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House passes bill on NSA phone records program

The House voted 338-88 Wednesday to pass a bill that would end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records, the Washington Post reports.

Supporters say the USA Freedom Act would keep phone “metadata” out of government hands and make other changes to surveillance practices; some critics say that it goes too far, others that it doesn’t go nearly far enough. The Senate still must take up the bill amending Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which without congressional action will expire June 1.

Sam Farr, D-Carmel; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; and Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, voted against the bill Wednesday, while the rest of the Bay Area’s all-Democrat delegation supported it.

“Congress may have changed the name but the USA Freedom Act is just a watered-down version of the Patriot Act,” Farr said in a news release. “I commend the bipartisan effort to adhere to the 2nd Circuit Court’s ruling and to develop more safeguards to protect our civil liberties. Unfortunately, this bill still contains too many provisions that threaten the privacy of American citizens.

“I cannot vote for a bill that does not protect the privacy rights enshrined in the 4th Amendment,” Farr added. “The risk of faulty information collection is not a risk I am willing to take with any American’s privacy. Upholding the Constitution is non-negotiable.”

But Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, issued a statement saying “our government has a responsibility to respect people’s civil liberties and protect our national security. This legislation does both.

“It ends the government’s bulk collection of metadata, it strengthens oversight and improves accountability, and it allows our intelligence community to continue their brave work to keep Americans safe,” Thompson said.

Records of phone numbers, call dates, times and durations would be kept by telecommunications companies under this bill, not by the government. Company employees could still search such records under a court order specifying a particular person, account or address, but not an entire phone or Internet company or a broad geographic region, such as a state, city or Zip code.

The bill has the rare combined support of House Republican leaders and President Obama.

“In order to stay secure in these dangerous times, we must have the tools to track terrorists and spies. But the American people have strong concerns about a big government watching over our phone calls, collecting our metadata, and possibly invading our privacy,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, said in a news release.

“So the House has looked at the facts on the ground and recalibrated our approach to keep America safe while protecting civil liberties,” he said. “The USA FREEDOM Act stops bulk data collection while still making sure those fighting terrorism have access to what they need so they can do their job and prevent future terror attacks. That’s what makes it a good, bipartisan bill.”

But in the wake of last week’s 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that struck down the NSA’s phone-records collection program as illegal, civil libertarians aren’t happy with this bill.

“Last week’s historic court decision makes clear that this bill must be strengthened to protect privacy rights,” Michael Macleod-Ball, acting director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office, had said in a statement issued Tuesday.

“Following the court’s ruling, the House should have amended the bill to prevent the government from amassing and keeping the information of innocent Americans. The Senate should not make the same mistake and instead remedy the bill’s many deficiencies, which have been criticized on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “Letting Section 215 expire would be preferable to passing the current version of this bill, which fails to adequately protect Americans’ information from unwarranted government intrusion.”

Posted on Wednesday, May 13th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, Civil liberties, Kevin McCarthy, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House | No Comments »

Boxer, DiFi oppose fast-track trade authority

Senate Democrats derailed one of President Obama’s major second-term priorities Tuesday, voting to hold up consideration of “fast track” trade authority unless related measures are guaranteed to proceed alongside it, the Washington Post reports.

Sixty votes were needed to begin formal debate of measures that would pave the way for approval of a complex Pacific trade accord and provide relief to unemployed workers affected by trade deals. The vote was 52-45, with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the only Democrat voting aye.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., had said last week she would vote for trade promotion authority only if it was accompanied by other bills providing income support and retraining funds for workers displaced by international trade; more power to enforce trade agreements and punish violations; and a trade-preferences package for developing nations in Africa.

“Whether or not Congress should grant the president fast-track trade authority is important, but I believe the debate shouldn’t occur in isolation from these related issues,” she said at the time. “If this larger package of bills comes before the Senate, I look forward to its consideration.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., spoke against fast-track authority before Tuesday’s vote.

Barbara Boxer“The last major deal Congress approved cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs, lowered the wages of American workers, and increased income inequality. And we are still dealing with the legacy of NAFTA,” she said, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement that took effect in 1994. (Boxer and Feinstein both voted against NAFTA in late 1993, too.)

“They say timing is everything in life. Well, if that’s true, the timing of this free-trade agreement could not be worse for the middle-class families who we are supposed to be fighting for,” Boxer said. “We should immediately put this legislation aside and take up legislation that will help the middle class.”

But House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, issued a statement after the Senate vote saying “free and open trade means a stronger America with more jobs and opportunity.

“This is something that both Republicans and Democrats support, including the President,” McCarthy said. “History has shown that in times of divided government, positive changes can be made on behalf of the American people. Unfortunately, it is the President’s own party stopping progress. The decision by Senate Democrats to block this bipartisan bill from moving forward is disappointing and a step backwards for our already beleaguered economic recovery. The House will continue to work towards passage of free and open trade.”

Posted on Tuesday, May 12th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »

House reactions to Obama’s IS use-of-force plan

President Obama’s proposal for a new authorization for use of military force against the so-called Islamic State already is creating a stir in Congress, with some saying it goes too far and others saying it doesn’t go far enough.

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

Nancy Pelosi“As our nation confronts the ISIS threat, the President has worked diligently to engage Congress in determining the U.S. strategy to degrade and destroy these brutal terrorists. A key part of Congress’ responsibility is to debate and pass a new and narrowly-tailored Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

“Today, the President has submitted a serious and thoughtful draft for a new AUMF, one which ends the outdated 2002 AUMF that authorized the Iraq war, restricts the use of ground troops, and includes other important limiting provisions going forward.

“Congress should act judiciously and promptly to craft and pass an AUMF narrowly-tailored to the war against ISIS. I look forward to constructive bipartisan debate on this matter immediately.”

From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

Kevin McCarthy“Radical Islamist terrorists, such as ISIL, pose a grave and growing threat to the United States. The number of terrorist groups and the volume of fighters have all dramatically increased in recent years.

“I have been supportive of efforts to give the Commander-in-Chief additional authorities to confront these growing challenges, but rather than expanding his legal authority to go after ISIL, the President seems determined to ask Congress to further restrict the authority of the U.S. military to confront this threat.

“The Speaker and I told the President we’d consider his request. I am prepared to support an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that provides new legal authorities to go after ISIL and other terrorist groups. However, I will not support efforts that impose undue restrictions on the U.S. military and make it harder to win.

“Congress will be conducting hearings to review both the President’s strategy to combat radical Islamist terrorists and the legal authorities that might be required to implement an effective and sufficiently robust strategy. At the end of this process, I hope Congress and the Administration can be united on how best to respond to the increasingly complex and dangerous challenge we face.”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, February 11th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Iraq, Kevin McCarthy, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

House votes to delay Dodd-Frank ‘Volcker Rule’

The House voted 271-154 Wednesday for a bill to delay a controversial part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law enacted in the wake of the financial meltdown that brought on the Great Recession.

From The Hill:

The bill, which the White House is threatening to veto, would delay implementation of Dodd-Frank’s “Volcker rule” until 2019, rather than 2017 as originally planned.

The Volcker Rule, named after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, requires big banks to sell-off financial investments known as collateralized loan obligations (CLOs).

Supporters of H.R. 37, the Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act, say CLOs are an important way for businesses to get financing.

“Excess regulations hurt jobs and put added costs on our economy. The number of regulations that have piled up over the past six years are compounding and holding back Main Street businesses,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield.

McCarthy thanked Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-PA, for carrying a bill that will “reduce red tape and makes it easier for small businesses to access the capital they need to grow and create good-paying jobs.”

“These provisions have enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support in the past, so I am disappointed that a fracture in the Democratic Caucus is causing so many Democrats to switch their votes in a zealous defense of Dodd-Frank regulations,” McCarthy added.

But the bill’s opponents, including the entire Bay Area delegation, say the Volcker Rule keeps large banks from risky gambling with taxpayer-backed funds.

“The American people expect – and deserve – a government that works for them,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, yet Republicans so far haven’t offered any bills to advance the middle class’ interests. “Instead, day after day, Republicans have rushed through giveaways to big banks and to their special interest friends.”

The Volcker Rule “protects Americans against the risky practices of some on Wall Street that just a few years ago brought our country to the brink of economic collapse,” Pelosi said. “Enough is enough: the interests of big banks should not trump those of American families that still struggle to make ends meet.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
Under: Kevin McCarthy, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | No Comments »

California pols say ‘Je suis Charlie’

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

“This was a barbaric attack on innocent French citizens and on our shared belief in the fundamental right of free expression. My thoughts and prayers are with the injured and the families of those killed in this heinous and cowardly act of terror.”

From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

“I condemn today’s horrific terrorist attack in Paris. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the French people. This terrorist attack, like so many before it, is an assault on fundamental democratic principles that are essential to a free society. It is also a reminder that the war on terrorism is not over, that radical Islamic terrorist organizations have not been defeated, and that they continue to pose a threat at home and abroad. Whether it is ISIL in Iraq and Syria, the Taliban, Haqqani network, and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ansar al Sharia and other terrorists in Libya, Boko Haram in Nigeria, or al Qaeda affiliated groups in Yemen, Somalia, and Mali, free and moderate societies face a growing and determined terrorist enemy. We ignore this gathering danger at our peril. We must recommit to our common efforts against these violent enemies and stand with our friends around the world. For their sake and for our own, we must prevail in this fight against violent extremism.”

From Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin:

“An attack on Paris is an attack on all free people across the world. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of French news magazine, Charlie Hebdo. We stand with the French people as they work to apprehend the terrorists.

“This attack serves as another sad reminder of the need to remain vigilant against terrorist threats at home and abroad. As a member of the Homeland Security Committee, I will continue to work to ensure we have the resources necessary to secure our country, as we work with our allies abroad to protect innocent citizens and our democratic ideals. Je Suis Charlie.

Posted on Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Eric Swalwell, Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Conservatives blast Kevin McCarthy for CRomnibus

A conservative super PAC is trashing House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, for helping pass the $1.1 trillion “CRomnibus” spending bill, which some say doesn’t do enough to roll back President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

Senate Conservatives Action, the super PAC arm of the Senate Conservatives Fund, said the one-minute radio ad will air for one week in McCarthy’s home district.

“Americans asked Republican leaders to defund the president’s unlawful amnesty and pledged to run ads against them if they didn’t,” SCF President Ken Cuccinelli, the former Virginia attorney general who lost that state’s 2013 gubernatorial race. “Unfortunately, Congressman Kevin McCarthy didn’t listen so now the grassroots are taking action to hold him accountable. This ad tells McCarthy’s voters what he’s done and urges him to keep his promise.”

But Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, with whom McCarthy sided in supporting and whipping votes for the CRomnibus, issued a statement Thursday night saying the measure merely saves the immigration fight for a more advantageous time by funding the Department of Homeland Security only through Feb. 27.

“This measure puts us on track to save taxpayers more than $2.1 trillion while protecting jobs and supporting our national defense,” Boehner said. “In addition, by the House’s action, we are setting up a direct challenge to the president’s unilateral actions on immigration next month, when there will be new Republican majorities in both chambers.”

Posted on Friday, December 12th, 2014
Under: Immigration, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House | No Comments »

California’s House water war continues

The California House delegation’s internecine water war continues.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, announced Wednesday morning that H.R. 5781 – the California Drought Relief Act, introduced by Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford – will be scheduled for a floor vote next week. McCarthy said:

“California is facing the worst drought in a century, which has led to barren farms and drastic water shortages in our communities. We have reached this point after years of inaction by Senate Democrats while ill-conceived policies have continued to prioritize the well-being of fish above people. Though only Mother Nature can dictate the duration of the drought, the situation demands immediate action to address government-created barriers to ensure available water flows throughout our state and not washed out to the ocean.

“After the House and Senate passed separate California water bills this year, months were spent working on a bipartisan compromise for a long-term solution. Unfortunately, the Senate was pressured to quit negotiations at the last minute.

“This crisis cannot go unanswered, and the House’s unwavering commitment to find a solution has led to the California Emergency Drought Relief Act, introduced by Congressman David Valadao. Due to the urgent nature of the water crisis, the House will vote on this legislation next week.

“The first storms of the season are currently over California, with hopefully more to come in the subsequent months. It would be reckless and irresponsible to let the water from these storms be released into the ocean rather than directed to our local communities in need. The California Emergency Drought Relief Act contains provisions from the original Senate-passed bill and from the House’s negotiations with the Senate. Absent action now, California will continue to lose the water from storms in this water year and will face another year of devastating water-crisis. While more must be done toward a long-term solution, this legislation is another critical step to provide relief to our communities suffering from the drought, which is why the House and Senate must act on this bill.”

The Fresno Bee’s write-up on the bill characterizes it as “friendly to farmers and frightening to environmentalists.” The bill’s co-sponsors include McCarthy; Devin Nunes, R-Tulare; Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay; Ken Calvert, R-Corona; Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville; and Jim Costa, D-Fresno.

Bay- and Delta-area Democrats including Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; George Miller, D-Martinez; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; and Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, responded with a joint statement Wednesday afternoon:

“With just a few days left in the legislative session, the House plans to pass yet another divisive, dishonest, and potentially devastating California water bill without any public input or legislative oversight. This is unconscionable, and just the latest chapter in Republicans’reckless approach to micromanaging the state’s water during one of the worst droughts in our history.

“The idea that this bill is a ‘compromise’ is laughable. It is clear that this bill was thrown together without any input from anyone other than those who stand to benefit from its passage. This bill was not reviewed by the Natural Resources Committee, nor has it received input from federal agencies, the state, affected local water agencies, the fishing industry, tribes, or communities. Legislation this sweeping should be the subject of public hearings and input from all affected stakeholders.

“The bill makes it more difficult for state and federal agencies to make real-time water decisions, undermines state water rights priorities, misstates current law, and explicitly overrides the Endangered Species Act. These sweeping changes would place the west coast’s environment, tribes, communities, and the fishing industry in harm’s way in the next drought year.

“The drought does not stop at the edge of congressional districts, yet this bill insulates some parts of the state from the tough water decisions that will be made in the next year. We’re all in this together, and Congress should not tie water managers’ hands nor should we address drought conditions in some parts of the state at the expense of others.”

Posted on Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014
Under: Ami Bera, David Valadao, George Miller, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Kevin McCarthy, Mike Thompson, water | 3 Comments »

GOP steps it up for convention, Sec’y of State race

California Republicans are trying to build some momentum headed into November’s elections, scheduling the state’s most powerful Republican as a convention keynote and putting a former state chairman in charge of fundraising for one of their statewide candidates.

Kevin McCarthyRep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, who takes over later this week as House Majority Leader, will speak at the state GOP’s 2014 Fall Convention on Saturday, Sept. 20 in Los Angeles.

“Majority Leader Elect McCarthy personally understands the importance of California in protecting the Congressional majority,” California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte said in a news release. “He is an innovative thinker whose policies are making life better for Americans each day, and he fights for California each and every day.”

Vice Chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon said McCarthy “supports policies that encourage job growth by freeing the private sector to do its job. Those policies are exactly what we need here in California, and I am excited that our delegates will get to hear this message from him.”

The party in May announced U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kent., will speak at the convention as well.

Meanwhile, Pete Peterson – the Republican candidate for secretary of state – announced today that former state GOP chairman Duf Sundheim of Los Altos Hills will serve as his campaign’s finance chairman.

Pete Peterson“Whether you have known Pete Peterson for years as I have, or you have recently met him, as the San Jose Mercury News Editorial Board has, you reach the same conclusion: Pete Peterson is the superior candidate for Secretary of State,” Sundheim said in a news release. “Peterson has the fresh ideas and experience to make a real difference.”

Peterson said he shares Sundheim’s “focus on government reform and increased citizen participation in the political process. With rampant corruption in Sacramento, one of the lowest voter turnouts in the country, and businesses fleeing the state, it’s clear that we need to change the way things are being done.”

Sundheim will need to shake the money trees vigorously. Peterson’s campaign had only about $12,000 cash on hand as of mid-May, and has reported raising only about $25,000 in major donations since then. His opponent, state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, had about $340,000 banked for the campaign as of mid-May, and has reported raising about $40,000 in major donations since.

Posted on Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
Under: Kevin McCarthy, Republican Party, Republican politics, Secretary of State, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Silicon Valley applauds Kevin McCarthy’s ascent

Applause for Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s ascent from House Majority Whip to Majority Leader on Thursday echoed from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley, where leaders hope for a continued return on the investment they’ve made in cultivating his attention for more than a decade.

Kevin McCarthyIt may seem counter-intuitive that a Republican from Bakersfield – whose district is among the nation’s top agricultural centers and produces more oil than Oklahoma – would be tuned in to high-tech Silicon Valley, an undeniably Democratic stronghold more than 200 miles away.

Yet as McCarthy prepares to walk a fine line in trying to both lead and reunite the House GOP, he’s seen as an ally of the region’s most influential echelons. Carl Guardino, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, said he first met McCarthy – then a freshman Assemblyman – in 2003.

“From the moment we met he had a deep interest and curiosity about Silicon Valley,” Guardino said, and so he was invited to meet with local executives. “Almost since that time, three or four times a year, we host him here in the valley on policy because he recognizes … that Silicon Valley is integral to the state’s and nation’s success.”

Carl GuardinoFew lawmakers show that kind of enduring interest and staying power, he said, and few share another trait of McCarthy’s. “He actually listens much more than he speaks. And by listening and learning, he is then capable of leading, because he understands the challenges we face in competing globally and the impacts on policy.”

“In Silicon Valley, this is a huge compliment: He is immensely curious, and we need more curious people in Congress,” Guardino said, recalling McCarthy’s delight at having the chance to operate a robotic surgery system at Sunnyvale’s Intuitive Surgical. “He was just fascinated by it. He is fascinated by what we do here in Silicon Valley, and he wants to make sure it stays here and succeeds here.”

Intuitive Surgical President and CEO Gary Guthart said Friday that he recalls McCarthy’s “interest was really around the virtuous cycle that’s built in public-private partnerships,” given that Intuitive’s “roots were in R-and-D funding that came out of government programs.”

What started with government grants for research has led to a company that manufactures in the Bay Area with a mostly domestic supply chain, much of it from other California companies, he said. His conversation with McCarthy “was around how you keep the cycle going and not let it break down” over the decades it can take from government-funded research to marketable products.

“I was impressed with both his depth of interest and understanding, and with his willingness to come out and engage directly with us,” Guthart said.

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, June 19th, 2014
Under: Kevin McCarthy, Technology in politics, U.S. House | No Comments »

What Eric Cantor’s loss might mean to you

Rep. Eric Cantor, the Virginia Republican who was defeated in a primary election Tuesday by tea-party challenger Dave Brat, will step down as House Majority Leader.

Cantor’s upset defeat has repercussions far beyond Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, and even far beyond the Beltway. When the second-most-powerful Republican in Congress is taken down by a challenge from within his own party, the political and policy implications are sure to be significant. Here are a few:

1.) Immigration reform

Cantor’s loss probably means any shred of chance for comprehensive immigration reform in the foreseeable future is now gone.

One of Brat’s biggest criticisms of Cantor was that Cantor favored “amnesty” by supporting some sort of path to citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants. Actually, Politico is reporting that a poll found most of the voters in that district – including most Republicans – favor a plan that would include letting undocumented immigrants without criminal records gain legal status.

Nonetheless, I think the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza is right when he says Cantor’s defeat will make any House Republican who’d been considering supporting some similar reform think again.

Meanwhile, immigration reform activists say Cantor’s loss is the nail in the coffin, and so are urging President Obama to offer deportation relief and other forms of administrative relief immediately.

2.) California’s clout

Cantor was the GOP’s number two in the House; House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, is number three. But Cantor’s loss doesn’t necessarily mean McCarthy’s ascension – a bunch of House Republicans already are jockeying to snap up Cantor’s post.

As both a Californian and a national GOP leader, McCarthy has had to walk a knife-edge on immigration reform; he has called for legal status, though perhaps not citizenship, for undocumented immigrants without criminal records. If Cantor’s loss makes House Republicans gun-shy about speaking up on immigration reform, McCarthy – along with other California Republicans like Jeff Denham and David Valadao – may be in the majority’s minority, and that’s not a great place to be when you’re gunning for a higher party leadership post.

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
Under: Immigration, Kevin McCarthy, Republican Party, Republican politics, U.S. House | 14 Comments »