President Barack Obama salutes a Marine as he exits the Marine One helicopter on his return at dusk on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, after attending remembrance activities on the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France
USA Today: Obama applauds congressional budget deal
Don’t be surprised if President Obama addresses the proposed congressional budget deal on Wednesday, and to say good things about it.
In a written statement late Tuesday, Obama called the deal “a good first step” toward a “balanced” budget approach that combines prudent cuts with investments in job-generating programs.
“This agreement doesn’t include everything I’d like — and I know many Republicans feel the same way,” Obama said. “That’s the nature of compromise. But it’s a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come together and break the cycle of short-sighted, crisis-driven decision-making to get this done.”
That Congress’ budget chairs – Republican Paul Ryan and Democrat Patty Murray – were able to reach a budget agreement at all is a minor miracle. There was ample reason to believe the negotiations were a fool’s errand and that failure was an inevitability. The assumptions, however, were wrong, and the two leaders last night unveiled their deal to fund the government for the next two years.
Broadly speaking, there are two overarching questions to consider: is the budget agreement any good and can it pass Congress. Neither is easy to answer.
BBC: ‘Volcker rule’ ban on risky trades passed by regulators
All five US financial regulators have approved the Volcker rule, designed to restrict the finance industry in the wake of the 2008-09 financial collapse.
Named after former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, it bans banks from using their own funds for trading activities.
It is considered the centrepiece of the 2010 banking reform legislation known as Dodd-Frank. Banks will have until 21 July 2015 to comply with the rules.
…. US President Barack Obama applauded the passage of a rule proposed more than three years ago.
He said in a statement: “The Volcker Rule will make it illegal for firms to use government-insured money to make speculative bets that threaten the entire financial system, and demand a new era of accountability from CEOs who must sign off on their firm’s practices.”
Kentucky.com: Health enrollment climbs during holiday period
Enrollment through Kentucky’s health benefits website has grown by more than 11,000 in a 10-day period starting Thanksgiving week.
Gov. Steve Beshear’s office says the technology team for the state’s online health insurance marketplace was expecting an increase in traffic, applications and enrollments after Thanksgiving and increased capacity to prepare.
A news release from Beshear’s office says the site enrolls about 1,000 Kentuckians a day.
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk from the Marine One helicopter to the White House as they return from the memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela to Washington, December 11
An orphan from Orlando Children’s Home pays tribute to Nelson Mandela outside of his house on Vilakazi Street in Soweto, Dec 9
The President and First Lady left for South Africa this morning (8:10 EST), don’t have the schedule yet for their time there, will post as soon as I do. According to Mark Knoller, the trip will take about 17 hours with a refueling stop.
President Obama leaves Monday for what looks like a relatively quick trip to South Africa to honor the late Nelson Mandela. The president and first lady Michelle Obama are scheduled to attend a memorial service for Mandela in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
No other events have been announced for Obama, and he could be back at the White House as early as Wednesday.
Former President George W. Bush and wife Laura are expected to accompany the Obamas aboard Air Force One on the journey of more than 8,000 miles. Ex-presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are expected to travel separately to South Africa for Mandela services.
Word of warning to anti-Obamacare crazies – this is just the start of the flood of success stories you’ll be seeing http://t.co/Eek57LttZK
NYT: Amid the Uproar Over the Health Law, Voices of Quiet Optimism and Relief
Since his chronic leukemia was diagnosed in 2010, Ray Acosta has paid dearly for health insurance: more than $800 a month in premiums, plus steep co-payments for the drug that helps keep him alive.
Mr. Acosta, 57, owns a small moving company in Sierra Vista, Ariz., which he said had barely made it through the recession. He was thinking about dropping his coverage, but the insurance company beat him to it, informing him recently that it would cancel his policy at year’s end.
He sought advice from an insurance agent who had used his moving company. She connected him with an application counselor at a community health center, who found — to Mr. Acosta’s astonishment — that he qualified for Medicaid under the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, which gives states the option of expanding the program to include more low-income adults.
“I’m kind of in a disbelieving fog,” Mr. Acosta said last week, two days after completing an application. “I’m just hoping, keeping my fingers crossed, that this might really help me out.”
With HealthCare.gov finally working, Democrats are able to fight back in the Obamacare anecdote war.
The White House and its outside allies are already ramping up a massive effort to emphasize the personal stories of people getting coverage under the health care law — ground that Democrats were largely forced to concede to the GOP during the uproar over canceled insurance policies.
Collecting constituent stories has been a focus of the Republican strategy against the health law for several weeks. But now, with HealthCare.gov working better and enrollment beginning to surge, Democrats are prepared to launch a deluge of pro-Obamacare anecdotes as they try to promote enrollment and make a political sales pitch for the Affordable Care Act.
…. This week, Enroll America and some of its partner organizations — including Families USA and Planned Parenthood — is launching a major new initiative to highlight positive experiences of those enrolling in coverage. The push will involve a coordinated weekly theme that highlights stories of certain demographics.
If the president had a tough November, he’s certainly making up for it this month. Not only has Healthcare.gov performing at peak efficiency, killing the GOP’s favorite anti-Obamacare doomsday talking point, today’s jobs report recorded the lowest unemployment rate since before President Obama took office, with 203,000 jobs created in November. Reports suggest that in the first two days of December alone, the national website enrolled Americans at the rate of nearly 15,000 a day, while 1.5 million Americans living in poverty have gained coverage under Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion – an advance blunted only by Republican governors’ and state legislators’ refusal to accept full federal funding to expand coverage.
This must be awkward for the Republicans (and for the Democrats of little faith who began to turn tail and run at the first sign of trouble with the website) – or, it would be if they had any shred of decency left. Their talking points against Obamacare are falling like flies. Not only have jobs been created in the private sector every single month since Obamacare was enacted, just as it is ready to go into full effect, unemployment dips to 7% and new jobless claims have fallen to below 300,000.
TPM: Americans Discover They’re Trapped In GOP’s Medicaid Expansion Gap
With HealthCare.gov working better and the first deadline to sign up for health coverage that starts in January approaching, Obamacare’s so-called navigators — the people and organizations receiving federal funds to help people enroll — are seeing more and people come through the doors and out to their events.
…. with HealthCare.gov finally performing better, this has been their busiest time since the Oct. 1 launch. But in 25 states, that robust interest has a downside: Navigators are forced to tell more and more people that they probably won’t be able to get covered because their state, all of which had a GOP-controlled legislative chamber or governor, have refused to expand Medicaid. Lynne Thorp, who is overseeing the University of South Florida’s navigator program in that state, told TPM that about one in four people who contact her team fall into that Medicaid gap.
“Those are hardest phone calls because it doesn’t make any sense to them,” Thorp said. “We have to explain that they fall into this gap where this program can’t assist them.”
Huffington Post: Top Georgia Democrat Fights To Prove Obamacare Can Overcome Deep South Resistance
For Democrats like Stacey Abrams, Georgia’s House minority leader, advocating for the Affordable Care Act in a strongly conservative state is a daunting task. Her Republican colleagues, who control the state legislature, are staunch opponents of the law, and Gov. Nathan Deal is one of 20 GOP governors who rejected the Medicaid expansion.
That alone would seem like enough for state Rep. Abrams and her Democratic colleagues to tackle, but it doesn’t end there. Last month, U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, another Georgia Republican, chaired a congressional oversight hearing in Gainesville during which a handful of cherry-picked witnesses spoke only of being harmed by the health care law.
….. But despite the litany of obstacles facing Obamacare in her state, Abrams said that Georgians are “hungry for information” on what the law means for them and how they can sign up. She has made it her mission to bring that directly to them, by leading events explaining the Affordable Care Act to people across Georgia, many of whom have spent decades waiting for access to health insurance.
Steve Benen: Obama warns of ‘unemployment cliff’ consequences
In just 19 days, federal emergency unemployment benefits will expire for 1.3 million struggling Americans, and in the hopes of raising the issue’s visibility, President Obama devoted his weekly address to the subject over the weekend.
…. The rhetoric certainly sounded compelling and had the added benefit of being accurate. But the decision isn’t up to Obama; it falls to Congress to approve an extension before the Dec. 28 deadline. And on Fox News yesterday, Sen. Rand Paul helped encapsulate why progress appears highly unlikely:
“I do support 26 weeks of unemployment that they’re paid for, if you extend it beyond that you do a disservice to these workers,” Paul said. Paul said that business surveys indicate a reluctance to hire workers who have been on unemployment insurance for lengthy periods.
Got that? Paul believes cutting off aid to jobless Americans during a period of high unemployment is doing those folks and their families a favor.
There’s been a simmering controversy in New Jersey, which initially appeared a little too outlandish to take seriously. But late Friday afternoon, the story took an interesting turn:
A Port Authority official with close ties to Gov. Chris Christie is resigning after state lawmakers questioned whether lane closings on the George Washington Bridge that led to extensive traffic backups in September were politically motivated….
… It still seems hard to believe anyone would cause massive traffic jams as part of a petty, partisan dispute, but the questions raised thus far haven’t received reasonable answers. It’s a story worth keeping an eye on.
Pete Souza: “The day we were leaving for Oslo, the President’s first meeting of the morning was with his speechwriting team. He said he had stayed up most of the night writing. I was surprised to see that he had handwritten the entire speech so I made a few close-up pictures as he went over the speech with his aides in the Oval Office.” Dec. 9, 2009
First Lady Michelle Obama reads “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” at the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks to Secret Service Uniformed Division officers as he walks through the magnetometer in the Northwest Gatehouse at the White House, following his visit to Blair House, Dec. 9, 2011. The President told a reporter as he exited the gatehouse, “I just wanted to see what it was like getting in here.” (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama, with mother-in-law Marian Robinson, daughters Sasha and Malia, and First Lady Michelle Obama, react as they push the button to light the National Christmas Tree during a ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2012 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)