Politics November 16, 2016: Senate leadership McConnell re-elected, Democrat Schumer elected, Sanders grabs post

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By Bonnie K. Goodman

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) leaves after an election meeting of Senate Democrats to elect new leadership at the Capitol November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. Sen. Schumer was elected as the incoming Senate minority leader. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 16: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) leaves after an election meeting of Senate Democrats to elect new leadership at the Capitol November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. Sen. Schumer was elected as the incoming Senate minority leader. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

After the House Republicans had voted on their leadership posts, the Senate had their turn. On Wednesday morning, Nov. 16, 2016, as predicted Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, (R-KY) was re-elected majority leader by acclamation, while New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer was elevated to minority leader, as departing minority leader Sen. Harry Reid’s heir apparent. Vermont Sen. and 2016 Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders also grabbed his first Senate leader post as Chair of Outreach.

The Republicans retained their leaders in their election for the 115th Congress. In a meeting of the GOP conference on Wednesday morning, McConnell was re-elected “by acclimation by his colleagues with a standing ovation,” as his spokesman Don Stewart told the press. Sen. Marco Rubio (R- FL) nominated McConnell, while Sen.-elect Todd Young, (R-IN) second the motion, both were instrumental to the GOP maintaining their majority.

McConnell was expected to remain in his post, and there were no surprises in the GOP leadership votes. McConnell, 74 will be serving his second term as majority leader, previously he was minority leader for four terms, and is “Kentucky’s longest-serving senator;” he was first elected in 1984.

All the action was with the Democrats after they shook up their leadership with the retirement of longtime leader Sen. Reid. Reid already named Schumer, his successor, but Wednesday’s vote made that a reality. After the being elected Schumer expressed, “I am going to wake up every single day focused on how Senate Democrats can effectively fight for America’s middle class and those struggling to join it.” While Schumer told reporters, “We are ready to go toe to toe with Republicans.” Although the minority leader acknowledged, “When you lose an election like this, you can’t flinch. You can’t ignore it. You need to look it right in the eye and ask why, analyze it and learn from it.”

Schumer, 66 has served in the Senate since 1998, and he was in the House representing Brooklyn and Queens for 18 years before that. In 2006, Reid tapped Schumer to be the party’s number three in the Senate as vice chairman of the Democratic Conference, a position her served for ten years. When Reid announced his retirement in 2015, he made it clear he wanted Schumer to succeed him as Senate Democratic leader.

Overshadowing Schumer’s election was the addition of Sanders to the enlarged leadership team. The popular Sanders will be the outreach chairman, a newly created post within the ranks. Senate Democrats were pressured to add the formerly independent Senator to their leadership ranks after his historic run for the Democratic nomination, with a still very loyal supporter base.

After his appointment, Sanders spoke to reporters, telling them he has a “heavy responsibility to help shape the priorities of the United States government. I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that the budget that leaves the United States Congress is a budget that represents the needs of working families and a shrinking middle class and not billionaires.” Sanders will also retain his post as the senior minority member of the Budget Committee.

Otherwise, in the Democratic ranks, Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-Ill) remains minority whip. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will be the new assistant Democratic leader, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) moves up to chair the Democratic Policy and Communications Center. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, (D-WI) becomes Democratic Conference secretary, the fourth ranking in leadership, and Joe Manchin (D-WV) takes over as vice chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

The Democrats enlarged their team from seven to 10 posts. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) now moved up to newly titled posts of vice chairs of the Senate Democratic Conference. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) position title changed from chairwoman of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee to just chair of the Steering Committee.

Additionally, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA ) becomes the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, while longtime-Judiciary member Patrick Leahy (D-VT)  moves to the Appropriations Committee.

Politics November 16, 2016: Senate leadership McConnell re-elected, Democrat Schumer elected, Sanders grabs post

By Bonnie K. Goodman

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) leaves after an election meeting of Senate Democrats to elect new leadership at the Capitol November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. Sen. Schumer was elected as the incoming Senate minority leader. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 16: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) leaves after an election meeting of Senate Democrats to elect new leadership at the Capitol November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. Sen. Schumer was elected as the incoming Senate minority leader. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

After the House Republicans had voted on their leadership posts, the Senate had their turn. On Wednesday morning, Nov. 16, 2016, as predicted Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, (R-KY) was re-elected majority leader by acclamation, while New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer was elevated to minority leader, as departing minority leader Sen. Harry Reid’s heir apparent. Vermont Sen. and 2016 Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders also grabbed his first Senate leader post as Chair of Outreach.

The Republicans retained their leaders in their election for the 115th Congress. In a meeting of the GOP conference on Wednesday morning, McConnell was re-elected “by acclimation by his colleagues with a standing ovation,” as his spokesman Don Stewart told the press. Sen. Marco Rubio (R- FL) nominated McConnell, while Sen.-elect Todd Young, (R-IN) second the motion, both were instrumental to the GOP maintaining their majority.

McConnell was expected to remain in his post, and there were no surprises in the GOP leadership votes. McConnell, 74 will be serving his second term as majority leader, previously he was minority leader for four terms, and is “Kentucky’s longest-serving senator;” he was first elected in 1984.

All the action was with the Democrats after they shook up their leadership with the retirement of longtime leader Sen. Reid. Reid already named Schumer, his successor, but Wednesday’s vote made that a reality. After the being elected Schumer expressed, “I am going to wake up every single day focused on how Senate Democrats can effectively fight for America’s middle class and those struggling to join it.” While Schumer told reporters, “We are ready to go toe to toe with Republicans.” Although the minority leader acknowledged, “When you lose an election like this, you can’t flinch. You can’t ignore it. You need to look it right in the eye and ask why, analyze it and learn from it.”

Schumer, 66 has served in the Senate since 1998, and he was in the House representing Brooklyn and Queens for 18 years before that. In 2006, Reid tapped Schumer to be the party’s number three in the Senate as vice chairman of the Democratic Conference, a position her served for ten years. When Reid announced his retirement in 2015, he made it clear he wanted Schumer to succeed him as Senate Democratic leader.

Overshadowing Schumer’s election was the addition of Sanders to the enlarged leadership team. The popular Sanders will be the outreach chairman, a newly created post within the ranks. Senate Democrats were pressured to add the formerly independent Senator to their leadership ranks after his historic run for the Democratic nomination, with a still very loyal supporter base.

After his appointment, Sanders spoke to reporters, telling them he has a “heavy responsibility to help shape the priorities of the United States government. I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that the budget that leaves the United States Congress is a budget that represents the needs of working families and a shrinking middle class and not billionaires.” Sanders will also retain his post as the senior minority member of the Budget Committee.

Otherwise, in the Democratic ranks, Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-Ill) remains minority whip. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will be the new assistant Democratic leader, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) moves up to chair the Democratic Policy and Communications Center. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, (D-WI) becomes Democratic Conference secretary, the fourth ranking in leadership, and Joe Manchin (D-WV) takes over as vice chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

The Democrats enlarged their team from seven to 10 posts. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) now moved up to newly titled posts of vice chairs of the Senate Democratic Conference. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) position title changed from chairwoman of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee to just chair of the Steering Committee.

Additionally, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA ) becomes the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, while longtime-Judiciary member Patrick Leahy (D-VT)  moves to the Appropriations Committee.

Politics November 11, 2016: President-Elect Trump goes to Washington meets with Obama, Ryan, and McConnell

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President-Elect Trump goes to Washington meets with Obama, Ryan, and McConnell

 

By Bonnie K. Goodman

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 10: President-elect Donald Trump (L) talks after a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama (R) in the Oval Office November 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. Trump is scheduled to meet with members of the Republican leadership in Congress later today on Capitol Hill. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 10: President-elect Donald Trump (L) talks after a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama (R) in the Oval Office November 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. Trump is scheduled to meet with members of the Republican leadership in Congress later today on Capitol Hill. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 10: President Elect Donald Trump, center right, walks through the halls of the U.S. Capitol for a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, center left, (R-KY) on November, 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. Accompanying him are his wife, Melania, right, and Vice President Elect Mike Pence, left. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 10:
President Elect Donald Trump, center right, walks through the halls of the U.S. Capitol for a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, center left, (R-KY) on November, 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. Accompanying him are his wife, Melania, right, and Vice President Elect Mike Pence, left.
(Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

President-Elect Donald Trump is moving forward having his first official Washington meeting as the nation’s new Commander-in-Chief after an upset victory on Election Day. On Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, Trump went to Washington meeting first with outgoing President Barack Obama in the Oval Office for the traditional transition of power meeting. Then Trump went to Capitol Hill meeting with Republican Congressional leader, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Trump’s Vice-President-Elect Mike Pence also was busy in Washington meeting with outgoing Vice President Joe Biden and joining Trump at his Congressional meetings. The new First Lady Melania Trump also was busy meeting with outgoing First Lady Michelle Obama to tour the White House residence and join her husband on Capitol Hill for his meetings.

Trump first arrived Thursday morning with some advisors for White House meeting. Trump met with Obama in the Oval Office for 90 minutes much longer than the planned 15-minute meeting. Afterward, the president and the president-elect spoke to reporters. Although they were adversaries just days before, the country’s interests rise above partisan division when it comes to the transfer of presidential powers.

Obama told reporters, “My No. 1 priority in the next two months is to try to facilitate a transition that ensures our President-elect is successful.” Continuing the president said to his successor, “If you succeed, the country succeeds.” Trump, in turn, thanked Obama for the long-running meeting, saying, “The meeting lasted almost for an hour and a half and as far as I’m concerned, it could have gone on for a lot longer.” The president-elect called Obama a “very good man” and expressed, “I very much look forward to dealing with the president in the future, including counsel. I look forward to being with you many, many more times.”

The White House meeting was surprisingly pleasant to consider the past animosity between Obama and Trump dating back to 2011 when Trump joined the birther movement. Then Trump called for Obama to release his long-form birth certificate not believing Obama was a natural-born citizen. Obama paid Trump back at the 2011White House Correspondents dinner. The rhetoric became more heated during the campaign as Trump blamed Obama for the rise of the terrorist group ISIS, while, Obama just called Trump “unfit for the presidency” on the last day of the campaign.

While Trump met with Obama in the Oval Office, the two first ladies, future and present Melania Trump and Michelle Obama met in the White House residence. Mrs. Obama gave Mrs. Trump a tour of the residence and they had tea together Yellow Oval Room. They discussed raising children in the White House; the Trump’s have son Barron, ten who will be the only one of Trump’s children to be living in the White House. The Obamas’ daughters Malia and Sasha were 10 and 7 when they moved into the White House in 2009. Michelle also showed Melania the Truman balcony.

The two have they own problems. Although Melania has never criticized Michelle, some of her convention speech closely resembled Michelle’s 2008 speech. Mrs. Obama, however, heavily attacked Trump on the campaign trail especially after the surfacing of his 2005 lewd tape in October. All the issues seem to be put behind the Trumps and Obamas at their transition meetings. Later in the evening, Trump tweeted, “A fantastic day in D.C. Met with President Obama for first time. Really good meeting, great chemistry. Melania liked Mrs. O a lot!”

After the White House, the Trumps’ along with Vice President-Elect Mike Pence had lunch at the Capitol Hill Club. They then headed off to meet with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Ryan gave Trump a tour of the Capitol building and then met in the Speaker’s office. Ryan took Trump out to his office balcony, which has views of the inauguration spot Trump and Pence will sworn-in, the Washington Monument even Trump’s new Washington hotel. At the meeting, they discussed policy priorities for the new administration and new session of Congress.

Ryan then spoke with reporters with the Trumps and Pence. The speaker expressed, “Donald Trump had one of the most impressive victories we have ever seen and we’re going to turn that victory into progress for the American people, and we are now talking about how we are going to hit the ground running to get this country turned around and make America great again.” While Trump said, “We can’t get started fast enough. And whether its health care or immigration, so many different things, we will be working on them very rapidly.”

Trump and Ryan also shared a complicated relationship throughout the campaign, but now the Speaker has embraced the president-elect fully. Only during the last days of the campaign after the FBI first announced that they were renewing their investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and Trump rose in the polls, and Trump supporters in Congress starting threatening Ryan about possibly losing his speakership if Trump loses, did Ryan campaign for the Republican nominee. After Trump won along with the Republicans keeping both Houses of Congress, Ryan has been speaking enthusiastically about the president-elect. Ryan hopes to spearhead the administration’s policies through Congress.

President-Elect Trump capped his day in Washington by meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Trumps and Pence met with the Senate leader in his Capitol office. Pence had to leave after 20-minutes to make his meeting with his predecessor Vice President Joe Biden.  After the meeting, McConnell told reporters, “It was a first-class meeting.” McConnell stressed that they discussed “issues that we obviously agree on” and told the press the President-Elect wants “get going early, and so do we.”

After the meeting, Trump told the press, “A lot of really great priorities. People will be very, very happy. Well, we have a lot. We’re looking very strongly at immigration, we’re going to look at the borders, very importantly, we’re looking very strongly at health care and we’re looking at jobs. Big league jobs.” President-Elect Trump continued, explaining, “Quite frankly we can’t get started fast enough… whether it’s on healthcare or immigration so many different things. We’re going to lower taxes, so many different things we are going to be working on.”

Full Text Political Transcripts March 16, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks Announcing Judge Merrick Garland as his Nominee to the Supreme Court

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President Announcing Judge Merrick Garland as his Nominee to the Supreme Court

Source: WH, 3-16-16

 

Rose Garden

11:04 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  Everybody, please have a seat.

Of the many powers and responsibilities that the Constitution vests in the presidency, few are more consequential than appointing a Supreme Court justice — particularly one to succeed Justice Scalia, one of the most influential jurists of our time.

The men and women who sit on the Supreme Court are the final arbiters of American law.  They safeguard our rights.  They ensure that our system is one of laws and not men.  They’re charged with the essential task of applying principles put to paper more than two centuries ago to some of the most challenging questions of our time.

So this is not a responsibility that I take lightly.  It’s a decision that requires me to set aside short-term expediency and narrow politics, so as to maintain faith with our founders and, perhaps more importantly, with future generations.  That’s why, over the past several weeks, I’ve done my best to set up a rigorous and comprehensive process.  I’ve sought the advice of Republican and Democratic members of Congress.  We’ve reached out to every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to constitutional scholars, to advocacy groups, to bar associations, representing an array of interests and opinions from all across the spectrum.

And today, after completing this exhaustive process, I’ve made my decision.  I’ve selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness, and excellence.  These qualities, and his long commitment to public service, have earned him the respect and admiration of leaders from both sides of the aisle.  He will ultimately bring that same character to bear on the Supreme Court, an institution in which he is uniquely prepared to serve immediately.

Today, I am nominating Chief Judge Merrick Brian Garland to join the Supreme Court.  (Applause.)

Now, in law enforcement circles, and the in the legal community at large, Judge Garland needs no introduction.  But I’d like to take a minute to introduce Merrick to the American people, whom he already so ably serves.

He was born and raised in the Land of Lincoln — in my hometown of Chicago, in my home state of Illinois.  His mother volunteered in the community; his father ran a small business out of their home.  Inheriting that work ethic, Merrick became valedictorian of his public high school.  He earned a scholarship to Harvard, where he graduated summa cum laude.  And he put himself through Harvard Law School by working as a tutor, by stocking shoes in a shoe store, and, in what is always a painful moment for any young man, by selling his comic book collection.  (Laughter.)  It’s tough.  Been there.  (Laughter.)

Merrick graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law, and the early years of his legal career bear all the traditional marks of excellence.  He clerked for two of President Eisenhower’s judicial appointees — first for a legendary judge on the Second Circuit, Judge Henry Friendly, and then for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan.  Following his clerkships, Merrick joined a highly regarded law firm, with a practice focused on litigation and pro bono representation of disadvantaged Americans.  Within four years, he earned a partnership — the dream of most lawyers. But in 1989, just months after that achievement, Merrick made a highly unusual career decision.  He walked away from a comfortable and lucrative law practice to return to public service.

Merrick accepted a low-level job as a federal prosecutor in President George H.W. Bush’s administration.  He took a 50-percent pay cut, traded in his elegant partner’s office for a windowless closet that smelled of stale cigarette smoke.  This was a time when crime here in Washington had reached epidemic proportions, and he wanted to help.  And he quickly made a name for himself, going after corrupt politicians and violent criminals.

His sterling record as a prosecutor led him to the Justice Department, where he oversaw some of the most significant prosecutions in the 1990s — including overseeing every aspect of the federal response to the Oklahoma City bombing.  In the aftermath of that act of terror, when 168 people, many of them small children, were murdered, Merrick had one evening to say goodbye to his own young daughters before he boarded a plane to Oklahoma City.  And he would remain there for weeks.  He worked side-by-side with first responders, rescue workers, local and federal law enforcement.  He led the investigation and supervised the prosecution that brought Timothy McVeigh to justice.

But perhaps most important is the way he did it.  Throughout the process, Merrick took pains to do everything by the book.  When people offered to turn over evidence voluntarily, he refused, taking the harder route of obtaining the proper subpoenas instead, because Merrick would take no chances that someone who murdered innocent Americans might go free on a technicality.

Merrick also made a concerted effort to reach out to the victims and their families, updating them frequently on the case’s progress.  Everywhere he went, he carried with him in his briefcase the program from the memorial service with each of the victims’ names inside –- a constant, searing reminder of why he had to succeed.

Judge Garland has often referred to his work on the Oklahoma City case as, and I quote, “the most important thing I have ever done in my life.”  And through it all, he never lost touch with that community that he served.

It’s no surprise then, that soon after his work in Oklahoma City, Merrick was nominated to what’s often called the second highest court in the land — the D.C. Circuit Court.  During that process, during that confirmation process, he earned overwhelming bipartisan praise from senators and legal experts alike.  Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who was then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, supported his nomination.  Back then, he said, “In all honesty, I would like to see one person come to this floor and say one reason why Merrick Garland does not deserve this position.”  He actually accused fellow Senate Republicans trying to obstruct Merrick’s confirmation of “playing politics with judges.”  And he has since said that Judge Garland would be a “consensus nominee” for the Supreme Court who “would be very well supported by all sides,” and there would be “no question” Merrick would be confirmed with bipartisan support.

Ultimately, Merrick was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, the second highest court in the land, with votes from a majority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans.  Three years ago, he was elevated to Chief Judge.  And in his 19 years on the D.C. Circuit, Judge Garland has brought his trademark diligence, compassion, and unwavering regard for the rule of law to his work.

On a circuit court known for strong-minded judges on both ends of the spectrum, Judge Garland has earned a track record of building consensus as a thoughtful, fair-minded judge who follows the law.  He’s shown a rare ability to bring together odd couples, assemble unlikely coalitions, persuade colleagues with wide-ranging judicial philosophies to sign on to his opinions.

And this record on the bench speaks, I believe, to Judge Garland’s fundamental temperament — his insistence that all views deserve a respectful hearing.  His habit, to borrow a phrase from former Justice John Paul Stevens, “of understanding before disagreeing,” and then disagreeing without being disagreeable.  It speaks to his ability to persuade, to respond to the concerns of others with sound arguments and airtight logic.  As his former colleague on the D.C. Circuit, and our current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, once said, “Any time Judge Garland disagrees, you know you’re in a difficult area.”

At the same time, Chief Judge Garland is more than just a brilliant legal mind.  He’s someone who has a keen understanding that justice is about more than abstract legal theory; more than some footnote in a dusty casebook.  His life experience –- his experience in places like Oklahoma City –- informs his view that the law is more than an intellectual exercise.  He understands the way law affects the daily reality of people’s lives in a big, complicated democracy, and in rapidly-changing times.  And throughout his jurisprudence runs a common thread -– a dedication to protecting the basic rights of every American; a conviction that in a democracy, powerful voices must not be allowed to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.

To find someone with such a long career of public service, marked by complex and sensitive issues; to find someone who just about everyone not only respects, but genuinely likes –- that is rare.  And it speaks to who Merrick Garland is — not just as a lawyer, but as a man.

People respect the way he treats others — his genuine courtesy and respect for his colleagues and those who come before his court.  They admire his civic-mindedness — mentoring his clerks throughout their careers, urging them to use their legal training to serve their communities, setting his own example by tutoring a young student at a Northeast D.C. elementary school each year for the past 18 years.  They’re moved by his deep devotion to his family — Lynn, his wife of nearly 30 years, and their two daughters, Becky and Jessie.  As a family, they indulge their love of hiking and skiing and canoeing, and their love of America by visiting our national parks.

People respect Merrick’s deep and abiding passion for protecting our most basic constitutional rights.  It’s a passion, I’m told, that manifested itself at an early age.  And one story is indicative of this, is notable.  As valedictorian of his high school class, he had to deliver a commencement address.  The other student speaker that day spoke first and unleashed a fiery critique of the Vietnam War.  Fearing the controversy that might result, several parents decided to unplug the sound system, and the rest of the student’s speech was muffled.

And Merrick didn’t necessarily agree with the tone of his classmate’s remarks, nor his choice of topic for that day.  But stirred by the sight of a fellow student’s voice being silenced, he tossed aside his prepared remarks and delivered instead, on the spot, a passionate, impromptu defense of our First Amendment rights.

It was the beginning of a lifelong career — as a lawyer, and a prosecutor, and as a judge — devoted to protecting the rights of others.  And he has done that work with decency and humanity and common sense, and a common touch.  And I’m proud that he’ll continue that work on our nation’s highest court.

I said I would take this process seriously — and I did.  I chose a serious man and an exemplary judge, Merrick Garland.  Over my seven years as President, in all my conversations with senators from both parties in which I asked their views on qualified Supreme Court nominees — this includes the previous two seats that I had to fill — the one name that has come up repeatedly, from Republicans and Democrats alike, is Merrick Garland.

Now, I recognize that we have entered the political season  — or perhaps, these days it never ends — a political season that is even noisier and more volatile than usual.  I know that Republicans will point to Democrats who’ve made it hard for Republican Presidents to get their nominees confirmed.  And they’re not wrong about that.  There’s been politics involved in nominations in the past.  Although it should be pointed out that, in each of those instances, Democrats ultimately confirmed a nominee put forward by a Republican President.

I also know that because of Justice Scalia’s outsized role on the Court and in American law, and the fact that Americans are closely divided on a number of issues before the Court, it is tempting to make this confirmation process simply an extension of our divided politics — the squabbling that’s going on in the news every day.  But to go down that path would be wrong.  It would be a betrayal of our best traditions, and a betrayal of the vision of our founding documents.

At a time when our politics are so polarized, at a time when norms and customs of political rhetoric and courtesy and comity are so often treated like they’re disposable — this is precisely the time when we should play it straight, and treat the process of appointing a Supreme Court justice with the seriousness and care it deserves.  Because our Supreme Court really is unique.  It’s supposed to be above politics.  It has to be.  And it should stay that way.

To suggest that someone as qualified and respected as Merrick Garland doesn’t even deserve a hearing, let alone an up or down vote, to join an institution as important as our Supreme Court, when two-thirds of Americans believe otherwise — that would be unprecedented.

To suggest that someone who has served his country with honor and dignity, with a distinguished track record of delivering justice for the American people, might be treated, as one Republican leader stated, as a political “piñata” — that can’t be right.

Tomorrow, Judge Garland will travel to the Hill to begin meeting with senators, one-on-one.  I simply ask Republicans in the Senate to give him a fair hearing, and then an up or down vote.  If you don’t, then it will not only be an abdication of the Senate’s constitutional duty, it will indicate a process for nominating and confirming judges that is beyond repair.  It will mean everything is subject to the most partisan of politics — everything.  It will provoke an endless cycle of more tit-for-tat, and make it increasingly impossible for any President, Democrat or Republican, to carry out their constitutional function.  The reputation of the Supreme Court will inevitably suffer.  Faith in our justice system will inevitably suffer.  Our democracy will ultimately suffer, as well.

I have fulfilled my constitutional duty.  Now it’s time for the Senate to do theirs.  Presidents do not stop working in the final year of their term.  Neither should a senator.

I know that tomorrow the Senate will take a break and leave town on recess for two weeks.  My earnest hope is that senators take that time to reflect on the importance of this process to our democracy — not what’s expedient, not what’s happening at the moment, what does this mean for our institutions, for our common life — the stakes, the consequences, the seriousness of the job we all swore an oath to do.

And when they return, I hope that they’ll act in a bipartisan fashion.  I hope they’re fair.  That’s all.  I hope they are fair.  As they did when they confirmed Merrick Garland to the D.C. Circuit, I ask that they confirm Merrick Garland now to the Supreme Court, so that he can take his seat in time to fully participate in its work for the American people this fall. He is the right man for the job.  He deserves to be confirmed.  I could not be prouder of the work that he has already done on behalf of the American people.  He deserves our thanks and he deserves a fair hearing.

And with that, I’d like to invite Judge Garland to say a few words.  (Applause.)

JUDGE GARLAND:  Thank you, Mr. President.  This is the greatest honor of my life — other than Lynn agreeing to marry me 28 years ago.  It’s also the greatest gift I’ve ever received except — and there’s another caveat — the birth of our daughters, Jessie and Becky.

As my parents taught me by both words and deeds, a life of public service is as much a gift to the person who serves as it is to those he is serving.  And for me, there could be no higher public service than serving as a member of the United States Supreme Court.

My family deserves much of the credit for the path that led me here.  My grandparents left the Pale of Settlement at the border of Western Russian and Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, fleeing anti-Semitism, and hoping to make a better life for their children in America.  They settled in the Midwest, eventually making their way to Chicago.

There, my father, who ran the smallest of small businesses from a room in our basement, took me with him as he made the rounds to his customers, always impressing upon me the importance of hard work and fair dealing.  There, my mother headed the local PTA and school board and directed a volunteer services agency, all the while instilling in my sister and me the understanding that service to the community is a responsibility above all others.  Even now, my sisters honor that example by serving the children of their communities.

I know that my mother is watching this on television and crying her eyes out.  (Laughter.)  So are my sisters, who have supported me in every step I have ever taken.  I only wish that my father were here to see this today.  I also wish that we hadn’t taught my older daughter to be so adventurous that she would be hiking in the mountains, out of cell service range — (laughter) — when the President called.  (Laughter.)

It was the sense of responsibility to serve a community, instilled by my parents, that led me to leave my law firm to become a line prosecutor in 1989.  There, one of my first assignments was to assist in the prosecution of a violent gang that had come down to the District from New York, took over a public housing project and terrorized the residents.  The hardest job we faced was persuading mothers and grandmothers that if they testified, we would be able to keep them safe and convict the gang members.  We succeeded only by convincing witnesses and victims that they could trust that the rule of law would prevail.
Years later, when I went to Oklahoma City to investigate the bombing of the Federal Building, I saw up close the devastation that can happen when someone abandons the justice system as a way of resolving grievances, and instead takes matters into his own hands.  Once again, I saw the importance of assuring victims and families that the justice system could work.  We promised that we would find the perpetrators, that we would bring them to justice, and that we would do it in a way that honored the Constitution.  The people of Oklahoma City gave us their trust, and we did everything we could to live up to it.

Trust that justice will be done in our courts without prejudice or partisanship is what, in a large part, distinguishes this country from others.  People must be confident that a judge’s decisions are determined by the law, and only the law.  For a judge to be worthy of such trust, he or she must be faithful to the Constitution and to the statutes passed by the Congress.  He or she must put aside his personal views or preferences, and follow the law — not make it.

Fidelity to the Constitution and the law has been the cornerstone of my professional life, and it’s the hallmark of the kind of judge I have tried to be for the past 18 years.  If the Senate sees fit to confirm me to the position for which I have been nominated today, I promise to continue on that course.

Mr. President, it’s a great privilege to be nominated by a fellow Chicagoan.  I am grateful beyond words for the honor you have bestowed upon me.  (Applause.)

END
11:30 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts September 25, 2015: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on House Speaker Boehner’s Resignation: ‘Country and Institution before Self’

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

McConnell on House Speaker Boehner: ‘Country and Institution before Self’

Source: McConnell.Senate.gov, 9-25-15

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the retirement of Speaker Boehner:

“Grace under pressure.

“Country and institution before self.

“These are the first things that come to mind when I think of John Boehner.

“He is an ally. He is a friend. And he took over as Republican Leader at a difficult time for his party.

“When some said Republicans could never recover, he never gave up.

“When some gave in to defeatism, he kept up the fight.

“Because he did, Speaker Boehner was able to transform a broken and dispirited Republican minority into the largest Republican majority since the 1920s.

“That’s a legacy few can match.

“He flew across the country more times than he can count to support members of his conference, and to recruit new members to the cause. As leader of a new majority, he turned the tide in Congress and brought conservative reform in many areas. He worked tirelessly to provide hope to those who dreamed of a better life and to middle-class families who struggled under the weight of this Administration.

“John knows what it’s like to struggle and to dream of something better. He’s lived it.

“That a young man from Reading, Ohio wielding a bar towel could one day wield the gavel of the U.S. House of Representatives — it reminds us of the continuing promise of this country.

“I know yesterday was an incredibly important event for the Speaker. It was his aim to bring the same spirit of grace that has always guided his life, to others. You only had to look out onto the Capitol lawn to see what he achieved. And that he chose this moment to make this decision, means he will be leaving us in a similar spirit.

“I know we’ll all have more to say in the weeks to come. But for now, thank you, my friend.”

Political Musings May 18, 2015: Senate moves toward passing fast track trade bill

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Senate moves toward passing fast track trade bill

May 18, 2015

After agreeing to a compromise earlier last week, the Senate passed two bills moving forward on the fast track trade, trade promotion authority (TPA) bill. On Thursday, May 14, 2015, the Senate voted 78 to 20 on a customs and…

Full Text Obama Presidency February 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s 2016 Budget – PDF

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s 2016 Budget

Source: WH, 2-2-15

Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2016 contains the Budget Message of the President, information on the President’s priorities, budget overviews organized by agency, and summary tables.

To download “Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2016” as a single PDF click here (150 pages, 2.3 MB)

Document

Size

File Format

Descriptions of The Budget Documents and General Notes 75 K PDF
The Budget Message of the President 44 K PDF
Building on a Record of Economic Growth and Progress 110 K PDF
Investing in America’s Future 396 K PDF
A Government of the Future 130 K PDF
Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings 132 K PDF
Summary Tables 1366 K PDF

 

Political Musings January 29, 2015: Senate passes Keystone Pipeline despite Obama veto threat

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Senate passes Keystone Pipeline despite Obama veto threat

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Despite President Barack Obama threat to veto any bill passed by Congress approving the Keystone XL pipeline the Republican controlled Senate passed their bill on Thursday afternoon Jan. 29, 2015 with bipartisan support and a vote of 62 to 36…READ MORE

Political Musings January 13, 2015: Obama meets with Congressional leaders promises to disagree but work together

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obama meets with Congressional leaders promises to disagree but work together

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In President Barack Obama’s first meeting with the 114th Congress’ leadership, there was no bourbon, but there was sports talk. Obama met with the Congressional leadership of the new GOP majority in the House of Representatives and…READ MORE

Political Musings January 6, 2015: 114th Congress convenes: Boehner reelected Speaker McConnell new Senate Majority Leader

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

114th Congress convenes: Boehner reelected Speaker McConnell new Majority Leader

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Despite some opposition from conservative tea party wing of the Republican Party John Boehner, R-OH was reelected for his third term as Speaker of the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 6, 2016 the first day of…READ MORE

Political Musings November 20, 2014: Emperor Obama outlines executive amnesty for nearly 5 million illegal immigrants

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Emperor Obama outlines executive amnesty for nearly 5 million illegal immigrants

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama addressed the nation on Thursday evening, Nov. 20, 2014 announcing and outlining his plan for immigration reform and executive actions to provide amnesty for nearly five million illegal immigrants for three years in a speech to the…READ MORE

Political Musings November 20, 2014: Obama announces immigration executive actions in speech, McConnell vows battle

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obama announces immigration executive actions in speech, McConnell vows battle

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama is looking for the fight of his presidency when unveils on Thursday evening, Nov. 20, 2014 at 8 PM in his 11th speech to the nation his plans for immigration reform and amnesty for nearly five…READ MORE

Political Musings November 17, 2014: Never mind government shutdown Obama is looking to be impeached or sued by GOP Congress over immigration reform

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Never mind government shutdown Obama is looking to be impeached or sued by GOP

When news broke on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 that President Barack Obama is planning to take executive action on immigration this week, the first thought that came to mind is that the GOP might prevent the budget bills from passing…READ MORE

Political Musings November 13, 2014: Obama to announce immigration reform executive actions next week, ignores GOP

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obama to announce immigration reform executive actions next week, ignores GOP

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The New York Times on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 was the first to announce that President Barack Obama is planning to take executive action on immigration next week. While Fox News reported that it would include a 10-point plan…READ MORE

Political Musings November 13, 2014: McConnell unanimously voted as Senate majority leader, Reid agrees to compromise

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

McConnell unanimously voted as Senate majority leader, Reid agrees to compromise

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The Republican Senate caucus unanimously voted the current Senate Minority Leader Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 as the Senate’s majority leader for the 114th Congress. Thursday, Nov. 13 was the day for…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency November 7, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks Before Meeting with Congressional Leadership

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President Before Meeting with Congressional Leadership

Source: WH, 11-7-14 

Old Family Dining Room

12:52 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I want to thank the leadership of both the House and the Senate for being here for this lunch, post-election.  As I said the other night, obviously Republicans had a good night, and I’ve congratulated both Mitch McConnell as well as Speaker Boehner for running very strong campaigns.

As I also said the day after the election, what we’ve seen now for a number of cycles is that the American people just want to see work done here in Washington.  I think they’re frustrated by the gridlock.  They’d like to see more cooperation.  And I think all of us have the responsibility, me in particular, to try to make that happen.  And so this gives us a good opportunity to explore where we can make progress on behalf of the people who sent us here.

The good news is, today we saw another good set of jobs numbers.  We’ve now had 56 consecutive months of job growth; more than 10.6 million jobs have been created.  And the unemployment rate now is down to 5.8 percent.

So business is out there investing, hiring.  The economic indicators are going in the right direction.  As I travel to Asia for the G20 Summit, I’m going to be able to say that we’ve actually created more jobs here in the United States than every other advanced country combined.  And they notice that we’re doing something right here.  But what we also know is that the American people are still anxious about their futures, and that means that what we can do together to ensure that young people can afford college; what we can do together to rebuild our infrastructure so we’re competitive going forward; what we can do together to make sure that we’ve got a tax system that is fair and simple, and unleashes the dynamism of the economy; what we can do together to make sure that we keep the progress that we’ve been making in reducing the deficit while still making the investments we need to grow.

Those are all going to be areas where I’m very interested in hearing and sharing ideas.  And then the one thing that I’ve committed to both Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell is that I am not going to judge ideas based on whether they’re Democratic or Republican; I’m going to be judging them based whether or not they work.  And I’m confident that they want to produce results, as well, on behalf of the American people.

So I appreciate their graciousness in coming here.  And I’m very much looking forward to giving them some updates on progress we’ve been making on issues like Ebola and ISIL.  There’s going to be some specific work that has to get done during the next several weeks before the new Congress commences.  And my hope is, is that even as we enter into a new Congress, the previous Congress has the opportunity still to make progress on a whole bunch of fronts, and I’m confident we can get that done.

So thank you again.

Q    Have you made a decision on an Attorney General, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  You’re going to be the first to find out, Major, along with everybody else.

Thank you, everybody.

END
12:56 P.M. EST

Political Musings November 6, 2014: Ever defiant Obama knocks down McConnell olive branch vows executive actions

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Ever defiant Obama knocks down McConnell olive branch vows executive actions

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama held his first post-midterm elections press conference in the White House East Room on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. The president said he heard voters after his Democratic Party’s historic losses, but with his…READ MORE

Political Musings November 5, 2014: Republicans take control of the Senate win 52 seats in 2014 midterm elections

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Republicans take control of the Senate win 52 seats in 2014 midterm elections

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Just before 11:30 PM on election night, Tuesday, Nov. 4,2014, the Republicans won 52 seats in the Senate and the control they were looking for this election cycle. The GOP picked up seats from Democrats in Arkansas…READ MORE

Political Musings August 27, 2014: McConnell continues opposition to unemployment extension at Koch brothers event

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

McConnell continues opposition to unemployment extension at Koch brothers event

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY recently spoke on June 15, 2014 at a summit hosted by the Koch brothers in Dana Point, Calif. which included an audience of millionaires and billionaires as part his campaign for reelection as…READ MORE

Political Musings May 16, 2014: Senate tax cuts extenders planned to join unemployment extension filibustered 53-40

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Tax cuts extenders planned to join unemployment extension filibustered 53-40

By Bonnie K. Goodman

It now does not matter if the unemployment benefits extension bill was added to the Senate business tax cuts extenders bill, because the on Thursday, May 15, 2014 Republicans filibustered the bill, blocking it from advancing from the debate stage…Continue

Political Musings April 3, 2014: Senate passes unemployment benefits extension with 61-38 procedural test vote

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

The Senate passed a second procedural vote 61 for and 38 against on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 ending the filibuster and debate and advancing the long-term jobless unemployment benefits extension bill to a full and final vote. Six Republicans…READ MORE

Political Musings February 7, 2014: Boehner says immigration reform unlikely in 2014 cites trust issues with Obama

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Political Musings December 12, 2013: Rare display of bipartisanship, House passes bipartisan budget bill 332-94

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

In a rare instance of bipartisanship the House of Representatives passed Thursday evening, Dec. 12, 2013 by a large majority the two-year budget bill 332 to 94 making sure at least for the near future there will be no…READ MORE

Political Musings November 22, 2013: Senate Democrats go extreme pass nuclear option preventing filibusters for nominees

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Senate Dems go extreme pass nuclear option preventing filibusters for nominees

By Bonnie K. Goodman

After earlier this week the Senate Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s third judicial nominee for the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, prompting Senate Democrats to invoke on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 what is called the “nuclear option”….READ MORE

Political Musings July 24, 2013: President Barack Obama to press economic agenda reset button in Knox College speech

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama to press economic agenda reset button in Knox College speech (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

United States President Barack Obama will begin a renewed focus on the economy and the middle class in what the White House is billing as a major policy address on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois…
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