Political Headlines April 8, 2013: President Barack Obama Must Walk Fine Line as Congress Takes Up his Second Term Agenda

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Must Walk Fine Line as Congress Takes Up Agenda

Source: NYT, 4-8-13

President Obama in Denver last week after speaking about measures to reduce gun violence.
Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama in Denver last week after speaking about measures to reduce gun violence.

President Obama’s second-term priorities — the deficit, gun safety and immigration — may hinge on his ability to inject himself into negotiations to just the right degree….READ MORE

Advertisements

Political Headlines February 2, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: A ‘Balanced Approach’ to Growing The Economy

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama’s Weekly Address: A ‘Balanced Approach’ to Growing The Economy

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-2-13

Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images

With billions in spending cuts looming, President Obama is urging lawmakers to work together on a “balanced approach” to reduce the deficit.

“We all agree that it’s critical to cut unnecessary spending.  But we can’t just cut our way to prosperity,” Obama says in his weekly address. “It hasn’t worked in the past, and it won’t work today.  It could slow down our recovery.  It could weaken our economy.  And it could cost us jobs – now, and in the future.”…READ MORE

Full Text November 21, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Congressional Supercommittee Deficit Deal Failure

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

President Obama on the Supercommittee’s Failure to Reach a Compromise

Source: WH, 11-21-11
20111121 POTUS Podium

President Barack Obama delivers a statement in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Nov. 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This afternoon, the group of lawmakers tasked with cutting an additional $1 trillion from the deficit announced that their effort had failed.

President Obama addressed that situation from the White House Briefing Room just before 6:00 PM ET.

While some members of Congress are talking about undoing the automatic spending cuts that will take effect in 2013 if lawmakers can’t reach a compromise, the President said that kind of backpeddling is unacceptable:

I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off ramps on this one.

There is still plenty of time for Congress to act, and there are a range of issues that demand their immediate attention.

That starts with the payroll tax cut. Without a vote from Congress, taxes for nearly every American will go up on January 1st.

“I’m not about to let that happen,” President Obama said.

Learn more. Read all about the Budget Control Act of 2011 that led to the creation of the supercommittee.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

President Obama statement on supercommittee failure

We Can’t Wait

President Obama talks about the supercommittee’s failure to reach a compromise from the White House Briefing Room — and discusses the need for immediate action to prevent a tax hike on the middle class.

President Obama talks about the supercommittee's failure
President Barack Obama delivers a statement, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 11/21/11

Good afternoon. As you all know, last summer I signed a law that will cut nearly $1 trillion of spending over the next 10 years. Part of that law also required Congress to reduce the deficit by an additional $1.2 trillion by the end of this year.

In September, I sent them a detailed plan that would have gone above and beyond that goal. It’s a plan that would reduce the deficit by an additional $3 trillion, by cutting spending, slowing the growth of Medicare and Medicaid, and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.

In addition to my plan, there were a number of other bipartisan plans for them to consider from both Democrats and Republicans, all of which promoted a balanced approach. This kind of balanced approach to reducing our deficit — an approach where everybody gives a little bit, and everyone does their fair share — is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans — Democrats, independents, and Republicans. It’s supported by experts and economists from all across the political spectrum. And to their credit, many Democrats in Congress were willing to put politics aside and commit to reasonable adjustments that would have reduced the cost of Medicare, as long as they were part of a balanced approach.

But despite the broad agreement that exists for such an approach, there’s still too many Republicans in Congress who have refused to listen to the voices of reason and compromise that are coming from outside of Washington. They continue to insist on protecting $100 billion worth of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans at any cost, even if it means reducing the deficit with deep cuts to things like education and medical research. Even if it means deep cuts in Medicare.

So at this point, at least, they simply will not budge from that negotiating position. And so far, that refusal continues to be the main stumbling block that has prevented Congress from reaching an agreement to further reduce our deficit.

Now, we are not in the same situation that we were — that we were in in August. There is no imminent threat to us defaulting on the debt that we owe. There are already $1 trillion worth of spending cuts that are locked in. And part of the law that I signed this summer stated that if Congress could not reach an agreement on the deficit, there would be another $1.2 trillion of automatic cuts in 2013 — divided equally between domestic spending and defense spending.

One way or another, we will be trimming the deficit by a total of at least $2.2 trillion over the next 10 years. That’s going to happen, one way or another. We’ve got $1 trillion locked in, and either Congress comes up with $1.2 trillion, which so far they’ve failed to do, or the sequester kicks in and these automatic spending cuts will occur that bring in an additional $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.

Now, the question right now is whether we can reduce the deficit in a way that helps the economy grow, that operates with a scalpel, not with a hatchet, and if not, whether Congress is willing to stick to the painful deal that we made in August for the automatic cuts. Already, some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts.

My message to them is simple: No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off ramps on this one.

We need to keep the pressure up to compromise — not turn off the pressure. The only way these spending cuts will not take place is if Congress gets back to work and agrees on a balanced plan to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion. That’s exactly what they need to do. That’s the job they promised to do. And they’ve still got a year to figure it out.

Although Congress has not come to an agreement yet, nothing prevents them from coming up with an agreement in the days ahead. They can still come together around a balanced plan. I believe Democrats are prepared to do so. My expectation is, is that there will be some Republicans who are still interested in preventing the automatic cuts from taking place. And, as I have from the beginning, I stand ready and willing to work with anybody that’s ready to engage in that effort to create a balanced plan for deficit reduction.

Now, in the meantime, we’ve got a lot of work left to do this year. Before Congress leaves next month, we have to work together to cut taxes for workers and small business owners all across America. If we don’t act, taxes will go up for every single American, starting next year. And I’m not about to let that happen. Middle-class Americans can’t afford to lose $1,000 next year because Congress won’t act. And I can only hope that members of Congress who’ve been fighting so hard to protect tax breaks for the wealthy will fight just as hard to protect tax breaks for small business owners and middle-class families.

We still need to put construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads and our bridges. We still need to put our teachers back in the classroom educating our kids.

So when everybody gets back from Thanksgiving, it’s time to get some work done for the American people. All around the country, Americans are working hard to live within their means and meet their responsibilities. And I know they expect Washington to do the same.

Thanks.

Political Buzz November 21, 2011: Congressional Supercommittee Announces Failure to Reach Deficit Reduction Deal Prior to Wednesday Deadline

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the 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. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger to be published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

IN FOCUS: CONGRESSIONAL SUPERCOMMITTEE FAILS ON DEFICIT REDUCTION DEAL

“Despite our inability to bridge the committee’s significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation’s fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve.” — Republican Representative Jeb Hensarling and Democratic Senator Patty Murray said in a joint statement.

“They simply will not budge from that negotiating position and so far that refusal has been the main stumbling block that has prevented Congress from reaching an agreement to further reduce the deficit.” — President Obama said at the White House.

“This process did not end in the desired outcome, but it did bring our enormous fiscal challenges into greater focus. I am confident the work done by this committee will play a role in the solution we must eventually find as a nation. I commend both of the panel’s leaders, Jeb Hensarling and Patty Murray, for the dignified and statesmanlike manner in which the committee carried out its difficult negotiations.” — Speaker of the House John Boehner said in a statement

“I am disappointed that Republicans never found the courage to ignore Tea Party extremists and millionaire lobbyists like Grover Norquist, and listen instead to the overwhelming majority of Americans – including the vast majority of Republicans – who want a balanced approach to deficit reduction.
For the good of our country, Democrats were prepared to strike a grand bargain that would make painful cuts while asking millionaires to pay their fair share, and we put our willingness on paper. But Republicans never came close to meeting us halfway.” — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement

Congressional supercommittee fails to reach agreement on deficit reduction: The congressional supercommittee has failed to reach an agreement over how to cut $1.2 trillion from the U.S. budget deficit, the group said in a statement released Monday afternoon.
The co-chairs of the supercommittee, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling, said in a joint statement, “Despite our inability to bridge the committee’s significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation’s fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve.”
Under the law that created the bipartisan 12-member panel, the failure means that the government will face an across-the-board $1.2 trillion cut to defense and non-defense spending in 2013…. – WaPo, 11-21-11

Obama vows to veto efforts to gut automatic spending cuts: President Obama said Monday that he would veto any attempt by Congress to eliminate the automatic spending cuts triggered by the failure of the deficit supercommittee.
The law creating the supercommittee said that if it failed to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion, across-the-board cuts to defense and domestic spending totaling that amount would occur in 2013. Some members of Congress have already said they would look for ways to soften the impact of the automatic cuts…. – WaPo, 11-21-11

 

  • Obama statement on supercommittee failure: President Barack Obama’s statement at the White House on Monday after the congressional supercommittee failed to produce a deficit-cutting plan: Good afternoon. As you all know, last summer I signed a law that will cut nearly $1 trillion of spending … – WaPo, 11-21-11
  • Panel Fails to Reach Deal on Plan for Deficit Reduction: President Obama spoke on Monday after a joint congressional committee failed to reach a deal on deficit reduction on Monday.
    President Obama promised to veto any legislation that seeks to avoid the automatic cuts that negotiators agreed would go into effect if a deal is not reached by 2013…. – NYT, 11-21-11
  • The Deficit Deal That Wasn’t: Hopes Are Dashed: Not only could Democrats and Republicans not agree on a deficit deal, they could not even agree after it failed about what had gone wrong…. – NYT, 11-21-11
  • Lawmakers abandon deficit-cutting effort: Lawmakers abandoned their high-profile effort to rein in the country’s ballooning debt on Monday in a sign that Washington likely will not be able to resolve a dispute over taxes and spending until 2013.
    The admission of defeat by Republicans and Democrats on a 12-member congressional “super committee” is likely to cement perceptions among voters and investors that politicians are too divided to tackle trillion-dollar budget deficits and a national debt that now is roughly equal to the U.S. economy…. – Reuters, 11-21-11
  • Super Committee Says It’s Unable to Agree on Debt Reduction Deal: After months of bipartisan debt-reduction talks, the Super Committee said Monday that it will be unable to agree on terms to save $1.2 trillion over 10 years by tonight’s midnight deadline…. – Fox News, 11-21-11
  • Obama says Republicans to blame for ‘super committee’s’ failure: President Obama placed blame for the failure of the “super committee” squarely on Republicans, saying their refusal to consider raising taxes as part of a “balanced approach” to deficit … – LAT, 11-21-11
  • Supercommittee fails to find compromise on deficit: The bipartisan leadership of a special congressional committee — assigned the task of slashing more than $1 trillion dollars from the US deficit — announced Monday that the panel had failed, unable to bridge bitter ideological … – USA Today, 11-21-11
  • Five reasons why the congressional supercommittee failed: Congress’ goal when it created this panel was not to resolve a fiscal mess. It was merely to buy time so it could avoid painfully tough choices…. – CS Monitor, 11-21-11
  • Enough blame to spread around: The official statement marking the death of the supercommittee came from its co-chairs, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who jointly said “we were deeply disappointed” in the failure of the panel’s 12 members to reach a deficit-cutting deal…. – Politico, 11-21-11
  • Obama Vows to Veto Attempts to Undo Automatic Spending Cuts: After the Congressional supercommittee failed to reach a deal to cut the budget, President Obama tonight vowed to veto any attempts to undo $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts that would take effect in 2013. “Already some in Congress are trying to … – ABC News, 11-21-11
  • Obama Threatens to Veto Changes to Cuts: President Barack Obama said Monday he will veto any effort to get rid of automatic spending cuts that would begin to take effect in 2013 if Congress can’t find other ways of trimming government deficits. … – Time, AP, 11-21-11
  • The failure of the supercommittee bodes poorly for future negotiations: WHAT NEXT, NOW that the congressional supercommittee has failed? Depressingly, the answer is: not much, at least in the short term. Absent some intervening, cataclysmic event, the debt-reduction can has been kicked once again — this time. … – WaPo, 11-21-11
  • Obama pledges to veto effort to undo automatic spending cuts: President Obama is promising to veto any effort to undo the automatic spending cuts that are set to take effect now that the congressional supercommittee has announced its failure to strike a deal to cut $1.2 trillion from the deficit over the next 10 years…. – CBS News, 11-21-11
  • Super committee about to fail: Is it Obama’s fault?: Mitt Romney says it is. The GOP presidential candidate has used the super committee’s apparent failure as an opportunity to go after the incumbent…. – CS Monitor, 11-21-11
  • No Deficit Deal: US at Risk for Downgrade, Stock Correction: The Super Committee’s failure to come to an agreement on significant deficit reduction—and the possibility it may undo the automatic $1.2 trillion in budget cuts—is risking another US debt downgrade, a 10 percent drop in stocks and a decline in the US … – CNBC, 11-21-11
  • Super Committee Failure Won’t Hit US Rating: The Congressional super committee’s failure to reach a deal on cutting the US deficit will not lead to an immediate downgrade by credit ratings agencies…. – TheStreet.com, 11-21-11
  • Gingrich: Super committee failure ‘good for America’: Newt Gingrich declared that the congressional “Super Committee’s collapse” would be “good for America…. – MSNBC, 11-21-11
  • Debt ‘super committee’: the Grinch that stole the Christmas stock rally: The apparent inability of the ‘super committee’ to reach a deal, along with European economic woes, is causing angst on Wall Street…. – CS Monitor, 11-21-11
  • Super Committee’s Defeat May Mean More Cuts: Congress’ super committee admitted defeat Monday in its quest to conquer a government debt that stands at a staggering $15 trillion, unable to overcome deep and enduring political divisions over taxes and spending…. – WCVB-TV, 11-21-11

Full Text September 19, 2011: President Barack Obama Unveils $4 Trillion Economic Growth & Deficit Reduction Plan — $3 Trillion Deficit Cuts in Over 10 Years — $1.5 Trillion in New Taxes

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama announces his Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction

President Barack Obama delivers a statement announcing his Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction, in the Rose Garden of the White House, Sept. 19, 2011.(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

 

The President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction

Source: WH, 9-19-11

President Obama’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction — Full Text — PDF

The health of our economy depends on what we do right now to create the conditions where businesses can hire and middle-class families can feel a basic measure of economic security. In the long run, our prosperity also depends on our ability to pay down the massive debt the federal government has accumulated over the past decade. Today, the President sent to the Joint Committee his plan to jumpstart economic growth and job creation now – and to lay the foundation for it to continue for years to come.

The President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction lives up to a simple idea: as a Nation, we can live within our means while still making the investments we need to prosper – from a jobs bill that is needed right now to long-term investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure. It follows a balanced approach: asking everyone to do their part, so no one has to bear all the burden.  And it says that everyone – including millionaires and billionaires – has to pay their fair share.

Overall, it pays for the American Jobs Act and produces net savings of more than $3 trillion over the next decade, on top of the roughly $1 trillion in spending cuts that the President already signed into law in the Budget Control Act – for a total savings of more than $4 trillion over the next decade. This would bring the country to a place, by 2017, where current spending is no longer adding to our debt, debt is falling as a share of the economy, and deficits are at a sustainable level.

Now, let me review some of its main components.

First, the plan includes the American Jobs Act – a set of ideas supported by both Democrats and Republicans that will put people back to work and put more money in the pockets of working Americans. It’s imperative that we pass this bill now both to get the economy moving again and creating jobs at the pace we need it, and to help with deficit reduction since a growing economy is a vital part to reducing our deficits and debt.

Second, the plan lays out a way to live within our means so that we can invest in the things that will power economic growth for decades to come: education, innovation, clean energy, and infrastructure. To do this, it follows a balanced approach to deficit reduction by drawing from across the Budget for savings and by asking everyone to pay their fair share.

Specifically, the President is proposing approximately $580 billion in cuts and reforms to a wide range of mandatory programs from cuts to agricultural subsidies that are no longer necessary to reform of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and modest changes to federal civilian worker retirement and health benefits for military retirees.

In health care programs, the President is recommending a series of reforms that builds on the historic savings and reforms in the Affordable Care Act to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid so that these vital programs are robust and healthy to serve Americans for years to come.

These proposals will save $248 billion in Medicare and $72 billion in Medicaid and other health programs over 10 years, and extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by three years. This is accomplished in a way that does not shift risks unfairly onto the individuals they serve; slash benefits; or undermine the fundamental compact they represent to our Nation’s seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income families. Any savings that affect beneficiaries do not begin until 2017 and do not affect middle-income and current beneficiaries. Other health and Medicaid savings amount to $72 billion, and because of the structural nature of these reforms to both programs, health savings grow to over $1 trillion in the second decade. Moreover, as he said today, the President will veto any bill that takes one dime from the Medicare benefits seniors rely on without asking the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share.

The President’s plan reflects the Administration’s current policy of drawing down our troop presence in Afghanistan and the transition from a military to a civilian-led mission in Iraq for a savings of $1 trillion.

Finally, the President calls on the Committee to undertake comprehensive tax reform and lays out five key principles. Reform should: 1) lower tax rates; 2) cut wasteful loopholes and tax breaks; 3) reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion; 4) boost job creation and growth; and 5) comport with the “Buffett Rule” that people making more than $1 million a year should not pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than middle-class families pay.

To advance this debate, the President is offering a detailed set of specific tax loophole closers and measures to broaden the tax base that, together with the expiration of the high-income tax cuts, would be more than sufficient to hit the $1.5 trillion target for additional revenue. These measures include cutting tax preferences for high-income households, eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies, closing the carried interest loophole for investment fund managers, and eliminating benefits for those who own corporate jets.

We have little doubt that some of these proposals will not be popular with many of those who benefit from these affected programs and currently enjoy special tax breaks. These are tough choices that we had to make — and some of these changes we are only putting forward to address our fiscal situation. But we are all in this together, and all of us must contribute to getting our economy moving again and on a firm fiscal footing.

If we don’t take a balanced approach to deficit reduction that includes asking the wealthiest 2 percent of families and big corporations to pay their fair share, then everyone else must shoulder the load. That could mean drastic cuts to things like education, research and development, infrastructure, and food safety; and could mean severe cuts to Medicare that would burden seniors with thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs.

Second, if we do nothing, our economy will not get the jolt it needs now and it will be weighed down by our debt or years to come. If we don’t take these steps now, it will only get harder.

I’ve been working on these issues for three decades, and I can tell you that making these changes in this plan will require some tough choices. Everyone will have a cut or a new policy that they do not like – or wish that they could avoid. But remember: the challenge we face is one that we all face – together – as Americans. We are in this together, and the only way that we can have a balanced approach is that we all do our part.

So read the plan, and join the debate about how we can jumpstart our economy, reduce our deficit, and win the future.

President Obama: Washington Has to Live within its Means

Source: WH, 9-19-11

President Obama today unveiled a plan for economic growth and deficit reduction that details how to pay for the American Jobs Act while also paying down our debt over time. The plan, which is being sent to the Congressional Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, offers a balanced approach to further reduce our nation’s deficit and get our fiscal house in order, based on the values of shared responsibility and shared sacrifice.

The President’s plan lays out a blueprint that will enable Washington to live within its means, something Americans across the country have been doing for years. And the balanced approach means that no one group has to bear the burden alone. It means that everyone – including millionaires and billionaires – has to pay their fair share.

The plan, which will reduce the deficit by $4 trillion, includes many of the proposals the President has previously discussed — closing tax loopholes for oil companies and hedge fund managers and asking the very wealthiest and special interests to pay their fair share. It also includes difficult spending cuts and making adjustments to strengthen programs like Medicare and Medicaid for future generations. As part of the plan, the President is also calling on Congress to undertake comprehensive tax reform to simplify the system, make it more fair and efficient, and lay a stronger foundation for economic growth:

It comes down to this: We have to prioritize. Both parties agree that we need to reduce the deficit by the same amount — by $4 trillion. So what choices are we going to make to reach that goal? Either we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share in taxes, or we’re going to have to ask seniors to pay more for Medicare. We can’t afford to do both.

Either we gut education and medical research, or we’ve got to reform the tax code so that the most profitable corporations have to give up tax loopholes that other companies don’t get. We can’t afford to do both.

This is not class warfare. It’s math. The money is going to have to come from someplace. And if we’re not willing to ask those who’ve done extraordinarily well to help America close the deficit and we are trying to reach that same target of $4 trillion, then the logic, the math says everybody else has to do a whole lot more: We’ve got to put the entire burden on the middle class and the poor. We’ve got to scale back on the investments that have always helped our economy grow. We’ve got to settle for second-rate roads and second-rate bridges and second-rate airports, and schools that are crumbling.

That’s unacceptable to me. That’s unacceptable to the American people. And it will not happen on my watch. I will not support — I will not support — any plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans. And I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share. We are not going to have a one-sided deal that hurts the folks who are most vulnerable.

According to Jack Lew, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, taking the steps outlined in this plan would bring the country to a place, by 2017, where current spending is no longer adding to our debt, debt is falling as a share of the economy, and deficits are at a sustainable level.

You can read the entire proposal that was submitted to the Joint Committee or read an overview in this fact sheet

 

Full Text September 19, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Rose Garden Speech on Economy, American Jobs Act Introduces Deficit Reduction Plan, Including Tax Increases (Transcript)

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama discussed his deficit plan at the White House on Monday.

Remarks by the President on Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction

Source: WH, 9-19-11

Rose Garden

10:56 A.M. EDT

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

A week ago today, I sent Congress the American Jobs Act.  It’s a plan that will lead to new jobs for teachers, for construction workers, for veterans, and for the unemployed.  It will cut taxes for every small business owner and virtually every working man and woman in America.  And the proposals in this jobs bill are the kinds that have been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past.  So there shouldn’t be any reason for Congress to drag its feet.  They should pass it right away.  I’m ready to sign a bill.  I’ve got the pens all ready.

Now, as I said before, Congress should pass this bill knowing that every proposal is fully paid for.  The American Jobs Act will not add to our nation’s debt.  And today, I’m releasing a plan that details how to pay for the jobs bill while also paying down our debt over time.

And this is important, because the health of our economy depends in part on what we do right now to create the conditions where businesses can hire and middle-class families can feel a basic measure of economic security.  But in the long run, our prosperity also depends on our ability to pay down the massive debt we’ve accumulated over the past decade in a way that allows us to meet our responsibilities to each other and to the future.

During this past decade, profligate spending in Washington, tax cuts for multi-millionaires and billionaires, the cost of two wars, and the recession turned a record surplus into a yawning deficit, and that left us with a big pile of IOUs.  If we don’t act, that burden will ultimately fall on our children’s shoulders.  If we don’t act, the growing debt will eventually crowd out everything else, preventing us from investing in things like education, or sustaining programs like Medicare.

So Washington has to live within its means.  The government has to do what families across this country have been doing for years.  We have to cut what we can’t afford to pay for what really matters.  We need to invest in what will promote hiring and economic growth now while still providing the confidence that will come with a plan that reduces our deficits over the long-term.

These principles were at the heart of the deficit framework that I put forward in April.  It was an approach to shrink the deficit as a share of the economy, but not to do so so abruptly with spending cuts that would hamper growth or prevent us from helping small businesses and middle-class families get back on their feet.

It was an approach that said we need to go through the budget line-by-line looking for waste, without shortchanging education and basic scientific research and road construction, because those things are essential to our future.  And it was an approach that said we shouldn’t balance the budget on the backs of the poor and the middle class; that for us to solve this problem, everybody, including the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations, have to pay their fair share.

Now, during the debt ceiling debate, I had hoped to negotiate a compromise with the Speaker of the House that fulfilled these principles and achieved the $4 trillion in deficit reduction that leaders in both parties have agreed we need — a grand bargain that would have strengthened our economy, instead of weakened it.  Unfortunately, the Speaker walked away from a balanced package.  What we agreed to instead wasn’t all that grand.  But it was a start — roughly $1 trillion in cuts to domestic spending and defense spending.

Everyone knows we have to do more, and a special joint committee of Congress is assigned to find more deficit reduction. So, today, I’m laying out a set of specific proposals to finish what we started this summer — proposals that live up to the principles I’ve talked about from the beginning.  It’s a plan that reduces our debt by more than $4 trillion, and achieves these savings in a way that is fair — by asking everybody to do their part so that no one has to bear too much of the burden on their own.

All told, this plan cuts $2 in spending for every dollar in new revenues.  In addition to the $1 trillion in spending that we’ve already cut from the budget, our plan makes additional spending cuts that need to happen if we’re to solve this problem. We reform agricultural subsidies — subsidies that a lot of times pay large farms for crops that they don’t grow.  We make modest adjustments to federal retirement programs.  We reduce by tens of billions of dollars the tax money that goes to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  We also ask the largest financial firms — companies saved by tax dollars during the financial crisis — to repay the American people for every dime that we spent.  And we save an additional $1 trillion as we end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These savings are not only counted as part of our plan, but as part of the budget plan that nearly every Republican on the House voted for.

Finally, this plan includes structural reforms to reduce the cost of health care in programs like Medicare and Medicaid.  Keep in mind we’ve already included a number of reforms in the health care law, which will go a long way towards controlling these costs.  But we’re going to have to do a little more.  This plan reduces wasteful subsidies and erroneous payments while changing some incentives that often lead to excessive health care costs.  It makes prescriptions more affordable through faster approval of generic drugs.  We’ll work with governors to make Medicaid more efficient and more accountable.  And we’ll change the way we pay for health care.  Instead of just paying for procedures, providers will be paid more when they improve results — and such steps will save money and improve care.

These changes are phased in slowly to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid over time.  Because while we do need to reduce health care costs, I’m not going to allow that to be an excuse for turning Medicare into a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry.  And I’m not going to stand for balancing the budget by denying or reducing health care for poor children or those with disabilities.  So we will reform Medicare and Medicaid, but we will not abandon the fundamental commitment that this country has kept for generations.

And by the way, that includes our commitment to Social Security.  I’ve said before, Social Security is not the primary cause of our deficits, but it does face long-term challenges as our country grows older.  And both parties are going to need to work together on a separate track to strengthen Social Security for our children and our grandchildren.

So this is how we can reduce spending:  by scouring the budget for every dime of waste and inefficiency, by reforming government spending, and by making modest adjustments to Medicare and Medicaid.  But all these reductions in spending, by themselves, will not solve our fiscal problems.  We can’t just cut our way out of this hole.  It’s going to take a balanced approach.  If we’re going to make spending cuts — many of which we wouldn’t make if we weren’t facing such large budget deficits — then it’s only right that we ask everyone to pay their fair share.

You know, last week, Speaker of the House John Boehner gave a speech about the economy.  And to his credit, he made the point that we can’t afford the kind of politics that says it’s “my way or the highway.”  I was encouraged by that.  Here’s the problem: In that same speech, he also came out against any plan to cut the deficit that includes any additional revenues whatsoever.  He said — I’m quoting him — there is “only one option.”  And that option and only option relies entirely on cuts.  That means slashing education, surrendering the research necessary to keep America’s technological edge in the 21st century, and allowing our critical public assets like highways and bridges and airports to get worse.  It would cripple our competiveness and our ability to win the jobs of the future.  And it would also mean asking sacrifice of seniors and the middle class and the poor, while asking nothing of the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.

So the Speaker says we can’t have it “my way or the highway,” and then basically says, my way — or the highway.  (Laughter.)  That’s not smart.  It’s not right.  If we’re going to meet our responsibilities, we have to do it together.

Now, I’m proposing real, serious cuts in spending.  When you include the $1 trillion in cuts I’ve already signed into law, these would be among the biggest cuts in spending in our history. But they’ve got to be part of a larger plan that’s balanced –- a plan that asks the most fortunate among us to pay their fair share, just like everybody else.

And that’s why this plan eliminates tax loopholes that primarily go to the wealthiest taxpayers and biggest corporations –- tax breaks that small businesses and middle-class families don’t get.  And if tax reform doesn’t get done, this plan asks the wealthiest Americans to go back to paying the same rates that they paid during the 1990s, before the Bush tax cuts.

I promise it’s not because anybody looks forward to the prospects of raising taxes or paying more taxes.  I don’t.  In fact, I’ve cut taxes for the middle class and for small businesses, and through the American Jobs Act, we’d cut taxes again to promote hiring and put more money into the pockets of people.  But we can’t afford these special lower rates for the wealthy -– rates, by the way, that were meant to be temporary.  Back when these first — these tax cuts, back in 2001, 2003, were being talked about, they were talked about temporary measures.  We can’t afford them when we’re running these big deficits.

Now, I am also ready to work with Democrats and Republicans to reform our entire tax code, to get rid of the decades of accumulated loopholes, special interest carve-outs, and other tax expenditures that stack the deck against small business owners and ordinary families who can’t afford Washington lobbyists or fancy accountants.  Our tax code is more than 10,000 pages long. If you stack up all the volumes, they’re almost five feet tall.  That means that how much you pay often depends less on what you make and more on how well you can game the system, and that’s especially true of the corporate tax code.

We’ve got one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world, but it’s riddled with exceptions and special interest loopholes.  So some companies get out paying a lot of taxes, while the rest of them end up having to foot the bill.  And this makes our entire economy less competitive and our country a less desirable place to do business.

That has to change.  Our tax code shouldn’t give an advantage to companies with the best-connected lobbyists.  It should give an advantage to companies that invest in the United States of America and create jobs in the United States of America.  And we can lower the corporate rate if we get rid of all these special deals.

So I am ready, I am eager, to work with Democrats and Republicans to reform the tax code to make it simpler, make it fairer, and make America more competitive.  But any reform plan will have to raise revenue to help close our deficit.  That has to be part of the formula.  And any reform should follow another simple principle:  Middle-class families shouldn’t pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires.  That’s pretty straightforward.  It’s hard to argue against that.  Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett.  There is no justification for it.

It is wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay higher tax rates than somebody pulling in $50 million.  Anybody who says we can’t change the tax code to correct that, anyone who has signed some pledge to protect every single tax loophole so long as they live, they should be called out.  They should have to defend that unfairness — explain why somebody who’s making  $50 million a year in the financial markets should be paying 15 percent on their taxes, when a teacher making $50,000 a year is paying more than that — paying a higher rate.  They ought to have to answer for it.  And if they’re pledged to keep that kind of unfairness in place, they should remember, the last time I checked the only pledge that really matters is the pledge we take to uphold the Constitution.

Now, we’re already hearing the usual defenders of these kinds of loopholes saying this is just “class warfare.”  I reject the idea that asking a hedge fund manager to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or a teacher is class warfare.  I think it’s just the right the thing to do.  I believe the American middle class, who’ve been pressured relentlessly for decades, believe it’s time that they were fought for as hard as the lobbyists and some lawmakers have fought to protect special treatment for billionaires and big corporations.

Nobody wants to punish success in America.  What’s great about this country is our belief that anyone can make it and everybody should be able to try -– the idea that any one of us can open a business or have an idea and make us millionaires or billionaires.  This is the land of opportunity.  That’s great.  All I’m saying is that those who have done well, including me, should pay our fair share in taxes to contribute to the nation that made our success possible.  We shouldn’t get a better deal than ordinary families get.  And I think most wealthy Americans would agree if they knew this would help us grow the economy and deal with the debt that threatens our future.

It comes down to this:  We have to prioritize.  Both parties agree that we need to reduce the deficit by the same amount — by $4 trillion.  So what choices are we going to make to reach that goal?  Either we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share in taxes, or we’re going to have to ask seniors to pay more for Medicare.  We can’t afford to do both.

Either we gut education and medical research, or we’ve got to reform the tax code so that the most profitable corporations have to give up tax loopholes that other companies don’t get.  We can’t afford to do both.

This is not class warfare.  It’s math.  (Laughter.)  The money is going to have to come from someplace.  And if we’re not willing to ask those who’ve done extraordinarily well to help America close the deficit and we are trying to reach that same target of $4 trillion, then the logic, the math says everybody else has to do a whole lot more:  We’ve got to put the entire burden on the middle class and the poor.  We’ve got to scale back on the investments that have always helped our economy grow.  We’ve got to settle for second-rate roads and second-rate bridges and second-rate airports, and schools that are crumbling.

That’s unacceptable to me.  That’s unacceptable to the American people.  And it will not happen on my watch.  I will not support — I will not support — any plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans.  And I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share.  We are not going to have a one-sided deal that hurts the folks who are most vulnerable.

None of the changes I’m proposing are easy or politically convenient.  It’s always more popular to promise the moon and leave the bill for after the next election or the election after that.  That’s been true since our founding.  George Washington grappled with this problem.  He said, “Towards the payment of debts, there must be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; [and] no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant.”  He understood that dealing with the debt is — these are his words — “always a choice of difficulties.”  But he also knew that public servants weren’t elected to do what was easy; they weren’t elected to do what was politically advantageous.  It’s our responsibility to put country before party.  It’s our responsibility to do what’s right for the future.

And that’s what this debate is about.  It’s not about numbers on a ledger; it’s not about figures on a spreadsheet.  It’s about the economic future of this country, and it’s about whether we will do what it takes to create jobs and growth and opportunity while facing up to the legacy of debt that threatens everything we’ve built over generations.

And it’s also about fairness.  It’s about whether we are, in fact, in this together, and we’re looking out for one another.  We know what’s right.  It’s time to do what’s right.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
11:16 A.M. EDT

Political Highlights April 25, 2011: President Obama Sells Deficit Reduction Plan as Gas Prices Continue to Rise — Obama’s Facebook Townhall — Easter & Passover at the White House

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the 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.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:


White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 4/22/11

STATS & POLLS

  • Nation’s Mood at Lowest Level in Two Years, Poll Shows: Americans are more pessimistic about the nation’s economic outlook and overall direction than they have been at any time since President Obama’s first two months in office, when the country was still officially ensnared in the Great Recession, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll…. – NYT, 4-22-11
  • Robert Reich: Beware the ‘middle ground’ of the Great Budget Debate: The center of public opinion is nowhere near the halfway point between the two extremes of the budget debate. Americans lean toward Obama and the Democrats.
    We continue to hear that the Great Budget Debate has two sides: The President and the Democrats want to cut the budget deficit mainly by increasing taxes on the rich and reducing military spending, but not by privatizing Medicare. On the other side are Paul Ryan, Republicans, and the right, who want cut the deficit by privatizing Medicare and slicing programs that benefit poorer Americans, while lowering taxes on the rich….
    According to the most recent Washington Post-ABC poll, 78 percent of Americans oppose cutting spending on Medicare as a way to reduce the debt, and 72 percent support raising taxes on the rich – including 68 percent of Independents and 54 percent of Republicans…. – CS Monitor, 4-21-11
  • Poll: One in four Americans think Obama was not born in U.S.: A quarter of all Americans incorrectly think President Obama was not born in the United States, according to a new CBS News/ New York Times poll.
    Among all Republicans, 45 percent believe he was born in another country, as do 45 percent of Tea Party supporters, the poll shows…. – CBS, 4-21-11
  • Poll shows Americans oppose entitlement cuts to deal with debt problem: Despite growing concerns about the country’s long-term fiscal problems and an intensifying debate in Washington about how to deal with them, Americans strongly oppose some of the major remedies under consideration, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
    The survey finds that Americans prefer to keep Medicare just the way it is. Most also oppose cuts in Medicaid and the defense budget. More than half say they are against small, across-the-board tax increases combined with modest reductions in Medicare and Social Security benefits. Only President Obama’s call to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans enjoys solid support.
    On Monday, Standard & Poor’s, for the first time, shifted its outlook on U.S. creditworthiness to “negative” because of the nation’s accumulating debt. The announcement rattled investors and could increase pressure on both sides in Washington to work out a broader deal as part of the upcoming vote over increasing the government’s borrowing authority…. – WaPo, 4-19-11
  • New Poll Shows Obama Falling, But Not Below GOP Contenders: Economic anxiety is driving President Obama’s approval rating to nearly its lowest level yet, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows, but he still edges out any possible GOP opponent for 2012. The president’s 47 percent approval rating is down seven points from January, but he would get a majority of the vote against every potential Republican White House candidate except former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whom he leads by a 49 to 45 percent margin.
    Results prove a direct correlation between the faltering economy and Obama’s grade: “Despite signs of economic growth, 44 percent of Americans see the economy as getting worse,” the Post reported, and Americans demonstrate particular concern for rising gas prices; meanwhile, 57 percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of the issue…. – The National Journal, 4-19-11
  • The GOP’s 2012 Enthusiasm Gap: New numbers out this morning bears bad news for Barack Obama but worse news for every single one of the GOP candidates. According to a poll by ABC News/Washington Post out today, only 43 percent of Republicans say they’re satisfied with the potential candidates for president and a further 17 percent have no opinion about the field. These two numbers are dramatically low compared to this stage in the 2008 elections, and analysts suggest that the GOP candidates’ reticence to formally enter the race might have something to do with the lack of enthusiasm…. – The National Journal, 4-19-11
  • A Gallup poll shows that 6 in 10 Americans approve of the budget deal that slices $38 billion from spending for the next six months, the president has moved toward embracing the role of deficit slayer.

IN FOCUS


The President cheers on children rolling Easter eggs, White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 4/25/11
  • Obamas host annual White House Easter egg roll: Thousands of kids and their parents swarmed the White House grounds Monday for the annual tradition of rolling Easter eggs across the South Lawn, complete with games, storytelling and a visit from the Easter Bunny. “I hope everybody is having a great time here,” President Barack Obama said in kicking off Monday’s event. He was joined on a balcony overlooking the sun-drenched South Lawn by his wife, Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha, and mother-in-law, Marian Robinson. Mrs. Obama said it was “pretty amazing” that a record 30,000 were expected to attend. All 50 states and Washington, D.C., were represented, according to the White House. “We are so excited about this year’s Easter egg roll,” she said. “The theme is ‘Get Up and Go!’ because, as you know, I’m a big proponent of getting up and going, making sure we’re moving and eating healthy, and this Easter egg roll reflects all of that.”… – AP, 4-25-11
  • Obama’s Easter festivities; Afghanistan meeting: President Barack Obama handles one of the more fun parts of his job to start the week — the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House. He’ll be joined on the South Lawn by members of his family Monday morning, and will make a few remarks…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Obama attends Easter service at historic church: President Barack Obama and his family attended Easter service Sunday at a Washington church founded in 1863 by freed slaves. The first family entered Shiloh Baptist Church to a round of applause on a sun-splashed day in the nation’s capital as members of a choir dressed in black, white and gold sang “Total Praise.” Obama shook a few hands and hugged some members of the congregation as he and his wife, Michelle, and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, walked to a second-row pew. According to the church’s pastor, Dr. Wallace Charles Smith, 21 freed slaves made it to the nation’s capital from Fredericksburg, Va., to establish a place where they could worship freely and where “they could reach others with the good news of their salvation…. – AP, 4-24-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

  • DOD: First Predator strike carried out in Libya: The Pentagon says the U.S. Air Force has carried out its first Predator missile strike in Libya. A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Darryn James, said the airstrike happened Saturday…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • McCain lauds anti-Gadhafi force during Libya visit: U.S. Sen. John McCain praised Libya’s rebels as his “heroes” in a visit to their de facto capital Friday, a day after the United States started flying armed drones to bolster NATO firepower and try to break a battlefield stalemate with Moammar Gadhafi’s forces….
    McCain, one of the strongest proponents in Congress of the U.S. military intervention in Libya, said he was in Benghazi “to get an on-the-ground assessment of the situation” and planned to meet with the rebel National Transition Council, the de facto government in the eastern half of the country, and members of the rebel military.
    “They are my heroes,” McCain said of the rebels as he walked out of a Benghazi hotel. A few Libyans waved American flags as his vehicle drove past…. – AP, 4-22-11
  • Clinton: Gadhafi may be using cluster bombs: The Obama administration said Thursday that Moammar Gadhafi’s government may be targeting Libyan civilians with cluster bombs, cautiously endorsing claims by rebels and human rights groups that the Libyan strongman’s troops are using the indiscriminate weapon on the western city of Misrata. Attacks by Gadhafi’s forces have been deplorable, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said. Despite outlining more examples of what she termed Gadhafi’s “inhumanity,” Clinton refused to signal any new course for the United States to help anti-government forces in their war to end four decades of dictatorship. “Col. Gadhafi’s troops continue their vicious attacks, including the siege of Misrata,” Clinton told reporters in Washington. “There are even reports that Gadhafi forces may have used cluster bombs against their own people.”… – AP, 4-21-11
  • Obama OKs use of armed drone aircraft in Libya: President Barack Obama has approved the use of armed drones in Libya, authorizing U.S. airstrikes against ground forces for the first time since America turned control of the operation over to NATO on April 4. It also is the first time that drones will have been used for airstrikes since the conflict began on March 19, although they have routinely been flying surveillance missions, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters at a Pentagon briefing Thursday…. – AP, 4-21-11
  • U.S. defends role in Libya: U.S officials defended America’s role in the NATO-led mission in Libya Monday, amid criticism that Washington is not doing enough as the coalition struggles. White House spokesman Jay Carney downplayed reports that NATO is running out of munitions to fight the war. Carney told reporters that “a dramatic increase” in NATO sorties Sunday and Monday “demonstrates the capacity of NATO to fulfill its mission” in securing a no-fly zone over Libya. “We have no plans to change our posture,” he said…. – CNN, 4-18-11

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

  • US treads warily in Syria, considers sanctions: Despite a ruthless crackdown on pro-reform demonstrators, there is no international appetite for a warlike approach to Syria — a crucial Mideast playmaker with ties to Iran and a say in any eventual Arab peace with Israel.
    In contrast with the quick international decision to launch an air campaign in nearby Libya, the United States is responding cautiously to mounting civilian deaths in Syria, preparing steps such as slapping new travel limits and financial penalties on Syrian leaders.
    As violence escalated anew on Monday, the White House stepped up its condemnation of President Bashar Assad’s regime, but stopped well short of demanding the ouster of a leader some U.S. Democrats had considered a potential reformer and peace broker…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Thousands of Syrian troops raid rebellious city: Thousands of soldiers backed by tanks and snipers moved in before dawn to the city where Syria’s anti-government uprising began, causing panic in the streets when they opened fire indiscriminately on civilians and went house-to-house rounding up suspected protesters. At least 11 people were killed and 14 others lay in the streets — either dead or gravely wounded, witnesses said.
    The military raids on the southern city of Daraa and at least two other areas suggested Syria is trying to impose military control on the centers of protests against President Bashar Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for four decades. Residents and human rights activists said the regime wants to terrify opponents and intimidate them from staging any more demonstrations…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Obama: Syria’s ‘outrageous’ violence must end now: President Barack Obama is condemning the latest use of force by Syria against anti-government demonstrators and says the regime’s “outrageous” use of violence against the protesters must “end now.”… In a statement, Obama says Syria’s moves a day earlier to repeal a decades-old emergency law and allow peaceful demonstrations were not serious in light of Friday’s eve…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • Syria targets activists in pinpoint raids: Syrian security forces detained dozens of opposition activists and fired from rooftops in a seaside town Sunday as authorities turned to pinpoint raids after days of bloodshed brought international condemnation and defections from President Bashar Assad’s regime.
    The strategy, described by a rights activist, appeared aimed at rattling the opposition’s leadership and showing that the state’s ability to conduct arrest sweeps has not changed despite abolishing nearly 50-year-old emergency laws last week.
    The rising level of violence — more than 120 people dead since Friday — brought calls from the watchdog group Human Rights Watch for a U.N. inquiry. But Sunday’s tactics also suggest a government effort to head off the round of protest marches…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • US official: US opposes Syria for UN rights body: The Obama administration will oppose Syria’s candidacy to the United Nations’ top human rights body, an official said Monday, calling the Arab country’s attempt to gain a seat in the organization “hypocritical” while it uses violence to try to silence protests against President Bashar Assad’s authoritarian regime. The diplomatic push against Assad’s government comes as thousands of Syrians continue to demonstrate for democratic reforms. Human rights groups say more than 200 have been killed by security forces in a month of protests…. – AP, 4-18-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Kelly: Giffords cleared to attend shuttle launch: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will attend husband Mark Kelly’s space shuttle launch in Florida on Friday, Kelly said, allowing the Arizona congresswoman to travel for the first time since she was flown from Tucson to Houston more than three months ago to recover from a gunshot wound to the head.
    In an interview with CBS’ Katie Couric, Kelly said Giffords’ doctors had given her permission to travel to Cape Canaveral, Fla., for the launch of Endeavour, which is scheduled for 3:47 p.m. Friday. Kelly is the commander of the shuttle mission.
    CBS released excerpts of the interview Sunday, and it was scheduled to air Monday on “CBS Evening News with Katie Couric,” according to a network statement.
    “I’ve met with her doctors, her neurosurgeon and her doctors, and … they’ve given us permission to take her down to the launch,” Kelly said in the interview in Houston. The network statement did not specify when the interview occurred…. – AP, 4-24-11
  • Obama again won’t call Armenian deaths ‘genocide’: President Barack Obama on Saturday marked the anniversary of the massacre of Armenians in Turkey nearly a century ago by calling it a “horrific” slaughter, but once again stopped short of branding it genocide.
    In a written statement, Obama said the 1915 killings of some 1.5 million Armenians represent “one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.” But for the third straight year, he failed to use the word genocide to describe it. As a candidate for president, Obama repeatedly vowed to recognize the genocide once in office, vowing “a principled commitment to commemorating and ending genocide.”…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • US default could be disastrous choice for economy: The United States has never defaulted on its debt and Democrats and Republicans say they don’t want it to happen now. But with partisan acrimony running at fever pitch, and Democrats and Republicans so far apart on how to tame the deficit, the unthinkable is suddenly being pondered.
    The government now borrows about 42 cents of every dollar it spends. Imagine that one day soon, the borrowing slams up against the current debt limit ceiling of $14.3 trillion and Congress fails to raise it. The damage would ripple across the entire economy, eventually affecting nearly every American, and rocking global markets in the process.
    A default would come if the government actually failed to fulfill a financial obligation, including repaying a loan or interest on that loan. The government borrows mostly by selling bonds to individuals and governments, with a promise to pay back the amount of the bond in a certain time period and agreeing to pay regular interest on that bond in the meantime….. – AP, 4-23-11
  • In Hawaii, accessing some Obama birth info is easy: Lost in the renewed scrutiny into President Barack Obama’s birth records is the fact that anyone can walk into a Hawaii vital records office, wait in line behind couples getting marriage licenses and open a baby-blue government binder containing basic information about his birth.
    Highlighted in yellow on page 1,218 of the thick binder is the computer-generated listing for a boy named Barack Hussein Obama II born in Hawaii, surrounded by the alphabetized last names of all other children born in-state between 1960 and 1964. This is the only government birth information, called “index data,” available to the public…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • Obama pumps plan to develop renewable energy: President Barack Obama says one answer to high gasoline prices is to spend money developing renewable energy sources. “That’s the key to helping families at the pump and reducing our dependence on foreign oil” in the long term, he said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address….
    He announced Thursday during an event in Reno, Nev., that the Justice Department will begin looking for cases of fraud or manipulation in the oil markets, even though Attorney General Eric Holder suggested a variety of legal reasons may be behind the surging gas prices.
    As he has before, Obama said Saturday there is no “silver bullet” that will slash gas prices immediately. But he said there are things government can do to help make a difference in the long term. They also include boosting U.S. oil production, rooting out any illegal activity by traders and speculators and ending $4 billion in annual taxpayer subsidies to oil and gas companies. “Instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy sources, we need to invest in tomorrow’s,” Obama said…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • Gulf anniversary renews debate on Arctic drilling: A year after the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, some experts are pondering the next doomsday scenario — a massive oil well blowout in the icy waters off Alaska’s northern coast. Like the deepest waters of the Gulf, the shallow but frigid seas off Alaska are a new frontier for oil and gas exploration. The reserves are large but come with risks…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • ‘Birther’ claims force GOP leaders to take a stand: In recent days several prominent Republicans have distanced themselves, with varying degrees of emphasis, from the false claim that Obama was born in a foreign country. But with a new poll showing that two-thirds of adult Republicans either embrace the claim or are open to it, the GOP leaders for the most part are not calling for a broader effort to stamp out the allegations.
    “It’s a real challenge for the Republican Party and virtually every Republican candidate for president,” contends Democratic pollster Geoff Garin. If it’s not handled well, he said, all-important independent voters might see Republicans as extreme or irrelevant…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • Michelle Obama’s plane flew closer to big jet: A plane carrying first lady Michelle Obama this week came even closer to a big military cargo jet than previously reported, the National Transportation Safety Board said Friday. The distance between the two planes closed to 2.94 miles before air traffic controllers at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington directed the first lady’s plane to abort a landing, the board said in a statement. The Federal Aviation Administration had previously said there was more than three miles between the planes, and had ordered controllers’ supervisors to oversee flights carrying the first lady and the vice president. A supervisor was already required to monitors flights with President Barack Obama on board…. – AP, 4-22-11
  • Obama to meet with Emirates crown prince Tuesday: The crown prince of the United Arab Emirates is coming to see President Barack Obama next week and is expected to discuss the turmoil in Yemen. A White House announcement said Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan will meet with Obama on Tuesday to talk about “common strategic interests.”… – AP, 4-22-11
  • Obama’s deficit plans run into economic reality: President Barack Obama headed west to sell his big picture deficit-reduction plan. But many people are waiting for a quick fix to their own economic problems caused chiefly by persistent unemployment and the crippled housing market….
    “If we don’t have a serious plan to tackle the debt and the deficit, that could actually end up being a bigger drag on the economy than anything else,” Obama said…. – AP, 4-22-11
  • Giffords makes Time’s 100 ‘most influential’ list: Time magazine has named U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. President Barack Obama wrote the tribute to Arizona congresswoman in the magazine’s May issue, saying Giffords may not have been a household name before she was shot in the head in a Jan. 8 mass shooting in Tucson, but now “she’s got the prayers of a nation rooting for her.” Obama wrote Giffords is a “model of civility and courage and unity — a needed voice that cannot return soon enough.”… – AP, 4-21-11
  • High court asked to reinstate FCC indecency policy: The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court Thursday to reinstate a policy that allows federal regulators to fine broadcasters for showing nudity and airing curse words when young children may be watching television. The administration is seeking the high court’s review of appeals court rulings that threw out the Federal Communications Commission’s rules against the isolated use of expletives as well as fines against broadcasters who showed a woman’s nude buttocks on a 2003 episode of ABC’s “NYPD Blue.”…. – AP, 4-21-11
  • Calif. GOP leader says email sender should resign: The head of Orange County’s Republican Party is vowing to keep up the pressure on a local GOP official to resign for sending an offensive email about President Barack Obama. “This issue will not go away until she has taken 100 percent responsibility for sending out a racist email that offended millions,” Chairman Scott Baugh said. He commented by telephone on Wednesday after Marilyn Davenport, speaking for the first time, said she will not resign and had no racist intentions when she sent the email.
    The message depicts Obama’s face superimposed over a baby chimp’s. The text under the image reads, “Now you know why — No birth certificate!” Davenport, 74, represents the 72nd Assembly District on the GOP’s Orange County Central Committee, a group of elected volunteers who raise funds and campaign for the party. “I feel that it was inappropriate and I offended people,” Davenport said outside her suburban ranch-style home. “I think it’s only racist when the intent in my heart is to make it that way, and that was not the intent in my heart.”… – AP, 4-21-11
  • Obama’s deficit plans run into economic reality: President Barack Obama headed west to sell his big picture deficit-reduction plan. But many people are waiting for a quick fix to their own economic problems caused chiefly by persistent unemployment and the crippled housing market. Audiences in California and Nevada understood why it’s important to get a handle on the deficit over the long term. Yet they made clear that the economic recovery hasn’t fully taken hold in ways that are meaningful to them. As Obama shifts into re-election mode, he will need to show that he hasn’t lost his focus on jobs even as the conversation in Washington swings to paying down what the nation owes…. – AP, 4-21-11
  • WikiLeaks suspect transferred to Fort Leavenworth: The Army private suspected of illegally passing U.S. government secrets to the WikiLeaks website was transferred Wednesday to an Army prison in Kansas from the Marine brig in Virginia where he has spent the past nine months. Pfc. Bradley Manning, suspected of having obtained the classified documents while serving as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq, is awaiting a determination by the Army on whether he is mentally competent to stand trial…. – AP, 4-20-11
  • White House: First family to attend shuttle launch: President Barack Obama and his family will attend next week’s launch of Endeavour, NASA’s next-to-last space shuttle flight commanded by the husband of critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. A White House official said Wednesday that the president would be at the April 29 liftoff, along with wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha. That prompted Giffords to say: “Awesome.” Commander Mark Kelly will lead the six-man shuttle crew to the International Space Station. He has said he hopes his wife will be there when he blasts off, and is awaiting her doctors’ final approval…. – AP, 4-20-11
  • White House considering disclosure for contractors: The White House says it’s considering requiring companies pursuing federal contracts to disclose their campaign contributions. Spokesman Jay Carney says that would be achieved by an executive order that’s being drafted. With President Barack Obama officially a candidate for re-election, Carney denied any political motives behind the effort…. – AP, 4-20-11
  • Obama praises Gulf workers 1 year after oil spill: President Barack Obama is noting the one-year anniversary of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, paying tribute to the 11 men killed and thanking the thousands of responders who “worked tirelessly to mitigate the worst impacts” of the oil spill. Obama says that while workers have “made significant progress, the job isn’t done.” He says his administration will continue to hold BP PLC, which leased the rig, and other parties “fully accountable for the damage.”…. – AP, 4-20-11
  • Comprehensive immigration reform probably doomed: President Barack Obama revisited a key campaign promise when he hosted a White House meeting of elected officials and experts on immigration. But if a major overhaul of the nation’s immigration policy is his goal, Republicans in Congress say he shouldn’t hold his breath. They say any bill that even hints at amnesty or legalization for millions of illegal immigrants already living and working in the United States is dead before it ever makes an appearance in a congressional committee…. – AP, 4-20-11
  • Ag secretary’s wife moves toward US House run: Christie Vilsack, the wife of Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, announced Wednesday she is taking the first step toward running for Congress by relocating to Iowa’s new 4th District. “The decision to run for Congress deserves serious consideration,” Vilsack said in a statement. “Next month I will move to Ames and continue to explore the possibility of representing Iowa in the U.S. House of Representatives.”…. – AP, 4-20-11
  • Obama calls GOP Medicare, spending plan ‘radical’: President Barack Obama declared Wednesday that congressional Republicans are pushing a radical plan to trim Medicare and Medicaid, ramping up the rhetoric before a friendly Facebook crowd at the headquarters of the popular social networking site.
    “I think it’s fair to say that their vision is radical,” Obama told a town hall gathering that included questions posed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and sent in by site users.
    “I don’t think it’s particularly courageous,” he said of the GOP plan to convert Medicare to a voucher program and make big cuts to the federal-state Medicaid program for the poor.
    “Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the backs of people who are poor, or people who are powerless, or don’t have lobbyists, or don’t have clout,” Obama said…. – AP, 4-19-11
  • Obama begins selling ‘balanced’ deficit plan: President Obama began a coast-to-coast sales pitch Tuesday for something that may prove tough to sell: spending cuts and tax increases. It’s the exact opposite prescription from what Obama spent his first two years in office pitching — a one-two punch of stimulus spending and tax cuts designed to lift the nation out of a major recession.
    To make his case, the president warned that his “balanced” combination of defense and domestic spending cuts and higher taxes on upper-income Americans was the best way to block a Republican plan to privatize Medicare and cut taxes for the wealthy. “I think that is the wrong way to go,” Obama told about 550 students and local residents at Northern Virginia Community College in the Washington suburbs. “That would fundamentally change Medicare as we know it, and I’m not going to sign up for that.”… – USA Today, 4-19-11
  • Obama off to ‘friend’ Facebook in person: President Barack Obama heads to Facebook’s headquarters on Wednesday to tout his budget cuts to followers of the social media powerhouse, which he also hopes to use to help get reelected. Obama, whose audacious 2008 White House bid leaned heavily on social networking sites, will hype his “Shared Responsibility and Shared Prosperity” plan at Facebook’s Palo Alto, California, headquarters.
    With his 2012 reelection campaign just getting into gear, Obama is moving to bring some love to the more than 19 million Facebook followers he has, up close and in person.
    The US president is to take part at 2045 GMT in a scheduled question and answer session at the headquarters not far from San Francisco. If the format is different, the content should be familiar: Obama has been hammering away since April 13 at his strategy to get the federal deficit under control and pare US debt…. – AFP, 4-19-11
  • In Va., Obama Pitches Debt-Reduction Plan: President Obama on Tuesday made the first of what are likely to be many road-trips to pitch his case for a more “balanced” debt-reduction plan than House Republicans have passed, one that includes tax increases for the wealthy, cuts the military and preserves Medicare and Medicaid. Mr. Obama drew applause from his mostly youthful audience at a community college here in casting the choices ahead as a trade-off between the Bush-era tax cuts for high income, including his own, and spending for programs like seniors’ health care, Head Start or for the disabled.
    He said those tax rates benefiting the wealthy, which he agreed to extend through 2012 in a deal with Republicans last December, must end after that — “especially when we know that the only way to pay for these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans is by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more for their health care, or cutting children out of Head Start, or doing away with health insurance for millions of Americans on Medicaid.”
    “It’s not a trade-off that I think most Americans think is fair, no matter what party you belong to,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s not who we are as a country. We’re better than that.”…
    “Finding savings in our domestic spending only gets you so far. We’re also going to have to find savings in places like the defense budget,” Mr. Obama said, drawing the first burst of applause from the college students — a target audience for the president’s re-election hopes.
    He added, “And I know this is near and dear to your hearts — we’re not going to reduce our deficit by cutting education and eliminating college scholarships. In a world where our students face stiff competition from students from other countries, why would we make it harder for you to compete?”…
    “I’m not going to sign up for that,” Mr. Obama vowed. “Having said that, we are going to have to reform Medicare and our entire health-care system in order to improve quality for the amount of money that we spend.”…. – NYT, 4-19-11
  • Plane carrying Michelle Obama aborts landing because of controller error: A White House plane carrying Michelle Obama came dangerously close to a 200-ton military cargo jet and had to abort its landing at Andrews Air Force Base on Monday as the result of an air traffic controller’s mistake, according to federal officials familiar with the incident. Ultimately, controllers at Andrews feared that the cargo jet was not moving quickly enough to clear the runway in time for the White House plane to land, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak for their agencies.
    Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed Tuesday that the first lady was aboard the plane and said that “the aircraft were never in any danger.” The White House referred all questions to the FAA…. – WaPo, 4-19-11
  • Immigration Is Lead Topic as Leaders Are Gathered: President Obama told a gathering of business, labor, religious and political leaders at the White House on Tuesday that he remains committed to an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws and wants to try again in the coming months to push Congress to pass a bill. With his re-election campaign launched this month and Latino communities growing increasingly frustrated with his immigration policies, Mr. Obama summoned more than 60 high-profile supporters of the stalled overhaul legislation to a strategy session, looking for ways to revive it. Among those attending were Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, an independent; Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, a Democrat; and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican…. – NYT, 4-19-11
  • Obama to hold meeting on immigration reform: President Barack Obama, under fire for not taking on immigration reform yet, has marshaled a high-profile meeting in an attempt to show wide and varied support for an overhaul of America’s immigration laws. The invitees are among a bipartisan group expected to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House Tuesday afternoon to discuss revamping the immigration system…. AP, 4-18-11
  • Obama, Panama’s president to meet April 28: The White House says President Barack Obama and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli will meet for the first time later this month…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Work begins on new SC school featured by Obama: Construction is starting on a new school in South Carolina more than two years after a student wrote Congress about the decrepit conditions at her school…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Pentagon inquiry clears McChrystal of wrongdoing: A Pentagon inquiry into a Rolling Stone magazine profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal that led to his dismissal as the top US commander in Afghanistan has cleared him of wrongdoing. The probe’s results released Monday also called into question the accuracy of the magazine’s report last June, which quoted anonymously people around McChrystal making disparaging remarks about members of President Barack Obama’s national security team, including Vice President Joe Biden.
    At the time he dismissed McChrystal, Obama said the general had fallen short of “the standard that should be set by a commanding general.” The Defense Department inspector general’s report, however, concluded that available evidence did not support the conclusion that McChrystal had violated any applicable legal or ethics standard…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Obama extends Passover greetings to Netanyahu: The White House says President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed cooperation on counterterrorism, the Middle East peace process and violence in the Gaza Strip during a telephone conversation Monday…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Obama to award trophy to AF Academy football team: President Barack Obama meets with some of the troops Monday, but not the usual kind or for the usual reasons. Obama will present the Commander-in-Chief Trophy to the Air Force Academy football team in the Rose Garden. The Falcons won the trophy in early November by beating West Point, 42-22…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Congress Can’t Kill Advisory Posts, Obama Declares in Signing Statement: President Obama is refusing to eliminate several “czars” who were cut in the fiscal 2011 spending bill, calling the provision a violation of the separation of powers. When Congress unveiled its budget compromise last week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) touted the provision as the elimination of “four of the Obama Administration’s controversial czars.” Among the cut czars was the assistant to the president for energy and climate change, a position that was held by Carol Browner until she stepped down in January. But in a signing statement Friday, Obama argued that lawmakers had overstepped their authority. “The President has well-established authority to supervise and oversee the executive branch, and to obtain advice in furtherance of this supervisory authority,” Obama wrote. “The President also has the prerogative to obtain advice that will assist him in carrying out his constitutional responsibilities, and do so not only from executive branch officials and employees outside the White House, but also from advisers within it.”…. – NYT, 4-18-11
  • Obamas report $1.7 mn in income for 2010: US President Barack Obama and his wife earned $1.7 million last year, a significant drop from the prior year as sales of the president’s books slowed, according to tax documents released Monday. The president and Michelle Obama reported 2010 adjusted gross income of $1,728,096, down from $5.5 million in 2009.
    While the salary for US president is $395,000 annually, “the vast majority of the family’s income is the proceeds from the sale of the president’s books,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. Obama earned $1.38 million in 2010 from sales of his books, “The Audacity of Hope,” “Dreams From My Father,” and “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters.” That’s down from nearly $5.2 million in books’ revenue from 2009…. – AFP, 4-18-11
  • Job cuts for poor seniors could up homelessness: Under the Department of Labor’s Senior Community Service Employment Program, more than 75,000 elderly Americans living in poverty in all 50 states earn their keep by the slimmest of margins. To qualify, participants must be over 55 and earning less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level — $13,600 a year.
    In the budget bill signed Friday by President Barack Obama, the program was slashed by 45 percent, from $825 million to $450 million a year. Advocates say it could mean as many as 58,000 fewer jobs if states or national groups are forced to discontinue the program because of the reductions…. – AP, 4-17-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Boehner: DOJ funds should pay to defend marriage: House Speaker John Boehner says the Justice Department should reimburse the House for court costs of defending a ban on gay marriage. In a letter Monday to Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, the Ohio Republican says he shares her concern over the cost of defending the law in court and intends to “redirect” some of the department’s money to the House as repayment…. – AP, 4-18-11

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

  • Firm hired by GOP ends work on gay marriage ban: A prominent law firm hired by Republican lawmakers to defend the federal ban on gay marriage said Monday it was withdrawing from the case amid criticism by advocacy groups, prompting the partner leading the work to quit.
    The move by Atlanta-based King & Spalding is the latest flashpoint in the public debate over gay rights. Chairman Robert Hays Jr. said the firm chose to divorce itself from the controversy after determining that the decision to take the case wasn’t vetted properly, but gay rights groups had also been pressuring the 800-lawyer company with plans for a protest Tuesday in Atlanta and with calls to its other clients. The groups cheered the move.
    The decision, however, was sharply criticized by conservative groups, legal observers and the partner who had been handling the case, a former high-ranking Justice Department official under President George W. Bush. Washington-based attorney Paul Clement said he’s moving to another law office so he can continue the work…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • High court rejects quick review of health care law: The Supreme Court rejected a call Monday from Virginia’s attorney general to depart from its usual practice and put review of the health care law on a fast track. Instead, judicial review of President Barack Obama’s signature legislation will continue in federal appeals courts. The justices turned down a request by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a leading opponent of the law, to resolve questions about its constitutionality quickly. The Obama administration opposed Cuccinelli’s plea. Only rarely, in wartime or a constitutional crisis, does the court step into a legal fight before the issues are aired in appellate courts. Hearings already are scheduled in May and June in three appeals courts. The case still could reach the high court in time for a decision by early summer 2012…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Who’s at fault? Court battle looms over oil spill: BP said in its lawsuit filed in federal court in New Orleans that Cameron International provided a blowout preventer with a faulty design, alleging that negligence by the manufacturer helped cause the disaster. The lawsuit seeks damages to help BP pay for the tens of billions of dollars in liabilities it has incurred from the disaster.
    It also was seeking $40 billion from rig owner Transocean, accusing it of causing last year’s deadly blowout in the Gulf of Mexico that led to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. BP says every single safety system and device and well control procedure on the Deepwater Horizon rig failed.
    The lawsuit against Cameron said the blowout preventer “was unreasonably dangerous, and has caused and continues to cause harm, loss, injuries, and damages.”… – AP, 4-21-11
  • SUPREME COURT NOTEBOOK: Kagan absences no big deal: Justice Elena Kagan’s leather-backed chair was empty this week for the 26th and final time this term while the other Supreme Court justices listened to arguments in an obscure dispute between the government and an Indian tribe. When President Barack Obama nominated Kagan for the Supreme Court last year, some court observers worried that her work as solicitor general would force her from enough cases to pose a serious problem for the high court.
    After all, there is nothing worse for a petitioner than a meaningless 4-4 vote after expending all the effort that goes into winning a precious spot on the court’s calendar and presenting arguments to the justices. Tie votes leave the lower court ruling in place but set no national precedent. So far, though, Kagan’s absence has been important only once in 19 cases the court has decided without her. A lawsuit about Costco’s sale of Swiss-made Omega watches at a steep discount ended up 4-4, leaving unresolved an issue about rules that apply to so-called gray market goods that are purchased abroad, then imported and resold without the permission of the manufacturer…. – AP, 4-21-11
  • High court takes no action on Va. health care case: The Supreme Court has taken no action on Virginia’s call for speedy review of the health care law. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is asking the court to resolve questions about the law quickly, without the usual consideration by federal appellate judges and over the objection of the Obama administration…. – AP, 4-18-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • Arizona gov.: Birther issue ‘path of destruction’: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer says the so-called “birther” issue is a potentially destructive issue for the U.S. Brewer was interviewed on CNN on Monday about her decision a week ago to veto an Arizona bill that would have required President Barack Obama and other presidential candidates to prove their natural-born citizenship…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Ariz. governor’s vetoes of GOP bills lift eyebrows: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s vetoes of a half-dozen bills sponsored by fellow Republicans are raising eyebrows, with some conservatives questioning whether she is still one of them. Never mind that she has signed more than 200 other bills from the GOP-led Legislature. They wanted her to OK bills on school choice and religious rights, among others, as well as one that would have made the state the first to require presidential candidates to prove their natural born citizenship to get on the ballot…. – AP, 4-20-11
  • Why Arizona governor vetoed gun law and ‘birther bill,’ irking the right: Jan Brewer, Arizona governor, surprised conservatives by vetoing a bill to allow guns onto college campuses and a ‘birther bill’ to require certain proofs of US citizenship for presidential candidates…. – CS Monitor, 4-19-11
  • Obama as a chimp? E-mail gives California GOP problems it didn’t need: The California GOP had a historically bad election in 2010, partly because it has trouble connecting with immigrants and minorities. An e-mail from a local Republican official touting the ‘birther’ conspiracy and showing Obama as a chimp won’t help…. – CS Monitor, 4-19-11
  • Chicago Mayor-elect Emanuel names schools chief: Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel on Monday picked Rochester, N.Y., schools superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard to be the new Chicago Public Schools chief, selecting a leader who recently earned a no-confidence vote from his local teachers but someone Emanuel praised as not being afraid of “tough choices.”
    “And that is what Chicago students need today,” Emanuel said of Brizard, whom he called “J.C.” while introducing him at a press conference at a nearly empty Chicago high school because students are on spring break. Chicago is the nation’s third-largest district with more than 400,000 students and 675 schools… – AP, 4-18-11
  • Republican legislative gains tug nation to right: In state after state, Republicans are moving swiftly past blunted Democratic opposition to turn a conservative wish-list into law. Their successes, spurred by big election gains in November, go well beyond the spending cuts forced on states by the fiscal crunch and tea party agitation. Republican governors and state legislators are bringing abortion restrictions into effect from Virginia to Arizona, expanding gun rights north and south, pushing polling-station photo ID laws that are anathema to Democrats and taking on public sector unions anywhere they can…. – AP, 4-18-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Barbour out, GOP ponders as 2012 field takes shape: Republican Gov. Haley Barbour bowed out of presidential contention Monday with a surprise announcement just as the 2012 campaign was getting under way in earnest, 18 months before Election Day. The Mississippi governor said he lacked the necessary “absolute fire in the belly” to run.
    Barbour’s declaration, unexpected because he had been laying the groundwork for a campaign for months, thins a Republican cluster of no less than a dozen potential candidates to take on Democratic President Barack Obama.
    With the GOP campaign’s first debate scheduled for next week, the muddy Republican field will become clearer very soon as more potential contenders announce whether they’ll run or sit out. Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who lost in 2008 and is a favorite of libertarians as well as tea partyers, is planning to take a step toward a second bid on Tuesday. The next facing a self-imposed deadline of this weekend, is Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Barbour friend and a fiscal conservative who has shined a spotlight on rising budget deficits and national debt…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Trump: Obama wasn’t qualified for Ivy League: Real estate mogul Donald Trump suggested in an interview Monday that President Barack Obama had been a poor student who did not deserve to be admitted to the Ivy League universities he attended. Trump, who is mulling a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, offered no proof for his claim but said he would continue to press the matter as he has the legitimacy of the president’s birth certificate.
    “I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?” Trump said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’m thinking about it, I’m certainly looking into it. Let him show his records.”
    “I have friends who have smart sons with great marks, great boards, great everything and they can’t get into Harvard,” Trump said. “We don’t know a thing about this guy. There are a lot of questions that are unanswered about our president.”… – AP, 4-25-11
  • Sen. Nelson faces tough race in Republican region: The last time Sen. Ben Nelson ran for re-election, in 2006, Democrats held four of the six Senate seats representing the 650 miles of plains from Nebraska north to the Canadian border.
    If the Nebraska senator’s political fortunes don’t change, soon there will be just one.
    As Nelson quietly prepares for his 2012 re-election campaign, he is doing so in a region that is trending away from him. As recently as 2004, the Great Plains wasn’t just a place where Democrats could win — it was a power center, led by then Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. Today, the region is tilting toward the GOP…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Ill housing markets trump ideology for many in GOP: Shutting down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should fit seamlessly into the Republican drive to shrink government. After all, keeping the ailing mortgage giants afloat has cost taxpayers $150 billion and many in both parties want private lenders to finance a bigger share of the nation’s $11.3 trillion residential mortgage market.
    But House and Senate Republicans pushing bills to phase out both federally run companies are learning how fear, politics and old-fashioned lobbying can trump ideology…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • NH GOP primary not just a Republican party: At fundraising dinner after dinner, state Republican Party Chairman Jack Kimball earns loud applause when he declares that New Hampshire will send forward “a good strong conservative nominee for the presidency of the United States.” But it won’t be just Republicans who pick a winner in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary next year. Independent voters, who make up nearly 42 percent of registered voters in the state, can participate in either party’s primary. And, given that President Barack Obama has no serious Democratic challenger, most independents are expected to cast ballots in the GOP race next February, unlike in the last presidential campaign…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Bloomberg noncommittal on Trump presidential talk: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls real estate tycoon Donald Trump a friend and says “anybody can run for president if you’re 35 and an American citizen.” Bloomberg tells “Fox News Sunday” that Trump is “a New York icon.” But the mayor is shying away from talking up Trump’s flirtation with the presidency…. – AP, 4-24-11
  • Spring brings fundraising frenzy for GOP hopefuls: Mitt Romney is organizing a phone bank fundraiser in Las Vegas next month. Tim Pawlenty is holding regular “friendraising” meetings in big-money California and elsewhere. Haley Barbour hunkers down soon with finance operatives in cash-rich New York and other lucrative places.
    Republican presidential hopefuls are in the midst of a fundraising frenzy as they seek to raise campaign cash and assemble influential donor networks.
    As the 2012 campaign ramps up, the contenders are under pressure to show they can bring in the dough before the slower summer season begins. “Money is hardly the only indication of a candidate’s potential, but it’s an important indication,” said Lew Eisenberg, a Romney fundraiser…. – AP, 4-24-11
  • Costly gasoline clouds Obama re-election prospects: With gas prices climbing and little relief in sight, President Barack Obama is scrambling to get ahead of the latest potential obstacle to his re-election bid, even as Republicans are making plans to exploit the issue. No one seems more aware of the electoral peril than Obama himself.
    “My poll numbers go up and down depending on the latest crisis, and right now gas prices are weighing heavily on people,” he told Democratic donors in Los Angeles this past week…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • GOP’s Pawlenty wants US ambassador out of Syria: Potential GOP presidential contender Tim Pawlenty wants the U.S. to recall its ambassador to Syria and seek economic sanctions to send “a clear and strong signal” opposing the nation’s violent crackdown on demonstrators. In a written statement Friday, the former Minnesota governor also pressed President Barack Obama to seek a formal condemnation from the United Nations Security Council…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • Beck suggests Huckabee too ‘thin-skinned’ for 2012: Glenn Beck is offering some unsolicited advice to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: Skip the 2012 presidential race if you can’t take some political punches. In an ongoing feud between the two Fox News Channel hosts, Beck suggested during his radio show Friday that Huckabee is too “thin skinned.” He also criticized the former governor’s record on taxes and executive clemency…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • NM ex-gov. Johnson announces presidential bid: Highlighting his background as both a governor and outdoor adventurer, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson announced his presidential campaign outside the New Hampshire Statehouse on Thursday before heading for a mountain known as the birthplace of extreme skiing.
    Johnson, a Republican, acknowledged that he is virtually unknown in New Hampshire and other key primary states but said he won’t be outworked when it comes to retail politics. “I have to do, and want to do, really well in New Hampshire,” he said. “So I’m going to spend a lot of time in New Hampshire, where you can go from obscurity to prominence overnight with a good showing in New Hampshire.”…. – AP, 4-21-11
  • Iowa activists not sold on Trump caucus campaign: Donald Trump says he would embrace the rigors of campaigning in Iowa if he decides to run for president, but Iowa Republican leaders say they doubt the celebrity businessman really knows what it takes to compete in the state’s presidential caucuses and wonder if he would commit the time and effort needed.
    Although some state Republican Party leaders have welcomed the attention Trump’s presidential ideas have brought to the 2012 race and look forward to a giant fundraising dinner he will keynote in June, they also express skepticism about him as a candidate that borders on contempt.
    “‘The Donald’ will be wherever the cameras are, and nowhere else,” said Doug Gross, a Des Moines Republican and longtime confidant of GOP Gov. Terry Branstad…. – AP, 4-22-11
  • Huckabee criticizes Beck for ‘progressive’ claim: Mike Huckabee is criticizing fellow Fox News Channel host Glenn Beck for calling the former Arkansas governor and potential presidential candidate a “progressive.” Huckabee released a statement Thursday criticizing Beck for calling him a “progressive” on his radio show earlier this week. Beck on Tuesday described Huckabee as someone who doesn’t want to “disrupt giant government” and noted Huckabee’s defense of first lady Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity efforts…. – AP, 4-21-11
  • Dems: Sanchez likely to run for Texas Sen. seat: Democratic officials said Monday that retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez is expected to run for the U.S. Senate in Texas, giving Democrats a high-profile recruit to fill the seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison…. – AP, 4-18-11

QUOTES

White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 4/20/11
  • Brad Watson’s Interview with President ObamaWFAA, 4-19-11
  • Weekly Address: Stopping Oil Market Fraud, Beginning a Clean Energy Future Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address on Gas Prices Saturday, April 23, 2011 Washington, DC: This is a time of year when people get together with family and friends to observe Passover and to celebrate Easter. It’s a chance to give thanks for our blessings and reaffirm our faith, while spending time with the people we love. We all know how important that is – especially in hard times. And that’s what a lot of people are facing these days.
    Even though the economy is growing again and we’ve seen businesses adding jobs over the past year, many are still looking for work. And even if you haven’t faced a job loss, it’s still not easy out there. Your paycheck isn’t getting bigger, while the cost of everything from college for your kids to gas for your car keeps rising. That’s something on a lot of people’s minds right now, with gas prices at $4 a gallon. It’s just another burden when things were already pretty tough.
    Now, whenever gas prices shoot up, like clockwork, you see politicians racing to the cameras, waving three-point plans for two dollar gas. You see people trying to grab headlines or score a few points. The truth is, there’s no silver bullet that can bring down gas prices right away.
    But there are a few things we can do. This includes safe and responsible production of oil at home, which we are pursuing. In fact, last year, American oil production reached its highest level since 2003. On Thursday, my Attorney General also launched a task force with just one job: rooting out cases of fraud or manipulation in the oil markets that might affect gas prices, including any illegal activity by traders and speculators. We’re going to make sure that no one is taking advantage of the American people for their own short-term gain. And another step we need to take is to finally end the $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies we give to the oil and gas companies each year. That’s $4 billion of your money going to these companies when they’re making record profits and you’re paying near record prices at the pump. It has to stop.
    Instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy sources, we need to invest in tomorrow’s. We need to invest in clean, renewable energy. In the long term, that’s the answer. That’s the key to helping families at the pump and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. We can see that promise already. Thanks to an historic agreement we secured with all the major auto companies, we’re raising the fuel economy of cars and trucks in America, using hybrid technology and other advances. As a result, if you buy a new car in the next few years, the better gas mileage is going to save you about $3,000 at the pump.
    But we need to do more. We need to harness the potential I’ve seen at promising start-ups and innovative clean energy companies across America. And that’s at the heart of a debate we’re having right now in Washington about the budget.
    Both Democrats and Republicans believe we need to reduce the deficit. That’s where we agree. The question we’re debating is how we do it. I’ve proposed a balanced approach that cuts spending while still investing in things like education and clean energy that are so critical to creating jobs and opportunities for the middle class. It’s a simple idea: we need to live within our means while at the same time investing in our future.
    That’s why I disagree so strongly with a proposal in Congress that cuts our investments in clean energy by 70 percent. Yes, we have to get rid of wasteful spending – and make no mistake, we’re going through every line of the budget scouring for savings. But we can do that without sacrificing our future. We can do that while still investing in the technologies that will create jobs and allow the United States to lead the world in new industries. That’s how we’ll not only reduce the deficit, but also lower our dependence on foreign oil, grow the economy, and leave for our children a safer planet. And that’s what our mission has to be. – WH, 4-23-11TranscriptMp4Mp3

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Obama, Modern Presidents Are Too Powerful Authors contend the presidency has become too powerful for courts or Congress to restrain: As any history student knows, the Founding Fathers envisioned a president with strong executive power, but one also kept in check by Congress and the Supreme Court. In The Executive Unbound: After the Madisonian Republic, University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner and Harvard University law professor Adrian Vermeule contend that the presidency has become too powerful for the courts or lawmakers to restrain. Using the September 11 terrorist attacks and the 2008 financial crisis as examples, the authors argue that the courts are too slow and Congress is too divided to provide real oversight for the White House. Instead of those traditional checks, Posner and Vermeule say the main constraint on the president is now political—the fear his party will lose the next election. Posner recently spoke with U.S. News about the modern presidency and how it has affected the first two years of the Obama administration…. – US News, 4-22-11
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Obama takes on risky topic of taxes: After spending two years on health care, President Barack Obama is about to take up another Herculean political challenge: taxes.
    In response to the Republican plans to cut spending, Obama is pushing a proposal of his own, which will include loophole-closing tax reform and increasing taxes on the wealthy. In his speech at George Washington University, the president said:
    “I say that at a time when the tax burden on the wealthy is at its lowest level in half a century, the most fortunate among us can afford to pay a little more. ”
    By injecting taxes into the mix, Obama enters into perilous territory. For decades, Democrats have mostly tried to avoid any proposals that increase taxes….
    Importantly, the shift of public debate toward deficit reduction offers Obama as much of an opportunity as a danger. The fact is that substantive deficit reduction won’t take place unless higher revenue is part of the package. Spending cuts alone won’t do the trick.
    But if Obama does not recalibrate his political strategy, he could weaken his own standing, as well as the standing of congressional Democrats, going into 2012. – CNN, 4-18-11
  • After budget battle Act 1, will Obama, Reid, Boehner have an Act 2?: Looming debt-ceiling talks may be a bigger hurdle for the three negotiators than the hard-fought deal on the 2011 budget. As for a deficit-cutting plan? Obama and Boehner are starting far apart.
    One hurdle may be that Democrats and Republicans emerge from Round 1 with different expectations for next steps. “There’s nothing inevitable about this [first budget] deal,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. “For Republicans, it’s a precedent to cut more. For Mr. Obama, it’s a precedent to think about something else besides spending cuts.”…
    “Republicans have insisted on spending cuts and deficit reduction, rather than reviving the economy, and with this speech [Obama] shifted to their ground,” says Mr. Zelizer. “This is a White House that feels that Republicans are powerful and have been successful in shifting the public to their issues.”… – CS Monitor, 4-18-11
%d bloggers like this: