Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for the 'U.S. House' Category

Honda comms director Lauren Smith has died

Lauren Suzanne Smith, communications director to Rep. Mike Honda and a veteran of two other Northern California House offices, died Saturday, Dec. 26, in Washington, D.C. She was 37.

Lauren Smith“Lauren served on my staff with passion, dedication, talent and integrity,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in a statement issued Monday. “In addition to working in my office, Lauren was employed by many fine Democrats and institutions over the years, dedicating her communication talents to make the world a better place. She was a gracious person, loved by our team and will be deeply missed. May you rest in peace Lauren.”

Honda also penned an homage to Smith that was published Dec. 22 in The Hill, hinting at but not describing the dire nature of her illness.

“Lauren’s generous nature and dedication to her work means she is always ready to respond to the latest development in any issue area immediately, even late into the night or when she isn’t feeling her best. I can always count on Lauren to not only get the job done but to do it with class, perfection, and most of all, heart,” Honda wrote in that piece.

“A time-honored Team Honda tradition at celebratory times is for staff to share favorite moments involving me. I have heard from staff that Lauren’s favorite ‘Honda Moment’ is when I accidentally left her a voicemail of my full rendition of Elvis Presley’s ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,’” Honda added. “She tells me that when she’s down, this voicemail always makes her smile. Lauren, perhaps that voicemail was no accident – over the last year, Team Honda and I have without a doubt fallen in love with you, your work, and your laughter.”

Smith worked with the All America PAC in Indiana during the 2006 midterm elections and then worked her way up to serve as the Democratic National Committee’s Indiana communications director during the 2008 presidential election. She served stints as a press secretary for Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; communications director for Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; and communications director and deputy chief of staff for Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton. And after serving as a communications consultant for John Walsh’s Montana Senate campaign, she was Sen. Walsh’s deputy communications director before going to work for Honda early this year.

“She brought a real spark to my office… She was always enthusiastic,” McNerney said Monday, praising her as a confident, quick study. “There was something about Lauren that made you accept her right away.”

I spoke often with Lauren during her time in McNerney’s office, from 2011 through 2013, and again this year in Honda’s office; she was never anything less than a consummate professional as well as a good and pleasant person – a rare combination. I’ll miss her very much.

According to the tribute page her family has created, Lauren’s wish was that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in her name to the Joyful Heart Foundation.

Posted on Monday, December 28th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | No Comments »

How Bay Area members voted on taxes/spending

Congress on Friday cleared a year-end spending and tax deal with a strong bipartisan support, despite grumbling from both parties over what was included in the agreement and what got left out, the Washington Post reports.

The House passed the $1.1 trillion spending portion of the deal on a 316-113 vote early Friday morning, with 150 Republicans and 166 Democrats supporting the measure, after passing the $622 billion tax section of the agreement Thursday on a 318-109 vote.

The Senate soon after passed both parts of the agreement on a 65-33 vote, with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in support and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., not voting. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law.

From the Bay Area, representatives Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, all opposed the tax section of the deal Thursday, while Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, voted for it.

DeSaulnier said the tax-extender section isn’t paid for and will increase the deficit. “This package largely benefits corporations at the expense of working families and undermines programs like Pell grants, Headstart, job training and health research,” he said. “I could not support a package that mortgages our children’s future, reduces our payments on the nation’s debt and robs from the Social Security Trust Fund.”

All Bay Area House members except Lofgren supported the omnibus spending deal Friday morning.

“I was unable to vote for the Omnibus spending bill today because it included an extraneous provision purported to facilitate cybersecurity information sharing that – in effect – will function as a surveillance tool,” Lofgren said, noting Congress has debated cybersecurity for the past year and she voted for an earlier bill that would address concerns while protecting Americans’ private digital information.

“Information sharing requires measures to protect Americans’ privacy. It should also be debated in regular order. But this so-called ‘cybersecurity legislation’ was inserted into a must-pass Omnibus at the 11th hour, without debate,” she said. “The protective measures that such a bill should have – including those I believe the Constitution requires – were removed. While the Omnibus had both pros and cons, my obligation to protect constitutional rights isn’t negotiable. I made clear to House Leadership and the White House that I could not support the Omnibus with this cyber surveillance measure included. I have enclosed several letters crafted in the last two days outlining my concerns related to the bill.”

Posted on Friday, December 18th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

CA17: New pay-to-play claims against Honda

Rep. Mike Honda gave preferential treatment to campaign donors, according to a report published Wednesday by San Jose Inside.

honda.jpgThe alternate weekly says an anonymous source provided Honda’s “1,000 Cranes” database – a list of donors who’ve given at least $1,000 each, and the basis of accusations that Honda, D-San Jose, engaged in pay-to-play politics. The list’s existence was disclosed in an Office of Congressional Ethics report which became public in September.

The OCE report had revealed that the list, which Honda said was a personal effort he shared only with a campaign official, actually was discussed at an official staff retreat in 2012. Notes from that retreat obtained by investigators say “to work, it will require MH to use his personal touch … also will likely be transactional — i.e. help me with this visa for my grandma.”

Honda remains under investigation by the House Ethics Committee regarding whether interactions between his office and his campaign violated House rules or federal law, even as he tries to fend off a second electoral challenge from fellow Democrat Ro Khanna.

San Jose Inside’s report says Honda’s list actually consisted of contact information for 281 people and groups who’d supported his re-election bids in 2010 and 2012. Reporter Josh Koehn then listed several instances in which people on that list seemed to be cozy with Honda, ranging from the lawmaker wishing his biggest 2010 donor a happy birthday on the House floor, to an s unsuccessful Honda bill backed by two of the “cranes.” It also notes that the only bill introduced by Honda that’s been directly signed into law – to name a San Jose post office after Gordon Chan in 2009 – was followed by substantial donations by Chan’s widow in 2010 and 2012.

Most if not all members of Congress keep lists of big donors, and most if not all take money before or after saying or doing something complimentary or beneficial to the donor. It can be unsettling or unseemly, but it’s only illegal if there’s a direct, proven quid pro quo – hard evidence that the lawmaker demanded money in return for favors, or that a donor offered money for a specific official action and the lawmaker accepted. So far, there’s no such evidence for Honda.

“It seems to me there are some links missing in the chain,” said Larry Gerston, a San Jose State University professor emeritus of political science who has followed the district closely. “I’m not so sure that this alone tells us anything terrible is amiss.”

“People contribute to people running for office – that’s as old as anything we know about politics – and people in positions of power introduce legislation or commendations for people who help them get elected,” he said. “But this doesn’t say a whole lot more than that. And how many times did Congressman Honda propose legislation or offer commendations for people who didn’t contribute $1,000 or more?”

Hari Sevugan, spokesman for Khanna’s campaign, said Wednesday that “the evidence of Mike Honda engaging in multiple pay-to-play relationships with his top donors is deeply disturbing and raises more questions than answers.”

“But what we know for sure are his priorities,” Sevugan continued. “We’ve now learned of five instances of Mike Honda doing special favors for his top contributors. All while he’s passed just one bill in his 15 years in Congress. To name a post office. After the family member of a contributor. That says it all.”

Michael Beckendorf, Honda’s campaign manager, said the list on which the San Jose Inside report was based is “nothing more than a list of donors that anyone could obtain from public record.”

“We can only wonder what nickname Ro Khanna gives his list of ultra conservative millionaire and billionaire backers,” Beckendorf added. “It’s no wonder Khanna opposes raising taxes on the richest two percent and puts corporations and the wealthy ahead of the middle class. Congressman Honda is the only candidate in this race who has a record of standing up for working class Americans and delivering for Silicon Valley.”

Meanwhile, the campaign grinds slowly onward.

Honda announced endorsements this week from Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison, Newark Mayor Alan Nagy, Sunnyvale Mayor Jim Griffith, and Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews, whose cities account for a majority of the 17th Congressional District’s registered voters.

In a news release, Harrison praised Honda’s support of the Warm Springs BART Station and advocacy in revitalizing Fremont’s high-tech manufacturing industry, while Nagy said Honda is dedicated to “expanding opportunities for people of all backgrounds.” Griffith said Honda has been “an active and visible leader in Sunnyvale” who understands the region and its residents, and Matthews said Honda has fought to fund crucial Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority projects as well as to prevent closure of the post office at Franklin Mall.

And Ron Cohen, a Fremont accountant and Republican candidate in this race, filed a complaint Sunday claiming that a mailer Honda sent at taxpayers’ expense as “franked mail” was actually a campaign communication.

“Rather than a specific discussion in his own words of this views and beliefs on legislative matters, the vast majority of the piece I received is a series of quotations of reports by news outlets and related pictures … which I would argue are campaign-like promotional statements,” Cohen wrote to the OCE.

Posted on Wednesday, December 16th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

Honda, Lee, Farr vote against Visa Waiver reform

The House voted 407-19 Tuesday to tighten the Visa Waiver Program that lets people from certain countries travel to the United States without first obtaining a visa – a reaction to fear of terrorism, particularly given the roles of French and Belgian nationals in last month’s Paris attacks.

But three Northern California members – Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; and Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel – were among the few who voted against HR 158.

The bill would require visas for anyone who’s been in Iraq or Syria in the previous five years; exceptions are made for official government visits and military service. Countries in the visa waiver program would also be required to share counterterror information with the U.S. or face expulsion from the program. All travelers would be checked against Interpol databases, and visa waiver countries would be required to issue “e-passports” with biometric information.

Sam FarrFarr this evening said the bill “casts too wide a net to be effective. Throwing anyone who travels to Syria or Iraq into the same category as suspected terrorists won’t help us catch the bad guys but it will harm humanitarian efforts there. Investing in better human intel is how we will stop them, not by disrupting tourist travel to the United States.”

Honda went into more detail, noting that although he strongly supports the need for increased security in the Visa Waiver Program, he voted against this bill “because it unjustly targets individuals based on their nationality.”

He said the program, used by 20 million people per year from 38 countries, is far less secure than the two-year screening process to which refugees are subjected, and needs to be improved. He said he supports some parts of this bill, including requiring all travelers to be checked against INTERPOL databases, using fraud-resistant e-passports with biometric information to protect against false identities, and strengthening background check procedures and information-sharing.

honda.jpg“I cannot, however, vote for a bill that categorically bars access to the Visa Waiver Program for dual nationals of Iraq, Syria, Sudan, and Iran and people who have traveled in the last 5 years to Iraq and Syria, including humanitarian workers,” Honda said. “Under this bill, a French citizen of Syrian descent who has never been to Syria would still fall into this blanket category. Since the Visa Waiver Program functions on reciprocity, I am also concerned that this bill will trigger restrictions from other countries on travel for Iraqi, Syrian, Sudanese, and Iranian Americans.”

“I reject the stereotype that Arabs and Muslims are terrorists and I strongly oppose the targeting of people from these specific countries,” he continued. “I know what it is be singled out as a threat and potential enemy due to nationality, despite a lack of evidence and despite being an American citizen. We can and must protect Americans without compromising American values. It is time to refuse wartime hysteria and prejudice based on nationality, and instead show true political leadership.”

UPDATE @ 12:14 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Lee said she shares “the concerns of the ACLU, AILA, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and others that this bill would allow for the discrimination of individuals based on their nationality. We cannot let fear drive us to create bad policies. Congress can and should carefully examine the visa waiver program and I will work to support changes which do not open the door for blanket discrimination.”

Posted on Tuesday, December 8th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, Immigration, Mike Honda, Sam Farr, U.S. House, War on Terror | 2 Comments »

California politicos react to San Bernardino killings

California’s elected officials are sounding off on Wednesday’s mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, in which 14 people reportedly were killed and more wounded.

Gov. Jerry Brown cancelled the Capitol Christmas tree lighting ceremony that had been scheduled for Wednesday night. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families and everyone affected by the brutal attack,” he said in an emailed statement. “California will spare no effort in bringing these killers to justice.”

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

“Today, yet another American community is reeling from the horror of gun violence. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of San Bernardino. As the families of the victims grieve and the survivors focus on healing, the entire American family mourns.

“Gun violence is a crisis of epidemic proportions in our nation. Congress has a moral responsibility to vote on common sense measures to prevent the daily agony of gun violence in communities across America. Enough is enough.”

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

“Today we add San Bernardino to the long list of communities that have fallen victim to a mass shooting, and my heart is with the victims and their families.

“Details in San Bernardino are still murky, but what we do know is that these deadly shootings aren’t slowing down. Just a week after a deadly attack in Colorado Springs, we’re prepared to mourn more victims today.

“The Washington Post reported this week that in the first 334 days of 2015, there were 351 mass shootings. That’s an average of more than one deadly rampage for every day this year.

“USA Today reported that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System ran more than 185,000 checks for gun purchases the day after Thanksgiving. That doesn’t even count the sales that took place online or at gun shows, where no checks are necessary.

“When a convicted felon can walk into a gun show and buy an assault rifle, that’s a problem. When an individual with a known mental illness can buy an assault rifle online, that’s a problem. When a terrorist who can’t board an airplane can buy an assault rifle in a gun store, that’s a problem.
“Congress also has a problem—a debilitating fear of upsetting the gun lobby. Congress refuses even to require background checks on all firearms purchases, an action supported by the vast majority of Americans.

“Each time I see breaking news of yet another mass shooting, I feel it in the pit of my stomach. Congress can’t stop every shooting, but we can help reduce their frequency. I remain hopeful that enough of my colleagues will join me to make that a reality.”

More, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015
Under: Gov. Jerry Brown, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 13 Comments »

Boxer urges end to Planned Parenthood panel

In the wake of the mass shooting that claimed three lives Friday at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer on Monday urged House Speaker Paul Ryan to disband the new committee targeting the health organization.

Former Speaker John Boehner created the “Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives” in October to probe Planned Parenthood. Boxer, D-Calif., calls it a “witch hunt” against an organization that provides vital healthcare services but hasn’t broken the law.

Some Democrats have faulted the hot rhetoric slung by Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates against Planned Parenthood in recent months for inciting the kind of violence that occurred Friday in Colorado.

“We should not and cannot continue this politically-motivated committee targeting Planned Parenthood, which is already costing taxpayers and helping to create a dangerous climate for legal health care in America,” Boxer wrote Monday to Ryan, R-Wisc. “Since 1977, there have been 11 murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings and 186 arsons against abortion clinics and providers.”

“It is time to stop the witch hunt against Planned Parenthood, stop the demonizing rhetoric and disband this committee immediately,” she wrote.

Read the full text of Boxer’s letter, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, November 30th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Paul Ryan, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »

Today’s congressional odds and ends

HONDA’S INTERNATIONAL COALITION: Rep. Mike Honda joined five other lawmakers from around the world Monday in launching an International Parliamentary Coalition for Victims of Sexual Slavery.

Honda’s office said the coalition’s purpose will be to promote international cooperation in raising awareness about modern-day slavery and human-rights violations committed to force residents in conflicts zones and places struck by natural disasters into sexual slavery.

honda.jpg“Victims of sexual slavery are not collateral damage,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in a news release. “Sexual slavery, whether in times of conflict or natural disasters, is not a cultural phenomenon. It is violence against women. And this must change. We must hold everyone accountable. Eliminating violence against women is going to require a major change in our humanity. We can start by not treating this as an afterthought or a sidebar issue. Ending violence against women must be front and center.”

Besides Honda, the coalition’s founding co-chairs are Canadian Senator Yonah Martin; New Zealand Member of Parliament Melissa Lee; South Korean Representative Jasmine Lee; British Member of Parliament Fiona Bruce; and Canadian Advisory Council Chairwoman Joy Smith.

Honda earlier this year introduced HR 500, to establish an advisory council led by survivors of human trafficking to advise lawmakers on policies and initiatives. It became part of S.178, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, which President Obama signed into law in May.

FIGHTING FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Three California House members want the Justice Department to stop prosecuting California medical marijuana dispensaries that are following tougher new state laws.

Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa; and Sam Farr, D-Carmel, wrote to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, urging her to reconsider action against dispensaries like the Berkeley Patients Group and Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, “given the comprehensive and stringent regulations signed into law by CA Governor Jerry Brown last month.”

“As you know, the package of bills signed into law creates an enforceable framework for governing virtually every aspect of the medicinal cannabis industry – from licensing and taxation to quality control, shipping, packaging and pesticide standards,” they wrote.

Yet the Justice Department “continues to threaten individuals and businesses acting within the scope of states law on the medicinal use of marijuana despite formal guidance on exercising prosecutorial discretion and recent changes to federal law,” they continued. “It is counterproductive and economically prohibitive to continue a path of hostility toward dispensaries. … The will of the both voters at the ballot box and in state legislatures across the country should be respected”

SPEIER GRILLED ON ISIS: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, who sits on both the House Intelligence and Armed Services committees, took some tough questions from MSNBC this week about how Congress, the Obama administration, the military, and presidential candidates have dealt with the so-called Islamic State.

Posted on Wednesday, November 25th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, Jackie Speier, Mike Honda, Sam Farr, U.S. House | No Comments »

CA17: Ron Cohen lays out conservative platform

Ron Cohen, the Fremont Republican who recently joined the race to unseat Rep. Mike Honda next year, has fleshed out his policy positions on his campaign’s new website – and some of his staunch conservative views might be a hard sell in a district that’s only 19 percent Republican.

Ron CohenCohen, a 56-year-old accountant, said last week that if elected he would aim to join the arch-conservative Freedom Caucus – the Tea Party-dominated group of about three dozen Republicans that ousted former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and foiled Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, from succeeding him.

Judging from his website, Cohen’s political views are similar to those of libertarian-leaning Republicans such as former presidential candidate Texas Congressman Ron Paul. The “detailed analysis” part of his site says some parts are “a copy from Rand Paul’s website and others, with whom I agree.”

Cohen says the most important issue is unsustainable federal spending and debt. “This is an existential threat to the nation.”

On immigration, “we must secure our borders, use E-Verify, have a Temporary Workers Program, tighten visitor and student visas, and have every illegal alien case reviewed by a judge to determine their future status,” Cohen wrote. “We are a compassionate nation and illegal immigrants must follow our laws. Pass Kate’s Law and end Sanctuary Cities.”

Regarding foreign policy and defense, Cohen said the United States must “avoid foreign entanglements” – particularly in the Middle East, where “our ‘friends’ soon become our enemies.”

“In light of the Paris attacks, close our borders to anyone suspected of association with ISIS or their beliefs, and search for ‘sleeper cells,’” Cohen writes. “This type of ‘profiling’ is legal in times of war. I would have Congress formally ‘declare war’ on ISIS, as I believe the Constitution requires.”

Cohen calls for repealing the Affordable Care Act – “It’s bound to fail, anyway. Start again with a free-market solution.” He’s anti-abortion but says “the federal government has no business being in your doctor’s office… I would fund birth control and education to reduce the demand for abortions… I will not support any federal funding of abortions.”

He calls for eliminating the Department of Education, auditing the Federal Reserve, slashing business regulations, closing the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, imposing term limits on Congress, and freeing captive whales.

On gun control and gun rights, Cohen says “Americans have the right to be well-armed. More gun control laws are not the solution to school shootings. I sadly encourage more armed police and staff at schools. Pure evil must be met with force.”

And regarding low-income housing in the district, “no more of these four or five story apartment blocks that we see being built,” Cohen wrote. “Not everyone can afford to live in the district and we should not take steps to make it possible. Our highways are already clogged full.”

Even if Cohen doesn’t get many votes beyond the GOP base, that could be bad news for Ro Khanna, the Fremont Democrat now making his second bid to unseat Honda, D-San Jose. Khanna’s campaign relies on building a coalition among moderate Democrats, independents and Republicans, and any votes Cohen gets would likely come out of Khanna’s pocket.

Posted on Wednesday, November 25th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Brace for Dungeness crab disaster, lawmakers urge

Four of California’s coastal congressmembers are urging Gov. Jerry Brown to be ready to ask the federal government for an economic disaster declaration if the Dungeness crab fishery remains closed for the season.

Reps. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; and Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, wrote to Brown on Tuesday asking him to closely monitor domoic acid levels in Dungeness crab.

Dungeness crabCrabs off the California coast have abnormally high levels of this toxic acid in their bodies due to an unusually big algae bloom, due in turn to abnormally high water temperatures in the Pacific. Officials have delayed the start of the recreational and commercial crab fishing seasons until the acid decreases to safe levels.

But every passing day is a blow not only to Californians craving the delicacy for their holiday tables, but to coastal communities relying on a commercial fishery valued at $60 million last year.

“The closure of the Dungeness crab fishery would not only make the holidays a little less bright, it would deal a hard blow for North coast fishermen, who have already been impacted by a poor year for salmon landings,” Huffman said in a news release. “While Californians’ Thanksgiving celebrations may not feature Dungeness crab this year, we can at least provide the assurance that federal disaster relief will be available to fishermen and affected communities and businesses if we lose the fishery.”

Huffman said the lawmakers are keeping their fingers crossed for better conditions next month, “ but in the meantime we will be working closely with our state and federal partners — from the Governor’s office to the White House — so that we can respond quickly in the event of a total closure.”

Speier noted some fisherman rely on the crab season for half their annual income, yet still must pay for licenses and boat maintenance. “If the season doesn’t open soon, these men and women deserve a financial lifeline. I urge the governor to start preparing for a disaster declaration now.”

Posted on Tuesday, November 24th, 2015
Under: economy, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Two NorCal Dems vote for Syrian refugee bill

The House approved the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act affecting the process by which the United States accepts refugees fleeing from Syria on a veto-proof 289-137 vote Thursday – and two Northern California Democrats were among those voting for it.

All refugees undergo an 18-to-24-month screening process involving various federal intelligence, law enforcement and diplomatic agencies before being allowed to come to America; Syrian refugees are subject to extra intelligence checks, said Obama administration officials this week.

But H.R. 4038 effectively would suspend admissions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees for now by obliging the heads of the FBI and Homeland Security Department and the director of national intelligence to certify to Congress that each refugee “is not a threat to the security of the United States.”

The entire Bay Area delegation opposed it, but among those voting for it were Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove.

From Garamendi:

John Garamendi“This bill strengthens the already stringent requirements for international refugees entering America. But strengthening the refugee program is a minor part of the reassessment we must make in the wake of the Paris attacks. For those wishing to come to America to do harm, the refugee program is the least likely way to get in and the most likely way to get caught. Of the millions of displaced Syrians, only around 2,200 have been admitted to the United States as refugees, and for a good reason: applicants are vetted through biometric and biographic checks for at least 18 months by every major American national security and law enforcement agency before they even set foot on American soil. Anyone whose identity and story cannot be precisely confirmed is not admitted to our country. Once they gain admission to the United States, their status is periodically reviewed by state and federal law enforcement.

“America must remain the refuge of people who flee from terror, war, hunger and persecution. We should welcome those refugees from Syria and Iraq who seek safety and meet our security requirements. While I strongly support tighter screening requirements for refugee applicants, Congress should focus on much more likely ways for attackers to gain entry to our country. Every single attacker in Paris with a confirmed identity was a citizen of either France or Belgium—countries whose citizens don’t even require a Visa to enter the United States because of our Visa waiver agreement with the European Union.

“We must be vigilant in every respect—refugees, students, and visitors, as well as homegrown terrorists. Remember that each of us has an important role to play. If we see something, we must say something to authorities.”

From Bera:

Ami_Bera_official_photo“It is critical that our first priority is to keep America safe – that is why I voted today for a bill to ensure that all Syrian refugees are thoroughly vetted. However, we can’t let the terrorists win and influence who we are as Americans. Our country has always been a place for those fleeing violence or oppression and we must stay true to those values. This additional screening step will ensure that we know those coming into the country are not a security threat.”

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, was among those who voted against the bill.

Sam Farr“The strength of our nation is found in our willingness to help those most in need. Turning our back on those fleeing terror and destruction would mean turning our back on the values that make this country great. America can stay true to those values without compromising our security.

“We already thoroughly vet anyone seeking refugee status. For most applications, it is a multi-year process that requires a stringent background check. If our security agencies cannot verify any detail of a refugee’s story, they are denied entrance. That is a higher level of security screening than we apply to immigrants and travelers visiting the United States.

“After the recent attacks in Paris, fear is an understandable emotion. However leadership requires us to not give into that fear. Syrian refugees fleeing their war torn country are not our enemy. They are grandparents, mothers, fathers and children who are only searching for safe haven for their family. As a humanitarian nation and the moral leader of the world, we have a responsibility to welcome them into our country.”

Posted on Thursday, November 19th, 2015
Under: Ami Bera, John Garamendi, Sam Farr, U.S. House | No Comments »