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Calif. House members: ‘Stop fighting, start fixing’

Eight California lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were among more than 50 House members who gathered today in Washington, D.C., to urge congressional leaders and President Obama to “stop fighting and start fixing.”

Organized by the bipartisan group No Labels, the lawmakers who assembled in the Cannon House Office Building’s caucus room agreed leaders mustn’t let the nation default on its debt.

“The No Labels Problem Solvers and other members of Congress you see here today are ready to work together and support our respective leaderships in a bipartisan solution to the government shutdown and other crucial issues facing our country,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore. “Let’s show some courage and work together like the American people expect and deserve.”

Among those at the event were Reps. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova; Tony Cardenas, D-Arleta; Jim Costa, D-Fresno; Susan Davis, D-San Diego; Jeff Denham, R-Modesto; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Scott Peters, D-San Diego; and David Valadao, R-Hanford.


NoLabels

“The costs of the government shutdown are growing every day, and experts from all sides agree that failing to pay America’s bills would be disastrous for our economy,” Bera said in a news release. “It’s past time for us to stop blaming one another, and start talking about how to move forward for the good of the country. This is not about Democrats or Republicans; it’s about putting the American people before politics. Many of us are ready to begin working and solving our nation’s problems, but we need leadership that lets us do that work.”

Posted on Thursday, October 10th, 2013
Under: Ami Bera, Jeff Denham, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Lee & Farr decry shutdown during House debate

A few Northern California House members were among those who took to the lectern moments ago during the latest floor debate on the impending federal government shutdown.

The House is debating the latest GOP plan: tying a one-year delay of Obamacare’s individual mandate to the continuing resolution that would keep the government funded and running past midnight tonight.

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, called a shutdown “a huge mistake.” He said his party fought vehemently against the decision to go to war in Iraq, against welfare reform, and against lots of other things in recent decade, but with each, “we didn’t shut down the government after we lost that debate – instead, we tried to make it work.”

The shutdown, however, will hurt everyone from farmers trying to export food to mothers feeding their children with government aid, to students hungry for a school meal.

“It’s a mean, reckless, ill-conceived idea to shut down government,” Farr said.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, was a bit fierier still.

“Here we go again, Mr. Speaker – it’s really no secret that the Tea Party Republicans came here not really as public servants, but to destroy and decimate our government … This is, really, their dream vote,” Lee said. “It is shameful and it is downright wrong.”

“Make no mistake, the unnecessary GOP shutdown will have serious consequences for millions,” she said, and after more than 40 fruitless votes to cripple or repeal Obamacare, “this Tea Party obsession… to kill the government and to deny healthcare to millions of Americans, this must end… This hostage-taking must end.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was equally fiery in denouncing Obamacare. “It was passed in the middle of the night, 2,300 pages that nobody had ever read, and it’s having all kinds of consequences for our constituents, the American people,” Boehner said.

“Something has to be done, so my Republican colleagues and I thought we should defund the law for a year,” he said, noting the Senate disagreed.

But if the Obama administration has issued waivers and decided to delay enforcement of the employer mandate, why should ordinary Americans be stuck with a bill they can’t afford*, he asked. “It’s about fairness for the American people. Why don’t we make sure that every American is treated just like we are?”

(Click here to read more about who’s footing what bills.)

Posted on Monday, September 30th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, healthcare reform, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

More calls for Obama to consult Congress on Syria

Rep. Barbara Lee has gotten 53 other lawmakers to sign her letter urging President Barack Obama to consult Congress before taking any military action against Syria.

Much like the bipartisan letter by Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., on which I reported yesterday, Lee’s letter notes Congress bears the constitutional obligation and power to approve or reject military force.

“As such, we strongly urge you to seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis,” the letter says, also calling for allowing United Nations inspectors to complete their and denouncing human-rights violations.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)In a news release, Lee, D-Oakland, said the nation must learn from its experiences in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere.

“We must recognize that what happens in Syria does not stay in Syria; the implications for the region are dire,” she said. “This letter is calling for a specific action: debate. Congress has a vital role this in this process and constitutional power that must be respected. The American people are demanding this debate before we commit our military, our money, or our forces to Syria.”

Among those who’ve signed Lee’s letter are Reps. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and George Miller, D-Martinez.

I’ve not seen the signatures of Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton; or Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, on any of the letters so far.

But Thompson spokesman Austin Vevurka said Thursday that his boss “believes the use of chemical weapons is appalling and he believes Congress should reconvene so there can be a full and vigorous debate on the use of military force. He also believes any military action must involve an international collation and is continuing to closely monitor the evolving situation.”

UPDATE @ 12:14 P.M.: McNerney spokeswoman Lauren Smith said her boss believes “we need to find a balanced policy that is based on sound and thorough intelligence, and he believes the president should be consulting leaders from both parties in the House and Senate.” Note: McNerney’s call to consult leadership stops short of Lee’s letter, which urges Obama “to seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis.”

UPDATE @ 1:33 P.M.: “Right now the President is still reviewing his options as Commander in Chief,” Swalwell spokeswoman Allison Bormel says. “Should he choose to take action that requires congressional approval, Rep. Swalwell believes the Administration should consult Congress.”

Posted on Thursday, August 29th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 6 Comments »

Brown’s judicial shuffle might enable House run

In a somewhat unusual move, Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed a Bay Area judge – who has a familiar name – to another county’s bench, perhaps in order to help facilitate her husband’s planned run for Congress.

Carrie McIntyre PanettaCarrie McIntyre Panetta, appointed to the Alameda County Superior Court bench in 2007 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was named to the Monterey County Superior Court bench Thursday by Brown.

Panetta, 46, is the daughter-in-law of former U.S. Secretary of Defense and CIA director Leon Panetta; her husband, James Panetta, is a deputy district attorney who moved from Alameda County to Monterey County in 2010.

James Panetta – a former Navy Reserve intelligence officer who was awarded the Bronze Star for his 2007-08 deployment to Afghanistan – earlier this year said he’s interested in succeeding Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, in representing California’s 20th Congressional District.

Carrie Panetta was an Alameda County deputy district attorney from 1999 to 2007 and an associate at Brobeck Phleger and Harrison LLP from 1992 to 1999. A Democrat, she holds a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota. She fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Monterey County Superior Court Judge Terrance Duncan. A superior court judge’s annual salary is $178,789.

UPDATE @ 3:02 P.M.: Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said he would leave it to Judget Panetta to explain the move, and acknowledged it’s not common for a judge to be re-appointed from one county’s superior court to another’s. A voice-mail message left at Panetta’s courtroom in Oakland has not yet been returned.

UPDATE @ 10:35 A.M. FRIDAY: “We’re excited, very excited about the appointment and the move,” Judge Panetta said Friday morning, noting her husband has been working in the Monterey County District Attorney’s office since 2010. “It was really to get the family back together full-time … we had decided we want to make the Monterey peninsula our home, raise our girls there.”

Posted on Thursday, August 29th, 2013
Under: Jerry Brown, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Lawmakers demand Obama consult them on Syria

Three Northern California House Democrats have signed onto a bipartisan letter urging President Obama to seek Congressional authorization for any military strike against Syria.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, are among 18 Democrats and 98 Republicans who’ve signed onto the letter drafted and circulated by Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va.

“While the Founders wisely gave the Office of the President the authority to act in emergencies, they foresaw the need to ensure public debate – and the active engagement of Congress – prior to committing U.S. military assets,” the letter says. “Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.”

Other California members who’ve signed Rigell’s letter include Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay; Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville; and John Campbell, R-Irvine.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, and Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., sent their own letter to the president today urging that he consult Congress.

And House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent a letter to Obama today urging the president to “personally make the case to the American people and Congress for how potential military action will secure American national security interests, preserve America’s credibility, deter the future use of chemical weapons, and, critically, be a part of our broader policy and strategy.”

UPDATE @ 11:54 A.M. THURSDAY: More Bay Area House members have signed onto Rep. Barbara Lee’s similar letter.

Posted on Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
Under: Anna Eshoo, John Boehner, John Garamendi, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 17 Comments »

House Dems urge Brown to sign TRUST Act

Gov. Jerry Brown got a letter from 28 California House Democrats this week urging him to sign the TRUST Act, which would limit how the state’s law enforcement officers cooperate with federal immigration efforts.

The lawmakers – including all but two of the Bay Area’s House members – wrote that the bill “sets clear, uniform standards to limit burdensome detentions of aspiring citizens by local law enforcement solely on the basis of federal immigration detainer requests. The measure is designed to enhance public safety and protect civil liberties, while also promoting fiscal responsibility at the state and local levels.”

More than 100,000 people have been deported from California under federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Secure Communities (S-Comm) program, the lawmakers noted. “Civic and faith leaders from California and across the nation have forcefully argued that we should not deport today those who could be on the road to citizenship tomorrow.”

Furthermore, there’s evidence that S-Comm has reduced crime victims’ willingness to cooperate with police lest they themselves end up being deported, and that’s not good for public safety, the House members wrote.

Brown vetoed a version of the TRUST Act last year. But the lawmakers noted the current version – AB 4 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco – “gives law enforcement much broader discretion to honor detainer requests.”

“It will ensure that those who have not been convicted of any crime, have only been convicted of minor crimes, or those who are only identified by the S-Comm program because of their immigration history are not held on costly and unfair federal immigration detainers,” they wrote.

The only Bay Area House members who didn’t sign the letter were Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, and Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton. A Speier staffer said she hasn’t talked to Ammiano about the bill yet, and “she wants to do that before she takes a position.” McNerney’s office didn’t immediately answer an e-mail seeking comment.

The Assembly passed AB 4 with a 44-22 vote on May 16. It now awaits a state Senate floor vote; if it passes, it’ll go to Brown’s desk.

UPDATE @ 12:25 P.M.: “I support the sentiment of the TRUST Act,” McNerney said by email. “We need change in our country in the form of comprehensive immigration reform. Our country is founded on a long and proud immigrant history, and we need to find a clear path to citizenship for the law-abiding and hard-working people who want to join the United States of America. These people deserve a defined and manageable path to citizenship.”

Posted on Wednesday, August 14th, 2013
Under: Anna Eshoo, Assembly, Barbara Lee, California State Senate, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Immigration, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry Brown, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sacramento, Sam Farr, Tom Ammiano, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

>100 cosponsors for House background-check bill

More than 100 House members from both sides of the aisle have signed on to co-sponsor a bill that would require background checks for all commercial gun sales.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, chairman of the House Democrats’ gun-violence task force, and Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., introduced H.R. 1565 on April 15, two days before the Senate rejected the identical Manchin-Toomey amendment.

“We won’t take ‘no’ for an answer when it comes to passing commonsense laws that keep guns from criminals, terrorist and the dangerously mentally ill,” Thompson and King said in a news release today. “This debate isn’t over. The American people deserve for this bill to be signed into law.”

The bill would expand the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads; it would not cover private, person-to-person sales, as California’s law does.

This widening of background checks is tempered by several nods to those concerned about Second Amendment rights: The bill bans the government from creating a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It also lets gun owners use a state concealed-carry permit issued within the last five years in lieu of a background check, and allows interstate handgun sales from licensed dealers.

And it improves the National Instant Criminal Background Check System by offering incentives to states to improve reporting of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill and by directing future grants toward better record-sharing systems; federal funds would be reduced to states that don’t comply.

The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary and Veterans’ Affairs committees.

The King-Thompson bill’s original co-authors are Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Pat Meehan, R-Pa.; Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y.; and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.

From the greater Bay Area, co-sponsors include Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; John Garamendi, D-Fairfield; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; and Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton.

The locals who haven’t signed on are Reps. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; and George Miller, D-Martinez. I’ve reached out to their offices to find out where they stand on the bill, and will update this item accordingly.

UPDATE @ 1 P.M. TUESDAY 5/7: McNerney and Miller both have signed on.

Posted on Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, gun control, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

Your state and Bay Area House-race roundup

All in all, it was a dismal night for Republicans in California House races.

Of the 11 California House races deemed competitive by the renowned Cook Political Report, Democrats won seven outright and are on top in two too-close-to-call other races. Another way of slicing and dicing it: All of the three endangered Democratic incumbents in these races won re-election, but only one of the four Republicans might’ve. And of the new or open seats, Democrats won three of the four.

More specifically:

    The battles to unseat Reps. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, remain too close to call with some mail-in and provisional ballots yet to be counted, but both trail their Democratic challengers by narrow margins.
    Reps. Jerry McNerney; John Garamendi, D-Fairfield; and Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara all turned away their Republican challengers to win re-election. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, is the only Republican incumbent definitely left standing in these competitive races.

Not than anyone considered it competitive, but Democrat Jared Huffman trounced Republican Dan Roberts to succeed Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-San Rafael, in the North Bay’s newly drawn 2nd Congressional District, which reaches from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border.

In the Bay Area, as usual, the only question for most Democratic incumbents (with the exception, of course, of Pete Stark) was by how enormous a margin they would dispatch their challengers. See how that all stacks up as of this hour, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Dan Lungren, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jeff Denham, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 7 Comments »

Medical marijuana trial evidence bill reintroduced

A California member of Congress re-introduced a bill yesterday to let federal criminal defendants use medical marijuana evidence at trial.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 ruling in the Oakland-based Gonzalez v. Raich case gave the federal government discretion to enforce its ban on marijuana even in states with laws allowing its medical use, and let federal prosecutors exclude all evidence of compliance with state law from federal marijuana trials.

“The federal government has tilted the scales of justice towards conviction by denying medical marijuana defendants the right to present all of the evidence at trial,” Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, said in a news release issued by Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access. “My bill would restore due process rights to law abiding citizens acting within the parameters of state and local laws. Juries should hear the entire story of a patient’s medical marijuana use before choosing to convict, not the heavily edited version they currently hear.”

Farr’s H.R. 6134, the “Truth in Trials Act,” has 18 cosponsors including Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, as well as Ron Paul, R-Texas, and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa.

“The federal government should be leaving enforcement issues up to the local and state officials who designed the medical marijuana laws in the first place,” Americans for Safe Access executive director Steph Sherer said in the news release. “But, as long as the Justice Department is going to arrest and prosecute people in medical marijuana states, defendants ought to have a right to a fair trial.”

This is Farr’s fourth iteration of this bill:

  • 111th Congress – H.R. 3939 – referred to Judiciary Committee, never heard
  • 109th Congress – H.R. 4272 – referred to Judiciary and Energy & Commerce committees, never heard
  • 108th Congress – H.R. 1717 – referred to Judiciary and Energy & Commerce committees, never heard
  • Americans for Safe Access notes the Obama Administration has far surpassed the Bush Administration’s rate of indicting and prosecuting people operating under states’ medical marijuana laws, making the bill more crucial than ever.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
    Under: marijuana, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

    Dems warn of House GOP budget’s impact on CA

    California Democratic Congressional Delegation Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, rallied her troops today for a conference call with at least eight members highlighting how House Republicans’ budget plan would impact California.

    “While we know reining in our deficit is necessary for economic prosperity, there is a responsible way to do it,” she said.

    Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, said that “in transportation, we’re really talking about serious, serious job losses in California” as the GOP plan cuts funding for high-speed rail, Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, and other programs adding up to at least $1.25 billion.

    Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, said she’s now circulating a letter to California House members asking Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to redirect to California $2 billion in high-speed rail funds that Florida Gov. Rick Scott yesterday refused; senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer sent such a letter yesterday. Garamendi said unless California gets that money, the Republican budget will leave its rail project underfunded.

    Speier was among several members on today’s call who voiced concern at the House GOP plan to cut Title X family planning funding; Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, said Republicans are exercising their “vendetta” against family planning and women’s health.

    Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, decried a potential $1.3 billion cut to community health care clinics; he said in a rural community like Watsonville where the clinic would lose $151,000 per year from its base grant, jobs would be lost and health access severely curtailed. “It really does have impacts on Main Street all over the United States.”

    Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, said even to a fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat like himself, a cut like that makes no sense.

    “What they’re doing is a lot like waking up in the morning and finding you’ve put on a lot of weight and deciding you’re going to take care of it by cutting off your leg,” Thompson said, noting sick people cut off from community clinic care will instead seek higher-cost care with traditional family-practice physicians or, worse yet, in emergency rooms. “The cost of health care for these folks is going to go through the roof.”

    Farr said addressing the nation’s debt is important, but House Republicans are blurring the distinction between long-term debt – which he likened to a home mortgage – and short-term debt – more like a credit card – in order to score political points.

    “What the Republicans are trying to do is scare everybody with the long-term debt saying you have to pay it off right away,” he said, when in fact it’s better to approach that long-term debt with a deliberate, long-term plan rather than “a meat ax.”

    Posted on Thursday, February 17th, 2011
    Under: Jackie Speier, John Garamendi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »