Category Archives: President Obama

What Sebelius, Cyrus and the pope have in common

sebeliustestifyHealth and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (in photo) made the short list for Time’s Person of the Year, which will be announced Wednesday. The former Kansas governor shares the top 10 with her boss, President Obama, and 2013 newsmakers Pope Francis, surveillance whistle-blower Edward Snowden, pop star Miley Cyrus, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and gay rights activist Edith Windsor. Time magazine counted Sebelius among the nation’s five best governors seven years ago and later touted her as a worthy running mate for Obama, but her current stature stems from her role in the political and implementation disaster that is the Affordable Care Act.

Mandela was an inspiration

mandelaGov. Sam Brownback was among the many U.S. and world leaders to react to the death Thursday of former South African President Nelson Mandela (in photo), 95. “Nelson Mandela was a great man who stood up for his principles and human rights,” Brownback said in a statement. “He was an inspiration to many, including myself.” Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said that Mandela “embodied unsurpassed courage and commitment to equality.” President Obama ordered flags to half-staff until Monday. His presidential proclamation said that “the United States has lost a close friend, South Africa has lost an incomparable liberator, and the world has lost an inspiration for freedom, justice and human dignity.”

Aviation law the exception for unproductive Congress

congressPresident Obama’s signing last week of the Small Airplane Revitalization Act, which was championed by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, is even more noteworthy because so few bills have become law this year. Fewer than 60 public laws were enacted in the first 11 months of this year, the Washington Post reported. That makes the first session of the 113th Congress the least productive ever. By far. No wonder Congress’ approval rating – 9 percent according to a Gallup poll – is at a record low.

Closing ‘doughnut hole’ saving Kansas seniors millions

drugsMore than 31,000 Kansas seniors and people with disabilities have saved nearly $24 million on their prescription drugs so far this year, for an average of about $750 per beneficiary, according to data released this week by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Overall, Kansas seniors have saved more than $85 million since the Affordable Care Act was enacted and closed the “doughnut hole” gap in Medicare Part D. Nationwide, the savings is $8.9 billion, according to CMS.

New aviation law is a model for collaboration

pompeo2Congratulations to U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita – and to the general aviation industry – on the Small Airplane Revitalization Act, which President Obama signed into law Wednesday. The new law updates and streamlines the certification process for general aviation manufacturers, which should encourage more innovation and improve safety. Pompeo worked closely on the bill with the Federal Aviation Administration, industry officials, labor union representatives and his Democratic colleagues in Congress. This hard work and collaboration are why the bill became law, and a model for how Washington should work.

Polls reflect Washington’s ineptitude

thumbsdownWoven together, new polls showing President Obama with a 39 percent approval and Congress with a 9 percent rating tell the story of Washington’s ongoing ineptitude, wrote columnist Joshua Green. “Americans are fast losing faith in the president, his party and his signature policy achievement,” Green wrote. “But while they’re open to the idea of handing power to the opposition, Republicans are busy demonstrating that they have no idea how to govern.”

Now, president needs to sign Pompeo’s bill

pompeo,mikeThe Air Capital can thank Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, for the victory of the Small Aircraft Revitalization Act, which won final congressional approval last week and moved to President Obama’s desk. Amid a toxic political atmosphere, Pompeo worked with the Federal Aviation Administration and industry representatives to not only improve the regulatory environment for general aviation but also prove that Congress and the White House can still come together on needed legislation. And as National Business Aviation Association president and CEO Ed Bolen put it: “Streamlining the certification process for general aviation manufacturers, while preserving important safety requirements, will lead to swifter adoption of new aircraft designs and vital safety equipment, benefiting everyone from pilots and their passengers to manufacturers.” Now, the president needs to sign the bill.

Moritz’s nomination going more smoothly than Six’s

moritzPresident Obama’s latest nomination of a Kansan to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is going smoothly so far – and thank goodness for that, given how abortion-related politics doomed his solid choice of former Kansas Attorney General Steve Six two years ago. Kansas Supreme Court Justice Nancy Moritz, chosen by Obama in August to fill a long-vacant seat on the Denver-based federal court, reportedly was well-received at last week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and already has the stated support of Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan. The nomination of Moritz, a Beloit native and Washburn University law graduate, still must be approved by the committee and full Senate. Carl Tobias, a federal court watcher who is Williams Professor of Law at the University of Richmond (Va.), told the Topeka Capital-Journal: “I’m optimistic, cautiously, that she’ll be confirmed. Probably with very few ‘no’ votes.” For Kansas Republicans, the nomination has the plus of allowing Gov. Sam Brownback his first opportunity to name a member of the state Supreme Court.

Obama’s approval ratings going south

obamadebtplanThe bungled rollout of the Affordable Care Act is continuing to hurt President Obama. He has only a 42 percent approval rating in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll – down 6 percentage points in the past month. Where Obama has particularly suffered is the public’s impression of him personally. For the first time, a majority of Americans, 52 percent, said they have an unfavorable opinion of Obama, while 46 percent view him favorably. “Those ratings have declined from a net positive of 23 points at the time of his inauguration in January,” the Washington Post reported.

Apology doesn’t make Obamacare website work any better

Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, apologized today for the rollout of the Obamacare website. “To the millions of Americans who’ve attempted to use HealthCare.gov to shop and enroll in health care coverage, I want to apologize to you that the website has not worked as well as it should,” she said at a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee. Republicans blasted the Obama administration and argued that even if the website can be fixed, Obamacare can’t. Democrats countered that GOP concerns about the website are phony. “Democrats want to make the Affordable Care Act work; congressional Republicans don’t,” said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich.

Pro-con: Should Kathleen Sebelius be fired?

Every day brings new stories of the Obamacare site’s near-complete unworkability, while the Obama administration responds with fantastic don’t-be-concerned counterclaims. Huge problems are downplayed, and brazen promises are made that the behemoth program’s complex and convoluted software will be quickly and easily fixed. Baloney. Most Americans, especially those most in need of health care right now, don’t believe the excuses and promises. They never believed in Obamacare. And now they know it isn’t working. Any corporate executive charged with launching a product that flopped this spectacularly would be held accountable and fired. That’s exactly what has to happen to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. She has to go. Now. Join us in calling for the president to hold Sebelius accountable for her gross incompetence and her misspending of taxpayers’ billions. – National Review

Just as the healthcare.gov website is not the Affordable Care Act, so ending Sebelius’ tenure at HHS is not the same thing as fixing the problems. And while it’s tempting perhaps even for Democrats to agree that new blood at HHS can only help, there are two things you need to keep in mind: Republicans are in no way interested in actually fixing healthcare.gov or replacing Sebelius. As the announcement of Rand Paul’s “hold” on the nomination of Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve should remind you, the more likely strategy here is that Republicans will attempt to block the nomination of any replacement at HHS. That keeps the agency leaderless at a critical moment, and prolongs the exploitable life span of the website issue. No, collecting Sebelius’ scalp won’t make the website work right. But it will give Republicans a chance to try to cripple HHS – and who knows how many of its programs that might require secretary-level reports, approvals and other determinations – causing even more disruptions, which they can then attack as “failures” of the Obama administration. – David Waldman, Daily Kos

Obama more popular than Brownback, Roberts?

For what it’s worth – and GOP defenders of Gov. Sam Brownback would be quick to say “zip” – a new SurveyUSA poll finds that the governor is less popular than President Obama in Kansas. The survey, sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12 in Wichita, put Obama’s approval rating in the state at 38 percent, the same as in July 2012. Meanwhile, 34 percent said they approve of Brownback’s performance, 2 percentage points less than in July 2012; the number of those who disapprove of the job he’s doing has risen by 11 percentage points since then, to 59 percent. Approval numbers are way down for Sen. Pat Roberts (36 percent) and Sen. Jerry Moran (39 percent), suggesting the shutdown war in Washington, D.C., may have soured Kansans about politicians generally. EDITOR’S NOTE: Some percentages in this post were changed Thursday morning in response to updated SurveyUSA results. The headline was also changed to reflect a newly lowered approval number for Obama.

Ryan wants Sebelius to join the jobless

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., added his name to the growing list of politicians who want to see Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius fired amid the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace mess. “I think this rollout has been a fiasco, not just because they have bad tech but because the law itself is so fundamentally flawed. We gave the administration every chance to delay the law and delay the mandate,” Ryan said. Assessing the hot water in which the former Kansas governor finds herself, Slate’s David Weigel wrote: “Republicans are making up for two wasted weeks of shutdown politics, arguing that healthcare.gov’s disaster presages the collapse of Obamacare.” But as the article’s headline suggested, the fact that conservatives are demanding Sebelius’ head “surely means her job is safe.”

Obama is sticking with Sebelius

In the wake of the call by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., for the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over the bungled rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplaces, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that the former Kansas governor has “the full confidence of the president” and that Sebelius, like Obama, is “focused on our No. 1 priority, which is making the implementation of the Affordable Care Act work well.” USA Today noted one key reason for Obama to stick with Sebelius: “Confirming a replacement could be difficult in light of Republican opposition to the new health care law.”

Polling keeps getting worse for GOP

Only 24 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the GOP, and only 21 percent have a favorable opinion of the tea party, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Those are record lows for both. What’s more, by a 22-point margin, the public thinks the GOP is more to blame for the shutdown than President Obama, which is a wider margin than during the last shutdown in 1995-96. And to make it even worse for the GOP, both Obama’s approval rating and the percentage of Americans who think Obamacare is a good idea increased in the poll.

Public turning on GOP, Democrats

A Washington Post/ABC poll found that 70 percent of Americans think the Republican Party is doing a poor job handling the budget negotiations, up from 63 percent before the shutdown began. Democrats also lost ground, as 61 percent of Americans disapprove of their performance, up from 56 percent. Meanwhile, 51 percent disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the negotiations, up from 50 percent – though the number who approve increased by 4 points to 45 percent.

Pro-con: Are Republicans to blame for shutdown?

Americans’ respect for their Congress has, sad to say, diminished in recent years. But citizens still expect a minimal level of competence and responsibility: Pay the bills and try not to embarrass us in front of the world. By those minimal standards, this Congress is failing. More specifically, the Republican leaders of the House of Representatives are failing. They should fulfill their basic duties to the American people or make way for legislators who will. Republicans have shut much of the government in what they had to know was a doomed effort to derail the Affordable Care Act. They tried to block its passage and failed; they hoped to have it declared unconstitutional and failed; and they did their best to toss Obama out of the White House after one term in order to strangle it in its cradle, and they failed again. They’re entitled to keep trying, of course. But their methods now are beyond the pale. – Washington Post

Regardless of how we got here, the shutdown of 2013 is upon us. Republicans should not blink now. Using the budget to try to stop an unpopular, destructive, disorganized, partisan law is no vice. Yes, it would be preferable not to be in this position. But there is still an important point to be made and some good that can be done. Even though Democrats and the mainstream media would have people believe that the shutdown was caused by Republicans’ anarchic insanity or psychotic compulsion, Republicans stand ready to fund 99 percent of the government. They also have reasonably offered to negotiate the future of the train wreck that is Obamacare. Republicans can’t change every mind, but they don’t have to. GOP leaders need to show themselves to be patient, thoughtful advocates of their position. More voters appreciate what is really happening than the talking heads inside the beltway would have us believe. – Ed Rogers, the Insiders blog

No winners in government shutdown

“This isn’t some damn game,” House Speaker John Boehner complained today, referring to a comment by an anonymous Obama administration official that Democrats were “winning.” President Obama said that no one wins during a shutdown. “As long as they’re off the job, nobody’s winning, and that’s the point,” Obama said, referring to furloughed federal workers. “We should get this over with as soon as possible.”

In Kansas, more shutdown blame for Obama than GOP

Most national polls show Americans blaming Republicans rather than President Obama for the government shutdown. Not surprisingly in this red state, a SurveyUSA poll just before the shutdown found that 46 percent of Kansans surveyed held Obama more responsible, while 41 percent placed more blame on Republicans in Congress. In the poll, sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12 in Wichita, 44 percent said they opposed the Affordable Care Act and 48 percent said it wasn’t worth shutting down the government to repeal parts of the law. Most said the personal impact of a shutdown would be either minor (55 percent) or nil (19 percent).

Norquist frustrated by GOP House, Cruz

Include anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist among those baffled and frustrated by the GOP House’s decision to shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act. He told the Washington Post that Republicans should have negotiated for entitlement reform in exchange for lifting some of the sequestration cuts, which President Obama and Democrats want to do. Instead, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, demonized any Republican who didn’t support a shutdown showdown, even though he didn’t have the votes in the Senate to block Obamacare. “He pushed House Republicans into traffic and wandered away,” Norquist said.

Leaders unwilling to negotiate

It was disappointing but not surprising that President Obama and congressional leaders made no progress on ending the government shutdown during their meeting at the White House Wednesday. Previous showdowns were resolved when top leaders worked out some sort of compromise. But the prospects of that happening anytime soon aren’t good, the Washington Post reported. Under pressure from tea party conservatives, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has refused any direct negotiations with Obama. And Obama has made clear that he won’t let GOP House members hold the government hostage as part of negotiations. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who previously worked out deals with Vice President Joe Biden, is worried about a primary challenge and wants to stay out of any direct negotiations.

Miller’s nomination a plus for Kansas

Especially considering the high hopes in Wichita and south-central Kansas for a revival of passenger-rail service, it was great to see President Obama nominate former Kansas Transportation Secretary Deb Miller last week to the Surface Transportation Board. The three-member panel not only oversees the rail industry but handles some issues related to trucking, ocean shipping and city buses. Miller, whose nomination requires U.S. Senate confirmation, deserves the full support of Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran. Miller did an impressive job serving from 2003 to 2011 in the cabinets of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and Democratic Govs. Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson – no easy task when it came to managing planned highway projects amid the spending cuts of the Great Recession.

Anti-Obamacare ad is beyond creepy

An anti-Obamacare ad by a group with ties to the Koch brothers is beyond creepy; it is offensive and bizarrely anti-personal responsibility. One of two ads by Generation Opportunity – which received $5 million last year from the Koch-financed Freedom Partners – shows a young woman in a hospital gown, feet in stirrups, ready for a gynecological exam. A creepy Uncle Sam then rises up between her legs while the young woman screams and recoils. The ad’s tagline says: “Don’t let government play doctor,” then urges viewers to “opt out of Obamacare.” Women’s groups object to the sexual-assault imagery, but Generation Opportunity president Evan Feinberg – who previously worked for the Charles Koch Institute – tweeted that he was offended anyone took it that way. Kate Pickert of Time magazine noted that the ad reflects a shift from the defunding debate in Congress. “Persuading younger, generally healthy people that they don’t need insurance is an acknowledgment by conservatives that their only true hope of sinking Obamacare is to try and make it function poorly,” she wrote. Another Koch-backed group, Americans for Prosperity, also launched an anti-Obama ad campaign last week arguing that “Obamacare is dangerous.”

Libya offers lesson for Syrian action

President Obama and the American public should consider what has happened in Libya as we contemplate military action in Syria, columnist Glenn Garvin wrote. While U.S. military assistance helped depose Moammar Gadhafi, little has gone right since then. “Post-intervention Libya is a witch’s cauldron of crime, corruption and terrorism,” Garvin wrote. Here are the lessons of Libya, Garvin wrote: “That the Middle East is fraught with ancient religious, ethnic and tribal rivalries only dimly understood in the West. That they erupt in unpredictable and vicious ways when the balance of power is upset. And that there’s probably a better way to deliver a prescription for peace and prosperity than in the payload of a Tomahawk missile.”

Delegation unmoved by Obama address, outreach

President Obama’s address to the nation on Syria didn’t change the opinions of Kansas delegation members. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, agreed with Obama that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons “was a horrific crime,” but she remains “unconvinced injecting our military into the middle of a violent civil war is in America’s best interest.” Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, said he still believes that “our military involvement there would weaken the safety and security of the American people and our allies rather than strengthen it.” Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, the only Kansas lawmaker backing military action, was hopeful about the possible agreement to remove chemical weapons from Syria. After Obama met with lawmakers Tuesday, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he remains “firmly opposed to our intervention,” saying “there is nothing to win.”