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.
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 »
President Barack Obama, at the Pentagon (excerpt):
“This anniversary allows us to renew our faith that even the darkest night gives way to a brighter dawn. Today, we can come here to the Pentagon, and touch these names and kneel beside a building where a single stone still bears the scars of that fire. We can visit the field of honor in Pennsylvania and remember the heroes who made it sacred. We can see water cascading into the footprints of the Twin Towers, and gaze up at a new tower rising above the New York skyline.
“And even though we may never be able to fully lift the burden carried by those left behind, we know that somewhere, a son is growing up with his father’s eyes, and a daughter has her mother’s laugh — living reminders that those who died are with us still.
“So as painful as this day is and always will be, it leaves us with a lesson that no single event can ever destroy who we are. No act of terrorism can ever change what we stand for. Instead, we recommit ourselves to the values that we believe in, holding firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.
“That’s the commitment that we reaffirm today. And that’s why, when the history books are written, the true legacy of 9/11 will not be one of fear or hate or division. It will be a safer world; a stronger nation; and a people more united than ever before.”
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, in a statement:
“Eleven years ago, evil descended upon our country, taking thousands of lives in an unspeakable attack against innocents. America will never forget those who perished. America will never stop caring for the loved ones they left behind. And America shall remain ever vigilant against those who would do us harm. Today we again extend our most profound gratitude to our brave troops who have gone into battle, some never to return, so that we may live in peace. On this most somber day, those who would attack us should know that we are united, one nation under God, in our determination to stop them and to stand tall for peace and freedom at home and across the world.”
Vice President Joe Biden, at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. (excerpt):
“My hope for you all is that as every year passes, the depth of your pain recedes and you find comfort, as I have, genuine comfort in recalling his smile, her laugh, their touch. And I hope you’re as certain as I am that she can see what a wonderful man her son has turned out to be, grown up to be; that he knows everything that your daughter has achieved, and that he can hear, and she can hear how her mom still talks about her, the day he scored the winning touchdown, how bright and beautiful she was on that graduation day, and know that he knows what a beautiful child the daughter he never got to see has turned out to be, and how much she reminds you of him. For I know you see your wife every time you see her smile on your child’s face. You remember your daughter every time you hear laughter coming from her brother’s lips. And you remember your husband every time your son just touches your hand.
“I also hope — I also hope it continues to give you some solace knowing that this nation, all these people gathered here today, who are not family members, all your neighbors, that they’ve not forgotten. They’ve not forgotten the heroism of your husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers. And that what they did for this country is still etched in the minds of not only you, but millions of Americans, forever. That’s why it’s so important that this memorial be preserved and go on for our children and our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren, and our great-great-grandchildren — because it is what makes it so exceptional. And I think they all appreciate, as I do, more than they can tell you, the incredible bravery your family members showed on that day.”
Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., in a statement:
“Eleven years ago today, from Capitol Hill, I could see the smoke rising from the fires burning in the Pentagon. Like all Americans, I will never forget the moment that our homeland came under attack. For me, this is a day to remember those who perished on that day of terror, including the first responders. It is also a day to pay tribute to all those who have worked quietly and tirelessly both on the home front and abroad to prevent a repetition of such terrible events. And it is a day to give honor to those in our military who have sacrificed so much, including their lives, for the same end. Their courage and heroism and willingness to answer the call of duty have kept America safe and strong and free. We are truly the home of the brave.”
Rep. George Miller led more than 100 House Democrats today in introducing a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.80 per hour.
The minimum wage was last increased in 2009, but this would be the first increase for tipped-workers in 21 years. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is expected to introduce companion legislation today.
“Raising the minimum wage at its core is about respecting and valuing work. No one who works hard every day and plays by the rules should live in poverty,” said Miller, D-Martinez, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat.
“Increasing workers’ paychecks will help millions of working families make ends meet and help the nation’s economy grow,” he said in a news release. “It is time for Congress to stand up for working people for a change and for Washington Republicans to stop using their position in Congress only to benefit wealthy special interests. They should join Democrats in ensuring a well-deserved raise for millions of honest, hardworking Americans.”
Miller was the House author of the 2007 bill that increased the minimum wage to $7.25 following 10 years without any increases.
Miller’s new H.R. 6211, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012, would increase the minimum wage in three 85-cent steps, over three years, from $7.25 to $9.80 per hour; after that, the rate would then be indexed to inflation each year. The bill also would increase the required cash wage for tipped workers in annual 85 cent increases, from today’s $2.13 per hour until the tip credit reaches 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.
Expect this to be dead on arrival in the Republican-run House; many conservatives believe requiring employers to pay higher minimum wages makes them less likely to hire or retain less-skilled workers, thus increasing unemployment.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in January said his preference would be “to allow the minimum wage to rise with the CPI or with another index so it adjusts automatically over time” – much as these Democrats are now proposing after the initial three-step, three-year increase. He seemed to walk that statement back a bit in March, when he said he favors reviewing the minimum wage periodically but there’s “probably not a need to raise” it now.
“I cannot and will not participate in this hyper-partisan and purely political vote today to hold Attorney General in contempt of Congress,” Lee said in a news release.
“Contempt power should be used sparingly, carefully and only in the most egregious situations. The Attorney General has gone above and beyond in his response to request for information on “Fast and Furious”, an unfortunate operation that began under the Bush Administration and, in fact, was terminated by Attorney General Holder,” she said. “This contempt vote is unprecedented, unwarranted and entirely unnecessary. Gandhi once said that ‘Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good.’ That is why I am standing with so many of my colleagues in refusing to participate in this shameful Republican political stunt.”
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called for the vote with this statement:
“It’s important for the American people to know how we got here and to know the facts of this case. The Congress asked the Department of Justice for the facts related to Fast and Furious and the events that led to the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. The Department of Justice did not provide the facts and the information that we requested. Instead, the information came from people outside the Department, people who wanted to do the right thing. In addition to not providing the information, the Administration admitted to misleading Congress, actually retracting a letter it had sent 10 months earlier.
“I think all the Members understand this is a very serious matter. The Terry family wants to know how this happened and they have every right to have their answers. The House needs to know how this happened, and it is our constitutional duty to find out. So the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee issued a lawful and narrowly tailored subpoena. We’ve been patient, giving the Justice Department every opportunity to comply, so that we can get to the bottom of this for the Terry family. We’ve shown more than enough good faith, but the White House has chosen to invoke executive privilege. That leaves us no other options. The only recourse left for the House is to continue seeking the truth and to hold Attorney General in contempt of Congress.
“Now I don’t take this matter lightly, and I frankly hoped it would never come to this. The House’s focus is on jobs and on the economy. But no Justice Department is above the law and no Justice Department is above the Constitution, which each of us has sworn an oath to uphold. So I ask the Members of this body to come together and to support this resolution so that we can seek the answers that the Terry family and the American people deserve.”
“The Supreme Court’s ruling is a victory for America’s families, who deserve affordable health care.
“The decision is great news for the millions of Californians who have already seen the benefits of this law – including the six million who now have access to free preventive health services, 355,000 young adults who now have coverage on their parents’ health plans and 320,000 seniors who have received help in paying for their prescription drugs.
“Now Americans will have the certainty of knowing they won’t be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition. Women won’t be charged a higher premium because of their gender. And families struggling with serious illnesses will not face lifetime limits on coverage.
“We will continue to fight Republican efforts to repeal these important health benefits while we work to make sure every American has access to quality, affordable health care.”
“The American people know that this law violates our deepest constitutional principles of limited government, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling today. President Obama’s $2.6 trillion health spending law is an unprecedented power grab by this White House that will increase health care costs, add to our skyrocketing national debt, and put Washington bureaucrats in between patients and their doctors. This ruling doesn’t change the fact that a majority of the people of Utah and across America want this law repealed. The American people will have the last word at the ballot box this November. But let me be absolutely clear, I will continue the fight to repeal this assault on individual liberty and limited government.”
“This is an historic day. The Supreme Court today upheld the health care reform law passed by Congress in 2010, meaning Californians can be confident that access to affordable health insurance is finally a reality.
“I believe the health care reform law—including the individual mandate and the insurance exchanges designed to create large purchasing pools to make coverage more affordable—is critical to reducing the number of Americans who go without health insurance. The state exchanges will be up and running in 2014, and I am gratified they will have an opportunity to help Californians and drive down soaring health care costs.
“Because of today’s decision, California will receive an estimated $14.5 billion in federal funds designated to increase insurance coverage—including an estimated $5.5 billion annually to help low and middle-income residents purchase insurance in the exchanges and an estimated $9 billion a year to insure newly eligible Medi-Cal beneficiaries. **
“Many positive benefits of the law have already gone into effect including provisions that allow children to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan until age 26, prohibit insurance companies from denying children health insurance based on a pre-existing condition and prohibit insurance companies from canceling coverage because of an illness such as breast cancer. Millions of Americans will continue to benefit from these insurance reforms.
“I realize that passage of health care reform was extremely controversial. But we cannot forget that insuring fellow Americans and driving down the exploding cost of health care spending in this country is a national emergency. Even with this favorable decision from the court, our work reforming the insurance market and expanding access to health care continues.”
“The president’s health care law is hurting our economy by driving up health costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire. Today’s ruling underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety. What Americans want is a common-sense, step-by-step approach to health care reform that will protect Americans’ access to the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at a lower cost. Republicans stand ready to work with a president who will listen to the people and will not repeat the mistakes that gave our country ObamaCare.”
“This decision is a victory for the American people. With this ruling, Americans will benefit from critical patient protections, lower costs for the middle class, more coverage for families, and greater accountability for the insurance industry.
“The Affordable Care Act is already paying dividends for millions of Americans – with more to come. Children can no longer be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions. Seniors are paying less for prescription drugs. Students and young adults can stay on their parents’ plans. Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing medical condition.”
“In passing health reform, we made history for our nation and progress for the American people. We completed the unfinished business of our society and strengthened the character of our country. We ensured health care would be a right for all, not a privilege for the few. Today, the Supreme Court affirmed our progress and protected that right, securing a future of health and economic security for the middle class and for every American.”
Most of the Bay Area’s House delegation was among 101 members who signed a letter, co-authored by Rep. Barbara Lee, urging President Obama to announce an accelerated transition of security responsibilities to the Afghan government and security forces.
The lawmakers want the president to announce this at the upcoming NATO summit meeting in Chicago, in order to effect a speedier withdrawal of U.S. troops.
“Earlier this month you visited Afghanistan to sign a Strategic Partnership Agreement. As you stated at Bagram Air Base, ‘this time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end,’” the lawmakers wrote. “The core of al Qaeda has been greatly reduced in size and ability to attack Americans. Our brave men and women in uniform have done everything that we have asked of them. With over 17,000 dead and wounded U.S. servicemen and women, and long term costs estimated at $4 trillion for the past decade of unfunded wars, the overwhelming majority of American people want to bring the war in Afghanistan to an expedited end.”
The lawmakers wrote that while many of them would prefer an immediate full withdrawal, there’s broad bipartisan consensus that the process at least should be speeded up. “We also remind you that any agreement committing U.S. troops to Afghanistan must have congressional approval to be binding.”
The only Bay Area members who didn’t sign the letter – which Lee, D-Oakland, coauthored with Walter Jones, R-N.C. – were Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.
Lee also this afternoon offered an amendment to H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act, which would’ve limited further funding for the Afghanistan war to only what’s required for the safe and orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops and contractors.
Lee’s amendment failed on a 113-303 vote. “My amendment provided members of the House the opportunity to stand squarely with the war-weary American people,” she said in a statement issued afterward. “I am disappointed that a majority of House members did not stand with seven out of ten Americans who oppose the war in Afghanistan.”
Democrats are running hard with the student-loan issue, including some efforts here in the Bay Area.
The interest rate on need-based student loans will double to 6.8 percent July 1 unless a law is passed. Both sides of the aisle appear to favor freezing the interest rate, yet each side is using the question of how to pay for it against the other as a political issue.
The House last week passed Republicans’ HR 4628 to maintain the rate at 3.4 percent for another year, paid for by eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act health care reform law. Democrats say the GOP has set up a false dilemma by cutting flu vaccines, cancer and heart disease screenings and other services for children and families.
The White House has threatened a veto, but the bill isn’t expected to get past the Democrat-controlled Senate, anyway. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has introduced S.2343 to pay for freezing the interest rate by making it harder for owners of so-called S corporations to avoid paying Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes on some of their earnings.
The Senate might consider Reid’s bill Monday, so politicians are hitting the streets and phones to drum up support.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, will address this and other issues during a conference call tomorrow with reporters.
And Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, will attend a rally Thursday morning at San Jose State University with local students who’ll discuss how the interest-rate increase would affect them. An estimated 7.4 million students nationwide, including more than 570,000 in California, would pay an average of $1,000 more over the life of their loans.
UPDATE @ 4:25 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, was banging the drum today at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, while Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, did so at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park.
As various national media reported over the weekend, House members are under pressure to ratchet down their office budgets – and one Northern California lawmaker is touting his frugality as a result.
USA Today presented the data on members’ 2011 budget allocations so that it could be arranged in order of the percentage spent – thereby telling us who’s been most tight-fisted with his or her office budget.
Nationally, the biggest spender was Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who overshot his budget by about $8,500; his office told USA Today he will be under budget once all books for the year are reconciled. (The data was as of Dec. 31.) And the nation’s most frugal House member appears to have been Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., who spent only 60 percent of the $1,453,472 he was allotted for 2011.
The average House office budget for 2011 was $1.45 million, USA Today reported, with different members allotted different amounts based on factors including a district’s geographical size, its distance from Washington, D.C., local office rental costs and so on. Also, lawmakers who’ve been in Congress for longer tend to have more experienced staffers who draw higher salaries.
Lawmakers must cut their budgets by 6.4 percent this year after a 5 percent cut in 2011.
Here’s how the Bay Area’s members stacked up with their 2011 budget allotments and the percentages they actually spent:
Garamendi issued a news release today crowing that he was more frugal than 395 of his House colleagues.
“I want to see less money spent on Congress and more resources paying down our deficit and investing in our schools, roads, health coverage, and veteran’s services,” he said in the release. “I’ve balanced the checkbook for the family ranch. I know how to make more with less. I’m proud that we managed to stay so under budget while still maintaining robust communications with and support for 10th Congressional District residents.”
But Garamendi – who’s running for re-election this year in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District – was quick to note his frugality doesn’t mean he’s out of touch. He said he hosted more than a dozen in-person and telephone town halls last year or early this year, plus resource fairs for job seekers, veterans, seniors, social services and small businesses and other events.
Two dozen California House Democrats wrote to express support for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s investigation of whether the Feb. 26 slaying of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a self-styled neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla., “was motivated by racial bias and therefore a hate crime.”
“The family of Trayvon Martin deserves to know the truth and the American people expect justice to be served,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter, which was sent to Holder yesterday.
The letter cites unresolved questions about what led to Martin’s slaying by George Zimmerman, 28, and the Sanford Police Department’s failure to make an arrest.
“It is in the best interest of our constituents and the country that you conduct a thorough investigation that also determines whether this was motivated by racial bias and therefore a hate crime,” the lawmakers wrote. “History has shown that investigating these crimes and enforcing our laws against them bring the issue to light and help our society progress.”
Among those who signed the letter are Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; George Miller, D-Martinez; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.
President Barack Obama said Friday it’s “imperative that we investigate every aspect of this,” and noted the case makes him think of his own kids. “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
My esteemed colleague Howard Mintz has the full story on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, and you can read the opinion yourself (assuming the court’s website doesn’t get overloaded again) by clicking here.
Meanwhile, here’s a treasury of quotes from elected officials.
“Today’s decision is a victory for civil rights and for progress for the LGBT community and for all Californians.
“By declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional, the Ninth Circuit made a strong statement that laws must not target the LGBT community for discrimination and all of our state’s families deserve to enjoy fair and equal treatment under the law.
“As this battle moves through the appeals process, we must, and will, continue the fight for the fundamental rights of LGBT couples and every American. We will keep up the charge for change and equality in state legislatures and in the courts, and work in Congress to repeal and overturn the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Together, we will make every discriminatory marriage amendment and law a thing of the past.”
“Today’s decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stands as a victory for the fundamental American principle that all people are equal, and deserve equal rights and treatment under the law. This is the biggest step that the American judicial system has taken to end the grievous discrimination against men and women in same-sex relationships and should be highly praised.
“Proposition 8 has done nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that same-sex couples are inferior to heterosexual couples. These men and women are our firefighters, our paramedics, our law enforcement, our service-members, and to treat their relationships differently is unfair, unlawful, and violates the basic principle of who we are as a nation.
“Today however, it has been made clear that this type of discrimination will not be tolerated—there is no state power or law that can claim one type of love is more deserving of status and benefits than another. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has fulfilled its obligation to all Americans by protecting the fundamental right of all people to marry those whom they love. It has upheld the overall integrity of the American judicial system by placing individual characteristics of judges and justices secondary to their duty and commitment to true justice and equality.
“Although countless people have worked tirelessly to achieve this ruling, I would like to recognize the inspiring dedication demonstrated by the American Foundation for Equal Rights. They have never relented in their mission for equal marriage rights and should be highly commended for these efforts.
“While today marks a historic milestone towards equality for all Americans, our journey is not over until the highest court in the United States reaches the same decision that the Court of Appeals did today. It is on that day that the struggle for equality will be over and the dream on which this great nation was founded will become a reality.”
“Today’s ruling is a victory for fairness, a victory for equality and a victory for justice. Proposition 8 denied to gay and lesbian couples the equal protection to which all Americans are entitled. By striking this unconstitutional law from our books, the court has restored dignity, equality and respect to all Californians.”
For some counterpoint (although he’s not an elected official), here’s SaveCalifornia.com President Randy Thomasson:
“God created a man and a woman to fit together in marriage. The People of California have twice affirmed this beautiful, natural, and exclusive pro-family institution between a husband and wife, a man and a woman. The Ninth Circuit ruling to strike down man-woman marriage, by a Carter judge and a Clinton judge, is unfair to the voters, against our republic, against our democratic system, against the United States Constitution, against Nature, and against God and His beneficial design of family.
“It’s illogical and unconstitutional to claim that natural, unchangeable race and ethnicity is the same as sexual behavior. That’s not fair or true. Race and ethnicity are inherited, but science has never found homosexuality, bisexuality, or transsexuality to be inherited or unchangeable. Neither is this about commitment. As the divorce of leading anti-Prop. 8 lesbians Robin Tyler and Diane Olson demonstrates, the notion of homosexual ‘marriage’ is not really about ‘commitment,’ but is a political agenda forcing acceptance of homosexuality upon the children of America. Yet nothing is equal to marriage between a man and a woman. If you don’t have a man and a woman, you don’t have marriage.
‘Judicial activists like Stephen Reinhardt and Michael Daly Hawkins need to be reined in like Newt Gingrich has been saying about judicial activists. Marriage is not in the United States Constitution, so this case should never have gone to federal court. Now it will be appealed to the nation’s high court, with Anthony Kennedy being the deciding vote. Fortunately, in past rulings favoring homosexuality, Kennedy has written against redefining marriage, making it likely that he will affirm California’s right to reserve marriage licenses for ‘a man and a woman.’”