Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Daily Strike-4/21/09-National Service

Good Tuesday evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Life is so much more fun when Congress is in session, isn't it? An extremely busy day in Washington, so let's get started.

THE WHITE HOUSE: This morning, Jordan's King Abdullah II met with President Obama at the White House. The news out of this meeting had pretty much nothing to do with the meeting itself, but with Obama's answer to a question about those recently released torture memos. The President said the decision to prosecute administration officials who authorized torture would be left to the Attorney General. This was a pretty significant statement from a President who said he doesn't want to "look back." He has left open the door for prosecutions of those who broke the law by ordering CIA agents to waterboard and put suspects in boxes with caterpillars. The President also said, as a caveat, that he is worried that a Congressional investigation into the matter could become politicized. It most certainly would. I'm not sure if that's a fight the administration wants to pick while it pursues an ambitious legislative agenda. A successful prosecution won't get many Americans back to work (except maybe a couple new prison guards). Eventually, you need to hold these people accountable for breaking the law.

Obama is still facing intense criticism for releasing the memos. One such criticism came from Joe Lieberman, who said Obama's decision was "aiding our foes." I think the Big Picture put it best:

"Don't you think that calling our President weak and soft and stating that he's
undermining our ability to defend ourselves does a great deal to embolden our
enemies, to encourage them to test the United States? It's as if you lived in a
house with a bunch of roommates. The roommates voted and chose one alarm system.

You lost the vote, and now you're putting up signs and yelling through a
bullhorn that the house's alarm system is weak. Don't you think that emboldens

The other big news from the Abdullah meeting is that Obama has invited leaders from Israel, The Palestinian territories and Egypt to the White House for peace talks. It will be increasingly difficult to achieve a lasting piece with the more hard-line Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu back at the helm, but we hope and pray it can be done.

EDWARD M. KENNEDY SERVE AMERICA ACT: This bill was signed into law today by President Obama at a school in Washington DC. The bill, authored by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) expands public service programs and adds 75,000 jobs to Americorps. This is a truly great piece of legislation. It is perfect for an economic downturn. The government is creating thousands of jobs putting Americans to work to make their communities better.

The event itself was very touching. Ted Kennedy, ailing from brain cancer, hailed the bill's passage in a speech introducing the President. An impressive cast of political characters attended the event, including former President Clinton, Vice President Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, Senators Michael Enzi (R-WY), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Harry Reid (D-NV) and Durbin (IL) as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Reps. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), George Miller (D-CA) and Gwen Moore (D-WI). The President said in his short remarks that he wouldn't be standing there if it weren't for national service and he invited others to share their service stories on the White House website. Obama also honored Kennedy by saying, "There are very few people who have touched the life of this nation with the same breadth..the same order of magnitude." He also mentioned that the First Lady had worked at an Americorps program in Chicago. The President left the event to participate in some public service of his own, planting trees with Joe Biden and Bill Clinton.

One of the chief roles of the President, in my view, is to be a role model for America's children. I can't think of a better way to fulfill that role than championing the cause of national service. It will not only make the servant's life better and more fulfilling, but it will provide enormous benefit to our country. Of course, someone had to be a party pooper. I just read this on politico.com:

Conservative messaging on public service: "The answer to our challenges cannot come from government alone." (4:07 p.m.)

THE SENATE: The Senate had a very busy day today. This morning, the Senate Finance Committee voted to send Health and Human Services Nominee Kathleen Sebelius to the full Senate. The vote was 15-8. Only two Republicans supported her nomination, Senators Snowe (ME) and Roberts (KS). Other Republican Senators have raised questions about tax issues and campaign contributions from a late-term abortion doctor. No word yet on when the final vote will be on her nomination, but my guess is later this week.

The Senate voted (finally!) to confirm Christopher Hill to be ambassador of Iraq. The vote was 73-23, with all no votes coming from the GOP. Republicans had stalled the nomination because of Hill's tenure as ambassador to North Korea. The chief opponent, Kansas Republican Sam Brownback, had accused Hill of lying to him in committee about something or other.

The Senate will begin consideration of a bill to improve the enforcement of mortgage fraud. I expect the Senate to consider the bill for the remainder of the week, and deal with a slew of Republican amendments. Ten bucks says they'll force a vote on ACORN or guns just to stir up a culture-war pot. Any takers?

That's it for tonight. Please leave us some comments! See you tomorrow!!

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