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:
The House voted 229-195 today to repeal the “Obamacare” federal health care reforms enacted in 2010 – the 37th time that Republicans have tried to repeal or eliminate funding for the law.
The only two Democrats to vote for H.R. 45 were Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, both of whom represent districts with heavy numbers of Republican voters yet are deemed “lean Democratic” – not “toss up” – by the Cook Political Report. No Republicans opposed the bill.
Like its predecessors, this effort is DOA in the Democrat-dominated U.S. Senate. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, spoke in defense of the vote:
“Today the House is voting to repeal the president’s health care law because it’s increasing the cost of health insurance, reducing access to care, and making it harder for small businesses to hire new workers. This is the third full repeal vote that we’ve had in the last three years, and some critics have suggested it’s a waste of time.
“Well, while our goal is to repeal all of ObamaCare, I would remind you that the president has signed into law seven different bills that repealed or defunded parts of that law. Is it enough? No. Full repeal is needed to keep this law from doing more damage to our economy and raising health care costs.
“But some progress has been made, and Republicans will continue to work to scrap the law in its entirety so we can focus on patient-centered reforms that lower costs and protect jobs. Because jobs is what this is all about.”
Northern California’s House Democrats were – shocker! – having none of it. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, smack-talked the vote at her weekly news conference:
“Here we are, 134 days into the 113th Congress, without one vote on a jobs bill. Fifty-four days after the Senate passed its budget, we still haven’t moved forward to the budget process with this do nothing agenda that does not reflect the priorities of the American people. It is an agenda that only the Republicans are interested in pursuing. So, you see a series of subterfuges, job evasions. Today’s job evasion is that the Republicans have decided to vote on the Patient’s Rights Repeal Act, their 37th attempt to repeal our country’s landmark reform bill. That’s 37 votes, 43 days, $52 million – $52.4 million – on an obvious evasion of our responsibility to work on the priorities of the American people.
“Not only is this a clear waste of time, and of taxpayer dollars, it is a deliberate vote to eliminate the affordable, quality health care benefits millions of Americans are already enjoying.”
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, called it “a shameful waste of time and taxpayer dollars.”
“Instead of spending more than $50 million to repeal a law that is saving lives and money, we should be working to improve our healthcare system and expand on the benefits the law provides,” Thompson said. “It’s time to put these political games aside. By building on the reforms made in the Affordable Care Act, we can make sure every American can afford to go to the doctor. And that’s what matters.”
And Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, said Americans “want Congress to focus on jobs, not waste time and taxpayer money voting 37 times to take away patient protections from middle class families.
“The Supreme Court has ruled, and ACA is now law. It’s not perfect, and it’s not the law I would have proposed because it doesn’t do enough to address the cost of care, but we don’t want to go back to a time when children faced discrimination due to pre-existing conditions, when students and young adults were kicked off their parents’ insurance, and when women had to pay more for insurance than men just because of their gender,” he said. “Now we need to move past partisan bickering and start working on ways we can drive healthcare costs down. For years, we’ve been paying more and more for healthcare, and getting less and less. As a doctor and former Chief Medical Officer for Sacramento County, I know there are many places we can find savings.”
Jeez, I take one day off (to go to an awesome concert, at least) and THAT’S when the IRS gets busted for targeting conservative groups – prime blog fodder if I ever saw it. Sorry for the delay, readers.
In case you missed it, the IRS apologized Friday for targeting groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, admitting it had improperly singled out conservative applications for tax-exempt status for special scrutiny. The story only got uglier over the weekend, with the Associated Press and Reuters reporting Saturday that senior IRS officials knew of this as early as 2011.
“The admission by the Obama administration that the Internal Revenue Service targeted political opponents echoes some of the most shameful abuses of government power in 20th-century American history. Today, we are left with serious questions: who is ultimately responsible for this travesty? What actions will the Obama administration take to hold them accountable? And have other federal agencies used government powers to attack Americans for partisan reasons? House Republicans have made oversight of federal agencies a top priority on behalf of the American people, and I applaud the work that members such as Charles Boustany, Darrell Issa and Jim Jordan have done to bring this issue to light. I also strongly support Sen. McConnell’s call for a transparent, government-wide review to ensure similar practices are not happening elsewhere in the federal bureaucracy.”
“If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that’s outrageous, and there’s no place for it,” President Obama told reporters today, according to the Washington Post. “And they have to be held fully accountable.”
And here’s what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said today:
“While we look forward to reviewing the Inspector General’s report this week, it is clear that the actions taken by some at the IRS must be condemned. Those who engaged in this behavior were wrong and must be held accountable for their actions. Regardless of political affiliation or bias, there is no place for this type of activity by the IRS or its employees.
“There needs to be more clarity in the law regarding the activities of tax exempt organizations along with greater disclosure and transparency. We must overturn Citizens United, which has exacerbated the challenges posed by some of these so-called ‘social welfare’ organizations. And we must take appropriate action, without any delay or hesitation, to ensure that the IRS remains an impartial agency for America’s taxpayers and our nation’s families and businesses.”
One of the Bay Area’s freshman House members got some key support from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on Monday.
Pelosi, D-San Francisco, hosted a Capitol Hill fundraiser for Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, putting to rest any murmurs that party leaders hold a grudge against Swalwell for his upstart unseating of veteran Rep. Pete Stark last year.
“I was honored to have Leader Pelosi’s support this evening,” Swalwell texted me a few minutes ago. “As someone who comes from a middle-class family, I appreciate the Leader’s efforts to expand our middle class for people who work hard and play by the rules. With the Leader’s help, I look forward to returning to the 114th Congress and calling her Madam Speaker.”
Swalwell said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., attended the fundraiser, too.
Swalwell wouldn’t say how much he raised tonight, but however much it is, it comes atop a stellar first quarter of 2013. He raised $263,000 from Jan. 1 through March 30 – more than any other local House member except perhaps Pelosi, depending on how you count it.
Someone’s gotta count all that money, and a recent staffing change ensures there’s an experienced hand on the books. Swalwell said Monday that Shannon Fuller, 40, of Orinda, whom he had hired in November as district director, left his Pleasanton district office in March to become the treasurer of his re-election campaign.
Fuller had been a campaign fundraiser for Rep. Ellen Tauscher for the 2000 election, and then worked as a scheduler in her office until 2004; that’s where she met Swalwell, who interned in Tauscher’s office in 2001. She was the finance director for Swalwell’s campaign last year.
Cheri Clasen Greven, 32, of Stockton, who has worked as a field representative for Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, will leave that job Friday to start as Swalwell’s district director next Monday, May 13. “The last five years with Congressman McNerney and his team were tremendously successful, challenging and above all rewarding,” Greven wrote in an email Monday afternoon.
More than 100 House members from both sides of the aisle have signed on to co-sponsor a bill that would require background checks for all commercial gun sales.
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, chairman of the House Democrats’ gun-violence task force, and Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., introduced H.R. 1565 on April 15, two days before the Senate rejected the identical Manchin-Toomey amendment.
“We won’t take ‘no’ for an answer when it comes to passing commonsense laws that keep guns from criminals, terrorist and the dangerously mentally ill,” Thompson and King said in a news release today. “This debate isn’t over. The American people deserve for this bill to be signed into law.”
The bill would expand the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads; it would not cover private, person-to-person sales, as California’s law does.
This widening of background checks is tempered by several nods to those concerned about Second Amendment rights: The bill bans the government from creating a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It also lets gun owners use a state concealed-carry permit issued within the last five years in lieu of a background check, and allows interstate handgun sales from licensed dealers.
And it improves the National Instant Criminal Background Check System by offering incentives to states to improve reporting of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill and by directing future grants toward better record-sharing systems; federal funds would be reduced to states that don’t comply.
The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary and Veterans’ Affairs committees.
The locals who haven’t signed on are Reps. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; and George Miller, D-Martinez. I’ve reached out to their offices to find out where they stand on the bill, and will update this item accordingly.
UPDATE @ 1 P.M. TUESDAY 5/7: McNerney and Miller both have signed on.
“Today, we take the opportunity to honor our 43rd President, George W. Bush, for his service to our country. No matter whether you agreed with his policies, there was never any doubt that he was a leader of conviction, dedication to duty, and faith in American ideals.
“Committed to taking concrete steps on energy independence, President Bush bucked the partisan divide to work with Democrats in setting higher fuel economy standards that reduce our dependence on foreign oil and ensure a stronger and cleaner future for our country. While many events may distinguish his presidency, his devotion to combatting the scourge of HIV/AIDS will certainly define his legacy. Thanks to his commitment to work with Congress in establishing PEPFAR, we are saving millions of lives around the world and working toward the day when we completely eliminate new HIV infections among children.
“I hope the George W. Bush Library long stands as a true tribute to his passion, patriotism, and presidency.”
Activists are descending today upon the offices of federal officials across the Bay Area, and across the nation, to deliver petitions urging the protection of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ benefits from cuts proposed by President Obama.
Organized by MoveOn.org, it appears there’ll be gatherings at noon at the offices of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in Oakland, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco, Rep. Eric Swalwell in Pleasanton, Rep. Jackie Speier in San Mateo, Rep. George Miller in Concord, Rep. Zoe Lofgren in San Jose, and Rep. Jared Huffman in San Rafael.
“I supported President Obama for reelection, but I won’t support him cutting Social Security,” said Frank Burton of Castro Valley, co-organizer of the event at Swalwell’s office. “Seniors depend on Social Security, and the cut in the cost-of-living adjustment is based on false logic. Seniors need the full cost-of-living adjustment because of huge increases in medical costs every year.”
Clark Sullivan of San Francisco said he helped organize the event at Pelosi’s office “because most people collecting Social Security are already starving for several days at the end of the month.
“Cutting benefits would increase the already unacceptable level of human misery for Americans who have paid a lifetime of taxes to support Social Security,” he said. “The Social Security Act has been one of the most successful federal programs ever enacted and is more solvent than it ever has been. There is no need to tamper with its current success.”
Someone who saw the item I posted earlier today about Rep. Eric Swalwell’s first-quarter fundraising prowess has just shared information that seems to cement the notion that the freshman has been embraced by the very Democratic machine that opposed him last year: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will be headlining his fundraiser in May.
Tickets to the Monday, May 6 event at a Capitol Hill condo will cost $500 to $2,500 for individuals and $1,000 to $5,000 for political action committees.
That’s just two days after Pelosi, D-San Francisco is scheduled to headline a far cheaper Walnut Creek fundraiser for Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.
Pelosi last year had endorsed Rep. Pete Stark for re-election to a 21st term, but that and other powerful endorsements didn’t keep Swalwell from unseating the irascible incumbent in November. Some had speculated he might get a cold shoulder upon arriving in Washington from those who’d opposed his candidacy, but several signs – including this fundraiser, as well as his January appointment as an assistant minority whip – indicate all has been forgiven.
That’s potentially bad news for state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, who also had hoped to succeed Stark in the 15th Congressional District and has a campaign committee that’s raising funds. Corbett may well have the support of some local Democrats and labor unions, but if people of Pelosi’s stature keep raising money for Swalwell, he’ll be tough for anyone to beat.
One of the Bay Area’s House freshmen was among the region’s top fundraisers in the first quarter of 2013, according to newly filed Federal Election Commission reports.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, raised $262,810 in the first three months of the year, leaving him with $222,932 cash on hand as of March 31.
On its face, that’s more even than the $207,030 that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, collected in individual contributions to her campaign committee. But Pelosi also transferred in more than $136,000 from her Nancy Pelosi Victory Fund, which itself raised $671,400 in the first quarter. (Now THAT’s some serious scratch; don’t mess with the big dog, Congressman Swalwell.)
Still, Swalwell’s first-quarter fundraising outstripped that of every other Bay Area House member including Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who raised $214,000 while already in full campaign mode due to the challenge posed by fellow Democrat Ro Khanna.
Swalwell might also face a fellow Democrat in 2014: state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, who like Swalwell had hoped to succeed Pete Stark in the 15th Congressional District but chose not to run against him last year. Corbett, who’s favored by many of the same local Democrats who had backed Stark in 2012, raised $16,201 in the first quarter of this year and had $114,963 cash on hand as of March 31.
Here’s a readout of the rest of the greater Bay Area delegation’s first-quarter haul, looking only at their principal campaign committees:
Barbara Lee, D-Oakland: $69,482 raised, $29,804 cash on hand
Oakland Police said that although they have no reason to believe there’s any threat here, they’re keeping officers apprised of the situation in Boston and will have a more visible presence at tonight’s Oakland A’s and Golden State Warriors games in collaboration with BART Police, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies.
Elected officials are weighing in, too.
From President Barack Obama’s live press briefing at the White House:
“We still do not know who did this or why. And people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But make no mistake – we will get to the bottom of this. And we will find out who did this; we’ll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.
“Today is a holiday in Massachusetts – Patriots’ Day. It’s a day that celebrates the free and fiercely independent spirit that this great American city of Boston has reflected from the earliest days of our nation. And it’s a day that draws the world to Boston’s streets in a spirit of friendly competition. Boston is a tough and resilient town. So are its people. I’m supremely confident that Bostonians will pull together, take care of each other, and move forward as one proud city. And as they do, the American people will be with them every single step of the way.”
“Words cannot begin to express our sorrow for the families who are grieving so suddenly right now. The House of Representatives offers its prayers to the victims and the city of Boston. We also give thanks for the professionals and Good Samaritans who prevented further loss of life. This is a terrible day for all Americans, but we will carry on in the American spirit, and come together with grace and strength.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston today and with the families of all of the victims of this brutal attack. We pray for the health and recovery of those injured, for the witnesses to the explosions, and for the first responders who arrived on the scene to tend to the wounded and secure the area.
“Words are inadequate to console the loved ones of those lost at the Boston Marathon. But we will do what we can to care for them. We will ensure that justice will be done.
“Members of Congress stand ready to assist our partners in Boston and Massachusetts as they respond to this unspeakable tragedy. The entire nation will stand as a source of support and comfort to this community in the days to come.”
From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (who is California’s acting governor during Gov. Jerry Brown’s ongoing trip to China):
Jennifer and I are deeply saddened by the tragic events in Boston today and our hearts go out to the victims’ families and their communities. There’s no indication of any threats to California or our local communities at this time. However, these events are a reminder to remain vigilant and always report anything unusual to your local law enforcement agency.