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More calls for Obama to consult Congress on Syria

Rep. Barbara Lee has gotten 53 other lawmakers to sign her letter urging President Barack Obama to consult Congress before taking any military action against Syria.

Much like the bipartisan letter by Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., on which I reported yesterday, Lee’s letter notes Congress bears the constitutional obligation and power to approve or reject military force.

“As such, we strongly urge you to seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis,” the letter says, also calling for allowing United Nations inspectors to complete their and denouncing human-rights violations.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)In a news release, Lee, D-Oakland, said the nation must learn from its experiences in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere.

“We must recognize that what happens in Syria does not stay in Syria; the implications for the region are dire,” she said. “This letter is calling for a specific action: debate. Congress has a vital role this in this process and constitutional power that must be respected. The American people are demanding this debate before we commit our military, our money, or our forces to Syria.”

Among those who’ve signed Lee’s letter are Reps. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and George Miller, D-Martinez.

I’ve not seen the signatures of Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton; or Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, on any of the letters so far.

But Thompson spokesman Austin Vevurka said Thursday that his boss “believes the use of chemical weapons is appalling and he believes Congress should reconvene so there can be a full and vigorous debate on the use of military force. He also believes any military action must involve an international collation and is continuing to closely monitor the evolving situation.”

UPDATE @ 12:14 P.M.: McNerney spokeswoman Lauren Smith said her boss believes “we need to find a balanced policy that is based on sound and thorough intelligence, and he believes the president should be consulting leaders from both parties in the House and Senate.” Note: McNerney’s call to consult leadership stops short of Lee’s letter, which urges Obama “to seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis.”

UPDATE @ 1:33 P.M.: “Right now the President is still reviewing his options as Commander in Chief,” Swalwell spokeswoman Allison Bormel says. “Should he choose to take action that requires congressional approval, Rep. Swalwell believes the Administration should consult Congress.”

Posted on Thursday, August 29th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 6 Comments »

Bloomberg: Food stamps biggest in red counties

Of the 254 counties in which food-stamp recipients doubled between 2007 and 2011, 213 were carried by Republican nominee Mitt Romney in last year’s presidential election, Bloomberg reported this week.

Graphic by Washington Post

(Graphic by Washington Post)

So it seems the heightened need for federal aid to combat hunger is primarily a red-state (or at least red-county) phenomenon. Yet House Republicans recently passed a Farm Bill reauthorization which didn’t include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. They’ve said they intend to move a separate bill that would cut $4 billion per year from food stamps and similar programs.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, joined with three other lawmakers this week to release a letter signed by more than 200 House Democrats urging Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to restore SNAP funding to the final Farm Bill.

“We voted against this bill in large part because of this intentional omission,” they wrote. “We strongly believe in the critical importance of SNAP. Given the essential nature of this program to millions of American families, the final language of the Farm Bill or any other legislation related to SNAP must be crafted to ensure that we do not increase hunger in America.”

Posted on Thursday, August 15th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 11 Comments »

House Dems urge Brown to sign TRUST Act

Gov. Jerry Brown got a letter from 28 California House Democrats this week urging him to sign the TRUST Act, which would limit how the state’s law enforcement officers cooperate with federal immigration efforts.

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.”

Posted on Wednesday, August 14th, 2013
Under: Anna Eshoo, Assembly, Barbara Lee, California State Senate, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Immigration, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry Brown, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sacramento, Sam Farr, Tom Ammiano, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

Lee to host ‘Fruitvale Station’ screening in D.C.

Rep. Barbara Lee will host a screening of “Fruitvale Station,” the critically acclaimed movie about the last day of BART Police shooting victim Oscar Grant, with other lawmakers next week in Washington, D.C.

Fruitvale_Station_posterLee, D-Oakland, is organizing the event in conjunction with the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

“It is an especially timely film considering the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin and resulting verdict,” Lee wrote in an invitation.

Lee’s office says Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, is planning to attend.

The screening is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. next Tuesday, July 30; the invitation says lawmakers will be offered transportation from the Rayburn House Office Building at 7 p.m. or immediately after the day’s last votes.

Posted on Friday, July 26th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Which House member has most campaign cash?

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
    CA14 – Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough: $221,762 raised, $1,086,141.98 COH
    CA10 – Jeff Denham, R-Modesto: $506,491.26 raised, $834,836.30 COH
    CA19 – Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose: $149,546.50 raised, $658,386 COH
    CA7 – Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova: $264,318.49 raised, $505,044 COH
    CA12 – Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco: $315,769.05 raised, $422,059.25 COH
    CA15 – Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton: $237,314.38 raised, $405,182.23 COH
    CA4 – Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay: $132,668.99 raised, $384,717.76 COH
    CA17 – Mike Honda, D-San Jose: $344,894.86 raised, $374,646.94 COH
    CA6: Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento: $240,826.01 raised, $371,894.30 COH
    CA18 – Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto: $193,225 raised, $363,855.25 COH
    CA11 – George Miller, D-Martinez: $233,328.87 raised, $354,655.16 COH
    CA2 – Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael: $141,648.93 raised, $266,847.38 COH
    CA16 – Jim Costa, D-Merced: $131,765 raised, $243,693.64 COH
    CA9 – Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton: $169,311.47 raised, $187,041.28 COH
    CA20 – Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz: $187,242.31 raised, $136,571.50 COH
    CA1 – Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville: $87,200 raised, $130,603.76 COH
    CA3 – John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove: $179,832.73 raised, $124,197.06 COH
    CA13 – Barbara Lee, D-Oakland: $178,425.82 raised, $97,975.47 COH

Posted on Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
Under: 2014 primary, Ami Bera, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, campaign finance, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jeff Denham, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 5 Comments »

Barbara Lee met with President Obama today

Congressional Black Caucus members including Rep. Barbara Lee met with President Obama today to discuss legislative priorities.

“I’m pleased that today I had the opportunity to discuss the goals of the CBC’s Poverty and the Economy Task Force, which I co-chair, during our meeting at the White House,” Lee, D-Oakland, said in a news release issued after the meeting. “President Obama was receptive and positive about our work, and was very clear that addressing poverty and opportunity is a high priority for his administration.

“I’m looking forward to working with the President on a wide range of critical issues that touch all of us, regardless of region, race, or economic status; issues like immigration, voting rights, the protection of our environment, as well as poverty and creating good jobs,” Lee added.

Lee was an early and ardent supporter of Obama’s campaigns and sees eye-to-eye with him on most issues, but not all; she has criticized his stances on issues including drone warfare, the timeline for withdrawing from Afghanistan, and his inclusion of the chained CPI – a cost index used to help calculate cost-of-living adjustments for benefit levels – in his 2014 budget proposal.

Posted on Tuesday, July 9th, 2013
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

Lee, Huffman will help seek budget deal

Two Bay Area House members will be on the conference committee charged with completing a federal budget deal, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday.

Pelosi, D-San Francisco, appointed all Democrats from the House Budget Committee as conferees; that includes Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. Pelosi also called out House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for having not appointed any Republican conferees, even though the U.S. Senate passed a budget bill 96 days ago.

“The American people can’t afford to wait any longer for Republicans to act on a reasonable, responsible budget, and neither should we,” she said. “Democrats have put our ideas on the table time and again, with a budget proposal to create jobs, promote growth, invest in innovation and infrastructure, and bring down the deficit in a balanced way.”

Boehner at a news conference this morning said the nation’s 1.8 percent economic growth in the year’s first quarter isn’t enough. “That’s why Republicans are continuing to listen to the American people, and offering a real jobs plan for American families and small businesses,” he said. “Our jobs plan can bring us out of this ‘new normal’ and deliver sustained economic growth, and expand opportunity for all Americans.”

Meanwhile, the House Budget Committee held a hearing Wednesday on “America’s Energy Revolution,” which chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc, acknowledged “isn’t a big part of the federal budget.” Huffman accused the committee of wasting time.

“We continue to have these pep rallies for the oil and gas industry while real problems are simply, for some reason, off the table. We don’t even have a conference committee so we can move forward and try to negotiate a federal budget, but we’re here to have a pep rally for the oil and gas industry,” Huffman said at the hearing. “We’ve got student loan interest rates about to double in less than a week, but we’re not talking about that. We’re not talking about any number of things, like the sequester and the people that are actually suffering. We’re here to talk about folks who are experiencing record profits. There are real problems that we need to be solving, and we need to be working together.”

Posted on Thursday, June 27th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Jared Huffman, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Politicians react to same-sex marriage rulings

EVERYBODY has something to say about today’s U.S. Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage. Here’s the latest from your Bay Area elected officials.

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“As author of the bill to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, I am thrilled by today’s Supreme Court decision.

“Today’s ruling clearly establishes that the 14 senators who opposed DOMA in 1996 were correct. It also states that one class of legally married individuals cannot be denied rights under federal law accorded to all other married couples. Doing so denies ‘equal protection’ under the Constitution. This is an important and significant decision.

“Because of inequities in the administration of more than 1,100 federal laws affected by DOMA, it is still necessary to introduce legislation to repeal DOMA and strike this law once and for all. I will introduce that legislation today with 39 cosponsors in the Senate.

“As a Californian, I am thrilled by the Supreme Court’s decision on Proposition 8. The court’s ruling on technical grounds leaves in place former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision that Prop 8 is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.

“I believe this decision means marriage equality will finally be restored in California.”

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

“Today my spirits are soaring because the Supreme Court reaffirmed the promise of America by rejecting two blatantly unconstitutional measures that discriminated against millions of our families.
“I was proud to have voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, and it is so heartening to see that the federal government will now treat all marriages equally.

“Because of the Court’s ruling on Proposition 8, millions of Californians will be able to marry the person they love – with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with it.”

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

“Today, the Supreme Court bent the arc of history once again toward justice. The court placed itself on the right side of history by discarding Section 3 of the defenseless Defense of Marriage Act and by allowing marriage equality for all families in California. The highest court in the land reaffirmed the promise inscribed into its walls: ‘equal justice under law.’

“Soon, the federal government will no longer discriminate against any family legally married in the United States. California will join 12 other states and the District of Columbia in recognizing the fundamental rights of all families. Our country will move one step closer to securing equal protection for all of our citizens.

“Nearly 44 years to the day after the Stonewall Riots turned the nation’s attention to discrimination against LGBT Americans, the fight for equal rights took a giant step forward. Yet even with today’s victory at the Supreme Court, the struggle for marriage equality is not over. Whether in the courts or in state legislatures, we will not rest until men and women in every state are granted equal rights. We will keep working to ensure that justice is done for every American, no matter who they love.”

Tons more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, June 26th, 2013
Under: Assembly, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Dianne Feinstein, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, John Garamendi, Leland Yee, Mark DeSaulnier, Mark Leno, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Nancy Skinner, Nora Campos, Paul Fong, Rich Gordon, Rob Bonta, Tom Ammiano, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 40 Comments »

California politicos on the Voting Rights Act ruling

Here’s how some California politicos are reacting to today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that voids key provisions of the Voting Rights Act:

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“I strongly disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision today to limit the Voting Rights Act. The law successfully countered a century of aggressive limitations on minority voting rights, a fact that today’s majority decision acknowledged: ‘The Act has proved immensely successful at redressing racial discrimination and integrating the voting process.’

“After more than 20 hearings in the House and Senate, Congress in 2006 reauthorized key provisions in the Voting Rights Act for 25 years, a bill I was proud to cosponsor. By invalidating a key piece of the law, the Supreme Court departed from settled precedent and dealt a real setback for voting rights in this country.

“I believe Congress should move quickly to introduce new legislation to preserve voting rights for all Americans.”

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

Barbara Boxer“The Supreme Court’s decision flies in the face of the clear evidence we continue to see of efforts to suppress the vote in minority communities across the country. It is devastating that the Court’s conservative majority would strike down a central provision of the law that has protected the voting rights of all Americans for nearly a half century, and was reauthorized by Congress almost unanimously just seven years ago. I’ll be working with my Senate colleagues to restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act to ensure that every American can participate fully in our democracy.”

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

Nancy Pelosi“Today, the Supreme Court took a step backward on voting rights, on civil rights, on liberty and justice for all. This decision weakens the cause of voting rights in our time, disregards the challenges of discrimination still facing our country, and undermines our nation’s ongoing effort to protect the promise of equality in our laws.

“Even with this setback, the court did place the power to reinforce the heart of the Voting Rights Act in the hands of Congress. As Members of Congress, we know that changes in election laws can have discriminatory effects. That’s why Congress made the determination that advance review of changes in election procedures is required for jurisdictions with a history of discrimination. In 2006, Democrats and Republicans came together to reauthorize the law, garnering overwhelming bipartisan support in a Republican-led Congress – passing the House by a vote 390-33 and the Senate by a vote of 98-0, then signed into law by President George W. Bush. This year, we must follow in that same tradition, taking the court’s decision as our cue for further action to strengthen this legislation.

“Voting rights are essential to who we are as Americans, to the cause of equality, to the strength of our democracy. It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to remove obstacles to voting, to ensure every citizen has the right to vote and every vote is counted as cast. We must secure the most basic privilege of American citizenship: the right to vote.”

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

Posted on Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, California State Senate, Debra Bowen, Dianne Feinstein, Leland Yee, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, voter registration, Zoe Lofgren | 10 Comments »

Lee goes on SNAP diet, will screen hunger film

With more than $20 billion in cuts proposed to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – formerly known as Food Stamps – in the 2014 Farm Bill, Rep. Barbara Lee is leading two dozen House members in a “SNAP Challenge,” living on the $4.50 per day food budget of an average SNAP recipient.

Lee, D-Oakland, issued a news release calling the proposed cuts “unconscionable and unacceptable.”

“When I was a young, single mother, I was on public assistance, and I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the vital lifeline that the American people extended to me,” she said. “SNAP is the difference between food on the table and a child going to bed hungry. I’m so encouraged by all my colleagues who are joining me for the SNAP Challenge, and I encourage folks from across the country to get engaged and join the chorus voicing opposition to these outrageous cuts.”

Lawmakers are updating the public on the challenges of eating on $4.50 by Tweeting at #SNAPchallenge. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, is also taking part, and said, “We need Congress to understand what these cruel austerity measures mean on a personal level rather than a generic statistical sample.”

So Lee might be rather hungry tomorrow as she joins director Lori Silverbush for a free screening of the film, “A Place at the Table,” in 1 p.m. at the Oakland Museum of California, at 1000 Oak St. An official Sundance film festival selection, the movie brings millions of Americans’ experience of hunger into stark focus through the stories of three individuals living with food insecurity.

Lee and Silverbush will take part in a panel discussion after the screening, joined by Alameda County Community Food Bank Executive Director Suzan Bateson; Community Food and Justice Coalition Executive Director Y. Armando Nieto; and Alameda County Social Services Agency Director Lori Cox.

“With nearly 46 million people living in poverty in our nation and 173,000 in poverty in Alameda Country alone, it is far past time to address poverty and hunger,” Lee said.

Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Jared Huffman, U.S. House | 17 Comments »