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May 31, 2012

Pelosi predicts 6-3 Supreme Court ruling to uphold health care law

6 to 3.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi predicted Thursday the Supreme Court will uphold the federal health care law by a 6 to 3 vote.

"6-3. That's it. 6-3," she told her weekly news conference. The court is expected to rule on the law within the next month.

How can she be so confident?

"Because I know the Constitution," she said. "This bill is ironclad. It is ironclad. Nobody was frivolous with the Constitution and the health of the American people in writing the bill. So, that's where my confidence springs from, the merit of the bill and the nature of the Constitution. The makeup of the court, well, we'll see."

The official White House portraits of President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush

President+Bush+portrait
Mrs.+Bush+portrait

Details on the portraits from the White House below the jump.

Continue reading "The official White House portraits of President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush" »

President Bush says of his portrait: Now you'll be able to gaze at it and ask, "What would George do?"

President Bush returned to the White House Thursday for his official portrait unveiling -- and largely stole the show, telling President Obama that when he's wandering the halls as he wrestles with tough decisions, "you will now be able to gaze at this portrait and ask, 'What would George do?' "

And he noted that his portrait "brings an interesting symmetry to the White House collection: It now starts and ends with a George W." (The first White House portrait was of George Washington.)

Bush noted that when the British burned the White House in 1814, Dolley Madison famously saved the "portrait of the first George W."

Nodding to Michelle Obama, he added, "Now, Michelle, if anything happens there's your man."

Congressional GOP leaders offer new ways to freeze student loan rates

Congressional Republican leaders Thursday offered new ways to pay for freezing student loan rates, due to double July 1.

Chances are Democrats won't buy the approaches,

In that case, the leaders said in a letter to President Barack Obama, they're ready. "We believe our alternative is reasonable and responsible, but in the interest of finding common ground on a way to pay for a one year extension of the current student loan interest rate we are open to other solutions that we have all supported in the past," wrote House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and others.

Their ideas:

 

Option 1:

Student Loan Interest Rate: Extend for one year (July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013) the 3.40 percent interest rate for new subsidized Stafford student loans. (CBO estimates this proposal will increase the deficit by $5.985 billion over the 2012 to 2017 period and $5.985 billion over the 2012 to 2022 period.)

Increase Federal Employee Retirement Contributions: As part of the Fiscal Year 2013 Budget, the Administration proposes to increase current employee contributions to the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) by 0.4% in each of the next three calendar years—2013, 2014, and 2015—for a cumulative increase of 1.2% of pay over current contributions. The House of Representatives has passed a substantially larger increase in contributions (5% over current law levels phased-in over five years for regular CSRS and FERS employees) as part of the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act. (CBO estimates that the Administration’s proposal would reduce the deficit by $8 billion over the 2012 to 2017 period and $18 billion over the 2012 to 2022 period. Note: This estimate reflects that contribution levels have already been increased for new hires as part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, Public Law 112-96.)

Option 2:

Student Loan Interest Rate: Extend for one year (July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013) the 3.40 percent interest rate for new subsidized Stafford student loans. (CBO estimates this proposal will increase the deficit by $5.985 billion over the 2012 to 2017 period and $5.985 billion over the 2012 to 2022 period.)

Limit Length of In-School Interest Subsidy: As part of the Fiscal Year 2013 Budget, the Administration proposes to limit the duration of borrowers’ in-school interest subsidy for subsidized Stafford loans to 150 percent of the normal time required to complete their educational programs. According to the Department of Education, “The Budget request eliminates the in-school interest subsidy for borrowers who do not complete their program within 150 percent of their program length. Beyond that point, these borrowers no longer receive the interest subsidy for the Subsidized Stafford loans they have taken out, and interest will immediately begin to accrue on these loans. As with the 12 semester Pell limitation enacted this fall, students who attend school half-time would have their benefits adjusted accordingly.” (CBO estimates that the Administration’s proposal would reduce the deficit by $475 million over the 2012 to 2017 period and $1.055 billion over the 2012 to 2022 period.)

Revise Medicaid Provider Tax Threshold: Under current law, states may not tax health care providers and return the tax revenues to those same providers through higher Medicaid payment rates or through other offsets and guarantees (known as a “hold harmless” arrangement). An exception to this provision is that the federal government will not deem a hold harmless arrangement to exist if the provider taxes collected from given providers are less than 6 percent of the providers’ revenues. As part of the Fiscal Year 2013 Budget, the Administration proposes to phase down the Medicaid provider tax threshold to 3.5% from Fiscal Year 2015 to Fiscal Year 2017. The House-passed Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act would lower the allowable percentage threshold to 5.5 percent starting in 2013. (CBO estimates that the House-passed proposal would reduce the deficit by $4.65 billion over the 2012 to 2017 period and $11.3 billion over the 2012 to 2022 period.)

Improve Collection of Pension Information from States and Localities: Both the Administration’s Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2013 and the House-passed Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act (December 2011) include a proposal to prevent Social Security overpayments by improving coordination with States and local governments. By requiring State and local government pension payers to identify whether a worker’s pension is based on government employment, the Social Security Administration (SSA) can improve enforcement of two benefit offset provisions affecting certain government workers. (CBO estimates that the Administration’s proposal would reduce the deficit by $358 million over the 2012 to 2017 period and $2 billion over the 2012 to 2022 period.)

Romney contrasts his economic record with Obama's

So the Obama campaign wants to bring up Mitt Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts? Fine, say the Romney folks.

Massachusetts officials plan a press conference later Thursday to discuss his state record.

And the campaign Thursday put out a chart contrasting the economic records of Romney, governor from 2003 to 2007, with that of Obama. Romney's shines, though the campaign doesn't mention that Romney governed the state during a period of economic growth, while Obama inherited the Great Recession. And Romney, who didn't run for a second term in 2006, is far behind Obama in Massachusetts this year in the latest Suffolk University poll.

Nonetheless, said Romney spokewoman Amanda Henneberg, “President Obama’s campaign is willing to say anything to cover up for the President’s years of broken promises and job-destroying policies. President Obama would love to have Mitt Romney’s record of job creation and economic growth. Instead, he’s stuck defending an unemployment rate that has failed to meet his own goal of 6% and an economy that’s stuck in neutral. If President Obama had even half of Mitt Romney’s record on jobs and the economy, he’d be running on it.”

Here's the Romney chart: http://www.mittromney.com/news/press/2012/05/romney-versus-obama-record-success-and-litany-failures

 

Obama campaign goes after Mitt Romney's record in Massachusetts

After hitting a few stumbles with its attack on Romney's record at Bain Capital (see Cory Booker), the Obama campaign is up with an attack on Romney's record as Massachusetts governor.

The launch includes a video with a number of Massachusetts politicians decrying Romney's tenure as governor, as well as what the campaign says are fact sheets detailing that record. Obama for America senior strategist David Axelrod and Massachusetts politicians will hold a press conference today at the State House in Boston to discuss Romney's record. 

McClatchy found many in Massachusetts disappointed with Romney's single term as governor, saying he saw it as a stepping stone to bigger things.

May 30, 2012

Obama: Best informed president on Judaism

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that President Obama met at the White House Tuesday with a number of Jewish community leaders -- before bestowing the Medal of Freedom on "several members of the American Jewish community."

The paper says Obama and White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew met with about 20 Conservative Jewish community leaders, "thanking them for the work they do to improve communities around the country and discussed their shared commitment to rebuilding the U.S. economy."

He apparently "stressed he probably knows about Judaism more than any other president, because he read about it - and wondered how come no one asks Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner or Senate minority leader Mitch McConnel about their support to Israel."

Obama tonight is to host a Jewish American Heritage Month reception in the East Room.

President Obama congratulates Mitt Romney

For securing the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday night with a win in Texas.

Obama's re election campaign said the president made the call at about 11:30 a.m.

"President Obama said that he looked forward to an important and healthy debate about America’s future," his campaign said, adding that Obama "wished Governor Romney and his family well throughout the upcoming campaign."

The Anti-Defamation League says White House should turn mistake on Nazi death camps into a teachable moment

The ADL says it welcomes the White House expressing regret for President Obama’s description of the Nazi death camps in Poland as "Polish camps" when he honored Jan Karski with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

But it suggests the WH could do more: We commend the White House for appropriately recognizing their error in describing the Nazi death camps in Poland as 'Polish camps' and immediately expressing regret for the mistake," national director Abraham Foxman said. "This is a perennial problem, and the president's unwitting mistake only highlights the need for ongoing education about the history of World War II and the Holocaust. 

 "The misnomer “Polish camps” unjustly implies that the death camps in Poland were built in the name of the Polish people rather than by the Nazi regime. While the White House acknowledged that the President misspoke, the Administration should turn this mistake into a teachable moment for American public and explain more fully why the expression “Polish death camps” offends our strong ally, Poland, and distorts the history of the Holocaust. By doing so, the White House will do more than rectify a mistake; it will strengthen the relationship of trust with Poland and promote Holocaust education."

Polish leaders unhappy with Obama

News reports say the Polish government is upset with President Barack Obama for referring Tuesday to a "Polish death camp" while giving a posthumous Medal of Freedom to a Polish war hero.

The White House says Obama misspoke, but the Associated Press reports his remark drew "immediate complaints from Poles who said Obama should have called it a 'German death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland,' to distinguish the perpetrators from the location. Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski called it a matter of ignorance and incompetence.' " 

Obama made the comment while awarding the Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a resistance fighter against the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II. Karski died in 2000.

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