Our Top Stories
Jesse LeeOctober 28, 2009
08:23 PM EDT
Today the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act became law, and the President hosted a reception to celebrate a victory decades in the making and steeped in blood and pain. Amongst those attending were the families of the victims for which the law was named, as well as civil rights community leaders. Below are the President’s remarks in full.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much, everybody. Thank you so much, and welcome to the White House. There are several people here that I want to just make mention of because they helped to make today possible. We've got Attorney General Eric Holder. (Applause.) A champion of this legislation, and a great Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. (Applause.) My dear friend, senior Senator from the great state of Illinois, Dick Durbin. (Applause.) The outstanding Chairman of Armed Services, Carl Levin. (Applause.) Senator Arlen Specter. (Applause.) Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the House, Representative John Conyers. (Applause.) Representative Barney Frank. (Applause.) Representative Tammy Baldwin. (Applause.) Representative Jerry Nadler. (Applause.) Representative Jared Polis. (Applause.) All the members of Congress who are here today, we thank you.
Mr. David Bohnett and Mr. Tom Gregory and the David Bohnett Foundation -- they are partners for this reception. Thank you so much, guys, for helping to host this. (Applause.)
And finally, and most importantly, because these were really the spearheads of this effort -- Denis, Judy, and Logan Shepard. (Applause.) As well as Betty Byrd Boatner and Louvon Harris -- sisters of James Byrd, Jr. (Applause.)
To all the activists, all the organizers, all the people who helped make this day happen, thank you for your years of advocacy and activism, pushing and protesting that made this victory possible. You know, as a nation we've come far on the journey towards a more perfect union. And today, we've taken another step forward. This afternoon, I signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. (Applause.)
This is the culmination of a struggle that has lasted more than a decade. Time and again, we faced opposition. Time and again, the measure was defeated or delayed. Time and again we've been reminded of the difficulty of building a nation in which we're all free to live and love as we see fit. But the cause endured and the struggle continued, waged by the family of Matthew Shepard, by the family of James Byrd, by folks who held vigils and led marches, by those who rallied and organized and refused to give up, by the late Senator Ted Kennedy who fought so hard for this legislation -- (applause) -- and all who toiled for years to reach this day.
You understood that we must stand against crimes that are meant not only to break bones, but to break spirits -- not only to inflict harm, but to instill fear. You understand that the rights afforded every citizen under our Constitution mean nothing if we do not protect those rights -- both from unjust laws and violent acts. And you understand how necessary this law continues to be.
In the most recent year for which we have data, the FBI reported roughly 7,600 hate crimes in this country. Over the past 10 years, there were more than 12,000 reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation alone. And we will never know how many incidents were never reported at all.
And that's why, through this law, we will strengthen the protections against crimes based on the color of your skin, the faith in your heart, or the place of your birth. We will finally add federal protections against crimes based on gender, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation. (Applause.) And prosecutors will have new tools to work with states in order to prosecute to the fullest those who would perpetrate such crimes. Because no one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding the hands of the person they love. No one in America should be forced to look over their shoulder because of who they are or because they live with a disability.
At root, this isn't just about our laws; this is about who we are as a people. This is about whether we value one another -- whether we embrace our differences, rather than allowing them to become a source of animus. It's hard for any of us to imagine the mind-set of someone who would kidnap a young man and beat him to within an inch of his life, tie him to a fence, and leave him for dead. It's hard for any of us to imagine the twisted mentality of those who'd offer a neighbor a ride home, attack him, chain him to the back of a truck, and drag him for miles until he finally died.
But we sense where such cruelty begins: the moment we fail to see in another our common humanity -- the very moment when we fail to recognize in a person the same fears and hopes, the same passions and imperfections, the same dreams that we all share.
We have for centuries strived to live up to our founding ideal, of a nation where all are free and equal and able to pursue their own version of happiness. Through conflict and tumult, through the morass of hatred and prejudice, through periods of division and discord we have endured and grown stronger and fairer and freer. And at every turn, we've made progress not only by changing laws but by changing hearts, by our willingness to walk in another's shoes, by our capacity to love and accept even in the face of rage and bigotry. In April of 1968, just one week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, as our nation mourned in grief and shuddered in anger, President Lyndon Johnson signed landmark civil rights legislation. This was the first time we enshrined into law federal protections against crimes motivated by religious or racial hatred -- the law on which we build today.
As he signed his name, at a difficult moment for our country, President Johnson said that through this law "the bells of freedom ring out a little louder." That is the promise of America. Over the sounds of hatred and chaos, over the din of grief and anger, we can still hear those ideals -- even when they are faint, even when some would try to drown them out. At our best we seek to make sure those ideals can be heard and felt by Americans everywhere. And that work did not end in 1968. It certainly does not end today. But because of the efforts of the folks in this room -- particularly those family members who are standing behind me -- we can be proud that that bell rings even louder now and each day grows louder still. So thank you very much. God bless you and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
October 28, 2009
08:01 PM EDT
In the interests of transparency we wanted to give you another update on our efforts to limit the influence of special interests on government. As we indicated here in a previous blog post, the latest chapter in the Administration's efforts is limiting lobbyists from service on government boards and commissions. Some of the lobbyists who serve on these boards objected (pdf) and we explained the rationale in this letter (pdf).
Today, we received this letter (pdf) from the American League of Lobbyists protesting this Administration's steps to end the era of undue lobbyist influence on Washington. The letter makes a number of arguments with which we disagree, and to which we will respond, but our simple point is this: the system of lobbyists holding privileged government positions needs to be changed. This Administration has of course acknowledged that lobbyists can petition government on behalf of their clients. But lobbyists who represent the views of special interests should not do so from within government. That's why we closed the revolving door that used to allow lobbyists to move freely to and from government jobs and that's why the agencies are now taking this additional step.
Just like everyone else, lobbyists will continue to be able to air their views from outside government. But the days of lobbyists arguing not to the government, but from within the government, should come to an end-that is why the agencies are taking these strong steps with respect to the composition of these boards and commissions.
Norm Eisen is special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform
Jesse LeeOctober 28, 2009
03:28 PM EDT
It's no secret that institutions of all stripes focus their communications on certain messages day to day. We thought it would all be a little more open and transparent if we went ahead and published what our focus will be for the day, along with any related articles, documents, or reports.
Talking Points: Strengthening Medicare through Health Insurance Reform
- President Obama is committed to protecting and strengthening Medicare for America's seniors – anyone who tells you different is trying to scare and deliberately mislead you. Health insurance reform will not cut Medicare benefits. Period.
- Medicare is a sacred trust with America's seniors and the President’s health insurance reform plan will ensure that trust is never broken.
- Not a dime of the Medicare trust fund will be used to pay for reform.
- Instead it eliminates waste to strengthen the financial health of the program.
- It will end wasteful overpayments to insurance companies through Medicare Advantage. There is no evidence these overpayments improve the quality of care for seniors, yet they contribute to higher premiums for all Medicare beneficiaries.
- Eliminating these overpayments adds years to the Medicare trust fund.
- Reform will make care more affordable for seniors.
- It will substantially reduce the cost of prescription drugs for seniors who fall into that gap in coverage known as the Donut Hole. And the President is committed to closing that donut hole altogether.
- It will make preventive services free.
- And it will aggressively attack fraud and abuse that raise Medicare costs for all seniors and taxpayers.
- Reform will also improve care for Seniors.
- It will move Medicare toward a system that rewards high-quality care and invest in innovations in primary care.
- It will result in better coordination of care and an end to the duplicate tests and bureaucracy.
- It will make long-term care services more affordable.
- And it will eliminate the imminent physician payment cut that threatens to constrict doctor choices for seniors.
- President Obama is committed to protecting and strengthening Medicare for America's seniors – anyone who tells you different is trying to scare and deliberately mislead you. Health insurance reform will not cut Medicare benefits. Period.
Secretary Hilda SolisOctober 28, 2009
10:59 AM EDT
Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking before more than 3,000 people at the Solar Power International 2009 conference. This crowd was energized and excited by the possibility of a clean energy economy!
I told them we have a choice to make: we can remain one of the world's leading importers of foreign oil, or we can make the investments needed to become the world's leading exporter of renewable energy.
The President knows what the right choice is. That’s why he is making investments in energy efficiency and clean energy –to lead to a more prosperous economy in the future.
Through the Recovery Act, President Obama is investing more than $80 billion in clean energy. This money is putting tens of thousands of Americans to work in developing new battery technologies for hybrid vehicles, making our homes and businesses more energy efficient, doubling our capacity to generate renewable electricity, and building a smart, strong, and secure electricity delivery system.
The excitement about the possibilities being made through the Recovery Act was palpable. I even spoke to the leaders of several companies who are eager to hire workers trained with Recovery Act funds and to grow our economy.
Earlier yesterday, the President also announced 100 grants totaling $3.4 billion to private companies, utilities, cities and other partners to help build a nationwide smart energy grid. These grants are expected to create tens of thousands of new jobs, and also help us make a leap forward in building a clean energy infrastructure that brings clean, reliable, low-cost energy sources to American homes and businesses.
At the Department of Labor we are doing our part as well. In June, we announced grant competitions for $500 million in green jobs workforce training and received nearly triple the normal amount of applications.
I am working with Secretary Donovan to bring clean energy training to residents of public housing. The goal is to help residents take advantage of the promise of green jobs all while greening their homes and reducing their carbon footprint.
I am also partnering with Secretary Chu to award up to $27 million, including $10 million in Recovery Act funds, for the Solar Installer Instructor Training Network which will help train over 1,400 instructors and 168,000 solar workers.
Our goal must be a clean energy future that works for all Americans, so that we can pass on to our children and grandchildren not just a more sustainable economy, but a cleaner planet.
I have carried this message to miners in West Virginia, solar panel manufacturers in Tennessee, auto workers in Michigan, veterans in San Antonio, and youth in East Los Angeles. The message is clear –they want to seize the opportunity of a clean energy economy.
America will lead the clean energy economy of tomorrow because of the work, spirit and ingenuity of those I saw and the countless others committed to a clean energy future and the good jobs it will create for everyone.
Hilda Solis is Secretary of Labor
Jesse LeeOctober 28, 2009
09:41 AM EDT
Starting at 9:30, Energy Secretary Steven Chu will host a Clean Energy Economy Forum with stakeholders from around the country. Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner and other top Administration officials will also be featured speakers at the forum, which will include a focus on science, innovation, and job creation in the emerging clean energy economy.
Watch live here at WhiteHouse.gov, or watch and take part in the live chat through Facebook. The White House will be monitoring the chat, taking questions, and incorporating feedback from chat participants during the event.
Elizabeth AlexanderOctober 27, 2009
06:01 PM EDT
The cars of the future are coming, and they will be built right here in the United States. Vice President Joe Biden echoed that sentiment today as he announced that the former GM Boxwood Manufacturing Plant in Wilmington, Delaware was reopening for business. With the help of the Administration, loans from the Department of Energy, commitment from the state of Delaware, and the dedication of the American workforce, Fisker Automotive will soon begin manufacturing long-range, plug-in, electric hybrid vehicles at the Boxwood Plant. By 2014, the company plans to roll 75,000 to 100,000 plug-in, hybrid sedans off the assembly line each year.
The excitement in the crowd today reminded us that American innovation and manufacturing built the automotive industry in the 20th century – now, we will rebuild and retool it during the 21st century in a more efficient, inventive, and environmentally friendly way. As the Vice President said today: “American innovators, American business, American labor has never let this country down when we've been given a fighting chance. And today, this factory in Delaware, and the industry, are going to get back up off the mat.”
The future is now and Americans are investing in the new automobile. Not just the manufacturing, but all aspects of the supply chain—from engineering the battery to powering the cars, from building the materials needed for assembly to shipping the finished product all over the world. As the Vice President said: “Imagine an America that has freed itself from the grip of the oligarchs of oil by plugging their cars into a new electric grid of renewable energy based on wind and solar and geothermal. Imagine a world where people pop the hood of their cars and they see stamped on the battery ‘Made in America.’"
Soon, we won’t have to imagine.
Elizabeth Alexander is Press Secretary to the Vice President
Jesse LeeOctober 27, 2009
03:34 PM EDT
Standing amongst thousands of black-and-white solar panels, President Obama today discussed an exciting new chapter in the quest for clean and renewable energy: a $3.4 billion investment of Recovery Act funds to modernize the electric grid. Speaking at the Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, the President outlined how a smarter, more reliable energy system will benefit Americans—not to mention the planet:
On their own, the opening of this new solar plant or the installation of new smart meters or the investment in grid modernization will not be enough to meet the challenges posed by our dependence on fossil fuels. But together, we can begin to see what a clean energy future will look like. We can imagine the day when you'll be able to charge the battery on your plug-in hybrid car at night, because your smart meter reminded you that nighttime electricity is cheapest. In the daytime, when the sun is at its strongest, solar panels like these and electricity stored in car batteries will be able to power the grid with affordable, emission-free energy. The stronger, more efficient grid would be able to transport power generated at dams and wind turbines from the smallest towns to the biggest cities. And above all, we can see all this work that would be created for millions of Americans who need it and who want it, here in Florida and all across the country.
So we're on the cusp of this new energy future. In fact, a lot of it is already taking place. Even as I'm here today, Vice President Biden is in Delaware announcing the reopening of a once-shuttered GM factory that will soon put people back to work building plug-in, electric hybrid vehicles. On Friday, I was in Boston -- that's good news. (Applause.) On Friday, I was in Boston, where workers will soon be breaking ground on a new Wind Technology Testing Center that will allow researchers in the United States to test the world's newest and largest wind turbine blades for the very first time. And there are recovery projects like this in cities and counties all across the country.
So at this moment, there is something big happening in America when it comes to creating a clean energy economy. But getting there will take a few more days like this one and more projects like this one. And I have often said that the creation of such an economy is going to require nothing less than the sustained effort of an entire nation -- an all-hands-on-deck approach similar to the mobilization that preceded World War II or the Apollo Project. And I also believe that such a comprehensive piece of legislation that is taking place right now in Congress is going to be critical. That's going to finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America -- legislation that will make the best use of resources we have in abundance, through clean coal technology, safe nuclear power, sustainably grown biofuels, and energy we harness from the wind, waves, and sun.
In short, Smart Grid technology will:
- Create tens of thousands of jobs.
- Reduce power outages that cost American consumers $150 billion a year--every man, woman and child in the United States will save about $500 each year.
- Allow consumers to cut their electricity bills through “smart meters.”
- Put Americans on the path to generating 20 percent or more of our energy from renewable sources by 2020.
To read more about the smart grid, the newest American Reinvestment and Recovery Act initiative, read the full fact sheet.
Administrator Lisa P. JacksonOctober 27, 2009
02:46 PM EDT
October 27, 2009
12:21 PM EDT
We've been asked about whether the President, Mrs. Obama, and Sasha and Malia have received their H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines. All four members of the Obama family have received their seasonal flu vaccine. Malia and Sasha were both vaccinated for H1N1 last week, after the vaccine became available to Washington, DC schoolchildren. President and Mrs. Obama have not yet been vaccinated for H1N1, and they will wait until the needs of the priority groups identified by the CDC – including young people under the age of 24, pregnant women, and people with underlying conditions – have been met. The girls' H1N1 vaccine was administered by a White House physician, who applied for and received the vaccine from the DC Department of Health using the same process as every other vaccination site in the District.
While the initial distribution of vaccine is being administered to priority target groups, there are steps every family can take to help protect against H1N1 and seasonal flu. Remember to check Flu.gov for the latest on vaccine availability near you, steps you can take to protect your family, and what to do if you or a loved one gets the flu.
Catherine Mccormick-Lelyveld is Press Secretary for the First Lady
Jesse LeeOctober 27, 2009
11:17 AM EDT
Earlier this week we released a video with the First Lady and HHS Secretary Sebelius talking about why health insurance reform is so important to women in particular. The First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden also led the White House in marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month and honoring those who fight it.
Today, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett will be a part of the massive Women's Conference, led by California First Lady Maria Shriver. The conference will be streaming all day, from 11 AM EDT/ 8 AM PDT until 10 PM EDT/ 7 PM PDT.
Valerie’s panel will be at 3:30 EDT/ 12:30PM PDT, and is called "A Once-in-a-Lifetime Conversation: How A Woman's Nation Changes Everything." The panel also includes Madeleine K. Albright, Amy Holmes and Claire Shipman, moderated by David Gregory. Watch live below, or watch and discuss it at their site.
UPDATE: This event has concluded, but you can watch the video of the full event, or just Valerie's segment.
Jesse LeeOctober 26, 2009
07:27 PM EDT
Speaking today at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida, the President honored the fourteen Americans killed in the crash in Afghanistan this morning, the generations that have served in Jacksonville, and our servicemen and women all over the world:
Keeping you strong takes something else -- a country that never forgets this simple truth. It's not the remarkable platforms that give the United States our military superiority -- although you've got some pretty impressive aircraft here, I got to admit. It's not the sophisticated technologies that make us the most advanced in the world -- although you do represent the future of naval aviation.
No, we have the finest Navy and the finest military in the history of the world because we have the finest personnel in the world. (Applause.) You are the best trained, the best prepared, the best led force in history. Our people are our most precious resource.
We're reminded of this again with today's helicopter crashes in Afghanistan. Fourteen Americans gave their lives. And our prayers are with these service members, their civilian colleagues, and the families who loved them.
And while no words can ease the ache in their hearts today, may they find some comfort in knowing this: Like all those who give their lives in service to America, they were doing their duty and they were doing this nation proud.
They were willing to risk their lives, in this case, to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for al Qaeda and its extremist allies. And today, they gave their lives, that last full measure of devotion, to protect ours.
Now, it is our duty as a nation to keep their memory alive in our hearts and to carry on their work. To take care of their families. To keep our country safe. To stand up for the values we hold dear and the freedom they defended. That's what they dedicated their lives to. And that is what we must do as well.
So I say to you and all who serve: Of all the privileges I have as President, I have no greater honor than serving as your Commander-in-Chief. You inspire me. And I'm here today to deliver a simple message -- a message of thanks to you and your families.
Being here, you join a long, unbroken line of service at Jacksonville -- from the naval aviators from World War II to Korea to Vietnam, among them a great patriot named John McCain. You embody that sailor's creed, the "spirit of the Navy and all who have gone before" -- Honor, Courage, Commitment.
The President also pledged to hold up his end of the bargain:
And while I will never hesitate to use force to protect the American people or our vital interests, I also promise you this -- and this is very important as we consider our next steps in Afghanistan: I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm's way. I won't risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary. (Applause.) And if it is necessary, we will back you up to the hilt. Because you deserve the strategy, the clear mission, and the defined goals as well as the equipment and support that you need to get the job done. We are not going to have a situation in which you are not fully supported back here at home. That is a promise that I will always make to you. (Applause.)
Now, as you meet your missions around the world, we will take care of your families here at home. That's why Michelle has been visiting bases across the country. That's why the Recovery Act is funding projects like improvements to your hospital and a new child development center at Mayport. It's why we're increasing your pay -- (applause) -- increasing childcare, helping families deal with the stress and separation of war.
And finally, we pledge to be there when you come home. We're improving care for our wounded warriors, especially those with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. We're funding the Post-9/11 GI Bill to give you and your families the chance to pursue your dreams. (Applause.) And we are making the biggest commitment to our veterans -- the largest percentage increase in the VA budget, even when we've got very difficult times fiscally -- in more than 30 years.
Now these are the commitments I make to you; the obligations that your country is honor-bound to uphold. Because you've always taken care of America, and America must take care of you -- always.
John BrennanOctober 26, 2009
06:59 PM EDT
During National Cybersecurity Awareness Month I have discussed the types of cyber threats that we face and some of the basic steps that all computer users can take to better protect themselves. This week, I’d like to address another important dimension of this shared responsibility – the role of America’s small businesses.
As the President said in his remarks for National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the cyber threat has become one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation. America’s competitiveness and our economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on effective cybersecurity. This is especially true for the millions of small businesses that form the backbone of our economy. For this reason, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) at the Department of Commerce recently released a guidebook, Small Business Information Security: The Fundamentals, on cybersecurity fundamentals for small business owners. A video related to the guidebook is provided below.
As the guidebook states, “in the United States, the number of small businesses totals to over 95% of all businesses. The small business community produces around 50% of our nation’s Gross National Product (GNP) and creates around 50% of all new jobs in our country. Small businesses, therefore, are a very important part of our nation’s economy.”
However, these small businesses often do not have sufficient resources to effectively secure their cyber infrastructure. Criminals recognize this, and small businesses are more and more often becoming targets of cyber crime. The NIST guidebook helps to mitigate these risks by providing small business owners with detailed (but easy-to-understand) instructions on how to improve their cybersecurity posture.
The guidebook is divided into three sections: absolutely necessary cybersecurity practices, highly recommended practices, and other planning considerations. It includes instructions on topics such as activating and installing firewalls, securing wireless access points, and conducting online banking more securely. I recommend all business owners read this guidebook. Home users may also find many of the cybersecurity instructions useful.
John Brennan is Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
Nancy SutleyOctober 26, 2009
04:27 PM EDT
Last week, I joined fellow members of the Ocean Policy Task Force in New Orleans for a Public Meeting to continue our ongoing discussion of ocean and coastal environmental issues, this time with a focus on the Gulf Coast Region. At the meeting on Monday, we heard a wide variety of comments from local residents and gained valuable insight into the central issues affecting the region that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina just over four years ago. In addition to being there in person, we were able to virtually link all five Gulf states thanks to the Gulf Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers, and had the benefit of live participants from Corpus Christi, TX; Tampa, FL; Dauphin Island, AL; Ocean Springs, MS as well as New Orleans, LA. The lessons learned from this trip once again highlight the need for a national policy that ensures the protection, maintenance, and restoration of our oceans, coasts, and marine ecosystems.
On Tuesday, we toured the Gulf Coast region to get a first-hand view of the issues. We took an aerial tour of New Orleans’ 9th Ward, coastal wetlands and barrier island chains, and the Mississippi river, followed by an airboat tour of the Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge and its unique habitats and diverse plant communities. Our trip allowed us to see both the bird’s eye view of the Gulf from the air, and actual restoration efforts on the ground. The Obama administration is working to strengthen the wetlands and barrier islands that are the first line of defense for the Gulf Coast – a priority that, while critical to this region’s physical protection, is also critical to our environment and to our economy.
It was a truly pleasure to return to New Orleans so soon after my visit the week before. Before the President’s town hall, I had the opportunity to meet with leaders from the community engaged in coastal restoration efforts and to witness first-hand the degree of environmental degradation plaguing the region. I also visited the Central Bayou Bienvenue wetlands restoration site, which is utilizing wetland assimilation of wastewater effluent to restore approximately 10,000 acres of the critical cypress wetlands that have historically served as a natural defense against storms.
Standing on the viewing post of Bayou Bienvenue and seeing the extent to which the wetlands have disappeared was a humbling experience that reinforced my belief in the importance of this, and other coastal restoration projects. As the President said during the Town Hall, it is inspirational to spend time with the citizens there who have persevered in the face of the tragedy that was Katrina and are steadfast in their resolve to rebuild. The Obama Administration is committed to enhancing the environmental and economic sustainability of New Orleans and coastal Louisiana, and we recognize that coastal wetland restoration is a key path toward achieving this type of long-term resiliency. I would like to thank the individuals who provided us with valuable insight on the restorative work being accomplished there, and I look forward to continue to work with this region in the future.
Nancy Sutley is the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality.
October 26, 2009
11:58 AM EDT
Friday afternoon in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, First Lady Michelle Obama donned pink to honor the millions of women and families affected by breast cancer. Speaking to a crowd of survivors, lawmakers, and doctors, the First Lady highlighted the importance of adequate health coverage for those facing the disease. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and these women deserve to battle their disease without the worry of their insurance companies letting them down:
And this is a disease, as we know, that affects not just those diagnosed with it, and not just those who've survived it and those who've lost their lives to it, but it is a disease that also affects those who love and know them -- which these days seems like almost every single person in this country.
That's why it is so critically important that we finally reform our health care system that is causing so much heartache for so many people affected by this disease. Now is the time.
Fortunately, that's exactly what the plans being considered by Congress right now would do.
So just to be clear, under these plans, if you already have insurance that works for you, then you're all set. You can keep your insurance and you can keep your doctors.
The plans put in place some basic rules of the road to protect you from abuses and unfair practices by insurance companies. That would mean no more denying coverage to people like women we heard from today because of so-called preexisting conditions like having survived cancer. (Applause.) Because there's a belief that if you've already fought cancer, you shouldn't have to also fight with insurance companies to get the coverage that you need at a price that you can afford. (Applause.)
These plans mean insurance companies will no longer be allowed to cap the amount of coverage that you can get, and will limit how much insurance companies can charge you for out-of-pocket expenses, because in this country, getting sick shouldn't mean going bankrupt. (Applause.)
And finally, these plans will require insurance companies to cover basic preventative care -- from routine checkups, to mammograms, to pap smears -- at no extra charge to you. And though I want to emphasize that in the end, as we all know, it's our responsibility as women to also talk to our doctors about what screenings that we need and then make the appointments to get those screenings, even when it's inconvenient or maybe a little bit uncomfortable. It's something that we owe not just to ourselves but to the people that love us.
Secretary Ray LaHoodOctober 26, 2009
11:42 AM EDT
Cross-posted from the Department of Transportation's Fast Lane blog.
And for those readers who are government or military employees, I urge you to share your suggestions. Though nearly 6,000 have been submitted thus far, that good idea in your mind right now could rewrite the way the Federal government reduces energy use, conserves water, reduces waste, and supports clean technology.
Dan PfeifferOctober 25, 2009
08:56 PM EDT
A rumor is making the rounds that the White House and Senator Reid are pursuing different strategies on the public option. Those rumors are absolutely false.
In his September 9th address to Congress, President Obama made clear that he supports the public option because it has the potential to play an essential role in holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition. That continues to be the President's position.
Senator Reid and his leadership team are now working to get the most effective bill possible approved by the Senate. President Obama completely supports their efforts and has full confidence they will succeed and continue the unprecedented progress that is being made in both the House and Senate.
Dan Pfeiffer is Deputy Communications Director
October 25, 2009
01:48 PM EDT
In an effort to proactively address the ongoing pandemic, the President signed a National Emergency Declaration on H1N1 that allows healthcare systems to quickly implement disaster plans should they become overwhelmed.
As experts expected, H1N1 flu is moving rapidly throughout the country and the majority of states now have widespread influenza activity. This declaration gives authority for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to waive certain regulatory requirements for healthcare facilities in response the ongoing pandemic. Specifically, healthcare facilities will be able to submit waivers to establish alternate care sites, and modified patient triage protocols, patient transfer procedures and other actions that occur when they fully implement disaster operations plans.
Under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act [42 USC §1320b–5] healthcare facilities may petition for HHS approval of waivers in response to particular needs within the geographic and temporal limits of the emergency declarations. Before HHS has the authority to approve such “1135 Waivers” two conditions must be met: first, the Secretary must have declared a Public Health Emergency, and second, the President must have declared a National Emergency either through a Stafford Act Declaration or National Emergencies Act Declaration. 1135 Waivers still require specific requests be submitted to HHS and processed, and some State laws may need to be addressed as well.
The Secretary may tailor authorities granted under Section 1135 waivers to match the specific situational needs, but the requirements that may be waived include those related to Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Past instances where authority to grant Section 1135 waivers was enabled include:
- Hurricane Katrina (2005)
- 56th Presidential Inauguration (2009)
- Hurricanes Ike and Gustav (2008)
- North Dakota flooding (2009)
Jesse LeeOctober 24, 2009
12:14 AM EDT
The President restates his commitment to small business as key to economic recovery -- from the Recovery Act to Financial Stability to Health Reform -- and pledges more to come.
Christina RomerOctober 23, 2009
07:15 PM EDT
As a teacher, I should have realized that many people have trouble with the distinction between growth rates and levels. As noted in a new article by the Christian Science Monitor, I made the uncontroversial statement in testimony yesterday that fiscal stimulus has its greatest effect on economic growth over the period where it is ramping up most quickly. This statement seems to have caused some confusion and misunderstanding.
When we go from no stimulus to substantial tax cuts, increases in government spending, and aid to state governments, this has a large effect on the growth rate of real GDP – just as when you press hard on your car’s accelerator and go from 0 to 60, you have a great change in your speed. This sense of acceleration is exactly what we have been experiencing since the start of the year. Fiscal stimulus has been steadily increasing, raising GDP growth by between 2 and 3 percentage points in the second quarter and between 3 and 4 percentage points in the third quarter. Because GDP was falling rapidly before the stimulus, the contribution of the Recovery Act to growth has changed what would have been a continued rapid decline in GDP to only a modest decline in the second quarter, and changed what probably would have been a further decline into what is now widely expected to be a moderate increase in the third quarter. We expect that stimulus will continue to have a positive effect on growth in the fourth quarter of 2009 and well into 2010, though, by design, not by as much as it did in the second and third quarters of 2009. As a result, we expect the largest effect of the stimulus on the levels of GDP and employment to occur well after the largest effects on growth rates.
At some point, the stimulus plateaus at a high level. That is important too. Such continued stimulus may not add much to growth, but it is keeping the levels of GDP and employment much higher than they otherwise would have been – just as keeping pressure on the accelerator keeps the car going at 60 mph.
If you take your foot off the gas, the car goes from 60 back down to a slow crawl – a serious case of deceleration. Taking stimulus off in an economy where private demand has not adequately recovered could lead to negative GDP growth and a fall in the level of both GDP and employment. This is something I think we can all agree would be detrimental to the U.S. economy and American families.
Christina Romer is Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers
Brian BondOctober 23, 2009
04:53 PM EDT
"These ideals, when voiced by generations of citizens, are what made it possible for me to stand here today. These ideals are what made it possible for the people in this room to live freely and openly when for most of history that would have been inconceivable. That is the promise of America. That is the promise we are called to fulfill. And day by day, law by law, mind by changing mind, that is the promise we are fulfilling."
– President Obama, HRC National Dinner, October 10, 2009
I came to work in the White House because I thought I'd be able to change people's lives in real and tangible ways here. I believed that President Barack Obama would not only be the type of leader who would bring about real change, but also that he would put in place a team of committed public servants across the federal government -- smart and gifted leaders, straight and gay, women and men, as diverse as America -- who would work tirelessly to improve the lives of all Americans, including the LGBT community. And I haven’t been disappointed.
I know many don’t think things are changing fast enough. The President shares your urgency. This month, speaking at the HRC National Dinner, he said "while progress may be taking longer than you’d like as a result of all that we face... do not doubt the direction we are heading and the destination we will reach."
While our long-term focus is on major legislative goals like repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell and DOMA, passing an employment non-discrimination act, and providing domestic partner benefits for federal employees, we are also working daily to find ways to make life a little better and a little fairer for LGBT Americans.
We saw this very clearly this week: HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced a series of proposals to ensure that HUD’s core housing programs are open to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity; he also commissioned the first-ever national study of discrimination against members of the LGBT community in the rental and sale of housing.
On the same day, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced a plan to establish the nation’s first ever national resource center to assist communities across the country in their efforts to provide services and support for older LGBT Americans.
And just a few weeks ago, the Administration on Aging at HHS issued its first ever grant to an LGBT Aging Services Program through its Community Innovations for Aging in Place initiative to the LA Gay and Lesbian Community Center.
Every day so many of us working in the Obama Administration ask: How can we ensure that our time here makes the lives of LGBT Americans living across this country safer, fairer, and a little better? We know how much work is ahead of us. Some items will take longer than others. But the shift since January is clear, and progress at every level will continue.
Day by day, law by law, mind by changing mind. That is the promise we are fulfilling.
Brian Bond is Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement