AP: Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returned to the scene of the horrific shooting that wounded her and killed six people two years ago, urging senators Wednesday to pass background checks for gun purchases in her first public event at the site since the rampage.
Giffords, who is still recovering from her injuries, spoke fewer than 20 words in the parking lot of the Safeway grocery store in her hometown of Tucson in a brief but emotional call for stricter gun control measures.
“Be bold. Be courageous,” Giffords said. “Please support background checks.”
A year ago: A child reaches out to First Lady Michelle Obama prior to a Faith and Community Groups Leading the Way event at Northland, A Church Distributed, in Longwood, Fla., Feb. 11, 2012 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
12:30: VP Biden holds a roundtable discussion on gun safety with law enforcement officials in Philadelphia
1:45: President Obama will present Clint Romesha with the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony
2:0: Senate lawmakers will debate and vote on re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act
On Thursday at 4:30 ET: “Fireside Hangout” with President Obama
23 years ago today, Nelson Mandela was released from prison having been locked up for 27 years by a racist state
NYT: President Obama will use his State of the Union speech to reinvigorate one of his signature national security objectives – drastically reducing nuclear arsenals around the world – after securing agreement in recent months with the United States military that the American nuclear force can be cut in size by roughly a third.
…… White House officials are looking at a cut that would take the arsenal of deployed weapons to just above 1,000. Currently there are about 1,700, and the new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia that passed the Senate at the end of 2009 calls for a limit of roughly 1,550 by 2018.
But Mr. Obama, according to an official who was involved in the deliberations, “believes that we can make pretty radical reductions – and save a lot of money – without compromising American security in the second term. And the Joint Chiefs have signed off on that concept.”
Washington Post: President Obama is considering a series of new executive actions aimed at working around a recalcitrant Congress, including policies that could allow struggling homeowners to refinance their mortgages, provide new protections for gays and lesbians, make buildings more energy-efficient and toughen regulations for coal-fired power plants, according to people outside the White House involved in discussions on the issues.
TPM: The Senate is poised to pass the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization early this week, with a final vote expected Monday afternoon or Tuesday.
…. Despite the unusually large Senate consensus, there has been no perceptible movement among House Republican leaders since they passed a scaled-back version of VAWA on a party-line vote last year, rejecting the Senate legislation.
In an exchange on the floor Wednesday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) needled Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) on VAWA….. Cantor responded that it’s a “priority” for Republicans to “move and act on this bill”….
…. By the end of the week, House Republican leaders had no progress to speak of. “Silence,” said a senior House Democratic aide.
NYT Editorial: If you’d like to know why Republicans are trying to shut down the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, take a look at three things the agency has already accomplished in its first 18 months:
* It called a halt to predatory practices by mortgage lenders, ensuring that borrowers are not saddled with loans they can’t afford and preventing brokers from earning higher commissions for higher interest rates.
* It won an $85 million settlement from American Express, which it accused of deceptive and discriminatory marketing and billing practices.
* It opened an investigation into questionable marketing practices by banks and credit card companies on college campuses, which often take place after undisclosed financial arrangements are made with universities….
Paul Krugman: Last week Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, gave what his office told us would be a major policy speech. And we should be grateful for the heads-up about the speech’s majorness. Otherwise, a read of the speech might have suggested that he was offering nothing more than a meager, warmed-over selection of stale ideas.
To be sure, Mr. Cantor tried to sound interested in serious policy discussion. But he didn’t succeed – and that was no accident. For these days his party dislikes the whole idea of applying critical thinking and evidence to policy questions. And no, that’s not a caricature: Last year the Texas G.O.P. explicitly condemned efforts to teach “critical thinking skills,” because, it said, such efforts “have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”
NYT: (Missoula, Mont) This funky college town …. has long been a liberal pocket, an isolated speck of blue in a deeply red state. Now Montana is electing more politicians who lean that way, thanks to a different-minded generation of young voters animated by the recession and social issues.
…. these students, and dozens of other young people interviewed here last week, give voice to a trend that is surprising pollsters and jangling the nerves of Republicans. On a central philosophical question of the day – the size and scope of the federal government – a clear majority of young people embraces President Obama’s notion that it can be a constructive force….
…. Here in Montana, a state that backed John McCain in 2008 and Mr. Romney last year, voters under 30 have helped elect two Democratic senators and a new Democratic governor. Nationally, young voters have since 2004 been casting their ballots for Democrats by far wider margins than previous young generations – a shift that could reshape American politics for decades.
Later in the article, the GOP response to young voters in Montanta helping elect Gov Steve Bullock and re-elect Sen Jon Tester (“Both times, polls stayed open hours past their official closing time to accommodate huge lines of students. Both times, Forward Montana ran huge voter registration drives”)?
They are “now trying to undo a Montana law that permits voters to register on Election Day”.
ThinkProgress: Cleopatra Pendleton, mother of slain Chicago teen Hadiya Pendleton, will be Michelle Obama’s guest at the State of the Union on Tuesday.
NYT: Gabrielle Giffords looked slightly stricken as she considered the question: Would she feel bad about starring in a political advertisement against her former House colleagues who declined to stand with her on guns? “Yes,” she said, it would be painful.
“Sometimes you have to do things that are hard,” said Mark E. Kelly, Ms. Giffords’s husband, as she tucked herself close to him on their couch. Ms. Giffords nodded, as she often does when Mr. Kelly — as he often does — intuits the many thoughts she is still unable to express fully. “Really hard,” she added.
Ms. Giffords, a former Democratic congresswoman from Arizona, a gun owner, an astronaut’s wife, a shooting survivor and an incipient gun-control advocate, is settling into the third act of her public life.
ThinkProgress: The NRA is a big spender when it comes to lobbying and campaigns. ThinkProgress investigated the NRA’s contributions to Members of Congress and — lo and behold — the most heavily NRA-backed congressman are leading the charge against new gun violence prevention measures.
Tanique Parker, 16, cries as she leaves the wake for friend and classmate Hadiya Pendleton at Calahan Funeral Home on Chicago’s South Side, Feb. 8
The handwritten note from President Barack Obama on the back of the funeral program for Hadiya Pendleton:
“Dear Cleopatra and Nathaniel, Michelle and I just wanted you to know how heartbroken we are to have heard about Hadiya’s passing. We know that no words from us can soothe the pain, but rest assured that we are praying for you, and that we will continue to work as hard as we can to end this senseless violence. God Bless.”
A mourner holds up a program for the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton…
NBC: The national debate over gun violence took a highly personal turn for first lady Michelle Obama when a Chicago girl was slain near Obama’s family home just days after she performed at the presidential inauguration in Washington.
The first lady and top federal, state and city officials joined hundreds of mourners on Saturday at the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, 15…..
The first lady met privately with members of Pendleton’s family and with about 30 of her friends and classmates before the funeral…..
…. “Hadiya’s life has touched individuals, mothers, fathers, families and governments across this planet,” her aunt, Linda Wilks, said. “If this does not demonstrate the power of light and love, we are a people deeply cloaked in darkness.”
Jackiegrumbacher: It’s a privilege to have a safe place here where we can mourn Hadiya together.
I think of all the years before there was a cyber place to gather when people had to deal with the grief from a local or national tragedy alone or with family, friends and neighbors. We didn’t get to hear from those in other parts of the country or the world and so our perspective was limited, even though our pain was real.
Now a young girl in Chicago, senselessly shot down in a park, is all of our daughters and we know that the grief we feel is a shared one and so is the anger. Because a child in Chicago is also our child, there’s a stronger possibility that we can put a stop to the intolerable conditions in which we attempt to raise our families.
As Nena pointed out above, we are over 300 million strong and we are very powerful when we choose to be citizens who act together. More and more Americans are saying “enough.” More Americans are “seeing” the ones who are slaughtered and are saying that the senseless death of our collective children will never end until we the people stop it.
It’s past the time when we can vaguely hope that things will get better. They won’t – not without all of us speaking out and not without all of us pushing.
As PBO has told us time and again, we are the citizens. We can make change happen. And our time is now.
We do it for Hadiya. We do it for our children and grandchildren. And we do it for all the children yet to be born who deserve a better world.
A year ago: Lauren Fleming, the 2011 March of Dimes National Ambassador, looks up as her brother Corbin touches President Barack Obama’s face during a visit to the Oval Office, Feb. 7, 2012. Lauren is also accompanied by her parents Densel and Nikki Fleming, and her sister Erin (Photo by Pete Souza)
8:05 AM: President Obama, VP Biden and Michelle Obama attend the National Prayer Breakfast; President Obama delivers remarks
10:0: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey testify on what happened in Benghazi before the Senate Armed Services Committee
11:15: President Obama departs the White House en route Leesburg, Va.
11:40: Arrives in Leesburg, Va.
12:30: President Obama delivers remarks at the House Democratic Issues Conference
1:45: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force will roll out their proposed gun control initiatives in Leesburg
1:55: President Obama departs Leesburg
2:20: Arrives at the White House
2:30: John Brennan testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on his nomination to become the next CIA director
TPM: Despite the increasingly dim prospects for an assault weapons ban to earn congressional approval, a poll released Thursday showed that a wide majority of American voters is in favor of such a prohibition.
The latest poll from Quinnipiac University found that 56 percent of registered voters nationwide support a ban on the sale of assault weapons, compared with just 39 percent who are opposed.
I was brought to this country from Mexico when I was 2 years old.
I am an undocumented immigrant — and I am living proof that our immigration system is broken.
….. Just telling our stories would change people’s minds.
This is exactly how we’re going to persuade people across the country to get behind President Obama’s plan for comprehensive immigration reform.
…. Through this grassroots movement, we can raise our voices, tell our stories, and make sure Congress and all Americans better understand the ties that bind us. Our stories can drive our organizing. Share your own story today, and help Organizing for Action get the word out on why this matters …
Bloomberg: Consumer spending in the U.S. climbed in December as incomes grew by the most in eight years, a sign the biggest part of the economy was contributing to the expansion as the year drew to a close.
Household purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the economy, rose 0.2 percent after a 0.4 percent gain the prior month, a Commerce Department report showed today in Washington. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 72 economists called for a 0.3 percent rise. Incomes rose 2.6 percent, pushing the saving rate up to a more than three-year high.
Greg Sargent: Perhaps the most important moment so far in today’s Senate Judiciary hearing on guns came when astronaut Mark Kelly directly confronted NRA head Wayne LaPierre over the shooting of his wife, Gabrielle Giffords …. LaPierre’s argument was completely unmasked for the sham that it is.
During the hearing, LaPierre repeatedly voiced the talking point that there’s no need to expand the background check system because criminals don’t cooperate with background checks. Kelly responded:
“The Tucson shooter was an admitted drug user. He was rejected from the U.S. Army because of his drug use. He was clearly mentally ill. And when he purchased that gun in November, his plan was to assassinate my wife and commit mass murder at that Safeway in Tucson. He was a criminal …. but because of these gaps in the mental health system, in this case, those 121,000 records, I admit did not include a record on him. But it could have. And if it did, he would have failed that background check. ….”
MinnPost: President Obama’s Monday visit to Minneapolis will be to “discuss with local leaders and law enforcement officials his comprehensive set of common-sense ideas to reduce gun violence,” according to a White House spokesperson.
“Minneapolis is a city [that] has taken important steps to reduce gun violence and foster a conversation in the community about what further action is needed,” White House spokeswoman Joanna Rosholm said in a statement. “President Obama will visit with members of the community about their experiences and discuss additional steps that can be taken at the federal level to reduce gun violence.”
….. No word yet on where or when the Obama event will take place, or what the format will be.
Dana Milbank: Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s chief executive, arrived for his hearing on Capitol Hill in the organization’s trademark fashion: violently.
When he and his colleagues stepped off the elevator in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Wednesday morning and found TV cameras waiting in the hallway, LaPierre’s bodyguards swung into action. One of them, in blatant violation of congressional rules, bumped and body-checked journalists out of the way so they couldn’t film LaPierre or question him as he walked.
“You don’t have jurisdiction here!” a cameraman protested as an NRA goon pushed him against a wall. After the melee, congressional officials informed the NRA officials that, in the halls of Congress, they had to follow congressional procedures — which prohibit manhandling.
This undated family photo shows 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton of Chicago. Hadiya was shot and killed when a gunman opened fire while she was hanging out with friends on the warm rainy afternoon under a shelter in the park. Hadiya was a majorette in her high school band and recently performed in Washington, D.C. during the inauguration. President Obama’s Chicago home is less than a mile from the park where Hadiya was killed
Nate Pendleton comforts his son Nathaniel, 10, as they listen to speakers at a press conference in a neighborhood park where Nate’s daughter Hadiya was killed on January 30 in Chicago
Cleopatra Pendelton talks with Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy before a news conference seeking help from the public in solving the murder of Pendelton’s daughter Hadiya
Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton holds the hand of her ten-year-old son as they listen to speakers during an event with police and community leaders at a neighborhood park where her daughter Hadiya was killed
NYT: If ever there were a moment for Democrats to press their political advantage, this is it. Their message on many of the biggest national issues — taxes, guns, education spending, financial regulation — has widespread support, and they have increased their numbers in both houses of Congress. But after years of being out-yelled by strident right-wing ideologues, too many in the Democratic Party still have a case of nerves, afraid of bold action and forthright principles.
That’s particularly evident in the Senate, which the party controls. Last week, Democrats had a rare opportunity to change the Senate’s rules by majority vote and reduce the routine abuse of the filibuster by Republicans, which has allowed a minority to slow progress to a crawl. But there weren’t enough Democrats to support real reform, so a disappointing half-measure was approved. The reason was fear: Fear that they might return to the minority one day, fear that a weakened filibuster might hurt them, fear that Republicans might change the rules to the disadvantage of Democrats if they regain a majority.
Senators Jack Reed, Barack Obama and Chuck Hagel, Kuwait, 2008
NYT: President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday morning for what is likely to be a combative confirmation hearing focusing on Iran, Israel and the American military’s role in the world. White House officials say they remain confident about his prospects.
Mr. Hagel, who has gone through three “murder boards,” or mock hearings, in preparation for the real one, has met with nearly 60 members of the Senate. He has spent the past three weeks working out of a modest transition office down the hall from the office of the man he hopes to succeed, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, in the Pentagon E-ring, the corridor with sweeping views of the Potomac River and Washington.
Charles Pierce: …. if you want to see the walking, living, sweating, mewling manifestation of still runnin’ a’skeered, take a gander these days at Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. This is a man with the gallows in his eyes, Because he hasn’t been entirely insane, and because South Carolina’s wingbits have been deprived of their real campeon de loco, Jim DeMint, and because of, you know, that conspicuous longtime bachelorhood issue, Graham has become something of a target…..
I mention all this because he’s going to get a crack at Chuck Hagel on Thursday, which may bring about the mother of all public tantrums. Somebody give him a cookie and then primary him, just to put him out of his misery.
TPM: Here’s how the Obama administration wants the Obamacare individual mandate to work.
The IRS and Department of Health and Human Services proposed new rules Wednesday pertaining to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that uninsured taxpayers purchase health insurance, and expanded the circumstances under which Americans may receive an exemption from the so-called “individual mandate.”
Churches, illegal immigrants, incarcerated individuals and members of Native American communities are excluded from the individual mandate, which takes effect in 2014….
Bloomberg: Calm down. Yes, the U.S. economy surprisingly shrank in the fourth quarter at a 0.1 percent annual rate, weaker than any economist had forecast … But let’s look under the hood. The overall number disguises strong consumer spending and business investment in equipment and software, which zoomed upward.
You could even say the strength of consumer spending and business capital expenditures is the bigger surprise, more than the contraction. Why? Because the fourth quarter also featured a bitter presidential contest and a Washington battle royale over the fiscal cliff, both of which dampened consumer and corporate confidence.
The healthy consumption and business investment pictures were bolstered by another report out today showing that the labor market continues to heal. Companies took on more workers than expected in January, with an increase of 192,000, according to the ADP Research Institute.
Two factors were largely responsible for the poor GDP showing: a steep decline in government spending, especially on defense, and in the growth of business inventories. Combined, they took 2.6 percentage points out of GDP…..
Steve Benen: One of top Politico stories of the day tells readers that, in the wake of yesterday’s economic news, President Obama has a “GDP problem.” After noting that the drop in economic growth was “largely due to a drop in government spending,” the article adds:
Nonetheless, the politics are unambiguously terrible for Barack Obama … and it gave an adrenal jolt to the a GOP messaging establishment left supine by the Mitt Romney mirage and recent soul-searchy infighting.
Politico’s report added that Democrats “will try to spin” the news, but the party’s “narrative” is “not very convincing” and burdened by “weakness.”
It’s almost as if facts, evidence, reason, and a cursory understanding of economic policy no longer matters at all. In reality, the economy shrank a little in the last quarter because of spending cuts, but the party demanding more spending cuts has suddenly received “an adrenal jolt”…..
ThinkProgress: 5 Reasons To Be Optimistic The Republican Election-Rigging Plan Is Dead (And 3 Reasons It’s Not)
Two weeks ago, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus called upon “states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red” to consider a Republican plan to rig future presidential races……
Six states potentially fit Priebus’ description of a blue state that is currently controlled by Republicans — Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. To date, senior Republicans in four of these states have either voted down the plan or indicated that it will not be taken up in the first place, and the governor of a fifth state has expressed concerns about the plan…