Entries in Obama Administration (9)


Senior Administration Officials Warn Business Leaders About Boehner’s Fiscal Cliff "Plan B"

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senior Obama administration officials met with business leaders to argue that House Speaker John Boehner’s “Plan B” could put the nation on a path to go over the fiscal cliff, a source familiar with the meeting told ABC News Wednesday afternoon.

The effort is just the latest example of the Obama administration trying to urge the Republican Party’s supporters in the business community to urge Tea Party supporters to be more willing to compromise with Democrats.

The Obama administration officials present were chief of staff Jack Lew, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling, and Office of Management and Budget director Jeff Zients.

The business leaders present were Tom Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; former Michigan Gov. John Engler of the Business Roundtable; former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty of the Financial Services Roundtable; Rob Nichols of the Financial Services Forum; Marion Blakey of the Aerospace Industries Association; Lockheed Martin Chairman and CEO Bob Stevens; president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers Jay Timmons; and Dan Danner of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Automakers Concerned About New Fuel Efficiency Standards

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Past consumer behavior has the auto industry reacting with “mixed emotions” to Tuesday’s Obama administration announcement of new fuel efficiency standards that will increase fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025, Gloria Bergquist, vice president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers told ABC News.

At a campaign event in Ames, Iowa, President Obama heralded the new announcement, telling a crowd of students that “we developed new fuel standards, developed new fuel standards so that your car will get nearly 55 miles per gallon by the middle of the next decade. That’s going to save you money at the pump. That will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a level roughly equivalent to a year’s worth of emissions from all the cars in the world.”

Environmental groups also cheered, with the Union of Concerned Scientists claiming that the standards will save consumers nearly $8,000 over the lifetime of the new 2025 vehicles, while reducing “global warming emissions by as much as 270 million metric tons in 2030–the equivalent of shutting down 65 coal-fired power plants for one year.”

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers issued a statement expressing some support. Bergquist said that members of her association -- which includes not just American auto manufacturers such as Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation but also importers such as BMW Group and Toyota -- are happy for the singular standard issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Fuel efficient vehicles are already available in many instances, Bergquist said. “Consumers need to buy them. If they don’t we may well fall short” of the goals necessary for today’s standards to actually be feasible.

In addition to consumers buying fuel efficient vehicles in greater numbers, she said, clean diesel needs to become more available – it’s only in roughly half of U.S. service stations – as do charging stations. Half of new vehicles sold in Europe use clean diesel, she said, while in the U.S. that number is closer to two percent. Anecdotally, automakers are told by consumers that they would be more willing to buy clean diesel vehicles if the fuel were more widespread. “We see the same thing with electric vehicles,” she said.

For that reason, the automakers say they’re glad that the new rule includes an April 2018 “mid-term evaluation” where the government can thoroughly review marketplace conditions. “Our first choice is we want to sell them in high volumes,” she said, “but if that doesn’t happen for some reason we need to address that sooner rather than later so we can see what needs to be done to encourage consumers.”

The biggest driver of consumer behavior when it comes to cars “ultimately goes to the question of ‘What’s the price of gasoline?’” she said. “In Europe, the price is eight dollars a gallon and consumers are driving different vehicles.”

While noting that the financial industry underlines that past experience does not necessarily predict future success, Bergquist noted that hybrid vehicles have been on the market for approximately a decade, and today constitute only 2- 2.5% of vehicle sales in the U.S.

The new standards are “very, very challenging,” she said, while underlining, “we understand the need for greater energy security.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Federal Workers to See Pay Increase?

Nick M Do/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House will propose a 0.5 percent pay increase for federal workers as part of its 2013 budget, according to an Office of Management and Budget official.

The modest increase will mark the first uptick in federal compensation since President Obama announced a two-year pay freeze in November 2010, citing the need for federal employees to share in the sacrifice needed to get the deficit under control.

The 0.5 percent increase for civilian federal workers still falls well below the 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security and other benefits that went into effect at the start of this year to keep pace with inflation.

The proposal would require congressional approval and puts the president at odds with Republicans who have called for extending the pay freeze.

The White House is expected to put forth its 2013 budget proposal next month.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House: Jobs Report Further Evidence the Economy Is Healing

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In its first reaction to Friday morning’s jobs report, the White House says the latest figures are, “further evidence that the economy is continuing to heal,” but that faster growth is needed to put Americans back to work.

“It is critical that we continue the economic policies that are helping us to dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the recession that began at the end of 2007,” chairman of the council of economic advisers Alan Krueger wrote in a White House blog. “Most importantly, we need to extend the payroll tax cut and continue to provide emergency unemployment benefits through the end of this year, and take other steps the President has proposed in the American Jobs Act.”

Beating expectations, the U.S. economy added 200,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent from 8.7 percent in November. Krueger notes that “the drop in unemployment over the month was mostly due to employment growth, not lower labor force participation.”

“Nonetheless, we need faster growth to put even more Americans back to work,” Krueger writes.

As always, the White House stresses that monthly unemployment numbers are volatile and that, “it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.”

The Labor Department has been criticized by some for a spate of less publicized adjustments to its announced monthly numbers, which critics say are painting a rosier picture of the economic situation.

The latest jobs number boost likely includes those who got temporary jobs for the holiday seasons, and some experts say numbers in the coming months will be a better bellwether.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Solyndra in Grand Jury Crosshairs: Documents

Ken James/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A grand jury has been convened in what appears to be the next significant step of the federal criminal investigation into Solyndra, the politically-connected and now bankrupt solar firm that received a half-billion dollar loan guarantee from the government at the urging of the Obama administration, according to court documents.

The role of the grand jury was revealed in documents filed in bankruptcy court last week by K&L Gates, a law firm retained by Solyndra reportedly just weeks after the FBI raided Solyndra's California headquarters in September. The documents give a daily account of K&L Gates' employees activities in reference to Solyndra and often refer to communications concerning a, "grand jury subpoena".

The K&L Gates documents, first reported by The Washington Times, also show the attorneys had more than two dozen interactions with the U.S. Attorney's office and the FBI. The first mention of a grand jury came on Oct. 9.

The criminal investigation into the failed solar power company has become a political lightning rod as Republicans in Congress have suggested undue political influence affected the Obama administration's decision to award Solyndra a $535 million loan guarantee in 2009, despite early warning signs the company was in trouble.

When called before a Congressional committee in September, former Solyndra executives invoked their Fifth Amendment rights and declined to answer any questions about the company's sudden collapse. The next month, the company's CEO, Brian Harrison, resigned.

ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News first reported on questions about the choice of Solyndra for the loan in March after the Department of Energy disclosed it was being forced to restructure its loan package for the company, which was showing early signs of financial distress. One of Solyndra's major investors was George Kaiser, an Oklahoma billionaire who raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama during the 2008 election.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee also opened an investigation into the loan, which Republican House Energy and Commerce Committee members Rep. Cliff Stearns and Rep. Fred Upton said was, "suspect from day one."

President Obama has maintained that Solyndra got the loan "on [its] merits" -- though emails obtained by investigators show how eager some in the administration were to make the deal in spite of the company's troubled fundamentals.

"I have confidence decisions were made based upon what's good for the American people," Obama said in a press conference in October. "There were going to be some companies that did not work out. Solyndra was one of them."

Energy Secretary Steven Chu also denied he was influenced on Solyndra's behalf.

"I want to be clear," Chu told Congress in November. "Over the course of Solyndra's loan guarantee, I did not make any decision based on political considerations. My decision to guarantee a loan to Solyndra was based on the analysis of experienced professionals and on the strength of the information they had available to them at the time."

Officials at the U.S. Attorney's office declined to comment on for this report.

Jeffrey Bornstein, an attorney for K&L Gates often mentioned in the documents, told POLITICO, "Solyndra is continuing to cooperate with the United States Attorney’s Office in connection with its investigation."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Admin. Planning on Doubling Fuel Efficiency Standards

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Obama administration is reportedly working on a plan that will require automakers to nearly double the fuel efficiency of their cars by the next decade.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the plan calls for cars and light trucks to average 56.2 miles per gallon by 2025.  This new regulation would add to the administration's decision last year to have these vehicles average 35.5 mpg by 2016.  The average fuel economy of these vehicles today is 27.3 mpg.

The new proposal was presented to auto industry officials last week, the Journal reports citing people familiar with the matter.

Although supports say the new rule would lead to cleaner air and save drivers on gas, automakers say they would have to build more electrically-powered vehicles to meet the requirement, forcing them to hike prices.

"I don't think there's any question that people will save a lot of money with higher fuel economy standards however, it is going to make the price of cars go up," says John McElroy with

"The danger is even though consumers may save money over say a five year period of time they may not be able to afford the big bump up in prices that they're going to see," he adds.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Chamber of Commerce President on Shutdown: 'Pain in the Neck'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- What does the business community think of a possible federal government shutdown?

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue said Friday it would be a “pain in the neck” but only severely effect businesses and the economy if it were to last “several weeks.”

“I’ve been telling people, let’s do this. Push it right up to the line, do whatever you have to do, but let’s not shut down the government,” Donohue told reporters at a breakfast meeting in Washington.

“It’s happened many, many times, but we’ve got a million things on our plate all around the world. It would be helpful not to do it,” he said. “If it happens and it’s in a short period of time, it’s a little bit of a mental exercise and we go out and do it and get on with it.”

Donohue, who declined to assign blame for the budget gridlock, said he believes the looming debate over the debt limit and long-term entitlement spending has more serious implications for the business community and economy as a whole.

The Obama administration has warned of dire consequences unless the $14.3 trillion ceiling is raised before the debt limit is reached, likely sometime before May 31.  But Congressional Republicans have threatened to block an increase unless the administration commits to curtailing entitlement spending.

The Chamber’s top lobbyist, Bruce Josten, said the he expects Republican lawmakers will ultimately agree to raise the debt limit, but not without concessions from the administration.

Donohue described relations between the business community and the White House as cordial, saying he appreciates steps President Obama has taken to “change his song.” But he suggested that on matters of substance, little has changed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


MoveOn Calls on GE CEO to Resign from White House Post

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- MoveOn joined former Senator Russ Feingold’s group, Progressives United, on Wednesday to call on GE CEO Jeff Immelt to resign from the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. MoveOn’s petition comes on the heels of reports that GE made $14.2 billion in profit and paid no federal taxes.

In their email, MoveOn states, “Immelt now sits as chair of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness (Jobs Council), representing corporate America to the President on matters like job creation and corporate taxation. That's a slap in the face to every hardworking, tax-paying American—especially GE employees.”

After sending the email, MoveOn’s executive director, Justin Ruben, said “it is outrageous that GE made more than $14 billion in profits last year and paid no federal taxes.”

“At a time when many in Washington, including the President, are worried about our nation’s deficit we should be punishing -- not rewarding -- companies like GE who are robbing the US Government and taxpayers of billions of dollars. This sort of bad corporate behavior should not be rewarded with a top White House appointment. Jeff Immelt should resign immediately,” Ruben said.

Feingold has also called for Immelt to step down in an email to supporters.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Administration Concerned About Foreclosure Fraud

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan told ABC News Wednesday that the administration’s ongoing review of foreclosure documentation problems has raised “concerns” about some specific mortgage lenders and banks not following the rules, but there do not appear to be any “underlying systemic problems.”

Donovan declined to say which specific servicers have broken the rules, citing the ongoing review. That review will last until the end of the year, but Donovan stressed repeatedly that the administration wants it wrapped up quickly.

“The faster and more effectively we can do that, the more confidence we can give homeowners and the more confidence we can give the markets,” he said.

Donovan said Americans should understand that the Obama administration has sent a very clear message to the mortgage lenders who have not followed procedures.

“At the end of the day we have to make sure that those institutions are held accountable,” he told ABC News.

On Wednesday morning, federal regulators, including Donovan, met in Washington to tackle the foreclosure fraud issue.  The meeting, at the Department of Housing & Urban Development, was also attended by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, SEC chair Mary Schapiro, FDIC boss Sheila Bair, and a slew of other regulators from such agencies as the Federal Reserve, the Justice Department and elsewhere.

In recent weeks, the foreclosure crisis has once again erupted as numerous banks became embroiled in charges that they had initiated foreclosures based on fraudulent documentation.  A handful of banks froze foreclosure proceedings, but now some banks such as Bank of America and GMAC Mortgage have ended their suspensions.

The Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force has been looking into the issue, reportedly probing whether financial firms have committed criminal violations.  A spokesperson for the task force would neither confirm nor deny a criminal investigation, but there is a growing outcry on Capitol Hill for the administration to crack down on the banks.

“It’s clear that if the rule of law means anything, it’s time for handcuffs,” Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., said in a statement.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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