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Boxer urges end to Planned Parenthood panel

In the wake of the mass shooting that claimed three lives Friday at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer on Monday urged House Speaker Paul Ryan to disband the new committee targeting the health organization.

Former Speaker John Boehner created the “Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives” in October to probe Planned Parenthood. Boxer, D-Calif., calls it a “witch hunt” against an organization that provides vital healthcare services but hasn’t broken the law.

Some Democrats have faulted the hot rhetoric slung by Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates against Planned Parenthood in recent months for inciting the kind of violence that occurred Friday in Colorado.

“We should not and cannot continue this politically-motivated committee targeting Planned Parenthood, which is already costing taxpayers and helping to create a dangerous climate for legal health care in America,” Boxer wrote Monday to Ryan, R-Wisc. “Since 1977, there have been 11 murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings and 186 arsons against abortion clinics and providers.”

“It is time to stop the witch hunt against Planned Parenthood, stop the demonizing rhetoric and disband this committee immediately,” she wrote.

Read the full text of Boxer’s letter, after the jump…
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CA15: No, Swalwell didn’t vote for Ryan’s budget

State Sen. Ellen Corbett tells a bit of tall tale in one of her latest mailers attacking fellow Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell, whom she’s trying to unseat in the 15th Congressional District.

The mailer’s front offers check-boxes for “Paul Ryan’s Republican Budget” and the “House Progressive Caucus Budget,” and asks, “Which one did Eric Swalwell choose?” Inside, the mailer claims Swalwell chose “Paul Ryan’s Radical Republican Budget.”

Click to enlarge:
Corbett mailer - front

Corbett mailer - inside top

Corbett mailer - inside bottom

Corbett mailer - back

The mailer details the Spring 2013 budget battle in which House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., offered a conservative budget, while liberal Democrats offered their own alternatives.

“On March 20, 2013, the House of Representatives voted on a motion to replace the Ryan budget with the House Progressive ‘Back to Work Budget.’ How did our Representative vote? Eric Swalwell voted with Paul Ryan – and against the Progressive Budget!” Corbett’s mailer reads. “The same day, Swalwell voted against an alternative by the Congressional Black Caucus that would also have protected vital services.”

“Eric Swalwell says he represents Democratic values, but when forced to choose between Paul Ryan and House Progressives, he made the wrong choice,” the mailer concludes.

Except Swalwell did NOT vote for the Ryan budget.

It’s true that Swalwell voted against the House Progressive Caucus Budget, which failed on an 84-327 vote. In the Bay Area, only the most consistently liberal members voted for it: Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz.

Joining Swalwell in voting against it were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; and Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; George Miller, D-Martinez; and Mike Thompson, D-Napa, didn’t vote.

And the Congressional Black Caucus’ proposed budget failed on a 105-305 vote, with the Bay Area’s delegation all voting the same way as on the progressive caucus budget except for Pelosi, who didn’t vote.

But when it came time to vote on Ryan’s budget the next day, not a single Democrat voted for it; it passed on a 221-207 vote.

Clearly Corbett identifies with the Bay Area’s most liberal voices, the Lee/Honda/Huffman/Farr camp, while Swalwell sided with what passes for moderates in this region (though the rest of the nation would probably take issue with calling Pelosi, Speier, Lofgren and such “moderate”).

However, to say Swalwell chose “Paul Ryan’s radical Republican budget” is simply not true.

UPDATE @ 11:56 A.M.: I neglected to mention that Swalwell and every other Bay Area Democrat (except Miller, who didn’t vote) supported the mainstream Democratic alternative budget that was put forth during that March 2013 budget fight; it failed on a 165-253 vote.

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What they’re saying about the House budget vote

Angry words flew hot and heavy today as the House voted 219-205 to pass a Republican-drafted budget that promises balance within a decade by making sweeping cuts throughout government and eliminating health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The nonbinding framework isn’t likely to be followed up by specific spending legislation, as it’s DOA in the Democrat-controlled Senate. But that didn’t stop critics from emptying their rhetorical cannons today.

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“For the fourth consecutive year, House Democrats have stood united against Republicans’ broken budget priorities. But House Republicans have now fully embraced the destructive values of the Ryan Republican Budget – a road to economic ruin and an irresponsible assault on seniors, students, women, families and our future.

“Today, Republicans voted to raise taxes on middle class families with children, while giving $200,000-plus tax breaks to millionaires. They voted to destroy three million jobs over two years, while protecting tax breaks for corporations shipping jobs overseas. They voted to end the Medicare guarantee for our seniors, ransack the education of our children, and surrender our global economic competitiveness. With this budget, Republicans have voted to hollow out the middle class and dismantle the American Dream.

“Democrats have a better plan: create jobs, strengthen the middle class, invest in the future, reduce the deficit, and build an economy that works for everyone. We should be renewing emergency unemployment insurance, raising the minimum wage, and passing comprehensive immigration reform that will grow our economy, empower small business, spur innovation, and reduce the deficit by nearly $900 billion. Republicans’ backwards priorities are the wrong path for our nation, and unworthy of the American people.”

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“This document is our vision for getting Americans back to work and our budget back in balance. I want to congratulate Chairman Ryan and the members of the committee for a job well done.”

From Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto:

“My focus is on finding long-term solutions to reduce the unbearable burden of debt we have placed on future generations. Right now we are more than $17 trillion in debt, meaning each man, woman and child is responsible for over $55,000 each. The out-of-control spending must be stopped and replaced with responsible choices that give real solutions and certainty to families in the Central Valley.

“I will also keep up the fight to protect our seniors, who have seen their Medicare plans cut by more than $300 billion under the Affordable Care Act. Because of the cuts, I introduced the Seniors’ Right to Know Act, which informs the more than 14 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage nationwide about how the Affordable Care Act is affecting the healthcare plans they rely on every day. We cannot allow the healthcare law to stand in the way of us keeping our promise to our seniors.”

More, after the jump:
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Barbara Lee and Bill O’Reilly trade barbs

Rep. Barbara Lee says Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s language on poverty and race “is disgusting and divisive and should never be accepted in our national discourse.”

This all started March 12, when House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., spoke about his legislative proposals for reforming poverty programs during his appearance on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America. “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with,” the 2012 Republican vice-presidential nominee said.

Lee, D-Oakland, issued a statement that same day saying Ryan’s comments were “a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated. Let’s be clear, when Mr. Ryan says ‘inner city,’ when he says, ‘culture,’ these are simply code words for what he really means: ‘black.’”

Lee said that as a Budget Committee member herself, Ryan’s claims about racial dynamics of poverty “are not only statistically inaccurate, but deeply offensive.”

“Instead of demonizing ‘culture,’ and blaming black men for their poverty, Mr. Ryan should step up and produce some legitimate proposals on how to tackle poverty and racial discrimination in America,” she challenged. “His uninformed policy proposals continue to increase poverty, not solve it. My colleague is demonstrating a complete lack of knowledge and understanding of the issues in urban and black communities.”

That brings us to Tuesday, when O’Reilly brought the exchange up during his interview with Ryan.

O’REILLY: So I understand you had a phone call with Ms. Lee. How did that go?

RYAN: Well, I have known Barbara for many years. Look, there was nothing racial whatsoever in what I said. And if you listen to the full context of all of my remarks, it’s pretty clear. So what I would like to do and I mentioned this is, let’s get beyond throwing baseless charges at people. Let’s not impugn people’s motives or characters and let’s have a real conversation about what we really need to do [[is]] to truly fight poverty in America. If the status quo was working so well, then we wouldn’t have to do that. It’s not.

[snip]

O’REILLY: They don’t want a conversation. With all due respect to you because I think you are a good man. They don’t want a conversation. They don’t want to solve the problem. These race hustlers make a big living, and they get voted into office, by portraying their constituents as victims, and it’s all your fault and it’s my fault, it’s the rich people’s fault, it’s the Republicans’ fault. It’s everybody’s fault except what’s going on. And what’s going on, as you know, is the dissolution of the family, and you don’t have proper supervision of children, and they grow up with no skills, and they can’t read and speak, and they have tattoos on their neck, and they can’t compete in the marketplace. And that is what is going on. But if you say that you are a racist. So, no matter what you say congressman, you are going to be branded because the race hustlers don’t want to solve the problem.

BOOM! Lee is not amused.

“Unfortunately we’ve come to expect language like ‘welfare queens,’ ‘food stamp president,’ and now ‘race hustlers’ from the right wing and Mr. O’Reilly. It is disgusting and divisive and should never be accepted in our national discourse,” she said Wednesday.

“For us to achieve the American dream for all, we must engage in this conversation that has been sparked about race and poverty, even if it is difficult for some. Racial discrimination, poverty, and income inequality remain issues that must be debated and addressed, and these kinds of ‘code words’ only get in the way of solving the real problems,” Lee said.

Congress has a responsibility to “come together to present a budget and funding priorities that create opportunity for all,” she continued. “We must make critical investments in job creation, education, and job training. Among many issues, we must address extending unemployment insurance, raising the minimum wage, enacting criminal justice reform, and securing voting rights for communities of color, so that we can truly find solutions to these critical issues.”

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Mike Honda signs up to interact with petitioners

Rep. Mike Honda is one of the first members of Congress to adopt a new tool that lets lawmakers respond directly to people who’ve signed Change.org online petitions targeting them.

Change.org on Wednesday launched its “Decision Makers” utility, through which any elected official who is being petitioned can sign up for a verified profile where those petitions are aggregated in one public place. Notifications of responses from decision makers are sent via email to petition signers, who are encouraged to comment and continue the conversation on the petition page.

Honda’s page shows there are 125 open petitions to him with 10 or more signers.

“I have always worked to make my office as accessible to constituents as possible, and this system is a hyper-transparent way to see what issues Americans are really talking about,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in the company’s news release. “It’s tools like this that help us do what we came here to do — make government more accountable to the people who sent us here. I’m proud to be an early adopter of Change.org for Decision Makers, and hope to see other members take part as well.”

Others who’ve already signed up include U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.; and Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Patrick Murphy, D-Fla.

San Francisco-based Change.org is the world’s largest and fastest-growing online petition platform, with 45 million users in 196 countries and growing by 3 million users every month. It plans to roll out a similar tool for business leaders and figures in other sectors.

“For elected officials and business leaders who want to build lasting, productive relationships with their constituents and customers, this product provides a huge opportunity to engage, and it’s exciting to see elected officials recognize that right off the bat,” President and Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Dulski said in the release.

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Lee, Huffman will help seek budget deal

Two Bay Area House members will be on the conference committee charged with completing a federal budget deal, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday.

Pelosi, D-San Francisco, appointed all Democrats from the House Budget Committee as conferees; that includes Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. Pelosi also called out House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for having not appointed any Republican conferees, even though the U.S. Senate passed a budget bill 96 days ago.

“The American people can’t afford to wait any longer for Republicans to act on a reasonable, responsible budget, and neither should we,” she said. “Democrats have put our ideas on the table time and again, with a budget proposal to create jobs, promote growth, invest in innovation and infrastructure, and bring down the deficit in a balanced way.”

Boehner at a news conference this morning said the nation’s 1.8 percent economic growth in the year’s first quarter isn’t enough. “That’s why Republicans are continuing to listen to the American people, and offering a real jobs plan for American families and small businesses,” he said. “Our jobs plan can bring us out of this ‘new normal’ and deliver sustained economic growth, and expand opportunity for all Americans.”

Meanwhile, the House Budget Committee held a hearing Wednesday on “America’s Energy Revolution,” which chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc, acknowledged “isn’t a big part of the federal budget.” Huffman accused the committee of wasting time.

“We continue to have these pep rallies for the oil and gas industry while real problems are simply, for some reason, off the table. We don’t even have a conference committee so we can move forward and try to negotiate a federal budget, but we’re here to have a pep rally for the oil and gas industry,” Huffman said at the hearing. “We’ve got student loan interest rates about to double in less than a week, but we’re not talking about that. We’re not talking about any number of things, like the sequester and the people that are actually suffering. We’re here to talk about folks who are experiencing record profits. There are real problems that we need to be solving, and we need to be working together.”