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CA17: Khanna outraises Honda again, though closer

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna raised only slightly more money than incumbent Rep. Mike Honda in this year’s third quarter, but has more than twice as much cash banked for the race, according to both campaigns.

Both Democrats want to represent the 17th Congressional District, which lies in the heart of Silicon Valley and is the first district outside Hawaii in which Asian-Americans make up a majority of voters. Khanna, a Fremont resident who served for two years in President Barack Obama’s Commerce Department, lost last year’s bruising, nationally watched election by 3.6 percentage points as Honda held on for an eighth term.

Khanna collected about $380,000 – mostly in the quarter’s last 10 days – and spent about $103,000 from July 1 through Sept. 30, leaving him with about $1.3 million cash on hand and about $41,000 in debt, according to his campaign’s news release.

“These past few months my priority has been, of course, my wedding and honeymoon,” Khanna said in the release. “So, I am humbled to still see the outpouring of support. It’s a signal that this district wants a new beginning.”

Despite being embroiled in an ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation into whether his office and campaign blurred or crossed their lines, Honda, D-San Jose, raised about $350,000 and spent about $160,000 – including $26,000 on legal fees – during the third quarter, campaign spokesman Adam Alberti said Tuesday.

That left him with about $545,000 cash on hand as of Sept. 30, though his campaign declined to provide the amount of outstanding debt he has. At midyear, Honda had reported almost $35,000 in debt.

“Overall the pace of fundraising is steady, and we are on plan to have the resources necessary to fend off what know will be a big-money challenger who outspent the congressman 3-to-1 in his last attempt,” Alberti said.

Neither candidate’s full report to the Federal Elections Commission is available yet; the filing deadline is Oct. 15.

Khanna outraised Honda in the year’s first and second quarters, too.

Posted on Wednesday, October 7th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

DeSaulnier bill would lower student loan rates

Student loan borrowers would be able to refinance their interest rates at the rate offered to banks by the Federal Reserve, under a bill announced Monday by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier.

DeSaulnier, D-Concord, held an event at the University of California, Berkeley to roll out H.R. 3675, the Student Borrower Fairness Act, which would offset its costs by increasing corporate tax rates on companies that pay their CEOs or highest paid employees more than 100 times the median compensation of all employees.

Mark DeSaulnier“It is patently unfair that the same big banks that toppled our economy borrow from the federal government at extremely low interest rates while student borrowers are struggling to pay back their loans,” DeSaulnier said in a news release. “Meanwhile, people of all ages are buried in student loan debt which holds them back from being able to buy a car, purchase a home, save for retirement, or start a family. This bill is a first step toward making sure our students can emerge from under their piles of crippling debt and enter tomorrow’s highly-trained workforce.”

Congress acted on student loan rates in 2013, but the changes only applied to new borrowers.

UC-Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks applauded the bill. “College students and their families depend on student loans to access higher education,” Dirks said in the congressman’s release. “At Berkeley, we are proud that 61 percent of our undergraduates graduate without debt and the average debt of students who do borrow is only $17,584, much lower than the national average. This legislation would benefit all borrowers because it will help them manage their debt and repayment.”

James Donahue, president of St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga, said his college “is built on the idea that education has the power to transform lives. The Student Borrower Fairness Act will provide opportunities for all students to pursue their dreams of a higher education, and ultimately highly successful lives. Student loan debt is a national issue and reducing it must be a national priority.”

DeSaulnier’s office said outstanding student loans now total more than $1.3 trillion, surpassing total credit card debt. More than 37 million Americans have outstanding student loan debt, with an average outstanding balance of $29,400 for those who borrowed to get a bachelor’s degree. From 2004 to 2012, student loan debt rose an average of 14 percent per year.

Posted on Monday, October 5th, 2015
Under: education, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

Dems urge creation of gun-violence committee

For the “Fat Chance” file: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi asked outgoing Speaker John Boehner on Friday to create a Select Committee on Gun Violence, one day after a man armed with five handguns and a rifle killed nine and wounded nine more at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College.

House Republicans have steadfastly resisted all calls for more stringent gun controls in the wake of other mass shootings in recent years. And with Boehner on his way out this month and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, trying to shore up his conservative bona fides as a successor, it’s hard to see Pelosi’s plan as anything other than a total nonstarter.

Besides the six firearms recovered at the massacre’s scene, investigators found seven more firearms – two handguns, four rifles and a shotgun – at the slain gunman’s home, said a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokeswoman. All the guns were legally obtained, obtained by the shooter or family members over the last three years through a federal firearms dealer, she said.

“Prayers for the victims, families, students, & faculty at Umpqua Community College, & the community of Roseburg, Oregon,” Boehner tweeted Thursday.

In her letter to Boehner, Pelosi, D-San Francisco, also said the select committee she proposes should have to report its recommendations to the House within 60 days, “in time for a vote before the third anniversary of the Newtown shooting this year.” She also urged Boehner to see that the House hears and passes a bipartisan bill – heretofore ignored by most Republicans – to require background checks for all firearm sales.

“The epidemic of gun violence in our country challenges the conscience of our nation. Mass shootings and gun violence are inflicting daily tragedy on communities across America,” Pelosi wrote. “As of today, nearly 10,000 Americans have been killed by guns in 2015 – more than 30 gun violence deaths a day. Yesterday’s terrible attack at Umpqua Community College in Oregon marked the 45th school shooting this year alone.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, House Democrats’ point man on gun-violence issues and co-author of the languishing background-check bill, wrote to Boehner on Friday, too.

“Every single time a mass shooting happens we go through the same routine. Thoughts and prayers are sent. Statements are made. Stories are written. And nothing changes,” Thompson, D-St. Helena, said in a news release. “Yesterday it was nine people at a community college. A month ago it was a news reporter and cameraman in Virginia. Two months before that it was a prayer group in Charleston. Mass gun violence has become as commonplace as it is tragic.”

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Congressional Republicans have done nothing over and over again and, predictably, the results have been the same: more innocent lives lost, more families forever changed, and more mass gun violence,” he added. “Republicans have a majority in Congress, and a White House and Democratic Caucus willing to work with them. All they need to do is get off their hands and act. Let’s have this time be different. This time, let’s actually pull together and do something to make our country safer.”

Posted on Friday, October 2nd, 2015
Under: gun control, John Boehner, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Politicos mourn former Rep. Don Edwards

California politicos are paying tribute to former Rep. Don Edwards, a Democrat who represented part of the South Bay from 1963 to 1995; he died at age 100 on Thursday at his Carmel home.

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

“Today, with the passing of former Congressman Don Edwards, America has lost a venerable civil rights champion who dedicated his life to promoting peace, defending liberty, and securing justice for all people. He was a principled leader, a kind and trusted friend to many, an august statesman, and a proud Californian who was committed to preserving our environment and pursuing equality for women, people of color and all American families.

“Whether in his service as an FBI agent or as a Navy officer during World War II, Congressman Edwards labored with dignity, led with integrity and lived with courage. As Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights for more than twenty years, he strived to ensure that all Americans enjoyed equality of opportunity. During his 32 years in the House, Congressman Edwards helped changed the course of history by championing the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and fighting to protect freedom of speech and the privacy rights of citizens. Congressman Edwards, the long-time dean of the California Democratic delegation and conscience of the Congress, strived to move our country forward.

“As Americans enjoy the pristine view and tranquility of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, may we remember the man who dedicated his life to preserving our environment and our ideals for future generations. May it be a comfort to his family and all who loved him that so many mourn the loss of a consummate public servant and proud American.”

From Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose:

“After working for Congressman Don Edwards for nearly a decade, and having the honor to succeed him in Congress, I feel a profound sense of loss upon his passing.

“Don spent his life in service to the state of California and to our country as a Member of Congress for 32 years. His contributions will live on for many generations through the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, through his stalwart defense of the Constitution, his profound dedication to civil rights, his tireless advocacy for the rights of women as the ‘Father of the Equal Rights Amendment,’ and his lifelong efforts for a peaceful world. He will be always be remembered for his exemplary service in Congress and love for the South bay.”

From state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont:

“I am saddened by the passing of Mr. Edwards, a man I respected greatly for his intellect, thoughtfulness and commitment to our country. Working for Congressman Edwards in Washington is one of the highlights of my years in public service. His integrity, his courage to fight for his beliefs, and his fierce defense of all Americans’ civil and constitutional rights are traits I will always remember and respect. Mr. Edwards would fight fiercely with Congressional opponents, but always with civility.

“People come from all over to visit the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in my district and it’s a great testament to his commitment to our environment.

“I visited him often in Carmel to solicit his input on legislation I was carrying in the California Legislature. We need more people like him in public service. I will miss him dearly.”

Posted on Friday, October 2nd, 2015
Under: U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Kevin McCarthy makes his case for Speaker

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy promised his Republican peers Monday that if they elect him speaker, their caucus “will have the courage to lead the fight for our conservative principles and make our case to the American people.”

Kevin McCarthy“But we will also have the wisdom to listen to our constituents and each other so that we always move forward together,” McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, wrote in a memo seeking GOP members’ leadership votes – a reference to the fractious intramural politics that led to the resignation of current Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Per my article Friday, McCarthy – in only his fifth term – would be the least-experienced Speaker in more than a century, yet that’s catnip to conservatives who want someone not fully co-opted by Beltway politics. He’s also popular with many Silicon Valley executives, with whom he has been cultivating ties since his Assembly tenure.

Here’s McCarthy’s memo in its entirety:

“Our conference has been through a lot together. We are a part of the largest Republican majority since 1928. We have made real progress towards shrinking an overgrown federal government and reforming our broken entitlement system. But our work is far from done. We can’t ignore the differences that exist, but we can and must heal the divisions in our conference with work, time, and trust. That is why I have decided to run for Speaker of the House and graciously ask for your support.

“You all know me. We’ve spent late nights on the House Floor together. I’ve visited your districts and met your families and constituents. More importantly, I have gotten to know your ideas, your goals, and your vision for our conference and our country.

“I am running to be your Speaker because I know that the People’s House works best when the leadership you elect listens to members and respects the legislative process entrusted to committees. In short, I am guided by something Ronald Reagan once said: “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”

“But I am also sensitive to what is happening outside of the Beltway. I want us to be much closer to the people we represent, and I want them to once again feel like this is their government, they are in charge, and we are here to serve them.

“If elected Speaker, I promise you that we will have the courage to lead the fight for our conservative principles and make our case to the American people. But we will also have the wisdom to listen to our constituents and each other so that we always move forward together.

“Over the past weekend, I reached out to every one of you to listen to your opinions and ask for your advice. I know that you ran for Congress to make a difference, to leave a better country for your kids and grandkids. There are challenges ahead, but unified we have an amazing opportunity to make lasting conservative change. And I know when we work together under the banner of freedom and opportunity there is little that is out of our reach.

“I look forward to fighting with you for our shared conservative principles.”

Posted on Monday, September 28th, 2015
Under: John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Barbara Lee meets with Raul Castro at U.N.

Rep. Barbara Lee met with Cuban President Raul Castro on Friday at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

President Obama earlier this month nominated Lee, D-Oakland, as a Representative of the United States to the 70th U.N. General Assembly. She’s been a longtime supporter of normalized relations with Cuba.

“I was particularly pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the renewed diplomatic relations between our two countries and to personally congratulate him on the historic steps taken toward normalizing relations with the United States,” Lee said in a news release. “I look forward to continuing to work in Congress to lifting the travel ban and ending the failed trade embargo. President Obama has shown bold leadership by opening up relations with Cuba – it’s past time for Congress to act as well.”

Posted on Friday, September 25th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, International, International politics, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

CA17: Notes from Ro Khanna’s endorsement event

As I reported this morning, Democratic candidate Ro Khanna collected endorsements Friday from San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, and Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone in his second bid to unseat Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

Khanna news conference 9-25-2015 (photo by Josh Richman)In a news conference at the San Jose Public Library’s Berryessa branch, the three prominent local Democrats said they can no longer support the eight-term incumbent with an intelligent and independent candidate like Khanna waiting in the wings to represent the 17th Congressional District.

Stone said Friday he supported Honda’s first run for the county’s board of supervisors in 1990, and all through Honda’s elections to the Assembly and House, but remained neutral as Khanna mounted his first challenge last year “in hopes that this would be his (Honda’s) last campaign.”

“If he were here today, I would tell him what I told him on the phone five minutes ago, which is: ‘Mike, it’s time for you to retire,’” Stone said.

Rosen said Khanna embodies the excellence and diversity for which Silicon Valley is known, and Liccardo praised Khanna’s work on developing the manufacturing revitalization initiative that San Jose just rolled out.

Asked why they hadn’t supported Khanna last year, Liccardo said he was running for mayor at the time and didn’t want to meddle in other races while doing so; Rosen said he regretted not endorsing Khanna last year, a decision made for reasons “I’m not particularly proud of” but which he wouldn’t describe further.

None of them mentioned the pending House Ethics Committee investigation of Honda’s office and campaign. Asked about this after the news conference, Rosen said he had informed Honda of his decision to endorse Khanna before the Office of Congressional Ethics report became public early this month.

Khanna praised the three for backing him.

“Change is not something that happens without people in leadership at huge political risk standing up and saying ‘I get it, I want to bring about that change,’” Khanna said. “I wish there were more elected officials who had the courage of their convictions, who endorsed people based on who they thought would do the best job” rather than automatically supporting an incumbent.

From my story posted this morning and published in today’s print editions:

Last week, Khanna announced his endorsement by state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles. Adam Alberti, spokesman for Honda’s campaign, told the Sacramento Bee at that time that “the congressman enjoys near universal support of the Democratic establishment” in Silicon Valley.

On Thursday, Alberti said this “is typical Ro Khanna, trying to make mountains out of molehills.”

“There are no surprises on this list of endorsers. The fact that Khanna is trying to show his Democratic support with this sparse list of endorsers demonstrates the weakness in his support among Democrats,” Alberti said. “To date, Mike Honda has not lost a single endorsement from last cycle. The reason is simple: Mike Honda is the only true Democrat in the race, and the conservative politics of his challenger do not match the progressive nature of the district.”

Liccardo and Stone have backed pension reforms and performance measures for public employees, putting them at odds with their party’s labor-union base.

Khanna spokesman Hari Sevugan replied: “If Mike Honda thinks the mayor of San Jose, the Santa Clara County assessor, the Santa Clara County district attorney and the president pro tempore of the Senate — each of whom remained neutral in 2014 — are insignificant Democrats, he’s not just dangerously out of touch with the desire for change these endorsements represent, but out of touch with the reality of his situation.”

Posted on Friday, September 25th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 18 Comments »

Congressional reax to Pope Francis’ speech

Here’s how some of the Bay Area’s voices in Congress are responding to Pope Francis’ address today.

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a series of tweets:

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

Nancy Pelosi“The Holy Father Pope Francis’ address to Congress was extraordinary. With absolute clarity, beauty and moral urgency, Pope Francis called on all of us to be better stewards of Creation and instruments of God’s peace.

“Standing in the very heart of our democracy, Pope Francis spoke to the better angels of our nature and of the American people. He reminded us of our sacred and inescapable responsibility to those struggling to escape poverty, persecution and war. He challenged us to rescue our planet from the climate crisis that threatens the future of our children and the health of God’s creation – and to do so sensitive to the needs of the poor. His Holiness urged us to live our values and reach beyond our divisions.

“On a personal note, my husband Paul, my children and I have more than 100 years of Catholic education among us, and this has been a day of profound joy for my family. It has been an awesome privilege to welcome His Holiness to the Congress. My deepest thanks to the Pope for the honor of his historic visit and the elevating, illuminating leadership he continues to provide Catholics and non-Catholics the world over. May the Holy Father’s message of hope, peace and dialogue echo through the halls of the Capitol and across the country for a long time to come.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“During a joint-session of Congress today, His Holiness Pope Francis reminded us of our sacred duty: to protect and advocate for the most vulnerable and voiceless in our society and our world.

“His call for peace and justice should inspire Congress and our entire nation. As we work to address the immense challenges facing our nation – climate change, persistent poverty, and global conflicts – the Pope’s call for mutual understanding has never been more timely or necessary.‎ We must strive to end all injustices that devalue human dignity, especially inequality and war.

“During his speech, the Pope called on Congress ‘to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome.’

“He is right – we cannot afford to delay cooperation, however difficult it might be, while our planet and our people suffer.”

From Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord:

Mark DeSaulnier“Pope Francis’ unprecedented address to Congress was truly aspirational. His message of shared social responsibility in the face of global challenges comes at an important time for our country. Of particular note, were his comments on President Lincoln ‘the guardian who labored tirelessly that this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom. Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a subsidiarity and solidarity.’ Whether addressing climate change, poverty and inequality or the global refugee crisis, it is my hope Members of Congress will embrace Pope Francis’ message of moral responsibility and working together for the common good.”

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

Posted on Thursday, September 24th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Mark DeSaulnier, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Honda helps urge Justice probe of Ahmed’s arrest

Rep. Mike Honda joined the only two Muslims in Congress to lead 26 other House members Tuesday in urging the Justice Department to investigate the detention of Ahmed Mohamed, a Texas boy who brought a homemade clock to school.

Mohamed, 14, was arrested after he brought a homemade clock to school to show his teachers and was later accused of having a “hoax bomb.”

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose; Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; and Andre Carson, D-Ind., wrote to express concern that “Ahmed was denied his civil rights… and refused the right to speak to his father.” The representatives went on to call attention to “reports surrounding the incident that strongly suggest that Ahmed Mohamed was systematically profiled based on his faith and ethnicity.”

“As the President said, ‘Cool clock, Ahmed.’ It’s high time we end discriminatory practices in this country. Profiling and mistreatment of an individual based on presumed or actual faith or ethnicity has no place in the world, let alone in the United States of America,” Honda said in a news release, adding an implicit smackdown to Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, who said Sunday he “absolutely would not agree” with having a Muslim serve as president.

“From presidential candidates to teachers and police officers, we all must take a strong unified stand against this seemingly growing trend of fear mongering and bigotry being wrongly perpetuated in our society,” Honda said. “People shouldn’t fear mistreatment or persecution simply for being who they are. As a world leader, America should be setting the bar for tolerance and equality – principles that speak to the foundation of this great nation,”

Among other House members signing the letter were Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Sam Farr, D-Carmel.

Jenifer Wicks, national civil rights litigation director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said her organization stands with Honda and other lawmakers in calling for a Justice Department civil-rights probe. “It is disturbing that Ahmed was suspended by the school and arrested by the police after officials ‘followed protocol’ and determined that he had merely brought a clock to school and that there was no actual threat,” she said.

Posted on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015
Under: Civil liberties, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 14 Comments »

Honda & Lee bring home bacon for BART, cops

‘Tis the season when members of Congress proudly trumpet the bacon they’re bringing home for local programs and institutions.

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, announced Friday that the Department of Transportation has awarded $150 million to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority to fully fund the next year of construction on the BART Silicon Valley Berryessa extension. He said he used his Appropriations Committee seat to ensure the funding was included in the budget.

“Since coming to Congress, I have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that the BART Silicon Valley Extension receives federal funding,” he said in his news release. “In Silicon Valley, the capital of innovation and manufacturing, we lead in many industries, including progressive transportation projects that will reduce traffic on our roadways and protect our environment.”

He said he has previously worked with VTA and the Secretary of Transportation to secure the $900 million federal full-funding grant agreement needed for the BART extension, $700 million of which has now been brought home.

And Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, announced Monday that the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program is awarding $1.875 million to create or preserve jobs for 15 officers in Oakland; $250,000 for two officers in Alameda County; and $125,000 for one officer in Berkeley.

“At a time when departments face high resource constraints, these federal grants will help address public safety and promote community-oriented policing,” Lee, also an Appropriations Committee member, said in her news release. “As we work to build greater trust between law enforcement and our communities, especially communities of color, the COPS program has proven track record of re-focusing law enforcement efforts on the needs of the communities and promoting greater community trust. We must ensure this vital federal program has the resources it needs to support our communities and ensure public safety.”

Posted on Monday, September 21st, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 2 Comments »