Tales from the Trail

Reid to Republicans: healthcare reform is now law of the land

reid pelosi

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid proudly proclaimed on Wednesday that the “historic healthcare reform is now no longer a bill it is the law.”

Someone please tell Republicans.

They are planning a flurry of amendments to try to stall a package of changes being considered by the Senate that Democrats want to make to the legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama.

House Democrats demanded the changes, which among other things would close the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap for the elderly.

Republicans want to change the new law too. They want to repeal it. Some of their amendments would do just that. It is unlikely Senate Democrats will reverse course and undo the hard fought victory for Obama.

But other proposed Republican amendments could force Democrats to take politically unpalatable election-year votes on measures such as one that would strike Medicare spending cuts from the bill.

Time for Obama to act on Afghanistan – Cheney

Former Vice President Dick Cheney tonight joins a chorus of critics who say President Barack Obama is taking way too long to decide whether to send another 40,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

cheneyCheney, no fan of any of the current administration’s foreign policy initiatives, prodded the White House to fulfill the president’s promise to give the U.S. armed  forces a clear mission in Afghanistan and to do it now.

“It’s time for President Obama to make good on his promise. The White House must stop dithering while America’s armed forces are in danger, ” Cheney said in remarks prepared for delivery at the Center for Security Policy, a Washington think-tank.

The First Draft: jobs jobs jobs

Guess what? There’s more bad news about the economy today.

Numbers out today show the unemployment rate has risen to its highest rate in 25 years as companies buckled under the strain of a recession that is showing no signs of ending. ECONOMY-JOBFAIR/

Want to hear more? The head of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Keith Hall, testifies to Congress about the employment picture at 9:30.

In the Obama administration’s first public overture to Tehran, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has invited Iran to a conference on Afghanistan planned for this month. Traveling in Brussels, Clinton also said the problems of climate change and the economy should be tackled simultaneously.

Bill Clinton to Obama: Don’t be so gloomy on economy

Bill Clinton has some advice for President Barack Obama — lighten up a little on the economic comments, dude. DAVOS/

In an interview with ABC News, the former president said he likes the fact that Obama does not engage in happy talk when he says “the economy could get worse before it gets better,” and that the $787 billion economic stimulus plan is only a start on the road to economic recovery.

“I’m glad he shot straight with us,” the husband of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

The First Draft: More pain ahead

Guess what? The economy is still in terrible shape.MARKETS-STOCKS/

The Dow Jones Industrial average plunged to its lowest level in six years yesterday, and all signs point to another lousy day on Wall Street today.

U.S. stock index futures are falling in early morning trading as worries about the fate of major banks mount. Shares of Citigroup were down 6.4 percent and Bank of America was down 8 percent in trading on the Frankfurt exchange.

President Obama has had a busy week. After signing the stimulus bill, unveiling his mortgage rescue plan and visiting Canada, he’ll talk up the stimulus at 10:30 a.m. today.

Obama takes a break at Kennedy Center show

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By Ayesha Rascoe

After a tough week of haggling over an economic stimulus package and cabinet nominee dramas, President Barack Obama took some time to unwind on Friday night and stepped out for a dance show with his family.

Obama, first lady Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia attended a 50th anniversary celebration performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

The audience at the sold out show greeted the Obamas with raucous applause as the first family waved from a red VIP box decorated with the presidential seal.

Obama talks Guantanamo with 9/11 and USS Cole families

USAWASHINGTON – President Barack Obama met with families of victims of the September 11 and USS Cole attacks to defend his decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba.

Obama told about 40 family members in an at-times emotional discussion on Friday that his goal was to keep the country safe.

The prison for terrorism suspects is widely seen as a stain on the United States’ human rights record. Obama took action in his first week in office, ordering an end to controversial trials by military tribunals there.

Obama takes “spiffy” first ride on Air Force One

OBAMA/ON BOARD AIR FORCE ONE – Barack Obama, wearing a new jacket with his name and “Air Force One” embroidered on it, took his maiden voyage aboard the presidential Jumbo jet as commander in chief on Thursday.

“What do you think about this spiffy ride?” the president asked, smiling, as he walked into the journalists section at the back of the large plane. “I’ve got my spiffy jacket so I thought I’d come and show it off.”

Obama, who was traveling to Williamsburg, Virginia, to speak to gathering of Democrats from the U.S. House of Representatives, chatted briefly about the economic stimulus bill in Congress before heading back to his quarters at the front of the plane.

New Hampshire governor indicates he will replace Gregg with a Republican

5WASHINGTON — New Hampshire Governor John Lynch appears to have cleared the way, at least politically, for Democratic President Barack Obama to name Republican Senator Judd Gregg as U.S. commerce secretary.
 
Lynch, a Democrat, indicated in a brief statement on Monday that he would yield to Gregg’s demands and appoint a Republican to replace him in the Senate if Obama, as anticipated, picks the 61-year-old New Hampshire senator as head of the U.S. Commerce Department.
 
A Senate Democratic aide wrote in an e-mail to Reuters that if Obama picks Gregg, Lynch will indeed replace him with another Republican in order not to upset the balance of power in the Democratic-led Senate.
 
If Gregg was replaced by a Democrat and Minnesota’s Al Franken survived a court challenge of his apparent victory, Democrats would have 60 seats in the 100-member Senate, enough to ram through Republican procedural roadblocks.
 
Gregg did not want to do that to his fellow Republicans.
 
“I have had conversations with Senator Gregg, the White House and U.S. Senate leadership,” Lynch said in the statement issued by his office.
 
“Senator Gregg has said he would not resign his seat in the U.S. Senate if it changed the balance in the Senate. Based on my discussions, it is clear the White House and Senate leadership understand this as well.”
 
Without specifically saying he would replace Gregg with a Republican, Lynch said: “It is important that President Obama be able to select the advisors he feels are necessary to help him address the challenges facing our nation.
 
“If President Obama does nominate Senator Gregg to serve as Commerce Secretary, I will name a replacement who will put the people of New Hampshire first and represent New Hampshire effectively in the U.S. Senate.”

Photo credit: Senator Gregg’s website (http://gregg.senate.gov/public/)

Obama shares spotlight with Palin at Alfalfa Dinner

4WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama shared Washington’s high-society spotlight on Saturday night with an unlikely co-star — Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
 
Wearing a black satin evening gown, Palin was spotted by journalists making her way into the ballroom at the Capitol Hilton for the Alfalfa Dinner, an annual closed-door roast of the city’s political and business elite.
 
Following in the footsteps of White House predecessors, Obama served as headline speaker at the light-hearted black-tie affair, which in accordance with a 96-year tradition bars reporters.
 
So it was not known whether the president had any choice words from the podium for Palin, who as Republican vice presidential nominee in the 2008 election rarely missed a chance to lash into Obama.
 
But, according to a few of Obama’s joke excerpts released by the White House, he had a few zingers for his hard-driving chief of state, Rahm Emanuel, who has a reputation for sometimes harsh language.
 
“It was actually Rahm’s idea to do the swearing-in ceremony again,” he said. “Of course, for Rahm, every day is a swearing-in ceremony.”
 
“Rahm Emanuel is a real sweetheart,” Obama added. “Every week the guy takes a little time away to give back to the community. Just last week he was at a local school, teaching profanity to poor children.”
 
Of his battle to guard part of his pre-White House lifestyle after his Jan. 20 inauguration, he said, “In just the first few weeks, I’ve had to engage in some of the toughest diplomacy of my life. And that was just to keep my Blackberry.”
 
And Obama, the first black U.S. president, also poked fun at the Alfalfa Club’s founding in 1913 by a group of Southern gentlemen.
 
“Many you are aware that this dinner began almost one hundred years ago as a way to celebrate the birthday of General Robert E. Lee. If he were here with us tonight, the general would be 202 years old. And very confused,” Obama said.

Photo credit: Reuters/Tami Chappell (Palin at a campaign rally for Senator Saxby Chambliss)