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TechNet endorses Trans Pacific Partnership

Silicon Valley’s bipartisan political action committee endorsed the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement Monday – a pact on which Rep. Mike Honda has not yet taken a final position, and which his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, opposes.

TechNet, a policy and political network of tech CEOs and senior executives, endorsed the free-trade pact Monday and urged Congress to approve it.

“The U.S. technology sector has grown into a leading force in the U.S. economy, fueled by an unparalleled commitment to innovation and an unprecedented investment in research and development,” President and CEO Linda Moore said in a news release. “The statistics are staggering: the U.S. innovation economy now supports more than 30 percent of U.S. GDP and employs more than 6.5 million Americans. It’s being driven by the incredible new technologies developed in Silicon Valley, Seattle, Austin, Boston, and beyond, and it’s been accelerated by international trade.”

“Yet, our nation’s ability to continue to lead in this sector is dependent on access to the fastest growing markets in the world and the uninhibited flow of data across borders,” she continued. “This agreement supports U.S. technology leadership around the globe, and will drive economic growth and job creation here at home.”

President Obama is likely to call for the TPP’s passage during his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday night. But Honda, D-San Jose, has not yet taken a position on the agreement negotiated between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim trading partners, Chief of Staff Jennifer Van der Heide said Monday.

He did vote last year against the Trade Promotion Authority that allowed the Obama administration to fast-track this trade pact, calling for Congress to have a bigger role in its drafting. And he has spoken about making sure agreements like this include strong, clear and enforceable labor, environmental and human rights standards.

Khanna said Monday he would vote against the Trans Pacific Partnership.

“First, the tribunals that have been set up to adjudicate give too much power to corporations and don’t take labor, environmental and human rights stakeholders into consideration,” he said via email. “Second, there is too much of an IP and data exclusivity giveaway to pharmaceuticals that would deprive many people around the world of access to drugs.”

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Tom McClintock quits House Freedom Caucus

Rep. Tom McClintock quit the House Freedom Caucus on Wednesday, saying the Tea Party-dominated group actually undermines conservative goals in Congress.

Tom McClintockMcClintock, R-Elk Grove, tendered his resignation to caucus chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said the caucus’ moves during the near-shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security in Februrary; during the debate over Trade Promotion Authority in May; and last week regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran have actually helped defeat Republican aims.

Now, he wrote, the caucus has formally vowed to shut down the government over funding Planned Parenthood. Though he has strongly opposed public funding of abortions through his entire political career, “this tactic promises only to shield Senate Democrats from their responsibility for a government shutdown and to alienate the public from the pro-life cause at precisely the time when undercover videos of Planned Parenthood’s barbaric practices are turning public opinion in our favor.”

“A common theme through each of these incidents is a willingness – indeed, an eagerness – to strip the House Republican majority of its ability to set the House agenda by combining with House Democrats on procedural motions. As a result, it has thwarted vital conservative policy objectives and unwittingly become Nancy Pelosi’s tactical ally,” McClintock wrote. “I feel that the HFC’s many missteps have made it counterproductive to its stated goals and I no longer wish to be associated with it.”

Jordan issued a statement calling McClintock “a principled conservative and a valuable member of the House Republican Conference,” and saying the caucus “looks forward to continuing to work with him, as well as every one of our colleagues, to give a voice to countless Americans who feel that Washington does not represent them.”

Read the full text of McClintock’s letter to Jordan, after the jump…
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CA17: Playing it cagey on trade authority debate

In reporting my story today on Rep. Mike Honda’s declaration of candidacy for a ninth term, I tried to contrast his position on the trade package that House Democrats sank last week with that of Ro Khanna, his Democratic challenger.

But Khanna – a former Obama administration Commerce Department official – isn’t making that easy.

honda.jpgHonda last Friday joined most Democrats in voting against the trade package for which President Obama and Republican leaders had pushed hard. The “fast track” Trade Promotion Authority bill “did not include a voice for working families” and limits Congress’ power to represent labor, business and environmental interests, he said in a statement issued Friday, while the Trade Adjustment Assistance bill was underfunded, “ignores public sector workers, and is propped up on the back of continued cuts to Medicare.”

Khanna was out of town Tuesday, but I asked him and his acting campaign manager, Brian Parvizshahi, to provide me a succinct summation of how he would’ve voted on the bills.

Ro Khanna“Ro agrees with Secretary Hillary Clinton’s recent, thoughtful comments on the issue,” Parvizshahi replied by email. “He agrees with her that we need to increase TAA funding and fight for a fully funded highway bill to find a way forward.”

Yet Clinton – who supported TPA while serving as Secretary of State – has been very cagey in what she says about it now, as frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

At a campaign rally Sunday in Iowa, Clinton spoke more about the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a trade deal with 11 other Pacific Rim nations – than about the TPA and TAA bills that would let the Obama Administration finish negotiating it. She urged President Obama to listen to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats and make changes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership that reflect their concerns about protecting American jobs and wages.

“She declined to take sides on the Friday vote itself but instead allied herself with Democratic critics of the deal — without actually opposing it,” the New York Times reported.

And CNN reported Monday that Clinton in New Hampshire had once again declined to say whether she thinks Obama should have authority to fast-track the Pacific trade deal through Congress without amendments. She dismissed the fight over that legislation, known as trade promotion authority, as “a process issue.”

Of course, as president Clinton would stand in Obama’s shoes, not those of Congress. But Khanna wants to fill congressional shoes, and only 3.6 percentage points in November prevented him from being part of Friday’s roll calls. It would be nice to know, definitively, how he would have voted.

Larry Gerston, a San Jose State University professor emeritus and political expert who closely watched the 2014 Honda-Khanna showdown, said Honda seems to be poised to make a case to voters for why the trade package would have cost jobs in the 17th Congressional District. For Khanna to make a different case “would be a large contrast,” Gerston said.

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Sam Farr will vote for Trade Promotion Authority

Rep. Sam Farr has broken with most of his fellow California Democrats, announcing Thursday morning that he’ll vote in support of the “fast-track” Trade Promotion Authority that the Obama Administration and Republican congressional leaders want.

Until Farr, D-Carmel, posted a statement to his constituents online Thursday, the only California House Democrat known to be supporting TPA was Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove – a second-term member in a vulnerable swing district, compared to the 12-term Farr’s safely deep-blue district. The House could vote on it Friday.

Sam FarrFarr wrote that the Central Coast’s economic strength lies in adapting to meet global demands, with local businesses relying on access to new markets in order to compete.

“Trade opens up those markets. It puts the goods we produce and the crops we grow here in California into the hands of more buyers around the world. More sales abroad create more jobs here at home. Trade is good for the Central Coast,” he wrote.

Trade Promotion Authority “simply defines the process Congress will use to vote on future trade deals,” Farr wrote, and “sets the strongest human rights, environmental and labor standards for trade in the history of our country. These are not ceilings but instead are floors that have to be met, giving President Obama the leverage necessary to push for even stronger standards when negotiating with other countries.”

Farr wrote that he expects the pending Trans Pacific Partnership – a trade deal with almost a dozen Pacific Rim nations, which will be the first pact to proceed under TPA – “to be the strongest trade deal ever negotiated. It will require all of the signatories to address issues like conditions in their factories or fair pay for their workers. It will also improve environmental standards leading to cleaner air and cleaner water.” But if it doesn’t contain adequate protections, he said, he’ll vote against it.

After listening to labor, human rights and environmental groups, as well as local businesses and growers, “I concluded voting for TPA is the right thing to do for our district, our economy and our environment,” he wrote.

“To put in bluntly, I trust President Obama to deliver a better trade deal than Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell,” Farr wrote. “Under TPA, any deal brought to Congress by the President will be made public and reviewed for 60 days. At the end of that time period, Congress will hold a simple up or down vote. Without TPA, the Republican controlled Congress would be able to strip out any of the tougher standards put in place by the White House.”

Farr acknowleged many in his party will disagree, and it would be easier to vote with them, “but I did not come to Congress to do what is easy. I came here to do what I feel is right, no matter how hard that vote will be. A yes vote on TPA is right. It means moving us forward while a no vote on TPA means remaining stuck.”

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Boxer, DiFi oppose fast-track trade authority

Senate Democrats derailed one of President Obama’s major second-term priorities Tuesday, voting to hold up consideration of “fast track” trade authority unless related measures are guaranteed to proceed alongside it, the Washington Post reports.

Sixty votes were needed to begin formal debate of measures that would pave the way for approval of a complex Pacific trade accord and provide relief to unemployed workers affected by trade deals. The vote was 52-45, with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the only Democrat voting aye.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., had said last week she would vote for trade promotion authority only if it was accompanied by other bills providing income support and retraining funds for workers displaced by international trade; more power to enforce trade agreements and punish violations; and a trade-preferences package for developing nations in Africa.

“Whether or not Congress should grant the president fast-track trade authority is important, but I believe the debate shouldn’t occur in isolation from these related issues,” she said at the time. “If this larger package of bills comes before the Senate, I look forward to its consideration.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., spoke against fast-track authority before Tuesday’s vote.

Barbara Boxer“The last major deal Congress approved cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs, lowered the wages of American workers, and increased income inequality. And we are still dealing with the legacy of NAFTA,” she said, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement that took effect in 1994. (Boxer and Feinstein both voted against NAFTA in late 1993, too.)

“They say timing is everything in life. Well, if that’s true, the timing of this free-trade agreement could not be worse for the middle-class families who we are supposed to be fighting for,” Boxer said. “We should immediately put this legislation aside and take up legislation that will help the middle class.”

But House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, issued a statement after the Senate vote saying “free and open trade means a stronger America with more jobs and opportunity.

“This is something that both Republicans and Democrats support, including the President,” McCarthy said. “History has shown that in times of divided government, positive changes can be made on behalf of the American people. Unfortunately, it is the President’s own party stopping progress. The decision by Senate Democrats to block this bipartisan bill from moving forward is disappointing and a step backwards for our already beleaguered economic recovery. The House will continue to work towards passage of free and open trade.”

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Rep. Ted Lieu on GOP, climate change, LGBT rights

Rep. Ted Lieu, in Silicon Valley on Monday and Tuesday to tour tech companies and pay homage to his alma mater, says the key to Democratic victories in 2016 lies on the other side of the aisle.

Ted Lieu“We want to see lots of Ted Cruz on television,” Lieu, D-Torrance, said Monday during an interview at a Starbucks in San Jose. “I want him to win the nomination on the Republican side.”

Even if that doesn’t happen, having such sharply conservative voices on the other side makes it easier for Democrats to underscore how large segments of the GOP are increasingly out of step with a changing national electorate, Lieu said.

“The rest of America, with every passing day, looks more and more like California” in its demographics and policies, he said. “The current path of the GOP is not sustainable.”

Already the shifting demographics in key Electoral College states make it hard to see how Republicans can win the White House, Lieu said, and while Republicans might control Congress for a few more cycles, “you can only redistrict so much” before the sheer weight of a changing electorate catches up.

Lieu – who in January succeeded 40-year incumbent Democrat Henry Waxman in a coastal district that runs from San Pedro up past Malibu – is in the Bay Area this week to meet with tech leaders, including a dinner Monday night with Silicon Valley Leadership Group members, and visits to companies including Oracle, SunPower and Intuitive Surgical. A self-described “recovering computer science major,” he’ll also speak at Tuesday’s event commemorating the 50th anniversary of Stanford’s computer science program, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1991.

Lieu said he sees the tech sector as “one of America’s and California’s competitive advantages,” but sees a need to build diversity in its boardrooms and workspaces just as in the rest of corporate America and government. “Government operates better if it looks like the people it represents, and I think that’s also true for the private sector.”

Lots more from Lieu, after the jump…
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