Rep. George Miller (D)
Elected: 1974, 18th term.
Born: May 17, 1945, Richmond .
Education: San Francisco St. U., B.A. 1968, U. of CA at Davis, J.D. 1972.
Family: Married (Cynthia); 2 children.
Professional Career: Legis. aide, CA Senate Majority Ldr., 1969–74; Practicing atty., 1972–74.
The congressman from the 7th District is George Miller, one of three remaining Democrats of the Watergate class of 1974, who came to power in the backlash over the Nixon-era scandal. (The others are James Oberstar of Minnesota and Henry Waxman of California.) Miller is the chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, and a trusted confidant of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
|George Miller (D)||170,962||(73%)||($948,684)|
|Roger Petersen (R)||51,166||(22%)||($13,167)|
|Bill Callison (PF)||6,695||(3%)|
|Camden McConnell (Lib)||5,950||(3%)|
|George Miller (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (84%), 2004 (76%), 2002 (71%), 2000 (76%), 1998 (77%), 1996 (72%), 1994 (70%), 1992 (70%), 1990 (61%), 1988 (68%), 1986 (67%), 1984 (66%), 1982 (67%), 1980 (63%), 1978 (63%), 1976 (75%), 1974 (56%)
Miller is heir to a tradition of Bay Area working-class politics. His father was chairman of the state Senate Finance Committee. When his father died in 1969, Miller lost the race to succeed him, but became a staffer for Senate Leader George Moscone, who was later the mayor of San Francisco. Miller was a protégé of Rep. Phillip Burton, D-Calif., who helped establish liberal hegemony in the U.S. House in the 1970s. Miller has one of the most liberal voting records in the House, and he brings a zest for political combat reminiscent of Burton. He is a strong backer of protecting the environment against what he sees as greedy private-sector operators, and of furthering the causes of labor unions. Like Burton, Miller has grasped for top party leadership posts but hasn’t made it. But he has learned a legislator’s virtues of patience, timing, and creativity. Now, his close alliance with Burton’s successor—Speaker Pelosi—places him among the most powerful people in Congress.
Pelosi relies on Miller for his advice, judgment, and protection from potential adversaries within the Democratic Caucus. “She is the leader that I’ve been waiting for for 30 years,” Miller said in a 2005 interview with National Journal. “She is the complete package. She understands policy, politics, and has a core of values that is clear and solid. She is a rare breed.” Pelosi named Miller chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, where he was instrumental in preparing the “New Direction” agenda for the 2006 campaign. His longtime staff director became Pelosi’s chief of staff in 2005. Because Miller rarely does anything that runs contrary to Pelosi’s views or interests, his early support for Californian Henry Waxman’s ultimately successful bid to oust John Dingell of Michigan as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee in November 2008 was a strong signal of Pelosi’s otherwise unstated view: She preferred Waxman for the job.
As chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, a priority for him is an overhaul of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act, with increased funding and incentives for improved teacher quality. Bush’s opposition to additional funding led Miller to defer renewal of the act until the inauguration of a new president in 2009. In the 110th Congress (2007-08), Miller focused on higher-education programs and efforts to help more students pay for college and to foster loan-forgiveness programs for graduates who work as teachers. His bill, enacted in May 2008, increased the amounts that students could borrow to pay for college. Dependent undergraduates could borrow up to $31,000, and independent undergraduates could borrow up to $57,500 over the course of getting their degree.
Miller doesn’t always follow the dictates of the teachers’ unions, especially if he thinks they are getting in the way of improving public schools. He has long advocated more spending on education, but he has also wanted more-rigorous standards, with measurable consequences. When he was in the minority, he worked with then-committee Chairman John Boehner, R-Ohio, to write No Child Left Behind, and Bush praised Miller for his contributions at the bill signing in January 2002. Though he thinks the act’s mandates were underfunded by the Republicans, Miller also has lauded its impact on test scores for minority and poor students.
On labor issues, Miller in 2007 won enactment of an increase in the hourly minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25. He has pressed for enactment of the card-check bill, which would require an employer to recognize a union if it persuaded a majority of workers to sign union authorization cards. Secret-ballot elections would be held only if requested by unions, which would have little incentive to do so. His agenda on behalf of organized labor also included a bill mandating new safety features in mines and stepped-up oversight of mine safety, which passed the House in 2008. The legislation was a response to the Crandall Canyon Mine disaster, in which six miners died in Utah in 2007 after a cave-in blocked all exits.
In response to the recession and steep drop in the stock market in 2008, Miller explored changes in 401(k) retirement plans and suggestions for a guaranteed retirement account for every worker. “We can’t allow the promise of a secure retirement for workers to become a casualty of this financial crisis,” he told the Contra Costa Times in October 2008.
As a longtime member of the Natural Resources Committee, Miller has long crusaded against water reclamation projects that provided cheap water to farmers. In 1992, during a California drought, he passed a Central Valley Project law that raised farmers’ prices closer to those of urban users and imposed environmental restrictions, over the fierce opposition of Central Valley politicians and Republican Gov. Pete Wilson. When Republicans were in the majority, Miller was a major obstacle to attempts to scale back the reach of environmental regulations and the Endangered Species Act, and to GOP efforts to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and the Tongass National Forest to more logging.
Miller played an important role in early 2009 in shaping the initial direction of the Obama presidency. His strong support influenced the tilt toward huge education spending in the economic stimulus bill that Democrats enacted in February 2009.