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Your state and Bay Area House-race roundup

All in all, it was a dismal night for Republicans in California House races.

Of the 11 California House races deemed competitive by the renowned Cook Political Report, Democrats won seven outright and are on top in two too-close-to-call other races. Another way of slicing and dicing it: All of the three endangered Democratic incumbents in these races won re-election, but only one of the four Republicans might’ve. And of the new or open seats, Democrats won three of the four.

More specifically:

    The battles to unseat Reps. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, remain too close to call with some mail-in and provisional ballots yet to be counted, but both trail their Democratic challengers by narrow margins.
    Reps. Jerry McNerney; John Garamendi, D-Fairfield; and Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara all turned away their Republican challengers to win re-election. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, is the only Republican incumbent definitely left standing in these competitive races.

Not than anyone considered it competitive, but Democrat Jared Huffman trounced Republican Dan Roberts to succeed Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-San Rafael, in the North Bay’s newly drawn 2nd Congressional District, which reaches from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border.

In the Bay Area, as usual, the only question for most Democratic incumbents (with the exception, of course, of Pete Stark) was by how enormous a margin they would dispatch their challengers. See how that all stacks up as of this hour, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Dan Lungren, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jeff Denham, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 7 Comments »

Miller leads complaint about foreclosure aid

Rep. George Miller, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat, led 18 House Democrats in complaining to the Obama Administration yesterday that not enough has been done to help distressed homeowners in the Bay Area and nationwide.

“We are writing to urge stronger and immediate actions by the Administration to help many of our constituents who are being routinely abused, lied to, and subjected to financial conflicts of interest by lenders and mortgage servicers, including those participating in federal programs,” they said in their letter to Vice President Joe Biden.

“Our constituents are running out of time. This Administration must stand up for America’s families caught in the housing crisis. The Making Home Affordable Program is simply not making sufficient progress to prevent unnecessary foreclosures. It has so far failed to ensure that mortgage servicers work with homeowners in good faith to achieve loss mitigation that works for homeowners, investors and our communities.”

With the $29 billion Home Affordable Modification Program having been pegged by the Government Accountability Office and other independent watchdogs as inefficient and in need of reform, House Republicans are targeting HAMP for elimination as part of their proposed budget cuts. Miller, D-Martinez, and his cohorts don’t support that, but rather are urging the program’s immediate improvement to crack down on mortgage servicers’ abusive practices.

Miller organized a meeting last week for more than a dozen of his colleagues with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan to convey their concern over HAMP and their constituents’ mistreatment. Among the signatories of yesterday’s letter were representatives John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose.

Posted on Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
Under: Anna Eshoo, George Miller, housing, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, Joe Biden, John Garamendi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

Jackie Speier makes abortion debate personal

Hours after Rep. Jackie Speier joined some of her California Democratic House peers yesterday to voice concern over Republicans’ efforts to cut Title X family planning funding, she made national news by revealing on the House floor that she herself has had an abortion:

Speier, D-Hillsborough, spoke in response to the ardently anti-abortion-rights Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who had just read aloud graphic descriptions of abortion from a book. This all happened during debate over an amendment by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Speier moments ago Tweeted: “I’m overwhelmed by the warm comments I’ve received from across the U.S. I will always stand up for women’s health and reproductive rights.”

UPDATE @ 3:09 P.M.: Speier issued this statement today after the House voted 240-185 to pass Pence’s amendment:

“Last night, I spoke on the House floor about a painful time in my life when the pregnancy that my husband and I prayed for was unsuccessful. I had what’s called dilation and evacuation or d & e. The fetus slipped from my uterus into my vagina and could not survive. Today some news reports are implying that I wanted my pregnancy to end, but that is simply not true. I lost my baby.

“It is time to stop politicizing women’s health. For some, describing a procedure like the one I endured is nothing more than talking points. But for millions of women like me it’s much more—it’s something that will always be a part of us.

“Planned Parenthood provides vital services to women including family planning and cervical cancer screenings. I am disappointed that the House passed the Pence amendment to defund it. These sorts of policies would turn back the clock on women’s health and reproductive rights. I urge the Senate to defeat it. It is time to stop playing politics with our lives.”

Posted on Friday, February 18th, 2011
Under: Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Dems warn of House GOP budget’s impact on CA

California Democratic Congressional Delegation Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, rallied her troops today for a conference call with at least eight members highlighting how House Republicans’ budget plan would impact California.

“While we know reining in our deficit is necessary for economic prosperity, there is a responsible way to do it,” she said.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, said that “in transportation, we’re really talking about serious, serious job losses in California” as the GOP plan cuts funding for high-speed rail, Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, and other programs adding up to at least $1.25 billion.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, said she’s now circulating a letter to California House members asking Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to redirect to California $2 billion in high-speed rail funds that Florida Gov. Rick Scott yesterday refused; senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer sent such a letter yesterday. Garamendi said unless California gets that money, the Republican budget will leave its rail project underfunded.

Speier was among several members on today’s call who voiced concern at the House GOP plan to cut Title X family planning funding; Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, said Republicans are exercising their “vendetta” against family planning and women’s health.

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, decried a potential $1.3 billion cut to community health care clinics; he said in a rural community like Watsonville where the clinic would lose $151,000 per year from its base grant, jobs would be lost and health access severely curtailed. “It really does have impacts on Main Street all over the United States.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, said even to a fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat like himself, a cut like that makes no sense.

“What they’re doing is a lot like waking up in the morning and finding you’ve put on a lot of weight and deciding you’re going to take care of it by cutting off your leg,” Thompson said, noting sick people cut off from community clinic care will instead seek higher-cost care with traditional family-practice physicians or, worse yet, in emergency rooms. “The cost of health care for these folks is going to go through the roof.”

Farr said addressing the nation’s debt is important, but House Republicans are blurring the distinction between long-term debt – which he likened to a home mortgage – and short-term debt – more like a credit card – in order to score political points.

“What the Republicans are trying to do is scare everybody with the long-term debt saying you have to pay it off right away,” he said, when in fact it’s better to approach that long-term debt with a deliberate, long-term plan rather than “a meat ax.”

Posted on Thursday, February 17th, 2011
Under: Jackie Speier, John Garamendi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

Lawmakers urge banks to allow aid for jobless

Five Northern California members of Congress are pressuring mortgage servicers to work with a new federally funded program in California intended to help unemployed homeowners pay their mortgages and avoid foreclosure.

The Keep Your Home California Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program provides qualified unemployed homeowners up to $3,000 a month for up to six months to help pay their mortgage. But according to the office of Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, if the monthly mortgage exceeds $3,000, the servicers won’t accept any payment at all, even if the homeowner could send a second check to cover the difference between what is owed and what the program covers. As a result, unemployed homeowners who could avoid foreclosure proceedings thanks to this program are instead at risk of failing to pay their mortgage and landing in foreclosure.

“If this program is to have meaningful success, mortgage servicers are going to have to get on board with processing these payments,” Miller said in a news release. “Refusing to accept dual payments is unacceptable and is a disservice to the homeowners who are doing everything they can to stay in their homes while they look for work. Homeowners shouldn’t have to forfeit their homes because of bureaucratic intransigence by banks and servicers.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, another of the letter’s signers, said “it’s time that banks and servicers become part of the solution and not the problem.

“It’s ridiculous that servicers and banks are unwilling to participate in a program that will help protect the value of the very asset on which their loan is based on,” she said. “I find it deeply troubling that servicers would have borrowers default rather than simply accepting payment.”

In their letter – also signed by Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz – they wrote that, “we believe refusing to accept supplementary payments from homeowners is inexcusable and we strongly urge you to remedy this problem expeditiously… It is unacceptable that servicers in California are unwilling or unable to figure out a workable resolution to this problem, particularly given that two viable options to address the issue exist.”

Those options, they say, are either to accept two checks (one from the program and one from the homeowner) or to forebear the amount of the mortgage that exceeds the $3,000 program payment.

Posted on Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
Under: George Miller, housing, Jackie Speier, John Garamendi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 13 Comments »

Jackie Speier offers online, financial privacy bills

Worried that Facebook, Google or some other online entity is collecting, using and sharing data on your online activities? Rep. Jackie Speier says she has your back, with one of two bills she introduced today aimed at protecting people’s personal information.

The Do Not Track Me Online Act of 2011 (H.R. 654) aims to give consumers the ability to prevent the collection and use of data on their online activities, directing the Federal Trade Commission to develop standards for a “Do Not Track” mechanism so people can choose upfront to opt out of the collection, use or sale of their online activities, and require covered entities to respect the consumer’s choice. Failure to do so would be considered an unfair or deceptive act punishable by law. The covered entity would have to disclose its collection and sharing practices, including with whom the information is shared. The bill would allow the FTC to exempt commonly accepted commercial practices like the collection of information for billing purposes.

“People have a right to surf the web without Big Brother watching their every move and announcing it to the world,” said Speier, D-Hillsborough. “The internet marketplace has matured, and it is time for consumers’ protections to keep pace.”

Speier cited a USA Today poll released Tuesday that showed that 70 percent of Facebook members and 52 percent of Google users say they are either “somewhat” or “very concerned” about their privacy.

“It’s crucial that Americans have as much control over their online privacy as possible and this bill is a welcome and important first step toward that goal,” American Civil Liberties Union Legislative Counsel Christopher Calabrese said. “Signing on to the Internet shouldn’t mean signing away your privacy. Americans must have a mechanism in place to opt out of having their online habits tracked so that they can protect their most sensitive information. A ‘do not track’ list is a logical and common sense place to start. We urge the House to make this bill a priority.”

Speier also introduced the Financial Information Privacy Act of 2011 (H.R. 653), which aims to give consumers control of their own financial information. The bill mirrors a California law Speier steered to passage that prevents financial institutions from sharing or selling personally identifiable nonpublic information with affiliates without an opportunity to opt-out, or in the case of unaffiliated third parties, a requirement that consumers opt-in.

“Because of the law we passed in California, consumers now have the clear and simple ability to prevent financial institutions from sharing their personal information,” Speier said. “Every American deserves that right.”

Posted on Friday, February 11th, 2011
Under: Internet and politics, Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Eshoo floats TARP payback for local governments

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, today introduced a “Restitution for Local Government Act of 2010” to help counties and other public entities get back some of the more than $1.7 billion they lost when Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008.

Eshoo’s bill would require the Treasury Department to buy Lehman’s assets from these municipalities using profits from the sale of any future Troubled Asset Relief Program assets.

“The purpose of TARP was to prevent the collapse of financial institutions and mitigate the damage of their reckless behavior on the American people. More than 40 municipalities, including San Mateo County in my Congressional District, invested over a billion dollars in the purportedly stable and safe financial products of Lehman Brothers,” she said in her news release. “When Lehman collapsed, San Mateo County and other public agencies across the country were crippled, and we owe them some relief.”

Across California, 28 cities and counties lost a total of about $250 million, with San Mateo County’s loss by far the biggest – $155 million between the county, its cities and its school districts – resulting in teachers being laid off, road and school repairs being canceled, and construction of new buildings being halted. A report commissioned by the county estimated more than 1,500 jobs were lost or not created because of the loss of taxpayer dollars.

The East Bay saw losses too, including Alameda County’s $5 million and Fremont’s $4 million.

“By selling TARP assets, the federal government has already made more than ten times the amount of money that public institutions lost when Lehman collapsed,” Eshoo said. “My legislation will require the Secretary of the Treasury to provide relief to these institutions with any future profit.”

The Treasury Department has earned $15.4 billion from dividends, interest, and the sale of bank stock which it bought through TARP, and expects another $7.5 billion from the sale of its 27-percent stake in Citigroup. Eshoo’s bill would use some future TARP profits to buy up Lehman securities, bonds and other instruments held by dozens of local governments across the nation when the global financial-services firm went belly up in 2008. Local governments receiving these funds would have to report back to the federal government on how the money is used and to show job creation, retention, and economic activity equal to the amount of funds they received.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, is the bill’s first cosponsor. “Lehman Brothers’ financial practices were mired in deceit and deception,” Speier said in Eshoo’s release. “The ensuing investment losses have fallen directly on the shoulders of my constituents who have to bear the burden of reduced educational, health and public safety services. It is imperative that this measure be enacted to protect the welfare of residents of all the municipalities stung by the Lehman Brothers’ shell game.”

Posted on Thursday, April 22nd, 2010
Under: Anna Eshoo, economy, Jackie Speier, San Mateo County, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

Afghanistan withdrawal resolution defeated

H.Con.Res. 248, legislation by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, that would order the President to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan, failed today on a 65-356 vote after more than three and a half hours of debate.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma were among the legislation’s 19 co-sponsors. They were joined by Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, in voting for it today.

From Stark:

Pete Stark“Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of H.Con.Res. 248 to bring our troops home from Afghanistan.

“Despite the wishes of the people who voted him into office, President Obama is escalating the War in Afghanistan. It’s now up to Congress to end the war. This resolution would invoke the War Powers Resolution of 1973, and remove troops from Afghanistan no later than the end of the year.

“This war has no clear objective. We have spent $258 billion on the War in Afghanistan, with billions more to come this year. American soldiers and their families are paying a greater price. Over 1,000 soldiers have died, and over 5,000 have been wounded in action. According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch, and other humanitarian organizations, tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed.

“It is time for Congress to assert its constitutional authority over matters of war and bring our troops home. I urge my colleagues to join us in support of this resolution. War will never stabilize Afghanistan. We must turn to diplomacy and infrastructure development to achieve stability in Afghanistan.”

From Miller:

“We need to move in a new direction in Afghanistan. Today, I again registered my opposition to the current US policy in Afghanistan by voting for Mr. Kucinich’s war powers resolution. While we know it isn’t feasible for American troops to leave Afghanistan in the time allotted in the resolution, by voting for it I am sending a clear message to President Obama and my colleagues that we need to move in a new direction in Afghanistan.”

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, was one of five Republicans (the others included Rep. John Campbell, R-Irvine) to vote for the legislation. From Paul:

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, issued a statement saying she had voted against the resolution “with a heavy heart.” See her full explanation after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, March 10th, 2010
Under: Afghanistan, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Lynn Woolsey, Pete Stark, Ron Paul, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Lawmakers’ plea for NUMMI goes unheeded

California’s U.S. Senators, joined by much of the Bay Area’s House delegation, wrote to Toyota today to forestall closure of the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant in Fremont, but apparently it’s too little, too late.

NUMMI is a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota; GM announced last month it will withdraw, and Toyota has been considering doing the same. The plant’s closure would cost 4,500 California jobs directly, and an estimated 35,000 or more indirectly.

The lawmakers wrote to Toyota Corp. President Akio Toyoda to emphasize NUMMI’s importance to California’s economy and to offer to work with Toyota to keep the plant open. Also, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., reports she recently spoke on the phone with Toyota Motor America President Yoshimi Inaba about her willingness to help find solutions to keep the plant in operation’ other California lawmakers have talked to company officials as well.

But even as the lawmakers announced their effort, media began reporting Toyota’s decision to pull out of the venture and close the plant.

UPDATE @ 5:11 P.M.: Never say die, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office insists. The governor has talked with and written to the Toyota execs, too, and has formed a “Red Team” of stakeholders to work on keeping the plant open. “The Schwarzenegger Administration is actively engaged with NUMMI’s partners, Toyota, federal officials, local officials, labor, suppliers and other stakeholders to work together to ensure the future success of the facility,” David Crane, the Governor’s special advisor for jobs and economic growth, said in a release. “Our office will continue to respect Toyota’s wishes to keep discussions private as we work together to determine the best path for ensuring NUMMI’s continued operations in Fremont.”

See the letter, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dennis Cardoza, Dianne Feinstein, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 19 Comments »

Your voices on Capitol Hill, speaking

Here’s Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, urging the House today to adopt an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010 that would call for the Defense Secretary to report to Congress by Dec. 31 a comprehensive exit strategy from the war in Afghanistan:

The amendment later failed on a 138-278 vote: Lee, Pete Stark, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Anna Eshoo, Mike Honda and Lynn Woolsey voted for it; Ellen Tauscher and Jerry McNerney opposed it; and Zoe Lofgren and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t vote.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, spent some quality time today grilling Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing:

Posted on Thursday, June 25th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Barbara Lee, Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 1 Comment »