Congressmember Mark DeSaulnier—He Fights GOP Default With Discharge Tactics May 7, 2023
GOP—The “G rand O bstructionist P arty.” It wants to use the “D” word or “Default” to throw the U.S. and world economy into a catastrophic tail spin to ridiculously blame President Biden and his fellow Democrats. Democrats refuse to hold raising the debt ceiling hostage to “Team Red” draconian budget cuts. “Team Blue” is having none of it. They are not sitting back and moaning about nasty GOP tactics. Instead, Democrats intend to force a clean debt-ceiling limit vote increase by taking this issue to the floor of the GOP House, a chamber with a mere 5-member “Red” majority. How do Democrats plan to do this? By employing another “D” word, the “Discharge” one. Democrats, well aware that a budget default can occur by June 1, 2023, have taken steps to use a secret weapon that they have been holding in reserve. On 1/23/2023, 45-pages of legislation with the bland title of a bill called “The Breaking the Gridlock Act” was introduced without fanfare by little-known Congressmember Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA). This bill, made up of a hodge-podge of other bills from 20 different House committees, was held in committee for 30 days. The 30-day limit is enough to put this bill on the special discharge calendar. On May 16, 2023, Democrats can start collecting signatures. If Democrats get the majority of their caucus members signed up, they can force this “hodge-podge” bill onto the House floor. On the House floor, they can substitute a bill to resolve the debt crisis with no GOP attachments. If five “mainstream” Republican members join “Team Blue,” this group can push a debt ceiling solution past the GOP House (Hulse, nytimes.com, 5/02/23). Discharge petitions are very hard to pass and already House and Senate GOPers are screaming bloody murder in opposition. The last discharge petition that passed the House was major bipartisan campaign finance legislation in 2022 (Hulse, nytimes.com).
Cong. DeSaulnier was picked to sponsor this measure because his low profile would not bring attention. However, do not “misunderestimate” Cong. DeSaulnier. He is a former member of the key House Rules Committee and has faced far worse challenges in his political and personal life. Let’s meet Cong. DeSaulnier.
Fourth-term Congressmember Mark DeSaulnier (71) currently represents CA’s 10th Congressional District (CD). DeSaulnier’s (de-SOH-nee-ay’s) 10th is located in Northern CA in the outer East area of the San Francisco Bay region (Cohen & Cook 2022 Political Almanac). The present redistricted 10th includes the cities of Concord, part of Antioch, Walnut Creek, and Danville. Concord is the largest city in the 10th. The 10th additionally includes the affluent “Lamorinda” area of Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda. Businesses and shopping centers bolster this district (See Cohen & Cook 2022, Cong. DeSaulnier, Cities). Politically, the Golden State 10th is solidly “Blue” with a Cook PVI (Partisan Voting Index) of D+18. The 10th is less culturally liberal than San Francisco. However, Biden handily won the 10th with 74% of the vote, a 3% increase from Hillary’s 71% (Cohen & Cook, Cook PVI, 1/10/23). The CA 10th is 43.9% white and 42% Hispanic and has a median household income of $135, 150 (wwwcensus.gov).
Lowell, MA native DeSaulnier graduated in 1974 from the College of the Holy Cross in MA (118th Cong. At Your Fingertips, Early Guide). He moved to CA and settled in Concord. DeSaulnier worked as a probation officer. He also went through a series of blue-collar jobs including being a trucker, bartender, and hotel doorman. He entered the restaurant business and eventually owned several Bay Area dining locales. Initially a Republican, DeSaulnier won election to the Concord City Council in 1991 and became Concord mayor in 1993. GOP Gov. Pete Wilson appointed him to the influential state Air Resources Board. After seeing the GOP move to the right, DeSaulnier became a Democrat (Cohen & Cook 2022 Almanac). He won election as a Democrat to the CA State Assembly in 2006 and the State Senate in 2008. He chaired the Transportation Committee in each state chamber. DeSaulnier showed partisan independence. He opposed proposals to revive CA’s troubled high-speed rail project and worked with business groups to amend his corporate tax bill (Cohen & Cook 2022). In the Assembly, DeSaulnier authored or co-authored over 40 bills. This legislation dealt with school issues, childhood obesity, and suicide prevention. A bill he authored to restrict purchasing tobacco products online was vetoed by GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (AB1617, leginfo.ca.). In the State Senate, DeSaulnier authored over 20 bills that included providing for greater prescription drug safety and climate protection funding. He amended a bill to attempt to restrict local governments’ ability to shed pension protection programs through bankruptcy protection (leginfo.ca.gov, appeal-democrat.com7/22/12). He pushed for sensible gun control measures (sacbee.com, 7/14/12).
In 2014, when influential House liberal Dem. Rep. George Miller announced his retirement after 40 years, DeSaulnier jumped into the race to succeed him. Armed with strong financial backing and many endorsements, DeSaulnier handily won election garnering 67% of the vote. He has easily coasted to victory in his three re-election bids (Cohen & Cook 2022, 2018 Cong. Early Guide).
In the House, Cong. DeSaulnier has been labelled a Strong Democrat. He has a lifetime overall progressive voting record of 98.93% (progressive punch.org/scores). In 2019-2020, DeSaulnier had a liberal v. conservative 87%-13% record. Cong. DeSaulnier has voted with Pres. Biden 98.2 % of the time (fivethirtyeight). He is especially interested in education and transportation policy. He received an “F” rating from the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List for his pro-choice record. DeSaulnier opposed the Supreme Ct’s overturning of “Roe v. Wade” and called it “an assault on the freedom of all women and an attack on equality (sbaprolife.org, twitter.com, 6/24/22).”
Besides having the courage to change political parties and face GOP hostility for this move, Cong. DeSaulnier has faced far worse. In 2016, he stated that he had had undergone six months of chemo for leukemia. Because of this grueling experience, DeSaulnier created the Congressional Cancer Survivors Caucus to seek additional research funds to fight this killer disease. In an 11/2019 interview with the SF Chronicle, he stated that his cancer had returned and he was treating it with newly available medication. Rep. DeSaulnier said that he had grown more focused on policy steps to help doctors treat patients in acute need. Cong. DeSaulnier noted, “The things that I am actually really passionate about are people who are at risk, and how do you help them (Cohen & Cook 2022).”
Cong. DeSaulnier is a veteran marathoner. In 3/2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, he fell while running near the Capitol. He suffered broken ribs. With his immunity compromised by cancer, he contracted pneumonia and fought for his life in an intensive care unit. His doctors gave him a 10% survival chance. He spent four weeks on a ventilator. After being hospitalized for nearly two months, he returned home. The SF Chronicle described this hospitalization as “his second victory over death.” In late 5/2020, DeSaulnier released an 11-minute video in which he discussed his ordeal. In this video, DeSaulnier stated, “Cancer was amazing enough, but I am so grateful every day (Cohen & Cook 2022).”
Cong. DeSaulnier has demonstrated legislative experience and expertise. His fight for life against cancer, immunosuppression, and his gradual recovery has inspired many of his fellow Congressmembers (Cohen & Cook 2022). As long as he remains healthy, his district will continue to easily re-elect him. After staring down death, handling a discharge petition that faces tough odds against GOP naysayers will certainly not faze him.