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Brunch with Rep. Al Wynn and Maryland District 20 Democrats

Congressman Al Wynn (MD-4) with [1]
impeachment button. [1] Rep. Wynn was
one of the earliest co-sponsors of Rep.
Kucinich’s H.Res.333 [2] calling for Vice
President Cheney’s impeachment.
Originally uploaded by Thomas Nephew [3].

On Sunday I joined Delegate Sheila Hixson [4] and the District 20 Democratic Breakfast Club [5] at the weekly Sunday brunch at Los Arrieros [6], a Mexican restaurant on Georgia Avenue near the DC/Silver Spring border. (To join the club, click on the link and be prepared to fork over about $5 for membership and $8 for the breakfast.) The featured speaker was Congressman Al Wynn [7] (D-MD-4, Prince George’s and Montgomery County), whose district overlaps with parts of Maryland District 20.

I got to the brunch a little later than I meant to, giving me just enough time to thank Rep. Wynn for his early co-sponsorship of Representative Kucinich’s H.Res.333 [2], which calls for the impeachment of Vice President Cheney — and also for his cosponsorship of H.R.106, the Armenian Genocide Resolution that has turned into such a battle royale in Congress and in the media.

Delegate Sheila Hixson (District 20). [8]
Ms. Hixson [4] is chair of the Assembly’s
Ways and Means Committee.
Originally uploaded by Thomas Nephew [3].

Rep. Wynn, who serves on the House Energy and Commerce [9] Committee, made remarks on Iraq, health care, energy, and education, followed by questions from the audience on topics including the proposed ICC highway, and (by me) about impeachment.

I don’t generally mean to be a reporter; I came to push an impeachment agenda among the audience and pose a question to Wynn about it. So once again I realized belatedly I should have brought pen and paper; what follows is from my memory of Wynn’s remarks.

On education, he said that many educators in Montgomery County question George Miller’s proposal [10] tying bonuses and raises to performance, and that he’s forwarded those concerns to Rep. Miller, including that special needs children performance is not graded on a curve, teachers of non-tested courses (history, art, etc.) miss out under the bill, and that teachers aren’t rewarded for bringing underachieving kids up to grade level work. (For more on educator objections to the “No Child Left Behind” revisions, see the NEA [11].)

Regarding health care and in particular SCHIP, Wynn emphasized that the bill had been pared down to meet Senate Republican objections — and help fewer kids — even before Bush vetoed it. He said it was a crucial battle, and sees SCHIP expansion as a key step towards a national health care program. Regarding energy bills he’s looking at, Wynn distinguished between “low hanging fruit” bills like ones encouraging use of efficient light bulbs, middle difficulty ones like increased CAFE standards (which he thinks Pelosi will insist on, even over Rep. John Dingell’s opposition) and a “cap and trade” bill*, which he considered the most difficult. He noted that the latter may result in higher energy costs; programs mitigating that burden for poorer Americans would need to be part of the solution.

Montgomery County Councilwoman Nancy Floreen, [12]
Seth Grimes. [12]
Councilwoman Floreen [13] is also the former mayor
of Garrett Park. Mr. Grimes is a prominent
community activist in Takoma Park, including
about the Takoma Metro development issue [14].
Originally uploaded by Thomas Nephew [3].

Wynn led with remarks on Iraq. While he voted for the war in 2002, he has since joined the “Out of Iraq” caucus, and his recent statements about Iraq [15] are available at his congressional web site. I thought a key word in Wynn’s October 14 breakfast remarks on Iraq was “responsible”. That is, he said Democrats were faced with the difficult task of “responsibly” achieving the removal of troops from Iraq, and didn’t have the votes to pass veto-proof legislation setting timetables, given both GOP and “Blue Dog” Democrat intransigence. Wynn thus seemed to accept the view that it would be irresponsible of Democrats to repeatedly send Iraq timetable legislation to Bush — rather than that it would be irresponsible of Bush to repeatedly veto such legislation, just as it was irresponsible of him to mire American troops in Iraq in the first place. Remarkably, he was not challenged on this — by me either, I confess to my chagrin.

On the InterCounty Connector (ICC) — a highway that is planned to cut across about a quarter of Montgomery County** — anti-ICC activist Greg Smith asked Wynn to lobby the governor for a delay in groundbreaking while courts have a chance to decide whether adequate environmental impact statements have been submitted. County councilwoman Nancy Floreen [13] spoke up before Wynn could respond, claiming that if the ICC wasn’t built, something else would have to be, given traffic congestion in Montgomery County — and that the alternative “six lane highways” would be worse than the ICC. Smith strongly disagreed with that. For his part, Wynn took the view that he wasn’t going to weigh in on how highway money was used: his job was simply to help deliver the highway money local officials told him was needed.

After thanking Wynn again for co-sponsoring H.Res.333, I noted Van Hollen’s reluctance to follow suit and his thinking that a failed impeachment would be worse than none at all. Saying that I disagreed — that no impeachment at all sends a far worse message to future presidents than trying and falling short — I asked him how he would suggest we convince Congressman Van Hollen to co-sponsor H.Res.333.

Wynn agreed that the impeachment resolution “sends a message” that executive lawlessness and deceit about war aren’t tolerated — he co-sponsored it only a short while of learning about it from a constituent in a town hall meeting. (The bill cites deception about Iraqi WMD and ties to Al Qaeda among the grounds for impeachment of the Vice President.) He said he hadn’t talked with Van Hollen about it, but felt that Van Hollen was limited by his position as chair of the DCCC — believing that “Red State” Democrats would shy away from a DCCC chair who joined in an impeachment effort. That’s OK with Wynn; in the end, Wynn said, “I’m a bottom line guy” who wants the Democratic majority expanded so good bills can be passed.

In discussion afterwards, Wynn seemed supportive in an amiable if (to be honest) noncommittal way. He likes the “Impeach Them” poster — “…very succinct. Impeach. Them. I like that.” — so I told him about Alan McConnell, the +/- Johnny Appleseed of impeachment signs [16], along with the many of similar design that our Takoma Park/MD 8th CD impeachment group [17] has distributed. He did seem interested when I suggested Van Hollen may be wrong about independents in “Red States”, who may be more interested in Congress being an effective check on a rogue presidency than Van Hollen believes. The 54% support [18] found in a nationwide August poll for Cheney’s impeachment wasn’t all from Democrats – a majority of independents favored both Cheney’s and Bush’s impeachment as well. I confess I don’t have particular “RedState” breakouts — but that’s the kind of thing Van Hollen could obtain as DCCC chair, if he wanted to.

I’ll be able to suggest that in person soon — this District 20 Breakfast Club [5] event was mainly a warmup. The featured speaker at the next brunch is Chris Van Hollen himself.

* A system where emissions sources which are able to remain below target levels obtain commensurate tradeable monetary credits, which those over the target must buy to get into compliance. See this Wikipedia discussion [19] for more. The notion seems to be more popular among economists (and arbitrageurs) than among environmentalists.
** For more on why the ICC is a bad idea, see the Progressive Neighbors position statement [20].

EDIT, 10/16: I may have misunderstood Ms. Hixson’s remarks when writing Van Hollen would be there next weekend.

4 Comments (Open | Close)

4 Comments To "Brunch with Rep. Al Wynn and Maryland District 20 Democrats"

#1 Comment By Nell On October 16, 2007 @ 2:14 pm

Remarkably, he was not challenged on this
But will be by Donna Edwards, the non-mention of whom is a specter haunting this post… ;>

#2 Comment By Nell On October 16, 2007 @ 2:17 pm

As a former councilwoman, might Nancy Floreen be helpful in getting the Garret Park council to see the light on taking up an impeachment resolution? Or has she already?

#3 Comment By Mrs. Coulter On October 16, 2007 @ 2:51 pm

I take it he also studiously avoided mention of the bankruptcy bill/subprime lending crisis and net neutrality?

#4 Comment By Thomas Nephew On October 16, 2007 @ 3:45 pm

@Mrs Coulter:
Net neutrality was raised by a member of the audience; as I recall, Wynn said something along the lines of “we have to agree what net neutrality means”; this didn’t sound ideal, but the guy didn’t follow up and I didn’t know what to make of the answer; I’m not as versed in the state of that debate and its lingo etc as I probably should be. There were no questions from the audience about the bankruptcy bill or the lending crisis.
The other thing Wynn spoke about at some length, responding to a question from the audience, was the immigration controversy. He said in parts of his district (northern MoCo) this is something that angers Democrats as well, and that people just about literally come to blows on the subject in town hall mtgs he’s had. He said a lot of the anger might be tamped down with better code enforcement and education; he didn’t elaborate, but I assume he means finding codified places for day laborers to seek day jobs, rather than in front of 7-11s etc. That seems optimistic — but you might as well start out being optimistic before moving on to the alternatives.
Spoke briefly with Floreen about the Garrett Park business; she said basically you can’t make someone do something they don’t want to do. My sense is the level of enthusiasm on the council wasn’t high in the first place and was squashed altogether by the complaint.
Re Edwards: Seth Grimes thought the brunch may have been missing a number of usual attendees who support Edwards over Wynn. I mentioned that in an earlier draft, at about the same spot, then decided that was speculative and the post was long enough as it was. The simple fact of her challenge isn’t speculative, though.