Political Musings April 23, 2014: White House refuses Boehner, GOP unemployment benefits extension bill compromise

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Full Text Obama Presidency April 21, 2014: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks at the 2014 White House Easter Egg Roll

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

The 2014 White House Easter Egg Roll

Remarks by the President and the First Lady at the Easter Egg Roll

Source:  WH, 4-21-14

Watch the Video

South Lawn

10:34 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, hello everybody.  Is everybody having fun?  (Applause.)  Happy Easter.  This is the biggest event that we have at the White House all year long and it is our most fun event, because we have a chance to see families from all across the country coming through here.  My main and only job, other than officiating over the roll at some point, is to introduce, alongside the Easter Bunny, the person who makes this all possible — we love her dearly — my wife, the First Lady, Michelle Obama.  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you, honey. Hey, everybody.  Happy Easter Egg Roll Day.  Isn’t this exciting?  It is so wonderful to have so many of you here today.  We are celebrating the 136th Easter Egg Roll.  The theme of this year’s roll is “Hop Into Health, Swing Into Shape.”  Yes, I love it.

And it’s going to be a great day.  We have beautiful weather, because the Easter Egg Roll is blessed.  And we’re going to have fun stuff going on.  We’ve got the Egg Roll.  We’ve got some storytelling.  We’ve got entertainment.  We’ve got wonderful athletes and performers like Cam and so many others.  We’ve got obstacle courses and yoga and face painting and egg hunts.  It’s just going to be terrific.  As Barack said, we love this event.  This is the largest event that we do here on the South Lawn.  We’re going to have more than 30,000 people on the lawn today.

And we’re just thrilled that this theme is focusing on one issue that is near and dear to my heart, and it’s making sure that our young people are active and healthy.  So while you’re here, parents, look around.  You’re going to learn how to make healthy snacks that the kids will actually eat.  I’m going to be over there on the chef’s stage doing some demonstrations.

And I want to make sure that kids know that healthy eating and being active can be fun, because what today is about is having a whole lot of fun.  And I hope you all do that, because we want our kids to be the healthiest and the strongest they can be, so they can do well in school and live up to all of their God-given potential.  Isn’t that right, parents?  That’s what we want for you all.  (Applause.)

And we want to thank the Easter Bunny, as always, for being here.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the hundreds of volunteers who make today possible.  (Applause.)  Thank you to our volunteers who have been out here setting up the South Lawn, who are going to make sure you guys get through these activities and have a great time.

So you all just enjoy.  That’s all you have to do from this point on, is have fun.  And we’ll be down there to participate in the Egg Roll.  The President is going to read.  I’m going to read a little bit.  So we’ll meet you down on the South Lawn, okay?

All right.  Have a great time.  Bye-bye.  (Applause.)

END
10:39 A.M.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 22, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Mudslide Devastation in Washington State

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on the Mudslide Devastation in Washington State

Source: WH, 4-22-14

Oso Firehouse
Oso, Washington

4:13 P.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, good afternoon, everybody.  I just had a chance to tour some of the damage from last month’s mudslide.  And, most importantly, I had a chance to spend some time with the families whose loved ones have been lost.  I also had a chance to thank some of the amazing first responders, the firefighters, police officers, search and rescue crews, and members of the Washington National Guard who have been working around the clock to help this community recover from this devastating incident.

Governor Inslee, Senator Murray, Senator Cantwell, Congresswoman DelBene, Congressman Larsen, and the rest of the elected officials who are here, they’ve been relentless in making sure that Oso had the resources that it needs.  And from the day of the tragedy, I’ve instructed my team to make sure that they get what they need to make sure that the search and rescue mission is going forward the way it should.

A FEMA Incident Management Assistance Team was on the ground immediately after the mudslide, and a search and rescue team was deployed to help locate and recover victims.  We immediately approved an emergency declaration to provide additional resources to state and local responders.  And I followed that by approving a major disaster declaration to help residents and business owners rebuild, and to help state and local and tribal governments with emergency work.

Today, that work continues.  There are still families who are searching for loved ones.  There are families who have lost everything, and it’s going to be a difficult road ahead for them.  And that’s why I wanted to come here — just to let you know that the country is thinking about all of you and have been throughout this tragedy.

We’re not going anywhere.  We’ll be here as long as it takes.  Because while very few Americans have ever heard of Oso before the disaster struck, we’ve all been inspired by the incredible way that the community has come together and shown the love and support that they have for each other in ways large and small.

Over the past month, we’ve seen neighbors and complete strangers donate everything from chainsaws to rain jackets to help with the recovery effort.  We’ve seen families cook meals for rescue workers.  We’ve seen volunteers pull 15-hour days, searching through mud up to 70 feet deep.  One resident said, “We’re Oso.  We just do it.”  That’s what this community is all about.  And I think the outstanding work of Sheriff Willy Harper here helping to coordinate all of this — I was saying, he’s a pretty young sheriff, but he has shouldered this burden in an incredible way.  And we’re very, very proud of him, as we are of all the local responders.

This is family.  And these are folks who love this land, and it’s easy to see why — because it’s gorgeous.  And there’s a way of life here that’s represented.  And to see the strength in adversity of this community I think should inspire all of us, because this is also what America is all about.

When times get tough, we look out for each other.  We get each other’s backs.  And we recover and we build, and we come back stronger.  And we’re always reminded that we’re greater together.  That’s how we’ll support each other every step of the way.

I have to say that the families that I met with showed incredible strength and grace through unimaginable pain and difficulty.  Uniformly, though, they all wanted to say thank you to the first responders.  They were deeply appreciative of the efforts that everybody has made.  And I know that many of the first responders have heard that directly, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat that we’re very appreciative of what you’ve done.

And I also want to say that some terrific lessons were learned in the midst of very hard times during this process, because almost uniquely, we had not just coordination between state, local and federal officials, but also coordination between volunteers and those officials.  And I know that it required some improvisation and some kinks getting worked out, but it was important for the family members themselves and the community themselves to be hands-on and participate in this process — particularly a community like this one where folks are hearty and know how to do things, and take great pride in being self-reliant.  It was important that they weren’t just bystanders in this process, they were involved every step of the way.

One last point I’ll make.  I’ve received a number of letters from residents — either Darrington, or Arlington, or Oso itself — over the last several weeks, and one in particular struck me.  It was from a firefighter who I may have met today; he didn’t identify himself.  But he pointed out how those who were operating the heavy machinery during this whole process did so with an incredible care and delicacy because they understood that this wasn’t an ordinary job, this wasn’t just a matter of moving earth; that this was a matter of making sure that we were honoring and respecting the lives that had been impacted.

And two things were of note in that letter:  Number one, that this firefighter pointed out properly the incredible work that’s been done under very tough circumstances.  Number two, he was pointing out what others were doing, not what he was doing.  And to see a community come together like this and not be interested in who’s getting credit, but just making sure that the job gets done, that says a lot about the character of this place.

And so we’re very, very proud of all of you.  Michelle and I grieve with you.  The whole country is thinking about you.  And we’re going to make sure that we’re there every step of the way as we go through the grieving, the mourning, the recovery.  We’re going to be strong right alongside you.

Thank you very much.  God bless you.  God bless America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
4:21 P.M. PDT

Political Musings April 22, 2014: Obama announces at press conference that Obamacare reached 8 million enrollees

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama announces at press conference that Obamacare reached 8 million enrollees

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In a press conference on Thursday afternoon, April 17, 2014 in the White House’s Brady Press Briefing Room President Barack Obama announced that with the majority of numbers tallied the total number of enrollees on the federal marketplace…READ MORE

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Political Musings April 20, 2014: Reid believes Boehner, House GOP will pass unemployment benefits extension bill

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Reid believes Boehner, House GOP will pass unemployment benefits extension bill

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In the Senate there is still hope that the long-term jobless unemployment benefits extension bill they passed earlier in the month will still be passed by the Republican controlled House of Representatives after they return from the recess on…READ MORE

Political Musings April 20, 2014: Cantor criticizes Obama on GOP attacks after immigration reform bill call

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

By Bonnie K. Goodman

House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-VA is finally speaking out against President Barack Obama’s constant attacks on Republicans after the president phoned him and pressured the House to pass the Senate’s immigration reform…READ MORE

Political Musings April 20, 2014: Democrats pressuring House GOP into passing unemployment benefits extension bill

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Democrats pressuring House GOP into passing unemployment benefits extension bill

By Bonnie K. Goodman

While the Senate leadership is busy negotiating with the Republican House of Representative leadership into passing the long-term unemployment benefits extension bill, the Democrats in the House and Senate are putting the pressure on the GOP. Even though Congress…READ MORE

History Buzz April 19, 2014: Top Young Historian Stephanie M. H. Camp Dies at 46

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Stephanie Camp, 46, historian

Top Young Historians: 80 – Stephanie M. H. Camp

A memorial service was held Saturday, April 19, for Stephanie M.H. Camp, 46, a feminist historian with Philadelphia roots, who died Wednesday, April 2, of cancer at a Seattle hospital….READ MORE

Political Musings April 19, 2014: House GOP Reps introduce alternative unemployment benefits extension bill

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

House GOP Reps introduce alternative unemployment benefits extension bill

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Two Republican Representatives, Charlie Dent from Pennsylvania and Mark Meadows from North Carolina introduced an alternative to the Senate passed unemployment benefits extension bill entitled the “GROWTH (Generating Real Opportunities for Workers and Transitional Help) Act” (HR 3885)….Continue

 

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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Full Text Obama Presidency April 17, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference on Reaching 8 Million Obamacare Enrollees and the Crisis in Ukraine

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Press Conference by the President, 4/17/14

Source: WH, 4-17-14

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT PRESS CONFERENCE

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

**Please see below for a correction marked with asterisks.

3:40 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  Before I begin I just want to express on behalf of the American people our deepest condolences to the Republic of Korea and the families of all those who’ve seen their loved ones lost when a ferry sank within the last couple of days.

Obviously, information is still coming in.  We know that many of the victims of this terrible tragedy were students.  And American Navy personnel and Marines have already been on the scene helping the search and rescue.  As one of our closest allies, our commitment to South Korea is unwavering in good times and in bad, and that’s something I’ll underscore during my visit to Seoul next week.

Before I take questions I’d also like to say a few words about how the Affordable Care Act is now covering more people at less cost than most would have predicted just a few months ago.

The first open enrollment period under this law ended a little over two weeks ago.  And as more data comes in, we now know that the number of Americans who’ve signed up for private insurance in the marketplaces has grown to 8 million people — 8 million people.  Thirty-five percent of people who enrolled through the federal marketplace are under the age of 35.  All told, independent experts now estimate that millions of Americans who were uninsured have gained coverage this year — with millions more to come next year and the year after.

We’ve also seen signs that the Affordable Care Act is bringing economic security to more Americans.  Before this law added new transparency and competition to the individual market, folks who bought insurance on their own regularly saw double-digit increases in their premiums.  That was the norm.  And while we suspect that premiums will keep rising, as they have for decades, we also know that since the law took effect health care spending has risen more slowly than at any time in the past 50 years.

In the decade before the Affordable Care Act, employer-based insurance rose almost 8 percent a year.  Last year, it grew at half that rate.  Under this law, real Medicare costs per person have nearly stopped growing.  The life of the Medicare Trust Fund has been extended by 10 years.  And the independent Congressional Budget Office now expects premiums for plans on the marketplace to be 15 percent lower than originally predicted.

So those savings add up to more money that families can spend at businesses, more money that businesses can spend hiring new workers.  And the CBO now says that the Affordable Care Act will be cheaper than recently projected.  Lower costs from  coverage provisions will shrink our deficits by an extra $100 billion.

So the bottom line is, under the Affordable Care Act, the share of Americans with insurance is up, the growth of health care costs is down.  Hundreds of millions of Americans who already have insurance now have new benefits and protections from free preventive care to freedom from lifetime caps on your care.  No American with a preexisting condition like asthma or cancer can be denied coverage.  No woman can be charged more just for being a woman.  Those days are over.  And this thing is working.

I’ve said before, this law won’t solve all the problems in our health care system.  We know we’ve got more work to do.  But we now know for a fact that repealing the Affordable Care Act would increase the deficit, raise premiums for millions of Americans, and take insurance away from millions more — which is why, as I’ve said before, I find it strange that the Republican position on this law is still stuck in the same place that it has always been.

They still can’t bring themselves to admit that the Affordable Care Act is working.  They said nobody would sign up; they were wrong about that.  They said it would be unaffordable for the country; they were wrong about that.  They were wrong to keep trying to repeal a law that is working when they have no alternative answer for millions of Americans with preexisting conditions who would be denied coverage again, or every woman who would be charged more for just being a woman again.

I know every American isn’t going to agree with this law.  But I think we can agree that it’s well past time to move on as a country and refocus our energy on the issues that the American people are most concerned about — and that continues to be the economy.  Because these endless, fruitless repeal efforts come at a cost.  The 50 or so votes Republicans have taken to repeal this law could have been 50 votes to create jobs by investing in things like infrastructure or innovation.  Or 50 votes to make it easier for middle-class families to send their kids to college.  Or 50 votes to raise the minimum wage, or restore unemployment insurance that they let expire for folks working hard to find a new job.

The point is the repeal debate is and should be over.  The Affordable Care Act is working.  And I know the American people don’t want us spending the next two and a half years refighting the settled political battles of the last five years.  They sent us here to repair our economy, to rebuild our middle class, and to restore our founding promise of opportunity — not just for a few, but for all.  And as President, that’s exactly what I intend to keep doing as long as I’m in this office.

With that, I’ll take some questions.  Let’s see who we got.  Kathleen Hennessey of the LA Times.

Q    Thanks, Mr. President.  It sounds like there’s been some development in the Ukraine talks in Geneva.  I’m just wondering if you could describe your level of confidence in what this agreement is and how you can be sure that Russia will follow through, given some of the remarks from President Putin this morning.

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t think we can be sure of anything at this point.  I think there is the possibility, the prospect that diplomacy may deescalate the situation and we may be able to move towards what has always been our goal, which is let the Ukrainians make their own decisions about their own lives.

There was a meeting in Geneva — representatives of the Ukrainian government, the Russian government, the EU, as well as the United States.  It was a lengthy, vigorous conversation.  My understanding is, is that the Ukrainian Prime Foreign** Minister gave a detailed and thorough presentation about the reforms that they intend to introduce, including reforms that provide assurances for Ukrainians who live in eastern and southern Ukraine that they will be fully represented, that their rights will be protected, that Russian speakers and Russian natives in Ukraine will have the full protection of the law.  And my understanding, based on what I’ve heard, is that there was an acknowledgement within the meeting that the Ukrainian government in Kyiv had gone out of its way to address a range of the concerns that may have existed in southern and eastern Ukraine.

There was a promising public statement that indicated the need to disarm all irregular forces and militias and groups that have been occupying buildings.  There was an offer of amnesty to those who would willingly lay down their arms, evacuate those buildings, so that law and order could be restored in eastern and southern Ukraine.

The Russians signed on to that statement.  And the question now becomes will, in fact, they use the influence that they’ve exerted in a disruptive way to restore some order so that Ukrainians can carry out an election, move forward with the decentralization reforms that they’ve proposed, stabilize their economy, and start getting back on the path of growth and democracy and that their sovereignty will be respected.

We’re not going to know whether, in fact, there’s follow-through on these statements for several days.  And so today I spoke with Chancellor Merkel; later on in the day I’m going to be speaking to David Cameron.  We’re going to be consulting with our European allies.  Over the last week, we have put in place additional consequences that we can impose on the Russians if we do not see actual improvement of the situation on the ground.  And we are coordinating now with our European allies.

My hope is that we actually do see follow-through over the next several days.  But I don’t think given past performance that we can count on that, and we have to be prepared to potentially respond to what continue to be efforts of interference by the Russians in Eastern and Southern Ukraine.

If, in fact, we do see improvements, then that will obviously be a positive.  In the meantime, we’re going to make sure that we continue to help the Ukrainian government — working with the IMF, the Europeans and others — to stabilize their economy and to start reforming it.  We’re going to continue to work with our NATO allies to make sure that they are assured that we’re going to meet our Article 5 obligations and that they are secure.

And as I’ve said before — I think I had an interview with Major yesterday in which I mentioned this whole exercise by the Russians is not good for Russia either.  There are, I think, a number of articles today indicating the degree to which an economy that was already stuck in the mud is further deteriorating because of these actions.

And in my conversations with President Putin, I’ve emphasized the same thing, that we have no desire to see further deterioration of the Russian economy.  On the other hand, we are going to continue to uphold the basic principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity for all countries; and that there’s a way for Ukraine to be independent, to be sovereign, and to have positive relationships with both the West and the East, with both its European neighbors and its Russian neighbors.  And that’s our primary concern.

Maria Peña, La Opinión.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’ve got a hot spot for you here in the U.S.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said — or claimed that you haven’t learned how to work with them.  And he’s angry that you’re attacking the GOP on the lack of movement on immigration reform.  So I was wondering how you respond to that.

And the second part to that, right now you have hunger strikers across the street demanding relief for undocumented immigrants.  And I was wondering if you can dispel the rumors or if there’s a leak from the White House that you will make some sort of announcement in the coming weeks to expand that relief for the undocumented.  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I actually had a very pleasant conversation with Mr. Cantor yesterday.

Q    Really?

THE PRESIDENT:  I did.  (Laughter.)  You’re always kind of surprised by the mismatch between press releases and the conversation.  I wished him happy Passover.  And what I said to him privately is something that I would share with him — that I’ve said publicly, which is there is bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform.  It would strengthen our economy, it would help with our security, and it would provide relief to families who — many of whom have lived here for years and who have children and family members who are U.S. citizens; and that Congress should act; and that right now what’s holding us back is House Republican leadership not willing to go ahead and let the process move forward.

So it was a pretty friendly conversation.  I think in his press release, I gather he was referring to the observation that we’d made a day earlier that it had now been a year since the Senate had passed a strong bipartisan bill, and that although we had heard a lot of talk about the House Republicans being interested in doing something, nothing had happened yet, and suggesting that we need some urgency here.  I still feel the same way.

I know there are Republicans in the House, as there are Republicans in the Senate, who know this is the right thing to do.  I also know it’s hard politics for Republicans because there are some in their base that are very opposed to this.  But what I also know is that there are families all across the country who are experiencing great hardship and pain because this is not getting resolved.  I also know that there are businesses around the country that could be growing even faster, that our deficits could be coming down faster, that we would have more customers in our shops, if we get this thing resolved.

We know what the right thing to do is.  It’s a matter of political will.  It’s not any longer a matter of policy.  And I’m going to continue to encourage them to get this done.

As far as our actions, Jeh Johnson, our new head of the  Department of Homeland Security, has been talking to everybody  — law enforcement, immigrant rights groups — to do a thorough-going review of our approach towards enforcement.  And we’re doing that in consultation with Democrats and Republicans and with any interested party.

I do think that the system we have right now is broken.  I’m not alone in that opinion.  The only way to truly fix it is through congressional action.  We have already tried to take as many administrative steps as we could.  We’re going to review it one more time to see if there’s more that we can do to make it more consistent with common sense and more consistent with I think the attitudes of the American people, which is we shouldn’t be in the business necessarily of tearing families apart who otherwise are law-abiding.

And so let me –

Q    Do you have a time?

THE PRESIDENT:  I won’t get into timing right now because Mr. Johnson is going to go ahead and do that review.

Tamara Keith.

Q    So you — regarding the Affordable Care Act, I think you –

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, let’s talk about that.  (Laughter.)

Q    Since you brought it up.  (Laughter.)  I think everyone agrees that it has flaws.  But Democrats have been sort of reluctant in Congress to reopen the conversation, and Republicans have been more than happy to reopen the conversation but in a different way.  Now that, as you say, it’s here to stay, there are so many people that signed up, in this environment is it possible to do the kind of corrections that the business community and many others would like to see — sort of small, technical corrections?

THE PRESIDENT:  It is absolutely possible, but it will require a change in attitude on the part of the Republicans.

I have always said from the outset that on any large piece of legislation like this, there are going to be things that need to be improved, need to be tweaked.  I said that I think the day I signed the bill.  And I don’t think there’s been any hesitation on our part to consider ideas that would actually improve the legislation.  The challenge we have is, is that if you have certain members in the Republican Party whose view is making it work better is a concession to me, then it’s hard in that environment to actually get it done.

And I recognize that their party is going through the stages of grief — anger and denial and all that stuff — and we’re not at acceptance yet.  But at some point, my assumption is, is that there will be an interest to figure out how do we make this work in the best way possible.

We have 8 million people signed up through the exchanges.  That doesn’t include the 3 million young people who are able to stay on their parents’ plan.  It doesn’t include the 3 million people who benefited from expansions to Medicaid.  So if my math is correct, that’s 14 million right there.  You’ve got another 5 million people who signed up outside of the marketplaces but are part of the same insurance pool.  So we’ve got a sizable part of the U.S. population now in the first — for the first time in many cases, in a position to enjoy the financial security of health insurance.

And I’m meeting them as I’m on the road.  I saw a woman yesterday — young woman, maybe 34, with her mom and her dad, and she’s got two small kids and self-employed husband, and was diagnosed with breast cancer.  And this isn’t an abstraction to her.  She is saving her home.  She is saving her business.  She is saving her parents’ home, potentially, because she’s got health insurance, which she just could not afford.

And the question now becomes if, in fact, this is working for a lot of people but there are still improvements to make, why are we still having a conversation about repealing the whole thing, and why are we having folks say that any efforts to improve it are somehow handing Obama a victory?  This isn’t about me.  And my hope is, is that we start moving beyond that.  My suspicion is that probably will not happen until after November because it seems as if this is the primary agenda item in the Republican political platform.

But here’s what I know:  The American people would much rather see us talk about jobs, would much rather see us talk about high college costs, would much rather see us discussing how we can rebuild our roads and our bridges and our infrastructure and put people back to work.  They’d much rather see us talk about how we’d boost wages and boost incomes and improve their individual family bottom lines.

And if the Republicans want to spend the entire next six months or year talking about repealing a bill that provides millions of people health insurance without providing any meaningful alternative, instead of wanting to talk about jobs and the economic situation of families all across the country, that’s their prerogative.  At some point I think they’ll make the transition.  That’s my hope, anyway.  If not, we’re just going to keep on doing what we’re doing, which is making it work for people all across the country.

I’m sorry, I’m going to say one last thing about this, just because this does frustrate me:  States that have chosen not to expand Medicaid for no other reason than political spite.  You’ve got 5 million people who could be having health insurance right now at no cost to these states — zero cost to these states — other than ideological reasons.  They have chosen not to provide health insurance for their citizens.  That’s wrong.  It should stop.  Those folks should be able to get health insurance like everybody else.

Isaac, from Politico.  Where are you, Isaac?  There you are.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Given all that you were just saying about the Affordable Care Act, do you think it’s time for Democrats to start campaigning loudly and positively on the benefits of Obamacare?  Will you lead that charge?

And on Ukraine, you’ve said in other situations — Iran, for example — that the military option remains on the table even as talks go on.  Is the military option on the table with Russia?  And if so, would that be through NATO forces, through lethal aid to Ukraine?

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, keep in mind I think I’ve been very clear that military options are not on the table in Ukraine because this is not a situation that would be amenable to a clear military solution.  What we have to do is to create an environment in which irregular forces disarm, that the seizing of buildings cease, that a national dialogue by Ukrainians — not by Russians, not by Americans or anybody else, but by Ukrainians — takes place.  They move forward with reforms that meet the interests of the various groups within Ukraine, they move forward with elections, and they start getting their economic house in order.  That’s what’s going to solve the problem.

And so obviously, Russia right now still has its forces amassed along the Ukrainian-Russian border as a gesture of intimidation.  And it is our belief — and not ours alone — but I think broad portions of the international community believe that Russia’s hand is in the disruptions and chaos that we’ve been seeing in southern and eastern Ukraine.  But there is an opportunity for Russia to take a different approach.  We are encouraging them to do so.

In the meantime, we’re going to prepare additional responses should Russia fail to take a different course.  We’ve already had an impact on their economy that is well documented.  It could get significantly worse.  But we don’t have an interest in hurting ordinary Russians just for the sake of it.  Our strong preference would be for Mr. Putin to follow through on what is a glimmer of hope coming out of these Geneva talks.  But we’re not going to count on it until we see it.  And in the meantime, we’re going to prepare what our other options are.

With respect to the Affordable Care Act, my point is that we’ve been having a political fight about this for five years.  We need to move on to something else.  That’s what the American people are interested in.  I think that Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud of the fact that millions of people like the woman I just described who I saw in Pennsylvania yesterday we’re helping because of something we did.  I don’t think we should apologize for it, and I don’t think we should be defensive about it.  I think there is a strong, good, right story to tell.

I think what the other side is doing and what the other side is offering would strip away protections from those families and from hundreds of millions of people who already had health insurance before the law passed, but never knew if the insurance company could drop them when they actually needed it, or women who were getting charged more just because they were a woman.  I’m still puzzled why they’ve made this their sole agenda item when it comes to our politics.  It’s curious.

But what I intend to talk about is what the American people are interested in hearing:  Our plans for putting people back to work; our plans for making sure our economy continues to innovate; our plans to make sure that, as I discussed yesterday, we’re training people for the jobs that are out there right now and making better use of our community colleges and linking them up with businesses; and how we’re going to continue to bring manufacturing back the way we have over the last several years; and how we’re going to put more money in the pockets of ordinary people.

So if they want to — if Republicans want to spend all their time talking about repealing a law that’s working, that’s their business.  I think what Democrats should do is not be defensive, but we need to move on and focus on other things that are really important to the American people right now.

David Jackson.

Q    Yes, sir.  Thank you.  One reason the Republicans talk about it is there are people who object to the law who said they’ve had problems with the law, and there are a significant number of opponents of the law.  I guess my question is, what makes you think a significant majority of the American people, of voters, will accept this law?  Or are we destined to see health care as a 50/50, red state/blue state argument for years to come?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think you’re mixing up two things here, David.  You said there are people who have seen problems with the law.  That’s not 50 percent of the American people.  There may have been folks who have been affected in ways that they weren’t happy about — by the law.  That is a far smaller number than the millions of people who’ve been signed up.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned about it.  That’s an area where, as I said to Tamara, we should be open to other ways that we can make it even better.  So that’s objective facts and real problems out there.

The other side of it is just polling, right, what’s the general opinion of the law — which is attached to general opinions about me or about Democrats and partisanship in the country generally.

My view is that the longer we see the law benefiting millions of people, the more we see accusations that the law is hurting millions of people being completely debunked — as some of you in the press have done — and the more the average American who already has health insurance sees that it’s actually not affecting them in an adverse way, then it becomes less of a political football — which is where I want it to be.  This shouldn’t be a political football.  This should be something that we take for granted, that in this country you should be able to get affordable health care regardless of how wealthy you are.

Now, the larger issue about whether we can move past the polarization and sort of the bitter political debates between Democrats and Republicans, of which Obamacare is just one small part, that’s going to take more time.  But it’s not for lack of trying on my part.  And I think that I speak for all Democrats in saying we would much prefer a constructive conversation with the Republicans about how do we get some stuff done, and let’s focus on some areas that the American people really care about.

On jobs, we know that infrastructure would put people back to work right now and it would improve our economy for the long term.  It didn’t used to be a partisan issue.  Why aren’t we coming up with a way to make sure that we’re rebuilding our roads and our bridges, and improving our air traffic control system?  There’s no reason that has to be political.  There really isn’t any ideological disagreement on that.  And I guarantee you after this winter, if you look at the potholes that are the size of canyons all across big chunks of the United States, that people would like to see an infrastructure bill.  Let’s get it done.

Q    How long before health care ceases to become a political football, do you think?  Are we talking years?  Months?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think it’s hard to say.  It’s interesting, I spoke at the LBJ Library the other day, and most of us weren’t around to pay real close attention to those debates, or they’re pretty distant now in the past.  Apparently it took several years before people realized, hey, Medicare actually works and it’s lifting a lot of seniors out of despair and poverty.

So we’ve been through this cycle before.  It happens each and every time we make some strides in terms of strengthening our commitments to each other and we expand some of these social insurance programs.

There’s a lot of fear-mongering and a lot of political argument and debate, and a lot of accusations are flung back and forth about socialized medicine and the end of freedom.  And then it turns out that, you know what, it’s working for a lot of folks, and we still live in a free-market society and the Constitution is intact.  And then we move on.  And I don’t know how long it’s going to take.  But in the meantime, how about us focusing on some things that the American people really care about?

Thank you, everybody.

END
4:13 P.M. EDT

 

Political Musings April 17, 2014: Obama refuses executive action on immigration reform urges House to pass bill

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama refuses executive action on immigration reform urges House to pass bill

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Although he promised a year of action without Congress, President Barack Obama made it clear on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 in a White House meeting in the Oval Office with faith leaders that he will not take executive action in…READ MORE

History Buzz April 14, 2014: Historian Alan Taylor Wins 2014 Pulitzer for Book on Slaves and War

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

U.Va. Historian Alan Taylor Wins 2014 Pulitzer for Book on Slaves and War

University of Virginia historian Alan Taylor, one of the nation’s premier experts in Colonial America and the early U.S. republic, has received a Pulitzer Prize for his book, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832.”….READ MORE

History Buzz April 14, 2014: 2014 Winners of the Pulitzer Prize for History, Non-Fiction & Biography

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

The 2014 Winners of the Pulitzer Prize

Source: The Wire, 4-14-14

History
The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 by Alan Taylor (W.W. Norton)

Biography or Autobiography
Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

General Nonfiction
Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin (Bantam Books)

Full Text Obama Presidency April 14, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at White House Easter Prayer Breakfast

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Easter Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH, 4-14-14 

East Room

9:27 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you, thank you, thank you very much.  Please, please have a seat.  Thank you so much.  Well, good morning, everybody.

Welcome to the White House and welcome to our annual Easter prayer breakfast.  As always, we are blessed to be joined by so many good friends from around the country.  We’ve got distinguished guests.  We’ve got faith leaders, members of my administration who are here.  And I will once again resist the temptation to preach to preachers.  (Laughter.)  It never works out well.  I am reminded of the admonition from the Book of Romans — “Do not claim to be wiser than you are.”  (Laughter.)  So this morning, I want to offer some very brief reflections as we start this Easter season.

But as I was preparing my remarks, something intervened yesterday.  And so I want to just devote a few words about yesterday’s tragedy in Kansas.  This morning our prayers are with the people of Overland Park.  And we’re still learning the details, but this much we know.  A gunman opened fire at two Jewish facilities — a community center and a retirement home.  Innocent people were killed.  Their families were devastated.  And this violence has struck the heart of the Jewish community in Kansas City.

Two of the victims — a grandfather and his teenage [grand] son — attended the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, which is led by our friend Reverend Adam Hamilton.  Some of you may know that during my inauguration, Reverend Hamilton delivered the sermon at the prayer service at the National Cathedral.  And I was grateful for his presence and his words.  He joined us at our breakfast last year.  And at the Easter service for Palm Sunday last night, he had to break this terrible news to his congregation.

That this occurred now — as Jews were preparing to celebrate Passover, as Christians were observing Palm Sunday –makes this tragedy all the more painful.  And today, as Passover begins, we’re seeing a number of synagogues and Jewish community centers take added security precautions.  Nobody should have to worry about their security when gathering with their fellow believers.  No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray.

And as a government, we’re going to provide whatever assistance is needed to support the investigation.  As Americans, we not only need to open our hearts to the families of the victims, we’ve got to stand united against this kind of terrible violence, which has no place in our society.  And we have to keep coming together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism that can lead to hatred and to violence, because we’re all children of God.  We’re all made in His image, all worthy of his love and dignity.  And we see what happens around the world when this kind of religious-based or tinged violence can rear its ugly head.  It’s got no place in our society.

So this Easter Week, of course we recognize that there’s a lot of pain and a lot of sin and a lot of tragedy in this world, but we’re also overwhelmed by the grace of an awesome God.  We’re reminded how He loves us, so deeply, that He gave his only begotten Son so that we might live through Him.  And in these Holy Days, we recall all that Jesus endured for us — the scorn of the crowds and the pain of the crucifixion, in our Christian religious tradition we celebrate the glory of the Resurrection — all so that we might be forgiven of our sins and granted everlasting life.

And more than 2,000 years later, it inspires us still.  We are drawn to His timeless teachings, challenged to be worthy of His sacrifice, to emulate as best we can His eternal example to love one another just as He loves us.  And of course, we’re always reminded each and every day that we fall short of that example.  And none of us are free from sin, but we look to His life and strive, knowing that “if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love is perfected in us.”

I’ll tell you, I felt this spirit when I had the great honor of meeting His Holiness, Pope Francis, recently.  I think it’s fair to say that those of us of the Christian faith, regardless of our denomination, have been touched and moved by Pope Francis.  Now, some of it is his words — his message of justice and inclusion, especially for the poor and the outcast.  He implores us to see the inherent dignity in each human being.  But it’s also his deeds, simple yet profound — hugging the homeless man, and washing the feet of somebody who normally ordinary folks would just pass by on the street.  He reminds us that all of us, no matter what our station, have an obligation to live righteously, and that we all have an obligation to live humbly.  Because that’s, in fact, the example that we profess to follow.

So I had a wonderful conversation with Pope Francis, mostly about the imperatives of addressing poverty and inequality.  And I invited him to come to the United States, and I sincerely hope he will.  When we exchanged gifts he gave me a copy of his inspiring writings, “The Joy of the Gospel.”  And there is a passage that speaks to us today:  “Christ’s resurrection,” he writes, “is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world.”  And he adds, “Jesus did not rise in vain.  May we never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope!”

So this morning, my main message is just to say thank you to all of you, because you don’t remain on the sidelines.  I want to thank you for your ministries, for your good works, for the marching you do for justice and dignity and inclusion, for the ministries that all of you attend to and have helped organize throughout your communities each and every day to feed the hungry and house the homeless and educate children who so desperately need an education.  You have made a difference in so many different ways, not only here in the United States but overseas as well.  And that includes a cause close to my heart, My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative that we recently launched to make sure that more boys and young men of color can overcome the odds and achieve their dreams.

And we’re joined by several faith leaders who are doing outstanding work in this area mentoring and helping young men in tough neighborhoods.  We’re also joined by some of these young men who are working hard and trying to be good students and good sons and good citizens.  And I want to say to each of those young men here, we’re proud of you, and we expect a lot of you.  And we’re going to make sure that we’re there for you so that you then in turn will be there for the next generation of young men.

And I mention all this because of all of our many partners for My Brother’s Keeper, it’s clergy like you and your congregations that can play a special role to be that spiritual and ethical foundation, that rock that so many young men need in their lives.

So I want to thank all of you who are already involved.  I invite those who are not to get more information, see if you can join in this effort as brothers and sisters in Christ who “never tire of doing good.”

In closing, I’ll just recall that old prayer that I think more than one preacher has invoked at the pulpit:  “Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and nudge me when I’ve said enough.”  (Laughter.)  The Almighty is nudging me.  I thank you for joining us this morning of prayer.  I wish you all a blessed Holy Week and Easter, and I’d like to invite my friend Joel Hunter to deliver the opening prayer.  Come on up, Joel.  (Applause.)

END
9:39 A.M. EDT

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