President Obama had his first presser in a long time and he showed his lack of command of the situation in the Gulf of Mexico. When Chip Reid of CBS asked a simple question -- whether Elizabeth Birnbaum, President Obama's Director of Mineral Management Services, was fired or resigned, the President dodged the question. When there was a follow-up question on Birnbaum, he had an odd response to a question from the New York Times reporter Jackie Calmes. From a New York Times transcript:
President Obama: Well, you're assuming it was a firing. If it was a resignation, then she would have submitted a letter to Mr. Salazar this morning, at a time when I had a whole bunch of other stuff going on.
Jackie Calmes, NYT: So you rule out that she was fired?
The President: Come on, Jackie, I don't know. I'm telling you the -- I found out about it this morning, so I don't yet know the circumstances, and Ken Salazar has been in testimony on the Hill.
The President also admitted that (New York Times transcript) "are we doing everything perfectly out there, then the answer is absolutely not. We can always do better." Our President has an odd habit of asking himself questions at press conferences. The House is expected to complete the Defense Authorization bill and may take another run at the "Tax Extenders" bill. Senate is out for the day, because they passed the War Supplemental late last evening.
The issues for conservatives to watch in Washington today are:
- Tax Extenders - The House will vote on the so called "Tax Extenders" bill today, even though the Senate is gone for the holiday and this bill will not make it to the President's desk before the Memorial Day recess. The bill includes and extension of unemployment benefits into next month and it seems as if the Democrats in the House are playing politics, so they can blame the Senate when unemployment checks end on June 1. There is confusion on the part of House members as to what is even in the bill. From Congressional Quarterly (subscription required) "Nobody even knows what’s in it,” said Pete Sessions, R-Texas. “The Senate has already gone home. . . . So, what is the point? Why is the Speaker having this bill today on the floor?” This seems like a naked political exercise on the part of House Democrats.
- Don't Ask, Don't Tell -According to Congressional Quarterly (subscription required), "in a pair of landmark decisions, the House and a Senate committee voted Thursday to allow openly gay people to serve in the U.S. military once certain conditions are met." The promise of President Obama to use the military as a social experiment during time of war seems near completion. More from CQ, "the House voted, 234-194, to adopt an amendment to the fiscal 2011 defense authorization bill (HR 5136) that would repeal a 1993 law (PL 103-160) that codified the military ban." In the Senate, the "Senate Armed Services Committee adopted, 16-12, an identical amendment by Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn. All but one Democrat, Jim Webb of Virginia, voted for it. All but one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, voted against it." This debate will continue on the Senate floor when the DOD Authorization bill comes up for a vote in the Senate as early as next month.
- War Supplemental - Last night the Senate approved a $59 billion War Supplemental on a 67-28 vote. Senator Jim DeMint made a motion for consideration of an amendment to complete the border fence. The DeMint Amendment was defeated on a 45-52 vote. The Washington Post reports that a McCain Amendment for increased border security was rejected. "As part of the war funding debate, Senate Democrats defeated a series of Republican amendments aimed at tightening security on the Mexican border, including a proposal by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to dispatch an additional 6,000 security troops." The House is working on an $84 billion War Supplemental and this legislation will not be resolved until after the Memorial Day recess.
The President should have more press conferences so the American people can hear directly from him on a daily basis what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico.