Today at the White House: April 4, 2012

The president starts the day with prayer as the White House fields questions about health care and the hoodie movement. 

Posted: 04/04/2012 05:16 PM EDT

The White House played host to the president’s third annual Easter prayer breakfast today. Faith leaders from across the country were in attendance as he greeted them with expressions of gratitude saying, “I want to just express appreciation for your prayers. But in addition to prayer, the president will also need the support of churches, especially those in the Black community, for what could be a tight race come November.

The president also acknowledged the upcoming Easter holiday and said, “I hope that our time together this morning will strengthen us individually, as believers, and as a nation.

There was at least one stand-out at this morning’s prayer breakfast. Bishop John Bryant, of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, decided to bring the Trayvon Martin hoodie movement to the White House as he sported a hoodie amid a sea of dark suits and clergy collars. Attendees saw the president greeting Bryant but he apparently did not acknowledge the hoodie. Reporters asked whether the president has any response to the matter but White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “I have no more comments. The president has made comments already.”

A number of press conference calls were also on tap today dealing with a range of topics from voter suppression to employing military spouses.

Assistant Democratic Leader Rep. James Clyburn was on hand for the release of a voter suppression report outlining a pattern of efforts across the country to make it difficult for groups including minorities, young people and seniors to vote. Clyburn remembered how the country struggled before the Voting Rights Act and said, “Obstacles that were in place, were removed. Now we see an attempt to turn the clock back to that period.”

The Center for American Progress released the Voter Suppression 101 Report in direct response to more than a dozen states that are attempting to institute laws that could disenfranchise Americans. Tom Perriello, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said “The real fraud is not people trying to cheat the system but by conservatives knocking people off the voting rolls.”

First Lady Michelle Obama also held a press conference call to spread the news about a new opportunity that will help the spouses of military men and women find jobs. Eleven companies came together to pledge more than 15,000 jobs for military spouses, giving them the option of working from home with flexible schedules. “Just think of it, when the next set of orders comes in for these families and they have to move across the country, they’ll be able to move these jobs with them," she said.

With less than a dozen companies participating in the program, reporters questioned whether the program is enough to make a dent in the demand for jobs among military families. Mrs. Obama said, “Well, of course it's not enough. It's not enough until every military spouse has access to the employment opportunities that they need.  But I think this gets us off to a pretty good start.” 

Meanwhile in the press briefing room, reporters wanted clarity about some pretty harsh words the president had for the Supreme Court as they mull over the fate of the Affordable Health Care Law. The president suggested that it would be unprecedented for the Supreme Court to overturn a law passed by Congress. But the administration is playing clean-up. Carney said, “He did not suggest — did not mean and did not suggest that the Court — it would be unprecedented for the Court to rule that a law was unconstitutional. That's what the Supreme Court is there to do. But it has, under the Commerce Clause, deferred to Congress's authority in matters of national economic importance.”

The White House ended the day by honoring people who have worked to end youth violence in their cities as part of its Champions of Change Program. In all, twelve leaders were recognized. The National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention was started by the president in 2010 as a network of communities and federal agencies working together to share information about ways to curb the spate of youth violence across the country.

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