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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 | No Comments »

Conservative groups fell Swalwell’s bipartisan bill

A Bay Area House member’s bill to step up the nation’s exploration of critical elements – used in tech products, aircraft and renewable energy projects – failed this week after two conservative groups urged its defeat.

Eric SwalwellRep. Eric Swalwell’s H.R. 1022, the Securing Energy Critical Elements and American Jobs Act, needed a two-thirds majority to pass, but fell short Tuesday with a 260-143 vote.

“Under the threat of punishment from Heritage Action and Club for Growth, a majority of House Republicans voted against America’s manufacturing and national security interests,” Swalwell, D-Dublin, said in a news release.

“Thanks to their obstruction, American job-creators and the Department of Defense will continue to be at the mercy of China to acquire these critical elements that help power our homes and protect our troops,” he said. “Rather than support research and development that will help create jobs here at home, 142 House Republicans just voted to send good-paying American jobs overseas.”

The Club for Growth had issued an advisory earlier Tuesday urging lawmakers to oppose the bill, and noting it would be included in the club’s 2014 legislative scorecard.

“With very little debate and no ability to amend, this bill creates a whole new $125 million program within the Department of Energy to monitor and research ‘critical minerals’ that are often used in the manufacturing industry. Through this bill, government intervention in the private sector will only increase,” the club’s advisory said.

The advisory also noted an earlier version of the bill, along with a similar bill in 2010, had included giving the Energy Department authority to hand out loan guarantees for commercial projects that develop rare-earth technologies. “We can only assume that supporters of this bill will seek to implement these guarantees after this program has firmly found its place in the federal government after a few years.

“So rather than add another layer of bureaucracy and another layer of crony capitalism onto the federal government, we should be cutting wasteful programs and reducing government intervention in the private sector,” the club advised.

Swalwell’s office said the United States relies on other countries for more than 90 percent of many energy critical elements, and China is the world’s largest producer of rare earth elements – an important subset of ECEs.

Swalwell’s bill would have authorized in law and strengthened the Energy Department’s Critical Materials Energy Innovation Hub, which was created last year and is making important advances in understanding how to extract, recycle, and produce substitutes for energy critical elements. The hub is a collaboration among national laboratories, universities, research institutes, and private companies.

The bill did not authorize any new spending and reflected a compromise between Republicans and Democrats on the House Science Committee. Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, supported the bill, as did Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Majority Leader-elect Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield.

“This bill was the product of a year’s worth of cooperation between me and Republican leadership,” Swalwell said. “Unfortunately, this hard work was derailed by puppeteering from right-wing groups.”

Posted on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
Under: Eric Swalwell, 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 »

Santa Clara County ready to help immigrant kids

Santa Clara County stands ready to help efforts to care for unaccompanied Central American children flooding to the U.S. border, some local officials and members of Congress said Wednesday.

U.S. Representatives Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose, joined with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, Santa Clara County Supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez, and San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo in issuing a statement.

“Small children and refugees fleeing violence in their home countries require our support, not our acrimony. And where other communities may turn these needy children away, our community is ready and willing to be compassionate,” the officials said. “We urge communities in the Bay Area, throughout the State of California, and across the nation to join us to make good on America’s promise of fairness and due process.”

Cortese and Liccardo, incidentally, are rivals in November’s San Jose mayoral election.

Law requires that every unaccompanied child, as a part of a deportation proceeding, is entitled to an evaluation to ascertain whether they are victims of human trafficking, have been abandoned or are eligible for asylum because of persecution. If not eligible, they will be returned home. But until this examination is complete, these children will remain in the United States.

Posted on Wednesday, July 16th, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Immigration, Mike Honda, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 7 Comments »

CA17: Mike Honda outraises Ro Khanna again

Rep. Mike Honda significantly outraised his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, in the year’s second quarter and has considerably more money with which to start their general-election showdown, according to Federal Election Commission reports provided by the candidates Tuesday.

Honda, D-San Jose, finished first in the June 3 primary election with 48.2 percent of the vote, while Khanna – a former Obama administration official from Fremont – finished second with 28 percent. Two Republican candidates, Vanila Singh and Joel VanLandingham, finished further back and so were eliminated.

honda.jpgA report provided by Honda’s campaign Tuesday, combined with the one filed in mid-May, show he raised $522,086.37 while spending $542,605.07 from April 1 through June 30. This left him with $1,063,355.97 cash on hand as of June 30, but he also had $7,176.83 in debts, so his unencumbered cash was $1,056,179.14.

“Following the decisive 20-point win in the primary last month, the Honda campaign continues its strong fundraising leading up to the November election,” campaign manager Doug Greven said in a news release. “Mike Honda’s network of grassroots supporters – more than 7,000 of whom have given to the campaign so far – continues to grow.”

“We are going to keep this fundraising pace going and will have the resources to win in November while our debt-ridden challenger has some serious catching up to do,” Greven said.

Ro KhannaKhanna’s report filed Tuesday, plus the one he filed in mid-May, show he raised $337,673.26 in the second quarter while spending a tremendous $1,461,930.52 – which accounts for almost half of his total spending since the campaign began. This left him with $867,672.16 cash on hand as of June 30, but he also had $239,131.92 in debts, so his unencumbered cash was $628,540.24.

“There are only two numbers that matter in this reporting period: 50 and 202,” Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan insisted in a news release. “That’s because a majority of Ro’s donations were under $50, while Rep. Honda doubled down on his 202 area code fundraising amongst Washington special interests. Understandably, the Honda campaign is eager to change the story after burning well over a million dollars and relying on desperate false attacks just to lose a majority of the vote. It’s become clearer than ever that voters will be supporting change in November, just as they did in the primary.”

That said, Honda begins the general-election race with a 20-point primary win, a big edge in money, the name recognition of seven terms in office, and the bully pulpit of incumbency. Khanna aired several television ads before the primary; Honda has yet to go on the air.

Read more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
Under: campaign finance, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 10 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 »

Boehner prepares resolution to sue Obama

House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday released a draft of a resolution he’ll introduce authorizing the House to sue President Obama over his 2013 decision to unilaterally delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate.

“In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement issued with the draft. “That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”

The resolution reads as follows:

Providing for authority to initiate litigation for actions by the President inconsistent with his duties under the Constitution of the United States.

Resolved, that the Speaker may initiate or intervene in one or more civil actions on behalf of the House of Representatives in a Federal court of competent jurisdiction to seek relief pursuant to sections 2201 and 2202 of title 28, United States Code, and to seek appropriate ancillary relief, including injunctive relief, regarding the failure of the President, the head of any department or agency, or any other officer or employee of the United States, to act in a manner consistent with that official’s duties under the Constitution and laws of the United States with respect to implementation of (including a failure to implement) any provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and title I and subtitle B of title II of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, including any amendment made by such provision.

SEC. 2. The Speaker shall notify the House of Representatives of a decision to initiate or intervene in any civil action pursuant to this resolution.

SEC. 3. The Office of the General Counsel of the House of Representatives, at the direction of the Speaker shall represent the House in any civil action initiated, or in which the House intervenes, pursuant to this resolution and may employ the services of outside counsel and other experts for this purpose.

The House Rules Committee will consider the draft resolution next Wednesday, July 16.

Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, issued a statement later Thursday:

“Instead of working to create jobs, instead of working to strengthen the middle class or addressing any of the urgent issues facing our nation, Republicans are wasting taxpayer dollars on another toxic partisan stunt.

“Time and again, House Republicans’ total abdication of responsibility has forced the President to act. They’ve wasted billions of taxpayer dollars forcing a downgrade of the U.S. economy and a shutdown of the federal government, and now, after wasting millions defending discrimination in the federal courts, the resolution unveiled tonight would authorize hiring more partisan lawyers for yet another legal boondoggle doomed to fail.

“This lawsuit is just another distraction from House Republicans desperate to distract the American people from their own spectacular obstruction and dysfunction. Congress should be creating jobs, raising new ladders of opportunity, and focusing on the challenges facing hard working American families.”

Posted on Thursday, July 10th, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, healthcare reform, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

CA17: Honda and Khanna battle for GOP votes

With two Democrats having survived the 17th Congressional District’s primary to advance to November’s general election, the battle is on for the district’s Republican hearts and minds.

Weeks after Jim Cunneen – the last Republican to represent Silicon Valley in Sacramento – endorsed Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, for an eighth term, Republican former Rep. Ernie Konnyu has now cast his lot with Democratic challenger Ro Khanna.

Ernie Konnyu“I have been in touch with Ro and his staff and look forward to help unite Republican and independent voters who supported me in the western portion of the Congressional district with the thousands of voters already backing Ro Khanna,” Konnyu, 77, of San Jose, said in a statement issued Friday.

“My aim is to deliver to the House of Representatives a new bi-partisan Congressman from Silicon Valley ready to lead for jobs and greater Silicon Valley successes,” he said. “I trust that Ro will be good for America and great for Silicon Valley.”

Konnyu was a South Bay Assemblyman from 1980 to 1986, when he was elected to serve what was then the 12th Congressional District. He served only one House term, primaried out in 1988 by a more socially moderate Republican, Tom Campbell.

Honda finished first in last month’s primary with 48 percent of the vote, and Khanna – a former Obama administration official from Fremont – finished second with 28 percent. Republican Vanila Singh of Fremont got 17 percent and Joel VanLandingham of San Jose got 7 percent, and so they were eliminated.

Only 19 percent of the district’s voters are Republican while 44 percent are Democrats and 32 percent state no party preference, but that GOP fifth of the electorate could be a crucial bloc if either campaign can mobilize it. While many had assumed Republicans might favor Khanna – generally seen as being a smidgen to the right of the ultra-liberal Honda, or at least, more attuned to the tech sector’s needs – a poll in May found 19 percent of GOP voters favored Honda while 18 percent favored Khanna.

Singh sent a Fourth-of-July email to her supporters Friday saying that in recent weeks she has been “reaching out to voters, volunteers, and donors to keep this exciting and impressive movement that we have begun in motion! I am humbled by the endless amounts of phone calls I have been receiving both locally and nationally. This proves that we have laid the organizational foundation that will endure for those who share these ideals.”

“As we celebrate our independence today, I hope you can join me in preserving their vision by continuing to fight for our beloved country,” Singh wrote. “These next couple months are just the beginning of an inspirational movement and it is imperative that we keep a presence at this very pivotal time in our nation. I want you to remember that these campaigns are about the people – make sure your voice is loud this November!”

The message, however, made no mention of an endorsement.

Honda and Khanna appear to be equally matched in campaign money to spend from now to November. You can bet that some of that money will be spent wooing the Singh and VanLandingham voters who are now up for grabs.

Posted on Saturday, July 5th, 2014
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House, Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Lawmakers urge Obama to consult them on Iraq

Rep. Barbara Lee and a Virginia Republican have lead 78 other House members in urging President Obama to seek Congressional approval before taking any military action in Iraq.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Lee, D-Oakland, and Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., last summer led independent letters calling on Obama to consult Congress before taking military action in Syria. Now they’ve joined together on a letter sent to the president Thursday.

“We do not believe intervention could be either quick or easy,” they wrote. “And we doubt it would be effective in meeting either humanitarian or strategic goals, and that it could very well be counter-productive.”

The lawmakers called for a political settlement involving all segments of the Iraqi population.

“As you consider options for U.S. intervention, we write to urge respect for the constitutional requirements for using force abroad,” they wrote. “The Constitution vests in Congress the power and responsibility to authorize offensive military action abroad. The use of military force in Iraq is something the Congress should fully debate and authorize.”

Besides Rigell, other Republicans signing the letter included Chris Gibson, R-N.Y.; John Duncan Jr., R-Tenn.; Walter Jones, R-N.C.; Reid Ribble, R-Wisc.; Justin Amash, R-Mich.; Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.;

Besides Lee, other Bay Area members signing the letter included Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; George Miller, D-Martinez; and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.

Posted on Thursday, July 3rd, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Iraq, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 4 Comments »

Eshoo & Speier to host town hall at Palo Alto VA

Congresswomen Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier will host a town-hall meeting Monday at the Palo Alto VA Hospital on veterans’ access to care – a touchy topic given recent revelations of VA shortcomings and malfeasance.

Veterans are invited to come and get answers to questions about the VA’s health care appointment process; Palo Alto VA Director Lisa Freeman will be there, too.

President Obama on Monday nominated former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as his new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in May amid revelations of chronic, system-wide failure and veterans dying while on long waiting lists for treatment.

“Amid deeply disturbing revelations about delayed care of veterans throughout the nation and the scandal of information being manipulated, it is critically important to not only review wait times for care but also have veterans ask their own questions and have them addressed,” Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said in a news release Wednesday. “This town hall meeting will provide a forum for veterans in our region to share their experiences with access to care at the Palo Alto VA, and, moving forward, help to develop even better systems to improve the VA hospital for our veterans.”

Speier, D-San Mateo, said in the same release that the “scandalous issue” of VA employees in other states manipulating appointment lists to conceal long waiting times “has damaged the credibility of the VA health care system.”

“It doesn’t appear that this despicable behavior exists in Northern and Central California,” she said. “But I want veterans who use VA hospitals and clinics in our area to have a chance to comment on the quality of the access to care they receive. I thank the VA Director for not only providing my staff with their insights on the challenges they face in caring for over 130,000 veterans, but also in agreeing to host a town hall meeting at the hospital.”

The meeting will be from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Monday, July 7 in the auditorium of VA Palo Alto’s Building 101, at 3801 Miranda Ave. in Palo Alto.

The VA Palo Alto Health Care System consists of three inpatient facilities in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Livermore, plus seven outpatient clinics in San Jose, Fremont, Capitola, Monterey, Stockton, Modesto, and Sonora.

Posted on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Jackie Speier, U.S. House, veterans | 1 Comment »