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California politicos praise Harry Reid

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced Friday he won’t seek re-election in 2016.

As jockeying begins to see who’ll replace him as Senate Democrats’ leader (Chuck Schumer? Dick Durbin? Elizabeth Warren?) and as Nevada’s senator (Brian Sandoval? Joe Heck? Ross Miller?), California Democrats were effusive in their praise of Reid.

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

“There’s no one I’d rather have on my side in a legislative battle than Harry Reid. His leadership, friendship and passion will be missed when he leaves the Senate.

“I’ve known Harry and Landra for more than 20 years and have enjoyed their friendship. Together, Harry and I have taken on a host of issues on behalf of our neighboring states. It’s especially been a pleasure working with Harry on the preservation of Lake Tahoe and other issues that bring out the best in us.

“I’m particularly thankful for Harry’s support during the process of releasing the CIA torture report. Harry knows what it’s like to be in a dogfight. He knows what it’s like to be attacked from all sides. I always knew that after a particularly bad week I’d get a call from Harry offering his support, telling me he was behind me all the way.

“I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish together, and I look forward to two more years of working side-by-side to do even more. The nation is better off because of Harry Reid.”

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

Barbara Boxer“I have known Harry Reid for more than thirty years and since the day I met him, Harry has given every bit of his energy and every bit of his devotion to his job and his loving family. Harry is a fearless leader who listens to all sides before taking a stand. He has known heartache in many forms, but he never let it get in the way of his hopes and dreams and dedication to every family in America. Harry is one of a kind and I am grateful that we worked together for so many years for the good of Nevada, California and the country we love.”

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

Nancy Pelosi“With Harry Reid’s decision to retire, Congress and our country will lose a patriot, pioneer, and one of the greatest leaders the Senate has ever known. Senator Reid is a master of the Senate, a reliable fighter for America’s hard-working families, a legislator whose leadership stretches back more than three decades.

“From his earliest days in the House to his tenure as Democratic Leader in the Senate, Harry Reid never forgot the hard-working families of Nevada he is so proud to represent. He has brought their values, their pioneer spirit and their determination to the Congress, and he has been an unsurpassed champion for the rights and opportunities of every American.

“It has been my great honor to call Senator Reid a dear and trusted friend for so many years. More so, I have been privileged to work with him in enacting historic and consequential legislation for our country.

“In the darkest days of the financial calamity, we worked together to pass the legislation that rescued our economy. We worked to pass the landmark Dodd-Frank consumer Wall Street reform bill, the most significant consumer financial reforms in a generation. We passed the Affordable Care Act and ensured that, in the United States of America, affordable, quality health care is the right of every American, not the privilege of the few.

“Senator Reid leaves a historic legacy of strength and achievement on behalf of the American people. He has helped to dramatically expand American investments in clean energy, passed bold and comprehensive immigration reform through the Senate, championed the Violence Against Women Act, and welcomed a record-breaking generation of new women Senators.

“His leadership and ability command respect on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress. Without question, Senator Reid’s departure is an irreplaceable loss for our entire country. But as he announces his hard-earned, well-deserved retirement, I wish him, his wife Landra, and the entire Reid family all the best in happy years ahead.”

Posted on Friday, March 27th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Shocker: Ernie Konnyu won’t run for U.S. Senate

Attention, all 13 of you who knew that former congressman Ernie Konnyu was considering a U.S. Senate run in 2016: He’s out.

Ernie KonnyuKonnyu, 77, of San Jose, wrote an open letter to California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte on Wednesday saying the past week had been “brutal” to his hopes of running against Democrat Kamala Harris for the senate seat that Barbara Boxer will vacate next year.

Konnyu wrote that his longtime strategist, Tea Party Express mastermind Sal Russo, told him over “a great steak dinner smothered with onions at Frank Fats in Sac” that a run was inadvisable. Though he’s a longtime California Republican Assembly member, nobody deigned to introduce him at the group’s banquet Saturday. On Sunday, the president of the Bay Area Hungarian Freedom Fighters Association “pulled me aside and in a loving way chewed me out for even thinking about making ‘an unwinnable Senate run’.” And on Tuesday, his dinner conversation with his own wife and daughter “turned bitter as they could not see a chance to win the fight.”

“I know that I do have a responsibility to the Republican party in this Senate race which I take very seriously,” Konnyu wrote, outlining a long-shot scenario pipe dream in which enough Democrats would split that party’s vote to let him and Assemblyman Rocky Chavez – who declared candidacy March 5 – finish first and second in the top-two primary.

Riiight. Konnyu’s tenure in Congress might be remembered mostly for the sexual harassment claims he faced, which were part of the reason members of his own party ensured he served only one term. His letter Tuesday would be sort of funny, if not for the fact that Konnyu actually did slightly better than Chavez in a January-February Field Poll measuring the popularity (read as: “name recognition”) of 18 possible senate contenders.

“So Chairman Brulte, since I am now OUT, you would do well to find another strong Ernie Konnyu for the Senate race to increase the R win chances,” Konnyu wrote. “I state that as it would be a crying shame to simply waste Assemblyman Chavez on just improving future Republican support among Hispanics, as good as that is.”

Dry your tears. Konnyu promised he’ll “still still write a few checks to the G.O.P. and I’ll still help make the good fight on behalf of worthy Republican candidates.” He also promised to help “a brilliant Demo, Ro Khanna, who is willing to work with the Republican congressional majority, finally oust another Demo, the atrocious and uncooperative liberal, Congressman Mike Honda in the 17th C.D. (I hope the GOP will stay out this time in that unwinnable for a Republican district.)”

Yikes. With friends like these…

Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Barbara Boxer cosponsors medical marijuana bill

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer on Tuesday became an early cosponsor of a bipartisan bill to end the federal prohibition on medical marijuana.

Perhaps she was feeling particularly green for St. Patrick’s Day.

Barbara BoxerSenators Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Rand Paul, R-Kent.; and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., last week introduced S.683, the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act of 2015. The bill would move marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act – a list of drugs not recognized to have any valid medical use – to the less-restrictive Schedule II.

States would be freer to enact and implement medical marijuana laws without federal interference; veterans’ doctors could recommend the drug; research would speed up; and bankers could breathe easier when dealing with the industry if this bill became law.

Some advocates say having Boxer, D-Calif., sign onto the bill is a big deal.

“Sen. Boxer represents the state that led the way on medical marijuana, and it’s about time she took some action to defend the will of California’s voters from federal interference,” said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority.

“We would have expected her to do something on this years ago, but better late than never,” he said. “A new generation of senators like Cory Booker, Rand Paul and Kirsten Gillibrand are leading the way on this issue, and it’s nice to see that even some lawmakers who have been around for awhile are starting to notice which way the political winds are blowing. This is a sign that the dam is about to break. Expect more old-school politicians to get on board soon.”

Boxer spokesman Zachary Coile said the senator “is a strong supporter of California’s medical marijuana law and she believes that patients, doctors and caregivers in states like California should be able to follow state law without fear of federal prosecution.”

Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, marijuana, U.S. Senate | 8 Comments »

Dianne Feinstein endorses CA’s assisted-suicide bill

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has endorsed California’s assisted-suicide bill.

“The right to die with dignity is an option that should be available for every chronically suffering terminally ill consenting adult in California,” Feinstein, D-Calif., wrote in a letter to the authors of SB 128, the End of Life Option Act. “I share your concern that terminally ill California residents currently do not have the option to obtain end-of-life medication if their suffering becomes unbearable.”

State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, one of the bill’s authors, said Feinstein’s support “is a big boost for our effort, sending a strong signal that the political momentum has shifted. When one of California’s most respected, thoughtful, and longest serving political leaders takes the unusual step of speaking out in strong support of a bill like this you know you are on the right track.”

The bill’s other authors are state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, and Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton. They released a list Tuesday of 70 current and former lawmakers who support the legislation, including 19 current lawmakers who have signed on as co-authors.

SB 128, modeled on Oregon’s law, will have its first hearing next Wednesday, March 25 in the Senate Health Committee. The bill would let a terminally ill competent person get a prescription for drugs to hasten and make painless his or her death. The authors say it has “numerous protections to prevent abuse” and “all participation is voluntary;” they note Oregon’s law has been in place for 17 years with no reported cases of abuse. Last year, 155 Oregonians used the law to help end their lives.

Posted on Tuesday, March 17th, 2015
Under: Bill Monning, California State Senate, Dianne Feinstein, Lois Wolk, U.S. Senate | 5 Comments »

Oakland, SF education officials meet with Obama

Three California education officials – including two from the Bay Area – met Monday morning with President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to highlight the need for funding as Congress mulls a new budget and a revamp of the No Child Left Behind law.

Jumoke Hinton HodgeOakland Unified School District board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge, San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Richard Carranza and Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Mike Hanson were among the dozen officials from across the nation who met with Obama and Duncan at the White House.

All were from districts that are part of the Council of the Great City Schools; Hodge chairs the board of that national organization, which represents the needs of urban public schools. School districts eligible for membership must be located in cities with populations over 250,000 and student enrollment over 35,000.

Obama said in the meeting that he’s ready to fight with Republicans for school funding and his education priorities, the Associated Press reported. He hopes that Republican lawmakers focus on educating every child and not shifting money away from needy districts, he said; he’s also calling for a focus on low-performing schools, annual assessments and investments in special education and English-language learners.

If the Republican budget doesn’t reflect those priorities, he said, they will have “a major debate.”

“My hope is that their budget reflects the priorities of educating every child,” he said, according to a pool report from the New York Post’s Geoff Earle. “We are making too much progress here … for us to be going backwards now.”

Obama and Duncan are touting improved high-school graduation rates as evidence that the administration’s policies are working. In California, the high school graduation rates from 2012 to 2013 increased by 2.4 percent overall, including a 2.7 percent increase for Hispanic students and a 2.1 percent increase for African-American students.

Richard CarranzaHinton Hodge is co-founder of the Parent Leadership and Engagement Academy Initiative (PLEA), a community-building project dedicated to the education and support of West Oakland parents and families. She collaborated with California Tomorrow to develop programs aimed at increasing parents’ ability to navigate the public school system; has worked extensively with low-income youth and students identified as severely emotionally disturbed; and she has provided gender-specific services to urban girls.

Carranza has been San Francisco’s schools superintendent since June 2012; earlier, he had been the district’s deputy superintendent of instruction, innovation and social justice at the district since 2009.

Posted on Monday, March 16th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, education, Oakland, Obama presidency, San Francisco politics | 12 Comments »

Zach Galifianakis spotted at POTUS’ hotel in LA

This just in from Evan McMorris-Santoro of Buzzfeed News, the pool reporter for President Barack Obama’s movements in Los Angeles this morning:

At 9:50 PT, motorcade is rolling from the Intercontinental to the helos for the trip back to AF1.

No word from WH on POTUS’ morning. Your pooler spotted Zach Galifianakis in the Intercontinental lobby this morning. He was wearing a suit and eating a banana.

Did Zach Galifianakis meet with the President, and if so, why? I’d like to think they were conferring on a Tom Cotton comedy bit of some sort; I will not ruin this hypothesis with any investigation. After all, the two have worked together before.

Posted on Friday, March 13th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 2 Comments »

President Obama on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’

President Obama flew to Los Angeles yesterday to appear on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and to attend a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Santa Monica.

Part of Obama’s TV appearance included him reading and responding to “Mean Tweets:”

“Those weren’t that mean,” Obama told Kimmel later in the show. “You should see what the Senate says about me.”

On more serious matters, Obama also spoke extensively about Ferguson, Mo., per the pool report from Michael Finnegan of the Los Angeles Times:

“Obviously,” Obama said, “we don’t yet know what happened. Our thoughts and prayers are with the officers and their families, and thankfully, as you said, they’re going to be OK. What was beautiful about Selma was reminding ourselves that real social change in this country so often has happened because ordinary people are willing in a nonviolent fashion to make their voices heard.

“And I think that what had been happening in Ferguson was oppressive and objectionable and was worthy of protest, but there was no excuse for criminal acts. And whoever fired those shots shouldn’t detract from the issue. They’re criminals. They need to be arrested. And then, what we need to do is to make sure that like-minded good spirited people on both sides – law enforcement who have a terrifically tough job and people who understandably don’t want to be stopped and harassed just because of their race — that we’re able to work together to try to come up with some good answers…”

Obama said the task force he assembled including police and protest organizers “came up with some terrific recommendations and found that there’s a lot of common ground.”

“What we have to make sure of is that the folks who disregard and disrespect the other side, people who resort to violence, that they’re marginalized,” he said.

“They set us all back,” Kimmel said. “They do.”

“But they’re not the majority,” Obama said. “And in the same way that you can’t generalize about police officers who do an extraordinarily tough job, overwhelmingly, they do it professionally, you can’t generalize about protesters who it turns out had some very legitimate grievances. The Justice Department report showed that they were being stopped, African Americans were being stopped disproportionately, mainly so the city could raise money, even though these were unjust.”

Kimmel said parking tickets that he feels are unjust drive him crazy. “My wheels are not turned properly, and I feel like they’re just trying to make money off of me.”

“What was happening in Ferguson,” Obama said, “was you had city government telling the Police Department that – stop more people. We need to raise more money. Folks would get stopped. They’d get tickets. Then, they’d have to wait in line to pay it, take a day off work. Folks would lose their jobs. In some cases, they were thrown in jail because they didn’t have enough money for the fines. And then, they’d get fined for that. So there was a whole structure there, according to the Justice Department report, that indicated both racism and just a disregard for what law enforcement’s supposed to do.”

“I said this at Selma: It is not unique, but it’s also not the norm. And we’ve got to constantly, when we’re thinking about issues of racial progress, or any kind of issue, recognize that things can get better, but there’s still more work to do. And we shouldn’t be complacent about the very real existence of problems out there. But we shouldn’t despair and think nothing’s changed. If people of good will, which is the overwhelming majority of Americans, are working together, these are problems we can solve.”

ABC has the entirety of last night’s episode available online, if you can sign in with your TV provider ID; otherwise, it’ll be free and open for viewing by anyone next week. For now, click here for the Associated Press readout on the show, via CBS News.

Posted on Friday, March 13th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 2 Comments »

California national marine sanctuaries expanded

California politicos are praising the expansion of the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries, which will double their size and permanently protect a stretch of coastline in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

marine sanctuariesThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has published its final rule on the expansion, after a two-year process that included public comment and research by NOAA and its partners.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and former Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, had carried legislation to expand the sanctuaries, and had urged the Obama Administration to use its executive authority to protect the area.

“I am grateful to the Obama Administration for this historic decision which will more than double these magnificent national marine sanctuaries off the California coast and permanently protect one of the most productive coastal ocean regions on the planet,” Boxer said Thursday.

Boxer’s office said the expansion will help support the more than half a million jobs and over $34 billion in economic activity that depend on ocean tourism, recreation, and fishing in California.

It also will permanently protect important habitat for at least 25 threatened or endangered species, including blue whales, humpback whales, northern fur seals and leatherback turtles – California’s official marine reptile; spectacular living reefs of corals and sponges; one-third of the world’s whale and dolphin species; at least 163 bird species, including the largest colony of seabirds in the continental U.S.; and more than 300 species of fish, including commercially valuable salmon and groundfish.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said the “nation’s oceans and coasts are among our greatest ecological treasures,” and credited Woolsey and Boxer with the win. “Together, we will continue to act to secure God’s beautiful creation for generations to come.”

Posted on Thursday, March 12th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Environment, Lynn Woolsey, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »

Stanford prof gears up for U.S. Senate campaign

A prominent political figure now teaching at Stanford University is considering a run for the U.S. Senate.

No, calm down, Kamala – it’s not Condoleezza Rice in California’s 2016 race. It’s former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., laying the groundwork for a campaign to retake his old seat.

The Wall Street Journal reported March 3 that Feingold – a liberal best known for coauthoring a bipartisan campaign-finance reform law that since has been eviscerated by the U.S. Supreme Court – will split his time this year between teaching law and international relations at Stanford and going on a listening tour of Wisconsin.

Hot on the heels of a new poll that found Feingold leading incumbent Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Thursday released a web video that pokes fun at Feingold’s California-based Wisconsin campaign.

Posted on Thursday, March 12th, 2015
Under: U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Boxer & Feinstein blast GOP senators’ Iran letter

California’s U.S. Senators say 47 Republicans led by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., went out of bounds by sending an open letter to Iran’s leaders to undermine the State Department’s work to reach a comprehensive nuclear deal.

The letter notes any treaty the Obama administration might ink would require a two-thirds Senate vote for ratification, and another type of agreement would require two-thirds votes of the House and Senate. “Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” it says, before observing that Obama will leave office in 2017 “while most of us will remain in office well beyond then – perhaps decades.”

“What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei,” the letter says. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

Before anyone goes saying, “Aw, gee, that’s just a ‘Schoolhouse Rock!‘ lesson in American government, no harm done,” consider how inane and condescending it would be to believe Iran’s government and negotiators don’t know how our government works.

Clearly it’s Republicans’ attempt to scuttle these negotiations without running afoul of the Logan Act – a federal law that makes it a felony for any American to attempt to negotiate with a foreign government or attempt to influence foreign policy without clear authority from the executive branch. By sticking to an explanation of how Congress and the executive branch work, the Republicans can say they’re just engaging in discussions with foreign officials in pursuance of their legislative duties under the Constitution – perfectly legal.

Of course, Cotton said plainly in January that he hoped to scuttle these negotiations. He also was ready to upend the Constitution in 2013, proposing to imprison the families of anyone who violates U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Democrats reacted to Cotton’s ploy angrily Monday.

From Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“This is a brazen attempt by Senate Republicans to sabotage negotiations aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. This bizarre, inappropriate letter is a desperate ploy to scuttle a comprehensive agreement and the chance for a peaceful resolution, which is in the best interests of the United States, Israel and the world.”

From Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“I am appalled at the latest step of 47 Republicans to blow up a major effort by our country and the world powers to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear program.

“This is a highly inappropriate and unprecedented incursion into the president’s prerogative to conduct foreign affairs and is not befitting this chamber. This letter only serves one purpose—to destroy an ongoing negotiation to reach a diplomatic agreement in its closing days.”

Posted on Monday, March 9th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Iran, Obama presidency, U.S. Senate | 24 Comments »