Sen. Boxer wants labels for genetically engineered foods

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer today introduced a bill that would make the Food and Drug Administration label genetically engineered foods.

The bill already has bipartisan support in the House and Senate.

“Americans have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families,” Boxer, a Rancho Mirage, said in a statement.

“This legislation is supported by a broad coalition of consumer groups, businesses, farmers, fishermen and parents who all agree that consumers deserve more – not less – information about the food they buy.”

The FDA currently requires labeling for more than 3,000 ingredients and processes, according to Boxer’s office.

In 1992, Boxer’s office said the FDA issued a memo that said genetically engineered foods didn’t need labels because such items are not “materially” different.

The news release pointed to surveys showing 90 percent of Americans support new labeling.

However, in last November’s election, California voters rejected a statewide initiative that would have required such labels.

Federal leaders speak out

The two federal leaders who call the Coachella Valley home spoke out today on issues of national interest.

Rep. Raul Ruiz, a Palm Desert Democrat, commended the Department of Veterans Affairs for a new plan to deal with the backlog of benefit claims.

“Our veterans put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms, and it is unacceptable that so many of these brave men and women must wait years to access the benefits they have earned in service to our nation,” Ruiz said in a statement.

“While the VA’s new initiative is a step in the right direction toward reducing the backlog, it is not a permanent fix. I look forward to working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues, the VA, and veterans’ organizations to find long-term solutions that will improve and streamline the benefit delivery system for our nation’s veterans and eliminate the backlog once and for all.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer took a moment to recognize Earth Day.

The Rancho Mirage Democrat noted that the holiday contributed to the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency as well as legislation to improve air and water.

“Over the past four decades, we have made a tremendous difference in protecting the environment and the health of our children and families,” Boxer, the chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement.

“However, the growing threat of climate change puts our environment and public health at risk, and scientists tell us that the impacts of climate change continue to worsen.  …  We must do more, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to address climate change and its dangerous impacts.”

Barbara Boxer ‘heartbroken’ over gun vote

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer today expressed disappointment that her colleagues rejected a plan to expanded background checks for gun purchases.

“After seeing sensible gun safety measures fail in the Senate, I am heartbroken but I will never stop working to make our children and our country safer,” Boxer, a Rancho Mirage Democrat, said in a statement today.

The proposal that failed Wednesday would have required background checks for transactions beyond licensed gun dealers, including those purchased online or at gun shows.

Sen. Barbara Boxer introduces two bills in response to Newtown

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer today introduced two bills as part of what her office dubbed a “comprehensive response” to the massive school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

The School Safety Enhancements Act would lower the local match required to secure the federal Justice Department’s existing COPS Secure Our Schools grants, which allow local administrators to install tip lines, security equipment and other safety measures.

Locals currently have to provide a 50 percent to get the federal money. Boxer’s bill would lower it to 20 percent for schools “with limited resources,” according to her office.

The second bill, dubbed the Save Our Schools (SOS) Act, would let the federal government reimburse state governors who decide to use National Guard troops in providing safe school sites.

“When our children and our grandchildren are at school, we must have faith that they are safe,” Boxer, a Rancho Mirage Democrat, said in a statement today.

“This legislation will help state and local officials protect our children by utilizing all of the law enforcement tools at our disposal.”

Boxer earlier said it was “long past time that we enacted sensible gun laws and school safety legislation.”

Twenty children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School during Friday’s shooting. The gunman also killed his mother before shooting himself.

Mary Bono Mack: ‘One quick answer’ not ‘doing justice’ for Newtown victims

Standing in Newtown, Conn. today, Rep. Mary Bono Mack said the country needed to take a comphrensive look at mental health services and called for a deep debate on gun control.

The Palm Springs Republican made the comments on CNN this morning, as part of a weekly guest appearance she has been doing with her husband, Rep. Connie Mack of Florida.

“To simply throw out one quick answer is not doing justice to any of the vicitims and their families right now,” Bono Mack said. “There is going to be so much that we have to really delve into and not just look for the quick, quick, quick fix.”

Bono Mack said the president was on “the right path” in his response to Friday’s horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman killed 20 young students and six adults. The gunman also killed his mother before turning the weapon on himself.

But Bono Mack, who has just a couple weeks left remaining in her final House term, did not elaborate on what types of gun control measures she would support.

Mack, who after November’s election loss is also leaving Congress, said it was the first time the couple had been to Newtown.

“Our hearts and praryers are with the families, with this community,” Mack said on CNN. “This should never happen to our children or our citizens.”

You can see the CNN clip here:

The issue of gun control is being fiercely debated among many California leaders.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, plans to introduce an assault weapon ban when the 113th Congress takes over on Jan. 3.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Rancho Mirage Democrat, has also said “it is long past time that we enacted sensible gun laws and school safety legislation.”

Bono Mack has not released any statements about Friday’s shooting. But she did express some brief observations today on Twitter.

“In Newtown today for CNN. Beautiful, quaint little town that will now have hallowed ground as well as enduring spirit of love and grace,” Bono Mack wrote.


Sen. Barbara Boxer calls for ‘sensible guns laws’

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer has just issued a statement after today’s mass school shooting in Connecticut.

“My heart breaks over this senseless tragedy that took so many innocent lives. My prayers go out to their families and to all those who were injured,” said Boxer, a Rancho Mirage Democrat who is scheduled to tour the Salton Sea this afternoon.

“This touches us all so deeply, and it is long past time that we enacted sensible gun laws and school safety legislation.”

Barbara Boxer urges bipartisan reform of Senate rules

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer this week urged her colleagues to look at reforming the rules that govern Congress’ upper chamber, including the filibuster.

Her Senate floor comments were highlighted in a news release from a coalition dubbed “Fix the Senate Now.”

“I believe in the filibuster completely, and I think it is important to protect minority rights,” the Rancho Mirage Democrat said, according to the release.

“But I do think there is such a thing as the use of the filibuster versus the abuse of the filibuster. So my position has always been clear that I think the abuse of the filibuster is wrong.

“I am working with colleagues to figure out a way we can have a talking filibuster but protect the rights of the minority. But I have to say, I don’t think there ought to be a filibuster allowed on a motion to proceed to a bill.”

The “Fix the Senate Now” coalition includes the Alliance for Justice, the Brennan Center, the Communications Workers of America, Common Cause, Sierra Club and the United Auto Workers.

The coalition this week released survey results from Public Policy Polling, which found 62 percent of California voters back the idea of having their federal leaders “change the Senate rules to address and cut down on gridlock.”

Another 23 percent of California voters said they wanted Boxer and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein to vote against any rule changes.

“Members can stand up here and say it is a horrible thing to try to change the rules, but my test is abuse versus use,” Boxer said. “I think we can come together and avert any type of showdown at the OK Corral. That is ridiculous. We don’t need that. We can talk as friends and figure out some of these commonsense reforms that we can do without having to get angry at one another.”

Politicians react to Supreme Court decision on Prop 8

Today’s news that the U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in on the controversial issue of same-sex marriage has prompted a responses from state and federal elected leaders as well as interested groups.

The court’s decision will provide the ultimate ruling on Prop 8, a ban on same-sex marriage that California passed in 2008, as well as the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Here’s what officials are saying:

“I sincerely hope that the Supreme Court finds that both of these laws – Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act – violate the promise of equal protection guaranteed by the Constitution. I believe support for marriage equality keeps growing stronger nationwide because it is a matter of fairness and justice.” — U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Rancho Mirage Democrat

“Same-sex couples live their lives like all married couples. They raise children, share finances, care for each other and love each other in good times and bad. But DOMA denies these couples more than 1,100 federal rights and benefits that other Americans enjoy. I fully expect the court will come to the same conclusion I have—that this is a violation of equal protection and must be struck down.” — U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who has championed efforts to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act

“With the Supreme Court’s decision, marriage equality will finally have its day in the highest court in the land. Americans will hear whether inequality and discrimination are consistent with the high standards and deepest values of our Constitution. We remain confident that the justices’ ruling will fall on the side of civil rights and discard DOMA and Prop 8 in the dustbin of history. … By taking up the Prop 8 case, the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to make a strong statement that laws, in California and nationwide, must not target the LGBT community unfairly and that families across our state and our country deserve fair and equal treatment under the law. We have now reached a landmark moment in the history of civil rights in our nation. Let’s end discrimination and ensure equality for all of America’s families. Let’s get this over with and on to the future!” — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat

“Today’s announcement that the Supreme Court will take up Hollingsworth v. Perry and the challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act is a reminder that the pathway to justice is long and difficult. The plaintiffs in the initial challenge to Proposition 8, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, presented a powerful and compelling argument that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, which was eloquently recognized in Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling in that case. I am very confident that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of our community in Hollingsworth v. Perry, as it is now known, and affirm that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. But until that outcome is secured, our community must continue to fight for justice on every front, from working to secure the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to addressing the issues of homelessness among LGBT youth.” — California Assembly Speaker John Perez, the first openly gay man to serve as speaker

“Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to consider marriage equality takes our nation one step closer to realizing the American ideal of equal protection under the law for all people. For justice to prevail, Proposition 8 must be invalidated so that gay and lesbian families are finally treated with equality and dignity.” — California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris

“Should the Supreme Court decide to overturn the marriage laws of 41 states, the ruling would become even more divisive than the Court’s infamous Roe v. Wade decision. Marriage, unlike abortion laws in the 1970s, has been incorporated into the state constitutions of 30 states. Voters in these states will not accept an activist court redefining our most fundamental social institution. … Additionally, we believe that the people’s vote on Proposition 8 should be respected. Activist courts like the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit should not overturn their decision. We hope the Supreme Court will recognize the right of the people to uphold marriage as it has always been defined.” —  Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, whose group helped draft and enact DOMA

Barbara Boxer calls for national polling place standards

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer wants to make sure people don’t have to wait all day to cast their vote.

The Rancho Mirage Democrat today introduced the LINE Act, which would require the Attorney General and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission work together on national polling place standards. Those standards, which would need to be issued by January 2014, would include setting a minimum number of voting machines, election workers and other resources to ensure no one waits longer than an hour.

“It is unacceptable that many Americans had to wait in line for five, six or seven hours to cast their ballots,” Boxer said in a statement today. “The LINE Act will help ensure that every American has an equal chance to vote without enduring hours-long delays at their polling places.”

In a news release issued this morning, Boxer’s office noted that voters in key states such as Florida and Ohio were waiting up to seven hours to cast their ballots. Some people were still in line early Wednesday.

Such long lines are less common in California, where an increasing number of people are choosing to vote by mail.

The LINE Act is short for the “Lines Interfere with National Elections Act.”

Barbara Boxer and Raul Ruiz meet with Army Corps over Salton Sea

Salton SeaSen. Barbara Boxer and the Coachella Valley’s incoming congressman, Raul Ruiz, met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday to discuss the Salton Sea.

The Democrats met with Ms. Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), to discuss what should be done now and in the future to restore and preserve the inland sea, according to a release from Boxer’s office.

They also “explained the need to prevent the sea from turning into a public health emergency that would have ramifications for the Imperial and Coachella Valleys,” according to the release.

Boxer is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Ruiz is in Washington for a second week of orientation for newly elected members of Congress.

Boxer is mentoring Ruiz, an emergency room physician who has never held elective office. He upset longtime Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack earlier this month.

-Raju Chebium, Gannett Washington Bureau