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Your state and Bay Area House-race roundup

All in all, it was a dismal night for Republicans in California House races.

Of the 11 California House races deemed competitive by the renowned Cook Political Report, Democrats won seven outright and are on top in two too-close-to-call other races. Another way of slicing and dicing it: All of the three endangered Democratic incumbents in these races won re-election, but only one of the four Republicans might’ve. And of the new or open seats, Democrats won three of the four.

More specifically:

    The battles to unseat Reps. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, remain too close to call with some mail-in and provisional ballots yet to be counted, but both trail their Democratic challengers by narrow margins.
    Reps. Jerry McNerney; John Garamendi, D-Fairfield; and Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara all turned away their Republican challengers to win re-election. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, is the only Republican incumbent definitely left standing in these competitive races.

Not than anyone considered it competitive, but Democrat Jared Huffman trounced Republican Dan Roberts to succeed Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-San Rafael, in the North Bay’s newly drawn 2nd Congressional District, which reaches from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border.

In the Bay Area, as usual, the only question for most Democratic incumbents (with the exception, of course, of Pete Stark) was by how enormous a margin they would dispatch their challengers. See how that all stacks up as of this hour, after the jump…
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Miller leads complaint about foreclosure aid

Rep. George Miller, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat, led 18 House Democrats in complaining to the Obama Administration yesterday that not enough has been done to help distressed homeowners in the Bay Area and nationwide.

“We are writing to urge stronger and immediate actions by the Administration to help many of our constituents who are being routinely abused, lied to, and subjected to financial conflicts of interest by lenders and mortgage servicers, including those participating in federal programs,” they said in their letter to Vice President Joe Biden.

“Our constituents are running out of time. This Administration must stand up for America’s families caught in the housing crisis. The Making Home Affordable Program is simply not making sufficient progress to prevent unnecessary foreclosures. It has so far failed to ensure that mortgage servicers work with homeowners in good faith to achieve loss mitigation that works for homeowners, investors and our communities.”

With the $29 billion Home Affordable Modification Program having been pegged by the Government Accountability Office and other independent watchdogs as inefficient and in need of reform, House Republicans are targeting HAMP for elimination as part of their proposed budget cuts. Miller, D-Martinez, and his cohorts don’t support that, but rather are urging the program’s immediate improvement to crack down on mortgage servicers’ abusive practices.

Miller organized a meeting last week for more than a dozen of his colleagues with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan to convey their concern over HAMP and their constituents’ mistreatment. Among the signatories of yesterday’s letter were representatives John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose.

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House passes GOP budget rollback resolution

The House today voted 256-165 to pass H.Res. 38, a resolution directing committees to cut non-security discretionary spending to 2008 levels or lower, “beginning with a down payment in the form of a continuing resolution that will fund the government at pre-‘stimulus,’ pre-bailout levels or lower for the remainder of the fiscal year,” according to House Speaker John Boehner’s office.

The vote came hours before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, in which he’s expected to extend for another two years the three-year partial freeze of domestic programs that he suggested in 2010.

From Boehner, R-Ohio:

“I am pleased the House has committed itself to cutting Washington spending. At a time when the Treasury Secretary is begging Congress to raise the debt limit, a ‘freeze’ is simply inadequate. Rather than lock in the consequences of Washington Democrats’ job-destroying spending binge, we pledged to cut spending to pre-‘stimulus,’ pre-bailout levels and impose real spending caps. The American people have rejected the idea that we can spend and borrow our way to prosperity, as have many economists. The new majority has listened, cut Congress’s budget, and now we’re focused on keeping our pledge to cut spending to pre-‘stimulus,’ pre-bailout levels. We’ve listened, and tonight the American people will find out whether President Obama has done the same.”

Unsurprisingly, the entire Bay Area delegation voted against it (except for Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who didn’t vote). From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“The ‘budget plan’ which the Republicans propose lacks the most basic element required of a budget — numbers. In my 18 years of service in Congress and a decade in county government, I’ve never seen a budget plan with no numbers. My constituents deserve a clear strategy for reducing the deficit. The budget resolution should also be a roadmap for addressing how we can create jobs, strengthen our economy, and detailing what programs will be cut and where we will invest. These are tough decisions. They require a serious plan, not a numberless-nothing bill.”

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, responded to the GOP bill by introducing his own H.R. 413, the “Defense and Deficit Reduction Act,” to take defense spending back to 2008 levels for the next five years. From Stark:

“We can’t be serious about reducing the deficit if we’re going to wall off 60 percent of our discretionary spending from cuts. This legislation would save $182 billion, from a sector riddled with extra planes and engines that the Pentagon doesn’t want. At a time when we are spending seven times the next closest nation on our military, we must look toward defense for waste and potential savings.”

UPDATE @ 3:13 P.M.: Here’s Stark, speaking earlier today on the House floor:

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Senate OKs water safety bill with East Bay roots

The U.S. Senate yesterday unanimously passed a bipartisan bill that strengthens and clarifies standards to protect people from toxic lead in drinking water by reducing the allowable lead content in drinking water pipes, pipe fittings and plumbing fixtures.

Though authored in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and in the House by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, these new national standards arguably got their start right here in the East Bay. The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) sponsored identical legislation for California, enacted in 2006, and was among the many sponsors of this federal legislation as well.

EBMUD Governmental Affairs Manager and Special Assistant to the General Manager Randy Kanouse sent a memo to agency staffers yesterday congratulating them on the bill’s passage. “Generations of future children will lead healthier lives because of the foresight and the leadership of the East Bay Municipal Utility District Board of Directors,” he wrote.

“I am so pleased that the Senate has acted to pass this important piece of bipartisan legislation today that will help protect our children and families from dangerous lead,” Boxer, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a news release.

The Senate bill was cosponsored by U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the ranking Republican on Boxer’s committee.

“It isn’t often that Senator Boxer and I agree on legislation,” said Inhofe, a renowned global warming skeptic who once said it’s “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” while Boxer has toiled constantly to curb it. “Yet in this case, we did. Here is an opportunity to pass a bill that will help further decrease the amount of lead in water without imposing a burden on America’s manufacturers.”

Lead can harm the nervous system and brain development, and is especially dangerous for pregnant women, infants and children. Current federal law allows plumbing fixtures that carry drinking water to have as much as 8 percent lead; this new bill says the wetted surface of such plumbing can’t contain more than a weighted average of 0.25 percent lead.

S. 3874 now goes to the House for consideration.

“In 21st century America, we have a responsibility to do more to protect our children and families against the lead exposure acquired through plumbing systems. Lead-free plumbing is an existing alternative, it’s affordable, and it’s time we adopt it across the nation,” Eshoo said yesterday. “California recognized the hazard lead poses and in 2006 enacted the toughest lead content standard for drinking water faucets, fittings, and plumbing systems anywhere in the world. This bill will eliminate the threat of lead in faucets and fixtures across the country.”

UPDATE @ 2:12 P.M.: The House has passed the bill on a 226-109 vote, sending it to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

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Eshoo’s TV ad volume bill is signed into law

The next time you need not reach for the remote during a commercial break, thank Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto.

President Barack Obama today signed into law S.2847, the Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, which forbids television ads from playing at a volume noticeably louder than the programs during which they air. Eshoo’s House version of the bill passed the House a year ago but wasn’t taken up in the Senate; S. 2847, introduced by U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., contained Eshoo’s language and advanced this year. The Senate passed it unanimously on Sept. 29 and the House passed it on a voice vote Dec. 2.

“With the signing of the CALM Act, the top consumer complaint to the Federal Communications Commission for over a half century is now addressed,” Eshoo said in a statement issued this afternoon.

“Households across the country will now get the relief they deserve from the annoyance of blaringly loud television commercials. Consumers will no longer need to dive for the ‘mute’ button during commercial breaks,” she said. “My simple, two-page bill reduces the volume of television commercials, allowing them to be no louder than regular programming. It gives the control of sound back to the consumer, where it belongs. While this small bill doesn’t solve the many challenges facing our country, it is a commonsense solution for a national nuisance.”

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McNerney voted for the war supplemental

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, was the only Bay Area House member to vote in favor of the $33 billion Afghanistan and Iraq war supplemental spending bill yesterday. The bill passed on a 308-114 vote.

I asked McNerney’s office why he voted as he did, and how he felt about this week’s release of classified military documents on the WikiLeaks website.

Jerry McNerney “The leaking of classified information is a very serious matter, especially if it has the potential to put American troops at risk. I have been following these developments carefully,” he replied in an e-mail this afternoon. “I voted in favor of the supplemental because I believe we must continue to develop an effective strategy to stop terrorists who are attempting to use Afghanistan as a safe haven from which to attack our country.

“Late last year, I traveled to Afghanistan as part of a bipartisan fact-finding trip to see for myself the situation on ground,” he continued. “I spent time with our troops and met with U.S. military and Afghan government officials. I’m impressed by the efforts of our men and women in uniform and grateful for their sacrifice, and I believe our military commanders and our troops in the field should have the resources to defend themselves and execute the mission they have been given.”

Politically, it seemed like a no-brainer. Regardless of how McNerney personally feels about the wars, a “no” vote would’ve been risky for the only truly embattled House incumbent serving the most moderate district in the Bay Area, and it’s not as if he’d have put the Democratic doves’ votes over the top.

Read other Bay Area members’ comments, after the jump…
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