Capitol Alert

California Democrats lash out at Trump over homelessness remarks. Nancy Pelosi remains quiet

Nearly every California congressional Democrat sent President Donald Trump a letter on Thursday rejecting his ideas on homelessness. The one notable exception: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The letter, signed by 45 Democrats, chastises Trump for attempting to slash social programs they argue could get people off the streets. They write that Trump has shown a “fundamental misunderstanding” of homelessness.

“We are grateful for your increased interest in this issue, and despite other disagreements or political fights, we look forward to working with you to meaningfully address homelessness in communities across the country,” the letter reads.

It followed a fundraising swing through the Bay Area and Los Angeles this week in which Trump turned California’s homelessness crisis into a line of attack against the state’s Democratic leaders. He told reporters on Air Force One that residents of San Francisco and Los Angeles are “fed up.”

“We can’t let Los Angeles, San Francisco and numerous other cities destroy themselves by allowing what’s happening,” Trump said on a flight to California Tuesday.

In a report released the day before the president’s trip, Trump’s economic advisers recommended an increased police presence to “move people off the street.” The report also said that San Francisco could cut its homeless population in half through deregulation, but it was unclear how its author arrived at that number.

Meanwhile, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic leaders have called on the president to provide the state with 50,000 housing vouchers — a request not likely to be met. At Trump’s urging, House and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson responded to the request with a letter on Wednesday saying “California cannot spend its way out of this problem using federal funds” and that any collaboration must “promote self-sufficiency.”

Regardless of the impact Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, said it’s important for the state to get additional support from the federal government.

“The vouchers don’t solve the problem, but they certainly help. If you can help 5,000 or 50,000, we ought to do what we can to help,” said Bera, who signed the letter.

Pelosi, who represents San Francisco in Congress, has issued 18 statements since Sunday on topics ranging from gun violence to the anniversary of the U.S. Constitution. But none of them addressed remarks Trump made about her hometown, nor has she mentioned the issue on social media.

Taylor Griffin, a spokeswoman for Pelosi, said the speaker does not co-sponsor bills or sign onto multi-member letters. Asked about the lack of public comments from Pelosi, Griffin provided a statement.

“The Trump administration’s heartless policies have only exacerbated the matter, harming the most vulnerable in our society and contributing to housing instability,” Griffin wrote. “If the president truly wants to address the issue, he can begin with a serious commitment to combating income disparity, investing in housing assistance and expanding affordable housing opportunities for American individuals, families and veterans experiencing homelessness.”

The letter to Trump from the state’s two Democratic senators and 43 House members — excluding Pelosi — called on the president to take the matter more seriously.

“Evidence-based and humane solutions begin with adequate resources, which you repeatedly propose to slash or eliminate,” they wrote. “In your FY2020 budget request, you proposed an 18 percent decrease from 2019 funding levels for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.”

The criticisms come as the president ramps up his fight against the state by directing his Environmental Protection Agency to prohibit California from setting its own emissions rules. At the same time, California is fighting Trump in court over a new law it passed forcing him to release five years of tax returns in order to get on the state’s 2020 primary. Trump’s campaign won the first round of the legal battle on Thursday when the U.S. District Court in Sacramento granted a temporary injunction.

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Bryan Anderson is a political reporter for The Bee. He covers the California Legislature and reports on wildfires and transportation. He also hosts The Bee’s “California Nation” podcast.