The power of the (auto) pen
In this handout photo from the White House President Obama swims in Hawaii on his holiday vacation last year. He directed the signing of the fiscal cliff bill via "auto pen" Wednesday while vacationing in Hawaii.
January 3rd, 2013
11:23 AM ET

The power of the (auto) pen

Honolulu, Hawaii (CNN) - If you are a president who desperately wants to salvage your Hawaiian vacation, why stick around Washington to sign a bill when an automatic pen can do it for you?

That’s what happened Wednesday when the long-haggled over bill to avert the fiscal cliff was delivered to the White House for the president’s signature. With Obama 5,000 miles away in Hawaii, aides decided to prepare the president with an electronic version of the document for his review rather than commission a special flight to currier over the document.

Upon review of the electronic copy, the president directed his signature be affixed to the bill – via that auto pen back in Washingon. It’s a move that, while convenient, raised questions over just how a president can make a bill become a law.

After all, Article I, Section 7, of the Constitution provides that a bill must be presented to the president and “[i]f he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it” (emphasis added).

So can an auto-pen, where the president himself is not technically signing, conform to what the Constitution demands? FULL POST

Topics: Congress • Economy • Fiscal Cliff • President Obama
Biden: GOP 'holding middle-class tax cuts hostage'
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a White House Community Leaders Briefing on July 16, 2012 in Washington, DC.
July 24th, 2012
05:49 PM ET

Biden: GOP 'holding middle-class tax cuts hostage'

(CNN) – The White House and Congressional Democrats are using a Senate vote on Wednesday to try and force Congressional action on a tax cut compromise. At issue is President Obama’s proposal to extend only Bush-era tax cuts on income below $250,000 a year, while allowing cuts for everything over that threshold to expire at the end of the year.

In anticipation of the vote, the National Economic Council released a study on Tuesday surveying the economic effects of the president’s plan, and Vice President Joe Biden held a rare conference call with reporters to hammer home the significance of finding a compromise.

“If Congress doesn't get this done, there are going to be 114 million people – middle class families – see their taxes go up and in effect a cut in their wages,” Biden said. “A typical middle class family, making fifty grand, a family of four, is going to pay $2,200 extra.” FULL POST

Obama to congressional Republicans: Stop playing politics with our military
President Barack Obama speaks during the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada.
July 23rd, 2012
10:31 PM ET

Obama to congressional Republicans: Stop playing politics with our military

Reno, Nevada (CNN) – President Obama spoke to thousands of veterans Monday at the National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, but he also delivered a message to congressional Republicans.

"Stop playing politics with our military," Obama told the crowd here.

Responding to recent congressional votes demanding details on the $1.2 trillion dollars in government spending cuts set to go into effect at the start of next year, President Obama tried to shift responsibility back to Capitol Hill. FULL POST

POTUS's Schedule for Wednesday, July 11
Tourists exit the White House during a recent morning public tour.
July 11th, 2012
08:34 AM ET

POTUS's Schedule for Wednesday, July 11

President Obama spends his Wednesday out of the view of cameras with meetings behind closed doors. The only things on his public schedule are a meeting with Treasury Secretary Geithner and an afternoon meeting with Democratic congressional leaders to discuss the legislative agenda. Members of Congress who are expected to attend include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Patty Murray, Congressman Jim Clyburn, Congressman Steve Israel, and Congressman Chris Van Hollen.

For the full schedule released by the White House, click below. FULL POST

Topics: Congress • Daily Schedule
Obama to call for Bush tax cut extensions for those making less than $250K
July 9th, 2012
04:25 AM ET

Obama to call for Bush tax cut extensions for those making less than $250K

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama is expected to call on Congress to pass a one-year extension on the Bush-era tax cuts for people earning less than $250,000 a year.

A White House official said Obama will make the announcement Monday at the Rose Garden, surrounded by working people.

In addition, a campaign official said the campaign will "amplify the president's message on middle-class tax cuts" by hosting a series of events in battleground states all week across the country.


Topics: Congress • President Obama • Tax cuts
June 21st, 2012
02:14 PM ET

Contempt vote inflames Fast and Furious debate

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A possible U.S. House vote next week on citing Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt of Congress in connection with the botched Fast and Furious gun-running sting evoked bitter political sniping Thursday between Republicans and Democrats.

Despite statements by all parties favoring a deal to avoid what would be an unprecedented contempt citation against a sitting attorney general, the heated rhetoric indicated congressional leaders and Holder remained committed to deeply rooted stances on the politically charged issue.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, defended the House Oversight Committee vote Wednesday to refer the contempt citation to the full House, saying the goal was to uncover the truth about Fast and Furious, including what he called certain White House involvement.

"The House will vote next week on a contempt measure unless these documents are released," Boehner said.

At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney called the Republican investigation a "politically motivated, taxpayer funded, election year fishing expedition."

"It is this approach that explains at least in part why this Congress has the lowest approval ratings of any in recent memory," Carney said.

Holder, meanwhile, said his offer still stands to turn over some of the documents sought by House Republicans.


Obama, the GOP and the economic blame game
June 8th, 2012
02:50 PM ET

Obama, the GOP and the economic blame game

(CNN) - President Barack Obama said Friday that partisan gridlock has helped hobble economic growth and has brought legislative business to a crawl, and he put the blame squarely on an uncooperative Congress.

"If Congress decides, despite all that, that they aren't going to do anything about this simply because it's an election year, then they should explain to the American people why," he said in an appearance in the White House briefing room.

"There's gonna be plenty of time to debate our respective plans for the future. That's a debate I'm eager to have. But right now, people in this town should be focused on doing everything we can to keep our recovery going and keeping our country strong, and that requires some action on the part of Congress."

Republican congressional leadership blasted right back, accusing the president of finger-pointing when it comes to the nation's economic woes.


Topics: Congress • President Obama
Obama to Congress: Do something
June 8th, 2012
02:42 PM ET

Obama to Congress: Do something

New York (CNNMoney) – Citing economic headwinds from Europe, President Obama asked lawmakers on Friday to revive a set of long ago-discarded legislative proposals designed to stimulate the economy.

The initiatives, first proposed in September, include investments in infrastructure, tax breaks for small businesses and funding for teachers, firefighters and other public sector workers.

Congressional Republicans declined to pass the measures last year, and until recently, the Obama administration had joined them in moving on to other debates.


Topics: Congress • President Obama
President signs into law bill that helps U.S. exports
President Obama signs the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank during an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House
May 30th, 2012
05:10 PM ET

President signs into law bill that helps U.S. exports

By CNN's Sally Holland

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama broke out his pens Wednesday to sign legislation reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, which makes it easier for U.S. companies to sell their goods overseas by providing financing for exports.

In a rare bipartisan vote, Congress passed the legislation in mid-May.

"There are a number of things that my administration can do on our own and we're gonna keep on doing them, but it gets a whole lot easier if we get some help from Congress, and this is a great example and great model of what can happen," said Obama at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building signing ceremony.

The Export-Import Bank, which dates back to the Roosevelt administration, is tasked with providing loans and other support for both large and small businesses to ply their products outside the U.S. borders. These loans are generally considered to be more risky due to the volatility of the overseas marketplace.

In the Senate, the reauthorization passed by a vote of 78 to 20. One of those "no" votes came from Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah.

"We need to end the corporate welfare that distorts the market and feeds corny capitalism," Lee said on the Senate floor on May 15. "The corporations that largely benefit from the Ex-Im Bank should have no trouble marshaling their resources to compete in today's economy."

The legislation Obama signed allows the bank to approve new financing until September 2014. It also permits the bank to increase its lending limit to $120 billion immediately. In the longer term, that limit can be raised to $140 billion if the bank submits a business plan and continues to maintain a low default rate on its loans.

During the signing ceremony, the president listed other goals he would like Congress to work toward, including providing a $3,000 credit for Americans who refinance their homes, supporting clean energy, and working to create a better job market for veterans.

Also on his congressional "to-do" list is help for small businesses.

"Congress still has the opportunity to do more to help small-business owners, who create most of the new jobs in America so we want to give them a tax break for hiring more workers and providing those workers higher wages," he said.

According to a White House fact sheet on the bill signed Wednesday, Export-Import Bank authorizations last year reached $32.7 billion, "supporting $40 billion in export sales and 290,000 American jobs at more than 3,600 U.S. companies."

The president used 10 pens to sign the export-import legislation, a common White House practice that allows each of the pens to be either displayed or distributed as a souvenir.

CNN Producer Scott Spoerry contributed to this report.

Topics: Congress • President Obama • The News
February 3rd, 2012
10:16 AM ET

Congressional Republicans on Jobs Numbers: Don’t Hit Send Yet!


The better-than-expected jobs numbers caught congressional Republicans, as well as economists, off guard.  They were poised to send out pre-written press releases about the 'disappointing' numbers.  But some offices had to take time to adjust those email blasts, two congressional Republican sources told CNN, prompting a noticeable delay.

House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor emailed out statements 40 minutes after The Labor Department announced the unemployment rate had dipped to 8.3% and the economy had added 243,000 jobs.  They normally send out emails almost immediately.

Republicans leaders certainly had a common refrain of welcoming the lower than expected unemployment numbers, but House Speaker John Boehner in a release also warned, “[W]e must do better.”

Majority Leader Cantor sounded a more positive note in a statement saying, “[W]e are finally seeing some good news in today’s jobs report.”  Cantor added, “These numbers are encouraging, especially for those millions of Americans out of work, but we should aim even higher.”

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus released a statement welcoming the news of lower unemployment but added, “[F]ar too many Americans are still without work.  Our economy remains unacceptably weak, and families across the country are still struggling to make ends meet.”  Priebus’s statement sent out to media about an hour and a half after the government released the January jobs numbers also called for President Obama to be a one-term president.  He usually sends out a statement just minutes after The Labor Department’s monthly jobs report.

Topics: Congress • Economy • The Buzz • The News