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Biden Faults Clinton And Praises Sanders On Wage-Gap Issue

By Angela Greiling Keane and Elizabeth Titus, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden handicapped the 2016 U.S. presidential race, saying Bernie Sanders has “credibility” among Democratic primary voters that opponent Hillary Clinton lacks on income inequality.

“I think that Bernie is speaking to a yearning that is deep and real and he has credibility on” income inequality, Biden said in a CNN interview aired Tuesday, asked why Clinton is struggling against Sanders according to polls in early primary states.

Biden, in another interview Tuesday on NBC’s Today show, said the ultimate winner of the presidential contest he decided not to enter may be Republican Donald Trump. And even if that scenario appears more likely, Biden said he doesn’t see a scenario in which he would be a late entrant into the race.

“I’ve learned never to say no, but I can’t imagine one. If I win the lottery maybe,” he said, saying he was joking and hadn’t bought a Powerball ticket.

On income inequality, Biden said Clinton has “come forward with some really thoughtful approaches to deal with the issue.” But he added, “it’s relatively new for Hillary to talk about that. Hillary’s focus has been on other things up to now.” Clinton was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

Sanders has more resonance with voters on the issue at a time when the “basic bargain” with the middle class is “broken” as “productivity is up, wages are stagnant,” Biden said on CNN. The Vermont senator has identified himself as a democratic socialist.

Biden said Trump, who is leading among Republican Iowa caucus participants according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday, has a chance of being the next U.S. president.

“Yes, I think it’s possible,” Biden said on Today. If Trump wins, “I hope he gets a lot more serious about the issues.”

(Angela Greiling Keane reported from Washington. Elizabeth Titus reported from New York.)

©2016 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden announces he will not seek the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination during an appearance in Rose Garden of the White House in Washington October 21, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria 

 

Obama Endorsement Possible As Biden Considers Clinton Challenge

By Angela Greiling Keane, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama may issue an endorsement in the Democratic primary, his press secretary said Monday, as Vice President Joe Biden considers whether to challenge former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

While Obama considers his selection of the former Delaware senator as his running mate the best political decision he’s ever made, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, the president so far has remained neutral in the Democratic contest to succeed him.

“I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of an endorsement,” Earnest told reporters at a White House briefing, after he was asked if Obama would express his preference in the race.

Biden is considering a late entry into the Democratic primary, after revelations about Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of State have hurt her standing in polls. Her top challenger at the moment is Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Earnest said he expects a decision by the vice president within a month. He said nothing to discourage a run by Biden, who is 72.

“There’s so much that has been accomplished over the last six or seven years that President Obama is enormously proud of,” Earnest said. “A large portion of it would not have been possible without the wisdom, counsel and leadership of Vice President Biden.”

Clinton, Obama’s first secretary of state and, like Biden, a former U.S. senator, continues to lead polls against Sanders and lesser-known candidates including former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Biden returned to Washington on Saturday for a meeting with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who is popular with liberals and who has not endorsed Clinton. The meeting heightened speculation about Biden’s intentions.

Earnest said the president will vote in the Democratic primary election in Illinois, regardless of whether he issues an endorsement.

(With assistance from Mike Dorning in Washington.)

Photo: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the U.S.-Ukraine Business Forum in Washington July 13, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Obama Says Wealth Accumulation Speaks To Need For U.S. Tax Shift

By Angela Greiling Keane, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said he’s focusing the end of his presidency on increasing income equality because the recovery’s benefits haven’t spread to the middle class while enriching the wealthiest Americans, according to an interview he gave to website Vox.com.

In a Jan. 23 interview published Monday, Obama said it’s necessary to use tax policy to boost the economic outlook for teachers, construction workers and other middle- and lower-class Americans because so much wealth is concentrated with corporations and the wealthiest individuals.

“What we’ve proposed, for example, in terms of capital gains, that would make a big difference in our capacity to give a tax break to a working mom for child care,” Obama said of his tax proposal on which he hopes to work with congressional Republicans to pass.

“That’s smart policy, and there’s no evidence that would hurt the incentives of folks at Google or Microsoft or Uber not to invent what they invent or not to provide services they provide,” the president said. “It just means that instead of $20 billion, maybe they’ve got 18, right? But it does mean that Mom can go to work without worrying that her kid’s not in a safe place.”

In the interview, Obama used the liberal tone that he’s invoked more often since Democrats lost control of the Senate in November’s midterm elections.

He urged activism at the shareholder level to improve prospects for workers in the U.S. and abroad, saying the days are gone when a company was rooted to a community and compelled to invest in people and civic institutions. He blamed globalization and focus on quarterly profits for what he says is a need for the government today to play a bigger role in making sure there’s a safety net for individuals than in the era when companies were more closely aligned with communities.

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with a group of young undocumented immigrants in the Oval Office of the White House on Feb. 4, 2015 in Washington, D.C. The five immigrants, known as “dreamers,” who meet with the president have received protections from deportation under a program Obama implemented in 2012. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Biden Will Skip Netanyahu Congress Speech Along With Obama

By Angela Greiling Keane, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden is the latest Democrat to say he’ll skip the speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next month to a joint session of Congress.

Biden will be traveling internationally when Netanyahu speaks at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner, an official with his office said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans haven’t been announced. The trip has been planned for a while, the person said without specifying how long.

Biden’s plans not to attend the March 3 address will put him in line with President Barack Obama, who has said it would be inappropriate to meet with Netanyahu so soon before Israeli elections on March 17.

Democratic lawmakers including Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, John Lewis of Georgia and G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, have also said they plan to skip the event. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said she’s weighing whether to attend or not.

Butterfield is the Congressional Black Caucus chairman and Lewis was a leader in the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1960s.

“Speaker Boehner’s actions undermine the office of the president and are an unprecedented overreach of the speaker’s authority,” Butterfield in a statement Thursday. “His actions unnecessarily politicize our steadfast relationship with Israel, and potentially subvert foreign policy.”

Netanyahu plans to speak against a nuclear deal with Iran, which Obama has said is the best chance to keep the enemy of Israel from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said on Jan. 21 that he had invited Netanyahu to address Congress. He didn’t consult the White House.

The Associated Press first reported Biden’s plans.
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(With assistance from Billy House in Washington.)

Photo: Vice President Joe Biden during a roundtable discussion with students, college administrators and employers at West Los Angeles College in Culver City, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Cuba Frees 53 Political Prisoners Identified In U.S. Talks

By Angela Greiling Keane, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — The Cuban government has released all 53 political prisoners it pledged to free during talks with the U.S., a senior administration official said.

The political prisoners had been identified by human rights organizations as being held by the Cuban government for advocating political and social reforms or engaging in other political activities, said the official, who requested anonymity because the announcement wasn’t yet public.

U.S. officials shared the names of the prisoners during negotiations prior to announcing in mid-December that they would restore diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time in more than a half century.

The Cuban government notified the White House of the prisoner release, and the U.S. Interests Section in Havana was able to verify that they were freed, the official said.

The announcement was made eight days before President Barack Obama gives his annual State of the Union address, the first time he will appear before Republican critics of his move to normalize relations with Cuba. The release will help Obama back up his argument that improving relations with the island nation 90 miles south of Key West, Fla., will improve human rights and democracy there.

Cuban President Raúl Castro has said the move wouldn’t change the politics of the nation.

Obama made the surprise announcement last month that the U.S. will ease some travel and financial restrictions and permit U.S. companies to export telecommunications equipment, agricultural commodities, construction supplies and materials for small businesses. The U.S. also will reopen its embassy in Havana.

Last week, Obama asked Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto for help in pressuring Cuba to make democratic reforms.

Peña Nieto called Obama’s Cuba move “audacious” and pledged Mexico’s cooperation with the U.S. initiatives. Obama said that other countries didn’t follow the U.S. lead in severing diplomatic relations with Cuba.

While Obama can’t lift the embargo, set by law, against Cuba, he made the moves he could within his executive authority.
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With assistance from Nicole Gaouette in Washington.

AFP Photo/Joe Raedle

Obama Keystone Threat Sets Up Veto Battles On Republican Agenda

By Angela Greiling Keane, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama has vetoed fewer bills than any U.S. president since James Garfield held the office for six months in 1881. With Republicans now in control of Congress, that’ll probably change.

A White House threat yesterday to veto legislation that would allow the Keystone XL pipeline to be built through the U.S. sets up a showdown with Republican leaders, who have laid out an agenda that may also include attempts to dismantle Obama’s health-care law and roll back environmental regulations and financial rules. Those measures are central to the legacy of the president, who has vetoed just two bills in six years.

“They’re going to send him some stuff they know ultimately he’ll veto,” said Miguel Rodriguez, a former director of the White House office of legislative affairs and now a partner at Bryan Cave LLP. “The message he’s going to send is, ‘Listen, I want to work together, but some things are just too far.'”

That could spark a risky confrontation for both the president and Republican lawmakers. Obama, who has accused Republicans of obstructing his programs since they took control of the U.S. House in 2011, could shoulder public blame for blocking bills that Congress passes. Republicans, who need to show voters they can govern, will face pressure to compromise with him, angering their base.

Obama, in an interview with National Public Radio released on Dec. 29, vowed to protect health and environmental legislation and rules.

“I haven’t used the veto pen very often since I’ve been in office,” he said. “Now I suspect there are going to be some times where I’ve got to pull that pen out. I’m going to defend gains that we’ve made in health care. I’m going to defend gains that we’ve made on environment and clean air and clean water.”

First up will be Keystone. The House plans to vote on Jan. 9 on a measure to allow the pipeline to be built. While there’s enough support in both chambers to approve the project, overriding a presidential veto requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers. That will be especially hard to get in the Senate, where Republicans control 54 of the 100 seats.

Obama has hardened his tone, saying Keystone would create Canadian rather than American jobs as it crosses the U.S. to move oil from Canada’s tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said yesterday that if Congress passes a bill, “the president wouldn’t sign it.”

If Obama begins vetoing bills early in the new congressional session, then “it’s likely to degenerate into a political tug of war,” said Jon Kyl, who was the number two Senate Republican before leaving the chamber in 2013. “Then it’s just a matter of which one is better at explaining which one is the reason for the gridlock.”

The Republicans will challenge the president to veto legislation because they’ll want to show the party’s base “that they are pursuing their goals by confronting Obama with things he does not like,” said John Woolley, a political science professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The message they’ll deliver, he said, is: “‘Who’s the obstructionist now? Who’s not doing the work of the people?'”

The party may also seek to attach legislation to must-pass bills, such as spending measures, that Obama will be hard- pressed to reject.

Obama has issued so few vetoes because the Senate has been in Democratic hands since he became president in 2009, so the chamber hasn’t sent him measures they knew he’d reject. That’s changing now with the Republicans gaining control of the Senate in the November midterm elections for the first time since 2006.

Still, Senate rules often require 60 votes to advance major legislation, meaning Republicans will need to compromise with Democrats to hit that threshold.

The two bills Obama has vetoed came early in his administration — one of a 2009 spending bill and another of 2010 legislation he said would harm the recovery of the housing market and consumer protection for mortgage borrowers.

His two immediate predecessors, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, both stepped up their vetoes when the opposition party gained control of Congress during their presidencies. Bush, a Republican, issued 12 vetoes, all but 11 of them in the two years after Democrats took power in Congress in 2006. All of Democrat Clinton’s 37 vetoes came after Republicans won Congress in 1994. Garfield, who was assassinated in 1881, issued no vetoes.

Four of Bush’s vetoes were overturned by Congress, as were two of Clinton’s.

Presidents are given ten days, excluding Sundays, to sign or veto a bill. If a bill is unsigned after that time and Congress is in session, it becomes law. If those ten days pass and Congress adjourns, it’s considered a pocket veto.

Once a president vetoes a bill, Congress can override it during that same session with two-thirds of the votes in both the House and Senate.

Vote counting to ensure a veto can survive an override is important, said Ed Pagano, who was Obama’s Senate liaison and deputy assistant for legislative affairs.

“The president will not want to veto something that will be overridden,” said Pagano, who’s now a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. “That’s always a calculation.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said Democrats need to be careful about trying to stand in the way of legislation, or they may alienate voters.

“Pick your battles wisely,” he said of the Democrats to reporters yesterday at the Capitol. “Try to rebrand your party because it was about you, not us. We didn’t win. You lost.”
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Bloomberg reporter Kathleen Hunter in Washington contributed to this report.

AFP Photo/Don Emmert