Part of the Bay Area News Group

Bartender, a round of Cuba Libres for the House.

Bay Area House members are thrilled by President Obama’s decision today to remove Cuba from the government’s list of state sponsors of terrorism; Republicans, predictably less so.

From Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi“Today, the President has taken an important step forward toward restored relations with Cuba. Taking Cuba off the state sponsors of terror list removes an outdated designation that no longer serves the security interests of the United States, nor the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people.

“This move continues the historic normalization of relations between our countries. It will facilitate the opening of new markets for American banks and businesses, and new opportunities for the people of Cuba.

“I hope we can continue to take our relations in a positive and constructive direction, and build on the historic progress we have made thus far.”

From Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“I am disappointed that the White House seems determined to reward the Castro regime, which has a clear record of repression at home and exporting violence throughout the region. Not even a week has passed since the brutal attacks on Cuban democracy protestors in Panama City during the Summit for the Americas. Those attacks – and the Castros’ long history of human rights violations – demonstrate the folly of revisiting diplomatic relations with this communist dictatorship and removing it from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror.

“Cozying up to the oppressive regime in Cuba is a blow to all who long for liberty and dignity. And it’s just one more example of this administration focusing more on befriending our enemies than helping our allies. The United States has a responsibility to stand strong for all those who struggle for freedom, and the House of Representatives is committed to doing its part.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“I am pleased that President Obama will be removing Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List. This action is long overdue and is an important step toward fully normalizing relations with Cuba.

“Along with many of my colleagues, I have long called for Cuba to be removed from this list. In December of 2013, I wrote a letter calling for de-list Cuba. I have reiterated that call in subsequent letters, including a December 2014 letter signed by 37 of my colleagues, which called for moves toward normalization ahead of the Summit of the Americas.

“The letter stated: ‘Over the years, reports by the State Department on the state sponsors of terrorism, have found no evidence or indication that Cuba provides weapons or training to terrorists. In fact, Cuba now meets global standards for fighting money-laundering and preventing terrorist finance, in addition to playing an active role in bringing Colombia’s civil war to an end.’

“By removing Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List, President Obama is signaling his strong commitment to building a more productive relationship with Cuba. As we continue to move forward, renewed ties will bring great benefits to the Cuban and American people. Given Cuba’s close proximity to the U.S., improved relations will open new trade opportunities that will allow U.S. businesses to expand and create jobs here at home. This will also expand existing education and cultural exchanges.

“Congress also has a critical role to play. It’s past time to end the failed embargo, lift the restrictive travel ban and formally normalize relations. I am glad to be co-leading The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (H.R. 664) and Free Trade with Cuba Act (H.R. 403) to forge a new path between our two countries.”

From Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel:

Sam Farr“As Cuba moves to reintegrate itself into the international community, we must be willing to modernize our relations with them. This decision by the President moves us closer to normalized relations between our two countries. Decades of isolation have not worked so I am glad we are finally talking with our neighbor to push for new path forward in Cuba.

“I have been engaged in Latin American affairs since serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia. At the 2012 Summit in Cartagena, it was clear our position towards Cuba alienated us from the rest of the hemisphere. We must join the rest of the world by engaging with the island to help build a more open and democratic Cuba.”

Posted on Tuesday, April 14th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

House members tell DOJ to back off on marijuana

A bipartisan pair of California House members are insisting that the Justice Department back off from prosecutions of medical marijuana patients and providers in states with medical marijuana laws – as Congress mandated in a recent spending bill.

Reps. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday, reminding him in no uncertain terms that the amendment they co-authored to the “cromnibus” federal spending bill – approved by Congress and signed by President Obama in December – bars the Justice Department from spending money to undermine state medical marijuana laws.

The lawmakers cited a recent Los Angeles Times article in which a department spokesman said the amendment doesn’t apply to cases against individuals or organizations, but merely stops the department from “impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws.”

“We write to inform you that this interpretation of our amendment is emphatically wrong,” Farr and Rohrabacher wrote to Holder. “Rest assured, the purpose of our amendment was to prevent the Department from wasting its limited law enforcement resources on prosecutions and asset forfeiture actions against medical marijuana patients and providers, including businesses that operate legally under state law.”

State law enforcement agencies are better equipped to determine whether people and businesses are abiding by state laws, they wrote.

“We respectfully insist that you bring your Department back into compliance with federal law by ceasing marijuana prosecutions and forfeiture actions against those acting in accordance with state medical marijuana laws,” their letter concludes.

Posted on Wednesday, April 8th, 2015
Under: marijuana, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

House passes ‘clean’ homeland security funding

About a third House Republicans joined with Democrats on Tuesday to pass legislation fully funding the Department of Homeland Security through this year’s end.

Some more conservative Republicans opposed the move, refusing to vote for a bill that doesn’t defund or otherwise roll back President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. But the GOP leadership – speaker John Boenher, R-Ohio; Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Bakersfield; and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. – all voted for it. The vote was 257-167.

From Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin:

“For the past three months, House Republicans have been playing a dangerous game in which the American people are on the losing end. Today, reason prevailed and the games are finally over. The people charged with protecting our national security deserve more than uncertainty. It is outrageous that Homeland Security funding was held hostage to a partisan debate. This is not how we should govern.

“Americans are rightly sick of the politically manufactured crises they’ve come to expect from this Tea-Party-led Congress. I am grateful to finally move past this brinkmanship and address real challenges. It’s time to get to work doing what the American people sent us here to do, creating economy-boosting jobs that pay enough for hard-working families to get ahead.”

From Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock:

“The top priority of Congress is to ensure the safety of the American people. Today’s vote ensures that our homeland security agents and personnel have the certainty and long term funding necessary to do their critical work of keeping us all safe. I do not support the President’s unilateral executive action on immigration as it flies in the face of the United States Constitution and ignores the will of the people. However, we cannot hold hostage funding for our national security and I will continue to push for a full debate on every aspect of immigration reform.”

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“Once again, Leader Pelosi has led the House out of a dire situation by providing the Democratic votes necessary to avert a dangerous partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security. The agency will be fully funded through the remainder of the fiscal year, and the American people can be assured that key national security operations will not be interrupted.”

From Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel:

“Our national security will not be shut down. Thankfully enough Republicans put their country before their party and joined with the Democrats to pass a clean DHS bill. Funding for our national security should never be held hostage in a political debate. Those upset by the President’s immigration plan should instead work with us to fix our broken system.”

Posted on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Eric Swalwell, Homeland security, Immigration, Jeff Denham, Sam Farr, U.S. House | No Comments »

Bipartisan push for veterans medical marijuana bill

A bipartisan group of House members reintroduced a bill Tuesday to let Veterans Affairs doctors discuss and recommend medical marijuana to their patients in states that have medical marijuana laws.

Without such a bill, doctors at the VA – under federal authority – can’t discuss or recommend the drug. Federal law still bans all cultivation, sale, possession and use of marijuana for any purpose. A similar bill was introduced in late November, but came so late in the last Congress that it stood no chance of action.

“Post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury can be more damaging and harmful than injuries that are visible from the outside,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said in a news release. “And they can have a devastating effect on a veteran’s family. We should be allowing these wounded veterans access to the medicine that will help them survive and thrive, including medical marijuana — not treating them like criminals and forcing them into the shadows. It’s shameful.”

Along with Blumenauer, the Veterans Equal Access Act’s original cosponsors are Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach; Walter Jones, R-N.C.;, Justin Amash, R-Mich.; Tom Reed, R-N.Y.; Richard Hanna, R-N.Y.; Dina Titus, D-Nev.; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; and Jared Polis, D-Colo.

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) issued a directive in 2011 saying “VHA policy does not administratively prohibit Veterans who participate in state marijuana programs from also participating in VHA substance abuse programs, pain control programs, or other clinical programs where the use of marijuana may be considered inconsistent with treatment goals.” But the policy also forbids VA physicians from issuing medical marijuana recommendations to their patients.

“Veterans must be given the same rights and health care options that we give other Americans, especially where medical marijuana is concerned,” said Mike Liszewski, government affairs director with Americans for Safe Access.

Posted on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015
Under: marijuana, Sam Farr, U.S. House, veterans | No Comments »

Reactions to Barbara Boxer’s decision not to run

Click here to read our full story on Boxer’s decision.

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

“It was 22 years ago this week when Barbara became a senator, and she has certainly left her mark. After I spoke with Barbara this morning about her decision, I realized that even though she may leave the Senate, I’m confident she’ll remain a champion on the many issues that defined her public service.

“Barbara took on a lot of challenges in Congress, but I think I’m most grateful for her hard work in support of women and families, the environment, human rights and her tireless efforts to modernize our country’s infrastructure. She has made a real difference for California and the country.

“Barbara and I worked particularly hard on the fight against global warming—I think no one is more engaged on this issue than she. It’s been an uphill battle, but today we’re seeing the success Barbara has had on making climate change a real priority for Americans.

“I always knew I had a partner in Barbara. She is never one to shy away from any challenge, and I can’t thank her enough for being such a resilient collaborator. We blazed many trails together, and now I’m eager to see where her next steps take her. Barbara is so passionate about so many things, I know her work has really just started. I’m sure she’ll continue to be a role model and inspiration to us all.

“Barbara, thank you and best wishes as you take that next step forward. It has been a true honor to serve with you.”

From California Republican Party Vice Chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon:

Harmeet Dhillon“Senator Boxer’s impending retirement at the end of 2016 will bring a long-overdue opportunity for change to California’s representation in the Senate. For far too long Senator Boxer has pushed a liberal agenda that does little to address the challenges facing millions of Californians and Americans alike. Important issues to Californians such as the economy, technology, energy policy, excessive regulation on small businesses, education, and meaningful immigration reform have fallen behind in the wake of her focus to push a strictly partisan agenda at the cost of California citizens. We look forward to a spirited campaign to replace Senator Boxer with someone more in line with the needs and the goals of California voters.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, at her weekly news conference:

Nancy Pelosi“She called me before I came down here. It’s funny, she called me and she said she wanted to talk to me personally. I thought maybe she wanted to have dinner tonight or something. Oh my. Well, her decision is an important one for her and her family. It’s all personal and individual. Senator Boxer has been such a champion for the people of California and, indeed, for our entire country.

“I have always said of Congresswoman Boxer, Senator Boxer – Congresswoman when I came to Congress – Senator Boxer, that she is – this will sound like an oxymoron to you, but she is one of the most unselfish politicians I have ever known of. She has always shared her ideas. She has always shared the credit. She has always tried to help people succeed with their ideas. She has reached across the aisle. She has reached across our state, which is a glorious state. And her leaving will be a great loss to the Congress of the United States, the people of California, and to our country.

“I hope as she goes – I assume that she’s not running, but she’ll be here the next two years – and in the course of that time, there will be real recognition of the difference that she has made for fairness in our economy, protection of our environment, respect for our men and women in uniform. She’s really a great leader for our country – small in size but a giant in terms of her contribution to the country. I didn’t know. As I said, all I had was a call from her, but I didn’t want to keep you waiting.

“It’s a real loss, I think. But God bless her, for her decision. And I wish her and Stewart and their family well. Thank you. My granddaughter just took her grandson out for their sixth birthday. They were born a couple months apart. So we are very close, from a family standpoint. Senator Boxer had a shower for my daughter, Christine, five days [before] – that would be six years [ago] – and the next day, her daughter Nicole had the baby, Sawyer. So they are just very close in age. And our family celebrations have been together over time, whether it’s weddings or babies or whatever. So, it’s a close personal friendship.

“Of course, I wish the best for her in that regard personally. Officially, I think it’s a big loss for the country. But she knows her timetable. Thank you very much.”

Much, much more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, January 8th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | 8 Comments »

‘Cromnibus’ includes medical marijuana protection

The final “cromnibus” federal spending bill that Congress will consider this week includes an amendment barring the Justice Department from spending money to undermine state medical marijuana laws – something a growing number of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have been pursuing for more than a decade.

The House in May had voted 219-289 for such an amendment, co-authored by Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach – a sudden success 11 years after it was first offered.

When this “must-pass” spending bill – which would keep the government from shutting down when funding runs out Thursday night – was released Tuesday night, the amendment was included. Farr issued a statement Wednesday calling this “great news for medical marijuana patients all across the country.”

“The public has made it clear that they want common sense drug policies. The majority of states have passed reasonable medical marijuana laws but the federal government still lags behind. Our amendment prevents the unnecessary prosecution of patients while the federal government catches up with the views of the American people,” he said.

“We need to rethink how we treat medical marijuana in this country and today’s announcement is a big step in the right direction,” Farr added. “Patients can take comfort knowing they will have safe access to the medical care they need without fear of federal prosecution. And all of us can feel better knowing our federal dollars will be spent more wisely fighting actual crimes and not wasted going after patients.”

Bill Piper, the Drug Policy Alliance’s national affairs director, said Congress for the first time is truly letting states set their own medical marijuana polices. “States will continue to reform their marijuana laws and Congress will be forced to accommodate them. It’s not a question of if, but when, federal marijuana prohibition will be repealed.”

The spending bill also includes a bipartisan amendment that prohibits the Drug Enforcement Administration from blocking implementation of a federal law passed last year by Congress that allows hemp cultivation for academic and agricultural research purposes in states that allow it.

The news wasn’t all good for marijuana advocates, however. The “cromnibus” also includes an amendment blocking Washington, D.C. from spending any federal or local funds to implement the marijuana-legalization initiative approved last month by 70 percent of voters.

Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2014
Under: marijuana, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Fun with numbers: Bay Area House races

As we await a final result in the 17th District’s Mike Honda/Ro Khanna showdown, here’s how the rest of the Bay Area House races look at this hour, in order from widest margin of victory to narrowest:

    13th District: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, 87.3% vs. Dakin Sundeen (R), 12.7% (74.6 points)
    12th District: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, 82.4%, vs. John Dennis (R), 17.6% (64.8 points)
    14th District: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, 75.9% vs. Robin Chew (R), 24.1% (51.8 points)
    5th District: Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, 75.4% vs. James Hinton (i), 24.6% (50.8 points)
    20th District: Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, 74.4% vs. Ronald Kabat (i), 25.6% (48.8 points)
    2nd District: Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, 73.6% vs. Dale Mensing (R), 26.4% (47.2 points)
    15th District: Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, 69% vs. Hugh Bussell (R), 31% (38 points)
    19th District: Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, 66.8% vs. Robert Murray (D), 33.2% (33.6 points)
    18th District: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, 66.3% vs. Richard Fox (R), 33.7% (32.6 points)
    11th District: State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, 66.2% vs. Tue Phan (R), 33.8% (32.4 points)
    9th District: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, 51.5% vs. Tony Amador (R), 48.5% (3 points)

Yes, that 9th District race was awfully close – especially since this was the first year since McNerney took office that he wasn’t on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s hit list.

For comparison, McNerney beat Republican Ricky Gill by 11.2 points in 2012 in this district; in his old 11th District, he had beat Republican David Harmer by 1.1 point in 2010, Republican Dean Andal by 10.6 points in 2008; and incumbent Republican Richard Pombo by 6.6 points in 2006. Gill and Harmer both were NRCC “Young Guns,” garnering national support and advice, while the NRCC also worked on Andal’s behalf and GOP luminaries like John Boehner and John McCain shared stages with him.

In other words, most of the times when the NRCC targeted McNerney as vulnerable, it turned out that he really wasn’t; this year, as the NRCC paid the district little mind, Amador came within striking distance. Oops! But that doesn’t mean McNerney will be similarly vulnerable in 2016, when a bigger presidential-year turnout will favor Democrats; for Republicans, this looks like an opportunity missed.

Posted on Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mark DeSaulnier, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

The Bay Area House races you haven’t heard about

I feel as if I’ve written a million stories and blog items about the hotly contested 17th Congressional District race between Rep. Mike Honda and challenger Ro Khanna, and I did a story last week about the lopsided race for the Bay Area’s only open House seat, in the 11th District.

Sadly, these and many other election duties precluded me from getting into the Bay Area’s other House races. It’s safe to say none of the Democratic incumbents are endangered, but I wish for the days when we had enough staff and time to cover them all individually.

For now, a summary will have to suffice – a brief look at the candidates, the challenger’s stances on a few issues, fundraising and voter education in those districts.

Dale Mensing2nd District: Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, is challenged in his bid for a second term by Republican Dale Mensing, a supermarket cashier from Redway. Mensing calls for securing the nation’s borders; reforming Social Security to include personal retirement accounts; and replacing Obamacare with a system including personal medical accounts. Huffman reported raising $884,000, Mensing reported raising $5,400. The district is registered 49.1 percent Democrat, 21.3 percent Republican and 23 percent independent.

James Hinton5th District: Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, is challenged in his bid for a ninth term by independent James Hinton of Napa. Hinton calls for a “Next New Deal” including a 1 percent Wall Street sales tax and re-regulation of financial markets; ending free trade with a protective tariff, parity price floors and other protections for U.S. producers; Medicare for all; and expanding Social Security. Thompson reported raising $1.73 million, Hinton reported no fundraising. The district is registered 51.2 percent Democrat, 21.1 percent Republican and 20.8 percent independent.

Tony Amador9th District: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, is challenged in his bid for a fifth term by Republican Tony Amador, a retired U.S. Marshal from Lodi. Amador calls for cutting taxes to create jobs, improving education, fixing Obamacare, and taking better care of veterans. McNerney reported raising $1.16 million, Amador reported raising $61,300. The district is registered 45.1 percent Democrat, 32.5 percent Republican and 18.3 percent independent.

John Dennis12th District: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, is challenged in her bid for a 15th term by Republican John Dennis, a San Francisco businessman. Dennis calls for auditing the Federal Reserve, bringing U.S. troops home from overseas, ensuring civil liberties and abolishing corporate, capital gains and income taxes. Pelosi reported raising $2.4 million, Dennis reported raising $580,000. The district is registered 56.1 percent Democrat, 8.1 percent Republican and 30.9 percent independent.

Dakin Sundeen13th District: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, is challenged in her bid for an eighth full term by Republican Dakin Sundeen, an information technology system administrator from Oakland. Sundeen calls for forcing local schools to compete for students, cracking down on surveillance abuses in the name of national security, reforming drug-sentencing laws, reforming and flattening the tax code, and repealing Obamacare. Lee reported raising $1.05 million, Sundeen reported raising $4,900. The district is registered 63.1 percent Democrat, 7.3 percent Republican and 19 percent independent.

Robin Chew14th District: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, is challenged in her bid for a third full term by Republican Robin Chew of Redwood City, cofounder of an online education marketing company. Chew calls for infrastructure renewal, using technology to reinvent education, controlling federal spending, and new environmental policies to better address climate change. Speier reported raising $1.02 million, Chew reported raising $25,000. The district is registered 51.8 percent Democrat, 16.7 percent Republican and 27.6 percent independent.

Hugh Bussell15th District: Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, is challenged in his bid for a second term by Republican Hugh Bussell, a technology manager from Livermore. Bussell calls for reducing high taxes and heavy regulation, replacing Obamacare with other reforms, and securing the nation’s borders. Swalwell reported raising $1.93 million, Bussell reported raising $19,800. The district is registered 47.8 percent Democrat, 21.5 percent Republican and 21.9 percent independent.

Richard Fox18th District: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, is challenged in her bid for a 12th term by Republican Richard Fox, a pediatrician and attorney from Los Gatos. Fox describes himself as “a Libertarian-Republican focused on smaller government as the best way to foster more jobs, better and more affordable healthcare, better schools, and privacy protection.” Eshoo reported raising $1.4 million, Fox reported raising $39,600. The district is registered 45.2 percent Democrat, 23.6 percent Republican and 27.3 percent independent.

Robert Murray19th District: Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, is challenged in her bid for an 11th term by fellow Democrat Robert Murray, a Morgan Hill business executive. Murray calls for repealing Obamacare, cutting spending, improving public education, and cutting corporate and capital gains taxes. Lofgren reported raising $1.04 million, Murray reported no fundraising. The district is registered 46 percent Democrat, 22.3 percent Republican and 27.9 percent independent.

Ronald Kabat20th District: Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, is challenged in his bid for a 12th term by independent Ronald Paul Kabat, a Carmel accountant. Kabat’s calls for pruning the federal government’s size, reforming the tax code, reducing the national debt and creating jobs. Farr reported raising $673,000, Kabat reported raising $15,000. The district is registered 52.2 percent Democrat, 21 percent Republican and 22.1 percent independent.

Posted on Thursday, October 30th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Most Bay Area House members oppose ISIS plan

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Jerry McNerney were the only greater Bay Area House members who voted Wednesday in favor of President Obama’s plan to beat back the Islamic State in part by training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels.

The House voted 273-156 to add an amendment authorizing Obama’s plans to a short-term spending bill passed shortly after that will keep the federal government operating through mid-December. Voting yes were 159 Republicans and 114 Democrats, while 85 Democrats and 71 Republicans voted no.

Nancy PelosiPelosi, D-San Francisco, didn’t whip Democratic votes behind the scenes, but did make a floor speech in favor of the amendment in which she called the Islamic State’s brutality “outside the circle of civilized human behavior.”

“We wish that this action that we’re called upon to do today was not necessary,” Pelosi said. “But the fact is that, with the diplomatic, political and humanitarian foundation that the President has laid out, with the narrowness of the request that he is making to us – it is not pleasant; it is not easy; it is hard – but it really is necessary for the House to approve this.”

A McNerney spokesman didn’t immediately answer an e-mail seeking comment. (See update at bottom.)

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the measure “an important, initial step forward” against a group that “represents a direct threat to the safety and security of the United States, and House Republicans are firmly committed to doing everything we can to help keep America safe.”

But several Bay Area Democrats explained why they couldn’t vote for the plan.

honda.jpgRep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, said he supports “the President’s call to dismantle ISIL through robust regional and international partnerships, support for local capacities on the ground, and expanded humanitarian assistance. Arming and training Syrians and Iraqis, and perhaps eventually supporting them with airstrikes, may push back ISIL’s gains. But it will not defeat extremism.”

“There is no lasting military solution to extremism. The only lasting solution is a political solution. One in which the rights and concerns of all religious and cultural groups are respected,” Honda said. “The US must focus on building partnerships in the region, and around the world, to encourage moderate Sunni groups in Iraq and Syria to move away from ISIL, and towards an alternative and inclusive future.”

“Simply arming the Syrian opposition groups comes with great risk,” Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, said in a statement issued after the vote. “Instead, we need a comprehensive strategy that includes a debate and vote in Congress that specifically authorizes the use of force against ISIL, and the involvement of a broad, international coalition of Muslim and Western countries to diminish ISIL and degrade their organizational capabilities.”

“To defeat ISIL, I support U.S. led airstrikes and the building of a real, substantive coalition of regional allies who will stand up to defend their own countries and existence. I do not support putting substantial U.S. resources in, and betting the house on, unproven ‘moderate’ Syrian fighters,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, said in an e-mailed statement. “Over the course of U.S. military history, this proxy-war approach has had disastrous results and no evidence in this case has convinced me the result would be any different.”

“I agree with the President’s decision to remove the threat created by ISIS but the plan laid out by the White House is still too vague,” Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, said in his statement. “I could not support the amendment without clear answers to how that threat will be removed and exactly what the United States role will be. ISIS remains a roadblock in creating stability in the region and they must be stopped. However, I am fearful today’s vote does not bring us closer to our ultimate goal of peace.”

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, issued a statement saying the vote “was not, as some have argued, a choice between supporting the President’s plan and simply doing nothing about ISIL. To be clear, I share President Obama’s assessment of ISIL as a brutal terrorist organization, I support the goal of destroying them, and I believe there should be an American role in a broad, multinational response to ISIL.

“My ‘no’ vote today is because this plan for a new American-led war in Iraq and Syria is being advanced without a proper congressional authorization as required by the Constitution, and because I believe the strategic assumptions underlying the plan are deeply flawed,” Huffman said. “Frankly, we should know better than to provide arms and training to fighters we know very little about – and what we do know is troubling. We should know better than to take the lead in fighting and funding this war without a real multinational coalition where the countries most impacted by the ISIL threat carry their fair share of the risk and cost. And we should know better than to do all of this on the basis of wishful assumptions and rosy assurances that the conflict will not escalate out of control.”

UPDATE 5:24 P.M.: McNerney just emailed me a statement saying that “taking military action is the gravest responsibility of our government, and I take my role in helping decide our nation’s policy very seriously.

“I support the current plan to engage and ultimately destroy ISIL, but it won’t be successful unless we can enlist an alliance of nations within the region that are fully and demonstrably committed to true democratic inclusion and are willing to fight for their own freedom,” he said, including training potential allied military units off the battlefield and arming competent and reliable allies.

“Meanwhile, the President must demonstrate America’s commitment to the region by using very limited American air power in conjunction with local military units to help prevent additional ISIL territorial gains. I do not support the involvement of American ground troops beyond their training mission, or the excessive use of American air power. Both of these are not needed and would likely be counterproductive in the end,” McNerney continued. “While I supported this amendment, I also urged my colleagues to consider the long-term effects of authorizing force: to our soldiers, to the innocent civilians, and to sustained stability in the Middle East.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
Under: Eric Swalwell, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, War on Terror | No Comments »

USA Freedom Act vote splits Bay Area reps

The Bay Area’s House delegation was somewhat split – and along surprising lines – as the House voted 303-121 on Thursday to pass a bill supporters say would end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of American phone records.

The USA Freedom Act, HR 3361, was amended after it arrived on the House floor, and some former supporters believed it had been watered down too much; for example, a requirement for an independent public advocate on the secret intelligence court that oversees the NSA was dropped from the bill.

Voting for the bill were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and representatives Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton.

From Thompson:

“Our government has a responsibility to protect people’s civil liberties and our national security, and this legislation does both. It ends the government’s bulk collection of metadata, it strengthens oversight and improves accountability of our intelligence community, and it allows our intelligence community to continue their brave work to keep Americans safe.”

Voting against the bill were representatives Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; and and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz.

From Lofgren:

“Across the country, many people were surprised to learn that the privacy rights they believed were protected under the 4th Amendment did not apply to NSA surveillance of their communications.

“I originally cosponsored the USA FREEDOM Act when it was introduced last yearbecause it was a small step toward reform and transparency. Unfortunately the bill was changed in key ways after committee action and will no longer provide the protections I sought.

“I voted against it today because it falls short of the Fourth Amendment protections Americans deserve.

“There is strong bipartisan concern that this bill makes it legal for the NSA to continue mass surveillance of U.S. citizens. Many civil liberties groups and leading tech companies share these concerns and felt compelled to withdraw their support.

“Without much needed improvements to the USA FREEDOM Act, Congress risks a continuation of mass surveillance in this extension of the Patriot Act.”

Posted on Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »