What We Know About The Judges Obama Is Reportedly Vetting For The Supreme Court

After an evening meeting, President Barack Obama walks along the colonnade from the Oval Office to the White House Residence in Washington, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, carrying a binder containing information on possible Supreme Court nominees. Credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

— by Ian Millhiser, Think Progress

According to the Washington Post, the White House is considering six candidates for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia: federal appeals court judges Sri Srinivasan, Jane Kelly, Merrick Garland, Paul Watford, and Patricia Millett, along with district judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Judge Sri Srinivasan

Judge Sri Srinivasan
Judge Sri Srinivasan

Judge Sri Srinivasan offers the conventional mix of youth, experience, and credentials that presidents often look for when selecting a Supreme Court nominee. A judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, a court that is widely considered the second most powerful in the nation, Srinivasan was confirmed to this job by a 97-0 vote. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, served as the principal deputy to Solicitor General Don Verrilli, and argued more than two dozens cases in the Supreme Court before his own elevation to the bench.

Srinivasan’s record during his just under three years as a judge suggests that his approach to the law is similar to other mainline Democratic appointees. Among other things, Srinivasan authored an opinion reinstating minimum wage and overtime protections for home care workers after those protections were cut off by a trial judge’s order. And he was one of three judges on a panel that refused to halt the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, it’s most aggressive effort to fight climate change. (Shortly before Scalia’s death, the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc halted this effort on their own, over the dissent of all four of the Court’s liberals.)

The case challenging the Clean Power Plan remains ongoing, however, and it is still pending before the panel that includes Judge Srinivasan. Thus, nominating Srinivasan presents some risk for the president because it could lead to a different judge being swapped in to hear this case. Should Srinivasan be confirmed to the Supreme Court, he would also need to recuse from the case because he already ruled on the request to temporarily halt the Plan as a circuit judge. Some of the White House’s liberal allies have also expressed concerns about Srinivasan’s record prior to becoming a judge; his past clients include ExxonMobil and former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling.

Judge Jane Kelly

Judge Jane Kelly
Judge Jane Kelly

By the ultra-elite standards of the very top echelons of the legal profession, Judge Jane Kelly does not have the same eye-popping credentials as Srinivasan. After graduating with honors from Harvard Law, Kelly clerked for a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, but never for a Supreme Court justice. While Srinivasan made a name for himself in DC as one of the nation’s top Supreme Court litigators, Kelly toiled in relative obscurity in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Dismissing Kelly’s credentials because they do not match up with Srinivasan’s, however, is a bit like labeling Wonder Woman a weakling because she does not pack quite as much of a punch as Superman. Elite law firms currently offer a signing bonus of up to $75,000 for recent law graduates fresh out of a federal circuit clerkship, and that’s in addition to a starting salary in the mid-to-high $100,000s. So Kelly could have enjoyed a very lavish life in a prestigious legal practice.

She turned this life down to become a public defender, a job she held until her appointment to the Eighth Circuit in 2013. She continued to do that job even after she was attacked by an unknown assailant and left for dead while jogging in 2004. “After having that happen to her,” former Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) later said about Kelly, “she went right back to work sticking up for the constitutional rights of people accused by the federal government. To me, that was a mark of real character and sort of inner strength and resolve that something like that was not going to make her throw in the towel.”

A Kelly nomination could also embarrass Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who has thus far refused to consider anyone that President Obama names to fill Scalia’s seat. Grassley praised her nomination to the Eighth Circuit, quoting a friend of his on the federal bench who praised her “exceptionally keen intellect” and concluded that “she will be a welcomed addition to the Court if confirmed.” If Kelly is the nominee, expect videos like this one, where Grassley urges his colleagues to confirm her, to become a stable of cable news coverage of the nomination:

http://www.c-span.org/video/standalone/?c4580805

Chief Judge Merrick Garland

Chief Judge Merrick Garland
Chief Judge Merrick Garland

Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the DC Circuit is the sort of nominee that Obama and Senate Republicans might agree to elevate to the Supreme Court as a compromise, if compromise is actually possible with the current Senate majority. Garland, who President Clinton appointed to the DC Circuit in 1997, is far and away the oldest candidate among the four the White House is reportedly vetting — he’s 63. In nearly two decades on the bench, Garland has also built a fairly centrist record.

Like the much younger Srinivasan, Garland’s resume is laden with the kind of credentials that make mere mortal attorneys droll with envy — including a clerkship for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan and a senior Justice Department job prior to Garland’s elevation to the bench. On most issues, moreover, is is likely that Garland would side with the Supreme Court’s liberal bloc in divided cases.

Nevertheless, there are a few areas where his instincts appear more conservative. In 2003, Garland joined an opinion holding that the federal judiciary lacks the authority, “to assert habeas corpus jurisdiction at the behest of an alien held at a military base leased from another nation, a military base outside the sovereignty of the United States,” effectively prohibiting Guantanamo Bay detainees from seeking relief in civilian courts. The Supreme Court reversed this decision a little over a year later in Rasul v. Bush. (Though, it is worth noting that legal experts disagree about whether the result Garland supported was compelled by then-existing precedents.)

Garland also appears to have relatively conservative instincts in criminal justice cases. According to a 2010 examination of Garland’s decision by SCOTUSBlog’s Thomas Goldstein, “Judge Garland rarely votes in favor of criminal defendants’ appeals of their convictions.” Goldstein “identified only eight such published rulings,” as well as an additional seven where “he voted to reverse the defendant’s sentence in whole or in part, or to permit the defendant to raise a argument relating to sentencing on remand,” during the 13 years Garland had then spent as a federal judge.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia is the only federal trial judge among the six mentioned by the Washington Post. At 45, she is also the youngest, Jackson’s resume includes several years of private practice, service on the United States Sentencing Commission, and work as a public defender. She clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.Jackson’s current status as a trial judge could prove to be both a blessing and a curse if she is Obama’s nominee. On the one hand, appellate judgeships are considered to be more prestigious than trial judgeships. The Supreme Court is also an appellate court, so a judge with experience at the appellate level is likely to be more used to the kind of work that goes into being a justice. That said, nearly all of the cases heard by the Supreme Court began in trial courts, and they can often turn upon procedural motions, fact-finding and other matters that occurred at the trial level. Currently, the only sitting justice with experience as a trial judge is Justice Sonia Sotomayor, so Jackson would bring an underrepresented perspective to the nation’s highest Court.

According to the Washington Post, the White House is focusing on potential nominees “with scant dis­cern­ible ideology and limited judicial records as part of a strategy to surmount fierce Republican opposition.” Jackson, however, does have some opinions that are likely to fuel Republican opposition if she is nominated. In Rothe Development v. Department of Defense, Jackson rejected a challenge to a program that provides “technological, financial, and practical assistance, as well as support through preferential awards of government contracts” to companies that are designated as “small disadvantaged businesses.” One of the criteria used to determine if a business qualifies for this designation is whether a majority owner of the business belongs to a racial minority group. Though Jackson’s opinion upholding this limited consideration of race in government contracting closely tracks a 2012 decision by another judge of her court, which rejected a “nearly identical” challenge, it is likely that Rothe Development will play a starring role in conservative attack ads should Jackson be the nominee.

Additionally, Jackson denied a request by the website Gawker that tried to “force former Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines to explain why he had work-related emails in a private account.” Although her decision merely concluded that the request was “premature,” and not that it could not succeed at a later date, it is unlikely that conservative attack groups will dwell on that nuance if Jackson is the nominee.

Judge Paul Watford

Judge Paul Watford
Judge Paul Watford

ThinkProgress previously described Judge Paul Watford as a “conventional superqualified nominee.” A former law clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Watford joined the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2012, after spending a few years as a federal prosecutor and then becoming a partner in a large law firm.Watford, however, had a somewhat more rocky confirmation process than Srinivasan and Kelly — a fact that may stem from Watford being one of only a handful of judicial nominees President Obama named in his first term who fit the conventional profile for a future Supreme Court justice. Grassley, in particular, objected to a few amicus briefs Watford wrote while still in private practice, including a brief opposing Arizona’s anti-immigrant law SB 1070, and another one filed on behalf of groups opposed to Kentucky’s lethal injection protocol. Judge Watford was eventually confirmed by a 61-34 vote.

Since becoming a judge, Watford authored three opinions in cases that were later reviewed by the Supreme Court. The justices agreed with Watford about the correct result in all three — including a case where the Supreme Court agreed with Watford’s decision to strike down a Los Angeles ordinance requiring hotels to share guest records with police even if the police do not have a warrant.

Judge Patricia Millett

Judge Patricia Millett
Judge Patricia Millett

Like Srinivasan, Judge Patricia Millett was among the nation’s top Supreme Court advocates prior to her appointment to the DC Circuit — arguing 32 cases during her time as an attorney in the Solicitor General’s office and later in private practice. Prior to becoming a judge, she alsoserved on the board of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a civil rights organization in Washington, DC. During her confirmation to the DC Circuit, one of the most active lobbying groups working on her behalf was a network of lawyers who are also military spouses. Millett’s husband served in the Navy, and they met at a church event while he was stationed at the Pentagon and were later married in the same church.Under normal circumstances, a Millett nomination would be a considerable olive branch extended toward Senate Republicans. Among other things, Millett once defended the conservative Roberts Court’s record in business cases during testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying that the justices “show[ed] a fair amount of balance in the business area” during a previous term. In just over two years on the DC Circuit, she’s authored just over two dozen majority opinions, none of which are particularly ideological

(The president’s opponents may complain about an opinion rejecting a challenge to various aspects of the Affordable Care Act and its implementation, but that lawsuit received little backing from interest groups that have otherwise been eager to support suits against Obamacare that have even a small chance of prevailing. Judge Millett’s opinion in that case was also joined by a conservative George H.W. Bush appointee.)

Millett, however, was also the very first judge confirmed after Senate Democrats invoked the so-called “nuclear option” to allow lower court nominations to be confirmed by a simple majority vote. This maneuver, which effectively shut down Senate Republican efforts to maintain ideological control over the nation’s second most powerful court, remains a sore spot among Senate Republicans. If Millett is the nominee, it is likely that many senators will take their frustrations with this rules change out on the judge.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. ‘Like’ CAP Action on Facebook and ‘follow’ us on Twitter

President Obama’s Full Remarks on Iran

Speaking from the Cabinet Room, President announced that we’ve secured significant diplomatic achievements in Iran. Thanks to the Iran nuclear agreement, Iran can no longer develop a nuclear weapon. And this morning, four Americans were officially freed from wrongful imprisonment and are on their way home.

This is what strong, principled American diplomacy can do. As the President said today:

“Today’s progress — Americans coming home, an Iran that has rolled back its nuclear program and accepted unprecedented monitoring of that program — these things are a reminder of what we can achieve when we lead with strength and with wisdom; with courage and resolve and patience. America can do, and has done, big things when we work together”

Watch the President’s remarks.

540

Here’s the full text of his remarks — they’re worth a read.

“This is a good day, because, once again, we’re seeing what’s possible with strong American diplomacy.

As I said in my State of the Union address, ensuring the security of the United States and the safety of our people demands a smart, patient and disciplined approach to the world. That includes our diplomacy with the Islamic Republic of Iran. For decades, our differences with Iran meant that our governments almost never spoke to each other. Ultimately, that did not advance America’s interests. Over the years, Iran moved closer and closer to having the ability to build a nuclear weapon. But from Presidents Franklin Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, the United States has never been afraid to pursue diplomacy with our adversaries. And as President, I decided that a strong, confident America could advance our national security by engaging directly with the Iranian government.

We’ve seen the results. Under the nuclear deal that we, our allies and partners reached with Iran last year, Iran will not get its hands on a nuclear bomb. The region, the United States, and the world will be more secure. As I’ve said many times, the nuclear deal was never intended to resolve all of our differences with Iran. But still, engaging directly with the Iranian government on a sustained basis, for the first time in decades, has created a unique opportunity — a window — to try to resolve important issues. And today, I can report progress on a number of fronts.

First, yesterday marked a milestone in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Iran has now fulfilled key commitments under the nuclear deal. And I want to take a moment to explain why this is so important.

Over more than a decade, Iran had moved ahead with its nuclear program, and, before the deal, it had installed nearly 20,000 centrifuges that can enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb. Today, Iran has removed two-thirds of those machines. Before the deal, Iran was steadily increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium — enough for up to 10 nuclear bombs. Today, more than 98 percent of that stockpile has been shipped out of Iran — meaning Iran now doesn’t have enough material for even one bomb. Before, Iran was nearing completion of a new reactor capable of producing plutonium for a bomb. Today, the core of that reactor has been pulled out and filled with concrete so it cannot be used again.

Before the deal, the world had relatively little visibility into Iran’s nuclear program. Today, international inspectors are on the ground, and Iran is being subjected to the most comprehensive, intrusive inspection regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program. Inspectors will monitor Iran’s key nuclear facilities 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For decades to come, inspectors will have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain. In other words, if Iran tries to cheat — if they try to build a bomb covertly — we will catch them.

So the bottom line is this. Whereas Iran was steadily expanding its nuclear program, we have now cut off every single path that Iran could have used to build a bomb. Whereas it would have taken Iran two to three months to break out with enough material to rush to a bomb, we’ve now extended that breakout time to a year — and with the world’s unprecedented inspections and access to Iran’s program, we’ll know if Iran ever tries to break out.

Now that Iran’s actions have been verified, it can begin to receive relief from certain nuclear sanctions and gain access to its own money that had been frozen. And perhaps most important of all, we’ve achieved this historic progress through diplomacy, without resorting to another war in the Middle East.

I want to also point out that by working with Iran on this nuclear deal, we were better able to address other issues. When our sailors in the Persian Gulf accidentally strayed into Iranian waters that could have sparked a major international incident. Some folks here in Washington rushed to declare that it was the start of another hostage crisis. Instead, we worked directly with the Iranian government and secured the release of our sailors in less than 24 hours.

This brings me to a second major development — several Americans unjustly detained by Iran are finally coming home. In some cases, these Americans faced years of continued detention. And I’ve met with some of their families. I’ve seen their anguish, how they ache for their sons and husbands. I gave these families my word — I made a vow — that we would do everything in our power to win the release of their loved ones. And we have been tireless. On the sidelines of the nuclear negotiations, our diplomats at the highest level, including Secretary Kerry, used every meeting to push Iran to release our Americans. I did so myself, in my conversation with President Rouhani. After the nuclear deal was completed, the discussions between our governments accelerated. Yesterday, these families finally got the news that they have been waiting for.

Jason Rezaian is coming home. A courageous journalist for The Washington Post, who wrote about the daily lives and hopes of the Iranian people, he’s been held for a year and a half. He embodies the brave spirit that gives life to the freedom of the press. Jason has already been reunited with his wife and mom.

Pastor Saeed Abedini is coming home. Held for three and half years, his unyielding faith has inspired people around the world in the global fight to uphold freedom of religion. Now, Pastor Abedini will return to his church and community in Idaho.

Amir Hekmati is coming home. A former sergeant in the Marine Corps, he’s been held for four and a half years. Today, his parents and sisters are giving thanks in Michigan.

Two other Americans unjustly detained by Iran have also been released — Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari and Matthew Trevithick, an Iranian — who was in Iran as a student. Their cases were largely unknown to the world. But when Americans are freed and reunited with their families, that’s something that we can all celebrate.

So I want to thank my national security team — especially Secretary Kerry; Susan Rice, my National Security Advisor; Brett McGurk; Avril Haines; Ben Rhodes — our whole team worked tirelessly to bring our Americans home, to get this work done. And I want to thank the Swiss government, which represents our interests in Iran, for their critical assistance.

And meanwhile, Iran has agreed to deepen our coordination as we work to locate Robert Levinson — missing from Iran for more than eight years. Even as we rejoice in the safe return of others, we will never forget about Bob. Each and every day, but especially today, our hearts are with the Levinson family, and we will not rest until their family is whole again.

In a reciprocal humanitarian gesture, six Iranian–Americans and one Iranian serving sentences or awaiting trial in the United States are being granted clemency. These individuals were not charged with terrorism or any violent offenses. They’re civilians, and their release is a one-time gesture to Iran given the unique opportunity offered by this moment and the larger circumstances at play. And it reflects our willingness to engage with Iran to advance our mutual interests, even as we ensure the national security of the United States.

So, nuclear deal implemented. American families reunited. The third piece of this work that we got done this weekend involved the United States and Iran resolving a financial dispute that dated back more than three decades. Since 1981, after our nations severed diplomatic relations, we’ve worked through a international tribunal to resolve various claims between our countries. The United States and Iran are now settling a longstanding Iranian government claim against the United States government. Iran will be returned its own funds, including appropriate interest, but much less than the amount Iran sought.

For the United States, this settlement could save us billions of dollars that could have been pursued by Iran. So there was no benefit to the United States in dragging this out. With the nuclear deal done, prisoners released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well.

Of course, even as we implement the nuclear deal and welcome our Americans home, we recognize that there remain profound differences between the United States and Iran. We remain steadfast in opposing Iran’s destabilizing behavior elsewhere, including its threats against Israel and our Gulf partners, and its support for violent proxies in places like Syria and Yemen. We still have sanctions on Iran for its violations of human rights, for its support of terrorism, and for its ballistic missile program. And we will continue to enforce these sanctions, vigorously. Iran’s recent missile test, for example, was a violation of its international obligations. And as a result, the United States is imposing sanctions on individuals and companies working to advance Iran’s ballistic missile program. And we are going to remain vigilant about it. We’re not going to waver in the defense of our security or that of our allies and partners.

But I do want to once again speak directly to the Iranian people. Yours is a great civilization, with a vibrant culture that has so much to contribute to the world — in commerce, and in science and the arts. For decades, your government’s threats and actions to destabilize your region have isolated Iran from much of the world. And now our governments are talking with one another. Following the nuclear deal, you — especially young Iranians — have the opportunity to begin building new ties with the world. We have a rare chance to pursue a new path — a different, better future that delivers progress for both our peoples and the wider world. That’s the opportunity before the Iranian people. We need to take advantage of that.

And to my fellow Americans, today, we’re united in welcoming home sons and husbands and brothers who, in lonely prison cells, have endured an absolute nightmare. But they never gave in and they never gave up. At long last, they can stand tall and breathe deep the fresh air of freedom.

As a nation, we face real challenges, around the world and here at home. Many of them will not be resolved quickly or easily. But today’s progress — Americans coming home, an Iran that has rolled back its nuclear program and accepted unprecedented monitoring of that program — these things are a reminder of what we can achieve when we lead with strength and with wisdom; with courage and resolve and patience. America can do — and has done — big things when we work together. We can leave this world and make it safer and more secure for our children and our grandchildren for generations to come.

I want to thank once again Secretary Kerry; our entire national security team, led by Susan Rice. I’m grateful for all the assistance that we received from our allies and partners. And I am hopeful that this signals the opportunity at least for Iran to work more cooperatively with nations around the world to advance their interests and the interests of people who are looking for peace and security for their families.

Thank you so much. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.”

 

— President Barack Obama

President Obama’s Full Remarks on Iran

Speaking from the Cabinet Room, President announced that we’ve secured significant diplomatic achievements in Iran. Thanks to the Iran nuclear agreement, Iran can no longer develop a nuclear weapon. And this morning, four Americans were officially freed from wrongful imprisonment and are on their way home.

This is what strong, principled American diplomacy can do. As the President said today:

“Today’s progress — Americans coming home, an Iran that has rolled back its nuclear program and accepted unprecedented monitoring of that program — these things are a reminder of what we can achieve when we lead with strength and with wisdom; with courage and resolve and patience. America can do, and has done, big things when we work together”

Watch the President’s remarks.

540

Here’s the full text of his remarks — they’re worth a read.

“This is a good day, because, once again, we’re seeing what’s possible with strong American diplomacy.

As I said in my State of the Union address, ensuring the security of the United States and the safety of our people demands a smart, patient and disciplined approach to the world. That includes our diplomacy with the Islamic Republic of Iran. For decades, our differences with Iran meant that our governments almost never spoke to each other. Ultimately, that did not advance America’s interests. Over the years, Iran moved closer and closer to having the ability to build a nuclear weapon. But from Presidents Franklin Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, the United States has never been afraid to pursue diplomacy with our adversaries. And as President, I decided that a strong, confident America could advance our national security by engaging directly with the Iranian government.

We’ve seen the results. Under the nuclear deal that we, our allies and partners reached with Iran last year, Iran will not get its hands on a nuclear bomb. The region, the United States, and the world will be more secure. As I’ve said many times, the nuclear deal was never intended to resolve all of our differences with Iran. But still, engaging directly with the Iranian government on a sustained basis, for the first time in decades, has created a unique opportunity — a window — to try to resolve important issues. And today, I can report progress on a number of fronts.

First, yesterday marked a milestone in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Iran has now fulfilled key commitments under the nuclear deal. And I want to take a moment to explain why this is so important.

Over more than a decade, Iran had moved ahead with its nuclear program, and, before the deal, it had installed nearly 20,000 centrifuges that can enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb. Today, Iran has removed two-thirds of those machines. Before the deal, Iran was steadily increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium — enough for up to 10 nuclear bombs. Today, more than 98 percent of that stockpile has been shipped out of Iran — meaning Iran now doesn’t have enough material for even one bomb. Before, Iran was nearing completion of a new reactor capable of producing plutonium for a bomb. Today, the core of that reactor has been pulled out and filled with concrete so it cannot be used again.

Before the deal, the world had relatively little visibility into Iran’s nuclear program. Today, international inspectors are on the ground, and Iran is being subjected to the most comprehensive, intrusive inspection regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program. Inspectors will monitor Iran’s key nuclear facilities 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For decades to come, inspectors will have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain. In other words, if Iran tries to cheat — if they try to build a bomb covertly — we will catch them.

So the bottom line is this. Whereas Iran was steadily expanding its nuclear program, we have now cut off every single path that Iran could have used to build a bomb. Whereas it would have taken Iran two to three months to break out with enough material to rush to a bomb, we’ve now extended that breakout time to a year — and with the world’s unprecedented inspections and access to Iran’s program, we’ll know if Iran ever tries to break out.

Now that Iran’s actions have been verified, it can begin to receive relief from certain nuclear sanctions and gain access to its own money that had been frozen. And perhaps most important of all, we’ve achieved this historic progress through diplomacy, without resorting to another war in the Middle East.

I want to also point out that by working with Iran on this nuclear deal, we were better able to address other issues. When our sailors in the Persian Gulf accidentally strayed into Iranian waters that could have sparked a major international incident. Some folks here in Washington rushed to declare that it was the start of another hostage crisis. Instead, we worked directly with the Iranian government and secured the release of our sailors in less than 24 hours.

This brings me to a second major development — several Americans unjustly detained by Iran are finally coming home. In some cases, these Americans faced years of continued detention. And I’ve met with some of their families. I’ve seen their anguish, how they ache for their sons and husbands. I gave these families my word — I made a vow — that we would do everything in our power to win the release of their loved ones. And we have been tireless. On the sidelines of the nuclear negotiations, our diplomats at the highest level, including Secretary Kerry, used every meeting to push Iran to release our Americans. I did so myself, in my conversation with President Rouhani. After the nuclear deal was completed, the discussions between our governments accelerated. Yesterday, these families finally got the news that they have been waiting for.

Jason Rezaian is coming home. A courageous journalist for The Washington Post, who wrote about the daily lives and hopes of the Iranian people, he’s been held for a year and a half. He embodies the brave spirit that gives life to the freedom of the press. Jason has already been reunited with his wife and mom.

Pastor Saeed Abedini is coming home. Held for three and half years, his unyielding faith has inspired people around the world in the global fight to uphold freedom of religion. Now, Pastor Abedini will return to his church and community in Idaho.

Amir Hekmati is coming home. A former sergeant in the Marine Corps, he’s been held for four and a half years. Today, his parents and sisters are giving thanks in Michigan.

Two other Americans unjustly detained by Iran have also been released — Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari and Matthew Trevithick, an Iranian — who was in Iran as a student. Their cases were largely unknown to the world. But when Americans are freed and reunited with their families, that’s something that we can all celebrate.

So I want to thank my national security team — especially Secretary Kerry; Susan Rice, my National Security Advisor; Brett McGurk; Avril Haines; Ben Rhodes — our whole team worked tirelessly to bring our Americans home, to get this work done. And I want to thank the Swiss government, which represents our interests in Iran, for their critical assistance.

And meanwhile, Iran has agreed to deepen our coordination as we work to locate Robert Levinson — missing from Iran for more than eight years. Even as we rejoice in the safe return of others, we will never forget about Bob. Each and every day, but especially today, our hearts are with the Levinson family, and we will not rest until their family is whole again.

In a reciprocal humanitarian gesture, six Iranian–Americans and one Iranian serving sentences or awaiting trial in the United States are being granted clemency. These individuals were not charged with terrorism or any violent offenses. They’re civilians, and their release is a one-time gesture to Iran given the unique opportunity offered by this moment and the larger circumstances at play. And it reflects our willingness to engage with Iran to advance our mutual interests, even as we ensure the national security of the United States.

So, nuclear deal implemented. American families reunited. The third piece of this work that we got done this weekend involved the United States and Iran resolving a financial dispute that dated back more than three decades. Since 1981, after our nations severed diplomatic relations, we’ve worked through a international tribunal to resolve various claims between our countries. The United States and Iran are now settling a longstanding Iranian government claim against the United States government. Iran will be returned its own funds, including appropriate interest, but much less than the amount Iran sought.

For the United States, this settlement could save us billions of dollars that could have been pursued by Iran. So there was no benefit to the United States in dragging this out. With the nuclear deal done, prisoners released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well.

Of course, even as we implement the nuclear deal and welcome our Americans home, we recognize that there remain profound differences between the United States and Iran. We remain steadfast in opposing Iran’s destabilizing behavior elsewhere, including its threats against Israel and our Gulf partners, and its support for violent proxies in places like Syria and Yemen. We still have sanctions on Iran for its violations of human rights, for its support of terrorism, and for its ballistic missile program. And we will continue to enforce these sanctions, vigorously. Iran’s recent missile test, for example, was a violation of its international obligations. And as a result, the United States is imposing sanctions on individuals and companies working to advance Iran’s ballistic missile program. And we are going to remain vigilant about it. We’re not going to waver in the defense of our security or that of our allies and partners.

But I do want to once again speak directly to the Iranian people. Yours is a great civilization, with a vibrant culture that has so much to contribute to the world — in commerce, and in science and the arts. For decades, your government’s threats and actions to destabilize your region have isolated Iran from much of the world. And now our governments are talking with one another. Following the nuclear deal, you — especially young Iranians — have the opportunity to begin building new ties with the world. We have a rare chance to pursue a new path — a different, better future that delivers progress for both our peoples and the wider world. That’s the opportunity before the Iranian people. We need to take advantage of that.

And to my fellow Americans, today, we’re united in welcoming home sons and husbands and brothers who, in lonely prison cells, have endured an absolute nightmare. But they never gave in and they never gave up. At long last, they can stand tall and breathe deep the fresh air of freedom.

As a nation, we face real challenges, around the world and here at home. Many of them will not be resolved quickly or easily. But today’s progress — Americans coming home, an Iran that has rolled back its nuclear program and accepted unprecedented monitoring of that program — these things are a reminder of what we can achieve when we lead with strength and with wisdom; with courage and resolve and patience. America can do — and has done — big things when we work together. We can leave this world and make it safer and more secure for our children and our grandchildren for generations to come.

I want to thank once again Secretary Kerry; our entire national security team, led by Susan Rice. I’m grateful for all the assistance that we received from our allies and partners. And I am hopeful that this signals the opportunity at least for Iran to work more cooperatively with nations around the world to advance their interests and the interests of people who are looking for peace and security for their families.

Thank you so much. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.”

 

— President Barack Obama

Here’s What President Obama Said

Last night, President Obama delivered the final State of the Union address of his presidency.

Watch his final State of the Union address:

He wasn’t focused on our past — he was focused on our future. He spoke about how America’s unique strengths as a nation give us everything we need to build a better future for generations to come.

“That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Undaunted by challenge. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. I believe in change because I believe in you, the American people.”

Read the full speech.

You can read the full text of President Obama’s speech on WhiteHouse.gov, Medium, and Facebook. For more, check out past annotated State of the Union addresses to see the progress we’ve made over the past seven years.

Veto Message from the President to the Republiban re: HR3762 ACA Repeal

— by Vickie Rock, Humboldt Democrats

After the 62nd vote to repeal “Obamacare” (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) which has now been upheld by the Supreme Court TWICE, the Republiban members of Congress finally managed to pass HR 3762. Inaptly named, the bill that would have done the exact opposite of its title: “Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015.”  Restoring “Americans'” freedom?  Nope!  More like restoring the freedom for Insurance Corporations to give Americans the short shrift related to any hope of accessing healthcare insurance and thus health care itself.

And just so you know, each and every Nevada Republican in the House of Representatives, Rep. Mark Amodei (CD2), Rep. Joe Heck (CD3), and Rep. Cresant Hardy (CD4) voted FOR passage of HR 3762 (as well as a large number of previous bills) which would not just repeal the Affordable Care Act for millions of Americans who can barely afford health insurance as it is, but would have also revoked any and all funding received by Planned Parenthood by folks who not only can’t afford health insurance, but can’t afford health care either.  Senator Dean Heller also voted FOR passage (repeal) in the Senate in December preceding the vote in the House.

Today, at the stroke of his pen, President Obama showed us exactly HOW important it is that we have a Democratic President in the oval office as he promptly and unceremoniously vetoed their wasted efforts.  Here’s his message back to Congress:

TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:

I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 3762, which provides for reconciliation pursuant to section 2002 of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2016, herein referred to as the Reconciliation Act.  This legislation would not only repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, but would reverse the significant progress we have made in improving health care in America.  The Affordable Care Act includes a set of fairer rules and stronger consumer protections that have made health care coverage more affordable, more attainable, and more patient centered.  And it is working.  About 17.6 million Americans have gained health care coverage as the law’s coverage provisions have taken effect.  The Nation’s uninsured rate now stands at its lowest level ever, and demand for Marketplace coverage during December 2015 was at an all-time high.  Health care costs are lower than expected when the law was passed, and health care quality is higher — with improvements in patient safety saving an estimated 87,000 lives.  Health care has changed for the better, setting this country on a smarter, stronger course. 

The Reconciliation Act would reverse that course.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the legislation would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 22 million after 2017.  The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that this reduction in health care coverage could mean, each year, more than 900,000 fewer people getting all their needed care, more than 1.2 million additional people having trouble paying other bills due to higher medical costs, and potentially more than 10,000 additional deaths.  This legislation would cost millions of hard-working middle-class families the security of affordable health coverage they deserve.  Reliable health care coverage  would no longer be a right for everyone:  it would return to being a privilege for a few.

The legislation’s implications extend far beyond those who would become uninsured.  For example, about 150 million Americans with employer-based insurance would be at risk of higher premiums and lower wages.  And it would cause the cost of health coverage for people buying it on their own to skyrocket.  

The Reconciliation Act would also effectively defund Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood uses both Federal and non-federal funds to provide a range of important preventive care and health services, including health screenings, vaccinations, and check-ups to millions of men and women who visit their health centers annually.  Longstanding Federal policy already prohibits the use of Federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered.  By eliminating Federal Medicaid funding for a major provider of health care, H.R. 3762 would limit access to health care for men, women, and families across the Nation, and would disproportionately impact low-income individuals.

Republicans in the Congress have attempted to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act over 50 times.  Rather than refighting old political battles by once again voting to repeal basic protections that provide security for the middle class, Members of Congress should be working together to grow the economy, strengthen middle-class families, and create new jobs.  Because of the harm this bill would cause to the health and financial security of millions of Americans, it has earned my veto.

The Republiban may have used procedural shenanigans to enable them to pass HR 3762, but to override President Obama’s veto, the Republiban would need a two-thirds affirmative vote on repeal bill.  The don’t have that.  This was all for show for the rabid GOP base heading into the November election.  But more than that, it’s a serious red-flag warning to Democrats that if we don’t overwhelm the polls this November to begin taking back Congress, and instead all the Republiban to hold onto Congress plus, take the White House, you can kiss the American Dream goodbye and buy the coffin as it will truly be dead.

522