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Thompson sets gun task force roster, hearing

Rep. Mike Thompson, the House Democrats’ point man on gun reform, has picked a dozen vice chairs – including another Bay Area member of Congress – for his task force and is planning a community forum next week in the North Bay.

Mike ThompsonThompson, D-Napa, was named last month by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to head a task force on gun violence prevention. He’s a Vietnam combat veteran, gun owner and avid hunter.

“Our vice chairs have a wide range of expertise, come from different backgrounds representing all corners of the House Democratic Caucus, and will bring unique ideas to the table as we work to reduce and prevent gun violence while also protecting the rights of law-abiding individuals without a history of dangerous mental illness to own legitimate firearms for legitimate purposes,” Thompson said in a news release today.

Among the 12 vice chairs is Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, who survived being shot five times at close range in the 1978 assassination of her boss, Rep. Leo Ryan, on an airstrip near Jonestown, Guyana; she still carries two of the bullets in her body. Since then she has been a consistent advocate of gun control, and carried assault weapons ban legislation in California twenty years ago. She supports banning military-style assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, as well as closing loopholes in the background-check process.

Speier last month had noted California’s gun controls are among the nation’s strictest and should be a model for federal law – or perhaps exceeded.

“We’re way ahead of the curve,”’ she said, “but it still is not enough.”

The other 11 vice chairs will be Reps. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., who succeeded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was severely wounded in an assassination attempt; John Dingell, D-Mich., a hunter who has carried background-check legislation before; Bill Enyart, D-Ill., the retired Major General of the Illinois National Guard; Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., who represents Newtown, Conn.; Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., who created a “Groceries for Guns” buyback program in Philadelphia; Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., whose husband was murdered and son critically wounded in a 1993 mass shooting ojn the Long Island Railroad; Grace Napolitano, D-Norwalk, the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus; Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., who represented Aurora, Colo., during the July 2012 movie-theater mass shooting; David Price, D-N.C., the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, which holds the pursestrings for first responders; Bobby Scott, D-Va., who has been active in juvenile justice issues; and Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chair of the Congressional Sportsman Caucus.

The task force will hold meetings and hearings over the next month to identify the best policies to reduce and prevent gun violence, and will release a comprehensive set of proposals in early February.

Thompson also has announced he’ll hold a forum from 7 to 8:30 p.m. next Wednesday, Jan. 9 at Vallejo City Hall, 555 Santa Clara St., to bring together law enforcement, school and local elected officials; mental health experts; community members and other stakeholders for a discussion on how to reduce and prevent gun violence.

Posted on Friday, January 4th, 2013
Under: gun control, Jackie Speier, Mike Thompson, U.S. House | No Comments »

Reactions to the Newtown school massacre

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

“No words can console the parents of the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School or describe the pain and shock of such an unspeakable tragedy. No words can comfort the loved ones of those brutally taken from us today. All Americans share our prayers and our grief over these horrifying events.

“We are all stunned, shocked, and distraught by this tragic shooting, by this violent act, and by the loss of so many young children. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the students, teachers, and educators killed and wounded in Newtown, Connecticut. The entire nation will continue to stand as a source of support to this community in the days and weeks to come.”

From Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell:

“Earlier today, another horrific gun tragedy struck our nation as innocent men, women, and children were senselessly shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. My prayers are with the victims, their families and friends, and the communities impacted by today’s terrifying events.

“As an educator for 30 years, I know firsthand the importance of making a school a safe place where children can grow and learn. Having that sense of safety ripped from us, again, is both shocking and jarring. It is difficult to imagine what it feels like to be a parent that has outlived their child or to be part of a family inexplicably left with a gaping hole in their hearts. While exact details still remain unclear, there is no doubt that today is a somber day. A close-knit community, like countless communities all around our country, was violently attacked, and we will continue to feel the shocks of this violence for some time.

“This event, much like the numerous other shootings earlier this year, will undoubtedly lead to difficult discussions about safety, public policy and emergency preparedness. This self-reflection is natural, and it is my hope that we can finally take action to address the root causes of these horrific tragedies together, as a nation.”

From state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco:

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the children and families of Newtown. In a year with so many appalling acts of gun violence, this is the most shocking of such tragedies. While we do not have all the details behind this senseless and unconscionable massacre, it is a sad and horrific reminder of what is possible when guns get into the wrong hands. We must limit access to weapons that can result in such catastrophe and mass murder.”

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

“I am horrified and incensed by today’s tragedy in Connecticut. These massacres don’t seem to stop—they continue on and on.

“When senseless mass shootings reach into our kindergartens and elementary schools, one has to question what is happening to America. Gun violence took the lives of more than 8,000 Americans last year, and today claimed the lives of at least 18 children.

“As I have said many times before—and now repeat in the wake of yet another tragedy—weapons of war don’t belong on our streets or in our theaters, shopping malls and, most of all, our schools.

“I hope and trust that in the next session of Congress there will be sustained and thoughtful debate about America’s gun culture and our responsibility to prevent more loss of life.”

“But today we mourn for those who have been killed and the families that have been devastated.”

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

“My heart breaks over this senseless tragedy that took so many innocent lives. My prayers go out to their families and to all those who were injured.

“This touches us all so deeply, and it is long past time that we enacted sensible gun laws and school safety legislation.”

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“We all mourn the heartbreaking loss of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. We pray for their families and loved ones.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

“For those calling for the postponement of any discussion of gun and mental health policy in America – you are wrong.

“Just WRONG!

“We postponed after the President and his press secretary, James Brady were shot more than 30 years ago. We postponed after the tragedy in Columbine 13 years ago. We postponed after Virginia Tech five years ago. We postponed after Representative Gabriel Giffords was shot in 2011. We postponed in July when a mentally disturbed James Eagan Holmes opened fire in a crowded movie theatre. And earlier this week, people said it was too soon to talk about gun and mental health policy when a gunman opened fire at a crowded mall in Oregon.

“Today, President Barack Obama addressed the nation from the White House briefing room named for James Brady and now we turn to our political leaders to finally and decisively act.

“Prayers are important. We are a nation that always prays at times of great tragedy. But prayer is not enough as we learn in James 2 14-26, ‘What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works…Faith without works is dead.’

“Today is a clarion call to all leaders, regardless of political party, to act purposefully. Senseless gun violence is not simply about gun control. It must also include meaningful discussion of mental health policy in America. Political parties must be realistic – Democrats can’t draw the line in the sand at banning all guns and Republicans can’t dig in on the status quo.

“The NRA and the gun lobby are not supportive the President and now is the time for him to give them a real reason. The President must call the question. Put the gun lobby on the bench. Call on every member of congress to step out from behind the money and power of the gun lobby and act before we are lulled back into a false sense of security and forget to have the conversation again until the next tragedy. There are families in Connecticut, Oregon, Virginia, California, Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin and every other state that have suffered loss due to gun violence and they do not want a postponement this debate any longer.

“How many more people have to die before we decide the time is right to have this debate and take action? Now is a time for prayer…and leadership.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Friday, December 14th, 2012
Under: Barbara Boxer, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Dianne Feinstein, George Miller, gun control, Jackie Speier, Jean Quan, Jeff Denham, Leland Yee, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 9 Comments »

Act now for tickets to Obama’s re-inauguration

Bay Area members of Congress are offering their constituents chances to win free tickets to President Barack Obama’s re-inauguration Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C., but one lawmaker wants applicants to sing for their supper.

“Please write a paragraph of at least 5 sentences, submit a video, or draw a picture suggesting an innovative idea either to put Americans back to work, or ensure that each and every child has access to a quality education,” Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell, asks 17th Congressional District constituents seeking tickets.

Entries (only one per person) must be posted as responses on the congressman’s Facebook page by Thursday, Jan. 3.

Other local members are doing it on a more straightforward lottery basis; you can apply only through your own House member, or through either of California’s U.S. Senators.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield: Call 202-225-1880

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa: Email here or call 202-225-3311 or 707-226-9898

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton: Call 202-225-1947 or 209-476-8552

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez: Apply here

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco: Call 202-225-4965

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland: Apply here

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo: deadline already passed

Rep.-elect Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin: available in January

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto: deadline already passed

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose: Call 202-225-3072

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz: Join stand-by list here

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif: Apply here

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.: Apply here

If leaving a voice-mail message, be sure to include your full name, address, city, phone number, e-mail address and number of tickets requested.

Posted on Tuesday, December 11th, 2012
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Miller steps down as Dem policy committee’s chair

Rep. George Miller is stepping down from his decade-long chairmanship of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, a post in which he was a top advisor to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Miller, D-Martinez, said in a news release Tuesday that it’s been an honor to serve under Pelosi’s direction, and before that under Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt. “I thank the leader for her confidence in me and I look forward to working with Steering and Policy as a member of the committee in the 113th Congress.”

Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said Miller “has been an extraordinary, dedicated, valued member of our Democratic leadership team, and we will continue to rely on his counsel, energy, and wisdom as we work together to move our country forward in the next Congress.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., will co-chair the panel in the new Congress.

“The leaders and members of the Steering Committee reflect the diversity, energy, bold ideas, and creative thinking of all House Democrats, and embody our Democratic commitment to create jobs, strengthen the middle class, and grow the economy,” Pelosi said in her release. “With Congresswoman DeLauro and Congressman Andrews at the helm, this committee will play a central role in addressing the challenges facing our families, small businesses, and communities nationwide.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, is among the regionally elected members of the committee – representing Northern California, Hawaii and Alaska plus American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands – while Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, joins Miller among the appointed members.

UPDATE @ 3:06 P.M.: Miller says he now wants to turn his full attention “to working with the chair and members of the Education and Workforce Committee on the growing backlog of legislation near and dear to my heart and that are critical to growing our economy – for example, the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Higher Education Act, the Workforce Investment Act, raising the minimum wage, and protecting miners’ safety and health. The American people are counting on Congress to work in a bi-partisan manner to move these policies forward.”

Posted on Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
Under: Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Speier: End LGBT ‘conversion therapy’ for kids

A resolution introduced today by Rep. Jackie Speier would encourage states to act, as California already has, against so-called LGBT conversion practices that seek to change a child’s sexual orientation.

The Stop Harming Our Kids (SHOK) resolution, cosponsored by Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and David Cicilline, D-R.I., goes hand-in-hand with Speier’s investigation of whether federal funds have been spent on such practices, which have been rejected as scientifically invalid by the American Psychiatric Association and other mental health groups for decades.

Jackie Speier“Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered is not a disease to be cured or a mental illness that requires treatment. Any effort to change sexual orientation is not medicine, it’s quackery, and we should not be supporting it with taxpayer dollars,” Speier, D-San Mateo, said in a news release.

“California led the nation on this issue when Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1172, a law that prohibits state licensed mental health professionals from engaging minors in these harmful and abusive therapies,” she said. “Governor Brown did the right thing and I am urging all states to consider similar laws.”

Brown signed the state law in late September; conservatives filed a federal lawsuit a few days later, and a motions hearing is scheduled for Friday morning in federal court in Sacramento.

“This law places the state between the client and the counselor,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which is representing the plaintiffs. “This law intrudes on a client’s fundamental right of self-determination to seek counseling that aligns with his/her religious and moral values. This law forces counselors to overrule the will of their clients who choose to prioritize their religious or moral values above unwanted same-sex sexual attraction.”

Speier’s SHOK resolution encourages each state to take steps to protect minors from efforts that promote or promise to change sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, based on the premise that homosexuality is a mental illness or developmental disorder that can or should be cured.

Speier also is probing whether federal taxpayer dollars have been spent on conversion therapy with minors through Medicaid or TRICARE reimbursements. Her initial inquiries found “two additional instances of so-called mental health professionals that advertise these services and appear to be eligible for federal dollars,” she said. “This morning, I sent letters of inquiry to Medicaid and TRICARE to determine if these instances reflect systemic weaknesses that allow federal taxpayer dollars to go to harmful, illegitimate medical services.”

Speier was joined at a press conference this morning on Capitol Hill by Sheldon Bruck and Jerry Spencer, who were subjected to this “conversion therapy;” Laura Booker, a licensed clinical social worker; Christine Sun, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s deputy legal director; Ashland Johnson, policy counsel with the National Center for Lesbian Rights; and Brian Moulton, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign.

Posted on Wednesday, November 28th, 2012
Under: Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 7 Comments »

Want tickets to Obama’s re-inauguration?

With the presidential election only a week behind us, members of Congress are starting to take requests for free tickets to President Barack Obama’s second-term inauguration on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

Some – including Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo – already have pages on their websites at which you can request tickets in a lottery system. The rest of the Bay Area’s delegation will have similar pages up soon; you must request tickets from your House member, or from one of your state’s two U.S. Senators.

Posted on Tuesday, November 13th, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 29 Comments »

Your state and Bay Area House-race roundup

All in all, it was a dismal night for Republicans in California House races.

Of the 11 California House races deemed competitive by the renowned Cook Political Report, Democrats won seven outright and are on top in two too-close-to-call other races. Another way of slicing and dicing it: All of the three endangered Democratic incumbents in these races won re-election, but only one of the four Republicans might’ve. And of the new or open seats, Democrats won three of the four.

More specifically:

    The battles to unseat Reps. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, remain too close to call with some mail-in and provisional ballots yet to be counted, but both trail their Democratic challengers by narrow margins.
    Reps. Jerry McNerney; John Garamendi, D-Fairfield; and Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara all turned away their Republican challengers to win re-election. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, is the only Republican incumbent definitely left standing in these competitive races.

Not than anyone considered it competitive, but Democrat Jared Huffman trounced Republican Dan Roberts to succeed Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-San Rafael, in the North Bay’s newly drawn 2nd Congressional District, which reaches from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border.

In the Bay Area, as usual, the only question for most Democratic incumbents (with the exception, of course, of Pete Stark) was by how enormous a margin they would dispatch their challengers. See how that all stacks up as of this hour, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Dan Lungren, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jeff Denham, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 7 Comments »

Speier probing military sex crimes in Texas today

Rep. Jackie Speier is in Texas today as part of a congressional delegation investigating the biggest military sexual assault scandal in years.

Speier, D-San Mateo, along with fellow Armed Services Committee members Susan Davis, D-San Diego, and Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, will tour Lackland Air Force Base to meet with base leadership, military legal advocates, special investigators, training instructors and trainees to gauge the impact that the investigations and prosecutions are having on base personnel and trainees. The lawmakers also hope to determine what Lackland leadership is doing to address sexual misconduct cases moving forward.

Thus far, 19 military training instructors at Lackland have been investigated or prosecuted for rape, sexual assault, or sexual misconduct with 43 trainees.

Speier in June had called for a congressional hearing and investigation of the widespread scandal at the base; Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, hasn’t convened such a hearing. Speier also is the author of HR 3435, the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention (STOP) Act, which would overhaul how the military justice system treats cases of rape and sexual assault; the bill has been awaiting action by the Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee since February.

Posted on Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012
Under: Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Obama, Romney, Biden & Ryan on 9/11

President Barack Obama, at the Pentagon (excerpt):

“This anniversary allows us to renew our faith that even the darkest night gives way to a brighter dawn. Today, we can come here to the Pentagon, and touch these names and kneel beside a building where a single stone still bears the scars of that fire. We can visit the field of honor in Pennsylvania and remember the heroes who made it sacred. We can see water cascading into the footprints of the Twin Towers, and gaze up at a new tower rising above the New York skyline.

“And even though we may never be able to fully lift the burden carried by those left behind, we know that somewhere, a son is growing up with his father’s eyes, and a daughter has her mother’s laugh — living reminders that those who died are with us still.

“So as painful as this day is and always will be, it leaves us with a lesson that no single event can ever destroy who we are. No act of terrorism can ever change what we stand for. Instead, we recommit ourselves to the values that we believe in, holding firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

“That’s the commitment that we reaffirm today. And that’s why, when the history books are written, the true legacy of 9/11 will not be one of fear or hate or division. It will be a safer world; a stronger nation; and a people more united than ever before.”

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, in a statement:

“Eleven years ago, evil descended upon our country, taking thousands of lives in an unspeakable attack against innocents. America will never forget those who perished. America will never stop caring for the loved ones they left behind. And America shall remain ever vigilant against those who would do us harm. Today we again extend our most profound gratitude to our brave troops who have gone into battle, some never to return, so that we may live in peace. On this most somber day, those who would attack us should know that we are united, one nation under God, in our determination to stop them and to stand tall for peace and freedom at home and across the world.”

Vice President Joe Biden, at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. (excerpt):

“My hope for you all is that as every year passes, the depth of your pain recedes and you find comfort, as I have, genuine comfort in recalling his smile, her laugh, their touch. And I hope you’re as certain as I am that she can see what a wonderful man her son has turned out to be, grown up to be; that he knows everything that your daughter has achieved, and that he can hear, and she can hear how her mom still talks about her, the day he scored the winning touchdown, how bright and beautiful she was on that graduation day, and know that he knows what a beautiful child the daughter he never got to see has turned out to be, and how much she reminds you of him. For I know you see your wife every time you see her smile on your child’s face. You remember your daughter every time you hear laughter coming from her brother’s lips. And you remember your husband every time your son just touches your hand.

“I also hope — I also hope it continues to give you some solace knowing that this nation, all these people gathered here today, who are not family members, all your neighbors, that they’ve not forgotten. They’ve not forgotten the heroism of your husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers. And that what they did for this country is still etched in the minds of not only you, but millions of Americans, forever. That’s why it’s so important that this memorial be preserved and go on for our children and our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren, and our great-great-grandchildren — because it is what makes it so exceptional. And I think they all appreciate, as I do, more than they can tell you, the incredible bravery your family members showed on that day.”

Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., in a statement:

“Eleven years ago today, from Capitol Hill, I could see the smoke rising from the fires burning in the Pentagon. Like all Americans, I will never forget the moment that our homeland came under attack. For me, this is a day to remember those who perished on that day of terror, including the first responders. It is also a day to pay tribute to all those who have worked quietly and tirelessly both on the home front and abroad to prevent a repetition of such terrible events. And it is a day to give honor to those in our military who have sacrificed so much, including their lives, for the same end. Their courage and heroism and willingness to answer the call of duty have kept America safe and strong and free. We are truly the home of the brave.”

See what some Bay Area members of Congress have been tweeting about today’s anniversary, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, September 11th, 2012
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, Mitt Romney, Nancy Pelosi, Zoe Lofgren | 4 Comments »

Rep. Jackie Speier’s father has died

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, this evening announced the death of her father, Manfred (Fred) Speier; she said he passed away peacefully and surrounded by family on Monday at her Hillsborough home at the age of 91.

Jackie Speier“My father was the rock and foundation of my life. He was always there for me during my darkest days, and for the most joyous moments such as the births of my children. He lived a long and full life and was alert and sharp as a tack until the very end,” Speier said in an e-mailed statement. “On Saturday, just two days before he passed, he was regaling us with stories of his life. He was most proud of being a naturalized U.S. citizen, so much so that he requested to be buried in a simple pine box draped in an American flag.”

The congresswoman said her father was born in Germany, came to the United States after World War II and married Nancy Kanchelian in 1949. Speier’s mother passed away in February 2009; Speier’s brother, Eric Speier, lives in Elk Grove.

The lawmaker described her father as an incurable optimist who came to San Francisco and found a job within two hours, eventually working as a nurse, a short order cook, and a manager for a local, family-owned company. His work ethic and civic awareness were examples that set the tone for family life, she said.

A funeral mass will be held this Saturday at Saint Bartholomew Catholic Church, 300 Alameda de las Pulgas in San Mateo.

Posted on Wednesday, September 5th, 2012
Under: Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 3 Comments »