Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Washington Watch: Week 6

The Sequester Comes and Americans Yawn the sky did fall and the sequester is here. What happens next? Well... the Administration has decided to no longer host White House tours to save money (a minuscule amount and a HORRIBLE PR decision by someone -- Republicans pounced).

From the New York Times (3-5-13):
White House Tours Halted Over Cuts; Congress Says, ‘We’re Open’
Republican Congresswoman Louie Gohmert, from Texas (where else?) wants to stop the President from using federal funds for transportation to golf outings until he resumes the White House tours. Others took to Twitter to let the public know they can still tour the Capitol.

(And, while at the Capitol take a look at the new Rosa Parks statue...see below)

In all seriousness...budget cuts will be implemented, although as expected the GOP in Congress is putting together a bill to restore military cuts. It will be hard for the President not to sign it.  (Did they not foresee this?)

Now we hear there is a new budget crisis on the horizon on March 27th.  Another threat of a government shut-down...although there seems to be a bi-partisan effort to avert it by ....kicking it down the road to September.

And while all of this plays out in Washington...the rich get richer, and the poor (which includes the people formerly known as the middle class...well, they get nowhere.)  Take a look at this eye-opening video:

Delay in Processing Obama's Judicial Nominees
Republicans in the Senate are causing significant delays to the confirmation process for the President's judicial nominees. According to the President, "A minority of Senators has systematically and irresponsibly used procedural maneuvers to block or delay confirmation votes on judicial nominees."

Sometimes you just have to let the figures speak for themselves: (from data released by the White House)

  • 78 % of President Obama’s circuit court judges have waited more than 100 days for a vote, (Compared to 15 % of President Bush’s nominees.)
  • 42 % of President Obama's district court judges have waited more than 100 days for a vote, (Compared to 8 % of President Bush’s nominees.)
  • The average wait time for President Obama's judicial nominees to get a vote on the floor of the Senate – both for the circuit court and the district court – is 3-4 times as long as those of President Bush.
  • Judicial vacancies are growing, from 55 in 2009 (during President Obama's first term) to 89 now. (President Bush only had 40 when he began his second term).
  • 1 out of every 10 Federal Judgeships is vacant causing significant delays in federal court cases for both businesses and individuals.  
  • Of the 33 judicial nominees currently awaiting Senate confirmation - 15 are women; 6 are Hispanic; 6 are African-American; 3 are Asian-American; and 4 are openly gay. (Obviously some of the women are minority)
From the Washington Post: (3/3/13)
Obama pushing to diversify federal judiciary amid GOP delays
"“Diversity in and of itself is a thing that is strengthening the judicial system,” White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said. “It enhances the bench and the performance of the bench and the quality of the discussion . . . to have different perspectives, different life experiences, different professional experiences, coming from a different station in life, if you will.”"

President Obama's First Term -- A Look Back at Week Six - 2009:   (Excerpts from my National Scene blog, March 5, 2009)
  • Bringing Everyone to the Table to Address Healthcare: In the East Room of the White House, President Obama addressed an assembled group consisting of medical personnel, members of Congress, health care lobbyists, business owners, insurers, and everyday Americans - all with a stake in the health reform effort. After joking, “This was the hottest ticket in town,” the President made the agenda clear to the invited guests, stressing, “Our goal will be to enact comprehensive health reform by the end of this year.” After the President’s remarks the attendees met in break-out sessions to plot their course.
  • Reforming Government Spending: The President signed a memorandum that will reform government contracting, particularly by the Defense Department, by strengthening oversight and management of taxpayer dollars, stating “The American people's money must be spent to advance their priorities -- not to line the pockets of contractors or to maintain projects that don't work.” He was joined by a bipartisan group of legislators including Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo), and Representatives Edolphus Towns (D-NY) and Peter Welch.(D-VT).
  • Entertaining at “The People’s House”: The President and First Lady continued their ‘hospitality initiative’ by hosting another gathering in what they call “The People’s House.”  This dinner was for Congressional leaders from both parties and the President welcomed them explaining, “Given how hard so many of you are working on both sides of the aisle, day in, day out, we thought it was important for us to be able to step back for a moment, remind ourselves that we have things in common—family, friends, laughter—and hopefully, we'll have a chance to appreciate each other a little bit, take a timeout before we dive back into the game,” he said. “So we hope you have a wonderful evening—not to mention the fact that this is a pretty big house, so we get lonely.”


And Finally...  

Rosa Takes Her Seat
On February 27, 2013, Rosa Parks became the first African-American woman to have her likeness in the United States Capitol, National Statuary Hall. The 2,700-pound Rosa Parks statue, sculpted by California artist Rob Firmin, was commissioned by Congress -- the first since 1873, and at nine feet tall, the first full-sized statue of an African-American in the Capitol complex

The Rosa Parks Statue: "Strength from Stillness"

President Barack Obama touches the Rosa Parks statue after the unveiling during a ceremony in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Feb. 27, 2013. Helping with the unveiling, were, from left: Sheila Keys, niece of Rosa Parks; Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.; House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Assistant Democratic Leader Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.; and Elaine Eason Keys. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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