June 29, 2012
The 2012 annual report to Congress on White House staff has been posted on the White House website and can be viewed HERE.
Since 1995, the White House has been required to deliver a report to Congress listing the title and salary of every White House Office employee. The White House says that "consistent with President Obama's commitment to transparency, this report is being publicly disclosed on our website as it is transmitted to Congress."
The report also contains the title and salary details of administration officials who work at the Office of Policy Development, including the Domestic Policy Council and the National Economic Council -- along with White House Office employees.
24 hours after the Supreme Court health care ruling, A group with Republican ties is on the air in North Dakota, running an ad urging Democratic Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp to fight for repeal of the law.
The $180,000 ad buy, by Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, will run through July 7.
North Dakota's Senate seat, now held by retiring Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., is viewed as one of the Republican party's best bets to gain a seat in November.
Heitkamp has been running ads recalling how she beat breast cancer 12 years ago. "When you live through that," she said, "political attack ads seem silly."
She said "there's good and bad in the health care law that needs to be fixed."
The ad offers quotes from Heitkamp in support of the law. Republicans have vowed to fight to repeal the entire law.
Congress' last major business before its Fourth of July recess is passing its transportation bill, and votes are scheduled for later Friday.
The $120 billion measure, which reauthorizes surface transportation programs for 27 months, was the result of lengthy bipartisan negotiations. Neither side is fully satisfied; many wanted a longer-term program, while others questioned the revenue source.
The 18.4 cents per gallon tax on gasoline, and 24.4 cents a gallon surchage on diesel, will continue through fiscal 2016. Transportation programs like highways and rail would be funded at present levels through late 2014.
With wildfires forcing tens of thousands from their homes, President Obama flies today to Colorado Springs to view the damage and thank firefighters.
Obama earlier today declared a major disaster in Colorado, allowing federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the High Park and Waldo Canyon Fires.
June 28, 2012
Democrats tried to be lofty Thursday as they assessed the Supreme Court health care ruling--but not always.
At Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's news conference, a reporter asked if Romney, who had backed a near-universal health care law while governor of Massachusetts but now wants the federal law repealed, was flip flopping.
"At one time in my life I was really good with a yo-yo," Reid said. "Gov. Romney must be really good at yo-yo because we never know where he stands from one time to another."
Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has said health care policy is a matter for states to decide.
"One time he's up," Reid said. "One time he's down. So, as we've seen with Gov. Romney, one thing that's consistent about him is his inconsistency."
President Barack Obama was watching four television screens in the White House Thursday morning as two cable stations -- CNN and Fox News -- erroneously reported that the signature accomplishment of his tenure had been struck down, White House officials said.
Officials described Obama as giving a quizzical look at the screens, but the White House was tracking the news on the SCOTUSblog and had an attorney at the court. And so came White House General Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, who delivered the news with two thumbs-up, telling Obama that five justices had upheld the law. Hugs followed, officials said.
Obama then went into the Oval Office and placed his first phone call to Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, whose had argued the case before the Supreme Court -- and was roundly criticized for his performance. White House officials said Obama had full confidence all along in Verrilli.
The White House furiously denounced House Republicans for voting to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt, charging them with playing political theater and saying the problem of "gunwalking" that sparked the probe started under George W. Bush.
From White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer: "At the beginning of this year, Republicans announced one of their top priorities was to investigate the Administration and to ensure that President Obama was a one-term President. Despite the major economic challenges facing the country, they talked openly about devoting taxpayer-funded, Congressional oversight resources to political purposes.
The East and West Coasts are off limits for new oil and gas leases in the 2012-17 period. So is the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico that's currently under a congressional moratorium. That's the announcement this afternoon from the Interior Department. The five-year plan puts all new oil and gas offshore leases in the rest of the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska.
“Put simply, this program opens the vast majority of known offshore oil and gas resources for development over the next five years and includes a cautious but forward-looking leasing strategy for the Alaska Arctic,” Salazar said in a statement.
In the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, the department says there are environmental concerns that require it to put some areas off limits (background story here). The Chukchi and Cook Inlet leases are scheduled for 2016, and the Beaufort lease for 2017. The department says scheduling them late in the five-year plan gives more time to gather scientific information on the reserves and the potential environmental costs of tapping them.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi probably had a sense the Supreme Court would uphold key parts of the 2010 federal health care law she fought so hard to pass.
She wore her lucky purple pumps, the same ones she wore the day health care passed the House of Representatives in March 2010, according to details provided by her press staff.
Pelosi, who earlier had predicted a 6-3 victory (it was 5-4), was in the last few minutes of a Whip Meeting Thursday when she learned of the decision,and went to her office to make calls. She left messages for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
And she called Vicki Kennedy, widow of Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who had fought for health care overhaul throughout his long Senate career.
"Now,'' Pelosi told Mrs. Kennedy, "Teddy can rest.”
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