Part of the Bay Area News Group

Who will skip Netanyahu’s speech to Congress?

The Bay Area delegation is split over attending Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress next Tuesday, March 3.

Democrats and the White House remain miffed that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, invited Netanyahu unilaterally. The Israeli leader is expected to speak against the Obama administration’s ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, instead urging Congress to impose further sanctions; also, the address comes two weeks before Israel’s legislative election. For these reasons, and as some pro-Palestinian groups urge a boycott, some Democrats are choosing to skip the speech.

Here’s how the Bay Area delegation shakes out:

Skipping the speech: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose

Attending the speech: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz

Undecided: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa

Didn’t respond to inquiries: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo

A few of them offered explanations, or at least, comments:

Lofgren: “I am disappointed Speaker Boehner chose to irresponsibly interject politics into what has long been a strong and bipartisan relationship between the United States and Israel. As President Obama has noted, it is inappropriate for a Head of State to address Congress just two weeks ahead of their election. I agree that Congress should not be used as a prop in Israeli election campaigns, so I intend to watch the speech on TV in my office.”

Huffman: “I call upon Speaker Boehner and Ambassador Dermer to do the right thing and postpone this speech. Once the election in Israel is over and the current P5+1 negotiating deadline has passed, they should respect protocol and confer with President Obama and congressional Democrats on a time for the Prime Minister of Israel to address a joint session of Congress.”

Boxer: “Whether I wind up going or not, it was a terrible mistake by the Republican majority to play politics with this enduring relationship.”

McNerney, via spokesman Michael Cavaiola: “Rep. McNerney is not planning to attend the speech. He’s got several previously planned commitments for that day.”

DeSaulnier, via spokeswoman Betsy Arnold Marr: “Congressman DeSaulnier has not made a final decision as he hopes the Prime Minister will reconsider his plans particularly in light of the upcoming election.”

Honda, via spokesman Ken Scudder: “Congressman Honda regrets that Speaker Boehner ignored protocol in making this invitation. The speaker turned what should have been an important visit of one of our closest allies into a political stunt. Congressman Honda also has concerns about the potential political nature of this speech given Israel’s elections are less than two weeks away. Despite this, and the congressman’s disagreement with the Prime Minister’s opposition to the U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran, Congressman Honda is going to attend the address on March 3. The United States and Israel share strong cultural, economic and security partnerships, and he will attend the speech to hear firsthand what the Prime Minister has to say on these serious and complicated issues.”

Thompson, via spokesman Austin Vevurka: “We still don’t know what the Congressman’s schedule will be that week, but I will of course keep you posted as we know more. That being said, Congressman Thompson understands the importance of hearing from international leaders, but he is concerned that the speech has become overtly political. He hopes the speech is rescheduled and Netanyahu is invited back at a later date in a manner that respects long-established diplomatic protocol.”

Posted on Wednesday, February 25th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Iran, Israel, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

73% of California voters disapprove of Congress

Californians still hold a dismal view of how Congress is doing its job, and more believe that Republican control of both chambers is a bad thing than a good thing for the nation, a new Field Poll found.

The poll clearly reflects the state’s heavily Democratic leaning; 43 percent of California’s voters are Democrats, while 28 percent are Republicans and 23 percent declare no party preference.

nobody likes CongressNearly three-fourths – 73 percent – of California voters now disapprove of Congress’ job performance, while 18 percent approve and 9 percent had no opinion, the poll found. Sadly, that’s not even close to the worst it ever has been – disapproval peaked at 86 percent back in September 2011, shortly after that summer’s debt-ceiling crisis.

Californians have a brighter, albeit still negative, view of the job congressional Democrats are doing – 53 percent disapproval and 35 percent approval, with 12 percent expressing no opinion. That’s roughly the same as where the Field Poll has pegged it over the past five years, and heavily influenced by party affiliation – only 35 percent of Democrats disapprove of how Congressional Democrats are doing, while 79 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of nonpartisans disapprove.

Similarly, 67 percent of Californians disapprove of the job congressional Republicans are doing while 23 percent approve and 10 percent have no opinion, a ratio that hasn’t changed much over the past eight years.

But unlike their Democratic counterparts, a plurality of California’s Republican voters – 47 percent – disapproves of the job being done by congressional Republicans, while only 40 percent approve. Disapproval of congressional Republicans increases to 82 percent among Democrats and 63 percent among nonpartisans.

Finally, the poll found 49 percent of registered California voters believe Republican control of both houses of Congress is a bad thing, while 37 percent think it’s a good thing. Democrats heavily lean toward believing it’s bad (71 percent to 15 percent), while nonpartisans are more split (49 percent to 34 percent). Republicans think it’s a good thing, 73 percent to 17 percent.

The Field Poll surveyed 1,241 California voters Jan. 26 through Feb. 16; the poll has a margin of error or plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

Posted on Saturday, February 21st, 2015
Under: polls, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Rep. Barbara Lee’s mother has passed away

Rep. Barbara Lee‘s mother, Mildred Parish Massey, has passed away at age 90.

Lee’s office said Massey died in Oakland, surrounded by family, after having “worked tirelessly for her family” and breaking many racial barriers throughout her life.

Massey was born June 6, 1924 in El Paso, Texas. Her father, William Calhoun Parish, was El Paso’s first African-American letter carrier; her mother, Willie Pointer Parish, was a homemaker. Massey had two sisters: Lois Murell of Windsor, and Juanita Franklin, who predeceased her. Lee, D-Oakland, is one of her three daughters, along with Mildred Whitfield and Beverly Hardy.

Massey in 1955 was one of the original 12 students to integrate Texas Western College, now known as the University of Texas at El Paso. She loved travel, music, basketball, butterflies, her Allen Temple Baptist Church family, and her friends at her Grand Lake Gardens home. Her loving family includes three daughters, seven grandchildren, sixteen great grandchildren, one great-great grandchild and countless friends.

Posted on Thursday, February 19th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Miller administers DeSaulnier’s ceremonial oath

Sometimes it’s not just the oath you take, but who administers it.

Mark DeSaulnierFreshman Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, officially was sworn into office Jan. 6 by Speaker John Boehner. But he was administered a ceremonial oath Tuesday night by his predecessor, former Rep. George Miller, in the Concord City Council chambers in front of constituents and local officials.

“It means the world to me to have a special ceremony in Concord where I raised my two sons, opened a small business, and served as a local elected official and as mayor,” DeSaulnier said in a statement issued afterward. “To be here surrounded by constituents and colleagues, and for my mentor George Miller to administer the oath of office, is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Miller, who retired after 40 years in Congress, said it was an honor to administer the oath, just as it was a privilege serving the district for so long.

“This is a great district marked with both beauty and diversity. I now have the honor of passing the torch to an accomplished public servant, a leader, and a longtime friend,” Miller said in DeSaulnier’s release.

Former Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder and voter registrar Steve Weir served as master of ceremonies at Tuesday night’s event, and Concord Mayor Tim Grayson offered opening remarks. Concord Boy Scout Troop 465, led by Mike Roark, served as color guard and Jason Warrenburg, a Los Medanos Community College student, sang the National Anthem.

Posted on Wednesday, February 18th, 2015
Under: Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House | 29 Comments »

House reactions to Obama’s IS use-of-force plan

President Obama’s proposal for a new authorization for use of military force against the so-called Islamic State already is creating a stir in Congress, with some saying it goes too far and others saying it doesn’t go far enough.

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

Nancy Pelosi“As our nation confronts the ISIS threat, the President has worked diligently to engage Congress in determining the U.S. strategy to degrade and destroy these brutal terrorists. A key part of Congress’ responsibility is to debate and pass a new and narrowly-tailored Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

“Today, the President has submitted a serious and thoughtful draft for a new AUMF, one which ends the outdated 2002 AUMF that authorized the Iraq war, restricts the use of ground troops, and includes other important limiting provisions going forward.

“Congress should act judiciously and promptly to craft and pass an AUMF narrowly-tailored to the war against ISIS. I look forward to constructive bipartisan debate on this matter immediately.”

From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

Kevin McCarthy“Radical Islamist terrorists, such as ISIL, pose a grave and growing threat to the United States. The number of terrorist groups and the volume of fighters have all dramatically increased in recent years.

“I have been supportive of efforts to give the Commander-in-Chief additional authorities to confront these growing challenges, but rather than expanding his legal authority to go after ISIL, the President seems determined to ask Congress to further restrict the authority of the U.S. military to confront this threat.

“The Speaker and I told the President we’d consider his request. I am prepared to support an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that provides new legal authorities to go after ISIL and other terrorist groups. However, I will not support efforts that impose undue restrictions on the U.S. military and make it harder to win.

“Congress will be conducting hearings to review both the President’s strategy to combat radical Islamist terrorists and the legal authorities that might be required to implement an effective and sufficiently robust strategy. At the end of this process, I hope Congress and the Administration can be united on how best to respond to the increasingly complex and dangerous challenge we face.”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, February 11th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Iraq, Kevin McCarthy, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Lee & Honda demand non-military plan vs. ISIL

Two Bay Area House members introduced a bill Tuesday that would require the president to give Congress within 90 days a “comprehensive diplomatic, political, economic and regionally-led strategy to degrade and dismantle” the so-called Islamic State.

Not the omission of the word “military,” as authors Barbara Lee and Mike Honda are noted anti-war lawmakers, and among the House’s most liberal members.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“We can all agree that ISIL and their actions are horrific and barbaric,” Lee, D-Oakland, said in a news release. “As we work to degrade and dismantle ISIL, we must be comprehensive in our strategy. National security experts have clearly stated that there is no military solution to ISIL. In order to ultimately degrade and dismantle ISIL, we must craft a robust regionally-led, political, economic and diplomatic strategy.”

That means considering the sectarian and ethnic tensions that gives rise to militant groups like this, as well as the group’s oil-based financial structure and revenue stream, she said.

“While this legislation prevents the deployment of U.S. ground troops, it does not close the door for military action,” she added. “Congress will have to debate and vote on any authorization for the use of force. Any comprehensive strategy must address the underlying political, economic and diplomatic elements that have contributed to ISIL.”

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Hose, said that despite the enemy’s undeniable brutality and formidable threat, “military strength alone will not defeat extremism. The only lasting solution is a comprehensive solution that addresses the political and economic concerns of the region – one in which the rights of all religious and cultural groups are respected.

“The U.S. must focus on building partnerships in the region, and around the world, to emphasize diplomatic, political, and economic solutions to work towards a lasting, inclusive future away from violent extremism,” he said.

Organizations supporting the bill include Win Without War, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and Just Foreign Policy.

Diane Randall, the Friends Committee’s executive secretary, noted Lee was the lone vote opposing the authorization for use of military force immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Lee now is “proposing a repeal of that blank check for war,” Randall said, by urging “political and diplomatic solutions to the crises our failed policies helped create.”

Posted on Tuesday, February 10th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

New bill would require vaccination for Head Start

All children enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start programs across the nation would have to be fully vaccinated unless they’re exempted for medical reasons, under a bill that U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Anna Eshoo say they’ll introduce next week.

“More than a million of our children attend Head Start programs all over the country, and we must protect every single one of these kids from preventable diseases like measles,” Boxer, D-Calif., said in a news release. “This simple bill is an important step toward strengthening our vaccination policies at all levels of government to prevent the spread of deadly diseases.”

Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said it was “the genius of American scientists that developed vaccines to eradicate polio and many other diseases. This bill is a ‘booster shot’ for our nation’s vaccine policies and will mitigate the spread of deadly disease.”

Under the bill, parents of children currently enrolled in Head Start programs would be given three months to ensure that vaccines are up to date in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended schedule.

Parents could get a medical exemption only if a certified health care provider determines that their child has an underlying medical condition that precludes vaccination, such as an autoimmune deficiency, chemotherapy treatment or a recent transplant. Head Start programs would assist families in accessing the services they need in order to get their children fully vaccinated.

California is in the throes of its worst measles outbreak in decades, with more than 100 infections reported so far. Exemptions to vaccinations required for school have skyrocketed in recent decades as parents – acting on a study which since has been thoroughly debunked – feared vaccines might be linked to the onset of autism, or simply feared other health effects from the vaccines’ ingredients.

Posted on Friday, February 6th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 16 Comments »

Pope Francis to address Congress in September

Pope Francis will address a joint session of Congress on Sept. 24. Wow, talk about preaching to a den of iniquity.

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“It is my great privilege to announce that His Holiness Pope Francis will visit the United States Capitol on Thursday, September 24, 2015. On that day, he will become the first leader of the Holy See to address a joint meeting of Congress. It will be a historic visit, and we are truly grateful that Pope Francis has accepted our invitation.

“In a time of global upheaval, the Holy Father’s message of compassion and human dignity has moved people of all faiths and backgrounds. His teachings, prayers, and very example bring us back to the blessings of simple things and our obligations to one another. We look forward to warmly welcoming Pope Francis to our Capitol and hearing his address on behalf of the American people.”

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

“We are honored and overjoyed that Pope Francis, the first pontiff born in the Americas, has accepted our invitation to address a Joint Meeting of Congress during his upcoming visit to the United States.

“Pope Francis has renewed the faith of Catholics worldwide and inspired a new generation of people, regardless of their religious affiliation, to be instruments of peace. In the spirit of the namesake of San Francisco, St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis’ universal message of love and compassion speaks to millions around the world.

“We are eager to welcome His Holiness to the U.S. Capitol and we look forward to hearing his call to live our values, to protect the poor and the needy, and to promote peace.”

Boehner and Pelosi both are of the Roman Catholic faith.

Posted on Thursday, February 5th, 2015
Under: John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

House members react to net neutrality plan

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced Wednesday that he’s proposing strong new rules that would bar Internet and wireless providers from blocking, slowing or discriminating against consumers’ access to particular websites and services – thus preserving “net neutrality.”

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“The proposed update to net neutrality rules is a triumph for the American consumer. The American people asked for the strongest possible rules to ensure a free and open Internet, and Chairman Wheeler has heard their voices by proposing to reclassify broadband under Title II of the Communications Act.

“The American people asked for net neutrality rules to apply to both fixed and mobile broadband service and the updated rules again deliver.

“The American people asked for and received bright-line rules to prevent throttling of Internet content, prohibit paid prioritization, and a ban on blocking.

“Finally, the proposed update goes a step further to prevent broadband providers from discriminating against content providers at the point of network entry.

“This is the architecture of our digital future. The Chairman’s proposal deserves the vote of the full Commission.”

From Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose:

“The record breaking number of comments received by the FCC left no doubt that the public supports strong net neutrality rules. I’m pleased Commissioner Wheeler has recognized that public sentiment today and put forward a good plan to use Title II authority to implement and enforce open internet protections.

“These protections, including bans on blocking, throttling, or prioritizing Internet traffic based on source, application, or content, will bolster innovation and self-expression across the nation and around the world. Large technology companies, small app developers, movie and television writers, public advocacy organizations, and the public at large all stand to benefit from a free and open internet.

“Additionally, I am pleased the Chairman has put forth a plan that emphasizes restraint – forbearing from regulations unnecessary for achieving an open and competitive internet.

“I look forward to a swift consideration of the Chairman’s proposal by the full Commission.”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 10 Comments »

AG Eric Holder in Oakland, SF on Thursday

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will be in Oakland and San Francisco on Thursday to wrap up his national “Building Community Trust” tour seeking stronger bonds between law enforcement and the people they’re supposed to protect and serve.

Eric HolderHolder – in his final days in his job, as his nominated successor, federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch, awaits Senate confirmation – will take part in a roundtable discussion with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Rep. Barbara Lee, and other selected officials and community members at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Oakland’s federal building on Clay Street.

The event isn’t open to the public.

“I am very glad the Attorney General accepted my invitation to come to Oakland and hear first-hand our community’s concerns and ideas to enact much needed change,” Lee, D-Oakland, said in a news release. “We must work together to take the long overdue action needed to build trust between the community and law enforcement and ensure justice for all. This dialogue is an important step in that effort.”

Holder on Thursday afternoon will meet with students and police officers and tour the Willie Mays Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco.

Holder in September announced a National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, a $4.75 million effort to combat distrust and hostility between law enforcement and the communities they serve – a reaction to the massive protests following the slaying of a young black man by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo.

This will be the final stop on his tour. Previous stops included Atlanta in November; Cleveland, Chicago and Memphis in December; and Philadelphia in January.

Posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
Under: Attorney General, Civil liberties, Public safety | No Comments »