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Barbara Lee is running for Dem Caucus vice chair

Rep. Barbara Lee has launched her campaign to become the House Democratic Caucus’ vice chairwoman, asking her peers for support.

Lee, D-Oakland, official threw her name into contention for House Democrats’ fifth-highest leadership post with a letter Tuesday; Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Lakewood, declared her candidacy for the post last month. Current vice chairman Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., is limited to two terms in the post, and Democrats are expected to pick a new chairman and vice chairman soon after November’s elections.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“As Vice Chair, I will work to find innovative ways to champion the issues that are important to you, your district and our caucus,” Lee wrote in her letter to fellow House Democrats. “In 2013, I identified an opportunity to expand Democratic leadership on ending poverty in America. Together with our leadership, we launched the Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity which works for the more than 46 million Americans struggling to make ends meet while developing pathways for these families into the middle class.”

Lee also touted her work on the Appropriations, Budget and Steering and Policy committees, as well as her stints as chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, executive board member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and vice chairwoman and founding member of the LGBT Equality Caucus.

“In these roles, I have built diverse coalitions that advance our shared Democratic values,” she wrote. “Simultaneously, I have reached across the aisle to deliver bipartisan results, such as creating the bipartisan and bicameral HIV/AIDS Caucus and authoring or co-authoring every major piece of HIV/AIDS legislation signed into law since 1998. The importance of listening to others with different points of view and new ideas has been critical in these and many other efforts.”

“It is an honor to work with you, side by side, to further our shared values and fight to ensure opportunity for all. I know firsthand the depth of your passion, talent and experience. It is this diversity of experience that is the backbone of our caucus,” she concluded. “I hope to serve you as the next Vice Chair and I look forward to continuing our discussions.”

Lee, 69, was first elected to the House in a 1998 special election to replace her mentor and longtime employer, Rep. Ron Dellums of Oakland, who retired mid-term. Earlier, she served in the state Senate from 1997 to 1998, and in the Assembly from 1991 to 1997.

Posted on Wednesday, January 13th, 2016
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

Lofgren leads Dems in urging stop to ICE raids

A Bay Area congresswoman helped lead 146 House Democrats in urging President Obama to suspend Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids targeting Central American families and children.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Downey; and Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., sent their letter to the White House just hours before the president was scheduled to deliver his final State of the Union address Tuesday. The entire Bay Area delegation except for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, signed the letter.

Lofgren is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

The lawmakers wrote that the Department of Homeland Security operation “has generated widespread fear and panic in immigrant communities and has far-reaching impacts beyond the alleged targets for removal.” And it has raised due-process concerns “including meaningful access to legal counsel for mothers and children after apprehension and DHS officers reportedly using deceptive tactics to gain entrance into private residences,” they wrote.

“For these reasons and others, we believe that this operation should be immediately suspended until we can ensure no mother or child will be sent back to a country where they would face persecution, torture or death,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Democrats blasted the Obama administration for failing to provide a comprehensive refugee solution for those fleeing from violence in Central America.

“Your Administration has used family detention, Spanish language communication campaigns in Central America urging people not to come to the United States, and financial assistance to Mexico to deter, arrest, and return those fleeing violence,” they wrote. “This strategy has proven to be ineffective, as mothers and children continue to arrive at our Southwest border seeking refugee protection. Desperate Central American mothers and children will continue to flee to the United States and seek protection, regardless of the deterrent actions taken by this Administration.”

A regional solution to the crisis should include refugee screening and resettlement, the use of safe havens in appropriate third countries, temporary protected status for those in the United States, the use of priority refugee processing, and other humanitarian remedies, all in cooperation with other countries and non-governmental organizations, they wrote.

“The goal of this comprehensive refugee approach should be to ensure that Central American refugees, particularly mothers and children, are able to live free from an endless cycle of violence and persecution,” the lawmakers concluded. “We urge you to immediately halt the current enforcement actions towards Central American mothers and children and take steps to engage in a comprehensive effort with our hemispheric partners to address this regional refugee crisis in an appropriate humanitarian manner.”

Posted on Tuesday, January 12th, 2016
Under: Immigration, Obama presidency, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 2 Comments »

CA17: Five statewide officials endorse Honda

Five of California’s eight statewide constitutional officers endorsed Rep. Mike Honda on Monday for re-election over Democratic challenger Ro Khanna in the 17th Congressional District.

Honda, D-San Jose, issued a news release saying he’s humbled to have the support of Attorney General Kamala Harris, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Treasurer John Chiang, Controller Betty Yee and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

“I share their deep passion and commitment to solving problems facing many of California’s working families,” Honda said. “They represent the very best of what our state has to offer and I look forward to continuing my work with them.”

Harris, currently the frontrunner for the U.S. Senate seat from which Barbara Boxer will retire at year’s end, said that “from improving public safety, fighting to end human trafficking, and ensuring the civil rights of all people are protected – Mike has always been there.”

Yee said “Honda has been a tireless advocate for the people of Silicon Valley: securing funding for BART expansion, boosting critical research in nanotechnology, and fighting to ensure that every child has access to quality education.”

And Torlakson called Honda “an unwavering ally to California’s students and teachers. As a former science teacher and principal, education has always been one of his top priorities. Mike is working across the aisle to improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in our classroom’s, which will provide our children and country with the skills to stay competitive in this global economy.”

Among the other statewide constitutional officers, Secretary of State Alex Padilla has endorsed Khanna; Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom endorsed Khanna in 2014 but has not yet made an endorsement for 2016; and Gov. Jerry Brown endorsed Honda in 2014 but has not yet made an endorsement for 2016.

Posted on Monday, January 11th, 2016
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

CA17: Union flips support from Honda to Khanna

A labor union that had endorsed Rep. Mike Honda in 2014 now has switched sides to endorse Democratic challenger Ro Khanna in this year’s 17th Congressional District rematch.

LiUNAThe Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA), Pacific Southwest Region – a construction-workers union boasting 63,000 members in California and a few thousand more in Hawaii, New Mexico and Arizona – announced its endorsement of Khanna on Wednesday.

“We honor your commitment to fairness and truth as you seek to represent the interests of our communities, our Union, and all working men, women and families,” Rocco Davis, the union’s vice president and regional manager, wrote in a Dec. 18 letter to Khanna. “We take seriously your commitment to these issues that are critical to our union and our members and to this end we look forward to assisting your campaign and working with you in progressing our mutual goals in the future.”

Asked Wednesday whether Davis’ “fairness and truth” line refers to the ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation of whether Honda’s office and campaign broke rules or laws by sharing resources, LiUNA international representative Izaak Velez replied, “That is not a swipe at Mike Honda in any way, shape or form.

“We fully respect Mike Honda’s service and appreciate everything he’s done,” Velez said. “We’re not here to badmouth the service Mike Honda has given.”

Ro KhannaKhanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont who now works for a company that makes water and electricity conservation software, issued a news release saying the Bay Area’s working men and women have forged the community’s and economy’s strength. “As we march into a new century we must find new, innovative ways to ensure we hold onto that strength by revitalizing our manufacturing base, expanding the middle class and strengthening educational opportunity.”

Santa Clara Vice Mayor Debi Davis and former two-term Milpitas Mayor Bob Livengood also have flipped from supporting Honda, D-San Jose, in 2014 to supporting Khanna now. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen, Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles – all of whom remained neutral in 2014 – have endorsed Khanna, too.

But overall, much of the Democratic establishment and most labor unions seem to be staying in Honda’s corner.

Posted on Wednesday, January 6th, 2016
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 19 Comments »

CA17: Khanna & Honda spar over Trump reference

The dark specter of Donald Trump has reared its ugly, inexplicably-coiffed head in the never-ending battle between Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and two-time Democratic challenger Ro Khanna.

Michael Beckendorf, Honda’s campaign manager, sent out a fundraising email Wednesday evening that name-checked the GOP presidential frontrunner.

Dear Friend,

I’ll cut to the chase:

honda.jpgMike Honda has spent his career fighting for justice and equality in Washington — and the Republicans can’t stand it. That’s why they’re aligning themselves, again, with our opponent, Ro Khanna, in attacking one of the nation’s leading progressive champions.

It’s shameful — and we can’t let Donald Trump’s Republican Party get away with [it].

Contribute $3 or more to our campaign before tomorrow’s deadline to help us fight back.

At a time when fear is rising again in American politics, we cannot afford to lose Mike Honda’s voice in Congress. Can you speak up today to support our campaign?

Khanna responded with an angry Facebook post:

Ro KhannaRep Mike Honda, is there no limit to what you will do to hold on to office? Everyone knows that I am a ‪#‎Democrat‬ inspired by my grandfather who spent years in jail under British colonialism, and have stood up against hate and racial profiling my whole life and in our community. Yet, today you sent out an email to raise money conveniently misrepresenting my party affiliation, and ignoring that I worked for President Barack Obama or that I have a record of standing up for civil rights and civil liberties. You imply that somehow I or my supporters would not stand up to hate and bigotry. That is a new low.

Once elected, I will work across the aisle to solve the issues that face our nation and be a strong voice for justice and human rights. What I will not do is engage in ad hominem, non-fact based attacks. I will not stoop to that level when dealing with either Democrats or Republicans or independents.

How about having 4-5 real debates Rep Honda instead of hiding behind your political consultants with cheap political attacks? Emails like the one below is exactly what’s wrong with politics. ‪#‎CA17‬

It’s true that some Republicans are supporting Khanna, even if only as an “anyone but Honda” vote, and that Khanna’s campaign calculus involves getting such votes – as any competent campaign would under our top-two primary system. And while plenty of Republicans are appalled by Trump’s rhetoric, there’s no denying that he has been the party’s frontrunner for all but three days since mid-July and currently is close to his all-time high, according to averages of national polls compiled by Real Clear Politics.

But it’s also hard to imagine any Trump supporter casting a ballot for Khanna – especially given that they could vote instead for conservative Republican Ron Cohen (in the primary, anyway). Beckendorf’s email never explicitly says Khanna is a Trumpist or a Republican, but rather implies that Trumpists or Republicans are using Khanna as a tool to unseat Honda – a sentiment that won’t sit well with the many Democrats who prefer Khanna.

“Neither the GOP nor Trump have ever, in any way whatsoever, shown any support of Khanna. Indeed, you have to embrace Trump’s method of politicking to even make such allegations,” wrote Margarita Lacabe, an Alameda County Democratic committeewoman from San Leandro who lives in a different House district but received Honda’s fundraising email.

“I know that like Pete Stark before him, Honda will not give up in his quest for re-election, but his staff should show respect for Honda’s past accomplishments by making sure he runs a dignified campaign,” wrote Lacabe, a longtime Khanna supporter.

Posted on Friday, January 1st, 2016
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 31 Comments »

Honda comms director Lauren Smith has died

Lauren Suzanne Smith, communications director to Rep. Mike Honda and a veteran of two other Northern California House offices, died Saturday, Dec. 26, in Washington, D.C. She was 37.

Lauren Smith“Lauren served on my staff with passion, dedication, talent and integrity,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in a statement issued Monday. “In addition to working in my office, Lauren was employed by many fine Democrats and institutions over the years, dedicating her communication talents to make the world a better place. She was a gracious person, loved by our team and will be deeply missed. May you rest in peace Lauren.”

Honda also penned an homage to Smith that was published Dec. 22 in The Hill, hinting at but not describing the dire nature of her illness.

“Lauren’s generous nature and dedication to her work means she is always ready to respond to the latest development in any issue area immediately, even late into the night or when she isn’t feeling her best. I can always count on Lauren to not only get the job done but to do it with class, perfection, and most of all, heart,” Honda wrote in that piece.

“A time-honored Team Honda tradition at celebratory times is for staff to share favorite moments involving me. I have heard from staff that Lauren’s favorite ‘Honda Moment’ is when I accidentally left her a voicemail of my full rendition of Elvis Presley’s ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,’” Honda added. “She tells me that when she’s down, this voicemail always makes her smile. Lauren, perhaps that voicemail was no accident – over the last year, Team Honda and I have without a doubt fallen in love with you, your work, and your laughter.”

Smith worked with the All America PAC in Indiana during the 2006 midterm elections and then worked her way up to serve as the Democratic National Committee’s Indiana communications director during the 2008 presidential election. She served stints as a press secretary for Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; communications director for Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; and communications director and deputy chief of staff for Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton. And after serving as a communications consultant for John Walsh’s Montana Senate campaign, she was Sen. Walsh’s deputy communications director before going to work for Honda early this year.

“She brought a real spark to my office… She was always enthusiastic,” McNerney said Monday, praising her as a confident, quick study. “There was something about Lauren that made you accept her right away.”

I spoke often with Lauren during her time in McNerney’s office, from 2011 through 2013, and again this year in Honda’s office; she was never anything less than a consummate professional as well as a good and pleasant person – a rare combination. I’ll miss her very much.

According to the tribute page her family has created, Lauren’s wish was that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in her name to the Joyful Heart Foundation.

Posted on Monday, December 28th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | No Comments »

How Bay Area members voted on taxes/spending

Congress on Friday cleared a year-end spending and tax deal with a strong bipartisan support, despite grumbling from both parties over what was included in the agreement and what got left out, the Washington Post reports.

The House passed the $1.1 trillion spending portion of the deal on a 316-113 vote early Friday morning, with 150 Republicans and 166 Democrats supporting the measure, after passing the $622 billion tax section of the agreement Thursday on a 318-109 vote.

The Senate soon after passed both parts of the agreement on a 65-33 vote, with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in support and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., not voting. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law.

From the Bay Area, representatives Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, all opposed the tax section of the deal Thursday, while Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, voted for it.

DeSaulnier said the tax-extender section isn’t paid for and will increase the deficit. “This package largely benefits corporations at the expense of working families and undermines programs like Pell grants, Headstart, job training and health research,” he said. “I could not support a package that mortgages our children’s future, reduces our payments on the nation’s debt and robs from the Social Security Trust Fund.”

All Bay Area House members except Lofgren supported the omnibus spending deal Friday morning.

“I was unable to vote for the Omnibus spending bill today because it included an extraneous provision purported to facilitate cybersecurity information sharing that – in effect – will function as a surveillance tool,” Lofgren said, noting Congress has debated cybersecurity for the past year and she voted for an earlier bill that would address concerns while protecting Americans’ private digital information.

“Information sharing requires measures to protect Americans’ privacy. It should also be debated in regular order. But this so-called ‘cybersecurity legislation’ was inserted into a must-pass Omnibus at the 11th hour, without debate,” she said. “The protective measures that such a bill should have – including those I believe the Constitution requires – were removed. While the Omnibus had both pros and cons, my obligation to protect constitutional rights isn’t negotiable. I made clear to House Leadership and the White House that I could not support the Omnibus with this cyber surveillance measure included. I have enclosed several letters crafted in the last two days outlining my concerns related to the bill.”

Posted on Friday, December 18th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

Boxer urges end to Planned Parenthood panel

In the wake of the mass shooting that claimed three lives Friday at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer on Monday urged House Speaker Paul Ryan to disband the new committee targeting the health organization.

Former Speaker John Boehner created the “Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives” in October to probe Planned Parenthood. Boxer, D-Calif., calls it a “witch hunt” against an organization that provides vital healthcare services but hasn’t broken the law.

Some Democrats have faulted the hot rhetoric slung by Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates against Planned Parenthood in recent months for inciting the kind of violence that occurred Friday in Colorado.

“We should not and cannot continue this politically-motivated committee targeting Planned Parenthood, which is already costing taxpayers and helping to create a dangerous climate for legal health care in America,” Boxer wrote Monday to Ryan, R-Wisc. “Since 1977, there have been 11 murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings and 186 arsons against abortion clinics and providers.”

“It is time to stop the witch hunt against Planned Parenthood, stop the demonizing rhetoric and disband this committee immediately,” she wrote.

Read the full text of Boxer’s letter, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, November 30th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Paul Ryan, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »

Today’s congressional odds and ends

HONDA’S INTERNATIONAL COALITION: Rep. Mike Honda joined five other lawmakers from around the world Monday in launching an International Parliamentary Coalition for Victims of Sexual Slavery.

Honda’s office said the coalition’s purpose will be to promote international cooperation in raising awareness about modern-day slavery and human-rights violations committed to force residents in conflicts zones and places struck by natural disasters into sexual slavery.

honda.jpg“Victims of sexual slavery are not collateral damage,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in a news release. “Sexual slavery, whether in times of conflict or natural disasters, is not a cultural phenomenon. It is violence against women. And this must change. We must hold everyone accountable. Eliminating violence against women is going to require a major change in our humanity. We can start by not treating this as an afterthought or a sidebar issue. Ending violence against women must be front and center.”

Besides Honda, the coalition’s founding co-chairs are Canadian Senator Yonah Martin; New Zealand Member of Parliament Melissa Lee; South Korean Representative Jasmine Lee; British Member of Parliament Fiona Bruce; and Canadian Advisory Council Chairwoman Joy Smith.

Honda earlier this year introduced HR 500, to establish an advisory council led by survivors of human trafficking to advise lawmakers on policies and initiatives. It became part of S.178, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, which President Obama signed into law in May.

FIGHTING FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Three California House members want the Justice Department to stop prosecuting California medical marijuana dispensaries that are following tougher new state laws.

Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa; and Sam Farr, D-Carmel, wrote to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, urging her to reconsider action against dispensaries like the Berkeley Patients Group and Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, “given the comprehensive and stringent regulations signed into law by CA Governor Jerry Brown last month.”

“As you know, the package of bills signed into law creates an enforceable framework for governing virtually every aspect of the medicinal cannabis industry – from licensing and taxation to quality control, shipping, packaging and pesticide standards,” they wrote.

Yet the Justice Department “continues to threaten individuals and businesses acting within the scope of states law on the medicinal use of marijuana despite formal guidance on exercising prosecutorial discretion and recent changes to federal law,” they continued. “It is counterproductive and economically prohibitive to continue a path of hostility toward dispensaries. … The will of the both voters at the ballot box and in state legislatures across the country should be respected”

SPEIER GRILLED ON ISIS: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, who sits on both the House Intelligence and Armed Services committees, took some tough questions from MSNBC this week about how Congress, the Obama administration, the military, and presidential candidates have dealt with the so-called Islamic State.

Posted on Wednesday, November 25th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, Jackie Speier, Mike Honda, Sam Farr, U.S. House | No Comments »

Brace for Dungeness crab disaster, lawmakers urge

Four of California’s coastal congressmembers are urging Gov. Jerry Brown to be ready to ask the federal government for an economic disaster declaration if the Dungeness crab fishery remains closed for the season.

Reps. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; and Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, wrote to Brown on Tuesday asking him to closely monitor domoic acid levels in Dungeness crab.

Dungeness crabCrabs off the California coast have abnormally high levels of this toxic acid in their bodies due to an unusually big algae bloom, due in turn to abnormally high water temperatures in the Pacific. Officials have delayed the start of the recreational and commercial crab fishing seasons until the acid decreases to safe levels.

But every passing day is a blow not only to Californians craving the delicacy for their holiday tables, but to coastal communities relying on a commercial fishery valued at $60 million last year.

“The closure of the Dungeness crab fishery would not only make the holidays a little less bright, it would deal a hard blow for North coast fishermen, who have already been impacted by a poor year for salmon landings,” Huffman said in a news release. “While Californians’ Thanksgiving celebrations may not feature Dungeness crab this year, we can at least provide the assurance that federal disaster relief will be available to fishermen and affected communities and businesses if we lose the fishery.”

Huffman said the lawmakers are keeping their fingers crossed for better conditions next month, “ but in the meantime we will be working closely with our state and federal partners — from the Governor’s office to the White House — so that we can respond quickly in the event of a total closure.”

Speier noted some fisherman rely on the crab season for half their annual income, yet still must pay for licenses and boat maintenance. “If the season doesn’t open soon, these men and women deserve a financial lifeline. I urge the governor to start preparing for a disaster declaration now.”

Posted on Tuesday, November 24th, 2015
Under: economy, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 3 Comments »