President Barack Obama met with reporters in the East Room on Wednesday and signaled more openness to work together with Republicans who will soon control both houses in Congress beginning in January as he seeks to advance his own policies with less political cover behind him on Capitol Hill.
Admitting that Republicans had a “good night” at the midterm elections on Tuesday and emphasizing that he hears voters, Obama said that he still has a unique responsibility to try and make Washington work.
Obama pointed out that over the past six years since he’s been president, America has made progress as more Americans are working and carrying health insurance while the deficit has shrunk and America’s dependence on foreign oil is down, as are gas prices.
Obama said that he looks forward to Republicans putting forward their governing agenda while he makes preparations to host politicians from both parties tomorrow at the White House.
“I’m committed to making sure that I measure ideas not by whether they are from Democrats or Republicans, but whether they work for the American people” Obama said.
Some of the key policy issues that Obama hopes to gain common ground from Republicans includes creating more jobs by rebuilding America’s infrastructure through tax reform and closing loopholes, expanding early education, finding new markets for American exports, and increasing the federal minimum wage which remains popular with the majority of Americans.
“And in the five states where a minimum wage increase was on the ballot last night, voters went five for five to increase it. That will give about 325,000 Americans a raise in states where Republican candidates prevailed” Obama said.
Obama explained that he’s submitting a funding request to Congress to combat the spread of Ebola in Africa and to increase America’s preparedness to confront the disease at home.
Obama will also seek to “engage” Congress over a new Authorization to Use Military Force against ISIL in the Middle East.
“The world needs to know we are united behind this effort, and the men and women of our military deserve our clear and unified support” Obama told reporters.
Immigration Reform And Affordable Care Act
When asked by reporters about his stance towards immigration and using executive action to enact certain forms of immigration reform, Obama responded by saying he made it his top legislative priority, and it was approved by a bipartisan group of senators, but it froze up in the House.
Obama explained that America can’t keep waiting to approve comprehensive immigration reform.
“But I want to emphasize once again, if, in fact, Republican leadership wants to see an immigration bill passed, they now have the capacity to pass it. And hopefully engaging with me and Democrats in both the House and the Senate, it’s a bill that I can sign because it addresses the real concerns that are out there” Obama said.
Obama made it clear that he won’t sign any law to repeal the Affordable Care Act and there are some lines that he’s going to draw.
“Efforts that would take away health care from the 10 million people who now have it and the millions more who are eligible to get it we’re not going to support” Obama explained.
Later Obama admitted that he is open to some ideas for change and “there are some other areas where we think we can do even better.”
Obama indicated that he remains open and receptive to hearing ideas from Mitch McConnell and John Boehner to make the health care law work better.
Obama said that as more Americans become enrolled into the Affordable Care Act, America has the lowest increase in health care costs in 50 years, which is saving about $180 billion in reduced overall costs to the federal government in the Medicare program.
Obama emphasized that the individual mandate is a line he can’t cross.
The individual mandate through the Affordable Care Act requires that most Americans obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty.
On Wednesday evening Senators John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) submitted an op-ed titled “Now We Can Get Congress Going” that appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
In the op-ed piece both Republican leaders stated that they are renewing their commitment to repeal ObamaCare, which they claim is hurting the job market along with Americans’ health care.
The Republican House of Representatives have already voted numerous times to repeal the Affordable Care Act but Democrat Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who has controlled the Senate since 2007, never brought it to the floor for a vote.
Some of the other issues that Boehner and McConnell advocate for in their op-ed piece includes helping to protect and expand America’s emerging energy boom, authorizing the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, changing the tax code, and supporting charter schools that give parents more choices where to send their children to school.