Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With his press briefing book sitting closed next to him, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney didn’t have much to refer to when a person asked if he wanted to take a “selfie.”
“Absolutely,” Carney said, after an audience member at George Washington University promised it wouldn’t be taken on a Samsung device -- referring to the recent controversy with Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz’ selfie with President Obama.
Carney opened up Thursday in a rare “conversation-style” interview, with a noticeably more candid tone at times than most White House reporters have grown accustomed to.
Here are seven takeaways from the event: 1.) He never had aspirations of being a White House Press Secretary:
“I was a reporter for 21 years — 20 of them at Time Magazine. I loved being a reporter,” Carney said, adding that he’d been recruited by Vice President Joe Biden after the 2008 election to be his communications director. That’s when, Carney said, “I woke up every morning for probably six months wondering whether I could do what I was doing or if I was cut out for the job.” 2.) The story behind deciding to accept the ‘Between Two Ferns’ interview:
“We obviously look at ideas and we have some crazy ones that we don’t take. But I think that there’s an advantage to pushing the envelope. There was a conversation about wanting to help, it was their idea. Four of us presented it to the President and he has a pretty good compass on his own,” Carney said. “We knew there was some risk associated with it but it was a smart thing to do. We were trying to reach you [young people], and more people watch Funny or Die and click on 'Between Two Ferns' interviews than watch the Evening News or the morning shows.” 3.) He thinks Jon Stewart probably gave the hardest interview during the President’s re-election cycle:
“I remember we were having the discussion during 2012 about whether it was appropriate for the sitting President to give interviews to Jon Stewart and others,” Carney recalled. “I think if you look back at 2012 and the sitting interviews that the President of the United States gave, probably the toughest interview we had was with Jon Stewart. Probably the most substantive, challenging interview that Barack Obama had in the election was with the anchor of The Daily Show.” 4.) Not surprisingly, the Healthcare.gov rollout was the toughest moment of his tenure (so far):
“This was something that was entirely on us. It was our fault. We built the system, it was supposed to work far better than it did,” Carney said. “That made this unique because a lot of the more challenging times that we face have to do with external events or bogus charges or things like that. This was something that we controlled, that we didn’t get right at the start.” 5.) He disagrees with reporters who say President Obama deserved Politifact’s ‘Lie of the Year’ for his “If you like your health care, you can keep it” promise:
“I think that a lie is one of intent, and that the president believed that is what the policy would deliver. When it didn’t, it became clear that if there was anything we could do to fix, or help those individuals, then it ought to be done,” Carney said.
6.) He might not be 100 percent behind the Pulitzer Prize board’s decision to honor the Washington Post and the Guardian on the stories from Edward Snowden’s leaks:
“I’m not going to comment on specific prize winners. My view, in general, is that the best of those awards go to reporters who break new ground through the shoe-leather reporting of the past and who develop sources, find information, devote hours, days, weeks and months to getting a story right,” Carney said. “I think year after year you see the Pulitzers and other similar awards -- [the] work held up that meets those standards.”
7.) Responding to complaints of a non-transparent White House, he said the Obama White House is the most transparent ever:
“I’ve covered the previous two administrations and know a thing or two about ones before that. There’s never been a more transparent administration,” Carney said. “It is absolutely the case today, and will always be the case that the White House Press Corps will not be satisfied with the level of access it has to the President or the rest of the President’s team. There will always be meetings, there will always be a limit on the number interviews or press conferences because it simply is impossible for the President or any White House to function otherwise. But the press should keep pressing for more access.”
ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has many times declared victory with the Affordable Care Act, including the announcement earlier this month of 7 million sign-ups in the law’s first year. On Thursday, with a slight grin, he added an exclamation point.
Eight million Americans have signed up for health insurance through the exchanges, Obama announced Thursday. “This thing is working,” he declared.
The White House says 28 percent of sign-ups are between the ages of 18 and 34, slightly below insurers’ expectations but not low enough to break the bank. Millions more signed up for coverage under Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. What is still not known is how many people were previously uninsured – and how many have paid for their policies to seal enrollment.
Obama on Thursday made a case for why Democrats should be confident, embrace health care and try to turn the tables on Republicans in the fall campaign.
The GOP “is going through, you know, the stages of grief, right? Anger and denial and all that stuff,” he said.
“I think what the other side is doing and what the other side is offering would strip away protections from those families and from hundreds of millions of people who already had health insurance before the law passed,” he said.
“I think that Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud of the fact that millions of people…we're helping because of something we did. I don't think we should apologize for it, and I don't think we should be defensive about it. I think is a strong, good, right story to tell.”
The president has signaled this week – and said explicitly Thursday – that the White House plans to spend the next few months rejuvenating its messaging on jobs and the economy, and on immigration.
“If Republicans want to spend all their time talking about repealing a law that's working, that's their business,” he said. “I think what Democrats should do is not be defensive, but we need to move on and focus on the things that are really important to the American people right now. “
Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton revealed on Thursday that she is pregnant.
She made the announcement during a speech in New York City with her mother, Hillary Clinton, at her side.
“Marc and I are very excited that we have our first child arriving later this year,” she said at the Lower East Side Girls Club at the end of a Clinton Foundation event dedicated to empowering young girls.
Clinton did not say if she and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, are having a boy or a girl.
“I certainly feel all the better whether it’s a girl or a boy that she or he will grow up in a world full of so many strong, young female leaders,” she told the audience full of young women. “So thank you for inspiring me.”
Grandmother-to-be Hillary Clinton connected the announcement to the focus of the day’s event, telling the crowd that she is not only excited for her family but for the future generations who may not have to face the same glass ceilings as she did.
“Obviously we are very excited about what's happening in our family,” she told the young women. “But we're also very excited because of what we're doing that we hope gives confidence and support to so many of you across our country as you make decisions about the lives you want to lead and try to make sure there are no ceilings that are stopping you from going as far and as high and as fast as you can.”
Actress America Ferrera, who was moderating the event, noted Hillary’s happiness: “I don't think anyone was smiling as big as your mom at that announcement.”
“I just hope that I will be as good a mom to my child -- hopefully children -- as my mom was to me,” Chelsea replied.
Bill Clinton responded on Twitter shortly after the announcement Thursday afternoon.
Excited to add a new line to my Twitter bio...grandfather-to-be! @hillaryclinton and I are so happy for Chelsea and Marc!
The news shouldn’t come as a complete shock. In an interview with Glamour magazine last year, Clinton said that she and her husband were planning to make 2014 “the Year of the Baby.”
"We sat down and said, 'Here's what we want to do.' The first thing on the list was simple: We want, God willing, to start a family,” Clinton told the magazine. “So we decided we were going to make 2014 the Year of the Baby.”
At the time Clinton added, “Call my mother and tell her that. She asks us about it every single day."
Indeed, Hillary Clinton has made no secret of the fact she’s been eager to become a grandmother.
“I will certainly tell you, that’s a title I would be proud to have,” Clinton said last fall.
And in September, former President Bill Clinton was asked the question by Charlie Rose: Would his wife prefer the title “president” or “grandmother”?
“If you ask her, I think she'd say grandmother," Bill Clinton said, "but I have found it best not to discuss that issue…. My goal is to live to be a grandfather.”
US Mission/Pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(GENEVA) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday the lengthy four-way meeting on Ukraine had produced metrics for measuring how quickly the situation there de-escalates, but added that there is still more work to be done.
“All of this, we believe, represents a good day’s work,” he said after the meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. “But on the other hand, this day’s work has produced principles. And it has produced commitments.
“And it has produced words on paper. None of us leave here with the sense that the job is done because the words are on the paper,” he added.
Kerry repeated that all sides had committed to refraining from the use of violence, to getting all “illegal” forces within Ukraine to vacate and to supporting an international monitoring mission by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is already under way.
And Kerry said that if Russia does not show demonstrable progress in these arenas by the weekend, the United States and European Union will start imposing further sanctions on the country.
“This is just the beginning. It depends on the good faith of the parties in following through. And we’re going to watch that very, very closely,” he said.
Kerry added that Ukraine had agreed to an inclusive constitutional drafting process that maintains respect for minority groups and takes into consideration the possibility for more autonomy within Ukrainian regions, some of the chief requests that Russia had made of Ukraine before the meeting, which included the United States, Russia, Ukraine and European Union.
“Ukraine’s leaders indicated that they are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to address regional demands for more autonomy, for local self-government, for the protection of minority rights,” Kerry said.
But in an indication of how Russia may seek to skirt the red lines laid out in Thursday’s agreement, Kerry also criticized Russia’s takeover of the Ukrainian region of Crimea as “illegal.” Russia continues to insist, however, that the annexation was done in the name of defending the Russian-speaking population of that area.
And Kerry added that while the parties convened in Geneva to “move away from what is a spiraling-downwards confrontation,” he noted that Crimea was not a topic of discussion Thursday.
“We have not given up but today we did not come here to talk about Crimea,” he said.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama welcomed Wounded Warriors on their Ride to the White House Thursday, calling the participants “an incredible inspiration to me and to our country.”
“Biking nearly 60 miles in three days would be a challenge for anybody, but for all of you, this is a lot more than a bike ride. This is a mark of how far you've come,” Obama said to the audience of service members and their families.
“Many of you are recovering from devastating injuries,” he said. “Some of you have had to learn the basics all over again, how to stand again, how to walk again, how to run again. And now you're here today because that's what Soldiers Ride is all about, seeing each other through the finish line.”
The White House says the event, which is going on its seventh year, is about encouraging awareness of wounded service members and applauding their service.
Dozens participated in the event that lasts a total of four days.
Obama commented on the soldiers’ “courage, your resolve, your resilience, your tenacity, your optimism.” Adding, “it makes me proud to be your commander in chief.”
“Every day I have the honor of serving as this country's commander in chief. And as long as I have that honor, I will keep fighting to make sure you and your families get the care and treatment and benefits that you have earned and deserve,” he said.
“And it's especially now, as we're winding down the war in Afghanistan after having ended over a decade of war, that we are standing up for you. Our obligations to our veterans endure for your entire lives,” Obama said. “That's our mission. That's why we're here, not just during this ride but all year long.”
Vice President Biden joined Obama for his speech and the two men high-fived riders as they completed a few loops around the South Lawn before beginning the next 17-mile leg of their journey.
Just last week first lady Michelle Obama along with former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Dr. Jill Biden, and former first lady Rosalynn Carter announced a new program for caregivers of veterans and active service members.
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Biden family may have two Bidens running for office in 2016.
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, announced Thursday that he will not seek re-election as the attorney general and instead will pursue a run for governor in 2016.
“Over the past few months, as I’ve been planning to run for reelection, I have also been giving a great deal of thought to running for Governor in 2016. What started as a thought–a very persistent thought–has now become a course of action that I wish to pursue,” Beau Biden wrote on his website Thursday.
“After careful consideration, I have concluded that it is not right to ask for your support in 2014, knowing that my focus would be divided between doing my job as Attorney General while at the same time running as a candidate for Governor,” he wrote. “Therefore, I am announcing today that I will not seek reelection as your Attorney General this November.”
Beau Biden added, “After my term is completed, I look forward to meeting with Delawareans and continuing to discuss my plans as a candidate for Governor.”
Beau Biden faced a health scare last summer when he experienced weakness and disorientation while on a family vacation. He then underwent surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Beau Biden has not discussed the health issue. In 2010, Beau Biden suffered from a mild stroke.
Vice President Joe Biden has indicated he is considering a third run for the White House in 2016.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- While the annual White House Easter Egg Roll celebration isn’t one typically embroiled in controversy, three young girls are letting first lady Michelle Obama know they aren’t happy about it.
Well, three young girls on behalf of PETA, or the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
“I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed,” says one girl, in the YouTube video released by the group this week titled, “Michelle Obama, We Need to Talk.”
After some deep sighs and shaking of heads, the girls acknowledge that previous White House celebrations have involved thousands of hard-boiled eggs. The first lady’s child critics say they would prefer the use of plastic ones instead.
As one girl asks, “If all the other first lady’s jumped off a bridge, would you?”
The video is a part of a push by PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk to cut eggs from next Monday’s 136th annual Easter egg roll, which Newkirk links to in a letter to the first lady.
“I hope that after hearing their message, you will implement a new, humane tradition at the White House by using synthetic eggs that don’t require any animal to suffer,” Newkirk says in the letter.
Newkirk even takes a jab at Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” Initiative, saying “cruelly sourced, unhealthy eggs” are “primary contributors to some of our nation’s top killers, including heart disease and strokes.”
The girls claim in the video the White House uses “over 7,000 eggs every year” in its celebration. The White House website says the actual hard-boiled eggs are collected by White House staff members and the Secret Service to “gently toss over” the White House fence to spectators after the end of the event.
The National Parks Foundation told ABC News it provides the White House with thousands of wooden souvenir eggs for visitors to take home.
PETA spokesperson Lindsay Rajt acknowledged that the organization doesn’t have any direct information from the White House on the origin of the eggs, but said, “The egg industry is inherently cruel and problematic. All animals at the end of the day want to live and the chickens that are used by the egg industry go to slaughter.”
In past years PETA has handed out pamphlets outside the White House criticizing the use of real eggs. Rajt said the girls’ video was a fresh and different way for kids to reach out directly to the First Lady.
More than 30,000 people are expected to be in attendance at this year’s egg roll, including celebrities and athletes that guide children through the day’s activities.
The first lady’s press office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Andrew Burton/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has invested millions of his own fortune into the push for stricter gun laws. Now, he’s upping the ante by pledging up to $50 million this year alone to a newly formed gun control organization that hopes to rival the influence of the powerful National Rifle Association.
Bloomberg’s group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, has joined forces with Moms Demand Action under a new umbrella group, Everytown for Gun Safety. The group’s goals are to expand background checks at the state and federal levels and drive one million gun control supporters to the voting booths in November.
“What we are building here is a counter weight to the gun lobby. The truth is that the gun lobby has had this territory to themselves both in Washington and in state houses across the country and our job is to change that,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said Wednesday during a conference call.
“I think the NRA should be very afraid of Americans, who’ve had enough of the gun violence in this country and in particular moms,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action and a board member for Everytown for Gun Safety, said. “Moms are afraid our children will be taken away and in the end, I think that’s the emotion that will win the debate.”
But the new organization, whose board includes billionaire Warren Buffett and former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, has a heavy lift ahead as it looks to challenge the NRA, which carries heavy political influence with lawmakers in conservative states.
Asked to comment, NRA spokesman Andreew Arulanandam said, “See you in Indianapolis next week. We will have a lot more to say then” -- referring to the organization’s annual meeting.
During the gun debate last year, Bloomberg’s group and the NRA went head to head over background check legislation.
At the time, Bloomberg even poured $12 million in advertisements into 13 states to convince senators to vote in favor of gun control legislation. Bloomberg’s return on investment was not very good. The Senate ultimately dealt gun control advocates a major blow when it failed to pass legislation expanding requirements for background checks before purchasing a firearm.
Four Democrats voted against the bill, including two senators who are up for re-election this year in conservative states -- Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Mark Pryor, D-Ark. It’s those red states that could act as a major roadblock for future gun control legislation on the federal level as the NRA wields enormous influence with lawmakers in those states.
While he was handed defeat in the Senate, Bloomberg isn’t just looking at the federal level as a gauge on a return on his investment in the gun control cause. Feinblatt pointed to successes on the state level, including the states that have passed comprehensive background checks.
“We measure this in terms of lives saved and when you have 160 people in Colorado who would have gotten their hands on guns not getting their hands on guns, that has saved lives and you can’t put a price tag on that,” Feinblatt said.
The White House(WASHINGTON) -- A new book claims Vice President Joe Biden blindsided the White House when he told NBC's Meet the Press on May 6, 2012 that he was "absolutely comfortable with" same-sex marriage and that gay and lesbian couples "are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties," Politico reports.
According to author Jo Becker, whose Forcing the Spring hits bookstores next week, the administration's assertions that Biden was sent as a trial balloon were not accurate and some aides wanted President Obama to come down hard on Biden, which he didn't.
Forcing the Spring details the strides the LGBT community has made in getting same-sex marriage legalized over the past few years.
Biden, who was speaking entirely off the cuff, basically forced the president's hand. In a tweet after Meet the Press, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod wrote, "What VP said-that all married couples should have exactly the same legal rights-is precisely POTUS’s position."
Since it was an election year, Obama was apparently agonizing about when to show his support for same-sex marriage. However, on May 10, 2012, he did just that in an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts.
The president described his thought process as an “evolution” that led him to this place, based on conversations with his own staff members, openly gay and lesbian service members, and conversations with his wife and own daughters.
In 2004, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Obama cited his own religion in framing his views: “I'm a Christian. I do believe that tradition and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman."
Erkan Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The State Department says that Americans shouldn't get too worked up over a recent video showing what appears to be a gathering of al Qaeda’s dangerous Yemen affiliate, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The video, which was posted on Islamic militant websites two weeks ago, features AQAP leader Nasir al-Wahishi addressing dozens of fighters.
According to the translation, Wahishi tells his followers, "The enemy crusader still has cards to play. We must remember that we are always fighting against the big enemy. We must eliminate the cross held by the cross bearer America."
Wahishi joined al Qaeda before the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S. and escaped from a maximum security prison in Yemen in 2006.
As threatening as the new video might sound, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters at a Wednesday press briefing, "I don't think this increases our concern because quite frankly our concern was already incredibly high."
Top U.S. officials have previously described AQAP as the most dangerous of the al Qaeda affiliates, more so than the terror group’s core cadre led by Ayman al-Zawahiri in southwest Asia.
Harf said as much at the briefing, adding, "We know they've been gaining in strength. We have been increasingly concerned about them, as I said, since 2009. That's why we've worked increasingly to counter the threat from AQAP in a variety of different ways."
Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Congress’ annual two-week spring vacation from the nation’s capital is well under way, and many of the 535 lawmakers are following the tradition of sharing their wild (and in some cases, mild) experiences via social media.
What exactly does spring break mean for a typical Washington politician? From what we found, it’s fairly clear that most of them graduated from college a long time ago -- although New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker did spend some time back in high school this week.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., tweeted a photo of himself with a mouthful of matzah (it’s Passover, after all) and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., strapped on some sneakers to train for next week’s Boston Marathon.
Then there were Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who took to Twitter to share photos from their Eurotrip with Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., to Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Nothing says spring break like oceanside military protocols.
House Speaker John Boehner traveled to Afghanistan along with seven other House Republicans to visit troops as well as Ambassador James Cunningham and General Joseph Dunford, according to the speaker’s office.
Some GOPers used their break to get a head start on higher political ambitions. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, traveled to the early presidential primary state of South Carolina to talk to the Free Enterprise Foundation.
And failed 2012 presidential contender Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who is retiring from the House this election cycle, kept her 2016 options open by traveling Liberty University in the swing state of Virginia.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Well, that didn’t go well.
President Obama phoned House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Wednesday to implore the GOP’s floor guardian to take up the Senate’s comprehensive immigration legislation, but judging by Cantor’s response, there’s no way that is happening.
“The president called me hours after he issued a partisan statement which attacked me and my fellow House Republicans and which indicated no sincere desire to work together,” Cantor, R-Va., stated. “After five years, President Obama still has not learned how to effectively work with Congress to get things done. You do not attack the very people you hope to engage in a serious dialogue.”
Earlier Wednesday, in a statement marking one year since the Senate bill was first introduced, Obama took Cantor and House Republicans to task for sitting on the bill for more than nine months.
“Unfortunately, Republicans in the House of Representatives have repeatedly failed to take action, seemingly preferring the status quo of a broken immigration system over meaningful reform,” Obama stated. “Instead of advancing commonsense reform and working to fix our immigration system, House Republicans have voted in favor of extreme measures like a punitive amendment to strip protections from ‘Dreamers.’”
Obama added that “the majority of Americans are ahead of House Republicans on this crucial issue,” citing “broad support” for overhaul.
“We have a chance to strengthen our country while upholding our traditions as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, and I urge House Republicans to listen to the will of the American people and bring immigration reform to the House floor for a vote,” he wrote.
In his statement reacting to the phone call, Cantor said he flatly told the president that “House Republicans do not support Senate Democrats’ immigration bill and amnesty efforts, and it will not be considered in the House.”
Tuesday, in a meeting with faith leaders, Obama reportedly ruled out taking executive action himself to overhaul the country’s immigration laws, particularly with regard to the enforcement of deportations.
Now, the Senate’s historic legislation appears more likely than ever to expire at the end of the 113th Congress.
After the Obama administration made several delays to certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act, House Republicans grew suspicious of dealing with the president on immigration overhaul, suggesting that they do not trust him to enforce legislation sent to his desk by the letter of the law.
Instead, Cantor says the president could do himself a favor by rebuilding his relationship with House Republicans through bipartisan collaboration on jobs legislation.
“I hope the president can stop his partisan messaging, and begin to seriously work with Congress to address the issues facing working middle class Americans that are struggling to make ends meet in this economy,” Cantor wrote.
A White House press aide refused to discuss the conversation, and a Cantor spokeswoman would not elaborate further than the majority leader’s statement.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(PITTSBURGH) -- It would be a cultural shift, but the Obama administration is hoping to change the perception of two- and four-year universities and what is needed for success.
Through two new skills-training programs, utilizing grant money announced in 2010, the administration is encouraging a competition to foster courses developed by industry at the community college level and an apprentice job scholarship program.
President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden appeared at a community college in Pittsburgh Wednesday to announce $500 million in grant funding for community college job-training programs and $100 million in funding for apprenticeship grants.
Speaking in an auto bay where students at the Community College of Allegheny County learn “mechatronics” -- “It sounds like something Godzilla would be fighting,” Obama said -- the two elaborated on the need for middle-class opportunities and presented a view of a rebounding U.S. economy in which companies are ready to add jobs but are having trouble finding skilled workers to fill them.
“In today’s economy it has never been more important to make sure that our folks are trained for the jobs that are there and the jobs of the future,” he said. “Find out what are the jobs that need to be filled and make sure folks are being trained and matched to those good jobs. We have to move away from a train and pray approach. We train them and we pray that they get a job.
“The problem there is when they go to a community college, when they go to four-year university, they are taking on debt. They are straining their budgets. We have to make sure it pays off for them. So we need to take a job-driven approach.”
Before the event the president and VP received a tour of the school and met with mechatronics students enrolled in a 360-hour program, who showed them a motor-control system, which was set up to simulate a garage door opener.
Obama joked with the students, “We’re lawyers, we barely understand garage door openers.”
The administration cites that 87 percent of apprentices are employed after completing their programs with an average starting salary of $50,000.
The president has mentioned community colleges many times but has fallen short of his initial plans to add over $10 billion in funding to them through grants.
He launched an American Growth Initiative in 2009 that was to inject community colleges with sweeping new funds. Here’s Slate’s Christopher Beam on that push in July 2009:
“Community colleges don’t get a lot of respect. Except, as of this week, from President Obama. In a speech Tuesday in Warren, Mich., he proposed sinking nearly $12 billion into revamping the country’s community-college system. The plan would provide $9 billion in grant money to boost academic programs and raise graduation rates, plus another $2.5 billion to upgrade school facilities. It would also fund open-source online courses so that schools don’t have to build more classrooms to admit more students.”
The $500 million Obama announced Wednesday isn’t new, according to the American Association of Community Colleges (AAOC); it’s the fourth installment of $2 billion in funding Congress passed in 2009, in lieu of Obama’s original proposal.
A congressional aide confirmed that, after the CBO scored Democrats’ 2009 student-loan bill less favorably on a second pass, education funding was less than what the president and Democrats had initially hoped. Community-college funding was one of the programs that felt the axe.
“It had a very bittersweet ending for us,” David Baime, vice president of government relations for AAOC, told ABC News. While the group was “very pleased” to get $2 billion in grant funding for community colleges, Baime said, “unofficially we were very upset.”
Obama, while not necessarily more supportive of community colleges than other presidents, has nonetheless put a valuable spotlight on them, Baime told ABC.
The vice president joined Obama for the tour, introducing the president as “a buddy of mine.”
ABC News (NEW YORK) -- The law firm that wrote the Chris Christie-sponsored report clearing the governor of any wrongdoing in the New Jersey bridge scandal made a sizable donation to the Republican Governors Association, which Christie heads, days before the report’s release.
The law firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher donated $10,000 to the RGA nine days before it released a report -- paid for by New Jersey taxpayers -- blaming September’s lane closures to the George Washington Bridge solely on aides and allies and pinning no responsibility on the governor, as reported Wednesday in The Record of North Jersey.
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher lawyers were paid $650 per hour for their work examining documents surrounding the lane closure that led to their report released March 24. The law firm made its donation to the RGA March 18, according to tax records.
Christie spoke exclusively with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer the same day the report was released, telling her he was “relieved” to have the facts.
He rejected any suggestion that the outside law firm appointed by his office would “whitewash” its findings to protect him.
“These people have their own professional and personal reputations,” he said. “Six of them were former federal prosecutors. They’re not going to whitewash anything for me and put their reputations at stake.”
The Los Angeles-based law firm defended its actions.
“Gibson Dunn’s annual contributions to the Republican Governors Association long predate our retention by the Office of the Governor and even predate when the current Governor was first elected to office,” Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher spokeswoman Pearl Piatt said in a statement to ABC News Wednesday.
“The firm has donated to the RGA since 2009 at the behest of Bill Kilberg, a partner in the firm’s Washington, DC office who has served on the RGA’s Executive Roundtable since 2009.”
Christie’s office directed ABC News to Gibson, Dunn for comment.
The Record also reported: “The law firm made two donations to the Republican Governors Association in 2012 each for $10,000, one on Feb. 20 and the other on Dec. 31 of that year. The group donated $15,000 in 2011 and $10,000 in 2010 and 2009.”
It has not donated to the Democratic Governors Association this year, nor the previous two years.
The Republican Governors Association announced in early April that it had raised $23.5 million in the first quarter of 2014, doubling the amount raised at the same time in 2010.
Association officials have not responded to ABC News’ request for comment.