February 2nd, 2012
04:56 PM ET

What would Jesus tax?

NEW YORK(CNNMoney) - What Would Jesus ... Deduct?

President Obama offered a new line of reasoning for hiking taxes on the rich on Thursday, saying at the National Prayer Breakfast that his policy proposals are shaped by his religious beliefs.

Obama said that as a person who has been "extraordinarily blessed," he is willing to give up some of the tax breaks he enjoys because doing so makes economic, and religious sense.

"For me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus's teaching that for unto whom much is given, much shall be required," Obama said, quoting the Gospel of Luke.

Obama wants to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for the richest Americans, and he has embraced the idea that wealthy Americans should not be paying a lower effective tax rate than those in the middle or lower classes.

He has argued that those policies offer Americans a "fair shot" and increased equality, while implying that the policies favored by Republicans do not.

But the overt connection between religious beliefs and political policies is new.

"I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years," Obama said. "And I believe in God's command to love thy neighbor as thyself. I know a version of that golden rule is found in every major religion and every set of beliefs."

An administration official speaking on background told CNN that Obama viewed the speech as chance to explain his personal faith practices and to show "his desire to step in the gap for those who are vulnerable."

So what does the Bible say about taxes?

full story

Topics: Faith • Tax cuts
Obama reflects on faith
February 2nd, 2012
03:16 PM ET

Obama reflects on faith

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama spoke of his personal faith Thursday as he delivered remarks for the third year in a row at the National Prayer Breakfast.

In addition, Obama used the platform in front of religious dignitaries and politicians to express his vision of how faith and government intersect and can work together.

After his remarks, the president received a standing ovation from the crowd at the Washington Hilton, the White House pool reporter said. Journalists are barred from attending the breakfast with the exception of the White House pool, which follows the president. CNN requested and was denied access to the event.

The breakfast has hosted every president since Eisenhower.

Obama, who, as one administration official said, identifies as a "committed Christian who spends a lot of time working on his Christian walk," noted in the speech that he prays daily.

"I wake up each morning and I say a brief prayer, and I spend a little time in scripture and devotion," he said.

Since he has been inWashington, Obama has not formally joined a church. For nearly 20 years he was a member of Trinity United Church of Christ inChicago. The president and his staff have noted the logistical difficulties of a sitting president attending services, but he has visited several churches inWashington  and worshiped privately with his family atCamp David.

full story

Topics: Faith
Contraceptive coverage controversy
February 2nd, 2012
01:55 PM ET

Contraceptive coverage controversy

WASHINGTON (CNN) –The White House is pushing back on criticism of its decision requiring church-affiliated employers to provide no-cost contraceptive coverage including birth control as part of their health care plans.

“This decision was made after very careful consideration of the legal and policy points and we believe it strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious beliefs and approving access to services,” a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call Thursday afternoon.

That was a direct response to comments made by House Speaker John Boehner, who insisted the provision in the new health care law  “violates our Constitution.”

Speaker Boehner is now urging the administration to reconsider this controversial move.

“I would hope that the administration would back up and take another look at this,” he said.

But White House officials are showing no signs of backing down despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church.

“We aren’t here to make any new policy announcements or any changes,” another White House official said on the call.

Earlier this week White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged the criticism but stood by the process that led to the final decision.

“I understand that there’s controversy…and we will continue to work with religious groups to discuss their concerns,” he said. “But on the other side of this was the important need to provide access to women to the preventive services that they require.”

White House officials are also trying to shift the focus to other Catholics and religious groups who have publicly endorsed the decision.

Topics: Health care • The News • White House
Politics and prayers
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama bow their heads in prayer at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington Thursday.
February 2nd, 2012
12:18 PM ET

Politics and prayers

Washington (CNN)–President Barack Obama called on lawmakers to allow their faith and values to guide them as they seek to solve the country’s "most urgent problems" including the sluggish economy and continuing involvements overseas, such as the war in Afghanistan.  

Speaking at the 60th annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington on Thursday, the president said, "We know that part of living in a pluralistic society means that our personal religious beliefs alone can't dictate our response to every challenge we face. But in my moments of prayer, I'm reminded that faith and values play an enormous role in motivating us to solve some of our most urgent problems, in keeping us going when we suffer setbacks, and opening our minds and our hearts to the needs of others."

Addressing the divisive partisanship in Congress and relations between the White House and the GOP leadership, the president cautioned leaders should not "get caught up in the noise and rancor that too often passes as politics today, these moments of prayer slow us down. They humble us."

The president spoke about how his values continue to influence and "motivate" his leadership when addressing one of the most divisive issues between Democrats and Republicans, the elimination of some tax breaks for wealthy Americans. 

"[W]hen I talk about shared responsibility, it's because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it's hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills to shoulder the burden alone," he told the audience. 

But he later continued, "[W]e can earnestly seek to see these values lived out in our politics and our policies, and we can earnestly disagree on the best way to achieve these values." 

The president also reminded the audience of his deep faith as he spoke of beginning each day with a prayer and how he spends "a little time in scripture and devotion" each morning. 

He recounted a meeting he had as president with religious leader Rev. Billy Graham who counseled many previous presidents.  A letter from the ailing Graham was read at Thursday's prayer breakfast.

Obama talked about the humbling experience he had with Rev. Graham who said a prayer for him and how he wanted to say a prayer for Graham.

"What do you pray for when it comes to the man who has prayed for so many?" the president asked his audience.

"And so I prayed - briefly, but I prayed from the heart...saying a prayer for Billy Graham - a man whose faith had changed the world.”

“I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that moment - asking God for guidance not just in my personal life and my Christian walk, but in the life of this nation and in the values that hold us together and keep us strong,” he said.

Topics: Congress • President Obama
The Morning Briefing
February 2nd, 2012
07:16 AM ET

The Morning Briefing

The 1600 Report's daily roundup of what the White House is reading this morning online and in the papers:

Did Obama run the most negative ads in U.S. history? fact check (Washington Post)

The hard way out of Afghanistan (New York Times)

'Super Pacs' funded by a wealthy few (Los Angeles Times)

Obama's Maddening, Winning Speech (Wall Street Journal)

President's schedule for Thursday Feb. 2, 2012
February 2nd, 2012
07:05 AM ET

President's schedule for Thursday Feb. 2, 2012

CNN is travel pool

8:00AM          THE PRESIDENT delivers remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast; THE VICE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY also attend/ Washington Hilton/  In-Town Travel Pool Coverage

12:00PM          THE PRESIDENT meets with senior advisors  / Oval Office    / Closed Press

1:00PM           THE PRESIDENT and THE VICE PRESIDENT meet for lunch / Oval Office/ Closed Press

2:00PM           THE PRESIDENT meets with Secretary of State Clinton/ Oval Office/ Closed Press

2:30PM           THE PRESIDENT meets with Secretary Geithner/ Oval Office/ Closed Press

Briefing Schedule

1:30PM           Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney

Topics: Daily Schedule