On this Day: President Obama and daughter Sasha swim at Alligator Point in Panama City Beach, Fla., Saturday, Aug. 14, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Daily Beast: Treasury Monthly Statement Shows the U.S. Deficit Is Melting Away
Still complaining about the deficit? The latest monthly statement from the U.S. Treasury shows that even without destroying the social safety net or striking a grand bargain, it’s being erased.
…. So as you listen to people complaining about the annual deficit, remember that it is melting away. The miracle cure for deficits, it turns out, isn’t ripping up the social safety net, or a grand bargain. It’s growth, combined with some fiscal restraint, and higher taxes. Compared with a year ago, there are about 2.2 million more people working today, at slightly higher wages, paying slightly higher taxes. The combination of those forces pushes collections higher. Meanwhile, spending on anti-poverty programs like unemployment benefits falls as unemployment claims decline. Winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has reduced the Pentagon budget. And the sequester has taken a bite out of the budget of many agencies. The combination of those forces pushes spending lower. The latest update on this year’s fiscal situation confirms that each of these trends is fully intact.
President Obama liked the idea laid out in a memo from his staff: an ambitious plan to expand high-speed Internet access in schools that would allow students to use digital notebooks and teachers to customize lessons like never before. Better yet, the president would not need Congress to approve it.
White House senior advisers have described the little-known proposal, announced earlier this summer under the name ConnectEd, as one of the biggest potential achievements of Obama’s second term.
Bob Cesca: Cory Booker Wins Senate Primary. The Far-Left Wins Nothing. Again.
Newark, New Jersey mayor Cory Booker is one step closer to being the next senator from the Garden State. He won the Democratic primary on Tuesday by a significant margin over his rivals, Rep. Frank Pallone, Assembly Speaker Shiela Oliver and Rep. Rush Holt.
Historically speaking, if he wins on October 16, Booker will also be the only elected African American member of the United States Senate, and the ninth member in history. (Yeah, there’s still something very, very wrong with American voters.)
There’s another dimension to this election, meanwhile, that only appeared briefly on the blogs and via social media. Were it not for the divisiveness on the left created by the Edward Snowden NSA drama, with far-left activists supporting Snowden’s leaks and with pragmatic center-left liberals expressing disdain for the hyperbolic, outraged sensationalism of the story, the New Jersey special election would’ve surely been a huge battleground between those two factions.
ThinkProgress: Arizona Republicans Already Working On 2020 Gerrymander Plan
Unhappy that an independent redistricting commission devised maps it deemed too independent for the 2012 elections, Arizona Republicans are already scheming to rig the redistricting process after the 2020 elections to be more favorable to their party.
If you’ve been following the health care debate lately, you’ve probably heard quite a bit of talk about Congress being “exempt” from the Affordable Care Act. It’s a talking point the right has pushed quite aggressively, but is it true? Republicans certainly want us to think so. Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas)complained about an “outrageous exemption for Congress.” The far-right editorial page of the Wall Street Journal and Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint touted a similar line last week. Over the weekend, Republican media figures, including Bill Kristol and Ana Navaro, repeated the talking point on the Sunday shows, and no one thought to correct them. This morning, in an unusually hysterical piece, a Washington Times columnist suggested the policy might constitute “treason.” (No, seriously, that’s what it said.)
The policy certainly sounds awful, doesn’t it? If “Obamacare” is so great, why are members of Congress eager to exempt themselves from the new federal system? No wonder Fox is soworked up over this. The problem, as you might have guessed, is that the argument is so wildly misleading, it bears no meaningful connection to reality.
USA Today: President Obama is going retro when it comes to honoring sports champions.
Next week, Obama will host a White House ceremony honoring the 40th anniversary of the 1972-73 Miami Dolphins, the last National Football League team to go undefeated in the regular season and playoffs.
That Dolphins team famously went 17-0, beating the Washington Redskins in the Super Bowl on Jan. 14, 1973.
Aug. 14, 2009: President Obama casts his line while fishing for trout on the East Gallatin River near Belgrade, Mont. (Photo by Pete Souza)
Aug. 14, 2010: President Obama greets members of the U.S. Coast Guard after making a statement at the U.S. Coast Guard Panama City District Office, Panama City, Fla (Photo by Pete Souza)
Aug. 14, 2012: The President waves from his campaign bus to people lining the motorcade route in Iowa (Photo by Pete Souza)
Aug. 14, 2012: President Obama has a beer with patrons at the Pump Haus Pub and Grill in Waterloo, Iowa (Photo by Pete Souza)
Aug. 14, 2012: Pete Souza: “How about a White House beer? The President was greeting patrons at Coffee Connection in Knoxville, Iowa, when this customer asked him about the White House beer. The President said he thought he might have some on his campaign bus and asked an aide to check. A few minutes later, the President delivered a bottle and the customer reacted in celebration.”
Greg Sargent: …. Republicans are caught in an Obamacare trap. They know proposing repeal while not offering a serious alternative is untenable. But when they do propose alternatives that would accomplish the popular parts of Obamacare, conservatives revolt, because they don’t want to sap the repeal-Obamacare drive of its energy and don’t want to legitimize an interventionist role for government. Which just highlights what Republicans are trying to obscure in the first place: the party is in the grip of an anti-Obamacare animus that has come unhinged from any normal policy considerations, and doesn’t envision a meaningfully constructive role for government in solving our health care problems.
NYT: House Majority Leader’s Quest to Soften G.O.P.’s Image Hits a Wall Within
Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, has been trying for months to remake the image of the Republican Party, from one of uncompromising conservatism to something kinder and gentler.
It isn’t working so well.
On Wednesday, Republican leaders abruptly shelved one of the centerpieces of Mr. Cantor’s “Making Life Work” agenda — a bill to extend insurance coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions — in the face of a conservative revolt. Last month, legislation to streamline worker retraining programs barely squeaked through. In May, Republican leaders will try again with legislation, pitched as family-friendly, to allow employers to offer comp time or “flex time” instead of overtime. But it has little prospect for Senate passage.
So it has gone. Items that Mr. Cantor had hoped would change the Republican Party’s look, if not its priorities, have been ignored, have been greeted with yawns or have only worsened Republican divisions.
TPM: I’m sure many of you got a kick over the mini-implosion of Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign yesterday, with his own campaign manager admitting that he thinks McConnell sucks and is only working for him to further the hopes of Rand Paul. It all ended up with this cringey-not-going-to-fix-the-damage picture of Mitch and his disser…
…. I’m coming around to the idea that Mitch McConnell could actually lose his reelection battle next year, through a mix of deep unpopularity, a tough and well financed primary challenger and a decent Democratic opponent. But …. McConnell’s problems at home make a government shutdown and a lot of other nonsense much more likely. Whether or not McConnell finally wins or loses is basically a secondary point. It’s what he’ll do trying to win from now until election day 2014…..
Steve Benen: Rand Paul’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week
It’s probably safe to say Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has had better weeks. Just over the last few weeks he started to lose his cool on NPR when asked about a neo-confederate he co-authored a book with; he was caught making ridiculous boasts about his record on minority rights; and he repeated a bizarre conspiracy theory about George Stephanopoulos that’s already been debunked.
And then, after all of this, the Kentucky Republican sat down for a chat with Businessweek’s Josh Green….
Steve Benen: Immigration reform’s odds improve – a little
It’s pretty easy to assume that fierce Republican opposition will doom comprehensive immigration reform. Indeed, for much of the summer, House GOP extremism on the issue has reinforced fears that the odds are poor.
But there’s been some gradual movement of late, and it’s given new hope to reform proponents.
Aug. 9, 2011 – Pete Souza: “The President, in the process of saluting, participates in a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base for the dignified transfer of U.S. and Afghan personnel who died in Afghanistan a few days earlier. Many family members and friends of the special forces who died in this incident requested a copy of the photograph and later wrote me how much it meant to them.”
A year ago …… July 16, 2012: President Obama kisses First Lady Michelle Obama for the “Kiss Cam” while attending the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team’s game against Brazil at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
Today (All times Eastern):
10:0 Vice President Biden will swear in Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) as the freshman Massachusetts senator at the U.S. Capitol
11:0: President Obama is interviewed by Spanish language news anchors
12:45: Press Briefing by Jay Carney
On Thursday, the First Lady, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Amy Rule, will visit Urban Alliance Chicago, a year-long career education and employment program for underserved high school seniors which enriches students’ lives through paid internships, formal training, and mentoring. The visit is part of the First Lady’s focus on youth empowerment and providing more opportunities for young people to achieve their full potential.
George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush present President Obama with a pair of socks, July 15 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Steve Benen: For three-and-a-half hours last night, nearly every member of the Senate met behind closed doors in the Old Senate Chamber to discuss a political crisis of sorts: whether the minority would continue to block President Obama’s executive-branch nominees and what the majority intended to do about it.
The meeting itself was rather odd. Senators already have a forum in which they can hold a debate — it’s called the Senate. But their usual chamber has cameras and public seating, and last night, for whatever reason, members wanted to debate in private for a candid conversation.
By all accounts, it was a constructive conversation, but there was no resolution. As I type, there are some back-channel talks underway, but barring a breakthrough, the Senate Democratic leadership intended to move forward with its “nuclear option” plans.
Eugene Robinson: Justice failed Trayvon Martin the night he was killed. We should be appalled and outraged, but perhaps not surprised, that it failed him again Saturday night, with a verdict setting his killer free. Our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent. This is the conversation about race that we desperately need to have — but probably, as in the past, will try our best to avoid. Jurors knew that Zimmerman was an overeager would-be cop, a self-appointed guardian of the neighborhood who carried a loaded gun. They were told that he profiled Martin — young, black, hooded sweatshirt — as a criminal. They heard that he stalked Martin despite the advice of a 911 operator; that the stalking led to a confrontation; and that, in the confrontation, Zimmerman fatally shot Martin in the chest.
If anyone wonders why African Americans feel so passionately about this case, it’s because we know that our 17-year-old sons are boys, not men. It’s because we know their adolescent bravura is just that — an imitation of manhood, not the real thing. We know how frightened our sons would be, walking home alone on a rainy night and realizing they were being followed. We know how torn they would be between a child’s fear and a child’s immature idea of manly behavior. We know how they would struggle to decide the right course of action, flight or fight. And we know that a skinny boy armed only with candy, no matter how big and bad he tries to seem, does not pose a mortal threat to a healthy adult man who outweighs him by 50 pounds and has had martial arts training (even if the lessons were mostly a waste of money). We know that the boy may well have threatened the man’s pride but likely not his life. How many murders-by-sidewalk have you heard of recently? Or ever?
Heather Gerken (Slate): Goodbye to the Crown Jewel of the Civil Rights Movement – People died to pass Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, but that didn’t save it at the Supreme Court.
…. To understand why Section 5 was special, you have to know a bit about its history. The brutal attacks on civil rights marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge provided the push needed to pass the Voting Rights Act. When the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, almost no African-Americans were registered to vote in the Deep South due to brutal repression and sickening legal chicanery.
Civil rights litigators and the Department of Justice were doing their best to help. They filed lawsuit after lawsuit to make it possible for blacks to register. But every time a court deemed one discriminatory practice illegal, local officials would switch to another. Literacy tests, poll taxes, burdensome registration requirements – these techniques were all used to prevent African-Americans from voting. Southern voting registrars would even resign from their positions as soon as a lawsuit was on the cusp of succeeding, thereby sending the case back to square one. The Voting Rights Act aimed to change all of this.
Section 5 was the most important and imaginative provision in the law….
Sahil Kapur: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg penned the fierce dissent against the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision Tuesday to invalidate a key section of the Voting Rights Act, accusing the conservative justices of displaying “hubris” and a lack of sound reasoning. “[T]he Court’s opinion can hardly be described as an exemplar of restrained and moderate decision making,” wrote the leader of the court’s liberal wing. “Quite the opposite. Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA.”
Joined by the three other liberal-leaning justices, Ginsburg scolded the conservative majority and its rationale for throwing out Section 4 of the law — which contains the formula Congress has used to determine which states and local governments must receive federal pre-approval before changing their voting laws. “Congress approached the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA with great care and seriousness. The same cannot be said of the Court’s opinion today,” she wrote. “The Court makes no genuine attempt to engage with the massive legislative record that Congress assembled. Instead, it relies on increases in voter registration and turnout as if that were the whole story.” “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet,” Ginsburg wrote.
Texas Tribune: The nation watched on Tuesday — and into Wednesday — as Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis and hundreds of impassioned reproductive rights advocates stalled proceedings and ultimately defeated controversial abortion legislation in a storm of screams and shouts as the clock struck midnight.
“I am overwhelmed, honestly,” Davis said after standing for nearly 13 hours to filibuster Senate Bill 5, the abortion legislation. The outpouring of support from protesters at the Capitol and across the nation, she said, “shows the determination and spirit of Texas women and people who care about Texas women.”
…. Republican senators made a last-ditch effort to approve SB 5, voting 19-10, but by then the clock had ticked past midnight. Under the terms of the state Constitution, the special session had ended, and the bill could not be signed, enrolled or sent to the governor.
… Conservative lawmakers tried every tool in the Senate rulebook to derail the filibuster. A “three strikes, you’re out” precedent in the Senate grants lawmakers two warnings about staying germane to the bill topic … Davis received the three strikes: two were on the germaneness of the discussion and one was related to Davis receiving assistance from another senator to put on a back brace….
2:05: The President makes a personnel announcement
12:45: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney
USA Today: President Obama will announce Friday that he’s picked James Comey, a former Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, to be his next FBI director……
…. Comey, who previously served as deputy attorney general and supervised operations for the Justice Department, was a key player in one of the most dramatic moments of the Bush administration. In 2004, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and White House chief of staff Andrew Card tried to persuade Attorney General John Ashcroft – who was ill with acute pancreatitis – to reauthorize a warrantless eavesdropping program while in his hospital bed.
Comey learned of Gonzales and Card’s plan and rushed to Ashcroft’s hospital room, along with Mueller. Both threatened to resign if the White House renewed the program. As a result, it was not reauthorized.
USA Today: …. The President holds his first meeting today with the newly constituted Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, in part to discuss criticism of National Security Agency programs that gather phone and Internet records.
Obama will discuss his recent direction to the Director of National Intelligence to de-classify certain information “to better contextualize these programs, correct misrepresentations, and provide an opportunity for the dialogue he welcomes about the right balance between national security and privacy,” the White House said.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was actually created in 2004 as part of the executive branch, and made an independent agency in 2007, but it has never met amid disputes over its duties.
AP: The Republican chairman of a House committee considering new abortion regulations in Texas has told more than 300 women that they would not be allowed to testify against the bill because it had become too repetitive.
The predominantly-female audience roared in disapproval when Corsicana Rep. Byron Cook made the announcement. State troopers flooded the room as he and other Republicans left.
The new bills would limit how, when and where women could get abortions in Texas and shut down 38 out or 42 clinics in the state.
Bravo to the hundreds of TX men and women who made sure their disdain against #HB60#HB16 anti-women bills were heard loud and clear #TXLege
UT/NerdyWonka: I am so proud of the hundreds of Texas men and women who showed up to make their voices heard.
I am proud of us standing up and keeping the debate going for over 14 hours so that the anti-women bills would not just have a smooth sailing through committee.
I am proud of Texans for making sure the world knew that these destructive bills had died in a regular session and the GOP is trying to sneak them past in shoddy special sessions.
I am so proud of everyone who made sure the draconian bill #HB60 trended worldwide on Twitter and made people from other states and countries tune into the fight and realize what damage and destruction really is.
I am proud of the Democratic State Reps who made sure voices were heard even when the GOP Chair Byron Cook tried to shutdown debate.
People forget that California used to be red until the GOP tried to ram down Prop 187 and then California became blue and has stayed blue since then. That is is Texas right now.
What I saw yesterday and into the morning shows that the groundwork for Texas turning purple and eventually blue has been laid. People in states who vote Blue in presidential elections and those who don’t but are controlled by GOP state legislatures and Governors need to be vigilant because these laws have and will spread to your states too. See Ohio for example. These laws have also come to the U.S. House of Rep so be on the lookout. States are a blueprint for what can and will become national anti-women bills and laws.
The war on women is real but the Texas Legislature found out that you don’t mess with Texas women.
We might be controlled by majority republicans but our voices will not be silenced. 2014 is no joke.
Reuters: It takes an army: Tens of thousands of workers roll out Obamacare
From the chief actuary at the California health insurance exchange that President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law established to the legions of call center staffers who will help people trying to buy insurance through such state exchanges, the number of people working to implement “Obamacare” has reached the tens of thousands, a Reuters analysis has found.
No one said that overhauling healthcare, which accounts for 17 percent of all national spending, was going to happen with a skeleton crew.
State offices that will run insurance exchanges are hiring tens of thousands, either on staff or through outsourcing firms. Federal agencies that are key to implementing the law, such as the Internal Revenue Service, plan to hire thousands more, and private non-profit groups backed by the White House are dispatching thousands of newly hired staffers and volunteers into the field.
Greg Sargent: In another embarrassment for House Speaker John Boehner, the farm bill went down to a surprise defeat in the House, 195-234. Most Democrats voted against it, because of its deep cuts to food stamps, but what really sealed its fate is that in spite of those cuts, 62 Republicans voted against it, too, apparently because it didn’t cut spending enough.
….. “This underscores that Boehner cannot pass bills on his own,” Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein told me in a quick interview today. “He can’t do anything with only Republicans. The real power center in the House is not Boehner. It’s not Cantor. It’s not Ryan. It’s not McCarthy. It’s the extreme right. This shows the real dilemma ahead for a Speaker who is very weak and very conscious of his weakness within the party.”
….. Ornstein’s final verdict on today’s display from House Republicans: “They’re pathetic.”
Steve Benen: …. From a progressive perspective, it’s hard to shed tears over the bill’s demise – this was an awful, needlessly punitive piece of legislation. Its GOP proponents, without so much as a hint of shame, were a little too eager to redistribute wealth in the wrong direction – punishing poor families and rewarding wealthy agricultural interests – and their efforts to slash funds for food stamps bordered on cruel.
To be sure, even if the House had passed its bill, it wasn’t going far given the scope of the opposition from Senate Democrats and an unambiguous veto threat from the Obama White House.
But the real takeaway here is that the House Republican leadership, once again, failed miserably….
So much for voter suppression. So much for the enthusiasm gap. So much for the idea that smug, self-appointed arbiters of what is genuinely “American” were going to “take back” the country, as if it had somehow been stolen.
On Tuesday, millions of voters sent a resounding message to the take-it-back crowd: You won’t. You can’t. It’s our country, too.
…. Nationwide, roughly three of every 10 voters Tuesday were minorities. African Americans chose Obama by 93 percent, Latinos by 71 percent and Asian Americans, the nation’s fastest-growing minority, by 73 percent.
….. On Tuesday, the America of today asserted itself. Four years ago, the presidential election was about Barack Obama and history. This time, it was about us — who we are as a nation — and a multihued, multicultural future.
President Barack Obama talks with advisor Karen Dunn aboard Marine One en route from Camp David to Joint Base Andrews, Md., Oct. 22, 2012. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., is seen in the background. (Pete Souza)
‘Stock market’s performance under President Obama ranks fifth among all Presidents since 1900′