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California lawmakers’ State of the Union guests

Here’s a sampling of guests invited by California lawmakers to attend President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight:

FloresRep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose: Honda is bringing Claudia Flores, an immigration rights activist who was allowed to stay in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Flores and her family moved to San Jose from Honduras when she was a teenager; she became a leader at San Jose High School and in her community, eventually earning a full-ride scholarship to Santa Clara University. She was an intern in Honda’s office two summers ago and is now a public policy fellow with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. “This hard-working, bright woman, who has done so much in her young career, would have been deported if not for President Obama’s action in 2012,” Honda said. “She is exactly the type of person this policy was meant to encourage to stay in the United States.”

UsafiRep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin: Swalwell is bringing Mohammad Usafi, an Afghan interpreter who worked with U.S. Marines and after waiting nearly four years received a special immigrant visa to move to the Bay Area one year ago. The Taliban kidnapped Usafi’s young brother for ransom and killed his father because of the aid he had worked for American troops; after Swalwell and other House members helped friends and advocates petition the State Department, Usafi’s mother and seven siblings were granted humanitarian parole to join him here in December. “It’s a great relief that today Mohammad and his family live in the Bay Area, but more must be done and can be done in a bipartisan fashion to help interpreters like Mohammad,” Swalwell said.

ChristensenRep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo: Speier is bringing retired U.S. Air Force Col. Don Christensen, that branch’s longest-serving chief prosecutor and a leading advocate of military sexual assault reform. Christensen is president of Protect Our Defenders, a group that’s leading efforts to remove sexual assault cases from the military chain of command. “I invited Colonel Christensen with the hope that he could witness President Obama announce his support of fundamental reform of the military justice system,” Speier said. “A year after requesting a report from the Pentagon, the president now has the results on his desk. He has all the information he needs. Tonight would be a perfect time for him to lead on this issue by supporting taking sexual assault cases out of the chain of command.”

MartinezRep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara: Capps is bringing Richard Martinez, whose son, Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, 20, was among those slain in last May’s rampage near UC-Santa Barbara. Martinez, of Los Osos, became a face of the tragedy as he urged lawmakers to pursue stricter gun-control measures; he since has joined the staff of Everytown for Gun Safety. “As the 114th Congress begins their tenure, it is time they put the public safety of their constituents first, and that means making gun safety a priority to help reduce gun violence in America,” Martinez said.

OliverRep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove: Bera is bringing Susan Oliver, widow of Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver, who was shot to death in the line of duty in October by a gunman who also killed a Placer County deputy. Their lives “remind us that our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day for our safety,” Bera said. “They were true heroes and we are forever indebted to them and their loved ones. Let’s honor their memory by building understanding and trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, just like Deputy Oliver did.”

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.: Feinstein is bringing Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. He’s been mayor since 2013 and earlier was a councilman; Feinstein said they’ve worked together on issues such as funding for the Metro’s Purple Line extension and efforts to reduce homelessness among veterans.

Posted on Tuesday, January 20th, 2015
Under: Ami Bera, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Mike Honda, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

Rep. Ami Bera will join Obama on trip to India

Rep. Ami Bera will accompany President Barack Obama on the president’s trip to India this weekend, the California congressman announced Tuesday.

Ami_Bera_official_photoBera, D-Elk Grove, is the only Indian-American now serving in Congress and co-chairs the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans. He just beat back a serious electoral challenge last year from Republican former congressman Doug Ose; Bera kept his seat by just eight-tenths of a percentage point.

Bera will be part of the delegation traveling this Saturday to New Delhi, India, where he and the president will attend Republic Day events and meet with Indian leaders.

“As the son of Indian immigrants, I am extremely honored to be a part of this historic trip to India with the president,” Bera said in a news release. “Prime Minister Modi’s trip to the United States last year was a turning point in relations for our countries, and now this trip will be an important opportunity to continue to move the U.S.-India relationship forward.”

Bera said the United States and India should seek ways to grow strategic and economic partnerships. “That will help bring stability to the Southeast Asia region and benefit our economy, in particular opening markets to California and Sacramento County products and creating new jobs. As the oldest and largest democracies in the world, our countries have many common interests and I hope this will be another step toward realizing the full potential of the U.S.-India partnership.”

Bera made his first official visit to India in 2013, during which he helped broker some cooperative deals between the Confederation of Indian Industry and UC-Davis. But his support of Modi – a controversial figure whom opponents say has oppressed Muslims, Sikhs and Christians – caused some Indian-Americans to oppose his re-election bid last year and stage protests in cities including Rancho Cordova and Davis.

Posted on Tuesday, January 20th, 2015
Under: Ami Bera, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Mike Honda offers body armor, gun control bills

Rep. Mike Honda introduced a package of three bills this week that he said will increase public safety and aid law enforcement – and are sure to drive gun-rights activists into a rage.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, on Wednesday introduced H.R. 378, the Responsible Body Armor Possession Act, which would prohibit the purchase, sale, or possession of military-grade body armor by anyone except certain authorized users such as first-responders and law enforcement. This is his second try at such legislation; the bill he introduced last summer died in the Judiciary Committee without a hearing.

He also introduced H.R. 377, the Homemade Firearms Accountability Act, which would require that guns that are self-assembled or manufactured at home be regulated the same as those that are purchased. That means all homemade guns would have to have serial numbers. Here too, Honda tried this in the last Congress, but his bill died in the Judiciary Committee without a hearing.

But H.R. 376, the Home-Assembled Firearms Restriction Act, is a new one – it would ban the sale and purchase of “incomplete lower receivers,” which are easily purchased and converted into functioning firearms.

AR15 incomplete lower receiverThis could be the most controversial of the three. There’s a big trade in incomplete lower receivers, which often let gun enthusiasts build weapons they wouldn’t be able to buy in stores due to existing laws.

“These bills are sensible, reasonable measures to limit the damage that can be inflicted by guns and those who mean harm with them,” Honda said in a news release. “We have seen too many people injured and killed by guns to just stand by and do nothing. These bills will modernize our gun laws to reflect how weapons are currently getting into the wrong hands.”

Honda’s office said the whole package is supported by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, Newark Police Chief James Leal, Stop Handgun Violence, the Coalition for Peace Action, and the Violence Policy Center. The body-armor bill also is supported by the Peace Officers Research Association of California and the California State Sheriffs’ Association. And the serial-number bill also is supported by Third Way and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Honda’s office said he’ll be introducing legislation in each of this Congress’ first six weeks “that addresses a key part of the modern progressive agenda.” Last week, he offered four bills on manufacturing and technology; in coming weeks he’ll tackle human trafficking, STEM education, advanced technology, and the environment and energy infrastructure.

Posted on Thursday, January 15th, 2015
Under: gun control, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Ro Khanna’s new project: Opposing landfill growth

Ro Khanna, the renegade Democrat who came within a few points of unseating Rep. Mike Honda last year, has found a new, local cause to champion: a fight against stinky garbage.

Ro KhannaThe former Obama administration official is helping to drum up opposition to a proposed expansion of the Newby Island Landfill. Expanding the dump at the end of Dixon Landing Road by 15.1 million cubic yards, and delaying its estimated closure from 2025 to 2041, would create the Bay Area’s highest landfill. Residents of Milpitas and other nearby communities say the dump’s odors already are affecting their health and quality of life.

Khanna, 38, of Fremont, said Wednesday that Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves – who had endorsed Khanna in the 17th Congressional District showdown that Honda won by 3.6 percentage points – has appointed him “to be a liaison to community groups on this and to work with the city’s lawyers.

“I am involved in a public strategy to make sure Newby takes actions to mitigate the odors that are affecting residents in Milpitas, Fremont and even Santa Clara,” Khanna said. “Also I am opposed to the expansion permit.”

Khanna said he’s no longer of counsel to the Silicon Valley powerhouse law firm Wilson Sonsini, but he remains a visiting lecturer at Stanford’s Economics Department and may have an iron in the fire with a tech firm – stay tuned for that.

Khanna forwarded information about a demonstration the landfill’s opponents intend to stage at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday outside San Jose City Hall, before the city planning commission’s 6:30 p.m. meeting. Activists say they’ve gathered 10,000 petition signatures opposing the expansion permit since November; they want the planning commission to deny the permit and order an odor-mitigation study.

Posted on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
Under: 2014 general, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Swalwell & Speier named to House Intelligence

My, hasn’t Rep. Eric Swalwell seemed upwardly mobile recently?

Swalwell, D-Dublin, on Monday became the only Bay Area House member with the cojones (or hubris?) to announce he’s considering whether to run to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2016 – quite a goal for a guy starting only his second term in Congress.

On Tuesday, Swalwell was the only Californian that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, named to a new committee charged with shaping House Democrats’ message for the next two years.

And on Wednesday, Pelosi named Swalwell and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, to the House Intelligence Committee, a plum spot in these troubled times of foreign strife and domestic surveillance.

“As we face escalating threats to our security, I will work to make sure our government is vigilantly protecting Americans, while being true to our values around privacy and civil liberties,” Swalwell, a former Alameda County prosecutor, said in a news release. “With the rise of data breaches, a top priority of mine will be to increase our cybersecurity capabilities. National security should know no party, and I vow to carry out this work in a collaborative, bipartisan manner.”

Swalwell in his first term tried to make a name for himself on the Homeland Security Committee, where he took up issues including the Transportation Security Administration’s proposal to allow certain knives aboard planes as well as airport-perimeter safety. On Wednesday, Swalwell noted he was an Capitol Hill intern with Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, on Sept. 11, 2001.

“That experience led me to a career in public service and generated my interest in national security,” he said. “It’s a privilege to serve on this committee so I can continue to fulfill my highest responsibility as a lawmaker, keeping Americans safe.”

Speier issued a statement saying she looks forward “to working on one of our nation’s most pressing issues: protecting our economic and national security against terrorist threats abroad, domestic, and over the internet.

“The heinous attacks in Paris underscore the fact that a handful of home-grown terrorists can wreak havoc on a nation. Cyber threats run the spectrum, from consumer information stolen to intellectual property and proprietary emails hacked from corporations. We must take this 21st century threat more seriously to protect our nation’s most sensitive information, in the public and private sectors alike,” she said.

But “from the torture report to broad NSA surveillance, it is clear that increased Congressional oversight is needed,” Speier added. “I look forward to working with my colleague to ensure our rights and values are not compromised in the name of security.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, had been the Bay Area’s only presence on the Intelligence Committee in the last Congress, but a spokesman said Wednesday that Thompson won’t be on the panel in this new Congress.

Posted on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
Under: Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | No Comments »

House votes to delay Dodd-Frank ‘Volcker Rule’

The House voted 271-154 Wednesday for a bill to delay a controversial part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law enacted in the wake of the financial meltdown that brought on the Great Recession.

From The Hill:

The bill, which the White House is threatening to veto, would delay implementation of Dodd-Frank’s “Volcker rule” until 2019, rather than 2017 as originally planned.

The Volcker Rule, named after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, requires big banks to sell-off financial investments known as collateralized loan obligations (CLOs).

Supporters of H.R. 37, the Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act, say CLOs are an important way for businesses to get financing.

“Excess regulations hurt jobs and put added costs on our economy. The number of regulations that have piled up over the past six years are compounding and holding back Main Street businesses,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield.

McCarthy thanked Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-PA, for carrying a bill that will “reduce red tape and makes it easier for small businesses to access the capital they need to grow and create good-paying jobs.”

“These provisions have enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support in the past, so I am disappointed that a fracture in the Democratic Caucus is causing so many Democrats to switch their votes in a zealous defense of Dodd-Frank regulations,” McCarthy added.

But the bill’s opponents, including the entire Bay Area delegation, say the Volcker Rule keeps large banks from risky gambling with taxpayer-backed funds.

“The American people expect – and deserve – a government that works for them,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, yet Republicans so far haven’t offered any bills to advance the middle class’ interests. “Instead, day after day, Republicans have rushed through giveaways to big banks and to their special interest friends.”

The Volcker Rule “protects Americans against the risky practices of some on Wall Street that just a few years ago brought our country to the brink of economic collapse,” Pelosi said. “Enough is enough: the interests of big banks should not trump those of American families that still struggle to make ends meet.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
Under: Kevin McCarthy, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | No Comments »

Swalwell to help focus House Dems’ messaging

Rep. Eric Swalwell was the only Californian named Tuesday to a new committee that will try to fine-tune House Democrats’ message.

Eric SwalwellMinority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., said the new House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee – which Israel will chair – “will be tasked with developing a Caucus-wide message that forcefully communicates where House Democrats stand, that resonates with hardworking Americans, and that presents a sharp contrast to House Republicans’ special interest-first agenda.”

Pelosi said the panel’s 16 members “have consistently shown the wisdom, creativity and vision necessary to make our case to the American people.”

Swalwell, D-Dublin, later Tuesday issued a statement saying he’s “honored to lead House Democrats’ outreach to millennials.”

“This is a new way for the Party of the Future to speak with and for the future. Today, young people across America are asking themselves how they’re going to afford their education, whether their education will even produce a good-paying job, and whether they’ll ever realize the American dream of home ownership,” said Swalwell, now starting his second term in Congress. “House Democrats are putting forward policies that will enable millennials to not only dream, but achieve. This position presents the opportunity to find new ways to make sure that our nation’s leaders are listening to and speaking for America’s next generation.”

Posted on Tuesday, January 13th, 2015
Under: Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

California pols say ‘Je suis Charlie’

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“This was a barbaric attack on innocent French citizens and on our shared belief in the fundamental right of free expression. My thoughts and prayers are with the injured and the families of those killed in this heinous and cowardly act of terror.”

From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

“I condemn today’s horrific terrorist attack in Paris. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the French people. This terrorist attack, like so many before it, is an assault on fundamental democratic principles that are essential to a free society. It is also a reminder that the war on terrorism is not over, that radical Islamic terrorist organizations have not been defeated, and that they continue to pose a threat at home and abroad. Whether it is ISIL in Iraq and Syria, the Taliban, Haqqani network, and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ansar al Sharia and other terrorists in Libya, Boko Haram in Nigeria, or al Qaeda affiliated groups in Yemen, Somalia, and Mali, free and moderate societies face a growing and determined terrorist enemy. We ignore this gathering danger at our peril. We must recommit to our common efforts against these violent enemies and stand with our friends around the world. For their sake and for our own, we must prevail in this fight against violent extremism.”

From Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin:

“An attack on Paris is an attack on all free people across the world. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of French news magazine, Charlie Hebdo. We stand with the French people as they work to apprehend the terrorists.

“This attack serves as another sad reminder of the need to remain vigilant against terrorist threats at home and abroad. As a member of the Homeland Security Committee, I will continue to work to ensure we have the resources necessary to secure our country, as we work with our allies abroad to protect innocent citizens and our democratic ideals. Je Suis Charlie.

Posted on Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Eric Swalwell, Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Reactions to Obama’s line in the (tar) sand

The White House says President Barack Obama would veto legislation approving construction of the long-stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline, the AP reports.

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“On a bipartisan basis, the American people overwhelmingly support building the Keystone XL pipeline. After years of manufacturing every possible excuse, today President Obama was finally straight with the them about where he truly stands. His answer is no to more American infrastructure, no to more American energy, and no to more American jobs. Fringe extremists in the president’s party are the only ones who oppose Keystone, but the president has chosen to side with them instead of the American people and the government’s own scientific evidence that this project is safe for the environment. This is simply another sign that President Obama is hopelessly out of touch and has no plans to listen to the American people or champion their priorities.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Barbara Boxer“The President should only sign bills that are good for America, but the Keystone tar sands pipeline does nothing for our country and everything for Canada. In addition, reports show the pipeline project will increase the price of gas, while the tar sands flowing through the pipeline will result in pollution that causes serious illnesses like asthma and increases in carbon pollution – the main cause of climate change. It is a puzzle to me that after a deep recession, Republicans turn to legislation that according to the State Department will only create 35 permanent jobs. Instead, Republican leadership should immediately take up the highway bill which supports millions of jobs and will run out of funding in four short months.”

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

Posted on Tuesday, January 6th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, economy, energy, Environment, Global warming, John Boehner, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 5 Comments »

Rep. Tom McClintock blasts insurgent Republicans

Rep. Tom McClintock blasted some fellow House Republicans on Tuesday for airing the caucus’ internal grievances in public by challenging John Boehner for the speakership.

Some conservatives led by Louie Gohmert, R-Texas; Ted Yoho, R-Fla.; and Daniel Webster, R-Fla., faulted Boehner for not standing up to President Obama sufficiently on issues of immigration and the Affordable Care Act. Boehner, R-Ohio, won anyway with 216 votes.

McClintock, R-Granite Bay, said:

Tom McClintock“I am disappointed in Mr. Boehner’s leadership of the House and have expressed my concerns on many occasions. But shifting this decision from the House Republican Conference to the House Floor opens a Pandora’s Box.

“The election of the House Speaker is a decision that is made by the House majority caucus. That decision is then enacted through a formal vote on the House floor by the unanimous action of that majority.

“The Republican majority voted at its November meeting to re-elect John Boehner as Speaker after no member stepped forward to challenge him. Some have suggested now shifting that decision from the House Republican Conference to the House floor, where 29 Republicans can combine with Democrats to thwart it.

“Conservatives should beware. On its worst day, the collective judgment of the Republican majority is much more conservative than that of the overall House membership. Shattering Republican unity in the election of Speaker is not likely to end with a more conservative alternative, but rather with a coalition of the most liberal House Republicans and House Democrats.

“This happened in the California Assembly in 1994. Dissident Republicans broke with the Republican majority on the vote for Speaker, enlisting the votes of minority Democrats in exchange for a wholesale transfer of power. Though voters had elected a Republican majority, this coalition effectively gave Democrats control of the Assembly.

“The proper place to contest a Republican speaker is in the House Republican Conference. At any meeting, a member may put a no-confidence motion to the conference and, if adopted, set the stage for a House vote to vacate the office and elect a successor. However, this requires every member of the Conference to respect the collective decision – a long-enduring precedent that would be destroyed by the proposed strategy. I cannot support it.”

Posted on Tuesday, January 6th, 2015
Under: John Boehner, U.S. House | No Comments »