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Council Members Call For More Openness in San Jose's Permit Process

Two San Jose council members say their city makes it too tough on small business owners who want to open shop or expand.

CPUC to File Revised PG&E Penalty

The California Public Utilities Commission is set to file a revised penalty proposal Monday for PG&E’s part in the fatal San Bruno gas line explosion.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee Responds to 'Sanctuary City' Critics

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee joins us to discuss a number of pressing issues facing the city: a housing shortage, growing inequity and allegations of police corruption. We'll also talk with him about the current controversy over San Francisco's "sanctuary city" policies, which are receiving national attention after the killing of a woman at Pier 14, allegedly by an undocumented immigrant.

Will the U.S. Supreme Court Reverse California Redistricting?

In 2010, California voters approved a new way of redrawing congressional districts as a way to combat partisan gerrymandering. The state took the power away from the Legislature and put it in the hands of a nonpartisan citizen commission. But California's system could be threatened by a case now pending at the U.S. Supreme Court. On Monday, the court heard arguments in a challenge to Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission, where Arizona legislative leaders argued that the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures exclusive control of congressional elections.

PBS NewsHour

Senate on track to approve 3-month extension to highway bill

Congress must act this week to meet a Friday deadline, when authority for the Department of Transportation to process
         aid payments to states expire. Photo by Bret Hartman/Reuters

Congress must act this week to meet a Friday deadline, when authority for the Department of Transportation to process aid payments to states expire. Photo by Bret Hartman/Reuters

WASHINGTON — Facing a Friday deadline, the Senate is on track to shore up federal highway aid and veterans’ health care, leaving a raft of unresolved issues for a jam-packed congressional agenda in the fall.

The Senate plans to take up a House-passed bill on Thursday that would extend spending authority for transportation programs through Oct. 29 and replenish the federal Highway Trust Fund with $8 billion. That’s enough money to keep highway and transit aid flowing to states through mid-December.

Authority for the Transportation Department to process aid payments to states is slated to expire at midnight Friday.

Just before leaving for its August recess on Wednesday, the House overwhelmingly approved the three-month extension on a vote of 385-34.

Lawmakers said they were loath to take up yet another short-term transportation funding extension — this will be the 34th extension since 2009. But Republicans and Democrats don’t want to see transportation aid cut off, and they are eager to pass an amendment to the extension bill that fills a $3.4 billion hole in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ budget. The money gap threatens to force the closure of hospitals and clinics nationwide.

The three-month patch puts off House action on a long-term transportation bill, adding one more messy fight to a fall agenda already crammed with difficult, must-pass legislation.

The three-month patch puts off House action on a long-term transportation bill, adding one more messy fight to a fall agenda already crammed with difficult, must-pass legislation. Twelve annual spending bills face a Sept. 30 deadline but are being held up by a clash over the Confederate flag. Congress must also decide whether to approve or disapprove President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, and whether to pass a contentious defense policy bill that faces a veto threat from the White House. Another fight is certain over raising the nation’s borrowing authority.

Spending authority for the Federal Aviation Administration expires Sept. 30. Since long-term bills to set aviation policy have yet to be introduced in either the House or the Senate, lawmakers acknowledge they will have to pass short-term extensions there as well.

“I think it will be an extremely active fall with the potential for either terrific accomplishment or a train wreck,” said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a member of House Republican leadership.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was more sanguine. “We’ll manage our way through this,” he told reporters at his weekly news conference. “This is part of the legislative process. Frankly, it’s nothing new. A little more pronounced these days, in 2015, than it would’ve been 10 or 15 years ago. But listen, it’s the legislative environment, and legislating is hard work.”

The Senate had been ready to pass a $350 billion, long-term transportation bill that would make changes to highway, transit, railroad and auto safety programs, but only provide enough funds for the first three years of the six years covered by the bill. The bill also would renew the Export-Import Bank, which makes low-interest loans to help U.S. companies sell their products overseas. The bank’s charter expired June 30 in the face of opposition from conservatives, who call it corporate welfare.

Senate GOP leaders had hoped the House would pass the long-term bill and send it to the White House before the recess. But their Republican counterparts in the House have made it clear they won’t be hurried into accepting the Senate measure.

The post Senate on track to approve 3-month extension to highway bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Conservative move against Boehner a sign of discontent

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina filed a resolution to vacate the House Speaker John Boehner’s chair, a sign that Republicans may want a change of leadership. Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — An effort by a conservative Republican to strip House Speaker John Boehner of his position as the top House leader is largely symbolic, but is a sign of discontent among the more conservative wing of the House GOP.

On Tuesday, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who was disciplined earlier this year by House leadership, filed a resolution to vacate the chair, an initial procedural step.

The proposal was referred to a committee stocked with leadership loyalists, and it is unlikely to emerge. The move, however, reflected the discontent, whose members have been frustrated with leaders’ willingness to compromise on some legislation.

The resolution said Boehner, R-Ohio, “has endeavored to consolidate power and centralize decision-making, bypassing the majority of the 435 Members of Congress and the people they represent.”

Meadows told reporters that he hoped his action prompted a “discussion” with Boehner and other House leaders “about representing the American people. It’s about fairness.”

Meadows said he wants Boehner and other GOP leaders to make sure that “every voice and every vote is respected, and votes of conscience are respected and not punished.”

The acrimony within the Republican Party has been on stark display in Congress. Last Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., of lying about votes. And more Republican infighting broke out Monday night as an email from an aide to Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, suggested that conservative groups should take Lee’s fellow Republicans to task if they opposed him on a legislative maneuver to advance a repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Lee’s move angered Republicans, and Lee sought to contain the damage, telling colleagues in a closed-door meeting that he hadn’t authorized the email.

The resolution Meadows filed accused the speaker of causing “the power of Congress to atrophy, thereby making Congress subservient to the Executive and Judicial branches, diminishing the voice of the American People.” And it said Boehner “uses the power of the office to punish members who vote according to their conscience instead of the will of the speaker.”

Last month, the leadership briefly stripped Meadows of his subcommittee chairmanship over his votes in a move supported by Boehner, but later relented after conservatives objected.

Boehner’s office had no comment. He is in his third term as speaker.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., dismissed the resolution and Meadows’ move.

“You don’t raise any money, you need a way to raise money, you do gimmicks like this,” said Nunes, who is close to Boehner.

Meadows disputed that claim.

“This is really more about an issue of fairness. It is not about raising money” for re-election, said Meadows, a two-term lawmaker who was elected in the tea party-backed 2010 class and represents the western tip of North Carolina.

Some GOP lawmakers backing leadership voiced concern that by keeping his effort to depose Boehner alive during the August recess, it would blunt the Republican effort to focus voters on why President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran is bad.

“There’s been no one that’s been stronger on the Iran message. And to suggest we can only have one message when we go back home to talk to the American people would be to imply that our town halls can only have one question,” Meadows said.

Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., who has experienced the wrath of the leadership and is a Boehner foe, complained that the leaders are “not listening to the American people.” He faulted leaders for not allowing quick votes against same-sex marriage and federal money for Planned Parenthood.

“He just has the courage to do something about it,” Jones said of Meadows.

Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this story.

The post Conservative move against Boehner a sign of discontent appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

House, Senate move toward passage of short-term transportation bill

Congress must act this week to meet a Friday deadline, when authority for the Department of Transportation to process
         aid payments to states expire. Photo by Bret Hartman/Reuters

Congress must act this week to meet a Friday deadline, when authority for the Department of Transportation to process aid payments to states expire. Photo by Bret Hartman/Reuters

WASHINGTON — The House and Senate are moving toward passage of a three-month patch to keep federal highway and transit aid flowing to states while lawmakers seek the right mix of policy and revenue to achieve a long-term transportation deal.

The House is expected to take up the short-term, $8 billion bill on Wednesday before leaving town for Congress’ August recess. The Senate plans to take up the House bill later in the week, but before a midnight Friday deadline when authority for the Department of Transportation to process aid payments to states will expire.

Lawmakers said they were loath to take up yet another short-term transportation funding extension — this will be the 34th extension since 2009. But Republicans and Democrats don’t want to see transportation aid cut off, and they are eager to pass an amendment attached to the extension bill that fills a $3.4 billion hole in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ budget. The money gap threatens to force the closure of hospitals and clinics nationwide.

Before taking up the short-term extension, Senate GOP leaders say they are determined to first pass their own sweeping, six-year transportation bill. The $350 billion bill would make changes to highway, transit, railroad and auto safety programs, but only provides enough funds for the first three years.

The bill also renews the Export-Import Bank, which makes low-interest loans to help U.S. companies sell their products overseas. The bank’s charter expired on June 30 in the face of opposition from conservatives, who call it corporate welfare.

Senate GOP leaders have been struggling to complete work on their long-term transportation bill before the August recess in the hope that the House would pass it and send it to the White House. But their Republican counterparts in the House have made it clear they won’t be hurried into accepting the Senate measure.

“The House also needs to make its voice heard and put forth its own priorities for such a significant piece of legislation,” Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a statement.

It has been a decade since Congress last passed a 6-year transportation bill even though lawmakers in both parties generally support highway and transit aid. The difficulty has been finding the money to pay for programs in a way that doesn’t increase the federal deficit.

For decades, highway and transit programs were paid for with gas tax revenues and other transportation taxes and fees. But the federal 18.4 cents a gallon gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1993 while the cost of construction has risen. The gas tax brings in about $35 billion a year for highway programs, but the government is spending about $50 billion. President Barack Obama and many lawmakers say even $50 billion is far too little.

Congress could raise the gas tax, but lawmakers fear a voter backlash. Obama and House Republican leaders want to change corporate tax laws that encourage U.S. companies to park profits overseas and use the resulting revenue to fully pay for a 6-year transportation bill.

But there is no consensus on the details of the corporate tax changes, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he’s skeptical they “can be shoehorned into a multiyear highway bill by the end of the year.”

Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed to this report.

The post House, Senate move toward passage of short-term transportation bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Secretary of State John Kerry testifies about landmark nuclear agreement with Iran

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (L) arrive to testify before a House Foreign
         Affairs Committee hearing on the Iran nuclear agreement in Washington, July 28, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (L) arrive to testify before a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the Iran nuclear agreement in Washington, July 28, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry warned skeptical lawmakers not to nix the contentious nuclear deal with Iran, insisting that it includes strict inspections and other safeguards to deter cheating by Tehran.

“If Congress does not support the deal, we would see this deal die — with no other options,” Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday as he testified for the second time in a week, part of the Obama administration’s all-out campaign to sell the accord.

Kerry spoke as the administration picked up critical support for the deal from Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., a strong supporter of Israel who referred to his Jewish background in announcing his decision.

“I believe the agreement offers the best option to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Levin said in a statement circulated by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is leading the effort to round up Democratic support for the deal in the House.

Congress has begun a 60-day review of the international agreement that curbs Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from sanctions stifling its economy. All members must weigh the deal, but it’s especially a tough decision for those who have a large number of Jewish constituencies because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called it a “historic mistake.”

“I believe that Israel, the region and the world are far more secure if Iran does not move toward possession of a nuclear weapon,” Kerry told members who, at times, blasted the deal.

“Iran has cheated on every agreement they’ve signed,” said Rep. Ed Royce, the panel’s chairman. With Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew waiting to testify, he asked if Tehran “has earned the right to be trusted” given its history.

Few, if any, new details emerged from the more than three-hour hearing. Some committee members asked the three officials questions, while others used their time to read lengthy statements in opposition. That left Kerry visibly frustrated and several times he accused the members of misconstruing or misunderstanding the details of the agreement.

“Nothing in this deal is built on trust. Nothing,” Kerry said.

Kerry was asked what would prevent Iran from adhering to the agreement for a short time, and then, in effect, take the money and run toward building an atomic bomb.

Kerry said that was not a likely scenario. He said the Iranian government is under pressure to improve the economy in their country where half the population is under 30 years of age and wants jobs. And he defended the inspection protocol under the agreement, arguing that if Iran tries to develop a nuclear weapon covertly, the international community will know.

“They can’t do that. Because the red flags that would go off — the bells and whistles that would start chiming — as a result of any movement away from what they have to do” to meet their obligations under the agreement, Kerry said.

Faced with Republican majorities in both houses, the administration’s objective was to line up enough support for Obama among Democrats in what is all but certain to become a veto fight this fall.

Congress is expected to vote in September to prevent Obama from lifting sanctions imposed previously by lawmakers, a step that would likely cause Iran to walk away from the agreement. Obama has said he will veto any bill along those lines, and Republicans will need a two-thirds majority in both houses to override his objections.

Apart from Royce, the panel’s senior Democrat expressed reservations about the plan. Rep. Eliot Engel of New York said he has “serious questions and concerns about this deal.”

Engel is a strong supporter of Israel, which vociferously opposes the agreement. Iran has said it wants to wipe out Israel.

The hearing unfolded as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby, dispatched hundreds of its members to prod lawmakers to disapprove of the deal.

On the other side of the issue, seven former U.S. diplomats and State Department officials sent a letter Monday to leaders in Congress urging them to support the pact.

While lawmakers debated the implications of the deal, officials from member nations of the International Atomic Energy Agency told The Associated Press that Iran may be allowed to take soil samples at the Parchin military complex that is suspected as a site of nuclear weapon research, but only under monitoring by outside experts.

The officials said stringent oversight of the soil-sampling could include video monitoring. The samples would be analyzed by the agency for traces left by any nuclear experiments. The disclosures come from IAEA member nations and are tasked with following Iran’s nuclear program. They demanded anonymity because their information is confidential. The IAEA had no immediate comment.

Tehran insists Parchin is a conventional military area with no link to nuclear tests.

The post Secretary of State John Kerry testifies about landmark nuclear agreement with Iran appeared first on PBS NewsHour.