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Activists seek ‘Robin Hood tax’ upon Wall Street

Activists organized in part by the California Nurses Association rallied Friday at congressional offices in 22 cities – including four in Northern California – to call for a tax on Wall Street speculation to relieve economic inequality and address basic needs.

The Oakland-based union scheduled the events for Friday because it’s the 46th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who at the time of his death was amid a campaign for economic justice that included anti-poverty and worker-rights issues.

Supporters of HR 1579 – authored by Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and cosponsored by local lawmakers including Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and John Garamendi, D-Fairfield – sometimes call it the “Robin Hood tax.”

The bill would levy a tax of 50 cents on every $100 of stock trades and smaller amounts on transactions of bonds and derivatives. Its goal to reduce harmful financial market speculation; discourage high-volume, high-speed trading; and slow down proliferation of complex derivatives while raising hundreds of billions of dollars per year for jobs, health care, education, the fights against HIV/AIDS and climate change, and more.

Several dozen countries have similar taxes, and the United States had one until 1966. Business leaders including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs, Robert Pollin, and Larry Summers have recommended adopting a financial transaction tax, and after Wall Street’s crash 1987, such a tax was endorsed by President George H.W. Bush and U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan. And former Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, carried a similar bill in 2010.

There’s no chance the Republican-led House will ever advance this bill.

Still, Northern California activists rallied Friday at the offices of congressmen George Miller in Concord, Mike Honda in San Jose, Ami Bera in Rancho Cordova and Jeff Denham in Modesto – three Democrats and a Republican, respectively.

“My patients are trying to heal from an illness or surgery and when they go home they are forced to make a decision between buying medication or food,” California Nurses Association co-president Malinda Markowitz, an RN at San Jose’s Good Samaritan Hospital, said in a news release. “That’s why I want Rep. Mike Honda to support the people of this community by supporting the Robin Hood Tax.”

The nurses’ union notes King once said, “This is America’s opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have nots. The question is whether America will do it.”

Posted on Friday, April 4th, 2014
Under: Ami Bera, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jared Huffman, Jeff Denham, John Garamendi, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, Sam Farr, taxes, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

CA11: DeSaulnier’s endorsement blitz continues

My inbox cries out for mercy.

There have been only three business days in the past four weeks on which Mark DeSaulnier has not announced another endorsement in his bid to succeed Rep. George Miller in the 11th Congressional District.

DeSaulnierBetter safe than sorry? Sure, the Democratic state Senator from Concord thought he had punched his ticket to Washington in 2009 when Rep. Ellen Tauscher resigned to take a State Department post; despite having Tauscher’s and Miller’s endorsements, he lost that special election to fellow Democrat John Garamendi.

So ever since announcing his candidacy for this seat even as Miller was announcing his retirement, DeSaulnier has sought to flood the field. And those first few days of endorsements were important, as they included support from several people who were thought to be possible rivals for the seat, and from Miller himself.

Since then, other candidates have emerged: retired immigration judge Tue Phan of Danville; disability rights and employment advocate Cheryl Sudduth of El Sobrante; oil refinery employee Jason Ramey of Concord; Alameda Councilman Tony Daysog; and attorney Ki Ingersol of Benicia. The first is a Republican and the latter four are Democrats; Daysog and Ingersol live outside the district, though that’s no barrier to candidacy.

So DeSaulnier has kept cranking out the endorsements – other Democrats, labor unions, and many other non-surprises. Today’s might take the head-scratching record: “Former Massachusetts Governor and Democratic Presidential Nominee Mike Dukakis Endorses Mark DeSaulnier for Congress.”

“George Miller has been an extraordinary public servant and a leader in Congress who has stood up time and time again for middle class America. Mark will provide us with that same kind of inspired leadership,” Dukakis, the 1988 nominee, said in DeSaulnier’s news release.

DeSaulnier replied that “it’s an enormous honor to receive this endorsement from such a renowned an celebrated member of the Democratic Party. Governor Dukakis’ support means a great deal to me personally. I greatly admire his intelligence and determination, and few leaders have accomplished more over their career. I’m grateful for his support.”

Sure, some people remember Dukakis’ name, short as the American political memory might be, but how many votes will this sway in the 11th District, or how many rivals will it intimidate?

Whatever. I’ll stand by for Walter Mondale to weigh in.

Posted on Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
Under: George Miller, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House | 11 Comments »

House Dems try to force minimum wage vote

House Democrats are signing a discharge petition to force an up-or-down vote on Rep. George Miller’s bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

George Miller“Large, bipartisan majorities have repeatedly voted to raise the minimum wage when it has come to the floor in the past, and Republican and Democratic presidents alike have signed it into law,” Miller, D-Martinez, said in a news release Wednesday. “The American people are clamoring for this pay raise, and it’s well past time for congressional Republicans to hear their voices and bring H.R. 1010 up for a vote. When this comes to the floor, it will pass. We just need a vote.”

The bill would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour over three years, and then index it to inflation thereafter. It also would gradually increase the tipped minimum wage to 70 percent of the minimum wage; it’s now at about 29 percent.

The Congressional Budget Office reported this month that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 could lift about 900,000 U.S. workers out of poverty, but also could cost about 500,000 jobs.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has refused to bring the bill – which has 194 cosponsors, all Democrats – up for a hearing, mark-up or floor vote. Rep. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., filed the discharge petition Wednesday; forcing consideration of the bill will require 218 signatures, so some Republicans would have to cross the aisle.

“The discharge petition I filed today is an unfortunate necessity in order to ensure action will be taken by this Congress to improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans,” Bishop said in a news release. “This is an issue that has wide support among the American public but so far has not been acted on in Washington. It is time for that to change and it is time to raise the wage.”

Posted on Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
Under: George Miller, U.S. House | 13 Comments »

CA11: Alameda’s Tony Daysog is considering a run

Alameda Councilman Tony Daysog says he’s considering a run for the 11th Congressional District seat from which Rep. George Miller will retire at this year’s end.

And here I thought state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier – already endorsed by Miller and about a half-dozen other Democrats who might’ve sought the seat – was being over-cautious by rolling out another endorsement almost every day. (Well, maybe that’s still true.)

Tony DaysogDaysog, 48, of Alameda, said in an email Friday afternoon that he had just taken out papers to file for candidacy, and is exploring the possibility of a run.

“In the days leading up to the March 7th filing deadline, I will talk with Contra Costa County residents of the 11th Congressional [District] to gauge responses to an out-of-district person such as myself running for this important office,” he wrote.

Daysog, an urban planner, was an Alameda councilman from 1996 through 2006; placed last in a field of four in the June 2006 Democratic primary for what was then the 16th Assembly District seat; ran unsuccessfully for the Alameda mayor’s office in 2010; and was re-elected to the city council in 2012.

Daysog’s website says his priorities are securing individual freedoms by safeguarding individual rights from high-tech snooping; protecting small investors, including owners of 401(k) retirement accounts; protecting abortion choice; making college affordable without massive debt; and supporting small business owners to create jobs while supporting workers to pursue life-long learning.

Posted on Friday, February 14th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, George Miller, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

House passes GOP water/drought bill

The House voted 229-191 on Wednesday to pass the controversial water bill put forth by Republicans as a necessity for dealing with California’s drought, but described by Democrats as a water grab and political ploy.

“While Californians are dealing with the brunt of the water shortage, this issue affects the entire country,” Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, the bill’s author, said in a news release. “I am proud the House of Representatives was able to come together to pass this common-sense legislation to provide a long-term solution for families and farmers suffering from this water crisis. It is now up to the Senators from California to ensure their Chamber acts upon our proposal quickly.”

Said House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, “It is unacceptable that vital water supplies are being forced out to the ocean instead of going to our cities. The issue demands immediate attention and today’s vote represents House Republicans’ commitment to putting California families over fish.”

But though sponsored by all the rest of California’s House Republicans, Valadao’s H.R. 3964 is as good as dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled Senate, where Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer plan to introduce a bill of their own in the next few days.

Feinstein said their bill will “offer relief for California and other drought-stricken states and to streamline federal projects and operations. We have worked with federal and state agencies, rural irrigation districts and urban water districts to draft legislation that will minimize controversy yet still maximize water supplies during this drought period. California is facing a 500-year drought, and the time to act is now.”

Said Boxer, “While House Republicans are pursuing divisive and discredited policies, we will be proposing solutions that will help bring relief to the communities hardest hit by this unprecedented drought.”

Fourteen California House Democrats – including the greater Bay Area’s George Miller, D-Martinez; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael – issued a joint statement after the bill was passed:

All of California is in drought, but instead of working together on a long-term, bipartisan solution, our Republican colleagues have brought a bill to the floor today without any markup or hearing, which bypasses any public input. If enacted into law, this water grab would hurt California’s economy, damage our environment, and set a dangerous precedent of Congress imposing mandates on the water supplies of the states. This bill benefits a small group of Californians and creates no new water in the region. We have received letters from our home state’s Governor, Natural Resources Secretary, and Attorney General in strong opposition to H.R. 3964. The Western States Water Council opposed last Congress’ version of this bill (H.R. 1837) for its preemption of states’ rights, and the Obama Administration opposes the bill because it fails to alleviate the effects of California’s current drought and threatens water agreements in the west. 80 California sportsmen’s groups, commercial fishing industry groups, national conservation organizations, and Indian tribes also oppose this bill. This bill has no chance of enactment, and it would create more litigation over water if it were to pass, but even as a failed bill it hinders collaborative efforts being made throughout the State. It is time for real solutions; H.R. 3964 is not it.

Thompson gave of the more pointed floor speeches, saying “it would be more productive for this body to join in a rain dance on the floor today than to pass this bill.”

Posted on Wednesday, February 5th, 2014
Under: David Valadao, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House, water | 1 Comment »

CA11: Miller endorses DeSaulnier as successor

Rep. George Miller endorsed state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier on Wednesday to succeed him in Congress when he retires at the end of this year.

George Miller“I know Mark DeSaulnier exceedingly well,” Miller said in a news release issued Wednsday by DeSaulnier’s campaign. “Mark is the most qualified and capable candidate to carry on my work in Congress on behalf of the residents in the 11th District. He is progressive, results-driven, and has a deep connection to the communities and neighborhoods in this district. Most importantly, Mark embodies the issues and values that I have fought for throughout my career.”

DeSaunlier, D-Concord, has been rolling out endorsements on an almost daily basis since Miller, D-Martinez, announced Jan. 13 that he would step down after his 20th term expires at the end of 2014. Though some of those endorsements came from people who initially had considered running against him for the seat – including Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, and Walnut Creek Mayor Kristina Lawson – none are likely to have as much impact as the incumbent’s.

Miller said he and DeSaulnier “share a common passion and profound commitment to public service. Mark has had a major impact on key issues in our community — saving the county library system, building the county hospital, championing transportation improvements like the fourth bore in the Caldecott, fighting for the poor and vulnerable, and many other issues.”

Miller also said DeSaulnier “brings enormous skill and integrity to everything he does. … He will continue our fight in Congress for the world’s best education and healthcare systems, and he will strive to end poverty and inequality once and for all.”

Mark DeSaulnierDeSaulnier said Miller “represents all that is great about public service” and has been a role model and friend.

“I have a bookmark from Rep. Miller that says, ‘You are not in public service to sit on your ass and watch the parade go by,’ and indeed we have not,” he said. “Together, we’ve engaged and have empowered the residents of Contra Costa County, and we have given them a strong voice in their state and federal government.”

“I will do my very best, every single day, to live up to his work ethic, determination, and resolve for championing the many cornerstone issues he’s fought for in Washington on behalf of the residents in the 11th District,” DeSaulnier said.

Other potential candidates include retired immigration judge Tue Phan-Quang, a 71-year-old Republican from Danville; and refinery worker Jason Ramey, a 33-year-old Democrat from Concord. The 11th Congressional District’s voter registration is 50 percent Democrat, 24.6 percent Republican and 21.2 percent nonpartisan – a safe Democratic district, in which DeSaulnier seems to have a firm lead on name recognition, funding and endorsements.

Posted on Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, George Miller, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

CA11: The who-will-and-who-won’t roundup

Two days after Rep. George Miller announced he’ll retire at the end of 2014 after 40 years in the House, here’s the shakeout so far on who will and won’t try to succeed him in the 11th Congressional District:

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord: At almost the same instant Miller started his news conference in Richmond, DeSaulnier was telling a reporter in Sacramento that he would run; he issued his news release less than four hours later.

Walnut Creek Mayor Kristina Lawson: She’s “seriously considering” it.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo: “She’s still looking at what the options are,” spoklesman Michelle Henry said Wednesday.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord: She is “is focused on her upcoming re-election for state assembly and not considering a run for Congress,” spokesman Luis Quinonez said Wednesday.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson: Endorsed DeSaulnier on Tuesday.

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia: Endorsed DeSaulnier on Wednesday.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield: Won’t run for the seat next to his.

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin: Won’t run.

Former airline pilot and “Hero on the Hudson” Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger of Danville: Won’t run.

Watch for Lisa Vorderbrueggen’s story this weekend reviewing the whole scrum in much more detail; stay tuned, as the landscape continues to shift.

Posted on Wednesday, January 15th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, George Miller, Joan Buchanan, Mark DeSaulnier, Susan Bonilla, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

President Obama on George Miller’s retirement

The White House just issued President Barack Obama’s statement on the retirement of Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.

President Barack Obama“George Miller has proudly represented the people of California in Congress for nearly 40 years, and he has spent his career fighting to grow and strengthen the middle class. Because of his tireless efforts, our air and water are cleaner, our workers’ rights are better protected, more young people can afford to go to college, and more working families can make ends meet. George was a chief author of the first bill I signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. His decades-long fight to bring quality, affordable health insurance to millions of Americans made him an indispensable partner in developing and passing the Affordable Care Act. And he continues to fight for our shared belief that a minimum wage should be a wage you can live on. Michelle and I thank Congressman Miller for his service and leadership, and we wish him, his wife Cynthia, and their children and grandchildren the very best in the future.”

Read a slew of other comments on Miller’s retirement here, and view a gallery of some of Miller’s finer (that is, more fiery) moments on the House floor here.

Posted on Monday, January 13th, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, George Miller, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Videos: George Miller’s greatest House floor hits

Rep. George Miller, who today announced he’ll retire from the House after 40 years by not seeking re-election to a 21st term this year, at times has vented his ire on the House floor in legendary finger-pointing, fist-pounding fashion.

In August 1995, his berating of Republicans during a budget battle turned into a gavel-breaking verbal slugfest. “It’s a glorious day if you’re a fascist!

In May 2007, urging an increase in the federal minimum wage:

In April 2008, on the war in Iraq:

In July 2008, blasting President Bush and Vice President Cheney for protecting the oil industry’s interests:

In January 2011, opposing Republicans’ effort to repeal the nation’s new health care law:

In May 2011, blasting Republicans for another repeal effort:

Last July, on education legislation:

During last October’s government shutdown, accusing a Republican House member of being on a “jihad” against the health care law:

Posted on Monday, January 13th, 2014
Under: George Miller, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

George Miller is retiring from the House

After 40 years in Congress, Rep. George Miller is calling it quits.

Miller, D-Martinez, announced Monday morning that he won’t seek re-election to a 21st term this year.

George Miller“This is a great institution and I cannot thank my family and my constituents enough for having given me the honor and privilege of representing my district in Congress these past 40 years,” Miller said in a news release. “I have tried to repay them for their confidence by working hard every day to make our country a better place. I’m proud of what I have been able to accomplish on behalf of children, working people and the environment, in my district and for our country, especially passage of national health care reform. Now, I look forward to one last year in Congress fighting the good fight and then working in new venues on the issues that have inspired me. What a wonderful experience this has been.”

Miller, now the ranking Democrat on and former chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, has made that committee’s issues the focus of his congressional career.

First elected in 1974 at age 29, he has collaborated over the years with fellow lawmakers as diverse as the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and current House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Now the fifth most senior House member, he has been a close adviser to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

News of his retirement is sure to touch off a political feeding frenzy among possible successors.

See Lisa Vorderbrueggen’s full story here. Check back for updates…

UPDATE @ 9:14 A.M.: From Pelosi:

Nancy Pelosi“For 40 years in the House, George Miller has been the model of the serious, substantive and successful legislator. In the majority, as chairman of three committees, and in the minority as well, he has written some of the most creative legislation of our time – on health care, education, child policy and labor rights, and also on the environment, energy and national parks. George always incorporated the most current research of our best thinkers into innovative bills, and he passed most of them with bipartisan support.

“I especially value his long service to the Democratic Leadership as co-chairman of our Steering and Policy Committee, working with our Caucus to address jobs, economic innovation, child health and nutrition and a host of other national priorities. His foresight in the area of budget policy led him to originate the Pay-As-You-Go deficit reduction strategy that helped us balance the budget in an intelligent way.

“Now the Dean of California’s congressional delegation, George has always drawn a special inspiration from the creativity and innovativeness that is so crucial to our home state. He has worked closely with state leaders in so many fields to modernize education, reform natural resource policies, and serve the needs of children and those with special needs. And of course, he has always worked to reform water policy and enhance his beloved Delta.

“Capitol Hill and California are filled with Democrats and Republicans alike who have enjoyed working with George Miller and who deeply respect him because his dedication to the issues and his excitement for the legislative process are infectious and undiluted by the years he has served or the challenges he had faced. For me, as Speaker and Democratic Leader, George’s patriotism, wisdom and guidance have been especially valued, and he has been a close friend since my first days in the House.

“My sadness at his departure from Congress in 2015 is mitigated only by my certainty that he will utilize his exemplary knowledge and skills in a new venue where he will surely again be a successful leader for our state and our nation. I congratulate him on 40 years of inspired and inspirational leadership, I look forward to working closely with him during his last year of service in the House, and I wish him and Cynthia, and his beautiful family, many years of enjoyment and happiness together.”

UPDATE @ 10:51 A.M.: From California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton:

“George’s retirement is not only a great loss for the people of his congressional district and the people of California but for the nation as well.

“As a legislator, he was a giant in the areas of workers’ rights for both men and women, on the environment, in solving water problems, in advocating for infants, children and families and in particular the WIC program.

“His work and service have left a great mark in the Bay Area and beyond but after forty years of service, I’m sure it’s time to come home. Welcome home, George.”

From Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord:

“George Miller has proudly represented his constituents in Contra Costa County for over 40 years in Congress. In his exemplary service as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he wrote or co-wrote many of the significant laws that brought health care to the uninsured, improved wages for working families, helped students pay down their student loans, and protected California’s natural resources from development. His dedication to his constituents and leadership that he provided for Contra Costa County and California will be truly missed.”

UPDATE @ 11:03 A.M.: From Boehner:

“No one would confuse me and George Miller for ideological soul mates, but during our years serving together on the Education & the Workforce Committee, we got things done on behalf of the American people thanks in no small part to his dedication and willingness to work for the greater good. I have great respect for George, and on behalf of the whole House, thank him for his decades of service and congratulate him on a remarkable career.”

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

Posted on Monday, January 13th, 2014
Under: George Miller, U.S. House | 12 Comments »