Hollywood had its red carpet Oscar night for stars on Sunday. Washington followed two days later with President Barack Obama’s walk down the peacock blue and gold carpet of the House chamber for a speech to a joint session of Congress.
Tales from the Trail
First lady Michelle Obama took a turn in the spotlight Thursday, hosting a reception for a woman whose treatment at Goodyear prompted Congress to change the law on pay discrimination.
It was one of the highest-profile public events for the first lady since the inauguration last week. And it was on behalf of a woman — Lilly Ledbetter — who got to know the first couple well during the presidential campaign.
President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act into law in the East Room of the White House flanked by a small crowd of lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“This is what change looks like,” Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland joked to the audience as the lawmakers crowded around the document Obama was to sign.
The first lady later spoke about Ledbetter at a reception in the State Dining Room as guests sipped orange juice and cranberry juice and munched cherry orange scones, apple muffins and other pastries.
“She is one of my favorite people in the whole wide world,” Michelle Obama said.
“She knew unfairness when she saw it and was willing to do something about it because it was the right thing to do, plain and simple.”
Ledbetter discovered after 19 years on the job at Goodyear Tire & Rubber that she was the lowest-paid supervisor at her plant despite having more experience than some male co-workers.
A jury found she was the victim of discrimination. But the Supreme Court reversed the decision two years ago, saying discrimination claims must be filed within 180 days of the first offense.
“I will never see a cent from my case,” Ledbetter said. “But with the passage (of the bill) and president’s signature today, I have an even richer reward. I know that my daughters and granddaughters and your daughters and your granddaughters will have a better deal.”
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WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a “Happy New Year” message to colleagues: be ready for action when the new U.S. Congress convenes next week.
“The 111th Congress will hit the ground running … with an ambitious schedule that corresponds with the opportunities and challenges that we face as a country,” Pelosi wrote Wednesday in an open letter to her “Democratic colleagues.”
“The opening days of the Congress will be intense,” Pelosi added. “I know that we will be ready.”
The House and Senate will convene on Tuesday, Jan. 6 — 14 days before Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th U.S. president. It will mark the first time in 14 years that Democrats have controlled both Congress and the White House.
In the November elections, Democrats expanded their majorities in the House and Senate with a stack of campaign promises.
They included ones to: withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq and redeploy many of them to Afghanistan; expand health care coverage; move the U.S. toward energy independence; curb global warming and bolster regulation of the troubled financial industry.
Among the first measures to be considered will likely be one that could total $775 billion or more in spending and tax cuts to stimulate the economy and stem a deepening recession.
In her letter, Pelosi wrote that the Democratic Steering Committee, which helps set party policy, will hold a hearing Wednesday on the need for an economic recovery plan.
Pelosi added that by the time Obama takes office in two weeks, she expects the House to consider a number of bills, including one to pump new life into the economy.
She ended her “Happy New Year!” letter with a holiday note: “Best wishes to you and your family.”
Tis the season to be, er, generous with taxpayers’ money.
The White House and Democrats in Congress are busy putting the finishing touches to a whopping $15 billion Christmas present for the U.S. auto industry. The two sides have been haggling for several days over the terms of the bailout to rescue the “Big Three” Detroit car manufacturers but are now reported to be close to agreement.
At two rallies in Virginia on Saturday, the Republican candidate slammed the House Speaker and other congressional Democrats almost as much as his rival for the White House. A President Obama would be unlikely to curb the excesses of a Congress likely to remain in Democratic hands, he warned.
WASHINGTON – Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems to think so. But she is touting Rep. Chet Edwards of Texas, not former presidential candidate John Edwards who twice ran for president and was the Democrats vice presidential candidate in 2004.