Review Category : Poltics

GOP Weekly Address: McConnell Says Republican Majority in Senate Could End Gridlock

US Senate(WASHINGTON) — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gave the weekly Republican address this week, urging American voters to elect his fellow Republicans.

“A new Republican majority wouldn’t mean we’d be able to get everything you want from Washington,” McConnell admitted, “but it would mean we’d be able to bring the current legislative gridlock to a merciful end.”

Calling it “time for the President to start doing the job he was elected to do,” the Kentucky Senator criticized the Democrats for problems ranging from unemployment to stagnant wages and from Obamacare to the “War on Coal.” McConnell said he believes that the Republican party can work with President Obama to get “solid pro-middle class ideas…signed into law.”

Read the full transcript of the GOP address:

“Hello, I’m Senator Mitch McConnell from Kentucky.

“The promise of every generation is to leave a better country to the one that follows.

“Through war and strife, we’ve long kept that charge. It’s one of the most remarkable things about our country.

“And yet, this long-standing commitment has never seemed more under threat.

“Millions of our neighbors remain out of work. Those who do have jobs worry constantly about the future.

“Costs always seem to go up, but wages and opportunities never seem to keep pace. Even the President admits that wages and incomes have been stagnant during his time in the White House.

“Working moms and dads can find it almost impossible to balance the demands of work with the needs of a family.

“And events seem to keep spinning out of control, whether at home or abroad, with no one in the Administration possessing a real handle on what to do next.

“In difficult times, the American people expect real leadership from Washington. What they don’t need are more unworkable ideas that often make the problem worse.

“…they don’t need a health law that cancels policies and too often makes health care even less affordable for you and your family…

“…they don’t need a failed ‘stimulus’ that plunged us a trillion dollars deeper into debt…

“…and they don’t need an ideological War on Coal that threatens not to meaningfully improve the environment, but rather to increase the squeeze on middle-class families and struggling miners.

“It’s no wonder that nearly 7 in 10 Americans believe our country is headed seriously off track, or that so many in the middle class see a government in Washington that works for itself, and not for them.

“The fact is, President Obama and his Democratic Party have held power in Washington for almost six years now. And for a long time they were able to enact nearly anything they wanted.

“Obamacare. The stimulus. Higher taxes. More complex regulations. Record levels of debt.

“They got the chance to pass nearly everything their ideology would allow. But six years on, their policies haven’t gotten the country moving again. And it’s clear that more of the same isn’t going to work. This unfortunate reality has caused Democrats to abandon trying to fix the economy in order to focus almost exclusively on protecting their control of Congress – seemingly at any cost.

“That’s why the Democratic majority blocks nearly every common-sense idea – including reforms and jobs bills that enjoy significant, sometimes overwhelming, bipartisan support – they block it from even coming to a vote. Their aim is to protect the President from having to make politically difficult decisions about whether to sign or veto bipartisan legislation – legislation that might excite one segment of the Democratic Party but infuriate another.

“Well, we think it’s time for the President to start doing the job he was elected to do.

“He should worry less about massaging egos in his party and worry more about healing our country.

“And if the American people choose to send a Republican majority to Congress this election, we can finally help ensure that he does.

“A new Republican majority wouldn’t mean we’d be able to get everything you want from Washington. But it would mean we’d be able to bring the current legislative gridlock to a merciful end. It means we’d be able to start sending bills to the President’s desk again, just as the American people expect.

“Under a new majority, our focus would be on passing legislation that improves the economy, that makes it easier for Americans to find jobs, and that helps restore Americans’ confidence in their country and their government.

“We want to ease the squeeze on working families. We want to improve economic opportunity. We want to make it easier for families to join the Middle Class. We want to increase career prospects for college graduates.

“A new Republican majority would work toward ensuring those kinds of policies start getting a vote instead of succumbing to the current gridlock. If our friends on the other side have a common-sense idea, we want to hear that as well.

“We’re aiming for common-sense solutions, not large or complex bills no one reads and few understand. We want to engage members from both parties in the legislative process, to get our democracy working again the way it was designed.

“Already there are bills everyone knows would pass Congress with bipartisan support, if only a vote were allowed. That’s why Democrats haven’t allowed those votes to happen. But we will.

“There are other good policies that might not pass with as broad a majority, but that still deserve Congress’ attention. We’ll fight for those as well.

“I think we’ll be able to work with the President to ensure solid, pro-middle class ideas are signed into law.

“He may also veto some of what we pass.

“But that’s okay. We believe it’s better to let the representatives of the people have their say and vote, even if the President disagrees with the policy. That’s far preferable to the Democratic majority’s policy of blocking bills from both sides of the aisle and shutting down debate.

“Our view is that Congress shouldn’t be in the business of protecting the President from good ideas. We think Congress should be in the business of getting good ideas to his desk instead – ideas that can help ensure the next generation enjoys just as many opportunities as we have had.

“That’s our charge. And that’s our focus. Thank you.”

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Obama Calls for Fair Pay for Women, Increased Minimum Wage in Weekly Address

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama, in his weekly address, highlighted recent improvement in the economy, but expressed concern that “the gains of a growing economy aren’t yet felt by everyone.”

Continuing his call for an increased minimum wage, Obama discussed the ways in which the government can help American women and working-class families get ahead. He notes, in his address, that women make up nearly half of the workforce, and that they deserve “fair pay.”

“Even though it’s 2014, there are women still earning less than men for doing the same work. We don’t hyave second-class citizens in this country — we shouldn’t in the workplace, either,” the president said. He highlighted the need for fair treatment for pregnant workers, increased access to family leave, and increases in minimum wage. After all, he notes, “most low-wage workers are women.”

He calls the proposed policies “common sense” and “within our reach,” and calls on American voters “to speak up and choose them.”

Read the full transcript of the president’s address:

Hi, everybody. On Friday, I had a discussion with working women in Rhode Island about the economic challenges they face in their own lives – challenges shared by many of you.

Thanks to the work we’ve all put in, our economy has come a long way these past six years. Over the past 55 months, our businesses have added 10.3 million new jobs. For the first time in six years, the unemployment rate is below 6 percent. And on Thursday, we learned that over the past six months, our economy has grown at its fastest pace since 2003.

But the gains of a growing economy aren’t yet felt by everyone. So we’ve got to harness this momentum, and make the right choices so that everyone who works hard can get ahead.

In recent weeks, I’ve talked about these choices, from raising the minimum wage to creating new jobs in construction and manufacturing. Today, I want to focus on what I discussed with those women – the choices we need to make to help more women get ahead in today’s economy.

Right now, women make up almost half of our workers. More women are their family’s main breadwinner than ever before. So the simple truth is, when women succeed, America succeeds. And we should be choosing policies that benefit women – because that benefits all of us.

Women deserve fair pay. Even though it’s 2014, there are women still earning less than men for doing the same work. We don’t have second-class citizens in this country – we shouldn’t in the workplace, either. So let’s make sure women earn equal pay for equal work, and have a fair shot at success.

Women deserve to be able to take time off to care for a new baby, an ailing parent, or take a sick day for themselves without running into hardship. So let’s make sure all Americans have access to paid family leave.

Pregnant workers deserve to be treated fairly. Even today, women can be fired for taking too many bathroom breaks, or forced on unpaid leave just for being pregnant. That’s wrong – and we have to choose policies that ensure pregnant workers are treated with dignity and respect.

New parents deserve quality, affordable childcare. There’s nothing like the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your kids are safe while you’re at work. And the benefits that children get out of early enrichment can pay off for a lifetime. But in many states, sending your kid to daycare costs more than sending them to a public university. So let’s start demanding Pre-K for our kids.

And when most low-wage workers are women, but Congress hasn’t passed a minimum wage increase in seven years, it’s long past time that women deserve a raise. About 28 million workers would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage to ten dollars and ten cents an hour. And more than half of those workers are women. The local businesses where these workers spend their money would benefit, too. So let’s do this – let’s give America a raise.

All of these policies are common sense. All of them are within our reach. We’ve just got to speak up and choose them. Because they’ll build a stronger America for all of us.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

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President and First Lady Welcome Trick-or-Treaters to White House

White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted trick-or-treaters from 39 schools in Washington, Virginia and Maryland on Friday night, handing out candy, healthy snacks and other goodies.

The president, who was not in costume, saluted one boy dressed as a Navy sailor, while Halloween-themed music played in the background, including Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” “The Monster Mash” and the theme song from The Addams Family, among others. The trick-or-treaters walked across the South Drive to the South Portico of the White House.

Volunteers carved 200 pumpkins for the event.

The first family handed out an assortment of treats, including a box of White House Hershey kisses, a bag of black licorice and orange tangerine jelly beans, a White House sweet dough butter cookie, an apple, kettle corn, baseball cards featuring first dogs Bo and Sunny, and an assortment of other candies.

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President and First Lady Welcome Trick-or-Treaters to White House

White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted trick-or-treaters from 39 schools in Washington, Virginia and Maryland on Friday night, handing out candy, healthy snacks and other goodies.

The president, who was not in costume, saluted one boy dressed as a Navy sailor, while Halloween-themed music played in the background, including Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” “The Monster Mash” and the theme song from The Addams Family, among others. The trick-or-treaters walked across the South Drive to the South Portico of the White House.

Volunteers carved 200 pumpkins for the event.

The first family handed out an assortment of treats, including a box of White House Hershey kisses, a bag of black licorice and orange tangerine jelly beans, a White House sweet dough butter cookie, an apple, kettle corn, baseball cards featuring first dogs Bo and Sunny, and an assortment of other candies.

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The Seven Most Controversial Ads of Election 2014

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — Attack ads are among the oldest tools in the political playbook — and 2014 has seen its share.

Here are seven of the most controversial ads of 2014:

1. “Justice”

Candidate: Wendy Davis, Democrat

Race: Texas gubernatorial race

In “Justice,” Democrat Wendy Davis uses a photo of an empty wheelchair to make a political point. Her Republican opponent, Greg Abbott, is paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Despite a backlash, Davis defended the ad, which is the most-viewed YouTube video on this list. Abbott brushed off the ad, saying, “if [Davis] wants to attack a guy in a wheelchair, that’s her prerogative. As for me, I’m running a different type of campaign.”

2. “Nikko”

Sponsoring Organization: National Republican Congressional Committee

Race: Nebraska 2nd Congressional District race

“Nikko” attempts to tie Democratic candidate Brad Ashford to a prison inmate’s quadruple murder while out on early release under Nebraska’s “good time” law. The Ashford campaign called the ad a desperate move from Republicans and the accusations in the ad “baseless.” Critics have slammed the ad for supposedly playing up racial stereotypes, and have compared it to the “Willie Horton” ad used against 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. The NRCC fired back by saying the ad sheds light on Ashford’s record, and expressed confidence in GOP candidate Lee Terry’s campaign.

3. “Largest Ever”

Candidate: Alison Lundergan Grimes, Democrat

Race: Kentucky Senate race

In “Largest Ever,” Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes attempts to set the record straight on her stance on immigration and attacks Sen. Mitch McConnell for voting for “amnesty” for immigrants. The ad is getting flak from liberal groups like Latino Victory Project and MoveOn.org because Grimes uses the term “illegal aliens” to refer to undocumented immigrants. Grimes has not directly responded to their criticism.

4. “Crime Scene”

Candidate: Mark Begich, Democrat

Race: Alaska Senate race

Critics pounced when Sen. Mark Begich used one of the most horrific crimes in Anchorage’s history to attack his Republican opponent, Dan Sullivan. The ad cites a case in which an elderly couple was murdered and their 2-year-old granddaughter was sexually assaulted, and blames Sullivan for letting sex offenders get off with what it suggests are short sentences. Begich’s campaign also faced backlash for not taking down the commercial immediately after the family asked it to stop showing it. A spokesman for the Begich campaign said that they had notified the family before running the ad and the family did not seem opposed. After receiving a letter from the family’s lawyer, the ad was pulled from air, Begich’s campaign site and Begich’s YouTube page.

5. “Stalker Gap”

Sponsoring Organization: Americans for Responsible Solutions

Race: Arizona 2nd Congressional District race

Sponsored by Gabby Gifford’s PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions, this ad tells the story of Vicki, a mother whose husband and daughter were shot by the daughter’s ex-boyfriend, then ends by saying GOP congressional candidate Martha McSally “opposes making it harder for stalkers to buy a gun.” The Arizona Republic called the ad “vile” and a “murder indictment” of McSally. The ad drew further criticism when McSally revealed that she was a victim of stalking. ARS stood by their ad but then then pulled the ad after McSally said she always supported changing the “stalker gap.”

6. “Restore Leadership”

Candidate: Allen Weh, Republican

Race: New Mexico Senate race

Weh’s ad seeks to tie his Democratic opponent, Sen. Tom Udall, to Obama’s policies to combat ISIS. Critics deemed the spot offensive because it features a still image, albeit brief, of American journalist James Foley’s executioner. Weh defended the ad, telling ABC News, “That video is rough, but that’s the unvarnished truth.”

7. “When the Moment is Right”

Candidate: J.D. Winteregg, Tea Party Republican

Race: Ohio’s 8th Congressional District

In this Cialis spoof, John Boehner’s primary challenger, J.D. Winteregg, attacks the speaker’s many years in Congress, mocks his last name and alleges “electile dysfunction.” The ad got Winteregg noticed but also cost him his job as an adjunct professor at Cedarville University, a Christian college. Although he lost a job and the primary election, Winteregg said he has no regrets about airing the ad.

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DHS Report Finds Medicare Paid for HIV Drugs for Dead Patients

Andregric/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Department of Health and Human Services released a report on Friday that showed Medicare paid for HIV medication for more than 100 patients who were already dead.

The study was undertaken, the Office of the Inspector General said, because of “ongoing concerns about Medicare paying for drugs and services after a beneficiary has died.” Using their enrollment database, the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File and alternate death records, the OIG determined that at least 150 dead patients received HIV medication.

The study only looked at HIV drugs, which accounted for one quarter of one percent of all Medicare Part D drugs in 2012. The department says that the findings have implications for all such drugs, however.

“We recommend that [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] change its practice of paying for drugs that have a date of service within 32 days after the beneficiary’s death,” the report read. That change aims to “prevent inappropriate payments for drugs for deceased beneficiaries and lead to cost savings for the program and for taxpayers.”

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DHS Report Finds Medicare Paid for HIV Drugs for Dead Patients

Andregric/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Department of Health and Human Services released a report on Friday that showed Medicare paid for HIV medication for more than 100 patients who were already dead.

The study was undertaken, the Office of the Inspector General said, because of “ongoing concerns about Medicare paying for drugs and services after a beneficiary has died.” Using their enrollment database, the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File and alternate death records, the OIG determined that at least 150 dead patients received HIV medication.

The study only looked at HIV drugs, which accounted for one quarter of one percent of all Medicare Part D drugs in 2012. The department says that the findings have implications for all such drugs, however.

“We recommend that [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] change its practice of paying for drugs that have a date of service within 32 days after the beneficiary’s death,” the report read. That change aims to “prevent inappropriate payments for drugs for deceased beneficiaries and lead to cost savings for the program and for taxpayers.”

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Career Diplomats Worried About Influx of Political Appointees

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Obama administration is giving an unprecedented number of political appointees top diplomatic positions, a move that has long frustrated career Foreign Service officials but has become a renewed point of contention this week with the departure of Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, the only career foreign service officer in the top echelons of Foggy Bottom leadership.

Burns, who served more than three decades as a diplomat, announced earlier this week that he would be heading to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His replacement has not yet been announced. The most talked-about candidates are Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken or current Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, both of whom would be political appointees.

It’s actually the norm for a political appointee to get the deputy slot. In the 41-year history of that position, Burns is the exception to the rule. But career officials say their wider concern is political appointees’ total takeover of all the top State Department positions, not only at the deputy level but also at the next-highest level, the undersecretary for political affairs slot, or the “P” position.

And even Burns, a seasoned diplomat who had recently helped in secret talks to get Iran to the negotiating table over its nuclear program, recognized the prevalence of political appointees serving in the White House’s National Security Council and alluded to frustration among the career ranks in a parting letter he wrote for Foreign Policy.

“The revolution in communications technology and the increasing role of both the National Security Council staff and other agencies over successive administrations have tended to bring out the more passive (or sometimes passive-aggressive) side of the State Department,” Burns wrote.

These are the kinds of concerns that Robert Silverman, the president of the American Foreign Service Association, made up of Foreign Service officers, says he’s hearing from his members.

“They care deeply about who their leadership is. They also care deeply about who their direct supervisor is. And here in Washington, that is increasingly people from outside the system with no experience in this position who take a lot of special handling,” Silverman told ABC News.

He noted that the top positions are not only concerned with the issues that the secretary of state works on, such as ISIS, Iran and North Korea, but also more the more mundane tasks that keep the department running, like those of the passport agency or child custody cases.

“We’re not opposed to political appointees — it’s important to bring in outsiders with fresh perspectives,” he added. “It’s just completely out of balance.”

Another reflection of that lack of balance cited by AFSA and others is the ratio of political appointees to career officers that President Obama has chosen to serve as foreign ambassadors. In his second term, 41 percent of his ambassadorial appointees have been political, versus 58 percent career. His record over both terms is 64 percent career, 35 percent political — second only to the record of George W. Bush, for whom political appointees counted as 36 percent of his total ambassadorial nominations.

But State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki rejected the notion that the influx of political appointees in the top leadership positions represented a lack of emphasis on the Foreign Service.

“While it would be inappropriate to speculate about pending decisions and nominations about the Department’s senior leadership, everyone should rest assured knowing that the secretary doesn’t just respect but reveres the institution that is the Foreign Service,” she said, adding that Secretary of State John Kerry is the son of a foreign service officer and has appointed more career officers in assistant secretary positions than “at any time in recent memory.”

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Career Diplomats Worried About Influx of Political Appointees

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Obama administration is giving an unprecedented number of political appointees top diplomatic positions, a move that has long frustrated career Foreign Service officials but has become a renewed point of contention this week with the departure of Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, the only career foreign service officer in the top echelons of Foggy Bottom leadership.

Burns, who served more than three decades as a diplomat, announced earlier this week that he would be heading to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His replacement has not yet been announced. The most talked-about candidates are Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken or current Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, both of whom would be political appointees.

It’s actually the norm for a political appointee to get the deputy slot. In the 41-year history of that position, Burns is the exception to the rule. But career officials say their wider concern is political appointees’ total takeover of all the top State Department positions, not only at the deputy level but also at the next-highest level, the undersecretary for political affairs slot, or the “P” position.

And even Burns, a seasoned diplomat who had recently helped in secret talks to get Iran to the negotiating table over its nuclear program, recognized the prevalence of political appointees serving in the White House’s National Security Council and alluded to frustration among the career ranks in a parting letter he wrote for Foreign Policy.

“The revolution in communications technology and the increasing role of both the National Security Council staff and other agencies over successive administrations have tended to bring out the more passive (or sometimes passive-aggressive) side of the State Department,” Burns wrote.

These are the kinds of concerns that Robert Silverman, the president of the American Foreign Service Association, made up of Foreign Service officers, says he’s hearing from his members.

“They care deeply about who their leadership is. They also care deeply about who their direct supervisor is. And here in Washington, that is increasingly people from outside the system with no experience in this position who take a lot of special handling,” Silverman told ABC News.

He noted that the top positions are not only concerned with the issues that the secretary of state works on, such as ISIS, Iran and North Korea, but also more the more mundane tasks that keep the department running, like those of the passport agency or child custody cases.

“We’re not opposed to political appointees — it’s important to bring in outsiders with fresh perspectives,” he added. “It’s just completely out of balance.”

Another reflection of that lack of balance cited by AFSA and others is the ratio of political appointees to career officers that President Obama has chosen to serve as foreign ambassadors. In his second term, 41 percent of his ambassadorial appointees have been political, versus 58 percent career. His record over both terms is 64 percent career, 35 percent political — second only to the record of George W. Bush, for whom political appointees counted as 36 percent of his total ambassadorial nominations.

But State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki rejected the notion that the influx of political appointees in the top leadership positions represented a lack of emphasis on the Foreign Service.

“While it would be inappropriate to speculate about pending decisions and nominations about the Department’s senior leadership, everyone should rest assured knowing that the secretary doesn’t just respect but reveres the institution that is the Foreign Service,” she said, adding that Secretary of State John Kerry is the son of a foreign service officer and has appointed more career officers in assistant secretary positions than “at any time in recent memory.”

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Obama Commits ‘Sin,’ Orders ‘Death by Chocolate’ From the Devil

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — When President Obama walked into Gregg’s Restaurant and Pub in Providence, R.I., for a surprise lunch on Friday with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo, the devil was waiting.

And so were a few Flintstones and a pirate.

After meeting the restaurant’s owner, the aptly named Bob Bacon, the president headed straight to the sweets — it is Halloween after all — and ordered a sinister “Death by Chocolate” cake from the devil, a server in disguise.

“The word is that the chocolate-layer cake here is deadly and it’s devilish, and so for Halloween, this is the kind of sin that we want to commit,” Obama said, noting he would share the 20-pound cake with the crew on Air Force One.

The president then ordered a less-devilish, but perhaps more deadly entree: a burger, medium well, with the works and fries.

When one of the servers noted “Michelle’s not going to be happy about that,” the president told her. “You know what, you don’t have to tell.”

The Halloween fun will continue Friday evening, when the president and first lady host pint-sized goblins, superheroes and princesses at the White House. The tiny trick-or-treaters, local school kids and children of military families will be rewarded with candy and, of course, some first lady-approved healthy snacks.

Obama did in fact share the massive chocolate cake. He negotiated a deal with the press aboard AF1 — cake in exchange for letting Press Secretary Josh Earnest skip the planned gaggle.

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