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Barbara Lee is running for Dem Caucus vice chair

Rep. Barbara Lee has launched her campaign to become the House Democratic Caucus’ vice chairwoman, asking her peers for support.

Lee, D-Oakland, official threw her name into contention for House Democrats’ fifth-highest leadership post with a letter Tuesday; Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Lakewood, declared her candidacy for the post last month. Current vice chairman Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., is limited to two terms in the post, and Democrats are expected to pick a new chairman and vice chairman soon after November’s elections.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“As Vice Chair, I will work to find innovative ways to champion the issues that are important to you, your district and our caucus,” Lee wrote in her letter to fellow House Democrats. “In 2013, I identified an opportunity to expand Democratic leadership on ending poverty in America. Together with our leadership, we launched the Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity which works for the more than 46 million Americans struggling to make ends meet while developing pathways for these families into the middle class.”

Lee also touted her work on the Appropriations, Budget and Steering and Policy committees, as well as her stints as chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, executive board member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and vice chairwoman and founding member of the LGBT Equality Caucus.

“In these roles, I have built diverse coalitions that advance our shared Democratic values,” she wrote. “Simultaneously, I have reached across the aisle to deliver bipartisan results, such as creating the bipartisan and bicameral HIV/AIDS Caucus and authoring or co-authoring every major piece of HIV/AIDS legislation signed into law since 1998. The importance of listening to others with different points of view and new ideas has been critical in these and many other efforts.”

“It is an honor to work with you, side by side, to further our shared values and fight to ensure opportunity for all. I know firsthand the depth of your passion, talent and experience. It is this diversity of experience that is the backbone of our caucus,” she concluded. “I hope to serve you as the next Vice Chair and I look forward to continuing our discussions.”

Lee, 69, was first elected to the House in a 1998 special election to replace her mentor and longtime employer, Rep. Ron Dellums of Oakland, who retired mid-term. Earlier, she served in the state Senate from 1997 to 1998, and in the Assembly from 1991 to 1997.

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Barbara Lee talks tough on Afghanistan extension

Rep. Barbara Lee – who cast Congress’ lone vote against authorizing use of military force after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, deeming it a blank check for endless war – isn’t happy with President Barack Obama’s announcement that he’s dropping plans to withdraw nearly all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by 2016’s end.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“Just last week, our nation marked the 14th anniversary of the US invasion in Afghanistan. Today, we learned that our troops will remain in the country through 2017, further extending the longest war in American history,” Lee, D-Oakland, said in a statement issued Thursday. “In Afghanistan, our brave servicemen and women have gone above and beyond the call of duty. It’s past time to end this war.”

Lee said 2,350 service members have lost their lives; many thousands more bear visible and invisible scars, and the war’s price tag now tops $716 billion – money better spent on domestic priorities.

“More than a decade later, we remain mired in a war with no end. Rather than extending this costly war, it’s time to listen to the American people and bring our troops home,” she said. “While Afghanistan and the region still face significant challenges, history has shown us that there is no military solution. Only an inclusive political solution can put Afghanistan on a path to peace and prosperity. The future of Afghanistan must be in the hands of the Afghan people.”

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SD9: Robert Reich endorses Nancy Skinner

A state Senate battle between two like-minded progressives rolls on in the East Bay, with some new heat from a prominent liberal’s endorsement.

Nancy SkinnerFormer U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, now a UC-Berkeley professor, endorsed former Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner this week in next year’s 9th State Senate District race. Skinner, D-Berkeley, is vying with former Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, in this race – two labor-backed liberals with no daylight between them on most notable issues.

“Nancy Skinner is a proud progressive leader who is not afraid to take on powerful corporate interests and fight for our families,” Reich said in Skinner’s news release. “We need a fighter like Nancy Skinner in the State Senate.”

Skinner, who was term- limited out of the Assembly late last year and now is an energy and transportation senior fellow at UC-Davis, said she’s honored to have Reich’s support. “Not only is he a personal hero, he is one of the most thoughtful, compelling and effective progressive leaders in America. Reich has dedicated his career to combating injustice and making a real difference in the world.”

Skinner less than two weeks ago announced her endorsement by 12 current state Senate Democrats. But Swanson began rolling out his own endorsements at the start of this past summer, which have included nods from both the assemblymen now representing the district; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Teamsters Joint Council 7; and 9th District incumbent Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who’ll be term-limited out next year.

Skinner had about $922,000 ($925,176, less $2,878 in outstanding debt) banked for this race as of June 30, while Swanson had about $50,000 ($80,387, less $30,443 in outstanding debt).

Republican Richard Kinney, San Pablo’s vice mayor, also is running for the seat; he had about $750 banked as of June 30. But in a district that’s 63 percent Democrat to 8 percent Republican, it’s hard to imagine him making it into the June primary’s top two in order to advance to November.

A third prominent Democrat, former Assembly Majority Leader and current Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, dropped out of this race late last month.

“Over the past six months, I am proud to say that we had successfully begun to build a campaign based on local support, community action and alliances with like-minded groups in Sacramento, Chan wrote in message to supporters. “Unfortunately, political races are increasingly dependent on money and less on grassroots support and action. It has become clear that the window of time I have to raise the necessary funds will be difficult given my responsibilities to my constituents. It has also become clear that the needs of my family must come first.”

Chan noted that although she can use some of the money she had raised for this race for her supervisorial campaign committee and the rest for like-minded candidates and causes, she will honor individual contributors’ requests for refunds.

The 9th District is a swath of Contra Costa and Alameda counties from Rodeo in the north to San Leandro in the south, including Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, Piedmont, Emeryville, Richmond, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Hercules, Kensington and other communities.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”