tv National Action Network Legislative Policy Conference - Part 1 CSPAN November 13, 2018 12:36pm-1:42pm EST
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> the national action network review, the results of the midterm elections taking a break for lunch. they will be back with remarks from more members of congress including the head of the congressional black caucus karen bass. live coverage when they resume here on c-span2. while we wait we were showing a portion of the conference from earlier today starting with comments from congresswoman eleanor holmes norton. >> thank you very much for that
very generous introduction. and i am very pleased to welcome reverend al and the national action network itself to the congress of the united states where you belong this morning. i want to thank you for your contributions to our country. you would be introduced as ranking member. something happened on november november 3. [applause] so they call you ranking when you're the lead democrat. you know, when you're the lead republican they call you chair, but we will change all that when the congress opens. we are still delighted, of course, to have you here today.
because this is the first day that congress is back after the election. so you are right on time, national action network. you are on time for members of congress to hear your advice and your counsel and your advocacy. now, we are not moaning and groaning that we won only one house thus far. because as democrats we need to make full use of this historic victory. of democrats taking over the house of representatives. democrats are preparing an agenda of the kind the national action network has long struggled for.
led of course by healthcare and the cost of prescription drugs, which we ran on, among other issues. but before i say we ran on it, it really is the american people who had saved the affordable health care act. i have never seen anything like it. the more that trump and the republicans butchered it, the more that people clung to it and signed on, and ultimately saved it. that gives us a big head start. you will notice that when the republicans saw how well the affordable care act was doing for democrats in the election, they decided to run on saving pre-existing conditions, you
know, all of a sudden. they were for pre-existing conditions to let me tell you something. as we put this bill together, you can't say one part without the other. this is a jigsaw puzzle. it's the whole or its none of it. we want all of it. [applause] so we are ready for them. i don't think they are ready for us. a major goal of course besides restoring the american health care act is to be a check on this president and keep him from running over all of us and taking back all that has been achieved. i am very proud that you have come to the nation's capital, and i represent the 700,000 americans who live here.
the district of columbia has more people than to states of the union. and although i have always voted in committee, representing the district and have a chairmanship, the representative of the district of columbia does not have the final vote on the house floor, so watch this, and you have chapters here. watch this. i will, in my committee, bring forward bills to the house floor, be responsible for bringing them forward. i shall have voted on them in committee. i shall have shaped them in committee. but when these bills, which essentially become my bills as chair, come to the house floor, everybody else in the house can vote on them except
congresswoman eleanor holmes norton. something is wrong with that. that is why in the district of columbia we are asking to become the 51st state of the united states of america. [applause] we think with more than earned it. if you don't take away anything else from the nation's capital, please remember this as you go back home. the people who live in your nation's capital our number one per capita in taxes paid to support the united states of america. talking about earning statehood. the last time the democrats were in power, i i use my backgrouns a constitutional lawyer to point out something that any of you could have told them. since i vote in committee, i should be able to vote in the
committee of the whole which meets on the house floor. committee of the whole was not greeted by the constitution. it's created by the congress of the united states itself. just like it created the committees. democrats were in charge at that time. they sent it to constitutional lawyers. constitutional lawyers agreed to, yes, the delicate as i'm sometimes called, there are two titles for me, delicate and congresswoman, has always been able to vote in committee. it follows that she can vote in the committee of the whole you created as you created the other committees. the republicans sued. they lost in the lower court. they went to the court of appeals. they lost and they didn't have the nerve to go to the supreme court. so when the democrats were in power, and i regret that the
democrats have not been in power for most of my service in the congress, so i've had to work very hard for my constituents with republicans in power. i even found republicans i could work with for the district of columbia. but the fact is that i i did ve on the house floor in the committee of the whole and i'm sure that the democrats will make sure that the residents of the district of columbia have that vote on the house floor. it's not the final vote but it is the final vote on many measures that come to the committee of the whole. so ask you to put the district of columbia as the 51st state on your agenda. i ask you to use your own formidable organization to press this congress to move forward even in the lame-duck session to
make full use of that session and of the coming sessions finally for the american people. thank you for coming to the conference. [applause] >> thank you. leave it to reverend sharpton to kick this off with two powerful women. so now i have the honor of bring up congresswoman terri sewell. she is in her fourth term representing alabama's seventh congressional district. she is one of the first women elected to congress from alabama, and in her own right, and is the first black woman to ever serve in the alabama congressional delegation. she sits on the house ways and means committee, and the
distinguished house permanent select committee on intelligence charged with the oversight of our national security. she is the ranking member on the subcommittee of the department of defense intelligence, and overhead architecture, she is the key subcommittee on house permanent select committee on intelligence. she is busy. but today we are here because we are so thankful to her work on voting rights and how she is spearheading efforts to restore the protections of the voting rights act that was guided in the shelby versus holder decision. so we're going to bring her up here to start this and then immediately after, tiffany cross will lead the first panel. [applause]
>> national national action net, welcome to capitol hill. it is an honor for me to be here and i think it is totally timely that your first session is on voting rights. i'm congresswoman terri sewell and i probably represent alabama's seventh congressional district which includes birmingham, it includes montgomery and my hometown of selma, alabama. so my desire to restore the voting rights act and having the similar piece of legislation this caucus is considering, the voting rights advancement act, is highly personal. it's personal because the people in my district thought, bled, marched and some died for the right to vote. and we are seeing a systematic effort by this administration to continue to take this backwards. i mean, we had a historic election on tuesday. historic and the fact that yes, democrats are not going to take over the house of
representatives but is also historic in the sense that there were lots of states that you staff to preclear their voter changes. that all of a sudden now they don't have to do that because of the shelby decision. we saw voter rolls purged in georgia. 53,000 people. we saw in georgia the secretary of state running for governor, that's like having, what, the player on the field and the empire being one person. not fair that the referee is also the player. he did not recuse himself. and i am very proud of our sister stacy abrams for continuing to fight. [applause] to make sure that every vote in georgia counts. every vote must count. so i think it is time that you all are here on capitol hill as we are now entering the lame-duck session. it is not only timely, it is necessary. your voice is critically
important in helping to set an agenda not only for the democrats will he take back the house, which we have in january, but also now. because now is when we are laying the groundwork for what matters most to our constituent constituents. as allender said, healthcare is number one, -- eleanor. social security and medicare. i said in house ways and means committee and i can tell you the fight to make sure that we have a cost-of-living adjustment for solstice tree recipients is important. it will be one of the things we actually work hard on in the next congress. but this collection also taught us a couple of things. it has shown us that when we collectively vote in large numbers, we can make a difference. i've always known that i've known that especially when we saw that we in alabama can elect a democratic senator first time
in 25 years, if we can do it in alabama, we can do it across this nation. i think it's important that we have as a part of our agenda restoring the voting rights act. it's critically important we do that. why? because when we vote in numbers, and are vote counts, we changed elections and we change our lives. everything that we do intersects with politics. you all know that. that's why you're active in man. -- nan. its grassroots activism the cost of the changes we've seen in this nation. it will be grassroots activism by organizations like the national action network that will help us restore the voting rights act of 1965. it is monumental that they have used voter suppression as a tactic to win elections. we've seen in this past election
where they've changed polling stations and not giving people notice. we've seen in this election where they've closed down polling stations. so you see long lines wrapped around your -- [inaudible] on a tuesday and you are someone who is working hard multiple jobs and you get your polling station at 5:45, they close at seven, to find a that it's not your polling station or the light is so long, people turn around. we have to make sure that -- [inaudible] if ever there's a time for us to push for legislation to restore the voting rights act, it's now. and we need your help. we want you when you're talking to your conference folks on the hill, talk about the voting rights advancement act. that will restore the voting rights act.
remember, the decision guided by -- extraconstitutional. [inaudible] you should come up with a modern-day formula to get your constituents to preclearance that we were somehow discriminated against -- i looking back the 1960s. we want to see modern-day examples of four discrimination that's going on. this election is given us lots of examples to talk about. lots of examples to talk about. and so what the voting rights advancement act does, it not only restores it by coming up with a modern-day formula, enters the formula, 1990 going forward, if it's five or more statewide violations of voter discrimination, five or more, then those states would be opted in and have to any future changes in law, voting law, precleared.
do you know that 14 states have had five or more since 1990 going forward? and i bet you more are included if we now include what happen in the 2018th election. those states include alabama and mississippi but also arizona and california and florida and texas, and it is imperative that we restore the voting rights act of 1965. it's imperative. [applause] so 1990 going forward, look back, and we tried to get in, five or more violations of voter discrimination. not hard but it's important that we get traction. here's what i know for a fact. voting rights used to not be a partisan issue. you want your elected officials to make it easier to vote. why our elected officials stand up on the republican side and trying to stop people from voting? not all people, certain people.
they just happen to look like me and you. it's important that we make sure that we add to our agenda, restoring the voting rights act of 1965. and i want nan to lead the charge on this. why is it called the advancement act and not the restoration act? because we also take care of voter discrimination on tribal lands that were not contemplated in 1965. so not only will we restore the voting rights act but this will also advance voting rights on areas and territories that we need. it will ensure that in communities where people speak different languages, ballots are put in those languages. that seems only fair. some of the voting rights advancement act if the bill that help you add to your agenda and fight for us to restore the voting rights act. because we all know that we would not have had an african-american president, not one of us of african-americans that are part of the cbc would
be elected have not had the voting rights act of 1965. and i hope and a that you all will talk in your panel today about the importance of the senses. that's another way, we have to make sure that we are all counted. because that's how you determine what congressional districts and how they are drawn. it is important come somewhat us all to think about how we can get millennials in this fight. that's my challenge. we've got to get millennials concerned about voting rights. in alabama this past election we saw systematically the secretary of state disenfranchising students on historically black colleges. in huntsville, alabama, was an alabama a&m, students went to the polls to vote only to find that the names have been stricken off. why? because they were sent notice months before the nurse and the nose with her a mailbox on cam.
most of the students don't live on campus. they did not check that mailbox and the secretary of state took the names off the rolls. we were able in an emergency to give them back and able to do provisional ballots but the reality is that is another form of modern day voter suppression. so let's wake up. no longer to have to count how many marbles are in a jar, but we still have voter suppression happening across this nation. as long as we do, i hope nan will continue to fight for voting rights all across this nation. thank you so much for being here. be a powerful voice that i know you are for all of the things that matter to us as americans, and please make sure on your agenda is voting rights. thank you. [applause]
>> take your time. take your time. >> good morning, everyone. good morning. wasn't that just a fabulous ibis way to kick off our policy conference, right? lets give are two strong women powerhouse is another they can't and we definitely know that these issues are important to us in our communities and we cannot wait to go back and tell our constituents can tell our community is what we learn today. i hope you're taking notes and want to put that out there. because we as activists have a very important job when we get back home to go to our communities and really -- i do want to bring up another very important guests of ours today. here we are.
catherine lehman, the chair of the u.s. commission on civil rights, president barack obama appointed her to a six term come six return on the commission in december of 2016 but she also litigates separate cases of the national center for youth law where she has been a council since october 2017 and want to bring at this time to address our policy conference. let's give her a great big hand. welcome. [applause] >> thank you. it's really such a pleasure and an inspiration to be in this room full of multi multigeneral nan chapter leaders press appreciate you all for bring us all together and for including the in your conference. as mentioned i chair the u.s. commission on civil rights the commission is the only independent bipartisan federal body charged with monitoring and evaluating the efficacy of the civil rights policy and civil
rights enforcement for the nation. the commission is charged by congress to be the nation's eyes and ears with respect to civil rights. and hope for him at all of you today and every day what use the commission as a resource for you so we can be your eyes and ears that what should be happening in this country. the commission of the week ago held a briefing in d.c. about the effectiveness of federal civil rights enforcement in the trump administration. so you know, as i mention we are a bipartisan commission, we voted unanimously to take at this topic to evaluate what working and what's was not working with respect to civil rights and a wreck remains open and will remain open until december 17. i hope very much you all rely on us. you will use us as a repository of information, you'll share your thoughts about what worked well, what does not work well in housing enforcement, in labor enforcement, and education civil rights policy, and police practices in all walks of life with respect to civil rights, what you think the federal
government is doing right, what you think it could be doing better. we would love to be able to have your voice in our reports we can advise congress about what the law should be so we can advise a federal civil rights agencies about what they should be doing and make a record for what civil rights policy should be. i am very proud that the commission has over our 61 your life actually influenced all of the federal civil rights law enacted in the time that we have been an impetus for a cause for very important use of federal civil rights tools and help will be able to continue and that commission. .. and for the conclusions in the
report that called on congress to pass a new law to make sure that our voting rights are effectively enforced and that we, all of us, have all of our votes counted. we also called on the department of justice to be more aggressive and more active in its enforcement of existing law to protect all of our voting rights. so the key themes that the representative raised are very top of mind for us at the commission. i want to share with you a little bit more about what we have coming that we know will be forthcoming soon. later this week we will issue a report about the civil rights implications of police use of excessive force. i know that's a topic that's very important in all of our communities. i hope that you all will keep an eye out for the report. it's coming out on thursday. the majority of the commission will recommend a priority for the ways that we as a country can better reduce police use of excessive force and we examine the ways that use of excessive
force from our police departments are disproportionately imposed on communities of color, lgbtq communities, low income communities and the disability community so we can make recommendations to see that set of practices eradicated. we also expect in the coming months to issue a report about native american civil rights. we have a number of other very important topics that we have taken up that include the school to prison pipeline, collateral consequences of incarceration to help ensure that reentry to civil society is effective for all of our communities. in the coming year, we will been taking a look at the experience of women in prison both in federal and state prison, and the experience of sexual harassment in federal workplaces. so we have a wide range of topics we have vote tod to take. we look forward to your thoughts on other topics we should address. i'm eager as chair of the commission to be able to ensure we fulfill our promise to be your watchdog and we make sure all of our rights are protected. thank you for what you will do today. i look forward to being able to be in touch with all of you going forward. thank you.
[ applause ] >> good morning, everybody. you can hear me okay? i didn't know i was going to have to follow three dynamic women. i wish i could have gone first. they were amazing. allow me to introduce our panel this morning. first, i'm tiffany cross, the co-founder and managing editor of the beat d.c. for those that don't know we are a daily rundown that covers issues that affect people of color. some of the issues you heard congresswoman norton discuss, we write about those things. we are on target for about 100,000 daily readers in january. thank you, david. while the mainstream media might permanently display the breaking news banner chasing the president's latest tweet, we actually write about things that people of color are doing and the diversity that drives the
nation's capital that cast a wide net across the nation and the globe. i hope you will all subscribe at the beatdc.com. you can also catch me on msnbc, on joy reid and a few other shows and you can get that information in the beat d.c. as well. with no further ado i will introduce this dynamic panel we have for you this morning, and i will start to my left with david john, executive director of the national black justice coalition. we have miss rhonda fox, chief of staff to congresswoman adams. she is doing amazing work around diversity on capitol hill. welcome, rhonda. we have todd cox with the naacp legal defense and education fund. welcome, todd. and we have miss sarah
jose-morales with the national democratic redistricting committee. that is run by the former attorney general eric holder. welcome. all right. so there's been a lot happening since last tuesday. i know i have been pretty outraged and angry since 2016 and that anger has not subsided but i do feel more energized knowing that there are checks and balances in government. just over the weekend, i don't know if you all saw that senator cindy hyde-smith out of mississippi and her comments about the public hanging so i don't think too many people in this room were surprised. i was surprised at how many people were surprised. we know what it is. i want to get into some of the things, the issues facing us in this new congress that we are going to be welcoming, a census that's happening in 2020, a presidential election is happening in 2020, and a lot of the dynamics surrounding what's happening in government.
let's jump right in and start, and i'm going to go actually to you, jose, first. i have a little bit of an issue with the way that some of the mainstream outlets have characterized what happened on tuesday. a lot of people are saying it wasn't a blue wave that people expected and i call b.s. that's not true. i can say b.s. because reverend's not here yet. i call b.s. because the democrats flipped seven governorships, are on track to flip almost 40 seats in the house, some of the state legislatures democrats are now controlling. all these things matter. if the republicans are brilliant at one thing, it's at controlling the narrative. i think we need voices to push back on that. i want to talk to you because a lot of these elections center on the electoral maps being drawn. given that democrats were so successful on tuesday, what does that mean looking ahead to 2020
and how these maps are going to be drawn? >> that's a great question. first of all, good morning, everybody. thank you for having me. it's great to see you. the foundation of the 2021 redistricting is now behind us. 2018 was such a pivotal year and flipping those seven governorships puts us already in a better position than we were in 2010 when republicans completely ran the table. they had total control over about 213 congressional districts being drawn. that was a great way for them to racially and partisan gerrymander those maps, making it even more impossible to elect more candidates of color and just more democrats. so flipping those seven governor races puts a check on a legislature in their own state where they are also gerrymandered. a great example is wisconsin. the case that went all the way to the supreme court, gill versus whitberg, came out of
wisconsin because governor walker allowed the legislature to cut up -- >> [ inaudible ]. [ applause ] >> so now when governor evers has the chance to block that kind of voter suppression angery mannedering, because that's what gerrymandering is, it creates this double effect, you mentioned the narrative around what's going on. considering everything the democrats had going against them, tuesday night was exceptional, exceptional. competitive races in arizona, georgia, texas and kobach will be unemployed in january. that's incredible. incredible. in the words of barack obama, better is good and i'll take better and it's clearly not over in georgia and florida. the candidates continue to fight for every single vote and that
matters because when these democrats are in office, whether they win now in 2019 and 2020, they don't just run as a check against the president which, as the congresswoman mentioned, is extremely important. they run for us. they enact policies for us. they stand for something which can help to bite the anger that has been flowing through because you can't stop being angry, and we want to stop being angry but that's what governor evers and governor kelley and congresswoman oh kcasio-cortez . >> if you all have questions, you may have index cards. if you don't, someone will give them to you and you can write them on an index card if you have questions. you mentioned some of the things that are happening in georgia and florida which brings me to you. so in these two races, they are
very different dynamics between georgia and florida but i would say the common denominator in these two races was voter suppression and racism. we have to be able to [ inaudible ] both of those things. i hear a lot about ron desantis said something with racial undertones. we have to be able to say it was racial overtones and it drove a lot of the suppression we saw in both these states. if you could, just give us a recap of where things stand today and what this tells us as we look ahead to 2020. >> sure. well, as we already discussed, in florida and georgia in particular, florida is heading -- is in a recount. i won't go into the details how we got there, but you know, florida is in a recount, georgia
may be going into a runoff, and the not so subtle, at least for us, overt things that happened that is the take-aways, are voter suppression. i think ldf was on the ground in many states including georgia and florida. we saw ourselves many examples of voter suppression. i don't want to douse the enthusiasm. we obviously saw a lot of voter turnout, lot of voter enthusiasm but that was almost despite efforts ahead of time to suppress the vote. you heard the congresswoman talking about secretary of state kemp in georgia, who just in an odd, bizarre fashion, sort of befitting this new abnormal we're in, was both the arbiter of the election but also running for governor. he set up a system, basically two strategies to suppress votes. one, something called exact match where, if you make any kind of mistake, any kind of
what i consider normal mistake on an election, a voter registration form, it can be rejected. you would be struck from voter rolls. he also struck people who are so-called inactive voters. we know from what happened at the supreme court that was upheld in ohio. so there's a lot of voter suppression afoot. a lot happened in georgia. a lot happened in florida. and there's no surprises why that happened. again, it was alluded to by the congresswoman. the case shelby versus holder, supreme court case, gutted the voting rights act. when we say that, i want to explain what that means. before shelby, when i was at the department of justice, any state, not all states but certain states with a history of discrimination, most in the deep south, also new york, arizona, california, states that discriminated against voters, had a history of doing that against minority voters, had to submit their voting changes, polling place changes, redistricting plans, any kind of voting change to either
department of justice or a court here in d.c. before it would be allowed to go forward. when that was removed in 2013, we saw the flood gates of voter suppression open. something like 20 states passed all kinds of examples, all kinds of laws that suppressed the vote. highlights include state of texas, sort of frequent flyers of voter suppression, alabama, both of which passed photo i.d. requirements, restrictive voter i.d. requirements, redistricting plans that with surgical precision in the case of north carolina excluded african-americans from having opportunity to elect candidates of choice. so in order to sort of make sure that we don't have a replication of this in 2020 and to make sure we actually have the outcomes that befit a democracy now, we need to do two things. first, make sure all votes count, in florida and georgia and elsewhere. make sure we don't have any more nefarious behaviors happening on the ground by elected officials
to exclude particularly minority voters from having opportunity to have their ballots counted, but they also need to restore the voting rights act. bring back the parts of the voting rights act that again, congresswoman sewell discussed that require jurisdictions to submit -- certain jurisdictions to submit voting changes to either department of justice or here in d.c. to make sure that discrimination doesn't happen on the front end. ldf is suing, actually in court today, make sure the students that congresswoman talked about in texas had their opportunity to have provisional ballots voted -- and alabama -- provisional ballots counted but that's not sufficient. we need to be able to up front learn about voting changes and stop them before they actually go into effect. >> thank you. i just want to come on the back end and say when you talk about exact match, some people understand it's not necessarily a mistake but if i go by tiff and my driver's license says that but another document says tiffany, my ballot will be dismissed. also, in this millenium, 24
states have made it more difficult to vote and of those 24 states, 13 states have instituted stricter voter i.d. law. this is an all-out attack. i won't even get into the long history brian kemp had in georgia. i know we are all looking at georgia and florida right now but north dakota also had their own issues, disenfranchising native americans. so this is rampant. >> i didn't start with this, i didn't want to really set the tone to be so negative, but voter suppression is really a tool of white supremacy. in the past, when my mom and dad were trying to exercise their franchise, they used intimidation, violence, to suppress the vote. it was an opportunity to suppress the votes of particularly african-americans, native americans, latinos and they are doing the very same thing. if congress wants to make sure that what happened in charlottesville, make sure the platitudes they rolled out regarding white supremacy have any meaning at all, they will have hearings on opportunities to expand the franchise. restore the voting rights act
but also expand the franchise to allow more opportunities for folks to vote. >> thank you. miss rhonda, i'm curious to talk to you this morning because, a, i just mraud tapplaud the work e been doing around diversity and creating a pipeline for black women on capitol hill. black women save everything. thank you. [ applause ] and we're not tired yet. we're still going. i wanted to ask you about now that people have hurdled every obstacle put before them, this will be the most diverse congress the country has ever seen. we are seeing for the first time, this is impossible to believe, but for the first time, two native american women will be represented in congress which i think is amazing. we will also have the first muslim woman in congress, the youngest woman ever in congress with alexandria ocase sio-corte.
i know a lot of us are looking at how these members will be staffing their offices. just so people know, people of color make up 38% of this country. on capitol hill, people of color only make up 13.7% of senior staff so this is something that has to change. rhonda has been leading those efforts. so tell us what we can expect from this very diverse congress. >> sure. before i dive into that, i do want to say and give credit to tiffany, because a lot of the power that we have been able to gain and a lot of the positioning on capitol hill we have been able to gain from our members on down to senior staff has come from organizations like the beat, giving us a voice, telling folks look, this is what the members of the congressional black caucus, congressional hispanic caucus, this is what they are doing, they are serious legislatures that are here to represent the diversity of our constituency. so thank you for making that possible. we are very excited to see this diversity that comes into capitol hill in the upcoming
congress. having so many women come to the capitol, women who are problem solvers, who have been through very unorthodox backgrounds, that are not your true and tried politicians that are set in their ways. these women are coming here ready to move the ball and pendulum forward, and the question is, how do we as staff harness that energy. we're not going to be able to do that if we don't have staffers that look like these women, if we don't have staffers that look like the national action network. that's a big issue. we are the ones that are telling our bosses these are the key issues to get on top of, these are the things that we should be commenting on. if we're not positioned to do that, we're not going to do it. to put into perspective, in the 2014 cycle, before i came on the hill with my boss, i was out in a red to blue race in nevada and this was a democratic seat, and the thing that we kept saying, this is as we are getting into the issue of police violence, and we're like as a candidate in a tough seat, you need to talk -- >> i'm sorry.
they're having trouble hearing you. >> sorry. you have to be able to talk about this but for a candidate who is not diverse, who doesn't understand that black women don't want to hear about pocketbook issues right now, they want to hear about how do i protect my son, my husband, as they are walking down the street. they just couldn't relate to that. it was a lost opportunity. what happened in '14 and '16, complete blue demolishment. so here in this new congress, we are hoping that if we have the right staffers in place, we will lean in on criminal justice reform. we have been told the first issue that we will tackle in the new congress is the voting right act. to have leader pelosi say that, that's powered by diverse staffs like michael long and a lot of staffers that put their heart into making sure our issues are represented. we are excited, we are happy to see the members come in, but now we are focused, especially as they are coming now making decisions of their senior staff, that they have diverse staff. one of the things i would pivot to you all as constituents, while you're in -- >> i'm sorry. i have to interrupt you for one
second. we want to thank the man who made all this possible and brought us all here. my adopted big brother, reverend al sharpton. [ applause ] >> good morning. give another hand to tiffany. and i'm so happy to see so many of you come from around different parts of the country. this is the first gathering of activists since the midterm elections, and our determination, and we have other buses coming, our determination is that we want the senators and
members of congress to lay out where they see us going and where we go the next hundred days. then we do committees, then we are going to actually visit some of their offices to really find out exactly where we're going. we are going to hear from them here, we are going to question them when we visit office. we cannot keep telling people in our community to come out and vote and then we don't know what is the agenda and what is going to be accomplished. voting rights. health care. particularly pre-existing conditions. criminal justice reform. where are we on these issues and what are they going to do? the democrats have now taken a majority in the house. well, what is going to be the agenda? we cannot go from fighting to
get a majority to who's going to be the speaker. that is not our agenda. our agenda is who's going to get johnny home, he shouldn't be doing 40 years in jail. all this beltway politics does not work on main street or martin luther king boulevard. so we want to hear from our senators and our congresspeople on their position, then we want to visit them and have dialogue with them, and we want them to know by having these amount of people from these amount of states here lets them know we will be in your face. we didn't just vote and go home. we didn't vote and go back and eat turkey. we are ready for action because we are under an administration who has declared war on us and we want to know which side everybody's on. am i right? [ applause ]
now, no one has worked the beltway better and gives us clearer guidance than tiffany cross with the beat d.c..com. that's why i wanted her to share our panel. i want to thank all of our leadership, our northeast director, stand up, reverend. one bus stopped, we threw everybody on the train. i got on the plane and they were delayed with weather and i had to do my divine interception because senator klobuchar was waiting on me. so i went up around the pilot, did my number and i'm here.
y'all believe that and you'll believe that donald trump helped the middle class with the tax cut. one of the people that has consistently stood and every time we asked them to come before us, came, and has been explicit and specific on fighting for progressive causes for all people, is our first guest speaker. you know her as the ranking member of the senate judiciary committee. during the kavanaugh hearings, she played a major role and we are happy that she would come. in fact, she waited on me to get from the airport because she said it's important i address the leadership from around the country, and i wanted to bring on to you now from the state of minnesota, senator amy klobuchar.
[ applause ] >> well, thank you so much, reverend. thank you for your leadership. thank you to all of you. i want to start by some really good news. i notice that you're wearing your purple tie, right? and i'm wearing purple which is the color of minnesota because it's the color of the vikings and prince. but, but it is also the color of a purple state and this year, minnesota, we won big in a purple state. and we not only elected our first african-american statewide, keith ellison, to the attorney general's office, but we also elected our first muslim american woman to congress and we elected our first indigenous woman in the country to executive office in peggy flanagan. that all happened in our election in minnesota. so i want to thank al for his
leadership. i got to see his first-hand work on not every issue that gets the headlines, but i got to see reverend sharpton work on some antitrust issues to make sure the antitrust laws and the way we handle these mergers allow african-american voices and content on tv. i've gotten to see him work when we had real problems during the downturn and stand up for the community so i want to thank him for that. and i want to mostly thank your national action network for everything you've done to make sure that every vote is counted. every vote is counted. you know what happens when every vote is counted? we just found out what happened last night. kyrsten sinema was declared the winner in arizona. that's what happens when every vote is counted. and when you look at what we are dealing with right now in florida, where literally they are attacking the integrity of poll workers, people who are
just there doing their jobs, and we once again say every vote should be counted. when every vote is counted, then it's right. you look at georgia, where the wait at one polling location was over four hours long. this is in america today. when election officials opened the polls. you look at the candidates on the republican side, the secretary of state, while running for governor, held up the voter registration of 53,000 people, including over in one case a hyphen in a name. you know what? in georgia, every vote should be counted. that is how our candidates can have a fair shot. that's what's got to happen. so i have spent a lot of time on voting issues. i'm the ranking on the rules committee and that's our job, and i also am on the judiciary committee, so that is going to be a major focus when reverend sharpton asked about the agenda, i think number one on the agenda has got to be our economy and then you can't have a fair
economy for everyone if you don't have fair voting acts. that means reauthorizing the voting rights act and that means passing my bill to allow every single person when they turn 18 to automatically register to vote. that is what we need to do. so i look back to where we got to in this last tuesday and i got to go back to election night, right, back in 2016, that night of so much hope when people thought that hillary clinton was going to be our next president. i was going around minnesota, i got back home and i got this text from my daughter. she was in college at the time. and i had forgotten that she was at hillary's party in new york. and i felt this horrible mom guilt because i forgot she was there. the text from her said this. all it said was mom, what should we do now? and i wrote this guilt text back and it said you know what, you're staying at our friend's
tonight, this isn't going well, you have to leave, the subway's still running and you have a test tomorrow. that's what i wrote. she writes back mom, i mean our country. and that is the question literally that i have answered every single day since that election, what should we do now. when you answer it with action, you win. you think about what happened from the day, that dark day of that inauguration, the day after that, millions of people marched peacefully all over this country. the day after that, 4,000 women signed up to run for office. that happened. by day ten, when that mean-spirited refugee order came out, what happened? people spontaneously showed up at the airports, peacefully protesting. who does that on a saturday night? they did that. you voted day 100, one of my favorite marches. my favorite sign, what do we want, science. when do we want it, after peer
review. you go forward to the summer, you go to the summer, when we have this incredible fight over the affordable care act when the fighting 48 democrats from bernie sanders all the way to joe manchin stood together and said no, we're not going to kick people off for their pre-existing condition, we were joined by three brave republicans and guess what? we won. right? and when they kept trying to do that with that case down in texas, they kept doing it, every single time we made the case and we won. so when you talk about the agenda, because the members today, i loved al's point, that this is not just about winning an election, it's what you're going to do with that, what you're going to do with that power when you get in office, those are the questions to ask, about voting rights, about pre-existing conditions, about making sure that we have a strong economic agenda for this country, and part of that's going to be including making sure that people have access to the jobs that we have. my state's got all kinds of job openings right now but we've got
to find a way to connect the kids that are graduating or the kids that are still in high school or haven't graduated, with those jobs. my own sister didn't graduate from high school. she had a lot of trouble. she ended up going down the iowa, working manufacturing. she got a g.e.d., then went on to finally, after about five, six years, she went to a community college down there, got a two-year degree and then ended up getting a four-year degree and graduating with a degree in accounting. that year, she got the highest score in iowa in accounting. so my message there is that there are many, many paths to success. there isn't just one path to success. that is the journey that we're on. you look as we continue on, today, this is one of my favorite ones, day 291, since donald trump got into office, you know what happened that day? we won these elections all over the country, right? we won these legislative seats that no one thought that we
would win. that was really the beginning of showing that people of color, young people, were going to start running and take back seats. on day 326, this is my update, my best day of all, in a victory for dignity and decency. does anyone know what happened that day? doug jones won the seat in the state of alabama. that's what happened. that is the arc that we are on. you go forward to right now, to last week and what happened there. the u.s. house of representatives once again became the people's house. right? more than 200 of the candidates and congressional and state-wide races last tuesday were black, latino, asian, native american, lgbtq. more than 80 of those candidates won. that is change. that is how you take back our country. so one of my favorite things that happened here in the last year was that we finally got more women running. we're now up to 23 or 24 women
in the senate with kyrsten sinema running. just so you know our history, in addition to not having enough people of color in congress, we have not had nearly enough women in the history of america. there have been 2,000 men in the united states senate and only 52 women. i was on the trevor noah show a few months ago. he said if they had a ratio like that in a nightclub they would have to shut it down. that is basically what we have been dealing with through history. so as we go to work, what do we need to do? the first thing i already mentioned. that is reauthorizing the voting rights act. i hope you are going to bring that up at every office. we know we don't have republican support for that in the senate. it's been a big problem. we have to raise that. doing what we can, especially in the house, to pass bills to make it easier to vote. same day registration. that's something that's worked in minnesota. i think we are once again going to have the highest voting turnout in our state, of any state in the country.
we are estimated to be up to 64% in a midterm election and that is not of voters, that is of eligible people who can vote. getting the dark money out of politics. you saw those heinous ads we saw all over the country and the only way we really do that is by passing a constitutional amendment to overturn citizens united. that is voting rights, getting the money, dark money out of politics, then making sure that we have secure elections, especially as we head into 2020. senator lankford, a conservative senator from oklahoma, he and i had a bill that was pretty straightforward. it required backup paper ballots. we thought we were moving forward with that bill. we had a bunch of support. we had a hearing scheduled. then we got a gut punch from the administration. they basically said they didn't want to have that bill right before the election, right when all that stuff was happening in florida and georgia and all the problems that we had in getting -- allowing people to vote. we are going to go back at that because it's the only way we are going to have a fair election in
2020, if we have a secure election. but i have always believed you can do two things at once. you can secure your democracy and you can also have a secure economy for people. i think many times, people try to pit those two issues against each other, civil rights, democracy versus the economy. i think we have to do both of them. one of the things this election showed us is that our candidates were running on an optimistic and economic agenda for this country where we leave no one behind. that includes the midwest. so as you know, in 2016, we had some real issues in the midwest, right? well, this time the midwest came roaring back, not in every state. we had some losses that were very sad for me, including my friends claire mccaskill and joe donnelly, but we won big. we won back congressional seats in iowa which no one thought we would have. we beat scott walker in the state of wisconsin. we did that. sherrod brown won his race in
ohio. my husband is one of six kids and grew up in a trailer home, and they would get to go on one vacation every year in their station wagon, and their parents would drive them and they would always go get gas somewhere and they would always try to make sure they counted each kid when the kids got back in the car because a few times, my husband is the middle child, got left behind, right? so for me, the message of this election was we are never leaving the midwest behind again at the gas station. and we were able to win in states that no one thought that we could win in and win in districts that no one thought we could win. and we did that with this economic message. than means things like raising the minimum wage, something we haven't done since i first got to the senate. it means doing something with affordable housing. it means making sure that no one's left behind and if you want to have a strong economy, everyone has to participate. what does that mean? criminal justice reform. and thanks to your group's work
and reverend sharpton's work and so many others across the country, we are now heading into the possibility that we will get this passed before the end of the year. to reduce the federal sentences. i came, i was the hennepin county attorney for years in minnesota, that was my first elected job, and we always say we want to be like a business in that we want to be more efficient but we don't want to be like a business in a lot of ways, and that is that we don't want to see repeat customers. the way you make sure you don't have repeat customers is that you give people the help to get them out of the criminal justice system to begin with. that means making sure they are employable, making sure they get treatment, making sure they have housing, and we had a lot of success. we were using that model in our state and in our counties, and that's what we have to do. next thing i want to mention as you look at the agenda and what we should move forward on, is immigration reform. this is something that is within
reach. why? because one, it's an incredibly important issue for our country. we are a country that was built on immigrants. we are a country that believes that immigrants don't diminish america, they are america. and we think it is an economic imperative to work on immigration reform as well. there is also a moral imperative. one story that i heard in minnesota a few years ago, the worst of some of the anti-immigrant rhetoric which we saw rev up against in this campaign, was the story of a family and they went out to dinner. they had been in minnesota for a long time and had little kids, and they had never experienced any kind of slur at them, anti-immigrant slur, and they were at a restaurant and this guy comes up to them and looks at them and says you four go home, you go home to where you came from. and the little girl looks up at her mom and she says mom, i don't want to go home, you said we could eat out tonight.
you think of the words of that innocent child. she didn't even know what he was talking about because she only knew one home. that was my state and that was your state and that was our country. so that is what we have had to deal with. with a president that says literally after what we saw in virginia, after that horrible white nationalist rally and that bloodshed, what did he say? he said there were two sides to this issue. there are not two sides when it comes to racism, when it comes to anti-immigrant. there is only one side and that side is american side and that side is our side. so i want to wish you well in your day today going around and talking to your members of congress. i think it is really important to congratulate the new members as you get to meet them. they are probably still trying to find their offices in the senate. they put them in trailers just so you know, at the beginning. but if you aren't able to see
them, you tell their staff and you tell some of the people that have been here for a long time especially that this is the moment. we delivered in this election for the country, the country delivered, but what matters is there has to be action and i think that the issues that we laid out here today with health care and the pre-existing conditions, with doing something to make sure that we have a strong economy for everyone to move forward on criminal justice reform, which literally might be right around the corner, and to certainly move forward with what we're seeing right now in georgia and florida on voting rights, that is an agenda that's doable, that is an agenda that people are crying out for so let's get it done. thank you, everyone. [ applause ] >> senator klobuchar. let me say this, let me say she was very specific which is what we want. voting rights, criminal justice,
and we certainly on the criminal justice bill this year, i think she really respected us. there are -- i want her to know that as she has to make her leave, that we, you know, i don't put a lot of pressure on people but the rumors about who's going to run for president, she told me in the back look, al, i'm here to talk specifics. i do know when i ran, we had to go to iowa first, then new hampshire, then south carolina. now, elder johnson, who heads south carolina national action network, stand up, he's right there. so just in case, amy, in case you run, you might want to exchange numbers, just in case. just in case. give another hand, senator klobuchar. >> new members of congress are attending their congressional orientation starting today. this is a live picture from the wa