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March 30, 2012

White House decides there's enough oil supply to tighten sanctions on Iran

The White House today said it's determined there's enough supply of petroleum from countries other than Iran to move forward with further sanctions against the regime.

The administration said it made the determination despite a February analysis that indicated that the oil market became "increasingly tight over the first two months of 2012" and that "international concerns over Iran’s nuclear activities...are contributing to an increased demand for non-Iranian crude oil.

"Nonetheless," Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement, "there currently appears to be sufficient supply of non-Iranian oil to permit foreign countries to significantly reduce their import of Iranian oil."

The determination comes as consumers increasingly grapple with rising gas prices -- in part caused by turbulence in the Middle East. But the U.S. is looking to tighten the screws on Iran in hopes of forcing the regime to start negogiating on its nuclear weapons ambitions.

Budget chairman Ryan backs Romney

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., endorsed Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination Friday.

Ryan is regarded as an up-and-coming Republican star, and is considered the party's leading expert on how to shape a budget that's sensitive to conservative ideology. The House, on a largely party line vote, passed his budget Thursday; it's likely to go nowhere in the Democratic-run Senate.

Ryan's endorsement also carries some weight because his state's voters go to the polls Tuesday in a closely-watched primary.

Here's some of Ryan's comments about Romney Friday morning:

"I have two criteria I’m using to make my decision to vote in our primary on Tuesday. Who is the best person to be president? Who will make the best president? And who has the best chance of defeating Barack Obama? In my opinion, Mitt Romney is clearly that person," Ryan said.

"Here’s the other point: I spent a good deal of time with Mitt Romney and his staff recently going through our country's fiscal situation, talking about just what it’s going to take to get the country back on track. And I am convinced that Mitt Romney has the skills, the tenacity, the principles, the courage and the integrity to do what it takes to get America back on track."

Ryan also said the ongoing battle for the GOP nomination has "been constructive up 'til now. I think it's made the candidates better. But I think we're entering a phase where it could become counterproductive if this drags on much longer. And so that’s why I think we need to coalesce as conservatives around Mitt Romney and focus on the big task at hand which is defeating Barack Obama in the fall.”

March 29, 2012

Obama backs his Supreme Court lawyer

The administration's Solicitor General came under criticism from court watchers for his performance this week defending President Barack Obama's signature legislation.

But Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama was "pleased" with Don Verrilli and his team's performance.

"The President believes that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional," Carney said. "He agrees with the opinions of conservative judges who have said the same thing about the Affordable Care Act, that it's constitutional."

He added that Obama "and his whole administration" is carrying out the law, which Carney said has "already provided benefits to 2.5 million young adult Americans who have health insurance on their parent's plan because of the Affordable Care Act; 5.1 million seniors with Medicare who have saved $3.2 billion on their prescription drugs because of the Affordable Care Act; 54 million Americans with private insurance who can now receive many preventive services without paying co-payments or deductibles.

"We're going to keep implementing this law," he said. "And the President was pleased with the presentation and remains convinced that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional."

President Obama prods Congress to tax oil companies; Senate votes no

Less than hour after President Barack Obama used an appearance in the Rose Garden to urge Republicans to approve new taxes on big oil, the Senate rejected the measure with a 51 to 47 vote (it needed 60 to pass)

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell noted it was a bipartisan vote: four Democrats (including the chair of the small business committee and a member of the Dem leadership) voted with Republicans on what GOP leaders called Obama's "plan to raise taxes on American energy manufacturers.

Earlier, Obama pressed Congress, saying members "have a simple choice to make. They can stand with big oil companies, or they can stand with the American people."

White House Press Secrtary Jay Carney called the vote "unfortunate," charging that "Senate Republicans overwhelmingly chose to side with oil and gas companies instead of the American people." 

Continue reading "President Obama prods Congress to tax oil companies; Senate votes no" »

McConnell wants law repealed, regardless of what Supreme Court says

Mitch McConnell doesn't need the Supreme Court to rule before he acts on health care.

Repeal the law, the Senate Republican leader said Thursday, period, regardless of what the court, which Wednesday wrapped up three days of hearings on the case, does. The court is expected to rule in early summer.

McConnell, R-Ky.,is ready to move ahead regardless of the ruling.

"This law is bad for Kentucky. It’s bad for the country," he said in a Senate floor speech Thursday morning. "It’s bad for health care. Americans don’t want it. And regardless of what the court decides this summer, it should be repealed and it should be replaced.

 “It should be replaced with common sense reforms that lower costs and that Americans actually want —reforms that protect jobs and state budgets, reduce the deficit, reform entitlements, and strengthen dicare."


March 28, 2012

White House: Russia's not enemy No. 1

The White House pushed back against criticism from Mitt Romney Wednesday, suggesting he was out of touch (and time) for suggesting that Russia is the U.S.'s "No. 1 geopolitical foe."

"You don't have to be a foreign policy expert to know that the Cold War ended 20 years ago and that the greatest threat that the president has been fighting on behalf of the American people is the threat posed by Al Qaida," Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

His remarks came as a reporter asked whether Obama viewed Russia as a foe. Romney made the comments in response to remarks Obama made to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev when he didn't realize the microphones would pick him up. Obama told Medvedev he'd more room to negotiate on missile defense after the November election and Romney called the remarks "very, very alarming."

House Speaker calls out Obama over hot mike remarks

House Speaker John Boehner sent a letter Tuesday to President Barack Obama, asking him to clarify remarks he made to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev when he thought the microphones were off.

Obama told Medvedev he'd more room to negotiate on missile defense after the November election and Boehner said the remarks suggest a "willingess to make unilateral concessions to Russia that undermine our missile defense capabilities.

"A post-election surprise on this critical issue would not be welcomed by the American people, the Congress or the world community," Boehner said.

Obama sought to clarify his remarks earlier this week by saying the talks wouldn't be succesful by starting them "a few months before presidential and congressional elections in the United States."

White House principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that "when it comes to missile defense, the fact of the matter is, the president has advocated for and the United States is building a missile defense system in Europe that will ensure the safety of our allies in Europe and, yes, ensure the safety of the United States."

White House: No contingency plans if SCOTUS scraps health care law

The White House says it's "fully confident" that the Supreme Court will find the health care law constitutional and that there are no backup plans if it doesn't.

"There's no contingency planning going on," principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. "We remain fully confident in the belief that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional."

He added the administration was instead "focused on implementing the bill and all of the provisions of the bill so that we can make sure that we maximize the benefits on behalf of the American people."
The administration's Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., has come under fire for his performance before the court, but Earnest defended him as a "very skilled advocate" and "one of the brightest legal minds in Washington.

"What he delivered was a very solid performance, we feel good about his perfomance," he said. 

President Obama doesn't regret his Trayvon Martin remarks

The White House says President Obama's remarks last week about Trayvon Martin "were a sign of his own reflection" and said he has no regrets.

Rush Limbaugh and Republican presidential contenders Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have assailed Obama's remarks that if he had a son "he'd look like Trayvon" and White House principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest was asked about Obama's remarks in "light of new facts emerging."

But Earnest noted that Obama opened his remarks Friday by noting that "he didn't want to influence an investigation that he felt was important be conducted. 

"The remarks that he delivered were a sign of his own reflection and the way that he was personally impacted by the tragic death of this young man," Earnest said.

Rep. Bobby Rush gets escorted from House floor for donning Trayvon-inspired hoodie


Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., was escorted off the floor of the House of Representatives this morning after he shed his suit jacket and pulled up the hood of the hoodie he was wearing underneath it. Here's a link to the CSPAN video.

"Just because someone wears a hoodie, does not make them a hoodlum," he said, as Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., pounded the gavel and warned that "the member is no longer recognized."

Rush, a black congressman friom Chicago, was protesting the investigation of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin's death. Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee held a forum on racial profiling Tuesday that featured as guests the teen's parents.

Trayvon was shot to death last month while serving out a school suspension in the central Florida city of Sanford, where his father's girlfriend lives. A neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, called police to say he saw someone in a hooded sweatshirt who looked high on drugs and was suspicious because he walked too slowly in the rain.

Tuesday's forum was sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. No Republicans participated. The forum didn't examine any particular legislation, but it did give nearly 20 members of Congress an opportunity to focus on the role of the federal government in addressing racial profiling and prosecuting hate crimes.

After Rush left the floor of the House, Harper reminded members of Clause 5 of rule 17 on house decorum: No hats. "The donning of a hood is not consistent with this rule," he said.


"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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