OBAMA OFFICIALLY SWORN IN TO SECOND TERM. President Obama took the oath of office at noon on Sunday, when his first term of office officially ended. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts conducted the ceremony in the Blue Room at the White House, with First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia and several other family members in attendance. The short ceremony was held because the Constitution mandates inauguration fall on Jan. 20, but Obama will take the oath again and give his public address today (schedule here). After the ceremony on Sunday, Obama's younger daughter, Sasha, whispered congratulations to her father, "good job, Daddy!" Obama responded, "I did it!" and Sasha countered, "You didn't mess up!"
THE JINX OF THE SECOND INAUGURAL. Lincoln and FDR may have made history with their second inaugural addresses, but the other 14 are almost entirely forgotten, writes National Journal's George E. Condon Jr. Nearly all of Obama's predecessors failed to make their second addresses fresh, meaningful and forward-looking, because reelected presidents tote four years of baggage to the podium and often lack the excitement associated with the first inaugural. Read more
OBAMA SHOULD CHANNEL LINCOLN. President Obama will set the tone for his second term with his second inaugural address today. National Journal’s Ron Fournier writes that his best move will be to follow Abraham Lincoln’s example and strike a conciliatory tone. Like Obama, Lincoln had to triangulate between harsh obstructionists from an opposing party and radicals from within his own. Lincoln won reelection and faced the heady task of Reconstruction. While his times and tests were more challenging than those of today, his second inaugural address is a model for its modesty. Obama’s liberal allies have every right to demand a confrontational approach. Understandable as that approach may be, it may not be the path to greatness. Read more
SENATE DEMS TO DRAFT BUDGET BLUEPRINT. For the first time in four years, Democrats in the Senate will draft a budget blueprint, according to The New York Times. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press that the blueprint is intended to fast-track reforms to the tax code in order to raise more revenue. The announcement by Schumer is a response to House Republicans, who on Friday said they would vote this week to extend the country’s debt ceiling for three months. Drafting a budget is something of a concession to Republicans, and one that holds some political danger, as the minority party traditionally uses the budget process to score political points against the party in power. Read more
DID BIDEN FLASH SOME HINTS ABOUT 2016? At his own swearing in on Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden had in attendance New Hampshire’s Democratic governor and South Carolina’s Democratic party chairman, The Wall Street Journal reported. On Saturday, he stopped in on an Iowa-sponsored inaugural ball. All, of course, are early contests in the primary season. Oh, and at a that Iowa event, Biden remarked: “I’m proud to be President of the United States,” before quickly correcting himself. Read more
LEAHY WANTS OBAMA TO WRITE IMMIGRATION BILL. The debate buzzing in immigration circles these days isn’t so much about what President Obama will propose on one of his top domestic policy agenda items, but how he will do it. Should he send a draft bill to Congress or a simple outline of proposed changes? The immigration bill will start in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wants Obama to get the ball rolling. “If the president does send up specific language, that would make it easier because we’ll work from that,” Leahy said in an interview on C-SPAN’s Newsmakers. At the same time, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is rallying conservatives to his version of immigration reform, The Hill reports. Read more
SCHUMER: GUN BACKGROUND CHECKS ARE THE 'SWEET SPOT.' Though gun control is notoriously tough to tackle in the Senate, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Sunday that Congress would be able to pass legislation requiring background checks on firearm purchasers, The Hill reports. Schumer himself has authored a bill on the subject. "I think this is the best chance we have of getting something done and I think you're going to have much broader support than you'd ever imagine," he said on NBC's Meet the Press.
CRUZ PUNTS ON NRA AD, CITES ‘HYPOCRISY.’ Incoming Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a tea party favorite, declined to attack the National Rifle Association on Sunday over a web ad that called President Obama an “elitist hypocrite” because his daughters get armed protection. “Look, I'm going to let people decide to run what ads they want,” said Cruz in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, according to The Hill. “I do think there is a fundamental point here and that there is a point of hypocrisy when it comes to gun control, that many of the proponents of gun control are very wealthy, live in communities where they can outsource police protection.” Read more
BARRASSO: REID WON’T BRING GUN CONTROL BILL TO FLOOR. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wy., echoed the comments of others in Washington, predicting on Sunday that gun legislation that would expand background checks and would limit the size of gun magazines would not pass Congress. “I don’t think it will,” Barrasso said on CNN’s State of the Union, according to Politico. He added that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has politics to think about when it comes to gun control. "He has six Democrats up for election in two years in states where the president received fewer than 42 percent of the votes. And he doesn't want his Democrats to have to choose between their own constituents and the president's positions," Barrasso said. Read more
DC LOWERS TURNOUT PROJECTIONS FOR INAUGURATION. Officials in Washington have ratcheted down their turnout estimate for the inauguration, the Associated Press reported. Officials now expect between 500,000 and 700,000 to attend, down from earlier estimates of 600,000 to 800,000 people. The estimate is based on the number of charter buses coming to the city, as well as restaurant and hotel reservations. Some 1.8 million attended four years ago. At the same time, The Wall Street Journal reports that inaugural ball organizers have slashed ticket prices in half—from $1,000 to $500—in order to make a target of $50 million to pay for the balls and parade. The move is a sign that lifting the ban on corporate donations has not paid off, according to The Journal. Read more
EXPECT A SHORTER PARADE. Noting that onlookers last year suffered in brutally cold weather, Presidential Inaugural Committee CEO Steve Kerrigan told Politico this year's parade would be shorter and sweeter. "We did things like work with our parade float designers to make sure that the turning radiuses were good enough so that they can make the turn onto 15th Street without slowing down the entire parade," he said. "...We worked with the National Park Service on clustering port-a-johns, versus putting them in massive long lines, a hundred in a row, where you've got to go all the way around, versus clusters [so that] people can flow." Read more
HOW OBAMA HAS CHANGED IN FOUR YEARS. Sunday, The New York Times looked back at how the last four years have changed the Obamas, who went from Washington outsiders to participants. “This position has perhaps cost him more on a personal, and even energic, level than most of his predecessors, because he was most entirely an outsider,” said Tony Kushner, who wrote the screenplay for “Lincoln,” and recently dined with Obama to discuss his work. Not everything has changed, however. Reporter Jodi Kantor writes, "Some donors and aides give an 'if only' laugh at the idea that the couple now follows political ritual more closely: this is a president who still has not had Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton to dinner but holds lunches to discuss moral philosophy with the fellow Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel." Read more
A SLEW OF NEW FACES FOR THE SECOND TERM. Obama is known for the tight-knit fraternity of friends he keeps as his advisers, but quite a number of them have moved on from the White House. For the first time since he became president, The New York Times reports, David Axelrod, David Plouffe and Robert Gibbs will no longer work in the White House. Read more
NIXON KILLED PIGEONS, AND OTHER INAUGURAL FACTS. It would appear to be an unmatchable record. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sworn in as president four times. But this year President Obama will tie it. Sounds impossible, right? And yet despite only getting two terms, Obama will have been sworn in four times. He took the oath twice in 2009, after Chief Justice John Roberts botched it the first time. And this year he was sworn in in a private ceremony on Sunday. These are the kinds of things that Jim Bendat, an Inauguration Day historian, notices. Read more
MARY JO WHITE LIKELY FOR SEC CHIEF. Obama is likely to tap former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, The Wall Street Journal reports. White, who earned recognition pursuing terrorists in New York, was the first woman to serve as the U.S. attorney in Manhattan. Read more
ALGERIA HOSTAGE DEATH TOLL CLIMBS. The Algerian hostage crisis came to an end on Saturday when Algerian special forces charged the gas plant where terrorists had taken hundreds of foreigners hostage. On Sunday, Algerian officials said at least 48 hostages had been killed, Reuters reported, and other reports said the count was as high as 80. But with many bodies badly disfigured and unidentifiable, that number is expected to rise. Also on Sunday, Islamist terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar said al-Qaida had authorized the attack. At a press conference today, Algeria Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said officials had found more bodies at the site. Read more
CIA EXEMPTED FROM DRONE STRIKE GUIDELINES. Within weeks, President Obama is expected to sign off on a document codifying U.S. drone strike policy. Over the past year, the White House has been working on what officials call a counterterrorism “playbook.” The CIA would be exempt from the guidelines in the document for at least a year, according to The Washington Post. The “playbook” will detail issues like how names are added to the “kill list” of targets, what legal principles apply to U.S. citizens targeted overseas, and the chain of approvals needed for the CIA or military to conduct drone strikes outside of war zones. Read more
UNITED NATIONS CLAIMS AFGHAN PRISONER ABUSE STILL COMMON. On Sunday, the United Nations presented findings that Afghan authorities were torturing prisoners. The report comes a year after the U.N. documented a variety of Afghan prisoner abuses, such as hanging inmates by their wrists and beating them with cables. At the time, the Afghan government promised reform, but the current report claims progress has been slow and Afghan authorities have actually covered up prisoner abuse from U.N. inspectors. Read more
NETANYAHU MEETS WITH SENATORS, WARNS THEM OF IRAN. Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister met with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Chris Coons, D-Del., to discuss Iran’s nuclear program. The Jerusalem Post quoted Netanyahu as telling the lawmakers, “History will not forgive those who do not stop Iran’s nuclear program.” Netanyahu has continuously promoted his opinion that Iran is only months away from producing nuclear weapons, including a highly publicized speech to the United Nations in New York City. Iranian officials have denied his claims. Read more
FLA. DEMS LOOKING BEYOND CRIST FOR 2014. A group of prominent Democrats alarmed by a potential gubernatorial bid by a recent convert to the party, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, is trying to draft former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz into the race. Diaz, an ex-Democrat who won elections in 2001 and 2005 as an independent, would have to change his own party affiliation to run in the 2014 primary. The pro-Diaz contingent sees Crist as a political opportunist whose betrayal of the GOP would unify Republican voters behind the unpopular incumbent, Rick Scott. Crist left the party to avoid losing to Marco Rubio in the 2010 Republican Senate primary, and he went on to campaign for Obama in 2012 and register as a Democrat. Read more
DEMS’ HISPANIC BENCH GROWING THIN. The impending departures of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar leave President Obama’s Cabinet with no Hispanics, setting off nervous tremors among Latinos and underscoring the thin Democratic bench in that demographic. Even before the latest developments, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of 30 large groups, was concerned about lack of Latino representation in the administration and told Obama so in a letter last November. Now, the impetus has grown stronger. Prominent Latinos in the Democratic fold include Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Some are more feasible Cabinet prospects than others. Read more
TEXAS TO NEW YORKERS: BRING YOUR GUNS. Just one day after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved a sweeping gun control measure in his state, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott began running Internet advertisements encouraging gun-toting New Yorkers to consider making the move to Texas, The New York Times reports. “Is Gov. Cuomo looking to take your guns?" one ad reads. “Wanted: Law abiding New York gun owners looking for lower taxes and greater opportunity," reads another. Clicking on the spots reveals a letter from Abbott promoting Texas and its strong economy. Read more
INTERIOR AGAIN POSTPONES FRACKING RULES. The Interior Department announced plans on Friday to publish in March a new draft of a rule that would require companies that perform hydraulic fracturing on federal lands to disclose the chemicals used in the process. A final version of the rule will likely not be issued until late this year, the Associated Press reported. The Obama administration first proposed such a rule last May, and had planned to issue a final version late last year. The administration then set a timeline that called for issuing the rule early this year. Friday’s announcement represents the second delay of the rule, which has drawn stiff opposition from oil and natural gas companies. Read more
ALGERIA DEBACLE THREATENS REGION’S ENERGY INDUSTRY. The hostage crisis last week at an Algerian gas field, which left several westerners dead, has changed the calculus for Western energy companies with interests in North Africa, Time reported. The expected increase in security measures will raise the cost of doing business in the region, which hosts major oil, natural gas and uranium extraction operations, and could destabilize Algeria’s economy, which relies on energy for 95 percent of its exports. The French-led military intervention in Mali, used as a justification for the attack in Algeria, could further fan the flames of anti-Western sentiment, making energy projects a bigger target, the magazine reported. In response to such concerns, Libya on Friday announced added security at its own energy facilities. Read more
OBAMA ADVISER ENDORSES ARCTIC DRILLING. Tom Hunter, Chairman of the Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee, has come out in favor of continued development of offshore drilling in the Arctic, The Hill reported. “I am not uncomfortable if it proceeds in a very balanced way and with a significant amount of oversight by the regulatory organizations with the federal government, and a lot of engagement with the stakeholders in the local area there,” Hunter said in an interview that aired Sunday. Carol Browner, President Obama’s former White House energy czar, came out against Arctic drilling in an op-ed last week co-written with John Podesta, a colleague at the Center for American Progress and former chief of staff to President Clinton. Read more
ARE ARCTIC CHALLENGES TOO GREAT? That’s the question being asked on National Journal’s Energy & Environment Experts Blog. In response to Shell's drilling rig running aground in a storm earlier this month, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced an internal 60-day review of the department's plans to allow drilling in the Arctic Ocean. "It's troubling that there was such a series of mishaps," Salazar said shortly after the incident, according to Bloomberg. "There is a troubling sense I have that so many things went wrong." What more should the government and private oil companies, in this case Shell, do to ensure that another "mishap" like the rig running aground doesn't happen again? What steps, if any, can Congress take to ensure that all safety precautions are being taken? Read more.
DOW LEAVES TRADE GROUP IN LNG EXPORT FIGHT. Dow Chemical, which opposes the exporting of natural gas, is leaving the National Association of Manufacturers over its support of such exports, Dow Jones reported on Friday. Last week, Dow Chemical co-launched an initiative calling on the White House to limit exports of America’s newfound natural gas reserves. But the manufacturers’ group, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute, support exports. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, has also expressed skepticism about allowing exports of natural gas. Read more
ECONOMY & BUDGET
A LOOK BEHIND THE CURTAIN AT THE FED. Transcripts from the central bank’s policy meetings, released with the customary five-year lag on Friday, reveal a panel struggling to get a handle on the dramatic financial events that were unfolding before their eyes, as National Journal’s Catherine Hollander reports. Indeed, some of the 2007 forecasts missed the mark. “I think the odds are that the market will stabilize,” Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Aug. 7. Others were eerily prescient, as the Fed president in San Francisco warned of a “600-pound gorilla in the room, and that is the housing sector.” Read more
WHY THE GOP SURRENDERED ON DEBT CEILING – FOR NOW. With the announcement Friday that House Republicans would likely seek a three-month extension for the debt limit, Slate’s Dave Weigel writes that the GOP thinks their actions would “dramatically change the narrative. In February, the president would give a State of the Union speech, where he could lambaste Republicans for causing a crisis. By April 15, the White House would have to propose a budget. But if Republicans pushed back the debt limit, they’d get to vote first on the continuing resolution, the spending package that funds the government. Next they’d vote on what might replace sequestration…” As Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., put it, when the next debt limit deadline comes up Republicans would have “credibility.” Read more
HOW THE LAST DEBT FIGHT IMPACTED THE ECONOMY. Republicans may have retreated temporarily on the debt ceiling, but The Washington Post takes a look at how the last debt drama impacted the economy – mostly in a negative way, it turns out. “The protracted, unsettling nature of the negotiations between the White House and Republicans dramatically slowed the recovery, economists conclude,” The Post writes. “Consumer confidence collapsed, reaching its worst level since the depths of the financial crisis. Hiring stalled, with the private sector creating jobs at its slowest pace since the economy exited the recession. The stock market plunged, sending the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index down more than 10 percent.” Economists warn that another skirmish over the debt ceiling would be another blow to the economy. Read more
MALONEY SEEKS ANSWERS ON FORECLOSURE REVIEWS. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., is leading a charge to get federal regulators to divulge details over the high cost of reviewing foreclosures at big banks, The New York Times reports. Maloney, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, wants to get information regarding independent contractors who scrutinized borrowers. Contractors have received roughly $1 billion in fees, leading to a $3.3 billion cash settlement for borrowers. “Millions of Americans fell victim to abusive mortgage practices,” Maloney said in an interview with The Times last week. “This review process was supposed to identify the injured borrowers, but it has taken too long and has been enormously expensive. The announcement of the settlement was clearly an indication that something went wrong with the process. Why were these consultants paid so much money and what did they do?” Read more
A THREE-MONTH DEBT DEAL WITHOUT ENTITLEMENT CUTS. House Republicans emerged from their retreat with a plan to raise the debt ceiling in the near term without requiring a dollar-for-dollar match of entitlement cuts. But the battle is far from over: Republicans are looking to emerge strong from several looming budget battles in the next few months; their deal on debt even requires the Senate to formulate its own budget. The upper chamber's failure to do so in recent years been a major point of contention for House Republicans. “We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government’s spending problem,” Speaker John Boehner said in a speech at the retreat, according to The Washington Post. Read more
HOUSE TO VOTE ON BIOHAZARD BILL. For its first vote after the inauguration, the House will vote on Tuesday on a reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act of 2006, which aims to improve Department of Health and Human Services responses to public health emergencies, such as a flu pandemic or bioterror attack. Both chambers passed similar bills on the subject in the 112th Congress, though a series of unrelated amendments stymied the final authorization.
LOOKING BACK AT OBAMA'S SIGNATURE ACHIEVEMENT. As President Obama looks to start his second term, a number of news outlets are looking back at the president's largest legislative accomplishment to date. Politico notes that, moving forward, Obama will have little to no control over how states implement the Affordable Care Act. The Wall Street Journal looks at how the law has affected colleges; many institutions, it reports, have cut the hours of adjunct professors to avoid paying for health benefits.
HEALTH CARE CO-OPS WANT THEIR FUNDING BACK. In a letter sent on Thursday to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the National Alliance of State Health Co-ops (NASHCO) argued that as traditional health care premiums rise, consumer-oriented health plans are an essential alternative. After seeing funding for new co-ops cut, the group is asking HHS to work with Congress to restore funding. "This rescission by Congress seriously undermines one of the American people’s most effective bulwarks against these rapidly increasing premiums," the letter said.
(YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW. Obama gave a definitive answer on one of this week’s more talked-about developments — his wife’s new haircut. First lady Michelle Obama was shown sporting a new look —a shoulder-length bob with bangs — on her 49th birthday on Thursday. Sunday night, at a dinner for inaugural committee donors, the president weighed in: "I love her bangs. She looks good. She always looks good." Read more)
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