Brian BondDecember 18, 2010
06:50 PM EDT
Today, I had one of those “once in a lifetime” moments. As I sat in the Senate Gallery with my bosses, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina and Director of the Office of Public Engagement Tina Tchen, I saw history being made as the US Senate voted 65 to 31 to pass the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010. I am proud of the many leaders in Congress and all those who have worked to put an end to DADT. And I’m proud of the President for his leadership on this issue. It has been a long time getting here and it has been a struggle – but as the President has said many times, “Change isn’t easy.” But today we took a huge step forward to set right a wrong.
Last December about this time, I was at a small event in the Roosevelt Room. The President was just getting ready to leave for the Christmas Holiday. He walked over to me and without missing a beat, put his hand on my shoulder, and I will never forget what he said to me – unsolicited -- “We are going to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. We have a little bit of work to do still, but we are going to get it done.” A month later, in his first State of the Union Address, the President said, “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It’s the right thing to do.”
Now I am sure that there will be many stories written about what happened and how we got here, but for me, the key part of the story that I will never forget is that commitment from the President. Nor will I ever forget the brave men and women who have served with distinction who also happen to be gay or lesbian. Throughout the course of this effort, I have been privileged to meet some amazing heroes who just wanted to serve their country. I will carry their stories with me for the rest of my life.
Earlier today, The White House released a statement from President Obama on the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell, in which he said "It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed." Read the entire statement here.
Kori SchulmanDecember 18, 2010
01:36 PM EDT
Ed. Note: Read a personal take from Brian Bond, Deputy Director of the Office of Public Engagement.
Today, President Obama released a statement on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010. Today's historic vote would not have happened without the tireless efforts of many, including leaders in Congress, advocates, and the clear leadership provided by the President. As recently as this morning, the President has been reaching out to Senators from both sides of the aisle to help secure votes. It was only 11 months ago that the President called for the repeal in his first State of the Union and then laid out the plan, including the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Review for the Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, that has taken us to where we are today.
Here's the President's full statement:
Today, the Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend. By ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay. And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.
As Commander-in-Chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known. And I join the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the overwhelming majority of service members asked by the Pentagon, in knowing that we can responsibly transition to a new policy while ensuring our military strength and readiness.
I want to thank Majority Leader Reid, Senators Lieberman and Collins and the countless others who have worked so hard to get this done. It is time to close this chapter in our history. It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed. It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly. I urge the Senate to send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law.
Kori SchulmanDecember 18, 2010
12:53 PM EDT
Following a disappointing vote in the Senate, President Obama released the following statement on the DREAM act:
In an incredibly disappointing vote today, a minority of Senators prevented the Senate from doing what most Americans understand is best for the country. As I said last week, when the House passed the DREAM Act, it is not only the right thing to do for talented young people who seek to serve a country they know as their own, it is the right thing for the United States of America. Our nation is enriched by their talents and would benefit from the success of their efforts. The DREAM Act is important to our economic competitiveness, military readiness, and law enforcement efforts. And as the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reported, the DREAM Act would cut the deficit by $2.2 billion over the next 10 years. There was simply no reason not to pass this important legislation.
It is disappointing that common sense did not prevail today. But my administration will not give up on the DREAM Act, or on the important business of fixing our broken immigration system. The American people deserve a serious debate on immigration, and it’s time to take the polarizing rhetoric off our national stage.
I thank Senators Durbin, Reid, and Menendez for their tireless efforts. Moving forward, my administration will continue to do everything we can to fix our nation’s broken immigration system so that we can provide lasting and dedicated resources for our border security while at the same time restoring responsibility and accountability to the system at every level.
Robert GibbsDecember 18, 2010
11:21 AM EDT
This weekend, experts from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative are in Seattle, Washington, hammering out the legal language for the landmark trade agreement President Obama announced earlier this month: improvements on the US-Korea trade deal that make the pact better for American workers and businesses, particularly in our recovering auto sector.
That agreement was reached after the President walked away from an earlier offer at the G20 meeting in Seoul, Korea. What our Korean counterparts put on the table wasn't good enough for you then, and the President chose to take more time to get the agreement right. The result of that bold decision was an agreement that won wide acclaim on announcement, and we're eager to work with its supporters on both sides of the aisle in Congress to advance it as quickly as possible.
Many are asking whether two other pending trade agreements - those with Colombia and Panama - should move forward with the Korea deal. A story posted on the Politico website Friday caused some confusion about our position on that question, but it is exactly the same as it has been. While the President has not yet discussed a timeline for moving the Colombia agreement or the Panama agreement, he has said consistently that he wants his Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, to resolve outstanding issues with these agreements. The USTR office is working to do so for the express purpose of moving each agreement forward at the right time for Congress's consideration.
This is a solid promise. The President's determination to get the Korea deal right resulted in a landmark achievement with significant support, and we'll seek the same on other trade pacts. We intend to conclude the best deals possible for American workers and businesses - agreements that are responsible and responsive to Americans' concerns, and that can soon bring home the jobs and economic prosperity that come when trade is done right. That's been our commitment from the start, and it's our commitment today. We look forward to working with the new Congress to fulfill it.
Jesse LeeDecember 18, 2010
06:00 AM EDT
President Obama urges the Senate to heed the calls from Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, every living Republican Secretary of State, our NATO allies, and the leadership of the military: ratify the New START Treaty with Russia.
Kori SchulmanDecember 17, 2010
09:59 PM EDT
A quick look at the week of December 13, 2010:
Quote: “We are here with some good news for the American people this holiday season,” said President Obama before signing the Middle-Class Tax Cuts Bill -- legislation that will prevent tax hikes on middle class families, keep the economy growing, and maintain lifelines for millions of those who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Watch the video.
Digg the White House: The White House is now on digg.com. Take a peek and start following us right now.
Holidays in Photos: Go behind-the-scenes as the White House celebrates the holidays in this photostream.
Healthy Kids: The President signs the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act at a local DC school. The new law improves the nutritional value of school meals and increases the number of children eligible to receive them. Watch the President’s and the First Lady’s remarks.
The Night Before Christmas: The President reads to children at a local elementary school and the First Lady to patients, parents and staff at Children’s National Medical Center. Watch the video of the President here and the video of the First Lady here.
Elmo at the White House: Elmo joins Assistant White House Chef Sam Kass in the White House Kitchen to talk about healthy and tasty school meals -- and Elmo does the melon dance. Watch the video.
Lie of the Year: Politifact calls the claim that Health Reform is a "Government Takeover of Health Care" the lie of the year.
Chris LuDecember 17, 2010
06:00 PM EDT
Ed. Note: This is the eighth in a series of posts from top Administration Officials on the importance of the DREAM Act. Read Education Secretary Arne Duncan's post here, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis's contribution here, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke's post here, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's here, a post from Dr. Clifford L. Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, here, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack here, and Attorney General Eric Holder's post here.
As the head of the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs, I work every day with the President’s Cabinet to advance his policy priorities. Few issues trigger the depth and breadth of support from across the Cabinet as the DREAM Act. This landmark legislation would strengthen our economy, our competitiveness, our workforce, our national defense, and our homeland security.
Having worked for the President for the past six years, I know first-hand his deep commitment to the DREAM Act. As a State Senator in Illinois, he helped pass that state’s version of the DREAM Act. As a United States Senator, he was a co-sponsor of the legislation.
Over the past few weeks, members of the Cabinet have spoken eloquently and persuasively about the importance of passing the DREAM Act.
Jesse LeeDecember 17, 2010
05:36 PM EDT
The Vice President began his remarks at the signing of the middle-class tax cuts compromise with a joke: "Ladies and gentlemen, this is a -- I wasn’t going say, a big deal, but an important deal. (Laughter.) I can no longer say 'big deal.'" Both he and the President readily acknowledged that there are things in the compromise that they do not like, but as the President explained the sheers numbers of hard-working Americans who would be affected, the importance was made clear:
December 17, 2010
04:01 PM EDT
Ed. Note: Read blog posts from seven top Obama Administration officials in support of the DREAM Act.
On Saturday morning, the Senate will finally vote on the DREAM Act – the DREAM Act, that was written by Republicans and Democrats close to ten years ago – that would give some of our best and brightest the ability to fully contribute to our country’s well-being by serving in the U.S. armed forces or pursuing a higher education.
This bill is good for our nation, and it’s the right thing to do. Our leadership has worked hard to illustrate the many reasons for supporting this bill from both a security and competitiveness standpoint and the bipartisan support the bill got in the House of Representatives shows that this effort has had some success. In fact, if the Senate passes the House bill, it will go straight to the President’s desk. Whether it succeeds depends on whether or not there are Republicans in the Senate willing to stop playing politics with important issues. Voters sent a message to their leaders in Washington a few weeks ago. They Democrats and Republicans to put aside partisan differences and bickering, and work in a bipartisan manner. DREAM Act provides an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to come together, as they have on this issue before, and work to find a common-sense solution to a problem that everyone agrees must be fixed. We hope we’ll see more of that type of courage to stand up to the politics of the moment, and do what’s right for our country and for the next generation, not just the next election. Hundreds of conservatives, religious leaders, university presidents, defense leaders, economists, business leaders, law enforcement, all believe this is the right thing to do. After last week’s strong, bi-partisan vote in the House of Representatives, we hope that Democrats and Republicans in the Senate can come together and do what is right to pass the DREAM Act.
Ben RhodesDecember 17, 2010
03:55 PM EDT
Yesterday, the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, General James Cartwright, urged the Senate to approve the New START Treaty, saying “We need START, and we need it badly.” In Washington, dealing with the urgent sometimes trumps dealing with the truly important. With the Senate’s consideration of New START, the United States Senate has the chance to deal with both, reducing our deployed nuclear weapons, and restoring our ability to effectively monitor Russia’s nuclear arsenal. But now, some opponents of the Treaty – having failed to find any flaws with the Treaty – claim that they are not being given sufficient time to consider this important agreement. Some claim that the Senate’s approach to this agreement is inconsistent with how they have been handled in the past. This criticism is wrong, and ignores the facts.
John P. HoldrenDecember 17, 2010
02:17 PM EDT
On March 9, 2009, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity emphasizing the importance of science in guiding Administration decisions and the importance of ensuring that the public trusts the science behind those decisions. In it he highlighted six principles of scientific integrity that would be at the core of this Administration’s approach to policy making. And he asked me, in collaboration with other Federal officials, to craft recommendations for ensuring scientific integrity throughout the executive branch.
Today, in response to the President’s request, I am issuing a Memorandum to the Heads of Departments and Agencies that provides further guidance to Executive Branch leaders as they implement Administration policies on scientific integrity. The new memorandum describes the minimum standards expected as departments and agencies craft scientific integrity rules appropriate for their particular missions and cultures, including a clear prohibition on political interference in scientific processes and expanded assurances of transparency. It requires that department and agency heads report to me on their progress toward completing those rules within 120 days.
It’s important to recognize that, although this Memorandum is new, scientific integrity has been a White House priority since Day One of this Administration. That fact is exemplified by the dozens of extraordinarily high-caliber and internationally renowned scientists that the President has brought into his Administration, including three Nobel prize winners in science in full-time positions (Steven Chu, Harold Varmus, and Carl Wieman) and two more as members of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (Mario Molina and Ahmed Zewail); by the policies the Administration has adopted, including the President’s Executive Order removing barriers to responsible research involving stem cells; by the budgets it has proposed, as reflected by the largest investment in science and innovation in our Nation’s history; and by the processes it has followed to apply science to some of our most challenging problems, including evidence-based decision-making in energy, agriculture, climate, resource management, and national security.
Science and technology have extraordinary potential to help America achieve a broad range of national goals, including sparking economic growth and job creation; allowing Americans to live longer, healthier lives; developing clean sources of energy that reduce our dependence on foreign oil; and protecting our environment. As the President said at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences last year, “Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life than it has ever been before.”
I am confident that today’s Memorandum will help ensure that science and technology continue to be brought to bear by this Administration with the greatest effectiveness and integrity in the service of all of the national goals the President has so clearly articulated.
John P. Holdren is Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
Lynn RosenthalDecember 17, 2010
01:06 PM EDT
This week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), taking an important step towards improving women’s lives around the world. I commend the Committee for taking action to reduce the global epidemic of domestic violence, rape, trafficking, and other crimes committed daily against women and girls.
Across the U.S. government, we are already working towards these goals. Our Global Development Policy speaks to the importance of investing in the health, education and rights of women. Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), we are connecting efforts to reduce gender-based violence with HIV/AIDS prevention. Secretary Clinton has pledged $17 million to address rape in the Congo, and, on the ground, USAID is training health care providers to respond to the needs of victims. As a follow-up to its Safe Schools program, USAID is working on changing attitudes and behaviors about gender-based violence among parents, teachers and students, enabling girls to remain in schools. Through the Global Health Initiative (GHI), we are implementing a women and girls-centered approach to help partner countries improve health outcomes with a particular focus on maternal health.
President Obama has made the treatment of women an essential part of our global vision for democracy and human rights. Last year, the U.S. led efforts to pass UN Security Council Resolution 1888, establishing a UN Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict and enhancing the ability of peacekeeping missions to protect women and children from sexual violence during armed conflict. Yesterday, the UNSC passed a follow-on UNSC Resolution 1960 deepening these measures and improving how the UN system addresses sexual violence in conflict. As a part of our global leadership on this issue, our government is also undertaking a review of its own efforts to implement UNSC Resolution 1325, which promotes the participation of women in all aspects of peace and security.
In November, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Vice President Biden said: “For every woman who has been beaten in her own home, for the millions of women who have been raped as a weapon of war, for every girl who has been attacked on her way to school, for all of the children - girls and boys - who have witnessed this brutality, we must do better.” We join the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the commitment to do better.
Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women
Kori SchulmanDecember 17, 2010
12:15 PM EDT
Go behind-the-scenes at the White House this holiday season. Pete Souza and the White House Photo Office just released more than 25 behind-the-scenes photos – including Bo posing by a larger-than-life holiday decoration of himself, the President and First Lady pretending to sing with an a cappella group at a holiday reception, plus many more. Check out the full slideshow and visit WhiteHouse.gov/holidays for videos, holiday recipes and more.
Stephanie CutterDecember 17, 2010
12:02 PM EDT
As we’ve worked to implement the Affordable Care Act and give the American people the security of knowing that their health care will be there when they need it most, opponents of reform haven't been shy about making claims that are at odds with the facts. But one piece of misinformation always stood out: the bogus claim that health reform amounts to a government takeover of health care. Today, Politifact, a respected nonpartisan watchdog, said that this claim is the “Lie of the Year.”
In their analysis of the claim, Politifact reiterates that:
“[T]he law Congress passed, parts of which have already gone into effect, relies largely on the free market:
- Employers will continue to provide health insurance to the majority of Americans through private insurance companies.
- Contrary to the claim, more people will get private health coverage. The law sets up "exchanges" where private insurers will compete to provide coverage to people who don't have it.
- The government will not seize control of hospitals or nationalize doctors.
- The law does not include the public option, a government-run insurance plan that would have competed with private insurers.
- The law gives tax credits to people who have difficulty affording insurance, so they can buy their coverage from private providers on the exchange. But here too, the approach relies on a free market with regulations, not socialized medicine.
So, as we’ve been saying all along, the Affordable Care Act brings unprecedented transparency, consumer protections, and benefits that empower Americans to have better control over their health care decisions--bearing no resemblance with “a government takeover” of our health care system.
It is also worth noting that this is the second year in a row that Politifact’s “Lie of the Year” revolves around the Affordable Care Act—last year it was “Death Panels.”
Read the full Politifact story here.
Jesse LeeDecember 17, 2010
11:13 AM EDT
As the President prepares to sign the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act this afternoon, we thought it would be worth a look at how it will impact middle class families in every state. While there were elements of the compromise that the President didn’t like, and no doubt elements that Members of Congress didn’t like, clicking on the interactive map below will show just how important passage was to every part of the country.
December 17, 2010
10:00 AM EDT
Ed. Note: This is the seventh in a series of posts from top Administration Officials on the importance of the DREAM Act. Read Education Secretary Arne Duncan's post here, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis's contribution here, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke's post here, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's here, a post from Dr. Clifford L. Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, here, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack here. This post cross-posted from the DOJ blog.
As the son of an immigrant, I grew up in New York City with a deep appreciation for the ideals that, since America’s earliest days, have defined our nation. Like so many who have set out for America’s shores, my father and both of my mother’s parents arrived here from Barbados in search of a better life and greater opportunity – for themselves and their children.
Looking back, I can see that their dream was the American Dream. But looking around, I can see that, today, this dream is fading for too many deserving young people who, through no fault of their own, lack documentation – and, therefore, are being denied opportunity.
That is why the DREAM Act must be passed.
Arun ChaudharyDecember 17, 2010
12:00 AM EDT
Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Walk step by step with the President as he signs a landmark childhood nutrition bill, urges passage of the compromise on tax cuts and unemployment insurance, discusses the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review, and more.
Learn more about the events discussed in this West Wing Week:
December 13th, 2010:
- The President & First Lady on Child Nutrition Bill: "The Basic Nutrition They Need to Learn and Grow and to Pursue Their Dreams"
December 15th, 2010:
December 16th, 2010:
Arun Chaudhary is the official White House videographer
- President Obama on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review: "A Very Difficult Endeavor" but "Significant Progress"
December 16, 2010
05:58 PM EDT
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and Nancy Sutley, the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, hosted a live chat to answer your questions about the Obama Administration’s work to create a healthy and sustainable environment for all Americans. They took questions from Facebook participants and students ranging from eighth grade to doctoral candidates who were assembled at Occidental University in Los Angeles, CA, and were on the other end of the video chat.
December 16, 2010
05:27 PM EDT
Last week, President Obama reached an agreement with Republican leadership on a bipartisan tax cut that will offer relief to our middle-class families and extend unemployment benefits for millions of struggling Americans.
After the President announced the agreement on tax cuts and the extension of unemployment insurance, I immediately voiced my support for it because it is a pragmatic deal that benefits hundreds of thousands of unemployed Angelenos.
I know that this bill is not perfect, but it was the right thing to do. In making this agreement, the President secured a tax cut for tens of millions of American households and 13 more months of unemployment insurance for those who are struggling to find work. Our country needs leaders like President Obama; leaders who are willing to transcend party lines and make the hard decisions that are in the best interest of the most Americans.
I commend the US Senate for acting and urge the House of Representatives to support this bill, support the middle class, and support the economic vitality of our country.
Antonio Villaraigosa is Mayor of Los Angeles
Secretary Tom VilsackDecember 16, 2010
04:26 PM EDT
Ed. Note: This is the sixth in a series of posts from top Administration Officials on the importance of the DREAM Act. Read Education Secretary Arne Duncan's post here, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis's contribution here, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke's post here, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's here, and the post from Dr. Clifford L. Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, here.
From 2000 to 2006, while I was Governor of Iowa, approximately 60 percent of the total population increase in the state was directly attributable to immigrants. Our economy thrived. The new population contributed to local economies, paid taxes, became valued and productive members of their communities and helped lead an economic revitalization in the state.
To continue this progress, I established ‘welcome centers’ to help newly arrived families get settled, work with local schools and civic institutions, and offer workforce development programs and English language courses. And we selected three ‘model cities’ and gave them resources to be more receptive to immigrants.
I am proud of this work, and I think we can do more to encourage and recognize the positive impact that legal immigrants have on communities. But today our nation is failing a different group of immigrants who should have an opportunity to make a difference too.
A unique view of 2012