With the presidential election only a week behind us, members of Congress are starting to take requests for free tickets to President Barack Obama’s second-term inauguration on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
Some – including Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo – already have pages on their websites at which you can request tickets in a lottery system. The rest of the Bay Area’s delegation will have similar pages up soon; you must request tickets from your House member, or from one of your state’s two U.S. Senators.
All in all, it was a dismal night for Republicans in California House races.
Of the 11 California House races deemed competitive by the renowned Cook Political Report, Democrats won seven outright and are on top in two too-close-to-call other races. Another way of slicing and dicing it: All of the three endangered Democratic incumbents in these races won re-election, but only one of the four Republicans might’ve. And of the new or open seats, Democrats won three of the four.
The battles to unseat Reps. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, remain too close to call with some mail-in and provisional ballots yet to be counted, but both trail their Democratic challengers by narrow margins.
Reps. Jerry McNerney; John Garamendi, D-Fairfield; and Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara all turned away their Republican challengers to win re-election. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, is the only Republican incumbent definitely left standing in these competitive races.
Not than anyone considered it competitive, but Democrat Jared Huffman trounced Republican Dan Roberts to succeed Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-San Rafael, in the North Bay’s newly drawn 2nd Congressional District, which reaches from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border.
In the Bay Area, as usual, the only question for most Democratic incumbents (with the exception, of course, of Pete Stark) was by how enormous a margin they would dispatch their challengers. See how that all stacks up as of this hour, after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »
Ballard, 26, died in Najaf, Iraq on May 30, 2004 when a M-240 machine gun mounted on his vehicle accidentally fired. The Army initially had reported Ballard was killed by small arms fire during a battle with insurgents, and didn’t inform his family of the truth until more than a year later.
Ballard had served in the Army for almost nine years, and was awarded the Purple Heart and three Bronze Stars, two with Valor Device. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
“Lieutenant Ballard demonstrated great courage and heroism throughout his military career,” Eshoo said in a news release. “He made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and he should be remembered and honored by our community.”
Introduced Aug. 1, Eshoo’s bill now has the support of California’s entire 52-member House delegation, a necessary step before it can be considered by the House Oversight Committee. The legislation also is supported by the Mountain View City Council.
Born in Rome, N.Y., Ballard and his family moved to Mountain View in 1981. After graduating from Mountain View High School in 1995, he enlisted in the Army and attended basic training at Fort Knox, Ky. He went on to serve in Germany, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Iraq. He won a “Gold to Green” Army ROTC Scholarship and attended Middle Tennessee State University, but after graduation returned to Germany and was then deployed to Iraq.
Some Bay Area lawmakers are highlighting the fact that effective today, the Affordable Care Act requires insurers to provide free, guaranteed preventative health care for women including contraception, HPV and HIV testing, domestic violence screening, breastfeeding support and supplies and more.
“Beginning today, 47 million women across the country, including five million women in California, will now receive important preventive services without co-pay because of the new healthcare law,” Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said in a news release. “With these new provisions, women will no longer need to forgo preventive services to stay healthy, catch potentially life-threatening illnesses earlier, and protect against prohibitive medical costs.”
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, spoke about it on the House floor:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius co-authored an opinion piece in today’s edition of USA Today saying women no longer must choose between seeing a doctor for prevenative care and putting food on the table for their families.
“(U)nder the health care law, we’re banning discrimination against women in the insurance market. In 2014, it will be illegal to deny coverage to someone because of her health status. And it will also be illegal to charge women more than men just because they’re women. In other words, being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition,” they wrote. “For too long, insurance companies stacked the deck against women, forcing us to pay more for coverage that didn’t meet our needs. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, a new day for women’s health has arrived.”
The California Family Health Council estimates 99 percent of American women have used contraception at some point in their lives, despite an average out-of-pocket cost of $600 per year. The money women will save on birth control each year is equal to five weeks of groceries for a family of four, nine tanks of gas in a minivan, or one semester of college textbooks, the council says.
“The policy being implemented today is a huge step forward for women’s health. The Obama Administration should be applauded for maintaining its commitment to breaking down barriers to accessing critical preventive services for women like contraception,” council president and CEO Julie Rabinovitz said in a news release. “Although there remain legal and political challenges to this new policy, these new benefits will make a real difference in the lives of women and families across the state and country.”
Rep. George Miller led more than 100 House Democrats today in introducing a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.80 per hour.
The minimum wage was last increased in 2009, but this would be the first increase for tipped-workers in 21 years. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is expected to introduce companion legislation today.
“Raising the minimum wage at its core is about respecting and valuing work. No one who works hard every day and plays by the rules should live in poverty,” said Miller, D-Martinez, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat.
“Increasing workers’ paychecks will help millions of working families make ends meet and help the nation’s economy grow,” he said in a news release. “It is time for Congress to stand up for working people for a change and for Washington Republicans to stop using their position in Congress only to benefit wealthy special interests. They should join Democrats in ensuring a well-deserved raise for millions of honest, hardworking Americans.”
Miller was the House author of the 2007 bill that increased the minimum wage to $7.25 following 10 years without any increases.
Miller’s new H.R. 6211, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012, would increase the minimum wage in three 85-cent steps, over three years, from $7.25 to $9.80 per hour; after that, the rate would then be indexed to inflation each year. The bill also would increase the required cash wage for tipped workers in annual 85 cent increases, from today’s $2.13 per hour until the tip credit reaches 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.
Expect this to be dead on arrival in the Republican-run House; many conservatives believe requiring employers to pay higher minimum wages makes them less likely to hire or retain less-skilled workers, thus increasing unemployment.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in January said his preference would be “to allow the minimum wage to rise with the CPI or with another index so it adjusts automatically over time” – much as these Democrats are now proposing after the initial three-step, three-year increase. He seemed to walk that statement back a bit in March, when he said he favors reviewing the minimum wage periodically but there’s “probably not a need to raise” it now.
“I should be saying today that the House of Representatives voted for a good bipartisan jobs bill to get Americans back to work … but I can’t. The Republican leadership in Congress would rather waste time on meaningless theater than do something about jobs. Yet again, they scheduled a vote to allow 17 million children with pre-existing conditions to once again be denied coverage and to raise prescription drug costs for more than five million seniors.”
From Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann, Garamendi’s Republican challenger:
“By voting to protect the health care law’s $600 billion tax on American families and small businesses, John Garamendi has proven once again where his priorities lie—and they’re not with the people of California’s new 3rd district. John Garamendi has reaffirmed his support for a law that threatens seniors’ access to care by cutting over $500 billion from Medicare and empowering an unelected and unaccountable board of bureaucrats to make decisions regarding seniors’ health care.
“As small businesses continue to be burdened with new regulations and as health care costs continue to rise, it’s clear that John Garamendi’s health care overhaul isn’t working—and it’s even more obvious that the radical ‘single payer’ Canadian-style government-run system, which John Garamendi is fighting for, is completely out-of-touch with what Californians need. I’ll fight not only to repeal John Garamendi’s healthcare overhaul, but to also implement common sense reforms that increase access to quality care, allow Americans to keep the insurance they like, and protect Americans with pre-existing conditions, while lowering costs and ensuring that patients and their doctors, not government bureaucrats, remain in control of their health care decisions.”
“I cannot and will not participate in this hyper-partisan and purely political vote today to hold Attorney General in contempt of Congress,” Lee said in a news release.
“Contempt power should be used sparingly, carefully and only in the most egregious situations. The Attorney General has gone above and beyond in his response to request for information on “Fast and Furious”, an unfortunate operation that began under the Bush Administration and, in fact, was terminated by Attorney General Holder,” she said. “This contempt vote is unprecedented, unwarranted and entirely unnecessary. Gandhi once said that ‘Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good.’ That is why I am standing with so many of my colleagues in refusing to participate in this shameful Republican political stunt.”
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called for the vote with this statement:
“It’s important for the American people to know how we got here and to know the facts of this case. The Congress asked the Department of Justice for the facts related to Fast and Furious and the events that led to the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. The Department of Justice did not provide the facts and the information that we requested. Instead, the information came from people outside the Department, people who wanted to do the right thing. In addition to not providing the information, the Administration admitted to misleading Congress, actually retracting a letter it had sent 10 months earlier.
“I think all the Members understand this is a very serious matter. The Terry family wants to know how this happened and they have every right to have their answers. The House needs to know how this happened, and it is our constitutional duty to find out. So the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee issued a lawful and narrowly tailored subpoena. We’ve been patient, giving the Justice Department every opportunity to comply, so that we can get to the bottom of this for the Terry family. We’ve shown more than enough good faith, but the White House has chosen to invoke executive privilege. That leaves us no other options. The only recourse left for the House is to continue seeking the truth and to hold Attorney General in contempt of Congress.
“Now I don’t take this matter lightly, and I frankly hoped it would never come to this. The House’s focus is on jobs and on the economy. But no Justice Department is above the law and no Justice Department is above the Constitution, which each of us has sworn an oath to uphold. So I ask the Members of this body to come together and to support this resolution so that we can seek the answers that the Terry family and the American people deserve.”
“The Supreme Court’s ruling is a victory for America’s families, who deserve affordable health care.
“The decision is great news for the millions of Californians who have already seen the benefits of this law – including the six million who now have access to free preventive health services, 355,000 young adults who now have coverage on their parents’ health plans and 320,000 seniors who have received help in paying for their prescription drugs.
“Now Americans will have the certainty of knowing they won’t be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition. Women won’t be charged a higher premium because of their gender. And families struggling with serious illnesses will not face lifetime limits on coverage.
“We will continue to fight Republican efforts to repeal these important health benefits while we work to make sure every American has access to quality, affordable health care.”
“The American people know that this law violates our deepest constitutional principles of limited government, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling today. President Obama’s $2.6 trillion health spending law is an unprecedented power grab by this White House that will increase health care costs, add to our skyrocketing national debt, and put Washington bureaucrats in between patients and their doctors. This ruling doesn’t change the fact that a majority of the people of Utah and across America want this law repealed. The American people will have the last word at the ballot box this November. But let me be absolutely clear, I will continue the fight to repeal this assault on individual liberty and limited government.”
“This is an historic day. The Supreme Court today upheld the health care reform law passed by Congress in 2010, meaning Californians can be confident that access to affordable health insurance is finally a reality.
“I believe the health care reform law—including the individual mandate and the insurance exchanges designed to create large purchasing pools to make coverage more affordable—is critical to reducing the number of Americans who go without health insurance. The state exchanges will be up and running in 2014, and I am gratified they will have an opportunity to help Californians and drive down soaring health care costs.
“Because of today’s decision, California will receive an estimated $14.5 billion in federal funds designated to increase insurance coverage—including an estimated $5.5 billion annually to help low and middle-income residents purchase insurance in the exchanges and an estimated $9 billion a year to insure newly eligible Medi-Cal beneficiaries. **
“Many positive benefits of the law have already gone into effect including provisions that allow children to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan until age 26, prohibit insurance companies from denying children health insurance based on a pre-existing condition and prohibit insurance companies from canceling coverage because of an illness such as breast cancer. Millions of Americans will continue to benefit from these insurance reforms.
“I realize that passage of health care reform was extremely controversial. But we cannot forget that insuring fellow Americans and driving down the exploding cost of health care spending in this country is a national emergency. Even with this favorable decision from the court, our work reforming the insurance market and expanding access to health care continues.”
“The president’s health care law is hurting our economy by driving up health costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire. Today’s ruling underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety. What Americans want is a common-sense, step-by-step approach to health care reform that will protect Americans’ access to the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at a lower cost. Republicans stand ready to work with a president who will listen to the people and will not repeat the mistakes that gave our country ObamaCare.”
“This decision is a victory for the American people. With this ruling, Americans will benefit from critical patient protections, lower costs for the middle class, more coverage for families, and greater accountability for the insurance industry.
“The Affordable Care Act is already paying dividends for millions of Americans – with more to come. Children can no longer be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions. Seniors are paying less for prescription drugs. Students and young adults can stay on their parents’ plans. Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing medical condition.”
“In passing health reform, we made history for our nation and progress for the American people. We completed the unfinished business of our society and strengthened the character of our country. We ensured health care would be a right for all, not a privilege for the few. Today, the Supreme Court affirmed our progress and protected that right, securing a future of health and economic security for the middle class and for every American.”
Much of the Bay Area’s House delegation has asked top officials at Pleasanton-based supermarket giant Safeway for an apology after one of those officials told what the lawmakers say was a sexist joke about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The letters the lawmakers sent today to Safeway CEO Steve Burd and General Counsel Robert Gordon takes issue with something Gordon, 60, of Orinda, said at the company’s shareholder meeting Tuesday in Pleasanton:
“You know, this is the season when companies and other institutions are interested in enhancing their reputation and their image for the general public, and one of the institutions that’s doing this is the Secret Service, particularly after the calamity in Colombia. And among the instructions given to the Secret Service agents was to try to agree with the president more and support his decisions. And that led to this exchange that took place last week, when the president flew into the White House lawn and an agent greeted him at the helicopter. The president was carrying two pigs under his arms and the Secret Service agents said, ‘Nice pigs, sir.’ And the president said, “These are not ordinary pigs, these are genuine Arkansas razorback hogs. I got one for former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and one for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” And the Secret Service agent said, ‘Excellent trade, sir.’”
(Thanks very much, he’ll be here all week, try the veal and don’t forget to tip your waiters.)
SO not funny, say the lawmakers.
“Poking fun at politicians is part of our culture, and TV comedians carry this out nightly. But sexist jokes told by a top executive of a Fortune 500 company to an international audience are completely inappropriate and demonstrate a shocking lack of respect, not only for two of the most important and respected people in our country but for all women,” they wrote to Burd. “Safeway owes an apology to Secretary Clinton, Leader Pelosi, and the country. It is up to the Safeway board to decide what action to take against its general counsel for his comments but let there be no doubt as to our strong disapproval and deep disappointment in your company for what he said.”
I’m awaiting a response from Safeway, and will update this when it’s received.
UPDATE @ 4:30 P.M.: “Both letters will be responded to shortly,” Brian Dowling, Safeway’s Vice President of Public Affairs, e-mailed me about an hour ago; he did not clarify whether this will be the extent of the company’s comment today, so I must assume that it will be.
UPDATE @ 4:48 P.M.: Dowling clarifies that the company will respond directly to the lawmakers, and Gordon also will write directly to Pelosi and Clinton.
Most of the Bay Area’s House delegation was among 101 members who signed a letter, co-authored by Rep. Barbara Lee, urging President Obama to announce an accelerated transition of security responsibilities to the Afghan government and security forces.
The lawmakers want the president to announce this at the upcoming NATO summit meeting in Chicago, in order to effect a speedier withdrawal of U.S. troops.
“Earlier this month you visited Afghanistan to sign a Strategic Partnership Agreement. As you stated at Bagram Air Base, ‘this time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end,’” the lawmakers wrote. “The core of al Qaeda has been greatly reduced in size and ability to attack Americans. Our brave men and women in uniform have done everything that we have asked of them. With over 17,000 dead and wounded U.S. servicemen and women, and long term costs estimated at $4 trillion for the past decade of unfunded wars, the overwhelming majority of American people want to bring the war in Afghanistan to an expedited end.”
The lawmakers wrote that while many of them would prefer an immediate full withdrawal, there’s broad bipartisan consensus that the process at least should be speeded up. “We also remind you that any agreement committing U.S. troops to Afghanistan must have congressional approval to be binding.”
The only Bay Area members who didn’t sign the letter – which Lee, D-Oakland, coauthored with Walter Jones, R-N.C. – were Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.
Lee also this afternoon offered an amendment to H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act, which would’ve limited further funding for the Afghanistan war to only what’s required for the safe and orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops and contractors.
Lee’s amendment failed on a 113-303 vote. “My amendment provided members of the House the opportunity to stand squarely with the war-weary American people,” she said in a statement issued afterward. “I am disappointed that a majority of House members did not stand with seven out of ten Americans who oppose the war in Afghanistan.”