News & Views from 465 California Street

The Bay Congresswomen Power Bloc

Clint Reilly

I recently traveled to Washington to attend the swearing in of Jackie Speier, the Bay Area’s newest Congresswoman.

While awaiting the ceremony, we sat in the balcony of the House of Representatives and looked down upon a debate about protecting the coast from oil drilling. Sacramento Congresswoman Doris Matsui led the Democrats.

A succession of Republicans rose to deliver stormy speeches before Matsui deftly maneuvered the debate to a vote, which the Democrats won handily.

Speier was sworn in by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi following the vote.

Speier joins a formidable group of Bay Area women who represent their communities in Washington. Led by Speaker Pelosi, they are a powerful force for Bay Area regional interests.

It is a remarkable fact that while women make up 64 percent of the Bay Area’s Congressional delegation, only 16 percent of the total members of the House of Representatives are female. Even within the Democratic House Caucus, only 22 percent of the members are women.

Newly-elected Congresswoman Speier brings to Washington an unparalleled legislative resume built in the California State Assembly and Senate, and as a San Mateo County Supervisor. A legendary state legislator, she passed nearly three hundred laws and earned an unrivaled reputation as a crusader for consumer rights.

Elected to succeed Tom Lantos – the recently deceased Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee – Speier will immediately assume an important policy role. She joins a formidable group of Bay Area women in Washington DC, including California’s two powerful U.S. Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. Speier will join Pelosi and Peninsula Congresswoman Anna Eshoo in representing San Mateo and San Francisco Counties.

Eshoo, who also represents part of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties, is a close friend of the Speaker who is admired for her wide relationships throughout the Democratic caucus and feared for her fierce loyalty to Pelosi.

Ellen Tauscher and Zoe Lofgren also fight for the Bay Area in our nation’s capitol. Both are tireless pols who won tough elections to enter the House and who are respected for both their political and policy acumen.

Tauscher speaks for portions of Contra Costa, Alameda and Solano Counties. Lofgren is the key advocate for Santa Clara County and Silicon Valley.

Both women hold influential committee posts in Washington. Lofgren chairs the California Democratic Congressional Delegation and Tauscher is the Bay Area’s point person on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Barbara Lee, Oakland’s feisty Congresswoman, sits on the Appropriations Committee, which holds the purse strings for critical projects throughout California. Marin and Sonoma are represented by Lynn Woolsey, who holds a position on the Education and Labor Committee.

Why is this so important?

Economic competition is no longer among isolated cities. It is between regions within the United States and throughout the world. These regions are judged on mega issues such as availability of mass transit, job generation, school quality, home prices, and adequate roads, bridges and highways.

The billion-dollar price tags for the Bay Area’s vital infrastructure projects require a powerful and united congressional delegation in Washington.

More important, this unprecedented coalition of female Bay Area Democrats is a powerful lobby for America’s women, children and families. They are on the front lines of the key battles of our time – Iraq, national health care, global warming, school reform and human rights.

Of course, Speaker Pelosi gives the Bay Area unparalleled clout. But a delegation of women members of Congress with unlimited talent, a passionate commitment to public service and wide-ranging experience is the Bay Area’s secret weapon in Washington.

Comments (2)

  • Hi Clint, 5-14-2008
    I read your recent article on Northern California politicians, specifically
    female Democratic politicians and feel compelled to make a few comments
    concerning your conclusions.
    I moved to California in 1967 and have been a voting resident of northern
    California ever since. When I moved here, California was the envy of the
    nation in just about every subject you could mention, but especially education,
    roads and public works. Since that time Democrats have not only controlled
    northern California but most of the state and had a lock on Sacramento, not
    withstanding a few Republican governors along the way.
    I had never really counted up all the female politicians in our state but
    knew that there were a great many from our area and were a force to be
    reckoned with. Or, at least by sheer numbers, seniority and committee
    participation they should constitute a formidable force. I was amazed when
    you listed all the names and their respective offices, just how many there
    were. And, I realized that I had voted for just about every one of them.
    After helping put a great many of these politicians in office I have reached
    s different conclusion than you have. I am completely disillusioned about
    our political process and what the Democrats have accomplished here at
    home and in Washington. Here in our great state, education is a joke from
    kindergarten to the Junior College level and is in the worse condition that
    I have ever witnessed; while spending a smaller amount per student than
    most other states. Our roads, bridges other public works are worse than
    some of the poorest states in the union. We still lead the nations in a few
    industries but not many and a great many of them have left California for
    better conditions. There are numerous other subjects that I could mention
    but do not want to belabor them.
    My conclusion is: what good have all of these powerful politicians done
    that we can crow about? On the Federal level we are well represented but
    our elected representatives have consistently knuckled under to the
    Executive branch which has grown stronger during their watch. I was
    proud to see Pelosi become speaker of the house but was equally saddened
    to see her defer to the President at every juncture. She might as well have
    been a Republican for all the difference she made. I know that their job is
    a tough one under this arrogant and dictatorial president, who, in his goofiness
    is very clever and has some even smarter advisers. But, where are their
    principals, convictions and the clout that they inherited? Unfortunately it
    seems to be lacking and they appear to be paper tigers once they are in
    office. None of them, that I have heard, have taken the President and
    his cohorts to task over the outrageous abuses that they have brought
    upon the heads of the citizens of California and the nation.
    As a voting Democrat with children in the Army, living in a bankrupt state,
    within a bankrupt nation, with a imperial federal government whose
    foreign policy is out of control and disliked by the whole world, an economy
    that is on the edge of disaster and a monetary system that is becoming
    worthless……..I find little to brag about concerning our home grown elected
    politicians. They may not have put us in this position but they aren’t
    doing much to get us out of it either.
    On the other hand, I usually agree with most of your articles and read
    them consistently.
    Regards, Byron Corley

    Posted by: Byron Corley | May 14th, 2008 at 3:26 am

  • Barbara Lee was the lone opponent of the Post 9-11 Use of Force Act

    I adore that woman.

    Posted by: Don Nguyen | May 14th, 2008 at 12:31 pm

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