Tales from the Trail
WASHINGTON – Trying to figure out where the Obama team is going on the economy? It probably helps to be a stool maker.
The $825 billion stimulus bill moving through Congress “is just one leg in a multi-legged stool,” the president said during a visit to Congress this week.
Reporters have been trying ever since to figure out exactly how many legs are on the economic recovery stool.
“Is it a three-legged or a four-legged stool?” one reporter asked White House spokesman Robert Gibbs during a briefing Thursday. And, “What are those legs specifically?”
“I think roughly you have, whether you’re talking about stools or pillars or what have you, three main areas,” Gibbs said. “You have a Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, which is moving through Congress. You have a financial stability package. And you have financial re-regulation.”
“I don’t know that it’s tremendously pertinent to get caught up in whether there are three stools, three legs on this stool or four, or rungs, or what have you,” he said.
“I think the American people understand that we have to deal with … each of these in order to move the economy forward.”
Then Gibbs added a complication: “I’m not sure … which leg housing is.”
But he sought to reassure the American people.
“You may not understand which leg of the stool you’re on, but you understand it’s a problem that has to be dealt with.”
What about the “international leg of the stool that was discussed by the G20 here … people say that it’s not moving anywhere,” asked a reporter, referring to a group of industrialized and major developing nations.
Gibbs said more detail on the international leg would be forthcoming as the G20 meeting in London in April draws near.
Reporters were not entirely satisfied with the level of detail coming from the White House spokesman.
“I’m wondering,” said one, “when you’re going to show us a little more leg.”
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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 – Barack Obama’s $825 billion plan to boost the recession-bound U.S. economy has some elements that, well, aren’t the sort of stimulus that House Minority Leader John Boehner says he can believe in.
“I’m concerned about the size of the package, and I’m concerned about some of the spending that’s in there,” Boehner complained Friday after a meeting at White House.
“How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives? How does that stimulate the economy?”
Hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives?
The Ohio congressman’s office explains. One proposal included in the stimulus package would expand Medicaid family planning services to all 50 states.
The proposal would enable people who don’t qualify for Medicaid to receive the family planning services, including contraceptives.
“Whether or not you think that is good public policy, it has nothing to do with an economic stimulus,” a spokesman for Boehner said.
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WASHINGTON – U.S. President-elect Barack Obama skipped his soon-to-be predecessor’s final address to the nation on Thursday in favor of dining out.
At roughly 8 p.m. in Washington, about the time President George W. Bush began his televised speech, Obama left his new temporary residence across from the White House to go out for dinner in a restaurant a few blocks away.
The ride in his motorcade lasted about a minute and an aide said his wife, Michelle, accompanied him for the meal.
Bush, who was speaking for the final time to the country, reflected on his eight years in office and opened by wishing his successor well.
“This is a moment of hope and pride for our whole nation,” Bush said. “And I join all Americans in offering best wishes to President-elect Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their two beautiful girls.”
Obama spent the day working at his transition office in downtown Washington, then came to the Blair House — the residence where his family will stay from now until the inauguration — at around 7:15 p.m.
He left the house about 45 minutes later and entered the restaurant while Bush was speaking.
Maybe he’ll read the transcript?
Obama goes to Ohio on Friday to visit a factory. The trip is designed to highlight his proposals to create jobs and boost the economy. On Saturday Obama returns to Washington on a train ride that kicks off several days of inauguration festivities.
Obama routinely criticized Bush over domestic and foreign policy during the 2008 election, but the transition of power between the two leaders has proceeded smoothly.
Last week Obama had lunch with Bush and the three other living former U.S. presidents at the White House.