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House Dems applaud DiFi water plan’s failure

A bunch of Northern California House members are relieved that U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has pulled the plug on closed-door negotiations over a California water bill.

“You’ve got to work with people to get something done,” Feinstein, D-Calif., told the Associated Press on Thursday, adding that “I’m going to put together a first-day bill for the next Congress, and it can go through the regular order.”

But the question of which people she’s working with remains. Feinstein and California’s House Republicans have been pushing water bills without the usual mark-up hearings, with House Democrats largely excluded and little or no public scrutiny.

Representatives Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; George Miller, D-Martinez; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; and Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, issued a joint statement Thursday saying they’re glad Feinstein’s effort failed.

“We are pleased Senator Feinstein will not be pursuing passage of the water legislation secretly negotiated by her and House Republicans. This legislation would have eviscerated environmental laws protecting fisheries, California watersheds, local water supplies, and tribal and local economies in order to benefit a few powerful Delta water exporters,” they said. “We applaud the Senator for stepping away from this deeply flawed legislation and realizing that a bill of this magnitude requires public hearings and regular committee process.”

The lawmakers, whose mostly Delta-adjacent districts would be direct affected by such a bill, said they’ve been “raising serious objections to both the secretive process and the harmful content of this legislation” and will “continue to demand next year that any water legislation responding to California’s severe drought be balanced and take into consideration the array of stakeholders in California.”

Restore the Delta, a grassroots environmental protection group, had issued a statement blasting the possible bill a few hours before news broke that it won’t happen this year.

“Senator Feinstein is carrying water for industrial growers who have planted tens of thousands of acres of almonds and other permanent crops in the midst of the past several very dry years,” Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta’s executive director, said in a news release. “Sen. Feinstein is rushing through legislation to aid these growers at the expense of the rest of California.”

UPDATE @ 3:23 P.M.: This just in from Feinstein:

“Over the past several weeks I have been working closely with members of the California delegation who expressed interest in reaching a bipartisan agreement on legislation to address California’s drought crisis without violating the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act or biological opinions.

“Although we have made progress, it has become clear that we will be unable to present an agreed-upon proposal before Congress adjourns this year.

“I deeply believe the people want both parties to work together, and that is the only way we will be able to enact water legislation. Claims that this has been some kind of secret process are false. In order to come up with a bill that is ready for public comment, back-and-forth negotiations and consultations are often necessary, including extensive technical assistance from federal and state agencies. That process is ongoing and we have no agreed-upon bill at this time.

“It is important to remember there is a real human face to this crisis. Some communities can no longer deliver water to homes. Thousands of residential wells have run dry. And many families lack very basic necessities like water for showers and cooking.

“California is in a state of prolonged drought, and we must come together to find ways to provide the water necessary for life and well-being. This isn’t about corporate agriculture, this is about California.

“It’s my hope that groups critical of this effort will strive to be productive rather than destructive. It’s clear that we need to get more water to our cities, businesses, farmers, households, fish and the Delta. And it’s equally important that we continue to protect wildlife and the environment. Only together will we stand a chance of agreeing on a bill that can help accomplish all of these goals.”

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014
Under: Agriculture, Ami Bera, Dianne Feinstein, George Miller, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Mike Thompson, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, water | 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 »

California Dems respond to Obama’s ISIL speech

In a nutshell: Supportive, with a few sounding cautionary tones.

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“Today, the President laid out his comprehensive strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS and his case for the expansion of military action in Iraq and Syria.

“The Constitution requires Congress to vote on the use of military force. This is not about this President. This is about any President and any Congress.

“We must re-establish the checks and balances laid out by the Constitution.

“The facts are clear. We are no longer talking about limited strikes to prevent genocide and protect U.S. personnel. We are talking about sustained bombing and the use of military force.

“The threat from ISIS is serious. But before we take any further military action, Congress must debate the threats to our national security, the risks to American servicemen and women and the financial costs of waging another war in the Middle East.

“As the President said “we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together,” that is why I believe the President’s plan requires a thoughtful debate and vote by Congress.”

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

“I fully support President Obama’s decision to utilize his authority to begin a counterterrorism effort against the terrorist army ISIL. I applaud him for recognizing the seriousness of the threat and for going on the offense against this threat.

“As the president said, the United States will lead a coalition of nations against ISIL to include Gulf states and other countries throughout the Middle East, Europe and around the world.

“Now that a strategy has been outlined, it is critical that Congress and the American people come together in solidarity to support the president and our armed forces. On such an important matter of national security, we must show ISIL we have the political will, the military might and the strength of a united country.

“In my 14 years on the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have not seen a terrorist organization with the brutality and capabilities of ISIL. The group already occupies large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and poses a direct threat to the entire Middle East. ISIL has also repeatedly expressed its intent to attack the United States, most recently during the beheadings of two American journalists.

“Anyone with a sense of humanity cannot be passive in the face of this organization. It has killed, tortured and kidnapped thousands, beheaded children, raped women, crucified those it considers apostates and aspires to commit widespread genocide.

“ISIL is pure evil, and the time has come to end its reign of terror.”

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

Barbara Boxer“Tonight, the President showed what a real leader is-a President who understands the threats we face and that America must not face those threats alone.

“ISIS is a threat to the world and that is why I am so proud that President Obama has put together a broad-based coalition so that civilized nations can work together to degrade and defeat these terrorists.

“President Obama recognizes that in order to do this, we must remember the tragic mistakes of the past and conduct this operation without American combat boots on the ground. Instead, we will rely on trained and vetted forces in the region that have the most at stake from the ISIS threat.

“ISIS has already murdered two innocent Americans and has vowed that there will be more American bloodshed. These terrorists have threatened our embassies across the globe and said that ‘every American citizen is a legitimate target.’ They have also threatened our allies and all those who disagree with their demented ideology.

“There is no way the international community can stand by in the face of the beheading, crucifixion, and stoning of innocent men, women, and children by a terrorist group that numbers in the tens of thousands and has the finances to continue their campaign of carnage until they are stopped.

“Congress must stand behind the President in this effort by acting swiftly to provide funds so that the vetted Syrian rebels can take the fight to ISIS in Syria.”

Lots more, after the jump….
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Iraq, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, War on Terror | 3 Comments »

Feinstein calls for quake early-warning system

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., issued this statement Monday:

“With more than 100 injured and estimates of damage approaching $1 billion, the Napa earthquake reminds us how incredibly dangerous these temblors can be. There’s no doubt a major earthquake will hit California, the only questions are when and where.

“I believe an integrated earthquake early-warning system is essential to save lives and property. Two bills from the Senate Appropriations Committee move us toward that goal. The bill to fund the Department of the Interior includes $5 million to begin work on an early-warning system, while the bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security urges FEMA to prioritize grant funds for such a system. These bills will advance this fall and I will continue to prioritize funding for this system.

“An earthquake early-warning system would provide crucial time to carry out lifesaving actions. A warning of even a handful of seconds would allow for emergency notifications to be sent; trains and traffic to be slowed or stopped; supplies of oil, gas and chemicals to be turned off; nuclear plants to be safeguarded; even elevators to be safely emptied.

“What we need is the political resolve to deploy such a system. Officials in Washington and along the West Coast should partner with the private sector to make an interoperable earthquake early-warning system a reality, and we should do so as soon as possible before a much larger earthquake strikes.”

California already has a demonstration early-warning system called the California Integrated Seismic Network, which did provide its test users in some parts of the Bay Area with up to about 10 seconds of warning before Sunday morning’s temblor hit.

Gov. Jerry Brown last year signed into law SB 135 by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, which requires the Office of Emergency Services to work with other agencies to expand this into a comprehensive statewide earthquake early warning system. But the bill didn’t appropriate any of the $80 million it’s estimated such a system would cost; instead, it gave the OES until Jan. 1, 2016 to find funding for the project.

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2014
Under: Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Justice Dept. urges passing DiFi’s marriage bill

A Justice Department memo issued Friday on implementing same-sex marriage rights under last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision calls for passing a California senator’s bill to fully repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The report says the only way to fully implement the decision and ensure same-sex, legally-married couples are treated equally under federal law is by passing bills such as S. 1236, the Respect for Marriage Act, offered one year ago by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Feinstein introduced the bill on the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, finding a key part of DOMA unconstitutional.

“I welcome the Justice Department’s call for passage of our legislation to finally repeal DOMA once and for all and ensure that legally-married, same-sex couples are treated equally under federal law, regardless of where they live,” Feinstein said in a statement issued Friday. “The Justice Department today made clear what we have known all along: the only way key federal agencies like the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs can fully implement the Windsor decision is by enacting the DOMA repeal legislation I introduced with Congressman Nadler.”

“I commend the administration for the painstaking work it has done to go through more than 1,100 federal laws affected by DOMA and implement as much of the decision as possible. But the only way we will achieve full equality under federal law for legally-married, same-sex couples is to enact our bill.”

Feinstein’s bill has 44 co-sponsors, none of whom are Republicans. H.R. 2523, the House version of the bill offered by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has 174 co-sponsors including two Republicans: Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.

Posted on Friday, June 20th, 2014
Under: Dianne Feinstein, same-sex marriage, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Lawmakers cheer tougher penalties for pot grows

Northern California House members from both sides of the aisle are cheering new, stiffer federal penalties for illegal marijuana grows on trespassed lands.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission announced last week it had adopted tougher punishments for high-level offenders who cultivate marijuana grows on public or private lands they don’t own. The amended guidelines will be submitted to Congress and reviewed for six months before officially taking effect Nov. 1.

This had been the aim of a bill introduced last summer and a letter sent to the commission in November by Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; and Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville, as well as by senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

“Illegal marijuana grow sites that threaten lives, destroy public lands and devastate wildlife have become far too common,” Thompson said in a news release Monday. “These new sentencing guidelines will serve as a strong deterrent against these illegal grow sites, and they will help make sure criminals who wreck our public and private lands are held fully responsible for the harm they cause.”

Huffman said toxic and illegal chemicals used at such sites, plus the potential for violence, make such grows unsafe on many levels. Also, “California is in the midst of a devastating drought, and many of these grow operations illegally divert streams and tap groundwater with untold impacts on downstream water users and wildlife,” he noted.

Both he and Farr noted the nation seems to be moving toward what they consider to be more reasonable laws on marijuana use, but these illegal grows can’t be tolerated. “With these new guidelines in place, we can make public and private lands safer while protecting the environment for everyone to enjoy,” Farr said.

LaMalfa said property owners and local government often are stuck paying thousands of dollars in clean-up costs. “The Sentencing Commission’s recognition of these impacts will go a long way toward ensuring that those who disregard our nation’s laws are held responsible.”

Posted on Monday, April 14th, 2014
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Jared Huffman, marijuana, Mike Thompson, Sam Farr, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 10 Comments »

Video: DiFi rips CIA for violating law, constitution

The CIA violated federal law and the constitution by searching congressional overseers’ computers, U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein said Tuesday morning.

Feinstein, D-Calif., delivered this scathing floor speech:

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The Washington Post puts it in context.

Posted on Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
Under: Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

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 »

House GOP schedules water bill for vote

House Republican leaders have scheduled a vote next week for an emergency water bill offered by Central Valley Republicans.

The controversial legislation – H.R. 3964, Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act, introduced by Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford – is being rushed through on account of California’s severe drought. But the bill would be the biggest reform of California water policy in decades, and has met with harsh criticism from the state’s Democrats.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, issued a statement Friday saying Central Valley farmers and families were dealt a blow earlier in the day when the California Department of Water Resources reduced State Water Project allocations from 5 percent to zero; the reduction followed a finding on Thursday that the state’s snowpack is at only 12 percent of normal for this time of year.

“Today’s action is a stark reminder that California’s drought is real,” Gov. Jerry Brown of the allocation reduction. “We’re taking every possible step to prepare the state for the continuing dry conditions we face.”

But McCarthy said “the pressure this decision puts on the already dangerously low reservoirs and groundwater banks is unsustainable,” and HR 3964 “is a responsible answer to the hardship the Central Valley is currently facing. I thank Speaker Boehner, Leader Cantor, and Chairman Hastings for appreciating the urgency of this matter and scheduling a vote on this bill next week.”

He noted Brown and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., oppose the House bill.

“Perhaps more disturbing is their failure of leadership in offering a solution of their own to bring Central Valley communities new or additional water,” McCarthy said. “As the House acts on Rep. Valadao’s legislation next week, I urge Governor Brown to use his authority to immediately direct state agencies to relax current state environmental regulations in the delta to ensure any water that does move down the Sacramento River ultimately flows to Kern County and Central California. Absent immediate action, California farmers and communities will continue to be gripped by the damaging effects of the worst drought in a century.”

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, on Thursday had blasted the Republcians’ bill as “a political ploy in an election year that does nothing to solve the devastating drought facing the state.

“If enacted, the bill would overturn six decades of California state water and environmental law, tear up long standing contracts between the state, federal government, and water districts, and ignore the California Constitution’s public trust doctrine. This would create massive confusion and environmental damage to all California’s rivers, the Delta, and San Francisco Bay,” Garamendi charged. “This bill hurts Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike by threatening the livelihoods of farmers, fishermen, and small businesses throughout the state. We cannot throw away years of water management experience for the sake of scoring a few political points.”

Posted on Friday, January 31st, 2014
Under: David Valadao, Dianne Feinstein, John Garamendi, Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, water | No Comments »

DiFi wants to ban cell-phone calls on planes

Even as the Federal Communications Commission considered a possible rule change today to allow cell phone conversations on commercial airline flights, one of California’s Senators helped introduce a bipartisan bill to prohibit it.

Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., introduced the Commercial Flight Courtesy Act.

“Flying on a commercial airline — in a confined space, often for many hours — is a unique travel experience that is, candidly, not conducive to numerous passengers talking on cellphones,” Feinstein said. “This bill recognizes the use of cellphones to make calls during flights can be disruptive and irritating to other passengers and would prevent such communications during domestic flights. The bill, however, would not affect the ability to communicate via text and email during a flight.”

Alexander spoke more plainly (planely?), saying the bill “is about avoiding something nobody wants: nearly 2 million passengers a day, hurtling through space, trapped in 17-inch-wide seats, yapping their innermost thoughts.”

Perhaps air passengers who still want their daily dose of yapping can watch C-SPAN.

As Feinstein said, the bill would prohibit voice communications through cell phones but not texting or other electronic communications, should the FCC approve them. It would also continue to allow use of personal electronic devices such as Kindles and iPads during flight, which the Federal Aviation Administration recently approved.

The bill applies only to commercial airlines, not private charter flights or foreign carriers unless the latter is flying between U.S. airports, and it exempts federal air marshals and flight crews for official business.

Posted on Thursday, December 12th, 2013
Under: Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »