03/02/2015 DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on Sen. Mikulski’s Announcement
Washington, DC— DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement after Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced this morning that she will not run for re-election:
“I can honestly say that I wonder if I would be where I am today without Barbara Mikulski.
“She paved the way as a trailblazer for a young woman like me to run and win my first election at 26 years old. For the last four decades, there have been few stronger advocates of women’s equality than Barbara Mikulski. A few years ago, Sen. Mikulski introduced the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill signed into law by President Obama. But as a woman in Congress, I appreciate that her fight to bring equality to the workplace has been fought far longer and earned the hard way.
“Millions of breast cancer patients and survivors like me cannot express how thankful we are for her leadership to ensure that health care reform included free mammograms and preventive services for women.
“In her announcement this morning, Sen. Mikulski promised that she would not run for re-election so that she could focus on ‘raising hell.’ I have no doubt that is true, and know that as women, as Democrats, and as Americans, we are better off for having Barbara Mikulski fighting on our side.”
03/01/2015 DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on the Passing of Larry Scanlon
Washington, DC – DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement on the passing of labor leader Larry Scanlon:
“I was shocked and saddened to learn of the untimely passing of Larry Scanlon. As the longtime political director of AFSCME, Larry was a dedicated advocate for America's working families. He truly believed that everyone deserved a fair shot, and devoted his life's work to ensuring that our neighbors who are often overlooked would have a voice to represent them. On behalf of Democrats across the country, I extend our thoughts and prayers to the Scanlon family and the entire labor community on their loss.”
03/01/2015 DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz’s Statement Celebrating Women’s History Month
Washington, D.C. – Today, DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement in honor of Women’s History Month:
“March is Women’s History Month, and this year’s theme is ‘Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.’ This theme provides us an important opportunity to ensure that we, as a nation, are including the stories, struggles, and successes of women into the American narrative.
“Women have been deeply ingrained in the fabric of our nation’s history from the very beginning. From Abigail Adams’ role as unofficial adviser to the president, to Sandra Day O’Connor serving as the first female member of the United States Supreme Court, to Nancy Pelosi’s tenure as Speaker of the House of Representatives, we have come a long way. Celebrating the women who have come before us is essential to continuing our march toward total equality for women. We stand on these women’s shoulders, and without knowing and understanding the stories of our foremothers, we have nothing to stand on.
“The theme of this March also encourages us to recommit to always elevating women’s perspectives in the work we do building this nation, now and in the future. This is something that I am proud to say our President and Democrats have made a priority.
“In President Obama, women have had a strong ally in the fight for economic opportunity, affordable health care, and a fair work, life balance. The first bill our President signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, helps equip women with the legal tools they need to fight wage discrimination; with the Affordable Care Act, millions more American women now have access to quality, affordable health care without being discriminated against by insurance companies for being a woman; and a dedication to allowing parents the economic freedom to stay home with sick children so that working mothers can both take care of and afford to feed their families – Democrats have fought for policies that reflect the priorities of women and will continue to do so.
“It is no secret why Republicans continue to struggle with women voters. They continuously either ignore the voices of women or simply stand on the wrong side of these issues and so many more that are important to women and families. They still brush them aside as ‘just women’s issues’ – forgetting that women are not a small special interest group, but in fact make up half of our nation and ‘their’ issues are family issues and economic issues. In prioritizing the wealthy and special interests, Republicans have disregarded the needs of American woman and lost sight of the cornerstones of middle class economics.
“This Women’s History Month, we recommit to never ignoring the perspectives and lives of women. And we celebrate our progress, as well as the work still to be done, by drawing strength from the women whose stories are woven into our nation’s history. May the women of the past be forever in our minds as we continue to break barriers and fight for full equality. From our DNC family to yours, Happy Women’s History Month.”
02/26/2015 #CelebrateBlackHistory – State Senator Catherine Pugh
Maryland State Senator Catherine Pugh is the President of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.
Who inspired you to get into politics?
I realized as a child that voting was important because my parents would get dressed up like they were going to church when they went to vote. They would announce when they were departing, “we are going to vote.” As a result I couldn’t wait to grow up and go vote so I could be fancy like them. My dad wore his Sunday suit and my mother would have on her glass beads or pearls, hat and gloves and a beautiful dress. My Dad always talked about politics. He would say if you don’t vote, don’t complain. Voting meant to my parents participating in shaping a better life for our community. My parents were my inspiration.
Why are you a Democrat?
My parents were Democrats. They taught us that Democrats represented the principles that provided and opportunity for all Americans and is dedicated to equality and justice for all. I grew up in a Democratic Household with parents and grandparents who talked about the Kennedy’s and Dr. Martin Luther King like they had been our relatives. As an elected official and a registered democrat since I was old enough to vote I too have become dedicated to the principles of this organization. As a Democrat you don’t just root for the underdog you fight for equality of opportunity. I have embraced the principles of the Democratic Party and successfully passed over a 100 pieces of legislation that seek to expand economic opportunity, improve the lives of others, provide services for the least of us, and provide equal educational opportunities.
What advice I would you give women of color that want to run for public office?
Run! Women are underrepresented in elective office and women of color are grossly under represented. To expand our voices we must pay more attention to the opportunities to participate in the political process. Whenever the opportunity presents itself take advantage of it. To learn more about the political arena seek out an elected official as a mentor. You may volunteer or seek employment with them. Also learn more about NOBEL Women, a national organization of Black Elected Women. Finally, be involved with your community and understand the issues that impact them so that you may fairly represent them.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History month is a great time to celebrate our heritage with other segments of our community. It is a period in which we reflect on our journey as Americans and as African Americans whose history is laced with many challenges that we have overcome.
It is a reminder of how far we have come and how much further we much travel in order to achieve true equality and economic parity.
02/24/2015 #CelebrateBlackHistory – Rep. Barbara Lee
What or what inspired you to get involved in politics?
In college, I was uninterested in politics. I was taking a political science class and there was a requirement to work on a Presidential campaign. However, I was conflicted in my heart and felt that I could not work for any of the then-leading Democratic contenders: Sens. Edmund Muskie (ME), George McGovern (SD) and Hubert Humphrey (NJ). I was on the verge of failing because of this requirement; then I had the honor of meeting Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) during her run for the Democratic Presidential Nomination. I was the president of the Mills College Black Student Union and I had invited her to speak. After she spoke, I began working on her campaign, become chair of her Northern California presidential campaign and a delegate for her at the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami, FL.
Why are you a Democrat?
Because Democrats fight for policies that advance our shared values like equality, fairness and justice for all. Democrats believe that EVERYONE deserves a chance to live the American dream.
What advice you would give to young women of color that want to run for public office?
Get involved in issues that you are passionate about and give back to the community. Help others. Volunteer and love public service. Take a stand for those who have no voice and be their advocate.
Find a mentor and run. At every level of government we need more women and women of color in office.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Every year, we remember and honor the tremendous legacy and contributions that African Americans have made to our nation – from science and technology to education to business to politics and beyond. It is also a time to re-focus and re-committee to the remaining work of ensuring justice and opportunity for all.
Dr. King said during his “Two Americas” speech at Stanford University on April 14th, 1967: “There are literally two Americas. One America is beautiful for situation. And, in a sense, this America is overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity…. tragically and unfortunately, there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the ebulliency of hope into the fatigue of despair.”
While progress has been made, there are still two Americas. Voting rights are under attack; poverty, structural inequalities and discrimination remain and our criminal justice system too often fails African Americans.
With the celebration of Black History Month, we must remember the great legacy of African Americans but also recommit to our shared responsibility ensuring the American dream is open to all.
Washington, DC – DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement after Senate Republicans again refused to offer a clean bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, instead offering one that’s already failed:
“I am extremely disappointed that Republicans are willing to jeopardize America’s safety by refusing to pass a clean bill funding the Department of Homeland Security. Republicans are again threatening a partial government shutdown and the American people will hold them responsible.
“Our nation’s security should not be subjected to partisan maneuvering. With the deadline rapidly approaching, Congressional Republicans must drop the gamesmanship and work with Democrats on a solution that puts the American people first instead of wasting time on a bill that’s already failed three times. Surely there must be at least one potential leader in the Republican Party who is willing to step forward and tell their party to do what is right.
“Under President Obama’s leadership we have strengthened our nation’s security. That security is too critical for Republicans to put at risk just to make a point.”
02/21/2015 DNC Committee Members Pass Resolution Calling for Guaranteeing an Individual’s Right to Vote
Today, the Democratic National Committee unanimously passed a resolution calling for a Constitutional Amendment explicitly guaranteeing an individual’s right to vote. After its passage, DNC Vice Chair of Voter Expansion and Protection Donna Brazile released the following statement:
“Last year at the DNC Winter Meeting, we announced the Voter Expansion program to ensure that every eligible voter is registered, every registered voter is able to vote, and that every vote is counted. Today we built on this critical mission by unanimously passing a resolution to amend the United States Constitution to explicitly guarantee Americans’ right to vote. The Democratic Party stands for inclusion, and we know that we are all better when everyone has a voice in the democratic process. The right to vote is a moral imperative, and I am proud to support this resolution.”
02/21/2015 Democratic National Committee Releases Victory Task Force Preliminary Report
Washington, DC – Today at the Democratic National Committee’s annual winter meeting, DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the preliminary findings of the DNC’s Democratic Victory Task Force, an initiative that Wasserman Schultz announced in the days after the 2014 Midterm Election.
The Democratic Victory Task Force’s aim is to conduct a thorough review and assessment of key components of the Democratic Party’s – and related organizations’ – role in recent elections and identify places where the Party can strengthen and improve operations to better serve candidates and constituents in future elections.
Today’s preliminary report recommends specific steps both the national and state Democratic parties can take to improve their performance in future elections, including:
the creation of a National Narrative Project to work with party leaders, activists, and messaging and narrative experts to create a strong values-based national narrative that will engage, inspire and motivate voters to identify with and support Democrats;
working with State Parties to build partnership agreements that include training, evaluation, metrics, and incentives and that are focused on ensuring that every State Party is on a pathway to self-sustainability;
the development of an aggressive, multi-faceted legislative and legal strategy to ensure every eligible American is registered to vote, has access to the polls and has their ballot counted;
the creation and resourcing of a three-cycle plan, in conjunction with our allies, that targets and wins back legislative chambers in order to prepare for redistricting efforts; and
the DNC building on its success and playing a proactive role in helping identify, train and foster the next generation of Democratic leaders, especially at the state level.
“The Democratic Victory Task Force plays an important role, consulting people from around the country from all backgrounds, in an effort to continue to strengthen the Democratic Party,” said DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “We are Democrats because we believe in an economy where hard work is rewarded, and because we are focused on building a stronger and more secure middle class. We have a lot of work ahead, but we know that when Democrats win elections, the middle class wins.”
Appointed members of the Democratic Victory Task Force – Naomi Aberly, Governor Steve Beshear (KY), Donna Brazile, Maria Cardona, Marc Elias, Teddy Goff, Maneesh Goyal, Colorado Democratic Party Chair Rick Palacio, Lee Saunders and Eric Schmidt – solicited input from a wide array of stakeholders, from activists to outside experts to Party Leadership, who helped guide the findings.
The Task Force will produce its final recommendations by mid-2015.
02/21/2015 #CelebrateBlackHistory - Natasha McKenzie, President of the College Democrats of America
What or who inspired you to get involved in politics?
From an early age I knew that I wanted to make a difference in the world and help others around me. During my freshman year at Trinity University I attended my first College Democrats meeting on campus. It was inspiring to interact with other students similarly dedicated to becoming politically active and that aimed to elect democratic candidates that stood for issues essential to the betterment of society such as student loan reform and marriage equality.
Why are you a Democrat?
The greatest trait anyone can learn is empathy. The Democratic Party stands for all Americans regardless of where they come from and what they aspire to be. The Republican Party is a party of obstruction that does not stand for equality for all. One of the biggest problems with the Republican Party is that they have a lack of empathy for millions of struggling Americans. I know I'm a member of the party that stands up for what I believe in and actively works to make life better for all Americans.
Why should young people become involved in politics?
Young people will always be our society's source of social change. We are the generation that through political involvement has the opportunity to advocate for the causes that we personally care about. Political participation is the avenue through which we have the ability to make real change and the Democratic Party provides us with several opportunities to do just that. Young people represent one of the largest voting blocks in the country. Collectively, the youth in America bring a high level of passion to any effort which helps shape the dialogue of the party. The youth vote is a symbol of the force that young people represent in the political system. I firmly believe that millennials represent a powerful voting group that will continue to positively and substantially influence the future.
Young people have been among the biggest supporters of social issues in the Democratic Party for many generations. During the Civil Rights movement young people were on the front lines standing up for equality. Today the battle still continues to advance other social issues affecting Americans today such as marriage equality and combating poverty. I am confident young people will always step up and lead the nation towards achieving great progress.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History month is a month in which I celebrate the perseverance, triumphs and struggles of my people. It is a month that is meant to honor the important figures that paved the way for me and that has inspired me to pay it forward by helping pave the way for people following in my footsteps. The moments of reflection associated with the month makes it possible for me to become even more aware of my inspiring heritage.
02/17/2015 #CelebrateBlackHistory – DNC Black Caucus Chair Virgie M. Rollins
What inspired you to get involved in politics?
The Civil Rights Movement inspired me to get involved with politics. Injustices like systematic disenfranchisement of Black people, segregation, hate crimes, discrimination, and the denial of voting rights were issues that left me wanting to change the law to better the conditions in our community. The only way for me to help change conditions was to get involved and elect people who looked like me, and who would also fight along with me, to improve conditions for the Black community.
Why are you a Democrat?
I am a Democrat because Democrats are more sensitive and connected to issues that are important to me such as improving life for the middle class, a livable wage for working families, compassion for those mired in poverty, to clothe and shelter the working poor and homeless, making sure that jobs are available for everyone, and providing health care for all.
Why should African Americans be involved in political process?
African Americans should always be involved in politics to ensure that the full breadth of the American experience is reflected at all levels of government. When we vote, our collective power combats those who would suppress the vote or gerrymander districts that dilute and weaken our representation. By voting, we work to reverse the existence of glaring disparities in the education, justice, and the health care systems. The safety and quality of the car you drive, whether you have fresh fruit and vegetables in your local grocery stores, and your job opportunities all depend on your elected representation. Our rights to enjoy full American citizenship are constantly being challenged. It is important for us to be involved in the public policy process to ensure the laws are written to protect our rights.
What does Black History mean to you?
Black History Month is a time to reflect on all the great people and extraordinary leaders who have given us so much. It is an opportunity to highlight crucial historical memories and events in our history. This is a time to educate and share the history and accomplishments of African Americans that are often ignored and not learned about in schools. Black History Month to me means bringing our history which is inextricably intertwined with American History to life.
03/02/2015 Remarks As Prepared for Delivery at AIPAC Annual Meeting by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice
Good evening everyone. It’s great to be back at AIPAC. Rosy, thank you so much for your warm introduction.
I want to thank Bob Cohen, Michael Kassen, Lillian Pinkus, my old friend Lee Rosenberg, and all of AIPAC’s board and members for welcoming me tonight. I want to thank all the Members of Congress who represent America’s strong bipartisan support for the State of Israel; and all the young people here today, some 3,000, who represent the bright future of the U.S.-Israel special relationship.
I brought one of those young people with me, my seventeen year-old son Jake, who insisted he had to come to AIPAC. But, I want to take a moment before I begin, to remember three young men who aren’t with us today. I want to call us back to those terrible days last summer, when we were united in grief over the horrifying kidnapping and murder of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah. As a mother, my heart breaks for such unspeakable loss. Those boys were our boys, and we all continue to mourn their tragic loss.
The last time I spoke at AIPAC, it was to the synagogue initiative lunch. This group tonight is… a little larger. But, when I finished that speech, more than 400 rabbis sang to me. In Hebrew. Now, that is something I will never forget. And the words of their song reflect the spirit that brings me here tonight. Hinei ma’tov uma-nayim, shevet achim gam yachad. “How good it is and how pleasant when we sit together in brotherhood.” It’s a great psalm—though I will admit that where I first encountered it – in church – it was not in the original Hebrew. That psalm always reminds me how much we can do together when we unite in common purpose. And, it goes to the heart of what AIPAC is all about—what the relationship between Israel and the United States is all about. Brotherhood. Togetherness. Unity.
That’s because the U.S.-Israel alliance is not just rooted in our mutual interests, vital as they are. It’s also rooted in the values of freedom and democracy that we share. It’s in the friendship and fellowship between ordinary Israelis and Americans. And, for me personally, it’s a warmth that’s rooted in my very first visit to Israel. I was just 14, traveling with my younger brother and my beloved late father. My Dad was on the Board of TWA – some of you are old enough to remember that once-great airline. We arrived on one of the first-ever flights from Egypt to Israel, just after the Camp David Accords were signed. We had an unforgettable visit, the power of which has stayed with me all my life. We bowed our heads in sorrow at Yad Vashem. We walked the lanes of the Old City, climbed Masada, floated in the Dead Sea, and picked fruit at a kibbutz. I learned by heart the words of the sh’ma. My first memories of Israel remain etched in my soul.
Put simply, the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is not just one between states. It is between two peoples and the millions of intimate, personal connections that bind us. Our relationship has deepened and grown through different presidents and prime ministers for nearly 70 years.
It was President Truman, a Democrat, who—just 11 minutes after David Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s independence—made the United States the first country to recognize the State of Israel.
It was President Nixon, a Republican, who made sure America stood with Israel as it fought for survival one terrible Yom Kippur, so that its people could declare am Yisrael Chai --“the people of Israel live.”
It was President Carter who helped Israel forge an historic peace with Egypt that endures to this day. And, it was President Clinton and President George W. Bush who backed Israel as it took more brave steps for peace, and as it endured terrorist attacks from Hezbollah and Hamas.
The relationship between the United States and the State of Israel is not a partnership between individual leaders, or political parties. It’s an alliance between two nations, rooted in the unbreakable friendship between our two peoples. It is not negotiable. And it never will be.
Our alliance grows l’dor va’dor, from generation to generation. That’s what counts. That’s what we have to protect. As John F. Kennedy said, back in 1960, “friendship for Israel is not a partisan matter. It is a national commitment.”
No one knows this better than all of you. For decades, AIPAC has built bipartisan support for America’s special relationship with Israel. That’s why every President—from Harry Truman to Barack Obama—has begun from a fundamental, unshakable premise: strengthening the security of Israel is in the national interest of the United States of America.
President Obama’s commitment to Israel is deep and personal. I know, because I see it every day. I first saw it when I accompanied then-Senator Obama to Israel in 2008. I saw it when he surveyed with horror the stacks of charred rockets that Hamas had fired on Israel, and when he walked through the hollowed out homes of Sderot.
That same year, President Obama came to this conference, still a senator, and he made a promise. He said, “Israel’s security is sacrosanct.” And, each day, over the past six years, President Obama has kept that promise. The President is profoundly committed to ensuring that Israel is never alone. That’s why, today, security cooperation between our countries is not just strong. It’s stronger than it has ever been. Both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu have called it “unprecedented.” And that’s the way it’s going to stay.
President Obama has met with Prime Minister Netanyahu more times than with almost any other world leader. As national security advisor, I am in nearly constant communication with Yossi Cohen, my friend and my Israeli counterpart, who I am so pleased is here tonight. Thank you, Yossi. Together, we host the U.S.-Israel consultative group to ensure we’re working closely across the highest levels of our governments. Our armed forces conduct extensive exercises together, and our military and intelligence leaders consult continually.
Under this Administration, in times of tight budgets, our security assistance to Israel has increased. Since President Obama took office, the United States has provided Israel with more than $20 billion in foreign military financing. Last year, we provided Israel with the largest package of security assistance ever. That’s money well spent, because it goes directly to bolstering Israel’s ability to defend itself in a very tough neighborhood, to protecting Israeli citizens, and to strengthening a vital American ally.
We are maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge with new defense technologies and access to the most advanced military equipment in the world. President Obama is determined to ensure that Israel can defend itself, by itself. So, when Israel receives the F-35 joint strike fighter next year, it will be the only nation in the Middle East with a fifth-generation aircraft.
Since 2009, we’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars in developing and producing the David’s Sling missile defense program and the Arrow anti-missile system. We’ve invested more than $1 billion dollars in the Iron Dome system. When I visited Israel last May, I saw this technology first-hand at Palmachim air force base. And, last summer, as Hamas’ terrorist rockets rained down on Israeli cities, the world saw how Iron Dome saved lives, literally, every day.
During the height of that conflict—with sirens wailing and Israeli civilians huddling in bomb shelters—the United States stood up for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks, even as we worked with the Israeli government to find a diplomatic resolution to the conflict. And, when the Israeli government made an urgent request for an additional $225 million to support Iron Dome’s batteries, President Obama’s response was immediate and clear: “Let’s do it.” Within days, legislation was drafted, passed through Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, and President Obama signed it into law. At that critical moment, we replenished Israel’s arsenal of Iron Dome interceptor missiles. That’s what it means to be an ally.
Our unwavering commitment to Israel’s lasting security is why we will also never give up on a just and comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It will require hard decisions, but the United States will remain a steadfast partner. Like past administrations, Republican and Democratic, we believe that a truly lasting peace can only be forged by direct talks between the two parties. Like past administrations, we are concerned by unilateral actions that erode trust or assault Israel’s legitimacy. Like every administration, Republican and Democratic, since the Six Day War, we oppose Israeli settlement activity—and we oppose Palestinian steps that throw up further obstacles to peace, including actions against Israel at the International Criminal Court. The only path to ensure Israel’s long-term security is to bring about a viable, sovereign Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with a democratic, Jewish State of Israel.
Israel’s security—our mutual security—is also at the heart of one of President Obama’s most important foreign policy objectives: ensuring that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon. As President Obama has repeated many times: we are keeping all options on the table to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. As he said in Jerusalem: “Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. This is not a danger that can be contained.” And he added, “America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.”
President Obama said it. He meant it. And those are his orders to us all.
That is still the way we see the danger of a nuclear Iran today. Given Iran’s support for terrorism, the risk of a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the danger to the entire global non-proliferation regime, an Iran with a nuclear weapon would not just be a threat to Israel – it’s an unacceptable threat to the United States of America.
We understand the unique concerns of our Israeli friends and partners. In Jerusalem, President Obama made plain: “when I consider Israel’s security, I also think about a people who have a living memory of the Holocaust, faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iranian government that has called for Israel’s destruction. It’s no wonder Israelis view this as an existential threat. But this is not simply a challenge for Israel; it is a danger for the entire world, including the United States.”
I want to be very clear: a bad deal is worse than no deal. And, if that is the choice, there will be no deal.
Negotiations continue. And, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. As of today, significant gaps remain between the international community and Iran. I’m not going to get into details about ongoing negotiations – nor should sensitive details of an ongoing negotiation be discussed in public. But, I do want to make five key points about our approach to the negotiation.
First, with the Joint Plan of Action, we have already succeeded in halting Iran’s nuclear program and rolling it back in key areas. Let’s recall what has been achieved over the last year. Iran is doing away with its existing stockpile of its most highly enriched uranium. Iran has capped its stockpile of low enriched uranium. Iran has not constructed additional enrichment facilities. Iran has not installed or operated new centrifuges, including its next-generation models. Iran has stopped construction at its potential plutonium reactor at Arak. In short, Iran is further away from a nuclear weapon than it was a year ago—and that makes the world safer, including Israel.
Moreover, we’re not taking anything on trust. What matters are Iran’s actions, not its words. That’s why, as part of the Joint Plan of Action, we’ve insisted upon—and achieved—unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear program. Before the Joint Plan, inspections happened only every few weeks, sometimes every few months. Today, the International Atomic Energy Agency has daily access at Iran’s key nuclear sites at Natanz and Fordow, verifying that Iran is meeting its commitments. If I can paraphrase, President Reagan, with a twist, our approach is “distrust and verify.”
Second, we’ve kept the pressure on Iran. I know this firsthand because, when I was U.N. ambassador, President Obama personally directed me to make sure that the Security Council’s sanctions had bite—and they do. Today, even with limited sanctions relief, Iran’s economy remains isolated from the international finance system and cut off from the vast majority of its foreign currency reserves. Iran’s oil exports have dropped almost 60 percent since 2012. The rial has depreciated by more than 50 percent. And, Iran’s overall GDP has shrunk by almost 10 percent. All told, sanctions have deprived Iran of more than $200 billion in lost oil revenues.
But sanctions are a tool, not an end in themselves. The question now, after the pressure that we and our partners have brought to bear, is whether we can verify that Iran cannot pursue a nuclear weapon. The question now is whether we can achieve a comprehensive deal. A good deal.
This is my third point—a good deal is one that would verifiably cut off every pathway for Iran to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. Every single one.
Any deal must prevent Iran from developing weapons-grade plutonium at Arak, or anywhere else.
Any deal must prevent Iran from enriching uranium at its nuclear facility at Fordow—a site we uncovered buried deep underground and revealed to the world in 2009.
Any deal must increase the time it takes Iran to reach breakout capacity—the time it would take to produce a single bomb’s worth of weapons-grade uranium. Today, experts suggest Iran’s breakout window is just two to three months. We seek to extend that to at least one year.
Any deal must ensure frequent and intrusive inspections at Iran’s nuclear sites—including the uranium mills that produce the material fed into Iran’s enrichment and conversion facilities—to create a multi-layered transparency regime that provides the international community with the confidence it demands. That’s the best way to prevent Iran from pursuing a covert path to a nuclear weapon—to stop Iran from working toward a bomb in secret.
Any deal must address the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. And, going forward, we will not accept a deal that fails to provide the access we need to ensure that Iran’s program is peaceful.
And, any deal must last more than a decade—with additional provisions ensuring greater transparency into Iran’s program for an even longer period of time.
That’s what we’re working toward—a good, long-term, comprehensive deal that verifiably prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
This brings me to my fourth point —we cannot let a totally unachievable ideal stand in the way of a good deal. I know that some of you will be urging Congress to insist that Iran forego its domestic enrichment capacity entirely. But, as desirable as that would be, it is neither realistic nor achievable. Even our closest international partners in the P5+1 do not support denying Iran the ability ever to pursue peaceful nuclear energy. If that is our goal, our partners will abandon us, undermining the sanctions we have imposed so effectively together. Simply put, that is not a viable negotiating position. Nor is it even attainable. The plain fact is, no one can make Iran unlearn the scientific and nuclear expertise it already possesses.
We must also understand what will happen if these negotiations collapse. I know that some argue we should just impose sanctions and walk away. But let’s remember that sanctions have never stopped Iran from advancing its program. So here’s what’s likely to happen without a deal. Iran will install and operate advanced centrifuges. Iran will seek to fuel its reactor in Arak. Iran will rebuild its uranium stockpile. And, we'll lose the unprecedented inspections and transparency we have today.
Congress has played a hugely important role in helping to build our sanctions on Iran, but they shouldn’t play the spoiler now. Additional sanctions or restrictive legislation enacted during the negotiation would blow up the talks, divide the international community, and cause the United States to be blamed for the failure to reach a deal—putting us in a much weaker position and endangering the sanctions regime itself. Meanwhile, the Iranians are well aware that if they walk away from a deal, Congress will pass new sanctions immediately—and President Obama will support them.
So, if Iran refuses to resolve this matter diplomatically—and is clearly to blame for that failure—its isolation will only increase. The costs will continue to grow.
Finally, I know that some question a deal of any duration. But, it has always been clear that the pursuit of an agreement of indefinite duration would result in no agreement at all. The question is, what is the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon? A deal that extends for a decade or more would accomplish this goal better than any other course of action – longer, by far, than military strikes, which would only set back Iran’s program for a fraction of the time. And, at the end of any deal, Iran would still be required to offer comprehensive access to its nuclear facilities and to provide the international community the assurance that it was not pursuing nuclear weapons. And, if it failed to do so, we would have the ability to make our own decisions about how to move forward, just as we do today. There’s simply no alternative that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon better—or longer—than the type of deal we seek.
We can always bring consequences to bear for the sake of our shared security—harsh consequences. But, precisely because this is such a serious issue, we must weigh the different options before us and choose the best one. Sound bites won’t stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Strong diplomacy – backed by pressure – can. And, if diplomacy fails, let’s make it clear to the world that it is Iran’s responsibility.
One final word on Iran: even if we succeed in neutralizing the nuclear threat from Iran, we will still face other threats—Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, its gross violations of human rights, its efforts to destabilize neighboring states, its support for Assad and Hamas and Hezbollah, its intolerable threats against Israel. Our sanctions against Iran on these issues will remain in place. We will continue to counter Iran and the full range of threats it poses. Tehran must understand—the United States will never, ever waver in the defense of our security or the security of our allies and partners, including Israel.
The bottom line is simple: we have Israel’s back, come hell or high water—and I’ve been right there with you all through some pretty high waters. I was proud to fight again and again for Israel’s security and its basic legitimacy at the United Nations – from leading the charge against the deeply flawed Goldstone report to casting this administration’s only veto in the Security Council to block a counter-productive resolution.
As Ambassador Power described to you this morning, when it comes to combating the shameful bias against Israel at the U.N., Israel has no better friend than the United States. Last March, we were the only ‘no’ vote in the Human Rights Council against anti-Israel measures five separate times. Earlier today, Secretary Kerry told the Human Rights Council in Geneva, point blank, that its obsession with Israel risks undermining the credibility of the entire organization. And last month, with Israel and the European Union, the U.S. organized the first U.N. General Assembly meeting to combat anti-Semitism.
No country is immune from criticism—take it from a former U.N. Ambassador. But when criticism singles out one country unfairly, bitterly, viciously, over and over—that’s just wrong, and we all know it. When one democracy’s legitimacy is attacked, over and over, uniquely among the U.N.’s member states, that’s ugly, and we all know it. And, when anti-Semitism rears its head around the world, when Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris are singled out and murdered by terrorists, when synagogues are attacked and cemeteries defaced, we have to call it by name. It’s hate. It’s anti-Semitism. It reminds us of the most terrible chapters of human history. It has no place in a civilized world, and we have to fight it.
These are big challenges. But the United States and Israel have mastered plenty of big challenges before. Israel and the United States are sister democracies built on the bedrock value that we are all created b’tzelem elokim—in the image of God. And, like the Psalm says, how good it is when we sit in brotherhood together. But God calls us to do more than sit. God calls us to stand up. To act.
This weekend, President Obama will travel to Selma, Alabama, to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic marches there. He’ll pay tribute to those brave souls who took enormous risks for civil rights, including Jews and rabbis from across the country—from St. Louis and San Francisco; the Northeast and the Deep South. They faced tear gas and billy clubs, Torahs in hand. They were jailed. They conducted Shabbat services behind bars, and they sang “Adon Olam” to the tune of “We Shall Overcome.” They broke the fast of Esther in prison. They even started a trend. Some black marchers, moved by the solidarity of their Jewish brethren, started wearing yarmulkes—they called them “freedom caps.”
As you recalled last night, one of those on the front lines in Selma was the great teacher, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. After marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with Dr. King, he reflected, “our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship.” Our march was our worship.
The Jewish community amplified the rightness and the urgency of the civil rights movement with its own unassailable moral compass—guided by the basic principle that people should be free in their own land. And, I stand before you knowing that I and many others would not be where we are today without all those who fought for equal rights – African Americans and white Americans, including so many Jewish Americans. As we mark that Selma anniversary, as we gather here to celebrate an improbable dream that grew into the great State of Israel, we remember what we can accomplish together, when we’re at our best.
In a spirit of brotherhood, we have overcome so many trials to reach where we are—as nations, as peoples. In a spirit of brotherhood, inspired by all those who marched and struggled and sacrificed before us, let us continue the work. Let us never succumb to hopelessness or cynicism, to division or despair. Let our legs utter songs, and let our hands reach out together. That is how we fulfill our common commitment to mend our imperfect world, to do the holy work of tikkun olam. And, as we do, at home and around the world, the United States will always stand with our Israeli friends and allies.
That’s our enduring commitment. That’s our sacred duty. That’s the hope and the future for our children. So, let us keep marching arm in arm together.
03/02/2015 Readout of the President's Meeting with Members of the Technology CEO Council
Today, President Obama met with members of the Technology CEO Council to discuss 21st century economic and security issues including trade, cybersecurity, immigration and tax reform. Growing U.S. exports to support new opportunities for our workers and businesses is a top priority for the President and the members of the Council, who reiterated their commitment to building bipartisan support for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) as a critical first step towards strong new trade agreements with high standards in critical areas such as labor, environment, and technology services.
The President also highlighted our continued progress towards fixing our broken immigration system -- including a final rule announced last week that gives U.S. work authorization to spouses of certain high-skilled immigrant workers who are approved for a green card and waiting for one to become available. The President and the Tech CEO Council agreed that immigration reform remains an imperative for our nation and high tech sector, and that we should continue striving for comprehensive reform that will fix our broken immigration system once and for all.
The group also shared concerns on cybersecurity and agreed to work with the Administration and Congress to develop better methods to help protect our critical infrastructure and privacy. The President and the executives also discussed a shared desire to work with Congress to enact pro-growth, business tax reform.
Ursula Burns, Chairman and CEO, Xerox Corp.; Chair of Tech CEO Council
Michael Dell, Chairman and CEO, Dell Inc.
Mark Durcan, CEO and Director, Micron Technology Inc.
Steve Mollenkopf, CEO, Qualcomm Inc.
Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President and CEO, IBM Corp.
Joe Tucci, Chairman and CEO, EMC Corp.
White House Participants:
Valerie Jarrett, White House Senior Advisor
Jeff Zients, Director of the White House National Economic Council
03/02/2015 Statement by the Vice President on the Retirement of Senator Barbara Mikulski
It has been the honor of a lifetime to work alongside my friend Barbara Mikulski. I will always be proud to be able to tell my four granddaughters that I served with a Senator who changed the way we think about each other in this country.
It was her leadership that brought the nation’s attention to the need for shelters for victims of domestic violence, helping countless women escape the worst prison on earth – the four walls of their own home. She helped me pass the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, and she successfully fought for every reauthorization since.
There’s a lot of talk about what the women of America owe Barbara Milkulski, but the truth of the matter is the men of America owe her even more. Because she freed men of the stereotypical notions that they were raised to believe.
When they saw the accomplishments of their daughters, when they saw their wives and their mothers take on new roles, when they saw the people they loved the most take on responsibilities that they had not seen before in their lives, it liberated them too.
I am sorry to see her go, but there are still two years left. And two years of Barbara Mikulski is like six years of any other senator. Jill and I wish her all the best.
03/02/2015 Remarks by the President after Meeting with Task Force on 21st Century Policing
12:09 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Last year, the events in Ferguson and New York exposed a deep-rooted frustration in many communities of color around the need for fair and just law enforcement.
And so back in December, I announced a Task Force on 21st Century Policing, chaired by two outstanding leaders who are respected both in law enforcement and in civil rights circles -- Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, and former Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson. And I asked them to help to form a task force made up of community leaders, law enforcement leaders, academics, practitioners, and to come up in 90 days with a very specific set of recommendations that would allow us to continue to drive crime down, to continue to deal with issues of community building, but would begin to build the kind of trust that we need in order to continue to make progress in the future.
For the last few months, they’ve been holding hearings. They met with people who care passionately about these issues; they’ve debated recommendations thoughtfully and deliberately. Some put their lives on hold for more than two months to do this. I am extraordinarily grateful for their efforts.
This morning, they presented to me their report, which will be available online for everybody to see. It offers pragmatic, common-sense ideas based on input from criminal justice experts, community leaders, law enforcement, and civil liberties advocates. We are carefully reviewing all their recommendations, which include very specific recommendations, more general recommendations, everything from training issues to technology issues, to approaches for interacting with schools, to how we get research and data.
But I want to summarize just a few key points that were made so that people are very clear about the direction that we're going to be moving. Number one, I think uniformly, the task force talked about the issue of legitimacy as being important not just for the communities, but also for law enforcement officers; that the more there is trust between communities and law enforcement, the safer it is for cops, the more effectively they can do their jobs, the more cooperation there’s going to be, the more likely those communities are to be safe.
And so there is no theoretical separation between the interests of community and law enforcement. But obviously the devil is in the details, and we've got to figure out how to make that work.
Number two, there was a great emphasis on the need to collect more data. Across this country, we've got 18,000 law enforcement jurisdictions. Right now, we do not have a good sense, and local communities do not have a good sense, of how frequently there may be interactions with police and community members that result in a death, result in a shooting. That's the kind of information that is needed for police departments to do their job, to be able to manage their forces effectively, and for communities to be able to evaluate and provide appropriate oversight to the folks who are supposed to be serving and protecting them.
There was a lot of discussion about the need for expanding and enhancing community policing that we know works. When I had several law enforcement officers from around the country the other day, almost all of them -- and this is a diverse group, some from big cities, some from small communities, some from tribal areas -- they all discussed the need for police officers to be engaged with the community, not just in a stop but also in a school, also working with children, also being seen as enhancing the life of the community beyond law enforcement. That trust then enhances their ability to do a good job. And that's an area that was emphasized by this task force.
There’s a great interest in training. We know some things that work. We need more information to find out how to take to scale best practices when it comes to training so that police officers are able to work in a way that reduces the possibilities of bias, that allows them to deal with what are very stressful situations. Oftentimes the police officers have extraordinarily difficult jobs; they may be put in situations in which there’s a lot of tension, and how do they deal with that appropriately, and how do they work with the community effectively to mitigate some of those challenges.
There are going to be some controversial recommendations in here. For example, the need for independent investigations and independent special prosecutors (inaudible) a situation in which law enforcement has interacted with an individual that results in death.
I'm going to give Laurie some water right now. (Laughter.) I think it's important -- she’s been working very hard. (Laughter.) And Michelle has that same cough.
But the importance of making sure that the sense of accountability when, in fact, law enforcement is involved in a deadly shooting is something that I think communities across the board are going to need to consider. Or some recommendations around prohibiting racial profiling. That's a step that we've already taken at the federal level. If you talk to the FBI, if you talk to our federal law enforcement, it may be challenging for them to change old practices, but they are confident that they’re able to continue to do their job effectively. The same is going to be true at the local level as long as it is an intentional policy coming from the top that is followed up with key metrics so the people know exactly what is going on.
And then there’s some discussions of technology. There’s been a lot of talk about body cameras as a silver bullet or a solution. I think the task force concluded that there is a role for technology to play in building additional trust and accountability, but it's not a panacea, and that it has to be embedded in a broader change in culture and a legal framework that ensures that people’s privacy is respected and that not only police officers but the community themselves feel comfortable with how technologies are being used.
There’s some additional recommendations that are very specific. For example, how law enforcement handles mass demonstrations. I think there was a lot of concern that bubbled up in the wake of Ferguson. The federal government has already taken it upon itself to look at how we are dealing with providing military equipment to local law enforcement and how that may be used. There are some recommendations that deal with civilian oversight and how that might be managed.
The point is that this report is going to contain a series of very specific, concrete, common-sense efforts for us to build trust. It will be good for police and it will be good for the communities involved. And as a consequence, it will be good for the country. Everybody wants our streets safe and everybody wants to make sure that laws are applied fairly and equitably.
Nobody, by the way, wants that more than law enforcement themselves. I was keenly interested in hearing from some of our law enforcement representatives who talked about how important it is for police to feel as if the community supports them, because they got into law enforcement to serve and protect, not to be viewed as some external force. And unfortunately, sometimes policies, politics, politicians put law enforcement in an untenable position.
There was some discussion within the report about how we have to look at the broader context in which law enforcement is happening. Our approach to our drug laws, for example, and criminalization of nonviolent offenses rather than taking more of a public health approach -- that may be something that has an impact in eroding trust between law enforcement and communities. Broader issues of poverty and isolation may have an impact.
I emphasized to the task force that I think it's important for us to recognize that context, but I don't want us to have such a 40,000-foot argument that we lose track of the very specific concrete practices that can be instituted right now that will make a difference.
Now, last point I'll make. Most of the recommendations that have been made are directed at the 18,000 law enforcement jurisdictions that are out there. Law enforcement is largely a local function as opposed to a federal function. Many of the recommendations that have been made for changes in federal practice we already have entrain. Those that we do not yet have entrain, that we have not yet implemented, I'm going to be asking Eric Holder and the Justice Department and his successor to go through all these recommendations so that we can start implementing them.
I know that one area that's going to be of great interest is whether we can expand the COPS program that in the past has been very effective, continues to be effective, but is largely underfunded -- to see if we can get more incentives for local communities to apply some of the best practices and lessons that are embodied in this report.
But a lot of our work is going to involve local police chiefs, local elected officials, states recognizing that the moment is now for us to make these changes. We have a great opportunity, coming out of some great conflict and tragedy, to really transform how we think about community law enforcement relations so that everybody feels safer and our law enforcement officers feel, rather than being embattled, feel fully supported.
We need to seize that opportunity. And so this is something that I'm going to stay very focused on in the months to come. I'm going to be pushing my Justice Department and the COPS program and others to continue to work on it. But I want to close by just once again saying thank you to the extraordinary contributions that have been made by this task force.
I expect our friends in the media to really focus on what’s in this report and pay attention to it. So often we see an event that's flashy; it makes the news; people are crying out for solutions. And by the time recommendations are put forward, our focus has moved on and we don't actually see and pay attention to the concrete ways that we can improve the situation. This is a moment where a lot of work has been done. There’s some good answers to be had if we don't make this a political football or sensationalize it, but rather really focus on getting the job done.
So I appreciate everybody’s efforts. I'm going to be focused on it. I hope you will be, too.
Thank you very much, everybody.
Q Surely you don't mean us, do you?
THE PRESIDENT: You pay attention, personally. It's more generically.
03/02/2015 Statement by the President on the Retirement of Senator Barbara A. Mikulski
Senator Mikulski is more than just a legendary senator for the people of Maryland, she’s an institution in the United States Senate. Barbara’s service to the people of Maryland spans decades, but her legacy will span generations. Barbara is the longest serving woman in Congress, and her leadership serves as an inspiration to millions of women and girls across the globe to stand up and lead.
As the Chairwoman and now Vice Chairwoman of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, Barbara has always known that our budgets should reflect our deepest held values. In that spirit, Barbara has wielded her gavel and used her booming voice to advocate on behalf of paycheck fairness, childcare, health care, education, women’s rights and countless issues that have contributed to the strength of America’s families. Thanks to her leadership, more women excel in their careers, more children have access to quality education, more families have health insurance and more people are treated fairly under the law. I look forward to working with Senator Mikulski over the course of the next two years, and Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to Barbara in her next endeavors.
03/01/2015 Statement by the President on the Passing of Minnie Minoso
For South Siders and Sox fans all across the country, including me, Minnie Minoso is and will always be “Mr. White Sox.”
The first black Major Leaguer in Chicago, Minnie came to the United States from Cuba even though he could have made more money elsewhere. He came up through the Negro Leagues, and didn’t speak much English at first. And as he helped to integrate baseball in the 1950s, he was a target of racial slurs from fans and opponents, sometimes forced to stay in different motels from his teammates. But his speed, his power – and his resilient optimism – earned him multiple All-Star appearances and Gold Gloves in left field, and he became one of the most dominant and dynamic players of the 1950s.
Minnie may have been passed over by the Baseball Hall of Fame during his lifetime, but for me and for generations of black and Latino young people, Minnie’s quintessentially American story embodies far more than a plaque ever could.
Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to his family and fans in Chicago, Cleveland, and around the world.
02/28/2015 Readout of Vice President Biden's Call with Uruguayan President-elect Tabare Vazquez
Vice President Biden called President-elect Tabare Vazquez of Uruguay today to congratulate him on his upcoming March 1st inauguration as President of Uruguay. The Vice President expressed regret at having to cancel his visit to Uruguay but informed President-elect Vazquez that Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden and U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Michele J. Sison would attend in his stead. The Vice President applauded Uruguay's active role in international peacekeeping, as well as its principled leadership on regional and global issues. The Vice President also reaffirmed U.S. interest in advancing bilateral economic cooperation and promoting greater collaboration on science and education.
02/28/2015 Readout of the Vice President’s Call with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko
Vice President Joe Biden spoke today with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko about the situation in the east and the Ukrainian government's steps to set its economy on a path to recovery and sustainable growth. President Poroshenko informed the Vice President of continued shelling in the vicinity of Donetsk and Mariupol by Russia-backed separatists, and further casualties among Ukrainian service members. The two leaders also discussed the OSCE's inability to verify the pull back of Russia's heavy weapons from the front lines. The Vice President welcomed the Ukrainian government's plan to pass critical reform legislation next week as part of an ambitious program of reforms that Ukraine has developed in cooperation with the IMF. The reforms will help to stabilize the economy and support disbursement of significant international financing in the near term.
02/28/2015 President Obama Announces Presidential Delegation to attend the Inauguration of His Excellency Tabaré Vázquez, President of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay
President Barack Obama today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to Montevideo, Uruguay to attend the Inauguration of His Excellency Tabaré Vázquez, President of the Republic of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay on March 1, 2015.
The Honorable Krysta Harden, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, will lead the delegation.
Members of the Presidential Delegation:
Mr. Brad Freden, Chargé d'affaires to the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, Department of State
The Honorable Michele J. Sison, Deputy Representative of the U.S. to the United Nations, Department of State
02/28/2015 Weekly Address: Ensuring Hardworking Americans Retire with Dignity
WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President reiterated his commitment to middle-class economics, and to ensuring that all hard-working Americans get the secure and dignified retirement they deserve. While most financial advisers prioritize their clients’ futures, there are some who direct their clients towards bad investments in return for backdoor payments and hidden fees. That’s why earlier this week the President announced that he is calling on the Department of Labor to update rules to protect families from conflicts of interest by requiring financial advisers to put their clients’ best interest before their own profits. The President emphasized his promise to keep fighting for this policy and for others that benefit millions of working and middle class Americans.
The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, February 28, 2015.
Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address The White House February 28, 2015
Hi everybody. In America, we believe that a lifetime of hard work and responsibility should be rewarded with a shot at a secure, dignified retirement. It’s one of the critical components of middle-class life – and this week, I took new steps to protect it.
Six years after the crisis that shook a lot of people’s faith in a secure retirement, our economy is steadily growing. Last year was the best year for job growth since the 1990s. All told, over the past five years, the private sector has added nearly 12 million new jobs. And since I took office, the stock market has more than doubled, replenishing the 401(k)s of millions of families.
But while we’ve come a long way, we’ve got more work to do to make sure that our recovery reaches more Americans, not just those at the top. That’s what middle-class economics is all about—the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everybody does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.
That last part—making sure everyone plays by the same set of rules—is why we passed historic Wall Street Reform and a Credit Card Bill of Rights. It’s why we created a new consumer watchdog agency. And it’s why we’re taking new action to protect hardworking families’ retirement security. If you’re working hard and putting away money, you should have the peace of mind that the financial advice you’re getting is sound and that your investments are protected.
But right now, there are no rules of the road. Many financial advisers put their clients’ interest first – but some financial advisers get backdoor payments and hidden fees in exchange for steering people into bad investments. All told, bad advice that results from these conflicts of interest costs middle-class and working families about $17 billion every year.
This week, I called on the Department of Labor to change that – to update the rules and require that retirement advisers put the best interests of their clients above their own financial interests. Middle-class families cannot afford to lose their hard earned savings after a lifetime of work. They deserve to be treated with fairness and respect. And that’s what this rule would do.
While many financial advisers support these basic safeguards to prevent abuse, I know some special interests will fight this with everything they’ve got. But while we welcome different perspectives and ideas on how to move forward, what I won’t accept is the notion that there’s nothing we can do to make sure that hard-working, responsible Americans who scrimp and save can retire with security and dignity.
We’re going to keep pushing for this rule, because it’s the right thing to do for our workers and for our country. The strength of our economy rests on whether hard-working families can not only share in America’s success, but can also contribute to America’s success. And that’s what I will never stop fighting for – an economy where everyone who works hard has the chance to get ahead.
03/03/2015 Abbreviated pundit roundup: Boehner's bad job performance, the Affordable Care Act and more
We begin today's roundup with Eugene Robinson who pulls no punches in his evaluation of John Boehner's performance as Speaker:
House Speaker John Boehner needs to decide whether he wants to be remembered as an effective leader or a befuddled hack. So far, I’m afraid, it’s the latter.
Boehner’s performance last week was a series of comic pratfalls, culminating Friday in a stinging rebuke from the House Republicans he ostensibly leads. Boehner (R-Ohio) wasn’t asking for much: three weeks of funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which was hours from shutting down. He came away, humiliated, with just seven days’ worth of operating money for the agency charged with keeping Americans safe from terrorist attacks.
By any standard, the whole situation is beyond ridiculous. The government of the world’s leading military and economic power cannot be funded on a week-to-week basis. There’s no earthly excuse for this sorry spectacle — and no one to blame but Boehner.
Two months into their control of both chambers of Congress, Republicans have little to show for their majorities -- except for yet another embarrassing failed vote. House Republicans' inability to pass a measure to keep the Department of Homeland Security open for a mere three weeks resulted in a last-minute effort by the Senate and House to extend the funding for one more week, which means we're now back to where we started. As we've written, congressional Republicans have picked as many fights (over immigration, DC's pot legalization, Loretta Lynch's nomination to be U.S. attorney general) as legislation they've passed that has become law (the Clay Hunt SAV Act, terrorism risk insurance reauthorization, and Friday's one-week DHS extension). This isn't the first two months of GOP congressional control that Republicans envisioned or even promised. Governing is never easy, especially during a time of divided government (with Democrats in charge of the executive branch and Republicans the legislative branch. But Republicans so far have taken a hard job and made it even more difficult.
Much more on the day's top stories below the fold.
George McGovern’s anti-war candidacy for the presidency in 1972 attracted a good deal of celebrity support. But few Hollywood figures worked as hard as [Leonard] Nimoy to advance the cause of the Democratic presidential contender.
Beginning in January of 1972, when he trekked to New Hampshire on behalf of what was then considered to be McGovern’s uphill battle for the nomination, Nimoy traveled to thirty-five states on the South Dakota senator’s behalf. Grainy photos and news reports from more than four decades ago tell the story of a young Nimoy campaigning in the southwest with Latinos, in urban centers with African-Americans, in rural Oregon and even in Alaska.
Nimoy did not mind trading on his Star Trek celebrity to appeal for McGovern. He even joked at campaign stops that “I’m at a disadvantage. I’ve spent most of my previous life on Vulcan, so I don’t know too much about the people in this country.”
But, of course, he did know a lot about the country and its politics. Referencing infant mortality rates and poverty issues in a land of plenty, he declared, “We don’t need another campaign that avoids these issues, another nice-guy campaign.”
On the campaign trail, Nimoy spoke against not just the war in Vietnam but against bloated Department of Defense budgets and misguided priorities. He decried the influence of Henry Kissinger on the Nixon administration and fretted that it was undermining traditional diplomacy. He condemned the Watergate break-in and complained about win-at-any-cost politics.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2009—Someone help me find the political genius here?:
Politico on the fight by New Democrats and Blue Dogs to stop the mortgage relief bill coming to the floor this week:
Moderates worry Pelosi is routinely staking very liberal positions to push House versions of big bills as far to the left as possible to enhance their standing in negotiations with the historically centrist Senate. This might be a smart tactic, but it often hurts Democrats who rely on Republican votes to win reelection. Put bluntly, it makes them look too liberal.
Stop the presses! Hahahahahahahaha! "Dog bites man!" "Sun rises in East!"
Yes, trying to help the nearly 2.5 million homeowners projected to go into foreclosure in 2009 "makes them look too liberal," and the only way to make this bill "moderate" enough is to side with the banks, who had the gift of the Republican bankruptcy bill handed to them in 2005, but still couldn't manage to survive as a viable industry without at $700 billion bailout (with more to come).
So the genius of Ellen Tauscher's (D-CA-10) position? Democrats need to side with the banks who converted their 2005 gift into the complete meltdown of the world financial order, then siphoned off trillions of public dollars to "stabilize" themselves, and now want still more blood from the homeowners they killed in creating this mess.
48,000 Oakland workers get a raise today! 52,000 receive paid sick days. @LiftUpOakland @workingeastbay #RaiseTheWage #MinimumWage — @dcmarla
On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Texas weighs heavy in weekend GunFAIL. Greg Dworkin rounds up the Republican DHS collapse and the obscure rule that could possibly provide a way out, Chris Christie's engineering of a major environmental settlement from ExxonMobil to close his budget gap, and Scott Walker's possibly premature surge to frontrunner status. Armando primes us for King v. Burwell week, focusing on his Sunday piece on how and why the plaintiffs' textual arguments in the case fall flat. And Aaron Schock is in still more trouble, for taxpayer-paid private planes and hiring full-time personal photographer.
03/02/2015 'House of Cards' returns to a world of odd politics and soap opera dramatics
Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood tells the American public they are entitled to nothing in Netflix's "House of Cards"
Last week saw the series finale of NBC's Parks and Recreation. It was probably one of the most positive (and progressive) shows about government and politics, getting many of its laughs from the Pollyannaish optimism of Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope. The series was also a contrast to almost all of the current fictional TV politicians who are murderers, adulterers, and buffoons. Whether the lack of nobility in fictional politicians is a reflection of the public's exasperation with the current state of real-life politics, or a loss of faith in government and the American Dream, has been a matter of some debate.
Based on the novel by Michael Dobbs and the Andrew Davies's BBC series of the same name, Netflix's House of Cards presents a Washington, D.C., populated by easily manipulated self-serving individuals, with Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood being manipulator-in-chief. The series, produced by Beau Willimon and David Fincher, is the merging of a great collection of acting talent with visual style, with the production seeming to imagine itself as a grand Shakespearean tragedy in which the Machiavellian moves of a protagonist continually expand out to envelope and affect the world. But what ends up on screen is more often than not mired in weird plot twists indicative of a daytime soap opera, and odd politics that make little sense to anyone who has even a passing familiarity with the subject. All of that is not to say House of Cards is a bad show. It's very watchable, but that doesn't exactly mean it's one of the great prestige dramas on television either.
With season three, the House of Cards takes a very different turn with the story, where debates about policy are more front and center than manipulations. Leonard Nimoy's Mr. Spock once said that as a matter of history, it is much easier to destroy than to create. And this run of episodes posits a world in which people try to build their hopes and wants for the future on a foundation of lies.
03/02/2015 CPAC again reaches out to non-white Americans. Let's see how that goes.
Here, have some nightmare fuel.
Each and every year, the hard-right conservative conference known as CPAC holds a discussion on how Republicans can best appeal to non-lily-white voters, or at least can learn not to openly insult them. This year they actually found some non-lily-white people to run the discussion, which is a step up from past events.
The panelists—four Republicans of color—touched on the need for criminal justice reform and the negative experiences they've had dealing with black Democrats, while challenging the GOP to move beyond simply being content with declaring themselves the party of President Lincoln.
As usual, however, all concerned are sure that the problem is merely one of messaging, and that liberals are the real racists, and conservatives are more accepting because they don't see race. And, as usual, all the work put into saying these things gets arson'd all to cinders as soon as any of the people actually attending the conference get up to speak.
Lynn Trevino, a 56-year-old woman, said she just bought a home in a black neighborhood in Baltimore with her Hispanic husband, a man whose grandparents immigrated to the U.S. illegally. Boyne asked her if she thought her husband would agree with her or with [comments by radio host Mark Levin]. Trevino had missed his comments, but she said, “I’m going to assume that Mark Levin used words that were offensive, but probably didn’t mean what it came off. Because here’s the thing, I think people want assimilation, and I think that we need to stop being the salad bowl.”
Trevino said that she wasn’t raised with any prejudice in her heart and doesn’t want to dislike any groups. She added that she sees several black people in her neighborhood who she perceives as “lazy” or making black people “look like they have IQ issues, you know what I’m sayin’?”
03/02/2015 Senator Inhofe 'demolishes' climate change with snowball
Clowning around in the Senate hit new heights of fun last week when James Inhofe (R-OK) playfully lobbed a snowball pretending to demolish 100 years of empirical data supporting human-induced climate change. Let the games begin:
We keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record," Inhofe said. "So I ask the chair," — referring to Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) — "Do you know what this is? It's a snowball, from just outside here. So it's very, very cold out... very unseasonable." He then lobbed said snowball to a page and lapsed into deep silence, a smile across his face.
Inhofe, by the way, isn't some random nut off the street. He's currently chair of the Senate's Environment and Public Works committee. You want Congress to do something about global warming? For the next two years, at least, any bill would have to go through him.
Yes, 2014 was the warmest year on record in the NASA GISS database. And while the month of February was no fun in the Northeast, it was plenty warm in at least 20 US cities out west. Both for the same reason: from time to time the circumpolar jet stream has been dipping further south and east over the continental US and edging up higher in the west. That means cooler temps from time to time in the Northeast and warmer air some of the time in the north and west. It's not difficult to understand, unless your livelihood depends on not understanding it.
03/02/2015 On eve of Netanyahu speech, House Republicans get pep talk from Dick Cheney
On the eve of Netanyahu's big speech, House Republicans have summoned the dark lord of terrible foreign policy decisions to help them decide how best to foul things up this time.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney will speak to the House Republican whip team Monday evening, a source familiar with the meeting said.
Cheney will likely address the series of foreign policy issues before Congress, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming joint address on Tuesday and the ongoing negotiations with Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program.
What advice Dick Cheney could possibly give on the subject is unclear, though perhaps he is just there so House leadership can practice gritting their teeth while the grumpy person yells at them. Or, since it's the whip team, perhaps he's just there to teach Steve Scalise how to count. Check out the top-notch credentials he brings to the party:
Cheney served in the House from 1979 to 1989 as Wyoming’s sole representative, and his tenure included a stint as minority whip.
And a few other things (cough) that needn't be mentioned. Cheney has been advocating for American military action against Iran for a very long time, even while his administration had its plate quite full with other adventures, so there really isn't anything new he can pipe up with now. But House Republicans are eager to listen to him (again/still) anyway.
Chevron deference provides that if a law is not clear, the court will defer to the Executive Branch interpretation.
Recently, I presented an argument, limited to only the text of the Affordable Care Act and the most basic and universally accepted canons of statutory interpretation (I did not rely on legislative purpose or history or any other rules of construction such as constitutional avoidance). This argument was for a plain and unambiguous reading of ACA as providing for tax credit subsidies to participants in federal health insurance exchanges operating in 36 states (14 states created state-operated exchanges).
Obviously I'm persuaded by this argument. But suppose five members of the Supreme Court refuse to accept this argument. What happens then? Well, if five members of the SCOTUS instead accept the challengers' arguments that the plain and unambiguous interpretation of ACA prohibits tax credit subsidies on federal exchanges, then the inquiry ends—the challengers win, millions lose their health insurance, state insurance markets are thrown into chaos and the SCOTUS imposes great hardship on the nation.
But what if the SCOTUS finds ACA ambiguous on the question? This is what the Fourth Circuit found (one concurring opinion found ACA to unambiguously provide for tax credit subsidies on the federal exchanges) in the case currently being heard by the SCOTUS, King v. Burwell. In such a case, a rule known as Chevron deference, which provides that when a law is ambiguous, the court shall defer to a permissible interpretation of the Executive Branch, will apply.
On the flip I will examine Chevron deference, by reviewing the Fourth Circuit's application of the rule in the very case now before the SCOTUS.
03/02/2015 A rebuttal to Cleveland PD's infuriating excuses on why they killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice
Do you see the picture above of Tamir Rice? Please take a good look at it. Look at his eyes, his smile, his boyish manner. It was the last-known photo taken of Tamir just weeks before he was shot and killed by police on November 22, 2014.
Hanging out and having fun in the park near his home in Cleveland, Ohio, Tamir Rice broke no laws that day. A 12-year-old sixth grader, Tamir, according to his teacher, was on the drum line of the band, loved sports, and enjoyed drawing. He was the baby boy of Samaria Rice, had never been in any trouble with the law or his school, and he loved life.
Can I keep it all the way real? Call me dumb, but I just didn't see this coming. I know ripping apart victims of police violence is the modus operandi of the police, but seeing them do it with a child is despicably low, unethical, and unnecessary.
Speaking about Tamir last week, the man chosen by the Cleveland Police to represent them to the public, Steve Loomis, stooped to a new low:
“Tamir Rice is in the wrong,” he said. “He’s menacing. He’s 5-feet-7, 191 pounds. He wasn’t that little kid you’re seeing in pictures. He’s a 12-year-old in an adult body. Tamir looks to his left and sees a police car. He puts his gun in his waistband. Those people—99 percent of the time those people run away from us. We don’t want him running into the rec center. That could be a whole other set of really bad events. They’re trying to flush him into the field. Frank [the driver] is expecting the kid to run. The circumstances are so fluid and unique. …
“The guy with the gun is not running. He’s walking toward us. He’s squaring off with Cleveland police and he has a gun. Loehmann is thinking, ‘Oh my God, he’s pulling it out of his waistband.’”
Please head below the fold for more on this story.
Rahm has been trying to project strength ahead of the April 7 runoff with Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (who took 34 percent on Tuesday), and his allies released a poll on Friday giving him a 50-40 lead. But that survey seemed too good to be true for Team Rahm, and a new numbers from local pollster Ogden & Fry confirm that the mayor is in a bad place. Rahm holds a 43-39 lead over Garcia, with 19 percent undecided.
It's not a good place for an incumbent to be this far below 50 percent in a race against a far-less known opponent, and what's particularly troubling for Rahm is that he's doing worse in this new poll than he did in the first round of voting. However, Rahm is incredibly well-funded and will do everything he can to hit Garcia before his opponent can respond. It's our job to make sure that Garcia can hit back early and often. Garcia doesn't need to out-raise or outspend Rahm, but he needs to have the resources to get his message out.
Progressives will have to wait until next year to get rid of Kirk, Rahm's latest big-name Republican supporter, but we can eject Rahm now. Please chip in $3 into Garcia's campaign to help send the mayor packing.
03/02/2015 Bill O'Reilly's falsehoods pile up, but Fox News is still ignoring them
As the revelations about the various things Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has lied about continue to pile up, it is no great surprise that Bill himself considers it nothing more than a conspiracy against him. It also seems perfectly in character for his employer, Fox News, to not give a damn about his various fabrications because let's be honest, a Fox News host who's not embellishing the facts around him is not doing their one and only prescribed job. Still, though, the breadth of O'Reilly's steadfastly self-promotional lies would be hard for any organization that did care about credibility to ignore.
They all have the same pattern: Bill O'Reilly claims he witnessed events he did not witness or did some act of reportorial heroism that he did not do. (And the people he worked for and with during each event have been very forthcoming in producing evidence that he did not do those things, possibly because almost everyone Bill O'Reilly has ever worked with seems to hate his guts.) A short list:
In his book, Killing Kennedy, and on Fox News, O'Reilly claimed to have been on the front porch of an associate of Lee Harvey Oswald when he heard a gunshot inside, the sound of the man killing himself. Not only was he not on the porch, he wasn't even in the same state; a recording has surfaced of O'Reilly planning the trip after he was told of the suicide by a government investigator. His publisher dismisses the error as unimportant, and Fox News has of yet remained similarly unconcerned.
03/03/2015 News Analysis: Between Netanyahu and Obama, a Difference That Widened Into a Chasm
Over six years of disagreements about how to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat, the Israeli and American leaders never described their ultimate goal the same way.
03/03/2015 Netanyahu, Amid Tensions, Prepares to Deliver Speech to Congress on Iran
The address has generated resentment and reinforcement from different quarters while driving a partisan wedge between Democrats and Republicans.
03/02/2015 Obama and Netanyahu Play Down Rancor on Iran, but Views Still Differ Sharply
President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel offered divergent approaches to Iran but tried to cool down the personal nature of any dispute.
03/02/2015 A Debate That Divides: A Polarized Court, Weighing a Reversal of the Safety Net
Major parts of the social safety net are rarely repealed after taking effect. The Supreme Court will consider whether to do so with the health law.
03/02/2015 Figures From U.S.-Led Coalition Show Heavy 2014 Losses for Afghan Army
The 20,000 fighters and others lost last year cast further doubt on Afghanistan’s ability to maintain security without help from United States-led coalition forces.
03/02/2015 Obama Calls for Changes in Policing After Task Force Report
Recommendations in the wake of deaths in Ferguson, Mo., and on Staten Island included requiring independent investigations when officers use lethal force.
03/02/2015 Climate Change Researcher Offers a Defense of His Practices
Wei-Hock Soon, who is at the center of a controversy over fossil-fuel funding for climate research, denounced his critics and said he would be happy to comply with possible additional disclosure requirements.
03/02/2015 Hillary Clinton Used Personal Email Account at State Dept., Possibly Breaking Rules
Hillary Rodham Clinton did not have a government email address while secretary of state and may have violated federal rules that officials’ correspondence be retained.
03/02/2015 United Nations Memo: For the U.S. and China, a Test of Diplomacy on South Sudan
Peace talks funded by both Beijing and Washington are underway this week, but so far the prospects for a breakthrough appear slim.
08/04/2013 Hendrik Hertzberg: Anthony Weiner’s all-digital sex scandal.
It’s been another political season of impressively gaudy sex scandals, further confounding America’s hard-won reputation as a nation of censorious puritans. The paradox isn’t so surprising, when you think about it: the broader the range of sex-related activities deemed immoral, unnatural, or . . .
07/28/2013 John Cassidy: Don’t give up on Detroit.
If you were to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts, home to Diego Rivera’s magnificent murals depicting scenes at the Ford Motor Company in the early nineteen-thirties, and then take a stroll through the surrounding streets, you might be surprised at what you would find: coffee shops . . .
07/21/2013 Jelani Cobb: The folly of Stand Your Ground laws.
For some years, the N.R.A.’s approach to gun-rights advocacy has amounted to a variant of the old Maoist dictum, to the effect that democracy flows from the barrel of a gun. In March, the group provided a novel twist on the theme of sidearm liberty when it . . .
07/14/2013 George Packer: Why Egypt is a foreign-policy puzzle.
American foreign aid has always been an awkward exercise in high-minded self-interest—humanitarian goals balanced uneasily with strategic calculations. Whenever these two come into conflict, Presidents inevitably find a way out of their loftier commitments. In 1947, when Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposed a huge . . .
06/30/2013 Jeffrey Toobin: The end of DOMA and the future of gay rights.
The Supreme Court’s embrace of gay rights last week had an almost serene majesty. The obvious correctness of the Court’s judgment, its curt dismissal of a monstrous injustice, had a grandeur that requires little elaboration. Yet the decision had its roots in something prosaic and largely . . .
06/23/2013 Steve Coll: Obama sends weapons to Syria.
The carved minaret above Aleppo’s twelfth-century Umayyad Mosque collapsed in April. The city, which is Syria’s most populous, has endured Hittite, Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman rule, little of it benevolent. But this year, forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have delivered a distinctly . . .
06/16/2013 Hendrik Hertzberg: Difficult questions about the N.S.A.
Since the first week of June, when the Washington Post and London’s Guardian, doing the work that journalism is supposed to do, published detailed news of the National Security Agency’s gigantic programs of cell-phone and Internet information-gathering, the world has been riveted. These were . . .
06/02/2013 Steve Coll: Why journalists deserve better protections.
In 1969, when nothing excited the public’s interest like the depredations of drug fiends, the Louisville Courier-Journal sent a reporter named Paul Branzburg to penetrate Kentucky’s marijuana underground. He published eyewitness accounts; a photograph accompanying one of them showed hands hovering over a pile of . . .
05/26/2013 William Finnegan: The struggle for immigration reform.
It was edifying while it lasted. A bipartisan immigration bill, supported by an unusually wide coalition of business, labor, church, and humanitarian groups, made its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the baying over Benghazi and the Internal Revenue Service was fierce and rising . . .
05/19/2013 Elizabeth Kolbert: What’s at stake in Obama’s Keystone decision.
A lot of what’s known about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be traced back to a chemist named Charles David Keeling, who, in 1958, persuaded the U.S. Weather Bureau to install a set of monitoring devices at its Mauna Loa observatory, on the island of Hawaii. By . . .
03/01/2015 The Storm after the Storm
Sharyn Alfonsi investigates allegations that thousands of homeowners were denied their flood insurance claims after Hurricane Sandy because of fraudulent engineers' reports
03/01/2015 Lumber Liquidators linked to health and safety violations
60 Minutes found that Lumber Liquidators' Chinese-made laminate flooring contains amounts of toxic formaldehyde that may not meet health and safety standards
02/15/2015 Bradley Cooper on 60 Minutes
Three consecutive Oscar nominations put Cooper in the company of actors like Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson, but five years ago you may not have recognized his name
02/04/2015 DARPA: Nobody's safe on the Internet
Meet the man the Department of Defense has put in charge of inventing technology to secure the Internet: Dan Kaufman, a former video game developer turned cyber warrior
02/06/2015 Where "Selma" meets Hollywood
Ava DuVernay, the director of the new movie celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. and civil rights, talks to Bob Simon about filming in the same places where history was made