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President Obama Signs Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

Thursday, January 29, 2009

East Room
January 29, 2009
10:20 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: All right. Everybody please have a seat. Well, this is a wonderful day. (Applause.) First of all, it is fitting that the very first bill that I sign -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act -- (applause) -- that it is upholding one of this nation's founding principles: that we are all created equal, and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness.

It's also fitting that we're joined today by the woman after whom this bill is named -- someone who Michelle and I have had the privilege to get to know ourselves. And it is fitting that we are joined this morning by the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. (Applause.) It's appropriate that this is the first bill we do together. We could not have done it without her. Madam Speaker, thank you for your extraordinary work. And to all the sponsors and members of Congress and leadership who helped to make this day possible.

Lilly Ledbetter did not set out to be a trailblazer or a household name. She was just a good hard worker who did her job -- and she did it well -- for nearly two decades before discovering that for years, she was paid less than her male colleagues for doing the very same work. Over the course of her career, she lost more than $200,000 in salary, and even more in pension and Social Security benefits -- losses that she still feels today.

Now, Lilly could have accepted her lot and moved on. She could have decided that it wasn't worth the hassle and the harassment that would inevitably come with speaking up for what she deserved. But instead, she decided that there was a principle at stake, something worth fighting for. So she set out on a journey that would take more than ten years, take her all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, and lead to this day and this bill which will help others get the justice that she was denied.

Because while this bill bears her name, Lilly knows that this story isn't just about her. It's the story of women across this country still earning just 78 cents for every dollar men earn -- women of color even less -- which means that today, in the year 2009, countless women are still losing thousands of dollars in salary, income and retirement savings over the course of a lifetime.

Equal pay is by no means just a women's issue -- it's a family issue. It's about parents who find themselves with less money for tuition and child care; couples who wind up with less to retire on; households where one breadwinner is paid less than she deserves; that's the difference between affording the mortgage -- or not; between keeping the heat on, or paying the doctor bills -- or not. And in this economy, when so many folks are already working harder for less and struggling to get by, the last thing they can afford is losing part of each month's paycheck to simple and plain discrimination.

So signing this bill today is to send a clear message: that making our economy work means making sure it works for everybody; that there are no second-class citizens in our workplaces; and that it's not just unfair and illegal, it's bad for business to pay somebody less because of their gender or their age or their race or their ethnicity, religion or disability; and that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory, or footnote in a casebook. It's about how our laws affect the daily lives and the daily realities of people: their ability to make a living and care for their families and achieve their goals.

Ultimately, equal pay isn't just an economic issue for millions of Americans and their families, it's a question of who we are -- and whether we're truly living up to our fundamental ideals; whether we'll do our part, as generations before us, to ensure those words put on paper some 200 years ago really mean something -- to breathe new life into them with a more enlightened understanding that is appropriate for our time.

That is what Lilly Ledbetter challenged us to do. And today, I sign this bill not just in her honor, but in the honor of those who came before -- women like my grandmother, who worked in a bank all her life, and even after she hit that glass ceiling, kept getting up and giving her best every day, without complaint, because she wanted something better for me and my sister.

And I sign this bill for my daughters, and all those who will come after us, because I want them to grow up in a nation that values their contributions, where there are no limits to their dreams and they have opportunities their mothers and grandmothers never could have imagined.

In the end, that's why Lilly stayed the course. She knew it was too late for her -- that this bill wouldn't undo the years of injustice she faced or restore the earnings she was denied. But this grandmother from Alabama kept on fighting, because she was thinking about the next generation. It's what we've always done in America -- set our sights high for ourselves, but even higher for our children and our grandchildren.

And now it's up to us to continue this work. This bill is an important step -- a simple fix to ensure fundamental fairness for American workers -- and I want to thank this remarkable and bipartisan group of legislators who worked so hard to get it passed. And I want to thank all the advocates who are in the audience who worked so hard to get it passed. This is only the beginning. I know that if we stay focused, as Lilly did -- and keep standing for what's right, as Lilly did -- we will close that pay gap and we will make sure that our daughters have the same rights, the same chances, and the same freedoms to pursue their dreams as our sons.

So thank you, Lilly Ledbetter. (Applause.)

(The bill is signed.) (Applause.)


Welcome Senator Bennet

Matt McClain © The Rocky

By M.E. Sprengelmeyer
Rocky Mountain News

WASHINGTON — Michael Bennet was sworn in today as Colorado’s junior senator, pledging to get right to work addressing some of the big economic challenges to the country.

The former Denver schools chief, appointed to the Senate by Gov. Bill Ritter, takes over for new Interior Secretary Ken Salazar just two days after Barack Obama was sworn in as president, promising massive changes in foreign and domestic policies.

“I feel extremely fortunate to have the chance to represent Colorado at this moment in history and to be part of a conversation in Washington on some of the most serious problems we’ve seen in generations,” Bennet said while taking a walking tour of the U.S. Capitol shortly before his swearing in.

Earlier, Bennet said Salazar gave him some to-the-point advice: "Do the right thing for the people of Colorado."

Right now, that means joining the push for an economic stimulus package to turn around the country's sagging economy. And Bennet told reporters he wants to make sure federal dollars help struggling municipalities and bring jobs to farm country, too.

"The stimulus package is going to occupy most of our time in coming months. It's critical that people in Colorado have their voices heard," Bennet said.

Although Bennet's eclectic resume includes experience in law, business, education and city government, he is hoping to get a seat on the Agriculture Committee because of its importance to the state....(Click for remainder).


Bailout Recipients Hosted Call To Defeat Key Labor Bill

By Sam Stein
Huffington Post
(Audio from Wikileaks)

Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community's top legislative priority.

Participants on the October 17 call -- including at least one representative from another bailout recipient, AIG -- were urged to persuade their clients to send "large contributions" to groups working against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans, who could help block passage of the bill.

Bernie Marcus, the charismatic co-founder of Home Depot, led the call along with Rick Berman, an aggressive EFCA opponent and founder of the Center for Union Facts. Over the course of an hour, the two framed the legislation as an existential threat to American capitalism, or worse.

"This is the demise of a civilization," said Marcus. "This is how a civilization disappears. I am sitting here as an elder statesman and I'm watching this happen and I don't believe it."

Donations of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars were needed, it was argued, to prevent America from turning "into France."

"If a retailer has not gotten involved in this, if he has not spent money on this election, if he has not sent money to [former Sen.] Norm Coleman and all these other guys, they should be shot. They should be thrown out their goddamn jobs," Marcus declared....(Click for remainder).


Matt Damon: Bill Kristol is an Idiot

By Glenn Garvin
Miami Herald

Matt Damon enters the Coconut Grove recording studio with a smile of obvious relief, notwithstanding the fact that in moments he will have to pronounce words like Kangerdlugssuaq. (You know, the glacier in Greenland.) Narrating a PBS show about the environment, no matter how tongue-torturous, is an easier gig than the one he just left, debating the moral implications of Santa Claus mythology with his 10-year-old daughter.

''We don't allow lying under any circumstances,'' Damon explains ruefully, 'and we've always taught her that. But now she's found out the real story on Santa Claus. `So you were lying!' she says. 'But it's like a great cultural lie,' we tell her. No. 'It's everyone,' we tell her. No. 'It's a fun lie.' No. . . . The argument is just not going well.''

Public policy and Santa Claus are not necessarily intertwined in most American households. But for Damon, a fiercely liberal activist who was one of Barack Obama's first and loudest Hollywood supporters (he compared Sarah Palin's vice presidential candidacy to ''a really bad Disney movie'' and suggested President Bush's twin daughters be packed off to Iraq), politics colors nearly everything.

''What we liked about Matt is that he's Harvard educated, so he's a very smart guy,'' says Hal Weiner, who with his wife Marilyn produces Journey to the Planet Earth, the PBS series Damon has narrated for the past eight years and was working on last week. ``But he's also a little political.''

The Weiners discovered just how political when Damon started arguing with them about some lines he was supposed to read in one episode, which said rising Chinese soybean consumption was leading to slash-and-burn farming in the Brazilian Amazon....(Click for remainder).


US House passes stimulus package

By Zachary Coile
San Francisco Chronicle

President Obama won his first legislative victory as the House passed a $819 billion economic stimulus package Wednesday night, but his bid to woo Republicans failed to convince even a single GOP member to join Democrats to back the bill.

If he was upset with the outcome, Obama didn't show it. After the vote, he invited top House and Senate leaders of both parties to the White House for cocktails, hoping a little wine and schmoozing could grease the path for his signature economic initiative in the Senate.

Eleven Democrats joined the entire 177-member House GOP caucus in voting "no" - mostly conservative Democrats from swing districts that often tilt toward Republicans, where a vote for the costly package could prove a liability with voters already upset with the government's bailout of Wall Street firms.

The 244-188 vote was the first key test for the measure, which Democrats said would help jumpstart the economy and create millions of new jobs with huge investments in education, health care, clean energy and aid to the states, including at least $32 billion for California.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said the bill would start to accomplish the agenda Obama detailed in his inaugural speech....(Click for remainder).


Eric Holder and the LGBT Community

With the backing of the civil rights community -- and a stellar record on gay rights -- Eric Holder is immensely qualified for the critical position of Attorney General.

By Joe Solmonese
Human Rights Campaign via Advocate

Although several of President Obama's cabinet nominees have been confirmed by voice vote or nearly unanimously, some senators are delaying and politicizing Eric Holder’s nomination as the next Attorney General. Politicizing the confirmation of one of the most qualified individuals ever to be nominated in this post, should remind the LGBT and broader civil rights communities that our opponents remain eager to block any move toward restoring the federal government’s role in protecting civil rights.

While the LGBT community has a stake in seeing fair-minded leaders in every cabinet agency, the Attorney General (AG), is among the most critical positions. The AG is America’s lawyer, appointed to serve all people, not just the president or his administration. As the chief enforcer of civil rights, the AG must have a comprehensive vision of the government’s authority to preserve equality for everyone.

As the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) leader, the AG determines the department’s litigation priorities. Under the Bush Administration, the DOJ reduced the department’s focus on prosecuting cases of racial, ethnic and sex discrimination. This dramatic change in civil rights priorities led to the Justice Department litigating fewer cases involving hate crimes, voting rights and employment discrimination.

Logically, one would expect Eric Holder, as President Obama's nominee, to sail through the confirmation process. Immensely qualified, Holder has the support of an impressive array of constituencies. The civil rights community, led by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, has sent a letter of support with signatories from across the civil rights community such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Council of La Raza and the National Partnership for Women & Families. Law enforcement, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, has urged the Senate to confirm Holder. And the broader legal community, from both Democratic and Republican circles, has spoken of his intellectual rigor, professional judgment, high ethical standards and outstanding qualifications....(Click for remainder).


Colombia Rules Gay Couples Must Be Granted Same Rights as Straight

By Neal Broverman

In a historic decision handed down Wednesday, Colombia's Constitutional Court ruled same-sex couples must be granted the same rights as heterosexuals in common-law marriages.

The court's decision means Colombia's gay couples will be awarded dozens of rights that straight, unmarried couples have enjoyed for years and follows other recent rulings that have won the nation's same-sex couples inheritance, pension, health, and social security rights.

The Colombian LGBT rights group Colombia Diversa, human rights group Dejusticia, and the Group for Public Interest Rights from the University of the Andes were responsible for the successful suit, filed last April.

Uruguay is the only other Latin American country to recognize same-sex unions....(Click for original).



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