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Inertia on immigration reform riles Dems

Democrats are hitting back at Speaker John Boehner’s statement today that the House won’t take up a comprehensive immigration reform bill before this year’s end.

NBC Latino reports Boehner, R-Ohio, was eating breakfast at a Washington diner this morning when he was approached by two children of immigrants who urged House action.

“I’m trying to find some way to get this thing done,” he reportedly told them. “It’s as you know, not easy, not going to be an easy path forward but I made it clear since the day after the election, it’s time to get this done.”

Later this morning, Boehner wouldn’t set a timeline, but rather said Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., is working with Democrats to develop a set of principles “for us to deal with this issue.” He also said the House has “no intention of ever going to conference” on S.744, the bipartisan bill that the Senate passed in June on a 68-32 vote.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, replied to Boehner with a tweet this morning:

Pelosi tweet

H.R. 15 is the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” introduced last month by Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla. It mostly mirrors the Senate bill, but replaces the Senate’s border-security plan with a different one authored by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and approved unanimously by the Homeland Security Committee.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, the senior Democrat on Judiciary’s Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee, spoke about Boehner’s comments during today’s committee hearing on an automated, biometrics-based entry-exit system to track the entry and exit of all travelers to and from the United States.

“Before I close, let me just say, how disappointed I was to hear the news that the House is not intending to consider immigration bills before the end of the year. I think we have a historic opportunity before us to work together to improve our immigration laws. I thank the Chairman of the [Immigration] Subcommittee [Rep. Trey Gowdy] for his kind comments about myself and Mr. [Luis] Gutierrez. I am mindful that we did not do immigration reform in a comprehensive way when we had the majority as Democrats. We were actually, in the House, deferring to the Senate hoping that they could have bipartisan agreement. They ultimately failed. The gentleman was not a Member of that Congress, but we did pass the DREAM Act when Democrats were in the majority, and it fell short in the Senate.

“I just believe that we can put our hands across the aisle and work together to improve our laws. I would hope the spirit and intent to do that has not faded on the part of the majority [Republicans]. Certainly I would hope to continue to work with the majority to solve this problem for our country.”

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and senior administration officials met this morning at the White House with faith leaders to discuss the importance of passing immigration reform.

“The leaders expressed their concerns over the impact the broken immigration system is having on families throughout their congregations,” according to the White House’s readout of the meeting. “The President and the leaders discussed their shared commitment to raise the moral imperative for immigration reform and said they will continue keeping the pressure on Congress so they can swiftly pass commonsense reform.”

Obama commended the faith leaders for their efforts, and “noted there is no reason for House Republicans to continue to delay action on this issue that has garnered bipartisan support,” the readout said. “It would show the American people that Washington can still work together to solve our nation’s challenges.”

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, last month was the first House Republican to sign onto H.R. 15; others who’ve done so since then include Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford. They and certain other California Republicans might face tougher re-election fights next year if no action is taken on immigration reform.

Posted on Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
Under: Barack Obama, Immigration, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 16 Comments »

Senate passes ENDA; House Dems clamor for vote

The U.S. Senate voted 64-32 Thursday to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit sexual-orientation and gender-identity discrimination in hiring and employment by private, nonreligious employers with 15 or more employees.

“Today’s historic vote sends a strong signal that there is no room for discrimination in any workplace in America,” said U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. Here’s what she said on the Senate floor Wednesday in urging her colleagues to support the bill:

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., made a similar floor speech Wednesday.

“People have families; they have spouses; they have children; they need to put food on the table. They have college expenses for their children, student loans to pay, and unforeseen medical expenses. They may have elderly parents that they care for and who need their assistance. All of this requires a job,” she said. “Should a person be denied that basic aspect of life, should a person’s spouse or children or parents be hurt, simply because that person is gay or lesbian or transgender? For me, the answer is simple. It is no.”

Now House Democrats are clamoring for Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to let ENDA come up for a vote in that chamber. Boehner has said the law “will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs,” but the factual basis for that seems shaky.

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

“The Senate has done its part to advance the American values of fairness and equality for LGBT Americans; now, the House must follow suit. Members on both sides of the aisle have signed onto this legislation, yet the House Republican leadership continues to stand in the way of progress. After spending $2.3 million in taxpayer funds on a losing battle to deny equality to LGBT families in our courts, House Republicans find themselves on the wrong side of history once again.

“Earlier this year, in its decisions on DOMA and Prop 8, the Supreme Court upheld the words etched into its walls: ‘equal justice under law.’ Now, it’s time for House Republicans to join Democrats in that same cause. It’s time to bring ENDA up for a vote, pass this long overdue bill, and make this measure the law of the land.”

And from Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat:

“Now that the Senate has acted, and for the sake of millions of fellow Americans living in states where they can still be fired for who they are or whom they love, it is the responsibility of the House to take up this bill as soon as possible.

“I am disappointed that some in the House Republican leadership are not eager to bring this bill to the floor. So we can expect hurdles in our way. But those hurdles are surmountable. The House can, should, and must bring this bill to the finish line and fulfill our nation’s promise of equal opportunity for all.”

Posted on Thursday, November 7th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, George Miller, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

House Dems ask Boehner for ‘no shutdown’ vow

Rep. George Miller helped wrangle 178 House Democrats – including the rest of the Bay Area’s delegation – to sign two freshmen’s letter calling on Speaker John Boehner to publicly say he won’t use the threat of another government shutdown or debt default as a political tactic in the budget talks.

“Republicans shut down the government and nearly defaulted on America’s debt because they couldn’t shut down the new health care law,” Miller, D-Martinez, said in a news release. “Americans paid a steep price for that partisan and irresponsible action, costing the economy $24 billion and causing economic confidence to plummet. We’re calling on the Republican leadership in Congress to vow ‘No More Shutdowns’ or threats of default as we work out our legitimate differences over the federal budget.”

The letter – led by Reps. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., and Annie Kuster, D-N.H. – said “the most powerful source of uncertainty to American families and businesses is the threat of a government shutdown and default on our debts. That is why we are writing to you to urge you and your leadership to publicly declare that you will not again use the threat of a government shutdown or default as leverage in the important discussions regarding long-term deficit reduction and economic growth.”

OK, everyone – hold your breath now while we wait for Boehner to comply with their request…

Posted on Thursday, October 31st, 2013
Under: George Miller, John Boehner, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

What they’re saying on the shutdown/debt deal

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“The House has fought with everything it has to convince the president of the United States to engage in bipartisan negotiations aimed at addressing our country’s debt and providing fairness for the American people under ObamaCare. That fight will continue. But blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us. In addition to the risk of default, doing so would open the door for the Democratic majority in Washington to raise taxes again on the American people and undo the spending caps in the 2011 Budget Control Act without replacing them with better spending cuts. With our nation’s economy still struggling under years of the president’s policies, raising taxes is not a viable option. Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president’s health care law will continue. We will rely on aggressive oversight that highlights the law’s massive flaws and smart, targeted strikes that split the legislative coalition the president has relied upon to force his health care law on the American people.”

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

Barbara Boxer“Bipartisanship in the Senate is leading America out of a painful, partisan, self-inflicted crisis. Relief doesn’t begin to describe my feelings at this moment in history as the Senate came together not a moment too soon.

“During the 16-day government shutdown I worked to show through my committee chairmanship and as a Senator of the largest state in the country just how painful the shutdown has been to millions of Americans, and how we should never again go through another government shutdown or even a flirtation with a devastating default.

“There are many issues that divide Republicans and Democrats, but the one thing I trust this outcome ensures is that we will always keep the government open, pay our bills and work together.”

From Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose:

honda.jpg“I am pleased that cooler heads in the Senate have prevailed with a bipartisan deal that allows the federal government to reopen, albeit temporarily, and removes the specter of reaching the debt ceiling until February.

“Obstructionist Tea Party Republicans held the government and the American people hostage for sixteen days and threatened the full faith and credit of the United States, all in a misguided, failed effort to deny millions of Americans access to healthcare. This process has done lasting damage to the public’s trust in Congress, as governing should not involve lurching from one manufactured crisis to the next in the hopes of extracting concessions in exchange for not destroying the economy.

“Today’s agreement sets a winter deadline that some may use to take us to the brink yet again. I believe we must permanently reform this process, and will be working to build support among my colleagues for my legislation, H.R. 233, that will end the brinksmanship and threat of default by creating a smooth process for raising the debt limit. This is the kind of structural change we need for economic stability in the future.”

Posted on Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, John Boehner, Mike Honda, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 6 Comments »

Shutdown: Glimmer of hope, calls to ease harm

Thursday afternoon brought some glimmer of progress toward ending the federal government shutdown, as well as California House members’ renewed calls to mitigate the shutdown’s harms.

From the office of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“This evening in the Roosevelt Room, the leaders laid out the House proposal to temporarily extend the debt limit, formally appoint budget negotiators, and begin immediate discussions over how to re-open the government. No final decisions were made; however, it was a useful and productive conversation. The President and leaders agreed that communication should continue throughout the night. House Republicans remain committed to good faith negotiations with the president, and we are pleased there was an opportunity to sit down and begin a constructive dialogue tonight.”

Meanwhile, 10 California Democrats took to the House floor today to complain of the damage that the shutdown is doing to the Golden State’s economy, even while there are enough House votes to reopen the government immediately.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said the North Coast’s tourism economy is taking a beating as visitors are turned away from federal lands including Point Reyes National Seashore, Redwood National Park, and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, causing local businesses to lose money.

“Visitors from all over America, and in fact all over the world, come to the North Coast’s public lands. Thanks to the Republican shutdown much of that economic activity is grinding to a halt,” Huffman said. “Let’s stop posturing, let’s stop the PR stunts, let’s stop the ‘Hollywood storefronts,’ stop deflecting, and stop insulting the intelligence of the American people. Let’s have an up or down vote to reopen our public lands and, indeed, to reopen our government.”

Elsewhere, Rep. Eric Swalwell announced he and other Bay Area lawmakers are urging U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to ensure that employees at national laboratories –contract workers who facing furlough if the shutdown goes on much longer – will get back pay once the federal government reopens, just as the House already has approved for federal workers.

Swalwell, D-Pleasanton represents Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national laboratories in Livermore, where 7,500 government contractors will be furloughed without pay starting Oct. 18 if the shutdown doesn’t end first.

“National lab employees in Livermore should not have to suffer because of a shutdown caused by the Tea Party,” Swalwell said in a news release. “Lab employees are dedicated public servants who are supporting our country’s national and energy security, and just because their paychecks stop doesn’t mean their bills won’t keep coming.”

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, represents the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, where 1,500 employees are at risk of being furloughed. “They are our nation’s premier scientists and engineers who daily are engaged in cutting-edge research that is changing the world,” Eshoo said.

And Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is in the district of Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland.

“Congress has moved to provide back pay to hundreds of thousands of federal employees across the country who continue to suffer furloughs due to the unnecessary Republican shutdown of the government,” Lee said. “The scientists, technicians, and workers at our national labs make enormous contributions to this nation, and they deserve to be paid for their work..”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, is signing the letter too, as a longtime supporter of national lab and the fusion research conducted by the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore.

“We take pride in the cutting-edge advancements in our scientific research, but budget cuts and now a government shutdown are threatening these important undertakings,” Lofgren said. “It’s irresponsible political gamesmanship for Republicans to continue to refuse to put a clean funding bill before the House for a vote. If they did, it would pass, ending the harm that is being done to furloughed workers like these scientists and the vital research they are engaged in.”

Posted on Thursday, October 10th, 2013
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, John Boehner, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

Pols react to Navy Yard shooting; DiFi talks guns

Your voices in Congress are responding to the mass shooting today at the Washington Navy Yard.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., took a decidedly political approach:

“I mourn those killed today at the Navy Yard in Washington and send my thoughts and prayers to those families grieving the loss of loved ones.

“There are reports the killer was armed with an AR-15, a shotgun and a semiautomatic pistol when he stormed an American military installation in the nation’s capital and took at least 12 innocent lives.

“This is one more event to add to the litany of massacres that occur when a deranged person or grievance killer is able to obtain multiple weapons—including a military-style assault rifle—and kill many people in a short amount of time.

“When will enough be enough?

“Congress must stop shirking its responsibility and resume a thoughtful debate on gun violence in this country. We must do more to stop this endless loss of life.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, made no policy prescriptions:

“Our prayers rest with the families and loved ones of those killed at the Washington Navy Yard today. Our thoughts remain with the injured and all those now recovering from this unspeakable tragedy.
“Every day, the men and women of our Navy and across our Armed Forces lay their lives on the line on distant shores; they should not be forced to confront the horrors of gun violence here at home.

“Members of Congress always stand with the members of our military. Today, we hold a special place in our hearts for those who serve our country at the Navy Yard and for all caught in the crossfire of today’s horrible attack. We offer our condolences to the victims and stand prepared to support them and their families in the days and weeks to come.”

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“This has been a dark day, and we know more of them lie ahead for the families of the victims. Hoping that they find comfort – and answers – is at the top of our minds. Next, we ought to say ‘thank you’ to the first responders and law enforcement professionals – including Capitol Police – who did their jobs and saved lives.

“These events strike a particularly personal chord for all of us on Capitol Hill. Every day, a special breed of men and women go to work at the Navy Yard, and they do so just blocks from our Capitol. These are our neighbors and our defenders. So I would ask all the members, officers, and staff of the House of Representatives to take a moment tonight to think about everyone at the Navy Yard, and keep them in your hearts. I pray that we never forget their service and sacrifice.”

And, assorted tweets:

@RepBarbaraLee: My thoughts and prayers go out to victims and loved ones of those killed or injured at #NavyYard today.

@RepSwalwell: Today, not far from Cap. Hill, a senseless act of gun violence took innocent lives. Thoughts are w/ victims’ families. #NavyYardShooting

@RepThompson: Keep Navy Yard victims in your thoughts as law enforcement works to ensure those responsible for this horrific shooting are held accountable

Posted on Monday, September 16th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, gun control, John Boehner, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 17 Comments »

Lawmakers demand Obama consult them on Syria

Three Northern California House Democrats have signed onto a bipartisan letter urging President Obama to seek Congressional authorization for any military strike against Syria.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, are among 18 Democrats and 98 Republicans who’ve signed onto the letter drafted and circulated by Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va.

“While the Founders wisely gave the Office of the President the authority to act in emergencies, they foresaw the need to ensure public debate – and the active engagement of Congress – prior to committing U.S. military assets,” the letter says. “Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.”

Other California members who’ve signed Rigell’s letter include Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay; Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville; and John Campbell, R-Irvine.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, and Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., sent their own letter to the president today urging that he consult Congress.

And House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent a letter to Obama today urging the president to “personally make the case to the American people and Congress for how potential military action will secure American national security interests, preserve America’s credibility, deter the future use of chemical weapons, and, critically, be a part of our broader policy and strategy.”

UPDATE @ 11:54 A.M. THURSDAY: More Bay Area House members have signed onto Rep. Barbara Lee’s similar letter.

Posted on Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
Under: Anna Eshoo, John Boehner, John Garamendi, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 17 Comments »

Lee, Huffman will help seek budget deal

Two Bay Area House members will be on the conference committee charged with completing a federal budget deal, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday.

Pelosi, D-San Francisco, appointed all Democrats from the House Budget Committee as conferees; that includes Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. Pelosi also called out House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for having not appointed any Republican conferees, even though the U.S. Senate passed a budget bill 96 days ago.

“The American people can’t afford to wait any longer for Republicans to act on a reasonable, responsible budget, and neither should we,” she said. “Democrats have put our ideas on the table time and again, with a budget proposal to create jobs, promote growth, invest in innovation and infrastructure, and bring down the deficit in a balanced way.”

Boehner at a news conference this morning said the nation’s 1.8 percent economic growth in the year’s first quarter isn’t enough. “That’s why Republicans are continuing to listen to the American people, and offering a real jobs plan for American families and small businesses,” he said. “Our jobs plan can bring us out of this ‘new normal’ and deliver sustained economic growth, and expand opportunity for all Americans.”

Meanwhile, the House Budget Committee held a hearing Wednesday on “America’s Energy Revolution,” which chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc, acknowledged “isn’t a big part of the federal budget.” Huffman accused the committee of wasting time.

“We continue to have these pep rallies for the oil and gas industry while real problems are simply, for some reason, off the table. We don’t even have a conference committee so we can move forward and try to negotiate a federal budget, but we’re here to have a pep rally for the oil and gas industry,” Huffman said at the hearing. “We’ve got student loan interest rates about to double in less than a week, but we’re not talking about that. We’re not talking about any number of things, like the sequester and the people that are actually suffering. We’re here to talk about folks who are experiencing record profits. There are real problems that we need to be solving, and we need to be working together.”

Posted on Thursday, June 27th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Jared Huffman, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

House Dems urge vote on background checks

Democrats took to the House floor today to commemorate the six-month anniversary of the schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn., and to try to jump-start the seemingly moribund effort to get a background-check bill through Congress.

The Senate rejected the bill in April, and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, doesn’t seem likely to bring it to a vote. That didn’t stop Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, from trying to shame him into it today.

And from Rep. Mike Thomspon, D-Napa, who has been House Democrats’ point man on gun violence issues:

Read a transcript of Thompson’s remarks, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, June 13th, 2013
Under: gun control, John Boehner, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

NorCal House Dems knock Obamacare repeal vote

The House voted 229-195 today to repeal the “Obamacare” federal health care reforms enacted in 2010 – the 37th time that Republicans have tried to repeal or eliminate funding for the law.

The only two Democrats to vote for H.R. 45 were Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, both of whom represent districts with heavy numbers of Republican voters yet are deemed “lean Democratic” – not “toss up” – by the Cook Political Report. No Republicans opposed the bill.

Like its predecessors, this effort is DOA in the Democrat-dominated U.S. Senate. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, spoke in defense of the vote:

“Today the House is voting to repeal the president’s health care law because it’s increasing the cost of health insurance, reducing access to care, and making it harder for small businesses to hire new workers. This is the third full repeal vote that we’ve had in the last three years, and some critics have suggested it’s a waste of time.

“Well, while our goal is to repeal all of ObamaCare, I would remind you that the president has signed into law seven different bills that repealed or defunded parts of that law. Is it enough? No. Full repeal is needed to keep this law from doing more damage to our economy and raising health care costs.

“But some progress has been made, and Republicans will continue to work to scrap the law in its entirety so we can focus on patient-centered reforms that lower costs and protect jobs. Because jobs is what this is all about.”

Northern California’s House Democrats were – shocker! – having none of it. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, smack-talked the vote at her weekly news conference:

“Here we are, 134 days into the 113th Congress, without one vote on a jobs bill. Fifty-four days after the Senate passed its budget, we still haven’t moved forward to the budget process with this do nothing agenda that does not reflect the priorities of the American people. It is an agenda that only the Republicans are interested in pursuing. So, you see a series of subterfuges, job evasions. Today’s job evasion is that the Republicans have decided to vote on the Patient’s Rights Repeal Act, their 37th attempt to repeal our country’s landmark reform bill. That’s 37 votes, 43 days, $52 million – $52.4 million – on an obvious evasion of our responsibility to work on the priorities of the American people.

“Not only is this a clear waste of time, and of taxpayer dollars, it is a deliberate vote to eliminate the affordable, quality health care benefits millions of Americans are already enjoying.”

Here’s Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton:

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, called it “a shameful waste of time and taxpayer dollars.”

“Instead of spending more than $50 million to repeal a law that is saving lives and money, we should be working to improve our healthcare system and expand on the benefits the law provides,” Thompson said. “It’s time to put these political games aside. By building on the reforms made in the Affordable Care Act, we can make sure every American can afford to go to the doctor. And that’s what matters.”

And Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, said Americans “want Congress to focus on jobs, not waste time and taxpayer money voting 37 times to take away patient protections from middle class families.

“The Supreme Court has ruled, and ACA is now law. It’s not perfect, and it’s not the law I would have proposed because it doesn’t do enough to address the cost of care, but we don’t want to go back to a time when children faced discrimination due to pre-existing conditions, when students and young adults were kicked off their parents’ insurance, and when women had to pay more for insurance than men just because of their gender,” he said. “Now we need to move past partisan bickering and start working on ways we can drive healthcare costs down. For years, we’ve been paying more and more for healthcare, and getting less and less. As a doctor and former Chief Medical Officer for Sacramento County, I know there are many places we can find savings.”

Posted on Thursday, May 16th, 2013
Under: Ami Bera, Eric Swalwell, healthcare reform, John Boehner, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 9 Comments »