2

Jackie Speier gets new military oversight role

Rep. Jackie Speier, an outspoken critic of how the military handles sexual assaults, has been chosen as ranking member of the House Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

Jackie Speier“The Department of Defense keeps us safe every day, but there has been a litany of projects exposing weaknesses in acquisition and procurement. I will use this position to root out waste, fraud, and inefficiency at the Pentagon, so that taxpayers can be sure they are getting the value they deserve for their money,” Speier, D-San Mateo, said in a news release.

“From the ill-conceived Littoral Combat Ship, to excessive prices for spare parts, to wasteful practices with ammunition, I have worked eliminate unnecessary military programs,” she added. “We have to make smart investments to keep our nation and our troops safe, not race to spend the most and get the least in return. We also need to be sure our military secrets, like plans for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, cannot be stolen by hackers and foreign governments.”

And last but most certainly not least, the appointment “will also be a powerful tool in our ongoing fight to protect whistleblowers and prevent sexual assault in the military,” she said. “I am eager to work with Chairman Thornberry and Chairwoman Hartzler on all of these issues.”

2

Is the Bay Area’s House policy clout fading?

For the first time in a long, long time, the Bay Area is without any committee chairs or ranking members in the House.

Of course, the region still is home to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco. But with the retirement of Rep. George Miller, the Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat and former chairman, the region’s policy influence seems blunted. It’s a far cry from 2007, when Miller chaired his committee, the late Rep. Tom Lantos chaired Foreign Affairs, and Pelosi was Speaker.

As I wrote yesterday, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, lost her bid – despite Pelosi’s strong support – to leapfrog a more senior member and become the Energy and Commerce Committee’s ranking member. And though Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, announced earlier this month that he would seek to become Transportation and Infrastructure’s ranking member, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., won that vote Wednesday.

“Peter has been my friend throughout my time here and that will continue,” Garamendi said after the vote. “Peter and I share a strong commitment to a ‘Make It In America’ agenda and trade policies that protect the environment, workers’ rights, and middle-class families. Working together, we can lead our party in addressing a range of transportation and infrastructure challenges, including water infrastructure, surface transportation, FAA, and Amtrak authorizations.”

That’s not to say the Bay Area will be without a voice. Several Bay Area members are likely to remain the ranking members on key subcommittees (like Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security).

And Pelosi appointed two local congressmen – Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, and Mike Thompson, D-Napa – to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which helps set the caucus’ policy agenda and nominates Democratic members for committee assignments. (They replace Pelosi’s local appointments from the 113th Congress, Miller and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.)

“As a member of the next generation of our caucus, I look forward to working in a collaborative way to promote the policies that will lift up all Americans,” Swalwell said.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will continue serving on that Democratic committee, having won re-election as a regional representative.

3

Anna Eshoo won’t lead Energy & Commerce Dems

Rep. Anna Eshoo has lost her bid to use Silicon Valley’s innovation allure to leapfrog ahead of a more senior peer and become the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s ranking Democrat.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – who had backed Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, for the job in a letter to Democrats this month – announced Wednesday that the Democratic Caucus instead had approved Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., as that panel’s ranking member. Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, is a close friend and political ally of Pelosi’s; several news outlets say the vote was 100-90 for Pallone, a blow to Pelosi’s clout within her own caucus.

“I congratulate Frank Pallone on a hard fought campaign and congratulate Anna Eshoo for raising the issue of innovation to a level that all members appreciate,” said Pelosi, D-San Francisco. “We look forward to working with both of these members as we move forward.”

Pallone tweeted Wednesday that he’s “Honored to be chosen next leader of @EnergyCommerce by my colleagues. Look forward to continuing our work on behalf of the American people.”

Eshoo’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Eshoo had announced she wanted the job in early February, a few days after the current ranking member – Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles – announced he would retire from the House this year. The committee “is key to shaping America’s future, just as my Silicon Valley congressional district is,” she said at the time.

“We have the depth and the talent to shape policies that will build a strong economy for every American, with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to advanced research, communications, technology, health care, energy and the environment,” she had said. “It is because of this far-reaching opportunity to put America in the best position to compete globally I seek this position.”

Though both have been in the House since 1993, Pallone has served on the committee since then while Eshoo has been a member since 1997. Eshoo in this term has served as ranking member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, while Pallone was ranking member of the Health Subcommittee.

Pallone had House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., on his side, creating a visible rift in the House Democratic leadership in this fight.

4

John Garamendi seeks T&I ranking member post

A Northern California congressman is making a play to become the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s ranking member.

Current ranking member Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., was defeated Tuesday in his bid for an 18th term. The panel’s next-most-senior Democrat is Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., already is the Natural Resources Committee’s ranking member but reportedly now more interested in this slot.

After DeFazio come 15 more Democrats (two of whom won’t be back next year) – and then comes Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove.

John Garamendi“A demonstrated ability to preserve Democratic ideals while working across the aisle to get things done will be crucial in the next Congress, and particularly in this Committee,” Garamendi wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to the Democratic Caucus.

“With major legislative initiatives on the horizon that include surface transportation, FAA, and Amtrak reauthorization, the Democratic transportation agenda calls for a strong, inclusive, proactive leader who looks beyond divisive dualities to facilitate opportunity, momentum, and results,” he wrote. “This is the leadership I aim to bring.”

Garamendi’s letter cites his work in Congress on water infrastructure, domestic shipyards and the U.S. Merchant Marine, but also harkens back to his California work.

“Most notably, in 1990, I authored SCA 1, which became California Proposition 111,” wrote Garamendi, who at that time was a state senator. “Among the most important transportation propositions in California history, this measure ensured government expenditure limits would not unnecessarily restrict the infrastructure improvements needed to keep pace with California’s population and economic growth.”

“The initiative led to voter approval of an $18.5 billion transportation package that helped improve roads and transit corridors throughout the state,” he wrote. “For this work, I was named Legislator of the Year by the League of California Cities, and to this day, Prop 111 provides funding for cash-strapped highways and public transit systems in California.”

The other California Democrats on the Transportation Committee are Grace Napolitano, D-El Monte, who has more seniority than Garamendi, and Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, who has less.

The Democratic Caucus is expected to vote on ranking-member appointments in December.

7

Anna Eshoo wants top spot on Energy & Commerce

A Silicon Valley congresswoman is making a play to become ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, even though other Democrats of more or equal seniority might want the job too.

And though Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, probably feared little in seeking re-election a twelfth term this year, her Republican opponent announced Sunday that she’s dropping out of the race.

Eshoo issued a news release Monday noting Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, now the ranking Democrat on Energy and Commerce, announced last week that he’ll retire at the end of this year after 40 years in Congress.

“Since then I have received the encouragement of members of the Committee and the Caucus to seek this position,” Eshoo said. “Today, I am announcing my decision to seek the top slot at Energy and Commerce. I do so with great enthusiasm because it is the ‘Committee of the Future’ and the most dynamic by its jurisdictions. It is key to shaping America’s future, just as my Silicon Valley congressional district is.”

Eshoo, 71, said she’ll be talking with colleagues in coming weeks “to share my vision and hear theirs.”

“We have the depth and the talent to shape policies that will build a strong economy for every American, with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to advanced research, communications, technology, health care, energy and the environment,” she said. “It is because of this far-reaching opportunity to put America in the best position to compete globally I seek this position.”

But another Energy and Commerce Committee member – Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. – has been in Congress since 1955 and has chaired the panel before. Now 87, Dingell lost the chairmanship to Waxman in a Democratic caucus vote. Already the longest-serving congressman in U.S. history, he hasn’t said yet whether he’s running for a 31st term in 2014 and wants the chairmanship back.

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. – who like Eshoo was elected to the House in 1992 – definitely wants the post as well.

“For over 20 years, I have remained deeply committed to advancing the goals of our great committee on which I have had the honor of serving as the chair or ranking member of three of our six subcommittees,” Pallone said in a news release issued Monday. “As the person tasked with developing the Democratic Caucus’ message on the House Floor, I believe I would be the most effective voice to lead the committee toward a successful future.”

Pallone is playing up his bipartisanship. The committee “will be as active as it has ever been as we address some of the nation’s most pressing issues, which is why having a leader with strong relationships on both sides of the aisle will be crucial to moving forward a meaningful agenda that will improve the health, safety and prosperity of Americans,” he said. “Even in the often divided climate of the last several years, I have worked to find common ground with my colleagues to get things done because I believe that our government can still do good things that will help Americans and make our nation even stronger.

Meanwhile, Wilson Farrar, a Republican from Portola Valley who has been campaigning to unseat Eshoo, sent an e-mail to supporters Sunday announcing that “something quite wonderful precludes me from continuing my campaign for a seat in the U. S. House of Representatives. It is with happiness and some regret that I have chosen to pursue another path.”

FarrarShe thanked supporters for their “kindness, encouragement, enthusiasm, and philosophical support, which I will treasure always. Truth, Liberty, Justice. Go get ‘em! My heart and spirit are with you!”

Farrar said all campaign contributions will be returned. A report filed to the Federal Election Commission last week showed Farrar raised $1,615 in 2013’s quarter, leaving her campaign with $2,670 cash on hand but a $2,000 debt – money she loaned the campaign from her own pocket.

Eshoo raised almost $178,000 in 2013’s final quarter, leaving her campaign with about $494,700 cash on hand and about $3,276 in debts at the year’s end. No other candidates have raised any money in the 18th Congressional District.

14

U.S. Senate nixes GOP health care repeal effort

The U.S. Senate today nixed Republicans’ efforts to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and roll back last year’s health care reforms.

CNN explains how the vote actually worked:

The specific motion the Senate will vote on Wednesday involves a Democratic challenge to the Republican repeal amendment on the grounds that it would increase the federal deficit. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said the health care reform law will lower the deficit by $230 billion over 10 years, so Democrats argue that repealing it would increase the deficit.

By filing a budget point of order against the repeal amendment, Democrats will force Republicans to hold a vote on waiving the point of order to consider the amendment. That will require 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate to pass, a threshold out of reach of the Republicans, who hold 47 seats.

The repeal amendment died on a 47-51, party-line vote.

But the Senate did agree, on a bipartisan 81-17 vote, to approve a Democratic amendment repealing part of the Affordable Care Act that requires companies to file a 1099 tax form for all goods and services valued at more than $600; it affects nearly 40 million self-employed workers, companies and charities, according to the IRS.

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

“I am pleased that efforts to repeal the health reform law failed. This law may not be perfect, but overturning it would mean once again refusing insurance to anyone with a pre-existing condition, higher drug prices for seniors, and increasing the millions of Americans without health coverage.

“I pledge to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to improve this bill. Both sides agree that the onerous 1099 IRS reporting provision must go. I firmly believe we need a strong rate review authority to prevent unfair health insurance rate increases, which is why I have already introduced the Health Insurance Rate Review Act of 2011, to grant regulatory authority to reject unfair insurance premium hikes.

“The best solution is to repair, not repeal.”

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

“If Republicans had succeeded in repealing health care reform, nearly 450,000 California seniors would pay thousands of dollars more for their prescription drugs; small businesses nationwide would lose out on $40 billion in tax credits; children could be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition; and taxpayers would see the deficit increase by $230 billion over the next ten years and $1.3 trillion over the next two decades.

“Instead of fighting the old political battles of the past, Republicans should join us in improving health care reform – as we did today by reforming the 1099 reporting requirement. We should not go back to the days where 62 percent of all bankruptcies were linked to a health care crisis and 45,000 people a year died because they could not get access to health insurance.”

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said:

“The Senate Republicans promised the American people we would vote to repeal Obamacare, and we have done that. But this fight isn’t over. We intend to continue the fight to repeal and replace Obamacare with sensible reforms that would lower the cost of American health care, like medical malpractice, like selling insurance across state lines. This fight isn’t over, so I hope you’ll stay in the fight with us.”

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the Finance Committee’s ranking chairman, put it more forcefully:

“This budget-busting, unconstitutional $2.6 trillion health law must be repealed – it destroys jobs, increases health costs, raises taxes, and threatens liberty all in the name of one of the greatest expansions of federal power in our nation’s history. It’s not too late to fix this – we can and should start over on real reform that actually reduces health costs without the heavy hand of government.

“For two years, the American people and the people of my state of Utah were clear that they did not want this government takeover of health care. And once the White House and its Capitol Hill allies jammed it through using every budget gimmick and parliamentary trick in the book, the American people called on Congress to repeal it. The House heard that call and acted; and Senate Republicans have as well. Unfortunately, the majority in the Senate hasn’t gotten the message. This fight does not end today – we will use every tool available to tear down a law that is a threat to liberty itself.”