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Is the Bay Area’s House policy clout fading?

For the first time in a long, long time, the Bay Area is without any committee chairs or ranking members in the House.

Of course, the region still is home to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco. But with the retirement of Rep. George Miller, the Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat and former chairman, the region’s policy influence seems blunted. It’s a far cry from 2007, when Miller chaired his committee, the late Rep. Tom Lantos chaired Foreign Affairs, and Pelosi was Speaker.

As I wrote yesterday, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, lost her bid – despite Pelosi’s strong support – to leapfrog a more senior member and become the Energy and Commerce Committee’s ranking member. And though Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, announced earlier this month that he would seek to become Transportation and Infrastructure’s ranking member, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., won that vote Wednesday.

“Peter has been my friend throughout my time here and that will continue,” Garamendi said after the vote. “Peter and I share a strong commitment to a ‘Make It In America’ agenda and trade policies that protect the environment, workers’ rights, and middle-class families. Working together, we can lead our party in addressing a range of transportation and infrastructure challenges, including water infrastructure, surface transportation, FAA, and Amtrak authorizations.”

That’s not to say the Bay Area will be without a voice. Several Bay Area members are likely to remain the ranking members on key subcommittees (like Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security).

And Pelosi appointed two local congressmen – Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, and Mike Thompson, D-Napa – to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which helps set the caucus’ policy agenda and nominates Democratic members for committee assignments. (They replace Pelosi’s local appointments from the 113th Congress, Miller and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.)

“As a member of the next generation of our caucus, I look forward to working in a collaborative way to promote the policies that will lift up all Americans,” Swalwell said.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will continue serving on that Democratic committee, having won re-election as a regional representative.

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 2 Comments »

Lynn Woolsey on panel at UFO hearing

Lynn Woolsey, phone home.

The former North Bay House member is one of six former members of Congress who are taking testimony at a public hearing this at the National Press Club on what the U.S. government really knows about extraterrestrial life.

Yes. Really.

“The Citizen Hearing on Disclosure of an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race will attempt to accomplish what the Congress has failed to do for forty-five years – seek out the facts surrounding the most important issue of this or any other time,” according to the hearing’s website.

Besides Woolsey, also plumbing the final frontier’s mysteries this week are former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel, D-Alaksa, and former Reps. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md.; Merrill Cook, R-Utah; Darlene Hooley, D-Ore.; and Carolyn Kilpatrick, D-Mich.

The multi-day hearing, which started Monday and ends Friday, promises testimony from about 40 researchers and military/agency witnesses and is being live-streamed in English and Spanish – but it’s viewable only after paying a $3.80 subscription.

The event was organized by the Paradigm Research Group – a UFO conspiracy-theory group in Bethesda, Md., founded by activist Stephen Bassett, which invited the former lawmakers to use their House-honed skills in interviewing witnesses.

The White House in November 2011 answered a pair of petitions seeking disclosure of information on extraterrestrial life – including a petition launched by Bassett – by stating “the U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race. In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public’s eye.”

Woolsey, 75, retired last year after 10 terms in the House; she was succeeded by Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.

Posted on Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Under: Lynn Woolsey | 5 Comments »

Pelosi bids ‘adieu’ to Lynn Woolsey, Pete Stark

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, took a break from the rhetorical carpet-bombing of the fiscal cliff faceoff yesterday for a floor speech thanking the departing California Democrats, including two from the Bay Area – one who retired, and one who was unseated.

John Boehner“Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for yielding, Mr. Miller. I know that we have a time limitation so I will begin by associating myself with the remarks of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo who spoke so beautifully and knowledgeably about our colleagues who are leaving, who are from California, who are leaving. I rise today to thank my colleagues, who are our friends, and our partners from the great state of California.

“The Members we honor in this special order – I’m just going to do this cause its way down low.

[Leader Pelosi Adjusts Podium Height]

“Recognize the, demonstrate the extraordinary diversity of our great Golden State. They hail from northern California and southern California, from the Bay Area, to the greater Los Angeles [area], to San Diego. They bring Californians’ wide range of interests, and aspirations to the floor of the House every day. Working side-by-side with the entire California delegation, their service, our service has strengthened the Golden State; the commitment of our departing Members has strengthened the Congress; their achievements have advanced the character of our country. Each of these Members has brought a unique voice to the table; yet each shares the same core values – a devotion to public service, a dedication to opportunity, a belief in the promise of America.

“Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey spent her career fighting to improve the education of our children, the economic security of their families, the protection of our workers, as well as our coastline, as Congresswoman Eshoo mentioned. With her departure, I won’t say retirement because she is not a retiring person, the Bay Area loses a powerful advocate in Congress and the nation loses a tireless progressive leader. It was, I think, Mr. Miller said ‘400 times that Lynn Woolsey came to the floor to speak against the war, our involvement in the war in Iraq.’ Thank you, Congresswoman Woolsey. So, it’s about the patriotism of this Congress and of the participation as patriots of our colleagues from California.

“Whether it’s the education of our children, whether it is the health of our people as demonstrated by Congressman Pete Stark. Why we all owe you Pete Stark, a great debt of gratitude. He has been a fixture in the fight to build and strengthen the pillars of health and economic security for the American people. From his seat on the Ways and Means Committee, to the House floor, he always remained a fierce fighter for Medicare and a passionate advocate for the Affordable Care Act because he believed that health care was a right for all Americans, not a privilege just for the few. His legacy will live long in a stronger support for the well-being of our seniors, our families, and our middle class. I hope it is a source of pride, I know it is to your family, that so many of your colleagues respect you so much and honor your leadership and service here.”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, December 13th, 2012
Under: Lynn Woolsey, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Woolsey gives her 444th, final antiwar speech

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, who is retiring from Congress in a few weeks, this morning delivered her 444th and final special order speech expressing her opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and her support for a “smart” approach to national security:

http://youtu.be/ztGa932tnwc

Woolsey, D-San Rafael, will be succeeded in the next Congress by Rep.-elect Jared Huffman, a fellow Democrat; the newly drawn 2nd Congressional District stretches from the Golden Gate Bridge’s north end to the Oregon border.

Read the text of Woolsey’s speech as prepared, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Under: Afghanistan, Iraq, Iraq War, Lynn Woolsey, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Local House members seek targeted defense cuts

Three Bay Area House members were among a bipartisan contingent that asked President Obama and congressional leaders Monday to find targeted but substantial cuts in defense spending as part of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations.

The letter’s 22 signatories included Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-San Rafael; and Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell.

“The Pentagon’s budget has increased dramatically over the last decade, due in large part to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” they wrote. “As we transition from wartime to peacetime, and as we confront our nation’s fiscal challenges, future defense budgets should reflect the conclusion of these wars and acknowledge that our modern military is able to approach conflicts utilizing fewer – but more advanced – resources. Congress must consider these changes, not past spending or percentages of GDP, and move toward defense budgeting that focuses on meeting specific military requirements.”

The letter noted the Cato Institute, Taxpayers for Common Sense, the National Taxpayers Union, the Project on Defense Alternatives have released plans to save up to $550 billion in defense spending without harming national security.

The sequestration scheduled to hit in January – enacted under the mid-2011 budget deal that ended that summer’s debt-limit standoff – will mean $110 billion in cuts, split evenly between defense spending and discretionary domestic spending. But these are across-the-board cuts, affecting all programs regardless of utility; lawmakers on both sides of the aisle see this as surgery with a chainsaw rather than a scalpel.

Posted on Monday, December 10th, 2012
Under: Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

Your state and Bay Area House-race roundup

All in all, it was a dismal night for Republicans in California House races.

Of the 11 California House races deemed competitive by the renowned Cook Political Report, Democrats won seven outright and are on top in two too-close-to-call other races. Another way of slicing and dicing it: All of the three endangered Democratic incumbents in these races won re-election, but only one of the four Republicans might’ve. And of the new or open seats, Democrats won three of the four.

More specifically:

    The battles to unseat Reps. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, remain too close to call with some mail-in and provisional ballots yet to be counted, but both trail their Democratic challengers by narrow margins.
    Reps. Jerry McNerney; John Garamendi, D-Fairfield; and Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara all turned away their Republican challengers to win re-election. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, is the only Republican incumbent definitely left standing in these competitive races.

Not than anyone considered it competitive, but Democrat Jared Huffman trounced Republican Dan Roberts to succeed Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-San Rafael, in the North Bay’s newly drawn 2nd Congressional District, which reaches from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border.

In the Bay Area, as usual, the only question for most Democratic incumbents (with the exception, of course, of Pete Stark) was by how enormous a margin they would dispatch their challengers. See how that all stacks up as of this hour, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Dan Lungren, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jeff Denham, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 7 Comments »

Miller leads Dems in pushing minimum wage hike

Rep. George Miller led more than 100 House Democrats today in introducing a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.80 per hour.

The minimum wage was last increased in 2009, but this would be the first increase for tipped-workers in 21 years. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is expected to introduce companion legislation today.

“Raising the minimum wage at its core is about respecting and valuing work. No one who works hard every day and plays by the rules should live in poverty,” said Miller, D-Martinez, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat.

“Increasing workers’ paychecks will help millions of working families make ends meet and help the nation’s economy grow,” he said in a news release. “It is time for Congress to stand up for working people for a change and for Washington Republicans to stop using their position in Congress only to benefit wealthy special interests. They should join Democrats in ensuring a well-deserved raise for millions of honest, hardworking Americans.”

Miller was the House author of the 2007 bill that increased the minimum wage to $7.25 following 10 years without any increases.

Miller’s new H.R. 6211, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012, would increase the minimum wage in three 85-cent steps, over three years, from $7.25 to $9.80 per hour; after that, the rate would then be indexed to inflation each year. The bill also would increase the required cash wage for tipped workers in annual 85 cent increases, from today’s $2.13 per hour until the tip credit reaches 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.

Among the bill’s 104 original cosponsors are Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Mike Honda, D-Campbell; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

Expect this to be dead on arrival in the Republican-run House; many conservatives believe requiring employers to pay higher minimum wages makes them less likely to hire or retain less-skilled workers, thus increasing unemployment.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in January said his preference would be “to allow the minimum wage to rise with the CPI or with another index so it adjusts automatically over time” – much as these Democrats are now proposing after the initial three-step, three-year increase. He seemed to walk that statement back a bit in March, when he said he favors reviewing the minimum wage periodically but there’s “probably not a need to raise” it now.

Posted on Thursday, July 26th, 2012
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

Pete Stark wants Olympic uniforms made in USA

Rep. Pete Stark is helping to leading House members from both sides of the aisle in a hearty chant of “USA, USA, USA” over the issue of where U.S. Olympians’ uniforms should be made.

Stark, D-Fremont, along with Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Me., led 59 members in sending a letter to the U.S. Olympic Committee today urging that Team USA’s uniforms be made in the United States from now on. This year, the athletes’ couture was designed by Ralph Lauren – an American-based company – but manufactured in China.

“We don’t outsource the athletes who represent the United States in the Olympics and we shouldn’t outsource the manufacturing of Team USA’s uniforms,” Stark said in a news release. “The fact that our American uniforms were made in China is a glaring reminder that we’ve gotten away from a core value: our country’s success is built on the innovation and industriousness of the American worker. When we deviate from that, we fail. That is why we’re calling on the U.S. Olympic Committee to reflect these values and ensure that Team USA’s uniforms are made in America.”

The letter is supported by the AFL-CIO and the National Council of Textile Organizations. Among House members signing the letter were Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez; Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

But it seems the lawmakers’ request was already granted before the letter was sent.

U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun issued a statement Friday saying his organization takes seriously the concerns it has heard from Congress and the public.

“With athletes having already arrived in London, and the apparel distribution process beginning this weekend, we are unfortunately not able to make a change for London,” he said. “We are absolutely committed, however, to working with our sponsors to ensure that the concerns voiced are addressed. To that end, Ralph Lauren has agreed to domestically manufacture Team USA’s apparel for Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.”

UPDATE @ 2:44 P.M.: This just in from Stark’s Twitter account: “We’re calling on USOC to implement Make it in the USA policy. USOC’s Friday statement doesn’t reflect policy change”

Posted on Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
Under: Barbara Lee, George Miller, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Thompson, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Lawmakers boycott contempt vote on Holder

The House voted 255-67 today to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for allegedly stonewalling over documents relating to the probe of the Fast and Furious “gunwalking” operation on the U.S.-Mexico border.

But more than 100 Democrats left the House floor to boycott the vote, including several Bay Area lawmakers: Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“I cannot and will not participate in this hyper-partisan and purely political vote today to hold Attorney General in contempt of Congress,” Lee said in a news release.

“Contempt power should be used sparingly, carefully and only in the most egregious situations. The Attorney General has gone above and beyond in his response to request for information on “Fast and Furious”, an unfortunate operation that began under the Bush Administration and, in fact, was terminated by Attorney General Holder,” she said. “This contempt vote is unprecedented, unwarranted and entirely unnecessary. Gandhi once said that ‘Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good.’ That is why I am standing with so many of my colleagues in refusing to participate in this shameful Republican political stunt.”

Reps. George Miller, D-Martinez; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Mike Thompson, D-Napa remained on the floor to cast votes against the resolution.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called for the vote with this statement:

John Boehner“It’s important for the American people to know how we got here and to know the facts of this case. The Congress asked the Department of Justice for the facts related to Fast and Furious and the events that led to the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. The Department of Justice did not provide the facts and the information that we requested. Instead, the information came from people outside the Department, people who wanted to do the right thing. In addition to not providing the information, the Administration admitted to misleading Congress, actually retracting a letter it had sent 10 months earlier.

“I think all the Members understand this is a very serious matter. The Terry family wants to know how this happened and they have every right to have their answers. The House needs to know how this happened, and it is our constitutional duty to find out. So the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee issued a lawful and narrowly tailored subpoena. We’ve been patient, giving the Justice Department every opportunity to comply, so that we can get to the bottom of this for the Terry family. We’ve shown more than enough good faith, but the White House has chosen to invoke executive privilege. That leaves us no other options. The only recourse left for the House is to continue seeking the truth and to hold Attorney General in contempt of Congress.

“Now I don’t take this matter lightly, and I frankly hoped it would never come to this. The House’s focus is on jobs and on the economy. But no Justice Department is above the law and no Justice Department is above the Constitution, which each of us has sworn an oath to uphold. So I ask the Members of this body to come together and to support this resolution so that we can seek the answers that the Terry family and the American people deserve.”

After the vote, Holder issued a statement which is presented in its entirety after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, June 28th, 2012
Under: Anna Eshoo, Attorney General, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, John Garamendi, Law enforcement, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 17 Comments »

Reactions to the SCOTUS health care reform ruling

Your lawmakers are sounding off on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Affordable Care Act as constitutional.

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

Barbara Boxer “The Supreme Court’s ruling is a victory for America’s families, who deserve affordable health care.
“The decision is great news for the millions of Californians who have already seen the benefits of this law – including the six million who now have access to free preventive health services, 355,000 young adults who now have coverage on their parents’ health plans and 320,000 seniors who have received help in paying for their prescription drugs.
“Now Americans will have the certainty of knowing they won’t be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition. Women won’t be charged a higher premium because of their gender. And families struggling with serious illnesses will not face lifetime limits on coverage.
“We will continue to fight Republican efforts to repeal these important health benefits while we work to make sure every American has access to quality, affordable health care.”

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

Orrin Hatch“The American people know that this law violates our deepest constitutional principles of limited government, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling today. President Obama’s $2.6 trillion health spending law is an unprecedented power grab by this White House that will increase health care costs, add to our skyrocketing national debt, and put Washington bureaucrats in between patients and their doctors. This ruling doesn’t change the fact that a majority of the people of Utah and across America want this law repealed. The American people will have the last word at the ballot box this November. But let me be absolutely clear, I will continue the fight to repeal this assault on individual liberty and limited government.”

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

Dianne Feinstein “This is an historic day. The Supreme Court today upheld the health care reform law passed by Congress in 2010, meaning Californians can be confident that access to affordable health insurance is finally a reality.

“I believe the health care reform law—including the individual mandate and the insurance exchanges designed to create large purchasing pools to make coverage more affordable—is critical to reducing the number of Americans who go without health insurance. The state exchanges will be up and running in 2014, and I am gratified they will have an opportunity to help Californians and drive down soaring health care costs.

“Because of today’s decision, California will receive an estimated $14.5 billion in federal funds designated to increase insurance coverage—including an estimated $5.5 billion annually to help low and middle-income residents purchase insurance in the exchanges and an estimated $9 billion a year to insure newly eligible Medi-Cal beneficiaries. **

“Many positive benefits of the law have already gone into effect including provisions that allow children to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan until age 26, prohibit insurance companies from denying children health insurance based on a pre-existing condition and prohibit insurance companies from canceling coverage because of an illness such as breast cancer. Millions of Americans will continue to benefit from these insurance reforms.

“I realize that passage of health care reform was extremely controversial. But we cannot forget that insuring fellow Americans and driving down the exploding cost of health care spending in this country is a national emergency. Even with this favorable decision from the court, our work reforming the insurance market and expanding access to health care continues.”

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner “The president’s health care law is hurting our economy by driving up health costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire. Today’s ruling underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety. What Americans want is a common-sense, step-by-step approach to health care reform that will protect Americans’ access to the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at a lower cost. Republicans stand ready to work with a president who will listen to the people and will not repeat the mistakes that gave our country ObamaCare.”

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

Nancy Pelosi “This decision is a victory for the American people. With this ruling, Americans will benefit from critical patient protections, lower costs for the middle class, more coverage for families, and greater accountability for the insurance industry.

“The Affordable Care Act is already paying dividends for millions of Americans – with more to come. Children can no longer be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions. Seniors are paying less for prescription drugs. Students and young adults can stay on their parents’ plans. Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing medical condition.”

“In passing health reform, we made history for our nation and progress for the American people. We completed the unfinished business of our society and strengthened the character of our country. We ensured health care would be a right for all, not a privilege for the few. Today, the Supreme Court affirmed our progress and protected that right, securing a future of health and economic security for the middle class and for every American.”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, June 28th, 2012
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, George Miller, healthcare reform, Jackie Speier, John Boehner, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 2 Comments »