President Obama Gets Busy: 5 Issues on This Week’s Agenda
President Barack Obama’s Google Calendar — if he had one — should be chock-full this week with a long list of items on his upcoming agenda. Some are issues that go with his power of the pen theme that will likely have Republicans fuming. Others stem from congressional efforts he faces, and still others demand his attention from overseas. Let’s take a look at what the political week of April 7 has in store.
1. Wage increase
In recent weeks, Obama has been working around Congress’s hesitation to up the minimum wage with his own measures. So far they’ve included a pay hike for federal employees, a change to overtime pay restrictions for management positions, and a number of visits to states such as Michigan to encourage a statewide increase to the minimum wage to $10.10. The pressure his administration has been exerting on the change is unlikely to let up just yet.
2. Equal pay
Early this week, the president will be dealing with more data-related wage changes and equal-pay issues. Obama will put in place new protection for workers who talk about their pay, disallowing federal contractors from punishing workers who discuss the topics in his latest order. On top of that, he will set new rules that force federal contractors to disclose payment information for employees broken down in terms of race and gender.
Which brings up his other recent focus: Equal pay for women, especially an emphasis on how a living wage could aid women and tipped workers to a disproportionate degree, as well as help decrease the gender pay gap. On Tuesday, he’ll sign two executive orders, both likely done to get around the as-yet unsuccessful efforts of Democrats in Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.
3. Afghanistan’s elections
According to The Washington Post, Afghanistan’s presidential election is progressing with some positive signs, despite a number of terrorist attacks from Taliban extremists. Involvement of women in important positions, lines of voters at election centers, and campaign rallies are all being observed in the region, despite the violence. Obama spoke late last week on the event’s significance for the Americans who served in the military and helped make them possible.
“These elections are critical to securing Afghanistan’s democratic future, as well as continued international support, and we look to the Afghan electoral bodies to carry out their duties in the coming weeks to adjudicate the results,” Obama said in a statement.
Following House Republicans’ — and most notably, Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) — release of the GOP budget plan dubbed “Path to Prosperity,” Obama discussed his own budget in his weekly address. During his visit to Ann Arbor, Michigan, Obama was heavily critical of GOP plan, and his new commentary runs along the same lines. He claimed that the GOP budget “shrinks opportunity and makes it harder for Americans who work hard to get ahead,” while the budget he sent to Congress earlier in 2014 was “built on the idea of opportunity for all. It will grow the middle class and shrink the deficits we’ve already cut in half since I took office.”
Along with hailing the advantages of his budget over Ryan’s, Obama is being forced once again to defend healthcare reform. “Unsurprisingly, the Republican budget also tries to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” said Obama, listing the 7 million new enrollees via the insurance marketplaces as evidence that such a measure is inappropriate for the budget proposal.
5. Rwandan genocide commemoration
The service being held to commemorate the Rwandan genocide is set to take place this week, and Obama issued a statement on Sunday saying that U.S. will honor “the memory of the more than 800,000 men, women and children who were senselessly slaughtered simply because of who they were or what they believed.”
He added: “The genocide we remember today — and the world’s failure to respond more quickly — reminds us that we always have a choice.” The event has led to tension between France and Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, who noted in an interview with Jeune Afrique that France and Belgium had contributed to the “political preparation for the genocide,” according to The New York Times.
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