Calif. water war spreads to Congress

Posted on October 16, 2009. Filed under: Claifornia | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

By KEVIN FREKING,
 Associated Press Writer Kevin Freking,

WASHINGTON – It was the kind of legislation that rarely generates much debate in Congress: a bill to expand a local water recycling program.

However, the House spent more than three hours Thursday trying to decide whether to allow the creation of six recycling projects in the San Francisco area.

In the end, the bill passed easily, as everyone knew it would. The lengthy and often pointed debate amounted to a Republican gambit that increasing water supplies in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s backyard wouldn’t go over very well with voters in California‘s parched farm belt — and could help tilt some congressional races in the GOP’s favor next year.

Some of the nation’s most productive farmland has been idled because of a water shortage caused by three years of drought, as well as restrictions associated with protecting a native fish. Lawmakers from the San Joaquin Valley have described the economic devastation as their Hurricane Katrina, citing unemployment rates as high as 40 percent in some of the hardest-hit communities.

GOP strategists believe they have a winning plan for the next election by tying the economic woes to Democratic lawmakers.

“Water is going to be the issue in all the congressional districts that are part of the Central Valley,” said Joanna Burgos, spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “When you have 40 percent unemployment because of a court order that could be solved by Congress, it’s hard to focus on any other subject.”

Previous water recycling projects have been noncontroversial. For example, Republican lawmakers Ken Calvert, Brian Bilbray and Elton Gallegly all sponsored legislation expanding or establishing recycling programs in their California districts. Those bills all passed overwhelmingly in the House.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., didn’t get such support. The recycling projects authorized through Miller’s bill would be located in the Bay area and would turn more than 7 million gallons of wastewater daily into water for parks, golf courses and landscaping.

In the long run, the program helps the farm belt, Miller said. If parks in his district need less water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, then more water could be made available for other uses, such as meeting the needs of farmers, he said.

“If you want to make it more difficult in the valley, then kill all the recycling projects,” Miller said. “If you want to make it less likely that water’s going to come to the valley, kill all the recycling projects.”

Opponents repeated the contention from San Joaquin Valley lawmakers that protections for fish are being given higher priority than people. Several mentioned San Francisco, Pelosi’s home, in their arguments.

“We are watering lawns in San Francisco and diverting more water to San Francisco,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, “and throwing dust in the face of the hardworking people in the valley.”

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., made it a point to note that the legislation provides millions of dollars for the speaker’s home turf. “All the while, tens of thousand of their fellow citizens suffer economic devastation just a few hours south and inland in the San Joaquin Valley.”

Such arguments could make life difficult for Democratic representatives from the San Joaquin Valley, primarily Reps. Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa. Republicans know that come Election Day, many of those voters will want to make a statement, said Dave Wasserman, an editor at the Cook Political Report.

“To the extent that these Democrats are voting with Nancy Pelosi on anything, Republicans are going to have leverage to tie them with her and to try to send her a message,” Wasserman said.

The two Democrats seemed to take his point to heart. Both voted against Miller’s bill.

Yahoo News/AP

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Rangel Innocent Until Proven Guilty, Pelosi Says

Posted on October 10, 2009. Filed under: Charlie Rangel | Tags: , , , , , , |

A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that there is a “bipartisan process” in place that should be allowed to finish before the fate of Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is decided.

By Cristina Corbin

Innocent until proven guilty — that’s why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refuses to remove New York Rep. Charles Rangel from his powerful chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee.

As the House Ethics Committee investigates a string of allegations against Rangel, who represents New York’s Harlem district, a spokesman for Pelosi said Friday that the “bipartisan process” should be allowed to finish before the congressman’s fate is decided. 

The committee voted unanimously Thursday to expand its probe of Rangel, who faces numerous allegations spanning several years, including alleged failure to pay taxes and disclose as much as $1.3 million in income that he earned from multiple properties.

Pelosi thinks removing Rangel from the chairmanship of the powerful tax-writing committee before the ethics probe is completed would undermine the American principle of innocent until proven guilty, said Drew Hammill, the speaker’s spokesman. He said Pelosi does not believe her decision weakens the public perception of congressional ethics. 

“We have a bipartisan process in place. It should be allowed to finish,” Hammill told FOXNews.com. “We are confident the committee will conduct a thorough review and then report to the full House.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer echoed Pelosi’s position, telling FOXNews.com that “yesterday’s statement shows that the bipartisan ethics committee is doing its work.”

A handful of House and Senate members have been the subjects of government ethics probes, and there appears to be no record of anyone ever being stripped from a committee role pending the outcome of an active investigation.

Sen. Robert Packwood, R-Ore., resigned from office in 1995, a day after the Senate Ethics Committee recommended he be expelled from office for abuse of power, including “repeatedly committing sexual misconduct” and “engaging in a deliberate… plan to enhance his personal financial position.”

In 1982, Sen. Harrison Williams, D-N.J., resigned after an ethics committee found that his conduct in the Abscam scandal, a public corruption investigation, was “ethically repugnant.” Williams — along with five members of the House and one member of the New Jersey State Senate — was convicted on numerous charges, including conspiracy, bribery, and conflict of interest.

Read more at FoxNews.com

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Dem: House GOP is “80 percent male, 100 percent white”

Posted on October 7, 2009. Filed under: Afganistan | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

By Glenn Thrush

The National Republican Congressional Committee is urging Gen. Stanley McChrystal to put House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “in her place” for weighing in on Afghanistan — prompting one female Pelosi ally to  blast the House GOP as “80 percent male,” “100 percent white” — and completely out of touch.

On Monday night, Pelosi told Charlie Rose “should go up the line of command” instead of publicly opining on strategy — prompting a swift, sneering reaction from the GOP committee.

Mocking the first female speaker as “General Pelosi,” an NRCC spokesman wrote, “If Nancy Pelosi’s failed economic policies are any indicator of the effect she may have on Afghanistan, taxpayers can only hope McChrystal is able to put her in her place.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who is close to Pelosi, could barely contain her anger.

“I think the place for a woman is at the top of the House of Representatives,” said Wasserman Schultz.

“It’s evidence they long for the days when a woman’s place was in the kitchen. Now a woman is third in line for the presidency… But it’s not surprising, coming from a party that’s 80 percent male and 100 percent white,” she added, referring to the composition of the House GOP conference.

NRCC Spokesman Ken Spain was unrepentant, telling POLITICO that Pelosi is “playing out of her league,” and questioned the reluctance of Democrats to call for McChrystal to testify in a hearing on the war.

Spain: “Spare us the lectures and mock-outrage. The Speaker of the House is taking on a highly decorated general who has outlined a strategy in Afghanistan that she once claimed to advocate… [S]he’s playing out of her league and she knows it.”

Read more Politico.com

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