Obama

Is Obama weighing a Cuba visit sometime soon?

THE WASHINGTON POST

President Obama could visit Cuba before the end of his term in office, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday.

“I know there’s one person particularly that hopes President Obama will be in Havana at some point in the — at some point in the relatively recent future, and that’s President Obama himself,” Earnest said when asked by a Cuban reporter if the president had plans to visit Havana prior to leaving the White House in 2016.

Cuban officials met with their state department counterparts here Thursday in the fourth round of talks on reestablishing diplomatic relations and opening embassies in their respective capitals.

Late in the day, in an indication that progress may have been made, the State Department said negotiations would continue Friday, and both delegations scheduled morning news conferences.

One of the main sticking point in the negotiations has been whether U.S. diplomats will be able to move about the country without seeking prior government permission and meet with Cubans “who may not be a part of or even supportive of the Cuban government,” Earnest said.

Neither U.S. nor Cuban negotiators provided initial details on the outcome of Thursday’s talks, although both sides had expressed optimism as they began and confidence that embassy access issues eventually would be worked out.

Earnest’s suggestion that Obama might visit Cuba follows the president’s historic meeting with Cuban President Raúl Castro last month in Panama.

In the past Obama had played down the possibility that he might visit before leaving office. “With respect to Cuba, we’re not at a stage here where me visiting Cuba or President Castro coming to the United States is in the cards,” Obama told reporters in December. The president’s comments came shortly after he announced the first major change in Cuban policy in more than 50 years.

The president noted at the time that he was still “a fairly young man” and suggested that he might visit the island nation after he leaves office.

“There’s nothing specific where we’re trying to target some sort of visit on my part,” he said at the time.

It’s unlikely that Obama would visit Cuba until diplomatic ties had been reestablished and embassies were reopened. Obama would have to inform Congress at least 15 days before opening an embassy in Cuba, but a State Department official suggested that could be done even before a final embassy agreement is reached.

The ultimate “normalization” of relations — ending the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba — requires congressional action and could still be years away. Asked Thursday whether he favored lifting the embargo, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said he had met this week with “members who were interested in stopping this progression toward normal relations with Cuba, until such time as the [Cubans] begin to make serious changes in terms of the way they run their country.” The administration, Boehner said, “keeps giving and giving and giving. But the Castro brothers . . . are doing nothing.”

Boehner’s remarks echoed those of lawmakers — primarily those of Cuban heritage — at a Senate Foreign Relations hearing Wednesday, including Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who expressed “deep concern that . . . the administration continues to entertain unilateral concessions without in return getting agreement on fundamental issues that are in our national interest and those of the Cuban people.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said that allowing more U.S. citizens to visit the island — one of the executive actions Obama has already taken — would only fill the pockets of state-owned businesses controlled by the Cuban military.

Despite their meeting with Boehner, lawmakers who object to the opening have been unsuccessful in promoting legislation that would halt or limit the initiative.

~Greg Jaffe and Karen DeYoung

Does Obama’s New York trip offer a glimpse into his post-White House life?

President Obama will be headed to Lehman College in New York to launch the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a new nonprofit that could keep him busy when he leaves the White House. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

THE WASHINGTON POST

He still has almost two years left in office, but the outlines of President Obama’s post-White House life might be starting to take shape.

On Monday, the president will speak at the New York City launch of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a nonprofit that is spinning off a White House initiative that his administration began in 2014. The trip to Lehman College in the Bronx is the latest in a series of hints from the White House about the president’s future plans. Last week, word leaked that Obama’s  presidential library is headed for the South Side of Chicago. In recent months there have been signs that his elder daughter, Malia, is looking at colleges in New York City.

The president and first lady still have a while to figure out where they will settle post-presidency; although in the past, they’ve suggested that they may stay in Washington long enough to let their daughter Sasha graduate from Sidwell Friends School.

Regardless of where they land, the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance seems certain to play a large part in Obama’s post-White House life. The program began as a public-private partnership designed to help men of color who are struggling to finish high school or develop the skills to find jobs. The effort sprang, in part, from the frustration that followed the 2012  shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Since then, lethal interactions between police and black men and boys in Ferguson, Mo., New York, Cleveland and North Charleston have sparked demonstrations, outrage and riots.

The latest riots in Baltimore, following the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of police, prompted the president to call last week for some collective“soul searching” on the part of the country.

“If we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could,” Obama said. “It’s just it would require everybody saying, ‘This is important, this is significant,’ and that we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns and we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped.”

The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance is one element of the president’s long-term solution to the problem’s faced by minority youth and urban communities struggling with poverty and a lack of jobs. The program has attracted $300 million in funding for an effort that the president has said will continue long after he has left the White House. The alliance is similar in its broad outlines to the Clinton Global Initiative, started by former president Bill Clinton in 2005, in that it serve as a magnet for corporate and individual donations.

The alliance will focus on everything from preparations for preschool to job-training and employment programs. “Persistent gaps in employment, educational outcomes and career skills remain, barring too many youth from realizing their full potential and creating harmful social and economic costs to our nation,” wrote Broderick Johnson, the chairman of the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force.

According the White House, closing the gap between young men of color and their peers could boost the U.S.  gross domestic product by as much as $2.1 trillion.

Greg Jaffe

Survey Finds A Solid Majority Of Young Voters Want Democrats To Keep The White House

hillary-clinton-obama | attribution: none

PoliticusUSA

A survey from the Harvard University Institute of Politics contained good news for Democrats. The younger voters that were a key part of President Obama’s victories solidly want to keep a Democrat in the White House.

The survey found that Obama coalition is going to keep their support with Democrats in 2016:

Overall, young Americans prefer that a Democrat (55%) win the White House over a Republican (40%) in the 2016 race for president, a view held within the younger (18-24 year-olds – 53%: Democrat; 41%: Republican) and older (25-29 year-olds – 57%: Democrat; 39%: Republican) segments of the age-group. ‎This view is stronger among young African-Americans (87%: Democrat; 8%: Republican) and young Hispanics (68%: Democrat; 27%: Republican). A majority of young whites, however, prefer Republican White House control after 2016 (53%: Republican; 41%: Democrat).

….

Among 18-to 29- year-olds, President Obama’s job performance has improved seven percentage points over the past six months (50%: Mar. 2015; 43%: Oct. 2014). The president’s job approval also increased across all major subgroups, including among young Hispanics – rising sixteen ‎percentage points over the same time period (65%: Mar 2015; 49%: Oct. 2014). The president’s approval ratings on handling the economy (47%: Mar. 2015; 36%: Oct. 2014), health care (43%: Mar. 2015; 37%: Oct. 2014) and race relations (50%: Mar. 2015; 47%: Oct. 2014) all also increased since October. Tracking with the president, job approval of Democrats in Congress improved five percentage points (40%: Mar. 2015; 35%: Oct. 2014) since the fall, while approval of Republicans in Congress remained at 23% for the third straight IOP poll.

It is no surprise that Hillary Clinton is running away with the Democratic nomination. Younger voters support Hillary Clinton over Elizabeth Warren 47%-11%. Clinton leads Bernie Sanders 47%-1%. No Republican candidate was able to break 10% support with younger Republicans. Ben Carson (10%), Rand Paul (8%), Jeb Bush (7%), Mike Huckabee (7%), and Scott Walker (5%) were the top five Republicans.

Many Republicans had embraced the hopeful delusion that young voters would be up for grabs without President Obama on the ballot, but it looks like the Obama coalition is holding strong and ready to support Hillary Clinton in 2016. What Republicans refuse to admit is that it is their policies that are pushing younger voters away. Republicans are wrong on immigration, same-sex marriage, women’s issues, climate change, the war on drugs, income inequality.

These are issues that matter to voters regardless of age, but on social issues, Republicans are completely out of step with younger voters. The Republican fantasy that the Obama coalition would crumble in 2016 is getting a stiff dose of reality. The 2016 election cycle is beginning with Democrats being powered by many of the demographic groups that powered President Obama to victory in 2008 and 2012.

10 things you need to know today: April 26, 2015

Omar Havana / Getty Images

The Week

1.Death toll in Nepal earthquake climbs above 2,200
At least 2,263 people are dead and nearly 6,000 are injured afterSaturday’s catastrophic earthquake in Nepal. A powerful 7.8 magnitude quake and a series of violent aftershocks — one an estimated 6.7 magnitude rumbling on Sunday — rocked the mountain nation, destroying historic buildings and buckling infrastructure. Thousands of people squatted in the streets after the first seismic activity, either because the quake leveled their homes or because it made them too afraid to go back indoors. The earthquake also triggered a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest that killed at least 18 people while injuring or trapping dozens more.

Source: The New York Times, CNN

2.12 arrested during Freddie Gray protest in Baltimore
Baltimore police on Saturday arrested 12 people after a dwindling protest over the police custody death of Freddie Gray descended into violence. An estimated 2,000 people marched peaceably for hours before a small splinter group began hurling rocks and scuffling with police. Protesters also tangled with bystanders and police outside Camden Yards during a game between the Orioles and Red Sox, prompting the city to ask fans to remain inside the venue until authorities cleared the scene. “I am profoundly disappointed to see the violence in our city this evening,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.

Source: The Washington Post, Reuters

3.Russian hackers obtained some Obama emails
Russian hackers infiltrated a White House computer system last year and scooped up some of President Obama’s emails, according to The New York Times. Citing senior sources informed of the incident, the Timesreported the hackers accessed internal email archives and were able to see some messages the president sent and received. However, they did not hack the more tightly guarded servers for Obama’s Blackberry and other classified material, nor did they gain direct access to the president’s email account.

Source: The New York Times

4.NBC finds more Brian Williams embellishments
An internal review of NBC anchorman Brian Williams’ reporting has found several more alleged exaggerations, according to multiple reports.The New York Times on Friday reported NBC found a half-dozen such instances; CNN and The Washington Post later upped the tally to 10 and 11, respectively. In February, NBC suspended Williams as it launched an investigation following his apology for embellishing details of his wartime reporting from Iraq. When completed, the investigation is expected to form the basis of NBC’s decision to keep or cut ties with Williams.

Source: CNN, The New York Times

5.Obama ribs press, politicians at annual White House gala
President Obama came to the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday with plenty of barbs about Washington lawmakers and the reporters who cover them. Noting that host Cecily Strong plays a CNN anchor on Saturday Night Live, Obama quipped that it was “surprising because usually the only people impersonating journalists are journalists on CNN.” And addressing Dick Cheney’s recent media tour in which the former vice president lambasted Obama, the president said the feeling was mutual. “He thinks I’m the worst president of his lifetime,” Obama said, “which is interesting because I think Dick Cheney is the worst president of my lifetime.”

Source: ABC

6.GOP presidential hopefuls court evangelicals in Iowa
Nine declared or potential Republican presidential candidates descended on Iowa on Saturday in hopes of wooing evangelical voters at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition summit. Representing a range of experience and political positions, the presidential hopefuls tailored their messages to fit the religious tenor of the evening. “There is a liberal fascism that is going after Christian believers,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) warned.

Source: The Hill, The Des Moines Register

7.Fighting intensifies in Yemen despite call for ceasefire
A Saudi-led coalition upped its offensive against Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels on Sunday, bombing targets around the country including some sites in the capital Sanaa. The strikes came less than one week after Saudi Arabia announced an end to its monthlong combat operation. On Friday, the United Nations estimated that fighting in Yemen has killed 550 civilians in the past month.

Source: The Associated Press

8.Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder rumored to eye 2016 bid
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is raising eyebrows about a potential White House bid after dining this weekend with GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson while in Las Vegas for the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting. “It was my clear impression from my conversation with him that he is running,” former senator and current RJC board member Norm Coleman said. Earlier this month, The Associated Press reported the governor’s allies quietly established a fund allowing him to engage in potential proto-campaign activities.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

9. Golden State Warriors sweep into second round of NBA playoffs
The Golden State Warriors on Saturday completed a four-game sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans to advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs. Owners of the best record in basketball during the regular season, they are the first team to clear round one. On Sunday, the Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Houston Rockets can cap their own sweeps and advance to join Golden State in the next round.

Source: Sports Illustrated

10.Judge rules Pink concert not tantamount to child abuse
A New Jersey judge has ruled that a mother who brought her daughter to a concert by the pop artist Pink is not guilty of poor parenting. The mother’s decision “did not subject the child to any unreasonable risk of harm, or compromise [her] health, safety or welfare,” Superior Court Judge Lawrence R. Jones wrote. The case arose after the mother’s ex-husband filed a complaint alleging child abuse for exposing his daughter to Pink’s ostensibly “sexually suggestive themes and dance performances” and “lyrical profanities.”

Source: NJ.com, Rolling Stone

Pastor Who Spoke At Rand Launch: We Don’t Yet Know Obama’s ‘Real Religion’

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C-SPAN

I wonder how much he got paid to say that.  I’m sure all speeches go past Rand Paul or his aids first, so one could surmise that Paul espouses this guy’s train of thought…

TPM LiveWire

“In five years we’ll find out what [Obama’s] real religion is,” Rev. Jerry Stephenson told reporters after the event, according to Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins.

Stephenson, a Louisville-based preacher, voiced his discontent with the Democratic Party in 2010 and then embraced the tea party movement, as well as then-Senate candidate Paul. He’d been discussing the issue of religious freedom after Paul’s presidential announcement when a radio interviewer pressed him to explain his belief that Obama wasn’t supporting conservative Christians, according to Coppins’ report.

Asked to expand on the comment about the Obama’s “real religion,” Stephenson explained that he didn’t believe Obama had been friendly toward Christians.

“Once he’s out, he will ‘evolve’ like he did on gay marriage,” the pastor added, according to Coppins. “I just believe that’s what he will do.”

Stephenson declined to say how he believed the President’s faith would evolve.

Obama Unveils Smart Plan To Combat Climate Change While Training 75,000 Vets For Jobs

Obama speaking about Solar Energy in Utah | screenshot

PoliticusUSA

While speaking in Utah, President Obama announced a new program that will combat climate change while training 75,000 veterans for jobs in the solar industry.

The President said:

I am announcing a new goal to train 75,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020. As part of this, we’re creating what we’re calling a solar ready vets program that’s modeled after some successful pilot initiatives that have already been established over the last several years.

It’s going to train transitioning military personnel for careers in this growing industry at ten bases including right here at Hill, and as part of this effort we’re also going to work with states to enable more veterans to use the post-9/11 GI Bill for solar job training.

It’s one of the many steps we’re taking to help nearly 700,000 military veterans and spouses get a job. In fact, about thirty percent of the federal workforce is now made up of veterans. I’ve said it before, and I think employers are starting to catch on if you really want to get the job done, hire a veteran.

The plan is smart because it trains tens of thousands of transitioning military personnel and spouses for a civilian job in an industry that is growing ten times faster than the national average. The president also pointed out the military bases that get a substantial percentage of their energy from the sun save money that can applied towards other goals and missions.

The nation has undergone a dramatic shift from a president who fought a foreign war for oil (Bush and Iraq) to a forward thinking president who is using growing clean energy industry industries to train veterans of the Bush wars for good paying jobs.

The plan that the President unveiled isn’t just good politics. It’s also common sense. No veteran should have to take a low-paying service industry job because they can’t find anything else. It is part of our national obligation to everything possible to help those who served succeed when they return home.

President Obama is creating opportunities for today’s veterans to acquire the jobs of tomorrow.

Obama Ribs GOP: Obamacare Didn’t Bring ‘Death Panels, Doom’

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AP Photo / Jacquelyn Martin

TPM DC

“I mean we have been promised a lot of things these past five years that didn’t turn out to be the case —death panels, doom, a serious alternative from Republicans in Congress,” Obama said, smirking during a speech highlighting the fifth anniversary of his signature healthcare law. “The budget they introduced last week would literally double the number of uninsured in America.”

Obama’s comments came a week after Republicans introduced a new House budget that gutted most of Obamacare but did not offer an alternative. Obama conceded part of the reasons Republicans hadn’t yet offered an alternative plan was because healthcare policy isn’t easy.

“And in their defense, there are two reasons why coming up with an alternative has proven to be difficult,” Obama said. “First, it’s because the Affordable Care Act pretty much was their plan before I adopted it!”

Obamacare, Obama said, was “based on conservative market based principles developed by the Heritage Foundation and supported by Republicans in Congress. And deployed by a man named Mitt Romney in Massachusetts to great effect. If they want to take credit for this law, they can. I’m happy to share it.”

There have been many efforts, Obama added, to reform the country’s healthcare system.

“And second, because health reform is really hard and people here who are in the trenches know that. Good people from both parties have tried and failed to get it done for a hundred years,” Obama said. “Because every public policy has some tradeoffs, especially when it affects one sixth of American economy and applies to the very personal needs of every individual American. Now we’ve made our share of mistakes since we passed this law. But we also know beyond a shred of a doubt that the policy has worked. Coverage is up, cost growth is at a historic low, deficits have been slashed, lives have been saved.”

Obama also said in the speech that he was ready to sign a major overhaul of Medicare negotiated by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

5 Obama Successes Republicans Have To Pretend Never Happened

5 Obama Successes Republicans Have To Pretend Never Happened

President Obama arrives at Bob Hope Airport via helicopter from LAX, en route to ABC Studios for an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

The National Memo

Republicans have consistently said that a president cannot take responsibility for a strong economy — unless of course he’s a Republican.

A weak economy, however, is always a Democratic president’s fault. And if a Republican president presides over the worst financial crisis in a half-century after seven years in office, that is clearly the fault of poor people.

President Obama is in an awkward position when it comes to the economy. It’s only great if you compare it to the last 14 years. But with 50 percent of America now saying in the latest CNN poll that his presidency is a success, he figures that he’s now allowed to “take a well-earned victory lap” by answering the question Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) asked for four years: “Where are the jobs?”

“Well, after 12 million new jobs, a stock market that has more than doubled, deficits that have been cut by two-thirds, health care inflation at the lowest rate in nearly 50 years, manufacturing coming back, auto industry coming back, clean energy doubled — I’ve come not only to answer that question, but I want to return to the debate that is central to this country, and the alternative economic theory that’s presented by the other side,” the president said in Cleveland on Wednesday.

A sensible media would be debating which of Obama’s two great accomplishments — the stimulus or the Affordable Care Act — is a bigger success; which better proves that the government can successfully intervene to prevent suffering while reshaping our economy to be more sustainable; or about which Republicans were more wrong.

But conservatives won’t let that happen. They’ll focus on metrics that languished before Obama came into office — we’re very concerned about labor force participation all of a sudden! — and blast him for not solving all of the failures of conservative economics and foreign policies.

America should be used to Democratic presidents outperforming Republicans by now. While no administration is perfect, President Obama has staked strong claims for liberal values and policies that prove things Republicans have to pretend never happened.

  1. Proved trickle-down economics are wrong, again
    You don’t hear it mentioned often enough, but 2014 was the best year of job creation in this century. This is a key point, because it’s the first full year in which Obama’s economic policies really took hold. Most of the Bush tax breaks on the rich ended in 2013. And in 2014, new taxes on the wealthy and corporations kicked in to help 16 million Americans gain health insurance. The result was a job market like we haven’t seen since the’90s. As they did in 1993, Republicans claimed that asking the rich to pay a bit more would destroy the economy. So, of course, the opposite happened. It’s almost as if some tax hikes on the wealthy are good for the economy! But if Republicans admitted that, they’d have to give up their entire reason for existing, which is to comfort the most comfortable.
  2. Proved we can expand health insurance coverage and shrink the deficit.
    America’s long-term debt problems are largely built on conservatives’ unwillingness to do what every other advanced nation in the world does — insure everyone. As a result, we pay more and get worse results than almost every industrialized country in the world. Obamacare has shown that we can increase coverage dramatically while cutting more than $600 billion from long-term debt projections. Republicans have finally gotten honest in their new budget and admitted that their alternative to Obamacare is… nothing. They’ve got nothing because Obamacare was their alternative, and every prediction they’ve made about it has been wrong. Health spending isat a 50-year low, businesses aren’t dumping employees’ coverage, hospitals are performing better, and policy cancelations were likely lower than they were before the law. Meanwhile, Obama has been even more successful at shrinking the deficit as a percentage of GDP than even Bill Clinton.
  3. Proved that the government can kick-start a clean-energy revolution.
    When it comes to fighting climate change, President Obama has done more than anyone on Earth. Beyond the regulations he set in his first term, which are quickly reducing our dependency on dirty energy, the stimulus launched the clean-energy technological revolution this nation needed. Republicans started calling the stimulus “failed” before it even became law. And that kind of message discipline — plus half a billion dollars in ads that smeared the bill — scared Democrats from bragging about it. But now that we’ve experienced the first year of economic growth where carbon emissions didn’t increase in 40 years, maybe they should.
  4. Proved we can regulate Wall Street without killing the stock market.
    Good news! Bankers are complaining about being regulated too much. Despite this “over-regulation,” we’re seeing constant stock market records. Meanwhile, the memory of the costs of under-regulation — 8 million jobs and trillions in wealth — continues to fade. Democrats have become newly proud of the Dodd-Frank law now that they see how desperate Republicans are to gut it. The success in keeping the economic engine of the rich purring should not dissuade those on the left. Instead, they should continue to fight against the persistent dangers to our economy that come from ridiculous executive compensation schemesstock buybacks, and high-frequency trading.
  5. Proved that we should give diplomacy a chance.
    The Bush administration left America facing a newly nuclear-armed North Korea, an Iran building nuclear centrifuges, and a wrecked Iraq, run by a propped-up sectarian strongman with no interest in reconciliation. Democrats were likely naive in assuming this Tower of Babel of foreign policy disasters could be kept from crumbling. The Obama administration’s effort to re-engage the world may seem foolhardy now — but what was the alternative? More confrontational Republican alternatives would have guaranteed nothing but more American lives lost. Syria is a disaster. Libya proved that regime change is never simple. Putin is emboldened or frantically flailing, depending on your point of view. But as a result of re-engagement with our allies and a Medvedev-led Russia, sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table. We’re closer than ever to a nuclear deal that could prevent another, still more disastrous war. And even if it fails, at least we tried not to repeat the catastrophes of the past.

Despite these successes, Republicans have to see Obama as a floundering, economy-shrinking, deficit-creating failure, or risk questioning their failed worldview.

Essentially, they have to pretend he’s Bobby Jindal.

Republicans Blame Obama For Tom Cotton Letter

BOB CORKER

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) speaks to reporters in the Senate subway at the Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Same old political games.  Obstruct everything the POTUS does or proposes then blame him for resulting failures or missteps.

This started from the day he was inaugurated on 20th, January 2009 and these clowns have been relentless up to this point and undoubtedly, beyond…hoping to tarnish the POTUS’ record as “The First Black President of the United States”.

Yes, they are that racist

The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — Republicans, under fire for a letter signed by 47 senators to the leadership of Iran, said Tuesday that complaints about violating foreign policy convention should be leveled not at them, but at President Barack Obama.

GOP lawmakers spent much of Tuesday being pressed on why Senate party leadership went around the White House with an open letter warning Iran that any nuclear agreement may be undercut in the future by Congress or Obama’s successor. Several Republicans sought to distance themselves from the letter, saying that while they may not agree with the direction of nuclear talks with Iran, it was the purview of the president to conduct them.

But those who support the letter — even some who didn’t add their names — deflected the blame. If it weren’t for Obama’s failure to consult lawmakers about the negotiations, or his threatened veto of a proposed bill to give Congress the final vote on a nuclear agreement, senators wouldn’t have had to speak out in the first place, they argued.

“I think that, no doubt, the fact that the president, you know, issued a veto threat on a very common-sense piece of legislation, probably evoked, you know, a good deal of passion,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told The Huffington Post Tuesday. Corker, who is leading the push for a veto-proof majority on the bill to grant Congress oversight of a nuclear agreement, did not sign letter, which was organized by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). Nevertheless, he showed no signs of ill will toward his junior colleague.

“No, no, no,” Corker responded, when asked if he was concerned Cotton’s letter would cost the bill much-needed Democratic votes.

Corker’s comments were more diplomatic than those offered by other Republicans on Tuesday. But they nevertheless reflected a defensiveness within the GOP, which is taking heat for the letter not just from Democrats, but from leading foreign policy analysts as well.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki (R), appearing at a presidential forum hosted by the International Association of Fire Fighters, conceded that he believed foreign policy to be “prerogative of the president.” But even within that construct, he added, Obama was to blame for Senate Republicans trying to undermine his talks with Iran.

“I also understand the frustration when this president has done everything in his power to prevent awareness on the part of congressional leadership on exactly what the terms under consideration are, or his willingness to sit down with Congress and talk about the legislation they are trying to pass right now,” said Pataki, who is exploring a presidential bid. “I think if we had a president who had engaged more in understanding that Congress has a very critical role in all elements of government, we could avoid this type of sad situation.”

Even Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who expressed qualms about undermining the presidency, said he agreed with the tone of the Cotton’s letter. “The president is really taking a risk by not agreeing to get either confirmation or approval from the House or Senate,” King said, speaking at the same forum as Pataki.

While Congressional Republicans described the letter as reclaiming their rightful role as presidential overseers, Democrats resoundingly criticized what they said was a partisan attempt to sabotage ongoing negotiations between Iran, the U.S., and five partner nations, aimed at ensuring Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful.

“The letter sent on March 9th by forty-seven Republican Senators to the Islamic Republic of Iran, expressly designed to undercut a sitting President in the midst of sensitive international negotiations, is beneath the dignity of an institution I revere,” Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement Monday evening.

As the controversy escalated on Tuesday, talks on Iran’s nuclear program continued, as did efforts to ensure that Congress can approve or veto an agreement, if one is reached. Those organizing the letter netted an additional supporter — a leading Democrat at that. Corker said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) now backed his efforts.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who supports Corker as well, said he was confident there would be enough Democratic votes to bypass a presidential veto and secure a congressional say on an agreement with Iran. That, he added, was adding to the frustrations of the White House over Cotton’s letter to Iran.

“What this is all about is that they know that this deal, from what we know about it, the number of centrifuges and the 10-year expiration date, that they would have one heck of a time getting it through the Congress of the United States, including a lot of Democrat votes,” McCain told HuffPost. “This is why there’s the hysterical reaction.”

10 things you need to know today: February 17, 2015

The Week

1.Federal judge halts Obama’s immigration action
A federal judge in Texas on Monday blocked the federal government from enacting President Obama’s executive order deferring deportations for up to five million undocumented immigrants. U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen said the preliminary injunction was necessary to allow Texas and 25 other states to proceed with a lawsuit challenging Obama’s immigration moves. “The genie would be impossible to put back in the bottle,” Hanen said.

Source: NBC News

2.Egypt bombs ISIS again as more Egyptians kidnapped
Egypt launched a second wave of airstrikes against the Libyan branch of the Islamic State on Monday, stepping up its retaliation against the Islamist group for beheading 21 Egyptian Christians on a Libyan beach. The murders of the Egyptian hostages, if confirmed, would be the first such crime by ISIS outside Iraq and Syria. After the first bombing wave, militants reportedly kidnapped 35 more Egyptians in ISIS-controlled areas.

Source: CNN, Libya Herald

3.Heavy fighting in contested Ukrainian town despite ceasefire
A day after a cease-fire in Ukraine was scheduled to take effect, heavy fighting continued in the government-held town of Debaltseve, a strategic railway hub that the separatists claim to have surrounded. Both sides missed a Tuesday deadline for pulling heavy weapons back from the front lines. Kiev said that five Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and another 25 wounded since the cease-fire started.

Source: The Associated Press, USA Today

4.Stocks and the euro fall after Greece bailout talks collapse
Bailout talks between Greek leaders and their country’s European creditors broke down on Monday, sending the euro and global stocks tumbling. The negotiations for a six-month extension of Greece’s bailout fell apart when the recession ravaged country’s new leaders, who have vowed to dismantle austerity measures demanded by lenders, rejected the proposed terms for the extension. Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem gave Athens until Friday to request extending the bailout beyond the end of the month.

Source: Reuters

5.South gets its share of extreme winter weather
With the Northeast wrestling with the aftermath of its fourth blizzard in less than a month, the South was the one that got a taste of harsh winter weather on Monday. Snow and ice hit the Southern states from Oklahoma to the Carolinas, forcing the cancellation of nearly 2,000 departures and arrivals at airports across the region, and cutting off power to thousands of customers. “You are not going to see bare pavement for a number of days, probably,” Louisville Metro Public Works spokesman Harold Adams said.

Source: NBC News

6.Oil train derails and burns in West Virginia
An oil train derailed and caught fire in West Virginia on Monday, forcing the evacuation of two towns. Fourteen rail cars on the 109-car CSX train and one house burned, and at least one tanker leaking Bakken shale oil tumbled into an icy river along the tracks. There were reports that several of the 33,000-gallon tankers had fallen into the river. The train had been headed to a refinery in Yorktown, Va., according to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s office.

Source: USA Today

7.Princeton receives rare book collection worth $300 million
Princeton University announced Monday that it had received its biggest gift ever — a rare book and manuscript valued at $300 million. The 2,500-volume trove includes the first six printed editions of the Bible, an original printing of the Declaration of Independence, and Beethoven’s autographed music sketchbook. Musician, bibliophile, and philanthropist William H. Scheide, a 1936 Princeton graduate, left the collection to the school when he died in November at age 100.

Source: The Inquirer

8.U.S. plants spyware in foreign networks, cybersecurity firm says
Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab said Monday that the U.S. has been embedding surveillance and sabotage tools into computers and networks in Iran, Russia, Pakistan, and other countries. The implants allegedly were placed by the “Equation Group,” which “appears to be a veiled reference to the National Security Agency and its military counterpart, United States Cyber Command,” The New York Timesreports.

Source: The New York Times

9. Debonair French actor Louis Jourdan dies at 93
French actor Louis Jourdan, who sealed his position as a romantic idol with his work in the 1958 Oscar winner Gigi, died over the weekend in California at age 93. The handsome and debonair Jourdan was cast in roles that exploited his Gallic charm — so much so that he referred to himself as Hollywood’s “French cliche.” Later he played villains, including James Bond’s nemesis in the 1983 film Octopussy.

Source: BBC News

10.Lesley Gore, who sang “It’s My Party,” dies at 68
Singer-songwriter Lesley Gore, who hit the top of the charts at age 16 with “It’s My Party,” died Monday of lung cancer. She was 68. “She was a wonderful human being — caring, giving, a great feminist, great woman, great human being, great humanitarian,” said Gore’s partner of 33 years, Lois Sasson. Gore followed up her first No. 1 song with a string of hits, including Judy’s Turn to Cry and You Don’t Own Me, which became a feminist anthem.

Source: The New York Times