Politics November 16, 2016: Senate leadership McConnell re-elected, Democrat Schumer elected, Sanders grabs post

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By Bonnie K. Goodman

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) leaves after an election meeting of Senate Democrats to elect new leadership at the Capitol November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. Sen. Schumer was elected as the incoming Senate minority leader. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 16: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) leaves after an election meeting of Senate Democrats to elect new leadership at the Capitol November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. Sen. Schumer was elected as the incoming Senate minority leader. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

After the House Republicans had voted on their leadership posts, the Senate had their turn. On Wednesday morning, Nov. 16, 2016, as predicted Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, (R-KY) was re-elected majority leader by acclamation, while New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer was elevated to minority leader, as departing minority leader Sen. Harry Reid’s heir apparent. Vermont Sen. and 2016 Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders also grabbed his first Senate leader post as Chair of Outreach.

The Republicans retained their leaders in their election for the 115th Congress. In a meeting of the GOP conference on Wednesday morning, McConnell was re-elected “by acclimation by his colleagues with a standing ovation,” as his spokesman Don Stewart told the press. Sen. Marco Rubio (R- FL) nominated McConnell, while Sen.-elect Todd Young, (R-IN) second the motion, both were instrumental to the GOP maintaining their majority.

McConnell was expected to remain in his post, and there were no surprises in the GOP leadership votes. McConnell, 74 will be serving his second term as majority leader, previously he was minority leader for four terms, and is “Kentucky’s longest-serving senator;” he was first elected in 1984.

All the action was with the Democrats after they shook up their leadership with the retirement of longtime leader Sen. Reid. Reid already named Schumer, his successor, but Wednesday’s vote made that a reality. After the being elected Schumer expressed, “I am going to wake up every single day focused on how Senate Democrats can effectively fight for America’s middle class and those struggling to join it.” While Schumer told reporters, “We are ready to go toe to toe with Republicans.” Although the minority leader acknowledged, “When you lose an election like this, you can’t flinch. You can’t ignore it. You need to look it right in the eye and ask why, analyze it and learn from it.”

Schumer, 66 has served in the Senate since 1998, and he was in the House representing Brooklyn and Queens for 18 years before that. In 2006, Reid tapped Schumer to be the party’s number three in the Senate as vice chairman of the Democratic Conference, a position her served for ten years. When Reid announced his retirement in 2015, he made it clear he wanted Schumer to succeed him as Senate Democratic leader.

Overshadowing Schumer’s election was the addition of Sanders to the enlarged leadership team. The popular Sanders will be the outreach chairman, a newly created post within the ranks. Senate Democrats were pressured to add the formerly independent Senator to their leadership ranks after his historic run for the Democratic nomination, with a still very loyal supporter base.

After his appointment, Sanders spoke to reporters, telling them he has a “heavy responsibility to help shape the priorities of the United States government. I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that the budget that leaves the United States Congress is a budget that represents the needs of working families and a shrinking middle class and not billionaires.” Sanders will also retain his post as the senior minority member of the Budget Committee.

Otherwise, in the Democratic ranks, Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-Ill) remains minority whip. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will be the new assistant Democratic leader, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) moves up to chair the Democratic Policy and Communications Center. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, (D-WI) becomes Democratic Conference secretary, the fourth ranking in leadership, and Joe Manchin (D-WV) takes over as vice chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

The Democrats enlarged their team from seven to 10 posts. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) now moved up to newly titled posts of vice chairs of the Senate Democratic Conference. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) position title changed from chairwoman of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee to just chair of the Steering Committee.

Additionally, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA ) becomes the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, while longtime-Judiciary member Patrick Leahy (D-VT)  moves to the Appropriations Committee.

Politics November 15, 2016: House Speaker Paul Ryan re-elected by Republican conference

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House Speaker Paul Ryan re-elected by Republican conference

By Bonnie K. Goodman

WASHINGTON, D.C. - NOVEMBER 09: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks during a press conference after a House Leadership Election on Capitol Hill on November 15, 2016 in Washington, D.C. United States. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), and GOP Conference Chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) will keep their roles.(Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – NOVEMBER 09: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks during a press conference after a House Leadership Election on Capitol Hill on November 15, 2016 in Washington, D.C. United States. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), and GOP Conference Chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) will keep their roles.(Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

House Republicans have opted to re-elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, (R- WI) to a second term. On Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 15, 2016, in a closed-door session Republicans unanimously voted that Ryan should stay on as House Speaker in the 115th session.

Ryan’s re-election with support from all Republicans is surprising, but after a week of shocks, that has become the new norm for Republicans. Ryan’s speakership was in danger before President-elect Donald Trump’s shocking upset victory a week ago on Tuesday, Nov. 8. His lack of support and distancing himself from Trump after a 2005 lewd tape emerged threatened Trump’s chances of winning the presidency. The conservative Freedom Caucus and some Southerner Republicans wanted Ryan replaced.

After the FBI reopened their investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Trump rose in the polls that changed, Ryan had a change of heart, he campaigned and told Americans particularly Republicans to vote for Trump. Since Trump’s election, Ryan has been President-elect Trump’s greatest endorser on Capitol Hill. Ryan sees himself guiding policy for the administration and Republican-controlled Congress. Ryan and Trump met on Thursday, Nov. 10 and had been talking on the phone each day.

Ryan told the conference that Vice President-elect Mike Pence told him Trump supports the entire House Republican leadership’s re-election. In the spirit of their new president, GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) gave Trump campaign hats red Make America great Again hats to each member.

Also, a new leadership position was created to help the new president. Ryan appointed Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) the congressional liaison to the Trump transition team. Collins was the one to second Ryan’s re-election. Collins said, “Paul Ryan’s future is as bright as ever. He has no opposition today. I’m seconding Paul Ryan’s nomination today as a sign of Trump’s support of Mr. Ryan. This is a team effort.”

On Tuesday, the Republicans also elected Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers to helm the National Republican Congressional Committee. Stivers was in the running with Rep. Roger Williams of Texas for the post. Now Ryan has to face a full vote in the House when they convene their new session in January, but with full support from the Republican majority, Ryan is certain to coast to a second term as Speaker of the House.

Full Text Political Transcripts March 16, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks Announcing Judge Merrick Garland as his Nominee to the Supreme Court

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President Announcing Judge Merrick Garland as his Nominee to the Supreme Court

Source: WH, 3-16-16

 

Rose Garden

11:04 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  Everybody, please have a seat.

Of the many powers and responsibilities that the Constitution vests in the presidency, few are more consequential than appointing a Supreme Court justice — particularly one to succeed Justice Scalia, one of the most influential jurists of our time.

The men and women who sit on the Supreme Court are the final arbiters of American law.  They safeguard our rights.  They ensure that our system is one of laws and not men.  They’re charged with the essential task of applying principles put to paper more than two centuries ago to some of the most challenging questions of our time.

So this is not a responsibility that I take lightly.  It’s a decision that requires me to set aside short-term expediency and narrow politics, so as to maintain faith with our founders and, perhaps more importantly, with future generations.  That’s why, over the past several weeks, I’ve done my best to set up a rigorous and comprehensive process.  I’ve sought the advice of Republican and Democratic members of Congress.  We’ve reached out to every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to constitutional scholars, to advocacy groups, to bar associations, representing an array of interests and opinions from all across the spectrum.

And today, after completing this exhaustive process, I’ve made my decision.  I’ve selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness, and excellence.  These qualities, and his long commitment to public service, have earned him the respect and admiration of leaders from both sides of the aisle.  He will ultimately bring that same character to bear on the Supreme Court, an institution in which he is uniquely prepared to serve immediately.

Today, I am nominating Chief Judge Merrick Brian Garland to join the Supreme Court.  (Applause.)

Now, in law enforcement circles, and the in the legal community at large, Judge Garland needs no introduction.  But I’d like to take a minute to introduce Merrick to the American people, whom he already so ably serves.

He was born and raised in the Land of Lincoln — in my hometown of Chicago, in my home state of Illinois.  His mother volunteered in the community; his father ran a small business out of their home.  Inheriting that work ethic, Merrick became valedictorian of his public high school.  He earned a scholarship to Harvard, where he graduated summa cum laude.  And he put himself through Harvard Law School by working as a tutor, by stocking shoes in a shoe store, and, in what is always a painful moment for any young man, by selling his comic book collection.  (Laughter.)  It’s tough.  Been there.  (Laughter.)

Merrick graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law, and the early years of his legal career bear all the traditional marks of excellence.  He clerked for two of President Eisenhower’s judicial appointees — first for a legendary judge on the Second Circuit, Judge Henry Friendly, and then for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan.  Following his clerkships, Merrick joined a highly regarded law firm, with a practice focused on litigation and pro bono representation of disadvantaged Americans.  Within four years, he earned a partnership — the dream of most lawyers. But in 1989, just months after that achievement, Merrick made a highly unusual career decision.  He walked away from a comfortable and lucrative law practice to return to public service.

Merrick accepted a low-level job as a federal prosecutor in President George H.W. Bush’s administration.  He took a 50-percent pay cut, traded in his elegant partner’s office for a windowless closet that smelled of stale cigarette smoke.  This was a time when crime here in Washington had reached epidemic proportions, and he wanted to help.  And he quickly made a name for himself, going after corrupt politicians and violent criminals.

His sterling record as a prosecutor led him to the Justice Department, where he oversaw some of the most significant prosecutions in the 1990s — including overseeing every aspect of the federal response to the Oklahoma City bombing.  In the aftermath of that act of terror, when 168 people, many of them small children, were murdered, Merrick had one evening to say goodbye to his own young daughters before he boarded a plane to Oklahoma City.  And he would remain there for weeks.  He worked side-by-side with first responders, rescue workers, local and federal law enforcement.  He led the investigation and supervised the prosecution that brought Timothy McVeigh to justice.

But perhaps most important is the way he did it.  Throughout the process, Merrick took pains to do everything by the book.  When people offered to turn over evidence voluntarily, he refused, taking the harder route of obtaining the proper subpoenas instead, because Merrick would take no chances that someone who murdered innocent Americans might go free on a technicality.

Merrick also made a concerted effort to reach out to the victims and their families, updating them frequently on the case’s progress.  Everywhere he went, he carried with him in his briefcase the program from the memorial service with each of the victims’ names inside –- a constant, searing reminder of why he had to succeed.

Judge Garland has often referred to his work on the Oklahoma City case as, and I quote, “the most important thing I have ever done in my life.”  And through it all, he never lost touch with that community that he served.

It’s no surprise then, that soon after his work in Oklahoma City, Merrick was nominated to what’s often called the second highest court in the land — the D.C. Circuit Court.  During that process, during that confirmation process, he earned overwhelming bipartisan praise from senators and legal experts alike.  Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who was then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, supported his nomination.  Back then, he said, “In all honesty, I would like to see one person come to this floor and say one reason why Merrick Garland does not deserve this position.”  He actually accused fellow Senate Republicans trying to obstruct Merrick’s confirmation of “playing politics with judges.”  And he has since said that Judge Garland would be a “consensus nominee” for the Supreme Court who “would be very well supported by all sides,” and there would be “no question” Merrick would be confirmed with bipartisan support.

Ultimately, Merrick was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, the second highest court in the land, with votes from a majority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans.  Three years ago, he was elevated to Chief Judge.  And in his 19 years on the D.C. Circuit, Judge Garland has brought his trademark diligence, compassion, and unwavering regard for the rule of law to his work.

On a circuit court known for strong-minded judges on both ends of the spectrum, Judge Garland has earned a track record of building consensus as a thoughtful, fair-minded judge who follows the law.  He’s shown a rare ability to bring together odd couples, assemble unlikely coalitions, persuade colleagues with wide-ranging judicial philosophies to sign on to his opinions.

And this record on the bench speaks, I believe, to Judge Garland’s fundamental temperament — his insistence that all views deserve a respectful hearing.  His habit, to borrow a phrase from former Justice John Paul Stevens, “of understanding before disagreeing,” and then disagreeing without being disagreeable.  It speaks to his ability to persuade, to respond to the concerns of others with sound arguments and airtight logic.  As his former colleague on the D.C. Circuit, and our current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, once said, “Any time Judge Garland disagrees, you know you’re in a difficult area.”

At the same time, Chief Judge Garland is more than just a brilliant legal mind.  He’s someone who has a keen understanding that justice is about more than abstract legal theory; more than some footnote in a dusty casebook.  His life experience –- his experience in places like Oklahoma City –- informs his view that the law is more than an intellectual exercise.  He understands the way law affects the daily reality of people’s lives in a big, complicated democracy, and in rapidly-changing times.  And throughout his jurisprudence runs a common thread -– a dedication to protecting the basic rights of every American; a conviction that in a democracy, powerful voices must not be allowed to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.

To find someone with such a long career of public service, marked by complex and sensitive issues; to find someone who just about everyone not only respects, but genuinely likes –- that is rare.  And it speaks to who Merrick Garland is — not just as a lawyer, but as a man.

People respect the way he treats others — his genuine courtesy and respect for his colleagues and those who come before his court.  They admire his civic-mindedness — mentoring his clerks throughout their careers, urging them to use their legal training to serve their communities, setting his own example by tutoring a young student at a Northeast D.C. elementary school each year for the past 18 years.  They’re moved by his deep devotion to his family — Lynn, his wife of nearly 30 years, and their two daughters, Becky and Jessie.  As a family, they indulge their love of hiking and skiing and canoeing, and their love of America by visiting our national parks.

People respect Merrick’s deep and abiding passion for protecting our most basic constitutional rights.  It’s a passion, I’m told, that manifested itself at an early age.  And one story is indicative of this, is notable.  As valedictorian of his high school class, he had to deliver a commencement address.  The other student speaker that day spoke first and unleashed a fiery critique of the Vietnam War.  Fearing the controversy that might result, several parents decided to unplug the sound system, and the rest of the student’s speech was muffled.

And Merrick didn’t necessarily agree with the tone of his classmate’s remarks, nor his choice of topic for that day.  But stirred by the sight of a fellow student’s voice being silenced, he tossed aside his prepared remarks and delivered instead, on the spot, a passionate, impromptu defense of our First Amendment rights.

It was the beginning of a lifelong career — as a lawyer, and a prosecutor, and as a judge — devoted to protecting the rights of others.  And he has done that work with decency and humanity and common sense, and a common touch.  And I’m proud that he’ll continue that work on our nation’s highest court.

I said I would take this process seriously — and I did.  I chose a serious man and an exemplary judge, Merrick Garland.  Over my seven years as President, in all my conversations with senators from both parties in which I asked their views on qualified Supreme Court nominees — this includes the previous two seats that I had to fill — the one name that has come up repeatedly, from Republicans and Democrats alike, is Merrick Garland.

Now, I recognize that we have entered the political season  — or perhaps, these days it never ends — a political season that is even noisier and more volatile than usual.  I know that Republicans will point to Democrats who’ve made it hard for Republican Presidents to get their nominees confirmed.  And they’re not wrong about that.  There’s been politics involved in nominations in the past.  Although it should be pointed out that, in each of those instances, Democrats ultimately confirmed a nominee put forward by a Republican President.

I also know that because of Justice Scalia’s outsized role on the Court and in American law, and the fact that Americans are closely divided on a number of issues before the Court, it is tempting to make this confirmation process simply an extension of our divided politics — the squabbling that’s going on in the news every day.  But to go down that path would be wrong.  It would be a betrayal of our best traditions, and a betrayal of the vision of our founding documents.

At a time when our politics are so polarized, at a time when norms and customs of political rhetoric and courtesy and comity are so often treated like they’re disposable — this is precisely the time when we should play it straight, and treat the process of appointing a Supreme Court justice with the seriousness and care it deserves.  Because our Supreme Court really is unique.  It’s supposed to be above politics.  It has to be.  And it should stay that way.

To suggest that someone as qualified and respected as Merrick Garland doesn’t even deserve a hearing, let alone an up or down vote, to join an institution as important as our Supreme Court, when two-thirds of Americans believe otherwise — that would be unprecedented.

To suggest that someone who has served his country with honor and dignity, with a distinguished track record of delivering justice for the American people, might be treated, as one Republican leader stated, as a political “piñata” — that can’t be right.

Tomorrow, Judge Garland will travel to the Hill to begin meeting with senators, one-on-one.  I simply ask Republicans in the Senate to give him a fair hearing, and then an up or down vote.  If you don’t, then it will not only be an abdication of the Senate’s constitutional duty, it will indicate a process for nominating and confirming judges that is beyond repair.  It will mean everything is subject to the most partisan of politics — everything.  It will provoke an endless cycle of more tit-for-tat, and make it increasingly impossible for any President, Democrat or Republican, to carry out their constitutional function.  The reputation of the Supreme Court will inevitably suffer.  Faith in our justice system will inevitably suffer.  Our democracy will ultimately suffer, as well.

I have fulfilled my constitutional duty.  Now it’s time for the Senate to do theirs.  Presidents do not stop working in the final year of their term.  Neither should a senator.

I know that tomorrow the Senate will take a break and leave town on recess for two weeks.  My earnest hope is that senators take that time to reflect on the importance of this process to our democracy — not what’s expedient, not what’s happening at the moment, what does this mean for our institutions, for our common life — the stakes, the consequences, the seriousness of the job we all swore an oath to do.

And when they return, I hope that they’ll act in a bipartisan fashion.  I hope they’re fair.  That’s all.  I hope they are fair.  As they did when they confirmed Merrick Garland to the D.C. Circuit, I ask that they confirm Merrick Garland now to the Supreme Court, so that he can take his seat in time to fully participate in its work for the American people this fall. He is the right man for the job.  He deserves to be confirmed.  I could not be prouder of the work that he has already done on behalf of the American people.  He deserves our thanks and he deserves a fair hearing.

And with that, I’d like to invite Judge Garland to say a few words.  (Applause.)

JUDGE GARLAND:  Thank you, Mr. President.  This is the greatest honor of my life — other than Lynn agreeing to marry me 28 years ago.  It’s also the greatest gift I’ve ever received except — and there’s another caveat — the birth of our daughters, Jessie and Becky.

As my parents taught me by both words and deeds, a life of public service is as much a gift to the person who serves as it is to those he is serving.  And for me, there could be no higher public service than serving as a member of the United States Supreme Court.

My family deserves much of the credit for the path that led me here.  My grandparents left the Pale of Settlement at the border of Western Russian and Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, fleeing anti-Semitism, and hoping to make a better life for their children in America.  They settled in the Midwest, eventually making their way to Chicago.

There, my father, who ran the smallest of small businesses from a room in our basement, took me with him as he made the rounds to his customers, always impressing upon me the importance of hard work and fair dealing.  There, my mother headed the local PTA and school board and directed a volunteer services agency, all the while instilling in my sister and me the understanding that service to the community is a responsibility above all others.  Even now, my sisters honor that example by serving the children of their communities.

I know that my mother is watching this on television and crying her eyes out.  (Laughter.)  So are my sisters, who have supported me in every step I have ever taken.  I only wish that my father were here to see this today.  I also wish that we hadn’t taught my older daughter to be so adventurous that she would be hiking in the mountains, out of cell service range — (laughter) — when the President called.  (Laughter.)

It was the sense of responsibility to serve a community, instilled by my parents, that led me to leave my law firm to become a line prosecutor in 1989.  There, one of my first assignments was to assist in the prosecution of a violent gang that had come down to the District from New York, took over a public housing project and terrorized the residents.  The hardest job we faced was persuading mothers and grandmothers that if they testified, we would be able to keep them safe and convict the gang members.  We succeeded only by convincing witnesses and victims that they could trust that the rule of law would prevail.
Years later, when I went to Oklahoma City to investigate the bombing of the Federal Building, I saw up close the devastation that can happen when someone abandons the justice system as a way of resolving grievances, and instead takes matters into his own hands.  Once again, I saw the importance of assuring victims and families that the justice system could work.  We promised that we would find the perpetrators, that we would bring them to justice, and that we would do it in a way that honored the Constitution.  The people of Oklahoma City gave us their trust, and we did everything we could to live up to it.

Trust that justice will be done in our courts without prejudice or partisanship is what, in a large part, distinguishes this country from others.  People must be confident that a judge’s decisions are determined by the law, and only the law.  For a judge to be worthy of such trust, he or she must be faithful to the Constitution and to the statutes passed by the Congress.  He or she must put aside his personal views or preferences, and follow the law — not make it.

Fidelity to the Constitution and the law has been the cornerstone of my professional life, and it’s the hallmark of the kind of judge I have tried to be for the past 18 years.  If the Senate sees fit to confirm me to the position for which I have been nominated today, I promise to continue on that course.

Mr. President, it’s a great privilege to be nominated by a fellow Chicagoan.  I am grateful beyond words for the honor you have bestowed upon me.  (Applause.)

END
11:30 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts January 8, 2016: President Barack Obama vetoes GOP Congress’ ObamaCare repeal the Reconciliation Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Veto Message from the President — H.R. 3762

Source: WH, 1-8-16

TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:

I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 3762, which provides for reconciliation pursuant to section 2002 of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2016, herein referred to as the Reconciliation Act.  This legislation would not only repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, but would reverse the significant progress we have made in improving health care in America.  The Affordable Care Act includes a set of fairer rules and stronger consumer protections that have made health care coverage more affordable, more attainable, and more patient centered.  And it is working.  About 17.6 million Americans have gained health care coverage as the law’s coverage provisions have taken effect.  The Nation’s uninsured rate now stands at its lowest level ever, and demand for Marketplace coverage during December 2015 was at an all-time high.  Health care costs are lower than expected when the law was passed, and health care quality is higher — with improvements in patient safety saving an estimated 87,000 lives.  Health care has changed for the better, setting this country on a smarter, stronger course.

The Reconciliation Act would reverse that course.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the legislation would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 22 million after 2017.  The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that this reduction in health care coverage could mean, each year, more than 900,000 fewer people getting all their needed care, more than 1.2 million additional people having trouble paying other bills due to higher medical costs, and potentially more than 10,000 additional deaths.  This legislation would cost millions of hard-working middle-class families the security of affordable health coverage they deserve.  Reliable health care coverage  would no longer be a right for everyone:  it would return to being a privilege for a few.

The legislation’s implications extend far beyond those who would become uninsured.  For example, about 150 million Americans with employer-based insurance would be at risk of higher premiums and lower wages.  And it would cause the cost of health coverage for people buying it on their own to skyrocket.

The Reconciliation Act would also effectively defund Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood uses both Federal and non-federal funds to provide a range of important preventive care and health services, including health screenings, vaccinations, and check-ups to millions of men and women who visit their health centers annually.  Longstanding Federal policy already prohibits the use of Federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered.  By eliminating Federal Medicaid funding for a major provider of health care, H.R. 3762 would limit access to health care for men, women, and families across the Nation, and would disproportionately impact low-income individuals.

Republicans in the Congress have attempted to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act over 50 times.  Rather than refighting old political battles by once again voting to repeal basic protections that provide security for the middle class, Members of Congress should be working together to grow the economy, strengthen middle-class families, and create new jobs.  Because of the harm this bill would cause to the health and financial security of millions of Americans, it has earned my veto.

Political Musings January 13, 2015: Obama meets with Congressional leaders promises to disagree but work together

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obama meets with Congressional leaders promises to disagree but work together

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In President Barack Obama’s first meeting with the 114th Congress’ leadership, there was no bourbon, but there was sports talk. Obama met with the Congressional leadership of the new GOP majority in the House of Representatives and…READ MORE

Political Musings January 6, 2015: 114th Congress convenes: Boehner reelected Speaker McConnell new Senate Majority Leader

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

114th Congress convenes: Boehner reelected Speaker McConnell new Majority Leader

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Despite some opposition from conservative tea party wing of the Republican Party John Boehner, R-OH was reelected for his third term as Speaker of the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 6, 2016 the first day of…READ MORE

Political Musings December 29, 2014: Majority Whip Scalise spoke to white supremacist group with Klu Klux Klan ties

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Majority Whip Scalise spoke to white supremacist group with Klu Klux Klan ties 

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The news media on Monday, Dec. 29, 2014 picked up some old news that is bound to hurt the Republican Party just as the new session of Congress is about to begin, in 2002 the new Majority Whip Steve Scalise…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 19, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at his Year-End Press ConferenceFull Text Obama Presidency December 15, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at “Christmas in Washington” — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Year-End Press Conference

Source: WH, 12-19-14

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:53 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  We’ve really got a full house today, huh?  Well, all I want for Christmas is to take your questions.  (Laughter.)  But first let me say a little bit about this year.

In last year’s final press conference, I said that 2014 would be a year of action and would be a breakthrough year for America.  And it has been.  Yes, there were crises that we had to tackle around the world, many that were unanticipated.  We have more work to do to make sure our economy, our justice system, and our government work not just for the few, but for the many.  But there is no doubt that we can enter into the New Year with renewed confidence that America is making significant strides where it counts.

The steps that we took early on to rescue our economy and rebuild it on a new foundation helped make 2014 the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s.  All told, over a 57-month streak, our businesses have created nearly 11 million new jobs.  Almost all the job growth that we’ve seen have been in full-time positions.  Much of the recent pickup in job growth has been in higher-paying industries.  And in a hopeful sign for middle-class families, wages are on the rise again.

Our investments in American manufacturing have helped fuel its best stretch of job growth also since the 1990s.  America is now the number-one producer of oil, the number-one producer of natural gas.  We’re saving drivers about 70 cents a gallon at the pump over last Christmas.  And effectively today, our rescue of the auto industry is officially over.  We’ve now repaid taxpayers every dime and more of what my administration committed, and the American auto industry is on track for its strongest year since 2005.  And we’ve created about half a million new jobs in the auto industry alone.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 10 million Americans have gained health insurance just this past year.  Enrollment is beginning to pick up again during the open enrollment period.  The uninsured rate is at a near record low.  Since the law passed, the price of health care has risen at its slowest rate in about 50 years.  And we’ve cut our deficits by about two-thirds since I took office, bringing them to below their 40-year average.

Meanwhile, around the world, America is leading.  We’re leading the coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL — a coalition that includes Arab partners.  We’re leading the international community to check Russian aggression in Ukraine. We are leading the global fight to combat Ebola in West Africa, and we are preventing an outbreak from taking place here at home. We’re leading efforts to address climate change, including last month’s joint announcement with China that’s already jumpstarting new progress in other countries.  We’re writing a new chapter in our leadership here in the Americas by turning a new page on our relationship with the Cuban people.

And in less than two weeks, after more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over.  Today, more of our troops are home for the holidays than any time in over a decade. Still, many of our men and women in uniform will spend Christmas in harm’s way.  And they should know that the country is united in support of you and grateful not only to you but also to your families.

The six years since the crisis have demanded hard work and sacrifice on everybody’s part.  But as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we’ve accomplished — more jobs; more people insured; a growing economy; shrinking deficits; bustling industry; booming energy.  Pick any metric that you want — America’s resurgence is real.  We are better off.

I’ve always said that recovering from the crisis of 2008 was our first order of business, and on that business, America has outperformed all of our other competitors.  Over the past four years, we’ve put more people back to work than all other advanced economies combined.  We’ve now come to a point where we have the chance to reverse an even deeper problem, the decades-long erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes, and to make sure that the middle class is the engine that powers our prosperity for decades to come.

To do that, we’re going to have to make some smart choices; we’ve got to make the right choices.  We’re going to have to invest in the things that secure even faster growth in higher-paying jobs for more Americans.  And I’m being absolutely sincere when I say I want to work with this new Congress to get things done, to make those investments, to make sure the government is working better and smarter.  We’re going to disagree on some things, but there are going to be areas of agreement and we’ve got to be able to make that happen.  And that’s going to involve compromise every once in a while, and we saw during this lame duck period that perhaps that spirit of compromise may be coming to the fore.

In terms of my own job, I’m energized, I’m excited about the prospects for the next couple of years, and I’m certainly not going to be stopping for a minute in the effort to make life better for ordinary Americans.  Because, thanks to their efforts, we really do have a new foundation that’s been laid.  We are better positioned than we have been in a very long time.  A new future is ready to be written.  We’ve set the stage for this American moment.  And I’m going to spend every minute of my last two years making sure that we seize it.

My presidency is entering the fourth quarter; interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter.  And I’m looking forward to it.  But going into the fourth quarter, you usually get a timeout.  I’m now looking forward to a quiet timeout — Christmas with my family.  So I want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy New Year.  I hope that all of you get some time to spend with your families as well, because one thing that we share is that we’re away too much from them.

And now, Josh has given me the “who’s been naughty and who’s been nice” list — (laughter) — and I’m going to use it to take some questions.  And we’re going to start with Carrie Budoff Brown of Politico.  There you go, Carrie.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’ll start on North Korea — that seems to be the biggest topic today.  What does a proportional response look like to the Sony hack?  And did Sony make the right decision in pulling the movie?  Or does that set a dangerous precedent when faced with this kind of situation?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me address the second question first.  Sony is a corporation.  It suffered significant damage.  There were threats against its employees.  I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced.  Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.

In this interconnected, digital world, there are going to be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyber assaults both in the private sector and the public sector.  Now, our first order of business is making sure that we do everything to harden sites and prevent those kinds of attacks from taking place.  When I came into office, I stood up a cybersecurity interagency team to look at everything that we could at the government level to prevent these kinds of attacks.  We’ve been coordinating with the private sector, but a lot more needs to be done.  We’re not even close to where we need to be.

And one of the things in the New Year that I hope Congress is prepared to work with us on is strong cybersecurity laws that allow for information-sharing across private sector platforms, as well as the public sector, so that we are incorporating best practices and preventing these attacks from happening in the first place.

But even as we get better, the hackers are going to get better, too.  Some of them are going to be state actors; some of them are going to be non-state actors.  All of them are going to be sophisticated and many of them can do some damage.

We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States.  Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like, or news reports that they don’t like.  Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.

So that’s not who we are.  That’s not what America is about.
Again, I’m sympathetic that Sony as a private company was worried about liabilities, and this and that and the other.  I wish they had spoken to me first.  I would have told them, do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.  Imagine if, instead of it being a cyber-threat, somebody had broken into their offices and destroyed a bunch of computers and stolen disks.  Is that what it takes for suddenly you to pull the plug on something?

So we’ll engage with not just the film industry, but the news industry and the private sector around these issues.  We already have.  We will continue to do so.  But I think all of us have to anticipate occasionally there are going to be breaches like this.  They’re going to be costly.  They’re going to be serious.  We take them with the utmost seriousness.  But we can’t start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we stop going to a football game because there might be the possibility of a terrorist attack; any more than Boston didn’t run its marathon this year because of the possibility that somebody might try to cause harm.  So let’s not get into that way of doing business.

Q    Can you just say what the response would be to this attack?  Wwould you consider taking some sort of symbolic step like watching the movie yourself or doing some sort of screening here that —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve got a long list of movies I’m going to be watching.  (Laughter.)

Q    Will this be one of them?

THE PRESIDENT:  I never release my full movie list.

But let’s talk of the specifics of what we now know.  The FBI announced today and we can confirm that North Korea engaged in this attack.  I think it says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen and James Flacco [Franco].  (Laughter.)  I love Seth and I love James, but the notion that that was a threat to them I think gives you some sense of the kind of regime we’re talking about here.

They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond.  We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose.  It’s not something that I will announce here today at a press conference.

More broadly, though, this points to the need for us to work with the international community to start setting up some very clear rules of the road in terms of how the Internet and cyber operates.  Right now, it’s sort of the Wild West.  And part of the problem is, is you’ve got weak states that can engage in these kinds of attacks, you’ve got non-state actors that can do enormous damage.  That’s part of what makes this issue of cybersecurity so urgent.

Again, this is part of the reason why it’s going to be so important for Congress to work with us and get a actual bill passed that allows for the kind of information-sharing we need.  Because if we don’t put in place the kind of architecture that can prevent these attacks from taking place, this is not just going to be affecting movies, this is going to be affecting our entire economy in ways that are extraordinarily significant.

And, by the way, I hear you’re moving to Europe.  Where you going to be?

Q    Brussels.

THE PRESIDENT:  Brussels.

Q    Yes.  Helping Politico start a new publication.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, congratulations.

Q    I’ve been covering you since the beginning.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think —

Q    It’s been a long road for the both of us.

THE PRESIDENT:  I think there’s no doubt that what Belgium needs is a version of Politico.  (Laughter.)

Q    I’ll take that as an endorsement.

THE PRESIDENT:  The waffles are delicious there, by the way.
Cheryl Bolen.  You’ve been naughty.  (Laughter.)  Cheryl, go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Looking ahead to your work with Congress next year, you’ve mentioned as an area of possible compromise tax reform.  And so I am wondering, do you see a Republican Congress as presenting a better opportunity for actually getting tax reform next year?  Will you be putting out a new proposal?  Are you willing to consider both individual and corporate side of the tax ledger there?  And also, are you still concerned about corporate inversions?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think an all-Democratic Congress would have provided an even better opportunity for tax reform.  But I think, talking to Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell that they are serious about wanting to get some things done.  The tax area is one area where we can get things done.  And I think in the coming weeks leading up to the State of Union, there will be some conversations at the staff levels about what principles each side are looking at.

I can tell you broadly what I’d like to see.  I’d like to see more simplicity in the system.  I’d like to see more fairness in the system.  With respect to the corporate tax reform issue, we know that there are companies that are paying the full freight — 35 percent — higher than just about any other company on Earth, if you’re paying 35 percent, and then there are other companies that are paying zero because they’ve got better accountants or lawyers.  That’s not fair.

There are companies that are parking money outside the country because of tax avoidance.  We think that it’s important that everybody pays something if, in fact, they are effectively headquartered in the United States.  In terms of corporate inversion, those are situations where companies really are headquartered here but, on paper, switch their headquarters to see if they can avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  I think that needs to be fixed.

So, fairness, everybody paying their fair share, everybody taking responsibility I think is going to be very important.

Some of those principles I’ve heard Republicans say they share.  How we do that — the devil is in the details.  And I’ll be interested in seeing what they want to move forward.  I’m going to make sure that we put forward some pretty specific proposals building on what we’ve already put forward.

One other element of this that I think is important is — and I’ve been on this hobby horse now for six years.  (Audience member sneezes.)  Bless you.  We’ve got a lot of infrastructure we’ve got to rebuild in this country if we’re going to be competitive — roads, bridges, ports, airports, electrical grids, water systems, sewage systems.  We are way behind.

And early on we indicated that there is a way of us potentially doing corporate tax reform, lowering rates, eliminating loopholes so everybody is paying their fair share, and during that transition also providing a mechanism where we can get some infrastructure built.  I’d like to see us work on that issue as well.  Historically, obviously, infrastructure has not been a Democratic or a Republican issue, and I’d like to see if we can return to that tradition.

Julie Pace.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I wanted to ask about Cuba. What would you say to dissidents or democracy advocates inside Cuba who fear that the policy changes you announced this week could give the Castro regime economic benefits without having to address human rights or their political system?  When your administration was lifting sanctions on Myanmar you sought commitments of reform.  Why not do the same with Cuba?

And if I could just follow up on North Korea.  Do you have any indication that North Korea was acting in conjunction with another country, perhaps China?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ve got no indication that North Korea was acting in conjunction with another country.

With respect to Cuba, we are glad that the Cuban government have released slightly over 50 dissidents; that they are going to be allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations human rights agencies to operate more freely inside of Cuba and monitor what is taking place.

I share the concerns of dissidents there and human rights activists that this is still a regime that represses its people. And as I said when I made the announcement, I don’t anticipate overnight changes, but what I know deep in my bones is that if you’ve done the same thing for 50 years and nothing has changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome.

And this gives us an opportunity for a different outcome, because suddenly Cuba is open to the world in ways that it has not been before.  It’s open to Americans traveling there in ways that it hasn’t been before.  It’s open to church groups visiting their fellow believers inside of Cuba in ways they haven’t been before.  It offers the prospect of telecommunications and the Internet being more widely available in Cuba in ways that it hasn’t been before.

And over time, that chips away at this hermetically sealed society, and I believe offers the best prospect then of leading to greater freedom, greater self-determination on the part of the Cuban people.

I think it will happen in fits and starts.  But through engagement, we have a better chance of bringing about change then we would have otherwise.

Q    Do you have a goal for where you see Cuba being at the end of your presidency?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think it would be unrealistic for me to map out exactly where Cuba will be.  But change is going to come to Cuba.  It has to.  They’ve got an economy that doesn’t work.  They’ve been reliant for years first on subsidies from the Soviet Union, then on subsidies from Venezuela.  Those can’t be sustained.  And the more the Cuban people see what’s possible, the more interested they are going to be in change.

But how societies change is country-specific, it’s culturally specific.  It could happen fast; it could happen slower than I’d like; but it’s going to happen.  And I think this change in policy is going to advance that.

Lesley Clark.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I had a number of questions on Cuba as well.  Appreciate that.  I wanted to —

THE PRESIDENT:  Do I have to write all these down?  How many are there?  (Laughter.)  “A number” sounded intimidating.

Q    As quick as I can.  As quick as I can.  I wanted to see if you got an assurances from the Cuban government that it would not revert to the same sort of — sabotage the deal, as it has in the past when past Presidents had made similar overtures to the government.

THE PRESIDENT:  Meaning?  Be specific.  What do you mean?

Q    When the Clinton administration made some overtures, they shot down planes.  They sort of had this pattern of doing provocative — provocative events.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, so just general provocative activity.

Q    Provocative activities any time the U.S. has sort of reached out a hand to them.  I wanted to see what is your knowledge of whether Fidel Castro — did he have any role in the talks?  When you talked to President Raul Castro, did Fidel Castro’s name come up?  Or did you ask about him?  How he’s doing?  People haven’t seen him in a while.  Given the deep opposition from some Republicans in Congress to lifting the embargo, to an embassy, to any of the changes that you’re doing, are you going to personally get involved in terms of talking to them about efforts that they want to do to block money on a new embassy?

THE PRESIDENT:  All right, Lesley, I think I’m going to cut you off here.  (Laughter.)  This is taking up a lot of time.

Q    Okay, all right.

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  So, with respect to sabotage, I mean, my understanding of the history, for example, of the plane being shot down, it’s not clear that that was the Cuban government purposely trying to undermine overtures by the Clinton administration.  It was a tragic circumstance that ended up collapsing talks that had begun to take place.  I haven’t seen a historical record that suggests that they shot the plane down specifically in order to undermine overtures by the Clinton government.

I think it is not precedented for the President of the United States and the President of Cuba to make an announcement at the same time that they are moving towards normalizing relations.  So there hasn’t been anything like this in the past. That doesn’t meant that over the next two years we can anticipate them taking certain actions that we may end up finding deeply troubling either inside of Cuba or with respect to their foreign policy.  And that could put significant strains on the relationship.  But that’s true of a lot of countries out there where we have an embassy.  And the whole point of normalizing relations is that it gives us a greater opportunity to have influence with that government than not.

So I would be surprised if the Cuban government purposely tries to undermine what is now effectively its own policy.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they take at any given time actions that we think are a problem.  And we will be in a position to respond to whatever actions they take the same way we do with a whole range of countries around the world when they do things we think are wrong.  But the point is, is that we will be in a better position I think to actually have some influence, and there may be carrots as well as sticks that we can then apply.

The only way that Fidel’s name came up — I think I may have mentioned this in the Davie Muir article — interview that I did — was I delivered a fairly lengthy statement at the front end about how we’re looking forward to a new future in the relationship between our two countries, but that we are going to continue to press on issues of democracy and human rights, which we think are important.

My opening remarks probably took about 15 minutes, which on the phone is a pretty long time.  And at the end of that, he said, Mr. President, you’re still a young man.  Perhaps you have the — at the end of my remarks I apologized for taking such a long time, but I wanted to make sure that before we engaged in the conversation he was very clear about where I stood.  He said, oh, don’t worry about it, Mr. President, you’re still a young man and you have still the chance to break Fidel’s record — he once spoke seven hours straight.  (Laughter.)

And then, President Castro proceeded to deliver his own preliminary remarks that last at least twice as long as mine.  (Laughter.)  And then I was able to say, obviously it runs in the family.  But that was the only discussion of Fidel Castro that we had.

I sort of forgot all the other questions.  (Laughter.)

Q    I have a few more if you’re — how personally involved are you going to get in —

THE PRESIDENT:  With respect to Congress?  We cannot unilaterally bring down the embargo.  That’s codified in the Libertad Act.  And what I do think is going to happen, though, is there’s going to be a process where Congress digests it.  There are bipartisan supporters of our new approach, there are bipartisan detractors of this new approach.  People will see how the actions we take unfold.  And I think there’s going to be a healthy debate inside of Congress.

And I will certainly weigh in.  I think that ultimately we need to go ahead and pull down the embargo, which I think has been self-defeating in advancing the aims that we’re interested in.  But I don’t anticipate that that happens right away.  I think people are going to want to see how does this move forward before there’s any serious debate about whether or not we would make major shifts in the embargo.

Roberta Rampton.

Q    I want to follow on that by asking, under what conditions would you meet with President Castro in Havana?  Would you have certain preconditions that you would want to see met before doing that?  And on the hack, I know that you said that you’re not going to announce your response, but can you say whether you’re considering additional economic or financial sanctions on North Korea?  Can you rule out the use of military force or some kind of cyber hit of your own?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think I’m going to leave it where I left it, which is we just confirmed that it was North Korea; we have been working up a range of options.  They will be presented to me.  I will make a decision on those based on what I believe is proportional and appropriate to the nature of this crime.

With respect to Cuba, we’re not at a stage here where me visiting Cuba or President Castro coming to the United States is in the cards.  I don’t know how this relationship will develop over the next several years.  I’m a fairly young man so I imagine that at some point in my life I will have the opportunity to visit Cuba and enjoy interacting with the Cuban people.  But there’s nothing specific where we’re trying to target some sort of visit on my part.

Colleen McCain Nelson.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  There you are.

Q    You spoke earlier about 2014 being a breakthrough year, and you ended the year with executive actions on Cuba and immigration and climate change.  But you didn’t make much progress this year on your legislative agenda.  And some Republican lawmakers have said they’re less inclined to work with you if you pursue executive actions so aggressively.  Are you going to continue to pursue executive actions if that creates more roadblocks for your legislative agenda?  Or have you concluded that it’s not possible to break the fever in Washington and the partisan gridlock here?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think there are real opportunities to get things done in Congress.  As I said before, I take Speaker Boehner and Mitch McConnell at their words that they want to get things done.  I think the American people would like to see us get some things done.  The question is going to be are we able to separate out those areas where we disagree and those areas where we agree.  I think there are going to be some tough fights on areas where we disagree.

If Republicans seek to take health care away from people who just got it, they will meet stiff resistance from me.  If they try to water down consumer protections that we put in place in the aftermath of the financial crisis, I will say no.  And I’m confident that I’ll be able to uphold vetoes of those types of provisions.  But on increasing American exports, on simplifying our tax system, on rebuilding our infrastructure, my hope is that we can get some things done.

I’ve never been persuaded by this argument that if it weren’t for the executive actions they would have been more productive.  There’s no evidence of that.  So I intend to continue to do what I’ve been doing, which is where I see a big problem and the opportunity to help the American people, and it is within my lawful authority to provide that help, I’m going to do it.  And I will then, side-by-side, reach out to members of Congress, reach out to Republicans, and say, let’s work together; I’d rather do it with you.

Immigration is the classic example.  I was really happy when the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill.  And I did everything I could for a year and a half to provide Republicans the space to act, and showed not only great patience, but flexibility, saying to them, look, if there are specific changes you’d like to see, we’re willing to compromise, we’re willing to be patient, we’re willing to work with you.  Ultimately it wasn’t forthcoming.

And so the question is going to be I think if executive actions on areas like minimum wage, or equal pay, or having a more sensible immigration system are important to Republicans, if they care about those issues, and the executive actions are bothering them, there is a very simple solution, and that is:  Pass bills.  And work with me to make sure I’m willing to sign those bills.

Because both sides are going to have to compromise.  On most issues, in order for their initiatives to become law, I’m going to have sign off.  And that means they have to take into account the issues that I care about, just as I’m going to have to take into account the issues that they care about.

All right.  I think this is going to be our last question.  Juliet Eilperin.  There you go.

Q    Thanks so much.  So one of the first bills that Mitch McConnell said he will send to you is one that would authorize the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.  When you talked about this in the past, you’ve minimized the benefits and you highlighted some of the risks associated with that project.  I’m wondering if you could tell us both what you would do when faced with that bill, given the Republican majority that we’ll have in both chambers.  And also, what do you see as the benefits?  And given the precipitous drop we’ve seen in oil prices recently, does that change the calculus in terms of how it will contribute to climate change, and whether you think it makes sense to go ahead with that project?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I don’t think I’ve minimized the benefits, I think I’ve described the benefits.  At issue in Keystone is not American oil.  It is Canadian oil that is drawn out of tar sands in Canada.  That oil currently is being shipped out through rail or trucks, and it would save Canadian oil companies and the Canadian oil industry an enormous amount of money if they could simply pipe it all the way through the United States down to the Gulf.  Once that oil gets to the Gulf, it is then entering into the world market, and it would be sold all around the world.

So there’s no — I won’t say “no” — there is very little impact, nominal impact, on U.S. gas prices — what the average American consumer cares about — by having this pipeline come through.  And sometimes the way this gets sold is, let’s get this oil and it’s going to come here.  And the implication is, is that’s going to lower gas prices here in the United States.  It’s not.  There’s a global oil market.  It’s very good for Canadian oil companies and it’s good for the Canadian oil industry, but it’s not going to be a huge benefit to U.S. consumers.  It’s not even going to be a nominal benefit to U.S. consumers.

Now, the construction of the pipeline itself will create probably a couple thousand jobs.  Those are temporary jobs until the construction actually happens.  There’s probably some additional jobs that can be created in the refining process down in the Gulf.  Those aren’t completely insignificant — it’s just like any other project.  But when you consider what we could be doing if we were rebuilding our roads and bridges around the country — something that Congress could authorize — we could probably create hundreds of thousands of jobs, or a million jobs. So if that’s the argument, there are a lot more direct ways to create well-paying Americans construction jobs.

And then, with respect to the cost, all I’ve said is that I want to make sure that if, in fact, this project goes forward, that it’s not adding to the problem of climate change, which I think is very serious and does impose serious costs on the American people — some of them long term, but significant costs nonetheless.  If we’ve got more flooding, more wildfires, more drought, there are direct economic impacts on that.

And as we’re now rebuilding after Sandy, for example, we’re having to consider how do we increase preparedness in how we structure infrastructure and housing, and so forth, along the Jersey Shore.  That’s an example of the kind of costs that are imposed, and you can put a dollar figure on it.

So, in terms of process, you’ve got a Nebraska judge that’s still determining whether or not the new path for this pipeline is appropriate.  Once that is resolved, then the State Department will have all the information it needs to make its decision.

But I’ve just tried to give this perspective, because I think that there’s been this tendency to really hype this thing as some magic formula to what ails the U.S. economy, and it’s hard to see on paper where exactly they’re getting that information from.

In terms of oil prices and how it impacts the decision, I think that it won’t have a significant impact except perhaps in the minds of folks — when gas prices are lower, maybe they’re less susceptible to the argument that this is the answer to lowering gas prices.  But it was never going to be the answer to lowering gas prices, because the oil that would be piped through the Keystone pipeline would go into the world market.  And that’s what determines oil prices, ultimately.

Q    And in terms of Congress forcing your hand on this, is this something where you clearly say you’re not going to let Congress force your hand on whether to approve or disapprove of this?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll see what they do.  We’ll take that up in the New Year.

Q    Any New Year’s resolutions?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll ask — April, go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Last question, I guess.  (Laughter.)  Six years ago this month, I asked you what was the state of black America in the Oval Office, and you said it was the “the best of times and the worst of times.”  You said it was the best of times in the sense that there was — has never been more opportunity for African Americans to receive a good education, and the worst of times for unemployment and the lack of opportunity.  We’re ending 2014.  What is the state of black America as we talk about those issues as well as racial issues in this country?

THE PRESIDENT:  Like the rest of America, black America in the aggregate is better off now than it was when I came into office.  The jobs that have been created, the people who’ve gotten health insurance, the housing equity that’s been recovered, the 401 pensions that have been recovered — a lot of those folks are African American.  They’re better off than they were.

The gap between income and wealth of white and black America persists.  And we’ve got more work to do on that front.  I’ve been consistent in saying that this is a legacy of a troubled racial past of Jim Crow and slavery.  That’s not an excuse for black folks.  And I think the overwhelming majority of black people understand it’s not an excuse.  They’re working hard. They’re out there hustling and trying to get an education, trying to send their kids to college.  But they’re starting behind, oftentimes, in the race.

And what’s true for all Americans is we should be willing to provide people a hand up — not a handout, but help folks get that good early childhood education, help them graduate from high school, help them afford college.  If they do, they’re going to be able to succeed, and that’s going to be good for all of us.

And we’ve seen some progress.  The education reforms that we’ve initiated are showing measurable results.  We have the highest high school graduation that we’ve seen in a very long time.  We are seeing record numbers of young people attending college.  In many states that have initiated reforms, you’re seeing progress in math scores and reading scores for African American and Latino students as well as the broader population.  But we’ve still got more work to go.

Now, obviously, how we’re thinking about race relations right now has been colored by Ferguson, the Garner case in New York, a growing awareness in the broader population of what I think many communities of color have understood for some time, and that is that there are specific instances at least where law enforcement doesn’t feel as if it’s being applied in a colorblind fashion.

The task force that I formed is supposed to report back to me in 90 days — not with a bunch of abstract musings about race relations, but some really concrete, practical things that police departments and law enforcement agencies can begin implementing right now to rebuild trust between communities of color and the police department.

And my intention is to, as soon as I get those recommendations, to start implementing them.  Some of them we’ll be able to do through executive action.  Some of them will require congressional action.  Some of them will require action on the part of states and local jurisdictions.

But I actually think it’s been a healthy conversation that we’ve had.  These are not new phenomenon.  The fact that they’re now surfacing, in part because people are able to film what have just been, in the past, stories passed on around a kitchen table, allows people to make their own assessments and evaluations.  And you’re not going to solve a problem if it’s not being talked about.

In the meantime, we’ve been moving forward on criminal justice reform issues more broadly.  One of the things I didn’t talk about in my opening statement is the fact that last year was the first time in 40 years where we had the federal prison population go down and the crime rate go down at the same time, which indicates the degree to which it’s possible for us to think smarter about who we’re incarcerating, how long we’re incarcerating, how are we dealing with nonviolent offenders, how are we dealing with drug offenses, diversion programs, drug courts.  We can do a better job of — and save money in the process by initiating some of these reforms.  And I’ve been really pleased to see that we’ve had Republicans and Democrats in Congress who are interested in these issues as well.

The one thing I will say — and this is going to be the last thing I say — is that one of the great things about this job is you get to know the American people.  I mean, you meet folks from every walk of life and every region of the country, and every race and every faith.  And what I don’t think is always captured in our political debates is the vast majority of people are just trying to do the right thing, and people are basically good and have good intentions.  Sometimes our institutions and our systems don’t work as well as they should.  Sometimes you’ve got a police department that has gotten into bad habits over a period of time and hasn’t maybe surfaced some hidden biases that we all carry around.  But if you offer practical solutions, I think people want to fix these problems.  It’s not — this isn’t a situation where people feel good seeing somebody choked and dying.  I think that troubles everybody.  So there’s an opportunity of all of us to come together and to take a practical approach to these problems.

And I guess that’s my general theme for the end of the year — which is we’ve gone through difficult times.  It is your job, press corps, to report on all the mistakes that are made and all the bad things that happen and the crises that look like they’re popping.  And I understand that.  But through persistent effort and faith in the American people, things get better.  The economy has gotten better.  Our ability to generate clean energy has gotten better.  We know more about how to educate our kids.  We solved problems.  Ebola is a real crisis; you get a mistake in the first case because it’s not something that’s been seen before — we fix it.  You have some unaccompanied children who spike at a border, and it may not get fixed in the time frame of the news cycle, but it gets fixed.

And part of what I hope as we reflect on the New Year this should generate is some confidence.  America knows how to solve problems.  And when we work together, we can’t be stopped.

And now I’m going to go on vacation.  Mele Kalikimaka, everybody.  (Laughter.)  Mahalo.  Thank you, everybody.

END
2:45 P.M. EST

Political Musings December 13, 2014: Senate passes $1.1 trillion spending bill after Ted Cruz forced Saturday session

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Senate passes $1.1 trillion spending bill after Ted Cruz forced Saturday session

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After being pushed into a rare Saturday session on Dec. 13, 2014, the Senate passed with a vote of 56 to 40 the large 1.1 trillion-dollar CRomnibus spending bill for the rest of the 2015 fiscal year, late…READ MORE

Political Musings December 11, 2014: Government shutdown averted: House passes spending bill after Democrats, Pelosi protest

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Shutdown averted: House passes spending bill after Democrats, Pelosi protest

By Bonnie K. Goodman

A government shutdown was just averted as the House of Representatives voted Thursday evening, Dec. 11, 2014 with just a few hours left to the midnight deadline to pass a 1.1 trillion dollar spending bill called CRomnibus with…READ MORE

 

 

Political Musings November 7, 2014: Gillespie concedes to Warner in Virginia Senate race, Examiner called it wrong

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Gillespie concedes to Warner in Virginia Senate race, Examiner called it wrong

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Three days after the midterm elections Republican Ed Gillespie finally conceded on Friday afternoon, Nov. 7, 2014 the race for Virginia’s Senate seat to incumbent Democrat Mark R. Warner in a press conference. With news of Gillespie’…READ MORE

Political Musings November 7, 2014: Boehner warns Obama he would be “burned” for immigration reform executive action

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Boehner warns Obama he would be “burned” for immigration reform executive action

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Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014 had his turn to speak out on the Republican Party regaining control and adding more seats to the Republican majority in the House. The real focus however…READ MORE

Political Musings November 6, 2014: Ever defiant Obama knocks down McConnell olive branch vows executive actions

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Ever defiant Obama knocks down McConnell olive branch vows executive actions

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President Barack Obama held his first post-midterm elections press conference in the White House East Room on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. The president said he heard voters after his Democratic Party’s historic losses, but with his…READ MORE

Political Musings November 5, 2014: Republicans take control of the Senate win 52 seats in 2014 midterm elections

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Republicans take control of the Senate win 52 seats in 2014 midterm elections

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Just before 11:30 PM on election night, Tuesday, Nov. 4,2014, the Republicans won 52 seats in the Senate and the control they were looking for this election cycle. The GOP picked up seats from Democrats in Arkansas…READ MORE

Campaign Headlines November 4, 2014: 2014 Midterm Elections Results: Live Blog

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Campaign Headlines November 4, 2014: Midterm Elections 2014: Live Updates & Blog

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Political Musings November 4, 2014: 2014 midterm elections results: Democrats or GOP take control of the Senate?

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

2014 midterm elections results: Democrats or GOP take control of the Senate?

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The midterm elections on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 will decide 36 seats, six of which will determine which party will control the chamber, specifically seats Democrats hold in states where 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney won. Additionally all 435 seats…READ MORE

Political Musings October 27, 2014: 2014 midterm elections guide: Republicans lead in polls, will control Senate

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

2014 midterm elections guide: Republicans lead in polls, will control Senate

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New polls released on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014 and Monday, Oct. 27, 2014 indicate that the Republicans are set to gain control of the Senate on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. In a matter of two days four polls…READ MORE

Political Musings October 15, 2014: Unpopular Obama sees lowest rating as Republicans set to win Senate in midterms

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Unpopular Obama sees lowest rating as Republicans set to win Senate in midterms

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President Barack Obama and Democrats are facing more bad news with just three weeks left before the midterm elections on Nov. 4, 2014. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014 gives…READ MORE

Political Musings October 12, 2014: Raising minimum wage not unemployment extension top issue for Obama in midterms

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Full Text Obama Presidency October 11, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: America Is a Place Where Hard Work Should Be Rewarded on Raising the Minimum Wage — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: America Is a Place Where Hard Work Should Be Rewarded

Source: WH, 10-11-14

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President made the case for why it’s past time to raise the minimum wage. Increasing the national minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would benefit 28 million Americans, and make our economy stronger. While Republicans in Congress have blocked this commonsense proposal, a large and growing coalition of state and local leaders and owners of businesses large and small have answered the President’s call and raised wages for their residents and employees. This progress is important, but there is more that can be done. No American who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty. That’s why the President will continue to push Congress to take action and give America its well-deserved raise.

The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, October 11, 2014.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
October 11, 2014

Hi, everybody.  For the first time in more than 6 years, the unemployment rate is below 6%.  Over the past four and a half years, our businesses have created more than 10 million new jobs.  That’s the longest uninterrupted stretch of private sector job creation in our history.

But while our businesses are creating jobs at the fastest pace since the ‘90s, the typical family hasn’t seen a raise since the ‘90s also.  Folks are feeling as squeezed as ever.  That’s why I’m going to keep pushing policies that will create more jobs faster and raise wages faster – policies like rebuilding our infrastructure, making sure women are paid fairly, and making it easier for young people to pay off their student loans.

But one of the simplest and fastest ways to start helping folks get ahead is by raising the minimum wage.

Ask yourself: could you live on $14,500 a year?  That’s what someone working full-time on the minimum wage makes.  If they’re raising kids, that’s below the poverty line.  And that’s not right.  A hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.

Right now, a worker on the federal minimum wage earns $7.25 an hour.  It’s time to raise that to $10.10 an hour.

Raising the federal minimum wage to ten dollars and ten cents an hour, or ten-ten, would benefit 28 million American workers.  28 million.  And these aren’t just high schoolers on their first job.  The average worker who would benefit is 35 years old.  Most low-wage workers are women.  And that extra money would help them pay the bills and provide for their families.  It also means they’ll have more money to spend at local businesses – which grows the economy for everyone.

But Congress hasn’t voted to raise the minimum wage in seven years.  Seven years.  And when it got a vote earlier this year, Republicans flat-out voted “no.”  That’s why, since the first time I asked Congress to give America a raise, 13 states, 21 cities and D.C. have gone around Congress to raise their workers’ wages.  Five more states have minimum wage initiatives on the ballot next month.  More companies are choosing to raise their workers’ wages.  A recent survey shows that a majority of small business owners support a gradual increase to ten-ten an hour, too.  And I’ve done what I can on my own by requiring federal contractors to pay their workers at least ten-ten an hour.

On Friday, a coalition of citizens – including business leaders, working moms, labor unions, and more than 65 mayors – told Republicans in Congress to stop blocking a raise for millions of hard-working Americans. Because we believe that in America, nobody who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.  And I’m going to keep up this fight until we win.  Because America deserves a raise right now.  And America should forever be a place where your hard work is rewarded.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Political Musings October 6, 2014: Long-term jobless rate remains high Obama, Boehner ignore unemployment extension

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Political Musings October 5, 2014: Obama praises September jobs report pitches raising minimum wage in midterm push

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Political Musings October 5, 2014: GOP make midterms referendum on Obama, as president refocuses on the economy

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Full Text Obama Presidency October 3, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Town Hall on Manufacturing at Millennium Steel — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at a Town Hall on Manufacturing

Source: WH, 10-3-14 

Millennium Steel
Princeton, Indiana

2:17 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! Hello, Indiana! It’s good to be back close to home. Everybody have a seat, have a seat.

Well, first of all, let me thank Henry and everybody for extending such a warm welcome. It’s good to be back in Indiana. A couple people I just want to acknowledge very quickly: Your Mayor, Bob Hurst. Where did Mayor Hurst go? (Applause.) He was here just a second — there he is right there. Give him a big round of applause. (Applause.) We’ve got your former Congressman, Brad Ellsworth, in the house. Say hi to Brad. (Applause.)

It is great to be back in Indiana. It’s great to be in Princeton. And I want to thank Millennium Steel for hosting us here today. I’m here because you might have heard that today is National Manufacturing Day. You don’t get the day off on National Manufacturing Day. (Laughter.) But factories like this one, all over the country, are opening their doors to give young people a chance to understand what opportunities exist in manufacturing in 21st century in the United States of America. So I figured, what better place to celebrate Manufacturing Day than with a manufacturer?

And instead of giving a long speech, what I want to do today is just have a conversation with folks about what’s happening in the American economy, what’s happening in your lives, what’s happening in manufacturing, and to talk a little bit about how we can continue to build an economy that works for everybody, that gives everybody who’s willing to work hard a chance.

And I wanted to do that here because, in some ways, American manufacturing is powering the American recovery. This morning, we learned that last month, our businesses added more than 236,000 jobs. (Applause.) The unemployment rate fell from 6.1 percent to 5.9 percent. (Applause.) What that means is that the unemployment rate is below 6 percent for the first time in six years. (Applause.) And we’re on pace for the strongest job growth since the 1990s — strongest job growth since the 1990s. Over the past 55 months, our businesses have now created 10.3 million new jobs. (Applause.)

Now, that happens to be the longest uninterrupted stretch of job growth in the private sector in American history. And all told, the United States has put more folks back to work than Europe, Japan, and all other advanced economies combined. All combined, we put more folks back to work right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)

So this progress that we’ve been making, it’s been hard, it goes in fits and starts, it’s not always been perfectly smooth or as fast as we want, but it is real and it is steady and it is happening. And it’s making a difference in economies all across the country. And it’s the direct result of the best workers in the world, the drive and determination of the American people, the resilience of the American people bouncing back from what was the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression — and it’s also got a little bit to do with some decisions we made pretty early on in my administration.

So, just to take an example, many of you know that the auto industry was really in a bad spot when I came into office. And we decided to help our automakers to rebuild, to retool, and they’re now selling new cars at the fastest rate in about eight years. And they’re great cars, too. (Applause.) And that’s helped a lot of communities all across the Midwest. And that’s just one example of what’s been happening to American manufacturing generally.

About 10, 15 years ago, everybody said American manufacturing is going downhill, everything is moving to China or other countries. And the Midwest got hit a lot harder than a lot of places because we were the backbone of American manufacturing. But because folks invested in new plants and new technologies, and there were hubs that were created between businesses and universities and community colleges so that workers could master and get trained in some of these new technologies, what we’ve now seen is manufacturing driving economic growth in a way we haven’t seen in about 20-25 years.

Because of the efforts that we’ve made, manufacturing as a whole has added about 700,000 new jobs. It’s growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy. New factories are opening their doors. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking to bring jobs back from China. Our businesses are selling more goods overseas than any time in our history. And the reason this is important is not just because of some abstract statistic. Manufacturing jobs have good pay and good benefits.

And they create a ripple effect to the whole economy because everybody who’s working here at Millennium Steel, because you’re getting paid well, because you’ve got decent benefits, that means that the restaurants in the neighborhood are doing better. It means you can afford to make your mortgage payments and buy a new car yourself, and buy some new appliances. And you get a virtuous cycle in which all businesses are doing better.

To most middle-class folks, the last decade was defined by those jobs going overseas. But if we keep up these investments, then we can define this decade as a period, instead of outsourcing, insourcing — bringing jobs back to America. And when you ask business executives around the world, what’s the number-one place to invest their money right now, for a long time it was China. Today they say, the best place to invest money is here in the United States of America. Here in the United States of America. (Applause.)

So there is a lot of good stuff happening in the economy right now. But what we all know is, is that there’s still some challenges — there’s still some challenges — because there are still a lot of families where somebody in the family is out of work, or isn’t getting as many hours as they want. There are still a lot of folks who, at the end of the month, are having trouble paying the bills. And wages and incomes have not moved up as fast as all the gains we’re making in jobs and productivity. Too much of the growth in income and wealth is going to the very top; not enough of it is being spread to the ordinary worker.

And that means that we’ve still got some more work to do to put in place policies that make sure that the economy works not just for the few, but it works for everybody; and that if you work hard you’re going to be able to pay the bills, you’re going to be able to retire with some dignity and some respect, you can send your kids to school without having to worry about it. That’s what we’ve got to be working on — making sure that no matter who you are, where you started, you can make it here in America. That’s what the American Dream is all about. (Applause.)

Now, let me just close by saying a couple of things that I know would make a difference if we were doing them right now to make the economy grow even faster, to bring the unemployment rate down even faster, and if employers are hiring more workers and the labor market gets a little bit tighter, then employers end up paying a little bit more and wages go up a little bit more, and that means people have a little more money in their pockets, and then they’re spending more of it on businesses’ products and services, which means that even more workers get hired. There are some things we could do right now that would make a difference.

We should be investing in roads and bridges and ports and infrastructure all across the country. We’ve got a lot of stuff that was built back in the ‘40s and the ‘50s that needs to be updated. And if we’re putting construction workers back to work, that means they also need some steel. They also need some concrete. It means you need engineers doing the work, and you need suppliers. And all that would give a huge boost to the economy and make it easier for businesses to deliver their products and services around the world. It would be good for our economy. That’s something that we should be doing right now.

And I’ve been putting proposals forward in front of Congress to say let’s go ahead and just start rebuilding all kinds of parts of America that need rebuilding. And nobody disagrees that they need to be rebuilt. The only thing that’s holding us up right now is politics.

We should be raising the minimum wage to make sure that more workers — (applause) — who have been working full-time shouldn’t be living in poverty. And we’ve got legislation going on right now that would call for a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, which would mean that if you work full-time you’re not living in poverty, you can raise a family. And the good news is, is about 13 states and a bunch of cities around the country have gone ahead and done it without Congress. But it would sure help if Congress went ahead and did it as well. Because right now, since I, two years ago, called for a hike in the minimum wage, about 7 million people have seen their incomes go up, but there are still about 21 million people who would stand to benefit if we had a national minimum wage.

And by the way, when you hear folks saying, well, if you raise the minimum wage that’s going to be fewer jobs — it turns out the states that have raised the minimum wage have had faster job growth than the states that haven’t raised the minimum wage. So this is something that would benefit families, but again, if folks have more money in their pockets, they’re working hard, they go out and spend it. And that ends up being good for business, not just for the workers involved.

We should be making sure that women are getting paid the same as men for doing the same work. (Applause.) That’s something, by the way, that should be a no-brainer for men, too, because — (laughter) — I remember when Michelle and I were both working, I was always happy if she got a raise. I wanted to make sure that she was getting paid fairly because it’s all one household, and the more women that get into the workforce, the more families are reliant on two incomes in order to make ends meet. Plus it’s just fair and it’s the right thing to do. (Applause.)

So there are a number of steps that we can take to make unemployment go down faster, to make sure that wages are rising faster, and that would benefit everybody. And I’ll just close with this comment. If you look at American history, the times we grow fastest and do best is when we’re growing the economy from the middle out. When middle-class families are growing, when working folks can get their way into the middle class, that’s when the whole economy does well. When you have an economy where just a few are doing well, and a lot of other folks are left, no matter how hard they work, still just scraping to get by, the economy doesn’t get the same kind of momentum.

And if you think about what America is about, what the American Dream is about, it’s always been that everybody should have opportunity. It shouldn’t matter how you started out if you’re willing to work hard, if you have good values, if you take responsibility. And that’s the kind of economy that we want to build. And we can build it, and manufacturing is going to be right smack dab in the middle of that effort, we’ve got to continue to build on the success we have. We’re not going to rest on our laurels. We’re going to keep on going until every single person who wants to find a good job out there can get a good job, and that America is competing against everybody else, so that 21st century is the American Century, just like the 20th century was.

All right? (Applause.)

Here is how we’re going to do this. I’m going to just grab this mic. Anybody who wants to ask a question or make a comment just raise your hand. There are probably some folks with mics in the audience. Wait for the mic so everybody can hear you. Stand up, introduce yourself. Try to make your questions kind of short, and I’ll try to make my answers kind of short. That way we can get more folks in. All right? All right. Who wants to go first? Oh, and I’ll go boy, girl, boy, girl — to make sure everybody — (laughter) — it’s kind of fair, kind of even. All right.

This young man right here.

Q Thank you for coming out today, President Obama. I’m with the University of Southern Indiana Manufacturing Club out here —

THE PRESIDENT: Excellent.

Q And my question for you is, can you share some specifics about the Rebuild America Act? I know you talked a little bit about that.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have about $2 trillion in deferred maintenance. I don’t have to tell you because some of you have probably hit some potholes and tried to figure out what the heck is going on, why aren’t we fixing that road? But it’s not just the traditional roads and bridges. It’s also the infrastructure we don’t see — sewer systems, water systems. A lot of them are breaking down. Gas lines that we’ve been seeing in some big cities — those things start wearing out, suddenly they actually pose a threat if they explode because they’re just not in good shape.

There’s a whole bunch of new infrastructure that we should be building. So I’ll give you a good example is our electricity grid. The way we transmit power — if we’ve got old electricity grids, what happens is a lot of the electricity leaks, a lot of the power leaks in the transmission from the power plant to, let’s say, a factory like this one. And the more it leaks, the more that’s driving up prices, because it’s not as efficient as it should be and it’s more vulnerable to blackouts.

And in fact, if we built a smarter power grid — that’s called a smart grid — means that not only is it not leaking power, but it’s also sending power in efficient ways during peak times, so that we end up using less energy, which drives down consumer prices and is good for the environment.

I’ll give you one other example that I know everybody here will appreciate. We have an old, archaic air traffic control system. Some of you heard about what happened in Chicago — some guy got mad he was being transferred to Hawaii. Now, let me tell you, I’ve been to Hawaii. I don’t know why he was mad about that. (Laughter.) He sets fire to some of the facilities there, and suddenly folks couldn’t get in and out of Chicago for a couple of days. In fact, I was in Chicago yesterday — day before yesterday. I had to land in Gary because O’Hare was still somewhat restricted.

But even setting aside that, it turns out that if we revamped our whole air traffic control system, we could reduce the number of delayed flights by about 30 percent. We could reduce the amount of fuel that airlines use by about 30 percent, which means we could lower ticket prices by a whole bunch. It means that you wouldn’t have two-hour waits in the airport. And if you’re flying for business, that’s going to save you time and money. If you’re just trying to get home to see your family, it means time spent with family instead of sitting in an airport, buying stuff that’s really expensive. (Laughter.)

The whole economy would be more efficient if we do it. So the good news is it’s the best time for us to rebuild our infrastructure because there are still a lot of construction workers out of work, a lot of contractors — it’s not like they’ve got so much business, which means they can do the work on time, under budget. Interest rates are low. If we spent, let’s say, the next 10 years just saying we’re just going to rebuild all across America, old infrastructure and new infrastructure, then not only would we give the economy a boost right now, but what we’d also do is lay the foundation for even more economic growth in the future.

It’s a smart investment, and we should be doing it. So what I’ve proposed is let’s close some tax loopholes that exist right now that in some cases are incentivizing companies to send money overseas and profits overseas instead of investing here in the United States of America. Let’s close those loopholes that aren’t good for creating jobs here. Let’s take some of that money, let’s use that to rebuild our infrastructure. Makes good sense.

But Congress hasn’t done it yet — not because it’s not a good idea. Infrastructure is not partisan. That’s not Democratic or Republican, that’s just a common-sense thing. Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System. Lincoln — first Republican President — helped build the Transcontinental Railroad. Traditionally, everybody has been in favor of infrastructure because it powers our economy. It’s part of what made us an economic superpower. We’ve got to get back to that kind of mentality.

All right. Young lady right here.

Q Mr. President, you mentioned an increase to the minimum wage. How do you counter an opinion that increasing employee wages would ultimately increase the selling price of goods and services, thus negating any increase to the employee’s standard of living?

THE PRESIDENT: No, it’s a good question. It’s interesting that if you look at the studies that have been done — first of all, most employers pay more than the minimum wage already. Typically, minimum wage are in certain sectors of the economy. They’re disproportionately women who are getting paid the minimum wage. But unlike what people think, the majority of folks getting paid the minimum wage are adults, many of them supporting families. The average age of somebody getting paid the minimum wage is 35 years old. They’re not 16.

So in those states or where you’ve had one state pass a hike in the minimum wage and the state right next door doesn’t, and you kind of look at what’s happening along the border where you think that people would be kind of influenced — maybe they shop where the prices are cheaper, or businesses would move over to the place where there isn’t a minimum wage — it turns out that actually it doesn’t have that much of an impact. It has an impact on the families. It generally does not have a huge impact in terms of prices, and it doesn’t have — another argument that’s made is folks will hire fewer people because salaries are higher. Well, it turns out actually that’s not generally what happens. It’s just that if everybody has to raise the minimum wage, then everybody adjusts. And in some cases, because of competition, they’re not going to be able to raise their prices.

But you’re getting to a larger point that I think has plagued the American economy for some time, and that is that business has learned how to be really profitable and produce a lot of goods with fewer and fewer workers, partly through automation. And sometimes that does drive down prices. The problem is it also drives down wages. And it’s driven wages down faster, in many cases, than prices.

I mean, if what you’re worried about most is low prices, then presumably we could have everything made in low-wage countries overseas. They’d get shipped back here, but it doesn’t do you any good if a pair of sneakers is really cheap and you don’t have a job. So I think the goal here should be prioritizing — number one, making sure people have work, number two, making sure that that work pays well.

And if people have good jobs and they’re getting paid a decent wage, then businesses are the ones who have to compete for your business. They’re still going to have to keep prices down relatively low because they’re going to have to compete against other businesses. If they raise their prices too much, somebody is going to come in and offer a better deal. And consumers have gotten better, partly because of the Internet. They know what prices are there.

So there’s never been greater competition out there. The problem is right now that all that competition is on the back of workers. Businesses’ profits are through the roof. There was a report this week that showed that corporate balance sheets in America are as strong as they’ve been in history. It’s part of the reason why the stock market is doing great. So it’s not as if companies don’t have some room to pay their workers more. They’re just not doing it. And a greater and greater share has been going to the corporate balance sheet, and less and less of a share is going to workers.

So don’t let folks tell you that companies right now can’t afford to provide their workers a raise. The reason they’re not giving their workers a raise is because, frankly, they don’t have to — because the labor market is still somewhat soft, and people are afraid that if I leave this job I may not find something.

The good news is, as the unemployment rate comes down, there are fewer workers looking for jobs, and that means companies have to start bidding up wages a little bit. The market will take care of some of this. But having a minimum wage that is a little bit higher, that’s also going to help.

Last example I’ll give, by the way, Costco –I assume some folks here shopped at Costco before. Costco has the best prices around, right? Starting salary for a cash register operator — $11.50, maybe it’s $11.35. Starting wage. And by the way, even before the Affordable Care Act, Costco gave everybody health care. But they’ve been growing just as fast as folks who don’t pay the minimum wage and don’t provide health care benefits. Their stock has done great. The difference is they’re spreading more of the profits to their workers, which is good for the economy as a whole. And by the way, when you walk into Costco, everybody is pretty cheerful because they’re feeling like they’re getting a fair deal and that the company cares about them.

All right? Yes.

Q I’m the general manager at Millennium Steel. We’re very honored to have you. One of the questions I had is about the health care costs. We are seeing almost a double-digit increase in health care costs every year. So do you think that trend is going to go down? And what can we do to control that trend?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that’s really interesting. You’re going to have to talk to Henry because — (laughter) — no, no, no, this is serious. The question is whether you guys are shopping effectively enough. Because it turns out that this year, and in fact over the course of the last four years, premiums have gone up at the slowest rate in 50 years. So health care premiums have actually slowed down significantly. And it is having an effect both on businesses and families and the federal debt. Because most of the federal deficit and the federal debt, when folks talk about we’ve got to drive down the debt, we’ve got to do something about the debt — it turns out that most of the federal deficit and the federal debt over the last decade has come from health care costs going up so high, which means Medicare and Medicaid costs start going up. And that’s gobbled up a bigger and bigger share of the federal budget.

Because health care costs are going up much more slowly than expected, so far we anticipate we’re going to save about $188 billion over the next 10 years and reduce health care costs.

So the issue now is what can we do to make sure that you at Millennium are shopping and seeing more competition. Because the only problem with the health care market is sometimes it’s different in different pockets of the country, depending on how many carriers there are. And what we’re trying to do is to make sure that there’s more competition driving down cost when it comes to both the businesses who are trying to buy health care for their employees, but also folks who don’t get health care on the job and are just having to buy it on their own.

That’s part of what the Affordable Care Act is all about. Now, some of you — Affordable Care Act, by the way, is also known as Obamacare. (Applause.) For a while, everybody was saying — sort of using that as kind of an insult. I’m feeling pretty good about it being called Obamacare. I suspect that about five years from now when everybody agrees that it’s working, then they won’t call it Obamacare anymore. (Laughter.) That’s okay.

But part of what we did there is we set up what’s called these marketplaces, these exchanges, where individuals can go online and shop. And as you know, the website was really bad for the first three months. It’s now in really good shape. We’ve signed up 10 million people to get health coverage many times for the first time. And we’re giving them tax credits to help lower the cost even more. But we’re also setting up a network for businesses to be able to shop for health insurance.

And what’s happened — I talked about this yesterday — right now on average across America — so it may not be true in every single market, but across America, on average, premiums have — if it had not been for this drop in health care inflation, premiums would probably be about $1,800 higher per family than they actually have turned out to be. Now, you think about that — $1,800, that’s money that’s in your pocket that otherwise would be going to you paying for your health care premiums. That’s like an $1,800 tax cut for every family that’s got health insurance. And that’s good news. But we’ve got to make sure everybody takes advantage of it.

So I’m going to make sure — are you in charge of buying health care? You are? All right, so what I’m going to do is I’m going to make sure that you talk to some of our health care market folks. I bet we can get you a better deal. All right? We’ll see if we can save you a little money. (Applause.)

All right. Young lady right here in the jacket.

Q Good afternoon. My name is Conner Perry (ph). I’m in the 8th grade at the Lexington School in Lexington, Kentucky.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s so nice to meet you.

Q Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: How old are you — you’re in 8th grade, so you’re just tall and pretty, just like Malia and Sasha. There you go.

Q I was wondering, what are some actions we could take to put people in rural America to work?

THE PRESIDENT: That’s a great question. You know, the rural economy has actually done extremely well compared to the rest of the economy over the last couple of years. The main reason for it — first of all, we’ve got the best farmers in the world and we’re the most productive agricultural system in the world. So we just — our crops are really good and we produce a lot. And the weather has been pretty decent. I just talked to my friend — where is Scates? There he is. Good buddy of mine — the Scates farm over on Illinois side. He said best crops he’s seen in a while — right? Ever. So that’s the good news.

But what’s also helped is that we have increased our agricultural exports, sending our outstanding products overseas at a record pace. And I should introduce, by the way, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is right here. That’s Penny. (Applause.) And one of Penny’s most important jobs is going around the world and trying to open up new markets for agricultural goods. One of our biggest exports.

And so we’ve got to keep on making sure that if we have the best crops, the best products at the lowest price that we can get into these markets. A lot of countries protect their markets and their farmers from competition by closing their markets — even though they’re selling stuff to us. And my general attitude about trade, I’m a big believer in trade, but my attitude is it’s got to be two-way. If we’re going to buy your cars, or we’re going to buy your TV sets, or whatever else you’re selling, then you’ve got to be able to buy American wheat and corn and beans. And Penny has done a terrific job. And that’s part of the reason why we’ve seen record exports. And that helps the agricultural economy.

That’s number one. But number two, we’ve also got to diversify the rural economy so it’s not just dependent on agriculture. And that means, for example, investing in things like biofuels and clean energy. We are at the threshold of being able to create new energy sources out of not just crops that we grow — corn and ethanol — but also stuff that we usually throw away, like the corn stalks instead of the corn. And the more we invest in biofuels, clean energy, that can make a big difference in the rural economy.

So that’s another area where we can make progress. And then the rural economy should — just like here in Princeton, we’ve got to make sure that we are offering up opportunities for manufacturers to come back in to look at some of these rural sites, where you know the people there work hard and quality of life is high, but oftentimes international investors don’t know about some of these rural communities. And so Penny has been helping to advertise. We’ve got a whole program called SelectUSA where we go around and we help towns, mayors, county chairmen, local chambers of commerce invite investors from Japan and Singapore and Germany — come invest here in the United States of America.

Because what you want is an economy that isn’t just relying on one thing, but it has a bunch of different components to it, so that if, say, you have a bad crop one year the whole economy of that area doesn’t just collapse. And that can make a big difference.

But if we’re going to be able to attract investment into rural America, there are at least two things that have to happen. Number one, we’ve got to invest in education to make sure that the young people in rural America have the skills for today’s jobs. And that includes not just K through 12, but also community colleges — which are really a crown jewel — community colleges can be so powerful in just training folks — they may not go to a four-year college, but if they can get some technical training they’re suddenly ready for that job. And that is really attractive to investors. If they know they’ve got good workers in a site, that’s one of the most important things they’re looking for.

And the second thing is the thing I talked about earlier, which is infrastructure. Part of the problem with rural communities is they’re a little more isolated. All the more important, then, that our rail, our roads, our airports, that they all work, and that they’ve got broadband connections and Internet connections in order to make sure that they can access international markets.

All right? Great question. All right, it’s a gentleman’s turn. Right here. Right here in front.

Q Hello, Mr. President. Thank you for coming. I hope I’ve got this right — it is your wedding anniversary today?

THE PRESIDENT: That is correct.

Q So happy anniversary to you and Michelle.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Twenty-two years she’s been putting up with me. (Laughter.) I had a young man, a friend of mine just got married. And I told the bride — wonderful young lady — I said it takes about 10 years to train a man properly. (Laughter.) So you’ve got to be patient with him. Because he’ll screw up a bunch, but eventually we learn. It’s just it takes us a little longer. We’re not as smart. So Michelle has been very patient with me.

Thank you very much. That’s very kind of you. (Applause.) Young lady right here.

Q Hi, President Obama. I’m from Indiana State University. Right here. (Applause.) Representing.

THE PRESIDENT: Yay, Indiana State!

Q I just had a question. Recently on the media, we have been hearing a lot about the EPA system and the war on coal. What are your feelings on that?

THE PRESIDENT: Some of that is — some of it’s hype and politics. And that’s sort of the nature of our politics these days. But there’s a real issue involved. Less and less of our power is coming from coal.

Now, a lot of people think that’s because of environmental regulations. And the truth of the matter is, is that there’s some environmental regulations that have had an impact mainly because what it’s said to the power plant operators is you’ve got to be more efficient and you can’t send as much pollution into the air. So if you’re using coal, you’ve got to figure out how can we get smart coal — smart coal technologies that capture some of the pollution that’s being sent up, put it underground, store it. Some of that technology is developing, but it’s not quite there yet.

But actually the main reason that power plants in America are using less coal is because natural gas is so cheap. So the real war on coal is natural gas, which, because of new technologies, we are now extracting at a rate that is unbelievable. There’s about a hundred years’ supply of natural gas underground here in America. We are now the number-one natural gas producer in the world. And by the way, we’re also producing more oil than we import for the first time in almost two decades. (Applause.)

Some people don’t realize — you know who the number-one oil producer in the world is? It’s us, the United States of America. So we’re producing more oil than ever. We’re producing more natural gas than ever. And natural gas, we’re producing so much that when new power plants get built, it’s cheaper for them to run on natural gas than it is on coal. So that obviously causes some hardship in communities that traditionally relied on coal.

There are two things we need to do. Number one is — and my administration has been hugely supportive — we’ve put a lot of money into developing these new technologies to make sure we can burn coal cleaner than we have. And the second thing that we need to do is make sure that some of the new opportunities in clean energy and in natural gas and other energy-related industries that they locate in places that used to have coal, or used to be primarily coal country.

Because the trend lines are going to be inevitable. Because if you burn coal in a dirty way, that’s going to cause more and more pollution, including pollution that causes climate change. You’re going to see more and more restrictions on the use of coal not just here in the United States, but around the world, which means that we’ve got to get out in front of that and make sure that we’ve got the technologies to use coal cheaply. And we’ve got to be able to send those technologies to other counties that are still burning coal.

Because there are going to be counties like China and India and others that still use coal for years to come. They’re poor, and they’re building a lot of power plants quickly. They don’t have as much natural gas as us, so they’re going to be interested in figuring how can they use their coal supplies and how can they import our coal. But if we’re doing a good job giving them technologies that allow them to burn it cleanly, then it’s a win-win for us. Not only are we able to then sell coal to them, but we’re also selling the technology to help them burn it in the cleanest way possible.

We’ve been making those investments, and we’ve got to keep on making those investments in order for us to get ahead of the curve.

Great question.

Gentleman back there in the tie. There aren’t that many ties in here, so there you go.

Q Hi, Mr. President. I’m with the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association. We’re one of the founding partners of Manufacturing Day, so thank you for your support. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.

Q I’d like to ask you about R&D. U.S. manufacturers do more R&D than any county in the world. It makes us productive. It makes us innovative. Could you talk about policies and ideas to continue to support R&D activities to promote and accelerate manufacturing? Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: When we think about manufacturing, we always think about the traditional guy with the hard hat and the glasses, and there are sparks flying and it’s noisy. These days you go into a manufacturing plant like this one, first of all, it’s clean, it’s quiet, and so much of it is running on computers and automation and new systems. So if we’re going to stay competitive in manufacturing, we’ve got some terrific advantages.

Energy, by the way, is one of our biggest advantages because we have some of the cheapest energy in the world. That’s part of why a lot of companies want to relocate here in the United States. But we’ve also got to stay ahead of the curve in the new technologies for the new kinds of manufacturing. Every budget I’ve submitted has called for an increase in our R&D budget — our research and development budget. And we’ve specifically been interested in putting more money into research and development in manufacturing.

So, in fact, today I announced the fifth — the proposal for the fifth manufacturing hub that we’re creating. We want to actually create about 15 more of them after this. And what it’s doing is it’s linking manufacturers with universities and researchers to start developing some of the new technologies that we know are going to be key to the future.

So, for example, we already created a manufacturing hub around 3D printing. Everybody know what 3D printing is? It’s actually pretty interesting. So basically the idea is, is that using software you can manufacture just about anything from a remote location just by you send the program to some site and then the machine builds whatever it is that you designed on the computer from scratch. And we know that over time this is going to be more and more incorporated in the manufacturing process. But we want to make sure that all that stuff is done right here in the United States of America. So we created a hub for that.

Today, I’m announcing a $100 million competition to create a new hub around photonics — I had to ask Penny to make sure I pronounced it right. But this is basically the science, the technology around light which is used to transmit data and information, and also is used in the manufacturing process for everything from lasers to some of the stuff that the Department of Defense is doing.

And what these hubs allow us to do is instead of having a slower process where somebody in some lab coat somewhere figures something out and then writes a report on it, and then maybe five years later, some manufacturer says, huh, I wonder if I could tinker around with that and use that in my manufacturing process, you have a system where the businesses and the researchers are working on it at the same time, which speeds up the discovery process and means we’re moving from discovery to application a lot faster.

Now, Germany has about 60 of these manufacturing hubs, and so far I’ve been able to create five of them — or four of them. This is going to be the fifth. And as I said, I want us to make sure we’re doing a lot more than that.

So that’s just one example of why our investment in manufacturing research and development is going to be so critically important. It allows us to keep our lead because America has always been the top innovator in the world. That’s the reason why our economy historically has done so well, is because we invent stuff faster and better than anybody else. And if we lose that lead, we’re going to be in trouble.

Can I just say one last thing about — because I appreciate you working on this National Manufacturers Day. For the young people here, and anybody who is listening, the reason we set up this National Manufacturing Day is because too many young people do not understand the opportunities that exist in manufacturing. Because so many plants were shut down, and so much offshoring was taking place, I think a lot of people just kind of gave up on the idea of working in manufacturing. The problem is that for a lot of young people, manufacturing offers great opportunities.

I was in Wisconsin, somebody told me an amazing statistic, which is the average age of a skilled tool and die operator in Wisconsin is 59 years old. Now, these folks are making 25, 30 bucks an hour, benefits. You are solidly middle class if you have one of these jobs. And the workforce is getting older and older in that area, and the young people aren’t coming to replace them.

So the idea behind National Manufacturing Day, we got 50,000 young people going into factories all across the county and learning about — look at all the jobs that you can get in manufacturing. Engineering jobs, but also jobs on the line, technical jobs. All of them require some skills. All of them require some higher level learning. But not all of them require a four-year degree. You could make a good living. So that’s part of what we’re trying to encourage getting young people to reorient.

And we’re actually also talking to high schools, saying to them, try to encourage young people to think about manufacturing as a career option. Because not everybody wants to sit behind a desk, pushing paper all day long. And different people have different aptitudes and different talents and different interests. And if we can set up a situation where high schools are starting to connect to manufacturing, then a lot of young people can start getting apprenticeships early — realize how interesting some of that work is. Then they have a better idea, if they do end up going to college, it’s a little more focused around the things that they’re actually going to need in order to succeed in manufacturing.

So thank you for participating in that. It’s really important.

We’ve got — how much more time do we have? I just want to make sure. We’ll make it two. We’ll make it two. All right, young lady right there. Yes, right — you, yes. All right, hold on, let’s make sure we got the microphone here.

Q Hi. I am a secondary English education student at USI. And I just want to say thank you for coming here today. It’s such an honor to hear you speak.

Being in the job force in the next couple of years, I am worried about equal pay as a woman. So you’ve talked a little bit about that. How can we get there? What can we do to get equal pay for women?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s a great question. Here are the statistics, first of all. Women on average make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. Now, what folks will tell you sometimes is you can’t really compare the situation because a lot of women by choice end up working less when they have kids, and decide to stay home, and so it’s not the same thing. But here’s the problem. It turns out that actually in a lot of companies sometimes it’s still the case that women are getting paid less than men for doing the exact same job.

And so one of the first bills I signed was called the Lilly Ledbetter bill. And Lilly, who is a friend of mine, she was doing a job for 25 years and about 20 years into it just happened to find out that for that whole time she had been getting paid less for doing the exact same job that a man had been doing. And when she tried to sue to get her back pay, the court said, well, it’s too late now because the statute of limitations had run out. She said, well, I just found out. That doesn’t matter.

So we changed that law, and that was the first thing that we did. And what we’ve also done is through executive action what I’ve said is any federal contractor who does business with the federal government, you’ve got to allow people to compare their salaries so that they can get information about whether they’re getting paid fairly or not.

There is a fair pay bill that is before Congress, but so far it’s been blocked by the House Republicans. It hasn’t come up for a vote. We need to keep putting pressure on them to get this done. This is just a matter of basic fairness. I don’t think my daughters should be treated any different than somebody else’s sons if they’re doing a good job. They should get paid the same.

But it’s also a matter of economics, as I said before. More and more women are the key breadwinner in their family, and if they’re getting paid less, that whole family suffers. So this is something that we have to take care.

I do want to mention, though, going back to the first argument, people saying that women make different choices when they have children — well, part of the reason they have to make different choices is because we don’t have a good child care system. (Applause.) It’s because we don’t have a good family leave policy. A child gets sick; you need to take care of a sick child. You can get unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. But what if you can’t afford to give up that paycheck that day? Or you’ve got an ailing parent — they have to go to the doctor one day. They don’t drive. You need to drive them. You need a day off. But if you take the day off, now you can’t pay your rent.

So there are family-friendly policies that we could put in place — and some states are doing so — improving child care, especially early childhood education, by the way, which we know every dollar we invest in that makes our kids do better in school the whole way. (Applause.) So it’s good for our education system, but it’s also just good for parents.

Somebody mentioned my wedding anniversary. I can tell you the toughest time when we were married was when our kids were still small and I was working and Michelle was working. And sometimes I’d be out of town, and the babysitter doesn’t show up, and suddenly Michelle is having scramble. And I promise you when I get home, it’s rough. (Laughter.)

But we were actually — we were professionals. We were both lawyers. We were in a better position to get help than most families, but it was still hard. So the more we do on early childhood education, high quality day care, making it affordable for families, family leave, those family-friendly policies that will help make sure that women are able to take care of their families and pursue their professional careers and bring home the kind of paycheck that they deserve — we need to do both. It’s not a choice between one or the other. We have to do all those things.

I got time for one more question. Gentleman, right here in the blue.

Q Mr. President, I would like to thank you also for visiting. My name is Randy Perry, this young lady’s father. I do have a small manufacturing company in rural America. But how do you speak to us small manufacturers that want to raise the minimum wage but we have to compete?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I said before, the first thing we need to do is to make sure that the economy as a whole is strong because, remember what I said, when the economy is strong as a whole, there is more demand for workers. That gives workers more leverage to get pay raises. The same is true for businesses. When demand is high for whatever product you’re producing, then you can afford to charge a little bit more.

And the truth of the matter is, is that for a lot of small businesses, there’s going to be more pressure than large businesses when it comes to wages because you just don’t have as much margin for error. But overall, our economy is going to do better, and small businesses do better when there is greater demand out there for products and services. And there’s greater demand for products and services if people have money in their pockets.

And one of the biggest problems we have in our economy right now — and this includes one of the biggest problems for small businesses — is that when a bigger and bigger share goes to folks at the top, a lot of that money, they just don’t spend.

I had lunch with Bill Gates the other day. Now, Bill Gates has ot a lot of money. (Laughter.) And he’s doing great things with it, by the way, doing great charitable work. But the truth of the matter is, is that if Bill Gates gets an extra million dollars, it’s not like he’s going to spend more money on food or go and buy an extra car, or buy a new refrigerator, because he’s already got everything he needs.

But if somebody who is a low-wage worker gets a raise, first thing they’re going to do is they’re going to spend it — maybe on a new backpack for the kids, or finally trade in that old beater, or a new car. And that drives the economy. It picks it up. It boosts it. And when that happens, then more demand exists for services and goods. And that means that all businesses are going to do better, including small businesses. And that, then, gives you the higher profits, which then allows you to pay your workers a little bit more. You get in this virtuous cycle.

And this is part of the argument that I’ve been having with my good friends in the Republican Party for quite some time. If you look at the policies we’ve been pursuing and proposing — investing in research and development, rebuilding our infrastructure, making sure that college is more affordable, improving child care, fair pay legislation, increase the minimum wage — I can point to evidence that shows that that’s going to put more money in the pockets of middle-class families. That’s going to increase growth at a faster pace, and the economy, as a whole is going to do better.

And their main response to me typically is two things. One is they’ll say we got to get rid of regulations. Except the problem is, for example, the last big crisis we had was precisely because we didn’t have enough regulations on Wall Street, and folks were selling a bunch of junk on the market and doing reckless things that ended up costing everybody something.

And then the second argument that they make is we need more tax cuts for folks like me who make a pretty good living, folks at the top. And I’ve got to tell you, there’s no evidence that that’s going to help middle-class families. There’s no evidence for this trickle-down theory that somehow another tax cut for folks who are already making out like bandits over the last 20 years is going to somehow improve the prospects for ordinary families. It just doesn’t exist. They keep on repeating it, but they don’t show that that’s actually going to help the economy. That’s not going to help you. It’s not going to help you. And it’s not going to help Millennium. And it’s not going to help your business.

I made a speech yesterday at Northwestern, and what I just said is just look at the facts. Since I’ve been President, unemployment has gone from — is down from 10 percent down to now 5.9. The deficit has been cut by more than half. Our energy production is higher than it’s ever been. Our health care costs are slowing. More people have insurance. High school dropout rate has gone down. Graduation rate has gone up. College attendance rate has gone up. Our production of clean energy has doubled. Solar energy has gone up tenfold. Wind energy has gone up threefold. Exports — we export more than we ever have in history. Corporate balance sheets are doing great. Stock market, all-time highs. Housing market beginning to recover. There’s almost no economic measure by which the economy as a whole isn’t doing significantly better than it was when I came into office. (Applause.)

Now, those are just facts. You can look them up. I’m not making it up. That’s one thing about being President — if I stand here and say it, all these folks are filming me so they’ll go and check. (Laughter.) So that’s the truth. But what is also true is that wages and incomes have continued to be flat even though the economy is growing and businesses are making more money. So what that tells me is the one thing that’s holding things back, the one thing that people are still concerned about and the one thing that if we could change would really give more confidence to the economy and boost it is if wages and incomes start going up a little bit.

If all the productivity and profits, if we start sharing that a little bit more with more folks, and ordinary families start feeling like they got a little bit of a cushion, that will be good for everybody. Because that’s the one thing that really we haven’t seen as much improvement on as we need. And so what everybody should be asking is how do we increase wages, how do we increase incomes. Because if we do that, things are going to better.

And there are pretty much just a handful of ways to do it. Number one, you make the economy grow even faster so the labor market gets tighter. Number two, you pursue policies like a higher minimum wage, or making sure that families are able to get child care, you’re driving down health care costs, the kinds of things that affect people’s pocketbooks directly. Those are the things that I’ve been pursuing since I’ve been President. And those are the things I’ll continue to pursue as long as I have this great privilege of bring President.

Thank you so much, everybody. God bless you. Appreciate you. (Applause.)

END
P.M. CDT

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