Entries in White House (26)


White House: CBO Report Shows ‘Urgent Need’ for Congressional Action

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House is pointing the finger at Republicans in Congress after the Congressional Budget Office warned that the looming “fiscal cliff” could push the economy into recession.

Wednesday’s report “reinforces the urgent need” for House Republicans to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class, the White House said in a written statement from press secretary Jay Carney.  “Instead of doing the right thing, Republicans in Washington have chosen to double down on the same failed policies that led to the economic crisis in the first place.  They’re willing to hold the middle class hostage unless we also give massive new tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires – tax cuts we can’t afford that would do nothing to strengthen the economy.”

The administration is also calling on lawmakers to “act right now” to replace the impending spending cuts with balanced deficit reduction.  The CBO report found that the combination of tax increases, set to take effect in January, and spending cuts, part of the compromise budget measure agreed to last year after lawmakers failed to reach a deficit-reduction plan, would result in higher unemployment if Congress does not act.

In a statement, the Romney campaign said the report is an indictment of the president’s economic policies “that have resulted in overspending, increasing debt, and a growing financial burden on the next generation.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House Projects $1.2 Trillion Deficit This Year

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration has lowered its projection of the size of this year’s budget deficit by $116 billion, the Office of Management and Budget announced in its Mid-Session Review to Congress.
“This reflects lower-than-expected spending, partially offset by lower-than-expected receipts,” Acting OMB Director Jeffrey Zients writes in a White House blog.
The administration now projects the deficit for this year to be $1.211 trillion, down from the $1.327 trillion deficit it projected in February. Zients reported the 2012 deficit is now estimated to be 7.8 percent of the gross domestic product, down from the 8.5 percent projected in February.

Read the full text of the blog here.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House Sticks to Individual Mandate as ‘Penalty,’ Not Tax

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House and the Obama campaign Friday insisted that the individual mandate in the president’s health care bill is a “penalty,” not a tax, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the law under Congress’ taxing power.

“For those who can afford health insurance but choose to remain uninsured, forcing the rest of us to pay for their care, a penalty is administered as part of the Affordable Care Act,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One Friday.

“You can call it what you want. If you read the opinion, it is not a broad-based tax,” he said, stressing that the “penalty” would affect one percent of the population, based on CBO estimates. “It’s a penalty because you have a choice. You don’t have a choice to pay your taxes, right?”

The Supreme Court upheld the president’s signature health care law Thursday, saying its mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance was legal under Congress’ power to levy taxes.

While the ruling was a huge political victory for the president, that the mandate was deemed constitutional as a tax has provided Republicans with a new line of attack.

“The president of the United States himself promised up and down that this bill was not a tax,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday. “This was one of the Democrats’ top selling points because they knew it would never have passed if they said it was a tax. Well, the Supreme Court has spoken. This law is a tax. The bill was sold to the American people on a deception.”

During his 2008 campaign, Obama repeatedly promised not to raise taxes on middle-class families and he adamantly denied that the mandate amounted to a tax on the U.S. people.

“For us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase,” the president told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in 2009.  “What it’s saying is, is that we’re not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you anymore than the fact that right now everybody in America, just about, has to get auto insurance. Nobody considers that a tax increase. People say to themselves, that is a fair way to make sure that if you hit my car, that I’m not covering all the costs.”

In addition to the White House, the Obama campaign is also pushing the mandate as a “penalty” and not a tax.

“Whether you call it a mandate or tax, what it is is a penalty on the very few Americans who don’t -- who can afford health care, don’t pay for it, end up in our emergency rooms getting free care and then we all pay for it in the form of premiums,” Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod said Friday morning on NBC’s Today Show.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a top Obama surrogate, later rebutted the “bizarre attack” that the bill represents a tax increase on the middle class and urged reporters on a conference call not to believe “the hype the other side is selling.”

Finding itself playing defense the morning after a huge political win, the Obama camp has embraced the ruling as an opportunity to hit rival Mitt Romney for championing a similar law as governor of Massachusetts.

“The penalty within the Affordable Care Act … is modeled exactly on the penalty that exists in the health care reform that was promoted and signed into law by Governor Romney in Massachusetts,” Carney said Friday.

Furthermore, Romney has admitted that, not only does he “like mandates,” but that the health law he ushered in as governor constituted a tax.

“You imposed tax penalties in Massachusetts?” ABC’s Charlie Gibson asked Romney in January 2008.

“Yes,” Romney replied. “We said, look, if people can afford to buy it, either buy the insurance or pay your own way; don’t be free-riders.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House Responds to Worse than Expected GDP Figure

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House says the continued expansion of the economy is “encouraging” but that the slower-than-expected growth in the first quarter shows “additional growth is needed” to replace the jobs lost in the recession.

Reacting to the news that GDP grew at a rate of 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Alan Krueger noted in a White House blog Friday that “overall GDP growth was weighed down by reduced spending in the government sector.”

“According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, national defense expenditures fell by 8.1 percent in the first quarter.  Government spending across all levels subtracted 0.6 percentage point from overall GDP growth.  The latest report continues a pattern of moderate growth in the private sector components of GDP and contraction of the government components of GDP,” he wrote.

Asked if the White House is concerned about the slowing of the economic recovery, Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday, “We don’t put too much weight on any individual report.”

“While we’re moving in the right direction, this report illustrates something that the president has long understood, which is that there’s quite a bit more work to do, both in terms of the putting in place policies that will help the private sector create jobs, but also ensure that we have policies in place that will benefit middle-class families and those families trying to get into the middle class,” Earnest said.

“What we examine are the longer-term trends.  And today’s report indicates that for the eleventh consecutive quarter we’ve enjoyed economic growth in this country.  So for those of you scoring along at home, that’s almost three years of consecutive, economic growth in this country,” he added.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Cracks Down On For-Profit Schools That Prey On Veterans

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In front of thousands of service members, President Obama on Friday signed an executive order aimed at protecting veterans from for-profit educational institutions trying to “swindle” and “hoodwink” them instead of providing the education they deserve.

Speaking to the Army’s Third Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga., the president, with his wife at his side, described how some for-profit institutions target veterans, bombarding them with emails and phone calls, promising advanced degrees and future job placement.

“You’re dealing with folks who aren’t interested in helping you.  They’re not interested in helping you find the best program.  They are interested in getting the money.  They don’t care about you; they care about the cash,” he said. “That’s appalling.  That’s disgraceful.  It should never happen in America.”

The order, part of the president’s ongoing “We Can’t Wait” executive action campaign, is intended to crack down on these improper recruiting practices and to strengthen student protections for veterans.

“The executive order I’m about to sign will make life a whole lot more secure for you and your families and our veterans — and a whole lot tougher for those who try to prey on you,” the president said.

The order requires colleges that participate in the G.I. Bill program and the Department of Defense’s tuition program to provide veterans with the “Know Before You Owe” form, a document that outlines the financial aid available to student and how much debt they will likely take on.

The order also directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to trademark the term “G.I. Bill” to prevent educational institutions from fraudulently marketing their programs to beneficiaries of the program.

While members of Congress have introduced legislation to address these same issues, Friday’s action was intended to cast Obama as a take-charge president willing to circumvent gridlock on Capitol Hill.

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 Reveals Mandate to Double Fuel Efficiency

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House Wednesday formally unveiled a proposed government mandate that automakers double the fuel efficiency of their cars and small trucks by 2025.

If the regulation takes effect, vehicles model year 2017 to 2025 will be required to have a combined city-highway fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon. The current combined standard is 27.3 miles per gallon.

“Just think what this means,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters on a conference call. “It means American families will have to fill up their car every two weeks instead of every week.”

“These standards will also spur growth in clean energy industries,” he added, noting the projected reduction in fossil fuel consumption.

President Obama first announced the tighter fuel efficiency standards for cars and small trucks in July, when he was joined by leaders of 13 major auto companies and labor union leaders.  The 1,600-page rule is now open for public and industry input over the next 60 days before being finalized.

The administration says the new standards will save consumers an average of $4,400, after factoring in the potentially higher price tags manufacturers may place on the more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency, which jointly drafted the new rule, estimate production changes could cost automakers $157 billion, some of which may be passed on to consumers.

Altogether, DOT and EPA estimate the regulations will save drivers more than $1.7 trillion in fuel costs, trim American oil consumption by 12 billion barrels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6 billion metric tons by 2025.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


White House Rejects Demand for Solyndra Documents

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House Friday rejected a Congressional demand for documents related to the failed solar firm Solyndra, accusing the Republicans on a committee investigating a massive federal loan to Solyndra of playing politics.

White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said that the vote by the House and Energy Committee's investigative subcommittee's decision to subpoena all White House records on Solyndra, including emails, documents and memos, was "overbroad," "unprecedented and unnecessary." She noted that the White House had already supplied investigators with 85,000 documents.

"I can only conclude that your decision to issue a subpoena, authorized by a party line vote, was driven more by partisan politics than a legitimate effort to conduct a responsible investigation," Ruemmler wrote to Rep. Fred Upton, R.-Mich, chair of the committee, and Rep. Cliff Stearns, R.-Fla., who heads the subcommittee.

Rep. Upton issued a statement Friday saying that he had served both White House chief of staff William Daley and Vice President Biden's chief of staff Bruce Reed with subpoenas on Thursday evening.

"The White House could have avoided the need for subpoena authorizations if they had simply chosen to cooperate," said Rep. Upton. "That would have been the route we preferred, and frankly, it would have been better for the White House to get the information out now, rather than continue to drag this out.

Upton said the request for documents was "reasonable." "We are not demanding the President's blackberry messages, as we are respectful of Executive Privilege," said Upton. "What is the West Wing trying to hide? We owe it to American taxpayers to find out."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Emails: Obama White House Monitored Huge Loan to 'Connected' Firm

Ken James/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Newly uncovered emails show the White House closely monitored the Energy Department's deliberations over a $535-million government loan to Solyndra, the politically-connected solar energy firm that recently went bankrupt and is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

The company's solar panel factory was heralded as a centerpiece of the president's green energy plan -- billed as a way to jumpstart a promising new industry. And internal emails uncovered by investigators for the House Energy and Commerce Committee that were shared exclusively with ABC News show the Obama administration was keenly monitoring the progress of the loan, even as analysts were voicing serious concerns about the risk involved. "This deal is NOT ready for prime time," one White House budget analyst wrote in a March 10, 2009 email, nine days before the administration formally announced the loan.

"If you guys think this is a bad idea, I need to unwind the W[est] W[ing] QUICKLY," wrote Ronald A. Klain, who was chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, in another email sent March 7, 2009. The "West Wing" is the portion of the White House complex that holds the offices of the president and his top staffers. Klain declined comment to ABC News.

Beginning in March, ABC News, in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News, was first to report on simmering questions about the role political influence may have played in Solyndra's selection as the Obama administration's first loan guarantee recipient. Federal auditors had flagged the loan, saying some applicants had benefitted from special treatment.

The emails were uncovered by investigators for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will hold hearings on the Solyndra loan Wednesday. The Republican-led House has been investigating the Obama administration's green energy loan program for months. That probe took on new urgency two weeks ago, when Solyndra abruptly shut its doors and laid off 1,100 employees. Last week, the FBI raided the factory as part of a joint investigation with the Energy Department's inspector general.

"This is not right. This is not good," said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who chairs the House committee that is examining the loan. "It makes you sick to your stomach. This is taxpayer money."

As federal authorities examine whether Solyndra misled the government about its true financial state, the Obama White House is fielding fresh questions over why it pushed so hard for Solyndra. Officials with DOE and the Office of Management and Budget are expected to testify Wednesday. Executives with Solyndra, invited to appear as witnesses, will not attend Wednesday's hearing but have told the House committee they will voluntarily appear next week.

Obama's DOE has said it backed Solyndra as a potential game changer in the clean tech movement, but the company's collapse came after clear warning signs the venture was a high risk from the start.

The White House has argued that any effort to finance startup businesses in a relatively new field like solar energy is bound to include risky ventures that could fail. They reject the notion being pushed by Republicans that Solyndra was chosen for political reasons. One of the largest private investors in the deal, Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser, was also a prominent fundraiser for Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

White House officials said the emails shared with ABC News Tuesday do show White House interest in the timing of the Solyndra decision -- only because the president was considering announcing the decision himself while on a trip to California.

"I think that it is clear that folks understood at DOE that they were supposed to make their decision on the merits and do whatever they were supposed to do to kick the tires on the decision," an administration official told ABC News. "Folks were interested in being updated as to whether the decision-making process was completed."

The White House also noted to ABC News that the Bush administration was the first to consider Solyndra's application and that some executives at the company have a history of donating to Republicans. The results of the congressional probe shared Tuesday with ABC News show that less than two weeks before President Bush left office, on January 9, 2009, the Energy Department's credit committee had voted against offering a loan commitment to Solyndra.

Even after Obama took office on Jan. 20, 2009, analysts in the Energy Department and in the Office of Management and Budget were repeatedly questioning the wisdom of the loan. In one exchange, an Energy official wrote of "a major outstanding issue" -- namely, that Solyndra's numbers showed it would run out of cash in September 2011.

There was also concern about the high-risk nature of the project. Internally, the Office of Management and Budget wrote that "the risk rating for the project sponsor [Solyndra] … seems high." Outside analysts had warned for months that the company might not be a sound investment.

Peter Lynch, a New York-based solar energy analyst, told ABC News it took only a cursory glance through Solyndra's prospectus to see there was a problem with their numbers.

"It's very difficult to perceive a company with a model that says, well, I can build something for six dollars and sell it for three dollars," Lynch said. "Those numbers don't generally work. You don't want to lose three dollars for every unit you make."

In 2008, Solyndra, then just three years old, pushed ahead with its application for government backing to build a new plant to produce its unique solar panels. An outside rating agency, Fitch, gave Solyndra a B+ credit rating that August. Two months earlier, in June 2008, Dun & Bradstreet issued a credit appraisal of the company. Its assessment: "Fair."

Those are not top-of-the-line scores, Fitch Ratings spokeswoman Cindy Stoller told the Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News, which has been investigating the deal in partnership with ABC News since March. She could not discuss the Solyndra review specifically, but said of a B+ rating: "It's a non-investment grade rating." She provided a company ratings definition, showing that B+ falls between a "highly speculative" B and "speculative" BB.

Asked about those ratings, and how significantly the department viewed the risk, energy officials said Monday the department conducted "extensive due diligence" on the application, which included consideration of the Fitch rating.

"We believed the rating, which is used to inform our analysis of potential risks associated with the loan, was appropriate for the size, scale and innovative nature of the project and was consistent with the ratings of other innovative startup companies," said Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman.

"The Department conducted exhaustive reviews of Solyndra's technology and business model prior to approving their loan guarantee application," LaVera said. "Sophisticated, professional private investors, who put more than $1 billion of their own money behind Solyndra, came to the same conclusion as the Department: that Solyndra was an extremely promising company with innovative technology and a very good investment."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Administration Makes 11th Hour Effort to Rescue Postal Service

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Can the White House make a special delivery to save the U.S. Postal Service?

To rescue the agency, it will take a 90-day extension by Congress on a $5.5 billion bill owed by the Postal Service in mandatory annual retirement payments -- the root of its financial woes.

If there's a grace period granted, the White House says it will craft a financial rescue plan to save the agency, which is threatening to shut down by the winter because of record shortfalls and a dwindling revenue stream.

Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry told a Senate panel Tuesday that three months will give officials enough time "to carefully work through the details of a proposal."

Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe painted a dire picture of the Postal Service's situation, explaining that it could lose as much as $10 billion and have just over a week's worth of money to pay salaries and expenses when the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, said that the economy can ill-afford the Postal Service going broke and shutting down.  Meanwhile, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins chastised the administration for waiting until now to try and come up with a plan to rescue the post office.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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