Birthday bashes for Obama’s big 5 - 0

Al Kamen
Columnist August 2, 2011

Good thing that debt-ceiling tussling is over. Now begins President Obama’s 50th-birthday week, with lots of fundraising fun and plenty of recruiting for the 2012 reelection campaign.

There is the gala fundraiser Wednesday night in Chicago at the Aragon Ballroom featuring stars from that city — maybe Jennifer Hudson , Herbie Hancock and others. There’s also a dinner fundraiser planned for some high rollers for only $35,800 a person. (Must be serving some really good grub.)

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

And the reelect campaign is working to have volunteers nationwide host 50-person house parties that night to recruit supporters and listen to Obama in a live-streamed “special conversation” with attendees. Who knows? Maybe he’ll give a little explanation as to why the market plunged after the great debt-ceiling compromise was reached.

The organizers have a detailed “House Meeting Host Guide” with “a few simple steps” so that you have a “successful event.”

First, “secure a location,” such as your home or a coffee shop or the like. Then you register your event at my.barackobama.com/birthday-host. Then you “invite people.”

There are recruiting tips, including “make it personal,” “think big” and “bring a friend.” And, as we’ve always said, “there are never too many reminders.”

Obama is reported to be coming back to Washington on Wednesday night and will be here Thursday afternoon for a fine Rose Garden celebration for what we hear will be a few hundred pals.

Most folks know how gauche it would be to hang out there like a tourist snapping pictures, but just to be sure, our invite reminds: “Please, no cameras or photographs.”

There’s usually a deadline to reply to these things, but this one just asks for a response “at your earliest convenience,” giving the usual Secret Service info such as birth dates and Social Security numbers for you and your guest.

The bench and a brick wall

Senate Republicans may have been a bit divided in Tuesday’s vote on the debt-ceiling bill — favoring the measure, but only by 28 to 19. But they’ve had great success when it comes to holding down the number of judges the president has been able to put on the bench.

As senators slithered out of town Tuesday for five — yes, five — weeks off, they left 20 judicial nominees twisting slowly on the Senate floor. That includes 16 who were unanimously approved by the Judiciary Committee.

Obama has had fewer judges confirmed than either George W. Bush or Bill Clinton at this point in their presidencies. When the Senate returns after Labor Day, Obama will have nearly twice the number of vacant judgeships — 93, including at least five from departure announcements in the past month — than either Bush (54 openings) or Clinton (55).

In terms of filling the federal bench, the Senate has confirmed a total of 95 Obama nominees (19 appellate judges and 76 district judges, not including two for the Supreme Court), compared with 163 for Clinton (26 appellate and 137 district judges, not including two for the Supreme Court ) and 143 for Bush (28 appellate and 115 district), according to data compiled by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Obama has made far fewer nominations than Clinton or Bush at this time in the respective presidencies. Obama has sent the Senate nominees for 153 district and appeals court seats, compared with 194 for Bush and 191 for Clinton.

War: Name your own price

On Saturday, as the bitter and lengthy debt debate continued, Rep. Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and other committee members held a news conference to condemn the Senate Democrats’ debt-reduction proposals as shortchanging the military.

A reporter asked whether, given the trillions of dollars the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may end up costing, GOP lawmakers might support a “revenue raiser” or “some sort of tax” that would be specifically targeted for those costs, adding that “none of us have ever been asked to share the sacrifice of those who are overseas protecting us.”

“You can always send in more to the Treasury if you like,” McKeon said, “and I would encourage you to do that if you feel that way.”

There’s a thought. Voluntary contributions instead of government-coerced taxes to finance things. Well, we still prefer Bush’s post-9/11 suggestion that we help out the country by going shopping.

Code name ‘Landlord’

Vice President Biden is a husband, father and former senator. He’s now also a government contractor.

Seems Biden is renting out the cottage next to his home in Wilmington, Del., to the Secret Service, according to the Washington Times, and he’s picked up more than $13,000 in fees on the $2,200 monthly rental the agency pays.

The arrangement, while a bit unusual, is apparently totally legit. The cottage was used by Biden’s mother until she died early last year and rented to a private tenant. When the tenant moved out, the Secret Service rented it for the same amount. Biden’s listed as “vendor” on various records.

Staff researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.

Follow In the Loop on Twitter: @AlKamenWP.

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