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California’s House water war continues

The California House delegation’s internecine water war continues.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, announced Wednesday morning that H.R. 5781 – the California Drought Relief Act, introduced by Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford – will be scheduled for a floor vote next week. McCarthy said:

“California is facing the worst drought in a century, which has led to barren farms and drastic water shortages in our communities. We have reached this point after years of inaction by Senate Democrats while ill-conceived policies have continued to prioritize the well-being of fish above people. Though only Mother Nature can dictate the duration of the drought, the situation demands immediate action to address government-created barriers to ensure available water flows throughout our state and not washed out to the ocean.

“After the House and Senate passed separate California water bills this year, months were spent working on a bipartisan compromise for a long-term solution. Unfortunately, the Senate was pressured to quit negotiations at the last minute.

“This crisis cannot go unanswered, and the House’s unwavering commitment to find a solution has led to the California Emergency Drought Relief Act, introduced by Congressman David Valadao. Due to the urgent nature of the water crisis, the House will vote on this legislation next week.

“The first storms of the season are currently over California, with hopefully more to come in the subsequent months. It would be reckless and irresponsible to let the water from these storms be released into the ocean rather than directed to our local communities in need. The California Emergency Drought Relief Act contains provisions from the original Senate-passed bill and from the House’s negotiations with the Senate. Absent action now, California will continue to lose the water from storms in this water year and will face another year of devastating water-crisis. While more must be done toward a long-term solution, this legislation is another critical step to provide relief to our communities suffering from the drought, which is why the House and Senate must act on this bill.”

The Fresno Bee’s write-up on the bill characterizes it as “friendly to farmers and frightening to environmentalists.” The bill’s co-sponsors include McCarthy; Devin Nunes, R-Tulare; Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay; Ken Calvert, R-Corona; Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville; and Jim Costa, D-Fresno.

Bay- and Delta-area Democrats including Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; George Miller, D-Martinez; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; and Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, responded with a joint statement Wednesday afternoon:

“With just a few days left in the legislative session, the House plans to pass yet another divisive, dishonest, and potentially devastating California water bill without any public input or legislative oversight. This is unconscionable, and just the latest chapter in Republicans’reckless approach to micromanaging the state’s water during one of the worst droughts in our history.

“The idea that this bill is a ‘compromise’ is laughable. It is clear that this bill was thrown together without any input from anyone other than those who stand to benefit from its passage. This bill was not reviewed by the Natural Resources Committee, nor has it received input from federal agencies, the state, affected local water agencies, the fishing industry, tribes, or communities. Legislation this sweeping should be the subject of public hearings and input from all affected stakeholders.

“The bill makes it more difficult for state and federal agencies to make real-time water decisions, undermines state water rights priorities, misstates current law, and explicitly overrides the Endangered Species Act. These sweeping changes would place the west coast’s environment, tribes, communities, and the fishing industry in harm’s way in the next drought year.

“The drought does not stop at the edge of congressional districts, yet this bill insulates some parts of the state from the tough water decisions that will be made in the next year. We’re all in this together, and Congress should not tie water managers’ hands nor should we address drought conditions in some parts of the state at the expense of others.”

Posted on Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014
Under: Ami Bera, David Valadao, George Miller, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Kevin McCarthy, Mike Thompson, water | 3 Comments »

Lofgren defends Obama at immigration hearing

Rep. Zoe Lofgren rose to President Obama’s defense Tuesday during the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on his “executive overreach on immigration.”

In his opening statement, Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said the president “has just announced one of the biggest constitutional power grabs ever by a president.”

“The Obama Administration has crossed the line from any justifiable use of its authority to a clear violation of his constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute the laws,” Goodlatte said, adding there’s a difference between setting prosecutorial priorities and “setting enforcement-free zones for millions of unlawful aliens.”

“By boldly proclaiming that there will be no possibility of removal for millions of unlawful aliens, President Obama eliminates entirely any deterrent effect our immigration laws have,” he said. “He states plainly that those laws can be ignored with impunity. Such actions will entice others around the world to come here illegally, just like his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program encouraged tens of thousands of unaccompanied alien minors and families from Central America to make the dangerous trek to the United States.”

“By acting lawlessly and assuming legislative power, the Obama Administration is driving full speed ahead to a constitutional crisis, tilting the scales of our three-branch government in his favor and threatening to unravel our system of checks and balances,” Goodlatte concluded. “Rather than working constructively with the new men and women Americans elected to represent them in Congress, the President is making his relationship with Congress increasingly toxic by unconstitutionally acting on his own. Tragically, President Obama’s shortsighted actions have further set back congressional efforts to enact legislation to reform our broken immigration system.”

But Lofgren, D-San Jose, who is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee, said while the president can’t change the law, he can take action within it – as has every president since Eisenhower.

“The President’s actions are lawful. They are also smart, because they will allow DHS to focus limited resources on serious criminals, recent arrivals, and gang members. Finally, they are consistent with basic American values, like accountability, family unity, and compassion, Lofgren said.

“The legal question isn’t even a close one,” she later added. “The President has clear legal authority to defer removals when it’s in the national interest. Chief Justice Roberts reaffirmed that principle just two years ago – our immigration laws recognize this authority – past Presidents have used this authority regularly. Our President is doing so now and I, for one, am grateful that he is.”

Posted on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
Under: Immigration, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 3 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 »

Barbara Lee blasts Obama’s Afghanistan expansion

President Obama has re-broadened U.S. troops’ combat role in Afghanistan.

The decision made in recent weeks extends previous plans by authorizing U.S. troops to carry out combat operations against the Taliban to protect Americans and support Afghanistan’s security forces as part of the new ISAF Resolute Support mission next year, Reuters reports.

Obama had announced in May that U.S. troop levels would be cut to 9,800 by the end of the year, by half again in 2015 and to a normal embassy presence with a security assistance office in Kabul by the end of 2016. Under that plan, only a small contingent of 1,800 U.S. troops was limited to counter terrorism operations against remnants of al Qaeda. The new orders will also allow operations against the Taliban.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)And Rep. Barbara Lee – a staunch critic of the U.S. war in Afghanistan ever since being the lone vote against authorizing military force days after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks – is not amused.

“After more than a decade of open-ended war, I am deeply troubled to see the Administration expanding the role of U.S. servicemen and women in Afghanistan,” Lee, D-Oakland, said in a statement issued Sunday. “Many military and foreign policy experts agree that there is no military solution in Afghanistan. The future of Afghanistan is in the hands of the Afghan people.

“Our brave servicemen and women have performed their mission with courage, valor and commitment in an impossible situation,” she said. “It is time to stop endless war and bring our servicemen and women home to their families.”

Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2014
Under: Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Rep. Mike Honda schools Sen. Rand Paul

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Friday likened President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration to President Franklin Roosevelt’s action to put Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who as a child was forced to live in such a camp, issued a statement Monday taking the presidential aspirant to task.

honda.jpg“Rand Paul’s comments comparing President Obama’s executive order on Immigration with President Roosevelt’s executive order that imprisoned thousands of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II could not be more misguided. At best, he is confused. At worst, he is just wrong.

“President Roosevelt’s action was based on racism, fear, hysteria, war, and the lack of real political leadership. He succumbed to political pressure to deny Constitutional protections to 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of who were US-born citizens.

“President Obama, on the other hand, through his commitment to immigration reform and American values, is using his Executive Order to include, not exclude, people. He is working to keep intact immigrant families who play by the rules, not exclude undocumented parents and other DACA eligible individuals.

“President Obama is showing true leadership by taking action when the Republican leadership of the House has failed to let Congress do so.

“The incarceration of US citizens of Japanese origin, including me and my family, was a misuse of executive order. As someone who as victim of executive order 9066, I can say without hesitation that Roosevelt was wrong. It was a misuse of power. President Obama’s order is an appropriate use of executive order because Congress did not do its job.

“Every President has the Constitutional right to use Executive Orders. What Senator Paul fails to say, recognize, or admit to, is the motive and outcome of the use of this power. President Obama is using this power correctly – President Roosevelt did not.”

Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, Immigration, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Rand Paul, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 15 Comments »

Electeds react to Obama’s immigration speech

Talking points

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio

“The American people want both parties to focus on solving problems together; they don’t support unilateral action from a president who is more interested in partisan politics than working with the people’s elected representatives. That is not how American democracy works. Not long ago, President Obama said the unilateral action he just announced was ‘not an option’ and claimed he’d already ‘done everything that I can on my own.’ He said it would lead to a ‘surge in more illegal immigration.’ He said he was ‘not a king’ and ‘not the emperor’ and that he was ‘bound by the Constitution.’ He said an action like this would exceed his authority and be ‘difficult to justify legally.’ He may have changed his position, but that doesn’t change the Constitution.

“By ignoring the will of the American people, President Obama has cemented his legacy of lawlessness and squandered what little credibility he had left. His ‘my way or the highway’ approach makes it harder to build the trust with the American people that is necessary to get things done on behalf of the country. Republicans are left with the serious responsibility of upholding our oath of office. We will not shrink from this duty, because our allegiance lies with the American people. We will listen to them, work with our members, and protect the Constitution.”

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

“Tonight, President Obama announced bold action to bring our broken immigration system into line with our values as a people and our needs as a nation. The President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions will secure our borders, prioritize enforcement, and provide relief to millions of hard-working, law-abiding families who may now have a happy Thanksgiving free from the fear of separation.

“The President’s actions fall well within the clear constitutional and legal authority of his office, and the well-established precedent set by every president since Eisenhower. Even Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush used this authority to refine our immigration system in service of the national interest.

“Executive action is no substitute for legislation, and the President’s action does not absolve Congress of its own responsibility. Democrats will continue to demand action on bipartisan immigration legislation that will provide lasting certainty to immigrant families, and secure the billions of dollars in economic benefits Republicans’ inaction has denied our country.”

From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

“The President doesn’t seem to get the point that he must work with the government he has, not the government he wants. But despite Congress and the American people’s resistance to President Obama’s unilateral action—action the President himself said would ‘violate our laws’ and be ‘very difficult to defend legally’—the President has decided to go it alone yet again. As President Obama himself said, ‘there are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system.’ We urge the President to listen to his own words. America is a country of laws, and our Constitution does not grant the President the authority to legalize millions of immigrants with the stroke of a pen.

“Not only is this action wrong, it does absolutely nothing to solve the underlying problems of our open border and broken immigration system. In fact, it may exacerbate the problem.

“The President’s action is a prime example of Washington cynicism. He has responded to Congress and the public’s desire for positive change with an all-or-nothing approach that only damages the prospect of future cooperation. He did not even attempt to start on the right foot and work with us in the new year.

“While House Republicans will still work to do everything we can to move the country forward, it is our obligation and responsibility to fight this brazen power grab that doesn’t solve the real problems.”

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

“The president tonight announced he will temporarily suspend deportation of some undocumented immigrants, allowing families to stay together and bringing workers out of the shadows. While I continue to believe the House should vote on the Senate bill to address this issue, I support the president’s decision to help millions of individuals who have lived in the United States for years.

“This decision is not ‘amnesty,’ as some critics contend, nor will anyone receive citizenship or a green card. The president is offering temporary work authorization and halting deportations of certain immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years, including parents of U.S. citizens and individuals who arrived before age 16. The authority he is using has been employed by every president since Eisenhower, including 14 times during the Reagan and Bush presidencies.

“While the president’s executive action will provide much-needed relief for immigrant families, a permanent solution can only be achieved by Congress. The Senate bill passed in June 2013 was painstakingly negotiated over many months and received 68 votes, including 14 Republicans. Unfortunately, House leadership has ignored this commonsense bill. I hope they reconsider.

“The president’s decision is especially important for California. According to the White House, more than 150,000 of California’s agricultural workers will likely be eligible for deferred action and temporary work authorization. This will help ensure that our farms can continue to feed the country and the world.

“I plan to re-introduce a bill similar to the agricultural worker provisions from the Senate bill as stand-alone legislation next year, which I believe will offer Congress a starting point for further action.”

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, Immigration, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 17 Comments »

An Ellen Tauscher v. Karl Rove smackdown

You can be in the audience as Ellen Tauscher, the former East Bay congresswoman and under secretary of state, has a policy discussion with GOP strategist and super-PAC-master Karl Rove, the former deputy chief of staff and senior advisor to President George W. Bush, on Thursday, Jan. 22 in Concord.

Tauscher v. Rove

“This unique pairing will offer insights about the political landscape and its impacts on the economy both nationally and regionally,” according to a “save the date” email sent Thursday by the East Bay Leadership Council. The event will be held at the Hilton Concord, 1970 Diamond Blvd., but further details and registration are not yet available.

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014
Under: Ellen Tauscher | 1 Comment »

House Dems applaud DiFi water plan’s failure

A bunch of Northern California House members are relieved that U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has pulled the plug on closed-door negotiations over a California water bill.

“You’ve got to work with people to get something done,” Feinstein, D-Calif., told the Associated Press on Thursday, adding that “I’m going to put together a first-day bill for the next Congress, and it can go through the regular order.”

But the question of which people she’s working with remains. Feinstein and California’s House Republicans have been pushing water bills without the usual mark-up hearings, with House Democrats largely excluded and little or no public scrutiny.

Representatives Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; George Miller, D-Martinez; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; and Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, issued a joint statement Thursday saying they’re glad Feinstein’s effort failed.

“We are pleased Senator Feinstein will not be pursuing passage of the water legislation secretly negotiated by her and House Republicans. This legislation would have eviscerated environmental laws protecting fisheries, California watersheds, local water supplies, and tribal and local economies in order to benefit a few powerful Delta water exporters,” they said. “We applaud the Senator for stepping away from this deeply flawed legislation and realizing that a bill of this magnitude requires public hearings and regular committee process.”

The lawmakers, whose mostly Delta-adjacent districts would be direct affected by such a bill, said they’ve been “raising serious objections to both the secretive process and the harmful content of this legislation” and will “continue to demand next year that any water legislation responding to California’s severe drought be balanced and take into consideration the array of stakeholders in California.”

Restore the Delta, a grassroots environmental protection group, had issued a statement blasting the possible bill a few hours before news broke that it won’t happen this year.

“Senator Feinstein is carrying water for industrial growers who have planted tens of thousands of acres of almonds and other permanent crops in the midst of the past several very dry years,” Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta’s executive director, said in a news release. “Sen. Feinstein is rushing through legislation to aid these growers at the expense of the rest of California.”

UPDATE @ 3:23 P.M.: This just in from Feinstein:

“Over the past several weeks I have been working closely with members of the California delegation who expressed interest in reaching a bipartisan agreement on legislation to address California’s drought crisis without violating the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act or biological opinions.

“Although we have made progress, it has become clear that we will be unable to present an agreed-upon proposal before Congress adjourns this year.

“I deeply believe the people want both parties to work together, and that is the only way we will be able to enact water legislation. Claims that this has been some kind of secret process are false. In order to come up with a bill that is ready for public comment, back-and-forth negotiations and consultations are often necessary, including extensive technical assistance from federal and state agencies. That process is ongoing and we have no agreed-upon bill at this time.

“It is important to remember there is a real human face to this crisis. Some communities can no longer deliver water to homes. Thousands of residential wells have run dry. And many families lack very basic necessities like water for showers and cooking.

“California is in a state of prolonged drought, and we must come together to find ways to provide the water necessary for life and well-being. This isn’t about corporate agriculture, this is about California.

“It’s my hope that groups critical of this effort will strive to be productive rather than destructive. It’s clear that we need to get more water to our cities, businesses, farmers, households, fish and the Delta. And it’s equally important that we continue to protect wildlife and the environment. Only together will we stand a chance of agreeing on a bill that can help accomplish all of these goals.”

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014
Under: Agriculture, Ami Bera, Dianne Feinstein, George Miller, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Mike Thompson, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, water | 1 Comment »

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 »