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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 | 1 Comment »

Inertia on immigration reform riles Dems

Democrats are hitting back at Speaker John Boehner’s statement today that the House won’t take up a comprehensive immigration reform bill before this year’s end.

NBC Latino reports Boehner, R-Ohio, was eating breakfast at a Washington diner this morning when he was approached by two children of immigrants who urged House action.

“I’m trying to find some way to get this thing done,” he reportedly told them. “It’s as you know, not easy, not going to be an easy path forward but I made it clear since the day after the election, it’s time to get this done.”

Later this morning, Boehner wouldn’t set a timeline, but rather said Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., is working with Democrats to develop a set of principles “for us to deal with this issue.” He also said the House has “no intention of ever going to conference” on S.744, the bipartisan bill that the Senate passed in June on a 68-32 vote.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, replied to Boehner with a tweet this morning:

Pelosi tweet

H.R. 15 is the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” introduced last month by Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla. It mostly mirrors the Senate bill, but replaces the Senate’s border-security plan with a different one authored by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and approved unanimously by the Homeland Security Committee.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, the senior Democrat on Judiciary’s Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee, spoke about Boehner’s comments during today’s committee hearing on an automated, biometrics-based entry-exit system to track the entry and exit of all travelers to and from the United States.

“Before I close, let me just say, how disappointed I was to hear the news that the House is not intending to consider immigration bills before the end of the year. I think we have a historic opportunity before us to work together to improve our immigration laws. I thank the Chairman of the [Immigration] Subcommittee [Rep. Trey Gowdy] for his kind comments about myself and Mr. [Luis] Gutierrez. I am mindful that we did not do immigration reform in a comprehensive way when we had the majority as Democrats. We were actually, in the House, deferring to the Senate hoping that they could have bipartisan agreement. They ultimately failed. The gentleman was not a Member of that Congress, but we did pass the DREAM Act when Democrats were in the majority, and it fell short in the Senate.

“I just believe that we can put our hands across the aisle and work together to improve our laws. I would hope the spirit and intent to do that has not faded on the part of the majority [Republicans]. Certainly I would hope to continue to work with the majority to solve this problem for our country.”

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and senior administration officials met this morning at the White House with faith leaders to discuss the importance of passing immigration reform.

“The leaders expressed their concerns over the impact the broken immigration system is having on families throughout their congregations,” according to the White House’s readout of the meeting. “The President and the leaders discussed their shared commitment to raise the moral imperative for immigration reform and said they will continue keeping the pressure on Congress so they can swiftly pass commonsense reform.”

Obama commended the faith leaders for their efforts, and “noted there is no reason for House Republicans to continue to delay action on this issue that has garnered bipartisan support,” the readout said. “It would show the American people that Washington can still work together to solve our nation’s challenges.”

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, last month was the first House Republican to sign onto H.R. 15; others who’ve done so since then include Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford. They and certain other California Republicans might face tougher re-election fights next year if no action is taken on immigration reform.

Posted on Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
Under: Barack Obama, Immigration, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 16 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 »

Tix start at $1k for Obama’s DNC fundraiser in SF

President Barack Obama will be back in the Bay Area in late November to raise money for Democrats.

The luncheon on Monday, Nov. 25 at the San Francisco Jazz Center will be hosted by novelist Robert Mailer Anderson and his wife, Nicola Miner, who held a fundraiser for Obama in their Pacific Heights home in February 2012.

An invitation to the event says tickets cost $1,000 per person; $5,000 for lunch and a photo reception; $7,500 for lunch and the photo reception for two; $10,000 for lunch and the photo reception for a family of up to five people; or $15,000 for lunch and a special co-chair reception. All money goes to the Democratic National Committee.

The San Francisco luncheon is part of the latest national fundraising blitz the President is undertaking on behalf of the DNC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Obama did fundraisers for the DSCC in Palo Alto and Portola Valley this past June, and for the DCCC in April in San Francisco.

Posted on Thursday, October 31st, 2013
Under: Barack Obama, campaign finance, Democratic Party | 20 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 »

Pols react to Navy Yard shooting; DiFi talks guns

Your voices in Congress are responding to the mass shooting today at the Washington Navy Yard.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., took a decidedly political approach:

“I mourn those killed today at the Navy Yard in Washington and send my thoughts and prayers to those families grieving the loss of loved ones.

“There are reports the killer was armed with an AR-15, a shotgun and a semiautomatic pistol when he stormed an American military installation in the nation’s capital and took at least 12 innocent lives.

“This is one more event to add to the litany of massacres that occur when a deranged person or grievance killer is able to obtain multiple weapons—including a military-style assault rifle—and kill many people in a short amount of time.

“When will enough be enough?

“Congress must stop shirking its responsibility and resume a thoughtful debate on gun violence in this country. We must do more to stop this endless loss of life.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, made no policy prescriptions:

“Our prayers rest with the families and loved ones of those killed at the Washington Navy Yard today. Our thoughts remain with the injured and all those now recovering from this unspeakable tragedy.
“Every day, the men and women of our Navy and across our Armed Forces lay their lives on the line on distant shores; they should not be forced to confront the horrors of gun violence here at home.

“Members of Congress always stand with the members of our military. Today, we hold a special place in our hearts for those who serve our country at the Navy Yard and for all caught in the crossfire of today’s horrible attack. We offer our condolences to the victims and stand prepared to support them and their families in the days and weeks to come.”

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“This has been a dark day, and we know more of them lie ahead for the families of the victims. Hoping that they find comfort – and answers – is at the top of our minds. Next, we ought to say ‘thank you’ to the first responders and law enforcement professionals – including Capitol Police – who did their jobs and saved lives.

“These events strike a particularly personal chord for all of us on Capitol Hill. Every day, a special breed of men and women go to work at the Navy Yard, and they do so just blocks from our Capitol. These are our neighbors and our defenders. So I would ask all the members, officers, and staff of the House of Representatives to take a moment tonight to think about everyone at the Navy Yard, and keep them in your hearts. I pray that we never forget their service and sacrifice.”

And, assorted tweets:

@RepBarbaraLee: My thoughts and prayers go out to victims and loved ones of those killed or injured at #NavyYard today.

@RepSwalwell: Today, not far from Cap. Hill, a senseless act of gun violence took innocent lives. Thoughts are w/ victims’ families. #NavyYardShooting

@RepThompson: Keep Navy Yard victims in your thoughts as law enforcement works to ensure those responsible for this horrific shooting are held accountable

Posted on Monday, September 16th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, gun control, John Boehner, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 17 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 »

Dianne Feinstein supports fracking regulation bill

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Wednesday endorsed a controversial state bill that would regulate but allow “fracking” and another new means of extracting oil and gas.

“The discovery that fracking and acidization of oil and gas formations could produce approximately 23.9 billion barrels of petroleum in the continental United States — 64 percent of which is estimated to lie within the Monterey Shale formation underlying portions of Central and Southern California — points to the need for action to ensure protection of the state’s natural resources,” said Feinstein, D-Calif.

SB 4 by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabasas, would require the state Secretary of Natural Resources to work with state and regional water boards and the state air board to create regulations governing “well stimulation” treatments, which includes hydraulic fracturing – commonly known as “fracking” – and acidization.

The bill also would require permits for all well-stimulation treatments, disclosure of the fluids used in such procedures, advance notification of neighbors near where such methods will be used, and more.

Opponents of the bill say the only way to protect California from fracking’s environmental threats is to halt it entirely with a moratorium. SB 4 now awaits an Assembly floor vote.

“I strongly support Senator Pavley’s legislation and urge the legislature to pass the bill and Governor Brown to sign it,” Feinstein said. “Unless the potential dangers of fracking are addressed, we face the possibility of catastrophic consequences to the state’s environment and precious groundwater.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
Under: Assembly, Dianne Feinstein, energy, Environment, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »