Columbine came and went. We mourned, we vowed never again, we resolved to be a better nation. But it wasn’t enough.
Ft. Hood came and went. We mourned, we vowed “Terror won’t win”, we resolved to learn the lessons imparted. But it wasn’t enough.
Gabby Giffords will never be the same, and members from both sides of the aisle heaped praise on her. It wasn’t enough.
Newtown scarred us as nothing had before. Twenty innocent children mowed down in a mix of easy access to weapons of war, mental illness, and a society at war with itself. We wept, we beat our chests, we vowed to honor their memories. It, too, wasn’t enough, the words of resolve as evaporating steam.
Eight thousand have died at the end of a bullet since Newtown. All of them loved by someone, all of them precious to someone’s heart. Their deaths weren’t enough.
And now, another shooting, this time on a military base. And I will say it right here: it won’t be enough.
@petesouza: President Obama in the Oval Office, talking on phone to German Chancellor Merkel
2:15 EDT: The President meets with President Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia, Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania, and President Andris Bērziņš of Latvia; the Vice President also attends
CBS: Obama administration set to release Syria intel report
The administration will release on Friday a declassified version of its intelligence report on last week’s purported Syria chemical weapons attack, a senior administration official told CBS News late Thursday.
The official also said the administration would go public with its legal justification for taking military action against the Syrian regime if and when President Obama orders a strike.
A few days ago, it was largely seen as a fait accompli – British Prime Minister David Cameron would get approval from the British Parliament for the use of force in Syria, and a coalition would move forward apace.
With these expectations in mind, last night’s developments were as stunning as they were dramatic. For the first time in generations, a British prime minister’s appeal for military authorization was rejected by members of Parliament, even after Cameron watered down the scope of his original request.
It’s safe to assume the White House, which appears eager to intervene in Syria and assumed the UK’s support was in hand, was rattled by Parliament’s decision. Indeed, it left President Obama in an unsettling global dynamic….
Another Obamascare article is making the rounds. This one, from National Journal, is about what people buying their own insurance will pay on the new Obamacare exchanges — and how those prices compare to what people pay when they get coverage from their employers.
“For the vast majority of Americans,” reporter Clara Ritger writes, “premium prices will be higher in the individual exchange than what they’re currently paying for employer-sponsored benefits, according to a National Journal analysis of new coverage and cost data. … Whether the quality of care in the new market is comparable to private offerings remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: The cost of care in the new market doesn’t stack up.”
…. this analysis doesn’t really tell us what the Obamacare critics think it does. In fact, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t really tell us what Ritger thinks it does….
Wow. National Journal really booted one today on the Affordable Care Act …..it should be tossed in the garbage…
….. National Journal only has initial estimates of what plans in the exchanges will look like; over time, we don’t know how they’ll change. And, yes, there is surely a fair amount of uncertainty about how employers will react over time.
What we do know, however, suggests that this National Journal analysis doesn’t get it right, at all.
Steve Benen: Eric Holder steps up, digs in, and breaks out
…. Eric Holder appears to have quietly positioned himself not only as a progressive champion, but as one of the more accomplished attorneys general in recent memory.
Think about some of the recent policies Holder has chosen to tackle: voting rights; sentencing reforms; condemnations of “Stand Your Ground” laws, and of course the drug policy announced yesterday. These are critically important law-enforcement policies, some of which have been neglected and ignored by officials in both parties for years, long in need of leadership – which Holder is now providing…..
FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence
The Obama administration announced two new common-sense executive actions to keep the most dangerous firearms out of the wrong hands and ban almost all re-imports of military surplus firearms to private entities. These executive actions build on the 23 executive actions that the Vice President recommended as part of the comprehensive gun violence reduction plan and the President unveiled on January 16, 2013.
Even as Congress fails to act on common-sense proposals, like expanding criminal background checks and making gun trafficking a federal crime, the President and Vice President remain committed to using all the tools in their power to make progress toward reducing gun violence.
Treasury: All Legal Same-Sex Marriages Will Be Recognized for Federal Tax Purposes
The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today ruled that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.
The ruling implements federal tax aspects of the June 26th Supreme Court decision invalidating a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.
“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve,” said Secretary Jacob J. Lew. “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”
TPM: Is This The Beginning Of The End Of The War On Drugs?
It’s America’s 40-year war. From Nixon through Nancy — “Just Say No!” — to Clinton not inhaling. From coke to crack to meth.
Throughout the War on Drugs, the drive has been for more law enforcement, stiffer sentences and less tolerance. The limitations of interdiction and incarceration are well-documented. But the push for harsher penalties rarely abated, and the emphasis remained on drugs as a criminal matter for law enforcement. Until Thursday, when the first real retreat of any kind was made official.
The Justice Department’s announcement that it would not block Colorado and Washington from implementing state laws legalizing marijuana marked a sea change.
USA Today: President Obama is back on the road Thursday, starting a two-day bus trip to promote plans to cut college costs.
First up is a flight to upstate New York, where Obama will speak at the University of Buffalo, the State University of New York. The president and his bus then travel to Henninger High School in Syracuse.
“At these two schools, the President will discuss his plan to make college more affordable, tackle rising costs, and improve value for students and their families,” says the White House schedule.
…. After discussing college costs in Buffalo and Syracuse, Obama spends the night in Auburn, N.Y. The president wraps up his bus tour on Friday with stops in Binghamton, N.Y., and Scranton, Penn.
Too many here in Washington believe education is an expense that can be cut in tough economic times. I believe education is an investment.
The White House is tackling the status quo that’s sent college costs out of control.
For decades now, America’s approach to higher-education policy has been a delightful synthesis of left-wing and right-wing ideas. In stark contrast to the K–12 universe, college is a playground for individual choice and market competition …. In a speech Thursday morning in Buffalo, N.Y., on ways to enhance college affordability, President Obama will likely lay out policy measures that, while relatively modest on their own terms, propose to radically subvert that bargain on a conceptual level.
The president has decided, essentially, that the old bargain has failed …. he wants to find ways for the federal government to put its muscle behind an idea that’s both modest and radical: that public money should pay for outcomes, not just more stuff. Attempting to nudge the health care system in that direction was a key element of the Affordable Care Act. Nudging K–12 education in that direction has been the centerpiece of the Obama education agenda. Bringing it to the realm of higher education in a serious way would be extremely difficult but also an extraordinary achievement if we can be sent down that path.
President Obama plans to announce a set of ambitious proposals on Thursday aimed at making colleges more accountable and affordable by rating them and ultimately linking those ratings to financial aid.
A draft of the proposal, obtained by The New York Times and likely to cause some consternation among colleges, shows a plan to rate colleges before the 2015 school year based on measures like tuition, graduation rates, debt and earnings of graduates, and the percentage of lower-income students who attend. The ratings would compare colleges against their peer institutions. If the plan can win Congressional approval, the idea is to base federal financial aid to students attending the colleges partly on those rankings.
“All the things we’re measuring are important for students choosing a college,” a senior administration official said. “It’s important to us that colleges offer good value for their tuition dollars, and that higher education offer families a degree of security so students aren’t left with debt they can’t pay back.”
USA Today: Small-business jobs rise as economy improves
Small-business hiring and confidence about the future are rising, a signal of the economy’s growing strength and diminishing concerns about employee insurance coverage required by the new health care law.
Job creation at small companies has almost doubled in the last six months, reaching 82,000 jobs at firms with 49 or fewer employees in July, according to payroll processor ADP. Borrowing by small businesses and sales of new franchises have also climbed, indicating business owners are willing to take on new expenses and risk.
Opponents of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants had a plan to apply grassroots pressure on congressional Republicans in their home districts. Why did it fizzle?
Activists opposed to immigration reform were all set to spend this month putting pressure on lawmakers to kill the legislation. But it hasn’t exactly been a show of force.
Last week, the Tea Party Patriots and NumbersUSA, two groups opposed to “amnesty” legislation, heavily publicized a rally in Richmond, Virginia, featuring Steve King … but only a few dozen people showed up – far short of the hundreds organizers had planned for.
…. as August winds down, the Richmond event seems indicative of the overall trend. Hundreds of immigrant advocates have appeared at rallies and town halls across the country. But the other side, the opponents, have been mostly absent.
Steve Benen: The nation’s full faith and credit is not a ‘leverage point’
About a week ago, National Review’s Robert Costa reported that congressional Republicans are considering an incredibly dangerous new plan: they’re prepared to hold the nation’s debt limit hostage again, creating a crisis comparable to the one we saw in the summer of 2011, unless Democrats agree to take health care benefits away from millions of Americans.
Earlier this week, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a prominent member of the House Democratic leadership, said he now sees this scenario as likely. And overnight, Reuters reported (see here) that another GOP debt-ceiling crisis appears to be on the way…..
… In other words, GOP leaders are effectively prepared to swap one hostage for another …. this is nothing short of madness. As Ezra Klein recently put it, “Trading a government shutdown for a debt-ceiling breach is like trading the flu for septic shock”….
A variety of Republican governors have sought federal funds under Obamacare, many of them to expand Medicaid eligibility for more residents, a centerpiece of the law that the Supreme Court made optional for states last year.
But shhh! Don’t call it Obamacare, they say, for they despise that law.
In the latest example, vociferous Obamacare critic and Texas Gov. Rick Perry is seeking roughly $100 million in federal funds under a program set up under Obamacare, called Community First Choice … “The bottom line is it has nothing to do with Obamacare,” said Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle.
Only it has everything to do with Obamacare …
Perry is in good company among Republican governors, many of whom want billions of federal funds under the law’s Medicaid expansion, but don’t want to call it Obamacare …. One example is Arizona’s Jan Brewer …. another is Florida’s Rick Scott….
NBC: Even Republican young adults want health insurance, poll finds
Obamacare may have become a partisan issue, but more Republicans than Democrats have signed up for one of its most popular provisions, according to a survey published Wednesday.
The survey also pokes holes in the idea that most 20-somethings act like “Young Invincibles” who believe they don’t need health insurance.
A team at the Commonwealth Fund, which strongly supports healthcare reform, looked at one of the main target groups of the 2010 Affordable Care Act – young adults who have been going without health insurance. One of the most popular provisions of the law lets people age 26 and younger stay on their parents’ health insurance.
…. They found that by last March, 63 percent of young adults identifying as Republicans had enrolled in a parent’s health plan in the last 12 months, compared to 45 percent of those who considered themselves Democrats….
Texas Tribune: Voter ID Debate Heats Up as Dallas County Joins Fight
A fight against the state’s contentious voter ID laws escalated this week when Dallas County became the first Texas county to claim that the requirements would disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters.
In a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, the Dallas County Commissioners Court voted to join U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, in a lawsuit urging a federal district court to issue an injunction against the voter ID law. The law requires voters to present one of seven forms of state or federal identification or a so-called election identification certificate, which can be obtained from the state’s Department of Public Safety.
On Wednesday in an appearance on MSNBC, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins applauded the commissioners’ decision. Jenkins said 220,000 of 1.1 million total registered voters in Dallas County indicated they did not have the required forms of ID to vote.
Pete Souza: “On vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, the President was golfing at the Vineyard Golf Club. I switched my digital camera to the black-and-white setting to capture the ominous clouds.” Aug. 22, 2010
First Lady Michelle Obama greets attendees during a Joining Forces event at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Fla., Aug. 22, 2012 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Barack Obama talks on the phone with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France in the Oval Office, Saturday, July 23, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Nedra Pickler: President Barack Obama is enrolling some star power to promote health care. Obama stopped by a private White House meeting Monday with celebrities including singer Jennifer Hudson and actors Amy Poehler, Michael Cera and Kal Penn. The White House says the artists expressed interest in helping spread the word about the health insurance marketplaces opening Oct. 1.
The White House says Obama told the artists they could help reach young uninsured Americans who will be vital to his signature law’s success. Insurers need healthy young customers to help offset the costs of older, sicker consumers. The group also included representatives for Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keys and Bon Jovi. Also in attendance were officials with internet video makers YouTube and Funny or Die, which are teaming up on promotions featuring comedians.
Washington Post: Oprah, Funny or Die and the Grammys want to promote Obamacare
What do Oprah, Funny or Die and the Grammys have in common? All three, it turns out, have volunteered to promote Obamacare.
Senior advisor Valerie Jarrett hosted a meeting Monday with a star-studded group of actors, musicians, writers and producers who have “expressed a personal interest in educating young people about the Affordable Care Act,” according to a White House official.
Young people are crucial to the Affordable Care Act’s success, and the White House estimates it needs 2.7 million of them to sign up for health coverage in 2014. With typically low health costs, it’s this demographic that Obama administration is relying on to keep premiums low on the new marketplaces.
Erica Lafferty, daughter of Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, stops at her mother’s grave on her wedding day
People: ….. “I wanted to let her know how much I missed her,” Lafferty says. “No daughter should ever have to do that on her wedding day … and I make sure she is always part of every day, like she always had been.”
…. For her bridal ensemble, Lafferty wore custom-dyed converse sneakers, something she and her mom often joked about.
“My mom always teased me because I was such a tomboy,” she says. “When I was picking out my dress, we found you could custom Converse sneakers, so she knew I had ordered them.”
Lafferty works with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, “to fight common-sense gun laws and join with others who’ve lost loved ones. I’m using my voice to make sure that things change and ensure no one else has to experience one of the most important days of their life without their mother due to gun violence.”
Steve Benen: U.S. job growth improves, exceeds expectations
Going into this morning, most economists projected job growth from June to be about 155,000 new jobs. With this in mind, the new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows not only good news, but unexpectedly good news…..
The U.S. economy added a better-than-expected 195,000 jobs in June and employment gains for May and April were revised sharply higher, the U.S. government said Friday. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 7.6%, but the size of the labor force increased by 177,000, according to the Labor Department said.
…. Perhaps the most important – and most heartening – detail in this new report is the upward revisions for the previous two months…
In 2010, a tiny Palestinian-rights group called Minnesota Break the Bonds applied to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status. Two years and a lot of prodding later, the I.R.S. sent the group’s leaders a series of questions and requests almost identical to the ones it was sending to Tea Party groups at the time.
…. The controversy that erupted in May has focused on an ideological question: Were conservative groups singled out for special treatment based on their politics, or did the I.R.S. equally target liberal groups? But a closer look at the I.R.S. operation suggests that the problem was less about ideology and more about how a process instructing reviewers to “be on the lookout” for selected terms was applied to any group that mentioned certain words in its application.
ThinkProgress: What The Mainstream Media Misses About Texas’ Ongoing Abortion Battle
Over the past week, Texas has captured national attention with a dramatic show-down between a Republican-controlled legislature and thousands of reproductive health advocates…. but many of the narratives the media is crafting aren’t actually getting at the full scope of the story.
In addition to criminalizing abortion services after 20 weeks, the other provisions in Texas’ abortion proposals would impose harsh restrictions on abortion providers. By subjecting abortion clinics to new regulations that would force them to make expensive updates to their facilities — unnecessary measures that major medical groups, like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, oppose — Texas’ bill would force 90 percent of the state’s clinics to close their doors. That would leave just five abortion clinics in the entire Lone Star State, which happens to be the second most populous state in the country.
…. And the real catch? Outside of the debate about abortion access after 20 weeks — even outside of the fight for abortion rights altogether — the “abortion clinics” in question are often providing health services that encompass much more than helping women terminate a pregnancy. Many of them also provide preventative care, family planning counseling, STD testing, and cancer screenings. And they offer those health services to Texans of both genders who are typically uninsured.
News Observer: Gov. Pat McCrory doled out handshakes and hailed parade-goers as he rode in this Rowan County town’s Fourth of July parade Thursday, but he wouldn’t say what he’d do about a controversial abortion bill if it reaches his desk.
That question has been on many minds in North Carolina this week, after the N.C. Senate Wednesday approved sweeping new rules that could limit abortions. The bill now goes to the N.C. House.
The legislation would require N.C. abortion clinics to meet tougher standards similar to those governing outpatient surgery clinics. As a result, critics say, it would effectively close the majority of the state’s 16 abortion clinics. It would also require doctors to be present when women take pills to induce abortions.
Mediaite: Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, the Archbishop of Santo Domingo, was a little shocked when reporters switched from questioning him about the U.S.’s openly gay nominee for Ambassador to the Dominican Republic to the subject of the regional egg trade: “We go from faggots and lesbians to this?” he said, laughing. “We’re jumping to chickens now?”….
As I have said since the Egyptian Revolution, the United States supports a set of core principles, including opposition to violence, protection of universal human rights, and reform that meets the legitimate aspirations of the people. The United States does not support particular individuals or political parties, but we are committed to the democratic process and respect for the rule of law. Since the current unrest in Egypt began, we have called on all parties to work together to address the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people, in accordance with the democratic process, and without recourse to violence or the use of force.
The United States is monitoring the very fluid situation in Egypt, and we believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsy and suspend the Egyptian constitution. I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.
The United States continues to believe firmly that the best foundation for lasting stability in Egypt is a democratic political order with participation from all sides and all political parties —secular and religious, civilian and military. During this uncertain period, we expect the military to ensure that the rights of all Egyptian men and women are protected, including the right to peaceful assembly, due process, and free and fair trials in civilian courts. Moreover, the goal of any political process should be a government that respects the rights of all people, majority and minority; that institutionalizes the checks and balances upon which democracy depends; and that places the interests of the people above party or faction. The voices of all those who have protested peacefully must be heard – including those who welcomed today’s developments, and those who have supported President Morsy. In the interim, I urge all sides to avoid violence and come together to ensure the lasting restoration of Egypt’s democracy.
No transition to democracy comes without difficulty, but in the end it must stay true to the will of the people. An honest, capable and representative government is what ordinary Egyptians seek and what they deserve. The longstanding partnership between the United States and Egypt is based on shared interests and values, and we will continue to work with the Egyptian people to ensure that Egypt’s transition to democracy succeeds.
Congressional budget analysts on Wednesday released a positive economic assessment of the broad overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws that passed the Senate last week, saying that the new legislation would cut more than $800 billion from the federal deficit over the next two decades and lead to 9.6 million new legal residents in the country.
Though the Congressional Budget Office had offered in June a similar estimate of the immigration bill that was then being debated in the Senate — in a report that found the benefits of an increase in legal residents from the immigration overhaul would outweigh the costs — the new report provides an analysis of the actual bill recently passed by the Senate.
Steve Benen: Koch brothers push GOP officials to sign anti-climate pledge
The Republican Party is certainly fond of its pledges. Grover Norquist, of course, has his infamous anti-tax pledge that has interfered with federal policymaking in recent decades, and in 2011, GOP presidential candidates were pushed to endorse an anti-gay pledge from the National Organization for Marriage.
But as it turns out, there’s another pledge that’s taken root in Republican politics that’s received far less attention. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reports this week on the “No Climate Tax Pledge” pushed by Charles and David Koch….
Monday: The President will host a meeting at the White House with business leaders to discuss the importance of common-sense immigration reform, including the Congressional Budget Office analysis that concludes that immigration reform would promote economic growth and reduce the deficit.
Tuesday: President Obama will speak at Georgetown University on the growing threat of climate change
Wednesday morning: The President and the First Family will depart for their trip to Africa. The trip will continue through the weekend, and the President and the First Lady will return July 2nd.
USA Today: Members of Congress will be in recess in August, but President Obama wants to make sure they hear from his supporters.
A pro-Obama organization said Friday that Obama will address an “Action August” summit designed “to plan for and discuss the action we will be taking during the August congressional recess in order to ensure that the voice of the people is heard and that Members of Congress are held accountable by those they represent.”
Organizing for Action said Obama will speak July 22 at “a working dinner with grass-roots leaders, volunteers, OFA founding members, campaign alumni and OFA staff to thank them for everything they are doing, but also to reaffirm that there is still so much left to do.”
Among the issues that OFA and Obama are pushing: an immigration bill, gun-control legislation and a new budget deal with higher taxes on the wealthy.
Washington Post: Vice President Joe Biden is not letting the gun-control issue rest. At a speech in Las Vegas Friday at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ annual meeting, Biden said that “at least five senators” who initially opposed background checks have sought him out for an opportunity to change their votes.
“We’re in an effort to see how we can provide another opportunity for the people who voted no” on universal background checks, which failed in the Senate in April. “That’s the hardest thing for a politician and we need to provide them a rationale. We will get to this eventually.”
Bob Cesca: The NSA absolutely can not intentionally target U.S. citizens without an individual warrant. Even if you’re the most vocal Edward Snowden supporter in the universe, you have no choice but to acknowledge the truth and accuracy of this statement.
How can I say such a thing? On Thursday, Glenn Greenwald wrote it deep within his latest “bombshell” article for the Guardian: “To intentionally target either of those groups requires an individual warrant.” The “groups” Greenwald referred to here are U.S. persons or residents.
And there you go.
This is easily the biggest news to come out of Thursday’s dispatch …. not only does it totally decimate CNet’s journalistic blunder from last weekend …. it it also represents a striking clarification in Greenwald’s reporting, not to mention Snowden’s claims of being able to target any American including the president at his own discretion and without a warrant. The “requires an individual warrant” line isn’t the centerpiece of the article by any stretch. It’s tossed into the mix almost as a throwaway ….
Here we go again. Glenn Greenwald’s latest overheated, over-long, deliberately confusing piece claims to reveal: The Top Secret Rules That Allow NSA to Use US Data Without a Warrant.
….. keep digging through the turgid prose. Keep digging. Because eventually you get to this:
FAA warrants are issued by the Fisa court for up to 12 months at a time, and authorise the collection of bulk information – some of which can include communications of US citizens, or people inside the US. To intentionally target either of those groups requires an individual warrant.
Wait a minute — did Glenn Greenwald just debunk his own exaggerated claims? Why yes, he did…..
NYT: Paula Deen, the self-proclaimed queen of Southern cooking and a sugary mainstay of the Food Network, was dropped by the network on Friday, after a bewildering day in which she failed to show up for an interview on the “Today” show and then in two online videos begged her family and audience to forgive her for using racist language.
ThinkProgress: …. what was striking both about some of the accusations she faced, and her sworn testimony in the deposition, was that Deen seemed more afraid of getting caught out being racist or being accused of having caused offense than of the idea that she might have caused someone else pain…..
Deen’s desperate to be forgiven, which in this context means not facing a boycott or loss of business …. there’s no reason anyone should gratify her until she demonstrates that she’s making real efforts to become a different person and to establish a different environment in her businesses. Paula Deen isn’t entitled to our goodwill just because she wants it…..
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….
Two years ago: President Obama greets people in Toledo, Ohio, June 3, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
9:40: President Obama delivers opening remarks to the White House Mental Health Conference
12:30: Jay Carney briefs the press
2:0: VP Biden delivers closing remarks at the National Conference on Mental Health at the White House
3:30: Sec. of State Kerry Addresses 2013 American Jewish Committee Forum (C-Span)
Tuesday: The President will host President Sebastián Piñera of Chile at the White House.
Wednesday: The President will welcome the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens to the White House.
Thursday: The President will travel to the Charlotte area as part of his middle-class jobs and opportunity tour. From there, he’ll travel to San José, California to attend an event for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He will spend the night in San José.
Friday: The President will travel to Los Angeles to attend an event for the Democratic National Committee. He will then travel to Palm Springs, California to meet with President Xi Jinping of The People’s Republic of China at Sunnylands, the Walter and Leonore Annenberg estate. He will remain overnight in Palm Springs.
Saturday: The President will wrap up his meetings with the Chinese President and then will return to Washington, D.C.
Washington Post: President Obama is scheduled to deliver remarks Monday on the issue of mental health, raising it in connection with the sweeping gun-control agenda he unveiled earlier this year.
The morning address will open what the White House has dubbed a National Conference on Mental Health, a gathering of advocates, elected officials, faith leaders and others aimed at increasing awareness of mental illness and highlighting ways that the mentally ill can seek help. Actress Glenn Close and Vice President Joe Biden are slated to speak at the event.
During his speech, Obama is expected to announce a series of “summits” coordinated by Veterans Affairs health centers aimed at bolstering mental health services for veterans.
Steve Benen: ….. Unlike Issa’s rhetorical jabs, Plouffe’s brush-back pitch at least has the benefit of accuracy …. Issa, the man Republicans have tasked with leading investigations into alleged administration misdeeds, really has spent a fair amount of his adult life as a suspected criminal. This Ryan Lizza piece in the New Yorker from a couple of years ago remains relevant.
“Many politicians have committed indiscretions in earlier years: maybe they had an affair or hired an illegal immigrant as a nanny. Issa, it turned out, had, among other things, been indicted for stealing a car, arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, and accused by former associates of burning down a building.”
…… It’s not a secret – Issa’s background is the subject of insider jokes and private chatter – but it’s considered impolite to broach the subject publicly.
Which makes Plouffe’s rhetorical shot all the more interesting.
ThinkProgress: The Medicare Trustees had great news for American seniors on Friday: the program’s solvency has been extended for two full years past what the trustees predicted in 2012.
In their annual report, the trustees wrote that Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund will be fully solvent through 2026. That’s over a decade longer than what the trustees projected back in 2009….
…. The upward projections are likely a consequence of several factors. First, the 10-year revision from 2009 is a direct result of Obamacare. The health law takes $700 billion of excessive and wasteful payments made to private providers that service the Medicare Advantage program and reallocates it to traditional Medicare. Conservatives have made the outlandish claim that this “robs Medicare,” when in fact it does the exact opposite, and Republicans have included the same savings in their own budgets.
Paul Krugman: Last month the Congressional Budget Office released its much-anticipated projections for debt and deficits, and there were cries of lamentation from the deficit scolds who have had so much influence on our policy discourse. The problem, you see, was that the budget office numbers looked, well, O.K.: deficits are falling fast, and the ratio of debt to gross domestic product is projected to remain roughly stable over the next decade. Obviously it would be nice, eventually, to actually reduce debt. But if you’ve built your career around proclamations of imminent fiscal doom, this definitely wasn’t the report you wanted to see.
Still, we can always count on the baby boomers to deliver disaster, can’t we? Doesn’t the rising tide of retirees mean that Social Security and Medicare are doomed unless we radically change those programs now now now?
Michael Tomasky: Who’s Mark Pryor Kidding? …. Arkansas Democratic Senator Mark Pryor has a new reelection ad up in which he says: “The mayor of New York City is running ADS again me, because I oppose President Obama’s gun-control legislation. … I’m Mark Pryor. And I approve this message because NO ONE from New York or Washington tells ME what to do. I listen to ARKANSAS.”
New poll: 60/31 support for background checks in Arkansas
…. So, Senator: bullfeathers. You’re not listening to Arkansas. You’re listening to the NRA…..
TPM: A lawmaker who helped negotiate a bipartisan bill to overhaul immigration predicted on Sunday that comprehensive legislation would overwhelmingly pass the Senate by July 4 while House Republicans cautioned that they would write their own version, one piece at a time.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he anticipates as many as 70 of the 100 senators will vote for the measure heading to the full Senate on June 10. Even if it passes there, the proposal faces tough prospects in the Republican-led House, where lawmakers are at work on their own piecemeal approach that could stall a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in this country illegally.
Woah, am I the last to know about the conditions George Preston Marshall left in his will??
Michael Tomasky: There’s a debate brewing – yet again – about whether the name of Washington’s football team is racist. Of course it is.
When George Preston Marshall died in 1969, he … directed that the bulk of his estate be used to set up a foundation in his name. He attached, however, one firm condition: that the foundation, operating out of Washington, D.C., should not direct a single dollar toward “any purpose which supports or employs the principle of racial integration in any form.” Think about that. This was not 1929 or 1949….
This is the man who gave the Washington Redskins their name. He was one of the most despicable racists in the American sporting arena of the entire 20th century. He thought Redskins was funny, just as he thought the war paint and feather headdress he made the head coach wear were funny. And this is the legacy that current Redskins owner Dan Snyder wants to uphold?
Wall Street’s major indexes soared after U.S. home prices saw their best annual rise in seven years, and consumer confidence got another boost. But even before today’s stock-market gains, President Obama is in rare company when it comes to Wall Street returns.
…. I don’t think a strong stock market is necessarily proof of a robust economy. On the contrary, I care far more about unemployment, median wages, and economic growth than Wall Street returns. But the right shouldn’t try to have it both ways – if a bear market in 2009 is, in the minds of conservatives, clear proof that Obama’s agenda is misguided and dangerous, then by the same reasoning, should we interpret soaring Wall Street indexes as proof of Obama’s genius?
Ed Kilgore: ….. we’re having to come to grips with the fact that about half the states appear unlikely to participate fully in the Medicaid expansion provided for in the Affordable Care Act …. that leaves quite a few (including most of the South) just flat out refusing to do anything for people with incomes under the federal poverty line. And that creates a very large “coverage gap … I’d suggest the “wingnut hole.”
ThinkProgress: How Obamacare Is Encouraging Employers To Cut Wasteful Spending And Promote Workers’ Health
In an effort to cut wasteful U.S. medical spending, certain employers will be scaling back expensive health plans available to their employees and encouraging workers to pursue more preventative and ongoing primary care. The move is being prompted by Obamacare provisions that encourage a more cost-sensitive and efficient approach to Americans’ health care than the status quo.
Bloomberg: The unofficial slogan for Massachusetts Democrats as they work toward a special U.S. Senate election next month is “Remember 2010.”
That was the year that political newcomer Scott Brown won the seat held for 46 years by the late Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy and became the first Republican to prevail in a Massachusetts Senate race since 1972.
…. To demonstrate the party isn’t resting on its 3-to-1 voter registration edge over Republicans, Democratic leaders are lining up behind nominee Representative Ed Markey, 66, including first lady Michelle Obama, who is set to host a fundraiser for him today in Boston. The president, who has a 67 percent approval rating in the state according to a recent poll by Suffolk University, endorsed him yesterday.
But Dotster found this: First Lady Michelle Obama won’t be joining the president back home. She is scheduled to be in New York for Democratic National Committee fundraisers, including a gala for the lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities that features Jason Collins, the first openly gay active NBA player.” (Chicago Tribune) – so, not sure which is right. Both??
Steve Benen: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who’s made quite a name for herself over the course of four terms in Congress, made a surprise announcement overnight: she won’t seek re-election…..
…. In recent elections, the right-wing Minnesotan eked out narrow victories — she very nearly lost last November — and recent polling suggested Bachmann would struggle to keep her seat in 2014. Quitting will save her the trouble of losing.
…. Bachmann will be missed, but mostly by the nation’s comedy writers.
Steve Benen: We talked earlier about Oklahoma’s junior senator, Republican Tom Coburn (R), announcing last night that he will only support federal disaster relief — for his own constituents — if it’s financed by comparable spending cuts elsewhere. But what about Oklahoma’s senior senator?
Republican Sen. James Inhofe, like Coburn, has opposed emergency aid in the recent past, including voting against a relief package for victims of Hurricane Sandy. This morning, however, the conservative senator said that was “totally different”.
WH: As the Senate debates bipartisan immigration reform legislation, the President and the Vice President hosted a meeting today in the Oval Office with young immigrants, also known as DREAMers, as well as with the siblings and spouses of undocumented immigrants. The meeting was an important opportunity for the President and the Vice President to hear directly from people whose families are affected daily by our nation’s broken immigration system.
President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with DREAMers who have received Deferred Action and U.S. citizen family members of undocumented immigrants, in the Oval Office, May 21 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Socialist stock market soaring to new historic records. S&P 500 hits 1672, Dow at remarkable 15,400. #obamasfault
It being Gallup, you know yourself, it’s probably a 96-year high:
In case you missed it, SmartyPants on the, well, interesting background of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim:
….. The next place a little curiosity might take you is to wonder just who this Stephen Jin-Woo Kim is. As even I was able to find out from a simple look at Wikipedia, he was an employee of a federally funded research and development center that consulted with Rumsfeld via the Defense Policy Board – which was chaired by Richard Perle. In 2008 – just before the Obama administration began – Kim went to work for the State Department. One might be curious about that…..
Three years ago today: President Obama, Vice President Biden and Solicitor General Elena Kagan wait in the Blue Room of the White House, May 10, 2010, prior to the President’s announcement of Kagan as his choice to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens in the Supreme Court (Photo by Pete Souza)
12:30: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney
2:40: The President delivers a statement on the Affordable Care Act
USA Today: President Obama turns his attention back Friday to one of his signature issues, health care. A White House event this afternoon ties implementation of the massive 2010 health care law to Mother’s Day on Sunday.
Obama will discuss the benefits of the law for women, and also ask mothers to encourage young people to sign up when insurance exchanges go on line in October.
Austin Bergstrom International Airport, Austin, May 9
Norm Ornstein (National Journal): ….. Bob Woodward has pushed the idea that Obama has failed in his fundamental leadership task – not building relationships with key congressional leaders the way Bill Clinton did….
…. No one schmoozed more or better with legislators in both parties than Clinton. How many Republican votes did it get him on his signature initial priority, an economic plan? Zero in both houses. And it took eight months to get enough Democrats to limp over the finish line. How did things work out on his health care plan? How about his impeachment in the House?
…. For Obama, we knew from the get-go that he had no Republicans willing to work with him ….. schmoozing was not going to change that.
…. it is past time to abandon selective history and wishful thinking, and realize the inherent limits of presidential power, and the very different tribal politics that Obama faces compared with his predecessors.
The vice president on guns, global warming and why he’s “the last guy in the room” on every decision Obama makes……
“Remember, I got criticized for saying I support gay marriage …. I just decided I couldn’t be quiet about it anymore, and everybody was stunned that that’s where the public is. And I’m not stunned; it’s where the public’s been for a while. Talk to any of your kids, for God’s sake.”
Did you get blowback from the president or people in general?
“I got blowback from everybody but the president. I walked in that Monday, he had a big grin on his face, he put his arms around me and said, “Well, Joe, God love you, you say what you think.” I knew he agreed with me. It wasn’t like he was in a different place…..”
1:45: Tours classrooms at Manor New Technology High School
2:05: Delivers remarks
4:15: The First Lady Hosts Mother’s Day Tea
6:0: The President tours Applied Materials Inc.
5.40: Delivers remarks
6:35: Departs Austin, Texas
9:45: Arrives the White House
Steve Benen: For the fourth consecutive week, the figures on initial unemployment claims from the Department of Labor offered unexpectedly good news:
The number of people who applied for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits ticked down 4,000 to 323,000 in the week ending May 4, hitting the lowest level since January 2008 ….. Economists had expected initial claims to rise slightly …. The four-week average of new jobless claims fell 6,250 to 336,750, hitting the lowest level since November 2007, near the start of the recession.
Greg Sargent: One party is threatening the recovery far more than the other is – It’s been widely pointed out by liberals that much of the discussion of fiscal issues conducted by supposedly “neutral” reporters actually does take sides in a pernicious way. It often treats it as a given that near term deficit reduction is a good thing — sometimes even cheerleading for that outcome – when in fact there is an actual policy dispute over this point, with many arguing that immediate deficit reduction is destructive to the recovery, and that dealing with the deficit should be deferred until the economy is stronger.
And that’s why today’s big New York Times piece quoting a range of economists arguing that Washington’s deficit obsession has proven a drag on the recovery is so important and welcome….
USA Today: Starting a series of “Middle Class Jobs & Opportunity Tours,” Obama travels to Austin to visit high-tech facilities and promote his plans for education and basic research funding.
…. Among his announcements: A competition to create three “Manufacturing Innovation Institutes,” partnerships among businesses, colleges, and government to help create new manufacturing jobs. The president has asked Congress for $1 billion to create a total of 15 such institutes.
Obama will also discuss plans to require the government to make its data more easily available to business people, researchers and others.
Bob Cesca: 13 Benghazis That Occurred on Bush’s Watch Without a Peep from Fox News
The Republican inquisition over the attacks against Americans in Benghazi has never really gone away, but it appears as though in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and the House Oversight Committee’s Benghazi hearings this week there’s renewed psycho-histrionics over Benghazi…..