Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for the 'U.S. Senate' Category

How liberal/conservative is YOUR lawmaker?

Here’s how Northern California’s Congressional delegation stacks up in the National Journal’s annual ranking of most liberal/most conservative lawmakers, published today. Seeing as how we’re in the Bay Area, we’ll use the “most liberal” scale; some members are tied, hence the same numbers.

In fact, of seven House members across the nation who tied for 1st place in the “most liberal” ranking, three are from the Bay Area:

HOUSE
1. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz
1. Mike Honda, D-San Jose
1. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael
28. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland
31. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento
44. Mike Thompson, D-Napa
48. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto
49. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo
63. George Miller, D-Martinez
66. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco
86. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton
99. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose
152. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield
171. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton
178. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova
187. Jim Costa, D-Fresno
222. David Valadao, R-Hanford
223. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto
256. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia
328. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay
386. Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville

SENATE
16. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
22. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

On the methodology: For the 2013 ratings, National Journal examined all of the roll-call votes in the first session of the 113th Congress—641 in the House and 291 in the Senate—and identified the ones that show ideological distinctions between members. Many votes did not make the cut—those that involve noncontroversial issues or that fall along regional lines, for instance. In the end, 117 votes in the Senate and 111 votes in the House were selected and were categorized as economic, foreign, or social.

Posted on Thursday, February 6th, 2014
Under: U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 10 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 »

Obama calls Jerry Brown for drought update

This just in from the White House:

Today, the President called Governor Jerry Brown to receive an update on the situation in California and express his concern for the citizens impacted by the historic drought conditions facing the state – conditions that are likely to have significant impacts on the state’s communities, economy and environment in the coming months.

The President reinforced his commitment to providing the necessary federal support to the state and local efforts. The agencies are working together to target resources to help California and other impacted states prepare for and lessen the impacts of the drought. USDA is also working with farmers and ranchers to increase their irrigation water efficiency, protect vulnerable soils from erosion, and improve the health of pasture and range lands. And the Bureau of Reclamation is working closely with federal and California state authorities to facilitate water transfers and provide operational flexibility to convey and store available water, and facilitate additional actions that can conserve and move water to critical areas.

The National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP) will help coordinate the federal response, working closely with state, local government, agriculture and other partners. The NDRP is already helping to enhance existing efforts that federal agencies are working on with communities, businesses, farmers and ranchers to build resilience where drought is currently an issue across the country.

The President made clear that we will continue to work with our federal partners, including FEMA, to support the state and local response, and expressed his support during this challenging time.

Posted on Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Obama presidency, water | 1 Comment »

Open thread: State of the Union

And, the GOP response:

Go ahead, share your thoughts – but be civil to your fellow commenters.

Posted on Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 14 Comments »

President Obama on George Miller’s retirement

The White House just issued President Barack Obama’s statement on the retirement of Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.

President Barack Obama“George Miller has proudly represented the people of California in Congress for nearly 40 years, and he has spent his career fighting to grow and strengthen the middle class. Because of his tireless efforts, our air and water are cleaner, our workers’ rights are better protected, more young people can afford to go to college, and more working families can make ends meet. George was a chief author of the first bill I signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. His decades-long fight to bring quality, affordable health insurance to millions of Americans made him an indispensable partner in developing and passing the Affordable Care Act. And he continues to fight for our shared belief that a minimum wage should be a wage you can live on. Michelle and I thank Congressman Miller for his service and leadership, and we wish him, his wife Cynthia, and their children and grandchildren the very best in the future.”

Read a slew of other comments on Miller’s retirement here, and view a gallery of some of Miller’s finer (that is, more fiery) moments on the House floor here.

Posted on Monday, January 13th, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, George Miller, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

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 »

California a model for national paid family leave

Advocates say a new bill to establish a national paid family leave program is modeled on California’s law.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., today introduced the “Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act,” which would let eligible workers receive a portion of their pay when they need time away from their jobs to bond with a new child, to care for a seriously ill family member or for their own serious health condition.

It’s similar in design to California’s law, passed in 2002 and implemented in 2004. The state law has helped about 1.6 million Californians with up to six weeks of paid leave, and was recently expanded to include care for siblings, grandparents, grandchildren and parents-in-law, starting in July 2014.

Existing federal law provides only unpaid, job-protected leave, but the proposed FAMILY Act will offer paid benefits for up to 12 weeks. The bill would create an independent trust fund within the Social Security Administration to collect fees and provide benefits, funded by employee and employer contributions of 0.2 percent of wages each.

“The FAMILY Act has taken important lessons from California, since our state was the first in the country to successfully pass paid family leave,” said Sharon Terman, senior staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center. “After more than a decade since implementing paid family leave, we know that employers are widely supportive of the law and report no ill-effects as a result of implementing it, and that families have benefited from having paid time off to care for ill relatives or to bond with new babies. It’s a win-win for all.”

Ann O’Leary, vice-president and director of Next Generation’s Children & Families program, said the economic stability provided by California’s law is a model for the nation. “We are all mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents or children—we need a way to care for our families without risking our financial security.”

Posted on Thursday, December 12th, 2013
Under: U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Gun control groups say California is still tops

Eight states including California enacted major gun-control laws in the year since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., two big gun-control groups reported Monday.

Robyn Thomas“We really see this as a turning point on this issue,” Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told reporters on a conference call Monday morning. “This year after Newtown, we got calls from 30 different states interested in introducing legislation. … That was an absolute watershed change from years past.”

The scorecard report put out by the Law Center and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence ranks all states based on 30 policy approaches to regulating guns and ammunition. States received points for having effective laws in each policy area, with stronger laws receiving more points. A letter grade (A to F) indicates the overall strength or weakness of a state’s gun laws.

California received an A- and continues to top the list of states with the nation’s strongest gun laws. But Connecticut jumped from ranking 4th to 2nd and is joined by New Jersey, New York, Delaware, and Maryland at the top of the list of states with strong gun laws, all of which also passed new legislation in 2013. States ranking at the bottom with the weakest gun laws include Arizona, Alaska, Wyoming, and South Dakota – many of which also have some of the highest gun death rates in the country.

Dan Gross“We think the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed moment,” Brady Campaign president Dan Gross said on the conference call. But watershed moments like this are only catalysts, he said: Ultimately laws don’t change unless people rise up and demand it. “Many states have listened to the will of the American people, state lawmakers have represented their constituents, while Congress has not.”

Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said some of the new state laws were substantial. Five states – Connecticut, New York, Delaware, Colorado and Illinois – tightened their background check laws to include private sales. Four states – Illinois, New York, Maryland and Delaware – required owners to quickly report the loss or theft of their firearms. Three states – Connecticut, Maryland and New York – passed laws regulating ammunition sales with record keeping and/or background checks. Four states – California, Connecticut, New York and Maryland – beefed up their assault weapons laws in some way. And five states – California, New York, Connecticut, Colorado and Maryland – strengthened existing laws or added new ones dealing with ammunition magazines.

“To see this many states do this many substantive changes… is really quite amazing,” Cutilletta said.
While the states’ progress is encouraging, “we can’t have a patchwork system,” Gross said. “Now it’s time for Congress to follow the lead of these states.

But even though polls show the bipartisan legislation to expand background checks is supported by nine out of 10 Americans including four out of five gun owners, Gross said, getting such a bill through Congress requires reassuring lawmakers that passing it is in their political best interest. “If we can’t do that, we will not succeed in 2014.”

Gun_Rights_vs_Gun_Control_yearlylobying-01The Sunlight Foundation reported Monday that gun-control groups as of June 30 reported spending five times as much on federal lobbying in 2013 as they did in 2012 – about $1.6 million. Yet gun-rights groups still outspent by more than 7 to 1, sinking $12.2 million into the fight.

“The months following Sandy Hook saw not only an increase in the quantity of lobbying over gun control but in the nature of the lobbying,” writes Nancy Watzman of the Sunlight Reporting Group. “Much of the increased lobbying spending by gun control groups at the federal level went to hire lions of the Washington lobbyist establishment, big names who have gone through the revolving door from Congress and the executive branch.”

“Their typical clients are Fortune 500 companies and major trade associations, as opposed to clients with an ideological bent,” Watzman wrote. “For most, this was the first time they reported signing on to the gun issue. In this, the gun control groups were mirroring their opposition: The NRA has long hired outside lobbyists to supplement its staff. Overall, gun control groups reported hiring some three dozen lobbyists at eight lobbying firms. For the vast majority, it was the first time they reported lobbying on behalf of a gun control group.”

Gross said his group, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and many other groups and individuals are in this for the long haul; he noted that it took six votes over seven years to pass the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act of 1993. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”

Posted on Monday, December 9th, 2013
Under: gun control, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Boxer spars with nuclear agency on oversight

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer is sparring with the Nuclear Regulatory Committee over congressional access to the agency’s information.

Barbara BoxerBoxer, D-Calif., wrote a letter to NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane on Tuesday, urging her to withdraw its new policy that the senator says will inhibit congressional oversight.

“As an ‘independent agency,’ the NRC is independent from the Executive Branch – not from congressional oversight,” Boxer wrote. “It is the NRC’s responsibility to keep Congress apprised of its activities, as well as to follow the law and use its authorities responsibly and in the public’s interest.”

Yet the NRC “unilaterally devised a drastic change of policy behind closed doors” without notifying her committee, and implemented it without consulting Congress or the public, Boxer wrote.

“This policy is a radical departure from previous NRC document policies and creates significant hurdles and delays that can be used to withhold information entirely from the chairs and ranking members of oversight committees,” Boxer wrote. “It also allows the NRC to broadly deny information to individual members of Congress, even when the information is related to matters affecting their home states.”

The NRC’s claims that the new policy is justified by its need to protect against public release of sensitive materials isn’t supported by case law or by Justice Department guidelines, the senator wrote.

“I call on the NRC to cease its efforts to circumvent Congress’ oversight authority and create a policy that is a model of transparency and respects Congress’ responsibility to oversee the NRC,” Boxer wrote.

Posted on Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, energy, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

What they’re saying about the Iran nuclear deal

The nuclear deal that the international community has struck with Iran is being met with mixed reactions around the world, and here at home.

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“The interim deal has been and will continue to be met with healthy skepticism and hard questions, not just of the Iranians, but of ourselves and our allies involved in the negotiations. Iran has a history of obfuscation that demands verification of its activities and places the burden on the regime to prove it is upholding its obligations in good faith while a final deal is pursued.

“The Administration and its negotiating partners claim that a final deal can be completed that affirms Iran does not have a right to enrich and permanently and irreversibly dismantles the infrastructure of its uranium and plutonium nuclear programs. That is a goal the House shares. The lingering question, however, is whether the negotiating partners will work equally hard to preserve the strong international sanctions regime until that goal is achieved. Otherwise, we will look back on the interim deal as a remarkably clever Iranian move to dismantle the international sanctions regime while maintaining its infrastructure and material to pursue a break-out nuclear capability.

“The House looks forward to the Administration providing a briefing on the interim deal and the next steps.”

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

Nancy Pelosi“Last night’s agreement is an essential step toward meeting our ultimate objective: to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. President Obama, Secretary Kerry, their team, and our allies are to be commended for their successful efforts to hash out a deal that advances national, regional, and global security.

“It is clear that tough, far-reaching sanctions, enacted by Congress and enforced by the Obama Administration, enabled world powers to reach this point and freeze Iran’s nuclear development. But let there be no doubt: America’s commitment to the security of Israel and our allies across the region will stand firm; majority of our sanctions structure remains in place; and if Iran fails to live up to its obligations, the United States will not hesitate to reimpose, deepen, and expand our sanctions regime.

“This announcement marks a necessary bridge to further negotiations on a lasting, long-term, and comprehensive agreement. Through diplomacy, engagement, and unity among our allies, we must continue acting to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program once and for all.”

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

“I support the agreement reached today between the P5+1 countries and Iran, which I believe is a significant step toward solving one of the most difficult security challenges facing the world today.

“The six-month agreement puts in place strict controls on Iran’s nuclear program. Iran must halt uranium enrichment above 5%, neutralize its stockpile of near-20% uranium (by either reducing to 3.5% or converting to uranium oxide), halt the installation of any additional centrifuges of any type, freeze the size of its 3.5% stockpile at current levels (converting any newly enriched 3.5% to uranium oxide), halt production and testing of fuel for the Arak heavy-water reactor, halt installation of any components for the reactor, not transfer fuel or heavy water to the site, share the reactor’s technical design with P5+1 countries and dramatically increase international inspections of all nuclear sites.

“In return, the sanctions relief for Iran is limited, estimated not to exceed $7 billion, which leaves more than $100 billion frozen.

“If Iran violates this agreement, it ends and we will know diplomacy is no longer an option. But if the terms are upheld, we will know that Iran is serious about reaching a final agreement.

“By any standard, this agreement is a giant step forward and should not be undermined by additional sanctions at this time.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“On tonight’s announcement from President Obama on the deal with Iran regarding their nuclear program, we must note the significance, but also recognize that there are challenges ahead.

“This is indeed a triumph for diplomacy, and I’m pleased that President Obama reasserted Congress’ role in these negotiations.

“It is my hope that this deal is a step towards a more peaceful and secure world.”

Posted on Sunday, November 24th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 13 Comments »