Here’s what U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., had to say on the Senate floor today about the $165 million in bonuses being paid out to executive and top employees at AIG, the insurance giant which recently received about $170 billion in taxpayer funds as a bailout to prevent bankruptcy:
This Associated Press article does a good job of putting the bonuses in context, at least to some extent. People are angry that AIG employees seem to be richly rewarded for catastrophic failure that has put the world economy at risk, and that’s entirely understandable, but the truth is: this bonus incentive system is how Wall Street works, and perhaps the politicians’ ire would’ve been more helpful before all the papers were signed and our money handed over, back when it would’ve been easier to re-open the AIG workers’ contracts and deal with this issue.
Bay Area lawmakers continue to resurrect bills that died in previous Congresses, hoping that having a wider margin of majority in the House and a Democrat in the White House could bring them success this time around.
For example, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, today re-introduced their Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act, which would authorize federal funding for comprehensive, age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education; for now, such funding is available only for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs which have been shown to exclude important information about contraception as a protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
“It’s time for us to get REAL about sex education,” Lee said in her news release. “We should absolutely be teaching young people about abstinence, but we shouldn’t be holding back information that can save lives and prevent unwanted pregnancies. Instead of ‘abstinence only,’ what we’re proposing is ‘abstinence-plus.’”
Lee and Lautenberg first introduced the REAL Act back in 2005, then again in 2007; the bill has never made it out of committee, despite the 2007 versions having 18 Senate cosponsors and 110 House cosponsors.
Elsewhere, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, today introduced H.R. 1546, the Caring for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury Act of 2009. The bill would establish a special panel within the VA to assess the VA’s current capacity to treat veterans with traumatic brain injuries as well as to make recommendations on developing policies for care and rehabilitation, and also would help establish TBI-specific education and training programs for VA’s health professionals.
“Many of our soldiers who have been wounded in Iraq have experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury. In fact, Traumatic Brain Injuries are the hallmark injuries of this war,” McNerney said in his news release. “It is incumbent on us to ensure that the Veterans Administration is equipped and ready to provide the ongoing services necessary to fully address the impact of traumatic brain injuries.”
McNerney had introduced a similar bill in May 2007; it, too, never made it out of committee.
Your voices in Congress helped introduce a slew of legislation this week.
For example, Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee chairwoman Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, yesterday was an original co-sponsor of H.R. 1463 by Homeland Security Intelligence and Terrorism Risk Assessment Subcommittee chairwoman Jane Harman, D-Venice, which would condition U.S. military aid to Pakistan on whether U.S. officials have access to Pakistani nuclear arms expert A.Q. Khan and have assurances he’s being monitored.
“A.Q. Kahn is one of the most dangerous men in the world because he has done more to increase the threat of nuclear terror than anyone in history,” Tauscher said. “Now that a Pakistani court has all but freed him from house arrest, it is just common sense that our government, as well as the Pakistani government, does everything in its power to fully assess the damage he has caused to the international arms control regime.”
“I’m grateful that Chairman Barney Frank committed to a public hearing on the issue of public funds lost due to the collapse of Lehman Brothers,” Eshoo said in a news reelase. “This is progress and I’m hopeful that San Mateo County and other public entities will be able to recover some of the dollars invested in conservative instruments. Our schools, public safety, and social services will suffer if we cannot return a portion of these dollars back to our local governments.”
Speier noted Lehman Brothers was the only large financial institution allowed to fail, and its failure cost state and local governments more than $2 billion. “I’m grateful that Chairman Frank has agreed to hold hearings on this important matter and I look forward to finding a solution that returns some of these taxpayer funds back to the public entities where they belong.”
The U.S. Senate today voted 62-35 to end debate on H.R. 1105, the $410 billion omnibus spending bill which I included in my story on earmarks this past Sunday; the bill quickly passed on a voice vote and now is on its way to President Barack Obama’s desk to be signed into law.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., issued a statement lauding the bill’s passage, calling it “long overdue.” This bill makes up for the fact that only three of the twelve annual appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2009 (ending Sept. 30, 2009) made it out of Congress last year, the other nine slain by then-President Bush’s veto threats. Much of the federal government has been operating under continuing resolutions since Oct. 1; without this bill, agencies would have shut down or been forced to continue operations at their FY’08 funding levels.
“Without the funds included in this Omnibus bill, the federal government will be unable to cover the operating costs of critical agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Peace Corps or the Postal Service,” Feinstein said. “I believe it’s vital to pass this bill in order to carry out the work of these departments, as well as critical projects in the states during this period of dramatic economic uncertainty. So I urge President Obama to sign this bill into law quickly.”
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., sent out a flurry of news releases explaining the earmarks she’d sought — more often than not, in tandem with House members — for various parts of the state; read her Bay Area list here.
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing this morning on “Getting to the Truth Through a Nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry,” taking testimony from constitutional experts and legal scholars on what the focus and scope would be for a proposed “truth commission” to probe the Bush Administration’s national security and executive power policies. (View the hearing’s archived, two-hour Webcast here.)
“There are some who resist any effort to look back at all, while others are fixated on prosecution, even if it takes all of the next eight years, or more, and further divides this country,” chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in his opening statement. “Over the last month, I have suggested a middle ground to get to the truth of what went on during the last several years, in a way that invites cooperation. I believe that that might best be accomplished though a nonpartisan commission of inquiry. I would like to see this done in a manner removed from partisan politics. Such a commission of inquiry would shed light on what mistakes were made so that we can learn from these errors and not repeat them.”
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., sits on the Judiciary Committee but didn’t attend this hearing and “hasn’t seen a proposal for a truth commission,” so she won’t comment, spokesman Gil Duran said today. He did note, however, that Feinstein — who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee — issued a statement last Friday saying her panel “will conduct a review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation practices, and we will have a brief statement to issue on that subject in the near future.”
“UCDC Law” will place second- and third-year law students in congressional offices, the Justice Department, regulatory agencies and elsewhere around the nation’s capital; UC-Irvine students eventually will take part, too. Only a handful of U.S. law schools have academic programs in Washington, D.C.
“This is a direct and powerful way to expose students to aspects of lawyering in Washington and thereby broaden their thinking about professional paths available to them,” says Berkeley Law Dean Chris Edley Jr., who recently advised President Barack Obama’s transition team. “Our new classroom technology will also enable us to connect our students and experts in Washington with law students on campus, combining resources for dynamic interactive instruction.”
The first batch of interns, including seven from Berkeley, already has settled into Washington. Second-year Berkeley student Dyanna Quizon, placed in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said the level of responsibility they’ve been given “is amazing.”
“I’ve been asked to help lead a substantive training session for federal employees on making programs more accessible to non-English speaking communities,” she said. “A law student telling government officials what to do in important situations? Pretty incredible.”
I posted earlier on what your Bay Area House members were saying about the economic stimulus bill, but they all bat for the same team.
California Republican Party vice chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette had this and more to say (on Thursday, though I assume he still felt the same or moreso after the votes were taken Friday) at his Political Vanguard site:
Most of this bill is a Christmas tree of handouts to unions and other Left leaning causes. Remember, this is the first time the Dems have had control of Congress and the Presidency in 15 years – they went for it all because they know in 21 months, they may not have the House. That is why it is packed with items that will advance socialized medicine, global warming rescues and the rest. They also know that it is easier to create a government program than it is to end it. Hence their haste.
Jon Fleischman, a state GOP regional vice-chair, posted to his FlashReport.org a statement from Rep. Ed Royce, R-Fullerton, which said in part:
Instead of pork barrel spending, Congress should look toward spurring investment and job growth through the private sector. Any type of stimulus package should be focused on encouraging private capital into the system rather than redistributing taxpayer money through the government.
Miller said new estimates compiled by the Economic Policy Institute say $14 billion in school modernization passed as part of the House’s economic recovery plan would create at least 315,000 more jobs than the Senate-passed bill: 97,000 new construction jobs, 68,000 jobs in related-input industries, and another 150,000 jobs as those other workers re-spend their earnings.
“While I am glad the Senate has now joined the House in passing legislation to get our economy moving forward again, it appears the Senate bill creates about 400,000 fewer jobs than the House legislation. With more Americans losing their jobs by the day, we must make every effort to bring that figure up.
“As President Obama has said, one way we can do that is by restoring investments to modernize our nation’s schools and colleges. The $14 billion to repair, renovate and update public schools included in the House plan would create at least 315,000 more jobs than what the Senate bill generates. Modernizing our schools and colleges is a common-sense way we can quickly create jobs while helping our students get a 21st century education, and should get restored to this plan as negotiations move forward.”
From CRP chairman Ron Nehring (whose name was omitted from the news release, apparently inadvertently):
“It looks like Dianne Feinstein has picked up on something Republicans in Washington have been saying for weeks – that Obama’s spending plan doesn’t do enough to create jobs. Speaking plainly on the Senate floor today, Sen. Feinstein (D-CA), indicated to her Democratic colleagues in the Senate that she ‘reserve[s] the right…to vote against’ the wasteful stimulus legislation because it doesn’t do enough to ‘put those jobs out there.’
“Here in California, where families have been hit especially hard by the housing and economic crises, we need real solutions from the Congress that create jobs and target the root problems of the economic crisis. Instead, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the rest of the liberal congressional leadership have given us a $1 TRILLION spending package loaded with earmarks, pork-barrel spending, and interest group payouts.
“It’s time for Democrats in Washington to truly partner with Republicans and craft a responsible stimulus plan.”
Unfortunately, the facts don’t bear out his claim. Here’s a fuller clip of Feinstein’s remarks:
Clearly, she’s uncomfortable with the bill because she feels it contains too many tax cuts — for which Republicans have been pushing — compared to actual government spending. For the CRP to imply that Feinstein’s concerns in any way dovetail with the GOP’s is disingenuous, if not flat-out dishonest.
UPDATE @ 5:28 P.M. FRIDAY: Feinstein apparently resisted the urge to tell the state GOP where to stick it. Her statement:
“I stand with President Obama and Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle in working toward a sensible solution that will move our economy forward and create jobs for the American people. The Economic Recovery bill has changed significantly since this morning, and we have worked together on a bipartisan basis to reduce the package by $110 billion. It will be further vetted in a conference committee next week, and I intend to support it.
“I would like to recognize Senators Susan Collins, Arlen Specter, Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman, who have worked tirelessly to negotiate a compromise that will receive the required 60 votes.”