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March 31, 2013

Labor and business strike deal on future low skilled immigrant workers

Labor and business, two of the most powerful interest groups, have reached an agreement on handling future low-skilled immigrant workers.

The deal between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO is a major step toward finalizing a bipartisan agreement that would grant the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants legal status.

"The strength of the consensus across America for just reform has afforded us the momentum needed to forge an agreement in principle to develop a new type of employer visa system," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement late Saturday. "...We expect that this new program, which benefits not just business, but everyone, will promote long overdue reforms by raising the bar for existing programs."

Continue reading "Labor and business strike deal on future low skilled immigrant workers" »

March 29, 2013

Five GOP senators vow to oppose any gun restrictions

Five Republican senators Friday vowed to oppose any legislation that would 'infringe on the American people's constitutional right to bear arms."

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, they vowed to oppose consideration of any bill that "will serve as a vehicle for any gun restrictions."

 The Senate is expected to take up gun control legislation when it returns from a spring recess during the week of April 8.

Instead of promoting legislation that will only infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens, the President should focus on enforcing the laws that are already in place,” said  Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.

Others joining him are Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Marco Rubio of Florida.

To read the letter: http://inhofe.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=9021e0e2-be0b-4ee9-86d4-bdb472d7c6db

White House decries sexual assaults in Egypt

The White House today called on Egypt's government to do more to protect women in the wake of a spate of sexual assaults during recent demonstrations.

Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the White House had seen the reports of sexual violence, "including gang rapes" and is "deeply concerned about them."

He called the attacks a "cause of great concern to the United States, the international community and to many Egyptians. These victims are the mothers, wives, daughters and sisters of Egypt."

Earnest said the Egyptian government has a responsibility to take legal measures to prevent sexual violence and to prosecute those involved.

"The idea that some Egyptians are blaming the victims for being raped and assaulted is abhorrent," he said. "We strongly condemn these views and reaffirm the right of women to express themselves in public squares alongside men as well as the responsibility of the Egyptian government to protect them.

"We urge the government to make good on its promises to govern for all of its citizens and we call on the Egyptian people to exercise their rights peacefully and respect the rights of their fellow citizens."

A message in the sky for Senator Reid on guns

Look up, Harry Reid. There's a message up there.

A pair of progressive groups -- CourageCampaign.org and CREDO -- will fly a plane over the Federal Building in Las Vegas Friday to urge the Senate majority leader to stand-up to the National Rifle Association. The skywriting plane will write “Reid: say no 2 NRA” over the building.

The longtime Democratic U.S. senator from Nevada has found himself in a tough spot on the issue of gun legislation.

Reid, who has generally been friendly with the gun lobby, feels pressure from the White House to allow a vote on a package of firearams bills. But he recently announced the assault weapons ban would not be included, angering gun control advocates. CREDO recently launched a petition -- with more 100,000 signatures -- criticizing Reid for that.

“Everyday people are dying in this country because of inaction in Washington on sensible gun control,” said Rick Jacobs, the head of the CourageCampaign.org. “Unfortunately, the water-downed bill proposed by Harry Reid will do little to curb gun violence in the this country. It is far past time that Harry Reid, and his colleagues, stand up to the NRA and protect children instead of protecting gun manufactures.”

Reid's office did not respond to a request for comment.

New group evokes Reagan shooting to push background checks

A new advocacy group launching Friday -- the United Network of Rational Americans -- offers a home for gun owners who support background checks for all firearm sales.

The UNRA is releasing a video in observance of the 32nd anniversary of the assassination attempt of Ronald Reagan to remind Republicans that the former president believed his shooting may have been prevented if background checks had been required in 1981.

“As life-long Southern gun owners, we strongly support America’s history of responsible gun ownership,” said Watchdog Causes’ founder Scott Crider. “Like most gun owners, we also believe universal background checks are a necessary step that will save lives and will in no way undermine the 2nd Amendment.”

The UNRA was created by Watchdog Causes, LLC, the founders of “Dogs Against Romney.” 


March 28, 2013

Meeting with African leaders, Obama pays tribute to an ailing Mandela

Meeting with the leaders of four African countries, President Obama paid tribute to the ailing former South African president and anti-aparthaid leader, Nelson Mandela, calling him a "hero."

Obama said he and the leaders would be keeping Mandela and his family "in our thoughts and prayers.

"He is as strong physically as he's been in character and in leadership over so many decades, and hopefully he will come out of this latest challenge," Obama said of Mandela, who was hospitalized for a recurring lung infection.

Obama noted that Mandela "has given everything to his people, the people of South Africa, to the people of the continent, and he's ended up being an inspiration to all of us. 

"When you think of a single individual that embodies the kind of leadership qualities that I think we all aspire to, the first name that comes up is Nelson Mandela, and so we wish him all the very best," Obama said.

Obama's remarks came as he met with President Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Joyce Banda of Malawi, and Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde. He said the four "exemplify the progress that we're seeing in Africa" and noted that all of them have had to deal with "extraordinary challenges."

Continue reading "Meeting with African leaders, Obama pays tribute to an ailing Mandela " »

Republican group finds support for changing immigration laws

Resurgent Republic, a center-right Republican group that includes a lot of big party names, found strong support for changing the nation's immigration laws in focus groups it conducted with party primary voters in Des Moines and Greenville, S.C.

“President Obama’s reelection victory, and Republicans’ shrinking support among non-white voters, has been a seminal moment for conservatives,” said Ed Gillespie, former Republican party chairman and now a Resurgent Republic Board Member.

Among the key fiindings, as described by the group in its own words:

"1.  These Republican base voters strongly support legal immigration. On this point, participants volunteer descriptors such as “freedom,” “opportunity,” “hard work,” and an ability “to make a better life for themselves.” Regardless of their individual positions on immigration reform, Republicans should open any discussion on this issue highlighting the benefits legal immigration brings to America.

2.   Immigration reform is not on the radar of the Republican base. They are following this issue from a distance, so Republicans seeking to pass broad based immigration policies need to make the case as to why this is necessary. They were aware that Republicans like former Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio are leading figures on this issue and in regards to potential plans, one Des Moines woman noted: “I’d like to see what Marco Rubio comes up with. I trust him.” (The groups occurred prior to Senator Rand Paul’s immigration announcement on March 19, 2013).

To read other findings:

Continue reading "Republican group finds support for changing immigration laws" »

Obama on Newtown: "Shame on us if we've forgotten."

President Barack Obama delivered an emotional plea Thursday for lawmakers to pass legislation to curb gun violence, saying Americans could not have possibly forgotten the horror that reverberated across the nation three months ago after 20 children were shot to death in their elemenatry school in Newtown, Conn.

“Less than 100 days ago that happened, and the entire country was shocked,” Obama said. “And the entire country pledged we would do something about it and that this time would be different. Shame on us if we’ve forgotten.”

Obama, speaking at an event in the White House, urged every American to call members of Congress to urge them to put aside political considerations and vote for a series of proposals that polls shows have support from most Americans.

“There are some powerful voices on the other side that are interested in running out the clock or changing the subject or drowning out the majority of the American people to prevent any of these reforms from happening at all,” he said. “They’re doing everything they can to make all our progress collapse under the weight of fear and frustration, or their assumption is that people will just forget about it.”

Continue reading "Obama on Newtown: "Shame on us if we've forgotten."" »

Obama creates election panel to speed up voting

President Obama today signed an executive order creating a presidential commission on election administration -- as promised in his State of the Union address.

The commission will be chaired by Bob Bauer and Ben Ginsburg who, respectively, as served as general counsel for Obama and national counsel for Mitt Romney, during the 2012 campaign.

The order directs the commission to submit a final report within 6 months of its first public meeting, giving recommendations on how to shorten voting lines and "promote the efficient conduct of elections," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

He said the report is intended to serve as a "best practices guide" for state and local election officials to improve voting -- under existing election laws.

Earnest noted Obama also supports efforts in Congress to make voter registration easier, and increase access to voting.

WH budget will be released April 10, same day as Obama-Senate dinner date

President Obama's budget for next year will be released April 10 -- more than two months after the due date, the White House said Thursday.

By law, the presidential proposal is due in early February, but the White House missed that deadline -- and until today wouldn't say when it planned on releasing it. But the moment came with spokesman Josh Earnest quipping that the WH press corps had planned its "social lives and professional lives around this.

"The budget will be released on April 10th of this year," Earnest said. "So let's get the countdown clock started on the appropriate networks."

The budget will be released on the same day Obama holds its latest in a series of dinners with lawmakers, but Earnest called the timing "just a happy confluence of events."

The dinner is the latest in a series of charm offensives that Obama has tried in recent weeks to reach a compromise with congressional leaders on spending, immigration and gun control laws. Earnest said they're "an opportunity for him to lay the groundwork for future agreements."

"The president is hopeful, that by establishing a useful rapport, it can be helpful in fostering constructive dialogue down the road," Earnest said.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, whom Obama called to set the date, told CNN he hopes for a productive evening.

"I'm hopeful this will be a fruitful meeting," he said. "I'm hopeful at least if nothing else happens, both sides will understand where each side is and where the middle might be."


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

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