> let me change gears once again. you testified earlier i think in 2011, the sentencing committee on the issue of release of illegal immigrants who are in the federal criminal justice system. i think you explained the justice department's position
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that these individuals should be continue to be eligible for supervised release after sentencing. that was a position contrary to the commission's recommendation. can you talk about your position and the one taken be i the commission? >> i believe the commission ultimately did go the other way on that, but i think at the time, the department believed it was really important we maintain supervision in the event we had a defendant for example re-enter and re-enter illegally, that we would be able to be able to use the tools that we need to be able to bring them immediately back into the court system. at that point. >> and one last question. with a minute left and i know this is a long anding question. in your role as depp thety, you support the attorney general obviously and your boss is the president of the united states. and when you disagree with the attorney general who's your boss and you disagree with the president, and you have to command respect from the people inside the department of justice that execute on a daily basis to make us safer and you said
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safety and not statistics was your number one goal. help me understand how you'll balance those three issues relative to the ultimate objective you have of making us safer as a country. >> well, senator, throughout my career, i have made it a practice to speak my mind. i've done that during the time that i was a line assistant. >> can we ask your husband that? gl he might like me to speak a little less to be honest with you. but i've made it a practice to speak my mind and that's something i would continue to do if i'm fortunate enough to be confirmed in this position. you're right. if i'm confirmed, i'm the number two two, not the number one person. i would not be the chief policy make egger, but the chief operating officer, but i still expect that my view would be slis itted and even if it's not, i might give it. >> thank you for your testimony. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you.
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>> so, the it's up to me to decide whether i'm ready or not? >> you have a right to remain silent. >> i'm not ready. i would actually, i'm doing this just out of respect for senator sessions and i'm completely ready, but i'd rather -- my great respect for him. >> senator. franken is always ready and he's very good at timing. you can be sure of that. well, miss yates, you're going into a different world than the united states attorneys offices. i got to tell you, i've observed both over the years and you're going need all those values
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you've learned every day knowing that you prosecute one person one day and another one the next and you absolutely essential that in both cases, the law was applied fairly. i feel that almost every united states attorney that has any good character understands the pressure and the burdens to do that. fbi director is so complimentary of you and came by even though struggle a bit to make sure we knew that he thought you were exceptional. your background is good background. for this job. and atlanta office has always been a good office and as the spaulding team with former attorney general griffin bell is a good firm to have been associated with, that's for sure. but it tends to be a political world at the top of the
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department of justice. and i guess my first question to follow up on is do you understand that in the political world, there will be people calling, demanding, pushing, insisting on things that they do not know? what they're asking for and could indeed be corrosive of the rule of law, could diminish the respect the department of justice has, could deminiminish the rule of law in the united states? are you aware of that? >> you're right. i'm not from here. i have only been here for a couple of months. but i can tell you i am committed to the department of justice. i love our department. i care deeply about our mission. and i would do everything in my power to protect the integrity that is the department of justice. >> well, i understand that.
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and senator lee asked you about this tax situation, where the president i think i heard him say just decides that 35% tax rate's too high, he's going to say we're not going to collect more than 25%. and you said doesn't sound like something i'd agree with. i'd say that shouldn't take you too long to say no. this isn't right. >> i agree, senator. i think what i was tell inging you that was my gut reaction to it, but if i'm going to be doing battle with anybody, i want to make sure i have the law and the facts and the precedent behind me to be able to give a reasoned judgment. and if i'm in a discussion where people have different views, i want to make sure i've got what i need to back up my views. >> well, you have to watch out
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because people will be asking you to do things, you just need to say no about. do you think the attorney general has a responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that's improper? a lot of people have defended the lynch nomination, for example, by saying well he appoints somebody who's going to execute his views. what's wrong with that? but if the view as a president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or deputy attorney general say no? >> senator, i believe that the attorney general or the deputy attorney general has an obligation to follow the law and the constitution and to give their independent legal advice to the president. >> does the office of legal counsel, which makes many of these opinions that impact policy does it report through the deputy's office or directly to the attorney general? >> well, when you look at the office of legal counsel reports
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to the deputy's office, it's important that the office of legal counsel be independent because federal agencies across our government regularly come to the office seeking advice and guidance about what is permissible and what isn't. and it's critically important that the olc advice be just that and that it not be advocacy. >> well, that's true. and like any ceo, where the law firm, sometimes, the lawyers have to tell the ceos, mr. ceo, don't do that. we'll get us sued. it's going to be in violation of the law. you'll regret it. please. no matter how headstrong they might be do you feel like that's the duty of the attorney general's office? >> i do. to fairly and impartially evaluate the law and provide the president and administration with impartial legal advice. >> and justice in a fraud case.
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or any other drug case you might have prosecuted excellently over the years, immigration law is important to be consistently and effectively enforced. should it not? >> i believe that all of our laws should be consistently and effectively enforced and within the confines of the constitution. >> well, that's a good answer, but they're not. so you're taking over as deputy to the attorney general of the united states of america and we have a just a collapse of integrity and immigration enforcement. and the president's position on executive amnesty just accelerates collapse of integrity resulting this for example the lowest morale in the department of homeland security officers who enforce the law of any department in the entire government. they've even sued their supervisors because they're
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being told to not follow their oath, to enforsce the law, but to carry out political policies. there's a lawsuit over that. they sued their bosses over that. i think they're correct. i remember john ashcroft, attorney general for bush, he's been celebrated, when he was in the hospital, they tried to get him to sign a document that dealt with terrorism that he thought went too far, he refused to do so. so, i hope that you feel free to say no. in the character of john ashcroft and others who said no to president nixon on certain issues. let me just ask you briefly, this question. i'd like to have a clear answer if i could. do you think that the president's executive action announced on november 20th is legal and constitutional? can you give us a yes or no
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answer? >> since mid january, i've been serving as the deputy attorney general of the department of justice. and the department of justice is currently litigating this matter. and so, since i'm the acting deputy attorney general of the department of justice when it's litigating this, it's really not appropriate for me to give you by personal opinion about this matter or any other matter that the department of justice is litigating. >> only thing i care about is your official position. so, you're defending the president's action in court, isn't that correct? >> the department of justice has filed pleadings and i and by those pleadings. >> thank you. >> well, thank you very much, mr. chairman and mrs. yates for being here. i enjoyed the visit we had and i know one of the the things that senator cornyn asked you about that the two of us have been working on is the trafficking issue and i know he asked you about some of the border issues and i went down with cindy mccain on this issue of
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trafficking and had a very good visit about that last year, but i thought i'd ask you what you have done in the northern district of georgia to address human trafficking in your former job and how you see it going forward, dmesically, with the department of justice. >> as we've talked about some here this morning, human trafficking is one of the most pressing criminal justice issues that we're facing in the department and in our country right now. when i became u.s. attorney five years ago, i highlighted as as an area to prioritize. we were one of the first offices in the country to form an act team, which is a task force. federal agentcyies as well as state and local prosecutors, to go after as aggressively as we could, the traffickers and those assisting them with these young women and children. as important as aggressive enforcement is though, that alone is not enough. so, one of the first things i did was to hold a human
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trafficking summit and to ensure we were first educating our community about what's going on within their very neighborhoods. that's important for a couple of reasons, not just general public education. but because it's also important we educate people about the signs of human trafficking, so that when they see someone they think could be in that position they'll alert law enforcement. a third thing we did was to train law enforcement in georgia. about, again, recognizesing the signs of human trafficking. oftentimes, it's the local street cop who's likely to encounter the trafficking victim and they didn't really know what to be looking for. oftentimes, they looked at them as willing prostitutes as opposed to trafficking victims. so we engaged in intense training so they would recognize those signs and just a couple of weeks after one of our first trainings, a local law enforcement officer pulled over a car on the interstate and there was a man and a young
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girl, a teenage girl there that just didn't feel quite right to him based on the training he had received, so he did what he was trained to do, to separate the two of them and when he did, he learned from this young girl she had been trafficked for two years, since she was 14 years old and had been praying to be rescued and because of the training he received she was rescued. i say that not the pat us on the back for training, but rather to highlight how important it is we do more than focus on enforcement, that we node to educate and train as well. >> exactly. i'm hopeful we're reach an agreement and be able to move forward and help with funding as well as the safe harbor bill that i'm leading that passed through this committee unanimously a few weeks ago, which i think gives guidance and incentives for the state. the civil rights bill this marks the 50th anniversary. so many people gathered in selma, i know senator sessions with was there and others.
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we've made tremendous progress in ensuring the voting rights, but i've been dispint eded that we haven't been able to move forward on the voting rights amendment act as we know there are some republicans that are cosponsoring in the house, what are your plans to ensure that the justice department remains committed to protecting the right to vote? >> well, i was incredibly privilaged to be able to be in selma for the anniversary and i think congress lewis' presence here today, it's a really powerful remirnd, the sacrifices they've made to make sure everyone has the right to vote. if i am confirmed as deputy attorney general, i believe it is my responsibility to do everything i can to safeguard that precious right to vote. indeed, i think it's the responsibility of all citizens to do everything they can to safeguard the right to vote of their fellow citizens. >> thank you. i have some questions i'll put on the record. senator lee, the chair's
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antitrust subcommittee and i am the ranking member, so i care about that. i think we talked about the metal theft issue, but i think i'll end in synthetic drugs. they continue to be a big problem across the country. we have made some headway. we passed some bills to reclassify some of the substances that were -- in a major case that the u.s. attorney's office successfully won in minnesota. but part of the problem here is that sellers of these drugs have managed to continued to find loopholes. they make a minor change to the compound and then slap a not for human consumption label on the drug and i've worked to help close those loopholes dealing with these labels. it's necessary for the law enforcement to be able to successfully prosecute these cases. we're actually have been working on a bill working with dea i
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think our work is not done on these issues and i know senator feinstein's interested but could you talk about the problem with trying to go after these cases with the labels? >> thank you for your work on that and for your interest in the issue because synthetic drugs are a real danger, particularly for our youth. they are incredibly deadly. this has been a real problem in the state of georgia in an area where we have really emphasized the public education as well as prosecution. you're also absolutely right that they just keep changing up the chemical structure in it so for federal prosecution, we've had to use the analog statute. it's very difficult in con validity. >> that's where we're trying to make changes to. >> it makes it a battle of chemistry experts, which you can talk about as compelling as these cases are, the jury's eyes are glazing over as they're hearing the battle. >> and some of the rural
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jurisdictions finding chemical experts and paying for them. >> it can become more of a science class than a trial where you have individuals often time, teenagers, who have died as a result of these drugs so we are very grateful to you for your leadership op this issue and think this is both as so many areas are in our criminal justice area, it's a criminal justicish, but it's a public health issue as well. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you senator franken. >> thank you. first of all, congratulations on your nomination. >> thank you. >> during your short-term act, you and i have had occasion to speak on a number of occasions and on some issues that i care about. i'd like to thank you for taking those concerns to heart and working with my office to see they're addressed. we also met in my office earl
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lehr about this no, ma'ammination and i'm impressed by your grasp of the issues and your commitment to enforcing the law. you and i have spoken twice about the issue of terrorist recruitment. it's an issue that i and senator klobuchar have been very focused on because we've seen it happening in minnesota for some time. starting before i came to office, first with al shabaab and isil. i press the fbi director and others publicly on the issue over the years and it's something that i and senator klobuchar will continue to press doj on. last september, we urged the department to make sure it's focusing its resources on countering violent extremism in the united states and places where those efforts are needed most and we were pleased to see minnesota was chosen as one of those sights for the new doj
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pilot program. on that. we've been in touch with law enforcement as well as local community minnesota on an ongoing basis and i'm going to continue and so will senator klobuchar, the implementation of the program and we'll keep pressing the administration make sure both the state is getting the resources it needs and that the effective communities are fully engaged. real cooperation with the community and responsiveness is essential for this program's success. i understand you've been in communication with an about need for the program to start as soon as possible. we have some real momentum when we had the summit at the white house, i thought our pilot program was showed that it was in motion.
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will you commit to working with us to make sure that this happens so that we can be sure that our efforts to counter violent extremism are effective and do you have any thoughts on how to improve or expand upon the pilot program? >> thank you for the question, senator, and thank you for meeting with me and give inging me an opportunity to talk with you on a couple of occasions now about these issues. certainly, countered by violent extremism has always been important, but even more so now. we've seen a level of sophisticate from isil that demands a comprehensive response and it can't just be a law enforcement response. it has to be a response in coordinate with our communities and that's what these pilot programs are designed to do. when you and i had an opportunity to speak, i think i told you that minneapolis has been at the top to have list in
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terms of the effectiveness of that program and the really comprehensive approach being taken there and partnership between law enforcement and the communities. this is crime prevention and it is the most essential crime prevention that we can be doing. and so, the department is absolutely committed to working with you, with all, ensuring that we are doing this as effectively as possible. >> and hopefully, we'll get the resources we need without delay so that the momentum that andy has started will continue, right? >> absolutely, senator, in fact i was at this same cb conference as well and had an opportunity to not just hear from various folks in the different cities engaged in this, but to feel the energy in the room. there is an urgency about that. and i agri with you that the resources will be critical to being able to do that as well. >> thank you. i want to talk about mental health and law enforcement. for years public officials have
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been concerned about our nation's overflowing prison system. mesh is is is 5% of the world's population with 25% of its inmates and i think one of the biggest problems we've used our criminal justice system as a substitute for a functioning mental health system. use of solitary confinement and a lack of adequate mental health resources are part of vicious cycle in our prisons. a cycle that especially poor individuals, those who have been unable to afford or access mental health services are likely to get caught up in and with devastates consequences and this is why i will be reintroducing my bill on criminal justice mental health very soon. called the comprehensive justice of mental health act. make smart investments in law enforcement training, critical intervention training, treatment and counseling corrections
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based programs and mental health court. my question is will you work with me on these efforts and what do you think you can do as deputy attorney general to promote a positive approach in deeming with mental health in our criminal justice system. >> thank you, senator, absolutely. i would look forward to working with you on this. this is one of the most challenging issues that we have in the department of justice now. within the last couple of years, there has been a push towards veterans treatment courts as an example. this is something that u.s. attorneys across the country are now exploring and certainly that's something i believe as deputy attorney general that i can encourage those types of courts as well. >> this act wow would fund veterans treatment courts you know mental health courts where the prosecutor, the arresting
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officer, the defense attorney and the judge all agree this person does not belong in the criminal justice system. it may be in the case of a drug court someone who's medicating a mental illness and certainly our men and women who came back from iraq and afghanistan. have been doing that to some to a great degree and they deserve to not be put in prison but to have the opportunity to be diverted in a treatment program. zpl i would look forward to working with you on that, senator. >> i've run out of my time. i'll submit a couple of questions to the record. thank you very much. >> thank you. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. welcome, mrs. yates, good to have you here. congratulations on your nomination. i look forward to working with
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you as refugee of the department of justice. i know what an absolutelily essential role the deputy attorney general, the dag has, in the operations of the department. our chairman senator grassley and i, will be working together on the reauthorization of the juvenile justice bill and i know that that's an important area to the department and we look forward to working with you to enable that bill to move forward and get passed into law. it's been many years since there's been an authorization. we've learned a lot about how juveniles are treated in the system and what's effective and what isn't since then, so i think there are positive effects we can have through this legislation and i want to thank you the chairman for taking the leadership role in this reauthorization. it's obviously significant when a chairman is willing to do that, so, thank you, sir.
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we've talked in the hearing quite a bit about sentencing reform. i want to, i'm obviously very involved in that. with senator cornyn on the reentry side. of the discussion and we hope that our bill will be a vehicle that can move forward and perhaps get other elements added to it as well and do a more comprehensive package. i also have a bill on comprehensive addiction recovery. that's less immediately doj's business. but we do have it in this, it's a very related issue, put it the that way. and i hope that we can get your support in working through any issues that come u up in the context of addiction recovery.
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there was a school of thought for a while that drug use was a moral failing and an evil and that the best way to get after it was to punish it in a whole variety of ways, includeing creating a whole raft of the consequences that ensue if you have a drug conviction that there are hundreds of these laws that have been put all over the place and i think upon more mature reflection, we've seen that treatment works. recovery works. and when somebody's on a path to recovery, you're really not helping them or anybody else by saying you can't work in schools. you can't get a college loan you can't do this you can't do that, you can't do the other. so i hope you'll work with us on that and i'd just like to hear your thoughts about the role of moving from a more treatment based response to addiction and
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away from a inkarstive and punitive response. >> thank you smartenator. we have seen in states alock the country, red and blue state, that have taken really more creative approaches to addressing criminal justice and particularly drug use issues. we see in our criminal justice system that drug addiction does fuel many crimes and i look at this as a form of crime prevention, of trying to address an addiction issue to ensure that person has a path forward and to ensure that others that are not victimized. when they commit crimes that are driven in part at least by their drug addictions, so i would look forward to working with you and others on that matter. >> good. last topic i want to address with you is cybersecurity. cybersecurity has a lot of different elements. to it. it has a national security
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element. obviously. there's considerable capacity for sabotage. against the electric grid and other very essential elements of our infrastructure. there is a huge flow of intellectual property that is stolen out of people's computers and i think the vast majority of that, up in china where they have a policy of trying to steal american intellectual property for mercantile reasons so they can compete with us without having to pay to license the technology. there's enormous amounts of financial crime, not just around america, but around the world. hugely lucrative for these criminals and then privacy concerns when you're social security information the being
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hacked, stolen and sold on a week website so that shall be can open up a credit card in your name and that kind of stuff, so i think it's a very big deal. and i think we need to be deliberating what our law enforcement response to it should look like. i noted that it is basically, subset of the fbi's responsibility's with secret service and other agencies have been having also a piece of it. that does not seem particularly thoughtfully organized. i note that cyber is probably a greater risk to our country now. than narcotics trafficking. and alcohol, tobacco explosives and we have entire agencies dedicated to those. we have agencies dedicated to cyber. i note that within the department of justice, these cyber responsibility is divided
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between the criminal division and national security division and about every six months, there's a new it ration of the structure for dealing with cyber that emerges from the department, so clearly we're, we have a work in progress. but i would like to ask you if ul commit to working with us and with omb, we are bringing omb to these conversations because i know how awkward it is for an executive agency to have a conversation about budget without the keepers present in the room. they get quite cross about that if they're not there, to have a conversation about in the out years, what should our cyber law enforcement structure look like? i don't think we're there yet. i don't know if you think we're there yet. but i certainly think it's a conversation worth having and i'd like to hear your thoughts. >> thank you senator. and you have really touched on one of the most critical challenges that faces the department of justice and our
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law enforcement community and our national security intelligence community now. you rightly pointed out that it touches every aspect of our lives. and there is certainly great work being done to attempt to coordinate our efforts in this area. both on the national security side and on the criminal side, but i think that you're right. that we need to step back and try to think about how we can structure ourselves in a way that would be most efficient going forward. now, this is an area, too, and contrast to a lot of other criminal justice challenges that is evolving, changing every day and changing rapidly. and i think it's incumbent upon us not to just keep up with it, wu to get out in front of it and to try to project where we're going to be five ten 20 years from now and to be structured in a way that we'll be able to adequately respond. >> thank you, chairman, and i look forward to the conversations between omb, doj and members of this committee to make sure we're set up properly to deal with this threat. thank you, chairman. >> i have two or three questions
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and we have a vote at noon and i think both i and senator blumenthal will be able to finish our questioning. i would ask if you would finish up the meeting after i go, is that okay? >> okay.okay? >> that's fine. >> okay. but before i ask the questions, just to thank you for your appearance today. and members that couldn't be here or even in my case have some questions in writing and people have a few days to submit those questions and we'd like to have those back before you would go on the agenda and i think you'll be able to do that. and the few days i was talking about is -- the record will stay open for one week. i have a question dealing with whistleblowers. this may have been something we discussed privately. but i want to go over it again. earlier this month, we held a hearing looking into the regulations that are supposed to
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protect fbi whistleblowers. the justice department, government accountability office have both published reports including that many fbi whistleblower cases are dismissed on technicalities because the whistleblower reported wrongdoing to quote, unquote, the wrong person. do you think the system is working as it should to encourage and protect whistleblowers at the fbi and with regard to the wrong person why wouldn't it be all right to have protected disclosure if made to a -- to a direct supervisor. >> thank you, senator. thank you for the honor of appearing before you here today. and i want to thank you for your work with regard to whistleblowers protection. and i know you've been at this for a very long time. and as a district attorney who
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followed discipline cases. whistleblowers root out fraud and corruption and malfeasance and they are critical and in my role as the chief operating officer of the department i think they will play a critical role for me in helping to identify problems within our own organization. so that we can operate as efficiently and fairly as we are charged with doing. i've not yet seen this report and i'm looking forward to reviewing that report and determine what actions, if any to determine what aks whistleblowers need to have to feel comfortable coming forward. >> and i think you answered my question question. >> that is a relief. >> because it was about that report. again, i would suggest to you, and also your comment, whether or not doj regulations should
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clearly -- whether fbi disclosures to congress and if you don't think so why. >> senator, i've not had an opportunity to look at that specific issue. can i tell you that i believe whistleblowers need to be protected and that is critically important to feel comfortable to come forward and if there are revisions that need to be made i want to look at those and work with you to make those revisions. i simply have not had an opportunity to look at that specific provision to give you a reason or a knowledgeable answer on that. >> and then instead of two questions along this line that i was going to finish my line of questioning on this, this issue let me suggest to you that the department of justice should make sure that whistleblowers aren't sanctioned for violating gag orders that -- and gag orders are used to thwart
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congressional oversight of whistleblowers cases and there ought to be an exception in any gag orders for disclosures to the congress and then my final admonition would be whether you would review that reform before you answer my written questions? >> i would certainly be happy to review that report, yes, certainty -- senator. >> and this will happen for answers to the questions i gave. and this is my last issue. in the last two months the inspector general has notified congress that the fbi impeded his access to records four separate times as part of four separate i.g. reviews. apparently the delay is due to the fbi's desire to review the materials first and then obtain permission to disclose from the attorney general or from you in your deputy position. one of the delays involved the
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i.g.'s review of two fbi whistleblower complaints. how is it appropriate for the fbi to decide -- pardon me -- how is it appropriate for the fbi to decide which documents it will produce to independent investigators looking into whether the whistleblowers retaliated against the fbi. we are talking about the power of the inspector general. >> thank you, senator. and i believe the inspector general plays a critical role at the department of justice, and identifying malfeasance or just waste, fraud and abuse and that is why one of the first things i did when i became acting attorney general was to ask to sit down with the acting inspect inspector general. we knew each other for a while and we were inspector general corruption chiefs and we've
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known each other for a while. and we talked about this issue here. and my understanding of the issue is an issue that relates how certain documents protected by the grand jury secrecy privilege or protected pursuant to wire tap orders are reviewed and produced to the i.g. it is my understanding that those documents have never been withheld but our investigative agencies believed they needed to review the documents and go through a particular pros pes before being provided to the inspector general. i understand -- i get that he needs to get those documents quickly and so for the last few weeks i've been working with folks in the department of justice to try to come up with a procedure that will expedite our ability to provide those documents very quickly to the inspector general. if that is not satisfactory to him, we would be happy to work with you and other members of congress on any legislation if it is needed to comply with the law, yet also be able to get our
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i.g. the documents he needs as quickly as possible. >> [ inaudible ]. >> i thank senator blumenthal for finishing the meeting. >> i'm going to finish it right now because i don't have any additional questions. i want to thank miss yates and her family again and thank you for your willingness and to undertake this very very important responsibility and for your excellent testimony today. thank you. >> thank you, mr. chair and senator blumenthal. it's been a privilege. meeting adjourned. thank you.
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>> president obama welcomes ashraf danny at the white house today for talks with president obama. blair house is where foreign dignitaries stay and they are expected to discuss foreign troop levels in afghanistan. >> after that white house meeting they are expected to talk with reporters at about 2:20 eastern. we'll have live coverage as the president holds a news conference with the afghan president. after that briefing we'll take
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you live to the senate commerce committee on the aviation safety and security holding a hearing on domestic drones on how it is impacted safety and privacy. and tomorrow we'll be live as jeh johnson testifies before the house committee on homeland security on his budget request for 2016. the department asking for about a 9% increase with the largest increase in immigration, technology, prisons and local grants. here are some of our featured programs for this weekend on the c-span networks. on book tv, saturday at 10:00 p.m. eastern offer afterwards. peter walisson said the financial crisis could happen again and on sunday at 5:00. director of the earth institute at columbia university jeffrey sacks on countering global issues like poverty, political
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corruption and political delay and on american history tv on c-span3, a discussion on the last major speeches of abraham lincoln and martin luther king jr. and on sunday, real america, the 1965 meet the press interview with martin luther king jr. find our complete television schedule at and call us at 202-626-34 hundred and e-mail us at comments at or send us a comment at cspan #comments and like us on facebook and follow us on twitter. with live coverage of the u.s. house on c-span and the senate on c-span 2, here on c-span3 we complement that by showing you the congressional hearings and public affairs events an on the weekends it is home to american history tv with
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programs telling our nation's history and including the civil war's history and visiting battlefields, american artifacts and touring museums and heights to discover america's past and history bookshelf with the best known history writers and looking at the nation's commanders and chief and top college professors delving into america's past and real america featuring archival government and educational films from the 1930s through the 70s. c-span 3 funded by your local cable or satellite provider. watch us in hd and like us on facebook and follow us on twitter. over the next hour you'll here prospectives from new jersey arkansas and texas on the middle class.
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spectives from new jersey, arkansas and texas on the middle class. spectives from new jersey, arkansas and texas on the middle class. espectives from new jersey, arkansas and texas on the middle class. rspectives from new jersey, arkansas and texas on the middle class. >> good morning, everyone. and thank you for braving the cold. for those of you watching at home, we had a big snowstorm here in d.c. and it was difficult for a lot of people to get in. and we have a pretty full room considering the circumstances. so welcome to all of you. and thank you to winnie. one of my first jobs in politics was here at the center for american progress when it was still a flem ling -- fledgling organization and winnie was my boss here and i learned so much for her and so thank you for the introduction and for hosting us here today. so this panel and this conversation is about what is going on in the country. if you take a look currently at what is happening in washington, even just last week, they are
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having snow ball fights on the senate floor debating whether climate change actually exists they are trying to figure out what parts of the government to shut down. it is not a serious conversation. and then when you go and look at what is happening in the country, there is a real fight for middle class and working-class families going done. if you look in wisconsin, it is sort of ground zero in that they've called a special election to talk about whether people secretaries, regular workers can get together to organize or fight for or negotiate for better wages and better workplace environment, that sort of thing. these types of things are happening all over the country. meanwhile, on our side we are fighting every day -- there is a group of state legislators here we brought in from around the
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country that are legislative leaders on the front lines of this fight and they are fighting every single day for working class and middle class families. in nevada, there is an equal pay measure, in minnesota there are a package of bills protecting workers and advancing things like paid sick days, minimum wage increases and protecting wages. this is happening in all parts of the country and it is something we don't hear. so the state innovation exchange which was created last year is organized to work with state legislators on things like those issues. things that matter to everyday americans and things that matter to parents. as a parent i care about the education that my kid gets, i care that they'll get wages, i care that my daughter is paid equally for the same job as a man when she enters into the work force. those things matter, not only to me, but it matters to other
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americans. if you take a look, one of the silver linings of the mid-term elections was that in places like my only state of nebraska where i grew up they actively voted for pete ricketts who is a very conservative governor, but also voted for a minimum wage increase. and the same thing in arkansas and they voted for a hood amendment in minnesota. they are progressive on the issues and we want to take that fight and campaign and narrative to the states which is why the state innovation exchange is folking us on middle class and working class families called opportunity works for us. and it will be a way for us to work with legislators to provide them technical communications and other support to advance and take this fight into the states and really support all of the work that they are doing. and that is what we're going to talk about today. and so we have a great group of
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panelists here from cap as well some legislators from the state. we also have as i mentioned state legislators from around the country who i also hope will contribute to the conversation. so let me start by introducing david madland from the center for american progress. he is the director of the american worker project and the manager director of the american policy team here. he's written extensively about the economy on american politics on topics like retirement policy and labor unions and workplace standards such as the minimum wage. his work focused on the middle class and policies to restore the strength of the middle class. and on his right is melissa boteach. she oversees american progress as poverty policy development and analysis as well as the half and ten the campaign to cut
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poverty in half in ten years project. melissa served as the policy lead on the schreiber report, a book by maria shriver about the one in three women living in or on the brink of poverty and the public and private solutions to help the nation push back. we also have here senate majority leader loretta weinberg from the senior citizens committee and former part of the senate committee and judiciary committee and on her level is representative jessica farrar, from district 148. she was first elected in 1994 at the age of 27. she's the longest serving hispanic member in the texas house of representatives.
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she is the vice chair of the judiciary committee and member of the state affairs committee. she is founder of the women's health caucus and serves as the chair. so i'm going to turn it over now to david to talk a little bit about what is happening with the american worker in the states and some ideas that cap has for how to advance this middle class working class agenda in the states. >> thanks, nick. and i -- do you want to join us? >> i'll be there in one sec. >> so thanks very much for letting me sort of i think frame this discussion. because what i want to focus on is why we are talking about the state of the middle class and what we can do about it. provide some big picture ideas. so we've long been focused on strengthening and growing the
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middle class. there are obvious trends where the economy is only working for those at the very top and not working for the broad and middle. and let me high lie a few -- highlight a few indicators of those problems. there is the typical income of a family taking home and now it is lower than it was in 1989. so that is two decades of stagnation or decline for most families. at the same time the cost of basic basic middle class goods have gone up. so we looked at the things like health care, childcare housing, higher education for a typical family. and we found those costs had gone up by $10,000 at the same time incomes were stagnant. that is putting a big squeeze on the middle class. not surprisingly debt for the middle class has tripled nearly over the past several decades so
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middle class is in rough shape because that matters for people suffering, but really because of how the economy works. the middle class are the basis for strong growth and they are the consumers that purchase products that cause businesses to invest and they are the source of a good democratic base and right now we have this really fundamental debate about how the economy works. this progressive idea i've been talking about how the economy grows from the middle out is a stark contrast to what is governed the way the economy has been run, the past three decades, the trickle down. make it easy for the rich, cut their taxes and the economy will grow. and that has been a failure and we have an alternative that we are pushing and developing and it is proving to be correct. and you have the internet monetary fund and standard and poors coming out and saying the
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records of in equality are harming the u.s. economy. so that leads us to this place where people are struggling, it is harming our future growth, what can we do about it? well cap has spent a lot of time, i think most of our work on federal issues and a lot on the state issues and we've put out a report on policies on medicaid in-- on the middle class in the states and we've put out a report. but these policies matter significantly. and just to high lie that, we recently did this report with -- called the inclusive prosperity commission where we had commissioners from around the world, from england, australia canada and the u.s., leading economists and policymakers where this is a growing problem for many countries but not all. all countries face the same
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challenges from globalization that are harming some and some countries have done a much better job with the countries and have had wage growth over recent decades and had a much growing middle class. australia and canada are a prime example. so better policy make a difference and what are the policies and what can states do. the three main areas that we've been focusing on are raising wages. and raising wages reducing costs for the middle class and so to highlight how to raise wages. so the standards like the minimum wage or paid leave, et cetera. but that is -- i don't want the conversation to end there because there is a whole host of other things. you think about the government spending money on government contracts, you can have
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standards on those to raise the wages for those workers and the government influences a lot of jobs that way. you think about the way we enforce our existing laws. there is a rampant wage theft going on and we can do a better job of enforcing that. we can promote things like profit sharing. so there is a set of policies on wages and also a set of policies on making core middle class things affordable like housing and health care. and the debate there, there is medicaid that we are familiar with and making preschool to higher ed more affordable and the states are the center of that debate and still other things that are not quite on the radar screen but emerging. for example, states are creating retirement plans for private sector workers who don't have plans and that will get them into having a good low-cost plan. and then finally on taxes. it is really a shame that most state -- actually all states
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have regressive tax systems where the poor and the middle class pay more as a sayre of their income than -- share of their income than the wealthy. that is wrong. it doesn't work properly. and we can do significant things to change that. and there is a whole host of policies to talk about there. and so i want to leave with the idea that this really matters and there is a lot we can do. >> thank you so much. melissa, i'll turn it over to you now for some thoughts on new ideas that cap has been talking about and trying to advance in states as well. >> sure. a key complement to the middle class agenda is economic mobility. for the millions of americans aspiring to be in the middle class. and we're doing thinking about how we remove barriers to opportunity for those americans struggling on the brink. and there are two areas i want to explore. one is making sure your zip code doesn't determine your life
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chances and the second is removing barriers for the one in three americans who have a criminal record. on the first set of policies i think it is important to remember that there are millions of americans in high poverty neighborhoods and the built environment such as the infrastructure and the school and the social environment can limit chances for those americans living in those neighborhoods. at the federal level there is promise zones where local communities can apply for a designation and they will get more technical assistance and a better chance at getting help and volunteers coming to their communities. right now there are five federal promise zones and 15 coming down the pike. there is no way states can't have initiatives, considering flexible federal and state funds that come to their communities. so one of the things that we're proposing that states think about, for example is having local community as comply for a designation in high poverty areas where states can leverage
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resources and send amar'e core to those communities. and that is in the intererest to those communities and with high poverty, you limit the hurm an capital that can contribute to the state's broader growth. and that is a way to partner with state governments across the country and we think this is a bipartisan idea. the second is that one in three americans in this country has some kind of criminal record. and this is a barrier to employment it is a barrier to education and training and it is a barrier to housing and good credit and to all kinds of things. and one of the things that we're looking at is a suite of policies at the state level and there are things that people with do, federal government and employers, but states have policy tools at their disposal. one of the things that have gotten attention is ban the box.
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which means delaying the point at which employers are considering a person's criminal record so that it can be at a point where they are already competitive and the resume isn't just thrown in the trash even though they are qualified for the position. other things we are looking at for example are subsidized jobs. this is a proposal that for example during the recovery act, there were 30 states who partnered to create subsidized that were having the hardest time finding work in that economy and over 50,000 people were put to work in public private jobs and provided temporary income and increased long-term employment. and even people with criminal records,a subsidized job could take for funds like tanna to create those opportunities. and finally a new idea that cap is pushing is something called a clean slate, for those with low-level offenses after ten
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years of a clean record from the time of arrest having an automatic ex-punk pungment so that is not stopping them from having a second chance. so those are new areas for advancement of a second chance. >> thank you very much. i want to turn it over to the legislators on the frontlines of all of this and trying to push this -- they are on the front lines and pushing this in the states and fighting on behalf of the working and middle class families and on the agenda. i'll turn it over to you, senator weinberg, to talk about what is happening in new jersey. >> well there is a lot happening in new jersey. i assume most of you are familiar with our governor. so we have what i think is a progressive legislature, both houses and assembly and senate
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but an office of governor which under our constitution is the most powerful office as a matter of fact one of the most powerful offices in the nation. so the inter-play between the legislature and the governor's office becomes very important with the kinds of issues that we pass. you mentioned the ban the box we've passed that in the new jersey legislature and it is now sitting on the governor's desk awaiting what we are assuming will happen which will be a veto. we have had great difficulty with the minority party, who, for some reason, are terribly reticent afraid whatever words you want to use, to override a gubernatorial veto. and in the senate, we need three of those votes in order to be able to move things forward.
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having having said that, we do have a very good family leave policy in the state which was passed -- i think three or four years ago. we are working now and it is working its way through the legislature on the sick leave issues guaranteeing sick leave to employees in -- particularly those in the lower level. we raised the minimum wage but we did it through a very arduous process because the governor vetoed it. we had to go through a constitutional amendment in order to get it on the ballot. we are not an initiative and referendum state so in order to get the minimum wage on the ballot we had to go through a constitutional amendment which meant we had to pass it twice in two different legislative sessions, have him veto it each time and then get it on the
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ballot where it was passed overwhelmingly in new jersey. and we did, i think, had a very positive part to it, besides the minimal increase in the minimum wage. we added it into it that it is -- it is tied into the cost of living. so it will -- we don't have to go back to the legislature each time. the automatic increases -- it is some kind of a formula attached to the cost of living. and right now we're working on a whole package of bills that run the gamut between giving tax credits to care givers who are taking care of frail elderly or children because they are really the backbone and they are saving the economy a lot of money by keeping their loved ones at home, whatever the issues are.
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we're working on a package of bills which would allow people time off to go to a parent-teacher conference. that sort of thing. so a large package that is kind of going through review and hearing from the advocates. and we're almost ready to move the sick leave before both houses. that should happen sometime over the next couple of weeks. so it has been a -- an interesting endeavor. and i'm delighted to participate. and certainly to hear about the growth of six. so there are places that we can reach out and commiserate. we haven't even met and we were both nodding at the same time. so i appreciate the opportunity and i'd be happy for any kind of exchange we can have. >> great. i'll turn to representative
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ferar. you've been in the legislature for texas now and probably seen all kinds of things happening there. i think it would be very interesting to hear how it is fighting for middle and working class families in texas. and i know you've been very much on the frot line-- front lines of that. >> well unfortunately, it is becoming more difficult. i come from a land where the voters pick a candidate and particularly the state leadership and the majorities in both houses, both the house and the senate on god, guns, gays and abortion. and so in doing so they have overlooked their economic situation. however, myself and my colleagues have done a great job, i think, in terms of stopping the worst things from happening but that has become more and more difficult. recently our lieutenant governor removed something called the
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two-thirds rule requiring the senate to have two-thirds of an agreement to bring up a bill and that has been removed. so a lot of people are shaking their heads and wondering what do we do now. however, what we've been able to do in texas is also pass things incrementally. and also be able to communicate with our constituents. so our tools are the parliamentary process and the house rules and we have expertise on our side on that. to the -- to our advantage is that the other side also is sort of complacent in their power. and so they -- they don't have this -- they are not as familiar with that. so we can stop bills on technicalities and other methods that i can't disclose here or would you probably be torlture -- tortured to death. and the other is taking it to the outside. and i think you all saw around the country what happened in
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texas the summer before last. the famous wendy davis filibuster. but that was actually the culmination of using -- the use of social media when abortion issues were brought up in a special session and at the last minute and so from tuesday to friday we were able to fill the capitol. and at one point they had to close the doors because so many people came. the occupancy limit had been exceeded. so these are our tools. but nonetheless, we are -- we let people know on pay day lending and these are economic issues. so for us it means different things. for us it means in-state tuition. and we know the wage someone makes if they don't finish high school and do finish high school and get a college degree. and so we have a significant hispanic community and a
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immigrant community and over a decade ago we were able to pass a bill that allowed immigrant students to pay in-state tuition because they had been here so long they qualified however they didn't have the legal status to be able to do so. but that is under attack. and people -- the people in the majority in my state ran and won on the issue of doing away with it. so that is something that -- it frequently comes up for a vote and has failed -- taking it away has failed by a few votes. i'm not so sure about our prospects this time. i'm now outnumbered, my side is outnumbered two to one. so we'll see. and also it is difficult to do things bipartisanly in my state because republicans who stick their neck out are targeted in primaries and are eliminated very quickly and we've lost a lot of moderates on the other side so it has become more
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difficult. nonetheless we don't give up. and another economic issue is pay day lending. and there are bills proposed to provide more consumer protections, more consumer protections in insurance policies. these are ways that we might be able to win. and also more importantly is being able to stop the bad stuff. because even though it is so skewed against the consumer in my state there are interests that want to take it even further. so we can sometimes block some of that as well. women's health is an issue that effects families as well and this affects -- when women are sick, it affects the family disproportionately and so we would like to get in and take care of cervical answers and other kinds of things that if caught early we have good prospects and if delayed we all know what happens and we also know the costs in term of to the
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public and in terms of emergency room care. and so unfortunately, our state leaders got into a fight -- a political fight with planned parenthood and did away with medicaid waiver. it was a nine to one match and we turned that away. and without -- i can understand that they've got the power and they can do that. but they failed to put in another system of healthcare before taking the rug out from under texans. and so in doing so, many clinics were closed and places -- women had gone before to get their health care were closed and so they have slowly tried to restore that and done a state program which has not even come close to what it used to be. and so yeah, it is nice to come here and meet people who do things for working people that give them a fair chance and we will continue to do that.
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another way that we have in texas too is education funding. we have -- we've never actually funded education proactively. it has always been in reaction to a lawsuit that says your system is unconstitutional because it fails to fund the system adequately and so we are under that again and there is a pending case -- the legislature is in session we could do something, but we probably will not. and so we'll find ourselves here again. here is the thing though texas population has grown -- just exploded and we have more people -- a lot more people. and the cost of educating these people has become more expensive. and when you talk to leaders at colleges and universities, they say we have to do a lot more remedial ed. that is very expensive to do. and so we are failing to do that. i think also we have to recognize that we have a lot of
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adult learners as well and i think -- our policies need to reach out there. and i think -- i hope there is movement. there are bills filed and some interest and i hope in our state we can convince enough people. and this -- our state has been a place where things have been able to be done. as long as progressive things can be done as long as you didn't hold a press conference about it and prison for bit people know we did something good for them and not under the other tennants or the electorate that i mentioned before. so any way, i hope to bring you back good news smat point in the future. >> can i just add something because she reminded me because women's health that is under a national attack. same thing happened in new jersey. our governor has line-item veto in the president which i know the president would die for to be able to get. but for the last five years he
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has taken out this same money for family-planning centers that would generate a 9-1 match, $7.5 million. we are so opposite texas, we are the most densely populated state and you're probably one of the least densely populated states in the nation. we have the highest property taxes. i think if we're not number one, we're certainly in the top three. but that money has been zeroed out every single year for the last six years. we've lost six family planning centers over that length of time. there are places that women went for their -- really for their family care medicine for screening for breast cancer or cervical answer or heaven for bid, we are still debating birth
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control in the year 2015. i can't believe it. but i just have to share one story. when we were first fighting to get this money back into the budget, we appeared before -- it was in the assembly from the budget committee and somebody from planned parenthood gave the testimony, we help add void 4,000 unwanted pregnancies in which a member of the new jersey assembly in the new millennium said i am offended those are children who should have been born. i will remember that sentence because i thought i am as old as i am and this -- and i am still having a conversation about women's access to birth control. if that doesn't wake people up in this country, i don't know what else will. because without that, there is no security -- without the ability of women and their partners to decide when and if they want to have children you
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can take the rest of this out. so i feel a little passionate about that issue. [ laughter ] [ applause ] >> if i could add one point. >> let me get into -- and go ahead and your quick point. >> something i meant to say earlier also was that our state leaders sent a letter to president obama about the increase in medicaid case load and it is great to be here and have people talk about medicaid expansion like it is so easy. and in texas it is so possible and we have a million people fall in that gap. but the economic policies were are discussing here, because they are not implemented in my state, that is why they are growing and i suspect that is growing across the country. >> and that is a point i want to pick up on. if you are listening to this conversation. it is interesting, there are great ideas out there of things we can be doing to move middle class families but there are
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politics and realities on the ground in states on how to actually get those things in action and moved forward. so the thing i think i would be interested in and one of the things i think we are thinking about at the state innovation exchange is how do we start going on the offensive. not only -- not only on trying to get laws passed but moving the narratives forward. because if you take a look, the reality is that conservatives now control more state legislature chambers than they have since the 1900s. there are now only seven states where we have seven states and a governor to sign things into law. so the realities are reflective of what these two legislators have been talking about. so i would like to hear from you, david are there sthings that we can -- some things that we can push forward in states on let's have the debate on women's
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health and are you really against equal pay that type of thing. what are some of those things. and then would you like to hear from the legislators as well. either you or some of the legislators in the audience about what are some examples that have worked in your states, what has actually passed in states that are progressive, middle class ideas and you were able to bring sort of coalitions along with you. so go ahead david. >> sure. there are two big things the policies and then the politics around those policies. and the policies to grow the middle class are overwhelmingly supported by the public. the public likes these things and they want us to make a good case and fight for them. and i think the minimum wage is the biggest example but when they go to the voters they succeed and succeed
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overwhelmingly. but the problem is that we haven't pushed enough of them and of a scale where it is seen as carrying a whole agenda and carrying a whole legislator -- legislation with it. and so i think we can't just have isolated one-off issue fights where it is minimum wage today, it is a broad set of issues needed. the middle class is struggling in so many ways and we need to get more people into it and there is a package we need to do. and i'll start listing them off but the success will come when we are behind a broad suite that is affecting people's lives. so i mentioned enforcement of basic wage standards. now this might seem like it is a relatively minor problem but the best evidence is among low wage workers, it is about maybe 50% or 60% have had their wages in
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the last week in middle class it is up to one-third because they are miss classified as an independent contractor or they should be an employee and getting paid. so there is a whole host of things to do there and increase the penalties and target your enforcement and also have profit shares. now this means that when a company does well all of the workers do well. they get some sort of share of the company's gains. and states actually have done a fair amount in this space. there is basically the policies to encourage companies to adopt more of this where it is from education to even relatively conservative states like indiana providing better access to credit for these kinds of companies. and i can go on and on and list things an we have a report. but we need to package a bunch of them together and rally behind them and make it clear
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whose side we are on. that this set of packages is what progressives stand for because these on their own are popular but we haven't succeeded in rallying behind them. >> that is great. that is absolutely right i think. i'm curious from the legislators, maybe some of you in the aurd yens-- audience if there are examples of stories that you are able to do that in states, to tie it to a higher narrative to get something passed that meant -- benefited in working class families? >> that's encouraging. >> go ahead. >> state senator from colorado -- >> actually let's wait for the microphone. >> state senator from colorado, caucus chair for the senate democrats there and last year worked on a wage theft initiative that received broad bipartisan support in both
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chambers and it was building the narrative of families confronted with wage theft and the families very, very low income who may do day labor work and when we talked about the issues of not receiving overtime pay, being forced to work hours and not being compensated it was a narrative for families if you are a grocery store worker or in a big box retailer or in an office building downtown. so the narrative was looking for broadly at the entire middle class how are we not earning the wages because of no wage growth but how are we seeing our wages cut on the bottom end as well so we worked to create a wage enforcement division in our department of labor and employment to focus on wage theft and hired inspectors to investigate and adjudicate wage claims and it passed by broaden forcement in the senate and the house because it was a different narrative than just one class of people it was all groups
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impacted by this big issue. i'm a monster of people eating our wages away from us and having no recourse to actually get them back. and so that is one example where it was the broader middle class fairive that helped us to win over republicans in both chambers. >> that is great. and speaking of this higher narrative, that is part of what the state exchanges new campaign is. it is called opportunity works for us. but in each state it is opportunity works for iowa or opportunity works for texas. and tieing in this great work that people are trying to push forward and advance in states to this higher narrative and partnering with great organizations like cap and on the hill we're doing town halls with progressional caucus members to work with middle class families in the country on what are solutions and what are some is solutions and today we're going to the white house to speak with the obama administration and white house officials there about this as well. so it really is an effort to organize and move the
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progressive infrastructure towards this common narrative and frame to support the legislators working hard in their states. go ahead. >> i like the idea of what you said organizing a group of town hall meetings with federal legislators. perhaps adding in partnership with state legislators. >> exactly. >> they are a valuable tool. our governor has used that valuable tool to propel himself to thinking that he thinks that he's actually going to become the presidential nominee. but the town halls can be slent because if people come -- can be excellent because if people come and if the press covers it you are building the grassroots to help build things forward as you
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said in colorado. and you posted on my own facebook that i was coming down here and titled it something about time to pay attention to the middle class. and i got lots of comments including, is there a middle class left? it was a theme that ran through. and as we talk about the income inequality going on in this country and certainly in our state and i would assume in yours too, that is something we need to keep talking about. so that people -- you said something earlier about people not even knowing their own -- what really is economically good for them. and we have to keep on getting the issues out there through social media through the e-mails, through twitters and tweets and whatever all of these things i've learned. my staff will not teach me how to do my own tweets.
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they've kept that unto themselves to be useful. >> i think the town hall part is important because it sort of gets at there needs to be a grassroots push in addition to what is happening in the state legislature. you see fast food workers and home care workers organizing and that has created the public will and the space for the conversations to rise up to the state and the national level. an the other -- and the other thing you get out of town halls and meetings is real people's stories and voices. and i think too often low and middle class voices are left out of the policy conversations. we don't consult those folks when we make policies the same way we consult business and make policy. and to find places for the national economic narrative but for the micro-fairnarrative and that puts an experience on paid sick days and the need for pre-k which we haven't touched on and
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that is another middle class and another policy that is important part of the fight. >> let's open up for questions or comments from other legislators as well. >> hi jim an onic senate imagine order leader in michigan. i come from a state that is blue but it is controlled by republicans in majorities. and we've had some examples. and to your point, nick one of the things we feed to do is allow conservatives to set the narrative and we've responded to them as opposed to being proud of the values we have, which are much more popular with the public and lead with those. and even if it takes a while to get them past, as opposed to referring to their narrative. and as regard to the narrative, we passed medicaid expansion and got to signed with -- by the governor and passed a minimum
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wage increased and signed by the governor and we passed grassroots and we started the ballot initiative and they were scared of it getting higher and we got e cola attached to it and so working with grassroots and making sure people understand why we were pushing for this and it forced folks in support of middle wage because they didn't want to -- want a higher one. but it is not exactly how they wanted to and that is examples of healthy michigan which is our expansion and minimum wage. but we've had success because the issues are so popular with the public. >> and just sort of chiming in on that, i think when we're focused on strengthening and growing the middle class and making sure the economy works for everyone and not just the wealthy few, we really have -- as i highlighted at the beginning, it is both fundamentally and economically
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important to highlight things for people's lives and for the future of our country, they are cls politically successful and political winners. and one piece of evidence of that is several years ago if you look at republican rhetoric on inequality and wage stagnation, they denied this was happening and denied the middle class was going away. it was shocking. and you look at the evidence or the government data it all shows the same thing of real problems and they were denying. and now in the past couple of months, all of the rhetoric has changed and inequality is a problem, wage stagnation is a problem. the policies have not changed but the fact they are starting to even acknowledge this is -- i think this is proof of the power of focusing on our issues and we will now get our policies and win on our policies next. >> that is a really strong, good point. let's open it up for questions from the audience. >> hi. i just am really enjoying this.
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i just have a question. it just seems to me you know i'm trying to -- what she said about a lot of people voting on god, guns, abortion and gays. and it seems to me that the other side is way ahead in the use of cognitive science and branding, moral branding and i think there are just -- the efforts have been increasing on that. and so if you ask a lot of people, what is freedom, what do you think is freedom? what do republicans stand for, what do democrats stand for and i think you'll see there is a void on our side, there is a lack of moral branding and so i wonder to what extent -- i mean, i think that hearing the panel there is this thinking that we need to do more and appeal intellectually and give them the facts and we need to tell them the deception on the other side and there is all this and what
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we are missing that is that this is coming out of cognitive science 95% of human reasoning is unconscious. we are spending all of this effort focusing on that 5% of conscious thinking intellectually, appealing and all of that the other side is going to the 95%. so my question is, i think we're in a moral ditch. and i think partly because of lack after wearness -- lack of awareness on our side. george lakeoff the linguist from the university of california is talking about, other authors out there, drew weston, jim wallace other people, when are we going to change our way of thinking and way of communicating so that the american people understand what we stand for and what
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freedom really is. >> i can give a quick response if that is useful. i think there is something to do a better job articulating them. the idea that hard work should pay, it's hard to have more of a moral value and moral statement than that. i think what we need to do, you know, we don't need to overcomplicate it with things. we actually need to have fights on these issues. we need to make the fights on our issues. not on just being defensive, and reacting to their agenda. and i think we see, you know, seek too much ground, and claim that it's other issues that are distracting people from core economic issues. if we have an agenda, it's popular, move on it, run on it, that's successful. instead of ignoring, and not having the right kind of fight. this is the central issue.
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are we going to have a middle class? are we going to have a growing economy? or are we going to have an economy that only works for those at the very top? and we can reverse the fundamental trends of decline in the middle class and we can strengthen our economy, and we have an agenda to do that. that's a winning message. >> also to piggyback on what you're saying a lot of times these bills would go nowhere in our legislature. you're lucky if you get a hearing right at the end. of course it's not going to go anywhere. but there is a tool that we have used before and i would encourage other legislators that are here, when you file the bill, have a press conference about it. and so you may not be able to win internally, but externally you can score some informational points out there with the public. and so -- it has been a tool we have used. >> my name is cynthia gerald i'm the federal policy director for a faith-based if community organizing group. i believe that structural racism is behind a good bit of the
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policies, the bad policies that we see in our states. and i'm wondering how you are explicitly or implicitly addressing that through the policies, and the legislation that you're -- that are being pushed out into the states? >> sure. one of the ways that we tackle that is to speak to -- well, i mean you need to call it out in some ways. but implicitly i think we need to make a long-term case to the american people that not only are racial disparities sort of a moral problem but it's also a long-term economic problem. we have changing demographics in this country. and by 2043 we're going to be a country where communities of color make up the majority of our population. and we're already getting there with our workforce. and you know, we put our heads in the sand but this is a moral and economic imperative. starting with early education, education and job training, with fair wages. these are all things where the more we close racial disparities
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the better we all do as a country. and recent polling we put out a book all in nation about two years ago that laid out the case for this. it came with a big poll that showed what the american people are actually largely on that line of reasoning. they understand that they -- that this is an important sweet of policies not just for communities of color but for everybody. and that the more we stand together the better we'll all do. >> thank you. fred strayhorn house minority leader in ohio. the michigan guy stood up so i have to stand. i want to explore the conversation that just happened with the gentleman from here and david because i really don't think you're saying different things. you know, the dnc did polling a few years ago that showed that the public really agrees with us on these issues and policies of many of the policies that david's talking about but a lot of times the communication is off. that's why the suite of policies that david talked about really is something we need to figure
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out how to get behind. but the way in which we communicate that, i find, has been a problem for precisely the reasons that the gentleman stated. and that there are all these things that are involved in terms of people making decisions about what affects them, making decisions based on morality, where we have voters that agree with us on 80% of the issues, but because of that thing that they -- like faith they will make a decision on that smaller part of, of, of the equation, and so and i find when we're on the floor and they and our colleagues on the other side may talk about faith, when we don't address that at all, that person who holds that so sacred that they're going to make a decision on that only really has one choice. but there are faith arguments for our policies that we often fail to make. they're economic policies in the benefit of business for some of the economic policies that we make, and sometimes we don't
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make those, those connections. so i think that goes to the cognitive aspect of that. and i'll just give you a policy example. we failed to stand up when you asked that before, nick, because so many of us are in the minority it's really hard to be get progressive stuff passed, but this isn't we're dealing with in our budget right now which was the tax shifting. right? it's posed as tax cuts but when you get into the details we've cut income tax for the wealthy and we've raised tax in other places, that's been going on for 25 years and been getting away with it. what we tried to do in my caucus is we tried to get there first. so the point is we don't, to use the cognitive stuff you don't have to react to it. you can use it to get there first, and we framed it as tax shifting. we got -- and the majority ended up using our language to discuss that, and so we're sort of in this box now where everybody's talking about it as tax shifting. we're allowed the space to now connect the dots for people that it's not a tax cut for you and i find that if we get better at
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doing that and getting out in front of that and doing what david said is, do that with a suite of policies that are progressive and help grow the middle class out, that i believe that we could be a lot more successful in future so i just wanted to throw that into the debate. >> that's a good point. one other point i want to make, too, talking about you know, how we talk about things. i think often there's a lot of polling that goes on, there's a lot of focus groups, there's all of that stuff and then we decide all right, this is specifically how we're going to talk about it to everybody. so we're talking at people, and we don't talk with people. the thing we need to start doing is going into these legislative districts. let's have conversations. let's talk with people. let's hear what's going on, and understand and then communicate it, versus all right, you know, have some sort of cookie cutter approach to the whole thing. i think once we start doing that, the dynamics will change. people won't understand who and what we're fighting for. and who and what they're fighting for. i think we'll really come along.
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>> i still have a place where our state leadership wants to increase the sales tax. that's the way, that's the solution to provide property tax cuts. i think it's important that we let the middle class know exactly what that means. that means in texas, if you pay $80 for a refrigerator and you make $30,000, that's a sales tax on it. for a $1,000 refrigerator. versus someone who is making $300,000, $80 is nothing. i think that he's implicitly unfair in the minds of those people. i just don't know that there is enough knowledge about tax policy. >> but -- and so that's where i think this conversation is going. that when i was arguing about having sort of an agenda and getting behind that, i was not dismissing the values behind them. i actually said i think these are values. and to articulate the values, because the numbers get confusing, but the value of whose side are you on, and making that clear, and i think that's what a broad agenda does.
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it enables all of the language about values and choices because, you know, it would really -- but i -- so i just i was -- i agree -- i was not ceding the moral territory. i think we need to own the moral territory and a broad agenda of values, strengthening and growing the middle class enables us to do that. >> you know, to what -- said in terms of the faith based communities, for me when we have committee hearings on some of these kinds of issues, if we hear from ministers, and other members of the clergy, rabbis as a certain acceptance, even on the part of the more conservative members who are sitting on the committee, you sort of, i don't know, make it seem like it's okay, so there is a national group but they're very active in new jersey. the national council of jewish
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women, which when they come forth, people look on them with some respect. they don't realize that they're being progressive. -- in their own right. so that you it's important, and you know, if we're ever where so and so gets up or rabbi gets up to talk about these kinds of issues and the moral values, at committee hearings, that adds a level of it's okay. talking to your point. >> i used to work in the faith community before coming to cap and we did a lot of interfaith organizing to that end. because to be able to say a basic premise like if you work hard, you shouldn't live in poverty or we shouldn't trap people in poverty for generations. these are value statements that i think can stem from a faith perspective, but are also broadly shared universal values that speak to people. and then there's policy solutions that stem from that and that have all kinds of economic rationale that i think
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you get at people's guts as to what they understand is fair. >> good morning. i'm representative marty anderson from iowa, and we meet all of your governors pretty regularly. >> yeah, ours has been here quite often. >> in our caucus we started doing some very simple things. every morning there's a prayer in our chamber. and so we're bringing in different people to pray. i'm bringing in two nuns who live in my district who were on the nuns on the bus tour. and they're going to say a prayer. and the unitarian minister who lives in my district. so that's one way to start doing that, to counter some of the ministers who come in and frankly offend a lot of people by being very specific about their faith.


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