Political Musings May 18, 2014: Obama to nominate rising star San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro as HUD Secretary

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

According to news reports on Saturday, May 17, 2014 President Barack Obama plans to nominate Democratic Party rising star and three term San Antonio, Texas mayor Julian Castro, 39 to be the new Housing and Urban Development Secretary. Castro’…READ MORE

Political Headlines November 18, 2013: Senate Republicans block Obama’s third Appeals Court nomination

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Pick for Court Is 3rd in a Row Blocked by Republicans

Source: NYT, 11-18-13

Robert L. Wilkins, left, with President Obama and other nominees in June, was picked to fill one of three vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

Robert L. Wilkins, left, with President Obama and other nominees in June, was picked to fill one of three vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In blocking Judge Robert L. Wilkins’s nomination, Senate Republicans on Monday denied President Obama his third pick in recent weeks to fill a vacancy on the nation’s most powerful and prestigious appeals court….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 28, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at FBI Director James Comey’s Installation Ceremony

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and FBI Director James Comey

Source: WH, 10-28-13

President Barack Obama and FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce, center, applaud FBI Director James Comey, left, during his installation ceremony at the J. Edgar Hoover BuildingPresident Barack Obama and FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce, center, applaud FBI Director James Comey, left, during his installation ceremony at the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C., Oct. 28, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

12:34 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you, FBI.  (Applause.) Thank you so much.  Please, everybody, be seated — those of you who have seats.  (Laughter.)
Well, good afternoon, everybody.  I am so proud to be here and to stand once again with so many dedicated men and women of the FBI.  You are the best of the best.  Day in and day out, you work tirelessly to confront the most dangerous threats our nation faces.  You serve with courage; you serve with integrity.  You protect Americans at home and abroad.  You lock up criminals.  You secure the homeland against the threat of terrorism.  Without a lot of fanfare, without seeking the spotlight, you do your jobs, all the while upholding our most cherished values and the rule of law.
Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity:  That’s your motto.  And today, we’re here to welcome a remarkable new leader for this remarkable institution, one who lives those principles out every single day:  Mr. Jim Comey.
Before I get to Jim, I want to thank all the predecessors who are here today.  We are grateful for your service.  I have to give a special shout-out to Bob Mueller, who served longer than he was supposed to, but he was such an extraordinary leader through some of the most difficult times that we’ve had in national security.  And I consider him a friend and I’m so grateful for him and Ann being here today.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)
Now, Jim has dedicated his life to defending our laws — to making sure that all Americans can trust our justice system to protect their rights and their well-being.  He’s the grandson of a beat cop.  He’s the prosecutor who helped bring down the Gambinos.  He’s the relentless attorney who fought to stem the bloody tide of gun violence, rub out white-collar crime, deliver justice to terrorists.  It’s just about impossible to find a matter of justice he has not tackled, and it’s hard to imagine somebody who is not more uniquely qualified to lead a bureau that covers all of it — traditional threats like violent and organized crime to the constantly changing threats like terrorism and cyber-security.  So he’s got the resume.
But, of course, Jim is also a famously cool character — the calmest in the room during a crisis.  Here’s what a fellow former prosecutor said about him.  He said, “You know that Rudyard Kipling line — ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs’– that’s Jim.”
There’s also a story from the time during his prosecution of the Gambino crime family.  One of the defendants was an alleged hit man named Lorenzo.  And during the trial, Jim won an award from the New York City Bar Association.  When the court convened the next morning, everybody was buzzing about it, and suddenly, a note was passed down from the defendant’s table, across the aisle to the prosecutor’s table.  It was handed to Jim, and it read:  “Dear Jim, congratulations on your award.  No one deserves it more than you.  You’re a true professional.  Sincerely, Lorenzo.”  (Laughter.)
“Sincerely, Lorenzo.”  Now, we don’t know how sincere he was.  (Laughter.)  We don’t know whether this was a veiled threat, or a plea for leniency, or an honest compliment.  But I think it is fair to say that Jim has won the respect of folks across the spectrum — including Lorenzo.  (Laughter.)
He’s the perfect leader for an organization whose walls are graced by the words of a legendary former director:  “The most effective weapon against crime is cooperation.”  Jim has worked with many of the more than 35,000 men and women of the FBI over the course of his long and distinguished career.  And it’s his admiration and respect for all of you, individually, his recognition of the hard work that you do every day — sometimes under extraordinarily difficult circumstances — not just the folks out in the field, but also folks working the back rooms, doing the hard work, out of sight — his recognition that your mission is important is what compelled him to answer the call to serve his country again.
The FBI joins forces with our intelligence, our military, and homeland security professionals to break up all manner of threats — from taking down drug rings to stopping those who prey on children, to breaking up al Qaeda cells to disrupting their activities, thwarting their plots.  And your mission keeps expanding because the nature of the threats are always changing.
Unfortunately, the resources allotted to that mission has been reduced by sequestration.  I’ll keep fighting for those resources because our country asks and expects a lot from you, and we should make sure you’ve got the resources you need to do the job.  Especially when many of your colleagues put their lives on the line on a daily basis, all to serve and protect our fellow citizens — the least we can do is make sure you’ve got the resources for it and that your operations are not disrupted because of politics in this town.  (Applause.)
Now the good news is things like courage, leadership, judgment, and compassion — those resources are, potentially, at least, inexhaustible.  That’s why it’s critical that we seek out the best people to serve — folks who have earned the public trust; who have excellent judgment, even in the most difficult circumstances; those who possess not just a keen knowledge of the law, but also a moral compass that they — and we — can always count on.
And that’s who we’ve got in Jim Comey.  I’ll tell you I interviewed a number of extraordinary candidates for this job, all with sterling credentials.  But what gave me confidence that this was the right man for the job wasn’t his degrees and it wasn’t his resume; it was in talking to him and seeing his amazing family, a sense that this somebody who knows what’s right and what’s wrong, and is willing to act on that basis every single day.  And that’s why I’m so grateful that he’s signed up to serve again.
I will spare you yet another joke about how today, no one stands taller.  (Laughter.)  I simply want to thank Jim for accepting this role.  I want to thank Patrice and the five remarkable children that they’ve got — because jobs like this are a team effort, as you well know.
And I want to thank most all the men and women of the FBI.  I’m proud of your work.  I’m grateful for your service.  I’m absolutely confident that this agency will continue to flourish with Jim at the helm.  And if he gets lost in the building, I want you guys to help him out.  (Laughter.)  Because I guarantee you that he’s going to have your back, make sure you’ve got his back as well.
Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  (Applause.)
MR. JOYCE:  And now, ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to introduce the seventh Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation — James B. Comey.  (Applause.)
MR. COMEY:  Thank you, Sean.  Thank you, Mr. President.  Thank you so much for gracing us with your presence, for honoring us, and for speaking so eloquently about the mission of the FBI and its great people.
Thank you also to my friends and family who are gathered here today.  My entire life is literally represented in this crowd, and it is a pretty picture.  These are the people that I have known and loved literally my entire life and from whom I have learned so much.
I’m especially grateful that my dad and my sister and my brothers could be here today.  I wish so much that Mom could be here to enjoy this amazing day.  I can still hear ringing in my entire teenage years her voice as she snapped open the shades every single morning and said, “Rise and shine and show the world what you’re made of.”  I found it less inspiring at the time — (laughter) — but it made us who we are.  And I’ll never forget that.
And to my five troops and my amazing bride, who talked me into being interviewed for this job — of course, with the caveat that she’d be okay because the President would never pick me.  (Laughter.)  I got to tell you, this is your last chance to talk to him about it.  (Laughter.)
Mr. President, I am so grateful for this honor and this opportunity to serve with the men and women of the FBI.  They are standing all around this great courtyard, and standing on duty all around this country and around this world at this moment.  I know already that this is the best job I have ever had and will ever have.
That’s because I have a front row seat to watch the work of a remarkable group of people who serve this country, folks from all walks of life who joined the FBI for the same reason — they were teachers and soldiers, and police officers and scholars, and software engineers, and people from all walks of life who wanted to do good for a living.  They wanted jobs with moral content, and so they joined this great organization.
I thought about them as I stood in this courtyard just a week ago and showed a visiting foreign leader the statue that overlooks this ceremony.  It’s an artist’s depiction of the words from our shield that the President mentioned:  Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity. And as I thought about that statue and those words and this ceremony, I thought I would take just a couple of minutes and tell you what those words mean and why I think they belong on our shield.
First, fidelity.  The dictionary defines fidelity as a strict and continuing faithfulness to an obligation, trust, or duty.  To my mind, that word on our shield reminds us that the FBI must abide two obligations at the same time.  First, the FBI must be independent of all political forces or interests in this country.  In a real sense, it must stand apart from other institutions in American life.  But, second, at the same time, it must be part of the United States Department of Justice, and constrained by the rule of law and the checks and balances built into our brilliant design by our nation’s founders.
There is a tension reflected in those two aspects of fidelity, those two values that I see in that word, and I think that tension is reflected in the 10-year term that I’ve just begun.  The term is 10 years to ensure independence.  But it is a fixed term of years to ensure that power does not become concentrated in one person and unconstrained.  The need for reflection and restraint of power is what led Louis Freeh to order that all new agent classes visit the Holocaust Museum here in Washington so they could see and feel and hear in a palpable way the consequences of abuse of power on a massive almost unimaginable scale.  Bob Mueller continued that practice.  And I will again, when we have agents graduating from Quantico.
The balance reflected in my term is also a product of lessons hard learned from the history of this great institution.  Our first half-century or so was a time of great progress and achievement for this country, and for the Bureau.  But it also saw abuse and overreach — most famously with respect to Martin Luther King and others, who were viewed as internal security threats.
As I think about the unique balance represented by fidelity to independence on the one hand, and the rule of law on the other, I think it also makes sense for me to offer those in training a reminder closer to our own history.  I’m going to direct that all new agents and analysts also visit the Martin Luther King Memorial here in Washington.  I think it will serve as a different kind of lesson — (applause) — one more personal to the Bureau, of the dangers in becoming untethered to oversight and accountability.
 That word fidelity belongs on our shield.
 Next, bravery.  We have perpetrated a myth in our society that being brave means not being afraid, but that’s wrong.  Mark Twain once said that bravery “is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”  If you’ve ever talked to a special agent that you know well and you ask he or she about a dangerous encounter they were involved in, they’ll almost always give you the same answer, “yeah, I did it, but I was scared to heck the whole time.”  But that’s the essence of bravery.
Only a crazy person wouldn’t fear approaching a car with tinted windows during a late-night car stop, or pounding up a flight of stairs to execute a search warrant, or fast-roping from a helicopter down into hostile fire.  Real agents, like real people, feel that fear in the pit of their stomachs.  But you know the difference between them and most folks?  They do it anyway, and they volunteer to do that for a living.
What makes the bravery of the men and women of the FBI so special is that they know exactly what they’re in for.  They spend weeks and weeks in an academy learning just how hard and dangerous this work is.  Then they raise their right hands and take an oath, and do that work anyway.  They have seen the Wall of Honor — that I hope so much my friends and guests and family will get to see inside this building — with pictures and links to the lives of those who gave the last full measure of devotion for their country as FBI employees.
Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman said this:  “I would define true courage to be a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger and a mental willingness to endure it.”
I called a special agent a few weeks ago after he had been shot during an arrest.  I knew before I called him that he had already been injured severely twice in his Bureau career, once in a terrorist bombing and once in a helicopter crash.  Yet when I got him on the phone, I got the strong sense he couldn’t wait to get me off the phone.  He was embarrassed by my call.  “Mr. Director, it was a through and through wound.  No big deal.”  He was more worried about his Bureau car, which he had left at the scene of the shooting.  (Laughter.)  He felt okay, though, because his wife — also a special agent — was going to go get the car, so everything was fine.  (Laughter.)
The men and women of this organization understand perfectly the danger they’re in every day and choose to endure it because they believe in this mission.  That’s why bravery belongs on our shield.
And, finally, integrity.  Integrity is derived from the Latin word “integer,” meaning whole.  A person of integrity is complete, undivided.  Sincerity, decency, trustworthy are synonyms of integrity.  It’s on our shield because it is the quality that makes possible all the good that we do.  Because everything we do requires that we be believed, whether that’s promising a source that we will protect her, telling a jury what we saw or heard, or telling a congressional oversight committee or the American people what we are doing with our power and our authorities.  We must be believed.
Without integrity, all is lost.  We cannot do the good that all of these amazing people signed up to do.  The FBI’s reputation for integrity is a gift given to every new employee by those who went before.  But it is a gift that must be protected and earned every single day.  We protect that gift by making mistakes and admitting them, by making promises and keeping them, and by realizing that nothing — no case, no source, no fear of embarrassment — is worth jeopardizing the gift of integrity.  Integrity must be on the FBI shield.
So, you see, those three words — Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity — capture the essence of the FBI and its people.  And they also explain why I am here.  I wanted to be here to work alongside those people, to represent them, to help them accomplish their mission, and to just be their colleague.
It is an honor and a challenge beyond description.  I will do my absolute best to be worthy of it.  Thank you very much. (Applause.)
 END
12:55 P.M.

Full Text Obama Presidency October 18, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Nomination of Jeh Johnson to be Secretary of Homeland Security

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Nomination of Jeh Johnson to be Secretary of Homeland Security

Source: WH, 10-18-13

President Obama Nominates Jeh Johnson

President Obama Nominates Jeh Johnson

Rose Garden

2:06 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Please have a seat.  As President, my most solemn responsibility is the safety and security of the American people.  And we’ve got an outstanding team here of folks who work every single day to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to fulfill that responsibility.  And that means that our entire government — our law enforcement and homeland security professionals, our troops, our diplomats, our intelligence personnel — are all working together.  It means working with state and local partners to disrupt terrorist attacks, to make our borders more secure, respond to natural disasters, and make our immigration system more effective and fair.

Addressing any one of these challenges is a tall order.  Addressing all of them at once is a monumental task.  But that’s what the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security do every day.  And today I’m proud to announce my choice to lead them — an outstanding public servant who I’ve known and trusted for years — Mr. Jeh Johnson.

We are, of course, enormously grateful to Secretary Janet Napolitano.  Janet couldn’t be here today — she’s already made her move to her new position in sunny California, overseeing the higher education system in that great state.  And I know that she’s going to do an outstanding job there with the incredible young people that are in our largest state.  But we all deeply appreciate the terrific job that she did over the last four-and-a-half years.  I want to thank Rand Beers for his service and for stepping in as Acting Secretary after Janet left.

Thanks in no small part to Janet’s leadership, her team, we’ve done more to protect our homeland against those who wish to do us harm.  We’ve strengthened our borders.  We’ve taken steps to make sure our immigration system better reflects our values.  We’ve helped thousands of Americans recover from hurricanes and tornados, floods and wildfires.  And we’ve worked to clean up a massive oil spill in the Gulf as well as address a flu pandemic.

In Jeh Johnson, we have the right person to continue this important work.  From the moment I took office, Jeh was an absolutely critical member of my national security team, and he demonstrated again and again the qualities that will make him a strong Secretary of Homeland Security.

Jeh has a deep understanding of the threats and challenges facing the United States.  As the Pentagon’s top lawyer, he helped design and implement many of the policies that have kept our country safe, including our success in dismantling the core of al Qaeda and in the FATA.

When I directed my national security team to be more open and transparent about how our policies work and how we make decisions, especially when it comes to preventing terrorist attacks, Jeh was one of the leaders who spoke eloquently about how we meet today’s threats in a way that are consistent with our values, including the rule of law.

Jeh also knows that meeting these threats demands cooperation and coordination across our government.  He’s been there in the Situation Room at the table in moments of decision, working with leaders from a host of agencies to make sure everyone is rowing in the same direction.  And he’s respected across our government as a team player, somebody who knows how to get folks who don’t always agree to work towards a common goal.

Jeh has experience leading large complex organizations.  As a member of the Pentagon’s senior management team, first under Bob Gates and then under Leon Panetta, he helped oversee the work of more than 3 million military and civilian personnel across the country and around the world.  And I think it’s fair to say that both former secretaries Gates and Panetta will attest to the incredible professionalism that Jeh brings to the job, and the bipartisan approach that, appropriately, he takes when it comes to national security.

He’s also earned a reputation as a cool and calm leader.  Jeh appreciates that any organization’s greatest asset is its people, and at the Pentagon he guided the report explaining why allowing our men and women in uniform to serve their country openly would not weaken our military.  Congress ended up using that report that Jeh helped to craft to justify repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  And America and our military are stronger because we did, in part because of Jeh’s determined leadership.  I know he will bring that same commitment to our hardworking folks at DHS.

And finally, Jeh believes, in a deep and personal way, that keeping America safe requires us also upholding the values and civil liberties that make America great.  Jeh tells the story of his uncle who was a member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.  And he and his fellow airmen served with honor, even when their country didn’t treat them with the dignity and the respect that they deserved.  And it was a lesson that Jeh never forgot.  “We must adopt legal positions that comport with common sense,” Jeh says, “consistent with who we are as Americans.”  Jeh is a pretty good lawyer, so he knows what that means.

And Jeh understands that this country is worth protecting –- not because of what we build or what we own, but because of who we are.  And that’s what sets us apart.  That’s why, as a nation, we have to keep adapting to changing threats, whether natural or man-made.  We have to stay ready when disaster strikes and help Americans recover in the aftermath.  We’ve got to fix our broken immigration system in a way that strengthens our borders, and modernizes legal immigration, and makes sure everybody is playing by the same rules.

And I’m confident that I could not make a better choice in Jeh, somebody who I’m confident is going to be moving not just the agency forward, but helping to move the country forward.

So, Jeh, thank you so much for agreeing to take on this very difficult and extraordinary mission.  You’ve got a great team over at DHS, and I know that they’re looking forward to having you over there.  I urge the Senate to confirm Jeh as soon as possible.  And I thank you, as well as your family, to agreeing to serve.  Your wife, Susan, and your daughter, Natalie, couldn’t be here because they’re visiting Jeh Jr. out at Occidental College, which, by the way, I went to for two years when I was young.  It’s a fine college.  I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to say hi to him.  But your son chose well.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to invite Jeh Johnson to say a few words, hopefully our next Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.  (Applause.)

MR. JOHNSON:  Thank you very much, Mr. President.

As you noted, my wife and two kids are not here because it’s parents’ weekend at Occidental, and thanks to the cost of a non-refundable airline ticket — (laughter) — they could not be in two places at once.  They wish they could be here.

Thank you for the tremendous honor of this nomination and the trust you have placed in me to carry out this large and important responsibility as Secretary of Homeland Security.  I was not looking for this opportunity — I had left government at the end of last year and was settling back into private life and private law practice.  But when I received the call, I could not refuse it.

I am a New Yorker, and I was present in Manhattan on 9/11, which happens to be my birthday, when that bright and beautiful day was — a day something like this — was shattered by the largest terrorist attack on our homeland in history.  I wandered the streets of New York that day and wondered and asked, what can I do?  Since then, I have tried to devote myself to answering that question.  I love this country.  I care about the safety of our people.  I believe in public service.  And I remain loyal to you, Mr. President.

If confirmed by the Senate, I promise all of my energy, focus, and ability toward the task of safeguarding our nation’s national and homeland security.

Thank you again, sir.  (Applause.)

END

2:14 P.M. EDT

Political Musings October 9, 2013: President Obama to nominate Janet Yellen as the first woman to chair Federal Reserve

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama to nominate Janet Yellen as the first woman to chair Federal Reserve

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In what has been suspected for the last couple of weeks President Barack Obama will formally nominate Janet Yellen as the next Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 at a 3 p.m. ceremony in…READ MORE

Political Headlines July 24, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Caroline Kennedy as US Ambassador to Japan

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama to Nominate Caroline Kennedy as US Ambassador to Japan

ABC/Rick Rowell

President Obama will nominate former first daughter Caroline Kennedy as U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, would be the first woman to serve in the role….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 10, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Jason Furman to Lead Council of Economic Advisers

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Taps Furman to Lead Council of Economic Advisers

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-10-13

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Obama on Monday nominated longtime economic adviser Jason Furman as chairman of his Council of Economic Advisers, calling him “one of the most brilliant economic minds of his generation.”

“When the stakes are highest, there’s no one I’d rather turn to for straightforward, unvarnished advice that helps me to do my job,” the president said as he stood alongside Furman at a White House ceremony….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 5, 2013: President Barack Obama Appoints Susan Rice to Replace Tom Donilon as National Security Advisor

HISTORY MUSINGS

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

Susan Rice to Replace Tom Donilon as National Security Advisor

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-5-13

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Shaking up his foreign policy team, President Obama announced Wednesday that National Security Advisor Tom Donilon is resigning and will be replaced by UN Ambassador Susan Rice.

“Susan understands that there’s no substitute for American leadership,” the president said in a Rose Garden ceremony. “She is at once passionate and pragmatic. I think everybody understands Susan is a fierce champion for justice and human dignity, but she’s also mindful that we have to exercise our power wisely and deliberately.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines June 4, 2013: President Barack Obama Names 3 to Washington DC Appeals Court in Challenge to Republicans

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Names 3 to Top Appeals Court in Challenge to Republicans

Source: NYT, 6-4-13

President Barack Obama nominated, from left, Robert L. Wilkins,  Cornelia T.L. Pillard and Patricia Ann Millett, to fill the three open spots on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday. 

Christopher Gregory/The New York Times

President Barack Obama nominated, from left, Robert L. Wilkins,  Cornelia T.L. Pillard and Patricia Ann Millett, to fill the three open spots on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday.

President Obama plans to nominate three people to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, setting up a potential legislative collision….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 4, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Announcing Three Nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington District of Columbia Circuit

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Announces Three Nominees for the D.C. Circuit Court

Source: WH, 6-4-13

President Barack Obama delivers a statement announcing the nomination of three candidates for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia CircuitPresident Barack Obama delivers a statement announcing the nomination of three candidates for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in the Rose Garden of the White House, June 4, 2013. Nominees from left are: Robert Leon Wilkins, Cornelia “Nina” Pillard, and Patricia Ann Millett. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Today, President Obama announced that he is nominating three candidates for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit: Patricia Millett, Nina Pillard and Robert Wilkins.

As the President explained, one of his most important responsibilities is nominating qualified men and women to serve as judges on the federal bench. And the Senate has a constitutional duty to promptly consider judicial nominees for confirmation….READ MORE

Remarks by the President on the Nominations to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Source: WH, 5-4-13 

Rose Garden

10:28 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Please have a seat.

So one of the most important responsibilities of a President is to nominate qualified men and women to serve as judges on the federal bench.

And Congress has a responsibility, as well.  The Senate is tasked with providing advice and consent.  They can approve a President’s nominee or they can reject a President’s nominee.  But they have a constitutional duty to promptly consider judicial nominees for confirmation.
Now, throughout my first term as President, the Senate too often failed to do that.  Time and again, congressional Republicans cynically used Senate rules and procedures to delay and even block qualified nominees from coming to a full vote.

As a result, my judicial nominees have waited three times longer to receive confirmation votes than those of my Republican predecessor.  Let me repeat that:  My nominees have taken three times longer to receive confirmation votes than those of my Republican predecessor.  These individuals that I nominate are qualified.  When they were given an up or down vote in the Senate — when they were finally given an up or down vote in the Senate, every one of them was confirmed.  So this is not about principled opposition.  This is about political obstruction.

I recognize that neither party has a perfect track record here.  Democrats weren’t completely blameless when I was in the Senate.  But what’s happening now is unprecedented.  For the good of the American people, it has to stop.  Too much of the people’s business is at stake.  Our legal framework depends on timely confirmations of judicial nominees.  And nowhere is this more apparent than with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The D.C. Circuit is known as the second highest court in the country, and there’s a good reason for that.  The judges on the D.C. Circuit routinely have the final say on a broad range of cases involving everything from national security to environmental policy; from questions of campaign finance to workers’ rights.  In other words, the court’s decisions impact almost every aspect of our lives.

There are 11 seats on the D.C. Circuit Court.  When I first took office, there were two vacancies.  Since then, two more judges have retired.  That means there are four vacancies that needed to be filled.  And by February of this year, more than one-third of the seats on the nation’s second highest court were empty.  I mean, imagine if a third of the seats on the highest court — the Supreme Court — were empty.  We would rightly consider that a judicial crisis.  If we want to ensure a fair and functioning judiciary, our courts cannot be short-staffed.

In 2010, I put forward a highly qualified nominee for the D.C. Circuit — Caitlin Halligan.  Caitlin’s credentials were beyond question.  She had bipartisan support from the legal and law enforcement communities.  She had the support of a majority of senators.  Nobody suggested she was not qualified to serve on the court.  If Caitlin had gotten a simple up or down vote before the full Senate, I am confident she would have been easily confirmed.  But instead, for two and a half years, Senate Republicans blocked her nominations.  It had nothing to do with Caitlin’s qualifications.  It was all about politics.  And after two and a half years of languishing in limbo, this brilliant and principled lawyer asked me to withdraw her nomination.

Now, the good news is last year I put forward another highly qualified nominee — Sri Srinivasan.  And Sri’s credentials were also beyond question.  And no doubt due to some mounting public pressure, along with the vocal bipartisan support that he received, Sri was unanimously confirmed a few weeks ago, becoming the first South Asian American to serve as a circuit court judge in our nation’s history.

So I’m pleased that the Senate acted.  I’m glad Republicans chose not to play politics and obstruct Sri’s nomination the way they did with Caitlin’s.  And I’m hopeful that we can now build on that progress, because Sri’s confirmation was the first to the D.C. Circuit in seven years.  So out of the four vacancies that existed, one has now been filled.  There are three seats still vacant on the D.C. Circuit Court — one of them, by the way — one of them has been vacant since Chief Justice Roberts was elevated to the Supreme Court in 2005.  Anybody who values the role of our courts should find that unacceptable regardless of your party.  Which brings me to today.  That’s why today I’m nominating three outstanding, highly qualified individuals to fill those remaining seats.

Now Patricia Millett is one of our nation’s finest appellate attorneys and, until recently, held the record for the most Supreme Court arguments by a female lawyer.  She served in the Solicitor General’s Office for 11 years, for both Democratic and Republican Presidents.  Since then, in private practice, she’s represented everyone from large businesses to individual pro bono plaintiffs.  And, by the way, as the wife of a retired Navy officer, Patricia has served our nation outside the courtroom as well, as a member of a military family.

Nina Pillard’s career has been defined by an unshakeable commitment to the public good.  She twice served in the Department of Justice and was an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.  Her landmark successes before the Supreme Court include defending the constitutionality of the Family and Medical Leave Act and opening the doors of the Virginia Military Institute to female students.  And, today, Nina is a professor at Georgetown and, if confirmed, would continue the D.C. Circuit’s strong tradition of distinguished scholars going on to serve as judges — from Antonin Scalia to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

And finally, this is the second time I’ve called on Judge Robert Wilkins to serve — because in 2010, I nominated Robert to the D.C. District Court, and the Senate confirmed him without opposition.  Before serving with distinction as a federal judge, Robert spent eight years in private practice and a decade as a public defender here in Washington, D.C., providing legal representation to defendants who could not afford an attorney.  And throughout his career, Robert has distinguished himself as a principled attorney of the utmost integrity.

So these three individuals are highly qualified to serve on the D.C. Circuit.  They have broad bipartisan support from across the legal community.  The non-partisan American Bar Association have given them — each of them — its highest rating.  These are no slouches.  (Laughter.)  These are no hacks.  There are incredibly accomplished lawyers by all accounts.  And there are members of Congress here today who are ready to move forward with these nominations, including the Chairman, Patrick Leahy.  So there’s no reason — aside from politics — for Republicans to block these individuals from getting an up or down vote.

Despite that, some Republicans recently have suggested that by nominating these three individuals, I’m somehow engaging in — and I’m quoting here — in “court-packing.”  (Laughter.)  No — people laugh, but this is an argument I’ve made.  For those of you who are familiar with the history of court-packing, that involved Franklin Delano Roosevelt trying to add additional seats to the Supreme Court in order to water down and get more support for his political agenda.  We’re not adding seats here.  We’re trying to fill seats that are already existing.  Each of the past five Presidents has seen at least three of their nominees confirmed to the D.C. Circuit.  Since I’ve been President, obstruction has slowed that down to one.

Right now, there are three open seats on a critical court.  I didn’t create these seats.  I didn’t just wake up one day and say, let’s add three seats to the District Court of Appeals.  These are open seats.  And the Constitution demands that I nominate qualified individuals to fill those seats.  What I am doing today is my job.  I need the Senate to do its job.

The fact that Republican senators are now pushing a proposal to reduce the number of judges on this independent federal court also makes no sense.  When a Republican was President, 11 judges on the D.C. Circuit Court made complete sense.  Now that a Democrat is President, it apparently doesn’t.  Eight is suddenly enough.  (Laughter.)  People are laughing because it’s obviously a blatant political move.

We know that because some of the same Republicans behind this current proposal to reduce the number of seats on the D.C. Circuit Court voted in 2007 to keep 11 judges on the D.C. Circuit — same folks.  They say the workload has decreased since then, but in April, the judicial conference of the United States — which, by the way, is led by Chief Justice John Roberts and includes judges from various levels of the federal court system — told the Senate that the current workload before the D.C. Circuit requires 11 judges.  So they should know.  That was just two months ago.

Chief Justice John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the highest court in the land, and former member of the D.C. Circuit Court says they need 11 judges.  So it’s important we don’t play games here, and it’s important that we cut through the verbiage.

An essential part of our democracy is the separation of powers.  The executive, the legislative, and the judiciary each have a role to play.  And when it comes to judicial nominees, my responsibility is to put forward qualified individuals.  These are three of the most qualified individuals you’ll ever meet.  The Senate’s responsibility, in turn, is to promptly give them an up or down vote.

So today, I’m doing my part.  I hope in the coming months that the Senate does its part, because I assure you, when these three outstanding individuals are on the bench, they will do their part.  That’s what the Constitution demands.  It’s what the American people expect.  And I look forward to years of outstanding service by these outstanding lawyers of incredible integrity.

And I promised that I would mention this before all of you — they also have really good-looking families.  (Laughter.)  Because I just saw their kids, and — (applause).  All right.  Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
10:43 A.M. EDT

Political Headlines May 16, 2013: President Barack Obama Names Danny Werfel New Acting IRS Commissioner

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Names New Acting IRS Commish

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

President Obama on Thursday appointed Office of Management and Budget official Danny Werfel to serve as acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.

Werfel, 42, replaces Steven Miller, who was asked to resign Wednesday in the wake of revelations that IRS employees inappropriately targeted conservative groups….READ MORE

Political Headlines April 29, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx for Transportation Secretary

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Taps Charlotte Mayor for Transportation Secretary

Source: ABC News Radio, 4-30-13

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

President Obama announced his nomination for Transportation Secretary on Monday, calling Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx a “friend” and an “impressive leader.”

“I know Anthony’s experience will make him an outstanding Transportation Secretary.  He’s got the respect of his peers, mayors and governors all across the country.  And as a consequence, I think that he’s going to be extraordinarily effective,” the president said a White House ceremony….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 27, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Swearing-in Ceremony of Julia Pierson as the irst Female Director of the US Secret Service

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Julia Pierson Is Sworn In As First-Ever Female Director of the US Secret Service

Source: WH, 3-27-13

President Obama watches as Vice President Joe Biden administers the oath of office to incoming U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, March 27, 2013.President Barack Obama watches as Vice President Joe Biden administers the oath of office to incoming U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson during a swearing-in ceremony in the Oval Office, March 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

A highly respected veteran of the Secret Service was sworn in as head of that agency today in a ceremony in the Oval Office. President Obama watched as Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath to Julia Pierson, and praised her dedication, professionalism and commitment to her work….READ MORE

Remarks by the President at Swearing-in Ceremony of Julia Pierson as the Director of the U.S. Secret Service

Source: WH, 3-27-13 

Oval Office

3:16 P.M. EDT

(The Vice President administers the oath to Ms. Pierson.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Congratulations.

THE PRESIDENT:  Great job.

MS. PIERSON:  Thank you very much, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Well, listen, I have to say that Julia’s reputation within the Service is extraordinary.  She’s come up through the ranks.  She’s done just about every job there is to do at the Secret Service.

Obviously, she’s breaking the mold in terms of directors of the agency, and I think that people are all extraordinarily proud of her.  And we have the greatest confidence in the wonderful task that lies ahead and very confident that she is going to do a great job.  So we just want to say congratulations.

As Joe Biden pointed out, this person now probably has more control over our lives than anyone else — (laughter) — except for our spouses.  And I couldn’t be placing our lives in better hands than Julia’s.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And my agents are excited that we picked her.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  You’re going to do a great job.

Q    How did you make your decision?

THE PRESIDENT:  She has extraordinary qualifications, and I think a lot of people who have worked with Julia know how dedicated, how professional, how committed she is, and I think are absolutely certain that she’s going to thrive in this job.

Thank you, guys.

Q    How are you feeling about your bracket, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  Busted.  (Laughter.)  I think my women’s bracket is doing much better than my men’s bracket.

END
3:18 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines March 27, 2013: Julia Pierson Sworn In as First Female Secret Service Director

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Julia Pierson Sworn In as First Female Secret Service Director

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-27-13

Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images

President Obama on Wednesday praised the qualifications of his pick to lead the U.S. Secret Service, as Julia Pierson was sworn in as the agency’s first female director.

“I have to say that Julia’s reputation within the service is extraordinary,” Obama told reporters. “She’s come up through the ranks, she’s done just about every job there is to do at the Secret Service.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines March 18, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Cathy Russell as New Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Nominates New Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-18-13

Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Obama has announced that Dr. Jill Biden’s chief of staff, Cathy Russell, will be his nominee for the ambassador at large for global women’s issues. Russell is a longtime Biden staffer and the wife of Obama’s National Security Advisor, Tom Donilon.

Dr. Biden released a statement following the president’s announcement Monday:

“We are so grateful for all of Cathy’s hard work and can’t imagine a better choice to be our next Ambassador to work on the most pressing issues faced by women and girls around the globe. Through the more than 25 years we have known Cathy, she has made a tremendous difference in the fight to promote gender equality and advance the status of women and girls, helped raise awareness about the issues critical to military families through Joining Forces, and strengthened the role community colleges play in creating the workforce of the future. We will miss Cathy, but know that she will make a real difference in the lives of women and girls throughout the world in her new role.” 

READ MORE

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