6:30: President Obama and Michelle Obama mark the beginning of Passover with a Seder at the White House
The rest of the week:
Tuesday: The President will welcome the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings and the Major League Soccer champion LA Galaxy to the White House
Wednesday: The President will attend meetings at the White House
Thursday: The President will welcome President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Joyce Banda of Malawi, and Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde to the White House
Friday: The President will travel to Miami, Florida for an event on the economy
BuzzFeed: President Barack Obama is ready to hit the road on a new campaign-style public relations trip, hoping to breathe new life into the push for stronger gun control laws.
…. A White House official said people should expect to see Obama travel outside DC to bolster his insistence that gun control measures “deserve a vote” in Congress.
Obama will have help. Over the coming two-week congressional recess, representatives of the Brady Campaign and Mike Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns tell BuzzFeed they’re gearing up for major campaigns aimed at ginning up votes for gun control….
Greg Sargent: Over the weekend, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York announced that he would spend $12 million on ads pressuring a number of Senators in 13 states to support Obama’s gun reforms. The NRA has vowed to respond on the air, meaning the battle over guns will intensify in the states as Congress remains on recess for the next two weeks.
Bloomberg’s ads — which focus largely on the proposal to expand background checks — will target a number of GOP Senators. But the more interesting dimension to this is that they will also target red state Dems: Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Lousiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
So where are these red state Dems on expanding background checks?
Senator Richard Blumenthal (ThinkProgress): NRA leadership demonstrated yet again last week just how low they are willing to go in their unconscionable effort to block any and all common sense, life saving gun violence legislation. Their most recent repugnant tactic—repeated robo calls to Newtown families—mocks and betrays the courage and compassion demonstrated by the Newtown community just barely three months after one of the world’s most horrific acts of gun violence seized 26 beautiful and heroic young lives.
NYT: Organizing for Action, the political group that grew out of President Obama’s successful re-election campaign machinery, will jump into the immigration debate this week with an aggressive online effort to highlight the personal stories of immigrants.
The group has collected 7,000 stories from supporters, some of whom entered the country illegally or were brought as young children by their parents. Organizers say they will distribute the stories using Twitter, Facebook and blogs beginning this week.
The idea, officials with the group said, is to demonstrate support for efforts in Congress to overhaul immigration laws in ways that would provide 11 million illegal immigrants with a path to citizenship.
NYT Editorial: Republican leaders in Congress regularly denounce the 2010 Affordable Care Act and vow to block money to carry it out or even to repeal it. Those political attacks ignore the considerable benefits delivered to millions of people since the law’s enactment three years ago Saturday. The main elements of the law do not kick in until Jan. 1, 2014, when many millions of uninsured people will gain coverage. Yet it has already thrown a lifeline to people at high risk of losing insurance or being uninsured, including young adults and people with chronic health problems, and it has made a start toward reforming the costly, dysfunctional American health care system.
TPM: The Supreme Court is poised to hear two blockbuster cases on gay rights this week, with historic implications for a cause that is advancing politically at lightning speed.
The cases to be heard on Tuesday and Wednesday involve the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which bars married same sex couples from receiving federal benefits.
By the end of June, nine justices will either advance the cause of gay rights, set it back, or punt on the larger questions, as support for gay equality in various forms rises in the polls.
A year ago: President Barack Obama and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick listen as students from Orchard Gardens K-8 School in Roxbury, Mass., perform Dr. Marin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Feb. 28, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
The President has no public appearances scheduled
12:0 EST: First Lady Michelle Obama will return to her hometown of Chicago to make a major announcement about bringing physical activity back to schools. She will be joined by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, NIKE President & CEO Mark Parker, Dominique Dawes, Gabby Douglas, Allyson Felix, Bob Harper, Bo Jackson, Colin Kaepernick, Sarah Reinertsen, Paul Rodriguez, Serena Williams, a surprise musical guest and thousands of Chicago area teachers and students (Details here)
12:30 EST: Press briefing by Jay Carney
3:25 EST: First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to Springfield, Missouri to see changes Walmart has made as part of the company’s commitment to Let’s Move! to open or expand up to 300 stores in communities with limited access to healthy, affordable food. (Details here)
Bloomberg: Fewer Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, showing companies were looking beyond looming government spending cuts and maintaining staffing.
Jobless claims decreased by 22,000 to 344,000 in the week ended Feb. 23, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. The median forecast of 44 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 360,000 applications. The number of people collecting unemployment insurance dropped to the lowest level since June 2008.
Dana Milbank: For a quarter-century, Antonin Scalia has been the reigning bully of the Supreme Court, but finally a couple of justices are willing to face him down.
As it happens, the two manning up to take on Nino the Terrible are women: the court’s newest members, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
The acerbic Scalia, the court’s longest-serving justice, got his latest comeuppance Wednesday morning, as he tried to make the absurd argument that Congress’s renewal of the Voting Rights Act in 2006 by votes of 98 to 0 in the Senate and 390 to 33 in the House did not mean that Congress actually supported the act. Scalia, assuming powers of clairvoyance, argued that the lawmakers were secretly afraid to vote against this “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”
Kagan wasn’t about to let him get away with that….
Washington Post: Seeking to avoid a protracted and politically damaging fight over reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Republican leaders are prepared to allow the House to vote Thursday on a version of the bill favored by Democrats, an unusual move that acknowledges GOP divisions on the touchy issue.
The House will vote first on a Republican version of the bill, which authorizes funding for programs to aid prosecution of domestic violence and sexual assault cases and assist victims.
But with Democrats unified in opposition and Republicans divided, the GOP’s alternative appears likely to fail.
Steve Benen: Given how contentious the process was surrounding Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s confirmation process, it was easy to forget that Jack Lew’s Treasury Secretary nomination was advancing at roughly the same time – and Senate Republicans don’t like him, either….
But with his detractors unable to generate any meaningful controversies, and with Hagel drawing the most fire, Lew managed to earn confirmation late yesterday without much trouble.
…. Consider it this way: President Obama nominated a qualified official to a key cabinet post; the nominee had already been subjected to Senate confirmation processes before – five times – and had never received an opposition vote; and the nominee’s detractors couldn’t find anything especially wrong with him. But when it was time for a vote, 25 of the Senate’s 45 Republicans opposed the nomination anyway.
Michigan Chronicle: … On Wednesday, the statue of civil rights icon Rosa Parks was unveiled at the U.S. Capitol ….. The audience included many of Parks’ surviving relatives, most of whom currently live in Detroit.
One moment that stole the show was an adorable photo snapped of President Obama with one of the legendary leader’s youngest family members. It shows 3-year-old Terrell Anderson Jr. in the arms of our nation’s leader as he curiously touches his hair.
Just catching up with reaction to what Scalia said today. Absolutely stunning. More in the morning, just a few snippets:
ThinkProgress: There were audible gasps in the Supreme Court’s lawyers’ lounge, where audio of the oral argument is pumped in for members of the Supreme Court bar, when Justice Antonin Scalia offered his assessment of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. He called it a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”
….It should be noted that even one of Scalia’s fellow justices felt the need to call out his remark. Justice Sotomayor asked the attorney challenging the Voting Right Act whether he thought voting rights are a racial entitlement as soon as he took the podium for rebuttal.
Charles Pierce: …. Sotomayor, for whom this seems very, very personal, made an argument from history that discrimination is an infinitely mutable thing and that, as soon as you find a remedy for one form of it, human ingenuity will devise three new ones…..
……it was hard not to go back to Florida, and to all the people I met who were waiting in line for six and seven hours to vote because the state had deliberately enacted policies to make it more difficult. Those policies were discriminatory. The people enacting them knew exactly what they were doing. They knew who those policies were aimed at as surely as did the county registrars administering the literacy tests did back in 1965…..
Greg Sargent: Judging by all the early reporting on the first round of Supreme Court arguments about a key section of the Voting Rights Act, that provision may be in real peril. Conservative justices expressed sharp skepticism of the law, with much attention being paid to Antonin Scalia’s description of it as a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”
…. all may not be lost. That’s because proponents of the Voting Rights Act are focused mainly on holding on to Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Steve Benen: I’m beginning to think an infectious disease is spreading in the nation’s capital. Symptoms include memory loss (forgetting everything Republicans have done in recent years), blurred vision (an inability to see obvious GOP ploys), and an uncontrollable urge to blame “both sides” for everything, even when it doesn’t make any sense.
The disease has already affected pundits like Bob Woodward, Ron Fournier, David Brooks, nearly everyone on the network Sunday shows, and today reaches the editorial board of the Washington Post. Indeed, the Post’s editors seem to have come down with an especially acute case today, as evidenced this bang-your-head-against-your-desk editorial on the sequester, which cavalierly ignores the paper’s own reporting, and demands that President Obama “lead” by somehow getting congressional Republicans to be more responsible.
President Barack Obama talks with Congressional leaders prior to the Rosa Parks statue unveiling ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Feb. 27, 2013. Pictured, from left, are: Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Assistant Democratic Leader Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.; Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.; House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; and House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
First lady Michelle Obama at a “Let’s Move!” event in Clinton, Miss.
President Barack Obama bends over so the son of a White House staff member can pat his head during a family visit to the Oval Office May 8, 2009. The youngster wanted to see if the President’s haircut felt like his own:
Noelani Kindergarten Class, Hawaii 1966-67 – Photo by Wini Otaguro
…. a few years later:
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama stand together in the Blue Room of the White House, before a brunch celebrating the Inauguration, Jan. 18, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama signs executive orders on gun violence flanked by 8-year old letter writer Hinna Zeejah (L), 10-year old letter writer Taejah Goode (3rd L), 11-year old letter writer Julia Stokes and 8-year old letter writer Grant Fritz (R)
Julia and Taejah’s letters
President Barack Obama signs letters written by Hinna Zeejah, Grant Fritz, Julia Stokes, and Teja Goode backstage in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building’s South Court Auditorium after unveiling new gun control proposals as part of the Administration’s response to the Newtown, Conn., shootings, and other tragedies, Jan. 16. The children wrote to President Obama in the wake of the Newtown tragedy expressing their concerns about gun violence and school safety. (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama in the Connecticut Post: As a society, our first task must be to care for our children – to shield them from harm and give them the tools they need not only to pursue their dreams, but to help build this country. That is how we will be judged. And in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, it’s clear we have a long way to go.
That’s why, last month, I asked Vice President Biden to lead an effort to come up with concrete steps we can take right now to keep our kids safe, help prevent mass shootings, and reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country. And on Wednesday, I put forward a specific set of proposals based on Joe’s recommendations. Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence – if even one life can be saved – we have an obligation to try.
As President, I’m committed to doing my part. That’s why I signed 23 executive actions giving law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals, and the public health community the tools they need to help reduce gun violence.
“He leans back, tea at his side, legs crossed, to explain what he thinks just happened. ‘It was easy to think that maybe 2008 was the anomaly,’ he says. ‘And I think 2012 was an indication that, no, this is not an anomaly. We’ve gone through a very difficult time. The American people have rightly been frustrated at the pace of change, and the economy is still struggling, and this President we elected is imperfect. And yet despite all that, this is who we want to be.’
Pete Souza: “The President works on his Newtown speech. Two days earlier, I photographed him when John Brennan first briefed him on the shootings. Throughout that day, he reacted as we all did, which people witnessed when he delivered his statement a few hours later. Before we headed to Newtown for the Sunday night vigil, he went to watch his daughter Sasha, 11, rehearse for her ballet performance in the Nutcracker. He was going to miss her performance that night because of the trip to Newtown. During breaks in the rehearsal, he worked on the speech. His expression in this photograph may be subtle to the viewer, but not to me. There is emotion and resolve etched on his face, and I know this was perhaps the toughest day of his Presidency.”
NYT: President Obama has ordered Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to lead an interagency group to develop a multifaceted response to last week’s mass shooting at a Connecticut school, a White House official said.
Mr. Obama will appear in the White House briefing room alongside Mr. Biden at 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday to announce the assignment but an aide said they will not announce any major policy decisions. Instead, the aide said the president will lay out a process for developing new policies.
Greg Sargent: I continue to be cautiously — or perhaps foolishly — optimistic that we may really see Democrats attempt gun law reform in the wake of the Newtown carnage, and today brings fresh reasons for that optimism.
At the White House briefing, press secretary Jay Carney confirmed that President Obama supports Senator Dianne Feinstein’s proposal to renew the assault weapons ban, which she intends to introduce on the first day of the new Congress.
Here’s more: A top member of the Senate Democratic leadership tells me Dems are very likely to introduce a whole package of reforms — not just the assault weapons ban; that plus a host of other initiatives — during the first half of 2013.
President Barack Obama listens to Cecilia Muñoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Dec. 18, 2012. At right is Roberto Rodriquez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Time: A social media director for the Obama campaign tells the story of how a well-timed photo of Barack and Michelle Obama broke records for Twitter and Facebook.
President Barack Obama talks with Natoma Canfield, right, and her sister, Connie Anderson, in the Oval Office, Dec. 12. The letter Canfield sent the President in 2010 hangs on the wall in the background. (Photo by Pete Souza)
Politico: The Ohio woman whose name become a rallying cry for President Obama in his fight for health care reform finally came to the White House on Wednesday to see a letter that she wrote, framed and placed on a West Wing wall outside the Oval Office. Natoma Canfield wrote to Obama in 2010 about her battle with cancer and how she could no longer afford to pay insurance premiums. He cited her letter as one of his inspirations while pushing for health care reform, called her after the Supreme Court upheld the law and met her for the first time in July this year. Obama promised at that meeting that Canfield, at right above, could come to the White House and see the letter.
7:40: President Obama delivers remarks at the Hanukkah Reception at the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama attends
ABC: Barack Obama holds a substantial advantage over John Boehner in handling budget negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff: Nearly twice as many Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll approve of the president’s work on the issue so far as favor the speaker’s approach.
Jonathan Bernstein: In the “elections have consequences” department, add today’s announcement by the Federal Reserve that it will not only tolerate somewhat more inflation, but will do so until unemployment drops below 6.5 percent. It’s a decision that pushes the Fed more and more in the direction of liberal economists who have supported monetary policy designed to encourage economic growth, not fight inflation.
….. the decision is a consequence of an election, but not the one we just had — it’s a consequence of the November 2008 election, which allowed Obama to appoint and a Democratic Senate to confirm members of the Fed Board of Governors; he’s now appointed six of seven, all of whom voted for today’s policy.
Greg Sargent: Republicans have long derided Elizabeth Warren for describing herself as an intellectual godmother of Occupy Wall Street. Now the intellectual godmother of Occupy Wall Street will occupy the Senate committee that oversees it.
The Senate Democratic leadership is announcing that Warren will be given a seat on the Senate Banking Committee. As Forbes put it recently, Warren’s ascent to the Senate alone was “Wall Street’s worst nightmare.” This could make that nightmare a good deal worse.
Washington Post: Military officials on Wednesday spilled details of the elaborate plans for President Obama’s second inauguration, rolling out a gym-size map to show how an army of National Guard members and active-duty personnel will contribute to the event’s pomp and manage its backstage nitty-gritty.
Strolling the 40-by-60-foot floor map with what he quipped were “God-like powers,” Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Scott Hinds demonstrated how units will be deployed from staging areas to various command posts along the Mall and the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route.