May 21, 2013
Vice President Joe Biden opened a Jewish American Heritage Month celebration with a poke at his boss -- and himself -- as he asked for a teleprompter to be removed.
"You can't tell Barack that the teleprompter's down," Biden said. "The standing joke in the office is Barack's learning to speak without a teleprompter; I'm learning to speak with one."
Biden is widely considered to be pondering a third presidential run and the speech was at least the third he's made in the past month to a key Democratic constituency. In his remarks, he credited Judaism with inspiring the U.S.
"The core, core, core basic values that make us distinguished from almost every nation is the heritage that you're celebrating in Jewish Heritage Month," he said. "The truth is that Jewish heritage, Jewish culture, Jewish values are such an essential part of who we are that's it's fair to say that Jewish heritage is American heritage."
His remarks at the reception at the American Institute of Architects building on New York Avenue were delayed as he called Oklahoma Thunder forward Kevin Durant for giving $1 million for tornado relief.
Introduced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who sponsored the heritage legislation, Biden credited her work during the 2012 campaign, saying she was "one of the reasons why Barack and I were reelected."
He noted that Obama "sends his best," but that "he is, as they say, otherwise occupied with a few problems."
President Obama offered congratulations to the Senate Judiciary Committee for passing an immigration bill with a bipartisan vote.
Obama said the bill is "largely consistent with the principles of commonsense reform" he backs and "meets the challenge of fixing our broken immigration system."
He called the legislative process "open and inclusive," noting more than 100 amendments were considered and offered applause to the committee, singling out several members of the "Gang of Eight" that pushed the bill: Sens. Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Lindsay Graham and Jeff Flake.
"None of the committee members got everything they wanted, and neither did I, but in the end, we all owe it to the American people to get the best possible result over the finish line," Obama said in a statement. "I encourage the full Senate to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor at the at the earliest possible opportunity and remain hopeful that the amendment process will lead to further improvements."
Proposed as an amendment to the Senate farm bill, Roberts’ plan was defeated, 58-40.
Shortly before the vote, Roberts said in a speech on the Senate floor that the amendment would help rein in the skyrocketing costs of the Supplemental Nutrition Food Stamp Program.
Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the anti-hunger program spent $78 billion to deliver food assistance to 45 million Americans in an average month in fiscal year 2011, up from $33 billion spent on 26 million Americans in 2005.
“My goal is simple: Restore integrity to the supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in a commonsense and comprehensive manner,” Roberts said. “Enacting this package of reforms will allow the federal government to continue to help those that truly need SNAP food benefits and assistance.”
To read more about the details of Roberts’ proposal click here.
The senator, who is up for reelection in 2014, has said the food stamp program must reform now in order avoid a more drastic overhaul in the future.
Despite the failure of his amendment Tuesday, Roberts pledged to keep pushing for more comprehensive food stamp reforms.
“Today we had a golden opportunity to improve an important program while saving money for taxpayers who are fed up with wasteful spending,” Roberts said in a statement after the vote. “This goes to show how difficult it is for Washington to spend smartly and cut spending despite our dire financial straits.”
The Senate farm bill would cut $4 billion from food stamps. The House of Representatives version would slash $20 billion.
Congressional leaders will dedicate a statue of civil rights leader Frederick Douglass June 19 at the Capitol Visitor Center's Emancipation Hall.
Here's some of the announcement:
"Pursuant to H.R. 6336, the United States Congress is proud to accept a statue of Frederick Douglass as a gift from the District of Columbia and its more than 600,000 residents. Douglass, widely considered to be the father of the civil rights movement, led the fight for equality, advised President Abraham Lincoln, and was a powerful voice for freedom in America.
"Additional details regarding the dedication of the statue will be announced closer to the date of the ceremony."
With immigration reform up for debate in the Senate, President Obama and vice president Joe Biden met Tuesday with a group of young immigrants who received deferred action and with siblings and spouses of undocumented immigrants.
The White House called the meeting an "important opportunity" for Obama and Biden to meet with "families who are directly affected by our nation's broken immigration system." It said the two were "moved" by what they heard and that the "Dreamers shared how their lives have been positively affected by the deferred action process and emphasized that they and their families need a permanent solution that will allow them to fully contribute to the country they call home."
The White House says Obama -- who has been buffeted in recent weeks by a trio of controversies -- "reiterated his commitment
to passing a bipartisan, commonsense immigration reform bill this year." It said that although a Senate bill under consideration, "is not perfect, it does represent an
important step towards the broad principles that need to be part of any
immigration reform package."
The White House said Obama "encouraged them to continue to share their stories with the American public to move the hearts and minds of individual leaders and to propel the immigration debate forward."
President Obama today appointed 10 to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration -- a panel created after Obama's State of the Union pledge to find non partisan ways to shorten the lines at polling places and improve access to the polls.
The appointees include co-chairs Robert Bauer -- a former Obama White House counsel current Democratic National Committee counsel -- and Benjamin Ginsberg, who served as Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney's election counsel.
They'd be joined by Brian Britton, vice president of Global Park Operations and Initiatives at Walt Disney World; Joe Echevarria, chief executive officer of Deloitte LLP; former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, the director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University; Clark County (Nevada) Registrar Larry Lomax; Michele Coleman Mayes, vice president and general counsel for the New York Public Library; Ann McGeehan, Assisstant General Counsel of the Texas County and District Retirement System; Tammy Patrick,a federal compliance officer for the Maricopa County Elections Department; and Christopher Thomas, director of elections in the Michigan Department of State.Obama called the right to vote "one of the most essential rights provided by the Constitution" and said the government has an "obligation to ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots without unwarranted obstructions or unneccesary delay."
President Obama offered prayers to those in the path of tornadoes in Oklahoma on Tuesday, pledging that the nation would aid in its recovery.
Speaking from the State Dining Room under a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, Obama noted the series of storms that swept across the plains were among the most destructive tornadoes in history and that "in an instant, neighborhoods were destroyed, dozens of people lost their lives, many more were injured," including young children "trying to take shelter in the safest place they knew, their school."
Obama offered praise to the teachers who shielded the students and to "neighbors, first responders and emergency personnel who raced to help as soon as the tornado passed, and with all of those who as darkness fell, searched for survivors through the night."
He said he spoke with Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin "to make it clear to Oklahomans that they would have all the resources that they need at their disposal" and signed a disaster declaration to expedite resources. He said he also talked with the Moore mayor "to ensure that he's getting everything that he needs."
President Obama will deliver remarks at 10 a.m. today from the White House on the tornadoes and severe weather that ripped through Oklahoma Sunday night and Monday, killing dozens.
The White House says Obama continued to receive updates overnight from his team on the ongoing response. He also spoke Monday with Gov. Mary Fallin and Rep. Tom Cole "to express his concern for those who had been impacted and his deep condolences for the many who have lost loved ones as a result of the horrible tornados."
The White House says Obama "praised the brave first responders, and made clear that the country would stand behind the people of Oklahoma as they continued to respond and recover."
Obama overnight approved a disaster declaration for Oklahoma, making federal funding available to support individuals, as well as additional federal assistance to support response and recovery efforts.
This morning, Obama will receive an Oval Office briefing on the response by assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco and other senior members of his response team.
At Obama's direction, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate is traveling to Oklahoma today "to ensure all federal resources are supporting our state, local, and tribal partners in life saving and safety operations including search and rescue."
May 20, 2013
President Barack Obama welcomed Myanmar President Thein Sein to the White House Monday.
He is the first leader from his country to visit the United States in 50 years while Myanmar had been isolated for decades under military rule, but now is emerging as a democracy.
"We very much appreciate your efforts and leadership in leading Myanmar in a new direction, and we want you to know that the United States will make every effort to assist you on what I know is a long, and sometimes difficult, but ultimately correct path to follow," Obama told him.
Obama launched a formal review of Myanmar in 2009, which led to discussions with the nation’s leaders. A 2010 election began a series of changes that included cease-fires in some ethnic conflicts, the release of political prisoners, loosened restrictions on the media and modified labor laws.
Late last year, Obama became the first U.S. president to set foot in the small Asian nation of Myanmar.
"For democracy to flourish in our country, we will have to move forward and we will have to undertake reforms -- political reforms and economic reforms in the years ahead," Sein said. "We are trying our best with our own efforts to have political and economic reforms in our country. But we will also need -- along this path, we will also need the assistance and understanding from the international community, including the United States."
President Barack Obama will travel to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania next month.
"The president will reinforce the importance that the United States places on our deep and growing ties with countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including through expanding economic growth, investment, and trade; strengthening democratic institutions; and investing in the next generation of African leaders," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. "The president will meet with a wide array of leaders from government, business, and civil society, including youth, to discuss our strategic partnerships on bilateral and global issues. The trip will underscore the President’s commitment to broadening and deepening cooperation between the United States and the people of sub-Saharan Africa to advance regional and global peace and prosperity."
First Lady Michelle Obama will accompany her husband, June 26 to July 3.
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