House passes ‘clean’ homeland security funding

About a third House Republicans joined with Democrats on Tuesday to pass legislation fully funding the Department of Homeland Security through this year’s end.

Some more conservative Republicans opposed the move, refusing to vote for a bill that doesn’t defund or otherwise roll back President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. But the GOP leadership – speaker John Boenher, R-Ohio; Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Bakersfield; and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. – all voted for it. The vote was 257-167.

From Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin:

“For the past three months, House Republicans have been playing a dangerous game in which the American people are on the losing end. Today, reason prevailed and the games are finally over. The people charged with protecting our national security deserve more than uncertainty. It is outrageous that Homeland Security funding was held hostage to a partisan debate. This is not how we should govern.

“Americans are rightly sick of the politically manufactured crises they’ve come to expect from this Tea-Party-led Congress. I am grateful to finally move past this brinkmanship and address real challenges. It’s time to get to work doing what the American people sent us here to do, creating economy-boosting jobs that pay enough for hard-working families to get ahead.”

From Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock:

“The top priority of Congress is to ensure the safety of the American people. Today’s vote ensures that our homeland security agents and personnel have the certainty and long term funding necessary to do their critical work of keeping us all safe. I do not support the President’s unilateral executive action on immigration as it flies in the face of the United States Constitution and ignores the will of the people. However, we cannot hold hostage funding for our national security and I will continue to push for a full debate on every aspect of immigration reform.”

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“Once again, Leader Pelosi has led the House out of a dire situation by providing the Democratic votes necessary to avert a dangerous partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security. The agency will be fully funded through the remainder of the fiscal year, and the American people can be assured that key national security operations will not be interrupted.”

From Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel:

“Our national security will not be shut down. Thankfully enough Republicans put their country before their party and joined with the Democrats to pass a clean DHS bill. Funding for our national security should never be held hostage in a political debate. Those upset by the President’s immigration plan should instead work with us to fix our broken system.”


Denham, Valadao vote against GOP immigration bill

The House voted 219-197 today to pass a bill seeking to rein in President Obama’s executive action to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation – a purely symbolic move, as the bill is dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled Senate and would draw the president’s veto, anyway.

Three Democrats crossed the aisle to join 216 Republicans in voting for the bill; seven Republicans crossed the aisle to join 190 Democrats in voting against it. All Bay Area members opposed it.

Among the Republicans voting “nay” were Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, and Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, both of whom represent heavily agricultural Central Valley districts with large Latino populations. Both were among the three House Republicans who last year cosponsored their chamber’s version of the immigration reform bill that the Senate passed with bipartisan support in June 2013.

Neither Denham’s nor Valadao’s offices answered requests for comments on their votes today.

Denham had issued a statement last month blasting the executive actions. “The President’s decision to bypass Congress and ignore the U.S. Constitution will only further erode trust and create greater obstacles to a lasting fix,” he said in the Nov. 20 statement. “Congress must be involved in fixing our broken system. His actions today deal a harsh blow to our efforts to establish real solutions.”


Dems urge Obama to act on immigration

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer added her voice Monday to the chorus of Democrats urging President Obama to move forward with immigration reform by executive action.

Barbara Boxer“For 17 months, you have been very patient with House Republican leaders, encouraging them to either take up and pass the bipartisan Senate bill or work with you to craft a different bill,” Boxer, D-Calif., wrote in her letter to the president.

“Mr. President, I don’t remember hearing one Republican in Congress complain when Republican presidents took executive action on immigration,” she continued. “I urge you to ignore the angry voices of the do-nothing crowd in Congress who have repeatedly blocked progress on immigration reform. If they really cared about fixing our broken immigration system, they would not be threatening to shut down the government or file wasteful lawsuits – they would just do their job and pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

Last week, 117 House Democrats – including all Bay Area members except House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco – sent a letter to President Obama urging him to take executive action.

“As you have said, it is ultimately the job of Congress to reform our broken immigration system by enacting legislation,” the lawmakers wrote. “But by failing to do their job – and repeatedly interfering with your efforts to do your job – congressional Republicans threaten to take our immigration system hostage and preserve a status quo that everyone agrees is unacceptable. Their failure to act must not inhibit your commitment to governing.”

“We will stand with you as you take bold and meaningful action, consistent with existing law and historical precedent, to protect American families, strengthen local communities and grow the economy,” they wrote.

At House Democrats news conference Thursday, Pelosi urged the president to act as well. “I don’t think there’s any question that the President can act administratively, take executive action.”

That same day, Rep. Jeff Denham – one of only three House Republicans to co-sponsor the House version of a bipartisan immigration bill that the Senate approved June 2013 – told Al Jazeera America that executive action is the wrong answer.

“It is hard to pass legislation of any kind without being able to trust the Commander in Chief on whether he’s going to implement the will of Congress and ultimately the will of the American people,” said Denham, R-Turlock, adding immigration is a complex issue that will require a package of bills brought forth at the same time. “This is a long term-problem that we’ve got to fix in Congress.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, are mulling how best to stymie any executive action Obama might take, but without giving in to calls from their party’s conservative wing to return to the kind of brinksmanship that led to last year’s government shutdown.


House votes to cut off money for high-speed rail

Rep. Jeff Denham’s amendment to would cut off federal funding for California’s high-speed rail project was approved by the House on Tuesday.

Denham introduced H.R. 3893, the Responsible Rail and Deterring Deficiency Act, in January with support from all California House Republicans. The House passed it Tuesday as an amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill, H.R. 4745.

“Without a viable funding plan like the one voters supported, California’s high speed rail project is going nowhere fast,” Denham, R-Modesto, said in a news release. “I’m pleased to have the support of so many of my House colleagues who recognize that we shouldn’t be spending any more taxpayer money on a project without a future.”

The roll call was 227-186. Among the six Democrats who voted for it were four Californians who face tough fights to keep their seats this November: Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova; Julia Brownley, D-Thousand Oaks; Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Springs; and Scott Peters, D-San Diego.

Here’s what Denham said about it on the floor:

But before you get too excited: This has happened before. Denham offered the same amendment to the same THUD (!) appropriations bill in June 2012, and that one passed on a 239-185 vote; all California Democrats (and all but four House Democrats) had voted against it.


California House Dems call for Shinseki to resign

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle – including some from California – are calling for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign amid scathing reports that the VA delayed critical care for patients and gamed its own scheduling system.

Reps. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova; and Scott Peters, D-San Diego, are among Democrats who’ve joined with a far larger number of Republicans to urge Shinseki’s ouster. The Military Times is keeping a tally.

From McNerney:

Jerry McNerney“I reviewed today’s preliminary report from the VA Inspector General, and I was deeply troubled by what I read. The unacceptable delays in Phoenix were not an isolated incident, but rather appear to be part of a larger pattern of neglectful actions in certain VA medical facilities. It appears there was even knowledge inside some parts of the VA that standard scheduling practices were not being followed and that veterans were waiting far too long for care. These delays may have even resulted in preventable deaths.

“I believe the best way to restore the confidence of our veterans is for Secretary Shinseki to step down and allow new leadership to initiate an investigation that will first, get to the bottom of these allegations, second, punish anyone who put our veterans at risk, and most importantly ensure that our veterans are getting the timely health care they deserve. An independent investigation of these accusations is the only appropriate way to ensure transparency and fairness throughout the process.

“General Shinseki has my respect and I commend him for his distinguished career as a public servant and as a decorated member of the military. That being said, it’s clear that our veterans deserve a new leader at the VA who can restore confidence and make sure that this never happens again.

“Our veterans and our nation are counting on us to make this right. I intend to do everything in my power to make sure that happens, and I call on the Administration and the VA to devote every necessary resource to fixing this. Those who fought for our nation deserve no less.”

From Bera:

Ami_Bera_official_photo“Our veterans, and their families have sacrificed so much for our country, and they deserve our unwavering support. That’s why I have been working to address problems at the VA and to get our heroes the benefits they are owed since my very first month in office.

The latest report that at least 1,700 veterans in Phoenix were never even placed on a wait list to get the medical care they needed is deeply troubling. This cannot continue. It’s obvious there are very serious systemic and management problems at the VA that we must address. While General Shinseki’s dedication and service to his country are indisputable, these failures that happened under his leadership are unacceptable and it is clear that he must step down.

These problems are much bigger than one person, though, and we must continue to investigate how this occurred, find out if it’s happening elsewhere, and continue to respond. That will likely require more changes at the VA, including holding others who allowed this to happen accountable.”

And on the other side of the aisle, from Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto:

Jeff Denham“In the days following disturbing reports of secret waiting lists created at the Phoenix Park Veterans Affairs Medical Center, we have now learned that this gross mistreatment of our nation’s finest men and women is happening across the country. The way our veterans have been treated in Phoenix and multiple other VA hospitals nationwide is nothing short of criminal.

“One of my most serious responsibilities is to the Central Valley’s veterans. They deserve transparency and quality care. I’ve requested a full review of the Palo Alto VA Medical Center’s scheduling practices to ensure that we are providing the very best care possible and I will not rest until I have answers from our local VA.

“We now know that these problems are widespread and systemic. The Department of Veterans Affairs must have new leadership. Sec. Shinseki has served his country honorably, but we can’t expect accountability within the VA if it doesn’t start at the top. Sec. Shinseki must step down, and drastic changes must take place in order to ensure our veterans receive the care they deserve.”


What they’re saying about the House budget vote

Angry words flew hot and heavy today as the House voted 219-205 to pass a Republican-drafted budget that promises balance within a decade by making sweeping cuts throughout government and eliminating health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The nonbinding framework isn’t likely to be followed up by specific spending legislation, as it’s DOA in the Democrat-controlled Senate. But that didn’t stop critics from emptying their rhetorical cannons today.

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

“For the fourth consecutive year, House Democrats have stood united against Republicans’ broken budget priorities. But House Republicans have now fully embraced the destructive values of the Ryan Republican Budget – a road to economic ruin and an irresponsible assault on seniors, students, women, families and our future.

“Today, Republicans voted to raise taxes on middle class families with children, while giving $200,000-plus tax breaks to millionaires. They voted to destroy three million jobs over two years, while protecting tax breaks for corporations shipping jobs overseas. They voted to end the Medicare guarantee for our seniors, ransack the education of our children, and surrender our global economic competitiveness. With this budget, Republicans have voted to hollow out the middle class and dismantle the American Dream.

“Democrats have a better plan: create jobs, strengthen the middle class, invest in the future, reduce the deficit, and build an economy that works for everyone. We should be renewing emergency unemployment insurance, raising the minimum wage, and passing comprehensive immigration reform that will grow our economy, empower small business, spur innovation, and reduce the deficit by nearly $900 billion. Republicans’ backwards priorities are the wrong path for our nation, and unworthy of the American people.”

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“This document is our vision for getting Americans back to work and our budget back in balance. I want to congratulate Chairman Ryan and the members of the committee for a job well done.”

From Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto:

“My focus is on finding long-term solutions to reduce the unbearable burden of debt we have placed on future generations. Right now we are more than $17 trillion in debt, meaning each man, woman and child is responsible for over $55,000 each. The out-of-control spending must be stopped and replaced with responsible choices that give real solutions and certainty to families in the Central Valley.

“I will also keep up the fight to protect our seniors, who have seen their Medicare plans cut by more than $300 billion under the Affordable Care Act. Because of the cuts, I introduced the Seniors’ Right to Know Act, which informs the more than 14 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage nationwide about how the Affordable Care Act is affecting the healthcare plans they rely on every day. We cannot allow the healthcare law to stand in the way of us keeping our promise to our seniors.”

More, after the jump:
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