Rep. Eric Swalwell served as the top Democrat at a House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing Tuesday on how the government can use social media and new technologies in disaster relief and recovery.
“Just this past weekend we saw how critical and relevant social media can be in times of crisis following the SFO crash, and it’s our job to figure out how the government can best use technology in a disaster situation to respond effectively and efficiently,” Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, said in a news release. “We have challenges to overcome, such as verifying information as accurate and making more government data open source, and this hearing was a step to learning best practices so we can take advantage of the opportunities presented by social media when disaster strikes.”
Swalwell noted that after the Boston Marathon bombings, a quarter of Americans reportedly looked to Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites for information. He asked expert witnesses Tuesday how the government can accurately verify information gained from social media and integrate social media into disaster recovery plans with limited resources, while respecting individual privacy.
Making good on a campaign promise, the East Bay’s freshman congressman has co-authored bipartisan legislation to let House members take part in hearings and cast some votes remotely, using teleconferencing and other technologies.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, and Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., on Friday introduced H. Res. 287, the Members Operating to Be Innovative and Link Everyone (MOBILE) Resolution. (Ah, they do love their acronyms in Washington, don’t they?)
“Companies and families across the country are using technology to communicate remotely and conduct business. There is no reason that the legislative branch of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy cannot do the same,” Swalwell said in his news release. “Our bill will allow Members of Congress to work more efficiently and stay better connected to our constituents. Northern Silicon Valley, where I represent, is leading a technological revolution and Congress shouldn’t be left behind. I pledged during the campaign that I would bring Congress into the 21st century and this is a first upgrade.”
Pearce asks voters to imagine the opportunity to discuss key legislation with their representatives just minutes before they vote. “Modern technology could make this kind of accountability a reality — allowing members of Congress to debate, vote, and carry out their constitutional duties without having to leave the personal contact of their congressional districts,” he said. “Keeping legislators closer to the people we represent would pull back Washington’s curtain and allow constituents to see and feel, first-hand, their government at work.”
The resolution would require that House members and invited witnesses be allowed to take part in committee hearings remotely, with such participation counting toward quorum rules. It also would mandate the development of a secure remote voting system which lawmakers could use to vote remotely on suspension bills, generally non-controversial bills that require a two-thirds vote to pass.
Swalwell had talked about this while on the campaign trail to unseat Rep. Pete Stark last year and since taking office has been using other technology to connect with constituents, including a Skype visit with Fremont City Council in March and – perhaps less momentous – using Twitter and Vine to post video of his vote on a controversial bill last month.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
Being among the youngest rookie members of Congress does have at least a few advantages.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, is proudly touting his role in helping Democrats defeat Republicans last night in the annual Congressional baseball game, a charity event that dates back to 1909. The game at Nationals Park was a 22-0 shutout, the Dems’ fifth consecutive win.
Swalwell’s office says he contributed with a single, three stolen bases and three runs scored, with only one resulting sore hip.
“While we may not be able stop the GOP’s sequester, we certainly sequestered them last night on the field,” Swalwell said in a news release. “It was a fun night and a wonderful opportunity to raise money for good causes and build friendships with my colleagues on the team and across the aisle (or field).”
The game raised $300,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and the Washington Literacy Center. The Democratic team practiced every session day at 7 a.m. for two months leading up to the game. The only other Bay Area lawmaker to participate was Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.
Swalwell, 32, played outfield and wore the jersey of Tennyson High School in Hayward, which earned more than 300 votes in a Facebook contest he sponsored to determine the 15th Congressional District high school colors he would don.
“I promised to bring new energy to Congress and that pledge continued on the baseball field. I’m looking forward to make it six wins in a row in 2014,” Swalwell said. “Until practice begins next year, the next step is recovery.”
Recovery? Hey, Swalwell – THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!
UPDATE @ 9:49 A.M.: It was just a few months ago that Swalwell’s predecessor, Pete Stark, sent out a campaign mailer blasting Swalwell as “a rookie” who wasn’t ready for “the big leagues.”
The House voted 229-195 today to repeal the “Obamacare” federal health care reforms enacted in 2010 – the 37th time that Republicans have tried to repeal or eliminate funding for the law.
The only two Democrats to vote for H.R. 45 were Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, both of whom represent districts with heavy numbers of Republican voters yet are deemed “lean Democratic” – not “toss up” – by the Cook Political Report. No Republicans opposed the bill.
Like its predecessors, this effort is DOA in the Democrat-dominated U.S. Senate. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, spoke in defense of the vote:
“Today the House is voting to repeal the president’s health care law because it’s increasing the cost of health insurance, reducing access to care, and making it harder for small businesses to hire new workers. This is the third full repeal vote that we’ve had in the last three years, and some critics have suggested it’s a waste of time.
“Well, while our goal is to repeal all of ObamaCare, I would remind you that the president has signed into law seven different bills that repealed or defunded parts of that law. Is it enough? No. Full repeal is needed to keep this law from doing more damage to our economy and raising health care costs.
“But some progress has been made, and Republicans will continue to work to scrap the law in its entirety so we can focus on patient-centered reforms that lower costs and protect jobs. Because jobs is what this is all about.”
Northern California’s House Democrats were – shocker! – having none of it. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, smack-talked the vote at her weekly news conference:
“Here we are, 134 days into the 113th Congress, without one vote on a jobs bill. Fifty-four days after the Senate passed its budget, we still haven’t moved forward to the budget process with this do nothing agenda that does not reflect the priorities of the American people. It is an agenda that only the Republicans are interested in pursuing. So, you see a series of subterfuges, job evasions. Today’s job evasion is that the Republicans have decided to vote on the Patient’s Rights Repeal Act, their 37th attempt to repeal our country’s landmark reform bill. That’s 37 votes, 43 days, $52 million – $52.4 million – on an obvious evasion of our responsibility to work on the priorities of the American people.
“Not only is this a clear waste of time, and of taxpayer dollars, it is a deliberate vote to eliminate the affordable, quality health care benefits millions of Americans are already enjoying.”
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, called it “a shameful waste of time and taxpayer dollars.”
“Instead of spending more than $50 million to repeal a law that is saving lives and money, we should be working to improve our healthcare system and expand on the benefits the law provides,” Thompson said. “It’s time to put these political games aside. By building on the reforms made in the Affordable Care Act, we can make sure every American can afford to go to the doctor. And that’s what matters.”
And Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, said Americans “want Congress to focus on jobs, not waste time and taxpayer money voting 37 times to take away patient protections from middle class families.
“The Supreme Court has ruled, and ACA is now law. It’s not perfect, and it’s not the law I would have proposed because it doesn’t do enough to address the cost of care, but we don’t want to go back to a time when children faced discrimination due to pre-existing conditions, when students and young adults were kicked off their parents’ insurance, and when women had to pay more for insurance than men just because of their gender,” he said. “Now we need to move past partisan bickering and start working on ways we can drive healthcare costs down. For years, we’ve been paying more and more for healthcare, and getting less and less. As a doctor and former Chief Medical Officer for Sacramento County, I know there are many places we can find savings.”
One of the Bay Area’s freshman House members got some key support from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on Monday.
Pelosi, D-San Francisco, hosted a Capitol Hill fundraiser for Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, putting to rest any murmurs that party leaders hold a grudge against Swalwell for his upstart unseating of veteran Rep. Pete Stark last year.
“I was honored to have Leader Pelosi’s support this evening,” Swalwell texted me a few minutes ago. “As someone who comes from a middle-class family, I appreciate the Leader’s efforts to expand our middle class for people who work hard and play by the rules. With the Leader’s help, I look forward to returning to the 114th Congress and calling her Madam Speaker.”
Swalwell said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., attended the fundraiser, too.
Swalwell wouldn’t say how much he raised tonight, but however much it is, it comes atop a stellar first quarter of 2013. He raised $263,000 from Jan. 1 through March 30 – more than any other local House member except perhaps Pelosi, depending on how you count it.
Someone’s gotta count all that money, and a recent staffing change ensures there’s an experienced hand on the books. Swalwell said Monday that Shannon Fuller, 40, of Orinda, whom he had hired in November as district director, left his Pleasanton district office in March to become the treasurer of his re-election campaign.
Fuller had been a campaign fundraiser for Rep. Ellen Tauscher for the 2000 election, and then worked as a scheduler in her office until 2004; that’s where she met Swalwell, who interned in Tauscher’s office in 2001. She was the finance director for Swalwell’s campaign last year.
Cheri Clasen Greven, 32, of Stockton, who has worked as a field representative for Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, will leave that job Friday to start as Swalwell’s district director next Monday, May 13. “The last five years with Congressman McNerney and his team were tremendously successful, challenging and above all rewarding,” Greven wrote in an email Monday afternoon.
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.
Activists are descending today upon the offices of federal officials across the Bay Area, and across the nation, to deliver petitions urging the protection of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ benefits from cuts proposed by President Obama.
Organized by MoveOn.org, it appears there’ll be gatherings at noon at the offices of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in Oakland, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco, Rep. Eric Swalwell in Pleasanton, Rep. Jackie Speier in San Mateo, Rep. George Miller in Concord, Rep. Zoe Lofgren in San Jose, and Rep. Jared Huffman in San Rafael.
“I supported President Obama for reelection, but I won’t support him cutting Social Security,” said Frank Burton of Castro Valley, co-organizer of the event at Swalwell’s office. “Seniors depend on Social Security, and the cut in the cost-of-living adjustment is based on false logic. Seniors need the full cost-of-living adjustment because of huge increases in medical costs every year.”
Clark Sullivan of San Francisco said he helped organize the event at Pelosi’s office “because most people collecting Social Security are already starving for several days at the end of the month.
“Cutting benefits would increase the already unacceptable level of human misery for Americans who have paid a lifetime of taxes to support Social Security,” he said. “The Social Security Act has been one of the most successful federal programs ever enacted and is more solvent than it ever has been. There is no need to tamper with its current success.”
Swalwell, a freshman member of the Homeland Security Transportation Subcommittee, had taken a lead role in grilling TSA officials at hearings and organizing other House members to write in opposition to the policy, which they say was revised without adequate input from pilots and flight attendants.
“Today’s announcement by TSA is welcome news for airline passengers and crews,” Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, said in a news release. “I appreciate that TSA Administrator Pistole listened to the 133 Members of Congress who signed our letter asking for this reversal in policy, stakeholders like pilots and flight attendants, and the general public who oppose this disturbing decision. This delay in implementation is a positive step by the Administrator that will allow stakeholders to have their rightful input into a decision that directly affects their safety and that of the flying public.”
Someone who saw the item I posted earlier today about Rep. Eric Swalwell’s first-quarter fundraising prowess has just shared information that seems to cement the notion that the freshman has been embraced by the very Democratic machine that opposed him last year: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will be headlining his fundraiser in May.
Tickets to the Monday, May 6 event at a Capitol Hill condo will cost $500 to $2,500 for individuals and $1,000 to $5,000 for political action committees.
That’s just two days after Pelosi, D-San Francisco is scheduled to headline a far cheaper Walnut Creek fundraiser for Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.
Pelosi last year had endorsed Rep. Pete Stark for re-election to a 21st term, but that and other powerful endorsements didn’t keep Swalwell from unseating the irascible incumbent in November. Some had speculated he might get a cold shoulder upon arriving in Washington from those who’d opposed his candidacy, but several signs – including this fundraiser, as well as his January appointment as an assistant minority whip – indicate all has been forgiven.
That’s potentially bad news for state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, who also had hoped to succeed Stark in the 15th Congressional District and has a campaign committee that’s raising funds. Corbett may well have the support of some local Democrats and labor unions, but if people of Pelosi’s stature keep raising money for Swalwell, he’ll be tough for anyone to beat.