Thursday, January 29, 2015

POSTED: Thursday, January 29, 2015, 8:17 PM
President Obama addresses members of the House Democratic caucus Jan. 29, 2015, during their three-day policy retreat in Society Hill. ( TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer )

Update: President Obama's motorcade has left the Society Hill Sheraton and is on its way back to Philadelphia International Airport.

President Obama, speaking to House Democrats in Society Hill Thursday night, urged Democrats to remain focused on helping the middle class, reiterating many of the same themes he hit in his State of the Union speech last week - while adding a dig at Republicans and a thinly-veiled swipe at Mitt Romney for imitating the Democratic concern with average Americans.

Obama’s nearly 20-minute address to his party colleagues here drew a sustained standing, universal ovation as he urged Democrats to not be defensive or afraid despite an Election Day drubbing in November.

POSTED: Thursday, January 29, 2015, 5:29 PM

President Obama has landed in Philadelphia and is on his way to the Society Hill Sheraton, where Thursday night he will give the keynote address to House Democrats who have gathered there for a strategy session.

Obama is expected to focus on his latest budget, in which he will call for reversing automatic spending cuts that took effect in 2013, and spending more on programs that would invest in manufacturing, rebuilding infrastructure and medical research. The White House has painted these plans as a way to end “arbitrary” cuts that harm the economy and military and invest in proposals that will aid the middle class.

Gov. Wolf and Mayor Nutter greeted Obama as he deplaned, but protesters opposing the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline were waiting at the Sheraton. A bill to approve the plan won approval in the Senate Thursday, but Obama has vowed to veto the bill as he awaits further review. Opponents here were stationed behind a barricade. One had a sign reading: "Keep Tar Sands in the Ground."

POSTED: Thursday, January 29, 2015, 11:58 AM
The cutting blade of a dredge is lifted for maintenance of the motor system on the Delaware, 1.5 miles east of Delaware City, Del. DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer

The Delaware River dredging project will receive another $97.5 million in federal funding, the most ever set aside in a single year, according to the office of Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.).

The Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to use $62.5 million of existing but unallocated funding for the project, Casey’s office said, and another $35 million was included in the spending bill approved by Congress and signed into law late last year. The money will cover work in both fiscal years 2015 and 2016.

Before now, the most set aside at one time for the project was $41 million, Casey’s office said.

POSTED: Thursday, January 29, 2015, 9:40 AM

President Obama, speaking in Philadelphia Thursday night, will call for ending the across the board “sequestration” budget cuts that he believes has weakened the military and hampered needed domestic programs.

“As we make these investments in our future, the President will propose to end the across-the-board sequester cuts that threaten our economy and our military,” a White House official said in advance of the speech. “The president’s budget will fully reverse those cuts for domestic priorities, and match those investments dollar-for-dollar with the resources our troops need to keep America safe.”

The change -- in which the president will call for breaking spending caps laid out by both parties earlier in his term -- will be part of a new budget proposal due out Monday. The president, though, will have a steep climb to get what he wants, since Republicans control Congress. Many in the GOP also want to end the cuts, particularly to the military, but they would prefer to replace the automatic reductions with more targeted reductions in domestic spending in order to slim down the government. They have balked at Obama's calls for more taxes.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 12:24 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama. (Photo by Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – President Obama, Vice President Biden, Gov. Wolf and Mayor Nutter will be among the guests speaking to fellow Democrats in Philadelphia this week as House Democrats hold a policy retreat in the city.

Member of the House Democratic caucus will be making their way to the Sheraton in Society Hill Wednesday afternoon as they meet to develop a policy and political strategy for the next two years amid diminished numbers in Congress. They will be greeted by speeches from Nutter and Wolf – whose win was one of Democrats' few bright spots on Election Day.

The meetings come as House Democrats try to build a new message that can better connect with voters over the next two years and leading up to the 2016 elections.

POSTED: Tuesday, January 27, 2015, 4:23 PM

Updated below with new comments from a South Jersey lawmaker supporting Obama's plan.

WASHINGTON – Several New Jersey lawmakers blasted an Obama administration plan Tuesday to allow offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic, saying their state and others along the coast would be at risk of significant damage from any spills.

While the proposal would open up offshore drilling in an area from Virginia to Georgia, New Jerseyans worried that any spills would damage their state's tourism and fishing businesses, its environment and economy.

POSTED: Tuesday, January 27, 2015, 12:46 PM

WASHINGTON – Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), the leading Democratic advocate for new sanctions on Iran, gave President Obama some breathing room Tuesday.

Menendez said he and several other Democrats who have called for added sanctions will not support a vote for those measures until March 24, the latest deadline for international negotiators to reach a framework of an agreement with Iran over the country’s nuclear weapons program. Even though Republicans control the Senate, the Democrats’ stance could block any vote on new measures, which some in the GOP had hoped would come quickly.

Obama has urged lawmakers not to vote for new sanctions as his administration and five other international powers try to negotiate a deal to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

POSTED: Monday, January 26, 2015, 5:52 PM

WASHINGTON – Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed another one of U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah’s aides, seeking testimony from his district office manager, Dolores Ridley.

Ridley, in a Jan. 16 message to House Speaker John Boehner, said she had been subpoenaed by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania “for grand jury testimony in a criminal case.”

Lawmakers and their staffers are required to notify the speaker when they receive a subpoena.

About this blog

Jonathan Tamari is the Inquirer’s Washington correspondent. He writes about the lawmakers, politics and policy that affect Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Tamari previously covered the Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL. Before that he worked in Trenton, reporting on the characters and color of New Jersey state government. He lives in Washington.

Reach Jonathan at jtamari@phillynews.com.

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