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NLRB: Dems say toMAYto, Boehner says toMAHto

Ah, where would we be without all the glorious political rhetoric in Congress? What’s that, you say… “making actual progress?” Oh, but that would take all the fun out of it.

Today’s case in point: The House today voted 238-186 to pass HR 2587, the “Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act.” The bill would limit the National Labor Relations Board’s authority by preventing the board from “ordering any employer to close, relocate, or transfer employment under any circumstance.” As the Washington Post puts it:

At the heart of the House measure is a months-long dispute over whether Boeing unlawfully retaliated against its union employees in Washington state by transferring a production facility to South Carolina after a series of strikes. The NLRB in April ruled that by moving the facility to a right-to-work state, Boeing was in violation of federal labor laws.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat, issued a news release saying the bill would remove the only meaningful legal remedy available to workers if a company illegally moves operations or eliminates work because workers engage in protected activities like forming a union or collective bargaining.

“The Republican bill sends a message to employers to retaliate against employees who may demand a piece of the American dream,” Miller said. “We should be working to create jobs, not send American jobs overseas. We should be working to strengthen the middle class, not tear it down. We should be working together to send the message that, during these most difficult economic times, Congress is on the side of the middle class.”

Miller said that under this bill, if a company closes an entire U.S. plant or part of a U.S. plant and moved the work to China because the U.S. employees organized a union, the NLRB no longer would have the power to order the work to be kept in or returned to the U.S. Republicans voted down an amendment that would have let the NLRB return jobs to America that were illegally sent overseas.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, spoke against the bill today on the House floor:

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says… toMAHto!

“Today the House voted to remove another obstacle to private-sector job creation and long-term economic growth. This bill blocks the federal government’s National Labor Relations Board from telling businesses where they can and can’t create new jobs,” Boehner said. “It’s absurd that the federal government would stop American employers from creating new jobs here at home when millions are out of work and the unemployment rate exceeds nine percent. Under this Administration, American companies are free to create jobs in China but they aren’t free to create them in South Carolina. I’m hopeful that the Senate will join us in taking swift action, and help give American job creators the certainty they need to plan and put Americans back to work.”

Despite Boehner’s “hopeful” demeanor, the Democrat-dominated Senate is likely to kill the bill deader than a doornail.

Posted on Thursday, September 15th, 2011
Under: economy, George Miller, John Boehner, Labor politics, Lynn Woolsey, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 7 Comments »

Hot rhetoric on debt-limit vote

The House voted today against a bill that would’ve increased the nation’s debt limit; the vote was 97-318, with seven voting “present” and nine not voting.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the vote “shows the House is listening to the American people.”

“The Obama Administration and congressional Democrats have repeatedly asked for a debt limit hike without any spending cuts and budget reforms, and the American people simply will not tolerate it,” said Boehner, who timed the vote so it would come just before tomorrow’s Republican caucus meeting with President Obama. “Raising the debt limit without major spending cuts and meaningful reforms would hurt our economy and destroy more jobs, adding to our debt crisis. Today the House stood with the American people and said very clearly that this course of action is unacceptable. Republicans have passed a budget and outlined a pro-growth job creation plan that pays down our debt over time. We need to create a better environment for private-sector job growth by stopping Washington from spending money it doesn’t have, not by raising taxes and adding more debt onto the backs of our kids and grandkids.”

But not all who voted against this bill actually oppose raising the debt limit without the cuts and reforms the GOP is seeking.

Today’s legislation, HR 1954, contains a congressional finding “that the President’s budget proposal, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2012, necessitates an increase in the statutory debt limit of $2,406,000,000,000.” That’s horsepucky, many Democrats say, blaming the nation’s huge debt instead on Bush-era warmaking and tax cuts.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez; and Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, voted against the bill.

“Our country’s debt is a serious issue that must be addressed. Unfortunately, the bill put forward by the Republican Majority today was just a political ploy. Republican House leaders wrote and offered this bill and then urged their own members to vote against it,” McNerney said. “Instead of wasting time on legislation that’s designed to fail, House Republicans should focus on reaching a bipartisan solution that includes reasonable measures to restrain future spending and start paying down the debt.”

Of course, for McNerney – a perennial GOP electoral target – it was damned if he did, damned if he didn’t.

National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay had issued a statement this morning saying “(i)f McNerney votes today to continue these policies free from any spending cuts, he’ll be requiring more tax dollars from the pockets of California families who all share the increasing government debt burden to foreign countries like China.”

After McNerney voted against the bill, Lindsay put out another release saying McNerney “and the Democrat leaders he blindly followed today are clearly trying to run for cover after realizing the political costs their party is taking for demanding more debt without any real spending cuts to show for it. Instead of dancing around the issue, McNerney and his fellow Democrats need to demonstrate a commitment to fiscal reform that his California constituents overwhelmingly demand.”

Here’s what Pelosi had to say about who’s dancing around what:

Posted on Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
Under: George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Videos from today’s House vote on abortion

Here’s what some of your voices had to say today about H.R. 3, titled by its Republican authors as “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” and nicknamed by the National Abortion Federation as the “No Dignity or Abortion Care for Women Act.” Whatever you call it, it passed on a 251-175 vote with 16 Democrats crossing the aisle to support it and no Republicans opposing it. It stands practically no chance in the Democrat-dominated Senate.

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

From Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough:

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

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

Posted on Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
Under: Barbara Lee, Jackie Speier, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

War of words over new GOP budget plan

The Republican budget plan rolled out yesterday by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, D-Wisc., has brought a flood of rhetoric from both sides of the aisle, particularly where Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are concerned.

From U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah:

“The status quo is unsustainable. Our over $14 trillion debt is a threat to the future of our nation. Spending has been out-of-control for far too long. Our entitlement programs – Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – look more like an empty promise that our children and grandchildren will pay for, but will never see.

“In February, we saw the White House’s response: a budget that taxes, borrows, and spends too much – demonstrating a complete failure of leadership to confront our spending-fueled debt crisis. In contrast, Paul Ryan has put serious ideas on the table to reform Medicare and Medicaid, streamline our tax code, cut spending, and confront our debt. He rightly includes a proposal to kick Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac off the government dole, fully repeal the budget-busting $2.6 trillion health law, and extend the 2001 and 2003 tax relief permanently, while reducing our corporate tax rate.

“The White House and its Capitol Hill allies need to demonstrate real leadership and join Republicans in working to solve the tremendous fiscal challenges facing our nation. Unfortunately, what we are seeing from the other side is a defense of an unsustainable status quo and political attacks on Republican ideas. That’s not the kind of leadership the American people are asking for.

“As Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, we need to consider all ideas to fix our broken entitlements, cut spending and reform the overly-burdensome tax code. We know that the Medicaid expansion in the $2.6 trillion health law threatens to bankrupt both states and the federal government. We know that cutting over a half-trillion dollars from a nearly bankrupt Medicare system to create new entitlements and expand existing ones is the height of fiscal irresponsibility. We know that Social Security will not exist in the future if we fail to reform it now. We know our tax code is too complex, threatens our ability to compete in the world, and needs to be overhauled.”

Democrats contend future Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries are now being asked to suffer because Republicans have forced the extension of tax cuts for millionaires and because of the nation’s profligate war spending over the past decade.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said Ryan’s plan “would give huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, all paid for by destroying Medicare for our seniors and denying health care to our most vulnerable children.”

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, said Republicans have “reneged on their commitment to Medicare. They don’t believe that senior citizens and people with disabilities have a right to guaranteed health benefits. Instead, they will turn the health of seniors and people with disabilities over to private insurers. Say goodbye to secure health care when you need it most. That’s what this budget means to anyone in America who hopes to grow old.”

Stark’s office today cited an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that says a typical Medicare beneficiary would spend more for health care under Ryan’s plan because private plans would cost more than traditional Medicare and the government’s contribution would grow more slowly than health care costs.

But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said:

“The American people understand we can’t continue spending money we don’t have, especially when doing so is making it harder to create jobs and get our economy back on track. The Administration has put forward a budget for next year that raises taxes by $1.5 trillion and is silent on our debt crisis, a surefire recipe for destroying jobs. Our budget will help spur job creation today, stop spending money we don’t have, and lift the crushing burden of debt that threatens our children’s future. Our budget also recognizes Americans are concerned not just about how much government spends, but how government spends it, and keeps our pledge to set strict budget caps that limit federal spending on annual basis. Most importantly, this budget shows families and small businesses that we’re serious about dealing with America’s spending illness so we can put our country on a path to prosperity.

“Chairman Ryan and the members of the Budget Committee have done an excellent job putting together a budget worthy of the American people. I hope every American concerned about our country’s future will take a look at it.”

More from your local lawmakers, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, George Miller, John Boehner, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Pete Stark, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Lee urges Boehner to hold floor vote on Libya

Second-guessing on both sides of the aisle of President Barack Obama’s decision to use military force in Libya might be creating some strange bedfellows in Congress.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, last night led four colleagues – Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles; and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. – in sending a letter urging House Speaker John Boehner, D-Ohio, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to hold a debate and floor vote on the President’s authority to continue using military force in Libya.

The lawmakers noted the Constitution invests Congress with the responsibility to declare war, and that Congress has a responsibility to oversee and provide for such commitments.

“While we firmly believe that a robust debate and up-or-down floor vote should have occurred in advance of U.S. military action in Libya, it is without question that such measures are still urgently required,” they wrote. “Beyond defending Congressional authority in these matters, these deliberations are essential to ensuring that we as a country fully debate and understand the strategic goals, costs, and long-term consequences of military action in Libya.”

They went on to note that the Defense Department estimated the first week’s cost of our military involvement in Libya at $600 million, with ongoing costs of as much as $100 million per week. “At a time of severe economic distress here at home, as well as in recognition of the continued strain on our military service members already engaged in two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, these concerns are especially worthy of congressional deliberation,” they wrote.

Posted on Thursday, March 31st, 2011
Under: Barbara Lee, John Boehner, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 12 Comments »

House votes to axe federal refinance program

Despite railing from Democrats including a few from the East Bay, the House today voted to scrap the Federal Housing Administration Refinance Program, which aims to help homeowners who are “underwater” – owing more on their mortgage than their home is worth – refinance. The vote was 256-171.

Authorized under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the FHA program has used only $50 million of the more than $8 billion set aside for it, and Republicans think the money should be redirected to pay down the federal budget deficit. Democrats agreed the program has underperformed but said it should be fixed rather than abolished, as there’s still enormous need for it.

The bill now goes to the Democrat-dominated U.S. Senate, which probably won’t even take it up, and the White House earlier this week threatened a veto.

Here’s what Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, said today on the House floor:

“I’m proud to represent much of San Joaquin County, which is the jewel of California’s Central Valley. Our Valley is a great place to live and work, but unfortunately we’ve been hit very hard by the economic downturn. The Valley has been ground zero for the foreclosure crisis.

“Over the past few years, thousands of families in San Joaquin County and throughout the Valley have lost their homes. I’ve hosted foreclosure assistance workshops; I’ve met with hardworking people who were misled by lenders who are struggling to stay on top of their mortgages. I’ve seen grown men cry because they couldn’t keep a roof over their children, I’ve talked to veterans who served their country only to return home to notices of default, and I’ve met seniors on the brink of homelessness.

“The administration’s foreclosure prevention initiatives have fallen short in the Valley. Simply put, the administration’s programs haven’t effectively served the people underwater on their mortgage, and the administration hasn’t been tough enough on the big banks. I call on President Obama and his cabinet to develop more effective efforts to stem the tide of foreclosures.

“But despite these shortcomings, the bill the House Republicans are offering today is absolutely the wrong approach. It’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Instead of canceling foreclosure relief programs at their beginning stages like they’re proposing, we should be strengthening them so they’re more effective. Mortgage counselors from my district advise and plead to improve our efforts, to get tough on big banks and provide meaningful relief to families. Stabilizing the housing market is critical to economic recovery and creating jobs.

“For those reasons, I oppose H.R. 830, and I yield back the balance of my time.”

See Rep. John Garamendi’s statement – in four parts – after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, March 10th, 2011
Under: housing, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Today’s Congressional odds and ends

Jerry McNerneyMcNerney takes aim at gangs: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, said he reintroduced legislation yesterday to create a National Gang Activity Database that will let law enforcement officials nationwide track and share information about gang members and their activities. The Justice Department-administered database created under his National Safe Streets Gang Crime Prevention Act of 2011, H.R. 928, would share data on gangs, gang members, firearms, criminal activities, vehicles, and other useful information so investigators can track movement of gangs and members throughout a region and coordinate law enforcement’s response. He first introduced a version of this in 2007. The new bill goes first to the House Judiciary Committee.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Lee highlights MS: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said she has introduced two bills to highlight multiple sclerosis – one, a resolution supporting the goals and ideals of Multiple Sclerosis Week, March 14-20; and the other, the Adult Day Achievement Center Enhancement Act, supporting adult day programs that serve younger adults suffering from a disability as a result of a neurological disease or condition such as MS, Parkinson’s disease or a traumatic brain injury. “Adult day programs provide a critical source of support, and my bill would ensure that these vital programs are strengthened while ensuring that the needs of young adults and veterans are taken care of,” Lee said, noting more than 400,000 people are estimated to be living with multiple sclerosis, nearly 1 million people live with Parkinson’s disease, and about 1.4 million people suffer traumatic brain injuries every year.

Miller v. Boehner on jobs report: Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the senior Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, reacted to news that the economy created 222,000 private-sector jobs in February and the unemployment rate fell to 8.9 percent by saying “our nation’s job market continues to improve, though we still have lots of work ahead of us. This progress is more reason why Congress must reject Republicans’ pink-slip legislative agenda, which analysts agree threatens economic growth and hundreds of thousands of private sector jobs.” But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that although it’s “welcome news,” unemployment remains “far above where the Obama Administration promised it would be when it forced our children to pay for the ‘stimulus’ fiasco, which accelerated a government spending binge that continues to block our nation’s path to prosperity.” Boehner called the improvement seen in this report “a credit to the hard work of the American people and their success in stopping the tax hikes that were due to hit our economy on January 1. Removing the uncertainty caused by those looming tax hikes provided much-needed relief for private-sector job creators in America. Now we must build on it by eliminating the job-crushing uncertainty being caused by excessive spending, borrowing, and regulating in Washington.”

Posted on Friday, March 4th, 2011
Under: Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Boehner-backed fighter spending shot down

Maybe Speaker John Boehner has found a way to unite the parties in his fractious House: by getting them to team up against $3 billion in defense spending that he supported for his home state of Ohio, even though the Pentagon doesn’t even want it.

Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., yesterday offered an amendment to the House Republicans’ budget plan, HR 1, that would zero out spending on the develop a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. As the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank reports, the Pentagon is satisfied with the engine it has, made by Pratt & Whitney, and it doesn’t want the second engine, made by General Electric and others. Eliminating the second engine would save $450 million this year and some $3 billion over 10 years, a cut President Barack Obama supports and for which Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been advocating for years.

Rooney discussed the spending on the House floor yesterday:

Reps. John Larson, D-Conn.; Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga.; Chellie Pingree, D-Maine; and Tim Griffin, R-Ark., co-authored the amendment with Rooney. As ABC News notes, the main F-35 fighter engine is built by Pratt & Whitney in Larson’s home state of Connecticut; as the Portland (Maine) Press-Herald reports, Pingree’s district hosts a Pratt & Whitney plant that would gain jobs if that company was the sole contractor for the engine.

But, per Milbank, a GE plant that develops the second engine employs 7,000 people in Evendale, Ohio, near Boehner’s district, and so he has pushed to keep the funding.

Ultimately, the House today voted 233-198 to cut the spending, with no party lines in sight: 110 Republicans and 123 Democrats carried the day on this one. The only Bay Area member to vote against Rooney’s amendment was Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton.

UPDATE @ 0900 THURSDAY: McNerney spokeswoman Sarah Hersh just sent me this statement:

“As someone with years of experience in engineering, Congressman McNerney has a strong appreciation for the benefits of competition between manufacturers as well as the value of an alternate design in a project of this magnitude. Also, according to analysis by the Government Accountability Office, competition between multiple manufactures will likely yield savings in the long-run as well as reduce the risk of dependence on a single design produced by one manufacturer.”

Rooney had addressed this argument Wednesday in a news release:

By this argument, if two engine sources are better than one, then three or four or even ten would be better than two. Just like we cannot afford ten engines, we cannot afford two. Competition does not mean buying two of everything. If that were the case, every aircraft would have multiple source engines.

Secretary Gates has said, “Even after factoring in this unneeded finding, DoD’s cost Analysis and Program Evaluation (CAPE) estimates that the engine still requires a further investment of $2.9 billion to make this program truly competitive by FY17.

“The $2.9 billion cost is real and certain but the benefits of a second engine are not. CAPE has concluded that a second engine might provide savings if both engine vendors respond to competitive pressure and drive prices lower and the second engine supplier matches the F135′s vendor prices for the duration of the competition. The navy has stated they will only buy one engine to avoid having to maintain two different engines aboard a ship. While DoD favors competition where possible, in this case there would not be true competition between the engine vendors. Therefore, it is DoD’s strong judgment that these real costs outweigh the theoretical benefit.”

Posted on Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
Under: Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

Congressional reactions to the State of the Union

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

Barbara Boxer“President Obama’s speech tonight was inspiring, unifying and visionary.

“He addressed two major issues facing our nation – job creation and deficit reduction. And he rightly continued his call for civility in our discourse.

“Throughout his speech, he drew on the American tradition of rising to challenges through our ability to innovate and work hard.

“The President’s priorities are in line with California’s priorities. We need a clean-energy economy that will create good jobs and keep us at the forefront of the world. We need a top-notch education system that spans from Head Start to college. We need roads, bridges, high-speed rail and other infrastructure that transport people and goods efficiently in order to move our country forward.

“The President clearly stated his intention to pursue fair deficit reduction, which I support, and he also inspired us to continue working across party lines in order to meet the many challenges required of us. I look forward to working with him and my Congressional colleagues to reach these goals and make our nation stronger.”

From Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez:

“The President is absolutely right to challenge our schools to do better. Now is the time for real, substantive changes that will transform our schools and put our students on the path to success in school and in life.

“If we want to win the future, as the President said, if we want our country to prosper, then it is time we decide as a nation that our children can’t afford for us to wait any longer. It is time we decide as a nation to take a hard look at where our schools are and where we need them to be. And it is time we decide as a nation to rid ourselves of the average label we too often receive and excel, out-perform and out-compete other countries.

“If we fail to take action to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we are sentencing our students to the status quo. I’ve been fighting too long to let that happen.

“Real education reform will mean more community involvement, more parental involvement, buy in from teachers and less prescription from the federal level – all of this without losing the accountability our students need to keep them on track.

“It shouldn’t matter if a student is in a school in an urban city or a rural town, in a suburban neighborhood or on a U.S. military base – every child in this country deserves the opportunity to succeed. “We can continue to make excuses or we can realize what other countries have – that our economy will not be strong if the education of all our students is not strong.”

Read more, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, Obama presidency, Pete Stark, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 7 Comments »

House passes GOP budget rollback resolution

The House today voted 256-165 to pass H.Res. 38, a resolution directing committees to cut non-security discretionary spending to 2008 levels or lower, “beginning with a down payment in the form of a continuing resolution that will fund the government at pre-‘stimulus,’ pre-bailout levels or lower for the remainder of the fiscal year,” according to House Speaker John Boehner’s office.

The vote came hours before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, in which he’s expected to extend for another two years the three-year partial freeze of domestic programs that he suggested in 2010.

From Boehner, R-Ohio:

“I am pleased the House has committed itself to cutting Washington spending. At a time when the Treasury Secretary is begging Congress to raise the debt limit, a ‘freeze’ is simply inadequate. Rather than lock in the consequences of Washington Democrats’ job-destroying spending binge, we pledged to cut spending to pre-‘stimulus,’ pre-bailout levels and impose real spending caps. The American people have rejected the idea that we can spend and borrow our way to prosperity, as have many economists. The new majority has listened, cut Congress’s budget, and now we’re focused on keeping our pledge to cut spending to pre-‘stimulus,’ pre-bailout levels. We’ve listened, and tonight the American people will find out whether President Obama has done the same.”

Unsurprisingly, the entire Bay Area delegation voted against it (except for Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who didn’t vote). From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“The ‘budget plan’ which the Republicans propose lacks the most basic element required of a budget — numbers. In my 18 years of service in Congress and a decade in county government, I’ve never seen a budget plan with no numbers. My constituents deserve a clear strategy for reducing the deficit. The budget resolution should also be a roadmap for addressing how we can create jobs, strengthen our economy, and detailing what programs will be cut and where we will invest. These are tough decisions. They require a serious plan, not a numberless-nothing bill.”

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, responded to the GOP bill by introducing his own H.R. 413, the “Defense and Deficit Reduction Act,” to take defense spending back to 2008 levels for the next five years. From Stark:

“We can’t be serious about reducing the deficit if we’re going to wall off 60 percent of our discretionary spending from cuts. This legislation would save $182 billion, from a sector riddled with extra planes and engines that the Pentagon doesn’t want. At a time when we are spending seven times the next closest nation on our military, we must look toward defense for waste and potential savings.”

UPDATE @ 3:13 P.M.: Here’s Stark, speaking earlier today on the House floor:

Posted on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Under: Anna Eshoo, John Boehner, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 3 Comments »