Thursday, January 31, 2008

GCCWP Receives Message of Support from Executive Director of BISCO

The following message was sent to us from Sharon Gauthe, who is the Executive Director of BISCO (Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing):

I greatly appreciate everything all of you are doing to help keep the current situation here in Louisiana & the Gulf Coast fresh in the minds of the American public. The youthful energy of your students and their leaders is a blessing to us all. This is a wonderful project, very much needed as so much work is yet to be done, not only in New Orleans but along the whole coast. Our organization is in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parish. We are 60 - 90 miles southwest of New Orleans and were affected by Hurricane Rita as well as Katrina. Thank you for keeping our name on the minds of Americans throughout our great nation. They just don't know and when they do, they care and they do something about it, which can't be said for all of the politicians, some who vote against us but won't even come down to see our area's needs. Again, Thank you and best of luck in all of your endeavors in the future. Sharon

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Push to inject Gulf revival into debates acknowledged

With your help, the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act questions shot up to the #1 and #3 most popular for the Democratic and Republican debates in California, winning acknowledgment from the New Orleans Time-Picayune, The Nation, Black Agenda Report, and Alternet. See below for the front page Time-Picayune article:

Group Pushes to inject Gulf revival into debates

Question could go to presidential rivals
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
By Bruce Alpert

WASHINGTON -- Encouraging allies to click away in pursuit of cyber democracy, a coalition of activists is pushing sponsors of this week's California debates to ask the presidential candidates about their plans to encourage hurricane recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast.

The result: As of Tuesday afternoon, a question asking the candidates whether they support the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act, which would pay for infrastructure projects employing local and displaced workers, has jumped to the most-voted-for question among the more than 3,800 suggested for Thursday's Democratic debate. The same question ranked No. 3 in votes among more than 3,500 proposed for tonight's GOP debate.

Both debates will be televised on CNN.

Politico, a Web-based political newspaper distributed in Washington, which is co-sponsoring the debates with CNN and the Los Angeles Times, said it will list the 150 questions with the most votes on its Web site,, today and during the debates and that some of the most popular questions will be asked of the candidates during the debates.

Stephen Bradberry, Louisiana organizer for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, said it's important for Gulf Coast recovery issues to stay in the national forefront and that one way to do that is to raise the issue during the presidential debates. He said only a few questions about Katrina have been asked during the 20 Democratic debates so far, and not one during the 19 Republican debates.

"We want to keep the issue alive," said Bradberry, who noted that the biggest chance for getting the issues a full airing was lost when the Commission on Presidential Debates refused to hold a debate in New Orleans.

"If the debate is not coming to the Gulf Coast, then we need to bring the Gulf to the debate," he said.

ACORN and other groups, including the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project, the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation and the RFK Center for Human Rights, cite a June article by pollster John Zogby to argue that that there's still a lot of voter interest in the issues raised by Hurricane Katrina and recovery efforts. Zogby wrote that "Katrina over the long haul will prove to more of a defining moment in American history than the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001," and that Americans have a "hunger nationwide for a new model for the federal government."

Although hurricane recovery hasn't come up much during the debates, it has generated some discussion even without specific questions by moderators. During a GOP debate in August, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he watched nonstop TV coverage of the hurricane in August 2005 that showed people desperately seeking help. "It was just was beyond my comprehension that we could get TV cameras to these people," he said, "but we couldn't get a boat, or a bottle of water to them."

At another GOP debate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said government's failure to respond quickly to Katrina, along with failures to control U.S. borders from illegal immigration and missteps in Iraq, made Americans skeptical about the government's ability to deliver on politicians' promises.

At Democratic debates, Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Barack Obama, D-Ill., and former Sen. John Edwards, D-S.C., have outlined their own plans to aid recovery efforts.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Students react to Gulf Coast tragedy; Use media as an outlet

After becoming deeply moved by what they learned during a social action course at SJSU taught by Dr. Scott Myers-Lipton in Fall '07, two students created their own pieces reacting to the government's lack of leadership in securing aid to residents after Hurricane Katrina.

The two students were also part of a media team, which focused on obtaining media attention and developing outreach strategies in order to promote the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project.

Justin Ruiz is a senior at SJSU, and is majoring in Communication Studies. Justin also works for the Golden State Warriors as a Broadcasting Assistant.

Kristin Rasmussen is a Theatre Arts graduate student at SJSU. Her video was made in partnership with local hip hop artist JeFFHH, who wrote the song that is featured in her video, after he visited New Orleans a year ago while taking part in Louisiana Winter 1.

Friday, January 18, 2008



Kristin Rasmussen (415) 845-4200 /
Dr. Scott-Myers Lipton (510) 508-5382 /

Students to "Celebrate for HR 4048"

On Tuesday, February 5th, 2008, students and faculty will gather at San Jose State University to celebrate Mardi Gras and rally in support of the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act (HR 4048).

SJSU students and faculty created the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project in November of 2006. Through relentless effort, and by forming alliances with Louisiana ACORN, ColorofChange, and the RFK Center for Human Rights, HR 4048 was introduced into Congress on November 1, 2007. Congress member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced HR 4048, with original co-sponsorship from Charlie Melancon (D-LA) and Gene Taylor (D-MS). When enacted, HR 4048 will create 100,000 civic work jobs for Gulf Coast residents and evacuees to rebuild their public infrastructure.

Students and faculty will "Celebrate for HR 4048" by processing around campus with a jazz band. The celebration will include throwing of beads, small floats, and New Orleans cuisine. Below is the full schedule:

• 9 am–noon: Politically-themed mask making and sign making (in support of HR 4048) on the 7th Street Plaza sponsored by the Cesar Chavez Community Action Center
• 11:30 am: Meet at the Smith/Carlos Statues; begin procession around campus at 11:45 am
• 12:30 pm: New Orleans cuisine at the barbecue pits on the 7th Street Plaza
• 4-5:30 pm: "American Blackout" (video on Black voter suppression), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Library, Room 225
• 7–9 pm: ""The History of New Orleans from the Bottom of the Gumbo Pot," presentation by Dr. Steven Milner, Chair of African-American Studies; SJSU student report out of the current state of New Orleans based on their recent NOLA trip, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Library, Room 225

This year, Mardi Gras falls on Super Tuesday, where 22 states will hold caucuses or primary elections to choose their presidential candidates. What better day than Mardi Gras/Super Tuesday to highlight the importance of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The SJSU students hope to send a loud message to the nation and to the presidential candidates that there is solution to the crisis in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and it is HR 4048, the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

GCCWP Meets with LA ACORN: Partnership Strengthened

During this past week, the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project (GCCWP) met twice with one of its most important allies, Louisiana ACORN. This working relationship began last January, when Dr. Scott Myers-Lipton met with Stephen Bradberry at Xavier University in a VERY EARLY morning meeting.

On their last day in New Orleans as a part of Louisiana Winter 1, Stephen suggested that the two groups meet at 7 am at Xavier. Scott ML being the 24/7 organizer that he is, said sure.....the 30 students were less enthusiastic.....1 student woke up for the meeting! But this was a very important meeting, as the two groups began discussing how they could work together to enact the GCCWP.

Scott and Stephen continued to talk on the phone throughout the past year. Importantly, Stephen came to San Jose State University to speak to 70 students in September, where he witnessed the power of the student movement at SJSU. He also gave an incredibly inspiring talk.

Then, Scott and Stephen, along with Jeffrey Buchanan from the RFK Center for Human Rights, Jonathan Rhodes from Chicago-Kent School of Law, and Brenda Muniz who is ACORN's Legislative Director, went to the Hill together to discuss with members of Congress the GCCWP. This trip was very productive, as we garnered the support of Charlie Melancon from south Louisiana and Gene Taylor from south Mississippi.

In the beginning of our Louisiana Winter 2 trip, Stephen and Tanya Harris, Lead Organizer for New Orleans ACORN, met with the students in ACORN's new center in the Lower Ninth Ward to discuss the social conditions of that community. Tanya talked about how Brad Pitt's project is building 150 houses on one end of the Lower 9, while ACORN is taking the lead to build 150 houses on the other side, with the hope of sparking development throughout the community. Stephen talked about the importance of the GCCWP as a pilot project for the rest of the country.

At the end of our 8 days in New Orleans as part of Louisiana Winter 2, Stephen met with the students for a national phone call with other community-based organizations to discuss strategy about how to mobilize Gulf Coast communities to support HR 4048. The students had a chance to see first-hand how organizing works within a major community-based organization, and how it works collaboratively with others to further our common goal.

Before the phone call, Stephen discussed the depth of his commitment to the GCCWP, and the passing of the bill. Students left the meeting energized about having such a powerful ally as Stephen Bradberry and LA ACORN. In fact, they have begun to BELIEVE that with allies like Stephen, that it will be possible to achieve our collective goal.

Stay tuned....this relationship between the GCCWP and LA ACORN continues to flourish, and the result just might well be the passing of HR 4048, and a new direction for our country.

Monday, January 14, 2008

59 Students & Faculty Gather at Loyola U.:National Campus Strategy to Pass HR 4048 Developed

Today, 59 students, staff, and faculty from 10 college campuses met at Loyola University in New Orleans and took a major step forward in planning a national campus campaign strategy to pass the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project (HR 4048).

Eighteen students from San Jose State University facilitated the event, which included an ice breaker facilitated by Justine Ouano, a discussion of the history of the GCCWP led by Marcus Kilgore, and in-depth discussion of HR 4048 led by all of the SJSU students.

We were happy to have Jonathan Rhoades in attendance. Jonathan, who is a law student at Chicago-Kent College of Law, took the research that the GCCWP had done during the first Louisiana Winter trip last January and crafted the original bill.

Folks then broke down into 5 groups, and discussed in depth the following questions:

1) What part of bill are you most excited about? Do you have any concerns about the bill?
2) What has worked on your campus to promote social justice causes? In light of that learning, how can we bring/promote HR 4048 at your campus?
3) How do we build a national student coalition around HR 4048?
4) Do you have a powerful experiences in New Orleans that you want to share? Does it connect to the GCCWP?
5) Have you experienced Katrina fatigue on your campus? And if so, what have you done to overcome it?

We then discussed the various GCCWP Campaigns. Chris Hauck and Roberto Garcia-Ceballos talked about the Myspace and Facebook campaign entitled "Bring the Gulf to the Debates."

The Gulf Coast Civic Works Project, is working with two of its closest allies on this project, which are Louisiana ACORN and RFK Center for Human Rights.

As you might be aware, the Gulf Coast has barely been mentioned in the debates. Jeffrey Buchanan from RFK has found that during the 12 Republican debates, the Gulf Coast has never been mentioned, and that in the Democratic debates, the Gulf Coast has not done much better, with less than one percent air time provided to discuss the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.

Harold Bell discussed our campaign to get 100 co-sponsors on HR 4048 before March 1st. GCCWP folks plan on meeting with our respective Congress members throughout the country. We will also encourage others to phone and email their representatives.

Lily Perez discussed the KatrinaRitaVille Express tour, and how students can invite Derrick Evans ( to bring a FEMA trailer to your campus to dramatize the social condition in the Gulf Coast, and to promote HR 4048.

Latu Tapaatoutai and Victor Ngo discussed how campuses could sponsor Mardi Gras events on February 5 to "Celebrate for HR 4048."

Marcus Kilgore discussed our upcoming plans for a National Post-Katrina Summit on April 7-11. We invited the campuses in the room, as well as across the nation to participate in holding lectures, reading the names of the Katrina victims, creating a memorial with flags with the names of the victim on it.

Out of this discussion, Dr. Scott Myers-Lipton of SJSU, proposed that the GCCWP develop a campaign that celebrates the life of the Katrina victims. Many of the over 1,800 people who died have never had their pictures shown in the national papers, as the 9-11 victims were so appropriately displayed.

To correct this "oversight" and to humanize what has taken place and continues to take place, we talked about dedicating part of the GCCWP web site to pictures of the people who passed. They would be accompanied by a description from the family members of who the person was, what where their likes, etc.

Family members who do not have access to a computer could give it to a minister or community-based organization, and they could email it to us to post. They might also send it to the GCCWP through the mail.

The national gathering ended with a dance lesson from Carlyn Steward and Tena Flores to "Soulja Boy." These two SJSU women had many from the group up dancing to this tune.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

GCCWP meets with the Louisiana Relief Authority (LRA)

Today, Marcus Kilgore, Julia Lang, and Scott Myers-Lipton, along with two students from Student Hurricane Network, met with Deputy Director Andy Knopp and Robin Keegan from the Louisiana Recovery Authority. The LRA, which is located in Baton Rouge, is one of the lead organizations in Louisiana overseeing the recovery.

We went with Andy and Robin to discuss HR 4048, with the hope of learning from their experience during these past two years of leading the recovery efforts. They provided us with important information about the social conditions in Louisiana. For example, they informed us that 40% of Louisiana residents between 25 and 50 are not in the work force and 756,000 residents do not have high school diplomas.

Andy said that what was needed was not just 100,000 jobs, but 100,000 qualified workers. This led to a long discussion about how the GCCW Act can provide the necessary training to rebuild the Gulf Coast. Robin added that there were other obstacles for people obtaining jobs. She felt that the GCCW Act needed to include housing stipends, child care, and transportation.

The other key point that Andy brought up was that FEMA will only pay for the damages caused by Hurricane Katrina. Many public infrastructure projects need additional funds that FEMA will not cover. Andy thought that the GCCW Act could fill the gap between what FEMA does not cover and the actual cost of the reconstruction project.

Back in New Orleans, the students spent the day gutting a house across the street from the Calio Housing Project, which is best known as the former home of the famous rapper Percy "Master P" Miller. The work involved wearing "hazmat" suits to protect the students from the dust, fiber glass, and other harmful particles.

Students knocked down the walls, stripped the house to its bare frame, and removed all the tiles in the house. The students reported back they had a good time.

Reflecting on the day, Harold Bell, a senior business major at SJSU, stated that "it was a humbling experience to interact with the local community. They have gone through so much, and I have come to realize that my troubles are only a fraction in the grand scheme of things. It was also great to work as a team and see immediate results. I mean, you should have seen that house before we started. And afterwards, with the house gutted, there was a feeling of a fresh start."

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Letter Carriers Union #214 supports Gulf Coast Reconstruction Program like WPA

Gulf Coast Reconstruction Program Resolution

Resolution calls for federally-funded public works program (like WPA of the 1930s) with prevailing wages and the right to organize...the Right of Return of evacuees...and an end to state repression, racial profiling and police brutality in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

WHEREAS, During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina the world watched the United States government stand by and let thousands of African Americans and poor people in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast suffer and hundreds die a most tragic and unnecessary death;

WHEREAS, Robert "Tiger" Hammond, president of the Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO recently said, "Parts of this town look like a nuclear bomb hit two days ago, not like it was two years ago.";

WHEREAS, The AFL-CIO Housing Trust (HIT) is participating in the $1 billion Gulf Coast Revitalization Program for New Orleans and other communities ravaged by Hurricane Katrina;

WHEREAS, The AFL-CIO will be investing in the building of modular housing and will coordinate union sponsored worker training programs;

WHEREAS, The AFL-CIO community fund and affiliated unions have raised millions of dollars to assist Katrina survivors;

WHEREAS, ILWU Locals 10, 19, 52, and the International in conjunction with the African American Longshore Coalition sent several 40 foot containers of humanitarian and construction supplies, and vehicles along with financial support to the Gulf;

WHEREAS, Members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters volunteered to drive trucks filled with supplies to the Gulf for survivors;

WHEREAS, The American Federation of Teachers has dispatched tutors and specialists to assist local workers in preparing for apprenticeship opportunities, investing its resources in the people of New Orleans despite the city's attacks on public education and wholesale privatization of education;

WHEREAS, Almost immediately after Katrina, President George W. Bush issued an executive order suspending prevailing wage requirements on federally funded projects. Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress suspended affirmative action requirements, relaxed environmental regulations, and started handing out privatized, no-bid contracts like they were bottled water;

WHEREAS, In the weeks after Katrina and Rita, New Orleans witnessed an influx of more than 150,000 workers from outside the region, many of them recruited from Mexico and Central America by temporary agencies;

WHEREAS, Fifty percent of migrant day laborers were never paid for their work and the New Orleans Workers Center has countless stories of transient workers who showed up at a certain location to get paid, and instead were met by ICE agents and deported;

WHEREAS, Katrina brought about the largest displacement of African Americans in the U.S. South since the post-Reconstruction period at the end of the 19th century;

WHEREAS, The ACLU has released a report revealing continuing incidents of racial injustice and human rights abuses in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina;

WHEREAS, These violations include reports of heightened racially motivated police activity, housing discrimination, and prisoner abuse;

WHEREAS, On August 29th thru September 2, 2007, an International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was held in New Orleans made up of an international panel of judges from 7 countries, a prosecution team of leading attorneys from across the country, experts and witnesses (survivors) who provided testimony regarding human rights abuses and crimes by the government at all levels (federal, state and local);

WHEREAS, Both Katrina survivors (witnesses) and prosecutors at the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita called for a reconstruction program to rebuild the Gulf;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, That National Association of Letter Carriers Branch #214 support the call for the implementation of a federally funded Gulf Coast Reconstruction Program which shall include prevailing wages for workers, and the right to organize; and

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The Gulf Coast Reconstruction Program include the right to return to the Gulf, a Gulf Coast Public Works Program (similar to the WPA of the 1930's), an end to state repression via police brutality and racial profiling, and building solidarity committees nationally to continue the struggle for a just reconstruction in the Gulf Coast; and

THEREFORE BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, That this Resolution be sent to our affiliates and forwarded to the democratic leadership of the House, the Senate, and the Congressional Black Caucus.

This resolution was adopted by NALC Branch #214 on January 9, 2008 in San Francisco, California, by unanimous vote. It is modeled after a resolution adopted by the Central Labor Council of Alameda County in November 2007. NALC Branch #214 represents 2,500 letter carriers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Update from NOLA

San Jose State students spent the day in the Lower 9th Ward cutting "Katrina grass," which means that the "grass" were weeds that were 10 feet tall! The students clipped, chopped, whacked, smacked, and cut their way through six lots. By the end of the day, they felt like they had really accomplished a lot.

In addition to the community work, the students met with Steven Bradberry, lead organizer for LA ACORN, and Tanya Harris, lead organizer for New Orleans ACORN. Steven provided a great analysis between the two dominant paradigms in America: Milton Friedman's laissez fairre economic model and Keynesian's belief in government involvement in social uplift. To understand how the power elite has used disasters and crisis to promote Friedman's model, he recommended that we read Naiomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism." He also inspired us by reminding us that the power is in the people, and that the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project has the possibility to roll back the gains made by Friedman's economic model during the past 40 years.

Tanya discussed the how Brad Pitt's vision and action has led to the Make it Right project that will rebuild 150 ecologically sustainable homes on the Jordan side of the Lower 9. Earlier in the day, we toured this area where these future homes will be built. Right now, they are outlined in pick tarps that provides the community with a dynamic symbol that the Lower 9th will be rebuilt.

Reflecting on the experience so far, Chris Hauck stated, "The first two days have been life altering experience. It is just hard to believe that what I am seeing is actually happening in our country. The lack of progress in the rebuilding is pretty stunning. I mean you can't easily find a store in the 9th Ward to buy some water."

Kristin Rasmussen was shocked to see the homeless tents. She stated that "it didn't register that they were homeless. I thought they were campers. You just aren't use to seeing so many tents that concentrated for 1/2 mile." Kristin wondered why the government couldn't do more to rebuild the Lower 9. "I mean we are just students and we cut through 6 lots. Why can't the government, who has a lot more resources, do more for the people of the Lower 9."

Roberto Garcia-Ceballos began the experience feeling shocked by what he was seeing. But after meeting with Steven and Tanya, he felt empowered. Roberto said that "Steven and Tanya reminded us that the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project is the beginning of reforming our nation's economy and political power."

Monday, January 07, 2008

Louisiana Winter 2: 19 SJSU students arrived in New Orleans

Today, 19 SJSU students arrived in New Orleans to participate in "Louisiana Winter 2." The name was chosen to give homage to the students who participated in Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964.

The students will be working with LA ACORN in the Lower 9th Ward on rebuilding projects, as well as participating in a series of meetings to promote the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act (HR 4048).

This is our 2nd trip down to New Orleans, and incredibly we arrived on day of the BCS National Championship college football game. As we drove to our humble dorm-like rooms at Napolean House, we passed Bourbon Street, where LSU and Ohio State fans packed the streets in pre-game celebrations.

As we drove a few blocks down from the celebration, we turned right on Clayborne Street, and there in front of us were 100s of tents for the homeless under the underpass.

Right in front of us, clear as day: the two Americas....the "good life" of America and its shameful poverty.

The juxtaposition shocked us all, and left us angry. It also made us realize how important passing HR 4048 is to the future of New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, and America.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Gulf Coast Civic Works Project receives grant from Democracy In Action

Announcing recipients of Project Katrina Grants!

Louisiana Justice institute

The Louisiana Justice Institute is a nonprofit, civil rights legal advocacy organization, devoted to fostering social justice campaigns across Louisiana for communities of color and for impoverished communities. They strive to serve as the Justice Portal for Louisiana and the Gulf Coast by utilizing multimedia documentation and information-sharing activities including a state-of-the-art, interactive web site, with text, pictures, audio and video. Tracie Washington of LJI says " I know we do good work, but we're like the tree that falls in the forest if no one hears about the struggle, the movement, and even our successes". They will use the Salsa Platform as a megaphone to get their actions heard.

The Alliance for Affordable Energy

The Alliance for Affordable Energy is a nonprofit public interest membership organization dedicated to creating fair, affordable and environmentally responsible energy policies and programs for Louisiana and the nation. As Louisiana's only environmental and consumer advocacy organization, they provide traditional regulatory action combined with on-the-ground environmental programs and global warming activism. The Alliance would utilize Salsa, beginning with Email Targeting, Fundraising, and Supporter Management to promote topics such as the current fight against converting a local power plant to use coal , or work with the New Orleans City Council or Louisiana Public Service Commission to adopt renewable portfolio standards or good net metering rules.

People's Hurricane Relief Fund

The mission of the People's Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF) is to win the right of return with equity and justice for all those displaced as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita by building a multi-national mass movement, and to ensure that the civil and human rights of all New Orleans and Gulf Coast residents are respected and implemented throughout the United States. Akil Head of PHRF is excited to use the Salsa platform "...because the needs of the Gulf Coast are great and we need efficiency within our organization to continue the struggle of our work".

The Gulf Coast Civic Works Project

The Gulf Coast Civic Works Project (GCCWP) is a national effort to promote federal action to create 100,000 Work Progress Administration (WPA)-like jobs for Gulf Coast residents to rebuild their own communities. The GCCWP will solve three of the major questions facing the Gulf; the right to return, the rebuilding of the public infrastructure , and living wage jobs for local residents to rebuild their communities. Scott Myer-Lipton noted "The GCCWP is a movement. There are 100s of college students and faculty across the country pushing for this federal action. With the support of DIA, we can continue to pressure Congress."