On politics in the Golden State

Category: Barack Obama

California politicians praise Obama's support for same-sex marriage

Top California politicians hailed President Obama's statement of support for same-sex marriage on Wednesday.

Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles), the first openly gay person to hold that position, said he was "very proud" of the president's statement, made in an interview with ABC News.

"As with many Americans, his views on this issue have evolved toward an embrace of dignity, respect and justice for every American," Perez said in a statement.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has pushed the Democratic Party to include the issue in its national platform, said on Twitter that "love doesn't care if you're gay or straight. Love doesn't discriminate."

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) issued his own statement saying, "I have never been more proud of our President than I am today." He added, "Denying the right for any two people to marry is discrimination."

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, another outspoken supporter of same-sex marriage, called Obama's comments a "historic moment" on Twitter. "So proud to see our President come out in support of marriage equality and full equal rights for ALL Americans," he wrote.

Same-sex marriage was briefly legal in California, thanks to a state Supreme Court decision in 2008, but voters passed Proposition 8 later that year, banning it with a constitutional amendment.

[Updated 5:10 p.m.: Gov. Jerry Brown refused to defend Proposition 8 in court when he was attorney general. He posted on Twitter that, "Equality before the law is a pillar of American democracy. I applaud President Obama's support for the right of same-sex couples to marry."]


Obama declares support for same-sex marriage

Romney declines opportunity to comment on gay marriage

Gay-marriage backers on Obama: "Big day for all Americans"

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento

Obama administration reaffirms support for California high-speed rail

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood
Despite a series of a cautionary reports by outside agencies and groups, the Obama administration is reaffirming its commitment to California's $98.5-billion bullet train project.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood traveled the state this week and met privately with Gov. Jerry Brown Thursday to discuss the embattled project, issuing a statement of support through the governor's office.

“Over the past week, I have traveled all over the Golden State and have found a strong base of support for the California High-Speed Rail project, from workers who will build it, manufacturers that will supply the trains to run on it and businesses that will benefit from using it,” LaHood said. “The Obama Administration is committed to High-Speed Rail because it is good for the economy and the nation. I look forward to working with Governor Brown to make this project as successful as possible.”

For the White House, California appears to be the lone subscriber to the president's vision for high-speed rail. Facing budget deficits and sluggish growth, Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin have all scrapped their proposals.

Brown has vowed to push forward despite mounting criticism and a growing crisis of confidence and credibility in the project.

The bullet train's initial $33-billion price tag has tripled since 2008, when voters approved bonds for what is planned to be an 800-mile network. While the California High-Speed Rail Authority has secured $12.5 billion for the first Los Angeles to San Francisco leg, the state auditor last month warned that the project has become "increasingly risky."

"The success or failure of the program" depends on obtaining up to $105 billion in additional funding, which has not been identified, the auditor said.

Nevertheless, Brown, organized labor, many members of the Legislature and business groups are pushing to start construction in the Central Valley later this year. They argue that the bullet train represents a bold vision of progress for the state and will create jobs, accommodate future growth and help the environment.


Republicans propose halting sale of high-speed rail bonds

State auditor issues financial warning on California bullet train

Gov. Jerry Brown's State of State speech puts focus on big projects

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento


Photo: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in March 2010. LaHood issued a statement supporting California's bullet train project. Credit: Joshua Roberts / Bloomberg

Gov. Jerry Brown urges Obama to appoint new housing regulator


Then-California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown gives a speech at the Moving America Forward rally on the USC campus Oct. 21, 2010

Joining California's congressional Democrats, Gov. Jerry Brown is calling on President Obama to appoint a new federal housing regulator, saying the acting director is "hindering California's economic recovery and harming state efforts to promote clean energy."

In a letter to the White House last week, Brown echoed the concerns of more than two dozen House Democrats, arguing that the Federal Housing Finance Authority under Acting Director Edward DeMarco has "ignored" the Golden State's foreclosure crisis by "failing to exercise its full authority over residential mortgages underwritten by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," the housing finance agencies seized by the government in September 2008 as mortgage losses mounted.

According to Reuters, DeMarco, who has never been selected as the FHFA'S permanent director, has argued that the roughly $169 billion in taxpayer-funded support paid out to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was meant to get them back on their feet, not to provide relief to the housing market.

Brown also said DeMarco had "completely sabotaged" the Property Assessed Clean Energy program, which encouraged homeowners to use bond-backed property tax assessments to install solar panels and make insulation improvements. The program, suspended in 2010, "could be delivering tens of thousands of jobs in communities throughout America," Brown wrote.

As California's attorney general, Brown tried to restart the stalled program by suing the FHFA two years ago.

In his letter last week, the governor asked Obama to appoint a permanent director "who will truly represent your policies."


House Democrats want new housing regulator

State sues for answers from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac

Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown fights for PACE energy efficiency program

--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

Photo: Then-California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown gives a speech at the Moving America Forward rally on the USC campus Oct. 21, 2010. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

California attorney general defends Obama's healthcare overhaul


With the U.S. Supreme Court set to decide the fate of President Obama’s sweeping healthcare law, California Atty. Gen. General Kamala Harris is putting the Golden State's weight behind the White House.

On Friday, Harris joined a dozen other attorneys general in filing a brief with the high court supporting the new law and its requirement that all Americans have basic health insurance by 2014. In March, justices will hear oral arguments on constitutional challenges to the entire law brought by top Republican officials from 26 states, who contend that the Democratic-controlled Congress overstepped its authority in passing the measure.

Harris' brief urges the Supreme Court to uphold the law that Republicans derisively refer to as "Obamacare."

"Though state governments and private actors have taken important and innovative steps to expand access to health care and to restrain the growth of health care costs, no remedy can be fully effective without action on a national level," the brief said. "The Commerce Clause empowers Congress to take such action, and Congress properly employed that power in addressing the nation's health care crisis through the reforms enacted in the Affordable Care Act."

The Republican governors and state attorneys who challenged the law argued that the power to regulate commerce does not extend to requiring unwilling buyers to purchase insurance. They also allege that the law’s expansion of Medicaid will force the states to take on extra burdens.

Harris said the new law was needed to deal with one of the fastest-growing segments of federal and state budgets. In 2008, she said, the uninsured cost hospitals, insurers and taxpayers $43 billion nationally.

"Federal health care reform is not only essential to improving access to quality health care in California, it also is central to the long-term health of our economy, as well as state and local budgets," she said.


California could pose problem for Obama's healthcare reform

Supreme Court to review Obama healthcare law ahead of election

Attorney General's Office: the brief in support of federal healthcare reform

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento


Photo: Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris. Credit: Paul Sakuma /Associated Press

PolitiCal Roundup: Financial windfall for the state, political windfall for Obama

Tax revenues are higher than expected in California this year, but not enough to dig the state out of its budget crisis. "There's no gravy train in sight," a spokesman from Gov. Jerry Brown said.

The city of Vernon told a state legislator who requested its public records that it would cost $1 million to produce the documents, and demanded a $200,000 deposit. Vernon is fighting back against efforts to disincorporate the city.

President Obama's poll numbers are up, but it's not clear how that will change the budget debate.

California Democratic chief says Obama will do worse in the state compared to 2008

California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton said President Obama has failed to justify his policies, and said he would fare worse in the state next year than he did in 2008.

“The biggest challenge is for the administration to make a case of what they’ve done and what they’re going to do,” said Burton, speaking to reporters after a Friday night reception kicking off the opening of the annual party convention. “There should have been a lot more emphasis on what the healthcare plan did for people, and not let Republicans and Fox News convince people it was bad for them when it was good for them.”

Burton, who has met with the Obama campaign, said that if the president did not campaign in the state, he would win it 53% to 47%, and if he engaged here, would win by 56% to 44%. This is a marked drop from his 2008 run, when he routed Sen.  John McCain 61% to 37%.

Burton conceded that he was disappointed in some of Obama’s actions, such as the current military intervention in three nations, and said some supporters were disheartened by his failure to follow through on campaign promises from 2008.

“There’s a lot of stuff that was easier said than done,” Burton said. “When he said it he had never been in the White House.”

But Burton, colorful as ever, was confident that Obama could re-energize Democratic supporters who had lost the faith. “The president is a very good salesperson,” he said.

He criticized the president’s staff for reportedly threatening to ban a San Francisco Chronicle reporter for filming protesters who paid tens of thousands of dollars to gain entry to a breakfast fundraiser where they sang a song about the treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning. He has been imprisoned on charges that he leaked information in the WikiLeaks case.

-- Seema Mehta in Sacramento

Donald Trump is 'reaching the point of ridiculousness,' Feinstein says

On a day when President Obama took the unusual step of releasing a long-form copy of his Hawaiian birth certificate, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California rose to his defense in San Francisco by telling reporters that efforts by potential 2012 contender Donald Trump to fuel questions about the president’s birthplace were “reaching the point of ridiculousness.”

“With all the problems in the world -– and if Mr. Trump wants to run for president, why doesn’t he talk about what he would do to solve some of these problems?” Feinstein said after an appearance at a Commonwealth Club gathering Wednesday evening at a hotel in Nob Hill. “I think everybody who has ever heard Barack Obama knows he is a very smart man, and I think the birther movement was ridiculous. Now pushing this into something else is ridiculous.” 

Feinstein spoke briefly to reporters at the end of a wide-ranging conversation before an audience of 400 people that touched on the federal deficit, the turmoil in Libya and Syria and her plans to investigate the possible risks of nuclear power production in California.

The former San Francisco mayor also clarified her own plans for 2012 in response to a question from the audience, which was read by the event’s moderator, Greg Dalton, the Commonwealth Club’s vice president for special projects. 

“My intention is to run for another term,” she said with a smile, prompting cheers and applause.

So far no California Republican has emerged to challenge Feinstein, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in a 1992 special election and reelected for three full terms beginning in 1994.

Feinstein addressed several issues that are likely to shape the debate on the campaign trail next year, including the deficit reduction plan proposed by Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin. She said Republicans had created serious liabilities for their party by backing Ryan’s proposal to transform Medicare into a voucher program for those under 55 years old while turning Medicaid into a block grant program for the states. She criticized Ryan’s plan as “basically unfair.”

“What it does is make the cuts basically in programs that the poor and the lower income of our nation are dependent on, and it does this to avoid having to put taxes back up where they were for the very wealthy,” Feinstein said.

Feinstein, who shares the president’s view that Congress should allow the George W. Bush-era tax cuts to expire for households making more than $250,000, said she didn’t think the nation’s deficit problems could be solved “without revenue increases.”

“And it should be a fair share,” she added. “You can’t leave the very wealthy out of this problem.”

In the foreign policy arena, Feinstein said she believed the U.S. should be cautious about getting involved in the conflict in Syria or deepening its involvement in the NATO-led mission in Libya since U.S. forces are already stretched thin in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world.

“The commitment of American resources at this particular time should be looked at very conservatively,” Feinstein said. “I had questions about us getting into Libya in the way we did. Nonetheless, I think the president has been correct: no boots on the ground.”

Feinstein said she would continue to focus her attention on the ability of California's nuclear power plants to withstand an earthquake after the disastrous tsunami in Japan. She called for a “regional” solution for the storage of spent nuclear fuel from U.S. plants, but did not identify any possible sites.


How long can Sarah Palin put off Iowa?

Trump's flirtation with presidential bid gains traction

Obama releases long-form birth certificate in move to end 'sideshows'

 -- Maeve Reston in San Francisco

Photo: Donald Trump, in Portsmouth, N.H., on Wednesday, told reporters: "Today I'm very proud of myself." Credit: Matthew Cavanaugh / Getty Images

Jamie Foxx, Jason Mraz to entertain at Obama fundraiser Thursday

A Culver City fundraiser for President Obama on Thursday will include a number of entertainers, according to a Democratic source.

Supporters who attend the event will hear performances from comedian Jamie Foxx, singer Jason Mraz, DJ J-Boogie and the youth choir from the Foshay Learning Center. Actress Rashida Jones will welcome the crowd. The event will take place at Sony Picture Studios, with supporters paying between $100 and $2,500 to attend.

Obama is hosting two other fundraisers Thursday, more intimate gatherings that are expected to draw Hollywood heavyweights, with tickets costing up to $35,800 per person. The Obama campaign will receive $5,000, with the remainder going to the Democratic National Committee.

-- Seema Mehta in Los Angeles


Obama comes to California, but Jerry Brown takes a pass

When word went out that President Obama was coming to Silicon Valley on Thursday, a number of Democratic politicians rushed to the scene.

Among them were Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom – both newly elected statewide officials with larger political ambitions. But absent was Gov. Jerry Brown who chose to stay in Sacramento rather than vie for a photo op with the president, who flew in on Air Force One to meet with business leaders.

Brown, who once sought the presidency himself, clearly has other priorities these days. His spokesman Gil Duran said that the governor was busy with meetings in Sacramento, and his absence was in no way intended as a snub.

--Anthony York in Sacramento

Brown asks Obama administration for help with state budget

Gov. Jerry Brown met with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in Sacramento Tuesday to ask for federal help to solve the state’s budget problem.

Brown’s budget hinges on $3.7 billion in cuts that must first be OKd by the federal government. The governor’s plan to shift certain state services to the counties also needs the Obama administration’s approval, Brown said.

“I met with the secretary this morning and asked her for waivers so that we can implement some of our realignment programs without the federal government getting in the way or blocking them,” Brown said Tuesday. He characterized Sebelius as “receptive but it isn’t worked out yet. We have still some things to work on.”

Among the cuts proposed by Brown that would need federal approval are $1.7 billion to Medi-Cal, $300 million in in-home healthcare and other cuts to mental health programs.

Brown said the federal government is “going to be reluctant” to approve some of those waivers but “we hope they go along with it.”

Brown made his comments Tuesday after meeting with Senate Democrats in the Capitol. He will meet with Assembly Democrats over dinner in Sacramento on Tuesday evening. Wednesday, he is scheduled to meet with both Republican caucuses and Thursday he'll address the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

Brown said he was cautiously optimistic about getting bipartisan support for his budget plan in the next several weeks, a plan that he called a “wrenching adjustment” in the level of services the state can provide.

“I want the Republicans to be part of it,” he said. “I want them to own the budget, just like the Democrats. I don’t want anybody hiding out.”

“I think we have a reasonable chance of getting there,” he said, adding that the current unanimous public Republican opposition is just “part of the process.”

“I think there is enough Republicans to vote for this budget,” he said.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento


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