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Whither Jackie Speier?

Montara2

UPDATED BELOW

As you probably know, Rep. Jackie Speier (pictured above at a town hall meeting last year in Montara) is pondering a bid for California attorney general after a poll showed her having an advantage over other Democratic candidates, and with the candidate filing period opening Feb. 15, a decision is expected soon.

So which way is she going to go? It’s clear she’s fed up with Washington and the Senate in particular. Being a junior member of the House at a time of partisan gridlock has been difficult for her, especially when financial reform proposals she’s worked hard to pass are being tossed aside in the Senate, where Sen. Chris Dodd is in the process of caving in to Republican demands.

On the other hand, there is still a slim chance to enact historic health care reform legislation as well as contribute to a moment of great importance for Democrats, who have as good a shot as they’re going to get to enact significant policies on climate change and other issues. San Mateo County residents need leadership from Washington as far as stimulating the economy and creating jobs. And doesn’t every newbie in Washington have to pay his or her dues before rising in influence and seniority?

But Speier, 59, doesn’t have unlimited time left in public office. So she has to figure out how best to use that time, and maybe spending five years working her way up the ladder in the House isn’t it. And perhaps Capitol Hill really is so “dysfunctional,” as she put it, and the Senate is so corrupt and useless, that there’s no legitimate hope of winning important legislative battles or making a difference there.

If she runs for attorney general and wins, Speier will be able to spend much more time with her husband and two children — Jackson, 21, and Stephanie, 15. The commute to and from Washington has been a strain for her, newly hired spokesman Nathan Ballard confirmed this week. As attorney general, she’d also be able to focus on many of the consumer protection issues that are so important to her.

The hunch here is that Speier will run for AG. Maybe she’ll decide she has unfinished business in Washington. Perhaps her family could talk her into sticking with it, if that’s what they feel. But if we had to guess, we’d say her clear distaste for what’s going on in D.C., particularly the sausage-making that takes place in the Senate, combined with the need to be closer to her family, will tip the scales in favor of leaving the House and heading back to Sacramento.

UPDATE: Wrong! Speier released a statement today saying she will not run for attorney general.

“I am thankful that so many supporters came forward to urge me to run for statewide office, but after talking it over with my family, I have decided to stay in Congress,” Speier said in a statement. “I am convinced it is the right thing to do for my family, and I believe I can best serve my constituents by remaining in Congress and working hard on consumer protection, financial reform, jobs, and health care.”

So don’t ever listen to us again.

Posted on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010
Under: 2008 Presidental Race, Barack Obama, Corruption, Democratic Party, Health care, Hillsborough, Jackie Speier, Republican Party, San Mateo County | No Comments »

Eshoo, Speier on House passage of health care bill

The Peninsula’s two representatives in the House, Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier, issued statements following House’s passage of Saturday of a health care reform bill.

These are Eshoo’s prepared remarks on the House floor before the vote:

“Madame Speaker, I come to the floor today to cast one of the most important votes of my congressional career — a vote in support of H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act.

We are on the threshold of history that has been almost a century in the making.

The promise of America as a land of equality and opportunity that embraces and cares for all of its citizens is but an empty promise without the guarantee of health care and the freedom from financial devastation resulting from illness.

For so many of us, this long battle has had a singular, courageous champion who has fought like a lion for the sick, the elderly, the left behind and the left out. Our great achievement today will also be our greatest memorial to our friend, mentor and inspiration, Senator Edward Kennedy.

Like Senator Kennedy, many of us wondered — as the decades marched by — whether our efforts for comprehensive healthcare reform would ever be successful.

His unwavering commitment to decent health care for all Americans has paved the way for the bill before us today. It is on the shoulders of this giant that we stand and I pledge my vote as a tribute to the late senator.

At the heart of this legislation is one simple, indisputable idea: Everyone deserves health insurance they can afford.

Our system is broken. In a nation where health is a daily value and where health care is the finest in the world, I hear daily from constituents who cannot afford to take care of themselves or their families, who are driven out of the system by skyrocketing premiums, who live under the threat of a shuttered business or a bankrupted household, or who simply have to roll the dice and hope they will get better — or not too much worse.

Perhaps most tragically, our current system turns its back on those most in need — those with a pre-existing condition. Health insurance is meaningless if it’s only available to the healthy.

H.R. 3926 will cover 96 percent of all Americans.

It prohibits discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.

It eliminates lifetime caps — immediately.

It includes a nonprofit public insurance option designed to increase competition and lower prices.

It provides affordability credits to lower-income Americans to help them pay for coverage.

It modernizes and strengthens Medicare, ensuring the program’s continued solvency and eliminating the prescription ‘donut-hole.’

And, very importantly, it is budget neutral.

When I return to my constituents in California, I’ll be proud to tell them that with this bill:

– Employer-based health coverage will improve for 461,000 men, women and children who live in my district

– 84,000 households in my district will receive affordability credits to help them pay for coverage they otherwise couldn’t afford

– 9,500 of the seniors in my district will no longer fall victim to the prescription drug ‘donut-hole’

– 17,100 small businesses in my district will be able to obtain affordable health care coverage

– And that 15,400 people will qualify for tax credits that will help reduce their health insurance costs.

I’m also proud that I joined with Senator Kennedy to author an amendment to H.R. 3962, to create an FDA pathway for the approval of biosimilar drugs.

Biotechnology is a complex and emerging field that can harness the power to cure cancer, AIDS, and diabetes, and prevent the onset of deadly and debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and arthritis.

My amendment will save the government $6 billion over the next ten years while continuing to foster innovation and new advancements.

After President Obama signs this bill, millions of Americans who today have no health insurance will have it. Patients who are now denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition will no longer be shut out of the system. Millions more seniors will be able to afford their medications, and the average American family will pay less for their health coverage.

Most importantly, we will be keeping our promise to the American people that they will have affordable health insurance which they cannot lose or have taken away from them if they become ill.

I look forward to passing this landmark piece of legislation and seeing it signed into law by the president.”

Speier’s office issued the following statement following the vote:

“Today, the House of Representatives stood up to the fear-mongering and misinformation and passed a historic health care reform bill that has been sixty years in the making. This issue is a big part of why my constituents sent me to Washington and I am proud to have been able to cast a vote to address our nation’s health care disparities and expand access for all Americans.

This is not a decision that was made in haste. No issue has been studied, scrutinized and debated more than health care reform. Like every time in our nation’s history when sweeping changes are proposed — whether it be Social Security, Medicare, civil rights, women’s suffrage or the creation of the Veterans Administration — emotions have run high in this debate and there has been no shortage of opinions on every side.

This bill was the result of compromises between many different points of view and was subject to the most exhaustive and transparent review process of any bill in our nation’s history. Literally hundreds of hours of bipartisan committee meetings were devoted to it and the final text was posted online more than three days prior to a vote being taken.

I commend Speaker Pelosi and everyone involved in the drafting of this legislation and look forward, in the weeks and months ahead, to making sure that the bill we eventually send to the president truly makes quality, affordable health care available to all Americans and eliminates unfair insurance company practices like denying coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and dropping customers when they fall ill.”

Posted on Monday, November 9th, 2009
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Health care, Jackie Speier, San Mateo County | No Comments »

Eshoo on health care reform

So here, finally, is an account of our recent conversation with Rep. Anna Eshoo on the issue of health care reform.

We wrote on June 10 that Eshoo had been pilloried as a flunky for the health insurance industry by a writer at The Daily Kos, the prominent liberal blog.

Eshoo had been quoted as saying there aren’t enough votes in Congress for a singer-payer option, which is progressives’ great hope for establishing univeral health coverage.

(It should be noted that since we spoke with Eshoo, prospects for the inclusion of a robust public option in a health care reform bill, which seemed dire, appear to have improved.)

Eshoo — who as a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health will have a hand in shaping the House bill — was adamant when we spoke that the bill will contain a public option and that everyone will be included, meaning coverage will be universal. Critics, however, say that, unless the option is single-payer, meaning the government would set up a single fund to cover the expenses of those involved in a government plan, it is unlikely to actually achieve full coverage.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Health care, Republican Party, San Mateo County | 1 Comment »

Speier votes no on war-funding bill

Spokesman Mike Larsen has confirmed that Rep. Jackie Speier voted against a $106 billion bill Tuesday to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Speier did so despite some “mild” lobbying from the White House and the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said Larsen, who noted that ending the war in Iraq and bringing home the troops was her top issue when campaigning for office last year.

“This didn’t seem to be much different than plans in the past,” Larsen said. “She felt it was a vote for another open-ended war.”

The bill still needs to pass the Senate.

Posted on Tuesday, June 16th, 2009
Under: 2008 Congressional Race, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Jackie Speier | No Comments »

Speier to hold health care meeting by phone

Rep. Jackie Speier will hold a town-hall meeting by telephone tomorrow with constituents on the subject of health care reform.

The Obama administration’s attempt to overhaul the nation’s health care system is expected to heat up this summer. Speier will be taking calls from members of California’s 12th Congressional District from 7 to 8 p.m. to solicit their views and concerns. To participate, visit www.speier.house.gov and click on “Healthcare House Call,” e-mail your name and phone number to CA12Housecall@mail.house.gov, or call (650) 342-0300.

Posted on Tuesday, June 9th, 2009
Under: Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Jackie Speier, San Mateo County | No Comments »

San Mateo holds a tea party

Could the humble tea bag slingshot the Republican Party into the 21st century?

This week’s latest news frenzy, beating out swashbuckling Somali pirates and even the swirling maelstrom surrounding Bo, the First Family’s hypoallergenic new ball of fur, came courtesy of the modern-day tea party tax protest.

It’s probably the most exciting thing to ever happen on April 15 since the Titanic sank back in 1912. And the Insider was grateful that there was something to distract us from the looming task at hand, namely, procrastinating on doing our taxes until the last minute Wednesday night.

In San Mateo, it was no different. A tea party to protest excessive government spending was held on El Camino Real, on a thin strip of sidewalk in front of the Hillsdale Shopping Center. By 2 p.m., the number of protestors — many in historical-era costumes — had swelled to around 250, turning the sidewalk into a tightly packed corridor of fiscal-responsibility loving, flag-waving tax protestors.

Demographically, the crowd tended toward the older end of the age spectrum. Many seemed new to the whole “protest” thing.

“This is my first time getting involved in activism,” said Sara Dumont, a 76-year-old from South San Francisco. “I’ve always been interested but this one really got me.”

Dumont said she had gotten notice of the protest by e-mail, and advance notice of the event was posted on message boards like the conservative website Freerepublic.com.

And while there has been constant debate over the whether or not the tea parties represent a true grassroots movement or are merely a cynical political device for the Republican party, the important thing to note is that using the tools of grassroots organizers, the events organizers were able to pull in an impressive number of attendees, many in their 60s and 70s, in a predominately Democratic district.

And while the protestors’ passion was apparent (And yes, we mean you, wiry guy in the baseball cap screaming “How do you guys all like that change now!” while maniacally laughing), the thing that struck us was the sense of relief and belonging that swept over the crowd.

That everyone in attendance was thrilled to find like-minded people was obvious. Complete strangers would excitedly jump into a conversation about the dubious origins of President Obama with a comment about the broken immigration system.

It was like witnessing the simultaneous appearance of a bunch of gophers who had cautiously popped their heads out of their holes, only to be overcome with surprise … at seeing other gophers! Or like the end of that Blind Melon video, the one with the girl in the bee costume.

Back near the Hillsdale Caltrain station, we came across one lone man in a nearby parking lot, pacing in front of a black SUV. When asked what he thought of the spectacle across the street, he replied matter-of-factly, “Hey man, it’s part of what this country does, gets pissed off and then tells everyone else about it.”

And even though we knew we would be cursing the federal government later that evening as we sweated over W-2s and 1099s and piles of receipts that had faded like the summer sun, at that moment we couldn’t help but think, “God bless America.”

Posted on Thursday, April 16th, 2009
Under: Barack Obama, Economy, Republican Party, San Mateo | 5 Comments »

More local stimulus reaction

Here’s a link to Saturday’s Insider column, which dealt with Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier’s reactions following Friday’s House vote on the economic stimulus package.

A couple comments from Anna Eshoo didn’t make it into the column. Responding to a question about the fact that President Obama’s efforts at bipartisanship have so far been a dismal failure*, Eshoo said she doesn’t think he’ll stop trying to reach across the aisle:

“The Barack Obama I know is very genuine about reaching out to everyone,” she said. “I think it’s in his DNA. But once having done that, and soliciting viewpoints, I believe he’s a man of action.”

On the subject of how Obama appeared to have let the debate on the stimulus get away from him in the weeks leading up to the vote, during which Republicans dominated the conversation on cable news programs, Eshoo said the Obama administration simply “had a bad week” and may have been thrown off its game a bit when Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination as health and human services secretary.

“It’s a brand-new White House,” she said, referring to the fact that Obama and his advisers are getting accustomed to their new positions. “They’re still putting it together.”

Mouse trap

Speier had an Op-Ed in the Feb. 14 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle on the subject of the salt marsh harvest mouse, which became the source of much confusion after a GOP staffer made a false claim to the effect that efforts to protect the mouse would get millions in stimulus money.

Check out Speier’s Web site for that and a lot more information on the stimulus.

*In two ways. First, the general perception in the media that Obama, despite his overtures to the GOP, has somehow not been bipartisan enough. Second, the fact that Republicans have greeted Obama’s advances with hostility.

Posted on Tuesday, February 17th, 2009
Under: Aaron Kinney, Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Jackie Speier, Republican Party, San Mateo County | No Comments »

Where’s Warren?

It turns out that county elections chief Warren Slocum wasn’t able to post as many updates as he would have liked to his Twitter site yesterday because his arms were pinned to his sides by the massive crowd that gathered for President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Slocum recounted his nightmarish experience in Washington on his blog.

“I can assure you that (there)were unhappy people and that everything was not perfect,” he wrote. “There was a dark side to the inauguration.”

Slocum emphasized that this visit to Washington was still worthwhile, but he was plenty critical of the people who dreamt up Tuesday’s crowd-management system on the Mall. It’s a good read, if you’ve got a few minutes.

Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2009
Under: Aaron Kinney, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Elections Office, San Mateo County, Warren Slocum | No Comments »

Inauguration blogging

Warren Slocum, San Mateo County’s chief elections officer, is in the nation’s capital for the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

He’s posting updates to the Twitter page of the county Elections Office. Those updates are also available at the county’s elections Web site. Not much information from Slocum so far, although he has been able to confirm that it is, indeed, cold and crowded in D.C. today.

It may be that he’s had trouble posting due to an overloaded cell phone network. We’ll follow up with him to find out.

Slocum has also posted some photos taken with this iPhone on his Flickr page.

On a “local spirit” note, we overheard a mother today telling her young daughter, who looked to be about 3 years old, over lunch at Pancho Villa in San Mateo that when they get home tonight they’ll bake an apple pie as part of Obama Dinner Night.

Meanwhile, Obama’s speech today showed that Rep. Jackie Speier may have been spot-on when we spoke to her last week about how the new president would proceed with his economic stimulus plan.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, January 20th, 2009
Under: Aaron Kinney, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Jackie Speier, Joe Biden, Political Campaigns, Republican Party, San Mateo County | No Comments »

Considering a trip to Washington

Belmont resident Leslie Williams, a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, heard about his invitation to President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration just like the rest of us –- in the news.

Williams, 89, said he hasn’t received an actual invitation yet, but he’s not particularly worried. The federal government was able to track him down, after all, when the Airmen were invited to Washington in 2007 to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

“That was a very significant part of my life, regardless of the circumstances,” Williams said last week, referring to the racism he and the other black pilots encountered.

The question right now is whether Williams will be able to make it to the Jan. 20 extravaganza. He’s still recovering from a fall he suffered while visiting his wife in the hospital.

At the moment, he’s not sure if it would be wise to go, given the massive crowds that are expected for the inauguration, not to mention the cold — and possibly icy — weather.

Williams said he’ll see how he feels next month. In the meantime, he’ll keep an eye out for any mail with a return address from the District of Columbia.

Posted on Thursday, December 18th, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, Barack Obama, Belmont, Democratic Party | No Comments »