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Apr 132013
 

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama is spending his third consecutive Saturday on the golf course at Joint Base Andrews, taking advantage of the warm spring weather.

The president was joined on the course by White House Trip Director Marvin Nicholson and White House aides Michael Brush and Joe Paulsen, the same three who accompanied the president last Saturday. Nicholson and Brush also joined Obama on the links two weeks ago.

While the president spent the day golfing, the White House opened its gates to the public for the annual spring White House garden tours.

Visitors who received free tickets through the National Park Service were able to roam through the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, the Rose Garden, and the South Lawn of the White House.  They also caught a peek at the White House Kitchen Garden, the first vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden.

But while visitors saw the tulips and roses blooming in the White House gardens, the White House itself is still off limits for tours.  White House tours were cancelled indefinitely on March 9th due to sequester cuts faced by the Secret Service.

The White House garden tours are operating today and Sunday only.

The president is an avid golfer. Interestingly, President Obama’s recent budget proposal would close a tax loophole that currently allows golf course owners to claim a charitable tax deduction by donating some of the land the course sat on to a conservation land trust.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 182013
 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — In honor of St. Patrick’s Day Sunday, the White House dyed the fountain on the South Lawn green to celebrate.

President Obama spent most of St. Patrick’s Day at the White House, but went out Saturday afternoon to play basketball with his 11-year-old daughter Sasha at the Department of Interior.

While his weekend was quiet, the president will continue his St. Patrick’s Day celebration on Tuesday, first attending the traditional St. Patrick’s Day lunch at the Capitol.  In the evening, the president and first lady will host Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny for a St. Patrick’s Day reception at the White House.  The president and Kenny will participate in the annual Shamrock ceremony, a tradition that dates back to the presidency of Harry Truman.

Last year, Obama popped into the Dubliner, a pub on Capitol Hill, for a Guinness and a toast with the crowd.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 152013
 

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama assured Republicans this week that he’s not running a perpetual campaign, that “I actually just want to govern, at least for a couple years.”  But now, it appears that the president’s self-described hiatus from the campaign trail will only last another three weeks.

ABC News has learned that Obama will hit the road on April 3 to help raise money for Democrats gunning to win House seats from Republicans in 2014.

Democratic sources say Obama will head to San Francisco next month to headline two fundraisers for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).   House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will also attend, the sources said.

As ABC News reported last month, Obama has committed to hosting at least 14 fundraisers this year for House and Senate Democratic candidates — a significant step up from the fundraising efforts of previous second-term presidents.

Ten of the events will reportedly be held outside of Washington, D.C., with five benefitting the DCCC and five the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 132013
 

Stephen Chernin/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — There has been no shortage of dire warnings about the mounting U.S. national debt, but President Obama is now offering a different assessment: no big deal.

“We don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt,” Obama said in an exclusive interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos for Good Morning America.  “In fact, for the next 10 years, it’s gonna be in a sustainable place.”

It’s an assessment that may throw cold water on the latest attempt to achieve a so-called grand bargain to reduce the deficit.  After all, a grand bargain would require difficult decisions for both sides — for Republicans, it would mean raising taxes, and for Democrats, cutting future spending on programs like Social Security and Medicare.  If there is no crisis, why would either side do it?

So, what happens if this latest effort to reach a deficit agreement falls through?  Once again, the president’s answer was, essentially, no big deal.

“Ultimately, it may be that the differences are just too wide” to get a deal, Obama said.  “That won’t create a crisis.  It just means that we will have missed an opportunity.”

The president’s reasoning is that the series of 11th hour agreements he has struck with Republicans over the last two years — to prevent a government shutdown, raise the debt ceiling and avoid the fiscal cliff — have resulted in enough deficit reduction to get the debt under control.

“I think what’s important to recognize is that we’ve already cut $2.5- $2.7 trillion out of the deficit,” he told Stephanopoulos.  “If the sequester stays in, you’ve got over $3.5 trillion of deficit reduction already.”

By that accounting, we have already achieved nearly all the $4 trillion the Bowles-Simpson debt commission called for back in 2010.

But there are two problems with that accounting:

First, the Congressional Budget Office projects a deficit of $845 billion — that’s lower than the $1 trillion-plus deficits we’ve seen over the past four years and, as a percentage of the total economy, half the annual deficit of 2009.  But CBO also warns that the deficit is projected to continue rising once again after 2015, adding a total of $7 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years.

Second, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson are now saying we are nowhere near accomplishing the amount of deficit reduction needed to put the government on sustainable path.

“They haven’t done any of the tough stuff, any of the important stuff,” Bowles told ABC’s Jonathan Karl last month.  “They haven’t reformed the tax code…they haven’t done anything to slow the rate of health care, to the rate of growth of the economy, they haven’t made Social Security sustainably solvent.  There’s about $2.4 trillion more of hard work we’ve gotta do.”

Allan Simpson went further, calling the failure to control entitlement spending “madness.”

“Ten thousand [Americans] a day are turning 65,” Simpson told Karl.  “This is madness.  And life expectancy is 78.1, and in five years will be 80.  Who is kidding who?  This will eat a hole through America.”

Urgent or not, the president seemed downright pessimistic about bridging the difference between Democrats and Republicans on how to further reduce the deficit.

“I am prepared to do some tough stuff.  Neither side’s gonna get 100 percent.  That’s what the American people are lookin’ for.  That’s what’s gonna be good for jobs.  That’s what’s gonna be good for growth,” Obama said.  “But ultimately, it may be that the differences are just too wide.  It may be that ideologically, if their position is, ‘We can’t do any revenue,’ or, ‘We can only do revenue if we gut Medicare or gut Social Security or gut Medicaid’ — if that’s the position, then we’re probably not gonna be able to get a deal.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 132013
 

John Gurzinski/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Slightly more Americans trust Barack Obama than congressional Republicans to handle immigration, but neither side garnered a majority between whites and nonwhites in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Americans overall divide by 45-39 percent between Obama and the Republicans in Congress in trust to handle the issue; the rest are undecided or trust neither side.  Whites favor the GOP over Obama on immigration by 47-36 percent, while nonwhites (blacks, Hispanics and others) prefer Obama by a broad 71-16 percent.

See a PDF with full results here.

There also are sharp partisan and ideological differences in trust on immigration in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.  Democrats and Republicans each prefer their side’s approach by an identical 66 percentage points; independents divide closely between Obama and the GOP, 41-36 percent.

Very conservative Americans favor the Republicans on immigration by 65 points and those who say they’re somewhat conservative do so by 33 points.  Moderates take Obama’s side by a 21-point margin, liberals by 61 points.

Obama has made immigration reform a second-term priority, having beaten Mitt Romney in last year’s election by 61 percentage points among the growing proportion of nonwhites overall and by 44 points among Hispanics, while losing whites by 20 points.

In step with the president’s policy direction, majorities in recent ABC/Post polls have supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.  His approval rating on the issue in February, while just 49 percent, was the highest of his presidency and up 11 points since the summer.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio