Goodlatte vs. the National Parks

It’s nice that Congressman Goodlatte is marking National Park Week on Twitter and urging folks to visit Virginia’s beautiful and historic parks.

It would be even nicer if his voting record reflected a deep concern for protecting and improving the National Park system.

His votes in Congress on issues directly affecting the parks would suggest otherwise.

parks

Still looking, Congressman?

NBC29 reports that once again, constituents of Congressman Goodlatte gathered at one of his “Open Door” meetings to ask that Goodlatte himself (rather than only his staff) start showing up.

“I don’t want to be contacted by generic email. I think our representative, after two decades as our representative, ought to have the decency to come and talk with us,” said Marvin Weston, who attended the meeting in Waynesboro.

In a statement to the TV station, Goodlatte said:

I’ve always made it my priority to communicate with the people I represent, and I strive to be in communities across the district as often as possible. I meet regularly with groups or individuals who have requested appointments, attend community events, and correspond with constituents who have contacted my office via phone, email, postal mail, and social media. In addition, I have hosted telephone town hall calls and Facebook Live events that allow me to reach thousands of people at once and take questions from constituents as they all participate. I appreciate the input of all of my constituents, and I am looking at their town hall meeting requests.

If it looks familiar, that’s because it is almost identical to a statement Goodlatte made to the Staunton News Leader in February when he was asked when he last held an in-person town hall meeting in the Sixth District. He added the reference to Facebook Live events, which are even more impersonal than telephone town halls, but that’s about it.

So the message from Goodlatte is that he was “looking at” requests to hold town halls  and– two months later– he is still looking at them. Given his expressed fear of “mob scenes,” we have to wonder how seriously he is looking.

Goodlatte’s Syria flip-flop

The Roanoke Times has published a letter by Chris Gavaler of Lexington with the latest example of how Congressman Goodlatte’s position on an issue is almost always determined by partisan political considerations rather rather than on the merits of the issue itself.

Bob Goodlatte said of Obama in 2014: “I think if he’s going to take action in Syria, or a broader range of actions, he should seek Congress’ authorization to take those actions.” When President Obama did seek authorization, Goodlatte opposed military action, saying “the use of chemical weapons is despicable, and I do not condone this attack on Syrian civilians,” but “I cannot support the proposed resolution pending in the Senate. Anytime our country enters into military action, we must consider the men and women of our Armed Forces who stand in harm’s way to serve our nation… I do not believe it is in the best interest of our Armed Forces and the United States of America to authorize the President’s proposed use of military force in Syria.”

Last week, after Syria again used chemical weapons, Trump took action without Congress’ authorization. Given Goodlatte’s stance against Obama, I assumed he would oppose Trump’s military strike. But in his newsletter sent late Friday, Goodlatte wrote: “This week’s deadly chemical attacks are a stark reminder of the atrocities that the Syrian people face under the Assad regime. This evil cannot be ignored or tolerated. The strike launched last night was a measured response to these actions by the Assad regime…” When Syria uses chemical weapons during a Republican’s presidency, it is “evil” and intolerable.

When Syria uses chemical weapons during a Democrat’s presidency, it is “despicable” but tolerable.

The Assad regime’s murderous use of poison gas against Syrian civilians was as horrific and despicable in Ghouta in 2013 as it was in Idlib province last week. But I hope Goodlatte realizes that the 2013 attack for which he opposed retaliation killed many times more men, women and children than the attack for which he approved retaliation.

He should be asked to explain the difference in his reactions.

No “death spiral”

Congressman Goodlatte usually explains his zealous efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) by claiming it is in a “death spiral.” In fact he can’t seem to mention the law that has helped tens of millions of Americans (including more than 30.000 of his own constituents) to obtain health insurance without using that phrase.

But according to a report by Standard & Poor’s Financial Services, there is no “death spiral.” And such a thing could only happen if Republicans deliberately cause it.

“If the market continues unaffected, with a few fixes rather than an overhaul, we expect 2018, or Year 5 of the ACA individual market, to be one of gradual improvement with more insurers reporting positive (albeit low single-digit) margins,” the report states.

The report adds flatly that: “2016 results and the market enrollment so far in 2017 show that the ACA individual market is not in a ‘death spiral.’”

Still, the report warns that uncertainty due to Republicans’ actions in Washington could throw off this steady improvement in the market.

Goodlatte has been raising the alarm about increasing costs of health insurance. But if Republicans in Virginia would stop opposing expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, health care premiums in the Commonwealth could be lower.

If Congressman Goodlatte can’t bring himself to endorse some common-sense fixes to the Affordable Care Act, he should at least stop trying to scare his constituents with his “death spiral” talk.

But still no town halls?

It’s great that Congressman Goodlatte took the time to appear (and I presume answer questions) in person at an April 10 meeting of the Roanoke County Republican Committee– at least it is if you’re a Roanoke County Republican.

But the rest of us who live in the Sixth District haven’t been so privileged lately.

In fact the meeting notice posted the Republican Committee didn’t even mention that Goodlatte would be there– only that he (and other politicians) had been invited.

Although appearances by Goodlatte in the Sixth District are sometimes publicized, we usually don’t learn about them until afterwards. I’d hate to think he was making an effort to avoid constituents who might voice their disapproval of him and his record.

Goodlatte obfuscates on Facebook Live

On Wednesday evening Congressman Goodlatte held another “Facebook Live” event during which he again avoided direct contact with his constituents and responded to a handful of selected questions submitted by viewers via Facebook.

Only two of the questions– the first two– were in any way challenging.

The first was actually two questions, and Goodlatte answered neither. They dealt with Goodlatte’s vote in favor of a resolution in Congress allowing internet service providers to sell and share personal information.

Members of Congress should represent their constituents’ best interests. How many of your constituents called or wrote asking that ISPs be allowed to sell their browser history without consent? Follow up question: how much money have ISPs contributed to your campaign coffers?

In fact ISPs like Comcast and Verizon have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Gooldatte’s campaigns over the years, but he didn’t mention that. Instead he talked about how the regulations on internet privacy should be issued by the Federal Trade Commission rather than the Federal Communications Commission.

However The Washington Post noted:

[T]he FTC does not have the authority to punish Internet providers that violate its guidelines. That is because of a rule that leaves oversight of those companies to the FCC.

As a result, [the] vote may release Internet providers from the FCC’s privacy regulation, but the FTC would also be unable to enforce its own guidelines on the industry without new authority from Congress.

The next question also failed to receive a direct answer:

I’m concerned about Executive Order that two regulations must be dropped before a new one can be activated. As government regulations are not all equal, what guidance will Congress give to deciding which regulations to roll back?

Instead Goodlatte, without citing any examples, suggested there are countless regulations that are outdated and need to be removed. That may or may not be the case, but it doesn’t explain why an arbitrary rule requiring two regulations to be discarded for every new one added makes any sense.

Gooldlatte continued to endorse President Trump’s efforts to issue an executive order banning travel ban from six Muslim-majority countries, while acknowledging that the first order in January should not have included Green Card holders. However at the time, Goodlatte fully endorsed that misbegotten order and even proudly took credit for allowing his Judiciary Committee staff to help write it.

Goodlatte also insisted that Congress would eventually act to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. And while noting the burden of high medical costs on low-income people, he defended the heartless refusal of Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates to expand Medicaid under the ACA and provide health insurance to 400,000 working Virginians.

Goodlatte helps kill rules protecting internet privacy

“Congressman Goodlatte is a strong supporter of individual privacy on the Internet,” his website proclaims.

As is often the case with Goodlatte, his pious declarations are belied by hard reality.

So it should come as no surprise that Goodlatte voted with the Republican majority on a resolution in Congress allowing internet service providers to sell and share personal information.

The Consumerist website reports:

The new Federal Communications Commission’s rules intended to limit how companies like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and Charter can use internet customers’ sensitive personal information are effectively dead in the water, thanks to a House of Representatives vote [Tuesday] to kill the regulations, making sure internet service providers can use and sell user data.

The final vote was 215 to repeal the privacy rules with 205 votes to keep them in place. Voting was mostly along party lines, though 15 Republicans broke rank to vote against the resolution. No Democrats voted in its favor.

…..

The Senate has already approved this resolution, meaning it only awaits the signature of President Trump to undo the FCC regulations.

The rules, finalized in October by the FCC, effectively divide the data that your ISP has about you and your browsing habits into two categories.

The first category is sensitive data. ISPs would have been prevented from using the following information without your permission:
• Geographic location
• Children’s information
• Health information
• Financial information
• Social Security numbers
• Web browsing history
• App usage history
• The content of communications

The second category includes less-sensitive, but still personal data. ISPs would have been allowed to use this information, but would have been required to allow users the opportunity to opt out of having the following shared:

• Your name
• Your address
• Your IP address
• Your current subscription level
• Anything else not in the “opt in” bucket.

The rules were immediately opposed by ISPs and their lobbyists, who said the regulations were unfair because they did not place the same restriction on content companies Google and Netflix — while glossing over the fact that the FCC has no authority to regulate what Google and Netflix do with their user information.

I don’t know if there is a connection between Goodlatte’s vote for the anti-privacy resolution and the campaign contributions he receives from ISPs like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, which lobbied hard for the legislation. But Goodlatte’s long record of siding with his corporate donors against the interests of consumers and workers remains intact.