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Senators target tobacco crop insurance subsidy

Taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance for tobacco production would be eliminated under a farm-bill amendment introduced Monday by U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and John McCain.

Tobacco fieldThe senators say their amendment would save $333 million over the next decade, and direct all savings to be used to reduce the federal budget deficit. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has indicated the amendment will get a vote.

“It’s time for the American taxpayer to get out of the business of subsidizing tobacco—once and for all,” Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a news release. “Tobacco costs our economy $200 billion in health care costs and lost productivity each year. In this challenging budget environment, we simply can’t afford to spend hundreds of millions of dollar to incentivize farmers to grow this crop.”

The Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act of 2004 ended most direct taxpayer support programs for tobacco production. But despite this $10 billion buyout pact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture still offers heavily subsidized crop insurance policies to tobacco farmers. Last year, USDA offered eight separate tobacco insurance products costing $34.7 million in taxpayer subsidies; records show more than $276 million in such subsidies have been spent since 2004.

“It turns out Joe Camel’s nose has been under the tent all this time,” McCain, R-Ariz., said in the news release.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that cigarette smoking adds $96 billion to domestic healthcare expenses and costs the American economy $97 billion in lost productivity every year; secondhand smoke adds another estimated $10 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

Tobacco farmers will still be able to buy policies from existing insurance providers at market rate under the Feinstein-McCain amendment, which is supported by the Environmental Working Group, Taxpayers for Common Sense and the American Cancer Society.

Posted on Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Under: Agriculture, Dianne Feinstein, John McCain, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »

Senate rejects Feinstein’s assault-weapons ban

In addition to rejecting the Manchin-Toomey gun background check amendment today, the U.S. Senate also soundly rejected Dianne Feinstein’s effort to re-instate and expand the federal ban on assault weapons.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., last month had announced that he wouldn’t let Feinstein’s legislation proceed as part of a bigger gun-control bill, but that she would be given a chance to offer it as an amendment. That amendment was defeated Wednesday on a 40-60 vote.

“I’m disappointed by today’s vote, but I always knew this was an uphill battle. I believe the American people are far ahead of their elected officials on this issue, and I will continue to fight for a renewed ban on assault weapons,” Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement issued a few minutes ago.

A federal assault weapons ban was enacted in 1994 but expired in 2004.

“The very fact that we’re debating gun violence on the Senate floor is a step in the right direction, and I hope my colleagues vote their conscience and approve the underlying bill. But I’m certain that in the coming months and years, we will be forced to confront by other incidents like Newtown, where innocents are murdered with one of these weapons of war,” Feinstein said. “I will carry on this fight against military-style assault weapons, and I ask of the American people that they continue to pressure their elected officials to take action. It’s long overdue that we take serious steps to remove these dangerous firearms and high-capacity ammunition magazines from society.”

Feinstein’s amendment would’ve banned the future sale, manufacture, possession and importation of 157 of the most commonly-owned firearms it deems military-style assault weapons, plus any other semi-automatic firearm that can take a detachable ammunition magazine and has one or more military characteristics and any magazine that holds more than 10 rounds – much like California’s ban. Her amendment would’ve exempted weapons that were legally-owned at the time of enactment and excluded 2,258 hunting and specific makes and models of sporting weapons.

Posted on Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
Under: Dianne Feinstein, gun control, U.S. Senate | 32 Comments »

Feinstein, Boxer endorse Mike Honda for 2014

Add California’s U.S. Senators to the cavalcade of Democratic stars giving early endorsements to Rep. Mike Honda as he tries to neutralize a potential challenge from a fellow Democrat.

“I’m proud to endorse Congressman Mike Honda,” U.S. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a news release issued today by Honda’s campaign. “He works tirelessly for the people he represents and is an important leader on issues such as helping to create jobs and improving our schools. He is a champion for Silicon Valley and I’m glad to offer him my support.”

“The people of the 17th Congressional District need Mike Honda’s strong voice now more than ever,” U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said in the same release. “I am proud to endorse such an effective leader for education, innovation, and families throughout the region and country.”

Ro Khanna, a former Obama administration Commerce Department official with $1.26 million in his campaign coffers, is rumored to be announcing a 2014 campaign against Honda soon. He declined to comment on the senators’ endorsements Monday, just as he had when Honda rolled out endorsements this year from President Barack Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the chairs of the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and others.

Honda thanked the senators for their support. “We all agree that the formula for growth in Silicon Valley jobs is straightforward. It requires smart and targeted incentives to help companies locate and grow here while accessing our unique and diverse workforce, and providing our students with the education they’ll need to compete.”

Honda issued poll results last week showing he had a 52-point lead over Khanna – not surprising, considering Honda, 71, has served in Congress since 2000 and Khanna, 36, hasn’t even declared his candidacy yet.

Posted on Monday, March 25th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Mike Honda, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 14 Comments »

Feinstein won’t give up on assault weapons ban

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein sounded pretty ticked off when she spoke on CNN a few moments ago about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pronouncing dead her effort to reinstate the federal assault-weapons ban.

Feinstein, D-Calif., said Reid, D-Nev., told her she would have an opportunity for a vote and “I take him at his word.”

More specifically, Feinstein said she left her meeting with Reid under the impression that she’d get a vote both on her overall bill and on a broken-out section that would only ban large-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

“This is very important to me and I’m not going to lay down and play dead,” she told CNN, noting polls show public support for an assault-weapons ban and her bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday on a 10-8 vote. “Not to give me a vote on this would be a major betrayal of trust, as I would see it.”

The Judiciary Committee passed the bill on a strict party-line vote, and Reid told reporters Tuesday that the proposed assault weapons ban isn’t holding up against Senate rules requiring at least 60 votes to end debate and move to final passage. It’s been known all along that Reid and several other Democratic senators from relatively conservative states probably wouldn’t support such a bill.

The White House replied that the assault-weapons ban can still be brought up as an amendment, and the votes can be found to pass it.

Polls have shown majority support for an assault weapons ban, though far weaker than that for universal background checks or a large-capacity magazine ban. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll pegged support for an assault-weapons ban at 57 percent; Quinnipiac University put it at 54 percent; and the Pew Research Center/USA Today put it at 56 percent.

Posted on Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
Under: Dianne Feinstein, gun control, Harry Reid, U.S. Senate | 6 Comments »

Dianne Feinstein & Bill Nelson get tough on Big Oil

Federal subsidies would be reduced for oil companies that conduct spill-prone, deep-water drilling under a pair of bills introduced Monday by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

Feinstein’s Deepwater Drilling Royalty Relief Prohibition Act ends federal incentives for deep-sea oil and natural gas drilling, barring the Interior Department from waiving royalty payments that oil companies would otherwise pay when drilling in waters deeper than 400 meters.

“The BP spill illustrated just how devastating oil spills in deep water can be. But even though we understand the great risks and lack the technology to drill safely, unwise incentives that push oil companies to drill deeper and deeper remain in place,” Feinstein said in a news release.

“While oil companies continue to collect record profits, the government should not lose out on royalties that could fund clean energy deployment,” she said. “This is especially egregious at a time when federal budgets continue to contract — it’s time to end this practice and collect reasonable royalty payments from large oil companies for exploitation of public resources.”

Feinstein noted five of the largest oil companies — BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell — made a combined $118 billion in profits in 2012, but the big three American oil companies (ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips) paid effective federal tax rates in 2011 of only 13 percent, 19 percent and 18 percent respectively.

Nelson’s Oil Spill Tax Fairness Act changes the tax code to deny tax deductions for oil spill-related expenses including legal, clean-up and other costs. Current law lets a company responsible for causing an oil spill is also responsible for the cost associated with cleaning that spill up, and Nelson’s bill would keep such a company from them turning around and writing those costs off as a tax deduction.

This bill was spurred by BP’s efforts to write off its clean-up expenses after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico created one of the largest oil spills in U.S. history. The legislation would apply to those responsible for an oil spill in U.S. territorial waters, but not to expenses caused by a natural disaster or an act of war.

“Given the record profits of the big oil companies, I don’t think they need any more help from taxpayers,” Nelson said in a news release.

Posted on Monday, March 18th, 2013
Under: Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

Gun controllers push their message, momentum

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 today to pass a bill that would require all gun sales be subject to background checks, and congressional Democrats and their allies are looking to maximize their gun-control momentum and messaging.

Today, Mayors Against Illegal Guns released a new advertisement featuring religious leaders demanding that Congress act to pass gun law reforms.

The ad concides with the start of the Papal Conclave in Vatican City, and comes just ahead of this weekend’s Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend – organized by Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, the National Cathedral and PICO – in which congregations across the nation will gather to reflect and act on preventing gun violence including requiring background checks for all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and making gun trafficking a federal crime.

On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francsico; U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; and other women in Congress will join Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, for a Capitol Hill news conference “to highlight the urgency for common-sense gun violence prevention legislation to protect our communities, families, and schools.”

On Thursday – the three-month anniversary of the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. – members of MomsRising, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Million Mom March (part of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence), Reston-Herndon Alliance to End Gun Violence, and other concerned citizens will deliver a petition with more than 150,000 signatures on it to National Rifle Association President David Keene at his Fairfax, Va. office. The petition urges the NRA to support common-sense gun safety laws.

On Friday, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, will chair the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force’s hearing on “The Need for Background Checks: Preventing Criminals and the Dangerously Mentally Ill from Getting Guns” at the Capitol. Panelists are expected to include Carol Gaxiola of Arizona, the mother of gun violence victim; Dr. Daniel Webster, director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Joseph Bielevicz, a detective with the Pittsburgh Police Firearms Tracking Unit; Austin, Texas, Police Chief Art Acevedo; Joe Deaser, owner of the Capital Gun Club in Roseville, Calif.; and Jesse Ogas of Colorado, a hunter, sportsman, gun owner and former NRA Member.

Posted on Tuesday, March 12th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, gun control, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 10 Comments »

Lawmakers: Add Stornetta to national monument

California’s U.S. Senators and two Bay Area House members this week urged President Obama to add the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands to the California Coastal National Monument.

The region around Stornetta in Mendocino County gets about 1.75 million visitors each year, the vast majority of whom are from the Bay Area and Sacramento. The California Coastal National Monument, designated by President Bill Clinton in 2000, protects small islands, exposed reefs and pinnacles off the 1,100 miles of California coastline.

U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, along with Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, and Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, noted in their letter to the president that this would be the first land-based connection to the national monument.

“Beyond the natural benefits the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands provide to our families and our communities, the region has a significant economic impact as well,” the lawmakers wrote. “Tourists drawn to Mendocino County to visit Stornetta and Mendocino’s south coast support nearly 5,000 jobs and generate more than $110 million in economic activity annually.”

Visit Mendocino County, the local tourism bureau, said the business community there strongly supports adding the land to the monument. “Over 50 local businesses signed a letter to Interior Secretary Salazar last month and emphasized that adding the Stornetta Public Lands to the California Coastal National Monument would have a strong economic benefit to our region,” president and CEO Scott Schneider said in a news release.

Thompson last summer had introduced H.R. 4969 to add the lands to the monument, but the bill never made it out of committee.

Posted on Friday, March 1st, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Jared Huffman, Mike Thompson, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

Bay Area lawmakers react to SOTU

From Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose:

honda.jpgI applaud the President’s talk tonight regarding jobs and technology. We must ensure the resilience of the American worker, and the adaptability and innovation inherent in our economy, to keep us at the forefront of global competitiveness.

This is the Silicon Valley way of life and business, where the manufacturing sector employs 1 in 5 workers (more than twice the national average), where breakthrough ideas are cultivated, and where the world’s most successful visionaries and businesses call home.

If we renew our national commitment to winning the manufacturing jobs of the future, bringing Silicon Valley sense to Washington, and employ strategies that play to our nation’s natural strengths, we should see a new golden age of American manufacturing.

That is exactly why my legislative platform, introduced this week, will reinvigorate a critical component of our national economy by focusing on three components: Next-generation technologies, startups and small manufacturers, and re-shoring production lines from overseas.

• The Market Based Manufacturing Incentives Act empowers an apolitical commission of private-sector experts to designate the next generation of disruptive, market-changing technologies.

• The Scaling up Manufacturing Act, endorsed by the American Small Manufacturers Coalition, the American Chemical Society, and Silicon Valley’s own Applied Ventures, provides support to this nation’s entrepreneurs at the most critical stage of their business’s growth. This proposal stops offshoring before it ever starts, keeps our bourgeoning businesses here at home, and helps turns ideas into success stories.

• The Re-Shoring Bonus Deduction Act is a draft proposal aimed at promoting growth in domestic manufacturing among this nation’s most established and global enterprises. We should reward companies that bring jobs back to the United States and contribute to our nation’s economic growth by employing American workers.

Additionally, my STEM agenda for the 113th Congress supports Obama’s SOTU call for leadership in these fields. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics must be infused into our public school curriculum, emphasized within the clinical teaching preparation programs and applied into vibrant learning experiences in the classroom.

In order to keep Silicon Valley competitive and stocked with highly-skilled, creative workers, we must improve STEM education coordination on a national scale. For our nation to remain a leader in scientific advancement and technological innovation, this is what is required of us, nothing less. It is time to step up and STEM it.

From Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa:

Mike Thompson“The state of our union is getting stronger, but we have more work to do. Whether it’s creating jobs, getting our fiscal house in order, fixing our broken immigration system, or putting policies in place that respect the Second Amendment while also reducing gun violence, our nation faces big challenges. We won’t overcome these challenges as Democrats versus Republicans – we must meet them together as Americans.

“We need to put people to work fixing our roads, bridges, overpasses and waterways while also building an economy that can compete long-term by investing in new industries like clean energy. To get our fiscal house in order, we need a balanced approach that focuses on job creation, makes sure taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck, and reforms our tax code so everyone pays their fair share. We need to avoid manufactured crisis that do nothing but hurt our economy. And, we need a bipartisan, comprehensive fix to our broken immigration system.

“Finally, tonight President Obama once again called on Congress to pass legislation that will reduce gun violence. Last month the President acted by signing a series of executive actions that will have a meaningful impact on reducing gun violence. But as we know, the policies that would have the greatest impact require congressional action.

“Whether you’re an NRA member like Elvin Daniel, the guest I hosted at tonight’s State of the Union, a hunter and gun owner like me, or one of the millions of Americans who have never fired a gun, we can all agree that when thirty-plus people die every day from gun violence that it’s time for Congress act. My task force is already acting. Last week we released a comprehensive set of policy principles that both respect the Second Amendment Rights of law-abiding Americans and will prevent gun violence. We’re using these policy principles to develop and influence legislation in both the House and Senate and are working to get legislation based on these principles signed into law.

“But this can’t just be a Democratic effort. It’s time for our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to work with us and use the principles we developed to put laws in place that respect the rights of lawful Americans to own firearms and make our schools, neighborhoods, communities and country safer.

“As the 113th Congress moves forward, I will continue working to overcome the challenges we face. And I am confident that if we put the partisanship aside and work together then our nation has even better days ahead.”

More after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, John Boehner, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 27 Comments »

Recalling Ted Nugent’s ‘greatest hits’

Rock star Ted Nugent – an (ahem) outspoken advocate of Second Amendment rights – is attending President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight as the guest of Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Tex., who released this photo a few hours ago:

It hardly seems five and a half years have passed since we wrote about the “Motor City Madman” directing some heated rhetoric (and some anatomy?) at Obama and others who support gun control. At a concert in Oroville, Nugent gave this diatribe:

“…I was in Chicago last week I said—Hey Obama, you might want to suck on one of these you punk? Obama, he’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on one of my machine guns, let’s hear it for them. And then I was in NY and I said hey Hillary—you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch. Since I’m in California, how about Barbara Boxer, she might wanna suck on my machine gun. Hey, Dianne Feinstein, ride one of these you worthless whore. Any questions? FREEDOM!

Classy, no?

Posted on Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, gun control, Obama presidency | 3 Comments »

Lawmakers bringing gun-violence victims to SOTU

Some California lawmakers now embroiled in the nation’s gun-control debate will bring gun-violence victims with them as guests to President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who has introduced S. 150, a bill to reinstate an updated and expanded federal ban on assault weapons, will host Josh Stepakoff, 20.

Stepakoff was six years old in 1999 when he was shot in the leg during the North Valley Jewish Community Center shooting in Granada Hills, near Los Angeles. The gunman was a white supremacist who fired more than 70 rounds from a semi-automatic assault rifle, injuring five people including three young children.

Now a Cal State Northridge student, Stepakoff is a member of the board of Women Against Gun Violence and is involved with Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

“Josh is a remarkable young man whose life was forever changed by a senseless act of mass gun violence.” Feinstein said in a news release. “Since his tragic experience, Josh has become a voice for young victims across the country. It is important for members of Congress to see the faces behind these tragedies of gun violence.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, who led House Democrats’ gun-violence task force, will host Elvin Daniel of McHenry, Ill., whose sister, Zina Daniel, was shot and killed by her husband in October inside the Azana Salon and Spa in Brookfield, Wisc. Two others were killed and four were injured in the shooting.

“Whether you’re an NRA member like Elvin, a hunter and gun owner like me, or one of the millions of Americans who have never fired a gun, we can all agree that we need to do everything we can to keep firearms out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them,” Thompson said in a news release. “Elvin has dedicated himself to helping the victims of gun violence and it is my high honor to host such an extraordinary man at the State of the Union.”

Shortly before she was killed, Zina Daniel had been granted a restraining order against her husband which prohibited him from purchasing a gun. Nonetheless, he was able to buy a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun online two days after the restraining order was issued. In Thompson’s news release, Daniel noted his sister’s killer “was able to buy a firearm from a private seller without a criminal background check.

“As a gun owner and an NRA member, I support common-sense reforms to fix our broken gun laws,” Daniel said. “It’s time for our leaders in Washington to act, so that others do not have to experience the grief I’ll live with for the rest of my life.”

Other lawmakers bringing relatives of gun-violence victims at the State of the Union include Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.; Rep Diana Degette, D-Colo.; Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.; Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I.; Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y.; Rep. Eleanor Norton, D-D.C.; Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo.; Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va.; Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.; and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

The president’s State of the Union address will be broadcast live at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on most channels. I’ll be tweeting at @Josh_Richman, and later posting some reactions here.

Posted on Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
Under: Dianne Feinstein, gun control, Mike Thompson, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »