Congress returns to Washington racing against the clock for a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. (Funding for California’s drought, it turns out, has sparked a nasty spat within the delegation.)
And as they grapple with the dollars, the House prepares to vote Tuesday on new restrictions for tourist visa waivers. But President Obama presented new questions for Congress to consider ahead of a scheduled holiday adjournment.
"If Congress believes, as I do, that we are at war with ISIL, it should go ahead and vote to authorize the continued use of military force against these terrorists," he said. "For over a year, I have ordered our military to take thousands of airstrikes against ISIL targets. I think it’s time for Congress to vote to demonstrate that the American people are united, and committed, to this fight."
Obama sent Congress a draft Authorization for Use of Military Force in February, and even though lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for a robust debate on what is essentially declaring a formal war on the Islamic State, it has gone nowhere.
Does Congress have an appetite to vote on war in an election year? Particularly when the administration has made clear all of the actions it has taken so far in Syria and elsewhere to combat Islamic State are sound under the AUMF agreement passed after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks?
Then there’s the presidential campaign, as David Lauter and Evan Halper wrote in this detailed analysis, which has been upended by the events of the last week.
Before the debate shifted to terrorism, Rep. Jackie Speiertold Sarah Wire she’s had it with standing for moments of silence after mass shootings. From now on, the Democrat said, she will boycott the chamber or stay seated.
The feelings of frustration were shared by several of her California colleagues.
"You’re just looking around the House floor wondering whose district will be next, and I didn’t expect that it would be Pete Aguilar. It could be a Republican, it could be a Democrat, it could be East Coast or West Coast, but it will be someone," Rep. Eric Swalwell told Wire. "Pete won’t be the last one to stand on the House floor and ask people to honor people in his congressional district."
Politics do go on, of course, so Javier Panzar checked in with Aguilar’s 2016 opponent Paul Chabot. The Republican was friends with one of the people slain in San Bernardino, and asked his campaign supporters to donate to a fund for Michael Wetzel’s wife and children. (Panzar also found that two gun-related events in California would continue as planned — Rep. Jim Costa’s GOP challenger is giving away handguns next weekend, and former Alaska Gov. and 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin signed books at a gun club.)
The president included a gun-control call in his address.
He said: "To begin with, Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon? This is a matter of national security."
"We also need to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons like the ones that were used in San Bernardino," Obama said. "I know there are some who reject any gun safety measures. But the fact is that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies -- no matter how effective they are -- cannot identify every would-be mass shooter, whether that individual is motivated by ISIL or some other hateful ideology. What we can do -- and must do -- is make it harder for them to kill."
The events in San Bernardino last week appear to be rekindling efforts in Sacramento to write new gun laws. As Patrick McGreevy writes, some of the efforts will sound familiar — regulations on ammunition sales and semi-automatic weapons. Others will be something new, like a promise from Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) to ensure anyone on the federal "no fly" list is also banned from buying guns or certain explosive-making chemicals.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom this fall called for stricter regulations, and the Democrat’s push comes at just the right moment in time, Cathleen Decker noted in her Sunday column. George Skelton also devoted his column to the gun issue, arguing lax laws allowed this (and other) massacres to happen.
It’s worth noting that the real question is whether the San Bernardino mass shooting has an effect on Gov. Jerry Brown. The governor has long straddled the line on new gun restrictions, and vetoed some of the legislation that made it to his desk in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012. Will 2016 be any different?
For now, the Golden State’s focus is on the City of Light.
San Diego Assemblywoman Toni Atkins’ tenure as speaker will come to an end on March 7, Melanie Mason reports. That’s when her successor, Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D-Los Angeles) will be sworn in for the leadership job.
Atkins and Rendon announced the transition timeline on Friday. Both legislators are currently attending the United Nations summit on climate change in Paris.
LISTEN UP, POLITICAL JUNKIES
If you like your California politics coverage with a blend of analysis and banter, then you’re in luck: There’s a podcast just for you!
Sacramento bureau chief John Myers, who joined us in October, has been the host of a weekly politics podcast since 2006. He has relaunched his California Politics Podcast.
This week’s episode, which also features Marisa Lagos of KQED News and former Times reporter Anthony York, is a quick catch-up of the autumn news on ballot measures, the state budget and Gov. Jerry Brown.