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Pelosi to co-headline Muslim Advocates fundraiser

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Keith Ellison will headline Muslim Advocates’ fundraising gala next Saturday, March 9, in Millbrae.

Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Ellison, D-Minn. – the first Muslim elected to Congress – are scheduled to take part in a discussion “on opportunities to advance civil rights in the 113th Congress,” according to the San-Francisco-based organization’s e-mail.

Muslim Advocates describes itself as “a national legal advocacy and educational organization dedicated to promoting freedom, justice and equality for all, regardless of faith, by using the tools of policy engagement, legal advocacy and civic education and by serving as a legal resource to promote the full participation of Muslims in American civic life.”

Tickets for the dinner at the Westin San Francisco Airport hotel range from $100 for students and nonprofit/government employees to $250. “Buy your tickets today and help support our work fighting racial and religious profiling, combating anti-Muslim bigotry, and educating mosque and charity leaders to strengthen and protect their institutions,” the organization’s e-mail urged.

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Who’ll decide the future of marriage in California?

I and my colleague Howard Mintz wrote an article today about how four other states’ votes in favor of gay marriage this week might or might not affect California’s situation on that issue. Here’s a tidbit that didn’t make it into the story:

Even if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds both California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, it might not fall to activists alone to make a renewed electoral push for same-sex marriage in California, suggested Rick Jacobs, chairman of the Courage Campaign, a Los Angeles-based progressive activist network claiming more than 750,000 members nationwide.

Thanks to this week’s elections, Democrats now hold supermajorities in both chambers of California’s Legislature as well as the governor’s office, Jacobs noted. Should the courts fail the movement, he said, “I can imagine a scenario … wherein we wouldn’t even have to pay the money to put it on the ballot: The Legislature and the governor could do it.”

Gil Duran, spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, responded that “it is premature to speculate on these matters while the case is pending before the United States Supreme Court.”

Similarly, John Vigna, spokesman for Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said “the Speaker believes this discussion is premature because the case is still before the courts, and the Speaker is very confident that the courts will invalidate Proposition 8 because of the eloquent and powerful case made by the plaintiffs and cited by Judge Walker in his decision ruling Proposition 8 as unconstitutional.”

But state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, seemed to embrace Jacobs’ idea: “I’m open to any and all ways to promote the cause of marriage equality and civil rights for all people.”

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I’ve been schooled by Rick Santorum

I had an article in the papers Sunday before last about how volatility in the GOP presidential race was increasing the chance – albeit still slim – that California Republicans, with a very late primary on June 5, could actually have some impact in choosing the party’s nominee.

Yesterday’s shakeup, in which Rick Santorum won the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses as well as the “beauty contest” nonbinding caucus in Missouri, probably only advances that possibility by further eroding the Mitt Romney inevitability meme.

However, in that story, I’d written:

The first three states already have winnowed the field from six candidates to four, and Florida alone could be big enough to scare someone else out of the race. (Hint: His name rhymes with “slick decorum.”)

Santorum ascendant (AP Photo)Polls had not predicted a Santorum victory in Colorado; some had predicted he’d win in Minnesota and Missouri, but he beat those projections by double or more. I think a lot of people are scratching their heads today trying to figure out the sudden Santorum surge. Did Newt Gingrich’s drubbing (and post-caucus news conference) in Nevada send conservatives running for Santorum? Did the 9th Circuit’s ruling on Proposition 8 yesterday galvanize people to vote for the candidate who has most staunchly opposed same-sex marriage, or could it have been the Obama administration policy on health insurance coverage for contraception? Or did Santorum’s strategy of concentrating on smaller states while Romney and Gingrich duked it out elsewhere simply pay off in spades?

I still don’t think Santorum will win the Republican nomination; Romney has a substantial lead in delegates which I don’t think anyone will surpass, not to mention a lot more money in his campaign war chest.

But I clearly missed the mark in thinking Santorum was on his last legs and about to drop out, too. I hereby tuck in the napkin for a healthy helping of crow.

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House Dems invoke Reagan in debt-ceiling war

Some of the House’s most liberal Democrats have found an unlikely icon in their question to get their Republican counterparts to agree to raise the national debt ceiling: the late former President Ronald Reagan.

Yesterday, various Dems were shopping around this audio clip of Reagan’s Sept. 26, 1987 radio address, discussing the severe necessity of the United States meeting its obligations in regards to dealing with the national debt ceiling:

“Hell just might freeze over. I’m promoting a clip of Ronald Reagan,” Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, tweeted with a link to the video. “His words on raising the debt limit ring true today.”

And this morning, Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget Taskforce Chairman Mike Honda, D-San Jose, along with CPC co-chairs Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Raul Grijalva, R-Ariz., are sending a letter to all House Republicans invoking the Gipper:

Dear Colleague,

We draw your attention to the attached letter from President Ronald Reagan to Majority Leader Howard Baker dated November 16, 1983. President Reagan was a staunch conservative whose views sharply differ from Progressives’ in nearly every respect. Yet, Reagan understood that the American people have invested their trust in our ability to be wise stewards. This is why President Reagan said, “This country now possesses the strongest credit in the world. The full consequences of a default – – or event the prospect of default – – by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate.”

How could we allow the full faith and credit of The United States of America to be as damaged as the credit of other nations that have defaulted on their sovereign debt?

We hope you will take President Reagan’s message to heart and put what’s best for America’s economy ahead of gaining a short-term political advantage. Let’s not hold the jobs and economic security of the American people hostage to an agenda that will only cause long-term harm to our great nation.

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House members urge recess appointment

A group of 89 House members – including all but two from the Bay Area’s delegation – wrote to President Obama today urging him to make a recess appointment of Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

news conference 6-2-2011Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., held a news conference today on Capitol Hill to announce the letter as well as a petition with 250,000 signatures, collected by Progressive Change Campaign Committee and CREDO Action through online campaigns.

“Elizabeth Warren has proved to be an effective fighter who puts America first by working to protect the middle-class,” Ellison said. “Professor Warren knows that our future prosperity depends upon working for the economic interests of the overwhelming majority of our citizens. Elizabeth Warren needs to be confirmed without further delay.”

Grijalva said Warren is worth fighting for, even if it has to be a recess appointment. “Whoever heads the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will be the strongest consumer watchdog in the country. That’s not a position where you can settle for second best. Elizabeth Warren is honest, you can’t question her credentials, and she’s a true advocate for families and consumers’ interests. I strongly support her and hope to see her on the job as soon as possible.”

The only Bay Area members who didn’t sign the letter are House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., explained the GOP’s opposition to confirming Warren’s appointment on “Meet the Press” this past Sunday:

Well, we’re pretty unenthusiastic about the possibility of Elizabeth Warren. We’re pretty unenthusiastic, frankly, about this new agency, and we’ve sent a letter to the president saying that some changes need to made—be made in the CFPB, the Consumer Financial Protection Board, because as it’s currently constituted, it answers to no one and, I think, could be a serious threat to our financial system.

The CFPB was created under last year’s Dodd-Frank financial reforms to ensure that consumers have the full, clear and complete information they need to choose the financial products and services — including credit cards, student loans and mortgages — that are best for them.

Read the full text of the letter, after the jump…
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Today’s Congressional odds and ends

Jerry McNerneyMcNerney seeks jobs for vets: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, today announced he’s among the co-authors of the bipartisan Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, aimed at helping reduce unemployment among veterans. Among other provisions, H.R. 1941 aims to ensure every veteran takes part in the Transition Assistance Program – which provides information about transitioning from military service to civilian life to armed forces members within 180 days of their separation or retirement – and that the program delivers individualized assistance to each returning veteran. The bill also encourages federal agencies to hire veterans; provides additional Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits to qualifying veterans with service-connected disabilities; creates a competitive grant program for nonprofits that help veterans find employment through job training and mentorship initiatives; and requires the Department of Labor, the Department of Defense, and the VA to work to reduce and eliminate barriers between military training and civilian licensing requirements for specialized work. “Taking aggressive steps to help returning veterans find good jobs is the right thing to do and will benefit the economy,” McNerney said in a news release. “Employers and veterans alike will benefit from the Hiring Heroes Act, and I look forward to working with a bipartisan group of my colleagues to move this bill forward.” The bill was introduced yesterday by Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., and the other co-sponsors are Bob Filner, D-San Diego; C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla.; and Norm Dicks, D-Wash. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate earlier this year.

John GaramendiGaramendi again urges Afghanistan withdrawal: Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, brought his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, calling for a substantial drawdown in U.S. forces in Afghanistan by 2013, to the House Rules Committee today. He’d brought a similar amendment last week to the Armed Services Committee, of which he’s a member; the bill without his amendment was approved in a 60-1 vote with Garamendi the sole dissenter, saying he couldn’t in good conscience vote for a bill that extends the counterinsurgency strategy and needlessly puts servicemembers’ lives at risk. He instead advocates pulling most troops out and shifting the remaining ones away from nation building and toward tightly focused counterterrorism efforts.

Pete StarkStark pushes missing-kids bill: Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, will host a news conference tomorrow – which is National Missing Children’s Day – to introduce the Recovering Missing Children Act. His office says the bill would ensure that state and local law enforcement have access to the resources they need to bring missing children home safely. The U.S. Treasury Department studied 1,700 parental abductions and found that in over one third of the cases, tax returns were filed using the missing child’s Social Security number; hundreds of those tax returns had a new address for the child and the abductor, but law enforcement officers weren’t allowed access to this information. The Recovering Missing Children Act would allow such access. Expected to join Stark for the bill’s introduction are U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn.; Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn.; Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio; National Center for Missing and Exploited Children President Ernie Allen; and Association of Missing and Exploited Children’s Organizations National Coordinator Wendy Jolley-Kabi.