Swalwell to help focus House Dems’ messaging

Rep. Eric Swalwell was the only Californian named Tuesday to a new committee that will try to fine-tune House Democrats’ message.

Eric SwalwellMinority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., said the new House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee – which Israel will chair – “will be tasked with developing a Caucus-wide message that forcefully communicates where House Democrats stand, that resonates with hardworking Americans, and that presents a sharp contrast to House Republicans’ special interest-first agenda.”

Pelosi said the panel’s 16 members “have consistently shown the wisdom, creativity and vision necessary to make our case to the American people.”

Swalwell, D-Dublin, later Tuesday issued a statement saying he’s “honored to lead House Democrats’ outreach to millennials.”

“This is a new way for the Party of the Future to speak with and for the future. Today, young people across America are asking themselves how they’re going to afford their education, whether their education will even produce a good-paying job, and whether they’ll ever realize the American dream of home ownership,” said Swalwell, now starting his second term in Congress. “House Democrats are putting forward policies that will enable millennials to not only dream, but achieve. This position presents the opportunity to find new ways to make sure that our nation’s leaders are listening to and speaking for America’s next generation.”


How Bay Area House members voted on CRomnibus

The House voted 219-206 Thursday night to pass the $1.1 trillion “CRomnibus” spending bill to avert a government shutdown and fund the federal government through next October.

Conservative Republicans opposed the measure because it doesn’t explicitly bar President Obama from implementing his executive actions on immigration; many Democrats opposed it because of non-budgetary policy riders attached to the bill, including one that to roll back a key provision of the landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform act and another to raise the maximum amount contributors can give to political parties.

This made for some pretty weird bedfellows. President Barack Obama; Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, all urged its passage, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and conservatives like Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., opposed it.

In the end, 57 Democrats crossed the aisle to join 162 Republicans in supporting it, while 67 Republicans crossed the aisle to join 139 Democrats in opposing it. Ten members did not vote.

Here’s how the Bay Area delegation split:

YEA: George Miller, D-Martinez; Sam Farr, D-Carmel

NAY: Pelosi; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton

See what some had to say about it, after the jump…
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Electeds react to Obama’s immigration speech

Talking points

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio

“The American people want both parties to focus on solving problems together; they don’t support unilateral action from a president who is more interested in partisan politics than working with the people’s elected representatives. That is not how American democracy works. Not long ago, President Obama said the unilateral action he just announced was ‘not an option’ and claimed he’d already ‘done everything that I can on my own.’ He said it would lead to a ‘surge in more illegal immigration.’ He said he was ‘not a king’ and ‘not the emperor’ and that he was ‘bound by the Constitution.’ He said an action like this would exceed his authority and be ‘difficult to justify legally.’ He may have changed his position, but that doesn’t change the Constitution.

“By ignoring the will of the American people, President Obama has cemented his legacy of lawlessness and squandered what little credibility he had left. His ‘my way or the highway’ approach makes it harder to build the trust with the American people that is necessary to get things done on behalf of the country. Republicans are left with the serious responsibility of upholding our oath of office. We will not shrink from this duty, because our allegiance lies with the American people. We will listen to them, work with our members, and protect the Constitution.”

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

“Tonight, President Obama announced bold action to bring our broken immigration system into line with our values as a people and our needs as a nation. The President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions will secure our borders, prioritize enforcement, and provide relief to millions of hard-working, law-abiding families who may now have a happy Thanksgiving free from the fear of separation.

“The President’s actions fall well within the clear constitutional and legal authority of his office, and the well-established precedent set by every president since Eisenhower. Even Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush used this authority to refine our immigration system in service of the national interest.

“Executive action is no substitute for legislation, and the President’s action does not absolve Congress of its own responsibility. Democrats will continue to demand action on bipartisan immigration legislation that will provide lasting certainty to immigrant families, and secure the billions of dollars in economic benefits Republicans’ inaction has denied our country.”

From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

“The President doesn’t seem to get the point that he must work with the government he has, not the government he wants. But despite Congress and the American people’s resistance to President Obama’s unilateral action—action the President himself said would ‘violate our laws’ and be ‘very difficult to defend legally’—the President has decided to go it alone yet again. As President Obama himself said, ‘there are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system.’ We urge the President to listen to his own words. America is a country of laws, and our Constitution does not grant the President the authority to legalize millions of immigrants with the stroke of a pen.

“Not only is this action wrong, it does absolutely nothing to solve the underlying problems of our open border and broken immigration system. In fact, it may exacerbate the problem.

“The President’s action is a prime example of Washington cynicism. He has responded to Congress and the public’s desire for positive change with an all-or-nothing approach that only damages the prospect of future cooperation. He did not even attempt to start on the right foot and work with us in the new year.

“While House Republicans will still work to do everything we can to move the country forward, it is our obligation and responsibility to fight this brazen power grab that doesn’t solve the real problems.”

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“The president tonight announced he will temporarily suspend deportation of some undocumented immigrants, allowing families to stay together and bringing workers out of the shadows. While I continue to believe the House should vote on the Senate bill to address this issue, I support the president’s decision to help millions of individuals who have lived in the United States for years.

“This decision is not ‘amnesty,’ as some critics contend, nor will anyone receive citizenship or a green card. The president is offering temporary work authorization and halting deportations of certain immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years, including parents of U.S. citizens and individuals who arrived before age 16. The authority he is using has been employed by every president since Eisenhower, including 14 times during the Reagan and Bush presidencies.

“While the president’s executive action will provide much-needed relief for immigrant families, a permanent solution can only be achieved by Congress. The Senate bill passed in June 2013 was painstakingly negotiated over many months and received 68 votes, including 14 Republicans. Unfortunately, House leadership has ignored this commonsense bill. I hope they reconsider.

“The president’s decision is especially important for California. According to the White House, more than 150,000 of California’s agricultural workers will likely be eligible for deferred action and temporary work authorization. This will help ensure that our farms can continue to feed the country and the world.

“I plan to re-introduce a bill similar to the agricultural worker provisions from the Senate bill as stand-alone legislation next year, which I believe will offer Congress a starting point for further action.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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NorCal House Dems knock Obamacare repeal vote

The House voted 229-195 today to repeal the “Obamacare” federal health care reforms enacted in 2010 – the 37th time that Republicans have tried to repeal or eliminate funding for the law.

The only two Democrats to vote for H.R. 45 were Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, both of whom represent districts with heavy numbers of Republican voters yet are deemed “lean Democratic” – not “toss up” – by the Cook Political Report. No Republicans opposed the bill.

Like its predecessors, this effort is DOA in the Democrat-dominated U.S. Senate. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, spoke in defense of the vote:

“Today the House is voting to repeal the president’s health care law because it’s increasing the cost of health insurance, reducing access to care, and making it harder for small businesses to hire new workers. This is the third full repeal vote that we’ve had in the last three years, and some critics have suggested it’s a waste of time.

“Well, while our goal is to repeal all of ObamaCare, I would remind you that the president has signed into law seven different bills that repealed or defunded parts of that law. Is it enough? No. Full repeal is needed to keep this law from doing more damage to our economy and raising health care costs.

“But some progress has been made, and Republicans will continue to work to scrap the law in its entirety so we can focus on patient-centered reforms that lower costs and protect jobs. Because jobs is what this is all about.”

Northern California’s House Democrats were – shocker! – having none of it. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, smack-talked the vote at her weekly news conference:

“Here we are, 134 days into the 113th Congress, without one vote on a jobs bill. Fifty-four days after the Senate passed its budget, we still haven’t moved forward to the budget process with this do nothing agenda that does not reflect the priorities of the American people. It is an agenda that only the Republicans are interested in pursuing. So, you see a series of subterfuges, job evasions. Today’s job evasion is that the Republicans have decided to vote on the Patient’s Rights Repeal Act, their 37th attempt to repeal our country’s landmark reform bill. That’s 37 votes, 43 days, $52 million – $52.4 million – on an obvious evasion of our responsibility to work on the priorities of the American people.

“Not only is this a clear waste of time, and of taxpayer dollars, it is a deliberate vote to eliminate the affordable, quality health care benefits millions of Americans are already enjoying.”

Here’s Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton:

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, called it “a shameful waste of time and taxpayer dollars.”

“Instead of spending more than $50 million to repeal a law that is saving lives and money, we should be working to improve our healthcare system and expand on the benefits the law provides,” Thompson said. “It’s time to put these political games aside. By building on the reforms made in the Affordable Care Act, we can make sure every American can afford to go to the doctor. And that’s what matters.”

And Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, said Americans “want Congress to focus on jobs, not waste time and taxpayer money voting 37 times to take away patient protections from middle class families.

“The Supreme Court has ruled, and ACA is now law. It’s not perfect, and it’s not the law I would have proposed because it doesn’t do enough to address the cost of care, but we don’t want to go back to a time when children faced discrimination due to pre-existing conditions, when students and young adults were kicked off their parents’ insurance, and when women had to pay more for insurance than men just because of their gender,” he said. “Now we need to move past partisan bickering and start working on ways we can drive healthcare costs down. For years, we’ve been paying more and more for healthcare, and getting less and less. As a doctor and former Chief Medical Officer for Sacramento County, I know there are many places we can find savings.”


Stark helps lead move against ethanol subsidies

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, helped spearhead a bipartisan letter sent today to House leaders urging them to let taxpayer-funded ethanol subsidies expire this year.

The letter was signed by 30 Democrats – including Stark, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Mike Honda and Zoe Lofgren – as well as by 37 Republicans, and was directed to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

Here’s the text:

As the first session of the 112th Congress comes to a close, we urge you to allow ethanol subsidies set to expire to do just that and to resist calls to expand or create new ethanol subsidies in the eleventh hour.

The ethanol industry has benefited from a tax credit incentivizing production, an import tariff shielding it from competition, and a renewable fuels mandate creating demand. Both the volumetric ethanol excise tax credit and the prohibitive import tariff are set to expire at the end of this year. These benefits were not permanent in nature for a reason. Congress anticipated the ethanol industry one day being sufficiently mature to stand on its own. It is difficult to make the argument that this day has not arrived. With widespread concern across a spectrum of issues including anti-hunger, fiscal, environmental, agricultural, good governance, and others, extending a billion dollar ethanol tax credit would appear out of the question and the prohibitive import tariff should be allowed to expire as well.

In addition, we urge you to oppose efforts to create new or expand existing subsidies that benefit the ethanol industry in the waning days of this session. For example, there has been the suggestion that the renewable fuels standard be revised to allow corn-based fuels to qualify as an advanced biofuel. Taxpayers deserve to have the future of federal ethanol policy fully vetted under regular order, an opportunity that is unlikely in the last days of the session.


Today’s Congressional odds and ends

A vote on House Republicans’ bill to repeal last year’s health care reforms is getting all the headlines, but other things are afoot from the Bay Area’s voices in Congress today…

McNerney meets with mayors: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, met today with Danville Mayor Karen Stepper, Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena and San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson to discuss proposed transportation infrastructure improvements throughout the Tri-Valley area; the i-GATE iHub initiative, a public-private partnership designed to support the growth of small businesses and clean-energy technologies; emergency preparedness throughout the region; and legislation of importance to local community access television stations.

Boxer applauds homelessness grants: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., touted Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan’s announcement that 801 California organizations – including dozens in the Bay Area – will receive more than $227 million in federal grants to provide housing, job training, health care, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and child care to homeless Californians. “Since the recession began, California and the rest of the nation have seen an increase in homelessness. These federal investments will help us combat the epidemic of homelessness so people can get back on their feet and off the streets,” Boxer said. California’s share is about 16 percent of the $1.4 billion total HUD announced today, funded through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

Eshoo elected to tech subcommittee post: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, was elected ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. “My Congressional District, home to Silicon Valley, is the innovation center of the world, and the policies we shape can advance America’s competitiveness and job growth,” said Eshoo, who vowed to work on expanding high-speed, affordable broadband; protecting electronic privacy; freeing up more spectrum; and transitioning our nation’s 911 system to a next generation, IP-based network. Eshoo last week had announced she’ll co-chair a bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Internet Caucus.

Pelosi to attend State Dinner: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, will be attending tonight’s State Dinner at the White House for Chinese President Hu Jintao. Other Bay Area notables on the long list of expected attendees include Oakland Mayor Jean Quan; San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee; Intel Corp. Paul Otellini and his wife, Sandy; former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and his wife, Charlotte; former state Controller and 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Westly and his wife, Anita Yu; and Obama supporters Azita Raji and Denise Bauer.