Searchlight, Nevada (CNN) - As thousands of Tea Party activists rally in his hometown of Searchlight, Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is burnishing his Second Amendment credentials.
Reid’s re-election campaign describes National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre as "one of the senator’s supporters." The two are at a $60 million Clark County shooting park which, according to the Reid campaign, wouldn't have opened without the senator’s help.
In a statement to CNN regarding Saturday’s Tea Party rally in his hometown, the Senate’s top Democrat said: "I'm happy so many people came to see my hometown of Searchlight and spend their out-of-state money especially in these tough economic times. Ultimately though this election will be decided by Nevadans, not people from other states who parachute in for one day to have a tea party."
Reid’s camp is trying to welcome the Tea Partiers. The Nevada State Democratic Party and the Reid campaign have set up a hospitality tent not far from the Tea Party rally site. "We are serving Tea and donut holes in recognition that Senator Reid just passed health care reform and we're closing the Medicare donut hole," says Zac Petkanas, deputy communications director of the Reid campaign. He adds it’s staffed, "with real Nevadans from Nevada and folks from Searchlight who support Reid."
The Nevada Democrats hold their big Jefferson Jackson dinner Saturday night where former Vice President Al Gore will be the keynote speaker.
“[T]he Senate has a responsibility to dispose of these nominations,” Obama senior adviser David Axelrod says in an interview that will air Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Related: Obama to make 15 recess appointments
Axelrod adds that the White House is “in a position where the Republican Party has taken a position where they're going to try and slow and block progress on all fronts, whether it's legislation or appointments.”
The Obama adviser tells CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley that the previous administration had far fewer appointees awaiting Senate confirmation at the comparable point in former President George W. Bush’s first term.
“We have 77 appointees who have not gotten the vote because they have been held up by the Republican Party,” Axelrod tells Crowley. “Some of them are in very sensitive positions - Treasury, Homeland Security, and boards like the Labor Relations Board . . . where there are a huge number of vacancies.”
Much of the controversy over Obama’s decision to use his authority to make recess appointments has centered around Craig Becker, one of Obama’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board.
Washington (CNN) – President Obama plans to nominate Donald Berwick to the top post at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, according to a senior administration official.
The “nomination has not been made yet,” the official stressed.
Berwick is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, which is described on the organization’s Web site as “one of the nation’s leading authorities on health care quality and improvement.” According to the site, Berwick is also a clinical professor of pediatrics and health care policy at Harvard Medical School.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid is the federal agency that oversees the Medicare and Medicaid programs; the agency is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Obama’s decision to appoint Berwick to head the health care-focused agency comes just days after passage of Democrats’ health care legislation.
Related: House passes Senate's health care 'fixes' bill
"There's no better place to kick off the Tea Party Express than Harry Reid's hometown," Palin said at the rally, dubbed "Showdown in Searchlight," aimed at conjuring up support for the Senate Majority Leader's defeat in November elections.
Activists - some of whom are calling the gathering the largest retirement party in the world - hope it will carry a strong symbolic message.
Reid, the Senate majority leader, is credited with helping push through Congress the controversial health care bill that President Barack Obama signed Tuesday, as well as the so-called "fixes" measure that passed Thursday.
"Washington has broken faith with the people that they are to be serving," Palin told the crowd, which numbered in the thousands.
Palin said the message to government leaders was "loud and clear."
"The big government, the big debt, Obama-Pelosi-Reid spending spree is over. You're fired," she said, prompting cheers from the crowd.
Washington (CNN) - President Obama announced Saturday that he will make recess appointments of 15 nominees to administration posts who are awaiting confirmation by the full Senate.
"The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees," Obama said in a written statement that also named the 15 individuals. "But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis.
"Most of the men and women whose appointments I am announcing today were approved by Senate committees months ago, yet still await a vote of the Senate. At a time of economic emergency, two top appointees to the Department of Treasury have been held up for nearly six months. I simply cannot allow
partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government."
In a blog post about the appointments, White House deputy communications director Jen Psaki highlighted two other federal agencies.
"The roadblocks we've seen in the Senate have left some government agencies like the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission impaired in fulfilling their mission," Psaki wrote. "These agencies can now get back to working for the American people."
Obama has the authority under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution to make recess appointments.
Follow Martina Stewart on Twitter: @MMStewartCNN
(CNN) - A 17-year-old student from South Pasadena High School in California took Vice President Joe Biden to task Friday for his use of an un-choice word this week whispered into the ear of President Barack Obama.
"This is a huge deal," McKay Hatch told reporters. "Many kids and adults all over the world look up to Vice President Biden as a role model. He needs to be a good role model for kids and use clean and appropriate language."
Hatch was referring to Biden's "This is a big f............ deal" sotto-voce remark Tuesday to his boss during the signing of the health care bill that was picked up by microphones and amplified around the world.
Hatch called on Biden to apologize, then packed a "No Cussing Club" T-shirt, wrist bands and penalty jar into a box and carried it to the local post office, cameras documenting his every move and utterance. His goal: "to remind him to use good language."
Washington (CNN) - In his weekly Internet and radio address, President Obama discusses the changes to the federal student loan system that were enacted as part of Democrats' health care legislation.
"This reform of the federal student loan programs will save taxpayers $68 billion over the next decade," Obama says. "And with this legislation, we’re putting that money to use achieving a goal I set for America: by the end of this decade, we will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world."
Republicans responded quickly to Obama's weekly address. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, the chairman of Senate Republican Conference, issued the following statement Saturday:
“Nineteen million college students aren’t going to be happy when they find out that the federal government will overcharge them an average of $1,700 to help pay for the new health care law and other government programs. In this latest Washington takeover, the government will borrow money at 2.8 percent and loan it to students at 6.8 percent and spend the difference on more government. Any savings ought to go to students, not the government.
“This takeover will deprive 19 million students of choices, add half a trillion dollars to the federal debt, and throw out of work 31,000 Americans who today help students apply for loans. The motto of the Obama Administration should be: ‘If you can find it in the Yellow Pages, the government ought to be doing it.'"
(Read Obama's full remarks after the jump)
Washington (CNN) - Prosecutors have reduced the charges against four men accused of trying to access the phone system in the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana.
The case involves James O'Keefe, the conservative activist who played a pimp in videos that later embarassed ACORN, the community organizing group now in the process of shuttering its operations. The case also involves Robert Flanagan, the son of an acting U.S. attorney from Louisiana's Western District.
The U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of Louisiana said Friday that O'Keefe, Flanagan and the two other associates are now charged with entering federal property under false pretenses, a misdemeanor.
The men were originally arrested on felony charges after they entered Landrieu's office, located inside a federal building, on Jan. 25.
Tea Party activists in RVs started arriving earlier this week at the rally site, an undeveloped piece of land down a mile-long dirt road. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
(CNN) - Caravans of Tea Party activists will roll into Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's hometown in rural Nevada on Saturday to rally for his defeat in November.
Sarah Palin, who derided big government spending and "the Obama Pelosi Reid agenda" on Friday, will headline the event dubbed "Showdown in Searchlight."
The stop is part of the latest cross-country protest against big government and health care reform. Activists hope the protest will carry a strong symbolic message.
Reid, the four-term Democratic incumbent, is from the small town, which has one gas station and a McDonald's restaurant. Earlier in the week, activists in RVs started arriving at the rally site, an undeveloped piece of land down a mile-long dirt road.