Read all posts from January 2011

  • Today, a judge in Florida issued a decision in a case filed by 25 Republican Attorneys General and Governors striking down the Affordable Care Act.   This ruling is well out of the mainstream of judicial opinion.   Twelve federal judges have already dismissed challenges to the constitutionality of the health reform law, and two judges – in the Eastern District of Michigan and Western District of Virginia – have upheld the law.   In one other case, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia issued a very narrow ruling on the constitutionality of the health reform law’s “individual responsibility” provision and upheld the rest of the law.  

    Today’s ruling – issued by Judge Vinson in the Northern District of Florida – is a plain case of judicial overreaching.   The judge’s decision contradicts decades of Supreme Court precedent that support the considered judgment of the democratically elected branches of government that the Act’s “individual responsibility” provision is necessary to prevent billions of dollars of cost-shifting every year by individuals without insurance who cannot pay for the health care they obtain.  And the judge declared that the entire law is null and void even though the only provision he found unconstitutional was the “individual responsibility” provision.  This decision is at odds with decades of established Supreme Court law, which has  consistently found that courts have a constitutional obligation to preserve as a much of a statute as can be preserved. As a result, the judge’s decision puts all of the new benefits, cost savings and patient protections that were included in the law at risk.

    Under today’s view of the law, seniors will pay higher prices for their prescription drugs and small businesses will pay higher taxes because small business tax credits would be eliminated. And the new provisions that prevent insurance companies from denying, capping or limiting your care would be wiped away.

    We don’t believe this kind of judicial activism will be upheld and we are confident that the Affordable Care Act will ultimately be declared constitutional by the courts.

  • President Barack Obama Tours Orion Energy Systems, Inc

    President Barack Obama watches as an operator demonstrates the final stage of light fixture assembly during a tour of Orion Energy Systems, Inc in Manitowoc, Wisc., Jan. 26, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

    One of the key challenges we face today is ensuring that America stays economically competitive with countries across the globe, so that the jobs and industries of the future are created here in the United States. Fortunately, we know how to win this race; we know what this moment requires. And in his State of the Union address last week, the President laid out his vision for winning the future – a vision that emphasized the role of innovation.

    For generations, American creativity, imagination, and hard work has fostered broad prosperity and made our nation’s economy the largest in the world. Now, we must summon that same spirit of ingenuity, not only to create new jobs and industries, but to strengthen our security and to protect public health and our environment. That is why President Obama is committed to building a new clean energy economy here at home – because the nation that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will be the nation that leads the 21st century.

    Already, the Administration has taken historic action to promote a clean energy economy. The Recovery Act included a $90 billion investment in clean energy, which has already created nearly 225,000 clean energy jobs and is putting the United States on pace to double renewable energy generation by 2012. Over the last year alone, the Department of Interior green-lighted the first nine commercial-scale solar energy projects for construction on public lands, including the largest solar power plants in the world. We have also helped break our dependence on oil by investing in biofuels and developing aggressive new fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks, which will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil.

  • The White House Photo Office recently released a set of 61 behind-the-scenes photos from December 2010. Take a look back at a productive month in Washington, D.C. -- including the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act signing and a toast to the new START Treaty -- that closes with a family vacation to President Obama’s home state of Hawaii.

    View the full size slideshow.

  • Ed. Note: Cross posted from the Department of Energy blog.

    Last week, President Obama told us in his 2011 State of the Union address that “we need to out-innovate the rest of the world”, especially in clean energy technology. As it turns out, energy innovators across the country are already working on doing just that. Hundreds of these energy leaders will be converging at a conference that the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E)  is hosting one month from now.

    From February 28 – March 2, ARPA-E and partner organizations will host the second annual ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit at the Gaylord Convention Center, just outside Washington, DC. The event is designed to bring together key players from across the energy ecosystem – researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, corporate executives and government officials – to share ideas for developing and deploying the next generation of clean energy technologies.

  • As the President said in the State of the Union address, winning the future will take doing what we can do now to prepare America to compete in the global economy for decades to come. That means out-educating, out-innovating, and out-building our competition; restoring fiscal responsibility to remove the burden of deficits and debt; and reforming our government so that it is more effective, efficient, and open to the American people. As the President put it, “We cannot win the future with a government of the past.”

    The fact is that we live and do business in the information age, but the last major reorganization of the government happened in the middle of the last century. Over the past few decades, there has not been a business or large organization that has not rethought, retooled, and revamped how they did their job to respond to a growing, more competitive global economy and an ever-changing technology landscape. Yet too often, it seems that the federal government is stuck in the age of black-and-white television while we are competing in the age of the iPad.

    For millions of Americans, this can lead to frustrating encounters trying to get the services you need and a waste of taxpayer dollars. For many businesses, it means that they may not have all the assistance they need to compete around the world. For instance, we have more than a dozen different agencies involved in exports. They all work well with each other, but this is certainly not the optimal organization or allocation of resources if you were designing a system from scratch.

    The President believes that we need to reform our government to make it better organized and better equipped to support American competitiveness. We want to ensure that we're aligning all of the resources we have into negotiating the best agreements, enforcing our trade rights, supporting our exporters and promoting their products.

    That is why the President has asked Jeffrey Zients, our nation’s first Chief Performance Officer (CPO), to lead our reorganization effort. Our first focus will be looking at trade and exports to see how we can better reform these functions to give American companies a leg up in the global economy.

    For the past two years as CPO and Deputy Director for Management of OMB, Jeff has led our Accountable Government Initiative (AGI), the President’s initiative to make government more efficient and effective, open and responsive. On his watch, we have cut government waste, bringing down the amount of improper payments on our way of reducing them by $50 billion by 2012; started to get rid of unused federal buildings and property; overhauled how IT is purchased and used, saving billions; and deployed the latest technologies to make it easier for people to get the information and services they need from their government.

    Jeff’s years of private sector experience means that he brings a unique perspective to his job as CPO and to this new assignment. Having been a CEO, management consultant, and entrepreneur, Jeff has a deep understanding of business strategy, process reengineering and operational management. In fact, Jeff spent the majority of his career leading two companies that help corporations around the world improve their performance by adopting best management practices.  

    The President has also asked Lisa Brown to take on a new position and work with Jeff on this endeavor.  Lisa is currently Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary and previously served as Co-Chair of the Agency Review Working Group for the Obama-Biden Transition Project.  In these capacities and from her prior government service, she has developed a keen understanding of how the executive branch works.  She also brings management and legal acumen, having run a national non-profit organization and been a partner at a DC law firm.

    Jeff and Lisa will draw on the resources of OMB to launch and run this effort, and they will be reaching out to the business community, experts, those who run these programs, members of Congress, and a wide range of stakeholders and citizens to get their input about how government can be reformed to best work for them.  I know that we all look forward to working with Jeff and Lisa on this important effort and to helping to create a better organized and more effective federal government.

  • The President discusses his visit to a company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin and how it exemplified his agenda for America to “win the future” spelled out in the State of the Union Address.

  • From an overnight memo from his National Security Advisor, to a Presidential Daily Briefing that was 40 minutes in length and focused entirely on Egypt, and on through the day, the President and much of the White House spent the day focused on the unfolding situation in Egypt.  This evening the President spoke out after a phone call with President Mubarak:

    THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody.  My administration has been closely monitoring the situation in Egypt, and I know that we will be learning more tomorrow when day breaks.  As the situation continues to unfold, our first concern is preventing injury or loss of life.  So I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protestors. 

    The people of Egypt have rights that are universal.  That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny.  These are human rights.  And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.

    I also call upon the Egyptian government to reverse the actions that they’ve taken to interfere with access to the Internet, to cell phone service and to social networks that do so much to connect people in the 21st century.

    At the same time, those protesting in the streets have a responsibility to express themselves peacefully.  Violence and destruction will not lead to the reforms that they seek.

    Now, going forward, this moment of volatility has to be turned into a moment of promise.  The United States has a close partnership with Egypt and we've cooperated on many issues, including working together to advance a more peaceful region.  But we've also been clear that there must be reform -- political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people.

    In the absence of these reforms, grievances have built up over time.  When President Mubarak addressed the Egyptian people tonight, he pledged a better democracy and greater economic opportunity.  I just spoke to him after his speech and I told him he has a responsibility to give meaning to those words, to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise. 

    Violence will not address the grievances of the Egyptian people.  And suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.  What’s needed right now are concrete steps that advance the rights of the Egyptian people:  a meaningful dialogue between the government and its citizens, and a path of political change that leads to a future of greater freedom and greater opportunity and justice for the Egyptian people.

    Now, ultimately the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people.  And I believe that the Egyptian people want the same things that we all want -- a better life for ourselves and our children, and a government that is fair and just and responsive.  Put simply, the Egyptian people want a future that befits the heirs to a great and ancient civilization.

    The United States always will be a partner in pursuit of that future.  And we are committed to working with the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people -- all quarters -- to achieve it. 

    Around the world governments have an obligation to respond to their citizens.  That's true here in the United States; that's true in Asia; it is true in Europe; it is true in Africa; and it’s certainly true in the Arab world, where a new generation of citizens has the right to be heard. 

    When I was in Cairo, shortly after I was elected President, I said that all governments must maintain power through consent, not coercion.  That is the single standard by which the people of Egypt will achieve the future they deserve.

    Surely there will be difficult days to come.  But the United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people and work with their government in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free, and more hopeful.

    Thank you very much. 

    President Barack Obama discusses the situation in Egypt with Vice President Joe Biden and the national security team during the Presidential Daily Briefing in the Oval Office, Jan. 28, 2011. Attending the briefing, clockwise from the President are: National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; Chief of Staff Bill Daley; Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes; Tony Blinken, National Security Advisor to the Vice President; Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough; John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; and Robert Cardillo, Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Intelligence Integration. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    [View Full Size]

  • Quote: "We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit, and reform our government. That’s how our people will prosper.  That’s how we’ll win the future." --President Obama, as he outlined his vision for continuing to grow the economy during Tuesday's State of the Union. Watch it here.

    President Obama Delivers His State Of The Union Address

    President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 25, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Open for Questions: Part of the Administration's efforts to engage the public around the State of the Union included opportunities for citizens to ask questions of senior White House officials, as well as President Obama and Vice President Biden.

    @Pfeiffer44: White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer is now on Twitter. Follow @pfeiffer44 for updates and opportunities to ask him your questions.

    White House to Main Street: The President visits Manitowoc, WI to highlight innovation, American manufacturing, and the future of a clean energy economy.

  • In September 2009, the President announced that – for the first time in history – the White House would routinely release visitor records. Today, the White House releases visitor records that were generated in October 2010. Today’s release also includes several visitor records generated prior to September 16, 2009 that were requested by members of the public during December 2010 pursuant to the White House voluntary disclosure policy. This release brings the grand total of records that this White House has released to over 1,000,000 records. You can view them all in our Disclosures section.

    Ed. Note: For more information, check out Ethics.gov.

  • This morning, President Obama addressed Families USA’s Health Action 2011 Conference and discussed how the Affordable Care Act is helping to strengthen our health care system for all Americans. 

    In his remarks, the President highlighted two Americans that you may have heard about here on the White House website, Janine Vaughn, of Spokane, Washington and Gail O’Brien, of Keene, New Hampshire. Here is part of what the President said:

    “I don’t want to tell students that we’re booting them off their parents’ coverage.  I don’t want to tell seniors that their medicine is out of reach again.  I don’t want to tell Janine her taxes are going back up, or Gail that she’s got to choose between keeping her home and getting well….

    I don’t want that for America.  I don't want that for our families.  That’s not who we are and that’s not what we stand for.”
     

    Janine and Gail are just two of the millions of Americans who are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act. You can listen to Janine’s story and watch a video of President Obama calling Gail at home.

  • Denis McDonough, Deputy National Security Advisor, sat down yesterday with Military.com, The Economist, and ForeignPolicy.com to talk about the President's goals for American foreign policy as we move into a new future. Watch the full video, or use the links below to jump to particular questions and topics.

    Download Video: mp4 (569MB) | mp3 (54MB)

  • Yesterday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius sat down with AOL Health, Nurse.com, WebMD.com, and Medscape.com to answer questions from their readers about health care and the President's State of the Union Address. Check out the full video or use the links below to jump to your favorite questions.

    Download Video: mp4 (359MB) | mp3 (34MB)

  • In this week’s State of the Union address, President Obama once again made it clear that one of his top priorities is ensuring U.S. global leadership in the emerging industries of clean energy  and energy efficiency.

    Clean energy not only represents one of the greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century, it is also critical to our nation's ability to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and clean up our environment. 

    To support entrepreneurs all across America who are developing clean energy and energy-efficient technologies – installing wind turbines and solar panels, developing improved batteries for hybrid cars and putting the pieces of the next generation electricity grid together – the  Department of Commerce is focused on several key areas.

  • Yesterday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sat down with mtvU, BabyCenter.com, PBSTeachers.org, and GOOD.is to answer quesitons from their readers about education and the President's State of the Union Address. Check out the full video or use the links below to jump to your favorite questions.

    Download Video: mp4 (364MB) | mp3 (35MB)

  • Yesterday, Austan Goolsbee, Chair of the Council on Economic Advisers, sat down with MSNMoney, Mint.com and Examiner.com to answer questions from their readers about the economy and the President's State of the Union Address.  Check out the full video or use the links below to jump to your favorite questions.

    Download Video: mp4 (381MB) | mp3 (37MB)

  • Editor's Note: This was originally posted on the Department of Transportation's blog.

    Yesterday, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff and I toured the Greenville, South Carolina, bus manufacturing plant of Proterra, Inc.  And I don't think you could find a better demonstration of the American innovation President Obama invoked in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

    When the President said that America's small businesses need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build their competition, he must have had Proterra in mind.

    Employees at Proterra, Inc.

    Employees at Proterra, Inc., in Greenville, South Carolina. January 27, 2011. (by Department of Transportation)

    In 2009, Proterra did not have the financial resources or customer orders to commercialize its fast charge battery bus and charging station. Although FTA grants had helped support the company's fuel-cell research, they were unable to grow from a research and development company into an assembly line manufacturer of high technology vehicles.   

    But with help from Department of Transportation grants to transit agencies across the country, Proterra has been able to make that leap.

  • Yesterday, President Obama participated in a live YouTube interview, taking questions from people all over the country about everything from the Dream Act to renewable energy to situation in Egypt. This year, over 142,000 questions were submitted and 1,382,000 votes were cast. Check out the video of your interview with the President. You can watch the whole thing or skip to your favorite questions using the links below.

    Download Video: mp4 (1434MB) | mp3 (36MB)
     

  • When people hear about the First Lady's Let's Move initiative, the first thing they think of may not be the impact on our military -- but as it turns out it is extremely relevant. Yesterday First Lady Michelle Obama traveled to Fort Jackson, a U.S. Army Training Center in South Carolina, to be briefed by Army leadership on the consequences of childhood obesity, poor childhood nutrition and the lack of physical exercise on military readiness, and tour the post’s new “Soldier Athlete" initiative.

    First Lady Briefed by Base Leadership at Fort Jackson

    First Lady Michelle Obama is briefed by base leadership at Fort Jackson Drill Sergeant School in Fort Jackson, S.C., January 27, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

     

    During the briefing, we heard about the challenges the Army faces because of the childhood obesity epidemic. Of the 120,000 Army recruits they get every year, 40% are overweight or obese. The Army gave a presentation that included some alarming data such as the increasing rates of stress injuries and rising dental care costs. In the year 2000, 42% of their recruits needed dental care before they could be deployed. In 2009, this number jumped to 62%.  

  • Today’s report shows that the growth rate of the economy continued to increase in the final quarter of 2010, a further sign that the economy continues to gain momentum as it recovers from the worst recession since the Great Depression. Real GDP, the total amount of goods and services produced in the country, grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter of last year, the sixth straight quarter of positive growth.  For 2010 as a whole, GDP rose 2.9 percent, the fastest since 2005 and a dramatic reversal compared with the -2.6 percent rate in 2009. Private forecasters have predicted that the tax cut package signed by the President in December will have a significant impact on economic growth this year. We are on the right path, but have a lot more work to do to accelerate growth so that we are creating the jobs we need.

    Some key components of GDP continued to expand in the fourth quarter, including exports (8.5 percent), consumer spending (4.4 percent), equipment and software investment (5.8 percent), and residential spending (3.4 percent). Government spending fell 0.6 percent. Consumption and net exports made the largest positive contributions to growth this quarter, while the decline in inventory investment subtracted substantially from GDP growth.

    The overall trend of economic data over the past several months has been encouraging. The measures we worked with Congress to pass last month that continue tax cuts for the middle class and extend unemployment insurance are important for strengthening the recovery in 2011 and putting more money in the pockets of American families. The incentives for business investment will further boost the economy. The Administration will continue to focus on actions that the President has recommended to increase growth and job creation, such as providing incentives to encourage businesses to invest and hire here at home, investing in education and infrastructure, and promoting exports abroad.

  • Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This week, the President delivered his State of the Union Address, focused on jobs and the economy, and he took those ideas on the road traveling to Upstate New York and Wisconsin.

    Download Video: mp4 (140.2MB)
     

JUMP TO: