How Bay Area members voted on taxes/spending

Congress on Friday cleared a year-end spending and tax deal with a strong bipartisan support, despite grumbling from both parties over what was included in the agreement and what got left out, the Washington Post reports.

The House passed the $1.1 trillion spending portion of the deal on a 316-113 vote early Friday morning, with 150 Republicans and 166 Democrats supporting the measure, after passing the $622 billion tax section of the agreement Thursday on a 318-109 vote.

The Senate soon after passed both parts of the agreement on a 65-33 vote, with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in support and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., not voting. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law.

From the Bay Area, representatives Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, all opposed the tax section of the deal Thursday, while Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, voted for it.

DeSaulnier said the tax-extender section isn’t paid for and will increase the deficit. “This package largely benefits corporations at the expense of working families and undermines programs like Pell grants, Headstart, job training and health research,” he said. “I could not support a package that mortgages our children’s future, reduces our payments on the nation’s debt and robs from the Social Security Trust Fund.”

All Bay Area House members except Lofgren supported the omnibus spending deal Friday morning.

“I was unable to vote for the Omnibus spending bill today because it included an extraneous provision purported to facilitate cybersecurity information sharing that – in effect – will function as a surveillance tool,” Lofgren said, noting Congress has debated cybersecurity for the past year and she voted for an earlier bill that would address concerns while protecting Americans’ private digital information.

“Information sharing requires measures to protect Americans’ privacy. It should also be debated in regular order. But this so-called ‘cybersecurity legislation’ was inserted into a must-pass Omnibus at the 11th hour, without debate,” she said. “The protective measures that such a bill should have – including those I believe the Constitution requires – were removed. While the Omnibus had both pros and cons, my obligation to protect constitutional rights isn’t negotiable. I made clear to House Leadership and the White House that I could not support the Omnibus with this cyber surveillance measure included. I have enclosed several letters crafted in the last two days outlining my concerns related to the bill.”


Former House candidate lied to feds about threats

A Republican who ran against Rep. Jerry McNerney in the 9th Congressional District last year has been charged with lying to the FBI about death threats she said she received during the campaign – threats she now admits she made up herself.

Karen DavisKaren Davis – who served as the Stanislaus County Clerk-Recorder from 1990 to 2001 and as the Manteca City Clerk from 1981 to 1984 – is charged with making false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations to federal law enforcement officers during their investigation into the mailing of threatening letters.

Davis, 67, was arrested at her Lodi home and then released after posting $50,000 bond Thursday, court documents show. She’s scheduled to return to federal court in Sacramento on Nov. 19.

She was one of three Republicans who challenged McNerney, D-Stockton, as he sought a fifth term last year. She finished fourth out of four in the June 2014 top-two primary, with only 6 percent of the vote.

In an affidavit accompanying the criminal complaint, Treasury Agent John Hartman wrote that Davis contacted authorities in December 2013 to report she had received an anonymous letter that read in part, “You will be stopped by those who believe in the soverign [sic] rights. A close up shot to your head or to your husband will be final. You make the decision now not to run for congress.” Federal agents and Lodi police began investigating.

Davis reported receiving a second letter in March 2014, Hartman wrote. That letter said in part, “If you don’t quit very soon, you won’t be warned. YOU WON’T SEE IT COMING! Your family will have to plan a funeral.”

Davis mentioned the threats in several news stories about her candidacy, including articles in the Manteca Bulletin, Lodi News-Sentinel and IVN.us.

“It’s been scary and it’s like throwing a bucket of ice water on democracy,” she told the Bulletin in May 2014. “Nobody should be threatened because they’re running for office, but I’m not somebody that runs from threats. It has changed the way that I can do things, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get the word out and talk about the sorts of things that matter.

The investigation continued, and in February, Davis went to the FBI office in Stockton to be interviewed. She agreed to take a polygraph test but failed it, and then admitted she had written both letters and sent them to herself, Hartman wrote. In a signed statement, Davis wrote that she sent herself the first letter after Lodi police told her she probably wouldn’t be granted a permit to carry a concealed handgun.


Bay Area lawmakers offer tix for Pope’s visit

A few Bay Area House members are holding lotteries in which their constituents can win tickets to see Pope Francis during his U.S. visit later this month.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, is offering tickets for the pontiff’s address to a joint session of Congress on the morning of Thursday, Sept. 24, to residents of her 18th Congressional District; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, is doing the same for her 14th District constituents; and Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, is doing it in his 9th District. Ticket holders will be able to view the address from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol via televised broadcast.

“I’m excited to be able to extend an opportunity to my constituents to take part in this historic event,” Eshoo said in a news release. “While not all who wish to attend will be awarded a ticket, my office is working to ensure the lottery is conducted fairly and make the process a good one.”

Speier said Pope Francis “has become a focal point across the world for prioritizing peace over war, care of the planet over consumption, forgiveness over accusation, and neighbor over self. I’m excited that 50 of my constituents have the opportunity to be on the West Lawn of the Capitol to watch the broadcast of the Pope’s address to members of Congress. My only regret is that I can’t make these tickets available to everyone.”

McNerney said it’s “sure to be a momentous occasion. This is the first time that the Pope will deliver an address to Congress, and I look forward to hearing his message for the American people.”

The deadline to enter McNerney’s lottery is tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 4; the deadline to enter Eshoo’s lottery is noon Pacific Time next Tuesday, Sept. 8; and the deadline to enter Speier’s lottery is midnight next Thursday, Sept. 10. Only constituents of those districts may enter, only one entry is allowed per person, and each winner will receive two tickets.


Go talk to your congressman

With only two weeks left in Congress’ summer recess, there are still a few chances to see and be heard by your lawmaker.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, has several events coming up. First, I’ll moderate a Commonwealth Club of California discussion with him at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25 in the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd. Tickets cost $12 for club members, $20 for non-members or $7 for students, and are available online.

DeSaulnier also is continuing his series of free, public town-hall meetings as well. The remaining three are scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 26 in the Harding Elementary School auditorium, 7230 Fairmount Avenue in El Cerrito; Wednesday, Sept. 2 in the Orinda Library Auditorium, 26 Orinda Way; and Thursday, Sept. 3 in the Clayton Library’s Hoyer Hall, 6125 Clayton Road. All three will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, will host a town hall forum on Social Security at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25 in the Florence Douglas Senior Center, 333 Amador St. in Vallejo. Special guests will include Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Sandy Goodman, District Manager of the Vallejo Social Security Administration field office.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, will host a California drought solutions forum from 10 to noon Tuesday, Aug. 25, in the San Joaquin County Robert J. Cabral Agricultural Center, 2101 E. Earhart Ave. in Stockton. Open to the public, the forum will feature experts and voices that include farmers, water technology innovators, policy makers, federal and state government, academia, and others.


Mike Honda supports nuclear deal with Iran

Rep. Mike Honda, previously one of several Bay Area House Democrats who were still on the fence regarding the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, announced Thursday that he will support it.

honda.jpg“It is time to change the narrative with Iran and give peace a chance,” Honda said in an e-mailed statement, adding that reviewing the deal “has been one of the most substantial foreign policy decisions I have faced in Congress.”

Honda, D-San Jose, said that after meeting with Obama administration officials, experts, organizations, and constituents across the Bay Area to discuss the proposed deal’s specifics, he has come to believe it’s “the best way to verifiably prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.”

“The inspections, while not perfect, will open up Iran’s nuclear program and allow the international community to ensure firsthand that Iran does not have the materials nor the technologies to develop a nuclear weapon,” he said. “Should Iran not comply with the inspections and conditions of the agreement then the crippling international sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table will snap back into effect and once again isolate the Iranian regime.”

“Failure to accept this deal will likely not stop the easing of international sanctions and will squander the current international unity resulting in the United States having a far weaker negotiating position for possible alternative deals,” he added. “This agreement marks a first step, not a last step, in a long process of reengaging with Iran and ensuring that Iran permanently moves down a path away from nuclear weapons.”

He congratulated President Obama and the international negotiators who hashed out the deal.

“It is time to change the rhetoric, embrace diplomacy, and move away from unproductive saber rattling,” he said. “I will vote in favor of this deal, in favor of a nuclear weapons-free Iran, in favor of opening up the Iranian people to the world, and in favor of changing the broken paradigm that for decades has failed to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and bring a lasting peaceful solution.”

UPDATE @ 2:50 P.M.: Now Rep. Jerry McNerney has announced his support as well.

Jerry McNerney“I previously supported heavy sanctions against Iran as a means to block them from building a nuclear weapon. These sanctions alone, however, were not enough to stop Iran’s ongoing nuclear pursuit. Further diplomatic efforts with Iran became necessary, and those multilateral talks resulted in the JCPOA currently before Congress,” McNerney, D-Stockton, said in an emailed statement.

“I support this agreement because I believe the security of the United States will be better served if it is accepted by Congress,” he continued. “Standing together with our international partners, this agreement takes significant steps to deter Iran from building a nuclear weapon. It also still allows us to protect the interests of Israel and our other allies in the region.”

The deal would take Iran from its current two-month breakout time to produce a nuclear weapon to about a one-year period, McNerney said. “At the same time, the inspection requirements built into the agreement will have provided the United States with better capabilities to detect any questionable activity and take whatever action is necessary to stop Iran. Those provisions will put our country in a better, more secure position in 10 years than that of having no deal with Iran today.”

If Congress rejects the deal, “the chances of Iran continuing to restrain its nuclear ambitions and returning to the table are slim,” he concluded. “The better course of action is for Congress to accept the agreement and to closely monitor its implementation to ensure that Iran abides by the terms and obligations and works diplomatically to improve the stability and security of the Middle East.”


Where Bay Area lawmakers stand on the Iran deal

As House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi continues rolling out Democratic supporters one by one, almost half of the Bay Area’s House delegation has not yet committed to support or oppose the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran.

U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have said they’ll vote for the agreement, as have Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and representatives Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; and Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.

Most recently on the bandwagon are Swalwell and Farr, both Wednesday, and then Speier on Friday. Speier said in her statement that this is “one of the most important votes I will ever cast.

Jackie Speier“To come to this decision I attended scores of hearings, classified briefings, and met with U.S. allies, my Republican and Democratic colleagues, foreign policy experts, nongovernmental groups, the military and intelligence communities, and my constituents. I also met with the President for over two hours to discuss this deal,” she said.

“As President Kennedy once urged, we must pursue ‘a more practical, more attainable peace, based… on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned.’ This deal, like those Kennedy pursued with the Soviet Union, is a first step away from catastrophe,” Speier said. “So as he said, ‘Let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable and war need not be inevitable.’ ”

No Bay Area members of Congress have come out against the deal, but five still aren’t ready to say where they stand: Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.

“It’s my first big, consequential foreign policy vote, so I wanted to avail myself to learn as much as I could,” DeSaulnier said Friday, adding that while he sees no need to rush the decision during this month-long recess, “I’m leaning very much to support the president’s agreement.”

Mark DeSaulnierHe said has met both with President Obama in Washington, and then with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his recent trip to Israel with other Democratic House freshmen. “I promised both sides I would listen to them.”

And he said he’s reserving final judgment until after he completes five town-hall meetings he has scheduled for constituents over the next few weeks. In fact, he’s dedicating the second half of his first such meeting – 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18 in the community room at Pleasant Hill Middle School, 1 Santa Barbara Road in Pleasant Hill – to this issue.

Honda spokeswoman Lauren Smith said Thursday her boss “is continuing to meet with people and get input and feedback, as well as fully considering all of the details of the deal. He will make a decision once he has collected all pertinent information.”

Lofgren’s chief of staff, Stacey Leavandosky, said Thursday her boss “is currently studying the agreement, meeting with constituents about it as well as hearing from Administration officials.”

McNerney spokesman Mike Naple said Thursday his boss “is still reviewing the agreement and hasn’t made a decision yet.”

And Huffman spokesman Paul Arden referred to his boss’s July 15 statement, in which he had said that “while I will vote based on the merits of the agreement, Iran’s credibility and trustworthiness are also considerations.”

UPDATE @ 1 P.M. THURSDAY 8/20: Mike Honda has just announced that he supports the deal.

UPDATE @ 2:55 P.M. THURSDAY 8/20: And now Jerry McNerney is on board, too.

UPDATE @ 5:30 P.M. FRIDAY 8/21: Lofgren now says she will vote in favor of the deal.