Political Headlines April 26, 2013: House of Representatives Approves Bill to End FAA Federal Aviation Administration Furloughs with a Vote of 361-41





Goodbye, Flight Delays? House Approves Bill to End FAA Furloughs

Source: ABC News Radio, 4-26-13

The House of Representatives gave overwhelming support Friday to a bill that will ease the furloughs of air traffic controllers.

On a vote of 361-41, the House followed the Senate’s lead and rolled back the Federal Aviation Administration’s sequester that had been causing flight delays across the country this week….READ MORE

Political Headlines April 5, 2013: Sequester Furloughs Begin for Government Agencies





Sequester Furloughs Begin for Government Agencies

Source: ABC News Radio, 4-5-13

Parts of the federal government are finally showing the effects of the furloughs prescribed by sequestration — one month and four days after the law went into effect….READ MORE

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





Vice President Joe Biden Holds Off on Donating Salary

Source: ABC News Radio, 4-5-13


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

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

Political Headlines March 15, 2013: President Barack Obama Warns of Sequester Impact on Energy Research in Speech Calling for Additional Energy Spending





Obama Warns of Sequester Impact on Energy Research

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-15-13


While calling for $2 billion in additional energy research spending Friday, President Obama warned of how the sequester cuts could cause the United States to fall behind in research and development in the energy sector during an event at a laboratory just outside of Chicago….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 15, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on American Energy & Increasing Research Spending at Argonne National Laboratory, Lemont, Illinois



Remarks by the President on American Energy — Lemont, Illinois

Source: WH, 3-15-13 

Argonne National Laboratory
Lemont, Illinois

1:31 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Hello, Illinois!  Hello!  It is good to be home!  (Applause.)

Well, let me begin by thanking Ann for the great introduction, the great work she’s doing, the leadership she’s showing with her team on so many different, amazing technological breakthroughs.  I want to thank Dr. Isaacs and Dr. Crabtree for giving me a great tour of your facilities.

It’s not every day that I get to walk into a thermal test chamber.  (Laughter.)  I told my girls that I was going to go into a thermal test chamber and they were pretty excited.  I told them I’d come out looking like the Hulk.  (Laughter.)  They didn’t believe that.

I want to thank my friend and your friend — a truly great U.S. Senator, Senator Dick Durbin — huge supporter of Argonne.  (Applause.)  An outstanding member of Congress who actually could explain some of the stuff that’s going on here — Bill Foster is here.  (Applause.)  Congressman Bobby Rush, a big supporter of Argonne — glad he’s here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got a number of state and local officials with us, including your Mayor, Brian Reaves.  (Applause.)

And I could not come to Argonne without bringing my own Nobel Prize-winning scientist, someone who has served our country so well over the past four years — our Energy Secretary, Dr. Steven Chu.  (Applause.)

Now, I’m here today to talk about what should be our top priority as a nation, and that’s reigniting the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class and an economy built on innovation.  In my State of the Union address, I said our most important task was to drive that economic growth, and I meant it.  And every day, we should be asking ourselves three questions:  How do we make America a magnet for good jobs?  How do we equip our people with the skills and training to do those jobs?  And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?

Those of you who have chairs — I wasn’t sure everybody had chairs there.  (Laughter.)  Please feel free to sit down — I’m sorry.  Everybody was standing and I thought Argonne — one of the effects of the sequester, you had to — (laughter) — get rid of chairs.  (Applause.)  That’s good, I’m glad we’ve got some chairs.

So I chose Argonne National Lab because right now, few areas hold more promise for creating good jobs and growing our economy than how we use American energy.

After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to take control of our energy future.  We produce more oil than we have in 15 years.  We import less oil than we have in 20 years.  We’ve doubled the amount of renewable energy that we generate from sources like wind and solar — with tens of thousands of good jobs to show for it.  We’re producing more natural gas than we ever have before — with hundreds of thousands of good jobs to show for it.  We supported the first new nuclear power plant in America since the 1970s.  And we’re sending less carbon pollution into the environment than we have in nearly 20 years.

So we’re making real progress across the board.  And it’s possible, in part, because of labs like this and outstanding scientists like so many of you, entrepreneurs, innovators — all of you who are working together to take your discoveries and turn them into a business.

So think about this:  Just a few years ago, the American auto industry was flat-lining.  Today, thanks in part to discoveries made right here at Argonne, some of the most high-tech, fuel-efficient, pretty spiffy cars in the world are once again designed, engineered and built here in the United States.

And that’s why we have to keep investing in scientific research.  It’s why we have to maintain our edge — because the work you’re doing today will end up in the products that we make and sell tomorrow.  You’re helping to secure our energy future.  And if we do it well, then that’s going to help us avoid some of the perils of climate change and leave a healthier planet for our kids.  But to do it, we’ve got to make sure that we’re making the right choices in Washington.

Just the other day, Dr. Isaacs and directors of two of our other national laboratories wrote about the effects of the so-called sequester — these across-the-board budget cuts put in place two weeks ago — and specifically the effects it will have on America’s scientific research.  And one of the reasons I was opposed to these cuts is because they don’t distinguish between wasteful programs and vital investments.  They don’t trim the fat; they cut into muscle and into bone — like research and development being done right here that not only gives a great place for young researchers to come and ply their trade, but also ends up creating all kinds of spinoffs that create good jobs and good wages.

So Dr. Isaacs said these cuts will force him to stop any new project that’s coming down the line.  And I’m quoting him now — he says, “This sudden halt on new starts will freeze American science in place while the rest of the world races forward, and it will knock a generation of young scientists off their stride, ultimately costing billions of dollars in missed future opportunities.”  I mean, essentially because of this sequester, we’re looking at two years where we don’t start new research.  And at a time when every month you’ve got to replace your smartphone because something new has come up, imagine what that means when China and Germany and Japan are all continuing to plump up their basic research, and we’re just sitting there doing nothing.

We can’t afford to miss these opportunities while the rest of the world races forward.  We have to seize these opportunities.  I want the next great job-creating breakthroughs — whether it’s in energy or nanotechnology or bioengineering — I want those breakthroughs to be right here in the United States of America, creating American jobs and maintaining our technological lead.  (Applause.)

So I just want to be clear — these cuts will harm, not help, our economy.  They aren’t the smart way to cut our deficits.  And that’s why I’m reaching out to Republicans and Democrats to come together around a balanced approach, a smart, phased-in approach to deficit reduction that includes smart spending cuts and entitlement reforms and new revenue, and that won’t hurt our middle class or slow economic growth.  And if we do that, then we can move beyond governing from crisis to crisis to crisis, and we keep our focus on policies that actually create jobs and grow our economy, and move forward to face all of the other challenges we face, from fixing our broken immigration system to educating our kids to keeping them safe from gun violence.

And few pieces of business are more important for us than getting our energy future right.  So here at Argonne, and other labs around the country, scientists are working on getting us where we need to get 10 years from now, 20 years from now.  Today, what most Americans feel first when it comes to energy prices — or energy issues are prices that they pay at the pump. And over the past few weeks, we saw — we went through another spike in gas prices.  And people are nodding here.  They weren’t happy about it.  The problem is this happens every year.  It happened last year, the year before that.  And it’s a serious blow to family budgets.  It feels like you’re getting hit with a new tax coming right out of your pocket.  And every time it happens, politicians — they dust off their three-point plans for $2 gas, but nothing happens and then we go through the same cycle again.

But here’s the thing:  Over the past four years, we haven’t just talked about it, we’ve actually started doing something about it.  We’ve worked with the auto companies to put in place the toughest fuel economy standards in our history.  And what that means is, by the middle of the next decade, our cars will go twice as far on a gallon of gas.  And the standards that we set are part of what’s driving some of the amazing scientists and engineers who are working here at Argonne Labs.  We’ve set some achievable but ambitious goals.  So in the middle of the next decade, we expect that you’ll fill up half as often, which means you spend half as much.  And over the life of a new car, the average family will save more than $8,000 at the pump.  That’s worth applauding.  That’s big news.  (Applause.)

In fact, a new report issued today shows that America is becoming a global leader in advanced vehicles.  You walk into any dealership today, and you’ll see twice as many hybrids to choose from as there were five years ago.  You’ll see seven times as many cars that can go 40 miles a gallon or more.  And as costs go down, sales are going up.

Last year, General Motors sold more hybrid vehicles than ever before.  Ford is selling some of the most fuel-efficient cars so quickly that dealers are having a tough time keeping up with the demand.  So by investing in our energy security, we’re helping our businesses succeed and we’re creating good middle-class jobs right here in America.

So we’re making progress, but the only way to really break this cycle of spiking gas prices, the only way to break that cycle for good is to shift our cars entirely — our cars and trucks — off oil.  That’s why, in my State of the Union address, I called on Congress to set up an Energy Security Trust to fund research into new technologies that will help us reach that goal.
Now, I’d like to take credit for this idea because it’s a good idea, but I can’t.  Basically, my proposal builds off a proposal that was put forward by a non-partisan coalition that includes retired generals and admirals and leading CEOs.  And these leaders came together around a simple idea — much of our energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together.  So what they’ve proposed is let’s take some of our oil and gas revenues from public lands and put it towards research that will benefit the public so we can support American ingenuity without adding a dime to our deficit.

We can support scientists who are designing new engines that are more energy efficient; support scientists that are developing cheaper batteries that can go farther on a single charge; support scientists and engineers that are devising new ways to fuel our cars and trucks with new sources of clean energy — like advanced biofuels and natural gas — so drivers can one day go coast to coast without using a drop of oil.

And the reason so many different people from the private sector, the public sector, our military support this idea is because it’s not just about saving money; it’s also about saving the environment, but it’s also about our national security.  For military officials — like General Paul Kelley, a former Commandant of the Marine Corps — this is about national security.  Our reliance on oil makes us way too dependent on other parts of the world, many of which are very volatile.  For business leaders — like Fred Smith, the CEO of FedEx — this is about economic security, because when fuel prices shoot up, it’s harder to plan investments, expand operations, create new jobs.

So these leaders all say we need to fix this.  This is not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea.  This is just a smart idea. And we should be taking their advice.  Let’s set up an Energy Security Trust that helps us free our families and our businesses from painful spikes in gas once and for all.  (Applause.)  Let’s do that.  We can do it.  We’ve done it before.  We innovated here at Argonne.

And in the meantime, we’ll keep moving on the all-of-the-above energy strategy that we’ve been working on for the last couple years, where we’re producing more oil and gas here at home but we’re also producing more biofuels, we’re also producing more fuel-efficient vehicles; more solar power; more wind power.  We’re working to make sure that here in America we’re building cars and homes and businesses that waste less energy.

We can do this.  The nature of America’s miraculous rise has been our drive, our restless spirit, our willingness to reach out to new horizons, our willingness to take risks, our willingness to innovate.  We are not satisfied just because things — this is how things have been.  We’re going to try something that maybe we just imagine now, but if we work at it, we’ll achieve it.  That’s the nature of America.  That’s what Argonne National Lab is about.  That’s what this facility is about.  (Applause.)

Two decades ago, scientists at Argonne, led by Mike Thackeray, who’s here today — where is Mike?  There he is right here.  (Applause.)  Mike started work on a rechargeable lithium battery for cars.  And some folks at the time said the idea wasn’t worth the effort.  They said that even if you had the technology, the car would cost too much, it wouldn’t go far enough.

But Mike and his team knew better.  They knew you could do better.  And America, our government, our federal government made it a priority, and we funded those efforts.  And Mike went to work.  And when others gave up, the team kept on at it.  And when development hit a snag, the team found solutions.  And a few years ago, all of this hard work paid off, and scientists here at Argonne helped create a lithium ion battery that costs less, lasts longer than any that had come before.

So what was just an idea two decades ago is now rolling off assembly lines in cutting-edge fuel efficient cars that you can plug in at night.  Well, imagine all the ideas right now with all of these young scientists and engineers that 20 years ago — or 20 years from now will be offering solutions to our problems that we can’t even comprehend — as long as we’re still funding these young scientists and engineers; as long as the pipeline for research is maintained; as long as we recognize there are some things we do together as a country because individually we can’t do it — and, by the way, the private sector on its own will not invest in this research because it’s too expensive.  It’s too risky.  They can’t afford it in terms of their bottom lines.

So we’ve got to support it.  And we’ll all benefit from it, and our kids will benefit from it, and our grandkids will benefit from it.  That’s who we are.  That’s been the American story.

We don’t stand still, we look forward.  We invent.  We build.  We turn new ideas into new industries.  We change the way we can live our lives here at home and around the world.  That’s how we sent a man to the moon.  That’s how we invented the Internet.

When somebody tells us we can’t, we say, yes we can.  And I’m telling all of you, I am absolutely confident that America is poised to succeed in the same way as long as we don’t lose that spirit of innovation and recognize that we can only do it together.  And I’m going to work as hard as I can every single day to make sure that we do.

So congratulations, Argonne.  (Applause.)  Let’s keep it up.  Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless America.

1:50 P.M. CDT

Political Headlines March 6, 2013: President Barack Obama to Host Republican / GOP Senators for Dinner





President Obama to Host GOP Senators for Dinner

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-6-13

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

As Washington gets socked by a snowstorm and sequester, President Obama begins a new strategy of personal outreach to congressional Republicans.

On Wednesday night, Obama will host a dinner party for a small group of 11 GOP senators, aides to several participants confirmed. Among the guests expected at the table are Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire….READ MORE

Political Headlines March 5, 2013: Speaker John Boehner GOP Hunts for Cuts not Government Shutdown: ‘Spending is the Problem’





GOP Hunts for Cuts: ‘Spending is the Problem’ — Is Medicare Solution?

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-5-13

Alex Wong/Getty Images

After a weekend absorbing the reality that sequestration has begun to slash spending, House Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team emerged from a conference meeting Tuesday emboldened and ardent for more spending cuts.

“Spending is the problem here in Washington,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said as a banner covering the back wall mirrored the speaker’s latest axiom. “Our goal is to cut spending, not to shut the government down.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines March 4, 2013: President Barack Obama Faces Political Risks in Emphasizing Effects of Spending Cuts





Obama Faces Political Risks in Emphasizing Effects of Spending Cuts

Source: NYT, 3-4-13

President Obama is trying to strike a balance between ratcheting up pressure on Republicans to undo the cuts and minimizing the damage for Americans….READ MORE

Political Headlines March 4, 2013: NJ Gov. Chris Christie Blasts President Barack Obama’s Sequester Eve ‘Photo Op’





Chris Christie Dings Obama’s Sequester Eve ‘Photo Op’

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-4-13

D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Monday blasted President Obama over what he said was a failure of leadership to prevent the sequester.

“Real leadership would get this fixed. You get everybody in the room and you fix it, and you don’t let them leave until you fix it,” Christie said at a press conference in Jersey City….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 4, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks Before at First Cabinet Meeting of Second Term Discusses the Sequester



Remarks by the President Before a Cabinet Meeting

Source: WH, 3-4-13 

Cabinet Room

1:08 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, this is my 17th meeting with my Cabinet; the first one in a second term.  And, obviously, we’ve got some familiar faces, we have some new faces, we have some familiar faces in new positions.  I want to make sure that I say thank you to all of you for the work that you’ve already done and the work that you’re going to be doing.

I want to welcome Jack Lew, former Chief of Staff and OMB Director, and now Secretary of the Treasury.  We’re thrilled to have him in that position.  I want to welcome Mr. Chuck Hagel, who’s in the position of Secretary of Defense.  And to all of you, I appreciate everything that you’ve done.

Obviously, we’re going to be spending some time talking about the potential impact of the sequester on all the agencies and missions across the board.  It is an area of deep concern and I think everybody knows where I stand on this issue.  We are going to manage it as best we can, try to minimize the impacts on American families, but it’s not the right way for us to go about deficit reduction.

It makes sense for us to take a balanced approach that takes a long view and doesn’t reduce our commitment to things like education and basic research that will help us grow over the long term.  And so I will continue to seek out partners on the other side of the aisle so that we can create the kind of balanced approach of spending cuts, revenues, entitlement reform that everybody knows is the right way to do things.

In the meantime, we’re going to do our best to make sure that our agencies have the support they need to try to make some very difficult decisions, understanding that there are going to be families and communities that are hurt, and that this will slow our growth.  It will mean lower employment in the United States than otherwise would have been.

But we can manage through it, and we’re going to rely on the outstanding leadership of all these agencies to make sure that we do whatever it is that we need to get done to help America’s families.

Now, my agenda obviously is broader than just the sequester, because I laid out both in the inauguration and during the State of the Union a very robust agenda to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to grow this economy and to help families thrive and expand their opportunities.  We want to make sure we’ve got a growing middle class and more ladders of opportunity into the middle class.

So in addition to talking about budget issues, we’re also going to spend some time talking about making sure that we have comprehensive immigration reform done.  And I want to again thank members of Congress who on a bipartisan basis are moving forward on that agenda.  We’re going to have the opportunity to talk about initiatives like early childhood education that can have an enormous impact on our kids and, ultimately, our growth and productivity.  We’ll have a chance to hear from Joe and other members of the Cabinet about progress in reducing gun violence in this country.

So one of the things that I’ve instructed not just my White House but every agency is to make sure that, regardless of some of the challenges that they may face because of sequestration, we’re not going to stop working on behalf of the American people to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to continue to grow this economy and improve people’s prospects.

Thank you very much, everybody.

1:12 P.M. EST

Political Headlines March 4, 2013: President Barack Obama Vows at Cabinet Meeting to Manage Sequester ‘As Best We Can’





Obama Vows to Manage Sequester ‘As Best We Can’

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-4-13


President Obama on Monday vowed to continue working with Republicans to develop a long-term deficit reduction plan, while making clear the sequester will not prevent him from pursuing his broader second-term agenda.

“I will continue to seek out partners on the other side of the aisle so that we can create the kind of balanced approach of spending cuts, revenues, entitlement reform that everybody knows is the right way to do things,” Obama told reporters at the first Cabinet meeting of his second term….READ MORE

Political Headlines March 1, 2013: Without Budget Deal, Sequester Spending Cuts to Take Effect





Without Budget Deal, Cuts to Take Effect

Source: NYT, 3-1-13

Speaker John A. Boehner spoke to reporters outside the White House after meeting with President Obama on Friday.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Speaker John A. Boehner spoke to reporters outside the White House after meeting with President Obama on Friday.

After an Oval Office meeting, Speaker John A. Boehner reported little progress, saying the discussion about new revenue “is over.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines March 1, 2013: President Barack Obama, Congressional Leaders Fail to Avert Sequester Spending Cuts





Obama, Congressional Leaders Fail to Avert Sequester Cuts

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-1-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama and congressional leaders failed to reach a breakthrough to avert a sweeping package of automatic spending cuts, setting into motion $85 billion of across-the-board belt-tightening that neither had wanted to see.

Obama met for just over an hour at the White House on Friday with Republican leaders House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Democratic allies, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Vice President Joe Biden….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 1, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Statement & Press Conference on the Sequester & White House Talks with Congressional Leaders on the Spending Cuts



Statement by the President on the Sequester

Source: WH, 3-1-13 

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

11:39 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  As you know, I just met with leaders of both parties to discuss a way forward in light of the severe budget cuts that start to take effect today.  I told them these cuts will hurt our economy.  They will cost us jobs.  And to set it right, both sides need to be willing to compromise.

The good news is the American people are strong and they’re resilient.  They fought hard to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and we will get through this as well.  Even with these cuts in place, folks all across this country will work hard to make sure that we keep the recovery going.  But Washington sure isn’t making it easy.  At a time when our businesses have finally begun to get some traction — hiring new workers, bringing jobs back to America — we shouldn’t be making a series of dumb, arbitrary cuts to things that businesses depend on and workers depend on, like education, and research, and infrastructure and defense.  It’s unnecessary.  And at a time when too many Americans are still looking for work, it’s inexcusable.

Now, what’s important to understand is that not everyone will feel the pain of these cuts right away.  The pain, though, will be real.  Beginning this week, many middle-class families will have their lives disrupted in significant ways.  Businesses that work with the military, like the Virginia shipbuilder that I visited on Tuesday, may have to lay folks off.  Communities near military bases will take a serious blow.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans who serve their country — Border Patrol agents, FBI agents, civilians who work at the Pentagon — all will suffer significant pay cuts and furloughs.

All of this will cause a ripple effect throughout our economy.  Layoffs and pay cuts means that people have less money in their pockets, and that means that they have less money to spend at local businesses.  That means lower profits.  That means fewer hires.  The longer these cuts remain in place, the greater the damage to our economy — a slow grind that will intensify with each passing day.

So economists are estimating that as a consequence of this sequester, that we could see growth cut by over one-half of 1 percent.  It will cost about 750,000 jobs at a time when we should be growing jobs more quickly.  So every time that we get a piece of economic news, over the next month, next two months, next six months, as long as the sequester is in place, we’ll know that that economic news could have been better if Congress had not failed to act.

And let’s be clear.  None of this is necessary.  It’s happening because of a choice that Republicans in Congress have made.  They’ve allowed these cuts to happen because they refuse to budge on closing a single wasteful loophole to help reduce the deficit.  As recently as yesterday, they decided to protect special interest tax breaks for the well-off and well-connected, and they think that that’s apparently more important than protecting our military or middle-class families from the pain of these cuts.

I do believe that we can and must replace these cuts with a more balanced approach that asks something from everybody:  Smart spending cuts; entitlement reform; tax reform that makes the tax code more fair for families and businesses without raising tax rates —  all so that we can responsibly lower the deficit without laying off workers, or forcing parents to scramble for childcare, or slashing financial aid for college students.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask.  I don’t think that is partisan.  It’s the kind of approach that I’ve proposed for two years.  It’s what I ran on last year.  And the majority of the American people agree with me in this approach, including, by the way, a majority of Republicans.  We just need Republicans in Congress to catch up with their own party and their country on this.  And if they did so, we could make a lot of progress.

I do know that there are Republicans in Congress who privately, at least, say that they would rather close tax loopholes than let these cuts go through.  I know that there are Democrats who’d rather do smart entitlement reform than let these cuts go through.  So there is a caucus of common sense up on Capitol Hill.  It’s just — it’s a silent group right now, and we want to make sure that their voices start getting heard.

In the coming days and in the coming weeks I’m going to keep on reaching out to them, both individually and as groups of senators or members of the House, and say to them, let’s fix this — not just for a month or two, but for years to come.  Because the greatest nation on Earth does not conduct its business in month-to-month increments, or by careening from crisis to crisis.  And America has got a lot more work to do.

In the meantime, we can’t let political gridlock around the budget stand in the way of other areas where we can make progress.  I was pleased to see that the House passed the Violence Against Women Act yesterday.  That is a big win for not just women but for families and for the American people.  It’s a law that’s going to save lives and help more Americans live free from fear.  It’s something that we’ve been pushing on for a long time.  I was glad to see that done.  And it’s an example of how we can still get some important bipartisan legislation through this Congress even though there is still these fiscal arguments taking place.

And I think there are other areas where we can make progress even with the sequester unresolved.  I will continue to push for those initiatives.  I’m going to keep pushing for high-quality preschool for every family that wants it.  I’m going to keep pushing to make sure that we raise the minimum wage so that it’s one that families can live on.  I’m going to keep on pushing for immigration reform, and reform our voting system, and improvements on our transportation sector.  And I’m going to keep pushing for sensible gun reforms because I still think they deserve a vote.

This is the agenda that the American people voted for.  These are America’s priorities.  They are too important to go  unaddressed.  And I’m going to keep pushing to make sure that we see them through.

So with that, I’m going to take some questions.  I’m going to start with Julie.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  How much responsibility do you feel like you bear for these cuts taking effect?  And is the only way to offset them at this point for Republicans to bend on revenue, or do you see any alternatives?

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, we’ve already cut $2.5 trillion in our deficit.  Everybody says we need to cut $4 trillion, which means we have to come up with another trillion and a half.  The vast majority of economists agree that the problem when it comes to deficits is not discretionary spending.  It’s not that we’re spending too much money on education.  It’s not that we’re spending too much money on job training, or that we’re spending too much money rebuilding our roads and our bridges.  We’re not.

The problem that we have is a long-term problem in terms of our health care costs and programs like Medicare.  And what I’ve said very specifically, very detailed is that I’m prepared to take on the problem where it exists — on entitlements — and do some things that my own party really doesn’t like — if it’s part of a broader package of sensible deficit reduction.  So the deal that I’ve put forward over the last two years, the deal that I put forward as recently as December is still on the table.  I am prepared to do hard things and to push my Democratic friends to do hard things.

But what I can’t do is ask middle-class families, ask seniors, ask students to bear the entire burden of deficit reduction when we know we’ve got a bunch of tax loopholes that are benefiting the well-off and the well-connected, aren’t contributing to growth, aren’t contributing to our economy.  It’s not fair.  It’s not right.  The American people don’t think it’s fair and don’t think it’s right.

So I recognize that Speaker Boehner has got challenges in his caucus.  I recognize that it’s very hard for Republican leaders to be perceived as making concessions to me.  Sometimes, I reflect is there something else I could do to make these guys — I’m not talking about the leaders now, but maybe some of the House Republican caucus members — not paint horns on my head.  And I genuinely believe that there’s an opportunity for us to cooperate.

But what doesn’t make sense — and the only thing that we’ve seen from Republicans so far in terms of proposals — is to replace this set of arbitrary cuts with even worse arbitrary cuts.  That’s not going to help the economy.  That’s not going to help growth.  That’s not going to create jobs.  And as a number of economists have noted, ironically, it doesn’t even reduce our deficit in the smartest way possible or the fastest way possible.

So in terms of going forward, my hope is that after some reflection — as members of Congress start hearing from constituents who are being negatively impacted, as we start seeing the impact that the sequester is having — that they step back and say, all right, is there a way for us to move forward on a package of entitlement reforms, tax reform, not raising tax rates, identifying programs that don’t work, coming up with a plan that’s comprehensive and that makes sense.  And it may take a couple of weeks.  It may take a couple of months, but I’m just going to keep on pushing on it.  And my view is that, ultimately, common sense prevails.

But what is true right now is that the Republicans have made a choice that maintaining an ironclad rule that we will not accept an extra dime’s worth of revenue makes it very difficult for us to get any larger comprehensive deal.  And that’s a choice they’re making.  They’re saying that it’s more important to preserve these tax loopholes than it is to prevent these arbitrary cuts.

And what’s interesting is Speaker Boehner, just a couple months ago, identified these tax loopholes and tax breaks and said we should close them and raise revenue.  So it’s not as if it’s not possible to do.  They themselves have suggested that it’s possible to do.  And if they believe that in fact these tax loopholes and these tax breaks for the well-off and the well-connected aren’t contributing to growth, aren’t good for our economy, aren’t particularly fair and can raise revenue, well, why don’t we get started?  Why don’t we do that?

It may be that because of the politics within the Republican Party, they can’t do it right now.  I understand that.  My hope is, is that they can do it later.

And I just want to repeat, Julie, because I think it’s very important to understand, it’s not as if Democrats aren’t being asked to do anything, either, to compromise.  There are members of my party who violently disagree with the notion that we should do anything on Medicare.  And I’m willing to say to them, I disagree with you, because I want to preserve Medicare for the long haul.  And we’re going to have some tough politics within my party to get this done.

This is not a situation where I’m only asking for concessions from Republicans and asking nothing from Democrats.  I’m saying that everybody is going to have to do something.  And the one key to this whole thing is trying to make sure we keep in mind who we’re here for.  We are not here for ourselves, we’re not here for our parties, we’re not here to advance our electoral prospects.  We’re here for American families who have been getting battered pretty good over the last four years, are just starting to see the economy improve; businesses are just starting to see some confidence coming back.  And this is not a win for anybody, this is a loss for the American people.

And, again, if we step back and just remind ourselves what it is we’re supposed to be doing here, then hopefully common sense will out in the end.

Q    It sounds like you’re saying that this is a Republican problem and not one that you bear any responsibility for.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Julie, give me an example of what I might do.

Q    I’m just trying to clarify your statement.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, no, but I’m trying to clarify the question.  What I’m suggesting is, I’ve put forward a plan that calls for serious spending cuts, serious entitlement reforms, goes right at the problem that is at the heart of our long-term deficit problem.  I’ve offered negotiations around that kind of balanced approach.  And so far, we’ve gotten rebuffed because what Speaker Boehner and the Republicans have said is, we cannot do any revenue, we can’t do a dime’s worth of revenue.

So what more do you think I should do?  Okay, I just wanted to clarify.  (Laughter.)  Because if people have a suggestion, I’m happy to — this is a room full of smart folks.

All right — Zach Goldfarb.

Q    Mr. President, the next focal point seems to be the continuing resolution that’s funding the government at the end of the month, that expires at the end of the month.  Would you sign a CR that continues the sequester but continues to fund the government?  And in a related point, how do you truly reach the limits of your persuasive power?  Is there any other leverage you have to convince the Republicans, to convince folks that this isn’t the way to go?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’d like to think I’ve still got some persuasive power left.  Let me check.  (Laughter.)  Look, the issue is not my persuasive power.  The American people agree with my approach.  They agree that we should have a balanced approach to deficit reduction.

The question is can the American people help persuade their members of Congress to do the right thing, and I have a lot of confidence that over time, if the American people express their displeasure about how something is working, that eventually Congress responds.  Sometimes there is a little gap between what the American people think and what Congress thinks.  But eventually Congress catches up.

With respect to the budget and keeping the government open — I’ll try for our viewing audience to make sure that we’re not talking in Washington gobbledygook.  What’s called the continuing resolution, which is essentially just an extension of last year’s budget into this year’s budget to make sure that basic government functions continue, I think it’s the right thing to do to make sure that we don’t have a government shutdown.  And that’s preventable.

We have a Budget Control Act, right?  We agreed to a certain amount of money that was going to be spent each year, and certain funding levels for our military, our education system, and so forth.  If we stick to that deal, then I will be supportive of us sticking to that deal.  It’s a deal that I made.

The sequester are additional cuts on top of that.  And by law, until Congress takes the sequester away, we’d have to abide by those additional cuts.  But there’s no reason why we should have another crisis by shutting the government down in addition to these arbitrary spending cuts.

Q    Just to make it 100 percent clear, you’d sign a budget that continues to fund the government even at the lower levels of the sequester, even if you don’t prefer to do that?

THE PRESIDENT:  Zach, I’m not going to — I never want to make myself 100 percent clear with you guys.  (Laughter.)  But I think it’s fair to say that I made a deal for a certain budget, certain numbers.  There’s no reason why that deal needs to be reopened.  It was a deal that Speaker Boehner made as well, and all the leadership made.  And if the bill that arrives on my desk is reflective of the commitments that we’ve previously made, then obviously I would sign it because I want to make sure that we keep on doing what we need to do for the American people.


Q    Mr. President, to your question, what could you do — first of all, couldn’t you just have them down here and refuse to let them leave the room until you have a deal?  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I mean, Jessica, I am not a dictator.  I’m the President.  So, ultimately, if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say, we need to go to catch a plane, I can’t have Secret Service block the doorway, right?  So —

Q    But isn’t that part of leadership?  I’m sorry to interrupt, but isn’t —

THE PRESIDENT:  I understand.  And I know that this has been some of the conventional wisdom that’s been floating around Washington that somehow, even though most people agree that I’m being reasonable, that most people agree I’m presenting a fair deal, the fact that they don’t take it means that I should somehow do a Jedi mind-meld with these folks and convince them to do what’s right.  Well, they’re elected.  We have a constitutional system of government.  The Speaker of the House and the leader of the Senate and all those folks have responsibilities.

What I can do is I can make the best possible case for why we need to do the right thing.  I can speak to the American people about the consequences of the decisions that Congress is making or the lack of decision-making by Congress.  But, ultimately, it’s a choice they make.

And this idea that somehow there’s a secret formula or secret sauce to get Speaker Boehner or Mitch McConnell to say, you know what, Mr. President, you’re right, we should close some tax loopholes for the well-off and well-connected in exchange for some serious entitlement reform and spending cuts of programs we don’t need.  I think if there was a secret way to do that, I would have tried it.  I would have done it.

What I can do is I can make the best possible argument.  And I can offer concessions, and I can offer compromise.  I can negotiate.  I can make sure that my party is willing to compromise and is not being ideological or thinking about these just in terms of political terms.  And I think I’ve done that and I will continue to do that.

But what I can’t do is force Congress to do the right thing.  The American people may have the capacity to do that.  And in the absence of a decision on the part of the Speaker of the House and others to put middle-class families ahead of whatever political imperatives he might have right now, we’re going to have these cuts in place.  But, again, I’m hopeful about human nature.  I think that over time people do the right thing.  And I will keep on reaching out and seeing if there are other formulas or other ways to jigger this thing into place so that we get a better result.

Q    What do you say to the people like Mayor Bloomberg — who is no critic of yours in general; he endorsed you — who argues that there is some what he calls “posturing” in these claims that there are going to be big layoffs and a lot of people out of work, and thinks that the effects of the spending cuts are being overstated by the administration?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well Jessica, look, I’ll just give you an example.  The Department of Defense right now has to figure out how the children of military families are going to continue with their schooling over the next several months, because teachers at these Army bases are typically civilians.  They are therefore subject to furlough, which means that they may not be able to teach one day a week.

Now, I expect that we’ll be able to manage around it.  But if I’m a man or woman in uniform in Afghanistan right now, the notion that my spouse back home is having to worry about whether or not our kids are getting the best education possible, the notion that my school for my children on an Army base might be disrupted because Congress didn’t act, that’s an impact.  Now, Mayor Bloomberg and others may not feel that impact.  I suspect they won’t.  But that family will.

The Border Patrol agents who are out there in the hot sun, doing what Congress said they’re supposed to be doing, finding out suddenly that they’re getting a 10-percent pay cut and having to go home and explain that to their families, I don’t think they feel like this is an exaggerated impact.  So I guess it depends on where you sit.

Now, what is absolutely true is that not everybody is going to feel it.  Not everybody is going to feel it all at once.  What is true is that the accumulation of those stories all across this country, folks who suddenly — might have been working all their lives to get an education, just so that they can get that job and get out of welfare and they’ve got their kid in Head Start, and now, suddenly, that Head Start slot is gone and they’re trying to figure out how am I going to keep my job, because I can’t afford child care for my kid; some of the suppliers for those shipbuilders down in Virginia, where you’ve got some suppliers who are small businesses, this is all they do, and they may shut down those companies, and their employees are going to be laid off — the accumulation of all of those stories of impact is going to make our economy weaker.  It’s going to mean less growth.  It’s going to mean hundreds of thousands of jobs lost.

That is real.  That’s not — we’re not making that up.  That’s not a scare tactic, that’s a fact.

Starting tomorrow, everybody here, all the folks who are cleaning the floors at the Capitol — now that Congress has left, somebody is going to be vacuuming and cleaning those floors and throwing out the garbage — they’re going to have less pay.  The janitors, the security guards, they just got a pay cut, and they’ve got to figure out how to manage that.  That’s real.

So I want to be very clear here.  It is absolutely true that this is not going to precipitate the kind of crisis we talked about with America defaulting and some of the problems around the debt ceiling.  I don’t anticipate a huge financial crisis, but people are going to be hurt.  The economy will not grow as quickly as it would have.  Unemployment will not go down as quickly as it would have — and there are lives behind that.  And that’s real.  And it’s not necessary — that’s the problem.

Christi Parsons.

Q    Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Hey, Christi.

Q    Mr. President, your administration weighed in yesterday on the Proposition 8 case.  A few months ago it looked like you might be averse to doing that, and I just wondered if you could talk a little bit about your deliberations and how your thinking evolved on that.  Were there conversations that were important to you?  Were there things that you read that influenced your thinking?

THE PRESIDENT:  As everybody here knows, last year, upon a long period of reflection, I concluded that we cannot discriminate against same-sex couples when it comes to marriage; that the basic principle that America is founded on — the idea that we’re all created equal — applies to everybody, regardless of sexual orientation, as well as race or gender or religion or ethnicity.

And I think that the same evolution that I’ve gone through is an evolution that the country as a whole has gone through.  And I think it is a profoundly positive thing.  So that when the Supreme Court essentially called the question by taking this case about California’s law, I didn’t feel like that was something that this administration could avoid.  I felt it was important for us to articulate what I believe and what this administration stands for.

And although I do think that we’re seeing, on a state-by-state basis, progress being made — more and more states recognizing same-sex couples and giving them the opportunity to marry and maintain all the benefits of marriage that heterosexual couples do — when the Supreme Court asks, do you think that the California law, which doesn’t provide any rationale for discriminating against same-sex couples other than just the notion that, well, they’re same-sex couples, if the Supreme Court asks me or my Attorney General or Solicitor General, do we think that meets constitutional muster, I felt it was important for us to answer that question honestly — and the answer is no.

Q    And given the fact that you do hold that position about gay marriage, I wonder if you thought about just — once you made the decision to weigh in, why not just argue that marriage is a right that should be available to all people of this country?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that’s an argument that I’ve made personally.  The Solicitor General in his institutional role going before the Supreme Court is obliged to answer the specific question before them.  And the specific question presented before the Court right now is whether Prop 8 and the California law is unconstitutional.

And what we’ve done is we’ve put forward a basic principle, which is — which applies to all equal protection cases.  Whenever a particular group is being discriminated against, the Court asks the question, what’s the rationale for this — and it better be a good reason.  And if you don’t have a good reason, we’re going to strike it down.

And what we’ve said is, is that same-sex couples are a group, a class that deserves heightened scrutiny, that the Supreme Court needs to ask the state why it’s doing it.  And if the state doesn’t have a good reason, it should be struck down.  That’s the core principle as applied to this case.

Now, the Court may decide that if it doesn’t apply in this case, it probably can’t apply in any case.  There’s no good reason for it.  If I were on the Court, that would probably be the view that I’d put forward.  But I’m not a judge, I’m the President.  So the basic principle, though, is let’s treat everybody fairly and let’s treat everybody equally.  And I think that the brief that’s been presented accurately reflects our views.

Ari Shapiro.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You said a few minutes ago and you’ve said repeatedly that the country has to stop careening from crisis to crisis.


Q    So with a few crises behind us and a few more crises ahead of us, taking a step back from this specific debate over the sequester, how, as the leader of this country, do you plan to stop the country from careening from crisis to crisis?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, a couple of things.  Number one is to make sure that we keep making progress wherever we can on things that are important to middle-class Americans and those who are fighting to get into the middle class.  So if you set aside budget fights for a second, we’ve been able to get now the Violence Against Women Act done.  The conversations that are taking place on a bipartisan basis around immigration reform are moving forward.  We’ve seen great interest in a bipartisan fashion around how we can continue to improve our education system, including around early childhood education.  There have been constructive discussions around how do we reduce gun violence.

And what I’m going to keep on trying to do is to make sure that we push on those things that are important to families.  And we won’t get everything done all at once, but we can get a lot done.  So that’s point number one.

With respect to the budget, what I’ve done is to make a case to the American people that we have to make sure that we have a balanced approach to deficit reduction, but that deficit reduction alone is not an economic policy.  And part of the challenge that we’ve had here is that not only Congress, but I think Washington generally spends all its time together about deficits and doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about how do we create jobs.  So I want to make sure that we’re talking about both.

I think that, for example, we could put a lot of people back to work right now rebuilding our roads and bridges.  And this is deferred maintenance.  We know we’re going to have to do it.  And I went to a bridge that connects Mitch McConnell’s state to John Boehner’s state, and it was a rotten bridge and everybody knows it.  And I’ll bet they really want to see that improved.  Well, how do we do it?  Let’s have a conversation about it.  That will create jobs.  It will be good for businesses, reduce commuter times, improve commuter safety.  That has to be part of this conversation, not just this constant argument about cutting and spending.

So I guess my point is, Ari, that what I want to try to do is to make sure that we’re constantly focused, that our true north is on how are we helping American families succeed.  Deficit reduction is part of that agenda and an important part.  But it’s not the only part.  And I don’t want us to be paralyzed on everything just because we disagree on this one thing.

And as I already said to Jessica, what I’m also hoping is, is that, over time — perhaps after Republicans step back and maybe they can say, you know what, we stuck tough on the sequester, and this makes us feel good, and the Republican caucus is in a better mood when they come back — maybe then we can have a more serious discussion about what the real problems on deficit and deficit reduction are.

And the good thing about America is that sometimes we get to these bottlenecks and we get stuck, and you have these sharp, partisan fights, but the American people pretty steadily are common sense and practical, and eventually, that common-sense, practical approach wins out.  And I think that’s what will happen here as well.

And, in the meantime, just to make the final point about the sequester, we will get through this.  This is not going to be a apocalypse, I think as some people have said.  It’s just dumb.  And it’s going to hurt.  It’s going to hurt individual people and it’s going to hurt the economy overall.

But if Congress comes to its senses a week from now, a month from now, three months from now, then there’s a lot of open running room there for us to grow our economy much more quickly and to advance the agenda of the American people dramatically.  So this is a temporary stop on what I believe is the long-term, outstanding prospect for American growth and greatness.

Thank you very much.

12:14 P.M. EST

Political Headlines February 28, 2013: One Senate sequester vote fails 38 to 62





One Senate sequester vote fails

Source: Politico, 2-28-13

The Senate killed, 38 to 62, a GOP measure to give President Barack Obama more flexibility in implementing the sequester cuts set to take effect on Friday.

The proposal — a last-ditch effort to stave off the across-the-board, $85 billion in spending cuts — would have allowed Obama to submit an alternative package of spending cuts to congress by March 15….READ MORE

Political Headlines February 28, 2013: Lanny Davis former Clinton aide & columnist joins Bob Woodward in claiming White House threat





Former Clinton aide, columnist joins Woodward in claiming White House threat

Source: FoxNews.com, 2-28-13

Shown here are journalist Bob Woodward, left, and former Clinton adviser Lanny Davis. (AP)

The latest claim comes from Lanny Davis, who served as counsel to former President Bill Clinton and later went on to write a column for The Washington Times. In a radio interview on WMAL, Davis said that a “senior Obama White House official” once called his editor at the Times and said that if the paper continued to run his columns, “his reporters would lose their credentials.”…READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines February 28, 2013: White House’s Gene Sperling’s Threatening Emails to Bob Woodward over Sequester Report Washington Post Op-ed





Journalist Clashes with White House over Sequester Report

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-28-13

ABC/ Ida Mae Astute

Veteran journalist Bob Woodward is embroiled in a public clash with the White House over his reporting on the sequester….READ MORE

From: Sperling, Gene
Date: February 22, 2013 11:52:34 PM EST
To: Bob Woodward


I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today. My bad. I do understand your problems with a couple of our statements in the fall — but feel on the other hand that you focus on a few specific trees that gives a very wrong perception of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here.

But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim. The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand barain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start. It was an accepted part of the understanding — from the start. Really. It was assumed by the Rs on the Supercommittee that came right after: it was assumed in the November-December 2012 negotiations. There may have been big disagreements over rates and ratios — but that it was supposed to be replaced by entitlements and revenues of some form is not controversial. (Indeed, the discretionary savings amount from the Boehner-Obama negotiations were locked in in BCA: the sequester was just designed to force all back to table on entitlements and revenues.)

I agree there are more than one side to our first disagreement, but again think this latter issue is diffferent. Not out to argue and argue on this latter point. Just my sincere advice. Your call obviously.

My apologies again for raising my voice on the call with you. Feel bad about that and truly apologize.


From: Bob Woodward
Subject: Re:
Date: February 23, 2013 7:23:37 AM EST
To: Sperling, Gene

Gene: You do not ever have to apologize to me. You get wound up because you are making your points and you believe them. This is all part of a serious discussion. I for one welcome a little heat; there should more given the importance. I also welcome your personal advice. I am listening. I know you lived all this. My partial advantage is that I talked extensively with all involved. I am traveling and will try to reach you after 3 pm today. Best, Bob

Political Headlines February 27, 2013: President Barack Obama Backs Off Warnings About Sequester





Obama Backs Off Warnings About Sequester

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-27-13

Alex Wong/Getty Images

After weeks of outlining the dire consequences of the looming across-the-board spending cuts, President Obama on Wednesday night softened his warnings, saying the sequester is “not a cliff, but it is a tumble downward.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines February 27, 2013: Bob Woodward: A ‘Very Senior’ White House Person Warned Me I’d ‘Regret’ What I’m Doing





BOB WOODWARD: A ‘Very Senior’ White House Person Warned Me I’d ‘Regret’ What I’m Doing

Source: Business Insider, 2-27-13

Bob Woodward said this evening on CNN that a “very senior person” at the White House warned him in an email that he would “regret doing this,” the same day he has continued to slam President Barack Obama over the looming forced cuts known as the sequester….”It makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters, ‘You’re going to regret doing something that you believe in,'” Woodward said….READ MORE

Political Headlines February 27, 2013: Bob Woodward says he was threatened by White House in CNN Interview





Bob Woodward says he was threatened by White House

Source: CNN, 2-27-13

Bob Woodward claimed the White House threatened him about his coverage on the budget cuts, but the White House has pushed back. (Source: CNN)
Bob Woodward claimed the White House threatened him about his coverage on the budget cuts, but the White House has pushed back. (Source: CNN)

Veteran journalist Bob Woodward said Wednesday he was threatened by a senior Obama administration official following his reporting on the White House’s handling of the forced federal spending cuts set to take effect on Friday.

“They’re not happy at all,” he said on CNN’s “The Situation Room”….”It was said very clearly, you will regret doing this,” he said….READ MORE

Political Headlines February 27, 2013: Bob Woodward at war with Obama White House





Woodward at war

Source: Politico, 2-27-13

Bob Woodward called a senior White House official last week to tell him that in a piece in that weekend’s Washington Post, he was going to question President Barack Obama’s account of how sequestration came about – and got a major-league brushback….READ MORE

Political Headlines February 27, 2013: Bob Woodward blasts President Obama’s madness on the sequester





Bob Woodward blasts President Obama madness

Source: Politico, 2-27-13

The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward attacked President Barack Obama on Wednesday, saying the commander-in-chief’s decision not to deploy an aircraft carrier because of budget cuts is “a kind of madness….READ MORE

Political Headlines February 26, 2013: Speaker John Boehner Pressures Senate Democrats on Bill to Avert the Sequester





Boehner Pressures Democrats to Get ‘Off Their…’

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-26-13

Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker John Boehner used some choice words to pressure Senate Democrats to avert the looming sequester — $85 billion of arbitrary across-the-board cuts — insisting that “the House has done its job” and the President’s party.

“We have moved the bill in the House twice,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their a** and begins to do something.”…READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines February 26, 2013: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Remarks on the Senate Floor on the Sequester — Smarter Cuts, Not Tax Hikes





Smarter Cuts, Not Tax Hikes

Source: McConnell.Senate.gov, 2-26-13

“I’d like to say a word about the sequester.

“The President’s top aides proposed the sequester as a way of helping the White House avoid a debt-limit debate during last-year’s campaign.

“In essence, the deal we struck was that, in exchange for avoiding a second vote before the election, the debt limit would be paired with spending cuts only, and would not involve a tax increase.

“The President had more than a year and a half to revisit his proposal and work with us to prevent it. He obviously thought his time and energies would be better spent elsewhere.

“In fact, I note that today he’s off campaigning again in Virginia instead of working with us to resolve the issue.

“So here we are.

“The President’s been running around acting like the world’s going to end because Congress might actually follow through on an idea he proposed and signed into law – all the while pretending he’s somehow powerless to stop it.

“Well, it’s time to put the record straight. And as someone who was personally involved in the 2011 budget talks, I think I’m uniquely qualified to do it.

“On the question of who came up with the idea in the first place, it originated, as I just noted, in the White House. I was less than 100 yards from this very spot when Vice President Biden called me at my desk to lay it out. He explained the sequester in exquisite detail, and then, as has been reported, the administration stubbornly stuck by those details throughout the negotiations, refusing any effort by Republicans to adjust its design in any way.

“More important than who came up with the idea of the sequester, however, is the fact that the bipartisan agreement that included it and that brought us to this point envisioned $2.1 trillion in spending cuts. Let me say that again: Democrats and Republicans agreed to $2.1 trillion in cuts as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act.

“So we can all go back and talk about what might have been, or what the President wanted or now wants. But let’s be clear about the facts.

“Those cuts were to come in two steps.

“First, through an immediate $900 billion spending reduction in the form of budget caps, and then by an additional $1.2 trillion in cut to be achieved one of two ways: either by the so-called Supercommittee or, if that failed, through the President’s sequester proposal – meaning automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense programs.

“And while the President tried repeatedly to make tax hikes a part of the backup plan, he ultimately gave up on that in exchange for avoiding a second vote on the debt limit before the election. The President made a deliberate decision, in other words, to give up on getting any tax hikes – or revenue enhancements, or whatever the White House wants to call it – as part of the negotiations over the sequester mechanism.

“He made the calculation that avoiding a second vote on the debt limit before the election was more important. So any effort to bring taxes into the picture now is just a ploy to move the goal posts, as the primary chronicler of this whole episode, Bob Woodward, has noted.

“Of course, the White House has tried to refute these historical facts, but it hasn’t gotten anywhere.

“As the Chairman of the Finance Committee helpfully reminded us last week, ‘The President is part of the sequester’ because ‘the White House recommended it … and so now we’re feeling the effects of it.’

“So it’s time for the administration to at least accept reality so we can all move forward and focus on what the White House is actually doing right now. It’s asking the American people for permission to break its own word on spending.

“We reached an agreement to cut $2.1 trillion in government spending over 10 years, and we intend to keep our word.

“Should these cuts be implemented in a smarter way? Absolutely. But the President and his cabinet secretaries had a year and a half to think about that. They can’t just show up now at the last minute and expect the American people to bail them out of their own lack of responsibility.

“We can either secure those reductions more intelligently, or we can do it the President’s way with across-the board cuts. But one thing Americans simply will not accept is another tax increase to replace spending reductions we already agreed to.

“It was my hope that the Supercommittee would have succeeded. The Senators I appointed took that assignment very seriously. They put real skin in the game, because they wanted it to work. They didn’t like the sequester idea. And had the President engaged in a serious and supportive way at that time, the Supercommittee may very well have succeeded. He chose to campaign, and I’d argue, undermine the process instead.

“But even after the Supercommittee failed, Republicans continued to work to find another way to achieve these cuts. We repeatedly called for replacing the sequester with smarter cuts, rather than tax hikes, according to the original pact. House Republicans passed two bills to do just that. But again, instead of engaging with us, the President just set up more roadblocks.

“For more than a year, he resisted and dismissed every Republican attempt at a compromise. He refused to offer any kind of reasonable alternative, and he even threatened to veto other proposals aimed at averting the sequester. And now, here we are, with the President presenting the country with two options: Armageddon or a tax hike.

“Well, it’s a false choice, and he knows it. But then, the President’s a master at creating the impression of chaos as an excuse for government action. Do nothing. Fan the flames of catastrophe. Then claim the only way out is more government, in the form of higher taxes.

“Look: the choice we face isn’t between the sequester and tax hikes. Remember, we’re only talking about cutting 2 to 3 percent of the budget. Any business owner or middle-class parent will tell you it’s completely ridiculous to think Washington can’t find a better way to cut 2 to 3 percent of the federal budget at a time when we’re $16 trillion in debt.

“Every single working American had to figure out how to make ends meet with 2 percent less in their paychecks last month when the payroll tax holiday expired. Are you telling me Washington can’t do the same? It’s absurd.

“There’s no reason in the world these cuts need to fall on essential services or emergency responders. After all, even with the sequester, Washington will be spending more than when President Obama got here. We’re only talking about cutting a tenth of what the President spent on the stimulus bill.


“Step one in this process of getting to a serious solution is to end the White House’s denial of historical reality. We’re starting to get there, slowly but surely.

“More important, though, is the next step: that’s when the President and his Democrat allies actually come to the table and negotiate in a serious way, without gimmicks and without games on how best to reduce Washington spending. So let’s please shelve the tax hikes and the endless campaigning.

“Finally, I think there’s an even larger point to be made here. The President’s been going around warning of utter chaos if the sequester takes effect. And while I agree that those cuts could be made in a smarter way, and don’t like the fact that they fall disproportionately on defense, what does it say about the size of government that we can’t cut it by 2 to 3 percent without inviting disaster? Doesn’t that make our point? Hasn’t government gotten too big if just cutting the overall budget by a couple percentage points could have that kind of impact?

“Personally, I don’t believe the world will end if the President’s sequester takes effect. But our country would be much better served if the Democrats who run Washington would get off the campaign trail and work with us to trim the budget in a more rational way.

“Americans are tired of the manufactured crises. I know my constituents in Kentucky are. They’re just tired of it. They want us to work together, and Republicans are ready to do just that.”

Full Text Obama Presidency February 26, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Impact of the Sequester & Defense Spending Cuts in Newport News, Virginia



President Obama Calls for a Responsible Approach to Deficit Reduction

Source: WH, 2-26-13

President Barack Obama at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va., Feb. 26, 2013President Barack Obama delivers remarks to highlight the devastating impact the sequester will have on jobs and middle class families, at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va., Feb. 26, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Remarks by the President on the Impact of the Sequester – Newport News, VA

Source: WH, 2-26-13 

Newport News Shipbuilding
Newport News, Virginia

1:23 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Newport News!  (Applause.)  Well, it is good to see all of you here today.

I want to thank your CEO, Mike Petters, for showing me around.  I usually don’t get a chance to hang out with nuclear submarines, especially submarines that my wife has sponsored.  (Applause.)  So right there, that was worth the trip.

But most importantly, it’s a great chance to see the incredible men and women who, every single day, are helping to keep America safe and are just the bedrock of this country’s manufacturing base.  Thank you to all of you.  (Applause.)

I want to thank our outstanding Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, who’s here.  (Applause.)  There he is right there — the good-looking guy over at the end.  (Laughter.)  I want to thank your Mayor, McKinley Price, who served this nation bravely in the U.S. Army.  (Applause.)  I want to thank two outstanding Congressmen who care about this facility, care about Virginia and care about the country — Congressman Bobby Scott is here — (applause) — and Congressman Scott Rigell is here as well.  (Applause.)

Now, the reason I came here today, in addition to seeing just some incredible stuff — it’s true, every time I come to these places, I don’t know how you all do it.  It is just amazing work.  But the main reason I’m here is to call attention to the important work that you’re doing on behalf of the nation’s defense, and to let the American people know that this work, along with hundreds of thousands of jobs, are currently in jeopardy because of politics in Washington.

In a few days, Congress might allow a series of immediate, painful, arbitrary budget cuts to take place — known in Washington as the sequester.  Now, that’s a pretty bad name — sequester.  But the effects are even worse than the name.  Instead of cutting out the government spending we don’t need — wasteful programs that don’t work, special interest tax loopholes and tax breaks — what the sequester does is it uses a meat cleaver approach to gut critical investments in things like education and national security and lifesaving medical research.

And the impact of this policy won’t be felt overnight, but it will be real.  The sequester will weaken America’s economic recovery.  It will weaken our military readiness.  And it will weaken the basic services that the American people depend on every single day.

Already, the uncertainty around these cuts is having an effect.  Companies are starting to prepare for layoff notices.  Families are preparing to cut back on expenses.  And the longer these cuts are in place, the greater the damage.

So here at Newport News Shipbuilding, you guys have made an enormous investment, because we’ve said in order to maintain the finest Navy that the world has ever known we’ve got to make sure that there is an orderly process whereby we are continually upgrading our ships, building new ships, maintaining our ships properly.  And these are some big ships.  So it’s expensive, and it’s complicated.  And you’ve got 5,000 suppliers all across the country, and you’ve got to have some certainty and some knowledge about how things are going to proceed over the long term for Mike and others to plan properly.

So you’re rightly concerned.  Mike is properly concerned about the impact that these cuts will have on not just this company, but companies and small businesses from all 50 states that supply you with parts and equipment.

Mike was telling me that you guys have already made a billion dollars’ worth of capital investment.  You’ve got half a billion dollars in training costs as you recruit and hire new people.  Well, those aren’t commitments that you make lightly.  You’ve got to have the capacity to plan and have some certainty in terms of what it is that we’re going to be doing.  And you know that if Congress can’t get together and plan our nation’s finances for the long term, that over time some of your jobs and businesses could be at risk.

Over at the Norfolk Naval Station, the threat of these cuts has already forced the Navy to cancel the deployment, or delay the repair of certain aircraft carriers.  One that’s currently being built might not get finished.  Another carrier might not get started at all.  And that hurts your bottom line.  That hurts this community.

Because of these automatic cuts, about 90,000 Virginians who work for the Department of Defense would be forced to take unpaid leave from their jobs.  So that’s money out of their pockets, money out of their paychecks.  And then that means there’s going to be a ripple effect on thousands of other jobs and businesses and services throughout the Commonwealth, because if they don’t have money in their pockets or less money in their pockets, that means they’re less able to afford to buy goods and services from other businesses.  So it’s not just restricted to the defense industry.

All told, the sequester could cost tens of thousands of jobs right here in Virginia.  But it doesn’t just stop there.  If the sequester goes into effect, more than 2,000 college students would lose their financial aid.  Early education like Head Start and Early Start would be eliminated for nearly 1,000 children, and around 18,000 fewer Virginians would get the skills and training they need to find a job.

Across the country, these cuts will force federal prosecutors to close cases and potentially let criminals go.  Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, and that could cause delays at airports across the country.  Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find child care for their kids.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings, including more than 3,500 children right here in Virginia.

So these cuts are wrong.  They’re not smart.  They’re not fair.  They’re a self-inflicted wound that doesn’t have to happen.

Now, the reason that we’re even thinking about the sequester is because people are rightly concerned about the deficit and the debt.  But there is a sensible way of doing things and there is a dumb way of doing things.  I mean, think about your own family.  Let’s say that suddenly you’ve got a little less money coming in. Are you going to say, well, we’ll cut out college tuition for the kid, we’ll stop feeding the little guy over here, we won’t pay our car note even though that means we can’t get to work — that’s not what you do, right?

You step back and you say, what is it that’s important — our child’s education, making sure they’re healthy, making sure we can get to the job, keeping our house repaired?  And then you say, here are the things that aren’t so important and you cut those out.  You prioritize, and you make smart decisions.  Well, we should be doing the same thing.

Now, I’ve laid out a plan that details how we can pay down our deficit in a way that’s balanced and responsible.  We have the plan right on a website, the White House website.  Everybody can go see it.  It details exactly how we can cut programs that don’t work, how we can raise money by closing loopholes that are only serving a few, as opposed to the average American.

We detailed $930 billion in sensible spending cuts that we’re willing to make and $580 billion in wasteful tax loopholes and deductions that we’re willing to eliminate through tax reform.

And what I’ve said is if the Republicans in Congress don’t like every detail of my proposal, which I don’t expect them to, I’ve told them my door is open.  I am more than willing to negotiate.  I want to compromise.  There’s no reason why we can’t come together and find a sensible way to reduce the deficit over the long term without affecting vital services, without hurting families, without impacting outstanding facilities like this one and our national defense.  There’s a way of doing this.

And the fact is there are leaders in both parties throughout this country who want to do the same.  I’ve got to give Scott Rigell credit.  He is one of your Republican congressmen who’s with us here today — and that’s not always healthy for a Republican, being with me.  But the reason he’s doing it is because he knows it’s important to you.  And he’s asked his colleagues in the House to consider closing tax loopholes instead of letting these automatic cuts go through.  He’s concerned about the deficit, and he’s more than prepared to make some really tough cuts, but he wants to do it in a smart way.

Bobby Scott — same thing.  Some of the cuts we’ve proposed, Bobby might not think are perfect, but he knows that we’ve got to make some tough decisions.  He just wants to make sure that you aren’t the ones who are adversely impacted and that we’re sharing the sacrifice in bringing down our deficit; we’re not just dumping it on a few people and we’re not doing it in a dumb way.

Senators like John McCain have made similar statements to what Scott said.  Your Republican Governor along with other governors around the country have said they want Congress to stop the sequester, to stop these cuts.

But I just have to be honest with you.  There are too many Republicans in Congress right now who refuse to compromise even an inch when it comes to closing tax loopholes and special interest tax breaks.  And that’s what’s holding things up right now.

Keep in mind, nobody is asking them to raise income tax rates.  All we’re asking is to consider closing tax loopholes and deductions that the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, said he was willing to do just a few months ago.  He said there were a bunch of loopholes and deductions you could close.  He said you could raise $800 billion, a trillion dollars by closing loopholes.

Well, we’re not even asking for that much.  All we’re asking is that they close loopholes for the well-off and the well-connected — for hedge fund managers, or oil companies, or corporate jet owners who are all doing very well and don’t need these tax loopholes — so we can avoid laying off workers, or kicking kids off Head Start, or reducing financial aid for college students.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask.  I do not think that is partisan.  (Applause.)  The majority of the American people agree with me.  The majority of Newport News agrees with me.  We need to get this done.  (Applause.)

But the choice is up to Congress.  Only Congress has the power to pass a law that stops these damaging cuts and replaces them with smart savings and tax reform.  And the second I get that bill on my desk, I will sign it into law.  But I’ve got to get Congress to pass it.

None of us will get 100 percent of what we want.  Democrats, they’ve got to make some tough choices too. Democrats like me, we’ve said we’re prepared to make some tough cuts and reforms, including to programs like Medicare.  But if we’re willing to compromise, then Republicans in the House have to compromise as well.  That’s what democracy is about.  That’s what this country needs right now.  (Applause.)

So let me just make one last point, by the way, for those of you who are following this.  Now, lately, some people have been saying, well, maybe we’ll just give the President some flexibility.  He could make the cuts the way he wants and that way it won’t be as damaging.  The problem is when you’re cutting $85 billion in seven months, which represents over a 10-percent cut in the defense budget in seven months, there’s no smart way to do that.  There’s no smart way to do that.  You don’t want to have to choose between, let’s see, do I close funding for the disabled kid, or the poor kid?  Do I close this Navy shipyard or some other one?  When you’re doing things in a way that’s not smart, you can’t gloss over the pain and the impact it’s going to have on the economy.

And the broader point is, Virginia, we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.  We can’t just cut our way to prosperity.  We can’t ask seniors and working families like yours to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and the most powerful.  We’re not going to grow the middle class just by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or forcing communities to lay off more teachers or cops or firefighters or shipbuilders, and then folks who are doing really well don’t have to do anything more.  That’s not fair, and it’s not good for the economy.

And the other thing we’ve got to do is to stop having these crises manufactured every month.  It seems like — I know you guys must get tired of it.  (Applause.)  Didn’t we just solve this thing?  Now we’ve got another thing coming up?  (Applause.) I mean, think about if Mike Petters ran his business this way — once every month or two there would be some crisis, and you wouldn’t be sure whether or not you were working or not.  Even if it got solved eventually or ultimately, it would be pretty discouraging on people.  You would be less productive.  Ships wouldn’t get built as fast.  You would waste money because you don’t know exactly what to expect.  Folks aren’t sure, am I showing up to work today, or not?

If it’s not a good way to run a business, it’s sure not a good way to run a country.  (Applause.)

Now, all of you, the American people, you’ve worked too hard for too long rebuilding and digging our way out of the financial crisis back in 2007 and 2008 just to see Congress cause another one.  The greatest nation on Earth can’t keep on conducting its business drifting from one crisis to the next.

We’ve got to have a plan.  We’ve got to invest in our common future.  Our true north is a growing economy that creates good middle-class jobs; a country that provides its people with the skills they need to get those jobs and make sure that you’re getting paid a decent wage for working hard so you can support your families.  That’s what we should be focused on right now.  Not weakening the economy.  Not laying people off.  (Applause.)

That’s what we should be talking about in Washington.  And if you agree with me, I need you to make sure your voices are heard.  Let your leaders know what you expect of them.  Let them know what you believe.  Let them know that what this country was built on was a sense of obligation to not just each other but to future generations; that we’ve got to shoulder those obligations as one nation, and as one people.

I was in a conversation with some of the governors from across the country yesterday and I told them, I said, I’ve run my last election.  Michelle is very happy about that.  (Laughter.)  I’m not interested in spin; I’m not interested in playing a blame game.  At this point, all I’m interested in is just solving problems.  (Applause.)  All I’m interested in is making sure that when you get up early in the morning, and get to this ship at 5:30 in the morning, that you know if you do a good job and if you work hard and if you’re making sure that all the parts to this incredible ship that you’re building are where they need to be — if you’re doing what you do, then you can go home feeling satisfied, I did my job, I did my part, I can support my family, I can take pride in what I’ve done for this country.

That’s all I want.  I want us to be able to look back five years from now, 10 years from now, and say we took care of our business and we put an end to some of these games that maybe, I guess, are entertaining for some but are hurting too many people.

But in order for us to make that happen I’m going to need you.  The one thing about being President is, after four years you get pretty humble.  (Laughter.)  You’d think maybe you wouldn’t, but actually you become more humble.  You realize what you don’t know.  You realize all the mistakes you’ve made.  But you also realize you can’t do things by yourself.  That’s not how our system works.  You’ve got to have the help and the goodwill of Congress, and what that means is you’ve got to make sure that constituents of members of Congress are putting some pressure on them, making sure they’re doing the right thing, putting an end to some of these political games.

So I need you, Virginia, to keep up the pressure.  I need you to keep up the effort.  I need you to keep up the fight.  (Applause.)  If you do, Congress will listen.  If you stand up and speak out, Congress will listen.  And together, we will unleash our true potential, and we’ll remind the world just why it is the United States builds the greatest ships on Earth and is the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

1:44 P.M. EST

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