Time for Swalwell to Start Owning Up to his Record of Legislative Mulligans

CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | ANALYSIS | Rep. Eric Swalwell is for extending unemployment insurance, which is nice. But, why didn’t he righteously stand for over 1.3 million out-of-work Americans the first time around when he voted for a short-term budget proposal that noticeably did not include renewed funding for unemployment benefits?

This week, Swalwell said without a hint of pretense, he is now a major defender of restoring these benefits. “I came to Congress to fight for families like these–who worked hard, played by the rules, and lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” he said. Swalwell then plumbed a prime quote in a column last week by the Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank, who triumphantly portrayed him saying,“I ask unanimous consent to bring up H.R. 3824 to end the Republicans’ refusal to extend unemployment benefits that affect 355,000.”

All this common man bluster, however, is designed to deceive voters in the 15th Congressional District, make them believe Swalwell is in their corner, when in fact, he’s merely taking all sides of an issue. Swalwell now says “Extending unemployment benefits is the right thing to do and makes economic sense. Failure to extend emergency unemployment insurance will cost the economy 240,000 jobs this year.” Conversely, when fellow East Bay Rep. Barbara Lee was confronted with the House budget compromise, she voted no and called leaving unemployment benefits on the table “morally wrong” and “economically stupid.”

In addition, Swalwell’s latest publicity push now features 20 other House Democrats who also support extending unemployment insurance. However, in December, the group Swalwell professes to lead, a bipartisan group of freshman representatives called the United Solutions Caucus, sidestepped the issue. Are we to gather a moderate Swalwell who reaches across the aisle to solve problems, including whether an out-of-work American will eat tonight, actually means turning his back on the least fortunate and siding with Republicans? Whether Swalwell is a “flip-flopper,” a politician without a moral compass, a casualty of the House Democratic leadership or a victim of his own naivete, he has played this game of obfuscation before.

Last February, Swalwell voted for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which allows the government access to your personal Web histories. (Read “Swalwell’s Finger to the Wind Relationship with Private Rights”) You may recall, some of the biggest Internet sites went dark for a day in protest of the bill. However, in May, Edward Snowden pulled back the veil on the National Security Agency’s prying eyes and the issue of privacy became the story of the year. In July, an amendment tucked inside a defense appropriation bill contained a prohibition on the NSA’s policy of collecting wholesale cell phone records of innocent Americans. Swalwell, of course, was now all for the amendment and took to social media to express his strong support for privacy rights.

On both occasions, Swalwell was offered a fortuitous mulligan to retake shots that swung wildly to right. However, if you listen to how the local corporate media tells it, the past votes never happened. There is nothing to see here. The young congressman shows up for public meetings and uses Skype to speak to City Councils, they repeat like a drumbeat. According to them, Swalwell never voted against unemployment insurance and he never voted for government intrusion in your private lives.