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Almost Live from Netroots Nation: Sen. Merkley and Reps. Honda, Ellison and Takano

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At Netroots Nation, we grabbed unscheduled interviews with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Mark Takano (D_CA).We open with Rep. Mike Honda, who represents San Jose and has drawn an opponent for 2014, Ro Khanna, who has worked in the Obama White House and raised lots of campaign cash.  We joke about that challenge, and then I inform Honda that “I want my goddamned Fourth Amendment back” and we talk about NSA surveillance of Americans.  When asked if James Clapper lied to Congress, he gives a meandering response that shifts to his commendable efforts to get truth in the Pat Tilman case.

Rep. Keith Ellison, one the the progressive leaders of the Dems in the House, opens with details of his new bill to increase the federal minimum wage and talks about the rollout of Obamacare and the expansion of health coverage.  We shift to NSA issues, and he offers the most direct answer to the question about Clapper lying.  When he learns of Russell Tice’s disclosures on this program of NSA targeting top elected officials for surveillance, he recognizes their signifigance and promises to listen to the interview and follow up.

Sen. Jeff Merkley has been a leader in attempting to reform the filibuster, and that topic leads to a reference to Rand Paul’s filibuster and the infringements on the Bill of Rights that are being exposed.  While his comments are often cautious, Merkley has been a real leader in the fight to restore our rights and expose the abuses and wrongdoing of the NSA and other agencies.  When told of the Tice disclosures, he shows deep concern, promises to listen to the interview and explore further.  At the end, his staff person cuts off our interview and Merkley chooses not to answer my final question about consequences for Clapper.

Rep. Mark Takano is a new progressive Democrat who won a red district in California’s Inland Empire last November.  Rejecting the advice to freshmen to avoid controversy, Takano aligned with Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and got 41 co-signers to the Grayson-Takano letter pledging never to allow cuts to Social Security.  He contrasts his position with that of my congressman, Jared Huffman and takes some pains to avoid criticizing Obama.  He tells of his immigrant grandfather, who depended on Social Security, and invokes him again when we discuss Bill of Rights issues–his parents and grandparents were all interned during WWII.