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Learn Whether and When to Freak Out Over Bills Moving Through Congress

This OTYCD entry originally posted in February 2017.

Learn whether and when to freak out over bills moving through Congress.

A while back, various corners of the internet whipped themselves into a minor freakout over H.R. 193, a bill that, if passed, would withdraw the United States from the United Nations.

In this Medium post, former Congressional aide Emily Ellsworth explains why H.R. 193 won’t go anywhere, and shows you how to spot the bills that could become laws.

To summarize her points:

No more than three percent of all bills became laws during the last four Congressional sessions.

Members of Congress introduce bills for lots of reasons, and making law isn’t necessarily one of them. They’re just as likely to offer a bill to:


Look productive

Roust their base

Please activists

Generate headlines back home


She offers three tools for following legislation that matters to you, and schooling yourself on them before you call your members of Congress about them:


Also, when looking at a bill’s prospects to become law, keep these thoughts in mind:

How many times has the bill been introduced before without going anywhere? If the answer is “a whole honking lot,” it’ll probably stall this time too.

Bills get referred to relevant Congressional committees. Do the bill’s sponsors and cosponsors actually sit on the right committee? If not, its chances aren’t that great.

Is the timing right? A bill that has to do with Standing Rock and the pipeline under construction will probably get more traction now than a general environmental bill.

How well does the bill suit the broader plans of the majority party? Congressional leaders will likely prioritize those.


…And this is where we at OTYCD feel compelled to admit a possible mistake.

About 10 days ago we wrote a blog post asking you to oppose H.R. 490, a bill that would ban abortion upon detection of a heartbeat. Its sponsor, Iowa Republican Steve King, dubbed it the Heartbeat Protection Act of 2017.

While it is a legitimate bill and King evidently hasn’t introduced something like it in previous sessions of Congress, it’s likely to wither and die. As of February 4, the site says it has yet to be referred to a committee, and the Govtrack summary of the bill cites Predictgov odds of passage at 4 percent.

We will continue to watch this house bill and other bills of interest, but we admit (and, frankly, hope) H.R. 490 may well go nowhere.

See the summary of H.R. 490:

See the OTYCD post on H.R. 490:




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Fight the GOP Tax Bill, December 7 Edition (Now With the Names of the Senate Tax Conference Committee)

Keep fighting the GOP tax bill, as you have been doing for the past several weeks. This post contains actions that will work for Thursday, December 7. (Much of this worked the past few days, too. If you saw those posts, you will notice there are updates but not many changes here. Keep calling, keep fighting, recruit your friends and family to do the same, and also do something to assist Doug Jones’s Alabama Senate campaign. Thanks)

First, let’s talk about where we are. If the bill hasn’t traveled to the Rose Garden, we still have time to stop it.

It’s not there yet. We can still stop it.

Now, fighting back.


There might be a GOP Tax Scam protest near you. Check this link to find out: is leading an effort to encourage constituents to drop by the offices of their members of Congress to speak to them directly about the effects of the GOP tax bill. Learn more at this link:


The Senate has chosen its lineup for the Tax Conference Committee. They will represent the Senate when trying to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the GOP tax bill.

If any of these Republicans are your senators, it is super-extra-important for you to call and make your opposition known.

Orrin Hatch of Utah

Mike Enzi of Wyoming

Lisa Murkowski of Alaska

John Cornyn of Texas

John Thune of South Dakota

Rob Portman of Ohio

Tim Scott of South Carolina

Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania


In her December 6 update on fighting the GOP tax bill, Celeste Pewter (@Celeste_Pewter) offered talking points that you can use with friends, family, and co-workers:

8. Here are talking points you can include in any contact you share w/ friends/family/colleagues. Key point is that the impact on the deficit could eventually result in cuts in entitlement programs.


Andy Slavitt (@aslavitt) tweeted the following updated analysis of the tax bill situation on December 5:

Here’s what I’ve picked up on tax bill…. 2/

House has named their conference. Tomorrow [December 6] the Senate will name their members. Heard they are deadset on finishing the tax bill by 12/18.3/

Collins gave her vote in good faith for a lot of promises from WH/Ryan/McConnell.4/

The House is now saying no 2 Murray-Alexander, no to reinsurance & maybe to stopping the automatic Medicare cuts.5/

But they want the conference report out and voted on before the CR and all its complexity (DACA, CHIP) needs to be passed (with 60).6/

The current plan is to adopt the Senate approach to the ACA— leave in ending the mandate: see if Collins blinks & one more joins her.7/

One thing I’ve learned is never give up until it’s over and then make them drag you off the field. Then get back on as soon as possible.


Celeste Pewter, as always, will have news and actions faster than anyone.

We’ve been telling you for weeks and weeks and weeks to follow her. If for some odd reason you haven’t yet, best get on that:


She has the best instructions on what to do today. We’re going to cut and paste her December 4 tweets below. Again, all credit goes to @Celeste_Pewter for this.


Names of conference committee members for the slowly coming out. If you’re repped by: Kevin Brady (TX) Devin Nunes (CA) Peter Roskam (IL) Diane Black (TN) Kristi Noem (SD) Take note.


Yes, I rolled my eyes at this list too. It’s a pretty awful one. But if you’re repped by them, you’re now in a unique position to sound off on GOP House’s efforts for this bill. Take. advantage. of. it.

[Note from us: In other words, Pewter means that if any of these folks named in the tweet or in the Hill story are your House reps, it’s extra-important that you call and make your voice heard.]

Interrupting this string of Celeste Pewter tweets to insert a tweet from Scott Wong that gives the full list of nine House reps chosen for the task. Again, if they represent you, CALL CALL CALL:

NEWS: expected to name the following GOP conferees for tax negotiations: 1. Chairman Kevin Brady (TX) 2. Devin Nunes (CA) 3. Peter Roskam (IL) 4. Diane Black (TN) 5. Kristi Noem (SD) 6. Rob Bishop (UT) 7. Don Young (AK) 8. Greg Walden (OR) 9. John Shimkus (IL)

[Back to Pewter. At 7:30 pm EST she tweeted:]

In other words, yes – the House voted to go to conference. The Senate is expected to vote on the same this week. Your job: continue calling electeds from both chambers on why this tax bill harms you, and push them to strip as many of the egregious amendments as possible.


I realize it feels like we’re doing the same thing over and over, but GOP leadership in both chambers are counting on: 1. All the other ongoing issues (e.g. CR demands/potential shutdown), 2. the holidays, distracting you. Keep it up, and let them feel our fury.


This last tweet of Pewter’s brings up a good point. 2017 has been exhausting, and it has demanded a lot of you. If you’re feeling frayed, get rest. Coming up with and sticking to a self-care routine is one of the most important things you can do. Literally. We say so right here:

Don’t skip on rest breaks, folks. We need you here to carry on the fight. Every last one of you. For serious.


Another point, just for our friends in Maine: Senator Susan Collins says she voted yes in exchange for specific conditions.

Well, Topher Spiro (@topherspiro) tweeted on December 4:

BREAKING: The 3 big promises got will NOT be done before the final vote on the tax bill. The bill to keep the govt open does NOT include Alexander-Murray, reinsurance, or waiver of Medicare cuts.

And also see this piece from the Daily Beast, which notes that Mitch McConnell gave his colleague Jeff Flake promises that the House of Representatives might torpedo:

If you are a constituent of Collins’s or Flake’s, now is the time to melt their phone lines with requests to ultimately vote no on this sorry mess of a bill.


And here also is a string of tweets that the aforementioned Andy Slavitt (@aslavitt) sent on the night of December 4 that sheds light on things:

What’s going on with the tax bill and ACA repeal component? I will catch you up on what I’m hearing shortly. Follow if interested.

Will also include update on CHIP. In I Hiram today where they are preparing to send out cancellation notices. 2/

House & Senate will go into conference (after some drama) to reconcile their bills. For all the other important issues, on health care…3/

The House bill doesn’t touch the ACA, Senate bill does. Two Senators can stop the ACA part from being added. 4/

With Collins promised the [sun], the [moon], and the [stars], all eyes turn from the tax bill to the C.R. 5/

Collins believes she will get all those things in the end of year CR (presuming it is extended from Friday). 6/

The CR is also where there needs to be a clean CHIP for Ds to back. And potentially DACA & a number of other things. 7/

Word is that conference/CR is complicated, entangled with lots of players & could take longer than Trump hopes. Specifically…8/

The Freedom Caucus is unlikely to give Collins her astronomy set and will still want her to vote for ACA mandate repeal. No way. 9/

The tax deal is not done. There’s a good chance this all sees January w right pressure. The ballgame (& Senate) could be different then. end


…Yes, folks, you read that right. This could stretch into January. We know, we know, we can sense your muscles tensing from here, but every extra day this gets dragged out is an extra day we have to fight.


Here also are several other folks aside from @Celeste_Pewter, @TopherSpiro, and @aslavitt who you should be following on Twitter to stay on top of the GOP tax bill, which is morphing constantly, like a suspect science experiment in a horror movie. Some of these people are old friends from the Trumpcare fights. Some are tax experts.

Ben Wikler @benwikler

Michael Linden @michaelslinden

Seth Hanlon @sethhanlon

Sunjeev Bery @sunjeevbery

Lily Batchelder @lilybatch

Greg Leiserson @gregleiserson

Chad Bolt @chadderr


Also, you might want to check the posts we put up over the weekend and make sure you’ve already done everything they recommend. For instance, if you haven’t called your governor yet and asked him or her to make a statement about the GOP tax bill, please do.


Links to our recent posts:


Also consider helping Democrat Doug Jones in his run for a seat in the Alabama Senate. There’s no guarantee that Jones will win but if he does, it will reduce the GOP’s numbers in the Senate from 52-48 to 51-49 and create more headaches for McConnell.

Posts on ways to help Doug Jones (we’ve deleted the link to our post on the GOTV postcard campaign because its deadline has passed):

You can also donate to a GoFundMe that will pay for buses, vans, and gas for getting Alabama voters to the polls on December 12. As of 9 pm EST on December 6, it had raised more than $18,500 toward its $20,000 goal:


One last note, which we’ve stated before: Even if this bill ultimately implodes and never becomes law, we still need to vote out every Republican that we can in 2018. This whole process has been nothing less than legislative malpractice. They should be punished for aiding and abetting it. Period.

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Emergency Update Post: Fight the GOP Tax Bill, Still, December 4 Edition

This is an emergency update post on fighting the GOP tax bill from December 2-4, 2017.

So we’ve been telling you to follow @Celeste_Pewter, over and over, for weeks now.

Around noon on December 2, she tweeted a thread of actions that you can take, right now, to fight the GOP tax bill. Yes, it’s passed the Senate, but there’s still time to push back, and we need to push back forcefully and firmly over the next 72 hours.

We are just going to paste her tweets here. We don’t want you to miss any of them. (We didn’t copy over the first as it’s more of a throat-clearer.)

Update, later on December 3: Scroll down for a script from Celeste for calling the governor of your state. The GOP tax bill would remove the SALT deductions, aka State And Local Taxes. Right now, you can deduct them from your federal tax bill. If the GOP has its way, you won’t, and certain blue states will be hit doubly hard by that. Your governor will be alert to this and terrified by it, regardless of her or his party affiliation. It’s worthwhile to call.

Also, here is a Storify link that includes all the tweets below, plus later updates, which you can post to your Facebook page:

And we stress again–if you’re not following @Celeste_Pewter, do it, and follow @roadto2018, which she’s involved with as well.







Ok, massive thread coming up. Mute as needed. 1. Yes, it passed the Senate last night. Yes, you should be mad about this. However, this doesn’t mean it’s over. 2. The bill still has to go to conference committee, where they reconcile the House and Senate versions.

3. No, we don’t know if the House is just going to pass the Senate version. It’s possible, but they’ve traditionally been more conservative than the House. Without having a crystal ball in front of me, I believe they’re not going to like the sweeteners in the Senate version.

4. Per CSPAN, the House is going to vote on going to conference on Monday, at approximately 6:00 PM. (This is schedule to change. I’ll update once their calendars update) This means you have about 72 hours to take a stand. So these are your next steps.

5. Begin by calling your Senators, and responding appropriately to however they voted last night. Scripts below for GOP/Dem Senators. Yes, your Dem Senators need to hear from you. Validate what they just did. They worked pretty damn hard against near impossible odds.

6. Then call your House member, and let them know you want them you oppose both versions of the tax bill as it stands. Demand they strip out as many of the egregious amendments as possible.

7. Yes, we’d prefer it if these bills were killed completely. But we need to be prepared that the GOP is desperate, and needs to pass something, anything to run on for 2018. If we can at the VERY LEAST minimize the harm, then it’s still something.
8. Californians, with GOP House members – (Royce, Issa, etc.) – you are critical to this. The tax bill is going to hit California hard, and you need to work that angle for all you have. Do what others can’t do. Work your powers as a constituent.
9. If you’ve called your Senators and your House members, great! Start calling/emailing/Facebooking friends, family, colleagues, and get them to call. Make it easy for them: Give them talking points, numbers and names. The more people you can recruit to call, the better.
10. Grad students and those who will be impacted in specific areas, write OpEds for your local papers, and email them in. You need to drive as much attention to this as possible, and you can also correct misconceptions about the bill(s).

11. Attend a protest in your area. and the team have you covered. If you know of random events taking place, respond to this tweet and hashtag w/ :

13. Use Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, what have you, strictly as a means to share information and empower your followers. It will have zero impact on your electeds. Their social teams will shrug and move on.
14. Yes, calls are best and should be the one mechanism you use this weekend, if possible. I can’t stress how critical and time sensitive this is.

15. Other thing to do: Donate to the Democratic senators who stood AGAINST the tax bill last night, including several who are in very pro-Trump states. If you don’t want scenarios like last night to repeat, we need to hold their seats.

16. But your first donation should be to . There are ten days until the election in Alabama. Any seat removed from the GOP majority will be an achievement for the balance of power. (Google “Douglas Jones Donate” to get resources for this.)

17. Remind everyone that is still ongoing. Get everyone to enroll.

18. Correct misinformation. I’m seeing a lot of misinformation going on about the , from the legislative process, to how much individual taxpayers stand to benefit.

Start here:

19. If you’re an editor/writer who can volunteer your time, reach out to , who is organizing a group to help proof read OpEds before sending them in. That’s it. Get to the phones. If you don’t want our economy to go off a cliff, this weekend is THE weekend to act.
20. One more: please hashtag all of your tweets re: calling your electeds w/ . will boost you. Share tips (e.g. which VM box is full? Who’s picking up?), encourage each other, vent if needed. This is a community. We do this together.
…Got that? Then get on it. And thank you.

And here is the script to use when calling your governor, also courtesy of Celeste:


Find the contact info for your governor:


Here’s a script from Celeste that you can use:

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Learn When to Call Your Members of Congress a Second Time on the Same Issue

June 2017 Update: It’s the last week of June. The Senate version of the AHCA is out. It’s terrible. Some Republican senators are wavering. Now is the time to call, call, call and tell your senators that you oppose the AHCA.

Call every day this week (June 26-30) but please, only call your own senators.

If you or your family would be hurt by the passage of the AHCA, think hard about whether you are comfortable telling your story. If you can tell it, please do.

Calling is especially urgent if your Republican senators are any of the following people:


Susan Collins of Maine

Lisa Murkowski of Alaska

Rob Portman of Ohio

Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia

Cory Gardner of Colorado

Dean Heller of Nevada

Bill Cassidy of Louisiana

Jeff Flake of Arizona


Text of the original post follows.

You’ve called your senators and your house rep to oppose the Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare. (OTYCD suggested this action on January 5.)

But ACA issues are still making headlines. In the early hours of January 12, the Senate voted 51-48 on an action that would help them bulldoze the law later on. It paves the way for the passage of a reconciliation bill, a type of bill that can’t be filibustered:

Should you call your members of Congress every time the ACA comes under threat?

Usually, the answer is no, you should not call your members of Congress if you have already called to speak your mind on a specific issue.

But there are a few exceptions. If they apply to you, go ahead and call again.


You have new information that the member of Congress can freely use. An ACA-related example would be your willingness to share a story about how the ACA’s repeal would hurt you directly and personally, which you did not share when you called the first time.

Important side note: “Free use” means you’re letting your reps talk about your ACA story in public, in their own words, as they see fit, in whatever venue they choose, and on whatever media platform they choose (social media or otherwise). Once you give them your story, you lose control over it.

You are never obliged to share personal medical information in public. And if the ACA story is not about you–if it’s about a spouse, a grown child, a minor child, a friend–you must get that person’s permission before you share it with your reps.

But many members of Congress who are trying to defend the ACA have explicitly called for personal stories from their constituents. Offering yours can help the cause, if it’s your story to tell and you feel comfortable sharing it. (End of side note.)


You can call to thank or complain to your members of Congress after a key vote takes place. Some Democratic senators voiced objections during the Jan 12 actions. Two were Ron Wyden of Oregon and Maria Cantwell of Washington. Do they represent you? Then you could call and say thank you–but you should be specific, and cite exactly what they did to merit the thank-you.

Sample thank-you script: “I am (Firstname Lastname) from (town, zipcode). I see that Senator (Lastname) spoke up during the late-night session that ultimately voted to weaken the Affordable Care Act. I thank you for fighting for the law, and I will remember that you did the right thing.”

If you are angry about how your senator behaved during the vote, you could call and complain. But again, be specific. Tell the senator exactly what they did to make you complain.

Sample complaint script: “I am (Firstname Lastname) from (town, zip code). I see that Senator (Lastname) voted for Senate Resolution 3 on January 12. This bill paves the way to cripple, even kill the Affordable Care Act. My family and I depend on the ACA for our health care. I oppose what Senator (Lastname) just did, and I will remember that you did the wrong thing.”

Updated to add on May 21: You can also call multiple times on the same issue if you are joining a campaign that requires daily calls. A good example is the recent effort to ask your MoCs, daily, to pursue an independent investigation of the #TrumpRussia scandal and encourage them to slow or stop the work of Congress until that happened.

Never forget: Do not call anyone who does not represent you. Stick to your two senators and your one house rep.

Also, only call the relevant reps. The January 12 vote took place in the Senate, so you should call your senators, and only your senators; you should not waste time and energy calling your house rep.

And still call if your members of Congress don’t reflect your views. If anything, it’s more important for you to call. If you don’t say something, it’s that much easier for your reps to believe that people who think like you don’t exist.

If you are so delighted, or angered, by the actions of an out-of-state member of Congress  that you must say something, find a street address for their office and mail them a postcard. Alternately, you could leave a message on their Facebook page or tweet at them. But please keep the phone lines free for their own constituents.


Bonus resource: Below is a link to Liberal Spirit, an exceptionally useful web page on the topic of contacting your members of Congress. In point 3, the author generally recommends against calling your reps a second time on the same topic.




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Call Your House Rep and Oppose H.R. 490, an Abortion Ban Bill

Call your member of the House of Representatives to oppose H.R. 490, a bill that would ban abortion as soon as a heartbeat is detected.

The bill was introduced on January 12 by Iowa congressman Steve King. Banning abortion after a heartbeat is detected effectively bans abortion; it’s possible to pick up a heartbeat as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, a time when many women don’t even realize they’re pregnant.

H.R. 490 is similar to the “heartbeat bill” that Ohio governor John Kasich recently vetoed. (Instead, he signed a second problematic bill prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks.)

Don’t know who your house rep is? Go to Your Toolkit and see the post about finding your three Congressional representatives.

Is your house rep on the House Judiciary Committee? Then it’s extra-important that you call to oppose this bill. Check the list of committee members below before you call.

Sample script: “I am (Firstname Lastname) from (town, zipcode), and I am calling to ask Representative (Lastname) to vote against H.R. 490, introduced by Steve King. It would prohibit abortion in cases where a fetal heartbeat can be detected. In essence, it would outlaw abortion, which is unconstitutional. I will be watching to see how Representative (Lastname) will vote on this bill.”


Actual text of the bill here:


King’s bill hasn’t yet received attention from the Washington Post or the New York Times. It’s entirely possible that King introduces an anti-abortion bill like this one in every new Congress, and the bill goes nowhere. OTYCD is breaking with precedent and posting about H.R. 490, even though preferred sources haven’t discussed it, because of Trump’s stated disdain for reproductive rights, and because defending reproductive rights was a main theme of Saturday’s Women’s marches.


Rewire, an outlet devoted to covering stories about reproductive rights, discussed H.R. 490 here:


New York magazine piece on the bill here (from its The Cut blog):