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Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, June 26, 2010
This weekend, I’m traveling to Toronto to meet with members of the G20. There, I hope we can build on the progress we made at last year’s G20 summits by coordinating our global financial reform efforts to make sure a crisis like the one from which we are still recovering never happens again. We’ve made great progress toward passing such reform here at home. As I speak, we are on the cusp of enacting the toughest financial reforms since the Great Depression.
I don’t have to tell you why these reforms are so important. We’re still digging ourselves out of an economic crisis that happened largely because there wasn’t strong enough oversight on Wall Street. We can’t build a strong economy in America over the long-run without ending this status quo, and laying a new foundation for growth and prosperity.
That’s what the Wall Street reforms currently making their way through Congress will help us do – reforms that represent 90% of what I proposed when I took up this fight. We’ll put in place the strongest consumer financial protections in American history, and create an independent agency with an independent director and an independent budget to enforce them.
Credit card companies will no longer be able to mislead you with pages and pages of fine print. You will no longer be subject to all kinds of hidden fees and penalties, or the predatory practices of unscrupulous lenders.
Instead, we’ll make sure credit card companies and mortgage companies play by the rules. And you’ll be empowered with easy-to-understand forms, and the clear and concise information you need to make the financial decisions that are best for you and your family.
Wall Street reform will also strengthen our economy in a number of other ways. We’ll make our financial system more transparent by bringing the kinds of complex trades that helped trigger this crisis – trades in a $600 trillion derivatives market – finally into the light of day.
We’ll enact what’s called the Volcker Rule to make sure banks protected by a safety net like the FDIC can’t engage in risky trades for their own profit. We’ll create what’s called a resolution authority to help wind down firms whose collapse would threaten our entire financial system. Put simply, we’ll end the days of taxpayer-funded bailouts, and help make sure Main Street is never again held responsible for Wall Street’s mistakes.
Beyond these reforms, we also need to address another piece of unfinished business. We need to impose a fee on the banks that were the biggest beneficiaries of taxpayer assistance at the height of our financial crisis – so we can recover every dime of taxpayer money.
Getting this far on Wall Street reform hasn’t been easy. There are those who’ve fought tooth and nail to preserve the status quo. In recent months, they’ve spent millions of dollars and hired an army of lobbyists to stop reform dead in its tracks.
But because we refused to back down, and kept fighting, we now stand on the verge of victory. And I urge Congress to take us over the finish line, and send me a reform bill I can sign into law, so we can empower our people with consumer protections, and help prevent a financial crisis like this from ever happening again.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, June 19, 2010
At this moment, our nation is facing a host of big and difficult challenges. And more than anything else, what’s required to meet those challenges right now is a sense of cooperation and common purpose among our leaders. What we need is a willingness in Washington to put the public’s interests first – a willingness to score fewer political points so that we can start solving more problems.
That’s why I was disappointed this week to see a dreary and familiar politics get in the way of our ability to move forward on a series of critical issues that have a direct impact on people’s lives.
In the United States Senate, we have legislation that would boost our economic recovery and help Americans who’ve been affected by the worst recession in generations. We’ve certainly made progress since we were losing 750,000 jobs per month around the time I took office. Our economy is growing again, and we’ve added jobs for five straight months. But there are still millions of Americans out of work, and millions more who are struggling to pay the bills. The legislation in the Senate right now would extend unemployment benefits to those workers who lost their job through no fault of their own. It would provide relief to struggling states that would help save the jobs of thousands of teachers and cops and firefighters. There are also provisions in this legislation that would extend the tax credit for first-time homebuyers, as well as tax cuts to keep research and development jobs here in the United States.
Unfortunately, the Republican leadership in the Senate won’t even allow this legislation to come up for a vote. And if this obstruction continues, unemployed Americans will see their benefits stop. Teachers and firefighters will lose their jobs. Families will pay more for their first home.
All we ask for is a simple up or down vote. That’s what the American people deserve. Just like they deserve an up or down vote on legislation that would hold oil companies accountable for the disasters they cause – a vote that is also being blocked by the Republican leadership in the Senate. Right now, the law places a $75 million cap on the amount oil companies must pay to families and small businesses who suffer economic losses as a result of a spill like the one we’re witnessing in the Gulf Coast. We should remove that cap. But the Republican leadership won’t even allow a debate or a vote.
And as we speak today, 136 men and women who I’ve nominated for key positions in the federal government are awaiting a vote on the floor of the Senate. All are highly qualified. Very few are controversial. The vast majority already have support from both parties. But most of them are seeing their nominations intentionally delayed by Republican leaders, or even blocked altogether. They cannot get a vote. What this means is that, at a moment when our country is facing so many challenges – a time when we need all hands on deck – we cannot get the qualified people we need to start the jobs they were appointed to do.
Look, the nature of our democracy is that we’ll always have disagreements and debates -- even heated ones. That’s healthy and it’s important. But let’s argue over genuine differences – over ideas and policies. And let’s go into those debates with an open mind – a willingness to find common ground and a conviction that, in the end, one way or another, we will have a vote to decide them. Next week, I’ll be meeting with a bipartisan group of Senators to discuss how we can transition away from our dependence on fossil fuels and embrace a clean energy future. I don’t expect that we’ll agree on a solution right away. In fact, I know that there will be plenty of disagreement and different ideas. But at least it shows that Republicans and Democrats can still sit down together in an attempt to tackle the big challenges facing our nation.
I know the political season is upon us in Washington. But gridlock as a political strategy is destructive to the country. Whether we are Democrats or Republicans, we’ve got an obligation that goes beyond caring about the next election. We have an obligation to care for the next generation. So I hope that when Congress returns next week, they do so with a greater spirit of compromise and cooperation. America will be watching.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, June 12, 2010
More than a decade ago, Congress set up a formula that governs how doctors get paid by the Medicare program. The intent was to slow the growth of Medicare costs, but the result was a formula that has proposed cutting payments for America’s doctors year after year after year. These are cuts that would not only jeopardize our physicians’ pay, but our seniors’ health care.
Since 2003, Congress has acted to prevent these pay cuts from going into effect. These votes were largely bipartisan, and they succeeded when Democrats ran Congress and when Republicans ran Congress – which was most of the time.
This year, a majority of Congress is willing to prevent a pay cut of 21% -- a pay cut that would undoubtedly force some doctors to stop seeing Medicare patients altogether. But this time, some Senate Republicans may even block a vote on this issue. After years of voting to defer these cuts, the other party is now willing to walk away from the needs of our doctors and our seniors.
Now, I realize that simply kicking these cuts down the road another year is not a long-term solution to this problem. For years, I have said that a system where doctors are left to wonder if they’ll get fairly reimbursed makes absolutely no sense. And I am committed to permanently reforming this Medicare formula in a way that balances fiscal responsibility with the responsibility we have to doctors and seniors. In addition, we’re already taking significant steps to slow the growth of Medicare costs through health insurance reform – not by targeting doctors and seniors, but by eliminating 50% of the waste, fraud, and abuse in the system by 2012. This not only strengthens Medicare, it saves taxpayer dollars.
I’m absolutely willing to take the difficult steps necessary to lower the cost of Medicare and put our budget on a more fiscally sustainable path. But I’m not willing to do that by punishing hard-working physicians or the millions of Americans who count on Medicare. That’s just wrong. And that’s why in the short-term, Congress must act to prevent this pay cut to doctors.
If they don’t act, doctors will see a 21% cut in their Medicare payments this week. This week, doctors will start receiving these lower reimbursements from the Medicare program. That could lead them to stop participating in the Medicare program. And that could lead seniors to lose their doctors.
We cannot allow this to happen. We have to fix this problem so that our doctors can get paid for the life-saving services they provide and keep their doors open. We have to fix this problem to keep the promise of Medicare for our seniors so that they get the health care they deserve. So I urge Republicans in the Senate to at least allow a majority of Senators and Congressmen to stop this pay cut. I urge them to stand with America’s seniors and America’s doctors.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Grand Isle, Louisiana
I’m speaking to you from Caminada Bay in Grand Isle, Louisiana, one of the first places to feel the devastation wrought by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While I was here, at Camerdelle’s Live Bait shop, I met with a group of local residents and small business owners.
Folks like Floyd Lasseigne, a fourth-generation oyster fisherman. This is the time of year when he ordinarily earns a lot of his income. But his oyster bed, along the north side of Grand Isle, has likely been destroyed by the spill. Terry Vegas had a similar story. He quit the 8th grade to become a shrimper with his grandfather. Ever since, he’s earned his living during shrimping season – working long, grueling days so that he could earn enough money to support himself year round. But today, the waters where he’s spent his years are closed. And every day, as the spill worsens, he loses hope that he’ll be able to return to the life he built. “You can put a price on a lost season,” he’s said. “But not a lost heritage.”
The effects of the spill reach beyond the shoreline. I also spoke with Patti Rigaud. For 30 years, she’s owned a small convenience store – a store opened by her father. She depends on the sales generated by tourism each summer. But this year, most of the boats that would line these docks are nowhere to be seen. Dudley Gaspard, who owns the Sand Dollar Marina and Hotel, has been hit hard as well. Normally, this time of year, rooms are filling up and tackle is flying off the shelves. But he too has been devastated by the decline in tourism and the suspension of fishing in the waters off the Louisiana Coast.
Their stories are familiar to many in Grand Isle and throughout the Gulf region. Often families have been here for generations, earning a living, and making a life, that’s tied to the water – that’s tied to the magnificent coasts and natural bounty of this place. Here, this spill has not just damaged livelihoods. It’s upended whole communities. And the fury people feel is not just about the money they’ve lost. They’ve been through tough times before. It’s about the wrenching recognition that this time their lives may never be the same.
These folks work hard. They meet their responsibilities. But now because of a manmade catastrophe – one that’s not their fault and that’s beyond their control – their lives have been thrown into turmoil. It’s brutally unfair. It’s wrong. And what I told these men and women – and what I have said since the beginning of this disaster – is that I’m going to stand with the people of the Gulf Coast until they are made whole.
That’s why from the beginning, we’ve mobilized on every front to contain and clean up this spill. I’ve authorized the deployment of 17,500 National Guard troops to aid in the response. More than 20,000 people are currently working around the clock to protect waters and coastlines. We’ve convened hundreds of top scientists and engineers from around the world. More than 1,900 vessels are in the Gulf assisting in the clean up. More than 4.3 million feet of boom have been deployed with another 2.9 million feet of boom available – enough to stretch over 1,300 miles. And 17 staging areas are in place across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida to rapidly defend sensitive shorelines. In short, this is the largest response to an environmental disaster of this kind in the history of our country.
We’ve also ordered BP to pay economic injury claims, and we will make sure they pay every single dime owed to the people along the Gulf Coast. The Small Business Administration has stepped in to help businesses by approving loans and allowing deferrals of existing loan payments. And this week, the federal government sent BP a preliminary bill for $69 million to pay back American taxpayers for some of the costs of the response so far. In addition, after an emergency safety review, we’re putting in place aggressive new operating standards for offshore drilling. And I’ve appointed a bipartisan commission to look into the causes of this spill. If laws are inadequate –laws will be changed. If oversight was lacking – it will be strengthened. And if laws were broken – those responsible will be brought to justice.
Now, over the last few days BP has placed a cap over the well, and it appears they’re making progress in trying to pump oil to the surface to keep it from leaking into the water. But as has been the case since the beginning of this crisis, we are prepared for the worst, even as we hope that BP’s efforts bring better news than we’ve received before. We also know that regardless of the outcome of this attempt, there will still to be some spillage until the relief wells are completed. And there will continue to be a massive cleanup ahead of us.
So we will continue to leverage every resource at our disposal to protect coastlines, to clean up the oil, to hold BP and other companies accountable for damages, to begin to restore the bounty and beauty of this region – and to aid the hardworking people of the Gulf as they rebuild their businesses and communities. And I want to urge all Americans to do what you can as well – including visiting this area. The vast majority of beaches are pristine and open for business.
These are hard times in Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast, an area that has already seen more than its fair share of troubles. But what we have also seen these past few weeks is that – even in the face of adversity – the men and women of the Gulf have displayed incredible determination. They have met this terrible catastrophe with seemingly boundless strength and character in defense of their way of life. What we owe the people of this region is a commitment by our nation to match the resilience of all the people I’ve met along the Gulf Coast. That is our mission. And it’s one we will fulfill.