Posts Tagged ‘Eric Holder

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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13
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama encourages a young participant at the White House Easter Egg Roll, April 13, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Week Ahead

Today: The President has no public events scheduled.

Monday: The President will host an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House.

Tuesday: The President and the First Lady will mark the beginning of Passover with a Seder at the White House with friends and staff.

Wednesday: President Obama and Vice President Biden will travel to Leetsdale, Pennsylvania for an event on the economy.

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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10:0 PM ET today: President Obama appears in the Showtime documentary series ‘Years of Living Dangerously’, produced by James Cameron, to discuss climate change.

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Karen Rubin: Obama At National Action Network, Defends Voting Rights, Issues Call To Action

President Barack Obama delivered an impassioned defense of voting rights and a call to action to vote. Delivering the keynote address which concluded the National Action Network’s convention in New York City, on Friday, April 11, Obama declared, “Just as inequality feeds on injustice, opportunity requires justice. And justice requires the right to vote.” Just the day before, at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, he had reflected upon the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under President Lyndon B Johnson, and his remarks built on that theme. The Voting Rights Act, which some regard as even more crucial an achievement, did not come until 1965. Showing a full gamut of emotions during his 20-minute speech, from bemusement to impassioned invocation, to a folksy, intimate conversation, he used the fabricated controversy over his birth certificate to make the more serious point of documents being required to vote that low-income people,

elderly people, urbanites, young people may not have, and even women, who by virtue of getting married have a different name on their drivers’ license, may be denied access to the polls, while in other districts, people are being forced to stand for hours on end in order to cast a ballot. He pointed to some successes in his administration – 9 million jobs created since the financial collapse of 2008, the Affordable Care Act that saw nearly 8 million enrollees, millions more covered under expanded Medicaid and a significant drop in the percentage of uninsured, lowered high school drop out rates. But he talked, as well, about the Opportunity Agenda – raising the minimum wage, universal Pre-K, access to affordable health care, pay equity, job training, access to higher education, addressing the impacts of carbon pollution that disproportionately affect low-income communities, immigration reform, that can only be achieved, first because of the ballot box.

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LOL GOP: This Is A Fantastic Pro-Obamacare Ad – Why Aren’t There A Thousand Like It?

Since news broke that enrollments in the Obamacare exchanges had broken 7 million, there has been a steady stream of positive indications for the law. Signups in the exchanges continue at impressive pace as the deadline to complete applications nears. Medicaid expansion is taking off in Michigan and will continue all year long. But the best news is this new ad from a Super PAC supporting Alaska senator Mark Begich that makes the most effective case for the law — it ends discrimination against people who’ve gotten sick. This is a fantasitc message because you know who gets sick? Everyone, eventually. The bad news is we likely won’t be seeing many ads like this from candidates as Democrats in close elections recognize that the enthusiasm is on the side of repeal, which is less popular than the law nationally but gospel among the GOP base.

Going on the offense, which is always the right strategy, is more challenging when you’re afraid your only inflaming the people most likely to vote in a low-turn out election. However, there is a huge opportunity for outside groups and supporters of the law to flood the internet with these kinds of testimonials. Film a friend. Speak into a camera. I’m even thinking about how to fund a contest for the best homemade video. The tide could be turning for this law and personal stories — along with stern indictments of the incredible cruelty of denying Medicaid expansion — could transform the political landscape. And there are signs the shift has already begun.

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Justin Baragona: Can White Conservatives Please Stop Saying That Racism Doesn’t Exist Anymore?

In the aftermath of Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarks at a National Action Network event on Wednesday, white conservative pundits have used their airtime to complain about Holder ‘playing the race card.’ Some have even gone so far as saying that racism is no longer a problem in America and doesn’t even exist anymore. On two programs this past week, we witnessed panel discussions about race where all the participants were white. On Thursday, Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough defended Gohmert’s behavior and accused the Attorney General and the President of playing the race card too often. He then tried to lead a discussion on racism, or the lack thereof, in Washington. His feeling is that Washington is just a tough place to work, and that Bill Clinton, Janet Reno and Richard Nixon all dealt with worse behavior from political opponents. He was able to get agreement from others on the panel that racism is not an issue in Washington and that this is all just politics as usual.

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Now, I’d like you to take a look at the composition of this panel discussing race and tell me what all of them have in common: Hmmm. That sure is a diverse panel there, isn’t it? I am sure they can provide us with quite a bit of varied insight and experience when it comes to race relations and what it likes to be black in America. Few things are more offensive that white people explaining to black Americans how racism doesn’t exist anymore. I would have to think that African Americans hate hearing a white conservative whine about a black person ‘playing the race card.’ This is one of the biggest reasons why Republicans get less than 10% of the black vote in national elections, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

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TPM: Poll: Republicans Admit Obamacare Might Not Be The End Of The World

As Obamacare’s first enrollment period ends and the law becomes a more established part of U.S. policy, the Republican base appears to be having an epiphany: Maybe it’s not the end of the world.

A new Gallup poll found that the number of self-identified GOPers who think the law won’t affect them spiked 20 percentage points from a month ago.

Back in late February and early March, 72 percent of Republicans said that Obamacare would make their lives and their family’s lives worse in the long run. But just a month later, that figure fell to 51 percent. The percentage who said that the law wouldn’t make much difference leapt from 23 percent to 43 percent over the same period.

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Trevor LaFauci: Texas-Sized Beat Down: How Eric Holder Put Rep. Louie Gohmert In His Place

On Tuesday, in a heated exchange on Capitol Hill, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder laid the smackdown on Texas Republican Representative Louie Gohmert for implying that Holder should be held in contempt for withholding documents related to Operation Fast and Furious. In the nearly three-and-a-half-hour-long session involving thirty-four members of Congress, it was the exchange with Gohmert which brought the day’s most dramatic fireworks. This was not the first time that tensions have risen between Holder and Gohmert. Last May at a hearing regarding the Boston Marathon bombing, Gohmert attacked Holder by claiming that the Justice Department had not done enough to prevent the Boston Marathon bombing. When Holder pushed back, Gohmert gave us the now-famous quote that “the Attorney General will not cast aspersions on my asparagus”

The Republican Party has been doing everything in their power since day one to try and manufacture some kind of Watergate-esque scandal that could bring down the Obama Administration. They are doing so because they know that with eight successful years of Democratic policies in place, the Republican Party will be unlikely to take back the White House any time soon. They have been digging and digging for some kind of scandal and at this point the hole is so big that there is no way to return to the surface, so they continue digging deeper no matter how foolish they appear. Here’s the current list of “impeachable” scandals that Republicans have tried to pin on the Obama Administration: Operation Fast and Furious, the IRS targeting of Conservative groups, the NSA data collecting, the tracking of Associated Press reporters, Benghazi, etc., etc. None of these have panned out

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Jonathan Capehart: ‘Thank You, Kathleen, For Your Service’

Kathleen Sebelius is a rarity in Washington: a powerhouse with a down-to-earth sense of humor that made her as approachable as she was powerful. And after five tough years (and particularly the past six months) as secretary of health and human services, the former governor of Kansas is stepping down. The Rose Garden send-off today by President Obama and Vice President Biden and the standing ovations from her colleagues were appropriate for someone who met the ultimate goal. Yes, the Oct. 1 rollout of HealthCare.gov was an unmitigated disaster. But if you only focus on that, you’re missing a more complete picture of Sebelius’s tenure at HHS. Crisis greeted her when she walked through the door in April 2009. The H1N1 pandemic was surging across the globe, and vaccines for this new strain of swine flu didn’t exist. Sebelius shepherded the process of expediting production and distribution of a vaccine.

While that was happening, Sebelius was helping to design what would become known and derided as Obamacare. She was there for the lunacy of “death panels” and “You lie!” She was there when the ACA passed Congress without a single Republican vote and when it survived a constitutional challenge. She was there for countless congressional hearings on the health-care law, useless votes to repeal it, creepy Uncle Sam and other tactics meant to scare people from signing up for health care.“There are seven and a half million people across the country that have the security of health insurance, most of them for the very first time, and that’s because of the woman standing next to me here today,” the president said in a farewell ceremony as triumphant as the one held more than a week ago to announce the better-than-expected enrollment numbers. “And we are proud of her for that. That’s a historic accomplishment.”

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Zachary Roth: Democrats Finally Make Voting Rights A Top Priority

For years, voting-rights advocates have been quietly urging Democrats and the Obama administration to fully embrace the fight over access to the ballot as a defining civil-rights issue of our day. This was the week when it finally happened. The heightened rhetoric, which came from President Obama and other heavyweights in his party, is the latest sign that voting rights are likely to be a front-burner issue when Americans go to the polls this fall—at least if Democrats have their way. In a speech at the National Action Network convention in New York City Friday afternoon, Obama used his most forceful language yet on the subject to condemn Republican efforts to make voting harder. “The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago,” the president said. “Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws making it harder, not easier, for people to vote.”

Obama continually linked today’s battles to the historic movement for African-American voting rights half a century ago, invoking the three young civil-rights activists who were murdered in Mississippi in 1964 while registering voters. “Americans did not stand up and did not march and did not sacrifice to gain the right to vote, for themselves and for others, only to see it denied to their kids and their grandkids,” Obama said, drawing raucous cheers from the crowd. “We’ve got to pay attention to this.” Obama even took time to dissect the arguments of those who argue that voter ID laws are needed to stop fraud, citing a study showing a fraud rate of just 0.00002%. “So let’s be clear,” Obama said. “The real voter fraud is people who try to deny our rights by making bogus arguments about voter fraud.”

Obama’s rousing words come days after he called efforts to stop people voting “un-American” during a Houston fundraiser. And they follow on the heels of similar remarks this week from two of the other highest-profile Democrats in the country, Vice President Joe Biden and President Bill Clinton. In linking today’s voting restrictions to laws that kept blacks from the polls during segregation, Obama and his allies aren’t explicitly saying that the ongoing GOP push to make voting harder is a racially motivated effort that has roots in the Jim Crow era. But they’re certainly allowing that inference to be drawn. To voting rights advocates, the new level of engagement from top Democrats, especially Obama himself, is welcome indeed.

“Nothing is more important than the American people hearing the president of the United States bringing the full passion and power of his voice and his position to the issue of promoting voting rights and an open democracy for every citizen,” said Barbara Arnwine, the president of the National Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. It’s not just talk, either. The Democratic National Committee recently launched the Voter Expansion Project, which aims to push back against restrictive voting laws by registering new voters and supporting laws that expand access to the ballot.

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Bloomberg: Ukraine Sees $7 Billion IMF Funding This Year

Ukraine will probably receive $7 billion in International Monetary Fund financing this year to support the state budget and central bank reserves, Finance Minister Oleksandr Shlapak said. The east European nation is also seeking further funding from the Group of Seven countries, Shlapak said an interview in Washington yesterday. Of the group’s members, Canada has pledged $200 million and the U.S. has also responded, he said. The government predicts Ukraine’s economy will shrink 3 percent in 2014, the third recession since 2008, while reserves are at a nine-year low. The country sealed a preliminary accord with the IMF last month for as much as $18 billion in loans during two years, with the agreement unlocking $27 billion in international financing. Ukraine needs about $30 billion through 2015 to “balance the situation,” Shlapak said.

The currency will rebound after the IMF deal is completed, Shlapak said. Ukrainian officials will meet IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde on April 14 and the government “hopes” the lender’s board will convene to approve the loan this month, he said. Ukraine wants to get the funds as soon as possible, he added. “While we announced the $27 billion, which is the financing need of the country for the next 24 months, we have also given a range for the financing that would come from the fund, and that range has been $14 to $18 billion,” IMF European Director Reza Moghadam said today in Washington. “Our exact financing will depend on how much comes from other bilateral and multilateral lenders.”

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Jonnelle Marte: Obamacare Making Insurance Cheaper – For Cars

Obamacare, the law that could save you 2% or more on car insurance. It isn’t exactly the main pitch behind the health-insurance law, but a study released Wednesday by the Rand Corporation finds that as more people gain health insurance, the costs of other types of insurance could go down. In particular, car insurance and other liability-insurance companies that typically spend tens of billions of dollars each year on health-care claims related to car accidents, workplace injuries and other scenarios could see their health costs decline and could pass those savings on to consumers in the form of lower premiums.

In the case of car-insurance companies, the study points out that some uninsured people, upon suffering through a car accident, may then seek treatment for conditions they have that are unrelated to the car accident. If those types of conditions were covered by health-insurance companies, it could shave up to 2% off of the average costs incurred by auto-insurance companies, the study found. “It’s extraneous stuff you might get the auto insurer to pay for,” says David Auerbach, the lead author of the report and a health policy researcher with Rand Corporation. “It’s hard to tell what was actually caused by the accident.”

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Tommy Christopher: Republicans, Racism, And Reasonable Suspicion

Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine has been making a spectacle of himself lately, most recently tying himself in knots trying to explain away his essay on race in the Obama Era. On Thursday night’s All In with Chris Hayes, his point seems to have evolved into a plea for fairness to Republicans, while conceding that everything about Republicanism is legitimately racist. He told Chris Hayes that “you can go to almost any issue and see a racial dynamic, and I really think you can, and you can legitimately,” but somehow, legitimately identifying those racial dynamics is somehow unfair, and contributes to a “poisonous dynamic.”

I don’t get it, and I don’t agree with either end of that hypothesis. There are many issues that either don’t have a racial dynamic, or have racial dynamics that intersect the partisan divide, and discussing those issues that do have a racial dynamic in racial terms isn’t just fair, it is essential. However, on Chait’s own terms, if every partisan issue can legitimately be viewed as racial, how could it possibly be unfair to discuss that?

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Jay Carney: President Obama and Vice President Biden’s 2013 Tax Returns

Today, the President released his 2013 federal income tax returns. He and the First Lady filed their income tax returns jointly and reported adjusted gross income of $481,098. The Obamas paid $98,169 in total tax. The President and First Lady also reported donating $59,251 – or about 12.3 percent of their adjusted gross income – to 32 different charities. The largest reported gift to charity was $8,751 to the Fisher House Foundation. The President’s effective federal income tax rate is 20.4 percent. The President pushed for and signed into law legislation that makes the system more fair and helps the middle class by extending tax cuts to middle class and working families and asks the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. In 2013, as a result of his policies, the President was subject to limitations in tax preferences, as well as additional Medicare and investment income taxes, for high income earners.

The President and First Lady also released their Illinois income tax return and reported paying $23,328 in state income tax. The Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden also released their 2013 federal income tax returns, as well as state income tax returns for both Delaware and Virginia. The Bidens filed joint federal and combined Delaware income tax returns. Dr. Biden filed a separate non-resident Virginia tax return. Together, they reported adjusted gross income of $407,009. The Bidens paid $96,378 in total federal tax for 2013, amounting to an effective tax rate of 23.7 percent. They also paid $14,644 in Delaware income tax and Dr. Biden paid $3,470 in Virginia income tax. The Bidens contributed $20,523 to charity in 2013, including contributing the royalties received from Dr. Biden’s children’s book, net of taxes, to the USO.

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Nancy LeTourneau: An Open Letter To My “Disappointed” Democratic Friends

Dear Disappointeds: Back in 2010 you told us that you were disappointed in the President you helped elect. And because of that, you weren’t motivated enough to vote in the midterms. While I don’t share your disappointment, I want to say that I hear you. Now we’re facing another midterm election and we have the benefit of hindsight to tell us what changed as a result of your lack of enthusiasm. Sure, you might have wanted single payer and a larger stimulus package.

But you have to admit that Obamacare is doing an awful lot of good. And perhaps you should read Michael Grunwald’s book The New New Deal to learn how the American Recovery Act was way more than many of us thought it was at the time. Its “gut check” time for all of us. I don’t know about you, but after these last four years I’m actually psyched to get back to Democrats arguing with other Democrats over HOW MUCH change we want to see rather than being pissed at Republicans all the time for their total obstruction. There’s a lot riding on this one. I hope we can all work together to make that happen.

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The Week: Obama Is On Track To Leave A Budget Surplus

Bill Clinton left the presidency with a budget surplus. And although the first five years of Barack Obama’s presidency have featured high (but falling) deficits, it’s starting to look like Obama could do the same. For the first time since the 1950s, federal spending is lower than it was four years ago: As Mike Darda argues: The fiscal deficit has been falling by an average of 1.5 percentage points per annum since peaking in late 2009.

If this trend continues, it would imply a balanced budget during 2015 and a fiscal surplus in 2016. [AEI] Obama leaving office with a balanced budget would come as a big shock to those who have compared the U.S. to crisis-stricken countries like Greece, or claimed that Obama is spending like a drunken sailor. But that is exactly what the U.S. is on trend to do.

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Alice C. Shephard: Balancing Act: In The Constant Juggle Of Managing Life At Home And Life At Work, Claire Shipman Realizes That Confidence Is Key

ABC News contributor Claire Shipman is gently trying to coax her eight-year-old daughter, Della Claire Carney, to appear in a Washingtonian MOM photo shoot, in which Della might have to wear pink and comb her tangled mane. Della is not easily swayed. She hates pink. Nor does she like to brush her hair. The daughter of Shipman and Jay Carney, President Obama’s press secretary, isn’t the kind of young girl interested in pleasing her Washington-power-couple parents, or any of the adults around her on the photo shoot for that matter. She is funny, sweet, and obviously smart, but she’s not going to budge for braids and patterned shirts.

To Shipman, 51, this is great, though it can be trying. She’d love it if every once in a while Della would run a comb through her locks. Shipman and Carney’s son, Hugo James Carney, on the other hand, spends a lot more time styling his red hair. “He’s 12 going on 16,” says Shipman. During the shoot, Hugo walked up to everyone on the production crew, held out his hand for a firm shake, and said, “Hello, I’m Hugo, nice to meet you”; to say he is a well-mannered tween is an understatement. Hugo and Della both attend Sidwell Friends School. The busy Carney-Shipman household also “parents” one-year-old Flash, a Portuguese water dog who is a cousin to the Obamas’ dog Sunny.

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Shipman and her close friend Katty Kay, the Washington correspondent for BBC World News America, have just written a book on women and confidence called The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know, released in April. Not surprisingly, Shipman has learned a lot about her own daughter through her research. “My daughter is a tomboy,” she says. “She’s strong-willed and doesn’t care about conventions. Our research helped me realize that this is not something I want to go away. If she has her own strong opinions and wears what she wants to wear, that’s great—even if I don’t like it.”

Carney, 48, says the book’s findings changed how they parent their daughter. “Raising Della, we are both now extremely mindful of how important confidence is for girls, and how different it can be in girls compared with boys,” he says. “We try to help Della build confidence by focusing on the effort she puts into things, rather than just praising the outcomes.” I Absolutely Won’t Let Kids . . . They can never treat people badly. Being rude or less than caring produces draconian consequences and much-dreaded family meetings.

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On This Day

President Obama cheers on a young child as she rolls her egg toward the finish line April 13, 2009, during the White House Easter Egg Roll (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden tour earthquake damage in Port Au-Prince, Haiti, along with Haitian President Rene Preval, and Elisabeth Delatour Preval, the First Lady of Haiti, April 13, 2010. The damaged presidential palace is seen in the background (Photo by Samantha Appleton

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President Obama meets with Goldman Environmental Prize winners in the Oval Office, April 13, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, seated far left, meet with staff aboard Bright Star during a flight from New River Marine Corps Air Station in North Carolina to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, April 13, 2011. The trip was to launch Joining Forces, a national initiative to support and honor America’s service members and their families (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden and Martha Stewart drop by Operation Shower, a celebration for pregnant women whose husbands are service members, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 13, 2011. The event was part of the launch of Joining Forces, a national initiative to support and honor America’s service members and their families (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, and facility manager Judith Markelz, second left, greet volunteers preparing a meal at the Warrior and Family Support Center in San Antonio, Texas, April 13, 2011. The First Lady and Dr. Biden met with service members and their families during their visit to the facility, which helps care for family members of Wounded Warriors whose recovery is expected to last a long period of time (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First Lady Michelle Obama greets Marines following her remarks to 3,000 Marines, soldiers, sailors, and military family members at Memorial Field House in Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 13, 2011. The event was part of the launch of Joining Forces, a national initiative to support and honor America’s service members and their families (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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President Obama talks with, from left: Dan Restrepo, Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs; U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk; and Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis aboard Air Force One while en route to Tampa, Fla., April 13, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Audience members embrace President Obama after he spoke at the Port of Tampa in Tampa, Fla., April 13, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama attends a Summit of the Americas Leaders’ Dinner at Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, Cartagena, Colombia, April 13, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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14

“My Brother’s Keeper”

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Youth Guidance: President Obama Invites BAM Program Back To The White House

President Obama has invited Youth Guidance’s Becoming a Man (B.A.M.) program back to Washington D.C. to kick off a new White House initiative called “My Brother’s Keeper.” Three B.A.M. students from Hyde Park High School, along with B.A.M. Lead Supervisor, Marshaun Bacon, and Youth Guidance Board Member, Stuart Taylor, will visit the White House Thursday and Friday. The President’s initiative will support young male minorities by bringing foundations and companies together to find ways to keep young men in school and out of the criminal justice system.

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USA Today: Obama Plans Program To Aid Minority Men

As part of the new effort, businesses and foundations would seek to develop strategies designed to help young men at critical and vulnerable parts of their lives. Goals range from helping boys get to school on time to avoiding problems with the criminal justice system. Ideas include promoting literacy, early childhood education and healthy lifestyles, as well as disrupting what one official called “the school-to-prison pipeline.” “My Brother’s Keeper” also involves a review of existing federal programs designed to address the challenges facing young men, discarding those that don’t work and improving those that do — “all within existing federal resources,” one official said. One official said the goal of “My Brother’s Keeper” is “to make sure that every young man of color who is willing to work hard and lift himself up has an opportunity to get ahead and reach his full potential.”

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Yahoo: Obama Embraces A Lifelong Cause: Helping Minority Boys Succeed

“I never signed a Father’s Day card before,” the young man explained as the president opened the card. “I’ve never signed a Father’s Day card, either,” Obama replied, according to an aide, improbably closing the distance between the Chicago teens and the American president. It was an intimate, private moment that moved him. On Thursday afternoon, Obama will be addressing the same set of issues in a far more public way. Three of the BAM teens will return to the White House for Obama’s unveiling of a new initiative partly inspired by the Chicago program. As part of “My Brother’s Keeper,” as the new campaign is known, the White House will bring together nonprofits, foundations and private businesses to endorse and test out programs designed to help young minority men graduate from high school, stay out of juvenile detention centers and prisons, and train for and get good jobs.

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