President Obama and staff watch the U.S. soccer team vs Belgium in World Cup action in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, July 1 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama speaks to the media during a meeting with his cabinet members in the Cabinet Room of the White House. From left are, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
Attorney General Eric Holder
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson
With the Key Bridge, linking Washington and Northern Virginia in the background, President Barack Obama speaks about the economy and transportation, at Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington. The President said 700,000 jobs could be at risk next year if Congress doesn’t quickly agree on how to pay for highway and transit programs.
"If this Congress does not act by the end of the summer, the Highway Trust Fund will run out. " —President Obama #RebuildAmerica
On This Day: President Obama and Vice President Biden escort Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the East Room of the White House where the President will introduce her as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David, May 26, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Today (All Times Eastern)
9:15 AM: The President hosts a breakfast in the State Dining Room in honor of Memorial Day. The Vice President and Dr. Biden will also attend
11:0 The President and First Lady travel to Arlington National Cemetery where the President will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
11:20: The President delivers remarks
The Week Ahead
The President will host the 2014 White House Science Fair and celebrate the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. The President will also announce new steps as part of his Educate to Innovate campaign, an all-hands-on-deck effort to get more girls and boys inspired to excel and to provide the support they need to succeed in these vital subjects
The President travels to West Point, New York to deliver the commencement address at the United States Military Academy at West Point
The President will host a summit at the White House on youth sports safety and concussions, where he will be joined by stakeholders, including young athletes, parents, coaches, experts, professional athletes, and military service members. At the White House Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit, the President will announce new commitments by both the public and private sectors to raise awareness about how to identify, treat and prevent concussions, and conduct additional research in the field of sports-related concussions that will help us better address these problems
The President will attend a hurricane preparedness meeting at FEMA Headquarters
President Barack Obama waves as he returns from a surprise trip to Afghanistan
1. Obamacare makes funds available for “training for adulthood.” True story. The law makes funds available for “personal responsibility” programs aimed at preparing young adults for being grown-ups. Per federal law, all of these programs must include efforts to educate young adults prevention of both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Beyond that, they’re expected to touch on other “adulthood preparation subjects”, including but not limited to: financial literacy, healthy relationships, communication and interpersonal skills, educational and career success, body image, goal-setting, decision making, and stress management. 6. The law authorizes funding for grants that target postpartum depression. The Secretary of HHS is authorized to make grants available for treating individuals who have postpartum depression and psychosis (conditions that occur in women following childbirth). The law also encourages the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct long-term study from 2010-2019 on how pregnancy affects women’s mental health. This piece of the Affordable Care Act is called the Melanie Blocker Stokes CARE Act; it is named for a woman who tragically committed suicide in 2001 after suffering from postpartum depression despite three admissions to Chicago-area hospitals following her delivery.
The fact that leader of Senate Rs and multiple GOP Sen candidates are offering utter gibberish on Ocare repeal is major story.
10. Young adults who age out of the foster system at 18 receive benefits until they’re 26. Before the Affordable Care Act, states had the option — but not the requirement — of extending Medicaid coverage up to age 21 for kids who aged out of the foster system at 18. This is an incredibly vulnerable population that suffers from high rates of homelessness, poverty, and unemployment. Under reform, states have to offer these young adults Medicaid coverage until they turn 26. 13. Employers are required to provide reasonable break time for nursing mothers. Employers must provide a reasonable amount of break time — and a private place that isn’t a bathroom — for an employee to express breast milk for up to one year after giving birth. Breastfeeding the first six months, at a minimum, is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Prior to health reform, there was no federal law that protected nursing mothers; state laws on the issue tended to be very general.
Bob Small: First Memorial Day Created By Blacks Here In Hampton Park
Memorial Day may signal the beginning of the summer for many. A time for cook-outs and being with friends and family, but few know that the first widely publicized event, then called “Decoration Day”, was held in Charleston to honor the Union dead and was put together by many of the newly freed Black men and women. On May 1, 1865, more than 10,000 black freedmen and women including 3,000 children gathered at the old Race Track now known as Hampton Park track to honor dead Union soldiers who were buried there. They cleaned up the area and placed flowers on the graves of the unknown soldiers. The event was highly publicized and covered by a number of newspapers nationally. To many of the white citizens it was looked upon more as an Emancipation for the newly freed black men and women. Preachers and white northern missionaries gave speeches and thanks to those who had lost their lives in the Civil War. A war that claimed over 600,000 lives on both sides.
Charleston had been a holding place for captured Union Soldiers and at least 257 soldiers died while in the custody of Confederate soldiers. They were buried in hastily dug unmarked graves around the race track as Confederates fled the city from advancing Union troops. Northern missionaries who helped organize the events for Decoration Day participated in songs and speeches. The response by the Black population was tremendous. Freedmen came from all over the state to participate. Many feeling that the Union soldiers had given their lives for their freedom rather than to bring the seceded states back into the Union. They cleaned up the burial grounds and erected an enclosure with an arch that read, “Martyrs of the Race Course.” Many of those in attendance brought flowers to lie on the graves. For the newly freed people it was their way of honoring those who had given their lives for their beliefs and the black population’s newfound freedom.
Sahil Kapur: What Obama Can – And Cannot Do – On Immigration Reform By Executive Action
Amid fading prospects for immigration reform in Congress, President Barack Obama has signaled he’ll take executive action on enforcement to ease the burden for certain people in the country illegally who don’t have criminal records. On his order, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is conducting a review of U.S. enforcement policies in order to determine how to implement the law in the smartest and most humane way. One area where DHS feels confident in its authority to act is the prioritization enforcement resources, sources familiar with the matter say. Under the legal theory of “prosecutorial discretion,” the department could decide, for instance, to prioritize removal of dangerous criminals who pose serious safety threats, such as gang members, drug dealers and repeat offenders. It could in turn de-prioritize action against those who have not committed crimes, (or committed lower-level crimes like DUIs) and steer resources away from those who have family ties in the U.S. and have lived here for a certain period of time. Under this approach, undocumented immigrants would technically remain subject to deportation. They’d simply be less likely to get picked up by the system.
Obama, in Chicago: “The problem is not that we’re too mean or we’re too partisan. The problem is that I don’t have enough votes. Full stop.”
A second category of executive action is more contentious: to formally let certain subsets of immigrants temporarily live in the U.S. without fear of deportation and perhaps apply for employment authorization. This would build upon the Obama administration’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which granted two-year relief to certain young people brought to the country as children, referred to as DREAMers. The Obama administration feels less comfortable with expanding DACA because the legal issues are trickier. Granting a reprieve to a narrow, specific population arguably falls within the realm of enforcement discretion. But applying it to broader populations becomes problematic and may backfire legally and politically, as some immigration law experts have cautioned. “Republicans may challenge his actions in Court saying that they constitute a violation of the Separation of Powers,” said Eli Kantor, an immigration lawyer based in Beverly Hills, California. The one thing the president certainly cannot do is grant legal status to anyone in the country without proper documentation. “That’s absolutely Congress’s authority,” Chen said. That means any executive action Obama takes would, by definition, be temporary and theoretically reversible by the next president.
NYT: Insurers Once On the Fence Plan To Join Health Exchanges In ’15
In a sign of the growing potential under the federal health care law, several insurers that have been sitting on the sidelines say they will sell policies on the new exchanges in the coming year, and others plan to expand their offerings to more states. “Insurers continue to see this as a good business opportunity,” said Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “They see it as an attractive market, with enrollment expected to ramp up in the second year.” Eight million people have signed up for coverage in 2014, and estimates put next year’s enrollment around 13 million.
In New Hampshire, for example, where Anthem Blue Cross is the only insurer offering individual coverage on the state exchange, two other plans, both from Massachusetts, say they intend to offer policies next year. UnitedHealth Group and Cigna, which were notable in their caution about the exchanges last year, are expected to enter more markets this year. In Washington State, United is among four new insurers that have told state regulators they are interested in offering plans in 2015.
NYT: After Revival In San Antonio, Washington Comes Calling
When Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio and local officials traveled to Washington in 2012 to meet President Obama’s housing secretary, Shaun Donovan, the agenda was about housing policy. But for Mr. Castro, it was personal, too. The meeting was about revitalizing the Wheatley Courts public housing project on San Antonio’s impoverished Eastside, once the heart of the city’s black community. But it also hit home for Mr. Castro, who grew up near the low-rent projects in the Mexican-American barrio on the other side of town. His mother worked for the housing authority, and his father lived in the projects on the city’s Westside as a teenager. Two years after that meeting in Washington, the Eastside is now the focus of a public and private revival, fueled in part by a nearly
$30 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to demolish and redevelop Wheatley Courts as housing for a broader mix of incomes, including low- and moderate-income families and market-rate households. If he receives Senate confirmation, Mr. Castro, whose twin brother, Joaquin, is a Democratic congressman representing San Antonio, apparently would become the first housing secretary in the 48-year history of the position whose parents lived and worked in public housing projects. “It’s precisely because he’s lived out the American dream that he’ll work his tail off to make sure more people can travel that same path and earn their own dreams as well,” Mr. Obama said as Mr. Castro and Mr. Donovan stood next to him at the White House.
AP: Far Right, Euroskeptics Make Big Gains In EU Vote
Far-right and Euroskeptic parties made sweeping gains in European Parliament elections Sunday — triggering what one prime minister called a political “earthquake” by those who want to slash the powers of the European Union or abolish it altogether. Voters in 21 of the EU’s 28 nations went to the polls Sunday, choosing lawmakers for the bloc’s 751-seat legislature. The other seven countries in the bloc had already voted in a sprawling exercise of democracy that began Thursday in Britain and the Netherlands. One of the most significant winners was France’s far-right National Front party, which was the outright winner in France with 26 percent support— or 4.1 million votes.
“The sovereign people have spoken … acclaiming they want to take back the reins of their destiny,” party leader Marine Le Pen said in a statement. She called the results “the first step in a long march to liberty.” The National Front like other far-right parties across Europe promote anti-immigrant and often anti-Semitic policies. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, in an impassioned televised speech, called the National Front win “more than a news alert … it is a shock, an earthquake.” French President Francois Hollande’s office announced he would hold urgent talks first thing Monday with top government ministers in what French media called a crisis meeting.
Austin Frakt: Staying On Parents’ Plan May Lead To Healthier Paychecks
One of the earliest pieces of the health-care law to go into effect — and one of the easiest to understand — was the one that allowed adults under age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance plan. It has long been clear that the policy has somewhat increased the insurance rate among young adults. Now a new study suggests the effects may be much broader, also leading to increases in educational attainment and the wages of young adults. The findings suggest that the health law has given young adults more flexibility to make decisions they think are best for them financially, rather than making decisions simply to obtain health insurance.
With coverage from their parents’ plans, they can remain in college or graduate school, rather than leaving to take a job that provides health insurance. With coverage in place, once students leave school, they can consider a broader range of jobs, including some that do not offer good health insurance or any health insurance. This finding is consistent with the academic literature on “job lock,” which has consistently shown that people who do not need to take a job with employer-based coverage have more flexibility, resulting in better employment matches with higher wages on average.
Benjamin Goad: Administration Demands Equal Education For Ilegal Immigrants
Schools cannot require students or their parents to provide Social Security numbers, birth certificates or other documentation showing citizenship status as a condition of enrollment under formal Obama administration guidance issued. The directive to all public school districts, meant to ensure equal access to education for the nation’s illegal immigrants, comes amid reports that some children have wrongfully been denied enrollment. Attorney General Eric Holder said such policies “have a chilling effect on student enrollment, raising barriers for undocumented children and children from immigrant families who seek to receive the public education to which they are entitled.” “Public school districts have an obligation to enroll students regardless of immigration status and without discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin,”
Holder said. “We will vigilantly enforce the law to ensure the schoolhouse door remains open to all.” The new guidance from the departments of Justice and Education is an update of similar guidelines issued three years ago. The mandate to provide equal education to all children stems from the Supreme Court’s 1982 Plyler vs. Doe ruling, which prohibited a school district from charging illegal immigrants extra tuition fees. The new guidance makes clear that schools may request certain documentation showing the age and address of children in order to determine whether they are eligible to enroll. But they may not ask about a child or family’s citizenship status, or deny enrollment on grounds that a student is an illegal immigrant.
The number of people on Medicaid in Idaho rose almost 6 percent since the launch of Idaho’s health-insurance exchange last fall even though Idaho is one of the states that has not expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. The increase is sharper than usual. That’s partly because more people discovered they qualified for Medicaid during the process of shopping for health insurance to comply with the Affordable Care Act, which requires all Americans to be insured.
It’s also because Idaho is now using federal systems to check information for Medicaid renewals, making the process smoother for people already enrolled in the program, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. “This is a positive change for Idaho, as it ensures that those who are eligible for Medicaid can maintain coverage without burdensome administrative processes that cause individuals to [lose Medicaid] unnecessarily, causing problems for families and providers,” said Tom Shanahan, spokesman for the department. He said the change also cuts down on administrative costs.
TPM: Obama Administration Will Let Veterans Seek Care At Private Hospitals
The Obama administration’s decision to allow more veterans to get care at private hospitals could take some pressure off backlogged Veterans Affairs facilities struggling to cope with new patients from the wars on terrorism as well as old soldiers from prior conflicts. Agreeing to recommendations from lawmakers, the administration said Saturday it will allow more veterans to obtain treatment at private hospitals and clinics in an effort to improve care.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki also said VA facilities are enhancing capacity of their clinics so veterans can get care sooner. In cases where officials cannot expand capacity at VA centers, the Department of Veterans Affairs is “increasing the care we acquire in the community through non-VA care,” Shinseki said. Lawmakers from both parties have pressed for this policy change as the VA confronts allegations about treatment delays and falsified records at VA centers nationwide.
Brian Beutler: Mitch McConnell’s Obamacare Spin Misleads Kentucky’s ACA Beneficiaries
Now that Mitch McConnell’s emancipated himself from the exigencies of the Republican primary process, he’ll need to figure out how to square his primary-friendly view that Obamacare should be wiped off the books with the complicating fact that over 400,000 Kentuckians obtained insurance through the Affordable Care Act over the past several months. He just took a new line of obfuscation for a test drive. Assuming it’s been accurately characterized, it’s incredibly misleading. “McConnell told reporters Friday that the fate of the state exchange is unconnected to the federal health care law,” according to the Associated Press.
“Yet the exchange would not exist, if not for the law that created it.” If McConnell successfully wipes Obamacare off the books next year (which he won’t), Kynect might not go away. But the Medicaid expansion will. And the private insurance subsidies will. And the rules allowing and requiring uninsured people of all health statuses to become customers will, too. Insurance carriers will follow. Or else they’ll replace the plans they currently offer with much less generous ones. And hundreds of thousands of people will lose their coverage anyhow.
NYT: In Russia, Tune Changes About Leader In Ukraine
Petro O. Poroshenko, the billionaire businessman who won Ukraine’s presidential election on Sunday, was portrayed last month in a bilious campaign profile on Russian television here as money-grubbing, devious, a radical sympathizer — in short, a run-of-the-mill Ukrainian politician to Russian eyes. The program on NTV, a Kremlin ally, said he owned a mansion resembling the White House, clear evidence of dangerous Western sympathies. The report mocked him as “The Chocolate Rabbit,” twisting his usual nickname, “The Chocolate King,” from his confectionary fortune.
A scientist, or at least someone wearing a white coat, materialized on screen to denounce his popular Roshen chocolate brand as riddled with carcinogens. Then as Mr. Poroshenko emerged as the front-runner, a change occurred. The attacks ceased, and his chocolate factory in southern Russia, which government police had shuttered, was allowed to operate again. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia even mentioned the chocolates in passing on TV as edible, and, in recent days, he has said on various occasions that he would work with whatever new leadership emerges in Kiev.
Bryce Covert: Workers At This Giant Retail Company Are Really Happy With Their Pay
In an analysis of employee feedback shared on Glassdoor over the past year, just one retailer comes in the top 25 for top marks on pay and benefits: Costco. In fact, the company is ranked at number two on the list, although has the same rating — 4.4 — as the top rated company, Google. It also beats out some big tech companies, which are often thought of as paying well and giving workers good perks, like Facebook, Adobe, and Microsoft. Costco has become known for paying its workers more than is typical in the retail sector, where median pay is $10.29 an hour.
Its starting pay is $11.50 an hour and even the lowest paid positions report on Glassdoor that they make $11.80 on average. Across all positions, its average pay is nearly $22. It also offers benefits, with 88 percent of employees enrolled in company-sponsored health insurance. On top of that, it offers significant room for advancement: 70 percent of its warehouse managers, who can expect to make about $22 an hour on average, started in the company’s lower ranked positions. This engenders high levels of worker loyalty, as its turnover rate is just 5 percent for those who have been there for more than a year.
President Obama meets with Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, and Vice President Biden, prior to an announcement in the East Room, May 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama embraces Sen. Harry Reid during a Las Vegas fundraiser for the senator at Caeser’s Palace, May 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive at Stansted Airport, May 26, 2011
The President and members of the White House staff look out the window of Air Force One to view tornado damage over Moore, Oklahoma. May 26, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets Gov. Mary Fallin after arriving at Tinker Air Force base in Midwest City, Sunday, May 26, 2013
President Obama tours tornado damage along a block of Eagle Drive in Moore, Okla., May 26, 2013. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, and local officials accompany him (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama presents the 2014 National Teacher of the Year Sean McComb, a high school English teacher from Maryland who helps push students toward college, with his award, during a ceremony to honor the 2014 National Teacher of the Year and finalists in the East Room of the White House in Washington
Brian Beutler:It’s All Over, Obamacare Haters! Why They’ve Officially Lost The Battle
By 11:59:59 p.m. Monday night — the last moment of the Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment period — sign-ups on Healthcare.gov and 14 state-based exchanges had cleared the symbolic 7 million threshold, according to both administration officials and data experts, and will continue to climb above it over the next few weeks as HHS processes applications from people who were mid-queue when the clock struck midnight. Throw in new Medicaid enrollments, off-exchange enrollments into Qualified Health Plans, young invincibles on their parents’ plans, and the beneficiary total far exceeds 10 million. On net, millions more people — perhaps about 10 million — are now (or will soon be) insured because of Obamacare than were covered beforehand.
That net number will probably be less than initially forecast, but when you account for the fact that almost half of all states didn’t expand Medicaid, and Healthcare.gov effectively experienced a two-month outage last year, you have to be a fanatical Obamacare hater not to call it a comeback. Now that it’s all over but the shouting, conservatives are watching the mechanisms they’ve employed to discredit enrollment numbers shrink away from them. They are left to think wishfully that the new enrollees will not pay their premiums in overwhelming numbers, or deny that they exist altogether. The universe of Obamacare “success stories” is larger than the universe of Obamacare “horror stories” and many of said horror stories fall apart or are revealed to be ambiguous upon mild scrutiny.
April Ryan: Champagne Celebration As 7 Million Signups Achieved
At 12:01 AM, White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park acknowledged to QSSI, the Columbia, Maryland firm tasked with fixing Healthcare.gov that the ACA enrollments have surpassed the 7 million mark. Park and QSSI employees celebrated with champagne after the early morning announcement in the lobby of the building as they are not allowed to drink alcohol in the offices at QSSI.
TPM: BREAKING: Obamacare Sign-Ups On Track To Hit 7 Million On Final Day
Beating expectations, President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul was on track to sign up more than 7 million Americans for health insurance on deadline day Monday, government officials told The Associated Press. Two government officials confirmed the milestone, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter ahead of an official announcement. Seven million was the original target set by the Congressional Budget Office for enrollment in taxpayer-subsidized private health insurance through new online markets created under Obama’s signature legislation. At St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington, Del., enrollment counselor Hubert Worthen plunged into a long day. “I got my energy drink,” he said. “This is epic, man.”
At a Houston community center, there were immigrants from Ethiopia, Nepal, Eritrea, Somalia, Iraq, Iran and other conflict-torn areas, many of them trying anew after failing to complete applications previously. In addition to needing help with the actual enrollment, they needed to wait for interpreters. Many had taken a day off from work, hoping to meet the deadline. The White House and other supporters of the law were hoping for an enrollment surge that would confound skeptics. The insurance markets — or exchanges — offer subsidized private health insurance to people who don’t have access to coverage through their jobs. The federal government is taking the lead in 36 states, while 14 other states plus Washington, D.C., are running their own enrollment websites. New York, running its own site, reported more than 812,000 had signed up by Sunday morning, nearly 100,000 of them last week.
Against all odds and expectations, enrollments in health plans qualified under the Affordable Care Act are surging Monday toward – and maybe beyond — the 7-million figure projected by the Congressional Budget Office before Oct. 1, when the open-enrollment period began. The deadline for starting enrollment applications for 2014 plans is midnight Monday. The surge is creating a big problem for the “train wreck” narrative of Republican opponents of the ACA, who have been holding out hope for Obamacare’s utter failure. So the excuse-making has begun.
Before we examine those excuses: You will recall that the budget office reduced its projection of enrollments on individual insurance exchanges to 6 million earlier this year to account for the botched launch of healthcare.gov, the federal enrollment website. Enrollments blew past that mark days ago. If exchange enrollments meet or exceed the original projection of 7 million despite the loss of some six weeks in website functionality in October and November, that would be a testament to the public’s latent desire for effective healthcare coverage.
Damon Tucker: U.S. Secretary Of Education Arne Duncan Praises Hawaii’s Education Leadership
Hawaii’s public schools can be a model for the nation, according to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who visited two schools today before returning to Washington, D.C. Secretary Duncan, Governor Neil Abercrombie and Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi spoke with media in reflecting on the progress made during the last three years based on the Race to the Top (RTTT) federal education reform grant.“When we first did the RTTT grant, there was a huge amount of skepticism in the outside world, and frankly, internally,” stated Secretary Duncan. “Hawaii initially had its challenges; they’ve shown amazing leadership, courage and vision. I can’t overstate how important the Governor’s leadership has been…the leadership of the State Superintendent…they are a profile in courage. The only way you get better is to challenge the status quo. The only way to accelerate the rate of change is to do something different. The progress has been extraordinary.
Hawaii by any objective measure – is one of the fastest improving states in the nation – top five states, that’s top 10 percent in the nation.” Waipahu High is the second-largest high school in Hawaii with 2,450 students. About 70 percent of its students are of Filipino ancestry, while nearly 6 out of 10 students come from economically disadvantage backgrounds. Waipahu High Principal Keith Hayashi, who was appointed in 2009, has led a tremendous academic turnaround at the school. Reading proficiency among 10th graders rose to 69 percent in 2013 from 58 percent in 2011, while math proficiency jumped to 47 percent from 26 percent. College-going rate increased to 58 percent from 49 percent during the same period.
Examiner: New Poll: More Americans Now Support ‘Obamcare’ Than Oppose It
As the Affordable Care Act open enrollment comes to a close, more people now support President Obama’s health care reform than those who oppose it. Though by a slim margin, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 49 percent of Americans now support “Obamacare,” compared to 48 percent who oppose the law. President Obama has made a strong push over the last few months to encourage those who need insurance, to do so through the open enrollment period than ran through March 31.
When the same poll was taken in November of 2013, only 40 percent of Americans supported the law, while 57 percent opposed it.Two key voting blocks have also been tilting in the direction of Democrats and the Affordable Care Act. The WaPo/ABC poll notes that 57 percent of Hispanics support the law in addition to 52 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29.
Molly Redden: Hobby Lobby’s Hypocrisy: The Company’s Retirement Plan Invests In Contraception Manufacturers
When Obamacare compelled businesses to include emergency contraception in employee health care plans, Hobby Lobby, a national chain of craft stores, fought the law all the way to the Supreme Court. The Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, the company’s owners argued, forced them to violate their religious beliefs. But while it was suing the government, Hobby Lobby spent millions of dollars on an employee retirement plan that invested in the manufacturers of the same contraceptive products the firm’s owners cite in their lawsuit. Documents filed with the Department of Labor and dated December 2012—three months after the company’s owners filed their lawsuit—
show that the Hobby Lobby 401(k) employee retirement plan held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions. Hobby Lobby makes large matching contributions to this company-sponsored 401(k). Several of the mutual funds in Hobby Lobby’s retirement plan have holdings in companies that manufacture the specific drugs and devices that the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, is fighting to keep out of Hobby Lobby’s health care policies: the emergency contraceptive pills Plan B and Ella, and copper and hormonal intrauterine devices.
Hayes Brown: Zero U.S. Troops Died In Combat In March, The First Time In More Than A Decade
March 2014 marked the first time in more than a decade that there were zero U.S. fatalities among American troops engaging in combat, according to numbers from the Department of Defense. After a decade at war in the post-9/11 environment, with major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and smaller conflicts in the various other countries where the U.S. uses more covert methods to fight against terrorism, the lack of combat deaths in March 2014 marks a milestone.
In Iraq, the death toll reached 4,474 before the last soldier fell in November 2011. For years after the war’s launch in 2003, no months passed where at least one American didn’t die in battle and then only towards the end of the conflict did the numbers taper off enough to have a month where the only fatalities were non-combat related.
Ellie Hall: Obama Told Military Leaders: Accept Gays In Military Or Step Down, Admiral Says
In a meeting with the heads of the five service branches in 2010, President Obama offered the leaders a choice: Support my efforts to end the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, or resign, the Commandant of the Coast Guard said. In a video obtained by BuzzFeed via a Freedom of Information Act request, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp revealed that Obama was unwilling to compromise with service leaders over DADT during a meeting in 2010. “We were called into the Oval Office and
President Obama looked all five service chiefs in the eye and said, ‘This is what I want to do.’ I cannot divulge everything he said to us, that’s private communications within the Oval Office, but if we didn’t agree with it — if any of us didn’t agree with it — we all had the opportunity to resign our commissions and go do other things,” he said.The admiral, who will be retiring from active duty on May 30, added that he thought the U.S. military made the right decision by abolishing DADT.
USA Today: He’s All Ivy — Accepted To All 8 Ivy League Colleges
In the next month, Kwasi Enin must make a tough decision: Which of the eight Ivy League universities should he attend this fall? A first-generation American from Shirley, N.Y., the 17-year-old violist and aspiring physician applied to all eight, from Brown to Yale. The responses began rolling in over the past few months, and by late last week when he opened an e-mail from Harvard, he found he’d been accepted to every one.
School district officials provided scanned copies of acceptance letters from all eight on Monday. Yale confirmed that it was holding a spot for Enin. The feat is extremely rare, say college counselors — few students even apply to all eight, because each seeks different qualities in their freshman class. Almost none are invited to attend them all. The Ivy League colleges are among the nation’s most elite.
Brian Beutler: GOP’s Self-Defeating Myopia: Why Its Obamacare Mania Is Now A Gift To Democrats
Here’s a riddle for anyone who thinks the politics of Obamacare are straightforward, and toxic for Democrats. How is it possible, in defiance of public rebuke, widespread misinformation and other headwinds, that insurance enrollment is surging in just about every state in the country? I suppose it’s possible that these millions of new beneficiaries were all supporters of the law to begin with and the surge doesn’t hint at a more complex public opinion. But I don’t think that’s right. Over the past several days we’ve been presented with a wealth of evidence that the conventional theory of the Affordable Care Act and the coming midterm elections is flawed.
Going back to last year, before they knew how poor the rollout of the law would be, administration officials knew they’d have to circumvent traditional media to encourage enrollment. But perhaps because the rollout was so bad, the press has been less helpful to the cause of the ACA than the administration expected. Not that it’s the press’s job to encourage enrollment, exactly, but a profusion of glitches and delays has given reporters a lot to write about aside from subsidies and other ACA benefits. Yet despite all that, the enrollment rate is way up over the past several weeks, due almost entirely to external messaging, organizing and advertising on the part of the administration and its allies. And apparently it’s been pretty successful.
There is not yet an official announcement about exactly how many Affordable Care Act enrollments there were during the open-enrollment period. The Associated Press and others are reporting that the Obama administration believes it’s “on track” to sign up more than 7 million Americans for health insurance, but there’s been no official confirmation.As a practical matter, it really doesn’t much matter whether the total is 6.9 million or 7.1 million – it’s almost a matter of bragging rights at this point, but it doesn’t really affect the structural integrity of the system –
and it’s also worth noting that yesterday wasn’t necessarily the inflexible deadline anyway. Coverage through Medicaid expansion will continue, and those who began the process before the deadline will still be allowed to finish.But the larger takeaway remains the same. First, “Obamacare” is succeeding in ways no one was predicting a few months ago. Second, Republicans are in deep denial over facts that contradict everything they’ve chosen to believe about reality.
Judy Lin: Deadline Brings High Interest For Health Insurance
A blizzard, jammed phone lines and unreliable websites failed to stop throngs of procrastinating Americans from trying to sign up for health coverage by the midnight Monday deadline for President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy initiative. In Louisiana, wait times for callers lasted up to two hours. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee received nearly 1,900 calls by midday compared with about 800 the previous Monday. And in California, where enrollments surged toward the Obama administration’s original projection of 1.3 million, the deadline day volume forced the state exchange to switch off a key function on its website and encourage people to finish their applications in the days ahead. Across the nation, the interest in getting health insurance and avoiding a federal tax penalty was made clear in interviews with enrollment counselors and consumers.
“I have not had a physical in over 15 years,” said Dionne Gilbert, a 51-year-old uninsured woman from Denver who waited in a 90-minute line to get enrollment assistance. “I told myself, ‘You need to do this. Your daughter loves you and needs you.'” The last-minute rush was expected to significantly boost the number of Americans gaining coverage under the new law, and government officials told The Associated Press late Monday that they were on track to sign up more than 7 million Americans for health insurance by the deadline. But the months ahead will show whether the Affordable Care Act will meet its mandate to provide affordable health care coverage or whether high deductibles, paperwork snags and narrow physician networks make it a bust.
Bob Cesca: Please Republicans, Run Against Obamacare This Year And We’ll See You In November
Anyone who tells you the GOP is a lock for holding onto the House of Representatives while taking back the Senate in the midterms doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Why? Because it’s April. The election isn’t for another seven months. That’s a huge block of time, especially knowing how the speed of online media has accelerated news cycles and shortened voter attention spans. Again, if the Democrats can appeal to voters based on each of the very popular line items in the law, they might even be able to swing a few moderate, open-minded Republicans (yes, they exist), and especially those Republicans who happen to have ACA coverage (yes, they exist, too). At the same time, there’s seven months to carpet bomb swing districts with all of the Obamacare success stories such as, you know, my success story.
That’s more than enough time, and there’s more than enough material. This is all to suggest that the Democrats can absolutely meet the Republicans eye-to-eye on Obamacare rather than spinelessly running away from the law. There’s plenty of ammunition, 9.5 million Americans with new policies, along with strengthening poll numbers from which to draw support. If Mr. Priebus wants to make Obamacare The Issue for 2014, bring it on. The Democrats should absolutely stick it to him and make the GOP sorry it bothered. Who knows whether this will change the make-up of Congress or how the numbers will stack up. It’s still way too early to tell. But it’s a good bet the Republicans are making a classic strategic blunder — basing their fortunes upon the diminishing returns of the same old Obamacare myths and demagoguery.
Media Matters: From “Doomed” To Boom: How The Press Missed The Obamacare Comeback Story
Just three weeks ago the Associated Press reported the Obama administration needed “something close to a miracle” in order to “meet its goal” of enrolling six million people into private health care plans via the Affordable Care Act before the looming April 1 deadline arrived. The article’s premise was telling in that it focused on what the political fallout would be if Obamacare sign-ups fell short. Noticeably absent was any analysis of what an Obamacare deadline success would look like or what the political implications would be. The scenario of success simply wasn’t considered plausible or worth addressing.
Of course, we now know that as many as seven million people enrolled for private coverage through the exchanges established by Obama’s health care law. Thanks to an amazing consumer surge in the month of March, the seven million mark, routinely thought of last year as completely unattainable, and often dismissed this year as not possible, was met. And because of a provision of the Obamacare law, approximately three million young people have been added to their parents’ private insurance plans. Meaning, more than 10 million people have used Obamacare to secure health coverage. The new law, noted the Los Angeles Times, “has spurred the largest expansion in health coverage in America in half a century.” The paper reported, “At least 9.5 million previously uninsured people have gotten health insurance since Obamacare started.”
Aaron Blake: Sebelius: 80-90 Percent Of Obamacare Enrollees Have Paid A Premium
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday that insurance companies estimate between 80 and 90 percent of the 6 million people who have signed up for Obamacare have actually paid a premium. “What we know from insurance companies … tell(s) us that, for their initial customers, it’s somewhere between 80, 85, some say as high as 90 percent, have paid so far,” Sebelius said on KWTV-TV. “Lots of companies have different timetables for when their new customers have to send their first payment.”
ABC: Behind The Scenes With Rosie The Riveters At The White House
Phyllis Gould waited 12 years for the moment when she, one of the six original “Rosie the Riveters,” made it to the White House.
Gould, 92, and her five fellow “Rosie the Riveters,” who worked in a shipyard during World War II, were invited by Vice President Joe Biden Monday after a decades-long letter campaign by Gould that began when Bill Clinton was in office. “I thought we are not going to be here that much longer and we need to get this out,” Gould said of why she asked for a White House invitation. “Because no one else can do it for us.” “Truthfully, I always thought I would drift through my life invisible to anybody,” she said. Instead, Gould’s letter to Biden, in which she said her dream was to take a picture with the president and the vice president in the Oval Office, resulted in an invitation for Gould and her fellow “Rosies” to a week-long visit to Washington, D.C.
“This was the start of the first women’s liberation movement,” Biden told ABC News’ Lara Spencer as he greeted the Rosie’s. “You see these women working in a factory doing anything any man can do. It began to change everything.” With their motto, “We can do it,” and their famous red bandanas, Gould and the 20 million other American women who went to work during World War II turned gender stereotypes on their heads. The riveters worked as welders, electricians and draftsman at the Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond, Calif., as the men fought in the war. During the women’s visit to the White House, Gould not only got the hug from Biden that she asked for in her letter, they all also got a surprise visit from President Obama.
Sarah Brown, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, President Obama and Michelle Obama on the steps of No.10 Downing St on the eve of the G20 summit in London, April 1, 2009
President Obama is welcomed to 10 Downing Street in London by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, April 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama talks alone with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton prior to President Obama’s Meeting with President Hu of China. Winfield House in London, April 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev meet for the first time to issue a joint statement announcing their pursuit of a new START treaty, at Winfield House in London, April 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama smiles during a meeting with his Russian counterpart Medvedev at Winfield House in London, April 1, 2009
President Obama waves to crowd gathered for his arrival in Framingham, Mass., April 1, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, center, at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency in Framingham, Mass., April 1, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
The North Portico of the White House is seen through the fog, April 1, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama welcomes Robby Novak, known as “Kid President,” to the Oval Office, April 1, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama reacts to a missed shot on the White House Basketball Court, April 1, 2013. The President participated in a clinic with kids and professional basketball players as part of the 2013 White House Easter Egg Roll (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama laughs while walking with Senior Advisor David Axelrod following an event at the Costa Mesa Town Hall at OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, Calif., March 18, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern):
3:40: President Obama awards 24 Army veterans the Medal of Honor in recognition of their valor during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War
5:20: Attends a DNC fundraiser, Washington DC
HHS.gov: Marketplace Enrollment Hits 5 Million Milestone
As this historic open enrollment period enters its final weeks, millions of Americans are finding quality, affordable coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Fernando Valdez and Denise Schroeder were part of a weekend wave of consumers signing up for new coverage and bringing enrollment nationwide to more than 5 million through the Federal and State-based Marketplaces since October 1st.
Fernando Valdez, 25, of El Paso, Texas woke up early on Saturday, after his mother insisted that he walk to an enrollment center and enroll in Marketplace coverage. Now, he will pay $22 a month for his health insurance. Fernando said that he walked away knowing that if “I get into an accident I will not be in trouble with trying to find health care.”….
And Denise Schroeder says she now feels like “I have a whole new life” after enrolling in coverage in recent days. Denise, a small business owner in West Chester, Pennsylvania is also a cancer survivor. Because she had cancer, Denise knew she couldn’t let her health coverage lapse, but the $880 premium she was paying each month wiped out her savings account, and she said it was killing her. But after working with an enrollment navigator, she enrolled on Thursday in a Silver Plan for $22 a month. When she saw the new premium, she cried.
Not long ago, a trip to the emergency room at University of Iowa Hospitals was an exercise in frustration for people expecting immediate medical care. Unless they arrived with a life-threatening injury, most people often were forced to wait two hours or more in a crowded waiting room before seeing a doctor.
The federal Affordable Care Act has changed that, reducing congestion at the hospital and at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines.
Today, Iowans once covered by IowaCare are no longer forced to choose between two public hospitals — U of I Hospitals and Broadlawns — when they need medical care. Under the new Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, they can seek medical care in their hometowns where physicians now are reimbursed for services they provide.
Kathy Robertson: Covered California Hits Million Sign-Ups For Health Care Coverage
Covered California hit a milestone late Friday of one million people signed up for coverage in the state’s new health benefits exchange. By the end of Saturday, the figure was up to 1,018,315 people who have applied for coverage and selected a health plan.
There are two weeks left to sign up for individual coverage in the new insurance marketplace. Open enrollment started Oct. 1 and ends March 31. “This is a historic threshold for our exchange, for the state of California and for the nation,” Peter Lee, executive director at Covered California, said in a news release. “It speaks to the immense need for the Affordable Care Act and the millions of people who have been waiting for affordable coverage.”
Reuters: Russian Government Admits Economy In Crisis As Ukraine Weighs
Russia’s government acknowledged for the first time on Monday that the economy was in crisis, undermining earlier attempts by officials to suggest albeit weakening growth could weather sanctions over Ukraine. Moscow markets wait to see the full scale of western measures over the seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea and support of its referendum to join Russia, after losing billions of dollars in recent weeks in state and corporate money.
For weeks, Russian officials have said the confrontation between Moscow and the West over Ukraine that threatens economic sanctions and asset freezes would “weigh on the economy”. Although not speaking directly about the impact from the conflict, Deputy Economy Minister Sergei Belyakov said on Monday the economy was in trouble. “The economic situation shows clear signs of a crisis,” Belyakov told a local business conference.
Reuters: Defiant Putin Signs Treaty Making Crimea Part Of Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin, defying Ukrainian protests and Western sanctions, on Tuesday signed a treaty making Crimea part Russia but said he did not plan to seize any other regions of Ukraine. In a fiercely patriotic address to a joint session of the Russian parliament in the Kremlin, punctuated by standing ovations, cheering and tears, Putin lambasted the West for what he called hypocrisy. Western nations had endorsed Kosovo’s independence from Serbia but now denied Crimeans the same right, he said.
“You cannot call the same thing black today and white tomorrow,” he declared to stormy applause, saying Western partners had “crossed the line” over Ukraine and behaved “irresponsibly”. He said Ukraine’s new leaders, in power since the overthrow of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovich last month, included “neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites”. Putin said Crimea’s disputed referendum vote on Sunday, held under Russian military occupation, had shown the overwhelming will of the people to be reunited with Russia after 60 years as part of the Ukrainian republic.
The Obama administration announced late yesterday that 800,000 people have signed up for new health insurance so far in March. That brings the total under the Affordable Care Act to over 5 million and makes it likely that 6 million will have enrolled by March 31, the last day to sign up before getting a fine. That 6 million number would meet a projection made by the Congressional Budget Office. So what are we to make of those numbers? To a degree, targets like these are arbitrary when we’re judging the law’s success. It isn’t as though we’ll say that if 5,999,999 people signed up by the end of the month then the law has failed, while if 6,000,001 sign up then it has succeeded.
Nor does that number include the millions of people who have been enrolled in Medicaid, many of whom are getting health coverage for the first time. And the number of people signed up will continue to rise, particularly since the fines are quite small in the first year but get larger over time. But it’s worth remembering that for all the time we spend gaming out the political winners and losers of Obamacare, there are real people’s lives at stake. The law isn’t going to be repealed, something Republicans know as well as Democrats. For all its complications and the difficulty of implementation, the ACA has already done an extraordinary amount of good for those millions of people. If Republicans took their newfound concern for (some) people’s access to health care and used it to actually work to make the law work as well as possible, millions more might be helped as well. If only.
Japan will suspend talks on investment pact and relaxation of visa requirements as part of sanctions against Russia after Moscow recognized Crimea as a sovereign state, top government spokesman said on Tuesday. “Japanese government does not recognize a referendum in Crimea,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, adding that the referendum had no legal force as it was in breach of Ukraine’s constitution. “The recognition of Crimean independence by Russia violates Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and is regrettable,” he told a regular news conference.
Danny Vinik: Obama Is Cracking Down On For-Profit Colleges – And Liberals Should Applaud Him For It
The Department of Education released the final draft of its proposed rule on Friday to ensure that for-profit colleges offer post-graduation employment opportunities for their students that leave them capable of paying back their student loans. The rule, known as the “gainful employment” regulation, represents the culmination of a three-year fight with the industry, which successfully challenged a previous version of the rules in court.
The administration believes that the new regulation, which will first go through a 60-day public comment period, can now withstand a court challenge. And that’s a good thing once you understand what the changes will do and why they’re necessary. Students at for-profit colleges drop out at an alarming rate and those that do graduate have much higher levels of debt than students in public and private non-profit colleges. For-profits also receive a substantial share of their revenue—more than 80 percent to be exact—from loans and grants from the federal government.
Denouncing Russia’s actions in Crimea as nothing more than a “land grab,” Vice President Joe Biden warned Russia on Tuesday that the U.S. and Europe will impose further sanctions as Moscow seeks to annex the Ukrainian territory. Meeting with anxious European leaders in neighboring Poland, Biden said the world sees through Russia’s actions. He said virtually the entire world rejects the referendum in Crimea that cleared the way for Russia to annex the peninsula in Ukraine.
“The world has seen through Russia’s actions and has rejected the flawed logic,” Biden said. Biden, who arrived Tuesday morning in Warsaw, said the U.S. joins Poland and the international community in condemning the continuing assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty, calling it a blatant violation of international law.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague says the U.K. is suspending military cooperation with Russia in light of the crisis over Ukraine. Speaking shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty to annex Crimea from neighboring Ukraine, Hague told British lawmakers on Tuesday that it is regrettable that Putin is choosing a path of isolation in the annexation of Crimea and denying Russian and Crimean citizens of a partnership with the international community. Hague said the U.K. is suspending military export licenses to Russia, has canceled naval exercises and suspended a proposed Royal Navy ship visit to Russia.
Sahil Kapur: 45 Religious Orgs Back ‘Universal Access To Contraception’
Forty-five nationally known religious organizations want the Supreme Court to uphold Obamacare’s requirement that employer insurance plans cover birth control without co-pays, calling it a “moral good.” “As religious leaders, we support universal access to contraception,” leaders of the groups said in a joint statement Monday. “We believe that all persons should be free to make personal decisions about their reproductive lives, their health
and the health of their families that are informed by their culture, faith tradition, religious beliefs, conscience, and community.” “No single religious voice can speak for all faith traditions on contraception, nor should government take sides on religious differences,” they said. “We call on our government to respect the beliefs and values of everyone’s faith by safeguarding equal access to contraception for those whose conscience leads them to use it.”