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Progressives double down on public option

Progressive Congressional Caucus co-chairs Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, today urging her not to take their 82-member caucus — which also includes Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; George Miller, D-Martinez; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose — for granted as the health care reform debate moves forward.

Woolsey and Grijalva apparently took umbrage at Pelosi’s quote in a Washington Post article yesterday:

But the rebellion from fiscal conservatives on the Energy and Commerce Committee last week served as a political wake-up call for Democratic leaders. With enough votes on the panel and on the floor to sink reform legislation, the Blue Dog Coalition forced Pelosi and Emanuel into concessions that made the government plan similar to private health insurance, sparking a new fight with House liberals.

Sensing that the Blue Dogs had dug in for a prolonged fight, Pelosi and Emanuel gave in to most demands in order to get the legislation moving again. They essentially decided that it was better to pick a fight with their liberal flank, where Pelosi remains popular and where loyalty to Obama is strongest, particularly in the Congressional Black Caucus.

Despite threats from almost 60 progressive House Democrats — who outnumber the Blue Dogs — Pelosi defended the compromise, saying it was similar to one backed by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). Pelosi predicted that the liberal wing would fall in line because the legislation is so important to them.

“Are you asking me, ‘Are the progressives going to take down universal, quality, affordable health care for all Americans?’ I don’t think so,” Pelosi told reporters Friday, breaking into laughter at the question.

It’s no laughing matter, Woolsey and Grijalva wrote in their letter today.

We want to assure you that our continued support is contingent on a robust public plan, similar to what was reported out ofthe Committees on Ways and Means and Education and Labor. Those two committees outline a plan that brings down costs and improves quality, access, and competition. Furthermore, the subsidies included in these bills must be restored, because without these subsidies, health insurance access for many low and middle income families will be effectively cut off. The final bill brought to the House Floor must include these provisions or we will oppose the bill.

Posted on Tuesday, August 4th, 2009
Under: healthcare reform, Lynn Woolsey, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Pete Stark’s interactive stimulus spending map

Lots of lawmakers are quick to note the appropriations they’ve brought home to the district, especially those that come under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) economic stimulus effort. But the office of Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, has come up with a clearer, more interactive way of seeing the impacts in his 13th Congressional District: A tagged Google Map with clickable icons explaining each appropriation.

If you click through to a larger version of the map, there’s a scrollable list as well.

Posted on Wednesday, July 29th, 2009
Under: General, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Lawmakers’ plea for NUMMI goes unheeded

California’s U.S. Senators, joined by much of the Bay Area’s House delegation, wrote to Toyota today to forestall closure of the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant in Fremont, but apparently it’s too little, too late.

NUMMI is a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota; GM announced last month it will withdraw, and Toyota has been considering doing the same. The plant’s closure would cost 4,500 California jobs directly, and an estimated 35,000 or more indirectly.

The lawmakers wrote to Toyota Corp. President Akio Toyoda to emphasize NUMMI’s importance to California’s economy and to offer to work with Toyota to keep the plant open. Also, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., reports she recently spoke on the phone with Toyota Motor America President Yoshimi Inaba about her willingness to help find solutions to keep the plant in operation’ other California lawmakers have talked to company officials as well.

But even as the lawmakers announced their effort, media began reporting Toyota’s decision to pull out of the venture and close the plant.

UPDATE @ 5:11 P.M.: Never say die, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office insists. The governor has talked with and written to the Toyota execs, too, and has formed a “Red Team” of stakeholders to work on keeping the plant open. “The Schwarzenegger Administration is actively engaged with NUMMI’s partners, Toyota, federal officials, local officials, labor, suppliers and other stakeholders to work together to ensure the future success of the facility,” David Crane, the Governor’s special advisor for jobs and economic growth, said in a release. “Our office will continue to respect Toyota’s wishes to keep discussions private as we work together to determine the best path for ensuring NUMMI’s continued operations in Fremont.”

See the letter, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dennis Cardoza, Dianne Feinstein, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 19 Comments »

CD10: Tauscher’s endorsement questioned

A Lafayette attorney wants State Department lawyers to force Under Secretary Ellen Tauscher to repudiate her endorsement of state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier to succeed her in Congress.

And DeSaulnier rival John Garamendi made sure to give Tauscher a heads-up.

Jason A. Bezis – who in the final days of Tauscher’s Congressional career was berating her for what he says were too few and too inaccessible CD10 town meetings – has drafted an extensive memo, with exhibits, illustrating his complaint that Tauscher is in violation of State Department rules.

“The State Department’s ‘Rules on Political Activities’ state their rationale, ‘The Department has a long-standing policy of limiting participation in partisan campaigns by its top officials and political appointees in recognition of the bipartisan character of our foreign policy,’” Bezis noted in an e-mail to the DeSaulnier campaign accompanying the memo. “Therefore, Undersecretary Tauscher’s endorsement of your campaigns has the potential of harming American foreign policy. Your acceptance and prominent use of her endorsement may have a similar damaging effect.

He’s asking that DeSaulnier’s campaign remove all reference’s to Tauscher’s endorsement from its Web sites; remove from circulation and destroy any campaign literature and fundraising invitations stating or implying the endorsement; advise other Democratic groups to do the same; instruct staff and volunteers not to mention Tauscher’s endorsement; and omit any mention from it from future advertisements.

“Senator DeSaulnier is seeking to become a federal lawmaker. It is imperative, especially as an aspiring federal legislator, that he follows the letter and spirit of existing federal law. Mr. DeSaulnier should not enjoy ‘fruit from the poisonous tree’ of Undersecretary Tauscher’s illegal endorsement,” Bezis wrote in his e-mail.

Garamendi’s campaign sent a copy of Bezis’ memo this week to a Tauscher aide, with a cover note that said:

I have been informed by a lawyer in the 10th Congressional District that he is preparing a formal complaint concerning U.S. Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher’s endorsement of California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier in the run up to the September 1st Special Election.
I am a long time friend of Ellen’s and I do not want her to be jeopardized in any way. As a former Deputy Secretary at Interior, I am aware of the issue that she faces and I wanted the Undersecretary to know of this problem ahead of any formal complaint. Please let me know what the Undersecretary intends to do.
Attached is the draft of the lawyer’s memo.
John Garamendi

DeSaulnier campaign spokeswoman Katie Merrill offered just one word of response today: “Seriously?”

Tauscher’s office declined comment, but longtime Tauscher campaign consultant Lisa Tucker – no longer in the Under Secretary’s employ – said this is “sour grapes” on Garamendi’s part.

“Garamendi sought her endorsement and didn’t get it, and if he’d gotten it he wouldn’t be doing this,” Tucker said. “Everything that DeSaulnier is using says ‘Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher’ — it’s from before she was sworn in, so it’s all on the up-and-up.”

Tauscher endorsed DeSaulnier in late March, well before President Barack Obama formally nominated her in early May to serve as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

I tried to reach Bezis to ask whether he has endorsed, contributed to, or in any way supported any of the CD10 candidates, but my e-mail and voice mail weren’t returned. He is registered to vote as a Democrat and has written several articles for the Democrat-run California Majority Report, but I don’t see that he has made any campaign contributions to Garamendi or any other CD10 candidate.

UPDATE @ 7:33 A.M. FRIDAY: Bezis wrote back to me overnight, stating he’d endorsed DeSaulnier early on but revoked that endorsement “motivated in part by the campaign literature touting Ellen Tauscher’s backing of his campaign.” He said he has spoken with DeSaulnier, Garamendi, Joan Buchanan, Anthony Woods and Adriel Hampton in recent weeks and believes “all of the candidates (from all political parties) deserve a fair ‘playing field’ — which Tauscher’s illegal endorsement upsets.”

Tucker’s statement, he said, is “outrageous. Tauscher should not have made an endorsement in any partisan election would coincide with any day of her tenure at the State Department. Tauscher went out of her way to make a ‘pre-endorsement’ of DeSaulnier for a special election that did not yet exist. Tauscher knew that a vacancy would be created and a special election called because of and only because of her State Department appointment. It was obvious that her successor would be elected while she was at the State Department, when she undisputedly could not make an endorsement.”

Other CD10 tidbits, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, July 16th, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election, Ellen Tauscher, Joan Buchanan, John Garamendi, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House | 11 Comments »

Meanwhile, in the CD11…

I was so focused on the CD10 campaign finance filings yesterday evening that I neglected to fill y’all in on CD11, where two Republicans have declared their intent to challenge Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, in 2010.

Jon Del Arroz of Danville filed a report saying his campaign raised $78,920 in the first half of this year, all from individuals, and he loaned his campaign $230,000. The campaign spent $32,199.53, leaving $276,720.47 cash on hand (much of which as encumbered by debt, although mostly to his loan) as of June 30.

Brad Goehring of Lodi filed a report saying his campaign raised $13,900 from April 1 through June 30, all from individuals, and he loaned his campaign $250,000. The campaign spent $5,092.40, leaving $258.807.60 cash on hand (encumbered by debt to the full amount of his loan) as of June 30.

And McNerney filed a report saying his campaign raised $288,723.13 – $148,737.88 from individuals, $140,500 from PACs and $235.25 from political party committees – from April 1 through June 30. The campaign already had $309,923.58 at the period’s start and spent $81,747.93 in that period, leaving $519,170.58 cash on hand as of June 30 with $22,417.40 in outstanding debts.

UPDATE @ 11:03 A.M.: I was just perusing the Lodi News-Sentinel’s story from the day before yesterday about Goehring, and saw this:

Goehring is also a major believer of spending within your means rather than raising taxes. He cities an example that hit home in a big way.

On April 25, frost killed 80 percent of his crops, so he and his wife, Kristin, sat together at a table and decided what they would cut from their own family budget.

They decided to postpone purchasing new farm equipment they needed, skipped vacations, spent less on food, didn’t buy new clothes and chose not to entertain friends all in order to save money.

“That’s what government needs to do,” Goehring said. “It was not easy to do, but it got done.”

Or, you raid your savings and/or borrow enough to lend your campaign $250,000, apparently.

Posted on Thursday, July 16th, 2009
Under: 2010 election, campaign finance, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House | 14 Comments »

What they said about the health care reform bill

So, yesterday in our nation’s capital, chairmen of the three House Committees with jurisdiction over health policy introduced comprehensive health care reform legislation that they say will reduce out-of-control costs, encourage competition among insurance plans to improve choices for patients, and expand access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans. Here’s what some of our voices in Congress had to say about it:

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez:

“American families cannot afford for Washington to say ‘no’ once again to comprehensive health care reform. We are proud to introduce legislation that meets the goals articulated by President Obama – to lower costs, preserve choice, and expand access to quality, affordable health care – while strengthening our economic and fiscal health. We will continue to work with our colleagues in the weeks ahead to deliver the fundamental reforms that the American people want, need and deserve.”

House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Pete Stark, D-Fremont:

“I am proud to join with my colleagues to introduce America’s Affordable Health Choices Act. This bill meets President Obama’s call for health reform that provides coverage for all, promotes delivery system reforms, and controls costs. Our committee will begin markup this week and have a bill for members to approve before the August recess.”

Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

“The introduction of the bill is a positive step towards comprehensive health reform. I am extremely encouraged by the inclusion of a robust public health option, the expansion of prevention and wellness services and programming to better identify and address health disparities.
“Healthcare reform has never been more urgently needed than right now. I applaud President Obama, and our House and Senate leadership for their diligent work on this issue and I look forward to working together with them to pass this much needed legislation.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“During a deep economic recession, it is criminal malpractice for Democrats to push a government takeover of health care and a new small business tax that will destroy more American jobs. After the Democrats’ trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ did not fulfill the Administration’s promises to create jobs immediately, a small business tax will make matters worse for middle-class Americans looking for real solutions to help put them back to work and give them better access to quality health care. Washington cannot afford to make the same mistake now that Democrats made earlier this year on the ‘stimulus.’
“House Republicans have offered a better health care alternative that will reduce costs, expand access, and let Americans who like their plans keep them – all without a job-killing small business tax. The House Democrats’ proposal will force more than 100 million Americans off their current health care plans and move millions of seniors, particularly in rural areas, out of their current coverage and onto the government rolls as a result of deep Medicare cuts. Middle-class families, small businesses, and senior citizens deserve better than what House Democrats have offered. If Democrats are serious about real job creation and true health care reform, they’ll scrap this government takeover and work with Republicans on a plan that helps small businesses create jobs and gives Americans better access to quality care.”

Posted on Wednesday, July 15th, 2009
Under: Barbara Lee, General, George Miller, healthcare reform, John Boehner, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

CD10: Money+endorsements+infighting = politics

Your daily roundup, full of sound and fury, signfying… well, you’ll decide for yourself:

Democrat John Garamendi says his campaign finance report due tomorrow will show he raised $300,000 for the CD10 race from more than 350 donors in just a month and a half of campaigning, leaving him with $250,000 cash on hand ready to spend. “Our strong financial position reflects what my supporters have always known: I will never waver from the goals of creating quality sustainable jobs, demanding broad health care access, defending seniors, standing up for students, and fighting for working families,” Garamendi said in his news release.

Republican David Harmer announced today he has picked up the support of San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson, who’s plotting his own rematch with Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan in 2010. “Ending irresponsible congressional spending will be at the top of David’s agenda,” Wilson said in Harmer’s news release. “David’s business experience and grasp of the issues will be invaluable in Congress.”

Democrat Mark DeSaulnier today rolled out endorsements from all members of the Pleasant Hill City Council: Mayor Dr. Michael Harris, Vice Mayor Karen Mitchoff, and councilmembers David Durant, John Hanecak and Terri Williamson. Said Mitchoff, in DeSaulnier’s news release: “Mark will bring his real world experience working and representing the people of Pleasant Hill and the district to Congress. He is a problem-solver and a coalition-builder, and will work to bring about universal healthcare and economic reform.”

And, regarding what I wrote yesterday about internecine battles within the Contra Costa Republican Party over who to support and how, county GOP chairman Greg Poulos took time out from a family event (congratulations!) to call and tell me “the CCRP is not and has not endorsed anyone for CD10. We have certain individual members who have their individual preferences and have expressed them, which is not contrary to our bylaws.”

“Many of those who are claiming that we have (endorsed) know for a fact that we haven’t,” he added, then chalked it up to “ignorance on the part of some and sheer mischief-making on the part of others.”

Posted on Tuesday, July 14th, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election, campaign finance, General, John Garamendi, Mark DeSaulnier, Republican Party, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Bringing cojones to Capitol Hill

The Western Business Roundtable – a trade group working “for a common sense, balanced approach to economic development and environmental conservation,” according to its Web site, backed mostly by energy companies – says it plans to bring some cojones to Capitol Hill this week.

And it’s not a figure of speech. The group is holding its annual “Taste of the West” event this Thursday in the Rayburn House Office Building for members of Congress, their staff and Washington media this week, and the signature snack is Rocky Mountain oysters. “The Western delicacy, alternatively known as ‘cowboy caviar,’ ‘Montana tendergroins’ or ‘calf fries,’ are bull testicles that are most often butterflied, breaded and deep fried and served with a variety of dipping sauces,” the group’s news release describes.

(“Montana tendergroins.” Just had to write that once more.)

“We’ve been doing a Taste of the West event in D.C. for years now, and I can tell you that the Rocky Mountain oysters are the first dish that runs out each year,” said Roundtable President and CEO Jim Sims. “Hill staff love them, although I’m not certain that everyone knows the dish’s derivation. A number of Members of Congress from the West come by early just to make sure they can grab some before they are gone.”

“I can’t say that I have seen many news media folks try them, but hope springs eternal in the quest to better educate folks in the Beltway media crowd about life outside the Beltway.”

For the record, I’ve never worked inside the Beltway, and I’ll stick to the fried calamari, thanks.

Anyway, the “Taste of the West” reception will happen after the Roundtable’s day-long “Capitol Hill CleanTech Expo 09,” sponsored by the Roundtable and the NextGen Energy Council (of which Sims is also founder and senior advisor, and which shares an office with the Roundtable).

So apparently it takes a lot of cojones to shill for coal in Washington right now.

Posted on Monday, July 13th, 2009
Under: energy, Environment, General, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

He had them at ‘no’

I’d blogged Friday about how Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, was the only Bay Area House member to oppose the Waxman-Markey climate change/clean energy bill, which passed the House on a 219-212 vote.

This morning, I received a news release from the the National Association of Manufacturers commending Stark for his vote, and claiming the bill will hinder our nation’s ability to compete in global commerce.

“Congressman Stark’s opposition to this misguided legislation was a true act of leadership and political courage,” NAM President John Engler said in the release. “By opposing this bill he is putting his constituents and the nation first.

“As the U.S. continues to struggle with great economic uncertainty, we need sensible and responsible climate change policies that encourage competitiveness without putting undue burden on businesses and ultimately consumers. We firmly cannot allow government to choose winners and losers if we’re going to compete in the global economy.”

But as I’d noted Friday, Stark didn’t oppose the bill because he felt it would hinder business — he opposed it because he felt it should’ve gone much further. Stark in January introduced H.R. 594, the Save Our Climate Act, under which carbon-based fuels — coal, petroleum and natural gas — all would be taxed at a rate of $10 per ton of carbon content. The tax would increase by $10 per ton of carbon every year, making it less affordable to burn fossil fuels as time goes on; when the United States reaches the International Panel on Climate Change’s standard of reducing CO2 emissions by 80 percent, the tax would be frozen. (The Congressional Budget Office thinks this is a good idea, by the way.)

Surely that’s not something NAM wants, right?

“To us a ‘no’ vote is a ‘no’ vote regardless of the reason. We do not support his carbon-tax bill,” NAM spokesman Hank Cox told me later this morning.

So for these strange bedfellows, it was the briefest of honeymoons…

Posted on Wednesday, July 1st, 2009
Under: Global warming, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

Stark breaks from the pack on climate change bill

The House this afternoon passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act — the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill — on a 219-212 vote; the bill now heads to the U.S. Senate. Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, was the only Bay Area member to oppose the bill, complaining it’s too watered down.

“We have the opportunity and the responsibility to confront catastrophic global warming with bold action. Congress should seize that opportunity by passing legislation that would end our addiction to fossil fuels, prove our leadership to the world, and build a foundation for long-term prosperity. This legislation falls short of these goals,” Stark — who in January introduced the Save Our Climate Act, which would impose a tax on carbon-based fossil fuels to slow climate change — said in his floor statement today. “Many have said that this vote is a historic one that we will be judged by. In my view, history will judge this legislation as a missed opportunity.”

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, is a House Energy and Commerce Committee member who authored four of the bill’s provisions: to spur development of a more effective electric grid; to encourage electric vehicle use; to fund clean energy job training programs; and to promote water efficiency and reduce energy consumption by codifying the WaterSense program, which promotes voluntary labeling of water-efficient products and services. He was proud as a papa Friday.

“With the passage of this legislation we are one step closer to revitalizing our nation’s economy and cutting our dependence on foreign oil,” he said in a news release. “I am proud to support this groundbreaking bill that will benefit generations of Americans and lay the foundation for our country’s long-term economic prosperity.”

McNerney said he spent more than two decades working on clean energy technology before going to Congress, and this bill will help ensure that clean-energy jobs will stay in America. The bill also is “crucial to our national security,” he said. “For too long, we’ve been dependent on energy from foreign and sometimes hostile countries. When we’re developing new energy technologies here at home, we’ll be safer for it. We’ll also ensure cleaner, healthier air for our children and grandchildren by leading the world in addressing the threat of climate change.”

More reactions to the vote, after the jump…
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Posted on Friday, June 26th, 2009
Under: Anna Eshoo, energy, Environment, George Miller, Global warming, Jerry McNerney, Lynn Woolsey, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 12 Comments »