First Lady Michelle Obama, Chairman and CEO of Toys For Tots Ret. Marine Corps Lieutenant General Peter Osman and USMC Staff Sgt. Catalina Perez arrive to help sort toy donations for Toys For Tots at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington
Find out how you can bring joy to kids in need this holiday season by donating locally to Toys for Tots → go.wh.gov/sZNRe3
Pete Souza: “Snowball in hand, the President chases Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on the White House colonnade. To escape, Rahm ran through the Rose Garden, which unfortunately for him, was knee-deep in snow.” Dec. 19, 2009
Today (all times Eastern):
8:20 AM: Joe Madison interviews First Lady Michelle Obama, XM Sirius
Sitting down for their annual interview with PEOPLE, President and Mrs. Obama reflect on the year’s difficulties, both in the political arena and the smaller challenges he encounters at home.
“I’ve got three opinionated, strong, tall women,” says President Obama. “If they get together, they can have fun about my ears or being too loud, or how I dress.”
…. The Obamas reveal that daughters Sasha, 12, and Malia, 15, weigh in on Mom’s fashion choices and have tutored Dad in using Instagram and Vine. And, like any kids, they are occasionally embarrassed by their parents.
“Malia had friends over, and there was a question about whether she was going to even introduce them [to her dad], because sometimes he gets a little formal, asking them about school and interests,” the First Lady tells PEOPLE. “She says, ‘I don’t know if my friends can handle that.’” Then she turns to her husband and says, “But she said that you actually did quite well.”
“I acquitted myself well,” notes the President. “I did not embarrass her.”
Washington Post: California is averaging 15,000 Obamacare enrollments each day
State health exchanges are reporting a surge in enrollment — and consumer interest — as they near a late December deadline to purchase insurance coverage.
If November had an Obamacare surge, consider this the December deluge. California averaged 15,000 daily enrollments early last week, about double the sign-ups the state had in early December. New York is now seeing about 4,500 residents choosing plans each day and, in Connecticut, the number is hovering around 1,400.
With consumer interest seeming to spike, these states and others are increasing call center staffing by half.
“We continue to see a tremendous increase in enrollment,” says Lisa Sbrana, counsel to New York State of Health. “We’re averaging between 1,200 and 1,500 calls per hour and have seen a 34 percent increase in enrollment from last week to this week.”
NBC: Patients pour on to successful state insurance exchanges
People are flocking to the more successful state health insurance exchanges in the final days before a late-December deadline, exchange directors said Wednesday.
So many people are calling in for help that states have had to beef up call center staffing, and insurers have agreed to let deadlines slide a bit so that as many people as possible can get coverage starting Jan 1.
In just five states – California, Connecticut, Kentucky, New York and Washington – more than 436,000 people are signed up for health insurance – more than in the 36 states covered by the federal exchange. But the directors of the five exchanges say what’s happening in their states reflects much of what is going on nationwide – people want health insurance being offered by the Affordable Care Act.
“We are seeing huge interest,” said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. “In the first week of December we had 50,000 pick a plan in Covered California. That’s an average of 7,000 a day.” Last week, Lee says, 15,000 people a day were signing up for insurance in California. New York is enrolling 4,500 people a day, Lisa Sbrana, counsel to the New York exchange, said.
I’m pleased that with tonight’s vote in the Senate, for the first time in years, both parties in both houses of Congress have come together to pass a budget. It’s a budget that unwinds some of the damaging sequester cuts that have harmed students and seniors and acted as headwinds our businesses had to fight. It clears a path for critical investments in things like education and research that have always grown our economy and strengthened the middle class. And it will continue to reduce our deficits at a time when we’ve seen four of the fastest years of deficit reduction since the end of World War II.
All told, it’s a good first step away from the shortsighted, crisis-driven decision-making that has only served to act as a drag on our economy. It helps chart our economic course for the next two years, which means that the American people won’t be exposed to another painful and unwise government shutdown. But there is much more work to do to ensure our economy works for every working American. For one, Congress should pass an extension of unemployment insurance so more than a million Americans don’t lose a vital lifeline as they fight to find a job. Today, Senators Reed and Heller introduced a bipartisan solution that would prevent a lapse in benefits that would hurt these families and deal an unnecessary blow to our economy, and I urge Congress to act.
I thank Democratic and Republican leaders from the House and Senate who have worked hard to get this budget done and look forward to the Congress sending me bills that fund our government and refrain from fighting old ideological battles. And I hope this spirit of cooperation will continue into the New Year as we work to restore opportunity and broad-based growth for every American.
@petesouza: Pres Obama gestures during mtg w Gene Sperling and Treasury Secr Jack Lew
The recount in Virginia’s remarkably close race for state attorney general wasn’t quite complete, but the writing was on the wall. Rather than push the contest into the hands of state lawmakers or into the courts, the Republican decided to bow out.
…. Democrats have won all three statewide races in Virginia for the first time since 1989. What’s more, this is the first time in four decades that Virginia will have a Democratic governor, Democratic lieutenant governor, Democratic attorney general, and two Democratic U.S. senators.
…. So, for all the talk about Obama’s “year from hell,” his party just swept all of the statewide contests in this key swing state. Republicans, strategists, and pundits assuming GOP successes in 2014 should probably take note.
ThinkProgress: Why An Anti-Gay Court Decision In Texas Could Become The Next Great Gay Rights Victory
Texas is not exactly the first place that young gay couples are likely to think of when they are looking for a welcoming community where they can begin a family, but the city of Houston elected its openly gay Mayor Annise Parker (D) to three consecutive terms. Shortly after her most recent electoral victory, Parker announced that her city would provide health and life insurance benefits to the same-sex spouses of Houston employees that are legally married in other states — an announcement she deemed necessary to bring her city into compliance with the Supreme Court’s most recent gay rights decisions.
The chair of her county’s Republican Party promptly labeled her nod towards equality “one of the most egregious acts by an elected official I’ve ever seen.” Then he filed a lawsuit seeking to block Parker’s decision….
…. In 2010 Mr. Obama awarded the National Medal of Arts and Humanities to Mr. Rollins, the saxophonist. Oftentimes, there is a gulf between the people receiving this medal and the person conferring it. What does a president know about theater, or architecture?
Not so that day. When awarding Mr. Rollins the medal, the president said that his music had “helped inspire me, or get me through a tough day, or take risks that I might not otherwise have taken.”
I can dig it — an expression that is now considered corny.
Pete Souza: “The First Lady, Malia and Sasha outside in the midst of the snowstorm playing with Bo.” Dec. 19, 2009
President Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office, Dec. 19, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and Vice President Biden talk in a West Wing hallway of the White House, following the President’s statement to the press, Dec. 19, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama stands with Vice President Biden as he makes a statement on Dec. 19, 2012, in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House about policies he will pursue following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary
President Obama sits on the edge of the Resolute Desk during a meeting in the Oval Office, Dec. 19, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)