“As we approach the third and final race of this year’s Triple Crown, it’s important that we shed light on a scandal that is plaguing horse racing in America — doping,” Eshoo said in a news release. “This cruel and dangerous practice with race horses not only causes an average of 24 horses to drop dead every week, but it is still permitted by law in the U.S. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will outlaw doping in horse racing and create a culture of safety for some of the most majestic creatures on earth.”
USADA is a non-governmental organization that’s designated as the official anti-doping agency for the U.S. Olympics and works with sports leagues to strengthen clean competition policies. It made big headlines last year by filing a charge, and ultimately imposing a lifetime ban, on champion cyclist Lance Armstrong.
Under this new bill, the agency would develop rules for permitted and prohibited substances and create anti-doping education, research, testing and adjudication programs for horseracing. It would also put an end to race day medication; set a harmonized medication policy framework for all races with interstate simulcast wagering; require stiff penalties for cheating, including “one and done” and “three strikes, you’re out” lifetime bans for the worst cases; and ensure racehorse drug administrations comply with veterinary ethics.
House and Senate committees held hearings last year at which jockeys, veterinarians and owners testified that abuse of legal and illegal substances are contributing to increased breakdowns of racehorses and deadly accidents.
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.”
Rep. Jackie Speier may be the first Bay Area House member to speak out for digging deeper into the IRS scandal that has dogged the White House for the past week.
Speier, D-San Mateo, issued a statement today saying she agrees with President Obama that the IRS’ targeting of conservative organizations for special scrutiny of requests for tax-exempt status was “inexcusable,” with a level of wrong-doing that’s “particularly disturbing.”
The acting IRS commissioner’s resignation was “necessary, but insufficient,” she said. “It is clear that officials at many levels of the IRS were aware of these activities, and they must be held fully accountable.”
She wants to see all of the Treasury Department inspector general’s recommendations implemented immediately, but she also wants a bipartisan, independent commission “to examine what went wrong, who was involved, and why it was allowed to continue for so long.”
“That commission should also examine the dramatic increase in the number of organizations applying for tax exempt status as social welfare organizations following the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and whether additional clarifications are needed on the use of tax exempt status by organizations engaging in political activities,” Speier said. “It is completely appropriate to examine whether organizations claiming exemption as exclusively social welfare “charitable” and “educational” are actually charitable and educational.”
Ro Khanna, the former Obama administration official who’s challenging fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, has a fundraiser scheduled for Thursday night in San Francisco with some of Silicon Valley’s big names.
The top hosts are Ron Conway, a famed investor who is now special adviser to the San Francisco-based SV Angel investment firm, and Sean Parker of Napster and Facebook fame.
Also involved are Salesforce.com founder and CEO Marc Benioff, who has hosted fundraisers for President Barack Obama; Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and her husband, Zach Bogue; Matt Cohler and Peter Fenton from Benchmark Capital General Partners; Napster developer Shawn Fanning; Dan Rose, Facebook’s vice president of business development and monetization; Dropbox general counsel Ramsey Homsany, formerly a VP at Google; and SV Angel founder and managing partner David Lee.
The cost is $2,600 for supporters, $5,200 for sponsors; the 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. reception is being held in a private room at a North Beach restaurant.
Honda, 71, started the year with about $78,000 cash on hand and raised about $214,000 in the first quarter so even the money he raised in the first quarter doesn’t put him anywhere close to the $1 million bankroll that Khanna built in one blockbuster quarter back in 2011, when most folks thought he would run to succeed (but not challenge) Pete Stark.
Khanna, 36, of Fremont, raised only $18,000 in the first quarter of this year, but he was trying to remain somewhat under the radar; he didn’t formally announce his candidacy until April 2. This fundraiser might help him deliver on his promise of a much more aggressive and lucrative second quarter.
Khanna – a deputy assistant secretary in the Commerce Department from 2009 to 2011, now of counsel to Silicon Valley law powerhouse Wilson Sonsini – may be hobnobbing with the tech elite but he’s not neglecting his grassroots, either. He’s scheduled to hold the latest of his community meet-and-greets over Memorial Day weekend: a potluck lunch from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, May 25 in Almaden Quicksilver County Park along San Jose’s southern edge.
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.”
Two Bay Area congresswomen have helped introduce a bill that would permanently guarantee consumers can unlock their cell phones, tablets, and other mobile communications devices in order to switch carriers.
“This bill reflects the way we use this technology in our everyday lives,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, who introduced the bill Wednesday, said in a news release. “Americans should not be subject to fines and criminal liability for merely unlocking devices and media they legally purchased. If consumers are not violating copyright or some other law, there’s little reason to hold back the benefits of unlocking so people can continue using their devices.”
Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act currently forbids sidestepping technical measures that prevent modifying copyrighted works – such as “jailbreaking” a tablet to run third-party apps, going around digital rights management for archiving or disability access purposes, or unlocking a cell phone – regardless of whether there is any actual copyright infringement.
The U.S. Copyright Office can add restrictions or remove exemptions under Section 1201 every three years; it created an exemption for cell phone unlocking in 2010, and then took it away again in 2013, making cell phone unlocking illegal once more. Most other proposals in Congress would just extend the prior cell phone unlocking exemption for another three years.
This new bill would make it permanently legal for consumers to unlock their mobile devices, and consumers would not be required to obtain permission from their carrier before switching to a new carrier. It also would allow the use and sale of tools – like software apps – that enable unlocking for uses that don’t infringe on copyright. The president would be required to ensure that international trade agreements reflect the new law.
The nation would have an official Science Laureate – a renowned expert in a scientific field who would travel the nation to inspire future scientists – under new legislation coauthored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren.
The idea of the bipartisan legislation, cosponsored in the House by Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and in the Senate by Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., is to promotes science education and celebrate scientific achievement – a key goal as the nation emphasizes the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education to produce a more skilled workforce.
This new honorary position would be appointed by the president from nominees recommended by the National Academy of Sciences and serve for a term of one to two years. The laureate would be empowered to speak to Americans on the importance of science broadly and scientific issues of the day; the position would be unpaid, and the scientist would also be encouraged to continue his or her own important scientific work.
“Scientists like Albert Einstein or Sally Ride can capture the public’s attention and inspire Americans if they are given a platform to speak from,” Lofgren, D-San Jose, said in a news release. “As our society becomes ever more technical, a role model for how important scientific advancement is for our nation’s future will help us. The Science Laureate can serve that role, as an accomplished individual to engage Americans on the importance of science in our lives and who can encourage our students to be the innovators of tomorrow.”
At issue were lethal drones operations abroad, questions of due process, implications for executive and congressional war-making authority, and the precedent being set as other nations rapidly adopt drone technology.
“I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in the Progressive Caucus on this issue, and am especially grateful for their efforts in calling this hearing,” Lee said in a news release. “We need to ensure that both chambers publically debate the implications of drones and drone warfare. We cannot retreat from our Congressional duties of oversight and accountability, especially on issues like this where the stakes are so high.”
Caucus members heard testimony from former House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ron Dellums, D-Oakland; Zeke Johnson, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security with Human Rights Campaign; international human rights lawyer and New York University Professor Sarah Knuckey; Chris Rogers, program officer of the Regional Policy Initiative at the Open Society Foundation; counterterrorism and human rights lawyer Professor Naureen Shah; and journalist Adam Baron. The hearing also includied video testimony from Baraa Shiban, a youth representative in Yemen’s National Dialogue and Reprieve Project.
Caucus co-chairs Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Keith Ellison, D-Minn., recently wrote a letter to President Barack Obama asking the administration to explain the legal basis for drone strikes. “It is far past time that the White House openly discuss the drones program,” the letter said. “The President has full reign to protect the United States as Commander in Chief, but Congress has a vital oversight role in this issue, and we cannot shy away from those responsibilities.”
Honda on Tuesday announced the endorsements of state Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker John Perez, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, Controller John Chiang, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Treasurer Bill Lockyer, Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, and 14 current and former state lawmakers. He’d previously announced he has Attorney General Kamala Harris’ endorsement, while Khanna last month announced he has Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s nod.
Perez said Honda “has been a thoughtful and effective leader, with a distinguished track record of bringing both parties together to find solutions for the very difficult challenges facing our country. Our state is lucky to have such a phenomenal representative fighting for us in Congress, and I am proud to support him for reelection.”
And Torlakson said Honda “is working to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in our classrooms, which will provide our children with a 21st century education and keep our country a leader in the global economy. I am proud to support Mike’s campaign for Congress and look forward to continue working with him to ensure that each and every child has the opportunity to get a quality education.”
Honda said he’s grateful for the state officials’ support: “We will continue working together for quality jobs, good schools, and a bright future for California’s families.”
Meanwhile, Khanna is continuing his effort to “bridge the gap of digital and traditional involvement” by inviting people to become “digital advocates” to spread word of his campaign throughout Silicon Valley. The campaign’s first digital training for volunteers is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, May 7, at 43255 Mission Blvd. in Fremont; more trainings will be held in the coming months.
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.