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DiFi’s remarks at the Sotomayor hearing

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., praised U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s “deep and broad experience in the law” during opening remarks delivered at today’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing.

Read her remarks in their entirety, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, July 13th, 2009
Under: Dianne Feinstein, General, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

Labor targets Dianne Feinstein for EFCA

Big labor is trying to turn up the publicity heat on U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., this week by staging a two-day fast outside her San Francisco office in support of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Feinstein will be in Washington meeting with business leaders who oppose EFCA even as the Oakland-based California Labor Federation launches its protest Wednesday, with participants starting a fast at 10 a.m. and ending it Thursday evening; some protestors will stay overnight outside Feinstein’s office at One Post St. in San Francisco.

EFCA would let workers form unions by having a majority of employees sign petition cards stating their intention to organize — often called “card check” — without management requiring that a secret-ballot election be held; such elections would still be an option if the workers want it.

The bill also provides that if an employer and newly formed union can’t agree on a first contract within 90 days, either can ask for help from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and if that doesn’t produce a deal within 30 days, the dispute goes to binding arbitration; all time limits can be extended if the parties agree. And the bill would beef up penalties against companies that violate labor laws during organizing campaigns and first-contract bargaining.

The Senator in March backed off her previous support of EFCA, and is currently the only Congressional Democrat from California not on board with the bill. She has floated a sort of compromise in which workers could vote to form unions with mail-in ballots, thus alleviating some lawmakers’ stated concerns about protecting workers’ privacy from labor organizers.

The federation’s schedule says there’ll be a kick-off at noon Wednesday with Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski, San Francisco Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson, community leaders and others; a 4:30 p.m. workers’ rally in support of those fasting; and a 9:30 to 11 p.m. candlelight vigil. On Thursday, there’ll be another rally – this one with elected officials and clergy – at noon, and then a prayer circle to end the fast at 6 p.m.

UPDATE @ 1:51 P.M. TUESDAY: California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring just issued a statement on a similar, pro-EFCA rally taking place outside Feinstein’s office in Los Angeles:

“Today, according to the union bosses, ‘workers and community supporters’ will be demonstrating in support of the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act (EFCA), which they claim will ‘help workers earn good wages, healthcare and retirement benefits.’ Unfortunately, it appears our friends have not been reading the news as of late, as unreasonable demands made by Big Labor have forced workers in the auto industry to lose their jobs and mismanagement of their programs have left worker benefit packages terribly underfunded.

“EFCA threatens to have the same affect on the small business community here in California and throughout the nation. By mandating contracts on employers and eliminating workers’ right to a private ballot, union bosses will decimate job creation and severely increase unemployment, slowing any economic recovery on the horizon.”

To clarify, EFCA wouldn’t be “eliminating workers’ right to a private ballot” – it would eliminate management’s right to a private ballot. Workers would still be able to choose a secret-ballot vote if they wish it.

Posted on Monday, June 1st, 2009
Under: Dianne Feinstein, Labor politics, U.S. Senate | 9 Comments »

Why not air all the health-care reform options?

In a sort of follow-up to yesterday’s post about how the supposedly moribund GOP still manages to shape the debate on certain issues, here’s Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, on the House floor last night talking about health-care reform:

You’ll notice she speaks of her own advocacy of a single-payer universal health care plan, but then she focuses in on ensuring whatever plan comes forth this year has a robust public insurance component so that every American is guaranteed accessible, quality health care. That’s in keeping with a statement issued jointly a few weeks ago by Lee’s CBC along with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

The chairs of all those caucuses – Lee for the CBC; Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., for the progressives; Nydia Velasquez, D-N.Y., for the Hispanic Caucus; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose, for the CAPAC – all are among the 75 cosponsors of H.R. 676, which would expand Medicare into a national, single-payer system covering all Americans.

But as the U.S. Senate Finance Committee held hearings last week to lay groundwork for a health care reform plan, chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., invited nobody to talk about single-payer options. Protestors decrying this omission disrupted the hearings; more than a dozen were arrested.

“We’ve got to reform our system fairly quickly, and to be candid with you, very few members of the House and Senate advocate single-pay. The vast, vast majority do not,” Baucus told the Great Falls Tribune last week. “It tells me that if I go down that road, it’s not going to be successful — it’s not going to pass the Congress.”

So the votes might not be there right now, but how do we know they wouldn’t be there if all the options were aired, if Congress and the American public could consider a single-payer option side-by-side with other options? Perhaps it would still be a non-starter, perhaps not; if opponents are so sure it’s nonsense, why not follow Woodrow Wilson’s axiom that “nothing chills nonsense like exposure to the air.” Isn’t that what open debate is all about?

Republican leaders not only don’t want to hear about single-payer, they don’t even want to talk about any public component at all lest we end up with “socialized medicine” that they insist would be inferior to the patchwork of private insurance America has now.

And yet a recent CBS News/New York Times poll found Americans are more likely today to embrace the idea of the government providing health insurance than they were 30 years ago: 59 percent say the government should provide national health insurance, including 49 percent who say such insurance should cover all medical problems. Go figure.

Posted on Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
Under: Barbara Lee, healthcare reform, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 10 Comments »

Stimulus $$$ for Oakland airport security

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says $7,721,355 will be split between six California airports – in Oakland, Bakersfield, Redding, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and San Diego — to update explosive detection systems and X-Ray units.

The money comes from the first $50 million spent by the Transportation Security Administration out of the total $1 billion included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus package. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said she’s pleased as can be.

“The economic recovery package continues to help fund priorities in California and across our country,” she said. “In this case, I am so pleased that TSA is investing in equipment upgrades to make sure our airports have the most effective technology to keep us safe.”

Posted on Friday, May 8th, 2009
Under: Barbara Boxer, Homeland security, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Skinner to GOPers: Follow Specter to our tent

Well, you’ve gotta give Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, extra points for cheekiness: Today she sent to her Republican legislative colleagues an invitation to switch to the “Spectacular” Democratic Party, a la Arlen Specter.

“Democrats will soon have 60 votes in the US Senate and be able to make many decisions without filibusters—but it will take a bit of time for the final stages of legal challenges and to finally count the votes from last November’s election in Minnesota,” she wrote. “If you act quickly, California can lead the nation rather than following. We need 54 Democrats in the Assembly and 27 in the Senate to match this.”

As benefits of being Democrats, she cited:

  • “Big tent, not a pup tent”
  • “No pledges”
  • “No recalls”
  • “Large party with increasing registrants”
  • “Diverse Democratic jury for future advancement and primary electorates”
  • Posted on Wednesday, April 29th, 2009
    Under: Arlen Specter, Assembly, Democratic Party, Nancy Skinner, Republican Party, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

    The biggest news in politics today…

    …is U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., switching affiliation to the Democratic Party.

    Thoughts, anyone?

    UPDATE @ 1:06 P.M.: Here’s what U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has to say about it:

    “Senator Specter did the right thing for his state and our country, and I welcome him to the Democratic Party.

    “He has given Democrats a huge lift. Senator Specter’s decision sends a tremendous signal to the country that people who want to bring about change are joining the Democratic Party. People who want to get things done, as Senator Specter does, are joining the Democratic Party.

    “The Democratic Party is a big umbrella. The Republicans have a tiny, little umbrella – if you lean just a bit outside it, you get soaked.

    “So, we are happy to have Senator Specter, and I look forward to working with him.”

    UPDATE @ 4:08 P.M.: Just in from Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

    “I welcome Senator Specter back to the Democratic Party. Senator Specter has long been an independent thinker and willing to work in a bipartisan way to do what is best for the American people. I look forward to working with him on issues such as medical research funding, criminal justice, education and other issues to help move this country forward.”

    Posted on Tuesday, April 28th, 2009
    Under: Arlen Specter, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

    DiFi to pirates: ‘Avast, ye scurvy dogs!’

    Well, not exactly. But in a letter to President Barack Obama last week, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein did say the government should put armed security teams aboard U.S.-flagged shipping vessels operating on pirate-infested seas.

    Feinstein, D-Calif., urged the move as a stop-gap measure until there’s a more comprehensive, international plan to deal with rampant piracy off the coast of Somalia. She also said today she’ll author a bill to make armed security teams a requirement for U.S.-flag vessels sailing through dangerous waters.

    “I believe that any U.S.-flag shipping vessel operating in the Gulf of Aden or the Straits of Malacca – or in any other high piracy zone – should be required to have armed security teams aboard,” she said. “I have listened to a lot of rhetoric and reasons for not doing this and how there must be a political solution to the ongoing chaos within Somalia. But in the meantime, the number of hijackings continues to go up, and more than 200 hostages are being held. This is unacceptable.”

    Feinstein notes pirates attacked over 90 commercial ships in 2008, hijacking 40 and reaping an estimated $120 million in ransom. The Maersk Alabama — from which Capt. Richard Phillips was seized and held hostage by pirates, necessitating a rescue by Navy SEALs — was but one of several ships hijacked recently, and now pirates threaten to target and harm the crews of U.S.-flagged ships in the region. “I believe we must take strong, decisive action to make sure the crews on these ships are protected from the menace of piracy.”

    Yarrrrgh. Read Feinstein’s letter to Obama in its entirety, after the jump…
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Monday, April 20th, 2009
    Under: Barack Obama, Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

    Barbara Boxer has a granddaughter

    U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has welcomed her fourth grandchild.

    Reyna Sofia Boxer — 6.2 lbs and 18 inches — was born Monday afternoon at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. Reyna is the second child for the Senator’s son, attorney and Oakland Planning Commissioner Doug Boxer, and his wife Amy, who co-owns Welcome Home Furniture Rental & Staging; they live in Oakland, where the Senator keeps one of her California homes. She is the Senator’s first granddaughter.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
    Under: Barbara Boxer, General, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

    Keep A’s in Oakland, Boxer urges Bud Selig

    U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., today sent the following letter to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig:

    March 31, 2009

    Allan H. (Bud) Selig, Commissioner
    Major League Baseball
    245 Park Avenue, 31st Floor
    New York, NY 10167

    Dear Commissioner Selig:

    I appreciate the announcement you made yesterday that you are forming a committee to review the various proposals regarding the future of the Oakland Athletics. As your committee does its work, I urge you to do everything possible to keep the team in Oakland.

    As you may know, Oakland has recently gone through some difficult times and families there deserve some good news. As someone who splits her time between Washington, DC, southern California and Oakland’s Jack London Square neighborhood, I have seen first hand that Oakland is teeming with new young families and major developments that present endless possibilities. My children learned to love baseball through the Oakland A’s and our family was so fortunate to develop that common bond. We must give a new generation of families that same chance.

    Oakland is witnessing a downtown renaissance, with new residences, restaurants, art galleries and entertainment venues opening weekly. Two new office towers are in development and the Port of Oakland recently announced a private investment of close to $1 billion. Major League Baseball can play a key role in continuing this momentum by working to keep the A’s in Oakland.

    Through their rich history and shared experiences, the identities of the City of Oakland and the Athletics are forever linked. For more than 40 years, the people of Oakland have backed the Athletics during good times and bad. In the 1970s, Oakland celebrated the Athletics’ glorious run of three consecutive World Series victories. And, together, the city of Oakland and the Athletics mourned the devastation caused by the Loma Prieta earthquake that took place during the team’s 1989 championship run.

    Now that the team has ended its consideration of Fremont as a possible home, the time is right to renew the focus on keeping the Athletics in Oakland.

    It is critical that Major League Baseball and the A’s ownership do everything possible to keep the A’s in Oakland and I stand ready to help in any way possible, including attending and setting up meetings for you and the Committee. Please do not hesitate to call me at 202-XXX-XXXX to discuss this issue.

    Sincerely,
    Barbara Boxer
    United States Senator

    Posted on Tuesday, March 31st, 2009
    Under: Barbara Boxer, Oakland, U.S. Senate | 11 Comments »

    Conservatives launch PAC against media rules

    California Republican Party Vice Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette today is helping to launch a new PAC, the “First Amendment Now Campaign,” to combat what he says are Democratic efforts to curtail conservative political speech.

    The main issue is the Fairness Doctrine, a Federal Communications Commission policy dating from 1949 but abolished in 1987 that required broadcast license holders to present controversial issues of public importance in a way the FCC considered honest, equitable and balanced.

    Although President Barack Obama repeatedly has said he opposes reinstating it – see here and here – and the U.S. Senate last month overwhelmingly approved an amendment nixing it, conservatives have continued to rally against it, leading some critics – see here, here and here – to wonder whether it’s an intentional effort to dangle some red meat as a distraction from other issues.

    Still, Del Beccaro, California Political News and Views publisher Steve Frank and state Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, along with a bunch of conservative talk radio personalities, are launching this new organization, asking for donations of $17.76 “to preserve our freedom.”

    Besides the Fairness Doctrine, they say, they’re concerned about President Obama’s calls for “localism,” or requiring broadcast license holders to dedicate some of their airtime to the interests of their local community – obviously a concern for a conservative station such as KSFO-AM/560 that’s located in an overwhelmingly liberal place such as San Francisco.

    And they’re also worried about President Obama’s calls for broadcast media ownership diversity, dating back to 2007 and echoed now in Congress. The President and supporters claim they’re concerned about a lack of female and minority ownership in the broadcast media, but opponents claim it’s just another back-door way to undercut conservative free speech.

    So expect to hear a lot about this all across your AM radio dial as this new organization holds a kickoff rally next Tuesday, March 24 on the State Capitol’s north steps, and then as it moves forward with an effort to gather a million petition signatures it can present to U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. The PAC promises to use its money “to preserve the First Amendment; to oppose the Fairness Doctrine, government-imposed diversity and localism; and to oppose candidates that favor the Fairness Doctrine.”

    Posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2009
    Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Media, Republican politics, U.S. Senate | No Comments »