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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 »

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 »

The Bay Area House races you haven’t heard about

I feel as if I’ve written a million stories and blog items about the hotly contested 17th Congressional District race between Rep. Mike Honda and challenger Ro Khanna, and I did a story last week about the lopsided race for the Bay Area’s only open House seat, in the 11th District.

Sadly, these and many other election duties precluded me from getting into the Bay Area’s other House races. It’s safe to say none of the Democratic incumbents are endangered, but I wish for the days when we had enough staff and time to cover them all individually.

For now, a summary will have to suffice – a brief look at the candidates, the challenger’s stances on a few issues, fundraising and voter education in those districts.

Dale Mensing2nd District: Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, is challenged in his bid for a second term by Republican Dale Mensing, a supermarket cashier from Redway. Mensing calls for securing the nation’s borders; reforming Social Security to include personal retirement accounts; and replacing Obamacare with a system including personal medical accounts. Huffman reported raising $884,000, Mensing reported raising $5,400. The district is registered 49.1 percent Democrat, 21.3 percent Republican and 23 percent independent.

James Hinton5th District: Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, is challenged in his bid for a ninth term by independent James Hinton of Napa. Hinton calls for a “Next New Deal” including a 1 percent Wall Street sales tax and re-regulation of financial markets; ending free trade with a protective tariff, parity price floors and other protections for U.S. producers; Medicare for all; and expanding Social Security. Thompson reported raising $1.73 million, Hinton reported no fundraising. The district is registered 51.2 percent Democrat, 21.1 percent Republican and 20.8 percent independent.

Tony Amador9th District: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, is challenged in his bid for a fifth term by Republican Tony Amador, a retired U.S. Marshal from Lodi. Amador calls for cutting taxes to create jobs, improving education, fixing Obamacare, and taking better care of veterans. McNerney reported raising $1.16 million, Amador reported raising $61,300. The district is registered 45.1 percent Democrat, 32.5 percent Republican and 18.3 percent independent.

John Dennis12th District: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, is challenged in her bid for a 15th term by Republican John Dennis, a San Francisco businessman. Dennis calls for auditing the Federal Reserve, bringing U.S. troops home from overseas, ensuring civil liberties and abolishing corporate, capital gains and income taxes. Pelosi reported raising $2.4 million, Dennis reported raising $580,000. The district is registered 56.1 percent Democrat, 8.1 percent Republican and 30.9 percent independent.

Dakin Sundeen13th District: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, is challenged in her bid for an eighth full term by Republican Dakin Sundeen, an information technology system administrator from Oakland. Sundeen calls for forcing local schools to compete for students, cracking down on surveillance abuses in the name of national security, reforming drug-sentencing laws, reforming and flattening the tax code, and repealing Obamacare. Lee reported raising $1.05 million, Sundeen reported raising $4,900. The district is registered 63.1 percent Democrat, 7.3 percent Republican and 19 percent independent.

Robin Chew14th District: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, is challenged in her bid for a third full term by Republican Robin Chew of Redwood City, cofounder of an online education marketing company. Chew calls for infrastructure renewal, using technology to reinvent education, controlling federal spending, and new environmental policies to better address climate change. Speier reported raising $1.02 million, Chew reported raising $25,000. The district is registered 51.8 percent Democrat, 16.7 percent Republican and 27.6 percent independent.

Hugh Bussell15th District: Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, is challenged in his bid for a second term by Republican Hugh Bussell, a technology manager from Livermore. Bussell calls for reducing high taxes and heavy regulation, replacing Obamacare with other reforms, and securing the nation’s borders. Swalwell reported raising $1.93 million, Bussell reported raising $19,800. The district is registered 47.8 percent Democrat, 21.5 percent Republican and 21.9 percent independent.

Richard Fox18th District: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, is challenged in her bid for a 12th term by Republican Richard Fox, a pediatrician and attorney from Los Gatos. Fox describes himself as “a Libertarian-Republican focused on smaller government as the best way to foster more jobs, better and more affordable healthcare, better schools, and privacy protection.” Eshoo reported raising $1.4 million, Fox reported raising $39,600. The district is registered 45.2 percent Democrat, 23.6 percent Republican and 27.3 percent independent.

Robert Murray19th District: Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, is challenged in her bid for an 11th term by fellow Democrat Robert Murray, a Morgan Hill business executive. Murray calls for repealing Obamacare, cutting spending, improving public education, and cutting corporate and capital gains taxes. Lofgren reported raising $1.04 million, Murray reported no fundraising. The district is registered 46 percent Democrat, 22.3 percent Republican and 27.9 percent independent.

Ronald Kabat20th District: Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, is challenged in his bid for a 12th term by independent Ronald Paul Kabat, a Carmel accountant. Kabat’s calls for pruning the federal government’s size, reforming the tax code, reducing the national debt and creating jobs. Farr reported raising $673,000, Kabat reported raising $15,000. The district is registered 52.2 percent Democrat, 21 percent Republican and 22.1 percent independent.

Posted on Thursday, October 30th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Lawmakers urge Obama to consult them on Iraq

Rep. Barbara Lee and a Virginia Republican have lead 78 other House members in urging President Obama to seek Congressional approval before taking any military action in Iraq.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Lee, D-Oakland, and Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., last summer led independent letters calling on Obama to consult Congress before taking military action in Syria. Now they’ve joined together on a letter sent to the president Thursday.

“We do not believe intervention could be either quick or easy,” they wrote. “And we doubt it would be effective in meeting either humanitarian or strategic goals, and that it could very well be counter-productive.”

The lawmakers called for a political settlement involving all segments of the Iraqi population.

“As you consider options for U.S. intervention, we write to urge respect for the constitutional requirements for using force abroad,” they wrote. “The Constitution vests in Congress the power and responsibility to authorize offensive military action abroad. The use of military force in Iraq is something the Congress should fully debate and authorize.”

Besides Rigell, other Republicans signing the letter included Chris Gibson, R-N.Y.; John Duncan Jr., R-Tenn.; Walter Jones, R-N.C.; Reid Ribble, R-Wisc.; Justin Amash, R-Mich.; Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.;

Besides Lee, other Bay Area members signing the letter included Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; George Miller, D-Martinez; and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.

Posted on Thursday, July 3rd, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Iraq, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 4 Comments »

Eshoo & Speier to host town hall at Palo Alto VA

Congresswomen Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier will host a town-hall meeting Monday at the Palo Alto VA Hospital on veterans’ access to care – a touchy topic given recent revelations of VA shortcomings and malfeasance.

Veterans are invited to come and get answers to questions about the VA’s health care appointment process; Palo Alto VA Director Lisa Freeman will be there, too.

President Obama on Monday nominated former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as his new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in May amid revelations of chronic, system-wide failure and veterans dying while on long waiting lists for treatment.

“Amid deeply disturbing revelations about delayed care of veterans throughout the nation and the scandal of information being manipulated, it is critically important to not only review wait times for care but also have veterans ask their own questions and have them addressed,” Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said in a news release Wednesday. “This town hall meeting will provide a forum for veterans in our region to share their experiences with access to care at the Palo Alto VA, and, moving forward, help to develop even better systems to improve the VA hospital for our veterans.”

Speier, D-San Mateo, said in the same release that the “scandalous issue” of VA employees in other states manipulating appointment lists to conceal long waiting times “has damaged the credibility of the VA health care system.”

“It doesn’t appear that this despicable behavior exists in Northern and Central California,” she said. “But I want veterans who use VA hospitals and clinics in our area to have a chance to comment on the quality of the access to care they receive. I thank the VA Director for not only providing my staff with their insights on the challenges they face in caring for over 130,000 veterans, but also in agreeing to host a town hall meeting at the hospital.”

The meeting will be from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Monday, July 7 in the auditorium of VA Palo Alto’s Building 101, at 3801 Miranda Ave. in Palo Alto.

The VA Palo Alto Health Care System consists of three inpatient facilities in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Livermore, plus seven outpatient clinics in San Jose, Fremont, Capitola, Monterey, Stockton, Modesto, and Sonora.

Posted on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Jackie Speier, U.S. House, veterans | 5 Comments »

Speier blasted for disputing Taliban are terrorists

Some conservatives are blasting Rep. Jackie Speier for disputing the Taliban’s status as “terrorists” during an MSNBC interview Tuesday.

Speier, D-San Mateo, was being interviewed about the Obama administration’s swap of several Taliban-related prisoners whom the U.S. was holding at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for captured U.S. serviceman Bowe Bergdahl.

“Let me underscore the term ‘terrorists.’ The Taliban is part of the fabric of Afghanistan, they were part of the leadership of that country before we engaged there. We are now actively attempting to get the Taliban to negotiate with President Karzai and the Afghanistani government because there will be some cooperation, some level of coordination between the two if that country is going to survive and move forward. So, to say that they are terrorists at this point is not necessarily accurate.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Move America Forward – a Sacramento-based nonprofit known primarily for raising money to send care packages to U.S. troops overseas – sent out a fundraising email with this photo near the top:

Taliban and Speier

“According to a [sic] Rep. Speier, the Taliban had legitimacy when they ruled over Afghanistan by enforcing Sharia law, persecuting women, helping Al Qaeda plot 9/11 and killing anyone who dissented against them,” the email said. “That is, until we stopped them and liberated Afghanistan from their theocratic rule in 2001. Oh, they aren’t terrorists, they’re a social movement that’s just another part of the fabric of Afghanistan…

“Is she serious? Rep. Speier needs a reality check! The Taliban are indeed terrorists committed to killing Americans and we are still very much at war with them!” the email continued. “With leaders like these, is it any wonder our troops sometimes wonder if America still supports them? Don’t let our troops be unsure – show them that we still support their efforts and pray for their safety.”

Speier couldn’t be reached for comment.

Posted on Thursday, June 12th, 2014
Under: Afghanistan, Jackie Speier, U.S. House, War on Terror | 2 Comments »

USA Freedom Act vote splits Bay Area reps

The Bay Area’s House delegation was somewhat split – and along surprising lines – as the House voted 303-121 on Thursday to pass a bill supporters say would end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of American phone records.

The USA Freedom Act, HR 3361, was amended after it arrived on the House floor, and some former supporters believed it had been watered down too much; for example, a requirement for an independent public advocate on the secret intelligence court that oversees the NSA was dropped from the bill.

Voting for the bill were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and representatives Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton.

From Thompson:

“Our government has a responsibility to protect people’s civil liberties and our national security, and this legislation does both. It ends the government’s bulk collection of metadata, it strengthens oversight and improves accountability of our intelligence community, and it allows our intelligence community to continue their brave work to keep Americans safe.”

Voting against the bill were representatives Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; and and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz.

From Lofgren:

“Across the country, many people were surprised to learn that the privacy rights they believed were protected under the 4th Amendment did not apply to NSA surveillance of their communications.

“I originally cosponsored the USA FREEDOM Act when it was introduced last yearbecause it was a small step toward reform and transparency. Unfortunately the bill was changed in key ways after committee action and will no longer provide the protections I sought.

“I voted against it today because it falls short of the Fourth Amendment protections Americans deserve.

“There is strong bipartisan concern that this bill makes it legal for the NSA to continue mass surveillance of U.S. citizens. Many civil liberties groups and leading tech companies share these concerns and felt compelled to withdraw their support.

“Without much needed improvements to the USA FREEDOM Act, Congress risks a continuation of mass surveillance in this extension of the Patriot Act.”

Posted on Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

Speier: Yee case proves need for gun control

Amid the cries of rank hypocrisy accompanying state Sen. Leland Yee – a staunch gun-control advocate – being charged by federal authorities with conspiracy to traffic guns, a Bay Area congresswoman says Yee’s case proves the need for stricter gun control.

Jackie Speier“This FBI investigation of Leland Yee reveals how easy it is to import lethal assault weapons that were previously banned,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said in a statement released Wednesday. “This case should be a warning to us all that even the most trusted appearing among us are ready to do real harm. Since Congress can pass no meaningful gun control laws, even after the mass killing in Newtown, President Obama should use his pen to slow the import of these weapons, which have no place in our homes.”

Speier says a ban on imported assault weapons was first imposed by President George H.W. Bush in 1989 and strengthened by President Bill Clinton, but lapsed under President George W. Bush and is no longer enforced.

That didn’t seem to be a factor in Yee’s alleged crimes, so far as one can tell from the affidavit filed by the FBI.

Posted on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
Under: gun control, Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 6 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 »

‘Operation LIPSTICK’ takes aim at gun trafficking

A Bay Area congresswoman will host a forum Friday that aims to empower women to stop illegal gun trafficking.

Jackie SpeierRep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, along with various public health, law enforcement and social service organizations are introducing “Operation LIPSTICK,” an attempt to disrupt illegal pipelines that deliver guns to criminals. The coalition will hold a public forum, “Empowering Women to Stop Illegal Gun Trafficking: A New Public Health Approach,” from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the San Mateo City Council Chambers, 330 W. 20th Ave.

Brace yourself, acronym fans: LIPSTICK stands for “Ladies Involved in Putting a Stop to Inner-City Killing.” The initiative will use educational workshops, leadership development and community organizing to build support networks for women at risk of being caught up in illegal gun trafficking.

Men with criminal records who can’t pass background checks often exploit women with clean records as “straw buyers” to buy guns for them, and those often guns end up being used in street crime, Speier’s office said in a news release.

“LIPSTICK will empower women who are exploited by traffickers to say no to supplying guns to criminals,” Speier said in the news release. “They often unwittingly contribute to gun deaths in our communities. Education will make them less vulnerable to manipulation, make our streets safer and save lives.”

Speier will be joined at Friday’s forum by David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Research Control Center; former ATF agent David Chipman; Nancy Robinson, executive director of Citizens for Safety; and S.T. Mayer, the San Mateo County Health System’s policy and planning director.

“As women have helped reduce drunk driving, they can mobilize to reduce firearm violence,” Hemenway said in Speier’s news release.

Posted on Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
Under: gun control, Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 23 Comments »