WASHINGTON – Congress has approved and President Barack Obama has signed legislation to avert a U.S. government default on its debts.
The bill also ends a 16-day partial government shutdown, meaning furloughed federal employees are headed back to work, and they’ll be paid for the time they were gone.
The legislation that ends the partial government shutdown and increases the debt limit is only a temporary fix. It funds the government only through Jan. 15 and allows normal borrowing through Feb. 7, or a little longer.
IMF managing director Christine Lagarde says it’s “essential to reduce uncertainty” by “raising the debt limit in a more durable manner.”http://chapelboro.com/news/national/16-day-government-shutdown-comes-to-an-end/
CHICAGO – Things were a little bumpy on the first day Americans could sign up for health insurance under the health care law.
The initial signup day Tuesday began with a stalled website, an error message and a menu that didn’t work.
In 36 states where the federal government is running the marketplaces, a snag involving security questions on users’ accounts cropped up repeatedly, preventing many from completing their enrollment.http://chapelboro.com/news/national/first-day-bumpy-for-health-care-signup/
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama blames Republicans for the government shutdown and says they didn’t even accomplish their goal.
“They’ve shut down a whole bunch of parts of the government, but the Affordable Care Act is still open for business,” President Obama says.
***Listen to the Complete Address***
The President addressed the nation Tuesday afternoon from the Rose Garden.
He says the shutdown is not about deficits.
“After all, our deficits are falling at the fastest pace in 50 years,” President Obama says. “We’ve cut them in half since I took office. In fact, many of the demands the Republicans are now making would actually raise our deficits.”
The Affordable Care Act, or Obama Care, requires all Americans to have health insurance and gives everyone the opportunity to shop for the best policy for them, much like shopping at a store.
In his address, President Obama even took time to share how the American people can access the health care options.
“Just visit healthcare.gov, and there you can compare insurance plans side-by-side the same way you’d shop for a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon,” President Obama says. “You enter some basic information and you’ll be presented with a list of quality, affordable plans that are available in your area with clear descriptions of what each plan covers and what it will cost.”http://chapelboro.com/news/national/president-obama-blasts-republicans-for-shutdown/
Photo courtesy Julian Wasser/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will join former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton at the Lincoln Memorial today to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
President Obama says he considers the 1963 march and the Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech a “seminal event.”
He says the anniversary is a good time to reflect on how far the country has come and still has to go.
WCHL will bring you President Obama’s remarks Wednesday live in the 3:00 p.m. hour. And, U.S. Senator Kay Hagan joins Ron Stutts in the 8:00 a.m. hour of the WCHL Morning News to talk about the March on Washington as well as North Carolina’s new voting law.http://chapelboro.com/news/national/marking-50-years-since-i-have-a-dream/
Image courtesy of Manu_H
NEW YORK (AP) – An Obama Administration report says the cost of weather-related power outages is rising as storms grow more severe and the U.S. electric grid gets older. It calls for increased spending on the nation’s electric power system.
Power outages cost $18 billion to $33 billion per year, according to the report, a figure that has been rising steadily over the past 20 years. That can rise to $40 billion to $75 billion in years with severe storms such as 2008′s Hurricane Ike and last year’s Superstorm Sandy.
The White House report says spending to make the grid stronger and more flexible will save the economy billions.
Thunderstorms, hurricanes, blizzards and other extreme weather caused 58 percent of all outages since 2002 and 87 percent of outages affecting 50,000 or more customers.http://chapelboro.com/news/national/white-house-calls-for-increased-grid-spending/
CHAPEL HILL – Mortgages remain one of the most important issues to homeowners and one of our local professors says President Barack Obama’s plan for mortgage reform is a good move.
President Obama recently said that he wants more lenders to offer 30-year mortgages to individuals buying a home.
Director of UNC’s Center for Community Capital and professor and chair of the department of city and regional planning at UNC, Roberto Quercia, explains that 30-year mortgages differ from interest-only mortgages because they allow borrowers to pay less interest and more capital over time.
“It’s a great mortgage instrument for low-to-moderate income families because it allows them to buy a house, and at the same time, pay back the loan and build equity, build wealth, along the way,” Quercia says.
President Obama says he wants these types of loans to be handled by private lenders and move away from federally-chartered private lenders like Fannie May and Freddie Mac. Quercia says that the federal government does not want to be in another situation like in the 2008 financial collapse where Fannie and Freddie’s losses were passed onto taxpayers.
“That issue of private profit, public losses was something President Obama wants to avoid in the future,” Quercia says.
Last year, President Obama also made pushes for more borrowers with more debt than the value of their home, or “underwater” homeowners, to refinance to a better interest rate. In this speech, Quercia says the President made a new proposal, urging lenders not to deny loans to individuals with bad credit scores.
“Somehow, he wants lenders to take into account that if you’ve got a blemish in your credit because of unemployment that was no fault of your own, but because of the bigger, broader crisis, somehow, once that borrower gets a new job, they should be able to refinance,” Quercia says.
Quercia says he thinks the President’s proposals will probably work, but that there weren’t enough details in the speech to know for sure.
“Also, many of those initiatives will require the involvement of Congress, and obviously, the politics of this are such that it is unclear what the ultimate program or initiative will look like,” Quercia says.
President Obama gave his speech in Phoenix, Arizona, where many homes rapidly lost their value in the immediate wake of the housing crisis.http://chapelboro.com/news/national/unc-professor-on-obamas-mortgage-plan/
WASHINGTON (AP) – The White House says President Barack Obama will sign a bill Friday to lower the costs of borrowing for millions of students.
The bipartisan bill has been awaiting Obama’s signature since earlier this month, when the House gave it final congressional approval after a drawn-out process to reach a compromise in the Senate.
The bill links student loan interest rates to the financial markets. It would offer lower rates for most students now, but higher ones down the line if the economy improves as expected.
White House spokesman Jay Carney says Obama will sign the bill in a ceremony at the White House. He says in the coming months, Obama will lay out an aggressive plan to reduce costs for college students.http://chapelboro.com/news/national/obama-to-sign-student-loan-bill-friday/
Photo Courtesy of GoHeels.com
CHAPEL HILL – Carolina basketball coaching legend Dean Smith has been selected receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The UNC patriarch will be awarded the medal alongside baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks at a time and date to be announced by the White House.
President Obama is a self-described “sucker” for the Tar Heels, and this is a special way to honor the deserving coach and humanitarian for all he has meant to the sport and the country.
On the court, Smith won two national championships and when he retired, he was the winningest coach in college basketball history. But it is the humble man’s work away from the sport that truly set him apart and deems Smith worthy of the United States’ highest civilian honor.
Taking a stand in a time period when many high-profile figures sat on the sidelines, Smith used his position to advocate for civil rights. In fact, Smith recruited UNC’s first black scholarship athlete and helped in Chapel Hill’s desegregation process in the 1960’s.
Many of his players called Smith a “second father” and his leadership of these young men led to an impressive 96 percent graduation rate.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/dean-smith-to-receive-presidential-medal-of-freedom/
WASHINGTON – A bill to cut the interest rates of new student loans goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
On Wednesday, the House approved the bipartisan measure that calls for reducing the rates of Stafford subsidized and unsubsidized loans that had doubled July 1.
Interest rates would be tied to stock market performance.http://chapelboro.com/news/national/house-approves-lower-rates-on-student-loans/
- Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, didn’t take long to cause a commotion once out of office. Her office released hillaryclintonoffice.com causing rumors predicting a 2016 run to gain further traction. The new site, launched January 30th, is undergoing further development, though it is worth noting that hillaryclinton.com now forwards to this new URL.
- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been making the media rounds this week, appearing on David Letterman’s The Tonight Show on Monday night, drawing praise from the notoriously liberal, Letterman, for his wonderful work in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Christie, who has been critical of his own party’s leadership, has recently become a very vocal voice for bi-partisanship and is now an overwhelming favorite to be re-elected to the same office in 2013. When asked if he would run for President in 2016, Christie said that when he last polled his family, it was 6 votes to none for NOT running. He plans to re-evaluate their stance moving forward.
- The Wall Street Journal published an article on Kansas Governor, Sam Brownback, and his “Red-State Model” that he hopes will generate momentum for the party in future years. With the stable of appealing candidates is in short supply, Brownback hopes that his state’s success of slashing the budget (and taxes), weaning people off entitlements and the ensuing strong jobs record will move people to the economic right. Meanwhile, states like North Carolina are likely headed in a similar policy direction, according to Brownback.
- Barack Obama continues his dual-threat ground game this week in Minneapolis (on Monday) as he pushes for greater gun control measures. Obama was in Nevada last week to launch his immigration reform push. Both issues are hot topics in North Carolina. 41.3% of North Carolina households self-reported having a gun in 2012, while 25% of NC’s population growth in the last 20 years can be attributed to Latinos (according to the NC Governor’s office).
Have a question about what’s going on in Washington? Let us know.
Ryan Watts is a Chapel Hill native and recent UNC graduate in Political Science and Business Administration. Now living in Washington DC, he works as a Consultant. You can find him on Twitter @RyanVWatts or at his blog.