Reference: Issues concerning past Obama Nominees
By David Nakamura and Ylan Q. Mui, Published: December 8
An agitated President Obama accused congressional Republicans on Thursday of not standing up for ordinary Americans after the Senate derailed his nominee to head a new federal consumer protection agency.
At a brief news conference, the president charged that his Republican adversaries were not acting “on the level” after they blocked, by filibuster, his appointment of former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“This makes no sense,” Obama declared. “Consumers across the country understand part of the reason we got into the financial mess we did is because regulators are not doing their jobs.”
Two days after signaling that he would make economic inequality a central pillar of his reelection effort, Obama seized the opportunity Thursday to restate his argument that Republicans were not acting in the interest of middle-class Americans.
By Jerry Markon, Published: December 8
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. clashed with congressional Republicans on Thursday, defending the Justice Department in the face of criticism of its “Fast and Furious” gun-trafficking sting and its refusal to turn over documents on the health-care law adopted last year.
Under exhaustive questioning from the House Judiciary Committee, Holder reiterated that his department would not provide Congress with more information about Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s health-care-related role when she was President Obama’s solicitor general. Republicans are seeking internal e-mails and other documents, arguing that Kagan might have to recuse herself from the court’s decision on the health-care law if she was involved in the legislation.
Attorney General Eric Holder says it’s inexcusable for the bureau to use a controversial tactic known as “gun-walking” in its effort to identify and prosecute major arms trafficking networks along the Southwest border. (Dec.
Holder also was grilled over the Phoenix-based Fast and Furious operation, in which federal agents targeting drug cartels allowed guns to flow illegally onto U.S. streets and into Mexico. The operation led to a storm of criticism from Republicans, many of whom have urged Holder to resign.
The attorney general, who has resisted calls to step down, said the controversial Fast and Furious tactic known as “gun walking,’’ was “wholly unacceptable” and “must never happen again.” But he also condemned his accusers, saying the congressional investigation of the gun sting has been political and calling for cooperation in fighting firearms trafficking along the southwest border.
“Each of us have a duty to act, and to rise above partisan divisions and politically motivated ‘gotcha’ games,’’ Holder said. “The American people deserve better.’’
Tags: Stacking the Deck
By Jon Kyl, Rob Portman, Pat Toomey, Jeb Hensarling, Fred Upton and Dave Camp, Published: November 25
We do not choose to add more to the blame game for failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction , but one Democratic talking point needs debunking: that the talks failed because of Republicans’ attachment to the Bush tax cuts.
The untold story of the negotiations is the significance of the Republican offer of fundamental tax reform. It is critical to understand the interplay between the proposal (dubbed the “Toomey plan”) and existing tax law.
First, a bit of history. The 2001 and 2003 changes to the tax code reduced marginal rates for all taxpayers as well as the rates for capital gains, dividends and the death tax. For technical reasons, all of these provisions expire at the end of next year — meaning that if Congress does not act, Americans will face the largest tax increase in our history.
This prospect has put a wet blanket over job creation and economic recovery. It would be the wrong medicine for our ailing economy. As President Obama has famously said, “You don’t raise taxes in a recession.” Partially to avoid this result, but also to try to meet the Democrats partway — given their absolute insistence on big, new tax increases — Republicans offered a proposal that would have both reformed the current code and produced significant new tax revenue.
A special congressional committee created to try to curb the national debt abandoned its work and conceded failure Monday, the latest setback in a long effort by Washington to overcome ideological differences and stem the rising tide of red ink.
In a joint statement issued hours before a midnight deadline, the Democratic and Republican leaders of the panel said that they were “deeply disappointed” by their inability to reach an agreement and that they hope for progress in the months ahead.
supercommittee conceded defeat Monday in its quest to conquer a government debt that stands at a staggering $15 trillion, unable to overcome deep and enduring political divisions over taxes and spending. (Nov. 21)
“Despite our inability to bridge the committee’s significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation’s fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve,” said the statement from Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “We remain hopeful that Congress can build on this committee’s work and can find a way to tackle this issue in a way that works for the American people and our economy.”
A lame-duck session with unexpected victories
By Perry Bacon Jr. Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 22, 2010; 4:34 PM
When the lame-duck session of Congress started more than a month ago, President Obama looked defeated and deflated, publicly acknowledging the “shellacking” his party had taken in the November midterm elections.
Now, a six-week session that was expected to reflect a weakened president has turned into a surprising success. On Wednesday, Obama signed into law the repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay service members, and the Senate approved a new nuclear treaty with Russia that the president had declared a top priority.
Those accomplishments come after Obama successfully negotiated a free-trade agreement with South Korea, reached a deal with Republicans that extended unemployment benefits and prevented a tax hike for millions of Americans and signed a bill that will make school lunches healthier.
This blitz of bill signings completes a dramatic first two years for the nation’s first black president that included the enactment of arguably the most major liberal policies since the Johnson administration but also the Democrats’ biggest loss of House seats in 72 years.
After the election defeats and bitter battles over the health care and financial regulation legislation, the next two years were widely expected to be tied up by gridlock between the GOP-controlled House and the Democratic president. But the past month suggests the future could be different.
Obama and his team reinvented their political approach over the past several weeks to win key Republican votes, no longer relying mainly on the huge Democratic majorities in Congress that they won’t have in the new year.
By Liz Sly Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, December 22, 2010; 12:56 AM
BAGHDAD – When a series of giant billboards depicting the face of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki mysteriously appeared on a central Baghdad square several weeks ago, the response from Maliki’s office was swift and decisive. Police were dispatched to remove the posters, which echoed the displays that had been ubiquitous under Saddam Hussein.
If Iraq’s prime minister indeed has dictatorial tendencies, as his detractors allege, they do not include self-promotion of the Hussein variety. Maliki’s aides say the prime minister was furious, and they suspect the billboards may have been raised to discredit him at a critical moment in the negotiations for a new government – to fuel perceptions that he is another Iraqi strongman in the making.
Whether he is such a strongman is among the critical questions that loom over Iraq’s young and still-fragile democracy as Maliki embarked Tuesday on his second term as prime minister.
“He has the potential to be a dictator,” said Faleh Jabar, an Iraqi scholar who heads the Beirut-based Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies. “It’s my biggest fear, because that would destroy our democracy.”
The pugnacious, square-jawed Maliki has been credited with steering Iraq out of the chaos of sectarian war earlier in the decade. Now he is destined to lead Iraq beyond the scheduled departure of U.S. forces at the end of next year, into an era in which the U.S. role in Iraq will inevitably wane, along with the ability to shape the country’s political direction toward the democracy that formed a central justification for the war.
That Maliki has an authoritarian streak has been amply demonstrated over the past 4 1/2 years, critics say. Maliki, originally selected in 2006 as a compromise candidate assumed to be weak and malleable, has proved to be a tough and ruthless political operator who cannily subverted parliament to cement his authority over many of the new democracy’s fledgling institutions.
In his role as commander in chief of the armed forces, he replaced divisional army commanders with his appointees, brought provincial command centers under his control and moved to dominate the intelligence agencies.
The widely feared Baghdad Brigade, which answers directly to Maliki’s office, has frequently been used to move against his political opponents. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused him of operating secret prisons in which Sunni suspects have been tortured.
Bluto Blutarsky must have been an Appropriator.
The 111th Congress began with an $814 billion stimulus that blew out the federal balance sheet, so we suppose it’s only fitting that the Members want to exit by passing a 1,924-page, $1.2 trillion omnibus spending bill. The worst Congress in modern history is true to its essence to the bitter end.
Think of this as a political version of the final scene in “Animal House,” when the boys from the Delta frat react to their expulsion by busting up the local town parade for the sheer mayhem of it. Bluto Blutarsky (John Belushi) did go on to be a U.S. Senator in the film, and a man of his vision must have earned a seat on Appropriations.
Democrats have had 11 months to write a budget for fiscal 2011, which began on October 1. But Majority Leader Harry Reid and Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye have dumped this trillion-dollar baby on Senators at the very last minute, when everyone is busy and wants to go home for the holidays. No doubt that was the plan. The continuing resolution to fund the government expires on Saturday, so Mr. Reid wants to squeeze Senators against the deadline. And with the press corps preoccupied by the tax debate, the spending bill is greased to slide through with little or no public scrutiny.
Defenders argue that the bill is restrained because it freezes overall spending for federal agencies at 2010 levels. But 2010 was an inflated budget with a $1.3 trillion deficit. Paul Ryan, soon to be House Budget Chairman, notes that nondefense discretionary spending rose 24% over those two years. Add stimulus funding and federal agency spending soared to $796 billion in 2010 from $434 billion, an 84% spending increase. (See nearby table.) Republicans have promised to return to 2008 spending levels, and the omnibus will make that much harder.
Then there are the pork and policy riders, such as a food safety bill with new authority for the Food and Drug Administration. The bill’s 6,630 earmarks will cost more than $8.1 billion, according to Citizens Against Government Waste. While that’s fewer than in 2009, what happened to the earmark ban promised by Republicans and supported by President Obama?
The late John Murtha of Pennsylvania is so powerful he’s still getting pork from his grave: $10 million for the John Murtha Foundation. Ted Kennedy also scored a legacy earmark. The omnibus includes $8 million for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute secured by Congressman Ed Markey (D., Mass.). Thad Cochran of Mississippi, one of the GOP Senators who may vote for the bill, secured $6 million for the Mississippi Polymer Institute at the University of Southern Mississippi. [View Complete Article →]