Covering

Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.



Thursday, June 26, 2014

Senate Republicans continue to show their disdain for President Obama

The Senate, once again, show they have less interest in moving the United States of America forward, and are more intent on finding ways to block just about any and everything President Obama tries to do- even if it means looking back as far as two years ago to do it.

Here's what's being reported from the Associated Press (AP).
The Supreme Court on Thursday limited the president's power to fill high-level vacancies with temporary appointments, ruling in favor of Senate Republicans in their partisan clash with President Barack Obama.
The high court's first-ever case involving the Constitution's recess appointments clause ended in a unanimous decision holding that Obama's appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in 2012 without Senate confirmation were illegal. Obama invoked the Constitution's provision giving the president the power to make temporary appointments when the Senate is in recess.
Problem is, the court said, the Senate was not actually in a formal recess when Obama acted.
Obama had argued that the Senate was on an extended holiday break and that the brief sessions it held every three days - what lawmakers call "pro forma" - were a sham that was intended to prevent him from filling seats on the NLRB.
The justices rejected that argument Wednesday.
Justice Stephen Breyer said in his majority opinion that a congressional break has to last at least 10 days to be considered a recess under the Constitution.
Neither house of Congress can take more than a three-day break without the consent of the other.
The issue of recess appointments receded in importance after the Senate's Democratic majority changed the rules to make it harder for Republicans to block confirmation of most Obama appointees.
But the ruling's impact may be keenly felt by the White House next year if Republicans capture control of the Senate in the November election. The potential importance of the ruling lies in the Senate's ability to block the confirmation of judges and the leaders of independent agencies like the NLRB. A federal law gives the president the power to appoint acting heads of Cabinet-level departments to keep the government running.
Still, the outcome was the least significant loss possible for the administration. The justices, by a 5-4 vote, rejected a sweeping lower court ruling against the administration that would have made it virtually impossible for any future president to make recess appointments.
The lower court held that the only recess recognized by the Constitution is the once-a-year break between sessions of Congress. It also said that only vacancies that arise in that recess could be filled. So the high court has left open the possibility that a president, with a compliant Congress, could make recess appointments in the future.
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for himself, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, said he would have upheld the lower court's reasoning. He said Thursday's decision means "the abolition of the Constitution's limits on the recess-appointment power."
A recess appointment can last no more than two years. Recess appointees who subsequently won Senate confirmation include Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justice William Brennan, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, two current NLRB members and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray. Former UN Ambassador John Bolton is among recess appointees who left office because they could not win a Senate vote.
The case challenging the appointments was brought by Noel Canning, a soft drink bottling company in Yakima, Washington. The company claimed an NLRB decision against it was not valid because the board members were not properly appointed and that the board did not have enough members to do business without the improperly appointed officials.
Noel Canning prevailed in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and two other appeals courts also had ruled against recess appointments.
Obama has made relatively few recess appointments, 32 in his four-plus years in office, according to the Congressional Research Service. President George W. Bush made 171 such appointments over two terms and President Bill Clinton filled 139 posts that way in his eight years in office, the research service said.
But Obama was the first president to try to make recess appointments when Congress explicitly said it was not in recess. The Constitution requires that the Senate and House must get the other's consent for a break lasting longer than three days. At the end of 2011, the Republican-controlled House would not give the Democratic-led Senate permission for a longer break.
The partisan roles were reversed during Bush's presidency, when Senate Democrats sought ways to prevent the president from making recess appointments.
In fact, the very basis on which the justices decided the case - that the Senate can use extremely brief sessions to avoid a formal recess - was a tactic devised by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to frustrate Bush.

End  ===

Seemingly, the party that practices exclusion, is whining over -- wait for it -- being excluded.
With Senate Republican leaders spending so much time trying to make the president look bad, and whining when the president doesn't seek their approval over every decision Obama needs to make as president, it is obvious they aren't using their time to focus on issues that really matter to Americans: like job creation, better education, affordable education, affordable health care, the economy, and let's throw in lowering these high gas prices.
Are the Republicans really winning with their antics, or just dividing the country even further, and proving they just show up at the office, don't do any work, and collect paychecks - at taxpayers' expense?

Related

President Obama plans to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts.  We wonder which appointee Republicans will try to block next.


·         Christopher Hart – Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board
·         John W. Leslie, Jr. – Member, Board of Directors of the African Development Foundation, and upon appointment to be designated Chairperson
·         Donald L. Pereira – Commissioner, United States Section of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission
·         Douglas L. Stang – Commissioner, United States Section of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission
More
The 'breakdown' of the Senate 'showdown' with President Obama.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

President Obama makes a statement on Iraq

President Obama took time to give reporters the latest update on the situation with Iraq.

Speaking from the James Brady briefing room, the president made it clear that there will be no U.S. boots on the ground given to the war-torn country where the focus is also on humanitarian and  counter-terrorism issues.

"We do not have the ability to send troops to Iraq to solve this", he said.

President Obama speaking to reporters on Iraq.
The president stated his highest priority continues to be the safety of the U.S. and reiterated that Iraq must work together with its own base to solve the current situation, but stressed that both Iran and Iraq, "should avoid steps that might lead to a civil war."

Related
Iraq.  How did it come to this?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Has Kathleen Sebelius Really Resigned?

We couldn't help but notice (while looking to see how many people of color, in prominent roles, work for the Obama administration) that 'former' Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is still being featured on the White House Profiles pages.

Does Kathleen Sebelius still work for the White House as SHHS?

Ms. Sebelius was said to have resigned amid the embattled roll out of the Affordable Care Act website that ended up being a nightmare for the administration, and those wanting to sign up for health care coverage.

You may recall incidents with the website crashing, security issues, and more.

[Sebelius' White House blog posts].

Despite those 'glitches', more than 7 million Americans have enrolled - a feat the administration calls "historical".

Silvia Matthews Burwell (Office of Management and Budget) was announced as the replacement for Sebelius, despite her 'historical' accomplishment praised by President Obama.  Burwell was confirmed by the Senate last month.

"She’s a proven manager who’s demonstrated her ability to field great teams, forge strong relationships, and deliver excellent results at the highest levels", President Obama said of Burwell. “

Burwell's photograph, however, is not included on the White House Profiles page at this time.

Jay Carney's Last Day

Sob. Sob.  

Another press secretary has descended from the White House briefing room podium, into the welcoming arms of 'family'.

Today, White House reporters saw the last briefing - facilitated by one Mr. James "Jay" Carney, the 29th press secretary, and the second to President Obama after he replaced Robert Gibbs nearly four years ago.


President Obama and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, aboard Air Force One, one last time.
Just as his predecessor before him, Carney told reporters how much he loved his job, and how much of a "pleasure" it was.

I could never understand how the PS could claim, at least on camera, to have have "the best job in the world", "loving every moment", and then just walk away.

How could you no longer want to talk about every issue happening in the world, every day - for an hour - to relentless, grilling, reporters who act like they're out for blood on every single issue?

Take a read at Carney's remarks given on his last day.

"So finally, I just want to say thank you to all of you here.  This has been an extraordinary experience.  And I have loved every minute of every day, even the many minutes of many days I’ve spent in this room, as I think most of you now understand and believe.  It’s always a pleasure no matter how hard it can get in here, how hot it can sometimes be and contentious it sometimes is. 

     The President, to many of us, said that of the jobs that we have here in the White House, that most of us will never be in a position to do more good for more people as we are in right now, and we should take advantage of it.  And that is something that I think we all here take to heart.  And I don’t ever expect to be in a position again to be a part of something that has at least the potential to do more good for more people, and that has been a very special thing, indeed.

     I loved my years as a reporter, but as you better than anyone else understand, reporting sometimes can be an autonomous exercise.  It’s your story, it’s your byline.  What was so different about this experience for me is that it was all about a team effort and all about a goal that had nothing to do with any individual, not even the President.  And that’s been extraordinarily gratifying to be a part of.

     What I won’t do -- although if provoked, I will later -- is go through a list of all the things, the very many good things that have been accomplished by this President, this administration in my time here that I believe represent doing a lot of good for a lot of people in this country and around the world.  But I think that record is a good one and one I’m proud of. 


     I guess with that, I’ll go to questions.  At the end, I’d like to opportunity to say thanks to my colleagues."

Carney, a former Time magazine reporter, and journalist for more than two decades, will be replaced by Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

While on his last flight on AF1, Carney was already being referred to as 'Josh' by one reporter who seemed like she was all too ready for Earnest to take the helm.

"Josh, can you..." , she began, to which Carney replied, "Josh?  How quickly we forget!"

Realizing her mistake, she said, " Sorry, I take it back.  Let me start again.  Jay, ..."

To be fair, Earnest has stood in for Carney during briefings aboard Air Force One, and in the briefing room.

Obviously, being groomed for his day when he officially takes the helm.

Friday, June 13, 2014

President Obama Visits Standing Rock Sioux Nation

Today, President Obama and First Lady Michelle visited the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation in Cannon Ball North Dakota.

The pair participated in a roundtable discussion with Native American Youth and tribal officials. The president gave remarks during the Cannon Ball Flag Day Celebration.


President Obama is the first president to visit the Sioux Nation.

From the White House:

President Obama's firm belief [is] that tribal leaders must have a seat at the table.  To make this commitment a reality, the President has hosted the White House Tribal Nations Conferences with tribal leaders every year he has been in office, and last year, he established the White House Council on Native American Affairs to ensure cross-agency coordination and engagement with Indian Country. 


Women dance a traditional Indian dance.


The Sioux Nation was very appreciative of the president's visit and cited President Obama as the only president who has had their best interests at heart.


Treaties broken, our land taken... "If there is one honest man in Washington, send him here.  I want to talk to him."  - Sitting Bull

Said, President Obama, "My administration is determined to partner with tribes on just about every issue that touches your lives."

The president pledged to honor partnerships, treaties, and give mutual respect. 

The U.S. has made investments in areas of infrastructure, high speed internet, education, health care and violence against women initiatives. 

Gifts bestowed upon the President and First Lady from the Sioux Nation.



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Secrets of Strangers

Many of us are aware of the divisive rhetoric over the so-called issue of 'illegal' immigration and immigration reform.

As the two political sides continue to debate over what to do about an issue that seems to have no end in sight, nor the chance of going away, one person wants America to see the issue in a slightly different, dare we say, human way.

Take a look at "The Secrets of Strangers" by Honduran-born TV host Rosci Diaz.  


The video, posted on You Tube on June 10th, comes on the heels of recent reports stemming from the transport of underage illegal immigrants and how they are being treated in detention, or 'holding' centers while waiting to be processed.

Diaz tries to show the fear and anguish that is imposed upon undocumented people living in the U.S.




The issue of illegal immigration reform is believed to partially be the reason Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) lost his seat as House Majority Leader during this week's Virginia primaries.

Cantor says he will leave his post on July 31.

While Cantor and his Republican colleagues claim they are in favor of immigration reform, the party has yet to come up with what is deemed to be a clear policy on the issue.

Cantor lost to Republican Dave Brat, a college economics professor from the Glen Allen region of Richmond, Virginia.

From the Brat website:

"As a life long Republican and economist, I know how to get our economy back on track, get our citizens back to work, restore our credit rating, and secure a better future for our children and grandchildren. I am committed to being a servant-leader as our Founders intended, and I look forward to the opportunity to fight for you in Washington." 

President Obama emphasized that Congress must act to pass commonsense immigration reform and that there is no excuse for House Republicans to continue delaying action.

Earlier this week the president met with nurses from across the country to discuss commonsense immigration reform, citing that the first line of defense if a laborer is injured, is a nurse.

More from the White House

"By reforming our legal immigration system we can bolster public health by providing immigrant nurses an opportunity to stay in the United States legally and grow their skills, while also attracting the best and brightest immigrants from around the globe to help meet the needs of our growing health care industry."

'Healthy Lunchtime Challenge' Winners Announced

First Lady Michelle Obama, Epicurious, the Department of Education, and the Department of Agriculture announced the winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a nationwide recipe challenge to promote healthy lunches as part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative.  Winners representing all U.S. states, three territories, and the District of Columbia will attend a Kids' “State Dinner” at the White House hosted by Mrs. Obama on July 18.  The 54 children will join the First Lady for a healthy lunch, featuring a selection of the winning recipes, followed by a visit to the White House Kitchen Garden. 

2013 Winners



“I am looking forward to hosting the winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge here at the White House for the third annual Kids’ ‘State Dinner,’” said First Lady Michelle Obama.  “This event gives us the opportunity to showcase healthy creations from talented kid chefs from across our country, and I can’t wait to see—and taste—this year’s selections.”

[Even this guy can burn in the kitchen]

For the third consecutive year, the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge & Kids' "State Dinner" invited a parent or guardian to work with their child ages 8-12 to create a lunchtime recipe that is healthy, affordable, original, and delicious.  In support of Let’s Move!,launched by the First Lady to help address the problem of childhood obesity, each recipe adhered to the guidance that supports USDA’s MyPlate (at ChooseMyPlate.gov) to ensure that the criteria of a healthy meal were met.  Entries had to represent each of the food groups, either in one dish or as parts of a lunch meal, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy foods, with fruits and vegetables making up roughly half the plate or recipe.


This week Mrs. Obama will join local students and school nutrition directors from across the country to harvest the summer crop from the White House Kitchen Garden.

In 2009, the first lady planted a vegetable garden on the South Lawn to initiate a national conversation around the health and well being of our nation—a conversation that evolved into her Let’s Move! initiative. 

The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, originated by Epicurious to also promote healthy eating among America’s youth, received more than 1,500 entries this year featuring wholesome, tasty ingredients, including salmon, black beans, and ground turkey.  

This year's entrants and recipes will available in July.  

Check out epicurious.com for more information.

2014 Local Healthy Lunchtime Challenge winners:  

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIAHealthy Grains, Squash, Apples, Sausage, & Kale, Maxwell Lynch, 10

VIRGINIA: Chia Chicken Pitas, Sophie Haga, 12

MARYLAND: Chesapeake Fish Tacos, Lemon-Basil Sorbet, Esther Matheny, 10