Saturday and Sunday: The President has no public events scheduled
Monday: The President will award Clinton Romesha, a former active duty Army Staff Sergeant, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. The event will be held at the White House and the First Lady will also attend
Greg Sargent: John Boehner’s office is circulating Charles Krauthammer’s column, which argues that Republicans should call Obama’s sequester “bluff” and make no concessions whatsoever in revenues to avert the sequester. This is still more confirmation that the GOP’s explicit position is that allowing the sequester to happen – which Republicans themselves say will gut the military and tank the economy – is preferable to compromising at all with Dems, and that they will use the threat of disaster to force a solution that averts the sequester only by giving Republicans everything they want.
….. we’re back to exactly where we were during the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling fights. Republicans are explicitly and openly using the prospect of serious harm to millions and millions of Americans to force Democrats to agree to a deal that gives Republicans everything that they want, while requiring them to make no concessions whatsoever….
Steve Benen: When it comes to the looming, automatic sequestration cuts, there seem to be two broader debates happening simultaneously. The first, more important question deals with what’s going to happen with the policy itself, and the scope of the damage it could do to the economy, the military, and the country.
The second question is a little pettier: who came up with this awful idea in the first place? A Republican National Committee spokesperson, echoing his party’s favorite new talking point, insists this is all President Obama’s fault.
…. Does the GOP have a point on this? Was the policy actually Obama’s idea? No. The argument is not only wrong, it’s dependent on the entire political world having a very short memory …. Since this has become such an important element of the larger fight, let’s take a minute to set the record straight…..
Business Insider: …. Charles Krauthammer writes that Republicans should “call Obama’s sequester bluff.” It’s being passed around by Republicans and other conservatives on Twitter and in email blasts. His argument – which exemplifies a typical conservative shift on the sequester recently – is that Republicans now have leverage on the sequester over President Barack Obama…..
…. Krauthammer wasn’t always so bullish on using the sequester as a tool for leverage. Last May, he warned in an appearance on Fox News that letting the cuts go into effect would be a “catastrophe” for the nation’s defense…..
…. The conservative editorial board of The Wall Street Journal advanced a similar argument on Thursday. In an editorial entitled “The Unscary Sequester,” the editorial board disputed Washington’s “collective fit of terror.”
…. Then there’s the editorial the board wrote not even seven months ago. It used the same language as Krauthammer – “catastrophe,” which it wrote was “playing out in slow motion.” The board also said that Obama had the leverage, and that it would be a “dangerous game” to play with the sequester.
RollCall: President Barack Obama has agreed to do more than just raise money for House Democrats’ effort to win back the majority in 2014: He is also going to help with candidate recruitment.
Obama will headline eight fundraising events in 2013 for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and more fundraisers are planned for 2014. But Obama’s agreement to help DCCC Chairman Steve Israel of New York make the sell to would-be candidates in targeted districts is also significant.
“It’s transformational,” Israel said in an interview, adding that House Democrats are “firing on all cylinders like I’ve never seen before.”
The president’s efforts to assist House Democrats politically are more than Israel initially even asked for.
Ari Berman (The Nation): In 2006, Congress voted overwhelmingly to reauthorize key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for another twenty-five years. The legislation passed 390–33 in the House and 98–0 in the Senate. Every top Republican supported the bill …. Civil rights leaders flanked George W. Bush at the signing ceremony.
Seven years later, the bipartisan consensus that supported the VRA for nearly fifty years has collapsed, and conservatives are challenging the law as never before. Last November, three days after a presidential election in which voter suppression played a starring role, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to Section 5 of the VRA, which compels parts or all of sixteen states with a history of racial discrimination in voting to clear election-related changes with the federal government. The case will be heard on February 27.
The lawsuit, originating in Shelby County, Alabama, is backed by leading operatives and funders in the conservative movement, along with Republican attorneys general in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas….
Washington Post: First lady Michelle Obama will join some of Illinois’ most recognizable politicians and clergy Saturday to mourn a 15-year-old honor student whose death has drawn attention to staggering gun violence in the nation’s third-largest city.
But Hadiya Pendleton’s family says her Saturday funeral service won’t be about politics, but about remembering a girl who loved to dance, once appeared in an anti-gang video and died just days after performing at one of President Barack Obama’s inauguration events.
None of the dignitaries are slated to speak during the service. The teen’s pastor and brother will talk, and the musical group Pendleton was a member of will perform.
NYT: Among the victims of gun violence who will be sitting in the House chamber on Tuesday night when President Obama delivers his State of the Union address will be a teacher who survived the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Natalie Hammond, who reportedly took bullet wounds to the leg, foot and hand but narrowly escaped with her life, will attend the speech as the guest of her congresswoman, Elizabeth Esty, the representative for Newtown, Conn.
Ms. Hammond, the school’s lead teacher, and another school employee were the only two people to survive after being shot by the gunman, Adam Lanza. Ms. Hammond will be one of the many victims of gun violence who will attend the State of the Union address.
WH: On Friday, February 15, President Obama will welcome the recipients of the 2012 Citizens Medal to the White House for a special ceremony to recognize their efforts to serve their communities, and inspire others to do the same.
3:45: President Obama delivers remarks at the Armed Forces Farewell Tribute in honor of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Joint Base Myer-Henderson (C-Span)
NYT: It happened a few minutes before the beginning of Jim Langevin’s junior cadet shift back in 1980 …. A bullet ricocheted off a locker and went right through the boy’s neck, severing his spinal cord.
At 16, he would never walk again and never fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer.
Now, three decades later and seven terms into his career as one of Rhode Island’s two members of the House of Representatives, Mr. Langevin, 48, is the only quadriplegic ever to serve in Congress….
For the past month, he has been on a quiet campaign to persuade his colleagues to give up their guest passes to next Tuesday’s State of the Union address by President Obama so that victims of gun violence can attend.
That way, he said, when the nation’s highest officeholders look up from the floor of the House to those watching from the gallery, they will not be able to avoid seeing the human toll that guns can exact.
Upworthy: It’s a fact so jaw-dropping it’s unbelievable — people thought it was a crazy Internet rumor until Politifact verified it. But it’s true: More Americans have died just since 1960 from gun incidents — suicides, accidents, and homicides — than died in every war in U.S. history. The deadliest war the U.S. has ever had is the war we waged against ourselves.
Politifact: Politifact: Since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, supporters and opponents of gun control have thrown out statistics to support their point of view.
Here’s one that caught our eye, offered by liberal commentator Mark Shields on the Dec. 21, 2012, edition of the PBS NewsHour.
Shields told host Judy Woodruff, “You know, Judy, the reality is – and it’s a terrible reality – since Robert Kennedy died in the Ambassador Hotel on June 4, 1968, more Americans have died from gunfire than died in … all the wars of this country’s history, from the Revolutionary through the Civil War, World War I, World War II, in those 43 years. … I mean, guns are a problem. And I think they still have to be confronted.”……
CNN: A group of four senators working behind the scenes on a bipartisan bill to expand background checks on gun sales is making significant progress, according to sources in both parties familiar with their work.
The group includes Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, who has an A rating with the National Rifle Association, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, a long time advocate of gun rights, and Chuck Schumer, D-New York, a long time supporter of gun control.
CNN is told the legislation they are working on would effectively require background checks on private gun purchases made with non-licensed gun dealers, according to sources in both parties. That would include closing the so-called gun show loophole.
NYT: President Obama may have run his last political campaign, but that does not relieve him of his obligations to the Democratic Party.
The president, who has a vested interest in Democrats retaining their Senate majority and trying to narrow Republican control of the House, is already making plans to return to the campaign trail. He has agreed to hold at least 14 separate fund-raising events this year, a Democratic official familiar with the plans told The New York Times, characterizing it as an “aggressive schedule.”
…. Mr. Obama will appear at 10 events outside Washington: five for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and five for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He will also host one event for each committee in Washington as well as appearing at two joint fund-raising galas for House and Senate candidates.
Reuters: A rise in exports and lower imports of oil helped push the trade deficit to its narrowest point in nearly three years in December, suggesting the economy did much better in the fourth quarter than initially estimated.
The country’s trade gap narrowed to $38.5 billion during the month, the Commerce Department said on Friday. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a deficit of $46 billion.
“Trade data for December paint a reassuring and encouraging picture of the US economy at the end of last year,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.
‘President Obama has outlined his plan for fixing our broken immigration system. Add your name to stand with the President’ – here
BuzzFeed: One of President Obama’s two nominees Thursday for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Todd M. Hughes, would become the first out gay appeals court judge in the country, if confirmed by Congress.
Hughes currently is the deputy director of the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Civil Division at the United States Department of Justice….. The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which runs the Presidential Appointments Project to support out LGBT candidates for appointments, praised the nomination.
NYT: Cardiss Collins, who reluctantly ran for a Chicago Congressional seat left vacant when her husband died in a plane crash and went on to become Illinois’s first black congresswoman, serving for nearly 25 years as a voice for racial and gender equality and expanded health care for the poor, died on Sunday in Arlington, Va. She was 81.
….. She campaigned little but easily won the primary in April and cruised through the general election in June with 92 percent of the vote. Six years later, and after some early struggles in office — she had never considered a political career before she was thrust into one — she became chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. For much of the 1980s, she was the only black woman in Congress.
TPM: Outgoing Energy Department Secretary Steven Chu, who announced his resignation last week, took to his Facebook page Thursday to make light of an article from parody news site “The Onion” alleging that he woke up next to a solar panel after a night of partying in D.C. As Chu wrote in a post on his Facebook page:
“I just want everyone to know that my decision not to serve a second term as Energy Secretary has absolutely nothing to do with the allegations made in this week’s edition of the Onion. While I’m not going to confirm or deny the charges specifically, I will say that clean, renewable solar power is a growing source of U.S. jobs and is becoming more and more affordable, so it’s no surprise that lots of Americans are falling in love with solar.”
People: My song with my husband: Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”
Michelle Obama: Barack and I danced to “Let’s Stay Together” at this Inauguration, and it was such a special moment for us. We had spent all day together with our family and friends at different Inaugural events, and at the end of the day the dance was really our one-on-one moment with each other. Well, each other and everyone watching on TV!
Greg Sargent: In a speech to the United Auto Workers just now, Obama defended his decision to bail out the auto industry, lacing into Mitt Romney with withering derision. But this speech was about more than the auto-bailout. It was Obama’s case for reelection.
This speech constituted Obama’s most ambitious effort yet to weave his defense of the auto rescue into the larger contrast he will try to draw between his vision and the “you’re on your own” ideology he will accuse Republicans of representing.
…. today’s speech was important: It revealed that the alternate reality Romney has been functioning in throughout the GOP primary is soon going to give way to another reality entirely, a general election reality — and Romney, presuming he will be the nominee, will soon collide with it.
Michael Tomasky: Ideological rigidity and Obama hatred led Republicans to reject the auto bailout. Now they’re doubling down on their opposition – and surrendering Michigan in the general election.
Michiganders, take pride: your 2012 primary will go down in American political history as perhaps the single most eye-popping case ever of a party’s demands on its candidates during the primary fight reducing its chance of winning the state in November from something not far from half to near zero. This is especially true if Rick Santorum manages to pull the upset and go on to be the nominee; Barack Obama’s campaign wouldn’t have to spend one thin dime in Michigan and would still win by at least 15 points. But it’s true also if unfavorite son Mitt Romney manages to win. Horse-race polls that once showed a tough battle between the two now project an Obama blowout.
A person holds up four fingers for four more years as President Barack Obama speaks at the United Auto Workers conference in Washington, Feb. 28
… with UAW President Bob King
“I keep on hearing these same folks talk about values all the time. You want to talk about values? Hard work: That’s a value. Looking out for one another: That’s a value. The idea that we’re all in it together and I’m my brother’s and sister’s keeper: That’s a value.”
TPM: When President Obama spoke to workers in Wisconsin last week, Politico accidentally made itself the story. The paper’s reporter mistook the Wisconsin state flag for the seal of a local union, and cited it as an illustration of President Obama’s pro-union bias.
Politico cleaned the egg off its face by wiping the story from the Internet. But the gaffe made the rounds among actual union officials in the state and now that the laughter’s subsided, they’ve turned it into a membership drive…..