Updated: Jun 14
I can say with a great degree of confidence that the vast majority of members of Congress make almost no impact-- or absolutely no impact-- on public policy. The system is set up so that members spend their days raising money from wealthy donors, including lobbyists and leaving policy for party leadership. This is slightly more true of Republicans but it's true for both Democrats and Republicans and Democrats have been rapidly catching up with Republicans for congressional insipidity. But no matter how much you are smart enough to love Alan Grayson or stupid enough to have bought into No Labels' and Chuck Schumer's well-crafted, baseless lies about him, no one has ever thought to accuse him of being insipid. He is also one of the most impactful members of Congress in our time.
This morning he withdrew from his Senate run and decided to pull papers for the open seat in his old congressional district, where he still lives, FL-10, which has gone from a D+21 seat to a D+29 seat. When Grayson defeated Republican Ric Keller in 2008, the district (then numbered FL-08) was red and starting to turn purple; Grayson became the first Democrat to win an Orlando area seat since Andy Ireland in 1977.
Last night, I asked him what made him decide to switch from a Senate run to a House run. "As Hans Hassell demonstrated in his 2017 book The Party’s Primary," he told me, "political parties control major nominations. The Democratic Party gave full backing to Val Demings, and it has made her the Senate nominee. The House race is different; I will be running in a district where people have seen what I can accomplish for our community, like cutting foreclosures in half, finding federal funding to keep the schools open, and bringing us a veterans hospital. Running for the Senate means trying to introduce yourself 10 million strangers; running for the House is more like hosting a block party for the neighborhood, and hanging out with friends."
He touched on exactly where I wanted to take the interview. I asked him what he accomplished that should make people-- both voters in the district and contributors outside the district-- support him. You could see how quickly he warmed to that one. "I wish that everyone would ask that question, all the time. “What have you done for me?” is a question that most elected officials, especially legislators, have no answer for.
"Locally," he said with some pride, "I cut foreclosures in half (a program so successful it was adopted statewide), brought a veterans hospital to Orlando (the largest city in the country without one), doubled light rail (taking it from the rich neighborhoods into the not-so-rich neighborhoods), got funding to keep seven Orlando schools from closing, I got the first 'earmarks' for minority communities, and I increased competitive federal grants (the ones you have to fight for) by $100 million in my first year alone."
A little further from home, I completely transformed campaign funding-- I was the only Member of Congress, out of 435, who raised his money from small donors, not lobbyists or rich people. Because of that freedom, I wrote more laws and I passed more laws than any other Member of Congress, even though the Republicans were in charge. I passed more amendments on both of my committees than any other member. I held the only hearing on drone victims, which shut down the drone attacks in Pakistan for a year. With Ron Paul, I forced the first audit of the Federal Reserve in a century, which uncovered $23 TRILLION in bailouts. I was virtually the only Member who was willing to make the case to the public that a war with Syria would only make things worse, and Congress refused that authorization. I moved $87 million from the weapons budget to the health research budget. I forced one vote on demilitarizing the police which I lost, and then President Obama instituted by executive order. I forced another vote on a minimum wage for federal employees and contractors, which I lost, and then President Biden instituted by executive order this month. In the midst of the housing crisis, I passed a 50% increase in bilingual housing assistance. And, to be honest, I did a few really good things that I got Republicans to go along with, as long as I wouldn’t take credit for it. Which I won’t.
Ok, but we all sense that the Republicans have a better than even chance to take power in the House in November, what do you think you can realistically accomplish," I asked him, if you are elected just as they take over? "See above," he said. "The last time that the Republicans controlled the House, I passed 121 laws, through the House, in four years. As Yoda on Star Wars likes to say, 'there is no try.' What matters is the good things you get done."
That brought me right to the "lightning round." I reminded him that the House just voted for a series of bills in the last few weeks. I wanted to know how he would have voted on each of them and why? Starting with the gun control package (Protecting Our Kids Act).
Grayson: "I would have voted for it, but it’s not enough. We need to do universal background checks, ban assault weapons (as in my Freedom From Fear Act), limit gun magazines to 10 bullets each, and eliminate legal immunity for gun manufacturers."
Alrighty... what about the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act?
Grayson: "I would have voted for it, but it’s not enough. We need a windfall profit tax on oil and gas producers, including foreign ones."
How about the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act?
Grayson: "I would have voted for it, but it’s not enough. Our priorities are wrong. We need to reallocate funding within DOJ and the FBI to make domestic terrorism/hate crimes a much higher priority, and at the same time decriminalize (and legalize) marijuana at the federal level. In 2020, there were 23,000 federal immigration indictments, 23,000 federal drug indictments, and 3000 indictments for violent offenses like domestic terrorism."
And finally... the Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act?
Grayson: "I would have voted for it, but it’s absurdly inadequate. A $28 million law to solve a $40 billion problem-- that’s how much America spends on infant formula each year. It’s only slightly better than establishing a committee to study the problem, or renaming a post office."
Now a question for my beloved readers. Honestly, who do you think would be less eager to see Grayson back in Congress, the Republican leadership or the Democratic leadership? And you? Would you like to see Grayson back on the House floor? Back being interviewed by Chris Hayes on MSNBC? I don't think Grayson has ever been on with Mehdi Hasan. That needs to change. Agree? Please consider contributing what you can to Alan Grayson's first day as a 2022 House candidate. It's worth the investment! You can click here or here or on the 2022 congressional thermometer on the left.