Saturday, December 19, 2015

President Obama's Weekly Address: Top 10 Things That Happened in 2015


In this week's address, the President celebrated the end of the year tradition of list-making with a year-in-review list of his own. 

Source: WhiteHouse.gov

West Wing Week: 12/18/2015


Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This week, the President heralded the achievement of the whole world coming together to combat climate change, traveled to the Pentagon and the National Counterterrorism Center to continue the work on securing our nation, and presided over a very moving naturalization ceremony at the National Archives.

Source: WhiteHouse.gov

U.N. Security Council Meeting on Syria

 
Secretary of State John Kerry chairs a U.N. Security Council meeting on the Syrian civil war and international efforts to combat the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Michelle McCluer on Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's Court Martial

 

Former Judge Advocate General Michelle McCluer discusses Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s court martial on charges of desertion following his 2009 disappearance while serving in Afghanistan. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Washington Journal: Robert Dunham on the Death Penalty in 2015

 

Death Penalty Information Center Executive Director Robert Dunham discusses his organization’s annual report, which shows only six states carried out executions in 2015, resulting in the lowest number of executions in a single year since 1991. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

The Power of the Pen: New Bills Signed into Law


Statement by the Press Secretary

On Friday, December 18, 2015, the President signed into law:

H.R. 2029 – the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016,” which provides fiscal year 2016 full-year appropriations through September 30, 2016 for all agencies.

H.J.Res. 76, which provides that the second regular session of the 114th Congress will begin at noon on Monday, January 4, 2016;
 
H.R. 2270, the “Billy Frank Jr. Tell Your Story Act,” which redesignates the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, located in the State of Washington, as the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge;

H.R. 2297, the “Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015,” which establishes statutory sanctions on foreign financial institutions that facilitate transactions or money laundering on behalf of Hizballah or its agents;

H.R. 2693, which designates the arboretum at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia, as the Phyllis E. Galanti Arboretum;

H.R. 2820, the “Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Reauthorization Act of 2015,” which reauthorizes and updates authority for programs at the Department of Health and Human Services to support bone marrow transplantation and research, and umbilical-cord blood transplantation, treatment, and research;

H.R. 3594, the “Federal Perkins Loan Program Extension Act of 2015,” which temporarily extends the Federal Perkins Loan program for undergraduate students and continuing graduate student borrowers, to require return of Perkins Loan funds to the Department of Education, and to provide for additional disclosures to Perkins Loan borrowers;

H.R. 3831, the “Securing Fairness in Regulatory Timing Act of 2015,” which extends the current-law notice and comment period for annual Medicare Advantage rate notices;

H.R. 4246, the “National Guard and Reservist Debt Relief Extension Act of 2015,” which Exempts, for an additional four years through December 18, 2019, members of the Armed Forces reserves and the National Guard from a means test presumption of abuse in determining eligibility for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief, if, after September 11, 2001, they were on active duty or performing a homeland defense activity for at least 90 days;

S. 614, the “Federal Improper Payments Coordination Act of 2015,” which amends the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act of 2012 to allow further access to, and use of, Federal information to help reduce improper payments;

S. 808, the “Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015,” which (1) establishes the Surface Transportation Board (STB) as an independent agency; (2) authorizes appropriations for the STB for FYs 2016-2020; and (3) updates the authorities of the STB;

S. 1090, the “Emergency Information Improvement Act of 2015,” which makes certain nonprofit broadcasting facilities eligible for disaster assistance under the Public Assistance Grant Program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and

S. 1461, which requires the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to continue through Calendar Year 2015 an instruction not to enforce, with respect to critical access hospitals and small rural hospitals, a Medicare direct-supervision requirement for outpatient therapy services. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Friday, December 18, 2015

President Obama Year-End News Conference

 
President Obama responds to questions from reporters ahead of his annual family vacation in Hawaii. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Oval Office Chat: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey


The President spoke by phone today with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to discuss the current dispute between Turkey and Iraq over recent Turkish military moves in northern Iraq.  The President urged President Erdogan to take additional steps to deescalate tensions with Iraq, including by continuing to withdraw Turkish military forces, and reinforced the need for Turkey to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq.  To this end, the two leaders agreed to work together on diplomatic efforts between the United States, Turkey, and Iraq to reduce tensions and to coordinate military efforts against ISIL.  The President stressed the value of Turkish contributions to the Counter-ISIL campaign, and the two leaders also discussed intensifying cooperation on Syria, including joint efforts to strengthen the moderate Syrian opposition and step up pressure on ISIL, as well as continued efforts to create conditions for a negotiated solution to the conflict. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Biden: The Agreement is Not Perfect, But it Will Help Grow Our Economy...


Statement by the Vice President on the Budget Deal

Over the last seven years, our economy has gone from crisis to recovery to the cusp of resurgence. The budget and tax agreement that Congress negotiated this week will help make it a permanent resurgence. Neither side got everything it wanted, and there is more we will continue to fight for. But this agreement reverses self-inflicted wounds like sequestration, averts another unnecessary government shutdown, and lays a path forward to the type of governing by consensus that the American people deserve and expect.

It makes permanent Recovery Act expansions of tax credits that boost incomes for millions of working and middle-class families, helping them care for their children and pay for college. It extends tax credits that will continue an American-led clean energy transformation that’s unleashing new industries and creating tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs. It will help hundreds of thousands of people looking for work know where the jobs are, what training is needed, where to get trained, and where to find the jobs.

This agreement marks the largest investment in the NIH in a decade—$32 billion—that will mean more clinical trials for patients and more research grants for next-generation scientists. It will help put us closer to curing cancer -- turning deadly diseases into manageable chronic conditions – and on the verge of countless other life-saving and life-changing discoveries. 

The agreement invests a record $480 million in programs under the Violence Against Women Act. It invests $45 million toward eliminating the backlog of rape kits, so tens of thousands of rape and sexual assault victims will no longer have to wait years before their rape kits are tested --allowing them to find closure and bring their perpetrators to justice. The budget also provides an increase of $3.75 million to the National Domestic Violence Hotline so fewer women and men remain prisoners in their own homes.

And as we were reminded in the summer of 2014 when 50,000 unaccompanied children risked their lives to escape crime, corruption, violence and poverty to find their way to our southwestern border—the security and prosperity of Central America are inextricably linked with our own. At the President’s request, I’ve traveled to the region and have made it clear with the leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras that the United States stands ready to support their efforts to reverse endemic violence and poverty, crack down on criminal networks, and strengthen good governance and the rule of law. As those leaders have responded, this decision by Congress to invest $750 million in Central America demonstrates that we honor our commitments and believe in a future where the Western Hemisphere is middle class, democratic, and secure.

The agreement is not perfect, but it will help grow our economy, bolster our security, and it reflects governing by consensus, not the governing by crisis we’ve seen too often of late. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Vice President

The Power of the Pen: New Bills Signed into Law


The Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015

Today, the President signed into law H.R. 2297, the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015. This strong, bipartisan bill intensifies pressure against the Hizballah terrorist organization and provides the Administration additional tools with which to target Hizballah’s financial lifeblood. We continue to work with Congress in a bipartisan way to ensure that we maximize the tools available to us to thwart Hizballah’s network at every turn, and we look forward to working together as we implement these new authorities. The U.S. Government has made significant progress and will continue to further disrupt Hizballah’s terrorist capabilities by targeting the group’s financial support infrastructure. We are committed to continuing to take strong action, such as imposing sanctions, to counter the activities of Hizballah operatives and supporters, wherever they are located. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Minimum Wage Increase for State Workers in NY to Take Effect December 31

 
The minimum wage increase for State Workers will take effect beginning December 31, 2015. The Division of the Budget has just released a Budget Bulletin to State agencies providing information to implement the increase directed by Governor Cuomo, and setting the same phased-in schedule as was recently approved for fast food workers by the Fast Food Wage Board.
 
“A full day’s work should result in an honest and livable wage,” said Governor Cuomo. “By raising the minimum wage for state workers, we are leading by example and ensuring that thousands of workers are better able to provide for their families. I am proud to be fighting for fair pay in New York, and we will not stop until all workers are paid the decent wages they deserve.”
 
To date, no other state has enacted a $15 public sector minimum wage. This groundbreaking action comes as the Governor is pushing to make New York the first state in the nation to implement a $15 minimum wage across all industries, and follows the $15 minimum wage increase for fast food workers approved by the Governor’s administration earlier this year.
 
This increase will be implemented on the same phased-in schedule currently underway for fast food workers, with the initial increase occurring with the first pay period beginning on or after December 31, 2015. In that pay period, all State workers will receive an hourly wage that is no less than:
    · $10.50 per hour for State employees whose job location is within the five boroughs of New York City; or
    · $9.75 per hour for State employees in all other job locations.
This initial increase will benefit nearly 2,000 employees. When fully phased-in on July 1, 2021, the $15 minimum wage will benefit approximately 10,000 Executive Branch State employees (including employees of the Office of the Attorney General and Office of the State Comptroller), as well as employees of the State Legislature and the State Judiciary. 

The wage increase, when fully phased-in, has an annual projected cost of roughly $20.6 million, including the anticipated effect of fringe benefits. Immediate costs will be absorbed within agency budgets.

The full schedule of increases for State workers, consistent with the phase-in schedule currently underway for fast food workers, is as follows:

New York City
    Statewide (excluding NYC)
Min. Wage
    Effective Date
    Min. Wage
    Effective Date
$10.50
    12/31/2015
    $9.75
    12/31/2015
$12.00
    12/31/2016
    $10.75
    12/31/2016
$13.50
    12/31/2017
    $11.75
    12/31/2017
$15.00
    12/31/2018
    $12.75
    12/31/2018
    $13.75
    12/31/2019
    $14.50
    12/31/2020
    $15.00
    7/1/2021

Governor Cuomo has consistently fought to increase the minimum wage in New York State. In 2013, the Governor signed legislation that raised the minimum wage from $7.25 to its current level of $8.75. That legislation included another incremental increase to $9.00 that will take effect by the end of 2015. Additionally, the State Department of Labor empaneled a wage board last July focusing on tipped workers. The Governor’s administration ultimately accepted that wage board’s recommendations, setting the stage for an increase in wages for tipped workers from $4.90, $5.00 and $5.65 to $7.50 per hour on December 31, 2015.

Most recently, the Governor directed the Department of Labor to empanel a wage board to investigate and make recommendations on an increase in the minimum wage in the fast food industry. Earlier this year, then-Acting State Labor Commissioner Mario J. Musolino accepted those recommendations and signed the official order setting in motion the phased increase toward $15 per hour described above. An estimated 200,000 fast food workers are expected to benefit from this increase.

In total, more than 2.3 million New Yorkers (roughly 1,435,500 workers living outside of New York City and 927,400 living within New York City) will be directly benefitted by the Governor’s proposal to increase the minimum wage for workers in all industries to $15 per hour. 

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo  

Bernie Sanders Campaign News Conference

 

Jeff Weaver, the campaign manager for Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), holds a news conference to discuss breaches of a voter database that allowed the Sanders campaign access to confidential voter information gathered by the Hillary Clinton campaign. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell News Conference

 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) responds to reporters questions in his year-end news conference at the Capitol. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span