Statement by the Press Secretary on H.R. 2112: President Obama Signed the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 Into Law!
Statement by the Press Secretary on H.R. 2112
On Friday, November 18, 2011, the President signed into law:
H.R. 2112, the “Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012,” provides FY 2012 full-year appropriations through September 30, 2012, for the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services’, Food and Drug Administration, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Transportation; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and other small agencies. In addition, it provides for continuing FY 2012 appropriations through December 16, 2011, for the remaining projects and activities of the Federal Government.
We Can’t Wait: Health Care Innovation Challenge Will Improve Care, Save Money, Focus On Health Care Jobs
We Can’t Wait: Health Care Innovation Challenge will improve care, save money, focus on health care jobs
New funding available for next generation of health care innovations
WASHINGTON, DC– Up to $1 billion dollars will be awarded to innovative projects across the country that test creative ways to deliver high quality medical care and save money. Launched today by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Health Care Innovation Challenge will also give preference to projects that rapidly hire, train and deploy health care workers.
“We’ve taken incredible steps to reduce health care costs and improve care, but we can’t wait to do more,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Both public and private community organizations around the country are finding innovative solutions to improve our health care system and the Health Care Innovation Challenge will help jump start these efforts.”
Funded by the Affordable Care Act, the Health Care Innovation Challenge will award grants in March to applicants who will implement the most compelling new ideas to deliver better health, improved care and lower costs to people enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, particularly those with the highest health care needs. The Challenge will support projects that can begin within six months. Additionally, projects that focus on rapid workforce development will be given priority when grants are awarded.
“When I visit communities across the country, I continually see innovative solutions at the very ground level – a large health system working with community partners to decrease the risk of diabetes with nutrition programs or a church group that sends volunteers to help home-bound seniors so they can live at home,” said Donald M. Berwick, M.D., administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “By putting more programs like this in place and more “boots on the ground,” these types of programs can truly transform our health care system.”
Awards will be expected to range from approximately $1 million to $30 million over three years. Applications are open to providers, payers, local government, community-based organizations and particularly to public-private partnerships and multi-payer approaches. Each grantee project will be evaluated and monitored for measurable improvements in quality of care and savings generated.
For more information, including a fact sheet and the Funding Opportunity Announcement, please see the Health Care Innovation Challenge initiative web site at: www.innovation.cms.gov
BREAKING NEWS: Statement by White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer on the Supreme Court and the Affordable Care Act
Statement by White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer on the Supreme Court and the Affordable Care Act
Earlier this year, the Obama Administration asked the Supreme Court to consider legal challenges to the health reform law and we are pleased the Court has agreed to hear this case. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, one million more young Americans have health insurance, women are getting mammograms and preventive services without paying an extra penny out of their own pocket and insurance companies have to spend more of your premiums on health care instead of advertising and bonuses. We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree.
NEWS CONFERENCE BY PRESIDENT OBAMA
JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa
5:06 P.M. HAST
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon, everybody. Aloha. I want to begin by thanking the people of Hawaii for their extraordinary hospitality. Usually when Michelle and I and our daughters come back to visit, it’s just one President, and this time we brought 21. So thank you so much for the incredible graciousness of the people of Hawaii — and their patience, because I know that traffic got tied up a little bit.
Now, the single greatest challenge for the United States right now, and my highest priority as President, is creating jobs and putting Americans back to work. And one of the best ways to do that is to increase our trade and exports with other nations. Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers are beyond our borders. I want them to be buying goods with three words stamped on them: Made in America. So I’ve been doing everything I can to make sure that the United States is competing aggressively for the jobs and the markets of the future.
No region will do more to shape our long-term economic future than the Asia Pacific region. As I’ve said, the United States is, and always will be, a Pacific nation. Many of our top trading partners are in this region. This is where we sell most of our exports, supporting some 5 million American jobs. And since this is the world’s fastest growing region, the Asia Pacific is key to achieving my goal of doubling U.S. exports — a goal, by the way, which we are on track right now to meet.
And that’s why I’ve been proud to host APEC this year. It’s been a chance to help lead the way towards a more seamless regional economy with more trade, more exports, and more jobs for our people. And I’m pleased that we’ve made progress in three very important areas.
First, we agreed to a series of steps that will increase trade and bring our economies even closer. We agreed to a new set of principles on innovation to encourage the entrepreneurship that creates new businesses and new industries. With simplified customs and exemptions from certain tariffs we’ll encourage more businesses to engage in more trade. And that includes our small businesses, which account for the vast majority of the companies in our economies.
We agreed to a new initiative that will make it easier and faster for people to travel and conduct business across the region. And yesterday, I was pleased to sign legislation, a new travel card that will help our American businessmen and women travel more easily and get deals done in this region.
I’d note that we also made a lot of progress increasing trade on the sidelines of APEC. As I announced yesterday, the United States and our eight partners reached the broad outlines of an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And today I’m pleased that Japan, Canada and Mexico have now expressed an interest in this effort.
This comes on the heels of our landmark trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, which will support tens of thousands of American jobs.
And in my meeting with President Medvedev, we discussed how to move ahead with Russia’s accession to the WTO, which will also mean more exports for American manufacturers and American farmers and ranchers.
Second, APEC agreed on ways to promote the green growth we need for our energy security. We agreed to reduce tariffs on environmental goods and make it easier to export clean energy technologies that create green jobs. We raised the bar on ourselves and we’ll aim for even higher energy efficiencies. And we’re moving ahead with the effort to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. This would be a huge step toward creating clean energy economies and fighting climate change, which is a threat to both the beauty and the prosperity of the region.
Third, we’re redoubling our efforts to make sure that regulations are encouraging trade and job creation, not discouraging trade and job creation. And this builds on the work that we’re doing in the United States to get rid of rules and regulations that are unjustified and that are overly burdensome. Our APEC partners are joining us in streamlining and coordinating regulations so that we’re sparking innovation and growth even as we protect public health and our environment.
And finally, since many of the leaders here were also at the recent G20 summit, we continued our efforts to get the global economy to grow faster. APEC makes up more than half the global economy, and it will continue to play a key role in achieving the strong and balanced growth that we need.
As I’ve said, as the world’s largest economy, the best thing that the United States can do for the global economy is to grow our own economy faster. And so I will continue to fight for the American Jobs Act so that we can put our people back to work.
I was glad to see that Congress moved forward on one aspect of the jobs bill — tax credits for companies that are hiring veterans. But we’ve got to do a lot more than that.
So, again, I want to thank the people of Hawaii for their extraordinary hospitality and for all that they’ve done to help make this summit such a success. I want to thank my fellow leaders for the seriousness and sense of common purpose that they brought to our work. And I believe that the progress we’ve made here will help create jobs and keep America competitive in a region that is absolutely vital not only for our economy but also for our national security.
So, with that, I’m going to take a few questions. I’ll start with Ben Feller of AP.
Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. I’d like to ask you about Iran. Did you get any specific commitments from Russia or China on tightening sanctions? Did you move them at all? And do you fear the world is running out of options short of military intervention to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: One of the striking things over the last three years since I came into office is the degree of unity that we’ve been able to forge in the international community with respect to Iran. When I came into office, the world was divided and Iran was unified around its nuclear program. We now have a situation where the world is united and Iran is isolated. And because of our diplomacy and our efforts, we have, by far, the strongest sanctions on Iran that we’ve ever seen. And China and Russia were critical to making that happen. Had they not been willing to support those efforts in the United Nations, we would not be able to see the kind of progress that we’ve made.
And they’re having an impact. All our intelligence indicates that Iran’s economy is suffering as a consequence of this. And we’re also seeing that Iran’s influence in the region has ebbed, in part because their approach to repression inside of Iran is contrary to the Arab Spring that has been sweeping the Middle East.
So we are in a much stronger position now than we were two or three years ago with respect to Iran. Having said that, the recent IAEA report indicates what we already knew, which is, although Iran does not possess a nuclear weapon and is technically still allowing IAEA observers into their country, that they are engaging in a series of practices that are contrary to their international obligations and their IAEA obligations. And that’s what the IAEA report indicated.
So what I did was to speak with President Medvedev, as well as President Hu, and all three of us entirely agree on the objective, which is making sure that Iran does not weaponize nuclear power and that we don’t trigger a nuclear arms race in the region. That’s in the interests of all of us.
In terms of how we move forward, we will be consulting with them carefully over the next several weeks to look at what other options we have available to us. The sanctions have enormous bite and enormous scope, and we’re building off the platform that has already been established. The question is, are there additional measures that we can take. And we’re going to explore every avenue to see if we can solve this issue diplomatically.
I have said repeatedly and I will say it today, we are not taking any options off the table, because it’s my firm belief that an Iran with a nuclear weapon would pose a security threat not only to the region but also to the United States. But our strong preference is to have Iran meet its international obligations, negotiate diplomatically, to allow them to have peaceful use of nuclear energy in accordance with international law, but at the same time, forswear the weaponization of nuclear power.
And so we’re going to keep on pushing on that. And China and Russia have the same aims, the same objectives, and I believe that we’ll continue to cooperate and collaborate closely on that issue.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Last night at the Republican debate, some of the hopefuls — they hope to get your job — they defended the practice of waterboarding, which is a practice that you banned in 2009. Herman Cain said, “I don’t see that as torture.” Michelle Bachmann said that it’s “very effective.” So I’m wondering if you think that they’re uninformed, out of touch, or irresponsible?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: That’s a multiple-choice question, isn’t it? (Laughter.) Let me just say this: They’re wrong. Waterboarding is torture. It’s contrary to America’s traditions. It’s contrary to our ideals. That’s not who we are. That’s not how we operate. We don’t need it in order to prosecute the war on terrorism. And we did the right thing by ending that practice.
If we want to lead around the world, part of our leadership is setting a good example. And anybody who has actually read about and understands the practice of waterboarding would say that that is torture. And that’s not something we do — period.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. If I could continue on that, the Republicans did have a debate on CBS last night. A lot of it was about foreign policy, and they were very critical of your record –
PRESIDENT OBAMA: That’s shocking. (Laughter.)
Q So if I could get you to respond to something that Mitt Romney said. He said your biggest foreign policy failure is Iran. He said that if you are reelected Iran will have a nuclear weapon. Is Mitt Romney wrong?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I am going to make a practice of not commenting on whatever is said in Republican debates until they’ve got an actual nominee. But as I indicated to Ben in the earlier question, you take a look at what we’ve been able to accomplish in mobilizing the world community against Iran over the last three years and it shows steady, determined, firm progress in isolating the Iranian regime, and sending a clear message that the world believes it would be dangerous for them to have a nuclear weapon.
Now, is this an easy issue? No. Anybody who claims it is, is either politicking or doesn’t know what they’re talking about. But I think not only the world, but the Iranian regime understands very clearly how determined we are to prevent not only a nuclear Iran but also a nuclear arms race in the region, and a violation of nonproliferation norms that would have implications around the world, including in the Asia Pacific region where we have similar problems with North Korea.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Yesterday in a speech before business leaders, you said that you want China to play by the rules. And then your staff later said that, in a bilateral meeting with President Hu, that you expressed that American business leaders are growing frustrated with the pace of change in China’s economy. What rules is China not playing by? What specific steps do you need to see from China? And what punitive actions is your administration willing to take, as you said it would yesterday, if China does not play by the rules?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, I also said yesterday that we welcome the peaceful rise of China. It is in America’s interests to see China succeed in lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. China can be a source of stability and help to underwrite international norms and codes of conduct.
And so what we’ve done over the last two years is to try to develop a frank, consistent, open relationship and dialogue with China, and it’s yielded considerable benefits — for example, support for issues like Iran. But what I’ve also said to Chinese leadership since I came into office is that when it comes to their economic practices, there are a range of things that they have done that disadvantage not just the United States but a whole host of their trading partners and countries in the region.
The most famous example is the issue of China’s currency. Most economists estimate that the RMB is devalued by 20 to 25 percent. That means our exports to China are that much more expensive, and their imports into the United States are that much cheaper. Now, there’s been slight improvement over the last year, partly because of U.S. pressure, but it hasn’t been enough. And it’s time for them to go ahead and move towards a market-based system for their currency.
We recognize they may not be able to do it overnight, but they can do it much more quickly than they’ve done it so far. And, by the way, that would not necessarily be a bad thing for the Chinese economy, because they’ve been so focused on export-driven growth that they’ve neglected domestic consumption, building up domestic markets. It makes them much more vulnerable to shocks in the global economy. It throws the whole world economy out of balance because they’re not buying as much as they could be from other countries.
And this is not something that’s inconsistent with where Chinese leadership say they want to go. The problem is, is that you’ve got a bunch of export producers in China who like the system as it is, and making changes are difficult for them politically. I get it. But the United States and other countries, I think understandably, feel that enough is enough.
That’s not the only concern we have. Intellectual property rights and protections — companies that do business in China consistently report problems in terms of intellectual property not being protected. Now, that’s particularly important for an advanced economy like ours, where that’s one of our competitive advantages, is we’ve got great engineers, great entrepreneurs, we’re designing extraordinary new products. And if they get no protection and the next thing you know China is operating as a low-cost producer and not paying any fees or revenues to folks who invented these products, that’s a problem.
So those are two examples, but there are a number of others. These practices aren’t secret. I think everybody understands that they’ve been going on for quite some time. Sometimes, American companies are wary about bringing them up because they don’t want to be punished in terms of their ability to do business in China. But I don’t have that same concern, so I bring it up.
And in terms of enforcement, the other thing that we’ve been doing is actually trying to enforce the trade laws that are in place. We’ve brought a number of cases — one that the U.S. press may be familiar with are the cases involving U.S. tires, where we brought very aggressive actions against China and won. And as a consequence, U.S. producers are in a better position, and that means more U.S. jobs.
So I think we can benefit from trade with China. And I want certainly to continue cultivating a constructive relationship with the Chinese government, but we’re going to continue to be firm in insisting that they operate by the same rules that everybody else operates under. We don’t want them taking advantage of the United States or U.S. businesses.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. The other day you told ESPN that the scandal at Penn State — which you said was heartbreaking — should prompt some soul-searching throughout the nation. I’m wondering if you could elaborate on that, what exactly you meant and — I know you’re a big fan of college sports — if this something you think that is an indictment not just of what happened at Penn State, allegedly, but how athletics are revered in universities.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think that’s the kind of soul-searching that I was referring to, Jake. You’re right, I’m a big college sports fan. I think that when it’s kept in perspective, college athletics not only provides a great outlet for competition for our young people, but helps to bring a sense of community and can help to brand a university in a way that is fun and important. But what happened at Penn State indicates that at a certain point, folks start thinking about systems and institutions and don’t think about individuals. And when you think about how vulnerable kids are, for the alleged facts of that case to have taken place and for folks not to immediately say, nothing else matters except making sure those kids are protected, that’s a problem.
It’s not unique to a college sports environment. I mean, we’ve seen problems in other institutions that are equally heartbreaking. Not all of them involve children, by the way. There have been problems, obviously, with respect to sexual abuse or assault directed against women, where institutions sort of closed ranks instead of getting on top of it right away. And that’s why I said I think all institutions, not just universities or sports programs, have to step back and take stock, and make sure that we’re doing everything we can to protect people who may be vulnerable in these circumstances, but also just keep in mind what’s important — making sure that our excitement about a college sports program doesn’t get in the way of our basic human response when somebody is being hurt.
And it’s been said that evil can thrive in the world just by good people standing by and doing nothing. And all of us I think have occasion where we see something that’s wrong, we’ve got to make sure that we step up. That’s true in college athletics. That’s true in our government. That’s true everywhere.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. In conversations that you’ve had over the past couple of days with Asia Pacific leaders, have any of them brought up the rhetoric that we’re seeing from Republican presidential candidates when it comes to China? And does that kind of rhetoric or posturing jeopardize the progress that your administration has made with China and the Asia Pacific region as a whole?
THE PRESIDENT: I think most leaders here understand that politics is not always measured or on the level, and so most of our discussions have to do with substance: How do we put our people back to work right now? How do we expand trade? How do we expand exports?
I’ve been very frank with Chinese leaders, though, in saying that the American people across the board — left, right and center — believe in trade, believe in competition. We think we’ve got the best workers in the world. We think we’ve got the best universities, the best entrepreneurs, the best free market. We’re ready to go out there and compete with anybody. But there is a concern across the political spectrum that the playing field is not level right now.
And so, in conversations with President Hu and others, what I’ve tried to say is we have the opportunity to move in a direction in which this is a win-win: China is benefiting from trade with the United States; the United States is benefiting as well. Jobs are being created in the United States and not just in China. But right now things are out of kilter. And that is something that is shared across the board, as we saw with the recent vote on the Chinese currency issue in the Senate.
And I think leaders in the region understand that as China grows, as its economic influence expands, that the expectation is, is that they will be a responsible leader in the world economy — which is what the United States has tried to do. I mean, we try to set up rules that are universal, that everybody can follow, and then we play by those rules. And then we compete fiercely. But we don’t try to game the system. That’s part of what leadership is about.
China has the opportunity to be that same type of leader. And as the world’s second-largest economy, I think that’s going to be important not just for this region, but for the world. But that requires them to take responsibility, to understand that their role is different now than it might have been 20 years ago or 30 years ago, where if they were breaking some rules, it didn’t really matter, it did not have a significant impact. You weren’t seeing huge trade imbalances that had consequences for the world financial system.
Now they’ve grown up, and so they’re going to have to help manage this process in a responsible way.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Why did you get rid of the aloha shirts and the grass skirts? (Laughter.) Are you at all concerned that it not appear that you’re having a party over here while so many people are living with such a tough economy? And I’m wondering if those perceptions were at all on your mind as you were making plans for this trip, which, by necessity, takes you to some pretty exotic and fun locations.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I got rid of the Hawaiian shirts because I had looked at pictures of some of the previous APEC meetings and some of the garb that had appeared previously, and I thought this may be a tradition that we might want to break. I suggested to the leaders — we gave them a shirt, and if they wanted to wear the shirt, I promise you it would have been fine. But I didn’t hear a lot of complaints about us breaking precedent on that one.
With respect to this trip, look, this is a pretty nice piece of scenery here and I take enormous pride in having been raised in the state of Hawaii, but we’re here for business. We’re here to create jobs. We’re here to promote exports. And we’ve got a set of tangible, concrete steps that have been taken that are going to make our economy stronger, and that’s part of what our leadership has been about.
When I went to Europe last week, our job was to help shape a solution for the European crisis. And a lot of folks back home might have wondered, well, that’s Europe’s problem; why are we worrying about it? Well, if Europe has a major recession, and the financial system in Europe starts spinning out of control, that will have a direct impact on U.S. growth and our ability to create jobs and people raising their living standards.
The same is true out here. If we’re not playing out here in the world’s largest regional economy and the world’s fastest regional economy, if we’ve abandoned the field and we’re not engaged, American businesses will lose out and those jobs won’t be in the United States of America.
So part of my job is to make sure that the rules of the road are set up so that our folks can compete effectively. Part of my job is to sell America and our products and our services around the world, and I think we’ve done so very effectively.
And as I said, just to take the example of exports, we’re on track to double our exports since I came into office. That was a goal I set, and we’re on track to meet it. That’s actually been one of the stronger parts of our economic growth over the last couple of years. And I want to make sure that we keep on driving that.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. The Republican co-chair of the super committee, Jeb Hensarling, went on TV today and said if the sequester happens — this idea of the automatic cuts in Medicare and defense — that there was plenty of motivation and plenty of votes to change the makeup of these automatic cuts.
I know you had a conversation with him about this and said that changing it in any way was off the table, that means you’re going to veto this bill, if that’s the case, if it ends up they can’t get a deal in the next 10 days.
And then, can you clarify your end of the “hot mic” conversation with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, as it involved Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Could I just say that Chuck is the only guy who asked two questions — so far. So just — when I cut off here, whoever was next in the queue — I’m messing with you, Chuck.
With respect to the super committee, in August we negotiated to initiate a trillion dollars in cuts over the next 10 years — primarily out of discretionary spending — but we also said that in order for us to move towards a more stable fiscal condition that we’re going to have to get an additional $1.2 trillion — minimum. I actually argued that we needed more than that. And the whole idea of the sequester was to make sure that both sides felt obligated to move off rigid positions and do what was required to help the country.
And since that time, they’ve had a lot of conversations, but it feels as if people continue to try to stick with their rigid positions rather than solve the problem.
Now, I’ve put forward a very detailed approach that would achieve $3 trillion-plus in savings. And it’s the sort of balanced approach that the American people prefer. It says everything is on the table. We’ve got to have discretionary spending cuts of the sort we’ve already put in place. We’ve got to have non-defense cuts. We’ve got to have defense cuts. We’re going to have to look at entitlement programs. We’ve got to reduce our health care costs. And we’re going to need additional revenue.
And when we’re talking about revenue, if we’ve got to raise money, it makes sense for us to start by asking the wealthiest among us to pay a little bit more before we start asking seniors, for example, to pay a lot more for their Medicare.
Now, this is the same presentation that I made to Speaker Boehner back in August. It’s the same kind of balanced approach that every single independent committee that’s looked at this has said needs to be done. And it just feels as if people keep on wanting to jigger the math so that they get a different outcome.
Well, the equation, no matter how you do it, is going to be the same. If you want a balanced approach that doesn’t gut Medicare and Medicaid, doesn’t prevent us from making investments in education and basic science and research — all the things we’ve been talking about here at APEC, that every world leader understands is the key for long-term economic success — then prudent cuts have to be matched up with revenue.
My hope is that over the next several days, the congressional leadership on the super committee go ahead and bite the bullet and do what needs to be done — because the math won’t change. There’s no magic formula. There are no magic beans that you can toss on the ground and suddenly a bunch of money grows on trees. We got to just go ahead and do the responsible thing. And I’m prepared to sign legislation that is balanced, that solves this problem.
One other thing that I want to say about this: When I meet with world leaders, what’s striking — whether it’s in Europe or here in Asia — the kinds of fundamental reforms and changes both on the revenue side and the public pension side that other countries are having to make are so much more significant than what we need to do in order to get our books in order.
This doesn’t require radical changes to America or its way of life. It just means that we spread out the sacrifice across every sector so that it’s fair; so that people don’t feel as if once again people who are well connected, people who have lobbyists, special interests get off easy, and the burden is placed on middle-class families that are already struggling. So if other countries can do it, we can do it — and we can do it in a responsible way.
I’m not going to comment on whether I’d veto a particular bill until I actually see a bill, because I still hold out the prospect that there’s going to be a light-bulb moment where everybody says “Ah-ha! Here’s what we’ve got to do.”
With respect to the “hot mic” in France, I’m not going to comment on conversations that I have with individual leaders, but what I will say is this: The primary conversation I had with President Sarkozy in that meeting revolved around my significant disappointment that France had voted in favor of the Palestinians joining UNESCO, knowing full well that under our laws, that would require the United States cutting off funding to UNESCO, and after I had consistently made the argument that the only way we’re going to solve the Middle East situation is if Palestinians and Israelis sit down at the table and negotiate; that it is not going to work to try to do an end run through the United Nations.
So I had a very frank and firm conversation with President Sarkozy about that issue. And that is consistent with both private and public statements that I’ve been making to everybody over the last several months.
Q Mr. President, I have three questions — (laughter) — starting with Mitt Romney. Just one question, I promise. (Laughter.)
You started with a $447-billion jobs bill. Two months later, many speeches later, you’ve got virtually nothing from that. You’ve got the veterans jobs bill — which is important, obviously — and a lot of executive orders. Are you coming to the realization that you may just get nothing here and go to the American people in 2012 without another jobs bill, 9 percent unemployment, and then wondering about your leadership, sir?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think — I think, first of all, the American people, at this point, are wondering about congressional leadership in failing to pass the jobs bill, the components of which the majority of Americans, including many Republicans, think are a good idea.
And that’s part of the reason why the American people right now aren’t feeling real good about Congress. Normally, by the way, the way politics works is if the overwhelming majority of the American people aren’t happy with what you’re doing you start doing something different. So far that hasn’t happened in Congress — and the Republicans in Congress, in particular. They don’t seem to have that same sense of urgency about needing to put people back to work.
I’m going to keep on pushing. My expectation is, is that we will get some of it done now, and I’ll keep on pushing until we get all of it done. And that may take me all the way to November to get it all done. And it may take a new Congress to get it all done. But the component parts — cutting taxes for middle-class families, cutting taxes for small businesses that are hiring our veterans and hiring the long-term unemployed, putting teachers back in the classroom — here in the state of Hawaii, you have a bunch of kids who are going to school four days a week because of budget problems. How are we going to win the competition in the 21st century with our kids going to school basically halftime?
The jobs bill would help alleviate those budget pressures at the state level.
Rebuilding our infrastructure. Every world leader that you talk to, they’re saying to themselves, how can we make sure we’ve got a first-class infrastructure? And as you travel through the Asia Pacific region, you see China having better airports than us, Singapore having superior ports to ours. Well, that’s going to impact our capacity to do business here, our capacity to trade, our capacity to get U.S. products made by U.S. workers into the fastest-growing market in the world. And by the way, we could put a lot of people back to work at the same time.
So I’m going to keep on pushing. And my expectation is, is that we will just keep on chipping away at this. If you’re asking me do I anticipate that the Republican leadership in the House or the Senate suddenly decide that I was right all along and they will adopt a hundred percent of my proposals, the answer is, no, I don’t expect that. Do I anticipate that at some point they recognize that doing nothing is not an option? That’s my hope. And that should be their hope, too, because if they don’t, I think we’ll have a different set of leaders in Congress.
All right? Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.
APEC: FACT SHEET ON 19th ANNUAL LEADERS MEETING OUTCOMES CREATING JOBS, GROWTH, AND ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
APEC: FACT SHEET ON 19th ANNUAL LEADERS MEETING OUTCOMES
CREATING JOBS, GROWTH, AND ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
Under the chairmanship of President Obama, leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum agreed today in Honolulu on a comprehensive set of measures to increase economic growth and job creation by expanding trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region. Leaders agreed to adopt market-driven innovation policies, reduce tariffs and eliminate other barriers to trade in environmental goods and services, and improve regulatory environments to reduce unnecessary burdens on businesses. These steps will help U.S. growth and jobs by expanding export opportunities in the world’s fastest growing region.
Since its first meeting at Blake Island near Seattle in 1993, APEC has served as the premier forum for U.S. engagement with the Asia-Pacific region. APEC’s 21 member economies comprise a market of 2.7 billion consumers, account for 44 percent of world trade, and represent 55 percent of global economic output (more than $35 trillion in 2010). Six of America’s 10 largest trading partners are in APEC.
The APEC Agenda: Creating Jobs and Growth
At a time of global economic uncertainty, continued focus on creating jobs and growth is vital. Strengthening regional economic integration will help U.S. businesses and workers compete more effectively in the Asia-Pacific. Strong, balanced growth in the APEC region helps keep U.S. businesses growing, innovating, and hiring. APEC plays a central role by removing barriers to trade and investment that U.S. companies face in the region, creating new business opportunities, jobs, and buying power for Americans. Since APEC was created, average tariffs in the region have fallen from 16 percent to 5 percent – on a volume of $2.3 trillion of trade between the United States and the Asia-Pacific economies. Since 1993, U.S. exports to other APEC member economies have nearly tripled.
In 2010, APEC economies purchased 61 percent of total U.S. goods exports ($774 billion in 2010), and over 37 percent of U.S. private services exports (over $205 billion in 2010), supporting five million American jobs.
In Honolulu, the United States and other APEC economies took a number of concrete steps towards building a “seamless regional economy” by agreeing to take action in three priority areas:
1. Increasing Trade and Strengthening Regional Economic Integration
Supporting the President’s goal of doubling exports in five years, APEC leaders agreed to reduce barriers to trade and investment by:
- · Setting a model for innovation that is market-driven and non-discriminatory, not government-directed and protectionist, in recognition of the key role entrepreneurship plays in increasing productivity and ensuring economic growth;
- · Showing leadership to launch negotiations to expand the product scope and membership of the WTO Information Technology Agreement, which could create significant market-enhancing opportunities for U.S. high-tech companies;
- · Making it cheaper, easier, and faster for businesses – particularly small and medium-sized businesses – to trade in the region by exempting more low-value shipments from customs duties and simplifying customs requirements and documentation;
- · Launching an APEC Travel Facilitation Initiative to make travel in the region easier, faster, and more secure;
- · Promoting domestic structural reforms in APEC economies to minimize barriers to market-based incentives and to facilitate competition and opportunities for U.S. exporters;
- · Improving food security by extending an APEC-wide standstill on agricultural export restrictions; and
- · Promoting growth by taking concrete actions to expand economic opportunities for women in the Asia-Pacific region.
2. Supporting Green Growth and Green Jobs
As part of our larger commitment to promoting a green economy, APEC leaders agreed to support sustainable growth and create green jobs by:
- · Developing a list in 2012 of environmental goods on which APEC economies will reduce applied tariffs to 5% or less by 2015, and eliminating non-tariff barriers to environmental goods and services, including local content requirements, which will help lower their costs, increase the dissemination of clean technologies, and create more green jobs;
- · Pursuing a more aggressive target for reducing energy intensity across APEC economies by promoting technology and best practices in energy-smart buildings, transportation, and infrastructure;
- · Phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, which encourage wasteful consumption, and reporting on progress annually; and
- · Incorporating low-emissions development strategies into APEC economies’ growth plans.
3. Promoting Regulatory Practices that Facilitate Trade and Investment
Building on efforts at home to boost productivity and job creation while also protecting the environment and ensuring public health and safety, APEC leaders agreed on steps that will improve the quality of the regulatory environment for U.S. exporters in the Asia-Pacific region by:
- · Implementing a set of good regulatory practices, including ensuring internal coordination of rulemaking, assessing impacts of regulations, and conducting public consultation, in order to reduce unnecessary burdens on businesses, costing time and money;
- · Improving the quality of regulations and standards for emerging green technologies like smart grid, green buildings, and solar technologies to reduce technical barriers to trade in those products; and
- · Establishing a fund with USAID support at the World Bank to strengthen food safety collaboration in the Asia-Pacific, accounting for nearly half of global food production.
APEC Economies – The Basic Facts
APEC’s member economies include: The United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Thailand, and Vietnam.
Number of Economies: 21 (6 of them among the top 10 U.S. goods export markets: Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Singapore)
Market Size: 2.7 billion consumers
Combined APEC GDP: $35.2 trillion in 2010 (56 percent of world economic output)
U.S. Benefits from Trade with APEC Economies
Total U.S.-APEC Trade: At least $2.3 trillion in goods and services in 2010
(56 percent of total)
U.S.-APEC Trade Increase: Goods and services trade up 150 percent from $1 trillion in 1994
U.S. Jobs Supported: 5 million jobs
Existing U.S.-APEC FTAs: 7 (Australia, Canada, Chile, Korea, Mexico, Peru, Singapore)
Top U.S. Markets in APEC: Canada ($249.1 billion)
(Goods Exports 2010) Mexico ($163.5 billion)
China ($91.9 billion)
Japan ($60.5 billion)
Korea ($38.8 billion)
Goods Exports to APEC: $775 billion in 2010 (61 percent of total U.S. goods exports)
Up 26 percent from 2009
Up 53 percent from 2000
Up 139 percent from 1994
Key Export Categories: Machinery ($116.2 billion)
(Goods 2010) Electrical machinery ($110.8 billion)
Vehicles ($69.7 billion)
Mineral fuel (oil) ($39.7 billion)
Optic and medical instruments ($37.9 billion)
Manufacturing Exports: $665.3 billion
Up 25 percent from 2009
Agricultural Exports: $83.3 billion in 2010
Up 17 percent from 2009
Top Agricultural Exports: Soybeans ($15.8 billion)
Coarse grains ($7.9 billion)
Red meats ($7.3 billion)
Cotton ($4.3 billion)
Fresh fruit ($3.4 billion)
Services Exports to APEC: At least $204.9 billion in 2010
(Private) Over 37 percent of total U.S. services exports
Up 16 percent from 2009
Up 82 percent from 2000
Up 146 percent from 1994
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT APEC SPOUSES LUNCHEON
11:49 A.M. HAST
MRS. OBAMA: Well, first of all I just want to say welcome and good afternoon. It is such a pleasure to see each of you again today. I hope you enjoyed last night. I hope that you got some rest. And if you still feel a bit tired, then our hope is that this spectacular view will wake you up, as well as this wonderful lunch. I am thrilled to be with all of you today, as I am every time we have an opportunity to meet.
I know traveling for our spouses can be difficult, but for me, one of the things that makes it worthwhile is getting to know each one of you. Over the last several years, I’ve had an opportunity to talk and share stories, and learn more about your lives and your children and your family. And I can say that this is one of the greatest benefits of being a First Lady, is sharing this experience with each and every one of you. So from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for your friendship, and I look forward to spending more time with each of you in the years to come.
I am also thrilled to have a chance to welcome you all here to Hawaii at this year’s APEC Summit. And I have to tell you that this state, as you know, has a very special place in my heart. As many of you know, my husband was born and raised here. Our sister, Maya, is joining us here today, and she still lives here with our two nieces. She’s working with the University of Hawaii, doing some great outreach education, training of teachers, and just being an overall great professional and wonderful mother. And I’m glad that she could be here today.
And our family has the privilege of coming here — the burden of coming back here every year. (Laughter.) And that’s really one of the reasons I married Barack. (Laughter.) When I realized that this is where we’d be spending the holidays, I said, “Yes — I love you!” (Laughter.) So Barack and I, we have a tradition: Over the last 20, maybe — more than 20 years, because we started coming back even before we were engaged; every year we come here for two weeks and spend time getting to know this wonderful island and spending time with our families. So it is a unique privilege to be able to share this special place with all of you. And ever since I first met Barack, he’s always talked about how growing up here, in this place, has shaped his character and his perspective — and it’s true. He is a very calm, focused individual, and much of that comes from his upbringing here, and the connection to the community here as well.
As he said, Hawaii is an incredibly diverse place; it’s home to people of all different cultures. And there’s a special spirit here –- a spirit of openness and tolerance. And I have experienced it myself. I feel like this is my home away from home, a place where I feel welcome and open and optimistic. Folks here view their differences as strengths –- not as weaknesses. And people of all different backgrounds live together and work together and seek to learn from each other.
So in many ways, Hawaii is really the perfect place for this year’s APEC Summit, because that is precisely what our spouses are working towards here during their time together. They’re coming together to address our shared challenges. They are finding ways to boost our economies so that we can all prosper. And they’re working to ensure — most importantly — that our young people will have every opportunity to fulfill their dreams. And I know that all of you and your spouses also share that hope and goal for the young people in our country and in our world.
So we thought that this last point actually brings me to one of the reasons why we came here, and why you’re about to eat the meal that you’re going to have. Because we’re working with young people — they’ve helped us make this afternoon possible. The fresh fruits and vegetables that you’ll be eating today were grown and prepared by some phenomenal young people at a local organic farm under the guidance of a great Hawaiian chef, Chef Ed Kenney.
And I had the pleasure of spending a very cool afternoon with many of these young people yesterday, and I can tell you that they are some amazing, positive people who will have an impact not just on the state of Hawaii, but on the rest of the world. Through the work that they’re doing, they’re not only interning and learning about farming and learning how to reconnect with one of the important cultural aspects of their heritage, but they’re also working, earning a living, gaining an internship — and the program is paying for many of them to finish their education. All of these young people are either getting — going to community colleges in the area, or they’re pursuing their graduate or undergraduate educations at the University of Hawaii and other institutions here. I love these kids. I love this program. And I am just pleased that they decided to come and spend a little more time with us today. So it is now my pleasure to introduce to you Chef Kenney and two of the great students who work with Ma’o Farms -– Manny Miles and Ku’u Samson. You guys ready to talk some more?
MS. SAMSON: Yes. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: They pretend to be shy, but they’re not really. So they’re going to tell you a little bit more about the meal that they’ve prepared for you — for us today, and anything else that you want to share with us. So, Chef Kenney, take it away.
OPENING REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA
AT APEC SESSION ONE
J.W. Marriott Resort Hotel
9:58 A.M. HAST
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good morning, everybody. It is my great pleasure to welcome all of you, officially, to the APEC Leaders Meeting. This is the first time in nearly 20 years that the United States has hosted this forum, and it comes at a time when America is very focused on how we can work together in a cooperative, effective way in the Trans-Pacific region.
And obviously I’m particularly pleased that we’re meeting in my home state of Hawaii, which reflects the deep connections between the peoples of our region. And I hope everybody had a wonderful evening last night. I’ve heard that some of you wanted to join in the hula dancing — (laughter) — I’m sorry we did not give you that opportunity.
Now it’s time to get down to work, and we have much to do. Our 21 economies — our nearly 3 billion citizens — are looking to us to bring our economies closer, to increase exports, to expand trade and opportunity that creates jobs and economic growth. That’s why we’re here.
I’m confident that we can make significant progress. We’ve done it before. Since APEC started, we’ve slashed tariffs and barriers to trade and investment. Commerce in the region has soared — creating new jobs, new markets and raising living standards across the region.
And I want to emphasize that the Asia Pacific region is absolutely critical to America’s economic growth. We consider it a top priority. And we consider it a top priority because we’re not going to be able to put our folks back to work and grow our economy and expand opportunity unless the Asia Pacific region is also successful.
This region includes many of our top trading partners. This is where we do most of our trade and where we sell most of our exports. It’s also the fastest growing region in the world. And as a consequence, the Asia Pacific region is key to achieving my goal of doubling U.S. exports and creating new jobs.
Today, we’ve got an opportunity to make progress towards our ultimate goal, which is a seamless regional economy. We’re going to be focusing on three specific areas: increasing trade and investment, promoting green jobs, and streamlining and coordinating regulations so that we encourage trade and job creation. And more broadly, we’ll be discussing how we can work together to spur on quicker economic growth and more sturdy and sustainable economic growth. The economies of this region have a critical role to play in addressing the imbalances and making sure that growth is balanced and sustainable in the future.
So I want to thank my fellow leaders for being here. I’m confident that we can continue to make significant progress during the course of this day.
Before we begin discussing this morning’s topic, I want to congratulate Japan on the superb job it did in hosting APEC in 2010. Prime Minister Noda of Japan set a high bar for us, so we are going to try to follow your footsteps.
I also want to recognize the outstanding work that’s been done by our officials and ministers during the course of this year to move forward an ambitious set of initiatives.
The focus of our host year was to make progress towards a seamless regional economy, and we have made progress in the three themes that we set out — regional economic integration, green growth, and regulatory reform. We have agreed to address a set of next-generation trade issues, including removing frictions in the global supply chains, helping small and medium-size enterprises grow and better plug into the global trading system, and adopting smart, market-oriented innovation policies. Innovation is especially critical to all of us, and we all want to take appropriate steps to encourage it, because without it we can’t grow, become more productive or create enough jobs.
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA
AND PRESIDENT HU OF CHINA
BEFORE BILATERAL MEETING
Hale Koa Hotel
3:55 P.M. HAST
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I want to extend a warm welcome to President Hu as he attends this APEC Summit, and we are glad to host him and the other world leaders who are attending.
This will be the first extensive discussions that we’ve had since our very successful state visit by President Hu to Washington.
As we emphasized at that state visit, as two of the world’s largest countries and largest economies, cooperation between the United States and China is vital not only to the security and prosperity of our own people but is also vital to the world.
Such cooperation is particularly important to the Asia Pacific region, where both China and the United States are extraordinarily active. We are both Pacific powers. And I think many countries in the region look to a constructive relationship between the United States and China as a basis for continued growth and prosperity.
As we did at the G20 in Cannes, President Hu and I I’m sure will be discussing issues related to economic growth, how we can continue to rebalance growth around the world, emphasize the importance of putting people back to work, and making sure that the trade relationships and commercial relationships between our two countries end up being a win-win situation.
And I look forward to the opportunity to also discuss a range of both regional and global security issues, including nonproliferation and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, ways that we can work together on issues like climate change, and our efforts to jointly assure that countries like Iran are abiding by international rules and norms.
And although there are areas where we continue to have differences, I am confident that the U.S.-China relationship can continue to grow in a constructive way based on mutual respect and mutual interests. And I want to extend my appreciation to President Hu for the continuous engagement not only of him but also of the entire Chinese government in addressing a wide range of these issues.
So, welcome, President Hu, and I look forward to not only a good discussion here but also an outstanding APEC Summit.
PRESIDENT HU: (As interpreted.) I wish to thank you, Mr. President, for your warm invitation and welcome. I’m delighted to have this opportunity to come to the beautiful state of Hawaii to attend the APEC economic leaders meeting and to meet with you, Mr. President.
This is the ninth meeting between you and I, Mr. President, since you took office, and I look forward to a extensive and in-depth discussion on China-U.S. relations, as well as major regional and international issues of shared interest.
As things stand, the international situation is undergoing complex and profound changes. There is growing instability and uncertainty in the world economic recovery, and regional security threat has become more salient. Under these circumstances, it is all the more important for China and the United States to increase their communication and coordination.
China looks forward to maintaining and strengthening dialogue and cooperation with the United States, to respect each other’s major concerns, appropriately manage sensitive issues, and ensure that the China-U.S. relationship will continue to grow on a sustainable and stable path.
This APEC meeting has drawn a lot of attention worldwide and we appreciate the tremendous work the United States has done in preparing for this meeting. The Asia Pacific region is the most dynamic region in today’s world, with the biggest development potential. This region should become a region of active cooperation between China and the United States.
I sincerely wish this meeting a full success, and I hope that this meeting here will send out a positive message to the international community that economies in the Asia Pacific region will reach out to each other like passengers on the same boat, and work together to ensure the continued, steady growth of the economies.
Thank you once again, Mr. President.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT HOST PERFORMANCE AND CULTURAL PROGRAM
Hale Koa Hotel
9:30 P.M. HAST
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening, everybody. To all the leaders who are representing their countries here at APEC, I hope you’ve had a wonderful stay so far, and hope you had a wonderful dinner. To members of the delegation, welcome.
Two years ago, when I was in Singapore and it was announced that we would be hosting the APEC Summit here in Honolulu, I promised that you would all have to wear aloha shirts or grass skirts. (Laughter.) But I was persuaded by our team to perhaps break tradition, and so we have not required you to wear your aloha shirts, although I understand that a few of you have tried them on for size, and we may yet see you in them in the next several days.
But one tradition that we did not want to break is the tradition of the luau. Here in Hawaii, there is a traditional gathering that we call luau, and it’s basically an excuse for a good party, and it’s used for every occasion. We have birthday luaus and graduation luaus. And now we have APEC luaus. (Applause.) And there is — somebody is ready to party already. (Laughter.)
We have music. We have song. We have celebration. And we have hula dancing. And Michelle does not think I’m a very good dancer, so I will not be performing this evening. (Laughter.) But I think we will have some wonderful examples of traditional Polynesian dance and music and song. And it will capture, I think, the extraordinary spirit of these islands, but also capture, I think, the spirit in which I hope we proceed in our important work during the course of this APEC Summit.
We are bound together by an ocean. We are bound together by a common belief and a common concern for our people — their aspirations, their hopes, their dreams. And so I hope that all of you feel the extraordinary spirit of Hawaii and very much look forward to a wonderful set of meetings tomorrow.
So, with that, please enjoy. (Applause.)
WEEKLY ADDRESS: Remarks Of President Barack Obama: Honoring our Veterans for their Service and Sacrifice
WEEKLY ADDRESS: Honoring our Veterans for their Service and Sacrifice
WASHINGTON—In this week’s address, President Obama spoke from the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego during Veterans Day, and he called on all Americans to rededicate themselves to serving our brave men and women in uniform as well as they have served us. Today, there are more than 850,000 veterans unemployed, which is why the President issued a challenge to private companies to hire or train more than 100,000 post-9/11 veterans or their spouses by 2013, and he was pleased to see the Senate pass proposals in his American Jobs Act on Thursday to give businesses tax credits for hiring veterans. President Obama told veterans that just as they have fought for us, he will continue to fight for jobs and opportunities for them, and that the United States will always honor their service and sacrifice.
The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, Saturday, November 12, 2011.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
San Diego, California
Saturday, November 12, 2011
I’m speaking to you from the bridge of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in San Diego. This is one of the biggest ships in the Navy, and on Friday it was home to one of the most unique college basketball games I’ve ever seen. It also gave members of our military and our veterans a chance to unwind a little bit, and on this Veterans Day, I want to take this opportunity to thank all our men and women in uniform for their service and their sacrifice.
But this day isn’t just about thanking our veterans. It’s about rededicating ourselves to serving our veterans as well as they’ve served us. And right now, that’s more important than ever.
Last month, I announced that, as promised, we will end the war in Iraq by the end of the year. Many of our military families will be welcoming loved ones home for the holidays. At the same time, we’ve begun to wind down the war in Afghanistan. And in the next five years, over a million servicemembers will transition back into civilian life – joining the 3 million who have already done so over the last decade.
These are men and women who have served with distinction in some of the most dangerous places on the planet. But for many of them, the challenges don’t end when they take off the uniform. Today, more than 850,000 veterans remain unemployed. And too many are struggling to find a job worthy of their talents and experience.
That’s not right. We ask these men and women to leave their families and their jobs and risk their lives to fight for our country. The last thing they should have to do is fight for a job when they get home.
To give our veterans the opportunities they’ve earned, I’ve directed the federal government to lead by example – and already, we’ve hired 120,000 veterans. We’ve also challenged private companies to hire or train 100,000 post-9/11 veterans or their spouses by the end of 2013. So far, many patriotic companies have answered the call, hiring more than 16,000 Americans. And yesterday, thanks to the hard work of Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden, companies announced their commitment to train or hire 125,000 more over the next two years.
But we need to do more. That’s why, as part of the American Jobs Act, I called on Congress to pass a Returning Heroes Tax Credit, which would give businesses a tax break for each unemployed veteran they hire; and a Wounded Warriors Tax Credit, which would give businesses a tax break for hiring an unemployed veteran with a disability related to their service in uniform.
These proposals will go a long way towards putting our veterans back to work. And on Thursday, I was pleased to see the Senate put partisanship aside and come together to pass these tax credits. After all, standing up for our veterans isn’t a Democratic responsibility or a Republican responsibility – it’s an American responsibility. It’s one that all of us have an obligation to meet. And the House should pass this bill as soon as possible so I can sign it into law.
As Commander-in-Chief, I want every veteran to know that America will always honor your service and your sacrifice – not just today, but every day. And just as you fought for us, we’re going to keep fighting for you – for more jobs, for more security, for the opportunity to keep your families strong and America competitive in the 21st century.
So to all our veterans – thank you for your service. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ABOARD THE USS CARL VINSON
USS Carl Vinson
San Diego, California
4:10 P.M. PST
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! How you feeling tonight? (Applause.) We are so fortunate to be able to witness two of the greatest basketball programs in history — (applause) — Michigan State Spartans, North Carolina Tar Heels. (Applause.) Two of the best coaches of all time — Coach Izzo, Coach Williams. (Applause.) So we are proud to be here and see a great sporting event.
But the main reason we’re here is, on Veterans Day, we have an opportunity to say thank you. One of the greatest privileges of this job, and one of the greatest responsibilities of this job, is to serve as your Commander-in-Chief. And I can tell you that every day when I interact with our military, every day when I interact with the men and women in uniform, I could not be prouder to be an American. (Applause.)
And that gratitude that we have for our men and women of the Armed Forces does not stop when they take off the uniform. When they come home, part of the long line of those who defended our freedom, we have a sacred trust to make sure that they understand how much we appreciate what they do. And that’s not just on Veterans Day. That is every day of every year where we salute them and we say thank you for making the sacrifices, and for their families’ sacrifices, on our behalf. (Applause.)
This week, throughout the week, we’ve been celebrating our veterans, but we have to turn our words into action. And so what we’ve done is make sure that Congress passed legislation that makes it a little bit easier for businesses to hire our veterans. (Applause.) We’ve put in place a series of reforms to help veterans, make sure they get the counseling and the job placement that they need.
The First Lady along with Dr. Jill Biden have put together something called Joining Forces that has now gotten commitments — 100,000 jobs for veterans and military spouses all across the country. And we are grateful for them for that effort. (Applause.)
But every American citizen can make a solemn pledge today that they will find some opportunity to provide support to our troops, to those who are still active duty, to our National Guard, to our Reservists, and to our veterans.
And it’s especially appropriate that we do it here, because the USS Carl Vinson has been a messenger of diplomacy and a protector of our security for a long time. And the men and women who serve on this ship have done extraordinary service in the Pacific, in the Persian Gulf, in the Indian Ocean. It was from this aircraft carrier that some of the first assaults on Iraq were launched. This ship supports what’s happening in Afghanistan.
I think some of you may know because it’s been reported that the men and women on the Carl Vinson were part of that critical mission to bring Osama bin Laden to justice. (Applause.)
So to all our veterans, to all our men and women in uniform, we say thank you. And we want you to know that we are committed to making sure that we serve you as well as you have always served us. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.)
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT THE NATIONAL WOMEN’S LAW CENTER’S
ANNUAL AWARDS DINNER
8:36 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, good evening, everybody.
AUDIENCE: Good evening.
THE PRESIDENT: It is great to be back at the National Women’s Law Center, surrounded by so many powerful and accomplished women. (Applause.) This is not a new experience for me. (Laughter.) As some of you know, my household is filled with powerful, accomplished women. (Applause.)
I want to thank Marcia and Duffy for that wonderful, heartfelt introduction and for their extraordinary leadership. Most of all, I want to recognize tonight’s honorees –– the women — and men; there were some men in the group — (laughter) — who endured insults and beatings and risked their lives 50 years ago because they believed in a different future for their daughters and for their sons. The Freedom Riders had faith that America could still be perfected. And as has been noted, it is only because they did that I am able to stand here as President of the United States of America — (applause) — which is why, when I had a chance to see them backstage, I gave them all a kiss and a hug. (Laughter.) And I told them that even though I was in diapers at the time, I knew something important was going on. (Laughter.)
What a remarkable group of people, and how blessed we are to have them here, sharing their stories and continuing to inspire us in so many ways. We are truly grateful to you.
Being here tonight reminds us that history is not always made — in fact, often is not made — by generals or presidents or politicians. Change doesn’t always happen quickly or easily. Change happens when a group of students and activists decide to ride a bus down South, knowing full well the dangers that lie ahead. Change happens when a group of legal secretaries decides that the world needs more women attorneys –– and they start an organization to fight for people like them. (Applause.) Change happens when one woman decides, “I don’t want to be paid less than that man who’s doing the exact same job over there. I want to be paid the same.” Change depends on persistence, and change depends on determination. That’s how change happens.
That’s how change happened on August 4, 1961. That’s how change will happen today, especially when it comes to securing equal rights and equal opportunities for women.
Now, the last time I spoke here was in 2005. I was brand new to Washington. Some of you still could not pronounce my name. (Laughter.) And when I was thinking about what to say to this group, I wasn’t just thinking about the legal cases you’ve helped to win or the milestones that you’ve helped to reach. I was thinking about my daughters and the world I want them to grow up in.
And I think it’s fair to say that a few things have changed since then. Michelle helpfully reminds me that I have more gray hair now. (Laughter.) More people know my name, which I’ve come to realize is a mixed blessing. (Laughter.) Malia and Sasha have grown into these strong, smart, remarkable young women. They are growing too fast. Malia has a cell phone now, certainly a mixed blessing. (Laughter.)
But even after all this time, my wish for my daughters and for yours remains the same. I want them to go out into a world where there is no limit to how big they can dream, how high they can reach. And being here with all of you gives me hope and makes me determined, because although this journey is far from over, today our daughters live in a world that is fairer and more equal than it was six years ago — a world where more doors are open to them than ever before.
Today, for the first time in history, our daughters can see not one, not two, but three women sitting on the bench of the highest court in the land. (Applause.) They can come to the White House and see that the top four lawyers on my staff — some of the sharpest legal minds I’ve ever come across — are women. (Applause.) They can read about the extraordinary leadership of a woman in the House of Representatives who went by the title “Madam Speaker.” (Applause.) They can turn on the news and see that one of the most formidable presidential candidates we’ve ever seen has become one of the best Secretaries of State that this country has ever known. (Applause.)
Today, women make up almost half of our workforce, the majority of students in our colleges and our graduate schools. Women are breaking barriers in every field, from science to business to sports to the Armed Forces.
And today, thanks to health care reform that many of you helped pass, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage based on preexisting conditions like breast cancer or charge women more because they’re more likely to incur costs for things like childbirth. (Applause.) Those same companies must cover the cost of preventive services like mammograms, domestic violence counseling, contraception. (Applause.) We’re making sure that women in the military and our veterans get the care that they need. (Applause.)
Today, thanks to the tireless efforts of people like Lilly Ledbetter — one of my favorite people, love that woman — (laughter) — we were backstage talking and she was just saying how grateful she was, how much of a responsibility she now felt with this bill having been passed that was named after her. I said, “Lilly, all that did was just — that was just icing on the cake. It was your work, your courage, your determination that changed things. All we did was ratify what you had already done.” And because of her and other courageous women, and some of the women in this room tonight, it is easier for women to demand equal pay for equal work. (Applause.)
We passed tax credits that are keeping more women out of poverty and helping them reach the middle class. Companies are being encouraged to make workplaces more flexible so women don’t have to choose between being a good employee and a good parent. (Applause.) One of the first things I did after taking office was to create a White House Council on Women and Girls to make sure that every agency in the federal government considers the needs of women and girls in every decision they make, not as a side show, not as a box to check, but something that is sustained each and every day. (Applause.)
So this is progress. This is progress. This is change. It’s laborious. Sometimes it’s frustrating. But it’s real. Of course, one thing we’ve learned from the women’s movement — from the Civil Rights movement, from the workers’ movement, from every step that we’ve made to make this country more equal and more just — is that there is always more work to do. There are always more challenges to meet. And that’s especially true today, with so many Americans struggling to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
In the early days of this crisis, women weren’t hit quite as hard as men. Many of the jobs that we’ve lost over the last decade have been in construction and manufacturing — industries that traditionally had been dominated by men. And of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most in this country over the next decade, all but two are occupied primarily by women.
But over the last couple of years, women have continued to lose jobs, especially in the public sector. It doesn’t help that mothers are the primary or co-breadwinners in 63 percent of households — even as women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man does. Some of these women are single moms like my mother was, struggling just to keep up with the bills or pay a mortgage they can’t afford. I still remember my mother waking me up — she worked, was going to school, and still took the time to wake me up before she went to work to go over my lessons before she left. And I would complain and grumble, and she would say, “Well, this is no picnic for me either, buster.” (Laughter.)
These are the quiet heroes. Their names don’t make the history books. They’re never complaining — well, I won’t say they’re never complaining — (laughter) — I was thinking about that for a second — never hesitating to work that extra shift or that extra job if that’s what it takes to give their children a better life. And in many ways, that’s why we’re all here tonight, because we know that it’s up to us to keep fighting for them — all those women out there — making sure that they are treated fairly and equally. As hard as they’re working, as much as they’re sacrificing, as many responsibilities that they shoulder each and every day, we’ve got to make sure that they are getting the opportunities that they deserve, that somebody is standing up for them. Somebody is fighting for them. Somebody is looking out for them. Somebody is rooting for them. (Applause.)
Of course, let’s be clear about one thing: When we talk about these issues that primarily affect women, these are not just women’s issues. (Applause.) When women make less than men for the same work, that hurts the entire family who has to get by with less. It hurts businesses who have fewer customers with money to spend. When a health care plan denies women coverage because of a preexisting condition, that puts a strain on emergency rooms, drives up health care costs for everybody. When any of our citizens can’t fulfill their potential because of factors that have nothing to do with their talent or their character or their work ethic, that diminishes us. It says something about who we are.
Here’s a fact: If you want to look around the world, those countries that are developing fastest, that are doing the best, where their children are succeeding in school, those are societies that respect the rights of women, that are investing in our women. (Applause.)
Lifting women up lifts up our economy and lifts up our country. Now, unfortunately, not everybody in Washington seems to feel the same way. In recent weeks, Republicans in the Senate have come together three times to block jobs bills that independent economists say would boost our economy and put millions back to work –– including women. Each of these bills was made up of the same kinds of proposals that Democrats and Republicans have historically supported in the past — and they were fully paid for. And even though they were supported by a clear majority of the American people –– Republicans, Democrats, independents –– every single Senate Republican said no.
Said no to putting hundreds of thousands of teachers –– three-quarters of them women –– back in front of the classroom where they belong. No to putting construction workers back on the job, and funding a special program that gets more women involved in the construction industry.
Well, I’ve got news for Congress –– we are not done yet. In the weeks ahead — (applause) — in the weeks ahead, they’re going to get a chance to vote on whether we give a tax cut to virtually every small business owner in America –– including 900,000 women. These are folks who run the restaurants and stores and beauty shops and other small businesses that create two-thirds of all new jobs. There’s no reason they shouldn’t get a break.
The American people are with me on this –– and Republicans in Congress should be with me, too, because it’s right for the country. Instead, they’re spending time focusing on how to turn back the clock. Instead of figuring out how to put more Americans back to work, they’ve been trying to figure out how to take away preventive care that is covered under the Affordable Care Act. (Applause.) Instead of making life easier for women in this country, they want to let insurance companies go back to charging higher prices just because you’re a woman. Instead of working to boost our economy, they’re out there spending time trying to defund Planned Parenthood and prevent millions of women from getting basic health care that they desperately need –– pap smears and breast exams. (Applause.)
That is not the right direction for this country. These folks know they can’t win on the big issues, so they’re trying to make the fight about social issues that stir up their base. They’re spending their time trying to divide this country against itself rather than coming together to lift up our country.
And we don’t have to settle for that. The American people shouldn’t have to settle for that. (Applause.) And that’s why I need your help. As leaders in your communities, I need you to tell Congress to do their jobs by worrying about the jobs of the millions of Americans they were elected to serve. I need you to make your voices heard. And for my part, I promise to keep doing everything I can to help every single American achieve their own piece of the American Dream.
That’s not just a promise I’m making as a President. That’s a promise I’m making as a grandson who saw my grandmother hit the glass ceiling at the bank where she worked –– passed over for promotions in favor of men that she trained.
It’s a promise I’m making as a husband who watched Michelle balance work and family with grace and poise –– even when it hasn’t been easy.
It’s a promise I’m making as a father who wants my daughters to grow up in a world where every door is open to them, where there are no limits on what they can achieve.
It’s a promise I’m making as the inheritor of the extraordinary sacrifices that were made by these Freedom Riders; as a friend of people like Lilly Ledbetter, who embody all that’s good and decent in this country.
It’s a promise I’m making as an American who believes that the future of our country depends on expanding the circle of opportunity for everybody. (Applause.) Because that next generation of smart, powerful women? They’re already knocking on the door. They’re coming, and we need to get ready. (Laughter.)
Last month, I got a chance to meet the winners of the Google Science Fair. This is an international competition of high school students, the cutting edge of technology and science. All three of the winners turned out to be Americans. All three were girls. (Applause.) They had beat out 10,000 other applicants from more than 90 countries. So I had them in the Oval Office, and they explained their projects to me — (laughter) — and I pretended that I understood what they were talking about. (Applause.) There’s a picture of this conversation hanging up in the West Wing right now, and they’re — I’ve got a puzzled look on my face — (laughter) — and they’re being very patient.
So one of the winners, Shree Bose, discovered a promising new way to improve treatment for ovarian cancer –– at the age of 17. (Applause.) Then I asked another winner, Lauren Hodge, if she had skipped a grade in school — she was quite petite. (Laughter.) And she informed me very politely that she had actually skipped two. (Laughter.) Okay. (Laughter.)
It’s people like Shree and Lauren, all of you who are here tonight, who make me hopeful about the future. There’s a direct line between those women who sat in those jail cells and those young girls explaining their science project in the Oval Office. There’s a direct connection. (Applause.) Because that’s what America is about — a place where ideas are born, and dreams can grow, and where a student in a classroom or a passenger on a bus or a legal secretary in an office can stand up and say, “I am going to change the world.” We have always been a nation where anything is possible.
That’s the kind of nation that we are. That’s the kind of opportunity that must exist here in America. That’s the kind of opportunity that must exist for every American –– no matter what they look like or where they come from. We’ve come a long way towards making this country more open and more free for our daughters and theirs; we’ve got a lot more work to do. With the National Women’s Law Center, I am confident that the next time I visit, we’ll be even closer to guaranteeing every one of our children get the future they deserve.
Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
H.R. 674 –Three Percent Withholding Repeal and Job Creation Act
(Rep. Herger, R-CA, and 269 cosponsors)
The Administration strongly supports passage of H.R. 674 and an amendment offered by Senator Tester that together will reduce unemployment and ensure that our veterans leave the military with the tools they need to succeed in the civilian workforce.
H.R. 674 would repeal a three percent withholding on certain payments made to private contractors by Federal, State, and local government entities. The repeal of the withholding requirement in H.R. 674 would reduce a burden on government contractors who otherwise comply with their tax obligations, particularly small businesses. As evidenced in the President’s proposed American Jobs Act, released September 12, 2011, the Administration has supported alleviating this burden, which was originally enacted into law on May 17, 2006. The Administration also believes it is important to ensure that Federal contractors are compliant with tax laws and supports more targeted efforts that prevent persons with outstanding tax debts from receiving Federal contracts. The effect of the repeal of the withholding requirement would be to avoid a decrease in cash flow to these contractors, which would allow them to retain these funds and use them to create jobs and pay suppliers. This would complement the Administration’s other efforts to help small businesses. Repeal of the withholding requirement would also reduce implementation costs borne by Federal and other governmental agencies.
H.R. 674, as amended by Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, contains the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior tax credits for firms that hire unemployed veterans that the President proposed to the Congress as part of the American Jobs Act, as well as other reforms to ensure that the men and women who serve are able to navigate this labor market upon exiting the military.
Having served and defended the Nation, our veterans are well-trained, highly skilled and will add value to any company. But today’s veterans face unique challenges. As of last month, over 850,000 veterans were unemployed, and the jobless rate for post-9/11 veterans was 12.1 percent. As we end the war in Iraq and wind down the war in Afghanistan, over one million servicemembers are projected to leave the military between 2011 and 2016. We have an obligation to ensure that these men and women who have risked their lives to fight for our country do not have to fight for jobs when they return home.
The Vow to Hire Heroes Act provides a new Returning Heroes Tax Credit for firms that hire unemployed veterans. Firms that hire those veterans who have been unemployed at least 4 weeks will be eligible for a tax credit up to $2,400 per employee, while firms that hire veterans who are long-term unemployed (looking for work for over 6 months) will be eligible for a tax credit up to $5,600. H.R. 674, as amended, also provides aWounded Warriors Tax Credit of up to $9,600 that doubles the existing tax credit for firms that hire long-term unemployed veterans with service-connected disabilities. Together, these tax credits will create a powerful incentive for firms to hire veterans and will help lower the veteran unemployment rate.
As amended by the Vow to Hire Heroes Act, H.R. 674 further provides a number of additional tools to help veterans successfully transition to the civilian workforce. The Administration has been strongly supportive of improving the Transition Assistance Program. The amended H.R. 674 builds on these steps and would make TAP mandatory for most servicemembers transitioning to civilian status.
H.R. 674, as amended, also expands career counseling, educational, and training options for unemployed servicemembers, facilitates federal hiring of veterans, and tasks the Department of Labor to develop new tools to help translate military experience to the civilian sector. All of these reforms are consistent with the Presiden’s direction on August 5, 2011, to the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Department of Defense to lead an interagency Task Force to ensure that every member of the service receives the training, education, and credentials they need to transition to the civilian workforce or to pursue higher education. The Administration already made substantial progress on these proposals. The amended H.R. 674 will aid the Task Force’s work and ensure that our veterans have the support they need to transition to civilian life.
Finally, H.R 674 as amended changes the calculation of modified adjusted gross income, as defined in section 1401 of the Affordable Care Act, to include both taxable and non-taxable Social Security benefits. Beginning in 2014, this income definition will be used to determine financial eligibility for Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and for premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions available through Affordable Insurance Exchanges.
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY H.R. 2354 – Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies: Appropriations Act, 2012
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
H.R. 2354 – Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies
Appropriations Act, 2012
(Sen. Inouye, D-HI)
The health of the Nation’s economy depends on taking action now to create the conditions for the economy to grow, businesses to hire, and the middle class to feel secure. In the long run, the Nation’s prosperity also depends on the ability of the Congress to put the Nation on a sustainable fiscal course while making the investments the Nation needs to compete and win in the global economy. That is why the President has put forward a balanced plan to jumpstart economic growth and job creation now – and to lay the foundation for continued growth by achieving more than $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years. This bill invests in areas important to the Nation’s ability to grow and compete in the global economy while broadly sharing sacrifices to reduce the deficit.
Division 1 – Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies
The Administration urges the Senate to ensure that United States has the resources necessary to help the Nation thrive and compete in the future. A strong energy sector requires investment in innovation and clean energy technologies, access to clean water and outdoor recreational opportunities, and support for job creating measures like renewable energy projects and technologies.
Department of Energy (DOE)
Clean Energy Research and Development (R&D). The Administration strongly urges the Senate to provide $1.95 billion for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs and at least $300 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, both of which are critical to implementing the Administration’s goals of transforming the Nation’s economy to support clean energy jobs and improving U.S. energy security. These investments will help improve U.S. competitiveness in advanced manufacturing and in emerging technologies such as electric vehicles and batteries, biofuels, energy efficient systems for buildings, solar energy, and offshore wind power.
Innovation and R&D. The Administration strongly urges the Senate to provide $4.95 billion for the Office of Science to maintain its critical investment in America’s innovation future. Inadequate funding places fundamental research at risk in areas of science that underpin clean energy technologies and can spur innovation. Inadequate funding levels will not allow optimum utilization of DOE research assets, hampering the development of the next generation of technologies and manufacturing for use in the automobile, semiconductor, pharmaceutical, and numerous other industries.
Energy Information Administration (EIA). The Administration appreciates Senate support and urges the Senate to provide at least $105 million so that EIA can continue to provide independent and rigorous analysis of America’s energy needs.
Loan Guarantee Program. The Administration appreciates that the Senate bill supports the loan guarantee program. The Senate level of $200 million would support an estimated $1 billion to $2 billion in loan guarantees for innovative renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The Administration urges the Senate to include funds for a new Better Building Pilot Loan Guarantee Program proposed in the President’s FY 2012 Budget and additional loan volume authority for nuclear power projects. These programs are an important part of the Nation’s efforts to deploy innovative clean energy technologies.
National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
Weapons Activities and Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. The Administration urges the Senate to support robust funding for NNSA to continue the commitment to modernize the nuclear weapons complex and upgrade the stockpile set forth in the Nuclear Posture Review and reaffirmed as part of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty ratification process. In addition, at a time when a grave danger is posed by the proliferation of nuclear materials that can fall into the hands of terrorist organizations, the Administration appreciates Senate support for highly enriched uranium (HEU) reactor conversions and increased security for HEU and plutonium as high-priority elements of the global effort to lock down nuclear materials.
Corps of Engineers (Corps)
Corps Funding. The Administration is concerned with the Senate funding level for the Corps, which is $233 million above the President’s FY 2012 Budget. The additional funding could be redirected toward higher-priority needs and programs that have a greater potential for results in a time of scarce resources. In addition, the Administration is concerned that in the allocation of funds, the bill would preclude funding for the limited number of priority new starts in the President’s FY 2012 Budget, including an important new program to reverse damage to the coastal Louisiana ecosystem and a study called for by the Congress to examine flood risks nationwide in order to improve existing programs.
Disaster Relief Funding. Consistent with past practice, the Administration supports providing additional funding to repair Federal flood control and other infrastructure damaged by natural disasters. The Administration will work with the Congress as the Corps verifies the funding level that is necessary to accomplish this work and that is appropriately designated for a disaster relief cap adjustment under section 251 of the Budget Control Act.
Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation
Overall Bureau of Reclamation Funding. The Administration believes the $20 million in funding above the President’s FY 2012 Budget is unnecessary. These funds could be redirected toward higher priority needs and programs that have a greater potential for results in a time of scarce resources.
Division 2 – Financial Services and General Government
The Administration urges the Senate to provide the resources necessary to fund core Government functions as well as implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Through reforms to cut waste, reduce errors, and boost quality, the ACA will reduce the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars, while ensuring that quality, affordable coverage is available for all Americans. The Dodd-Frank Act contains essential measures to crack down on abuses in the mortgage industry, make financial contracts simpler, end hidden fees, and provide clear and concise information to borrowers about the obligations they are undertaking.
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)–Tax Enforcement. The Administration strongly supports increased funding for IRS tax enforcement, compliance, and service activities above the Senate bill level. The reductions in the Senate bill will lead to the loss of at least $3.5 billion in Federal revenue, as well as reductions of approximately 4,000 in staff. The Administration strongly encourages the Senate to adopt the Administration’s proposed IRS program integrity allocation adjustment in the bill or find another means to support increased IRS funding. Tax enforcement and compliance activities typically return $7 or more on each taxpayer dollar spent.
IRS–Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Administration strongly supports full funding for the IRS to meet its ACA implementation responsibilities, including standing up critical systems to support Affordable Insurance Exchanges.
Departmental Operations. The Administration supports the Senate funding level of $306 million for Departmental Offices (DO), including its retention of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence program funding within the DO account. The overall DO funding level supports the Department of the Treasury’s ability to implement priority programs, including tax and regulatory reform.
Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund. The Administration appreciates the $200 million for CDFI, including the support for Administration initiatives, such as the Healthy Food Financing Initiative that will increase the availability of affordable, healthy food outlets in underserved urban and rural communities that lack adequate access to healthy food.
Office of Personnel and Management (OPM)
New Statutory Responsibilities. The funding level provided by the bill would limit OPM’s ability to implement and administer new statutory responsibilities.
Executive Office of the President
Partnership Fund for Program Integrity Innovation. The Administration urges the Senate to sustain the Partnership Fund for Program Integrity Innovation by extending the period of availability for the existing program funds. This extension would enable continued collaboration with States and other stakeholders to launch additional pilots designed to find promising ways to save taxpayer funds across Government programs by cutting improper payments and streamlining program administration.
Integrated, Efficient, and Effective Uses of Information Technology (IEEUIT). The Administration urges the Senate to provide additional funding for this initiative. IEEUIT will increase the potential for future savings achievable through broader support to agency plans for cloud computing and data center consolidation, and a more rigorous IT investment oversight process.
General Services Administration
Federal Buildings Fund (FBF). The Administration commends the Senate for fully funding FBF operating costs – including rental of space, buildings operations, and installment acquisition. While the Administration appreciates Senate funding of $65 million for capital investment, the Administration is concerned that the bill would, for the second year in a row, provide insufficient resources to address needed repairs and alterations, and urges the Senate to include additional funding for these purposes.
Integrated Acquisition Environment. The Administration urges the Senate to provide funding for the Integrated Acquisition Environment, which would increase procurement data quality and system functionality while reducing costs and burden for both the Federal Government and businesses working with or seeking to work with the Federal Government.
Electronic Government. The Administration recommends that the Senate not combine the E-Government and the Federal Citizen Services Fund and that the Senate provide adequate funding to continue with initiatives that enhance transparency and oversight into Government spending, and yield a high return on investment through cost saving efficiencies. The E-Government Fund has yielded billions in cost savings and cost avoidance over the last two years. Combining the E-Government and Federal Citizen Services funds would introduce a level of uncertainty around how the funds would be allocated given the differing mandates of the funds. Furthermore, a new fund would not be subject to the Electronic Government Act of 2002.
Other Independent Agencies
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Administration strongly supports funding for the SEC at the Senate bill level of $1.4 billion, which will enable the SEC to carry out without delay its increased responsibilities for registration, oversight, and enforcement within the securities marketplace.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The Administration strongly supports the Senate level of $240 million for CFTC. This funding level will better enable CFTC to provide the necessary oversight of the futures and swaps marketplace in a timely and effective manner. Moreover, the Administration strongly supports the Senate bill’s provision of $66 million for major IT system investments, which are essential to CFTC’s oversight and clearing responsibilities as mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Administration supports the Senate funding level and terms provided to the FCC, which would be fully paid for through fee collections and will allow the FCC to protect an open Internet and fulfill its other missions. The Administration supports a free and open Internet that fosters investment, innovation, consumer choice and free speech, and is committed to ensuring that the Internet continues as an open platform for productivity, growth, and innovation.
Small Business Administration (SBA). The Administration urges the Senate to provide funding for SBA’s Emerging Leaders Program and Entrepreneurial Development Initiative to support well-targeted business-led economic growth and job creation.
Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The Administration supports funding EAC at the requested level of $14 million to maintain the Commission’s ability to fulfill its statutorily required duties and protect the integrity of elections.
Cuba. The Administration opposes, as written, section 624 in the Senate Committee bill, but supports its intent to reduce financial fees that may currently be assessed on transactions related to U.S. exports of goods pursuant to the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000. The Administration would not oppose section 624 if certain technical corrections are made.
Transfers for E-Government Initiatives. The Administration supports amending section 732 of the Senate bill to allow inter-agency transfers of funds for E-Government initiatives 15 days after notification of House and Senate Appropriations Committees for continuing initiatives (30 days after notification for new E-Government initiatives), without the requirement for prior approval of the appropriations committees. The business process for E-Government initiatives would be facilitated by allowing individual appropriations bills to address this issue where it may be a concern, without imposing conditions for prior approval across all Executive Branch agencies.
Contracting Closely Associated Government Functions. The Administration opposes section 741 of the Senate bill, which would require civilian agencies to ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, that contracts do not include functions that are closely associated with inherently governmental functions. Agencies should not be expected to stop using contractors to perform these functions, as long as the agency is giving adequate management attention to ensure contractors are not impinging on the agency’s inherently governmental responsibilities. The proposed requirement to collect “cost data” should also be stricken as it would be unnecessarily burdensome on contractors without commensurate benefit.
Division 3 – State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
The Senate bill for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs supports vital, bipartisan efforts aimed at the root causes of instability and insecurity in fragile and failing countries around the world. It protects key priorities while making difficult choices, such as adopting proposals in the President’s FY 2012 Budget to reduce assistance to countries in Europe and Central Asia with lesser need. By contrast, the Administration would strongly oppose measures that undermine needed funding for civilian engagement in support of critical U.S. interests around the world.
Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). The Administration appreciates the support for OCO funding in the Senate bill, which is essential to achieving the Administration’s foreign policy and national security priorities in the frontline states. While funding for these programs is increasing at the Department of State, the increases are more than offset by over $40 billion in decreases to Department of Defense OCO, as operations transition from military to civilian leadership. The Senate is urged to adequately fund both base and OCO funding for the missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Iraq. While the Administration appreciates congressional support for assistance and operations in Iraq, the Administration is concerned about the reductions to the request for Department of State operations and assistance programs in the Senate bill. The Administration’s request for economic and security assistance is necessary to sustain the Administration’s transition plans, and reductions will slow needed capacity-building programs for Iraqi Ministries, particularly for training programs for the Iraq police. The Administration is also concerned about the $570 million combined OCO and base reduction (minus 15 percent) for Diplomatic and Consular Programs in the Senate bill. A reduction of this magnitude would eliminate the flexibility necessary during a key transition period for the U.S. presence in Iraq.
Global Health, Food Security, and Global Climate Change Initiatives. The Administration commends the Senate bill’s essential provisions for global health, food security, and climate change.
Economic Support Fund (ESF). The Administration is concerned that the $388 million provided by the Senate could result in dramatic reductions to country assistance levels. In addition, the Administration opposes the Senate rescission of $150 million of unexpended balances. Following the $120 million rescission in FY 2011, an additional rescission could require deobligating funds committed to countries and programs, harming the Government’s objectives in and relations with those countries. In particular, at a time when ESF funds are central to the U.S. response to the Arab Awakening, these cuts and rescissions will impact State and United States Agency for International Development’s ability to respond to rapid developments in the Middle East.
Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) Fund. The Administration opposes the Senate bill’s elimination of a separate appropriation to support the ERMA Fund. The Fund provides the President with a flexible tool to meet unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs on such terms and conditions as the President may determine. Action by the President to utilize ERMA funds can leverage other donations on behalf of humanitarian emergencies by providing a separate funding mechanism used only to respond to emergent crises.
Treasury Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs). The Administration appreciates the Senate Committee bill’s $2.1 billion for MDBs, fully funding three of four General Capital Increase (GCI) installments and U.S. commitments to multilateral debt relief, while meeting a sizable portion of replenishment commitments to the concessional windows. The Administration also appreciates the Senate bill’s inclusion of needed authorization language for all requested GCIs and replenishments. However, the Administration is concerned about funding shortfalls for the African Development Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank and would like to work with the Committees to find a solution.
Language Provisions. The Administration appreciates that the Senate bill includes appropriations language that is needed to carry out key foreign policy objectives. This includes authority to support the Arab Awakening, which would authorize Egyptian debt swaps, Tunisian loan guarantees, and new enterprise funds. The Senate bill also authorizes critically needed general capital increases for three multilateral development banks and lifting the cap on U.S. contributions to United Nations peacekeeping, consistent with the contribution level in prior years. Further, the Senate bill includes language relating to State Department management that would allow a new maintenance cost sharing program to address the Department’s large overseas maintenance backlog and continue collection of fees under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. All of these provisions need to be included in a final bill.
However, the Administration opposes several significant changes in the bill’s certification and reporting requirements and requests a more workable solution to these requirements. The Administration will also work with the Congress to explore opportunities where increased transfer authority will provide flexibility to manage this constrained resource level.
Numerous provisions of the Senate bill, including sections 7013, 7029, 7032, 7035, 7039, 7047, 7048, 7061, 7062, 7065, 7069, 7070, and 7073, could infringe upon the President’s constitutional authority over foreign affairs by interfering with his conduct of foreign diplomacy and interactions with foreign diplomats. In addition, section 7046(a) of the Senate bill would infringe upon the President’s authority as Commander in Chief and over the conduct of foreign diplomacy by restricting his ability to place U.S. forces under the command of a foreign national in certain circumstances. The Administration urges that these provisions be made advisory rather than mandatory. Section 7093(c)(3) of the Senate bill also raises constitutional concerns by potentially requiring the disclosure to the Congress of diplomatic communications and other sensitive information relating to national security and foreign affairs. If any of the provisions discussed above are enacted in their present form, the Administration will apply them in a manner consistent with the President’s constitutional authorities.
President Obama Nominates Professor Scott L. Silliman and William B. Pollard, III to Serve on the US Court of Military Commission Review
President Obama Nominates Professor Scott L. Silliman and William B. Pollard, III to Serve on the US Court of Military Commission Review
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama nominated Professor Scott L. Siliman and William B. Pollard, III to serve on the United States Court of Military Commission Review.
“Today I am proud to appoint Scott L. Silliman and William B. Pollard to serve on the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review,” said President Obama. “Their extensive experience in both military and civilian law make them uniquely qualified to both protect our national security interests and uphold our highest judicial standards.”
Professor Scott L. Silliman: Nominee for the United States Court of Military Commission Review
Professor Scott L. Silliman is a Professor of the Practice of Law at Duke University School of Law, where his teaching and research interests focus on national security law, military law, and the law of armed conflict. In addition, he served as Executive Director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at the Law School from its inception in 1993 until July of 2011, and now serves as its Director Emeritus. He received his B.A. in Philosophy in 1965 and his J.D. in 1968 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After graduating from law school, he was called to active duty as an Air Force judge advocate. During his 25-year career as a military attorney, he held a variety of leadership positions, including staff judge advocate and senior attorney for Tactical Air Command and later Air Combat Command. During the Persian Gulf War, he supervised the deployment of all Air Force attorneys and paralegals incident to Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Professor Silliman retired from the Air Force in 1993 and assumed his current position at Duke.
William B. Pollard, III: Nominee for the United States Court of Military Commission Review
William B. Pollard, III is a named partner at Kornstein Veisz Wexler & Pollard, LLP in New York City, where he has worked since 1993. At the firm, he specializes in complex civil and white collar criminal cases, and grand jury and regulatory investigations. From 1981 to 1993, Pollard was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York. He served as the Deputy Chief in the Criminal Division of that office from 1988 to 1993. Pollard began his legal career at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton & Garrison, where he worked from 1974 until 1981. He earned his A.B. at Washington University in St. Louis in 1970, and a joint J.D. and M.B.A. from Columbia University in 1974.
Statement by President Obama on Progress in Russia’s WTO Accession Talks
I congratulate President Medvedev and his government for completing negotiations on the terms and conditions for Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), which were adopted today by the WTO Working Party on Russia’s accession. The outcome of today’s Working Party meeting is the last step before WTO Ministers approve these terms and invite Russia to become a WTO Member, which we expect to take place at the WTO ministerial conference on December 15-17, 2011. After nearly two decades of negotiations, Russia will now be able to join to the WTO. This is a significant day for U.S.-Russia relations, and for our commitment to a growing, rules-based global economy.
Since the beginning of my Administration, and with increased intensity after President Medvedev and I met in Washington in June 2010, I have supported Russia’s WTO accession. Russia’s membership in the WTO will lower tariffs, improve international access to Russia’s services markets, hold the Russian government accountable to a system of rules governing trade behavior, and provide the means to enforce those rules.
Russia’s membership in the WTO will generate more exports for American manufacturers and farmers, which in turn will support well-paying jobs in the United States.
Russia also is opening its services market in sectors that are priorities to American companies, including audio-visual, telecommunications, financial services, computer and retail services.
From day one of its membership in the WTO, Russia will be required to comply with WTO rules on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, including with respect to key rights relied on by U.S. creative and innovative industries
Russia’s membership in the WTO also will benefit American companies and their workers by integrating Russia into a system of rules governing legal transparency and trade behavior and providing the means to enforce those rules.
Upon Russia’s accession, the United States will be able to use WTO mechanisms, including dispute settlement, to challenge Russia’s actions that are inconsistent with WTO rules.
All of these benefits also apply to Russia’s other WTO trading partners, including Georgia, which concluded a far-reaching agreement with Russia yesterday for monitoring trade between their two countries.
I now look forward to working with Congress to end the application of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to Russia in order to ensure that American firms and American exporters will enjoy the same benefits of Russian WTO membership as their international competitors.
Russia’s WTO accession would be yet another important step forward in our reset of relations with Russia, which has been based upon the belief that the United States and Russia share many common interests, even as we disagree on some issues. Whether cooperating to supply our forces in Afghanistan, securing nuclear materials, or achieving the New START Treaty, the United States and Russia have demonstrated the ability to produce “win-win” outcomes on security issues. Russia’s dramatic step today towards joining the WTO underscores our ability to cooperate also on economic issues of mutual interest
West Wing Weekly Wrap-Up: Statement from the President on Senate Vote in Favor of Tax Credits to Help Get Veterans Back to Work Today, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate did the right thing and passed tax credits that will encourage businesses to hire America’s veterans. Tomorrow, our nation will commemorate Veterans Day and honor the service and the sacrifice of all who have worn the uniform of the United States of America. No veteran who fought for our nation should have to fight for a job when they come home, and I urge the House to pass these tax credits as well so I can sign them into law. I also urge Congress to pass additional jobs proposals in the weeks ahead to help the millions of other Americans who are still looking for work.
Statement from the President on Senate Vote in Favor of Tax Credits to Help Get Veterans Back to Work
Today, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate did the right thing and passed tax credits that will encourage businesses to hire America’s veterans. Tomorrow, our nation will commemorate Veterans Day and honor the service and the sacrifice of all who have worn the uniform of the United States of America. No veteran who fought for our nation should have to fight for a job when they come home, and I urge the House to pass these tax credits as well so I can sign them into law. I also urge Congress to pass additional jobs proposals in the weeks ahead to help the millions of other Americans who are still looking for work.
Statement by the Press Secretary on the Bombings in South Sudan
The United States strongly condemns the aerial bombardment by the Sudan Armed Forces of the town of Yida in South Sudan. Yida is located inside South Sudan and hosts more than 20,000 refugees who have fled the ongoing conflict in the Sudanese state of Southern Kordofan. International humanitarian workers and United Nations staff have been working to provide food and shelter for these refugees. This bombing of civilians and humanitarian workers is an outrageous act, and those responsible must be held accountable for their actions.
This abhorrent attack follows other aerial bombardments undertaken by the Sudan Armed Forces on November 8 near the international border. These provocative aerial bombardments greatly increase the potential for direct confrontation between Sudan and South Sudan.
The United States demands the Government of Sudan halt aerial bombardments immediately. We urge the Government of South Sudan to exercise restraint in responding to this provocation to prevent further escalation of hostilities.
The United States calls on the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North to immediately resume negotiations on a cessation of hostilities and resume political talks toward political and security arrangements for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.
We Can’t Wait: President Obama to Sign Executive Order to Cut Waste and Promote Efficient Spending White House to Announce 2011 SAVE Award Finalists
We Can’t Wait: President Obama to Sign Executive Order to Cut Waste and Promote Efficient Spending
White House to Announce 2011 SAVE Award Finalists
WASHINGTON, DC – This morning, President Obama will sign an Executive Order that will cut waste and promote more efficient spending across the federal government. With this Order, the President is directing agencies to reduce spending on travel; limit the number of information technology devices (e.g. cell phones, smartphones, tablets, laptops) that can be issued to individual employees; stop unnecessarily printing documents that can be posted online; shrink the executive fleet of the federal government; and stop using taxpayer dollars to buy swag — the plaques, clothing, and other unnecessary promotional items that agencies purchase. Overall spending in the areas covered by the Executive Order will be reduced by 20 percent, saving billions.
This Executive Order builds on the progress that has already been made through the Campaign to Cut Waste. At President Obama’s direction this Administration has taken up an unprecedented effort to downsize the Federal real estate footprint, and is on track to save $3.5 billion in Federal real estate costs by the end of Fiscal Year 2012. The Administration has cracked down on waste in contracting, cutting contracting spending for the first time in more than a dozen years and slashing spending on “no bid contracts” by $5 billion.
The Executive Order will set bold but achievable goals that are informed by the results of the work of the Campaign to Cut Waste, launched by President Obama and Vice President Biden earlier this year. In September, the Vice President convened the first Cabinet Campaign to Cut Waste meeting and asked the Cabinet to identify wasteful and inefficient spending on travel, executive fleet, publications, office equipment, and other areas. Several of the spending reductions identified by agencies in response to the Vice President’s request are highlighted below. The President’s directive today builds on that work.
In addition to today’s Executive Order signing, the White House will announce this year’s SAVE (Securing Americans Value and Efficiency) Award finalists. The SAVE Award was launched in 2009 to seek ideas from frontline federal employees to make government more effective and efficient and to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. This year, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) received nearly 20,000 ideas from across the country. To honor these finalists, OMB Director Jack Lew, OMB Deputy Director of Heather Higginbottom, and Federal Chief Performance Officer and OMB’s Deputy Director for Management Jeff Zients will host a video teleconference with the SAVE Award finalists which will be live-streamed atwww.WhiteHouse.gov/Save-Award at 11 AM. With the announcement of the four finalists, voting will now begin to select the SAVE Award winner. Anyone can vote for his or her favorite idea on www.WhiteHouse.gov/Save-Award. The winner of this year’s SAVE Award will come to the White House to present their idea to the President.
The four finalists are: Matthew Ritsko, a NASA employee from Maryland, who suggested the creation of a tool “lending library” to avoid duplicative purchases of expensive tools; Eileen Hearty, a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) employee from Colorado, who suggested that it’s unnecessary to travel to inspect superior-rated properties each and every year; Kevin Korzenieski, a Treasury employee in D.C. who suggested that we stop purchasing U.S. Code books for all new attorneys given the availability of the information online; and Faith Stanfield, a Social Security Administration (SSA) employee from Ohio, who suggested SSA stop printing and mailing OASIS magazine – which currently is distributed to nearly 90,000 SSA employees — and simply make it available online.
“From the day I took office, I’ve said we’re going to comb the federal budget, line by line, to eliminate as much wasteful spending as possible. That’s what the Campaign to Cut Waste is all about. We can’t wait for Congress to act – we can’t wait for them to get our fiscal house in order and make the investments necessary to keep America great. That’s why today, I’m signing an Executive Order that will build on our efforts to cut waste and promote more efficient spending across the government – we’re cutting what we don’t need so that we can invest in what we do need,” said President Obama.
“In September, I asked all Cabinet secretaries to report on wasteful and inefficient spending at their agencies. Certain spending – like purchasing promotional water bottles, paying for unused cell phones, and booking unnecessary travel – is unacceptable. Today’s executive order will stop wasteful spending and make sure we use taxpayer dollars efficiently and responsibly,” said Vice President Biden.
Within 45 days, agencies will develop plans to reduce combined costs in the following areas to 20 percent below Fiscal Year 2010 levels by Fiscal Year 2013.
1) Reduce Spending on Travel and Conferences: The Executive Order directs agencies to decrease travel and conference-related spending. Increasingly, travel will be limited to circumstances where the activity can only be performed away from the employee’s primary office (e.g., a diplomatic mission or enforcement inspection). Employees will continue attending local meetings and conferences in person but expand their use of teleconferencing or videoconferencing technology to participate in meetings or conferences that would normally require travel. If agencies are hosting or sponsoring conferences, they will use conference space controlled by the federal government wherever possible. Each agency will designate a senior-level official to be responsible for reducing travel costs. Examples of steps currently being taken are:
- · The IRS plans to utilize teleconferencing and webinars when possible, as an alternative to travelling to conferences and training sessions. This and other efforts will result in 27% less spending on travel in Fiscal Year 2012.
- · The Department of Energy is reducing travel costs by reducing the number of conferences, utilizing video teleconferencing, and issuing non-refundable airline tickets when travel does not require changes. This initiative will save $15.7 million in Fiscal Year 2012.
- · NASA is reducing travel costs by approximately $17 million in Fiscal Year 2012 by reducing the number of attendees at meetings and conferences, encouraging rental car sharing, and reducing foreign travel.
2) Cut Duplicative and Unnecessary Employee Information Technology Devices: Some federal employees are issued more devices (e.g. cell phones, smartphones, laptops, tablet personal computers) than they need to fulfill their duties. In other cases, IT devices are purchased but go unused. The Executive Order directs each agency to limit the number of devices issued to employees and establish new policies to ensure they are not paying for IT equipment that isn’t being used. Examples of steps currently being taken are:
- · The Department of Homeland Security previously spent millions of dollars each year by paying for unused cell phones and air cards. The agency now conducts annual audits of use and has saved $10.5 million to date.
- · The Department of Commerce saved $1.8 million to date and will save a total of $3 million this year by disconnecting 2,648 wireless lines showing no usage for the past three months – including those assigned to retirees and former staff — as well as by optimizing rate plans.
3) End Unnecessary Printing and Put It Online: In the digital age, it is frequently unnecessary to spend money on printed documents in addition to making information available online for the public. The Executive Order directs agencies to provide written information electronically and limit the production of hard copy documents. Examples of steps currently being taken are:
- · The Department of the Treasury plans to reduce spending on printing by increasing the number of paperless transactions it conducts with the public. In total, Treasury expects this initiative will reduce printing costs by up to 24 percent in Fiscal Year 2012. Treasury’s initiative to increase the number of paperless transactions it conducts with the public is expected to save more than $500 million and 12 million pounds of paper over its first five years alone.
- · Last year, Trudy Givens won the President’s SAVE Award for her suggestion that we stop printing and shipping excess Federal Registers to Federal Government Offices, which costs millions of dollars per year, when the content is available online. As a result, the Obama Administration cut the number of copies that Federal agencies receive by 85 percent within the past year, and continues to cut back even more.
4) Limit Motor Vehicles: The Federal Government spends $9 million per year on vehicles just to shepherd itself around Washington DC. The Executive Order limits executive transportation across the federal government and directs agencies to improve the performance of the Federal fleet. Examples of steps currently being taken are:
- · The Department of Commerce is reducing the number of fleet drivers to one for all senior departmental officials, including the Secretary. Reductions in drivers and vehicles are expected to generate $100,000 in annual savings.
5) Stop Swag – or Government Promotional Handouts: The Executive Order directs agencies to stop wasting taxpayer money on non-essential items used for promotional purposes, such as clothing, mugs, and non-work related gadgets.
- · For instance, several months ago the Department of the Treasury issued a directive to all of its bureaus to avoid purchasing any goods that could be considered frivolous or unnecessary, and to ensure that all purchases have a clear nexus with the Department’s mission and operations.
PRESIDENT OBAMA ON REFORMING HEAD START: “It Is Absolutely Imperative That We Make Sure The United States is the Place Where We’ve Got the Best-Trained, Best-Educated Young People”
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON HEAD START
Yeadon Regional Head Start Center
11:43 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody, please have a seat. It is great to be in Yeadon, great to be in the Philly area. I was told not to mention football at all. (Laughter.) So I’m not going to say anything about football while I’m here, because I know this is a sensitive subject. (Laughter.) This is why I have Secret Service along. (Laughter.)
Now, I want to start by acknowledging some of the folks who are with me here today. First of all, I want to thank one of our finest public servants in this country, and she’s just a great friend, but somebody who cares passionately about the health and the welfare of our kids and our families — Kathleen Sebelius, our Secretary of Health and Human Services. (Applause.) I want to acknowledge the Mayor of Yeadon — Dolores Jones-Butler is in the house. (Applause.) Two of my favorite members of Congress, Chaka Fattah and Bob Brady. (Applause.) And one of my favorite former members of Congress who I think is going to be doing big things here in Pennsylvania is here as well — I guess I can’t call you Congressman, huh? (Laughter.) That’s all right? The — Congressman Murphy. (Applause.)
I had a chance to say hello to Mayor Nutter when I landed in Philly. He couldn’t be with us this morning — I guess there are a few things going on here today. (Laughter.) But I wished him well. He’s a great partner of ours.
And I also want to say thank you to Ms. Pleasantte, Dr. O’Shea — (applause) — all the staff and the teachers who are here. They are just doing a great job. (Applause.)
I had a chance to visit one of the classrooms here. And I have to say, it got me a little choked up, because — Patrick, you need to remember this. Patrick has got small kids. And they are just so huggable at this age. (Laughter.) And now — they’re still huggable, but they’re a little — they’re 5’9” and five feet. (Laughter.) But obviously you got a lot to handle when you’re here.
And the teachers, the staff who are here, they wouldn’t be doing this for the money. They’re doing it out of love of children. All of you do it because you know that when it comes to learning and when it comes to growing, this is an absolutely critical period in a child’s life. We know that three- and four-year-olds who go to high-quality preschools — including our best Head Start programs — are less likely to repeat a grade; they’re less likely to need special education; they’re more likely to graduate from high school than the peers who did not get these services. And so this makes early education one of our best investments in America’s future. One of the best. (Applause.)
Right out of the gate, it helps prepare our kids for a competition that’s never been tougher — a competition for good middle-class, well-paying jobs. And we’re competing now with countries like China and South Korea and Europe, all of which are serious about educating their children. So at a time when a company is able to move anywhere they want in the world — and a lot of times will make the decision based on where they can find the most highly skilled workforce — it is absolutely imperative that we make sure the United States is the place where we’ve got the best-trained, best-educated young people. That is a priority. (Applause.)
And this is not, and should not be, a Democratic priority or a Republican priority. This is an American priority. (Applause.) It’s an economic imperative. Our future depends on it. And people understand this outside of Washington, which is why we’ve been able to work with Democratic and Republican governors on our efforts to strengthen education from cradle to career. Not only with more money — money is important — but also with reforms that challenge schools to develop higher standards and the best practices for teaching and for learning.
Now, unfortunately, in Congress right now, it’s a different story. The Republicans in Washington have been trying to gut our investments in education. Earlier this year, nearly every Republican in the House voted for a budget that would have cut hundreds of thousands of children from Head Start. They’ve tried to cut Pell Grants for college students. They just voted against a jobs bill that would have put 400,000 teachers back in the classroom.
Their argument is that we don’t have the money. And what I’ve said is we can make these investments in our children without adding to the deficit simply by asking people who make more than a million dollars a year to pay a little more in taxes — not right now, but starting in 2013. It’s the right thing to do for our kids. It’s the right thing to do for our country. But so far they’ve said no.
It’s not just on issues, by the way, that cost money. So far, Congress has failed to move on fixing No Child Left Behind, despite the fact that we’ve shown them bipartisan reforms that are working in states right now — reforms that are praised not only by Democrats but also by Republicans. So after trying for months to work with Congress on education, we decided to take matters into our own hands, because our future is at stake. Our children deserve action. And we can’t wait for Congress any longer.
We can’t wait to make sure that our schools give every child the chance to compete with young people from around the world. So in September, I announced that if states exceed the high standards set by No Child Left Behind, then they’ve got the flexibility to build on the reforms that they’ve already made. We can’t wait to help more young people get to college. So two weeks ago, I announced changes that will lower student loan payments by hundreds of dollars a month for around 1.6 million Americans. (Applause.)
We can’t wait to give more of our youngest children the same basic opportunities we want all children to have, that we want for our children. And that’s why today, I’m announcing a new rule that will improve the quality of Head Start programs around the country. (Applause.)
Now, I firmly believe that Head Start is an outstanding program and a critical investment. The children who have the chance to go to the best Head Start programs have an experience that can literally change their lives for years to come. We’re making today’s announcement because we believe that every child in Head Start deserves that same chance.
Now, under the old rules governing Head Start, there just wasn’t enough accountability. If a program wasn’t providing kids with quality services, there was no incentive to improve. Under the new rule, programs are going to be regularly evaluated against a set of clear, high standards. If a program meets these standards — and we believe the majority of Head Start programs will — then their grants will be renewed. But if a program isn’t giving children the support they need to be ready for school, if classrooms are unsafe, if finances aren’t in order, if kids aren’t learning what they need to learn, then other organizations will be able compete for that grant. We’re not just going to put money into programs that don’t work. We will take money and put them into programs that do. (Applause.)
If a group is going to do a better job for the community, then they need that support. If a group would do a better job serving the kids in our communities, then they’re going to have that chance.
Now, this is the first time in history that Head Start programs will be truly held accountable for performance in the classroom, and we know that raising the bar isn’t always an easy thing to do. But it’s the right thing to do. Children in Head Start deserve the best services we have to offer, and we know that Head Start programs can meet this challenge.
So because of this rule, and the other executive actions that we’ve taken to improve our education system, more children will have the chance to study hard, do well in school, graduate on time, go to college without crushing debt. More Americans will grow up to be scientists and innovators and engineers and entrepreneurs. More businesses will be able to find skilled workers.
Of course, there’s no substitute for Congress doing its job. And I have to say these two congressmen are doing their job. (Applause.) But they need some help. Congress still needs to fix No Child Left Behind. Congress still needs to put teachers back in the classroom where they belong. (Applause.)
So Congress still needs to act. But if Congress continues to stand only for dysfunction and delay, then I’m going to move ahead without them. (Applause.) I told my administration, I want you to keep on looking for actions that we can take without Congress –- steps that can save consumers money, make government more efficient and responsive, help heal the economy, improve our education system, improve our health care system. We want to work with Congress, but we’re not going to wait.
I think this is the right thing to do, not just as a President, but I think this is the right thing to do as a parent. Because I know there are some things I cannot guarantee my kids. But I can make sure — I can do my best to make certain that they get a chance to succeed or fail on their own merits, just like I did. I can do everything in my power to ensure that their children grow up in a country where anything is possible, as long as you’re willing to work for it.
That’s what my mom and my grandparents wanted for me. It’s what I want for my children. It’s the promise that every generation has made to those who came after.
We can’t be the first generation of Americans to break that promise. So we’ve got to prove that we are tougher than the times that we live in and that we’re bigger than the politics of the moment. We’ve got to meet the challenges today by preparing our children for the challenges tomorrow.
That’s what’s being done at this wonderful facility. We want to replicate these all across the country. We are proud of what you are doing. You’ve got a President who’s got your back
Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.