President Obama Takes Questions from the Press

Today, President Obama held a press conference in the briefing room at the White House. He answered questions from reporters about Syria, the sequester, implementation of the Affordable Care Act and more.  

President Obama said that the United States has been deeply engaged and involved in bringing about a solution to the “slowly unfolding disaster for the Syrian people.”

“What’s happening in Syria is a blemish on the international community generally, and we've got to make sure that we're doing everything we can to protect the Syrian people,” he said.

"And when I am making decisions about America’s national security and the potential for taking additional action in response to chemical weapon use, I've got to make sure I've got the facts,” President Obama said. “That's what the American people would expect.”

But even if chemical weapons were not being used in Syria, we’d still be thinking about tens of thousands of people, innocent civilians -- women, children -- who’ve been killed by a regime that’s more concerned about staying in power than it is about the well-being of its people. And so we are already deeply invested in trying to find a solution here.

On immigration reform, President Obama said that despite dysfunction on Capitol Hill, “I feel confident that the bipartisan work that’s been done on immigration reform will result in a bill that passes the Senate, passes the House, and gets on my desk. And that’s going to be a historic achievement.”

He also called on Congress to work together in finding a solution to the sequester, a set of harmful budget cuts that went into effect earlier this year.

It’s damaging our economy. It’s hurting our people. And we need to lift it. What’s clear is, is that the only way we’re going to lift it is if we do a bigger deal that meets the test of lowering our deficit and growing our economy at the same time. And that’s going to require some compromises on the part of both Democrats and Republicans.

President Obama said that he can put pressure on Congress to embrace common sense solutions to our problems, and rally the American people to do the same. But it’s up to Congress to decide they want to do the right thing.

The only way the problem does get fixed is if both parties sit down and they say: How are we going to make sure that we're reducing our deficit sensibly? How are we making sure that we're investing in things like rebuilding our airports and our roads and our bridges, and investing in early childhood education, basic research -- all the things that are going to help us grow? And that's what the American people want.

Finally, the President discussed the Affordable Care Act, which will be fully implemented by 2014. A huge portion of the law is already in place, the President said.

“There are a whole host of benefits that, for the average American out there, for the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, this thing has already happened.  And their only impact is that their insurance is stronger, better, more secure than it was before. Full stop. That’s it. They don’t have to worry about anything else.

“The implementation issues come in for those who don’t have health insurance,” President Obama said. “Maybe because they have a preexisting condition and the only way they can get health insurance is to go out on the individual market,” or because they can’t afford coverage or get it through their employer.

And what we’re doing is we’re setting up a pool so that they can all pool together and get a better deal from insurance companies.  And those who can’t afford it, we’re going to provide them with some subsidies.  That’s it.  I mean, that’s what’s left to implement, because the other stuff has been implemented and it’s working fine.

The challenge is that setting up a market-based system, basically an online marketplace where you can go on and sign up and figure out what kind of insurance you can afford and figuring out how to get the subsidies -- that’s still a big, complicated piece of business. 

President Obama said that despite the challenges, “we’ve got a great team in place. We are pushing very hard to make sure that we’re hitting all the deadlines and the benchmarks.” 

Before leaving the briefing room, the President added one last comment about Jason Collins, the NBA player who came out publicly on Monday .

“I had a chance to talk to him yesterday,” President Obama said. “He seems like a terrific young man. And I told him I couldn’t be prouder of him. “

And I think America should be proud that this is just one more step in this ongoing recognition that we treat everybody fairly, and everybody is part of a family, and we judge people on the basis of their character and their performance and not their sexual orientation. 

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