Read all posts from June 2010

  • Speaking to 24 American service members as they became citizens of our nation in April, the President was passionate about the need to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform:

    Over the years, many have attempted to confront this challenge, but passions are great and disagreements run deep.  Yet surely we can all agree that when 11 million people in our country are living here illegally, outside the system, that’s unacceptable.  The American people demand and deserve a solution.  And they deserve common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform grounded in the principles of responsibility and accountability.

    As he explained, and as his record shows, the government has a responsibility to enforce the law. But as he also explained, the only way to truly fix our broken immigration system is with a comprehensive federal approach.

    This morning the President will make clear that this is a top priority and call on Congress to tackle it in a major speech at American University at 10:45AM EDT.

    After the speech, we will also host a unique online engagement event – what we’re calling an “Open for Questions Roundtable” – with Cecilia Muñoz, one of the President’s closest advisors on the issue. Representatives from online media outlets examining several angles of the immigration issue will be there posing the questions on the minds of their readers -- Forbes, which focuses on business and economic issues;  the Examiner.com network which has citizen reporters in every state including more than 50 border state communities; CNET which focuses on the tech community; and Univision.com, which has covered the immigration debate as closely as anybody for years.   And as we always do, we’ll be taking some of your questions live via Facebook as well.

    See you there.

    Ed. Note: This post has been bumped to the top of the blog.

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (648MB) | mp3 (62MB)

    “I know that towns like Racine are still hurting from this recession,” said the President at a town hall in Wisconsin today.  “This city has the second-highest unemployment rate in the state, and I can only imagine how much pain that’s caused and how many lives have been upended.”  It was something he hears about all the time, he said, and something he still thinks about when he’s not hearing about it.

    He made clear though the Recovery Act saved or created as many as 2.8 million jobs, and even though the economy is growing again, that’s little comfort for those still hurting and that’s no reason for him to rest:

    And that’s why I’ve been fighting, in addition to everything we’ve done, for additional steps to speed up this recovery and keep the economy growing.  We want an extension of unemployment benefits for workers who lost their job through no fault of their own.  (Applause.)  We want to help small business owners get the loans they need to keep their doors open and hire more workers.  (Applause.)  We want relief for struggling states so they don’t have to lay off thousands of teachers and firefighters and police officers.  (Applause.)

     

    President Obama Speaks at a Town Hall in Racine, Wisconsin

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks during a town hall meeting on the economy at Racine Memorial Hall in Racine, Wisconsin June 30, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    He went on to put the truth on the table about who’s been helping, and who’s been hurting in the effort to get our economy right:

  • Today I continued my series of bipartisan outreach meetings to engage leaders from inside and outside of government as we implement the Affordable Care Act.  It’s been just over three months since health insurance reform became law, and already Americans are gaining greater control over their health care.  As we work to turn the new law into reality for families, businesses, and individuals across the country, we’ve been getting some great insight from leaders in all sectors, as well as directly from the American people.

    HHS Secretary Sebelius met with bipartisan leaders from inside and outside of government to discuss implementing the Affordable Care Act. (L-R: Dr. Mark McClellan, former CMS Administrator and former FDA Commissioner, Nancy Ann DeParle, Director of the White House Office of Health Reform, Secretary Tommy Thompson, and Senator Tom Daschle.) HHS photo by Chris Smith.

    [View Full Size]

  • This week New York City hosted the 2010 National Conference on Volunteering and Service: It’s Up to YOU! Over 5,000 service leaders convened to discuss how to create greater impact and effectiveness in meeting social needs through service and volunteering. The National Conference on Volunteering and Service is the world’s largest gathering of service and civic engagement leaders. This conference is hosted by the Corporation for National and Community Service, our federal agency home for service, and the Points of Light Institute.

    I was pleased to deliver the opening remarks to frame the President’s and First Lady's vision and commitment to service as well as to meet with a broad cross-section of service leaders from the nonprofit, public, private, and philanthropic sectors.

    As you well know, our nation faces a daunting set of challenges. But, from day one, the President has acted on the principle that “service is a solution” – that service is a critical tool as we address our national priorities.

    That’s why one of the President’s top priorities in his first 100 days was to sign the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. We worked with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress and with service and community leaders across the country to give the American people more opportunities to serve.

  • Today Rep. Boehner released an error-filled paper on the Recovery Act that is full of half-truths and mistakes. 

    Leading independent economists, the nation’s governors and the millions of Americans on the job thanks to the Recovery Act all say it’s helped rescue the economy, so it’s ironic that the very critics who refuse to acknowledge it’s working are those whose economic policies led us into this crisis in the first place.  Republicans in Congress may have made a cynical bet to deem the Recovery Act a failure before it even began, but even they can’t ignore the facts: after years of failed policies, the Recovery Act has helped us go from losing over three million private sector jobs in the first five months of last year to adding 495,000 in the first five months of this year, and from an economy shrinking by six percent to an economy growing three percent.

    Among the biggest errors in Representative Boehner’s report are:

    “[T]he ‘stimulus’ isn’t working as promised.”

    • In fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the Recovery Act is already responsible for as many as 2.8 million jobs and on track for about 3.5 million by the end of the year – exactly the projected target at the time the Recovery Act was signed.  [CBO Report, May 2010]

  • Today marks another step toward greater transparency in the DOE's Recovery Act activities. It's not due to any one financial milestone or project groundbreaking, but it’s another step to shed light on the ARRA projects across the country and show you, the taxpayers, how we're spending your hard earned tax dollars to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. I'm proud to announce that the Recovery Act page on energy.gov has been restructured to provide you a snapshot of what your tax dollars are doing in each of the 50 states and 6 territories.

    We are excited to share Energy’s recovery story with you and I hope you’ll continue to follow our progress on these projects by visiting www.energy.gov/recovery.

    Energy Recovery Map

     

    Matt Rogers is Senior Advisor to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu for Recovery Act Implementation

  • Yesterday, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal hosted a live chat to take questions from the public on energy and climate legislation.  Earlier in the day, President Obama met with a bipartisan group of Senators in the Cabinet room to discuss the importance of passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation this year. 

  • While yesterday’s time in the Judiciary Committee for the confirmation hearings of Elena Kagan did see attacks from some quarters as we predicted, it was also noteworthy the praise she received. Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy  told her, “I can't remember anybody that's been asked such a wide variety of questions or answered them as forthrightly as you have” – a point echoed by Republican Senator John Cornyn when he congratulated on her testimony and said “I think you've done a good job of explaining from the witness chair how you would decide cases.” Senator Arlen Specter, a long time veteran of Supreme Court nomination. also praised her after the hearings, saying “she's been a lot more forthcoming than most” – and applauded her for her support of televised proceeding in the Supreme Court as a sign of her openness. Senator Whitehouse said she had been “candid”; Senator Cardin gave her “a high grade for being responsive to the questions”;  Senator Schumer called her “thoughtful and practical”; and Senator Klobuchar found her exactly as we expected: “incredibly charming and smart throughout… really never stumped once.”

    When it did come to responding to attacks, media and legal experts applauded her there too. Here’s a sampling:

    • Fox NewsShannon Bream: Kagan “Stayed Very Calm, Cool and Collected.” [Fox News, 6/29/10]
    • Washington Post’s Eva Rodriguez: “Kagan Did Well Under Sometimes Intense Questioning [Washington Post, Rodriguez Post, 6/29/10]
    • Bloomberg News: Kagan’s Humor, Command of Law Deflect Republican Criticism. [Bloomberg, 6/30/10]
    • SCOTUSBlog’s Tom Goldstein: “Kagan Is Displaying a Very Solid Understanding of a Range of Legal Questions; Clearly Well Prepared.” [SCOTUSBlog’s Liveblog, 6/29/10]
    • The Atlantic’s Garrett Epps: “Kagan Has Been Able, Seemingly Without Trying, to Dominate a Room Full of Silver-Haired Senators. That’s an Accomplishment, Of Course: But What’s More Impressive Is That She’s Doing It Without Breaking a Sweat.” [The Atlantic, 6/29/10]
    • Politics Daily’s Andrew Cohen: Kagan Established Herself “as Judicial and Judicious – Precisely What Her Supporters Had Hoped She Would Do.” [Politics Daily, 6/29/10]
    • Former OLC Head Walter Dellinger Said Kagan “Had a Great Tuesday Morning, One of the Best of Any Nominee in a Long Time… I Really Believe She May Have Changed the Minds of Some Senators Who Had Been Looking for Reasons to Oppose Her.” Washington Post, Dellinger Post, 6/29/10]
    • Newsweek’s Stuart Taylor: “Kagan’s Testimony Was Truthful and Precise.”  [Newsweek, Stuart Taylor Post, 6/29/10]
    • AP: Republicans Have A “Tough Case To Make” On Kagan’s Opposition To DADT: “Judging By Her Own Words, Kagan Held The Military In High Regard And Stories Abound Of Her Praising And Thanking Veterans On Campus.” [AP, 6/29/10]
    • WSJ’s  Nathan Koppel: Kagan Sounded “Confident And In Full Command Of The Issues.” [WSJ Law Blog, 6/29/10]
    • WSJ’s Ashby Jones: “Kagan Survived The Morning Session Intact, Never Stumbling…”  [Ashby Jones, Wall Street Journal Blog, 6/29/10]
    • Washington Post : Kagan “Held Forth Fluidly Throughout Her Reponses, on Several Occasions Interrupting Senators With Quips or Asides.” [Washington Post, 6/29/10]

    The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart described the scene for one particularly aggressive line of questioning: 

    Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan endured a rather persnickety line of questioning from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R- Ala.) on the ban on military recruiting at Harvard when she was the dean of the law school. In a pointed challenge, Sessions demanded to know her stance on ‘don't ask don't tell,’ the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the armed forces.  And without hesitation, the woman who is a bit of an enigma when it comes to her personal views, answered forcefully that the prohibition ‘was unjust. I believed it then and I believe it now.’ Kagan's principled position is in line with Secretary of Defense Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen. Sessions, not Kagan, is the one out of step on this issue.

  • We talk a lot about the need for America to lead the world in green manufacturing, and with good reason: a strong green manufacturing sector will create good, domestic jobs and boost exports, all while helping us reduce carbon emissions and break our dependence on foreign oil.

    But it’s not just talk. We’re taking action to re-establish that leadership, and what’s happening today, down in Louisville, Kentucky, is a perfect example of how we’re going to do it.

    Vice President Biden was in Louisville today to visit a General Electric facility called Appliance Park, where GE is investing $600 million to expand their manufacturing of energy-efficient appliances. But they’re not doing it alone – their investment is being supported by $24.8 million in Recovery Act funds through a program called the Section 48C Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit, or “48C” for short.

  • Question: If you start with $1 and, with each move, you can either double your money or add another $1, what is the smallest number of moves you have to make to get to exactly $200?

    Mark Sellke, an 8th grader at Klondike Middle School in West Lafayette, Indiana, correctly answered this question in less than 45 seconds this past May to become the 2010 MATHCOUNTS individual champion.

    Yesterday, President Obama met with Mark, the winning MATHCOUNTS team from California, and the individual runner-up of the competition. During their visit to the White House, these elated “mathletes" talked to the President about their aspirations—including working for NASA and becoming a math professor. The President congratulated the students on their accomplishments and emphasized the importance of science and math to the Nation’s economy, security, and competiveness. He also confessed to a more parochial pleasure in getting to know them, declaring that he would be calling upon them next time Sasha or Malia stumped him with a math homework question.

  • Cross posted from the USDA blog

    I’m very pleased and honored to be a part of Food Safety Week and contribute to our mission to protect public health. The USDA has been working diligently over the past year to improve food safety since the creation of the Food Safety Working Group. Part of our mission is to guarantee that we equip you with accurate food safety information. If it’s grilling outside for 4th of July, going to a ballgame, or just enjoying a summer night with your family, make sure that safe food handling is a part of your celebration. An easy way to prevent contaminated food is to use a food thermometer when grilling or smoking meat. Commonly, the color of the meat is wrongly used as a method for indicating whether or not the meat is cooked. However, using a food thermometer is the only way to determine the temperature of the food. What temperature should your food be? Check the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s website.

  • Yesterday Vice President Biden travelled to Louisville, Kentucky where he visited the headquarters of GE Appliances to discuss how Recovery Act investments are creating jobs and laying a new foundation for long-term economic growth in the state.

    Appliance Park is a huge industrial campus, covering more than 900 acres, employing 3,600 people, and producing approximately 3 million units a year.  You can tell that people in the community take pride in the company and the products that it makes. 

    Vice President Biden Greets Workers at GE Appliances & Lighting in Louisville, Kentucky

    Vice President Joe Biden greets workers during a visit to the headquarters of GE Appliances & Lighting to talk about how Recovery Act investments are creating jobs and laying the foundation for long- term economic growth in Kentucky and Indiana, in Louisville, Kentucky, June 28, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    We saw it firsthand when we walked into Building 3, where they manufacture energy efficient dishwashers. The manufacturing floor was still hot from recent production and enthusiastic GE employees in their matching red and blue shirts filled the room to welcome Vice President Biden and share the good news about how business is doing. People were excited and undeniably optimistic.

    Vice President Biden Speaks at GE Appliances & Lighting in Louisville, Kentucky

    Vice President Joe Biden visits the headquarters of GE Appliances & Lighting to talk about how recovery act investments are creating jobs and laying the foundation for long-term economic growth in Kentucky and Indiana, in Louisville, Kentucky, June 28, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    It’s hard to imagine that in 2008 GE Appliances was up for sale and facing a financial crisis. For many workers, the future was uncertain. And yet, less than two years later, GE has experienced a dramatic turnaround thanks to their innovative spirit, local, state, and federal support, and a strengthened partnership with the union.

    GE is now investing $600 million to expand manufacturing production at Appliance Park.  The investment is supported by $24.8 million in 48C Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credits that GE received under the Recovery Act to retrofit and re-tool the Appliance Park facility for the manufacturing of three energy-efficient product lines:  dishwashers, clothes dryers, water heaters. With the addition of the three new product lines, they plan to add over 800 new jobs through 2013.

    And these product lines are state-of-art: the water heater uses 62 percent less energy than conventional water heaters and saves the average family $320 a year. It’s also the first new product line manufactured at Appliance Park in 50 years.

    The Recovery Act also included consumer incentives for energy efficient appliances, and these rebates have boosted sales of high efficiency appliances. Sales of the dishwashers being built in Building 3 have increased by 20 percent as a result of the Recovery Act consumer rebates. And sales of the clothes washers manufactured in Building 1 are up more than 100 percent. GE even had to add a second shift and hire 137 new employees to handle the increased demand.

    Vice President Biden Greets Workers at GE Appliances & Lighting in Louisville, Kentucky

    Vice President Joe Biden greets workers during a visit to the headquarters of GE Appliances & Lighting to talk about how Recovery Act investments are creating jobs and laying the foundation for long- term economic growth in Kentucky and Indiana, in Louisville, Kentucky, June 28, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

  • Today, President Obama met with a bipartisan group of Senators to discuss the need for comprehensive energy and climate legislation.  Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, sent this email to the White House email list after the meeting.  If you didn't get today's email from Carol Browner, you can sign up for the White House email list here

  • Yesterday the Corporation for National Community Service and the Points of Light Foundation kicked off the 2010 National Conference on Volunteering and Community Service in New York City. More than 5,000 leaders of the business, nonprofit, government, and volunteer sector are on hand for the three-day event. This represents the largest gathering of service leaders in the world.

    Points of Light Foundation CEO Michelle Nunn and I were honored to preside over the opening plenary at historic Radio City Music Hall. We were joined by White House Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes, U.S. Senator Mark Warner, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and a host of other dignitaries, community leaders, and volunteers from across the country. Our emcees for the event were Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show.

    Over the course of the next two days, in workshops, plenary sessions and informal meetings, the conference will focus on ways the service movement can better target resources toward pressing social problems and measure impact; expand opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to serve; build the capacity of individuals, nonprofit organizations and communities to address social challenges; and embrace innovation.

    This year’s conference comes at a moment of great need and opportunity in America. We face many challenges, whether addressing our country’s high-school dropout crisis or getting Americans back to work.

  • Elena Kagan has recently come under attack as someone who is anti-military.  To place such a label on Ms. Kagan is unfair and ill-informed.  I began law school at Harvard in 2007 after serving for five years as an active duty officer in the United States Army.  During my first year at Harvard, Ms. Kagan was the Dean of the law school.  Unsurprisingly, as a first year student I had little personal interaction with Dean Kagan.  On the few occasions where we were in the same room though, her support of and appreciation for the military were clearly evident.

    On my first day at the law school, Dean Kagan delivered a welcoming address to the incoming class.  I was somewhat nervous that day, sitting among a group of people I didn’t know.  I became even more nervous when the Dean began to introduce the class to each other.  I no longer remember the specific accomplishments of those seated around me, but the Dean’s speech felt something like this to me:  “You are each now part of an amazing class at the Harvard Law School.  Seated among you are four astronauts, two platinum recording artists, an Olympic gold medalist…”  As the honors and deeds of those around me were read off, I couldn’t believe I was getting to be a part of this group.  “… and three veterans who have served in the military.  Everyone should keep an eye out for these students and try to meet them when you get a chance.”  At that point, I was taken aback by surprise.  To Dean Kagan at least, not only did I belong at the law school, but the veterans were one of the special groups that others should feel honored to be associated with.

  • Today, the Department of Health and Human Services began accepting applications for a program that provides much needed financial relief for employers – as well as unions and state and local governments – providing coverage to early retirees.

    The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program will provide $5 billion in financial assistance to help maintain coverage for early retirees age 55 and older who are not yet eligible for Medicare - another example of how health care reform is, and will continue to be, good for business.

  • Elena Kagan kicked off her week-long hearing today with about 12 minutes of opening remarks -- take a look and read some excerpts below:

    Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.

     

    “Mr. Chairman, the law school I had the good fortune to lead has a kind of motto, spoken each year at graduation.  We tell the new graduates that they are ready to enter a profession devoted to “those wise restraints that make us free.”  That phrase has always captured for me the way law, and the rule of law, matters.  What the rule of law does is nothing less than to secure for each of us what our Constitution calls “the blessings of liberty” – those rights and freedoms, that promise of equality, that have defined this nation since its founding.  And what the Supreme Court does is to safeguard the rule of law, through a commitment to even-handedness, principle, and restraint.  

    “The idea is engraved on the very face of the Supreme Court building: Equal Justice Under Law.  It means that everyone who comes before the Court – regardless of wealth or power or station – receives the same process and the same protections.  What this commands of judges is even-handedness and impartiality.  What it promises is nothing less than a fair shake for every American.

    “[T]he Supreme Court is a wondrous institution.  But the time I spent in the other branches of government remind me that it must also be a modest one – properly deferential to the decisions of the American people and their elected representatives.  What I most took away from those experiences was simple admiration for the democratic process.  That process is often messy and frustrating, but the people of this country have great wisdom, and their representatives work hard to protect their interests.  The Supreme Court, of course, has the responsibility of ensuring that our government never oversteps its proper bounds or violates the rights of individuals.  But the Court must also recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people.”

    “I’ve led a school whose faculty and students examine and discuss and debate every aspect of our law and legal system.  And what I’ve learned most is that no one has a monopoly on truth or wisdom.  I’ve learned that we make progress by listening to each other, across every apparent political or ideological divide.  I’ve learned that we come closest to getting things right when we approach every person and every issue with an open mind.  And I’ve learned the value of a habit that Justice Stevens wrote about more than fifty years ago – of ‘understanding before disagreeing.’

    "I will make no pledges this week other than this one – that if confirmed, I will remember and abide by all these lessons.  I will listen hard, to every party before the Court and to each of my colleagues.  I will work hard.  And I will do my best to consider every case impartially, modestly, with commitment to principle, and in accordance with law.”
     

     

  • Lawrence Summers, Director of the National Economic Council, spoke today on technology policy, job creation, and economic growth – in particular the President’s move to dramatically increase the amount of federal and commercial spectrum available for smartphones and wireless Internet devices.

    As our fact sheet explained, "In recent years, the amount of information flowing over some wireless networks has grown at over 250 percent per year, with some estimates indicating that the next five years will see an increase in wireless data of between 20 and 45 times 2009 levels, reflecting the increasing use of smartphones, netbooks, and other wireless devices. As the revolution in mobile broadband and related technologies unfolds, the demand for spectrum will continue to increase – leading to increasing fears of a 'spectrum crunch.'"

    Summers put the move into historical perspective:

  • This morning the President issued the following statement on the passing of Senator Robert Byrd:

    I was saddened to hear this morning that the people of West Virginia have lost a true champion, the United States Senate has lost a venerable institution, and America has lost a voice of principle and reason with the passing of Robert C. Byrd.

    Senator Byrd’s story was uniquely American.  He was born into wrenching poverty, but educated himself to become an authoritative scholar, respected leader, and unparalleled champion of our Constitution.  He scaled the summit of power, but his mind never strayed from the people of his beloved West Virginia.  He had the courage to stand firm in his principles, but also the courage to change over time.

    He was as much a part of the Senate as the marble busts that line its chamber and its corridors.  His profound passion for that body and its role and responsibilities was as evident behind closed doors as it was in the stemwinders he peppered with history.  He held the deepest respect of members of both parties, and he was generous with his time and advice, something I appreciated greatly as a young senator.

    We take solace in the fact that he is reunited with his wife of nearly 69 years, Erma; and our thoughts and prayers are with their daughters, their grandchildren and great grandchildren, and all the people of West Virginia who loved Robert C. Byrd.

    Vice President Biden also took a moment today to speak on the loss of his friend:

    VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: "As we used to say in my years in the Senate, if you’ll excuse a point of personal privilege here for a moment, a very close friend of mine, one of my mentors -- a guy who was there when I was a 29-year-old kid being sworn into the United States Senate shortly thereafter; a guy who stood in the rain, in a pouring rain, freezing rain outside a church as I buried my daughter and my wife before I got sworn in, Robert C. Byrd.  He passed away today.  He was the -- we lost the dean of the United States Senate, but also the state of West Virginia lost its most fierce advocate and, as I said, I lost a dear friend.

    “Throughout his 51 years, the longest tenure of any member in Congress in the history of the United States, Robert C. Byrd was a tough, compassionate, and outspoken leader and dedicated above all else to making life better for the people of the mountain state -- his state, the state of West Virginia.  He never lost sight of home.  He may have spent half a century in Washington.  But there’s a guy -- if anybody wondered -- he never, never, never, never took his eye of his beloved mountain state.  And we shall not -- to paraphrase the poet -- we shall not see his like again.  And the Senate is a lesser place for his going."  

  • Download Video: mp4 (417MB) | mp3 (40MB)

    If you're looking for more information on the G-20 Summit in Toronto, we've got plenty to keep you busy, including the Declaration that lays out the enormously broad spectrum of issues that were addressed:

    President Barack Obama at the G20 Summit Opening Plenary Session at the Toronto Convention Center

    President Barack Obama, left, at the G20 Summit opening Plenary Session at the Toronto Convention Center, Toronto, Canada June 27, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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