ABC6: President nominates Judge Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court

ABC6: President nominates Judge Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court

By Samantha Fenlon

President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch as his pick for the Supreme Court in a prime-time address Tuesday night.

“The qualifications of Judge Gorsuch are beyond dispute,” said President Trump.

If confirmed, Gorsuch would replace the seat left vacant last year after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

The 49-year-old is currently a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I pledge that if I am confirmed I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the constitution of the United States,” said Judge Gorsuch.

Following the announcement Tuesday night, Rhode Island’s top were quick to voice concern.

“The most important question President Trump’s nominee will face is where he will stand on the special interest politics that has stricken the Court,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in a statement. “Often, the Gang of 5 ignored conservative judicial doctrine to achieve political outcomes benefiting a ‘usual suspects’ list of special interests active before the Court.  This has to stop, and Judge Gorsuch must pledge to stop it.”

Senator Whitehouse is on the Senate Judiciary Committee that will be tasked with questioning the newly appointed Supreme Court Justice.

Fellow Senator Jack Reed is also expressing concern. Issuing a statement reading in part; “Judge Gorsuch’s record in the lower court suggests he could impose significant new constraints on civil liberties, women’s rights and workers’ rights, and roll back consumer protections and clean air laws.  I am concerned that Judge Gorsuch has a tendency to favor the interests of big corporations and special interests over every day Americans.”

Congressman Jim Langevin posing quite a few questions Tuesday night. He issued a statement as well. Below is an excerpt:
“In announcing the pick, President Trump said he chose a jurist in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia. But while I respected Justice Scalia as a jurist, I also profoundly disagreed with his views on the Constitution. I do not agree that corporations have a right to speak on our elections. I do not agree that love between members of the same sex should have attached to it any ‘moral opprobrium.’ And I certainly do not agree that the Affordable Care Act, which has given millions of Americans health care, is unconstitutional. If Judge Gorsuch shares these extreme views, I would be seriously concerned about his ability to impartially interpret the law, free from the tinge of politics.”.

GoLocalProv: Langevin Says Yates Made “Right Decision” to go Against Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration

GoLocalProv: Langevin Says Yates Made “Right Decision” to go Against Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration

By GoLocalProv Team

Congressman Jim Langevin says that he believes Acting Attorney General Sally Yates made the right decision in going against President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.  

Langevin released the following statement:

“As Sally Yates said in her statement, the Attorney General is charged with upholding the ‘solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.’ That is exactly what she did, and I applaud her for it.

I am vehemently opposed to this Executive Order, and especially so because once again President Trump has taken unilateral action without seeking input from the experienced, expert advisers he now has at his disposal. Sally Yates is not the only legal expert to question the constitutionality of this order, and I believe she made the right decision for the Justice Department and for our country.”

See the Rhode Island Protests Against Trump’s executive order in the slideshow below

The Independent: South Kingstown Broad Rock Middle School highlights benefits of nonviolence education

For many students, Broad Rock Middle School in South Kingstown is a fun and inclusive place. They owe that environment in part to the nonviolence education they receive, one based on the principles and lessons of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“I love coming to school,” student Carlie Robinson said in front of her classroom Jan. 18, two days after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as U.S. Rep. James Langevin made a visit to the school.

Robinson said after some difficult times in elementary school, “I feel so much more comfortable” this year at Broad Rock Middle School.

“Everyone is kind,” she said.

The Kingian nonviolence work was first brought to the South Kingstown School District by Robin Wildman, a fifth-grade teacher, in 2001. At the time, the practice was never used in a teaching curriculum, but after working with Bernard Lafayette Jr., a civil rights activist who worked alongside King, Wildman thought it would be useful to children. Years later, she said, the results have been impressive.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is special at Broad Rock Middle School. Last week marked the third consecutive year the school has been practicing the six principles of nonviolence that follow peacefulness, kindness and justice. The school dedicates each month to one of the principles so that all students are aware of the teachings.

The majority of the school’s teachers have received the 20-hour nonviolence training from Wildman.

“We take these steps and principles to solve conflict very seriously here at Broad Rock because we have an alternative to lashing out in anger, which I think is very unusual in a school,” Wildman said. “We are able to teach nonviolence education but connect it to our curriculum.”

Wildman said she and the other teachers have learned to incorporate the major principles into their lessons. With nonviolence teachings and strategies permeating through the middle school halls, Principal Kathy Egan said students have begun to “speak the same language” when it comes to recognizing bullying or unacceptable behavior.

“The decline in bullying incidents has been dramatic,” said Jennifer Enck, assistant principal.

Through Kingian nonviolence, students communicate to teachers and have learned to better arrive at conflict resolution, the administrators said. They have also seen a decline in in-school suspensions.

On Jan. 18, students sat in a large circle at the front of Wildman’s fifth-grade classroom and talked about the need for peace and love.

“We want to show that nonviolence is the way of life,” said Kaitlyn Swint, one of Wildman’s students.

Students said they understand conflicts are natural and healthy, but must remain at a normal level and not escalate.

“Our goal is to have a peaceful community, not just here but all over the nation and maybe all over the world,” student Merit Zinn said.

Wildman said her students celebrate differences.

“We’re all different in our own ways and we should celebrate that,” Langevin said.

As the morning continued, about half of the students took off for lunch while the other half stayed back to ask Langevin questions and to continue to tell him more about their nonviolence education.

Langevin was asked by one of the fifth-grade students if he ever finds himself in arguments at work. The congressman said he and his colleagues prefer to call them debates, although he acknowledged they sometimes escalate.

“We try to keep it healthy and civilized,” he said. “It can be very frustrating sometimes, especially when you’re fighting for something you really believe in and a problem you really want to solve. How do we resolve it? I try to always take the high road – like [former First Lady] Michelle Obama said, ‘When they go low, we go high.’

“I believe that over time, the right thing always happens,” Langevin continued.

After 16 years of using nonviolence methods and principles in her teaching, Wildman said the model has helped with absenteeism and has improved the environment in the school.

“I have seen a change in how I teach,” she said. “Spending the beginning part of the year teaching the nonviolence elements helps later in the year with not having to spend so much time penalizing students for misbehaving. It makes teacher’s lives easier.”

Egan said it has also helped the administrators with how they deal with discipline and how they communicate with each other.

To continue the work, the school has begun parent workshops on nonviolence to try and grow the program. Egan said parents hear their students speak about the program at home and it would help its effectiveness if parents were aware of the principles and teachings behind it.

PROJO: R.I. delegation: Trump’s order extinguishes U.S. ‘beacon of hope’

PROJO: R.I. delegation: Trump’s order extinguishes U.S. ‘beacon of hope’

By Donita Naylor

Rhode Island’s congressional delegation condemned President Trump’s executive order on immigration, saying it amounts to a religious test for entering the country and will harm innocent people and U.S. interests.

“I believe Americans are wiser, braver and more generous than this President,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse tweeted. He also issued a statement that said:
“The last time ‘America First’ folks closed our borders, it was to European Jews fleeing the Third Reich…. The blunt signal this makes to the Arab world will help Russia and hurt us.”

Trump’s order suspends entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, blocks Syrian refugees indefinitely, and closes the door into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

It makes no allowances for women and children or for people targeted for death because they supported or worked for U.S. troops. Whitehouse added: “None of the 9/11 terrorists came from these countries.”

Sen. Jack Reed called Trump’s “intolerant and misguided” order “a new religious test” that was unconstitutional “and will do nothing to keep us safe,” He said the United States needs cooperation from the Muslim world to defeat terrorism.

Also, he said, “The people targeted by this unnecessary action are fleeing the same violent extremists who would seek to disrupt our way of life. These are people who look to the United States to offer a safe harbor…. Turning our backs on those in need is not the American way.”

He called on Republicans to “keep faith with the Constitution and reject this religious ban before it spreads.”‎‎‎

Rep. David Cicilline said the executive order was “an outright betrayal of the values that define our nation.” In a statement from Pawtucket, he said “we are allowing fear and hysteria to prevail over facts and reason.”

The process of checking refugee backgrounds takes from 18 to 24 months, he said, and is so thorough that “not a single Syrian refugee has been convicted of a terrorism-related offense in the United States.”

The executive order will not make the nation safer or prevent future attacks, Cicilline said. “In fact, the only thing that will happen as a result is that more innocent men, women, and children will die.”

Rep. James Langevin’s statement from Warwick said: “America has always stood as a beacon of hope … and it is shameful that President Trump is extinguishing that light.”

Syrian families are desperately seeking safety from the ravages of civil war, Langevin said, and denying them entry “goes against who we are as Americans, as does favoring one religion over another. There has never been and never should be a religious litmus test to enter the United States. Refugees from Syria and other Muslim-majority countries – many of them women and children – are facing unspeakable violence and destruction. … To turn our backs to their suffering is contrary to the very core principles of our democracy.”

Progressive Charlestown: Langevin doesn’t like Amtrak Bypass either

At a meeting Thursday afternoon, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) provided Charlestown Town Council President Virginia Lee and Westerly Town Council President James Silvestri with a letter he sent today to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), opposing the current proposal for realigning tracks in Washington County, as part of the Northeast Corridor Future “NEC Future” Tier 1 plan.

As currently laid out in the plan, the new rails would cut across nature preserves, family farms, and sacred tribal lands, and their siting has been vehemently opposed by town officials and residents throughout South County.

“I have personally heard from hundreds of constituents who oppose the proposed realignment in Washington County, and I want them to know that I have heard their concerns and I support their community,” said Langevin.

“I am a strong proponent of high-speed rail, but I believe there must be a solution that modernizes intercity passenger rail in Rhode Island without disturbing ecosystems, impinging on property rights, and threatening the natural beauty of Charlestown and surrounding areas.”

In his letter to the FRA, Langevin underscored his support for upgrades to passenger rail infrastructure, and said he is hopeful that an alternative solution can be developed.

The FRA continues to accept comments on the regional plan, and is expected to finalize this framework after March 1, 2017.

The FRA will then continue to study local impacts in more depth (Tier 2). Langevin called on the FRA to include additional public hearings in Rhode Island during these future comment periods.


“I am encouraged that the FRA has demonstrated a willingness to listen to Rhode Islanders during this process, and I am confident that we can move forward to find a mutually-beneficial solution that creates a globally competitive, resilient passenger rail service in the region,” Langevin said.

RIFuture: Earned Income Tax Credits benefit working families, if they ask…

By Steve Ahlquist

Rhode Island residents who make $54,000 a year or less may be entitled to an earned income tax credit as well as free tax preparation.

The Rhode Island Community Action Association (RICAA), Providence VITA Coalition, Citizens Bank, and the United Way of Rhode Island are partnering to launched a public awareness campaign  at the Rhode Island State House this morning to announce the campaign promoting free tax preparation.

The campaign will educate Rhode Islanders of the IRS’ Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program and its benefits to individuals and married couples who are hard-working Rhode Islanders receiving tax credits for wages earned both at the federal and state levels.

Rachel Flum, executive director of the Economic Progress Institute spoke representing a coalition of 30 groups dedicated to increasing the state EITC to 20 percent, of the federal rate, up from its current 15 percent. Bills introduced by Rep Scott Slater in the House and Senator Gayle Goldin in the Senate aim to do just that. The rate is 27.5 percent in Connecticut and 23 percent in Massachusetts, “so we know that there is room to move,” said Flum. Combined with an increase in the minimum wage “this could really be a catalyst helping our lower income families.”

R.I. Sen. Reed calls Trump speech ‘harsh, belligerent, hyperbolic’

R.I. Sen. Reed calls Trump speech ‘harsh, belligerent, hyperbolic’

By Katherine Gregg,

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Most of the inaugural speeches that U.S. Sen. Jack Reed recalls hearing in the past were “conscious efforts to bring the country together and celebrate Democracy” after more-or-less bruising elections.

Not so on this Inauguration Day, according to Democrat Reed of Rhode Island who was there.

Reed said the campaign-like speech that new President Donald J. Trump gave after taking the oath of office lacked the “usual modesty and humility” of past speeches by newly inaugurated presidents facing “the incredible responsibilities of the office, and asking for the help of all Americans.”

He said it was, to his ears, “harsh in its terms…strident…belligerent…hyperbolic…[and] egocentric.”

As an example, Reed cited Trump’s “hyperbolic” statement: “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

“Rather extreme,” said Reed. “We have serious challenges…but we are coming off of over 70 months of strong job growth. We are beginning to see wage growth. There is a lot more to be done, but I think that was a little more hyperbole than was in order.”

Reed said he was also struck by Trump’s “two simple rules: buy American and hire American.”

“His investment career suggests that he didn’t do those things. He used foreign material to build casinos, and there’s I think verified reports of using people from overseas to do work. So, again, it seemed to be: do what I say not what I’ve done.”

Reed said Trump must also know that his repetition of the phrase “America First” – and the echoes it evokes of aviator Charles Lindbergh and U.S. isolationism – may be “interpreted by our allies as a departure from a policy that has given us a great deal of … leverage in the world…”

That phrase, he said complicates “our ability to help allies [and] deter as well as help defeat threats to the United States.”

U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., said: “Sadly, I think President Trump squandered an opportunity to reach out to the majority of Americans who didn’t vote for him last November with a strong message that would have helped to unite our country.
“Instead, he doubled down on divisive rhetoric, false bravado, and gaudy promises that have no basis in reality. The President painted an unnecessarily dark and negative picture of America.”

“I will continue working with members of both parties to deliver results for Rhode Island. I hope President Trump will do the same,” Cicilline said. But if he “continue(s) down the path he started today, dividing Americans and offering empty promises instead of real solutions, then I will continue to fight him every step of the way.”
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse added:
“As we observe the peaceful transfer of power, I’m grateful today to President Obama for his service to our country, and for the unfailing dignity and grace he and his family brought to the White House.”
“Leader Schumer today shared with our nation the noble words of Smithfield-born Sullivan Ballou, Major of the Second Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry, made famous in Ken Burns’ PBS series, “The Civil War.” Major Ballou, who was killed in action shortly after writing that beautiful letter, described a love of country so strong that it justified great sacrifice to heal its deep divisions.”
“Our new President’s dark inaugural speech did little to inspire hope that he is ready to bring our nation together. I will work to find areas of common ground with the President where they serve the interests of Rhode Islanders, but I plan to hold him to his election night promise to be a “president for all Americans.”
“I will stand up at every turn for the freedoms and values secured by Americans like Sullivan Ballou. Those shared values are what have for centuries made our nation a beacon in the world.”

But Reed said he planned to vote, later Friday, in the U.S. Senate for two of Trump’s nominees who he views as good choices: retired General James N. Mattis as the next U.S. Secretary of Defense and retired Marine Gen. John Kelly as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

U.S. Rep. James Langevin, meanwhile, chose to focus on Trump’s comments about “investments in infrastructure and the American workforce…I am hopeful that these are examples of issues on which we can find bipartisan cooperation. The devil is in the details, though, so it remains to be seen where we may find common ground.”

“The most important takeaway, for me, today, is that it’s time to get back to work. The promise of this nation is that all people are created and treated equally, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or identity, or disability. Ensuring equal opportunity for all is essential to our democracy, and I look forward to tomorrow’s Women’s March in Providence to hear from my constituents about their ideas for how best to preserve that promise.”

Warwick Beacon: RI Mentoring Partnership, groups kick off women in STEM initiative

Warwick Beacon: RI Mentoring Partnership, groups kick off women in STEM initiative

By Tessa Roy
Women aren’t as plentiful in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields as men, but The Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership wants to help change that. On Thursday, the organization, along with Governor Gina Raimondo and other companies in the state, gathered at Amgen to celebrate Rhode Island’s participation in Million Women Mentors.

Million Women Mentors, a national initiative, seeks to support the engagement of one million mentors, both male and female, to help increase the interest and confidence of girls and women to persist and succeed in STEM programs and careers. Rhode Island’s participation is supported by the Rhode Island STEM Center at Rhode Island College, Amgen, and the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership, plus the Million Women Mentors State Leadership Team that’s made up of individuals from organizations dedicated to promoting STEM initiatives.

“As a leading biotechnology company, Amgen is committed to making the study of science and technology exciting for young learners who might help us discover the medicines of tomorrow,” said Amgen Rhode Island Site Operations Vice President Tia Bush in a statement. “We continually support local community organizations such as RI Mentoring Partnership that have a strong commitment to mentoring and inspiring the next generation of scientists.”

Rhode Island STEM Director Carol Giuriceo’s echoed her sentiments.

“We are so happy to have the support of Governor Raimondo, businesses like the RI Mentoring Partnership who understand the value of mentoring in addressing the gender gap in STEM,” she said.

Raimondo, who will serve as honorary chair of the leadership team, said the lack of girls and women in STEM fields may be due to a lack of role models and “nerd” stereotypes. Jo-Ann Schofield, President and CEO of the RI Mentoring Partnership, later joked that being a nerd isn’t so bad when the salary starts at $72,000.

Raimondo also acknowledged that STEM isn’t the only field in which women are underrepresented.

“I’m in a field where there’s still a barrier,” she said, prompting laughs. “In case you haven’t noticed, the 74 people who were governor before me all have one thing in common. They’re all men!”

Congressman Jim Langevin also attended the event to celebrate the initiative and emphasized the importance of getting women in the STEM workforce.

“I’m frustrated, like the Governor and others have said, that half the population is made up of women and they only make up less than 25 percent of the workforce in STEM fields,” he said.

Schofield expressed excitement for participating in Million Women Mentors and thanked Bush, Giuriceo, and Raimondo for being role models.

“You are all brilliant, intelligent women that just exude confidence and that’s what we want for all of our young ladies in Rhode Island,” she said.

The RI State Leadership team includes Candida Desjardins, Naval Undersea Warfare Center; Antonieta Falconi, Social Enterprise Greenhouse, Jen Giroux, Rhode Island College; Carol M. Giuriceo (chair), Rhode Island STEAM Center; Diane Guillemette, Guill Tool & Engineering Co., Inc.; JoAnn Johnson, Tech Collective; Ginger Lallo, Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England; Amy Leidtke, Rhode Island School of Design; Ilona Miko, MikoArtScience; Demetria Moran, Rhode Island College; Deborah Perry; YWCA Rhode Island; Jo-Ann Schofield, Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership.

What’s Up NEWP: Governor Raimondo Kicks Off ‘Million Women Mentors’ Initiative

What’s Up NEWP: Governor Raimondo Kicks Off ‘Million Women Mentors’ Initiative

By Written by Ted Wells & Kayla Brown (STEMConnector)

Governor Gina M. Raimondo has officially kicked off Rhode Island’s participation in the national Million Women Mentors (MWM) initiative. The initiative seeks to support the engagement of one million Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) mentors (male and female) to increase the interest and confidence of girls and women to persist and succeed in STEM programs and careers.

Raimondo will serve as honorary chair of the MWM-Rhode Island State Leadership Team. “I am honored to serve as Honorary Chairwoman of the State Leadership Team for Million Women Mentors,” said Raimondo. “Students who concentrate on science, technology, engineering and math will be prepared to take their place in the high-growth, well-paying fields that increasingly drive the 21st century economy. It is critical that we provide Rhode Islanders with the skills they need to compete on an equal playing field. Through Million Women Mentors, we will ensure our girls get a fair shot.”

“STEM fields are growing quickly in Rhode Island and beyond, but women remain vastly underrepresented. It’s clear we need to encourage women of all ages to pursue educations and careers in the STEM disciplines – and in art and design where it intersects with STEM,” said Congressman Jim Langevin, who co-chairs the Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus. “Mentors inspire young people, and I am confident that the Million Women Mentors in Rhode Island will empower a new generation of women in the STEM workforce, which is a win for them and a win for our economy.”

The state’s initiative will be spearheaded by the Rhode Island STEAM Center at Rhode Island College and the MWM-RI State Leadership Team comprised of several organizations and businesses committed to mentoring and STEM careers. “We are so happy to have the support of Governor Raimondo, businesses like Amgen, and organizations like the RI Mentoring Partnership who understand the value of mentoring in addressing the gender gap in STEM,” said Carol Giuriceo, Ph.D., Director of the Rhode Island STEAM Center.

“As a leading biotechnology company, Amgen is committed to making the study of science and technology exciting for young learners who might help us discover the medicines of tomorrow,” said Tia Bush, Vice President, Site Operations, Amgen Rhode Island. “We continually support local community organizations such as RI Mentoring Partnership that have a strong commitment to mentoring and inspiring the next generation of scientists.”
Since 2014, the Amgen Foundation has provided an annual grant to RI Mentoring Partnership to develop high quality trainings for mentor program coordinators to integrate STEM activities into the youth mentoring relationships. Funding from the 2016 grant enabled the creation of a STEM Mentoring toolkit that provides instructions and guides on conducting hands-on activities.

Additionally, Bush was presented with the MWM-RI Stand Up for STEM Award, a special honor given to one company, girl-serving organization, or individual that has had an exceptional impact on girls and women in STEM through mentoring. Bush served on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ocean State as well as the Amgen Senior Women’s Advisory Council, which provides leadership and mentorship opportunities for women leaders within our organization.
In addition to the kick-off Governor Raimondo signed a proclamation recognizing January as National Mentoring Month in Rhode Island. “Each January we celebrate National Mentoring Month, to raise awareness of the need for mentors in our community, the difference mentors make for young people and how easy it is to volunteer,” said Jo-Ann Schofield, President & CEO of the RI Mentoring Partnership. “We are happy to lend to Million Women Mentors – Rhode Island, our expertise in mentoring and our ability to connect people who want to mentor with the programs that need mentors.”

MWM-RI’s mission is to build a STEM Mentor network that connects education, industry, and government for the purpose of engaging and motivating girls and women to increase their STEM literacy and pursue careers in STEM. Individuals and companies interested in providing STEM mentors or organizations and schools needing STEM mentors should contact ristem(at)ric(dot)edu.

About Million Women Mentors
Million Women Mentors is an initiative of STEMconnector in collaboration with over 60+ partners reaching over 30 million girls and women, 60+ corporate sponsors, 60+ national partners, and 39+ state leadership teams. Through the engagement of one million mentors, our goals are to: 1) Increase the percentage of high school girls planning to pursue STEM careers; 2) Increase the percentage of young women pursuing undergraduate degrees in STEM fields; and 3) Increase the percentage of women staying and advancing in STEM careers through supporting workforce mentoring programs.

About Rhode Island STEAM Center
The Rhode Island STEAM Center serves as a central educational hub and statewide resource focused on building partnerships, advocating for increased STEAM literacy, and nurturing, promoting, and implementing research-based practices. Our mission is to provide leadership and advocacy for increasing science, technology, engineering, arts + design, mathematics (STEAM) literacy in Rhode Island through sustaining partnerships with higher education, K-12, business and industry, afterschool programs, non-profit organizations, community-based groups, and government agencies that are dedicated to building long-term interest and active engagement in STEAM among ALL Rhode Islanders through the continual sharing and exchange of knowledge, ideas and experiences. For more information visit

About RI Mentoring Partnership
Our mission is to ensure youth have access to the motivational and supportive relationships they need to grow into confident, successful adults. We envision a Rhode Island where all youth are connected to relationships with adults who inspire and support them. All youth will have role models who provide a road map for lifelong success and achievement. RIMP serves as an umbrella organization for dozens of mentoring programs around Rhode Island offering help with recruitment, training, and technical assistance. RIMP is also directly responsible for the coordination of the school-based mentoring programs in Warwick, Woonsocket, Newport, Middletown, & Cranston. For more information visit

The Rhode Island Resistance

The Rhode Island Resistance

By John Taraborelli
To call Donald Trump unpredictable or inscrutable would be an understatement. Adding more of a challenge to politicians from a predominantly liberal state are the Republican controlled House and Senate. It all begs the question: how will the members of Rhode Island’s all-Democratic congressional delegation – Senators Reed and Whitehouse, and Representatives Cicilline and Langevin – prepare to reckon with a conservative DC and a president who continues to defy every prediction and expectation?

We caught up with each of them in the weeks leading up to the inauguration to find out their biggest concerns, their thoughts on the president’s appointments, and how will they work with or against the new administration. One thing’s for sure: our men in Washington have their work cut out for them.

Senator Jack Reed
The senior senator’s foremost concern is the battle over the Affordable Care Act, which began almost as soon as the 115th congress convened in January. “That could have devastating effects on not only health care, but the economy – particularly in Rhode Island, where our biggest employer is the health care system,” he says. “It’s one thing to say, ‘Repeal and replace.’ When they start translating campaign slogans into legislation, that’s where reality sets in.”

Several of the president’s cabinet picks also give Reed pause. “Many of them have either a lack of experience or records that indicate they’re not particularly supportive of basic norms established over many administrations. You have a Labor nominee opposed to basic protections for workers. An Education nominee who has a particular animus towards public education.” He does, however, approve of General James Mattis for Defense Secretary.

Reed does identify some potential areas of common ground between Democrats and the new president, including infrastructure spending and paid family leave, but ultimately he expects they will need to leverage the tools at their disposal, including the filibuster, to stop legislation that they find objectionable. He also sees the bully pulpit as the most important check on the president.

“We have been in minority before. We have used our institutional powers along with the ability to speak out. We’re going to have to do it again with renewed energy. Ultimately our strength as a nation is when people stand up, take a position and take it loudly.”

Representative James Langevin
Of the four members of Rhode Island’s delegation, Langevin seems the most optimistic. While he has been critical of Trump – he signed on to a letter urging him to rescind the White House appointment of Steve Bannon and sent another to House Speaker Paul Ryan urging him to appoint a select committee on Russian hacking – he also sees opportunity in what will undoubtedly be an unconventional Republican administration.

He points to partisan gridlock in the House as one example. “This is one of the areas where I’m hopeful because Trump is not beholden to the Republican establishment. Perhaps he has the flexibility to do things that are bipartisan, chart his own course, and break through logjam.”

However, Langevin’s cautious optimism on particular issues should not be interpreted as a sunny outlook overall. He has grave concerns about attempts to repeal Obamacare and gut the social safety net, as well as several cabinet appointments. While he calls Mattis and Homeland Security nominee General John Kelly “quality individuals,” he notes that Trump’s choice of “climate change deniers at both the Department of Energy and the EPA is not a good way to start out.”

Despite his reservations, Langevin says he’s focused on finding a way to make bipartisanship work. “The reality is the election is over and it’s not the outcome we were hoping for. Now we have to find a way to govern. Whenever possible, we’ll find common ground, but we’re not going to compromise on values or principles.”

Representative David Cicilline
As the newly minted co-chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, Cicilline will be taking an active role in articulating his caucus’ response to the Republican agenda. He acknowledges that this job is hampered by Trump’s unpredictability. “It will be difficult because he doesn’t really have positions. Ultimately the president will have to make a decision, but until that moment we won’t really know where he is on an issue.”

Like his colleagues, Cicilline is willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, but has been discouraged by the first test of his decision-making: presidential appointments. He wrote the letter that Langevin and 167 other Democrats signed, objecting to Bannon’s appointment. He also finds conflicting signals in some of the cabinet choices. “Trump said, ‘We’re not going to touch Medicare,’ then appoints someone to Health and Human Services who supports privatizing Social Security.”

While the power of the minority party in the House is limited, Cicilline expects that the more parliamentary nature of the Senate will be an important safeguard against a conservative agenda run amok. “It just won’t work if they pass a bill that only Republicans like.” Meanwhile, he believes that House Democrats need to speak out forcefully and communicate the true impact of Trump’s policies to the American people.

Cicilline remains a true believer in the power of government to improve lives and anticipates that Republican overreach will provide an opportunity to show the American people a better way. “In the end, people vote for someone they think is going to change their lives for the better. They ultimately decided Trump was going to do that, but to the extent that it doesn’t happen, people are going to be looking for an alternative.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
To say that Sheldon Whitehouse is suspicious of Trump’s cabinet appointments would be putting it mildly. “A man who ran for president on a promise to drain the swamp and disrupt the power structure in Washington appears to be filling his civilian agencies with people who represent the most pernicious special interest in that area,” he says. “Far from draining the swamp, he’s put the chief alligators in charge of it.”

He is equally blunt in his assessment of individual appointees. “Scott Pruitt has probably the worst conflicts of interest of any cabinet nominee in modern history. Jeff Sessions has a history of saying and doing things that may sell in Alabama, but scare an awful lot of people in Rhode Island.” And so on.

The EPA nomination touches a particular nerve for Whitehouse, who has been one of the foremost voices on climate change in the senate. He points out that in 2009, a full-page letter ran in The New York Times demanding urgent action on climate change from President Obama and congress; it was signed by dozens of business leaders, including Donald Trump and his three adult children. “At one point he seemed to understand this issue. We have to do what we can to revert him to that understanding.”

Whitehouse sees Senate Democrats as “the last emergency brake on the train,” and believes that if they can force their Republican colleagues to simply adhere to the norms and traditions that govern the upper house, they can operate as an effective check on the executive branch.

He also sees an important role for citizens in demanding accountability from the Trump administration, and urges people to fight on the issues that matter to them. “The hard work of being a citizen just got harder, but there’s no way to assert your values in a democracy if you’re just on the couch as a consumer of other people’s political output.”