GOP hits McNerney on war bill; but is he out of touch?

The Republican Party slammed Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, for his vote Thursday, along with the rest of the Bay Area delegation, against the $120 billion Iraq War supplemental funding bill.

The GOP called it a vote against the troops and again described McNerney as out-of-touch with his constituents in District 11, a Republican-leaning district that straddles the East Bay and the San Joaquin Valley.

“The fact that Jerry McNerney cannot bring himself to vote for a bi-partisan troop-funding bill that sets benchmarks for the Iraqi people just goes to show how out of step he is with the values of his district,” said NRCC spokesman Ken Spain. “Every member of the Democrat leadership voted for funding the troops except for Nancy Pelosi and apparently Jerry McNerney was willing to follow her lead once again. This should not come as a surprise since Jerry McNerney has voted with the San Francisco speaker 99 percent of the time.”

Spain’s statement is not entirely true. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, voted against the funding and he’s chairman of the House Democrats’ policy committee.

Whether or not the supplemental bill helps or hurts the troops is a matter of debate. Clearly, the troops need funds to run a war but if they weren’t in Iraq, they wouldn’t need the money.

But is McNerney out of sync with his district on the war?

Yes and no.

A New York Times/CBS poll released today says that opposition to the war has reached a historic high. (Click here for story in Contra Costa Times today.)

According to the story, six in 10 Americans say the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq and three in four say things are going badly there.

But the majority of Americans, the New York Times writes, support continuing to the fund the war as long as the Iraqi government meets specific goals.

Only 13 percent of respondents want Congress to block all funding, while 69 percent — including 62 percent of Republicans — say Congress should condition funding on progress in Iraq.

(Added on June 1: A commenter accurately points out the results of a national poll may not accurately reflect the opinions of voters in congressional District 11. While it’s true that national polls can vary from region to region, this is the latest poll on the subject and the closest measurement available about voters’ views on the subject. It’s far from perfect but sometimes you use what you have.)

The heart of the dispute is on what those conditions should contain. Democrats, including McNerney, have argued in favor of a timeline, a restriction that President Bush and Republicans have steadfastly opposed. The legislation does contain benchmarks, a far less restrictive environment that Democrats and anti-war activists dislike.

McNerney sent out a press release explaining why he voted no. Here’s what he said:

“I have been steadfast in my commitment to use the most responsible and effective strategy to bring about a close to the violence in Iraq.

“I have the utmost respect for our men and women in uniform. They have done everything asked of them and have done so admirably. Our strategy in Iraq must match the commitment with which our military men and women have served.

“The spending plan the House voted on today provided the President a blank check and I could not support it.”

McNerney also said he voted against it because it did not include a “reasonable timeline for redeploying troops from Iraq, enforceable benchmarks, or the Pentagon’s requirements for providing the training and equipment our men and women in uniform.”

“Supporting our troops means providing our men and women in uniform all of the means necessary to carry out their mission and bring a responsible close to the conflict in Iraq,” McNerney said. “This bill did not do that and I could not support it.”

For an interesting read on why McNerney’s neighbor, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, voted in favor of the bill, (he was one of 82 Democrats who defied their colleagues and voted yes) check out Stockton Record reporter Hank Shaw’s blog.


Don’t like Arnold’s budget? Write your own.

So you think you’ve got a better plan for the state budget than Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature?

Well, it’s time to put the state taxpayers’ money where your mouth is.

Next Ten, a Palo Alto-based, nonpartisan group trying to engage Californians in their state’s future, will hold a town hall meeting from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Oakland Museum, 100 Oak St., at which participants can develop their own state budget.

Participants will use keypads to vote on state policies including education, taxes, healthcare, the environment, the criminal justice system and more, factoring them all through Next Ten’s Budget Challenge online tool. The resulting budget plan will be delivered to the Legislature as it grapples with the governor’s May budget revision, providing lawmakers with insight into voters’ priorities.

Those at the meeting also will hear from speakers including former state Finance Department Director Tim Gage; Oakland Vice Mayor Jane Brunner; Oakland City Councilwoman Nancy Nadel; and Next Ten founder and venture capitalist F. Noel Perry. League of Women Voters members, educators, civic organization leaders, local politicians and community members have been invited, but it’s open to the public.

To RSVP and reserve a seat, e-mail rsvp@nextten.org or call 650-321-5417.


Obama to visit Piedmont

Piedmont lawyer Jeffrey Bleich and his wife, Becky, will host a June 2 fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

Bleich has been helping Obama raise money and woo voters in the East Bay, including the organization of the candidate’s recent public rally in Oakland. The Illinois senator is one of several candidates who have ventured out of the traditional Democratic fundraising worlds of San Francisco, Marin and Peninsula residents.

This time, Obama will appear at a far smaller affair, a two-hour luncheon intended to allow donors to meet and talk with the candidate personally.

Alice Waters will cater the lunch, which will be held at the home of Quinn Delaney and Wayne Jordan.

The event is one of a handful of fundraisers Obama will hold in the Bay Area during the weekend, including several in the Silicon Valley.

Other hosts include Dean Chris Edley, Jon Streeter, Rita and Ian Isaacs, Berit Ashla and Aron Cramer, Tim and Cam McCalmont, Dana Welch, Scott Adams, Steve Holtzmann, John Burris and Tony West.

The price of admission is a $2,300 contribution to Obama’s campaign, the maximum allowed per person under federal campaign finance laws.

If you have the bucks and the interest, Bleich says he may be able to squeeze in a few more bodies on the floorboards. Click here for a link to the RSVP form.


No Bay Area support for Iraq spending bill

The House has voted 280-142 for an Iraq emergency supplemental spending bill which has no timetable for withdrawal or benchmarks for progress; the entire Bay Area delegation — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco — voted against it.

lantos.jpgSaid Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo: “Everyone in Congress is keenly conscious of the need to support our troops, and it’s even more on our minds as Memorial Day approaches. But giving the president as much latitude as this bill provides to conduct this war, in which our fighting men and women have engaged so bravely, is no way to show our support. We have to ensure that feasible, responsible plans are guiding our country’s military strategy so that we can bring our troops home as soon as possible. … In the election last November and in every subsequent public expression on this subject, the American people have made clear they are looking for a responsible plan for bringing the war to an end. Instead, the President launched an ill-conceived escalation plan. He went on to reject legislation that Congress put forth to create real benchmarks for improvement and timelines for redeploying the troops. It is time to take more stringent measures in order to get the situation under control.”

tauscher3.jpgSaid Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo: “I have voted for every bill to bring our troops home because I am deeply committed to ending our involvement in an Iraqi civil war. After much thought, deliberation and listening to my constituents I voted against the supplemental appropriations bill. I cannot vote to give the president one more blank check. Each time he has proven irresponsible, irrational and obstinate. This entire debate is sprung from his failure to lead both in Iraq and here at home. If the president won’t lead, Congress will. That is why I look forward to voting on a de-authorization of the use of force. Speaker Pelosi has promised me that a vote on my bill, the Change the Course in Iraq Act (H.R. 1460), will come to the floor in September at the end of this short term funding measure. The mission in Iraq no longer bears any resemblance to what Congress authorized four years ago. Repealing the Congressional authorization for the war is the responsible way for the Congress to make it crystal clear to the president that Congress and the people we represent have had enough.”

More after the jump… Continue Reading


Schwarzenegger headed to St. Mary’s

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is scheduled to speak June 2 at the commencement ceremony for Moraga-based St. Mary’s College’s School of Extended Education but the school probably isn’t a model the governor will promote.

It’s the school’s last graduation ceremony. The college is shutting it down after suffering a series of financial setbacks brought on by too few students. School leaders voted in 2005 to stop admitting new students to the program after its faculty objected to the subsidies from other programs required to keep it going.

The extended education school was designed to allow working professionals to pursue degrees while keeping their day jobs, a formula that commercial organizations such as the University of Phoenix later marketed to far greater success than St. Mary’s College.

OK, now it all makes sense. Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, is graduating from the School of Extended Education on June 2, hence the reason for her boss’ appearance at its commencement ceremony. One did wonder why the governor would show up to celebrate the graduation of a school on its last leg.


McNerney won’t support Iraq compromise

Although he disappointed many liberals by being the lone Bay Area House member who voted May 10 against a nine-month Iraq withdrawal plan, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, this morning said he’ll not vote for the no-timetable Iraq supplemental spending bill that’s coming to the floor today. Here’s his statement:

mcnerneyportrait.jpg“Our troops have done everything we have asked of them. They have put their lives on the line in service to our country.

“They deserve our utmost respect and real leadership from the Congress.

“For our troops and their families, for our nation, we need a new direction in Iraq.

“That is why I cannot vote for a bill that does not include enforceable benchmarks, a reasonable timetable for redeploying our troops from Iraq, or the requirements for providing the training and equipment our men and women in uniform need.

“I cannot support another blank check for the President.

“Beginning in January this new Congress began the process of implementing new policies, of bringing accountability to the conduct of this war, and of forging a new direction in Iraq. That is what the American people demanded.

“Yet, this supplemental funding plan is a step backwards because it is a blank check for the President. I have consistently called for real benchmarks and a reasonable redeployment timetable. This bill provides neither.

“Critically, the bill includes no provisions to ensure that our troops are prepared, rested, and ready for the battles they must wage -– a rejection of the Pentagon’s own standards.

“Not only that, but this bill includes no requirement to use diplomacy to create the framework to end this conflict, the course recommended by the Iraq Study Group. And there is no plan to reduce the tremendous strain on our military or to refocus our nation’s efforts on the broader war on terror.

“Supporting our troops means providing our men and women in uniform all of the means necessary to carry out their mission and bring a responsible close to the conflict in Iraq. This bill does not do that and I cannot support it.”