Tauscher declares victory over cancer

U.S. Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher (Photo by Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group

U.S. Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher

I had breakfast with U.S. Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher earlier this week and the former East Bay congresswoman shared the compelling and inspiring story of her remarkable triumph over esophageal cancer.

Read the full story here.

I didn’t have space in the piece but I shared with Ellen that morning about how her experience had already helped me in a very personal way.

Last March, the Washington Post wrote a lovely story about her recovery and as I read through the text, I keyed in on Ellen’s description of the early symptoms: Trouble swallowing bulky foods, a sensation of something blocking her esophagus.

My husband had been experiencing the very same symptoms for months. He had recently suffered a painful episode while eating a salad at a restaurant.

I showed him the news story and he made an appointment.

The initial examination revealed a potential problem and his doctor scheduled an endoscopy. Fortunately, the scope found a highly treatable inflammation and not cancer.

But for all we knew at the time, the symptoms could have been associated with a far more serious health problem. And early detection is a good thing when it comes to the successful treatment of cancer.

So, take Ellen’s advice: Even if you think all you need is another roll of Tums, go see your doctor.  Do it for the people who love you.


‘What are you thinking?’ Rep. Miller asks GOP

While conservatives lambast as the height of nannyism that bipartisan law mandating we use energy efficient lightbulbs, Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, turned his laser spotlight on the Democrats’ successful move today to squash the GOP’s effort to repeal the rule.

Seriously? This is what Congress is doing today when all we read in the news is about how President Obama, congressional and senate leaders are at an impasse over lifting the federal debt ceiling, deficit reduction and the possibility that the U.S. could stop paying its bills? Well, perhaps we could stop paying the light bill …

Here’s what Miller says in his news release:

Washington, DC – Energy efficient light bulbs, and the benefits they offer to consumers and the environment, have lived to shine another day after the House of Representatives voted down a GOP bill to kill a 2007 law that requires light bulbs to be more energy efficient.

Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) called on Republicans to once and for all stop playing politics with the economic future of Middle Class Americans and focus instead on efforts to create jobs and grow the economy right now.

“Congress has a lot of serious work to do — to help create jobs, tackle the long-term budget deficit, and bring our troops home from battle,” Miller said. “But instead of dealing with these critical challenges, this week the Tea Party Republicans in the House walked out on the White House debt talks and instead brought up a bill to make light bulbs waste more energy.

“What are they thinking? Continue Reading


McNerney returns to science committee



In yet another fall-out after the Democrats’ loss of majority status in the House of Representatives, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, will lose his seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

He will return to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, his first assignment after he was initially elected in 2006. McNerney will remain on the Veterans Affairs Committee, his signature policy area. He had served on Energy and Commerce just one term.

“The congressman enjoyed his time on the Energy and Commerce Committee, but he is very excited about going back to the Science, Space and Technology Committee,” said spokeswoman Sarah Hersh.

A PHd mathematician who designed wind turbines, McNerney has a keen interest in green technology and science.

McNerney’s shift is the result of the GOP takeover of the House of Representatives. Not only does the majority party hold more seats on committees but the GOP leaders also cut the overall size of the committees.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, lost his seat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, leaving the Bay Area with no direct representation on the committee.  And Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, will leave the House Natural Resources Committee after more than 35 years on the panel.


Miller to leave Resources Committee



Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, will lose his long-held seat on the House Natural Resources Committee, the result of a GOP reduction in overall committee sizes.

Miller has sat on the resources panel since almost the first day he first set foot in the Capitol as the 7th District representative back in 1975. He subscribed to then-Rep. Phil Burton’s advice that a new member with an eye toward gaining seniority and influence should pick committees and stay there.

The Natural Resources Committee oversees a swath of environmental and resource policy arenas including the Endangered Species Act, parks, fisheries, forestry, mining, oceans, water and Native Americans.

Under the reduced numbers of committee posts and the need to share what remains with his colleagues, Miller cannot keep both his seats on resources and the Education and Workforce Committee, known under Democratic control as the House Education and Labor Committee.
Leaving resources is tough, Miller agreed.

“But I have been, in the last few years, as I served as chair of the Education and Labor Committee, on the Resources Committee by virtue of waiver,” Miller said. “Now, with the election outcome and cut in the size of many committees, many members won’t have their first or even their second choice of committees.”

The House Democratic leadership team is expected to finalize its committee assignments early next week.

An avid environmentalist with deep resume on water and environmental legislation, Miller was the Natural Resource Committee’s chairman from 1991-1994.

When Democrats lost the majority in 1994, the veteran legislator stepped into the committee’s No. 2 post for the next six years. He often waged very public policy battles with then-Rep. Richard Pombo, his GOP neighbor from Tracy who became committee chairman and sought to alter the Endangered Species Act.

In 2000, Miller gave up his ranking member seat on House Resources for the same job on the Education and Labor Committee, the other panel he has served on since 1975.

He would become the committee chairman from 2007-2010, after Democrats retook the majority, and has now returned to ranking member status.

Through a waiver of the House’s Byzantine rules that dictate how many committees and in what role a member may serve at the same time, Miller had kept his spot on the Resources Committee after he stepped down as its ranking member.

That all changed earlier this month when Republicans announced, as part of its reform package, overall committee size reductions. Democrats also lost seats as a result of the GOP victory, as the controlling party maintains a majority vote on each committee.

Despite the loss, Miller vowed to remain vigorously engaged in environmental policy, particularly water and the fight over how to cure the California Delta of its ills.

“We have a working group of the (congressional) members from the Bay Area and Northern California, for water,” Miller said. “I suspected I would lose the resources seat after the election, but it’s critical to stay in involved, for our economy, environment and quality of life.”


East Bay delegation speaks on tax bill

Every single Bay Area member of Congress, except one, voted against the compromise tax cuts and unemployment extension legislation passed by the House of Representatives just before midnight Thursday.



Only Jerry McNerney, the Pleasanton Democrat who narrowly avoided defeat in November, supported the $858 billion bill negotiated chiefly between President Barack Obama and the Republicans.

“The economy is struggling and any shock or uncertainty will almost certainly cost jobs,” McNerney said via email. “Moreover, it is absolutely essential to extend unemployment benefits for the families put out of work by the recession. I am also proud of some of the renewable energy provisions. On the whole I believe this bill will help the economy recover.”

McNerney’s vote is consistent. In early December, McNerney was one of 20 House Democrats nationwide who sided with Republicans in favor of extending Bush-era tax cuts to everyone and not just the middle class. The bill failed.

Politically, McNerney’s stance makes sense. Thanks to the 11th District’s jurisdictional strategy of the Altamont Pass, McNerney has one foot in the Central Valley and another in the Bay Area.  Unlike his Bay Area colleagues, who handily won re-election their safe Democratic seats, McNerney is in the most competitive district in California and among the most competitive in the nation.

Rep. George Miller, D-Pleasanton, in a phone conversation from Washington, D.C., said he opposed the bill on a several fronts. One, he said, it hiked the already sky-high federal deficit through tax breaks for the nation’s wealthiest residents that will yield no national economic benefit.

And second, Miller said, when the one-year, 2 percentage point reduction in the Social Security wage tax, expires at the end of 2011, Congress will come under tremendous public pressure to extend it.

“If Congress doesn’t extend it, we’ll be accused to increasing taxes on working families,” Miller said. “But at that point, if you extend the reduction, it will begin to undermine Social Security and fuel talk about privatization.”

Here’s a run down of what East Bay members of Congress had to say about their votes on the bill:



Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove: “Public policy is about choices, and there were better choices than this bill. I fought for a bill that would have worked for the American people.  Our alternative proposal called for a $250 rebate for seniors. Instead of draining the Social Security trust fund, it called for a reduction in the income tax rate for working and middle class Americans. And instead of borrowing from China and our children to pay for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, we offered a compromise that would have made sure every American earning up to $1,000,000 would not see a tax increase over the next two years. With the money saved, we would have invested in infrastructure and paid down the deficit. This plan would have created hundreds of thousands of jobs and been more fiscally responsible.”



Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont: “Santa Claus is arriving early for a handful of wealthy individuals and industries this year. Wall Street should be throwing a parade today.  They can certainly afford one after the President failed to uphold one of his signature campaign promises of letting tax breaks for the rich expire as planned.”



Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez: “The bill was going to pass. I did not pretend otherwise. But at some point, you have to say no. If we increase the deficit, is it really worth it? For many things contained in this bill, like unemployment extension, the answer is yes. But to cut taxes for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans and change the estate tax, my answer is no.”



Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland: “We should let the Bush tax breaks for the rich expire. Period. They are a big part of the current deficit in the first place. Extending them for another two years digs us deeper into this deficit hole – and we know who will end up paying for it. It won’t be the rich – it will be the poor, low income communities, and communities of color, who lack well paid lobbyists to look out for their interests on Capitol Hill.”

Read through for Miller’s op-ed piece on the subject.

Continue Reading