March 10, 2011: Scott Walker Battles Unions; Republicans Pass Bill Restricting Collective Bargaining

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

WISCONSIN UNION WARS

Protests

Protesters fill the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., on Wednesday night. (Michael P. King / Associated Press)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; file photo

IN FOCUS:

THE HEADLINES….

     

  • In Wisconsin Battle on Unions, State Democrats See a Gift: After nearly a month of angry demonstrations and procedural maneuvering in the State Capitol here, Gov. Scott Walker won his battle on Thursday to cut bargaining rights for most government workers in Wisconsin. But his victory, after the State Assembly passed the bill, also carries risks for the state’s Republicans who swept into power last November. Democratic-leaning voters appeared energized by the battle over collective bargaining on a national stage. The fight has already spurred a list of potential recall elections for state lawmakers this spring. Protesters are planning more large demonstrations this weekend…. – NYT, 3-10-11
  • In Wisconsin, GOP maneuver pushes anti-union bill forward: Senate Republicans omit financial provisions from legislation to curb public workers’ collective bargaining rights, skirting a requirement that a quorum be present…. – LAT, 3-10-11
  • Divisive Wisconsin union-busting bill set to pass: A bill to bust Wisconsin’s public workers unions that sparked mass protests and led Democratic lawmakers to flee the US state was set for approval on Thursday after a Republican legislative maneuver. Republican state senators appeared to end the weeks-long standoff by stripping all references to the budget from the bill, which allowed it to pass without the legislative quorum required for fiscal measures. The bill was to be taken up by the Republican-led state Assembly — which approved a similar previous measure — at 11:00 am (1600 GMT) on Thursday… – AFP, 3-10-11
  • Wis. GOP bypasses Dems, cuts collective bargaining: The Wisconsin Senate voted Wednesday night to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers, approving an explosive proposal that had rocked the state and unions nationwide after Republicans discovered a way to bypass the chamber’s missing Democrats.
    All 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois nearly three weeks ago, preventing the chamber from having enough members present to consider Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget-repair bill” — a proposal introduced to plug a $137 million budget shortfall…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Did Wisconsin Senate choose nuclear option in collective-bargaining fight?: Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate vote to strip key public-sector unions of collective bargaining rights, despite the fact that no Democrats were present. The vote is a bid to protect core budget cuts to public-employee benefits, Republicans say. But is that necessary?… – CS Monitor, 3-09-11
  • Is Gov. Scott Walker’s offer enough for a deal with rogue ‘Wisconsin 14’?: Governor Walker has released emails with some of the absentee ‘Wisconsin 14’ that show he’s willing to compromise – on some issues, to some extent…. – CS Monitor, 3-9-11
  • Wis. gov. proposes union compromise in e-mails: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has offered to keep certain collective bargaining rights in place for state workers in a proposed compromise aimed at ending a nearly three-week standoff with absent Senate Democrats, according to e-mails released Tuesday by his office.
    The e-mails, some dated as recently as Sunday, show a softened stance in Walker’s talks with the 14 Democrats who fled to Illinois to block a vote on his original proposal that would strip nearly all collective bargaining rights for public workers and force concessions amounting to an average 8 percent pay cut…. – AP, 3-8-11
  • Hard Stance Seems Softer In E-Mail Of Governor: For weeks, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has publicly held firm to his plan to sharply curtail collective bargaining rights for most public workers, despite the protests of union supporters. But e-mail messages released Tuesday between representatives of Mr. Walker and some Senate Democrats who oppose the measure suggest that Mr. Walker has privately considered tempering at least some limited elements of those bargaining changes.
    Mr. Walker’s initial proposal, which set off a firestorm of debate in Wisconsin and beyond, would allow collective bargaining on matters of wages only, limit raises to the Consumer Price Index, keep contracts to one year and require unions to vote annually to determine whether most workers still wish to be members.
    The e-mails show that as recently as Sunday evening Mr. Walker’s representatives appeared willing to agree to some changes…. – NYT, 3-9-11
  • Walker blames unions for standoff Governor thinks national labor leaders barring deal: Gov. Scott Walker blamed national labor organizers Monday evening for scuttling attempts at compromise with 14 Democratic senators who fled to Illinois to avoid a vote on a budget-repair bill that would take away most collective bargaining rights of public workers. Citing a Wall Street Journal report, Walker said Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) indicated Sunday that the Democrats would return to Wisconsin. But he said that changed Monday.
    The governor said he doesn’t know what happened, but he suspects it was union leaders who are influencing the 14 Democrats. “I don’t have this on firsthand knowledge. My guess is he got a phone call from one of the union bosses in D.C. who said, ‘You cannot go back there and let them have a vote,’ ” Walker said… – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3-7-11
  • Why ‘Wisconsin 14’ are ready to return: They think they’re winning: Wisconsin’s 14 Democratic absentee state senators indicate they’re ready to return – because they think they’ve already won the war, if not this battle…. – CS Monitor, 3-7-11
  • Lawmaker: Wisconsin Democrats returning soon: The Democratic senators who fled are convinced that Republicans will be severely hurt if Walker’s plan is passed…. The State Senate Democrats who left Wisconsin to block a vote on a bill that would severely curb collective bargaining for most public employees are planning to return soon, one of the lawmakers said…. – WaPo, 3-7-11
  • Wisconsin’s Walker dismisses Democratic overture: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dismissed as “ridiculous” a request on Monday from the leader of absent Senate Democrats to meet and negotiate a compromise in their standoff over Republican plans to limit public sector union powers…. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker blasted the leader of the state’s Senate Democrats as an obstacle in getting some of the Democrats to return and vote on his budget proposal…. – Reuters, 3-7-11
  • Unions winning battle for public opinion in Wisconsin: According to a new Pew Poll, Forty-two percent of people said they favor unions, while 31 percent take Walker’s side and another nine percent take neither side in the skirmish. WaPo, 3-1-11
  • Supporters of Wisconsin anti-union bill hold rally: About 700 people have rallied in support of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his plan to take away collective bargaining rights from public workers have rallied in Madison. The Sunday rally at a Madison arena was organized by the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity…. – AP, 3-6-11
  • Michael Moore rallies Wis. pro-union protesters: Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore urged Wisconsin residents Saturday to fight against Republican efforts to strip most public workers of their collective bargaining rights, telling thousands of protesters that “Madison is only the beginning.” “We’re going to do this together. Don’t give up. Please don’t give up,” filmmaker Michael Moore told the Wisconsin protesters, who have swarmed the Capitol every day for close to three weeks. Moore told the crowd they’ve galvanized the nation against the wealthy elite and compared their fight to Egypt’s revolt…. – AP, 3-5-11
  • Wis. governor warns of layoffs, talks to Democrats: Thousands of Wisconsin state workers were bracing for layoff notices Friday as Republican Gov. Scott Walker and absent Democrats remained in a standoff over a budget balancing bill that would also strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights.
    Walker said he would issue 1,500 layoff notices Friday if at least one of the 14 Senate Democrats doesn’t return from Illinois to give the Republican majority the quorum it needs to vote. Senate Republicans voted Thursday to hold the missing Democrats in contempt and force police to bring them back to the Capitol. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald canceled Friday’s floor session, saying in a statement that Republican senators want time to allow law enforcement to adjust their staffing levels and “help the Capitol to return to something of a sense of normalcy.”… – AP, 3-4-11
  • In Midwestern union strongholds, residents torn over proposals to curb union benefits, powers: There once was a time when Harry and Nancy Harrington _ their teenage children in tow _ walked the picket line outside the nursing home where she was a medical aide, protesting the lack of a pension plan for the unionized work force. But those days of family solidarity are gone…. – AP, 3-5-11
  • Wisconsin governor begins process to lay off 1,500: 57 percent of likely voters in Wisconsin disapprove of the job Walker is doing, while 43 percent approve. Of those who disapprove, 48 percent strongly disapprove…. – WaPo, 3-5-11
  • Protesters leave Wis. Capitol after 17-day sit-in: Pro-union protesters who had been camping out at the Wisconsin Capitol for 17 days vacated the building peacefully late Thursday after a judge ordered the building closed at night but ruled the state was wrong to restrict access to the building during the day. With a group hug, and singing “Solidarity Forever,” about 50 protesters grabbed their sleeping bags, pillows and drums and left through two rows of Democratic state lawmakers and others who thanked them for their efforts…. – AP, 3-3-11
  • Wisconsin Senate votes to detain absentee DemocratsCNN, 3-3-11
  • RNC ad links Obama to ‘union bosses’: The Republican National Committee on Wednesday began airing a television ad in Wisconsin that blames President Barack Obama and “union bosses” for standing in the way of economic reform.
    The ad is an effort to bolster Republican Gov. Scott Walker as he tries to push through a measure that would take away most collective bargaining rights for state employees.
    Obama has not been to Wisconsin since the protests began. But he has called Walker’s proposal an assault on unions and urged other governors not to vilify public workers. Obama’s political arm at the Democratic National Committee also helped mobilize demonstrators in coordination with unions…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • AFL-CIO leader: Wisconsin fight energizing unions: In trying to take away nearly all collective bargaining rights from state workers, Wisconsin’s governor may have unintentionally given the American labor movement the lift it needed after years of decline.
    “We’ve never seen the incredible solidarity that we’re seeing right now,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters Tuesday at the federation’s headquarters. “People are giving us another look now,” he said. “It’ll be up to us to keep it going and continue defining ourselves in ways the American public will support.”… – AP, 3-2-11
  • Wisconsin governor to lay out budget: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s explosive proposal to take nearly all collective bargaining rights away from most public workers represents just one piece of his vision for the state’s future…. – AP, 3-1-11
  • Rallies support fight against Wis. anti-union billAP, 2-27-11
  • Volunteers help Wis. protesters keep up the fightAP, 2-26-11
  • By keeping his distance, has Obama played Wisconsin right?: With the battle of Wisconsin reverberating in union halls across the country, Obama has refrained from weighing in forcefully on a core Democratic issue. Analysts say he has played it right… – CS Monitor, 2-25-11
  • Wisconsin GOP wins Round 1 over unions, but final victory still eludes: The Wisconsin GOP-led Assembly approved a bill Friday to sharply curtail the power of public employee unions. But the battle for public opinion, in Wisconsin and the nation, goes on, with the state Senate yet to vote…. – CS Monitor, 2-25-11
  • Some Republicans soften tough talk on unionsAP, 2-24-11
  • State troopers sent to find Wisconsin DemocratsAP, 2-24-11
  • Wis. Democrats filibuster to halt anti-union billAP, 2-23-11
  • In Wisconsin, the real struggle is over power: Protesters rest inside the Wisconsin State Capitol on Monday as their standoff with Republican lawmakers over union rights entered its second week with no possible resolution on the horizon…. – WaPo, 2-21-11
  • Wisconsin: Ground zero in battle over clout of labor unions in US: At stake in the fight between unions and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is the perception of public-sector unions and how much clout they’ll retain in an era of tight budgets for state and local government…. – CS Monitor, 2-19-11
  • State budget fights fire up union; Obama involved: Organized labor is trying to re-energize and take advantage of the growing backlash from the wave of anti-union sentiment in Wisconsin and more than a dozen other states. President Barack Obama and his political machine are offering tactical support, eager to repair strained relations with some union leaders upset over his recent overtures to business…. – AP, 2-19-11

QUOTES

     

  • Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker: Walker acknowledged the protests, but said “their voices cannot drown out the voices of the countless taxpayers who want us to balance our budgets and, more importantly, to make government work for each of them.”

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

     

  • Rosemary Feurer: Wisconsin’s Legacy of Labor Battles: One of the key authors of that federal legislation was the chief of labor relations at Allis-Chalmers, a Milwaukee-area farm equipment and machine manufacturing company that had fended off an epic strike earlier that year. Now the nation is watching to see which side wins in the battle between Mr. Walker and the flood of unions, local and national, that has surrounded the Capitol to fight him.
    “The play by the governor is part of a longer history and a longer struggle over ideas and social policy,” said Rosemary Feurer, a labor historian at Northern Illinois University. “When I see this I think, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.”
    In her book, “Radical Unionism in the Midwest, 1900-1950,” Professor Feurer recounts how companies in the electrical industry in St. Louis started a network known as the Metal Trades Association in the first part of the 20th century to fight union organizing. The association had been alarmed by union protests that erupted violently with the Haymarket Square riot in 1886 and the demands for an eight-hour day, which started with the 1894 Pullman strike in Illinois — an early effort by Eugene V. Debs, the former Indiana legislator and future Socialist Party candidate for president.
    “That left a legacy of the 1930s and ’40s for employers to form deep right-wing networks,” Professor Feurer said.
    That network, she argues, was the precursor to the Midwestern groups that have now been assisting the fight against the unions in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana: the Bradley Foundation, based in Milwaukee, and Koch Industries, based in Wichita, Kan. David H. and Charles G. Koch, the billionaire brothers behind the energy and manufacturing conglomerate that bears their name, have been large donors to Mr. Walker in Wisconsin, as has their advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, which first opened an office in Wisconsin in 2005…. – NYT, 3-6-11
  • Julian Zelizer: By keeping his distance, has Obama played Wisconsin right?: “The biggest danger in some ways was for him to be consumed by this issue,” says Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “That hasn’t happened.”… – CS Monitor, 2-25-11
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Political Highlights February 21, 2011: Obama Unveils Budget, Wisconsin Budget Crisis & Unions — Unrest in the Middle East Erupts

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

West Wing Week

STATS & POLLS

  • Ratings on Obama’s handling of the deficit: In a new Gallup poll – taken before the president released his budget this week – fully 68 percent of Americans said they disapprove of the way the president is handling the federal budget deficit, by far his worst rating of the eight specific issues in the survey. Pitted against the GOP, however, there’s a roughly even split: in a January Washington Post-ABC News poll, 44 percent of Americans said they put more faith in Obama to handle the deficit; about as many said they trust the GOP on the issue. (CBS-NYT and CNN polls in January showed similar divide.)… – WaPo, 2-15-11
  • Obama Ratings Continue to Rise in Approval: President Obama’s ratings of approval continue to rise according to a new poll released this week. The approval rating for Obama increase to 51 percent from 50 percent in January, and his disapproval rating similarly slid to 46 percent from 47 percent — part of an upward trend since October’s 43 percent low.
    Contributing to Obama’s positive rating is the fact that the jobless rate dipped to 9 percent in January from 9.4 percent the month before, completing a 0.8 percentage point drop since November that was the biggest two-month decline since 1958…. – Third Age, 2-11-11
  • Obama’s 2012 Budget Proposal: How $3.7 Trillion is Spent: Explore every nook and cranny of President Obama’s budget proposal. – NYT
  • The Budget: Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2012 contains the Budget Message of the President, information on the President’s priorities, budget overviews organized by agency, and summary tables.
    To download “Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2012” as a single PDF click here (216 pages, 4.1 MB)
  • Breakdown of budget’s big numbers: There are a lot of big numbers being tossed around in Washington these days: a $3.7 trillion budget proposal, $61 billion in cuts, a $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. Below is a breakdown of what they represent…. – WaPo, 2-15-11
  • Office of Management and Budget: Budget 2012:

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Raouf Mohseni/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Members of Iran’s Parliament clamored on Tuesday for two leaders of the opposition movement, Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, to be hanged.

  • Qaddafi’s Son Warns of Civil War as Libyan Protests Widen: A five-day-old uprising in Libya took control of its second-largest city of Benghazi and spread for the first time to the capital of Tripoli late on Sunday as the heir-apparent son of its strongman, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, warned Libyans in a televised speech that their oil-rich country would fall into civil war and even renewed Western “colonization” if they threw off his father’s 40-year-long rule…. – NYT, 2-21-11
  • Clinton: Gadhafi must stop bloodshed: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the violence against anti-government protesters in Libya on Monday and called on the government of Moammar Gadhafi to “stop this unacceptable bloodshed.” Clinton said the world is watching event unfold in Libya “with alarm.”… At least 233 people have been killed so far, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.
    “Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed,” Clinton said in what amounted to the toughest denunciation of the crackdown in Libya by the Obama administration yet…. – AP, 2-21-11
  • Libya Death Toll Surges in Crackdown: Libya Regime Fires on Protesters in Capital; Nation Fractures; Diplomats Break Ties… Violent clashes between protesters and security forces snowballed in cities throughout eastern Libya Sunday, as the country’s leader, Moammar Gadhafi, struggled to crush an uprising aimed at ending … WSJ, 2-20-11
  • US condemns crackdowns on Mideast protests: A senior U.S. diplomat on Sunday condemned the brutal crackdown on opposition protesters in Libya, saying Arab leaders facing pro-democracy protests need to lead the way rather than resist reform. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the Obama administration was “very concerned” about reported armed attacks by Libyan security forces on peaceful protesters in the eastern city of Benghazi.
    “We’ve condemned that violence,” Rice told “Meet the Press” on NBC. “Our view is that in Libya as throughout the region peaceful protests need to be respected.”… – AP, 2-20-11
  • 1 killed as Yemeni police fire on marchers: Antigovernment protesters shouted slogans and raised their shoes in Sana, Yemen, yesterday. It was the 10th day of protests….. – Boston Globe, 2-20-11
  • Bahrain’s gov’t says dialogue begins with opposition: Bahrain’s government says it has begun what it calls a dialogue, with opposition groups demanding reform…. – Xinhuanet, 2-20-11
  • Cycle of Suppression Rises in Libya and Elsewhere: Libyan security forces moved against protesters Saturday in Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city and the epicenter of the most serious challenge to four decades of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s rule, opposition leaders and residents said. The death toll rose to at least 104 people, most of them in Benghazi, Human Rights Watch reported…. – NYT, 2-19-11
  • After 42 years, Libya’s controversial ruler faces new threats: Moammar Gadhafi’s first grab at power occurred 42 years ago in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, when he led a crew of fellow military officers in taking over key government institutions…. – CNN International, 2-19-11
  • Egypt women stand for equality in the square: Women think as differently as they dress here, but they have emerged from the barricades agreeing on one thing: This is their moment in history, and they cannot afford to lose it. During 18 days of demonstrating for freedom and democracy, Egyptian men and women walked into Tahrir Square separate and unequal, divided by gender as they passed through checkpoints. Men were scrutinized by men, and women had their bags and person searched by other women. There were several lines of men to every one for the fewer numbers of women…. – WaPO, 2-19-11
  • Libya, Yemen crack down; Bahrain pulls back tanks: Security forces in Libya and Yemen fired on pro-democracy demonstrators Saturday as the two hard-line regimes struck back against the wave of protests that has already toppled autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia. At least 15 died when police shot into crowds of mourners in Libya’s second-largest city, a hospital official said.
    Even as Bahrain’s king bowed to international pressure and withdrew tanks to allow demonstrators to retake a symbolic square in the capital, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh made clear they plan to stamp out opposition and not be dragged down by the reform movements that have grown in nations from Algeria to Djibouti to Jordan.
    Libyans returned to the street for a fifth straight day of protests against Gadhafi, the most serious uprising in his 42-year reign, despite estimates by human rights groups of 84 deaths in the North African country — with 35 on Friday alone…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • Police kill 4 during protests on Yemen’s ‘Friday of Rage’: Antigovernment demonstrators clashed with supporters of Yemen’s longtime ruler and riot police, who fired guns and tear gas to disperse the crowd on what organizers called a nationwide “Friday of rage”…. – Boston Globe, 2-19-11
  • Over 50 injured as troops open fire in Bahrain: Bahraini troops have fired on anti-government demonstrators, just a day after several people were killed when a protest camp was forcibly removed in the capital, Manama…. – Xinhuanet, 2-19-11
  • Bahrain’s king seeks dialogue after another crackdown on protesters: The widened unrest in the Middle East took a more violent turn Friday as US-allied governments in Yemen and Bahrain opened fire on their citizens, prompting Britain and France to announce a halt in arms sales. WaPo, 2-19-11
  • Rights group estimates 84 killed in Libya protests: Libyan security forces have killed 84 people in a harsh crackdown on three days of protests, said the New York- based Human Rights Watch, even as the government shut off Internet in the North African country early on Saturday…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • Bahrain opposition plots strategy before talks: Bahrain’s opposition wants the nation’s rulers to guarantee they will back up their conciliatory words with actions, a Shiite leader said Sunday as he and other activists weighed the regime’s offer for talks after nearly a week of protests and deadly clashes that have divided the Gulf nation. The streets in the tiny but strategically important island kingdom were calmer as efforts shifted toward political haggling over demands the monarchy give up its near-absolute control over key policies and positions…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • Egypt to allow Iranian vessels through Suez Canal: Egypt has agreed to allow two Iranian naval vessels to transit the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean, a military official said Friday, ending several days of confusion over their planned passage, which Israel’s foreign minister has labeled a provocation.
    The movement of Iranian naval ships past Israeli shores is of concern there because Israel considers Iran an existential threat. Those fears stem from Iran’s disputed nuclear program, ballistic missile development, support for militants in the region and its threats to destroy Israel.
    The White House said the U.S. was also closely monitoring the progress of the ships, now in the Red Sea. Their passage comes as the region is being swept by anti-government unrest, including the protests that toppled Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak a week ago and left the military in charge of the country…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • Obama condemns violence in Middle East: President Barack Obama on Friday condemned reports of violent reprisals against protesters in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen, and called for government restraint as unrest swept the volatile Middle East in the wake of Egypt’s uprising.
    “I am deeply concerned about reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur,” Obama said. “The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests and to respect the rights of their people.”… – 2-18-11
  • Opposition figure says Libya uprisings ignored: TANYA NOLAN: As we’ve mentioned media bans and intermittent phone and internet connections have made it very difficult to verify events unfolding in Libya…. – ABC Online, 2-18-11
  • In Yemen, Arab unrest takes a violent turn: Several thousand Yemeni protesters defied appeals for calm and marched through the capital on Thursday, pressing on with their campaign to oust the country’s president… – WaPo, 2-18-11
  • Bahrain’s Crackdown Wins Neighbors’ Support: WSJ’s Joe Parkinson reports from the midst of ongoing protests in Bahrain in which at least three people have died.
    Bahrain’s military sent tanks and armored personnel carriers into the streets Thursday to extend its control after a government crackdown on protests, while neighboring monarchies of the Persian Gulf endorsed the country’s violent response…. – WSJ, 2-18-11
  • Bahrain Turmoil Poses Fresh Test for White House: Hundreds gathered outside a hospital emergency room in Manama, Bahrain’s capital, on Thursday afternoon to wait for news about the injured…. – NYT, 2-17-11
  • Bahrain Main Opposition Group says 2 Dead in Crackdown: Bahrain’s leading opposition party says at least two protesters were killed early Thursday when riot police stormed the main square of the capital, Manama, driving out thousands of demonstrators who had set up camp, demanding sweeping political change…. – Voice of America, 2-17-11
  • Libya protests: Activists call for ‘day of anger’: Anti-government activists in Libya have been using social networking sites to rally support for protests on what they are describing as a “day of anger”…. – BBC News, 2-17-11
  • Protests Spread to Libya as Unrest Roils Bahrain, Yemen: A Bahraini anti-government protester waves his national flag during a protest calling for regime change at Pearl Square in Manama…. – Bloomberg, 2-16-11
  • Bahrain Takes the Stage With a Raucous ProtestNYT, 2-16-11
  • Obama careful in criticism of Iranian crackdown on protestsWaPo, 2-15-11
  • Iran’s Leader Derides Protests; Lawmakers Urge Death for Opposition Leaders: A day after the largest antigovernment protests in Iran in more than a year, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday dismissed opposition attempts to revive mass demonstrations as certain to fail, while members of the Iranian Parliament clamored for the two most prominent leaders of the protest movement to be executed…. – NYT, 2-15-11
  • Tehran Beats Back New Protests: Iranian police used tear gas and electric prods to crack down on the country’s biggest antigovernment protests in at least a year, as demonstrators buoyed by activism across the Middle East returned to the country’s streets… – WSJ, 2-15-11
  • CBS News’ Lara Logan Assaulted During Egypt Protests: CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent Separated From Her Crew And Brutally Assaulted on Day Mubarak Stepped Down… – CBS News, 2-15-11
  • ‘Egypt is free’ after Mubarak quits; celebrations continue into the nightCNN, 2-11-11
  • Egypt unrest: Mubarak’s speech leaves nation, world wondering who’s in chargeCNN, 2-10-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Arrested US official is actually CIA contractor: An American jailed in Pakistan for the fatal shooting of two armed men was secretly working for the CIA and scouting a neighborhood when he was arrested, a disclosure likely to further frustrate U.S. government efforts to free the man and strain relations between two countries partnered in a fragile alliance in the war on terror.
    Raymond Allen Davis, 36, had been working as a CIA security contractor and living in a Lahore safe house, according to former and current U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk publicly about the incident…. – AP, 2-21-11
  • G-20 Deal Reached, but Outcome Open to Interpretation: Negotiators from the world’s leading economies haggled all night over seemingly technical details regarding how to measure global economic imbalances. WSJ, 2-20-11
  • National Institute for Civil Discourse to open at University of Arizona: Colleagues pay tribute to wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords during the president’s address as the Arizona lawmaker is set to begin the next phase of her recovery at a rehab facility in Houston…. – WaPo, 2-20-11
  • Hot air on both sides in budget deficit debate: When Shakespeare’s Macbeth mentions a tale “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” he could be talking about the US budget process…. – St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2-20-11
  • Obama wades into budget battle in US states: The budget battle embroiling Washington is heating up in US states as newly elected Republican lawmakers move to bust public workers unions and slash services in the face of big deficits. President Barack Obama, who earlier this week threatened to veto the Republican federal budget plan, has also stepped into the fray at the state level as his Democratic party engages in a deeply ideological fight over budget priorities…. – AFP, 2-18-11
  • Obama coaches Sasha’s team, but without Sasha: President Barack Obama stepped in to help coach his younger daughter’s basketball team even when she wasn’t there. White House officials said Obama helped coach 9-year-old Sasha’s team Saturday in suburban Maryland because a regular parent-coach was unable to attend…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • Obama: US needs better math, science education: President Barack Obama says improving math and science education is essential to helping the U.S. compete globally, and he wants the private sector to get involved in making it happen. Obama recorded his weekly radio and Internet address during a visit this past week to Intel Corp. outside of Portland, Ore. He praised the company for making a 10-year, $200 million commitment to promote math and science education — and held it up as an example of how corporate America can make money at the same time it builds the country.
    “Companies like Intel are proving that we can compete — that instead of just being a nation that buys what’s made overseas, we can make things in America and sell them around the globe,” Obama said. “Winning this competition depends on the ingenuity and creativity of our private sector. . But it’s also going to depend on what we do as a nation to make America the best place on earth to do business.”… – AP, 2-19-11
  • Obama urges Bahrain’s king to show restraint: President Barack Obama condemned the violence in Bahrain and urged the country’s king in a phone call Friday night to show restraint after a series of bloody protests. Obama discussed the situation with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, asking the king to hold those responsible for the violence accountable. Obama says Bahrain must respect the “universal rights” of its people and embrace “meaningful reform.”… – AP, 2-19-11
  • Obama says companies can help bottom line & nation: Pushing his jobs agenda, President Barack Obama made the case Friday that companies can make money and build up the country at the same time, citing the giant Intel Corp. chip maker as his model of smart investing in education.
    “We know what works. We know how to succeed,” the president told employees here after getting an eye-opening tour of Intel’s manufacturing facility. “We know how to do big things. And all across this nation, in places just like this one, we have students and teachers, local leaders and companies who are working together to make it happen.”… – AP, 2-18-11
  • US vetoes UN resolution on Israeli settlements: The United States vetoed a U.N. resolution that would have condemned Israeli settlements as “illegal” and called for an immediate halt to all settlement building.
    The 14 other Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution in Friday’s vote. The Obama administration’s veto is certain to anger Arab countries and Palestinian supporters around the world…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • HI lawmaker: Obama birth certificate bill tabled: A proposal to sell copies of President Barack Obama’s birth records to anyone for $100 is going nowhere in the Hawaii Legislature…. – AP, 2-17-11
  • Obama seeks support from GOP on schools: President Obama is hoping the GOP will help him overhaul the No Child Left Behind law in time for the new school year this fall, but it may prove a tall order for a divided Congress that’s preoccupied with talk of cutting spending…. – Washington Times, 2-17-11
  • New White House press secretary takes stage: Jay Carney the journalist once commented that it’s a “tricky job” to be White House press secretary. “I’m sure I wouldn’t be any good at it,” he told C-SPAN in 2006 when he was Washington bureau … – USA Today, 2-17-11
  • California Supreme Court reenters Proposition 8 fray: The California Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday to take up a key question in the fight over Proposition 8 places the court once again at the forefront of the legal battle over same-sex marriage…. – LAT, 2-17-11
  • Obama awards Medal of Freedom to George H.W. Bush, Maya Angelou and 13 others: Presenting the nation’s highest civilian honor is ‘one of the things I most look forward to every year,’ President Obama says…. – LAT, 2-16-11
  • Clinton: How the Internet can save the world: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the Internet can allow people to achieve great things, but also do great harm. She says now is the time to discuss what if any rules should be in place concerning the Web…. – WaPo, 2-15-11
  • Obama sends Congress $3.73 trillion budget: President Barack Obama sent Congress a $3.73 trillion budget Monday that holds out the prospect of eventually bringing deficits under control through spending cuts and tax increases. But the fiscal blueprint largely ignores his own deficit commission’s plea to slash huge entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
    Obama called his new budget one of “tough choices and sacrifices,” but most of those cuts would be held off until after the end of his first term…. – AP, 2-14-11
  • Obama calls for investments in education, r&d: President Barack Obama says the U.S. must invest in research and development, science, and especially education — or risk seeing the technological breakthroughs of the future happen in some other country. Obama says he wants to focus “like a laser” on improving education. He said the quality of a nation’s education is one of the biggest predictors of a nation’s success…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • Madoff: Banks ‘Had to Know’ of Multi-Billion Dollar Fraud: Convicted fraudster Bernard L. Madoff believes banks and hedge funds were complicit in his elaborate multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme, The New York Times reported Tuesday…. – AP, 2-16-11
  • Obama budget fails to curb entitlements, GOP says: Republicans yesterday accused President Obama and Democrats in Congress of failing to rein in entitlement programs that make up the bulk of federal spending – but said they weren’t ready to lay out their own proposed cuts to the budget… – Boston Globe, 2-16-11
  • Obama’s Budget Focuses on Path to Rein in Deficit: With President Obama’s release on Monday of a budget for next year and House action this week on a Republican plan for immediate deep spending cuts, the nation is getting its clearest view since the president took office of the parties’ competing visions of the role of government, the urgency of addressing the deficit and the best path to long-term economic success.
    Mr. Obama used his budget for the fiscal year 2012 and beyond to make the case for selectively cutting spending while increasing resources in areas like education and clean energy initiatives that hold the potential for long- term payoffs in economic growth. With this year’s deficit projected to hit a record, $1.6 trillion, he laid out a path for bringing down annual deficits to more sustainable levels over the rest of the decade…. – NYT, 2-15-11
  • Obama budget: Some cuts, not the slashes GOP asks: Putting on the brakes after two years of big spending increases, President Barack Obama unveiled a $3.7 trillion budget plan Monday that would freeze or reduce some safety-net programs for the nation’s poor but turn aside Republican demands for more drastic cuts to shrink the government to where it was before he took office….. – AP, 2-15-11
  • Highlights of Obama’s 2012 spending plan: Obama sends plan to Capitol Hill; goal is to get funding in place by start of 2012 fiscal year… Plan includes a significant increase in education funding… Plan decreases discretionary resources for the Department of Transportation…. It trims funding for African Development and Inter-American Foundations by nearly 20%
    President Obama’s spending plan is just the first step in a process that will involve no less than 40 congressional committees, 24 subcommittees, countless hearings and a number of floor votes in the House and Senate, with the aim of getting funding in place for the federal government by the beginning of the 2012 fiscal year October 1.
    Congress never passed a budget for the current fiscal year, and the government has been running on a “continuing resolution,” which expires March 4. House Republicans have thrown down the gauntlet over cuts to current programs and threaten to shut down the government if they don’t get their way.
    After Obama sends his 2012 plan to Capitol Hill, House and Senate budget committees each pass their own budget resolutions, which set caps on spending and establish revenue targets and generally serve as five- to 10-year blueprints for congressional priorities…. – CNN, 2-14-19
  • Obama budget resurrects rejected tax increases: President Barack Obama’s budget proposal resurrects a series of tax increases on certain corporations and the wealthy that were largely ignored by Congress when Democrats controlled both chambers. Republicans, who now control the House, are signaling they will be even less receptive.
    The plan unveiled Monday includes tax increases for oil, gas and coal producers, investment managers and U.S.- based multinational corporations. The plan would allow Bush-era tax cuts to expire at the end of 2012 for individuals making more than $200,000 and married couples making more than $250,000. Wealthy taxpayers would have their itemized deductions limited starting in 2012, including deductions for mortgage interest, charitable contributions and state and local taxes…. – AP, 2-14-11
  • Showtime for House Republican spending cuts: One day after President Barack Obama presented Congress with his $3.7 trillion budget, the focus shifts on Tuesday to Washington’s more immediate spending needs and a controversial spending-cut bill that Republicans hope to pass in the House of Representatives.
    The House legislation, cobbled together by Republicans after weeks of intraparty fighting, would cut about $61 billion from current spending in a bill to fund government activities through the rest of this fiscal year that ends on September 30.
    The spending being proposed would be equal to a 14 percent cut from last year…. – Reuters, 2-15-10
  • House Republicans counter Obama budget plan with much deeper cuts: On Monday, President Obama made his statement about how the government ought to change its spending habits: a gradual plan that minimizes immediate pain by phasing in cuts over a decade.
    Starting Tuesday, House Republicans will move forward with a very different approach, one intended to be viewed as radical and painful. Their proposal deals not with theoretical deficit targets set far in the future but with the final seven months of this year’s budget, a period left in flux by congressional inaction.
    House Republicans want to cut $61 billion from the budget, which would amount to the most significant government contraction since the end of World War II. Decried as “dire” and “disturbing” by Democrats, the plan has become a test for how far Republicans are willing to go in order to deliver on the promise of fiscal austerity that GOP candidates pledged to voters last year.
    “It’s big, and it’s real and it can impact people’s lives,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Monday of the House legislation. “But we have a budget deficit right now of nearly $1.5 trillion. We have a lot of work to do.”… – WaPo, 2-15-11
  • Obama budget: $3.7 trillion FY ‘12 blueprint calls for key ‘investments’; red ink surges: Trying to balance the need to rein in deficits with his belief that spending now on education and other priorities will pay off in the long term, President Obama on Monday sent Congress a $3.7 trillion budget blueprint for 2012 that makes some short-term fixes but puts off heavy lifting on Social Security and Medicare.
    The budget acts as an update on the current fiscal year, as well as a plan for the future, and it shows the federal government will run a record $1.645 trillion deficit in 2011, slimming down to $1.101 trillion in 2012 and continuing the red ink for the foreseeable future, though at lower levels.
    After massive spending during his first two years in office, Mr. Obama proposed some tax increases and strategic spending cuts for 2012, such as in low-income energy assistance and student aid. But he also called for boosting spending on transportation and education – needs the president said cannot be sacrificed even in the face of the deficit…. – Washington Times, 2-14-11
  • Obama budget sets up spending fight Proposed cuts too small for GOP’s fiscal hawks: President Barack Obama sent Congress a $3.73 trillion 2012 budget that would boost spending in Michigan on items like education and energy, while cutting things like heating assistance for the poor and Great Lakes cleanup in an effort to bring the federal deficit under control. White House officials said Obama’s budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins in October would trim the federal deficit by $1.1 trillion over a decade, and produce about a $1.6 trillion budget hole for this year. The plan now goes to Congress, where it’s likely to encounter stiff opposition from Republicans who have said they want deeper cuts and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who will fight for programs and tax breaks benefiting their districts… – The Detroit News, 2-15-11
  • Editorial: The Obama Budget: On paper, President Obama’s new $3.7 trillion budget is encouraging. It makes a number of tough choices to cut the deficit by a projected $1.1 trillion over 10 years, which is enough to prevent an uncontrolled explosion of debt in the next decade and, as a result, reduce the risk of a fiscal crisis.
    The questions are whether its tough choices are also wise choices and whether it stands a chance in a Congress in which Republicans, who now dominate the House, are obsessed with making indiscriminate short-term cuts in programs they never liked anyway. The Republican cuts would eviscerate vital government functions while not having any lasting impact on the deficit.
    What Mr. Obama’s budget is most definitely not is a blueprint for dealing with the real long-term problems that feed the budget deficit: rising health care costs, an aging population and a refusal by lawmakers to face the inescapable need to raise taxes at some point. Rather, it defers those critical issues, in hopes, we assume, that both the economy and the political environment will improve in the future…. – NYT, 2-15-11
  • President Obama’s budget kicks the hard choices further down the road: THE PRESIDENT PUNTED. Having been given the chance, the cover and the push by the fiscal commission he created to take bold steps to raise revenue and curb entitlement spending, President Obama, in his fiscal 2012 budget proposal, chose instead to duck. To duck, and to mask some of the ducking with the sort of budgetary gimmicks he once derided. “The fiscal realities we face require hard choices,” the president said in his budget message. “A decade of deficits, compounded by the effects of the recession and the steps we had to take to break it, as well as the chronic failure to confront difficult decisions, has put us on an unsustainable course.” His budget would keep the country on that course…. – WaPo, 2-15-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • As Republicans See a Mandate on Budget Cuts, Others See Risk: In Congress and in statehouses, Republican lawmakers and governors are claiming a broad mandate from last year’s elections as they embark on an aggressive campaign of cutting government spending taking on public unions. Their agenda echoes in its ambition what President Obama and Democrats tried after winning office in their own electoral wave in 2008…. – NYT, 2-21-11
  • Schumer: In recess, Senate working on budget issue: A leading Democrat says Senate officials are working behind the scenes on a budget proposal to keep the government running. Even with the budget crisis looming, both houses of Congress are in recess this week. But Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York says that lawmakers and aides are poring over the massive budget document passed by the House in the wee hours of Saturday morning. It proposes cutting $61 billion from hundreds of federal programs…. – AP, 2-20-11
  • Memories of 1995 haunt GOP as shutdown talk grows: Few memories haunt Republicans more deeply than the 1995-96 partial shutdown of the federal government, which helped President Bill Clinton reverse his falling fortunes and recast House Republicans as stubborn partisans, not savvy insurgents.
    Now, as Congress careens toward a budget impasse, government insiders wonder if another shutdown is imminent — and whether Republicans again would suffer the most blame. Leaders of both parties say they are determined to avoid a shutdown. But they have not yielded on the amount of spending cuts they will demand or accept. Meanwhile, shutdown talk is rippling through Washington and beyond…. – AP, 2-20-11
  • The Fix: Sen. Jeff Bingaman to retire: New Mexico Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman is expected to announce his retirement today, according to a source close to the decision, a move that further complicates his party’s efforts to hold their Senate majority in 2012…. – WaPo, 2-18-11
  • NM’s Bingaman becomes 3rd Dem senator to retire: As U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman shook hands of those congratulating him on his years of service, he turned to the crowd and said: “Sure seems like a wake in here, doesn’t it?” The 67-year-old Democrat announced Friday that he would retire after the end of his current term, which ends in two years. The decision was the latest in a string of departures to hit congressional Democrats as they head to the 2012 elections…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • House passes sweeping cuts to domestic programs: Jolted to action by deficit-conscious newcomers, the Republican-controlled House passed sweeping legislation early Saturday to cut $61 billion from hundreds of federal programs and shelter coal companies, oil refiners and farmers from new government regulations. The 235-189 vote to send the bill to the Senate was largely along party lines and defied a veto threat from President Barack Obama. It marked the most striking victory to date for the 87-member class of freshmen Republicans elected last fall on a promise to attack the deficit and reduce the reach of government. Three Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • GOP bill pairs budget cuts, regulatory rollbacks: The GOP-controlled House is using a catchall spending bill not just to cut President Barack Obama’s budget but to assault his health care overhaul, global warming policy and efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • House effort to restrict labor wage law fails: The House early Saturday turned back an effort to suspend a Depression-era law that requires federal contractors to pay locally prevailing wage rates. The vote came amid heightened clashes between the two parties over labor rights.
    Lawmakers voted 233-189 against barring spending on Davis-Bacon wage requirements on federal work projects for the remainder of this budget year. The measure was offered by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, as an amendment to a massive spending bill to keep the government running through Sept. 30…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • GOP newcomers test mandate to shrink government: Asked how long the House would need to finish legislation cutting $61 billion in government spending, the most powerful Republican in the land responded wryly. “I don’t know, I’m only the speaker.” It was a candid acknowledgement from Ohio Rep. John Boehner that the 87 Republican first-term lawmakers who swept the party into power in the House are moving on a path — and at a pace — of their own choosing…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • Freshmen spur GOP-run House on big spending cuts: Jolted to action by deficit-conscious newcomers, the Republican-controlled House agreed early Saturday to cut $61 billion from hundreds of federal programs and shelter coal companies, oil refiners and farmers from new government regulations.
    By a 235-189 vote, largely along party lines, the House sent the bill to the Senate, where it faces longer odds, and defied a veto threat from President Barack Obama. Passage of the legislation was the most striking victory to date for the 87 freshman Republicans elected last fall on a promise to attack the deficit and reduce the reach of government. Three Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • House votes to block EPA’s global warming power: The Republican-controlled House has voted to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases that scientists say cause global warming. The 249-177 vote added the regulation ban to a sweeping spending bill that would fund the government through Sept. 30. The restriction is opposed by the Obama administration, which is using its regulatory powers to curb greenhouse gases after global warming legislation collapsed last year. The administration also says the ban would cost thousands of construction jobs…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • US House poised to pass Republican spending cuts: The Republican-controlled US House of Representatives on Thursday was poised to approve deep spending cuts for this year, setting the stage for a battle with the Democratic-run Senate…. – Reuters, 2-18-11
  • House votes to curb regulators, cut spending: The Republican-controlled House voted to shield greenhouse-gas polluters and privately owned colleges from federal regulators on Friday, strengthening the pro-business emphasis of legislation that also would chop $61 billion from government spending. But as a final vote neared on the sweeping measure, newly elected conservatives suffered a rare setback when a split among rank-and-file Republicans sank a move to cut an additional $22 billion.
    “The American people have spoken. They demand that Washington stop its out-of-control spending now, not some time in the future,” declared Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., one of the 87 newly elected Republicans who have moved aggressively to attack federal deficits and reduce government’s reach. In a victory for social conservatives, the House voted 240-185 to block federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., who proposed the move, said, “It is morally wrong to take the taxpayer dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use them to fund organizations that provide and promote abortion.”… – AP, 2-18-11
  • Deficit Plan Details Emerge: A bipartisan group of senators is considering legislation that would trigger new taxes and budget cuts if Congress fails to meet a set of mandatory spending targets and other fiscal goals aimed at reducing federal deficits…. – WSJ, 2-17-11
  • House axes funds for jet engine to be built in Lynn: The House rejected funding for a second engine for the Pentagon’s new jet fighter yesterday, dealing a major blow to a program that had promised to create more than 400 jobs at a General Electric plant in Lynn…. – Boston Globe, 2-17-11
  • Brown describes beatings, sexual abuse in childhood: Senator Scott Brown, describing a childhood of family violence and strife, reveals in his new autobiography that he was sexually assaulted as a 10-year-old by a summer camp counselor on Cape Cod…. – Boston Globe, 2-17-11
  • Senate to vote on patent reform after breakReuters, 2-16-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • PAUL KRUGMAN: Wisconsin Power Play: Last week, in the face of protest demonstrations against Wisconsin’s new union-busting governor, Scott Walker — demonstrations that continued through the weekend, with huge crowds on Saturday — Representative Paul Ryan made an unintentionally apt comparison: “It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison.”
    It wasn’t the smartest thing for Mr. Ryan to say, since he probably didn’t mean to compare Mr. Walker, a fellow Republican, to Hosni Mubarak. Or maybe he did — after all, quite a few prominent conservatives, including Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum, denounced the uprising in Egypt and insist that President Obama should have helped the Mubarak regime suppress it…. – NYT, 2-20-11
  • Wis. governor predicts Democrats will return to debate union rights: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose bid to reduce public employees’ collective-bargaining power has triggered public protests, said Sunday that he expects Democrats who oppose his plan to return to the state and debate…. – WaPO, 2-20-11
  • Bachmann defends Wisconsin moves on collective bargaining: US Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) at the 38th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meeting at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, February 10, 2011. Tea Party activist and Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann on Saturday defended moves by fellow Republicans in Wisconsin to reduce state union bargaining power…. – Reuters, 2-19-11
  • Thousands surround Capitol in Wisconsin: A state Capitol thrown into chaos swelled for a fifth day Saturday with thousands of protesters, as supporters of Republican efforts to scrap the union rights of state workers added their voices to the debate…. – NewsOK.com, 2-19-11
  • Protests Continue In Wisconsin As Budget Fight Rages: Protests continued Friday at the Wisconsin state Capitol building, as several missing Democratic state senators hold up action on a plan to reduce union bargaining rights of government employees…. – NPR, 2-18-11
  • Wisconsin in near-chaos over anti-union bill: Protestors swarm Wisconsin’s Capitol and Democratic lawmakers flee the state to stall the new Republican governor’s anti-union bill…. – LAT, 2-18-11
  • Wisconsin Public Workers Protest Governor’s ProposalWSJ, 2-17-11
  • Gov. Brown freezes statewide hiring: Before the announcement, he quietly drops a suit to lower California state workers’ checks to the federal minimum wage during a budget impasse…. – LAT, 2-15-11
  • Flake 1st candidate to run for Kyl’s seat: U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake wasted no time Monday in becoming the first official candidate for the U.S. Senate seat that will open in 2012, moving fast to get a jump-start on campaign fundraising and to discourage potential Republican rivals from entering the GOP race.
    Flake, 49, the libertarian-leaning senior Republican member of Arizona’s U.S. House delegation, launched his campaign four days after three-term U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said he would not seek re-election next year.
    The speed of Flake’s entry into the 2012 competition could crowd out some of the other Republicans whose names have been floated, although Flake said he looks forward to “a spirited campaign.”… – The Arizona Republic, 2-14-11

CHICAGO MAYORAL CAMPAIGN

  • Emanuel beats rivals to become next Chicago mayor: Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor of Chicago on Tuesday, easily overwhelming five rivals to take the helm of the nation’s third-largest city as it prepares to chart a new course without the retiring Richard M. Daley. Emanuel trounced all opponents with 55 percent of the vote — a margin that allowed him to avoid an April runoff. He needed more than 50 percent to win outright.
    It was the city’s first mayoral race in more than 60 years without an incumbent on the ballot and the first in more than two decades without Daley among the candidates. Daley and his father have led Chicago for more than 43 out of the last 56 years.
    Emanuel called the victory “humbling” and said the outgoing mayor had “earned a special place in our hearts and our history.” But he added: “We have not won anything until a kid can go to school thinking of their studies and not their safety. Until the parent of that child is thinking about their work and not where they are going to find work, we have not won anything.”… – AP, 2-22-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • GOP 2012: Do Early Polls Matter?: A look at when potential GOP candidates may announce their candidacy… – Neon Tommy, 2-17-11
  • The idea of President Palin hits a granite wallWaPo, 2-17-11
  • Obama wants to know Kaine’s intentions on Senate race: President Barack Obama told a television interviewer Wednesday that he wants to hear former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s intentions regarding a possible run for Jim Webb’s US Senate seat…. – Richmond Times Dispatch, 2-16-11
  • Twelve for ’12: A Dozen Republicans Who Could Be the Next President: With the GOP’s presidential primary fight fast approaching, TIME takes a look at the prospective contenders to take on Barack Obama…
    Candidates of the Conservatives: Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, John Thune, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum, Jim DeMint… – Time
  • Romney reaches out to business, but isn’t ready to show hand: Mitt Romney sought yesterday to distinguish himself from President Obama, his potential 2012 election opponent, by casting himself as a friend to the nation’s business community…. – Boston Globe, 2-14-11
  • Romney tops Obama in NH poll: In a WMUR Granite State Poll released today, Mitt Romney garnered 49 percent of the vote to 41 percent for the president, who took the state in his 2008 win over Republican John McCain…. – Boston Globe, 2-14-11

QUOTES

The President records the Weekly Address
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 2/18/11
  • Weekly Address: To Win the Future, America Must Win the Global Competition in Education: Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery February 19, 2011 Hillsboro, Oregon: I’m speaking to you from just outside Portland, Oregon where I’m visiting Intel, a company that helped pioneer the digital age. I just came from a tour of an assembly line where highly-skilled technicians are building microprocessors that run everything from desktop computers to smartphones.
    But these workers aren’t just manufacturing high-tech computer chips. They’re showing us how America will win the future….
    If we want to win the global competition for new jobs and industries, we’ve got to win the global competition to educate our people. We’ve got to have the best trained, best skilled workforce in the world. That’s how we’ll ensure that the next Intel, the next Google, or the next Microsoft is created in America, and hires American workers.
    This is why, over the past two years, my administration has made education a top priority. We’ve launched a competition called “Race to the Top” – a reform that is lifting academic standards and getting results; not because Washington dictated the answers, but because states and local schools pursued innovative solutions. We’re also making college more affordable for millions of students, and revitalizing our community colleges, so that folks can get the training they need for the careers they want. And as part of this effort, we’ve launched a nationwide initiative to connect graduates that need jobs with businesses that need their skills.
    Intel understands how important these partnerships can be – recognizing that their company’s success depends on a pipeline of skilled people ready to fill high-wage, high-tech jobs. Intel often pays for workers to continue their education at nearby Portland State University. As a result, one out of every fifteen of Intel’s Oregon employees has a degree from Portland State.
    In fact, Intel’s commitment to education begins at an even younger age. The company is providing training to help 100,000 math and science teachers improve their skills in the classroom. And today, I’m also meeting a few students from Oregon who impressed the judges in the high school science and engineering competitions that Intel sponsors across America….
    So these have been a tough few years for our country. And in tough times, it’s natural to question what the future holds. But when you meet young people like Laurie and Yushi, it’s hard not to be inspired. And it’s impossible not to be confident about America.
    We are poised to lead in this new century – and not just because of the good work that large companies like Intel are doing. All across America, there are innovators and entrepreneurs who are trying to start the next Intel, or just get a small business of their own off the ground. I’ll be meeting with some of these men and women next week in Cleveland, to get ideas about what we can do to help their companies grow and create jobs.
    The truth is, we have everything we need to compete: bold entrepreneurs, bright new ideas, and world-class colleges and universities. And, most of all, we have young people just brimming with promise and ready to help us succeed. All we have to do is tap that potential.
    That’s the lesson on display at Intel. And that’s how America will win the future. – WH, 2-19-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • The President Unveils a Budget to Win the Future for Our Kids: And I just came to Parkville on a day where we are unveiling our budget, and I’m doing so for a reason. But before I do that I just want to thank Principal Buddy Parker, who is showing us around, as well as Susan Yoder, the eighth grade science teacher who we just visited with in her classroom.
    Over the last few weeks I’ve traveled the country, talking about what we need to do to win the future; talked about the need to invest in innovation, so that the next big idea is discovered here in the United States of America. I’ve talked about the need to invest in high-speed rail and high-speed Internet, so that companies can move goods and information faster than ever. And this week, I’ll be talking about the need to invest in education -– in places like Parkville -– so that every American is equipped to compete with any worker, anywhere in the world.
    These investments are an essential part of the budget my administration is sending to Congress. Because I’m convinced that if we out-build and out-innovate and out-educate, as well as out-hustle the rest of the world, the jobs and industries of our time will take root here in the United States. Our people will prosper and our country will succeed.
    But I’m also convinced that the only way we can make these investments in our future is if our government starts living within its means, if we start taking responsibility for our deficits. That’s why, when I was sworn in as President, I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term. The budget I’m proposing today meets that pledge -– and puts us on a path to pay for what we spend by the middle of the decade. We do this in part by eliminating waste and cutting whatever spending we can do without.
    As I start — as a start, I’ve called for a freeze on annual domestic spending over the next five years. This freeze would cut the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, bringing this kind of spending — domestic discretionary spending — to its lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President. Let me repeat that. Because of our budget, this share of spending will be at its lowest level since Dwight Eisenhower was President. That level of spending is lower than it was under the last three administrations, and it will be lower than it was under Ronald Reagan.
    Now, some of the savings will come through less waste and more efficiency. To take just one example, by getting rid of 14,000 office buildings, lots and government-owned properties we no longer need, we can save taxpayers billions of dollars. And when it comes to programs we do need, we’re making them work better by demanding accountability. Instead of spending first, and asking questions later, we’re rewarding folks inside and outside government who deliver results. And to make sure that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects, I’ve pledged to veto any bill that contains earmarks.
    Still, even as we cut waste and inefficiency, this budget freeze will require some tough choices. It will mean cutting things that I care deeply about — for example, community action programs in low-income neighborhoods and towns, and community development block grants that so many of our cities and states rely on. But if we’re going to walk the walk when it comes to fiscal discipline, these kinds of cuts will be necessary…. – WH, 2-14-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Jack Lew: The 2012 Budget: Today, the President sent to Congress his budget for the 2012 fiscal year. This document is built around the simple idea that we have to live within our means so we can invest in the future. Only by making tough choices to both cut spending and deficits and invest in what we need to win the future can we out-educate, out-build, and out-innovate the rest of the world.
    This is the seventh Budget that I have worked on at OMB, and it may be the most difficult. It includes more than $1 trillion in deficit reduction – two-thirds from spending cuts — and puts the nation on a path toward fiscal sustainability so that by the middle of the decade, the government will no longer be adding to our national debt as a share of the economy and will be paying for what it spends – and will be able to sustain that for many years afterwards.
    The President has called this budget a down payment because we will still have work to do to pay down the debt and address our long-term challenges. But it is a necessary and critical step for we cannot start to move toward balance and to cutting into the size of our debt until we first stop adding to it – and that is what this Budget does…. – WH, 2-14-11
  • Barack Obama: “The fiscal realities we face require hard choices. A decade of deficits, compounded by the effects of the recession and the steps we had to take to break it, as well as the chronic failure to confront difficult decisions, has put us on an unsustainable course.”
  • Barack Obama: “As we move to rein in our deficits, we must do so in a way that does not cut back on those investments that have the biggest impact on our economic growth, because the best antidote to a growing deficit is a growing economy. So even as we pursue cuts and savings in the months ahead, we must fund those investments that will help America win the race for the jobs and industries of the future – investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure.”
  • Eric Cantor: This week, the House will consider H.R. 1 – historic legislation that will reduce spending by at least $100 billion over the next seven months. This is the largest spending cut in modern history. These are not easy cuts, but we are finally doing what every American has to do both at home and at work – begin a path towards living within our means.
  • John Boehner: President Obama’s latest budget will destroy jobs by spending too much, borrowing too much, & taxing too much. The American people have made it clear they want Washington’s job-crushing spending binge to end. To help our economy get back to creating jobs, we need to liberate it from the shackles of Big Government and out-of-control spending. H.R. 1, on the House floor this week, will help do this.
  • Mitch McConnell: Senator McConnell comments on the President’s Budget: After two years of failed Stimulus programs and Democrats in Washington competing to outspend each other, we just can’t afford to do all the things the administration wants to do. The President has said he wants us to ‘Win the Future.’ But this budget abdicates the future. It simply spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much.
  • Sarah Palin: The Truth Behind the White House’s Budget Spin: Today the White House finally produced its proposal for the 2012 budget. Beware of the left’s attempt to sell this as “getting tough on the deficit,” because as an analysis from Americans for Tax Reform shows, the White House’s plans are more about raising taxes and growing more government than reducing budget shortfalls.
    The fine print reveals a White House proposal to increase taxes by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade. If you want to know how minuscule their proposed $775 million-a-year budget “cuts” really are, please look at this chart. The proposed cuts are so insignificant – less than 1/10 of 1% of this year’s $1.65 trillion budget deficit – that they are essentially invisible on the pie chart. That speaks volumes about today’s budget.
    UPDATE: As J.D. Foster of the Heritage Foundation points out: “…the President proposes a budget that keeps the federal government on a thoroughly irresponsible and unsustainable course.” Please read the Heritage Foundation article and understand the $775 million in proposed cuts noted above are what the White House’s budget director Jacob Lew identified as reflecting what they perceive as some “tough calls.” Yet, as noted, they are a drop in the bucket; and the White House’s total proposed cuts for this year are still not at all enough to make us solvent.

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

Political Highlights February 14, 2011: Budget Battles: Obama Unveils Valentine’s Day 2012 Budget

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

The President Discusses the Situation in Egypt

 

White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 2/11/11

 

STATS & POLLS

  • New poll shows Obama ahead of four major potential GOP candidates: A new poll commissioned by the NHJournal.com web site shows that President Barack Obama would defeat Republicans Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich in head-to-head matchups in New Hampshire if the election were held today. The poll also shows Granite Staters have a generally favorable view of Obama, are split on Romney and Huckabee, but have unfavorable views of Palin and Gingrich. The poll also shows Granite Staters oppose repeal of the state’s same-sex marriage law but support repeal of “Obamacare.”
    For details of the poll, click here. – Union Leader, 2-11-11
  • Most Americans say Obama is handling Egypt about right, Pew poll says: According to the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 57% say the Obama administration is handling the situation in Egypt about right. Republicans are less likely than Democrats or independents to give the president high marks…. – LAT, 2-8-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Obama’s Valentine’s Day budget: No roses or bon-bons for the GOP: President Obama’s FY 2012 budget lands on congressional desks Monday. Republicans are unimpressed, which sets the scene for a long fight over spending, taxing, and deficit reduction….
    It’s only by coincidence that President Obama’s federal budget for FY 2012 arrives on congressional desks on Valentine’s Day – a weighty tome far heavier than a box of chocolates.
    It’s more challenge than gift, though, especially now that the tea party-tinged House is run by Republicans. They’re already ripping through the contents, pronouncing them unacceptable.
    Obama’s budget, House Speaker John Boehner said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, “will continue to destroy jobs by spending too much, borrowing too much, and taxing too much.” – CS Monitor, 2-13-11
  • Budget Forecasts Bigger 2011 Deficit: President Barack Obama’s 2012 budget proposal projects this year’s deficit will reach $1.6 trillion, the largest on record, as December’s tax-cut deal begins to reduce federal revenues, a senior Democrat said Sunday. The new forecast is larger than the $1.48 trillion deficit projected last month by the Congressional Budget Office, Congress’s nonpartisan scorekeeper, and up from last year’s $1.3 trillion shortfall. The tax deal extended tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration while adding others, such as a temporary cut to the payroll tax. The prospect of a record deficit is likely to intensify the debate over federal spending and cost controls, which has gripped Washington in recent weeks. Conservative Republicans, many elected with tea-party support, are demanding deep budget cuts for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30…. – WSJ, 2-14-11
  • Republicans, White House Brace for Twin Budget Battles: Republicans looking to make deep spending cuts are girding for twin budget battles in Washington starting this week — a fiscal fight one lawmaker said will define the rest of President Obama’s term. The president plans to unveil his 2012 spending plan Monday, a $3.5 trillion-plus budget which, according to officials, will outline $1.1 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade. At the same time, Republicans are still trying to cut back this year’s spending. They want to bring a bill to the floor Tuesday that they claim would cut $100 billion out of the budget for the seven months remaining in the 2011 fiscal year.
    Top GOP lawmakers said Sunday they were hopeful the Obama administration would play along, and endorse a plan to sharply reduce short- and long-term spending. But they said the snippets of information out about the upcoming budget plan suggest the president’s not being ambitious enough in tackling what they describe as a fiscal “crisis.” They said the proposals on the table so far will not reverse the “unsustainable” rise in the national debt…. – Fox News, 2-13-11
  • Obama spending plan criticized for avoiding deficit commission’s major proposals: President Obama drew fire Sunday from congressional Republicans and independent budget experts for his reluctance to advance a plan that would tackle the nation’s biggest budget problems in the spending blueprint he will submit to Congress on Monday.
    In the first statement of his budget priorities since Republicans regained control of the House, Obama will avoid politically dangerous recommendations to wipe out cherished tax breaks and to restrain safety-net programs for the elderly, put forward last year by his own bipartisan fiscal commission as a strategy for reining in a soaring national debt.
    White House budget director Jacob J. Lew has told advocates of reform that the White House thinks any significant plan offered by the president would simply become a target for partisan attack. Key Democrats, including Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (N.D.), said they accept that rationale. Republicans argued that Obama was abdicating a responsibility to chart a path to solvency.
    “The country’s biggest challenge, domestically speaking, no doubt about it, is a debt crisis. . . . It looks like the debt is going to continue rising under this budget,” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Presidents are elected to lead, not to punt. And this president has been punting.”… – WaPo, 2-13-11
  • Obama’s ‘White Paper’ and Reforming Housing Finance: The Obama administration came out on Friday afternoon with its highly anticipated ‘white paper’ proposing solutions to revamping the nation’s broken mortgage system. The plan entitled “Reforming America’s Housing Finance Market” addresses the adverse incentives created by the pre-2008 mortgage institutions. As anticipated on Monday, the Wall Street Journal’s prediction that the Obama administration would advocate gradually eliminating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was confirmed in this report. However, now the question becomes: what is going to replace these lending institutions?… – Financial Advisory, 2-12-11
  • Republicans take a $100 billion whack at Obama budget: Bending to party conservatives – notably tea partiers – House GOP leaders propose steep cuts in many popular programs for the rest of the fiscal year. Will it lead to a government shut-down?
    In a move that has “tea party” written all over it, Republicans in the House of Representative propose to cut spending for the rest of this fiscal year by what they claim is “the largest single discretionary spending reduction in the history of Congress.”
    Will it pass? That’s unlikely, given Democratic control of the Senate and President Obama’s authority to veto what’s called a “continuing resolution.”
    Still, the action sets the scene for what could be a knock-down-drag-out political fight. And while the amount in question is just a fraction of overall government spending, it wallops many popular programs – including some highly favored by the Obama administration….. – CS Monitor, 2-12-11
  • The Donald and Sarah Palin hair: a CPAC carnival of conservatism: Day 1 of the Conservative Political Action Conference – or CPAC – included Donald Trump touting himself, Michele Bachmann slamming ‘Obamacare,’ and Rand Paul talking about massive budget cuts. In other words, a classic CPAC day…. – CS Monitor, 2-11-11
  • Obama bids farewell to faithful press flack: President Barack Obama bade farewell to his spokesman Robert Gibbs Friday, joking that after President Hosni Mubarak’s exit, his flack’s departure was not the most important exit of the day.
    Gibbs is stepping down from the high-pressure role as White House press secretary after more than 250 on-camera briefings, but is expected to play a big role in Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.
    “Gibbs’ departure is not the biggest one today,” Obama said in the White House briefing room.
    A sometimes acerbic former college goalkeeper from Alabama, has been with Obama since the beginning of his big- time political career, when he made an unlikely run for Senate in 2004 that turned into a presidency.
    “Robert started very early with me on this wild ride that I’ve been on,” Obama said. “When I won the Democratic primary in Illinois, I realized that I was going to have to start staffing up a little bit.” “I still didn’t have a lot of money, so all I could afford was Gibbs,” Obama joked, then turned serious, saying that Gibbs had been an “extraordinary” spokesman and a great friend.
    “You could not ask for somebody better in the foxhole with you during all the twists and turns of my candidacy, and then the incredible challenges that we faced over the last two years.”… – AFP, 2-11-11
  • Obama to Gibbs on last day: Here’s your tie back: White House press secretary Robert Gibbs got a gift from his boss Friday before giving his last press briefing. President Obama gave him his tie back.
    It was Gibbs’ light blue tie that Obama wore to give his famous keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston — the speech that ignited his career. On Friday, Obama presented it in a glass frame with photos and a note reading, in part: “I thought that I could finally give your tie back.”
    There were hugs from the president and congratulations from the press corps for Gibbs, who is resigning after more than two years in one of the toughest jobs in Washington; six years with Obama; and 17 in the political communications business…. – USA Today, 2-10-11
  • CPAC gets underway on wave of 2010 midterm momentum: The largest conservative gathering of the year began in Washington on Thursday with a parade of possible Republican presidential candidates determined to show that they have what it takes to defeat President Obama in 2012. More than 11,000 activists and politicians convened for the 38th annual Conservative Political Action Conference to take stock of the contenders and of the conservative movement after Republicans’ major gains in the 2010 midterm elections. The three-day meeting is part celebration of those victories and part an effort to remind the party’s new leaders to live up to the promises of last year’s campaign.
    The opening-day roster of potential presidential hopefuls included former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.). Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty will speak on Friday, and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour will appear on Saturday. Two prominent potential candidates, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, decided not to attend…. – WaPo, 2-10-11
  • Arizona sues US government over illegal immigrants: Arizona is counter-suing the US government, charging that Washington has failed to protect it from an invasion of illegal immigrants and related violent crime, its governor has said. The lawsuit, which seeks federal compensation, is in response to a federal lawsuit filed by President Barack Obama’s administration last year challenging Arizona’s enforcement of a new immigration law along the US-Mexican border.
    “Our citizens have lived with this dark cloud for too long .. It’s time for the federal government to do its job and secure the border,” said Governor Jan Brewer, announcing the lawsuit outside the federal courthouse in Phoenix…. – AFP, 2-10-11
  • High-speed wireless access for entire US will spark innovation, Obama says: President Obama aims for 98 percent of Americans to be able to go online using high-speed wireless access within five years….. – CS Monitor, 2-10-11
  • Swedish minister to Assange: turn yourself in: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should turn himself in for questioning in a Swedish rape investigation and has no reason to worry about not getting a fair trial, Sweden’s justice minister said Thursday. Beatrice Ask’s comments to The Associated Press reveal the irritation among senior Swedish officials at the arguments used by Assange’s lawyers in fighting his extradition in a British court, where closing arguments are set for Friday. The lawyers defending Assange, who is accused of sexual misconduct against two Swedish women, say a closed-door trial in Sweden would represent “a flagrant denial of justice.”… – AP, 2-10-11
  • U.S. terrorism threat at ‘heightened’ state: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the terrorism threat is the highest it has been since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
    Senior Homeland Security Department officials warned Wednesday that the threat to the United States is the highest it has been since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, citing the emergence of more foreign terrorist groups, a sharp increase in extremists in this country and the “lone wolf” operator whom authorities worry they may not be able to stop.
    “The terrorist threat facing our country has evolved significantly,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “In some ways, the threat facing us is at its most heightened state since those attacks.”… – LAT, 2-9-11
  • Why Michelle Obama is talking about her husband’s gray hair: As First Lady Michelle Obama publicizes her chosen issue, childhood obesity, she keeps dropping in humanizing details about her husband. Yes, he has gray hair. And boring fashion sense…. – CS Monitor, 2-9-11
  • Obama says businesses must hire, invest to grow economy: President Obama on Monday pledged to make government an ally of companies as they emerge from the bleak downturn of recent years, even as he challenged executives to do their part to help resurrect the economy.
    “We can, and we must, work together,” Obama told an audience at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, his most overt effort yet to mend ties with the nation’s business community. “Whatever differences we may have, I know that all of us share a deep, abiding belief in this country, a belief in our people, a belief in the principles that have made America’s economy the envy of the world.”
    His administration will “help lay the foundation for you to grow and innovate,” Obama said, vowing new investment in infrastructure and education and a focus on removing “barriers that make it harder for you to compete – from the tax code to the regulatory system.”… – WaPo, 2-7-11
  • Terrorism sponsor no more? Obama hints at taking Sudan from the list: US says it holds the door open for Sudan to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism if it meets its ‘obligations,’ including recognition of an independent South Sudan… – CS Monitor, 2-7-11
  • Health-care law supporters tap Democratic strategist to defend it: Supporters of the new health-care law have tapped a top Democratic strategist to help defend it against Republican criticism as they settle in for what many expect will be a protracted battle to shape the public’s view of the law through the 2012 elections and beyond.
    “There’s a growing recognition that with respect to this big health-care reform legislation there’s no such thing as a final victory or a final defeat,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of the consumer lobby Families USA, one of the groups behind the effort. “The Republicans are intent on making this a multi-year effort and those of us who strongly support the legislation must meet that challenge. . . . We feel we’ve got to come together in a much more systematic fashion.”
    The initiative is being headed by Paul Tewes, a political consultant who directed field operations in key states for President Obama’s campaign…. – WaPo, 2-7-11
  • Word and Lyric, Giffords Labors to Speak Again: Representative Gabrielle Giffords, an eloquent speaker before she was shot in the head last month, is relearning the skill — progressing from mouthing words and lip syncing songs to talking briefly by telephone to her brother-in- law in space. With a group of friends and family members acting as a backup chorus, Ms. Giffords has been mouthing the lyrics to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love, Baby.” And as a surprise for her husband, who is celebrating his birthday this month, a longtime friend who has been helping her through her rehabilitation videotaped her mouthing the words to “Happy Birthday to You.”… – NYT, 2-13-11
  • Rep. Giffords speaks for first time since shooting: Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords spoke for the first time since she was shot in the forehead, her spokesman said Wednesday, yet another significant milestone in her recovery from a traumatic brain injury. Giffords spoke first several days ago and is speaking “more and more,” spokesman C.J. Karamargin said Wednesday. He didn’t know what her first words were, but said at breakfast one morning she asked for toast.
    “She’s working very hard and it’s paying off,” he told The Associated Press. “We’re elated at this. We always knew Gabby is a fighter and that she’s not going to let this thing win. And you know, every day is proof of that.”… – AP, 2-9-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Freshmen Republicans claim victory on spending: First-term Republican conservatives claimed victory Friday after forcing their own leadership to expand a package of spending cuts headed for debate on the House floor next week. “$100 billion is $100 billion is $100 billion,” said Rep. Tim Scott R-S.C., referring to amount the revised package would cut from President Barack Obama’s budget request of a year ago.
    That was the amount contained in the Republican “Pledge to America” in last fall’s campaign, and when party leaders initially suggested a smaller package of cuts this week, many of the 87-member freshman class who have links to the tea party rebelled. In fact, even some Republicans acknowledged privately the legislation will cut about $61 billion from current spending on domestic spending…. – AP, 2-11-11
  • Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl won’t run for reelection: The minority whip, who has been a vocal critic of Obama’s agenda on immigration and healthcare, says it is time for him to do something else. Republicans are confident they can hold on to his seat…. – LAT, 2-10-11
  • House GOP fumbles on Patriot Act renewal: Conservative and ‘tea party’ Republicans join many Democrats to vote against renewal of the terrorist surveillance law, key provisions of which are to expire Feb. 28…. – LAT, 2-9-11
  • Patriot Act extension fails in the House by seven votes: More than two-dozen House Republicans bucked their party to oppose the measure that would extend three key provisions in the counterterrorism law.
    House Republicans suffered an embarrassing setback Tuesday when they fell seven votes short of extending provisions of the Patriot Act, a vote that served as the first small uprising of the party’s tea-party bloc.
    The bill to reauthorize key parts of the counter-terrorism surveillance law, which expire at the end of the month, required a super-majority to pass under special rules reserved for non-controversial measures.
    But it fell short of the required two-thirds after 26 Republicans bucked their leadership, eight of them freshman lawmakers elected in November’s midterm elections. With most Democrats opposing the extension, the final tally was 277 members in favor of extension, and 148 opposed…. –
  • New York Congressman Resigns Over E-Mails: Representative Christopher Lee of New York abruptly resigned on Wednesday night after a shirtless photo of himself, which he had e-mailed to a woman, was published on the Internet. Mr. Lee, a two-term Republican from western New York, notified the House speaker, John A. Boehner, of his decision in a letter on Wednesday afternoon, after the scandal had erupted, according to senior Congressional officials.
    Mr. Lee’s office released a statement in which he asked for forgiveness. “I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents,” he wrote. “I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness.”… – NYT, 2-9-11
  • NY Rep. Lee resigns after shirtless photo story: A married New York congressman accused of sending a shirtless photo of himself to a woman abruptly resigned his seat Wednesday, saying he was quitting because he regretted actions that had hurt his family and others. The gossip website Gawker reported Wednesday that Rep. Christopher Lee, a two-term Republican, had e-mailed the photo to a woman he met on the Craigslist classified-ads website.
    Lee said in an e-mailed statement that his resignation was effective immediately. The statement offered no confirmation or details of a Craigslist posting. “I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents,” Lee said in a statement posted on his congressional website. “I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness.”… – AP, 2-9-11
  • With Jim Webb retiring, 2012 Senate prospects get harder for Democrats Sen. Jim Webb (D) of Virginia won’t seek reelection next year. But Virginia’s Democratic bench isn’t very deep: The freshman senator surprised few people Wednesday with his announcement that he will not seek reelection next year. Senator Webb had not raised much money and was not an enthusiastic campaigner. But it’s usually easier for an incumbent to win than a newcomer – especially in a state where the Republicans rebounded in 2009 and 2010. Plus, Virginia Democrats don’t have a big bench. Their best hope – former Gov. Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee – has said in the past he’s not interested in running for the Senate. Now that the seat is open, there’s speculation President Obama may twist his arm. For Mr. Obama to win Virginia again in 2012, it will be less difficult if a strong Democrat is on the Senate line…. – CS Monitor, 2-9-11
  • Harman resignation reduces ranks of House Democratic centrists: Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) said Monday that she will resign from Congress, a announcement that came as a surprise to many in her party and served as the latest blow to the diminished ranks of the centrist wing of the Democratic caucus.
    Harman added in an e-mail sent to supporters that she was “in discussions” to take over the presidency of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The think tank is currently run by former representative Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), who like Harman believes in a muscular foreign policy that has at times run afoul of the liberal wing of the Democratic party. The center is expected to name a new president Tuesday.
    “This is an excruciating decision because the distinction of representing the smartest constituents on earth will never be surpassed – nor will my relationships with my exceptional staff and colleagues in Congress,” Harman wrote…. – WaPo, 2-7-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • Florida governor cuts spending and taxes in budget: Florida’s Tea Party-backed Governor Rick Scott proposed cutting more than $5 billion from state spending on Monday while also slashing taxes as he laid out his first budget proposal aimed at closing a deficit of nearly $4 billion.
    The Republican, a former healthcare executive, proposed saving nearly $4 billion over two years by reforming Medicaid, the health insurance program for poor people. He also saw savings of $2.8 billion over two years through an overhaul of Florida’s relatively healthy state pension system. Scott also proposed cutting taxes by more than $4 billion over two years. This would include a roll-back of corporate income taxes from 5 percent to 3.5 percent and reductions in property taxes…. – Reuters, 2-7-11

CHICAGO MAYORAL CAMPAIGN

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Boehner sees wide-open field for GOP in 2012: House Speaker John Boehner says he doesn’t see a front-runner so far in the large field of potential GOP candidates for the White House in 2012. He says he’s never seen a more wide-open race for his party’s nomination. He tells NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Republicans need to find someone who can paint a vision of the future that includes a smaller, less costly and more accountable government…. – AP, 2-13-11
  • Ron Paul wins CPAC straw poll again: Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) won the always-anticipated, rarely predictive presidential straw poll Saturday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, but he did so with less than a third of the vote – a result that suggested the energy of conservative activists at the gathering has not coalesced behind a single candidate. Winning for the second year in a row, Paul carried about 30 percent of the 3,742 votes cast. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney came in second with about 23 percent. Beyond that the vote splintered, with no potential candidate rising above the single digits…. – WaPo, 2-12-11
  • T-Paw gets religion in Iowa: Pawlenty is working hard to court evangelical Christian voters. A devout evangelical himself, Pawlenty made three stops around Iowa Monday in an effort to win over the influential voting bloc that helped put Ronald Reagan in the White House and later gave George W. Bush two terms.
    “It’s important that we acknowledge and begin with the notion that this was a country and is a country that is founded under God,” he declared on the final stop on the Family Leader lecture series at Dordt College in Sioux City. “This not the rhetoric of a politician passing through town. This is a foundational concept for our nation.”

    But Pawlenty, who was the first would-be 2012 candidate to address the social conservative advocacy group, is just one of several prospective Republican presidential candidates vying for evangelicals’ support…. – Politico, 2-7-11

QUOTES

The President records the Weekly Address

 

White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 2/11/11

 

  • White House White Board: OMB Director Jack Lew on the President’s Budget: In this White House White Board, Jack Lew, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, explains how the President’s Budget will help then government live within its means, while still investing in America’s future. Look for much more detail here at WhiteHouse.gov Monday afternoon…. – WH, 2-13-11
  • McConnell: Obama Agenda Is ‘Over’: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared Saturday that President Obama’s legislative agenda is “over,” but said GOP lawmakers are willing to work with the White House to do what they “think is right for America.” In a speech Saturday night to a GOP crowd in his hometown, the Kentucky Republican derided Obama for performing “Clintonian back flips” to portray himself as a moderate, but said it’s yet to be seen whether the new tone is “rhetoric or reality.”…
    “And to the extent that the president wants to do what we think is right for America, we won’t say ‘no’ simply because there’s an election coming along,” said McConnell….
    Still, McConnell drew cheers from the partisan crowd when he declared: “The legislative agenda of Barack Obama is over.”
    McConnell also laid out the strategy of Senate Republicans, saying, “Whatever the House can get out of the House with a majority vote is the goal of the Senate.”
    “We’ll see how many of them come over and join us and begin to tackle our annual deficit,” he said…. – Fox News, 2-12-11
  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: “It’s Time Washington Acted as Responsibly as Our Families Do” Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery, February 12, 2011, Washington, DC: A few months ago, I received a letter from a woman named Brenda Breece. I wanted to share her story because it speaks to what a lot of families are going through – and it offers a good example of the kind of responsibility that’s needed in Washington right now….
    Families across this country understand what it takes to manage a budget. They understand what it takes to make ends meet without forgoing important investments like education. Well, it’s time Washington acted as responsibly as our families do. And on Monday, I’m proposing a new budget that will help us live within our means while investing in our future.
    My budget freezes annual domestic spending for the next five years – even on programs I care deeply about – which will reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade. This freeze will bring this type of spending to its lowest level as a share of the economy since Dwight Eisenhower was president. We’ve stripped down the budget by getting rid of waste. For example, we’re getting rid of thousands of government-owned buildings that sit empty because they aren’t needed. I’ve also proposed freezing salaries for hardworking government employees, because everyone has to do their part. And I’m going to make sure politics doesn’t add to our deficit, by vetoing any bill that contains earmarks.
    And yet, just as the Breece family is making difficult sacrifices while still investing in the future – by helping their daughter pay her tuition – my budget does the same. I’m proposing that we invest in what will do the most to grow the economy in the years to come. This means job-creating investments in roads, high-speed speed trains, and broadband. This means cutting-edge research that holds the promise of creating countless jobs and whole new industries, like clean energy and biotechnology. And it means improving our schools and making college more affordable – to give every young person the chance to fulfill his or her potential, and receive the job training they need to succeed. Because it would be a mistake to balance the budget by sacrificing our children’s education.
    So, after a decade of rising deficits, this budget asks Washington to live within its means, while at the same time investing in our future. It cuts what we can’t afford to pay for what we cannot do without. That’s what families do in hard times. And that’s what our country has to do too. WH, 2-12-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Remarks by the President on Egypt: THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. There are very few moments in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place. This is one of those moments. This is one of those times. The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same.
    By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people’s hunger for change. But this is not the end of Egypt’s transition. It’s a beginning. I’m sure there will be difficult days ahead, and many questions remain unanswered. But I am confident that the people of Egypt can find the answers, and do so peacefully, constructively, and in the spirit of unity that has defined these last few weeks. For Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.
    The military has served patriotically and responsibly as a caretaker to the state, and will now have to ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people. That means protecting the rights of Egypt’s citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free. Above all, this transition must bring all of Egypt’s voices to the table. For the spirit of peaceful protest and perseverance that the Egyptian people have shown can serve as a powerful wind at the back of this change.
    The United States will continue to be a friend and partner to Egypt. We stand ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary — and asked for — to pursue a credible transition to a democracy. I’m also confident that the same ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that the young people of Egypt have shown in recent days can be harnessed to create new opportunity — jobs and businesses that allow the extraordinary potential of this generation to take flight. And I know that a democratic Egypt can advance its role of responsible leadership not only in the region but around the world.
    Egypt has played a pivotal role in human history for over 6,000 years. But over the last few weeks, the wheel of history turned at a blinding pace as the Egyptian people demanded their universal rights.
    We saw mothers and fathers carrying their children on their shoulders to show them what true freedom might look like.
    We saw a young Egyptian say, “For the first time in my life, I really count. My voice is heard. Even though I’m only one person, this is the way real democracy works.”
    We saw protesters chant “Selmiyya, selmiyya” — “We are peaceful” — again and again.
    We saw a military that would not fire bullets at the people they were sworn to protect.
    And we saw doctors and nurses rushing into the streets to care for those who were wounded, volunteers checking protesters to ensure that they were unarmed.
    We saw people of faith praying together and chanting – “Muslims, Christians, We are one.” And though we know that the strains between faiths still divide too many in this world and no single event will close that chasm immediately, these scenes remind us that we need not be defined by our differences. We can be defined by the common humanity that we share.
    And above all, we saw a new generation emerge — a generation that uses their own creativity and talent and technology to call for a government that represented their hopes and not their fears; a government that is responsive to their boundless aspirations. One Egyptian put it simply: Most people have discovered in the last few days…that they are worth something, and this cannot be taken away from them anymore, ever.
    This is the power of human dignity, and it can never be denied. Egyptians have inspired us, and they’ve done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence. For in Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence — not terrorism, not mindless killing — but nonviolence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more.
    And while the sights and sounds that we heard were entirely Egyptian, we can’t help but hear the echoes of history — echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down the path of justice.
    As Martin Luther King said in celebrating the birth of a new nation in Ghana while trying to perfect his own, “There is something in the soul that cries out for freedom.” Those were the cries that came from Tahrir Square, and the entire world has taken note.
    Today belongs to the people of Egypt, and the American people are moved by these scenes in Cairo and across Egypt because of who we are as a people and the kind of world that we want our children to grow up in.
    The word Tahrir means liberation. It is a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom. And forevermore it will remind us of the Egyptian people — of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country, and in doing so changed the world. – WH, 2-11-11TranscriptMp4Mp3

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Gingrich: Obama is no Ronald Reagan: A recent Time magazine cover featuring an image of Ronald Reagan with his arm around President Obama has been the subject of much fodder at today’s Conservative Political Action Conference.
    “I knew Ronald Reagan,” former House speaker Newt Gingrich said. “… I hate to tell this to our friends at MSNBC: Barack Obama is no Ronald Reagan.” Reagan, the 40th president, is an icon in conservative GOP circles and addressed CPAC at the first conference in 1973…. – USA Today, 2-10-11
  • Ed Rollins: Can Obama be beaten in 2012?: And then of course we have the story of our president. Certainly he was never viewed as a serious threat until he won Iowa.
    One of the great things about American politics is that the early primaries and Iowa caucus are retail politics. Voters want to meet you, shake your hand and look you in the eye and hear what you’re all about. They take their politics very seriously. They have seen many presidential contenders — and they aren’t intimated by any of them.
    A year from now we will know the winner of the Iowa caucus, who will be a front-runner at least until the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries. If someone wins two out of those first three, he or she will be on their way to being the nominee. And before it’s over, we will know whether the Republicans will have a candidate who is up to the task of defeating Obama…. – CNN, 2-10-11

Leading up to President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address

2011 STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

The President gives the 2010 State of the Union Address

 

 

  • State of the Union – NYT
  • The State of the Union and You: On Tuesday, January 25, at 9 p.m. EST, President Obama will deliver the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol. We have been working on a number of ways citizens can get involved in the State of the Union and ask their questions of President Obama and senior Administration officials. You can find all the details on the brand new State of the Union page.
    Here’s the lineup of events next week. Be sure to tune in to watch the speech live at 9 p.m. on Tuesday and find a way get involved.
    Tuesday at 9 PM: Live Stream of the State of the Union Watch the live stream of the State of the Union Address on WhiteHouse.gov.
    Tuesday Immediately After the Speech: Open for Questions Immediately following the State of the Union Address, stay tuned for a live Open For Questions event where Senior White House officials will answer your questions about key issues addressed in the speech live from the White House…. – WH, 1-21-11
  • Obama’s speech will expose partisan divide on spending: President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech will emphasize “winning the future” for America by strengthening the nation’s ability to compete in a changing world, according to White House talking points provided Monday by a Democratic source. Tuesday night’s annual speech to Congress, a nationally televised event considered the president’s biggest address of the year, brings together the three branches of government for an assessment of where America stands and where it is heading.
    “The president will lay out a plan to win the future by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building the rest of the world,” said the White House talking points. “He will talk about the need to take responsibility for our deficits, by investing only in what makes America stronger and cutting what doesn’t, and reforming our government so that it’s leaner and smarter for the 21st century.”… – CNN, 1-24-11
  • State of the Union: It’s the economy, again: Standing before a nation clamoring for jobs, President Barack Obama will call for targeted spending to boost the economy but also for budget cutting in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, his first in a new era of divided political power.
    To a television audience in the tens of millions, Obama will home in on jobs, the issue of most importance to the public and to his hopes for a second term. Though war and other concerns bid for attention, the president has chosen to lean heavily on the economy, with far less emphasis on Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorism and foreign affairs.
    Specifically, Obama will focus on improving the education, innovation and infrastructure of the United States as the way to provide a sounder economic base. He will pair that with calls to reduce the government’s debt — now topping a staggering $14 trillion — and reforming government. Those five areas will frame the speech, with sprinklings of fresh proposals.
    Yet no matter how ambitious Obama’s rhetorical reach, his speech at the halfway point of his term will be viewed in the context of his new political reality…. – AP, 1-24-11
  • Obama to Press Centrist Agenda in His Address: President Obama will outline an agenda for “winning the future” in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, striking a theme of national unity and renewal as he stresses the need for government spending in key areas and an attack on the budget deficit.
    “My No. 1 focus,” he said, “is going to be making sure that we are competitive, and we are creating jobs not just now but well into the future.”
    “These are big challenges that are in front of us,” Mr. Obama also said in the video, sent to members of Organizing for America, his network of supporters from the 2008 campaign. “But we’re up to it, as long as we come together as a people — Republicans, Democrats, independents — as long as we focus on what binds us together as a people, as long as we’re willing to find common ground even as we’re having some very vigorous debates.”… –
    NYT, 1-23-11
  • Tensions rise between Supreme Court, politicians: The moment lasted about 20 seconds. But its political reverberations have endured for a year and exemplify today’s knotty confluence of law, politics and public perception.
    At last year’s State of the Union speech Jan. 27, with six Supreme Court justices in attendance, President Obama denounced a recent campaign-finance ruling, saying it reversed a century of precedent and warning that it would “open the floodgates” for corporate spending on elections. Justice Samuel Alito shook his head and mouthed “not true.” That tense moment has been viewed on youtube.com more than 650,000 times in the past year. It was singularly controversial but not the only headline-grabbing interaction between members of the political branches and the Supreme Court in the past twelve months.
    A series of events, most recently Justice Antonin Scalia’s acceptance of an invitation to speak to Tea Party members, has made clear that against the backdrop of an increasingly polarized Washington and the 24-hour media frenzy, interactions between justices and the two elected branches have become more politicized…. – USA Today, 1-24-11
  • State of Union Near, Republicans Draw Line on Spending: Congressional Republicans, seeking to recapture the debate over the country’s economic recovery in advance of President Obama’s State of the Union address, warned Sunday that they would oppose any new spending initiatives and press ahead with their plans for budget cuts in every realm of government, including the military…. – NYT, 1-23-11
  • State of the Union speech to focus on jobs: Obama: President Barack Obama said on Saturday he would use his annual State of the Union address to urge both parties to act to lift U.S. growth and create more jobs.
    “My number one focus is going to be making sure that we are competitive, that we are growing, and we are creating jobs not just now but well into the future,” he said in a video e-mailed to members of his Organizing for America grassroots movement.
    Obama’s speech on Tuesday to a joint session of the U.S. Congress will show how he plans to rise above the political gridlock that marked his first two years in the White House, shaping his 2012 re-election prospects…. – Reuters, 1-22-10
  • Obama touts U.S. innovation in State of the Union preview: In his weekly address, Obama hails American economic potential and efforts to ‘win the future.’ In their response, Republicans focus on the repeal of the healthcare overhaul law.
    President Obama hailed the economic potential of increased American exports and green technology Saturday, previewing themes expected to be at the heart of his second State of the Union address Tuesday night. In his weekly address, Obama referred to Wednesday’s state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao and his own trip to a General Electric plant in New York on Friday as examples of how innovation and opening new overseas markets to American products will help “win the future.”
    “Countries around the world are upping their game and giving their workers and companies every advantage possible. But that shouldn’t discourage us,” he said. “We just have to make sure we’re doing everything we can to unlock the productivity of American workers, unleash the ingenuity of American businesses, and harness the dynamism of America’s economy.”
    Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, a doctor, pressed the Democrats who still control the Senate to bring a repeal bill up for a vote in the chamber. “We are now one step closer to victory in the fight for a healthcare policy that puts Americans first — not Washington,” he said. “Our job won’t be done until we repeal and replace this bad law.”… – LAT, 1-22-10
  • A ‘state of the union’ fight ahead over US government spending: How furiously to cut government spending is likely to be a major point of departure between Obama, who gives the State of the Union address on Tuesday, and congressional Republicans…. – CS Monitor, 1-22-10
  • Obama’s economic agenda: Boost US competitiveness: Under pressure to energize the economy, President Barack Obama will put job creation and American competitiveness at the center of his State of the Union address, promoting spending on education and research while pledging to trim the nation’s soaring debt.
    Obama hopes this framework will woo Republicans as he searches for success in a divided Congress and will sway a wary private sector to hire and spend money it’s held back. The economy is on firmer footing than when he took office two years ago, and his emphasis on competitiveness signals a shift from policies geared toward short-term stabilization to ones with steady and long-term growth in mind.
    Obama will speak to a Congress shaken by the attempted assassination of one of their own. Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head two weeks ago during an event in her district in Tucson, Ariz.
    The president has appealed for more civility in politics, and in a nod to that ideal, some Democrats and Republicans will break with tradition and sit alongside each other in the House chamber Tuesday night during a joint session of Congress…. – AP, 1-22-10
  • In this year’s State of Union, seating could blur party lines: Flash-forward now to the Congress of today, the Era of I-Hate-Your-Guts-And-Want-To-Rip-Your-Lungs-Out-You- Unpatriotic-Jerk. Weary of a climate that has grown so toxic that Congress should earmark money for a political Hazmat team, some lawmakers have a solution. When President Barack Obama comes to Capitol Hill Tuesday night to deliver the State of Union speech to a joint session of Congress, Democrats and Republicans should sit together, not in opposing camps of red and blue. The opposing camps idea has been the tradition since 1913, when Woodrow Wilson became the first president since Thomas Jefferson to personally deliver the annual speech to Congress…. – Miami Herald, 1-21-11
  • Obama’s Tuesday speech to stress economy, civility: President Barack Obama, midway through his term and mindful of positioning himself for next year’s re-election campaign, will use the annual State of the Union address Tuesday night to recast himself to voters and regain the confidence of centrists and independents. Expect the economy to serve as the major focus of the speech, both short-term job creation and his plans for long- term stability, with a secondary theme being a call for civility and compromise.
    “The great majority of the speech will be on the steps that the president believes our country has to take to continue that economic recovery,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs…. – Miami Herald, 1-21-11
  • GOP taps Paul Ryan to give rebuttal to Obama’s speech: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a rising Republican star who’s stirred controversy with his approach to budget-cutting, will give the GOP response Tuesday to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. The choice is aimed at showcasing the commitment of Republicans, who earlier this month took control of the House of Representatives for the first time in four years, to deficit reduction.
    Previous Republican responses to Obama’s State of the Union addresses were given by governors, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Bob McDonnell of Virginia.
    Ryan, 39, a seventh-term Wisconsin Republican, is known for his “Roadmap for America’s Future,” a plan for reducing federal budget deficits that includes permitting younger workers the option of setting aside Social Security tax payments for “personal retirement accounts.”
    In addition, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., a favorite of the tea party movement, will deliver a separate reaction to Obama’s speech on behalf of the Tea Party Express, one of the movement’s largest groups. The broadcast, following Obama and Ryan, will be broadcast on live streaming video at http://www.TeaPartyExpress.org or at http://www.TeaPartyHD.com…. – Miami Herald, 1-21-11
  • Scenarios: Possible themes in Obama’s State of Union speech: President Barack Obama faces a new political reality when he gives his State of the Union address on Tuesday: greater Republican power in Congress that will hamper his ability to make sweeping policy proposals. So the president, a Democrat, will make an even greater attempt to highlight areas of common ground with the opposition party on areas that are priorities for both sides such as boosting the economy and reducing the deficit. Here are a few potential areas he may touch upon…. – Reuters, 1-21-11

112th Congress Sworn-in — John Boehner Elected Speaker of the House — Republican Control of the House Begins

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 112TH CONGRESS:


Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
John A. Boehner, the speaker of the House, after formally being elected on the opening day of the 112th Congress on Wednesday

STATS & POLLS

     

  • Boehner pledges an open ‘people’s House’, 112th Congress Commences — Minute by Minute Analysis: Speaker John Boehner today ushered in a new era for the House of Representatives, pledging his Republican Party will lead with humility and be “honest, accountable and responsive” to the American people.
    Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi transferred power and the speaker’s gavel to Boehner, who leads a House with 242 Republicans aiming to overturn some of President Obama’s domestic achievements, including the nation’s sweeping health care law.
    “This is the people’s House. This is their Congress. It’s about them, not us,” Boehner said. “What they want is a government that is honest, accountable and responsive to their needs — a government that respects individual liberty, honors our heritage, and bows before the public it serves.”
    Boehner gave a nod to the partisanship that has divided the House, noting “a great deal of scar tissue” has been built up. He urged lawmakers to “disagree without being disagreeable” and to keep their eyes on common goals…. – USA Today, 1-5-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • GOP takes charge: New Speaker Boehner leads House: Claiming power beneath the Capitol dome, resurgent Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives on Wednesday as the 112th Congress convened in an era of economic uncertainty. Dozens of tea party-backed lawmakers took office in both houses, eager to cut spending and reduce government’s reach.
    “The people voted to end business as usual, and today we begin carrying out their instructions,” said newly elected House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, replacing Democrat Nancy Pelosi and transformed instantly into the nation’s most powerful Republican in a new era of divided government…. – AP, 1-5-11
  • Boehner Takes Gavel in House With Pledge to Bring Change: The new speaker of the House, John Boehner, promised a new era of transparency in lawmaking on Wednesday, but he also pledged to aggressively push forward the conservative agenda that swept his party into power. A roll-call vote of the chamber’s 435 members ended the way the results of November’s election determined that it would: with more votes for Mr. Boehner than for the Democratic leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, making him speaker.
    In remarks after taking the gavel from Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Boehner described himself as humbled, and said that the changes he envisions would restore trust to “the people’s House.”
    “We will honor our Pledge to America, built through a process of listening to the people, and we will stand firm on our Constitutional principles that built our party, and built a great nation,” said Mr. Boehner, now second in line of succession to the presidency. “We will do these things, however, in a manner that restores and respects the time-honored right of the minority to an honest debate — a fair and open process.”… – NYT, 1-5-11
  • Boehner moved to tears as he moves to speakership: The chin started trembling partway down the center aisle as the applause rose to a roar. John Boehner, the emotional Ohioan about to become the House’s new speaker, took his time, shaking hands with colleagues and their children on his way to the rostrum. At its foot, the hankie came out.
    “It’s still just me,” he told the House after departing Speaker Nancy Pelosi, dry-eyed, handed Boehner his outsized “gavel of choice.”
    It is known to bug Boehner that he can’t keep it together at big moments, but apparently it runs in the family. At the moment Pelosi transferred power to her successor, at least six hankies had been deployed by Boehner’s proudly weeping family members watching from the gallery overhead…. – AP, 1-5-11
  • 112th Congress Officially Opens: The nation’s 112th Congress opened officially Wednesday, returning divided government to the nation’s capital as Republicans took over running the House of Representatives and increased their numbers in the Senate. At noon, with the words, “the House will come to order,” the clerk opened the chamber’s new session, which will soon elevate Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio to his new role as speaker.
    Officials said Mr. Boehner’s formal swearing-in would take place closer to 2:30 in the afternoon, followed by a short speech by Mr. Boehner.
    But already, the signs of change were everywhere at the Capitol. A new sign with gold-colored lettering appeared over the entrance to the new speaker’s suite of offices: “Speaker of the House John A. Boehner,” it said. A similar sign proclaiming former Speaker Nancy Pelosi the Democratic Leader went up outside her new offices…. – NYT, 1-5-11
  • Taking the House, GOP primes for fight with Obama: Ascending to speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner is ready to take the gavel from Democrat Nancy Pelosi, vowing to “give government back to the people” and bring an end to congressional gridlock.
    “The American people have humbled us. They have refreshed our memories as to just how temporary the privilege to serve is,” Boehner says in remarks prepared for his installation later Wednesday as the new speaker. “This is their Congress. It’s about them, not us.”
    Taking control of the House at last, Republicans are rushing straight into a political fight with President Barack Obama over health care and changes in Washington they say voters demanded in the midterm elections.
    “No longer can we kick the can down the road,” Boehner will tell the House. “The people voted to end business as usual, and today we begin carrying out their instructions.”… – AP, 1-5-11
  • Pelosi’s historic run ends; GOP takes control: Rep. Nancy Pelosi ended her historic four-year tenure as House Speaker Wednesday, reciting her career highlights and vowing to defend them before handing power to her Republican successor, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio.
    Boehner will lead a 242-194 Republican majority, including a giant 87-member class of newly elected Republicans there in part because of a voter backlash against Pelosi, the San Francisco Democrat, who became the minority leader…. – The San Francisco Chronicle, 1-5-11
  • Obama Urges Democrats to ‘Fight Back’ Against GOP Attack Plan: President Barack Obama and administration officials are pushing back against Republicans who formally took majority control of the House of Representatives on Wednesday pledging to roll back one of President Obama’s key legislative victories.
    As the 112th session of Congress convened on Capitol Hill, with Republicans holding a 242 to 193 majority, but with Democrats still in charge in the U.S Senate, President Obama’s spokesman and other administration officials talked about what they call the dangers of overturning key aspects of health care reform. Republicans are embarking on an initial agenda ahead of Mr. Obama’s State of the Union Address later this month to challenge the historic reforms approved when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress.
    In accepting the gavel as the new Speaker of the House, from Democrat Nancy Pelosi, Ohio Republican John Boehner, spoke about ending “business as usual” on Capitol Hill, which he said Americans voted for in the November mid-term elections. “No longer can we fall short,” said Boehner. “No longer can we kick the can down the road. The people voted to end business as usual and today we begin to carry out their instructions.”… – VOA, 1-5-11
  • Republicans Set to Wield New Power in Washington: Republicans will lay claim to a broad — if partial — governing mandate at exactly noon on Wednesday, ushering into Washington scores of new conservative lawmakers who promise to challenge President Obama’s vision for America’s economic future. The start of the 112th Congress will be marked in the nation’s capital city by grand ceremonies and symbolic gestures. The new owners of prime offices will get their keys. Online Twitter handles will be quietly changed. Powerful committee assignments will become official. And a flood of first-time lawmakers will raise their hands as they take the oath of office. In the House, Representative John Boehner of Ohio will accept the speaker’s gavel from Nancy Pelosi of California, a symbolic act that will transfer power inside “the People’s House” to Republicans and will bring an abrupt end to the tenure of the first woman to lead the institution…. – NYT, 1-5-11
  • As Boehner Ascends, His Power Comes With Caveats: Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio is set to complete a remarkable political revival Wednesday when he becomes the 61st speaker of the House, placing him squarely at the crossroads between the desires of conservative activists to reshape Washington and the reality of delivering in a divided capital.
    Driven from his party’s leadership in 1998 and sidelined for nearly a decade, Mr. Boehner, a 61-year-old Ohio native who revels in his big-family, Roman Catholic roots, now faces the challenge of harnessing the Tea Party zeal that propelled him to power without disheartening those who might be expecting too much.
    While he will preside over a substantial and energized Republican majority, Mr. Boehner must contend with a Democratic president with whom he has little personal history and a Democratic Senate leader who is disinclined to make Mr. Boehner’s life easier and who failed to consider hundreds of bills passed by the House even when his own party ran it…. – NYT, 1-4-11
  • Congress to Return With G.O.P. Vowing to Alter Rules: Here is how most people think laws get made in this town: A member of Congress introduces a bill, his colleagues express great love/outrage/urgency about the bill in front of C-Span, and members decide to pass or defeat it in a roll-call vote.
    In reality, a complex web of rules — which differ greatly from the House to the Senate — ordains how bills become laws, determining who will speak about them and for how long, what constraints will be placed on alternatives or amendments offered to the measures, and which issues will come up and in what form.
    In short, when it comes to Congress, rules are as important as in baseball, only more malleable.
    It is usual for the House to tweak these rules with each new session. But Representative John A. Boehner, who on Wednesday will be sworn in as the new speaker, has made serious alterations in the rules. Members will vote on Wednesday on changes that ostensibly increase the transparency of lawmaking, but also consolidate Republican power over the budget process…. – NYT, 1-4-11
  • Rep. Shuler Touts His 11 Votes for Speaker: Rep. Heath Shuler (D., N.C.) is boasting that he received 11 votes for House speaker today, a show of defiance aimed at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.). Mr. Shuler’s office issued a press release headed “Shuler Makes History” and noting that votes for speaker are typically straight party-line votes between the Democratic and Republican leaders. A total of 19 Democrats voted for someone other than Pelosi (including one who voted “present”), meaning about 10% of House Democrats voted against Ms. Pelosi. The final vote was 241 for Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) and 173 for Ms. Pelosi, in addition to the 19 dissidents…. – WSJ, 1-5-11
  • House GOP challenges Obama to join them: On the brink of power, House Republicans challenged President Barack Obama on Tuesday to join them in a drive to cut federal spending, ban earmarks for favored projects and overhaul the nation’s tax code. At the same time, incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., conceded the new GOP majority intends to bypass its own new rules when it votes next week to wipe out the health care law approved by Democrats in 2010. “We just need to repeal it,” Cantor said of the effort to fulfill one of the party’s main campaign promises from last fall. Republicans, their ranks expanded by tea party-backed freshmen, take control of the House when the 112th Congress convenes at noon on Wednesday. One of the first orders of business will be the election of Ohio Republican John Boehner as speaker, replacing Democrat Nancy Pelosi…. – AP, 1-4-11
  • Obama’s shave ice order: A sign of bipartisanship?: Does the president’s flexibility on shave ice flavors show an openness to compromise as the Republicans take control of the House?… – CS Monitor, 1-4-11
  • Both sides prepare to battle over repeal of health-care law: As Congress members prepare to fight anew over the federal law overhauling the health-care system, activists on both sides of the issue are gearing up for a sequel to last year’s raucous debate. Supporters of the law have begun planning protests, petitions and phone calls to block repeal. Its opponents are cheering efforts to dismantle the measure, which House GOP leaders have said they will put up for a vote on Jan. 12.
    The strategies that are emerging could set up a grass-roots battle that rivals the shouting town halls and Capitol Hill marches that made headlines before the law was passed…. – WaPo, 1-4-11
  • Democrats Hunting for Vulnerable Republicans to Shoot Down in 2012: Democrats are sharpening their swords ahead of the next congressional session, looking to target vulnerable Republicans who could either be picked off in 2012 or at least caricatured so that they become liabilities for their party. Basically, it’s payback time.
    After Republicans routed Democrats in November by ousting moderates in GOP-friendly territory and turning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi into political kryptonite for her caucus, the election losers are mapping a strategy to reverse the tide in two years. They want to halt in their tracks GOP ambitions to build an absolute majority on Capitol Hill over the course of two elections…. – Fox News, 1-3-11
  • Democrats Plan Push to Curtail Use of Filibusters: A band of Senate Democrats signaled on Monday that it would press forward when Congress convenes this week with a proposal to curtail filibusters and other methods of slowing the chamber’s work, but a bit of procedural sleight-of- hand could delay any floor fight over the contentious rules changes until later in January.
    Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, said that he intended to call for new limits on filibusters that would require senators to be on the floor if they seek to derail legislation. He and other Democrats, frustrated at Republicans’ ability to tie up the Senate, want to make it harder to erect other procedural obstacles as well.
    Citing the Constitution and prior Senate rulings, Mr. Udall has argued that senators have the ability to change the chamber’s rules by a majority vote on the first day of the new Congress, which for the 112th Congress begins at noon Wednesday.
    “I am intending on offering my constitutional option on the first day,” Mr. Udall said in a telephone interview as he prepared to return to Capitol Hill…. – NYT, 1-3-11
  • Obama aide: Don’t ‘play chicken’ with debt ceiling: Some Republican lawmakers said Sunday opposed raising the ceiling on the nation’s debt without tackling government spending, and President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser warned against “playing chicken” on the issue….
    Austan Goolsbee, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said that refusing to raise the debt ceiling would essentially push the country into defaulting on its financial obligations for the first time in its history.
    “The impact on the economy would be catastrophic,” Goolsbee told “This Week” on ABC. “That would be a worse financial economic crisis than anything we saw in 2008.” Goolsbee added: “I don’t see why anybody’s talking about playing chicken with the debt ceiling.”… – AP, 1-2-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Boehner Sets Austere Tone for Incoming GOP Majority: The austerity of tone being set by the incoming speaker on the eve of his swearing-in ceremony Wednesday is being matched by a frugality in spending. It was Friends of John Boehner, the congressman’s official campaign organization, that chartered the five buses that transported dozens of hometown supporters, including 10 of Boehner’s 11 siblings, from the Wetherington Golf and Country Club, in West Chester, Ohio, to the nation’s capital Tuesday.
    And among the first bills that will be introduced in the House under Boehner’s speakership will be a measure that cuts congressional spending by 5 percent. Analysts called the move largely symbolic, noting that it would hardly make a dent in the country’s $1 trillion deficit. In his office’s first press release of the new year, Boehner claimed Tuesday the measure, if signed into law by President Obama, will immediately save taxpayers $35 million.
    “To reverse Washington’s job-killing spending binge, sacrifices will be required throughout the federal government,” Boehner said in the statement, “and we are starting with ourselves.” In a hint of how the House GOP leadership may follow up Thursday’s vote, the incoming Majority Leader, Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., issued his own statement saying he hopes federal agencies will follow suit, and cut their own budgets. “If not,” Cantor added, “we’re happy to do it for them.”… – Fox News, 1-3-11
  • Who to watch in the new House of Representatives and Senate: The key players, on both sides of the aisle, who are likely to give Barack Obama a tough time when the new US Congress convenes in Washington this week
    The new Republican speaker of the House of Representatives set the tone for his party’s renewed control by asserting that its victory means “the American people want a smaller, more accountable government”. Boehner, who has drawn derision for his frequent crying outbursts, has promised that his priorities will be “cutting spending, repealing the job-killing healthcare law, and helping get our economy moving again”.
    With a large majority in the House, Boehner has the power to funnel a stream of legislation towards the Democratic- controlled Senate and the White House that could force the Democrats into the politically embarrassing position of blocking populist moves to cut budgets and curb the power of government. Guardian UK, 1-3-11
  • G.O.P. Vows to Cut Spending and Roll Back Health Care Bill: Congressional Republicans vowed Sunday to use their new majority in the House and their stronger position in the Senate to roll back the Obama administration’s health care overhaul and press for sharp, rapid cuts in spending.
    “As part of our pledge, we said that we would bring up a vote to repeal health care early,” Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday.” He added, “That will happen before the president’s State of the Union address,” expected in late January.
    A flat-out repeal of the health care law would face a steep hurdle in the Senate, where Democrats will cling to a slim majority, but Mr. Upton said that House action would not be merely symbolic.
    “If we pass this bill with a sizable vote, and I think that we will, it will put enormous pressure on the Senate to do perhaps the same thing,” he said. “But then, after that, we’re going to go after this bill piece by piece.”… – NYT, 1-2-11
  • G.O.P. Newcomers Set Out to Undo Obama Victories: Soon after the 112th Congress convenes Wednesday, Republicans in the House plan to make good on a campaign promise that helped vault many new members to victory: voting to repeal President Obama’s health care overhaul. The vote, which Republican leaders pledged would occur before the president’s State of the Union address later this month, is intended both to appeal to the Tea Party-influenced factions of the House Republican base and to emphasize the muscle of the new party in power. But it could also produce an unintended consequence: a chance for Democrats once again to try their case in support of the health care overhaul before the American public.
    Democrats, who in many cases looked on the law as a rabid beast best avoided in the fall elections, are reversing course, gearing up for a coordinated all-out effort to preserve and defend it. Under the law, they say, consumers are already receiving tangible benefits that Republicans would snatch away…. – NYT, 1-2-11
  • House GOP plans two-pronged assault on health law: The new Republican-controlled House plans to schedule a vote to repeal the sweeping health care overhaul before President Barack Obama delivers his annual State of the Union address late this month, incoming House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said Sunday.
    “We have 242 Republicans,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” He added, “There will be a significant number of Democrats, I think, that will join us. You will remember when that vote passed in the House last March, it only passed by seven votes.”
    Upton, whose committee will play a key role in the GOP’s effort to roll back the law, said that he believes the House may be near the two-thirds majority required to override a presidential veto.
    “If we pass this bill with a sizeable vote, and I think that we will, it will put enormous pressure on the Senate to do perhaps the same thing,” he said. “But then, after that, we’re going to go after this bill piece by piece.”… – Politico, 1-2-11

QUOTES

  • Boehner’s First Remarks as House Speaker: Following is a text of the speech by Representative John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, given after he was elected House Speaker on Wednesday, as released by Mr. Boehner’s office:
    “I am honored and humbled to represent a great, hard-working community in Congress. The people of Ohio’s Eighth Congressional District continue to afford me the privilege to serve, for which I am deeply grateful. “We gather here today at a time of great challenges. Nearly one in ten of our neighbors are looking for work. Health care costs are still rising for families and small businesses. Our spending has caught up with us, and our debt will soon eclipse the size of our entire economy. Hard work and tough decisions will be required of the 112th Congress. No longer can we fall short. No longer can we kick the can down the road. The people voted to end business as usual, and today we begin carrying out their instructions…. – NYT, 1-5-11
  • Cabinet members urge GOP not to repeal health care law: The letter — signed by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner — laid out the consequences of the law being repealed.
    “If the Affordable Care Act were repealed as some have proposed, the individuals we have heard from plus the millions of families, seniors, other individuals, and small businesses already helped would lose this support and these protections,” the letter said.
    “We urge you to consider all that this law has already done to improve the health and financial security of so many Americans and what it will mean to hundreds of millions of more in the next several years as you evaluate any proposal that would set the Nation back on a path to higher costs and skyrocketing premiums, less competition, and fewer consumer protections against industry abuses.”
    “We (want to) bring us closer to the day when all Americans can get the care they need to live healthy, productive, and full lives.” – CNN, 1-5-11
  • Freshman Rep. pledges to forgo federal health insurance: As House Republicans prepare to introduce a repeal of the health care reform bill, one new GOP congressman said he is standing by his pledge to forgo federal health insurance despite a potentially expensive personal impact. Rep.-elect Joe Walsh, R-Illinois, told CNN’s Jim Acosta that he and his wife will not accept the insurance offered to members of Congress because he made a pledge during the campaign last January.
    “My wife and I are going to struggle a little bit because of it. But I was sent to Washington to do what I said I was going to do,” Walsh said in an interview on American Morning. “I don’t want to burden the American taxpayer with my health care bill. The federal government is my employer. Right now, the health care system has a real bias against folks who need to shop out there in the individual market,” Walsh said…. – CNN, 1-4-11
  • Tim Kaine, DNC chair: Obama won’t ‘play mother may I?’ with GOP: “What we saw at the end of the 2010 in that lame duck session was dramatic accomplishments, the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell, the approval of the START Treaty, tax compromise going forward with additional stimulus, all those were done with some Republican votes,” said Kaine. “So if there are going to be members of the Republican party who are willing to reach out and work as the president reaches toward them, we’ll see some strong accomplishments. We’re also going to see this president not being afraid to be the chief executive of the American public asked him to be. He’s not going to play “mother may I?” with the Republicans. He’s going to govern, but if the Republicans are willing to work as they did at the end of that lame duck session, I think we will see productive efforts in a number of ways. There will be disagreements, surely, that’s part of the process, but there are many more areas where we can continue to agree and move forward.” – NECN, 1-2-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Troy: Internal rivals could be Barack Obama’s downfall: While much of the discussion since U.S. President Barack Obama’s “shellacking” in the 2010 congressional midterm elections has focused on the Republican surge, Obama also should worry about his base. In the last 50 years, the only incumbent presidents who have lost their re-election bids first faced primary challenges for renomination. In short, Obama better worry about his own party before dealing with the Tea Party.
    Although in the age of modern communications the power of any incumbent is considerable, the American president’s powers are particularly formidable. By being both the head of state and head of government, in effect the king and the prime minister, the president can tap all kinds of non-partisan patriotic emotions while monopolizing the airwaves and using political muscle. During the Christmas season, for example, as the president hosts thousands of influential Americans in the White House, as he lights the national Christmas tree and calls for national unity, he serves as the high priest of America’s civic religion, transcending mundane partisan concerns.
    So it is difficult — and has always been wrenching — to fire a president. In the 20th century, only five incumbents lost re-election bids, and in the last half century, it occurred only three times. Each time it required a major crisis and a serious insurgency, whereby someone with purer ideological credentials from the president’s own party first weakened the incumbent before the general election….
    History is instructive not predictive. Still, it is hard to see how Obama could lose if the economy is booming and his party is united. And it is hard to see Obama winning if the economy remains depressed, Democrats are deeply divided, and Republicans find a candidate who is popular, credible and effective. – Toronto Star, 1-4-11
  • Thomas J. Whalen Professor of Social Science, Boston University: Can we all agree that when a party achieves majority status, they are going to aggressively push their political agenda? The predominant Washington mantra has always been “to the victor goes the spoils,” not transparency and reform. Ironically this is one issue both Democrats and Republicans can privately agree on. Arena, 1-4-11
  • Tevi Troy Senior Fellow, the Hudson Institute; Former Deputy HHS secretary: President Obama has reportedly been studying Bill Clinton’s successful 1995 playbook in preparation for a budget showdown with the new Republican House majority. The president should beware: what worked for Clinton against Newt Gingrich in 1995 may turn out turn out very differently in 2011. Incoming Speaker John Boehner was part of the GOP leadership in 1995, and is therefore unlikely to repeat the mistakes of his predecessors.
    In addition, after the U.S. economic meltdown and the budgetary crises in Europe, the American public is more skeptical of spending and wary of government debt than Americans were in the mid-1990s.
    Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the House GOP has access to a conservative media apparatus that would have made their post-1994 counterparts extremely jealous, with new outlets that can tell the Republican side of the story in print, on the web, and on TV.
    Add up these three factors and the GOP is in far better shape to survive a budget showdown with a weakened President Obama than the Republicans were in the mid-1990s. – Arena, 1-4-11
  • Julian E. Zelizer Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton: The Republican leadership will do everything possible to avoid a government shutdown. Most importantly, the memories of 1995-1996 looms large and the GOP won’t want to repeat that mistake. The shutdown at that point undercut all the momentum of the party and gave Democrats an opening for a comeback. This time around, they will aim to avoid the shutdown, but place immense pressure for spending cuts. – Arena, 1-4-11
  • On eve of new Congress, GOP struggles with rift over social issues: While the tea party movement has focused on fiscal concerns, social issues remain key for other GOP lawmakers, who are unhappy that such issues seem to have less importance these days.
    “Social issues are quite damaging and create internal dissension within the Republican Party,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. “Many Republicans realize that in the last 20 years, those cultural issues are not winning issues for Republicans, especially gay rights.” He adds, “Their best hope is not to talk about it and focus on the economic and national-security issues where Republicans are more united and more in touch with where public opinion is.” CS Monitor, 1-4-11
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Senate should let majority rule: Suddenly no one is talking about Congress as the “broken branch” of government any more. Conservatives are complaining that the 111th Congress did too much, while liberals are boasting about all that was accomplished.
    Within the span of a month, the media discussion shifted from the chronic complaints about partisan gridlock to, lo and behold, claims that this was the most productive Congress since the mid-1960s. Everything seems just fine on Capitol Hill….
    Both parties should cede some of their power — Republicans the power they have and Democrats the power they would would want should they lose control of the Senate — to improve the legislative process for generations to come. That would be historic. – CNN, 1-3-11
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