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Today’s Congressional odds and ends

Jerry McNerneyMcNerney touts GOP endorsements: One day after the National Republican Congressional Committee named 11th Congressional District GOP nominee David Harmer one of its “Young Guns,” incumbent
Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, announced he has the endorsements of three prominent local Republicans: Danville Mayor Mike Doyle, Tracy Councilman Steve Abercrombie and former Manteca Mayor and Councilman Jack Snyder. “Jerry McNerney has done more for our veterans than anyone else that I’ve worked with,” Doyle said in McNerney’s news release. “From fighting to keep the Livermore VA in veterans’ hands to supporting the renovations of the Danville Veterans Hall, Jerry McNerney has shown that he’s willing to work across the aisle and will get the job done for our community.”

Lee praises SBA pick: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, congratulates Elizabeth Echols, 50, of Oakland, on her appointment as Region IX Administrator for the Small Business Administration, charged with overseeing the SBA’s programs and services in California, Nevada, Arizona Hawaii and Guam. Echols is CEO of OpNet Community Ventures, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to promoting opportunities in the technology industry for low-income young adults, and held several political appointments in the Clinton White House and Commerce Department. “I don’t believe the SBA could have made a better selection,” Lee said. “Elizabeth recognizes the role the SBA has played in helping pull our nation out of the recession. Elizabeth understands that small business is the engine that drives our nation’s economy, and that providing small businesses with support and resources is key to creating good-paying, sustainable jobs and, ultimately, to our economic recovery.”

Miller preps for child nutrition markup: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, chaired a hearing yesterday on bipartisan child nutrition reauthorization legislation introduced earlier this month to improve children’s health, increase access to healthy meals, and create more year-round meal opportunities for children; Miller announced plans to markup HR 5504, the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act, when Congress returns after the July 4th recess. “We need to get our country back on a pathway of healthy eating and healthy living – this starts by not only ensuring our children are eating healthy meals in schools, but also teaching them healthy habits that will last them a lifetime,” he said in a news release today. “This bill is a great opportunity to improve our school meal programs, to meet children’s nutritional needs at every venture and to change the future of this country.”

Lawmakers vote to limit Afghanistan funding: Lee and Miller joined Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, in voting Thursday for Lee’s amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations bill that would have denied additional funds for the war in Afghanistan except for money that would be needed to ensure the safety of troops in the field as they are preparing to redeploy. The amendment failed on a 100-321 vote. McNerney and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, voted against the amendment, while Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, didn’t vote.

Posted on Friday, July 2nd, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Afghanistan, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, congressional district 11, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 16 Comments »

House members want clear plan on Afghanistan

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, led about two dozen House members in writing to President Barack Obama today to ask that he provide Congress with “a clear commitment and plan to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan” before the vote on the supplemental funding bill.

“It has been nearly a decade since we went to Afghanistan and we still are not sure why we are there or can define a successful mission,” she said in a news release. “This war is now the longest war in American history. We simply cannot continue to fund a war that seemingly has no end in sight. It’s past time we have a clear exit strategy and timeline for redeployment of our troops.”

The letter cites conflicting statements by members of the Administration and the military command – for example, in the same Rolling Stone article that led to Gen. Stanley McChrystal being sacked, a senior military official stationed in Afghanistan indicated military success could actually lead to more U.S. troops deployed there, not fewer: “There’s a possibility we could ask for another surge of U.S. forces next summer if we see success here.”

The letter also cites U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on ABC’s “This Week” last December as well as Gen. David Petraeus in today’s Washington Post indicating troops necessarily won’t be meaningfully withdrawn in the summer of 2011.

Among the other House members signing Lee’s letter are Pete Stark, D-Fremont, and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

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

Posted on Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
Under: Afghanistan, Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, Obama presidency, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Doves say ditch the war, not just the general

The Bay Area Congressional delegation’s two biggest doves said today that President Barack Obama’s dismissal of Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan (following the general’s and his aides’ critical remarks about the Administration in Rolling Stone) should be only the start.

“What is needed in Afghanistan is a change of policy not just a change of commanders,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-chair Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, said in a news release. “The real message of the Rolling Stone article is that the Afghan war is an unwinnable mess. It is time to start withdrawing from Afghanistan not surging deeper into a futile conflict that is already the longest war in U.S. history.”‬‪

Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said she agreed with the President’s decision to relieve McChrystal of his command.

“The President is correct – this war is bigger than any one person. Our focus should be on our strategy to bring an end to this war,” said Lee, who you’ll recall was the lone vote in Congress against the 2001 resolution authorizing the Bush Administration’s use of force against al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

“Open-ended war in Afghanistan is not in our national security interest and continues to create enemies. We must fundamentally rethink our policy on Afghanistan and reorient our efforts to combat terrorism around the globe in a more effective and sustainable manner,” she said in a news release today. “We need to stop digging the hole and risking the lives of our brave young men and women. We need a clear exit strategy and a timeline to safely redeploy our troops from Afghanistan.”

UPDATE @ 10:50 A.M. MONDAY 6/28: A clarification – Lee issued her statement speaking for herself, not on behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus she chairs.

Posted on Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010
Under: Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Afghanistan withdrawal resolution defeated

H.Con.Res. 248, legislation by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, that would order the President to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan, failed today on a 65-356 vote after more than three and a half hours of debate.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma were among the legislation’s 19 co-sponsors. They were joined by Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, in voting for it today.

From Stark:

Pete Stark“Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of H.Con.Res. 248 to bring our troops home from Afghanistan.

“Despite the wishes of the people who voted him into office, President Obama is escalating the War in Afghanistan. It’s now up to Congress to end the war. This resolution would invoke the War Powers Resolution of 1973, and remove troops from Afghanistan no later than the end of the year.

“This war has no clear objective. We have spent $258 billion on the War in Afghanistan, with billions more to come this year. American soldiers and their families are paying a greater price. Over 1,000 soldiers have died, and over 5,000 have been wounded in action. According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch, and other humanitarian organizations, tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed.

“It is time for Congress to assert its constitutional authority over matters of war and bring our troops home. I urge my colleagues to join us in support of this resolution. War will never stabilize Afghanistan. We must turn to diplomacy and infrastructure development to achieve stability in Afghanistan.”

From Miller:

“We need to move in a new direction in Afghanistan. Today, I again registered my opposition to the current US policy in Afghanistan by voting for Mr. Kucinich’s war powers resolution. While we know it isn’t feasible for American troops to leave Afghanistan in the time allotted in the resolution, by voting for it I am sending a clear message to President Obama and my colleagues that we need to move in a new direction in Afghanistan.”

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, was one of five Republicans (the others included Rep. John Campbell, R-Irvine) to vote for the legislation. From Paul:

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, issued a statement saying she had voted against the resolution “with a heavy heart.” See her full explanation after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, March 10th, 2010
Under: Afghanistan, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Lynn Woolsey, Pete Stark, Ron Paul, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Brown-bagging for peace

Progressive Democrats of America is planning another round of brown-bag lunch vigils at House members’ district offices – including four in Northern California – next Wednesday, Feb. 17 to demand commitments to vote against more money for war.

brown-bag lunch The first round, on Jan. 20, targeted 22 House members; this round already has 37 events scheduled. And this time, PDA will be joined by CODEPINK, AfterDowningStreet, Democrats.com, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, and United for Peace and Justice. Poster slogans include “Healthcare not Warfare,” “Corporations out of Politics,” “Bailout Main Street not Wall Street,” and “Brownbaggers not Teabaggers.”

In Northern California, the vigils are scheduled for 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Rep. Dennis Cardoza’s office, 1010 10th St. in Modesto; noon to 1 at Rep. Lynn Woolsey’s office, 1101 College Ave. in Santa Rosa; and noon to 2 p.m. at Rep. Barbara Lee’s office, 1301 Clay St., Suite 1000-N in Oakland, and at Rep. John Garamendi’s office, 1981 N. Broadway, Suite 220 in Walnut Creek.

Can you guess which of these is least likely to invite the brown-baggers in? I knew you could.

The activists want House members to vow to oppose any bills that fund wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen, and to publicly urge their colleagues and the House leadership to do the same. They also want members to cosponsor antiwar legislation including Lee’s HR 3699, which would prohibit any increase in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. That bill’s 28 cosponsors already include Woolsey as well as Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, and Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

“We have to choose between jobs and wars,” PDA national director Tim Carpenter said in a news release. “The American people are on one side, but our so-called representatives in Congress are on the other. The Supreme Court is busy increasing corporate control of our elected officials. We need to be busy enforcing the people’s control before it is too late.”

Posted on Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
Under: Afghanistan, Barbara Lee, Dennis Cardoza, Iraq, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

No love for Obama troop plan in Bay Area

The Democratic congressional delegation loves President Barack Obama but they don’t love his proposal to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

Congress controls the purse strings and Obama he needed to win votes, not friends, with his speech tonight.

None of the Bay Area Democrats in Congress I have heard from since the speech support a troop surge.  (Only Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, had no opinion; said he was still studying it.)

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein favors it, however.

“I support the President’s plan,” she said in a press release. “It has been carefully deliberated and debated by the senior officials in the Administration [and] recommended by one of America’s finest generals. I believe that both Republicans and Democrats should support this decision, which will allow us to reverse the Taliban’s gains and deny terrorists a safe haven while limiting the duration of our commitment.”

Here’s what some of the Bay Area members of Congress had to say:

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove: “I thank President Obama for his careful and thoughtful deliberation on this matter. He faces a difficult decision on a war he inherited, and I know his heart is in the right place. However, I remain convinced that increased diplomatic, economic, social, and educational assistance in the region will result in a lasting solution in Afghanistan. American national security, our dedicated soldiers already serving, and the people of Afghanistan will be better served if we focus our efforts on improving the socioeconomic conditions of the region instead of sending more of our brave soldiers to fight in this war.”

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez: “I have traveled to this region of the world three times this year and based on what I have learned, I am not sure that the ingredients necessary for success in Afghanistan are present.”

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton: “Since September 11, 2001, America has faced the serious threat of terrorism at home and abroad.  It is clear that the stability of countries around the world, including Afghanistan, affects our safety and security and it is imperative that we effectively protect and defend our nation.  As we decide on our involvement in Afghanistan, first and foremost I will consider the safety of our brave men and women in uniform who are risking their lives.  In order to ensure the safety of our troops and all Americans, we need to establish clear and realistic goals for our involvement in Afghanistan.  This should include addressing Afghanistan’s political and military stability, dealing with corruption, and planning for the safe return of our troops.  In the coming days, I’ll be reviewing the president’s strategy and look forward to hearing more specifics about the proposal.”

Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell: “What is needed now is not about ‘more troops’ but ‘better strategies’ to build the country’s capacity. All three frontiers – military, economic and political – must be Afghan-focused. It is time for their surge, not ours.”

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont:  “Tonight’s announcement is a great disappointment. Civilian and military casualties are at an all-time high. We should not be increasing our military presence. Lasting peace can only come through a diplomatic solution. I oppose any funding for military escalation in Afghanistan.”

Posted on Tuesday, December 1st, 2009
Under: Afghanistan | 13 Comments »

Strife, leadership change at Alameda County GOP

A controversial resolution calling for a non-interventionist foreign policy – meaning a withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq – was shot down by the Alameda County Republican Central Committee last night, even as the committee’s chair changed hands between the party’s warring factions.

Former chairman Jerry Salcido – among a faction of “Constitutional Republicans,” a group often associated with former presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex. – announced his resignation last week after just a few months in the post. He told me today he’s moving back to Utah to start his own law firm with his brother.

a party dividedThe Constitutional Republicans and the mainstream GOPers some call “neo-conservatives” have been embroiled in a battle for a year and a half. Committeeman Paul Cummings Jr. of Oakland has a lawsuit pending against several of the Constitutional Republicans, claiming their June 2008 election to the committee was invalid because they hadn’t been affiliated with the Republican Party for at least three months before their candidacy filing dates, and/or because they’d belonged to other parties within a year before filing, in violation of the state Elections Code. (A hearing on this is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 18.)

So with Salcido leaving, a struggle for control ensued: The Constitutional Republicans put up Brian Eschen, 34, of Pleasanton, while the neo-cons backed John Wyrwas of Berkeley. Wyrwas – a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering at Cal – narrowly prevailed, winning the county GOP’s chair one day after his 25th birthday.

“We’re all very excited about the next year,” Wyrwas told me this aftneroon. “I think starting in January our committee is going to be a lot more civil than we were in the past, and I think a lot of our problems will be behind us.”

He noted he ran as a moderate: “There’s a lot I agree on with both factions… We’re looking at a lot of potential.”

Salcido, 31, of Fremont, wished Wyrwas “the best of luck, he seems like a really good guy…. I’m hoping he’ll be impartial with the two factions that are there, because Lord knows we need it.”

Cummings, 53, of Oakland, said he’s thrilled and optimistic at the resolution’s defeat and Wyrwas’ election – he feels as if the good guys are back in charge. Walter Stanley III, among the Constitutional Republican faction’s leaders, isn’t so happy, knocking Cummings’ faction as “pro-national-offense Republicans… They don’t care about the Constitution, they don’t care that it’s an undeclared war, the just care about protecting George Bush.”

Salcido said he was “very disappointed” by the defeat of the foreign-policy resolution, which he co-authored and presented to the committee last night.

“It’s just an indication to me why the Republican Party is having such troubles nowadays, they just want to hold onto this pro-war, interventionist stance that is killing our soldiers and bankrupting our country,” he said, noting the opposing faction seems “more interested in power rather than principle. … They actually said the reasons why terrorists want to kill us is because we’re free and we’re prosperous, they actually believe that, and that’s incredible to me.”

(Note: A server-upgrade glitch has made my previous post about the foreign-policy resolution, from yesterday, temporarily unavailable; my tech people tell me they should be able to restore it and other posts tomorrow morning. UPDATE @ 1 P.M. THURSDAY: THIS HAS BEEN FIXED.)

Stanley said the foreign-policy resolution had 13 votes in favor and 20 against, but at least it was “an educational opportunity” that drew a few new observers to last night’s committee meeting – and expanding the party’s base of members and activists is supposed to be the committee’s goal.

“What they would prefer to do is absolutely nothing,” he charged of committee members such as Cummings and Dick Spees of Oakland, whom he described as “the leader of the ‘George Bushers…’ These guys couldn’t be doing better to sabotage the efforts of the Republican Party if they were Democrats.”

But Stanley said he’s optimistic that Constitutional Republicans will gain more ground on the committee in 2010. “We’ll keep doing things by the book… we’re going to be there, they’ll be forced to deal with us, and we’re going to attempt to get the Republican Party back on track.”

“We have nowhere to go but up, and that’s what we’re trying to do in Alameda County.”

Posted on Wednesday, November 18th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Alameda County, Iraq, Republican Party, Republican politics | 17 Comments »

Alameda County GOP infights over foreign policy

Expect fireworks at tonight’s Alameda County Republican Central Committee meeting, as there’s a debate and vote on a proposed resolution endorsing a non-interventionist foreign policy – which in the short term means pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The resolution was introduced by committeemen Jerry Salcido, Walter Stanley III and David LaTour – the county GOP’s chairman, vice chairman and assistant treasurer, respectively. All three are “Constitutional Republicans” aligned with the Republican Liberty Caucus, a libertarian-leaning group often associated with former presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. The county GOP’s executive committee last week voted 4-1, with one absention, to approve the resolution and send it to the full committee’s monthly meeting for a 2/3 vote.

The Alameda County GOP has been torn by strife for well over a year now, with a lawsuit still pending over these and other Ron Paul supporters’ election to the committee.

The California Court of Appeal in September reinstated the case, in which committeeman Paul Cummings Jr. of Oakland claims Stanley, of Livermore, and several other Constitutional Republicans were ineligible for election to the committee in June 2008 because they hadn’t been affiliated with the Republican Party for at least three months before their candidacy filing dates, and/or because they’d belonged to other parties within a year before filing, in violation of the state Elections Code.

This resolution is likely to deepen the rift. Among its many “whereases” are that our foreign policy of the past century is deeply flawed and hasn’t served our national security interests; that “the terrorist threat is a predictable consequence of our meddling in the affairs of others and has nothing to do with us being free and prosperous;” and that “torture, even if referred to as ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ is self-destructive and produces no useful information and that contracting it out to a third world country or a corporation is just as evil.”

Incidentally, that’s not unlike the verbiage in a resolution approved last month by Berkeley City Council calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops and contractors for Afghanistan (or, for that matter, several other resolutions that council has approved in recent years).

Compare the county GOP’s proposed resolution also to an Afghanistan-withdrawal resolution approved Sunday by the California Democratic Party’s executive board.

And that’s not sitting well with GOP committee members other than the Constitutional Republicans.

“I’m certainly in knots about it,” Cummings said today. “I’m a retired Navy officer, and I’m shocked that while we have troops in the field, we would put together a document that is so disparaging of our policy in the war on terror. Some of the comments in it are beyond the pale.”

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

Posted on Tuesday, November 17th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Alameda County, General, Iraq, Republican Party, Republican politics, War on Terror | 3 Comments »

Report: Vets need consideration in drug cases

California is doing more than many states, yet perhaps not yet enough, to deal with veterans returning from war with disorders and injuries that lead to drug abuse, according to a national organization’s new policy brief.

The Drug Policy Alliance’s brief says as thousands of troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries and other maladies, many could end up in trouble with the law, especially for nonviolent drug offenses. The brief says that in 2004, about 140,000 veterans were in state and federal prisons with tens of thousands more in county jails, many for crimes related to substance abuse.

The brief recommends that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense adopt overdose prevention programs and policies targeting veterans and service members who misuse alcohol and other drugs, or who take prescription medications, especially certain narcotic painkillers.

It also calls for veteran treatment programs to expand access to medication-assisted therapies like methadone and buprenorphine, which it says are the most effective means of treating opioid dependence. And state and federal governments should modify sentencing laws and improve court-ordered drug diversion programs in order to better treat — rather than lock up — veterans who commit nonviolent drug-related crimes, the brief says.

On that latter suggestion, California is making some headway, the report says:

A California law provides that veterans who suffer from PTSD, substance abuse or psychological problems as a result of their service in combat and who commit certain nonviolent offenses may be ordered into a local, state, federal or private nonprofit treatment program instead of jail or prison. The law, however, is not widely used; many defense attorneys are not even aware of its impact for their clients, and it does not automatically apply to veteran defendants. Furthermore, the law only applies to lesser, probation-eligible offenses, so many veterans do not make use of it, choosing standard probation instead.

And…

Legislation now in the California Assembly, Assembly Bill 674, would provide for diversion of psychologically wounded veterans to therapy instead of jail or prison, and would drop charges upon completion of therapy, for probation-eligible offenses. Drug testing results could only be used for treatment purposes, not as the basis of a new criminal charge. The defendant would not have to plead guilty and would emerge with no criminal record.

Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee Chairwoman Mary Salas, D-Chula Vista, introduced AB 674 in February but asked in April that its Public Safety Committee hearing be cancelled. Salas will chair a Veterans Affairs Committee hearing this Thursday morning, Nov. 5, in San Diego on veterans’ courts and alternative sentencing.

“Increasing numbers of Iraq and Afghan War veterans are returning home with psychological injuries. Many of them are going untreated and, some are encountering problems with the law,” she said in her news release announcing the hearing. “Our country has a duty to our most troubled veterans. We must recognize that these veterans’ psychological injuries were sustained on our society’s behalf. We need to consider if their injuries should be taken into account in the administration of justice. Ensuring these young men and women receive the care they need will also enhance public safety in the long run.”

Posted on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Assembly, Iraq, Public safety | Comments Off

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.

Posted on Friday, October 30th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, healthcare reform, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 5 Comments »