Essential Politics: Congress to vote on refugees


I’m Christina Bellantoni, the Essential Politics host today along with several members of Team Politics.

The question of how to handle Syrian refugees coming to America continues to dominate the political discussion, with the focus Thursday on Congress.

The House is expected to vote on a Republican-crafted plan that would, as new Speaker Paul Ryan explains it, "pause" the acceptance of refugees in the aftermath of the deadly massacre in Paris.

The White House issued a veto threat, and top Democrats followed with a "Dear Colleague" letter urging lawmakers to reject what Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said "does nothing to strengthen the security of the American people." From the letter:

So far, only about 2,200 Syrians have been admitted to the United States since 2001 — half of whom are children, all of whom faced an intensive 18 to 24 month long screening process before they could even set foot on American soil.

The Republican Syrian refugee bill, however, would effectively end resettlement of terrified families fleeing from Syria and Iraq, and severely handicap refugee settlement in the future. The Republican bill does nothing to enhance our security and instead slams the door on desperate mothers and children fleeing ISIS’s unspeakable violence.

Sarah Wire is tracking how the California delegation breaks down on the issue, and it isn’t straight along party lines. Wire surveyed more than half of the 53 members of the state's House delegation. Several of the state's 14 Republicans said the program should halt until changes are made, with the exception of Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock).

Denham wasn’t ready to call for a halt to the program. His district in the San Joaquin Valley includes one of the largest Assyrian populations in the country.

Read the whole story here.

We will be letting you know how California lawmakers vote. Keep up with the news on our politics page and via @latimespolitics, and follow Lisa Mascaro, closely covering the issue for us from a national perspective from Washington.


Amid the national debate over resettlement of 10,000 Syrian refugees to the U.S., the mayor of Roanoke, Va. issued an open letter Wednesday citing security concerns and asking his local agencies to suspend assistance to Syrian refugees. In the letter, Mayor David A. Bowers referenced the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, saying "it appears that the threat of harm to America from Isis is now just as real and serious as that from our enemies then."

Christine Mai-Duc reports several members of California’s delegation, including Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) and Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), who spent his early childhood in an internment camp, had strong words for the Virginia mayor on Twitter.

Takano said the internment "was not a model policy," while Chu called it a “dark chapter." Using the hashtag #neveragain, Honda wrote, "We cannot allow this to happen again and reverse the progress we have made in the last several decades."


Four years ago, she no doubt was happy that Chris Christie passed on a run for president against her friend, Mitt Romney. Thursday evening, Meg Whitman makes good on her role as Christie’s national campaign finance co-chair by hosting the 2016 presidential candidate at her home in the posh Bay Area enclave of Atherton, Sacramento bureau chief John Myers reports.

Whitman, CEO of the newly christened Hewlett Packard Enterprise (the legendary H-P was split into two separate companies earlier this month), will welcome guests who pay $2,700 apiece to chat with the governor of New Jersey.

Maybe she and Christie can swap stories about the man who trounced Whitman in the 2010 race for governor, Gov. Jerry Brown. Don’t forget that it was Christie who called Brown "an old retread" during a speech to the state’s delegation at the 2012 Republican National Convention.


Four Republican candidates running for open or Democratic-held House seats in California are “on the radar" for spots in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns" program, which offers support to candidates, Javier Panzar reports.

The four are:

  • San Diego businesswoman Denise Gitsham, who is challenging Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego) in the 52nd congressional district. Gitsham, who owns a public relations firm, worked for Karl Rove during then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign and later worked in the Bush administration, announced her candidacy two weeks ago. Her campaign bragged on Facebook it raised $100,000 in the first week. In 2014, Peters defeated Republican businessman Carl DeMaio 52% to 48%.
  • Folksy trauma surgeon Dr. N. Eugene Cleek, who is challenging Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove) in the 3rd congressional district. This is Cleek’s first foray into politics. He is also a farmer, former Army surgeon and is known to have cowboy boots poking out of his scrubs. He reported having $223,589 cash on hand last quarter — including $190,000 he loaned the campaign. Roll Call, which rates every congressional race, lists Garamendi as safe.
  • Santa Barbara businessman Justin Fareed and Assemblyman K.H. "Katcho" Achadjian of San Luis Obispo also made the cut. They are in the race to replace a retiring Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara). Fareed came about 500 votes short of advancing to the general election in 2014 and is amassing a campaign warchest, raising $430,000 so far. He recently hired Kay­la Berube, who was Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walk­er’s state polit­ic­al dir­ect­or in New Hamp­shire, to be his cam­paign man­ager. The only candidate who has raised more is Democratic Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, who topped $1 million last quarter. Fellow Democrat and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider also is in the running.


    -- In his Thursday column, George Skelton writes about a new initiative proposal that would switch bullet train money to water projects.

    -- Christine Mai-Duc caught Gov. Jerry Brown in Bell Gardens yesterday, where he attended the ribbon-cutting for the new Bicycle Hotel & Casino. Ruminating on why he might attend the casino’s opening in chronically ignored southeast Los Angeles County, the second such event the governor has attended at the venue, Brown recalled his family ties to poker rooms. “My grandfather had two poker clubs," Brown said. “Poker served our family well."

    The casino is also a major donor in California politics - giving more than $4.1 million to California campaigns on both sides of the aisle since 2001, including more than $117,000 to Brown’s campaign coffers. Brown added that “the economy and production of jobs comes from many different places … It’s from individual people, putting up their money or money they can borrow and putting it at risk and having a vision."

    -- L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti has ruled out declaring a state of emergency to address the city's homelessness crisis — for now.

    -- Patrick McGreevy reports that a new review by the state Controller found the California Board of Equalization is failing to properly handle the money it collects, leading to funds being deposited in the wrong accounts and the failure to collect debts owed to the state.

    -- California’s finances are in a “decidedly positive" position, evidence of continued progress after the state emerged from a damaging recession years ago, legislative analysts said in a new report Wednesday. By the summer of 2017, the analysts said, the state could have $7.2 billion socked away in a rainy-day fund, Chris Megerian reports.

    -- Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana) will join several Californians on the joint House and Senate committee working out details of a six-year highway funding bill. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Reps. Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk) and Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) were already named to the committee. More details on what the legislation means for California here and here.

    -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush laid out his strategy for combating the Islamic State, David Lauter reports.

    -- Mike Memoli, traveling with the president, writes that the victory lap President Obama wants to take in Asia this week over a sweeping Pacific trade deal stands to be dampened by frustration among some of his chief allies back home: organized labor.

    -- Want to follow California’s delegation on Twitter? We made you a list.


    Miss yesterday’s newsletter? Here you go. Did someone forward you this? Sign up here to get Essential Politics in your inbox daily. And keep an eye on our politics page throughout the day for the latest and greatest. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics?

    Please send thoughts, concerns and news tips to

Get our twice-weekly Politics newsletter