On Thursday afternoon, an immigration reform bill that would affect millions of undocumented immigrants was approved by a final vote of 68 to 32 in the Senate. The bill puts up to 11 million undocumented immigrants on a pathway to citizenship and enforces tough border security measures. Vice President Joe Biden presided over the historic vote, in which all the senators were required to vote from their desks. The Senate gallery was packed with exuberant DREAMers, undocumented youths who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. The gallery chanted “Yes we can” after the bill was officially passed.
After the cloture vote occurred early Thursday afternoon, politicians on both sides of the aisle spoke emotionally about the need to pass the bill.
House Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) teared up as he spoke of his wife’s father, who immigrated from Russia, and reflected on the letters sent to him by undocumented individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children and raised in fear of deportation. He compared present-day immigrants to all the previous waves of immigrants, notably lauding the achievements that these new Americans could contribute:
It recognizes that today’s immigrants came for the very same reason as generations before them– to achieve a dream we take for granted, the right to live in the land of the free.
Across the aisle, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) invoked his immigrant parents as he argued passionately that immigration reform will help future generations to fulfill their dreams:
Here, immigrants will give their children the life they once wanted for themselves. Here generations of unfulfilled dreams will finally come to pass.Even with all our challenges, we remain the shining city on the hill. We are still the hope of the world. And in the end, that is why I support this reform. Yes, I believe in immigrants, but I believe in America even more.
The bill now faces an uphill battle in the House, where many Republican congressmen have vowed their opposition to any kind of an immigration deal that includes a pathway to citizenship. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has promised that he would not advance a reform bill without a majority agreement by House Republicans.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) will meet this week with the families who lost relatives in the Newtown, Conn., shooting.
The meeting will be Thursday, during the group’s most recent swing through Washington, D.C.
“Speaker Boehner’s heart goes out to the victims of this senseless tragedy, and their families,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. “He wants to hear their stories and talk about ways to reduce the culture of violence in our country.”
The Republican House hasn’t attempted to tighten gun laws in the wake of the shooting — and has shown little appetite to do so. GOP leadership has prepared some options if the Senate passed tighter gun restrictions, but a move to tighten background checks on commercial gun sales failed in March.
House Republicans have privately considered renewing the current background check system, promoting legislation to deal with violence in society. They would also consider moving a Republican gun control bill drafted by Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa).
Families of several Sandy Hook shooting victims arrive on Capitol Hill this week to try and resurrect the gun control debate.
A nonprofit group called Sandy Hook Promise, which was created in the wake of the shootings is intended to spark a legislative dialogue and action on guns, is bringing to the Hill members of seven families of Sandy Hook Elementary School victims, a spokeswoman confirmed to POLITICO.
The families will meet with members of both the House and the Senate and will be pushing the background check legislation and the House companion bill. The families will also begin discussions with lawmakers on mental health legislation.
The nonprofit will host Nelba Marquez-Greene, Neil Heslin, Nicole Hockley, Terri and Matthew Rousseau, Bill Sherlach, David and Francine Wheeler, and Mark Barden, whose family was the subject of a long profile in The Washington Post on Sunday.
The return to Washington by the families will occur on Tuesday and Wednesday and was first reported by The Associated Press.
The Capitol Hill lobbying comes the same week as the six-month anniversary of the mass shooting. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, will lead a moment of silence for victims in Newtown on Friday at 9:30 a.m., which will kick off a national bus tour by Mayors Against Illegal Guns to lobby members of Congress to support background checks.
The Senate’s background check legislation authored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) failed in April, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has indicated he plans to huddle with Manchin and Vice President Joe Biden on ways to revive the legislation.
Congress’ actions and rhetoric against President Obama and his administration is well beyond the pale. This is yet another case of a congressman projecting his party’s “moral compass” on the POTUS…
A Republican Congressman derided President Obama as a vengeful liar who lacks the “moral compass” during a scathing speech on the House floor on Monday, just as some party leaders are cautioning the GOP against overreaching in their response to the controversies surrounding the administration.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) referenced the Fast and Furios operation, Obama’s response to the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the Justice Department’s seizure of journalists’ phone records, the Internal Revenue Services’ (IRS) targeting of conservative groups, and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ efforts to promote enrollment in the Affordable Care Act to argue that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are “not fit to lead.”
Mr. Speaker, the President’s dishonesty, incompetence, vengefulness and lack of moral compass lead many to suggest that he is not fit to lead.
The only problem is that his vice president is equally unfit and even more embarrassing.
Appearing on the Mark Levin Show on Tuesday, Bridenstine said he has “gotten great encouragement” for his remarks from fellow Republicans. Listen:
Bridestine compared his tirade to Patrick Henry’s famous speech “give me liberty or give me death,” in which the 18th century politician convinced the Virginia House of Burgesses to pass a resolution in support of America’s Revolution against Great Britain.
“We’re at a crossroads at our country,” Bridestine told Levine. “We’ve got to make a decision. Do we want liberty or do we want tyranny?”
The fist-term congressman said he will continue criticizing the president and will soon take issue with “how the president talk about our military.” “He never once talks about what they have accomplished” in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bridestine complained.
1. RAND PAUL BACKS CITIZENSHIP PATH FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS
As the GOP prepares to reach out to minority voters to repair its image, Sen. Rand Paul plans to use a Tuesday speech to endorse a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants. Paul, a Kentucky senator and potential 2016 presidential candidate, is joining a growing group of prominent Republicans who are rejecting the party’s hardline positions on immigration in the wake of November’s elections, when Latino voters overwhelmingly backed President Obama and other Democrats. “If you wish to live and work in America, then we will find a place for you,” Paul plans to say, according to a copy of his speech obtained by The Associated Press. [Associated Press]
2. CYPRUS READY TO REJECT BAILOUT TERMS
Cypriot lawmakers appear likely to reject a divisive tax on bank deposits in a vote scheduled for Tuesday, which could imperil a $13 billion European Union bailout the country needs to avoid a banking collapse. “It looks like it won’t pass,” says government spokesman Christos Stylianides. The vote has already been postponed twice as Cyprus’ new president, Nicos Anastasiades, tries to make the bailout terms more palatable. Angry depositors have been lining up at ATM machines trying to withdraw their money before the tax — 6.75 percent on accounts up to $130,000 and 10 percent on larger ones — can be imposed. [Reuters]
3. BOMBERS STRIKE ON ANNIVERSARY OF IRAQ INVASION
Insurgents hit Shiite areas in Baghdad with a wave of bombings on Tuesday, killing at least 56 people and highlighting increasing sectarian tensions on the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The attacks, most of them car bombings, occurred over a single hour, and targeted small restaurants, bus stops, a police station, and busy streets. No one immediately claimed responsibility, but the strikes were similar to past attacks by al Qaeda in Iraq. [Associated Press]
4. FRANCIS OFFICIALLY INSTALLED AS NEW POPE
Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Tuesday to mark the official launch of his reign as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. Hundreds of thousands of people joined dignitaries for the rite, which, at two hours, was an hour shorter, and simpler than the one that launched the papacy of Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI. The new pontiff, the first Jesuit pope, signaled his plan to abandon much of the Vatican’s traditional pomp, and reinvigorate the scandal-plagued church with a greater focus on the poor and disadvantaged. [Reuters]
5. OBAMA PREPARES TO LEAVE FOR ISRAEL
President Obama is scheduled to depart Tuesday night on his first trip to Israel as president. Obama isn’t expected to push forward a new peace initiative. Middle East experts say he’s likely to focus on mending a sometimes rocky relationship with the Israeli government during the four-day visit, which comes less than two days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new coalition government was installed. With new administrations in Israel and the U.S., says Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, there’s value in “just having a broad strategic conversation.” [ABC News]
6. HILLARY CLINTON PUBLICLY BACKS GAY MARRIAGE
Hillary Clinton on Monday released a six-minute video announcing her support for gay marriage, becoming the latest politician to switch positions on the issue. The move fueled speculation that Clinton will run for president in 2016 — the other top contenders, including Vice President Joe Biden and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also back gay marriage. “LGBT Americans are our colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones,” Clinton says in the video. “And they are full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes marriage.” [Politico]
7. BLOOMBERG FIGHTS SMOKING BY HIDING CIGARETTES
A week after a court overturned his signature sugary drink regulations, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday proposed new legislation that would make it illegal for stores to publicly display cigarettes. Bloomberg said that “even one new smoker is one too many,” and that hiding cigarettes would keep some young people from picking up the habit, driving down the smoking rate for the city as a whole. Despite a drop in the smoking rate over the past decade, cigarettes remain a leading preventable cause of death, killing 7,000 New Yorkers per year, the city said. [NYC.gov, New York Daily News]
8. POLICE SAY WOMEN WERE PAID TO LIE ABOUT MENENDEZ
Police in the Dominican Republic said Monday that a local lawyer had paid three Dominican women to lie and say they had been paid to have sex with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). One of the women allegedly received $300, and the other two $425 to make the false claims in videotaped interviews. Menendez said the announcement shows “that this was a smear from the very beginning.” Last fall, two Dominican women told the conservative Daily Caller website that Menendez had paid them for sex. The Daily Caller says it is still investigating whether the women who have recanted are the ones it interviewed. [Politico]
9. FLORIDA STUDENT MAY HAVE PLANNED DORM MASSACRE
A former University of Central Florida student found dead in a dorm might have been planning a massacre before deciding to commit suicide instead. The dead man was identified as James Oliver Seevakumara, 30. He was found shot in the head in his bedroom in a residence hall, where he faced eviction after failing to enroll this semester after studying business administration at the Orlando school from 2010 to 2012. Officials said Seevakumara had a .45-caliber handgun, a .22-caliber tactical rifle, and backpack with four improvised explosive devices in it. Seevakumara reportedly started buying weapons and ammunition in February. [Los Angeles Times]
10. LIL WAYNE RELEASED FROM HOSPITAL
Rapper Lil Wayne has been released from the Los Angeles hospital where he was treated after suffering a seizure last week, his publicist tweeted late Monday. An online report on Friday suggested that the artist, born Dwayne Carter, was on life support near death, sparking panic among his fans. Lil Wayne’s associates swatted down the report as “nonsense,” and the rapper tweeted, “I’m good everybody… Thnx for the prayers and love.” [CNN]
International Courage Awards: Last Friday, the First Lady joined Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department for the International Women of Courage Awards—where nine different women were honored. The event was a celebration of the strength and sacrifice of individuals who have worked tirelessly for the advancement of women’s rights for all.
Trade Export Council: On Tuesday, President Obama touched base with business and government leaders at a meeting of the President’s Export Council.
“The good news is we are well on our way to meeting a very ambitious goal that we set several years ago to double U.S. exports,” said the President. “And what we know is, is that a lot of the growth, a lot of the new jobs that we’ve seen during the course of this recovery, have been export-driven.”
To maintain and ignite growth, President Obama discussed finishing new trade deals with Europe and the Asia-Pacific. The Administration signed legislation in 2011 supporting free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama which has kept America competitive in foreign trade, while creating jobs for Americans.
Sultan of Brunei: On Tuesday, President Obama welcomed His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei to the Oval Office for a bilateral meeting to share their desire for “a strong, peaceful, prosperous Asia-Pacific region.”
Brunei, a small country in the South China Sea, will be holding the ASEAN East Asia Summit meeting in October. The visit is a symbol of the President’s goal of working towards a peaceful and prosperous presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
#AskFLOTUS : On Monday, in celebration of Let’s Move’s third anniversary the First Ladyparticipated in a question and answer session through Twitter. The First Lady tweeted responses to questions such as how much exercise our kids need a day and her favorite healthy winter recipe. For the record, a minimum of 60 minutes a day is required and the First Lady’s favorite winter dish is turkey and veggie chili. Head over to Pinterest for MyPlate Recipes which haves hundreds of tasty recipes for a healthy diet.
“Being Biden”: On Thursday, Vice President Biden introduced a new audio series called “Being Biden” to give Americans an opportunity to connect with the White House through the lens of Vice President Biden. In the series, the Vice President will discuss special photos and share why the moments matter to him. Check out the first installment atwhitehouse.gov/beingbiden.
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Ask Him Anything: On Wednesday, Gene Sperling, the Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to President Obama for Economic Policy, fielded questions on the President’s plan to reduce the deficit. Through Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” forum, Sperling answered economic policy questions from users, and even joked about the West Wing, a TV series on which he once worked.
You can read through the Q & A on Reddit here.
Hire Vets: On Wednesday, the First Lady addressed the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers, and challenged them to hire our veterans and military spouses. Through Joining Forces, the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden have made it a priority to support them:
“We’ve got to hold ourselves to the same standards of service and patriotism as they’ve held themselves,” said the First Lady. “And we’ve got to join forces so that we can truly serve our veterans and military families as well as they have served us.”
I’m a bit late with this particular story but after finally reading about it, I decided to share. According to various press reports, this president can really deliver a punchline…
Did you hear the one about President Obama, Sen. John McCain, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel?
“These days, John McCain and I are spending so much time together that he told me we were becoming friends,” Obama told member of the Gridiron press club during its annual dinner Saturday night.
“I said, ‘John, stop — Chuck Hagel warned me how this ends up!’”
Appearing at the white-tie dinner in which politicians and journalists make fun of each other, Obama cracked wise about politics, the news media, the sequester and even about himself.
“My joke writers have been placed on furlough,” Obama began. “I know a lot of you reported that no one will feel any immediate impact because of the sequester — well, you’re about to find out how wrong you are.”
He added: “Of course, there’s one thing in Washington that didn’t get cut — the length of this dinner. Yet more proof that the sequester makes no sense.”
Other topics covered by Obama and his substitute joke writers:
Complaints by reporters: “Some of you have said that I’m ignoring the Washington press corps — that we’re too controlling. You know what, you were right. I was wrong and I want to apologize in a video you can watch exclusively at whitehouse.gov.”
His agenda: “I have my top advisers working around the clock. After all, my March Madness bracket isn’t going to fill itself out. And don’t worry — there is an entire team in the situation room as we speak, planning my next golf outing, right now at this moment.”
His skeet-shooting photo: “Of course, maintaining credibility in this cynical atmosphere is harder than ever — incredibly challenging. My administration recently put out a photo of me skeet shooting and even that wasn’t enough for some people. Next week, we’re releasing a photo of me clinging to religion.”
Changes in his administration: “With all these new faces, it’s hard to keep track of who is in, who is out. And I know it’s difficult for you guys as reporters. But I can offer you an easy way of remembering the new team. If Ted Cruz calls somebody a communist, then you know they’re in my Cabinet.”
Vice President Biden: “Look, it’s no secret that my vice president is still ambitious. But let’s face it, his age is an issue. Just the other day, I had to take Joe aside and say, ‘Joe, you are way too young to be the pope. … You can’t do it. You’ve got to mature a little bit.’”
The press: “I know that there are people who get frustrated with the way journalism is practiced these days. And sometimes those people are me. But the truth is, our country needs you and our democracy needs you.”
Obama wrapped up by making fun of his recent mix-up of Star Wars and Star Trek:
“In the words of one of my favorite Star Trek characters — Capt. James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise — ‘may the force be with you.’”
“I would have worn different shoes.” — Sen. Rand Paul reflecting on his 13-hour filibuster.
“You need strong convictions but also a strong bladder. — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid commending Paul’s effort.
“It kills me not to be there” — Former Gov. Mitt Romney on not making it to the White House.
“He’s just a great guy.” — Dennis Rodman praising his friend Kim Jong Un.
“I’m going to invite him over to my house.” — Journalist Bob Woodward making amends with Gene Sperling.
“I like him. But he’s dumb as an ashtray.” — Fox News chief Roger Ailes knocking Vice President Joe Biden.
“It’s just silly.” —House Speaker John Boehner criticizing the White House for canceling tours.
SELMA, Alabama — Vice President Joe Biden is in Selma this morning for the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the violent 1965 clash between law enforcement and protesters on the Edmund Pettus Bridge during a march for voting rights.
Images of the clash in which officers wielded billy clubs and tear gas against protesters helped galvanize support for passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Biden will speak at noon at the Unity Day Brunch. He will then join a crowd expected to numbers in the thousands as the group makes the annual symbolic crossing across the bridge.
Biden’s visit comes four days after the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act which requires states with a history of discrimination to get Justice Department approval before making any change to election procedure. The case is out of Alabama’s Shelby County. Shelby County argued the South and Shelby County has changed and the oversight is no longer needed.
On March 7, 1965 marchers made it just a few blocks from the churches where they had assembled. When they reached Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were attacked by state troopers and Dallas County deputies, some on horseback wielding billy clubs and firing canisters of tear gas into the marchers.
The attack was broadcast on national news programs and reported in newspapers throughout the country.
Eight days later, President Lyndon Johnson called a joint session of the Congress where he proposed the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. Later that year, 100 years after the end of the Civil War, African-Americans were guaranteed the right to vote.