Puerto Rico needs our help

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Over the weekend, I spoke with the Mayor of San Juan – Carmen Yulín Cruz – and told her to keep up her heroic work and leadership for the people of Puerto Rico.

But Puerto Rico’s leaders don’t need thanks. They need help.

US citizens are dying and people need basic medical care now. On Friday, I met with people from Worcester, Springfield, Holyoke, and other cities and towns in Massachusetts. They are desperately worried about their loved ones in Puerto Rico.

Congress must take up an emergency appropriations bill to help the people of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands – and Donald Trump must do a heck of a lot more than bully the disaster victims who are begging for help. But while we wait for the Trump Administration and Republicans who control Congress to step up and do their jobs, you can help the people of Puerto Rico right now.

Please make a donation to local charities on the ground in Puerto Rico to help their emergency response and long-term recovery efforts. Even $5 can help make a difference in this emergency. 

Long before the hurricane, Puerto Rico was in crisis. For more than a decade, the island has been under enormous economic pressure.

Puerto Rico has been at the mercy of so-called "vulture funds" - Wall Street hedge funds that wait until a borrower is in trouble to buy up their debt at a steep discount. Vulture funds don’t care about the well-being of the island or of the Americans who live there. They just want to squeeze the Puerto Rican government for every penny they can.

In 2015 and 2016, I urged the Treasury Department to do as much for the struggling people of Puerto Rico as they did for the Wall Street big shots that they bailed out in 2008. I traveled to Puerto Rico and met with the governor, other top officials, the Archbishop, unions, and local citizens in the territory to discuss a long-term plan for the island. They described the unfolding disaster due to the debt crisis: closed hospitals, shuttered schools, and difficulty finding work. I’ll never forget how furious it made me that these US citizens were suffering because of our federal government’s indifference.

Now Puerto Rico faces an existential crisis – and with every day that passes, I’m more outraged that the federal government isn’t doing much, much more to help. We’re using every tool in the toolbox to push the Trump Administration and Congress to step up. And we’re working with Puerto Rican leaders to do everything we can to hold back the creditors and make sure the federal relief aid goes to the people – not the hedge funds.

We don't have time to play petty partisan politics. The people of Puerto Rico need help right now.

Please donate now to local charities in Puerto Rico to fund their emergency response and long-term recovery efforts. This is a matter of life or death.


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They might have the votes to repeal health care

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The Republicans want you to believe that their plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act is dead. They want to slip in below the radar and take one more run at repealing health care coverage for millions of Americans.

Here’s the reason they are moving now: Senate Republicans have until September 30th to repeal the Affordable Care Act with only 50 votes.

And here’s the scary fact: They just might have the votes to do it.

The Cassidy-Graham bill that the Republicans pulled out of the trash is their worst “health care” bill yet.

  • It guts funding for Medicaid – so if you need a nursing home or your baby is born with complex medical needs, you’re on your own.
  • It rolls back protections for people with pre-existing conditions – so if you have a heart attack or get a cancer diagnosis, too bad.
  • And it completely eliminates help for families to buy health insurance – so if you can’t afford health insurance, good luck out there.

Make no mistake: This Cassidy-Graham “health care” bill is Trumpcare on steroids – and millions of Americans will lose their health care if the Republicans pass this piece of garbage in the next 11 days.

Remember everything you did to stop the Republicans from repealing the Affordable Care Act seven weeks ago? We need you to do it again.

  • Share your story again about why the Affordable Care Act or Medicaid matters to you or someone you love. Email it to your friends and family. Post it on Facebook or Twitter. Take a photo or record a video on your phone.
  • Our Senate Democrats are still united against this bill – but if you have family or friends who live in a state with a Republican senator, make sure they know what’s happening to health care this week. Call, text, email, message – check in and then spread the word.
  • Join a group. If you belong to an organization that has been fighting to save the Affordable Care Act, keep your eyes peeled. If you don’t belong to a group, find one. Organizations will be holding events, making calls, sharing content, and keeping people informed about what’s going on. Two voices are more than twice as powerful as one. Ten voices are more than ten times as powerful. And thousands – even millions – of voices working together can stop this ugly bill. Don’t delete all those emails.

I know we thought this was over. I know we worked hard and thought Republicans had gotten the message. But they are giving it one more try, and that means we’ve got to jump back in the fight. Health care for millions of Americans hangs in the balance, so we need to get out there and fight one more time.

Let’s kill this Republican “health care” bill once and for all.

Thanks for being a part of this,


I'm co-sponsoring Bernie's Medicare for All bill

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When the Republicans tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act and gut Medicaid, I heard from parents all across Massachusetts who were terrified about what it would mean for their children.

One message kept hitting home: If the government hadn’t been there to help, these hard-working moms and dads would have been forced to pick between the health of their child and financial ruin. Their families would have been destroyed.

There is something fundamentally wrong when one of the richest and most powerful countries on the planet can’t make sure that a person can afford to see a doctor when they’re sick. This isn’t any way to live.  

I believe it’s time to take a step back and ask: what is the best way to deliver high quality, low cost health care to all Americans? Everything should be on the table – and that’s why I’m co-sponsoring Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill that will be introduced later this month.

Health care is a basic human right – and it’s time to fight for it. Please join me in signing on as a citizen co-sponsor of Medicare for All.

My own family plunged deep into debt when my daddy had a heart attack. My parents paid on those bills for years. Years later, as a bankruptcy law professor, I studied why working families were going broke. Through interviews and court documents, my research partners and I showed that most people who file for bankruptcy looked a lot like my family.

The overwhelming majority had once been solidly middle class – and about half had filed for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious medical problem. And here was the kicker: about three-quarters of them had health insurance – but it just wasn’t enough. Medical bankruptcy was crushing millions of American families.

The Affordable Care Act changed everything – and President Obama deserves tremendous credit. Consider what health care reforms have accomplished:

  • Insurance companies are barred from denying people with preexisting conditions
  • The caps on insurance coverage are gone so help doesn’t run out after a few chemo treatments or a long hospital stay
  • Young people can stay on their parents' insurance until age 26
  • Small business get tax breaks for providing health care
  • Insurance companies can no longer discriminate against women

We owe a huge debt to President Obama. Because of the Affordable Care Act, health care coverage is better – more people can get the treatment they need and families are less vulnerable to the financial fallout from a serious illness or accident. Senate Democrats will keep doing everything we can to stop Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and the Republicans from rolling back these gains. They are too important for all of us.

But there’s so much more we could do right now to bring down the costs of quality health care for every American. We could start by ending health insurance company price gouging – ending high deductibles, surprise bills, and endless fights with insurance companies over coverage for critical medical procedures or out-of-pocket costs. We could also cut the cost of prescription drugs by importing drugs from Canada, where the same prescription can sometimes cost far less than in the US. Bipartisan improvements are possible – in fact, just a few weeks ago, President Trump signed my bill with Republican Chuck Grassley to make hearing aids more affordable by allowing certain hearing aids to be sold over the counter.

Medicare for All is one way that we can give every single person in the country access to high quality health care. Everyone is covered. Nobody goes broke paying a medical bill. Families don’t have to bear the costs of heartbreaking medical disasters on their own.

The American people have made it clear that they believe health care is a basic human right – but it will be a tough fight. The giant insurance and drug companies will send out their army of lobbyists to fight our Medicare for All bill every step of the way. Sign up now to join our fight and become a citizen co-sponsor of Medicare for All and fight back.

Wells Fargo's Board should be removed

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Last year, Wells Fargo got caught creating 2.1 million fake bank accounts and credit card accounts using their customers’ names and credit information without permission.

Last month, Wells Fargo got caught charging 800,000 people for auto insurance they did not want or need.  

And just yesterday, we’ve learned that the fake accounts scandal was even worse than we thought. Wells Fargo just “discovered” an additional 1.4 million fake accounts that they had created since 2009. Unbelievable.

The Department of Justice and SEC should conduct a thorough criminal and civil investigation of Wells Fargo’s practices during this scandal, and any senior executive who broke the law should be held responsible. I’ve also asked Senate Republicans to hold a September hearing with Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan and current Board of Directors Chair Stephen Sanger.

But the Federal Reserve has its own authority to hold Wells Fargo’s board accountable right now – it just needs the courage to do it.

Join me in calling on the Federal Reserve to immediately remove all 12 Wells Fargo board members who served during the fake accounts scandal.

Oversight – including adequate safeguards to prevent fraud – is the job of the Board of Directors of a bank. But Wells Fargo’s Board of Directors did almost nothing as the bank’s employees opened 3.5 million fake accounts to meet their impossible sales quotas. Either the Board knew or the Board fumbled their job so badly that they didn’t know – but either way, they bear responsibility.

More than 5,000 lower-level employees got fired, but not one of those board members lost their jobs. That’s our screwed up corporate accountability system in a nutshell.

The Federal Reserve has the power to remove a bank’s board members if they “engaged or participated in any unsafe or unsound practice” that caused the bank to “suffer financial loss” and demonstrated “continuing disregard… for the safety or soundness” of that institution.   

This is a clear-cut case for the Federal Reserve to use its authority to remove the Wells Fargo Board of Directors. The board failed to monitor the conduct of management and ignored many red flags about the fake accounts scandal. The result was a massive fraud that hurt Wells Fargo customers and damaged the bank’s reputation.

Enough is enough: It’s time for Wells Fargo to be held accountable for cheating its customers and breaking the law. Tell the Fed to remove Wells Fargo’s board members who served during this scandal.

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They are wrong

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Since Election Day, so-called “strategists” have said that Democrats need to choose whether we’re the party of the white working class or the party of Black Lives Matter.

They are wrong. I say we can care about a dad who’s worried that his kid will have to move away from their factory town to find good work – and we can care about a mom who’s worried that her kid will get shot during a traffic stop.

We shouldn’t be wasting energy arguing about whose issue matters most or who in our alliance should be voted off the island. What Democrats really need is some backbone to get in the fight for working families – to be strong when we lay out a plan to make this country work for the people instead of the powerful.

This month, I spoke to thousands of progressive grassroots organizers about how we pick sides and fight for our values. I wanted to make sure you had a chance to watch this speech and share it with your Facebook friends.

We don’t have to tip-toe around what we believe in. We don’t have to hedge our bets. We don’t have to ask permission from the pundits or the corporate CEOs – and we sure don’t have to ask permission from Mitch McConnell.

When we’re bold enough to stand up for our values, when we’re bold enough to stand up for our fellow Americans, that’s when we ARE powerful.

This fight is my fight – and this fight is our fight. So let’s go win it.

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Nevertheless, we persist.

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Six months ago tonight, I went to the Senate floor to speak out about Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General – Jeff Sessions.

Nobody wanted to talk about the fact that President Trump had nominated a man that both Democrats and Republicans had decided was too racist to become a federal judge in the 1980s. So I went to the Senate floor to read an old letter from Coretta Scott King. She knew about the way former US State Attorney for Alabama Jeff Sessions had intimidated and prosecuted civil rights workers for helping elderly black citizens to vote, and I wanted the Senate to hear what she’d had to say.

Mrs. King wrote of African-American families visited repeatedly by the FBI. Of people pressured to change their testimony. Of elderly black men and women herded onto buses and driven 180 miles to appear before a grand jury. She talked about fear and the toll it took on people. And she said that Sessions had “used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.”

Every senator voting for Jeff Sessions and every person in America needed to hear that letter. When Mitch McConnell threw me out of the Senate for reading it, I was shocked. It wasn’t just my voice that was being silenced. No, Coretta Scott King was silenced.

And just to be clear: Mitch McConnell wasn’t the only person who tried to silence me that night. I appealed his decision, so the whole Senate got to vote. Every single Republican in the Senate chamber that night voted to censure me. Not one of them wanted to talk about why Jeff Sessions was a problem.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a problem – and I’m still talking about it:

  • He supported the Texas voter ID law – the strictest voter ID in the country, meant to stop African Americans and Latinos from voting.
  • He reversed the Obama Administration directive to stop using predatory, for-profit private prisons.
  • He reinstated the failed “War on Drugs” with harsh mandatory minimum sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses.
  • He rolled back investigations of police departments that commit civil rights violations.
  • He announced a probe on college admissions programs to twist and distort federal civil rights laws.
  • He promised to withhold federal funding to cities with immigration policies he doesn’t like.

But here’s the deal: When Mitch McConnell and every one of his Republican colleagues kicked me off the Senate floor that night, he didn’t silence me, or Mrs. King, or anyone else. In fact, they made us louder. I went outside to the hallway, pulled out a phone, and read Mrs. King’s letter online. Over the next few days, tens of millions of people heard – or read – Coretta Scott King’s words.

I never expected anything that happened on the Senate floor that night. I never expected “Nevertheless, She Persisted” to become a meme, a t-shirt slogan, a tattoo, or a rallying cry for people all across this country who are tired of being told to sit down and shut up.

This fight isn’t about me – it’s about all of us. This is our moment in history. Not the moment we wanted, but the moment we are called to. Donald Trump may call us names. Mitch McConnell might tell us to sit down and shut up. But we will not give up and go home.

We will resist. We will persist. And we will win.

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The nightmare is over (for now)

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While much of America was asleep last night, the Senate Republicans voted on a bill to rip health care away from 16 million people. They voted, they voted and finally they failed.

When my head finally hit the pillow at 3:30 am, I slept a little better. I slept better – knowing that everyone else can sleep a little better too.

  • The millions of people who were going to lose their health care coverage under the Republicans’ “skinny repeal” bill can keep their coverage – and sleep a little better.
  • Everyone with private health insurance whose costs were going to skyrocket at least 20% under the Republicans’ “skinny repeal” bill won’t see the Republican spike – and can sleep a little better.
  • Everyone who depends on Planned Parenthood for basic medical care can sleep a little better. 
  • And everyone who simply cares about the health and security of their family, friends, neighbors – their fellow human beings – can sleep a little better.

The energy inside the Capitol a few hours ago didn’t come from senators like me. It came from people like you. People who made calls, sent letters and emails, attended town halls, organized a protest, posted and tweeted stories, and spoke out to their friends and neighbors. Your work made a difference.

Please celebrate. Have an extra coffee today. Do a little dance. Hug someone you love.

But don’t let down your guard – not all the way. Mitch McConnell can reintroduce another “health care” bill at any moment. Who knows what sort of scheme he’s working on with Speaker Paul Ryan right this minute.

People like McConnell and Ryan, people who are willing to take away health care from millions of Americans will be with us for a long time, so we have to be vigilant.  But please, enjoy this moment.

THANK YOU. You make these victories possible. We really and truly couldn’t do it without you.

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Life gets better, punkin.

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From the time I was in second grade, I wanted to be a teacher. But our family was a paycheck-to-paycheck family. By the time I was a senior in high school, we didn’t have the money for a college application, much less the money to send me off to school. I was sixteen, angry and miserable.

After one especially bitter battle with my mother, I threw some clothes in a bag and ran out of the house. Hours later, Daddy found me on a bench at the bus station downtown. He sat down beside me, and asked if I remembered the time after his heart attack.

I remembered. I’d been 12 years old, and I’d seen how fast a family could be turned upside down.

Daddy said it was the worst time in his life. Worse than when the doctors thought the lumps on his neck were cancer. Worse than when his best friend died. Worse than when he was in a terrible car crash and smashed through the windshield and tore his shoulder open.

“Your mother was at home when they took the station wagon,” he said in a low voice. “And then they said they were going to take the house. She cried every night.”

He paused for a long time. “I just couldn’t face it.”

Sitting there on the bench in the bus station, he told me that he had failed and that the shame had nearly killed him. He wanted to die.

What happened? I asked.

Daddy sat silently for a long time, caught somewhere in his memories of those awful days. He still didn’t look at me. Finally, he took my hand in both of his and held it tightly.

It got better, he said. Your mother found work. We made some payments. After a while, I went back to work. We had less money, but it was enough to get by. We got caught up on the mortgage. You seemed to do okay.

Finally he turned and looked at me. “Life gets better, punkin.”

And he was right.  Daddy and I headed home.  It was a winding path, but I eventually made it through college and started teaching school.  And once one door opened, so did another and another.  Life got better.

I’ve carried that story in my pocket for decades. It was how I made it through the painful parts. Divorce. Disappointments. Deaths. When things get tough, I still hear my daddy’s voice, telling me to hang on.  It’s a part of him that will always be with me.

Happy Father’s Day to all the daddies who are trying their hardest.  Happy Father’s Day to every daddy who sets the example every day of what it means to care for the people you love. Happy Father’s Day to every daddy who tells a child, “Life gets better, punkin.”  

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There is no bubble world

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When Washington works for the rich and powerful, everyone feels it.

Kicking 23 million people off their health insurance doesn’t matter so much to those who can still afford to see any doctor they want. Gutting Head Start and public education doesn’t sting the same way for those who can afford to send their kids to fancy private schools.

But there is no bubble world or alternative planet for the rich and powerful to hide from the devastating impact of climate change.

Since taking office, President Trump and his team have given one handout after another to Big Oil and Big Coal at the expense of hardworking families. Trump may be happy to ignore science, abandon America’s leadership role in the world, and sell out to a handful of giant corporations and ideological extremists, but we must do better. A heck of a lot better.

Join me now to condemn President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Accord climate agreement.

If we stop handing out massive tax breaks to subsidize the dirty fossil fuels of the past – some of the most profitable corporations in the world – and invest now in a 21st century energy system, we can create good, clean energy jobs and lower the costs of production for all of our businesses. We can protect our national treasures that are essential for jobs and economic growth in the tourism industry. We can help deal with public health crises like asthma and lung cancer. We can put our national security first by not being beholden to OPEC or entangled with foreign dictators.

And, yes: we can try to save the planet for our children and grandchildren.

President Trump can bury his head in the sand, but the rest of us aren’t going to bend so easily. The character of this country isn’t determined by its President – but by its people.

Sign up now to condemn President Trump’s Paris decision.

Yesterday was a bad day for our country. A really bad day. And it’s one more reason we must all be in the fight. We’ve got to be effective, we’ve got to be focused, and we’ve got to make change in Washington.

We have a moral duty to fight.

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Morally bankrupt

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Speaker of the House Paul Ryan says that Donald Trump’s new budget is “right on the target.”

That’s all you need to know about just how devastating Trump’s budget will be for working families in Massachusetts and across this country.

It’s obscene:

  • $5 billion in cuts to public education
  • $73 billion in cuts to Social Security
  • $191 billion in cuts to food stamps
  • $610 billion in cuts to Medicaid (and that's in addition to the $880 billion the House Republicans are slashing in their so-called "health care" bill)

Those are just a few of the highlights. What else gets cut? Money for children’s health care, money to combat the opioid epidemic, money for medical research, money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and so much more.  

This budget is “right on the target” only if the target is to sucker-punch kids, seniors, the poor and the sick. If the Republicans make good on this budget, they could deliver the final blow to America’s working families.

I know we’re just getting back from a holiday weekend, but take a sec for something that matters. Take our pledge to fight this Trump-Ryan budget with everything you’ve got. The people who will get hit by this budget don’t have time for you to wait.

We don’t build a future by ripping health care away from tens of millions of people. We don’t build a future by starving education, by letting our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, and by shutting down the big pipeline of medical and scientific research in this country.

We build a future by making the investments in ourselves and all of our people – so the next kid can get ahead, and the kid after that, and the kid after that. We’ve done this before in our country, and we can do it again.

Budgets aren’t just about dollars and cents. Budgets are about our values, and this budget is morally bankrupt. Sign up now to pledge to fight the Trump-Ryan budget in the weeks ahead.

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