Full Text Obama Presidency September 16, 2015: President Barack Obama’s remarks to the business roundtable urging against a government shutdown transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President to the Business Roundtable

Source: WH, 9-16-15

Business Roundtable Headquarters
Washington, D.C.

11:24 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Randall, and thank you to everybody here at the Business Roundtable for having me today.  I’m just going to say a few words and then hopefully spend a lot of time taking your questions.

Seven years ago today was one of the worst days in the history of our economy.  If you picked up the Wall Street Journal that morning, you read that the shocks from AIG and Lehman were spreading worldwide.  The day before, stocks had suffered their worst loss since 9/11.  In the months after, businesses would go bankrupt, millions of Americans would lose their jobs and their homes, and our economy would reach the brink of collapse.

That’s where we were when I became chief executive.  Here’s where we are today:  Businesses like yours have created more than 13 million new jobs over the past 66 months -– the longest streak of job growth on record.  The unemployment rate is lower than it’s been in over seven years.  There are more job openings right now than at any time in our history.  Housing has bounced back.  Household wealth is higher than it was before the recession.  We have made enormous strides in both traditional energy sources and clean energy sources while reducing our carbon emissions.  And our education system is actually making significant progress with significant gains in reducing the dropout rate, reading scores increasing, math scores increasing.  And, by the way, more than 16 million people have health insurance that didn’t have it before.

So this progress is a testament to American business and innovation.  It’s a testament to the workers that you employ.  But I’m going to take a little credit, too.  It’s a testament to some good policy decisions.  Soon after we took office, we passed the Recovery Act, rescued our auto industry, worked to rebuild our economy on a stronger foundation for growth.  Other countries in some cases embraced austerity as an ideology without looking at the data and the facts, tried to cut their way out of recession.  The results speak for themselves.  America has come back from crisis faster than almost every other advanced nation on Earth.  And at a time of significant global volatility, we remain the world’s safest, smartest investment.

Of course, I will not be satisfied — and we as a country shouldn’t be satisfied — until more working families are feeling the recovery in their own lives.  But the fact is that what I’ve called middle-class economics has been good for business.  Corporate profits have hit an all-time high.  Slowing health care prices and plummeting energy costs have helped your bottom lines.  Manufacturing is growing at the fastest clip in about two decades.  Our workforce is more educated than ever before.  The stock market has more than doubled since 2009, and 2015 is on pace to be the year with the highest consumer confidence since 2004.  And America’s technological entrepreneurs have continued to make incredible products that are changing our lives rapidly.
Now, you wouldn’t know any of this if you were listening to the folks who are seeking this office that I occupy.  (Laughter.)  In the echo chamber that is presidential politics, everything is dark and everything is terrible.  They don’t seem to offer many solutions for the disasters that they perceive -– but they’re quick to tell you who to blame.

I’m here to say that there’s nothing particularly patriotic or American about talking down America, especially when we stand as one of the few sources of economic strength in the world.

Right now, we’ve got the chance to build on progress that we have made and that is acknowledged worldwide.  We have a chance to grow the economy even faster, create jobs even faster, lift people’s incomes and prospects even faster.  We just have to make some sensible choices.  And I’m going to focus on one particular example.  America’s next fiscal year is almost upon us, which means that Congress has about two weeks to pass a budget.  If they don’t, they will shut down America’s government for the second time in two years.

Democrats are ready to sit down and negotiate with Republicans right now, today, as we speak.  But it should be over legitimate questions of spending and revenue –- not unrelated ideological issues.  You’ll recall that two years ago Republicans shut down the government because they didn’t like Obamacare.  Today, some are suggesting the government should be shut down because they don’t like Planned Parenthood.  That’s not good sense and it’s not good business.  The notion that we’d play chicken with an $18 trillion economy and global markets that are already skittish all because of an issue around a women’s health provider that receives less than 20 cents out of every thousand dollars in the federal budget, that’s not good policymaking.

The last time Republicans shut down the government, it cost our economy billions of dollars; consumer confidence plummeted.  I don’t think anybody here thinks that’s going to be good for your business.

I’ve always believed what our first Republican President, a guy from my home state named Abraham Lincoln, believed –- that through government we should do together those things that we can’t do as well by ourselves.  Funding infrastructure projects.  Educating the best workforce in the world.  Investing in cutting-edge research and development so that businesses can take that research and take some risks to create new products and new services.  Setting basic rules for the marketplace that encourage innovation and fair competition that help a market-based economy thrive.  Creating a safety net that not only helps the most vulnerable in our society but also frees all of us to take risks and protect against life’s uncertainties.  And welcoming, rather than disparaging, the striving immigrants that have always been the source of continued renewal, economic vibrancy and dynamism in our economy.

So my hope is that Congress aims a little higher than just not shutting the government down.  That’s a good start, we’d like them to achieve that, but I think we can do better.  We can actually do some things to help the economy grow.  After the last shutdown, both parties came together and unwound some of the irrational cuts to our economy and military readiness that’s known as sequester.  That agreement expires in two weeks as well.  And for those of you who are not steeped in federal budget terminology, sequester basically are automatic topline cuts that don’t discriminate, don’t think through what are good investments and what is waste.  And if we don’t reverse the cuts that are currently in place, a lot of the drivers of growth that your companies depends on — research, job training, infrastructure, education for our workforce — they are going to be reduced effectively at a time when other countries around the world are racing to get ahead of us.  On the other hand, if Congress does reverse dome of these cuts, then our own budget office estimates it would add about half a million jobs to our economy next year alone, about 0.4 percent to GDP.

And keep in mind that we can afford it right now — all the things I said at the front in terms of the recovery that we’ve made.  We’ve also reduced the deficit by two-thirds.  Right now it’s about 2.8 percent of GDP.  We’ve reduced our deficit faster than some of those countries that pursued strict austerity policies and weren’t thinking about how to grow the economy.

And so we are well positioned without adding to the deficit.  I want to repeat — since I took office, we’ve cut the deficit by more than two-thirds.  And the good news is we might actually be moving beyond some of the stale debates we’ve been having about spending and revenue over the past several years if what economists and people who are knowledgeable about the federal budget are listened to as opposed by this being driven by short-term politics.

People in both parties, including some of the leading Republican candidates for President, have been putting out proposals.  Some I agree with, some I don’t.  I’ll give you one example, though.  You’ve got two leading candidates on the Republican side who have said that we should eliminate the carried interest loophole.  Now, there’s disagreement in this room around that.  But I will tell you that keeping this tax loophole, which leads to folks who are doing very well paying lower rates than their secretaries, is not in any demonstrable way improving our economy.

On the other hand, if we close the tax loophole, we could double the number of workers in America’s job training programs.  We could help another 4 million students afford college.  These are sensible choices that if you were running your business and you took a look at it, you’d make that decision.  Well, America should too.

And this is an example of how we can maintain fiscal responsibility while at the same time making the investments that we need to grow.

So the bottom line is this:  Seven years ago, if we had listened to some politicians who said we could only cut our way to prosperity, the fact is we’d be worse off today.  If we listen to them now, then we’re going to be worse off tomorrow.

I hope that you will talk to your friends in Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike.  As Congress flirts with another shutdown, remind them of what is at stake.  We will have some disagreements sometimes.  I do not expect to get 100 percent of what I want in any conversation, including with my wife.  But I do expect us to stay focused on why we’re here, which is to help the American people and businesses like yours and your workers do better.  That’s our job.  We’re not supposed to be impeding progress.  We’re supposed to be advancing progress, accelerating it.

And if our leaders can put common sense over ideology and the good of the country before the good of the party, then we’ll do just fine.  Despite the perennial doom and gloom that I guess is inevitably part of a presidential campaign, America is winning right now.  America is great right now.  We can do even better.  But the reason that I’m so confident about our future is not because of our government or the size of our GDP or our military, but because everybody in this country that I meet — regardless of their station in life, their race, their religion, the region they live in — they do believe in a common creed that if people work hard in this country, they should be able to get ahead.  And I know that’s what you believe.  That’s the values that you try to instill in our companies, as well.  My hope is, is that that decency, that hard work, that common sense is going to be reflected here in Washington.

So with that, let me take some questions.  And I’m going to start with Randall, because since he volunteered for what I’m sure is a thankless job of being head of the — (laughter).

Q    I’ll get it going here.  I know there are a lot of other questions for you.  But Leader McConnell was just here a little earlier, and he gave us all a cause to exhale, talking about the budget and seemed confident that we would get a place where we would have a budget.  And in the context of that he spoke about how split government can actually provide opportunities for getting big things done that might be hard to get done otherwise.  And he caused a head-snapper with all of us when he gave you a very strong compliment over —

THE PRESIDENT:  My head is snapping.  (Laughter.)  What did I do?

Q    Trade Promotion Authority, and how you worked that and you worked it very aggressively.  And, by the way, all of us in here — Mike Froman, I don’t know if he’s here, and Jeff Zients are very complimentary of the work that was done there.

So now you have the authority to get a trade deal done.  It’s going to have to come back to Congress, and so forth.  Talk to us a little bit about your view of the opportunity to get the Trans-Pacific deal done.

THE PRESIDENT:  I am confident that we can get it done, and I believe we can get it done this year.  The trade ministers should be meeting again sometime in the next several weeks.  They have the opportunity to close the deal.  Most chapters have been completed at this point.  And I’m confident that it will, in fact, accomplish our central goal, which is to make sure that we’ve got a level playing field for American businesses and American workers in the fastest-growing region of the world.

There are going to be unprecedented protections for labor standards and environmental standards, but also for IP protection, also for making sure that when any company here makes an investment, that they’re not being disadvantaged but are instead being treated like domestic companies for commercial purposes.

And so the notion here is, is that we’ve got 11 nations who represent the fastest-growing, most populous part of the world buying into a high-standards trade deal that allows us and your companies on a consistent basis to compete.  And the good news is, is that with a lot of tough negotiating and a lot of pushing and pulling — mainly by Mr. Froman, but occasionally I get called in to lob a call into one of my counterparts — I think that we’re going to get this done.

Now, the key then, once we close the negotiations and we have an agreement, is to get TPP through Congress.  We got it through.  I will return the compliment of Mitch McConnell worked very hard and very creatively to get it done.  We should not assume, though, that because the authority was done, that we automatically are going to be able to get TPP done.

And I’ll be honest with you, the reason is that the politics around trade are tough.  And I said this even in the run-up to getting TPA authority.  A lot of Americans, when they think of trade, think of plants in their hometown or nearby shutting down and moving to Mexico or China, and American manufacturing and good-paying jobs being lost.  That’s the image of trade.

And the argument that I have made consistently to Democrats has been that there may have been some mistakes made in past trade agreements in not, for example, having enforceable labor and environmental provisions that put American companies that are doing the right thing at a disadvantage; that there weren’t enough safeguards for intellectual property and the abuses of state-owned enterprises and subsidies that companies may have been involved with.

But that’s the status quo now.  And if you want to correct those things, we’ve got to raise the bar.  I didn’t fully persuade all my Democratic colleagues, because the politics are tough.  And I was willing to take my case to the Democratic caucus and to talk to my friends in organized labor and say that we can’t look backwards, we’ve got to look forward.  We’re going to have to compete in these areas.

Here’s the concern politically, is that I think within the Republican Party some of the same impulses that are anti-immigration reform, some of the same impulses that see the entire world as a threat and we’ve got to wall ourselves off, some of those same impulses also start creeping into the trade debate.  And a party that traditionally was pro free trade now has a substantial element that may feel differently.

And so the BRT, I think — you know, you got to put Engler to work over there.  To their credit, both Mitch McConnell and John Boehner I think are on the right program here, but they’re going to need some help potentially with their membership, because the closer we get to political season, the tighter some of these votes get.  I will tell you this, though:  I am confident that if I’m presenting an agreement to Congress, that it will meet the commitment that I made that this would be the highest standard, most progressive trade deal in American history.  It will be good for American business and American workers.

Q    Hi, Mr. President.  Thank you for being with us.  I wanted to ask you about cybersecurity.  You put an executive order in place earlier this week because of the issues we have with information-sharing and with liabilities.  And we at the BRT are very supportive of the legislation that has passed the House and is now in progress in the Senate.  And I wanted to just get your thoughts on how you’re thinking about this, and also with the upcoming visit of the President of China about cybersecurity and our relationship with China.

THE PRESIDENT:  This is an issue that is not going away.  It is going to be more and more important, and it is going to be very challenging.  It’s challenging in part because the Internet itself, the architecture of it was not intended to carry trillions of dollars of transactions and everybody’s personal information.  It was designed for a couple of professors to trade academic papers.  And so the kind of security that we were looking for was not embedded into the DNA of the Internet.

And the vulnerabilities are significant and they are being exploited by not just state actors, but also non-state actors and criminal gangs at an accelerating pace.  So this is something that from a national security perspective and from a business perspective we’re going to have to continue to concentrate on.

One of the big issues that you mentioned, Maggie, that we’re focused on, is this encryption issue.  And there is a legitimate tension around this issue.  On the one hand, the stronger the encryption, the better we can potentially protect our data.  And so there’s an argument that says we want to turbocharge our encryption so that nobody can crack it.  On the other hand, if you have encryption that doesn’t have any way to get in there, we are now empowering ISIL, child pornographers, others to essentially be able to operate within a black box in ways that we’ve never experienced before during the telecommunications age.  And I’m not talking, by the way, about some of the controversies around NSA; I’m talking about the traditional FBI going to a judge, getting a warrant, showing probable cause, but still can’t get in.

So we’ve created a process around which to see if we can square the circle here and reconcile the need for greater and greater encryption and the legitimate needs of national security and law enforcement.

And I won’t say that we’ve cracked the code yet, but we’ve got some of the smartest folks not just in government but also in the private sector working together to try to resolve it.  And what’s interesting is even in the private sector, even in the tech community, people are on different sides of this thing.

With respect to China, this will probably be one of the biggest topics that I discuss with President Xi.  We have repeatedly said to the Chinese government that we understand traditional intelligence-gathering functions that all states, including us, engage in.  And we will do everything we can to stop you from getting state secrets or transcripts of a meeting that I’ve had, but we understand you’re going to be trying to do that.  That is fundamentally different from your government or its proxies engaging directly in industrial espionage and stealing trade secrets, stealing proprietary information from companies.  That we consider an act of aggression that has to stop.

And we are preparing a number of measures that will indicate to the Chinese that this is not just a matter of us being mildly upset, but is something that will put significant strains on the bilateral relationship if not resolved, and that we are prepared to some countervailing actions in order to get their attention.

My hope is, is that it gets resolved short of that, and ultimately the goal should be to have some basic international framework that won’t be perfect because there’s still going to be a lot of non-state actors and hackers who are very good, and we’re still going to have to have good defense and still have to be able to find the fingerprints of those and apprehend them, and stop networks that are engaged in cybercrime.

But among states, there has to be a framework that is analogous to what we’ve done with nuclear power because nobody stands to gain.  And, frankly, although the Chinese and Russians are close, we’re still the best at this.  And if we wanted to go on offense, a whole bunch of countries would have some significant problems.  And we don’t want to see the Internet weaponized in that way.  That requires I think some tough negotiations.  That won’t be a one-year process, but we’d like to see if we can — if we and the Chinese are able to coalesce around a process for negotiations, then I think we can bring a lot of other countries along.

Q    And we will work with you on that too.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good.

Q    Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Ursula.

Q    Thank you for being here.  It’s also good to be reminded occasionally of some of the progress that we’ve made in like a complete sentence.  So I think thank you for that, as well.  And some recent ones — TPA is good; even the Iran deal, really good.  Health care standing up.  All good.  The place that we haven’t made a lot of progress but that’s really important for business and business progress is on tax and tax reform.

And what we’re getting to now is I think almost kind of like being backed in the corner.  So since you can’t get a grand deal, we’re starting to talk about sub-deals.  And the sub-deals in and of themselves are destructive, in the Business Roundtable’s view, to the grand deal, which is total tax reform or comprehensive tax reform.  So can you help us think about how we should negotiate this duality that we’re in right now?  And where do you think we’re going to end up?

THE PRESIDENT:  We put forward a proposal early on that I’m confident I could sell to this group.  Not everybody would be thrilled but I think I could argue that over time would be good for business, because essentially what we proposed was the traditional framework for tax reform:  close loopholes, lower rates.  We’d address international taxation in ways that currently put American businesses at a disadvantage and would allow for a repatriation, but would not simply empty out the Treasury and would generate enough revenue that we could actually also pay for some infrastructure.

And our hope was that we’d get some nibbles on the other side.  To his credit, Paul Ryan expressed real interest in discussions and negotiations.  But your previous speaker, Mitch McConnell, has said that he is not interested in getting tax reform — comprehensive tax reform of that sort done.

So there’s still work being done.  We’re still in conversations with Mr. Ryan.  And I know that Senator Schumer and others have still been working on the possibilities of a fairly robust package.  But ultimately you’re going to have to have the leader of the Senate majority party bought in to try to get this done.

I understand why tax reform is elusive — because those of us who believe in a simpler, fairer, more competitive tax framework in the abstract sometimes look at our bottom lines and say, I don’t know, that deduction is helping us pretty good here.  And even if this organization has been supportive, there are other business organizations in town that have some pretty strong influence over the Republican Party that haven’t been as wild on it, partly because their view is, is that the only kind of tax reform that’s acceptable is one that would also lower all rates, regardless of its effect on the deficit.  That’s just not something that is viable.

So we’re going to keep on working on it.  My suggestion would be that the BRT continue to encourage Speaker Boehner, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell to come up with an ambitious package.  And what I can assure you is, is that the White House will take it seriously.  We don’t expect that everything in our original package would go forward.

But the one thing that we couldn’t do — and I get concerned sometimes that what is labeled as tax reform ends up just being cuts, you’re not closing the loopholes, and as a consequence it’s a huge drain on the Treasury.  We then suddenly are accused of running up the deficit to help your tax rates, and we’re not doing enough to help grow the economy and help ordinary workers.  So that’s the one direction we can’t go in.

Yes, Tom.

Q    Thank you for being here.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on energy policy.  I know we talk a lot about all of the above, but I think what’s really changing kind of in an unprecedented way here recently are technology revolutions that are occurring either in the production of energy, or perhaps, more importantly, in the use of energy, that gives Americans I think a way to play offense in what has been a set of unprecedented challenges.  What’s your thoughts on that?

THE PRESIDENT:  Tom, I think you described it well.  I am much more optimistic about our ability to get a handle around energy that is good for our economy, good for business, good for consumers, good for job creation, and maybe saves the planet in the process.  I’m much more optimistic about that now than I was when I started as President.

And a good example is just when you look at what’s happened with solar.  I mean, we’re not quite at Moore’s law yet, but the pace at which the unit costs for solar energy have gone down is stunning.  We’ve seen not quite the same pace, but similar progress around wind.  Our natural gas production is unprecedented.  And I have been very supportive of our natural gas production as being not only important to our economy but also geopolitically.  It’s a huge recipe for energy independence as long as we get it — the methane discharge issues — right.  And I think there are ways of doing that with sound science.  So that’s on the production side.

And, as you said, on the utilization side, all of you are — there’s not a company here that is not producing significantly more product with less energy than you were just 10 years ago, and certainly than you were 20 years ago.  Everybody here has seen the power of tracking utilization, identifying waste, and timing issues around when is energy expensive, when is energy cheap.  So there’s enormous progress on the commercial side.  And then individual households now with things like Nest or the equivalence, we’re able to fine-tune our energy usage in ways that we just haven’t seen before.

And then you’ve got the whole transportation sector in which we’ve continued to make significant progress in Detroit as well as upstarts like Tesla.  There are still some distribution network issues around the transportation revolution, although companies like UPS are doing a great job I think already experimenting with their fleets.  So that’s all good news.

I would say that the big challenge now, if we’re going to realize all the potential here, is to work with utilities so that they have a business model in which they’re making money while seeing this change in distribution patterns and grid, because I think that there’s still some legitimate economic issues there that have to be sorted through.  And it’s tricky because it’s a patchwork system; we don’t have one national grid, obviously.

The second thing is, investment in basic research needs to continue.  Battery technology is greatly improved, but we still haven’t seen all the breakthroughs that I think that we can make with battery technology that would make a huge difference in storage.  And that’s an exciting area for development.

And then I would urge the BRT and some of you individually, as companies have already done this, view the issue of climate change and the Paris Conference that’s going to be coming up at the end of this year as an opportunity rather than as a problem.  Because this is coming; it’s coming generationally.  If you talk to your kids or my kids, they are much more attuned to this issue.  Consumers are going to be caring about it more and more.  The environmental effects that we’re seeing — I’m going to be calling Jerry Brown later today just to talk about California wildfires.  Some of you may have read the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada — lowest it’s been in 200 years.  The flooding problems that we’re already seeing in places like South Florida; it’s just during high tide.  Suddenly billions of dollars of property is under water.

So this is coming.  And for us to be out ahead of it and to think about how our ingenuity and our science can solve these problems is going to give us a jump on everybody else.  So there is a pledge that some members of the BRT have organized around supporting a strong Paris agreement.  I would encourage you to sign up on that and look for opportunities on this.  And that includes companies that have been in the traditional fossil fuel area.  Because if you know how to do oil and gas well, you can figure out how to do solar well, you can figure out to make money doing it.  You can figure out how to create efficiencies that help your bottom line.

And what we’ve tried to do with the Clean Power Plan is to give states flexibility, understanding everybody has got a different energy mix.  So, down south, we approved the first nuclear plant in a generation, basically, because we think nuclear needs to be part of that package.  I’m a big believer that there are going to be different ways to skin the cat on this thing.  We just have to set a baseline in which all of us understand the direction we need to go.  Instead of us spending a lot of time fighting science, let’s go with science.  We usually do better when we’re on the side of facts and evidence and science.  Just as a general rule, that’s proved to be our strength as Americans.

Jim.

Q    If I could just turn back to China for a second.  There are a lot of issues we’ve got to sort out, and you mentioned a couple of them — cybersecurity, their feelings about TPP, their own economy.  Their inward turn in the name of creating a consumer economy has had some protectionist elements that we don’t like.  I think, though — I think many in this room would like to see some kind of positive outcome from this summit, as well, that underlines our mutual benefit if we can figure out some of these things and find a way for the world’s two biggest economies to see a path forward as well as all the issues we’ve got.

Do you have a comment on the tone you’re going to try to set with the President, and roles that we could play in supporting both the — managing our relationship as well as finding a future for it?

THE PRESIDENT:  My tone with respect to China has been pretty consistent.  It doesn’t jump up and down depending on where the polls are.  My view is that China should be and will continue to be an economic competitor; that we need to make sure that we are reaching an understanding with them about our presence as a Pacific power, but that it is in our interest for China to continue what has been dubbed a “peaceful, orderly rise.”  I think that’s good for the world.

China is a big place with a lot of people.  And we’re better off if those people are eating and have shelter and are buying consumer goods, rather than starving and writhing on the streets.
And so what I’ve consistently communicated, first to President Hu when I came into office, now President Xi, is our goal is to have them as a partner in helping to maintain a set of international rules and norms that benefit everybody; that in fact, we’re what facilitated China’s rise.  They were essentially riding on our backs for the last 30 years because we were underwriting peace, security, the free flow of commerce, international rules in the financial sector.

And as they have matured, what we’ve said to them is, with power comes responsibility, so now you’ve got to step up.  You can’t act as if you are a third-world country and pursue protectionist policies, or engage in dumping, or not protect intellectual property at a time when we’re now — when you’re now the second and, eventually, probably the first-largest economy in the world.

You can’t simply pursue an export-driven strategy, because you’re too big.  You’re not going to be able to grow your economy at the same pace over the next 20 years that you did in the last 20 years.  Once your economy reaches a certain size, there’s not enough global market to absorb that, which means that you’ve got to start thinking about transparency within your own economy, and how are you setting up a safety net so that workers have some cushion, and in turn, are willing to spend money as opposed to stuffing it in a mattress.

You’ve got to be concerned about environmental issues, because you can’t breathe in Beijing.  And that spills over for all of us.  And as a large country with a powerful military, you can’t go around pushing your little neighbors around just because you’re bigger, but you have to start abiding by a basic code of conduct and a set of rules, because ultimately, you will be advantaged by everybody following the rules.

And I think in some areas, the Chinese understand this; I think in other areas, they don’t.  I think in other areas, they still see themselves as the poor country that shouldn’t have any obligations internationally.  And in some cases, they still feel that when we call them on issues like their behavior in the South China Sea, or on intellectual property theft, that we are trying to contain them as opposed to us just wanting them to abide by the same rules that helped create an environment in which they can rise.

The good news is that our fates are sufficiently intertwined, that — and in many ways, they still need us a lot more than we need them; that I think that there are going to be continuing areas in which they move, as long as we don’t resort to the kind of loose talk and name-calling that I notice some of our presidential candidates engage in — people you know.  (Laughter.)  It tends not to be constructive.

So bottom line, though, is, Jim, I think this summit will be useful.  I think there are going to be a lot of outcomes around things like energy and climate change, around improvements in how they deal with investors that will show constructive progress.  I think our military-to-military conversations have been much better than they were when I began office.

The one thing I would suggest that the BRT can do — two things.  Number one — and I think I’ve said this to some of you in the past — when your companies have a problem in China and you want us to help, you have to let us help.  Don’t tell us on the side, we’ve got this problem, you need to look into it, but then — but leave our names out of it because we want to be punished kind of thing.

Typically, we are not effective with the Chinese unless we are able to present facts and evidence of a problem.  Otherwise, they’ll just stonewall and slow-walk issues.  So if we’re seeing problems in terms of the competitive environment there, in terms of protecting your IP, in terms of unfair competition that runs afoul of understanding the principles that have already been established, you’ve got to let us know and let us be your advocates.  That’s important.

The second thing I think everybody here should do is not fall into the same trap that we fell into around Japan in the 1980s, which is somehow China is taking over just like Japan was taking over, and we’re in inevitable decline.  This whole argument — I’m just going to go on a quick rant here for a second — (laughter) — this whole notion that somehow we’re getting out-competed, out-dealt, out-this, out-that, we’re losing, we’re in — nobody outside the United States understands what we’re talking about.  (Laughter.)

I mean we’ve got problems.  We’ve got issues.  Our biggest problem is gridlock in Washington and that’s just not making some sensible policies.  But overall, our cards are so much better than everybody else’s.  Our pool of quality businesses and talent, and our institutions, and our rule of law, and how we manage and adapt to new and changing circumstances, and our dominance in knowledge-based industries — nobody matches us.  And we attract — the best talent around the world still wants to come here if we’d just let them come.

So I think it’s important for business voices to point out every once in a while America is in the driver’s seat if we make some smart decisions.   And that’s not a partisan comment, that is just the facts.  There is not a country out there, including China, that wouldn’t look at us with envy right now.

And so our problem is not that China is going to out-negotiate us, or that Mr. Putin is sort of out-strategizing us.  Anybody taken a look at the Russian economy lately?  That’s not our problem.  Our problem is us, typically.  We engage in — and I’m being generous when I say “we,” — (laughter) — but we engage in self-inflicted wounds like this potential government shutdown.  It’s unnecessary.

I’ve got time for a couple more questions.  Good to see you.  How you doing?  How you doing, Ed?  How is everybody back home?

Q    Very good.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good.

Q    Along that, in that same vein, looking earlier this summer, the expiration of the Ex-Im Bank authorization.

THE PRESIDENT:  Speaking of self-inflicted wounds.

Q    Understand.  And part of the ongoing discussion, debate here in Washington, the Senate has attached a reauthorization, as you know, to the transportation bill, which is now down at the House.  And on Monday the Roundtable sent a letter to the leadership on both sides in Congress pointing out really the benefits of reauthorization, that some of those get lost in this debate.  Because really, it’s been characterized as only benefitting a few companies, which ignores the thousands of people who are basically employed by our suppliers across the country, and the impact — positive impact that has, as well as it’s a net generator revenue for the governor — for the government.  And we have plans to have further discussions later today and this week with leadership in the House.

Do you have any — we had a good discussion with your team this morning.  Do you have any insights that you could share with us that would help us in getting that reauthorization?

THE PRESIDENT:  It is mind-boggling that this wasn’t reauthorized a year ago.  And it is this weird reversal in which the principle opponents are the tea party caucus in the Republican Party.

Somehow, Ex-Im Bank has become this cause célèbre of what some of the presidential candidates called “crony capitalism.”  And what’s ironic is obvious — I think some of you know the backstory.  There was I think a member of this organization that kind of started this whole thing because they were upset about some planes being sold to a competitor on a route, and suddenly this caught fire in the right wing Internet.  And it’s just hard to explain.

Look, Ed, I had a group of small businesses, ranging from, what, four people to a couple of hundred people, talking about how they use Ex-Im.  This is the only way that they can get into these markets.  And as you said, Ex-Im doesn’t cost the government.  This is not a money loser for us.  And I don’t have to tell Emil (ph) or Jim how important it is.  I keep on telling them I expect a gold watch from them because it seems like every time I take a foreign trip I’ve got to sell some turbine or plane.  (Laughter.)

And I was concerned about Jeff’s announcement that jobs that were here in the United States are now going to be overseas because we don’t get this done.  But that’s true for the supply chain; it’s also true for some smaller companies that use Ex-Im directly.  It’s not just that they’re part of the GE or Boeing supply chain, it’s that they’re selling tea to a country and this is the only mechanism they have to be able to make those sales.

The good news is McConnell and Boehner both say they want to get it done.  As you said, we’ve already shown there are sufficient votes for it in the Senate, and we actually think there are sufficient votes for it in the House.  I would concentrate your attention on House Republican caucus members.  And I think you have to flood the zone and let them know this is important.  And that includes, by the way, talking to individual members who, in their districts, potentially have companies that are being adversely affected as long as Ex-Im is frozen.

But my expectation is it gets done during the course of these budget negotiations.  And we’re going to push as hard as we can to get it, though.

Q    Mr. President, thank you for being here today.  One of the issues that we deal with and we talked about last time you were here was regulations.  And one of the areas that the Business Roundtable is very focused on these days is the ozone rule, which October 1, your administration will be coming out with a recommendation associated with that.

The Business Roundtable position is that we need to maintain the 75 parts-per-billion.  To lower that standard when technology doesn’t exist and when communities are already advancing toward the 75 goal — if you lower it to 70, it’s going to introduce another 200 counties in this country into non-attainment, which basically is a “we’re not open for business.”  And that’s our concern.  Do you have any thoughts on that, or what the administration’s plans are in that regard?

THE PRESIDENT:  There’s a lot of complicated technical issues involved in this, but I’ll try to simplify it as much as possible.

Number one, we’re under a court order to do this.  So I think there may be a misperception that the EPA can do whatever it wants here.  There were lawsuits brought under the previous administration that continued into my administration.  We went before a judge.  We actually, I think properly, got some additional time, because there was the notion that we were going to lower standards a few years ago, and then immediately get new data and force everybody to lower them all over again.  And we said, let’s just do this one time in a sensible way so that people can plan.

But we’ve got some legal constraints.  This is not something that just popped out of my head full blown.  And so I always enjoy seeing the advertising for “Obama’s ozone plan.”  The ozone rules date back to when I was I think still in law school, before I had any gray hair.  And there are some fairly stringent statutory guidelines by which the EPA is supposed to evaluate the standards.  So the EPA is following the science and the statutes as best as it can.

We are mindful that in some cases, because of the nature of where pollutants are generated, where they blow, that this can create a really complicated situation for certain local jurisdictions and local communities, and some states and counties end up being hit worse than others.  And we’re trying to work with those states and those communities as best we can taking in their concerns into account.

So I guess the bottom line is this is — you can legitimately go after me on the clean power plant rule because we — that was hatched by us, and I believe that we need to deal with climate change and — so we can have a lengthy debate about that.

And on ozone, this is an existing statute and an existing mechanism, and we are charged with implementing it based on the science that’s presented to us.  And that’s what we’re trying to do, but we’re taking this input into account.  I recognize some of the concerns.

I will say this — last point I’ll make on this.  Even with the costs associated with implementing the ozone rule, when you do a cost-benefit, the amount of lives saved, asthma averted and so forth is still substantially higher than the costs.  Now, that doesn’t necessarily resolve all the concerns that people may have about local costs being borne, whereas the savings are spread out more broadly.  And those are legitimate economic issues that have to be considered.  And the EPA has been listening to I think every stakeholder there.

But I think what you’ll see in the analysis overall is — we don’t issue a regulation where the costs are not lower than the benefits.  And if you look at the regulations we’ve generally put forward, the costs are substantially lower than the benefits that are generated.

Okay.

Q    Yes, thank you, Mr. President.  Many of us are interested in Cuba.  And the opening there has been positive.  There is a lot of issues to get to full normal relations.  Just how do you see that path happening?  And what’s the future of that in your opinion?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t think it’s going to be an overnight transformation, but I am convinced that by re-engaging Cuba, re-engaging the Cuban people, that we are creating the environment in which a generational change and transition will take place in that country.  And already you’re seeing conversations taking place about how is Cuba going to accommodate an influx of tourists, and how do they think about the Internet and open communications in order to be able to participate in the modern economy?

And that inevitably then leads to questions about can you hire — can a company hire a Cuban directly, a foreign investor, as opposed to going through the government?  And over time, that creates space for personal freedom and I think a long-term political transition.

For now, what we’ve said is that we will step by step look for areas and opportunities within our authorities.  As long as Congress still has the embargo in place, there are certain things we can’t do.  But there are certain things we can do, for example, on telecommunications, and we’re looking for opportunities there.

And we will also continue to press the Cuban government around issues of political freedom.  And when His Holiness the Pope comes, he’s going to be visiting Cuba.  That I think is going to be an opportunity for more interesting conversations inside of Cuba.

My biggest suggestion would be for the BRT just to start having a conversation on a bipartisan basis about lifting the embargo.  It doesn’t necessarily have to happen — or even should happen all in one fell swoop.  But I think if you look at the economic opportunities that are presented, they’re significant.  And it doesn’t make much sense that a country 90 miles off the shore of Florida that is not at this point a significant threat to us, and that has shown itself willing to at least look beyond its borders for the first time — even if it’s still scared of what it might bring — it doesn’t make sense for us to keep sticking to the old ways of doing business.

I’ll actually take one more question, and then I’ll come around and say hi to everybody.  So anybody else?  Yes, go ahead.

Q    Mr. President, again, thank you.  And I know a topic near to your heart has been education for young folks, and you’ve spent a lot of time on this.  And many of us have done things private-public partnerships.  And you recently made a comment about computer science for all high school kids, which I think is an important point, because technology is such a broad topic.  It will infiltrate all jobs in the future.

So maybe a chance to make some comments about how you envision something like that actually taking root over the long term that we could make some progress with it — on scale.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I want to commend Ginni and IBM because you guys have done some terrific work.  Anybody who wants some inspiration, go to the high school that IBM is participating in in Brooklyn where kids — a collaboration between the public school system, the city colleges of New York, the CUNY system and IBM.

And you’ve got kids from — most of them, parents never went to college.  A lot of them immigrant kids.  And they are marching through STEM education, pre-engineering education.  They’re getting essentially college credits by the time they’re sophomore or juniors in high school.  They’re able to save money because in five years in high school, they come out with an associate’s degree.  They then either are transferring to a four-year university with those credits, or they’re starting to work with IBM because they’ve been apprenticing and the curriculum design has given them confidence that if they do well, they’re going to be able to get a job.

That model is something that we’re actually looking to try to duplicate all across the country.  And the good news, as I mentioned at the top, is because of the strong work that Arne Duncan has done, the strong work that a lot of governors and local communities have done to increase accountability, creativity, have high expectations for kids, bust through some of the old bureaucratic obstacles.

We are seeing highest reading scores, highest math scores, highest graduation rates.  And part of our goal here is to improve STEM education generally.  A critical element of that is understanding this computer age that these kids are immersed.  And I don’t want them just to know how to use their phone to play video games; I want them to know how that phone works, and potentially code it and program it.

And what’s remarkable — I’m about the age where — I think my high school just had, like, the first coding class when I was maybe in seventh or eighth grade.  But this is what — you had, like, those cards, and it was — and the punch cards.  And now, the way these — the tools and resources that are available for kids starting in first, second grade — we have these science fairs and these little Girl Scout troops come in and they’ve coded, they’ve designed their own games, and — or simulations of entire towns with people and all kinds of scenarios that they’ve figured out.

And so it’s actually something that they naturally gravitate to.  We just have to start early.  It’s almost like a foreign language, where rather than try to catch kids when they’re in tenth, eleventh, twelfth grade, they get part of the broader curriculum and incorporate it into how you’re teaching math and how you’re teaching science and how you’re teaching social studies.  That seems to be the way in which kids get most engaged.

So we’re doing a lot of work with many of you individually as companies on this STEM education issue.  We hope that you will continue to participate.  You’ve been great partners on that front.

I’ll just say in closing, it’s always a pleasure to be here.  I want to just reiterate, as we enter into the silly season of politics, that the primary thing that is holding back a lot of potential growth, jobs, improved bottom lines, greater stability is well within our control right now, and are things that traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support — Ex-Im Bank, getting TPP done, financing and executing on an infrastructure policy.  I’ve had conversations with folks like Larry Fink and others about if we’re open to looking at new, creative ways of financing it, but the notion that we’re not doing that right now makes absolutely no sense — investing in research and development.

These are not partisan issues.  There are some areas where there have traditionally been legitimate arguments between Democrats and Republicans.  There are some issues — like on environmental regulations, or financial regulations, where Jamie and I may disagree, or Nick and I may disagree.  And we can have those arguments, and we probably won’t convince each other on some of these things.

But what I’m looking at is the low-hanging fruit that are no-brainers and that nobody here would argue with.  And the notion that we’re not doing them right now because — primarily because a faction within one of our parties has gone off the rails and sees a conspiracy around everything, or simply is opposed to anything I propose even if they used to propose it, that’s a problem.

And I think it’s very important for all of you to just step back and take a look at it, because you still have influence on at least some of those folks.  And challenge them.  Why wouldn’t we do things that everybody knows make sense?

Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
12:34 P.M. EDT

Political Musings October 22, 2013: Obama, GOP approval ratings plummet in new polls, result of shutdown fallout

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama, GOP approval ratings plummet in new polls, result of shutdown fallout

By Bonnie K. Goodman

 

Three new polls released on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 indicate that President Barack Obama, the House Republicans and Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH have not escaped the American public’s blame as a result of the…READ MORE

Political Musings October 18, 2013: President Obama delivers post-shutdown speech blaming GOP, laying out agenda

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama delivers post-shutdown speech blaming GOP, laying out agenda (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama speaking from the White House’s state dining room on Thursday morning, Oct. 17, 2013 delivered his first remarks after signing the bill reopening the government from a 16-day partial shutdown and raised the debt…

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Full Text Obama Presidency October 17, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Reopening of the Government after Shutdown, Lays Out Year-End Agenda

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Reopening of the Government

Source: WH, 10-17-13

President Obama Speaks on Reopening the Government

President Obama Speaks on Reopening the Government

State Dining Room

11:00 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Please have a seat.

Well, last night, I signed legislation to reopen our government and pay America’s bills.  Because Democrats and responsible Republicans came together, the first government shutdown in 17 years is now over.  The first default in more than 200 years will not happen.  These twin threats to our economy have now been lifted.  And I want to thank those Democrats and Republicans for getting together and ultimately getting this job done.

Now, there’s been a lot of discussion lately of the politics of this shutdown.  But let’s be clear:  There are no winners here.  These last few weeks have inflicted completely unnecessary damage on our economy.  We don’t know yet the full scope of the damage, but every analyst out there believes it slowed our growth.

We know that families have gone without paychecks or services they depend on.  We know that potential homebuyers have gotten fewer mortgages, and small business loans have been put on hold.  We know that consumers have cut back on spending, and that half of all CEOs say that the shutdown and the threat of shutdown set back their plans to hire over the next six months.  We know that just the threat of default — of America not paying all the bills that we owe on time — increased our borrowing costs, which adds to our deficit.

And, of course, we know that the American people’s frustration with what goes on in this town has never been higher. That’s not a surprise that the American people are completely fed up with Washington.  At a moment when our economic recovery demands more jobs, more momentum, we’ve got yet another self-inflicted crisis that set our economy back.  And for what?

There was no economic rationale for all of this.  Over the past four years, our economy has been growing, our businesses have been creating jobs, and our deficits have been cut in half. We hear some members who pushed for the shutdown say they were doing it to save the American economy — but nothing has done more to undermine our economy these past three years than the kind of tactics that create these manufactured crises.

And you don’t have to take my word for it.  The agency that put America’s credit rating on watch the other day explicitly cited all of this, saying that our economy “remains more dynamic and resilient” than other advanced economies, and that the only thing putting us at risk is — and I’m quoting here — “repeated brinksmanship.”  That’s what the credit rating agency said.  That wasn’t a political statement; that was an analysis of what’s hurting our economy by people whose job it is to analyze these things.

That also happens to be the view of our diplomats who’ve been hearing from their counterparts internationally.  Some of the same folks who pushed for the shutdown and threatened default claim their actions were needed to get America back on the right track, to make sure we’re strong.  But probably nothing has done more damage to America’s credibility in the world, our standing with other countries, than the spectacle that we’ve seen these past several weeks.  It’s encouraged our enemies.  It’s emboldened our competitors.  And it’s depressed our friends who look to us for steady leadership.

Now, the good news is we’ll bounce back from this.  We always do.  America is the bedrock of the global economy for a reason.  We are the indispensable nation that the rest of the world looks to as the safest and most reliable place to invest — something that’s made it easier for generations of Americans to invest in their own futures.  We have earned that responsibility over more than two centuries because of the dynamism of our economy and our entrepreneurs, the productivity of our workers, but also because we keep our word and we meet our obligations.  That’s what full faith and credit means — you can count on us.
And today, I want our people and our businesses and the rest of the world to know that the full faith and credit of the United States remains unquestioned.

But to all my friends in Congress, understand that how business is done in this town has to change.  Because we’ve all got a lot of work to do on behalf of the American people — and that includes the hard work of regaining their trust.  Our system of self-government doesn’t function without it.  And now that the government is reopened, and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists and the bloggers and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do, and that’s grow this economy; create good jobs; strengthen the middle class; educate our kids; lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul.  That’s why we’re here.  That should be our focus.

Now, that won’t be easy.  We all know that we have divided government right now.  There’s a lot of noise out there, and the pressure from the extremes affect how a lot of members of Congress see the day-to-day work that’s supposed to be done here. And let’s face it, the American people don’t see every issue the same way.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t make progress.  And when we disagree, we don’t have to suggest that the other side doesn’t love this country or believe in free enterprise, or all the other rhetoric that seems to get worse every single year.  If we disagree on something, we can move on and focus on the things we agree on, and get some stuff done.

Let me be specific about three places where I believe we can make progress right now.  First, in the coming days and weeks, we should sit down and pursue a balanced approach to a responsible budget, a budget that grows our economy faster and shrinks our long-term deficits further.

At the beginning of this year, that’s what both Democrats and Republicans committed to doing.  The Senate passed a budget; House passed a budget; they were supposed to come together and negotiate.  And had one side not decided to pursue a strategy of brinksmanship, each side could have gotten together and figured out, how do we shape a budget that provides certainty to businesses and people who rely on government, provides certainty to investors in our economy, and we’d be growing faster right now.

Now, the good news is the legislation I signed yesterday now requires Congress to do exactly that — what it could have been doing all along.

And we shouldn’t approach this process of creating a budget as an ideological exercise — just cutting for the sake of cutting.  The issue is not growth versus fiscal responsibility — we need both.  We need a budget that deals with the issues that most Americans are focused on:  creating more good jobs that pay better wages.

And remember, the deficit is getting smaller, not bigger.  It’s going down faster than it has in the last 50 years. The challenges we have right now are not short-term deficits; it’s the long-term obligations that we have around things like Medicare and Social Security.  We want to make sure those are there for future generations.

So the key now is a budget that cuts out the things that we don’t need, closes corporate tax loopholes that don’t help create jobs, and frees up resources for the things that do help us grow — like education and infrastructure and research.  And these things historically have not been partisan.  And this shouldn’t be as difficult as it’s been in past years because we already spend less than we did a few years ago.  Our deficits are half of what they were a few years ago.  The debt problems we have now are long term, and we can address them without shortchanging our kids, or shortchanging our grandkids, or weakening the security that current generations have earned from their hard work.

So that’s number one.  Number two, we should finish fixing the job of — let me say that again.  Number two, we should finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system.

There’s already a broad coalition across America that’s behind this effort of comprehensive immigration reform — from business leaders to faith leaders to law enforcement.  In fact, the Senate has already passed a bill with strong bipartisan support that would make the biggest commitment to border security in our history; would modernize our legal immigration system; make sure everyone plays by the same rules, makes sure that folks who came here illegally have to pay a fine, pay back taxes, meet their responsibilities.  That bill has already passed the Senate. And economists estimate that if that bill becomes law, our economy would be 5 percent larger two decades from now.  That’s $1.4 trillion in new economic growth.

The majority of Americans think this is the right thing to do.  And it’s sitting there waiting for the House to pass it.  Now, if the House has ideas on how to improve the Senate bill, let’s hear them.  Let’s start the negotiations.  But let’s not leave this problem to keep festering for another year, or two years, or three years.  This can and should get done by the end of this year.

Number three, we should pass a farm bill, one that American farmers and ranchers can depend on; one that protects vulnerable children and adults in times of need; one that gives rural communities opportunities to grow and the long-term certainty that they deserve.

Again, the Senate has already passed a solid bipartisan bill.  It’s got support from Democrats and Republicans.  It’s sitting in the House waiting for passage.  If House Republicans have ideas that they think would improve the farm bill, let’s see them.  Let’s negotiate.  What are we waiting for?  Let’s get this done.

So, passing a budget; immigration reform; farm bill.  Those are three specific things that would make a huge difference in our economy right now.  And we could get them done by the end of the year if our focus is on what’s good for the American people. And that’s just the big stuff.  There are all kinds of other things that we could be doing that don’t get as much attention.

I understand we will not suddenly agree on everything now that the cloud of crisis has passed.  Democrats and Republicans are far apart on a lot of issues.  And I recognize there are folks on the other side who think that my policies are misguided — that’s putting it mildly.  That’s okay.  That’s democracy.  That’s how it works.  We can debate those differences vigorously, passionately, in good faith, through the normal democratic process.

And sometimes, we’ll be just too far apart to forge an agreement.  But that should not hold back our efforts in areas where we do agree.  We shouldn’t fail to act on areas that we do agree or could agree just because we don’t think it’s good politics; just because the extremes in our party don’t like the word “compromise.”

I will look for willing partners wherever I can to get important work done.  And there’s no good reason why we can’t govern responsibly, despite our differences, without lurching from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis.  In fact, one of the things that I hope all of us have learned these past few weeks is that it turns out smart, effective government is important.  It matters.  I think the American people during this shutdown had a chance to get some idea of all the things, large and small, that government does that make a difference in people’s lives.

We hear all the time about how government is the problem.  Well, it turns out we rely on it in a whole lot of ways.  Not only does it keep us strong through our military and our law enforcement, it plays a vital role in caring for our seniors and our veterans, educating our kids, making sure our workers are trained for the jobs that are being created, arming our businesses with the best science and technology so they can compete with companies from other countries.  It plays a key role in keeping our food and our toys and our workplaces safe.  It helps folks rebuild after a storm.  It conserves our natural resources.  It finances startups.  It helps to sell our products overseas.  It provides security to our diplomats abroad.

So let’s work together to make government work better, instead of treating it like an enemy or purposely making it work worse.  That’s not what the founders of this nation envisioned when they gave us the gift of self-government.  You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president, then argue for your position.  Go out there and win an election.  Push to change it. But don’t break it.  Don’t break what our predecessors spent over two centuries building.  That’s not being faithful to what this country is about.

And that brings me to one last point.  I’ve got a simple message for all the dedicated and patriotic federal workers who’ve either worked without pay or been forced off the job without pay these past few weeks, including most of my own staff: Thank you.  Thanks for your service.  Welcome back.  What you do is important.  It matters.

You defend our country overseas.  You deliver benefits to our troops who’ve earned them when they come home.  You guard our borders.  You protect our civil rights.  You help businesses grow and gain footholds in overseas markets.  You protect the air we breathe and the water our children drink.  And you push the boundaries of science and space, and you guide hundreds of thousands of people each day through the glories of this country. Thank you.  What you do is important.  And don’t let anybody else tell you different.  Especially the young people who come to this city to serve — believe that it matters.  Well, you know what, you’re right.  It does.

And those of us who have the privilege to serve this country have an obligation to do our job as best we can.  We come from different parties, but we are Americans first.  And that’s why disagreement cannot mean dysfunction.  It can’t degenerate into hatred.  The American people’s hopes and dreams are what matters, not ours.  Our obligations are to them.  Our regard for them compels us all, Democrats and Republicans, to cooperate, and compromise, and act in the best interests of our nation –- one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

Thanks very much.

END
11:20 A.M. EDT

Political Musings October 17, 2013: Shutdown over: Obama signs, House, Senate pass budget and debt ceiling bill

HISTORY MUSINGS

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

Shutdown over: Obama signs, House, Senate pass budget and debt ceiling bill (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The 16-day partial government shutdown is over after both the Senate and House of Representatives passed a short term spending bill and raised the debt ceiling limit late Wednesday evening, Oct. 16, 2013, President Barack Obama promptly signed the…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 16, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Statement on a Deal to End the Government Shutdown

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President of the United States

Source: WH, 10-16-13

President Obama Delivers a Statement

President Obama Delivers a Statement

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

8:28 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody.  Tonight, the Republicans and Democrats in Congress have come together around an agreement that will reopen our government and remove the threat of default from our economy.

The Senate has now voted to approve this agreement, and Democrats and Republicans in the House still have an important vote to take, but I want to thank the leaders of both parties for getting us to this point.  Once this agreement arrives on my desk, I will sign it immediately.  We’ll begin reopening our government immediately, and we can begin to lift this cloud of uncertainty and unease from our businesses and from the American people.

I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow.  And I’ve got some thoughts about how we can move forward in the remainder of the year and stay focused on the job at hand, because there is a lot of work ahead of us, including our need to earn back the trust of the American people that has been lost over the last few weeks.  And we can begin to do that by addressing the real issues that they care about.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again:  I am willing to work with anybody, I am eager to work with anybody — Democrat or Republican, House or Senate members — on any idea that will grow our economy, create new jobs, strengthen the middle class, and get our fiscal house in order for the long term.  I’ve never believed that Democrats have a monopoly on good ideas.  And despite the differences over the issue of shutting down our government, I’m convinced that Democrats and Republicans can work together to make progress for America.

In fact, there are things that we know will help strengthen our economy that we could get done before this year is out.  We still need to pass a law to fix our broken immigration system.  We still need to pass a farm bill.  And with the shutdown behind us and budget committees forming, we now have an opportunity to focus on a sensible budget that is responsible, that is fair, and that helps hardworking people all across this country.

And we could get all these things done even this year if everybody comes together in a spirit of how are we going to move this country forward and put the last three weeks behind us.  That’s what I believe the American people are looking for — not a focus on politics, not a focus on elections, but a focus on the concrete steps that can improve their lives.  That’s going to be my focus.  I’m looking forward to Congress doing the same.

But, once again, I want to thank the leadership for coming together and getting this done.  Hopefully, next time, it won’t be in the 11th hour.  One of the things that I said throughout this process is we’ve got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis.  And my hope and expectation is everybody has learned that there is no reason why we can’t work on the issues at hand, why we can’t disagree between the parties while still being agreeable, and make sure that we’re not inflicting harm on the American people when we do have disagreements.

So hopefully that’s a lesson that will be internalized, not just by me but also by Democrats and Republicans, not only the leaders but also the rank and file.

Thanks very much, everybody.

Q    Mr. President, isn’t this going to happen all over again in a few months?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  (Laughter.)

END
8:31 P.M. EDT

Political Musings October 16, 2013: Senate again responsible for deals ending shutdown and raising the debt ceiling

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Senate again responsible for deals ending shutdown and raising the debt ceiling

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The Senate is again responsible for passing bills to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling before the deadline, after the House GOP on Tuesday evening, Oct. 15, 2013 failed another attempt to secure a plan ending the…READ MORE

Political Musings October 16, 2013: House GOP fails again to agree on deal to end shutdown, raise debt ceiling

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House GOP fails again to agree on deal to end shutdown, raise debt ceiling

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Republican leadership in the House of Representatives tried again on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 to create short-term bills to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling limit, to avert any further crisis, which failed to lead even…READ MORE

Political Musings October 14, 2013: Senate at impasse over shutdown and debt deals with US sitting on the brink

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Senate at impasse over shutdown and debt deals with US sitting on the brink

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Nearly two days after commencing negotiations, and two weeks after the start of the government shutdown at the end of Sunday, October 13, 2013, the Senate Democrats and Republicans are at an impasse in agreeing on a deal that would…READ MORE

Political Musings October 14, 2013: Senate at impasse over shutdown and debt deals with US sitting on the brink

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Senate at impasse over shutdown and debt deals with US sitting on the brink

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Nearly two days after commencing negotiations, and two weeks after the start of the government shutdown at the end of Sunday, October 13, 2013, the Senate Democrats and Republicans are at an impasse in agreeing on a deal that would…READ MORE

Political Musings October 13, 2013: Obama, GOP focus on ending government shutdown, debt deal in weekly addresses

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Obama, GOP focus on ending government shutdown, debt deal in weekly addresses (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

For the second week in a row both President Barack Obama and the Republican Party devoted their weekly addresses released on Saturday morning, Oct. 12, 2013 to the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis. The addresses were delivered over…READ MORE

Political Musings October 11, 2013: President Obama refuses GOP proposed debt ceiling deal after White House meeting

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Political Musings October 9, 2013: President Obama caving in? Boehner gets White House meeting over government shutdown

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Obama caving in? Boehner gets White House meeting over government shutdown

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, R-OH may be getting the negotiations he has been requesting all through the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis. First on Wednesday morning Oct. 9, 2013 Boehner met with House Minority…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 9, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Nominating Dr. Janet Yellen as Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

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Remarks by the President in Nominating Dr. Janet Yellen as Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Source: WH, 10-9-13 

State Dining Room

3:16 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  Over the past five years, America has fought its way back from the worst recession since the Great Depression.  We passed historic reforms to prevent another crisis and to protect consumers.  Over the past three and half years, our businesses have created 7.5 million new jobs.  Our housing market is rebounding.  Manufacturing is growing.  The auto industry has come roaring back.  And since I took office, we’ve cut the deficit in half.

I think everybody understands we’ve still got a lot of work to do to rebuild the middle class, but we’ve made progress.  And we shouldn’t do anything to threaten that progress — for these hard-won gains have made a difference to millions of Americans.  And, in part, we can thank the extraordinary grit and resilience of the American people; in part, we can thank the dynamism of our businesses.  But a lot of it also has to do with the choices we’ve made as a nation to create more jobs and more growth.  And one of the most important contributors to this whole process has been the Federal Reserve, under the strong leadership of Ben Bernanke.

For nearly eight years, Ben has led the Fed through some of the most daunting economic challenges of our lifetime.  For some time now he’s made it clear that he intends to finish his service as chairman at the end of his term, which is this January.  So, today I just want to take a minute to pay tribute to Ben for his extraordinary service.  But I also want to announce my choice for the next chair of the Federal Reserve, one of the nation’s foremost economists and policymakers — current Vice Chairman Janet Yellen.

After I became President, I was proud to nominate Ben for a second term.  And while the Fed is, and must always be, independent, I want you to know, Ben, I’m personally very grateful to you for being such a strong partner in helping America recover from recession.

Perhaps it’s no surprise — as the son of a pharmacist and a school teacher — that Ben Bernanke is the epitome of calm.  And against the volatility of global markets, he’s been a voice of wisdom and a steady hand.  At the same time, when faced with a potential global economic meltdown, he has displayed tremendous courage and creativity.  He took bold action that was needed to avert another Depression — helping us stop the free fall, stabilize financial markets, shore up our banks, get credit flowing again.

And all this has made a profound difference in the lives of millions of Americans.  A lot of people aren’t necessarily sure what the chairman of the Federal Reserve does, but thanks to this man to the left of me, more families are able to afford their own home; more small businesses are able to get loans to expand and hire workers; more folks can pay their mortgages and their car loans.  It’s meant more growth and more jobs.

And I’d add that with his commitment to greater transparency and clarity, he’s also allowed us to better understand the work of the Fed.  Ben has led a new era of “Fedspeak” and been a little more clear about how the system works.  And that is good for our democracy.

And I have to tell you, as I travel around the world, the job of the Fed chair is not just our top monetary policymaker.  The world looks to the American Fed chair for leadership and guidance.  And the degree to which Ben is admired and respected, and the degree to which central bankers all across the world look to him for sound advice and smart policymaking is remarkable.  He has truly been a stabilizing force not just for our country, but for the entire world.  And I could not be more grateful for his extraordinary service.

And so, Ben, to you and your wife Anna, and your children Joel and Alyssa, I want to thank you for your outstanding service.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

Now, as I’ve said, the decision on who will succeed Ben is one of the most important economic decisions that I’ll make as President — one of the most important appointments that any President can make — because the chair of the Fed is one of the most important policymakers in the world, and the next chair will help guide our economy after I’ve left office.

I’ve considered a lot of factors.  Foremost among them is an understanding of the Fed’s dual mandate — sound monetary policy to make sure that we keep inflation in check, but also increasing employment and creating jobs, which remains our most important economic challenge right now.

And I’ve found these qualities in Janet Yellen.  She’s a proven leader and she’s tough — not just because she’s from Brooklyn.  (Laughter.)  Janet is exceptionally well-qualified for this role.  She’s served in leadership positions at the Fed for more than a decade.  As Vice Chair for the past three years, she’s been exemplary and a driving force of policies to help boost our economic recovery.

Janet is renowned for her good judgment.  She sounded the alarm early about the housing bubble, about excesses in the financial sector, and about the risks of a major recession.  She doesn’t have a crystal ball, but what she does have is a keen understanding about how markets and the economy work — not just in theory but also in the real world.  And she calls it like she sees it.

Janet also knows how to build consensus.  She listens to competing views and brings people together around a common goal. And as one of her admirers says, “She’s the kind of person who makes everybody around her better.”  Not surprisingly, she is held in high esteem by colleagues across the country and around the world who look to the United States, as I said, and the Fed for leadership.

Janet is committed to both sides of the Fed’s dual mandate, and she understands the necessity of a stable financial system where we move ahead with the reforms that we’ve begun — to protect consumers, to ensure that no institution is too big to fail, and to make sure that taxpayers are never again left holding the bag because of the mistakes of the reckless few.

And at the same time, she’s committed to increasing employment, and she understands the human costs when Americans can’t find a job.  She has said before, “These are not just statistics to me.  The toll is simply terrible on the mental and physical health of workers, on their marriages, on their children.”  So Janet understands this.  And America’s workers and their families will have a champion in Janet Yellen.

So, Janet, I thank you for taking on this new assignment.  And given the urgent economic challenges facing our nation, I urge the Senate to confirm Janet without delay.  I am absolutely confident that she will be an exceptional chair of the Federal Reserve.  I should add that she’ll be the first woman to lead the Fed in its 100-year history.  And I know a lot of Americans — men and women — thank you for not only your example and your excellence, but also being a role model for a lot of folks out there.

It’s been said that Janet found love at the Federal Reserve — literally.  (Laughter.)  This is where she met her husband George, a celebrated economist in his own right.  And their son Robert is an economist as well.  So you can imagine the conversations around the dinner table might be a little different than ours.  (Laughter.)  In fact, I’ve been told their idea of a great family vacation is the beach — with a suitcase full of economics books.  (Laughter.)  But this is a family affair.  We thank George and Robert for their support as Janet begins this journey.

Again, I want to thank Ben Bernanke for the outstanding work that he’s done, and obviously he will continue to help keep our economy moving forward during the remainder of his tenure here.  So we’ll probably have occasion for additional good-byes.  And I know that Janet is very much counting on him to give some good advice as she moves into the chairman spot.

But with this, I’d like to give Janet a chance to say a few words.  (Applause.)

DR. YELLEN:  Thank you, Mr. President.  I’m honored and humbled by the faith that you’ve placed in me.  If confirmed by the Senate, I pledge to do my upmost to keep that trust and meet the great responsibilities that Congress has entrusted to the Federal Reserve — to promote maximum employment, stable prices, and a strong and stable financial system.

I’d also like to thank my spouse, George, and my son, Robert.  I couldn’t imagine taking on this new challenge without their love and support.

The past six years have been tumultuous for the economy and challenging for many Americans.  While I think we all agree, Mr. President, that more needs to be done to strengthen the recovery, particularly for those hardest hit by the Great Recession, we have made progress.  The economy is stronger and the financial system sounder.

As you said, Mr. President, considerable credit for that goes to Chairman Bernanke, for his wise, courageous and skillful leadership.  It has been my privilege to serve with him and learn from him.

While we have made progress, we have farther to go.  The mandate of the Federal Reserve is to serve all the American people, and too many Americans still can’t find a job and worry how they’ll pay their bills and provide for their families.  The Federal Reserve can help if it does its job effectively.  We can help ensure that everyone has the opportunity to work hard and build a better life.  We can ensure that inflation remains in check and doesn’t undermine the benefits of a growing economy.
We can, and must, safeguard the financial system.

The Fed has powerful tools to influence the economy and the financial system.  But I believe its greatest strength rests in its capacity to approach important decisions with expertise and objectivity, to vigorously debate diverse views and then to unite behind its response.

The Fed’s effectiveness depends on the commitment, ingenuity and integrity of the Fed staff and my fellow policymakers.  They serve America with great dedication.

Mr. President, thank you for giving me this opportunity to continue serving the Federal Reserve and carrying out its important work on behalf of the American people.  (Applause.)

END                3:29 P.M. EDT

Political Musings October 8, 2013: President Obama holds press conference on government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis

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Obama holds press conference on government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

With the government shutdown entering its second week, President Barack Obama held an unplanned press conference on the shutdown and debt ceiling crisis on Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 8, 2013 in the White House Press Briefing Room, where he reiterated his…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 8, 2013: President Barack Obama’s press conference on the shutdown and debt limit — Transcript

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TRANSCRIPT: President Obama’s Oct. 8 news conference on the shutdown and debt limit

Source: WaPo, 10-8-13

Video: President Obama addressed the nation Tuesday regarding the government shutdown, telling Congress to take a vote on a continuing resolution to end the government shutdown.

President Obama delivered a statement and took questions from reporters on the partial government shutdown and the looming fight over raising the federal debt ceiling on Oct. 8 at the White House.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon, everybody. I am eager to take your questions, so I’ll try to be brief at the top.This morning I had a chance to speak with Speaker Boehner. And I told him what I’ve been saying publicly, that I am happy to talk with him and other Republicans about anything — not just issues I think are important but also issues that they think are important. But I also told him that having such a conversation, talks, negotiations shouldn’t require hanging the threats of a government shutdown or economic chaos over the heads of the American people.

Think about it this way, the American people do not get to demand a ransom for doing their jobs. You don’t get a chance to call your bank and say I’m not going to pay my mortgage this month unless you throw in a new car and an Xbox. If you’re in negotiations around buying somebody’s house, you don’t get to say, well, let’s talk about the price I’m going to pay, and if you don’t give the price then I’m going to burn down your house. That’s not how negotiations work. That’s not how it happens in business. That’s not how it happens in private life.

In the same way, members of Congress, and the House Republicans in particular, don’t get to demand ransom in exchange for doing their jobs. And two of their very basic jobs are passing a budget and making sure that America’s paying its bills. They don’t also get to say, you know, unless you give me what the voters rejected in the last election, I’m going to cause a recession.

That’s not how it works. No American president would deal with a foreign leader like this. Most of you would not deal with either co- workers or business associates in this fashion. And we shouldn’t be dealing this way here in Washington.

And you know, I’ve heard Republicans suggest that, well, no, this is reasonable, that this is entirely appropriate. But as I’ve said before, imagine if a Democratic Congress threatened to crash the global economy unless a Republican president agreed to gun background checks or immigration reform. I think it’s fair to say that Republicans would not think that was appropriate.

So let’s lift these threats from our families and our businesses, and let’s get down to work. It’s not like this is a new position that I’m taking here. I had Speaker Boehner and the other leaders in just last week. Either my chief of staff or I have had serious conversations on the budget with Republicans more than 20 times since March.

So we’ve been talking all kinds of business. What we haven’t been able to get are serious positions from the Republicans that would allow us to actually resolve some core differences. And they have decided to run out the clock until there’s a government shutdown or the possibility of default, thinking that it would give them more leverage. That’s not my characterization. They’ve said it themselves. That was their strategy from the start. And that is not how our government is supposed to run.

Political Musings October 7, 2013: Boehner, Obama stand firm on debt ceiling limit

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Boehner, Obama stand firm on debt ceiling limit (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, R-OH emphasized in an interview on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013 on ABC News’ This Week with George Stephanopoulos the importance of President Barack Obama negotiating with House Republicans to end…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 7, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at FEMA Headquarters about the Government Shutdown

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Remarks by the President at FEMA Headquarters

Source: WH, 10-7-13

President Obama Delivers Remarks at FEMA Headquarters

President Obama Delivers Remarks at FEMA Headquarters

FEMA Headquarters
Washington, D.C.

12:30 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m here at FEMA for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I want to thank Craig Fugate and his entire team, and the incredible workers who are here at FEMA.  They are having to, under less than optimal situations, still respond to Mother Nature, which doesn’t stop just because the government has shut down.

I wanted to get initially a briefing on what had happened with Hurricane Karen, became Tropical Karen, and then fortunately dissipated, so we dodged a bullet there.  In the meantime, we’re on tornado watch here in the Mid-Atlantic states because of severe weather patterns.  And we’ve got blizzards up north, we’ve got some weather patterns in the middle of the country that we’re still monitoring.  And so I just want to say thank you to all of you for the incredible work that you’re doing.

I think it’s important to understand that the people here at FEMA have been doing everything they can to respond to potential events.  Here at FEMA, they’re in touch with their state and local partners in case resources are needed.  FEMA remains prepared for natural disasters year around, with supplies pre-positioned in distribution centers across the country.

But their job has been made more difficult.  Thanks to the folks at FEMA, we were prepared for what might have happened down in Florida.  Nevertheless, the government is still shut down, services are still interrupted, and hundreds of thousands of hardworking public servants, including many FEMA professionals, are still furloughed without pay, or they’re not allowed to work at all.

So Craig was just explaining to me here at FEMA — about 86 percent of the FEMA workforce is furloughed.  In response to the potential event that might have happened down in Florida and along the coasts, Craig called back 200 of those workers.  Keep in mind, calling them back doesn’t mean they were getting paid, it just means they had the privilege of working without pay to make sure that they were doing everything they can to respond to the potential needs of their fellow citizens.

Now that this particular storm has dissipated, Craig is going to have to re-furlough at least 100 of those folks who were called back.  So think about that.  Here you are, somebody who’s a FEMA professional dedicated to doing your job; at a moment’s notice you’re willing to show up here in case people got in trouble and respond to them, even though you’re not getting paid, even though you don’t have certainty.  And now you’re being put back on furlough because the government is shut down.  That’s no way of doing business.

That, by the way, just speaks to the day-to-day emergencies that may come up and that is FEMA’s job to respond to.  Craig was also explaining the fact that when it comes to training first responders, for example, we have on a weekly basis already scheduled training for first responders that now have to be rescheduled.  It will probably end up ultimately costing the government more money for us to put those things back together again.  And so not only is this shutdown hurting FEMA workers, not only is it making it more difficult for us to respond to potential natural disasters, but it may actually end up costing taxpayers more than it should.

Right now, Congress should do what’s in the best interest of the economy and the American people, and that’s move beyond this manufactured crisis and work together to focus on growth, jobs, and providing the vital services that Americans all across the country depend on, including the services that FEMA provides.

I heard a lot of talk over the weekend that the real problem is, is that the President will not negotiate.  Well, let me tell you something — I have said from the start of the year that I’m happy to talk to Republicans about anything related to the budget.  There’s not a subject that I am not willing to engage in, work on, negotiate, and come up with common-sense compromises on.

What I’ve said is that I cannot do that under the threat that if Republicans don’t get 100 percent of their way, they’re going to either shut down the government or they are going to default on America’s debt so that America for the first time in history does not pay its bills.  That is not something I will do.  We’re not going to establish that pattern.

We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of further harm to our economy and middle-class families.  We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of a prolonged shutdown until Republicans get 100 percent of what they want.  We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of economic catastrophe that economists and CEOs increasingly warn would result if Congress chose to default on America’s obligations.

Now, the other thing I heard over the weekend was this notion that Congress doesn’t have the capacity to end this shutdown.  The truth of the matter is there are enough Republican and Democratic votes in the House of Representatives right now to end this shutdown immediately, with no partisan strings attached.  The House should hold that vote today.  If Republicans and Speaker Boehner are saying there are not enough votes, then they should prove it.  Let the bill go to the floor and let’s see what happens.  Just vote.  Let every member of Congress vote their conscience and they can determine whether or not they want to shut the government down.

My suspicion is — my very strong suspicion is that there are enough votes there.  And the reason that Speaker Boehner hasn’t called a vote on it is because he doesn’t, apparently, want to see the government shutdown end at the moment unless he’s able to extract concessions that don’t have anything to do with the budget.  Well, I think the American people simply want government to work.  And there’s no reason that there has to be a shutdown in order for the kinds of negotiations Speaker Boehner says he wants to proceed.  Hold a vote.  Call a vote right now, and let’s see what happens.

The second thing Congress needs to do is to raise the debt ceiling next week so the Treasury can pay the bills that Congress has already spent.  That’s what most Americans do if they buy something — if they buy a car or if they buy a house, if they put something on a credit card, they understand they’ve got to pay the bills.

This is something routine.  It’s been done more than 40 times since Ronald Reagan was President.  It has never before been used in the kind of ways that the Republicans are talking about using it right now.  We can’t threat an economic catastrophe in the midst of budget negotiations.

So authorize the Treasury to pay America’s bill.  Pass a budget, end the government shutdown, pay our bills, and prevent an economic shutdown.

And as soon as that happens, I am eager and ready to sit down and negotiate with Republicans on a whole range of issues:  How do we create more jobs?  How do we grow the economy?  How do we boost manufacturing?  How do we make sure our kids are getting a first-class education?  All those things will be on the table.  I’m happy to talk about health care; happy to talk about energy policy; how do we deal with our long-term fiscal situation.

All those things I’ve been eager and anxious to talk to Republicans about for the last seven months, and I’ve put out a budget that specifically lays out my vision for how we’re going to grow this economy.  And I expect the Republicans should do the same, and we can negotiate it.  But we shouldn’t hurt a whole bunch of people in order for one side to think that they’re going to have a little more leverage in those negotiations.

Last point I’m going to make:  The bill that is being presented to end the government shutdown reflects Republican priorities.  It’s the Republican budget.  The funding levels of this short-term funding bill, called the CR, is far lower than what Democrats think it should be.  Nevertheless, Democrats are prepared to put the majority of votes on to reopen the government.  So when you hear this notion that Democrats aren’t compromising — we’re compromising so much we’re willing to reopen the government at funding levels that reflect Republican wishes, don’t at all reflect our wishes.

For example, here at FEMA, they’re still subject to the sequester, so even before the shutdown they were having trouble making sure that everybody was staying on the job and fulfilling all of their various functions.  We need to get that sequester lifted that’s been hanging over the head of the economy and federal agencies during the course of this entire year.

This short-term legislation to reopen the government doesn’t even address that.  That has to be done in a broader budget framework.

So Democrats have said we are willing to pass a bill that reflects the Republicans’ priorities in terms of funding levels.  That’s a pretty significant compromise.  What we’re not willing to do is to create a permanent pattern in which unless you get your way the government is shut down or America defaults.  That’s not how we do business in this country, and we’re not going to start now.

So, again, I want to thank everybody at FEMA here for the extraordinary work that you’re doing.  You show each and every day that you take your responsibilities seriously.  You do your jobs with consummate professionalism.  And hopefully you’re setting a good example for members of Congress.  They need to be doing the same thing.  And if they do, then there’s no reason why we all can’t move forward and make sure that we’re taking care of America’s business.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END
12:41 P.M. EDT

Political Musings October 6, 2013: First week of government shutdown ends, but Obama, GOP stalemate continues

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First week of government shutdown ends, but Obama, GOP stalemate continues (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

As the first week of the government shutdown came to a close on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, the only aspect President Barack Obama, the Democrats and Republicans agree on is that the government shutdown needs to end and that the…READ MORE

Political Musings October 5, 2013: President Obama and GOP continue government shutdown blame game in weekly addresses

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Obama and GOP continue government shutdown blame game in weekly addresses (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

As the government shutdown entered its fifth day with no end in sight on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 President Barack Obama delivered his weekly address and Republican Sen. John Cornyn from Texas delivered the GOP weekly address, each urging the…READ MORE

Political Musings October 3, 2013: President Obama’s meeting with Congressional leaders futile, government shutdown continues

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Obama’s meeting with Congressional leaders futile, government shutdown continues (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

With the government shutdown already in its second day President Barack Obama finally relented on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013 and met with Congressional leaders at the White House in effort to end the crisis. Obama has taken a hands-off…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 3, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economic Impact of the Government Shutdown in Rockville, Maryland

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Government Shutdown

Source: WH, 10-3-13 

President Obama Speaks on the Economic Impact of the Government Shutdown

President Obama Speaks on the Economic Impact of the Government Shutdown

M. Luis Construction Company, Rockville, Maryland

10:49 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Good to see all of you.  Please, please have a seat.  Well, hello, Rockville!

Let me start by recognizing three public servants who fight hard every day for Maryland families and businesses.  First of all, Congressman Chris Van Hollen is here.  (Applause.)  Yay, Chris!  Congressman John Delaney is here.  (Applause.)  And we have the acting head of the Small Business Administration — Jeanne Hulit is here.  (Applause.)

And I also want to give a big thanks to your bosses, Cidalia and Natalia, for being such gracious hosts.  I had a chance to meet them at the White House.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Now I know where they got their good looks from, because I had a chance to meet mom and dad, and their beautiful families.  So I’m so glad to be here.  And I had a chance to learn a little bit about their story.  So when their parents brought them from Portugal to America almost 40 years ago, no one in the family spoke a word of English.  But that didn’t stop their father, Manuel, and their mother, Albertina, from having a big dream — believing that if they worked hard, they could get ahead, and that even though they’d never had any schooling, maybe their daughters could go to college; maybe in America you could make it if you tried.  That’s what they believed.

So they started their own construction company with a pickup truck and a wheelbarrow.  And when Cidalia and Natalia turned 14, they began to help — cleaning tools, translating documents.  And they became the first in their family to go to college.  After graduation, they started their own business, and later they bought the family business from their parents.  So today, M. Luis Construction is a $60 million company with about 250 employees.  (Applause.)  And I understand you’re opening your fourth office at the end of this month.  So this story is what America is all about.  You start off — maybe you don’t have a lot — but you’re willing to work hard, you put in the time, opportunities out there, and you’re able to pass on an even better life to your family, your children, your grandchildren.

And it’s good news that after how hard the construction industry got hit during the recession, things are starting to get a little better.  Remember, it was just five years ago that our economy was in free fall.  Businesses were shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs every single month, and the recession ultimately cost millions of Americans their jobs, their homes, their savings — everything they had worked hard to build.

Today, over the last three and a half years, our businesses have added 7.5 million new jobs.  (Applause.)  Our deficits are falling.  Our housing market is healing, which means construction is improving; manufacturing is growing; the auto industry is back.  America is on pace to become the number one energy producer in the world this year.  (Applause.)  More small businesses have gotten loans so they can grow and they can hire — just like M. Luis did with the help of the Small Business Jobs Act that I signed three years ago.  So that’s part of what allowed this company to grow.  (Applause.)

So we still have a long way to go.  We’ve still got a lot of work to do, especially to rebuild the middle class.  But we’re making steady progress.  And the reason I’m here is, we can’t afford to threaten that progress right now.  Right now, hundreds of thousands of Americans, hardworking Americans, suddenly aren’t receiving their paycheck.  Right now, they’re worrying about missing the rent, or their mortgage, or even making ends meet.  We can all relate to that.  Imagine if suddenly you weren’t sure whether you were going to get your next paycheck, with all the bills that might be mounting up.  Well, that’s what’s happening right now to hundreds of thousands of Americans across the country.

Companies like this one worried that their businesses are going to be disrupted, because obviously, particularly in an area like Maryland, Virginia, where there are a lot of federal workers, you don’t know how that’s going to impact the economy.  Veterans, seniors, women — they’re all worrying that the services they depend on will be disrupted too.

And the worst part is, this time it’s not because of a once-in-a-lifetime recession.  This isn’t happening because of some financial crisis.  It’s happening because of a reckless Republican shutdown in Washington.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  That’s right!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, we’ve all seen the offices locked down, the monuments closed.  We’ve heard about services denied, we’ve heard about benefits that are delayed.  But the impacts of a shutdown go way beyond those things that you’re seeing on television.  Those hundreds of thousands of Americans — a lot of whom live around here — don’t know when they’re going to get their next paycheck, and that means stores and restaurants around here don’t know if they’ll have as many customers.

Across the country you’ve got farmers in rural areas and small business owners who deserve a loan, but they’re being left in the lurch right now.  They might have an application pending as we speak, but there’s nobody in the office to process the loan.  The SBA gives a billion dollars of loans a month to small businesses — a billion dollars a month goes to small businesses all across the country.  Right now those can’t be processed because there’s nobody there to process them.

Veterans who deserve our support are getting less help.  Little kids who deserve a Head Start have been sent home from the safe places where they learn and grow every single day.  And of course, their families then have to scramble to figure out what to do.  And the longer this goes on, the worse it will be.  And it makes no sense.

The American people elected their representatives to make their lives easier, not harder.  And there is one way out of this reckless and damaging Republican shutdown:  Congress has to pass a budget that funds our government with no partisan strings attached.  (Applause.)

Now, I want everybody to understand what’s happened, because sometimes when this gets reported on everybody kind of thinks, well, you know, both sides are just squabbling; Democrats and Republicans, they’re always arguing, so neither side is behaving properly.  I want everybody to understand what’s happened here.  The Republicans passed a temporary budget for two months at a funding level that we, as Democrats, actually think is way too low because we’re not providing help for more small businesses, doing more for early childhood education, doing more to rebuild our infrastructure.  But we said, okay, while we’re still trying to figure out this budget, we’re prepared to go ahead and take the Republican budget levels that they proposed.

So the Senate passed that with no strings attached — not because it had everything the Democrats wanted.  In fact, it had very little that the Democrats wanted.  But we said, let’s go ahead and just make sure that other people aren’t hurt while negotiations are still taking place.

So that’s already passed the Senate.  And we know there are enough Republicans and Democrats to vote in the House of Representatives for the same thing.  So I want everybody to understand this:  There are enough Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives today that, if the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, simply let the bill get on the floor for an up-or-down vote, every congressman could vote their conscience  — the shutdown would end today.

The only thing that is keeping the government shut down; the only thing preventing people from going back to work and basic research starting back up, and farmers and small business owners getting their loan — the only thing that’s preventing all that from happening, right now, today, in the next five minutes, is that Speaker John Boehner won’t even let the bill get a yes-or-no vote, because he doesn’t want to anger the extremists in his party.  That’s all.  That’s what this whole thing is about.

We’ve heard a lot from congressional Republicans in the past couple of days saying they don’t want this shutdown.  Well, there’s a simple way to prove it.  Send the bill to the floor, let everybody vote — it will pass.  Send me the bill; I will sign it.  The shutdown will be over and we can get back to the business of governing and helping the American people.  (Applause.)

It could happen in the next half hour.  National parks, monuments, offices would all reopen immediately.  Benefits and services would resume again.  Hundreds of thousands of dedicated public servants who are worrying about whether they’re going to be able to pay the mortgage or pay the car note, they’d start going back to work right away.  So my simple message today is:  Call a vote.  Call a vote.

AUDIENCE:  Call a vote!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Put it on the floor and let every individual member of Congress make up their own minds.  And they can show the American people, are you for a shutdown or not?  If you’re not for a shutdown, you’ll vote for the bill; if you’re for a shutdown, you won’t vote for a bill.  We don’t have to twist anybody’s arms.  But that way, the American people will be clear about who is responsible for the shutdown.  Or, alternatively, more hopefully, they’d be clear that this is something that doesn’t make sense and we should go ahead and make sure that we’re looking out for the American people.  It should be that simple.

But as I said, the problem we’ve got is that there’s one faction of one party, in one half of one branch of government that so far has refused to allow that yes-or-no vote unless they get some massive partisan concessions in exchange for doing what they’re supposed to be doing anyway, in exchange for doing what everybody else agrees is necessary.  And they won’t agree to end the shutdown until they get their way.  And you may think I’m exaggerating, but just the other day, one tea party Republican called the idea of a shutdown “wonderful.”  Another said that a shutdown is “exactly what we wanted.”  Well, they got exactly what they wanted.  Now they’re trying to figure out how to get out of it.

Just yesterday, one House Republican said — I’m quoting here, because I want to make sure people understand I didn’t make this up.  One House Republican said, “We’re not going to be disrespected.  We have to get something out of this.  And I don’t know what that even is.”  That was a quote.  “We’re not going to be disrespected.  We have got to get something out of this.  And I don’t know what that even is.”  Think about that.

You have already gotten the opportunity to serve the American people.  There is no higher honor than that.  (Applause.)  You’ve already gotten the opportunity to help businesses like this one, workers like these.  So the American people aren’t in the mood to give you a goodie bag to go with it.  What you get is our intelligence professionals being back on the job.  What you get is our medical researchers back on the job.  (Applause.)  What you get are little kids back into Head Start.  (Applause.)  What you get are our national parks and monuments open again.  What you get is the economy not stalling, but continuing to grow.  (Applause.)  What you get are workers continuing to be hired.  That’s what you get.  That’s what you should be asking for.  Take a vote, stop this farce, and end this shutdown right now.  (Applause.)

If you’re being disrespected, it’s because of that attitude you got that you deserve to get something for doing your job.  Everybody here just does their job, right?  If you’re working here and in the middle of the day you just stopped and said, you know what, I want to get something, but I don’t know exactly what I’m going to get.  (Laughter.)  But I’m just going to stop working until I get something.  I’m going to shut down the whole plant until I get something.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  You’d get fired.

THE PRESIDENT:  You’d get fired.  (Applause.)  Right?  Because the deal is you’ve already gotten hired.  You’ve got a job.  You’re getting a paycheck.  And so you also are getting the pride of doing a good job and contributing to a business and looking out for your fellow workers.  That’s what you’re getting.  Well, it shouldn’t be any different for a member of Congress.

Now, unlike past shutdowns — I want to make sure everybody understands this because, again, sometimes the tendency is to say, well, both sides are at fault.  This one has nothing to do with deficits or spending or budgets.  Our deficits are falling at the fastest pace in 60 years.  We’ve cut the deficits in half since I took office.  (Applause.)  And some of the things that the Republicans are asking for right now would actually add to our deficits, seriously.

So this is not about spending.  And this isn’t about fiscal responsibility.  This whole thing is about one thing:  the Republican obsession with dismantling the Affordable Care Act and denying affordable health insurance to millions of Americans.  (Applause.)  That’s all this has become about.  That seems to be the only thing that unites the Republican Party these days.

Through this whole fight, they’ve said the American people don’t want Obamacare, so we should shut down the government to repeal it or delay it.  But here’s the problem:  The government is now shut down, but the Affordable Care Act is still open for business.  (Applause.)  So they’re not even accomplishing what they say they want to accomplish.  And, by the way, in the first two days since the new marketplaces — basically big group plans that we’ve set up — the first two days that they opened, websites where you can compare and purchase new affordable insurance plans and maybe get tax credits to reduce your costs, millions of Americans have made it clear they do want health insurance.  (Applause.)

More than 6 million people visited the website HealthCare.gov the day it opened.  Nearly 200,000 people picked up the phone and called the call center.  In Kentucky alone — this is a state where — I didn’t win Kentucky.  (Laughter.)  So I know they weren’t doing it for me.  In Kentucky, nearly 11,000 people applied for new insurance plans in the first two days — just in one state, Kentucky.  And many Americans are finding out when they go on the website that they’ll save a lot of money or get health insurance for the first time.

So I would think that if, in fact, this was going to be such a disaster that the Republicans say it’s going to be, that it was going to be so unpopular, they wouldn’t have to shut down the government.  They could wait, nobody would show any interest, there would be, like, two people on the website — (laughter) — and everybody would then vote for candidates who want to repeal it.

It’s not as if Republicans haven’t had a chance to debate the health care law.  It passed the House of Representatives.  It passed the Senate.  The Supreme Court ruled it constitutional — you remember all this.  Last November, voters rejected the presidential candidate that ran on a platform to repeal it.  (Applause.)  So the Affordable Care Act has gone through every single democratic process, all three branches of government.  It’s the law of the land.  It’s here to stay.

I’ve said to Republicans, if there are specific things you think can improve the law to make it even better for people as opposed to just gutting it and leaving 25 million people without health insurance, I’m happy to talk to you about that.  But a Republican shutdown won’t change the fact that millions of people need health insurance, and that the Affordable Care Act is being implemented.  The shutdown does not change that.  All the shutdown is doing is making it harder for ordinary Americans to get by, and harder for businesses to create jobs at a time when our economy is just starting to gain traction again.

You’ve heard Republicans say that Obamacare will hurt the economy, but the economy has been growing and creating jobs.  The single-greatest threat to our economy and to our businesses like this one is not the Affordable Care Act, it’s the unwillingness of Republicans in Congress to stop refighting a settled election, or making the demands that have nothing to do with the budget.  They need to move on to the actual business of governing.  That’s what will help the economy.  That’s what will grow the economy.  That’s what will put people back to work.  (Applause.)

And more than that, House Republicans need to stop careening from one crisis to another in everything they do.  Have you noticed that?  Since they’ve taken over the House of Representatives, we have one of these crises every three months.  Have you noticed?  And you keep on thinking, all right, well, this is going to be the last one; they’re not going to do this again.  And then they do it again.

I know you’re tired of it.  I’m tired of it.  It doesn’t mean that they’re wrong on every single issue.  I’ve said I’m happy to negotiate with you on anything.  I don’t think any one party has a monopoly on wisdom.  But you don’t negotiate by putting a gun to the other person’s head — or, worse yet, by putting a gun to the American people’s head by threatening a shutdown.

And, by the way, even after Congress reopens your government, it’s going to have to turn around very quickly and do something else — and that’s pay America’s bills.  I want to spend a little time on this.  It’s something called raising the debt ceiling.  And it’s got a lousy name, so a lot of people end up thinking, I don’t know, I don’t think we should raise our debt ceiling, because it sounds like we’re raising our debt.  But that’s not what this is about.

It doesn’t cost taxpayers a single dime.  It doesn’t grow our deficits by a single dime.  It doesn’t allow anybody to spend any new money whatsoever.  So it’s not something that raises our debt.  What it does is allow the U.S. Treasury, the U.S. government to pay the bills that Congress has already racked up.  I want you to think about this.

If you go to a restaurant, you order a meal, you eat it.  Maybe you have some wine.  Maybe you have two glasses of wine — great meal.  And then you look at the tab — it’s pretty expensive — and you decide I’m not going to pay the bill.  But you’re not saving money.  You’re not being frugal.  You’re just a deadbeat, right?  (Laughter.)  If you buy a house and you decide, this month I’d rather go on vacation somewhere so I’m not going to pay my mortgage, you didn’t just save yourself some money.  You’re just going to get foreclosed on.

So you don’t save money by not paying your bills.  You don’t reduce your debt by not paying your bills.  All you’re doing is making yourself unreliable and hurting your credit rating.  And you’ll start getting those phone calls and those notices in the mail.  And the next time you try to borrow, somebody is going to say, uh-uh, because you don’t pay your bills, you’re a deadbeat.  Well, the same is true for countries.

The only thing that the debt ceiling does is to let the U.S. Treasury pay for what Congress has already bought.  That’s why it’s something that has been routine.  Traditionally, it’s not a big deal.  Congress has raised it 45 times since Ronald Reagan took office.  This is just kind of a routine part of keeping the government running.  The last time the House Republicans flirted with not raising the debt ceiling, back in 2011 — some of you remember this — our economy took a bad hit.  Our country’s credit rating was downgraded for the first time, just like you’d be downgraded if you didn’t pay your mortgage.

This time, they are threatening to actually force the United States to default on its obligations for the very first time in history.  Now, you’ll hear John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and these other Republicans say, we don’t want to default.  But everybody knows — it’s written about in all the papers — that their basic theory is, okay, if the shutdown doesn’t work, then we are going to try to get some extra concessions out of the President.  We’ll put like a long laundry list, all the things that we want that we can’t get passed on our own.  And if we don’t get it, we’ll tell them we don’t — we won’t vote to pay the country’s bills.  We’ll let the country default.

I’m not just making this up.  I mean, it’s common knowledge.  Every reporter here knows it.  And I want you to understand the consequences of this.  As reckless as a government shutdown is, as many people as are being hurt by a government shutdown, an economic shutdown that results from default would be dramatically worse.  In a government shutdown, Social Security checks still go out on time.  In an economic shutdown, if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, they don’t go out on time.

In a government shutdown, disability benefits still arrive on time.  In an economic shutdown, they don’t.  In a government shutdown, millions of Americans — not just federal workers — everybody faces real economic hardship.  In an economic shutdown, falling pensions and home values and rising interest rates on things like mortgages and student loans — all those things risk putting us back into a bad recession, which will affect this company and those workers and all of you.  That’s not my analysis.  That’s — every economist out there is saying the same thing.  We’ve never done it before.

And the United States is the center of the world economy.  So if we screw up, everybody gets screwed up.  The whole world will have problems, which is why generally nobody has ever thought to actually threaten not to pay our bills.  It would be the height of irresponsibility.  And that’s why I’ve said this before — I’m going to repeat it:  There will be no negotiations over this.  (Applause.)  The American people are not pawns in some political game.  You don’t get to demand some ransom in exchange for keeping the government running.  You don’t get to demand ransom in exchange for keeping the economy running.  You don’t get to demand ransom for doing your most basic job.

And the sooner that the Republicans in Congress heed the warnings not just of me or Democrats like Chris and John, but heed the warnings of the Chamber of Commerce, and CEOs, and economists, and a whole lot of Republicans outside of Congress  — they’re all saying, do not do this.  They’re all saying to Congress, do your job; and the sooner you do your job, the less damage you’ll do to our economy and to businesses like this one.

So pass a budget, end the government shutdown.  Pay our bills.  Prevent an economic shutdown.  Just vote and end this shutdown.  And you should do it today so we can get back to growing this economy, creating jobs and strengthening our middle class.  (Applause.)

Let me close just by sharing a story I heard as I was getting ready to come here today.  Many of you already know it.  Two years ago, a mulch factory next to M. Luis’s main equipment storage facility caught fire, and most of the company’s equipment was destroyed, causing millions of dollars in damage.  But even while the fire was still burning, dozens of employees rushed over to the facility and tried to save as much as they could — some of you were probably there.  And when they finished cutting fire lines and spraying down the perimeter of their own property, they went over to help their neighbors.

And afterwards, even though all the employees here at M. Luis are on salary, even though the company had just taken a big financial hit, Cidalia and Natalia paid everyone overtime, and along with each check they included a personalized note saying just how much they had appreciated the efforts of the workers.  And Cidalia said, everybody says the biggest asset to a business is employees.  Some people mean it, some people don’t — we actually do.

So this company right here is full of folks who do right by each other.  They don’t try to see if they can work every angle.  They don’t lie about each other.  They don’t try to undermine each other.  They understand they’re supposed to be on the same team.  You pitch in, you look out for one another.  When somebody gets knocked down, you help them back up.  You don’t ask what can you get out of this, because you know that success doesn’t depend on one of you, it depends on all of you working together.

Well, America is no different.  I see that same spirit in so many cities and towns that I visit all across the country.  It is alive and well all across the country.  It’s alive and well in this community where restaurants and businesses are rallying around their regulars, and they’re looking out for all the dedicated public servants who have been furloughed.  You’ve been reading stories about restaurants who are saying, you know what, while you’re on furlough, come on, we’ll give you a burger, we’ll give you a meal, we’ll help you out.

That’s the American ideal.  It says, we’re working together, looking out for one another, meeting our responsibilities, doing our jobs, thinking about future generations.  And that’s why I believe, ultimately, reason and common sense will prevail.  That spirit at some point will infiltrate Washington as well.  Because I think the American people are so good and so decent, they’re going to get better behavior from their government than this.  And we’ll once again make sure this is a country where you can make it if you try.

So thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END                11:21 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency October 1, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act and the Government Shutdown

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Affordable Care Act and the Government Shutdown

Source: WH, 10-1-13

Rose Garden

1:01 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good morning, everybody.  At midnight last night, for the first time in 17 years, Republicans in Congress chose to shut down the federal government.  Let me be more specific:  One faction, of one party, in one house of Congress, in one branch of government, shut down major parts of the government — all because they didn’t like one law.

This Republican shutdown did not have to happen.  But I want every American to understand why it did happen.  Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to fund the government unless we defunded or dismantled the Affordable Care Act.  They’ve shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans.  In other words, they demanded ransom just for doing their job.

And many representatives, including an increasing number of Republicans, have made it clear that had they been allowed by Speaker Boehner to take a simple up or down vote on keeping the government open, with no partisan strings attached, enough votes from both parties would have kept the American people’s government open and operating.

We may not know the full impact of this Republican shutdown for some time.  It will depend on how long it lasts.  But we do know a couple of things.  We know that the last time Republicans shut down the government in 1996, it hurt our economy.  And unlike 1996, our economy is still recovering from the worst recession in generations.

We know that certain services and benefits that America’s seniors and veterans and business owners depend on must be put on hold.  Certain offices, along with every national park and monument, must be closed.  And while last night, I signed legislation to make sure our 1.4 million active-duty military are paid through the shutdown, hundreds of thousands of civilian workers — many still on the job, many forced to stay home — aren’t being paid, even if they have families to support and local businesses that rely on them.  And we know that the longer this shutdown continues, the worse the effects will be.  More families will be hurt.  More businesses will be harmed.

So, once again, I urge House Republicans to reopen the government, restart the services Americans depend on, and allow the public servants who have been sent home to return to work.  This is only going to happen when Republicans realize they don’t get to hold the entire economy hostage over ideological demands.

As I’ve said repeatedly, I am prepared to work with Democrats and Republicans to do the things we need to do to grow the economy and create jobs, and get our fiscal house in order over the long run.  Although I should add this shutdown isn’t about deficits, or spending, or budgets.  After all, our deficits are falling at the fastest pace in 50 years.  We’ve cut them in half since I took office.  In fact, many of the demands the Republicans are now making would actually raise our deficits.

No, this shutdown is not about deficits, it’s not about budgets.  This shutdown is about rolling back our efforts to provide health insurance to folks who don’t have it.  It’s all about rolling back the Affordable Care Act.  This, more than anything else, seems to be what the Republican Party stands for these days.  I know it’s strange that one party would make keeping people uninsured the centerpiece of their agenda, but that apparently is what it is.

And of course, what’s stranger still is that shutting down our government doesn’t accomplish their stated goal.  The Affordable Care Act is a law that passed the House; it passed the Senate.  The Supreme Court ruled it constitutional.  It was a central issue in last year’s election.  It is settled, and it is here to stay.  And because of its funding sources, it’s not impacted by a government shutdown.

And these Americans are here with me today because, even though the government is closed, a big part of the Affordable Care Act is now open for business.  And for them, and millions like them, this is a historic day for a good reason.  It’s been a long time coming, but today, Americans who have been forced to go without insurance can now visit healthcare.gov and enroll in affordable new plans that offer quality coverage.  That starts today.

And people will have six months to sign up.  So over the next six months, people are going to have the opportunity — in many cases, for the first time in their lives — to get affordable coverage that they desperately need.

Now, of course, if you’re one of the 85 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, you don’t need to do a thing. You’re already benefiting from new benefits and protections that have been in place for some time under this law.  But for the 15 percent of Americans who don’t have health insurance, this opportunity is life-changing.

Let me just tell folks a few stories that are represented here today.  A few years ago, Amanda Barrett left her job in New York to take care of her parents.  And for a while, she had temporary insurance that covered her multiple sclerosis.  But when it expired, many insurers wouldn’t cover her because of her MS.  And she ended up paying $1,200 a month.  That’s nowhere near affordable.  So starting today, she can get covered for much less, because today’s new plan can’t use your medical history to charge you more than anybody else.

Sky-high premiums once forced Nancy Beigel to choose between paying her rent or paying for health insurance.  She’s been uninsured ever since.  So she pays all of her medical bills out of pocket, puts some on her credit card, making them even harder to pay.  Nancy says, “They talk about those who fall through the cracks.  I fell through the cracks 10 years ago and I’ve been stuck there ever since.”  Well, starting today, Nancy can get covered just like everybody else.

Trinace Edwards was laid off from her job a year ago today. Six months ago, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  She couldn’t afford insurance on the individual market, so she hasn’t received treatment yet.  Her daughter Lenace, a student at the University of Maryland, is considering dropping out of school to help pay her mom’s bills.  Well, starting today, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Trinace can get covered without forcing her daughter to give up on her dreams.

So if these stories of hardworking Americans sound familiar to you, well, starting today, you and your friends and your family and your coworkers can get covered, too.  Just visit healthcare.gov, and there you can compare insurance plans, side by side, the same way you’d shop for a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon.  You enter some basic information, you’ll be presented with a list of quality, affordable plans that are available in your area, with clear descriptions of what each plan covers, and what it will cost.  You’ll find more choices, more competition, and in many cases, lower prices — most uninsured Americans will find that they can get covered for $100 or less.

And you don’t have to take my word for it.  Go on the website, healthcare.gov, check it out for yourself.  And then show it to your family and your friends and help them get covered, just like mayors and churches and community groups and companies are already fanning out to do across the country.

And there’s a hotline where you can apply over the phone and get help with the application, or just get questions that you have answered by real people, in 150 different languages.   So let me give you that number.  The number is 1-800-318-2596 — 1-800-318-2596.  Check out healthcare.gov.  Call that number.  Show your family and friends how to use it.  And we can get America covered, once and for all, so that the struggles that these folks have gone through and millions around the country have gone through for years finally get addressed.

And let me just remind people why I think this is so important.  I heard a striking statistic yesterday — if you get cancer, you are 70 percent more likely to live another five years if you have insurance than if you don’t.  Think about that.  That is what it means to have health insurance.

Set aside the issues of security and finances and how you’re impacted by that, the stress involved in not knowing whether or not you’re going to have health care.  This is life-or-death stuff.  Tens of thousands of Americans die each year just because they don’t have health insurance.  Millions more live with the fear that they’ll go broke if they get sick.  And today, we begin to free millions of our fellow Americans from that fear.

Already, millions of young adults have been able to stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26.  Millions of seniors already have gotten a discount on their prescription medicines.  Already millions of families have actually received rebates from insurance companies that didn’t spend enough on their health care.  So this law means more choice, more competition, lower costs for millions of Americans.

And this law doesn’t just mean economic security for our families.  It means we’re finally addressing the biggest drivers of our long-term deficits.  It means a stronger economy.

Remember most Republicans have made a whole bunch of predictions about this law that haven’t come true.  There are no “death panels.”  Costs haven’t skyrocketed; they’re growing at the slowest rate in 50 years.  The last three years since I signed the Affordable Care Act into law are the three slowest rates of health spending growth on record.

And contrary to Republican claims, this law hasn’t “destroyed” our economy.  Over the past three and a half years, our businesses have created 7.5 million new jobs.  Just today, we learned that our manufacturers are growing at the fastest rate in two and a half years.  They have factored in the Affordable Care Act. They don’t think it’s a problem.  What’s weighing on the economy is not the Affordable Care Act, but the constant series of crises and the unwillingness to pass a reasonable budget by a faction of the Republican Party.

Now, like every new law, every new product rollout, there are going to be some glitches in the signup process along the way that we will fix.  I’ve been saying this from the start.  For example, we found out that there have been times this morning where the site has been running more slowly than it normally will.  The reason is because more than one million people visited healthcare.gov before 7:00 in the morning.

To put that in context, there were five times more users in the marketplace this morning than have ever been on Medicare.gov at one time.  That gives you a sense of how important this is to millions of Americans around the country, and that’s a good thing.  And we’re going to be speeding things up in the next few hours to handle all this demand that exceeds anything that we had expected.

Consider that just a couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new mobile operating system.  And within days, they found a glitch, so they fixed it.  I don’t remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads — or threatening to shut down the company if they didn’t.  That’s not how we do things in America.  We don’t actively root for failure.  We get to work, we make things happen, we make them better, we keep going.

So in that context, I’ll work with anybody who’s got a serious idea to make the Affordable Care Act work better.  I’ve said that repeatedly.  But as long as I am President, I will not give in to reckless demands by some in the Republican Party to deny affordable health insurance to millions of hardworking Americans.

I want Republicans in Congress to know these are the Americans you’d hurt if you were allowed to dismantle this law.  Americans like Amanda, Nancy, and Trinace, who now finally have the opportunity for basic security and peace of mind of health care just like everybody else — including members of Congress.  The notion that you’d make a condition for reopening the government that I make sure these folks don’t have health care — that doesn’t make any sense.  It doesn’t make any sense.

Now, let me make one closing point:  This Republican shutdown threatens our economy at a time when millions of Americans are still looking for work, and businesses are starting to get some traction.  So the timing is not good.  Of course, a lot of the Republicans in the House ran for office two years ago promising to shut down the government, and so, apparently, they’ve now gotten their wish.  But as I’ve said before, the irony that the House Republicans have to contend with is they’ve shut down a whole bunch of parts of the government, but the Affordable Care Act is still open for business.

And this may be why you’ve got many Republican governors and senators and even a growing number of reasonable Republican congressmen who are telling the extreme right of their party to knock it off, pass a budget, move on.

And I want to underscore the fact that Congress doesn’t just have to end this shutdown and reopen the government — Congress generally has to stop governing by crisis.  They have to break this habit.  It is a drag on the economy.  It is not worthy of this country.

For example, one of the most important things Congress has to do in the next couple weeks is to raise what’s called the debt ceiling.  And it’s important to understand what this is.  This is a routine vote.  Congress has taken this vote 45 times to raise the debt ceiling since Ronald Reagan took office.  It does not cost taxpayers a single dime.  It does not grow our deficits by a single dime.  It does not authorize anybody to spend any new money whatsoever.  All it does is authorize the Treasury to pay the bills on what Congress has already spent.

Think about that.  If you buy a car and you’ve got a car note, you do not save money by not paying your car note.  You’re just a deadbeat.  If you buy a house, you don’t save money by not authorizing yourself to pay the mortgage.  You’re just going to be foreclosed on your home.  That’s what this is about.

It is routine.  It is what they’re supposed to do.  This is not a concession to me.  It is not some demand that’s unreasonable that I’m making.  This is what Congress is supposed to do as a routine matter.  And they shouldn’t wait until the last minute to do it.  The last time Republicans even threatened this course of action — many of you remember, back in 2011 — our economy staggered, our credit rating was downgraded for the first time.  If they go through with it this time and force the United States to default on its obligations for the first time in history, it would be far more dangerous than a government shutdown — as bad as a shutdown is.  It would be an economic shutdown.

So I’ll speak more on this in the coming days, but let me repeat:  I will not negotiate over Congress’s responsibility to pay bills it’s already racked up.  I’m not going to allow anybody to drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud just to refight a settled election or extract ideological demands.  Nobody gets to hurt our economy and millions of hardworking families over a law you don’t like.

There are a whole bunch of things that I’d like to see passed through Congress that the House Republicans haven’t passed yet, and I’m not out there saying, well, I’m not — I’m going to let America default unless Congress does something that they don’t want to do.  That’s not how adults operate.  Certainly that’s not how our government should operate.  And that’s true whether there’s a Democrat in this office or a Republican in this office.  Doesn’t matter whether it’s a Democratic House of Representatives or a Republican-controlled House of Representatives — there are certain rules that everybody abides by because we don’t want to hurt other people just because we have a political disagreement.

So my basic message to Congress is this:  Pass a budget.  End the government shutdown.  Pay your bills.  Prevent an economic shutdown.  Don’t wait.  Don’t delay.  Don’t put our economy or our people through this any longer.

I am more than happy to work with them on all kinds of issues.  I want to get back to work on the things that the American people sent us here to work on — creating new jobs, new growth, new security for our middle class.

We’re better than this.  Certainly the American people are a lot better than this.  And I believe that what we’ve accomplished for Amanda, and Nancy, and Trinace, and tens of millions of their fellow citizens- on this day proves that even when the odds are long and the obstacles are many, we are and always will be a country that can do great things together.

Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  Thank you, all of you, for the great work that you’re doing.  And thank you, Kathleen Sebelius, for the outstanding work that she’s doing making sure that millions of Americans can get health insurance.

Thank you.

END
1:21 P.M. EDT

Political Musings October 1, 2013: With House and Senate at deadlock over spending bill, government shutdown begins

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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Political Musings October 1, 2013: Senate rejects House spending bill hours before government shutdown deadline

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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