Posts Tagged ‘epa

16
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama listens, during a meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the Situation Room of the White House, April 16, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

1:0: President Obama departs the White House

2:30: Arrives Pittsburgh

3:10: With the vice president, tours a classroom at Community College of Allegheny West Hills Center, Oakdale, Pennsylvania

3:45: The President and VP deliver remarks on jobs-driven skills training

5:45: The President departs Pittsburgh

7:20: Arrives White House

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Thursday: The President will welcome the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the White House in celebration of the eighth annual Soldier Ride.

Friday: The President will meet with the National Commander and Executive Director of the American Legion. Later, he will welcome the United States Naval Academy Football Team to the White House to present them with the 2013 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.

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Darlene Superville: Obama, Biden To Announce $600M For Job Grants

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are hitting the road to trumpet $600 million in new competitive grants to spur creation of targeted training and apprenticeship programs that could help people land well-paying jobs. The programs that Obama and his Pennsylvania-born vice president are announcing do not need approval from Congress because they will be paid for with money that lawmakers have already authorized for spending. In response to stiff resistance to his agenda from Republican lawmakers, Obama has made it a goal this year to take smaller steps on his own, without support from Congress, to benefit the economy, workers and others, and Wednesday’s program fits that script. The larger of the two grant programs will put nearly $500 million toward a job training competition run by the Labor Department that is designed to encourage community colleges, employers and industry to work together to create training programs that are geared toward the jobs employers need to fill. Applications will be available starting Wednesday.

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The training is part of an existing competitive grant program for community colleges that prepare dislocated workers and others for jobs. A priority will be placed on partnerships that include national entities, such as industry associations, that pledge to help design and institute programs that give job seekers a credential that will be recognized and accepted across a particular industry, signaling to an employer what kind of work the holder can do. The Labor Department is also making an additional $100 million available for grants to reward partnerships that expand apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeships are used less widely in the U.S. than in some other countries, said administration officials, who also noted that nearly 9 out of 10 apprentices end up in jobs that pay average starting salaries of above $50,000 a year.

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Dan Witters: Uninsured Rate Drops More In States Embracing Health Law

he uninsured rate among adults aged 18 and older in the states that have chosen to expand Medicaid and set up their own exchanges in the health insurance marketplace has declined significantly more this year than in the remaining states that have not done so. The uninsured rate, on average, declined 2.5 percentage points in the 21 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have implemented both of these measures, compared with a 0.8-point drop across the 29 states that have taken only one or neither of these actions. Medicaid expansion and state health insurance exchanges — are realizing a rate of decline that is substantively greater than what is found among the remaining states that have not done so. Consequently, the gap that previously existed between the two groups has now expanded.

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Reuters: Americans Increasingly Prefer Democrats On Healthcare: Reuters/Ipsos Poll

Americans increasingly think Democrats have a better plan for healthcare than Republicans, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted after the White House announced that more people than expected had signed up for the “Obamacare” health plan.

Nearly one-third of respondents in the online survey released on Tuesday said they prefer Democrats’ plan, policy or approach to healthcare, compared to just 18 percent for Republicans. This marks both an uptick in support for Democrats and a slide for Republicans since a similar poll in February.

…. “In the last couple of weeks, as the exchanges hit their goals, news coverage has been more positive and the support of the Democratic Party on this issue has rebounded,” said Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson.

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Sun Times: At Howard U, Michelle Obama To Meet Chicago Public H.S. Students

First Lady Michelle Obama, a graduate of Whitney Young High School, will meet with Chicago high school students visiting Howard University in Washington D.C. on Thursday, juniors and seniors who will take part in a program called “Escape to the Mecca, ” run by Howard’s  Chicago Peoples Union and  “designed to immerse talented high school students in a college campus environment,” the White House said.

Background, from the White House: “The First Lady’s visit to Howard is part of her higher education initiative, in particular working to achieve the President’s “North Star” Goal, that by the year 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

The First Lady will join the students on a campus tour followed by a roundtable discussion where the students will be joined by their hosts. In the discussion, the First Lady will hear how college tours and similar types of exposure can inspire students to reach higher in their education.

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Kyle Cheney and Brett Norman: Insurers See Brighter Obamacare Skies

Health insurers got their first taste of Obamacare this year. And they want seconds. Insurers saw disaster in the fall when Obamacare’s rollout flopped and HealthCare.gov was a mess. But a strong March enrollment surge, along with indications that younger and healthier people had begun signing up, has changed their attitude. Around the country, insurers are considering expanding their stake in the Obamacare exchanges next year, bringing their business to more states and counties. Some health plans that skipped the new marketplaces altogether this year are ready to dive in next year. “[W]e see 2014 as just the beginning for exchanges,” said Tyler Mason, a spokesman for UnitedHealth Group, one of the nations’ largest insurers. “As the economics, sustainability and dynamics of exchanges continue to become clearer, we believe exchanges have the potential to be a growth market with much to offer UnitedHealthcare and other insurers and consumers.”

State officials and insurance company representatives signaled in interviews that at least 10 states would feature more companies, not fewer, on the Obamacare health plan menu. Those include Kentucky, California, Connecticut and Washington, four states that have enthusiastically supported the health law and built high-performing exchanges. New York’s exchange chief, Donna Frescatore, said her state has had “additional interest” from new insurers, as well. But the list also includes more surprising interest in places like South Dakota, Idaho, Iowa and Michigan, far from diehard fans of the president’s health law. A spokeswoman for one of the companies Haislmaier cited, Michigan-based Physician’s Health Plan, said in an interview that it will indeed join the state’s exchange in 2015. The company had planned to join in 2014 but pulled out at the last minute, citing uncertainty caused by federal delays. New, Obamacare-funded nonprofit insurers are expanding their footprints, as well. Minuteman Health in Massachusetts is expanding into bordering New Hampshire; Montana Health CO-OP will sell plans in Idaho; and Kentucky Health Cooperative is moving into West Virginia.

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USA Today: As MLB Honors Jackie Robinson, Can It Reverse A Trend?

Just when we want to believe that times are changing and prejudice is waning, along comes a ferocious reminder like a Manny Pacquiao punch to the jaw. Sheer racism, exposed in vile letters directed to Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, have poured into the Atlanta Braves offices over the past week. Yes, it was like 1974 all over again, the year Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, with letters laced with the most hateful epithet known to African Americans. “Hank Aaron is a scumbag piece of (expletive) (racial slur)” a man named Edward says in an e-mail to the Braves front office obtained by USA TODAY Sports. Edward invokes the epithet five times in four sentences, closing with, “My old man instilled in my mind from a young age, the only good (racial slur) is a dead (racial slur).” There are 67 black players in the major leagues, with three teams not represented by a single African-American player: the San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks and St. Louis Cardinals.

Forty years ago, Aaron had the audacity to break Ruth’s home run record. This time, he simply spoke his mind. When asked by USA TODAY Sports last month why he still keeps those hate letters, Aaron calmly revealed his sentiments. “To remind myself that we are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record,” he said. “If you think that, you are fooling yourself. A lot of things have happened in this country, but we have so far to go. There’s not a whole lot that has changed. “We can talk about baseball. Talk about politics. Sure, this country has a black president, but when you look at a black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he’s treated. We have moved in the right direction, and there have been improvements, but we still have a long ways to go. “The bigger difference is back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.” When I first started playing, you had a lot of black players in the major leagues,” Aaron said last month. “Now, you don’t have any (7.8%). So what progress have we made? You try to understand, but we’re going backward.”

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Clare McCann: CBO Finds Third Consecutive Year Of Good News On Pell Costs

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office announced some more good news for members of Congress: For the third consecutive year, the Pell Grant funding cliff is smaller and further away than we thought. After a few shaky years of funding during the recession, the updated CBO baseline will surely come as welcome news to lawmakers facing midterm elections and a tight budget. Then, starting with the 2013 CBO estimate, there was some surprising news: The program actually cost less than expected. As the rate of growth in the program flat-lined, the expected costs started to drop. Underestimating the numbers for fiscal year 2013 meant Congress could draw on an accumulated surplus in the program. Those funds–which actually come from funding provided in past years but never spent–are large enough that Congress can spread the surplus across fiscal years 2014 through 2017, added to a flat appropriation for the program.

Based on a separate funding formula, the maximum grant also increases with inflation. Here’s where it starts to get tricky. In fiscal year 2017, all that will be left of the surplus is $0.4 billion. And at the same time, the costs of the program are projected to increase as more students become eligible. That means members of Congress aren’t off the hook in ensuring the Pell Grant program–the cornerstone of federal financial aid for low-income students–is financially stable. The CBO report is good news for the immediate future, but it’s not a cure. Lawmakers have bought themselves a few years to figure out the long-term future of Pell Grant appropriations. If they don’t, the Pell Grant funding cliff will come knocking again.

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Jamelle Bouie: What If Bundy Ranch Were Owned By A Bunch Of Black People?

For 20 years the federal government has fined Cliven Bundy for grazing his cattle on protected land. And for 20 years Bundy has refused to pay. Last month this dance came to an end when the Bureau of Land Management sent Bundy a letter informing him that it intended to “impound his trespass cattle” that have been roaming on federal property. It closed off hundreds of thousands of acres, and earlier this month, moved to round up Bundy’s cows. The federal government blinked, and the Bureau of Land Management announced an abrupt end to its cattle roundup, hoping to avoid violence and further confrontations. this entire incident speaks to the continued power of right-wing mythology. For many of the protesters, this isn’t about a rogue rancher as much as it’s a stand against “tyranny” personified in Barack Obama and his administration.

right-wing media ought to be condemned for their role in fanning the flames of this standoff. After years of decrying Obama’s “lawlessness” and hyperventilating over faux scandals, it’s galling to watch conservatives applaud actual lawbreaking and violent threats to federal officials. I can’t help but wonder how conservatives would react if these were black farmers—or black anyone—defending “their” land against federal officials. Would Fox News applaud black militiamen aiming their guns at white bureaucrats as someone who closely follows the regular incidents of lethal police violence against blacks and Latinos, I also wonder whether law enforcement would be as tepid against a group of armed African-Americans. Judging from past events, I’m not so sure.

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Neela Banerjee: U.S. Appeals Court Upholds Obama Administration Limits On Air Toxins

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s first-ever limits on air toxins, including emissions of mercury, arsenic and acid gases, preserving a far-reaching rule the White House had touted as central to President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda. In a 2-1 decision, the court ruled that the mercury rule “was substantively and procedurally valid,” turning aside challenges brought both by Republican-led states that had argued the rule was onerous and environmental groups that had contended it did not go far enough.

The EPA welcomed the decision, calling it “a victory for public health and the environment.” Liz Purchia, an agency spokeswoman, said. “These practical and cost-effective standards will save thousands of lives each year, prevent heart and asthma attacks, while slashing emissions of the neurotoxin mercury, which can impair children’s ability to learn.” The EPA estimates that the mercury and air toxins rule will prevent 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks annually.

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Josh Gerstein: President Barack Obama Chops 3 1/2 Years Off Pot Sentence

President Barack Obama has issued a commutation to a drug convict, shortening his sentence by three-and-a-half years in what the White House said was an effort to correct a sentencing error. Ceasar Cantu of Katy, Texas pled guilty in 2006 to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and money laundering. He received a 15-year prison term but a White House official said it was subsequently discovered that a presentence report contained a mistake which caused the extra three-and-a-half years to be added to his sentence. “A judge ruled that Mr. Cantu did not discover this error in time to correct it through any judicial means; as a result, it can now only be rectified through clemency,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at the daily briefing, repeating word for word a comment offered on background by another Obama aide earlier in the day.

“The president thought [this] was the right thing to do to commute his sentence….The president wanted to act as quickly as possible. This is a matter of basic fairness and it reflects the important role of clemency as a failsafe in our judicial system,” Carney added. According to the Justice Department, Obama has issued 52 pardons and (now) ten commutations while in office. In recent months, Attorney General Eric Holder and his top aides have been encouraging lawyers for prisoners who believe their sentences are too lengthy to file commutation applications with the Justice Department.

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LA Times: Surging Retail Sales Signal An Economy On The Upswing

Americans rushed out to shop as frigid weather lifted in March, propelling retail sales at the fastest pace in a year and a half. The gauge from the Commerce Department surged 1.1% last month from February in its biggest leap since September 2012. Sales boomed 3.8% from March 2013. The strong sales, which beat economists’ expectations for a 1% increase, bolstered hopes that the economy would continue to gain momentum after struggling through an especially harsh winter. “One month doesn’t answer all the questions, and it’s not like we have all-over-the-place exploding growth,” said NPD Group analyst Marshal Cohen. “But we’re beginning to see that the recovery is no longer segmented — it’s broader.” Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic output, making retail sales a strong indicator of the nation’s overall economic health. But other reports this month also signal a rebound.

Employers created a net 192,000 new jobs in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which said that all private sector jobs that were lost in the downturn have been recovered. Initial jobless claims hit their lowest level in nearly seven years. The International Monetary Fund projects that global economic growth will rise 3.6% this year in the strongest increase since 2011, led by expansion in the U.S. Small-business owners surveyed by the National Federation of Independent Business believe their sales are set to increase. The government also revised the anemic 0.3% improvement previously reported for February retail sales to a much stronger 0.7% upswing.

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Jonathan Cohn: A New Report On Obamacare Says It’s $104 Billion Cheaper Than Expected

Republicans and their allies keep saying the Affordable Care Act will bankrupt the taxpaying public. Now there’s one more reason to think they are wrong. It comes from the Washington’s official accountant, the Congressional Budget Office, which on Monday released a newly updated projection on how the Affordable Care Act will affect the deficit and insurance coverage. It’s actually the latest in a series of revisions, each one suggesting the law would cost less money than the previous projection had suggested.  And why this latest change? It doesn’t appear to be because the law will reach fewer people. CBO now expects slightly more people to end up with health insurance, at least over the long run. The CBO’s primary explanation for lower costs is that health insurance premiums on the new exchanges—what the administration calls “marketplaces”—are lower than CBO had originally expected they would be.

the federal government is simultaneously providing generous tax subsidies, designed to offset those price increases and, more generally, make health care more affordable for people who couldn’t pay for it previously. Those subsidies, along with the law’s expansion of Medicaid, are the most expensive part of the law—together they account for the vast majority of its spending. The cost of those subsidies depends on the raw, unsubsidized prices that insurers are charging upfront. The higher the premiums, the more expensive the subsidies. And that’s where the law has, so far, outperformed expectations. Insurers are offering plans with lower premiums than CBO and other experts had predicted. As a result, the federal government is on the hook for less financial assistance. Better still, the CBO says that it doesn’t expect across-the-board premium spikes next year, as the law’s critics and even some insurance company officials have speculated would happen.

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On This Day:

Senator Barack Obama and his wife Michelle wave to supporters after addressing a Women for Obama luncheon in Chicago on April 16, 2007

Senator Obama and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley watch a video highlighting Olympic venues at a rally celebrating Chicago’s selection as the U.S. candidate to host the 2016 Summer Games in Chicago on April 16, 2007

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Sen. Hillary Clinton speaks at a Democratic presidential debate with opponent Sen. Obama at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on April 16, 2008

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President Obama listens as Vice President Biden discusses the Obama administration’s plans for promoting high speed rail service in areas of the United States in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on April 16, 2009

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President Obama receives an update on the explosions that occurred in Boston, in the Oval Office, April 16, 2013. Seated, from left, are: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; Tony Blinken, Deputy National Security Advisor; Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor to the Vice President; Attorney General Eric Holder; Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; and FBI Director Robert Mueller (Photo by Pete Souza)

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04
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

Sen. Barack Obama, accompanied by Reverend Joseph Lowery and others, pushes civil rights activist Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth during a commemoration of the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” Voting Rights march in Selma, Alabama, March 4, 2007

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Today (all times Eastern):

11:10: President Obama visits a Powell Elementary School classroom; Washington

11:30: Delivers remarks on the FY2015 budget; Powell Elementary School

7:25: Delivers remarks at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser; Private Residence, McLean, Virginia

First Lady Michelle Obama will honor the recipients of the International Women of Courage Award in the Dean Acheson Auditorium of the U.S. Department of State.

The Week Ahead:

Wednesday: The President will travel to the Hartford, Connecticut area for an event on the minimum wage. Following this, he will travel to Boston, Massachusetts for two DNC events.

First Lady Michelle Obama will participate in a conversation with Robin Roberts at the Leading Women Defined Summit, hosted by BET Networks. The discussion will be around the Affordable Care Act and a personal reflection on health and wellness. The First Lady will also visit a health center to highlight the work that hospitals, doctors and clinics are doing to educate their patients about the Affordable Care Act and how patients can get insurance.

Thursday: The President will hold an event on the economy and healthcare in Washington, DC.

Friday: The President and the First Lady will travel to the Miami area for an event on expanding opportunity for all.

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Oliver Willis: Ukraine Crisis Reminds Us To Keep Ignoring Conservatives On Foreign Policy

In case you had allowed yourself to believe conservatives had learned a single thing from orchestrating some of the worst foreign policy in U.S. History during the Bush years, forget about it.

The same gang who led us into Iraq and defended the death and destruction that followed is still wrong on almost everything on under the sun.

As has been the case since about noon on January 20, 2009, the right is insisting that President Obama got it wrong. This time its on Russia and Putin. In their fractured, nonsensical view of reality, Obama is to blame for Putin deciding to invade Ukraine.

This only makes sense if you believe that Barack Obama is the President who peered into Putin’s soul and declared him a good man….

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Benjamin Wallace-Wells: The Misplaced Question of Obama’s ‘Toughness’

The consensus over the past two days has been that Vladimir Putin’s military occupation of part of Ukraine poses a challenge to Obama’s “toughness.” That word — toughness — has been everywhere, as if the two men were actually wrestling for the future of far eastern Europe.

Peter Baker, surveying foreign-policy insiders this morning’s New York Times, found his sources returning repeatedly to this theme: “At its heart,” Baker wrote, “the advice seemed to pose the same question: Is Mr Obama tough enough to take on the former KGB colonel in the Kremlin? It is no easy task.” The Washington Post’s editorial board lectured Obama about the need to face “reality.” On Meet the Press, the panel was unanimous: “No more just issuing harshly worded statements,” admonished Chuck Todd. “It’s almost as if Putin is brilliant, really — he’s outfoxing Obama all the time,” said Tina Brown. “I think Putin looked into Obama’s eyes and saw his soul. And President Obama doesn’t like conflict at all,” reported Kathleen Parker.

Now, few complicated policy dilemmas ever really turn on which politician is more blustery. (Let alone on trans-oceanic soul-gazing.) But this particular bit of pining seems especially misguided. It is strange to wish that President Obama would, in this episode, become something he is not — a bit more like his predecessor, George W. Bush, perhaps a bit more like Putin himself — when the crisis in the Ukraine, perhaps more than any other in his presidency, is perfectly suited to Obama himself.

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Dana Milbank: Obama, the feckless tyrant

President Obama is such a weak strongman. What’s more, he is a feeble dictator and a timid tyrant.

That, at any rate, is Republicans’ critique of him. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Obama’s critics pivoted seamlessly from complaining about his overreach to fretting that he is being too cautious. Call it Operation Oxymoron.

Last Wednesday, I sat in a House hearing and listened to Republicans describe Obama exercising “unparalleled use of executive power” and operating an “uber-presidency.” They accused him of acting like a “king” and a “monarch,” of making the United States like a “dictatorship” or a “totalitarian government” by exercising “imperial” and “magisterial power.”

But after events in Ukraine, this very tyrant was said to be so weak that it’s “shocking.”

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WH.gov: President Obama to Participate in a Townhall on Latinos and the Affordable Care Act

This Thursday, March 6, at 11:30 am ET, President Obama will participate in a historic townhall on Latinos and the Affordable Care Act at the Newseum in Washington, DC. The townhall “Tu Salud y La Nueva Ley: Conversación con el Presidente” (Your Health and the New Law: A Conversation with the President) will be an opportunity for you to ask the President questions about the Affordable Care Act. You can join the conversation and submit questions on social media using the hashtag #TuSaludyObama (Your Health and Obama) and #Asegurate.

The townhall will be hosted by the Asegúrate campaign, also known as “Get Covered”, a partnership between the California Endowment; Covered California, and the largest Spanish-language media outlets in the U.S., including Univision, Telemundo, and La Opinion-impreMedia. The townhall with President Obama which will be televised, livestreamed and broadcast over radio, digital and social platforms in Spanish, will provide an opportunity for Latinos across the country to learn more about how to enroll in affordable, quality health care via the Health Insurance Marketplace.

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Michael Hiltzik: The zombie walks: Yet another GOP attack on Medicaid

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., obviously is a great adherent of the adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” On Monday his committee released another attack on Medicaid, one of the linchpins of the Affordable Care Act and one that for some reason is especially detested by conservatives, like the majority members of Ryan’s committee.

The attack is buried within the Ryan committee’s 204-page assault on the War on Poverty, which has just observed its 50th anniversary, as we reported in January. If you want to skip to the meat, the Medicaid section starts on Page 103.

…. In a nutshell, the main flaw of Ryan’s position is that it ignores that the difference between the population on Medicaid and the low-income population without it is that the latter group has no insurance. Medicaid isn’t perfect, but for all its flaws, it provides access to healthcare for a population that, in large part, otherwise has nothing.

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@petesouza: The view through window in the Oval Office

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WH.gov: First Lady Michelle Obama Travels to China

The First Lady will travel to China from March 19-26, 2014. She will be visiting Beijing from March 20-23, Xi’an on March 24, and Chengdu from March 25-26. And she’s inviting students and classrooms across the U.S. to follow her trip.

During her trip to China, as on previous international trips to Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, the First Lady will be focusing on the power and importance of education, both in her own life and in the lives of young people in both countries.

She will also be visiting important historical and cultural sites in China, and will share with students in the U.S. the stories of the students she meets in China, as well as interesting facts about China’s history and culture — emphasizing the importance of students learning from one another globally.

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On This Day:

Senator Barack Obama pushes civil rights activist Johnnie Carr in a wheelchair while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in commemoration of the 1965 Selma-Montgomery Voting Rights March, in Selma, Alabama on March 4, 2007

Senator Barack Obama addresses a crowd gathered for the commemoration of the 1965 Voting Rights March at Brown Chapel AME Church March 4, 2007 in Selma, Alabama

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Continue reading ‘Rise and Shine’

04
Nov
13

Rise and Shine

President Obama acknowledges the crowd during an event at McArthur High School in Hollywood, Fla., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today:

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.

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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.

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President Barack Obama: Congress Needs To Pass The Employment Non-Discrimination Act

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Obama Administration: Half Of Young Adults Can Get Marketplace Coverage For $50 Or Less A Month

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.

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Sara Kliff: Five Myths About The Affordable Care Act

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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Mike Konczal: The Tea Party’s Assault On Workers

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.

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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?

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Think Progress: Why Asians Are Deserting The GOP

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.

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NYT: High Income, Low Taxes And Never A Bad Year

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.

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On This Day:

President Obama greets a boy after speaking about strengthening America’s education system, at the Wright Middle School in Madison, Wis., Nov. 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

A student with “Obama” shaved into his hair listens to President Obama speak at Wright Middle School in Madison, Wis., Nov. 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets people following a ceremony to honor the French and American Alliance, at a World War I Memorial at the Hotel de Ville in Cannes, France, Nov. 4, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Cannes, France, Nov 4, 2011

Cincinnati, November 4, 2012 (Photo by Scout Tufankjian)

Concord, November 4, 2012 (Photo by Tara McMahon for Obama for America)

Concord, November 4, 2012 (Photos by Scout Tufankjian for Obama for America)

President Obama hugs 99-year-old Colorado resident and volunteer Marie Greenwood who led the Pledge of Allegiance at the Aurora rally

A boy listens to President Obama speak at The Community College of Aurora, Nov 4, 2012

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Rise and Shine

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SmartyPants: Trust Vindicated

I don’t mind being called an Obamabot that much. Just like the President decided to embrace the label “Obamacare” that was initially meant as a slam, I suspect history will vindicate that supporting this administration was the right call. What I’ve typically reacted to negatively is the idea that I blindly trust President Obama because the fact is – I have my eyes wide open and am watching a fascinating presidency unfold. Over time what has happened is that when I don’t see the whole picture yet, I’ve learned to slow down my reactions and wait until I get more information. I also remind myself of who this man is that we’ve elected twice and how he’s handled things in the past…..

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The People’s View: Liberals Without A Conscience

You may think that by ‘liberals without a conscience,’ I am talking about people on the supposed Left who laughed at, dismissed, or shrugged off the children gasping for breath from the Syrian government’s chemical attacks, and you’d be right. You may think that I am using that term to refer to elected officials who pick and choose which humanitarian catastrophes we intervene in depending on who the president is, and you’d be right. You may think that by ‘liberals without a conscience,’ I’m digging at people on the Left that have suddenly found the anarchist Rand Paul and the statist Vladimir Putin to be their concurrent heroes, and you’d be right about that, too.

I have been coming to this realization for the last four years. I’m talking about people who stand in the way of progress, loud and proud, because they argue the progress isn’t enough, or refuse to recognize it as progress at all…..

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Jim Stuart’s New Blog: We Have A Deal

On balance, most of us in the US and elsewhere have a binary view of conflict: if you win, I lose, and vice versa. And we are completely immersed in the consciousness of scarcity, resource conflict, and fear of the other. Clearly, Gandhi, Mandela and King operated from a different level of consciousness, where abundance, peacemaking, and trust were the qualities seen first, and were part of each leader’s basic operating system. Developmental psychologists call this level of consciousness integral, and tell us that less than 5% of the world has attained this consciousness level. Obama, I believe, is part of this small percentage of people who see things whole; who trust the complexity of events to reveal deep structures and patterns, not single point answers or finite solutions; who know with absolute conviction that truth is found not in resolving paradox, but living in its tensions; that flow and generative action requires letting go of ego; and that all people, at every developmental level have something important to say, even your adversaries and enemies, because the brain is not capable of 100% error….

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The People’s View: How Putin “Outsmarted” Obama: By Completely Surrendering To All Of His Demands 

In certain parts of the world wide web – whether it be the “liberal” The Nation or any of the conservative outlets – the narrative is that Russian president Vladimir Putin “outsmarted” President Obama by coming up with a peaceful solution to Syria’s use of chemical weapons.

So let’s review, shall we? The United States gets a full disarmament of Syria – verifiably, completely, and and transparently. Russia, which until the G-20 refused to even talk about consequences for Syria is suddenly on board. Syria can’t act fast enough to show and turn over the chemical weapons that until last week it didn’t even admit it had. Chemical weapons? What chemic… here you go! (credit: Stephanie Miller) And to boot, the United States got Russia to agree to govern this agreement under the part of the Security Council documents that covers military action, even if Russia is still putting up a front against it…..

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Michael Wines: E.P.A. Is Expected to Set Limits on Greenhouse Gas Emissions by New Power Plants

Following up on President Obama’s pledge in June to address climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency plans next week to propose the first-ever limits on greenhouse gas emissions from newly built power plants. While details of the E.P.A.’s proposal remain confidential, experts predict that it will include separate standards for carbon dioxide emissions from plants fired by natural gas and by coal. Plants using comparatively clean gas would be permitted to emit perhaps 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, a ceiling within easy reach using modern technologies.

Coal-fired plants, meanwhile, may be allowed to emit as many as 1,400 pounds per megawatt-hour. But coal is so heavily laden with carbon that meeting even that higher limit would require operators to scrub carbon dioxide from their emissions before they reach the smokestack, and then pump it into permanent storage underground.

In his June climate action plan, Mr. Obama ordered the E.P.A. to propose new greenhouse-gas rules covering existing plants by next June, and to issue final standards by June 2015.

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Jim Kuhnhenn: Obama To Use Lehmann Anniversary To Cite Progress

President Barack Obama is marking the fifth anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse by trying to lay claim to an economic turnaround and warning Republicans against moves that he contends would risk a backslide. His message to the GOP: don’t oppose raising the nation’s debt limit, don’t threaten to close down the government in a budget fight, and don’t push to delay the health care law or starve it of federal money.

The economic emphasis, after weeks devoted to the Syrian crisis, begins coming into focus in a series of events kicked off by a Rose Garden speech Monday. The White House argues that a better capitalized and better regulated financial sector is extending more credit, fueling an economy now able to withstand headwinds such as spending cuts and tax increases.

“You can draw this straight line from the health of the financial system to the ways the financial system impacts the economy,” said Jason Furman, the chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. Obama can point to a growing economy, rising housing prices, 35 straight months of hiring, a rebounding stock market and other signs of recovery. Five years after the federal government stepped in and infused banks with $245 billion in taxpayer money to avert a financial meltdown, the government has been paid back nearly in full.

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President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden wait with members of the economic team in the Oval Office before a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House, Sept. 15, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Daily Beast: Oh Look, There Goes The Deficit

A funny thing happened on the way to the debt-ceiling battle: a big chunk of our annual budget quietly melted away. Daniel Gross on the good news you didn’t see coming.

…. we’ve long argued that we live in a Golden Age of Deficit Reduction. The August Treasury Monthly statement, released Thursday, and a Congressional Budget Office report released earlier this week, show just how far we’ve come in the space of a year.

In August, revenues were $185 billion, up 3.4 percent from $178.9 billion in August 2012. Spending was $333 billion, down 9.7 percent from $369 billion. The result: the deficit for the month of August was $147 billion, down 22 percent from $190 billion in August 2012.

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Bo, the Obama family dog, lounges in the West Garden Room of the White House, Sept. 15, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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USA Today: Obama Travels To Asia Next Month

President Obama travels to four Asian nations for three economic summits between Oct. 6-12 … The stops are in Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.

From the White House: “In Indonesia, he will attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders meeting … The president will then travel to Brunei for the U.S.-ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit (EAS) and to meet with the Sultan of Brunei….

“In Malaysia, the president will meet with Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia to highlight our growing bilateral ties with Malaysia, and will deliver the keynote address to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit…..

“The president will then travel to the Philippines, the fifth Asian treaty ally he has visited during his presidency. He will meet with President Aquino to reaffirm the strong economic, people-to-people, and security links between our two countries.”

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First Lady Michelle Obama and Darden Restaurants chef Julie Elkinton greet diners following an event at an Olive Garden restaurant in Hyattsville, Md., Sept. 15, 2011. The First Lady joined Darden Restaurants and Partnership for a Healthier America to announce the company’s committment to reduce its calorie and sodium footprints, and to provide greater choice and variety to families through changes to its kids’ menus. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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Bryce Covert: California Poised To Raise Its Minimum Wage To $10 An Hour

After a bill to raise California’s minimum wage to $9 per hour as of July 2014 and then $10 by January 2016 was approved by both houses of the California state legislature on Thursday, it now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) desk for signature. Brown voiced his support earlier in the week in a press release, saying, “This legislation is overdue and will help families that are struggling in this harsh economy.”

When voters are asked to vote on whether to raise the minimum wage, they almost always approve it with substantial majorities, as was the case in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, and Ohio in past years. Eighty percent of Americans support a national raise to $10.10 an hour, including two-thirds of Republicans.

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President Barack Obama talks with New York Times photojournalist Joao Silva in the Oval Office, Sept. 15, 2011. Silva lost both his legs when he stepped on a mine while accompanying U.S. soldiers on patrol near the town of Arghandab, in southern Afghanistan, Oct. 23, 2010, and was at the White House on assignment to photograph Dakota Meyer receiving the Medal of Honor. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today:

The President has no public events scheduled

3:0 EDT: VP Biden delivers remarks at Sen. Tom Harkin’s 36th Annual Steak Fry in Indianola, Iowa

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wait with Dakota Meyer in the Blue Room of the White House before the start of the Medal of Honor presentation ceremony in the East Room, Sept. 15, 2011. Meyer, then a Marine Corps Corporal, received the Medal of Honor for his actions on Sept. 8, 2009, while serving in the Kunar Province, Afghanistan. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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