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Bay Area House members headed to Armenia

Two Bay Area House members will be part of the presidential delegation that’s leaving Wednesday for Armenia to attend Friday’s centennial memorial of a 1915 ethnic cleansing that claimed more than a million lives.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto – both of whose mothers were of Armenian descent, making them the only House members with such ancestry – are making the trip. Other delegation members include Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew; Richard Mills, the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia; Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J.; and Rep. Dave Trott, R-Mich.

Speier issued a statement saying it’s “thrilling and humbling to represent the United States and the Armenian-American community in remembering the many whose lives were coldly extinguished.

“From an early age, my mother instilled in me the importance of recognizing the genocide and the anguish the Armenian people feel about the need to acknowledge it,” she said. “I intend to speak the truth wherever I go. It is long past time for all nations, including the United States, to recognize the full horror imposed by the Ottoman empire and talk clearly about history.”

Activists are sorely disappointed that President Obama still won’t refer to the 1915 killings as genocide, for fear of souring U.S. relations with Turkey – the founding fathers of which were responsible for the tragedy, as the Ottoman Empire fell apart. Speier and Eshoo are members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, and both have strongly supported an as-yet-unsuccessful resolution recognizing the tragedy as genocide.

Posted on Tuesday, April 21st, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Jackie Speier, U.S. House | No Comments »

Lofgren, Eshoo offer bill to unlock all smart devices

Two Silicon Valley congresswomen are offering a bipartisan bill to let consumers permanently unlock their cellphones, tablets and other devices in order to switch carriers freely.

The Unlocking Technology Act of 2015, introduced by Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Thomas Massie, R-Kent.; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Jared Polis, D-Colo., expands and improves on cell-phone unlocking legislation signed into law last year by letting consumers permanently unlock all their mobile devices and media – not just phones – in ways that do not infringe on existing copyrights.

Rep. Zoe LofgrenThe Digital Millennium Copyright Act bars consumers from sidestepping technical measures that prevent modifying copyrighted works — such as jailbreaking a tablet to run 3rd-party apps, bypassing digital rights management for archiving or disability access purposes, or unlocking a cell phone — whether or not there’s any actual copyright infringement.

“This bill reflects how the American public views ownership of their electronic devices,” Lofgren said in a news release. “It’s simple – you should be free to unlock the mobile devices and media you legally purchase. If consumers are not violating copyright or other law, there’s little reason to hold back the many benefits of unlocking. It’s time we allow people to permanently use their devices without interference.”

Eshoo, the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee, said unlocking a phone or smart device “gives consumers the freedom to choose the mobile technology and service that best suits them.”

“It also unlocks potential and puts competition and consumer choice on equal footing in the vibrant mobile marketplace,” she said. “This bipartisan legislation ensures consumers have this option—permanently. It’s a win for consumers, it’s a win for competition, and it’s a win for our mobile economy.”

S.517, the cell-phone unlocking legislation signed into law last year, merely reinstated a temporary exemption and still relies on the Library of Congress to renew it every three years, which it may choose not to do. The new bill would make this cell phone exemption permanent and extend unlocking protections to all mobile devices.

Lofgren recently was appointed to the Joint Committee on the Library, which has direct jurisdictional oversight over the Library of Congress – which is where this whole unlocking debacle unfolded in the first place.

The new bill would also permit use and sale of tools — like software apps — that enable unlocking for uses that do not infringe on copyright, and consumers wouldn’t have to get permission from their carrier before switching to a new carrier. The legislation further requires these changes be included in any international trade agreements.

Posted on Tuesday, March 24th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 2 Comments »

House passes ‘clean’ homeland security funding

About a third House Republicans joined with Democrats on Tuesday to pass legislation fully funding the Department of Homeland Security through this year’s end.

Some more conservative Republicans opposed the move, refusing to vote for a bill that doesn’t defund or otherwise roll back President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. But the GOP leadership – speaker John Boenher, R-Ohio; Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Bakersfield; and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. – all voted for it. The vote was 257-167.

From Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin:

“For the past three months, House Republicans have been playing a dangerous game in which the American people are on the losing end. Today, reason prevailed and the games are finally over. The people charged with protecting our national security deserve more than uncertainty. It is outrageous that Homeland Security funding was held hostage to a partisan debate. This is not how we should govern.

“Americans are rightly sick of the politically manufactured crises they’ve come to expect from this Tea-Party-led Congress. I am grateful to finally move past this brinkmanship and address real challenges. It’s time to get to work doing what the American people sent us here to do, creating economy-boosting jobs that pay enough for hard-working families to get ahead.”

From Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock:

“The top priority of Congress is to ensure the safety of the American people. Today’s vote ensures that our homeland security agents and personnel have the certainty and long term funding necessary to do their critical work of keeping us all safe. I do not support the President’s unilateral executive action on immigration as it flies in the face of the United States Constitution and ignores the will of the people. However, we cannot hold hostage funding for our national security and I will continue to push for a full debate on every aspect of immigration reform.”

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“Once again, Leader Pelosi has led the House out of a dire situation by providing the Democratic votes necessary to avert a dangerous partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security. The agency will be fully funded through the remainder of the fiscal year, and the American people can be assured that key national security operations will not be interrupted.”

From Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel:

“Our national security will not be shut down. Thankfully enough Republicans put their country before their party and joined with the Democrats to pass a clean DHS bill. Funding for our national security should never be held hostage in a political debate. Those upset by the President’s immigration plan should instead work with us to fix our broken system.”

Posted on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Eric Swalwell, Homeland security, Immigration, Jeff Denham, Sam Farr, U.S. House | No Comments »

Who will skip Netanyahu’s speech to Congress?

The Bay Area delegation is split over attending Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress next Tuesday, March 3.

Democrats and the White House remain miffed that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, invited Netanyahu unilaterally. The Israeli leader is expected to speak against the Obama administration’s ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, instead urging Congress to impose further sanctions; also, the address comes two weeks before Israel’s legislative election. For these reasons, and as some pro-Palestinian groups urge a boycott, some Democrats are choosing to skip the speech.

Here’s how the Bay Area delegation shakes out:

Skipping the speech: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose

Attending the speech: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz

Undecided: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa

Didn’t respond to inquiries: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo

A few of them offered explanations, or at least, comments:

Lofgren: “I am disappointed Speaker Boehner chose to irresponsibly interject politics into what has long been a strong and bipartisan relationship between the United States and Israel. As President Obama has noted, it is inappropriate for a Head of State to address Congress just two weeks ahead of their election. I agree that Congress should not be used as a prop in Israeli election campaigns, so I intend to watch the speech on TV in my office.”

Huffman: “I call upon Speaker Boehner and Ambassador Dermer to do the right thing and postpone this speech. Once the election in Israel is over and the current P5+1 negotiating deadline has passed, they should respect protocol and confer with President Obama and congressional Democrats on a time for the Prime Minister of Israel to address a joint session of Congress.”

Boxer: “Whether I wind up going or not, it was a terrible mistake by the Republican majority to play politics with this enduring relationship.”

McNerney, via spokesman Michael Cavaiola: “Rep. McNerney is not planning to attend the speech. He’s got several previously planned commitments for that day.”

DeSaulnier, via spokeswoman Betsy Arnold Marr: “Congressman DeSaulnier has not made a final decision as he hopes the Prime Minister will reconsider his plans particularly in light of the upcoming election.”

Honda, via spokesman Ken Scudder: “Congressman Honda regrets that Speaker Boehner ignored protocol in making this invitation. The speaker turned what should have been an important visit of one of our closest allies into a political stunt. Congressman Honda also has concerns about the potential political nature of this speech given Israel’s elections are less than two weeks away. Despite this, and the congressman’s disagreement with the Prime Minister’s opposition to the U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran, Congressman Honda is going to attend the address on March 3. The United States and Israel share strong cultural, economic and security partnerships, and he will attend the speech to hear firsthand what the Prime Minister has to say on these serious and complicated issues.”

Thompson, via spokesman Austin Vevurka: “We still don’t know what the Congressman’s schedule will be that week, but I will of course keep you posted as we know more. That being said, Congressman Thompson understands the importance of hearing from international leaders, but he is concerned that the speech has become overtly political. He hopes the speech is rescheduled and Netanyahu is invited back at a later date in a manner that respects long-established diplomatic protocol.”

Posted on Wednesday, February 25th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Iran, Israel, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 24 Comments »

New bill would require vaccination for Head Start

All children enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start programs across the nation would have to be fully vaccinated unless they’re exempted for medical reasons, under a bill that U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Anna Eshoo say they’ll introduce next week.

“More than a million of our children attend Head Start programs all over the country, and we must protect every single one of these kids from preventable diseases like measles,” Boxer, D-Calif., said in a news release. “This simple bill is an important step toward strengthening our vaccination policies at all levels of government to prevent the spread of deadly diseases.”

Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said it was “the genius of American scientists that developed vaccines to eradicate polio and many other diseases. This bill is a ‘booster shot’ for our nation’s vaccine policies and will mitigate the spread of deadly disease.”

Under the bill, parents of children currently enrolled in Head Start programs would be given three months to ensure that vaccines are up to date in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended schedule.

Parents could get a medical exemption only if a certified health care provider determines that their child has an underlying medical condition that precludes vaccination, such as an autoimmune deficiency, chemotherapy treatment or a recent transplant. Head Start programs would assist families in accessing the services they need in order to get their children fully vaccinated.

California is in the throes of its worst measles outbreak in decades, with more than 100 infections reported so far. Exemptions to vaccinations required for school have skyrocketed in recent decades as parents – acting on a study which since has been thoroughly debunked – feared vaccines might be linked to the onset of autism, or simply feared other health effects from the vaccines’ ingredients.

Posted on Friday, February 6th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 16 Comments »

House members react to net neutrality plan

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced Wednesday that he’s proposing strong new rules that would bar Internet and wireless providers from blocking, slowing or discriminating against consumers’ access to particular websites and services – thus preserving “net neutrality.”

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“The proposed update to net neutrality rules is a triumph for the American consumer. The American people asked for the strongest possible rules to ensure a free and open Internet, and Chairman Wheeler has heard their voices by proposing to reclassify broadband under Title II of the Communications Act.

“The American people asked for net neutrality rules to apply to both fixed and mobile broadband service and the updated rules again deliver.

“The American people asked for and received bright-line rules to prevent throttling of Internet content, prohibit paid prioritization, and a ban on blocking.

“Finally, the proposed update goes a step further to prevent broadband providers from discriminating against content providers at the point of network entry.

“This is the architecture of our digital future. The Chairman’s proposal deserves the vote of the full Commission.”

From Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose:

“The record breaking number of comments received by the FCC left no doubt that the public supports strong net neutrality rules. I’m pleased Commissioner Wheeler has recognized that public sentiment today and put forward a good plan to use Title II authority to implement and enforce open internet protections.

“These protections, including bans on blocking, throttling, or prioritizing Internet traffic based on source, application, or content, will bolster innovation and self-expression across the nation and around the world. Large technology companies, small app developers, movie and television writers, public advocacy organizations, and the public at large all stand to benefit from a free and open internet.

“Additionally, I am pleased the Chairman has put forth a plan that emphasizes restraint – forbearing from regulations unnecessary for achieving an open and competitive internet.

“I look forward to a swift consideration of the Chairman’s proposal by the full Commission.”

More, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 10 Comments »

How Bay Area House members voted on CRomnibus

The House voted 219-206 Thursday night to pass the $1.1 trillion “CRomnibus” spending bill to avert a government shutdown and fund the federal government through next October.

Conservative Republicans opposed the measure because it doesn’t explicitly bar President Obama from implementing his executive actions on immigration; many Democrats opposed it because of non-budgetary policy riders attached to the bill, including one that to roll back a key provision of the landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform act and another to raise the maximum amount contributors can give to political parties.

This made for some pretty weird bedfellows. President Barack Obama; Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, all urged its passage, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and conservatives like Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., opposed it.

In the end, 57 Democrats crossed the aisle to join 162 Republicans in supporting it, while 67 Republicans crossed the aisle to join 139 Democrats in opposing it. Ten members did not vote.

Here’s how the Bay Area delegation split:

YEA: George Miller, D-Martinez; Sam Farr, D-Carmel

NAY: Pelosi; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton

See what some had to say about it, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, December 11th, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

House members urge AG to nix hospital sale

Rep. Mike Honda and Rep. Zoe Lofgren led 16 other California House members Thursday in urging California Attorney General Kamala Harris to reject the sale of six Daughters of Charity Health System hospitals to a for-profit company they say has a history of unfair business practices.

Honda and Lofgren, both D-San Jose, cited concerns that under Prime Healthcare Services, “patient care and healthcare worker rights will suffer at these hospitals.”

Los Altos Hills-based Daughters of Charity, a Catholic system, wants to sell Daly City’s Seton Medical Center and Seton Coastside satellite campus, O’Conner Hospital in San Jose, Gilroy’s Saint Louise Regional Hospital and two Los Angeles-area medical centers to Ontario, Calif.-based Prime Healthcare, a $2.5 billion system with 29 hospitals and 4,700 beds in nine states.

Harris may reject the sale based on any factors found relevant, including: whether the sale is in the public interest; whether it would create significant effects on the availability of health care services in the community; or whether the proposed use of the proceeds from the transaction is consistent with the charitable trust under which the hospitals have operated.

“Our biggest concern is Prime’s history of unfair business practices that have resulted in civil and criminal investigations by government agencies for allegedly overbilling Medicare as well as violations of patient confidentiality,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Harris. “The National Labor Relations Board has issued charges against Prime for such illegal practices as unilaterally cutting employee health insurance plans, interrogating and intimidating employees who are supportive of their union, bad faith bargaining and bribing employees to vote to decertify the union. Class action and wage and hour violation lawsuits have been filed against Prime at 11 of their 15 California hospitals.”

That, combined with the mission of these hospitals to serve the most-needy residents raises substantial doubts as to the sensibility of this sale, they say.

Others House members signing the letter included Sam Farr, D-Carmel; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; and George Miller, D-Martinez.

UPDATE @ 10:07 FRIDAY: It seems these House members have taken a side in a battle between two unions. SEIU-United Healthcare Workers opposes letting Daughters of Charity sell to Prime Healthcare, while the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United supports the deal.

CNA/NNU in October reached an agreement with Prime Healthcare including a pledge to keep open for at least five years O’Connor in San Jose, Saint Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy, Seton Medical Center in Daly City, and St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles. Prime also promised it has no intention of reducing patient services or taking actions that would put the services at risk, as well as respecting collective bargaining rights, jobs, pension rights and existing labor standards at the hospitals covered by the pact.

Another potential buyer, private equity firm Blue Wolf Capital, refused to commit to keeping the hospitals open, protecting patient services, or honoring employee contracts or existing labor standards, CNA/NNU says.

And so CNA/NNU nurses, joined by nuns associated with Daughters of Charity, will hold a vigil Friday afternoon outside O’Connor Hospital “to urge state officials to take the steps needed to preserve the hospitals for public safety. CNA co-president Zenei Cortez said those opposing the sale “without offering an alternative that would protect our patients and our communities are putting everyone at risk. Nurses will not be silent in the face of this emergency.”

Posted on Thursday, December 11th, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Attorney General, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Kamala Harris, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

Is the Bay Area’s House policy clout fading?

For the first time in a long, long time, the Bay Area is without any committee chairs or ranking members in the House.

Of course, the region still is home to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco. But with the retirement of Rep. George Miller, the Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat and former chairman, the region’s policy influence seems blunted. It’s a far cry from 2007, when Miller chaired his committee, the late Rep. Tom Lantos chaired Foreign Affairs, and Pelosi was Speaker.

As I wrote yesterday, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, lost her bid – despite Pelosi’s strong support – to leapfrog a more senior member and become the Energy and Commerce Committee’s ranking member. And though Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, announced earlier this month that he would seek to become Transportation and Infrastructure’s ranking member, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., won that vote Wednesday.

“Peter has been my friend throughout my time here and that will continue,” Garamendi said after the vote. “Peter and I share a strong commitment to a ‘Make It In America’ agenda and trade policies that protect the environment, workers’ rights, and middle-class families. Working together, we can lead our party in addressing a range of transportation and infrastructure challenges, including water infrastructure, surface transportation, FAA, and Amtrak authorizations.”

That’s not to say the Bay Area will be without a voice. Several Bay Area members are likely to remain the ranking members on key subcommittees (like Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security).

And Pelosi appointed two local congressmen – Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, and Mike Thompson, D-Napa – to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which helps set the caucus’ policy agenda and nominates Democratic members for committee assignments. (They replace Pelosi’s local appointments from the 113th Congress, Miller and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.)

“As a member of the next generation of our caucus, I look forward to working in a collaborative way to promote the policies that will lift up all Americans,” Swalwell said.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will continue serving on that Democratic committee, having won re-election as a regional representative.

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 2 Comments »

Anna Eshoo won’t lead Energy & Commerce Dems

Rep. Anna Eshoo has lost her bid to use Silicon Valley’s innovation allure to leapfrog ahead of a more senior peer and become the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s ranking Democrat.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – who had backed Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, for the job in a letter to Democrats this month – announced Wednesday that the Democratic Caucus instead had approved Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., as that panel’s ranking member. Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, is a close friend and political ally of Pelosi’s; several news outlets say the vote was 100-90 for Pallone, a blow to Pelosi’s clout within her own caucus.

“I congratulate Frank Pallone on a hard fought campaign and congratulate Anna Eshoo for raising the issue of innovation to a level that all members appreciate,” said Pelosi, D-San Francisco. “We look forward to working with both of these members as we move forward.”

Pallone tweeted Wednesday that he’s “Honored to be chosen next leader of @EnergyCommerce by my colleagues. Look forward to continuing our work on behalf of the American people.”

Eshoo’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Eshoo had announced she wanted the job in early February, a few days after the current ranking member – Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles – announced he would retire from the House this year. The committee “is key to shaping America’s future, just as my Silicon Valley congressional district is,” she said at the time.

“We have the depth and the talent to shape policies that will build a strong economy for every American, with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to advanced research, communications, technology, health care, energy and the environment,” she had said. “It is because of this far-reaching opportunity to put America in the best position to compete globally I seek this position.”

Though both have been in the House since 1993, Pallone has served on the committee since then while Eshoo has been a member since 1997. Eshoo in this term has served as ranking member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, while Pallone was ranking member of the Health Subcommittee.

Pallone had House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., on his side, creating a visible rift in the House Democratic leadership in this fight.

Posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 3 Comments »