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Entries in President Barack Obama (86)

Thursday
Apr182013

Obama, Lawmakers Vow to Ease Suffering from Texas Blast

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama and lawmakers in Washington, D.C., expressed their condolences Thursday after the devastating explosion in West, Texas, pledging federal resources to help.

"Today our prayers go out to the people of West, Texas, in the aftermath of last night's deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant," Obama said in a written statement released to reporters. "A tight-knit community has been shaken, and good, hard-working people have lost their lives."

"I want to thank the first responders who worked tirelessly through the night to contain the situation and treat the wounded. My administration, through FEMA and other agencies, is in close contact with our state and local partners on the ground to make sure there are no unmet needs as search and rescue and response operations continue," Obama added.

Obama called Texas Gov. Rick Perry to offer any federal resources needed to aide in response-and-recovery efforts, a White House official told ABC.

Texas' two Republican senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, released a joint statement thanking first responders and pledging any support they can offer.

"We are deeply saddened to learn of the horrific explosion in West, Texas," they said. "We grieve for those who are injured and have lost loved ones, and are grateful to the firefighters and first responders who risked their own lives to keep others safe."

On the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered sympathy for Texas victims and called it a "difficult week," after the attacks in Boston.

"I offer my condolences to those who lost loved ones and who have people who are wounded and injure," Reid, D-Nev., said. "I'm going to do everything I can with my colleagues to ensure that this terrible tragedy has the resources of the federal government available to help the people of that city as they recover from this tragedy."

McConnell, R-Ky., said, "From the media reports we've seen, there have clearly been a great many injuries, and a terrible loss of life. We're all thinking of and praying for the victims and their families. Given the horrendous event at the Boston marathon on Monday, followed by the event near Waco last night. It's been a difficult week for all of us. Our hearts are a little bit heavier."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr182013

Mark Kelly: 'Gabby Is Angry Today'

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Mark Kelly expressed anger shared by he and his wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, after the Senate failed to pass the Manchin-Toomey gun background check deal on Wednesday.

"Gabby is angry today, and she's horrified by the decision of a minority of her former colleagues to block progress on this measure," Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, said on Thursday.

Kelly added, "Along with so many parents from Newtown, so many of our former neighbors in Tucson, who were here in Washington this week, Gabby's disappointed, and she's angry, and so am I, but neither of us are deterred."

Kelly echoed the claim Giffords had made in a New York Times op-ed on Wednesday, accusing some senators of "cowardice" and claiming they voted against the background check proposal "out of fear."

Americans for Responsible Solutions, a group run by Kelly and Giffords, is reportedly preparing to release advertisements thanking the senators who voted in favor of the legislation on Wednesday, naming Republican senators Susan Collins and John McCain, among others.

Giffords' op-ed was published on Wednesday and accused the Senate of being afraid of the National Rifle Association and the gun lobby, echoing President Barack Obama's frustration.

She derided Senators who may refer to the proposal as a "tough vote" or a "complicated issue," adamant that Wednesday's vote was neither.

"Mark my words: if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress," Giffords said. "To do nothing while others are in danger is not the American way."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr162013

Proposed Immigration Bill Has Widespread Support

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., emerged from a White House meeting Tuesday confident that President Obama supports the immigration reform bill they plan to introduce Tuesday night.

“While he certainly might not agree with every single part of it, he was very supportive of the bill we have put together and simply wants to make sure we keep moving it along and get something done,” Schumer told reporters at the White House.

“No one’s going to get everything they want in a bill,” he continued. “But if we meet in the middle, we can do a lot of good for America.”

The bill would create a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, but only after steps are taken to increase border security.

McCain said that, unlike previous reform efforts, this legislation has widespread support.

“All major players that are involved in this issue are now on board, literally every major player, whether it be business or labor,” he said.

Shortly after their meeting, the president issued a statement urging the Senate to move quickly on the legislation.

“This bill is clearly a compromise, and no one will get everything they wanted, including me,” he said. “But it is largely consistent with the principles that I have repeatedly laid out for comprehensive reform.“

The senators had planned to introduce the bill during a press conference on Tuesday, but delayed it “out of respect” for the people of Boston, Schumer said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr162013

Obama to Visit Boston Thursday, Speak at Service for Bombing Victims

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(BOSTON) -- President Obama is scheduled to travel to Boston on Thursday, three days after the deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon.

As the city grapples with this tragedy, the president plans to speak at an interfaith service “dedicated to those who were gravely wounded or killed in Monday’s bombing,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a written statement.

Obama’s visit comes as authorities are working around the clock to determine who is behind the twin blasts at the finish line of the marathon. Earlier Tuesday, the president vowed to bring to justice those responsible for this “act of terrorism,” which he called a “heinous and cowardly act.”

“It will take time to follow every lead and determine what happened. But we will find out,” he said. “We will find whoever harmed our citizens, and we will bring them to justice.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr102013

Social Security Part of Cuts in Obama's Budget Plan

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama outlined a $3.77 trillion budget plan on Wednesday that aims to reduce the deficit by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and cutting popular entitlement programs, saying “we've got to get smarter about our priorities as a nation.”

“For years the debate in this town has raged between reducing our deficits at all costs and making the investments necessary to grow our economy,” Obama said in a brief statement in the White House Rose Garden. “And this budget answers that argument because we can do both. We can grow our economy and shrink our deficits.”

The White House says the president’s budget proposal would reduce the deficit by an additional $1.8 trillion in the next 10 years.

The budget formalizes the offer the president made to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, during the so-called fiscal cliff negotiations in December, including cuts to both Social Security and Medicare paired with tax increases.

The White House hopes the cuts will attract bipartisan support, but the budget is largely seen as a symbolic negotiating tool and it stands little chance of becoming law.

“When it comes to deficit reduction, I’ve already met Republicans more than halfway, so in the coming days and weeks I hope that Republicans will come forward and demonstrate that they’re really as serious, as serious about the deficits and debt as they claim to be,” the president said.

Obama has invited 12 Republican senators to dinner at the White House Wednesday night, as part of his effort to seek out lawmakers who are willing to compromise.

The president’s budget also includes many of the proposals outlined in his State of the Union address, including $50 billion in infrastructure investments, $1 billion for manufacturing innovation institutes, a “Preschool for All” initiative financed by raising the federal tax on cigarettes, and raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour.

The new investments are fully paid for and offset, according to the White House, and the budget would reduce the deficit to 2.8 percent  of GDP by 2016.

“Our economy is poised for progress, as long as Washington doesn’t get in the way. And frankly the American people deserve better than what we’ve been seeing: a short-sighted, crisis-driven decision-making like the reckless across-the-board spending cuts that are already hurting a lot of communities out there, cuts that economists predict will cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs during the course of this year,” Obama said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar302013

Obama Plays First Round of Golf Since Sequester Cuts

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) --  President Obama spent his Saturday on the golf course at Andrews Air Force Base, his first trip to the links since the sequester cuts took effect on March 1.

Obama was joined on the course by friend and Chicago businessman, Marty Nesbitt, White House staffer Michael Brush, and body man Marvin Nicholson.

On his last golf outing, Obama played a round with Tiger Woods at a golf club in Palm City, Florida. That round drew heavy criticism from the White House press corps because the press was not allowed access.

Earlier this month, some Republicans attacked the president’s penchant for golfing after tours at the White House were cancelled due to the sequester cuts.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, introduced an amendment to the continuing resolution which would cut funding for the president’s transportation to and from golf games until the White House tours resumed, but the measure was not included in the final CR approved by Congress.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich joined in the criticism of the president’s golf hobby arguing that the trips require  costly Secret Service protection.

“The president will use up more Secret Service time guarding him while he golfs than it would take to keep the White House tours open all year,” Gingrich said in an interview with CNN.

But one prominent politician -  New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg – rose to the president’s defense, saying he should be golfing more to strengthen his relationships.

“I find it fascinating, people criticize him for taking people to dinner – he should be doing that every night. They criticize him for going and playing golf with people who he’s got to deal with. He should be doing that every weekend. You always can work better with somebody that you have a chance to build a social relationship with,” Bloomberg said on CBS’ Face the Nation earlier this month.

Since March 1, the president has attended his daughter’s basketball games and played hoops at a basketball court close to the White House on the weekends. Last week, he was traveling home from a trip to Israel and Jordan.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar272013

Obama to Dine with Second Group of Senate Republicans

Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Look who’s coming for dinner again: Senate Republicans.

On Wednesday, April 10, President Obama will dine with a new group of 12 Republican senators.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., was tasked with organizing the second guest list for dinner, which is still being assembled, Republican aides on Capitol Hill confirm. The location of the dinner is still to be announced.

This second dinner party follows one earlier this month, on March 6, in which President Obama hosted 12 Republican senators at the Jefferson Hotel to break bread.

That first dinner also came among separate meetings on Capitol Hill by President Obama with Senate and House Republicans, widely seen as a presidential “charm offensive” by engaging Republicans after the brutal, partisan battles from the previous months.

Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., did not attend the first dinner but said he’s glad President Obama has been engaging his members more.

“I expect the president to talk to various members,” McConnell said after the first dinner. “Frankly, I wish he’d done more of that over the years. We’ve had, all of us, very limited interaction with the president. And he certainly doesn’t have to go through me to call on my members. And I’m sure he will, and I encourage him to do so.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar252013

Obama's 'Evolution' on Gay Marriage

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court will hear arguments in two landmark cases on same-sex marriage this week, nearly 11 months after President Obama first announced his support of marriage for same-sex couples, a decision he reached as part of an "evolution" over the years.

In an interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts in May, President Obama stated his personal support for same-sex marriage, becoming the first president to back marriage publicly for gay and lesbian couples.

"For me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married," Obama told Roberts in May of 2012.

While voicing his support at the time, the president said that he had no intention to "nationalize" the issue and hoped it would be left up to the states.

"I have to tell you that part of my hesitation on this has also been I didn't want to nationalize the issue," he told Roberts. "There's a tendency when I weigh in to think suddenly it becomes political and it becomes polarized. What I'm saying is that different states are coming to different conclusions. But this debate is taking place, at a local level. And I think the whole country is evolving and changing."

But less than a year later, the Supreme Court is taking up two potentially transformative cases on the issue of gay marriage at a time when public support for same-sex marriages has jumped. An ABC News-Washington Post poll released last week found that 58 percent of Americans support legalizing marriage for gay and lesbian couples, and in the past month, two heavy hitters in politics -- former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio -- announced their support of same-sex marriage.

In an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos earlier this month, the president said he hopes the Supreme Court will grant same-sex couples the right to marry. When asked whether he could think of a compelling reason for states to bar same-sex marriage, he said "I can't, personally. I cannot."

"Ultimately, I think that same-sex couples should be able to marry. That's my personal position," Obama told Stephanopoulos. "My hope is that -- the court looks at the evidence and -- and in the California case, for example, the only reason presented for treating gays and lesbians differently was, 'Well, they're gay and lesbian.' There wasn't a real rationale beyond that. In fact, all the other rights ... responsibilities of a civil union were identical to marriage.

"It's just you couldn't call it marriage. Well, at that point, what you're really saying is, 'We're just going to treat these folks differently because of who they are.' And I do not think ... that's who we are as Americans. And ... frankly, I think, American attitudes have evolved, just like mine have, pretty substantially and fairly quickly, and I think that's a good thing."

The Supreme Court Tuesday will consider Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. The court will hear arguments Wednesday on a federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which issues the same definition of marriage as Prop 8 but also denies federal benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married in their states.

In February 2011, the Justice Department said it would continue to enforce DOMA, but it would no longer defend the constitutionality of the law.

The Obama administration waded into the Proposition 8 fight for the first time last month when the Justice Department filed a legal brief asking the Supreme Court to strike down the California measure which bars same-sex marriage. While the president himself did not issue a written argument for the legal brief, he suggested to reporters earlier this month that his interpretation of the Constitution provides a fundamental right to same-sex marriage.

In 1996, Obama, then an Illinois state senate candidate, seemed to back marriages for same-sex couples when he signed a statement in response to a questionnaire that read "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages." The statement was later publicly disavowed by White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, who claimed in June 2011 that the questionnaire was "actually filled out by someone else."

But when Obama ran for Senate in 2004, he provided a definition of marriage that adhered more to the classifications provided by Prop 8 and DOMA, citing his faith as guiding his position on same-sex marriage at the time.

"What I believe is that marriage is between a man and a woman," then-U.S. Senate candidate Obama said in an interview with WTTW Chicago public television. "What I believe, in my faith, is that a man and a woman, when they get married, are performing something before God, and it's not simply the two persons who are meeting.

"That doesn't mean that that necessarily translates into a position on public policy or with respect to civil unions. What it does mean is that we have a set of traditions in place that, I think, need to be preserved, but I also think we need to make sure that gays and lesbians have the same set of basic rights that are in place," he said.

But, as president, Obama, who supported civil unions for gay couples for the better part of his first term, admitted he was "evolving" on the issue at a time when public opinion had started to shift toward a greater acceptance of same-sex marriage.

"My feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this. At this point, what I've said is, is that my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have," Obama said in a White House news conference in 2010. "I recognize that from their perspective it is not enough, and I think is something that we're going to continue to debate and I, personally, am going to continue to wrestle with going forward.

"I think it's important for us to work through these issues because each community is going to be different, each state is going to be different," Obama said 2011 in response to a question about New York legalizing same-sex marriage. "I think what you're seeing is a profound recognition on the part of the American people that gays and lesbians and transgender persons are our brothers, our sisters, our children, our cousins, our friends, our co-workers, and that they've got to be treated like every other American.

"And I think that principle will win out. It's not going to be perfectly smooth, and it turns out that the president -- I've discovered since I've been in this office -- can't dictate precisely how this process moves."

Seven months before he publicly supported same-sex marriage, Obama told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that he was "still working on" considering a move from supporting civil unions for same-sex couples to backing same-sex marriage.

"I'm still working on it," Obama said in 2011. "I probably won't make news right now, George. But I think that there's no doubt that as I see friends, families, children of gay couples who are thriving, you know, that has an impact on how I think about these issues."

The president cited those same friends and families when he publicly announced his support for gay marriage last year, telling Roberts that he believes people will become more comfortable with the idea in the years to come.

"I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that 'don't ask, don't tell' is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I've just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married," Obama said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar232013

Obama Urges Vote on Gun Measures, Including Assault Weapons Ban

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With the Senate set to consider a comprehensive gun package next month, President Obama urged Congress to seriously consider all of the gun measures which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, including the contentious assault weapons ban.

“These ideas shouldn’t be controversial – they’re common sense. They’re supported by a majority of the American people. And I urge the Senate and the House to give each of them a vote,” the president said in his weekly address.

“Right now, we have a real chance to reduce gun violence in America, and prevent the very worst violence. We have a unique opportunity to reaffirm our tradition of responsible gun ownership, and also do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals or people with a severe mental illness,” he said. “We’ve made progress over the last three months, but we’re not there yet. And in the weeks ahead, I hope members of Congress will join me in finishing the job – for our communities and, most importantly, for our kids.”

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid moved the Senate Democrats’ gun control legislation to the calendar, which sets up its consideration for when the Senate returns from recess next month. The bill includes a gun trafficking proposal and the controversial universal background check, a portion which Republicans and moderate Democrats have voiced concerns about.

But stripped completely from the bill is the assault weapons ban. Instead, it will be considered as an amendment to the bill.

In a news conference in New York City on Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden urged those who are skeptics about the assault weapons ban to “Think about Newtown” when weighing the need for the legislation.

After issuing his proposals for gun reform in January, President Obama remained relatively silent on guns while lawmakers have hammered away at the details of the proposals as he has dealt with a budget battle. The vice president has served as the administration’s main mouthpiece on the topic of guns in recent months.

As the country still grapples with how to prevent tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School three months ago, the president extended his condolences to the families of the 20 children and 6 educators who lost their lives in the massacre last December.

“For the families who lost a loved one on that terrible day, three months doesn’t even begin to ease the pain they’re feeling right now. It doesn’t come close to mending the wounds that may never fully heal,” he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar202013

Tree Planted by Obama in Jerusalem May Be Uprooted for Inspection

Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- It’s an old gospel song: "Just like a tree planted by the water, I shall not be moved." But if you’re the magnolia tree the president of the United States planted today in Jerusalem, there’s a chance you just might be.

Obama planted a tree on Wednesday in Israeli President Shimon Peres’ Jerusalem garden. It’s a gift for a man Obama said has planted, “the seeds of progress, the seeds of security, the seeds of peace — all the seeds that have helped not only Israel grow but also the relationship between our two nations grow.”

The tree was meant to signify the strong roots of the relationship between the United States and Israel. But before these American roots can take hold, the Israeli government will inspect them.

An Israeli official tells ABC News that the magnolia tree will be tested and possibly removed in a week by the Israeli Agriculture Department. The roots of the tree were apparently kept in a plastic covering during the planting. As in the U.S., Israeli law forbids plants and trees from other countries from entering Israel. The White House and the Israeli government were aware of the limitations ahead of the visit.

A White House official confirms that the tree given to Peres was grown from a set of seeds from the original Jackson Magnolia alongside the Rose Garden on the South Lawn of the White House. It was planted in the 1830s by President Andrew Jackson. An official says it is the oldest known presidential tree on the grounds of the White House.

During remarks at Peres’s official residence, Obama mentioned the story in the Talmud of Honi and the Carob Tree: A man sees an older man planting a carob tree and tells him that it will take 70 years before the tree grows fruit. Obama told the crowd the older man’s reply: “When I came into the world, I found carob trees. As my forefathers planted for me, so will I plant for my children.”

If removed for testing it's and deemed to be suitable, the tree is expected to be replanted in the same spot. It’s currently near a tree given by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during his May 2009 trip to the Holy Land. An Israeli official says Benedict’s tree didn’t undergo any testing because it was purchased in Israel.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio







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