NYT: On the Senate floor and the television airwaves, Senator Mitch McConnell has lambasted the Obama administration over what he has described as its failed efforts to stimulate new jobs through clean-energy projects backed with billions of dollars in federal loans or other assistance.
But Mr. McConnell, of Kentucky, is one of several prominent Republicans who have worked to steer federal money to clean-energy projects in their home states, Energy Department documents show.
Mr. McConnell made two personal appeals in 2009, asking Energy Secretary Steven Chu to approve as much as $235 million in federal loans for a plant to build electric vehicles in Franklin, Ky. “I hope you will realize the importance of such job creation to Kentucky,” Mr. McConnell said in a July 2009 memo supporting an application from Zap Motor Manufacturing.
Federal lobbying disclosure records show that Mr. McConnell’s support for the project came after Zap Motor hired a Kentucky-based lobbyist, Robert Babbage, who has been a frequent contributor to Mr. McConnell’s campaigns and boasts on his own Internet site about his close ties to Mr. McConnell.
…. Another Republican, Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, recently asked Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to appoint an outside investigator to determine how the Department of Energy distributes clean-energy money. But in 2009, Mr. Smith wrote to Mr. Chu asking him to approve loan guarantees from stimulus money for a Texas project proposed by Tessera Solar, documents show.
Ben Smith (GOPolitico): The fall of Tripoli is a foreign policy triumph for which President Barack Obama won’t hold a ticker-tape parade: no flight suit, no chest-thumping, no “Mission Accomplished” banner.
But the low-profile, inexpensive ouster of Col. Muammar Qadhafi marks an important milestone for the administration, foreign policy analysts say – perhaps the most concrete evidence that the more modest American foreign policy approach that has become Obama’s hallmark and perhaps his biggest area of contrast with his more interventionist predecessor might actually work.
….. the scenes of celebration in Tripoli make it difficult to argue with Obama’s methods. And at a moment of fiscal obsession, Qadhafi was deposed on the cheap … the equivalent of a few days of involvement in Afghanistan…
… it is vindication for an important set of ideas that Obama espoused as a candidate: that the United States can still lead while talking and walking more softly and letting allies, particularly the Europeans, take the starring role.
“We need to give the Obama administration credit for finding a way, taking the long view, resisting the pressure to do too much to soon, resisting the old approaches which would have had the U.S. far more involved than it could have or should have been and really blazing a trail for the future of U.S. foreign policy,” said David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration national security official.
… The White House was loath to claim victory however – both because the rolling Arab Spring has repeatedly demonstrated that a revolution is only the beginning and because the nature of Obama’s strategy is to avoid American claims of credit.
…. “I don’t think this is the time to say to the president, ‘You’re a genius,’ but it is a time for those Obama haters to admit the guy made the right call under a tough set of circumstances,” said Aaron David Miller, a former State Department official…
First Lady Michelle Obama visits students at Ballou High School in Washington, March 30
Politic365: First Lady Michelle Obama and some of the most powerful women across a variety of endeavors will fan out this week across Washington, D.C. area schools to promote mentoring for young people.
On Wednesday, March 30, Mrs. Obama and 22 guest mentors will split up to visit six high schools in Greater Washington. At each location, some of the featured women will participate in a Q&A session and share their personal and career experiences with students. The school-based events area open to all students, but will have a specific focus on mentoring for young women.
Later in the evening, the First Lady will host the guest mentors and 120 additional students for dinner and a program in the East Room of the White House.
See here for the list of guest mentors for Wednesday’s events
Actress Hilary Swank, actress Anna Deveare Smith and Israeli violinist Miri Ben-Ari pose with students at Eastern High School in Washington. Swank joined the prominent women to promote, along with US First Lady Michelle Obama, mentoring by successful women as part of Women’s History Month at the White House.
Gawker: Shep Smith departed from the zombie-like gaze of news anchors and spent the last few seconds of his show looking repulsed, completely ignoring a talkative Chris Wallace. By the third frown, he was probably just making funny faces at Chris.
Sometimes I like Shep almost as much as I loathe Wallace.
This January 2011 artist’s rendering, courtesy of Landscape Architect Ken Smith, shows an aerial view looking at Legume Plaza of the Planters Grove project in New Orleans. A grove of trees and flowers that will soon be built is anchoring hopes of transforming a down-on-its-heels New Orleans neighborhood that’s been plagued by crime and poverty.
New York City architect Smith is taking the concept of urban oases to four cities in a public-corporate project that’s won the blessing of the Obama administration. The first of the groves will be built over the next month in New Orleans. Similar groves will be planted in San Francisco, New York City and Washington, D.C.
Washington Post: …. The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act failed to pass last night. Despite unanimously passing the Senate, it only garnered a 241-166 majority in the House. Since House rules were in suspension, the bill needed a two-thirds majority to pass.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who sponsored the bill, had a blunt response in a late-night press release:
“The action on the House floor stopping the Child Marriage bill tonight will endanger the lives of millions of women and girls around the world. These young girls, enslaved in marriage, will be brutalized and many will die when their young bodies are torn apart while giving birth. Those who voted to continue this barbaric practice brought shame to Capitol Hill.”
His frustration makes sense: the corresponding House Bill had 112 co-sponsors! What the heck happened?
In the hours before the vote, Republicans circulated a memo to pro-life members of Congress alleging that the bill could fund abortions and use child marriage “to overturn pro-life laws” …. when it came time for a vote, a number of the bill’s pro-life supporters in both parties abandoned ship.
Time for the facts. First of all, the act is short – the body of the bill is around ten pages long – and does not mention abortion … a quick read suffices to show that the bill is not dealing with abortion.
Second, it does not appropriate any additional funding. It requires that the President and the State Department make child marriage a core part of American international development strategy. One more time: this means that this bill can’t provide funding for abortion. It’s not a appropriations bill. Nonetheless, some Republicans appear determined to showcase their conservative credentials at all costs – even when the facts make it unnecessary, even when the world’s most vulnerable children bear the bill.
At this point, the bill’s future is uncertain, but the ongoing bizarre misrepresentation of a bill designed to empower young girls and women is the worst sort of political gamesmanship. Why play politics with their lives at stake?
And on Thursday:
Senate Republicans blocked the long-awaited 9/11 health care and compensation bill, making good on a pledge to reject all legislation until the Bush-era tax cuts are passed.
The 9/11 health bill, known as the Zadroga bill, would continue health care funding for tens of thousands of 9/11 emergency responders, construction laborers and downtown residents, workers and students. It would also potentially compensate people with post-9/11 health conditions and the survivors of those who have died.
Thursday’s vote went even worse than expected. The Democrats need 60 votes to open debate — and 60 to close it. Democrats had thought they had 59 votes and a few possible centrist Republican contenders for the 60th vote. But GOP discipline held strong, and the Democrats only hit 58. Newly-elected Illinois Republican Senator Ron Kirk stayed with his party. Kirk, who was elected to President Obama’s former seat voted for the House version when he was there in September. He had assured Democrats he would again now that he is in the Senate.
Republicans are concerned the Zadroga bill would create a new entitlement program. The Democrats say they can fund it without raising taxes by closing a loophole on international companies that locate in offshore tax havens to avoid paying taxes. Republicans, however, say that amounts to a new tax on companies that operate here and employ American workers.
9/11 responder John Feal lashes out Friday at GOP politicians holding up theJames Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act
New York Daily News: Lawmakers stung by the failure of the 9/11 health bill returned to Ground Zero Friday in hopes of breathing life into the measure.
Republicans filibustered the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act on Thursday, blocking the start of debate on the bill because they want to see tax cuts passed first.
Manhattan Democratic Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney ripped the move as “immoral” and “truly sad.” “Health care for Americans who are ailing because of 9/11 should not be held hostage to partisan politics,” Maloney charged.
Dozens of responders who showed up for the press conference were still in disbelief over the potentially fatal setback. “I was a registered Republican. I have no idea what I am now,” said Ray Simons, 60, a retired FDNY ambulance worker who said he’s ill from two weeks at The Pile. “For senators to turn this down, it’s like, oh, my God, it’s the ultimate betrayal.”
NBC NY: Arizona Sen. John McCain is under fire from his Democratic counterparts for a remark on the Senate floor yesterday, where he said lawmakers who support a health care bill for Ground Zero workers are “fooling around.”
The bill, which would provide up to $7.4 billion in aid for workers sickened by World Trade Center dust after the 9/11 attacks, was shot down by Republican lawmakers this month after they refused to consider the legislation until tax cuts were extended.
On Friday, McCain said Democratic leaders needlessly stalled a vote on a missile treaty with Russia “after all of the fooling around we’ve been doing” by holding loose votes on immigration and the Ground Zero health-care legislation.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), one of the main supporters of the bill, took to the Senate floor, saying “To call helping (first responders) fooling around is saddening and frustrating.”
And today, they defeated the DREAM Act:
ThinkProgress: Forty-one mostly Republican senators voted against a bill which would have provided young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents a path to legalization by pursuing a college education or serving in the military. 55 voted in the affirmative.
Immediately before the vote failed, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) took the Senate floor to tell the young DREAMers who have come to his office that they were “wasting their time” because the border hasn’t been secured:
“…to those who have come to my office — you’re always welcome to come, but you’re wasting your time. We’re not going to pass the DREAM Act or any other legalization program until we secure our borders. It will never be done as a stand-alone. It has to be part of comprehensive immigration reform.”
What Graham didn’t mention is that though he has supported immigration reform in the past, he and his party are largely responsible for blocking it in 2010. First he held it hostage to health care reform, pitted it against climate change legislation, and then turned his back on it altogether. This summer, he declared his support for changing the 14th amendment to deny the U.S.-born children of immigrants citizenship.
And as we speak, they’re still trying to block the repeal of DADT and the passing of the START Treaty in the Senate