Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Obama Talks Deficit, Energy With Female Senators

President Barack Obama hosted a bipartisan group of female senators at a White House dinner Tuesday night and urged them to come together to reach a deficit-reduction deal.

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said the president used the dinner with all 20 female senators – 16 Democrats and four Republicans – to push for a renewal of talks aimed at a broad deficit-reduction package.

Ms. Klobuchar said Mr. Obama spoke about his deficit reduction plan and didn’t introduce any new ideas during the session.

The dinner also saw a discussion of energy policy, perhaps a nod to moderate Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Ms. Klobuchar said that when the matter of the Keystone pipeline was raised, the president didn’t commit to approving or rejecting the pipeline.

She said the president cited an overhaul of the country’s cyber security system as a priority.

The House passed a largely partisan bill last week aimed at preventing cyber security attacks on the U.S., despite a veto threat from the White House.

The Senate tried twice in the last Congress to pass a version of the bill, both times unsuccessfully. The Senate has now effectively gone back to the drawing board on the issue, meaning it could be some time before the chamber takes another crack at passing legislation.

In hosting the dinner, Mr. Obama wanted to strengthen personal ties to senators who are crucial to advancing his legislative agenda. The event was the fourth dinner Mr. Obama has held in recent weeks with members of the Senate.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D.,N.Y.) said she had suggested to Mr. Obama on a flight on Air Force One, after the elections in November, that he meet with the women senators. Ms. Gillibrand told MSNBC that she had asked him to attend one of the women senators’ quarterly dinners. Mr. Obama said he’d “have you one better” and “have you come to the White House,” the senator said.

“Tonight’s dinner with the president was a productive extension of the bipartisan working dinners Senate women hold monthly,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.), in a statement emailed by her office.

“While we obviously still need more women in the Senate, women do now represent one-fifth of the chamber, and our willingness to work across the aisle has made a difference in the way the Senate functions. I appreciated the opportunity to discuss our work with the President this evening and hope that moving forward, Congress can build off of the bipartisan inroads Senate women have made in recent years,” she said.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Michelle Obama praises Jackie Robinson movie

Michelle Obama said Tuesday that a new movie chronicling Jackie Robinson's rise through Major League Baseball, including the racial discrimination he endured while breaking the sport's color barrier in the 1940s, left her and the president "visibly, physically moved" after they saw it over the weekend.

The film, "42," also left the couple wondering "how on Earth did (the Robinsons) live through that. How did they do it? How did they endure the taunts and the bigotry for all of that time?" she said.

Mrs. Obama commented at a workshop for a group of high school and college students who saw the movie in the White House theater. Some of the students attend a Los Angeles charter school named for Robinson and others are undergraduate scholars in a program that bears the baseball great's name.

The students also participated in a question-and-answer session with Robinson's widow, Rachel, and members of the cast and crew, including Chadwick Boseman, who plays Robinson, Harrison Ford, who stars as former Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey, and director-screenwriter Brian Helgeland.

President Barack Obama held a separate screening of "42" for the cast and crew Tuesday evening.

Mrs. Obama said everyone should see the movie, which opens nationwide April 12.

"I can say with all sincerity that it was truly powerful for us," she said. "We walked away from that just visibly, physically moved by the experience of the movie, of the story," and the "raw emotion" they felt afterward.

The first lady added that she was also "struck by how far removed that way of life seems today," noting how times have changed despite progress still to be made toward eliminating racial discrimination.

"You can't imagine the baseball league not being integrated. There are no more "Whites Only" signs posted anywhere in this country. Although it still happens, it is far less acceptable for someone to yell out a racial slur while you're walking down the street," she told the students. "That kind of prejudice is simply just not something that can happen in the light of day today."

After playing for the Negro Baseball League and the International League, Robinson became Major League Baseball's first black player on April 15, 1947, batting for the Brooklyn Dodgers. His number was 42.

Barack Obama broke a similar barrier in politics by winning election in 2008 as the first black U.S. president.

Mrs. Obama said the Robinsons' story is a reminder of the hard work it takes to move a country forward.

"It reminds you how much struggle is required to make real progress and change," she said, echoing her husband.