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Jun 222013

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — As the Senate is poised to make a key vote on an immigration compromise Monday, President Obama pressed Congress Saturday to pass immigration reform.

“The United States Senate is debating a bipartisan, commonsense bill that would be an important step toward fixing our broken immigration system,” Obama said in his weekly address Saturday.  “The bill isn’t perfect.  It’s a compromise.  Nobody is going to get everything they want – not Democrats, not Republicans, not me.  But it’s consistent with the principles that I and others have laid out for commonsense reform.”

The president said the bill would lead to “stronger enforcement.  A smarter legal immigration system.  A pathway to earned citizenship.  A more vibrant, growing economy that’s fairer on the middle class.  And a more stable fiscal future for our kids.”

“We can do this, because we are a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants; a place enriched by the contributions of people from all over the world, and stronger for it.  That’s been the story of America from the start.  Let’s keep it going,” he said.

On Friday, a bipartisan immigration amendment on border security was filed in the Senate, setting up a major vote on immigration reform for Monday to determine whether they should proceed with the full bill.
The amendment enhances the border security provisions in the bi-partisan Gang of Eight plan by doubling the number of border patrol agents from its current size of 21,000 to 40,000 officers as well as completing a 700 mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The compromise, which was sponsored by two Republican senators – Bob Corker of Tenn. And John Hoeven of N.D. – could help solidify the votes needed for the plan to pass the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hopes to pass the bill before the July 4 recess, but the plan has an uncertain fate in the House of Representatives as many members are calling for stricter border security measures.  House Speaker John Boehner said earlier this week that he would not take an immigration bill to the House floor unless it has support from a majority of House Republicans.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

May 272013

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — In a solemn ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama today called on Americans to never forget the sacrifice of soldiers who served in harm’s way and died for their fellow countrymen.

“America stands at a crossroads, but even as we turn a page on a decade of conflict, even as we look forward, let us never forget as we gather here today that our nation is still at war,” Obama said.

The president laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, a monument that commemorates soldiers killed in U.S. wars whose remains have never been identified.

As Obama marked the coming end of the conflict in Afghanistan, he reflected on the nearly 7,000 soldiers who have been killed since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Today the transition is underway in Afghanistan and our troops are coming home,” Obama said. “Fewer Americans are making the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan and that’s progress for which we are profoundly grateful.”

“This time next year, we will mark the final Memorial Day of our war in Afghanistan,” he added.

Obama lamented that the costs of war fall too often on country’s all-volunteer fighting force and the families these soldiers leave behind.

“This truth cannot be ignored, today most Americans are not directly touched by war,” Obama noted. “For those of us who bear the solemn responsibility of sending these men and women into harm’s way, we know the consequences all too well.”

“I feel it every time I meet a wounded warrior, every time I visit Walter Reed [National Military Medical Center], every time I grieve with a gold star family,” he added.

This Memorial Day follows a week in which the president sought to usher in a new phase in the fight against terror as the decade-long conflicts in the Middle East comes to a close, and he prepares to cement his presidential legacy at the onset of his second term.

In a speech at the National Defense University on Thursday, Obama said that though the fight against terrorism must continue, the wars will come to an end.

“Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end,” Obama said.

At Arlington today, Obama memorialized three soldiers who had recently died in the line of duty: Army Capt. Sara Knutson Cullen, a Black Hawk pilot, Staff Sgt. Francis G. “Frankie” Phillips IV, a combat medic, and Marine staff Sgt. Eric D. Christian.

He and first lady Michelle Obama visited Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery where Cullen and Phillips were laid to rest.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

May 262013

Oklahoma Cty Sheriff(MOORE, Okla.) — Standing in front of the rubble of Plaza Towers Elementary School, which was destroyed by last week’s tornado, President Obama offered words of support to the community of Moore, Okla., saying that people across this country will serve as a “shelter from the storm” for all those impacted by the deadly tornadoes.

 “God has a plan, and it’s important to know that we also recognize we’re instruments of His will, and we need to know that as fellow Americans, we’re going to be there as shelter from the storm for the people of Moore,” the president said in Moore, Okla. at the site where seven students were killed by the tornado on Monday. “When we say we’ve got your backs, I promise you, we keep our word.”

President Obama expressed admiration for the Oklahoma community as it weathered the storm that killed 24 people and looked forward to recovery.

 “People here pride themselves on the Oklahoma standard. What Governor Fallin’s called being able to work through disasters like this and come out stronger on the other side,” he said. “From the forecasters who issued the warnings to the first responders who dug through the rubble to the teachers who shielded with their own bodies their own students, Oklahomans have inspired us with their love and their courage and their fellowship.”

 “This is a strong community with strong character. There’s no doubt they’re going to bounce back, but they need help just like any of us would need help if we saw the kind of devastation that we’re seeing here,” he said. “We know Moore is going to come back stronger from this tragedy.”

The president urged Americans to donate to the American Red Cross and assured the people of Moore that resources will be made available to aid in the community’s recovery efforts. But as the community looks ahead to rebuilding, the president also issued a reminder that the funding of training programs for first responders is critical to ensuring lives continue to be saved in future disasters.

“Training, education, both for citizenry but also for first responders is absolutely critical, and we’ve got to make sure that those resources remain in place,” he said. “We can’t shortchange that kind of ongoing disaster response. We can’t just wait till the disaster happens.  That’s how in part we’re able to save a lot of lives.”

With children’s toys still strewn amid the rubble, the president walked through a neighborhood impacted by the storm before touring the site of Plaza Elementary School.

The president was accompanied by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Okla. Gov. Mary Fallin, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., and Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis on his walk through the devastated sites.

Following his brief statement at the elementary school, the president met with first responders and families of the children whose lives were lost at Plaza Towers Elementary School due to the tornado at a local fire station.

Prior to the president’s arrival in Oklahoma Sunday, Fallin expressed concern that “red tape” could hinder recovery efforts in the wake of the tornado.

“We first of all appreciate the president coming to Oklahoma to see the devastation. It is huge here. And a lot of need here. But basically, what I need is the ability to get through red tape, the ability to get the FEMA funds in here quickly and to get the services that our citizens need to help them recover through this terrible disaster,” she said on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday.

Earlier this week, the president signed a major disaster declaration for Oklahoma and approved additional assistance for the state, including a Debris Removal Pilot Program, which increased the federal share of costs for debris removal to 85 percent for the first 30 days, a White House official said Sunday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

May 262013

ABC(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said on ABC’s This Week that the recent controversies engulfing the White House over the IRS, reporter leak investigations, and Benghazi have threatened President Obama’s “moral authority to lead the nation,” while he continued to question the administration’s use of drone strikes against terrorist targets overseas.

“I think the constellation of these three scandals ongoing, really takes away from the president’s moral authority to lead the nation,” Paul said Sunday morning on This Week. “Nobody questions his legal authority, but I think he’s really losing the moral authority to lead this nation. And he really needs to put a stop to this. I don’t care whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, nobody likes to see the opposite party punishing you for your political beliefs, using the power of government to do so.”

While he has called for a special counsel to investigate the IRS scandal, in which the IRS gave increased scrutiny to conservative groups applying for non-profit status, Paul would not say whether he believed any crimes were committed.

“I don’t think we know so far. The main woman from the IRS that’s involved has taken the Fifth Amendment. She’s no longer cooperating,” Paul said of Lois Lerner, the IRS official who refused to testify at a House committee hearing on Wednesday, and was put on leave from her position Thursday. “I think there needs to be a speedy resolution to this… If he goes beyond 30 days and if no one is fired over this? I really think it’s going to be trouble for him trying to lead in the next four years.”

And while Paul said he was “pleased with” the words of President Obama’s major national security speech last week, he continued to question the administration’s use of drone strikes and whether proper due process is occurring before military action against terrorist targets.

“I was pleased with his words, and I was pleased with the – that he did respond to this,” Paul said in reaction to President Obama’s speech Thursday at the National Defense University. “However, there still is a question in my mind of what he thinks due process is. You know, due process to most of us is a court of law, it’s a trial by a jury. And right now their process is him looking at some flashcards and a PowerPoint presentation on ‘Terror Tuesdays’ in the White House. For a lot of us, that’s not really due process.”

When asked whether a drone strike should have been used against Al Qaeda leader and American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in 2011, Paul reiterated his belief that the U.S. should attempt to try individuals for treason, with a judge reviewing evidence before military strikes.

“If you are conspiring to attack America and you are a traitor, I would try you for treason,” Paul said. “If you don’t come home for the trial, I would try you in absentia. And then the death penalty has been used repeatedly throughout our history for treason, but a judge looks at evidence. And that’s something that separates us from the rest of the world, is that we adjudicate things by taking it to an independent body who’s not politically motivated, or elected.”

Paul, who led a 13-hour Senate filibuster on the administration’s use of drone strikes in March, also questioned whether President Obama was truly protecting civil liberties by promising not to carry out certain actions such as detaining citizens indefinitely – while still retaining the power to do so under the law.

“It’s not good enough to us that he’s not using a power,” Paul said. “We want him to assert that he won’t, that he doesn’t have the power.”

Paul said he did not back closing the detainee prison at Guantanamo Bay, which President Obama called for again last week, but Paul said the prison has “become a symbol of something though, and I think things should change.”

“I think the people being held there are bad people,” Paul said. “What I would do though is I would accuse them, charge them, and try them in military commissions, or trials, or tribunals. And I think that would go a long way toward showing the world that we’re not going to hold them without charge forever.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

May 242013

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The president may have forgotten to do something as he boarded Marine One Friday morning.

On his way to the U.S. Naval Academy graduation ceremony in Annapolis, Md., President Obama didn’t return the salute of the marine standing guard at the door of Marine One, as he climbed the steps to the helicopter cabin.

Obama soon ducked his head out, waved to the pilot, and jaunted back down the stairs to address the marine, shaking his hand. In the short video clip, one can’t hear the two men talking, so it’s unclear what exactly was said. A faint smile appeared to cross the marine’s face as the they exchanged brief words.

Obama jogged back up the steps, still not having saluted.

While this exchange may seem to be a military faux pas — Obama typically salutes as he boards Marine One — presidential salutes aren’t a fully closed matter. In a 2009 New York Times op-ed, Smithsonian magazine editor and former marine Carey Winfrey identified them as a recent phenomenon, one that evoked mixed feelings from him:

… Whenever I saw a president stepping off a helicopter and bringing hand to brow, my drill instructor’s unambiguous words came back to me with much of their original force.

Then there were the salutes themselves, which ranged from halfhearted to jaunty. None of them fulfilled the characteristically succinct prescription that Capt. Jack O’Donnell of the Marine Corps delivered, in 1963, to my platoon of freshly minted second lieutenants at basic school in Quantico, Va.: “Your salute,” he pronounced, “must be impeccable…

Presidents have long been saluted, but they began returning salutes relatively recently. Ronald Reagan was thought to be the first, in 1981.

Reagan, Winfrey wrote, consulted the Marine Corps commandant on whether saluting back was appropriate. Marines themselves are taught not to do so out of uniform, and Winfrey raised the obvious point: Presidents, in suits and ties, aren’t wearing uniforms. But as commanders in chief, they’re in charge, and according to the advice Reagan got, supersede the protocol.

So while Obama typically does salute, it’s not as if he’s required to.



Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio