Josh EarnestJanuary 17, 2013
01:24 PM EDT
President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden, delivers remarks unveiling new gun control proposals as part of the Administration’s response to the Newtown, Conn. shootings, and other tragedies, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Jan. 16, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Yesterday at the White House, President Obama unveiled a package of proposals to protect our children and our communities by reducing gun violence. While no law or set of laws will end gun violence, it is clear that the American people want action. Editorial pages across the country today echoed that sentiment and lauded the President’s broad approach to address this important issue now:
CA - Bakersfield Californian: Obama's plan isn't an end-all, but it's a start. President Obama put forth his long-awaited proposal to address gun violence on Wednesday -- a common-sense yet somehow controversial plan long overdue at the national level. LINK
CA - San Jose Mercury News: Obama ready for a fight on gun laws, finally. "All right, here we go." Those were President Barack Obama's words Wednesday after he signed 23 executive actions and proposed the most sweeping set of gun-reform laws in a generation. He was acknowledging the beginning of a long and difficult fight that he is finally embracing after years of inaction. LINK
CO - Denver Post: Gun laws need a push from the public. President Obama's proposals to curb gun violence are sensible, moderate, enjoy broad public support— and will have a devil of a time getting enough votes to pass Congress. LINK
CT - Connecticut Post: Welcome steps on gun safety. President Barack Obama was decisive and authoritative on Wednesday in announcing 23 executive orders aimed at curtailing gun violence. LINK
CT - Hartford Courant: Obama Throws Down Gauntlet On Guns. It's "game on" between President Barack Obama and the gun lobby. With parents of a Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim in his audience Wednesday, Mr. Obama embraced a cause — making the nation less vulnerable to gun violence — that may prove to be the most politically difficult of his presidency. LINK
Secretary Kathleen SebeliusJanuary 17, 2013
11:39 AM EDT
January is the perfect month for looking forward to new and great things around the corner.
I’m feeling that way about the new Health Insurance Marketplace. Anticipation is building, and this month we start an important countdown, first to October 1, 2013, when open enrollment begins, and continuing on to January 1, 2014, the start of new health insurance coverage for millions of Americans. In October, many of you’ll be able to shop for health insurance that meets your needs at the new Marketplace at HealthCare.gov.
This is an historic time for those Americans who never had health insurance, who had to go without insurance after losing a job or becoming sick, or who had been turned down because of a pre-existing condition. Because of these new marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans will have new access to affordable health insurance coverage.
Over the last two years we’ve worked closely with states to begin building their health insurance marketplaces, also known as Exchanges, so that families and small-business owners will be able to get accurate information to make apples-to-apples comparisons of private insurance plans and, get financial help to make coverage more affordable if they’re eligible.
That is why we are so excited about launching the newly rebuilt HealthCare.gov website, where you’ll be able to buy insurance from qualified private health plans and check if you are eligible for financial assistance — all in one place, with a single application. Many individuals and families will be eligible for a new kind of tax credit to help lower their premium costs. If your state is running its own Marketplace, HealthCare.gov will make sure you get to the right place.
Colleen CurtisJanuary 16, 2013
01:57 PM EDT
President Obama today announced a series of sweeping reforms that will help curb gun violence in our nation.
In front of a crowd that included victims of gun violence, families who lost loved ones to gun violence, elected officials, and school children who had written letters asking him to do something to prevent more senseless massacres like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the President introduced a comprehensive proposal that will make it easier to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and will give law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals, and the public health community the tools they need to help reduce gun violence, and keep our children safe.
“This is our first task as a society,” the President said. “This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change.”
These actions are the result of the effort led by Vice President Joe Biden and members of the Cabinet to come up with concrete steps that we can take right now to keep our children safe, help prevent mass shootings, and reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country.
The President acknowledged that implementing some of these changes will be difficult, but vowed to make it a priority: “I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality. Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence – if even one life can be saved – we have an obligation to try.”
Macon PhillipsJanuary 15, 2013
06:00 PM EDT
When we launched We the People, none of us knew how popular it would be, but it's exceeded our wildest expectations. Through the past year, interest in We the People exploded and we're closing in on 10 million signatures.
When we first raised the threshold — from 5,000 to 25,000 — we called it "a good problem to have." Turns out that "good problem" is only getting better, so we're making another adjustment to ensure we’re able to continue to give the most popular ideas the time they deserve.
Starting today, as we move into a second term, petitions must receive 100,000 signatures in 30 days in order to receive an official response from the Obama Administration. This new threshold applies only to petitions created from this point forward and is not retroactively applied to ones that already exist.
In the last two months of 2012, use of We the People more than doubled. In just that time roughly 2.4 million new users joined the system, 73,000 petitions were created and 4.9 million signatures were registered.
January 15, 2013
04:16 PM EDT
Editors note: This post is jointly authored by Treasury Deputy Secretary Neal S. Wolin and SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills. It was originally posted on Treasury's blog.
Today, many taxpayers who qualify for the home office tax deduction are not claiming it. The reasons often cited are that businesses and filers do not fully understand the provisions or find it too complicated to calculate the amount.
That is about to change.
As part of ongoing efforts by the Administration to reduce paperwork burdens, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced today that it is providing a new, simpler option for calculating the home office tax deduction, allowing small business owners and employees who work from home and who maintain a qualifying home office to deduct up to $1,500 per year.
The IRS also expects taxpayers to save more than 1.6 million hours per year in tax preparation time from this simpler calculation method.
The new option allows qualified taxpayers to deduct annually $5 per square foot of home office space on up to 300 square feet, for as much as $1,500 in deductions. To take advantage of the new option, taxpayers will complete a much simpler version of the current 43-line form.
The announcement builds on the President’s commitment to streamline and simplify the tax code for small businesses and to reduce the burden for tax compliance. It is part of broader efforts to make interacting with the federal government easier and more efficient for businesses of all sizes.
January 15, 2013
02:52 PM EDT
As a young woman growing up in Louisiana, a career in the Foreign Service was never really on my list of life dreams -- but all that changed, beginning with graduate school and a research project in Africa that opened my eyes to the possibilities of diplomatic life.
Since joining the Department of State 31 years ago, I have lived and worked on four continents, traveling the world from Afghanistan to South Africa. I have witnessed the horror of genocide in Rwanda; I've celebrated the joy of people coming out of 15 years of war to elect the first woman president in Africa. I've never regretted those first steps out of my comfort zone and into the world of diplomacy.
I've been the face of America abroad, and I've been blessed with the opportunity to make a difference in people's lives and to represent my nation. The State Department needs the energy and passion of Americans who want a career that matters.
And that's why we've made this video.
We want to highlight and share with you some of the faces and stories of the amazing people who have made their dreams to do good in the world a reality through their career in the Foreign Service.
Colleen CurtisJanuary 14, 2013
03:30 PM EDT
President Obama today invited the White House Press Corps to the East Room for one last news conference as his first term comes to an end. Before taking questions from the assembled journalists, the President took a moment to reflect on the past four years, and look ahead to his agenda for the next term, which includes new jobs, new opportunity, and new security for the middle class:
One component to growing our economy and broadening opportunity for the middle class is shrinking our deficits in a balanced and responsible way. And for nearly two years now, I’ve been fighting for such a plan -- one that would reduce our deficits by $4 trillion over the next decade, which would stabilize our debt and our deficit in a sustainable way for the next decade. That would be enough not only to stop the growth of our debt relative to the size of our economy, but it would make it manageable so it doesn’t crowd out the investments we need to make in people and education and job training and science and medical research -- all the things that help us grow.
Matt ComptonJanuary 12, 2013
05:30 AM EDT
Matt ComptonJanuary 11, 2013
04:50 PM EDT
President Obama hosted Afghan President Hamid Karzai today at the White House for talks on the partnership between our two nations and the role of U.S. troops in that country.
And coming out of those talks, President Obama was able to discuss a milestone we'll reach this year when Afghan forces take full responsibility for their nation's security and the war draws to a close.
"This progress is only possible because of the incredible sacrifices of our troops and our diplomats, the forces of our many coalition partners, and the Afghan people who’ve endured extraordinary hardship," he said. "In this war, more than 2,000 of America’s sons and daughters have given their lives. These are patriots that we honor today, tomorrow, and forever."
In his statement, President Karzai echoed that message.
"During our conversations...I thanked the President for the help that the United States has given to the Afghan people," he said, "for all that we have gained in the past 10 years, and that those gains will be kept by any standard while we are working for peace and stability in Afghanistan, including the respect for Afghan constitution."
Adam GarberJanuary 11, 2013
12:00 AM EDT
Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. This week, the President nominated a bipartisan slate of leaders to key administration jobs and the Vice President met with a wide array of organizations to talk about efforts to reduce gun violence.
Matt ComptonJanuary 10, 2013
04:30 PM EDT
Today, in an event President Obama nominated Jacob Lew -- the current White House chief of staff -- to serve as the next Treasury Secretary.
"Over the past year, I’ve sought Jack’s advice on virtually every decision that I’ve made, from economic policy to foreign policy," the President said.
Jack Lew has decades of experience tackling some of the nation's toughest economic challenges. As director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Clinton, Lew helped to negotiate the deal that balanced the federal budget -- and led to a budget surplus. In the Obama Administration, even before becoming chief of staff, he has helped to manage the day-to-day operations at the State Department and shepherd through the Budget Control Act to reduce federal spending in a second stint at OMB.
"One reason Jack has been so effective in this town is because he is a low-key guy who prefers to surround himself with policy experts rather than television cameras," said President Obama. "And over the years, he’s built a reputation as a master of policy who can work with members of both parties and forge principled compromises."
The President also offered his gratitude to his current Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner -- who helped to guide the country through the financial crisis and get the economy growing again.
"When the history books are written," he said, "Tim Geithner is going to go down as one of our finest Secretaries of the Treasury."
January 10, 2013
12:13 PM EDT
Editor's note: This post was originally published on the official blog of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Today, we’re issuing one of our most important rules to date, the Ability-to-Repay rule. It’s designed to assure the reliability of mortgages – making sure that lenders offer mortgages that consumers can actually afford to pay back. This is a simple, obvious principle that needs to be cemented in the housing market.
In the run-up to the financial crisis, we had a housing market that was reckless about lending money. Lenders thought they could make money on a loan even if the consumer could not pay back that loan, either by banking on rising housing prices or by off-loading the mortgage into the secondary market. This encouraged broad indifference to the ability of many consumers to repay loans, which dramatically increased mortgage delinquencies and rates of foreclosures.
Earlier this year, we heard from a California man named Henry, who was in the process of foreclosure. He was desperate. During the overheated years, a lender sold him a mortgage valued at more than half a million dollars. This was far more than he could afford on his annual salary of less than $50,000. He said he’d assumed that the lender knew what it was doing when he qualified for such a large loan. He’s now worried not only about losing his home, but about losing his family’s entire future.
Henry is not alone. Unaffordable loans helped cause the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. People across the country were sold unsustainable mortgages. Some may have entered with their eyes open, seeking to ride the wave of rising housing prices, but many were led astray. For many borrowers, it appears that lenders ignored the numbers to get the loan approved. This kind of reckless lending was an endemic problem.
To put it simply: lenders should not set up consumers to fail.
Colleen CurtisJanuary 10, 2013
10:16 AM EDT
Right now, Vice President Biden is leading an effort to develop a new set of policies to reduce gun violence and prevent tragedies like the shooting in Newtown Conn.
Yesterday, as part of that work, the Vice President met with victims’ groups and gun safety organizations at the White House.
Following those meetings, the Vice President held conference calls with governors of both parties, and state and local elected leaders from across the United States. The Vice President listened to the unique perspectives of all the participants, and solicited their ideas and input on how to curb gun violence in this country. During the call, Mr. Biden reiterated the Administration’s commitment to this urgent issue and stressed that the problem requires immediate action.
Today, Vice President Biden will hold meetings with advocates for sportsmen and women and gun ownership groups. He will meet with representatives of the entertainment and video game industries this week as well.
Kori SchulmanJanuary 08, 2013
01:52 PM EDT
On August 12th, 2009, President Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, to Stephen Hawking. “From his wheelchair he's led us on a journey to the farthest and strangest reaches of the cosmos,” said the President, “In so doing, he has stirred our imagination and shown us the power of the human spirit here on Earth.”
Today, on Professor Hawking’s 71st birthday, we’d like to share a never-before-seen video from his visit. Honored as an "agent of change," Hawking discusses the thrill of discovery and overcoming the challenge of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Megan SlackJanuary 07, 2013
04:25 PM EDT
Brennan, a 25-year veteran of the CIA, has served as President Obama’s Advisor for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security since 2009. “For the last four years,” President Obama said, “John developed and has overseen our comprehensive counterterrorism strategy -- a collaborative effort across the government, including intelligence and defense and homeland security, and law enforcement agencies.”
President Obama called Brennan “one of the hardest working civil servants I’ve ever known” and said that he valued Brennan’s integrity and commitment “to the values that define us as Americans.”
Matt ComptonJanuary 07, 2013
04:19 PM EDT
Speaking from the East Room of the White House, President Obama today announced two key nominations for his national security team. He tapped John Brennan to serve as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and he asked Sen. Chuck Hagel to serve as Secretary of Defense.
"Chuck Hagel’s leadership of our military would be historic," he said. "He’d be the first person of enlisted rank to serve as Secretary of Defense, one of the few secretaries who have been wounded in war, and the first Vietnam veteran to lead the department. As I saw during our visits together to Afghanistan and Iraq, in Chuck Hagel our troops see a decorated combat veteran of character and strength. They see one of their own."
The President and Hagel have known each other for nearly a decade and served together on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Hagel spent two terms in the upper chamber of Congress and helped to lead the fight for passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Under President Reagan, Hagel served as a deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration, and while co-founding his own business, he served as the CEO of the United Service Organization. He's also co-chaired the Intelligence Advisory Board for President Obama.
"Chuck knows that war is not an abstraction," President Obama said. "He understands that sending young Americans to fight and bleed in the dirt and mud, that’s something we only do when it’s absolutely necessary."
January 07, 2013
04:00 PM EDT
Entrepreneurs and small businesses are the engines of American innovation and our economic success, and President Obama is committed to helping them grow and prosper. Our nation’s small businesses employ over 60 million Americans, or half of the private sector workforce. Both small businesses and especially new businesses that are less than five years old are particularly important in job creation in the United States, with a relatively small number of rapidly growing companies generating an outsized share of new jobs – in every industry and across the country.
Last year, President Obama spoke with his Cabinet about how every Federal agency has a role to play in promoting the success of American entrepreneurs:
[What] we want to do is to make sure that every single agency, even as they’re tending to their energy initiatives or providing homeland security or transportation or defense, that we’re also thinking about how are we’re advancing the cause of giving small businesses and entrepreneurs opportunities to start creating the next Google or the next Apple or the next innovative company that’s going to create jobs and improve our economy.
The Obama Administration recently released a detailed action plan to achieve this goal of increasing Federal services to entrepreneurs and small businesses, with an emphasis on (1) startups and growing firms and (2) underserved markets. This is one of a select group of Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals, designed to improve government performance on important national priorities.
Valerie JarrettJanuary 07, 2013
01:43 PM EDT
Editor's note: This post was originally published on HuffingtonPost.com.
Earlier today, President Obama announced his intent to nominate former Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.
Chuck Hagel is uniquely qualified to be Secretary of Defense. He is a decorated war hero who earned two purple hearts for his heroism in Vietnam. He knows the sacrifices that we ask our brave service members to make because he has made them himself. If confirmed, he would be the first enlisted soldier, and first Vietnam veteran, to serve as our nation's Secretary of Defense.
Senator Hagel also has the judgment and experience to serve. He worked tirelessly for two terms on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Intelligence Committee. He helped lead the fight in the Senate to pass the post-9/11 GI Bill, and worked at the VA and as head of the USO, where he dedicated himself to supporting our armed forces. Throughout his career, he has been a champion for our troops, military families and veterans.
President Obama has come to know and trust Senator Hagel over nearly a decade, dating back to their time together in the Senate. Together, they travelled to Afghanistan and Iraq in the summer of 2008, and they share a commitment to end the war in Afghanistan responsibly. Senator Hagel has been a strong supporter of the President's approach to national security, and as Secretary of Defense, he will support and execute the President's vision for our military. That includes continuing the President's historic support for gay and lesbian service members, and overseeing the continued implementation of the full repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The President is fully committed to ensuring that all of our service members and military families are treated equally. He is confident that, as Secretary of Defense, Senator Hagel will ensure that all who serve the country we love are treated equally -- no matter who they love.
Recently, some in the LGBT community have expressed concerns about Senator Hagel's past comments. In response, Senator Hagel issued a statement in which he apologized for comments that he made in the 1990s, and affirmed both his commitment to LGBT civil rights as well as his support for open service and the families of gay and lesbian service members.
One of the great successes of the LGBT civil rights movement is that it provides the space and opportunity for people to change their hearts and minds, to right past wrongs, and, over time, to evolve. The President believes Senator Hagel's statement of apology, and his commitment to ensuring that all service members and their families are treated equally. The President would not have chosen him unless he had every confidence that, working together, they will continue to ensure that our military and DoD civilian workforce are as welcoming, inclusive, and respectful as possible.
Megan SlackJanuary 05, 2013
06:00 AM EDT
In this week’s address, President Obama talks about the bipartisan agreement that Congress reached this week which prevented a middle-class tax hike, congratulates the newly sworn-in members of Congress, and looks forward to working with the new Congress in the new year to continue to grow our economy and shrink our deficits in a balanced way.
Jonathan GreenblattJanuary 04, 2013
06:12 PM EDT
On January 21, 2013, our nation will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (MLK Day), a national holiday during which we honor the legacy of the civil rights leader Dr. King through a day of service and volunteering.
This year, MLK Day commemorations will coincide with the Presidential Inauguration, so the President is asking all citizens to join him in participating in a National Day of Service on Saturday, January 19. Earlier today, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced that it will host a wide range of volunteering events in Washington, DC and around the country. Additionally, the Committee is encouraging people to pledge a commitment to serve after MLK Day throughout 2013.
President Obama has been deeply committed to engaging more Americans in service since taking office four years ago. He expanded AmeriCorps through measures such as signing the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act in 2009 and creating the FEMA Corps program last year. He launched the Serve.gov platform to make it easier for Americans to find and post local volunteer opportunities.
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