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Obama to add Stornetta Lands to monument

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will expand the California Coastal National Monument to include the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands, a White House official said Saturday.

Stornetta mapCalifornia’s U.S. Senators and two congressmen have been pushing hard for this, and wrote to the president a year ago to urge his action. The White House said Obama will make the move as part of his State of the Union pledge to “use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.”

President Bill Clinton established the California Coastal National Monument in 2000 to protect the area’s scientifically valuable coastal resources, including geologic formations that offer unique habitats for breeding seabirds, marine mammals, and other native species.

Obama will be adding about 1,665 acres of federal lands located on California’s Mendocino County coast, just north of the Point Arena.

The area is an economic engine for the local community, driving tourism and offering outdoor recreation opportunities; a Bureau of Land Management report estimates that outdoor recreation on public lands in California contributed nearly $900 million to the economy in 2012. But it also will offer scientific opportunities for geologists, archeologists, historians, and biologists, as well as recreational opportunities.

U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein as well as Reps. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, and Mike Thompson, D-Napa, have championed adding this land to the monument, and offered legislation that would’ve done so.

“I am so pleased that President Obama is taking action to permanently protect this majestic piece of California’s coast for future generations to enjoy,” Boxer said in a statement issued Saturday. “Expanding this monument will not only help preserve this sensitive coastal area and protect marine life along the coast, it will also boost the tourism economy in Mendocino County, which supports 5,000 jobs.”

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell held a public listening session in November in Point Arena to hear from the community about its vision for conserving the lands; Jewell will return to the area Wednesday to celebrate the president’s action.

Posted on Saturday, March 8th, 2014
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Environment, Jared Huffman, Mike Thompson, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 9 Comments »

Obama visit brings flood of drought commentary

With President Obama soon to arrive in California for drought-related visits to Firebaugh and Los Banos, lots of politicos and stakeholders are weighing in about the state’s crisis.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., issued a statement praising executive-order relief measures that the Obama administration announced today, including $100 million in livestock disaster aid for California ranchers, $60 million for California food banks to help families affected by the drought, and other measures to promote conservation and help rural communities suffering water shortages.

“I applaud the President for coming to California during this very difficult drought, and I thank him for moving so quickly to provide relief for our state,” Boxer said.

But, from House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

“As President Obama visits California this afternoon to introduce an initiative to spend millions of dollars as part of his solution to California’s drought that has been exacerbated by federal and state regulations, House Republicans are continuing to work to find a bipartisan, bicameral solution to ensure our communities are not crippled by future droughts. Last week, the House passed H.R. 3964, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act, by a bipartisan vote of 229-191. I urge Majority Leader Harry Reid to put this legislation on the Senate floor for a vote as soon as possible.

“Earlier this week, California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer introduced their own legislation on California water policy. After two House-passed bills and two Congresses, this development is welcomed, but long overdue.

“In the spirit of Californians working together to bring solutions to the President’s desk, I believe that there are components of the Senate bill that can be further discussed and explored. The federal government can do more to deliver water to our southern California communities by keeping the Delta Cross Channel Gates open, increasing pumping at Old and Middle Rivers, setting a 1-to-1 flow in the San Joaquin River for water transfers, and authorizing the drilling of wells in refuges.

“And most importantly, there is growing consensus that direction to federal and state agencies to maximize water supplies is the underlying issue that must be addressed. Unfortunately, without substantive changes to burdensome environmental regulations, the well-being of fish will continue to be placed ahead of the well-being of our central and southern California communities that rely on critical water supplies to survive. And as a result, our farmers will still be left paying for water allocations that they are not receiving.

“Our communities cannot afford rhetorical battles in this time of drought. Already, the actions taken by the House have resulted in the Senate putting forth their plan after years of inaction. When Majority Leader Reid decides to put California water legislation on the Senate floor for a vote and Senators Feinstein and Boxer work to ensure its passage, I look forward to coming together to find areas of common ground and commonsense to finally achieve a solution that our state is so desperately in need of. It remains to be seen if our Senate colleagues are willing to cross the aisle and acknowledge that a their-way-or-the-highway position is not feasible.”

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Posted on Friday, February 14th, 2014
Under: Barbara Boxer, Jeff Denham, Kevin McCarthy, Neel Kashkari, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, water | 3 Comments »

Boxer, Ted Cruz agree on military justice bill

Mark the date: This is one of the few times you ever will see U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Ted Cruz supporting the same cause.

Barbara BoxerBoxer, the California liberal, and Cruz, the Tea Party darling from Texas, are among 53 Senators – 44 Democrats and nine Republicans – who have publicly voiced support for a bill to create an independent military justice system. The Senate is expected to vote next week on S.1752, the Military Justice Improvement Act by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., as well as on additional sexual assault reforms sponsored by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

“It is time to bring an end to the broken promises of ‘zero tolerance’ for sexual assault. Enough already,” Boxer said in a news release. “It is time to fix our military justice system and to give survivors a chance at the justice they deserve by enacting the Military Justice Improvement Act.”

My Approved PortraitsCruz commended Gillibrand for her leadership on the issue, saying the bill “will address the most serious crimes in the military while enabling commanders to focus on their wartime mission and ensure that the rights of both victims and those accused of crimes are protected. Our strongest allies have adopted similar military justice changes and their experience shows us that this can be done without harming the chain of command or military readiness. I look forward to continue working with her on this important issue.”

Victims of military sexual assault often have described feeling fearful when deciding whether to report the crimes, because the military chain of command has an inherent conflict of interest and bias in deciding whether to prosecute.

The bill moves the decision whether to prosecute any crime punishable by one year or more in confinement to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors who aren’t beholden to the usual chain of command. Excepted from the bill are 37 serious crimes that are uniquely military in nature, such as disobeying orders or going absent without leave, plus all crimes punishable by less than a year behind bars.

Posted on Thursday, February 6th, 2014
Under: Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »

Boxer spars with nuclear agency on oversight

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer is sparring with the Nuclear Regulatory Committee over congressional access to the agency’s information.

Barbara BoxerBoxer, D-Calif., wrote a letter to NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane on Tuesday, urging her to withdraw its new policy that the senator says will inhibit congressional oversight.

“As an ‘independent agency,’ the NRC is independent from the Executive Branch – not from congressional oversight,” Boxer wrote. “It is the NRC’s responsibility to keep Congress apprised of its activities, as well as to follow the law and use its authorities responsibly and in the public’s interest.”

Yet the NRC “unilaterally devised a drastic change of policy behind closed doors” without notifying her committee, and implemented it without consulting Congress or the public, Boxer wrote.

“This policy is a radical departure from previous NRC document policies and creates significant hurdles and delays that can be used to withhold information entirely from the chairs and ranking members of oversight committees,” Boxer wrote. “It also allows the NRC to broadly deny information to individual members of Congress, even when the information is related to matters affecting their home states.”

The NRC’s claims that the new policy is justified by its need to protect against public release of sensitive materials isn’t supported by case law or by Justice Department guidelines, the senator wrote.

“I call on the NRC to cease its efforts to circumvent Congress’ oversight authority and create a policy that is a model of transparency and respects Congress’ responsibility to oversee the NRC,” Boxer wrote.

Posted on Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, energy, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

More reactions to Obama’s health insurance delay

We’ll be posting a full story about reactions to President Obama’s plan to delay cancellation of some individual health insurance plans that don’t meet standards set by the nation’s new law, but here are a few pols for whom we didn’t have space in that article.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., called the president’s proposal a “good step” that’s “very helpful in the implementation of the law.” She also spoke on the Senate floor Thursday about Republicans’ constant opposition to this law.

“This is typical of Republicans through the generations. Every time we’ve tried to expand health care, they’ve opposed it and opposed it and tried to derail it,” she said, adding that the new insurance law can be fixed “but that’s not good enough for my Republican friends. They just want to tear it down, just like they wanted to tear down Medicare.”

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, said in an email that he supports the president’s fix, which “continues to provide more choices without undermining the strengths of the new health care law. Implementing any new law creates a few bumps. We should be look for minor tweaks that strengthen the law rather than return to the old system that left millions of Americans without quality coverage.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, issued a statement calling Obama’s proposal “a step in the right direction towards fixing issues with the health care law. This was a promise that was made and it is a promise that should be kept.”

“I’ve said from the beginning that the health care reform law isn’t perfect,” Thompson said. “But instead of engaging in partisan bickering and playing blame games, I want to work to make health care reform better. … If we quit the partisan games, we can build on the reforms made in Obamacare, work out the imperfections, and make sure every American can get quality, affordable health insurance. That is a goal worth fighting for.”

Posted on Thursday, November 14th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, healthcare reform, Mike Thompson, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 27 Comments »

Boxer introduces cargo pilot fatigue safety bill

Cargo plane pilots would have to be sufficiently rested and alert before they fly, under a bill introduced in the Senate today by Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Alabama UPS plane crash, August 2013 (AP Photo)Boxer, D-Calif., joined with Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., to introduce the “Safe Skies Act,” which would require that cargo pilots adhere to the same standards as passenger plane pilots. “We must close this dangerous loophole to ensure that cargo pilots are well-rested before they fly,” Boxer said.

After a passenger jet crashed outside Buffalo, N.Y., in 2009, Congress passed a bill by Boxer and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, directing the Department of Transportation to write new rules addressing pilot fatigue. Those new rules, which will take effect in January, require that passenger plane pilots be limited to flying either eight or nine hours, depending on the start time. Airlines must give pilots a minimum of 10 rest hours, with the opportunity for at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

But cargo pilots were omitted from the new rules, and still could be on duty for up to 16 hours a day. The Air Line Pilots Association, the Independent Pilots Association and the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations support the Safe Skies Act.

Reps. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., and Timothy Bishop, D-N.Y, had introduced a House version of this bill early this year, but it has sat dormant in a subcommittee ever since. They and retired airline pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger of Danville – renowned for his emergency landing of a jetliner in the Hudson River in 2009 – joined Boxer and Klobuchar at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol today.

“When a large plane flies over your house in the middle of the night, it doesn’t matter whether it’s carrying cargo or passengers, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican,” Sullenberger said. “The danger is all the same if the pilots are fatigued.”

Posted on Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »

Senate passes ENDA; House Dems clamor for vote

The U.S. Senate voted 64-32 Thursday to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit sexual-orientation and gender-identity discrimination in hiring and employment by private, nonreligious employers with 15 or more employees.

“Today’s historic vote sends a strong signal that there is no room for discrimination in any workplace in America,” said U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. Here’s what she said on the Senate floor Wednesday in urging her colleagues to support the bill:

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., made a similar floor speech Wednesday.

“People have families; they have spouses; they have children; they need to put food on the table. They have college expenses for their children, student loans to pay, and unforeseen medical expenses. They may have elderly parents that they care for and who need their assistance. All of this requires a job,” she said. “Should a person be denied that basic aspect of life, should a person’s spouse or children or parents be hurt, simply because that person is gay or lesbian or transgender? For me, the answer is simple. It is no.”

Now House Democrats are clamoring for Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to let ENDA come up for a vote in that chamber. Boehner has said the law “will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs,” but the factual basis for that seems shaky.

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“The Senate has done its part to advance the American values of fairness and equality for LGBT Americans; now, the House must follow suit. Members on both sides of the aisle have signed onto this legislation, yet the House Republican leadership continues to stand in the way of progress. After spending $2.3 million in taxpayer funds on a losing battle to deny equality to LGBT families in our courts, House Republicans find themselves on the wrong side of history once again.

“Earlier this year, in its decisions on DOMA and Prop 8, the Supreme Court upheld the words etched into its walls: ‘equal justice under law.’ Now, it’s time for House Republicans to join Democrats in that same cause. It’s time to bring ENDA up for a vote, pass this long overdue bill, and make this measure the law of the land.”

And from Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat:

“Now that the Senate has acted, and for the sake of millions of fellow Americans living in states where they can still be fired for who they are or whom they love, it is the responsibility of the House to take up this bill as soon as possible.

“I am disappointed that some in the House Republican leadership are not eager to bring this bill to the floor. So we can expect hurdles in our way. But those hurdles are surmountable. The House can, should, and must bring this bill to the finish line and fulfill our nation’s promise of equal opportunity for all.”

Posted on Thursday, November 7th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, George Miller, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

Boxer helps float bill to curb debt-limit battles

The president could raise the nation’s debt ceiling unless Congress votes to nix it, under a bill introduced today by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and two other Senate Democrats.

Boxer, D-Calif.; Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, say the “Pay Our Bills Act” would reduce the chances of the debt ceiling being used as a political weapon to leverage votes on unrelated issues, as just happened this month as House Republicans tried to tie raising the ceiling and ending the government shutdown they caused to defunding the nation’s health insurance law.

Barbara Boxer“We know from recent history that even the threat of not paying our bills does serious damage to our economy,” Boxer said in a news release. “It’s time for us to put in place a straightforward process to avoid a catastrophic default on our nation’s debt. The Pay Our Bills Act gives both houses of Congress and the President a say, but sends a strong message of certainty to the markets, to our families and to the world.”

Right now, Congress must vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling – the limit beyond which the nation can no longer borrow to pay costs it already has incurred. Under this bill, the president could propose an increase and Congress would have 15 days in which to vote on a resolution of disapproval. The president could veto that resolution like any other legislation, but so too could Congress could override that veto with a two-thirds majority vote as with any other legislation.

As a practical matter in the current political landscape, such a resolution of disapproval would pass the Republican-led House easily but would be dead on arrival in the Democrat-led Senate – and without disapproval from both chambers, the president would be free to do as he sees fit. And that means this Pay Our Bills Act will be dead on arrival in the House.

The plan is based on a Republican idea – the “McConnell Rule” first proposed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in 2011.

But McConnell, speaking on the Senate floor today, said his 2011 proposal was never meant to be permanent, or unaccompanied by spending cuts like those accomplished through the ongoing budget sequestration. He called the Democrats’ bill an “outrageous… plan to permanently hand the President a credit card without spending limits, and without lifting a finger to address the national debt.”

Schumer “is not going to find any dance partners on this side of the aisle,” McConnell said. “Because handing the President a permanent blank check, increasing the size of government, and trying to overturn the most significant bipartisan accomplishment of the Obama years – well, that’s just a non-starter.”

Posted on Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, Mitch McConnell, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »

What they’re saying on the shutdown/debt deal

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“The House has fought with everything it has to convince the president of the United States to engage in bipartisan negotiations aimed at addressing our country’s debt and providing fairness for the American people under ObamaCare. That fight will continue. But blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us. In addition to the risk of default, doing so would open the door for the Democratic majority in Washington to raise taxes again on the American people and undo the spending caps in the 2011 Budget Control Act without replacing them with better spending cuts. With our nation’s economy still struggling under years of the president’s policies, raising taxes is not a viable option. Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president’s health care law will continue. We will rely on aggressive oversight that highlights the law’s massive flaws and smart, targeted strikes that split the legislative coalition the president has relied upon to force his health care law on the American people.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Barbara Boxer“Bipartisanship in the Senate is leading America out of a painful, partisan, self-inflicted crisis. Relief doesn’t begin to describe my feelings at this moment in history as the Senate came together not a moment too soon.

“During the 16-day government shutdown I worked to show through my committee chairmanship and as a Senator of the largest state in the country just how painful the shutdown has been to millions of Americans, and how we should never again go through another government shutdown or even a flirtation with a devastating default.

“There are many issues that divide Republicans and Democrats, but the one thing I trust this outcome ensures is that we will always keep the government open, pay our bills and work together.”

From Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose:

honda.jpg“I am pleased that cooler heads in the Senate have prevailed with a bipartisan deal that allows the federal government to reopen, albeit temporarily, and removes the specter of reaching the debt ceiling until February.

“Obstructionist Tea Party Republicans held the government and the American people hostage for sixteen days and threatened the full faith and credit of the United States, all in a misguided, failed effort to deny millions of Americans access to healthcare. This process has done lasting damage to the public’s trust in Congress, as governing should not involve lurching from one manufactured crisis to the next in the hopes of extracting concessions in exchange for not destroying the economy.

“Today’s agreement sets a winter deadline that some may use to take us to the brink yet again. I believe we must permanently reform this process, and will be working to build support among my colleagues for my legislation, H.R. 233, that will end the brinksmanship and threat of default by creating a smooth process for raising the debt limit. This is the kind of structural change we need for economic stability in the future.”

Posted on Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, John Boehner, Mike Honda, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 6 Comments »

Bera probes Hagel on Syria; Boxer votes to attack

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made the Obama administration’s case for bombing Syria to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

The committee has no Bay Area members; Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, is the only member from Northern California, and here’s how he began questioning Hagel:

“It is of critical importance that we are having this discussion. I applaud the President for including Congress in this debate. I agree that we have to show resolve and we have to show that we are committed to our allies, but my constituents and I still need to be convinced, not that atrocities occurred — we all are unanimous in our condemnation of what Assad has done — but we need to know exactly what our goals are and our objectives, because this is increasingly a complex situation.

“And to that extent, let me ask Secretary Hagel a question. When I was home in Sacramento County this past weekend people were stopping me in the grocery store, my neighbors were pulling me aside on the street. I think all of my colleagues have been inundated with phone calls, emails, and almost unanimously, people don’t want us to strike Syria. They’re fatigued. And I answer to these people. These are the people that I represent. My question, Secretary Hagel, is what can I tell my constituents about why these strikes are in our national security interest, why these strikes matter to these folks that are struggling every day? How do I effectively communicate what the plan is?”

Watch their full exchange here:

Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7 – and not along party lines – on Wednesday to approve a resolution authorizing limited military force against Syria. The resolution is significantly narrow than that which the president had proposed: It would limit hostilities to 90 days, allow military action only within Syria’s borders and prohibit putting any U.S. troops on Syrian soil.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. – who had said Tuesday that she would “support a targeted effort but not a blank check to respond to Syria’s unspeakable deeds to gas its own people to death” – voted for the resolution by proxy today; she was absent due to the imminent start of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, at sundown tonight.

Posted on Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
Under: Ami Bera, Barbara Boxer, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 5 Comments »