Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fort Hood Hero Says President Obama 'Betrayed' Her, Other Victims

House Speaker John Boehner, in advance of President Obama's State of the Union address, said Tuesday that he doesn't think the president "has the guts" to seriously address the country's debt and deficit.

The speaker aired his concerns during a breakfast outside his office on Capitol Hill with anchors and reporters covering Obama's address Tuesday night.

He said he's pessimistic about the odds the president will tackle the country's long-term spending problem, which he sees as the biggest threat to America's future.

"I don't think he has the guts to do it. He doesn't have the courage to take on the liberal side of his own party -- never has," Boehner said. 

The speaker said, judging by the tone and tenor of the inaugural address, "I would expect tonight to be more partisan."

Throughout the breakfast, Boehner referenced the across-the-board spending cuts originally designed to be so unappealing that both sides would agree to a deal to avoid them. So far, lawmakers have not figured out a way to avert them, with the latest deadline set for March 1.

The cuts are known in Washington as the "sequester." Boehner, though, called it "the president's sequester."

Pressed on the negative impacts to the economy if these cuts happen, Boehner said, "I don't like the sequester. I don't want the sequester. But, this spending issue is the biggest issue that threatens our future. "

"When are we going to get serious about our long-term spending problem?" he asked. "When is the president going to propose something instead of the sequester? How about Senate Democrats?" 

He conceded the economy may take a hit initially but added, "If the private sector were to see that we were serious about dealing with our spending problem in Washington, that might instill some confidence."

Obama has urged Congress to craft a short-term bridge bill to avert the cuts if lawmakers cannot come up with a long-term plan in the next few weeks. But asked Tuesday about Congress voting again to delay the date the sequester kicks in, Boehner said, "We're not moving it."

Boehner insisted that whatever package comes forward, it must not have new taxes in it.

"The president's gotten his revenue. Period," Boehner said, referring to tax rate hikes on top earners enacted in the fiscal crisis deal. Pressed again, Boehner repeated, "The president's gotten his revenue."

He said a solution will only happen if the president and Senate Democrats act.

This comes as Senate Democrats are signaling that they will move forward with something to address the looming cuts in coming days. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office released remarks he is scheduled to make on the Senate floor on Tuesday saying, "Senate Democrats will offer our own solution to the sequester later this week."  

Asked about what is expected to be Obama's calls for new "investment" Tuesday night, Boehner said, "More government spending is what that is."

"If government spending were the tonic for all our ills, this would have been solved a long time ago," he said. Boehner said the president added "$5 trillion in new debt over the last four years. How much further is he going to run us into the sewer?"

Boehner said he talked to the president at the inauguration but, "This White House does not engage much with Congress."

And on the politics for Democrats, Boehner said, "It almost appears the president wants to put moderate Democrats on the line -- to shine a light on the fact they are not as liberal as some others. The Obama-Pelosi agenda is not going to help those members."

When the topic turned to immigration reform, one correspondent started a question with a litany of specifics about a path to citizenship and Boehner responded with, "Slow down. How about a little foreplay. Lots of issues need to be resolved before we get to that."

But Boehner insisted the House and Senate have "to come to some agreement on immigration.  It's an issue we have to deal with and deal with now."

He added that a group of Republicans and Democrats have been working on a bipartisan solution for more than four years and said he is optimistic

He said his biggest fear in the context of that debate is Obama. "Sometimes I think he'd rather have an issue rather than a solution," Boehner said.

Boehner touted Republicans "fact-checking" the president's speech Tuesday night and sending that out on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.

He also touted the planned Spanish translation of Sen. Marco Rubio's Republican response. Before the breakfast was finished, Rubio made a cameo appearance to "get a cup of coffee" -- which he ended up getting in the room next door.

Asked if he was nervous, Rubio said, "Not yet."

Monday, February 4, 2013

Obama says assault weapons ban deserves a vote in Congress

Obama's comments suggested a realization in the White House that it will be difficult to get such a ban passed by lawmakers, despite consistent public support for the measure.

Opposition is high in Congress, including among some Democrats, and by calling simply for a vote, Obama seemed to acknowledge that even getting that far - let alone having an assault weapons ban approved - would be a struggle.

"We should restore the ban on military style assault weapons and a 10-round limit for magazines. And that deserves a vote in Congress, because weapons of war have no place on our streets," Obama said as uniformed law enforcement officers stood behind him at the Minneapolis Police Department's Special Operation Center.

It was Obama's first trip outside Washington to promote gun control since he announced a package that includes calls for universal background checks and 10-round limits on ammunition magazines.

"No law or set of laws can keep our children completely safe. But if there's even one thing we can do, if there's just one life we can save, we've got an obligation to try," Obama said.

With a busy agenda that includes immigration reform and climate change, Obama hopes to move quickly on gun control before memories fade of December's shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six adults.

A vote in Congress on the assault weapons ban might be held separately from other gun control measures.

Senator Dianne Feinstein has said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid promised that even if the ban is left out of a broader package to curb gun violence, she will have the opportunity to offer it as an amendment on the Senate floor.

Gun control efforts face an uphill battle against a powerful pro-gun lobby and a strong U.S. tradition of hunting and gun ownership. The right to bear arms is guaranteed to Americans in the U.S. Constitution.

Obama noted that support was widespread for universal background checks before guns are sold and indicated that he would press especially hard for that part of his proposals.

"The vast majority of Americans - including a majority of gun owners - support requiring criminal background checks for anyone trying to buy a gun," he said.

"So right now, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are working on a bill that would ban anyone from selling a gun to somebody legally prohibited from owning one. That's common sense. There's no reason we can't get that done."

Obama urged legislators to name a permanent director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a post that has been vacant for years.


Minnesota is emblematic of the challenges Obama will face in advancing gun control in Congress.

While the state's two Democratic U.S. senators have said they are sympathetic to measures to curb gun violence, the National Rifle Association, the largest U.S. gun-rights group, is influential in the state.

It has backed all four Republicans and two of the Democrats who represent Minnesota in the House of Representatives, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

But Minneapolis has a tradition of gun control. The city took steps in the mid-2000s to reduce incidents involving guns and juveniles after an outbreak of violent crimes.

On the way to Monday's event, Obama's motorcade passed a man holding a sign that read, "Ban private ownership of military weapons."

The Newtown massacre mobilized support for measures to contain access to certain guns and ammunition.

The Obama administration has included access to mental health and an examination of the effects of violent video games as part of its efforts to stem gun violence.

Gun-control efforts have foundered in the past despite strong public support, in part because many gun owners believe advocates of gun control oppose owning and using firearms in general.