May 20, 2013
President Barack Obama welcomed Myanmar President Thein Sein to the White House Monday.
He is the first leader from his country to visit the United States in 50 years while Myanmar had been isolated for decades under military rule, but now is emerging as a democracy.
"We very much appreciate your efforts and leadership in leading Myanmar in a new direction, and we want you to know that the United States will make every effort to assist you on what I know is a long, and sometimes difficult, but ultimately correct path to follow," Obama told him.
Obama launched a formal review of Myanmar in 2009, which led to discussions with the nation’s leaders. A 2010 election began a series of changes that included cease-fires in some ethnic conflicts, the release of political prisoners, loosened restrictions on the media and modified labor laws.
Late last year, Obama became the first U.S. president to set foot in the small Asian nation of Myanmar.
"For democracy to flourish in our country, we will have to move forward and we will have to undertake reforms -- political reforms and economic reforms in the years ahead," Sein said. "We are trying our best with our own efforts to have political and economic reforms in our country. But we will also need -- along this path, we will also need the assistance and understanding from the international community, including the United States."
President Barack Obama will travel to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania next month.
"The president will reinforce the importance that the United States places on our deep and growing ties with countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including through expanding economic growth, investment, and trade; strengthening democratic institutions; and investing in the next generation of African leaders," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. "The president will meet with a wide array of leaders from government, business, and civil society, including youth, to discuss our strategic partnerships on bilateral and global issues. The trip will underscore the President’s commitment to broadening and deepening cooperation between the United States and the people of sub-Saharan Africa to advance regional and global peace and prosperity."
First Lady Michelle Obama will accompany her husband, June 26 to July 3.
May 18, 2013
In his weekly radio address, President Barack Obama talked about the ways he wants to try to bolster the economy: by investing in jobs, skills and opportunity.
Obama referred to his recent trips to Austin and Baltimore, part of his middle class jobs and opportunity tour.
"In the coming weeks, I’m going to visit more cities like Baltimore, and Austin, Texas – where I was two weeks ago; places where Americans are coming together to strengthen their own communities and economies – and in the process, making this country better for all of us," he said. "And I’m going to keep trying to work with both parties in Washington to make progress on your priorities. Because I know that if we come together around creating more jobs, educating more of our kids, and building new ladders of opportunity for everyone who’s willing to climb them – we’ll all prosper, together."
The full remarks are below:
May 17, 2013
Any confrontation over the nation’s debt ceiling is now unlikely till after Labor Day.
The government is expected to hit the debt ceiling this weekend, but Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a letter Friday that “extraordinary measures” would likely allow the nation to continue
paying its bills “until after Labor Day.”
That means that any war over the debt limit—one that could involve limits on federal spending and perhaps higher taxes—is probably not going to occur in earnest this summer.
Two years ago, that fight not only led to a tense showdown between the Obama White House and congressional Republicans, and ultimately a debt-reduction deal, but saw a downgrading of the
government’s credit rating for the first time in 70 years.
President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama will host a concert Wednesday night at the White House honoring singer Carole King.
Performers include King, of course, as well as Gloria Estefan, Billy Joel, Jesse McCartney, Emeli Sandé, James Taylor and Trisha Yearwood.
Obama will present King the 2013 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. This will be the first time the Gershwin Prize honor has been awarded to a woman.
The event will be streamed live on www.whitehouse.gov/live and broadcast May 28 on PBS stations nationwide.
Here's another take on the IRS scandal.
Common cause, the government watchdog group, urges the White House, Congress and the IRS to look into the "larger problem of political groups masquerading as tax-exempt social welfare groups to hide donors’ identities."
"The scandal at the IRS cannot be permitted to serve as cover for those who want the right to funnel secret money into our elections and buy the corruption that goes with it,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs.
Congress has launched hearing into why the Internal Revenue Service targted conservative organizations that asked for tax-exempt status.
Common Cause, which submitted testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee, says the worst outcome would be to let groups to use their tax-exempt status to hide the identity of their donors.
The Internal Revenue Service and Benghazi stories may be consuming Washington, but in the rest of America, not so much.
"The amount of attention Americans are paying to the IRS and the Benghazi situations is well below the average for news stories Gallup has tracked over the years," a new Gallup poll found.
Democrats are not paying much attention, nor are independents, said the survey released Friday--though Republicans are paying a lot of attention.
"Republicans are also much more likely than Democrats to strongly agree that both situations are serious enough to require investigation," according to a Gallup analaysis.
President Barack Obama will travel to Baltimore Friday to continue his tour across the nation designed to urge Congress to act on policies he says will create jobs.
Obama will visit an elementary school that provides comprehensive early childhood education and services; a manufacturer of dredges and dredging equipment; and a community center.
At Ellicot Dredges, he will announce that he has signed a memorandum to modernize the federal infrastructure permitting process designed to cut timelines in half for major infrastructure projects.
May 16, 2013
Saying he wants to prevent another Benghazi, President Obama today called on Congress to "support and fully fund" the administration's budget request to improve security at embassies around the world.
Obama said the administration is following the recommendations from an Accountability Review Board that looked at the attack, including reviewing security at high-threat diplomatic posts, improving training for personnel headed to dangerous posts and increasing intelligence and warning capabilities.
And he said he's also directed the Defense Department "to ensure that our military can respond lightning quick in times of crisis."
But, Obama added, "We’re going to need Congress as a partner." He said the White House has been talking with Democrats and Republicans about the embassy security and that he'll need Congress to provide "the resources and new authorities" to carry out the review board recommendations. He said he'll also need Congress to help increase the number of Marine Corps Guard who protect embassies.
"I want to say to members of Congress in both parties, we need to come together and truly honor the sacrifice of those four courageous Americans and better secure our diplomatic posts around the world," Obama said at a joint appearance in the Rose Garden with Turkey's Prime Minister. "That’s how we learn the lessons of Benghazi. That's how we can keep faith with the men and women who we send overseas to represent America. And that's what I will stay focused on as Commander-in-Chief."
Moving swiftly to contain outrage over reports of the IRS targeting conservative groups, President Obama Thursday named an Office of Management and Budget controller with experience in the Bush administration as acting commissioner of the agency, effective May 22.
Obama said Daniel Werfel, who has agreed to serve through the fiscal year, will "lead efforts to ensure the IRS implements new safeguards to restore public trust and administers the tax code with fairness and integrity."
Obama noted in a statement that Werfel has worked in Democratic and Republican administrations and has "proven an effective leader who serves with professionalism, integrity and skill. The American people deserve to have the utmost confidence and trust in their government, and as we work to get to the bottom of what happened and restore confidence in the IRS, Danny has the experience and management ability necessary to lead the agency at this important time."
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