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January 31, 2013

Reid optimistic about prospects for immigration overhaul

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is optimistic that immigration law can be changed.

He was asked Thursday at his news conference why 2013 is different from 2007, when Reid and others tried to overhaul the system but were unsuccessful.

"My experience on major pieces of legislation in the years I've been in Congress -- it's a process.  Rarely do you solve a big issue legislatively at the first go-round," the Nevada Democrat said.

It didn't get done in 2007, he explained, "because, first of all, we didn't get Republican votes. This time we're going to get some Republican votes."

Perhaps the biggest difference, he said, is "I think there's been a change with the American people.  The American people now acknowledge, as I said in my statement to everybody here -- Democrats, Republican, independents -- want this -- issues resolved. It's an issue that's important to individual human beings, but it's also an issue that's important to our economy.  So it's a process, and we're going to get it done.

"This is -- this is the time we're going to get it done," Reid said.

Super Bowl pregame to include a President Obama interview

President Obama will be interviewed live from the White House by Scott Pelley of CBS during the network's Super Bowl 2013 pregame show.

The network says its pregame programming starts at 10 a.m., Obama is due up at 4:30 p.m. The Los Angeles Times noted last year that Obama has made the pre Super Bowl interview "an annual tradition when he sat down to tell NBC's Matt Lauer that he deserved a second term in office. In 2011, he sat down with Fox News' Bill O’Reilly. Lauer interviewed Obama for his first presidential preshow interview in 2009.

NRA leader predict victory

The National Rifle Association is on the opposite side of the president of the United States and, in many cases, public opinion.

But the group's president, David Keene, predicted Thursday that the NRA will still come out on the winning side. 

Keene told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor that bills to several gun control measures will likely fail in Congress.

“Our opponents…hope they can use emotion to achieve an anti-firearms agenda that they haven’t been able to achieve in the past," Keene said. “People are smarter than politicians, and common sense ultimately prevails. … We’ve had that discussion at various decibel levels over the last several decades, and it’s always come out that way and I expect it to happen again.”


Joe Biden heads to Europe with Syria on the agenda

Vice President Joe Biden heads to Europe tonight with the ongoing violence in Syria likely to top his agenda, along with meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

At a security conference in Munich on Saturday, Biden will meet with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, the United Nations and Arab League joint special envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, and leaders of Syria's opposition council. 

"We expect a heavy focus on Syria," said Tony Blinken, Biden's National Security Advisor.

The conversations come as renewed violence in the country has increased calls for the U.S. to become more aggressively involved. Conversations are likely to include U.S. humanitarian aid, political and non lethal support to the Syrian opposition and "the political way forward," said Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Advisor For Strategic Communications.

From Russia, Rhodes said, the U.S. is hoping to hear "an acknowledgement that (Syrian president) Bashir al-Assad must go."

Biden will be joined by his wife, Jill. In France, Biden will have lunch with Hollande, with an agenda that includes Syria, as well as the U.S.'s "strong support" for the French-African mission in Mali, Blinken said.

Continue reading "Joe Biden heads to Europe with Syria on the agenda" »

Senators want everyone to sit together at State of the Union

Time for harmony again in Congress.

Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, have sent a letter to congressional leaders asking them to continue the two-year-old tradition of having lawmakers from both parties sit with one another during the State of the Union address.

President Barack Obama will deliver the speech to a joint session of Congress Feb. 12. For years, Democrats sat on the president's right, Republicans on the left. That changed two years ago--but it didn't seem to end the partisan sniping.

Udall and Murkowski acknowledged that in their letter. But, they said, “We feel it has been a very important step in the right direction, symbolizing the importance of working together to solve the common challenges we face in securing a strong future for the United States.”

To read the letter: http://www.scribd.com/doc/123020270/Letter-from-Senators-Mark-Udall-D-Colo-and-Lisa-Murkowski-R-Alaska-to-Congressional-Leaders-on-Bipartisan-Seating-at-the-President-s-2013-State-o

President Obama acknowledges he's "thinking about legacy" as he assembles Cabinet

In an interview with Univision, President Obama said his administration is looking to boost the number of Hispanics -- saying that one of his highest priorities in his second term -- "because now I'm thinking about legacy, is to make sure that we are identifying talent from every walk of life, from every ethnic group, so that the next president will see how big a pool there is of talent out there, that can serve and wants to serve in a presidential administration.

The reply came as Univision anchor Maria Elena Salinas echoed recent criticism of Obama's second term selections, noting the network found fewer Latinos in his second term Cabinet. 

Continue reading "President Obama acknowledges he's "thinking about legacy" as he assembles Cabinet" »

Majorities favor gun control proposals, but issue remains divisive, new poll says

While a majority od people back a wide range of ideas to reduce gun violence, "the overall question of gun control remains markedly divisive," a University of Connecticut/Hartford Courant poll released Thursday found.

Majorities back a ban on semi-automatic assault-style weapons, background checks for all gun sales and a ban on ammunition clips capable of holding more than 10 rounds. They also support a federal database to keep an eye on sales as well as efforts to prevent people with mental illness from buying weapons.

But, the poll found, "barely 50 percent said they were in favor of stricter gun laws in general, while 46 percent said gun laws should either remain unchanged or become less strict."

Poll Director Jennifer Necci Dineen noted, “It’s striking that while Americans remain divided on the broader question of gun control, these specific proposals – all of which are part of President Obama’s recent set of executive orders on gun control – are finding favor with people."

To read more about the poll: http://poll.uconn.edu/2013/01/31/the-university-of-connecticuthartford-courant-poll-majority-supports-measures-aimed-at-curbing-gun-violence/

January 30, 2013

Obama confident about immigration, but warns 'I'm not a king'

President Barack Obama continued a media blitz on Spanish language media Wednesday telling the country’s largest Spanish-language network, Univision, that he believes comprehensive immigration reform can be passed by the end of the year or “maybe even before the end of the summer.”

“Si se puede,” Obama said when prompted by Univision anchor Maria Elena Salinas, adding. “ “I believe that the mood is right.”

Continue reading "Obama confident about immigration, but warns 'I'm not a king' " »

Obama says WH has immigration bill drafted, "We've got language"

President Obama pledged Wednesday to put the full power of his office behind an effort to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, telling Telemundo in an interview "the one thing I can guarantee is my effort."

"I can guarantee that I will put everything I've got behind it," Obama told anchor Jose Diaz Balart in the interview, which came a day after Obama traveled to Las Vegas to unveil his plans. "We're putting our shoulder to the wheel... I will do everything I can to make sure that we align public opinion with Congressional votes so that I can actually get a bill on that desk to sign."

Obama called a March estimate for legislation in the Senate a "reasonable timeline.. We've been working on this for a long time. We know what the issues are," Obama said. He said the White House -- which has said it wants Congress to take the lead -- has a "bill drafted" and that the issue "is not so much technical as it is political.

"It's a matter of-- Republicans and Democrats coming together-- and finding a meeting of the minds and then making the case," he said.

Diaz-Balart asked him why he couldn't extend help to all immigrants like he did last summer to younger immigrants: "I'm not a king," Obama replied.

Obama said he wants certainty for citizenship in legislation, adding, "what we don't want is I think a vague promise that somewhere down the line, maybe, sort of kinda you may be able to achieve citizenship."

Asked about why he hasn't talked with Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio who are also working on immigration proposals, Obama suggested "the truth is oftentimes what happens is members of Congress prefer meeting among themselves to build trust, between Democrats and Republicans
there. They want assistance from us but sometimes they want it through back channels."

He said that if Republicans "want a public meeting, private meetings, anything that-- is necessary to move this thing forward, we're happy to do."

Continue reading "Obama says WH has immigration bill drafted, "We've got language" " »

Obama heads to Minneapolis to make a pitch for gun control

President Obama will travel to Minneapolis, Minn. Monday to talk with "local leaders and law enforcement officials about his plans for reducing gun violence, the White House says.

It says Minneapolis has "taken important steps to reduce gun violence and foster a conversation in the community about what further action is needed." Obama will "visit with members of the community about their experiences and discuss additional steps that can be taken at the federal level to reduce gun violence."

The city earlier this month hosted a regional gun summit, led in part by its mayor, R.T. Rybak. The Minneapolis police chief and Hennepin County sheriff were among the law enforcement leaders meeting with Obama and vice president Joe Biden earlier this week. Biden, who has been Obama's point person on the gun legislation, won't be on the trip; he's heading to Europe.


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

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