More Kennedy drama

As I detailed in my story today on Teddy Kennedy’s visit to Oakland, the Kennedy clan seems somewhat split between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Here’s the television ad Robert F. Kennedy Jr. cut for Clinton:

And here’s the statement issued this morning by his mother, Ethel Kennedy, endorsing Obama:

ethel_kennedy.jpgOver these past few years, I’ve watched Senator Obama inspire Americans from all walks of life to believe in real change and a new sense of hope and possibility. He’s a magnetic force, drawing the nation together for the common good and galvanizing us all to help shape our country’s future.

Barack is so like Bobby, who struggled for the rights of the poor in the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia, traveled to California to stand in solidarity with Cesar Chavez and farm workers, and fought to end another war that cost so many lives.

Today, we crave a leader with vision who can help us regain our lost humanity and rekindle our inherent generosity. With courage, caring, and charisma, Senator Obama is leading us toward a kinder, gentler world.

Senator Obama’s candidacy sends out ‘ripples of hope’ that can build a ‘current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.’ I am proud to support Barack Obama, and look forward to him leading this country toward a brighter, more hopeful future.


Kennedy, Kerry to stump here for Obama

It’s like Boston on the Pacific!!!

edward-kennedy.jpgU.S. Sen. Edward “Teddy” Kennedy, D-Mass., who endorsed Barack Obama on Monday, will host a town-hall meeting on the candidate’s behalf at 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1 in Beebe Memorial Cathedral, at 3900 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland; it’s free and open to the public.

And U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., will host a canvass kick-off rally at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the auditorium at Everett Middle School, 450 Church St. in San Francisco — also free and open to the public.

Wanna bet who’s a bigger draw? Opinions vary on the power of political endorsements, but the Kennedy family name could carry weight with several key California constituencies.

For one, younger voters: While making his endorsement Monday, Kennedy said Obama represents the same youthful vigor and generational change that his elder brother, John Kennedy, brought to 1960’s presidential campaign. Yet this endorsement from a Senator who has served since 1962 — only Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., has more seniority — also could help quell the concerns of those who believe Obama too inexperienced.

The Obama campaign almost certainly hopes Latinos will recall Robert Kennedy marching with labor and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, and African Americans, Robert Kennedy’s commitment to civil rights. And Ted Kennedy’s blessing ought to help with organized labor, too.

Obama also has been endorsed by Caroline Kennedy, who is Ted Kennedy’s niece and the daughter of former President John F. Kennedy; the campaign on Wednesday launched a television ad featuring Caroline Kennedy, airing in the San Francisco and Los Angeles markets as well as on national cable.

The Senator’s son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-Rhode Island, has endorsed Obama too, but Robert Kennedy Jr. and his sisters, Kerry Kennedy and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, have endorsed Clinton, as has Anthony Kennedy Shriver — another of Ted Kennedy’s nephews, and the youngest brother of California’s first lady, Maria Shriver.

BTW, The Washington Post had an interesting item today about how Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama might’ve had something to do with his personal ire at Hillary Clinton.


Stark moves to limit nurses’ forced overtime

pete-stark.jpgWays and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Pete Stark, D-Fremont, and Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, today introduced the Safe Nursing and Patient Care Act which would strictly limit the use of forced overtime for nurses. It’s endorsed by groups including the American Nurses Association, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, AFT, SEIU and UAN.

“Mandatory overtime exhausts nurses mentally and physically, placing patients’ lives at risk and driving nurses out of the profession,” Stark said in a news release. “We limit the time that truck drivers and pilots can work to protect public safety. Safe nursing is in the public interest as well.”

The bill would strictly limit the use of mandatory overtime for nurses to situations in which an official state of emergency is declared by federal, state or a local government. These limits would be included in Medicare’s provider agreements but wouldn’t apply to nursing homes since there are alternative staffing and quality measures moving forward for those facilities. The Department of Health and Human Services would get new tools to enforce these standards, and nurses would get new protection from discrimination by employers who continue forcing them into working hours beyond what they believe is safe for quality care.

Though Stark and LaTourette have yet to start seek cosponsors, 102 members had cosponsored a similar measure Stark introduced in the 109th Congress; it languished in committee without a hearing. The same fate met the Senate version, pushed by Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and John Kerry, D-Mass.; rumor has it they’ll carry it again in the 110th Congress.

“No patient wants to be cared for by a nurse at the end of a 16-hour shift. That’s when errors are most likely to occur,” Cathy Glasson, a registered nurse with 20 years of experience and the President of the Nurse Alliance of SEIU, said in Stark’s release. “Short staffing and forced overtime are also huge factors in the growing number of nurses leaving the profession. To keep patients and nurses safe, Congress should end this dangerous practice.”


Today’s Congressional odds and ends

pelosi.jpg Breaking hearts ain’t what it used to be: As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, marshals her forces for three days of debate on a non-binding resolution opposing President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq, activists on her home turf aren’t nearly satisfied. They’ll bring broken hearts to her San Francisco office at 11 a.m. tomorrow, urging her to demonstrate her Valentine’s Day love for Iraqis and our soldiers by halting funding for the war. The group plans weekly sit-ins at the office until Pelosi cuts the funding. “Passing a non-binding resolution is ridiculous. It will do nothing to stop this war,” Janet Weil, from Bay Area CODEPINK, said in a news release. “We want Nancy Pelosi to be a real leader and lead Congress to stop funding this disastrous war.”

boehner.jpgFunding for troops but not vets?: House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, has announced Republicans today will use a parliamentary procedure to force a vote on whether they can offer a proposal by Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, to bar Congress from cutting off funding for American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’ll be interesting to see whether Boehner, Johnson and the rest of their party are as enthusiastic about ensuring funding for the troops once they’ve returned home: the Bush Administration’s latest budget proposal has a slight increase for veterans care next year, but then cuts it in 2009 and 2010 and freezes it thereafter, leaving the already stretched Department of Veterans Affairs in the lurch after the war in Iraq (hopefully) winds down.

george-miller.jpgMore college $$$: House Education and Labor Commitee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez; his Senate counterpart, Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.; U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore.; and Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wisc., today unveiled the Student Aid Reward Act, which they say would boost college scholarships without costing taxpayers a dime. The idea is to generate $13 billion in savings, according to the Congressional Budget Office, by encouraging colleges and universities to use less expensive federal student-loan programs; the bill would then reinvest at least $10 billion of that in additional Pell Grant scholarships and graduate fellowships. Also today, Miller and Education and Labor ranking Republican Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, introduced the Pell Grant Equity Act to repeal a rule known as “tuition sensitivity,” which reduces the annual maximum Pell Grant for students at schools with very low tuition; it might affect as many as 100,000 students per year. “Students should not be financially penalized for attending a low-cost school, and colleges and universities should not be punished for reducing their tuition costs,” Miller said in a news release.



U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., looked as if his head might explode yesterday as he tore into Senate Republicans who’ve used an avalanche of poison-pill amendments to bog down Democrats’ effort to raise the national minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour.

“Filibuster by amendments,” he says. Hmmmm – maybe this is why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, didn’t let House Republicans offer amendments to her chamber’s minimum-wage legislation, which was carried by Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, and passed Jan. 10 by the House on a 315-116 vote.