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Your state and Bay Area House-race roundup

All in all, it was a dismal night for Republicans in California House races.

Of the 11 California House races deemed competitive by the renowned Cook Political Report, Democrats won seven outright and are on top in two too-close-to-call other races. Another way of slicing and dicing it: All of the three endangered Democratic incumbents in these races won re-election, but only one of the four Republicans might’ve. And of the new or open seats, Democrats won three of the four.

More specifically:

    The battles to unseat Reps. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, remain too close to call with some mail-in and provisional ballots yet to be counted, but both trail their Democratic challengers by narrow margins.
    Reps. Jerry McNerney; John Garamendi, D-Fairfield; and Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara all turned away their Republican challengers to win re-election. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, is the only Republican incumbent definitely left standing in these competitive races.

Not than anyone considered it competitive, but Democrat Jared Huffman trounced Republican Dan Roberts to succeed Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-San Rafael, in the North Bay’s newly drawn 2nd Congressional District, which reaches from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border.

In the Bay Area, as usual, the only question for most Democratic incumbents (with the exception, of course, of Pete Stark) was by how enormous a margin they would dispatch their challengers. See how that all stacks up as of this hour, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Dan Lungren, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jeff Denham, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 7 Comments »

Miller leads complaint about foreclosure aid

Rep. George Miller, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat, led 18 House Democrats in complaining to the Obama Administration yesterday that not enough has been done to help distressed homeowners in the Bay Area and nationwide.

“We are writing to urge stronger and immediate actions by the Administration to help many of our constituents who are being routinely abused, lied to, and subjected to financial conflicts of interest by lenders and mortgage servicers, including those participating in federal programs,” they said in their letter to Vice President Joe Biden.

“Our constituents are running out of time. This Administration must stand up for America’s families caught in the housing crisis. The Making Home Affordable Program is simply not making sufficient progress to prevent unnecessary foreclosures. It has so far failed to ensure that mortgage servicers work with homeowners in good faith to achieve loss mitigation that works for homeowners, investors and our communities.”

With the $29 billion Home Affordable Modification Program having been pegged by the Government Accountability Office and other independent watchdogs as inefficient and in need of reform, House Republicans are targeting HAMP for elimination as part of their proposed budget cuts. Miller, D-Martinez, and his cohorts don’t support that, but rather are urging the program’s immediate improvement to crack down on mortgage servicers’ abusive practices.

Miller organized a meeting last week for more than a dozen of his colleagues with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan to convey their concern over HAMP and their constituents’ mistreatment. Among the signatories of yesterday’s letter were representatives John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose.

Posted on Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
Under: Anna Eshoo, George Miller, housing, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, Joe Biden, John Garamendi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

Today’s Congressional odds and ends

Jerry McNerneyMcNerney takes aim at gangs: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, said he reintroduced legislation yesterday to create a National Gang Activity Database that will let law enforcement officials nationwide track and share information about gang members and their activities. The Justice Department-administered database created under his National Safe Streets Gang Crime Prevention Act of 2011, H.R. 928, would share data on gangs, gang members, firearms, criminal activities, vehicles, and other useful information so investigators can track movement of gangs and members throughout a region and coordinate law enforcement’s response. He first introduced a version of this in 2007. The new bill goes first to the House Judiciary Committee.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Lee highlights MS: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said she has introduced two bills to highlight multiple sclerosis – one, a resolution supporting the goals and ideals of Multiple Sclerosis Week, March 14-20; and the other, the Adult Day Achievement Center Enhancement Act, supporting adult day programs that serve younger adults suffering from a disability as a result of a neurological disease or condition such as MS, Parkinson’s disease or a traumatic brain injury. “Adult day programs provide a critical source of support, and my bill would ensure that these vital programs are strengthened while ensuring that the needs of young adults and veterans are taken care of,” Lee said, noting more than 400,000 people are estimated to be living with multiple sclerosis, nearly 1 million people live with Parkinson’s disease, and about 1.4 million people suffer traumatic brain injuries every year.

Miller v. Boehner on jobs report: Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the senior Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, reacted to news that the economy created 222,000 private-sector jobs in February and the unemployment rate fell to 8.9 percent by saying “our nation’s job market continues to improve, though we still have lots of work ahead of us. This progress is more reason why Congress must reject Republicans’ pink-slip legislative agenda, which analysts agree threatens economic growth and hundreds of thousands of private sector jobs.” But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that although it’s “welcome news,” unemployment remains “far above where the Obama Administration promised it would be when it forced our children to pay for the ‘stimulus’ fiasco, which accelerated a government spending binge that continues to block our nation’s path to prosperity.” Boehner called the improvement seen in this report “a credit to the hard work of the American people and their success in stopping the tax hikes that were due to hit our economy on January 1. Removing the uncertainty caused by those looming tax hikes provided much-needed relief for private-sector job creators in America. Now we must build on it by eliminating the job-crushing uncertainty being caused by excessive spending, borrowing, and regulating in Washington.”

Posted on Friday, March 4th, 2011
Under: Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Lawmakers urge banks to allow aid for jobless

Five Northern California members of Congress are pressuring mortgage servicers to work with a new federally funded program in California intended to help unemployed homeowners pay their mortgages and avoid foreclosure.

The Keep Your Home California Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program provides qualified unemployed homeowners up to $3,000 a month for up to six months to help pay their mortgage. But according to the office of Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, if the monthly mortgage exceeds $3,000, the servicers won’t accept any payment at all, even if the homeowner could send a second check to cover the difference between what is owed and what the program covers. As a result, unemployed homeowners who could avoid foreclosure proceedings thanks to this program are instead at risk of failing to pay their mortgage and landing in foreclosure.

“If this program is to have meaningful success, mortgage servicers are going to have to get on board with processing these payments,” Miller said in a news release. “Refusing to accept dual payments is unacceptable and is a disservice to the homeowners who are doing everything they can to stay in their homes while they look for work. Homeowners shouldn’t have to forfeit their homes because of bureaucratic intransigence by banks and servicers.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, another of the letter’s signers, said “it’s time that banks and servicers become part of the solution and not the problem.

“It’s ridiculous that servicers and banks are unwilling to participate in a program that will help protect the value of the very asset on which their loan is based on,” she said. “I find it deeply troubling that servicers would have borrowers default rather than simply accepting payment.”

In their letter – also signed by Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz – they wrote that, “we believe refusing to accept supplementary payments from homeowners is inexcusable and we strongly urge you to remedy this problem expeditiously… It is unacceptable that servicers in California are unwilling or unable to figure out a workable resolution to this problem, particularly given that two viable options to address the issue exist.”

Those options, they say, are either to accept two checks (one from the program and one from the homeowner) or to forebear the amount of the mortgage that exceeds the $3,000 program payment.

Posted on Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
Under: George Miller, housing, Jackie Speier, John Garamendi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 13 Comments »

Congressional reactions to the State of the Union

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Barbara Boxer“President Obama’s speech tonight was inspiring, unifying and visionary.

“He addressed two major issues facing our nation – job creation and deficit reduction. And he rightly continued his call for civility in our discourse.

“Throughout his speech, he drew on the American tradition of rising to challenges through our ability to innovate and work hard.

“The President’s priorities are in line with California’s priorities. We need a clean-energy economy that will create good jobs and keep us at the forefront of the world. We need a top-notch education system that spans from Head Start to college. We need roads, bridges, high-speed rail and other infrastructure that transport people and goods efficiently in order to move our country forward.

“The President clearly stated his intention to pursue fair deficit reduction, which I support, and he also inspired us to continue working across party lines in order to meet the many challenges required of us. I look forward to working with him and my Congressional colleagues to reach these goals and make our nation stronger.”

From Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez:

“The President is absolutely right to challenge our schools to do better. Now is the time for real, substantive changes that will transform our schools and put our students on the path to success in school and in life.

“If we want to win the future, as the President said, if we want our country to prosper, then it is time we decide as a nation that our children can’t afford for us to wait any longer. It is time we decide as a nation to take a hard look at where our schools are and where we need them to be. And it is time we decide as a nation to rid ourselves of the average label we too often receive and excel, out-perform and out-compete other countries.

“If we fail to take action to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we are sentencing our students to the status quo. I’ve been fighting too long to let that happen.

“Real education reform will mean more community involvement, more parental involvement, buy in from teachers and less prescription from the federal level – all of this without losing the accountability our students need to keep them on track.

“It shouldn’t matter if a student is in a school in an urban city or a rural town, in a suburban neighborhood or on a U.S. military base – every child in this country deserves the opportunity to succeed. “We can continue to make excuses or we can realize what other countries have – that our economy will not be strong if the education of all our students is not strong.”

Read more, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, Obama presidency, Pete Stark, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 7 Comments »

Today’s rhetoric on health care reform repeal

East Bay House members have been busy speaking against the Republican bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, the health care reforms enacted last year; the repeal vote is expected to come to a vote today. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, built up a full head of steam on the House floor this morning:

And Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, went into the lions’ den this morning, on “Fox and Friends:”

On the other side, here’s House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, at his news conference this morning:

UPDATE @ 12:15 P.M.: Here’s Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont:

UPDATE @ 3:11 P.M.: The repeal bill, HR 2, has passed on a 245-189 vote, with three Democrats crossing the aisle to vote with the Republican majority: Dan Boren, D-Okla.; Mike McIntyre, D-N.C.; and Mike Ross, D-Ark.

Posted on Wednesday, January 19th, 2011
Under: George Miller, healthcare reform, John Boehner, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Blue Shield, Boehner and ballooning deficits

A trio of California House members expressed concern today about Blue Shield of California’s announcement of a significant increase – averaging 30 to 35 percent – in health insurance premiums for many of its policyholders, a hike the Democratic lawmakers say will force many Californians to choose between health insurance and daily necessities such as food and rent or mortgage payments.

(Yep, that would be the same Blue Shield of California that gave $15,000 to outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s officeholder account late last week, days before he left office; it also gave $10,000 Monday to the California Republican Party and $3,568.83 to Democratic state Senate candidate Ted Lieu.)

Reps. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; George Miller, D-Martinez; and Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, said the increase underscores the danger of repealing last year’s health care reforms, as House Republicans have vowed to do.

“Thanks to health reform, for the first time these rate increases are completely transparent and posted on healthcare.gov,” Stark said in their news release. “With the increased resources from the health reform law, California can work with Blue Shield to mitigate these increases and protect consumers. Unfortunately Republicans want to immediately repeal these protections, and future reforms that will prevent rate increases like this in the future.”

Miller said Blue Shield’s announcement “just shows that the status quo is not working for California’s families.”

“And Republican repeal of health reform will only put big insurance companies in even greater control of Americans’ health care,” he continued. “The Affordable Care Act, when fully implemented, will ensure real competition and accountability so that families already stretched thin by health insurance costs can find relief. Repealing the health reform law poses a real danger to middle class families.”

The Dems noted Blue Shield clearly stated its proposed increases “cover a period of more than one year and have almost nothing to do with the federal health reform law. These rates reflect trends that were building long before health reform.” The insurer also noted health reform actually will help get costs under control in the future through initiatives that make health care more efficient, the lawmakers said.

(UPDATE @ 3:50 P.M.: Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, a former state Insurance Commissioner, got in on the act, too. “Today’s egregious rate hike by Blue Shield of California is further proof that we can’t trust the insurance industry to stand with consumers,” he said. “As we climb out of a deep recession, the insurance companies are kicking us back down. Fortunately, for rate increases over 10 percent, the 2010 health care reform allows the Federal government to review, question, and disclose facts to the public about the increase.”

“When Congress passed the Patient’s Bill of Rights last year, we instituted important reforms that are helping to rein in the worst abuses of the insurance industry. Next Wednesday, House Republicans will attempt to repeal these vital consumer protections,” he continued. “Even with the strong consumer protections found in the Patient’s Bill of Rights, insurers like Blue Shield are still exploiting patients for financial gain. This is an argument for more consumer protections, not less. House Republicans want to replace the Patient’s Bill of Rights with the Insurance Industry’s Right to Discriminate. Let’s not start the New Year by exposing consumers to new risks.”)

For more on today’s healthcare follies, follow me after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, January 6th, 2011
Under: George Miller, healthcare reform, Henry Waxman, John Boehner, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

George Miller and John Boehner play with dolls?

Boehner, Miller and a doll 1-5-2011

What’s happening here? Write your own caption in the comments while I await a response from Miller’s office.

UPDATE @ 2:14 P.M.: The doll is Flat Stanley, the children’s book character who has become the basis of an international pen-pal project for students, teachers and families, aimed at building literacy and community. Kids keep journals of where their Stanley has been, then send the paper doll and the journal to others who do the same before sending them back, often with photos of Stanley in foreign locales.

UPDATE @ 3:32 P.M.: My bad — Daniel Weiss, Miller’s chief of staff, says this is a Flat Sally, not a Flat Stanley. (Same idea; Weiss said the hair was a dead giveaway, but I told him I don’t stereotype.) Weiss said Miller toted Sally with him to the 112th Congress’ opening day at the request of his granddaughter, a grade-schooler in Lafayette.

“He’s done this before with other of his grandchildren,” Weiss said, before gamely taking this reporter’s bait about posing with Boehner. “It was a demonstration of early bi-partisanship on behalf of America’s children … The real work lies ahead, but I’m sure his granddaughter is very appreciative of this.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 5th, 2011
Under: George Miller, John Boehner, U.S. House | 7 Comments »

Lawmakers sound off on health-care ruling

A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that a key part of the health-care reform bill signed into law earlier this year is unconstitutional because Congress can’t require people to buy health insurance.

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli had brought this case as soon as President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in March, and told the Washington Post today that today’s ruling “won’t be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution.”

As you’d expect, the Bay Area’s Congressional delegation – most of which solidly supported the Affordable Care Act – isn’t happy with the ruling.

“Today’s ruling is the exception among more than dozen court cases decided that have questioned any provision of the Affordable Care Act. In every other case, both Republican and Democratic appointed judges have ruled that the law is constitutional and that Congress did not exceed its authority,” House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, said in a news release.

“It is clear that opponents of this historic law are working overtime to take affordable health care away from our nation’s families and put insurance companies back in control,” he said. “But just as challenges against Social Security and Civil Rights Act failed, I am confident that the law to guarantee that all Americans have access quality and affordable care will stand up to the legal attacks from special interests.”

House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Pete Stark, D-Fremont, was – as usual – even blunter.

“Apparently Republicans are now for judicial activism after they were against it,” Stark said. “Unfortunately, we already know what happens if this lawsuit succeeds. Millions of Americans will lose their health insurance, premiums will go up for working families, and more people will be forced into bankruptcy when they get sick.”

Posted on Monday, December 13th, 2010
Under: George Miller, healthcare reform, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

CalPERS praises health care reform’s effects

California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) CEO Anne Stausboll wrote today to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius thank her for the department’s swift implementation of health care reform, which she said has helped the pension fund’s enrollees in several ways already.

CalPERS is the nation’s largest non-federal purchaser of health benefits in the country, and Stausboll wrote in her letter that – thanks to the health care reforms signed into law earlier this year – more than 27,000 young adults were added to their parents’ health plans effective next month, resulting in a premium increase of less than 1 percent. CalPERS also removed lifetime limits from all plans that previously had included them, she wrote.

And Stausboll wrote that CalPERS joined a program that aids early retiree health plans to keep premium costs down; this program helped hold premiums to their lowest increase in 14 years, and CalPERS estimates savings of about $200 million for more than 115,000 early retirees and their families.

All this is music to the ears of Congressional Democrats.

“Already, tens of thousands of families across California – and millions of Americans – are seeing the concrete benefits of health reform,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said in a news release. “The Patient’s Bill of Rights in health reform is now protecting Americans from the worst abuses of the insurance industry, such as lifetime limits, and CalPERS is showing us the real, human impact of these and other reform provisions.”

House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Pete Stark, D-Fremont, said the letter proves the reforms already are paying dividends just months after becoming law. “Republicans have pledged to repeal the health reform law and undo these consumer protections,” he said. “This is a dangerous prospect for nearly 1.3 million Californians in CalPERS who would be hurt.”

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, agreed. “Repealing these historic reforms, as Washington Republicans have pledged to do, will take away basic health benefits that Californians count on and take hard-earned money right out of their pockets. Californians, and all Americans, simply cannot afford the radical Republican repeal agenda.”

Sebelius blogged about the letter, writing that “we’re seeing similar signs of progress across the country … And in the months to come, we look forward to working with CalPERS and employers across the country to implement this new law and make sure all Americans can get the care they need.”

Posted on Friday, December 10th, 2010
Under: George Miller, healthcare reform, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 6 Comments »