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State of the Union 2013: President says new gun laws "deserve a vote"

February 13, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor, with Mark Hagland, Contributing Editor
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In his first State of the Union address of his second term, President Barack Obama on Feb. 12 directly addressed some of the challenges and opportunities facing the country including the federal Medicare program in the coming years, citing value-based purchasing in particular as an important change to the U.S. healthcare system, as well as mental health for the military, gun control, proposing changes in pharmaceutical policy and in Medicare rules for wealthy seniors.

 

"As long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those who serve their country abroad, and we will maintain the best military in the world," the President said. "We will keep faith with our veterans – investing in world-class care, including mental health care, for our wounded warriors; supporting our military families; and giving our veterans the benefits, education, and job opportunities they have earned."

He also mentioned the tragedy in Newtown and said that although the country has debated how to reduce gun violence in the past, this time is different.

"Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around commonsense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun," Obama said. "Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.

"Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun," he explained.

He recognized that the actions the nation takes will not prevent every senseless act of violence that occurs, but that it is important to make "what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, and uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government."

President Obama told a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C. that “On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of healthcare savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.

"Already,” he said, “the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of healthcare costs.” Then, stepping into new policy territory, the President told his audience, “The reforms I’m proposing go even further. We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors.”

Turning back to the value-based purchasing program built into the ACA, he said, “We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.”

And President Obama added, “I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement. Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep,” he said, “but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.”

In the official Republican rebuttal to the President’s State of the Union speech, Florida senator Marco Rubio criticized the ACA. Referring to it as “Obamacare,” Rubio said, “[M]ore government breeds complicated rules and laws that a small business can’t afford to follow.” Turning to the ACA specifically, Rubio said, “For example, Obamacare was supposed to help middle-class Americans afford health insurance. But now, some people are losing the health insurance they were happy with. And because Obamacare created expensive requirements for companies with more than 50 employees, now many of these businesses aren’t hiring. Not only that; they’re being forced to lay people off and switch from full-time employees to part-time workers.”

Rubio did not cite a specific alternative to the ACA, but did bundle his criticism of that legislation in with a broader critique of what he saw as big-government policies, calling instead for economic growth via lower taxes and reductions in regulations.

 

 

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