On Monday, Nov. 25th I met with Rep. Panetta in Santa Cruz as a lone member of Santa Cruz Indivisible during that Thanksgiving week. Originally, I had tried to get a meeting with him during the October recess to try to persuade him to support the impeachment inquiry. Now, a month and a half had passed since my request and he had declared his support for the inquiry directly after Rep. Pelosi announced it, so I wanted to focus our time on Indivisible’s mission to #DefundHate instead. The meeting was dense and, over fifteen minutes, we also discussed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act , Trump’s Tax returns, and the Impeachment inquiry. I want to thank Rep. Panetta and his staff, including Emanuel, for the meeting.
I was just barely on time, as I ended up having to park in a risky spot. I didn’t need to worry though, as Rep. Panetta was even more delayed. I was met at the door by the always gracious and courteous staff. Emanuel gave me a glass of water to have while I waited, and he joined us in the meeting to take notes
Rep. Panetta mirrored his staff’s demeanor, being friendly and forthcoming. First, I thanked him for signing the letter asking Trump to fire Stephen Miller. (It’s incredible that the letter was signed by only 107 members of Congress considering Miller’s expressed belief in white supremacy.) Mr. Panetta said that Miller’s presence was doing a lot of damage in Washington, making it much harder to cooperate across the aisle because of the tension created. He gave the example of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which he thought should have passed the House easily. (It did pass a few weeks later.)
This allowed us to segue into discussion of the man topic of the meeting, the #DefundHate campaign. I wanted him to address his bad votes on H.R. 3401, the supplemental appropriations bill passed in July, which was opposed by Indivisible because it gave ICE and CBP more money that they might use to expand Trump’s immigrant concentration camps. Rep. Panetta had been part of the group that derailed the progressive’s version of the bill, and then he joined with Republicans to pass the Senate version of the bill. A leading border justice organization said that the final version of the bill hurt immigrants more than it helped them. At this point, and a couple of other times in our conversation, Mr. Panetta brought up the issue of the administrations illegal transfer of $155 million in funds for FEMA to ICE, and that he was extremely angered by such moves.
I asked Rep. Panetta if he could explain his “aye” vote on the final bill, and whether it had anything to do with his membership in the Problem Solver’s caucus. He replied that his vote had nothing to do with the caucus, and that the bill was a tough issue, but he had wanted to do something after visiting the border and seeing that there was a drastic needs for more judges/courtrooms to hold the detention hearings. My follow up was to ask to whether he would commit to voting against any upcoming appropriations bill that would increase money for ICE and CBP, which was the current Indivisible ask at the time, but he declined to do so. Looks like we have our work cut out for us, let’s keep up our calling on the Indivisible #DefundHate Asks! (The current ask is to demand that a limitation on Trump’s “transfer authority” be included in the funding deal. Otherwise, they should vote NO on the funding bill that includes the DHS. Rep. Panetta’s Washington D. C. office number is 202-225-2861.)
The next part of the meeting was the most disappointing for me. Since Rep. Panetta is a member of the House Ways and Means committee, I wanted to know where the committee stood on the fight to get Trump’s tax returns, and whether they would seek his New York state tax returns, which was legal under a new law. Rep. Panetta said he didn’t know what was happening with that, and that he would get back with me. It appears that this fight is not a priority for him, nor by all appearances is it a priority for the committee.
The final part of the discussion was about the Impeachment Inquiry. I took a neutral tone, since Rep. Panetta had supported the inquiry, but only after House Speaker Pelosi had announced it. I was a bit surprised then, when Rep. Panetta gave me a bit of a scoop. He said that, based off of the evidence presented, he did think that Trump had committed abuses of power, and that he would vote for impeachment! This was back on November 25th, remember, so we can thank him for the early commitment, although it should have been with a press release.