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Boxer urges Justice Dept. probe of Ferguson PD

The Justice Department must thoroughly review the Ferguson Police Department to determine whether there’s a pattern of excessive use of force, mistreatment of prisoners, or racial profiling in its searches and arrests, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a letter Tuesday.

Barbara Boxer“I am writing to express my strong support for the Department of Justice investigation into whether the Ferguson Police Department has engaged in discriminatory policing practices,” wrote Boxer, D-Calif. “It is imperative that we find out if there is a pattern and practice of civil rights violations in Ferguson.”

Boxer noted a lack of diversity on the St. Louis suburb’s police force. “As part of this probe, I would urge you to determine whether the lack of diversity in the Ferguson Police Department contributed to the culture of distrust between local residents and police.”

Meanwhile, here’s how some Bay Area House members reacted on Twitter to the Ferguson situation:

Pelosi and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, were among more than 200 who retweeted Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.:

And Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, was among more than 2,200 who retweeted civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.:

Posted on Tuesday, November 25th, 2014
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 2 Comments »

Is the Bay Area’s House policy clout fading?

For the first time in a long, long time, the Bay Area is without any committee chairs or ranking members in the House.

Of course, the region still is home to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco. But with the retirement of Rep. George Miller, the Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat and former chairman, the region’s policy influence seems blunted. It’s a far cry from 2007, when Miller chaired his committee, the late Rep. Tom Lantos chaired Foreign Affairs, and Pelosi was Speaker.

As I wrote yesterday, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, lost her bid – despite Pelosi’s strong support – to leapfrog a more senior member and become the Energy and Commerce Committee’s ranking member. And though Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, announced earlier this month that he would seek to become Transportation and Infrastructure’s ranking member, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., won that vote Wednesday.

“Peter has been my friend throughout my time here and that will continue,” Garamendi said after the vote. “Peter and I share a strong commitment to a ‘Make It In America’ agenda and trade policies that protect the environment, workers’ rights, and middle-class families. Working together, we can lead our party in addressing a range of transportation and infrastructure challenges, including water infrastructure, surface transportation, FAA, and Amtrak authorizations.”

That’s not to say the Bay Area will be without a voice. Several Bay Area members are likely to remain the ranking members on key subcommittees (like Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security).

And Pelosi appointed two local congressmen – Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, and Mike Thompson, D-Napa – to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which helps set the caucus’ policy agenda and nominates Democratic members for committee assignments. (They replace Pelosi’s local appointments from the 113th Congress, Miller and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.)

“As a member of the next generation of our caucus, I look forward to working in a collaborative way to promote the policies that will lift up all Americans,” Swalwell said.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will continue serving on that Democratic committee, having won re-election as a regional representative.

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 2 Comments »

Fun with numbers: Bay Area House races

As we await a final result in the 17th District’s Mike Honda/Ro Khanna showdown, here’s how the rest of the Bay Area House races look at this hour, in order from widest margin of victory to narrowest:

    13th District: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, 87.3% vs. Dakin Sundeen (R), 12.7% (74.6 points)
    12th District: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, 82.4%, vs. John Dennis (R), 17.6% (64.8 points)
    14th District: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, 75.9% vs. Robin Chew (R), 24.1% (51.8 points)
    5th District: Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, 75.4% vs. James Hinton (i), 24.6% (50.8 points)
    20th District: Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, 74.4% vs. Ronald Kabat (i), 25.6% (48.8 points)
    2nd District: Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, 73.6% vs. Dale Mensing (R), 26.4% (47.2 points)
    15th District: Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, 69% vs. Hugh Bussell (R), 31% (38 points)
    19th District: Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, 66.8% vs. Robert Murray (D), 33.2% (33.6 points)
    18th District: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, 66.3% vs. Richard Fox (R), 33.7% (32.6 points)
    11th District: State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, 66.2% vs. Tue Phan (R), 33.8% (32.4 points)
    9th District: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, 51.5% vs. Tony Amador (R), 48.5% (3 points)

Yes, that 9th District race was awfully close – especially since this was the first year since McNerney took office that he wasn’t on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s hit list.

For comparison, McNerney beat Republican Ricky Gill by 11.2 points in 2012 in this district; in his old 11th District, he had beat Republican David Harmer by 1.1 point in 2010, Republican Dean Andal by 10.6 points in 2008; and incumbent Republican Richard Pombo by 6.6 points in 2006. Gill and Harmer both were NRCC “Young Guns,” garnering national support and advice, while the NRCC also worked on Andal’s behalf and GOP luminaries like John Boehner and John McCain shared stages with him.

In other words, most of the times when the NRCC targeted McNerney as vulnerable, it turned out that he really wasn’t; this year, as the NRCC paid the district little mind, Amador came within striking distance. Oops! But that doesn’t mean McNerney will be similarly vulnerable in 2016, when a bigger presidential-year turnout will favor Democrats; for Republicans, this looks like an opportunity missed.

Posted on Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mark DeSaulnier, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

Today’s congressional odds and ends

IMMIGRANT FAMILY DETENTION – Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, led 32 House Democrats in writing to President Obama about how the Homeland Security Department is detaining immigrant families, and its plan to significantly expand family detention in the months ahead. “At the current rates, within one year this Administration will have increased capacity to detain immigrant women and children by more than 4,000 percent” Lofgren said. “As the law requires, there needs to be a better assessment in place to appropriately screen and assess these women and children, many of whom are fleeing violence, torture or persecution in Central America.” Among those signing the letter were Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; and Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz.

BIO-DEFENSE FUNDING – Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, joined with Rep. Mike Rogers, R-M ich., in calling for additional funding for the Biomedical Advance Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and related bio-defense programs amid the ongoing Ebola epidemic. “BARDA is now leading the federal government’s efforts to develop vaccines and therapeutics against Ebola,” they wrote. “While ongoing programs at the National Institutes of Health are essential for early-stage Ebola research, only BARDA has the infrastructure to actually get a vaccine or drug prepared for use in this outbreak.” Eshoo and Rogers authored the 2006 law creating BARDA; their letter went to House Appropriations Committee and subcommittee chairs and ranking members; Speaker John Bohener; Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s chair and ranking member; and White House Ebola “czar” Ron Klain.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)SURGEON GENERAL – Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove; and Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, got 88 of their House colleagues to sign a letter calling for the confirmation of Surgeon General nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy, as the nation worries about Ebola. Obama nominated Murthy almost a year ago, but conservatives have blocked his confirmation mainly because he sees gun control as a public health issue. “As our nation faces public health concerns, the Senate needs to stop playing politics with Presidential nominees and confirm a Surgeon General to assist in disseminating information and to amplify the work being done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Lee said. “Dr. Murthy is an eminently qualified physician and has the support of our nation’s preeminent health and physicians groups. It’s time to confirm him.” Among those signing the letter were Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz.

Mike ThompsonNAPA QUAKE DISASTER FUNDS – The Obama administration has approved individual-assistance Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster funds for areas in Napa and Solano counties hurt by Aug. 24’s 6.0-magnitude earthquake, senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Mike Thompson announced Tuesday. The administration also approved Small Business Administration loans for homeowners, businesses, and nonprofit organizations; until now, only public assistance FEMA disaster funds had been approved. “The approval of this much needed assistance is an important step in our region’s recovery, and it will finally allow us to start helping folks get back on their feet,” said Thompson, D-Napa. “Individuals and families will be able to use these funds to begin the process of rebuilding and repairing homes and other personal property. And, local businesses will be able to apply for low-interest SBA loans to repair or replace disaster-damaged property, inventory and supplies.” Individuals in Napa and Solano Counties can register with FEMA online, via smartphone, or by calling 800-621-3362.

Posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
Under: Ami Bera, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Mike Thompson, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

Santa Clara County ready to help immigrant kids

Santa Clara County stands ready to help efforts to care for unaccompanied Central American children flooding to the U.S. border, some local officials and members of Congress said Wednesday.

U.S. Representatives Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose, joined with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, Santa Clara County Supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez, and San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo in issuing a statement.

“Small children and refugees fleeing violence in their home countries require our support, not our acrimony. And where other communities may turn these needy children away, our community is ready and willing to be compassionate,” the officials said. “We urge communities in the Bay Area, throughout the State of California, and across the nation to join us to make good on America’s promise of fairness and due process.”

Cortese and Liccardo, incidentally, are rivals in November’s San Jose mayoral election.

Law requires that every unaccompanied child, as a part of a deportation proceeding, is entitled to an evaluation to ascertain whether they are victims of human trafficking, have been abandoned or are eligible for asylum because of persecution. If not eligible, they will be returned home. But until this examination is complete, these children will remain in the United States.

Posted on Wednesday, July 16th, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Immigration, Mike Honda, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 7 Comments »

Lawmakers urge Obama to consult them on Iraq

Rep. Barbara Lee and a Virginia Republican have lead 78 other House members in urging President Obama to seek Congressional approval before taking any military action in Iraq.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Lee, D-Oakland, and Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., last summer led independent letters calling on Obama to consult Congress before taking military action in Syria. Now they’ve joined together on a letter sent to the president Thursday.

“We do not believe intervention could be either quick or easy,” they wrote. “And we doubt it would be effective in meeting either humanitarian or strategic goals, and that it could very well be counter-productive.”

The lawmakers called for a political settlement involving all segments of the Iraqi population.

“As you consider options for U.S. intervention, we write to urge respect for the constitutional requirements for using force abroad,” they wrote. “The Constitution vests in Congress the power and responsibility to authorize offensive military action abroad. The use of military force in Iraq is something the Congress should fully debate and authorize.”

Besides Rigell, other Republicans signing the letter included Chris Gibson, R-N.Y.; John Duncan Jr., R-Tenn.; Walter Jones, R-N.C.; Reid Ribble, R-Wisc.; Justin Amash, R-Mich.; Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.;

Besides Lee, other Bay Area members signing the letter included Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; George Miller, D-Martinez; and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.

Posted on Thursday, July 3rd, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Iraq, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 4 Comments »

USA Freedom Act vote splits Bay Area reps

The Bay Area’s House delegation was somewhat split – and along surprising lines – as the House voted 303-121 on Thursday to pass a bill supporters say would end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of American phone records.

The USA Freedom Act, HR 3361, was amended after it arrived on the House floor, and some former supporters believed it had been watered down too much; for example, a requirement for an independent public advocate on the secret intelligence court that oversees the NSA was dropped from the bill.

Voting for the bill were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and representatives Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton.

From Thompson:

“Our government has a responsibility to protect people’s civil liberties and our national security, and this legislation does both. It ends the government’s bulk collection of metadata, it strengthens oversight and improves accountability of our intelligence community, and it allows our intelligence community to continue their brave work to keep Americans safe.”

Voting against the bill were representatives Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; and and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz.

From Lofgren:

“Across the country, many people were surprised to learn that the privacy rights they believed were protected under the 4th Amendment did not apply to NSA surveillance of their communications.

“I originally cosponsored the USA FREEDOM Act when it was introduced last yearbecause it was a small step toward reform and transparency. Unfortunately the bill was changed in key ways after committee action and will no longer provide the protections I sought.

“I voted against it today because it falls short of the Fourth Amendment protections Americans deserve.

“There is strong bipartisan concern that this bill makes it legal for the NSA to continue mass surveillance of U.S. citizens. Many civil liberties groups and leading tech companies share these concerns and felt compelled to withdraw their support.

“Without much needed improvements to the USA FREEDOM Act, Congress risks a continuation of mass surveillance in this extension of the Patriot Act.”

Posted on Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

Obama, Lofgren & Pelosi blast GOP on immigration

The rhetoric flew hot and heavy as Wednesday marked one year since the Senate’s introduction of a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill.

The Senate passed the vote, but the House’s GOP leadership has refused to take up that bill or offer one of its own. President Obama issued a statement Wednesday morning saying this means House Republicans prefer the status quo over meaningful reform.

“Instead of advancing commonsense reform and working to fix our immigration system, House Republicans have voted in favor of extreme measures like a punitive amendment to strip protections from ‘Dreamers,’” the president said. “The majority of Americans are ahead of House Republicans on this crucial issue and there is broad support for reform, including among Democrats and Republicans, labor and business, and faith and law enforcement leaders. We have a chance to strengthen our country while upholding our traditions as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, and I urge House Republicans to listen to the will of the American people and bring immigration reform to the House floor for a vote.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, ranking Democrat on Judiciary’s Immigration subcommittee, issued a statement noting “even today a majority of Members of the House say that they favor immigration reform, which isn’t surprising because reform is overwhelmingly supported by a majority of Americans from across the political spectrum.”

“That support is one of the reasons why a movement has started to give immigration reform a fair up or down vote in the House,” said Lofgren, D-San Jose. “But the Republican-controlled House continues to stall on immigration reform, and as they continue to run out the clock, the window of opportunity to pass reform narrows.”

Then, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., issued a statement saying Obama had called him Wednesday after issuing his “partisan statement which attacked me and my fellow House Republicans and which indicated no sincere desire to work together.”

“After five years, President Obama still has not learned how to effectively work with Congress to get things done. You do not attack the very people you hope to engage in a serious dialogue,” Cantor said. “I told the President the same thing I told him the last time we spoke. House Republicans do not support Senate Democrat’s immigration bill and amnesty efforts, and it will not be considered in the House. I also reiterated to the President there are other issues where we can find common ground, build trust and get America working again. I hope the President can stop his partisan messaging, and begin to seriously work with Congress to address the issues facing working middle class Americans that are struggling to make ends meet in this economy.”

Nancy PelosiAnd that annoyed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

“In response to the President’s renewed call for action on comprehensive immigration reform, Congressman Cantor once again offered only excuses for inaction,” Pelosi said. “With 30 House Republicans on the record in support of comprehensive reform, Rep. Cantor’s ridiculous statement this evening confirms that the Republican leadership continues to stand in the way of legislation that would pass the House immediately if allowed to come to the floor. It’s time for Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor to get out of the way, and allow immigration reform to become a reality.”

Posted on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
Under: Immigration, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 15 Comments »

Activists seek ‘Robin Hood tax’ upon Wall Street

Activists organized in part by the California Nurses Association rallied Friday at congressional offices in 22 cities – including four in Northern California – to call for a tax on Wall Street speculation to relieve economic inequality and address basic needs.

The Oakland-based union scheduled the events for Friday because it’s the 46th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who at the time of his death was amid a campaign for economic justice that included anti-poverty and worker-rights issues.

Supporters of HR 1579 – authored by Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and cosponsored by local lawmakers including Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and John Garamendi, D-Fairfield – sometimes call it the “Robin Hood tax.”

The bill would levy a tax of 50 cents on every $100 of stock trades and smaller amounts on transactions of bonds and derivatives. Its goal to reduce harmful financial market speculation; discourage high-volume, high-speed trading; and slow down proliferation of complex derivatives while raising hundreds of billions of dollars per year for jobs, health care, education, the fights against HIV/AIDS and climate change, and more.

Several dozen countries have similar taxes, and the United States had one until 1966. Business leaders including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs, Robert Pollin, and Larry Summers have recommended adopting a financial transaction tax, and after Wall Street’s crash 1987, such a tax was endorsed by President George H.W. Bush and U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan. And former Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, carried a similar bill in 2010.

There’s no chance the Republican-led House will ever advance this bill.

Still, Northern California activists rallied Friday at the offices of congressmen George Miller in Concord, Mike Honda in San Jose, Ami Bera in Rancho Cordova and Jeff Denham in Modesto – three Democrats and a Republican, respectively.

“My patients are trying to heal from an illness or surgery and when they go home they are forced to make a decision between buying medication or food,” California Nurses Association co-president Malinda Markowitz, an RN at San Jose’s Good Samaritan Hospital, said in a news release. “That’s why I want Rep. Mike Honda to support the people of this community by supporting the Robin Hood Tax.”

The nurses’ union notes King once said, “This is America’s opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have nots. The question is whether America will do it.”

Posted on Friday, April 4th, 2014
Under: Ami Bera, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jared Huffman, Jeff Denham, John Garamendi, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, Sam Farr, taxes, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

Lawmakers seek update on power station attack

Silicon Valley’s House members want an update on the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation of the sniper attack on PG&E’s Metcalf power substation last April.

METCALF plant 020614Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose; wrote a letter Thursday to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

“Although the damage from the Metcalf incident was largely contained, the potential for a catastrophic attack impacting both our electric grid and communications infrastructure is evident,” the lawmakers wrote. “As we understand it, rolling blackouts throughout our region were narrowly averted. The Metcalf attack, while sophisticated, was relatively small. A larger attack is not difficult to imagine and the effects could be crippling.”

Somebody fired rifle rounds last April to take out 17 transformers and 6 circuit breakers, causing $15.4 million in damage at the facility near Coyote Ranch Road in South San Jose. Nobody was hurt and nobody lost power, but circumstances suggest it was a planned attack.

Given the Bay Area’s high concentration of Fortune 500 companies, patent generation and economic productivity, a successful attack on the area’s power grid “would impact not only our region but our country as a whole,” they wrote.

The lawmakers asked Johnson to respond by March 14 with a summary of his department’s work on the incident, including the initial emergency response; work since the incident on improving protection of critical infrastructure, emergency mitigation and coordination with other agencies; recommendations for more improvements; and guidance on whether any congressional action is needed.

Posted on Friday, February 21st, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Homeland security, Mike Honda, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »