3:45: President Obama delivers remarks at the Armed Forces Farewell Tribute in honor of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Joint Base Myer-Henderson (C-Span)
NYT: It happened a few minutes before the beginning of Jim Langevin’s junior cadet shift back in 1980 …. A bullet ricocheted off a locker and went right through the boy’s neck, severing his spinal cord.
At 16, he would never walk again and never fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer.
Now, three decades later and seven terms into his career as one of Rhode Island’s two members of the House of Representatives, Mr. Langevin, 48, is the only quadriplegic ever to serve in Congress….
For the past month, he has been on a quiet campaign to persuade his colleagues to give up their guest passes to next Tuesday’s State of the Union address by President Obama so that victims of gun violence can attend.
That way, he said, when the nation’s highest officeholders look up from the floor of the House to those watching from the gallery, they will not be able to avoid seeing the human toll that guns can exact.
Upworthy: It’s a fact so jaw-dropping it’s unbelievable — people thought it was a crazy Internet rumor until Politifact verified it. But it’s true: More Americans have died just since 1960 from gun incidents — suicides, accidents, and homicides — than died in every war in U.S. history. The deadliest war the U.S. has ever had is the war we waged against ourselves.
Politifact: Politifact: Since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, supporters and opponents of gun control have thrown out statistics to support their point of view.
Here’s one that caught our eye, offered by liberal commentator Mark Shields on the Dec. 21, 2012, edition of the PBS NewsHour.
Shields told host Judy Woodruff, “You know, Judy, the reality is – and it’s a terrible reality – since Robert Kennedy died in the Ambassador Hotel on June 4, 1968, more Americans have died from gunfire than died in … all the wars of this country’s history, from the Revolutionary through the Civil War, World War I, World War II, in those 43 years. … I mean, guns are a problem. And I think they still have to be confronted.”……
CNN: A group of four senators working behind the scenes on a bipartisan bill to expand background checks on gun sales is making significant progress, according to sources in both parties familiar with their work.
The group includes Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, who has an A rating with the National Rifle Association, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, a long time advocate of gun rights, and Chuck Schumer, D-New York, a long time supporter of gun control.
CNN is told the legislation they are working on would effectively require background checks on private gun purchases made with non-licensed gun dealers, according to sources in both parties. That would include closing the so-called gun show loophole.
NYT: President Obama may have run his last political campaign, but that does not relieve him of his obligations to the Democratic Party.
The president, who has a vested interest in Democrats retaining their Senate majority and trying to narrow Republican control of the House, is already making plans to return to the campaign trail. He has agreed to hold at least 14 separate fund-raising events this year, a Democratic official familiar with the plans told The New York Times, characterizing it as an “aggressive schedule.”
…. Mr. Obama will appear at 10 events outside Washington: five for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and five for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He will also host one event for each committee in Washington as well as appearing at two joint fund-raising galas for House and Senate candidates.
Reuters: A rise in exports and lower imports of oil helped push the trade deficit to its narrowest point in nearly three years in December, suggesting the economy did much better in the fourth quarter than initially estimated.
The country’s trade gap narrowed to $38.5 billion during the month, the Commerce Department said on Friday. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a deficit of $46 billion.
“Trade data for December paint a reassuring and encouraging picture of the US economy at the end of last year,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.
‘President Obama has outlined his plan for fixing our broken immigration system. Add your name to stand with the President’ – here
BuzzFeed: One of President Obama’s two nominees Thursday for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Todd M. Hughes, would become the first out gay appeals court judge in the country, if confirmed by Congress.
Hughes currently is the deputy director of the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Civil Division at the United States Department of Justice….. The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which runs the Presidential Appointments Project to support out LGBT candidates for appointments, praised the nomination.
NYT: Cardiss Collins, who reluctantly ran for a Chicago Congressional seat left vacant when her husband died in a plane crash and went on to become Illinois’s first black congresswoman, serving for nearly 25 years as a voice for racial and gender equality and expanded health care for the poor, died on Sunday in Arlington, Va. She was 81.
….. She campaigned little but easily won the primary in April and cruised through the general election in June with 92 percent of the vote. Six years later, and after some early struggles in office — she had never considered a political career before she was thrust into one — she became chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. For much of the 1980s, she was the only black woman in Congress.
TPM: Outgoing Energy Department Secretary Steven Chu, who announced his resignation last week, took to his Facebook page Thursday to make light of an article from parody news site “The Onion” alleging that he woke up next to a solar panel after a night of partying in D.C. As Chu wrote in a post on his Facebook page:
“I just want everyone to know that my decision not to serve a second term as Energy Secretary has absolutely nothing to do with the allegations made in this week’s edition of the Onion. While I’m not going to confirm or deny the charges specifically, I will say that clean, renewable solar power is a growing source of U.S. jobs and is becoming more and more affordable, so it’s no surprise that lots of Americans are falling in love with solar.”
People: My song with my husband: Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”
Michelle Obama: Barack and I danced to “Let’s Stay Together” at this Inauguration, and it was such a special moment for us. We had spent all day together with our family and friends at different Inaugural events, and at the end of the day the dance was really our one-on-one moment with each other. Well, each other and everyone watching on TV!
President Obama at an interfaith vigil, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Dec 16 (Photo: Olivier Douliery)
NYT: President Obama this week will embrace a comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence that will call for major legislation to expand background checks for gun purchases and lay out 19 separate actions the president could take by invoking the power of his office, lawmakers who were briefed on the plan said Monday.
Lawmakers and other officials said that the president could use a public event as soon as Wednesday to signal his intention to engage in the biggest Congressional fight over guns in nearly two decades, focusing on the heightened background checks and including efforts to ban assault weapons and their high-capacity clips. But given the difficulty of pushing new rules through a bitterly divided Congress, Mr. Obama will also promise to act on his own to reduce gun violence wherever possible.
NYT: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and lawmakers agreed on Monday to a broad package of changes to gun laws that would expand the state’s ban on assault weapons and would include new measures to keep guns away from the mentally ill.
The state Senate, controlled by a coalition of Republicans and a handful of Democrats, approved the legislative package just after 11 p.m. by a lopsided vote of 43 to 18. The Assembly, where Democrats who have been strongly supportive of gun control have an overwhelming majority, planned to vote on the measure Tuesday.
Steve Benen: The White House is set to release a series of recommendations from Vice President Biden’s task force on gun violence, which will no doubt face intense criticism from groups like the NRA and their allies. But two new polls suggest that a month after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, there’s a growing public appetite for meaningful gun reform.
Mediaite: On Monday night, CNN host Piers Morgan paid a visit to Stephen Colbert …. As the pair started chatting about how people in the UK just don’t have guns, Colbert asked whether Morgan hates America’s constitution (“Do you hate the United States constitution?… Do you speak English?”) — helpfully providing the CNN host with his own pocket-size copy of the document.
…. Morgan said he was simply pointing out that in his country, “where we have no guns,” there are few gun murders. “I think when 20 young children get blown to pieces, Americans should say something has to be done,” he added, prompting Colbert to call out his “cheap shot to bring up the subject that we’re talking about.”
Colbert offered a better approach: take some time, “reflect, and eventually forget.”
LA Times: Obama appears to gain ground in spending battle – The president delivers a forceful defense of his position in a White House news conference, as Republicans increasingly appear divided over the debt ceiling.
With the government just weeks from running out of money to pay its bills, President Obama and prominent Republicans have started to act as if the White House has the upper hand in the current round of the battle over federal spending.
In recent days, Obama rebuffed suggestions that he consider ways to sidestep the need to raise the limit on the government’s debt, reinforcing his demand for a congressional vote. On Monday, he repeated that stand in a hastily announced news conference, criticizing Republicans for threatening to “blow up the economy” and insisting that “no simpler way” exists to deal with the debt ceiling.
Republicans for months have pointed to the moment the nation runs up against the debt ceiling as their point of maximum leverage to force spending cuts, but now seem increasingly divided. Some leaders appear to be looking for a way out of the confrontation, suggesting the party would be wiser to fight Obama over cuts when less is at stake for the economy. Influential GOP strategists are warning that a repeat of the fight they waged in summer 2011 could backfire.
Deaniac: Twilight of the Liberal Elite: Smearing Jack Lew and Barack Obama for Deregulation that Began with Jimmy Carter
….. I can understand the liberal elite’s problem with Jack Lew. You see, I don’t think it has much to do with policy. I think it has much more to do with him embarrassing them. When every liberal elite political rookie – including Paul Krugman – in the country was howling about the president’s “weak” negotiating performance during the 2011 debt limit deal, it turns out that the president and his team completely floored John Boehner, without Boehner even realizing it. A key member of that team that did it to them? Jack Lew. Not to mention how that deal shaped the complete Republican surrender in the recent fiscal cliff deal. If I didn’t know that the howling Left is incapable of feeling embarrassed, I would contend they are opposing Jack Lew because of that embarrassment.
USA Today: Q&A: Myrlie Evers-Williams on the inauguration
Q: Did you ever imagine as you worked with your husband Medgar Evers on civil rights that one day there would be a black president?
A: Of course, we all knew, we hoped, we worked, we prayed that one day there would be a man or a woman of African-American descent who would become the president of the United States of America. That has been a dream come true but if we look at the politics leading up to particularly his second term, there were blocks that came during this time of getting people to register and to vote that are reminiscent of some of those actions that took place 50 years ago to keep people of my race and others away from the polls.
Steve Benen: … Florida Gov Rick Scott has offered the political world a valuable lesson: if you need a campaign prop, don’t use a dog:
Shortly after winning the GOP nomination in 2010, Scott announced to the world through Facebook that his family had rescued a Labrador Retriever. And, with help from his Facebook friends, Scott gave it a name: Reagan.
It was just a few months before the gubernatorial election, and Scott seemed to think this was a smart idea. Adopting a dog – a rescue dog, at that – made the Republican look compassionate, and naming the dog “Reagan” helped him pander shamelessly to his base….
Mediaite: Jon Stewart took on the controversy surrounding President Obama‘s recent cabinet nominations in a segment he dubbed “Zero Dark Appointees,” and noted that the outrage might be somewhat misplaced because Obama is “somewhat diverse himself.”
Stewart examined why Obama may not have nominated Susan Rice for Secretary of State, which would have easily diversified his cabinet: “Lady and minority, triple word score!”
“Oh right,” he said. “McCain!”
…. He then aired the New York Times photo in which it was claimed Obama was standing with only white men and proceeded to point out a black man ….. “And there is another black guy who appears to be running the meeting.”
12:30: The President arrives in San Antonio, Texas
2:0: Delivers remarks at a campaign event at The Henry B Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio (Live coverage)
3:30: Delivers remarks at a campaign event (Private Residence)
4:50: Departs San Antonio
5:25: Arrives Austin, Texas
6:50: Delivers remarks at a campaign event at Austin Music Hall, Austin, Texas (Live coverage)
8:55: Delivers remarks at a campaign event (Private Residence)
10:10: Departs Austin
1:05 AM: Arrives Joint Base Andrews
1:20 AM: Arrives the White House
Steve Benen: Quite a few Americans are going to go to their mailbox this week and next, open it, and find something unexpected: a check from their insurance company. It’s another side benefit from the Affordable Care Act that most Americans mistakenly thinks they don’t like:
When Laird Le found a check for $70.02 in the mail, he wasn’t quite sure why. Turns out, he’s one of the estimated 13 million Americans that will receive a rebate on their health insurance premiums as a result of the health care reform law recently upheld by the Supreme Court…..
…. “Obamacare” has an 80/20 rule, which requires insurance companies to spend roughly 80% of all premiums on actual health benefits, rather than company overhead (marketing, lobbying, executive salaries, etc.). When an insurer spends less than 80% on health care for its customers, the company is required to send the customer a check for the difference.
How many checks are we talking about? According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 16 million Americans will get rebates before the legal due date, which is Aug. 1…. when they realize it’s because of Obamacare, maybe the law will start to look a little better in those consumers’ eyes….
TPM: President Obama over the past week has hammered away at Mitt Romney’s business record. It’s like he’s “hellbent on making the word ‘Bain’ synonymous with a source of harm or ruin,” Stephen Colbert said on Monday. Over the weekend, the Obama campaign released a blistering new ad, mocking Romney’s rendition of “America the Beautiful” with a series of scathing headlines. “Mitt was originally on key,” Colbert said. “But he outsourced many of those notes to India.”
….. Romney adviser Ed Gillespie tried to clear the whole thing up on Sunday, saying Romney retired from Bain capital “retroactively.” What a novel idea, Colbert thought. “So he wasn’t responsible for firing all of those people whose jobs were outsourced. He was responsible for retroactively not hiring them.”