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How Bay Area House members voted on CRomnibus

The House voted 219-206 Thursday night to pass the $1.1 trillion “CRomnibus” spending bill to avert a government shutdown and fund the federal government through next October.

Conservative Republicans opposed the measure because it doesn’t explicitly bar President Obama from implementing his executive actions on immigration; many Democrats opposed it because of non-budgetary policy riders attached to the bill, including one that to roll back a key provision of the landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform act and another to raise the maximum amount contributors can give to political parties.

This made for some pretty weird bedfellows. President Barack Obama; Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, all urged its passage, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and conservatives like Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., opposed it.

In the end, 57 Democrats crossed the aisle to join 162 Republicans in supporting it, while 67 Republicans crossed the aisle to join 139 Democrats in opposing it. Ten members did not vote.

Here’s how the Bay Area delegation split:

YEA: George Miller, D-Martinez; Sam Farr, D-Carmel

NAY: Pelosi; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton

See what some had to say about it, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, December 11th, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

On George Miller’s last day, Pelosi pays tribute

Assuming Congress passes the “CRomnibus” spending bill tonight to avert a government shutdown, today will be Rep. George Miller’s last day on the House floor. He’ll spend the next few weeks in the district, and when the new Congress is sworn in Jan. 3, Miller, D-Martinez, will be officially retired after 40 years in the House.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, paid tribute Thursday to Miller and to another Californian retiring after four decades of service, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles.

“Thank you to the leader of our California Democratic delegation, Zoe Lofgren. Thank you for bringing us together this evening for a very bittersweet circumstance. That is to say: how proud we are to honor the leadership of two great giants of the Congress, Henry Waxman and George Miller; how sad we are that they are leaving us. I come to the floor, Mr. Speaker, today to join in celebrating two of the most accomplished Members of this great body.

“And when I say most accomplished, I’m not just speaking in the context of the present Congress. I’m talking about two of the most accomplished Members of this great body of all time. A pair of Californians with 80 years between them – 80 years of service in the House – retiring with an unparalleled record, certainly an unsurpassed record of legislative achievements to their name, Congressman Henry Waxman and Congressman George Miller.

“I’m proud to do that as a Californian, and I thank our Chairwoman, Zoe Lofgren, again for this opportunity. As they depart for new endeavors at the end of this session, which is in about 48 hours, each of them leaves a legacy of leadership that is felt in the lives of everyday Americans. And that’s so important. In doing so, they’re both pioneers.

Henry_Waxman“For four decades, Henry Waxman’s name has been synonymous with responsible action, extraordinary legislative skill, passionate public service, and bold leadership on behalf of the people of Los Angeles, who he represents, and the American people. Time and again, Henry has been the first to appreciate the seriousness of the challenges before us, and the first to bring forward solutions to solve them. Time does not allow, and other Members will mention so many accomplishments, but I just want to focus on from the start, this is what I saw up close and early: from the start, in the early dark days of the HIV-AIDS epidemic, Henry Waxman fought to invest in AIDS research, support treatment and care and prevention and pass the landmark Ryan White Care Act.

“Long before the rest of our nation awakened to the gathering storm of climate change, early on, Congressman Waxman worked to create bold new protections for the air we breathe, the water we drink, the earth we call home. From the first days of his long career, he recognized the urgency of delivering quality, affordable health care to all. And together with some of our other colleagues, it was with his leadership as Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee that we honored that commitment with the Affordable Care Act.

“Also working on the Affordable Care Act from his committee – the Education and Labor Committee – Chairman George Miller has left an indelible mark on the laws and the Members of this august body. George has been the model of a serious and substantive legislator, a champion for working people who has had his hand in some of the most innovative and important legislation of our time. Members over and over – some already have, others will – talk about his legislative accomplishment. I just will name some. I mentioned the Affordable Care Act; Lilly Ledbetter, the first bill signed by President Obama, to end discrimination in the workplace; the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the last bill passed by a Democratic majority; ending discrimination for women in the workplace and men and women in the military; Earned Income Tax Credit.

George Miller“There’s one thing I want to mention, and this is PAYGO. Because again, this is something I saw firsthand. George Miller put together the initiative for Pay-As-You-Go so that we were not increasing the deficit as we made investments for our future. It was 1982; we were at a mid-term convention of the Democrats in Philadelphia. George Miller had the resolution to pass PAYGO, very fiscally sound and responsible. The resolution passed. It was so revolutionary that they never had a mid-term convention again because he was really there not to make speeches but to make change. But in any event he made that change. It didn’t become effective, really, until several years later when President Clinton became President of the United States and we went on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. So whatever we were doing, we were not increasing the deficit. He’s been a deficit hawk, a very progressive deficit hawk, in the lead on that subject.

“So when he was doing the earned income tax cut, Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, ENDA – we haven’t passed it yet but George advanced it in the House any number of times, – early childhood education, lifetime learning – I keep coming back to the children. I have said that when people ask me what are the three most important issues facing the Congress, I say the same thing: Our children, our children, our children; their health, their education, the economic security of their families, the air they breathe, environment which they live a world of peace in which they can reach their fulfillment.

“No one in the Congress has done more for our children, our children, our children then George Miller, George Miller, George Miller. So not only his focus on the children but having them live in a world that takes them outside our country. So forceful was he for advocacy for children in other countries, for fairness and opportunity and social justice, that he became a subject of the Salvadoran death squads. They tried to search him down in the United States because he was such a fierce champion for fairness in their country as well.

“And so, here we are. Two great, very committed people. If you ask them what the secret of their success would be and how they’ve achieved so much, they will be modest – well, sometimes. But what they will both tell you separately is that, the guidance they give the rest of us: Just stick with it; just keep on working; just make sure that the other side – whoever that might be – knows you’re not going to go away, because you have a goal that is responsible; you have an urgency for the people and you will make sure that you make the difference.

“And in many ways we all live in a nation shaped, defined and strengthened by George Miller and Henry Waxman: their keen vision, abiding determination, courageous leadership have put them in the ranks of the greatest legislators in our history. When they leave this House, we can be certain that they will continue to use their extraordinary knowledge and talent in new venues and new ways to serve America’s children and families.

”As we acknowledge them and express our appreciation to them, we also have to acknowledge their spouses. Janet Waxman and Cynthia Miller have contributed 80 years of being spouses to Members of Congress – that’s really almost like 80 years each; that’s like twice as long as serving as to be a Congressional spouse, all the sacrifices that involved.

“Tonight we say a heartfelt thank you not only to George and Henry and voice our gratitude to them, but to the Waxman and Miller families for sharing these great men with our great nation. With that I yield back to the distinguished leader of our delegation. Thank you.”

Posted on Thursday, December 11th, 2014
Under: George Miller, Henry Waxman, Nancy Pelosi | No Comments »

Is the Bay Area’s House policy clout fading?

For the first time in a long, long time, the Bay Area is without any committee chairs or ranking members in the House.

Of course, the region still is home to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco. But with the retirement of Rep. George Miller, the Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat and former chairman, the region’s policy influence seems blunted. It’s a far cry from 2007, when Miller chaired his committee, the late Rep. Tom Lantos chaired Foreign Affairs, and Pelosi was Speaker.

As I wrote yesterday, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, lost her bid – despite Pelosi’s strong support – to leapfrog a more senior member and become the Energy and Commerce Committee’s ranking member. And though Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, announced earlier this month that he would seek to become Transportation and Infrastructure’s ranking member, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., won that vote Wednesday.

“Peter has been my friend throughout my time here and that will continue,” Garamendi said after the vote. “Peter and I share a strong commitment to a ‘Make It In America’ agenda and trade policies that protect the environment, workers’ rights, and middle-class families. Working together, we can lead our party in addressing a range of transportation and infrastructure challenges, including water infrastructure, surface transportation, FAA, and Amtrak authorizations.”

That’s not to say the Bay Area will be without a voice. Several Bay Area members are likely to remain the ranking members on key subcommittees (like Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security).

And Pelosi appointed two local congressmen – Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, and Mike Thompson, D-Napa – to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which helps set the caucus’ policy agenda and nominates Democratic members for committee assignments. (They replace Pelosi’s local appointments from the 113th Congress, Miller and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.)

“As a member of the next generation of our caucus, I look forward to working in a collaborative way to promote the policies that will lift up all Americans,” Swalwell said.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will continue serving on that Democratic committee, having won re-election as a regional representative.

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 2 Comments »

My Commonwealth Club chat w/ Rep. George Miller

Please join us this Wednesday evening, Oct. 8 in Lafayette for my public conversation with Rep. George Miller – who is retiring at the end of this year after 40 years in the House – hosted by the Commonwealth Club of California.

George MillerFord was president; former U.S. Attorney General John N. Mitchell, former presidential Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman had just been convicted in the Watergate cover-up; and a gallon of gas cost about 57 cents in January 1975 when Miller, D-Martinez, first was sworn in at the tender age of 29.

Now 69, Miller has chaired, and is still ranking Democrat of, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce; has been a key advisor to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; and consistently has been among the House’s most liberal voices. State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, and retired immigration judge Tue Phan of Danville, a Republican, are vying to succeed him in the 11th Congressional District.

“Join The Commonwealth Club to celebrate this long time public servant as Congressman Miller reflects on four decades in office, what he expects to see from Congress in the coming years, the race for his seat, and more,” the club invites.

Check-in starts at 6 p.m. and the program starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Lafayette Library, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette. Tickets cost $12 for club members, $22 for non-members and $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online.

Posted on Monday, October 6th, 2014
Under: George Miller, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Congressional Soccer Caucus turns eyes to Qatar

Rep. George Miller helped introduce a resolution Thursday calling for better protection for migrant workers in Qatar who are building that tiny Middle Eastern emirate’s facilities for the 2022 World Cup.

Miller, D-Martinez, who co-chairs the Congressional Soccer Caucus…

Wait, what?

Yes, there is a Congressional Soccer Caucus. It has three other co-chairs plus 23 members.

“The mission of the Congressional Soccer Caucus is to encourage legislation, activities and events that promote soccer and issues affecting the greater soccer community, toward encouraging healthy and active lifestyles among America’s youth,” according to the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s website. The foundation “serves as the public advocacy arm for the game and provides information and support for the Caucus.”

Who knew? I did not. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…

qatar2022Lawmakers contend Qatar’s migrant workforce faces horrible conditions, including 12-to-16 hour working days in triple-digit heat, indentured servitude by unscrupulous labor contractors, and squalid, overcrowded labor camps. More than 500,000 additional immigrant workers, primarily from Nepal, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, are expected to arrive in the run-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Recent reports warn that as many as 4,000 migrant construction workers could die from the unsafe living and working conditions by the time that tournament kicks off.

“After America’s exciting showing in the 2014 World Cup and as soccer fans around the world look forward to future world cups, we must ensure that the workers who make these events possible have safe working conditions,” Miller said in a news release. “The current conditions Qatar’s migrant workforce face are simply unacceptable. The Qatari government, FIFA, the United Nations, and the International Labour Organization have all recognized that conditions need to improve but have taken no meaningful action. We’ve introduced this resolution in hopes of ending the abuse of migrant labor in Qatar.”

H.Res. 862, of which Miller is lead sponsor, resolution calls on the Qatari government to make changes to their legal system to better protect migrant workers; urges the United States to prioritize the rights of migrant workers in their relations with Qatar; encourages American businesses to honor international human rights standards by holding their contractors and subcontractors accountable for labor violations; and asks FIFA to continue to advocate for fair labor practices in Qatar. The European Parliament already has passed a similar resolution.

Among the resolution’s 17 cosponsors (all Democrats) is fellow Soccer Caucus member Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, who attended the University of Maryland initially on – you guessed it – a soccer scholarship.

Posted on Thursday, July 24th, 2014
Under: Eric Swalwell, George Miller, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Miller, Dems offer ‘Schedules That Work Act’

Rep. George Miller helped introduce a bill Tuesday that supporters say would give hourly workers greater scheduling flexibility and certainty, and stem some employers’ abusive scheduling practices.

George MillerMiller, D-Martinez, the ranking Democrat on the Education and the Workforce Committee, said H.R. 5159, the Schedules That Work Act, “is about protecting basic dignity: the dignity of work and the dignity of the individual.”

“Workers need scheduling predictability so they can arrange for child care, pick up kids from school, or take an elderly parent to the doctor,” he said. “The Schedules That Work Act ensures that employers and employees have mutual respect for time dedicated to the workplace.”

Miller introduced the bill with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.; they were joined at a Capitol Hill news conference by representatives from the National Women’s Law Center and two hourly workers. The bill already has 27 co-sponsors, and U.S. Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., are introducing a companion bill.

The lawmakers say workers in some of the economy’s fastest-growing but lowest-paying industries — including the retail, food service, and janitorial work — face erratic and irregular work schedules, making it hard to earn a decent living while meeting family responsibilities.

This bill, they say, would protect all employees from retaliation for requesting a more flexible, predictable or stable schedule, and would create a balanced process for employers to consider requests. Workers making such requests due to caregiving duties, a health condition, education or training courses or a second job would have to be granted the schedule change unless the employer has a bona fide business reason for denying it.

The bill would require paying retail, food service, and cleaning workers for at least four hours of work if an employee reports to work when scheduled for at least four hours but is sent home early. It also would provide that retail, food service, and cleaning employees receive work schedules at least two weeks in advance; though schedules may later be changed, one hour’s worth of extra pay is required for schedules changed with less than 24 hours’ notice.

And the bill would require an extra hour of pay for workers who are scheduled to work split shifts, or non-consecutive shifts within a single day.

“Low-wage workers in America are too often being jerked around,” DeLauro said. “These women — and they are usually women — cannot plan ahead, or make arrangements to see that theirs kids and family are being taken care of. This bill would protect low-wage workers from abuse and help ensure they can look after their families. Congress needs to ensure that people putting in a hard day’s work get a fair day’s pay and the ability to care for their loved ones.”

Posted on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014
Under: George Miller, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Bipartisan praise for workforce bill

Once in a while, Congress actually gets something done. (And how sad it is to have to start a news item this way.)

House Speaker John Boehner joined with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders Friday to sign H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, a bipartisan jobs bill. The bill now goes to President Obama to be signed into law.

Boehner, Pelosi & Miller 7-11-2014“This is a very good job training and retraining bill that will help many people in America have better access to the kind of skills that are needed in today’s workforce,” said Boehner, R-Ohio. “What this bill does is consolidate a number of job training programs and provide flexibility at the local level.”

“This is a great opportunity for us to show that we can get things done, that we can listen to the American people, and work together on their behalf, because their priorities, frankly, are our priorities,” he added.

H.R. 803 streamlines the workforce development system by consolidating and eliminating programs, applying the same outcome standards to the remaining programs, creating smaller and more efficient state and local workforce development boards, giving states flexibility to address their own specific needs, aligning programs with economic development and education initiatives, and more.

Pelosi called the bill “a recognition that the American people are very talented. It’s a recognition that the private sector stands ready to work with the workforce to provide the training.”

American workers have many skills, but “need specific training to be a match, to meet the needs that the Speaker talked about, about those job vacancies. So this is really important in making sure we have a workforce for the 21st century – skilled and trained to meet the needs of the private sector and the entrepreneurial spirit of America.”

Rep. George Miller was at the signing too, as ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. He posted a Facebook item saying it was “great to be part of a rare bi-partisan group that put together a bill to modernize job training programs to help workers get the skills that are in demand.”

“Of course, Congress also needs to spend time creating jobs rebuilding America, but this training bill is a very important step that I support,” added Miller, D-Martinez.

Posted on Friday, July 11th, 2014
Under: George Miller, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 44 Comments »

George Miller to receive two awards this month

Rep. George Miller, retiring at the end of this year after 40 years in the House, will pick up awards later this month as part of a victory lap that could last through the end of his 20th term.

George MillerThe California League of Conservation Voters will present Miller, D-Martinez, with its “Byron Sher Lifetime Achievement Award” during the group’s 2014 Northern California Environmental Leadership Awards ceremony on Thursday, June 26 in San Francisco.

The group notes that Miller “has been a leading advocate in Congress on the environment, education, labor, and the economy since he was first elected in 1975. From 1991 to 1994 he chaired the House Natural Resources Committee, overseeing the environment, energy, and public lands, and served as that committee’s Senior Democrat until 2000, taking what worked in California to the national level.”

Then, the Contra Costa County Democratic Party will honor Miller at its inaugural Roosevelt Awards Dinner on Friday, June 27 in Concord.

State Sen. Mark DeSaunlier, D-Concord, and retired immigration judge Tue Phan of Danville will compete in November to succeed Miller in the 11th Congressional District. DeSaulnier won 59 percent of the vote in June 3’s primary election while Phan got 28 percent; four other candidates were eliminated.

Posted on Wednesday, June 18th, 2014
Under: George Miller, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Neel Kashkari praises teacher-tenure ruling

A Los Angeles judge’s ruling Tuesday that California’s teacher tenure, layoff and dismissal laws are unconstitutional is “an important first step in transforming our schools,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari said.

“I applaud today’s ruling by Judge Treu, which recognizes that every student in California has a Constitutional right to a quality education but that their rights are being violated by failing schools,” Kashkari said in a statement issued soon after the ruling.

“California ranks 46th in the nation in education, and it will take the joint efforts of parents, teachers and political leaders to make the bold changes our kids deserve,” he said. “Today’s ruling is an important first step in transforming our schools; if we are to close the achievement gap, reduce income inequality and rebuild the middle class, then we must continue to pursue bold education reform. I have made transforming our schools a centerpiece of my campaign for Governor and I am encouraged by today’s development.”

UPDATE @ 12:40 P.M.: Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s senior Democrat, also applauded the ruling:

“Judge Treu’s ruling affirms the simple and undeniable premise that every child, regardless of background or zip code, has the right to a high-quality education and an effective teacher. It is not only Californians who should celebrate today’s decision, but families in every state and school district across the country.

“For years, our nation’s courts have been the arbiter of equity in education. Like Brown v. Board, Serrano, Butt, and the many other landmark educational equality cases before it, Vergara will help refocus our education system on the needs of students.

“Unfortunately, school districts nationwide have policies in place that mirror those challenged in Vergara—policies that constrain the ability of schools to put the very best teachers in front the children that need them most. This is simply indefensible. Today’s ruling puts every school with similar policies on notice.

“I call upon all stakeholders in my home state—elected officials, community and school leaders, and teachers—to be bold and do what is right for kids. This is an historic opportunity and a defining moment for California, one that we must not squander. The Vergara decision underscores the state’s responsibility to protect the rights of children to constitutionally mandated equal educational opportunities. We owe it to the six million students in California’s public education system to be thoughtful and deliberate, and to put their needs first as we move forward.”

Posted on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
Under: education, George Miller, Neel Kashkari, U.S. House | 21 Comments »

USA Freedom Act vote splits Bay Area reps

The Bay Area’s House delegation was somewhat split – and along surprising lines – as the House voted 303-121 on Thursday to pass a bill supporters say would end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of American phone records.

The USA Freedom Act, HR 3361, was amended after it arrived on the House floor, and some former supporters believed it had been watered down too much; for example, a requirement for an independent public advocate on the secret intelligence court that oversees the NSA was dropped from the bill.

Voting for the bill were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and representatives Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton.

From Thompson:

“Our government has a responsibility to protect people’s civil liberties and our national security, and this legislation does both. It ends the government’s bulk collection of metadata, it strengthens oversight and improves accountability of our intelligence community, and it allows our intelligence community to continue their brave work to keep Americans safe.”

Voting against the bill were representatives Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; and and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz.

From Lofgren:

“Across the country, many people were surprised to learn that the privacy rights they believed were protected under the 4th Amendment did not apply to NSA surveillance of their communications.

“I originally cosponsored the USA FREEDOM Act when it was introduced last yearbecause it was a small step toward reform and transparency. Unfortunately the bill was changed in key ways after committee action and will no longer provide the protections I sought.

“I voted against it today because it falls short of the Fourth Amendment protections Americans deserve.

“There is strong bipartisan concern that this bill makes it legal for the NSA to continue mass surveillance of U.S. citizens. Many civil liberties groups and leading tech companies share these concerns and felt compelled to withdraw their support.

“Without much needed improvements to the USA FREEDOM Act, Congress risks a continuation of mass surveillance in this extension of the Patriot Act.”

Posted on Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »