Archive for April 8th, 2014

08
Apr
14

Laughter Makes The World Go Round

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Continue reading ‘Laughter Makes The World Go Round’

08
Apr
14

ObamaCare: Changing Millions Of Lives For The Better

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Michael Hiltzik: Rand’s Obamacare Stats: 9.3 Million New Insureds, And Counting

The long-awaited Rand Corp. study of Obamacare’s effect on health insurance coverage was released Tuesday and confirmed the numbers that had been telegraphed for more than a week: At least 9.3 million more Americans have health insurance now than in September 2013, virtually all of them as a result of the law. That’s a net figure, accommodating all those who lost their individual health insurance because of cancellations. The Rand study confirms other surveys that placed the number of people who lost their old insurance and did not or could not replace it — the focus of an enormous volume of anti-Obamacare rhetoric — at less than 1 million. The Rand experts call this a “very small” number, less than 1% of the U.S. population age 18 to 64.

The number of people getting insurance through their employers increased by 8.2 million. Rand said the increase is likely to have been driven by a decline in unemployment, which made more people eligible for employer plans, and by the incentives in the Affordable Care Act encouraging more employer coverage. Of the 3.9 million people counted by Rand as obtaining insurance on the individual exchange market, 36% were previously uninsured. That ratio is expected to rise when the late signups are factored in. Medicaid enrollment increased by 5.9 million, the majority of whom did not have insurance before signing up.

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David Lauter: Employer Insurance Increasing As Obamacare Rolls Out, Study Finds

In addition to gains in insurance coverage as a direct result of the Affordable Care Act, the number of Americans covered by employer-provided insurance also has increased in the last year, according to newly released data from the Rand Corp. The share of Americans aged 18 to 64 who lack coverage dropped from 20.5% to 15.8% by Rand’s calculations. The 9.3-million increase in coverage, which takes into account people who lost coverage, includes people who enrolled in plans on the marketplaces, those who bought a plan directly from an insurer and those who became eligible for Medicaid. About half the states have expanded Medicaid under the law’s provisions. But the full Rand report, released Tuesday, notes that the figure also includes a significant increase in employer coverage. That increase contradicts predictions made by both opponents of the law and some of its supporters who had expected employer coverage to drop when the 2010 healthcare law took effect.

Rand researchers attribute some of the gains to the decline in unemployment over the last several months, noting that some previously uninsured people may simply have found jobs that provide insurance. In other cases, companies may have added insurance coverage in anticipation of the law’s health insurance provisions taking effect. Final, definitive, numbers on coverage, which will come from the Census Bureau, won’t be available for many months. So for now, the surveys provide the best look at how the law has changed insurance markets. While the exact numbers remain uncertain, the direction of the change is not. “Early evidence from our nationally representative survey indicates that the ACA has already led to a substantial increase in insurance coverage,” Rand concluded.

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Continue reading ‘ObamaCare: Changing Millions Of Lives For The Better’

08
Apr
14

When Women Succeed, America Succeeds

President Barack Obama is introduced to speak by Lilly Ledbetter at an event aimed at increasing transparency about women’s pay during an event at the White House. The first law President Obama signed after taking office in 2009 was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended time periods for employees to file claims for wages lost as a result of discrimination.

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Text of the President’s remarks here

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President Barack Obama signs executive actions, with pending Senate legislation, aimed at closing a compensation gender gap that favors men, during an event marking Equal Pay Day. President Obama announced new executive actions to strengthen enforcement of equal pay laws for women.

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Lisa De Bode: Obama Signs Executive Order On Equal Pay For Women

Keeping with his promise to champion women’s rights in the workplace, President Barack Obama signed an executive order Tuesday that addresses the issue of unequal pay among federal contractors.The executive order addresses the federal government’s gender wage gap by mandating that contractors publish wage data — by gender and race — to ensure compliance with equal-pay laws. The order also prohibits contractors from retaliating against employees who compare salaries. Tuesday’s signing coincides with National Equal Pay Day, serving as a reminder that more than 50 years after the Equal Pay Act was made law, women still earn less then men. On average, women earn only about 77 cents on the dollar compared with men. African-American women and Latinas take home even less, just 64 cents and 54 cents, respectively, for every dollar earned by white men, according to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). Obama called the numbers “embarrassing,” and “wrong.”

“It is good to move the ball forward on improving our equal pay policies,” Fatima Graves, NWLC vice president for education and employment, told Al Jazeera. “It’s important because right now workers are left in the dark about wage disparity information.” “What we really need is for Congress to pass the Fair Paycheck Act which would get at all workers,” she said. A Senate vote on that act, slated for Tuesday, would extend the order’s requirements to most other employers. However, the bill has already failed to pass twice, despite evidence that pay transparency can reduce the gender wage gap. In the federal government, for example, where pay rates are publicly available, the gender wage gap is much smaller than in the private sector, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.The Fair Paycheck Act would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963

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Members of Congress including Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., pose for photos in the East Room of the White House in Washington, before an event marking Equal Pay Day

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08
Apr
14

Schadenfreude – The Meal Of The Day

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Bloomberg: House Republicans To Delay Obamacare Replacement Plan Rollout

House Republicans are delaying by at least a month unveiling their alternative proposal to Obamacare, according to lawmakers and aides involved in the process. The issue is one of “policy, trying to get it all together,” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy said in an interview. Republicans had said they would unveil the outlines of their plan to replace the 2010 health-care law over the two-week congressional break in mid-April at town hall meetings with constituents.

They are seeking to draft what could be several bills to replace President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Instead, a Republican leadership aide said the rollout will occur possibly in May or June. Republican leaders are set to meet later this week to discuss the rollout, McCarthy and Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers said. Republicans have held more than 50 votes to repeal, defund or roll back the law since taking majority control of the U.S. House in 2011.

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2012 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner

08
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama embraces Vice President Biden in the Oval Office after a meeting on the budget, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

11:45 EDT: President Obama delivers remarks on equal pay, East Room

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@petesouza: Pres Obama takes the stage at Bladensburg High School

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The Week Ahead

Wednesday: The President and the First Lady will travel to Houston, TX. The President will attend a memorial service at Fort Hood. He will attend DCCC and DSCC events. More details regarding the President and First Lady’s travel to Houston will be forthcoming.

Thursday: The President and the First Lady will travel to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, TX. The President will deliver remarks at a Civil Rights Summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. The President and the First Lady will return to Washington, DC, in the afternoon.

Friday: The President will travel to New York, NY to deliver remarks at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention.

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Bryce Covert: Obama’s New Move On Gender And Pay Could Have More Impact Than The Lilly Ledbetter Act

President Obama on Tuesday is expected to sign two executive orders that will address the pay disparity between women and men. One will bar federal contractors from retaliating against employees who talk about their pay with each other. The other will require businesses to hand over data on pay, broken down by race and gender, to the Labor Department. The goal of both steps is to increase transparency, which is more important than it may sound. It’s hard to fight pay discrimination if you don’t even know what other people make. That’s exactly what happened to Lilly Ledbetter, for whom the Lilly Ledbetter Act is named. She didn’t find out she was being paid less than the men around her until 19 years after she started at Goodyear. Even then, it was thanks only to an anonymous note. While President Obama has touted the fact that his first act as president was to sign that bill, it was a very, very incremental step toward gender wage parity. The law merely gives women more time to bring suits.

The executive orders could start a new wave of progress. About half of American workers are either expressly barred or strongly discouraged from discussing pay with each other. Obama’s action won’t change that fact for everyone, but it will affect 22 percent of the workforce. And it can have ripple effects to other companies that might want to compete for federal contracts, changing standards over time.President Obama has proposed a universal preschool system that includes care for children ages zero to three and would go a long way toward helping parents afford the skyrocketing costs of child care. But many of these ideas are anathema to conservatives in Congress, because they would require government spending and/or interfering with the free market. Until that changes, executive orders like the ones Obama will issue Tuesday may be the best hope for a while.

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Meghashyam Mali: Obama Administration Reverses Planned Cuts To Medicare Advantage

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Monday announced that it would increase payments to insurers offering Medicare Advantage plans by 0.4 percent, reversing a planned cut. The move comes after criticism from insurance groups and Democratic lawmakers who feared the fallout from trimming benefits for seniors in a difficult midterm election year.

CMS had proposed a 1.9 percent rate cut in February. But on Monday, agency officials said that changed estimates allowed for them to reverse the cut. CMS in a statement said that the rate changes would “ensure beneficiaries will continue to have access to a wide array of high quality, high value, and low cost options while making certain that plans are providing value to Medicare and taxpayers.”

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Jamelle Bouie: Jonathan Chait’s Look At Race During The Obama Era Is Missing One Thing: Black Americans

You should contrast this with Jonathan Chait’s most recent feature for New York magazine, where the story of race in the Obama administration is a story of mutual grievance between Americans on the left and right, with little interest in the lived experiences of racism from black Americans and other people of color. It’s a story, in other words, that treats race as an intellectual exercise—a low-stakes cocktail party argument between white liberals and white conservatives over their respective racial innocence.That might fit the experiences of a mostly white pundit class, but it has nothing to do with race as experienced in the “day-to-day” lives of ordinary people. When a twentysomething black New Yorker talks about race, she isn’t as concerned with the rhetoric of Republicans as she is with the patrol car that trails her teenage brother when he rides his bike to the corner store.

What’s odd about the argument is that Chait clearly shows the extent to which conservatism—even if it isn’t “racist”—works to entrench racial inequality through “colorblindness” and pointed opposition to the activist state. But rather than take that to its conclusion, he asks us to look away.Of course, it’s not accusing conservatives of “racism” to note that particular policies—say, tax cuts to defund the social safety net, or blocking the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act—have a disparate impact. That’s just reality. And it’s not tarring your opponents to note that race plays a huge part in building popular support for those policies. Chait finishes his piece with a note (a hope?) that this dynamic of grievance will become irrelevant with time: “The passing from the scene of the nation’s first black president in three years, and the near-certain election of its 45th nonblack one, will likely ease the mutual suspicion. In the long run, generational changes grind inexorably away.” Yes, the Return of the White President will cause this tension to recede, as arguments over racial innocence—“You’re racist!” “You’re a race baiter!”—fade like the elves of Middle-Earth. But that’s only the end of the story if you’re most concerned with partisan fights.

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Eli Clifton: Exclusive: Shady Double-Agent’s Obamacare Sabotage: Top “Supporter” Quietly Funded Its Opposition

While proponents of the Affordable Care Act took a victory lap on the April 1 signup deadline, opposition to the state-run marketplaces continues to expand across the country through “Health Care Freedom Acts,” bills that would seek to limit state governments’ cooperation with the Affordable Care Act. But the untold story, until now, is that a key White House ally in passing the Affordable Care Act may have helped lay the groundwork for these very anti-ACA legislations being introduced across the country. Billy Tauzin, the president of the pharmaceutical lobby, couldn’t help gloating while delivering a keynote speech at his final PhRMA annual meeting before his 2010 retirement. Reflecting on the industry’s decision to support comprehensive healthcare reform, the mega-lobbyist quipped, “This PhRMA team is a Super Bowl championship team of advocacy.” That comparison might be more accurate if the NFL’s championship team had rigged the Super Bowl.

Tax records show that PhRMA initiated a series of payments to the American Legislative Exchange Council with a $379,192 contribution in 2008. Tauzin’s powerful lobby continued its payments to ALEC throughout its negotiations with the White House. Between 2008 and 2011, those contributions exceeded $1.25 million. ALEC, a conservative group serving as a clearinghouse for state-level legislation, opposed the Affordable Care Act and launched its Health Care Freedom Initiative in 2008, the same year that PhRMA initiated its support. The project promised to “expose the truth about ObamaCare and fight back — one state at a time.” It also armed state lawmakers with “14 specific recommendations to push back against Obamacare” and offered boilerplate legislation with its “Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act.”In a previously unpublished “Schedule of Contributors” tax filing, PhRMA is listed as contributing $339,000 to ALEC in 2010, making it ALEC’s second largest donor after cigarette giant Reynolds American. The filing lists Pfizer, a member of the pharmaceutical lobby, as contributing an additional $136,000 on its own.

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Think Progress: Black Women Are Breaking Barriers But Still Not Getting Compensated For It

Black women are graduating high school, attending college, participating in the labor force, and starting businesses at higher rates, but they still aren’t seeing the rewards of their hard work, according to a recent report from the Black Women’s Roundtable, the women’s initiative of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. Young black women have increased their high school graduation rate by 63 percent over the past 50 years, more than tripling it and “virtually eliminating the gap with Asian women (down to 2%), and significantly narrowing the gap with white women (7%),” the report notes. That gap between the rates of black women and white women has shrunk from 22 percent in 1960. After they leave high school, black women have begun to dominate college. “Though all women lead their male counterparts in college enrollment and degree attainment,” the report says, “Black women do so at higher rates than any other group of women in America.”

In 2010, they were 66 percent of all blacks who finished a Bachelor’s Degree, 71 percent with a Master’s, and 65 percent with a Doctorate. And they keep excelling after they graduate. “As they have from the beginning of their experience in America, Black women lead all women in labor force participation rates,” according to the report. Their labor force participation rate is higher than all other women, and that continues to be true even after they become mothers. They are also very entrepreneurial, starting businesses at six times the national average and representing the fastest growing segment of women-owned businesses. Black women own more than 1 million firms, employ 272,000 people other than themselves, and generate an estimated $44.9 billion in revenue. But even as they’ve been working harder on their educations and starting more businesses, black women aren’t seeing higher returns. While women working full-time, on average, make 77 percent of what men make, black women make 64 percent of what white men make.

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Michael Cohen: How Putin Is Losing In Crimea: A Reality Check

A funny thing happened on March 21: Russia lost a war and virtually no one noticed. It was precisely this agreement — and the refusal of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to sign it — that led to the bloody demonstrations in Kiev that forced Yanukovych from power and spurred Russia’s seizure of Crimea. It’s the kind of trade that looks bad for Russia on the surface — and will only look worse in the future. Russia’s political influence in Ukraine and its dreams of creating an economic union to compete with the EU lies in tatters. Rather than push the U.S. and EU away from his western border, Putin’s actions have practically invited them in by strengthening the bonds between Kiev and the West. It is yet another reminder that Putin’s decision to seize Crimea, rather than serve as a triumphant moment, is far more likely to end up a disaster.

While Putin clearly imagines Russia to be a great power, the country is a hollow shell of its former self, with waning political and military influence and an economy that is teetering on the brink. Higher inflation, a weakening ruble, huge capital outflows and a lack of economic reforms contributed to a major slowdown in the growth rate last year — from a projected increase of 3.6 percent to a mediocre 1.3 percent clip. The Crimea crisis will only add to these economic woes.The far bigger one is that major financial institutions like Deutsche Bank are recommending that their clients keep their money out of Russia; two of the biggest ratings agencies, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch, have downgraded Russia’s investment rating from “stable” to “negative”; and even MasterCard and Visa are ending relationships with key Russian banks to avoid the snare of U.S. sanctions.

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Evan Perez and Steve Katsenbaum: Key Figure In M.J. Traffic Scandal, David Wildstein, Meets With Prosecutors

David Wildstein, a central figure in a political scandal that has upended the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, met recently with federal prosecutors, two U.S. officials familiar with the matter told CNN. The U.S. attorney’s office in Newark is investigating suggestions that top Christie appointees and allies orchestrated traffic tie-ups near the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee last September. Prosecutors are looking at whether the gridlock was politically motivated.

A state legislative committee is also investigating the matter, which involved sudden closures of access lanes to the nation’s busiest bridge over several days. Lawyers from the Justice Department’s public integrity section have joined the investigation to consult on certain legal aspects, particularly over separate allegations the Christie administration conditioned Superstorm Sandy relief money for Hoboken on the mayor’s support for a redevelopment project backed by the governor, according to one U.S. official.

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NYT: In A Test Of Wills With China, U.S. Sticks Up For Japan

On his first trip to China as the secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel is finding himself in the middle of a spat that would not be out of place in “Mean Girls,” a movie about social cliques in high school. For the first time, China will host the Western Pacific Naval Symposium, a meeting every two years of countries that border the Pacific Ocean. The W.P.N.S., as it is known in naval circles, counts among its members the United States, Australia, Chile, Canada and a number of Asian countries, including China and Japan. Often at such meetings, the host country organizes an international fleet review, at which the visiting countries can parade their ships and show off some fancy hardware. For this year’s fleet review, China, which is hosting the event in Qingdao, invited all the countries in the symposium to take part — except Japan.

So on the eve of Mr. Hagel’s trip, which includes a visit to Qingdao, Pentagon officials announced that if Japan could not take part in the review, then neither would the United States. The United States will attend the meeting, the Pentagon said, but no American ships will sail in the fleet review. Late last year, China set off a trans-Pacific uproar after it declared that an “air defense identification zone” gave it the right to identify and possibly take military action against aircraft near the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China. Japan controls and administers the islands, but China claims them. Japan refused to recognize China’s claim, and the United States has been defying China ever since by sending military planes into the zone unannounced.

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John W. Gonzalez: Allegation Against Battleground Texas Dismissed

Two special prosecutors have rejected public complaints that Battleground Texas violated election laws while registering voters in San Antonio last year. Three people had alleged that a Battleground Texas staffer violated state election law by mining voters’ personal data. The Democratic group has steadfastly denied the allegation as a fiction from conservative activist James O’Keefe III, who’s been criticized for dubious and even criminal tactics.Based on their finding, a state district court judge dismissed the case on Friday, officials confirmed Monday.

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Brendan Sasso: FCC To Break Up Big TV Stations

Overriding intense Republican opposition, the Democratic leaders of the Federal Communications Commission voted Monday to crack down on media consolidation. The new rules bar multiple broadcast TV stations in the same market from sharing a single advertising staff. Democratic FCC officials argue that major TV companies around the country are using “joint sales agreements” to undermine the agency’s media-ownership caps. The FCC bars any company from owning more than one of the top four TV stations in a market. By selling ads for multiple stations, companies have been able to dodge the FCC’s ownership cap while effectively controlling several stations, the agency officials said.

The goal of the TV ownership cap is to ensure that viewers have access to a diverse range of views in the media and that no single corporation is able to dominate the flow of information. While the TV stations serve local markets, major media companies such as Sinclair own dozens of stations around the country. “The commission has long imposed limits on concentration of ownership for use of the public’s airwaves,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. “Today, what we’re doing is closing off what is a growing end run around those rules.”

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Meredith Clark: Kansas Bill Kills Long-Held Teacher Rights

After a weekend of heated debate, the Kansas legislature passed a bill that strips teachers of the right to challenge dismissals and ensures tax breaks for corporations that fund private school scholarships. Despite huge majorities in the state House and Senate, the bills passed narrowly over the objections of hundreds of teachers and activists who packed the galleries to protest the bill. Until now, a teacher with three years of experience was guaranteed the right to receive a written reason for possible termination and the right to appeal the decision. Teachers in Kansas have had the right to due process since 1957. Without it, a teacher could be fired for being gay, or disagreeing politically with an administrator, and have no recourse.

The bill also provides $126 million to address disparities in public school funding. The Kansas supreme court ruled in March that the state’s current funding system is unconstitutional. The court had ordered the legislature to craft a solution before July 1. Some Republican lawmakers sought policy changes like the end of due process in exchange for supporting the funding measure. Republican Governor Sam Brownback has not said whether he will sign the bill. Kansas’ teachers are among the lowest paid in the United States, with the state coming in 42nd in teacher pay. Educators fear that eliminating due process rights for teachers will make it even harder to retain talented teachers. “How do we get great teachers to come to Kansas when they’re already getting paid so little, and now they have no due process?” Aaron Estabrook, a school board member in the city of Manhattan asked msnbc. “How can we recruit them when they won’t be protected?”

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On This Day

Sen. Barack Obama before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the situation in Iraq, Capitol Hill, April 8, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the situation in Iraq, Capitol Hill, April 8, 2008

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President Obama offers a fist-bump to senior staff member Pete Rouse, during a meeting with senior advisors in the Oval Office, April 8, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama admires a tapestry at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, April 8, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, and Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus, share a toast during a luncheon at Prague Castle, Czech Republic, April 8, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Secretary of State Rodham Clinton following the expanded delegation bilateral meeting with President Medvedev of Russia at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, April 8, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks with Vice President Biden in the Oval Office in between meetings to discuss the ongoing budget negotiations, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is reflected in a mirror in the Outer Oval Office as talks with Chief of Staff Bill Daley, left, and Vice President Biden in the doorway of the Oval Office, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with staff in the Roosevelt Room of the White House to discuss the ongoing negotiations on a budget funding bill, April 8, 2011. Pictured, from left, are: National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling; Bruce Reed, Chief of Staff to the Vice President; Phil Schiliro, Assistant to the President and Special Advisor; and Nancy-Ann DeParle, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks on the phone with House Speaker John Boehner in the Oval Office, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama gestures while meeting with staff in the Roosevelt Room of the White House to discuss the ongoing negotiations on a budget funding bill, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama delivers a statement in the Blue Room of the White House after Democrats and Republicans reached a short-term budget deal to prevent a government shutdown, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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08
Apr
14

Early Bird Chat

On This Day: The Obama family walk to attend Easter Services at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., April 8, 2012

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MoooOOOooorning – Happy Tuesday!




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