President Barack Obama smiles as he walks down the steps of the Capitol with Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny after attending a “Friends of Ireland” luncheon
President Barack Obama holds a book of poetry given to him by Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny during their meeting in the Oval Office
Vice President Joe Biden listens during a meeting between President Barack Obama and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, on St. Patrick’s Day in the Oval Office
Zack Ford: Obama Administration Announces Executive Order Protecting LGBT Employees Of Federal Contractors
The White House announced Monday that President Obama will issue an executive order requiring that all companies who contract with the federal government must not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The order, expected to be finalized in the coming weeks, is an extension of orders previously issued by past presidents — most recently Johnson — similarly banning employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin among all contractors and subcontractors who do over $10,000 in business with the government in any one year. The protections will reach over one million LGBT workers across the country, making it the single largest expansion of LGBT workplace protections in our country’s history. There continue to be 29 states that offer no employment protections on the basis of sexual orientation and 32 with no protections based on gender identity, but many LGBT workers in those states will now have workplace protections for the first time ever. As many as 43 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and 90 percent of transgender people have experienced some form of harassment or discrimination in the workplace.
One of the largest companies that could be impacted by the executive order is Exxon Mobil, which last month voted down LGBT employment protections for the 17th time. The company claims to have a “zero tolerance” policy on the books for mistreatment, but that does not have the same legal force or consistency as the protections shareholders have voted down each year. As many as 9 out of 10 voters believe federal law already protects LGBT workers from discrimination. Though this isn’t true, many of the country’s biggest companies do already have corporate policies prohibiting such discrimination. Businesses of all sizes have found that nondiscrimination protections are good for their bottom line, improving the recruitment, retention, and productivity of talented employees and appealing to a wider customer base. A new Human Rights Campaign poll finds that 63 percent of voters support federal LGBT employment protections.
President Obama acknowledges the crowd during an event at McArthur High School in Hollywood, Fla., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
The President will welcome the five-time Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, to the White House to honor the team and their 2013 Stanley Cup victory. Following the visit, he will deliver remarks at an Organizing for Action event.
The Week Ahead:
Tuesday: The President will travel to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and visit with wounded warriors who are being treated at the hospital and with their families. He will also visit the Fisher House, a program that supports military families by welcoming them to stay at the house while their loved ones receive specialized medical care.
Wednesday: The President will travel to Dallas to participate in DSCC events.
Thursday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.
Friday: The President will travel to the New Orleans area for an event on the economy. Later that day, he will travel to Miami, Florida to participate in DNC and DSCC events.
Here in the United States, we’re united by a fundamental principle: we’re all created equal and every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law. We believe that no matter who you are, if you work hard and play by the rules, you deserve the chance to follow your dreams and pursue your happiness. That’s America’s promise.
That’s why, for instance, Americans can’t be fired from their jobs just because of the color of their skin or for being Christian or Jewish or a woman or an individual with a disability. That kind of discrimination has no place in our nation. And yet, right now, in 2013, in many states a person can be fired simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. As a result, millions of LGBT Americans go to work every day fearing that, without any warning, they could lose their jobs — not because of anything they’ve done, but simply because of who they are.
It’s offensive. It’s wrong. And it needs to stop, because in the United States of America, who you are and who you love should never be a fireable offense. That’s why Congress needs to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, also known as ENDA, which would provide strong federal protections against discrimination, making it explicitly illegal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This bill has strong bipartisan support and the support of a vast majority of Americans. It ought to be the law of the land.
Mother Jones: Economists To Congress: It’s Time For A “Robin Hood Tax” On The Rich
Congress resolved the shutdown and debt ceiling crisis (for now) by agreeing to hash out a budget agreement by mid-December. Already, hopes are dim. Budget experts say that if any deal at all is worked out to replace the deep budget cuts that went into effect in March, the most likely outcome will be a short-term plan involving slightly less severe spending cuts—but with no new revenue, a big Democratic priority. Now, several prominent economists, along with a coalition of labor, health, and community groups are pushing progressive lawmakers to aim higher, calling for what they term a “Robin Hood tax” on the rich.
Igor Volsky: The Next Attack Against Obamacare: If You Like Your Doctors, You Won’t Be Able To Keep Them
Opponents of the law have begun advancing another related argument against reform: if you like the doctor or hospital you have, you may not be able to keep them. Remember that while the Affordable Care Act does establish some network adequacy standards — insurers are required to ensure a sufficient choice of providers (including providers that specialize in mental health and substance abuse services) and offer essential community providers to serve predominately low-income and medically underserved populations. Big provider networks aren’t necessarily better, however.
Industry surveys show that premiums are “the most important factor in consumers’ choices” and that more than half of those surveyed would opt for “a narrow-network product if it cost them at least 10 percent less than an equivalent with broader choice.” That was certainly the experience in Massachusetts, where a 2010 law actually required health plans to offer tiered-or limited-network products “priced 12 percent below their broad network product.” Three years later, a state’s attorney general report found that membership in these limited networks grew by almost 50 percent.
Zack Ford: Defense Secretary Orders States To Provide Same-Sex Benefits To National Guard Servicemembers
After the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, the Pentagon ordered that the same-sex spouses of servicemembers be entitled to the same benefits as other spouses. Several states, however, used their own constitutional bans on same-sex marriage to justify denying such benefits to National Guard servicemembers at their state offices and facilities.
Speaking to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel condemned this discrimination as “wrong” and ordered the Pentagon to take immediate action to resolve the discrepancy:
Today, I directed the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Frank Grass, to take immediate action to remedy this situation. At my direction, he will meet with the Adjutants General from the states where these ID cards are being declined and denied. The Adjutants General will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and DoD policy, in line with the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions.
Approximately 46 percent of single, uninsured young adults living in 34 of the states with a federal Obamacare marketplace will be able to purchase basic health coverage — a bare-bones “Bronze” level plan — for less than $50 per month after factoring in federal tax subsidies. An even greater number of young and uninsured single adults between the ages of 18 and 34 will be able to get coverage for less than $100 per month, according to government data.
An additional one million young adults will also now qualify for Medicaid coverage under Obamacare’s expansion of the program. All told, the report finds that 40 percent of the 7.2 million young, uninsured adults living in the 34 states will be able to get coverage for $100 per month or less thanks to the health law. That works out to be 2.9 million people. If all of the 34 states had chosen to expand Medicaid, however, that number would actually spike to 6.2 million people.
1. Americans will be forced to buy health insurance: The health-care law’s individual mandate, despite its name, isn’t meant to force Americans into health plans. Instead, it is supposed to encourage people to purchase coverage by giving them two options: Buy insurance or pay a fine. In 2014, that fine is $95 or 1 percent of an individual’s income, whichever is higher.
The Internal Revenue Service is responsible for collecting this penalty from individuals who indicate on their annual tax filings that they have not purchased coverage. The agency can take the penalty out of a filer’s refund, but beyond that, its ability to recoup those dollars is extremely limited. The IRS cannot, for example, send agents to people’s homes or put liens on their houses. In the health-care law, Congress specifically curtailed the ability to enforce this penalty, giving the IRS fewer ways to collect it than there are for other tax fines.
Erik Wasson: CBO: Ending Obamacare ‘Exemption’ Adds To Deficit
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said Friday that a Republican-backed plan to force more high-level officials and staffers to obtain their insurance through ObamaCare would add nearly $1 billion to the deficit. The CBO estimates that ending the so-called ObamaCare exemption for members of Congress and staff and forcing officials like President Obama to enroll in an ObamaCare exchange would add $978 million to the deficit over 10 years.
The plan would deny the office-holders and staff the premium support they now get from the government. Under current law, members of Congress and staff will have to obtain their health coverage from ObamaCare in 2014 rather than through the federal government’s health plan. Under a ruling from the Office of Personnel Management, the members and staff have been granted an exemption to receive premium support from their employer, the federal government.
NYT: Under Health Care Act, Millions Eligible For Free Policies
Millions of people could qualify for federal subsidies that will pay the entire monthly cost of some health care plans being offered in the online marketplaces set up under President Obama’s health care law. The analysis found that five million to six million people who are uninsured will qualify for subsidies that will be greater than the cost of the cheapest bronze or silver plan. A million more people with individual insurance could also be eligible, according to McKinsey, although estimates of the size of the market for private individual insurance vary widely. None of the people in the analysis qualify for Medicaid.
Although they vary in their design, bronze plans generally cover about 60 percent of a person’s medical costs. All plans, including bronze, must cover standard benefits like prescription drugs, maternity care and mental health treatment. Not everyone selects the cheapest option. Dante Olivia Smith, a lighting designer from Manhattan, learned that federal subsidies would allow her to buy a bronze plan for $24 a month.
“It was astounding,” she said. “I almost started crying, and called my mom.” In the end, however, she went with a silver plan for $91 a month that included dental and vision coverage. Ms. Smith, who is 30, said she opted for the more comprehensive plan because of her work, which requires her to climb ladders and use power tools.
Washington Post: Obama Asks Federal Agencies To ‘Prepare’ For Climate Change. Here’s What That Means.
The White House underscored that point on Friday when it issued a new executive order directing federal agencies to help states and communities prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea-level rise, storms, and droughts.
The Obama administration is still focused on cutting U.S. greenhouse gases — the official goal is to get carbon-dioxide emissions down 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. That’s why regulators have set stricter fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks — reaching 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 — and are planning carbon rules for coal- and gas-fired power plants. To that end, there are a few key aspects of the White House memo
Tara Culp-Ressler: The Abortion Case Making Its Way To The Supreme Court Is A Stealth Attack On Your Reproductive Rights
Oklahoma’s highest court has set the stage for a potential Supreme Court showdown over abortion; specifically, over the abortion pill, which allows women to terminate an early pregnancy without having a surgical procedure. The complicated case, Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, could come before the Roberts court this term. But you’ve probably never heard of it — and that’s exactly how the anti-choice community wants to keep it.
The case in question concerns a 2011 Oklahoma state law restricting the way that doctors are allowed to administer abortion-inducing medication. That law forces doctors to follow the FDA’s outdated protocol for the abortion pill, ignoring the fact that medical standards have evolved and doctors don’t think that’s the best practice for their patients anymore. After reproductive rights groups sued to overturn the medically unnecessary policy, Oklahoma’s Supreme Court ruled in their favor, deciding that the restriction on medication abortion was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court asked Oklahoma’s court to provide more details about why exactly it chose to strike down the law.
Some elements of this this fight are well-covered and understood, particularly on voting rights and abortion. As Norm Ornstein observes, we are seeing “a new era of voter suppression that parallels the pre-1960s era — this time affecting not just African-Americans but also Hispanic-Americans, women, and students, among others.” And, as the Guttmacher Institute notes, “issues related to reproductive health and rights at the state level received unprecedented attention in 2011.”
Less well-covered has been the assault on workers’ rights as part of a coordinated, strategic, national and ideological program. These recent efforts are actually focused just as much, if not much more, on private-sector workers who aren’t in a union. Efforts to roll back everything from minimum wage laws to unemployment insurance affects everyone who works for a wage, and this is where the coordination across states has been particularly intense.
Greg Sargent: Republicans Can’t Put Off Immigration Reform Forever
On a conference call with reporters today, GOP Rep. David Valadao of California, one of three House Republicans who has embraced the House Dem comprehensive immigration reform plan, announced that he is circulating a letter calling on the House GOP leadership to hold a vote on reform this year. He is asking fellow Republicans to sign on.
“I’m hoping to get a decent number,” Valadao said. This will be interesting to watch, because it could shed light on a key question about the immigration debate: How many Republicans inside the House GOP caucus are genuinely willing to push the House GOP leadership to allow votes on reform?
Asian-Americans have been moving steadily toward the Democrats and away from the GOP. In 2012, Asians supported Obama by a staggering 73-26, compared to 62-35 in 2008. This is a remarkable trajectory for a group that, back in 1992, supported George H.W. Bush over Bill Clinton by a strong 54-30 margin. In every election since then, Asians have increased their support for the Democratic candidate, including elections like 2004 where most other groups, even progressive ones, were going in the opposite direction
Why is this? One reason is the GOP’s dreadful record on immigration, an issue of considerable importance to the Asian-American community. Another is that Asian-Americans are a strongly pro-government constituency. In a massive Pew study of Asians, released last year, Asians endorsed a bigger government providing more services over a smaller government providing fewer services by 55-36. That’s a sharp contrast with the public as a whole, who endorsed smaller over larger government by 52-39.
Plenty of people did get hit in 2009, including people at the very top. But all things are relative. The fortunate 400 people with the highest adjusted gross incomes still made, on average, $202 million each in 2009, according to Internal Revenue Service data. And this doesn’t even count income that doesn’t show up as adjusted gross income, such as tax-exempt interest.
Yet the top 400 paid an average federal income tax rate of less than 20 percent, far lower than the top rate of 35 percent then in effect. Even in a bad year like 2009, the federal tax code at the very top is regressive, not progressive.
On This Day: President Obama hugs North Point Marina owner Donna Vanzant as he tours damage done by Hurricane Sandy in Brigantine, New Jersey, October 31, 2012
Today (All Times Eastern):
12:0: Jay Carney briefs the press
12:0 Cory Booker will be sworn in as a U.S. senator by Vice President Biden
1:30: President Obama delivers remarks at the SelectUSA Investment Summit
3:15: President Obama meets with Senator-elect Cory Booker
5:15: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcome local children and military families to trick-or-treat at the White House
Jonathan Cohn: Guess Who Really Wants To Take Away Your Insurance: Republicans
Republicans are outraged that some Americans must give up their current insurance plans because they don’t satisfy Obamacare’s new regulations for benefits and pricing. Partly they are mad at President Obama, because he repeatedly said people who like their coverage would get to keep it. And that’s fine. As I said yesterday, Obama should have said “most” people, not “all” people. Readers can decide for themselves whether, by the standards of politics, that’s a felony or misdemeanor.
But Republicans are also making a substantive argument here. It’s unconscionable, they say, that lawmakers would force people to give up their current coverage. Just a few minutes ago, during congressional testimony by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, an angry Representative Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee practically screamed at the witness: “You’re taking away their choice!”
It’s good politics, I’m sure. It’s also breathtakingly cynical. Republicans have repeatedly endorsed proposals that would take insurance away from many more Americans—and leave them much, much worse off.
Deborah Cavallaro is a hard-working real estate agent in the Westchester suburb of Los Angeles who has been featured prominently on a round of news shows lately, talking about how badly Obamacare is going to cost her when her existing plan gets canceled and she has to find a replacement.
She says she’s angry at President Obama for having promised that people who like their health plans could keep them, when hers is getting canceled for not meeting Obamacare’s standards.
“Please explain to me,” she told Maria Bartiromo on CNBC Wednesday, “how my plan is a ‘substandard’ plan when … I’d be paying more for the exchange plans than I am currently paying by a wide margin.” Bartiromo didn’t take her up on her request. So I will.
The bottom line is that Cavallaro’s assertion that “there’s nothing affordable about the Affordable Care Act,” as she put it Tuesday on NBC Channel 4, is the product of her own misunderstandings, abetted by a passel of uninformed and incurious news reporters.
I talked with Cavallaro, 60, after her CNBC appearance. Let’s walk through what she told me…
Spandan (The People’s View): The Cheapest Shot Against Obamacare, And Why Men Should Pay for Maternity
Right wing Obamacare opponents have a rehashed talking point: the Affordable Care Act forces people to purchase coverage for things they do not need. This accusation comes from the fact that the ACA requires insurance plans to cover maternity and newborn care, and that is outrageous because men, who will never get pregnant, are being forced to pay for a policy that covers maternity care.
It’s heartening to see the sudden Republican realization that men will never get pregnant; one only wishes they could apply such factual conviction to decisions about a pregnancy and let those who do get pregnant, rather than the government, determine whether to carry those pregnancies to term.
But I digress. Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies were free to charge women more for health insurance than men – essentially treating the fact of being female as a pre-existing condition – with the excuse that women could get pregnant, and thus they, and not those who couldn’t be pregnant, should have to pay for the cost of childbearing.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor recently appeared on Fox News and when the discussion turned to the budget, the Virginia Republican said lawmakers should be “focused on trying to deal with the ultimate problem, which is this growing deficit.”
In reality, the deficit is not growing; it’s shrinking:
For the first time in five years, the U.S. government has run a budget deficit below $1 trillion….
This is the fastest deficit reduction seen in the United States since the end of World War II.
Syria has destroyed all its declared chemical weapons mixing, filling and production facilities, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Thursday. The watchdog body’s announcement means that the first deadline has been met in an ambitious program to eliminate the country’s entire chemical weapons stockpile by the middle of next year. The joint United Nations-OPCW mission visited 21 out of 23 sites, the OPCW statement said, and 39 of the 41 facilities at those sites.
The remaining two sites were too dangerous for the inspectors to go to, it said, but Syria had declared those sites as abandoned. The chemical weapons equipment there was moved to other sites, which were inspected. The OPCW said it was “now satisfied that it has verified — and seen destroyed — all of Syria’s declared critical production and mixing/filling equipment.” The next milestone for the mission will be November 15, it said, when the body’s executive council must approve a detailed plan submitted by Syria for the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpile.
CNBC: US-Single Family Home Prices Rise In Aug, Yearly Gain Best Since 2006
U.S. single-family home prices rose in August and also posted their strongest annual gain in more than seven years, a closely watched survey showed on Tuesday. The report suggested the housing sector continued to recover despite those headwinds. Home prices have been rising nationally since early 2012 and economists have singled out housing as one of the bright spots of the U.S. recovery.
Think Progress: Senate May Soon Have Enough Votes To Pass Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) To Protect LGBT Workers
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has promised a Senate vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) before Thanksgiving, and possibly as early as next week. This bill, which has been proposed in every Congress since 1994, would make it illegal for employers to make hiring, promotion, or firing decisions based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Like all Senate legislation, ENDA will require a cloture vote of 60 votes before it can pass, and it seems the votes are almost all there, with several new endorsements this week.
An overwhelming majority of the country believe the employment protections already exist at the federal level, when in fact only 21 states protect sexual orientation and 17 protect gender identity. Under the current mosaic of protections, LGBT people have indicated that they much prefer working in states where they are protected, impacting businesses across the country.
Marine One departs the South Lawn of the White House at the start of President Obama’s trip to Boston, Oct. 30, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
@NewsBreaker: White House decorated for Halloween as POTUS returned from Boston
On This Day:
President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talk with local residents at the Brigantine Beach Community Center, which is serving as a shelter for those displaced by Hurricane Sandy, in Brigantine, N.J., Oct. 31, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets a woman in the audience after speaking at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio, Oct. 31, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama waits with Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg in the Green Room of the White House before making remarks to the White House Historical Association, Oct. 31, 2011 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
It was Halloween at the White House for military families and the First Lady began dancing with some of the their children, Oct. 31, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Marian Robinson welcome children from Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia schools for Halloween festivities at the North Portico of the White House, Oct. 31, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama hands out treats during a Halloween reception for military families and children of White House staff in the East Room of the White House, Oct. 31, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama reacts to performers during a Halloween reception for military families and children of White House staff in the East Room of the White House, Oct. 31, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)