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California’s House water war continues

The California House delegation’s internecine water war continues.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, announced Wednesday morning that H.R. 5781 – the California Drought Relief Act, introduced by Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford – will be scheduled for a floor vote next week. McCarthy said:

“California is facing the worst drought in a century, which has led to barren farms and drastic water shortages in our communities. We have reached this point after years of inaction by Senate Democrats while ill-conceived policies have continued to prioritize the well-being of fish above people. Though only Mother Nature can dictate the duration of the drought, the situation demands immediate action to address government-created barriers to ensure available water flows throughout our state and not washed out to the ocean.

“After the House and Senate passed separate California water bills this year, months were spent working on a bipartisan compromise for a long-term solution. Unfortunately, the Senate was pressured to quit negotiations at the last minute.

“This crisis cannot go unanswered, and the House’s unwavering commitment to find a solution has led to the California Emergency Drought Relief Act, introduced by Congressman David Valadao. Due to the urgent nature of the water crisis, the House will vote on this legislation next week.

“The first storms of the season are currently over California, with hopefully more to come in the subsequent months. It would be reckless and irresponsible to let the water from these storms be released into the ocean rather than directed to our local communities in need. The California Emergency Drought Relief Act contains provisions from the original Senate-passed bill and from the House’s negotiations with the Senate. Absent action now, California will continue to lose the water from storms in this water year and will face another year of devastating water-crisis. While more must be done toward a long-term solution, this legislation is another critical step to provide relief to our communities suffering from the drought, which is why the House and Senate must act on this bill.”

The Fresno Bee’s write-up on the bill characterizes it as “friendly to farmers and frightening to environmentalists.” The bill’s co-sponsors include McCarthy; Devin Nunes, R-Tulare; Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay; Ken Calvert, R-Corona; Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville; and Jim Costa, D-Fresno.

Bay- and Delta-area Democrats including Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; George Miller, D-Martinez; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; and Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, responded with a joint statement Wednesday afternoon:

“With just a few days left in the legislative session, the House plans to pass yet another divisive, dishonest, and potentially devastating California water bill without any public input or legislative oversight. This is unconscionable, and just the latest chapter in Republicans’reckless approach to micromanaging the state’s water during one of the worst droughts in our history.

“The idea that this bill is a ‘compromise’ is laughable. It is clear that this bill was thrown together without any input from anyone other than those who stand to benefit from its passage. This bill was not reviewed by the Natural Resources Committee, nor has it received input from federal agencies, the state, affected local water agencies, the fishing industry, tribes, or communities. Legislation this sweeping should be the subject of public hearings and input from all affected stakeholders.

“The bill makes it more difficult for state and federal agencies to make real-time water decisions, undermines state water rights priorities, misstates current law, and explicitly overrides the Endangered Species Act. These sweeping changes would place the west coast’s environment, tribes, communities, and the fishing industry in harm’s way in the next drought year.

“The drought does not stop at the edge of congressional districts, yet this bill insulates some parts of the state from the tough water decisions that will be made in the next year. We’re all in this together, and Congress should not tie water managers’ hands nor should we address drought conditions in some parts of the state at the expense of others.”

Posted on Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014
Under: Ami Bera, David Valadao, George Miller, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Kevin McCarthy, Mike Thompson, water | 3 Comments »

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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Posted on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Dan Lungren, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jeff Denham, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 7 Comments »

California Democrats urge mortgage investigation

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, joined fellow California Democrats today and sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging federal support for an investigation into mortgage fraud.

California and Nevada attorney generals have teamed up to crack down on mortgage fraud.

Here’s what Garamendi’s office just sent out:

 

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA) yesterday joined more than 30 Congressional Democrats from California in sending a letter to President Barack Obama urging the Administration to support California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ efforts to investigate and crack down on fraud in the mortgage industry. Congressman Garamendi’s district was especially hard hit by the housing crisis and Great Recession. Solano County continues to have the nation’s second-highest foreclosure rate, and Contra Costa County communities like Antioch and Oakley have also been hard hit by foreclosures.

“The abuses and fraud need to be fully investigated, and I commend Attorney General Harris for taking appropriate leadership in helping homeowners,” Garamendi said. “I hope the President uses the power of his Administration to aid Harris. We need to make sure that these rip off artists are exposed for their crimes, and to whatever degree we can help working families keep their homes, we should.”

32 California Democrats signed the letter to President Obama. Text of the letter is below. A pdf of the letter, including signatories, is available here.

Dear President Obama:

California homeowners, and those throughout the country, continue to suffer as a result of the irresponsible and fraudulent actions of the mortgage industry.  We write in support of California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ continued investigation into the potential misconduct and fraud by the mortgage industry.  Her determination to provide meaningful relief for California homeowners led to her decision in October 2011 to leave the multi-state settlement negotiations with the major banks.  Attorney General Harris recently announced that she would be aligning her efforts with Nevada’s, with each state committing more resources and energy towards holding the mortgage industry accountable for their actions. 

In October 2011, California ranked second in the country, behind Nevada, in percentage of housing units that entered the foreclosure process—with nearly one in every 243 California homes entering the foreclosure process in that month alone.  We know that California has been home to a myriad of abuses as we catalogued numerous constituent cases in a letter we sent to your Administration last year urging an immediate investigation. 

We support Attorney General Harris’ recent decision to pursue an independent investigation.  We believe that any meaningful settlement must provide assistance for struggling homeowners—particularly those underwater—and should not grant banks a broad release from liability for abuses that have not been investigated and are not remedied by the settlement.  The current multi-state settlement under review would relieve the banks of further liability without fully investigating the alleged wrongdoings.  Furthermore, it would not provide meaningful relief to homeowners as it would apply to only 13% of the mortgages serviced by banks nationwide.  It would likely result in $5 billion in penalties to mortgage servicers, with the rest of the settlement coming in the form of non-cash accounting losses that servicers would have experienced anyway, as the borrowers they declined to assist went into foreclosure.  We can and we must do better for our constituents.

Attorney General Harris’ commitment to delivering a fair outcome for those who have been wronged by the mortgage industry should be commended.  We hope that you will join her and advocate for stronger terms that will have a real impact for hard-working Americans who were victimized by the mortgage industry. 

 

Posted on Friday, December 16th, 2011
Under: Congress | 2 Comments »

Garamendi touts Obama’s American Jobs Act

Rep. John Garamendi was on the phone with reporters just now to tout President Obama’s American Jobs Act, which he called “an extremely important, and very good and timely, proposal.”

Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, said he’s increasingly excited about “the potential this has to employ people, get them back to work and get the economy moving again” and about the fact that that this “a major jobs program that is totally paid for.”

He said he was talking earlier today with Columbia University economist Joseph Stiglitz about the concept of growing the economy by putting people to work and simultaneously raising taxes where appropriate. The President’s plan, he said, has significant tax reductions in places likeliest to boost employment and the economy as well as tax increases where they have best chance to raise money from those who can afford it with least impact on consumer demand.

Specifically, the plan calls for $400 billion in new tax revenue by limiting itemized deductions and certain other exemptions for individuals with adjusted gross incomes of $200,000 or more, or $250,000 and up for married couples. Another $40 billion would come from closing tax loopholes for the enormously profitable oil and gas sector; $18 billion would come from ending hedge fund managers’ ability to count their earnings at the capital gains rate rather than as earned income; and $3 billion on reforming the corporate jet depreciation schedule.

And what would it pay for, particularly here in California? Details, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, September 13th, 2011
Under: economy, John Garamendi, Obama presidency, taxes, U.S. House | 9 Comments »

House votes to axe federal refinance program

Despite railing from Democrats including a few from the East Bay, the House today voted to scrap the Federal Housing Administration Refinance Program, which aims to help homeowners who are “underwater” – owing more on their mortgage than their home is worth – refinance. The vote was 256-171.

Authorized under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the FHA program has used only $50 million of the more than $8 billion set aside for it, and Republicans think the money should be redirected to pay down the federal budget deficit. Democrats agreed the program has underperformed but said it should be fixed rather than abolished, as there’s still enormous need for it.

The bill now goes to the Democrat-dominated U.S. Senate, which probably won’t even take it up, and the White House earlier this week threatened a veto.

Here’s what Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, said today on the House floor:

“I’m proud to represent much of San Joaquin County, which is the jewel of California’s Central Valley. Our Valley is a great place to live and work, but unfortunately we’ve been hit very hard by the economic downturn. The Valley has been ground zero for the foreclosure crisis.

“Over the past few years, thousands of families in San Joaquin County and throughout the Valley have lost their homes. I’ve hosted foreclosure assistance workshops; I’ve met with hardworking people who were misled by lenders who are struggling to stay on top of their mortgages. I’ve seen grown men cry because they couldn’t keep a roof over their children, I’ve talked to veterans who served their country only to return home to notices of default, and I’ve met seniors on the brink of homelessness.

“The administration’s foreclosure prevention initiatives have fallen short in the Valley. Simply put, the administration’s programs haven’t effectively served the people underwater on their mortgage, and the administration hasn’t been tough enough on the big banks. I call on President Obama and his cabinet to develop more effective efforts to stem the tide of foreclosures.

“But despite these shortcomings, the bill the House Republicans are offering today is absolutely the wrong approach. It’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Instead of canceling foreclosure relief programs at their beginning stages like they’re proposing, we should be strengthening them so they’re more effective. Mortgage counselors from my district advise and plead to improve our efforts, to get tough on big banks and provide meaningful relief to families. Stabilizing the housing market is critical to economic recovery and creating jobs.

“For those reasons, I oppose H.R. 830, and I yield back the balance of my time.”

See Rep. John Garamendi’s statement – in four parts – after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, March 10th, 2011
Under: housing, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Honda, Garamendi to co-host Twitter town hall

Two Bay Area lawmakers will be among more than a dozen House Democrats taking part in a “Twitter Town Hall” tomorrow morning, fielding questions from Twitter users about the federal budget and Republicans’ spending bill.

The event, from 9 to 10 a.m. PST Thursday, March 10, can be followed at www.dems.gov/TwitterTownHall; questions for the lawmakers can be submitted by tagging your Tweet with #AskDems or emailing them to AskDems@mail.house.gov.

“Members of Congress need to go where We the People are, and that increasingly means social media platforms like Twitter,” Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, said in a news release. “The Internet is tearing down the gates that used to divide representatives from the public. Community-wide open conversations are now possible online. Public research helped create the Internet; it’s about time public servants utilized it to its fullest potential. With my fellow House Democrats, it’s an honor to join the conversation.”

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, is both a House Budget Committee member and co-Chair of the House Democratic Caucus New Media Working Group, which is hosting this event.

“Using new technologies, Democrats continue to push the envelope in connecting with the American public,” Honda said in his release. “In organizing this national town hall, House Democrats are reaching out to an America that is enraged with the Republican attack on working families, seniors, women, children, students and our economy. The tweeting voices are drawing a line in the sand, saying enough is enough – all in 140 characters or less.”

The purpose of Honda’s working group is to create and share new media best practices with House Democrats to promote broader, more effective contact with constituents. The group in the past year has met with industry leaders such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Google, seeking partnerships to develop such tools.

Posted on Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
Under: John Garamendi, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

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.

Posted on Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
Under: Anna Eshoo, George Miller, housing, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, Joe Biden, John Garamendi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

Dems warn of House GOP budget’s impact on CA

California Democratic Congressional Delegation Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, rallied her troops today for a conference call with at least eight members highlighting how House Republicans’ budget plan would impact California.

“While we know reining in our deficit is necessary for economic prosperity, there is a responsible way to do it,” she said.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, said that “in transportation, we’re really talking about serious, serious job losses in California” as the GOP plan cuts funding for high-speed rail, Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, and other programs adding up to at least $1.25 billion.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, said she’s now circulating a letter to California House members asking Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to redirect to California $2 billion in high-speed rail funds that Florida Gov. Rick Scott yesterday refused; senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer sent such a letter yesterday. Garamendi said unless California gets that money, the Republican budget will leave its rail project underfunded.

Speier was among several members on today’s call who voiced concern at the House GOP plan to cut Title X family planning funding; Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, said Republicans are exercising their “vendetta” against family planning and women’s health.

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, decried a potential $1.3 billion cut to community health care clinics; he said in a rural community like Watsonville where the clinic would lose $151,000 per year from its base grant, jobs would be lost and health access severely curtailed. “It really does have impacts on Main Street all over the United States.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, said even to a fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat like himself, a cut like that makes no sense.

“What they’re doing is a lot like waking up in the morning and finding you’ve put on a lot of weight and deciding you’re going to take care of it by cutting off your leg,” Thompson said, noting sick people cut off from community clinic care will instead seek higher-cost care with traditional family-practice physicians or, worse yet, in emergency rooms. “The cost of health care for these folks is going to go through the roof.”

Farr said addressing the nation’s debt is important, but House Republicans are blurring the distinction between long-term debt – which he likened to a home mortgage – and short-term debt – more like a credit card – in order to score political points.

“What the Republicans are trying to do is scare everybody with the long-term debt saying you have to pay it off right away,” he said, when in fact it’s better to approach that long-term debt with a deliberate, long-term plan rather than “a meat ax.”

Posted on Thursday, February 17th, 2011
Under: Jackie Speier, John Garamendi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

Lawmakers urge banks to allow aid for jobless

Five Northern California members of Congress are pressuring mortgage servicers to work with a new federally funded program in California intended to help unemployed homeowners pay their mortgages and avoid foreclosure.

The Keep Your Home California Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program provides qualified unemployed homeowners up to $3,000 a month for up to six months to help pay their mortgage. But according to the office of Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, if the monthly mortgage exceeds $3,000, the servicers won’t accept any payment at all, even if the homeowner could send a second check to cover the difference between what is owed and what the program covers. As a result, unemployed homeowners who could avoid foreclosure proceedings thanks to this program are instead at risk of failing to pay their mortgage and landing in foreclosure.

“If this program is to have meaningful success, mortgage servicers are going to have to get on board with processing these payments,” Miller said in a news release. “Refusing to accept dual payments is unacceptable and is a disservice to the homeowners who are doing everything they can to stay in their homes while they look for work. Homeowners shouldn’t have to forfeit their homes because of bureaucratic intransigence by banks and servicers.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, another of the letter’s signers, said “it’s time that banks and servicers become part of the solution and not the problem.

“It’s ridiculous that servicers and banks are unwilling to participate in a program that will help protect the value of the very asset on which their loan is based on,” she said. “I find it deeply troubling that servicers would have borrowers default rather than simply accepting payment.”

In their letter – also signed by Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz – they wrote that, “we believe refusing to accept supplementary payments from homeowners is inexcusable and we strongly urge you to remedy this problem expeditiously… It is unacceptable that servicers in California are unwilling or unable to figure out a workable resolution to this problem, particularly given that two viable options to address the issue exist.”

Those options, they say, are either to accept two checks (one from the program and one from the homeowner) or to forebear the amount of the mortgage that exceeds the $3,000 program payment.

Posted on Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
Under: George Miller, housing, Jackie Speier, John Garamendi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 13 Comments »

McNerney to honor Giffords at district meeting

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, says his 63rd “Congress at Your Corner” constituent meeting will pay homage to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was critically wounded by a gunman at such a meeting early this month in Tucson.

Jerry McNerney“I’m firmly committed to being accessible to the people I represent,” McNerney, D-Pleasanton, said in a news release. “Over the past four years, I’ve held dozens of these events and always enjoyed the opportunity to hear directly from the people I represent about their thoughts and ideas. I encourage people to come share their thoughts and ideas with me.”

“In light of the tragedy in Arizona, I’m also inviting the public to attend this event to express their support for the victims of the shooting and write notes to Gabby Giffords, my dear friend and colleague. I know that personal and heartfelt words of support from our community will be greatly appreciated during this difficult time.”

McNerney will later deliver these notes to Giffords’ office in Washington, D.C. Also, to honor the shooting’s victims, his Congress at Your Corner will begin with a moment of silence.

It’ll be from 3 to 4 p.m. this Thursday, Jan. 27, at Stockton’s Cesar Chavez Central Library, 605 N. El Dorado St.

Also Thursday, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Creek, his staff and local officials will host an open house from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at his Fairfield district office at its new, more accessible site at 609 Jefferson St., across the street from the Solano County Government Building.

John Garamendi“The people of the 10th Congressional District have entrusted me to be their representative in Washington, and to do my job, I must be accessible to the people I serve,” Garamendi said in a news release. “Our new Fairfield office is more centrally located, making it easier for my constituents in Solano County to reach out to me and my staff.”

Among those scheduled to attend are Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis; Fairfield Mayor Harry Price and Vice Mayor Chuck Timm; Suisun City Mayor Pete Sanchez and Vice Mayor Jane Day; Solano County Supervisor John Vasquez; and Solano Community College President Jowell Laguerre.

Posted on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Under: Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 2 Comments »