Friday, September 27, 2013

Obama's no-negotiation stance setting new tone

Obama's no-negotiation stance setting new tone

President Barack Obama speaks about the Affordable Care Act, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, at Prince George's Community College in Largo, Md. The president is promoting the benefits of his health care law before new insurance exchanges open for business next week. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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Associated Press/Pablo Martinez Monsivais - President Barack Obama speaks about the Affordable Care Act, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, at Prince George's Community College in Largo, Md. The president is promoting

WASHINGTON (AP) — This time, President Barack Obama says, he's not budging. This is the confrontational Obama, the "Make my day" president, betting Republicans blink to avoid a government shutdown or a first-ever default of the nation's debts.
It's a proposition not without risk and one with a history of last-minute accommodations on both sides. Brinkmanship between Obama and congressional Republicans has often stopped at the precipice's edge.
In this round, however, the president and his aides maintain that when it comes to raising the government's borrowing authority and meeting its debt obligations, there's no bargaining.
"The entire world looks to us to make sure that the world economy is stable. You don't mess with that," Obama said Thursday. "And that's why I will not negotiate on anything when it comes to the full faith and credit of the United States of America."
Still, House Speaker John Boehner says a debt hike must be linked to budget cuts and other programmatic changes.
"The president says, 'I'm not going to negotiate,'" Boehner said. "Well, I'm sorry, but it just doesn't work that way."
Obama's stance is rooted in experience, politics and a desire to protect himself from similar demands in the remaining three years of his presidency.
Obama advisers note that past negotiations have not yielded grand bargains and that the mere threat of default in 2011 rattled the economy, causing a downgrade in U.S. credit. Talks earlier this year to avoid automatic spending cuts known as sequestration also failed.
Obama aides also note that Boehner himself eight months ago declared an end to negotiations with Obama, favoring the regular legislative process instead.
That process has proved messy for the GOP and senior White House aides insist that in a standoff, Republicans will be perceived as the unreasonable party. And the White House is convinced any concession would place the president in the position of having to bargain again and again when the next debt ceiling looms.
"Every poll I've seen suggests that while no one escapes cleanly from a shutdown, the GOP would bear the brunt," former senior White House counselor and Obama adviser David Axelrod said. "The bigger danger for the president is to put himself in a position to be constantly held hostage. First they want an arm. Then they want a leg. It's unsustainable."
The likelihood of a shutdown Oct. 1 and the threat of a credit default in the ensuing weeks have mounted as conservative Republicans push to use a stopgap spending bill and an increase in the debt ceiling as leverage against Obama's 3-year-old health care law.
House Republican leaders, meanwhile, want to attach other provisions to the debt ceiling, including approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and provisions blocking pollution regulations.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Thursday demanded the GOP-controlled House simply send the Senate unencumbered spending and debt ceiling bills.
"There's no need for conversations," Reid said. "We've spoken loudly and clearly, and we have the support of the president of the United States. And that's pretty good."
The Pew Research Center, however, found nearly 6 out of 10 Americans want politicians they side with to be more willing to engage in talks. And the public split about evenly in the Pew poll on who would be responsible if the government shut down, with 39 percent blaming Republicans and 36 percent Obama and much of the rest blaming both.
"The president may not be playing this just for this set and this match," said Patrick Griffin, the White House legislative director under President Bill Clinton. "As his tenure goes on and his legacy looms larger, he might not be as poll sensitive as he might be otherwise."
White House aides say Obama is still willing to negotiate over a long-term spending deal, just not as part of raising the debt ceiling. But the opportunity for that could be short-lived, too. The Senate version of the short-term spending bill would set up another possible government shutdown as soon as Nov. 16.
What's more, lines in the sand have blurred before.
Obama ran for re-election vowing to increase taxes on individuals making more than $200,000. Republicans insisted they would not raise taxes at all. In the end, both settled on a hike on incomes above $400,000. Most recently, Obama altered course on Syria, at first determined to launch missile strikes against its regime, then seeking congressional support before taking a diplomatic path aimed at destroying Syria's chemical stockpile.
The White House also sees the current showdown as an opportunity to cast the Republican Party in the image of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a leader in the effort to kill Obama's health care law.
"They have allowed Ted Cruz to be their face, write their charter, and steer their ship," said senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer. "That is a decision that has real consequences for how the American people view the Republican Party as we head into this debate."
Still, if the White House is eager to stitch Cruz' name to the Republican Party banner, many Senate Republicans were doing their best to distance themselves from the Texan and his aggressive tactics.
Indeed, as much as Republicans dislike the health care law, many Republicans argue that seeking to kill it is fruitless as long as Obama is president and Democrats control the Senate.
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Obama mocks GOP for 'crazy' Obamacare predictions

President Barack Obama speaks about the Affordable Care Act, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, at Prince George's Community College in Largo, Md. The president is promoting the benefits of his health care law before new insurance exchanges open for business next week. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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Associated Press/Pablo Martinez Monsivais - President Barack Obama speaks about the Affordable Care Act, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, at Prince George's Community College in Largo, Md. The president is promoting

LARGO, Maryland (AP) — With just five days to go before Americans can begin signing up for health care under his signature law, President Barack Obama on Thursday ridiculed Republican opponents for "crazy" doomsday predictions of the impact and forecast that even those who didn't vote for him are going to enroll.
With polls showing many Americans still skeptical of the law known as "Obamacare," the president went back to the basics of explaining how nearly 50 million uninsured Americans will be able to buy coverage in new government-run exchanges while mocking Republicans for trying to block its implementation. "The closer we get, the more desperate they get," Obama argued.
"The Republican party has just spun itself up around this issue," Obama said. "And the fact is the Republicans' biggest fear at this point is not that Affordable Care Act will fail. What they're worried about is it's going to succeed."
House Republicans are inserting provisions that undermine the health care law into a short-term spending measure needed to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1 and into legislation that would increase the government's borrowing ability, which the Treasury says will hit its limit in mid-October.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday that Obama is trying to sell the law to a skeptical public.
"It must be frustrating for the president that folks seem to keep tuning out all the happy talk anyway," McConnell said. "This law is a mess. It needs to go. It's way past time to start over."
Obama won loud applause from a friendly audience at Prince George's Community College in the Washington suburbs when he vowed that he wouldn't let Republicans block the law. "We are going to see it through. The Affordable Care Act is here," Obama said.
The six-month enrollment period for the exchanges starts Tuesday, with consumers in most of the country able to comparison shop between plans online. The Obama administration needs millions of Americans — especially young, healthy people — to sign up in order to keep costs low for everyone.
The White House said Prince George's County, Md., has a high rate of uninsured, with about 16 percent of residents under 65 without insurance. Obama's audience was full of the young people he is targeting for enrollment.
Obama acknowledged there would be glitches in getting the exchanges up and running, and even as he was speaking administration officials were quietly telling key interest groups to expect initial problems signing up online for coverage. Small businesses will not be able to enroll online starting Oct. 1 when new health insurance markets go live and will have to enroll by paper, and the Spanish-language version of its website will be not be ready to handle enrollments for a few weeks. An estimated 10 million Latinos are eligible for coverage.
Three-and-a-half years after Obama signed the bill into law, his nearly hourlong speech showed he's still having to educate consumers about what will be available to them and convince them to sign up. He predicted success once people learn they can save money or get insurance for the first time.
"Even if you didn't vote for me, I'll bet you'll sign up for that health care plan," Obama said.
Obama said Republicans want "to shut this thing down before people find out that they like it."
Obama didn't call out any of his Republican opponents by name, but he laughingly taunted some of their arguments. He mentioned House Speaker John Boehner's prediction right before the bill was signed into law in March 2010 that "Armageddon" was impending. He quoted Louisiana Rep. John Fleming, who said earlier this month that "Obamacare is the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed in Congress." He cited Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's appeal to colleagues on the House floor six months ago to "repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens."
And he quoted New Hampshire state Rep. Bill O'Brien's declaration in August that Obamacare is "a law as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850." That was met by a chorus of gasps and boos from the largely black audience.
"Think about that. Affordable health care is worse than a law that lets slave owners get their runaway slaves back," Obama said. "I mean, these are quotes. I'm not making this stuff up.
"All this would be funny if it wasn't so crazy," Obama said.

Bill Clinton Calls Parts of House GOP Proposal To Raise Debt Ceiling 'Chilling,' 'Spiteful'

Bill Clinton Calls Parts of House GOP Proposal To Raise Debt Ceiling 'Chilling,' 'Spiteful' (ABC News)
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ABC News - Bill Clinton Calls Parts of House GOP Proposal To Raise Debt Ceiling 'Chilling,' 'Spiteful' (ABC News)

During an interview for "This Week" airing Sunday, former President Bill Clinton called parts of the reported House GOP proposal to raise the debt ceiling "chilling" and "almost spiteful" in the way that it would impact low-income Americans.

"If I were the president, I wouldn't negotiate over these draconian cuts that are going to take food off the table of low-income working people, while they leave all the agricultural subsidies in for high-income farmers and everything else. I just think it's - it's chilling to me," Clinton told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an interview this morning in New York.

"It seems almost spiteful," he added.

Clinton, speaking to Stephanopoulos during the annual Clinton Global Initiative, asserted that House Republicans were attempting to strong-arm President Obama and advised him to not change course. The president has said repeatedly that he would not negotiate with Congress over raising of the debt ceiling.

"This is the House Republicans and the Tea Party people saying, 'We don't want to negotiate with the Democrats. … We want to dictate over the Senate, over the House Democrats, over the Speaker of the House of our own party and over the president,'" the former president said.

The government is expected to hit its borrowing limit on Oct. 17, according to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. The government will go into default if it does not raise the ceiling, which could severely impact the economy.

The fight over raising the debt ceiling in the summer of 2011 led, in part, to Standard and Poor's lowering the credit rating of the United States.

Go here to see when "This Week" is on in your area.

Also Read

White House shoots down idea of device tax repeal in funding bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House would not agree to repealing a medical device tax as part of a stop-gap bill to continue funding the government past September 30, White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Thursday.

The tax helps to fund President Barack Obama's 2010 healthcare law and Republicans are trying to undermine the law.

The White House also would reject the inclusion of a measure to approve TransCanada's Keystone XL oil pipeline on a bill to raise the debt limit, Carney told reporters at a briefing.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Health care exchanges open Tuesday: What you need to know

On Tuesday, the health insurance exchanges that are a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act will open for the first time, and the White House expects 7 million uninsured people to sign up during the six-month enrollment period.

But don’t fret if you have no idea what these exchanges are — you are not alone. In August, 45 percent of people polled by Kaiser said they had heard “nothing at all” about the health insurance marketplaces mandated by the law.

Here’s a guide to the exchanges:

What is the health insurance exchange?

The health insurance exchange, or marketplace, will allow people who don’t have coverage through Medicaid, Medicare or their employer to comparison-shop for the best individual plan in their state on In 34 states, the exchanges are managed entirely or mostly by the federal government; the other 16 states have set up their own exchanges.

About 95 percent of uninsured people will have a choice between at least two insurers offering an average of 53 different plans, according to the White House.

The plans are divided into four categories: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. A bronze plan — the cheapest — covers 60 percent of an individual’s estimated health care costs, while the platinum plan will cover 90 percent of costs. (Some states also offer catastrophic plans that cover even less than 60 percent of costs.)

Starting in 2014, insurers cannot charge customers more based on their pre-existing conditions or their medical history, and all plans must offer a minimum of services, such as maternity care, that some plans did not offer in the past.

Do I have to buy health insurance on the exchange?

If you’re uninsured, you have to purchase health insurance or face a fine of $95 or 1 percent of your income, whichever is larger, on your 2014 tax return. (That fee will go up to 2.5 percent of income in 2016.) Consumers making up to four times the federal poverty level will qualify for tax breaks when they purchase the insurance, to offset the cost. If purchasing insurance would cost more than 8 percent of your income, including the tax break, you’re exempt from the fee.

How much will it cost?

The costs for insurance will vary widely by state, and even by county. The White House estimates that the average monthly premium for a low-cost silver plan will be $328 a month for an individual, before tax credits are applied. A family of four with an income of $50,000 before taxes could pay as little as $205 a month for insurance in Alaska, after the tax credit is applied, and as much as $282 in North Carolina and several other states. (Before the tax credit is applied, the price for the family varies from $584 per month in Arizona to $1,237 in Wyoming.)

With tax credits and including the Medicaid expansion, nearly six out of 10 uninsured people will have access to a health plan that costs under $100 per month for next year. You can peruse the White House’s premium cost estimates by state on its site, but be aware the figures cited are averages for the entire state and might be different based on which county you live in.

How do people enroll?

In order to process millions of applications, the Obama administration built a website called where applicants can comparison-shop for insurance offered in their state.

Users log in and create an account and are then asked a series of questions about their income, family size, employer name and contact information. The site connects to other federal agencies’ databases to verify the information provided, and it then informs the user if he qualifies for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. If not, the user is then directed to the marketplace, where he can compare different plans and see exactly what tax break he qualifies for and how much the insurance would cost per month. If you decide to purchase the insurance, you’re led to the website of the insurer to finish the transaction.

There’s also a 24-hour hot line people can call if they have any questions while navigating the application process, which can assist them in 150 languages. The Obama administration also doled out millions of dollars in grants to train “navigators” who work in community health centers and other locations to enroll people in person.

Uninsured people will have six months to enroll starting Oct. 1, but must enroll before Dec. 15 if they want the insurance plan to kick in on Jan. 1.

Can the insurance prices change?

The insurance price quoted on the health care site is locked in for 2014 and can’t change. Next year, the insurer could change the price, but consumers also will have the option to shop around again and switch plans.

Will the enrollment website work?

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the computer system was not accurately calculating the costs of the insurance plans. But David Simas, White House deputy senior adviser for communications and strategy, says these bugs are being ironed out and that the exchanges will be ready to go on Oct. 1.

Obama urges Congress to pass budget, raise debt ceiling

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Barack Obama on Saturday urged the US Congress to approve a budget to keep the government open after October 1, and raise the debt ceiling so the country can pay its bills.Far-right Republicans in Congress want to take neither action in their attempt to defund a sweeping health care overhaul approved more than three years ago. Critics nicknamed the law "Obamacare," and Republicans have fought to repeal it since its passage.If a budget "doesn't pass before September 30th - a week from Monday - the government will shut down," Obama said in his weekly Saturday morning broadcast address. "And so will many services the American people expect."Obama warned that even soldiers serving abroad could see their paychecks stopped.Congress must also raise the limit on government borrowing, as the US government is expected to run out of money by around the middle of October -- a scenario that could make stock markets tumble and send shockwaves through the global economy."Since the 1950s, Congress has always passed it, and every president has signed it - Democrats and Republicans," including conservative icon Ronald Reagan, Obama said."And if this Congress doesn't do it within the next few weeks, the United States will default on its obligations and put our entire economy at risk."While Democrats and "some reasonable Republicans" are willing to take both actions,"there's also a faction on the far right of the Republican party who've convinced their leadership to threaten a government shutdown" and are "willing to plunge America into default" if they can't defund the health care program."The United States of America is not a deadbeat nation," Obama said. "We are the world's bedrock investment. And doing anything to threaten that is the height of irresponsibility."That's why I will not negotiate over the full faith and credit of the United States. I will not allow anyone to harm this country's reputation, or threaten to inflict economic pain on millions of our own people, just to make an ideological point."Many federal agencies and programs will shutter on October 1, day one of the coming fiscal year, if Congress and the president do not agree on a temporary budget measure.

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