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Swalwell & Speier named to House Intelligence

My, hasn’t Rep. Eric Swalwell seemed upwardly mobile recently?

Swalwell, D-Dublin, on Monday became the only Bay Area House member with the cojones (or hubris?) to announce he’s considering whether to run to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2016 – quite a goal for a guy starting only his second term in Congress.

On Tuesday, Swalwell was the only Californian that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, named to a new committee charged with shaping House Democrats’ message for the next two years.

And on Wednesday, Pelosi named Swalwell and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, to the House Intelligence Committee, a plum spot in these troubled times of foreign strife and domestic surveillance.

“As we face escalating threats to our security, I will work to make sure our government is vigilantly protecting Americans, while being true to our values around privacy and civil liberties,” Swalwell, a former Alameda County prosecutor, said in a news release. “With the rise of data breaches, a top priority of mine will be to increase our cybersecurity capabilities. National security should know no party, and I vow to carry out this work in a collaborative, bipartisan manner.”

Swalwell in his first term tried to make a name for himself on the Homeland Security Committee, where he took up issues including the Transportation Security Administration’s proposal to allow certain knives aboard planes as well as airport-perimeter safety. On Wednesday, Swalwell noted he was an Capitol Hill intern with Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, on Sept. 11, 2001.

“That experience led me to a career in public service and generated my interest in national security,” he said. “It’s a privilege to serve on this committee so I can continue to fulfill my highest responsibility as a lawmaker, keeping Americans safe.”

Speier issued a statement saying she looks forward “to working on one of our nation’s most pressing issues: protecting our economic and national security against terrorist threats abroad, domestic, and over the internet.

“The heinous attacks in Paris underscore the fact that a handful of home-grown terrorists can wreak havoc on a nation. Cyber threats run the spectrum, from consumer information stolen to intellectual property and proprietary emails hacked from corporations. We must take this 21st century threat more seriously to protect our nation’s most sensitive information, in the public and private sectors alike,” she said.

But “from the torture report to broad NSA surveillance, it is clear that increased Congressional oversight is needed,” Speier added. “I look forward to working with my colleague to ensure our rights and values are not compromised in the name of security.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, had been the Bay Area’s only presence on the Intelligence Committee in the last Congress, but a spokesman said Wednesday that Thompson won’t be on the panel in this new Congress.

Posted on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
Under: Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | No Comments »

Swalwell to help focus House Dems’ messaging

Rep. Eric Swalwell was the only Californian named Tuesday to a new committee that will try to fine-tune House Democrats’ message.

Eric SwalwellMinority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., said the new House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee – which Israel will chair – “will be tasked with developing a Caucus-wide message that forcefully communicates where House Democrats stand, that resonates with hardworking Americans, and that presents a sharp contrast to House Republicans’ special interest-first agenda.”

Pelosi said the panel’s 16 members “have consistently shown the wisdom, creativity and vision necessary to make our case to the American people.”

Swalwell, D-Dublin, later Tuesday issued a statement saying he’s “honored to lead House Democrats’ outreach to millennials.”

“This is a new way for the Party of the Future to speak with and for the future. Today, young people across America are asking themselves how they’re going to afford their education, whether their education will even produce a good-paying job, and whether they’ll ever realize the American dream of home ownership,” said Swalwell, now starting his second term in Congress. “House Democrats are putting forward policies that will enable millennials to not only dream, but achieve. This position presents the opportunity to find new ways to make sure that our nation’s leaders are listening to and speaking for America’s next generation.”

Posted on Tuesday, January 13th, 2015
Under: Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

California pols say ‘Je suis Charlie’

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

“This was a barbaric attack on innocent French citizens and on our shared belief in the fundamental right of free expression. My thoughts and prayers are with the injured and the families of those killed in this heinous and cowardly act of terror.”

From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

“I condemn today’s horrific terrorist attack in Paris. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the French people. This terrorist attack, like so many before it, is an assault on fundamental democratic principles that are essential to a free society. It is also a reminder that the war on terrorism is not over, that radical Islamic terrorist organizations have not been defeated, and that they continue to pose a threat at home and abroad. Whether it is ISIL in Iraq and Syria, the Taliban, Haqqani network, and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ansar al Sharia and other terrorists in Libya, Boko Haram in Nigeria, or al Qaeda affiliated groups in Yemen, Somalia, and Mali, free and moderate societies face a growing and determined terrorist enemy. We ignore this gathering danger at our peril. We must recommit to our common efforts against these violent enemies and stand with our friends around the world. For their sake and for our own, we must prevail in this fight against violent extremism.”

From Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin:

“An attack on Paris is an attack on all free people across the world. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of French news magazine, Charlie Hebdo. We stand with the French people as they work to apprehend the terrorists.

“This attack serves as another sad reminder of the need to remain vigilant against terrorist threats at home and abroad. As a member of the Homeland Security Committee, I will continue to work to ensure we have the resources necessary to secure our country, as we work with our allies abroad to protect innocent citizens and our democratic ideals. Je Suis Charlie.

Posted on Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Eric Swalwell, Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No 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 »

Reactions to the CIA torture report

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Tuesday released the executive summary of the committee’s five-year review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.

The study’s 20 findings and conclusions can be grouped into four central themes, each of which is supported extensively in the executive summary:

  • The CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not effective.
  • The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public.
  • The CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed.
  • The CIA program was far more brutal than the CIA represented to policymakers and the American public.
  • From President Barack Obama:

    “Throughout our history, the United States of America has done more than any other nation to stand up for freedom, democracy, and the inherent dignity and human rights of people around the world. As Americans, we owe a profound debt of gratitude to our fellow citizens who serve to keep us safe, among them the dedicated men and women of our intelligence community, including the Central Intelligence Agency. Since the horrific attacks of 9/11, these public servants have worked tirelessly to devastate core al Qaeda, deliver justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupt terrorist operations and thwart terrorist attacks. Solemn rows of stars on the Memorial Wall at the CIA honor those who have given their lives to protect ours. Our intelligence professionals are patriots, and we are safer because of their heroic service and sacrifices.

    “In the years after 9/11, with legitimate fears of further attacks and with the responsibility to prevent more catastrophic loss of life, the previous administration faced agonizing choices about how to pursue al Qaeda and prevent additional terrorist attacks against our country. As I have said before, our nation did many things right in those difficult years. At the same time, some of the actions that were taken were contrary to our values. That is why I unequivocally banned torture when I took office, because one of our most effective tools in fighting terrorism and keeping Americans safe is staying true to our ideals at home and abroad.

    “Today’s report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence details one element of our nation’s response to 9/11—the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which I formally ended on one of my first days in office. The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests. Moreover, these techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners. That is why I will continue to use my authority as President to make sure we never resort to those methods again.

    “As Commander in Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the safety and security of the American people. We will therefore continue to be relentless in our fight against al Qaeda, its affiliates and other violent extremists. We will rely on all elements of our national power, including the power and example of our founding ideals. That is why I have consistently supported the declassification of today’s report. No nation is perfect. But one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better. Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong — in the past. Today is also a reminder that upholding the values we profess doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us stronger and that the United States of America will remain the greatest force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.”

    From U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.:

    “We have made our way in this often dangerous and cruel world, not by just strictly pursuing our geopolitical interests, but by exemplifying our political values, and influencing other nations to embrace them. When we fight to defend our security we fight also for an idea, not for a tribe or a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion or for a king, but for an idea that all men are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights. How much safer the world would be if all nations believed the same. How much more dangerous it can become when we forget it ourselves even momentarily.

    “Our enemies act without conscience. We must not. This executive summary of the Committee’s report makes clear that acting without conscience isn’t necessary, it isn’t even helpful, in winning this strange and long war we’re fighting. We should be grateful to have that truth affirmed.”

    From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

    “The report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released this morning confirms what I’ve long believed: the CIA not only embraced the widespread use of enhanced interrogation techniques, but also repeatedly misled Congress and the American people about their activities. Furthermore, the report found that the CIA exaggerated the usefulness of these methods in gaining reliable intelligence.

    “The use of torture is unacceptable and morally wrong. These practices undermine our values, endanger our national security interests and exacerbate anti-American sentiment abroad.

    “The release of this report is an important step towards providing the American people with the transparency they deserve. These atrocities are a national disgrace and Congress must work to ensure this never happens again.”

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

    Posted on Tuesday, December 9th, 2014
    Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, John McCain, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, War on Terror | 6 Comments »

    Boxer urges Justice Dept. probe of Ferguson PD

    The Justice Department must thoroughly review the Ferguson Police Department to determine whether there’s a pattern of excessive use of force, mistreatment of prisoners, or racial profiling in its searches and arrests, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a letter Tuesday.

    Barbara Boxer“I am writing to express my strong support for the Department of Justice investigation into whether the Ferguson Police Department has engaged in discriminatory policing practices,” wrote Boxer, D-Calif. “It is imperative that we find out if there is a pattern and practice of civil rights violations in Ferguson.”

    Boxer noted a lack of diversity on the St. Louis suburb’s police force. “As part of this probe, I would urge you to determine whether the lack of diversity in the Ferguson Police Department contributed to the culture of distrust between local residents and police.”

    Meanwhile, here’s how some Bay Area House members reacted on Twitter to the Ferguson situation:

    Pelosi and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, were among more than 200 who retweeted Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.:

    And Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, was among more than 2,200 who retweeted civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.:

    Posted on Tuesday, November 25th, 2014
    Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

    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 »

    Eric Swalwell elected as regional Democratic whip

    Rep. Eric Swalwell was elected by his House Democratic peers Friday to serve as regional whip for Northern California, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.

    Eric SwalwellEach region’s members elect a regional whip to work with Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., in keeping Democratic members informed and in line on important votes. Swalwell, D-Dublin, in his first term had been appointed an assistant whip to do a similar job among Democratic freshmen.

    Swalwell said he’s “honored to continue being part of the Democratic leadership” and thanks his colleagues for electing him. “I look forward to continuing to advance Democratic priorities that will support middle class families and lead to economic growth.”

    Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, who chairs the California Democratic Delegation, said Swalwell has proven to be an effective lawmaker “who has earned the confidence of his California colleagues. As Region II Whip he will continue to be an important part of our California delegation as he works to advance the Democratic agenda and serve our state.”

    Posted on Friday, November 14th, 2014
    Under: Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

    Fun with numbers: Bay Area House races

    As we await a final result in the 17th District’s Mike Honda/Ro Khanna showdown, here’s how the rest of the Bay Area House races look at this hour, in order from widest margin of victory to narrowest:

      13th District: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, 87.3% vs. Dakin Sundeen (R), 12.7% (74.6 points)
      12th District: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, 82.4%, vs. John Dennis (R), 17.6% (64.8 points)
      14th District: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, 75.9% vs. Robin Chew (R), 24.1% (51.8 points)
      5th District: Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, 75.4% vs. James Hinton (i), 24.6% (50.8 points)
      20th District: Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, 74.4% vs. Ronald Kabat (i), 25.6% (48.8 points)
      2nd District: Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, 73.6% vs. Dale Mensing (R), 26.4% (47.2 points)
      15th District: Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, 69% vs. Hugh Bussell (R), 31% (38 points)
      19th District: Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, 66.8% vs. Robert Murray (D), 33.2% (33.6 points)
      18th District: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, 66.3% vs. Richard Fox (R), 33.7% (32.6 points)
      11th District: State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, 66.2% vs. Tue Phan (R), 33.8% (32.4 points)
      9th District: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, 51.5% vs. Tony Amador (R), 48.5% (3 points)

    Yes, that 9th District race was awfully close – especially since this was the first year since McNerney took office that he wasn’t on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s hit list.

    For comparison, McNerney beat Republican Ricky Gill by 11.2 points in 2012 in this district; in his old 11th District, he had beat Republican David Harmer by 1.1 point in 2010, Republican Dean Andal by 10.6 points in 2008; and incumbent Republican Richard Pombo by 6.6 points in 2006. Gill and Harmer both were NRCC “Young Guns,” garnering national support and advice, while the NRCC also worked on Andal’s behalf and GOP luminaries like John Boehner and John McCain shared stages with him.

    In other words, most of the times when the NRCC targeted McNerney as vulnerable, it turned out that he really wasn’t; this year, as the NRCC paid the district little mind, Amador came within striking distance. Oops! But that doesn’t mean McNerney will be similarly vulnerable in 2016, when a bigger presidential-year turnout will favor Democrats; for Republicans, this looks like an opportunity missed.

    Posted on Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
    Under: 2014 general, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mark DeSaulnier, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

    Bay Area House Democrats declare victory

    As Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, battled for his career against Democratic challenger Ro Khanna in the South Bay, the rest of the Bay Area’s House Democrats were cruising to easy victories Tuesday night.

    From Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, who defeated Republican Hugh Bussell to win his second term:

    “For the past two years, I’ve shown up, stood up, and worked across party lines for the issues that matter to working families. It is an honor to be re-elected to continue standing up for the people of the East Bay.”

    From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, who defeated Republican Dakin Sundeen to win her eighth full term:

    “Thank you to all those that voted and supported my re-election.

    “It is an honor and a privilege to represent the diverse, dynamic and forward-thinking people who live in the 13th Congressional district.

    “I remain eternally grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve you in Congress while working to advance our shared progressive values.

    “I thank my constituents for once again allowing me to be their voice in Congress. I remain committed to working to securing federal resources for our community while working to create jobs, address income inequality, tackle poverty head on, pass comprehensive immigration reform, focus on stopping climate change, promote international peace and security, end the global HIV/AIDS pandemic and renew unemployment insurance for those still struggling to find work.

    “This is quite an exhaustive agenda but the East Bay has long led the nation on important issues and we will continue to lead on these important matters.”

    From Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, who defeated independent James Hinton to win his ninth term:

    “I am honored and humbled by our district’s overwhelming show of support. Now that the elections are over, it’s time to move forward – not divided as Republicans and Democrats, but united as Americans – with the common purpose of making sure our country remains a place where everyone who works hard and plays by the rules has the opportunity to get ahead and succeed.

    “That is the work in front of us. It cannot wait and it won’t be achieved through divisiveness. It will be achieved by working together. As our district’s representative I am committed to working with anyone from any party to better our country and strengthen the communities I am so privileged to serve.”

    From state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who easily defeated Republican Tue Phan in order to succeed Rep. George Miller:

    “I am deeply honored and thankful to have earned the confidence and support of the residents of California’s 11th Congressional District: from Concord, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Clayton, El Cerrito and Richmond, to Orinda, Brentwood, Antioch, Pittsburg,San Pablo, Danville, and folks from nearly every corner of Contra Costa County.

    “As I acknowledged from the inception of my campaign, I have very big shoes to fill, following our widely respected Congressman George Miller’s many decades of public service. I look forward to this challenge and to tackling our nation’s most pressing issues head-on in the years ahead.

    “Voters across the 11th district have sent a resounding message tonight that they want common sense solutions to our nation’s biggest issues—not more gridlock. That’s precisely what I’ll bring to Washington.

    “Residents in California and across America are fed up with partisan bickering. They want government to work for them. In Congress, I will work to bridge the partisan divide by advancing pragmatic policies that help disadvantaged and average American families.

    “I am optimistic about the future and excited to move forward on issues of critical importance, like creating more good paying jobs, growing our middle class, investing in our infrastructure, increasing access to healthcare, enhancing the use of renewable and homegrown energy, improving our education systems, and making the United States a leader in innovation and economic opportunity around the globe.

    “Thank you to the voters of the 11th district. I will work hard every day to make you proud and to get things done for our community.”

    Posted on Tuesday, November 4th, 2014
    Under: 2014 general, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Mark DeSaulnier, Mike Thompson, U.S. House | 1 Comment »