Stark offers bills, opposes DOMA & national motto

Rep. Pete Stark is busy as a beaver, and so is his challenger in next year’s election.

Stark, D-Fremont, was among more than 130 House Democrats who filed an amicus brief with the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in opposition to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. The Obama Administration believes the law to be unconstitutional and will no longer defend it, but House Republicans have hired lawyers at taxpayers’ expense to defend it, a move Stark calls “fiscally reckless and morally repugnant. My Democratic colleagues and I have filed today’s amicus brief to clarify that the House of Representatives is not unified in support of this disgraceful law and we will fight to repeal it.”

Stark also today helped introduce the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act, which would extend federal unemployment insurance programs through the end of 2012; those programs, providing Americans with up to 73 weeks of additional unemployment insurance at an average of $300 per week per person, are set to expire Dec. 31. The bill also would relieve states that have federal unemployment insurance loans from interest charges next year, prevent higher federal unemployment taxes beginning in January on employers in insolvent states, and provide a solvency bonus to states without any outstanding loans. “Congressional Republicans have done nothing to create jobs. If they fail to work with us and extend unemployment insurance benefits now, 305,000 Californians will lose their benefits in January. For these workers, their families and millions more around the country, failure to act is not an option,” Stark said.

And Stark today introduced H.R. 3333, the Foster Children Opportunity Act, which he says would protect abused and neglected immigrant children in foster care and ensure they have a chance to gain legal status before they leave care. Current law lets many immigrant foster children claim some form of immigration relief, but once they leave the foster-care system, they’re at risk of deportation.

This bill requires the child welfare system to screen children to determine if they’re eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status; allocates money to educate judges and other court personnel on immigration issues facing foster youth; requires documentation by child welfare agencies and judges in their efforts to help children obtain SIJS or other forms of immigration relief; requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security to give technical assistance to state and county child welfare agencies regarding immigration; and ensures that foster care children who obtain SIJS status have access to federal programs — including foster care maintenance payments, student loans, housing assistance and Medicaid — just like other foster care children. Said Stark, “Allowing abused and neglected children to leave our foster care system and face deportation is completely unacceptable. The status quo must change. This legislation will enable us to better fulfill our responsibility to all foster children and provide immigrant youth with an opportunity to succeed in this country after leaving care.”

Meanwhile, Dublin City Councilman and Alameda County prosecutor Eric Swalwell – a Democrat challenging Stark in the newly drawn 15th Congressional District in 2012 – took umbrage at Stark’s opposition to re-affirming “In God We Trust” as the national motto. The House voted 396-9 for the re-affirmation Tuesday; Stark, Congress’ only avowed atheist, was among the nine dissenters, as was Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

Swalwell issued a statement noting that the motto has inspired the nation since the Civil War.

“It seems like too often these days Congress can’t agree on anything. Yesterday, 396 members agreed to re-affirm our national motto,” he said. “Congressman Stark was one of nine members of Congress who disagreed. The 15th Congressional District deserves a Member of Congress who is in touch with its people, can work well with others, and can honor our national motto.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Lou

    I assume Stark and his other 8 dissenters would have us cross off “In God We Trust” off the back of dollar bills. I ask, why stop there?

    Get rid of that Latin stuff. Dead language.

    Get rid of the Great Seal of the United States pyramid. Wasn’t that in one of those Dan Brown books as a symbol of pagan gods?

    Wipe out any reference to Washington DC. Though they pay taxes, they definitely don’t represent.

    While we’re at it, who needs reference to the United States? Stark clearly isn’t looking to unite anyone.

    At least this Swalwell guy seems to be making some (common) sense.

  • Jim B.

    Congressman Stark deserves credit for opposing the ridiculous re-affirmation of “In God We Trust”. Congress has better things to do with its time and energy. The Republican House majority is pushing these symbolic actions just to placate right-wing conservatives. What’s next, a bill next week extolling “the virtues of apple pie” and a resolution the following week about how “the sport of baseball is wonderful”? Stark’s opponent is desperate for attention.

  • Thaddeus

    Considering the size of the Hindu and Sikh population in his District, it looks to me like Representative Stark is representing ALL of his constituents. Good for him.

  • raul

    Stark is chair of athiest caucus in Congress, this vote reflects that, I think. Stark needs to retire, he’s way over the hill, everybody knows it. This young guy has good shot to upset Stark, there’s no question in my mind.

  • John W

    I was excited about the prospect of being able to vote for Swalwell or any reasonable(not right-wing) challenger to Pete Stark. Mr. Swalwell may have just changed my mind by making an issue of Stark’s vote on the “re-affirmation.” What a waste of time in Congress! What a cheap shot by Swalwell!

  • BGR

    HR 8333 is a nasty bit of work, according to many observers in the faith community including First Things, Mirror of Justice, and the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance. The devil (and Pete Stark’s rabid anti-christianity bias) can be seen in the details.

    HR 8333 is not just about not funding Christian or other faith-based service providers who choose not to work with same sex applicants for adoption services, it mandates that states, to get federal monies for a wide swath of services, must rewrite their own laws to outlaw and defund providers who simply decline to serve.

    Stark, unions and the hard left calls it discrimination against gay and baby killers, when it is simple first amendment rights of freedom of religion…that’s still legal isn’t it?

    What Pete Stark calls anti-discrimination protections of HR8333 is in reality a pogrom against those who would live their faith in the public square with the same freedom all citizens should have.

    It’s not like a woman can’t find an abortion clinic in California or a gay family counseling center for same-sex household adoptions. They have the freedom to choose service provider.

    To prohibit service providers based on religion is a violation of the Constitution. Making the states do the dirty work of instituting federal mandates for religious discrimination is what makes Stark’s bill doubly invidious and shameful

  • Truthclubber

    Re: #5 — Could not agree with you more — it’s a cheap shot against one of the pillars of this particular democracy, separation of church and state, which such a self-pronounced attorney (without a personal axe to grind) would recognize.

    Re: #6 — Get over it , homophobe — if you want Federal funds for what you want to do, DON’T discriminate against people who want to have sex with genders that your parents and preacher told you were bad — and don’t try to tell us what we should do in our own bedrooms. (Note: I am not gay — but will fight for the right of those that are to express their biological wiring…)

  • BGR

    No one is arguing about what goes on in the BR. In fact, the argument is neutral regarding sexual preference. There are plenty of providers that serve the GLBX community. They are free to choose the provider of their preference, just like you choose a chiropractor or dentist.

    The bigotry comes from those who believe queerness ought legally to trump all other rights in violation of the First Amendment.