Weekly remarks: GOP's McDonnell says Obama cuts Medicare; Obama sees Libya war gains
Before I begin today, I want to thank the brave men and women of our armed forces for their selfless service during recent operations in Libya, and their ongoing great work in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their relief efforts in Japan.
Virginia is home to many of our nation’s most important military installations, and we thank these courageous Americans for their defense of the freedom and liberty that we hold dear.
Like most governors, my top priority for our Commonwealth is ensuring fiscal responsibility and helping the private sector create the good jobs our citizens need.
Here in the states, we have to balance our budgets. We can’t print money, and we have....
When I took office last year, we faced historic budget deficits of $6 billion here in Virginia. And we closed those deficits by cutting spending, not raising taxes. In the process we reduced state spending to 2006 levels -- and turned a shortfall into a surplus.
We’ve acted in a fiscally responsible manner here in Richmond. And that’s what Republican governors from Madison to Austin and Tallahassee to Albuquerque are doing right now.
But our work in the states is at risk of being undermined by some of the unrealistic and irresponsible policies that are coming from Washington.
Chief among those: the passage, one year ago this week, of the federal healthcare bill.
Unlike states, families, and businesses, the federal government doesn’t have to balance its budget. And that unfortunate reality leads to policies like the federal healthcare bill that push expensive, unfunded and unsustainable programs onto the rest of us. Washington passes the law, and then expects us to balance the books.
One year after the federal healthcare bill was rammed through the Congress in a partisan vote, we now see it has more to do with expanding control by the federal government than actually reforming our healthcare system.
The 2,700-page legislation simply will not work. It creates new entitlements and bureaucracies, and could cost all of us in fewer jobs and lost opportunities.
The law shifts billions in unfunded mandates onto state governments, and rigid new requirements restrict the governors’ abilities to manage our state programs. The result: higher costs, less innovation and freedom. That’s a prescription for serious problems at the state level, where much of this plan must be implemented.
Most notably, the federal healthcare bill dramatically expands Medicaid, which was already growing at unsustainable rates.
In Virginia alone, state spending on Medicaid has grown by a staggering 1,600% over the past 27 years. The program now accounts for 21% of our entire general fund budget, and is projected to grow another 26% between 2012 and 2016. Under the federal healthcare bill, Virginia will be forced to spend $2 billion more on Medicaid between 2014 and 2022.
The more spending required for Medicaid entitlements, the less money available for roads, schools, law enforcement and higher education. The more mandates on employers, the less jobs that they can create. This federal law will lead to painful decisions that will impact every American.
The federal healthcare bill is not only a budget buster, it’s also unconstitutional.
Virginia, like the majority of states, is challenging this legislation in court. Already a federal district court judge has ruled in our favor, concluding that the provision that a Virginia citizen must purchase insurance or face a penalty is unconstitutional.
Courts have split on this issue. Everyone agrees that the case will ultimately be decided by the United States Supreme Court. But now the very same administration that was in such a rush to pass the bill is in no hurry to find out if it’s legal. And that’s an answer we all need to know.
The legal issues must be settled promptly by the court to create certainty and finality for healthcare providers, businesses and all Americans. Shockingly, the Obama administration opposes an expedited appeal to the Supreme Court, preferring the potential for years of costly litigation in the lower courts.
Regardless of party, we should all agree that the sooner we know if the law is constitutional, the better for the American people.
Also, we can all agree that we must make our health system more affordable, accessible and accountable.
Republican governors are on the front lines of this effort.
We believe that the best way to do that is by repealing this burdensome and bureaucratic bill and replacing it with innovative free-market policies that drive down costs and increase coverage.
We can do that by instituting real lawsuit reform, allowing citizens to purchase healthcare insurance across states lines, encouraging health savings accounts, allowing voluntary market-based purchasing pools and exchanges and focusing on prevention and real health maintenance. Those are just a few of the ideas.
We need policies that give greater freedom to citizens and employers and don’t overly burden states and businesses. Policies that recognizes what history teaches well: and that is that the creative solutions of the free market beat one-size-fits-all plans of big government.
Here in your state capitols, Republican governors are leading the effort to cut government spending, keep taxes low, help the private sector create jobs, provide access to affordable healthcare and get our economy back on track by making our states more competitive.
We are asking this administration to join us in the effort. Thank you for taking the time to listen today and have a great weekend. ####
Last week, when I ordered our armed forces to help protect the Libyan people from the brutality of Moammar Qaddafi, I pledged to keep the American people fully informed. Since then, I’ve spoken about the limited scope and specific purpose of this mission. Today, I can report that thanks to our brave men and women in uniform, we’ve made important progress.
As commander in chief, I face no greater decision than sending our military men and women into harm’s way. And the United States should not — and cannot — intervene every time there’s a crisis somewhere in the world.
But I firmly believe that when innocent people are being brutalized; when someone like Qaddafi threatens a bloodbath that could destabilize an entire region; and when the international community is prepared to come together to save many thousands of lives — then it’s in our national interest to act. And it’s our responsibility. This is one of those times.
Our military mission in Libya is clear and focused. Along with our allies and partners, we’re enforcing the mandate of the United Nations Security Council. We’re protecting the Libyan people from Qaddafi’s forces. And we’ve put in place a no-fly zone and other measures to prevent further atrocities.
We’re succeeding in our mission. We’ve taken out Libya’s air defenses. Qaddafi’s forces are no longer advancing across Libya. In places like Benghazi, a city of some 700,000 that Qaddafi threatened to show “no mercy,” his forces have been pushed back. So make no mistake, because we acted quickly, a humanitarian catastrophe has been avoided and the lives of countless civilians — innocent men, women and children — have been saved.
As I pledged at the outset, the role of American forces has been limited. We are not putting any ground forces into Libya. Our military has provided unique capabilities at the beginning, but this is now a broad, international effort. Our allies and partners are enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya and the arms embargo at sea. Key Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have committed aircraft. And as agreed this week, responsibility for this operation is being transferred from the United States to our NATO allies and partners.
This is how the international community should work — more nations, not just the United States, bearing the responsibility and cost of upholding peace and security.
This military effort is part of our larger strategy to support the Libyan people and hold the Qaddafi regime accountable. Together with the international community, we’re delivering urgent humanitarian assistance. We’re offering support to the Libyan opposition. We’ve frozen tens of billions of dollars of Qaddafi’s assets that can help meet the needs and aspirations of the Libyan people. And every day, the pressure on Qaddafi and his regime is increasing.
Our message is clear and unwavering. Qaddafi’s attacks against civilians must stop. His forces must pull back. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach those in need. Those responsible for violence must be held accountable. Moammar Qaddafi has lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to rule, and the aspirations of the Libyan people must be realized.
In recent days, we’ve heard the voices of Libyans expressing their gratitude for this mission. “You saved our lives,” said one Libyan. Said another, “Today, there is hope.”
Every American can be proud of the lives we’ve saved in Libya and of the service of our men and women in uniform who once again have stood up for our interests and our ideals. And people in Libya and around the world are seeing that the United States of America stands with those who hope for a future where they can determine their own destiny. ####
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Photos: Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press; Bob Brown / Associated Press ; Pete Souza / White House.