Today’s summary: We will be hearing more about Clinton’s welfare reform, and soon

As the Political Uses of the Past project continues to divide time between improving the back end and updating the front, these posts have fallen slightly out of sync with the news cycle. Fortunately, the statements captured over the last week will continue to be relevant.

Most of the headlines today are about taxes, but the Trump administration also has its sights set on dismantling what remains of the nation’s safety net—especially the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The coming debate will draw from the recent history of 1990s welfare reform, and we are already seeing references emerge in discussion of the now-failed attempt to block grant Medicaid.

Sen. Jeff Flake recalled hearing “rhetoric” back then about how people “will be left on the streets” but claims that the reform was a success because “Guess what? Within a couple years the welfare rolls had been cut in half.” His glaring non sequitur dodges the real historical question: Were people left on the streets? Should we try this again with our food programs?

The Food Stamp Act is forty years old this month, and those who will likely oppose its devolution into a block grant program are already evoking the 1960s and 1970s in an attempt to remind us why we have these programs. Rep. Jim McGovern recalls the CBS documentary Hunger in America that he claims led to the 1977 act. His retelling of history also emphasizes that fighting hunger with public policy used to be bipartisan.

Also in this batch: last week several African-American lawmakers took to the floor to defend the NFL protests. All of these focused on racism, and all of them took a historical view. Excerpts are provided below (and as always the link to the full speech follows the excerpt).

The project is continuing to develop an interface for exploring and searching this ever-growing collection and is building a network for fact-checking these statements.

Sen. Jeff Flake: Welfare reform in 1990s didn't leave people on the streets (and neither will Medicaid reform)

Jeff Flake Let’s stop with the rhetoric that this is somehow a cut and people will be left on the streets. We heard that back in 1996 with welfare reform. It was said that the Governors or others at the local level couldn’t participate, couldn’t be in charge of this program because people would be dying on the streets. Guess what. Within a couple of years, the welfare rolls had been cut in half.

—Sen. Jeff Flake (R–AZ), Healthcare, Senate Floor, September 26, 2017

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Rep. Jim McGovern: America faced “Severe hunger and malnutrition” in 1960s, leading to Food Stamp Act

Jim McGovern The bipartisan legislation came as a response to the severe hunger and malnutrition that plagued our country in the 1960s. … The Food Stamps Act of 1977 established national standards of eligibility for the program and eliminated the requirement that recipients pay for their stamps. It was revolutionary and it helped to dramatically reduce extreme poverty and extreme hunger in the United States.

—Rep. Jim McGovern (D–MA), 40th Anniversary of Food Stamps Act of 1977, House Floor, September 25, 2017

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Sen. Ben Sasse: Senate used to regularly obtain consensus

Ben Sasse But once upon a time, this really was the greatest deliberative body in the world. Two hundred forty years ago when the Constitution built a system of three separate but equal branches that checked and balanced one another, the Senate had a unique role.

The upper body of article I, of the legislative branch, was a place where debates were supposed to be long so that you could forge consensus–70, 80, and 90 percent consensus–on issues, because people actually were in this body actually debating real issues.

We are not the greatest deliberative body in the world right now, and a lot of people pretend we are. One of the ways we get away with that is by standing in here and pretending there are a lot of people listening to our speeches when no one is here. Again, I am the third speech of the day in the Senate today, and all three of them have had an audience of zero.

—Sen. Ben Sasse (R–NE), Healthcare, Senate Floor, September 26, 2017

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Rep. Trey Hollingsworth: Founders did not intend for members of Congress to serve over 20 years

The Framers of our Constitution did not intend for Members of this body to remain seated for 20, 30, 40, or even 50 years, but rather they fundamentally believe that government should be designed, one of the people and for the people, to experience regular turnover.

Ultimately, the greatness of this country has always rooted in the American people themselves, and I want to get more of those American people up here serving in elected office..

—Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R–IN), Term Limits, House Floor, September 26, 2017

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Sen. Orrin Hatch: In economic management “America has courageously defied the historical norm”

Orrin Hatch When I took to this floor last month, I argued that on the fundamental question of economic management, America has courageously defied the historical norm. Rather than acquiescing to the central planning, we fully embraced free enterprise.

—Sen. Orrin Hatch (R–UT), Antitrust, Senate Floor, September 25, 2017

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Rep. Gwen Moore: Nixon designed war on drugs to “to diminish the reputation of African Americans.”

Gwen Moore Mr. Speaker, in 1971, then-President Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs, which he labeled as “public enemy number one in the United States.” Now, at the time of this declaration, America’s prisons and jails held fewer than 200,000 people. Today, that number sits at over 2 million people. …

Now, John Ehrlichman, then-counsel and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs under President Nixon, admitted, Mr. Speaker, that the war on drugs was an effort to vilify African-American leaders and to disrupt the African-American community; admitted that the war on drugs was contrived to diminish the reputation of African Americans. Indeed, they were successful because the burden of this failed war has fallen overwhelmingly on African-American communities.

—Rep. Gwen Moore (D–WI), We Must Continue to Root Out Racism, House Floor, September 25, 2017

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Rep. Nancy Pelosi: Ronald Reagan went even further than Democratic Congress in protecting immigrants

Nancy Pelosi Just to put it in historical perspective, the President said: I can’t act. Congress must act. But even when Congress acted, President Reagan said: You didn’t go far enough. So he instituted a Family Fairness initiative, which protected many more people than Congress did.

President George Herbert Walker Bush continued that leadership and that courage, as did President Clinton; President George W. Bush, one of the best Presidents we have ever had in terms of his advocacy for newcomers to our country, realizing that they make America more American by invigorating our country with hope, aspirations, and dreams; and President Obama, of course, a great President in this regard as well.

—Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D–CA), Republicans Need to Join Democrats in Bipartisan Legislation, House Floor, September 25, 2017

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Appeals to Root Out Racism Draw from US History

Rep. Cedric Richmond: United States didn't accept MLK's peaceful protests either

Cedric Richmond They chose peaceful protests just like Martin Luther King. When Dr. King chose peaceful protests, what the President doesn’t realize is that the country wasn’t accepting of his ways either. “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was all about Dr. King responding to people of like mind who shared the cause of freedom and equality and justice. They just didn’t like his tactics.

And the question was: We should wait. His letter was addressing people of like mind. The problem here is I just can’t address someone of like mind because I don’t think that this administration has the maturity, the sensitivity, or the understanding, whether it is willful or unwillful, to understand what is going on in this country.

—Rep. Cedric Richmond (D–LA), We Must Continue to Root Out Racism, House Floor, September 25, 2017

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Rep. Donald Payne: There's a long history of protest in sports

Donald Payne When Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem last year, he joined a long list of patriotic athletes who used their fame to do just that.. Muhammad Ali was convicted of draft dodging because he refused to drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while the so-called Negro people in Louisville, Kentucky, were treated like dogs. Jackie Robinson, the great Baseball Hall of Famer who integrated baseball, admitted in 1972 that he no longer could stand and sing the National Anthem.

—Rep. Donald Payne (D–NJ), We Must Continue to Root Out Racism, House Floor, September 25, 2017

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Rep. Gwen Moore: When 1980s drug epidemic ravaged black communities, the response was incarceration, not treatment

Gwen Moore It is worth noting that in the face of the 1980’s crack cocaine epidemic in Black communities, the public policy response was incarceration. Here in 2017, in the face of our current opioid epidemic in predominantly White communities, public officials on both sides of the aisle have banded together to pass landmark legislation to provide drug treatment assistance to those victims.

—Rep. Gwen Moore (D–WI), We Must Continue to Root Out Racism, House Floor, September 25, 2017

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Rep. Hank Johnson: Racism has “unfolded” in America as whites against others

Hank JohnsonAnd how racism manifests itself in America, historically, has been that if you are a racist, you are a White person, and you believe that your race is superior to that of a dark-skinned person, a Black person. That has been how racism has unfolded here in America since the White man came to America.

Of course, when Christopher Columbus, an Anglo-Saxon from Spain, came to America and discovered America, America was populated, at that time, by what we called the Red man, the Indian, a dark-skinned individual–darker than the Anglo-Saxon. And so this country has a history of mistreating people severely who are of a different color than white. First, it was the Indians. The feeling was that the European was superior to the Native American. That is the bottom line.

Now, also, on that ship coming over in 1607, landing at Jamestown, Virginia, were some indentured servants, some of whom were dark-skinned people. Racism was not necessarily a part of slavery, or indentured servitude, but racism was used to ensure that the multitudes of dark-skinned people who were brought over here from Africa, who outnumbered in the South the number of Europeans, or White people there, racism was used to keep those Black people in their place.

In other words, it was not indentured servitude. It was racism based on the subjugation of one group of people, or one race of people by another race of people because the race of people doing the subjugation impressed upon themselves and their children that those dark-skinned people are beneath us.

—Rep. Hank Johnson (D–GA), We Must Continue to Root Out Racism, House Floor, September 25, 2017

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Rep. Jackson Lee: African Americans have “remained patriotic” throughout US history

Sheila Jackson-Lee And I have to talk particularly about African Americans who served in the United States military. Crispus Attucks was an iconic patriot engaging in a protest in 1770. He was shot by royalist soldiers in the Boston Massacre.

Does the White House know Crispus Attucks? Does he know those who have come through the ages, who fought for the Union in the Civil War? Yet, in doing so, the treatment of African Americans continued to be dastardly violent into the lynchings of the 1900s.

Yet we remain patriotic. All we ask is the doors of opportunity be opened and that our leaders respect us. So let me say to those who don’t understand that the First Amendment does not in any way define “do not stand for” or “do stand for the national anthem and the flag.”

—Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D–TX), We Must Continue to Root Out Racism, House Floor, September 25, 2017

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Oppose the NFL Protests, Because the Founders

Rep. Alex Mooney: Opposes NFL protests because of ideals set forth by founders

Alex Mooney Listening to my parents’ inspiring stories, I knew from a young age that I absolutely believed in the American ideals of liberty as set forth by our Founding Fathers. It is with this same sense of honor and patriotism that I support President Trump in calling for all NFL players to honor our flag and remember what has made our country great.

—Rep. Alex Mooney (R–WV), Applauding President Trump for His Comments, House Floor, September 26, 2017

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Health Care, Hurricanes, Korea

Sen. Thomas Carper: Every president since Truman has called for near-universal coverage

Thomas CarperEvery President, I think, since Harry Truman has called for providing healthcare coverage for just about everyone in our country–every President.

—Sen. Thomas Carper (D–DE), National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018–Motion to Proceed–Continued, Senate Floor, September 26, 2017

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Sen. Chuck Schumer: “nothing comparable” to GOP's process for Obamacare repeal in Senate history

Charles Schumer We are expected to vote on this bill in just 2 or 3 days. There will have been only a single hearing, which Republicans scheduled almost as an afterthought, just to say they had one. Certainly, there will not be any amendments to the bill. It is not going to go through the committee process. There will not be a shred of input from the minority, despite all the complaints that ObamaCare, which did have input from the minority, was passed by one party’s vote.

The Senate’s former Historian said he could not think of “anything comparable” to the process Republicans are employing in the entire history of the Senate. The Senate’s former Historian, a scholar, said that there is nothing comparable to the process being employed now–one-sixth of the economy, no amendments, one hearing, no changes.

—Sen. Charles Schumer (D–NY), Healthcare, Senate Floor, September 25, 2017

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Rep. Eliot Engel: Visiting North Korea like “stepping back into 1953 Berlin”

Eliot Engel When you go into North Korea, it feels like you are stepping back into 1953 Berlin. Everything was gray and dark and drab, and you could just see something was wrong.

—Rep. Eliot Engel (D–NY), North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2017, House Floor, September 25, 2017

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Sen. Marco Rubio: “Largest power restoration effort in the history of the world” followed hurricane Harvey

Marco Rubio In most of the 50 States–certainly in my home State of Florida, we saw the largest power restoration effort in the history of the world. At least that is what they are claiming. Literally, we saw hundreds of those bucket trucks from all over the United States–all 50 States and even Canada–coming in with prearranged contracts and their crews to restore power.

—Sen. Marco Rubio (R–FL), Puerto Rico Recovery Effort, Senate Floor, September 26, 2017

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Sen. Richard Durbin: Experts say Medicaid cuts would be an unprecedented transfer of risk to the states

Richard DurbinThe bipartisan association representing every Medicaid director in the country–every one of them–stated that Medicaid cuts would “constitute the largest transfer of financial risk from the federal government to the states in our country’s history.”

—Sen. Richard Durbin (D–IL), Healthcare, Senate Floor, September 26, 2017

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Rep. John Garamendi: We need to remember that the Korean War never ended

John Garamendi God help us if we get in a war on the Korean Peninsula again. Consider for a moment that the 1953 Korean war never ended. It was an armistice. It is time for a peace treaty. It is time to recognize that there are two countries. It is time to settle this down.

—Rep. John Garamendi (D–CA), Major Hurricanes, House Floor, September 26, 2017

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