We lost this time

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Washington is rigged for those who can hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists. Last week, we got a close look at what really goes on.

House Republicans slipped a provision into the must-pass, omnibus budget package in a secret, closed-door deal. Citigroup lobbyists literally wrote the provision to weaken the new rules on Wall Street and make it easier for the biggest banks to get bailed out again in the future. JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon personally called up members of Congress to lobby for their votes.

Nobody likes bailouts. Democrats don’t like bailouts. Republicans don’t like bailouts. But Wall Street proved again that with enough money and enough power, they can tilt the playing field in Washington a little more in their favor.

I fought my heart out against that provision last week. So did tens of thousands of people who signed petitions, who called their representatives, who tweeted and Facebooked, and who spoke out about it.

We lost this time. But here’s what I want you to remember: It’s better to fight and lose than not to fight at all.  

It’s better to fight because if you don’t fight, you can’t win. Besides, even when you don’t win, you can change the game. Here’s a snippet from an article in The Hill newspaper earlier this week that shows what I mean:

“One senior financial industry executive said the dust-up over the funding bill has forced the industry to recalibrate its lobbying priorities for the coming year. Given Warren’s megaphone, the executive said, getting through the next Congress without new restrictions on large banks would constitute a win.”

Sure, that’s just one person’s opinion. There are a lot of other people who work for big banks on Wall Street and in Washington who are salivating right now, making perfectly clear they view this as the beginning of a larger assault on financial reform. But without our fight, they would be looking at a much easier path to more bank handouts.

We know that our job is going to get tougher in 2015. Mitch McConnell has been saying for months – both out in the public and in secret meetings with the Koch brothers – what his plan will be when Republicans take control of the Senate: use every trick and political game they can think of to undermine President Obama and grind the government's work to a halt.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to fight back for working families. To fight back for people who couldn’t get health insurance for years and don’t want Republicans to take their new insurance away. To fight back for Social Security and Medicare so seniors can retire with dignity. To fight back for the environment so our grandkids will be able to breathe the air and drink the water. To fight back for accountability and a level playing field so nobody steals your purse on Main Street, or your pension on Wall Street.

That’s why we’re here: To fight the big fights. We won’t always win, but darn it, we’re going to try.

I wanted to take a moment to say thank you. Thank you for your support, for your time, for your voice, and for your fight. We’re a team, you and I. I never forget that.

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Stop the Republicans' Wall Street giveaway

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People are frustrated with Congress. Part of the reason, of course, is gridlock. But mostly it’s because they see a Congress that works just fine for the big guys but won’t lift a finger to help them.

And now the House of Representatives is about to show us the worst of government for the rich and powerful.

The House is about to vote on a budget deal – a deal negotiated behind closed doors that slips in a provision that would let derivatives traders on Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money, and once again get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system.

These are the same banks that nearly broke this economy in 2008 and destroyed millions of jobs. The same banks that got bailed out by taxpayers and are now raking in record profits. The same banks that are spending a whole lot of time and money trying to influence Congress to bend the rules in their favor.

I’m urgently calling on Congress to withhold support of the deal today until this dangerous giveaway is removed from the legislation. Join me right now to stand up to Wall Street.

You will hear a lot of folks say that the rule that will be repealed in the Omnibus is technical and complicated, and that you shouldn’t worry about it because smart people who know more than you about financial issues say that it’s no big deal. Don’t believe them.

Actually, the rule is pretty simple. Here’s what it’s called – the rule that the House is about to repeal – and I’m quoting from the text of Dodd-Frank – “PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BAILOUTS OF SWAPS ENTITIES.”

We put this rule in place after the collapse of the financial system because we wanted to reduce the risk that reckless gambling on Wall Street could ever again threaten jobs and livelihoods on Main Street. We put this rule in place because people of all political persuasions were disgusted at the prospects of future bailouts.

And now, no debate, no discussion, Republicans in the House of Representatives are threatening to shut down the government if they don’t get a chance to repeal it.  

That raises a simple question – why? If this rule brings more stability to our financial system, if this rule prevents future government bailouts, why in the world would anyone want to repeal it, let alone hold the entire government hostage in order to ram through the repeal?

The reason, unfortunately, is simple. It’s about money, and it’s about power. Because while this legal change could pose serious risks to our entire economy, it’ll also make a lot of money for Wall Street banks.

Wall Street isn’t subtle about this one – according to documents reviewed by the New York Times, the original bill that is being incorporated into the House’s spending legislation today was literally written by Citigroup lobbyists, who “redrafted” the legislation, “striking out certain phrases and inserting others.”

I know that House and Senate negotiators from both parties have worked long and hard to come to an agreement on the omnibus spending legislation. And Senate leaders deserve great credit for preventing the House from carrying out some of their more aggressive fantasies about dismantling even more pieces of financial reform.

But this provision goes too far. Citigroup is large, and it is powerful. But it is a single, private company. It shouldn’t get to hold the entire government hostage – to threaten a government shutdown – in order to roll back important protections that keep our economy safe.

This is a democracy, and the American people didn’t elect us to stand up for Citigroup. They elected us to stand up for all of the people.

We all need to stand and fight this giveaway to the most powerful banks in the country. Join me in calling on Congress to withhold support of this package until this risky giveaway is removed from the legislation.

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I just spoke with Harry Reid

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I just left a Senate Democrats caucus meeting, and I wanted you to know: Harry Reid has asked me to serve as Strategic Policy Advisor to the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

That’s a fancy way of saying that I’ve been asked to join the Democratic leadership in helping decide how we can fight most effectively for the people who are counting on us.

I don’t kid myself. Life is about to get harder in the Senate when Republicans take over control, but this is a seat at the table for all of us – and that matters. It’s a seat at the table to fight for kids who are being crushed by student loan debt. Working moms and dads struggling to make it on minimum wage. Seniors who depend solely on their Social Security checks to keep a roof over their heads. And all of us who just want a level playing field and a fighting chance to succeed.

Washington is a tough place, and it’s not easy to make real, lasting changes. We all know that. But we also know it’s possible, and we know how much it matters. That’s why we’re going to keep fighting for what we believe in.

Thank you for being a part of this and making this possible.

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No matter what, we fight

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The polls just closed here in Massachusetts, and we're all expecting a long night as the results come in across the country. Before we find out the final tally, I wanted to take a moment to say a heartfelt thank you.

In 2012, you defied the odds, helping a first-time candidate raise money from more small donors than any Senate campaign in the history of this country. You've always had my back, and I've worked hard to always have yours.

But here's what I'm most proud about from that historic campaign: You didn't stop when the polls closed on November 6, 2012. You knew that this was never just about me – it's about fighting for what we believe in.

It's about standing up to the big banks when they break the law, and fighting to help our students getting crushed with debt. It's about protecting and expanding Social Security for our seniors, raising the minimum wage, and making sure women get equal pay for equal work and access to birth control.

It's also about fighting for candidates who will stand by our side in the U.S. Senate. This election cycle, our grassroots supporters pulled together to help raise an incredible $6 million for Democratic campaigns and committees across the country. You raised critical funds that our candidates needed if they were going to have a fighting chance against Karl Rove, the Koch Brothers, and all those Super PAC attack ads.

And it wasn't just about the money – it was about our values. I crisscrossed the country to 16 states to fight for the Democratic majority and to talk about who we are as a people, and what kind of country we want to be, and tens of thousands of you volunteered your time to knock on doors and make phone calls.  

We made this about our values and about our democracy. We worked hard to get people to the polls, to encourage those who are losing faith in the political process, to remind everyone that we have power when we vote.

The political pundits wrote us off weeks ago. Shoot, some of them wrote us off months ago. They said the map this year was just too tough – that Democrats should give up and not even try. But when we were up against the ropes, you just fought back harder. You fought for yourself, for your family, and for working families all across the country.   

Change is hard, especially when the playing field is tilted so far against us. But I know that if you don't fight, you can't win – and we fought for every last vote. No matter what happens tonight, be proud of what you've worked for. We're going to keep fighting every day to level the playing field for working families.

Scott Brown

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Back in 2012, New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen came to Massachusetts many times to talk to people about why we needed to beat Scott Brown and protect the Democratic majority in the Senate.

Never in a bazillion years did it cross my mind that Scott Brown would pack up and move to his vacation house in New Hampshire to run against our friend Jeanne. But that's exactly what happened – and with less than three weeks to go, the race is neck-and-neck.

That's why I'm going to New Hampshire next weekend to join Jeanne Shaheen, to make sure our neighbors know as much about Scott Brown's record as the voters of Massachusetts did when they decided to turn him out.

Sure, he's got outside money again – buckets of it – but we can send him a message: The same grassroots team that stopped Scott Brown in 2012 will stop him again in 2014.

If you can, please make a donation to Jeanne Shaheen's campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on the frontlines in New Hampshire.

Scott Brown may claim nowadays that he's a New Hampshire guy through and through, but you and I know that wherever he parks his truck, he's the same Scott Brown.

That's why I'm headed to New Hampshire – just to talk about at the facts – the record that Scott Brown ran up in the US Senate:

  • With nearly a quarter of a million people unemployed in Massachusetts – and thousands more out of work in New Hampshire, Scott Brown voted against three jobs bills.
  • With students struggling to get an education, Scott Brown voted to let the interest rates on student loans double and he voted for a budget to cut Pell Grants.
  • With climate change bearing down on us, Scott Brown voted to protect billions of dollars in subsidies for Big Oil – some of the most profitable companies on the planet.
  • With women struggling to help support their families, Scott Brown voted against equal pay for equal work. And just to make clear where he stands on women's issues, he cosponsored a bill to let employers deny women insurance coverage for birth control. And he voted against a pro-choice woman to the US Supreme Court.
  • With big banks crashing the economy, Scott Brown worked to weaken regulations to hold the big banks accountable and then was named to the Forbes list of Wall Street's favorite Congressmen.

I know one more thing about Scott Brown: We can beat him, and we can beat his powerful friends. We've done it before, and we can do it again.

Jeanne Shaheen is working her heart out, and I'm working my heart out for her too, but we can't do this alone: If you can, please give Jeanne and the DSCC the same incredible support you showed our campaign in 2012.

Jeanne has shown me what it's like to be tough, to be strong, and to fight for what you believe in. Now it's our turn to fight for Jeanne.

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I'm going to campaign with Mark Udall, Al Franken and Bruce Braley

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We know what's at stake if we lose the Democratic majority in the Senate.

    • Two years of a Senate that takes vote after vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, weaken the rules on Wall Street, and regulate women's bodies like it's 1954.
    • Two years of a Senate not just filibustering bills on raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, and student loan reform – but refusing to let them be considered at all.
    • Two years of a Senate that fights tooth and nail against any of the President's nominees to the Supreme Court.
    • Two years of a Senate that cuts back further on the critical investments for our future – and uses intimidation tactic after intimidation tactic to stall the Administration and rig the system for the rich and powerful.

We know exactly what's at stake for working families if we lose the Democratic majority. That's why we've pulled hard together, so that our team has already stepped up to raise over $6 million for Democratic candidates and committees this election cycle. It's also why I've criss-crossed the country this year to 15 different states to fight for our Democratic Senate and gubernatorial candidates with everything I've got.

And that's why, with just 22 days to go until the election, I've decided this week to go back to Colorado and Minnesota for Mark Udall and Al Franken, and to go to Iowa for Bruce Braley. Simply put, we need all three of them to win on November 4th – and I'm willing to do whatever it takes.

I'm fighting my heart out to win in Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa, and states across the country to protect the Democratic majority, but I'm hoping you can help too. I know many of you have already helped out many times – and we're all grateful – but if you can help again, please donate directly to Mark Udall, Al Franken, and Bruce Braley's campaigns right now.

On the key issues about fighting for working families – about whether or not this government works for everyone or only for the big guys who have already made it – I know down to my toes that our Democratic candidates are in this together.

 And right now we need to be all in this together for Al, Mark, and Bruce:

    • In Minnesota, some polls show Al Franken's lead may be slipping down to single digits in the final days of this campaign. I'm going to Minnesota because Al won his last election by only 312 votes, and no one's taking anything for granted.
    • In Colorado, one poll shows Mark Udall up by three points, and another shows him down by six to extreme conservative Cory Gardner. I'm going to Colorado to remind everyone that this election is about whose side you stand on, and Mark Udall stands with women and families.
    • And in Iowa, Democratic congressman Bruce Braley is statistically tied with one of the most radical Republicans running for office this year, Joni Ernst. I'm going to Iowa because Bruce Braley shares our values – and working families can't afford to have Ernst's reckless and dangerous agenda strengthened in the United States Senate.  

I'm doing what I can to talk to people about why this election is so important, but it takes a lot of us pulling together. If you can, please donate directly to Mark, Al, and Bruce's campaigns now. Together, we can make a difference.

This election has been a real fight – and it's going to stay a real fight for the last three weeks of this campaign.

But if doing everything we can for 22 days means we'll be able to spend the next two years pressing forward in our fight to give just a little bit of relief to single moms struggling on minimum wage, or to college students getting crushed with loans, or to women who just want access to birth control, then I'm ready for that fight.

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That vote was important

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The Republicans filibustered our student loans bill earlier this year, voting to keep interest rates high on student loans so that they could protect tax loopholes for billionaires. Now it is election time, and it's time for a little accountability.  

And it is happening in states like New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, and Kentucky.

Alison Lundergan Grimes, Jeff Merkley, Kay Hagan, and Jeanne Shaheen all have campaign ads focusing on our student loans fight:

Take a look at all of these ads, but more importantly share them with your friends. Post them on Facebook. Tweet them. Email them.

Even if you don't live in Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon, or New Hampshire, let people know that November's election – and control of the Senate – has consequences for millions of people getting crushed with student loan debt.

Every Democrat, every independent, and even three Republicans voted to move our Bank on Students bill forward this year. We're only two votes short.

If we protect our Democratic senators like Jeanne Shaheen, Jeff Merkley, and Kay Hagan – and elect strong challengers like Alison Lundergan Grimes – we move one step closer to giving our students and families some relief. That's why I'm fighting my heart out to protect the Democratic majority this November.

The Senate Republicans have made it clear whose side they stand on. They'd rather protect the special tax loopholes for millionaires and billionaires, while our government makes literally billions of dollars in profit off of the backs of our students. That is deeply wrong – and it's up to us to fight back.   

There's a clear choice in this election – but people across the country need to hear that message, too.

Our fights are making a real difference, not only in Washington but also in states across the country. Let's keep fighting for the last four weeks of this election.

I'm calling their bluff

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The excuses have started. Once again, the Republicans blocked a vote on our student loans bill – and now that they are about to head home to face voters, they are pouring out the excuses.

Excuse #1:  Some Republicans say that the benefit of letting people refinance their student loans is too small. Too small? Tell that to young people with 8%, 10%, even 12% interest rates (and higher on some of the private loans). They could save hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars on their excessive student loan payments each year.

But if the Republicans really think the benefit of the bill is too small, I'll call their bluff. I'm all for finding ways to give our students an even bigger break.

Excuse #2:  Some Republicans say that the $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt just isn't a big deal – that we should be focused on the rising costs of college instead. Yes, the rising cost of college is a terrible problem – and we need to stop it – but that doesn't mean we shouldn't do anything for the millions of people who already went to school and are being crushed by debt.

But if the Republicans really want to do more, I'll call their bluff. Let's work together to do even more to help our students. I'm ready.

Excuse #3:  Some Republicans don't like that the bill is paid for by closing the tax loopholes for millionaires and billionaires and making them pay their fair share.

But if the Republicans' only problem with the bill is how it's paid for, I'll call their bluff. If they have ideas on other ways to pay for it, we're eager to listen.

Excuse #4:  Some Republicans – including Mitch McConnell – went so far as to say that Democrats don't really want this bill to pass. Really? That's just plain ridiculous. Only in Washington can you vote against something, and then when it doesn't pass, blame the people who voted for it.

Excuses. Excuses. But they don't fool anyone. They don't fool each of you who signed our petitions, made phone calls, posted on Facebook and tweeted asking for a vote.

This isn't complicated. It's a choice – a choice that raises a fundamental question about who the United States Senate works for. Does it work for those who can hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists to protect tax loopholes for billionaires and profits for the big banks? Or does it work for those who work hard, play by the rules, and are trying to build a future for themselves and their families?

This fight isn't over. Millions of Americans are getting crushed in student loan debt, while the rich and powerful hang on tight to their tax loopholes. When the choice is between billionaires and students, I know which side I'm on, and I'm going to keep hitting back.

The tax code is rigged

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Huge corporations hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists to create, expand, and protect every last corporate loophole.

That's how we end up with a tax code that makes teachers and bus drivers and small business owners pay, but that allows some huge American corporations to make billions of dollars and not pay a single dime in taxes.

Simply put, the tax code is rigged.

Apparently, even this rigged game doesn't go far enough for some corporations. Those companies are taking advantage of a new move: a loophole that allows them to maintain all their operations in America, but claim foreign citizenship so they can cut their US taxes even further.

That means American companies can hire a bunch of lawyers and Wall Street bankers, fill out some paperwork, and dodge their US taxes.

Tax lawyers call this process a "corporate inversion." But don't let that bland name fool you – these companies are renouncing their American citizenship, turning their backs on this country, simply to boost their profits.

If a person did that, we'd call them a freeloader and insist that they pay their fair share. And that's exactly what our tax laws do for people who renounce their American citizenship. But when corporations do it, they don't suffer any consequences at all.

Forget whether corporations are people – in this corner of the tax code, we're treating corporations better than people.  

That's not right. That's why I've teamed up with Senator Levin and more than a dozen of our Democratic colleagues to introduce the Stop Corporate Inversions Act. The bill is simple: it allows American corporations to renounce their citizenship only if they truly give up control of their company to a foreign corporation and truly move their operations overseas.

Sign up now to show your support for the Stop Corporate Inversions Act. Let's make giant corporations pay their fair share.

In Massachusetts and across the country, we invest in public education to produce millions of skilled workers. We invest in infrastructure, in our roads and bridges and ports, making it easier for our companies to move products to market. We invest in scientific and medical research, giving our companies access to the most innovative and cutting-edge technologies.

America is a great place to do business because of the investments we have made together. We invest together to make America a place where any kid will have a chance to come up with an idea and turn it into the next great American company.

The companies that are pursuing these corporate inversions know all of this. That's why they are not actually leaving America behind. They just don't want to pay for it.

Sign up now to show your support for the Stop Corporate Inversions Act to close the loopholes for giant corporations.

Our achievements aren't magic. They didn't simply happen on their own or through dumb luck. America works – our government works – our democracy works – because we all pitch in and do our part to build the things that none of us can build alone. The things that give everyone a chance to succeed.

We've had enough of rich corporations taking whatever they want and expecting everyone else to pick up the pieces. The time for freeloading is over.

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It worked

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Not long ago, I was at a McDonald's when a man came over, held out his hand and said he had been having trouble with a fee his bank had charged. It wasn't huge, but he said the bank should not have charged him. He called and argued, talked with customer relations, asked to speak to a manager -- and he got a big, fat zero.

Then he said he remembered about the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and told the bank he would file a complaint. They put him on hold and then came back and said they would reverse the fee. The agency worked.

Today is the fourth anniversary of Dodd-Frank, the law that established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- and the third anniversary of the date the CFPB became an independent agency. And in those three years, the agency has done a lot to help level the playing field:

  • The CFPB has forced big financial companies to return more than $4 billion dollars to consumers they cheated.
  • The CFPB has put in place rules to protect consumers from a whole host of dangerous financial products and to make sure that companies can't issue the kinds of deceptive mortgages that contributed to millions of foreclosures.
  • The CFPB has helped tens of thousands of consumers resolve complaints against financial institutions that cheated them. 

Sure, there is a lot of financial reform work left undone. The big banks today are dramatically bigger than they were in 2008 and they are taking on new risks, and I think that means we need a 21st Century Glass-Steagall law to break them up. But I celebrate the progress we've had so far: When big banks have to listen to their customers a little more, the playing field starts to level out just a little bit more.    

The big banks spent more than a million dollars a day lobbying against financial reforms, and top lobbyists said that killing off the consumer agency was their number one priority.  Even now, the Republicans continue the attack, introducing bills that would take the legs out from under the agency.

We didn't have the lobbying muscle or the money that the big banks had. But we got that agency because we fought for it. We joined forces online and through groups, and we made our voices heard. And now, after three years, it's starting to work.

I smiled at the guy who said he got his money back. I smiled because I love to hear how the CFPB works. But mostly I smiled because it reminded me of what we can do when we fight.  

Happy anniversary!

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