Archive for December, 2012

Weekly Address of President Obama: Congress Must Protect the Middle Class from Income Tax Hike

Posted on December 29, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: |

Hello Everybody. For the past couple months, I’ve been working with people in both parties – with the help of business leaders and ordinary Americans – to come together around a plan to grow the economy and shrink our deficits.

It’s a balanced plan – one that would protect the middle class, cut spending in a responsible way, and ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more. And I’ll keep working with anybody who’s serious about getting a comprehensive plan like this done – because it’s the right thing to do for our economic growth.

But we’re now at the point where, in just a couple days, the law says that every American’s tax rates are going up. Every American’s paycheck will get a lot smaller. And that would be the wrong thing to do for our economy. It would hurt middle-class families, and it would hurt the businesses that depend on your spending.

And Congress can prevent it from happening, if they act now. Leaders in Congress are working on a way to prevent this tax hike on the middle class, and I believe we may be able to reach an agreement that can pass both houses in time.

But if an agreement isn’t reached in time, then I’ll urge the Senate to hold an up-or-down vote on a basic package that protects the middle class from an income tax hike, extends vital unemployment insurance for Americans looking for a job, and lays the groundwork for future progress on more economic growth and deficit reduction.

I believe such a proposal could pass both houses with bipartisan majorities – as long as these leaders allow it to come to a vote. If they still want to vote no, and let this tax hike hit the middle class, that’s their prerogative – but they should let everyone vote. That’s the way this is supposed to work.

We just can’t afford a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy. The economy is growing, but keeping it that way means that the folks you sent to Washington have to do their jobs. The housing market is healing, but that could stall if folks are seeing smaller paychecks. The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 2008, but already, families and businesses are starting to hold back because of the dysfunction they see in Washington.

You meet your deadlines and your responsibilities every day. The folks you sent here to serve should do the same. We cannot let Washington politics get in the way of America’s progress. We’ve got to do what it takes to protect the middle class, grow this economy, and move our country forward.

Thanks, everybody.

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Weekly Democratic Address of Rep. Megan Rochelo (Biddeford): Examining the Governor’s Spending Cuts

Posted on December 29, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Audio link here.

megan rocheloGood morning, I’m Democratic State Representative Megan Rochelo from Biddeford.

While most of us are celebrating the holiday season this week, lawmakers are gearing up for a new legislative session in Augusta.

This week, we received a much-anticipated Executive Order from Governor Paul LePage to cut state spending to meet a $35.5 million shortfall in revenues collected by the state.

The governor is required by law to issue the order, called a curtailment, when the state’s revenues are lower than expected.

So, you may be wondering why we are facing a shortfall in revenue.

The revenue shortfall is due to a lagging state economy. While many states across the country have begun to emerge from the recession, Maine is one of only three where are revenues are below projections.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Maine is the only state in New England where the economy shrunk last year.

The truth is Maine’s economy needs a boost. We need to put more people back to work in the jobs we have now, so they have more money in their pockets to shop locally and in turn help the whole community and the state. And, we need an action plan to grow Maine’s economy long term.

We won’t cut our way to prosperity. It’s time for Maine to invest in our state. We must put our state back on track.

Lawmakers will have to make choices on how we balance the budget. As a state we need to have an important conversation about our priorities.

Governor LePage gave us a starting point this week with his spending cuts. While Democrats don’t agree with all of LePage’s cuts to education, public health and safety programs, we know we have to work together with our Republican colleagues to stabilize our budget, make our government work better for you, and ensure that we invest in our future.

And our work has only just begun. We will have to close a shortfall in our Health and Human Services budget and we have significant shortfall projected in our next budget partly due to unfunded tax cuts that largely benefit the rich.

The cuts being proposed are only the tip of the iceberg.

We have to ask ourselves if cutting K-12 and higher education makes sense when we should be making sure our children and our workforce are prepared for the future. We face a serious skills gap that can’t be solved without strong schools and training programs that work.

Is now the time to cut mental health and public safety budgets when we have seen one tragedy after another involving violence and individuals suffering from mental illness?

Shouldn’t we be looking at how these programs can work better to make us safer and better serve the people of Maine?

Should student loans and adoption services be on the chopping block? Shouldn’t we be creating more opportunity for Maine people, not less?

As lawmakers it’s our job to make sure we are very thorough and open minded– not driven by ideology.

Now more than ever Maine people need us to put partisan politics aside and get to work on reasonable and fair solutions that will get our economy moving again.

Lawmakers are taking immediate action to convene the Appropriations committee ahead of schedule to review the spending cuts and begin that important conversation about our priorities. I’m honored to be part of that committee to serve the people of Maine. We will need your guidance in the tough months ahead.

Thank you for listening. I’m Rep. Megan Rochelo from Biddeford. Have a safe and happy New Year.

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Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: New Year Message on Safety

Posted on December 29, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: |

Audio link here.

lepage officeHello. This is Governor Paul LePage.

The number of motor vehicle crashes, deaths, and related injuries occurring on our roadways continue to have a devastating toll on our citizens and visitors to our great State.

As of this past week, 163 people have died on Maine roads during 2012 and that is too many deaths, too many relatives, too many friends and too many Maine citizens. The safest driving occurs when drivers direct full attention to the road and their surroundings.

Most alarming is the number of young drivers killed as a result of distracted driving. Sadly, 14 teens have died on Maine roads during the past year. Twenty-seven fatalities involved 20 to 24 year-olds.

Unfortunately, too high of a percentage of all crashes are due to driver error. Last year, roughly 10 percent of vehicle fatalities were a result of distracted driving.

Law enforcement is serious about cracking down on distracted driving and texting while behind the wheel.

While no state bans cell phone use for all drivers, many prohibit use by young drivers. Thirty-two states, including Maine, ban cell phone use by novice drivers and texting while driving is illegal for all motorists in Maine.

I would also like to take a moment to talk about the importance of buckling up. Seatbelts save lives.

Each year, approximately 42,000 Americans die in traffic crashes and another three million are injured. Many of these deaths and injuries are preventable if the victims had been wearing safety belts.

Fifty percent of young drivers in Maine who die in motor vehicle crashes did not buckle up.

It is important to protect our citizens. That is why I support the effort of the Maine State Police in stepping up enforcement of seatbelt violations, especially for young drivers.

In addition to this effort, law enforcement across our State will be looking to prevent drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel.

Federal money is helping pay for the ‘Drive Sober Maine!’ campaign that started in December and will continue into the New Year.

Fifty-two Maine highway agencies, from Fort Fairfield to Kittery will work overtime to patrol at places and times where drunk driving is most common.

Alcohol related traffic deaths doubled in the first six months of 2012 with 32 OUI deaths compared to 15 deaths during the same period in 2011.

Whether it is drinking and driving or distracted driving – the consequences of either are too great. Lives are on the line and no life is worth losing.

As we head into 2013, it is my sincere wish that all Mainers enjoy the journey ahead of them.

Do not drink and drive and think twice about texting when behind the wheel. A safe driver is a responsible driver.

Ann and I would like to wish everyone a very safe and prosperous New Year.

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At Last- Maine Marriage Law Goes Into Effect (Photos, Tweets, Observations and More)

Posted on December 28, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Husbands Michael Snell and Steven Bridges

Husbands Michael Snell and Steven Bridges

Alex Steed of Knack Factory announced earlier today that he would be live blogging from Portland City Hall tonight for Bangor Daily News. Some of his report:

    [10:29p] And the live-blogging begins. There are about a dozen people in support of equal marriage out front, and two scripture-spouting zealots against it outside of Portland City Hall.

    [10:40p] Chris and Byron are amp3ed for their big day… To get their dog license… They kid, they kid. They’re excited, and hilarious.

    [10:53p] I just talked with Amanda Hollander who is up in the air as to whether or not she will be married tonight. On one hand, for her, it’s about being a part of the crowd, and joining her parents who have been married for 40+ years and have been a part of this on-going civil rights struggle. Either way, she is here to support what is happening, and be a part of it… potentially.

    [11:02p] I just talked with Chris O’Connor, who has been fighting for marriage equality since 2008. He said that he was just at dinner and a waitress asked if City Hall would be staying open in this way for straight people. She just got married herself. He asked, “How many doors have you knocked on in order to have this right?” He is happy to be here tonight. He is excited to be here tonight. It means “everything” to him.

    [11:13p] I just talked to Byron Bartlett (pictured below) who says that he is lucky to be here. There are so many loving couples who came before him who aren’t here. He is lucky to be a part of this, and he says that is important for him to acknowledge.

    [11:32p] I just talked with Erin McNally, a straight ally and a notary who is here to marry people for free. This is important for her because it is about time, she says, that equality is recognized in this state.

    [11:35p] I just talked with Jill Barkley, who told me that she kept fighting campaign after campaign for this moment. This is important for the state because equality is important. Now people won’t move from here just to be recognized.

    [11:42p] LuzMarina Serrano just explained that she is here for her friends, and she is here, despite having to bundle up so much, because of love. Love is important to support, she says.

10:30- EqualityMaine ‏@EqualityMaine
It looks like the first same-sex couple to marry in Maine will be Steve Bridges and Michael Snell. Congratulations! #yeson1

Michael Snell and Steven Bridges of Portland wait in line at Portland City Hall to be the first gay couple in Maine to be married on Friday, Dec. 28, 2012.
(Photo: Carl D. Walsh / PPH Staff Photographer)

    Couples started arriving at City Hall Plaza shortly after 9:30 p.m. First in line were Michael Snell, 53, and Steven Bridges, 42, of Portland, who said they have been together for nine years and had an informal marriage ceremony in Portland six years ago. They plan to have the state’s first-ever official gay wedding shortly after midnight.

    They said they were shocked to be first because they expected more people to be at City Hall when they arrived around 9:30 p.m.

    “We’ve been smiling the whole day,”
    Bridges said.

    Snell arrived with his two daughters, who live in Boston.

    “I’m so excited and happy for Dad and Steven,” said Carolyn Snell, 25. “This has been a long time coming.”

    Her sister, Katie Snell, 27, noting that same-sex marriage has been legal in Massachusetts for nearly a decade, said, “It’s nice to see Maine catch up.”

11pm- TVTEDDY TVTEDDY 4m
The line is slowly growing at Portland City Hall. About 12 gay couples now waiting to get their licenses. #ME4M pic.twitter.com/WJi1LehM

Amy Fried ‏@ASFried
Don’t forget what it took for Maine to get marriage equality: http://pollways.bangordailynews.com/2012/12/28/national/dont-forget-what-it-took-for-maine-to-get-marriage-equality/ … #me4m #mepolitics #yeson1

TVTEDDY ‏@TVTEDDY
Tonight’s couples can use the State of Maine room if they’re interested in having a more elaborate ceremony. #ME4M pic.twitter.com/kTUYuZ3T

Here is a list of the Maine cities opening early to accommodate those wishing to get a marriage license early are:

  • Bangor: 6 to 8 a.m, City Hall
  • Brewer: 6 to 8 a.m, City Hall
  • Augusta: 9 a.m. to noon, City Center
  • Brunswick: 9 a.m. to noon, City Hall (by appointment)
  • Falmouth: Midnight, City Hall
  • Gardiner: 9 a.m. to noon, City Hall
  • Hallowell:
  • Portland: Midnight, City Hall
  • South Portland: 8 a.m. to noon, City Clerk’s office
  • Via Waldo County Democrats’ Neal Harkness: “Belfast,Northport, Palermo, Knox, Morrill, Swanville will all be open tomorrow. Monroe and Freedom clerks have said they’d open if anyone called.”

    NOW- Maine is truly “The Way Life Should Be”. Onward to Dirigo, America. It’s TIME.

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    The Moment Marriage Equality Wins in Maine

    Posted on December 28, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

    (Originally posted 8 Nov 2012; worth resharing. ~AP)

    The historic moment when supports of marriage equality in Maine learn that Question 1 will pass and equal marriage will become a reality in the state.

    From 2009, my photos. So excited that Maine got it right.

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    Weekly Democratic Address of Senator Colleen Lachowicz (Kennebec): Coming Together After Newtown CT Tragedy

    Posted on December 22, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

    Audio link here.

    colleenGood Morning. This is State Senator Colleen Lachowicz from Waterville.

    There are events that happen in our lives, in our communities, and in our world that forever change us. And often, as a result, dates become emblazoned in our memory. Words take on new meanings. Conversations shift. And, often communities come together—unifying around our collective experience—our shared emotion.

    Last week, America experienced one of our biggest tragedies with the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

    The actions of last week were senseless. Incomprehensible. Perhaps leaving all of us with more questions than answers.

    But, even in the wake of this tragedy, there are some who will try to divide us by politics. As lawmakers we cannot allow it because that will not heal our communities or make our children any safer.

    There is no simple answer. But it is our duty to strengthen our resolve. First, by understanding and then, by addressing the real factors that led to this tragedy. To solve the problem, we have to know what the problem is.

    We must slow down. Listen to each other. Collectively we have the wisdom—from law enforcement to educators, mental health providers and family members.

    As a school social worker, I have seen tragedy. I work with children every day who have encountered trauma. And as I tell them, I will say to all of us: We cannot let this horrible event define us. But, it must define how we act.

    There was not a parent in this state who didn’t hug their child a little longer after Newtown. This week I worked in two schools. I cannot look those children, parents and teachers in the eye without knowing we, as lawmakers, will do everything in our power to take their right to be safe into consideration. We have a duty—a duty to the parents and children of this state to reassure them we are doing everything in our power to keep our children and schools safe. Governor LePage and his administration have done the right thing by calling for a review of safety protocols in Maine’s schools.

    But we can’t stop there.

    As we continue to process and understand what transpired in Newtown on that fateful day, we must look ahead and ask, what can be different? As a culture, a state, a community, a school, a family.

    No matter the viewpoint, we all need to talk with each other respectfully—even when we disagree. We’re in this together. It is true that we will need to examine our existing laws and practices with regard to gun safety. But we need to also do this without demonizing gun owners. It is true we need to look at our mental health system. But we need to do this without stigmatizing mental illness. These are tough issues.

    Now is not the time to blame. But it is time to take a deep breath and ask, What’s next?

    We are days away from the Christmas holiday. And as we prepare to celebrate with our own families, let’s remember the heroes of last week. The teachers who stand on the front lines each day educating our children—and most critically, on that day, the selfless act of protecting the lives of children. And to the dozens of first-responders. We must be proud of them—because they make us remember what is right in our world. And, to the dozens of acts of kindness and thoughtfulness from people across our nation who buoyed a community in a time of darkness.

    Thank you for listening. This is State Senator Colleen Lachowicz from Waterville. Have a good weekend—and a Happy Holiday.

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    Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: Holiday Wishes and Reflections

    Posted on December 22, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: |

    Audio link here.

    lepage officeHello. This is Governor Paul LePage.

    Celebration and family are at the heart of the holidays. It is a time of giving to those less fortunate, remembering our troops around the world who are fighting to keep us safe, and reflecting on the year gone by.

    Ann and I recently had the opportunity to visit one of the most sacred grounds of our nation, Arlington National Cemetery. As the final resting place for more than 400,000 military war casualties and their families, dating back to the Civil War, I, again, was reminded about the true value of freedom. Freedom is not free – it is a privilege bestowed upon us thanks to the bravery and dedicated service of our military members.

    It is a humbling experience to walk the rolling hills laying wreaths on the gravestones of America’s heroes. A national shrine, the cemetery is a living history of American freedom.

    The names engraved in stone served our nation with dignity and honor. We are forever grateful and treat their families with respect and compassion.

    I would like to share a story of one veteran we visited. Before my wife and I left, Ann received a note from a Navy veteran, Gair MacKenzie, from Bridgton, who wrote about the life of Commander Robert Schlegel, of the United States Navy, a shipmate and friend.

    Commander Schlegel was born in Gray and was the first Mainer killed as a result of the terrorist act on the Pentagon September 11, 2001. He was 38 years old.

    Commander Schlegel’s gravestone is located at Arlington and paid our respects. Ann and I laid a wreath and our family said a prayer. It was a humbling moment we will never forget.

    Our Nation lost a great many people, yet our spirit is not broken. We continue to fight in the name of freedom because it is the foundation which our land symbolizes.

    On Friday, I spoke by video phone with the 488th Military Police Company from Waterville and Houlton. One hundred Soldiers from the unit are in Afghanistan. They deployed in July and we anticipate their safe return in about six months.

    I also spoke with members of Charley Company First of the 126th Aviation from Bangor. The unit, with 79 Soldiers, is in Kuwait. They deployed in May and will return in January.

    Additionally, four members of the 121st Public Affairs Detachment are in Kosovo. And one of those members was able to join us.

    As you and I are fortunate to celebrate with family and friends, the holidays are especially difficult for families with deployed loved ones. It was an honor to thank them for their service and let them know they are in our thoughts and prayers.

    We prayed for many fellow Americans throughout the year and especially in recent days. Let us be thankful as Christmas nears for our family, children, friends and community. In times of tragedy we band together as Americans. 9-11 proved America’s resolve and Sandy Hook is doing the same. We move forward, but we never forget.

    God Bless America and I wish you and yours the very best as we head into the New Year.

    Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all.

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    (UPDATED) 126th Legislature Joint Standing Committees: Big Changes Ahead

    Posted on December 20, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

    (NOTE: Originally posted 27 Nov 2012; being shared again for comparative purposes with the recently released 126th committee lists. ~AP)

    With all of the 126th Legislative races now settled and all names known, it is time to look ahead to 2013- not just the new members, but possible shake ups in the joint standing committees (For more info: “Rule 301. Joint Standing Committee Responsibilities and Jurisdiction”).

    These committees will be of great focus immediately after the new Legislature is sworn in next week, as there are already anticipated reviews of LD 1333/ PL 90 and LD 849/ PL 692, as well as the next biennial budget, with additional work still needed to fix the Governor’s previous budget:

      LePage’s finance commissioner, Sawin Millett, told Capitol News Service that the governor’s two-year budget will be presented to the Legislature in early January and that a supplemental plan to plug the gap in the current budget would follow.

      Budgetary matters could set the tone for a legislative session seemingly set up for conflict between the Democratic majority and LePage.

      Democrats haven’t announced any policy initiatives but have hinted that workforce development, education and health care are on their wish list. Changes to the Republican-backed health insurance law that was passed over the objection of Democrats in 2011 will likely be proposed.

    The 125th saw the elimination of 2 separate committees to form a third with a tremendous range of focuses. As Reps Terry Hayes and Paul Gilbert explain in a BDN opinion piece (“Maine workers and employers deserve more attention”) published yesterday:

      Here is a bit of Maine legislative history. The Joint Standing Committee on Labor existed for 100 years before 2010, when the Republicans were elected to lead. The first action of the new Republican leadership two years ago was to eliminate the Labor Committee and broaden the charge of the Business, Research, and Economic Development committee to include labor policy. The rationale included, “By combining these two committees, GOP leadership seeks to address commerce, workforce, research and development issues within a more effective framework.”

      The outcome was the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee, a “supercommittee” of 13 legislators with a staggering workload. Policy issues ranged from uniform building codes to workers’ compensation reform to protecting heating oil consumers. Previously, the two committees dealing with these issues each met twice a week during the legislative session. The newly formed supercommittee met five days per week.

    What Hayes and Gilbert envision for a practical workable solution to the problems seen in the past is the creation of a new committee:

      Republicans argued successfully in 2010 that isolating labor issues from management was counterproductive. We agree. We suggest establishing a Joint Standing Committee on Labor and Work Force Development, appointing members from both management and labor backgrounds. Diverse representation on the committee will provide the variety of perspectives necessary to generate policy improvements for workers and businesses.

    Via Pierce Atwood comes this comprehensive look at the current state of the various standing committees, with the names of former and no longer serving legislators crossed out:

      Appropriations and Financial Affairs (6 openings of 13 seats)

      Senator Richard W. Rosen (R-Hancock), Chair

      Senator Roger J. Katz (R-Kennebec)*

      Senator Dawn Hill (D-York)

      Representative Patrick S. A. Flood (R-Winthrop), Chair
      (now Senator of SD 21)

      Representative Tom J. Winsor (R-Norway)

      Representative Kathleen D. Chase (R-Wells)

      Representative Tyler Clark (R-Easton)

      Representative Kenneth Wade Fredette (R-Newport)*

      Representative Dennis L. Keschl (R-Belgrade)

      Representative Margaret R. Rotundo (D-Lewiston), Ranking Member

      Representative John L. Martin (D-Eagle Lake)

      Representative David C. Webster (D-Freeport)

      Representative Sara R. Stevens (D-Bangor)

      *Member of legislative leadership in the 126th and unlikely to serve on a committee

      Energy, Utilities and Technology(6 openings of 13 seats)

      Senator Michael D. Thibodeau (R-Waldo), Chair*

      Senator Christopher W. Rector (R-Knox)

      Senator Philip L. Bartlett II (D-Cumberland)

      Representative Stacey Allen Fitts (R-Pittsfield), Chair

      Representative James M. Hamper (R-Oxford)

      Representative Dean A. Cray (R-Palmyra)

      Representative Larry C. Dunphy (R-Embden)

      Representative Aaron F. Libby (R-Waterboro)

      Representative Jon Hinck (D-Portland), Ranking Member

      Representative Alexander Cornell du Houx (D-Brunswick)

      Representative Roberta B. Beavers (D-South Berwick)

      Representative Mark N. Dion (D-Portland)

      Representative Louis J. Luchini (D-Ellsworth)

      *Member of legislative leadership in the 126th and unlikely to serve on a committee

      Environment and Natural Resources(6 openings of 13 seats)

      Senator Thomas B. Saviello (R-Franklin), Chair

      Senator Roger L. Sherman (R-Aroostook)

      Senator Seth A. Goodall (D-Sagadahoc)*

      Representative James M. Hamper (R-Oxford), Chair

      Representative Bernard L. A. Ayotte (R-Caswell)

      Representative Jane S. Knapp (R-Gorham)

      Representative Joan M. Nass (R-Acton)

      Representative Ricky D. Long (R-Sherman)

      Representative James W. Parker (R-Veazie)

      Representative Robert S. Duchesne (D-Hudson), Ranking Member

      Representative Melissa Walsh Innes (D-Yarmouth)

      Representative Joan W. Welsh (D-Rockport)

      Representative Denise Patricia Harlow (D-Portland)

      *Member of legislative leadership in the 126th and unlikely to serve on a committee

      Health and Human Services(6 openings of 13 seats)

      Senator Earle L. McCormick (R-Kennebec), Chair

      Senator Nichi S. Farnham (R-Penobscot)

      Senator Margaret M. Craven (D-Androscoggin)

      Representative Meredith N. Strang Burgess (R-Cumberland), Chair

      Representative Leslie T. Fossel (R-Alna)

      Representative Richard S. Malaby (R-Hancock)

      Representative Beth A. O’Connor (R-Berwick)

      Representative Deborah J. Sanderson (R-Chelsea)

      Representative Heather W. Sirocki (R-Scarborough)

      Representative Mark W. Eves (D-North Berwick), Ranking Member*

      Representative Matthew J. Peterson (D-Rumford)

      Representative Linda F. Sanborn (D-Gorham)

      Representative Peter C. Stuckey (D-Portland)

      *Member of legislative leadership in the 126th and unlikely to serve on a committee

      Insurance and Financial Services(6 openings of 13 seats)

      Senator Rodney L. Whittemore (R-Somerset), Chair

      Senator Lois A. Snowe-Mello (R-Androscoggin)

      Senator Joseph C. Brannigan (D-Cumberland)

      Representative Wesley E. Richardson (R-Warren), Chair

      Representative Jonathan B. McKane (R-Newcastle)

      Representative Joyce A. Fitzpatrick (R-Houlton)

      Representative Susan E. Morissette (R-Winslow)

      Representative John J. Picchiotti (R-Fairfield)

      Representative Sharon Anglin Treat (D-Hallowell), Ranking Member

      Representative Adam A. Goode (D-Bangor)

      Representative Henry E. M. Beck (D-Waterville)

      Representative Terry K. Morrison (D-South Portland)

      Representative Paulette G. Beaudoin (D-Biddeford)

      Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development(7 openings of 13 seats)

      Senator Christopher W. Rector (R-Knox), Chair

      Senator Thomas H. Martin, Jr. (R-Kennebec)

      Senator Troy Dale Jackson (D-Aroostook)*

      Representative Kerri L. Prescott (R-Topsham), Chair

      Representative Dana L. Dow (R-Waldoboro)

      Representative Melvin Newendyke (R-Litchfield)

      Representative Amy Fern Volk (R-Scarborough)

      Representative Raymond A. Wallace (R-Dexter)

      Representative John L. Tuttle, Jr. (D-Sanford), Ranking Member
      (Now Senator of SD 3)

      Representative Timothy E. Driscoll (D-Westbrook)

      Representative Paul E. Gilbert (D-Jay)

      Representative Robert B. Hunt (D-Buxton)

      Representative Erin D. Herbig (D-Belfast)

      *Member of legislative leadership in the 126th and unlikely to serve on a committee

      Taxation(8 openings of 13 seats)

      Senator Jonathan T. E. Courtney (R-York), Chair

      Senator David R. Hastings III (R-Oxford)

      Senator Richard G. Woodbury (U-Cumberland)

      Representative L. Gary Knight (R-Livermore Falls), Chair

      Representative G. Paul Waterhouse (R-Bridgton)

      Representative Bruce A. Bickford (R-Auburn)

      Representative Paul Edward Bennett (R-Kennebunk)

      Representative R. Ryan Harmon (R-Palermo)

      Representative Windol C. Weaver (R-York

      Representative Seth A. Berry (D-Bowdoinham), Ranking Member*

      Representative Donald E. Pilon (D-Saco)

      Representative Mark E. Bryant (D-Windham)

      Representative Elspeth M. Flemings (D-Bar Harbor)

    *Member of legislative leadership in the 126th and unlikely to serve on a committee

    This post will be updated as soon as the final decisions regarding committees and members are released to the public.

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    President Obama: “Words Need to Lead to Action” on Gun Violence; Answers Questions of Fiscal Cliff Talks (Video; Text)

    Posted on December 19, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

    12:02 P.M. EST

    THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. It’s now been five days since the heartbreaking tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut; three days since we gathered as a nation to pray for the victims. And today, a few more of the 20 small children and six educators who were taken from us will be laid to rest.

    We may never know all the reasons why this tragedy happened. We do know that every day since, more Americans have died of gun violence. We know such violence has terrible consequences for our society. And if there is even one thing that we can do to prevent any of these events, we have a deep obligation — all of us — to try.

    Over these past five days, a discussion has reemerged as to what we might do not only to deter mass shootings in the future, but to reduce the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country every single day. And it’s encouraging that people of all different backgrounds and beliefs and political persuasions have been willing to challenge some old assumptions and change longstanding positions.

    That conversation has to continue. But this time, the words need to lead to action.

    We know this is a complex issue that stirs deeply held passions and political divides. And as I said on Sunday night, there’s no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. We’re going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun. We’re going to need to look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence. And any actions we must take must begin inside the home and inside our hearts.

    But the fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing. The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean we can’t steadily reduce the violence, and prevent the very worst violence.

    That’s why I’ve asked the Vice President to lead an effort that includes members of my Cabinet and outside organizations to come up with a set of concrete proposals no later than January — proposals that I then intend to push without delay. This is not some Washington commission. This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside. This is a team that has a very specific task, to pull together real reforms right now. I asked Joe to lead this effort in part because he wrote the 1994 Crime Bill that helped law enforcement bring down the rate of violent crime in this country. That plan — that bill also included the assault weapons ban that was publicly supported at the time by former Presidents including Ronald Reagan.

    The good news is there’s already a growing consensus for us to build from. A majority of Americans support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons. A majority of Americans support banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips. A majority of Americans support laws requiring background checks before all gun purchases, so that criminals can’t take advantage of legal loopholes to buy a gun from somebody who won’t take the responsibility of doing a background check at all.

    I urge the new Congress to hold votes on these measures next year in a timely manner. And considering Congress hasn’t confirmed a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in six years — the agency that works most closely with state and local law enforcement to keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals — I’d suggest that they make this a priority early in the year.

    Look, like the majority of Americans, I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. This country has a strong tradition of gun ownership that’s been handed down from generation to generation. Obviously across the country there are regional differences. There are differences between how people feel in urban areas and rural areas. And the fact is the vast majority of gun owners in America are responsible — they buy their guns legally and they use them safely, whether for hunting or sport shooting, collection or protection.

    But you know what, I am also betting that the majority — the vast majority — of responsible, law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war. I’m willing to bet that they don’t think that using a gun and using common sense are incompatible ideas — that an unbalanced man shouldn’t be able to get his hands on a military-style assault rifle so easily; that in this age of technology, we should be able to check someone’s criminal records before he or she can check out at a gun show; that if we work harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one in Newtown — or any of the lesser-known tragedies that visit small towns and big cities all across America every day.

    Since Friday morning, a police officer was gunned down in Memphis, leaving four children without their mother. Two officers were killed outside a grocery store in Topeka. A woman was shot and killed inside a Las Vegas casino. Three people were shot inside an Alabama hospital. A four-year-old was caught in a drive-by in Missouri, and taken off life support just yesterday. Each one of these Americans was a victim of the everyday gun violence that takes the lives of more than 10,000 Americans every year — violence that we cannot accept as routine.

    So I will use all the powers of this office to help advance efforts aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. We won’t prevent them all — but that can’t be an excuse not to try. It won’t be easy — but that can’t be an excuse not to try.

    And I’m not going to be able to do it by myself. Ultimately if this effort is to succeed it’s going to require the help of the American people — it’s going to require all of you. If we’re going to change things, it’s going to take a wave of Americans — mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, pastors, law enforcement, mental health professionals — and, yes, gun owners — standing up and saying “enough” on behalf of our kids.

    It will take commitment and compromise, and most of all, it will take courage. But if those of us who were sent here to serve the public trust can summon even one tiny iota of the courage those teachers, that principal in Newtown summoned on Friday — if cooperation and common sense prevail — then I’m convinced we can make a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place for our children to learn and to grow.

    Thank you. And now I’m going to let the Vice President go and I’m going to take a few questions. And I will start with Ben Feller.

    Q Thank you, Mr. President. I’d like to ask you about the other serious issue consuming this town right now, the fiscal cliff.

    THE PRESIDENT: Right.

    Q Haven’t you betrayed some of the voters who supported you in the election by changing your positions on who should get a tax increase and by including Social Security benefits now in this mix? And more broadly, there seems to be a deepening sense that negotiations aren’t going very well right now. Can you give us a candid update? Are we likely to go over the cliff?

    THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, there’s no reason why we should. Remember what I said during the campaign. I thought that it was important for us to reduce our deficit in a balanced and responsible way. I said it was important for us to make sure that millionaires and billionaires paid their fair share. I said that we were going to have to make some tough cuts, some tough decisions on the spending side, but what I wouldn’t do was hurt vulnerable families only to pay for a tax cut for somebody like me. And what I said was that the ultimate package would involve a balance of spending cuts and tax increases.

    That’s exactly what I’ve put forward. What I’ve said is, is that in order to arrive at a compromise, I am prepared to do some very tough things — some things that some Democrats don’t want to see and probably there are a few Republicans who don’t want to see either. But the only way that we’re going to be able to stabilize the economy, make sure we’ve got a platform for long-term economic growth, that we get our deficits under control and we make sure that middle-class families are protected is if we come up with something that members of both parties in Congress can support.

    And that’s the plan that I’ve put forward. I have gone at least halfway in meeting some of the Republicans’ concerns, recognizing that even though we campaigned on these issues, even though the majority of Americans agree with me that we should be raising taxes on the wealthiest few as a means of reducing the deficit, I have also said that I’m willing to identify some spending cuts that make sense.

    And, frankly, up until about a couple of days ago, if you looked at it, the Republicans in the House and Speaker Boehner I think were in a position to say, we’ve gotten a fair deal. The fact that they haven’t taken it yet is puzzling and I think a question that you’re going to have to address to them.

    I remain optimistic, though, because if you look at what the Speaker has proposed, he’s conceded that income tax rates should go up — except right now he only wants to have them go up for millionaires. If you’re making $900,000, somehow he thinks that you can’t afford to pay a little more in taxes. But the principle that rates are going to need to go up he’s conceded.

    I’ve said I’m willing to make some cuts. What separates us is probably a few hundred billion dollars. The idea that we would put our economy at risk because you can’t bridge that gap doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    So I’m going to continue to talk to the Speaker and the other leaders up in Congress. But, ultimately, they’ve got to do their job. Right now their job is to make sure that middle-class taxes do not go up and that we have a balanced, responsible package of deficit reduction.

    It is there for all to see. It is a deal that can get done. But it is not going to be — it cannot be done if every side wants 100 percent. And part of what voters were looking for is some compromise up here. That’s what folks want. They understand that they’re not going to get 100 percent of what they want. And for some reason, that message has not yet taken up on Capitol Hill.

    And when you think about what we’ve gone through over the last couple of months — a devastating hurricane, and now one of the worst tragedies in our memory — the country deserves folks to be willing to compromise on behalf of the greater good, and not tangle themselves up in a whole bunch of ideological positions that don’t make much sense.

    So I remain not only open to conversations, but I remain eager to get something done. I’d like to get it done before Christmas. There’s been a lot of posturing up on Capitol Hill, instead of just going ahead and getting stuff done. And we’ve been wasting a lot of time. It is the right thing to do. I’m prepared to get it done. But they’re going to have to go ahead and make some adjustments.

    And I’ll just give you one other example. The Speaker now is proposing what he calls plan B. So he says, well, this would raise taxes only on folks making a million dollars or more. What that means is an average of a $50,000 tax break for every millionaire out there, at the same time as we’re not providing unemployment insurance for 2 million people who are still out there looking for work. It actually means a tax increase for millions of working families across the country at the same time as folks like me would be getting a tax break. That violates the core principles that were debated during the course of this election and that the American people determined was the wrong way to go.

    And so my hope is, is that the Speaker and his caucus, in conjunction with the other legislative leaders up there, can find a way to make sure that middle-class families don’t see their taxes go up on January 1st; that we make sure that those things that middle-class families count on like tax credits for college, or making sure that they’re getting some help when it comes to raising their kids through things like the child tax credit, that that gets done; and that we have a balanced package for deficit reduction, which is exactly what I’ve put forward.

    Q Will you give more ground if you need to, or are you done?

    THE PRESIDENT: If you look at the package that I put forward, it is a balanced package by any definition. We have put forward real cuts in spending that are hard to do, in every category. And by any measure, by any traditional calculation, by the measures that Republicans themselves have used in the past, this would be as large a piece of deficit reduction as we’ve seen in the last 20 years. And if you combine that with the increased revenue from the wealthy paying a little bit more, then you actually have something that would stabilize our deficit and debt for a decade — for 10 years.

    Now, the notion that we would not do that, but instead the Speaker would run a play that keeps tax cuts for folks making $500,000 or $700,000 or $800,000 or $900,000 a year, and gives more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, and raises taxes on middle-class families, and then has no cuts in it — which is what he says he wants — doesn’t make much sense.

    I mean, let’s just think about the logic for a second. They’re thinking about voting for raising taxes at least on folks over a million, which they say they don’t want to do, but they’re going to reject spending cuts that they say they do want to do. That defies logic. There’s no explanation for that.

    I think that any objective person out there looking would say that we’ve put forward a very balanced plan and it’s time for us to go ahead and get it done. That’s what the country needs right now. Because I think folks have been through some wrenching times, we’re still recovering from a very tough recession, and what they’re hoping for is a sense of stability, focus, compromise, common sense over the next couple of years. And I think we can provide it. But this is a good test for them.

    Carol Lee.

    Q Thank you, Mr. President. Just to follow on Ben’s question, what is your next move? Are we in a position now where you’re just waiting for the Speaker to make a move?

    THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m going to reach out to all the leaders involved over the next couple of days and find out what is it that’s holding this thing up. What is holding it up? If the argument from Republicans is we haven’t done enough spending cuts, that argument is not going to fly because we’ve got close to a trillion dollars of spending cuts. And when you add interest, then it’s more than a trillion dollars in spending cuts.

    If the argument is that they can’t do — they can’t increase tax rates on folks making $700,000 or $800,000 a year, that’s not a persuasive argument to me and it’s certainly not a persuasive argument to the American people.

    It may be that members of their caucus haven’t looked at exactly what we’ve proposed. It may be that if we provide more information or there’s greater specificity or we work through some of their concerns, that we can get some movement then.

    But the fact of the matter is, is that what would violate my commitment to voters is if I ended up agreeing to a plan that put more of the burden on middle-class families and less of a burden on the wealthy in an effort to reduce our deficit. That’s not something I’m going to do. What would violate my commitment to voters would be to put forward a plan that makes it harder for young people to go to college, that makes it harder for a family with a disabled kid to care for that kid.

    And there’s a threshold that you reach where the balance tips, even in making compromises that are required to get something done in this town, where you are hurting people in order to give another advantage to folks who don’t need help. And we had an extensive debate about this for a year. And not only does the majority of the American people agree with me, about half of Republican voters agree with me on this.

    So at some point, there’s got to be I think a recognition on the part of my Republican friends that — take the deal. They will be able to claim that they have worked with me over the last two years to reduce the deficit more than any other deficit reduction package; that we will have stabilized it for 10 years. That is a significant achievement for them. They should be proud of it. But they keep on finding ways to say no, as opposed to finding ways to say yes.

    And I don’t know how much of that just has to do with — it is very hard for them to say yes to me. But at some point, they’ve got to take me out of it and think about their voters, and think about what’s best for the country. And if they do that — if they’re not worried about who’s winning and who’s losing, did they score a point on the President, did they extract that last little concession, did they force him to do something he really doesn’t want to do just for the heck of it, and they focus on actually what’s good for the country, I actually think we can get this done.

    Q You mentioned the $700,000 and $800,000. Are you willing to move on income level and are there specific things that you would do —

    THE PRESIDENT: I’m not going to get into specific negotiations here. My point is simple, Carol, that if you look at Speaker Boehner’s proposal and you look at my proposal, they’re actually pretty close. They keep on saying that somehow we haven’t put forward real spending cuts. Actually, there was I think a graph in The New York Times today that showed — they’re the same categories, right? There’s a little bit of tweaks here and there; there are a few differences, but we’re right there.

    And on the revenue side, there’s a difference in terms of them wanting to preserve tax breaks for folks between $250,000 and a million that we just can’t afford. I mean, keep in mind I’m in that income category; I’d love to not pay as much in taxes. But I also think it’s the right thing to do for us to make sure that people who have less — people who are working, people who are striving, people who are hoping for their kids — that they have opportunity. That’s what we campaigned about. That’s what we talked about.

    And this is not a situation where I’m unwilling to compromise. This is not a situation where I’m trying to rub their face in anything. I think anybody who looks at this objectively would say that coming off my election, I have met them at least halfway in order to get something done for the country.

    And so I noticed that there were a couple of headlines out there saying, oh, we’re now in the land of political posturing, and it’s the usual he said-he said atmosphere. But look at the facts. Look at where we started; look at where they started. My proposal is right there in the middle.

    We should be able to get this done. Let’s get it done. We don’t have a lot of time.

    Carrie. Where’s — there you are.

    Q Thank you, Mr. President.

    THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

    Q What is your level of confidence that if you are able to reach a comprehensive deal with the Speaker, that he will be able to bring his members onboard and get it passed? Essentially, do you still trust Speaker Boehner in this process?

    THE PRESIDENT: There is no doubt that the Speaker has challenges in his caucus, and I recognize that. I’m often reminded when I speak to the Republican leadership that the majority of their caucus’s membership come from districts that I lost. And so sometimes they may not see an incentive in cooperating with me, in part because they’re more concerned about challenges from a tea party candidate, or challenges from the right, and cooperating with me may make them vulnerable. I recognize that.

    But, goodness, if this past week has done anything, it should just give us some perspective. If there’s one thing we should have after this week, it should be a sense of perspective about what’s important. And I would like to think that members of that caucus would say to themselves: You know what, we disagree with the President on a whole bunch of things. We wish the other guy had won. We’re going to fight him on a whole range of issues over the next four years. We think his philosophy is all screwed up. But right now, what the country needs is for us to compromise, get a deficit reduction deal in place; make sure middle class taxes don’t go up; make sure that we’re laying the foundations for growth; give certainty to businesses large and small; not put ourselves through some sort of self-inflicted crisis every six months; allow ourselves time to focus on things like preventing the tragedy in Newtown from happening again; focus on issues like energy and immigration reform and all the things that will really make a determination as to whether our country grows over the next four years, 10 years, 40 years.

    And if you just pull back from the immediate political battles, if you kind of peel off the partisan war paint, then we should be able to get something done.

    And I think the Speaker would like to get that done. I think an environment needs to be created within not just the House Republican caucus, but also among Senate Republicans that say, the campaign is over and let’s see if we can do what’s right for the country — at least for the next month. And then we can reengage in all the other battles that they’ll want to fight.

    Q If you don’t get it done, Republicans have said they’ll try to use the debt limit as a next pressure point. Would you negotiate with them in that context?

    THE PRESIDENT: No. And I’ve been very clear about this. This is the United States of America, the greatest country on Earth, the world’s economic superpower. And the idea that we lurch from crisis to crisis, and every six months, or every nine months, that we threaten not to pay our bills on stuff we’ve already bought, and default, and ruin the full faith and credit of the United States of America — that’s not how you run a great country.

    So I’ve put forward a very clear principle: I will not negotiate around the debt ceiling. We’re not going to play the same game that we saw happen in 2011 — which was hugely destructive; hurt our economy; provided more uncertainty to the business community than anything else that happened.

    And I’m not alone in this. If you go to Wall Street, including talking to a whole bunch of folks who spent a lot of money trying to beat me, they would say it would be disastrous for us to use the debt ceiling as a cudgel to try to win political points on Capitol Hill.

    So we’re not going to do that — which is why I think that part of what I hope over the next couple of days we see is a recognition that there is a way to go ahead and get what it is that you’ve been fighting for. These guys have been fighting for spending cuts. They can get some very meaningful spending cuts. This would amount to $2 trillion — $2 trillion — in spending cuts over the last couple of years. And in exchange, they’re getting a little over a trillion dollars in revenue. And that meets the pledge that I made during the campaign, which was $2 to $2.50 of spending cuts for every revenue increase. And that’s an approach that I think most Americans think is appropriate.

    But I will not negotiate around the debt ceiling. We’re not going to do that again.

    Q Sir, may I ask a question about Newtown, please?

    THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I’ve got David Jackson.

    Q Thank you, Mr. President. Getting back to the gun issue, you alluded to the fact that Washington commissions don’t have the greatest reputation in the world. What makes you think this one is going to be different given the passage of time and the political power of gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association?

    THE PRESIDENT: Well, this is not going to be a commission. Joe is going to gather up some key Cabinet members who have an interest in this issue. We’re going to reach out to a bunch of stakeholders. We’re going to be reaching out to members of Congress who have an interest in this issue. It’s not as if we have to start from scratch. There are a whole bunch of proposals that have been thought about, debated, but hopefully also some new ideas in terms of how we deal with this issue.

    Their task is going to be to sift through every good idea that’s out there, and even take a look at some bad ideas before disposing of them, and come up with a concrete set of recommendations in about a month. And I would hope that our memories aren’t so short that what we saw in Newtown isn’t lingering with us, that we don’t remain passionate about it only a month later.

    And as soon as we get those recommendations, I will be putting forward very specific proposals. I will be talking about them in my State of The Union and we will be working with interested members of Congress to try to get some of them done.

    And the idea that we would say this is terrible, this is a tragedy, never again, and we don’t have the sustained attention span to be able to get this done over the next several months doesn’t make sense. I have more confidence in the American people than that. I have more confidence in the parents, the mothers and fathers that I’ve been meeting over the last several days all across the country from all political persuasions, including a lot of gun owners, who say, you know what, this time we’ve got to do things differently.

    Q What about the NRA?

    THE PRESIDENT: Well, the NRA is an organization that has members who are mothers and fathers. And I would expect that they’ve been impacted by this as well. And hopefully they’ll do some self-reflection.

    And here’s what we know — that any single gun law can’t solve all these problems. We’re going to have to look at mental health issues. We’re going to have to look at schools. There are going to be a whole range of things that Joe’s group looks at. We know that issues of gun safety will be an element of it. And what we’ve seen over the last 20 years, 15 years, is the sense that anything related to guns is somehow an encroachment on the Second Amendment. What we’re looking for here is a thoughtful approach that says we can preserve our Second Amendment, we can make sure that responsible gun owners are able to carry out their activities, but that we’re going to actually be serious about the safety side of this; that we’re going to be serious about making sure that something like Newtown or Aurora doesn’t happen again.

    And there is a big chunk of space between what the Second Amendment means and having no rules at all. And that space is what Joe is going to be working on to try to identify where we can find some common ground.

    So I’ve got — I’m going to take one last question.

    Go ahead, Jake.

    Q It seems to a lot of observers that you made the political calculation in 2008 in your first term and in 2012 not to talk about gun violence. You had your position on renewing the ban on semiautomatic rifles that then-Senator Biden put into place, but you didn’t do much about it. This is not the first issue — the first incident of horrific gun violence of your four years. Where have you been?

    THE PRESIDENT: Well, here’s where I’ve been, Jake. I’ve been President of the United States dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, an auto industry on the verge of collapse, two wars. I don’t think I’ve been on vacation.

    And so I think all of us have to do some reflection on how we prioritize what we do here in Washington. And as I said on Sunday, this should be a wake-up call for all of us to say that if we are not getting right the need to keep our children safe, then nothing else matters. And it’s my commitment to make sure that we do everything we can to keep our children safe.

    A lot of things go in — are involved in that, Jake. So making sure they’ve got decent health care and making sure they’ve got a good education, making sure that their parents have jobs — those are all relevant as well. Those aren’t just sort of side issues. But there’s no doubt that this has to be a central issue. And that’s exactly why I’m confident that Joe is going to take this so seriously over the next couple months.

    All right. Thank you, everybody.

    END
    12:47 P.M. EST

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    UPDATED: President Obama’s Address At Newtown CT Inter-Faith Prayer Vigil (Video; Transcript)

    Posted on December 17, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

    President Obama: Thank you.

    Thank you, Governor. To all the families, first responders, to the community of Newtown, clergy, guests, scripture tells us, “Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly, we are being renewed day by day.

    “For light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all, so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

    “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands.”

    We gather here in memory of 20 beautiful children and six remarkable adults. They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America.

    Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts.

    I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief, that our world, too, has been torn apart, that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you. We’ve pulled our children tight.

    And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide. Whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown, you are not alone.

    As these difficult days have unfolded, you’ve also inspired us with stories of strength and resolve and sacrifice. We know that when danger arrived in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary, the school’s staff did not flinch. They did not hesitate.

    Dawn Hocksprung and Mary Sherlach, Vicki Soto, Lauren Russeau, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy, they responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances, with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care.

    We know that there were other teachers who barricaded themselves inside classrooms and kept steady through it all and reassured their students by saying, “Wait for the good guys, they are coming. Show me your smile.”

    And we know that good guys came, the first responders who raced to the scene helping to guide those in harm’s way to safety and comfort those in need, holding at bay their own shock and their own trauma, because they had a job to do and others needed them more.

    And then there were the scenes of the schoolchildren helping one another, holding each other, dutifully following instructions in the way that young children sometimes do, one child even trying to encourage a grownup by saying, “I know karate, so it’s OK; I’ll lead the way out.”

    As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other. You’ve cared for one another. And you’ve loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered, and with time and God’s grace, that love will see you through.

    But we as a nation, we are left with some hard questions. You know, someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around.

    With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves, our child, is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice, and every parent knows there’s nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet we also know that with that child’s very first step and each step after that, they are separating from us, that we won’t — that we can’t always be there for them.

    Personal Post
    Graphic

    Mother of shooter, Nancy Lanza, collected guns, ‘prepared for the worst’

    Peter Hermann and Michael S. Rosenwald DEC 15
    First victim of rampage collected guns, told landscaper she took son to firing range to practice his aim.
    Newtown seeks comfort in churches

    Colum Lynch 5:30 PM ET
    Reeling from Friday’s tragic slayings residents flocked to their churches Sunday.
    Will Newtown shooting be a tipping point in gun-control debate?

    Chris Cillizza 12:42 PM ET
    MONDAY FIX | The national conversation is governed by a handful of knowns and unknowns.
    Shooter’s weapon has a deadly history

    Sari Horwitz DEC 15
    Bushmaster can quickly fire multiple high-velocity rounds.
    Mass shootings across the U.S. in 2012

    The Washington Post
    GRAPHIC | Two of the deadliest massacres happened this year, but 11 others also claimed lives.

    They will suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments, and we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear. And we know we can’t do this by ourselves.

    It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself, that this job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community and the help of a nation.

    And in that way we come to realize that we bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children.

    This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.

    And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations?

    Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?

    Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know they are loved and teaching them to love in return?

    Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?

    I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change. Since I’ve been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings, fourth time we’ve hugged survivors, the fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims.

    And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and in big cities all across America, victims whose — much of the time their only fault was being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

    We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.

    We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.

    If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.

    In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.

    Personal Post
    Graphic

    Mother of shooter, Nancy Lanza, collected guns, ‘prepared for the worst’

    Peter Hermann and Michael S. Rosenwald DEC 15
    First victim of rampage collected guns, told landscaper she took son to firing range to practice his aim.
    Newtown seeks comfort in churches

    Colum Lynch 5:30 PM ET
    Reeling from Friday’s tragic slayings residents flocked to their churches Sunday.
    Will Newtown shooting be a tipping point in gun-control debate?

    Chris Cillizza 12:42 PM ET
    MONDAY FIX | The national conversation is governed by a handful of knowns and unknowns.
    Shooter’s weapon has a deadly history

    Sari Horwitz DEC 15
    Bushmaster can quickly fire multiple high-velocity rounds.
    Mass shootings across the U.S. in 2012

    The Washington Post
    GRAPHIC | Two of the deadliest massacres happened this year, but 11 others also claimed lives.

    Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?

    Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

    You know, all the world’s religions, so many of them represented here today, start with a simple question.

    Why are we here? What gives our life meaning? What gives our acts purpose?

    We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain, that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that, no matter how good our intentions, we’ll all stumble sometimes in some way.

    We’ll make mistakes, we’ll experience hardships and even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.

    There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace, that is true.

    The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves and binds us to something larger, we know that’s what matters.

    We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.

    That’s what we can be sure of, and that’s what you, the people of Newtown, have reminded us. That’s how you’ve inspired us. You remind us what matters. And that’s what should drive us forward in everything we do for as long as God sees fit to keep us on this Earth.

    “Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said, “and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

    Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeline, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Benjamin, Avielle, Allison, God has called them all home.

    For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory. May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place. May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort, and may He bless and watch over this community and the United States of America.

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