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Weekly remarks: GOP's Pete King on terror war; Obama sees better economy despite bad job numbers

January 9, 2010 |  3:00 am

Barack Obama White House at Dawn

Remarks by President Obama, as provided by the White House

A year ago, when I took office in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, I promised you two things. The first was that there would be better days ahead. And the second was that the road to recovery would be long, and sometimes bumpy.

That was brought home again yesterday. We learned that in November, our economy saw its first month of job gains in nearly two years -- but last month, we lost more than we gained. Now, we know that no single month makes a trend, and job losses for the final quarter of 2009 were one-tenth what they were in the first quarter. But until we see a trend of good, sustainable job creation, we will be relentless in our efforts to put America back to work.

That task goes even deeper than replacing the 7 million jobs that have been lost over the past two years. We need to rebuild our economy in such a way that our families can feel a measure of security again.  Too many of the folks I’ve talked with this year, and whose....

...stories I read in letters at night, tell me that they’ve known their own private recessions since long before economists declared one -- and they’ll still feel the recession long after economists have declared it over.

That’s because, for decades, Washington avoided doing what was right in favor of doing what was easy. And the result was an economy where some made out well, but the middle class too often took a beating.

Over the past decade, the income of the average household actually declined, and we lost as many jobs as we created. Hardworking folks who did everything right suddenly found themselves forced to downscale their dreams because of economic factors beyond their control.  We’re talking about simple dreams.  American dreams. A good job with a good wage. A secure and dignified retirement. Stable health care so you don’t go broke just because you get sick. The chance to give our kids a better shot than we got.

That’s why, as we begin to emerge from this crisis, we will not return to the complacency that helped cause it.  Even as we focus on putting America back to work today, we’re building a new foundation for our economy to create the good, lasting jobs and shared prosperity of tomorrow.

We’re making historic investments in science and in a clean energy economy that will generate and keep the jobs and industries of the future right here in America. We’re reforming our education system, so that our kids are fully prepared to compete with workers anywhere in the world and win the race for the 21st century.

We’re fixing our broken health insurance system that’s crushing families, eating away at workers’ take-home pay, and nailing small businesses with double-digit premium increases.

And that’s what I’d like to focus on for a minute. After a long and thorough debate, we are on the verge of passing health insurance reform that will finally offer Americans the security of knowing they’ll have quality, affordable health care whether they lose their job, change jobs, move, or get sick. The worst practices of the insurance industry will be banned forever. And costs will finally come down for families, businesses, and our government.

Now, it’ll take a few years to fully implement these reforms in a responsible way. But what every American should know is that once I sign health insurance reform into law, there are dozens of protections and benefits that will take effect this year. Uninsured Americans with a pre-existing illness or condition will finally be able to purchase coverage they can afford.

Children with pre-existing conditions will no longer be refused coverage, and young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ policy until they’re 26 or 27 years old. Small business owners who can’t afford to cover their employees will be immediately offered tax credits to purchase coverage.

Early retirees who receive coverage from their employers will see their coverage protected and their premiums go down. Seniors who fall into the coverage gap known as the donut hole will receive discounts of up to 50 percent on their prescriptions as we begin to close that gap altogether. And every patient’s choice of doctor will be protected, along with access to emergency care.

Here’s what else will happen within the first year. Insurance plans will be required to offer free preventive care to their customers -- so that we can start catching preventable illnesses and diseases on the front end.  They’ll no longer be allowed to impose restrictive annual limits on the amount of coverage you receive or lifetime limits on the amount of benefits you receive. They’ll be prohibited from dropping your coverage when you get sick and need it most.  And there will be a new, independent appeals process for anyone who feels they were unfairly denied a claim by their insurance company.

In short, once I sign health insurance reform into law, doctors and patients will have more control over their health care decisions, and insurance company bureaucrats will have less. All told, these changes represent the most sweeping reforms and toughest restrictions on insurance companies that this country has ever known.  That’s how we’ll make 2010 a healthier and more secure year for every American -- for those who have health insurance, and those who don’t.

We enter a new decade, now, with new perils -- but we’re going to meet them. It’s also a time of tremendous promise -- and we’re going to seize it. We will rebuild the American Dream for our middle class and put the American economy on a stronger footing for the future. And this year, I am as hopeful and as confident as ever that we’re going to rise to this moment the same way that generations of Americans always have: as one nation, and one people.Thanks for listening.    ###


Weekly Remarks by Rep. Pete King of New York, as provided by the Republican National Committee

Hi, I’m Republican Congressman Pete King. I serve as the Ranking Member on the House Homeland Security Committee and I’m also a member of the House Intelligence Committee. I have the privilege to represent New York’s Third Congressional District, on Long Island in the suburbs of New York City.  

Two weeks ago, the terrorist plot to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 in the skies over Detroit was thwarted by a combination of luck and vigilance. But as President Obama has rightly said, it should never have even gotten to that point.

Last year, this terrorist’s father, a widely respected member of his community, went to our embassy in Nigeria and shared his concerns that his son was becoming a radical jihadist. That should have been more than enough to trigger a red flag that would prevent this terrorist from ever setting foot on a plane bound for the U.S with explosives.  
Republican Representative Peter King of New York
Both parties recognize the need for answers, so bureaucratic reviews will take place and congressional hearings will be held.

And while that’s all well and good, this is about much more than whether the no-fly list gets longer or it takes more time to get through the security line at the airport.

This is about whether we’ve learned our lesson. Terrorists still have innocent people in their sights and the will to murder them.

They are always working on the next attack, refining their methods, searching the globe for new recruits. In other words, September 11th is not ancient history -- it’s all too real.

So, the people in my community certainly get it. American families get it. And now it’s time for the Administration in Washington to stop sending mixed messages and get it too.

One of the first things we need to do is pass the Keep Terrorists Out of America Act, a common-sense bill Republicans have proposed to prevent terrorists from being brought onto our soil. This bill would help stop the misguided plan to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 terrorists on trial in downtown Manhattan. It’s an enormous, unnecessary risk, as is housing terrorists at the proposed ‘Gitmo North’ facility near Chicago.  

There’s a good reason why the government has had such a hard time transferring these terrorist detainees to other countries. They are the worst of the worst. No one should want them. That’s why we put in place a process by which these terrorists should be held and tried -- as enemy combatants, by military commissions.

The Keep Terrorists Out of America Act will also help to ensure that we’re treating terrorism as what it is --  a war crime, not a law enforcement issue.  We can’t gather the intelligence we need to foil future attacks if we are blindly granting terrorists the right to remain silent. But for some reason, we’ve already done that with the terrorist who tried to bring down Flight 253.  

We’re a nation at war, and we should act like it. We need to pull together, remain vigilant, and send a clear signal -- both to  our friends and our enemies -- that this government will stop at nothing to protect our homeland. That’s how America sets an example for the world. Thank you for listening.    ###

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Photos: Ron Edmonds / Associated Press; Fox News Channel (King); Associated Press