2:05: The President makes a personnel announcement
12:45: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney
USA Today: President Obama will announce Friday that he’s picked James Comey, a former Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, to be his next FBI director……
…. Comey, who previously served as deputy attorney general and supervised operations for the Justice Department, was a key player in one of the most dramatic moments of the Bush administration. In 2004, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and White House chief of staff Andrew Card tried to persuade Attorney General John Ashcroft – who was ill with acute pancreatitis – to reauthorize a warrantless eavesdropping program while in his hospital bed.
Comey learned of Gonzales and Card’s plan and rushed to Ashcroft’s hospital room, along with Mueller. Both threatened to resign if the White House renewed the program. As a result, it was not reauthorized.
USA Today: …. The President holds his first meeting today with the newly constituted Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, in part to discuss criticism of National Security Agency programs that gather phone and Internet records.
Obama will discuss his recent direction to the Director of National Intelligence to de-classify certain information “to better contextualize these programs, correct misrepresentations, and provide an opportunity for the dialogue he welcomes about the right balance between national security and privacy,” the White House said.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was actually created in 2004 as part of the executive branch, and made an independent agency in 2007, but it has never met amid disputes over its duties.
AP: The Republican chairman of a House committee considering new abortion regulations in Texas has told more than 300 women that they would not be allowed to testify against the bill because it had become too repetitive.
The predominantly-female audience roared in disapproval when Corsicana Rep. Byron Cook made the announcement. State troopers flooded the room as he and other Republicans left.
The new bills would limit how, when and where women could get abortions in Texas and shut down 38 out or 42 clinics in the state.
Bravo to the hundreds of TX men and women who made sure their disdain against #HB60#HB16 anti-women bills were heard loud and clear #TXLege
UT/NerdyWonka: I am so proud of the hundreds of Texas men and women who showed up to make their voices heard.
I am proud of us standing up and keeping the debate going for over 14 hours so that the anti-women bills would not just have a smooth sailing through committee.
I am proud of Texans for making sure the world knew that these destructive bills had died in a regular session and the GOP is trying to sneak them past in shoddy special sessions.
I am so proud of everyone who made sure the draconian bill #HB60 trended worldwide on Twitter and made people from other states and countries tune into the fight and realize what damage and destruction really is.
I am proud of the Democratic State Reps who made sure voices were heard even when the GOP Chair Byron Cook tried to shutdown debate.
People forget that California used to be red until the GOP tried to ram down Prop 187 and then California became blue and has stayed blue since then. That is is Texas right now.
What I saw yesterday and into the morning shows that the groundwork for Texas turning purple and eventually blue has been laid. People in states who vote Blue in presidential elections and those who don’t but are controlled by GOP state legislatures and Governors need to be vigilant because these laws have and will spread to your states too. See Ohio for example. These laws have also come to the U.S. House of Rep so be on the lookout. States are a blueprint for what can and will become national anti-women bills and laws.
The war on women is real but the Texas Legislature found out that you don’t mess with Texas women.
We might be controlled by majority republicans but our voices will not be silenced. 2014 is no joke.
Reuters: It takes an army: Tens of thousands of workers roll out Obamacare
From the chief actuary at the California health insurance exchange that President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law established to the legions of call center staffers who will help people trying to buy insurance through such state exchanges, the number of people working to implement “Obamacare” has reached the tens of thousands, a Reuters analysis has found.
No one said that overhauling healthcare, which accounts for 17 percent of all national spending, was going to happen with a skeleton crew.
State offices that will run insurance exchanges are hiring tens of thousands, either on staff or through outsourcing firms. Federal agencies that are key to implementing the law, such as the Internal Revenue Service, plan to hire thousands more, and private non-profit groups backed by the White House are dispatching thousands of newly hired staffers and volunteers into the field.
Greg Sargent: In another embarrassment for House Speaker John Boehner, the farm bill went down to a surprise defeat in the House, 195-234. Most Democrats voted against it, because of its deep cuts to food stamps, but what really sealed its fate is that in spite of those cuts, 62 Republicans voted against it, too, apparently because it didn’t cut spending enough.
….. “This underscores that Boehner cannot pass bills on his own,” Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein told me in a quick interview today. “He can’t do anything with only Republicans. The real power center in the House is not Boehner. It’s not Cantor. It’s not Ryan. It’s not McCarthy. It’s the extreme right. This shows the real dilemma ahead for a Speaker who is very weak and very conscious of his weakness within the party.”
….. Ornstein’s final verdict on today’s display from House Republicans: “They’re pathetic.”
Steve Benen: …. From a progressive perspective, it’s hard to shed tears over the bill’s demise – this was an awful, needlessly punitive piece of legislation. Its GOP proponents, without so much as a hint of shame, were a little too eager to redistribute wealth in the wrong direction – punishing poor families and rewarding wealthy agricultural interests – and their efforts to slash funds for food stamps bordered on cruel.
To be sure, even if the House had passed its bill, it wasn’t going far given the scope of the opposition from Senate Democrats and an unambiguous veto threat from the Obama White House.
But the real takeaway here is that the House Republican leadership, once again, failed miserably….
Saturday: The President has no public events scheduled
Sunday: The First Family will attend Christmas in Washington at the National Building Museum
Monday: The President will travel to Redford, Michigan for an event on the economy at the Daimler Detroit Diesel plant
Tuesday and Wednesday: The President will attend meetings at the White House
Thursday: The President will host a Hanukkah reception at the White House
Friday: The President will attend meetings at the White House
Business Insider: As negotiations on a deal to avert the “fiscal cliff” enter the final three weeks, Republicans face a stark reality: The American public continues siding with President Barack Obama and Democrats on the issues crucial to any potential deal.
Polls taken over the past month have continually shown that a post-election bump for the President, combined with the relative unpopularity of Republicans, gives Obama a lot of leverage in the debate.
…. The kicker lies in the difference in approval ratings between Obama and Congressional Republicans. Obama’s approval rating hit an astounding 57 percent in Friday’s AP survey. Meanwhile, Congress has a 23 percent approval rating.
NYT: Fifty-eight years after it banned discrimination in public education, the Supreme Court has set the stage for the defining civil rights decision of this era — agreeing to hear two cases challenging laws that define marriage to exclude couples of the same sex. To us, and a growing number of Americans, the right course seems clear: that the justices continue the march toward real equality.
…. Public opinion is shifting on this issue as more people recognize the inherent wrong in a last bastion of official discrimination. The most important hearts and minds to be won at this point belong to the nine justices.
Washington Post: Former Florida governor Charlie Crist said late Friday night that he is now a Democrat.
The Republican governor-turned independent Senate candidate’s move was widely anticipated, especially in advance of a potential 2014 run for his old office. Crist endorsed President Obama for reelection this year and has aligned with Democrats over the last two years.