Statement by President Obama on House Passage of Senate Fiscal Cliff Bill (Video; Transcript)

Posted on January 2, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

11:20 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Happy New Year, everybody.

AUDIENCE: Happy New Year, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: A central promise of my campaign for President was to change the tax code that was too skewed towards the wealthy at the expense of working middle-class Americans. Tonight we’ve done that. Thanks to the votes of Democrats and Republicans in Congress, I will sign a law that raises taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans while preventing a middle-class tax hike that could have sent the economy back into recession and obviously had a severe impact on families all across America.

I want to thank all the leaders of the House and Senate. In particular, I want to thank the work that was done by my extraordinary Vice President Joe Biden, as well as Leader Harry Reid, Speaker Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, and Mitch McConnell. Everybody worked very hard on this and I appreciate it. And, Joe, once again, I want to thank you for your great work.

Under this law, more than 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses will not see their income taxes go up. Millions of families will continue to receive tax credits to help raise their kids and send them to college. Companies will continue to receive tax credits for the research that they do, the investments they make, and the clean energy jobs that they create. And 2 million Americans who are out of work but out there looking, pounding the pavement every day, are going to continue to receive unemployment benefits as long as they’re actively looking for a job.

But I think we all recognize this law is just one step in the broader effort to strengthen our economy and broaden opportunity for everybody. The fact is the deficit is still too high, and we’re still investing too little in the things that we need for the economy to grow as fast as it should.

And that’s why Speaker Boehner and I originally tried to negotiate a larger agreement that would put this country on a path to paying down its debt while also putting Americans back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges, and providing investments in areas like education and job training. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough support or time for that kind of large agreement in a lame duck session of Congress. And that failure comes with a cost, as the messy nature of the process over the past several weeks has made business more uncertain and consumers less confident.

But we are continuing to chip away at this problem, step by step. Last year I signed into law $1.7 trillion in deficit reduction. Tonight’s agreement further reduces the deficit by raising $620 billion in revenue from the wealthiest households in America. And there will be more deficit reduction as Congress decides what to do about the automatic spending cuts that we have now delayed for two months.

I want to make this point: As I’ve demonstrated throughout the past several weeks, I am very open to compromise. I agree with Democrats and Republicans that the aging population and the rising cost of health care makes Medicare the biggest contributor to our deficit. I believe we’ve got to find ways to reform that program without hurting seniors who count on it to survive. And I believe that there’s further unnecessary spending in government that we can eliminate.

But we can’t simply cut our way to prosperity. Cutting spending has to go hand-in-hand with further reforms to our tax code so that the wealthiest corporations and individuals can’t take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren’t available to most Americans. And we can’t keep cutting things like basic research and new technology and still expect to succeed in a 21st century economy. So we’re going to have to continue to move forward in deficit reduction, but we have to do it in a balanced way, making sure that we are growing even as we get a handle on our spending.

Now, one last point I want to make — while I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they’ve already racked up through the laws that they passed. Let me repeat: We can’t not pay bills that we’ve already incurred. If Congress refuses to give the United States government the ability to pay these bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic — far worse than the impact of a fiscal cliff.

People will remember, back in 2011, the last time this course of action was threatened, our entire recovery was put at risk. Consumer confidence plunged. Business investment plunged. Growth dropped. We can’t go down that path again.

And today’s agreement enshrines, I think, a principle into law that will remain in place as long as I am President: The deficit needs to be reduced in a way that’s balanced. Everyone pays their fair share. Everyone does their part. That’s how our economy works best. That’s how we grow.

The sum total of all the budget agreements we’ve reached so far proves that there is a path forward, that it is possible if we focus not on our politics but on what’s right for the country. And the one thing that I think, hopefully, in the New Year we’ll focus on is seeing if we can put a package like this together with a little bit less drama, a little less brinksmanship, not scare the heck out of folks quite as much.

We can come together as Democrats and Republicans to cut spending and raise revenue in a way that reduces our deficit, protects our middle class, provides ladders into the middle class for everybody who’s willing to work hard. We can find a way to afford the investments that we need to grow and compete. We can settle this debate, or at the very least, not allow it to be so all-consuming all the time that it stops us from meeting a host of other challenges that we face — creating jobs, boosting incomes, fixing our infrastructure, fixing our immigration system, protecting our planet from the harmful effects of climate change, boosting domestic energy production, protecting our kids from the horrors of gun violence.

It’s not just possible to do these things; it’s an obligation to ourselves and to future generations. And I look forward to working with every single member of Congress to meet this obligation in the New Year.

And I hope that everybody now gets at least a day off, I guess, or a few days off, so that people can refresh themselves, because we’re going to have a lot of work to do in 2013.

Thanks, everybody. Happy New Year.

END 11:28 P.M. EST

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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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Mainers Reach Out to Senators Collins and Snowe on Tax Fairness, Fiscal Cliff, Proposed Cuts to Safety Net Programs

Posted on December 3, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

obama snoweWhile President Obama and Congressional leaders negotiate possible solutions to averting the fiscal cliff scernario, Maine citizens are taking matters into their own hands by contacting Senator Susan Collins, out-bound Senator Olympia Snowe and Senator-elect Angus King. Neither Snowe nor Collins has yet signaled a willingness to end Bush tax cuts for individuals making over $250,000 a year, a step that would raise over a trillion a year. Those cuts are due to expire at the end of this year.

According to a new report released by the AFL-CIO, 299,875 Mainers could be negatively impacted if Congress attempts cuts to Social Security, including 55,525 people with disabilities and 24,150 children. Of the 358,004 Mainers who get their health care coverage from Medicaid, 130,862 children and 60,768 seniors could be affected if the lame duck Congress makes cuts to Medicaid benefits. If the Bush tax cuts are renewed, the richest 2% in Maine would receive an average of $27,230 in tax cuts, while workers would receive an average of $1,200. The 2012 House Republican budget plan would cut federal support to Maine’s Medicaid program by at least $6.2 billion over 10 years, further throwing the numbers reported last week to the state’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee into chaos.

(Sidenote: As of today, it is being reported that the budget may not have a $100 million shortfall, but rather be twice as large a deficit.)

Last week volunteers with the Maine People’s Alliance, as part of the organization’s “Fair Share” initiative efforts, visited the senators’ Augusta offices to urge them to support President Obama’s plan to end the Bush-era tax breaks for individuals who make over $250,000 a year. Staffers were presented with copies of more than 50 letters and editorials recently published in Maine newspapers. The letters “serve as a reminder that a strong majority of Mainers support ending tax breaks that disproportionately benefit the wealthy as a way to avert the budget showdown in Washington”, per MPA.

sukeRachel Sukeforth of Litchfield, one of those making the deliveries, saw this consensus first hand as she campaigned for the State House of Representatives over the past year. Last week, a recount showed she had come up only four votes short against a Republican incumbent in a conservative district (HD 80).

“I want Senators Snowe and Collins to know that I just don’t see why, when so many working Mainers like myself and my family are struggling to make ends meet, that our tax rates are being held hostage to protect the incomes of a tiny sliver of very wealthy people,” said Sukeforth.

IMG_0724A recent poll conducted by the Maine People’s Resource Center found that not only did Mainers support tax fairness, but 55.3% of voters believed that increasing taxes on the wealthy would help the economy. Only 29.2% percent thought it would hurt the economy.

“We want to make sure that Senators Snowe and Collins realize that their constituents are watching the budget negotiations in Washington very closely and have been speaking out on this issue for months,” said MPA organizer Jonathan Hillier. “A strong majority of Americans and Mainers have made it very clear that they would rather see tax rates for the wealthy return to Clinton-era levels than see deep cuts to important programs like Medicare and Social Security.”

The Maine People’s Alliance is also launching an online postcard campaign to continue the drumbeat of support for tax fairness.

collins obamaResponding to her constituents’ strong desire to speak to her, Senator Collins has authorized her staff to hold statewide local constituent service hours in all of Maine’s 16 counties tomorrow, in addition to her regularly maintained six state offices (in Caribou, Bangor, Augusta, Lewiston, Portland, and Biddeford). A staff member will be available to provide assistance with federal issues and agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Internal Revenue Service. No appointment is necessary and all conversations are strictly confidential.

“It can be incredibly frustrating for people to try and navigate the often muddy waters of federal regulations, and each year thousands of Mainers turn to the talented staff in my state offices for help,” said Senator Collins. “Constituent service is incredibly important to me, and I’m proud of my state office staff, which acts as an important liaison between federal agencies and the people of our state. They understand the cares and concerns of the local areas in which they work because that is also where they live, and they have the expertise to investigate and resolve problems.”

The locations and hours:

    Androscoggin County
    Turner Town Office
    11 Turner Center Road, Turner
    10:00-11:30 AM

    Aroostook County
    Ashland Town Office
    17 Bridgham Street, Ashland
    9:30 – 10:30 AM

    Cumberland County (four locations)
    Falmouth Town Office
    271 Falmouth Road, Falmouth
    10:00-11:00 AM

    Cumberland Town Office
    290 Tuttle Road, Cumberland
    11:30 AM-12:30 PM

    South Portland City Hall
    25 Cottage Road, South Portland
    1:30 PM-3:00 PM

    Cape Elizabeth Town Hall
    320 Ocean House Road, Cape Elizabeth
    3:30 PM-4:30 PM

    Franklin County
    Wilton Town Office
    158 Weld Road, Wilton
    12:30-2:00pm

    Hancock County
    Lamoine Town Office
    686 Douglas Highway, Lamoine
    9:30-11:00 AM

    Kennebec County
    Winthrop Town Office
    17 Highland Avenue, Winthrop
    10:30-11:30 AM

    Knox County
    Camden Town Office
    29 Elm Street, Conference Room
    Camden
    1:00 – 3:00 PM

    Lincoln County
    Newcastle Town Office
    4 Pump Street, Newcastle
    3:30-4:30 PM

    Oxford County
    Norway Town Office
    19 Danforth Street, Norway
    3:00-4:30 PM

    Penobscot County
    Millinocket Town Office
    197 Penobscot Avenue, Millinocket
    10:00-11:30 AM

    Piscataquis County
    Greenville Town Office
    7 Minden Street, Greenville
    10:00-11:30 AM

    Sagadahoc County
    Topsham Town Office
    100 Main Street, 2nd Floor Conference Room
    Topsham
    1:30-2:30 PM

    Somerset County
    Norridgewock Town Office
    16 Perkins Street, Norridgewock
    8:30-9:30 AM

    Waldo County
    Belfast City Hall
    131 Church Street, Belfast
    1:30 – 3:00 PM

    Washington County

    Danforth Town Office
    18 Central Street, Danforth
    9:30 – 10:30 AM

    York County (2 Locations)
    Arundel Fire Department
    468 Limerick Road, Arundel
    12:00 PM – 1:30 PM

    Berwick Town Hall
    11 Square Street, Berwick
    12:00 PM – 1:30 PM

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