Friday, March 23, 2012

AG Lisa Madigan Says Fannie and Freddie Borrowers Deserve Debt Reduction

Attorney General Says Principal Reductions Needed to Stabilize Housing Market, Economy

Chicago — Attorney General Lisa Madigan today called on the Federal Housing Finance Agency to immediately implement appropriate principal reductions to home loans held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In a letter to Edward J. DeMarco, the acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie and Freddie, Madigan demanded the agency reassess its blanket refusal to reduce any mortgage debts for Fannie and Freddie borrowers who are underwater. Based on FHFA data, Madigan stressed that targeted principal reductions can avoid unnecessary harm to homeowners and communities and help the housing market recover.

“Principal reductions for borrowers can prevent the likelihood of defaulting and in turn, prevent unnecessary foreclosures,” Attorney General Madigan said. “This is a critical step to repair the widespread destruction caused by the housing market’s crash that has reverberated in communities across Illinois.”

In issuing her letter, Madigan noted emerging media reports early Friday citing a new internal analysis conducted at FHFA that reportedly shows the benefits of principal mortgage reductions. The Attorney General stressed the urgent need for FHFA to address the reports and immediately begin taking steps to implement debt reductions.

Some of the country’s largest banks have begun offering debt forgiveness – so-called principal reductions – to home loans for underwater borrowers, who owe more on their homes than they are worth, in an effort to stabilize the housing market. Madigan said FHFA’s refusal to follow suit raises particular concerns because Fannie and Freddie hold a considerable share of all home mortgages nationwide.

Importantly, Madigan fought hard to include principal reductions during negotiations leading up to last month’s $25 billion settlement reached by her office, her counterparts and federal officials with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers – Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Ally Bank, formerly GMAC.

The settlement addressed allegations of widespread “robo-signing” of foreclosure documents and other fraudulent practices in the servicing of loans of struggling homeowners. It is the largest settlement ever obtained through joint action of state attorneys general and the federal government, and it is estimated to provide more than $1 billion in relief for Illinois borrowers.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Primary Winners in Selected IL Congressional races

Some Quick Reactions to March 20 congressional primary elections.

It was no surprise that Mitt Romney won the Presidential Primary. Not only was he more moderate -- in a Blue State -- but simple math worked for him, as Santorum had not filed a full slate.

But this primary did produce results that may well hold significance for the fall, and the future of Illinois.

In Congressional races -- Adam Kinzinger was a huge winner, by winning the primary against fellow incumbent Republican congressman, Don Manzullo. The GOP voters decided ultimately to not pull the plug on one of their more promising freshmen. Kinzinger is an attractive young congressman, and is likely he can now look forward to serving in congress for another term.

On the Democratic side, Tammy Duckworth, won a hard-fought primary against Raja Krishnamoorthi. And Duckworth won with 66% of the vote ! Raja Krishnamoorthi is a friend of President Obama. But so too is Army Veteran Tammy Duckworth, who previously led the IL Dept of Veterans Affairs, and was Undersecretary at the US Dept of Veterans Affairs. She is also a veteran of running for congress, having lost previously to Peter Roskam in 2008.

A young man, but an old name-- Jason Plummer -- who ran as Bill Brady's Lt Governor teammate in 2010, won the GOP nomination to try to win the congressional seat held by Rep Jerry Costello, in the Metro-East area across from St.Louis. Plummer, whose family made a fortune in the RP Lumber chain of stores, will face off against Democratic nominee, Brad Harriman. Now this seat, the newly formed 12th Congressional district, has been in Democratic hands since Noah got off the arc. But interestingly we see far more votes cast in the Republican primary than in the Democratic primary. There were about 38,000 votes cast on the Democratic side, to 46,000+ in the GOP primary.

One of the tighest races was in the Democratic nomination for Congress in the new 13th District, which takes in parts of the eastern and central part of the state.

David Gill 14,245 51.9%
Matthew Goetten 13,220 48.1%

Gill won a squeaker, and now takes on Repubican veteran Tim Johnson

In the 2nd Congressional District

Democratic Votes Pct.
Jesse Jackson, Jr. 55,118 71.2%
Debbie Halvorson 22,336 28.8%

Jesse Jackson Jr easily defeated former Democratic congresswoman, Debbie Halverson. Halverson was counting on Jackson's ethical cloud -- a leftover from the Blagojevich investigation, in which it is alleged that Jackson may have been interested in buying the US Senate seat. The new district also included some areas where Halverson had represented in the past. But clearly the Jackson had no significant treat from his former congressional colleague.

Monday, March 19, 2012

House GOP Leader Tom Cross Calls for Rep Derrick Smith to Resign

“In light of the extremely damaging charges contained last week's federal indictment of Representative Derrick Smith (D-Chicago),

I believe he should resign his position immediately.

Representative Smith, who stands indicted on the charge of attempted bribery of a day care operator in exchange for official action,

has brought deep disrespect and damage upon the Illinois House of Representatives and the people of the State of Illinois.

Rep. Smith should spare the House of Representatives any further embarrassment and step down immediately."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Statements by Sen Mark Kirk and Rep Robert Dold, on Blagojevich Beginning Prison Term

Washington, DC - As former Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich begins serving his sentence in a federal prison in Littleton, Colorado today, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Representative Robert Dold (R-IL) encourage implementation of bipartisan, bicameral ethics legislation that would curb public corruption.

"Let the sentencing for Governor Blagojevich be a clear warning to all elected officials that public corruption of any form will not be tolerated. Illinois families have long suffered from an estimated $500 million hidden corruption tax," a Kirk spokesperson said. "We need to make sure our laws help federal prosecutors crack down on public corruption and restore integrity to Illinois."

Congressman Robert Dold, from Illinois' 10th District, released the following statement: “Today we are seeing justice served for Governor Blagojevich and the people of Illinois. I am pleased that the final version of the STOCK Act included a provision that Senator Kirk, Congressman Quigley and I worked on in the Senate and House to ensure that taxpayer-funded Congressional pensions do not go to convicted felons in the future like the former Governor. Now we need to continue to focus on the important issues of the day and work together to spur the economy and stop wasting hard-earned taxpayer dollars.”

Remarks of President Barack Obama on Energy and Gas Prices

Prince George’s County Community College

Largo, MD

March 15, 2012

The skills you learn here will be the surest path to success in this economy. Because if there’s one thing we’re thinking a lot about these days, it’s energy – how to use less and produce more right here in the United States of America. And with gas prices spiking all across the country, we’re getting another reminder of just how important that is right now.

If it feels like we’ve seen this movie before, that’s because we have. Gas prices went up around this time last year. They shot up in the spring and summer of 2008. This has been happening for years. And every time prices start to go up – especially in an election year – politicians dust off their three-point plans for $2 gasoline. They head down to the pump, make sure a few cameras are following them, and start acting like they can wave a magic wand and you’ll have cheap gas forever. Sound familiar?

Well here’s the thing: we know better. You know better. There’s no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to high gas prices. We know there’s no silver bullet. And anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t really looking for a solution – they’re probably just looking to ride the political wave of the moment.

Now, the most common thing we hear from these politicians is that if only we drilled for more oil here at home, gas prices would immediately come down and all our problems would go away.

Well, Maryland, there are two problems with that.

First, we are drilling. Under my Administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. That is a fact. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating oil rigs to a record high. That is also a fact. We’ve approved dozens of new pipelines to move oil across the country, and just announced our support for a new one in Oklahoma that will help get more oil down to our refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Over the last three years, my administration has opened millions of acres of land in 23 different states for oil and gas exploration. Offshore, I’ve directed my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential resources. That includes an area in the Gulf of Mexico we opened up a few months ago that could produce more than 400 million barrels of oil.

So don’t tell me we’re not drilling. We’re drilling all over this country, and you have my word that we will keep drilling everywhere we can while protecting the health and safety of the American people.

But here’s the second problem with an energy strategy that only relies on drilling. In America, we use more than 20 percent of the world’s oil. But even if we drilled in every square inch of this country, we still only have 2 percent of the world’s known oil reserves. Use 20 percent; have 2 percent.

Now, you don’t need a math degree to realize we’ve got a numbers problem there. If we don’t develop other sources of energy – if we don’t develop the technology to use less energy – we will always be dependent on foreign countries for our energy needs. Every time there’s instability in the Middle East, we’ll feel it at the pump. As rapidly-growing nations like China or India keep adding more cars to the road, the price of gas will rise.

That’s not the future I want for the United States of America. We can’t allow ourselves to be held hostage to events on the other side of the world. That’s not who we are. In this country, we control our own destiny. We chart our own course. An energy strategy for the last century is one that traps us in the past. What we need now is an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy – not just oil and gas, but wind power and solar power; biofuels and fuel-efficient cars and trucks that get more miles to the gallon. That’s the future. That’s where I want to take this country.

Thousands of Americans have jobs right now because we’ve doubled the use of clean energy in this country – and I want to keep making those investments. I don’t want to see wind turbines or solar panels or high-tech batteries made by other workers in other countries. I want them manufactured right here in the United States of America.

After three decades of inaction, we raised fuel economy standards so that by the middle of the next decade, our cars will average nearly 55 miles per gallon – nearly double what they get today. That will save the average family more than $8,000 over the life of the car. That means you’ll be able to fill up every two weeks instead of every week. And those are exactly the kind of cars we need to keep building in America.

To fuel these cars and trucks, we’re investing in clean, advanced biofuels that can replace some of the oil we currently use. Already, we’re using these biofuels to power everything from city buses to UPS trucks to Navy ships. I want to see more of these fuels in American cars so that we buy less oil from foreign countries and create jobs here at home.

All of these steps have put us on a path to greater energy independence. Since I took office, America’s dependence on foreign oil has gone down every single year. In 2010, our oil dependence was under 50% for the first time in thirteen years.

Now, we have to do better than that. And I know we can. But only if we tell the folks who are stuck in the past that our future depends on an all-of-the-above energy strategy. That’s our job.

Lately, we’ve heard a lot of professional politicians talking down these new sources of energy. They dismiss wind power and solar power. They make jokes about biofuels and electric cars. They were against raising fuel standards because apparently they like gas guzzling cars better. We’re trying to move towards the future, and they want to keep us stuck in the past.

Of course, we’ve heard this kind of thinking before. If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they probably would have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society. Maybe they would have agreed with one of the pioneers of the radio who apparently said, “Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan.” Or one of Henry Ford’s advisors who was quoted saying, “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only…a fad.” I can’t prove this, but I do not think that man got the promotion he was looking for. They might have even sided with one of my predecessors, President Rutherford B. Hayes, who reportedly said this about the telephone: “It’s a great invention but who would ever want to use one?” I hear that quote kept him off Mt. Rushmore.

The point is, there are always cynics and naysayers who want to do things the same way we’ve always done them. To double down on the same ideas that got us into this mess in the first place. But the only reason we’ve come this far as a nation is because we refuse to stand still. Because we put our faith in the future. Because we are inventors and builders and makers of things. We’re Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. That’s who we are. That’s who we need to be right now.

And if you want an example of exactly what I’m talking about, consider a very important issue before Congress right now . The question is whether or not we should keep giving $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies to the oil industry. They’ve been getting these subsidies for a hundred years. One hundred years. These are companies making more money right now than they’ve ever made before. And on top of the money they’re getting from you at the gas station, they want some of your tax dollars too.

That is outrageous. It’s inexcusable. And it’s time for this oil industry giveaway to end. So in the next few weeks, I expect Congress to vote on ending these subsidies. And when they do, we’re going to put every single Member of Congress on record: They can either stand up for oil companies, or they can stand up for the American people. They can either place their bets on a fossil fuel from the last century, or they can place their bets on America’s future –American workers, and American ingenuity, and the American-made energy we can produce right here in our own backyard. That’s the choice we face. That’s what’s at stake right now.

Maryland, we know what direction we have to go in. We can let these politicians take us back to an energy strategy for the last century, or we can invest in a serious, sustained, all-of-the-above energy strategy that develops every resource available for the 21st century. That’s the choice we have – the past, or the future. And it’s a choice we have to make.

You know where I stand. And I think most of you agree. Ending these subsidies won’t bring down gas prices tomorrow. Nothing will. But if we’re tired of watching gas prices spike every year – if we want to bring them down for good – we need to look beyond the energy of the past and put ourselves on a path to a real, sustainable energy future.

That’s the future you deserve. So let’s make our voices heard. Get on the phone, write an email, send a letter, and let your Members of Congress know where you stand. Tell them to do the right thing. Tell them we’ve got the tools and the toughness to win this fight. And if we combine our creativity and our optimism – if we keep harnessing our brainpower and manpower and womanpower – then I promise you, we will come back stronger than before. We will create an economy that’s built to last. And we will make this century another American century.

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Newt Gingrich on Why Gas Prices Can Fall to $2.50/gallon

Gov Quinn Announces $31.6 Million in Capital Money for City Colleges

CHICAGO – March 13, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today was joined by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Cheryl Hyman to announce $31.6 million from the Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program for a new Transportation, Distribution and Logistics (TDL) Center at Olive-Harvey College. The facility will be the first comprehensive TDL education center in the state and supports Governor Quinn’s commitment to growing high-tech jobs. The facility will prepare students for work in transportation logistics and other high-tech careers such as automotive technology, applied engineering and avionics.

“By investing in our community colleges, we can better prepare Illinois residents with the skills they need to compete for these high-technology jobs,” Governor Quinn said. ”We’ll put people to work building this new facility, and we’ll empower students with state-of-the-art tools and training they need to go out and get these good-paying, high-tech jobs.”

The project is expected to create nearly 300 construction jobs and cost a total of $42.2 million, which includes a $10.6 million contribution from City Colleges. Officials will pursue a LEED certification for the 200,000 square foot building, which will house: a high-tech warehouse environment, laboratories, workshops, classrooms and virtual reality simulation facilities. The new building will replace almost 112,000 square feet of temporary classroom space near the main Olive-Harvey College building.

“With this funding, Governor Quinn is supporting our ‘College to Careers’ program that re-engineers, re-imagines, and revolutionizes our City Colleges in order to meet the demand of the high-growth sectors of the future,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This shared investment reflects our shared determination to strengthen our economy together.”

The project is administered by the Capital Development Board, which oversees state-funded, non-road construction projects. Construction is expected to start in spring 2013 and be completed in spring 2015.

“City Colleges’ main goal is to equip our students with credentials of economic value that prepare them to compete and win the jobs of today and tomorrow,” said Chancellor Cheryl Hyman. “The TDL industry is increasingly reliant on high-skill, technology-driven jobs, and this facility will embed technology into our training programs to prepare students to hit the ground running in this fast-growing field.”

Under City College’s “College to Careers” program, industry experts are teaming up with City Colleges, to help students as teacher-practitioners and to help create training programs in City Colleges’ classrooms. This unique partnership also gives students direct access to facilities for training purposes, internships and job interviews.

Training at the Olive-Harvey TDL facility will expand to include: repairing and maintaining heavy equipment; expanded commercial drivers’ licensing; forklift operation; freight expediting, warehousing and logistics information technology; sheet metal technician; automotive technology; avionics technician; and applied engineering. Careers in these high-tech fields can have starting salaries as high as $21 per hour.

The “College to Careers” partnership currently focuses on two industries: transportation, distribution and logistics at Olive-Harvey College, and healthcare at Malcolm X College. Over the next three years, programs in other high-demand sectors will be added. Mayor Emanuel and City Colleges just announced a $479 million, five-year capital plan which includes a new $251 million campus for Malcolm X College, including an Allied Health Academy.

City Colleges’ “College to Careers” partners in transportation, distribution and logistics include: Coyote Logistics, UPS, Canadian National Railway, Union Pacific, AAR Corporation, BNSF, Schneider Finance Inc. and United Airlines. Its healthcare partners include: Rush University Medical Center, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, University of Chicago Hospitals, Advocate Health Care, University of Illinois at Chicago, Jesse Brown VA, Walgreens, CVS, John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County, Baxter and the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council.

Governor Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now! program includes $1.5 billion for higher education, including $788 million for public universities and $400 million for community colleges. The overall $30 billion program is expected to create 439,000 construction jobs.

Op-Ed by Pres Obama and British PM Cameron, on Our Nations' Historical Alliance

An alliance the world can count on

By Barack Obama and David Cameron

Seven decades ago, as our forces began to turn the tide of World War II, Prime Minister Winston Churchill traveled to Washington to coordinate our joint efforts. Our victories on the battlefield proved “what can be achieved by British and Americans working together heart and hand,” he said. “In fact, one might almost feel that if they could keep it up, there is hardly anything they could not do, either in the field of war or in the not less tangled problems of peace.”

Keep it up we have — not only winning that war for our survival but also building the institutions that undergird international peace and security. The alliance between the United States and Great Britain is a partnership of the heart, bound by the history, traditions and values we share. But what makes our relationship special — a unique and essential asset — is that we join hands across so many endeavors. Put simply, we count on each other and the world counts on our alliance.

As leading world economies, we are coordinating closely with our G-8 and G-20 partners to put people back to work, sustain the global recovery, stand with our European friends as they resolve their debt crisis and curb the reckless financial practices that have cost our taxpayers dearly. We’re committed to expanding the trade and investment that support millions of jobs in our two countries.

As the two largest contributors to the international mission in Afghanistan, we’re proud of the progress our troops have made in dismantling al-Qaeda, breaking the Taliban’s momentum and training Afghan forces. But as recent events underscore, this remains a difficult mission. We honor the profound sacrifices of our forces, and in their name we’ll carry on the mission.

Over the next few days, we will consult about preparations for the NATO summit in Chicago, where our alliance will determine the next phase of the transition that we agreed to in Lisbon. This includes shifting to a support role in advance of Afghans taking full responsibility for security in 2014 and ensuring that NATO maintains an enduring commitment so that Afghanistan is never again a haven for al-Qaeda to launch attacks against our citizens.

As members of the international community, we have been united in imposing tough sanctions on the Iranian regime for failing to meet its international obligations. We believe there is time and space to pursue a diplomatic solution, and we are coordinating our diplomatic approach with China, France, Germany and Russia, our P5+1 partners. Meanwhile, as the United States imposes its strongest sanctions to date and the European Union prepares to impose an embargo on Iranian oil, the choice for Tehran will be sharpened — meet your international obligations or face the consequences.

As two nations that support the human rights and dignity of all people, we continue to stand with those brave citizens across the Middle East and North Africa who are demanding their universal rights. Having joined in the mission to protect the Libyan people last year, we support Libyan efforts to build democratic institutions and hold free and fair elections this year. We condemn the Syrian regime’s horrific violence against innocent civilians, and we are focused on the urgent humanitarian task of getting food and medicine to those in need. With our international partners, we’ll continue to tighten the noose around Bashar al-Assad and his cohorts, and we’ll work with the opposition and the United Nations-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to plan for the transition that will follow Assad’s departure from power.

As two of the world’s wealthiest nations, we embrace our responsibility as leaders in the development that enables people to live in dignity, health and prosperity. Even as we redouble our efforts to save lives in Somalia, we’re investing in agriculture to promote food security across the developing world. We’re working to improve maternal health and end preventable deaths of children. With a renewed commitment to the lifesaving work of the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria, we see the beginning of the end of the AIDS pandemic. Through our Open Government Partnership, we’re striving to make governments more transparent and accountable.

Finally, as two peoples who live free because of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, we’re working together like never before to care for them when they come home. With new long-term collaborations to help our wounded warriors recover, assist in veterans’ transition back to civilian life and support military families, we recognize that our obligations to troops and veterans endure long after today’s battles end.

Our troops and citizens have long shown what can be achieved when British and Americans work together, heart and hand, and why this remains an essential relationship — to our nations and the world. So like generations before us, we’re going to keep it up. Because with confidence in our cause and faith in each other, we still believe that there is hardly anything we cannot do.

Barack Obama is president of the United States. David Cameron is prime minister of Great Britain.

NBC Chicago to Produce New Syndicated Show "Steve Harvey" Creating 100 new jobs, with Help of State Tax Credit

CHICAGO – March 12, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today announced a new NBC production will be filmed in downtown Chicago. The new daily show, “Steve Harvey,” will be produced at NBC 5 studios and is expected to create around 100 jobs. NBCUniversal estimates that the show could bring approximately 35,000 audience members and visitors to Chicago each year.

“Our commitment to the film industry is helping us bring new shows to Illinois and create jobs for our residents,” Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said. “We are pleased to welcome Steve Harvey to the great state of Illinois, and look forward to a long-lasting relationship with the show, NBCUniversal and Endemol USA.”

In the one-hour show debuting this fall on NBC, actor, comedian and best-selling author Steve Harvey will cover a variety of topics, ranging from relationships and parenting to navigating today’s workplace, while incorporating his comedy roots. NBCUniversal estimates that production will bring millions of dollars to Chicago-area merchants and businesses.

“I commend the state of Illinois - the Governor’s Office, the Film Office and Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity - in their proactive efforts to attract film and television production to their state, and in particular making it possible to bring the ‘Steve Harvey’ production to Chicago,” said Barry Wallach, president, NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution. "Chicago is an outstanding, multicultural city that offers access to talented production crews, the best audiences in the country and is the perfect home for ‘Steve Harvey’."

With many unique locations, talented crews and ample sound stages, the Illinois Film Office (IFO) actively pursues film projects by promoting Illinois as an ideal location to film. In addition, the IFO administers the Illinois’ Film Tax Credit, which has been instrumental in spurring growth of Illinois’ film industry. Illinois offers a 30 percent tax credit to filmmakers for money spent on Illinois goods and services, including wages paid to Illinois residents. Since its inception, the Film Tax Credit has helped bring over half a billion dollars in revenue to the state and over 10,000 full time equivalent jobs.

“NBCUniversal and Endemol USA’s investment in the state is the most recent example of the Governor's success in fostering a thriving film and television industry in Illinois,” said Betsy Steinberg, managing director of the Illinois Film Office. “Our incentives for film production, access to world-class infrastructure and great crews combine to make Illinois a winning destination for production companies.”

Illinois’ film industry saw a record $161 million in spending in 2010, which topped the $155 million in spending in 2007 and represents a 54 percent increase from 2009. In 2011, the state hosted another blockbuster, Man of Steel, TV series Boss and Playboy Club, as well as numerous independent films and television shows, and a thriving commercial production industry.

The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the IFO are dedicated to advancing Illinois’ reputation as a world-class film destination. The IFO also promotes and encourages the training and hiring of Illinois residents who represent the diversity of the state’s population.


Ameren Urges Illinois Businesses to Act Quickly on "Act on Energy" Program

Peoria, Ill., (March 13, 2012) – Time is running short for Ameren Illinois electric and natural gas business customers who want to reduce their energy expenses by participating in the 2011-12 ActOnEnergy® program.

Projects must be completed by May 31 to qualify for ActOnEnergy cash incentives. Complete business program information is available at, by calling 1-866-800-0747 or by sending an e-mail to

“We often hear business people say they must delay energy efficiency projects because it isn’t in the budget,” said Cheryl Miller, ActOnEnergy business program manager. “Frequently, they fail to realize that by delaying energy efficiency projects, they are postponing their energy savings. The savings lost by postponing the project for just one year may be greater than the cost of the energy efficiency project, especially when the ActOnEnergy financial incentives are factored in to the equation.”

Miller said the effectiveness of the ActOnEnergy incentive program is demonstrated by the energy savings achieved during the 2010-11 program year. More than 1,200 companies completed nearly 1,900 projects which reduced annual electricity usage by about 164 million kilowatt-hours. This is the equivalent of the electricity used by 16,400 single family homes in a year.

“Our 2011-12 program year ActOnEnergy business program is better than ever. For the first time, all natural gas business customers are eligible for ActOnEnergy incentives,” Miller said. “Previously, incentives for natural gas projects were limited to small businesses.

“We believe farmers, grain elevators and others who operate grain dryers will find our natural gas incentives to be of special benefit,” Miller said.

ActOnEnergy offers business customers – including private schools and nonprofits – energy efficiency incentives for lighting, refrigeration, motor systems and HVAC systems. Incentives also are available for retro commissioning, multi-family buildings, commercial kitchen equipment, and hotel and motel guest room energy management systems.

One of the newest programs is designed for grain and livestock farmers, providing incentives for lighting upgrades, livestock waterers and such high-efficiency equipment as circulation fans, water heaters and exhaust fans.

ActOnEnergy also offers the Business Online Store, small business commercial kitchens program, grocery/convenience store incentives and custom incentives.

“Our business customers can realize significant savings when they participate in our program,” Miller said. “For example, replacing a standard T-12 fluorescent light fixture with a high-efficiency T-8 fluorescent fixture can reduce electricity consumption by 33 percent.

“Our energy efficiency professionals are ready to help our customers take advantage of the ActOnEnergy incentives so they can spend less on energy by using less.”

ActOnEnergy has partnered with the Association of Energy Engineers to offer Certified Energy Manager (CEM) training. The four-day training class will be held in Peoria on March 26 through March 30. Registration information is available at CEM training provides a continuing program of professional development for energy managers.

ActOnEnergy also offers incentives and rebates to residential customers. For more information on residential programs, visit, call 1-866-838-6918 or send an e-mail to:

The ActOnEnergy program is funded through a small charge (Rider EDR for electricity customers and Rider GER for natural gas customers) on customer bills. These charges are mandated by state law.

Ameren Illinois delivers energy to 1.2 million electric and 813,000 natural gas customers in downstate Illinois, and our mission is to meet their energy needs in a safe, reliable, efficient and environmentally responsible manner. Our service area covers more than 1,200 communities and 43,700 square miles. For more information, visit

Monday, March 12, 2012

Atty-Gen Lisa Madigan Urges Homeowners to Check if they Qualify for Mortgage Relief

Chicago — Attorney General Lisa Madigan today urged distressed borrowers to call on her office to help determine if they are eligible for relief under the $25 billion national foreclosure settlement with the nation’s five largest bank mortgage servicers, which was filed this morning in federal court.

“I can’t stress enough how important it is to make the call for help,” Madigan said. “Whether you are eligible under this settlement or another assistance program, we want to connect you with the free, legitimate resources available for distressed borrowers.”

Today’s filing is the next critical step in formalizing the settlements reached with Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Ally Bank, formerly GMAC, over allegations of widespread “robo-signing” of foreclosure documents and other fraudulent practices while servicing loans of struggling homeowners. Last month, Madigan joined U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and her counterparts in Washington, D.C., to announce the agreement had been reached with the five servicers following months of joint investigations and negotiations.

The national settlement is the largest settlement ever obtained through joint action of state attorneys general and the federal government. It is estimated to provide more than $1 billion in relief for Illinois borrowers who fit into one of three categories: 1) Borrowers who have lost their homes, 2) Homeowners who are still in their homes but at imminent risk of defaulting on their mortgages or behind on their mortgage payments and 3) Borrowers who are current on payments but underwater.

Attorney General Madigan urged consumers seeking more information to contact her Homeowner’s Helpline, (866) 544-7151, or visit her website, Borrowers can also visit

Madigan said borrowers also should contact their mortgage servicer to obtain more information about specific loan modification programs and whether they qualify under terms of this settlement.

Participating Mortgage Servicer Consumer Numbers:

Bank of America: 1-877-488-7814
Citigroup: 1-866-272-4749
Chase: 1-866-372-6901
Ally/GMAC: 1-800-766-4622
Wells Fargo: 1-800-288-3212

In addition, Madigan said there is help available from the Independent Foreclosure Review through the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the U.S. Department of Treasury. Borrowers whose primary residence was involved in a foreclosure process between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2010, may qualify for a free Independent Foreclosure Review to determine if they are eligible for compensation because of errors or other problems during their home foreclosure process. All Requests for Review must be submitted online or postmarked no later than July 31, 2012. For more information, visit or call 1-888-952-9105.

Already, more than 3,000 borrowers have contacted Madigan’s office to determine whether they may be eligible for help under the settlement. Madigan noted that under the agreement, an independent monitor has been established to oversee the terms of the settlement and importantly, to ensure that the banks comply.

Next Steps

Madigan noted that the settlement does not grant the banks any immunity from criminal offenses nor does it prevent homeowners or investors from pursuing individual, institutional or class action civil cases against the five banks. The state attorneys general and federal agencies will continue to investigate and pursue other aspects of the mortgage crisis, including securities cases. In Illinois, Attorney General Madigan already has filed lawsuits against Wells Fargo, Standard & Poor’s and Nationwide Title Cleaning Inc., as part of her aggressive efforts to hold financial institutions accountable for their part in the housing crisis and the country’s economic collapse.

“This settlement does not mark either the beginning or the end of our work to hold banks and other institutions accountable for the destruction they’ve caused our families, communities and country, but it is a warning to financial institutions that there are consequences for engaging in practices that jeopardize the stability of our communities and our economy,” Madigan said.


Gov Quinn Comments of FEMA's Rejection of Funds for Tornado Damaged Harrisburg

SPRINGFIELD - March 12, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today issued the following statement regarding the state’s efforts to secure federal assistance for people affected by the Feb. 29 tornado.

“Today I spoke with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and informed her that we intend to appeal FEMA’s denial of our request for much-needed individual assistance for the people of Southern Illinois. I urged Secretary Napolitano to reconsider FEMA's decision. We are doing everything possible at the state level to help these devastated communities, but some of the assistance that our residents need to begin rebuilding their lives is only available through a federal disaster declaration.

“I met with local officials, spent time with residents and saw firsthand the devastation and damage caused by the tornado in Southern Illinois. FEMA underestimated the impact this deadly tornado had on small towns like Harrisburg and Ridgway. We have already begun work on our appeal of this decision in order to secure federal assistance.

“I am grateful to Senator Dick Durbin, Senator Mark Kirk and the Illinois Congressional Delegation for their vigorous support of our efforts to bring assistance to the people whose lives were ripped apart by the Feb. 29 tornado. We are hopeful our joint efforts will help FEMA understand that a full recovery from this disaster cannot happen without their support.”


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Text of President Obama's White House Press Conference of March 6, 2012


Office of the Press Secretary


1:15 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Now, I understand there are some political contests going on tonight, but I thought I’d start the day off by taking a few questions, which I’m sure will not be political in nature. (Laughter.) Before I do, I want to make a few announcements about some steps we’re taking to help responsible homeowners who’ve been struggling through this housing crisis.

We've clearly seen some positive economic news over the last few months. Businesses have created about 3.7 million new jobs over the last two years. Manufacturers are hiring for the first time since the 1990s. The auto industry is back and hiring more than 200,000 people over the last few years. Confidence is up. And the economy is getting stronger.

But there are still millions of Americans who can’t find a job. There are millions more who are having a tough time making the rent or the mortgage, paying for gas or groceries. So our job in Washington isn’t to sit back and do nothing. And it’s certainly not to stand in the way of this recovery. Right now we've got to do everything we can to speed it up.

Now, Congress did the right thing when they passed part of my jobs plan and prevented a tax hike on 160 million working Americans this year. And that was a good first step. But it’s not enough. They can’t just stop there and wait for the next election to come around. There are a few things they can do right now that could make a real difference in people’s lives.

This Congress should, once and for all, end tax breaks for companies that are shipping jobs overseas, and use that money to reward companies that are creating jobs here in the United States. I’ve put forward a proposal that does just that, and there’s no reason why Congress can't come together and start acting on it.

This Congress could hold a vote on the Buffett Rule so that we don’t have billionaires paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries. That’s just common sense. The vast majority of Americans believe it’s common sense. And if we’re serious about paying down our deficit, it’s as good a place to start as any.

And finally, this Congress should pass my proposal to give every responsible homeowner a chance to save an average of $3,000 a year by refinancing their mortgage at historically low rates. No red tape. No runaround from the banks. If you’ve been on time on your payments, if you've done the right thing, if you've acted responsibly, you should have a chance to save that money on your home -- perhaps to build up your equity, or just to have more money in your pocket that you can spend on businesses in your community. That would make a huge difference for millions of American families.

Now, if Congress refuses to act, I’ve said that I’ll continue to do everything in my power to act without them. Last fall, we announced an initiative that allows millions of responsible homeowners to refinance at low interest rates. Today we're taking it a step further -- we are cutting by more than half the refinancing fees that families pay for loans ensured by the Federal Housing Administration. That's going to save the typical family in that situation an extra $1,000 a year, on top of the savings that they'd also receive from refinancing. That would make refinancing even more attractive to more families. It's like another tax cut that will put more money in people's pockets. We're going to do this on our own. We don't need congressional authorization to do it.

We're also taking a series of steps to help homeowners who have served our country. It is unconscionable that members of our armed forces and their families have been some of those who have been most susceptible to losing their homes due to the actions of unscrupulous banks and mortgage lenders. Over the last few years that happened -- a lot.

So as part of the landmark settlement we reached with some of the nation's largest banks a few weeks ago, here's what we're going to do: If you are a member of the armed forces whose home was wrongfully foreclosed, you will be substantially compensated for what the bank did to you and your family. If you are a member of the armed forces with a high interest rate who was wrongfully denied the chance to lower it while you were in active serve, which banks are required to do by law, the banks will refund you the money you would have saved along with a significant penalty.

The settlement will make sure that you aren't forced into foreclosure just because you have a permanent change in station but can't sell your home because you owe more than it's worth. Some of the money will also go into a fund that guarantees loans on favorable terms to our veterans, and there will be more foreclosure protections for every man and woman who is currently serving this country in harm's way.

As I've said before, no amount of money is going to be enough to make it right for a family who has had their piece of the American Dream wrongfully taken away from them, and no action -- no matter how meaningful -- will entirely heal our housing market on its own. This is not something the government by itself can solve. But I'm not one of those people who believe that we should just sit by and wait for the housing market to hit bottom. There are real things that we can do right now that would make a substantial difference in the lives of innocent, responsible homeowners. That's true in housing, and that's true in any number of different areas when it comes to ensuring that this recovery touches as many lives as possible. That's going to be my top priority as long as I hold this office, and I will do everything I can to make that progress.

So with that I'm going to take some questions, and I will start with Mike Viqueira.

Q Yes, sir. On the Middle East and as it relates to American politics, a little less than a year ago Moammar Qaddafi gave a speech, and he said he was going to send his forces to Benghazi, he was going to rout opponents from their bedrooms and he was going to shoot them. You frequently cited that speech as a justification for NATO, the no-fly zone and military action against Libya. In Syria, Bashar al Assad is killing people. There's a massacre underway. And your critics here in the United States, including, most notably, John McCain, said you should start air strikes now.

And on Iran, Mitt Romney, on Sunday, went so far as to say that if you are re-elected, Iran will get a bomb and the world will change. How do you respond to those criticisms?

THE PRESIDENT: All right, Mike, you've asked a couple of questions there, so let me -- let’s start with the Iran situation since that’s been the topic in the news for the last few days.

When I came into office, Iran was unified, on the move, had made substantial progress on its nuclear program, and the world was divided in terms of how to deal with it. What we’ve been able to do over the last three years is mobilize unprecedented, crippling sanctions on Iran. Iran is feeling the bite of these sanctions in a substantial way. The world is unified; Iran is politically isolated.

And what I have said is, is that we will not countenance Iran getting a nuclear weapon. My policy is not containment; my policy is to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon -- because if they get a nuclear weapon that could trigger an arms race in the region, it would undermine our non-proliferation goals, it could potentially fall into the hands of terrorists. And we’ve been in close consultation with all our allies, including Israel, in moving this strategy forward.

At this stage, it is my belief that we have a window of opportunity where this can still be resolved diplomatically. That’s not just my view. That’s the view of our top intelligence officials; it’s the view of top Israeli intelligence officials. And, as a consequence, we are going to continue to apply the pressure even as we provide a door for the Iranian regime to walk through where they could rejoin the community of nations by giving assurances to the international community that they’re meeting their obligations and they are not pursuing a nuclear weapon.

That’s my track record. Now, what’s said on the campaign trail -- those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities. They’re not Commander-in-Chief. And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war. I’m reminded that the decision that I have to make in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impacts that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy.

This is not a game. There’s nothing casual about it. And when I see some of these folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk, but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we’ve been doing over the last three years, it indicates to me that that’s more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem.

Now, the one thing that we have not done is we haven’t launched a war. If some of these folks think that it’s time to launch a war, they should say so. And they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be. Everything else is just talk.

Q That goes to Syria as well?

THE PRESIDENT: With respect to Syria, what’s happening in Syria is heartbreaking and outrageous, and what you’ve seen is the international community mobilize against the Assad regime. And it’s not a question of when Assad leaves -- or if Assad leaves -- it’s a question of when. He has lost the legitimacy of his people. And the actions that he's now taking against his own people is inexcusable, and the world community has said so in a more or less unified voice.

On the other hand, for us to take military action unilaterally, as some have suggested, or to think that somehow there is some simple solution, I think is a mistake. What happened in Libya was we mobilized the international community, had a U.N. Security Council mandate, had the full cooperation of the region, Arab states, and we knew that we could execute very effectively in a relatively short period of time. This is a much more complicated situation.

So what we've done is to work with key Arab states, key international partners -- Hillary Clinton was in Tunisia -- to come together and to mobilize and plan how do we support the opposition; how do we provide humanitarian assistance; how do we continue the political isolation; how do we continue the economic isolation. And we are going to continue to work on this project with other countries. And it is my belief that, ultimately, this dictator will fall, as dictators in the past have fallen.

But the notion that the way to solve every one of these problems is to deploy our military, that hasn't been true in the past and it won't be true now. We've got to think through what we do through the lens of what's going to be effective, but also what's critical for U.S. security interests.

Jake Tapper.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. What kind of assurances did you give Prime Minister Netanyahu about the role that the U.S. would play if diplomacy and economic sanctions fail to work to convince Iran's leaders to change their behavior, and Israel goes ahead and prepares to strike a nuclear facility? What kind of assurances did you tell him? And shouldn’t we -- I recognize the difference between debate and bluster -- but shouldn’t we be having in this country a vigorous debate about what could happen in the case of a Middle East war in a way that, sadly, we did not do before going into Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think there's no doubt that those who are suggesting, or proposing, or beating the drums of war should explain clearly to the American people what they think the costs and benefits would be.

I'm not one of those people -- because what I've said is, is that we have a window through which we can resolve this issue peacefully. We have put forward an international framework that is applying unprecedented pressure. The Iranians just stated that they are willing to return to the negotiating table. And we've got the opportunity, even as we maintain that pressure, to see how it plays out.

I'm not going to go into the details of my conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu. But what I said publicly doesn’t differ greatly from what I said privately. Israel is a sovereign nation that has to make its own decisions about how best to preserve its security. And as I said over the last several days, I am deeply mindful of the historical precedents that weigh on any Prime Minister of Israel when they think about the potential threats to Israel and the Jewish homeland.

What I've also said is that because sanctions are starting to have significant effect inside of Iran -- and that's not just my assessment, that's, I think, a uniform assessment -- because the sanctions are going to be even tougher in the coming months, because they're now starting to affect their oil industry, their central bank, and because we're now seeing noises about them returning to the negotiating table, that it is deeply in everybody's interests -- the United States, Israel and the world's -- to see if this can be resolved in a peaceful fashion.

And so this notion that somehow we have a choice to make in the next week or two weeks, or month or two months, is not borne out by the facts. And the argument that we've made to the Israelis is that we have made an unprecedented commitment to their security. There is an unbreakable bond between our two countries, but one of the functions of friends is to make sure that we provide honest and unvarnished advice in terms of what is the best approach to achieve a common goal -- particularly one in which we have a stake. This is not just an issue of Israeli interest; this is an issue of U.S. interests. It's also not just an issue of consequences for Israel if action is taken prematurely. There are consequences to the United States as well.

And so I do think that any time we consider military action that the American people understand there's going to be a price to pay. Sometimes it's necessary. But we don't do it casually.

When I visit Walter Reed, when I sign letters to families that haven't -- whose loved ones have not come home, I am reminded that there is a cost. Sometimes we bear that cost. But we think it through. We don't play politics with it. When we have in the past -- when we haven't thought it through and it gets wrapped up in politics, we make mistakes. And typically, it's not the folks who are popping off who pay the price. It's these incredible men and women in uniform and their families who pay the price.

And as a consequence, I think it's very important for us to take a careful, thoughtful, sober approach to what is a real problem. And that's what we've been doing over the last three years. That's what I intend to keep doing.

Q Sir, I'm sorry, if I could just quickly follow up -- you didn't --


Q You might not be beating the drums of war, but you did very publicly say, we've got Israel's back. What does that mean?

THE PRESIDENT: What it means is, is that, historically, we have always cooperated with Israel with respect to the defense of Israel, just like we do with a whole range of other allies -- just like we do with Great Britain, just like we do with Japan. And that broad statement I think is confirmed when you look at what we’ve done over the last three years on things like Iron Dome that prevents missiles from raining down on their small towns along border regions of Israel, that potentially land on schools or children or families. And we’re going to continue that unprecedented security -- security commitment.

It was not a military doctrine that we were laying out for any particular military action. It was a restatement of our consistent position that the security of Israel is something I deeply care about, and that the deeds of my administration over the last three years confirms how deeply we care about it. That’s a commitment we’ve made.

Jackie. Where’s Jackie? There you are.

Q With the news this morning that the U.S. and its allies are returning to the table, are taking up Iran’s offer to talk again, more than a year after those talks broke up in frustration, is this Israel’s -- Iran’s last chance to negotiate an end to this nuclear question?

And you said three years ago -- nearly three years ago, in a similar one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, that the time for talk -- by the end of that year, 2009, you would be considering whether Iran was negotiating in good faith. And you said at that time that “we’re not going to have talks forever.” So here we are nearly three years later. Is this it? And did you think you would be here three years after those first talks?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, there is no doubt that over the last three years when Iran has engaged in negotiations there has been hemming and hawing and stalling and avoiding the issues in ways that the international community has concluded were not serious. And my expectations, given the consequences of inaction for them, the severe sanctions that are now being applied, the huge toll it’s taking on their economy, the degree of isolation that they’re feeling right now -- which is unprecedented -- they understand that the world community means business.

To resolve this issue will require Iran to come to the table and discuss in a clear and forthright way how to prove to the international community that the intentions of their nuclear program are peaceful. They know how to do that. This is not a mystery. And so it’s going to be very important to make sure that, on an issue like this -- there are complexities; it obviously has to be methodical. I don’t expect a breakthrough in a first meeting, but I think we will have a pretty good sense fairly quickly as to how serious they are about resolving the issue.

And there are steps that they can take that would send a signal to the international community and that are verifiable, that would allow them to be in compliance with international norms, in compliance with international mandates, abiding by the non-proliferation treaty, and provide the world an assurance that they’re not pursuing a nuclear weapon. They know how to do it, and the question is going to be whether in these discussions they show themselves moving clearly in that direction.

Ed Henry.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I wanted to follow up on Israel and Iran because you have said repeatedly you have Israel’s back. And so I wonder why, three years in office, you have not visited Israel as President. And related to Iran and Israel, you have expressed concern about this loose talk of war, as you call it, driving up gas prices further. Your critics will say on Capitol Hill that you want gas prices to go higher because you have said before, that will wean the American people off fossil fuels, onto renewable fuels. How do you respond to that?

THE PRESIDENT: Ed, just from a political perspective, do you think the President of the United States going into reelection wants gas prices to go up higher? (Laughter.) Is that -- is there anybody here who thinks that makes a lot of sense?

Look, here’s the bottom line with respect to gas prices. I want gas prices lower because they hurt families; because I meet folks every day who have to drive a long way to get to work and them filling up this gas tank gets more and more painful, and it’s a tax out of their pocketbooks, out of their paychecks, and a lot of folks are already operating on the margins right now.

And it's not good for the overall economy, because when gas prices go up, consumer spending oftentimes pulls back. And we're in the midst right now of a recovery that is starting to build up steam, and we don’t want to reverse it.

What I have also said about gas prices is that there is no silver bullet and the only way we're going to solve this problem over the medium and long term is with an all-of-the-above strategy that says we're going to increase production -- which has happened; we are going to make sure that we are conserving energy -- that’s why we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars, which will save consumers about $1.7 trillion and take about 12 billion barrels of oil offline, which will help to reduce prices -- and we're going develop clean energy technologies that allow us to continue to use less oil.

And we've made progress. I mean, the good news is, 2010, first time in a decade that our oil imports were actually below 50 percent, and they have kept on going down. And we're going to keep on looking at every strategy we can to, yes, reduce the amount of oil that we use, while maintaining our living standards and maintaining our productivity and maintaining our economic growth, and we're going to do everything we can to make sure that consumers aren't hurt by it.

Now, there are some short-term steps that we're looking at with respect to -- for example, there are certain potential bottlenecks in refineries around the country that we've been concerned about. We're concerned about what's happening in terms of production around the world. It's not just what's happening in the Gulf. You've had, for example, in Sudan, some oil that’s been taken offline that’s helping to restrict supply.

So we're going to look at a whole range of measures -- including, by the way, making sure that my Attorney General is paying attention to potential speculation in the oil markets. I've asked him to reconstitute a task force that’s examining that.

But we go through this every year. We've gone through this for 30 years. And if we are going to be competitive, successful, and make sure families are protected over the long term, then we've got to make sure that we've got a set of options that reduce our overall dependence on oil.

And with respect to Israel, I am not the first President who has been unable, because of a whole range of issues, not to visit Israel as President in their first term. I visited Israel twice as senator, once right before I became President. The measure of my commitment to Israel is not measured by a single visit. The measure of my commitment to Israel is seen in the actions that I've taken as President of the United States. And it is indisputable that I've had Israel's back over the last three years.

Aamer Madhani.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Do you believe Rush Limbaugh's apology to the Georgetown law student was sufficient and heartfelt? Do you agree with the decision of the growing number of sponsors that have decided to drop his show or stop supporting his show? And has there been a double standard on this issue? Liberal commentators have made similarly provocative or distasteful statements and there hasn't been such an outrage.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm not going to comment on what sponsors decide to do. I'm not going to comment on either the economics or the politics of it. I don't know what's in Rush Limbaugh's heart, so I'm not going to comment on the sincerity of his apology. What I can comment on is the fact that all decent folks can agree that the remarks that were made don't have any place in the public discourse.

And the reason I called Ms. Fluke is because I thought about Malia and Sasha, and one of the things I want them to do as they get older is to engage in issues they care about, even ones I may not agree with them on. I want them to be able to speak their mind in a civil and thoughtful way. And I don't want them attacked or called horrible names because they're being good citizens. And I wanted Sandra to know that I thought her parents should be proud of her, and that we want to send a message to all our young people that being part of a democracy involves argument and disagreements and debate, and we want you to be engaged, and there's a way to do it that doesn't involve you being demeaned and insulted, particularly when you’re a private citizen.

Jessica Yellin.

Q Bill Mahr apologized for what he said about -- (inaudible) -- should apologize for what they said about that?


Q Thank you, Mr. President.


Q Top Democrats have said that Republicans on a similar issue are engaged in a war on women. Some top Republicans say it’s more like Democrats are engaged in a war for the women’s vote. As you talk about loose talk of war in another arena and women are -- this could raise concerns among women, do you agree with the chair of your Democratic National Committee that there is a war on women?

THE PRESIDENT: Here is what I think. Women are going to make up their own mind in this election about who is advancing the issues that they care most deeply about. And one of the things I’ve learned being married to Michelle is I don’t need to tell her what it is that she thinks is important.

And there are millions of strong women around the country who are going to make their own determination about a whole range of issues. It’s not going to be narrowly focused just on contraception. It’s not going to be driven by one statement by one radio announcer. It is going to be driven by their view of what’s most likely to make sure they can help support their families, make their mortgage payments; who's got a plan to ensure that middle-class families are secure over the long term; what’s most likely to result in their kids being able to get the education they need to compete.

And I believe that Democrats have a better story to tell to women about how we’re going to solidify the middle class and grow this economy, make sure everybody has a fair shot, everybody is doing their fair share, and we got a fair set of rules of the road that everybody has to follow.

So I’m not somebody who believes that women are going to be single-issue voters. They never have been. But I do think that we’ve got a strong story to tell when it comes to women.

Q Would you prefer this language be changed?

THE PRESIDENT: Jessica, as you know, if I start being in the business of arbitrating --

Q You talk about civility.

THE PRESIDENT: And what I do is I practice it. And so I’m going to try to lead by example in this situation, as opposed to commenting on every single comment that’s made by either politicians or pundits. I would be very busy. I would not have time to do my job. That’s your job, to comment on what's said by politicians and pundits.

All right. Lori Montenegro.

Q Mr. President, thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: There you go.

Q Mr. President, polls are showing that Latino voters seem to be favoring your reelection over a Republican alternative. Yet some of them are still disappointed, others have said, about a promise that you've made on immigration reform that has yet to come to pass. If you are reelected, what would be your strategy, what would you do different to get immigration reform passed through the Congress, especially if both houses continue as they are right now, which is split?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, just substantively, every American should want immigration reform. We've got a system that’s broken. We've got a system in which you have millions of families here in this country who are living in the shadows, worried about deportation. You've got American workers that are being undercut because those undocumented workers can be hired and the minimum wage laws may not be observed, overtime laws may not be observed.

You've got incredibly talented people who want to start businesses in this country or to work in this country, and we should want those folks here in the United States. But right now, the legal immigration system is so tangled up that it becomes very difficult for them to put down roots here.

So we can be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. And it is not just a Hispanic issue -- this is an issue for everybody. This is an American issue that we need to fix.

Now, when I came into office I said I am going to push to get this done. We didn’t get it done. And the reason we haven't gotten it done is because what used to be a bipartisan agreement that we should fix this ended up becoming a partisan issue.

I give a lot of credit to my predecessor, George Bush, and his political advisors who said this should not be just something the Democrats support; the Republican Party is invested in this as well. That was good advice then; it would be good advice now.

And my hope is, is that after this election, the Latino community will have sent a strong message that they want a bipartisan effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform that involves making sure we’ve got tough border security -- and this administration has done more for border security than just about anybody -- that we are making sure that companies aren’t able to take advantage of undocumented workers; that we’ve got strong laws in place; and that we’ve got a path so that all those folks whose kids often are U.S. citizens, who are working with us, living with us and in our communities, and not breaking the law, and trying to do their best to raise their families, that they’ve got a chance to be a fuller part of our community.

So, what do I think will change?

Q What would you do differently?

THE PRESIDENT: What I will do -- look, we’re going to be putting forward, as we’ve done before, a framework, a proposal, legislation that can move it -- move the ball forward and actually get this thing done.

But ultimately, I can’t vote for Republicans. They’re going to have to come to the conclusion that this is good for the country and that this is something that they themselves think is important. And depending on how Congress turns out, we’ll see how many Republican votes we need to get it done.

Norah O’Donnell. How are you?

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Today is Super Tuesday, so I wonder if you might weigh in on some of your potential Republican opponents. Mitt Romney has criticized you on Iran and said, “Hope is not a foreign policy.” He also said that you are “America’s most feckless President since Carter.” What would you like to say to Mr. Romney?

THE PRESIDENT: Good luck tonight. (Laughter.)

Q No, really.

THE PRESIDENT: Really. (Laughter.)

Lynn, since you’ve been hollering and you’re from my hometown, make it a good one.

Q My question is about the switch of the G8 summit from Chicago to Camp David. A reason given from the White House is that now you wanted a more intimate summit. People of Chicago would like to know what do you know now that you did not know when you booked hometown Chicago for the G8 that led to the switch? And what role did security threats possibly play in the decision?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, keep in mind, Lynn, we’re still going to be showing up with a whole bunch of world leaders. We’ve got this NATO summit. Typically what’s happened is, is that we try to attach the G8 summit to the NATO summit so that the leaders in the G8 summit don't have to travel twice to whatever location. So last year, in France, we combined a G8 with a NATO summit. We'll do so again.

I have to say, this was an idea that was brought to me after the initial organizing of the NATO summit. Somebody pointed out that I hadn't had any of my counterparts, who I've worked with now for three years, up to Camp David. G8 tends to be a more informal setting in which we talk about a wide range of issues in a pretty intimate way. And the thinking was that people would enjoy being in a more casual backdrop. I think the weather should be good that time of year. It will give me a chance to spend time with Mr. Putin, the new Russian President. And from there, we will then fly to Chicago.

I always have confidence in Chicago being able to handle security issues. Whether it's Taste of Chicago or Lollapalooza -- (laughter) -- or Bull's championships, we know how to deal with a crowd. And I'm sure that your new mayor will be quite attentive to detail in making sure that everything goes off well.

All right? Okay. Go ahead, last one, last question.

Q Thank you. Mr. President, just to continue on that -- when the NATO leaders gather in Chicago in May, do you expect that they'll be able to agree on a transition strategy? And are you concerned at all that the Koran burning and the episodes that have followed since then threaten your ability to negotiate with partners?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, keep in mind that the transition policy was in place and established at Lisbon, and we've been following that strategy that calls for us turning over increasing responsibility to Afghans and a full transition so that our combat role is over by the end of 2014. And our coalition partners have agreed to it. They are sticking with it. That continues to be the plan.

What we are now going to be doing over the next -- at this NATO meeting and planning for the next two years, is to make sure that that transition is not a cliff, but that there are benchmarks and steps that are taken along the way, in the same way that we reduced our role in Iraq so that it is gradual, Afghan capacity is built, the partnering with Afghan security forces is effective, that we are putting in place the kinds of support structures that are needed in order for the overall strategy to be effective.

Now, yes, the situation with the Koran burning concerns me. I think that it is an indication of the challenges in that environment, and it's an indication that now is the time for us to transition.

Obviously, the violence directed at our people is unacceptable. And President Karzai acknowledged that. But what is also true is President Karzai I think is eager for more responsibility on the Afghan side. We're going to be able to find a mechanism whereby Afghans understand their sovereignty is being respected and that they're going to be taking a greater and greater role in their own security. That I think is in the interest of Afghans. It's also in our interests. And I'm confident we can execute, but it's not going to be a smooth path. There are going to be bumps along the road just as there were in Iraq.

Q Well, are these bumps along the road, or are you seeing a deterioration in the relationship, based on the Koran burning itself, the violence that has followed, that inhibits your ability to work out things like how to hand off the detention center?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I -- none of this stuff is easy, and it never has been. And obviously, the most recent riots or protests against the Koran burning were tragic, but remember, this happened a while back when a pastor in Florida threatened to burn a Koran. In Iraq, as we were making this transition, there were constant crises that would pop up and tragic events that would take place and there would be occasional setbacks.

But what I've tried to do is to set a course, make sure that up and down the chain of command everybody knows what our broader strategy is. And one of the incredible things about our military is that when they know what our objective is, what our goal is, regardless of the obstacles that they meet along the way, they get the job done.

And I think that President Karzai understands that we are interested in a strategic partnership with the Afghan people and the Afghan government. We are not interested in staying there any longer than is necessary to assure that al Qaeda is not operating there, and that there is sufficient stability that it doesn't end up being a free-for-all after ISAF has left.

And so we share interests here. It will require negotiations, and there will be time where things don't look as smooth as I'd like. That's kind of the deal internationally on a whole range of these issues.

All right? Thank you guys.

Oh, can I just make one other comment? I want to publicly express condolences to the family of Donald Payne, Congressman from New Jersey -- a wonderful man; did great work, both domestically and internationally. He was a friend of mine. And so my heart goes out to his family and to his colleagues.

All right.

END 1:59 P.M. EST



The White House · 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW · Washington DC 20500 · 202-456-1111

AUDIO of Pres Obama Commenting on Rising Gas Prices

Monday, March 5, 2012

SOUND: Speaking at AIPAC, Israeli PM Netanyahu on Iran's Treat

US Rep Biggert Endorses Sen Kirk Dillard for Re-Election

United States Congresswoman Judy Biggert (IL-13th) strongly endorsed Senator Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) in Dillard’s race for re-election to the 24th Senatorial District. Biggert, the Chairman of the Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services, represents many of the towns in the redistricted 24th Illinois Senatorial District.

Biggert’s work on the Financial Services Committee provides her with unique insight into the problems faced by Illinois government. Highlighting Dillard’s leadership in budget matters, Biggert noted, “I can say from first-hand experience that Kirk’s style of government is ‘if you can't afford it, you can't spend it.’ I like that.” While working as former Gov. Jim Edgar’s Chief of Staff, Dillard helped turn a deficit of $1.5B into a $1B surplus, all without an income tax increase.

“We must reform our pension system, repeal the 67% income tax hike, and control the excessive spending, borrowing and taxing policies of the current administration if we are to have any hope of spurring private-sector economic growth and job creation in Illinois,” said Dillard. Dillard is the author of the Illinois Senate plan, “30 Tips…” that lays out the Republican plan for economic growth in Illinois.

“We must return Kirk to Springfield to continue to work on the important and difficult issues facing Illinois. It is critical for our community to have an experienced and respected Senator in Springfield developing clear policy objectives,” Biggert concluded.

Dillard said that he was honored to receive the strong endorsement of his Congressional colleague. “Congresswoman Biggert is someone who clearly “gets it” on the economy. She is the Midwest leader on the advancement of science and technology for industry,” Dillard said. “I look forward to working with her as we both strive to make Illinois a “Destination Economy” for job creators.”

Dillard served with distinction as Chief of Staff to former Governor Jim Edgar and currently represents the 24th Illinois Senate District. Municipalities included in the newly redistricted 24th Senate District are Clarendon Hills, Darien, Downers Grove, Elmhurst, Glen Ellyn, Hinsdale, Lisle, Lombard, Oak Brook, Oakbook Terrace, Western Springs, Westmont, Wheaton and Willowbrook.