As snow blanketed the Washington DC area on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 Congress and the White House came almost to a standstill, cancelling most events, work, a traditional snow day. Over 10 inches of snow fell in the capitol region from Wednesday into Thursday, part of a larger monster storm bringing heavy snowfalls and ice from Georgia through the Northeast from Wednesday Feb. 12 to Friday, Feb. 14. President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden cancelled their planned events, Press Secretary Jay Carney's press briefing was cancelled and the press sent home, with a newsless day. Many federal government offices were closed, but that did not mean employees had the day off, most telecommuted from home and several offices and departments were open. And Congress who was starting a two-week vacation anyhow made sure all their voting business was completed on Wednesday before the snow.
All of President Obama's public events were cancelled on Thursday. The President was to announce another part of his economic opportunity program, called "My Brother's Keeper," aiming at helping to decrease the disproportionately high unemployment rates and socio-economic challenges African-American and Hispanic men face. The program would with the help of "businesses and foundations" focus from childhood and education to adulthood and employment, attempting to curb the "the school-to-prison pipeline."
An administration official told USA Today the initiative aims "to make sure that every young man of color who is willing to work hard and lift himself up has an opportunity to get ahead and reach his full potential." The initiative stems from Obama's 2014 State of the Union promise; "I'm reaching out to some of America's leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential."
Vice President Joe Biden planned to speak at the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference, their three-day annual retreat in nearby Cambridge, Md at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay on the coast, but the weather was so bad he had to cancel his appearance. The Democratic retreat continued on however, without the Vice President with only two-thirds of Congressional Democrats attending. That however, did not stop them from having fun, with according to ABC News House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer dancing and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley singing Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." Democratic lawmakers vowed to force Republicans into a Congressional vote to raise the minimum wage through a "discharge petition."
The White House press corps also had a day off being sent home at 9:45 A.M. and Press Secretary Jay Carney's midday daily press briefing cancelled. Not everyone in the White House complex was enjoying the snow, in the Office of Management and Budget Treasury Secretary Jack Lew did not let the snow stop his busy schedule, meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan and continuing with a Financial Stability Oversight Council meeting. Federal Government offices probably saw the most work done in a deserted Washington, DC. Most cabinet departments including Treasury, Labor and Interior did not let the snowstorm keep them from their regular business.
All official Congressional business was cancelled on Thursday. Most lawmakers did not make the snowy trek into their offices, with only a handful heading to work mostly those from snow hearty states. For Sen. Lisa Murkowski R-AK and her office it was "business as usual" in weather that could seem tropical next to her far north home state of Alaska.
The top legislative priorities were finished by Wednesday, Feb, 12, to avoid the snow. On Tuesday, Feb. 11 the House of Representatives voted 221-201 to raise the debt ceiling limit after Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH announced during a press conference that he will put to a vote a clean debt ceiling bill. The measure passed with a majority of the House's Democratic support, and only 28 Republican votes.
While a "drama-filled" Senate voted the next day on the major piece of legislation, the debt-ceiling raise passed 55 to 43, with all Senate Democrats voting for the bill and all Republicans in opposition. Conservative Senator Ted Cruz, R-TX kept his promise to push for a filibuster, the procedural vote for cloture needed 5 Republicans to make the 60 votes to advance the bill to a Senate wide vote. After much private discussions, 12 Republicans voted in favor of moving the bill along, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX and Sen. John McCain, R-AZ.
Even after an additional 3 inches fell onto the Washington D.C. area into Friday morning, Feb. 14 Valentine's Day, the federal government was not going to add Friday to make a long weekend. Workers went into their government offices albeit with a two hours later start to the day. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden headed to the Democratic retreat in Maryland to speak to lawmakers. Then the President will move on to California to meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan "at the Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage." The President will take advantage and stay over the weekend in this Palm Springs area to golf, enjoying the welcome relief from being thousands of miles away from snow pilled Washington.