Full Text Obama Presidency July 22, 2014: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s Remarks at the Bill Signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and Vice President at Bill Signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Source: WH,  7-22-14

12:18 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everyone.  It’s great to be here.  (Applause.)  Please, thank you very much.  Thank you, distinguished members of Congress and members of labor and business, and the community.  Today, as the President signs the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, we’re using this occasion also to present to the President a roadmap he asked — requested in the State of the Union message, how to keep and maintain the highest-skilled workforce in the world.  And this is a perfect build-on as to what the bipartisan consensus that Congress recently reached.

I had the best partners in preparing this report that I could ask for — Tom Perez at Labor, Penny Pritzker at Commerce and Arne Duncan at the Department of Education.  I talked to governors, mayors, industry leaders, presidents of community colleges and colleges, and unions, and a lot of members of Congress, many of whom are here.  And I have to acknowledge at the out front — at the outset, my wife, Jill, has been an incredible advocate for community colleges and the role they play in training the workforce.

But most importantly, I spoke with an awful lot of Americans who are — as all of you have, particularly members of Congress, who were hit exceedingly hard by the Great Recession, but are doing everything they possibly can to find a job — willing to learn new skills in order to have a decent, middle-class job.  One thing I hope that’s been put to rest — and I know we all share this view — Americans want to work.  They want to work.  They’re willing to do anything that they need to do to get a good and decent job.

And they show us that our single greatest resource is not — and it’s not hyperbole — remains the American people.  They’re the most highly-skilled workers in the world and the most capable people in the world.  And they’re in the best position to learn the new skills of the 21st century that the workforce requires.  There’s that phrase — all has changed, changed utterly.  Well, all has changed.  It’s a different world in which people are competing in order to get the kind of jobs they need, whether it’s in advanced manufacturing or clean energy or information technology or health care — all areas that are booming, all areas where America is back.

So the core question that we set out to answer — and I’m sure my colleagues did as well — was how do you connect?  How do you connect these workers who desperately want a job, who will do all they need to do to qualify, how do you connect them with jobs?  How do Americans know what skills employers need?  It sounds like a silly question, but how do they know?  And how do they get these skills once they know what skills are needed for the job?  And where, where do they go to get those jobs?

This report is designed to help answer those extremely practical questions.  It includes 50 actions that the federal government and our outside partners are taking now to help fill this skills gap.  There is this new strategy that we think will lead directly to more middle-class jobs.  These actions are going to help promote partnerships between educational institutions and workforce institutions.  They’re going to increase apprenticeships, which will allow folks to learn — and earn while they learn.  And it will empower job seekers and employers with better data on what jobs are available and what skills are needed to fill those jobs.

Let me tell you a story why all this matters.  And I’ve been all over the country and invited by many of you into your districts and states in order to look at programs you have that are similar to what we’re proposing today.  But I was recently — and I could talk about many of them, but I was recently in Detroit just last week.  And I met with an incredible group of women at a local community college.  Now, all of these women came from hardscrabble neighborhoods in Detroit.  They happened to be all women, it was coincidence, but they all made it through high school.  They ranged in age I’m guessing somewhere from 25 to their mid-50s.  But they all got a high school education, and they were absolutely determined to do more to be able to provide for themselves and their family.

Through word of mouth, Tom, they heard about a coding boot camp, computer coding — a coding boot camp.  And it’s called [Step] IT Up America.  And it was a partnership between Wayne County Community College and a company called UST Global.  Now, it’s an intensive, four-month — just four months, but intensive eight-hour day — I think it’s almost the whole day — don’t hold me to the exact number of hours, but intensive training program where these women happen to be, as I said, there were about a dozen and a half women learn IT skills needed to fill jobs at UST Global.

UST Global represents a lot of other IT companies as well.  Knowing vacancies exist — they estimate over a thousand vacancies just in the greater Detroit area.  And upon completion of this program, UST Global hires the students, and the lowest starting job is at $45,000 a year and the highest is $70,000 a year.  These are coders, computer programmers.  But there’s a key point:  UST Global doesn’t train these women out of some altruistic sense of charity.  They do it because it’s a very, very smart business decision.

There’s an overwhelming need for more computer coders -— as does not just UST Global, but the entire industry.  By 2020, our research shows there will be 1.4 million new IT jobs all across this country.  And the pay is in the $70,000 range.

I was so proud of these women.  As I said, my wife teaches in a community college.  Her average class age of people in her class is 28 to 30 years old.  Just think of yourself, what courage it takes.  You’re out of high school.  You’re graduated.  You’ve been bumping along in a job trying to make it.  You’ve been out, two, five, 10, 15 years.  And someone says, there’s this opportunity to take this program to learn Java, to learn a new language, to learn how to operate a computer in a way that you can code it.  It takes a lot of courage to step up.

It takes a willingness to be ready to fail.  These women were remarkable, but not just these women.  They write code, so they look — they weren’t out there.  They were — they knew someone who had gotten a job because of the program, and they thought they could do it.  So they learned an entire new language, and they displayed an initiative that was remarkable to see.  They showed up.  They worked hard because they want a good-paying job.  They want to make a decent living.  They want to take care of themselves and their families.

Folks, that’s what — as I know all of my colleagues believe — that’s what this is all about.  It’s not just information technology.  Manufacturing — 100,000 high-tech manufacturing jobs available today in the United States because the employers cannot find workers with the right skills.  That number of highly skilled manufacturing jobs is going to grow to 875,000 by 2020.

And, folks, I was recently up in Michigan.  And Dow Kokam has a plant there that’s — they couldn’t find anybody with photovoltaic technology, didn’t know how to run the machines.  So the community college and the business, they roll the machines right into the community college because of the help you all have provided in Congress, the funding.  And it’s like an assembly line.  These are good-paying jobs.

And in energy:  26 percent more jobs for petroleum engineers, average salary 130,000 bucks a year; 25 percent more jobs for solar panel installers, $38,000 a year; 20 percent more jobs needed — more electricians are needed, earning $50,000 a year -— all now and in the near term.  These are real jobs.  These are real jobs.

Health care:  There are 20 percent more jobs -— or 526,000 more that are needed in the health care industry -— registered nurses, jobs that pay 65,000 bucks a year.  There’s training programs in all of your states and districts, where you go out there, and while you’re a practical nurse, you can still be working and be essentially apprentice, while you are learning how to become — and taking courses to be a registered nurse.

Physician assistants — badly needed as the call for health care increases.  What’s the number, Tom, 130,000 a year roughly?  These are jobs all within the grasp of the American people if we give them the shot, if we show them the way, let them know how they can possibly pay for it while they are raising a family, and they’ll do the rest.

To maintain our place in the world we need to keep the world’s most skilled workforce right here in America, and to give a whole lot more hardworking Americans a chance at a good, middle-class job they can raise a family on.

But we also know the actions in this report are only a beginning, and as is the legislation.  The fact of the matter is that so many people over the last two decades have fallen out of the middle class, and so many in the upcoming generation need to find a path back.  Well, there is a path back if we all do our jobs — from industry, to education, to union leaders, to governors, to Congress, to the federal government.

And the mission is very simple.  It goes back to the central economic vision that has guided most of us — I can speak for the President and I — from the first day we got here.

The mission is to widen the aperture to be able to get into the middle class by expanding opportunity.  No guarantees, just expanding opportunity to American men and women who represent the backbone of the most dynamic, thriving economy in the world.  That’s a fact.  We are the most dynamic, thriving economy in the world.

But in order to thrive, their education and training has to be as just as dynamic and adaptable as our economy is.  So, folks, America is back.  We’re better positioned today than we ever have been.  According to A.T. Kearney, we are the most attractive place in the world for foreign investments by a long shot, of every other country in the world.  Since this survey has been kept, the gap between number one and number two is wider than it ever has been.  Manufacturing is back, folks.  They’re coming home.  Instead of hearing — my kids, instead of hearing about outsourcing, what are you hearing now?  You’re hearing about insourcing.  Companies are coming back.

We’re in the midst of — we take no direct credit for it — we’re in the midst of an energy boom.  North America will be the epicenter of energy in the 21st century — the United States of America, Mexico, and Canada.  We remain the leader in innovation.  We have the greatest research universities in the world.  We have the most adaptive financing systems in the world, to go out and take chances on new startups.  And American workers are the most productive in the world.  They want to work.

But to seize this moment, we need to keep the world’s most skilled workforce here in America.  And I think today in this bipartisan group — we’re ready.  The American people are ready.  And I know the man I’m about to introduce is ready.  He wakes up every morning trying to figure out how do we give ordinary Americans an opportunity.  This is just about opportunity, man.  Simple opportunity — how do we give them — because they — an opportunity because they are so exceptional.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I think everyone in this room shares that goal — providing for opportunity.  And the man I’m about to introduce, that’s all he talks about, it seems to me when he talks to me.

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Everybody, please be seated.  Thank you.  Well, welcome to the White House, everybody.  And I want to thank Joe for the generous introduction, but more importantly, for everything he does, day in, day out, on behalf of American workers.  And I want to thank the members of Congress who are here from both parties who led the effort to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act.

When President Clinton signed the original Workforce Investment Act back in 1998, he said it was, “a big step forward in making sure that every adult can keep on learning for a lifetime.”  And he was right — the law became a pillar of American job training programs.  It’s helped millions of Americans earn the skills they need to find a new job or get a better-paying job.

But even back then, even in 1998, our economy was changing.  The notion that a high school education could get you a good job and that you’d keep that job until retirement wasn’t a reality for the majority of people.  Advances in technology made some jobs obsolete.  Global competition sent other jobs overseas.  And then, as we were coming into office, the Great Recession pulled the rug out from under millions of hardworking families.

Now, the good news is, today, nearly six years after the financial crisis, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months.  Manufacturing is adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s.  The unemployment rate is at its lowest point since September of 2008 -– by the way, the fastest one-year drop in nearly 30 years.  There are now more job openings than at any time since 2007, pre-recession.  For the first time in a decade, as Joe mentioned, business leaders around the world have declared that the number-one place to do business, the number-one place to invest isn’t China, it’s the United States of America.

So thanks to the hard work of the American people and some decent policies, our economy has recovered faster and it has gone farther than most other advanced nations.  As Joe said, we are well-positioned.  We’ve got the best cards.  So we have the opportunity right now to extend the lead we already have -– to encourage more companies to join the trend and bring jobs home; to make sure that the gains aren’t just for folks at the very top, but that the economy works for every single American.  If you’re working hard, you should be able to get a job, that job should pay well, and you should be able to move forward, look after your family.

Opportunity for all.  And that means that even as we’re creating new jobs in this new economy, we have to make sure that every American has the skills to fill those jobs.  And keep in mind, not every job that’s a good job out there needs a four-year degree, but the ones that don’t need a college degree generally need some sort of specialized training.

Last month, I met just a wonderful young woman named Rebekah in Minnesota.  A few years ago, she was waiting tables.  Her husband lost his job, he was a carpenter doing construction work.  He had to figure out how to scramble and get a new job that paid less.  She chose to take out student loans, she enrolled in a community college, she retrained for a new career.  Today, not only has her husband been able to get back into construction but she loves her job as an accountant — started a whole new career.  And the question then is how do we give more workers that chance to adapt, to revamp, retool, so that they can move forward in this new economy.

In 2011, I called on Congress to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, update it for the 21st century.  And I want to thank every single lawmaker who is here — lawmakers from both parties — who answered that call.  It took some compromising, but, you know what, it turns out compromise sometimes is okay.  Folks in Congress got past their differences and they got a bill to my desk.  So this is not a win for Democrats or Republicans.  It is a win for American workers.  It’s a win for the middle class.  And it’s a win for everybody who is fighting to earn their way into the middle class.

So the bill I’m about to sign will give communities more certainty to invest in job-training programs for the long run.  It will help us bring those programs into the 21st century by building on what we know works based on evidence, based on tracking what actually delivers on behalf of folks who enroll in these programs -– more partnerships with employers, more tools to measure performance, more flexibilities for states and cities to innovate and to run their workforce programs in ways that are best suited for their particular demographic and their particular industries.  And as we approach the 24th anniversary of the ADA, this bill takes new steps to support Americans with disabilities who want to live and work independently.  So there’s a lot of good stuff in here.

Of course, as Joe said, there is still more that we can do.  And that’s why we’ve rallied employers to give long-term unemployed a fair shot.  It’s why we’re using $600 million in federal grants to encourage companies to offer apprenticeships and work directly with community colleges.  It’s why, in my State of Union address this year, I asked Joe to lead an across-the-board review of America’s training programs to make sure that they have one mission:  Train Americans with the skills employers actually need, then match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.

So today, I’m directing my Cabinet — even as we’re signing the bill — to implement some of Joe’s recommendations.  First, we’re going to use the funds and programs we already have in a smarter way.  Federal agencies will award grants that move away from what our Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, who has been working very hard on this, what he calls a “train and pray” approach, and I’ll bet a lot of you who have dealt with folks who are unemployed know what that means.  They enroll, they get trained for something, they’re not even sure whether the job is out there, and if the job isn’t out there, all they’re doing is saddling themselves with debt, oftentimes putting themselves in a worse position.  What we want to do is make sure where you train your workers first based on what employers are telling you they’re hiring for.  Help business design the training programs so that we’re creating a pipeline into jobs that are actually out there.

Number two, training programs that use federal money will be required to make public how many of its graduates find jobs and how much they earn.  And that means workers, as they’re shopping around for what’s available, they’ll know in advance if they can expect a good return on their investment.  Every job seeker should have all the tools they need to take their career into their own hands, and we’re going to help make sure they can do that.

And finally, we’re going to keep investing in new strategies and innovations that help keep pace with a rapidly changing economy — from testing new, faster ways of teaching skills like coding and cybersecurity and welding, to giving at-risk youth the chance to learn on the job, we will keep making sure that Americans have the chance to build their careers throughout a lifetime of hard work.

So the bill I’m signing today and the actions I’m taking today will connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.  Of course, there is so much more that we can still do.  And I’m looking forward to engaging all the members of Congress and all the businesses and not-for-profits who worked on this issue.  I’m really interested in engaging them, see what else we can get going.

I’ll give you a couple of examples.  Our high school graduation rate is the highest on record.  More young people are earning their college degrees than ever before.  But we still have work to do to make college more affordable and lift the burden of student loan debt.  I acted to give nearly five million Americans the opportunity to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income — particularly important for those who were choosing careers that aren’t as lucrative.  But Congress could help millions more, and I’d like to work with you on that.

Minimum wage.  This week marks five years since the last increase in the minimum wage.  More and more states and business owners are raising their workers’ wages.  I did the same thing for federal contractors.  I’d like to work with Congress to see if we can do the same for about 28 million Americans — give Americans a raise right now.

Fair pay.  Let’s make sure the next generation of women are getting a fair deal.  Let’s make sure the next generation of good manufacturing jobs are made in America.  Let’s make it easier, not harder, for companies to bring those jobs back home.  Tomorrow, senators will get to vote on the Bring Jobs Home Act.  Instead of rewarding companies for shipping jobs overseas or rewarding companies that are moving profits offshore, let’s create jobs right here in America and let’s encourage those companies.

So let’s build on what both parties have already done on many of these issues.  Let’s see if we can come together and, while we’re at it, let’s fix an immigration system that is currently broken in a way that strengthens our borders and that we know will be good for business, we know will increase our GDP, we know will drive down our deficit.

So I want to thank all the Democrats and Republicans here today for getting this bill done.  This is a big piece of work.  You can see, it’s a big bill.  (Laughter.)  But I’m also inviting you back.  Let’s do this more often.  It’s so much fun.  (Laughter and applause.)  Let’s pass more bills to help create more good jobs, strengthen the middle class.  Look at everybody — everybody is smiling, everybody feels good.  (Laughter.)  We could be doing this all the time.  (Laughter.)

Our work can make a real difference in the lives of real Americans.  That’s why we’re here.  We’ll have more job satisfaction.  (Laughter.)  The American people, our customers, they’ll feel better about the product we produce.

And back in 1998, when President Clinton signed the original Workforce Investment Act into law, he was introduced by a man named Jim Antosy from Reading, Pennsylvania.  And Jim spoke about how he had been laid off in 1995 at age 49, two kids, no college degree.  With the help of job training programs, he earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science, found a new job in his field.

Today, Jim and his wife, Barb, still live in Reading.  Over the past 16 years, he’s been steadily employed as a programmer, working his way up from contractor to full-time employee.  In just a few months, Jim now is planning to retire after a lifetime of hard work.  A job training program made a difference in his life.  And one thing he’s thinking about doing in his retirement is teaching computer science at the local community college, so he can help a new generation of Americans earn skills that lead directly to a job, just like he had the opportunity to do.

Well, I ran for President because I believe even in a changing economy, even in a changing world, stories like Jim aren’t just possible, they should be the norm.  Joe believes the same thing.  Many of you believe the same thing.  I believe America is — I don’t just believe, I know America is full of men and women who work very hard and live up to their responsibilities, and all they want in return is to see their hard work pay off, that responsibility rewarded.

They’re not greedy.  They’re not looking for the moon.  They just want to be able to know that if they work hard, they can find a job, they can look after their families, they can retire with dignity, they’re not going to go bankrupt when they get sick, maybe take a vacation once in a while — nothing fancy.  That’s what they’re looking for, because they know that ultimately what’s important is family and community and relationships.  And that’s possible.  That’s what America is supposed to be about.  That’s what I’m fighting for every single day as President.

This bill will help move us along that path.  We need to do it more.  Let’s get together, work together, restore opportunity for every single American.  So with that, I’d like to invite up some of the outstanding folks who are sitting in the audience who helped make this happen.  And I’m going to sign this bill with all those pens.

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
12:48 P.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 16, 2014: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s Remarks on the Need for Congress to Pass Transportation Funding at the Shake Shack

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and Vice President on the Need for Congress to Pass Transportation Funding

Source: WH, 5-16-14 

Shake Shack
Washington, D.C.

12:12 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Let me say something to these folks real quick so we can eat our burgers in peace.  And excuse me, my voice is a little hoarse — I had a cold at the beginning of the week.  In addition to coming to Shake Shack — which has great burgers and pays its employees over 10 bucks an hour, so we’re very proud of them and the great work that they’re doing —  we’ve been talking a lot all across the country about the importance of raising the minimum wage.  These four individuals just completed a project here in D.C. –- an infrastructure project that put a lot of folks to work, it is going to make the economy move better, traffic move better.  And as you know, earlier this week, both Joe and I highlighted the fact that we’re fast-tracking projects all across the country.

One of the things that we could do right now to put more Americans back to work is to fund our transportation more effectively and more consistently.  And if Congress does not act, then by the end of this summer, we could have hundreds of thousands of projects like this all across the country stop.  And people whose livelihoods depend on those projects sent home.  And businesses that need improved infrastructure suffering under downgraded infrastructure.

So it is a no-brainer for Congress to do what it’s supposed to do:  Pass transportation funding.  We can do it without adding to the deficit simply by getting rid of some corporate tax loopholes that aren’t creating jobs and are basically giveaways to folks who don’t need them.  And when people — when you ask Americans from all walks of life all across the country what’s their number one priority, it’s improving the economy and putting people back to work.  And one of the best ways we can do it is to do something about the roads, the bridges, the ports, the airports, the sewer lines all across the country that need repair.

We know we’re going to have to do it.  This is like deferred maintenance on your house.  If you’ve got to do some tuck-pointing to fix the roof or fix the boiler, there’s no point in putting it off.  Now is the time to do it, and we’ve got outstanding contractors and workers ready to work.  So I hope Congress gets working, and I’m prepared to work with anybody on a bipartisan basis to get it done.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Mr. President, for 40 years it’s been a bipartisan notion.

THE PRESIDENT:  Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  For 40 years.  This is the first time  — I’ve been hanging around and it’s like, oh, infrastructure.

THE PRESIDENT:  This shouldn’t be Democrat or Republican.  This is American.  We’ve got to rebuild America.  And these are folks who are doing it.

So thank you very much, everybody.  Enjoy your burgers if you guys are buying them.

END
12:14 P.M. EDT

Political Musings April 19, 2014: Obama and Biden announce 500 million in economic opportunity job training grants

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama and Biden announce 500 million in economic opportunity job training grants

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama with the help of Vice President Joe Biden announced the latest effort in his economy opportunity program a competition for $500 million in grants for job training programs on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at Community College of…READ MORE
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Political Musings April 5, 2014: Obama and Biden’s hourly and tipped minimum wage midterm sales pitch to Congress

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama and Biden’s hourly and tipped minimum wage midterm sales pitch to Congress

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Delivering a speech that sounded like a campaign sales blitz, President Barack Obama was selling raising the minimum wage to Congress on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor to a group of students. The president…READ MORE

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Full Text Obama Presidency February 24, 2014: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s Remarks at National Governors’ Association White House Meeting

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and Vice President at NGA Meeting

Source: WH, 2-24-14

State Dining Room

11:15 A.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thanks for making the Cabinet stand up for me.  (Laughter.)  I appreciate it.

It’s great to see you all.  And I don’t know about you all, I had a great time last night and got a chance to actually do what we should be doing more of — talking without thinking about politics and figuring how we can solve problems.

You’ve observed by now the reason the President and I like doing this every year is it’s nice dealing with people who know they got to get a job done, and they get a job done.  And I’ve gotten a chance to work directly with an awful lot of you in the days of the Recovery Act, and even when we were working on the gun violence; rebuilding from that super storm Sandy, which hit my state as well, and tornadoes and floods in a number of your states.

But it never ceases to amaze me how you all mobilize.  You just mobilize.  When crises hit your states, you mobilize and you rebuild.  And you rebuild your infrastructure not to the standards that existed before, but to 21st century standards.  You balance your budgets, you save neighborhoods, and you bring back jobs to your communities.

And the other thing I pick up — and I may be wrong.  I’m always labeled as the White House optimist, like I’m the kid who fell off the turnip truck yesterday, but I am the youngest here — (laughter) — and new.  But it always amazes me your sense of optimism.  You’re the one group of folks you go to with all the problems you have that you’re optimistic.  You’re optimistic about it being able to be done, getting things done.  That is not always the mood up in the place where I spent a large portion of my career.

And last night I got to speak to a bunch of you, particularly about the job skills initiative the President asked me to lead, and I had a chance to speak with some of you specifically, and I’m going to ask to — I’m going to get a chance to see more of you this afternoon.  But this is more than just — at least from the President’s perspective and mine — more than just a job skills initiative.  It’s about literally opening the aperture to the middle class.  The middle class has actually shrunk.

And we always have these debates with our economists — is the middle class $49,820 or $52,000.  The middle class to me, and I think to most of you, it’s really a state of mind.  It’s about being able to own your home and not have to rent it.  It’s about being able to send your kid to a park where you know you can send them out, and they’ll come home safely.  It’s about being able to send them to school, that if they do well in the school, they’re going to be able to get to something beyond high school if they want to do that.  And you’re going to be able to pay for it.  And in the meantime, you may be able to take care of your mom and dad who are in tough shape and hope that your kids never have to take care of you.  That’s the middle class.

And before the Great Recession, it was already beginning to shrink.  So together, we got to open — Mary, you and I have talked about this — about opening the aperture here for access to the middle class.  But we’ll be speaking a lot more about that in the next several months.  A couple of you invited me to come out your way, including some of my Republican friends.  And I’m going to be working with all of you.

But today I just want to say thank you.  Thank you for what you always do.  You come to town; you come to town with answers.  You come to town with suggestions.  You come to town to get things done.  And believe me, we need that and the American people are looking for it.

And I want to welcome you back to the White House, and introduce you now to my friend, your President, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  Please, have a seat.  Thank you so much.

Welcome to the White House.  I know that you’ve already been doing a lot of work, and I’m glad to be able to come here and engage in a dialogue with all of you.  I want to thank Mary and John for their leadership at the NGA.  I want to thank my outstanding Vice President, Joe Biden, who is very excited I think about the jobs initiative, and is going to be — the job training initiative, and I think is going to be doing a great job on that.

Michelle and I had a wonderful time hosting you guys last night, and I hope all the spouses enjoyed it.  And I know Alex enjoyed it.  (Laughter.)  One good thing about living here is that you can make all the noise you want and nobody is going to complain.  (Laughter.)  And I enjoyed watching some of you with your eyes on higher office size up the drapes — (laughter) –and each other.

We don’t have a lot of time today, so I want to be very brief, go straight to Q&A and discussion.  We’re at a moment when our economy is growing; our businesses have now created over 8.5 million new jobs over the past four years.  But, as I’ve said several times, the trends that have battered the middle class for a couple of decades now are still there and still have to be addressed.  Those at the top are doing very well.  Ordinary families still feeling squeezed.  Too many Americans are working harder than ever, and just barely getting by.

And reversing these trends are going to require us to work together around what I’m calling an opportunity agenda based on four things.  Number one, more good jobs that pay good wages.  Number two, training more Americans to be able to take the jobs that are out there right now and the jobs that are created.  Number three, guaranteeing access to a world-class education for every American child all across our 50 states and our territories.  And making sure that hard work pays off — with wages that you can live on, savings that you can retire on, health insurance that you can count on.

And all of this is going to take some action.  So far, just in the past few weeks, I’ve acted to lift the wages of workers who work for federal contractors to pay their — make sure their employees are getting paid at least $10.10 an hour.  We’ve ordered an across-the-board reform of our job training programs, much of it aligned with some of the work that Mary has done during her tenure as head of the NGA.  We directed our Treasury to create a new way for Americans to start saving for retirement.  We’ve been able to rally America’s business leaders to help more of the long-term unemployed find work, and to help us make sure that all of our kids have access to high-speed Internet and high-tech learning tools in the classroom.

The point is, this has to be a year of action.  And I’m eager to work with Congress wherever I can.  My hope is, is that despite this being an election year, that there will be occasions where both parties determine that it makes sense to actually get some things done in this town.  But wherever I can work on my own to expand opportunity for more Americans, I’m going to do that.  And I am absolutely convinced that the time is right to partner with the states and governors all across the country on these agendas, because I know that you guys are doing some terrific work in your own states.

There may not be much of an appetite in Congress for doing big jobs bills, but we can still grow SelectUSA.  Secretary Pritzker’s team has put together a terrific formula where we’re attracting investors from all around the world to see America as an outstanding place to invest.  And I mentioned this at the State of the Union:  For the first time last year, what we’re seeing is, is that world investors now see America as the number-one place to do business rather than China.  And it’s a sign of a lot of things converging, both on the energy front, worker productivity, our innovation, our research, ease of doing business.  And a lot of that work is as a consequence of steps we’ve taken not just at the federal level, but also at the state level.  So we’ve got to take advantage of that.

Secretary Pritzker has been helping a Belgian company create jobs in Stillwater, Oklahoma; helping an Austrian company create jobs in Cartersville, Georgia.  So we can do more of this, and we really want to engage with you over the next several months to find ways that we can help market America and your states to businesses all around the world and bring jobs back.

Since I called on Congress to raise the minimum wage last year, six states have gone ahead and done it on their own.  Last month, I asked more business leaders to raise their workers’ wages.  Last week, GAP said it would lift wages for about 65,000 of its employees.  Several of you are trying to boost wages for your workers.  I’m going to do everything I can to support those efforts.

While Congress decides what it’s going to do on making high-quality pre-K available to more kids, there is bipartisan work being done among the folks in this room.  You’ve got governors like Robert Bentley and Jack Markell, Susana Martinez, Deval Patrick — all expanding funding or dedicating funds to make that happen in their states.  And we want to partner with you.  This year, I’ll pull together a coalition of philanthropists, elected officials and business leaders, all of whom are excited and interested in working with you to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K that they need.

And while Congress talks about repealing the Affordable Care Act or doing this or doing that to it, places like California and Kentucky are going gangbusters and enrolling more Americans in quality, affordable health care plans.  You’ve got Republican governors here — I won’t name them in front of the press, because I don’t want to get you all in trouble — who have chosen to cover more people through new options under Medicaid.  And as a result, millions of people are going to get help.

States that don’t expand Medicaid are going to be leaving up to 5.4 million Americans uninsured.  And that doesn’t have to happen.  Work with us to get this done.  We can provide a lot of flexibility.  Folks like Mike Beebe in Arkansas have done some terrific work designing programs that are right for their states but also provide access to care for people who need it.  And I think Kathleen Sebelius, a former governor herself, has shown herself willing to work with all of you to try to find ways to get that done.

On the West Coast, you’ve got Governors Brown, Inslee, Kitzhaber who are working together to combat the effects of climate change on their states.  We’ve set up a taskforce of governors and mayors and tribal leaders to help communities prepare for what we anticipate are going to be intensifying impacts of climate change.  And we’re setting up climate hubs in seven states across the country to help farmers and ranchers adapt their operations to a changing environment.

In the budget that I’ll send to Congress next week, I’m going to propose fundamentally reforming the way federal governments fund wildfire suppression and prevention to make it more stable and secure, and this is an idea that’s supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

And finally, I want to thank those of you who have worked with Michelle and Jill Biden on their Joining Forces initiative to support our military families.  At your meeting here two years ago, they asked for your help to make it easier for servicemembers and their spouses to carry licenses for professions like teaching or nursing from state to state, rather than have to get a new one every time they were reassigned.  At the time, only 12 states had acted to make this easier for spouses; only nine had acted to make it easier for servicemembers.  Today, 42 states have passed legislation to help spouses; 45 states have made it easier for servicemembers.  We’ve got a few states remaining.  Let’s get it done for everybody, because it’s the right thing to do for those men and women who are working every day to make sure we stay free and secure.

The point is, even when there is little appetite in Congress to move on some of these priorities, at the state level you guys are governed by practical considerations.  You want to do right by your people and you see how good policy impacts your citizens, and you see how bad policy impacts your citizens, and that means that there’s less room for posturing and politics, and more room for getting stuff done.

We want to work with you.  And I’m committed to making sure that every single member of my Cabinet, every single person in the White House, every single member of my team will be responsive to you.  We won’t agree on every single issue every single time, but I guarantee you that we will work as hard as we can to make sure that you succeed — because when you succeed, the people in your states succeed and America succeeds, and that’s our goal.

So thank you very much, and I look forward to having a great discussion.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
11:27 A.M. EST

Political Musings February 2, 2014: Obama urges CEOs to hire long-term unemployed after benefits extension fails

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama urges CEOs to hire long-term unemployed after benefits extension fails

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In effort to compensate for Congress not extending unemployment benefits to the long-term jobless, on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 President Barack Obama urged CEOs of 20 major companies to not “discriminate” and give them an equal chance…READ MORE

Political Headlines September 11, 2013: President Barack Obama Marks 9/11 with Nod to Benghazi, Syria Crisis

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Marks 9/11 with Nod to Benghazi, Syria Crisis

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

From the White House to Capitol Hill to the Pentagon — and at countless ceremonies around the country — Wednesday brought a solemn step back from the frenetic campaign for U.S. military action in Syria and an acknowledgment of the terrorist attacks that shook the entire nation to its core 12 years ago.

President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, along with members of their staffs, began the day by marking the anniversary of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, first with a moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House and then, for the president, a wreath-laying ceremony and speech at the Pentagon Memorial….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency September 11, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the September 11th 9/11 Observance at the Pentagon Memorial

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the September 11th Observance at the Pentagon Memorial

Source: WH, 9-11-13

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden observe a moment of silence to mark the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, Sept. 11, 2013.

The Pentagon
Arlington, Virginia

9:32 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.

AUDIENCE:  Good morning!

THE PRESIDENT:  From Scripture, we learn of the miracle of restoration.  “You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again.  From the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.  You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.”

Secretary Hagel, General Dempsey, members of our Armed Forces and most of all, the survivors who bear the wounds of that day and the families of those we lost, it is an honor to be with you here again to remember the tragedy of twelve Septembers ago  — to honor the greatness of all who responded and to stand with those who still grieve and to provide them some measure of comfort once more.  Together we pause and we pray and we give humble thanks — as families and as a nation — for the strength and the grace that from the depths of our despair has brought us up again, has revived us again, has given us strength to keep on.

We pray for the memory of all those taken from us — nearly 3,000 innocent souls.  Our hearts still ache for the futures snatched away, the lives that might have been — the parents who would have known the joy of being grandparents, the fathers and mothers who would have known the pride of a child’s graduation, the sons and daughters who would have grown, maybe married and been blessed with children of their own.  Those beautiful boys and girls just beginning to find their way who today would have been teenagers and young men and women looking ahead, imagining the mark they’d make on the world.

They left this Earth.  They slipped from our grasp.  But it was written, “What the heart has once owned and had, it shall never lose.”  What your families lost in the temporal, in the here and now, is now eternal.  The pride that you carry in your hearts, the love that will never die, your loved ones’ everlasting place in America’s heart.

We pray for you, their families, who have known the awful depths of loss.  And in the quiet moments we have spent together and from the stories that you’ve shared, I’m amazed at the will that you’ve summoned in your lives to lift yourselves up and to carry on, and to live and love and laugh again.

Even more than memorials of stone and water, your lives are the greatest tribute to those that we lost.  For their legacy shines on in you — when you smile just like him, when you toss your hair just like her, when you foster scholarships and service projects that bear the name of those we lost and make a better world.  When you join the firehouse or you put on the uniform or you devote yourself to a cause greater than yourself, just like they did, that’s a testimony to them.  And in your resilience you have taught us all there is no trouble we cannot endure and there is no calamity we cannot overcome.

We pray for all those who have stepped forward in those years of war — diplomats who serve in dangerous posts, as we saw this day last year in Benghazi, intelligence professionals, often unseen and unheralded who protect us in every way — our men and women in uniform who defend this country that we love.

Today we remember not only those who died that September day.  We pay solemn tribute to more than 6,700 patriots who have given their full measure since — military and civilians.  We see their legacy in the friendships they forged, the attacks they prevented, the innocent lives they saved and in their comrades in Afghanistan who are completing the mission and who by the end of next year will have helped to end this war.

This is the path that we’ve traveled together.  These are the wounds that continue to heal.  And this is the faith in God and each other that carries us through, that restores us and that we summon once more each time we come to hallowed ground — beside this building or in a Pennsylvania field or where the towers once stood.  Here, in such moments of grace, we are renewed.  And it is here that we reaffirm the values and virtues that must guide us.

Let us have the strength to face the threats that endure, different though they may be from 12 years ago, so that as long as there are those who would strike our citizens, we will stand vigilant and defend our nation.

Let us have the wisdom to know that while force is at times necessary, force alone cannot build the world we seek.  So we recommit to the partnerships and progress that builds mutual respect and deepens trust and allows more people to live in dignity, prosperity and freedom.

Let us have the confidence in the values that make us American, which we must never lose, the shining liberties that make us a beacon of the world; the rich diversity that makes us stronger, the unity and commitment to one another that we sustain on this National Day of Service and Remembrance.

And above all, let us have the courage like the survivors and families here today to carry on, no matter how dark the night or how difficult the day.  “You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again.  And from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.  You will increase my greatness and you will comfort me again.”

May God bless the memory of those that we lost.  May he comfort you and your families and may God bless these United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
9:40 A.M. EDT

Political Headlines August 29, 2013: Obama administration takes executive gun control actions

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama administration takes executive gun control actions

Source: LAT, 8-29-13

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration said Thursday it had closed a loophole in the gun laws that allowed the acquisition of machine guns and other weapons and had banned U.S….READ MORE

Political Headlines August 23, 2013: President Obama, Vice President Biden Side-By-Side in Scranton, But What About 2016?

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama, Biden Side-By-Side in Scranton, But What About 2016?

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Ever since President Obama and Hillary Clinton appeared together for a joint network interview in January, it seemed like the president had unofficially made the former Secretary of State his heir apparent.

But on Friday, President Obama stood by Vice President Joe Biden in his hometown of Scranton, Pa., heaping praise on the man who has dutifully been at his side since Obama picked him as his running mate five years ago to the day….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 10, 2013: VP Joe Biden Says He and President Barack Obama Are Extremely Close

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Biden Says He and Obama Are Extremely Close

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-10-13

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Joe Biden sat for a wide-ranging interview published in the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine in which the vice president answered questions on a variety of domestic and international issues while speaking candidly about his close relationship with President Obama….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 4, 2013: VP Joe Biden, Sen. Ted Cruz Speak in South Carolina Amid 2016 Presidential Campaign Buzz

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Biden, Sen. Ted Cruz Speak in South Carolina Amid 2016 Buzz

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-4-13

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

South Carolina got a taste of two very different political acts Friday night….

“One of the things that bothers me most about the new Republican party is how down on America they are, how down on our prospects they are, how they talk about how we’re getting clobbered, how they talk about things that have no relationship to reality, all in the name of making sure that the very few at the top do very well,” Biden said at the South Carolina Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner Friday night….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency April 17, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech / Statement After Senate Vote Blocks Gun Control Legislation

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Senate Votes to Block Expanded Background Checks for Gun Sales

Source: WH, 4-17-13
Surrounded by Americans whose lives and families had been forever changed by gun violence, President Obama spoke from the Rose Garden about today’s Senate vote on expanded background checks for gun sales.

A few months ago, in response to too many tragedies — including the shootings of a United States Congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, who’s here today, and the murder of 20 innocent schoolchildren and their teachers –- this country took up the cause of protecting more of our people from gun violence.

Families that know unspeakable grief summoned the courage to petition their elected leaders –- not just to honor the memory of their children, but to protect the lives of all our children. And a few minutes ago, a minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn’t worth it. They blocked common-sense gun reforms even while these families looked on from the Senate gallery.

“A majority of senators voted “yes” to protecting more of our citizens with smarter background checks,” President Obama said. “But by this continuing distortion of Senate rules, a minority was able to block it from moving forward.”

The President said that the legislation showed respect for victims of gun violence and gun owners alike. “Nobody could honestly claim that this legislation infringed on our Second Amendment rights,” he said. “All it did was extend the same background check rules that already apply to guns purchased from a dealer to guns purchased at gun shows or over the Internet.”

But the fact is most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn’t want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun.  There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this.  It came down to politics — the worry that that vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in future elections.

“All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” President Obama said. “But this effort isn’t over.  I want to make it clear to the American people that we can still bring about meaningful changes that reduce gun violence, so long as you don’t give up. “

He promised that his administration would keep doing everything it can to protect our kids and communities. “But we can do more if Congress gets its act together,” he said.

“Those who care deeply about preventing more and more gun violence will have to be as passionate, and as organized, and as vocal as those who blocked these common-sense steps to help keep our kids safe.”

The President said that he sees today’s vote as the end of round one.

I believe we’re going to be able to get this done. Sooner or later, we are going to get this right. The memories of these children demand it. And so do the American people.

Make your voice heard. Speak out if you support common-sense steps to reduce gun violence

Statement by the President

Source: WH, 4-17-13

Rose Garden

5:35 P.M. EDT

MR. BARDEN:  Hello.  My name is Mark Barden.  Just four months ago, my wife Jackie and I lost our son, and our children, James and Natalie, they lost their little brother Daniel.  Daniel was a first-grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Our sweet, 7-year-old Daniel was one of 20 children, six adults lost on December 14th.  I have to say it feels like it was just yesterday.

In our deepest grief, we were supported by the love of our families and comforted by the love and prayers we received from millions of America, from every corner of the country.

What happened in Newtown can happen anywhere.  In any instant, any dad in America could be in my shoes.  No one should feel the pain.  No one should feel our pain or the pain felt by the tens of thousands of people who’ve lost loved ones to senseless gun violence.

And that’s why we’re here.  Two weeks ago, 12 of us from Newtown came to meet with U.S. senators and have a conversation about how to bring common-sense solutions to the issues of gun violence.  We came with a sense of hope, optimistic that real conversation could begin that would ultimately save the lives of so many Americans.  We met with dozens of Democrats and Republicans and shared with them pictures of our children, our spouses, our parents who lost their lives on December 14th.

Expanded background checks wouldn’t have saved our loved ones, but still we came to support the bipartisan proposal from two senators, both with “A” ratings from the NRA — a common-sense proposal supported by 90 percent of Americans.  It‘s a proposal that will save lives without interfering with the rights of responsible, law-abiding gun owners.

We’ll return home now, disappointed but not defeated.  We return home with the determination that change will happen — maybe not today, but it will happen.  It will happen soon.  We’ve always known this would be a long road, and we don’t have the luxury of turning back.  We will keep moving forward and build public support for common-sense solutions in the areas of mental health, school safety, and gun safety.

We take strength from the children and loved ones that we lost, and we carry a great faith in the American people.

On behalf of the Sandy Hook Promise, I would like to thank President Obama, Vice President Biden for their leadership and for standing strong and continuing to fight for a safer America. I would like to thank Senators Toomey, Manchin, Schumer and Kirk on coming together to seek common ground on legislation that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals and save lives.

And I would like to thank Connecticut’s Senators Blumenthal and Murphy.  They’ve been right with us.  They stood by us right from the very beginning.  From the first few hours after this tragedy they were with us.

We will not be defeated.  We are not defeated, and we will not be defeated.  We are here now; we will always be here because we have no other choice.  We are not going away.  And every day, as more people are killed in this country because of gun violence, our determination grows stronger.

We leave Washington hoping that others, both here and across the country, will join us in making the Sandy Hook Promise, a pledge that we’d had great hope that more U.S. senators would take literally.  I’d like to end by repeating the words with which the Sandy Hook Promise begins:  Our hearts are broken.  Our spirit is not.

Thank you.  It is now my great pleasure to introduce the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.

THE PRESIDENT:  A few months ago, in response to too many tragedies — including the shootings of a United States Congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, who’s here today, and the murder of 20 innocent schoolchildren and their teachers –- this country took up the cause of protecting more of our people from gun violence.

Families that know unspeakable grief summoned the courage to petition their elected leaders –- not just to honor the memory of their children, but to protect the lives of all our children.  And a few minutes ago, a minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn’t worth it.  They blocked common-sense gun reforms even while these families looked on from the Senate gallery.

By now, it’s well known that 90 percent of the American people support universal background checks that make it harder for a dangerous person to buy a gun.  We’re talking about convicted felons, people convicted of domestic violence, people with a severe mental illness.  Ninety percent of Americans support that idea.  Most Americans think that’s already the law.

And a few minutes ago, 90 percent of Democrats in the Senate just voted for that idea.  But it’s not going to happen because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate just voted against that idea.

A majority of senators voted “yes” to protecting more of our citizens with smarter background checks.  But by this continuing distortion of Senate rules, a minority was able to block it from moving forward.

I’m going to speak plainly and honestly about what’s happened here because the American people are trying to figure out how can something have 90 percent support and yet not happen. We had a Democrat and a Republican -– both gun owners, both fierce defenders of our Second Amendment, with “A” grades from the NRA — come together and worked together to write a common-sense compromise on background checks.  And I want to thank Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey for their courage in doing that.  That was not easy given their traditional strong support for Second Amendment rights.

As they said, nobody could honestly claim that the package they put together infringed on our Second Amendment rights.  All it did was extend the same background check rules that already apply to guns purchased from a dealer to guns purchased at gun shows or over the Internet.  So 60 percent of guns are already purchased through a background check system; this would have covered a lot of the guns that are currently outside that system.

Their legislation showed respect for gun owners, and it showed respect for the victims of gun violence.  And Gabby Giffords, by the way, is both — she’s a gun owner and a victim of gun violence.  She is a Westerner and a moderate.  And she supports these background checks.

In fact, even the NRA used to support expanded background checks.  The current leader of the NRA used to support these background checks.  So while this compromise didn’t contain everything I wanted or everything that these families wanted, it did represent progress.  It represented moderation and common sense.  That’s why 90 percent of the American people supported it.

But instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill.  They claimed that it would create some sort of “big brother” gun registry, even though the bill did the opposite.  This legislation, in fact, outlawed any registry.  Plain and simple, right there in the text.  But that didn’t matter.

And unfortunately, this pattern of spreading untruths about this legislation served a purpose, because those lies upset an intense minority of gun owners, and that in turn intimidated a lot of senators.  And I talked to several of these senators over the past few weeks, and they’re all good people.  I know all of them were shocked by tragedies like Newtown.  And I also understand that they come from states that are strongly pro-gun. And I have consistently said that there are regional differences when it comes to guns, and that both sides have to listen to each other.

But the fact is most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn’t want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun.  There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this.  It came down to politics — the worry that that vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in future elections.  They worried that the gun lobby would spend a lot of money and paint them as anti-Second Amendment.

And obviously, a lot of Republicans had that fear, but Democrats had that fear, too.  And so they caved to the pressure, and they started looking for an excuse — any excuse — to vote “no.”

One common argument I heard was that this legislation wouldn’t prevent all future massacres.  And that’s true.  As I said from the start, no single piece of legislation can stop every act of violence and evil.  We learned that tragically just two days ago.  But if action by Congress could have saved one person, one child, a few hundred, a few thousand — if it could have prevented those people from losing their lives to gun violence in the future while preserving our Second Amendment rights, we had an obligation to try.

And this legislation met that test.  And too many senators failed theirs.

I’ve heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory.  And my question is, a victory for who?  A victory for what?  All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check.  That didn’t make our kids safer.  Victory for not doing something that 90 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Republicans, the vast majority of your constituents wanted to get done?  It begs the question, who are we here to represent?

I’ve heard folks say that having the families of victims lobby for this legislation was somehow misplaced.  “A prop,” somebody called them.  “Emotional blackmail,” some outlet said.  Are they serious?  Do we really think that thousands of families whose lives have been shattered by gun violence don’t have a right to weigh in on this issue?  Do we think their emotions, their loss is not relevant to this debate?

So all in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington.

But this effort is not over.  I want to make it clear to the American people we can still bring about meaningful changes that reduce gun violence, so long as the American people don’t give up on it.  Even without Congress, my administration will keep doing everything it can to protect more of our communities.  We’re going to address the barriers that prevent states from participating in the existing background check system.  We’re going to give law enforcement more information about lost and stolen guns so it can do its job.  We’re going to help to put in place emergency plans to protect our children in their schools.

But we can do more if Congress gets its act together.  And if this Congress refuses to listen to the American people and pass common-sense gun legislation, then the real impact is going to have to come from the voters.

To all the people who supported this legislation — law enforcement and responsible gun owners, Democrats and Republicans, urban moms, rural hunters, whoever you are — you need to let your representatives in Congress know that you are disappointed, and that if they don’t act this time, you will remember come election time.

To the wide majority of NRA households who supported this legislation, you need to let your leadership and lobbyists in Washington know they didn’t represent your views on this one.

The point is those who care deeply about preventing more and more gun violence will have to be as passionate, and as organized, and as vocal as those who blocked these common-sense steps to help keep our kids safe.  Ultimately, you outnumber those who argued the other way.  But they’re better organized.  They’re better financed.  They’ve been at it longer.  And they make sure to stay focused on this one issue during election time. And that’s the reason why you can have something that 90 percent of Americans support and you can’t get it through the Senate or the House of Representatives.

So to change Washington, you, the American people, are going to have to sustain some passion about this.  And when necessary, you’ve got to send the right people to Washington.  And that requires strength, and it requires persistence.

And that’s the one thing that these families should have inspired in all of us.  I still don’t know how they have been able to muster up the strength to do what they’ve doing over the last several weeks, last several months.

And I see this as just round one.  When Newtown happened, I met with these families and I spoke to the community, and I said, something must be different right now.  We’re going to have to change.  That’s what the whole country said.  Everybody talked about how we were going to change something to make sure this didn’t happen again, just like everybody talked about how we needed to do something after Aurora.  Everybody talked about we needed change something after Tucson.

And I’m assuming that the emotions that we’ve all felt since Newtown, the emotions that we’ve all felt since Tucson and Aurora and Chicago — the pain we share with these families and families all across the country who’ve lost a loved one to gun violence — I’m assuming that’s not a temporary thing.  I’m assuming our expressions of grief and our commitment to do something different to prevent these things from happening are not empty words.

I believe we’re going to be able to get this done.  Sooner or later, we are going to get this right.  The memories of these children demand it.  And so do the American people.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END                5:55 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines April 5, 2013: Vice President Joe Biden Holds Off on Donating Salary

POLITICAL HEADLINES

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Vice President Joe Biden Holds Off on Donating Salary

Source: ABC News Radio, 4-5-13

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Vice President Joe Biden is not planning on donating a portion of his salary, eschewing the lead of President Obama and other Cabinet members who are giving up part of their salary as some federal workers face furloughs because of the sequester.

While he is not donating his salary right now, the vice president could forgo a portion of his salary in the future should his staff face furloughs down the road….READ MORE

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