Mac and Cheese are off the holiday menu

Published by Tracie Mauriello on .

Reuters photoReuters photo

Mac and Cheese won’t be on anyone’s menu this Thanksgiving.

We’re talking, of course, about the poultry siblings Barack Obama pardoned this afternoon at an annual White House tradition that the president said is enjoyable but also puzzling for a chief executive whose time is more usually spent on substantive issues.

“With all the tough stuff that swirls around in this office it’s nice once in a while to just say ‘happy Thanksgiving,’ and this is a great excuse to do it,’” Mr. Obama said.

The pardon saves the birds from a “terrible and delicious fate,” Mr. Obama said.

"Let’s face it: If you’re a turkey and you’re named after a side dish, your chance of escaping Thanksgiving dinner are pretty low,” he said. “They really beat the odds.”

Cheese was the top bird and received the official pardon after beating Mac in an online contest that pit brother against brother, but both birds will be spared and will live out their days at Morven Park’s Turkey Hill in Leesburg, Va. 

Jaindl’s Turkey Farm in Orefield, Pa., presented the Obama family with two dressed turkeys, that weren’t so lucky. The first family brought them to a D.C.-area food bank.  

Mac and Cheese were raised by Cole Cooper of Ft. Recovery, Ohio, son of National Turkey Federation Chairman Gary Cooper.

The president joked that the pardon would be his “most talked-about executive action” of the month. It came, of course, on the heels of controversial new orders on immigration

“Some will call this amnesty,” he deadpanned. “But don’t worry: there’s plenty of turkey to go around.” 


Sam Smith speaks out

Published by Karen Langley on .


When Sam Smith, the outgoing speaker of the House, was asked Monday how he would advise Tom Wolf on working with the House, he paused.

"Well... I don't know, because first of January that question might be worth a whole lot of money to me," he said, provoking laughs from the lobbyists and reporters and Capitol staff who attend luncheons of the Pennsylvania Press Club.

But he responded anyway, saying the key is to hire good people to deal with the General Assembly.

"That is the most important thing that an incoming governor can do to give them a chance to be successful at governing, and perhaps successful at their agenda," he said. "They need to start with good people in those top positions around the governor that can talk to the legislative leaders."

With that nugget given away for free, what does Smith plan to do once his quarter-century in the House is done?

"At this moment, I can candidly say I have not ruled anything out," he said. "I really want to wake up, figuratively speaking, the first of January and say, OK, what's out there that you might be able to do that you might enjoy, or that would be productive and helpful in some way?"

"I really have made no commitments, in a long-term sense, and I'm kind of basking in that uncertainty of what lies ahead for me in 2015."


Pennsylvania to have voice at NATO's table

Published by Tracie Mauriello on .

Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., flanked by House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., right, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Sept. 23, 2011.

U.S. Rep. Thomas Marino, R-Lycoming, was elected to serve as one of five vice presidents of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, which is meeting in The Hague this week to do discuss trade agreements, tensions with Russia in Europe, energy production, world hunger and threats of the Islamic State.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, was elected president, succeeding British Member of Parliament Hugh Bayley.

"There are many challenging issues ahead of us," Mr. Marino said in a written statement today. "From the Russian dilemma to security agreements, my counterparts and I are optimistic about the NATO PA's ability to traverse obstacles, generate consensus and exert influence within critical foreign policy debates."

More than 350 delegates from 48 countries are attending. They are expected to build discussions from September's NATO summit in Wales.



In Oslo, Sen. Casey speaks out for Afghan women

Published by Tracie Mauriello on .

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., was in Norway over the weekend, but he had another country on his mind – Afghanistan.

"We must make clear to Afghan leaders that women's rights are non-negotiable," he said Sunday during a speech before the Oslo Symposium and Advancing Women's Rights and Empowerment in Afghanistan.

Mr. Casey, who has traveled to Afghanistan three times, has made gender equality a priority, advocating for equal pay and employee non-discrimination policies for pregnant and nursing women.

In Oslo, Mr. Casey said that protecting the rights of women in Afghanistan and throughout the world advances U.S. national security interests and promotes stability.
The senator's Washington, D.C. office provided a transcript of his remarks.

"Supporting the rights of Afghan women and girls is a priority that transcends politics," Mr. Casey said.

He said Afghan women have become freer over the last decade, and the global community must ensure those gains are not reversed. To allow that would dishonor the sacrifice of American and coalition troops that served in Afghanistan, he said.

He is expected back from Oslo late this afternoon.


Shuster holds transportation committee chairmanship

Published by Mike Pound on .


U.S. Rep Bill Shuster will take another spin as chairman of the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The Blair County Republican said he used his chairmanship to help bring federal funds -- to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars -- to Somerset County for a three-phase project to improve U.S. Route 219. In the same release, he also touted his support of the Keystone Pipeline -- the one that just failed to pass in a Senate that's still under control of Democratic leadership for a few more weeks -- the Water Resources Reform and Development Act and the steady Republican drumbeat against the U.S. Enviromental Protection Agency.

The latter has been a long-time interest of Shuster; the coal country congressman has pushed for more oversight of the EPA even before gaining the committee's chairmanship a year ago.

"As a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee I have not only been able to advance policies that have national economic benefits, but have had major implications for Pennsylvania such as the Route 219 expansion in Somerset County," Shuster said in a statement. "I will continue to work with my committee to fight against the EPA's regulatory overreach on farmers and homebuilders in the 9th District by stopping its damaging Waters of the US proposal."