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Go talk to your congressman

With only two weeks left in Congress’ summer recess, there are still a few chances to see and be heard by your lawmaker.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, has several events coming up. First, I’ll moderate a Commonwealth Club of California discussion with him at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25 in the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd. Tickets cost $12 for club members, $20 for non-members or $7 for students, and are available online.

DeSaulnier also is continuing his series of free, public town-hall meetings as well. The remaining three are scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 26 in the Harding Elementary School auditorium, 7230 Fairmount Avenue in El Cerrito; Wednesday, Sept. 2 in the Orinda Library Auditorium, 26 Orinda Way; and Thursday, Sept. 3 in the Clayton Library’s Hoyer Hall, 6125 Clayton Road. All three will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, will host a town hall forum on Social Security at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25 in the Florence Douglas Senior Center, 333 Amador St. in Vallejo. Special guests will include Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Sandy Goodman, District Manager of the Vallejo Social Security Administration field office.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, will host a California drought solutions forum from 10 to noon Tuesday, Aug. 25, in the San Joaquin County Robert J. Cabral Agricultural Center, 2101 E. Earhart Ave. in Stockton. Open to the public, the forum will feature experts and voices that include farmers, water technology innovators, policy makers, federal and state government, academia, and others.

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CA17: Honda and Khanna are busy as bees

Rep. Mike Honda and his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, are keeping busy at keeping themselves in the public eye this week.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, hosted a public town hall Tuesday in San Jose with Ted Osius, the U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam. This month marks the 20th anniversary of normal diplomatic relations between the two nations, and San Jose – and the 17th Congressional District – have significant Vietnamese populations.

Honda also was among 72 House and Senate Democrats who wrote to President Barack Obama on Monday urging him to fight for expanded Social Security benefits.

“We have a duty, as a civil society, to take care of our vulnerable populations, including older Americans. They have worked a lifetime to earn these benefits and we must make sure that there is sufficient support for our seniors,” Honda said in a news release Tuesday. “Would you be accepting if I told you your grandparents… or even you, or your parents will be forced into poverty? Even as we face challenges today, we also know we are facing a looming crisis that needs to be handled now – over half of today’s working Americans are not expected to have sufficient resources once they retire.”

And Honda issued a news release noting he met this week with state officers of DECA, a student organization focused on career and technical education for high school and college students. Among them were Albert Zeng of Monte Vista High School, DECA’s state president; Zuhayer Quazi of Mission San Jose High School, the vice president of public relations; and Jacinta Cheng of Mission San Jose High School, the group’s Silicon Valley vice president.

“Speaking with these motivated young people showed me the amount of potential we have here in Silicon Valley,” Honda said in his news release. “They surprised me with their astute questions related to specific legislation about technical education. The combination of their civic engagement and interest in technical education points to a very bright future for Silicon Valley.”

These certainly aren’t the only constituents with whom Honda meets, but you might recall that one of the angry constituents Khanna showcased at a news conference last August was a teenager who complained Honda hadn’t had the time to talk with her during a D.C. visit.

Ro KhannaMeanwhile, Khanna – a former Obama administration Commerce Department appointee from Fremont – on Tuesday helped inaugurate his new employer’s Water Innovation Center in Santa Clara.

Khanna in January became vice president of strategic initiatives for Smart Utility Systems. The company, which already had offices in Irvine and in Noida, India, creates software to help water districts and utilities increase conservation efforts, better manage resources and make operations more efficient, from usage monitoring and leak detection to customer engagement and workforce management.

The company said its new Santa Clara facility “will provide a hub in Silicon Valley to help maintain the company’s leadership in the evolving utilities landscape.” Tuesday’s event included the unveiling of a new low-cost water reduction program for utilities, and a new mobile app that will let consumers partner with utilities to identify water waste and increase conservation.

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CA17: Honda launches attack ad against Khanna

Rep. Mike Honda rolled out a new television ad Monday attacking Democratic challenger Ro Khanna for having right-wing billionaires support his campaign, for favoring tax breaks for the rich and companies that offshore jobs, and for not being committed to protecting Social Security.

But Khanna’s campaign says Honda, D-San Jose, is making up many of the ad’s charges.

Honda’s campaign says this six-figure ad buy comes after Khanna’s campaign has been on the attack for weeks, including a recent mailer attacking Honda by calling him a “liberal Democrat.”

“After losing the primary by 20 points, Khanna’s entire campaign has been about attacking Congressman Honda, and today we’re hitting back,” Honda campaign manager Doug Greven said in a news release. “Voters need to know that Khanna is more concerned with representing his wealthy right-wing donors than the people who are working hard in this district to get by.”

Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said the ad is flat-out wrong.

“It’s a shame that after 14 lackluster years in office, Congressman Honda is resorting to false attacks and a ‘guilt-by-association’ strategy that ignores the facts,” Law said. “More than ever, this race is a clear choice between an old school politician with one of the poorest records in Congress and a new leader with a clear vision for creating good-paying jobs, fostering innovation, and preparing our children for success in life.”

Khanna sent an email to his supporters Monday morning calling the ad “full of lies” and saying that while his campaign does “not have the money for television, we will respond in the press, in mailers and on the ground.” Reports filed last week with the Federal Election Commission showed Honda still had close to $1 million banked for his campaign as of Sept. 30 while Khanna’s campaign was running dangerously low – a tremendous reversal of fortune, given that Khanna had vastly more money for the campaign’s first year but spent most of it before June’s primary.

“My hope is that voters in Silicon Valley will see through this kind of politics,” Khanna wrote. “My hope is they will choose intellectually honest positions over distortion.”

Let’s examine the ad point by point, after the jump…
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Mike Honda’s ‘scrap the cap’ bill introduced

Rep. Mike Honda on Wednesday announced he has helped introduce the Social Security legislation he promised earlier this summer, to remove the cap on payroll taxes and expand benefits for current and future retirees.

H.R. 3118, the Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013, was introduced Tuesday by Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Cerritos, along with Honda and U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

“This legislation will ensure that benefits keep up with today’s rising costs, and that current and future retirees regain the security of aging with dignity,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in a news release. “There is no doubt that the program needs structural improvements, and the fairest, simplest way to keep it solvent is to require all Americans – regardless of income level – to contribute equally.”

The bill eliminates the cap on taxable income paying into Social Security; right now, people are only taxed on the first $113,700 of income. Honda says that means someone earning $1 million per year is taxed at a significantly lower percentage than a worker making $50,000, the national average.

The bill also makes formula adjustments to increase benefits by about $800 per year to better reflect rising healthcare costs.

The bill is backed by a plethora of unions, retiree interest groups and liberal organizations. Honda is making it a centerpiece of his re-election campaign, in which he’s being challenged by fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, a former Obama administration official.

Khanna last month said he favors immediate action to ensure Social Security’s solvency at current benefit levels “without making empty promises that could ultimately threaten the system overall.” He said he’s “in principle open to expanding benefits after the solvency is ensured.”

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CA17 poll: Honda holds solid lead over Khanna

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, holds a commanding lead over fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, though he falls short of a majority of voters, according to a new poll commissioned and released by Honda’s political allies.

honda.jpgThe poll, conducted Aug. 2-4 among 806 likely voters in the 17th Congressional District, found 49 percent support Honda, 15 percent support Khanna and 36 percent remain undecided. The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America, and has a 3.5-point margin of error.

This isn’t so surprising, considering Honda’s name recognition after almost six and a half terms in office, and how early in the 2014 electoral cycle we are; a lot of people simply aren’t tuned in yet. Leah Cowan, Khanna’s campaign manager, said he’s undaunted.

“Since we launched our grassroots campaign in April, Ro has been working tirelessly to engage thousands of voters across the district by knocking on doors, hosting meet-and-greets, and participating in community events,” Cowan said. “What we’re seeing on the ground is strong support for Ro’s positive message of working to create good paying jobs, build a 21st-century education, and make government more responsive to people, not special interests. As more people continue to hear his ideas, we’re confident they’ll move our way.”

The poll also found that about 46 percent of voters would be more supportive of Honda’s campaign if he runs on the idea of increasing Social Security benefits – a plan he touted at a news conference earlier this month in Fremont, days after this poll was conducted – while 13 percent said they’d be less supportive, 35 percent said it would make no difference and 6 percent said they wouldn’t be sure. This question was asked of only 416 voters, and has a 4.8-point margin of error.

I’ve heard that the voters surveyed with this poll were front-loaded with information about the candidates’ positions on Social Security before they were asked whom they would vote for. (SEE UPDATE BELOW.)

Ro KhannaKhanna earlier this month had said he favors immediate action to ensure Social Security’s solvency at current benefit levels “without making empty promises that could ultimately threaten the system overall.” He said he’s “in principle open to expanding benefits after the solvency is ensured.”

That’s not good enough, according to the liberal groups that commissioned this poll.

“Voters in California’s 17th District strongly support expanding Social Security, so it should be no surprise that they also strongly support Mike Honda, the only candidate in the race who unequivocally backs the idea,” Democracy for America Chairman Jim Dean said in a news release. “At the end of the day, Californians expect their representatives to be the progressive leaders in Congress and, on the issue of Social Security expansion, Honda is once again answering that call.”

UPDATE @ 10:20 A.M.: PCCC spokeswoman Laura Friedenbach says the question about which candidate the voter supports came early in the poll questionnaire, and was not preceded by any information about the candidates’ stances on Social Security.

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Obama’s budget: Something for everyone to hate

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“House Republicans passed a balanced budget that will help foster a healthier economy and to help create jobs. Unfortunately, the president’s budget never comes to balance. Every family has to balance its budget, Washington should as well.

“The American people know you can’t continue to spend money that you don’t have. The federal government has spent more than what it has brought in in 55 of the last 60 years. Now think about this, you can’t continue to go on like this. That’s why we came forward with a plan that will balance the budget over the next 10 years. We believe strongly that it is time for Washington to deal with its spending problem.

“And while the president has backtracked on some of his entitlement reforms that were in conversations that we had a year and a half ago, he does deserve some credit for some incremental entitlement reforms that he has outlined in his budget. But I would hope that he would not hold hostage these modest reforms for his demand for bigger tax hikes. Listen, why don’t we do what we can agree to do? Why don’t we find the common ground that we do have and move on that?

“The president got his tax hikes in January, we don’t need to be raising taxes on the American people. So I’m hopeful in the coming weeks we’ll have an opportunity, through the budget process, to come to some agreement.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“The President’s budget makes critical investments in our economy and in job creation. I’m particularly pleased to see the investments in mental health, HIV/AIDS, and education, including promise neighborhoods, and universal pre-K. Given my efforts to repeal the Tiahrt amendments, I’m also very pleased to see that this budget excludes pieces of that policy rider which inhibits law enforcement’s abilities to track illegal guns and prevent gun violence. Unfortunately, this budget also includes chained CPI, a benefit cut to Social Security which I strongly oppose.”

From U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee:

Orrin Hatch“What a disappointment this budget is. Not only is it two months late, but the President’s budget is a rehash of the same tax hikes, spending increases and deceptive budget gimmicks that have already been rejected by Democrats and Republicans alike. What’s more, it barely makes a dent in our sky-high debt, while not doing enough to fundamentally reform Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Any reasonable person understands that our $17 trillion debt – which represents a burden of over $55,000 for every man, woman, and child in America – is a crisis that demands addressing.”

“Falsely claiming $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction, as the President proposes, isn’t the kind of leadership the people of Utah and America deserve. Confronting our debt crisis with such an unbalanced set of massive tax increases, as the President does in his budget, will only result in less economic opportunity for middle-class families and small businesses, and more government spending from Washington. After last week’s dismal job numbers where the labor force dipped by a half-a-million workers and the labor force participation rate fell to the lowest since the early years of the Carter Administration, we need policies that grow our economy, the paychecks of the American people, and opportunities for our children and grandchildren – not grow our government as the President proposes in his budget.”

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

Nancy Pelosi“President Obama has put forth a budget proposal that makes investments to grow the economy, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class while continuing to reduce the deficit in a balanced way.

“The President has made it clear that this proposal is in furtherance of his efforts to achieve compromise with Republicans and demonstrates that he is willing to make tough decisions to reduce the deficit, but only in the context of a bold and balanced agreement that asks the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share and includes initiatives that spur economic growth by creating jobs.

“Now that the House and Senate have acted on their own budget proposals, it is time for Speaker Boehner to appoint budget conferees to avoid any further delay. The American people want their elected representatives in Washington to work together to tackle the difficult decisions facing our nation. We must lift the sequester and find common ground to grow our economy, put people to work, and build a strong, thriving middle class.”

More, after the jump…
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