Full Text Obama Presidency July 1, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks Before Cabinet Meeting

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President Before Cabinet Meeting

Source: WH, 7-1-14

Cabinet Room

11:04 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  I thought I’d get the Cabinet together this morning because we all know that America will be busy this afternoon.  (Laughter.)  Go, Team USA.

About the halfway point through this year, we can look back and see some enormous progress that we’ve been able to make on the economy.  We continue to create jobs with over 9.4 million created over the last several years.  We’re continuing to see improvement in the housing market.  We’re continuing to see real progress in terms of the energy sectors.  But what we also know is, is that there’s so much more that’s possible.

And part of the reason that I wanted to bring the Cabinet together today is to underscore for them my belief I think shared by most Americans that we can’t wait for Congress to actually get going on issues that are vital to the middle class.

We’ve already seen the power of some of our executive actions in making a real difference for ordinary families — whether it’s on minimum wage for federal workers — or for workers who are with federal contractors; equal pay; and the terrific work that’s being done around climate change so we’re transitioning to a clean-energy economy.

But what I’m going to be urging all of you to do, and what I’m going to be continually pushing throughout this year and for the next couple of years is that if Congress can’t act on core issues that would actually make a difference in helping middle-class families get ahead, then we’re going to have to be creative about how we can make real progress.

Keep in mind that my preference is always going to be to work with Congress and to actually get legislation done.  That’s how we get some more of the permanent fixes.  And as I mentioned yesterday with respect to immigration, whatever we do administratively is not going to be sufficient to solve a broken immigration system.

The same is true when it comes to infrastructure.  We’ll be talking a little bit about how we need to renew the Highway Trust Fund.  But, more importantly, we could potentially put people to work all across the country, rebuilding roads and bridges, putting construction workers back to work.  That could boost our economy enormously.  And now is the time to do it, but that requires congressional action.

And so we’re always going to prefer working on a bipartisan basis to get things done.  That’s what folks expect out of Washington.  They’re not looking for excuses and they’re not looking for a lot of partisan sniping.  But if Congress is unable to do it, then all of our Cabinet members here — and the head of big agencies that touch people’s live in all sorts of ways — and I’m going to be continuing looking for ways in which we can show some real progress.

And the second topic that we’re going to be spending a lot of time talking about is how to do we continue to improve the functioning of government to make it more customer-friendly.  This is something that we’ve been working on since Sylvia was head of OMB.  This is something that Shaun will be prioritizing.  I expect every agency to look and see how can we get more bang for the buck in the agencies that we operate.  And I know that many of you can report some significant progress in reducing paperwork and bureaucracy and red tape for projects and initiatives around the country in education, in energy, in housing and in transportation.  But I think we can do even better.

So I’m looking forward to getting a report from you on the progress that has been made.  And hopefully we can share some ideas to see if we can make even more progress.

The bottom line is this:  I went to Minnesota — many of the press here accompanied me — and had a wonderful conversation with folks around the country who are doing their jobs every single day — raising families, working hard, contributing to their communities.  And their hopes and aspirations are my primary focus and should be the primary focus of this town.  They are extraordinarily cynical about Washington right now, and rightfully so.  They just don’t see any capacity by Congress to do anything.  We’ve seen a Congress that said no to increasing the minimum wage; said no to immigration reform; has said no to equal pay legislation.  The only thing they seem to say yes to, the Republican in the House at least, is more tax breaks for folks at the top.  And as a consequence, the people who sent us here, they just don’t feel as if anybody is fighting for them and working for them.

We’re not always going to be able to get things through Congress, at least this Congress, the way we want to.  But we sure as heck can make sure that the folks back home know that we’re pushing their agenda and that we’re working hard on their behalf and we’re doing every single thing we can do to make a difference in their lives.  So I want to make sure that we emphasize not what we can’t do, but what we can do in the coming months.
Thank you very much, everybody.

END
11:10 A.M. EDT

Political Musings May 27, 2014: Obama overcompensates Memorial Day honors as Veterans Affairs scandal heats up

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama overcompensates Memorial Day honors as Veterans Affairs scandal heats up

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Full Text Obama Presidency May 21, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Department of Veterans Affairs Scandal

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Veterans Health Care

Source: WH, 5-21-14 

Watch the Video

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

10:58 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  I just met with Secretary Shinseki and Rob Nabors, who I’ve temporarily assigned to work with Secretary Shinseki and the VA.  We focused on two issues:  the allegations of misconduct at Veterans Affairs facilities, and our broader mission of caring for our veterans and their families.

As Commander-in-Chief, I have the honor of standing with our men and women in uniform at every step of their service: from the moment they take their oath, to when our troops prepare to deploy, to Afghanistan — where they put their lives on the line for our security, to their bedside, as our wounded warriors fight to recover from terrible injuries.  The most searing moments of my presidency have been going to Walter Reed, or Bethesda, or Bagram and meeting troops who have left a part of themselves on the battlefield.  And their spirit and their determination to recover and often to serve again is an inspiration.

So these men and women and their families are the best that our country has to offer.  They’ve done their duty, and they ask nothing more than that this country does ours — that we uphold our sacred trust to all who have served.

So when I hear allegations of misconduct — any misconduct — whether it’s allegations of VA staff covering up long wait times or cooking the books, I will not stand for it.  Not as Commander-in-Chief, but also not as an American.  None of us should.  So if these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it — period.

Here’s what I discussed with Secretary Shinseki this morning.  First, anybody found to have manipulated or falsified records at VA facilities has to be held accountable.  The inspector general at the VA has launched investigations into the Phoenix VA and other facilities.  And some individuals have already been put on administrative leave.  I know that people are angry and want a swift reckoning.  I sympathize with that.  But we have to let the investigators do their job and get to the bottom of what happened.  Our veterans deserve to know the facts.  Their families deserve to know the facts.  And once we know the facts, I assure you — if there is misconduct, it will be punished.

Second, I want to know the full scope of this problem.  And that’s why I ordered Secretary Shinseki to investigate.  Today, he updated me on his review, which is looking not just at the Phoenix facility, but also VA facilities across the nation.  And I expect preliminary results from that review next week.

Third, I’ve directed Rob Nabors to conduct a broader review of the Veterans Health Administration — the part of the VA that delivers health care to our veterans.  And Rob is going to Phoenix today.  Keep in mind, though, even if we had not heard reports out of this Phoenix facility or other facilities, we all know that it often takes too long for veterans to get the care that they need.  That’s not a new development.  It’s been a problem for decades and it’s been compounded by more than a decade of war.

That’s why, when I came into office, I said we would systematically work to fix these problems, and we have been working really hard to address them.  My attitude is, for folks who have been fighting on the battlefield, they should not have to fight a bureaucracy at home to get the care that they’ve earned.

So the presumption has always been we’ve got to do better.  And Rob’s review will be a comprehensive look at the Veterans Health Administration’s approach currently to access to care.  I want to know what’s working.  I want to know what is not working.  And I want specific recommendations on how VA can up their game.  And I expect that full report from Rob next month.

Number four — I said that I expect everyone involved to work with Congress, which has an important oversight role to play.  And I welcome Congress as a partner in our efforts not just to address the current controversies, but to make sure we’re doing right by our veterans across the board.  I served on the Veterans Affairs Committee when I was in the Senate, and it was one of the proudest pieces of business that I did in the legislature.  And I know the folks over there care deeply about our veterans.

It is important that our veterans don’t become another political football, especially when so many of them are receiving care right now.  This is an area where Democrats and Republicans should always be working together.

Which brings me to my final point.  Even as we get to the bottom of what happened at Phoenix and other facilities, all of us, whether here in Washington or all across the country, have to stay focused on the larger mission, which is upholding our sacred trust to all of our veterans, bringing the VA system into the 21st century — which is not an easy task.

We have made progress over the last five years.  We’ve made historic investments in our veterans.  We’ve boosted VA funding to record levels.  And we created consistency through advanced appropriations so that veterans organizations knew their money would be there regardless of political wrangling in Washington.

We made VA benefits available to more than 2 million veterans who did not have it before — delivering disability pay to more Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange; making it easier for veterans with post-traumatic stress and mental health issues and traumatic brain injury to get treatment; and improving care for women veterans.

Because of these steps and the influx of new veterans requiring services added in many cases to wait times, we launched an all-out war on the disability claims backlog.  And in just the past year alone, we’ve slashed that backlog by half.

Of course, we’re not going to let up, because it’s still too high.  We’re going to keep at it until we eliminate the backlog once and for all.  Meanwhile, we’re also reducing homelessness among our veterans.  We’re helping veterans and their families — more than a million so far — pursue their education under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.  We’re stepping up our efforts to help our newest veterans get the skills and training to find jobs when they come home.  And along with Michelle and Jill Biden and Joining Forces, we’ve helped hundreds of thousands of veterans find a job.  More veterans are finding work and veterans unemployment, although still way too high, is coming down.

The point is, caring for our veterans is not an issue that popped up in recent weeks.  Some of the problems with respect to how veterans are able to access the benefits that they’ve earned, that’s not a new issue.  That’s an issue that I was working on when I was running for the United States Senate.  Taking care of our veterans and their families has been one of the causes of my presidency, and it is something that all of us have to be involved with and have to be paying attention to.

We ended the war in Iraq.  And as our war in Afghanistan ends, and as our newest veterans are coming home, the demands on the VA are going to grow.  So we’re going to have to redouble our efforts to get it right as a nation.  And we have to be honest that there are and will continue to be areas where we’ve got to do a lot better.

So today, I want every veteran to know we are going to fix whatever is wrong.  And so long as I have the privilege of serving as Commander-in-Chief, I’m going to keep on fighting to deliver the care and the benefits and the opportunities that your families deserve, now and for decades to come.  That is a commitment to which I feel a sacred duty to maintain.

So with that, I’m going to take two questions.  I’m going to take Jim Kuhnhenn at AP, first of all.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  As you said, this is a cause of your presidency.  You ran on this issue — you mentioned it.  Why was it allowed to get to this stage where you actually had potentially 40 veterans who died while waiting for treatment?  That’s an extreme circumstance.  Why did it get to that?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we have to find out, first of all, what exactly happened.  And I don’t want to get ahead of the IG report or the other investigations that are being done.  And I think it is important to recognize that the wait times generally — what the IG indicated so far at least — is the wait times were for folks who may have had chronic conditions, were seeking their next appointment but may have already received service.  It was not necessarily a situation where they were calling for emergency services.  And the IG indicated that he did not see a link between the wait and them actually dying.

That does not excuse the fact that the wait times in general are too long in some facilities.  And so what we have to do is find out what exactly happened.  We have to find out how can we realistically cut some of these wait times.  There has been a large influx of new veterans coming in.  We’ve got a population of veterans that is also aging as part of the baby boom population.  And we’ve got to make sure that the scheduling system, the access to the system, that all those things are in sync.  There are parts of the VA health care system that have performed well.

And what we’ve seen is, for example, satisfaction rates in many facilities with respect to many providers has been high.  But what we’re seeing is that, in terms of how folks get scheduled, how they get in the system, there are still too many problems.  I’m going to get a complete report from it.  It is not, as a consequence, people not caring about the problem, but there are 85 million appointments scheduled among veterans during the course of a year.  That’s a lot of appointments.  And that means that we’ve got to have a system that is built in order to be able to take those folks in in a smooth fashion, that they know what to expect, that it’s reliable, and it means that the VA has got to set standards that it can meet.  And if it can’t meet them right now, then it’s going to have to set realistic goals about how they improve the system overall.

Q    Does the responsibility ultimately rest with General Shinseki?

THE PRESIDENT:  You know, the responsibility for things always rests ultimately with me, as the President and Commander-in-Chief.  Ric Shinseki has been a great soldier.  He himself is a disabled veteran.  And nobody cares more about our veterans than Ric Shinseki.  So if you ask me how do I think Ric Shinseki has performed overall, I would say that on homelessness, on the 9/11 GI Bill, on working with us to reduce the backlog, across the board he has put his heart and soul into this thing and he has taken it very seriously.

But I have said to Ric — and I said it to him today — I want to see what the results of these reports are and there is going to be accountability.  And I’m going to expect even before the reports are done that we are seeing significant improvement in terms of how the admissions process takes place in all of our VA health care facilities.  So I know he cares about it deeply and he has been a great public servant and a great warrior on behalf of the United States of America.  We’re going to work with him to solve the problem, but I am going to make sure that there is accountability throughout the system after I get the full report.

Steve Holland from Reuters.

Q    Thank you, sir.  Has Secretary Shinseki offered to resign?  And if he’s not to blame, then who is?  And were you caught by surprise by these allegations?

THE PRESIDENT:  Ric Shinseki I think serves this country because he cares deeply about veterans and he cares deeply about the mission.  And I know that Ric’s attitude is if he does not think he can do a good job on this and if he thinks he has let our veterans down, then I’m sure that he is not going to be interested in continuing to serve.  At this stage, Ric is committed to solving the problem and working with us to do it.  And I am going to do everything in my power, using the resources of the White House, to help that process of getting to the bottom of what happened and fixing it.

But I’m also going to be waiting to see what the results of all this review process yields.  I don’t yet know how systemic this is.  I don’t yet know are there a lot of other facilities that have been cooking the books, or is this just an episodic problem.  We know that, essentially, the wait times have been a problem for decades in all kinds of circumstances with respect to the VA — getting benefits, getting health care, et cetera.  Some facilities do better than others.  A couple of years ago, the Veterans Affairs set a goal of 14 days for wait times.  What’s not yet clear to me is whether enough tools were given to make sure that those goals were actually met.

And I won’t know until the full report is put forward as to whether there was enough management follow-up to ensure that those folks on the front lines who were doing scheduling had the capacity to meet those goals; if they were being evaluated for meeting goals that were unrealistic and they couldn’t meet, because either there weren’t enough doctors or the systems weren’t in place or what have you.  We need to find out who was responsible for setting up those guidelines.  So there are going to be a lot of questions that we have to answer.

In the meantime, what I said to Ric today is let’s not wait for the report retrospectively to reach out immediately to veterans who are currently waiting for appointments, to make sure that they are getting better service.  That’s something that we can initiate right now.  We don’t have to wait to find out if there was misconduct to dig in and make sure that we’re upping our game in all of our various facilities.

I do think it is important not just with respect to Ric Shinseki, but with respect to the VA generally, to say that every single day there are people working in the VA who do outstanding work and put everything they’ve got into making sure that our veterans get the care, benefits and services that they need.  And so I do want to close by sending a message out there that there are millions of veterans who are getting really good service from the VA, who are getting really good treatment from the VA.  I know because I get letters from veterans sometimes asking me to write letters of commendation or praise to a doctor or a nurse or a facility that couldn’t have given them better treatment.

And so this is a big system with a lot of really good people in it who care about our veterans deeply.  We have seen the improvements on a whole range of issues like homelessness, like starting to clear the backlog up, like making sure that folks who previously weren’t even eligible for disability because it was a mental health issue or because it was an Agent Orange issue are finally able to get those services.  I don’t want us to lose sight of the fact that there are a lot of folks in the VA who are doing a really good job and working really hard at it.  That does not, on the other hand, excuse the possibility that, number one, we weren’t just — we were not doing a good enough job in terms of providing access to folks who need an appointment for chronic conditions.  Number two, it never excuses the possibility that somebody was trying to manipulate the data in order to look better or make their facility look better.

It is critical to make sure that we have good information in order to make good decisions.  I want people on the front lines, if there’s a problem, to tell me or tell Ric Shinseki, or tell whoever is their superior, that this is a problem.  Don’t cover up a problem.  Do not pretend the problem doesn’t exist.  If you can’t get wait times down to 14 days right now, I want you to let folks up the chain know so that we can solve the problem.  Do we need more doctors?  Do we need a new system in order to make sure that the scheduling and coordination is more effective and more smooth?  Is there more follow-up?

And that’s the thing that right now most disturbs me about the report — the possibility that folks intentionally withheld information that would have helped us fix a problem, because there’s not a problem out there that’s not fixable.  It can’t always be fixed as quickly as everybody would like, but typically we can chip away at these problems.  We’ve seen this with the backlog.  We’ve seen it with veterans homelessness.  We’ve seen it with the Post-9/11 GI Bill.  Initially, there were problems with it.  They got fixed and now it’s operating fairly smoothly.  So problems can be fixed, but folks have to let the people that they’re reporting to know that there is a problem in order for us to fix it.

Q    What about bonuses for those implicated in mismanagement, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’re going to find out.  My attitude is –

Q    Does that upset you?

THE PRESIDENT:  Listen, if somebody has mismanaged or engaged in misconduct, not only do I not want them getting bonuses, I want them punished.  So that’s what we’re going to hopefully find out from the IG report, as well as the audits that are taking place.

END
11:18 A.M. EDT

University Musings May 20, 2014: Obama’s review plans to rate and improve teacher education preparation programs

EDUCATION BUZZ

EDUCATION & UNIVERSITY MUSINGS

EDUCATION HEADLINES

Obama’s review plans to rate and improve teacher education preparation programs

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The Obama administration is planning on changing and improving university education programs to make graduates more prepared to enter the realities of teaching. President Barack Obama in collaboration with the Department of Education is working to improve teacher education and…READ MORE

Political Musings May 18, 2014: Obama to nominate rising star San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro as HUD Secretary

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

According to news reports on Saturday, May 17, 2014 President Barack Obama plans to nominate Democratic Party rising star and three term San Antonio, Texas mayor Julian Castro, 39 to be the new Housing and Urban Development Secretary. Castro’…READ MORE

Political Musings May 10, 2014: Perez sends Boehner a letter urges House to pass unemployment benefits extension

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Perez sends Boehner a letter urges House to pass unemployment benefits extension

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez sent a letter to Speaker of House of Representatives John Boehner, R-OH on Wednesday, May 7, 2014 urging the speaker to put the unemployment benefits extension bill to a vote. The secretary looked…READ MORE

Political Musings February 14, 2014: Obama and Congress have a Washington snow day

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama and Congress have a Washington snow day

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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…

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Full Text Obama Presidency October 18, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Nomination of Jeh Johnson to be Secretary of Homeland Security

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Nomination of Jeh Johnson to be Secretary of Homeland Security

Source: WH, 10-18-13

President Obama Nominates Jeh Johnson

President Obama Nominates Jeh Johnson

Rose Garden

2:06 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Please have a seat.  As President, my most solemn responsibility is the safety and security of the American people.  And we’ve got an outstanding team here of folks who work every single day to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to fulfill that responsibility.  And that means that our entire government — our law enforcement and homeland security professionals, our troops, our diplomats, our intelligence personnel — are all working together.  It means working with state and local partners to disrupt terrorist attacks, to make our borders more secure, respond to natural disasters, and make our immigration system more effective and fair.

Addressing any one of these challenges is a tall order.  Addressing all of them at once is a monumental task.  But that’s what the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security do every day.  And today I’m proud to announce my choice to lead them — an outstanding public servant who I’ve known and trusted for years — Mr. Jeh Johnson.

We are, of course, enormously grateful to Secretary Janet Napolitano.  Janet couldn’t be here today — she’s already made her move to her new position in sunny California, overseeing the higher education system in that great state.  And I know that she’s going to do an outstanding job there with the incredible young people that are in our largest state.  But we all deeply appreciate the terrific job that she did over the last four-and-a-half years.  I want to thank Rand Beers for his service and for stepping in as Acting Secretary after Janet left.

Thanks in no small part to Janet’s leadership, her team, we’ve done more to protect our homeland against those who wish to do us harm.  We’ve strengthened our borders.  We’ve taken steps to make sure our immigration system better reflects our values.  We’ve helped thousands of Americans recover from hurricanes and tornados, floods and wildfires.  And we’ve worked to clean up a massive oil spill in the Gulf as well as address a flu pandemic.

In Jeh Johnson, we have the right person to continue this important work.  From the moment I took office, Jeh was an absolutely critical member of my national security team, and he demonstrated again and again the qualities that will make him a strong Secretary of Homeland Security.

Jeh has a deep understanding of the threats and challenges facing the United States.  As the Pentagon’s top lawyer, he helped design and implement many of the policies that have kept our country safe, including our success in dismantling the core of al Qaeda and in the FATA.

When I directed my national security team to be more open and transparent about how our policies work and how we make decisions, especially when it comes to preventing terrorist attacks, Jeh was one of the leaders who spoke eloquently about how we meet today’s threats in a way that are consistent with our values, including the rule of law.

Jeh also knows that meeting these threats demands cooperation and coordination across our government.  He’s been there in the Situation Room at the table in moments of decision, working with leaders from a host of agencies to make sure everyone is rowing in the same direction.  And he’s respected across our government as a team player, somebody who knows how to get folks who don’t always agree to work towards a common goal.

Jeh has experience leading large complex organizations.  As a member of the Pentagon’s senior management team, first under Bob Gates and then under Leon Panetta, he helped oversee the work of more than 3 million military and civilian personnel across the country and around the world.  And I think it’s fair to say that both former secretaries Gates and Panetta will attest to the incredible professionalism that Jeh brings to the job, and the bipartisan approach that, appropriately, he takes when it comes to national security.

He’s also earned a reputation as a cool and calm leader.  Jeh appreciates that any organization’s greatest asset is its people, and at the Pentagon he guided the report explaining why allowing our men and women in uniform to serve their country openly would not weaken our military.  Congress ended up using that report that Jeh helped to craft to justify repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  And America and our military are stronger because we did, in part because of Jeh’s determined leadership.  I know he will bring that same commitment to our hardworking folks at DHS.

And finally, Jeh believes, in a deep and personal way, that keeping America safe requires us also upholding the values and civil liberties that make America great.  Jeh tells the story of his uncle who was a member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.  And he and his fellow airmen served with honor, even when their country didn’t treat them with the dignity and the respect that they deserved.  And it was a lesson that Jeh never forgot.  “We must adopt legal positions that comport with common sense,” Jeh says, “consistent with who we are as Americans.”  Jeh is a pretty good lawyer, so he knows what that means.

And Jeh understands that this country is worth protecting –- not because of what we build or what we own, but because of who we are.  And that’s what sets us apart.  That’s why, as a nation, we have to keep adapting to changing threats, whether natural or man-made.  We have to stay ready when disaster strikes and help Americans recover in the aftermath.  We’ve got to fix our broken immigration system in a way that strengthens our borders, and modernizes legal immigration, and makes sure everybody is playing by the same rules.

And I’m confident that I could not make a better choice in Jeh, somebody who I’m confident is going to be moving not just the agency forward, but helping to move the country forward.

So, Jeh, thank you so much for agreeing to take on this very difficult and extraordinary mission.  You’ve got a great team over at DHS, and I know that they’re looking forward to having you over there.  I urge the Senate to confirm Jeh as soon as possible.  And I thank you, as well as your family, to agreeing to serve.  Your wife, Susan, and your daughter, Natalie, couldn’t be here because they’re visiting Jeh Jr. out at Occidental College, which, by the way, I went to for two years when I was young.  It’s a fine college.  I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to say hi to him.  But your son chose well.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to invite Jeh Johnson to say a few words, hopefully our next Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.  (Applause.)

MR. JOHNSON:  Thank you very much, Mr. President.

As you noted, my wife and two kids are not here because it’s parents’ weekend at Occidental, and thanks to the cost of a non-refundable airline ticket — (laughter) — they could not be in two places at once.  They wish they could be here.

Thank you for the tremendous honor of this nomination and the trust you have placed in me to carry out this large and important responsibility as Secretary of Homeland Security.  I was not looking for this opportunity — I had left government at the end of last year and was settling back into private life and private law practice.  But when I received the call, I could not refuse it.

I am a New Yorker, and I was present in Manhattan on 9/11, which happens to be my birthday, when that bright and beautiful day was — a day something like this — was shattered by the largest terrorist attack on our homeland in history.  I wandered the streets of New York that day and wondered and asked, what can I do?  Since then, I have tried to devote myself to answering that question.  I love this country.  I care about the safety of our people.  I believe in public service.  And I remain loyal to you, Mr. President.

If confirmed by the Senate, I promise all of my energy, focus, and ability toward the task of safeguarding our nation’s national and homeland security.

Thank you again, sir.  (Applause.)

END

2:14 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 17, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on the Confirmation of Richard Cordray as Director for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Confirmation of Richard Cordray as Director for CFPB

Source:  WH, 7-17-13

State Dining Room

11:04 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, for decades, the middle class in this country was the engine that powered the economy, and that allowed us to all grow together.  Hard work paid off.  Responsibility was rewarded.  It was that basic bargain that made this country great — that no matter who you are or where you came from, you could make it if you put in enough blood, sweat and tears.

But over time, a winner-take-all philosophy began to take hold and it delivered huge rewards to those at the very top, but left everybody else working harder and harder just to stay afloat.  A lot of families took on more debt just to keep up.  Mortgages were sold that people really didn’t understand and, in some cases, couldn’t afford.  The financial sector was able to make huge bets with other people’s money.  And that strain of irresponsibility eventually came crashing down on all of us.

Now, I ran for President to restore that basic bargain.  I ran because I believed that our economy works best not from the top down, but from the middle out and from the bottom up, where you’ve got a rising, thriving middle class and ladders of opportunity for everybody.

So four years ago, even as we were working on restoring the economy and dealing with the immediate crisis, we also wanted to figure out how do we set new rules for the road to make sure that a few bad apples in the financial sector couldn’t break the law, or cheat consumers, or put the entire economy at risk.

And I was fortunate even when I was running for President to have some friends like Elizabeth Warren, who had already done a lot of academic work on this and had a whole series of ideas about how we might start making sure that consumers were treated better, and as a consequence, take some of the risk out of the system.  And because of those conversations and that work, and because of some terrific efforts by other members in Congress, we were able, for the time in history, to get a consumer watchdog on the job — to look out for the interests of everyday Americans.  And I am very proud to say that last night, Rich Cordray was finally confirmed — (laughter) — by the United States Senate to keep serving as America’s consumer watchdog and as the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  So we’re very pleased about that.  (Applause.)

I first nominated Rich for this position two years ago this week.  (Laughter.)  He was eminently qualified.  He had the support of Democrats and Republicans from across the country.  A majority of state attorneys general from both parties — Rich’s former colleagues — called on him to be confirmed.  And for two years, Republicans in the Senate refused to give Rich a simple yes-or-no vote — not because they didn’t think he was the right person for the job, but because they didn’t like the law that set up the consumer watchdog in the first place.

But without a director in place, the CFPB would have been severely hampered.  And the CFPB wasn’t able to give consumers the information they needed to make good, informed decisions.  Folks in the financial system who were doing the right thing didn’t have much certainty or clear rules of the road.  And the CFPB didn’t have all the tools it needed to protect consumers against mortgage brokers, or credit reporting agencies, or debt collectors who were taking advantage of ordinary Americans.

As a consequence, last year, I took steps on my own to temporarily appoint Richard so he could get to work on their behalf.  And Americans everywhere are better off because he did. And thanks to not only Rich, but his terrific team — I know many are represented here — we’ve made real strides, even despite the fact that the agency was hampered by the confirmation process.

And I would argue that part of the reason we were able to finally get Rich confirmed today is because he’s shown through his leadership and because of the very hard work that everybody at the CFPB has already done that this is making a difference in the lives of the American people — a positive difference day in, day out.  It’s hard to argue with success.

So, yesterday, Richard was officially confirmed.  I want to thank Senators from both parties, including Senator Reid, Senator McConnell, Senator McCain, for coming together to help get Rich confirmed.  And obviously, Elizabeth, who wasn’t a senator when she thought this up, but is now a senator — she was poking and prodding people for a long time — (laughter) — to help make it happen.

Senator Reid’s leadership, in particular, was obviously instrumental in getting this done, and I couldn’t be more grateful to him.

And together, we’re giving Americans a guarantee that the protections they enjoy today will still be around next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and for years to come.

While we’re on the topic of nominations, I also want to thank the Senate for agreeing to give my other nominees who’ve waited far too long the votes that they deserve.  These are all highly qualified men and women who are just ready to go to work for the American people — for students and for seniors, for veterans, for middle-class families.  Special interests, they’ll always have their lobbyists.  They’ll always have the capacity to tilt the system in their favor.  But middle-class folks deserve leaders who are going to stand up for them as well on a day-to-day basis, in the trenches.

So let me use this opportunity to remind people of what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under Rich’s leadership can do and has done already, even in some difficult circumstances.

Today, if you want to take out a mortgage or a student loan or a payday loan, or you’ve got a credit reporting agency or debt collector who’s causing you problems — maybe they’re not playing by the rules, maybe they’re taking advantage of you — you have somewhere to go.  The CFPB has already addressed more than 175,000 complaints from all across the nation, giving people an advocate who is working with them when they’re dealing with these financial institutions that may not always be thinking about consumers first.

Today, as part of the CFPB’s “Know Before You Owe” efforts, students and their parents can get a simple report with the information they need before taking out student loans.  And more than 700 colleges have joined to make this information clear and transparent.   It’s making a difference.

And by the way, if you’ve noticed that some credit card forms are becoming easier to understand than they used to be, that’s because of the work of Rich’s team and other folks across this administration have done to make sure that people understand the kinds of debts that they’re taking on through their credit cards.

Today, veterans have access to tools that they need to defend against dishonest lenders and mortgage brokers who try to prey on them when they come home from serving their country.  Today seniors are better protected from someone who sees their homes or their retirement savings as an easy target for get-rich-quick schemes.

And thanks to the hard work of folks at the CFPB, so far    6 million Americans have gotten more than $400 million in refunds from companies that engaged in unscrupulous practices.

So this is not just some abstract, theoretical exercise.  Families, many of them hard-pressed, have money in their pockets, maybe, in some cases, saved a home or were able to send their kids to college, because of the work that Rich and his team is doing right now.  And that’s money that oftentimes families didn’t have the power to recover before.

So Americans are better off because of what Rich has done as our consumer watchdog and his outstanding team is doing each and every day.  And, by the way, that’s just the tangible benefits that we know of, that $400 million in refunds.  But part of what happens is when you’ve got a watchdog, people don’t try as many things.  And everybody starts tightening up their practices because they know somebody is watching.  And so that has ripple effects throughout our economy.

So Americans everywhere are better off because of the work that these folks have done.  And now that Rich has gotten the yes-or-no vote he deserved, businesses and consumers have more certainty than they did before that this will continue.

So we’ve come a long way over the last four and a half years.  Our economy is growing.  Our businesses have created 7.2 million new jobs over the past 40 months.  We’ve locked in new safeguards to protect against another crisis, and we are making sure that we are doing everything we can to change the incentives inside the financial system and try to end tax-funded — taxpayer-funded bailouts for good.  And even though more work remains, our system is fairer and it’s more sound than it was when the crisis hit.

Of course, we’ve still got a long way to go to restore that basic bargain, to restore that sense of security that too many middle-class families still are fighting to rebuild.  But if we just keep letting people like Rich do their jobs, if we let all these incredible young people know that you’re going to keep on going for a long time, you’re building something that will last beyond our government’s service and we’ll be providing protections for generations to come — and if we keep focused on that North Star — a rising, thriving middle class, an economy where prosperity is broad-based — then I’m confident that we’re ultimately going to get to where we need to go.

So I want to thank everybody.  And I just want to give Rich a quick chance to say something.  (Applause.)

MR. CORDRAY:  Thank you.  I want to thank the President — this President, in particular, who has believed in us from the beginning.  I want to thank the Senate and the senators for the chance to persevere and be confirmed as the director of this Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  All I ever asked for, all I ever worked for was to have a chance to have an up-or-down vote on the merits, and I thank them for that.

For nearly two years, as the President indicated, we have been focused on making consumer finance markets work better for the American people.  Today’s action — the action — I was sworn in by the Vice President this morning, and the Senate confirmation — means that there will be certainty for those markets and for the industries we oversee.

For me, it also reaffirms that our central responsibility is to stand on the side of consumers and see that they’re treated fairly, just as the President described it.  It’s something that people deserve.  It’s something that they want and need.  And we’re there to try to provide it.

We will continue that essential work and each one of us — those of us here and those of us in Washington and around the country who work for this new Consumer Bureau, including most especially myself — we’re grateful for the opportunity that you’ve given us to serve our country in this important way.

Thank you.  Thank you, sir.  (Applause.)

END
11:16 A.M. EDT

Political Headlines July 12, 2013: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano Resigning

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano Resigning

Source: ABC News Radio, 7-12-13

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano plans to step down from her cabinet position in order to become president of the University of California system.

“For more than four years I have had the privilege of serving President Obama and his Administration as the Secretary of Homeland Security,” Napolitano said in a statement on Friday. “The opportunity to work with the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, who serve on the frontlines of our nation’s efforts to protect our communities and families from harm, has been the highlight of my professional career.”….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 10, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Jason Furman to Lead Council of Economic Advisers

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Taps Furman to Lead Council of Economic Advisers

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-10-13

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Obama on Monday nominated longtime economic adviser Jason Furman as chairman of his Council of Economic Advisers, calling him “one of the most brilliant economic minds of his generation.”

“When the stakes are highest, there’s no one I’d rather turn to for straightforward, unvarnished advice that helps me to do my job,” the president said as he stood alongside Furman at a White House ceremony….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 10, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Jason Furman as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Nominates Jason Furman as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers

Source: WH, 6-10-13

President Barack Obama announces his intent to nominate Jason FurmanPresident Barack Obama announces his intent to nominate Jason Furman, Principal Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, left, as the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to succeed current CEA Chairman Alan Krueger, right, in the State Dining Room of the White House, June 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

This afternoon, President Obama nominated Jason Furman to replace Alan Krueger as the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Furman, 42, will bring a vast amount of economic experience to the role. In 2009, he joined the Obama administration as an Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and the Principal Deputy Director of the National Economic Council….READ MORE

Remarks by the President Nominating Jason Furman as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers

Source: WH, 6-10-13 

State Dining Room

2:14 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, all of you.  It’s now been nearly five years since an economic crisis and a punishing recession came together to cost far too many Americans their jobs, and their homes, and the sense of security that they had built up over time.  And by the time I took office, my team and I were facing bubbles that had burst; markets that had cratered; bank after bank on the verge of collapse.  And the heartbeat of American manufacturing, our auto industry, was flatlining.  And all this meant that hundreds of thousands of Americans were losing their jobs each month. So this was a scary time. And nobody had any idea where the bottom would be.

Four and a half years later, our businesses have created nearly 7 million new jobs over the past 36 months.  The American auto industry has come roaring back.  We’re producing more of our own energy, we’re consuming less that we import from other countries.  Our deficits are shrinking rapidly.  The cost of health care is slowing.  The housing market is rebounding.  People’s retirement savings are growing.  The wealth that was lost from that recession has now been recovered.

All of this progress is a testament to the grit and resolve of the American people, most of all.  But it’s also due in some measurable way to the incredible dedication of the men and women who helped to engineer America’s response.  And two of those people are standing next to me, two very smart economists:  Alan Krueger and Jason Furman.

Today, I can announce that Alan is heading back to teach his beloved students at Michelle’s alma mater — Princeton University.  When they get together all they can talk about is Princeton and they’re all very proud, and those of us who didn’t go to Princeton have to put up with it.  (Laughter.)  And I’m proud to say that Jason Furman has agreed to replace Alan as the Chairman of my Council of Economic Advisers.

During the crisis, Alan stepped in initially to help engineer our response as Assistant Secretary and chief economist at the Treasury Department.  He was so good that we then had to beg him to come back, extend his tour, to serve as the Chairman of my Council of Economic Advisers, where he’s been the driving force behind actions that we’ve taken to help restart the flow of lending to small businesses, and create new jobs, and arm workers with the skills they need to fill them, to reduce income inequality, to rebuild our aging infrastructure, and to bring down our deficits in a responsible way.

And Alan is driven by the basic bargain at the heart of our economy — the idea that hard work should be rewarded.  He’s motivated by the principle that no one who works full-time in the greatest nation on Earth should have to raise their families in poverty or below poverty levels.  His commitment to a rising, thriving middle class shines through in his often passionate presentations and — at least for an economist they’re passionate.  (Laughter.)  And in the policies that he’s pushed, and I know this will continue to be a focus of his research.

Alan’s wife and son are here today, and I know that they’re all looking forward to having Alan back.  (Laughter.)  And now that Alan has some free time, he can return to another burning passion of his — “Rockonomics.”  The economics of rock and roll.  This is something that Alan actually cares about — seriously, on Wednesday he’s giving a speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  He’s got a t-shirt under his suit — (laughter) — with a big tongue sticking out.  (Laughter.)  Don’t show it.  (Laughter and applause.)

So Alan has become one of my most trusted advisors.  He’s become a wonderful friend.  I’m sad to see him go.  But I know that he will continue to do outstanding work and, fortunately, he’ll still be available for us to consult with him periodically because he’s a constant font of good ideas about how we can further help the American people.  So thank you very much, Alan, for all the good work that you’ve done.  (Applause.)

I’m also proud to nominate another outstanding economist to take his place.  Jason Furman is one of the most brilliant economic minds of his generation, don’t take my word for it — you can talk to other economists who know a lot more than I do about it.  He’s won the respect and admiration from his peers across the political spectrum.  His Ph.D. thesis advisor, Greg Mankiw, chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush.  Nobel Prize Winner Joe Stiglitz, on the other side of the economic spectrum, hired Jason to work for the CEA under President Clinton.

After leaving President Clinton’s White House, Jason finished his Ph.D. in economics, quickly acquired a reputation as a world-class scholar and researcher.  But public service kept calling, and Jason kept answering that call because he believes deeply in it.  So from working at the World Bank on issues of inequality and international finance to developing new proposals to strengthen our health and retirement programs, he helped to shape some of our most important economic policy debates.

And when I asked him to join my team in 2008, even though his baby daughter — that’s right — (laughter) — you were this big — had just been born, he agreed to serve once again.  And over the last five years I’ve come to trust not only his head, but also his heart, because Jason never forgets who it is that we’re fighting for:  middle-class families, folks who are working hard to climb their way into the middle class, the next generation.

And when the stakes are highest, there’s no one I’d rather turn to for straightforward, unvarnished advice that helps me to do my job.  He understands all sides of an argument, not just one side of it.  He’s worked tirelessly on just about every major economic challenge of the past four and a half years, from averting a second depression, to fighting for tax cuts that help millions of working families make ends meet, to creating new incentives for businesses to hire, to reducing our deficits in a balanced way that benefits the middle class.

And so, Eve, Jason’s wife, who is an accomplished writer herself, has put up with a lot of hours with Jason away.  Henry and Louisa, who are here, they’ve made a lot of sacrifices so that their husband and dad could be here working for the American people.  So I appreciate you guys for sharing daddy.  (Laughter.)  Just a little bit longer.  (Laughter.)  And the reason it’s important is because while we’ve cleared away the rubble of crisis and laid a new foundation for growth, our work is nowhere near done.

Even though the economy is growing, too many middle-class families still feel like they’re working harder and harder and can’t get ahead.  Inequality is still growing in our society.  Too many young people aren’t sure whether they’ll be able to match the living standards of their parents.  We have too many kids in poverty in this country still.

There are some basic steps that we can take to strengthen the position of working people in this country, to help our economy grow faster, to make sure that it’s more competitive.  And some of that requires political will.  Some of it requires an abiding passion for making sure everybody in this country has a fair shot.  But it also requires good economists.  I know it’s called a dismal science, but I don’t find it that dismal.  (Laughter.)  I think it’s actually pretty interesting.  Alan and Jason appreciate that.  (Laughter.)  So sometimes the rest of my staff thinks, oh, Obama is getting together with his economists and they’re going to have a wonkfest for the next hour.  (Laughter.)

But this stuff matters.  It’s not just numbers on a page.  It makes a difference in terms of whether or not people get a chance at life, and also, how do we optimize opportunity and make sure that it — we don’t have a contradiction between an efficient, growing, free-market economy, and one in which everybody gets a fair shot and where we’re caring for the vulnerable and the disabled and folks in our society who need help.

So a growing economy that creates good middle-class jobs, that rewards hard work and responsibility, that’s our North Star.  Jason shares that focus.  I know Alan shares that passion.  And Jason’s new role as the Chairman of the Economic — Council of Economic Advisors, he’ll be working with some of our country’s leading economists, including Jim Stock, who has joined us.  And I’m relying on them to provide analysis and recommendations with just one thing in mind: What’s going to do the most good for the most people in this country — not what’s best for a political party, not what’s best for a special interest.  I don’t have another election.  It’s not what’s best for me — what’s best for our middle class, and everybody who is working hard to get there.  That’s what the American people deserve.

So I would urge the Senate to swiftly confirm Jason Furman. And I want to, again, thank Alan for his outstanding service.  I want to thank Jason and his family for continuing to serve the country they love.  And for all the economists in the room, thank you for the occasionally under-appreciated work that you do.  (Laughter.)

Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
2:25 P.M EDT

Political Headlines June 7, 2013: President Barack Obama Calls Surveillance Programs Legal and Limited — ‘Nobody Is Listening to Your Telephone Calls’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama: ‘Nobody Is Listening to Your Telephone Calls’

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-7-13

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

“Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” the president told reporters in his first public comments since the programs were disclosed.

“They are not looking at people’s names, and they’re not looking at content.  But by sifting through this so-called metadata, they may identify potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism,” he said….READ MORE

Obama Calls Surveillance Programs Legal and Limited

Source: NYT, 6-7-13

President Obama on Friday defended government efforts to gather telephone and Internet data, and sought to reassure Americans that his administration was not listening in on their calls….READ MORE

 

 

Political Headlines May 31, 2013: Eric Holder Tells News Media Outlets in Meetings Justice Department Leak Guidelines Will Change

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Eric Holder Tells Media Outlets Leak Guidelines Will Change

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-31-13

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Justice Department will weigh journalists’ concerns and modify its guidelines for investigating potential national security leaks, Attorney General Eric Holder told media outlets Friday….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 28, 2013: House Judiciary Committee: Did Eric Holder Lie Under Oath?

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Did Eric Holder Lie Under Oath?

Source: National Review Online (blog), 5-28-13

The House Judiciary Committee is investigating whether Attorney General Eric Holder lied under oath during his May 15 testimony on the Justice Department’s (DOJ) surveillance of reporters, an aide close to the matter told The Hill….READ MORE

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