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Barbara Lee to attend U.S. flag-raising in Cuba

Rep. Barbara Lee will accompany Secretary of State John Kerry to the flag-raising Friday at the new U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“The opening of this embassy marks a new chapter in relations between the U.S. and Cuba. With renewed and regular diplomatic relations, diplomats will be able to engage their counterparts to advance a range of issues important to our nations,” Lee, D-Oakland, said in a statement issued Thursday.

“While this delegation and the opening of an American embassy in Cuba is an important step forward, more work remains to end more than five decades of failed policy between the U.S. and Cuba,” Lee continued. “Congress must act now to remove the remaining barriers to normalized relations including lifting the travel ban and ending the failed embargo. These Cold War relics must be repealed as we chart a new path forward between our two nations.”

Lee has been a longtime, ardent supporter of normalized U.S.-Cuba relations and has visited Cuba more than 20 times, leading several congressional delegations. She’s a cosponsor of the bipartisan Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, H.R. 664, to lift the travel ban, and also of the Free Trade with Cuba Act, H.R. 403, to end the embargo.

The Washington Post reports the official delegation will include representatives from the Commerce, Defense and Treasury departments and eight members of Congress.

Posted on Thursday, August 13th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

CA17: Khanna’s camp knocks Honda’s new role

Rep. Mike Honda has a new role in Congress – and his challenger has something to say about it.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, has become the acting ranking member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies – the panel holding the purse strings for federal agencies from the FBI to NASA. That’s because the previous ranking member stepped down: Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., was charged last week in a 29-count racketeering conspiracy indictment.

But Honda’s ascension also comes shortly after the House Ethics Committee announced it’s taking some more time to probe misconduct allegations against him, rooted in claims that his staff coordinated with his re-election campaign on some pay-to-play activities.

That complaint was filed last September by supporters of fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, the former Obama administration official from Fremont who lost November’s election to Honda by 3.6 percentage points. The Office of Congressional Ethics reviewed the complaint and referred it to the Ethics Committee on June 5; House rules require that the committee notify the public if it needs more than 45 days to review an OCE report.

There’s a big difference between a 29-count criminal indictment after a long-running Justice Department investigation and a not-yet-completed probe of possible ethics violations, but some conservatives are having a field day with it nonetheless. “Dems struggle to find untainted rep for appropriations committee,” read a recent Breitbart News Network headline.

Honda said by email Tuesday that in his new role as the subcommittee’s acting ranking member, “I look forward to continuing to bring the voice of Silicon Valley to Congress and delivering results for the people I represent. I have lived a life of public service and look forward to continuing to do so in this new role in the coming months and years.”

Regarding the ethics probe, he said, “My staff and I continue to cooperate fully with the Ethics Committee in this matter. This ongoing process does not relate to my responsibilities in my new role.”

Ro KhannaKhanna campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan said Tuesday that Honda and his staff “should be accorded due process to address these pay-to-play allegations.”

“That said, it is becoming increasingly clear that he cannot represent the interests of the working men and women of the 17th District on this critical committee with these serious ethics investigations hanging over his head,” Sevugan added. “The families of the 17th District need their Congressman’s energy focused on fighting for them, not on fighting for his own political life.”

Honda might not have much role to play in the subcommittee before the Ethics Committee announces its course of action, which will happen no later than Sept. 3; the House already has recessed for the summer and won’t re-convene on Capitol Hill until Sept. 8. For now, members have scattered out to their districts – Honda plans to attend National Night Out events Tuesday evening in Cupertino and Sunnyvale; visit a Redwood City biometrics firm on Wednesday; and attend a highway interchange improvement project’s ribbon-cutting on Thursday.

Posted on Tuesday, August 4th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

Boxer, Eshoo, Schiff support Iran nuclear deal

Californians are adding their voices to the growing chorus of Democratic support for the P5+1 multilateral agreement on Iran’s nuclear activity.

Barbara BoxerU.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. – long a supporter of strong U.S.-Israel ties – issued a statement Tuesday supporting the deal despite Israel’s opposition.

“I am more convinced than ever that a rejection of the Iran nuclear agreement would be a victory for Iranian hardliners and would accelerate their ability to obtain a nuclear weapon,” Boxer said. “Iran now has enough nuclear material to build ten bombs. In my view, this agreement is the only way to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is used exclusively for civilian purposes, which is in the best interest of the United States, Israel and the world.”

“If we walk away from this deal, Iran would have no constraints on its nuclear program and the international sanctions that helped bring the Iranians to the table would collapse,” she added. The strong support from the international community – including the announcement this week by the Gulf states – underscores how this deal is the only viable alternative to war with Iran.”

Boxer’s statement came one day after Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, voiced her own support in a statement explaining “one of the most consequential foreign policy votes I will cast during my tenure in Congress.”

“In the face of a legitimate threat of immense magnitude from a nuclear-capable Iran, I believe this agreement is the right path forward,” Eshoo said. “My decision is not based on trusting Iran. To the contrary, the regime has a long list of offenses that I deeply object to, but there must be a mechanism in place to keep them from becoming a nuclear power. Nor would I suggest the agreement is perfect. But, in my view, to reject it would be a grave mistake for the United States, a repudiation of our allies in the effort, a danger to Israel, and further deterioration in the Middle East.”

Adam SchiffAlso Monday, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank – the House Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat – issued a statement of support that said the deal “realistically precludes Iran from developing an atomic bomb for fifteen or more years, and does so while reducing the chances of war.”

“As an American and as a Jew who is deeply concerned about the security of Israel, it is also intensely personal,” Schiff said. “I believe our vital interests have been advanced under the agreement, since it would be extremely difficult for Iran to amass enough fissionable material to make a nuclear weapon without giving the United States ample notice and time to stop it.”

Posted on Tuesday, August 4th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, International, Iran, Israel, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

Black Caucus members seek Silicon Valley diversity

Rep. Barbara Lee will join Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries on a Silicon Valley junket aimed at increasing African Americans’ representation in the tech industry.

lack of diversityLee, D-Oakland; Butterfield, D-N.C.; and Jeffries, D-N.Y., will spend this Sunday through Tuesday meeting with tech executives and local organizations as part of the caucus’ TECH 2020 initiative, a five-year diversity launched in May. The lawmakers will visit companies including Apple, Bloomberg, Google, Intel, Kapor Capital, Pandora, and SAP.

“Our goal for this trip is to encourage and partner with these organizations to implement a diversity plan that will place more African Americans in the tech pipeline,” Butterfield said in a news release. “This will potentially lead to a wide range of opportunities, from student internships to positions on the boards of tech companies. Building a coalition of leaders from the public and private sectors ensures greater diversity and full representation of African Americans at every level of tech by 2020.”

Lee said she’s pleased to welcome her peers to the Bay Area.

“This visit is another step toward opening doors of opportunity for African Americans in the booming tech sector,” she said in the release. “Increasing diversity and inclusion within the tech sector is not only a moral imperative, it’s good for business and vital to continue economic growth. As we work to advance the TECH 2020 initiative and achieve full representation of African Americans in the tech sector, I look forward to continuing to work with these companies. We must all play a role in finding innovative solutions that bring diversity to Silicon Valley.”

As part of its TECH 2020 plan, the caucus has outlined diversity principles, best practices, and resources for African American students and entrepreneurs, and has introduced legislation focused on increasing STEM education.

Posted on Thursday, July 30th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

Speier offers bill to allow alcohol via U.S. Mail

A Bay Area congresswoman wants to lift the ban on shipping alcohol through the U.S. Mail.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said she’s joined by 24 original cosponsors in introducing the bipartisan USPS Shipping Equity Act, which would change the Prohibition-era law preventing shipping of beer, wine, distilled spirits and other alcoholic drinks to consumers by mail.

Jackie Speier“Prohibition is history, and this ban should be too,” Speier said in a news release “It’s ridiculous that we’re allowing UPS, FedEx, and other companies to ship spirits, wine, and beer to consumers, while banning the U.S. Postal Service from doing the exact same thing. As more states allow direct to consumer delivery, we need to lift this dated ban on so-called ‘spirituous, vinous, malted, fermented, or other intoxicating liquors,’ to give consumers more shipping choices when they check out.”

Speier said the ban puts the Postal Service at a competitive disadvantage and limits shipping options for manufacturers and customers. Her H.R. 3412 would let the Postal Service ship alcoholic beverages directly from licensed producers and retailers to consumers over the age of 21. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that it would provide the Postal Service with an additional $50 million per year.

This bill is endorsed by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, WineAmerica, the American Postal Workers Union, the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, the National Association of Postmasters of the United States, the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, and the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Posted on Thursday, July 30th, 2015
Under: Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Tauscher names GOP co-chair for redistricting push

Former East Bay Rep. Ellen Tauscher announced Tuesday that she’s bringing on a former colleague from the other side of the aisle to co-chair her effort to export California’s citizen-redistricting model to the rest of the nation.

Ellen TauscherTauscher, a Democrat formerly of Alamo who represented part of the East Bay from 1997 to 2009, said former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., will co-chair YouDrawTheLines2021, an organization she formed to take reapportionment power away from state legislatures and give it to independent commissions. She launched the effort in the wake of last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of Arizona’s independent redistricting commission – and by extension, California’s as well.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Tauscher said she’s thrilled to share the group’s leadership with Davis. “Independent non-partisan redistricting commissions, like the one we have in California, create the opportunity for more competitive districts and for more moderates of both parties to get elected to Congress,” she said.

Davis said the effort is “critical to getting Congress working again.”

“Creating independent non-partisan citizen advisory commissions in even five or six states before the 2020 census could make all the difference to the make-up of Congress in the next decade,” Davis said. “Ellen and I will be reaching out to our former colleagues and like-minded state elected officials of both parties in these key states to put the wheels in motion to get this done over the next five years.”

The project will focus on passing ballot initiatives in key states over the next three election cycles to approve the formation of independent, non-partisan citizen redistricting commissions based on California’s model that was passed in 2008.

Tauscher left her House seat in 2009 to become Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs – serving under then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – until February 2012, and then served as Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense until August 2012. She now splits her time between San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Posted on Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
Under: Ellen Tauscher, redistricting | 5 Comments »

CA17: Updated 2Q totals, and the ethics probe

Rep. Mike Honda’s campaign cash situation isn’t quite as dire as I first reported, although it still isn’t looking great.

A report filed this week with the Federal Election Commission shows Honda, D-San Jose, raised about $368,000 in the year’s second quarter while spending about $213,000, leaving him with about $360,000 cash on hand as of June 30 – or, less about $34,600 in debt, about $325,000 cash on hand.

But that’s somewhat better than the $265,000 cash on hand that his campaign estimated when I asked them earlier this month. Compared to the $1 million that Democratic challenger Ro Khanna had in the bank as of June 30, it’s a three-to-one margin rather than the four-to-one margin it had seemed.

Honda’s campaign told me a key member of its finance team was in labor at the time that I sought the figures earlier this month, so their estimates were a bit off. (Here’s hoping everything went well…)

Khanna’s report shows he still has much of the Silicon Valley elite on his side, with contribution from prominent venture capitalists like John Doerr, Bill Draper and Steve Krausz as well as executives like Integrated Archive Systems’ Amy Rao, Nexenta’s Tarkan Maner and a smattering of names from Salesforce and Google.

But Honda’s contributions include money from the corporate PACs of Intel, Oracle, Applied Materials, Yahoo!, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems and Microsoft, so it’s not as if he’s being shunned by the tech world.

Honda remains the pick of the Democratic establishment. He had contributions this past quarter from the campaign committees or PACs of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., as well as Reps. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park; John Larson, D-Conn.; Joaquin Castro, D-Texas; and Joe Crowley, D-N.Y.

In other CA17 news, San Jose Inside’s Josh Koehn reported this week that the Office of Congressional Ethics has been investigating the complaint Khanna supporters made last fall about allegedly improper coordination between Honda’s campaign and his official staff.

Koehn’s story links to a transcript of OCE’s interview with Ruchit Agrawal, a former Honda staffer and whistleblower. Agrawal was arrested in December 2013 after allegedly threatening violence against Honda staffers, but he was never charged and he has denied making any such threats.

Honda’s chief of staff apologized in October for her “oversight” in coordinating with Honda’s campaign, though she insisted she didn’t use official resources or time to do so. It’s not surprising that OCE is following up on the complaint, and it’ll be interesting to see what the office’s conclusion turns out to be.

Posted on Friday, July 17th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Speier & Sanchez seek equality for female athletes

Two California congresswomen introduced a resolution Wednesday urging the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to provide the same pay for female soccer athletes as it does for male athletes.

Jackie SpeierRep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, and Rep. Linda Sánchez, D-Lakewood, were joined by 33 original cosponsors, while U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced the resolution in the Senate.

The USA Women’s Soccer team clinched its third World Cup victory July 5 – the most-viewed soccer series in U.S. history, attracting more viewers than the NBA finals, the World Series and the men’s World Cup, the lawmakers note. Yet women’s soccer players still make 40 times less than their male counterparts, and the USA Women’s World Cup team received four times less for winning than the men’s World Cup team was paid for losing in the 2014 tournament’s first elimination round.

“Whether you’re a soccer mom or a starter on the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, women in our country deserve equal pay,” Speier said in a news release. “I’m proud to introduce this resolution demanding that FIFA ensure our champion women’s team is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. This is the 21st century and we need to stop shortchanging women’s sports worldwide.”

Posted on Wednesday, July 15th, 2015
Under: Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

CA17: Honda and Khanna are busy as bees

Rep. Mike Honda and his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, are keeping busy at keeping themselves in the public eye this week.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, hosted a public town hall Tuesday in San Jose with Ted Osius, the U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam. This month marks the 20th anniversary of normal diplomatic relations between the two nations, and San Jose – and the 17th Congressional District – have significant Vietnamese populations.

Honda also was among 72 House and Senate Democrats who wrote to President Barack Obama on Monday urging him to fight for expanded Social Security benefits.

“We have a duty, as a civil society, to take care of our vulnerable populations, including older Americans. They have worked a lifetime to earn these benefits and we must make sure that there is sufficient support for our seniors,” Honda said in a news release Tuesday. “Would you be accepting if I told you your grandparents… or even you, or your parents will be forced into poverty? Even as we face challenges today, we also know we are facing a looming crisis that needs to be handled now – over half of today’s working Americans are not expected to have sufficient resources once they retire.”

And Honda issued a news release noting he met this week with state officers of DECA, a student organization focused on career and technical education for high school and college students. Among them were Albert Zeng of Monte Vista High School, DECA’s state president; Zuhayer Quazi of Mission San Jose High School, the vice president of public relations; and Jacinta Cheng of Mission San Jose High School, the group’s Silicon Valley vice president.

“Speaking with these motivated young people showed me the amount of potential we have here in Silicon Valley,” Honda said in his news release. “They surprised me with their astute questions related to specific legislation about technical education. The combination of their civic engagement and interest in technical education points to a very bright future for Silicon Valley.”

These certainly aren’t the only constituents with whom Honda meets, but you might recall that one of the angry constituents Khanna showcased at a news conference last August was a teenager who complained Honda hadn’t had the time to talk with her during a D.C. visit.

Ro KhannaMeanwhile, Khanna – a former Obama administration Commerce Department appointee from Fremont – on Tuesday helped inaugurate his new employer’s Water Innovation Center in Santa Clara.

Khanna in January became vice president of strategic initiatives for Smart Utility Systems. The company, which already had offices in Irvine and in Noida, India, creates software to help water districts and utilities increase conservation efforts, better manage resources and make operations more efficient, from usage monitoring and leak detection to customer engagement and workforce management.

The company said its new Santa Clara facility “will provide a hub in Silicon Valley to help maintain the company’s leadership in the evolving utilities landscape.” Tuesday’s event included the unveiling of a new low-cost water reduction program for utilities, and a new mobile app that will let consumers partner with utilities to identify water waste and increase conservation.

Posted on Wednesday, July 15th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Pelosi cites California as need for highway fund

California’s crumbling roads are a prime example of why Congress must pass long-term legislation to reauthorize and reinvigorate the Highway and Transit Trust Fund, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday.

Nancy Pelosi“With scant days left until the Highway Trust Fund expires in the middle of the summer construction season, Republicans have wasted this entire week tying themselves in knots to protect the Confederate Battle Flag,” Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said in a news release.

“Our nation’s infrastructure needs are too serious for another Republican manufactured crisis, or another meager, short-term extension,” she said. “We must have a long-term bill to invest in our roads, transit and bridges, and protect the good-paying jobs of hundreds of thousands of construction workers across the country.”

Pelosi cited Department of Transportation data showing that 68 percent of the Golden State’s roads are in mediocre or poor condition. This forces drivers to spend almost $13.9 billion a year – an average of $586 per motorist – on otherwise unnecessary automotive repairs, creating costs for commuters and businesses moving their goods to market. And almost 28 percent of California’s bridges also structurally deficient, too.

“Americans are tired of the potholes, the traffic delays, and the danger of our crumbling roads and bridges,” Pelosi said. “Hard-working American families deserve a long-term Highway bill that invests in world-class infrastructure and creates good-paying jobs.”

Posted on Friday, July 10th, 2015
Under: Nancy Pelosi, Transportation, U.S. House | No Comments »