Feb. 2 2011 10:36 AM

Here's what your Congress member's been up to so far this year

Bob Filner (left) and Darrell Issa

The 112th Congress has been in session for about a month. Here's what our local representatives have done (or not done) so far, in order of number of bills authored.

Bob Filner, Democrat, District 51

Bills introduced: 17, though many are carry-overs from previous sessions. He's seeking to ban the use of animals in military medical training, eliminate the Department of Defense's immunity from environmental laws and extend Section 8 benefits to mobile-home residents. In almost every case, he submitted a brief explanation to the Congressional record. As ranking Democrat of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Filner put forth several proposals to increase assistance to veterans and their families, including providing chiropractic care at VA medical centers and requiring that more government contracts go to veteran-run businesses.

Filner was especially conspicuous when he spent the week after the Tucson shooting vilifying conservatives for “violent” rhetoric in the local and national media. After the State of the Union address, he literally kissed and made up with Republicans by planting a big ol' smacker on Rep. Brian Bilbray's cheek during a live KUSI feed.

Darrell Issa, Republican, District 49

Bills introduced: Eight, including bills that would replace President Obama's healthcare law with a new system that lets the public buy into the same health plans as federal workers, create a $10,000 penalty for CIA employees who lie to Congress (a nod to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who claimed that the CIA lied to her about “enhanced interrogation,” i.e. torture), form a Congressional Commission on the European Union and re-allocate 55,000 green cards from the visa lottery system to immigrants with advanced degrees in science.

Issa began his new term as chair of the House Oversight Committee by soliciting corporate interests for feedback on what regulations to change. According to Politico, this set off a pissing match with the committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings, who complains that Issa isn't sharing documents. Issa further ruffled feathers by requesting information on every citizen who filed a Freedom of Information Act request during the last five years—but he also launched an anonymous-tip system to allow whistleblowers to report fraud and abuse.

Speaking of whistleblowing: Issa turned up in WikiLeaks' “Cablegate” document dump with a full diplomatic report of his meeting with Lebanese leaders while on a tour of Brazil. When we broke this story at Lastblogonearth.com, we posed the question: Is it a conflict of interest for Issa to investigate WikiLeaks when Julian Assange probably has more memos to release on the globetrotting Congressman? No answer from Issa.

Duncan D. Hunter, Republican, District 52

Bills introduced: Four. Just like his father before him, he reintroduced the “Life at Conception Act,” then dropped a bill that would require all four military chiefs to sign off before Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed. He also introduced legislation that he claimed would protect the Mt. Soledad Cross veterans' memorial that a court recently declared an unconstitutional breach of the separation of church and state. It wouldn't. As ACLU lawyer David Blair-Loy points out, Congress can't just write a law to override a judicial decision on constitutionality. It's called separation of powers.

Hunter used his congressional pull to honor Steve Hamann, El Cajon's “Citizen of the Year” (and the moderator of Hunter's only 2010 debate), and John Olsen, the 2010 president of the Santee Chamber of Commerce (the chamber's executive director donated $250 to Hunter's campaign in October).

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Hunter announced an alternative list of budget cuts to challenge defense secretary Robert Gates' plan. Hunter's office would not provide this list to CityBeat, except to say he's all for protecting the “expeditionary fighting vehicle” program currently on the chopping block. According to OpenSecrets.org, Hunter has received $15,600 from the vehicle's main contractor, General Dynamics, as well as another $12,500 from two other companies providing components, Honeywell and L-3 Communications. Last year, this kind of defense-industry advocacy earned Hunter a baton-twirling place on the “Pork Parade” by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Hunter now has his hand out for even more campaign money. According to documents obtained by Polit icalPartyTime.org, he held two $500-per-plate lunches in January and has two more scheduled in February.

Brian Bilbray, Republican, District 50

Bills introduced: Zero, though he is piggy-backing on other Republican rank-and-file bills as a “cosponsor,” including a repeal of the estate tax and blocking the FCC from regulating the internet.

On Lastblogonearth.com, we awarded Bilbray a special award for “Silliest Thing” said by a local Congressman: During a floor speech on Jan. 24, Bilbray three times claimed that the 2009 health reform bill “[denies] Americans the right to live in the United States if they don't buy certain insurance.” This is utterly false; people who ignore the insurance mandate are subject to a monetary penalty, not deportation.

Susan Davis, Democrat, District 53

Bills introduced: Zero—or, in the words of her former colleague, Duke Cunningham, “jack weenie.”

During the State of the Union address, she sat next to Rep. Joe “You lie!” Wilson. In her own speeches on the house floor, Davis defended Obama's healthcare law, agreed with Republicans that there's too much printing and too little recycling in Congress and delivered an emotional soliloquy on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. She also released a report on the cost of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, i.e. bouncing gay soldiers and replacing them with straight ones: Between 2005 and 2009 it was $193 million.

Write to davem@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com. Writer's note: I've deleted the number of bills Bilbray has co-sponsored, since the number increased on the date of publication.


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