Politics, government and public life for Southern California

California representatives split on Obama gun control proposals

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Congressman Adam Schiff of the Burbank/Glendale area is introducing a pair of bills - one to help victims of gun violence hold gun makers and sellers accountable for negligence, and one to crack down on straw purchasers of guns.

Congressional Democrats are lining up to keep gun control on the front burner following the Newtown school shootings. Just hours after President Barack Obama outlined his proposals, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California announced she’ll introduce her assault weapons ban bill next Thursday.

Congressman Adam Schiff of Burbank introduced a pair of bills — one to ensure that victims of gun violence have the same rights to hold gun makers and gun sellers accountable for negligence, and one to crack down on straw purchasers of guns. And nearly a dozen of California's congressional Democrats joined other Democrats at a special hearing on the impact of gun violence.

Contra Costa County Congressman Mike Thompson  said no set of laws will end these senseless acts of violence. "But that’s no excuse for sitting around and doing nothin’," he said. Thompson heads a House gun violence task force. He called the challenge complex, but said every idea "and everyone needs to be at that table in order for us to be successful."

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Another Californian rises in House leadership

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Kitty Felde/KPCC

Congressman Xavier Becerra in front of Capitol. His fellow Democrats have chosen him to serve as their Caucus Chairman, moving him to the #4 power position in the House of Representatives.

LA Congressman Xavier Becerra took a step up in Capitol Hill leadership this morning.

His fellow House Democrats elected him as their new Caucus Chairman.

Becerra says the job is similar to that of a member of Congress. "Just as I have to represent 700 thousand people in my Congressional district," he says, "I now have to represent 200 Democrats in the House and do everything possible to make sure that they do well."

The move means Becerra becomes the number four Democrat in the House.

California also claims the top Democrat in the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and the number three Republican, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the GOP House Whip.

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Californians in House leadership: one keeps his post, another hopes to move up

Congressman Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles is asking his colleagues to make him the fourth highest-ranking Democrat in the House.

Republican Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield was re-elected as House Majority Whip.


Now that Nancy Pelosi has said she wants to stay on as House Democratic leader, other party members are assessing their standing. On Wednesday, another Californian formally launched his campaign to move up the leadership ladder. 

L.A. Congressman Xavier Becerra is currently the fifth-ranking Democrat in the House. Now he’s sent a formal letter to colleagues, throwing his hat in the ring for the number four spot — Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. Becerra says relationships are the key to advancement: "It’s developing the friendships that let you get to the  point where you can actually ask for a vote."

Becerra has several things going for him: Pelosi is one of his biggest fans. And a quarter of the freshman Democratic class comes from his home state. "The more Californians there are," says Becerra, "the greater opportunity I have to try to have them be with me, supportive of me."

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The trickle-down effect of California campaign funding

Republican Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack is in a tight re-election race, but that hasn't stopped her from making contributions to other candidates from her campaign fund and her political action committee.

US Representative from California Loretta Sanchez

Scott Nelson/AFP/Getty Images

Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez received a donation from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and then made a donation to another party candidate.


One steady source of income to Congressional campaigns in this election has been from current members. And they have lots of different ways to give.

Nancy Pelosi rose through the ranks to become the Democrats’ Congressional leader in part because of her fundraising prowess. In this election cycle, for example, she raised more than $2 million for her own campaign.

Sheila Krumholz, who heads the Center for Responsive Politics, says because Pelosi’s re-election is a lock, she can open up her purse strings: "She can then take that money to tithe to the party."

Pelosi can do this by contributing to the party's campaign arm for House members, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Krumholz says Pelosi will raise funds, "both from her campaign and from her leadership PAC. She will then support other colleagues, junior colleagues, struggling candidates for office."

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California voters largely ignored June primary; Congress has some theories why

California Voters Participate In The State's Pivotal Primary

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Voter turnout in June was the lowest ever for a California presidential primary. One member of Congress says voters are asking, "What difference does it make?”

Californians stayed home for June’s primary election in record numbers. Two out of three registered voters did not cast a ballot, the lowest turnout ever in a California presidential primary.

Political experts — those who run for office every two years — have a few theories about why voters were so turned off and whether things will be different in November.

Democrats had plenty of reasons: St. Helena's Mike Thompson blames it on the lack of suspense — "We knew who our presidential standard bearer was going to be"; Jackie Speier of San Mateo figures it's voter fatigue because the "campaigning has been going on for so long"; Anaheim's Loretta Sanchez says members of Congress are also to blame because "we all saved our money for a general election."

Democratic Congressman Jim Costa of Fresno points out one other thing missing from the June ballot: propositions. "That usually attracts voter interest." 

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