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McCarthy leads House GOP junket to Silicon Valley

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy is bringing a group of House Republicans on an “Innovate to Create” tour of Silicon Valley this week to meet with leading tech entrepreneurs and discuss how innovation leads to American job creation and economic growth.

“Silicon Valley is the cradle of twenty-first century innovation and the home to businesses that have effectively harnessed the entrepreneurial spirit that has made this country so great. Visiting these companies and meeting with their leaders is a great opportunity for members of Congress to see firsthand how innovation leads to job creation and economic growth across the entire country and around the world,” McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, said in a news release.

“Washington must be mindful of the impact its policies can have in either fostering or hindering this growth. House Republicans are committed to unshackling entrepreneurs from onerous government-manufactured burdens that threaten to dampen opportunities for development so that there are no limits to what America’s innovators can imagine for our future.”

The lawmakers will meet with representatives from Google, Facebook, the Internet Association Roundtable, Engine Advocacy, Good Technology and Palantir Technologies. Besides McCarthy, lawmakers on the tour include Reps. Susan Brooks, R-Ind.; George Holding, R-N.C.; Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; Patrick McHenry, R-N.C.; Patrick Meehan, R-Pa.; Mike Pompeo, R-Kan.; and Steve Scalise, R-La.

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Today’s Congressional odds and ends

Eshoo recovering from surgery: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, underwent a successful laparoscopic appendectomy at Stanford Hospital yesterday and is making a full recovery, her office reported this morning. There were no complications from the surgery, performed by Dr. Karen Whang. Eshoo, 68, will be working from home for the rest of the week, her office said.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Lee praises flights to Cuba: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, announced that Oakland International Airport has received authorization by the United States Customs and Border Protection to become the first Bay Area airport offering direct charter passenger flights to Cuba. The decision to allow scheduled flights to Cuba is part of a broader effort by President Barack Obama to reach out to the Cuban people for academic, religious, humanitarian and news-gathering purposes. “This new charter is another important step in moving beyond the outdated Cold War era policies of the past and turning to a new, productive page in U.S.-Cuba relations and hopefully will lead to more travel and exchange with Cuba,” Lee said in a news release. “I have always believed that people-to-people diplomacy is the one of the most effective ways for strengthening ties between two nations. I am hopeful that today’s announcement will lead to many more Bay Area residents taking advantage of the opportunity to directly engage with the Cuban people.”

Miller strikes back on health care: Republicans from the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee held a field hearing yesterday in Evansville, Ind., on “The Recent Health Care Law: Consequences for Indiana Families and Workers,” and Rep. George Miller – the committee’s ranking Democrat – fired back with a column published today in the local paper. “Unfortunately, the hearing was more of the same and ignored the positive impacts the Affordable Care Act will have on Hoosiers,” Miller, D-Martinez, wrote in Evansville’s Courier & Press. “This is unfortunate. The new law has begun to deliver real benefits for Hoosier businesses, families and seniors. You deserve the truth on what the law does. Despite all of the heated rhetoric, health reform succeeded and the sky has not fallen.”

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Jackie Speier makes abortion debate personal

Hours after Rep. Jackie Speier joined some of her California Democratic House peers yesterday to voice concern over Republicans’ efforts to cut Title X family planning funding, she made national news by revealing on the House floor that she herself has had an abortion:

Speier, D-Hillsborough, spoke in response to the ardently anti-abortion-rights Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who had just read aloud graphic descriptions of abortion from a book. This all happened during debate over an amendment by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Speier moments ago Tweeted: “I’m overwhelmed by the warm comments I’ve received from across the U.S. I will always stand up for women’s health and reproductive rights.”

UPDATE @ 3:09 P.M.: Speier issued this statement today after the House voted 240-185 to pass Pence’s amendment:

“Last night, I spoke on the House floor about a painful time in my life when the pregnancy that my husband and I prayed for was unsuccessful. I had what’s called dilation and evacuation or d & e. The fetus slipped from my uterus into my vagina and could not survive. Today some news reports are implying that I wanted my pregnancy to end, but that is simply not true. I lost my baby.

“It is time to stop politicizing women’s health. For some, describing a procedure like the one I endured is nothing more than talking points. But for millions of women like me it’s much more—it’s something that will always be a part of us.

“Planned Parenthood provides vital services to women including family planning and cervical cancer screenings. I am disappointed that the House passed the Pence amendment to defund it. These sorts of policies would turn back the clock on women’s health and reproductive rights. I urge the Senate to defeat it. It is time to stop playing politics with our lives.”

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Berkeley, Oakland urge oil money transparency

Berkeley City Council last night approved a resolution urging the U.S. Senate to approve S.1700, the “Energy Security Through Transparency Act” by U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., which would urge the Obama Administration to require that companies disclose payments to foreign governments for oil, gas and mineral rights. Oakland City Council passed a similar resolution last week.

“Good governance in extractive industries contribute to a better domestic investment climate for U.S. businesses, increase the reliability of commodity supplies, promote greater U.S. energy security and thereby strengthen our national security,” says the summary on Lugar’s Web site.

San Francisco-based Justice in Nigeria Now hails the cities’ actions as a moral victory.

“I was tortured and imprisoned by the Nigerian military for my peaceful protests against Shell Oil’s destruction of our land,” Suanu Kingston Bere, a Nigerian activist who spoke at the Berkeley City Council meeting, said in JINN’s news release. “I believe the City’s support sends a strong message that communities in the U.S are concerned about the human rights abuses and environmental damage associated with oil extraction. I do not want to see my people continue to go through what I went through.”

Berkeley’s resolution also calls on the State Department to support third-party peace talks in the Delta to address environmental destruction and lack of investment in the oil producing region. The resolution was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Jesse Arreguin, Darryl Moore and Max Anderson and was introduced to the council through the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, which worked with JINN to draft it.

JINN says 50 years of oil exploitation in the Niger Delta has produced over $700 billion in oil revenues shared between the Nigerian government and oil giants like San Ramon-based Chevron as well as Exxon Mobil and Shell. More than 40 percent of Nigeria’s oil is exported to the U.S. Yet despite the corporate oil wealth, local residents’ quality of life has deteriorated – their drinking polluted, their food fisheries poisoned, their access to education, health care and even electricity limited.

“Oil companies in Nigeria have had long a relationship with the notoriously corrupt and historically brutal Nigerian government where rampant corruption, fraudulent elections and violent suppression of peaceful protests are the norm in the Delta,” Nigerian writer and activist Omoyele Sowore said in JINN’s news release. “The proposed ESTT Act in the Senate is an important step toward holding oil companies accountable for their collusion with the Nigerian government, which protects their profits while killing and injuring innocent local people and destroying the Delta’s fragile environment.”

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Locals react to SCOTUS ruling on voter ID

The U.S. Supreme Court today upheld Indiana’s voter identification law, finding states can require photo identification without violating voters’ rights, thus validating Republican-inspired voter ID laws. Per the Washington Post, critics say the 6-3 ruling disenfranchises those least likely to have driver’s licenses or passports: the poor, elderly, disabled and city dwellers.

More than 20 states have some form of voter ID law, but Indiana’s is the strictest. This case’s record contained no evidence that the type of polling-place impersonation fraud this law was meant to pre-empt has ever occurred in Indiana, but those who wanted the law stricken had trouble identifying specific voters whose ballots were not counted because of it.

Here’s what Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, has to say about it:

“Today’s Supreme Court decision reminds us that the struggle for civil rights continues and the right to vote is still under threat.

“This decision is a big blow to all Americans -especially the poor, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities who will face tremendous obstacles in exercising the fundamental right to vote.

“Frankly, the continued push for these photo-identification laws is not at all about the integrity of the electoral process – but rather part of a tradition of voter suppression that must end.

“I am committed to defending the right to vote for every American and I will work with my colleagues to strengthen and preserve our electoral process.”

Comments from Pelosi, Feinstein et al, after the jump… Continue Reading