More Than 100 State Legislators Sign Letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
More than 125 state legislators from across the country signed a letter to Senate Majority Leaders Mitch McConnell (KY-R)and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY-D) calling on them to oppose Cabinet nominees whose views or behavior violate key American principles and norms: diplomacy over military intervention; arms control; civil liberties; public officials free from conflicts of interest; and civilian leadership. The letter was sponsored by the Women Legislators' Lobby (WiLL), a program of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), a women’s organization advocating for progressive national security.
“Whether it is violating someone’s fundamental civil rights or watching critical dollars get spent on war overseas when our bridges and schools need funds at home, state lawmakers understand the direct impact poor federal policy choices have on their local communities,” said Megan Amundson, WAND executive director.
The letter reads in part, “As the U.S. Senate considers Cabinet appointments in the next Administration, we ask that all nominees are evaluated around five principles core to maintaining American strength abroad and at home. These include deference to diplomacy over military intervention, respect for arms control, respect for civil liberties, avoidance of conflicts of interest, and support for our sacred civilian-led government.”
“Here in Portland, ME, parents are organizing to convince the city to fund four new elementary schools because ours are falling apart,” said Diane Russell, WAND national security political director and former state representative. “I served eight years in the Maine House and I can tell you there’s no money at the state level to help because we have sent that money overseas. It is hard to see how I can support Cabinet nominees, like State nominee, Rex Tillerson, with conflicts of interest that could damage broader American policy goals like combating climate change and challenging Russian aggression. We need a Secretary of State who will put diplomacy first and keep more of our money at home.”
Tillerson has spent his career enriching Exxon Mobil, through which he has developed a personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2011, Putin, an autocrat who has quashed dissent in his country, awarded Tillerson the Order of Friendship. In 2014, Tillerson expressed disappointment at U.S. sanctions on Russia for Russia’s annexation of Crimea. “While Tillerson has taken steps to untangle his interests with Exxon’s, we hope and expect that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will investigate and determine all possible conflicts of interests. If Tillerson’s answers are not complete and satisfactory, his nomination should not move to the Senate floor,” said Erica Fein, WAND’s nuclear weapons policy director..
In the 1980s, the Republican-led Senate voted against confirming now Senator Jeff Sessions as a judge because of racially insensitive comments he had made. He has since voted repeatedly against civil rights for the LGBT community, against women’s rights, and has not denounced the idea of a Muslim Registry proposed by then-candidate Trump.
Secretary of Energy nominee, Gov. Rick Perry, famously couldn’t remember the name of the Department of Energy, but claimed he planned to eliminate it if president. Sixty percent of the Department’s budget relates to nuclear weapons and has most recently been run by trained physicists. The most recent Energy Secretary, Ernie Moniz, had a major role in negotiating the nuclear agreement with Iran, providing vital technical support. It is essential the Department be led by someone who understands its major role in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons around the globe, not to mention someone who doesn’t philosophically believe the agency should be dismantled.
Legislators signing this letter hail from Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.
The letter is endorsed by the Arms Control Association, Courage Campaign, Global Zero, National Priorities Project, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Peace Action, Tri-Valley CAREs (Livermore, CA), and Win Without War. More than 6,000 similar letters have been sent by regular citizens to their U.S. Senators.
The full letter with list of singers can be viewed here.
Watch WAND Nuclear Weapons Policy Director Erica Fein and WAND Intern Susannah Dolinar deliver the letter on January 10: