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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 »

How Bay Area House members voted on CRomnibus

The House voted 219-206 Thursday night to pass the $1.1 trillion “CRomnibus” spending bill to avert a government shutdown and fund the federal government through next October.

Conservative Republicans opposed the measure because it doesn’t explicitly bar President Obama from implementing his executive actions on immigration; many Democrats opposed it because of non-budgetary policy riders attached to the bill, including one that to roll back a key provision of the landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform act and another to raise the maximum amount contributors can give to political parties.

This made for some pretty weird bedfellows. President Barack Obama; Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, all urged its passage, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and conservatives like Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., opposed it.

In the end, 57 Democrats crossed the aisle to join 162 Republicans in supporting it, while 67 Republicans crossed the aisle to join 139 Democrats in opposing it. Ten members did not vote.

Here’s how the Bay Area delegation split:

YEA: George Miller, D-Martinez; Sam Farr, D-Carmel

NAY: Pelosi; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton

See what some had to say about it, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, December 11th, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

On George Miller’s last day, Pelosi pays tribute

Assuming Congress passes the “CRomnibus” spending bill tonight to avert a government shutdown, today will be Rep. George Miller’s last day on the House floor. He’ll spend the next few weeks in the district, and when the new Congress is sworn in Jan. 3, Miller, D-Martinez, will be officially retired after 40 years in the House.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, paid tribute Thursday to Miller and to another Californian retiring after four decades of service, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles.

“Thank you to the leader of our California Democratic delegation, Zoe Lofgren. Thank you for bringing us together this evening for a very bittersweet circumstance. That is to say: how proud we are to honor the leadership of two great giants of the Congress, Henry Waxman and George Miller; how sad we are that they are leaving us. I come to the floor, Mr. Speaker, today to join in celebrating two of the most accomplished Members of this great body.

“And when I say most accomplished, I’m not just speaking in the context of the present Congress. I’m talking about two of the most accomplished Members of this great body of all time. A pair of Californians with 80 years between them – 80 years of service in the House – retiring with an unparalleled record, certainly an unsurpassed record of legislative achievements to their name, Congressman Henry Waxman and Congressman George Miller.

“I’m proud to do that as a Californian, and I thank our Chairwoman, Zoe Lofgren, again for this opportunity. As they depart for new endeavors at the end of this session, which is in about 48 hours, each of them leaves a legacy of leadership that is felt in the lives of everyday Americans. And that’s so important. In doing so, they’re both pioneers.

Henry_Waxman“For four decades, Henry Waxman’s name has been synonymous with responsible action, extraordinary legislative skill, passionate public service, and bold leadership on behalf of the people of Los Angeles, who he represents, and the American people. Time and again, Henry has been the first to appreciate the seriousness of the challenges before us, and the first to bring forward solutions to solve them. Time does not allow, and other Members will mention so many accomplishments, but I just want to focus on from the start, this is what I saw up close and early: from the start, in the early dark days of the HIV-AIDS epidemic, Henry Waxman fought to invest in AIDS research, support treatment and care and prevention and pass the landmark Ryan White Care Act.

“Long before the rest of our nation awakened to the gathering storm of climate change, early on, Congressman Waxman worked to create bold new protections for the air we breathe, the water we drink, the earth we call home. From the first days of his long career, he recognized the urgency of delivering quality, affordable health care to all. And together with some of our other colleagues, it was with his leadership as Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee that we honored that commitment with the Affordable Care Act.

“Also working on the Affordable Care Act from his committee – the Education and Labor Committee – Chairman George Miller has left an indelible mark on the laws and the Members of this august body. George has been the model of a serious and substantive legislator, a champion for working people who has had his hand in some of the most innovative and important legislation of our time. Members over and over – some already have, others will – talk about his legislative accomplishment. I just will name some. I mentioned the Affordable Care Act; Lilly Ledbetter, the first bill signed by President Obama, to end discrimination in the workplace; the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the last bill passed by a Democratic majority; ending discrimination for women in the workplace and men and women in the military; Earned Income Tax Credit.

George Miller“There’s one thing I want to mention, and this is PAYGO. Because again, this is something I saw firsthand. George Miller put together the initiative for Pay-As-You-Go so that we were not increasing the deficit as we made investments for our future. It was 1982; we were at a mid-term convention of the Democrats in Philadelphia. George Miller had the resolution to pass PAYGO, very fiscally sound and responsible. The resolution passed. It was so revolutionary that they never had a mid-term convention again because he was really there not to make speeches but to make change. But in any event he made that change. It didn’t become effective, really, until several years later when President Clinton became President of the United States and we went on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. So whatever we were doing, we were not increasing the deficit. He’s been a deficit hawk, a very progressive deficit hawk, in the lead on that subject.

“So when he was doing the earned income tax cut, Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, ENDA – we haven’t passed it yet but George advanced it in the House any number of times, – early childhood education, lifetime learning – I keep coming back to the children. I have said that when people ask me what are the three most important issues facing the Congress, I say the same thing: Our children, our children, our children; their health, their education, the economic security of their families, the air they breathe, environment which they live a world of peace in which they can reach their fulfillment.

“No one in the Congress has done more for our children, our children, our children then George Miller, George Miller, George Miller. So not only his focus on the children but having them live in a world that takes them outside our country. So forceful was he for advocacy for children in other countries, for fairness and opportunity and social justice, that he became a subject of the Salvadoran death squads. They tried to search him down in the United States because he was such a fierce champion for fairness in their country as well.

“And so, here we are. Two great, very committed people. If you ask them what the secret of their success would be and how they’ve achieved so much, they will be modest – well, sometimes. But what they will both tell you separately is that, the guidance they give the rest of us: Just stick with it; just keep on working; just make sure that the other side – whoever that might be – knows you’re not going to go away, because you have a goal that is responsible; you have an urgency for the people and you will make sure that you make the difference.

“And in many ways we all live in a nation shaped, defined and strengthened by George Miller and Henry Waxman: their keen vision, abiding determination, courageous leadership have put them in the ranks of the greatest legislators in our history. When they leave this House, we can be certain that they will continue to use their extraordinary knowledge and talent in new venues and new ways to serve America’s children and families.

”As we acknowledge them and express our appreciation to them, we also have to acknowledge their spouses. Janet Waxman and Cynthia Miller have contributed 80 years of being spouses to Members of Congress – that’s really almost like 80 years each; that’s like twice as long as serving as to be a Congressional spouse, all the sacrifices that involved.

“Tonight we say a heartfelt thank you not only to George and Henry and voice our gratitude to them, but to the Waxman and Miller families for sharing these great men with our great nation. With that I yield back to the distinguished leader of our delegation. Thank you.”

Posted on Thursday, December 11th, 2014
Under: George Miller, Henry Waxman, Nancy Pelosi | No Comments »

Boxer urges Justice Dept. probe of Ferguson PD

The Justice Department must thoroughly review the Ferguson Police Department to determine whether there’s a pattern of excessive use of force, mistreatment of prisoners, or racial profiling in its searches and arrests, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a letter Tuesday.

Barbara Boxer“I am writing to express my strong support for the Department of Justice investigation into whether the Ferguson Police Department has engaged in discriminatory policing practices,” wrote Boxer, D-Calif. “It is imperative that we find out if there is a pattern and practice of civil rights violations in Ferguson.”

Boxer noted a lack of diversity on the St. Louis suburb’s police force. “As part of this probe, I would urge you to determine whether the lack of diversity in the Ferguson Police Department contributed to the culture of distrust between local residents and police.”

Meanwhile, here’s how some Bay Area House members reacted on Twitter to the Ferguson situation:

Pelosi and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, were among more than 200 who retweeted Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.:

And Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, was among more than 2,200 who retweeted civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.:

Posted on Tuesday, November 25th, 2014
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

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 »

Anna Eshoo won’t lead Energy & Commerce Dems

Rep. Anna Eshoo has lost her bid to use Silicon Valley’s innovation allure to leapfrog ahead of a more senior peer and become the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s ranking Democrat.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – who had backed Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, for the job in a letter to Democrats this month – announced Wednesday that the Democratic Caucus instead had approved Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., as that panel’s ranking member. Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, is a close friend and political ally of Pelosi’s; several news outlets say the vote was 100-90 for Pallone, a blow to Pelosi’s clout within her own caucus.

“I congratulate Frank Pallone on a hard fought campaign and congratulate Anna Eshoo for raising the issue of innovation to a level that all members appreciate,” said Pelosi, D-San Francisco. “We look forward to working with both of these members as we move forward.”

Pallone tweeted Wednesday that he’s “Honored to be chosen next leader of @EnergyCommerce by my colleagues. Look forward to continuing our work on behalf of the American people.”

Eshoo’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Eshoo had announced she wanted the job in early February, a few days after the current ranking member – Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles – announced he would retire from the House this year. The committee “is key to shaping America’s future, just as my Silicon Valley congressional district is,” she said at the time.

“We have the depth and the talent to shape policies that will build a strong economy for every American, with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to advanced research, communications, technology, health care, energy and the environment,” she had said. “It is because of this far-reaching opportunity to put America in the best position to compete globally I seek this position.”

Though both have been in the House since 1993, Pallone has served on the committee since then while Eshoo has been a member since 1997. Eshoo in this term has served as ranking member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, while Pallone was ranking member of the Health Subcommittee.

Pallone had House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., on his side, creating a visible rift in the House Democratic leadership in this fight.

Posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

California Dems on Jerusalem synagogue attack

California Democrats are condemning the killing of four rabbis in a Jerusalem synagogue by two Palestinians wielding a gun, an ax and a meat cleaver. (UPDATE @ 3:10 P.M.: A fifth victim – a police officer – has now died.)

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

“I am horrified by the barbaric murder of innocents in a sacred house of worship. This heinous and brutal act of terror has no place in a civilized world and only sets back the cause of peace and humanity. All my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families and I am praying for the recovery of those injured.”

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

“The murder of worshippers at morning prayer is an unconscionable and inhuman act of terror. This attack is beyond the circle of civilized behavior, and Congress and the American people stand united in condemning its brutality.

“Our hearts ache for the family, friends, and loved ones of those killed and wounded in today’s savage attack on the synagogue in Jerusalem. We join the mourning of American-born Rabbi Moshe Twersky, Rabbi Kalman Levine, Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky, and British-born Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg. Our thoughts and prayers, and the thoughts and prayers of all Americans, are with them and all the citizens of Israel at this time of mourning.”

From Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose:

“Today’s cowardly and brutal killing of three American and one British rabbi in Jerusalem is an affront to every civilized person and nation. Attacks such as these damage the ability for both sides to come to the table and work out a long-term solution to the underlying conflicts in the region.

“President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are right to condemn this attack. I agree with Secretary Kerry that the Palestinian leadership must also condemn this attack in the strongest way possible, and to take concrete steps to prevent such attacks in the future. No nation’s or people’s cause is aided by brutal acts of terrorism against innocent worshippers.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, the injured, the larger Jewish community, and all who stand for peace during this time of grief.”

Posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2014
Under: Barbara Boxer, Israel, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 5 Comments »

Dems urge Obama to act on immigration

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer added her voice Monday to the chorus of Democrats urging President Obama to move forward with immigration reform by executive action.

Barbara Boxer“For 17 months, you have been very patient with House Republican leaders, encouraging them to either take up and pass the bipartisan Senate bill or work with you to craft a different bill,” Boxer, D-Calif., wrote in her letter to the president.

“Mr. President, I don’t remember hearing one Republican in Congress complain when Republican presidents took executive action on immigration,” she continued. “I urge you to ignore the angry voices of the do-nothing crowd in Congress who have repeatedly blocked progress on immigration reform. If they really cared about fixing our broken immigration system, they would not be threatening to shut down the government or file wasteful lawsuits – they would just do their job and pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

Last week, 117 House Democrats – including all Bay Area members except House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco – sent a letter to President Obama urging him to take executive action.

“As you have said, it is ultimately the job of Congress to reform our broken immigration system by enacting legislation,” the lawmakers wrote. “But by failing to do their job – and repeatedly interfering with your efforts to do your job – congressional Republicans threaten to take our immigration system hostage and preserve a status quo that everyone agrees is unacceptable. Their failure to act must not inhibit your commitment to governing.”

“We will stand with you as you take bold and meaningful action, consistent with existing law and historical precedent, to protect American families, strengthen local communities and grow the economy,” they wrote.

At House Democrats news conference Thursday, Pelosi urged the president to act as well. “I don’t think there’s any question that the President can act administratively, take executive action.”

That same day, Rep. Jeff Denham – one of only three House Republicans to co-sponsor the House version of a bipartisan immigration bill that the Senate approved June 2013 – told Al Jazeera America that executive action is the wrong answer.

“It is hard to pass legislation of any kind without being able to trust the Commander in Chief on whether he’s going to implement the will of Congress and ultimately the will of the American people,” said Denham, R-Turlock, adding immigration is a complex issue that will require a package of bills brought forth at the same time. “This is a long term-problem that we’ve got to fix in Congress.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, are mulling how best to stymie any executive action Obama might take, but without giving in to calls from their party’s conservative wing to return to the kind of brinksmanship that led to last year’s government shutdown.

Posted on Monday, November 17th, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Immigration, Jeff Denham, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 14 Comments »