Boxer: GOP boycott won’t stop climate-change bill

U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is moving ahead with her cap-and-trade climate change bill despite Republican threats to boycott next Tuesday’s mark-up session.

“That won’t stop us. We’re going to use every tool at our disposal to get that done,” she said this afternoon during a visit to Blue Bottle Coffee Co. on Webster Street near Oakland’s Jack London Square, at which she was touting her efforts to support small businesses through the economic downturn. Asked to elucidate on “every tool at our disposal,” she replied, “We’ll use the rules of the committee.”

“We are going to sit down on Tuesday, we’re ready to go, we’re not canceling it,” she said “I’m still hoping the Republicans will come to the committee room and do their work.”

Boxer said she can’t imagine why anyone with a chance to end America’s dependence on foreign oil, combat climate change and create jobs all at the same time would boycott such an opportunity, going “absent without leave, AWOL” at a moment so vital to the nation’s interests. She urged the committee’s Republican members to “try to work with us, let’s try to get something done.”

Part of the small-business support scheme of which Boxer spoke today was affordable health care, which she said absolutely must contain a public option. U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., this week said he’ll refuse to caucus with Senate Democrats to break a filibuster on any health care reform legislation containing a public option.

Boxer in 2006 was among Senate Democrats who went to Connecticut to stump for Lieberman in the Democratic primary – angering many of her more liberal constituents, given his support of the Iraq war and other stances – though she later supported Democratic nominee Ned Lamont in that year’s general election. And Senate Democrats have been kind to Lieberman since, including letting him keep his chairmanship of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, in hopes he would caucus with them on vital votes such as this.

Asked today what she thought of Lieberman’s health care stance, Boxer replied she “can’t answer for him, I just want to say that we have to get this (health care reform) done.”

“All of our colleagues will be making important decisions, but at the end of the day, we can do this with a majority, not a super-majority,” she said, making it clear she was speaking for herself and not for Senate Democratic leaders.

Democrats would need 60 votes for cloture to overcome a Republican filibuster and bring a health-care bill to the floor for a final vote, but there’s been talk that they might use a procedure called “budget reconciliation” to move the bill through with just 50 votes.


Newsom out of governor’s race

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has withdrawn from the governor’s race.

Here is Newsom’s statement sent a few minutes ago:

It is with great regret I announce today that I am withdrawing from the race for governor of California.

With a young family and responsibilities at city hall, I have found it impossible to commit the time required to complete this effort the way it needs to – and should be – done.

This is not an easy decision. But it is one made with the best intentions for my wife, my daughter, the residents of the city and county of San Francisco, and California Democrats.

When I embarked on this campaign in April, my goal was to engage thousands and thousands of Californians dedicated to reforming our broken system and bringing change to Sacramento.

I would like to thank those supporters, volunteers, and donors who have worked so hard on my behalf. I have been humbled by their support and am indebted to their efforts. They represent the spirit of change and determination essential to putting California back on the right track.

I will continue to fight for change and the causes and issues for which I care deeply – universal health care, a cleaner environment, and a green economy for our families, better education for our children, and, of course, equal rights under the law for all citizens.


National HIV/AIDS discussion Sunday in Berkeley

The next National HIV/AIDS Community Discussion will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. this Sunday, Nov. 1 in the Little Theater at Berkeley High School, 1980 Allston Way, according to the White House.

These discussions, hosted by the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP), offer the public a chance to provide input as the White House works to fulfill the President’s pledge to develop a National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

That strategy – in light of more than 56,000 new HIV infections happening in the United States each year – will aim to reduce infections, increase access to care, and reduce HIV-related health disparities. Alameda County since 1998 has declared an official state of emergency due to the high HIV infection rate among African Americans.

Among those scheduled to participate Sunday are ONAP director Jeffrey Crowley; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; California Office of AIDS chief Dr. Michelle Roland; the Rev. Elouise Oliver, pastor of the East Bay Church of Religious Science; and Dr. Lisha Wilson, Medical Director of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation Magic Johnson Oakland and San Francisco clinics.

Sunday’s event is open to the public, but an RSVP is required; click here to register.


AG candidates oppose marijuana legalization

I’ll have a story in Sunday’s editions about what legalized marijuana might look like were any of the proposed ballot measures now circulating for petition signatures, or a bill now pending in the Legislature, to be enacted. In trying to characterize law enforcement’s opposition, I decided to check in with all of the candidates for California Attorney General. And, don’tcha know, all the folks who responded are dead set against legalization.

From Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark:

“Cannabis is a powerful medicine appropriate and necessary to treat the side effects of many serious illnesses, from HIV/AIDS to cancer. It is not, and should not be made into, a legal recreational drug or a new revenue source. We need to support the appropriate medical use of marijuana with strong new regulations and oversight of medical marijuana collectives.

“Even in the midst of this terrible fiscal crisis, the last way we want to balance our budget is by putting the state in the position of profiting from recreational drug use.”

From Brian Brokaw, campaign manager for San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, a Democrat:

“As a career prosecutor, District Attorney Harris believes that drug selling harms communities; it is not a ‘victimless crime,’ as some contend. While the D.A. supports the legal use of medicinal marijuana, she does not support the legalization of marijuana beyond that.”

From former Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly, a Democrat:

“California led the nation in passing the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Now that the U.S. Justice Department has said they will not enforce the federal law against states, we should ensure that existing state law in California on this specific issue is appropriately implemented, including building the necessary regulatory structure, before we take any next steps. Therefore, I oppose all 3 measures and the Ammiano bill.”

From Tim Rosales, campaign manager for state Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach:

“Tom Harman does not support any further liberalization of drug laws, including marijuana.”

Spokespeople for Assembly members Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, and Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, didn’t return my e-mail, nor did former Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo’s campaign.


Another award for Schwarzenegger

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke at the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business Gala in celebration of a new building’s opening last night in Washington, D.C..

McDonough School Dean George Daly also presented Schwarzenegger with the school’s Dean’s Medal, “which is the highest honor bestowed by the dean,” according to news releases from the school and the governor. The school says former recipients have included Prince Philipp of Liechtenstein; former Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez; and Ann Misiaszek Sarnoff, chief operating officer of the Women’s National Basketball Association.

I contacted Teresa Mannix, the school’s media relations director, to inquire about whether there are any criteria for this honor, or whether it’s basically an honorary award bestowed upon notable people when they come to speak at the school. After all, it seems a little puzzling for a distinguished business school to bestow its highest honor upon a chief executive whose “business entity” — the State of California — is in such a severe state of fiscal disarray, and who seems to have lost the confidence of his “board of directors” — the people who elected him.

That would be like the National Park Trust giving an award to someone for leadership and innovation in protecting public lands, just one day after that same someone announced state park closures due to budget cuts. Oh, wait – that happened, too.

Mannix’s response is that the medal “recognizes those who have distinguished themselves in various fields. It is not bestowed on all of our notable speakers.”

There you have it – “distinguished.”


Obama and Lee on the public option, Afghanistan

President Barack Obama met yesterday afternoon at the White House with members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, trying to allay their fears about the public option included in the newly revamped House health care reform bill. They’ve wanted a public plan with rates based on Medicare, but the new bill would let providers negotiated directly with the federal government.

Here’s what Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee had to say about the meeting:

“This is a truly historic time in our country. Today, we are closer to comprehensive health care reform than we have ever been in the past 70 years.

“I applaud our leadership for their efforts to unveil the current bill. While I have worked with my colleagues consistently to include a public option in this bill there is still work to do. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to ensure that the final package has the strongest public option and health equity provisions possible.

“A public option is essential to ensuring coverage of as many uninsured Americans as possible, as well as cost containment provisions to limit increased premiums for the 85 percent of Americans who currently have health insurance.

“In our meeting with President Obama I emphasized the importance of having the public option remain in the final bill to come out of conference. Additionally, it is important to keep every existing health equity provision intact. The Office of Minority Health should receive the same prioritization that the Office of Women’s Health is set to receive, especially given the data on racial and ethnic health disparities.

“More than 70 percent of Americans support health care reform with a public option, therefore we have a moral obligation to provide them with the choice and accountability that a public plan would provide.”

Also, check out this Huffington Post interview with Lee about her bill, H.R. 3699, that would bar federal funding to send more troops to Afghanistan.