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Oakland pastor is House’s guest chaplain

Pastor Brondon Reems from Oakland’s Center of Hope Community Church served as the House’s guest chaplain Thursday.

Pastor Brondon ReemsReems’s mother, Bishop Ernestine Reems, founded the church. He also is co-founder of Oakland’s Potters House for Young Men, a 24-hour residential care facility for young teens.

“God’s timing is always right. It is a privilege and a blessing for me to be selected to represent God in the political field with prayer,” Reems said in a news release issued by Rep. Barbara Lee, who invited him. “I would like to thank Congresswoman Lee for this tremendous opportunity.”

Lee, D-Oakland, said Reems “has been a pillar of community and a champion for youth and the most vulnerable. I am so glad Congress had the chance to hear his message of peace and service today. His commitment to the East Bay community and his passion for serving others is an inspiration.”

Posted on Thursday, September 17th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | No Comments »

Honda resolution would protect LGBT House staff

Rep. Mike Honda introduced a bipartisan resolution Thursday to protect House workers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“No person should be afraid of persecution, discrimination, threats, or bullying simply for being who they are,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in his news release. “It is important that in Congress, we lead by example and ensure that the workplace is safe and secure for all employees, and to ensure that discrimination has no place in Congress, especially for LGBTQ individuals. Congress needs to be an equal opportunity employer.”

Honda is founder and chairman of the Congressional Caucus to End Bullying; his resolution’s original cosponsors include Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.

“Most Americans already believe that people in any workplace cannot be discriminated against due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Unfortunately, that is not the case anywhere as it relates to federal law,” Ros-Lehtinen said in the news release. “If we are truly to be The People’s House, we must reflect our nation’s views and values and lead by example. No reasonable person can believe that discrimination or other reprisals based on an immutable characteristic is a tolerable situation in any workplace.”

The resolution is supported by groups including the Human Rights Campaign and the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee.

Honda one year ago Thursday testified before a House Rules subcommittee in support of the House’s LGBT workers, noting that under current rules, “individuals are protected from employment decisions on the basis or face, color, religion, sex, disability, age, or national origin” but not sexual orientation or gender identity.

“For the many LGBT employees of the House – today and tomorrow – we must ensure that employment discrimination has no place in this Congress, or any thereafter,” he said at the time. “After all, securing the comfort and protections for our employees ultimately serves our nation.”

Posted on Thursday, September 17th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

CA17: Kevin de León endorses Ro Khanna

17th Congressional District candidate Ro Khanna will be endorsed Thursday by state Senate President Kevin de León, one of the highest-profile California Democrats so far to turn his back on eight-term incumbent Rep. Mike Honda.

Kevin de Leon“Ro Khanna values the ideals that the Democratic Party stands for: equal rights, standing up for working families, protecting social security and Medicare, fighting for clean air and water, expanding the middle class and making sure everyone has a fair shot at the American Dream,” de León, D-Los Angeles, said in Khanna’s news release. “As an educator, Ro is committed to making sure public schools have the funding and technology to ensure all our kids have the opportunity to succeed in the 21st Century.”

Khanna, a former Obama administration official, is making his second run against Honda, D-San Jose; Honda beat him by 3.6 percentage points last November.

In the last election cycle, most prominent elected Democrats lined up behind Honda, while a few – notably including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed – endorsed Khanna. It remains to be seen whether the House Ethics Committee’s pending investigation of Honda will affect his endorsements this time around.

“As a community organizer against Prop 187 and for the NEA, I am impressed with Ro’s commitment to grassroots organizing,” de León added. “Not only is he bringing more people into the political process, but I know his commitment to ground-up power will ensure his office stays in touch with the needs of the people he represents, and not just wealthy donors and the special interests.”

Khanna said de León “embodies everything that’s great about the Democratic Party.”

“He’s a leader in the effort to combat climate change, has spearheaded forward-thinking and compassionate immigrant rights laws, worked to make colleges more accessible and affordable, and he has helped spur an innovation economy around renewable energy technologies that has helped create more good paying middle class jobs while protecting our environment,” Khanna said. “I am deeply honored by the confidence and trust Kevin de Leon is placing in me. I look forward to being a strong and active partner with him as we take these California policies and work to adapt them in Washington.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Kevin de Leon, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Tom McClintock quits House Freedom Caucus

Rep. Tom McClintock quit the House Freedom Caucus on Wednesday, saying the Tea Party-dominated group actually undermines conservative goals in Congress.

Tom McClintockMcClintock, R-Elk Grove, tendered his resignation to caucus chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said the caucus’ moves during the near-shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security in Februrary; during the debate over Trade Promotion Authority in May; and last week regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran have actually helped defeat Republican aims.

Now, he wrote, the caucus has formally vowed to shut down the government over funding Planned Parenthood. Though he has strongly opposed public funding of abortions through his entire political career, “this tactic promises only to shield Senate Democrats from their responsibility for a government shutdown and to alienate the public from the pro-life cause at precisely the time when undercover videos of Planned Parenthood’s barbaric practices are turning public opinion in our favor.”

“A common theme through each of these incidents is a willingness – indeed, an eagerness – to strip the House Republican majority of its ability to set the House agenda by combining with House Democrats on procedural motions. As a result, it has thwarted vital conservative policy objectives and unwittingly become Nancy Pelosi’s tactical ally,” McClintock wrote. “I feel that the HFC’s many missteps have made it counterproductive to its stated goals and I no longer wish to be associated with it.”

Jordan issued a statement calling McClintock “a principled conservative and a valuable member of the House Republican Conference,” and saying the caucus “looks forward to continuing to work with him, as well as every one of our colleagues, to give a voice to countless Americans who feel that Washington does not represent them.”

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

Posted on Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
Under: U.S. House | 1 Comment »

House OKs John Muir park expansion

The House on Wednesday approved Rep. Mark DeSaulnier’s bill to expand the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, sending it on to the U.S. Senate.

H.R. 1289, DeSaulnier’s first stand-alone bill as a House member, would add 44 acres of donated land to the existing 330-acre plot, improving access to the park and its scenic trails. DeSaulnier’s predecessor, Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, had introduced the same bill last year; the House approved it but the Senate failed to vote on it before adjourning.

“This historic site is the place where Muir, the father of the National Park system, championed the revolutionary idea that wild spaces should be set aside for all to enjoy,” DeSaulnier, D-Concord, said in his news release. “I look forward to seeing this bill passed by the Senate and signed into law.”

Linus Eukel, executive director of the John Muir Land Trust, said Muir “often walked this land with his two daughters, to admire the coast live oak that grow there, as well as the annual wildflowers that punctuate its grassy hillsides. Expansion of the John Muir Historic Site will forever protect this beautiful property and allow future generations to share in the same delights as Muir’s daughters,”

DeSaulnier’s bill has 31 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has introduced companion legislation.

Posted on Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Honda blasts GOP field on Asian-American issues

Rep. Mike Honda helped make the Democratic National Committee’s case Tuesday for why the Republican presidential candidates are both insulting to and bad for the Asian American/Pacific Islander community, as part of a broader DNC push to rally minority voters.

honda.jpg“On issue after issue, Republicans are pushing policies that will hurt the AAPI community,” Honda, D-San Jose, said on a DNC-organized conference call with reporters. “None of the Democratic candidates would even come close to the stupid rhetoric that the Republicans have put out there.”

Honda and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Rep. Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, took the GOP field to task on immigration, economics, education and climate change. Chu said that as “the Republican presidential circus” comes to the Reagan Library in Simi Valley for Wednesday’s debate, “Donald Trump is clearly driving the GOP’s presidential clown car,” but a closer look at other candidates’ words and policies reveals “they’re all wearing face paint and red noses.”

Chu noted not only Trump but also Scott Walker, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson have spoken of ending constitutionally protected birthright citizenship, and Rand Paul and John Kasich have offered legislation to do exactly that. The fact that Ronald Reagan signed immigration legislation granting amnesty to up to 3 million people means he probably would be consigned to Wednesday’s “happy hour” debate for low-polling candidates if he were running today, she added.

Meanwhile, Republican disdain for setting a minimum wage and constant efforts to cut taxes deepest for the nation’s richest are not going to be “popular with the middle class and working Americans who have seen their wages remain stagnant” in recent decades, she added.

Honda – who represents the first Asian-American majority district outside Hawaii – said various Republican candidates have supported cutting class sizes and education budgets in their respective states, often showing more concern for waging war on teachers’ unions than for plummeting graduation rates and test scores.

And despite overwhelming scientific evidence of a significant human role in climate change, he said, Trump has insisted climate change is nothing more than a hoax perpetrated by China for economic gain. “And if you think he’s any different than any other Republicans running for president, you’re mistaken,” Honda said, adding they’re “living in a fictional, alternate universe when it comes to climate change.”

The DNC held similar calls Tuesday to decry GOP stances that affect the Latino community – with House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Linda Sanchez, D-Lakewood, as spokespeople – and for the African-American community, with Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles.

Posted on Tuesday, September 15th, 2015
Under: 2016 presidential election, Mike Honda, U.S. House | No Comments »

FEMA approves grant for fighting Valley Fire

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved California’s request for a fire-management assistance declaration for the Valley Fire that’s ravaging parts of Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties, Rep. Mike Thompson announced Monday morning.

The FEMA grant program allows for the “mitigation, management, and control” of fires burning on publicly or privately owned forest or grasslands which threaten such destruction as would constitute a major disaster.

“The Valley Fire is spreading rapidly and has proven to be especially dangerous. It has already devastated nearly 100 square miles and is just five percent contained. Assistance from every level of government is needed as we respond to this major disaster,” Thompson, D-St. Helena, said in a news release.

“Many thanks to FEMA for quickly approving federal funds to help our first responders contain and eliminate the fire, and to help our district recover from the damage it has caused,” he said. “The brave men and women of CAL FIRE, and all emergency responders, are in my thoughts and prayers as they selflessly work to protect our communities.”

The Valley Fire has scorched more than 61,000 acres and is only 5 percent contained. More than 400 structures have been destroyed and more than 13,000 people have been forced to evacuate as 1,400 firefighters have been deployed.

The FEMA grant will cover 75 percent of the costs for various fire suppression, safety and recovery needs, including equipment and supplies; evacuations, shelters, traffic control and arson investigation; field camps, meals, comfort and safety items for firefighters; and more.

Posted on Monday, September 14th, 2015
Under: Mike Thompson, U.S. House, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Bay Area lawmakers offer tix for Pope’s visit

A few Bay Area House members are holding lotteries in which their constituents can win tickets to see Pope Francis during his U.S. visit later this month.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, is offering tickets for the pontiff’s address to a joint session of Congress on the morning of Thursday, Sept. 24, to residents of her 18th Congressional District; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, is doing the same for her 14th District constituents; and Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, is doing it in his 9th District. Ticket holders will be able to view the address from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol via televised broadcast.

“I’m excited to be able to extend an opportunity to my constituents to take part in this historic event,” Eshoo said in a news release. “While not all who wish to attend will be awarded a ticket, my office is working to ensure the lottery is conducted fairly and make the process a good one.”

Speier said Pope Francis “has become a focal point across the world for prioritizing peace over war, care of the planet over consumption, forgiveness over accusation, and neighbor over self. I’m excited that 50 of my constituents have the opportunity to be on the West Lawn of the Capitol to watch the broadcast of the Pope’s address to members of Congress. My only regret is that I can’t make these tickets available to everyone.”

McNerney said it’s “sure to be a momentous occasion. This is the first time that the Pope will deliver an address to Congress, and I look forward to hearing his message for the American people.”

The deadline to enter McNerney’s lottery is tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 4; the deadline to enter Eshoo’s lottery is noon Pacific Time next Tuesday, Sept. 8; and the deadline to enter Speier’s lottery is midnight next Thursday, Sept. 10. Only constituents of those districts may enter, only one entry is allowed per person, and each winner will receive two tickets.

Posted on Thursday, September 3rd, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Past Bay Area ethics probes pale beside Honda’s

The allegations leveled against Rep. Mike Honda in an Office of Congressional Ethics report and made public by the House Ethics Committee on Thursday are arguably the most significant allegations any Bay Area House member has faced in decades.

The OCE in 2009 began investigating then-Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, and four other lawmakers to see whether they had violated Maryland criminal tax law and House ethics rules by intentionally filing false applications for a Maryland homeowner’s tax credit. But the Ethics Committee in 2010 cleared Stark of any wrongdoing, and blasted the OCE for conducting “an inadequate review, the result of which was to subject Representative Stark to unfounded criminal allegations.”

In 2011, the OCE investigated whether support for the wine industry by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, had benefited his campaign donors or a vineyard he owns, as described in a New York Times article. But the OCE eventually decided unanimously against further review, Thompson’s spokesman later said; because the matter was never referred to the Ethics Committee, the OCE made no announcement.

Way back in 1983, the Ethics Committee probed whether then-Rep. Ron Dellums, D-Oakland, and one of his aides had used cocaine and marijuana. A special counsel investigated and found no basis for charges, so the committee took no further action.

Posted on Thursday, September 3rd, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

George Miller to serve as lecturer at Cal

Well, he did say he wanted to stay involved in education and education policy.

George MillerFormer Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who retired this year after 40 years in the House, will join the University of California, Berkeley as the Fall 2015 Matsui Lecturer at the Robert T. Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service.

That means Miller will spend a week in residency at the Matsui Center during October, speaking to classes, meeting with students, delivering a public lecture and taking part in campus culture. His public lecture – focusing on Congress, labor, and income inequality – is scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19th in Cal’s Banatao Auditorium; registration for this free event is available online.

Matsui Center Director Ethan Rarick said Miller “was an extraordinary national leader with a long and distinguished record of service in Congress, but he is also deeply rooted in the politics and policy challenges of California.”

Miller, 70, called this “a wonderful honor,” especially given that the center’s namesake – the late Rep. Bob Matsui, D-Sacramento – “was not only a great friend but a passionate thinker and fighter for economic and social justice.”

“He fully understood the obligation, power, and the duty that the United States Congress has to assure that those less fortunate and in need of assistance are able to fully participate in the American society and economy,” Miller said. “Bob Matsui never stopped fighting for justice. He was a great role model for me and many other members of Congress who served with him. I am grateful for the opportunity afforded me by the Matsui Center to engage Berkeley Campus students in the discussion of the critical issues of our time.”

Miller also currently serves as senior education advisor for the Boston-based education tech services company Cengage Learning, helping executives on issues ranging from public policy to business strategy. And he’s a member of a “Right Start Commission” launched in May by Common Sense Kids Action to explore ways to modernize California’s early-childhood services.

The Matsui Center, founded in 2008, is part of Cal’s Institute of Governmental Studies, California’s oldest public policy research center.

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015
Under: George Miller, U.S. House | 3 Comments »