Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Economy erodes election hope for Democrats

President Obama makes remarks on the Senate campaign finance reform vote in the Rose Garden at the White House.

Americans by a large majority believe President Barack Obama has not focused enough on job creation, as economic fears threaten Democrats ahead of November 2 congressional elections, a Reuters-Ipsos poll found on Tuesday.

In a sign of trouble ahead for the Democrats, the poll found evidence of a sizable enthusiasm gap with Republicans more energized about voting in the elections.

Americans expressed deep unhappiness with the direction of the economy, which in the poll they identified overwhelmingly as the country's top problem.

The U.S. unemployment rate is at a stubbornly high 9.5 percent and Obama has spent much of the year on issues like Wall Street reform and healthcare in addition to jobs.

People were more negative about Obama's performance on the economy than on any other question surveyed. Satisfaction was dropping more sharply on the issue than on any other question.

Only 34 percent approved of Obama's handling of the economy and jobs compared to 46 percent who deemed it unsatisfactory. This is a sharp decline from early 2009, shortly after he took office, when more than half of those surveyed approved of Obama's handling of the worst financial crisis in decades.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

President Obama to defend education plan

President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will deliver major speeches this week on their $4.35 billion Race to the Top school reform program, pushing back against complaints that it promotes unproven methods and ignores long-standing inequities in public education.

Speaking at the National Press Club on Tuesday, Duncan is expected to name a list of state finalists for the controversial grant program’s second round of funding and to explain why Race to the Top — the crown jewel of the administration’s education agenda — must continue. And on Thursday, Obama will talk about education at the annual gathering of the National Urban League, one of seven civil rights organizations that blasted Race to the Top in a report made public Monday.

The highly competitive initiatives “distribute resources by competition in the midst of a severe recession,” effectively reducing standard, formula-based federal education funding, according to the report. “Such an approach reinstates the antiquated and highly politicized frame for distributing federal support to states that civil rights organizations fought to remove in 1965.”

Monday, July 26, 2010

Obama holds up a document of Republican solutions

WASHINGTON President Barack Obama who rocketed to the White House promising "change you can believe in," is now telling voters they shouldn't change a thing.

His message for the fall elections, which are looking ominous for his Democrats, is that Republicans caused the nation's economic troubles, but he and the Democrats are starting to fix them. So stick with the Democrats and don't go back to the GOP.

"This is a choice between the policies that led us into the mess or the policies that are leading out of the mess," Obama said recently in Las Vegas.

Trouble is, it's a tough sell to voters who've seen little progress.

Unemployment is stuck near double digits and polls show many voters have decided Obama's policies are to blame, not his predecessor's.

Obama often frames the argument by saying that Republicans had their chance to drive, then drove the car into a ditch and shouldn't get the keys back. But voters may be concluding that Democrats, who control the White House and both chambers of Congress, have had their chance at the wheel, too, and haven't gotten very far.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rep. Charles Rangel vows to stay put and beat ethics rap

Washington - When a reporter asked embattled Rep. Charles Rangel if his trial on ethics charges would hurt other Democrats, he shrugged and said, "Pain is pain."

But when a House ethics panel lays out the charges against him Thursday, the pain won't be just Rangel's.

Some of the most powerful people in America will wince with him - and hope he beats the rap.

Among them are House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and a throng of fans at the White House.

"Charlie has friends up and down Pennsylvania Ave.," a White House source said.

And while at least one Democrat has called on Rangel to step down for the sake of the party - Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) - he stood firm yesterday.

"Well, it wouldn't be the American thing to do [to step aside]. I think I owe it to the process to find out first what the investigative committee finds out," Rangel told reporters after speaking at Harlem Hospital.

Most Democrats, and many Republicans, see the 80-year-old Harlem Democrat and Korean War vet as likeable and extremely effective.

"When he walks into a room, you know he's the guy, he's just the guy, and that's what Charlie is to our delegation," said 11-term Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx).

"Charlie is the man around whom we all gathered," added Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx).

From his 40 years in the House, Rangel also is unsurpassed in knowing how to work the system.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Quantcast Bowing to political reality, Senate Democrats drop broad energy bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, flanked by Sen. John F. Kerry and White House energy czar Carol Browner, blamed the GOP for the impasse.

Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada — who had promised to bring a sweeping energy bill with an emissions cap to the Senate floor by the August recess — said he would instead offer a scaled-back bill focused largely on responding to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Obama We made enormous progress this week

President Obama did a victory lap of sorts today, trumpeting three new laws approved this week that will help "repair the damage to our economy from this recession:" New financial firm regulations, an anti-government waste initiative, and an extension of unemployment benefits.

"We made enormous progress this week on Wall Street reform, on making sure that we're eliminating waste and abuse in government, and in providing immediate assistance to people who are out there looking for work," Obama said during brief remarks at the White House.

The president went on to urge Congress to pass a new loan program for small business owners so they can hire more people. "Our goal is to make sure that people who are looking for a job can find a job," said Obama, who is currently coping with an unemployment rate of 9.5%.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, had a different interpretation of Obama's domestic program, saying it has actually slowed economic recovery.

"For more than a year and a half, the President and his Democrat allies on Capitol Hill have pushed an anti-business, anti-jobs agenda on the American people in the form of one massive government intrusion after another," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Senate Democrats abandon comprehensive energy bill

Senate Democrats on Thursday abandoned plans to pass an energy bill that caps emissions of carbon dioxide, saying Republicans refuse to support the measure.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said no Republican was willing to back a comprehensive energy bill, a development he called "terribly disappointing."

Democrats have been trying for more than a year to pass a plan that charges utilities and other major polluters for their heat-trapping carbon emissions, which contribute to global warming. They're also abandoning a compromise plan to limit emissions only from utilities that also failed to attract the 60 votes needed to advance it in the 100-member Senate.

Reid and other Democrats said they would focus on a narrower bill that responds to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and improves energy efficiency.

"We've always known from day one that to pass comprehensive energy reform, you've got to have 60 votes," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the bill's lead sponsor. "As we stand here today we don't have one Republican vote."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Obama urges action on unemployment

Barack Obama urged Republican lawmakers to support a bill that would extend emergency benefits to millions of unemployed Americans on Monday. In a press conference at the White House Rose Garden he blasted Republican critics for their "lack of faith in the American people."

"These are honest, decent, hard-working folks who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own," Obama said. "The same people who didn't have any problems spending money on tax breaks for the richest Americans are saying we shouldn't offer benefits to middle-class Americans."

Unemployment in the United States is at 9.5 per cent, and benefits for millions of Americans have dried up in recent months. The issue of temporarily extending emergency unemployment benefits has come up three times in recent weeks, but Republican senators have blocked it each time.

Obama has described the bill as crucial to rebuilding the economy, but Republican critics say they won't support it unless it is paid for through the budget and not through deficit spending.

"It's time to stop holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics," Obama urged.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court nominee nears confirmation

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan won approval by the Senate judiciary committee on Tuesday, moving her one step closer to final confirmation by the full Senate.

The committee voted 13 to 6 in favour of her nomination. She is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate as early as next week to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens, who is retiring.

Though just one Republican, Senator Lindsay Graham, voted in Kagan's favour, President Barack Obama praised the vote as "a bipartisan affirmation of Kagan's strong performance during her confirmation hearings" in June.

Before the vote, each of the 19 committee members voiced support or concerns about Kagan, currently the Obama administration's Solicitor General and a former dean of the Harvard Law School.

If confirmed by the full Senate, Kagan, 50, would become the third female justice on the nine-member court — joining Ruth Bader-Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor — and only the fourth in U.S. history.

For that, "her confirmation will be a milestone that we can all be proud of," said Senator Herb Kohl, of Wisconsin. "She will provide exemplary public service to our nation."

Kagan appeared to receive universal praise for her keen intellect and command of the law

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sarah Palin's war chest points to 2012 presidential bid

Sarah Palin's efforts to raise her profile and broaden her support suggest she is preparing for a tilt at the White House in 2012.

Newly published election spending figures show Sarah Palin ended the last quarter with a war chest of more than $1m, suggesting gathering momentum for a run at the White House in 2012.

Her political action committee, a body for raising and distributing election cash, raised $866,000 in the three months from April 1, the most since it was formed in January 2009. She spent about $742,000 over the quarter, most of it on building up her political profile and base support.

Palin, who enjoys the support of the Tea Party and other grassroots activists but is distrusted by the Republican party establishment, has not yet said whether she will stand as a candidate. She and other potential rivals for the Republican nomination would normally begin to make their intentions clear early next year, in the wake of November's Congressional mid-term elections.

But a breakdown of money raised and spent by Palin suggests she is putting in place the political framework for a bid. She spent almost twice as much as in any previous quarter, much of it on speechwriters, private jets for public appearances, and hiring consultants to advise her on domestic and foreign policy, which were embarrassing weaknesses during her vice-presidential run in 2008.

She is also taking on more staff, including for the first time someone to keep control of her schedule. Until now, her organisation has tended to be chaotic.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Minor quake in DC doesn't shake up Obama

WASHINGTON -- A minor earthquake in the nation's capital didn't shake the president. After talking to reporters on the Gulf oil spill, President Barack Obama was asked whether he felt the 3.6-magnitude quake that hit near Washington early Friday morning.

A smiling Obama said he didn't feel it. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, it was the strongest quake to hit within 30 miles of D.C. since the agency began keeping records in 1974. No injuries were reported. Many in the area slept through it while others were jolted awake.

On the federal agency's website, by midmorning more than 11,000 people had reported feeling the quake, some from as far away as Pennsylvania and West Virginia. But at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, at least one person wasn't rattled.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Barack Obama's crackdown bill on Wall Street wins Senate backing

Barack Obama has received a much-needed boost after the US Senate backed the biggest reform of Wall Street since the Great Depression.

The bill allows Obama to claim another major piece of legislation to put alongside the economic stimulus bill passed last year, which stands comparison with Roosevelt's New Deal, and the healthcare bill earlier this year, which achieved a goal that had eluded previous presidents.

It helps him counter accusations that his presidency is in danger of becoming an empty one, comparable to that of Jimmy Carter, who had little to show for his four years in office.

The bill, which could be on Obama's desk for signing on Friday or early next week, is intended to deal with many of the issues that led to recession in the US: dodgy mortgages, easy credit cards, and limited regulation of banking and Wall Street.

It posed a dilemma for the Republicans, caught between their traditional close ties with the financial industry and public anger against Wall Street, but in the end most voted against it. Lobbying groups on behalf of the financial industry mounted one of the most expensive campaigns in US election history against the bill.

Although some Democrats complain the bill does not go nearly far enough in regulating Wall Street, the Obama administration hopes it will help address some of the widespread public anger at bankers and financiers.

Barack Obama forced to quell rebellion from 'nuclear mad' Democrats

Mr Obama held a clear-the-air meeting at the White House with party leaders, whose frustration with the administration had been simmering for months.

He promised to provide his full support from now until the midterm elections in November, when the entire 435-seat lower chamber will be contested.

Anger among Democrats had boiled over after Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said on national television last weekend that the party's 75-seat majority could be overturned at the polls.

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, was said to be "nuclear mad" about Mr Gibbs's comments.

An aide said she referred to the remarks as "friendly fire," and called them "very damaging".

Louise Slaughter, a member of Democratic leadership, said: "It was an absolutely ridiculous thing for him to say. We didn't appreciate it."

The row came as the president's popularity continued to slide, with voters expressing declining confidence in his handling of the economy.

Obama's job approval rating down three points to a new low of 44 per cent. Those who approved of his handling of the economy dropped five percentage points in a month to 40 per cent.

Mr Obama on Thursday travelled to Holland in Michigan, where $472 million from last year's $800 billion stimulus has been spent, principally on new electric vehicle battery factories.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Obama picks adviser to cut deficit

WASHINGTON — President Obama yesterday tapped veteran adviser Jacob “Jack’’ Lew, former staffer to Bay State lawmakers, to head the Office of Management and Budget.

Lew, who worked for Representative Joseph Moakley and former House speaker Thomas P. “Tip’’ O’Neill in the 1970s and ’80s, has a long record of public service, serving as both deputy director and director of OMB during the Clinton administration.

The 54-year-old Lew is currently a top aide to another Clinton — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — and would replace outgoing OMB director Peter Orszag.

“I was actually worried that Hillary would not let him go,’’ Obama said in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House yesterday, introducing Lew. “I had to trade a number of No. 1 draft picks to get Jack back at OMB.’’

When he worked for Bill Clinton, Lew presided over a substantial budget surplus.

If he goes back to his old job, Lew will have to wrangle with the biggest budget deficit in history, forcing him to look for more cuts and revenues to reach the president’s ultimate goal of a reduced deficit.

“Jack’s challenge over the next few years is to use his extraordinary skill and experience to cut down that deficit and put our nation back on a fiscally responsible path. And I have the utmost faith in his ability to achieve this goal as a central member of our economic team,’’ Obama said.

Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, called Lew “a superb choice’’ and a person of “the highest integrity.’’

“He knows how to make the tough choices. And he knows how to reach across the aisle to find bipartisan solutions,’’ Conrad said.

Palin Comes to Tea Party's Defense After NAACP Passes Racism Resolution

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin came to the defense of the Tea Party on Tuesday night, saying that the NAACP was wrong to pass a resolution condemning what it says are racist elements of the conservative movement.

"I am saddened by the NAACP's claim that patriotic Americans who stand up for the United States of America's Constitutional rights are somehow 'racists,'" Palin wrote in a Facebook note. "The charge that Tea Party Americans judge people by the color of their skin is false, appalling, and is a regressive and diversionary tactic to change the subject at hand."

Delegates at the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Kansas City yesterday passed the resolution calling on the Tea Party to expel its racist elements, but the group will reportedly not release the final version of the resolution until its board passes it in October.

Palin, the former Republican vice presidential nominee who is now seen as a leader of the Tea Party movement, quoted conservative icon Ronald Reagan, who called America's past racism "a legacy of evil." She said that with the election of the first black president, the United States has become "a new 'post-racial' society."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Vote on Kagan delayed on Republican request

A committee vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan will be put off at least another week to give Republican lawmakers more time to review her record.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, requested that the committee's vote on the nomination, which had been scheduled for Tuesday, be delayed for one week.

Mr. Sessions said he had "serious questions" about Ms. Kagan, particularly relating to her views on the military, partial-birth abortion and gun rights.

"Fundamentally, the nominee lacks the experience and the intellectual vigor you develop from full-time practice of the law and serving as a judge," Mr. Sessions said.

Ms. Kagan, who spent most of her career in academia as dean of Harvard Law School and previously worked in the Clinton White House, had testified two weeks ago before the committee. Republicans criticized her for dodging questions during her three days of testimony.

But the committee's chairman, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said Ms. Kagan answered the 500 questions she faced more thoroughly than recent nominees, and he praised her intellect and wit.

Mr. Leahy agreed to grant the request for a one-week delay, which any member of the committee has a right to request, though he did say he suspects all members of the committee have already decided how they will vote on Ms. Kagan's nomination.

President Obama nominated Ms. Kagan to replace Justice John Paul Stevens, who is retiring after more than three decades on the bench. If Ms. Kagan is confirmed, it will mark the first time that three women will sit on the high court at the same time.

Even with the delay, Ms. Kagan's nomination is not expected to face serious opposition and her confirmation is likely to take place before the court's next session begins in October.

On Economy, White House Message Not Sticking

Now, 40 percent of Americans polled approve of President Obama's handling of the economy; 54 percent disapprove. That's down from 45 percent approval last month.

Seventy-one percent of those polled say that their local job market is bad and 70 percent say it's going to stay the same or get worse. Only 28 percent of respondents think the job market will improve.

The White House has consistently said that the economic mess was inherited, that the Recovery Act/stimulus package has worked, and that it's going to take time for the country to get back on track. Republicans and some business allies have countered that the health care law and other legislative priorities, like the proposed energy legislation, have cost the business community and make job creation difficult.

The poll numbers show that the White House's message of success, not so much in curing the economy, but success in doing what's right, doesn't seem to be sticking.

Last week at fundraiser in Missouri, the president acknowledged the difficulty he's had in convincing Americans that his administration has the right prescription to fix the economy. "You wouldn't know it from listening to folks, but we cut taxes for working families and for small business owners all across American to help them weather the storm," he said.

With a few months to go to November's midterm elections, the White House has big hill to climb to turn the economic numbers around. So they've begun to change the message.

Monday, July 12, 2010

NAACP Proposing Resolution Condemning “Racism of the Tea Party

(Kansas City Star) — The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will propose a resolution this week condemning racism within the tea party movement.

The resolution, scheduled for a vote as early as Tuesday by delegates attending the annual NAACP convention in Kansas City, calls upon “all people of good will to repudiate the racism of the Tea Parties, and to stand in opposition to its drive to push our country back to the pre-civil rights era.”
NAACP leaders said the resolution was necessary to make people aware of what they believe is a racist element within the tea party movement.

Tea party leaders deny that the movement is racist and said the resolution is unfair.

“I just don’t see racism in the tea party movement,” said Brendan Steinhauser, director of campaigns for FreedomWorks, which organizes tea party groups. “Racism is something we’re absolutely opposed to.”

“The NAACP has more of a political agenda now, but I would hope that they would appreciate the fact that the tea party movement has a lot in common with the civil rights movement. I’m personally inspired by what the civil rights movement did, and I want them to know that.”

Among the charges lodged against the tea party in the resolution:

  • Tea party supporters have engaged in “explicitly racist behavior” and “displayed signs and posters intended to degrade people of color generally and President Barack Obama specifically.”
  • * Tea party activists have used racial epithets, have verbally and physically abused black members of Congress and others, and have been charged with threatening public officials.