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Tuesday
Jan252011

ABC News: President Obama to Propose Budget Freeze, Earmark Ban

Photo Courtesy - The White House(WASHINGTON) -- Pursuing a path of deficit reduction and government reform, President Obama will in his State of the Union address call for a ban on earmarks and propose an overall budget freeze, ABC News has learned.

The proposals come as the president prepares to tackle the deficit and debt and as he faces a House of Representatives in Republican hands, many of whose members include those affiliated with the Tea Party who were voted into office in large measure by touting those key objectives.

The president will propose some new spending in certain areas that address the speech's theme of "How We Win the Future": innovation, education, and infrastructure. But those increases will be proposed as part of an overall budget freeze, which given the annual rate of growth is often seen in Washington, D.C., budgeting as a cut.

The FY 2011 budget was $3.8 trillion. Last year President Obama proposed a three-year hard freeze on non-security discretionary spending, to save $250 billion over the next decade; this would be much broader.

The president's critics say his proposed freezing of the budget at its stumulus-inflated 2008 levels is not  belt tightening at all.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan252011

Obama Disagrees with Court, Believes Emanuel Is Eligible for Mayor

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President Obama believes that his former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is still eligible to be Chicago's mayor despite Monday's decision by an Illinois court, one of Obama's top advisors told ABC News Tuesday.

"I think that he believes that [Rahm is] eligible and I believe that he believes that Rahm will pursue his appeal in the courts.  And as he said [in September], he thinks Rahm would make a terrific mayor," advisor Valerie Jarrett said.

The Appellate court ruled that Emanuel did not meet the one year residency requirement to run for office.  Emanuel is appealing the decision, with the explicit support now of the president.

"Rahm is a fighter.  As you know he’ll be appealing to the Supreme Court and I'm sure he will vigorously make that case," Jarrett said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan252011

Wisconsin Ground Zero for 2012 Election

Photo Courtesy - Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- If President Obama's first trip after Tuesday night's State of the Union address signals anything to American voters, it's that jobs and the economy will remain his number one focus and that he might have some tough work ahead of him over the next two years if he wants to keep Wisconsin's 10 electoral votes in the blue column in 2012.

On Wednesday, the president will use his first opportunity to follow up on his State of the Union to travel to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, about 40 miles south of Green Bay, to deliver an economic speech to employees at a power technology company.

Although Al Gore, John Kerry, and President Obama all carried the Badger State in the past three presidential elections, Wisconsin is a state where the Democratic Party suffered a defeat there worse than its losses in any other state during the Republican's landslide victories in the 2010 elections.

Both chambers of the state legislature flipped to Republican rule.  Republican Scott Walker handily won the governor's seat that was previously held by two-term Democratic Governor Jim Doyle, an Obama supporter who decided not to seek reelection in 2010.  The Wisconsin GOP also picked up two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and voters unseated Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold, who served in the U.S. Senate for 18 years before Republican businessman and now Sen. Ron Johnson defeated him last fall.

For the state's political U-turn last fall, Republicans across the nation are certainly taking notice.

Tuesday night, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin will deliver the GOP's official response to President Obama's State of the Union address.  Ryan is a policy intellectual and one of the few members of Congress who have proposed serious ways to address the increasing deficit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan252011

Obama Readies to Address Nation; Focusing on Economy, Future

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama heads to Capitol Hill for his State of the Union address Tuesday night with some wind at his back, and perhaps more of a spring to his step than pundits would have predicted after the November midterms, which he called a "shellacking" for the Democrats.

With his approval ratings on the upswing and a lame-duck Congressional session that turned out to be one of the most productive months of his presidency, the White House says Obama is expected to look forward in his State of the Union address.

His focus will be on five key issues: innovation, education, infrastructure, tackling the national debt, and government reform.

The White House said that president is not likely to go through a "laundry list" of policy proposals Tuesday night, but instead will be include a broader discussion about the direction he believes the nation needs to head.

The president will "spend most of his time talking about the economy, talking about the challenges that we've faced, both in the short term, in terms of doing whatever we can to help create jobs," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

He said that for the medium and long term focus, Obama will look at how the government can get the nation's "fiscal house in order."

The theme of the president's speech will be "How We Win the Future."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan242011

White House Climate Change Czar Carol Browner Departing

Photo Courtesy - Change dot gov(WASHINGTON) -- Senior administration officials confirm reports that Carol Browner, assistant to the president for energy and climate change, is departing the White House in the next few weeks.

A White House official says Browner will stay on as long as necessary to ensure an orderly transition.

"Carol is confident that the mission of her office will remain critical to the president and she is pleased with what will be in the State of the Union address tomorrow and in the budget on clean energy," the official said Monday. "She is proud of the administration’s accomplishments -- from the historic investments in clean energy included in the Recovery Act to the national policy on vehicle efficiency that will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil and lower consumers’ prices at the pump."

That said, it's unclear that Browner will be replaced. When Democrats controlled the House and Senate, they were unable to pass major energy legislation addressing climate change, and now that Republicans control the House and Senate, Democrats have an even narrower margin.

"On the question of what will happen to the position, the president’s commitment to these issues will, of course, continue but any transition of the office will be announced soon," the official said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan242011

Sen. Sessions: ‘Can’t See How We Could Possibly Spend More Money’


Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is leavening his calls for fiscal restraint for targeted “investments” aimed at helping the economy -- including new spending on areas such as education, infrastructure, and job creation.

But the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions, told ABC News Monday that he doesn’t foresee supporting even limited expansions in government spending.

“I can't see how we could possibly spend more money at this point,” said Sessions, R-Ala. “Start new programs perhaps -- if some were reduced or eliminated, you might reorder money, and I'd be open to that. But we'd really have to have at least, I think, this year, a 10-percent reduction in spending.”

Sessions had praise for the “Roadmap” plan put forward by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who is his party’s choice to deliver the formal response to the president’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. That plan is particularly controversial because he proposes major restructuring the Medicare and Social Security entitlement programs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan242011

Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. Nominated as Next Solicitor General of US Justice Dept

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House has nominated Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. as the next Solicitor General of the Department of Justice.  Verrilli, who currently serves as Deputy Counsel to the President, was a top contender for the job after Elena Kagan was nominated for the Supreme Court. The decision will surprise some court-watchers, however, as Neal Katyal, who has been serving as the Acting Solicitor General since Kagan’s nomination, was also a top contender for the job.

Verrilli’s nomination will require Senate confirmation.

Verrilli worked briefly for the Justice Department, and he spent 20 years as a litigator for the law firm of Jenner & Block. He has argued 12 cases in front of the Supreme Court. His most famous victory came when he represented media companies claiming that a music file-sharing service called Grokster could be sued for copyright infringement.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan242011

State of the Union 2011: Supreme Court Justices Divided on Attending

Photo Courtesy - Pete Souza/The White House(WASHINGTON) -- It's been nearly a year since Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. told an audience that he was "very troubled" by the "setting, circumstance and decorum" of the State of the Union speech where justices are forced to sit expressionless while Congress "literally surrounds them" at times cheering and hollering.

The justices rarely applaud the event, fearful that it might send the message that they are taking sides on an issue which might come before them.

This year's State of the Union might be a very different atmosphere because several members of Congress have stated their intention to sit next to a member of the opposing party in order to send a message of comity to the American public.

A press spokeswoman for the Court said that Justice Samuel Alito will miss this year's speech due to a commitment in Hawaii but she had no information on the plans of the other justices. It will be Justice Elena Kagan's first State of the Union.

Justice Clarence Thomas will undoubtedly choose not to be there. Last year, he told an audience at the Stetson University College of Law, "There's a lot that you don't hear on TV," adding, "…the catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments."

Retired Justice John Paul Stevens agreed with Thomas. "I went to a few of them when I was first on the Court, but I stopped," Stevens told Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker last year. "They are political occasions where I don't think our attendance is required."

But Justice Stephen Breyer told ABC News in September that he will attend, even if he is the only Justice to do so.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan242011

Rahm Emanuel Deemed Ineligible for Chicago Mayor

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CHICAGO) -- An Illinois appellate court has ruled that former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is not eligible to be a candidate for mayor of Chicago because he has not been a resident of the city for at least one year.

The decision reverses earlier rulings by a Cook County judge and the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners that had cleared the way for Emanuel’s bid.

A campaign source tells ABC News that Emanuel will appeal the ruling.

The mayoral election is scheduled for Feb. 22.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan242011

'Date Night' for Congress: Lawmakers Pair Up, or Go Stag

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- "Who are you going with?" has become the hottest question asked of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, one day before a joint session of Congress convenes for President Obama's State of the Union address.

Colorado Democratic Sen. Tom Udall's simple and largely symbolic proposal for colleagues to cross the aisle and sit side-by-side Tuesday has cast the evening as something of a "date night," with many members of Congress courting the perfect partner and some promising to go stag.

Republicans and Democrats have traditionally sat together en masse on their respective sides of the aisle. But in the wake of the Tucson, Ariz., shootings two weeks ago, many lawmakers have sought ways to project a greater sense of unity and civility before the U.S. public.

More than 50 lawmakers have so far signed on to Udall's bipartisan seating plan, and several couples announced their pairings Sunday.

House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have not yet weighed in publicly on the seating proposal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has only said that the plan should receive "serious consideration."

A recent CNN poll found more than 70 percent of Americans support mixed seating of Republicans and Democrats for the State of the Union address.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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