Three Northern California House Democrats have signed onto a bipartisan letter urging President Obama to seek Congressional authorization for any military strike against Syria.
Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, are among 18 Democrats and 98 Republicans who’ve signed onto the letter drafted and circulated by Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va.
“While the Founders wisely gave the Office of the President the authority to act in emergencies, they foresaw the need to ensure public debate – and the active engagement of Congress – prior to committing U.S. military assets,” the letter says. “Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.”
And House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent a letter to Obama today urging the president to “personally make the case to the American people and Congress for how potential military action will secure American national security interests, preserve America’s credibility, deter the future use of chemical weapons, and, critically, be a part of our broader policy and strategy.”
The lawmakers – including all but two of the Bay Area’s House members – wrote that the bill “sets clear, uniform standards to limit burdensome detentions of aspiring citizens by local law enforcement solely on the basis of federal immigration detainer requests. The measure is designed to enhance public safety and protect civil liberties, while also promoting fiscal responsibility at the state and local levels.”
More than 100,000 people have been deported from California under federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Secure Communities (S-Comm) program, the lawmakers noted. “Civic and faith leaders from California and across the nation have forcefully argued that we should not deport today those who could be on the road to citizenship tomorrow.”
Furthermore, there’s evidence that S-Comm has reduced crime victims’ willingness to cooperate with police lest they themselves end up being deported, and that’s not good for public safety, the House members wrote.
Brown vetoed a version of the TRUST Act last year. But the lawmakers noted the current version – AB 4 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco – “gives law enforcement much broader discretion to honor detainer requests.”
“It will ensure that those who have not been convicted of any crime, have only been convicted of minor crimes, or those who are only identified by the S-Comm program because of their immigration history are not held on costly and unfair federal immigration detainers,” they wrote.
The only Bay Area House members who didn’t sign the letter were Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, and Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton. A Speier staffer said she hasn’t talked to Ammiano about the bill yet, and “she wants to do that before she takes a position.” McNerney’s office didn’t immediately answer an e-mail seeking comment.
The Assembly passed AB 4 with a 44-22 vote on May 16. It now awaits a state Senate floor vote; if it passes, it’ll go to Brown’s desk.
UPDATE @ 12:25 P.M.: “I support the sentiment of the TRUST Act,” McNerney said by email. “We need change in our country in the form of comprehensive immigration reform. Our country is founded on a long and proud immigrant history, and we need to find a clear path to citizenship for the law-abiding and hard-working people who want to join the United States of America. These people deserve a defined and manageable path to citizenship.”
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
“As we approach the third and final race of this year’s Triple Crown, it’s important that we shed light on a scandal that is plaguing horse racing in America — doping,” Eshoo said in a news release. “This cruel and dangerous practice with race horses not only causes an average of 24 horses to drop dead every week, but it is still permitted by law in the U.S. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will outlaw doping in horse racing and create a culture of safety for some of the most majestic creatures on earth.”
USADA is a non-governmental organization that’s designated as the official anti-doping agency for the U.S. Olympics and works with sports leagues to strengthen clean competition policies. It made big headlines last year by filing a charge, and ultimately imposing a lifetime ban, on champion cyclist Lance Armstrong.
Under this new bill, the agency would develop rules for permitted and prohibited substances and create anti-doping education, research, testing and adjudication programs for horseracing. It would also put an end to race day medication; set a harmonized medication policy framework for all races with interstate simulcast wagering; require stiff penalties for cheating, including “one and done” and “three strikes, you’re out” lifetime bans for the worst cases; and ensure racehorse drug administrations comply with veterinary ethics.
House and Senate committees held hearings last year at which jockeys, veterinarians and owners testified that abuse of legal and illegal substances are contributing to increased breakdowns of racehorses and deadly accidents.
Two Bay Area congresswomen have helped introduce a bill that would permanently guarantee consumers can unlock their cell phones, tablets, and other mobile communications devices in order to switch carriers.
“This bill reflects the way we use this technology in our everyday lives,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, who introduced the bill Wednesday, said in a news release. “Americans should not be subject to fines and criminal liability for merely unlocking devices and media they legally purchased. If consumers are not violating copyright or some other law, there’s little reason to hold back the benefits of unlocking so people can continue using their devices.”
Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act currently forbids sidestepping technical measures that prevent modifying copyrighted works – such as “jailbreaking” a tablet to run third-party apps, going around digital rights management for archiving or disability access purposes, or unlocking a cell phone – regardless of whether there is any actual copyright infringement.
The U.S. Copyright Office can add restrictions or remove exemptions under Section 1201 every three years; it created an exemption for cell phone unlocking in 2010, and then took it away again in 2013, making cell phone unlocking illegal once more. Most other proposals in Congress would just extend the prior cell phone unlocking exemption for another three years.
This new bill would make it permanently legal for consumers to unlock their mobile devices, and consumers would not be required to obtain permission from their carrier before switching to a new carrier. It also would allow the use and sale of tools – like software apps – that enable unlocking for uses that don’t infringe on copyright. The president would be required to ensure that international trade agreements reflect the new law.
More than 100 House members from both sides of the aisle have signed on to co-sponsor a bill that would require background checks for all commercial gun sales.
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, chairman of the House Democrats’ gun-violence task force, and Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., introduced H.R. 1565 on April 15, two days before the Senate rejected the identical Manchin-Toomey amendment.
“We won’t take ‘no’ for an answer when it comes to passing commonsense laws that keep guns from criminals, terrorist and the dangerously mentally ill,” Thompson and King said in a news release today. “This debate isn’t over. The American people deserve for this bill to be signed into law.”
The bill would expand the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads; it would not cover private, person-to-person sales, as California’s law does.
This widening of background checks is tempered by several nods to those concerned about Second Amendment rights: The bill bans the government from creating a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It also lets gun owners use a state concealed-carry permit issued within the last five years in lieu of a background check, and allows interstate handgun sales from licensed dealers.
And it improves the National Instant Criminal Background Check System by offering incentives to states to improve reporting of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill and by directing future grants toward better record-sharing systems; federal funds would be reduced to states that don’t comply.
The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary and Veterans’ Affairs committees.
The locals who haven’t signed on are Reps. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; and George Miller, D-Martinez. I’ve reached out to their offices to find out where they stand on the bill, and will update this item accordingly.
UPDATE @ 1 P.M. TUESDAY 5/7: McNerney and Miller both have signed on.
One of the Bay Area’s House freshmen was among the region’s top fundraisers in the first quarter of 2013, according to newly filed Federal Election Commission reports.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, raised $262,810 in the first three months of the year, leaving him with $222,932 cash on hand as of March 31.
On its face, that’s more even than the $207,030 that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, collected in individual contributions to her campaign committee. But Pelosi also transferred in more than $136,000 from her Nancy Pelosi Victory Fund, which itself raised $671,400 in the first quarter. (Now THAT’s some serious scratch; don’t mess with the big dog, Congressman Swalwell.)
Still, Swalwell’s first-quarter fundraising outstripped that of every other Bay Area House member including Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who raised $214,000 while already in full campaign mode due to the challenge posed by fellow Democrat Ro Khanna.
Swalwell might also face a fellow Democrat in 2014: state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, who like Swalwell had hoped to succeed Pete Stark in the 15th Congressional District but chose not to run against him last year. Corbett, who’s favored by many of the same local Democrats who had backed Stark in 2012, raised $16,201 in the first quarter of this year and had $114,963 cash on hand as of March 31.
Here’s a readout of the rest of the greater Bay Area delegation’s first-quarter haul, looking only at their principal campaign committees:
Barbara Lee, D-Oakland: $69,482 raised, $29,804 cash on hand
A Mountain View post office will be named Saturday in honor of a local soldier who was killed in Iraq.
Rep. Anna Eshoo, who authored the bill to dedicate the post office in honor of U.S. Army Lt. Kenneth Ballard, will attend the 1 p.m. ceremony at which a memorial plaque will be unveiled at the post office at 211 Hope St. Ballard’s mother also will attend.
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, D-Palo Alto, said in a news release announcing her bill last year. “He made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and he should be remembered and honored by our community.”
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.
Two Bay Area members of Congress will be headed to Vatican City for the March 19 inaugural mass for newly elected Pope Francis.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, will be part of the presidential delegation led by Vice President Joe Biden; other members of that group include New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Georgetown University President John DeGioia.
And Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, has been chosen by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to be part of the bipartisan congressional delegation to the event. “It is a high honor to be appointed to the House delegation to attend the investiture of Pope Francis, and humbling to be a witness to history,” Eshoo said in a news release today.
Besides Pelosi and Eshoo, Bay Area members George Miller, D-Martinez; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; and Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, are of the Roman Catholic faith, as is California Gov. Jerry Brown, himself a former Jesuit seminarian.
“I’m glad he’s a Jesuit,” Brown told reporters during a question-and-answer session Wednesday. “He is from Argentina, so that might give him a broader perspective to see the world through the Southern Hemisphere, but what the hell do I know? I thought Jesuits weren’t allowed to consider higher office. At least they weren’t in my day.”
“Earsplitting television ads have jolted and annoyed viewers for decades,” Eshoo, the law’s original author, said in a news release. “With this new law, loud TV commercials that make consumers run for the mute button or change the channel altogether will be a thing of the past.”
National Association of Broadcasters President and CEO Gordon Smith said broadcasters have taken the lead in addressing the issue’s technical challenges, and National Cable and Telecommunications Association President and CEO Michael Powell thanked Eshoo and Whitehouse “for enacting sensible legislation that will improve the consumer TV experience. Our industry will continue to work closely with the FCC and the entire TV ecosystem to prevent loud commercials from being a disruption.”
Loud commercials have been a top consumer complaint to the Federal Communications Commission for decades and were listed as such in 21 of the FCC’s 25 quarterly reports between 2002 and 2009. According to a 2009 Harris poll, almost 90 percent of TV viewers are bothered by high commercial volumes, prompting 41 percent of viewers to turn down the volume, 22 percent to mute the TV, and 17 percent to change the channel altogether. Before this law, the official FCC policy recommended that consumers mute commercials if they found them to be excessively strident.
President Obama signed Eshoo’s legislation into law in December 2010, and the FCC passed its final rules implementing the law in December 2011. An FCC consumer guide to the new provisions of the CALM Act can be found here.