Eight California lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were among more than 50 House members who gathered today in Washington, D.C., to urge congressional leaders and President Obama to “stop fighting and start fixing.”
Organized by the bipartisan group No Labels, the lawmakers who assembled in the Cannon House Office Building’s caucus room agreed leaders mustn’t let the nation default on its debt.
“The No Labels Problem Solvers and other members of Congress you see here today are ready to work together and support our respective leaderships in a bipartisan solution to the government shutdown and other crucial issues facing our country,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore. “Let’s show some courage and work together like the American people expect and deserve.”
“The costs of the government shutdown are growing every day, and experts from all sides agree that failing to pay America’s bills would be disastrous for our economy,” Bera said in a news release. “It’s past time for us to stop blaming one another, and start talking about how to move forward for the good of the country. This is not about Democrats or Republicans; it’s about putting the American people before politics. Many of us are ready to begin working and solving our nation’s problems, but we need leadership that lets us do that work.”
Some Californians are among a growing list of House members who say they won’t take their paychecks while the government shutdown remains in effect.
Members of Congress will receive their monthly paychecks even during a shutdown such as this. But Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, announced Monday he had sent a letter to the House’s chief administrative officer requesting that he not be paid.
“I believe it is simply wrong and unfair for me to receive my salary while Americans working hard across the country as part of our federal workforce receive nothing until this appropriations crisis is resolved,” he wrote. “Therefore, I ask that until federal employees who must work during a federal government shutdown are paid, I not be given my paycheck.”
Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, said Tuesday he’ll give up his federal pay for the duration of the shutdown, too.
“Congress should lead by example and put people before politics,” Bera said in a news release. “If Congress can’t do its job and put the American people first, then they certainly shouldn’t get paid during a crisis that they are causing. We must stop the finger pointing, start acting like adults, and make Washington work for the people again.”
In response to the budget sequestration cuts made earlier this year, Bera already has been donating 8.2 percent of his check each month to a local organization impacted by the cuts.
And John Myers, political editor at Sacramento’s KXTV News 10, tweeted today that Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, told him he’ll be forfeiting his paycheck during the shutdown as well. As of this hour, I don’t see that John’s interview with Denham has been posted online.
“We are making it happen! Last week, the respected Cook Political Report moved the race for California’s 7th Congressional District from ‘Lean Democrat’ to ‘Toss Up.’
“This is great momentum for our campaign and it’s in large part because of you and so many other supporters who’ve given contributions as small as $7 to the maximum amount of $2,600 – every bit matters.
“As the Republican nominee against Dianne Feinstein last year, we knew it was an uphill battle and even though Senator Feinstein outspent us 10-1, I pulled 45% of the vote in the 7th District.
“Liberal Congressman Ami Bera knows how strong I ran in the 7th and now he’s on the run – and Washington Insiders are taking notice.”
“In California’s 7th CD, the entry of former GOP Rep. Doug Ose, as expected, gives freshman Democratic Rep. Ami Bera his strongest opponent yet,” Cook political analyst and House editor Dave Wasserman wrote ni explaining the change last Thursday, two days after Ose declared his candidacy.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made the Obama administration’s case for bombing Syria to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
The committee has no Bay Area members; Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, is the only member from Northern California, and here’s how he began questioning Hagel:
“It is of critical importance that we are having this discussion. I applaud the President for including Congress in this debate. I agree that we have to show resolve and we have to show that we are committed to our allies, but my constituents and I still need to be convinced, not that atrocities occurred — we all are unanimous in our condemnation of what Assad has done — but we need to know exactly what our goals are and our objectives, because this is increasingly a complex situation.
“And to that extent, let me ask Secretary Hagel a question. When I was home in Sacramento County this past weekend people were stopping me in the grocery store, my neighbors were pulling me aside on the street. I think all of my colleagues have been inundated with phone calls, emails, and almost unanimously, people don’t want us to strike Syria. They’re fatigued. And I answer to these people. These are the people that I represent. My question, Secretary Hagel, is what can I tell my constituents about why these strikes are in our national security interest, why these strikes matter to these folks that are struggling every day? How do I effectively communicate what the plan is?”
Watch their full exchange here:
Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7 – and not along party lines – on Wednesday to approve a resolution authorizing limited military force against Syria. The resolution is significantly narrow than that which the president had proposed: It would limit hostilities to 90 days, allow military action only within Syria’s borders and prohibit putting any U.S. troops on Syrian soil.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. – who had said Tuesday that she would “support a targeted effort but not a blank check to respond to Syria’s unspeakable deeds to gas its own people to death” – voted for the resolution by proxy today; she was absent due to the imminent start of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, at sundown tonight.
Which of Northern California’s House members has the most money in their campaign war chests? You might be surprised.
While some incumbents are likely to face significant challenges from across the aisle (like Garamendi, Bera, McNerney and Denham) and others from within their own party (like Honda and maybe Swalwell), neither of the two House members with the most cash on hand as of June 30 are expected to have much to worry about next year.
Here’s the list, showing how much they raised in the second quarter (April 1 through June 30) and their cash on hand at mid-year:
CA5 – Mike Thompson, D-Napa: $257,579.45 raised, $1,470,170.24 COH
Five members of Congress held a news conference in Sacramento this morning to renew their staunch opposition to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The state has released a 20,000-page Administrative Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement for the BDCP. Chapters 1-7 were released in the last few months and Chapters 8-12, including the financing mechanism, were released yesterday.
The lawmakers released statements after their news conference. From McNerney:
“The Governor recently released additional information on his deeply-flawed plan for the Delta region, which further proves he is intent on forcing this plan forward without any regard for the farmers, families and small business owners who rely upon a healthy Delta for their livelihoods, or for the incredible environmental damage that will result. As it stands, the plan will cost billions of dollars, devastate the most valuable water resource we have in California, and ultimately create no new water. There is a better way forward, and it must include the input of the people who stand to lose the most if the Delta is destroyed.”
“The proposed BDCP is not a workable solution. It puts the interests of South-of-Delta water contractors ahead of the Delta’s and North-of-Delta’s farmers, fishers and small business owners. Livelihoods are at stake. Until we have a plan that is transparent, based on sound science and developed with all stake-holders at the table, then any process that moves us closer to building these tunnels will recklessly risk billions of California tax dollars and thousands of jobs. Let’s take the time to get this right.”
“Governor Brown and his administration officials have failed to demonstrate that they are taking into account the real physical and financial harm that can come to Bay-Delta communities if a BDCP plan is pushed through without the proper cost benefit analysis of alternatives, an adequate finance plan, or without acknowledging the best available science — science that has pointed to the real possibility that this plan could overtax our water resources and devastate the Bay-Delta region. Without doing so the BDCP is further than ever from a sustainable policy. It is time to seriously reevaluate this plan to ensure it fulfills the co-equal goals that it is mandated to adhere to, and takes into consideration the concerns of the businesses, families and communities that rely on a viable, healthy Bay-Delta region for their livelihoods.”
The House voted 229-195 today to repeal the “Obamacare” federal health care reforms enacted in 2010 – the 37th time that Republicans have tried to repeal or eliminate funding for the law.
The only two Democrats to vote for H.R. 45 were Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, both of whom represent districts with heavy numbers of Republican voters yet are deemed “lean Democratic” – not “toss up” – by the Cook Political Report. No Republicans opposed the bill.
Like its predecessors, this effort is DOA in the Democrat-dominated U.S. Senate. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, spoke in defense of the vote:
“Today the House is voting to repeal the president’s health care law because it’s increasing the cost of health insurance, reducing access to care, and making it harder for small businesses to hire new workers. This is the third full repeal vote that we’ve had in the last three years, and some critics have suggested it’s a waste of time.
“Well, while our goal is to repeal all of ObamaCare, I would remind you that the president has signed into law seven different bills that repealed or defunded parts of that law. Is it enough? No. Full repeal is needed to keep this law from doing more damage to our economy and raising health care costs.
“But some progress has been made, and Republicans will continue to work to scrap the law in its entirety so we can focus on patient-centered reforms that lower costs and protect jobs. Because jobs is what this is all about.”
Northern California’s House Democrats were – shocker! – having none of it. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, smack-talked the vote at her weekly news conference:
“Here we are, 134 days into the 113th Congress, without one vote on a jobs bill. Fifty-four days after the Senate passed its budget, we still haven’t moved forward to the budget process with this do nothing agenda that does not reflect the priorities of the American people. It is an agenda that only the Republicans are interested in pursuing. So, you see a series of subterfuges, job evasions. Today’s job evasion is that the Republicans have decided to vote on the Patient’s Rights Repeal Act, their 37th attempt to repeal our country’s landmark reform bill. That’s 37 votes, 43 days, $52 million – $52.4 million – on an obvious evasion of our responsibility to work on the priorities of the American people.
“Not only is this a clear waste of time, and of taxpayer dollars, it is a deliberate vote to eliminate the affordable, quality health care benefits millions of Americans are already enjoying.”
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, called it “a shameful waste of time and taxpayer dollars.”
“Instead of spending more than $50 million to repeal a law that is saving lives and money, we should be working to improve our healthcare system and expand on the benefits the law provides,” Thompson said. “It’s time to put these political games aside. By building on the reforms made in the Affordable Care Act, we can make sure every American can afford to go to the doctor. And that’s what matters.”
And Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, said Americans “want Congress to focus on jobs, not waste time and taxpayer money voting 37 times to take away patient protections from middle class families.
“The Supreme Court has ruled, and ACA is now law. It’s not perfect, and it’s not the law I would have proposed because it doesn’t do enough to address the cost of care, but we don’t want to go back to a time when children faced discrimination due to pre-existing conditions, when students and young adults were kicked off their parents’ insurance, and when women had to pay more for insurance than men just because of their gender,” he said. “Now we need to move past partisan bickering and start working on ways we can drive healthcare costs down. For years, we’ve been paying more and more for healthcare, and getting less and less. As a doctor and former Chief Medical Officer for Sacramento County, I know there are many places we can find savings.”
The California Republican Party has asked the Federal Election Commission whether two California congressmen, their campaigns and a Democratic super PAC violated federal law by having the congressmen appear in the PAC’s video.
But an election-law expert says it’s a weak case, and the House Majority PAC says state GOP chairman “Tom Del Beccaro’s swan song amounts to a baseless, politically-motivated complaint not worth the paper it’s printed on.”
“This laughable effort is the period at the end of the sentence that defines Del Beccaro’s embarrassing term as GOP party chair,” PAC spokesman Andy Stone said Wednesday.
The House Majority PAC’s recent video featured members of Congress including freshmen Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, and Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Springs, thanking the PAC for its involvement in their 2012 campaigns.
“We were grateful to see House Majority PAC formed so we could actually have allies on our side that were helping us get our message out,” Bera said in the video. “That in many ways was the difference in the outcome and one of the big reasons why we won this time.”
“When we got word that Darth Vader himself, Karl Rove, and the Crossroads was coming in and you had to recruit the team to fight back that Death Star,” Ruiz said in the video. “We fought back, and we won.”
Text at the video’s end invites viewers to visit the PAC’s website “to learn more about our work and join our efforts.” The video also carries disclaimers noting the House members are “not asking for funds or donations.”
In letters (Bera, Ruiz) sent to the FEC, Del Beccaro notes that “committees that solicit and accept unlimited contributions from individuals, political committees, corporations and labor organizations for the purpose of making independent expenditures are prohibited from making direct contributions to federal political committees. The FEC defines a ‘contribution’ to include ‘any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value made by a person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office’ (emphasis added).”
The complaints say the cost of creating the video is an in-kind contribution to Bera’s and Ruiz’s campaigns – a contribution House Majority PAC is prohibited from making, and Bera and Ruiz are prohibited from taking. (Remember, super PACs can’t give directly to candidates – they can merely work on a candidate’s behalf, so long as their work is independent and not coordinated with the candidate’s campaign.)
The FEC in 2011 split 3-3 on whether there was a problem with comparable situation involving U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.
“Nevertheless, it takes the affirmative vote of four commissioners to pursue an enforcement action. I don’t see four votes on the commission agreeing with the California GOP’s interpretation of the law,” Paul Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C., said Wednesday.
Ryan said the FEC “has a fairly detailed (yet ineffective) regulation” on whether a public communication such as the House Majority PAC video constitutes an in-kind contribution. To qualify as such, the ad must meet both prongs of a two-prong test—the “content” prong and the “conduct” prong, he said.
“The House Majority PAC video clearly meets the ‘conduct’ prong, because the officeholders were directly and materially involved in filming the video,” Ryan said.
But for ads distributed more than 90 days before a House/Senate election or more than 120 days before a Presidential election, the “content” prong is only met by ads that contain campaign materials produced by the candidate, or by ads that expressly advocate the election or defeat of the candidate.
“The House Majority PAC video seemingly contains neither,” Ryan said. “It appears that the PAC produced the entire video (i.e., no candidate materials were used), and the video does not expressly advocate any candidate’s election. On the contrary, the video is all about officeholders expressly advocating the value/importance of the PAC.”
The content standards are more easily met during the 90 days right before a congressional election, Ryan noted: Even identifying a specific candidate in such a video during that time period would run afoul of the rules. But released after the election as this video was, it seems above-board.
In the Bay Area, it looks as if Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, won’t be getting that Transportation and Infrastructure seat he wanted; instead, Pelosi assigned him today to Homeland Security. She had named him last month to Science, Space and Technology, which makes sense given that his district includes the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, but neither that assignment nor this one is likely to have the influence – and the ability to bring federal dollars home to the district – that T&I would’ve offered. Still, Swalwell sounds unruffled and eager.
“From protecting ports like San Francisco, to keeping the Internet secure, to safeguarding mass transit such as BART, the House Committee on Homeland Security plays a vital role in making sure the American homeland is safe,” Swalwell said in a news release today. “I look forward to serving on that committee in the 113th Congress. I want to thank Leader Pelosi, Steering and Policy Co-Chairs DeLauro and Andrews, and the entire Democratic Steering and Policy Committee for this tremendous opportunity.”
Elsewhere in the Bay Area, Pelosi named Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, to the Budget Committee – a much-coveted assignment for any House member. She had named him last month to the Natural Resources Committee, for which he’d hoped.
Here are all the California assignments Pelosi announced today:
Congressman-elect Eric Swalwell will serve on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee while Congressman-elect Jared Huffman will serve on the Natural Resources Committee, according to assignments announced Thursday by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Swalwell said today his assignment “will offer me the opportunity to pursue many of the initiatives I discussed during my campaign. This includes clean energy innovation and the development of alternative energy systems to drive economic growth and create jobs.”
“The focus on technology will also enable me to pursue my ideas for a ‘Mobile Congress’ to use new technologies to adopt rules and practices for the Congress that are in-tune with 21st Century technology and culture,” he added, noting additional committee assignments might be coming in January.
“The economy of his congressional district is directly tied to California’s natural resources, and the committee plays a critical role in public lands management, fishing policy, tribal issues, and coastal protections,” Ben Miller, who will serve as Huffman’s chief of staff, said today. “With Jared’s background and his interest in resolving natural resource conflicts and advancing clean energy solutions, it’s a perfect fit.”
Pelosi also put Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, on the Budget Committee; Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, on the Judiciary Committee; and Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“Our Democratic Caucus is the most diverse in the history of Congress, and each of our Members will bring a unique perspective to the great challenges of our day – from job creation and economic growth to innovation, education reform, and clean energy development,” Pelosi said in her news release. “On every committee, our colleagues will offer their experience, passion, and persistence to the task of effectively and faithfully serving the American people.”