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Your House member’s State of the Union guest

Here are the special guests whom Bay Area members of Congress are bringing to President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland: Black Lives Matter movement co-founder Alicia Garza

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin: Fremont Police Chief Richard Lucero, a gun-control advocate

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough: Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist and neuropathologist who first published findings on the impact of chronic traumatic encephalopathy on football players; Omalu is portrayed by Will Smith in the film Concussion.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord: Amanda Wilcox, the legislation and policy chair for the California Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; Wilcox’s daughter, Laura, was shot to death in 2001.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael: Ali Rezaian, brother of Jason Rezaian, the Iranian-American journalist and Washington Post Tehran bureau chief who has been imprisoned in Iran since July 2014; the brothers are Marin County natives.

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose: Irene Bueno, whose family immigrated to the United States from the Philippines; due to the slow legal process, her aunt and cousins were separated for many years. Honda will introduce family reunification immigration legislation in March.

Rep Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose: Sameena Usman, government relations coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ San Francisco Bay Area chapter.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto: Intuit CEO Brad Smith, who hosted Eshoo and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew for a tour and Q&A with company executives.

UPDATE @ 3:34 P.M.: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson earlier Tuesday questioned the wisdom of allowing two members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group, to attend the State of the Union. Both Lofgren and Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., brought them as invited guests.

“They have done things that are clearly, you know, not pro-American,” Carson said on CNN. “If they are our buddies, let’s put that clearly out there. And if they’re not our buddies, let’s not be giving them access to the ability to further carry on what they call a civilization jihad and to change us from a Judeo-Christian foundation to a Muslim foundation. We have got to be smarter than that.”

But Lofgren told me this afternoon that Carson’s comments are “sadly misinformed,” and she was delighted that Usman had accepted her invitation as a means of “highlighting patriotic Americans who are also Muslims.”

“She has been a terrific leader in our community for civil rights” not only among Muslims but in the Bay Area at large, Lofgren said. “To suggest somehow that she is un-American is just pathetic … It’s ignorant and sad, but luckily it’s very clear Dr. Carson will not be our president, so I guess he’s entitled to his ignorant statements.”

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How Bay Area members voted on taxes/spending

Congress on Friday cleared a year-end spending and tax deal with a strong bipartisan support, despite grumbling from both parties over what was included in the agreement and what got left out, the Washington Post reports.

The House passed the $1.1 trillion spending portion of the deal on a 316-113 vote early Friday morning, with 150 Republicans and 166 Democrats supporting the measure, after passing the $622 billion tax section of the agreement Thursday on a 318-109 vote.

The Senate soon after passed both parts of the agreement on a 65-33 vote, with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in support and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., not voting. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law.

From the Bay Area, representatives Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, all opposed the tax section of the deal Thursday, while Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, voted for it.

DeSaulnier said the tax-extender section isn’t paid for and will increase the deficit. “This package largely benefits corporations at the expense of working families and undermines programs like Pell grants, Headstart, job training and health research,” he said. “I could not support a package that mortgages our children’s future, reduces our payments on the nation’s debt and robs from the Social Security Trust Fund.”

All Bay Area House members except Lofgren supported the omnibus spending deal Friday morning.

“I was unable to vote for the Omnibus spending bill today because it included an extraneous provision purported to facilitate cybersecurity information sharing that – in effect – will function as a surveillance tool,” Lofgren said, noting Congress has debated cybersecurity for the past year and she voted for an earlier bill that would address concerns while protecting Americans’ private digital information.

“Information sharing requires measures to protect Americans’ privacy. It should also be debated in regular order. But this so-called ‘cybersecurity legislation’ was inserted into a must-pass Omnibus at the 11th hour, without debate,” she said. “The protective measures that such a bill should have – including those I believe the Constitution requires – were removed. While the Omnibus had both pros and cons, my obligation to protect constitutional rights isn’t negotiable. I made clear to House Leadership and the White House that I could not support the Omnibus with this cyber surveillance measure included. I have enclosed several letters crafted in the last two days outlining my concerns related to the bill.”

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Bay Area House members laud FAA noise plan

Three Bay Area House members are praising the Federal Aviation Administration for launching an initiative to address concerns about noise from air traffic above San Francsico, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties.

Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Sam Farr, D-Carmel, released the FAA’s action plan to the public.

“My colleagues and I have worked tirelessly to engage the FAA’s leadership to take concrete steps to mitigate and address the noise from aircraft in our respective congressional districts,” Eshoo said in a news release. “As a result of our collaboration, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and FAA Regional Director Glen Martin met with local elected officials, community groups and individuals from our congressional districts to discuss the impacts of NextGen and additional issues prior to its implementation, including Surf Air at the San Carlos Airport.

“I welcome this important first step the FAA has developed. The FAA leadership will follow up with community meetings, coordinated through our offices, to explain in detail the FAA’s plan to address the noise problems being experienced in our region.”

Speier said her constituents long have been affected by noise from San Francisco International Airport and more recently from the San Carlos and Half Moon Bay airports. The FAA’s initiative “is a compilation of the ideas that were offered by the public regarding SFO at the FAA’s recent meetings in our three congressional districts, as well as requests made by the SFO Airport Community Roundtable. Some of these ideas may be deemed workable by the FAA and some may not.

“However, having previously been resistant to taking community suggestions, the FAA, for the first time in many years, has committed to studying ideas submitted by the affected communities,” Speier said. “I am gratified that the FAA is rolling up its sleeves to come up with solutions. The health of those who live under constant bombardment of airplane noise is being seriously compromised and the FAA has a responsibility to take action to address it.”

Farr said the action plan “is evidence the FAA is willing to consider the changes proposed by the community. For months, the commercial aircraft noise in Santa Cruz and the surrounding area has been terrible. From the beginning, I have told the FAA that they created this mess so it is up to them to fix it.”

“This is only a first step but it is a good one,” he said. “It shows everyone is committed to developing some real solutions. I hope the FAA will continue to listen to the communities it serves and work with them to solve any problems that arise from the switch to the NextGen flight plan.”

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What they’re saying about Keystone XL

Here’s a sampling of reactions to the Obama administration’s decision not to allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline:

From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

“The Obama Administration just made the wrong decision for our country and for the American people. But what is more troubling than the President’s opposition to the Keystone pipeline is his preference to slow walk tough decisions to death. The President’s approach to this process and his ultimate decision reveals a lack of leadership when facing tough issues. His continued political posturing when met with ideas he doesn’t agree reveals a lack of critical thinking and a mindless attachment to ideology above the common good.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“This morning, the President agreed with the recommendation of Secretary Kerry to deny the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, ending a long debate in our country.

“After weighing the equities, it was decided that the pipeline would have offered too little benefit and caused far too much damage to our climate and our country. Three issues that were debated in Congress that argued against the pipeline were the lack of assurances that the oil would stay in America, the failure to close the loophole that allowed Keystone’s tar sands not to pay into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, and the absence of a requirement that this pipeline be built with American-sourced steel.

“Now, we must work together to achieve real energy independence and create good-paying jobs building energy and transportation infrastructure worthy of the 21st century. It is time for all of us to set aside our differences and make the robust, long-term investments in the modern roads, rails, bridges, broadband, and water systems that our country needs.”

“We must engage the public as we work in furtherance of policies that reduce the price at the pump for the consumer, truly create jobs in our country and address the challenges presented by the climate crisis.”

From Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla:

“President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline is a huge mistake, and is the latest reminder that this administration continues to prioritize the demands of radical environmentalists over America’s energy security. When I’m president, Keystone will be approved, and President Obama’s backward energy policies will come to an end.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif:

“I want to thank the Obama Administration for protecting the health of the American people and the health of the planet by rejecting the ill-advised Keystone tar sands pipeline, which would have brought the filthiest oil known to humankind into our country in large amounts.”

Read more, after the jump…
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Bay Area lawmakers offer tix for Pope’s visit

A few Bay Area House members are holding lotteries in which their constituents can win tickets to see Pope Francis during his U.S. visit later this month.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, is offering tickets for the pontiff’s address to a joint session of Congress on the morning of Thursday, Sept. 24, to residents of her 18th Congressional District; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, is doing the same for her 14th District constituents; and Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, is doing it in his 9th District. Ticket holders will be able to view the address from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol via televised broadcast.

“I’m excited to be able to extend an opportunity to my constituents to take part in this historic event,” Eshoo said in a news release. “While not all who wish to attend will be awarded a ticket, my office is working to ensure the lottery is conducted fairly and make the process a good one.”

Speier said Pope Francis “has become a focal point across the world for prioritizing peace over war, care of the planet over consumption, forgiveness over accusation, and neighbor over self. I’m excited that 50 of my constituents have the opportunity to be on the West Lawn of the Capitol to watch the broadcast of the Pope’s address to members of Congress. My only regret is that I can’t make these tickets available to everyone.”

McNerney said it’s “sure to be a momentous occasion. This is the first time that the Pope will deliver an address to Congress, and I look forward to hearing his message for the American people.”

The deadline to enter McNerney’s lottery is tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 4; the deadline to enter Eshoo’s lottery is noon Pacific Time next Tuesday, Sept. 8; and the deadline to enter Speier’s lottery is midnight next Thursday, Sept. 10. Only constituents of those districts may enter, only one entry is allowed per person, and each winner will receive two tickets.

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San Jose airport gets $3.4m for perimeter security

Mineta San Jose International Airport, plagued by trespassers in recent months, will receive more than $3.4 million in federal funding to boost its perimeter security, four local House members announced Monday.

U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, wrote to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta earlier this year in support of more money for perimeter security, noting that while “SJC has undertaken numerous steps to lay the groundwork for raising the height of the airport’s perimeter fence and incorporate proven technology into its perimeter fencing,” the added funds “would provide the airport with resources to prevent unauthorized intrusions and respond to potential security vulnerabilities.”

“Our airport is the gateway of choice for travelers, airlines and businesses in Silicon Valley,” Lofgren said in a news release Monday. “I’m pleased that these important federal funds will be dedicated to keeping passengers, employees, and airplanes safe.”

Swalwell, who sits on the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security, said the grant puts the airport “a big step closer to closing security gaps that threaten passenger safety.”

San Jose’s airport has been embarrassed by a series of security breaches over the past year and a half, starting with the high-profile case of Santa Clara teen Yahya Abdi, who in April 2014 stowed away in the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines jet after scaling the airport’s perimeter fence in an effort to get back to his mother in Africa.

UPDATE @ 4:31 P.M.: Click here for my more complete story about the money, how it will be spent, and the past security breaches.