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House members reintroduce background-check bill

A bipiartisan group of House members led by the Bay Area’s Mike Thompson and Pete King, R-N.Y., has re-introduced a bill that would require background checks for all firearm purchases, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads.

But with Republicans in control of the House and Senate, the bill seems doomed from the get-go – especially given that it went nowhere in the last Congress.

H.R. 1217, the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2015, would provide exceptions for family and friend transfers. Its original co-authors are Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Pat Meehan, R-Pa.; Bob Dold, R-Ill.; Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.; Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn.; and Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y.

Mike Thompson“This anti-criminal, pro-Second Amendment bill will help keep spouses, kids and communities safe by preventing dangerous people from getting guns,” Thompson, D-St. Helena, said in a news release. “Background checks are the first line of defense in our efforts to keep guns from criminals, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill, and Congress should fortify that first line of defense by passing our bipartisan bill to close the system’s loopholes.”

King noted the bill also would improve state and federal record-keeping to strengthen the background-check database, and would create a commission to examine mass-violence incidents.

“When background checks are used, they keep guns out of the hands of people we all agree shouldn’t have guns,” he said. “It is estimated that four out of 10 gun buyers do not go through a background check when purchasing a firearm – meaning those with criminal records can easily bypass the system. As government officials it is our responsibility to protect our citizens, and when it comes to gun violence we must do more.”

The bill’s authors say studies show that every day where background checks are used, the system stops more than 170 felons, some 50 domestic abusers, and nearly 20 fugitives from buying a gun. But in much of the nation, no system is in place to prevent these same prohibited purchasers from buying identical guns at a gun show, over the internet, or through a newspaper ad with no questions asked.

But the bill also bans the government from creating a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It also provides exceptions for firearms transfers between family members, friends and hunting buddies; lets active military personnel buy guns in the state in which they are stationed; and allows interstate handgun sales from licensed dealers.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s identical to the bill Thompson and King authored introduced in 2013 – but though it had 188 co-sponsors, H.R. 1565 was never even heard in committee. It’s also the same as the Manchin-Toomey amendment that failed in the Senate in April 2013.

The National Rifle Association opposes expanding background checks, claiming they won’t stop criminals from getting firearms by theft or via the black market.

But Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said this should be “a no-brainer.”

Ninety-two percent of the American public supports this measure to keep guns out of the hands of people like domestic abusers, rapists, and fugitives,” Gross said. “More importantly, it will save lives. We need to let our representatives know that we will not tolerate them putting the interests of the corporate gun lobby ahead of the lives and safety of the citizens they have been elected to represent.”

This new bill has been referred to the House Judiciary and Veterans’ Affairs committees; don’t hold your breath waiting for a hearing date

Posted on Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
Under: gun control, Mike Thompson, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

Today’s congressional odds and ends

Sacramento_San_Joaquin_Delta_NHA Oct 2012-page-001DELTA NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA: The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta would become a National Hertiage Area, to be managed by the Delta Protection Commission, under companion bills introduced Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove. The lawmakers say the goal is to protect and promote the vast history, resources, and economy of the Delta community. Property owners and tribes are explicitly protected in the bill and capable of opting out of any recommendations, and the bill will have no effect on water rights or water contracts and creates no new regulatory authority or burden on local government or citizens. The bill’s original cosponsors are Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; and Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento. “Covering more than 700 square miles and nearly 60 islands and boasting more than 400,000 people, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is the largest delta in the world and a critical resource for California,” Feinstein said. “With a National Heritage Area designation, we can support a future for the Delta that is sustainable and bright.”

FAMILY ENGAGEMENT IN EDUCATION: Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, joined with Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., to introduce H.R. 1194, the Family Engagement in Education Act, to provide money for schools to promote effective strategies to get parents involved. “Education doesn’t stop at the end of the school day,” DeSaulnier said. “Research shows that family engagement in a child’s learning experience increases student achievement, improves attendance, and reduces dropout rates.” The bill is supported by the National PTA.

e-verifyE-VERIFY FOR ALL EMPLOYERS: Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, blasted a proposal to mandate use of E-Verify – an online government system for determining people’s eligibility to work in this country – for all employers. The House Judiciary Committee advanced the Legal Workforce Act on Tuesday on a 20-13 vote. But Lofgren, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, noted the bill is opposed by the agricultural sector, unions, civil liberties groups and many others. Without comprehensive immigration reform, “expanding E-Verify would devastate the agricultural economy, resulting in closed farms, a less-secure America, and the mass off-shoring of millions and millions of U.S. jobs, including all of the upstream and downstream jobs created and supported by agriculture,” Lofgren said. Expanding E-Verify alone would also increase the deficit and decrease tax revenues. Last Congress, the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation concluded that the Legal Workforce Act would have resulted in a net revenue loss of $39 billion over ten years.”

Posted on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015
Under: Dianne Feinstein, education, Immigration, John Garamendi, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Uncategorized, Zoe Lofgren | 4 Comments »

House passes ‘clean’ homeland security funding

About a third House Republicans joined with Democrats on Tuesday to pass legislation fully funding the Department of Homeland Security through this year’s end.

Some more conservative Republicans opposed the move, refusing to vote for a bill that doesn’t defund or otherwise roll back President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. But the GOP leadership – speaker John Boenher, R-Ohio; Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Bakersfield; and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. – all voted for it. The vote was 257-167.

From Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin:

“For the past three months, House Republicans have been playing a dangerous game in which the American people are on the losing end. Today, reason prevailed and the games are finally over. The people charged with protecting our national security deserve more than uncertainty. It is outrageous that Homeland Security funding was held hostage to a partisan debate. This is not how we should govern.

“Americans are rightly sick of the politically manufactured crises they’ve come to expect from this Tea-Party-led Congress. I am grateful to finally move past this brinkmanship and address real challenges. It’s time to get to work doing what the American people sent us here to do, creating economy-boosting jobs that pay enough for hard-working families to get ahead.”

From Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock:

“The top priority of Congress is to ensure the safety of the American people. Today’s vote ensures that our homeland security agents and personnel have the certainty and long term funding necessary to do their critical work of keeping us all safe. I do not support the President’s unilateral executive action on immigration as it flies in the face of the United States Constitution and ignores the will of the people. However, we cannot hold hostage funding for our national security and I will continue to push for a full debate on every aspect of immigration reform.”

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“Once again, Leader Pelosi has led the House out of a dire situation by providing the Democratic votes necessary to avert a dangerous partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security. The agency will be fully funded through the remainder of the fiscal year, and the American people can be assured that key national security operations will not be interrupted.”

From Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel:

“Our national security will not be shut down. Thankfully enough Republicans put their country before their party and joined with the Democrats to pass a clean DHS bill. Funding for our national security should never be held hostage in a political debate. Those upset by the President’s immigration plan should instead work with us to fix our broken system.”

Posted on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Eric Swalwell, Homeland security, Immigration, Jeff Denham, Sam Farr, U.S. House | No Comments »

Could-be 2016 U.S. Senate candidates keep circling

After former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Tuesday that he won’t run for U.S. Senate in 2016, a couple of southern California politicos are making sure their names continue to circulate among those still possibly interested in the contest.

Xavier BecerraRep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, issued a statement Wednesday morning noting a lot can happen in the next 16 months before the primary election, and he respects Villaraisgosa’s decision.

“As for me, I take seriously my recent election to Congress in November and the responsibility it brings to address matters ranging from war against our enemies to economic security for our families,” Becerra said. “I will weigh just as seriously whether to run for the Senate, where I would continue my more than 20 years of work on behalf of my state and my country. There’s a lot of work and a lot of listening to do until I make that decision.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying he thinks “there’s a real opportunity for a strong Southern California candidate to get into this wide open race. I’m continuing to have conversations with constituents and supporters, and hope to make a decision in the near future.”

The only well-known declared candidate so far is state Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat; two little-known Republicans, John Estrada of Fresno and Mark Hardie of Whittier, are running too though Hardie has yet to form a campaign committee. Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, opened an exploratory committee for this race last week, and former state GOP chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette opened one this week.

A Field Poll released last week found 30 percent would be inclined to support Schiff, and 28 percent would be inclined to support Becerra. (This wasn’t a head-to-head choice and those surveyed could say they were inclined to support more than one of 18 names offered). By comparison, 49 percent said they would be inclined to support U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a Republican who has said she has no plans to run; 46 percent said they would be inclined to support Harris; and 35 percent said they would be inclined to support Villaraigosa.

Posted on Wednesday, February 25th, 2015
Under: U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

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…
Read the rest of this entry »

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 »