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Bartender, a round of Cuba Libres for the House.

Bay Area House members are thrilled by President Obama’s decision today to remove Cuba from the government’s list of state sponsors of terrorism; Republicans, predictably less so.

From Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi“Today, the President has taken an important step forward toward restored relations with Cuba. Taking Cuba off the state sponsors of terror list removes an outdated designation that no longer serves the security interests of the United States, nor the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people.

“This move continues the historic normalization of relations between our countries. It will facilitate the opening of new markets for American banks and businesses, and new opportunities for the people of Cuba.

“I hope we can continue to take our relations in a positive and constructive direction, and build on the historic progress we have made thus far.”

From Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“I am disappointed that the White House seems determined to reward the Castro regime, which has a clear record of repression at home and exporting violence throughout the region. Not even a week has passed since the brutal attacks on Cuban democracy protestors in Panama City during the Summit for the Americas. Those attacks – and the Castros’ long history of human rights violations – demonstrate the folly of revisiting diplomatic relations with this communist dictatorship and removing it from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror.

“Cozying up to the oppressive regime in Cuba is a blow to all who long for liberty and dignity. And it’s just one more example of this administration focusing more on befriending our enemies than helping our allies. The United States has a responsibility to stand strong for all those who struggle for freedom, and the House of Representatives is committed to doing its part.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“I am pleased that President Obama will be removing Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List. This action is long overdue and is an important step toward fully normalizing relations with Cuba.

“Along with many of my colleagues, I have long called for Cuba to be removed from this list. In December of 2013, I wrote a letter calling for de-list Cuba. I have reiterated that call in subsequent letters, including a December 2014 letter signed by 37 of my colleagues, which called for moves toward normalization ahead of the Summit of the Americas.

“The letter stated: ‘Over the years, reports by the State Department on the state sponsors of terrorism, have found no evidence or indication that Cuba provides weapons or training to terrorists. In fact, Cuba now meets global standards for fighting money-laundering and preventing terrorist finance, in addition to playing an active role in bringing Colombia’s civil war to an end.’

“By removing Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List, President Obama is signaling his strong commitment to building a more productive relationship with Cuba. As we continue to move forward, renewed ties will bring great benefits to the Cuban and American people. Given Cuba’s close proximity to the U.S., improved relations will open new trade opportunities that will allow U.S. businesses to expand and create jobs here at home. This will also expand existing education and cultural exchanges.

“Congress also has a critical role to play. It’s past time to end the failed embargo, lift the restrictive travel ban and formally normalize relations. I am glad to be co-leading The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (H.R. 664) and Free Trade with Cuba Act (H.R. 403) to forge a new path between our two countries.”

From Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel:

Sam Farr“As Cuba moves to reintegrate itself into the international community, we must be willing to modernize our relations with them. This decision by the President moves us closer to normalized relations between our two countries. Decades of isolation have not worked so I am glad we are finally talking with our neighbor to push for new path forward in Cuba.

“I have been engaged in Latin American affairs since serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia. At the 2012 Summit in Cartagena, it was clear our position towards Cuba alienated us from the rest of the hemisphere. We must join the rest of the world by engaging with the island to help build a more open and democratic Cuba.”

Posted on Tuesday, April 14th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Reactions for and against the Iran nuclear deal

Members of Congress are weighing in for or against the framework for a final agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, reached by a group of world powers including the United States and announced today by the White House.

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a Foreign Relations Committee member:

Barbara Boxer“Now that all parties have agreed to a framework, Congress has a choice: support these negotiations or disrupt them and potentially jeopardize this historic opportunity to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

“We don’t yet know the details of a final deal, but initial reports are promising, and if the U.S. had prematurely ended talks on nuclear issues in the past, we would never have had historic and critical international agreements like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the New START Treaty.

“The Obama Administration has worked tirelessly to reach this point and I will work to ensure that Congress has the patience to support this diplomatic effort because the risks of walking away from the table are simply too high.”

From U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who led 46 other senators in writing to Iran to undermine the negotiations:

Tom Cotton“There is no nuclear deal or framework with Iran; there is only a list of dangerous U.S. concessions that will put Iran on the path to nuclear weapons. Iran will keep a stockpile of enriched uranium and thousands of centrifuges—including centrifuges at a fortified, underground military bunker at Fordow. Iran will also modernize its plutonium reactor at Arak. Iran won’t have to disclose the past military dimensions of its nuclear program, despite longstanding UN demands. In addition, Iran will get massive sanctions relief up front, making potential “snap-back” sanctions for inevitable Iranian violations virtually impossible.

“Contrary to President Obama’s insistence, the former deputy director of the UN’s nuclear watchdog has said terms such as these will allow Iran to achieve nuclear breakout in just a few months, if not weeks. But in any case, even these dangerous terms will expire in just 10-15 years, even though it only took North Korea 12 years to get the bomb after it signed a similar agreement in 1994.

“These concessions also do nothing to stop or challenge Iran’s outlaw behavior. Iran remains the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism. Iranian aggression is destabilizing the Middle East. And Iran continues to hold multiple Americans hostage.

“I will work with my colleagues in the Senate to protect America from this very dangerous proposal and to stop a nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“If fully implemented, today’s framework agreement would prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon, enhance our national security and show that diplomacy works.

“This is a major step forward for diplomacy, national security and global peace. This type of smart, strategic diplomacy brings us closer to a more peaceful and secure world while promoting U.S. national security.

“I applaud President Obama, Secretary Kerry and his diplomatic team for negotiating this framework agreement that promotes regional and global security.

“Today’s announcement is an important achievement for diplomacy, non-proliferation and President Obama.”

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“The president says negotiators have cleared the basic threshold needed to continue talks, but the parameters for a final deal represent an alarming departure from the White House’s initial goals. My longtime concerns about the parameters of this potential agreement remain, but my immediate concern is the administration signaling it will provide near-term sanctions relief. Congress must be allowed to fully review the details of any agreement before any sanctions are lifted.

“After visiting with our partners on the ground in the Middle East this week, my concerns about Iran’s efforts to foment unrest, brutal violence and terror have only grown. It would be naïve to suggest the Iranian regime will not continue to use its nuclear program, and any economic relief, to further destabilize the region.

“In the weeks ahead, Republicans and Democrats in Congress will continue to press this administration on the details of these parameters and the tough questions that remain unanswered. We will stand strong on behalf of the American people and everyone in the Middle East who values freedom, security, and peace.”

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Posted on Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Iran, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

California politicos praise Harry Reid

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced Friday he won’t seek re-election in 2016.

As jockeying begins to see who’ll replace him as Senate Democrats’ leader (Chuck Schumer? Dick Durbin? Elizabeth Warren?) and as Nevada’s senator (Brian Sandoval? Joe Heck? Ross Miller?), California Democrats were effusive in their praise of Reid.

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

“There’s no one I’d rather have on my side in a legislative battle than Harry Reid. His leadership, friendship and passion will be missed when he leaves the Senate.

“I’ve known Harry and Landra for more than 20 years and have enjoyed their friendship. Together, Harry and I have taken on a host of issues on behalf of our neighboring states. It’s especially been a pleasure working with Harry on the preservation of Lake Tahoe and other issues that bring out the best in us.

“I’m particularly thankful for Harry’s support during the process of releasing the CIA torture report. Harry knows what it’s like to be in a dogfight. He knows what it’s like to be attacked from all sides. I always knew that after a particularly bad week I’d get a call from Harry offering his support, telling me he was behind me all the way.

“I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish together, and I look forward to two more years of working side-by-side to do even more. The nation is better off because of Harry Reid.”

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

Barbara Boxer“I have known Harry Reid for more than thirty years and since the day I met him, Harry has given every bit of his energy and every bit of his devotion to his job and his loving family. Harry is a fearless leader who listens to all sides before taking a stand. He has known heartache in many forms, but he never let it get in the way of his hopes and dreams and dedication to every family in America. Harry is one of a kind and I am grateful that we worked together for so many years for the good of Nevada, California and the country we love.”

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

Nancy Pelosi“With Harry Reid’s decision to retire, Congress and our country will lose a patriot, pioneer, and one of the greatest leaders the Senate has ever known. Senator Reid is a master of the Senate, a reliable fighter for America’s hard-working families, a legislator whose leadership stretches back more than three decades.

“From his earliest days in the House to his tenure as Democratic Leader in the Senate, Harry Reid never forgot the hard-working families of Nevada he is so proud to represent. He has brought their values, their pioneer spirit and their determination to the Congress, and he has been an unsurpassed champion for the rights and opportunities of every American.

“It has been my great honor to call Senator Reid a dear and trusted friend for so many years. More so, I have been privileged to work with him in enacting historic and consequential legislation for our country.

“In the darkest days of the financial calamity, we worked together to pass the legislation that rescued our economy. We worked to pass the landmark Dodd-Frank consumer Wall Street reform bill, the most significant consumer financial reforms in a generation. We passed the Affordable Care Act and ensured that, in the United States of America, affordable, quality health care is the right of every American, not the privilege of the few.

“Senator Reid leaves a historic legacy of strength and achievement on behalf of the American people. He has helped to dramatically expand American investments in clean energy, passed bold and comprehensive immigration reform through the Senate, championed the Violence Against Women Act, and welcomed a record-breaking generation of new women Senators.

“His leadership and ability command respect on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress. Without question, Senator Reid’s departure is an irreplaceable loss for our entire country. But as he announces his hard-earned, well-deserved retirement, I wish him, his wife Landra, and the entire Reid family all the best in happy years ahead.”

Posted on Friday, March 27th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

California national marine sanctuaries expanded

California politicos are praising the expansion of the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries, which will double their size and permanently protect a stretch of coastline in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

marine sanctuariesThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has published its final rule on the expansion, after a two-year process that included public comment and research by NOAA and its partners.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and former Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, had carried legislation to expand the sanctuaries, and had urged the Obama Administration to use its executive authority to protect the area.

“I am grateful to the Obama Administration for this historic decision which will more than double these magnificent national marine sanctuaries off the California coast and permanently protect one of the most productive coastal ocean regions on the planet,” Boxer said Thursday.

Boxer’s office said the expansion will help support the more than half a million jobs and over $34 billion in economic activity that depend on ocean tourism, recreation, and fishing in California.

It also will permanently protect important habitat for at least 25 threatened or endangered species, including blue whales, humpback whales, northern fur seals and leatherback turtles – California’s official marine reptile; spectacular living reefs of corals and sponges; one-third of the world’s whale and dolphin species; at least 163 bird species, including the largest colony of seabirds in the continental U.S.; and more than 300 species of fish, including commercially valuable salmon and groundfish.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said the “nation’s oceans and coasts are among our greatest ecological treasures,” and credited Woolsey and Boxer with the win. “Together, we will continue to act to secure God’s beautiful creation for generations to come.”

Posted on Thursday, March 12th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Environment, Lynn Woolsey, Nancy Pelosi, 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.”

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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 »

Pope Francis to address Congress in September

Pope Francis will address a joint session of Congress on Sept. 24. Wow, talk about preaching to a den of iniquity.

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“It is my great privilege to announce that His Holiness Pope Francis will visit the United States Capitol on Thursday, September 24, 2015. On that day, he will become the first leader of the Holy See to address a joint meeting of Congress. It will be a historic visit, and we are truly grateful that Pope Francis has accepted our invitation.

“In a time of global upheaval, the Holy Father’s message of compassion and human dignity has moved people of all faiths and backgrounds. His teachings, prayers, and very example bring us back to the blessings of simple things and our obligations to one another. We look forward to warmly welcoming Pope Francis to our Capitol and hearing his address on behalf of the American people.”

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

“We are honored and overjoyed that Pope Francis, the first pontiff born in the Americas, has accepted our invitation to address a Joint Meeting of Congress during his upcoming visit to the United States.

“Pope Francis has renewed the faith of Catholics worldwide and inspired a new generation of people, regardless of their religious affiliation, to be instruments of peace. In the spirit of the namesake of San Francisco, St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis’ universal message of love and compassion speaks to millions around the world.

“We are eager to welcome His Holiness to the U.S. Capitol and we look forward to hearing his call to live our values, to protect the poor and the needy, and to promote peace.”

Boehner and Pelosi both are of the Roman Catholic faith.

Posted on Thursday, February 5th, 2015
Under: John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

House members react to net neutrality plan

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced Wednesday that he’s proposing strong new rules that would bar Internet and wireless providers from blocking, slowing or discriminating against consumers’ access to particular websites and services – thus preserving “net neutrality.”

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“The proposed update to net neutrality rules is a triumph for the American consumer. The American people asked for the strongest possible rules to ensure a free and open Internet, and Chairman Wheeler has heard their voices by proposing to reclassify broadband under Title II of the Communications Act.

“The American people asked for net neutrality rules to apply to both fixed and mobile broadband service and the updated rules again deliver.

“The American people asked for and received bright-line rules to prevent throttling of Internet content, prohibit paid prioritization, and a ban on blocking.

“Finally, the proposed update goes a step further to prevent broadband providers from discriminating against content providers at the point of network entry.

“This is the architecture of our digital future. The Chairman’s proposal deserves the vote of the full Commission.”

From Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose:

“The record breaking number of comments received by the FCC left no doubt that the public supports strong net neutrality rules. I’m pleased Commissioner Wheeler has recognized that public sentiment today and put forward a good plan to use Title II authority to implement and enforce open internet protections.

“These protections, including bans on blocking, throttling, or prioritizing Internet traffic based on source, application, or content, will bolster innovation and self-expression across the nation and around the world. Large technology companies, small app developers, movie and television writers, public advocacy organizations, and the public at large all stand to benefit from a free and open internet.

“Additionally, I am pleased the Chairman has put forth a plan that emphasizes restraint – forbearing from regulations unnecessary for achieving an open and competitive internet.

“I look forward to a swift consideration of the Chairman’s proposal by the full Commission.”

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Posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 10 Comments »

Swalwell & Speier named to House Intelligence

My, hasn’t Rep. Eric Swalwell seemed upwardly mobile recently?

Swalwell, D-Dublin, on Monday became the only Bay Area House member with the cojones (or hubris?) to announce he’s considering whether to run to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2016 – quite a goal for a guy starting only his second term in Congress.

On Tuesday, Swalwell was the only Californian that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, named to a new committee charged with shaping House Democrats’ message for the next two years.

And on Wednesday, Pelosi named Swalwell and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, to the House Intelligence Committee, a plum spot in these troubled times of foreign strife and domestic surveillance.

“As we face escalating threats to our security, I will work to make sure our government is vigilantly protecting Americans, while being true to our values around privacy and civil liberties,” Swalwell, a former Alameda County prosecutor, said in a news release. “With the rise of data breaches, a top priority of mine will be to increase our cybersecurity capabilities. National security should know no party, and I vow to carry out this work in a collaborative, bipartisan manner.”

Swalwell in his first term tried to make a name for himself on the Homeland Security Committee, where he took up issues including the Transportation Security Administration’s proposal to allow certain knives aboard planes as well as airport-perimeter safety. On Wednesday, Swalwell noted he was an Capitol Hill intern with Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, on Sept. 11, 2001.

“That experience led me to a career in public service and generated my interest in national security,” he said. “It’s a privilege to serve on this committee so I can continue to fulfill my highest responsibility as a lawmaker, keeping Americans safe.”

Speier issued a statement saying she looks forward “to working on one of our nation’s most pressing issues: protecting our economic and national security against terrorist threats abroad, domestic, and over the internet.

“The heinous attacks in Paris underscore the fact that a handful of home-grown terrorists can wreak havoc on a nation. Cyber threats run the spectrum, from consumer information stolen to intellectual property and proprietary emails hacked from corporations. We must take this 21st century threat more seriously to protect our nation’s most sensitive information, in the public and private sectors alike,” she said.

But “from the torture report to broad NSA surveillance, it is clear that increased Congressional oversight is needed,” Speier added. “I look forward to working with my colleague to ensure our rights and values are not compromised in the name of security.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, had been the Bay Area’s only presence on the Intelligence Committee in the last Congress, but a spokesman said Wednesday that Thompson won’t be on the panel in this new Congress.

Posted on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
Under: Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | No Comments »

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 »

Pelosi paints GOP with Scalise’s (white) brush

House Democrats are turning the thumbscrews on their Republican peers, hoping to follow the imminent resignation of Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y. – who has pleaded guilty to felony tax fraud – with a leadership shakeup.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., is under fire for having addressed a white supremacist group – the European-American Unity and Rights Organization – in 2002. And some Democrats want to paint the rest of the GOP caucus with the same brush.

Drew Hammill, spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, issued a statement Tuesday morning saying Scalise’s “involvement with a group classified by the Anti-Defamation League as anti-Semitic and the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group is deeply troubling for a top Republican leader in the House.”

But actions speak louder than whatever words Scalise said in 2002, Hammill continued.

“Just this year, House Republicans have refused to restore the Voting Rights Act or pass comprehensive immigration reform, and leading Republican members are now actively supporting in the federal courts efforts by another known extremist group, the American Center for Law and Justice, which is seeking to overturn the President’s immigration executive actions,” he said. “Speaker Boehner’s silence on this matter is yet another example of his consistent failure to stand up to the most extreme elements of his party.”

Posted on Tuesday, December 30th, 2014
Under: Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 16 Comments »