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Barbara Lee meets with Raul Castro at U.N.

Rep. Barbara Lee met with Cuban President Raul Castro on Friday at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

President Obama earlier this month nominated Lee, D-Oakland, as a Representative of the United States to the 70th U.N. General Assembly. She’s been a longtime supporter of normalized relations with Cuba.

“I was particularly pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the renewed diplomatic relations between our two countries and to personally congratulate him on the historic steps taken toward normalizing relations with the United States,” Lee said in a news release. “I look forward to continuing to work in Congress to lifting the travel ban and ending the failed trade embargo. President Obama has shown bold leadership by opening up relations with Cuba – it’s past time for Congress to act as well.”

Posted on Friday, September 25th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, International, International politics, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

CA17: Notes from Ro Khanna’s endorsement event

As I reported this morning, Democratic candidate Ro Khanna collected endorsements Friday from San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, and Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone in his second bid to unseat Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

Khanna news conference 9-25-2015 (photo by Josh Richman)In a news conference at the San Jose Public Library’s Berryessa branch, the three prominent local Democrats said they can no longer support the eight-term incumbent with an intelligent and independent candidate like Khanna waiting in the wings to represent the 17th Congressional District.

Stone said Friday he supported Honda’s first run for the county’s board of supervisors in 1990, and all through Honda’s elections to the Assembly and House, but remained neutral as Khanna mounted his first challenge last year “in hopes that this would be his (Honda’s) last campaign.”

“If he were here today, I would tell him what I told him on the phone five minutes ago, which is: ‘Mike, it’s time for you to retire,’” Stone said.

Rosen said Khanna embodies the excellence and diversity for which Silicon Valley is known, and Liccardo praised Khanna’s work on developing the manufacturing revitalization initiative that San Jose just rolled out.

Asked why they hadn’t supported Khanna last year, Liccardo said he was running for mayor at the time and didn’t want to meddle in other races while doing so; Rosen said he regretted not endorsing Khanna last year, a decision made for reasons “I’m not particularly proud of” but which he wouldn’t describe further.

None of them mentioned the pending House Ethics Committee investigation of Honda’s office and campaign. Asked about this after the news conference, Rosen said he had informed Honda of his decision to endorse Khanna before the Office of Congressional Ethics report became public early this month.

Khanna praised the three for backing him.

“Change is not something that happens without people in leadership at huge political risk standing up and saying ‘I get it, I want to bring about that change,’” Khanna said. “I wish there were more elected officials who had the courage of their convictions, who endorsed people based on who they thought would do the best job” rather than automatically supporting an incumbent.

From my story posted this morning and published in today’s print editions:

Last week, Khanna announced his endorsement by state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles. Adam Alberti, spokesman for Honda’s campaign, told the Sacramento Bee at that time that “the congressman enjoys near universal support of the Democratic establishment” in Silicon Valley.

On Thursday, Alberti said this “is typical Ro Khanna, trying to make mountains out of molehills.”

“There are no surprises on this list of endorsers. The fact that Khanna is trying to show his Democratic support with this sparse list of endorsers demonstrates the weakness in his support among Democrats,” Alberti said. “To date, Mike Honda has not lost a single endorsement from last cycle. The reason is simple: Mike Honda is the only true Democrat in the race, and the conservative politics of his challenger do not match the progressive nature of the district.”

Liccardo and Stone have backed pension reforms and performance measures for public employees, putting them at odds with their party’s labor-union base.

Khanna spokesman Hari Sevugan replied: “If Mike Honda thinks the mayor of San Jose, the Santa Clara County assessor, the Santa Clara County district attorney and the president pro tempore of the Senate — each of whom remained neutral in 2014 — are insignificant Democrats, he’s not just dangerously out of touch with the desire for change these endorsements represent, but out of touch with the reality of his situation.”

Posted on Friday, September 25th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 18 Comments »

Honda & Lee bring home bacon for BART, cops

‘Tis the season when members of Congress proudly trumpet the bacon they’re bringing home for local programs and institutions.

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, announced Friday that the Department of Transportation has awarded $150 million to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority to fully fund the next year of construction on the BART Silicon Valley Berryessa extension. He said he used his Appropriations Committee seat to ensure the funding was included in the budget.

“Since coming to Congress, I have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that the BART Silicon Valley Extension receives federal funding,” he said in his news release. “In Silicon Valley, the capital of innovation and manufacturing, we lead in many industries, including progressive transportation projects that will reduce traffic on our roadways and protect our environment.”

He said he has previously worked with VTA and the Secretary of Transportation to secure the $900 million federal full-funding grant agreement needed for the BART extension, $700 million of which has now been brought home.

And Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, announced Monday that the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program is awarding $1.875 million to create or preserve jobs for 15 officers in Oakland; $250,000 for two officers in Alameda County; and $125,000 for one officer in Berkeley.

“At a time when departments face high resource constraints, these federal grants will help address public safety and promote community-oriented policing,” Lee, also an Appropriations Committee member, said in her news release. “As we work to build greater trust between law enforcement and our communities, especially communities of color, the COPS program has proven track record of re-focusing law enforcement efforts on the needs of the communities and promoting greater community trust. We must ensure this vital federal program has the resources it needs to support our communities and ensure public safety.”

Posted on Monday, September 21st, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Oakland pastor is House’s guest chaplain

Pastor Brondon Reems from Oakland’s Center of Hope Community Church served as the House’s guest chaplain Thursday.

Pastor Brondon ReemsReems’s mother, Bishop Ernestine Reems, founded the church. He also is co-founder of Oakland’s Potters House for Young Men, a 24-hour residential care facility for young teens.

“God’s timing is always right. It is a privilege and a blessing for me to be selected to represent God in the political field with prayer,” Reems said in a news release issued by Rep. Barbara Lee, who invited him. “I would like to thank Congresswoman Lee for this tremendous opportunity.”

Lee, D-Oakland, said Reems “has been a pillar of community and a champion for youth and the most vulnerable. I am so glad Congress had the chance to hear his message of peace and service today. His commitment to the East Bay community and his passion for serving others is an inspiration.”

Posted on Thursday, September 17th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | No Comments »

Honda resolution would protect LGBT House staff

Rep. Mike Honda introduced a bipartisan resolution Thursday to protect House workers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“No person should be afraid of persecution, discrimination, threats, or bullying simply for being who they are,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in his news release. “It is important that in Congress, we lead by example and ensure that the workplace is safe and secure for all employees, and to ensure that discrimination has no place in Congress, especially for LGBTQ individuals. Congress needs to be an equal opportunity employer.”

Honda is founder and chairman of the Congressional Caucus to End Bullying; his resolution’s original cosponsors include Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.

“Most Americans already believe that people in any workplace cannot be discriminated against due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Unfortunately, that is not the case anywhere as it relates to federal law,” Ros-Lehtinen said in the news release. “If we are truly to be The People’s House, we must reflect our nation’s views and values and lead by example. No reasonable person can believe that discrimination or other reprisals based on an immutable characteristic is a tolerable situation in any workplace.”

The resolution is supported by groups including the Human Rights Campaign and the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee.

Honda one year ago Thursday testified before a House Rules subcommittee in support of the House’s LGBT workers, noting that under current rules, “individuals are protected from employment decisions on the basis or face, color, religion, sex, disability, age, or national origin” but not sexual orientation or gender identity.

“For the many LGBT employees of the House – today and tomorrow – we must ensure that employment discrimination has no place in this Congress, or any thereafter,” he said at the time. “After all, securing the comfort and protections for our employees ultimately serves our nation.”

Posted on Thursday, September 17th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

House OKs John Muir park expansion

The House on Wednesday approved Rep. Mark DeSaulnier’s bill to expand the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, sending it on to the U.S. Senate.

H.R. 1289, DeSaulnier’s first stand-alone bill as a House member, would add 44 acres of donated land to the existing 330-acre plot, improving access to the park and its scenic trails. DeSaulnier’s predecessor, Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, had introduced the same bill last year; the House approved it but the Senate failed to vote on it before adjourning.

“This historic site is the place where Muir, the father of the National Park system, championed the revolutionary idea that wild spaces should be set aside for all to enjoy,” DeSaulnier, D-Concord, said in his news release. “I look forward to seeing this bill passed by the Senate and signed into law.”

Linus Eukel, executive director of the John Muir Land Trust, said Muir “often walked this land with his two daughters, to admire the coast live oak that grow there, as well as the annual wildflowers that punctuate its grassy hillsides. Expansion of the John Muir Historic Site will forever protect this beautiful property and allow future generations to share in the same delights as Muir’s daughters,”

DeSaulnier’s bill has 31 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has introduced companion legislation.

Posted on Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

FEMA approves grant for fighting Valley Fire

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved California’s request for a fire-management assistance declaration for the Valley Fire that’s ravaging parts of Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties, Rep. Mike Thompson announced Monday morning.

The FEMA grant program allows for the “mitigation, management, and control” of fires burning on publicly or privately owned forest or grasslands which threaten such destruction as would constitute a major disaster.

“The Valley Fire is spreading rapidly and has proven to be especially dangerous. It has already devastated nearly 100 square miles and is just five percent contained. Assistance from every level of government is needed as we respond to this major disaster,” Thompson, D-St. Helena, said in a news release.

“Many thanks to FEMA for quickly approving federal funds to help our first responders contain and eliminate the fire, and to help our district recover from the damage it has caused,” he said. “The brave men and women of CAL FIRE, and all emergency responders, are in my thoughts and prayers as they selflessly work to protect our communities.”

The Valley Fire has scorched more than 61,000 acres and is only 5 percent contained. More than 400 structures have been destroyed and more than 13,000 people have been forced to evacuate as 1,400 firefighters have been deployed.

The FEMA grant will cover 75 percent of the costs for various fire suppression, safety and recovery needs, including equipment and supplies; evacuations, shelters, traffic control and arson investigation; field camps, meals, comfort and safety items for firefighters; and more.

Posted on Monday, September 14th, 2015
Under: Mike Thompson, U.S. House, Uncategorized | No Comments »

George Miller to serve as lecturer at Cal

Well, he did say he wanted to stay involved in education and education policy.

George MillerFormer Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who retired this year after 40 years in the House, will join the University of California, Berkeley as the Fall 2015 Matsui Lecturer at the Robert T. Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service.

That means Miller will spend a week in residency at the Matsui Center during October, speaking to classes, meeting with students, delivering a public lecture and taking part in campus culture. His public lecture – focusing on Congress, labor, and income inequality – is scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19th in Cal’s Banatao Auditorium; registration for this free event is available online.

Matsui Center Director Ethan Rarick said Miller “was an extraordinary national leader with a long and distinguished record of service in Congress, but he is also deeply rooted in the politics and policy challenges of California.”

Miller, 70, called this “a wonderful honor,” especially given that the center’s namesake – the late Rep. Bob Matsui, D-Sacramento – “was not only a great friend but a passionate thinker and fighter for economic and social justice.”

“He fully understood the obligation, power, and the duty that the United States Congress has to assure that those less fortunate and in need of assistance are able to fully participate in the American society and economy,” Miller said. “Bob Matsui never stopped fighting for justice. He was a great role model for me and many other members of Congress who served with him. I am grateful for the opportunity afforded me by the Matsui Center to engage Berkeley Campus students in the discussion of the critical issues of our time.”

Miller also currently serves as senior education advisor for the Boston-based education tech services company Cengage Learning, helping executives on issues ranging from public policy to business strategy. And he’s a member of a “Right Start Commission” launched in May by Common Sense Kids Action to explore ways to modernize California’s early-childhood services.

The Matsui Center, founded in 2008, is part of Cal’s Institute of Governmental Studies, California’s oldest public policy research center.

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015
Under: George Miller, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

CA17: Ro Khanna got married

17th Congressional District candidate Ro Khanna got married Saturday in Cleveland.

Per the New York Times:

Ro Khanna and Ritu AhujaRitu Ahuja and Rohit Khanna were married Saturday in Cleveland. Pandit Ashok Bhargava officiated at Severance Hall, the home of the Cleveland Orchestra.

Until April, Mrs. Khanna, 36, was a product marketing specialist in New York for Bulgari, the Italian jewelry and accessories company. She graduated from Georgetown and received a master’s in strategic communications from Columbia.

The bride is a daughter of Usha Ahuja and Monte Ahuja of Hunting Valley, Ohio. The bride’s father is the chairman of Mura Holdings, an investment firm, and is the chief executive of Transmaxx, an automotive transmission parts supplier, both in Solon, Ohio.

Mr. Khanna, 38, is the vice president for strategic initiatives in the Santa Clara, Calif., office of Smart Utility Systems, an energy-efficiency software company. He is also a lecturer in economics at Stanford University, and a Democratic candidate for Congress from Cupertino, Calif. From 2009-11, he worked for the Obama administration as a deputy assistant secretary of commerce. He graduated from the University of Chicago and received a law degree from Yale.

The groom is a son of Jyotsna Khanna and Vijay Khanna of Churchville, Pa. The groom’s mother retired as a substitute special-education teacher in the Council Rock School District in Newtown, Pa. His father retired as a chemical engineer in the Springfield, Pa., office of Rohm & Haas, a manufacturer of chemicals.

Khanna, a Democrat, is running again against Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Honda defeated Khanna by 3.6 percentage points last November after a costly, sometimes ugly race.

Posted on Sunday, August 30th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Mike Honda blasts Jeb Bush on ‘anchor babies’

Rep. Mike Honda has added his voice to the chorus of Democrats and Asian Americans criticizing Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush for his comments about “anchor babies.”

The former Florida governor was in McAllen, Texas, near the U.S.-Mexico border on Monday when he defended his use of the term to describe children born in the United States to parents who immigrated illegally. He argued that he’s been “immersed in the immigrant experience” personally and said it’s “ludicrous” to say he used the phrase as a slur.

“What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed where there’s organized efforts, and frankly, it’s more related to Asian people coming into our country, having children in that organized efforts taking advantage of a noble concept which is birthright citizenship,” he said. “I support the 14th Amendment.”

“This language is a slur against all immigrants and has no place in our culture. We need to be focused on elevating the conversation and working towards real, comprehensive immigration reform,” said Honda, D-San Jose, who is chairman emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

“Our country is one founded on a multitude of cultures and backgrounds, and such close-minded language goes against the foundation of our democracy. The 14th Amendment of our Constitution guarantees citizenship to all people born or naturalized in the United States, and we cannot stand by and let anyone diminish that right,” he said. “In Silicon Valley – one of the most diverse areas of our country – we celebrate people from all backgrounds and their contributions to our nation. As the representative of the only Asian American majority district in the continental United States, and as a proud American of Japanese descent, I strongly condemn these statements.”

Posted on Tuesday, August 25th, 2015
Under: 2016 presidential election, Immigration, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 12 Comments »