Up in the North Bay, the state’s (arguably) most popular Democratic elected official has made an endorsement in the race for the Bay Area’s only House seat without an incumbent seeking re-election.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has endorsed Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, to succeed Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, who won’t seek re-election to the newly drawn 2nd Congressional District.
“I’ve worked with Jared over the years and been very impressed by his command of water issues, his commitment to the environment, and his ability to tackle complex challenges and get things done,” Feinstein said in Huffman’s news release. “Jared is the kind of principled and effective leader we need more of in Congress right now and he has my full support.”
Huffman – a former public interest consumer attorney who has crusaded for environmental causes in the Legislature – is leading the pack in fundraising as he competes with fellow Democrats Norman Solomon of Inverness, an author and media critic whose activism won him the endorsement of the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ co-chair; Stacey Lawson, a former tech executive from San Rafael who co-founded and teaches at UC Berkeley’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology; and Marin County Board of Supervisors President Susan Adams. (Woolsey won’t publicly endorse anyone.) The lone Republican so far is Dan Roberts, an investment advisor from Tiburon.
All of these candidates are from Marin County, not unusual for Woolsey’s old 6th Congressional District, which ran only up to the Sonoma/Mendocino border. But in this radically reapportioned 2nd District, which extends from the Golden Gate Bridge all the way up to the Oregon border, their lack of name recognition combined with the new costs of travel and advertising could make it an interesting race.
Huffman also today announced the endorsement of Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, launching what he said will be a week of announcements of women supporting his candidacy. “The week will culminate with the rollout of a major event featuring a keynote appearance by one of the most prominent women in statewide elected office.”
Seeing as how there are only two women in statewide elected office – Attorney General Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Debra Bowen – I’m guessing it’ll be one of them. And since I think I’ve already espied a photo of Harris on Huffman’s website…
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, unsurprisingly has spent the most of any Bay Area House member so far in 2011 while Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, has spent the least, according to Congressional spending data crunched by the Sunlight Foundation.
Here are the year-to-date spending numbers through Sept. 30, the end of the third quarter:
Nancy Pelosi — $1,131,048.95
Lynn Woolsey — $1,102.313.04
Anna Eshoo – $1,065,928.98
Jackie Speier — $1,053,889.75
Mike Honda — $1,037,247,79
Barbara Lee — $1,009.844.70
Zoe Lofgren — $970,630.03
George Miller — $950,707.76
Pete Stark — $941,132.97
Jerry McNerney — $838,944.86
John Garamendi — $780,133.41
Pelosi’s spending has been driven in large part by her $201,793.78 in the rent/communications/utilities category, which was about three times the lowest amount a Bay Area member spent in that area (that’s Pete Stark, D-Fremont, at $67,773.11). As reported last year, the rent on Pelosi’s district office – in the new federal office building on Seventh Street south of Market in San Francisco – is the House’s highest by far, at $18,736 per month.
Stark, however, has spent more than three times the next-closest Bay Area member on franked mail – $56,489.20 – and almost twice as much on printing and reproduction, at $53,887.27. That’s in keeping with Stark’s past practices, however: In 2010 he spent $100,518.11 on franked mail and $69,001.83 on printing and reproduction; in 2009, it was $165,554.82 on franked mail and $141,112.70 on printing and reproduction. As one of his constituents, I can attest that Stark loves sending mailers regularly to his district’s voters, updating them on issues and inviting them to town meetings.
Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, who is retiring at the end of this term, clocked in with both the highest personnel costs of any Bay Area member so far this year – $883,353.14 – and the highest travel costs, at $40,870.14. Garamendi has the lowest personnel costs ($573,073.70) while Stark logged the least travel costs ($7,369.66).
“After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee’s deadline.
“Despite our inability to bridge the committee’s significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation’s fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve. We remain hopeful that Congress can build on this committee’s work and can find a way to tackle this issue in a way that works for the American people and our economy.
“We are deeply disappointed that we have been unable to come to a bipartisan deficit reduction agreement, but as we approach the uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving, we want to express our appreciation to every member of this committee, each of whom came into the process committed to achieving a solution that has eluded many groups before us. Most importantly, we want to thank the American people for sharing thoughts and ideas and for providing support and good will as we worked to accomplish this difficult task.
“We would also like to thank our committee staff, in particular Staff Director Mark Prater and Deputy Staff Director Sarah Kuehl, as well as each committee member’s staff for the tremendous work they contributed to this effort. We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to Dr. Douglas Elmendorf and Mr. Thomas Barthold and their teams at the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation, respectively, for the technical support they provided to the committee and its members.”
“While I am disappointed, the House will forge ahead with the commitments we have made to reducing government spending and removing barriers standing in the way of private-sector job creation. Doing otherwise is not an option. This process did not end in the desired outcome, but it did bring our enormous fiscal challenges into greater focus. I am confident the work done by this committee will play a role in the solution we must eventually find as a nation.
“I commend both of the panel’s leaders, Jeb Hensarling and Patty Murray, for the dignified and statesmanlike manner in which the committee carried out its difficult negotiations. I want to particularly thank Jeb for the principled leadership and love of country he consistently has demonstrated in leading Republicans on the Joint Select Committee, as well as Dave Camp and Fred Upton for the countless hours they invested in this process for a noble cause.”
Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, said today that President Obama had wanted a plan that was “big, bold and balanced” between spending cuts and revenue increases, but “from day one, (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch Mcconnell and the Republican leadership said they would not put new revenues on the table.”
Miller said he never had “a lot of confidence it would work, but it’s part of a process” and that process’ next part is sequestration – $1.2 trillion in automatically triggered cuts, about half in domestic spending and half in defense, to be implemented at the start of 2013. “Now the question is, are we going to keep our word?”
If anyone in Congress moves to diminish those cuts, he said, President Obama should veto the bill – exactly what the White House promised today. “This was a bargain we made with the public – not my favorite bargain, but it’s what we said we were going to do,” Miller said. “Now, I think the point is, we need to stand by that.”
Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, on KQED’s Forum this morning said Republican intransigence is to blame.
“(T)he sticking point from the very beginning was the announcement of Republicans saying that they had signed a pledge with Grover Norquist, and that revenues and increases of taxes for certain income brackets were off the table,” she said. “On the Democratic side, it’s not true that we didn’t support reform to the entitlements, to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. What the Democrats opposed was stripping away the guarantee and simply going to a voucher system. What I’m struck by is that the message that goes out, if the Committee doesn’t come up with anything today, is a pox on everyone’s house, and that the Congress can’t accomplish anything.”
“Here we are a can-do nation, respected around the world, and everyone really shaking their heads and saying what’s wrong with them. I think it sends a bad message not only to our constituents, but also the markets as well during a very tenuous time when our economy is as fragile as it is,” Eshoo said. “It seems to me that this Grover Norquist pledge is trumping the pledge that we take when we are sworn in as Members of Congress.”
President Obama has announced that all U.S. troops except about 150 will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year; the few remaining troops will protect the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and serve as trainers.
“President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq.”
“I applaud President Obama for a promise kept. Today is a day to honor our troops and our military families who have sacrificed so much over the last nine years to give the Iraqi people a chance at a better future. It is now up to the Iraqis to secure their country and provide opportunity for all their people.”
“The continued drawdown of American troops that began under the previous administration wouldn’t be possible if not for the hard work and sacrifice of our service members, diplomats and their families. While on a congressional visit to Iraq this year, several lawmakers and I saw firsthand the progress our men and women in uniform had made. American forces not only freed Iraq from a vicious tyrant, but – under the strategy developed and implemented by our generals, and the leadership of both President Bush and President Obama – ended a violent terrorist insurgency that threatened the Iraqi people, and provided an opportunity for the Iraqi government to build the capacity needed to effectively meet the needs of the country.
“We must never forget the sacrifice of those who’ve served and all who will soon be making the journey home. And we owe it to them to continue engaging with the Iraqi government in a way that ensures our hard-fought gains translate into long-term success. While I’m concerned that a full withdrawal could jeopardize those gains, I’m hopeful that both countries will work together to guarantee that a free and democratic Iraq remains a strong and stable partner for the United States in the Middle East.
“We must also keep working to ensure our veterans have our full support as they return home to a tough economy. That’s why the House recently passed a bipartisan veterans hiring bill that provides training and assistance to unemployed veterans, and breaks down barriers preventing them from finding work.”
“I am happy to hear President Obama’s announcement that our troops will be completely withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year. This is significant progress in the right direction. However, I am still concerned about the thousands of contractors who will continue to work in Iraq, and whether their continued presence constitutes a real withdrawal from the nation. While I hope the transition to a self-governing Iraq is a smooth one, I also hope for a true withdrawal of U.S. involvement.”
Much as the state’s U.S. Senators did yesterday, members of the California Democratic Congressional Delegation today urged President Obama to act immediately to address the troubled housing market.
The letter, drafted by delegation chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, calls on President Obama to urge the Federal Housing Finance Agency to establish a plan to refinance all mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and to push for a major principal reduction plan for underwater homeowners, such as modifications in coordination with Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings.
It also asks the president to institute a “Homeowner’s Bill Of Rights” that would apply to HAMP, FHFA, HUD, VA and private servicer modification programs. The lawmakers want this to make the process homeowner-friendly by ensuring a single point of contact; requiring servicers to review documents within a timely fashion and disclose information; and banning “advanced fees.” They also want it to eliminate obstacles to effective modifications by allowing for flexibility in the debt-to-income ratio; ending the requirement that homeowners be delinquent in order to be eligible for a loan modification; ending dual tracking; and requiring that servicers not report adverse credit information while trial or permanent modification is underway.
Finally, they want this bill of rights to ensure accountability and establish an appeals process by creating an Office of Consumer Advocate, authorizing random audits of modifications, and establishing an independent appeals process for homeowners who believe their modification has been improperly rejected or handled in violation of program rules.
“This is a very important albeit somewhat disorganized expression of frustration and indeed anger at Wall Street, and a demand for jobs. Those two things seem to me to be the principal motivators behind this,” he said, adding the anger at the banking and investment industry is well-justified. “Their greed and recklessness brought this nation to its knees in 2008 and now their continuing greed will soon see the bonuses available to those who work on Wall Street.”
And Garamendi said “the frustration will grow” as House Republicans refuse to allow a vote on the president’s American Jobs Act, remaining more concerned with manufacturing “quarterly crises” to weaken the president politically. But Garamendi said House Democrats have no plans to co-opt the movement’s energy for their own political purposes.
“I would not even attempt to organize them. The American public is organizing itself,” he said. “The American public has had it … and understands there’s an attack on working Americans, there’s an attack on the middle class.”
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said in an email Tuesday that she strongly supports “the courageous people who have started Occupy Wall Street and I think they deserve more than our attention.
“In fact, we should all support putting a stop to endless wars, unrestricted corporate greed, and massive inequity facing all but the wealthiest few,” Lee said. “What is happening in our country is that the Tea Party controlled Republicans are playing politics with our economy and our democracy by trying to dismantle government, protect corporate donors and promote the super rich – and it is unconscionable. I am inspired by and will work with those on the front lines of this growing movement.”
Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, said in an e-mail that “(e)verybody’s got a right to express their opinion and I applaud these folks for organizing to express theirs.”
“I understand their frustrations,” Stark said. “People want to work, they want to make a fair wage, and they don’t want to see the out-of-control transfer of wealth that has gone from the middle class to the wealthiest of Americans. It’s not right. Hopefully this movement will focus Congress on what should be our top priority — creating jobs and opportunity for all Americans.”
Members of the Bay Area’s congressional delegation are speaking out this week on the 10th anniversary of our war in Afghanistan.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, spoke about it on the House floor yesterday:
This morning, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, hosted a Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Task Force hearing entitled “Ten Years On: Why the War in Afghanistan Must End Now.”
“After ten years and $460 billion invested in an unstable country with untrustworthy leadership, it is past time to end the war in Afghanistan,” she said. “Ten years is ten years too long for this wasteful war; it is time to bring our troops and our tax dollars home. That’s why I introduced HR 780 to safely and swiftly redeploy all combat troops and military contractors from Afghanistan.”
Academics, other experts and antiwar advocates discussed the cost of ten years of endless warfare since the overly broad Authorization of Use of Military Force was approved in 2001.
“The costs in blood and treasure in Afghanistan for the U.S., its allies, and for Afghans have been underestimated and undercounted. A comprehensive accounting shows that the intensity of the war is increasing, not decreasing,” said Nita Crawford, a Boston University political science professor and foreign policy expert.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, spoke at the hearing as well as at a separate, bipartisan event discussing the war’s anniversary; among other House members there were Ron Paul, R-Texas, Walter Jones, R-N.C., John Duncan, R-Tenn., and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa. There, Woolsey called the anniversary cause for “sober and solemn reflection:”
“On this occasion let’s remember the 1,800 brave servicemembers who’ve given their lives in Afghanistan over the last decade. Their service and sacrifice couldn’t be more honorable; the mission they were sent on, however, was a moral disgrace.
“Let’s also acknowledge the thousands of Afghan civilians caught in the line of fire and killed for the cause of their so-called liberation. They are casualties of this war and must not be forgotten either.
“We have paid too high a price in blood and treasure over the last 10 years….too high a price for a policy that has not advanced our national security interests.
“This war would be a ripoff at any cost, but when I think about the fact that it’s costing us $10 billion every month, it takes my breath away.
“$10 billion a month! Think of what we could do with $10 billion a month. We could use it to help create the jobs the American people need. $10 billion a month could pay for a lot of Pell Grants, a lot of Head Start slots, a lot of Medicare reimbursements, a lot of school lunches.
“For pennies on the dollar, we can and we must invest in an entirely new approach to protecting America, one that emphasizes diplomacy, multilateral cooperation and peaceful conflict resolution.
“I call this platform Smart Security, and I’ve been promoting it just about every day for the last several years. Instead of invasions and occupations, Smart Security offers other nations partnership and humanitarian aid.
“Instead of a military surge, it promises a much bolder civilian surge that shows American compassion…that embodies the very best American values…that fights poverty, promotes education, rebuilds infrastructure and restores hope.
“The American people have had enough of this war. A new poll even shows that only half of post 9/11 veterans think the Afghanistan war was worth fighting. Isn’t it time we listened to them? Isn’t it time public policy caught up with public sentiment on this life-and-death issue?
“Moral decency, fiscal sanity and public opinion all tell us to do the same thing – after 10 long years, it’s time to bring the troops home.”
Woolsey has contributed to Oakland-based Peace Action West’s effort to mark the anniversary by gathering photos and stories from Californians and others around the nation showing how the war has changed people’s lives.
“Since the war started a decade ago, kids barely old enough to remember the start of the war have packed up to go and fight it,” said Rebecca Griffin, Peace Action West’s political director. “We’re asking people to tell their stories to show what spending a full decade at war really means for our country.”
Woolsey wrote, “Ten years ago, my grandchildren weren’t even born. Since then I have worked in Congress to bring our troops home so they, along with all Americans, can see a time when their country is not at war.”
Kelly Campbell, formerly of Oakland and now of Portland, Ore., wrote, “On the day the US started bombing Afghanistan, we held a memorial for my brother-in-law who was killed on 9/11. Later, I traveled to Afghanistan and joined with others to create 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.”
Sean Alexander of Pittsburg, who was just 11 years old when the war started, joined the Marine Corps at 19 and is now working to end the war. He wrote, “Only 11 years old ten years ago, I was MVP of my Little League baseball team. Now ten years after the war began, I’m fighting for my moral dignity that is to lay down my arms and stand for peace.”
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.
“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.
Obama reportedly had wanted Elizabeth Warren – who essentially conceived of and designed the bureau – to direct it, but Republicans threatened to filibuster her confirmation. A lot of liberals, including most of the Bay Area’s House delegation, had urged him to put her in the job as a recess appointment. Some of them spoke out today, even as Warren blogged forcefully in support of Cordray and activists launch a petition drive to draft Warren into next year’s U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts.
“East Bay consumers, families and retirees deserved the best protection from irresponsible Wall Street actions, and Elizabeth Warren is the best, hands down. But that was not to be,” Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, said in response to my query today. “And in the end, this fight is not just about her, it is about the fact that Republicans in Congress are determined to repeal the consumer protection policies we enacted in our Wall Street Reform law last year. Just look, now Senate Republicans are opposing President Obama’s nominee, Richard Cordray, proving that they want to let Wall Street run wild, again, despite the economic disaster that caused for middle class families and our country.”
“It’s deeply disappointing that Republicans blocked consideration of the inimitable Elizabeth Warren to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but I have no doubt that Richard Cordray, who currently serves as CFPB’s director of enforcement, will fight equally effectively for consumer protections, protecting Main Street from the tentacles of Wall Street,” Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, said in response to my query. “On the heels of this country’s recent and devastating recession, I find it shocking that Republicans do not want a strong Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to advocate for working families and consumers’ interests and find it appalling that they’re doing everything in their power to weaken or block it.”
“But make no mistake—American consumers are losing perhaps their greatest champion in Elizabeth Warren. She will always be the mother of the CFPB and its biggest advocate. The treatment she has received from Congressional Republicans has been disgraceful,” Speier said. “The 2008 financial crisis showed that American families need a cop on the beat when it comes to consumer protection around mortgages, credit cards, and other financial products. Instead of considering a bill to weaken the CFPB as Republicans will this week, they should support Mr. Cordray’s swift confirmation so he can begin this important work. Consumers have waited long enough.”
The House of Representatives today rejected Bay Area lawmakers’ attempts to cut the purse strings for the war in Afghanistan.
The House voted 133-295 on an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act by Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, that would’ve reduced U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 25,000 by next year’s end and saved taxpayers an estimated $25 billion in fiscal year 2012.
President Obama last month announced he plans to pull 10,000 U.S. troops out of Afghanistan this year and 23,000 more by next summer. That would leave about 70,000 troops in Afghanistan as of next summer, more than twice the number serving there when he took office in 2009, with more withdrawals through 2014.
“Our brave men and women are doing tremendous work, but they’re on the wrong mission in Afghanistan. We need to focus on Al Qaeda like a laser wherever they propagate, yes in Afghanistan, but also in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and even the United States,” Garamendi, an Armed Services Committee member, said in his news release today. “Our overextended troops and their overstressed families deserve a rapid drawdown from Afghanistan so that they can continue their lives without the constant threat of tragedy inherent in engaging in a five-sided 33-year-old Afghan civil war.”
Garamendi had advocated for the amendment on during a floor debate yesterday:
An amendment by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland – with original cosponsors including Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, as well as several Republicans – would’ve cut $33 billion to leave only “sufficient funds for the orderly withdrawal of combat forces and contractors from Afghanistan.” The House voted 97-322 on that one.