House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, issued this statement today on the Syrian government’s used of chemical weapons:
“The Syrian government’s horrific, wanton, and undeniable use of chemical weapons against its own people is a clear violation of any moral standard and places the Assad regime well outside the circle of respect for basic human rights. President Assad’s partnership with Iran and designated terrorist organization Hezbollah to perpetrate such violence only further threatens the safety of the Syrian people and the stability of the region.
“This regime’s indiscriminate actions have claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people, internally displaced 4.25 million people, and forced 1.7 million men, women, and children to flee. We appreciate the response taken by neighboring countries to receive and address the needs of Syrian refugees.
“We join President Obama and the international community in strongly condemning the senseless violence of the Assad regime. Moving forward, Members of Congress stand ready to consult with President Obama to consider the appropriate course of action in response to these acts of brutality.”
Ah, but there’s the rub, right? Will President Obama consult Congress in a meaningful way before taking action? Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay, said if he doesn’t do so, any action he takes will be illegal.
“I am deeply concerned about reports that the President is preparing to order acts of war against the government of Syria without congressional authorization.
“The Constitution clearly and unmistakably vests Congress with the sole prerogative ‘to declare war.’ The President’s authority as Commander-in-Chief to order a military attack on a foreign government is implicitly limited by the Constitution to repelling an attack and explicitly limited under the War Powers Resolution to: ‘(1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.’ Unless one of these conditions is present, the decision must be made by Congress and not by the President.
“Nor does our participation in NATO allow the President to order an unprovoked act of war. The North Atlantic Treaty clearly requires troops under NATO command to be deployed in accordance with their country’s constitutional provisions. The War Powers Resolution clearly states that the President’s power to engage United States Armed Forces in hostilities ‘shall not be inferred …from any treaty heretofore or hereafter ratified unless such treaty is implemented by legislation specifically authorizing the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities…’
“Nor does the United Nations Participation Act of 1945 authorize the President to commit U.S. Armed Forces to combat in pursuit of United Nations directives without congressional approval.
“The authors of the Constitution were explicit on this point. Madison said, ‘In no part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department … Those who are to conduct a war cannot in the nature of things, be proper or safe judges whether a war ought to be commenced, continued, or concluded.’
“In Federalist 69, Alexander Hamilton drew a sharp distinction between the American President’s authority as Commander in Chief, which he said ‘would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces’ and that of the British king who could actually declare war.
“Indeed, it is reported that the British Prime Minister has called Parliament into special session to consider the question. How ironic it would be if the British government were to act with the authorization of Parliament but the American government acted on the unilateral decision of one man.
“War is not a one-sided act that can be turned on and off with Congressional funding. Once any nation commits an act of war against another, from that moment it is at war – inextricably embroiled and entangled with an aggrieved and belligerent government and its allies that have casus belli to prosecute hostilities regardless of what Congress then decides.
“If there are facts that compel us to take such a course, let those facts be laid before Congress and let Congress fulfill its rightful constitutional role on the most momentous decision any government can make.
“I believe that absent an attack or imminent threat to the United States or a specific authorization by Congress, the order of a military attack on the government of Syria would be illegal and unconstitutional.”
Capitol Hill and the American public are going bananas today over a Washington Post report that National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008.
“Press reports that the National Security Agency broke privacy rules thousands of times per year and reportedly sought to shield required disclosure of privacy violations are extremely disturbing.
“Current laws governing NSA’s collection activities contain safeguards to ensure the protection of privacy and civil liberties including provisions that require that incidents of non-compliance be reported to Congress and the FISA Court. Congress must conduct rigorous oversight to ensure that all incidents of non-compliance are reported to the oversight committees and the FISA court in a timely and comprehensive manner, and that appropriate steps are taken to ensure violations are not repeated.”
“Reports that the NSA repeatedly overstepped its legal boundaries, broke privacy regulations, and attempted to shield required disclosure of violations are outrageous, inappropriate and must be addressed. These reports, if accurate, highlight the need for aggressive oversight of the NSA’s intelligence gathering activities. This is exactly why I worked to establish an independent Inspector General for the intelligence community that will detect and deter abuse and misconduct within intelligence programs. Now we must act to make sure the abuses are not repeated.
“Congress and the Intelligence Committees can and should do more to ensure the NSA’s operations respect Americans’ civil liberties, that all incidents of non-compliance, if substantiated, are reported in a timely and comprehensive manner, and that appropriate steps are taken to make sure the incidents are not repeated.
“I do not believe protecting our citizens’ lives and civil liberties are mutually exclusive pursuits. Through aggressive oversight we can ensure our intelligence community can continue working to keep our country safe while respecting our citizens’ constitutional rights.”
Among those who voted for the Amash amendment was Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, who today said:
“It’s clear that oversight of the NSA and the broader intelligence community is failing. I fear the NSA has abused its power and lost the trust of many Americans. Congress needs to re-examine its relationship to the intelligence community if we are going to restore confidence that privacy rights are protected in this country.
“First, the internal audit released today needs to be held as a model practice for transparency. Audits such as this one should be done more frequently and comprehensively. The findings of these audits must be delivered to Congress. Second, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court must be privy to the NSA’s actions and no longer reliant on the NSA’s self-reporting. Third, there need to be stronger protections for whistleblowers. Intelligence community employees and contractors must feel safe to report wrongdoing and be protected from retribution.
“Congress cannot allow such sweeping violations of privacy to continue.”
The lawmakers – including all but two of the Bay Area’s House members – wrote that the bill “sets clear, uniform standards to limit burdensome detentions of aspiring citizens by local law enforcement solely on the basis of federal immigration detainer requests. The measure is designed to enhance public safety and protect civil liberties, while also promoting fiscal responsibility at the state and local levels.”
More than 100,000 people have been deported from California under federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Secure Communities (S-Comm) program, the lawmakers noted. “Civic and faith leaders from California and across the nation have forcefully argued that we should not deport today those who could be on the road to citizenship tomorrow.”
Furthermore, there’s evidence that S-Comm has reduced crime victims’ willingness to cooperate with police lest they themselves end up being deported, and that’s not good for public safety, the House members wrote.
Brown vetoed a version of the TRUST Act last year. But the lawmakers noted the current version – AB 4 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco – “gives law enforcement much broader discretion to honor detainer requests.”
“It will ensure that those who have not been convicted of any crime, have only been convicted of minor crimes, or those who are only identified by the S-Comm program because of their immigration history are not held on costly and unfair federal immigration detainers,” they wrote.
The only Bay Area House members who didn’t sign the letter were Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, and Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton. A Speier staffer said she hasn’t talked to Ammiano about the bill yet, and “she wants to do that before she takes a position.” McNerney’s office didn’t immediately answer an e-mail seeking comment.
The Assembly passed AB 4 with a 44-22 vote on May 16. It now awaits a state Senate floor vote; if it passes, it’ll go to Brown’s desk.
UPDATE @ 12:25 P.M.: “I support the sentiment of the TRUST Act,” McNerney said by email. “We need change in our country in the form of comprehensive immigration reform. Our country is founded on a long and proud immigrant history, and we need to find a clear path to citizenship for the law-abiding and hard-working people who want to join the United States of America. These people deserve a defined and manageable path to citizenship.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, had some tough words today for former congressman and New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, both of whom are under fire for sexual transgressions.
Here’s what Pelosi said today at her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill:
Q: “Madam Leader, as one of the most prominent Democratic politicians, I am curious about your take on former Congressman Weiner’s latest transgressions, having repeated the same action that occurred for his resignation in Congress. Do you have any new…”
Pelosi: “So shall I be thinking of you as sort of a social issue kind of a guy here?”
Q: “I am never – no, I…”
Pelosi: “We are legislators. But I appreciate your question.
“I think I have spoken and acted in terms of Anthony Weiner, in terms of when he was in the Congress of the United States. In his case, in the case of Mayor Filner, clearly, they have both admitted they need therapy. I think maybe that therapy could better be accomplished in private.”
Q: “Should he stay in the race?”
Pelosi: “That is up to the people of New York.
Q: “Ms. Pelosi, next week it looks like the House is going to take up this…”
Pelosi: “Let me just say before I leave that, let me be very clear: the conduct of some of these people that we are talking about here is reprehensible. It is so disrespectful of women. And what is really stunning about it is they don’t even realize it. You know, they don’t have a clue.
“And it is really, if they are clueless, get a clue. And if they need therapy, do it in private.”
Which of Northern California’s House members has the most money in their campaign war chests? You might be surprised.
While some incumbents are likely to face significant challenges from across the aisle (like Garamendi, Bera, McNerney and Denham) and others from within their own party (like Honda and maybe Swalwell), neither of the two House members with the most cash on hand as of June 30 are expected to have much to worry about next year.
Here’s the list, showing how much they raised in the second quarter (April 1 through June 30) and their cash on hand at mid-year:
CA5 – Mike Thompson, D-Napa: $257,579.45 raised, $1,470,170.24 COH
“I send my deepest sympathies to those who have lost loved ones in this tragic crash, and my thoughts and prayers are with those who are recovering from injuries.
“I have spoken to the Secretary of Transportation and the National Transportation Safety Board Chairman, and I am confident that this investigation will be complete and thorough to help prevent accidents like this from happening again.
“I want to commend all the first responders and medical personnel from across the Bay Area who have worked heroically to treat the injured and save lives.”
“Anne and I extend our deepest concerns and sympathy to the passengers who were aboard Asiana Flight 214 and to their families. We are grateful for the courage and swift response of the first responders whose actions surely prevented an even greater tragedy.”
From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:
“Today, our thoughts and prayers are with the passengers and crew who were on board Asiana Airlines Flight 214. No words can console those who lost loved ones in this terrible tragedy. All of San Francisco shares in their shock and grief. We will do everything we can to care for all those affected and their families.
“Our city is immeasurably grateful for the swift response of the flight crew who quickly evacuated passengers; for the air traffic controllers who effectively diverted traffic; for the brave first responders and the hospital staff who are ensuring the swift recovery of the injured. Their actions are a testament to the strength, courage, and selflessness that defines the Bay Area.
“Following the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation, I will work with the Federal Aviation Administration and the San Francisco International Airport to ensure that our planes are secure, our passengers are safe, and U.S. aviation remains among the safest ways to travel.”
From Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo (via Facebook at 3:24 p.m. Saturday):
“We continue to learn details about Asiana flight 214 from Seoul, a Boeing 777 that crashed at SFO this morning. While many questions remain, we know for certain that the first responders and airport personnell did a superb job securing the scene. NTSB chair Deborah Hersman is on her way to San Francisco and I am confident her investigation will uncover what caused the crash. I witnessed first-hand what an outstanding and meticulous job she and her team did investigating the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion in 2010.
“We don’t know how many people were killed or injured. The media is reporting two fatalities and 61 injuries, but SFO officials have yet to confirm those numbers. Looking at the burned out, tailless wreckage of the plane that carried an estimated 300 passengers, It does appear that we miraculously escaped a mass fatality. My thoughts are with the families who still don’t know about the status of their loved ones and all the survivors of this plane crash.”
Two Bay Area House members will be on the conference committee charged with completing a federal budget deal, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday.
Pelosi, D-San Francisco, appointed all Democrats from the House Budget Committee as conferees; that includes Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. Pelosi also called out House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for having not appointed any Republican conferees, even though the U.S. Senate passed a budget bill 96 days ago.
“The American people can’t afford to wait any longer for Republicans to act on a reasonable, responsible budget, and neither should we,” she said. “Democrats have put our ideas on the table time and again, with a budget proposal to create jobs, promote growth, invest in innovation and infrastructure, and bring down the deficit in a balanced way.”
Boehner at a news conference this morning said the nation’s 1.8 percent economic growth in the year’s first quarter isn’t enough. “That’s why Republicans are continuing to listen to the American people, and offering a real jobs plan for American families and small businesses,” he said. “Our jobs plan can bring us out of this ‘new normal’ and deliver sustained economic growth, and expand opportunity for all Americans.”
“We continue to have these pep rallies for the oil and gas industry while real problems are simply, for some reason, off the table. We don’t even have a conference committee so we can move forward and try to negotiate a federal budget, but we’re here to have a pep rally for the oil and gas industry,” Huffman said at the hearing. “We’ve got student loan interest rates about to double in less than a week, but we’re not talking about that. We’re not talking about any number of things, like the sequester and the people that are actually suffering. We’re here to talk about folks who are experiencing record profits. There are real problems that we need to be solving, and we need to be working together.”
“As author of the bill to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, I am thrilled by today’s Supreme Court decision.
“Today’s ruling clearly establishes that the 14 senators who opposed DOMA in 1996 were correct. It also states that one class of legally married individuals cannot be denied rights under federal law accorded to all other married couples. Doing so denies ‘equal protection’ under the Constitution. This is an important and significant decision.
“Because of inequities in the administration of more than 1,100 federal laws affected by DOMA, it is still necessary to introduce legislation to repeal DOMA and strike this law once and for all. I will introduce that legislation today with 39 cosponsors in the Senate.
“As a Californian, I am thrilled by the Supreme Court’s decision on Proposition 8. The court’s ruling on technical grounds leaves in place former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision that Prop 8 is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.
“I believe this decision means marriage equality will finally be restored in California.”
“Today my spirits are soaring because the Supreme Court reaffirmed the promise of America by rejecting two blatantly unconstitutional measures that discriminated against millions of our families.
“I was proud to have voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, and it is so heartening to see that the federal government will now treat all marriages equally.
“Because of the Court’s ruling on Proposition 8, millions of Californians will be able to marry the person they love – with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with it.”
“Today, the Supreme Court bent the arc of history once again toward justice. The court placed itself on the right side of history by discarding Section 3 of the defenseless Defense of Marriage Act and by allowing marriage equality for all families in California. The highest court in the land reaffirmed the promise inscribed into its walls: ‘equal justice under law.’
“Soon, the federal government will no longer discriminate against any family legally married in the United States. California will join 12 other states and the District of Columbia in recognizing the fundamental rights of all families. Our country will move one step closer to securing equal protection for all of our citizens.
“Nearly 44 years to the day after the Stonewall Riots turned the nation’s attention to discrimination against LGBT Americans, the fight for equal rights took a giant step forward. Yet even with today’s victory at the Supreme Court, the struggle for marriage equality is not over. Whether in the courts or in state legislatures, we will not rest until men and women in every state are granted equal rights. We will keep working to ensure that justice is done for every American, no matter who they love.”
“I strongly disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision today to limit the Voting Rights Act. The law successfully countered a century of aggressive limitations on minority voting rights, a fact that today’s majority decision acknowledged: ‘The Act has proved immensely successful at redressing racial discrimination and integrating the voting process.’
“After more than 20 hearings in the House and Senate, Congress in 2006 reauthorized key provisions in the Voting Rights Act for 25 years, a bill I was proud to cosponsor. By invalidating a key piece of the law, the Supreme Court departed from settled precedent and dealt a real setback for voting rights in this country.
“I believe Congress should move quickly to introduce new legislation to preserve voting rights for all Americans.”
“The Supreme Court’s decision flies in the face of the clear evidence we continue to see of efforts to suppress the vote in minority communities across the country. It is devastating that the Court’s conservative majority would strike down a central provision of the law that has protected the voting rights of all Americans for nearly a half century, and was reauthorized by Congress almost unanimously just seven years ago. I’ll be working with my Senate colleagues to restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act to ensure that every American can participate fully in our democracy.”
“Today, the Supreme Court took a step backward on voting rights, on civil rights, on liberty and justice for all. This decision weakens the cause of voting rights in our time, disregards the challenges of discrimination still facing our country, and undermines our nation’s ongoing effort to protect the promise of equality in our laws.
“Even with this setback, the court did place the power to reinforce the heart of the Voting Rights Act in the hands of Congress. As Members of Congress, we know that changes in election laws can have discriminatory effects. That’s why Congress made the determination that advance review of changes in election procedures is required for jurisdictions with a history of discrimination. In 2006, Democrats and Republicans came together to reauthorize the law, garnering overwhelming bipartisan support in a Republican-led Congress – passing the House by a vote 390-33 and the Senate by a vote of 98-0, then signed into law by President George W. Bush. This year, we must follow in that same tradition, taking the court’s decision as our cue for further action to strengthen this legislation.
“Voting rights are essential to who we are as Americans, to the cause of equality, to the strength of our democracy. It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to remove obstacles to voting, to ensure every citizen has the right to vote and every vote is counted as cast. We must secure the most basic privilege of American citizenship: the right to vote.”
Democrats took to the House floor today to commemorate the six-month anniversary of the schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn., and to try to jump-start the seemingly moribund effort to get a background-check bill through Congress.
The Senate rejected the bill in April, and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, doesn’t seem likely to bring it to a vote. That didn’t stop Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, from trying to shame him into it today.
And from Rep. Mike Thomspon, D-Napa, who has been House Democrats’ point man on gun violence issues: