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Obama seeks action on jobs bill pieces this week

In Barak Obama, Jobs, News on October 17, 2011 at 9:31 am
President Barack Obama addresses the House Dem...

President Barack Obama addresses the House Democrats ( Photo via Wikipedia )

By JULIE PACE, AP

President Barack Obama will urge Congress to get to work this week on passing pieces of his larger, now-defunct jobs bill during a three-day bus tour through North Carolina and Virginia, two southern states that could be critical to his re-election campaign.

The two-state swing, which kicks off Monday in Asheville, N.C., is Obama’s latest attempt to combine campaigning for his jobs bill with campaigning for his re-election. While he has pledged to travel the country pitching his plans to get Americans back to work, his stops have focused heavily on political swing states, underscoring the degree to which what happens with the economy is tied to Obama’s re-election prospects.

The bus tour comes as the fight over Obama’s jobs proposals enters a new phase. The president’s efforts to get his entire $447 billion bill passed were blocked by Senate Republicans, leaving Obama and his Democratic allies to push for the proposals contained in the bill to be passed piece by piece.

That means the president’s rallying cry this week could go from “Pass this bill” to “Pass these bills.”

“Although Congress is adopting a piece-by-piece approach, the president believes that every single piece should pass, and that at the end of the day we should have all of the components of the American Jobs Act passed through the Congress so the president can sign them, even if that means that he has to sign multiple pieces of legislation,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Despite Obama’s calls for urgency, it appears the lawmakers may not take up individual components of the president’s bill until November, at the earliest. The Senate is set to debate appropriations bills this week, and lawmakers have a scheduled vacation at the end of the month.

Earnest said Obama wants Congress to first act on a provision calling for $35 billion in assistance to states and local governments to hire or prevent laying off teachers and first responders. He also wants lawmakers to pass $50 billion in new spending on infrastructure.

Obama’s stops on the bus trip are designed to highlight those aspects of his plan, including his first stop at the Ashville Regional Airport, where the White House says government funds could be used to renovate a runway and create construction jobs.

The president will also speak at community colleges, high schools and a firehouse as he travels through North Carolina and Virginia this week.

Both states are traditionally Republican leaning, but changing demographics and a boost in voter turnout among young people and African-Americans helped Obama carry them in 2008.

But nearly three years after his historic election, the president’s approval ratings in both states are sagging, in line with the national trend.

A Quinnipiac University poll out earlier this month put Obama’s approval rating in Virginia at 45 percent, with 52 percent disapproving. The same poll showed 83 percent of Virginians were dissatisfied with the direction of the country. In North Carolina, Obama has a 42 percent approval rating, according to an Elon University poll conducted this month. Most national polls put Obama’s approval rating in the mid- to low-40s.

The president will be ditching Air Force One for much of his trip this week, traveling instead on a $1.1 million bus purchased by the Secret Service. The impenetrable-looking bus is painted all black, with dark tinted windows and flashing red and blue lights. Obama first used the custom-made bus during a similar road trip in August, when he traveled through Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.

Source:  Associated Press.

 

 
 
 
 
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Obama, Lee to pitch trade deal in Michigan

In Auto Industry, Barak Obama, Jobs, News on October 14, 2011 at 8:56 am

President Barack Obama offers a toast during a State Dinner with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in the East Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

By JIM KUHNHENN, AP
Fri Oct 14, 4:15 AM EDT

President Barack Obama and South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak are promoting a new trade deal by visiting an auto plant in Michigan, a state battered by Asian car imports, in a rare joint appearance outside of Washington by a U.S. president and a visiting head of state.

In choosing General Motors Co.’s Orion assembly plant for a post-state dinner tour Friday, the two leaders will draw attention to an aspect of a U.S.-South Korea trade agreement that had been among the most difficult to negotiate. Congress approved the deal Wednesday after negotiators overcame U.S. auto industry complaints that previous efforts at a deal failed to do enough to lift South Korea’s barriers to U.S.-made cars.

Obama is taking Lee to the heart of the region that has been hardest hit by foreign car competition, especially the influx of vehicles like South Korea’s Hyundai.

But for Obama, the trip is also an opportunity to highlight the auto industry’s resurgence after he engineered an $80 billion government bailout for GM and Chrysler in 2009. The Orion plant, about 30 miles north of Detroit, had been shuttered before the federal government stepped in and helped usher the two carmakers through bankruptcy protection. The plant now is producing the subcompact Chevrolet Sonic and will start production of the compact Buick Verano soon.

The Sonic, the only subcompact sold in the U.S. that is assembled in the U.S., is being built with Korean parts. GM began building the Sonic last year following an agreement with the United Autoworkers that allowed the company to pay some workers lower wages that are more competitive with those in GM’s foreign plants. The Sonic’s predecessor, the Chevrolet Aveo, was built in South Korea.

All in all, Obama could profit from calling attention to policies aimed at benefitting Michigan, a state that has the third highest unemployment rate in the country at 11.2 percent and which represents an important battleground in his bid for re-election. Obama won the state by a 57-41 margin in 2008, but could face difficulties in the state, especially if his general election opponent is Mitt Romney, whose father was Michigan governor.

The trip also serves as an opportunity to illustrate his special relationship with the South Korean leader. Inviting Lee to the U.S. heartland is an unusual addition to the itinerary of a high-profile state visit. The two men were expected to fly separately to Michigan; once at the plant, both men planned to make remarks.

Lee’s is the fifth state visit during Obama’s presidency, but the first that has included added travel beyond Washington D.C.

President George W. Bush was more predisposed to travel outside the capital Beltway with foreign leaders. In 2006, he invited Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, an unabashed Elvis Presley fan, to Graceland. In 2001, Bush took Mexican President Vicente Fox to Toledo, Ohio, where the two addressed Hispanic voters the day after their state visit at the White House. The following year, then-Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski accompanied Bush to a Polish cultural center in the Detroit suburbs.

In addition to the South Korea agreement, Congress approved free trade deals Wednesday with Colombia and Panama. The South Korea deal, which would be the largest since the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, still must be approved by South Korea’s National Assembly_ a vote that Lee said he was confident would succeed.

The South Korea deal alone could expand U.S. exports by $11 billion and support 70,000 jobs, according to the White House. The agreements would lower or eliminate tariffs that American exporters face in the three countries. They also take steps to better protect intellectual property and improve access for American investors in those countries. The last free trade agreement completed was with Peru in 2007.

Many labor groups opposed the deals, but the agreements won wide bipartisan support in part because their passage was linked to legislation to extend aid to workers displaced by foreign competition. Obama had demanded that the worker aid bill be part of the trade package.

Standing with Lee at his side during a press conference Thursday, Obama declared the trade deal “a win for both our countries,” adding that he was “very pleased that it’ll help level the playing field for American automakers.”

Still, five of the six House Democrats from Michigan voted against the trade deal, including Rep. Gary Peters, whose district includes GM’s Orion plant. Peters said Obama had helped make the deal fairer to U.S. carmakers, but said he believed the deal would cost jobs in Michigan.

The trade agreement comes as South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. are on track to set U.S. sales records this year. Both companies build car and light truck models in the United States, but also export vehicles to the U.S. market.

Last year, the Ford Motor Co. ran an aggressive ad campaign to improve the trade deal by pointing out that for every 52 cars South Korea exported to the U.S., the U.S. only exported one to South Korea. “We believe in free trade, and this isn’t it,” Ford said in ads that ran in newspapers across the country.

On Friday, Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally praised the deal, saying it would “open new opportunities for Ford to reach even more Korean customers.”

Source:  Associated Press.

 
 
 
 

Senate GOP poised to scuttle Obama’s jobs plan

In Barak Obama, Democrats, News, Politics, Republican on October 11, 2011 at 10:04 am

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, accompanied by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Ariz., talks about President Obama's job bill, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By ANDREW TAYLOR, AP

 

President Barack Obama’s jobs bill, facing a critical test in the Senate, appears likely to fail because Republicans oppose its spending components and its tax surcharge on millionaires.

Obama has been waging a campaign-style effort to rally public support behind the $447 billion measure, which was expected to be the subject of a Senate vote Tuesday. The plan combines payroll tax cuts for workers and businesses with $175 billion in spending on roads, school repairs and other infrastructure, as well as unemployment assistance and help to local governments to avoid layoffs of teachers, firefighters and police officers.

The key elements of the jobs package reprise parts of Obama’s $800 billion-plus 2009 stimulus measure and a Social Security payroll tax cut enacted last year. Unlike the controversial stimulus bill, the jobs measure would be financed by a 5.6 percent surcharge on income exceeding $1 million, raising more than $450 billion over a decade.

In making the case for the bill, the White House cites economists like Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics, who predicts that the measure would add 2 percentage points of growth to the economy, add 1.9 million payroll jobs and reduce unemployment by a percentage point. But Republicans point to optimistic predictions about the 2009 measure that didn’t come to pass; unemployment hovers just above 9 percent nationwide.

Republicans say the 2009 stimulus measure was an expensive failure and say the current plan is just like it.

The president has been struggling in opinion polls, and his crusade for the measure has always been a long shot, given that Republicans control the House and can filibuster at will in the Senate. Obama has nonetheless pressed for the bitterly divided Congress to pass the measure in its entirety rather than seek compromise with his GOP rivals.

“This is not the time for the usual games or political gridlock in Washington,” Obama said in his weekend radio and Internet address. “Any senator out there who’s thinking about voting against this jobs bill needs to explain why they would oppose something that we know would improve our economic situation.”

While Republicans backed the payroll tax cut last year and support elements like continued tax breaks for investments in business equipment, they’re adamantly opposed to further spending and say the tax surcharge would strike at small businesses.

“It’s not a jobs bill. In our view, it’s another stimulus bill,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Fox News last week. “I don’t think it’ll pass and I don’t think it should.” House GOP leaders say they won’t bring the measure to the floor.

Democratic unanimity is not assured. Moderates like Sens. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. — both are up for re-election next year in states where Obama figures to lose — may abandon their party, even as oil-state Democrats have been assuaged by a decision to get rid of an Obama proposal to have oil companies give up tax breaks.

“We’re likely to lose two, three, four Democrats,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second ranking Democrat in the Senate, told Chicago’s WTTW-TV Monday. “I don’t know if we’ll pick up any Republicans.”

Tuesday’s vote is on whether to cut off a GOP filibuster on a motion to simply begin debate on the measure. If Democrats fail as expected — they control 53 votes in the 100-member Senate — it will start up a fresh wave of partisan finger-pointing.

Both the House and Senate are then expected to turn this week to approving U.S. trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, one of the few areas of agreement between Republicans and the administration on boosting the economy.

Source: Associated Press

 

 
 
 
 

SPIN METER: Obama disconnects rhetoric, reality

In Barak Obama, Democrats, News, Politics, Republican on October 10, 2011 at 10:11 am

 

President Barak Obama

By ERICA WERNER, AP

In President Barack Obama’s sales pitch for his jobs bill, there are two versions of reality: The one in his speeches and the one actually unfolding in Washington.

When Obama accuses Republicans of standing in the way of his nearly $450 billion plan, he ignores the fact that his own party has struggled to unite behind the proposal.

When the president says Republicans haven’t explained what they oppose in the plan, he skips over the fact that Republicans who control the House actually have done that in detail.

And when he calls on Congress to “pass this bill now,” he slides past the point that Democrats control the Senate and were never prepared to move immediately, given other priorities. Senators are expected to vote Tuesday on opening debate on the bill, a month after the president unveiled it with a call for its immediate passage.

To be sure, Obama is not the only one engaging in rhetorical excesses. But he is the president, and as such, his constant remarks on the bill draw the most attention and scrutiny.

The disconnect between what Obama says about his jobs bill and what stands as the political reality flow from his broader aim: to rally the public behind his cause and get Congress to act, or, if not, to pin blame on Republicans.

He is waging a campaign, one in which nuance and context and competing responses don’t always fit in if they don’t help make the case.

For example, when Obama says his jobs plan is made up of ideas that have historically had bipartisan support, he stops the point there. Not mentioned is that Republicans have never embraced the tax increases that he is proposing to cover the cost of his plan.

Likewise, from city to city, Obama is demanding that Congress act (he means Republicans) while it has been clear for weeks that the GOP will not support all of his bill, to say the least. Individual elements of it may well pass, such as Obama’s proposal to extend and expand a payroll tax cut. But Republicans strongly oppose the president’s proposed new spending and his plan to raise taxes on millionaires to pay for the package.

The fight over the legislative proposal has become something much bigger: a critical test of the president’s powers of persuading the public heading into the 2012 presidential campaign, and of Republicans’ ability to deny him a win and reap victory for themselves.

“He knows it’s not going to pass. He’s betting that voters won’t pick up on it, or even if they do they will blame Congress and he can run against the `do-nothing Congress,'” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a senior fellow at the University of Southern California‘s School of Policy, Planning and Development.

John Sides, political science professor at George Washington University, said Obama‘s approach on the jobs bill is “more about campaigning than governing.”

“He’s mostly just going around talking about this and drawing contrasts with what the Republicans want and what he wants and not really trying to work these legislative levers he might be able to use to get this passed,” Sides said. “That just suggests to me that he is ready to use a failed jobs bill as a campaign message against the Republicans.”

The president’s opponents aren’t exactly laying it all out, either.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., tried to force a vote on the bill last week, innocently claiming that the president was entitled to one. McConnell knew full well that the result would be failure for the legislation and an embarrassment for Obama.

House Speaker John Boehner, meanwhile, claimed that Obama has “given up on the country and decided to campaign full-time” instead of seeking common ground with the GOP. But Boehner neglected to mention that Obama’s past attempts at compromise with Republicans often yielded scant results, as Obama himself pointed out.

The approach for Obama, who is seeking a second term in a dismal economy, is far different than the one he took when running for president. He criticized the GOP then, but talked about ending blue-state and red-state America, replacing it with one America, fixing the broken political system, and fundamentally changing Washington.

That ended up being change he could not bring about, and now analysts say Obama may have little choice but to campaign more narrowly by attacking opponents rather than trying to bring people together.

Obama’s attempts at compromise with the GOP on the debt ceiling and budget won him little in the way of policy, instead engendering frustration from Democrats who saw him as caving to Republican demands.

The new, combative Obama isn’t looking for compromise. He’s looking for a win. And if he can’t get the legislative victory he says he wants, he has made clear that he’s more than willing to take a political win.

It is, he acknowledges, a result his campaign for his jobs bill is designed to achieve.

Talking up the bill in an appearance last month with African-American news websites, Obama said: “I need people to be out there promoting this and pushing this and making sure that everybody understands the details of what this would mean, so that one of two things happen: Either Congress gets it done, or if Congress doesn’t get it done, people know exactly what’s holding it up.”

Source:  Associated Press.

 

 
 
 
 

FACT CHECK: Obama claims miss some evidence

In Barak Obama, Democrats, News, Politics on October 7, 2011 at 10:02 am

President Barack Obama smiles during his news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct., 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

By JIM KUHNHENN, AP

Are President Barack Obama’s ideas for job creation really bipartisan as he claims? Not when the means for paying for them are put in the equation.

The president dodged various facts and and left some evidence in the dust in his latest challenge to Republicans to get behind his jobs program or offer a real alternative.

A look at some of the claims in his fast-paced news conference and how they compare with the facts:

OBAMA: “If it turns out that there are Republicans who are opposed to this bill, they need to explain to me, but more importantly to their constituencies and the American people, why they’re opposed, and what would they do.”

THE FACTS: While Republicans might not be campaigning on their opposition to Obama’s plan, they’ve hardly kept their objections a secret.

In a memorandum to House Republicans Sept. 16, House Speaker John Boehner and members of the GOP leadership said they could find common ground with Obama on the extension of certain business tax breaks, waiving a payment withholding provision for federal contractors, incentives for hiring veterans, and job training measures in connection with unemployment insurance.

They objected to new spending on public works programs, suggesting instead that Congress and the president work out those priorities in a highway spending bill. And they raised concerns about Obama’s payroll tax cuts for workers and small businesses, arguing that the benefits of a one-year tax cut would be short-lived. The memo also pointed out that reducing payroll taxes, which pay for Social Security, temporarily forces Social Security to tap the government’s general fund. And it opposed additional spending to prevent layoffs of teachers, police officers and other public workers.

_____

OBAMA: “Every idea that we’ve put forward are ones that traditionally have been supported by Democrats and Republicans alike.”

THE FACTS: Obama proposes to pay for his jobs bill by raising taxes, something traditionally opposed by Republicans and, in the form Obama proposed it, even some Democrats. Senate Democrats were so allergic to Obama’s approach, which relied largely on limiting deductions that can be taken by individuals making over $200,000 a year and couples making more than $250,000, that they’re eliminating it and replacing it with a new tax on millionaires.

In claiming bipartisan support for the components of his proposal, the president appears to be referring just to what the plan would do, not how it’s paid for, but that’s a crucial distinction he doesn’t make.

Some of tax-cutting proposals offered by Obama have received significant Republican support in the past. But some of the new spending he proposes has received only nominal Republican backing. Evidence of bipartisanship provided by the White House includes legislation last year that provided $10 billion to prevent teacher layoffs. It won the support of only two Republican senators — Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine and among the most moderate Republicans in Congress. Another example cited by the White House was his proposal last year to offer tax breaks to businesses that hire new workers — it passed the House 217-201 with six Republican votes.

____

OBAMA: “The answer we’re getting right now is: Well, we’re going to roll back all these Obama regulations… Does anybody really think that that is going to create jobs right now and meet the challenges of a global economy?”

THE FACTS: Well, yes, some think it will. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce last month submitted a jobs proposal to Obama that included a call to ease regulations on businesses. It specifically called for streamlining environmental reviews on major construction projects and to delay the issuance of some potentially burdensome regulations until the economy and employment have improved. In the letter, Chamber President Thomas Donohue also called on Congress to pass legislation that would require congressional approval of major regulations. The chamber did not indicate how many jobs such regulatory changes could create, but it said: “Immediate regulatory relief is required in order to begin moving $1 trillion-$2 trillion in accumulated private capital off of the sidelines and into business expansion.”

____

OBAMA: “We can either keep taxes exactly as they are for millionaires and billionaires, with loopholes that lead them to have lower tax rates, in some cases, than plumbers and teachers, or we can put teachers and construction workers and veterans back on the job.”

THE FACTS: True, “in some cases” wealthy people can exploit loopholes to make their tax rate lower than for people of middle or low income. In recent rhetoric, Obama had suggested it was commonplace for rich people to pay lower rates than others, a claim not supported by IRS statistics. But on Thursday, Obama accurately stated that it only happens sometimes.

In 2009, 1,470 households filed tax returns with incomes above $1 million yet paid no federal income tax, according to the IRS. Yet that was less than 1 percent of returns with incomes above $1 million. On average, taxpayers who made $1 million or more paid 24.4 percent of their income in federal income taxes; those making $100,000 to $125,000 paid 9.9 percent; those making $50,000 to $60,000 paid 6.3 percent. The White House argues that when payroll taxes — paid only on the first $106,800 of wages — are factored in, more middle class workers wind up with a higher tax rate than millionaires.

___

OBAMA: “China has been very aggressive in gaming the trading system to its advantage and to the disadvantage of other countries, particularly the United States. …. And currency manipulation is one example of it, or at least intervening in the currency markets in ways that have led their currency to be valued lower than the market would normally dictate. And that makes their exports cheaper and that makes our exports to them more expensive.”

THE FACTS: While Obama complained about China’s efforts to keeps its currency undervalued to gain trade advantages, his administration has repeatedly refused to brand China as a currency manipulator in a report that the Treasury Department is required to send to Congress twice a year.

Such a designation would trigger negotiations between the two countries and could ultimately lead to U.S. trade sanctions against China.

The administration has been reluctant to brand China a currency manipulator, as have past administrations, because the United States depends on China to buy U.S. Treasury securities to help finance America’s budget deficits. China owns $1.17 trillion in U.S. Treasury securities, making it the largest foreign holder of Treasury debt.

Sosurce: Associated Press

Anti-terrorism success may not help Obama in 2012

In Barak Obama, News, Terrorism on October 2, 2011 at 9:19 am
FILE – In this Oct. 29, 2010, file photo President Barack Obama leaves the White House press briefing room after saying the U.S. is committed to disrupting al-Qaida in Yemen. The drone strike in Yemen Friday killed the radical cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki, al-Qaida bomb-maker Ibrahim al-Asiri and Samir Khan, the editor of the al-Qaida propaganda magazine Inspire, making the attack perhaps the single most successful drone strike ever. Obama’s approval rating on terrorism was higher than on any other issue, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll conducted in late August. It showed that 60 percent of those surveyed approved of his handling of terrorism. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

By JULIE PACE, AP

The killing of an American-born cleric in Yemen underscores a re-election reality for President Barack Obama: He may have a string of counterterrorism successes and high marks from the public on foreign policy, but neither is likely to help him hold the White House.

For the Obama administration, it’s a frustrating bottom-line.

When the first-term senator won the presidency, questions lingered about his readiness to handle national security matters. Yet Obama has received wide praise for operations that have killed terrorist leaders, most notably Osama bin Laden in May, and Anwar al-Awlaki on Friday.

Al-Awlaki, an American citizen targeted in a U.S. drone attack, was deemed by the administration as having a “significant operational role” in terrorist plots. They included two nearly catastrophic attacks on U.S.-bound planes, an airliner on Christmas 2009 and cargo planes last year.

Obama also can claim credit for aiding Libyan rebels in ousting Moammar Gadhafi, for supporting other democratic uprisings in the Arab world, for drawing down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for negotiating a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia.

But barring unforeseen events, the nation’s stubbornly high unemployment rate and turmoil in the financial markets mean people are far more likely to vote next November with the economy foremost in their minds, not the president’s record on foreign policy and terrorism.

That’s bad news for the administration because the public gives Obama far higher approval ratings on terrorism than on his handling of the economy.

In fact, Obama’s approval rating on terrorism was higher than on any other issue, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll conducted in late August. It showed that 60 percent of those surveyed approved of his handling of terrorism. Just 36 percent approved of his handling of the economy, an all-time low for Obama.

Obama’s overall approval rating also fell to an all-time low in the poll, 46 percent.

The re-election picture gets even gloomier given that 92 percent of those questioned said the economy was an extremely or very important issue. By comparison, 73 percent put the same emphasis on terrorism, but even they’re divided over whether Obama should be re-elected.

It’s also unclear whether the killing of al-Awlaki will bring Obama any new political support. The fiery American-born cleric had a hand in several high-profile terror attempts on the U.S., but his name is hardly as familiar to most Americans as bin Laden.

Obama’s orders for U.S. special forces to kill bin Laden during a raid on his Pakistani compound did give the president’s approval rating a bump. But it proved fleeting, further evidence of the secondary role of terrorism for voters.

“It’s not 2004,” said Rick Nelson, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “This isn’t the primary issue facing the United States. The primary issue is the economy and jobs. That issue is going to overshadow anything we do overseas.”

The joint CIA-U.S. military airstrike that targeted al-Awlaki and killed a second American citizen wasn’t without controversy.

The attack apparently was the first time a U.S. citizen was tracked and executed based on secret intelligence and the president’s say-so, raising questions about the reach of presidents’ powers.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a GOP presidential contender, called it an “assassination” and said Americans should not casually accept such violence against U.S. citizens, even those with strong ties to terrorism

But most other top Republicans running for Obama’s job saw little downside in praising the president for his role.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry congratulated Obama, along with the military and intelligence agencies, for “aggressive anti-terror policies.” Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney commended the president for his efforts to keep Americans safe and said al-Awlaki’s death was a “major victory” in the terrorism fight.

With the first nominating contests about three months away, foreign policy and terrorism have been virtually absent from the Republican race. When the issues have arisen, most GOP contenders have tried to portray the president as a weak leader. It’s a sentiment they hope taps into voters’ frustration with the economy.

Bruce Jones, an expert on transnational threats, said Obama‘s success against terrorist leaders may help counter that GOP strategy.

“At the very least, it takes away from the critics the idea that he can’t lead, that he doesn’t understand those kinds of issues,” said Jones, also a senior foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.

Beyond the counterterrorism efforts, Obama aides say they believe the president will get credit come Election Day for his foreign policy achievements in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, as well as for his support of other democratic uprisings throughout the Arab world. They say the president has boosted U.S. standing in the world, making it easier to get international backing for his policies, rather than having to go it alone.

But there is some concern among Obama backers that a foreign policy issue most likely to find a place in the 2012 campaign is one that has achieved little success: securing peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

On that vexing issue, Obama finds himself caught between Republicans and some Jewish voters painting him as anti-Israel, and much of the world community, which disagrees with his opposition to Palestinian efforts to seek statehood recognition at the United Nations.

 

Sosurce Associated Press

Election-year ruling looms for health overhaul

In Barak Obama, Health Care, News on September 29, 2011 at 9:49 am

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, 91, works in his office at the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011. His new book is titled "Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir," a personal reflection on the five chief justices he has known. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

By MARK SHERMAN, AP

President Barack Obama’s landmark health care overhaul appears headed for a Supreme Court ruling as the presidential election season hits full stride in the coming year.

The health care law affecting virtually every American is sure to figure prominently in President Barack Obama’s campaign for re-election. Republican contenders are already assailing it in virtually every debate and speech.

The administration on Wednesday formally appealed a ruling by the federal appeals court in Atlanta that struck down the law’s core requirement that Americans buy health insurance or pay a penalty beginning in 2014. The administration said the appeals court decision declaring the law’s central provision unconstitutional was “fundamentally flawed.”

At the same time, however, the winners in that appellate case, 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business, also asked for high court review Wednesday, saying the entire law, and not just the individual insurance mandate, should be struck down.

The Supreme Court almost always weighs in when a lower court has struck down all or part of a federal law, to say nothing of one that aims to extend insurance coverage to more than 30 million Americans.

The bigger question had been the timing.

The administration’s filing makes it more likely that the case will be heard and decided in the term that begins next week.

Repeating arguments it has made in courts across the country in response to many challenges to the law, the administration said Congress was well within its constitutional power to enact the insurance requirement.

Disagreeing with that, the 26 states and the business group said in their filings that the justices should act before the 2012 presidential election because of uncertainty over costs and requirements.

On the issue of timing, their cause got an unexpected boost from retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who said voters would be better off if they knew the law’s fate before casting their ballots next year.

The 91-year-old Stevens said in an Associated Press interview that the justices would not shy away from deciding the case in the middle of a presidential campaign and would be doing the country a service.

“It would be better to have that known about than be speculated as a part of the political argument,” Stevens said in his Supreme Court office overlooking the Capitol.

Though the Atlanta appeals court struck down the individual insurance requirement, it upheld the rest of the law. The states and the business group say that would still impose huge new costs.

In another challenge to the same law, the federal appeals court in Cincinnati sided with the administration.

In a separate Supreme Court filing Tuesday night, the Obama administration said it does not appear necessary to grant review of the Cincinnati case, adding that consolidating the two cases could complicate the presentation of arguments “without a sufficient corresponding benefit.”

The law would extend health coverage mainly through subsidies to purchase private insurance and an expansion of Medicaid. The states object to the Medicaid expansion and a provision forcing them to cover their employees’ health care at a level set by the government.

The individual insurance mandate “indisputably served as the centerpiece of the delicate compromise that produced” the law, according to the states, with Florida taking the lead.

The administration said in the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the law’s changes in the insurance market, including requiring insurers to cover people without regard for pre-existing health conditions, would not work without the participation mandate.

The insurance requirement is intended to force healthier people who might otherwise forgo insurance into the pool of insured, helping to reduce private insurers’ financial risk.

Both appeals stressed the importance of resolving the overhaul’s constitutionality as soon as possible, which under normal court procedures would be by June 2012.

Stevens said that if he still had a vote on the court on timing, he would cast it in favor of hearing the case sooner rather than later. He would not say how he would vote on the issue of the law’s constitutionality, although he said the court’s 6-3 decision in a 2005 case involving medical marijuana seems to lend support to the administration’s defense of the law.

In addition to the competing rulings on the law’s validity, a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled that it was premature to decide the law’s constitutionality. Citing a federal law aimed at preventing lawsuits from tying up tax collection, that court held that a definitive ruling could come only after taxpayers begin paying the penalty for not purchasing insurance. The administration suggested that the Supreme Court should consider that issue because of the appellate ruling.

The states, along with Florida, are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Source:  Associated Press.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

Obama tells blacks to ‘stop complainin’ and fight

In Barak Obama, Democrats, News, Politics on September 25, 2011 at 8:55 am

President Barak Obama

By MARK S. SMITH, AP

In a fiery summons to an important voting bloc, President Barack Obama told blacks on Saturday to quit crying and complaining and “put on your marching shoes” to follow him into battle for jobs and opportunity.

And though he didn’t say it directly, for a second term, too.

Obama’s speech to the annual awards dinner of the Congressional Black Caucus was his answer to increasingly vocal griping from black leaders that he’s been giving away too much in talks with Republicans — and not doing enough to fight black unemployment, which is nearly double the national average at 16.7 percent.

“It gets folks discouraged. I know. I listen to some of y’all,” Obama told an audience of some 3,000 in a darkened Washington convention center.

But he said blacks need to have faith in the future — and understand that the fight won’t be won if they don’t rally to his side.

“I need your help,” Obama said.

The president will need black turnout to match its historic 2008 levels if he’s to have a shot at winning a second term, and Saturday’s speech was a chance to speak directly to inner-city concerns.

He acknowledged blacks have suffered mightily because of the recession, and are frustrated that the downturn is taking so long to reverse. “So many people are still hurting. So many people are barely hanging on,” he said, then added: “And so many people in this city are fighting us every step of the way.”

But Obama said blacks know all too well from the civil rights struggle that the fight for what is right is never easy.

“Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes,” he said, his voice rising as applause and cheers mounted. “Shake it off. Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin’. We are going to press on. We have work to do.”

Topping the to-do list, he said, is getting Congress to the pass jobs bill he sent to Capitol Hill two weeks ago.

Obama said the package of payroll tax cuts, business tax breaks and infrastructure spending will benefit 100,000 black-owned businesses and 20 million African-American workers. Republicans have indicated they’re open to some of the tax measures — but oppose his means of paying for it: hiking taxes on top income-earners and big business.

But at times, Obama also sounded like he was discussing his own embattled tenure.

“The future rewards those who press on,” He said. “I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself. I don’t have time to complain. I’m going to press on.”

Caucus leaders remain fiercely protective of the nation’s first African-American president, but in recent weeks they’ve been increasingly vocal in their discontent — especially over black joblessness.

“If Bill Clinton had been in the White House and had failed to address this problem, we probably would be marching on the White House,” the caucus chairman, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, recently told McClatchy Newspapers.

Like many Democratic lawmakers, caucus members were dismayed by Obama’s concessions to the GOP during the summer’s talks on raising the government’s borrowing limit.

Cleaver famously called the compromise deal a “sugar-coated Satan sandwich.”

But Cleaver said his members also are keeping their gripes in check because “nobody wants to do anything that would empower the people who hate the president.”

Still, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., caused a stir last month by complaining that Obama’s Midwest bus tour had bypassed black districts. She told a largely black audience in Detroit that the caucus is “supportive of the president, but we’re getting tired.”

Last year, Obama addressed the same dinner and implored blacks to get out the vote in the midterm elections because Republicans were preparing to “turn back the clock.”

What followed was a Democratic rout that Obama acknowledged as a “shellacking.”

Where blacks had turned out in droves to help elect him in 2008, there was a sharp drop-off two years later.

Some 65 percent of eligible blacks voted in 2008, compared with a 2010 level that polls estimate at between 37 percent and 40 percent. Final census figures for 2010 are not yet available, and it’s worth noting off-year elections typically draw far fewer voters.

This year’s caucus speech came as Obama began cranking up grass-roots efforts across the Democratic spectrum.

It also fell on the eve of a trip to the West Coast that will combine salesmanship for the jobs plan he sent to Congress this month and re-election fundraising.

Obama was leaving Sunday morning for Seattle, where two money receptions were planned, with two more to follow in the San Francisco area.

On Monday, Obama is holding a town meeting at the California headquarters of LinkedIn, the business networking website, before going on to fundraisers in San Diego and Los Angeles and a visit Tuesday to a Denver-area high school to highlight the school renovation component of the jobs package.

Copyright Associated Press

 

 
 
 
 

For Obama at UN, another troubled Mideast moment

In Barak Obama, News, Palestinian, United Nations on September 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm

 

United Nations

By BEN FELLER, AP

Dreaming big, President Barack Obama once envisioned this would be the moment when world leaders would gather to herald a new state of Palestine.

What waits for him instead at the United Nations this coming week is closer to a diplomatic nightmare that may isolate the United States, anger Congress, deepen the Mideast divide and cloud the rest of his agenda.

Fed up with failed talks with Israel, Palestinians plan to appeal directly to the U.N. for statehood. Obama is adamant that that approach will undermine the chances of a Palestinian state by ignoring the unresolved issues with Israel. So now he is in the unenviable spot of opposing an effort whose goals he supports and he’s nearly standing alone in doing so.

From the U.S. perspective, the options are not good.

Should the Palestinians press their case for full U.N. membership to the Security Council, as seems likely, the U.S. will veto it.

If the Palestinians go before the General Assembly for a lesser but still elevated form of member recognition, the U.S. lacks a veto there and will simply vote against it, placing it firmly in the minority and perhaps inflaming the Arab world.

American diplomats were making a furious effort to sway the Palestinians to drop their bid and restart talks with Israel over borders and security. But as the time grew short ahead of Obama’s scheduled arrival in New York on Monday, his administration already was trying look beyond any U.N. action in hopes of influencing whatever comes next.

“This is lose, lose, lose,” said Andrew Exum, a senior fellow with the Center for a New American Security. “A resolution before the U.N. Security Council will hurt the United States with the Arabic-speaking world if Obama is seen as standing in the way. The Israeli government and the state of Israel will feel more isolated. And Palestinian frustration will only grow.”

That frustration is surely felt at the White House, too.

Obama is facing questions about his commitment to Israel and his support among Jewish voters despite a record of support for Israel that analysts say has been strong and fair.

He has not been able to sway Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to abandon a bid that Obama calls a distraction. Members of Congress are angry about what they see as the Palestinians’ end-run around Israel and warning of intervening themselves. The world has watched as Obama’s domestic fights with lawmakers have undermined the standing of them all.

“There’s no question that he comes in with a perception, globally, that his hands are tied,” said Shibley Telhami, a scholar of Middle East policy and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

On the sidelines of the gathering, Obama will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in hopes of finding a way to restart Mideast negotiations. The White House said it had no such talks to announce with Abbas.

Even if the U.N. action on the Palestinian bid takes place after Obama departs New York, it is already casting a shadow over his broader message.

Over a busy stretch of meetings and speeches on Tuesday and Wednesday, Obama will give attention to the uprisings that have tossed aside dictators and sped hope for democracy across North Africa and the Middle East. The president and the U.N. itself want to hold up the international intervention in Libya as a success story of unity and strategic might.

Yet Obama steps back on the world stage under the weight of Mideast peace expectations that he himself set with his U.N. address of last year.

“We should reach for what’s best within ourselves,” Obama said last September in pushing for negotiated agreement on a sovereign Palestinian state. “If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations.”

Instead, Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed.

Obama tried in May to inject some life by spelling out terms that could get both sides back to talking. He endorsed ironclad Israeli security and an independent Palestine that would be on the borders that existed before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, as adjusted by land swaps agreed upon by both sides.

Obama intends to stick with those principles and keep pushing for direct talks.

U.S. and European diplomats have been scrambling for the past week to craft a formula to bring the two sides together and avert the U.N. showdown. Their efforts have thus far come to naught. But envoys from the international group of Mideast negotiators — the U.S., the U.N., Russia and the European Union — planned to meet again Sunday in New York.

“It’s a hard problem that’s taken, of course, decades to address,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said. “But I think our fundamental message is going to be if you support Palestinian aspirations, if you support a Palestinian state, the way to accomplish that is through negotiations with Israel.”

Most member-states at the U.N. hold such strong views on the Palestinian pursuit of statehood that it is hard to see how a speech by Obama will make much of a difference, said Mark Quarterman, a former U.N. official who studies global response to crises at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“There might be frustration, but no shame, in not making the progress you think you should make,” he said. “The problem is now the Palestinians seem to have lost patience and are moving forward through another avenue. It’s not a diminishment of the United States. It is a difficult process is moving very slowly for a variety of reasons, some of which the United States has very little control over.”

Obama will address the world body on Wednesday.

He told a group of reporters recently that the fundamental challenge is the same: Neither side has made the compromises necessary to achieve peace.

“This issue is only going to be resolved by Israelis and Palestinians agreeing to something,” he said. “What happens in New York City can occupy a lot of press attention, but it’s not going to actually change what’s happening on the ground.”

Source:  Associated Press

 
 
 
 

Republican wins in New York Democratic stronghold

In Barak Obama, Democrats, News, Republican on September 14, 2011 at 8:53 am

 

Anthony Weiner announces that he will resign from the U.S. House of Representatives during a news conference in Brooklyn, New York,

BY Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Republicans won an upset victory in a Democratic stronghold in New York on Tuesday in a special House of Representatives election for the seat vacated by former Representative Anthony Weiner, who resigned after a Twitter sex scandal.

Republican Bob Turner, a retired media executive who had called the election a repudiation of President Barack Obama, defeated Democrat David Weprin, a state assemblyman, by six points, 53 percent to 47 percent, a New York cable television station said.

“We’ve been asked by the people of this district to send a message to Washington and I hope they hear it laud and clear,” Turner told supporters. “We’re ready to say, ‘Mr. President, we are on the wrong track.'”

The district, which includes parts of Brooklyn and Queens, had gone Democrat in every election since the 1920s, and Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one.

Turner’s triumph, and a Republican victory in another special House election — in Nevada — boosted the Republican majority over Democrats in the House to 242-192.

Turner, who said he entered politics because he was “fed up” with overspending in Washington, has called for deep cuts in the federal budget.

Weprin had tried to cast Turner as part of the Tea Party, which wants smaller government and lower taxes and is unpopular with many liberal New Yorkers.

Weprin appeared briefly in front of supporters but declined to concede the race. “It’s not over yet,” he said.

Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, issued a statement playing down the importance of Turner’s victory.

“The results … are not reflective of what will happen in November 2012 when Democratic challengers run against Republican incumbents who voted to end Medicare and cut Social Security while protecting tax loopholes for big corporations and the ultra wealthy,” he said.

Weiner, who served for seven terms, was a Democratic firebrand known for passionate speeches in support of healthcare reform and other issues dear to liberals.

Weprin had raised $500,000 for his campaign, compared with Turner’s $200,000. He ran unsuccessfully in 2009 for New York City comptroller before filling the state assembly seat vacated by his brother.

In recent days, Democrats had rushed to help Weprin, who some said was a lackluster campaigner.

Former President Bill Clinton recorded robo-calls urging Democrats to vote and Charles Schumer, the senior U.S. senator from New York, who used to represent the district, accompanied Weprin on the campaign trail.

In Tuesday’s special election to fill a vacant House seat in Nevada, Republican Mark Amodei won in a largely rural district that has never sent a Democrat to Congress.

(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro in Washington; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Source:  Reuters

 

 
 
 
 
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