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Where they stand on the Syria resolution

We reached out today to the Bay Area’s House delegation and California’s U.S. Senators to see where they stand on President Obama’s draft resolution to authorize U.S. military action against the Assad regime in Syria.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Tuesday she definitely intends to support military action against Syria. “I will vote to support the president. The final text of the resolution is, as of yet, unknown, so I reserve the right to amend — for example, language to respond to a Syrian reprisal if necessary.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif, said at today’s Foreign Relations Committee hearing that she’ll support some sort of military-force resolution, but perhaps not the one Obama has proposed. “I believe America’s morality, America’s reputation and America’s credibility are on the line,” she said. “And I will support a targeted effort but not a blank check to respond to Syria’s unspeakable deeds to gas its own people to death.”

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, definitely will oppose an attack on Syria, because prolonged involvement in another nation’s civil war “would leave us weak strategically while simultaneously increasing the suffering of the Syrian people,” he said in a statement issued Saturday. “Without the full support of our allies and a firm case that our national security is at risk, I cannot in good conscience vote now to commit our troops to war.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, also has made up her mind to oppose an attack. “We must respond to the heinous use of chemical weapons, but the danger of a military strike and its unintended consequences, including the possibility of further loss of life and the danger of escalated violence in the region, demand that we work with the international community and consider all the alternatives,” she said Tuesday.

Other local House members said it’s too early to decide.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, said Tuesday that Obama’s draft resolution “is overly broad and therefore unacceptable as a starting point in this important debate.” It must be rewritten so Congress can consider only “a narrow and effective military strike to degrade the ability of the Assad government to use chemical weapons against its own citizens and to send a message to all nations that the United States and other countries will not tolerate the use of weapons of mass destruction.”

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, also said Tuesday that the resolution is too broad for him to support as is. “I will consider a limited U.S. military response. However, I want to make clear that I stand in strong opposition to putting troops on the ground,” he said. “Any resolution to authorize force must have clear language limiting the scope and duration of American involvement.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, is still monitoring the situation, spokesman Austin Vevurka said Tuesday. “He does not take the decision to authorize the use military force lightly and will not commit to voting one way or the other until he knows exactly what the authorization bill will look like, and has reviewed all the intelligence,” Vevurka said, adding Thompson wants an international coalition as part of any military response.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, said Tuesday that she’s “skeptical but studying the question,” a day after she and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, jointly wrote a letter to National Security Advisor Susan Rice seeking more information. They asked Rice to specify the exact goal of a U.S. attack; what the United States would do if Syria used such weapons again even after a U.S. attack, or if Syria retaliated against Israel, Turkey or Lebanon; which allies will join the U.S. in such an attack; and what an attack’s implications would be for U.S.-Russian relations.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said he won’t “support any U.S. military action that is unilateral or largely unilateral or any actions that draws us into the complicated sectarian civil war in Syria. But if Assad is indeed responsible for these brutal chemical weapons attacks, I will support building a multilateral international coalition to hold him accountable and deter further chemical weapons attacks.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, wrote to her House colleagues Tuesday telling them it’s up to them to decide. “It is in our national interest to respond to the Syrian government’s unspeakable use of chemical weapons,” she wrote, but “the shape and content of the final resolution will depend on what (House) members can support.”

“I look forward to working together on this challenge in the coming days,” she wrote. “For many, ignoring Bashar Al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons is a luxury humanity simply cannot afford.”

I’d asked lawmakers to respond by 3 p.m. today. I’ve not yet received answers from Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.

UPDATE @ 3:29 P.M.: Add Mike Honda to the list of those who apparently are leaning against a military strike on Syria. “There are many problems that could be exacerbated by an extended U.S. intervention, including the spread of violence to neighboring states, an increase in the al Qaeda presence in Syria, and the overwhelming impact refugees are having on their neighbors,” he said today. “I firmly believe that true stability in the region will only be achieved through long-term diplomatic commitment and broad international support.”

UPDATE @ 9:53 A.M. WEDNESDAY: McNerney spokeswoman Lauren Smith sent this statement this morning: “The Congressman continues to review the information and monitor the situation. The decision to use military force is a serious one. He will make a final decision after a House floor debate concludes and the details of the authorization bill are known. He believes that President made the right decision in seeking congressional approval.”

Posted on Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 10 Comments »

Barbara Boxer urges Bob Filner to resign, get help

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., just issued this open letter urging former congressman and current San Diego Mayor Bob Filner – besieged by accusations of sexual harassment – to resign.

Dear Bob,

We’ve known each other for a long time, and have worked together on many issues that are important to the people of San Diego – from creating jobs to protecting the environment to helping our veterans.

So I am speaking to you now on a personal and professional level, and asking you to step down as mayor and get the help you need as a private citizen.

I have already said publicly that you should resign your office as mayor because of the shocking revelations by many women about your behavior toward them.

But now I must say this directly to you: Bob, you must resign because you have betrayed the trust of the women you have victimized, the San Diegans you represent and the people you have worked with throughout your decades in public life.

I have worked for so many years to prevent and punish sexual violence and sexual harassment, wherever they occur. As we fight in the Senate to stand up for the men and women in our military who are survivors of sexual assault, I have heard their stories, seen the anguish in their faces, listened to them talk about the pain that will always be with them. Let me be clear: The latest revelations regarding your behavior toward women recovering from sexual assault – women who desperately need our help – have shaken me to my core.

Bob, you have already hurt so many people. To avoid hurting your victims and the people of San Diego more than you already have, you should step down immediately.

Sincerely,

Barbara

Posted on Friday, August 9th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | 9 Comments »

Politicians take different tones on BART strike

It’s always interesting to compare the tones that various politicians take when weighing in on labor issues.

In this case, of course, it’s the still-threatened Bay Area Rapid Transit strike. California U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein today wrote to BART management and union leaders to urge a resolution to the standoff:

“We write to strongly encourage all parties involved in the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) contract negotiations to use the seven-day ‘cooling off period’ declared by Governor Brown to end the labor dispute.

“The Bay Area relies on a safe, affordable, and reliable public transportation system, and any BART service disruption has significant impacts on our region’s economy and the hundreds of thousands of commuters who use the system. According to the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the four-day BART service disruption in July cost the Bay Area at least $73 million in lost productivity.

“We urge you to resume negotiations in good faith, end the dispute, and work together to avoid any further disruptions to BART service.”

That seems pretty even-handed. But yesterday, Assemblymembers Rob Bonta, D-Oakland; Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; and Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, issued a statement after the inquiry board appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to review the dispute held a public hearing in Oakland:

“We’re pleased today’s meeting redirected focus on the ultimate goal of finalizing a fair contract that continues to ensure a safe, dependable public transit system. The panel asked important questions, obtaining documents and testimony that revealed the true financial picture of BART, the actual wages workers earn, and the significant safety issues confronted by employees every day.

“Testimony revealed inconsistencies in information BART management made public. For example, the figure given for average BART worker pay has been $79,500. But that figure includes management pay. BART’s own documents given to the panel show train operators earn less than $63,000 and station agents earn $64,000 on average. In addition, we learned that workers have offered to significantly increase contributions to pensions and employee medical.

“These are the type of facts that need to be the focus at the bargaining table. We believe that BART riders deserve good faith negotiations to resume so that rail service can continue uninterrupted.”

No question where they stand, huh?

Posted on Thursday, August 8th, 2013
Under: Assembly, Barbara Boxer, Bill Quirk, Dianne Feinstein, Labor politics, Nancy Skinner, Rob Bonta, Transportation, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »

Politicians react to same-sex marriage rulings

EVERYBODY has something to say about today’s U.S. Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage. Here’s the latest from your Bay Area elected officials.

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“As author of the bill to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, I am thrilled by today’s Supreme Court decision.

“Today’s ruling clearly establishes that the 14 senators who opposed DOMA in 1996 were correct. It also states that one class of legally married individuals cannot be denied rights under federal law accorded to all other married couples. Doing so denies ‘equal protection’ under the Constitution. This is an important and significant decision.

“Because of inequities in the administration of more than 1,100 federal laws affected by DOMA, it is still necessary to introduce legislation to repeal DOMA and strike this law once and for all. I will introduce that legislation today with 39 cosponsors in the Senate.

“As a Californian, I am thrilled by the Supreme Court’s decision on Proposition 8. The court’s ruling on technical grounds leaves in place former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision that Prop 8 is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.

“I believe this decision means marriage equality will finally be restored in California.”

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

“Today my spirits are soaring because the Supreme Court reaffirmed the promise of America by rejecting two blatantly unconstitutional measures that discriminated against millions of our families.
“I was proud to have voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, and it is so heartening to see that the federal government will now treat all marriages equally.

“Because of the Court’s ruling on Proposition 8, millions of Californians will be able to marry the person they love – with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with it.”

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

“Today, the Supreme Court bent the arc of history once again toward justice. The court placed itself on the right side of history by discarding Section 3 of the defenseless Defense of Marriage Act and by allowing marriage equality for all families in California. The highest court in the land reaffirmed the promise inscribed into its walls: ‘equal justice under law.’

“Soon, the federal government will no longer discriminate against any family legally married in the United States. California will join 12 other states and the District of Columbia in recognizing the fundamental rights of all families. Our country will move one step closer to securing equal protection for all of our citizens.

“Nearly 44 years to the day after the Stonewall Riots turned the nation’s attention to discrimination against LGBT Americans, the fight for equal rights took a giant step forward. Yet even with today’s victory at the Supreme Court, the struggle for marriage equality is not over. Whether in the courts or in state legislatures, we will not rest until men and women in every state are granted equal rights. We will keep working to ensure that justice is done for every American, no matter who they love.”

Tons more, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, June 26th, 2013
Under: Assembly, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Dianne Feinstein, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, John Garamendi, Leland Yee, Mark DeSaulnier, Mark Leno, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Nancy Skinner, Nora Campos, Paul Fong, Rich Gordon, Rob Bonta, Tom Ammiano, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 40 Comments »

California politicos on the Voting Rights Act ruling

Here’s how some California politicos are reacting to today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that voids key provisions of the Voting Rights Act:

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“I strongly disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision today to limit the Voting Rights Act. The law successfully countered a century of aggressive limitations on minority voting rights, a fact that today’s majority decision acknowledged: ‘The Act has proved immensely successful at redressing racial discrimination and integrating the voting process.’

“After more than 20 hearings in the House and Senate, Congress in 2006 reauthorized key provisions in the Voting Rights Act for 25 years, a bill I was proud to cosponsor. By invalidating a key piece of the law, the Supreme Court departed from settled precedent and dealt a real setback for voting rights in this country.

“I believe Congress should move quickly to introduce new legislation to preserve voting rights for all Americans.”

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

Barbara Boxer“The Supreme Court’s decision flies in the face of the clear evidence we continue to see of efforts to suppress the vote in minority communities across the country. It is devastating that the Court’s conservative majority would strike down a central provision of the law that has protected the voting rights of all Americans for nearly a half century, and was reauthorized by Congress almost unanimously just seven years ago. I’ll be working with my Senate colleagues to restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act to ensure that every American can participate fully in our democracy.”

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

Nancy Pelosi“Today, the Supreme Court took a step backward on voting rights, on civil rights, on liberty and justice for all. This decision weakens the cause of voting rights in our time, disregards the challenges of discrimination still facing our country, and undermines our nation’s ongoing effort to protect the promise of equality in our laws.

“Even with this setback, the court did place the power to reinforce the heart of the Voting Rights Act in the hands of Congress. As Members of Congress, we know that changes in election laws can have discriminatory effects. That’s why Congress made the determination that advance review of changes in election procedures is required for jurisdictions with a history of discrimination. In 2006, Democrats and Republicans came together to reauthorize the law, garnering overwhelming bipartisan support in a Republican-led Congress – passing the House by a vote 390-33 and the Senate by a vote of 98-0, then signed into law by President George W. Bush. This year, we must follow in that same tradition, taking the court’s decision as our cue for further action to strengthen this legislation.

“Voting rights are essential to who we are as Americans, to the cause of equality, to the strength of our democracy. It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to remove obstacles to voting, to ensure every citizen has the right to vote and every vote is counted as cast. We must secure the most basic privilege of American citizenship: the right to vote.”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, California State Senate, Debra Bowen, Dianne Feinstein, Leland Yee, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, voter registration, Zoe Lofgren | 10 Comments »

Boxer’s water resources bill gets bipartisan push

The U.S. Senate today overwhelmingly voted to pass a water resources bill that Sen. Barbara Boxer had recently described as vital to the economic health of the Bay Area and all of California.

S.601, The Water Resources Development Act, reauthorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deal with water issues ranging from harbor restoration to flood prevention. It cleared the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works – of which Boxer, D-Calif., is chairwoman – in March with bipartisan support.

Boxer early this month had told the Bay Planning Coalition’s annual Decision Makers Conference in Oakland that she hopes the Senate will pass it by a big enough margin that the House will feel compelled to act as well. The Senate vote today was 83-14.

“I am gratified by the overwhelming vote on final passage of our WRDA bill,” Boxer said in a news release issued today. “Getting 83 votes in favor when bipartisanship is missing in the Senate is very important. Now is the time for the House to act so we can ensure that the benefits of the bill are realized.”

Posted on Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate, water | No Comments »

Barbara Boxer talks tough for GE food labeling

Undaunted by last year’s defeat of a similar ballot measure, U.S. Barbara Boxer is talking tough in support of her bill to requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Boxer, D-Calif., was at Clif Bar’s Emeryville headquarters Thursday to tout her “Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act,” S.809, which she introduced a few weeks ago. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., has introduced a companion House bill.

Boxer at Clif Bar 5-2-13“We deserve to have the right to know what’s in the foods we eat,” Boxer said, noting she first introduced a similar bill 13 years ago when public support was far less than it is today. “If these companies believe in their products, they should have nothing to fear.”

Boxer’s said more than 90 percent of Americans support the labeling of genetically engineered foods. The Food and Drug Administration now requires labeling of more than 3,000 ingredients, additives and processes, but in a 1992 policy statement allowed genetically engineered foods to be marketed without labeling, claiming that these foods were not “materially” different from other foods because the genetic differences could not be recognized by taste, smell or other senses.

But the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has recognized that these foods are materially different and novel for patent purposes, Boxer noted, and more than 1.5 million Americans have filed comments with the FDA urging the agency to label GE foods.

The food industry spent about $46 million last year to defeat California’s Proposition 37, a similar labeling measure, Boxer said Thursday. But she noted the Senate and House bills already have several dozen co-sponsors and around a hundred organizational supporters, and with more than 20 states currently considering their own labeling bills, it would be better to have a single federal standard than a state-by-state patchwork.

“Let’s trust each other to make the right decisions for our families,” she said. “I think we’re on the way to success.”

Asked whether she herself believes genetically engineered foods could be harmful, she said she preferred to answer as a mother and grandmother rather than as a lawmaker. Determining the safety of such foods requires long-term scientific study, and that’s not yet been accomplished, she said: “I’m very conservative when it comes to this.”

UPDATE @ 2:52 P.M.: Actually, genetically engineered crops have been studied and deemed safe hundreds of times in recent decades. And a review of two dozen long-term studies, published last year in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, found genetically modified crops had no effects on the animals that ate them. And the American Association for the Advancement of Science last year issued a statement saying “foods containing ingredients from genetically modified (GM) crops pose no greater risk than the same foods made from crops modified by conventional plant breeding techniques.”

The Boxer and DeFazio bills would require clear labels for genetically engineered whole foods and processed foods, including fish and seafood; the FDA would be directed to write new labeling standards consistent with other U.S. and international standards. So far, 64 nations already require labeling of GE foods, including all the member of the European Union, Russia, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand.

Boxer acknowledged Thursday her bill would not cover beef or milk from cows that consume genetically modified corn.

Boxer was flanked at the news conference by Clif Bar CEO Kevin Cleary; Jessica Lundberg of Richvale, Calif., rice producer Lundberg Family Farms; and restauranteur Charles Phan, best known for the Slanted Door in San Francisco.

“This is very exciting for us,” Lundberg said. “Consumers are concerned about the purity of their food, the nutrition of their food, and how their food is grown.”

Posted on Thursday, May 2nd, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate, Uncategorized | 16 Comments »

Boxer’s committee to probe Texas fertilizer blast

The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on the explosion disaster at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, chairwoman Barbara Boxer said today.

Boxer, D-Calif., said the committee’s oversight will include a probe not only of the April 17 blast that killed 15, injured almost 200 and destroyed a swath of the small town near Waco, but also of the chemical-safety laws that apply to similar facilities. She has asked the Chemical Safety Board and the Environmental Protection Agency how they plan to follow up on the investigation, including enforcement of current law.

“I cannot rest until we get to the bottom of what caused the disaster in West, Texas and the tragic loss of life,” Boxer said in a news release today. “It is critical that we find out how this happened. We must ensure that facilities like the one in West are complying with chemical safety laws. We will look at how the laws on the books are being enforced and whether there is a need to strengthen them. I plan to schedule an oversight hearing in the EPW Committee in the near future.”

Read Boxer’s letters to the CSB and EPA, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

MoveOn targets Bay Area officials’ offices today

Activists are descending today upon the offices of federal officials across the Bay Area, and across the nation, to deliver petitions urging the protection of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ benefits from cuts proposed by President Obama.

Organized by MoveOn.org, it appears there’ll be gatherings at noon at the offices of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in Oakland, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco, Rep. Eric Swalwell in Pleasanton, Rep. Jackie Speier in San Mateo, Rep. George Miller in Concord, Rep. Zoe Lofgren in San Jose, and Rep. Jared Huffman in San Rafael.

“I supported President Obama for reelection, but I won’t support him cutting Social Security,” said Frank Burton of Castro Valley, co-organizer of the event at Swalwell’s office. “Seniors depend on Social Security, and the cut in the cost-of-living adjustment is based on false logic. Seniors need the full cost-of-living adjustment because of huge increases in medical costs every year.”

Clark Sullivan of San Francisco said he helped organize the event at Pelosi’s office “because most people collecting Social Security are already starving for several days at the end of the month.

“Cutting benefits would increase the already unacceptable level of human misery for Americans who have paid a lifetime of taxes to support Social Security,” he said. “The Social Security Act has been one of the most successful federal programs ever enacted and is more solvent than it ever has been. There is no need to tamper with its current success.”

Posted on Thursday, April 25th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 15 Comments »

Boxer’s new bill would require labels for GE foods

The Food and Drug Administration would be required to clearly label genetically engineered food, under legislation introduced Wednesday by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.

“Americans have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families,” Boxer said in a news release. “This legislation is supported by a broad coalition of consumer groups, businesses, farmers, fishermen and parents who all agree that consumers deserve more – not less – information about the food they buy.”

Boxer’s office says surveys have found more than 90 percent of Americans support the labeling of genetically engineered foods. The FDA now requires labeling of more than 3,000 ingredients, additives and processes, but in a 1992 policy statement allowed GE foods to be marketed without labeling, claiming that these foods were not “materially” different from other foods because the genetic differences could not be recognized by taste, smell or other senses.

But Boxer notes that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has recognized that these foods are materially different and novel for patent purposes, and more than 1.5 million Americans have filed comments with the FDA urging the agency to label GE foods.

Bozer’s and DeFazio’s “Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act” would require clear labels for genetically engineered whole foods and processed foods, including fish and seafood; the FDA would be directed to write new labeling standards consistent with other U.S. and international standards. So far, 64 nations already require labeling of GE foods, including all the member of the European Union, Russia, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand.

Boxer’s office described the legislation as bipartisan, but of the nine senators and 22 House members who are original co-sponsors, the only two Republicans are U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska. The House cosponsors include Reps. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; and Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.

California voters in November narrowly defeated Proposition 37, which would’ve required labeling of genetically engineered food with some exceptions.

Posted on Wednesday, April 24th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | 13 Comments »