Obama and students space out at the White House

‘Don’t let anybody tell you that there is knowledge that is beyond your reach,’ the president tells 150 middle-schoolers at a special astronomy night.

By Alexander C. Hart
October 8, 2009
Reporting from Washington

In a brief diversion from terrestrial concerns, President Obama turned his eyes to the cosmos Wednesday night as he hosted 150 middle-school students for an evening of stargazing and science at the White House.

With moon rocks, meteorites and 20 telescopes on the South Lawn as backdrop, Obama told the crowd:

“As long as we’ve been around, we’ve been trying to unlock the mysteries of the universe. Don’t let anybody tell you that there is knowledge that is beyond your reach.”

Alluding to an event earlier in the day, when he presented the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, Obama asked: “Which one of you is going to come back here to claim your prize? Are you going to find a new star or a cure for a new disease?”

This article continues at latimes.com


Posted in DC

Islamic prayers at the Capitol

Thousands of Muslims gather for ‘A Day of Islamic Unity’ meant to show the ‘peace, beauty’ of their religion. Some conservatives and Christians objected to the event.

By Alexander C. Hart
September 26, 2009
Reporting from Washington

Thousands of Muslims, prostrating themselves in prayer, gathered just feet from the Capitol on Friday for “A Day of Islamic Unity,” an event intended to showcase what organizers called the “peace, beauty and solidarity” of Islam.

Hassen Abdellah, a lawyer and president of the Dar-ul-Islam Mosque in Elizabeth, N.J., said he was inspired to organize the event by President Obama’s attempt to reach out to Muslims in his inaugural address.

“We should also extend our hand,” Abdellah said.

The turnout fell far short of the 50,000 predicted, but the crowd was energetic as participants rolled out variegated prayer mats and plastic tarps in front of the Capitol, where Obama’s inauguration was held in January.

“We can show the world that not all Muslims hate America,” said Habib Beyah, who came from New Jersey with his son to participate. “Not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all Muslims are extremists.”

This story continues at latimes.com

Posted in DC

Dueling Bills: S.160 vs. H.R. 157

408px-TallahaseePalmBeachBallotBox1 photo credit – infrogmation. Licensed under a Creative Commons license

While Congress was busy listening to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown speak, we were working on bringing you a look at the two competing versions of the DC Voting Rights Act. Several news sources suggest controversy over district gun laws is derailing consideration in the House, but we'll keep you updated.

There are two versions of the act. The first is S.160, which passed the Senate 61-37 last week. The second is H.R. 157, which cleared the House Judiciary Committee last week. PDFs of the bills' texts are available here and here, respectively.

So what is the difference? The first is superficial: the Senate bill is four times longer than the House's — 32 pages versus eight. The difference is largely due to a raft of amendments included in the Senate version. We will come to those in a bit.

But even ignoring the amendments, there are several substantive differences. First, S.160 explicitly states that the district cannot receive a senator; H.R. 157 does not. S.160 also limits the district to one representative, regardless of future population increases. 

Both of these Senate provisions are intended to minimize the potential for the district to receive more representation beyond the representative the bill would grant it. But they are likely unnecessary — several senators who support S.160 have said they oppose a senator for Washington, D.C., and the odds of the district ever growing fast enough to earn a second representative are low. As of 2008, the estimated population of the district is approximately 590,000, which would give it a representative per capita ratio nearly one-and-a-half times as high as that of Arizona.

After the jump, we look at how Utah will elect its new representative as well as discuss the amendments to S.160.

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Posted in DC

Around Capitol Hill — H.R. 1105 Amendments and DC Representation Stall

Today was a rough day for getting anything passed on Capitol Hill, it appears. The Senate continued its consideration of H.R. 1105 (the omnibus appropriations bill) and voted down several attempts at modifying it.

The big one was S.AMDT 592, which was offered by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). In effect, the amendment would have transformed the appropriations bill into a continuing. As a result, current funding levels for all programs would remain unchanged.

The amendment failed 32-63. The margin is a dire portent for further attempts to modify the bill or reduce funding in other ways. The 32 yeas included just two Democrats, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.), while the 63 nays saw eight Republicans join 55 Democrats. 

In a similar vein, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) offered a motion to send the bill back to committee with instructions to slash all funding down to current levels. That one did only slightly better than McCain's amendment, failing 33-61.

The third try was not the charm for Republicans either. Sen. Kay Hutchison (R-Texas) motioned to send the bill back to committee with instructions to trim funding down to current levels adjusted for inflation. It failed 40-55 in the final roll call vote today.

After the jump, a collection of Coburn amendments and DC representation stalls in the House.

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