Political Highlights December 22, 2010: Obama’s Major Victories in Lame Duck Congressional Session

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN, and Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

President Obama spoke during a news conference in Washington on Wednesday.

Evan Vucci/Associated Press President Obama spoke during a news conference in Washington on Wednesday.


  • Poll: Barack Obama rebounding: President Barack Obama may be staging a comeback in the eyes of the American people, a new poll suggests. In a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Monday, 48 percent of Americans say they approve of how Obama is handling his job, while 48 percent disapprove. The disapproval number is the lowest it’s been since May, when it was 46 percent in the same poll. His disapproval rating reached as high as 54 percent in September — when the five-month Gulf Coast oil spill saga ended — and clocked in at 50 percent in November…. – Politico, 12-22-10
  • 2010 census results: Why did US population growth slow?: The US added some 27 million residents in the past decade. But that population growth is small, percentage-wise – 9.7 percent. Only during the Great Depression decade was the growth rate lower. The United States population has crashed through the 300 million mark, according to just-released 2010 census data. The total number of people living in the US as of April 1 this year was 308,745,538. That means the country has added about 27 million residents over the past 10 years…. – CS Monitor, 12-21-10


  • Senate ratifies nuclear arms treaty with Russia: In a major foreign-policy victory for President Obama, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted 71 to 26 to ratify the New START treaty with Russia, the broadest nuclear arms-reduction pact between the former Cold War foes in nearly two decades.
  • Obama signs repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’: President Obama signed legislation on Wednesday that repeals the 17-year-old law preventing homosexuals from serving openly in the U.S. military. The bill requires military officials to complete implementation plans before lifting the old policy, a process that could take months. –
  • Senate Passes 9/11 Health Bill as Republicans Back Down: After years of fierce lobbying and debate, Congress approved a bill on Wednesday to cover the cost of medical care for rescue workers and others who became sick from toxic fumes, dust and smoke after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. The $4.3 billion bill cleared its biggest hurdle early in the afternoon when the Senate unexpectedly approved it just 12 days after Republican senators had blocked a more expensive House version from coming to the floor of the Senate for a vote.
    In recent days, Republican senators had been under fire for their opposition to the legislation. The House quickly passed the Senate bill a few hours later, as was widely expected. The vote was 206 to 60, breaking down largely along party lines. The White House said President Obama would sign the bill into law. After the Senate vote, a celebration broke out in a room in the Capitol that was packed with emergency workers and 9/11 families, as well as the two senators from New York, Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, and the two senators from New Jersey, Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez. The senators, all Democrats, were greeted with a huge ovation and repeated chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”… – NYT, 12-22-10
  • Obama emerges from defeat with a taste of victory: Less than two months after the midterm ‘shellacking,’ the president is buoyed by a series of important bipartisan accomplishments in the lame-duck Congress. But the new legislative session will present a different set of challenges…. – LAT, 12-22-10
  • ‘We Are Not Doomed to Endless Gridlock’: President Obama on Wednesday declared the lame-duck session of Congress to be the “most productive post-election period that we have had in decades” and promised to continue seeking common ground next year. “We are not doomed to endless gridlock,” Mr. Obama said.
    Speaking to reporters before leaving for a 10-day vacation in Hawaii, Mr. Obama hailed the flurry of accomplishments, including Wednesday’s approval of a new nuclear treaty with Russia.
    He called the treaty “the most significant arms control agreement in more than two decades” and the top national security priority of the first half of his presidency. “With this treaty our inspectors will also be back on the ground with Russian nuclear bases,” Mr. Obama said. He called the 71-26 vote a “powerful signal to the world.”
    But Mr. Obama rejected an opportunity to gloat about the successes of the past several weeks by declaring himself the “comeback kid,” telling a reporter that the results are “not a victory for me. It’s a victory for the American people.”
    In fact, the president appeared to go out of his way to suggest that Americans would see from him more of the kinds of compromises that led him to cut a deal with Republicans on the extension of tax cuts for the middle class and the wealthy.
    “A lot of folks in this time predicted that after the midterm elections, Washington would be headed for more partisanship and more gridlock,” Mr. Obama said. Instead, he said, Washington politicians decided that it was time to find common ground. “That’s a message that I will take to heart in the new year, and I hope my Democratic and Republican friends will do the same,” he said…. – NYT, 12-22-10
  • Obama Press Conference Will Cap Day of Accomplishment: The smile on his face said it all. President Obama arrived Wednesday morning to formally repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with an ear-to-ear grin. He strode across the stage, stopping to hug his Democratic allies. He gave a peck on the cheek to Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. And when he got to the microphone, the “shellacking” his party took just seven weeks ago seemed a distant memory.
    “This is a good day,” Mr. Obama said as one of the 500 people in attendance yelled, “You rock, President Obama!” “You know,” the president continued, letting the applause linger a bit, “I am just overwhelmed. This is a very good day.”… –
  • Obama Says Recent Weeks Marked a ‘Season of Progress’: President Barack Obama said his administration and Congress demonstrated over the past few weeks that Democrats and Republicans can find common ground on some of the nation’s most pressing issues. Rather than a stalemate after the midterm elections in November, “this has been a season of progress for the American people,” Obama said at a year-end press conference at the White House before leaving for Hawaii for the holidays with his family. He returns to Washington on Jan. 1. “If there’s any lesson to draw from these past few weeks, it’s that we’re not doomed to endless gridlock,” he said. After what he described as a “shellacking” for his party in the November elections, the president can claim victories during the lame-duck Congress on a host of priorities. These include Senate ratification of a nuclear-reduction treaty with Russia, an $858 billion deal to extend tax cuts and unemployment assistance for the long-term jobless and repeal of a law that banned gays from serving openly in the military.
    “This has been the most productive post-election period we’ve had in years,” Obama said of the actions taken by Congress…. – Bloomberg, 12-22-10
  • Obama hails bipartisanship after arms pact passes: President Barack Obama celebrated a bipartisan “season of progress” on Wednesday at a year-end news conference a few hours after the Senate ratified an arms control treaty with Russia. In addition to cutting nuclear weapons and launchers, Obama said the pact will allow U.S. inspectors to “be back on the ground” in Russia. “So we’ll be able to trust but verify,” he said, quoting the late President Ronald Reagan in another in a string of bipartisan gestures of recent weeks.
    The president signed legislation earlier in the day permitting openly gay members of the armed forces to serve openly, but said he does not currently favor legalizing gay marriage. “I struggle with this. I have friends, people who work for me who are in powerful, long standing gay or lesbian unions,” he said. “I have said that at this point my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them protection and legal rights.”
    The president said that after midterm elections on Nov. 2, many “predicted Washington would be headed for more partisanship and more gridlock. Instead, this has been a season of progress for the American people.” He added that the accomplishments of a postelection session of Congress demonstrate “we are not doomed to endless gridlock.”… – AP, 12-22-10
  • Obama Hails ‘Season of Progress’ in Year-End News Conference: During a year-end news conference at the White House Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama celebrated what he called a bipartisan “season of progress,” a few hours after the Senate ratified an arms control agreement with Russia.
    President Obama told reporters that after November’s mid-term elections, many people predicted that Washington would be headed for more partisanship. But Obama said the accomplishments of a post-election season of Congress demonstrate that “we are not doomed to endless gridlock.”… – VOA, 12-22-10
  • Obama still wrestling with gay marriage question: President Barack Obama says he is still wrestling with whether gay couples should have the right to marry, now that a new law will allow them to serve openly in combat…. – AP, 12-22-10
  • New START treaty: How will next efforts for nuclear weapons reduction fare?: The Senate ratified the new START treaty by a vote of 71 to 26. But this could turn out to be the high-water mark in Obama’s efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
    With Wednesday’s Senate ratification of a new nuclear-arms reduction treaty with Russia, President Obama accomplished what he has said for months was his top foreign-policy priority.
    The irony of Mr. Obama’s triumph is that, rather than constituting the dawn of a new era of measures reducing the nuclear threat, it may turn out to be the high-water mark in his efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
    With Vice President Joe Biden presiding and Secretary of State (and former senator) Hillary Rodham Clinton in attendance, the Senate voted 71 to 26 to ratify the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), achieving the two-thirds vote required to ratify a treaty…. – CS Monitor, 12-22-10
  • Deal reached on aid package for 9/11 responders: After a last-minute compromise, the Senate passed legislation Wednesday to provide up to $4.2 billion in new aid to survivors of the September 2001 terrorism attack on the World Trade Center and responders who became ill working in its ruins. A House vote was expected on the bill within hours as lawmakers raced to wrap up their work for the year before Christmas. President Obama has said he looks forward to signing the measure, though some supporters of the bill have criticized him for not getting more involved in the fight.
    The measure was a product of a compromise involving Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. “The Christmas miracle we’ve been looking for has arrived,” Schumer and Gillibrand said in a joint statement…. – AP, 12-22-10
  • Senate poised to launch new arms treaty: A nuclear arms control treaty with Russia that is President Obama’s top foreign policy priority in the year-end session of Congress is poised for bipartisan approval in the Senate today after it won support from a swath of Republicans.
    In a vote Tuesday to end debate on the treaty, 11 Republicans joined 56 Democrats to back the measure — exceeding the two-thirds vote that will be needed to ratify the measure today. The treaty would cut each country’s nuclear arsenal by nearly a third. The vote cleared way for Congress to finish work before Christmas after a productive post-election session in which lawmakers extended expiring tax cuts and jobless benefits, passed a new food safety bill, repealed a ban on gays serving openly in the military and passed a measure to keep the government funded through March.
    “I feel pretty good about where we’ve gotten to,” said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We look forward to the Senate doing what it does best, which is a really important, thoughtful debate about our national security concerns.”
    Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton both visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday to push wavering lawmakers. Obama, who has cast the treaty as a national security priority, postponed his family vacation to lobby senators by phone…. – USA Today, 12-21-10
  • White House: Obama won’t give up on ‘DREAM Act’: The White House says President Barack Obama is not giving up on legislation that would offer a path to legal status to young illegal immigrants. Obama on Tuesday met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and reiterated his support for the DREAM Act, which died in the Senate last weekend and appears to have even less chance when a new, more Republican Congress convenes in January.
    The legislation would have provided a route to legal status for illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. before age 16, have been here for five years, graduated high school or gained an equivalency degree, and who joined the military or attend college. Obama also told lawmakers a broader reform of the immigration system should be a priority for the next Congress. – AP, 12-21-10
  • Barbour explains remarks about desegregation: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a potential Republican presidential candidate, said Tuesday he was not trying to downplay the pain that many endured during the South’s segregation era when he defended his home town’s 1970 public school integration process.
    Barbour spoke out a day after several liberal activists criticized his published comments about school desegregation in Yazoo City, which occurred when he was 20. Historical accounts confirm the schools integrated peacefully, as Barbour stated in a recent profile in the Weekly Standard magazine.
    Some critics, however, said his comments skimmed over the segregationist role played by so-called Citizens Councils in the state. Asked by the magazine why Yazoo City’s public school integration avoided the violence seen in other towns, Barbour said: “Because the business community wouldn’t stand for it. You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town.”
    A January 1970 Time Magazine article about Yazoo City said, “local white leaders began more than a month ago to prepare their city for the shock of final desegregation. A loosely knit committee of prominent whites met with the city’s whites, urging them to support the public schools rather than abandon them.”… – AP, 12-21-10
  • Divided FCC adopts rules to protect Web traffic: Federal regulators adopted new rules Tuesday to keep the companies that control the Internet’s pipelines from restricting what their customers do online or blocking competing services, including online calling applications and Web video. The vote by the Federal Communications Commission was 3-2 and quickly came under attack from the commission’s two Republicans, who said the rules would discourage investments in broadband. Prominent Republicans in Congress vowed to work to overturn them…. – AP, 12-21-10
  • >New Start treaty vote could come on Tuesday in the Senate: The Senate vote as early as Tuesday on a U.S. Russia arms treaty could be a defining moment for the Obama administration’s foreign policy. The New Start agreement could strengthen President Obama’s hand on a long list of foreign policy challenges, or show foreign leaders unexpected weakness at a moment when the president badly needs a foreign policy victory.
    By bolstering Obama’s “reset” of relations with Russia the Senate vote would help the White House with Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea and nuclear proliferation, among others. And by demonstrating that the United States is willing to reduce its own nuclear arsenal, it would encourage other countries to take part in the administration’s nuclear arms reductions agenda.
    The Obama administration has held out its “reset” of relations with Russia as its most tangible foreign policy accomplishment of the past two years. It has viewed the New Start treaty, which would reduce the ceiling on long distance nuclear warheads by up to 30%, as the centerpiece of the new relationship with Moscow. The outcome of the vote, in shifting perceptions of the administration, could have wide effects on how much other world powers help the United States in the war in Afghanistan, the struggle to contain Iran’s nuclear program, and its efforts to forge a Mideast peace…. – LAT, 12-20-10
  • Obama to sign repeal of military gay ban, but Pentagon will write the rules to carry it out: No public displays of affection. No separate bathrooms. No harassment and no special treatment. As the U.S. military begins to map out how it will implement the new edict allowing gays to serve openly, the first order of business is drafting the regulations. The rule changes under discussion won’t dictate how troops feel about the change, but will strictly enforce how they act on it.
    From small wording tweaks and training programs to more complex questions about benefits and religion, the proposed guidelines demand that gays and lesbians be treated just like any other soldier, sailor, airman or marine. But they also leave the door open for some flexibility in room assignments or other instances when commanders believe it’s needed to maintain order and discipline in their units.
    The Senate voted Saturday to repeal the ban on openly gay service, following earlier action by the House of Representatives. Fulfilling a 2008 campaign promise, President Barack Obama plans to sign the bill into law on Wednesday at a Department of Interior ceremony. But in letters to the troops over the weekend, the four military service chiefs warned that the ban is still in place, and will be for some time to come.
    “The implementation and certification process will not happen immediately; it will take time,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said in an email to airmen. “Meanwhile, the current law remains in effect. All Air Force members should conduct themselves accordingly.”…. – Canadian Press, 12-20-10
  • ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ repealed: What’s next?: President Obama is scheduled to sign legislation Wednesday that will end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, officially shifting to the Defense Department the political pressure surrounding the repeal of the 17-year ban on gays serving openly in uniform. Even after Obama scrawls his signature, the law won’t actually change until the Pentagon certifies to Congress that the military has met several preconditions, including education and training programs for troops. On Monday, Pentagon officials repeatedly declined to predict how long they would need, saying only that they would proceed at a “methodical” and “deliberate” pace. “I don’t think anybody has any idea yet how long this will take,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said…. – WaPo, 12-20-10


  • McCain amendment could make way for START deal: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) filed an amendment on the resolution of ratification to the START treaty Monday that non- proliferation experts suggested could clear the way for a swift deal, I report on the home page: McCain’s amendment, co-sponsored with Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), would seek to address Republican concerns that the U.S.-Russian arms control pact not limit U.S. missile defenses. At the same time, it doesn’t demand changes to the treaty language itself that would have effectively killed the deal with Russia, as several Republican-proposed amendments defeated over the weekend would have done. Arms-control advocates were cautiously optimistic Monday reviewing McCain’s amendment that it was acceptable for START advocates if it could deliver the Republican votes the administration needs for treaty ratification.
    “While in my view these amendments to the resolution of advice and consent are unnecessary, their appearance would suggest that there are ways to address the missile defense-related concerns of a number of New START skeptics short of treaty-killing amendments to the treaty,” the Arms Control Association’s Daryl Kimball told POLITICO Monday.
    Monday afternoon, following a rare closed Senate session on the treaty, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said talks were continuing about adding additional language to the resolution of ratification at the request of Republicans.
    “We have included some 13 different amendments already that are in the resolution that reflect their concerns,” Kerry told reporters. “We were just having a conversation now with Sen. Kyl. There may be some additional things that we can incorporate.”… – Politico, 12-20-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Alaska Supreme Court Rules Against Senate Hopeful Joe Miller: The Alaska Supreme Court on Wednesday denied Senate candidate Joe Miller’s claims that the state conducted the midterm election improperly, effectively affirming incumbent Lisa Murkowski’s 10,328-vote lead over Mr. Miller and paving the way for her to begin her term in January. Ms. Murkowski, who like Mr. Miller is Republican, had launched a write-in campaign for the Senate seat in August after Mr. Miller beat her in the Republican primary. The Associated Press declared her victorious in mid-November. But Mr. Miller had hoped that a court decision in his favor could pull him ahead of his rival…. – WSJ, 12-22-10
  • Obama’s 2008 states lose six electoral votes in new census”: President Obama lost six electoral votes. That’s the upshot of new Census numbers for states that Obama carried in the 2008 election. Because of population changes, eight of the states Obama won in 2008 lost a total of 10 U.S. House seats, while four other states he carried picked up four seats; the number of U.S. House slots helps determine a state’s presidential electoral votes. Of course, Obama has a little bit of a margin to play with — he defeated John McCain in the Electoral College, 365-173.
    Still, Republican presidential prospects appear to have improved, if the Census is any guide. Reuters reports:
    Of the eight states that gain at least one (House) seat, five were won by McCain. Staunchly Republican Texas will gain four House seats, helped by a growing Hispanic population, while Arizona, Utah, Georgia and South Carolina — all reliably conservative — will pick up one each. The states won by McCain that lose a seat are Missouri and Louisiana, which suffered a population drop after Hurricane Katrina in 2005…. – USA Today, 12-21-10
  • Census Data Likely to Help the GOP: The Census Bureau’s release of new population data Tuesday will likely lead to a shift in political power from the Democratic Rust Belt to the Republican Sun Belt, potentially helping the GOP consolidate power in Congress. The U.S.’s 435 House seats are distributed according to the census, a decennial effort that apportions power in ways that sometimes last for generations. State legislatures, a slight majority of which will be in Republican hands next year, have the power to redraw district maps to maximize the chances of victory for a party’s candidate…. – WSJ, 12-20-10


  • The President’s Press Conference: “The Most Productive Post-Election Period We’ve Had in Decades”: First of all, I’m glad that Democrats and Republicans came together to approve my top national security priority for this session of Congress – the new START Treaty. This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades, and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals along with Russia. With this treaty, our inspectors will also be back on the ground at Russian nuclear bases. So we will be able to trust but verify; and to continue to advance our relationship with Russia, which is essential to making progress on a host of challenges – from enforcing strong sanctions on Iran, to preventing nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists. This treaty will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them.
    In the last few weeks, we also came together across party lines to pass a package of tax cuts and unemployment insurance that will spur jobs, businesses, and growth. This package includes a payroll tax cut that means nearly every American family will get an average tax cut next year of about $1,000 delivered in their paychecks. It will make a difference for millions of students, and parents, and workers, and people still looking for work. It’s has led economists across the political spectrum to predict that the economy will grow faster than they originally thought next year.
    In our ongoing struggle to perfect our Union, we also overturned a 17-year old law and a longstanding injustice by finally ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. As I said earlier today, this is the right thing to do for our security. And it is the right thing to do, period.
    In addition, we came together across party lines to pass a food safety bill – the biggest upgrade of America’s food safety laws since the Great Depression. And I hope the House soon joins the Senate in passing a 9/11 health bill that will help cover the health care costs of police officers, firefighters, rescue workers, and residents who inhaled toxic air near the World Trade Center on that terrible morning, and the days that followed.
    So, I think it’s fair to say this has been the most productive post-election period we’ve had in decades, and it comes on the heels of the most productive two years we’ve had in generations. – WH, 12-22-10
  • The President Signs Repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”: “Out of Many, We Are One”: You know, I am just overwhelmed. This is a very good day. (Applause.) And I want to thank all of you, especially the people on this stage, but each and every one of you who have been working so hard on this, members of my staff who worked so hard on this. I couldn’t be prouder….
    I want to express my gratitude to the men and women in this room who have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Services. (Applause.) I want to thank all the patriots who are here today, all of them who were forced to hang up their uniforms as a result of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — but who never stopped fighting for this country, and who rallied and who marched and fought for change. I want to thank everyone here who stood with them in that fight…. – WH, 12-22-10TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Scott Brown to support New START treaty: Senator Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican, announced that he will support the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, providing a potentially crucial vote when the measure comes up for a vote as soon as Tuesday.
    “I’ve done my due diligence, and I’m going to be … ultimately supporting the START treaty,” Brown told reporters after emerging late this afternoon from a closed-door intelligence briefing for all senators. “I believe it’s something that’s important for our country, and I believe it’s a good move forward to deal with our national security issues.” – Boston Globe, 12-20-10


  • No Congress Since 1960s Has Impact on Public as 111th: “This is probably the most productive session of Congress since at least the ‘60s,” said Alan Brinkley, a historian at New York’s Columbia University. “It’s all the more impressive given how polarized the Congress has been.” – Bloomberg, 12-22-10
  • For Obama, victories offer second chance: A renewed tax-cut package and other congressional wins might be giving the president a political boost.
    “There’s no way you can credibly say anybody could have delivered more,” said presidential historian H.W. Brands of the University of Texas at Austin…. – McClatchy News, 12-22-10
  • Obama emerges from defeat with a taste of victory: Princeton historian Julian E. Zelizer said Obama would need to “move sharply toward the center, indeed, to embrace parts of the Republican agenda, to rebuild his own political strength.” The president could find it difficult to “win any support for significant legislation that Republicans don’t want, when he doesn’t have something as huge as tax cuts to give them in return,” he said…. – LAT, 12-22-10
  • Julian E. Zelizer: The real threat to health care reform: When U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson ruled that the mandate to purchase health insurance in the new law was unconstitutional, many people began looking to the Supreme Court for a final determination.
    Supporters and opponents of President Obama’s health care bill are speculating as to whether the highest court in the land might rule the president’s signature measure unconstitutional.
    But the truth is that a Supreme Court ruling along these lines, which is against the odds, is probably not the greatest threat that health care faces. Nor is outright repeal. As Americans become more familiar with the benefits of the program, Republicans will find it more difficult to attack health care outright. With all the discussion about constitutional challenge or congressional repeal, the more likely threat is that Republicans will gradually weaken the program to the point that it is ineffective…. – CNN, 12-20-10
  • Mass., NY could lose more seats in Congress: “These states are still holding onto memories of an earlier era when the Northeast was a dominant power in politics,” said Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University. “The Sun Belt is where the action is now.” iBerkshires.com, 12-21-10
  • In ‘Christmas miracle,’ NY senators predict passage of WTC health bill: Now, with the measure’s price tag lowered and the question of its funding answered, it’ll be hard for Republicans to find grounds to vote against it, said Princeton University public affairs professor Julian Zelizer. “Not everyone in the GOP is with McCain on this one. The Democrats can come out of this lame-duck session with another victory,” said Zelizer, citing the extension of unemployment benefits and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”… – amNY, 12-19-10
  • Elite Colleges Rethink Ties to R.O.T.C. After ‘Don’t Ask’ Repeal: The Senate vote to repeal the 17-year old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy against gay men and lesbians serving openly in the armed forces removes a reason that many elite colleges have cited for barring the Reserve Officers Training Corps from recruiting on their campuses.
    Already, the presidents of Harvard, Yale and Columbia have issued statements expressing interest in bringing back the R.O.T.C.. But it is not clear whether there will be enough student interest on those campuses to warrant its presence.
    The R.O.T.C., which has units on 327 campuses nationwide, was sent packing from several Ivy League and other prominent campuses in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in the firestorm of student protests against the Vietnam War. More recently, though, it has faced opposition because of discrimination against gay men and lesbians in the military.
    Drew Faust, the president of Harvard, said over the weekend that she was looking forward to “pursuing discussions with military officials and others to achieve Harvard’s full and formal recognition of R.O.T.C..”
    President Lee Bollinger of Columbia said the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” would allow the university to fulfill its desire to be more open to the military. In a statement, Mr. Bollinger said the repeal “effectively ends what has been a vexing problem for higher education, including at Columbia, given our desire to be open to our military, but not wanting to violate our own core principle against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”… – NYT, 12-21-10
  • Population shifts further complicate Obama’s reelection plans: President Obama’s already difficult path to reelection became more treacherous, as national population shifts announced Tuesday showed significant migrations away from Rust Belt and Democratic-leaning states to Republican strongholds. Released every 10 years, the Census Bureau figures determine the number of House seats and Electoral College votes each state receives. And the influx of residents to traditionally red states in the south and west is a welcome development for Republicans still relishing the results of midterm elections in which they took control of the House and dozens of state legislatures and governorships.
    “This matters,” said Dennis Goldford, a political scientist at Drake University in Iowa. “The population has been moving south and west, reliable Republican territory. We don’t have a national presidential election. Obama has to make up those votes somehow.”
    “I don’t see why there’s any reason why in a number of these places both parties can’t be equally competitive and I don’t think it will have a huge practical impact,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
    “Although things shift slightly in the Republican direction, if [Obama] wins the same states he won in 2008, he still wins the presidency,” said Michael McDonald, a George Mason University political science professor who specializes in redistricting. “By and large, the map pretty much stays the same in terms of what states you need to put together to win the presidency.”… Washington Examiner, 12-21-10


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