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Obama, Lofgren & Pelosi blast GOP on immigration

The rhetoric flew hot and heavy as Wednesday marked one year since the Senate’s introduction of a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill.

The Senate passed the vote, but the House’s GOP leadership has refused to take up that bill or offer one of its own. President Obama issued a statement Wednesday morning saying this means House Republicans prefer the status quo over meaningful reform.

“Instead of advancing commonsense reform and working to fix our immigration system, House Republicans have voted in favor of extreme measures like a punitive amendment to strip protections from ‘Dreamers,’” the president said. “The majority of Americans are ahead of House Republicans on this crucial issue and there is broad support for reform, including among Democrats and Republicans, labor and business, and faith and law enforcement leaders. We have a chance to strengthen our country while upholding our traditions as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, and I urge House Republicans to listen to the will of the American people and bring immigration reform to the House floor for a vote.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, ranking Democrat on Judiciary’s Immigration subcommittee, issued a statement noting “even today a majority of Members of the House say that they favor immigration reform, which isn’t surprising because reform is overwhelmingly supported by a majority of Americans from across the political spectrum.”

“That support is one of the reasons why a movement has started to give immigration reform a fair up or down vote in the House,” said Lofgren, D-San Jose. “But the Republican-controlled House continues to stall on immigration reform, and as they continue to run out the clock, the window of opportunity to pass reform narrows.”

Then, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., issued a statement saying Obama had called him Wednesday after issuing his “partisan statement which attacked me and my fellow House Republicans and which indicated no sincere desire to work together.”

“After five years, President Obama still has not learned how to effectively work with Congress to get things done. You do not attack the very people you hope to engage in a serious dialogue,” Cantor said. “I told the President the same thing I told him the last time we spoke. House Republicans do not support Senate Democrat’s immigration bill and amnesty efforts, and it will not be considered in the House. I also reiterated to the President there are other issues where we can find common ground, build trust and get America working again. I hope the President can stop his partisan messaging, and begin to seriously work with Congress to address the issues facing working middle class Americans that are struggling to make ends meet in this economy.”

Nancy PelosiAnd that annoyed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

“In response to the President’s renewed call for action on comprehensive immigration reform, Congressman Cantor once again offered only excuses for inaction,” Pelosi said. “With 30 House Republicans on the record in support of comprehensive reform, Rep. Cantor’s ridiculous statement this evening confirms that the Republican leadership continues to stand in the way of legislation that would pass the House immediately if allowed to come to the floor. It’s time for Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor to get out of the way, and allow immigration reform to become a reality.”

Posted on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
Under: Immigration, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 15 Comments »

CA15: Swalwell’s & Corbett’s Q1 fundraising

Rep. Eric Swalwell raised more than eight times as much as his challenger and fellow Democrat state Sen. Ellen Corbett in this year’s first quarter, and had about four and a half times as much money banked as of March 31, according to new reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Meanwhile, a Republican who got into this 15th Congressional District race at the last minute is funded only by himself and by one of the state’s biggest GOP benefactors.

Swalwell, D-Dublin, raised $272,783.87 from Jan. 1 through March 31, and at the end of that period had $922,581.82 cash on hand with $6,859.82 in outstanding debt. Corbett in the same time raised $32,485.33, finishing with $208,005.35 cash on hand and $6,000 in debt; that’s right about where Corbett was at the end of 2014, though she had raised almost three times as much in last year’s final quarter.

Hugh Bussell, a GOP county committeeman from Livermore, lent his campaign $1,750 and took a $2,400 contribution from Charles Munger Jr. of Palo Alto, chairman of the Santa Clara County GOP and a prolific contributor to the party’s causes and candidates.

Posted on Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, campaign finance, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 12 Comments »

Lawmakers cheer tougher penalties for pot grows

Northern California House members from both sides of the aisle are cheering new, stiffer federal penalties for illegal marijuana grows on trespassed lands.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission announced last week it had adopted tougher punishments for high-level offenders who cultivate marijuana grows on public or private lands they don’t own. The amended guidelines will be submitted to Congress and reviewed for six months before officially taking effect Nov. 1.

This had been the aim of a bill introduced last summer and a letter sent to the commission in November by Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; and Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville, as well as by senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

“Illegal marijuana grow sites that threaten lives, destroy public lands and devastate wildlife have become far too common,” Thompson said in a news release Monday. “These new sentencing guidelines will serve as a strong deterrent against these illegal grow sites, and they will help make sure criminals who wreck our public and private lands are held fully responsible for the harm they cause.”

Huffman said toxic and illegal chemicals used at such sites, plus the potential for violence, make such grows unsafe on many levels. Also, “California is in the midst of a devastating drought, and many of these grow operations illegally divert streams and tap groundwater with untold impacts on downstream water users and wildlife,” he noted.

Both he and Farr noted the nation seems to be moving toward what they consider to be more reasonable laws on marijuana use, but these illegal grows can’t be tolerated. “With these new guidelines in place, we can make public and private lands safer while protecting the environment for everyone to enjoy,” Farr said.

LaMalfa said property owners and local government often are stuck paying thousands of dollars in clean-up costs. “The Sentencing Commission’s recognition of these impacts will go a long way toward ensuring that those who disregard our nation’s laws are held responsible.”

Posted on Monday, April 14th, 2014
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Jared Huffman, marijuana, Mike Thompson, Sam Farr, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 10 Comments »

What they’re saying about the House budget vote

Angry words flew hot and heavy today as the House voted 219-205 to pass a Republican-drafted budget that promises balance within a decade by making sweeping cuts throughout government and eliminating health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The nonbinding framework isn’t likely to be followed up by specific spending legislation, as it’s DOA in the Democrat-controlled Senate. But that didn’t stop critics from emptying their rhetorical cannons today.

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

“For the fourth consecutive year, House Democrats have stood united against Republicans’ broken budget priorities. But House Republicans have now fully embraced the destructive values of the Ryan Republican Budget – a road to economic ruin and an irresponsible assault on seniors, students, women, families and our future.

“Today, Republicans voted to raise taxes on middle class families with children, while giving $200,000-plus tax breaks to millionaires. They voted to destroy three million jobs over two years, while protecting tax breaks for corporations shipping jobs overseas. They voted to end the Medicare guarantee for our seniors, ransack the education of our children, and surrender our global economic competitiveness. With this budget, Republicans have voted to hollow out the middle class and dismantle the American Dream.

“Democrats have a better plan: create jobs, strengthen the middle class, invest in the future, reduce the deficit, and build an economy that works for everyone. We should be renewing emergency unemployment insurance, raising the minimum wage, and passing comprehensive immigration reform that will grow our economy, empower small business, spur innovation, and reduce the deficit by nearly $900 billion. Republicans’ backwards priorities are the wrong path for our nation, and unworthy of the American people.”

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“This document is our vision for getting Americans back to work and our budget back in balance. I want to congratulate Chairman Ryan and the members of the committee for a job well done.”

From Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto:

“My focus is on finding long-term solutions to reduce the unbearable burden of debt we have placed on future generations. Right now we are more than $17 trillion in debt, meaning each man, woman and child is responsible for over $55,000 each. The out-of-control spending must be stopped and replaced with responsible choices that give real solutions and certainty to families in the Central Valley.

“I will also keep up the fight to protect our seniors, who have seen their Medicare plans cut by more than $300 billion under the Affordable Care Act. Because of the cuts, I introduced the Seniors’ Right to Know Act, which informs the more than 14 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage nationwide about how the Affordable Care Act is affecting the healthcare plans they rely on every day. We cannot allow the healthcare law to stand in the way of us keeping our promise to our seniors.”

More, after the jump:
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, April 10th, 2014
Under: Barbara Lee, Jeff Denham, John Boehner, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

CA17: Honda outraises Khanna for the first time

Rep. Mike Honda outraised Democratic challenger Ro Khanna in 2014’s first three months – the first quarter in which he has done so since Khanna entered the race a year ago.

Honda, D-San Jose, raised more than $650,000 from Jan. 1 through March 31, and had more than $1,050,000 cash on hand at the end of that period, his campaign said Wednesday. Khanna’s campaign said it raised more than $460,000 in the same time, and has almost $2 million cash on hand.

Republican candidate Vanila Singh’s campaign consultant, Travis Smith, said her numbers won’t be available for a few days. Republican Joel Vanlandingham has said he doesn’t plan to accept contributions.

Honda’s campaign noted the seven-term congressman received contributions from more than 1,750 individuals, with more than half of the contributions at $100 or less. “I’m humbled by the incredible support from our grassroots supporters nation-wide, which makes this campaign possible, and I anticipate will continue to grow,” Honda said in a news release.

Khanna’s campaign also said a majority of his donors gave less than $100 each, and noted Khanna has refused to take money from any political action committees and is relying on a 150-person volunteer fundraising committee instead of paid finance consultants.

“I knew that taking a bold pledge to refuse special interest donations and only receiving support from individuals wouldn’t be the easiest road, but leading by example is what’s expected of Silicon Valley’s congressman,” Khanna said in a news release. “I’m proud of the grassroots campaign that we’re building and I’m humbled by the enthusiastic response to my positive message of changing business as usual in Washington.”

Khanna outstripped Honda in fundraising in each of the previous quarters in this 2013-14 cycle; at 2013’s end, Khanna had $1.97 million cash on hand while Honda had $622,000 in the bank. If they spend all they’ve raised, the 17th Congressional District race could rank among the nation’s most expensive House contests.

Honda campaign manager Doug Greven said in Wednesday’s release that his team “always said that we would have the resources we need to win in November, and our strong numbers this quarter show that we are on track. We know that Mike will make it past the June 3 primary, and we will continue to marshal our resources for the November general election.”

Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan said her team is “especially proud to have increased our fundraising from last quarter and to tell the people of the 17th District we have done so without taking a single dollar from PACs or lobbyists.” She challenged Honda to disclose how much money he has taken from such sources.

Neither campaign provided its detailed Federal Election Commission reports, which must be filed by April 15.

Posted on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
Under: campaign finance, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 14 Comments »

Speier: Yee case proves need for gun control

Amid the cries of rank hypocrisy accompanying state Sen. Leland Yee – a staunch gun-control advocate – being charged by federal authorities with conspiracy to traffic guns, a Bay Area congresswoman says Yee’s case proves the need for stricter gun control.

Jackie Speier“This FBI investigation of Leland Yee reveals how easy it is to import lethal assault weapons that were previously banned,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said in a statement released Wednesday. “This case should be a warning to us all that even the most trusted appearing among us are ready to do real harm. Since Congress can pass no meaningful gun control laws, even after the mass killing in Newtown, President Obama should use his pen to slow the import of these weapons, which have no place in our homes.”

Speier says a ban on imported assault weapons was first imposed by President George H.W. Bush in 1989 and strengthened by President Bill Clinton, but lapsed under President George W. Bush and is no longer enforced.

That didn’t seem to be a factor in Yee’s alleged crimes, so far as one can tell from the affidavit filed by the FBI.

Posted on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
Under: gun control, Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Rep. Eric Swalwell takes Congress to the dogs

Rep. Eric Swalwell, who already had expanded the “Congress at Your Corner” constituent meet-and-greet model to include “Ride With Your Rep” cycling outings, is now inviting 15th Congressional District residents and their pets to join him for “Congress Unleashed.”

Those coming to the event from 10 to 11 a.m. this Sunday, March 30 in Union City’s Drigon Dog Park “will meet and talk to Congressman Swalwell about their ‘pet’ issues, as well as learn about opportunities to adopt and foster dogs from an animal organization,” according to his news release.

“I work to be accessible to all of my constituents, and an outdoor town hall at a dog park is one more way to hear from more East Bay residents about the issues important to them,” Swalwell, D-Dublin, said in the release. “The event also will be an opportunity to find owners for dogs in need of a loving home.”

And what politician doesn’t relish a photo opportunity with cute, fluffy puppies? The freshman lawmaker is being challenged in his bid for a second term by state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, and by Alameda County Republican Party vice chairman Hugh Bussell, a software development manager from Livermore.

Posted on Thursday, March 27th, 2014
Under: Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | No Comments »

Barbara Lee and Bill O’Reilly trade barbs

Rep. Barbara Lee says Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s language on poverty and race “is disgusting and divisive and should never be accepted in our national discourse.”

This all started March 12, when House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., spoke about his legislative proposals for reforming poverty programs during his appearance on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America. “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with,” the 2012 Republican vice-presidential nominee said.

Lee, D-Oakland, issued a statement that same day saying Ryan’s comments were “a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated. Let’s be clear, when Mr. Ryan says ‘inner city,’ when he says, ‘culture,’ these are simply code words for what he really means: ‘black.’”

Lee said that as a Budget Committee member herself, Ryan’s claims about racial dynamics of poverty “are not only statistically inaccurate, but deeply offensive.”

“Instead of demonizing ‘culture,’ and blaming black men for their poverty, Mr. Ryan should step up and produce some legitimate proposals on how to tackle poverty and racial discrimination in America,” she challenged. “His uninformed policy proposals continue to increase poverty, not solve it. My colleague is demonstrating a complete lack of knowledge and understanding of the issues in urban and black communities.”

That brings us to Tuesday, when O’Reilly brought the exchange up during his interview with Ryan.

O’REILLY: So I understand you had a phone call with Ms. Lee. How did that go?

RYAN: Well, I have known Barbara for many years. Look, there was nothing racial whatsoever in what I said. And if you listen to the full context of all of my remarks, it’s pretty clear. So what I would like to do and I mentioned this is, let’s get beyond throwing baseless charges at people. Let’s not impugn people’s motives or characters and let’s have a real conversation about what we really need to do [[is]] to truly fight poverty in America. If the status quo was working so well, then we wouldn’t have to do that. It’s not.

[snip]

O’REILLY: They don’t want a conversation. With all due respect to you because I think you are a good man. They don’t want a conversation. They don’t want to solve the problem. These race hustlers make a big living, and they get voted into office, by portraying their constituents as victims, and it’s all your fault and it’s my fault, it’s the rich people’s fault, it’s the Republicans’ fault. It’s everybody’s fault except what’s going on. And what’s going on, as you know, is the dissolution of the family, and you don’t have proper supervision of children, and they grow up with no skills, and they can’t read and speak, and they have tattoos on their neck, and they can’t compete in the marketplace. And that is what is going on. But if you say that you are a racist. So, no matter what you say congressman, you are going to be branded because the race hustlers don’t want to solve the problem.

BOOM! Lee is not amused.

“Unfortunately we’ve come to expect language like ‘welfare queens,’ ‘food stamp president,’ and now ‘race hustlers’ from the right wing and Mr. O’Reilly. It is disgusting and divisive and should never be accepted in our national discourse,” she said Wednesday.

“For us to achieve the American dream for all, we must engage in this conversation that has been sparked about race and poverty, even if it is difficult for some. Racial discrimination, poverty, and income inequality remain issues that must be debated and addressed, and these kinds of ‘code words’ only get in the way of solving the real problems,” Lee said.

Congress has a responsibility to “come together to present a budget and funding priorities that create opportunity for all,” she continued. “We must make critical investments in job creation, education, and job training. Among many issues, we must address extending unemployment insurance, raising the minimum wage, enacting criminal justice reform, and securing voting rights for communities of color, so that we can truly find solutions to these critical issues.”

Posted on Thursday, March 27th, 2014
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

CA17: Ro Khanna launches first TV ad

Ro Khanna, taking on fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda, has launched the first television ad of the 17th Congressional District race.

“Ro shares the frustrations of Bay Area families who believe special interests have too much influence in Washington and are drowning out the voices of the American people,” Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan said in a news release. “Ro knows that we can’t change Congress overnight, but he’s committed to leading by example and fighting for the change that the people in the 17th district deserve.”

Khanna campaign spokesman Tyler Law refused to say how much was spent to air the ad, or where or when specifically it will air. “It’s a significant buy and the ad will be airing on TV across the 17th District,” Law said Tuesday morning.

Honda, D-San Jose, is also being challenged by Republicans Vanila Singh, Joel Vanlandingham and Vinesh Singh Rathore.

Posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

Barbara Lee helps lead protest at McDonald’s

Rep. Barbara Lee led several dozen community members and activists Tuesday on a march through a McDonald’s in East Oakland to protest the company’s alleged wage theft.

Three class-action lawsuits filed last week accuse the Illinois-based fast-food giant and three of its California franchisees of stealing employees’ money by forcing them to work off the clock, shaving hours off their time cards and not paying them overtime, among other things. Similar cases have been filed in New York and Michigan.

Barbara Lee & Jennifer Lin 3-18-14 (photo by Josh Richman)“This illegal wage theft must stop … Enough is enough,” said Lee, D-Oakland, speaking into a megaphone inside the McDonald’s at East 12th Street and 25th Avenue.

She had just led a chanting, sign-carrying crowd down 25th Avenue and into the restaurant, where employees and puzzled patrons looked on as she praised the activists.

“It takes a lot of courage to do this… You inspire me,” she said. “You deserve to live the American dream. You deserve fair wages.”

As soon as Lee finished speaking, Oakland Police officers demanded that the protesters step outside; the rally continued in the parking lot. “Fill my wages, not my fries – make our wages super-size,” they chanted, along with the labor slogan, “Si se puede.” Several carried signs that said “I’m Hatin’ It,” a play on a famed McDonald’s catchphrase.

“We’re all fed up, we’re tired of this,” said Ilda Amador, 25, of Oakland, who said she has faced similar problems while working at Jack in the Box. Rhonesha Victor, 24, of Oakland, said the same of her job at KFC, noting fast-food workers make meager wages to start with and can’t afford to let their employers take advantage of them. “These companies, they have to pay.”

Matthew Murray, a San Francisco attorney representing workers in one of the California cases, called Lee’s participation “a reflection that these are important issues, that workers are stepping up to assert their rights is a big deal, and that multinational corporations like McDonald’s have to follow the law, too.”

Barbara Lee 3-18-14 (photo by Josh Richman)Murray said attorneys’ ongoing investigation “suggests that this is a long-standing problem and a widespread problem,” and the company “exerts extensive control over its franchises, including over its franchises’ labor practices.”

McDonalds employs about 1.8 million people in more than 34,000 restaurants worldwide, including more than 14,000 in the United States. More than 80 percent of McDonald’s restaurants are franchised.

“McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators share a concern and commitment to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald’s restaurants,” spokeswoman Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem said in a statement issued in response to the lawsuits. “We are currently reviewing the allegations in the lawsuits. McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators are each committed to undertaking a comprehensive investigation of the allegations and will take any necessary actions as they apply to our respective organizations. McDonald’s restaurants remain open today—and every day—thanks to the teams of dedicated employees serving our customers.”

Posted on Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
Under: Barbara Lee, Oakland, U.S. House | 10 Comments »