Blog Posts by Olivier Knox

  • Obama: I will sign bill to reopen government 'immediately'

    Carefully celebrating a pending political victory, President Barack Obama said late Wednesday that a deal to reopen the government and avoid a cataclysmic default should help Washington break “the habit of governing by crisis” and set the stage for achieving immigration reform in 2013.

    “Once this agreement arrives on my desk, I will sign it immediately, we’ll begin reopening our government immediately, and we can begin to lift this cloud of uncertainty and unease from our businesses and from the American people,” Obama said in the White House briefing room.

    The president, who raised eyebrows in some quarters for speaking before the Republican-held House of Representatives voted on the compact, renewed his vow to “work with anybody” on proposals to bolster the fragile economy and saying that Democrats do not have a “monopoly on good ideas.”

    Obama pleaded for a break from “the habit of governing by crisis “ and painted the shutdown as a pointless distraction from the nation’s true

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  • Chaos but optimism as Washington gropes toward a deal

    A postponed high-stakes meeting at the White House. A rescheduled closed-door gathering of Republican senators. Leaders of the bitterly divided Congress ducking into each others' offices. President Barack Obama, behind a table of bologna sandwiches, pressing lawmakers to forge an 11th-hour deal to spare the fragile economy from a potentially catastrophic debt default.

    And from the chaos, growing optimism about a possible deal — even though it may just set the weary country up for another confrontation in only a few short months.

    With the partial government shutdown entering its third week and the United States due to slam into the congressionally set debt ceiling in just days, top lawmakers and Obama sounded uncharacteristically hopeful Monday about an agreement to get back to business and avert a default.

    Two Democratic Senate aides cautiously described the emerging deal as including a debt-ceiling hike that would last until Feb. 7 or 15, 2014, providing enough money to keep the

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  • White House edges away from short-term government shutdown fix

    What a difference a day – and a poll that has terrible news for Republicans -- makes.

    On Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that President Barack Obama would probably embrace a short-term measure to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a devastating, first-of-its-kind default.

    “If a clean debt limit bill is passed he would likely sign it,” he said at his daily briefing.

    On Friday, having postponed his 1 p.m. eastern briefing to 4 p.m. (conveniently after markets closed for the weekend), Carney came out to give a few spare details about Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner discussing the ongoing standoff. But, when asked about a possible House GOP move to adopt a short-term fix, his tone had changed.

    “It has never been our desired outcome that Congress only reopen the government for a short term or Congress only lift the debt ceiling for a short term,” Carney said. “That is -- and I think I said this verbatim in the past -- the least they could do.”

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  • Ted Cruz on his ‘arguing boots’ and (not) carrying a tune

    Maybe it’s no surprise that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, likes to wear his black ostrich “arguing boots” around Washington. That’s one of the things readers learn in People magazine’s gentle profile of the conservative who may have done more than anyone in Congress to force a government shutdown.

    More surprising? He’s been in not one but two productions of “The Sound of Music.” First in seventh grade, as conflicted Nazi youth member Rolfe. Then in high school, as Max Detweiler, who gets the von Trapps to perform at the Salzburg Music Festival, effectively paving the way for the family’s escape.

    “Rolfe was really terrible,” Cruz told People. “I cannot carry a tune to save my life."

    The profile, on newsstands Friday, softens the sometimes hard edges of a senator who is often the target of sharp (and anonymous) criticism from his fellow congressional Republicans. It’s the kind of rehabilitation he’ll find useful if inside-the-Beltway rumors are true and he’s thinking about running for

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  • U.S. freezes ‘large-scale’ arms aid to Egypt

    The United States announced on Wednesday that it was “recalibrating” its aid to Egypt, withholding Apache helicopters, F-16 fighters, tank parts, Harpoon missiles and about $260 million in economic aid in a move to push the country's military and interim government down the path to democracy.

    The decision came three months after Egypt’s military removed democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi from power — an ouster that Washington has refused to brand a “coup,” drawing international ridicule. That determination would have required a halt of U.S. aid.

    “We have decided to maintain our relationship with the Egyptian government, while recalibrating our assistance to Egypt to best advance our interests,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a written statement.

    Washington will still provide economic aid that goes “directly” to the Egyptian people in areas like health, education and private-sector development, she said.

    And the aid freeze will spare military training and

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  • Obama invites all House Democrats for shutdown, debt talks; Thursday he huddles with GOP group

    President Barack Obama invited all 200 House Democrats to the White House late Wednesday afternoon, ramping up his outreach to Congress as the  government shutdown drags on and with a week left before a potentially catastrophic debt default.

    Later in the week, the president plans to host similar events with House Republicans, Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans.

    The first GOP meeting is scheduled for Thursday, when some House Republicans are expected to meet with Obama at the White House. The president invited the entire GOP conference to the meeting, but House Speaker John Boehner is sending only a handful of lawmakers to represent the group.

    Republicans plan to send members of the party leadership and the chairmen of key committees, Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said.

    "Nine days into a government shutdown and a week away from breaching the debt ceiling, a meeting is only worthwhile if it is focused on finding a solution," Buck said in a statement. "That’s why the House Republican

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  • How to prep for U.S. default? Bloomberg readies for earthquake. Literally.

    Canned goods? A shotgun? If you're wondering how to prepare for the possibility of an economy-shaking default on Oct. 18, the White House can't help you — but market-moving news agency Bloomberg will be preparing for an earthquake. Literally.

    In a message to staff, the respected global wire service advised that it will hold an earthquake preparedness drill on Oct. 17 at 10:17 a.m. ET in keeping with policy set by Bloomberg’s Risk Management Division.

    “Risk has alerted the News BCP team that your office is scheduled to participate in the Bi-Coastal Shake Out to practice earthquake preparedness,” the email said.

    “The test is scheduled to take place on 10/17 at 10:17 am. The test is only 30 seconds in length, and all staff are expected to participate. Staff will need to DROP to the ground, take COVER under a sturdy desk or table and HOLD on until the exercise is completed.”

    (Drop, cover, hold on is a thing. And the ShakeOut is a national exercise backed by the Federal Emergency Management

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  • Obama, Boehner in shutdown ‘he said, he said’

    President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner can't even agree on how to describe their private conversations as the government shutdown enters its second week and a first-ever U.S. default looms.

    Obama telephoned Boehner on Tuesday around 10:45 a.m. — and that’s pretty much where the agreement ends.

    Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck tersely described the call this way: “The president called the speaker again today to reiterate that he won't negotiate on a government funding bill or debt limit increase." (Buck’s message was helpfully entitled “news ... or what passes for it.”)

    Obama has said he’s open to negotiate with Republicans — but only after Congress passes a short-term spending bill that reopens government and passes an increase in the country’s debt limit, both “clean” of any GOP demands. And he’s repeatedly said he won’t negotiate until that work is done.

    The White House emphasized the first part of the president’s position.

    Obama told Boehner that he “is

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  • White House: Timing of Africa raids ‘coincidence’

    The White House on Monday dismissed the timing of weekend raids in which elite American commandos sought to capture two suspected al-Qaida figures as “coincidence.”

    The Saturday operations in Libya and Somalia came one day after the 20th anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu, immortalized in the book “Black Hawk Down” and the movie of the same name. They also occurred on the date when President Barack Obama was supposed to leave on a trip to Asia — a voyage he canceled in the face of the government shutdown.

    So was Obama trying to send a message to Congress with a national security victory? Or to remind world leaders gathered at an Asia-Pacific summit without him that the United States must be reckoned with?

    “It's important to note that although they occurred at the same time, these were separate operations, approved separately, and when an approval like this happens, there is obviously discretion given to commanders as to when they initiate and fulfill those missions,” White House

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  • How is the debt ceiling fight like Monopoly?

    No, it’s not Monopoly's imaginary money and rigged economy, or the idea that the next dice throw could bring disaster.

    But one Republican House member, briefing a dozen reporters Thursday on condition that he not be named, recalled a long-ago round of the iconic board game as he argued that President Barack Obama needs to negotiate with the GOP.

    “I used to play Monopoly for money in college — I was pretty good at it. I knew I was Republican right then,” he said.

    During one game, after bets were made and all of the properties purchased, players started trading and selling.

    “I had a guy exactly where I knew he had to give me more than he should just to get one crappy little set of three,” the lawmaker said. “Finally he said ‘If I do that, I’m gonna lose.’ And I said ‘You’re gonna lose anyway,’ and then he said ‘Well then you are, too.’ And he didn’t trade with me at all.”

    “And I did lose. And I thought ‘you know, you probably need to leave the guy some hope of winning some way out,’” the

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