Larry Cohen, DNC Unity Reform Commission and Labor Chair of Our Revolution energized Democrats Abroad leaders at the start of day three of the DPCA global meeting in Washington, D.C. Cohen spoke on the importance of building a base in progressive America, outreaching to independent voters to better enfranchise them.
Stating the rights of workers, higher education, and healthcare concerns Cohen laid out a platform of motivation. He challenged members to build up the party from a progressive and inclusive point of view.
“We should support local groups,” said Cohen. “We have potential on the local level to actually win things in big and small cities all over the country. Resistance is not enough if we don’t have a positive vision of change. How can we be heard collectively and how can we build a stronger party and win elections at the local level?”
Healthcare was also a central focus of discussion, citing support California’s SB 562 bill that would greatly reduce the role of insurance companies in providing more state funded medical care and services for citizens, Cohen cited the need for more grassroots support in states across the nation and Americans abroad in their home states for similar bills.
Following Cohen’s speech, DA leaders broke to elect the new executive committee, while global committees and caucus groups, including the Global Action Team, Tax Advocacy and Activism Committee, Fundraising, Voting Issues and Voting Rights Committee, Global IT Team, Global Volunteer Team, LGBT Caucus, Youth Caucus, Progressive Caucus, Veterans and Military Families Caucus, and Global Communications Team gave reports on their activities from 2016 and goals for 2017 and beyond.
Next up, DPCA Executive Committee elections. Stay tuned for more…
Courtney Hagen, DAUK/Global comms team
Saturday, the second day of the Democrats Abroad’s Global Convention in DC, began with a new addition to the family: DA China was officially recognized as a country committee. Although members from China have long participated in DA events they had not until now been officially recognized. After many years of hard work, this unanimous welcome to the newest member of the family was a huge victory for members in the country, and in the Asia-Pacific Region. Welcome China!
After the enthusiastic celebration, International Chair Katie Solon gave her annual report on the activities and accomplishments of Democrats Abroad. Katie spoke of our mission to resist the administration’s agenda and to encourage resistance activists to turn into voters, and then reviewed the Global Presidential Primary, our last Global Convention in Berlin, the Democratic National Convention, our various Global Town Halls with Keith Ellison, Tom Perez and George Takei among others, as well as our outreach to Democratic leaders and to our members to get out the vote.
Solon also highlighted all the various resistance efforts undertaken since the election : the Women’s March, the Science March, the NoBanNoWall action. It has been an intense and productive year for Democrats Abroad, and the next two years leading up to the 2018 election will be equally if not more engaging for our members world-wide, because, as Solon concluded, “we can act together, we must resist together, the price of democracy is participation, and there are no more sidelines to sit on.”
After Chair Solon’s annual report, the Convention was joined by freshman Congressional Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who has a special place in his heart for Democrats Abroad, since he used to be one, having been a member of DA France for many years. He told the group, to many cheers, that the most interesting, dynamic and active of the state parties isn’t even in the states, and said that he makes it his mission to raise DA’s profile with his congressional colleagues. He also contributed a protest chant for future resistance efforts : “No more Trump, No more Pence, Impeach Them for Emoluments.”
The Congressman stayed for a long while to respond to many questions about health care, voting, government oversight, the Russia investigation, and how restoring the true mission of the Democratic Party will help us win in 2018 and beyond. He concluded by saying that “Democrats Abroad is an essential and vital part of the party today.”
Much work also has also been done this weekend, notably on bylaw amendments. Fourteen resolutions and amendments were presented and discussed, with a final vote scheduled for Sunday. Amendments included proposals to expand the international excom, to adjudicate non-compliant country committees in a manner that would either bring them back into compliance or dissolve them, and to require voting members of the DPCA to carry no more than one proxy vote at international meetings in observation of the democratic principle of one person, one vote.
After the lunch break, the Convention welcomed DC Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. The Delegate commented on the administration's agenda and the Republican Congress’s ineptitude. More important, Holmes Norton, for whom voting rights have been a key issue for decades, was also surprised to learn about the many voting rights issues for Americans abroad, and listened attentively as members spoke about these issues. She also listened attentively to Carmelan Polce of DA Singapore as she outlined the major problems of FATCA. This was a great opportunity for DA to advance understanding of some of its most important agenda items with an important voice in Congress.
After the Congresswoman’s visit, the group returned to business for the rest of the afternoon with further discussions on bylaws and resolutions as well as training sessions before adjourning til tomorrow, when the ExCom elections will take place.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) drew on her experiences living as an American abroad in speaking to the group of international Democrats Abroad leaders gathered for day one of the Democratic Party Committee Abroad (DPCA) Global meeting in Washington, D.C.
Gillibrand brought a powerful message of empowerment, calling on members to work towards democratizing the democracy in an important time of social activism.
“This is a moment in time when regular people can raise their voices to be heard,” said Gillibrand.
The New York Senator also reaffirmed the crucial role that DA plays in helping to maintain the connections of Americans abroad back home, allowing them to vote and take part in their own democracy. Gillibrand emphasized how important that opportunity is to Americans in the Trump administration, also praising the outlets that the Women’s and Climate Change marches played in allowing the world to create an intersectional moment of action.
Gillibrand said that her experiences abroad first in university and then at the start of her legal career provided her with the insight and empathy to both live with and reach out to different people and communities, a skill which she has leveraged into reaching across the aisle to work with partisan colleagues in the Senate.
The Senator’s address capped off a day full of resolutions and regional meetings and trainings for DA leaders from many of its 42 country committees. Participants had seminars on press and media relations building, fundraising, and rules of order which they can then take back to their respective countries to better empower and engage with serving Americans abroad in their communities.
Stay tuned for day two...
Courtney Hagen, DAUK/Global comms team
More than one hundred Democratic leaders from around the world will be converging on D.C. this weekend. Representing the Democratic Party abroad, we are flying in from Ecuador, Hong Kong, the Ukraine and many points in between to elect new leadership, prepare for the 2018 midterms and fine tune our outreach strategy to help engage the millions of Americans living abroad in the US elections next year.Read more
DA stands with all Americans who see quality affordable healthcare for everyone as a basic right.
“We are appalled and outraged at the callous disregard for human life shown by the Republican members of the House of Representatives in passing the AHCA. In a purely partisan vote, Republicans have put healthcare at risk for millions of people” states Katie Solon, Democrats Abroad International Chair.
“This legislation was rushed through, there were no hearings, there was no scoring from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to show the consequences and true cost of the law.”
“There are nine million Americans living abroad and most have experienced the benefits of universal healthcare. For those Americans and their families with pre-existing conditions, final passage of this legislation could preclude their move back to the United States.”
“Democrats Abroad will continue our efforts to demand quality affordable healthcare, will follow the debate as it now moves to the Senate, will continue to call and write Congress and we will hold the Trump Administration accountable to protect its citizens.”
Democrats Abroad members and Americans from around the world laced up their shoes on Saturday, April 22nd, to take part in more than 500 satellite marches at sites across the globe. Marchers from from Belgium, to Chile, to France, Sweden, the United Kingdom and beyond joined in with scientists, science enthusiasts, and other supporters marching in Washington DC and across the US as a demonstration of public support for science and scientific research.
Planned to coincide with Earth Day, the March for Science was intended as a multinational, bi-partisan event to both celebrate and encourage the indispensable role that science plays in global governments, economies, and health.
Democrats Abroad Canada joined the action too, with 20 members from DA-Canada’s Toronto chapter taking part in the March in the city. Nathan K. Lujan, DA-Canada Toronto chapter Co-Vice Chair, and a scientist himself, took part in the March as he felt it was imperative to protect scientific analysis and exploration along with an opportunity to engage with fellow Americans abroad who may feel at odds with the Trump administration’s cuts to federal funding and research and science-based organizations.Read more
It’s been a big week for the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) in Washington DC.
Rep Maloney introduces Same Country Exception Bill
On Tuesday April 25, 2017 Americans Abroad Caucus Chair Rep Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced HR2136, the Overseas Americans Financial Access Act (OAFAA) in the House of Representatives. The bill embodies our FATCA reform recommendation, the Same Country Safe Harbor Exemption from FATCA reporting for Americans abroad.
This reform has the support of all our colleague organisations representing Americans abroad, as well as the National Taxpayer Advocate. We plan on supporting the bill strongly in our Congressional Door Knock next month. We will also publish an information pack for the Global Action Team to share with groups across Democrats Abroad interested in gathering members to write letters or postcards to Representatives seeking their sponsorship of the bill.
House Holds Hearings on FATCA Consequences
The OAFAA bill was introduced ahead of hearings held Wednesday April 26th by the Government Operations Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee “Reviewing the Unintended Consequences of the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act”. Democrats Abroad, working through legislative aides on Rep Maloney’s staff, has been trying since the hearing was scheduled to get a witness on the list to testify. As Republicans control the Committee (and all Congressional Committees) it was not surprising that we were not successful. Nevertheless Democrats Abroad made a submission to the Subcommittee and we expect it will be published in due course.
Of course a written statement is not as powerful as speaking directly to the Committee in the hearing. Had we testified, Democrats Abroad would have reiterated our support for a switch to Residency-based Taxation. Failing that, we support the Safe Harbor exemption from FATCA reporting for Americans abroad.
Our scepticism about this hearing has always run high. Government Operations Subcommittee Chair Mark Meadows (R-NC) introduced a FATCA Repeal bill in the House of Representatives last month. The same bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who testified at the hearing as a witness. Senator Paul, as you may know, was a plaintiff, now an appellant, in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of FATCA. The rest of the witnesses bar one were also strident FATCA opponents, including famed Citizens United lawyer Jim Bopp who represents Republicans Overseas.
The one witness who spoke in support of FATCA is a retired legislative aide. She worked for retired Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and is deemed to be the architect of FATCA. She spoke strongly of the law’s importance as a critical deterrent to tax evasion – and not in favour of the Safe Harbor.
Fortunately Democratic members of the Subcommittee members Rep Maloney and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia) spoke strongly in support of the Safe Harbor as a mechanism for both relieving the FATCA burden and maintaining the law’s original intent to discourage and apprehend tax evaders.
By the end of the hearing Chairman Meadows indicated he is open to compromise in developing a FATCA remedy for Americans abroad. That may stretch credulity given Meadows’ lead sponsorship on the House bill to repeal FATCA, but we will are taking his comments at face value. He asked the witnesses to get back to the Subcommittee with three recommendations to modify FATCA. Democrats Abroad will also make a submission providing recommendations. And we will continue to monitor the Government Operations Subcommittee and Chairman Meadows, looking for opportunities to work with them and others in developing a remedy that both addresses the problems FATCA is causing for ordinary, hard-working Americans abroad and protects its ability to fight financial crimes that underwrite terrorism and facilitate trafficking in drugs, arms and humans, as well as fight tax evasion.
Thanks to Katie Solon and Joe Smallhoover
Many thanks to International Chair Katie Solon and DA France Chair Joe Smallhoover for attending the hearing on Democrats Abroad’s behalf. They had valuable discussions on the edges and in the breaks of the hearing with FATCA reform allies and opponents, as our FATCA advocacy work clearly will go on. Katie and Joe also met yesterday with officials at Treasury who have carriage of FATCA.
Our engagement with regulators and legislators about FATCA is in its 6th year. We are grateful to all those who have contributed to this important advocacy work over that time.
Please contact us at any time with questions or comments.
FBAR/FATCA Task Force
Carmelan Polce, Chair (Singapore)
DeeDee Gierow (Sweden)
Michael Ramos (Australia)
Joe Smallhoover (France)
Orlando Vidal, Ex Officio (UAE)
Watch the video: Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana speaks to Democrats Abroad members in Berlin, 1 April 2017.
You’ve decided you want to make a difference — to do your part for democracy, even while living abroad. But where to begin? We talked with Democrats Abroad team leaders Hilary Bown from Germany, and Heidi Burch from Canada to ask what you might find yourself doing if you decide to volunteer with Democrats Abroad.
Both leaders emphasized that it really depends on the potential volunteer. “There are so many ways for volunteers in our network to be active politically,” says Bown, who leads the Global Action team for DA and was just re-elected Vice Chair for Democrats Abroad Germany. “We’re trying to tease out all of those options and help people work on what’s easiest and most productive for them.”
Burch, a co-chair for the Get Out the Vote team who was also recently elected Vice Chair for her country committee, detailed some of the options. They ranged from talking with people at local events, to phone banking, to putting your marketing skills to work writing emails to members. She noted that phone banking requires the least amount of commitment; you can call voters from anywhere in the world with an internet connection, and choose the amount of time you spend doing it.Read more