President Barack Obama signs the 3 month extension of the Highway bill in the Oval Office. President Obama signed the bill into law to extend transportation funding until October 29, but said that short term extensions are a bad way for the U.S. government to do business
@dougmillsnyt: A young girl greets President Obama as he arrives at the New Castle Air National Guard Base, in New Castle, Delaware.
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@dougmillsnyt: Obama is reflected through the window as he greets customers at the Charcoal Pit to in Wilmington, Del.
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President Barack Obama speaks about transportation and an initiative to increase private sector investment in national infrastructure, at the Port of Wilmington in Wilmington, Delaware, near the Interstate 495 Bridge. The federal government is helping pay for repairs to the bridge, which state officials ordered closed on an emergency basis last month because several supporting columns were tilting.
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President Barack Obama signs a initiative to increase private sector investment in the nation’s infrastructure after speaking in front of the Interstate 495 bridge over the Christina River near Wilmington, Delaware
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"We’ve got to make sure our economy works for every American. That’s why I ran for President. It’s what I’m focused on every day." —Obama
White House: Fact Sheet: Building A 21st Century Infrastructure: Increasing Public And Private Collaboration With The Build America Investment Initiative
Today, the President will deliver remarks at the Port of Wilmington in front of the I-495 Bridge in Delaware. With 90,000 cars moving over it per day before repairs began, this bridge is a key example of the importance of infrastructure, which keeps the economy moving, spurs innovation, and bolsters our national competitiveness. At the port – and in this Year of Action – the President will announce a new executive action to create the Build America Investment Initiative, a government-wide initiative to increase infrastructure investment and economic growth. As part of the Initiative, the Administration is launching the Build America Transportation Investment Center – housed at the Department of Transportation – to serve as a one-stop shop for cities and states seeking to use innovative financing and partnerships with the private sector to support transportation infrastructure.
That is why today, the President will sign a Presidential Memorandum to launch the Build America Investment Initiative, a government-wide initiative to increase infrastructure investment and economic growth by engaging with state and local governments and private sector investors to encourage collaboration, expand the market for public-private partnerships (PPPs) and put federal credit programs to greater use. Starting with the transportation sector, this initiative will harness the potential of private capital to complement government funding. As part of the Initiative, the Administration is launching the Build America Transportation Investment Center: Housed at the Department of Transportation, this center will serve as a one-stop shop for state and local governments, public and private developers and investors seeking to utilize innovative financing strategies for transportation infrastructure projects.
President Barack Obama meets with Tanei Benjamin at the Charcoal Pit in Wilmington, Del., before speaking about transportation and infrastructure. Benjamin wrote the president a letter about her struggles as a working single mother.
President Obama holds Jaidyn Oates, 7 months, at the Charcoal Pit in Wilmington
President Barack Obama holds seven-month-old Jaidyn Oates during a stop at the Charcoal Pit
Tanei Benjamin wipes tears from her eyes after receiving a hug from President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama speaks about the economy at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Virginia. President Barack Obama envisions a time when cars will be able to talk with other cars or with America’s roads. He says such technology could prevent crashes, cut down on traffic and save gasoline.
President Barack Obama is given a tour of vehicles equipted with V2I technology by Joe Peters while at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Virginia
President Barack Obama looks over his shoulder while driving a simulator
President Obama and staff watch the U.S. soccer team vs Belgium in World Cup action in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, July 1 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama speaks to the media during a meeting with his cabinet members in the Cabinet Room of the White House. From left are, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
Attorney General Eric Holder
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson
With the Key Bridge, linking Washington and Northern Virginia in the background, President Barack Obama speaks about the economy and transportation, at Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington. The President said 700,000 jobs could be at risk next year if Congress doesn’t quickly agree on how to pay for highway and transit programs.
"If this Congress does not act by the end of the summer, the Highway Trust Fund will run out. " —President Obama #RebuildAmerica
Clara Ritger: 3 Reasons Why Obamacare’s Outlook Is Rosy For Insurers
WellPoint reported better earnings than expected Wednesday for the first quarter of 2014, adding to the growing list of health insurers showing positive outlooks for the future of the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. The Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance company, which offers plans on Obamacare’s exchanges in 14 states, upped its annual earnings per share projections by 20 cents to $8.40. On a call with investors Wednesday about the company’s outlook, WellPoint CEO Joe Swedish identified three reasons that the Affordable Care Act is panning out as insurers expected. 1. The vast majority of people are paying their premiums.
The rate of people who select a WellPoint plan and then pay the premium to begin coverage is hitting about 90 percent, Swedish said. That could change, because the customers who purchased coverage at the end of the open-enrollment period aren’t included in Wednesday’s earnings report. But the company said 400,000 people signed up for its exchange plans through Feb. 15, and it anticipates its total to top 600,000. 2. WellPoint is seeing an overall bump in its number of customers. “We’re winning a lot of new members, and whether they had insurance previously or not, we do not know,” Swedish said. WellPoint covered an additional 1.3 million people in the first quarter and predicts that it could double that by year’s end.” The age of our applicants decreased the further we got into the open enrollment,” Swedish said, “indicating that young people signed up later in the open-enrollment period.”
Elise Vebeck: Insurer Backs Away From Dire O-Care Rate Hike Prediction
A major health insurer failed to embrace a prediction from one of its executives that premiums on ObamaCare’s exchanges would rise by double digits next year. Officials with Wellpoint, the biggest insurer in the new marketplaces, delivered an upbeat message about ObamaCare enrollment on a conference call with analysts Wednesday. Chief Financial Officer Wayne DeVeydt said the company met or exceeded expectations when it came to how many people signed up on the exchanges and their mix of ages. He predicted “less volatility in pricing” for Wellpoint members relative to people covered by other insurance companies.
“We’re really pleased with our strategy and the affirmation of our pricing strategy,” DeVeydt said. “If you were to talk to our actuarial team, we fell really good about moving into the new market. We think we hit our sweet spot.” The call focused on the company’s results in the first quarter of this year. Wellpoint raised its 2014 forecast again on Wednesday, pushing shares closer to their all-time high. Wellpoint reported Wednesday that it expects 600,000 customers on the exchanges this year. A total of 90 percent have paid their first premium, DeVeydt said.
The Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu doesn’t object to Secretary of State John Kerry’s use of the word “apartheid” to describe the future of Israel if a peace agreement is not reached. Kerry has since apologized for his remarks while remaining strongly in support of a two-state resolution. In a HuffPost Live interview Tuesday, however, Tutu likened his own experience under apartheid in South Africa to that of Israel.
“I go and I visit the Holy Land and I see things that are a mirror image of the sort of things that I experienced under the apartheid,” Tutu told HuffPost Live host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani. “How can you stop me from the right to describe as I feel. You go anywhere in the world and if I see things that mirror the kind of experience that I know first-hand, I think it’s cheek in a way for someone else to tell you, ‘no, you are wrong in feeling as you feel about what you have seen.'”
House Republicans issued a report Wednesday saying that one-third of people who signed up for health insurance through new federal exchanges hadn’t paid their first month’s premium as of mid-April, which could undermine the Obama administration’s claims of robust enrollment under the new health law. But administration officials, outside experts and even the health insurance industry immediately questioned the report, offering the latest skirmish over questionable claims and counterclaims that have come to characterize debate over President Barack Obama’s signature health law.
The report by House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans said 67 percent of people who had signed up for health insurance through federal marketplaces had paid their first month’s premiums as of April 15. That was far lower than the numbers emerging from individual insurance companies, which have been reporting payment numbers in the range of 85 percent and above. Wellpoint reported on an earnings call Wednesday that some 90 percent of people signing up for insurance actually had paid. Administration officials, insurers and others were quick to point out that because the GOP data cut off in mid-April, it didn’t capture a surge of health law sign-ups in March prior to the end of the first open enrollment period.
“I thought it was the end of my life,” Deborah Sanya told me by phone on Monday from Chibok, a tiny town of farmers in northeastern Nigeria. “There were many, many of them.” Boko Haram, an Islamist terrorist group, kidnapped Sanya and at least two hundred of her classmates from a girls’ secondary school in Chibok more than two weeks ago. Sanya, along with two friends, escaped. So did forty others. The rest have vanished, and their families have not heard any word of them since. Sanya is eighteen years old and was taking her final exams before graduation. Many of the schools in towns around Chibok, in the state of Borno, had been shuttered. Boko Haram attacks at other schools—like a recent massacre of fifty-nine schoolboys in neighboring Yobe state—had prompted the mass closure.
It was noon when her group reached the terrorists’ camp. She had been taken not far from Chibok, a couple of remote villages away in the bush. The militants forced her classmates to cook; Sanya couldn’t eat. Two hours later, she pulled two friends close and told them that they should run. One of them hesitated, and said that they should wait to escape at night. Sanya insisted, and they fled behind some trees. The guards spotted them and called out for them to return, but the girls kept running. They reached a village late at night, slept at a friendly stranger’s home, and, the next day, called their families. In the meantime, as in so many other ways in Nigeria, each community has to fend for itself. For a while after the abduction, girls trickled back into town—some rolled off trucks, some snuck away while fetching water. That trickle has stopped. “Nobody rescued them,” a government official in Chibok said of the girls who made it back. “I want you to stress this point. Nobody rescued them. They escaped on their accord. This is painful.”
“Infrastructure spending is popular on both sides,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said. “Infrastructure investment is an area where we should work together,” House Majority Whip Eric Cantor once tweeted. And Republican-friendly business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance for American Manufacturing are huge supporters of public works. Republicans have urged the Obama Administration to propose a major transportation bill, calling America’s crumbling infrastructure a natural issue for bipartisan cooperation. Well, on Tuesday, the Administration unveiled a four-year, $300-billion transportation bill. It included a 22% increase in highway funding, a 70% increase in transit funding, and a provision allowing states to put tolls on interstates. At a time when one in nine U.S. bridges are rated “structurally deficient,” and nearly half the public lacks access to public transit, it’s a pretty ambitious piece of legislation. And this is probably the first you’re hearing of it, because it got virtually no media attention.
Why can't we fix our infrastructure? Well, Obama just proposed to spend $300B and crickets. ti.me/1iJkI1C
This is partly because Washington reporters are more interested in politics than the nitty-gritty details of policy. They opposed his $50 billion “roads, rails and runways” proposal in 2010, and then again when it was expanded and incorporated into his American Jobs Act in 2011. They’ve blocked Obama’s plans for an infrastructure bank and a national high-speed rail network. They’ve also blocked Obama’s proposals for corporate tax reform, which is relevant, because the new GROW AMERICA Act depends on tax reform for much of its financing. Infrastructure advocates often complain that Obama hasn’t used his bully pulpit enough to push for an investment program. But he barnstormed the country for the American Jobs Act. He has talked about rebuilding America in every State of the Union address. His problem is not a lack of will or poor messaging. His problem is that he doesn’t have the votes. Republicans control the House, and they can block legislation in the Senate. If they were willing to pass an Obama infrastructure bill, then an Obama infrastructure bill might make news.
KyivPost: Kyiv Ousts Russian Diplomat For Espionage
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has declared Russia’s navy attaché in Kyiv persona non grata in connection with his “activities (that are) incompatible with a diplomatic status under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961,” its statement said, cited by BBC Ukraine and Radio Free Liberty and Radio Europe. The Foreign Ministry stated that Ukraine’s spy agency – Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) – had detained the Russian diplomat “as a result of a successfully conducted counterintelligence operation on April 30…at the place (where he was conducting) intelligence actions.” No further details were provided.
Russia’s naval attaché in Ukraine, according to the Russian embassy in Ukraine website, is Kirill Koliuchkin. According to Ukrainian military expert and blogger, Dmitry Tymchuk, Koliuchkin arrived in Ukraine on Feb. 20 as part of a Kremlin delegation that included Federal Security Service agents, military personnel, including intelligence, border guards, as well as other officials. Their arrival coincided with the bloodiest days of the EuroMaidan revolution during which dozens of anti-government protesters were killed, most of whom from sniper fire, on Feb. 20-22.
PBS Newshour: Former Justice Stevens: Campaign Money Isn’t Speech
Campaign donations pay for more than political ads and should not be protected as free speech, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens told a Senate panel Wednesday in urging them to rein in the billions of dollars shaping elections. The retired justice reminded lawmakers that political donations funded the burglary at the Watergate office complex under President Richard Nixon. That break-in at the Democratic National Committee is not speech, Stevens argued in a rare appearance of a former justice in the Senate.
“While money is used to finance speech, money is not speech. Speech is only one of the activities that are financed by campaign contributions and expenditures. Those financial activities should not receive precisely the same constitutional protections as speech itself,” Stevens said. “After all, campaign funds were used to finance the Watergate burglary, actions that clearly were not protected by the First Amendment.” Stevens has been a critic of his former colleagues’ decisions that have opened the floodgates for unlimited donations and super PACs.
Igor Volsky: Health Care Spending Is On The Rise, And That’s A Good Thing
New federal data finds that health care spending increased by 9.9 percent in the first quarter of 2014, representing somewhat of a turnaround in the four-year slowdown in health care spending. Some critics are already spinning the news as an indictment of the health care law, pointing out, as Phil Klein does in The Washington Examiner, that health care costs are now spiking at the “fastest rate since 1980.” But let’s be very clear about what’s happening here: an improving economy is allowing Americans to now spend more on health care, while people who have previously been uninsured are finally getting insurance and are using their care. In the meantime, health care prices are still continuing to grow at low rates, reducing Americans’ health costs.
All of this was fully expected. When the Congressional Budget Office analyzed the Senate’s health care bill in 2009, it found that while spending would increase after the uninsured first obtain health care coverage, “during the decade following the 10-year budget window, the increases and decreases in the federal budgetary commitment to health care stemming from this legislation would roughly balance out, so that there would be no significant change in that commitment.” This month, the office released a report that included a graph showing this trend: a spike of health spending in 2014 and then an evening out, as growth comes down to below what it would have been without enacting reform
Reuters: Obamacare Puts A Floor Under U.S. Economy In First Quarter
As the U.S. economy teetered on the brink of contraction in the first quarter, one thing stood out. Healthcare spending increased at its fastest pace in more than three decades. That surge is attributed to the implementation of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Because of Obamacare, the nation narrowly avoided its first decline in output in three years. “GDP growth would have … been negative were it not for healthcare spending,” said Harm Bandholz, chief economist at UniCredit Research in New York. Healthcare spending increased at a 9.9 percent annual rate, the quickest since the third quarter of 1980, and it contributed 1.1 percentage points to GDP growth.
The economy expanded at only a 0.1 percent rate in the first quarter, held back by a drop in exports and business investment, which economists attributed to a harsh winter. White House economic adviser Jason Furman said the increase should not be a cause for alarm. “Any upward pressure on healthcare spending growth from expanding insurance coverage will cease once coverage stabilizes at its new, higher level, so it does not affect the longer-term outlook for spending growth,” he said in a statement. Government transfers, including health insurance premium subsidies, boosted personal income in the first-quarter.
Danny Vinik: Republicans Love Big Business So Much, They Forget About Reducing The Deficit
Whenever Democrats propose new legislation that requires additional spending, Republicans demand a spending offset. But the GOP has finally found something they covet so much that they’re willing to break that rule: tax breaks for big business. Two bills working their way through Congress address the more than 50 tax breaks—known as “tax extenders”—that expired at the end of 2013. These tax deductions and credits are primarily for big business. Congress has typically renewed them at the end of each year, but failed to do so at the end of 2013. Both parties are eager to extend them once again, thanks to an intense lobbying effort. The legislation would increase the deficit by $310 billion over the next decade, plus an additional $68 billion in interest costs.
While the Democratic position is difficult to justify given their supposed concerns about the deficit, the Republican one blatantly conflicts with the party’s years-long obsession with austerity. Farm Bill negotiations dragged on for months and ended with $8.6 billion in cuts over a decade. The Ryan Budget cuts $135 billion from food stamps alone. Even President Obama’s plan to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit—which Republicans support in policy, but disagree on the offset—costs only $60 billion over a decade. The Republican position on unemployment insurance is even more hypocritical. The same day that Ways and Means passed the six tax extenders, Republican Senator Dean Heller called House Speaker John Boehner to lobby him on the Senate UI bill. The cost of the extension is just $9.7 billion and even includes a spending offset, although most of it ($6.1 billion) comes from a budget gimmick. But Boehner said the deal needs a full offset and a job-creation measure—despite a Congressional Budget Office finding that a UI extension would help the economy.
Mary Tuma: First Lady Michelle Obama To Stop In San Antonio
First Lady Michelle Obama is expected to make a stop in the Alamo City this week to help promote higher education. On Friday, Obama will join Mayor Julián Castro for Destination College Week’s ‘College Signing Day,’ an event that allows high school seniors to publicly display their college or university plans. The mid-morning event is expected to draw more than 2,100 attendees. The week-long (free) citywide program is geared toward empowering children to seek higher ed opportunities and reminds the public SA is a prime spot for collegiate education in Texas, with around 150,000 students enrolled at area colleges or universities.
This marks College Week’s fourth annual event. Obama will be speaking at The University of Texas at San Antonio and is slated to discuss the administration’s “North Star” education plan (as she’s been doing recently) which aims to make the U.S. once again, have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.
Reuters: Sprint Moves Ahead With T-Mobile Bid Plan
Sprint Corp is meeting with banks to work out funding for its bid for smaller rival T-Mobile US Inc, a source familiar with the situation said, as the mobile carrier works to ease regulatory concerns that the deal would hurt competition. The source said that Sprint, which is owned by Japan’s SoftBank Corp, is hoping to fund the bulk of T-Mobile’s estimated $50 billion price tag with corporate bonds and cover the rest with syndicated loans and convertible bonds. Sprint is currently talking to at least five banks, the source told Reuters, including JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank. Sprint is facing a battle ahead with U.S. regulators who oppose consolidation in the wireless market on the basis it would inhibit competition.
The company is aware it may have to give up some of its spectrum holdings to win over critics, the source said. Two of the most vocal opponents to the deal are Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler and U.S. antitrust chief William Baer, who have pointed to T-Mobile’s success since U.S. authorities rejected a 2011 merger between AT&T Inc and T-Mobile on the grounds the market needs at least four major players to be competitive. The failure of that deal cost AT&T a $6 billion break-up fee, a penalty Sprint feels confident it can avoid, the source said, adding that it is leaning towards having Deutsche Telekom, which currently owns 67 percent of T-Mobile, retain part of that stake.
Consumer spending accelerated in March, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Consumer spending rose 0.9%, the largest increase since August 2009. Personal income rose a solid 0.5%. Wall Street economists had expected a 0.5% gain for incomes and a 0.7% gain in spending. The savings rate fell to 3.8% from 4.2% in February, the smallest level since January 2013. Excluding inflation, real disposable incomes rose 0.3% for the third straight month in March. Adjusted for inflation, spending rose 0.7%, also the biggest gain since August 2009.
Josh Rogin: Obama Confidant To Be Next Ambassador To South Korea
Mark Lippert currently serves as chief of staff to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Obama will announce as soon as Thursday that he is nominating Lippert to replace Sung Kim as America’s top diplomat in South Korea, the officials said. The nomination comes at a tense time on the Korean peninsula, with North Korea threatening further provocations including a possible fourth nuclear test. Lippert is one of Obama’s oldest and closest advisors on foreign policy, having served in Obama’s Senate office and then as a top advisor in Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Lippert was the National Security Council Chief of Staff, a position resurrected by the Obama White House in 2009 for 10 months. Lippert spent some time deployed abroad as a Naval Reserve intelligence officer before returning to the Obama administration in 2011 as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs.
House Rs: We can't come up with promised alternative to Ocare; and legislating on immmigration is too hard, so...BENGHAZI!
There is not expected to be any fight this time over Lippert’s nomination to be Ambassador to South Korea, although it could be a while before he gets confirmed due to the bitter Senate fight over confirmations following Democratic leadership’s elimination of the filibuster for executive appointments last fall. In retaliation, Republicans have slowed the confirmations process to a trickle and dozens of ambassadors are waiting in line for confirmation. But the South Korean government enthusiastically endorsed the Lippert choice because he is close personally to Obama and has had an extensive working relationship with Seoul during his time at the Pentagon. Lippert played an important role in crafting the Pentagon’s part of the Asia pivot policy, as codified in then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s June 2012 speech at the Shangri-La conference in Singapore. He worked to bolster missile defense capabilities against the North Korean threat, has a good relationship with U.S. Forces Korea Commanders General Thurman and General Scaparrotti, and led two separate U.S. delegations to the Defense Trilateral Talks between the U.S.-Japan-Korea on a range of key security issues.
Pete Souza: “This is a composite of several images of the President and his national security team during a series of meetings in the Situation Room of the White House discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden on Sunday, May 1, 2011. We put this together so in addition to the now iconic image of this day, people might have a better sense of what it’s like in presidential meetings of historic significance.”
President Obama talks with members of the national security team at the conclusion of one in a series of meetings discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden, in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama edits his remarks in the Oval Office prior to making a televised statement detailing the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
May 1, 2011: “The President was ready to announce the news about the mission against Osama bin Laden and was putting the finishing touches on his statement in the Outer Oval Office. As he did so, the networks broke in with bulletins confirming that bin Laden had been killed and a photograph of him appeared on the television screen in the background near the Vice President and Press Secretary Jay Carney.” (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office before making a statement to the media about the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011. The President made a series of calls, including to former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and others, to inform them of the successful mission (Photo by Pete Souza)
Senior administration officials listen as President Obama delivers a statement in the East Room of the White House on the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011. Seated, from left, are: James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; CIA Director Leon Panetta; Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; and Vice President Joe Biden. (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama shakes hands with Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the Green Room of the White House following his statement detailing the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011. CIA Director Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are pictured at left (Photo by Pete Souza)
On This Day
Members of the military raise their hands during a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members in the East Room of the White House, May 1, 2009 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama during the playing of the national anthem at a Naturalization Ceremony in the East Room of the White House Friday, May 1, 2009 ( Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama in the outer Oval Office following a Homeland Security Council meeting in the Cabinet Room May 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama touches the sign above the locker room door at Michigan Stadium, before giving the commencement address to University of Michigan graduates in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, May 1, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama exits the stage with University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman after delivering the commencement address to University of Michigan graduates at Michigan Stadium, in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, May 1, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wait in a hallway at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., moments before taking the stage at the White House Correspondents Association dinner, Saturday, May 1, 2010 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to a group of supporters and volunteers at The Springs Preserve May 1, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada
On This Day: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk in the Green Room of the White House before being introduced at a Joining Forces initiative employment announcement for veterans and military spouses, April 30, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern)
1:0 Jay Carney briefs the press
3:10: President Obama delivers remarks on the minimum wage
Clyde Davis holds a sign before the NBA playoff game 5 between Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center in Los Angeles, April 29
NPR: Obamacare Enrollees Emboldened To Leave Jobs, Start Businesses
Until recently, Mike Smith, 64, of Long Beach, Calif., worked 11 hours a day, Monday through Friday and then half a day on Saturday. He was a district manager for a national auto parts chain. He dreamed of retiring early, but it wasn’t an option for him because he and his wife relied on his the health insurance tied to his job. “At our age, with some pre-existing medical conditions, it would have been very costly to buy insurance on the open market — about $3,000 a month,” he says. But the Affordable Care Act changed that. Smith retired in January. So did his wife, Laura, also 64.
The couple now has a private health insurance policy that they bought through Covered California, the state’s insurance marketplace. It costs them $200 a month. The coverage helped the Smiths make a major lifestyle change. A recent study by Georgetown University and the Urban Institute predicts the ACA will enable up to 1.5 million Americans to leave their jobs and become self-employed, start new businesses or retire early. It’s a finding that runs counter to forecasts by critics of the federal health law, who contend it will cost the nation jobs and cripple America’s small-business economy.
Washington Post: Obamacare beneficiary: ‘You Wouldn’t Have Caught Me Dead Watching MSNBC’
The story of Dean Angstadt’s sudden embrace of Obamacare made MSNBC last night. Host Chris Hayes picked up on a heartwarming story in the Philadelphia Inquirer about a 57-year-old logger of Boyertown, Pa., who’d resisted signing up for Obamacare coverage but finally relented under the urging of a friend. what accounts for Angstadt’s resistance to Obamacare in the first place? He says that he “leans” Republican and essentially listened to what the GOP had to say about Obamacare, and not so much to what the Democrats had to say.
As for his media diet, Anstadt says he goes online for some of his news, but when it comes to television, “Fox News, of course, and that’s basically what I watch on TV” Asked if Fox News had molded his view of Obamacare, Angstadt responded, “Yeah, yeah — they get people fired up. You know what, I really do have a different outlook on it. It’s really wrong that people are making it into a political thing. To me, it is a life-and-death thing.” Of Obamacare’s namesake, Angstadt says, “I didn’t care for Obama. I can’t say nothing bad about him now because it was his plan that probably saved my life.”
ThinkProgress: GOP Lawmakers Confronted By Constituents Demanding To Know Why They Won’t Expand Medicaid
Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a right-wing group funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers, has been aggressively pressuring states to reject Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion. Last fall, the organization launched a massive campaign that has focused mainly on Virginia. But the latest town hall meetings hosted by AFP in the state aren’t exactly going well. Over the past week, at several town halls intended to emphasize why Virginia shouldn’t expand Medicaid, GOP lawmakers have been confronted by constituents who are demanding to know why they’re denying health care from an estimated 400,000 low-income residents.
Last week, at an AFP-sponsored forum in Charlottesville featuring two GOP lawmakers who oppose the expansion, the event was packed with more than a hundred Medicaid supporters. Protesters gathered outside the building with signs encouraging passing cars to honk for Medicaid expansion, and a local outlet noted that the politicians faced a “hostile audience” inside, too. Then, on Monday, three Republicans were “deluged with questions” about their refusal to expand Medicaid at an AFP event in Ashburn
Ari Berman: Federal Court Strikes Down Discriminatory Wisconsin Voter ID Law
At 2:17 pm EST today, ESPN announced that LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling had been banned from the NBA for life for his racist remarks. Seven minutes later, at 2:24 pm, the ACLU tweeted that a Wisconsin judge had struck down the state’s voter ID law because it disproportionately burdened black and Hispanic voters. Both decisions were striking affirmations of Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent last week, in a Michigan affirmative action case, that “race matters.” Sotomayor pointed to contemporary voter suppression efforts as an illustration of her defense. Wisconsin federal district court Judge Lynn Adelman ruled today that the state’s voter ID law, which was temporarily enjoined in 2012, violated the Fourteenth Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
On same day NBA bans Sterling, federal court rules that Wisconsin voter ID law disproportionately burdens black and Hispanic voters
The voter ID law had a clear discriminatory impact, the judge found. “The evidence adduced at trial demonstrates that this unique burden disproportionately impacts Black and Latino voters,” Adelman wrote. Data from the 2012 election “showed that African American voters in Wisconsin were 1.7 times as likely as white voters to lack a matching driver’s license or state ID and that Latino voters in Wisconsin were 2.6 times as likely as white voters to lack these forms of identification.” The judge found that Wisconsin’s ID law overwhelmingly impacted lower-income voters and that “Blacks and Latinos in Wisconsin are disproportionately likely to live in poverty…. The reason Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately likely to live in poverty, and therefore to lack a qualifying ID, is because they have suffered from, and continue to suffer from, the effects of discrimination.”
Steve Benen: House GOP leaders Scramble After Accidentally Telling The Truth
With a tip of the hat to Michael Kinsley, it appears half the House Republican leadership committed gaffes in recent days by accidentally telling the truth. They’re now scrambling to reverse course.
Late last week, for example, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the chair of the House Republican Conference, conceded to her local newspaper that the Affordable Care Act is unlikely to be repealed. Though she wants to “look at reforming the exchanges,” the local report added that McMorris Rodgers “said the framework established by the law likely will persist and reforms should take place within its structure.”
This was a perfectly sensible position for a House GOP leader to take. Yesterday, the congresswoman’s office assured the right she has no use for such reasonableness.
Washington Post: White House Opens Door To Tolls On Interstate Highways, Removing Long-Standing Prohibition
With pressure mounting to avert a transportation funding crisis this summer, the Obama administration Tuesday opened the door for states to collect tolls on interstate highways to raise revenue for roadway repairs. The proposal, contained in a four-year, $302 billion White House transportation bill, would reverse a long-standing federal prohibition on most interstate tolling. Though some older segments of the network — notably the Pennsylvania and New Jersey turnpikes and Interstate 95 in Maryland and Virginia — are toll roads, most of the 46,876-mile system has been toll-free. “We believe that this is an area where the states have to make their own decisions,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We want to open the aperture, if you will, to allow more states to choose to make broader use of tolling, to have that option available.”
The question of how to pay to repair roadways and transit systems built in the heady era of post-World War II expansion is demanding center stage this spring, with projections that traditional funding can no longer meet the need. That source, the Highway Trust Fund, relies on the 18.4-cent federal gas tax, which has eroded steadily as vehicles have become more energy efficient. “The proposal comes at the crucial moment for transportation in the last several years,” Foxx said. “As soon as August, the Highway Trust Fund could run dry. States are already canceling or delaying projects because of the uncertainty.” While providing tolling as an option to states, the White House proposal relies on funding from a series of corporate tax reforms, most of them one-time revenue streams that would provide a four-year bridge to close the trust-fund deficit and permit $150 billion more in spending than the gas tax will bring in.
Lindsey Bever: Botched Oklahoma Execution Reignites Death Penalty Debate
Tuesday night’s botched execution in Oklahoma, which resulted in an inmate’s writhing death from a heart attack 43 minutes after he received what was supposed to be a lethal injection, was just one in a series of bungled execution attempts the past few years. It’s prompting calls for a moratorium on capital punishment from death penalty opponents. The inmate, Clayton Lockett, was confirmed unconscious 10 minutes after the first dose in the state’s new three-drug protocol was administered. The first drug, midazolam, is intended to render a person unconscious. But three minutes later, he began breathing heavily, thrashing and straining to lift his head, media witnesses said. Reporters for Tulsa World and KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City said Lockett called out from the gurney, “man.”
The blinds were then lowered to prevent people in the viewing gallery from seeing inside the death chamber. Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton answered a ringing phone and left the room with a few officials. Patton told reporters Lockett’s vein line had “blown.” When asked what he meant, Patton said the vein had “exploded.” Executions have become increasingly difficult for states to carry out over the past two years because of similar incidents. Licensed physicians are now unwilling to have anything to do with them on ethical grounds. Pharmaceutical companies that market the most tested drugs have cut off supplies, forcing states to obtain compounds they refuse to describe from suppliers they refuse to identify. Now the battle concerns not who dies, but how they die, and the competence of states to carry out executions humanely.
There is so little good news on the voter-suppression front these days that, when some actually rears its head, it catches you somewhat by surprise, even more so when it cites what everybody knows about these laws, but what many people have to pretend they can’t figure out.
…. There will be appeals. There also may be an attempt to push another, similar bill through the legislature by Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin. But, for now, something resembling the state’s proud progressive history has prevailed.
Mike Florio: Sterling’s Lifetime Ban Sends Clear Message To All Owners
By banning L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life, Adam Silver has made the jobs a little easier for his colleagues in the Commissioners’ Club. Every owner of every major-league franchise, in the NBA or elsewhere, now knows that views like those espoused by Sterling will result in swift and decisive action.
How could Commissioner Roger Goodell do anything less with an NFL owner, now that Silver has set the precedent in a different sport? With Goodell developing in his seven-plus years on the job a reputation for aggressively enforcing all rules and policies against the league’s players, it would be virtually impossible for Goodell to not drop the hammer on an NFL owner who engages in similar conduct.
Forbes: Here’s How Obama’s Russia Sanctions Will Destroy Vladimir Putin
The US Treasury Department announced further sanctions today on seven Russian officials and 17 Russian companies, including Igor Sechin, the head of Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil company, several financial institutions and a number of firms connected to the energy sector. These will include visa bans, asset freezes and further restrictions on trade.
When the first round of sanctions were imposed, the Russians largely laughed them off and critics of the administration pounced. How could visa bans and asset freezes affect the calculus of Putin’s most ardent supporters? What effect will it have on the ones don’t travel extensively the West or keep assets in foreign banks?
Yet this line of reasoning betrays a deep misunderstanding about the purpose and effects of the sanctions. They are, in fact, a new breed of financial warfare that the Treasury department has been honing since 9/11, which rely on new legislation such as Section 311 of the Patriot Act and “know your customer” banking rules.
Anthony Man: Looking For Complaints, Rick Scott Instead Finds Praise For Obamacare
Gov. Rick Scott visited a senior center Tuesday to warn about cuts he said Obamacare is forcing in a popular version of the Medicare health program and to collect their horror stories. What he found was a satisfied group with few complaints. The 20 seniors assembled for a roundtable with Scott at the Volen Center were largely content with their Medicare coverage and didn’t have negative stories to recount. And some praised Obamacare – a program that Scott frequently criticizes. “I’m completely satisfied,” Harvey Eisen, 92, a West Boca resident, told Scott. Eisen told the governor he wasn’t sure “if, as you say,” there are Obamacare-inspired cuts to Medicare. But even if there are, that would be OK. “I can’t expect that me as a senior citizen are going to get preferential treatment when other programs are also being cut.”
Ruthlyn Rubin, 66, of Boca Raton, told the governor that people who are too young for Medicare need the health coverage they get from Obamacare. If young people don’t have insurance, she said, everyone else ends up paying for their care when they get sick or injured and end up in the hospital. Eventually, Rubin said, Obamacare will become more popular. “People were appalled at Social Security. They were appalled at Medicare when it came out. I think these major changes take some people aback. But I think we have to be careful not to just rely on the fact that we’re seniors and have an entitlement to certain things,” she said. “We’re all just sitting here taking it for granted that because we have Medicare we don’t want to lose one part of it. That’s wrong to me. I think we have to spread it around. This is the United States of America. It’s not the United States of senior citizens,” Rubin said from her spot two seats away from the governor.
Washington Post: Virginia Attorney General Declares ‘Dreamers ‘ Eligible For In-State Tuition
Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring thrust himself and his state back into the national spotlight Tuesday by announcing that some illegal immigrants who were brought to this country as children can qualify for in-state college tuition under existing law. Herring made the announcement at Northern Virginia Community College’s Alexandria campus just a few months after the legislature declined to enact the idea and on the heels of another brazen legal move in January, when he declared that the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. “We should welcome these smart, talented, hard-working young people into our economy and society rather than putting a stop sign at the end of 12th grade,” Herring (D) said Tuesday to sustained applause and cheers from a room full of Latino students, immigration activists and education officials.
Announced in Spanish, Hindi, Vietnamese and Korean in addition to English, Herring’s move built upon President Obama’s decision to allow thousands of young illegal immigrants to remain in the country. Virginia students who are lawfully present in the United States as a result of Obama’s effort, which is known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, qualify for in-state tuition as long as they meet the state’s residency requirements, Herring said. Herring’s decision was far more than symbolic, instantly making college more affordable for more than 8,000 young illegal immigrants. The attorney general said state universities will immediately implement the policy, which comes just in time for high school seniors trying to make college plans for the fall.
Suzanne Gamboa: Can You Trust Obama To Police Immigration? Report: Yes You Can
House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that moving ahead on immigration reform depends on the President showing he’s enforcing the law, which authors of an enforcement analysis said he has done. In his first news conference since Congress returned from a two-week break, Boehner said the biggest impediment on immigration reform is that Obama has “got to show the American people and the Congress he can implement the law the way it may be passed.” As Boehner made the statement, the Migration Policy Institute unveiled an analysis concluding Obama has built on enforcement policies of previous administrations and accelerated them, while trying to focus on border security and deportations of criminals.
In addition, some 250 evangelical pastors from 25 states also seemed reluctant to wait for more evidence on Obama’s trustworthiness. On Tuesday they were in Washington, D.C. visiting more than 100 members of Congress, mostly Republicans, and pushing for movement on immigration reform. Immigration hawks have criticized Obama’s record because of a drop in the number of immigrants apprehended in the interior of the U.S. Some have also opposed Obama’s decision to extend relief from deportation to young immigrants who are in the country illegally.“ If you are looking to critique the administration, you can find certain people are not crossing ICE’s radar and not being deported and that’s because the administration is focusing efforts mostly at the border,” said Rosenbaum, who served on Obama’s transition team on immigration.
In a major victory for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the smog from coal plants that drifts across state lines from 28 Midwestern and Appalachian states to the East Coast. The 6-to-2 ruling bolsters the centerpiece of President Obama’s environmental agenda: a series of new regulations aimed at cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants. Republicans and the coal industry have criticized the regulations, which use the Clean Air Act as their legal authority, as a “war on coal.” The industry has waged an aggressive legal battle to undo the rules.
Legal experts said the decision, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, signals that the Obama administration’s efforts to use the Clean Air Act to fight global warming could withstand legal challenges. In June, the E.P.A. is expected to propose a sweeping new Clean Air Act regulation to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping greenhouse gas that scientists say is the chief cause of climate change. Coal plants are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
Reuters: U.S. Consumer Confidence Rebounds To Pre-Crisis Levels In First Quarter
U.S. consumer sentiment rose sharply in the first quarter as optimism about the economic outlook improved, according to a global survey which also showed rising confidence in debt-laden euro zone countries. Globally, consumer confidence returned to pre-financial crisis levels in the first three months of this year, at its highest since the first quarter of 2007, the survey by global information and insights company Nielsen showed on Wednesday.
The Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index rose 2 points in the first quarter to 96, according to the survey, conducted between February 17 and March 7. A reading below 100, however, signals still relatively low consumer morale. Consumer confidence in the United States hit the 100 mark, rising 6 points from the previous quarter, and 44 percent of respondents said they were putting spare cash into savings accounts, up from 39 percent in the previous quarter. “Recovery gained forward momentum in the U.S. as the world’s largest economy reported improving unemployment numbers and rising equity and home prices,” said Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen.
First Lady Michelle Obama poses for a selfie with a member of the audience after participating in a Joining Forces initiative event with service members, military spouses, and employers at the Fort Campbell Veterans Jobs Summit and Career Forum at Fort Campbell, Ky., April 23, 2014 (Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
President Obama gets a hug from Angelica Guarino, whose fiance was one of the participants in the “White House to Light House” Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride that took place moments before on the South Lawn of the White House, April 30, 2009
President Obama shakes hands with Marines attending the “White House to Light House” Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride, April 30, 2009
President Obama, surrounded by members of Congress and Jeanne White-Ginder, mother of Ryan White (2nd R), signs the Ryan White HIV/AIDS treatment extension act of 2009 in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington on October 30, 2009. The act is the largest federally funded program for people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. It was named in honor of Ryan White, a teenager who contracted AIDS through a tainted hemophilia treatment in 1984 and became a well-known advocate for AIDS research and awareness, until his death on April 8, 1990
First Lady Michelle Obama meets hostesses at the annual Congressional Club Luncheon at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., April 30, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
President Obama talks with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, following a health care meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, April 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama leans against the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, April, 30, 2010.(Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama looks through binoculars as he tours the Secret Service’s James J. Rowley Training Center in Beltsville, Md., April 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama disembarks Marine One after he arrived on the South Lawn of the White House, April 30, 2010
President Obama meets with Bono to discuss development policy in the Oval Office, April 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama laughs with, from left, Senior Advisor David Axelrod, Associate Director of Speechwriting Jonathan Lovett, and Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau, while reading a draft of his remarks for the White House Correspondents Association dinner, in the Outer Oval Office, April 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wait backstage before being introduced at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington, D.C., April 30, 2011. Press Lead Advance Brandon Lepow and Trip Director Marvin Nicholson, right, stand with the President and First Lady (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
First Lady Michelle Obama chats with Seth Meyers at the White House Correspondents Association Gala, April 30, 2011
President Obama and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan wait in the Green Room of the White House before the start of their press conference in the East Room, April 30, 2012 ( Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in the Green Room of the White House at a Joining Forces initiative employment announcement for veterans and military spouses, April 30, 2013
President Obama during a press conference in the Brady Press Room at the White House, April 30, 2013
President Obama and Vice President Biden talk with advisors following a National Security Staff meeting in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2013. Clockwise from the President are: Mike Froman, Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; and Tony Blinken, Deputy National Security Advisor (Photo by Pete Souza)
Mary Foxx, grandmother of Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, is seen seated in the East Room of the White House where President Barack Obama announced that he nominated her grandson as transportation secretary. Mary Foxx worked at the White House in the Truman Administration
The Hill: The Obama administration said Friday that a massive pipeline carrying oil across much of the United States must remain shut down until federal regulators are satisfied that it can operate without future leaks. TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline leaked twice last month, fueling opposition to a pending expansion of the project, which is undergoing a wide-ranging federal review.
The Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a “corrective action order” Friday informing TransCanada that it must take a series of steps before resuming normal operations at the pipeline, which runs from Canada to Oklahoma.
“After evaluating the foregoing preliminary findings of fact, I find that the continued operation of the pipeline without corrective measures would be hazardous to life, property and the environment,” Jeffrey Wiese, PHMSA’s associate administrator for pipeline safety, said in the order.
…The order comes at a politically sensitive time for TransCanada. The company is seeking federal approval to expand its Keystone pipeline to carry Canadian oil sands from Alberta to Texas … Environmental groups have mounted a campaign against the Keystone XL project, arguing that it puts the country at risk of major oil spills ….the oil industry and some Republicans have been strong advocates for the approval Keystone XL…..
Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood walk to a train at Union Station in Washington, Feb. 8, heading to Philadelphia, and an event to tout plans to improve the nation’s infrastructure. Information here
PS Any excuse for reposting this:
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican member of the Cabinet, feigns being a blocking back for President Barack Obama as he arrives backstage to meet with GOP House leaders before speaking to their issues conference at the Renaissance Baltimore Harbor Place Hotel in Baltimore, Md., Jan. 29, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican member of the Cabinet, feigns being a blocking back for President Barack Obama as he arrives backstage to meet with GOP House leaders before speaking to their issues conference at the Renaissance Baltimore Harbor Place Hotel in Baltimore, Md., Jan. 29, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)