Political Highlights December 13, 2010: President Obama & Bill Clinton Sell Tax Cut Extension at Press White House Press Conferences

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 111TH & 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama & President Clinton Shake Hands Before   Discussing Tax Cuts, Unemployment Insurance & Jobs President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton appear together in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House for statements and to answer questions from the media, December 10, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

STATS & POLLS

Barack Obama's approval rating has dipped below George W. Bush,   according to Gallup. Applewhite/AP Barack Obama’s approval rating has dipped below George W. Bush, according to Gallup.

  • President Barack Obama’s approval rating is below George W. Bush: Gallup Poll: This one’s gotta hurt. President Obama’s approval rating has dipped below, gulp, George W. Bush. The ex-President’s approval rating rose to 47% in recent weeks according to a Gallup poll released Monday, which is one point higher than Obama’s rating in a survey also taken this week. The poll results represent a surprising rebound for the once fiercely unpopular Bush, whose approval rating was just 25% just a little over a year ago. Politico speculates the unexpected boomerang could be a result of the positive reviews Bush’s recently released memoir, “Decision Points,” has received in addition to the former commander-in-chief’s opening of a presidential library in Texas. That coupled with criticism over Obama’s handling of the economy and stinging Democratic losses in the midterm elections, may have affected Americans’ views of the President. Before the release of his memoir, Bush had a 44% approval rating. The most recent survey numbers mark the highest for him since 2005 – before Hurricane Katrina – CBS News reported. Bush’s highest rating was 87%, immediately following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Still, it’s not all good news for the former President. His disapproval rating, (51%) is still higher than his approval rating, a similarity he shares with Richard Nixon, whose approval rating is just 29%. Obama’s disapproval rating (47%) is just one point higher than his approval rating. John F. Kennedy remains the most popular President in Gallup’s annual poll with 85% approval. Ronald Reagan came in second with 74%, followed by Bill Clinton’s 69%. – NY Daily News, 12-
  • Poll: Obama’s approval ratings fall to new low: President Barack Obama’s approval ratings have sunk to the lowest level of his presidency, so low that he’d lose the White House to Republican Mitt Romney if the election were held today, according to a new McClatchy Newspapers-Marist poll. The biggest reason for Obama’s fall: a sharp drop in approval among Democrats and liberals, apparently unhappy with his moves toward the center since he led the party to landslide losses in November’s midterm elections. At the same time, he’s gained nothing among independents. “He’s having the worst of both worlds right now,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in New York, which conducted the national survey. “As he moves to the center, he’s not picking up support among independents and he’s having some fall-off among his base. If his strategy is to gain independents and keep the Democrats in tow, it isn’t working so far.” The poll was taken from Dec. 2 through Wednesday, as the president proposed a two-year freeze on federal civilian workers’ pay and cut a deal with congressional Republicans to extend expiring tax cuts – even those for the wealthy, which he’d opposed. Overall, just 42 percent of registered voters approve of how he’s doing his job, while 50 percent disapprove. Obama’s standing among Democrats dropped from a month ago, with his approval rating falling to 74 percent from 83 percent, and his disapproval rating rising from 11 percent to 21 percent. Among liberals, his approval rating dropped from 78 percent to 69 percent and his disapproval rating jumped from 14 percent to 22 percent. His position among independents remained virtually the same, with 39 percent approving and 52 percent disapproving. A month ago, it was 38-54…. – McClatchy Newspapers, 12-10-10
  • Poll: Obama’s approval ratings fall to new low: The president’s continued failure to rally independents could ruin his bid for re-election. A hypothetical 2012 matchup showed him getting the support of 44 percent of registered voters and Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, getting 46 percent. Obama now is running slightly ahead of Republican former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, drawing 47 percent to Huckabee’s 43 percent. Both results were within the poll’s margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. He would easily defeat Republican former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, however; he’d get 52 percent of registered voters and she’d get 40 percent, if the election were held today…. – McClatchy Newspapers, 12-10-10
  • Poll: Americans Want Action on the Deficit, but Oppose Most Proposals to Cut It: Amid all the discussion and debate about the deficit and what to do about it, several hard truths keep emerging: an overwhelming majority of Americans believe it is a major problem and almost none of the most widely mentioned proposals to cut the red ink by reducing spending or raising taxes get majority support from the public. Those realities stand out starkly in a new Pew Research Center poll, conducted Dec. 1-5, in which 70 percent of Americans say the deficit is a major problem that must be solved now, but disapprove by a big margin of the deficit commission’s plan to get the red ink under control. Forty-eight percent opposed the commission’s proposal — which would do things like cut spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and eliminate the popular home mortgage interest deduction — while 30 percent supported it, with 21 percent undecided. While 7 out of 10 want action on the deficit, it takes a back seat to concern over jobs. Forty-seven percent said the job situation is the economic issue that worries them most compared to 19 percent who cited the deficit. Throw into this mix the lack of confidence that the public has in Democratic or Republicans leaders to address the problem. Fifty-six percent say they have “not too much” or no confidence in the Republicans compared to 40 percent who do, while 52 percent have little or no confidence in the Democrats compared to 42 percent who do. (The remainder in each case is undecided). President Obama fares better, with 53 percent expressing confidence in him while 44 percent do not, with the rest undecided…. – Politics Daily,, 12-9-10

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama News Conference
White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 12/7/10

  • Tax cuts will pass despite Democratic uprising, Obama advisor says: Congress will approve without major changes the $858-billion package that extends tax cuts and jobless benefits, says President Obama’s senior advisor David Axelrod: ‘No one wants to see taxes go up on 150 million Americans.’ A top advisor to President Obama said Sunday a $858-billion package of tax cuts and jobless benefits will pass Congress without major changes, despite a revolt by some House Democrats. Senior advisor David Axelrod, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said the administration would prevail on the deal struck with GOP lawmakers “because at the end of the day, no one wants to see taxes go up on 150 million Americans on Jan. 1.” A showdown in the lame-duck Congress is coming this week. Axelrod told ABC’s “This Week” that some provisions of the compromise struck with Republican lawmakers were “odious.” He cited upper-income tax cuts and estate-tax relief. But that’s the nature of compromise, he said, calling the overall package a “win for the American people.”… – LAT, 12-12-10
  • US diplomat Richard Holbrooke critically ill after surgery Richard Holbrooke, the veteran US diplomatic trouble-shooter nicknamed “the bulldozer”, was in critical condition in hospital on Saturday with his family by his bedside after emergency heart surgery: The 69-year-old has maintained a gruelling work and travel schedule as President Barack Obama’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan for nearly two years. A forceful negotiator, he was best-known for brokering the 1995 Bosnian peace accords in Dayton, Ohio, that ended the ended the bloody ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslav republic. Mr Holbrooke, a key but controversial player in Mr Obama’s efforts to turn around the nine-year-old war in Afghanistan, was working at the State Department when he fell ill on Friday. He was rushed to the nearby George Washington University hospital where he underwent surgery to a torn aorta, the major artery carrying blood from the heart to other parts of the body. “Doctors completed surgery to repair a tear in his aorta,” a State Department spokesman said. “He is in critical condition and has been joined by his family.” His friend and boss, secretary of state Hillary Clinton, visited the hospital on Saturday…. – Telegraph, UK, 12-11-10
  • Bill Clinton Holds Forth on Tax Plan, for Starters: They have been foes and they have been, kind of, friends. And on Friday afternoon, President Obama and former President Bill Clinton walked unexpectedly into the White House briefing room for a news conference that was part surreal flashback, part one-two political punch. With Mr. Obama standing largely silently at his side, Mr. Clinton took over the lectern to lend his backing to the tax compromise the White House reached this week with Republicans. And then Mr. Clinton went on, for half an hour, answering questions and holding forth on topics from triangulation to Haiti to the mortgage crisis and the nuclear arms treaty with Russia. “I have reviewed this agreement that the president reached with the Republican leaders,” Mr. Clinton told reporters. “The agreement taken as a whole is, I believe, the best bipartisan agreement we can reach to help the most Americans.” After finishing one soliloquy, Mr. Clinton summed up with, “for what it’s worth, it’s what I think.” From the side, and just out of camera range, Mr. Obama piped up: “It’s worth a lot.” “I’ve been keeping the first lady waiting,” Mr. Obama said. “I don’t want to make her mad,” Mr. Clinton quipped. “Please go.” “In my opinion, this is a good bill, and I hope that my fellow Democrats will support it,” Mr. Clinton said. “We all see this differently. But I really believe this will be a significant net plus for the country.” “There are a lot of fights worth having,” he said, “but this holds the promise that after the fights are over, we will be able to find principled compromise on those as well. To me, that’s worth doing.” – NYT, 12-10-10
  • If Bill Clinton Were President: By the end of last week, it certainly looked as if Barack Obama had outsourced his presidency to Bill Clinton. First, he cut a Clintonian-style deal with Republicans on tax cuts and then he literally turned over the White House lectern to his predecessor. STAND IN Bill Clinton took the podium from President Obama on Friday. Equally riveting and astonishing, Mr. Clinton’s blast-from-the-past performance in the White House briefing room on Friday afternoon reinforced the impression of political déjà vu, the sense that once again a Democratic president humbled by midterm elections was pivoting to the center at the expense of his own supporters. But as no less an authority than Mr. Clinton reminded us, the comparison is incomplete and imperfect. “The story line is how well we worked with the Republicans and all that,” he said during his brief West Wing comeback. “But you know, we played political kabuki for a year.” Indeed, the real history of his response to the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 was more complicated than the reductionist version. And so far, Mr. Obama’s response to the November elections has been more complicated as well. The current president’s uncomfortable tax compromise with Republicans harked back to only one aspect of Mr. Clinton’s recovery strategy in 1995 and 1996, although the howls of protest from the left must have sounded familiar to the visiting former chief executive. Mr. Clinton’s approach involved as much confrontation as conciliation, and most of all, improvisation. Even in the few weeks since the Republican election victory, Mr. Obama has already sampled from the full menu of options. On the tax cuts, he concluded that he had little choice but to cut a deal with Republicans, conceding to them one of their core priorities and angering his own supporters even as he squeezed out of the opposition as many concessions as he could to balance the agreement…. – NYT, 12-11-10
  • Add-ons turn tax cut bill into ‘Christmas tree’: In the spirit of the holiday season, President Barack Obama’s tax-cut deal with Republicans is becoming a Christmas tree tinseled with gifts for lobbyists and lawmakers. There are ethanol subsidies for rural folks, commuter tax breaks for their cousins in the cities and suburbs, wind and solar grants for the environmentalists — all aimed at winning votes, particularly from reluctant Democrats. The holiday additions are being hung on the big bill that was Congress’ main reason for spending December in Washington, long after the elections that will give Republicans new power in January. The measure will extend Bush-era tax cuts, averting big tax increases for nearly all Americans, and keep jobless benefits flowing. Republicans generally liked that agreement, worked out by Obama and GOP leaders. Democrats generally didn’t, hence the add-ons…. – AP, 12-10-10
  • Bill’s Back: Clinton commands stage at White House: No comment? No way. You don’t stop Bill Clinton when he’s back at the White House with something to say. Well, OK. He and President Barack Obama, two of the most famous men in the world, did need a little help getting a door unlocked first. But then it was on. The former president came before surprised reporters to let it be known that he endorsed the tax deal that Obama cut with the Republican Party, even though many Democrats were raising a fuss about it. That was the news. But it wasn’t the story. What had the West Wing buzzing was the scene itself: Clinton in his element, like he had never left. And almost like he wasn’t going to leave this time. For one remarkable half hour, Clinton turned a seemingly slow Friday afternoon into his stage. He tutored in loving detail about economic theory and nuclear disarmament. He was short on time, yet somehow found some for just one more question. He bit on his lip and spread his arms as he spoke and did all those other familiar gestures…. – AP, 12-10-10
  • Obama enlists Clinton to sell tax deal: President Barack Obama on Friday enlisted former President Bill Clinton to help sell a compromise tax package negotiated with Republicans to reluctant Democrats. After meeting with Clinton at the White House, Obama brought him to the briefing room to tout the proposal to reporters, even backing off after a brief introduction to let Clinton do the talking and take questions. “I personally think this is a good deal, and the best we can get,” Clinton said, arguing that the combination of payroll tax cuts, unemployment insurance benefits and various tax credits would help the economy grow. Acknowledging that the Republican insistence on extending tax cuts to the wealthy would help him personally, Clinton said the compromise meant that both sides had to accept provisions they disliked. “There’s never a perfect bipartisan bill in the eyes of a partisan,” Clinton said. “I believe this will be a significant net-plus for the country.” It was the latest salvo by the Obama administration in a battle for public and political support for the plan that combines extended tax cuts from the Bush era with extended unemployment benefits, tax breaks and the payroll tax holiday intended to bolster a sluggish recovery from economic recession…. – CNN, 12-10-10
  • How tax cut revolt helps Obama: It’s a page from Clinton playbook Perhaps President Obama’s tax-cut deal with the GOP was astute, after all. While he angered liberals, he also won back some independent support – an example of Clintonian ‘triangulation.’: Former President Clinton’s impromptu press conference in the White House briefing room Friday – in which he announced his support of President Obama’s tax-cut deal with the Republicans – could not have put in sharper relief the new political landscape in Washington. Sixteen years ago, Mr. Clinton was in the same situation Mr. Obama finds himself in today: the Democratic majority in Congress swept out of power, and the need to rethink how policy is formed. For Clinton, the answer was “triangulation,” the practice of meeting Republicans part-way, often to the chagrin of Democrats. Obama already appears to be getting the hang of it. This week’s crackup between Obama and his liberal base over a tax-cut deal he reached with the Republicans seemed poised to threaten Obama’s support among the progressive grassroots, whose energy and donations he will need to win reelection. But just as easily, it opens him up to a second look from independents and moderates who abandoned the Democrats in the midterms and whose support he needs if he wants a second term…. – CS Monitor, 12-10-10
  • Gates Regrets Rejection of ‘Don’t Ask’ Repeal: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Friday that he was disappointed “but not surprised” by the Senate vote late Thursday that dimmed chances for repeal this year of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. Speaking to reporters on his plane during a flight from Abu Dhabi to Washington, Mr. Gates said that he had not been optimistic that the Senate would repeal the law, which requires gay men, lesbians and bisexual people in the military to keep their sexual orientation secret or face discharge. Nonetheless, he held out some possibility that the Senate might end the policy by other means, even though time is rapidly running out before the end of the year. “There is still roughly a week left in the lame-duck session and so I would hope that the Congress would act to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,'” Mr. Gates said. He was evidently referring to a plan late Thursday by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, to pull the measure out of the military spending bill it is attached to and try to pass it as stand-alone legislation. If that does not happen, Mr. Gates repeated warnings that the Pentagon would face what he has described as judicial chaos. “My greatest worry will be that then we are at the mercy of the courts and all the lack of predictability that that entails,” he said…. – NYT, 12-10-10
  • Senate halts repeal of ban on gays serving openly in the military: The Senate voted 57 to 40 against bringing to the floor a defense spending bill that included a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The vote delivers a significant blow to efforts to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military. –
  • Democrats demand changes in Obama-GOP tax deal: Disappointed Democratic congressional leaders demanded changes in the White House’s tax deal with Republicans on Tuesday despite a spirited argument by President Barack Obama that concessions were preferable to higher taxes for millions of Americans. In a remarkable political role reversal, Republicans lined up to support the package, while lawmakers of the president’s party said they were prepared to oppose it. Liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pledged to “do everything I can to defeat this,” including a filibuster to prevent a final vote. The deal includes an extension of expiring Bush-era tax cuts for all income levels — not just for lower and middle-income taxpayers, as Democrats wanted. It also contains a renewal of jobless benefits due to expire in a few weeks, and a one-year cut in Social Security taxes paid by workers. Other elements would loosen the estate tax and provide breaks for businesses to spur hiring. Officials said that overall, the proposal could add $900 billion to the federal deficit over two years. Democratic opposition focused chiefly on two parts of the deal that marked concessions to Republicans — the decision to let expiring tax cuts remain in effect for people in upper incomes, and a change in the estate tax that the GOP has long sought…. – AP, 12-7-10
  • Obama defends tax deal at news conference: One day after announcing a framework for a deal that would preserve the very tax cuts for the wealthy that he promised would be allowed expire, a fiery President Obama today defended the agreement, saying that he did not want to hurt the American people or the economy with a protracted political fight. Under the agreement — which has angered many Democrats, especially in the House — the Bush-era tax rates would be extended for two years for people at all income levels, unemployment insurance would be extended for 13 months, and payroll taxes would be decreased by 2 percentage points for one year. According to a fact sheet provided by the White House, the deal would allow a typical working family to avoid a $3,000 tax increase next year. At a hastily convened news conference in the press briefing room, the president vowed to continue the debate over tax cuts for the rich, saying he would fight to end them when they expire again. In a nod to his pragmatic governing philosophy, Obama said a refusal to compromise on any issue would lead nowhere and he asked members of his own party to remember “this is a long game, not a short game.” “This country was founded on compromise,” Obama said. “I couldn’t go through the front door at this country’s founding. And, you know, if we were really thinking about ideal positions, we wouldn’t have a union. So my job is to make sure that we have a North Star out there: What is helping the American people live out their lives?”… – MSNBC, 12-7-10
  • Obama urges Democrats to support tax cut deal: President Obama on Tuesday defended the deal he reached with Republicans on extending a broad range of expiring tax cuts, saying he did not want Americans to be harmed while he engages in a long-term political fight with the GOP. Obama held a hastily arranged news conference to answer questions on the agreement struck late Monday. Vice President Biden went to Capitol Hill to sell the agreement to Democrats who played no part in reaching a compromise Obama said he struck because Republicans would not budge. “The deal we struck here … gives us time to have a political battle,” Obama said, adding that he was unwilling to see millions of Americans “immediately damaged at a time when the economy is about to recover.”… “To my Democratic friends, what I’d suggest is let’s make sure that we understand this is a long game. This is not a short game,” Obama said…. “In order to get stuff done, we’re going to have to compromise,” Obama said. “This country was founded on compromise.”… – USA Today, 12-7-10
  • Tax Deal Suggests New Path for Obama: President Obama announced a tentative deal with Congressional Republicans on Monday to extend the Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels for two years as part of a package that would also keep benefits flowing to the long-term unemployed, cut payroll taxes for all workers for a year and take other steps to bolster the economy. President Obama, who on Monday visited Greensboro, N.C., announced from the White House his deal with the Republicans. The deal appeared to resolve the first major standoff since the midterm elections between the White House and newly empowered Republicans on Capitol Hill. But it also highlighted the strains Mr. Obama faces in his own party as he navigates between a desire to get things done and a retreat from his own positions and the principles of many liberals. Congressional Democrats pointedly noted that they had yet to agree to any deal, even as many Republicans signaled that they would go along. Mr. Obama said that he did not like some elements of the framework, but that he had agreed to it to avoid having taxes increase for middle class Americans at the end of the year. He said that in return for agreeing to Republican demands that income tax rates not go up on upper-income brackets, he had secured substantial assistance to lower- and middle-income workers as well as the unemployed. “It’s not perfect, but this compromise is an essential step on the road to recovery,” Mr. Obama said. “It will stop middle-class taxes from going up. It will spur our private sector to create millions of new jobs, and add momentum that our economy badly needs.”… – NYT, 12-6-10
  • Payroll Tax Holiday Discussed in Talks on Bush Rates: The Obama administration proposed a year-long reduction in payroll taxes of 2 percentage points as part of a broader compromise to extend Bush-era tax cuts temporarily, a congressional aide said. The proposed reduction was offered as an alternative to renewing the “Making Work Pay” tax credit, a creation of President Barack Obama that expires Dec. 31 along with lower income-tax rates enacted in 2001 and 2003, the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Some Senate Republicans oppose the credit. Negotiators also are discussing including Obama’s proposal to allow a full deduction for equipment purchases that currently must be deducted over time, an administration official said. The proposal would accelerate $200 billion in tax savings for companies in the first year and benefit 1.5 million companies and several million individuals who run businesses, according to White House estimates…. – Bloomberg, 12-6-10
  • Source: White House presents proposed tax deal to Democratic leaders: President Barack Obama presented congressional Democratic leaders Monday with a proposed deal with Republicans that would extend Bush-era tax cuts for two years and unemployment benefits for 13 months while also setting the estate tax at 35% for two years on inheritances worth more than $5 million, a senior Democratic source told CNN. The deal also includes a temporary 2% reduction in the payroll tax to replace Obama’s “making work pay” tax credit from the 2009 economic stimulus package for lower-income Americans, the senior Democratic source said. As currently crafted, the deal would prohibit amendments by either party, according to the source, who spoke on condition of not being identified by name…. – CNN, 12-6-10

111TH & 112TH CONGRESS

  • GOP freshmen back to Washington: Freshman members haven’t even been sworn in yet, but they’re already heading to Washington for another round of orientation — this time to learn about policy issues and begin the committee assignment process. The Republican freshmen class — 84 members strong — is in town for a “retreat” hosted by the Congressional Institute at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, with workshops in which they’ll learn about congressional process and rules before they meet with their conference to determine chairmanships and begin to hash out committee assignments…. – Politico, 12-7-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Obama’s Tax Deal Likely to Emerge as Campaign Issue in 2012: If Congress approves President Obama’s deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for two more years, the compromise is all but certain to be a major issue in the next election cycle. “I’m a little bit surprised that there weren’t more people pushing to have this be a three-year deal instead of a two-year deal,” said Andy Card, the former White House chief of staff to President George W. Bush. “Because they’ve guaranteed that taxes will be front and center of the debate in terms of the presidential election in 2012. Which means it’s also going to be front and center for the election for every member of Congress and for one third of the United States Senate.”… The 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint oppose it. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee support it. And former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence either aren’t sure or are just staying mum. Obama, who met with congressional leaders on Nov. 30 to work on this deal says he’s focused on the issue at hand right now. “These aren’t times for us to be playing games,” he said. “As I told the leaders at the beginning of the meeting, the next election is two years away and there will be plenty of time for campaigning.”… – Fox News, 12-11-10

QUOTES

President Obama & President Clinton Discuss Tax Cuts,   Unemployment Insurance & Jobs President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton make statements and answer questions from the press corps in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, December 10, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Strongly Urges Passage of the Framework Agreement on Middle Class Tax Cuts Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address The White House December 11, 2010: Right now, there’s a big debate taking place in Washington that will affect how much you pay in taxes next year. If Congress doesn’t act, tax rates will automatically go up for just about everyone in our country. Typical middle class families would end up paying an extra $3,000. That’s unacceptable to me. Not when we know that it’s the middle class that was hit the hardest by the recession. And not when we know that taking this money out of the pockets of working people is exactly the wrong thing to do to get our economy growing faster. Economists tell us that this tax hike on working families could actually cost us well over a million jobs. That’s why I’ve been fighting so hard to cut middle class taxes. And that’s why I brought both Democrats and Republicans to the table – to put together a compromise, and work through our differences, so we could get this done. Now, the Republicans in Congress strongly favored permanent tax breaks for the wealthiest taxpayers and the wealthiest estates, most of which would go to millionaires and even billionaires. But I didn’t believe that these tax cuts were worth the cost. They’d add to our deficits without really boosting the economy. I believed that the best way to help the economy, and working families, was to keep middle class tax rates low, and cut taxes for working parents, college students, and small businesses. And I believed that with millions of people looking for jobs, it would be a terrible mistake to end unemployment insurance – not only for people who are out of work, but for our entire economy. So we hammered out a deal that reflects ideas from both sides. It wasn’t easy, and it’s by no means perfect. And as with any compromise, everybody had to live with elements they didn’t like. But this is a good deal for the American people. The vast majority of the tax cuts in this plan will help the middle class, including a new cut in payroll taxes that will save the average family about $1,000. And as this plan is debated in Congress, what I want to make clear is the real difference it will make in people’s lives…. So this plan is going to help millions of families to make ends meet, through tax cuts and unemployment insurance for people who’ve lost their jobs by no fault of their own. And we included tax relief for businesses, too – making it easier for them to invest and expand. All told, this will not only directly help families and businesses. By putting more money in people’s pockets, and helping companies grow, we’re going to see people being able to spend a little more, we’re going to spur hiring – we’re going to strengthen our entire economy. Now, I recognize that many of my friends in my own party are uncomfortable with some of what’s in this agreement, in particular the temporary tax cuts for the wealthy. And I share their concerns. It’s clear that over the long run, if we’re serious about balancing the budget, we cannot afford to continue these tax breaks for the wealthiest taxpayers – especially when we know that cutting the deficit is going to demand sacrifice from everyone. That’s the reality. But at the same time, we cannot allow the middle class in this country to be caught in the political crossfire of Washington. People want us to find solutions, not score points. And I will not allow middle class families to be treated like pawns on a chessboard. The opportunity for families to send their kids to college hinges on this debate. The ability of parents to put food on the table while looking for a job depends on this debate. And our recovery will be strengthened or weakened based on the choice that now rests with Congress. So I strongly urge members of both parties to pass this plan. And I’m confident that they will do the right thing, strengthening the middle class and our economic recovery. – – TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Remarks by President Obama and Former President Clinton: PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hey, everybody. I thought it was a slow day, so I’ve –Q Slow news day, huh? PRESIDENT OBAMA: — bring the other guy in. Obviously, there’s a big debate going on about taxes, and about the need to grow the economy and to create jobs. And just about every day this week, I’ve been making an argument as to why the agreement that we’ve struck to provide billions of dollars in payroll tax cuts that can immediately help rejuvenate the economy, as well as tax cuts for middle-class families, unemployment insurance for folks who desperately need it, credits for college, Child Tax Credits, as well as a range of business investments credits are so important to make sure that we keep this recovery moving. I just had a terrific meeting with the former President, President Bill Clinton. And we just happened to have this as a topic of conversation. And I thought, given the fact that he presided over as good an economy as we’ve seen in our lifetimes, that it might be useful for him to share some of his thoughts. I’m going to let him speak very briefly. And then I’ve actually got to go over and do some — just one more Christmas party. So he may decide he wants to take some questions, but I want to make sure that you guys hear it from him directly. FORMER PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you very much, Mr. President. First of all, I feel awkward being here, and now you’re going to leave me all by myself. (Laughter.) Let me just say a couple of things. First of all, I still spend about an hour a day trying to study this economy. And I’m not running for anything, and I don’t have a political agenda. I just — I try to figure out what to do. I have reviewed this agreement that the President reached with Republican leaders. And I want to make full disclosure I make quite a bit of money now, so the position that the Republicans have urged will personally benefit me. And on its own, I wouldn’t support it because I don’t think that my tax cut is the most economically efficient way to get the economy going again. But I don’t want to be in the dark about the fact that I will receive the continuation of the tax rates. However, the agreement taken as a whole is, I believe, the best bipartisan agreement we can reach to help the largest number of Americans, and to maximize the chances that the economic recovery will accelerate and create more jobs, and to minimize the chances that it will slip back, which is what has happened in other financial collapses. Like, that’s what Japan faced, and it’s something that we have to avoid in America. Why do I say that? First of all, because clearly the extension of unemployment, which gives people a percentage of the income they were previously making, will — that money will be spent and it will bolster the economy for the next couple of years. Secondly, the conversion of the Make Work Pay Tax Credit, which the President passed before, which goes to — went to 95 percent of the American people, converting that into an $120 billion one-year payroll tax relief act is, according to all the economic analyses, the single most effective tax cut you can do to support economic activity. This will actually create a fair number of jobs. I expect it to lower the unemployment rate and keep us going. Thirdly, and one thing I haven’t seen much about in the reports, this agreement will really help America over the long term, because it continues the credits for manufacturing jobs related to energy coming in to America. And I’ll remind you, just in the last two years, there have been 30 high-powered battery factories either opened or presently being built in America, taking us from 2 to 20 percent of the world’s share of that. And we’re going to probably be at 40 percent by 2014. This is a really important thing, bringing manufacturing back to America, because it’s a huge multiplier to create new jobs. So in my opinion, this is a good bill. And I hope that my fellow Democrats will support it. I thank the Republican leaders for agreeing to include things that were important to the President. There is never a perfect bipartisan bill in the eyes of a partisan. And we all see this differently. But I really believe this will be a significant net-plus for the country. I also think that in general a lot of people are heaving a sigh of relief that there’s finally been some agreement on something. But don’t minimize the impact of the unemployment relief for working families, of the payroll tax relief, and of the continuation of the incentives to grow jobs, which will trigger more credit coming out of the banks. Keep in mind, ultimately the long-term answer here is to get the $2 trillion, which banks now have in cash reserves uncommitted to loans, out there in the economy again, the $1.8 trillion in corporate treasuries not now being invested out there in the economy again. I think this is a net-plus. And you know how I feel. I think the people that benefit most should pay most. That’s always been my position — not for class warfare reasons; for reasons of fairness in rebuilding the middle class in America. But we have the distribution of authority we have now in the Congress and what we’re going to have in January, and I think this is a much, much better agreement than would be reached were we to wait until January. And I think it will have a much more positive impact on the economy. So for whatever it’s worth, that’s what I think. PRESIDENT OBAMA: That’s worth a lot…. – WH, 12-10-10TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • President Obama on the Middle Class Tax Cuts and Unemployment Insurance Agreement: “A Good Deal For The American People”: I’m focused on making sure that tens of millions of hardworking Americans are not seeing their paychecks shrink on January 1st just because the folks here in Washington are busy trying to score political points. And because of this agreement, middle-class Americans won’t see their taxes go up on January 1st, which is what I promised — a promise I made during the campaign, a promise I made as President. Because of this agreement, 2 million Americans who lost their jobs and are looking for work will be able to pay their rent and put food on their table. And in exchange for a temporary extension of the high-income tax breaks — not a permanent but a temporary extension — a policy that I opposed but that Republicans are unwilling to budge on, this agreement preserves additional tax cuts for the middle class that I fought for and that Republicans opposed two years ago. I’ll cite three of them. Number one, if you are a parent trying to raise your child or pay college tuition, you will continue to see tax breaks next year. Second, if you’re a small business looking to invest and grow, you’ll have a tax cut next year. Third, as a result of this agreement, we will cut payroll taxes in 2011, which will add about $1,000 to the take-home pay of a typical family. So this isn’t an abstract debate. This is real money for real people that will make a real difference in the lives of the folks who sent us here. It will make a real difference in the pace of job creation and economic growth. In other words, it’s a good deal for the American people. Now, I know there are some who would have preferred a protracted political fight, even if it had meant higher taxes for all Americans, even if it had meant an end to unemployment insurance for those who are desperately looking for work. And I understand the desire for a fight. I’m sympathetic to that. I’m as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I’ve been for years. In the long run, we simply can’t afford them. And when they expire in two years, I will fight to end them, just as I suspect the Republican Party may fight to end the middle-class tax cuts that I’ve championed and that they’ve opposed. So we’re going to keep on having this debate. We’re going to keep on having this battle. But in the meantime I’m not here to play games with the American people or the health of our economy. My job is to do whatever I can to get this economy moving. My job is to do whatever I can to spur job creation. My job is to look out for middle-class families who are struggling right now to get by and Americans who are out of work through no fault of their own. A long political fight that carried over into next year might have been good politics, but it would be a bad deal for the economy and it would be a bad deal for the American people. And my responsibility as President is to do what’s right for the American people. That’s a responsibility I intend to uphold as long as I am in this office…. – WH, 12-7-10TranscriptMp3Mp4 Video
  • Democrats Urge Senate Leaders to Add Build Americas to Tax Deal: Senate Democrats are seeking changes to a tax-cut agreement President Barack Obama reached with Republican lawmakers, said Majority Leader Harry Reid, who hopes to bring the measure to the floor this week. Some changes “would make the bill much better, and I’m going to work on those,” Reid of Nevada told reporters after meeting with members of his party today to discuss the plan. He said he hopes the Senate would take the measure up “in the next day or two.” Asked whether the Senate would have the votes to pass the measure, he said, “I hope so.” – Bloomberg, 12-8-10
  • Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Republican leadership, said he expects few changes to the negotiated pact, even though Democrats may want them. “I don’t think there’s going to be any real changes to speak of,” he said.
  • Obama earlier today rejected the notion that he betrayed congressional Democrats by making the deal. “I think Democrats are looking at this bill, and you’ve already had a whole bunch of them who said ‘this makes sense,'” Obama said following an Oval Office meeting with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski. “I think they’re going to feel confident that, in fact, this is the right course.”
  • Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia called the agreement the “ultimate stimulus plan” that “shows great promise for reinvigorating the economy” by putting more money in the pockets of workers and small- business owners. “The American people, and particularly those who are out of work, cannot afford to wait while politics-as-usual blocks an effective, bipartisan plan to stimulate the economy and restore growth,” he said in a statement. ‘Imperfect Agreement’
  • Lawrence Summers, Obama’s chief economic adviser, told reporters in a briefing that a failure by Congress to adopt what he called an “imperfect agreement” would raise the risk of a double-dip recession. “I don’t think at the end of the day the Congress will take a step that materially increases the risk of this economy stalling,” Summers said.
  • President Barack Obama at December 7, 2010 Press Conference: At his hastily called news conference, Obama bristled at times, casting himself in the role of compromiser-in-chief with the best interests of the economy and public in mind. “I’m not here to play games with the American people or the health of the economy,” Obama said of his day-old deal, which is designed to avert a scheduled Jan. 1 expiration of tax cuts at all income levels. “This isn’t an abstract debate. This is real money, It will make a real difference in the lives of people who sent us here,” Obama said.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, yesterday termed the estate tax provision “a bridge too far.” She also said that in general, “the response has not been very good” among House Democrats to the deal.
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev: The compromise is “something that’s not done yet. We’re going to have to do some more work,” he said after a closed door meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and members of the Democratic rank-and-file.
  • Across the Capitol, Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement that said: “Republicans have held the middle class hostage for provisions that benefit only the wealthiest 3%, do not create jobs and add tens of billions of dollars to the deficit…. We will continue discussions with the president and our caucus in the days ahead.”
  • Text Obama’s Remarks on the Tax Compromise: Following is a text of President Obama’s remarks on Monday in which he announced a tentative deal with Congressional Republicans to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, as released by the White House:For the past few weeks there’s been a lot of talk around Washington about taxes and there’s been a lot of political positioning between the two parties. But around kitchen tables, Americans are asking just one question: Are we going to allow their taxes to go up on January 1st, or will we meet our responsibilities to resolve our differences and do what’s necessary to speed up the recovery and get people back to work? Now, there’s no doubt that the differences between the parties are real and they are profound. Ever since I started running for this office I’ve said that we should only extend the tax cuts for the middle class. These are the Americans who’ve taken the biggest hit not only from this recession but from nearly a decade of costs that have gone up while their paychecks have not. It would be a grave injustice to let taxes increase for these Americans right now. And it would deal a serious blow to our economic recovery. Now, Republicans have a different view. They believe that we should also make permanent the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. I completely disagree with this. A permanent extension of these tax cuts would cost us $700 billion at a time when we need to start focusing on bringing down our deficit. And economists from all across the political spectrum agree that giving tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires does very little to actually grow our economy. This is where the debate has stood for the last couple of weeks. And what is abundantly clear to everyone in this town is that Republicans will block a permanent tax cut for the middle class unless they also get a permanent tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, regardless of the cost or impact on the deficit. We saw that in two different votes in the Senate that were taken this weekend. And without a willingness to give on both sides, there’s no reason to believe that this stalemate won’t continue well into next year. This would be a chilling prospect for the American people whose taxes are currently scheduled to go up on January 1st because of arrangements that were made back in 2001 and 2003 under the Bush tax cuts. I am not willing to let that happen. I know there’s some people in my own party and in the other party who would rather prolong this battle, even if we can’t reach a compromise. But I’m not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington. And I’m not willing to let our economy slip backwards just as we’re pulling ourselves out of this devastating recession. I’m not willing to see 2 million Americans who stand to lose their unemployment insurance at the end of this month be put in a situation where they might lose their home or their car or suffer some additional economic catastrophe. So, sympathetic as I am to those who prefer a fight over compromise, as much as the political wisdom may dictate fighting over solving problems, it would be the wrong thing to do. The American people didn’t send us here to wage symbolic battles or win symbolic victories. They would much rather have the comfort of knowing that when they open their first paycheck on January of 2011, it won’t be smaller than it was before, all because Washington decided they preferred to have a fight and failed to act…. – NYT, 12-7-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

The President records the Weekly Address
White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 12/10/10

  • Scott Sandage: Obama “not a naturally tough character”: As angry Democrats beat a path to television cameras Wednesday to denounce a White House tax compromise with Republicans, President Obama was making a show of being presidential…. “He is certainly straining to prove that he is tough,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist. “But there is a real threat to the White House now in that it is officially open season on the administration from the left and the right…. “The key risk in all of this for Obama is that he is not a naturally tough character. Scott Sandage, a professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University, said Obama’s short stint in the Senate didn’t give him a killer instinct for legislative wrangling. “It often seems like when Obama recedes, he is trusting the process to drive itself — and it just doesn’t work that way,” Sandage said…. – Washington Examiner (12-8-10)
  • K.C. Johnson: “No incentive” for politicians to be contrite: In Washington, shame isn’t what it used to be. That was the lesson of the showdown Thursday between Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) and the rest of the House of Representatives. Rangel’s colleagues voted overwhelmingly to censure him for ethics violations – a punishment that included a public scolding in the House chamber. But Rangel didn’t cooperate. The rebuke would only work if he felt ashamed. And he didn’t…. “If you show shame, or show an honest contriteness, that’s likely to appear in a campaign commercial against you,” said KC Johnson, a professor of history at Brooklyn College in New York. “The fact is that there’s really no incentive to admit to any wrongdoing in this kind of environment.”… – WaPo (12-4-10)
  • As Obama faces Democratic ire over tax deal, some recall Carter years: Nonetheless, “there are certainly parallels,” said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University historian and the author of “Jimmy Carter,” a book about Carter’s presidency. “There is a real level of discomfort among Democrats that Obama is not giving them policy that is good for the party and he’s putting them in political trouble, something Carter dealt with right off the bat,” Zelizer said Wednesday. “Liberals have a feeling that the administration has simply abandoned the principles that brought them to office.” Similar ire from within his own party helped sound a death knell for Carter, Zelizer said, as the late Ted Kennedy, in particular, worked to undermine him at every turn. Kennedy even mounted a challenge to Carter’s leadership, unsuccessfully running for the Democratic nomination in 1980 — a headache Obama isn’t realistically expected to face, despite anger from congressional Democrats. Both Carter and Obama also dealt with an economic crisis they couldn’t hose down, said Zelizer — in Carter’s case, stagflation and an energy crisis. “Carter faced this underlying stagnant economy that he couldn’t do much about; he couldn’t figure out how to stimulate it. It ate away at his administration and his presidency, and that’s happening to Obama as well.” Zelizer, however, said the White House ignores Carter’s experiences at its own peril. “The problem is if you alienate your supporters, and you alienate congressional Democrats, and you have an opponent that is vowing to attack you no matter what you do, you end up an isolated president, and that’s very dangerous,” he said. “That’s what happened to Carter, and what could happen to Obama.” – Winnipeg Free Press, 12-8-10
  • As Obama faces Democratic ire over tax deal, some recall Carter years: Stephen Hess, a longtime Washington political operative who once advised Carter in addition to several Republican presidents, said he sees few similarities between the two men, either personally or in terms of their political situation. “Of all the presidents I’ve known since Dwight D. Eisenhower, these two are about as far apart as any two I’ve seen,” Hess said. “Carter was an engineer; he was involved in all the joints and connections. Obama is much more of an intellectual, and much more broadly engaged. They look at life from opposite ends of the telescope, one looking at it widely and the other quite narrowly.” Obama has also had many more legislative accomplishments in his two years in the Oval Office than Carter ever did, Hess adds. “His record of achievement is tremendous, much greater than anybody else in a long, long time,” he said. “He got three major pieces of legislation through in his first Congress; nothing like that ever happened for Carter.” As well, Hess added, Obama’s “bring it on” strategy against critics in his own party might actually turn out to be a cunning bit of political gamesmanship, whereas Carter’s fumbles were exactly that. “With the tax deal, Obama landed basically where the American people want to be, he got as much as he could for his position, and he might have created some groundwork for future deals,” Hess said. “Sure, the liberals are mad at him but it’s the independents in the middle that he’s going to need. Appearing to be fighting back against liberal Democrats could be useful to him because it shows independents that he’s a centrist, despite conservatives trying to portray him as something he isn’t — a socialist, a communist.” – Winnipeg Free Press, 12-8-10
  • Krugman: Obama’s Tax Defense ‘Enormously Self-Indulgent’: President Obama used a White House news conference to make the case for a new tax cut compromise and appeal to supporters unhappy with the plan. Jeffrey Brown talks to Paul Krugman and Stephen Moore for reaction to the deal…. – PBS Newshour, 12-7-10
  • Julian Zelizer: Focusing on deficit a lose-lose move for Obama: The political pressure on the administration to tackle deficit reduction is mounting. Even before he began negotiations with Republicans last week, President Obama conceded ground by announcing a federal pay freeze. He has given indications that, like President Jimmy Carter in 1978, he intends to shift his focus from unemployment to deficits in response to the “message” from the midterms. Yet Obama should be extremely cautious before he shifts the focus of his agenda. Emphasizing deficits over unemployment threatens to carry huge political costs for Democrats. The latest unemployment numbers are a stark reminder of the terrible shape of the economy. Regardless of the conventional wisdom, moreover, the move won’t leave him in a stronger political position. At a time when many economists believe that the time is not right to move toward deficit reduction, given that the economy is still fragile and unstable, Obama is heading into a political trap. The major political problem for Obama is that making deficit reduction an immediate priority is unlikely to win over Republican support. The record since 2008 has been that even when Obama gives ground to the GOP on issues like health care and economic policy, Republicans have rarely offered their support in return. Rather, the GOP has demanded more from the president, while continuing to attack the administration as left-of-center…. The moves will not win over Republicans and at the same time threaten to deepen the rift between Obama and congressional Democrats. All of this will happen and the levels of unemployment won’t abate. Like Carter, Obama can find himself in the worst of both worlds, angering his supporters and doing nothing to appease his opponents, thus becoming increasingly isolated as the 2012 elections approach. – CNN, 12-6-10
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Political Highlights, December 7, 2010: Obama Press Conference Discussing Bipartisan Agreement on Bush Tax Cuts Extension with Republicans

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 111TH & 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama News Conference

THE HEADLINES….

  • Democrats demand changes in Obama-GOP tax deal: Disappointed Democratic congressional leaders demanded changes in the White House’s tax deal with Republicans on Tuesday despite a spirited argument by President Barack Obama that concessions were preferable to higher taxes for millions of Americans.
    In a remarkable political role reversal, Republicans lined up to support the package, while lawmakers of the president’s party said they were prepared to oppose it. Liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pledged to “do everything I can to defeat this,” including a filibuster to prevent a final vote.
    The deal includes an extension of expiring Bush-era tax cuts for all income levels — not just for lower and middle-income taxpayers, as Democrats wanted. It also contains a renewal of jobless benefits due to expire in a few weeks, and a one-year cut in Social Security taxes paid by workers.
    Other elements would loosen the estate tax and provide breaks for businesses to spur hiring. Officials said that overall, the proposal could add $900 billion to the federal deficit over two years.
    Democratic opposition focused chiefly on two parts of the deal that marked concessions to Republicans — the decision to let expiring tax cuts remain in effect for people in upper incomes, and a change in the estate tax that the GOP has long sought…. – AP, 12-7-10
  • Obama defends tax deal at news conference: One day after announcing a framework for a deal that would preserve the very tax cuts for the wealthy that he promised would be allowed expire, a fiery President Obama today defended the agreement, saying that he did not want to hurt the American people or the economy with a protracted political fight.
    Under the agreement — which has angered many Democrats, especially in the House — the Bush-era tax rates would be extended for two years for people at all income levels, unemployment insurance would be extended for 13 months, and payroll taxes would be decreased by 2 percentage points for one year. According to a fact sheet provided by the White House, the deal would allow a typical working family to avoid a $3,000 tax increase next year.
    At a hastily convened news conference in the press briefing room, the president vowed to continue the debate over tax cuts for the rich, saying he would fight to end them when they expire again. In a nod to his pragmatic governing philosophy, Obama said a refusal to compromise on any issue would lead nowhere and he asked members of his own party to remember “this is a long game, not a short game.”
    “This country was founded on compromise,” Obama said. “I couldn’t go through the front door at this country’s founding. And, you know, if we were really thinking about ideal positions, we wouldn’t have a union. So my job is to make sure that we have a North Star out there: What is helping the American people live out their lives?”… – MSNBC, 12-7-10
  • Obama urges Democrats to support tax cut deal: President Obama on Tuesday defended the deal he reached with Republicans on extending a broad range of expiring tax cuts, saying he did not want Americans to be harmed while he engages in a long-term political fight with the GOP. Obama held a hastily arranged news conference to answer questions on the agreement struck late Monday. Vice President Biden went to Capitol Hill to sell the agreement to Democrats who played no part in reaching a compromise Obama said he struck because Republicans would not budge.
    “The deal we struck here … gives us time to have a political battle,” Obama said, adding that he was unwilling to see millions of Americans “immediately damaged at a time when the economy is about to recover.”…
    “To my Democratic friends, what I’d suggest is let’s make sure that we understand this is a long game. This is not a short game,” Obama said….
    “In order to get stuff done, we’re going to have to compromise,” Obama said. “This country was founded on compromise.”… – USA Today, 12-7-10
  • Tax Deal Suggests New Path for Obama: President Obama announced a tentative deal with Congressional Republicans on Monday to extend the Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels for two years as part of a package that would also keep benefits flowing to the long-term unemployed, cut payroll taxes for all workers for a year and take other steps to bolster the economy.
    President Obama, who on Monday visited Greensboro, N.C., announced from the White House his deal with the Republicans. The deal appeared to resolve the first major standoff since the midterm elections between the White House and newly empowered Republicans on Capitol Hill. But it also highlighted the strains Mr. Obama faces in his own party as he navigates between a desire to get things done and a retreat from his own positions and the principles of many liberals.
    Congressional Democrats pointedly noted that they had yet to agree to any deal, even as many Republicans signaled that they would go along.
    Mr. Obama said that he did not like some elements of the framework, but that he had agreed to it to avoid having taxes increase for middle class Americans at the end of the year. He said that in return for agreeing to Republican demands that income tax rates not go up on upper-income brackets, he had secured substantial assistance to lower- and middle-income workers as well as the unemployed.
    “It’s not perfect, but this compromise is an essential step on the road to recovery,” Mr. Obama said. “It will stop middle-class taxes from going up. It will spur our private sector to create millions of new jobs, and add momentum that our economy badly needs.”… – NYT, 12-6-10
  • Payroll Tax Holiday Discussed in Talks on Bush Rates: The Obama administration proposed a year-long reduction in payroll taxes of 2 percentage points as part of a broader compromise to extend Bush-era tax cuts temporarily, a congressional aide said. The proposed reduction was offered as an alternative to renewing the “Making Work Pay” tax credit, a creation of President Barack Obama that expires Dec. 31 along with lower income-tax rates enacted in 2001 and 2003, the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Some Senate Republicans oppose the credit.
    Negotiators also are discussing including Obama’s proposal to allow a full deduction for equipment purchases that currently must be deducted over time, an administration official said. The proposal would accelerate $200 billion in tax savings for companies in the first year and benefit 1.5 million companies and several million individuals who run businesses, according to White House estimates…. – Bloomberg, 12-6-10
  • Source: White House presents proposed tax deal to Democratic leaders: President Barack Obama presented congressional Democratic leaders Monday with a proposed deal with Republicans that would extend Bush-era tax cuts for two years and unemployment benefits for 13 months while also setting the estate tax at 35% for two years on inheritances worth more than $5 million, a senior Democratic source told CNN.
    The deal also includes a temporary 2% reduction in the payroll tax to replace Obama’s “making work pay” tax credit from the 2009 economic stimulus package for lower-income Americans, the senior Democratic source said.
    As currently crafted, the deal would prohibit amendments by either party, according to the source, who spoke on condition of not being identified by name…. – CNN, 12-6-10

QUOTES

  • President Obama on the Middle Class Tax Cuts and Unemployment Insurance Agreement: “A Good Deal For The American People”:
    I’m focused on making sure that tens of millions of hardworking Americans are not seeing their paychecks shrink on January 1st just because the folks here in Washington are busy trying to score political points.
    And because of this agreement, middle-class Americans won’t see their taxes go up on January 1st, which is what I promised — a promise I made during the campaign, a promise I made as President.
    Because of this agreement, 2 million Americans who lost their jobs and are looking for work will be able to pay their rent and put food on their table. And in exchange for a temporary extension of the high-income tax breaks — not a permanent but a temporary extension — a policy that I opposed but that Republicans are unwilling to budge on, this agreement preserves additional tax cuts for the middle class that I fought for and that Republicans opposed two years ago.
    I’ll cite three of them. Number one, if you are a parent trying to raise your child or pay college tuition, you will continue to see tax breaks next year. Second, if you’re a small business looking to invest and grow, you’ll have a tax cut next year. Third, as a result of this agreement, we will cut payroll taxes in 2011, which will add about $1,000 to the take-home pay of a typical family.
    So this isn’t an abstract debate. This is real money for real people that will make a real difference in the lives of the folks who sent us here. It will make a real difference in the pace of job creation and economic growth. In other words, it’s a good deal for the American people.
    Now, I know there are some who would have preferred a protracted political fight, even if it had meant higher taxes for all Americans, even if it had meant an end to unemployment insurance for those who are desperately looking for work.
    And I understand the desire for a fight. I’m sympathetic to that. I’m as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I’ve been for years. In the long run, we simply can’t afford them. And when they expire in two years, I will fight to end them, just as I suspect the Republican Party may fight to end the middle-class tax cuts that I’ve championed and that they’ve opposed.
    So we’re going to keep on having this debate. We’re going to keep on having this battle. But in the meantime I’m not here to play games with the American people or the health of our economy. My job is to do whatever I can to get this economy moving. My job is to do whatever I can to spur job creation. My job is to look out for middle-class families who are struggling right now to get by and Americans who are out of work through no fault of their own.
    A long political fight that carried over into next year might have been good politics, but it would be a bad deal for the economy and it would be a bad deal for the American people. And my responsibility as President is to do what’s right for the American people. That’s a responsibility I intend to uphold as long as I am in this office…. – WH, 12-7-10TranscriptMp3Mp4 Video
  • President Barack Obama at December 7, 2010 Press Conference: At his hastily called news conference, Obama bristled at times, casting himself in the role of compromiser-in-chief with the best interests of the economy and public in mind.
    “I’m not here to play games with the American people or the health of the economy,” Obama said of his day-old deal, which is designed to avert a scheduled Jan. 1 expiration of tax cuts at all income levels. “This isn’t an abstract debate. This is real money, It will make a real difference in the lives of people who sent us here,” Obama said.
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev: The compromise is “something that’s not done yet. We’re going to have to do some more work,” he said after a closed door meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and members of the Democratic rank-and-file.
  • Across the Capitol, Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement that said: “Republicans have held the middle class hostage for provisions that benefit only the wealthiest 3%, do not create jobs and add tens of billions of dollars to the deficit…. We will continue discussions with the president and our caucus in the days ahead.”
  • Text Obama’s Remarks on the Tax Compromise: Following is a text of President Obama’s remarks on Monday in which he announced a tentative deal with Congressional Republicans to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, as released by the White House:For the past few weeks there’s been a lot of talk around Washington about taxes and there’s been a lot of political positioning between the two parties. But around kitchen tables, Americans are asking just one question: Are we going to allow their taxes to go up on January 1st, or will we meet our responsibilities to resolve our differences and do what’s necessary to speed up the recovery and get people back to work?
    Now, there’s no doubt that the differences between the parties are real and they are profound. Ever since I started running for this office I’ve said that we should only extend the tax cuts for the middle class. These are the Americans who’ve taken the biggest hit not only from this recession but from nearly a decade of costs that have gone up while their paychecks have not. It would be a grave injustice to let taxes increase for these Americans right now. And it would deal a serious blow to our economic recovery.
    Now, Republicans have a different view. They believe that we should also make permanent the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. I completely disagree with this. A permanent extension of these tax cuts would cost us $700 billion at a time when we need to start focusing on bringing down our deficit. And economists from all across the political spectrum agree that giving tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires does very little to actually grow our economy.
    This is where the debate has stood for the last couple of weeks. And what is abundantly clear to everyone in this town is that Republicans will block a permanent tax cut for the middle class unless they also get a permanent tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, regardless of the cost or impact on the deficit.
    We saw that in two different votes in the Senate that were taken this weekend. And without a willingness to give on both sides, there’s no reason to believe that this stalemate won’t continue well into next year. This would be a chilling prospect for the American people whose taxes are currently scheduled to go up on January 1st because of arrangements that were made back in 2001 and 2003 under the Bush tax cuts.
    I am not willing to let that happen. I know there’s some people in my own party and in the other party who would rather prolong this battle, even if we can’t reach a compromise. But I’m not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington. And I’m not willing to let our economy slip backwards just as we’re pulling ourselves out of this devastating recession.
    I’m not willing to see 2 million Americans who stand to lose their unemployment insurance at the end of this month be put in a situation where they might lose their home or their car or suffer some additional economic catastrophe.
    So, sympathetic as I am to those who prefer a fight over compromise, as much as the political wisdom may dictate fighting over solving problems, it would be the wrong thing to do. The American people didn’t send us here to wage symbolic battles or win symbolic victories. They would much rather have the comfort of knowing that when they open their first paycheck on January of 2011, it won’t be smaller than it was before, all because Washington decided they preferred to have a fight and failed to act…. – NYT, 12-7-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Krugman: Obama’s Tax Defense ‘Enormously Self-Indulgent’: President Obama used a White House news conference to make the case for a new tax cut compromise and appeal to supporters unhappy with the plan. Jeffrey Brown talks to Paul Krugman and Stephen Moore for reaction to the deal…. – PBS Newshour, 12-7-10
  • Julian Zelizer: Focusing on deficit a lose-lose move for Obama: The political pressure on the administration to tackle deficit reduction is mounting. Even before he began negotiations with Republicans last week, President Obama conceded ground by announcing a federal pay freeze. He has given indications that, like President Jimmy Carter in 1978, he intends to shift his focus from unemployment to deficits in response to the “message” from the midterms.
    Yet Obama should be extremely cautious before he shifts the focus of his agenda. Emphasizing deficits over unemployment threatens to carry huge political costs for Democrats. The latest unemployment numbers are a stark reminder of the terrible shape of the economy. Regardless of the conventional wisdom, moreover, the move won’t leave him in a stronger political position. At a time when many economists believe that the time is not right to move toward deficit reduction, given that the economy is still fragile and unstable, Obama is heading into a political trap.
    The major political problem for Obama is that making deficit reduction an immediate priority is unlikely to win over Republican support. The record since 2008 has been that even when Obama gives ground to the GOP on issues like health care and economic policy, Republicans have rarely offered their support in return. Rather, the GOP has demanded more from the president, while continuing to attack the administration as left-of-center….
    The moves will not win over Republicans and at the same time threaten to deepen the rift between Obama and congressional Democrats. All of this will happen and the levels of unemployment won’t abate. Like Carter, Obama can find himself in the worst of both worlds, angering his supporters and doing nothing to appease his opponents, thus becoming increasingly isolated as the 2012 elections approach. – CNN, 12-6-10

May 27, 2010: Obama Press Conference on BP Oil Spill & Joe Sestak Job Offer

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

President Obama offered Doug Mills/The New York Times President Obama was also asked about Arizona’s new immigration law, as well as whether the White House offered Representative Joe Sestak a job in the administration.

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Poll: Wide Majority See Spill as ‘Disaster’: A new USA Today/Gallup poll finds most Americans rating the president’s response to the oil spill negatively. More than half of Americans, 53 percent, say the president’s response to the spill has been “poor” or “very poor,” the poll finds. Negative ratings rise to 60 percent for the job the federal government has done in responding to the spill, and rise to 73 percent for the efforts by BP, the company whose well exploded.
    Most Americans, moreover, envision deep, long-term consequences. More than 7 in 10 say the impact of the oil spill in the long run will be a disaster, including almost 4 in 10 who say it will be the worst environmental disaster in the United States in at least 100 years. Just 26 percent hold a more positive view, seeing the spill as a problem but not a disaster…. – NYT, 5-27-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • Live Blogging Obama’s News Conference: From Jeff Zeleny: So did President Obama accomplish his task of demonstrating to America that he – and his government – are in control of the crisis on the Gulf?
    During a full hour of questioning, he illustrated that he has a grasp of the technical challenges at work in the oil spill. He said the government was calling the shots, the buck stopped with him and the ultimate responsibility rested in the Oval Office.
    But it remains an open question whether the measured tone that has become the soundtrack of Mr. Obama’s presidency – a detached, calm, observational pitch – served to drive the point home that he is sufficiently enraged by the fury in the Gulf Coast…. – NYT The Caucus, 5-27-10
  • Obama Open to Ideas on How to Plug Oil Leak, Defends Administration Response: President Obama said the federal government is open to ideas from anyone and anywhere on how to plug the oil leak on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, but rejected the notion that Washington has been sitting on the “sidelines” and pledged to fix the problem. “We are relying on every resource and every idea,” he said Thursday, at his first full-blown press conference since July. “We will take ideas from anywhere, but we are going to stop it.” Obama said that the federal government is “in charge” of the efforts to contain the damage from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He called the leak his administration’s “highest priority” and said anyone claiming otherwise doesn’t know the facts…. – Fox News, 5-27-10
  • Fixing oil disaster my responsibility, Obama says: On the defensive more than five weeks into the nation’s worst-ever oil spill, President Barack Obama insisted Thursday that his administration, not oil giant BP, was calling the shots in the still-unsuccessful response. “I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down,” Obama declared at a news conference in the East Room of the White House. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill dominated the hour-long session… – AP, 5-27-10
  • ‘Top kill’ stops gulf oil leak for now, official says: Officials are cautionary but say drilling fluid has blocked oil and gas temporarily. Engineers plan to begin pumping in cement and then will seal the well…. – LAT, 5-27-10
  • Gulf spill surpasses Valdez; plug try going well: An untested procedure to plug the blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico seemed to be working, officials said Thursday, but new estimates showed the spill has already surpassed the Exxon Valdez as the worst in U.S. history. A team of scientists trying to determine how much oil has been flowing since the offshore rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20 and sank two days later found the rate was more than twice and possibly up to five times as high as previously thought…. – AP, 5-27-10
  • Obama: “Nothing Improper” in Alleged Sestak Job Offer: President Obama said at his press conference today that he “can assure the public that nothing improper took place” in conversations between the White House and Rep. Joe Sestak, who suggested earlier this year he was offered a White House job in exchange for dropping his primary challenge against Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter. CBS News, 5-27-10
  • The Early Word: The President Answers: It’s been awhile, but President Obama will hold a formal news conference at the White House this afternoon. With oil still leaking out of a well in the Gulf of Mexico, Mr. Obama plans to announce at today’s question-and- answer session that he will extend a moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling permits for six months and will delay or cancel specific projects off the coasts of Alaska and Virginia and in the western Gulf of Mexico, The Times’s Peter Baker and Anahad O’Connor report. The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty gives her fellow reporters some ideas on what to ask the president, who is scheduled to visit the Gulf Coast on Friday. One of her five proposed questions: “Should anyone in the government be fired as the result of this disaster?”… – NYT, 5-27-10
  • Obama to speak on Gulf spill in first news conference since summer ’09: President Obama will face the cameras and take questions from reporters Thursday about the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, giving him another chance to finesse, and perhaps even ratchet up, his rhetoric on the crisis. The president’s news conference in the East Room is scheduled for 12:45 p.m., and it will take place even as BP’s dramatic “top kill” operation to halt the flow of leaking oil continues deep below the Gulf surface. This will be Obama’s first full-fledged news conference in more than 300 days. It is the latest attempt by the White House to calibrate the presidential message about the oil catastrophe with the anxiety captured on television screens…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
  • Gulf oil spill now nation’s worst: As crews pumped mud at a furious rate into the damaged blowout preventer that sits on the uncapped well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, a group of scientists said the amount of oil spewing into the ocean is much greater than originally believed…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
  • Obama fires MMS chief Elizabeth Birnbaum: President Obama has fired the head of the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, according to the Associated Press. The news agency, citing unnamed sources, says Obama will announce later today that Elizabeth Birnbaum has been taken off the job. She’s been head of the MMS since July 2009. Her agency, which grants leases to oil companies and monitors offshore drilling, has come under criticism for lax oversight since the BP well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20…. – USA Today, 5-27-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

We can always do better, the president said.Doug Mills/The New York Times “If the question is are we doing everything perfectly out there, then the answer is absolutely not, we can always do better,” the president says.
  • Defending Spill Response, Obama Expresses Frustration: President Obama declared on Thursday that he is “angry and frustrated” over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and ordered a further moratorium on new permits to drill new deepwater wells as he tried to address deepening public frustration.
    “Every day I see this leak continue, I am angry and frustrated as well,” the president told reporters in the East Room. He acknowledged that not every decision has been perfect, and “we can always do better.” But he added: “Those who think we were either slow in our response or lacked urgency don’t know the facts. This has been our highest priority since this crisis occurred.”
    “But make no mistake, BP is operating at our direction,” he said. “Every key decision and action they take must be approved by us in advance.”
    Mr. Obama said that the government has made “the largest effort of its kind in U.S. history” to address the oil leak, deploying 20,000 people, 1,300 vessels and 3 million feet of boom in the region to contain and clean up the spill.
    “We are relying on every resource and every idea, every expert and every bit of technology to work to stop it,” the president said. “We will take ideas from anywhere but we are going to stop it. I know that doesn’t lessen the enormous sense of anger and frustration felt by people on the Gulf and so many Americans.”
    “Absolutely, I take responsibility for that,” he said. “There wasn’t a sufficient urgency.” Although the regulators were in some instances constrained by law from being more thoroughgoing, he added, “We should have busted through those constraints.” – NYT, 5-27-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Thomas Schwartz: Up from the deep sea: a nightmare for Obama: Presidential historian Thomas Schwartz, a Vanderbilt University professor, said presidencies are often defined by the crises encountered. He said the oil spill could prove to be a defining crisis but he cautioned against comparing the leak to Katrina, for instance. “This one has been slowly developing and could have those qualities, but if BP were to suddenly get it capped, things could be defused very quickly. The air could go out of the balloon,” Schwartz said. Reuters, 5-27-10
  • Douglas Brinkley: Obama could pay “huge price” for spill response: “I think that the President has to get control over this situation,” historian Doug Brinkley said on CNN’s Campbell Brown Monday night. “Right now there is a feeling in the country that BP’s in charge but BP is the one that has been grossly negligent,” Brinkley said. Brinkley, a longtime resident of New Orleans, offered Brown suggestions about what President Obama needs to do: Address the American people on television within 48 hours, tell them what’s happening in the Gulf and talk about what’s being lost. Brinkley also believes the White House must consider freezing BP’s assets in the United States and called for the Justice Department to speed up its probe into BP. When asked by Brown what price the President could pay for a slow response, Brinkley told Brown “It’s a huge price.”… – CNN.com (5-24-10)

July 22, 2009: President Obama’s Press Conference on Health Care Reform

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

President Obama held a prime-time news conference on health care reform More Photos >

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • FACT CHECK: Obama’s health care claims adrift? President Barack Obama’s assertion Wednesday that government will stay out of health care decisions in an overhauled system is hard to square with the proposals coming out of Congress and with his own rhetoric. Even now, nearly half the costs of health care in the U.S. are paid for by government at all levels. Federal authority would only grow under any proposal in play…. – AP, 7-22-09
  • AP-GfK Poll: Great hopes for Obama fade to reality: An Associated Press-GfK Poll shows that a majority of Americans are back to thinking that the country is headed in the wrong direction after a fleeting period in which more thought it was on the right track. Obama still has a solid 55 percent approval rating — better than Bill Clinton and about even with George W. Bush six months into their presidencies — but there are growing doubts about whether he can succeed at some of the biggest items on his to-do list. And there is a growing sense that he is trying to tackle too much too soon…. – AP, 7-22-09
  • Obama’s Sinking Approval Ratings Are Even Worse Than They Look: Having come into office with an ambitious agenda to remake America, Barack Obama is discovering that time is not his friend. According to the latest USA Today/Gallup poll, Obama’s approval rating has dropped by nine points, down to 55 percent from where it was when he first entered the White House six months ago….
    The decline in Obama’s job approval number is matched, overmatched really, by a significant increase in the number of people who disapprove of the job he is doing as president. That number is up 16 points—to 41 percent—from the first time the survey was taken during the Obama presidency. – US News, 7-21-09

THE HEADLINES….

The news conference was held in the East Room of the White House.
Stephen Crowley/The New York Times The news conference was held in the East Room of the White House.
  • Obama Moves to Reclaim the Debate on Health Care: President Obama tried on Wednesday to rally public support for overhauling the nation’s health care system and said for the first time that he would be willing to help pay for the plan by raising income taxes on families earning more than $1 million a year…. – NYT, 7-22-09
  • Live Blogging Obama’s News ConferenceNYT, 7-22-09
  • Obama rallies support for struggling health revamp: Six months in office, President Barack Obama sought Wednesday night to rally support for sweeping health care legislation he’s struggling to push through Congress, expressing support for a surtax on families making more than $1 million a year to help pay for it. Under pressure from Democrats to weigh in personally on the details of legislation, Obama also vowed at a prime-time news conference to reject any measure “primarily funded through taxing middle-class families.”… – AP, 7-22-09
  • Pelosi: House Dems have the votes on health care: Democrats command the votes needed to pass a sweeping health care bill through the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday, an unexpected statement that quickly drew a biting response from conservative members of the party’s rank-and-file demanding changes in President Barack Obama’s trademark legislation…. – AP, 7-22-09
  • Conservative Democrat says US health bill not ready: A stalled healthcare overhaul bill in the House of Representative should not move forward without firm numbers on cost savings, and it is unlikely to win enough votes to pass in current form, the leader of a group of conservative Democrats said on Wednesday. – Reuters, 7-22-09
  • Obama’s Policy Hurdles Rise After Six Months of Record Spending: President Barack Obama in his first six months got a $787 billion economic stimulus package and asked Congress for $750 billion for the financial crisis along with a down payment on a $1 trillion overhaul of U.S. health care. The next six months may be more difficult…. – Bloomberg, 7-22-09
  • Obama: No time for delay on health care: President Barack Obama remained on the offensive Tuesday on the pace and shape of legislation reinventing health care, against stiffening opposition from Republicans and growing wariness among rank-and-file congressional Democrats…. – AP, 7-21-09
  • Democrats irked by Obama signing statement: President Barack Obama has irked close allies in Congress by declaring he has the right to ignore legislation on constitutional grounds after having criticized George W. Bush for doing the same. Four senior House Democrats on Tuesday said they were “surprised” and “chagrined” by Obama’s declaration in June that he doesn’t have to comply with provisions in a war spending bill that puts conditions on aid provided to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund…. – AP, 7-21-09
  • Abortion Compromise Considered For US House Health-Care Bill: An anti-abortion Democrat on Monday said he is negotiating a compromise aimed at resolving concerns that House health-care legislation would allow federal funding of abortions…. – WSJ, 7-20-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

DESCRIPTION
Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times The news conference on Wednesday night was the president’s fifth in total and the fourth held in prime-time.
  • Obama Makes Fresh Appeal on Health Care at Prime-time News Conference: …Six months ago, I took office amid the worst recession in half a century. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month and our financial system was on the verge of collapse.
    As a result of the action we took in those first weeks, we have been able to pull our economy back from the brink. We took steps to stabilize our financial institutions and our housing market. And we passed a Recovery Act that has already saved jobs and created new ones; delivered billions in tax relief to families and small businesses; and extended unemployment insurance and health insurance to those who have been laid off.
    Of course, we still have a long way to go. And the Recovery Act will continue to save and create more jobs over the next two years – just like it was designed to do. I realize this is little comfort to those Americans who are currently out of work, and I’ll be honest with you – new hiring is always one of the last things to bounce back after a recession….
    That is why I’ve said that even as we rescue this economy from a full-blown crisis, we must rebuild it stronger than before. And health insurance reform is central to that effort.
    This is not just about the 47 million Americans who have no health insurance. Reform is about every American who has ever feared that they may lose their coverage if they become too sick, or lose their job, or change their job. It’s about every small business that has been forced to lay off employees or cut back on their coverage because it became too expensive. And it’s about the fact that the biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid.
    So let me be clear: if we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit. If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket. If we do not act, 14,000 Americans will continue to lose their health insurance every single day. These are the consequences of inaction. These are the stakes of the debate we’re having right now.
    I realize that with all the charges and criticisms being thrown around in Washington, many Americans may be wondering, “What’s in this for me? How does my family stand to benefit from health insurance reform?”
    Tonight I want to answer those questions. Because even though Congress is still working through a few key issues, we already have agreement on the following areas:
    If you already have health insurance, the reform we’re proposing will provide you with more security and more stability. It will keep government out of health care decisions, giving you the option to keep your insurance if you’re happy with it. It will prevent insurance companies from dropping your coverage if you get too sick. It will give you the security of knowing that if you lose your job, move, or change your job, you will still be able to have coverage. It will limit the amount your insurance company can force you to pay for your medical costs out of your own pocket. And it will cover preventive care like check-ups and mammograms that save lives and money.
    If you don’t have health insurance, or are a small business looking to cover your employees, you’ll be able to choose a quality, affordable health plan through a health insurance exchange – a marketplace that promotes choice and competition Finally, no insurance company will be allowed to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition.
    I have also pledged that health insurance reform will not add to our deficit over the next decade – and I mean it. In the past eight years, we saw the enactment of two tax cuts, primarily for the wealthiest Americans, and a Medicare prescription program, none of which were paid for. This is partly why I inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit.
    That will not happen with health insurance reform. It will be paid for. Already, we have estimated that two-thirds of the cost of reform can be paid for by reallocating money that is simply being wasted in federal health care programs. This includes over one hundred billion dollars in unwarranted subsidies that go to insurance companies as part of Medicare – subsidies that do nothing to improve care for our seniors. And I’m pleased that Congress has already embraced these proposals. While they are currently working through proposals to finance the remaining costs, I continue to insist that health reform not be paid for on the backs of middle-class families.
    In addition to making sure that this plan doesn’t add to the deficit in the short-term, the bill I sign must also slow the growth of health care costs in the long run. Our proposals would change incentives so that doctors and nurses are free to give patients the best care, not just the most expensive care. That’s why the nation’s largest organizations representing doctors and nurses have embraced our plan.
    We also want to create an independent group of doctors and medical experts who are empowered to eliminate waste and inefficiency in Medicare on an annual basis – a proposal that could save even more money and ensure the long-term financial health of Medicare. Overall, our proposals will improve the quality of care for our seniors and save them thousands of dollars on prescription drugs, which is why the AARP has endorsed our reform efforts.
    Not all of the cost savings measures I just mentioned were contained in Congress’s draft legislation, but we are now seeing broad agreement thanks to the work that was done over the last few days. So even though we still have a few issues to work out, what’s remarkable at this point is not how far we have left to go – it’s how far we have already come.
    I understand how easy it is for this town to become consumed in the game of politics – to turn every issue into running tally of who’s up and who’s down. I’ve heard that one Republican strategist told his party that even though they may want to compromise, it’s better politics to “go for the kill.” Another Republican Senator said that defeating health reform is about “breaking” me.
    So let me be clear: This isn’t about me. I have great health insurance, and so does every Member of Congress. This debate is about the letters I read when I sit in the Oval Office every day, and the stories I hear at town hall meetings. This is about the woman in Colorado who paid $700 a month to her insurance company only to find out that they wouldn’t pay a dime for her cancer treatment – who had to use up her retirement funds to save her own life. This is about the middle-class college graduate from Maryland whose health insurance expired when he changed jobs, and woke up from emergency surgery with $10,000 in debt. This is about every family, every business, and every taxpayer who continues to shoulder the burden of a problem that Washington has failed to solve for decades.
    This debate is not a game for these Americans, and they cannot afford to wait for reform any longer. They are counting on us to get this done. They are looking to us for leadership. And we must not let them down. We will pass reform that lowers cost, promotes choice, and provides coverage that every American can count on. And we will do it this year. And with that, I’ll take your questions…. – PBS Newshour, 7-22-09
  • Excerpts of Obama’s Remarks Released – NYT, 7-22-09
  • Obama says healthcare overhaul needed to curb deficits: “If we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit,” he said after another day when leaders in Congress struggled to find common ground on the cost and scope of a healthcare plan, Obama’s top legislative priority.
    “We are now seeing broad agreement thanks to the work that was done over the last few days. So even though we still have a few issues to work out, what’s remarkable at this point is not how far we have left to go — it’s how far we have already come,” he said. – Reuters, 7-22-09
  • Obama Criticizes Arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates : President Obama bluntly accused the police of acting “stupidly” by arresting the Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. last week after an officer had established that Mr. Gates had not broken into his own home in Cambridge, Mass. Mr. Obama stopped short of accusing the police department of racial profiling, as Mr. Gates has done. But during a prime-time White House news conference that was otherwise largely devoted to health care, Mr. Obama weighed in full bore on the Gates case and suggested that the police should never have arrested him. “There’s a long history in this country of African-Americans being stopped disproportionately by the police,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s a sign of how race remains a factor in this society.” – NYT, 7-22-09
  • “If they try to fix our healthcare system like they’ve tried to rescue our economy, I think we’re in really, really big trouble,” said House Republican Leader John Boehner. – Reuters, 7-22-09
  • Inside Blue Dogs’ W.H. meeting: Following their meeting with POTUS Tuesday afternoon, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee … … and Blue Dog Coalition spoke with reporters at the White House. “We had a very constructive meeting,” Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said. “Members of our Energy and Commerce Committee who are also members of the Blue Dogs had great concern on cost of the legislation … it’s not just theirs but ours as well.” – Politico, 7-21-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON HEALTH CARE AND THE SENATE VOTE ON F-22 FUNDING Rose Garden: But I reject the notion that we have to waste billions of taxpayer dollars on outdated and unnecessary defense projects to keep this nation secure. That’s why I’ve taken steps to greatly reduce no-bid defense contracts. That’s why I’ve signed overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation to limit cost overruns on weapons systems before they spiral out of control. And that’s why I’m grateful that the Senate just voted against an additional $1.75 billion to buy F-22 fighter jets that military experts and members of both parties say we do not need….
    We’ve agreed that our health reform bill will extend coverage and include unprecedented insurance protections for the American people. Under each of these bills, you won’t be denied coverage if you’ve got a preexisting medical condition. You won’t lose your health care if you change jobs, if you lose your job, or if you start a business. And you won’t lose your insurance if you get sick…. – White House, 7-21-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON HEALTH CARE Children’s Hospital Washington, D.C.: …And we can’t afford the politics of delay and defeat when it comes to health care. Not this time. Not now. There are too many lives and livelihoods at stake. There are too many families who will be crushed if insurance premiums continue to rise three times as fast as wages. There are too many businesses that will be forced to shed workers, scale back benefits, or drop coverage unless we get spiraling health care costs under control. – White House, 7-20-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

The President speaks on health reform

  • JAMES MORONE, Brown University “As Deadline Nears, Obama Steps Up Health Care Push”: With the days ticking down until President Obama’s target date for a deal on health care reform, the White House is pushing to convince the public and Congress that swift action is necessary
    We’ve been doing this since 1935. Harry Truman ran on this in 1948, that great come-from-behind victory, and he encountered the exact same thing. We always have these enormous problems. And what’s so striking is how similar the kinds of debates are. Just one quick example: In every scene in this movie, we’ve had the same idea of people coming in and saying, “Look, we just cannot afford this.” So that’s a very old story. Lyndon Johnson, when he passed Medicare, we just found some newly released tapes of him complaining to newly elected Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts that those fools in the budget office went and projected the costs of Medicare six years down the line. “I’m losing votes.” Bottom line: If we had had good cost projections for Medicare, we believe it would never have won…. Accurate projections. Actually, accurate projections for the costs down the line. LBJ might have known, but he managed to hide them….
    It’s hard for a number of different reasons. For the profession itself, what we’re doing is taking — every year, we’re spending a little bit more of our economy to health care. Anything that threatens to stop that is going to gore an awful lot of sacred cows. Secondly, this is a major battle for control of the high ground in American politics, and everybody in Washington knows that. If Obama gets this through, Roosevelt fails, Truman failed, Carter, Clinton, they all failed. If Obama wins, he’s on an extraordinary roll. If he’s defeated, this is a major defeat for him and a victory for the Republicans. Combine the sheer difficulty and the politics, and you’ve got a recipe for trouble….
    Yes, there are many lessons, and one goes directly to what Amy just said, and that’s the lesson of speed. Lyndon Johnson gathered all of his advisers in a room after his huge 1964 landslide victory — second largest in Democratic Party history — and he said, “Look, every day I lose power. Every day I lose votes. You’ve got to get Medicare fast.” In that sense, Obama has learned an important lesson from history when he says, “Do it by August.” …Eevery day, he loses a little bit of the luster. And six months from now, you know what “Nightline’s” going to be covering: the midterm elections. That’s going to make it almost impossible. One lesson: speed….
    What he needs, what he has to find a way to get is a movement going. Look, this is very scary for Congress… for a lot of congresspeople, particularly in swing districts. If they don’t get a whole lot of Tweets, a whole lot of e-mails, a whole lot of phone calls, this isn’t going to go anywhere. So what Obama needs to do more than getting into the weeds or answering critics is generating excitement that translates into stuff in congressional in-boxes. Without that, it’s never going to win. – PBS Newshour, 7-22-09
  • Julian Zelizer “LBJ Arm-Twisting? Not Really Obama’s Style”: Obama, says Julian Zelizer, a political historian who teaches at Princeton University, “does need a little LBJ in him.”…
    Roosevelt was masterful, Zelizer says, at “living with what was possible instead of what was perfect. For many liberals, this was frustrating.” By using that strategy of relentlessness and occasional compromise, Zelizer says, Roosevelt was able to push through social safety-net legislation. “It paled in compared to Europe’s social security plan,” he says. But it was pretty progressive for the American system at the time.
    Zelizer does say that Obama needs to avoid the pitfalls of Johnson. And of Jimmy Carter. “President Carter had more trouble working with Congress,” Zelizer says. “He had no relationship with Capitol Hill.”
    In the end, Zelizer says, Carter was “too esoteric.” He had great vision when it came to a national energy policy or the SALT II nuclear arms talks. “But he just couldn’t put it together for legislation or the treaty,” Zelizer says. “He just couldn’t articulate his vision.”
    Using his own methods, relying on his own political personality, will Obama be able to sway enough people to get the necessary votes to achieve 1965-style results with 2009 technology? “The jury,” Zelizer says, “is still out.” – NPR, 7-21-09
  • Ted Widmer “LBJ Arm-Twisting? Not Really Obama’s Style”: Plus, the two men “are pretty far apart in most people’s minds, and certainly in [Obama’s],” says Ted Widmer, a fellow at the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank. Between 1997 and 2001, Widmer served in the Clinton White House as a foreign policy speechwriter and senior adviser to the president.
    “There have never been stories of personal intimidation from Obama,” Widmer says, “and most of the persuasion arts that are used at the moment deploy indirect forms — texting, e-mail, phone messages — rather than in-your-face, LBJ-style orders from on high.” – NPR, 7-21-09
  • Allan Lichtman “LBJ Arm-Twisting? Not Really Obama’s Style”: Johnson as role model for Obama poses other problems, as well. Presidential historian Allan Lichtman, who teaches at American University, points out that “despite his mastery of the legislative process and enormous harvest of domestic legislation,” Johnson is “a tainted example because of Vietnam.”
    Lichtman and others also suggest alternative role models for Obama — former presidents who knew how to negotiate the shoals of Congress yet didn’t get mired in bad choices.
    Perhaps the best beacon would be Woodrow Wilson, Lichtman says. “Wilson was a major legislative craftsman, with deep knowledge of how Congress worked from his studies as a political scientist. He revived the tradition, dormant since Jefferson, of giving the State of the Union speech in person to Congress as another means of outlining and pushing his agenda.”
    During this first two years, Lichtman says, “Wilson succeeded in reforming the protective tariff, establishing the Federal Reserve System. He gained passing major antitrust legislation, a graduated income tax, and limitations on the use of court injunctions against labor unions.” – NPR, 7-21-09

President Obama’s Press Conference & ABC Town Hall Special on Health Care Reform

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

Barack Obama press briefing

Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times President Obama responded to questions about the economy, health care, and protests in Iran on Tuesday.

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Obama pushes the limits of media exposure: The Obama administration is responding to unfavorable trends in public opinion polls by intensifying its message discipline and seizing as many opportunities for publicity as the schedule allows. President Barack Obama on Wednesday taped a series of exclusive interviews for different ABC News platforms, all highlighting health care reform — a day after a major news conference also addressed health care. Although 72 percent in a recent CBS News/New York Times poll said they supported health care reform, three different polls have shown support waning for Obama’s fiscal policies. The administration is not taking any chances on losing the health care fight.
    Obama’s ABC News tour — derided by critics such as the Cato Institute as an “infomercial” — follows a two-day CBS News project highlighting his family on Father’s Day, with a follow-up interview about his presidency…. – Washington Examiner, 6-24-09
  • Live Blogging the Obama News Conference – NYT, 6-23-09
  • President Barack Obama’s poll numbers start to wilt: The good news for Obama is that his approval ratings — 57 percent in a Gallup tracking poll over the weekend — remain comfortably high by historical standards for presidents. Obama’s approval rating has dipped below 60 percent on other occasions, according to Gallup, but though those slumps lasted only a day, this one appears to be more persistent…. – Politico, 6-22-09

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • Obama steps up push for healthcare reform this year: President Barack Obama stepped up pressure on Congress on Wednesday to pass healthcare reform this year, staging a daylong media blitz that ended with a televised town hall-style meeting at the White House to rally public support… “This is one of those moments where the stars are aligned. We’ve got insurers who are interested and doctors who are interested, nurses, patients,” Obama told an ABC TV audience gathered in the chandelier-lit East Room of the White House. “It’s not going to be a completely smooth ride,” he said during the question-and-answer session. “But if we keep our eye on the prize … then I’m absolutely convinced that we can get it done this time.””Obama says public option, he means government-run health care,” Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said in a statement. “Without question, the government takeover of healthcare will diminish individual freedom and quality in our health care system.” Reuters, 6-24-09
  • Obama Sees Health-Care Overhaul as ‘Uniquely American’ Blend: President Barack Obama defended government involvement in the U.S. health-care system and said an overhaul should meld the best from the public and private sectors. Obama answered questions at a town hall-style event at the White House arranged by ABC News. The network said the audience of 164 people included supporters of the president’s plan as well as skeptics. It was recorded for broadcast last night…. “We need to come up with something that is uniquely American,” Obama said during last night’s event. “If we are smart we should be able to design a system in which people still have choices” and receive “necessary treatment” without waste…. – Bloomberg, 6-24-09
  • Obama leaves door open to tax on health benefits: President Barack Obama left the door open to a new tax on health care benefits Wednesday, and officials said top lawmakers and the White House were seeking $150 billion in concessions from the nation’s hospitals as they sought support for legislation struggling to emerge in Congress. “I don’t want to prejudge what they’re doing,” the president said, referring to proposals in the Senate to tax workers who get expensive insurance policies. Obama, who campaigned against the tax when he ran for president, drew a quick rebuff from organized labor…. If “it’s my family member, if it’s my wife, if it’s my children, if it’s my grandmother, I always want them to get the very best care,” Obama said…. – AP, 6-24-09
  • House passes $44B Homeland Security spending bill: The House passed a $44 billion spending bill Wednesday that awards the Homeland Security Department a 7 percent budget increase, with money for more border patrol agents and for anti-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia…. – AP, 6-24-09
  • Obama signs $106 billion bill for Iraq, Afghan wars: President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed into law a $106 billion measure to fulfill his plans to wind down the war in Iraq and ramp up operations in Afghanistan where fighting against militants is intensifying…. – Reuters, 6-24-09
  • Obama extends sanctions on NKorea: US President Barack Obama on Wednesday extended a set of economic sanctions on North Korea for another year as tension soars with the communist state over its nuclear and missile programs. Obama, using emergency powers, prolonged by one year restrictions on property dealings with North Korea that had been due to expire on Friday…. AFP, 6-24-09
  • Rudy Giuliani calls Albany ‘bizarre,’ as GOP presses him to run for governor: Likening Albany to “a stand-off at the O.K. Corral,” Rudy Giuliani galloped into town Wednesday with a plan to impose order – and maybe even boost his potential gubernatorial bid. The former mayor proposed a constitutional convention to institute term limits on lawmakers, toughen campaign finance laws and push through a host of other reforms in gridlocked Albany, a place he termed “bizarre.”
    “This was always a broken state government,” Giuliani told reporters in a conference call. “Now it has collapsed, it has virtually collapsed.” “I am hoping that, in essence, that the trauma of what is being displayed now in Albany will lead to a populist base of support \[for a convention\],” he added. “This is done really out of frustration as a New Yorker,” he insisted. State Republicans have been pressuring Giuliani for months to run for governor next year, and his proposals Wednesday could certainly help to position him as a reformist eager to fix what ails the state’s capitol…. – NY Daily News, 6-24-09
  • President Obama’s health-care reforms shaky with Democrats, GOP: Senate Democrats say President Obama doesn’t have the votes yet to pass health-care reform. “I don’t know that [Obama] has the votes right now. I think there’s a lot of concern in the Democratic caucus,” Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” show. Like New York, California is concerned Obama will cover costs in part by reducing Medicaid and Medicare payments that help support hospitals and the public health system. “If you change the Medicaid rate, for example, it has an impact on California between $1billion and $5 billion a year,” Feinstein said. “Now, how could I support that?”… – NY Daily News, 6-24-09
  • Obama: Doctor-choice is vital to health care plan: President Barack Obama says Americans will still be able to choose their doctors under the health care changes he is seeking. The president met Wednesday at the White House with five governors to discuss their views on revamping the nation’s health care system…. – AP, 6-24-09
  • Wandering SC governor admits straying: After going AWOL for seven days, Gov. Mark Sanford admitted Wednesday that he had secretly flown to Argentina to visit a woman with whom he was having an affair. Wiping away tears, he apologized to his wife and four sons and said he will resign as head of the Republican Governors Association. “I’ve been unfaithful to my wife,” he said in a news conference in which the 49-year-old governor ruminated aloud on God’s law, moral absolutes and following one’s heart. He said he spent the last five days “crying in Argentina.”… AP, 6-24-09
  • Weird politics: Hold on, did he just say that? – AP, 6-24-09
  • Obama urges fast work on climate-change bill: President Barack Obama on Tuesday pressed Congress to quickly pass broad energy and climate change legislation as lawmakers reached a compromise that could improve the odds of passage later this week. During his fourth news conference since taking office, the president described the climate change measure as “extraordinarily important for our country. … I urge members of the House to come together and pass it.”… – Houston Chronicle, 6-23-09
  • Iran, healthcare reform highlight Obama press conference: US President Barack Obama was Tuesday braced for questions on Iran’s deepening political showdown, North Korea’s belligerence and his sweeping domestic agenda at a White House news conference…. With pundits predicting Obama’s political honeymoon will soon cede to a tough slog to enact key reforms like healthcare and financial regulation, Obama will be looking for a swift jolt of political momentum. He had been due to step up to the podium in the White House Rose Garden at 12:30 (16:30 GMT) but amid sultry midsummer heat in Washington, aides switched the event to the presidential mansion’s cramped press briefing room…. – AFP, 6-23-09
  • Huckabee endorses Rubio for Fla. Senate seat: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is endorsing Marco Rubio for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat. He called Rubio an “energetic, articulate, principled conservative.” He also said the 38-year-old former Florida House Speaker has an unlimited future. Huckabee said that could work in Rubio’s favor, saying, “The last thing most people in any state want is someone who is going to be a member of the club.” – AP, 6-23-09
  • Court upholds a voting rights measure by sidestepping issue: The Supreme Court on Monday left intact one of the signature legacies of the civil rights movement, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The court, in an 8-1 decision, ducked the central question in a case that was the most closely watched of the term. Most election law specialists had expected the court to rule on whether a core provision of the law was constitutional, and many of them were betting the answer would be no…. – NYT, 6-22-09
  • Democrats getting bolder on gov’t insurance plan: Democrats are becoming bolder about their idea that middle-class familes get the option of joining a government insurance plan in any overhaul of the health care system. Their fervor carries a risk. Liberals, citing polls that show support for a public plan, say they are increasingly frustrated with negotiations to make the idea more palatable to Republicans. Moderates, however, warn that abandoning the talks could jeopardize efforts to draft a bill that can pass a closely divided Senate…. – AP, 6-22-09
  • Health-Care Reform Will Test Obama’s Resolve: As the legislative debate over health care intensifies on Capitol Hill, there is growing clamor for President Obama to step in. White House officials believe it’s wiser to wait, but at some point the president will have to make clear what he’ll accept and what he won’t. For Obama, a handful of big decisions awaits. They include cost and coverage, revenue and savings, a public option or not, and the cost vs. the desirability of bipartisan agreement. Those decisions, all inextricably linked, probably will determine whether he succeeds where other presidents have failed… – WaPo, 6-21-09
  • Obama may need firmer hand on health care debate: President Barack Obama is seeing the downside of his light touch on revamping the nation’s health care system. Congressional Democrats are off to a halting start, blindsided by a high cost estimate and divided over how to proceed. The confusion has emboldened Republican critics of the administration’s approach to its top domestic priority. While too early to rule out eventual success, it seems Obama will have to be more forceful and hands-on…. – AP, 6-21-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

Political Quotes

  • The President & Health Care Reform – Prime Time TV: White House, 6-24-09
  • Obama takes health care debate to the airwaves: President Barack Obama on Wednesday intensified his campaign to overhaul the nation’s health care system, as polls show Americans wanting but fearing change and as a divided Congress grapples over what to do. In an unusual exclusive arrangement with ABC News that drew the ire of many Republicans, Obama planned to tape a health care town hall meeting at the White House that the network would air at 10 p.m. EDT. Appearing earlier Wednesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Obama said he “absolutely” expects Congress to pass comprehensive health care legislation by year’s end…. “There’s no perfect unanimity across the table in terms of every single aspect of reform,” the president said in remarks after their meeting. “I think everybody here wants to make sure that governors have flexibility, that they have input into how legislation is being shaped on the Hill.” – Miami Herald, 6-24-09
  • First Lady Talks About Health Care: “The country has moved to another point in time,” Mrs. Obama said in an interview broadcast on “Good Morning America,” the ABC morning news program. “More and more people are ready for this kind of reform.” “There are going to be tough choices that have to be made and no system is going to be perfect,” Mrs. Obama said. “Which is why my side of the equation, the wellness side, is one of the true keys.” “What we need to do in this country isn’t transformational, it’s really walking 30 minutes a day, maybe five days a week, and starting with your kids on a different sets of habits,” Mrs. Obama said. “Those things will eliminate obesity and cut down on costs. I mean we’re spending about $120 billion additional dollars a year in our health care system as a result of these sort of chronic illnesses that you see that are connected to obesity.” – NYT, 6-24-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AFTER MEETING WITH GOVERNORS GRANHOLM, DOUGLAS, DOYLE, ROUNDS AND GREGOIRE TO DISCUSS HEALTH CARE Roosevelt Room: THE PRESIDENT: …And so they’ve reported back to me. There’s no perfect unanimity across the table in terms of every single aspect of reform. I think everybody here wants to make sure that governors have flexibility, that they have input into how legislation is being shaped on the Hill. But they have done my administration and I think the American people a terrific service in bringing some of these individual stories to us. And we’re committed to working with them in the weeks and months to come to make sure that when we get health reform done, it is in partnership with the states where the rubber so often hits the road.
    And one of the advantages they have, as Joe Biden put it, they’ve planted a mole inside our administration. (Laughter.) Kathleen Sebelius, very recently a governor, knows exactly what all of them are struggling with, and she and Nancy-Ann are going to be interacting with them on a regular basis as we move this agenda forward.
    So I want to thank them publicly. And I look forward to working with them to get this done for the American people and for the people of their respective states in the weeks to come. Thank you.

    Q Is there any give in your deadline, Mr. President? THE PRESIDENT: We need to get it done.
    Q This year? THE PRESIDENT: We need to get it done this year…. – White House, 6-24-09

  • The President’s Opening Remarks on Iran: First, I’d like to say a few words about the situation in Iran. The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.
    I’ve made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not interfering with Iran’s affairs. But we must also bear witness to the courage and the dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.
    The Iranian people are trying to have a debate about their future. Some in Iran — some in the Iranian government, in particular, are trying to avoid that debate by accusing the United States and others in the West of instigating protests over the election. These accusations are patently false. They’re an obvious attempt to distract people from what is truly taking place within Iran’s borders. This tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries won’t work anymore in Iran. This is not about the United States or the West; this is about the people of Iran, and the future that they — and only they — will choose…. – White House, 6-23-09
  • Obama condemns violence against Iran protesters: Dramatically hardening the U.S. reaction to Iran’s disputed elections and bloody aftermath, President Barack Obama condemned the violence against protesters Tuesday and lent his strongest support yet to their accusations the hardline victory was a fraud….
    He suggested Iran’s leaders will face consequences if they continue “the threats, the beatings and imprisonments” against protesters… “We don’t know yet how this thing is going to play out,” the president said. “It is not too late for the Iranian government to recognize that there is a peaceful path that will lead to stability and legitimacy and prosperity for the Iranian people. We hope they take it.” “No iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to peaceful protests of justice,” he said during a nearly hourlong White House news conference dominated by the unrest in Iran. “Those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.”…. – AP, 6-23-09
  • PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE PRESIDENT James S. Brady Press Briefing Room: Right now, Congress is debating various health care reform proposals. This is obviously a complicated issue, but I am very optimistic about the progress that they’re making.
    Like energy, this is legislation that must and will be paid for. It will not add to our deficits over the next decade. We will find the money through savings and efficiencies within the health care system — some of which we’ve already announced.
    We will also ensure that the reform we pass brings down the crushing cost of health care. We simply can’t have a system where we throw good money after bad habits. We need to control the skyrocketing costs that are driving families, businesses, and our government into greater and greater debt.
    There’s no doubt that we must preserve what’s best about our health care system, and that means allowing Americans who like their doctors and their health care plans to keep them. But unless we fix what’s broken in our current system, everyone’s health care will be in jeopardy. Unless we act, premiums will climb higher, benefits will erode further, and the rolls of the uninsured will swell to include millions more Americans. Unless we act, one out of every five dollars that we earn will be spent on health care within a decade. And the amount our government spends on Medicare and Medicaid will eventually grow larger than what our government spends on everything else today.
    When it comes to health care, the status quo is unsustainable and unacceptable. So reform is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. And I hope that Congress will continue to make significant progress on this issue in the weeks ahead…. – White House, 6-23-09
  • Obama takes on insurers over gov’t plan: President Barack Obama on Tuesday squared off with the insurance lobby over industry charges that a government health plan he backs would dismantle the employer coverage Americans have relied on for a half-century and overtake the system….
    “If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care … then why is it that the government, which they say can’t run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business?” Obama said in response to a question at a White House news conference. “That’s not logical,” he scoffed, responding to an industry warning that government competition would destabilize the employer system that now covers more than 160 million people. – AP, 6-23-09
  • Analysis: Obama rebukes insurance critics, GOP: Even for a Democratic president, Barack Obama’s challenge to health insurance companies and free market principles Tuesday was unusually pointed. “We have not drawn lines in the sand,” Obama said at a White House news conference…. “The public plan, I think, is an important tool to discipline insurance companies,” he said. “Too often, insurance companies have been spending more time thinking about how to take premiums and then avoid providing people coverage than they have been thinking about ‘How can we make sure that insurance is there, health care is there, when families need it?'” With those caveats, he said, private insurers “should be able to compete.” If the government-run program “is able to reduce administrative costs significantly, then you know what, I’d like the insurance companies to take note and say, ‘Hey, if the public plan can do that, why can’t we?'”
    “Why would it drive private insurance out of business?” he said of the proposed public option. If private insurers “tell us that they’re offering a good deal, then why is it that the government, which they say can’t run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That’s not logical.”
    He went so far as to suggest that Americans don’t know their own minds when they praise their insurance providers. Some polls show that up to 80 percent of people “are satisfied with the health insurance that they currently have,” Obama said. “The only problem is that premiums have been doubling every nine years, going up three times faster than wages.”
    “Right now,” Obama said at the news conference, “I will say that our position is that a public plan makes sense.” – AP, 6-23-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT THE SIGNING OF THE FAMILY SMOKING PREVENTION AND TOBACCO CONTROL ACT Rose Garden: I know — I was one of these teenagers, and so I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it’s been with you for a long time. And I also know that kids today don’t just start smoking for no reason. They’re aggressively targeted as customers by the tobacco industry. They’re exposed to a constant and insidious barrage of advertising where they live, where they learn, and where they play. Most insidiously, they are offered products with flavorings that mask the taste of tobacco and make it even more tempting.
    We’ve known about this for decades, but despite the best efforts and good progress made by so many leaders and advocates with us today, the tobacco industry and its special interest lobbying have generally won the day up on the Hill. When Henry Waxman first brought tobacco CEOs before Congress in 1994, they famously denied that tobacco was deadly, nicotine was addictive, or that their companies marketed to children. And they spent millions upon millions in lobbying and advertising to fight back every attempt to expose these denials as lies.
    Fifteen years later, their campaign has finally failed. Today, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans, health care and consumer advocates, the decades-long effort to protect our children from the harmful effects of tobacco has emerged victorious. Today, change has come to Washington.
    This legislation will not ban all tobacco products, and it will allow adults to make their own choices. But it will also ban tobacco advertising within a thousand feet of schools and playgrounds. It will curb the ability of tobacco companies to market products to our children by using appealing flavors. It will force these companies to more clearly and publicly acknowledge the harmful and deadly effects of the products they sell. And it will allow the scientists at the FDA to take other common-sense steps to reduce the harmful effects of smoking.
    This legislation is a victory for bipartisanship, and it was passed overwhelmingly in both Houses of Congress. It’s a victory for health care reform, as it will reduce some of the billions we spend on tobacco-related health care costs in this country. It’s a law that will reduce the number of American children who pick up a cigarette and become adult smokers. And most importantly, it is a law that will save American lives and make Americans healthier…. – White House, 6-22-09
  • Obama, citing his smoking woes, signs tobacco law: Lamenting his first teenage cigarette, President Barack Obama ruefully admitted on Monday that he’s spent his adult life fighting the habit. Then he signed the nation’s toughest anti-smoking law, aiming to keep thousands of other teens from getting hooked…. “I know. I was one of these teenagers,” he said. “And so I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it’s been with you for a long time.” – AP, 6-22-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE MEDICARE PART D “DOUGHNUT HOLE” AND AARP ENDORSEMENT Diplomatic Reception Room: So as part of the health care reform I expect Congress to enact this year, Medicare beneficiaries whose spending falls within this gap will now receive a discount on prescription drugs of at least 50 percent from the negotiated price their plan pays. It’s a reform that will make prescription drugs more affordable for millions of seniors, and restore a measure of fairness to Medicare Part D. It’s a reflection of the importance of this single step for America’s seniors that it has earned the support of AARP, which has been fighting for years to address this anomaly in the system on behalf of older Americans. AARP is committed, as I am, to achieving health care reform by the end of this year. And I’m committed to continuing to work with AARP to ensure that any reforms we pursue are carried out in a way that protects America’s seniors, who know as well as anyone what’s wrong with our health care system and why it’s badly in need of reform.
    Our goal — our imperative — is to reduce the punishing inflation in health care costs while improving patient care. And to do that we’re going to have to work together to root out waste and inefficiencies that may pad the bottom line of the insurance industry, but add nothing to the health of our nation. To that end, the pharmaceutical industry has committed to reduce its draw on the health care system by $80 billion over the next 10 years as part of overall health care reform. … – White House, 6-22-09
  • HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

    Historians’ Comments

    • Julian Zelizer “Obama to Appeal to Public on Health Care as Senate Struggles”: “Clearly, the optimism of health-care proponents was off the mark,” said Julian Zelizer, a history and public affairs professor at Princeton University in New Jersey. Zelizer said Obama faces many of the issues that killed a similar effort in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. “Does it mean defeat? Not at all. But the next few months remain a huge challenge.” – Bloomberg, 6-24-09
    • Julian E. Zelizer: Commentary: Is Obama’s honeymoon over?: June has been rough for President Obama. After experiencing enormous success during his first months in office, some of his political vulnerabilities have started to emerge. As Republicans begin to think about the 2010 midterm elections and moderate Democrats decide how they should vote on Obama’s most ambitious initiative, health care, the White House must prevent these weaknesses from becoming debilitating….
      But in recent weeks a candidate who was once seen as invincible is now seen as potentially vulnerable. This is when the sharks start to circle in American politics. The revelation of weakness gives Republicans, as well as unhappy Democrats, more confidence to challenge the White House. This is not what the president wanted right as he is trying to win support for his health care proposal and the rest of his budget. If the problems are not contained, they can also become the foundation for the Republican campaign for Congress in 2010. – CNN, 6-23-09

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