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Please begin with an informative title:

Progress Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Keith Ellison recorded this video response thanking everyone who asked questions today. Thanks Daily Kos-ers!

Thank you everyone for being here today.  The members who participated really enjoyed this and plans for our next one are already being talked about. Some members who didn't make it may pop in later to answer a few questions so check back if you want to.

Welcome to the first Congressional Progressive Caucus Live Blog.

Update It's now 12:58 EST.  Members have been called to the floor for a vote, so please understand if there are no immediate answers forthcoming.  As soon as they are done voting, they will be back to answer your questions so please keep the conversation going.
Update 3 Rep. Lynn Woolsey is now answering questions in the comments.  Thank you to Rep. Jim McDermott for being here today.
Update 4 Reps. Ellison and Grijalva are also now here answering questions.
Update 5 Reps. Cicilline and Johnson have arrived.
Update 6 Rep. Kucinich is now here.

You must enter an Intro for your Diary Entry between 300 and 1150 characters long (that's approximately 50-175 words without any html or formatting markup).

Thank you for joining us for our first ever Daily Kos Live Blog. Before we take your questions, here is a quick update on what we have been doing as a caucus:

As you probably know, the right last week released their budget scheme, a Roadmap to Ruin for our country.  Despite Republican propaganda, the Roadmap to Ruin is not about reducing the deficit. If it were, it wouldn’t include the biggest tax handouts in history for millionaires and billionaires. If it were, it wouldn’t end Medicare as we know it (which would cause medical costs to double for our seniors). And it would not maintain $40 billion in spending on big oil subsidies, while cutting all investments in American clean energy.

As Progressives, we believe that balancing the budget, like we did under the last Democratic president, is vital to ensuring a bright economic future that grows the middle class. That is why we introduced The People’s Budget this week, which lowers our deficit more than the Republican scheme. Instead of giving more money to corporate special interests, we close loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas. We end the Bush tax giveaways to the superwealthy. We responsibly end the wars in Afghanistan in Iraq, which in addition to the unfathomable toll borne by our troops and their families, have cost our country over a trillion dollars.

We are excited to have leaders of our Caucus here today, ready to answer any questions you have on The Republican Roadmap to Ruin, The People’s Budget, or other questions you may have about how we can work together as Progressives to restore the American Dream. We look forward to your questions!

If you’re not already, be sure to follow the caucus on Twitter as @USProgressives or on Facebook. You can ask questions also via Twitter today by tweeting us  @USProgressives with the hashtag #askcpc

Today's participants include:

Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ & CPC Co-Chair)

Rep. Keith Ellison (MN & CPC Co-Chair)

Rep. Hank Johnson (GA & CPC Whip)

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (CA)

Rep. David Ciciline(RI)

Rep. Peter Welch (VT)

Rep. Charlie Rangel (NY)

Rep. Mike Honda (CA)

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH)

Rep. Jim McDermott (WA)

Rep. Jared Polis (CO)


The approximate schedule is as follows:
Rep. McDermott
Rep. Polis
Rep. Welch
Rep. Johnson
Rep. Rangel
Rep. Woolsey
Rep. Ellison
Rep Grijalva
Rep. Honda
Rep. Cicilline
Rep. Kucinich
So what's on your mind today?
Update 1 Rep. Mike Honda, unfortunately, will not be able to join us today.  If you have questions for him specifically, please note the question is for him and we will send the question to him and he will post an answer later in the day.  Thanks.
Update 2 While we wait for the Representatives to cast their votes here are a few of the questions and answers from Rep. Jim McDermott:

from jec:
If Simpson-Bowles becomes the President's compromise position with the GOP will you fight it?

answer: "In it's current form, I would fight it. But it serves as a starting point. The Republican plan is not a starting point."

from: Radical def:
What prospects for electoral, campaign finance and media reforms, to allow for a more viable democracy?  Before/after 2012?  Presumably, better prospects, better results, after 2012, especially with improved left/right plurality?

answer: I think all elections for federal office should be federally financed. Corporate money plays too big of a role and gives and unfair advantage -- the system is broken.  The recent supreme court decision has made this even more important.

More question and answer samples from the comments:

from: greatlyconcerned
Thanks so much for all your work! I'm so (0+ / 0-)

happy to see Dems stepping up to set the tone.

I was happy to hear Obama set the tone for the conversation yesterday, but I don't think he started far enough left of center, and I'm concerned that he left Medicare and Medicaid on the table.

The right-wing extremists have been very good at shifting the conversation way to the right.  Then, when non-teabaggers come in with something a little less insane, it starts to sound better to many people, probably more as a relief.  Right-wing brainwashing is a huge problem.

Much of the progressive ideals are what the majority of Americans want, but we haven't been brainwashing people.  For those not brainwashed, the Republicans try to gain more people with single issues, like guns, homophobia, immigration, etc.

How do we effectively get our message out?  How do we entice more effective progressives to run?

Thanks for your time!

answer from Rep. Grijalva:
We've started to do more
The problems presented by many mainstream media outlets are about money and the profit margin, not our ideas per se. Conventional wisdom is profitable. What we need to do is use these new means of communication to share our message without filters or permission from anyone else. We also need to use local media at all levels to a much better degree. People don't just get their news from CNN -- they want to know what the local angle is, and we can and must be more savvy on that.

Having said that, the CPC is also making inroads in national media outlets and we'll continue to do so.

from Progressive Pen:
Are you concerned that the Obama debt reduction proposal will simply represent the Dem's starting point for negotiations with the GOP?

Do you worry that after negotiations, we will end up somewhere in between the Obama and Ryan plans (i.e. right of center)?

answer from Rep. Ellison:
Well, it's important to bear in mind that things are fluid and that Progressives have power to determine the outcome.  If's Progressives are loud strong and continue to organize all over the country, we can make the People's Budget the starting point for organization. Call the White House and let them know what you what. An America that where everyone counts and every matters.  So, help the CPC argue for the People Budget. Tweet it; write about it; sing about it.

Rep. Woolsey also answered:
My concern is that the Continuing Resolution (funding fed govt through September of this year) will be the starting point for FY12 negotiations and beyond.  That's why I'm voting against the CR today.

Rep. Cicilline also answered:
I think the President outlined important values in his speech yesterday and a framework for addressing the deficit in a way that protects our economic recovery and the most vulnerable populations.  He was strong on our commitment to protect Medicare and that the Republican  budget provides tax breaks for the richest Americans, subsidies for oil and gas companies, and for companies that ship our jobs overseas.

I am not worried that we will end up anywhere near the Republican budget proposal but it will require engaging the American people in this battle.

from Andrew C White:
to recruit, fund raise for, and campaign on behalf of progressive candidates that will strengthen your caucus as well as provide a Democratic majority in the House and return Nancy Pelosi to the Speakers chair in 2012?

One of the great strengths of the DLC and Blue Dog caucuses was that they actively and effectively recruited, fund raised for and campaign on behalf of more conservative and/or corporate oriented Democrats.

It is my firm belief, and has been for some time now, that we need you as a caucus to provide a strong counter-balance that actively and effectively promotes and strengthens the progressive hand in Congress.

answer from Rep. Hank Johnson:
Progressives have to stand up for our values and ensure that our priorities are heard.  That's our job.  

By the same token, we have to remember that President Obama is our party's standard-bearer.  When push comes to shove, we need to unite behind him.  Any discontent progressives might feel now will pale in comparison to how we would feel with any of the Republican candidates in the White House.

I thought yesterday's speech did a lot to restore Democratic unity.  When centrist Dems in Congress and Paul Krugman are both praising the President, you know he effectively voiced the concerns of progressives while still framing a position that centrist Dems can support.

In case you were wondering....here they are...answering your questions

More questions/answers:

from Nurse Teri:
Please co sponsor HR 1119, The National Nurse Act of 2011. You had sponsored the previous bill and now that it has been reintroduced by Rep. Weiner on March 16, it has 11 co sponsors, and we would love to have your support as a co sponsor too!

Rep. Grijalva answers:
I Will
I've been supportive in the past and will continue to be supportive. This is the sort of common sense bill that shouldn't languish in a Republican-controlled House. Thank you for reminding everyone that even as we debate the budget as a whole, there are lots of very important priorities that mean a lot to millions of people that we need to keep in mind.

from martini drinking atheist:
It's reported that 2/3's of American corporations paid $0 in taxes in 2010.  We gonna do something about that?  It'll go a LONG way towards fiscal solvency.

Messaging-wise, we should remind people that when they purchase a product or service, they expect the companies they do business with to patriotically pay taxes as we consumers do.

Rep. Johnson answers:
This issue of de facto corporate tax evasion is one progressives have to champion.  

The same companies that come hat in hand begging for capital infusions from the taxpayer when the going gets tough go to elaborate lengths to make sure they don't contribute their fair share, all while middle-class families are struggling to pay their taxes and make ends meet.

It's downright shameful.

It's also bad for our economy.  US companies need to be investing in innovation and productivity, not accountants and lobbyists who can bore holes in the tax code and exploit them.

I think the American people are with us on this one.  Thanks for raising the issue.

from ciganka:
I am from Oklahoma.  My representatives have every reason not to listen to me - I am way outnumbered.  

I would prefer to work with the Progressive Caucus.  Is it possible to donate money to the Caucus?  

How can I get involved with the Caucus when my representatives are not in the Caucus?

from Rep. Grijalva:
Help us build a network of allies in your area. We need people to share information and rally for support, even in conservative areas. One place to start is to organize like-minded individuals and move from there. Tea Party groups haven't been shy in liberal towns. Neither should we be quiet, no matter where we are.

As far as the Progressive Caucus, we're easy to get a hold of. My office is open to calls and ideas.

from Simplify:
The power to declare war is a non-delegable responsibility of Congress.  (For an example of how it's non-delegable, see the Supreme Court's correct rejection of the line-item veto from the 1990s.)  The President took us to war without Congress's approval, and he did so in a way that's outside even what the constitutionally questionable War Powers Act allows (no direct threat to the USA).  What are you going to do about that, so that it doesn't happen again?

It should be Congress that declares war, or doesn't.  No "Authorization for the Use of Military Force," i.e., "Here, Mr. President, we don't want to deal with our obligated responsibility to decide, it's up to you!" either.  We could've been spared Sen. Kerry's 2004 equivocation about supporting the Iraq war decision if he actually had to decide on it.

answer from Rep. Kucinich:
I agree with your assessment of the Constitution and the war power.   This is a matter of immense importance and consequence for our nation because we are being dragged into wars, and kept in wars, often without the express consent of the US Congress, as required under Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution.  Additionally, Congress has the power to cut off funds for any military adventure and Congress should use that power.  I am working with fellow members to try to get Congress to step up.

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