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Archive for September, 2013

Anna Eshoo urges probe of Navy Yard radio failure

Rep. Anna Eshoo wants to know why first responders who rushed to the Washington Navy Yard during last Monday’s massacre had radio failures that left them using personal cell phones and runners to communicate.

Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, who is the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee, joined with committee ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, in writing today to Lawrence Strickling, the Commerce Department’s assistant secretary for communications and information, and Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn to urge an investigation.

“If these reports are accurate, this will not be the first time communications difficulties impaired first responders during an emergency,” the lawmakers wrote. “Unfortunately, there have been numerous communications system failures during recent natural disasters and national emergencies, most notably the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.”

Congress last year enacted legislation creating FirstNet, which is tasked with overseeing the construction of a nationwide, high-speed, interoperable broadband network dedicated to public safety. Eshoo and Waxman today asked that an inquiry into last week’s snafu also focus on how FirstNet might prevent similar communications breakdowns in the future; they requested an update by Oct. 21.

Read the full text of the letter, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, September 23rd, 2013
Under: Anna Eshoo, Henry Waxman, U.S. House | No Comments »

Swalwell urges GOP to wake up from ‘wet dream’

Rep. Eric Swalwell’s somewhat salty language on the House floor today is making national headlines.

Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, spoke against the House continuing resolution that’s predicated on defunding Obamacare.

“I rise in strong opposition to this radical right-wing effort to walk our economy off of a cliff and cause a government shutdown,” he said. “I invite my colleagues on the other side to wake up from this radical, ideological wet dream, and come back to reality.”

Yowza! The Hill noted its search of the Congressional Record dating back to 1989 doesn’t show that any other member has used that particular turn of phrase on the Jouse floor. The Washington Post called it “an R-rated term,” but noted that a Senator had used it back in 1996 (albeit not as an insult). The Huffington Post says it’s much ado about nothing.

To me, it sounds like something Pete Stark would’ve said.

Maybe Swalwell will hear about it from constituents who join him Saturday (Sept. 21) for his third “Ride With Your Rep” bicycling event. 15th Congressional District residents are welcome to join him at 10 a.m. at the Alameda Creek Regional Trail staging area, near Union City Boulevard at Lowry Road in Union City, for a 45-minute ride and chat.

UPDATE @ 4:30 P.M.: Pete Stark says it’s NOT something he would’ve said. Maybe. On a good day.

Posted on Friday, September 20th, 2013
Under: Eric Swalwell, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Kiss your bipartisan immigration reform goodbye

Two House Republicans have quit the “Group of Seven” that was working on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Reps. John Carter and Sam Johnson, both of Texas, issued this joint statement this morning:

“For nearly four years, we have been committed to finding a real solution to the serious immigration problem that plagues America. We have been working diligently and in good faith with our Democratic colleagues in a serious effort to fix our broken immigration system and secure our borders once and for all.

John Carter“From the beginning, we knew that solving the immigration problem wouldn’t be easy, but we owe it to the American people to come up with a real, long-term solution that instills accountability into the system and rewards personal responsibility. So we rolled up our sleeves and set aside partisan politics to do what is right for our country.

“After years of hard work and countless meetings, we have reached a tipping point and can no longer continue working on a broad approach to immigration. We want to be clear. The problem is politics. Instead of doing what’s right for America, President Obama time and again has unilaterally disregarded the U.S. Constitution, the letter of the law and bypassed the Congress – the body most representative of the people – in order to advance his political agenda. We will not tolerate it. Laws passed by Congress are not merely suggestions, regardless of the current atmosphere in Washington. Laws are to be respected and followed by all – particularly by the Commander-in-Chief.

“Starting off with the President’s hallmark legislation – the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – ObamaCare. The Obama administration has changed, waived or delayed key provisions with a single stroke of a pen. Congress opposed new laws that would infringe on Americans’ Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, but the President resorted to executive fiat to curtail those rights. Congress rejected the President’s cap and trade bill, yet he issued rules to reduce Americans’ access to our own energy resources that would help make us energy independent. The administration’s practice of hand-picking what parts of laws they wish to enforce has irrevocably damaged our efforts of fixing our broken immigration system.

“If past actions are the best indicators of future behavior; we know that any measure depending on the president’s enforcement will not be faithfully executed. It would be gravely irresponsible to further empower this administration by granting them additional authority or discretion with a new immigration system. The bottom line is – the American people do not trust the President to enforce laws, and we don’t either.

Sam Johnson“We have not given up and are committed to getting this right. That’s why we will continue to support efforts from our Republican colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives. That means immigration reform that starts with a genuinely secure border, full implementation of E-verify, affective enforcement of current and future laws, and a commitment that any proposal contributes to a healthy economy. There is a way to fix this problem that will instill the authentic accountability that has been missing in immigration for the past 25 years. The American people deserve no less.

“We are proud of the bipartisan team that worked with us on the immigration reform effort. We are honored to have worked closely with Democrat Representative Zoe Lofgren, Luis Gutierrez, John Yarmuth, and Xavier Becerra. We are also proud of our Republican colleagues Representative Mario Diaz-Balart and Raul Labrador.”

Here’s a response from Lofgren, D-San Jose, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee, said this morning:

“The dance of legislation is intricate and unpredictable. For the last four-and-a-half years a bipartisan group of representatives met, at first in anonymity, and later openly, to attempt to craft a bipartisan immigration reform bill.

“We did succeed in crafting a bill, but at this point my Republican colleagues, Congressmen Sam Johnson and John Carter, have decided to withdraw from this process. While these two very conservative Congressmen do not agree with me on many issues, I am sure that they would agree that our efforts during these last several years were characterized by mutual respect and serious legislative work. Solid work was put into crafting immigration measures and these efforts, or portions of them, may yet help the process as efforts continue to achieve top to bottom reform of our country’s broken immigration system.

“The question isn’t whether we can pass immigration reform. The economic, security and moral arguments have been made for reform. In poll after poll a growing majority of Americans want to see immigration reform, and the votes exist in the House for reform.

“In the end, it’s the Republican leadership that must make a decision on whether they intend to allow the current broken immigration system to continue as it is, or whether they will allow the House to vote on reform. I continue to be hopeful that Republican leaders will schedule votes on serious reform measures that aren’t host to known poison pills. It can be done. Let’s hope Congress can perform this basic task.”

Posted on Friday, September 20th, 2013
Under: Immigration, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

Local House Dems decry vote to slash food aid

The House voted 217-210 today for a H.R. 3102, a Republican-backed bill that would effectively strip almost $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

Democrats say more than 4 million Americans will lose their food assistance next year; three-fourths of households receiving SNAP aid include a child, senior or disabled person. Bay Area Democrats spoke out vehemently against the bill.

From the floor speech by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“A couple of weeks ago, I was in Houston, Texas visiting my grandchildren and we were at mass. And the sermon was a beautiful one and the gospel was that day, too. Many of our colleagues have quoted the Gospel of Matthew: ‘When I was hungry, you [fed] me.’ And other parts of the bible, and the Gospel that day was talking about how we have a responsibility to each other. In the sermon, the priest said something that I think we should consider as we consider our vote here today. He said: ‘You just can’t come church and pray on Sunday and go out and prey on people for the rest of the week.’

“This legislation is preying – P-R-E-Y-I-N-G – on people, on children, on veterans, on seniors, on all those who are struggling to do their best in our country. It is our moral obligation to reject this legislation and to preserve these investments that every American needs, for Americans who need them, and other Americans who want them to have it. It is our moral duty to vote down this measure and to work across the aisle in conference on a comprehensive farm bill that ensure food security, supports our farmers and ranchers, and strengthens rural communities.

“Community. That should be the word of the hour. What is the responsibility to our community? It certainly isn’t to say the kids: ‘We want you to do your best in school, but we are not going to fuel your mind by giving you food to eat.’ Or to thank our veterans by depriving them of this [and] our seniors for all that they have done.

“Something is very wrong with this picture. But I know one thing is for sure: every person who votes for this Republican measure is voting to hurt his or her own constituents because we all represent people who at some time need help.”

From Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa:

“This bill is staggeringly out of touch with what the American people want and need. Cuts of this magnitude take food out of the mouths of millions of Americans and doom any hope of compromise on a full five year extension of the Farm Bill. Instead of wasting time on bills like the one offered today by the House Majority, we should be working with the Senate on a compromise bill that is fair to our farmers and ranchers, incentivizes conservation, and protects hard working families, seniors and children from devastating cuts that will cause millions to go hungry.”

From Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton:

“Today the Tea Party and their Republican allies decided to make it harder on people already struggling to put food on the table by passing a bill that cuts $40 billion from nutrition assistance programs over the next ten years. This bill would deny benefits to at least four million low-income Americans, at a time when many Americans are still struggling to find work as we continue to rebound from the Great Recession.

“SNAP is a vital tool to fight hunger and help struggling Americans. In my district, more than 13,000 households receive SNAP benefits. Although there are two million fewer jobs today than in 2007, this extreme Republican bill eliminates nutrition benefits for out-of-work adults even if they live in high unemployment areas and regardless of how hard they are trying to find work.

“Today’s bill is mean-spirited, short-sighted and one I proudly voted against. We should be working together to create jobs and grow the economy, not take food out of the mouths of hungry children.”

From Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael:

“The Tea Party fringe has yet again led the House to approve extreme legislation that will never become law. SNAP is a lifeline for millions of American families who cannot afford to eat without this modest assistance. SNAP keeps food on the table for 47 million Americans. Today’s vote was yet another example of House Republicans doubling down on their cruel austerity diet for America.”

From Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez:

“House Republicans are doubling down on a bad idea. Cutting SNAP will not only increase hunger in America, it will cost the nation jobs in the food industry. Because when poor families don’t have enough to eat, they go without. This isn’t an economic stimulus — it’s a national outrage.

“To add insult to injury, 14 members of Congress have gone so far as to vote to enrich themselves and wealthy special interests with farm subsidies, while voting against benefits to millions of the neediest and most vulnerable Americans. I issued a report earlier this year that detailed these 14 members of Congress who are collectively worth up to $124 million and received at least $7.2 million in farm subsidies but voted to cut nutrition aid for 47 million Americans without batting an eye.

“If the majority really wants to save money on food stamps, let’s raise the minimum wage so taxpayers don’t have to pick up the tab for low wage employers, and let’s pass legislation that puts people back to work. But it’s truly the height of hypocrisy to throw needy families off food stamps while taking farm subsidies for yourself.”

Posted on Thursday, September 19th, 2013
Under: Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jared Huffman, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 9 Comments »

Hayward pastor delivers House’s opening prayer

A Hayward pastor delivered the House of Representatives’ opening prayer today at the U.S. Capitol.

Bishop Jerry Macklin – leader since 1978 of Glad Tidings Church of God in Christ, which has more than 1,500 members – served as guest chaplain at the invitation of Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton.

“Bishop Macklin is a true community leader, and his good work goes well beyond the pulpit,” Swalwell said in a brief floor speech after Macklin’s prayer. “He is a pillar of support to his members and under his leadership the church provides food, affordable housing, health care, and other resources to community members in need.”

“Given the overwhelming crises confronting our nation’s leaders and our world, there could be no more appropriate time to pray and seek God’s sovereign wisdom than now,” Macklin, 61, said in Swalwell’s news release.

Posted on Thursday, September 19th, 2013
Under: Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

New Tea Party Caucus to debut at GOP convention

A new Tea Party California Caucus will make its debut at the California Republican Party’s fall convention in Anaheim early next month.

Tea Party CA CaucusA news release issued Thursday morning says the caucus will host “a solution-oriented seminar filled with a diverse group of policy experts and high profile Tea Party leaders and organizers” to “educate convention attendees about Tea Party principles and advance these principles by proposing policy and position resolutions to the CRP.”

The caucus itself was announced late last month.

Tea Party groups have been very active at the grassroots level for the past four years, and many members already have been elected to county central committees.

“This involvement is bringing a return to constitutional principles and energizing the Republican grassroots at the county level across the state,” the release said. “We are now gathering together to bring that energy to the statewide level and restore our principles of constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets to CRP as we work together to restore and ensure a future of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all Californians.”

Posted on Thursday, September 19th, 2013
Under: Republican Party, Republican politics | 2 Comments »

Mike Honda’s ‘scrap the cap’ bill introduced

Rep. Mike Honda on Wednesday announced he has helped introduce the Social Security legislation he promised earlier this summer, to remove the cap on payroll taxes and expand benefits for current and future retirees.

H.R. 3118, the Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013, was introduced Tuesday by Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Cerritos, along with Honda and U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

“This legislation will ensure that benefits keep up with today’s rising costs, and that current and future retirees regain the security of aging with dignity,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in a news release. “There is no doubt that the program needs structural improvements, and the fairest, simplest way to keep it solvent is to require all Americans – regardless of income level – to contribute equally.”

The bill eliminates the cap on taxable income paying into Social Security; right now, people are only taxed on the first $113,700 of income. Honda says that means someone earning $1 million per year is taxed at a significantly lower percentage than a worker making $50,000, the national average.

The bill also makes formula adjustments to increase benefits by about $800 per year to better reflect rising healthcare costs.

The bill is backed by a plethora of unions, retiree interest groups and liberal organizations. Honda is making it a centerpiece of his re-election campaign, in which he’s being challenged by fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, a former Obama administration official.

Khanna last month said he favors immediate action to ensure Social Security’s solvency at current benefit levels “without making empty promises that could ultimately threaten the system overall.” He said he’s “in principle open to expanding benefits after the solvency is ensured.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 9 Comments »

TRUST Act activists target sheriffs in Sac, Oakland

Four protesters supporting the TRUST Act anti-deportation legislation now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk reportedly were arrested Wednesday after a protest and sit-in at the office of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, which opposes the bill.

The sheriffs’ association said the four refused repeated demands that they leave the private property, and were taken to Sacramento County Jail. Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern, the association’s president, later contacted protesters to explain his group’s position.

But apparently they’re all too aware of that position, as they’re planning to hold a “pray-in” at Ahern’s Oakland office Thursday morning.

Among the leaders of Thursday’s protest will be Pancho Ramos-Stierle, who was arrested as he meditated while police cleared the Occupy Oakland encampment in 2011 and was held by Ahern’s office on behalf of immigration authorities; his immigration case is still pending.

Currently, when someone is booked into a county jail, the suspect’s fingerprints are sent to the FBI for comparison with criminal databases. Under the Secure Communities program launched in 2008, the FBI shares that information with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. If ICE thinks the inmate might be deportable, it asks jail officials to hold that person until an immigration agent can review the case and perhaps take the inmate away for deportation.

AB 4 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco – the TRUST (Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools) Act – would forbid jail officials from honoring those immigration holds in many cases.

The sheriffs’ association issued a statement Wednesday afternoon explaining that the law “would require offenders that have been subject to prior removal orders, previously deported from the country, or have been charged with serious and violent felonies to be released into the community. It also would require sheriffs to release persons that, while not having been previously convicted of a serious or violent offense, have been deemed threats to national security or public safety by the Department of Homeland Security.”

Finally, the association noted, AB 4 would require a sheriff to let someone go if required by “local law” or “any local policy.”

“These terms are not defined and could defeat even the narrow exceptions provided by AB 4 that would allow a sheriff to hold a person that has been convicted of serious and violent felonies,” the association’s statement said.

But the groups behind tomorrow’s protest in Oakland – Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy, and the East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition – contend AB 4 gives law enforcement much broader discretion to honor immigration “hold” requests than the similar bill Brown vetoed last year, while ensuring that those with most low-level, non-violent offenses are not wastefully held for deportation.

“We pray for renewed trust between law-enforcement and immigrant communities in Alameda County and throughout our state. And we pray that Sheriff Ahern will open his heart to hear the pleas of the people, for safety and protection from indiscriminate detention and deportations,” Rev. Deborah Lee said in a news release. “And we pray that the Governor will sign this bill, so as to advance immigration reform.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
Under: Alameda County, Assembly, California State Senate, Jerry Brown, Tom Ammiano | 2 Comments »

CA House freshman on CREW’s ‘most corrupt’ list

A California freshman has been named one of Congress’ most corrupt members of 2013 by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

CREW’s list of the dirtiest 13 included four Democrats and nine Republicans including Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford; another two from each side of the aisle made the “dishonorable mention” list. Valadao was the only Californian called out, accused by CREW of abused his position on the House Appropriations Committee to benefit his own financial interests.

“Congressman Valadao has only been in Washington a few months, but it didn’t take long for him to abuse his position for his personal financial benefit,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a news release. “Americans expect their elected representatives will look out for their constituents’ interests. Rep. Valadao, on the other hand, apparently believes the purpose of his office is to look out solely for his own interests.”

David ValadaoValadao’s office issued a statement Wednesday afternoon calling this “nothing more than a misleading political attack.”

“Congressman Valadao has been opposed to High Speed Rail since entering public life. He campaigned, and was elected, on fighting High Speed Rail. This project is bad for the 21stCongressional District, the Central Valley, and California,” the statement said. “Congressman Valadao will continue to fight the High Speed Rail on behalf of his constituents.”

Valadao’s family operates Valadao Dairy, which owns hundreds of acres of land along the proposed path of California’s high-speed rail project, many opponents of which argue it will reduce their property values. Valadao in June successfully offered an amendment to the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill for 2014, which would require that the federal Surface Transportation Board approve the high-speed rail project in its entirety rather than letting it incrementally approve the construction of new segments.

But CREW says as Valadao offered his amendment and twice argued for its adoption, he never told his fellow lawmakers about his financial interest in its passage. House rules say members can’t sponsor legislation, advocate or take part in a committee proceeding when their financial interests are at issue.

“Rep. Valadao seems to have skipped the ethics portion of new member orientation,” Sloan said. “Using his position to advance his personal financial interests is a serious infraction, not a freshman faux pas. In July, CREW asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate. We look forward to the results.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
Under: Transportation, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Two rather unusual political campaign ads

Sometimes a campaign ad is just so out of the ordinary that it bears repeating far beyond the candidate’s would-be constituency.

These might not be of “demon sheep” or even Mike Gravel magnitude, but they’re making some waves in the social media seas – and many political operatives would contend that any ad that people talk about is a good ad.

This one is for Carl Sciortino, a Massachusetts state representative who’s running for Congress:

(Yes, the younger Sciortino is gay.)

And this one is for Minneapolis mayoral candidate Jeff Wagner:

Do you have a favorite quirky political ad from a current campaign? Drop a link in the comments and perhaps I’ll bump it up into an update.

Posted on Tuesday, September 17th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »