Thursday, June 24, 2010

House passes campaign bill backed by Democrats

WASHINGTON -- Four months before midterm elections, the Democratic-controlled House approved new limitations on the political activity of outside interest groups Thursday after carving out exemptions that benefit the National Rifle Association as well as labor unions and numerous federal contractors.

The vote was 219-206 on the legislation that Democrats trumpeted as a move to bring fuller disclosure to shadowy campaign ads and Republicans attacked as an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.

In a statement, President Barack Obama praised the bill, although he said, "I would have preferred that it include no exemptions." He urged quick action in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid has pledged to seek a vote but strong Republican opposition make its prospects uncertain.

At the juncture of the First Amendment and partisan politics, the measure produced an unlikely alignment among the very groups it was intended to regulate.

Organizations as diverse as the American Civil Liberties Union and Sierra Club on the left to the Chamber of Commerce and the National Right to Life Committee on the right opposed it. The NRA was officially neutral - and drew a jab from House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio because of that.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Judge Blocks Deep-Water Drilling Moratorium

WASHINGTON — A federal judge in New Orleans on Tuesday blocked a six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling projects that the Obama administration had imposed in response to the vast oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.The White House swiftly said the administration would appeal the decision.

In a 22-page ruling, Judge Martin L. C. Feldman of Federal District Court issued a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of a May 28 order halting all floating offshore drilling projects in more than 500 feet of water and preventing the government from issuing new permits for such projects.

Citing the economic harm to businesses and workers in the gulf caused by the moratorium, Judge Feldman — a 1983 appointee of President Ronald Reagan — wrote that the Obama administration had failed to justify the need for the sweeping suspension, which he characterized as “generic, indeed punitive.”

He wrote that “the blanket moratorium, with no parameters, seems to assume that because one rig failed and although no one yet fully knows why, all companies and rigs drilling new wells over 500 feet also universally present an imminent danger.”

Thursday, June 17, 2010

President invites discussions for energy legislation

US President Barack Obama has asked key Republican and Democratic senators to meet him at the White House on June 23rd to discuss his currently stalled energy bill.

The meeting, which will take ideas from both sides of politics, will involve conversations on the oil tragedy in the Gulf, oil and gas drilling oversights, pollution at coal-burning factories and incentives for the expansion of nuclear energy for power.

The president will be looking to find votes for comprehensive energy legislation at the meeting, to which he has invited Republican Lindsey Graham, who was one of three original authors of the bill in the Senate. Senator Graham later dropped his support for the bill.

It is believed the president will ask the assembled lawmakers to consider a bill to change US dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels, while also requiring US industries and utilities to cut their output of carbon dioxide pollution.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Obama heading back to Gulf Coast

President Barack Obama will make another visit to the Gulf Coast next week to review efforts to contain and clean up the worst oil spill in U.S. history, the White House announced Tuesday.

Obama's Monday and Tuesday itineraries will include stops in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, three of the four states affected by the 50-day-old disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the White House announced. It will be his fourth trip to the region since the spill erupted in late April.

On Friday, Obama was in Grand Isle, Louisiana, where he met with local business leaders directly affected by the undersea gusher and huddled with regional officials involved in the response effort.

Tuesday's announcement followed Obama's blunt defense of his administration's handling of the disaster in an interview on NBC's "Today" show. Asked about complaints that his public appearances have been too cerebral and reserved, Obama said, "This is not theater."

"I don't sit around talking to experts because this is a college seminar," he said. "We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick."

Obama said that his administration's response is the largest mobilization against an environmental catastrophe in the history of the federal government and that officials understood "from day one" that the spill would be a major disaster. He said it is "tough" to see images of oil-smeared birds or meet fishermen "who are on the verge of tears," but "we just got to keep on moving."

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Obama Pledges Tough Inquiry Into Oil Spill

WASHINGTON — President Obama vowed Tuesday to pursue criminal inquiries into the cause of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, as the crisis he called “the greatest environmental disaster of its kind in our history” threatened to engulf his second year in office.

“We have an obligation to determine what went wrong,” Mr. Obama said, appearing in the Rose Garden after meeting with the two men he has appointed to lead an inquiry into the cause of the spill, former Senator Bob Graham of Florida and William K. Reilly, a former Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

“If laws were broken, leading to death and destruction,” Mr. Obama said, “my solemn pledge is, we will bring those responsible to justice.”

Mr. Obama’s heightened rhetoric reflected deepening frustration within the administration at the inability of BP to stop the spill, along with wide concern that the government and Mr. Obama are appearing increasingly impotent as oil laps at the Louisiana shoreline with no end in near sight.

Mr. Obama said the commission will examine the disaster and its causes, and will make sure that the country never has to face anything like this again. A full investigation will occur, Mr. Obama said, before he allows any expansion of offshore oil drilling.

“Mr. Graham and Mr. Reilly,” Mr. Obama said, “have my full support to follow the facts wherever they may lead without fear or favor.”