As Campaigns Seek Delegates, Ordinary Voters Feel Sidelined

WASHINGTON — When it comes to nominating presidential candidates, it turns out the world’s foremost democracy is not so purely democratic.

For decades, both major parties have used a somewhat convoluted process for picking their nominees, one that involves ordinary voters in only an indirect way. As Americans flock this year to outsider candidates, the kind most hindered by these rules, they are suddenly waking up to this reality. And their confusion and anger are adding another volatile element to an election being waged over questions of fairness and equality.

In Nashville a week ago, supporters of Donald J. Trump accused Republican leaders of trying to stack the state’s delegate slate with people who were anti-Trump. The Trump campaign posted the cellphone number of the state party chairman on Twitter, leading him to be inundated with calls. Several dozen people showed up at the meeting at which delegates were being named, banged on the windows and demanded to be let in.

Backers of Senator Bernie Sanders, bewildered at why he keeps winning states but cannot seem to cut into Hillary Clinton’s delegate count because of her overwhelming lead with “superdelegates,” have used Reddit and Twitter to start an aggressive pressure campaign to flip votes.

Javier Morillo, a member of the Democratic National Committee and a superdelegate from Minnesota, said he discovered his email posted on a website called a “Superdelegate Hit List.”The list had an illustration of a donkey, the party’s symbol, with two crossbow arrows behind its head. “I was a little annoyed,” he said.

Swearing age-old oath, Obama steps into 2nd term

628x471WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama was sworn in for four more years Sunday in a simple ceremony at the White House, embarking on a second-term quest to restore a still-shaky economy and combat terrorists overseas while swearing an age-old oath to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution. “I did it,” a smiling president said to his daughter Sasha seconds after following Chief Justice John Roberts in reciting the oath of office. First lady Michelle Obama and the couple’s other daughter, Malia, were among relatives who bore witness.

The quiet moments were prelude to Monday’s public inaugural events, when Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will be sworn in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol before a crowd expected to reach into the hundreds of thousands and a television audience counted in the millions. The trappings were in place — the flag-draped stands ready outside the Capitol and the tables set inside for a traditional lunch with lawmakers. Across town, a specially made reviewing stand rested outside the White House gates for the president and guests to watch the traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.

A crowd of perhaps 800,000 was forecast, less than the million-plus that thronged to the nation’s capital four years ago to witness the inauguration of the first black president in American history. The weather forecast was encouraging, to a point. High temperatures were predicted for the lower 40s during the day, with scattered snow showers during the evening, when two inaugural balls close out the official proceedings.The 44th chief executive is only the 17th to win re-election, and his second-term goals are ambitious for a country where sharp political differences have produced gridlocked government in recent years. Restoration of the economy to full strength and pressing the worldwide campaign against terrorists sit atop the agenda. He also wants to reduce federal deficits and win immigration and gun control legislation from Congress, where Republicans control the House.

At a reception Sunday night, Obama told supporters the inauguration is a celebration of “this incredible nation that we call home,” not the election results. “Let’s make sure to work as hard as we can to pass on an America that is worthy not only of our past but also of our future,” he said.

If Obama needed a reminder of the challenges he faces, he got one from half-way around the globe. An Algerian security official disclosed the discovery of 25 additional bodies at a gas plant where radical Islamists last week took dozens of foreign workers hostage. In Washington, tourists strolled leisurely on an unseasonably warm day. “I’m very proud of him and what he’s trying to do for immigration, women’s rights, what they call ‘Obamacare,’ and concerns for the middle class,” said Patricia Merritt, a retired educator from San Antonio, in town with her daughter and granddaughter to see the inauguration and parade as well as historic sites. “I think he’s more disrespected than any other president,” she added, referring to his critics.

Inauguration 2013 Event Guide

barack-obama-24_400x295_5For the next week, Washington, D.C. will be the hottest place in America. With President Obama’s public inauguration taking place next Monday on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, hundreds of thousands of Americans are flocking to the nation’s capital to be part of history. There are number of popular cocktail mixers, brunches and balls leading the way to the grand day—where Beyoncé will perform the National Anthem and Myrlie Evers-Williams will deliver the invocation. Here is a list of a few events taking place all over the city.

Thursday, January 17
H.O.P.E. Inaugural Youth Ball

Friday, January 18
Young and Powerful Cocktail Mixer

Saturday, January 19
Desire to Aspire Brunch
Omegas for Obama Inaugural Ball
Historically Black Colleges and Universities Inaugural Ball
Young and Powerful Roundtable Political Forum
Enchant: Inauguration Variety and Comedy Show

Sunday, January 20
Ambassadors Ball
Hip-Hop Inaugural Ball
Congressional Black Caucus Late Night Pre-Inaugural Party
The African-American Church Inaugural Ball
Monday, January 21
Black Tie Gala & Rising Star Awards Ceremony

Hitting the debt limit: What bills would be paid?

departures-200-netbank-cs2007WASHINGTON — In the summer of 2011, when a debt crisis like the current one loomed, President Barack Obama warned Republicans that older Americans might not get their Social Security checks unless there was a deal to raise the nation’s borrowing limit. After weeks of brinkmanship, Republicans consented and Obama agreed to a deficit-reduction plan the GOP wanted. Crisis averted, for a time. Now that there’s a fresh showdown, the possibility of Social Security cuts _and more — is back on the table.

The government could run out of cash to pay all its bills in full as early as Feb. 15, according to one authoritative estimate, and congressional Republicans want significant spending cuts in exchange for raising the borrowing limit. Obama, forced to negotiate an increase in 2011, has pledged not to negotiate again.Without an agreement, every option facing his administration would be unprecedented. It would require a degree of financial creativity that could test the law, perhaps even the Constitution.

It could shortchange Social Security recipients and other people, including veteran and the poor, who rely on government programs. It could force the Treasury to contemplate selling government assets, a step considered but rejected in 2011. In short, the Treasury would have to create its own form of triage, creating a priority list of its most crucial obligations, from interest payments to debtors to benefits to vulnerable Americans. “It may be that somewhere down the line someone will challenge what the administration did in that moment, but in the moment, who’s going to stop them?” asked Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office. “I pray we never have to find out how imaginative they are.”

In such a debt crisis, the president would have to decide what laws he wants to break. Does he breach the borrowing limit without a congressional OK? Does he ignore spending commitments required by law? In a letter to Obama on Friday, Senate Democratic leaders urged him to consider taking any “lawful steps that ensure that America does not break its promises and trigger a global economic crisis — without congressional approval, if necessary.” The White House has resisted that path. It has rejected recommendations that it invoke a provision in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that states that “the validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.” “There are only two options to deal with the debt limit: Congress can pay its bills or they can fail to act and put the nation into default,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “Congress needs to do its job.”

So what’s left if Congress does not act in time? Technically, the government hit the debt ceiling at the end of December. Since then, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has halted full payments into the retirement and disability fund for government workers and to the health benefits fund of Postal Service retirees. The Treasury can stop payments to a special fund that purchases or sells foreign currencies to stabilize world financial markets. >>>CONTINUE READING

Democrats to Obama: Keep Constitution on the table in debt ceiling fight

largeThe White House insists President Barack Obama can’t — and won’t — use the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling. But a growing number of his congressional allies are urging Obama not to abandon a potentially powerful weapon before negotiations even begin. With Republicans promising another climactic fight over the $16.4 trillion debt limit in two months, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday that if she were president, she would invoke the Constitution to raise the ceiling on her own — with or without permission from the GOP. “I would do it, in a second, but I’m not the president of the United States,” Pelosi said. Like many other Democrats, Pelosi is eyeing the language in the 14th Amendment stating that the validity of U.S. public debts “shall not be questioned.” Prominent Democrats, including former President Bill Clinton, have argued that language — added in the aftermath of the Civil War — gives Obama all the authority he needs to break the ceiling.

Realistic or not, the talk underscores growing liberal concern that yet another round of brinksmanship will hobble Washington and the economy — and force Obama into a bad negotiating position — just months after Congress went over the so-called fiscal cliff and then barely averted it with a last-minute tax deal. Whether Obama could invoke the 14th Amendment to raise the debt limit is an open legal question. But that isn’t deterring some Democrats.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said on Friday the Constitution not only allows Obama to bypass Congress on the debt ceiling — it compels him to. “I think [the Constitution] is pretty clear. He must do something about paying the bills,” Udall said. “If Congress doesn’t give him an avenue to do that, a leader needs to take a course of action if the bills aren’t being paid. That could be devastating to our economy. It could be devastating to our reputation around the world.” The nation reached its $16.4 trillion borrowing limit on Dec. 31, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says his department is currently taking “extraordinary measures” that will only allow the nation to pay its bills for about another two months.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/democrats-keep-constitution-on-the-table-85792.html#ixzz2HDo4KG7f