20

Rallies in support of health care reform

As members of Congress prepare to return to Washington, D.C., the Democratic National Committee’s Organizing for America is putting together events nationwide – including at least two here in the Bay Area – to demonstrate support for health care reform that it says would lower costs, protect patient choice and ensure all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care.

From noon to 2 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 1, there’ll be a gathering outside House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller’s district office at 1333 Willow Pass Road in Concord.

“Congressman Miller will join Bay Area residents from all walks of life as they express their support for health insurance reform, talk about what reform would mean and how to fight back against the lies being spread by the special interests and Republicans in Washington,” according to the news release. “Participants will also be thanking Congressman Miller for his support and delivering hundreds of declarations of support for the President’s three principles for reform, signed by constituents, as he heads back to Washington to get it done and pass health insurance reform now.”

Similar events are planned noon outside the district offices of Rep. Barbara Lee at 1301 Clay St. in Oakland; of Rep. Mike Honda at 1999 South Bascom Ave. in Campbell; and of Rep. Zoe Lofgren at 635 N. First St. in San Jose.

The day after that, Wednesday, Sept. 2, people will gather from 5 to 7 p.m. on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, with a similar message for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and the rest of the delegation. “Stand with us in unity and numbers as we display our support for the President’s call for significant health insurance reform,” says the Web site. “Let’s make sure our representatives hear our voices and take our message that health insurance reform cannot wait back with them to D.C.”

And at noon Thursday, Sept. 4, there’ll be a sendoff rally outside the district office of Rep. Jerry McNerney at 5776 Stoneridge Mall Road in Pleasanton.

6

What they say about the impending BART strike

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger:

“Delaying negotiations any longer is not the answer. The majority of employees have already reached an agreement and there is no reason why Amalgated Transit Union and BART cannot resolve their issues without punishing the public. I strongly encourage both sides to sit down, negotiate in good faith and resolve their differences as quickly as possible. State mediators are ready and available to help both sides reach an agreement over the weekend.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

“Constituents in my district and commuters throughout the Bay Area rely on BART and its workers to provide them with safe, efficient and reliable transit service. I encourage both BART and the ATU to resume their negotiations as soon as possible in order to work out their differences and reach a settlement that works for all parties.”

Lt. Gov. (and CD10 candidate) John Garamendi:

“Californians, especially commuters in the Bay Area, have been watching BART labor negotiations with increasing concern, especially in these last 24 hours as BART management has imposed terms and conditions on members of ATU Local 1555 and union members have responded with a strike to start late Sunday night. Tonight I am calling on both sides to put the public first. I call on BART management to lift the imposed contract, and I call on ATU Local 1555 to suspend its call for a strike Sunday night. After four months of negotiations, the people of California need both sides to return to the table and act in the best interests of the state. During these challenging economic times, public transportation is a critical. All of us need to focus our attention on securing a settlement that protects our economy.”

2

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.

6

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.

19

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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11

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.
Sincerely,
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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