[Congressional Record Volume 160, Number 16 (Tuesday, January 28, 2014)]
[House]
[Pages H1473-H1478]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                              {time}  2041
JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS PURSUANT TO HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION 75 TO 
                  RECEIVE A MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT

  The recess having expired, the House was called to order by the 
Speaker at 8 o'clock and 41 minutes p.m.
  The Assistant to the Sergeant at Arms, Ms. Kathleen Joyce, announced 
the Vice President and Members of the U.S. Senate, who entered the Hall 
of the House of Representatives, the Vice President taking the chair at 
the right of the Speaker, and the Members of the Senate the seats 
reserved for them.
  The SPEAKER. The joint session will come to order.
  The Chair appoints as members of the committee on the part of the 
House to escort the President of the United States into the Chamber:
  The gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Cantor);
  The gentleman from California (Mr. McCarthy);
  The gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Walden);
  The gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. Lankford);
  The gentlewoman from Kansas (Ms. Jenkins);
  The gentlewoman from North Carolina (Ms. Foxx);
  The gentlewoman from California (Ms. Pelosi);
  The gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Hoyer);
  The gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Clyburn);
  The gentleman from California (Mr. Becerra);
  The gentleman from New York (Mr. Crowley);
  The gentleman from New York (Mr. Israel); and
  The gentlewoman from Connecticut (Ms. DeLauro).
  The VICE PRESIDENT. The President of the Senate, at the direction of 
that body, appoints the following Senators as members of the committee 
on the part of the Senate to escort the President of the United States 
into the House Chamber:
  The Senator from Nevada (Mr. Reid);
  The Senator from Illinois (Mr. Durbin);
  The Senator from New York (Mr. Schumer);
  The Senator from Washington (Mrs. Murray);
  The Senator from Colorado (Mr. Bennet);
  The Senator from Michigan (Ms. Stabenow);
  The Senator from Alaska (Mr. Begich);
  The Senator from Kentucky (Mr. McConnell);
  The Senator from Texas (Mr. Cornyn);
  The Senator from South Dakota (Mr. Thune);
  The Senator from Missouri (Mr. Blunt); and
  The Senator from Wyoming (Mr. Barrasso).
  The Assistant to the Sergeant at Arms announced the Acting Dean of 
the Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador Hersey Kyota of the Republic of Palau.
  The Acting Dean of the Diplomatic Corps entered the Hall of the House 
of Representatives and took the seat reserved for him.
  The Assistant to the Sergeant at Arms announced the Chief Justice of 
the United States and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court.
  The Chief Justice of the United States and the Associate Justices of 
the Supreme Court entered the Hall of the House of Representatives and 
took the seats reserved for them in front of the Speaker's rostrum.
  The Assistant to the Sergeant at Arms announced the Cabinet of the 
President of the United States.
  The members of the Cabinet of the President of the United States 
entered the Hall of the House of Representatives and took the seats 
reserved for them in front of the Speaker's rostrum.
  At 9 o'clock and 10 minutes p.m., the Sergeant at Arms, the Honorable 
Paul D. Irving, announced the President of the United States.
  The President of the United States, escorted by the committee of 
Senators and Representatives, entered the Hall of the House of 
Representatives and stood at the Clerk's desk.
  (Applause, the Members rising.)
  The SPEAKER. Members of the Congress, I have the high privilege and 
the distinct honor of presenting to you the President of the United 
States.
  (Applause, the Members rising.)
  The PRESIDENT. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, 
my fellow Americans:
  Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who 
needed it, and did her part to lift America's graduation rate to its 
highest levels in more than three decades.
  An entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup, and did 
her part to

[[Page H1474]]

add to the more than 8 million new jobs our businesses have created 
over the past 4 years.
  An autoworker fine-tuned some of the best, most fuel-efficient cars 
in the world, and did his part to help America wean itself off foreign 
oil.
  A farmer prepared for the spring after the strongest 5-year stretch 
of farm exports in our history. A rural doctor gave a young child the 
first prescription to treat asthma that his mother could afford. A man 
took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired but dreaming big 
dreams for his son. And in tight-knit communities all across America, 
fathers and mothers will tuck in their kids, put an arm around their 
spouse, remember fallen comrades, and give thanks for being home from a 
war that, after 12 long years, is finally coming to an end.
  Tonight, this Chamber speaks with one voice to the people we 
represent: it is you, our citizens, who make the state of our Union 
strong.
  Here are the results of your efforts: the lowest unemployment rate in 
over 5 years. A rebounding housing market. A manufacturing sector 
that's adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. More oil 
produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world--the first time 
that's happened in nearly 20 years. Our deficits--cut by more than 
half. And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around 
the world have declared that China is no longer the world's number one 
place to invest; America is.
  That's why I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America. 
After 5 years of grit and determined effort, the United States is 
better positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.
  The question for everyone in this Chamber, running through every 
decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder 
this progress. For several years now, this town has been consumed by a 
rancorous argument over the proper size of the Federal Government. It's 
an important debate--one that dates back to our very founding. But when 
that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions 
of our democracy--when our differences shut down government or threaten 
the full faith and credit of the United States--then we are not doing 
right by the American people.
  As President, I am committed to making Washington work better and 
rebuilding the trust of the people who sent us here. And I believe most 
of you are too.
  Last month, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans, Congress 
finally produced a budget that undoes some of last year's severe cuts 
to priorities like education. Nobody got everything they wanted, and we 
can still do more to invest in this country's future while bringing 
down our deficit in a balanced way, but the budget compromise should 
leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises.
  In the coming months, let's see where else we can make progress 
together. Let's make this a year of action. That is what most Americans 
want--for all of us in this Chamber to focus on their lives, their 
hopes, their aspirations; and what I believe unites the people of this 
Nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or 
poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all--the notion 
that, if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead in 
America.
  Let's face it. That belief has suffered some serious blows. Over more 
than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts 
in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, 
middle class jobs and weakened the economic foundations that families 
depend on.
  Today, after 4 years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock 
prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done 
better, but average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. 
Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that, even in the 
midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just 
to get by, let alone to get ahead, and too many still aren't working at 
all.
  So our job is to reverse these trends. It won't happen right away, 
and we won't agree on everything; but what I offer tonight is a set of 
concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle 
class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some 
require congressional action, and I am eager to work with all of you; 
but America does not stand still, and neither will I, so wherever and 
whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for 
more American families, that is what I am going to do.
  As usual, our First Lady sets a good example. Michelle's Let's Move 
partnership with schools, businesses, and local leaders has helped 
bring down childhood obesity rates for the first time in 30 years, and 
that is an achievement that will improve lives and reduce health care 
costs for decades to come. The Joining Forces alliance that Michelle 
and Jill Biden launched has already encouraged employers to hire or 
train nearly 400,000 veterans and military spouses. Taking a page from 
that playbook, the White House just organized a College Opportunity 
Summit where already 150 universities, businesses, and nonprofits have 
made concrete commitments to reduce inequality and access to higher 
education and to help every hardworking kid go to college and succeed 
when they get to campus. Across the country, we are partnering with 
mayors, Governors, and State legislatures on issues from homelessness 
to marriage equality.
  The point is there are millions of Americans outside of Washington 
who are tired of stale political arguments and are moving this country 
forward. They believe and I believe that, here in America, our success 
should depend not on accident of birth but the strength of our work 
ethic and the scope of our dreams. That is what drew our forebears 
here. It is how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America's 
largest automaker, how the son of a barkeeper is Speaker of the House, 
how the son of a single mom can be President of the greatest Nation on 
Earth.
  Now, opportunity is who we are, and the defining project of our 
generation must be to restore that promise.
  We know where to start: the best measure of opportunity is access to 
a good job. With the economy picking up speed, companies say they 
intend to hire more people this year, and over half of big 
manufacturers say they are thinking of in-sourcing jobs from abroad.
  So let's make that decision easier for more companies. Both Democrats 
and Republicans have argued that our Tax Code is riddled with wasteful, 
complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here and reward 
companies that keep profits abroad. Let's flip that equation. Let's 
work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship 
jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs 
right here at home.
  Moreover, we can take the money we save with this transition to tax 
reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, 
unclogging our commutes because, in today's global economy, first-class 
jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure. We will need Congress to 
protect more than 3 million jobs by finishing transportation and 
waterways bills this summer--that can happen--but I will act on my own 
to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key 
projects so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as 
possible.
  We also have the chance right now to beat other countries in the race 
for the next wave of high-tech manufacturing jobs. My administration 
has launched two hubs for high-tech manufacturing--in Raleigh, North 
Carolina, and in Youngstown, Ohio--where we have connected businesses 
to research universities that can help America lead the world in 
advanced technologies. Tonight, I am announcing we will launch six more 
this year. Bipartisan bills in both Houses could double the number of 
these hubs and the jobs they create. So get those bills to my desk. Put 
more Americans back to work.
  Let's do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who 
create most new jobs in America. Over the past 5 years, my 
administration has made more loans to small business owners than any 
other, and when 98 percent of our exporters are small businesses, new 
trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help them 
create even more jobs. We need to work together on tools like

[[Page H1475]]

bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect 
our environment, and open new markets to new goods stamped ``Made in 
the USA.'' Listen, China and Europe aren't standing on the sidelines, 
and neither should we.
  We know that the Nation that goes ``all in'' on innovation today will 
own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot 
surrender. Federally funded research helped lead to the ideas and 
inventions behind Google and smartphones, and that is why Congress 
should undo the damage done by last year's cuts to basic research--so 
we can unleash the next great American discovery. There are entire 
industries to be built based on vaccines that stay ahead of drug-
resistant bacteria or paper-thin material that is stronger than steel, 
and let's pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay 
focused on innovation, not costly and needless litigation.
  Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our 
commitment to American energy. The all-of-the-above energy strategy I 
announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to 
energy independence than we have been in decades.
  One of the reasons why is natural gas. If extracted safely, it is the 
bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon 
pollution that causes climate change. Businesses plan to invest almost 
$100 billion in new factories that use natural gas. I will cut red tape 
to help States get those factories built and put folks to work, and 
this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling 
stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American 
natural gas.
  Meanwhile, my administration will keep working with the industry to 
sustain production and job growth while strengthening protection of our 
air, our water, and our communities. And while we are at it, I will use 
my authority to protect more of our pristine Federal lands for future 
generations.
  It is not just oil and natural gas production that's booming. We are 
becoming a global leader in solar, too. Every 4 minutes, another 
American home or business goes solar, every panel pounded into place by 
a worker whose job cannot be outsourced. Let's continue that progress 
with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil 
fuel industries that don't need it so that we can invest more in fuels 
of the future that do.
  And even as we have increased energy production, we have partnered 
with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy 
we consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with 
them to set higher fuel-efficiency standards for our cars. In the 
coming months, I will build on that success by setting new standards 
for our trucks so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay 
at the pump.
  Taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a 
cleaner, safer planet. Over the past 8 years, the United States has 
reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. 
But we have to act with more urgency because a changing climate is 
already harming Western communities struggling with drought and coastal 
cities dealing with floods. That's why I directed my administration to 
work with States, utilities, and others to set new standards on the 
amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into 
the air.
  The shift to a cleaner energy economy won't happen overnight, and it 
will require some tough choices along the way. But the debate is 
settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children's children 
look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a 
safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be 
able to say, yes, we did.
  Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed 
the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law 
enforcement and fix our broken immigration system. Republicans and 
Democrats in the Senate have acted. I know that Members of both parties 
in the House want to do the same.
  Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy 
and shrink our deficit by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. 
And for good reason. When people come here to fulfill their dreams--to 
study, invent, and contribute to our culture--they make our country a 
more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for 
everybody. So let's get immigration reform done this year. Let's get it 
done. It's time.
  The ideas I have outlined so far can speed up growth and create more 
jobs. But in this rapidly changing economy, we have to make sure that 
every American has the skills to fill those jobs.
  The good news is, we know how to do it. Two years ago, as the auto 
industry came roaring back, Andra Rush opened up a manufacturing firm 
in Detroit. She knew that Ford needed parts for the best-selling truck 
in America, and she knew how to make those parts. She just needed the 
workforce.
  So she dialed up what we call an American Job Center--places where 
folks can walk in to get the help or training they need to find a new 
job, or a better job. She was flooded with new workers. And today, 
Detroit Manufacturing Systems has more than 700 employees.
  What Andra and her employees experienced is how it should be for 
every employer--and every job seeker. So tonight, I have asked Vice 
President Biden to lead an across-the-board reform of America's 
training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans 
with the skills employers need and match them to good jobs that need to 
be filled right now. That means more on-the-job training and 
apprenticeships that set a young worker on a trajectory for life. It 
means connecting companies to community colleges that can help design 
training to fill their specific needs. And if Congress wants to help, 
you can concentrate funding on proven programs that connect more ready-
to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.
  I am also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce 
faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it is more effective 
in today's economy. But first, this Congress needs to restore the 
unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.
  Let me tell you why.
  Misty DeMars is a mother of two young boys. She had been steadily 
employed since she was a teenager. She put herself through college. She 
had never collected unemployment benefits--but she had been paying 
taxes.
  In May, she and her husband used their life savings to buy their 
first home. A week later, budget cuts claimed the job she loved. Last 
month, when their unemployment insurance was cut off, she sat down and 
wrote me a letter--the kind I get every day.
  ``We are the face of the unemployment crisis,'' she wrote. ``I am not 
dependent on the government . . .Our country depends on people like us 
who build careers, contribute to society . . . care about our neighbors 
. . . I am confident that in time I will find a job . . . I will pay my 
taxes, and we will raise our children in their own home in the 
community we love. Please give us this chance.''
  Congress, give these hardworking, responsible Americans that chance. 
Give them that chance. Give them the chance. They need our help right 
now, but more important, this country needs them in the game. That's 
why I've been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a 
fair shot at new jobs, a new chance to support their families. And, in 
fact, this week many will come to the White House to make that 
commitment real. Tonight, I ask every business leader in America to 
join us and do the same, because we are stronger when America fields a 
full team.
  Of course, it's not enough to train today's workforce. We also have 
to prepare tomorrow's workforce by guaranteeing every child access to a 
world-class education.
  Estiven Rodriguez couldn't speak a word of English when he moved to 
New York City at age 9. But last month, thanks to the support of great 
teachers and an innovative tutoring program, he led a march of his 
classmates through a crowd of cheering parents and neighbors from their 
high school to the post office where they mailed off their college 
applications. And this son of a factory worker just found out he's 
going to college this fall.
  Five years ago, we set out to change the odds for all our kids. We 
worked

[[Page H1476]]

with lenders to reform student loans; and, today, more young people are 
earning college degrees than ever before. Race to the Top, with the 
help of Governors from both parties, has helped States raise 
expectations and performance. Teachers and principals in schools from 
Tennessee to Washington, D.C., are making big strides in preparing 
students with the skills for the new economy, problem-solving, critical 
thinking, science, technology, engineering, math.
  Now, some of this change is hard. It requires everything from more 
challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support 
for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how 
well they can fill in a bubble on a test. But it is worth it, and it is 
working.
  The problem is, we're still not reaching enough kids, and we're not 
reaching them in time, and that has to change.
  Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a 
child's life is high-quality early education. Last year, I asked this 
Congress to help States make high-quality pre-K available to every 4-
year-old; and as a parent, as well as the President, I repeat that 
request tonight. But in the meantime, 30 States have raised pre-K 
funding on their own. They know we can't wait. So just as we worked 
with States to reform our schools, this year we'll invest in new 
partnerships with States and communities across the country in a race 
to the top for our youngest children. And as Congress decides what it's 
going to do, I'm going to pull together a coalition of elected 
officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more 
kids access the high-quality pre-K that they need. It is right for 
America. We need to get this done.
  Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to 
high-speed broadband over the next 4 years. Tonight, I can announce 
that, with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, 
Sprint, and Verizon, we've got a down payment to start connecting more 
than 15,000 schools and 20 million students over the next 2 years, 
without adding a dime to the deficit.
  We're working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges 
and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training 
that can lead directly to a job and career. We're shaking up our system 
of higher education to give parents more information and colleges more 
incentives to offer better value, so that no middle class kid is priced 
out of a college education. We're offering millions the opportunity to 
cap their monthly student loan payments to 10 percent of their income, 
and I want to work with Congress to see how we can help even more 
Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt. And I'm reaching out 
to some of America's leading foundations and corporations on a new 
initiative to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds 
to stay on track and reach their full potential.
  The bottom line is, Michelle and I want every child to have the same 
chance this country gave us; but we know our opportunity agenda won't 
be complete, and too many young people entering the workforce today 
will see the American Dream as an empty promise, unless we also do more 
to make sure our economy honors the dignity of work, and hard work pays 
off for every single American.
  Now, today, women make up about half our workforce; but they still 
make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong and, in 2014, 
it's an embarrassment. Women deserve equal pay for equal work. She 
deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves 
a day off to care for a sick child or a sick parent without running 
into hardship. And you know what? A father does too. It is time to do 
away with workplace policies that belong in a ``Mad Men'' episode. This 
year, let's all come together, Congress, the White House, businesses 
from Wall Street to Main Street, to give every woman the opportunity 
she deserves, because I believe when women succeed, America succeeds.
  Now, women hold a majority of lower-wage jobs, but they're not the 
only ones stifled by stagnant wages. Americans understand that some 
people will earn more money than others, and we don't resent those who, 
by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success. That's what 
America's all about. But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who 
works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.
  In the year since I asked this Congress to raise the minimum wage, 
five States have passed laws to raise theirs. Many businesses have done 
it on their own. Nick Chute is here today with his boss, John Sorrano. 
John's an owner of Punch Pizza in Minneapolis, and Nick helps make the 
dough. Only now, he makes more of it. John just gave his employees a 
raise, to 10 bucks an hour, and that's a decision that has eased their 
financial stress and boosted their morale.
  Tonight, I ask more of America's business leaders to follow John's 
lead. Do what you can to raise your employees' wages. It's good for the 
economy. It's good for America.
  To every mayor, Governor, State legislator in America, I say, you 
don't have to wait for Congress to act. Americans will support you if 
you take this on. And as the Chief Executive, I intend to lead by 
example. Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as the 
smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover. We should too.
  In the coming weeks, I will issue an executive order requiring 
Federal contractors to pay their federally funded employees a fair wage 
of at least $10.10 an hour--because if you cook our troops' meals or 
wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty.
  Of course, to reach millions more, Congress does need to get onboard. 
Today, the Federal minimum wage is worth about 20 percent less than it 
was when Ronald Reagan first stood here. Tom Harkin and George Miller 
have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10. It is 
easy to remember--10, 10. This will help families. It will give 
businesses customers with more money to spend. It does not involve any 
new bureaucratic program. So join the rest of the country. Say ``yes.'' 
Give America a raise. Give them a raise.
  There are other steps we can take to help families make ends meet, 
and few are more effective at reducing inequality and helping families 
pull themselves up through hard work than the earned income tax credit. 
Right now, it helps about half of all parents at some point. Think 
about that. It helps about half of all parents in America at some point 
in their lives. But I agree with Republicans like Senator Rubio that it 
doesn't do enough for single workers who don't have kids. So let's work 
together to strengthen the credit, reward work, and help more Americans 
get ahead.
  Let's do more to help Americans save for retirement. Today, most 
workers don't have a pension. A Social Security check often isn't 
enough on its own. And while the stock market has doubled over the last 
5 years, that doesn't help folks who don't have 401(k)s.
  That is why tomorrow, I will direct the Treasury to create a new way 
for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. It 
is a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg. MyRA 
guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in. And 
if this Congress wants to help, work with me to fix an upside-down Tax 
Code that gives big tax breaks to help the wealthy save but does little 
to nothing for middle class Americans.
  Offer every American access to an automatic IRA on the job so they 
can save at work, just like everybody in this Chamber can. And since 
the most important investment many families make is their home, send me 
legislation that protects taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing 
crisis ever again and keeps the dream of homeownership alive for future 
generations.
  One last point on financial security. For decades, few things exposed 
hardworking families to economic hardship more than a broken health 
care system. And in case you haven't heard, we are in the process of 
fixing that.
  A preexisting condition used to mean that someone like Amanda 
Shelley, a physician assistant and single mom from Arizona, couldn't 
get health insurance. But on January 1, she got covered. On January 3, 
she felt a sharp pain. On January 6, she had emergency surgery. Just 1 
week earlier, Amanda said, that surgery would have meant bankruptcy. 
That is what health insurance reform is all about, the peace of mind 
that, if misfortune strikes, you don't have to lose everything.

[[Page H1477]]

  Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than 3 million 
Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents' plans. 
More than 9 million Americans have signed up for private health 
insurance or Medicaid coverage--9 million.
  And here is another number: zero. Because of this law, no American--
none, zero--can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a 
preexisting condition like asthma or back pain or cancer. No woman can 
ever be charged more just because she is a woman. And we did all this 
while adding years to Medicare's finances, keeping Medicare premiums 
flat, and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors.
  Now, I do not expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits 
of this law, but I know that the American people are not interested in 
refighting old battles. So, again, if you have specific plans to cut 
costs, cover more people, and increase choice, tell America what you 
would do differently. Let's see if the numbers add up. But let's not 
have another 40-something votes to repeal a law that is already helping 
millions of Americans like Amanda. The first 40 were plenty. We all owe 
it to the American people to say what we are for, not just what we are 
against.
  And if you want to know the real impact this law is having, just talk 
to Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky who is here tonight. Now, 
Kentucky is not the most liberal part of the country. That is not where 
I got my highest vote totals. But he is like a man possessed when it 
comes to covering his Commonwealth's families. ``They are our neighbors 
and our friends,'' he said. ``They are people we shop and go to church 
with, farmers out on the tractors, grocery clerks. They are people who 
go to work every morning praying they don't get sick. No one deserves 
to live that way.''
  Steve's right. And that's why, tonight, I ask every American who 
knows someone without health insurance to help them get covered by 
March 31. Help them get covered. Moms, get on your kids to sign up. 
Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application. It will give 
her some peace of mind--plus, she'll appreciate hearing from you.
  After all, that's the spirit that has always moved this Nation 
forward. It's the spirit of citizenship, the recognition that through 
hard work and responsibility we can pursue our individual dreams but 
still come together as one American family to make sure the next 
generation can pursue its dreams as well.
  Citizenship means standing up for everyone's right to vote. Last 
year, part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened, but conservative 
Republicans and liberal Democrats are working together to strengthen 
it. And the bipartisan commission I appointed, chaired by my campaign 
lawyer and Governor Romney's campaign lawyer, came together and has 
offered reforms so that no one has to wait for more than a half hour to 
vote. Let's support these efforts. It should be the power of our vote, 
not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy.
  Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals 
from us each day. I have seen the courage of parents, students, 
pastors, and police officers all over this country who say ``we are not 
afraid,'' and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to 
help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie 
theaters, in our shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.
  Citizenship demands a sense of common purpose, participation in the 
hard work of self-government, an obligation to serve our communities. 
And I know this Chamber agrees that few Americans give more to their 
country than our diplomats and the men and women of the United States 
Armed Forces.
  Tonight, because of the extraordinary troops and civilians who risk 
and lay down their lives to keep us free, the United States is more 
secure. When I took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in 
Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, all our troops are out of Iraq. More than 
60,000 of our troops have already come home from Afghanistan. With 
Afghan forces now in the lead for their own security, our troops have 
moved to a support role. Together with our allies, we will complete our 
mission there by the end of this year, and America's longest war will 
finally be over.
  After 2014, we will support a unified Afghanistan as it takes 
responsibility for its own future. If the Afghan Government signs a 
security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans 
could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies to carry out two narrow 
missions: training and assisting Afghan forces, and counterterrorism 
operations to pursue any remnants of al Qaeda. For while our 
relationship with Afghanistan will change, one thing will not: our 
resolve that terrorists do not launch attacks against our country.
  The fact is that danger remains. While we have put al Qaeda's core 
leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved as al Qaeda 
affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the 
world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Mali, we have to keep working with 
partners to disrupt and disable those networks. In Syria, we'll support 
the opposition that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks. Here at 
home, we'll keep strengthening our defenses and combat new threats like 
cyberattacks. And as we reform our defense budget, we'll have to keep 
faith with our men and women in uniform and invest in the capabilities 
they need to succeed in future missions.
  We have to remain vigilant. But I strongly believe our leadership and 
our security cannot depend on our outstanding military alone. As 
Commander in Chief, I have used force when needed to protect the 
American people, and I will never hesitate to do so as long as I hold 
this office. But I will not send our troops into harm's way unless it 
is truly necessary, nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired 
in open-ended conflicts. We must fight the battles that need to be 
fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us--large-scale 
deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism.
  So, even as we actively and aggressively pursue terrorist networks--
through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of our 
foreign partners--America must move off a permanent war footing. That's 
why I have imposed prudent limits on the use of drones, for we will not 
be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries 
without regard for the consequence. That's why, working with this 
Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs, because the vital 
work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here 
and abroad, that the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated.
  And with the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress 
lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the 
prison at Guantanamo Bay--because we counter terrorism not just through 
intelligence and military actions but by remaining true to our 
constitutional ideals and setting an example for the rest of the world.
  You see, in a world of complex threats, our security and our 
leadership depends on all elements of our power, including strong and 
principled diplomacy. American diplomacy has rallied more than 50 
countries to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong 
hands and allowed us to reduce our own reliance on Cold War stockpiles. 
American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria's 
chemical weapons are being eliminated, and we will continue to work 
with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian 
people deserve--a future free of dictatorship, terror, and fear.
  As we speak, American diplomacy is supporting Israelis and 
Palestinians as they engage in the difficult but necessary talks to end 
the conflict there; to achieve dignity and an independent state for 
Palestinians, and lasting peace and security for the State of Israel--a 
Jewish State that knows America will always be at their side.
  And it is American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the 
progress of Iran's nuclear program--and rolled back parts of that 
program--for the very first time in a decade. As we gather here 
tonight, Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of 
enriched uranium. It is not installing advanced centrifuges. 
Unprecedented inspections help the world verify, every day, that Iran 
is not building a bomb. And with our allies

[[Page H1478]]

and partners, we are engaged in negotiations to see if we can 
peacefully achieve a goal we all share: preventing Iran from obtaining 
a nuclear weapon.
  These negotiations will be difficult. They may not succeed. We are 
clear-eyed about Iran's support for terrorist organizations like 
Hezbollah, which threaten our allies, and we are clear about the 
mistrust between our nations, mistrust that cannot be wished away. But 
these negotiations don't rely on trust; any long-term deal we agree to 
must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the 
international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb. If 
John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet 
Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with 
less powerful adversaries today.
  The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity 
possible. But let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new 
sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto 
it. For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a 
chance to succeed. If Iran's leaders do not seize this opportunity, 
then I will be the first to call for more sanctions and stand ready to 
exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon. 
But if Iran's leaders do seize the chance--and we will know soon 
enough--then Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community 
of nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security 
challenges of our time without the risks of war.
  Finally, let's remember that our leadership is defined not just by 
our defense against threats, but by the enormous opportunities to do 
good and promote understanding around the globe--to forge greater 
cooperation, to expand new markets, to free people from fear and want. 
And no one is better positioned to take advantage of those 
opportunities than America.
  Our alliance with Europe remains the strongest the world has ever 
known. From Tunisia to Burma, we are supporting those who are willing 
to do the hard work of building democracy. In Ukraine, we stand for the 
principle that all people have the right to express themselves freely 
and peacefully and have a say in their country's future. Across Africa, 
we are bringing together businesses and governments to double access to 
electricity and help end extreme poverty. In the Americas, we are 
building new ties of commerce, but we are also expanding cultural and 
educational exchanges among young people. And we will continue to focus 
on the Asia-Pacific, where we support our allies, shape a future of 
greater security and prosperity, and extend a hand to those devastated 
by disaster--as we did in the Philippines, when our marines and 
civilians rushed to aid those battered by a typhoon, and who were 
greeted with words like, ``We will never forget your kindness,'' and, 
``God bless America.''
  We do these things because they help promote our long-term security, 
and we do them because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality 
of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual 
orientation. And next week, the world will see one expression of that 
commitment when Team USA marches the red, white, and blue into the 
Olympic Stadium and brings home the gold.
  My fellow Americans, no other country in the world does what we do. 
On every issue, the world turns to us, not simply because of the size 
of our economy or our military might--but because of the ideals we 
stand for and the burdens we bear to advance them.
  No one knows this better than those who serve in uniform. As this 
time of war draws to a close, a new generation of heroes returns to 
civilian life. We will keep slashing that backlog so our veterans 
receive the benefits they have earned and our wounded warriors receive 
the health care--including the mental health care--that they need. We 
will keep working to help all of our veterans translate their skills 
and leadership into jobs here at home, and we will all continue to join 
forces to honor and support our remarkable military families.
  Let me tell you about one of those families I have come to know.
  I first met Cory Remsburg, a proud Army Ranger, at Omaha Beach on the 
65th anniversary of D-day. Along with some of his fellow Rangers, he 
walked me through the program. He was a strong, impressive young man 
with an easy manner. He was sharp as a tack. We joked around and took 
pictures, and I told him to stay in touch.
  A few months later, on his 10th deployment, Cory was nearly killed by 
a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan. His comrades found him in a 
canal, face down, under water, shrapnel in his brain.
  For months, he lay in a coma. The next time I met him, in the 
hospital, he couldn't speak; he could barely move. Over the years, he 
has endured dozens of surgeries and procedures and hours of grueling 
rehab every day.
  Even now, Cory is still blind in one eye. He still struggles on his 
left side. But slowly, steadily, with the support of caregivers like 
his dad, Craig, and the community around him, Cory has grown stronger. 
Day by day, he has learned to speak again and stand again and walk 
again--and he is working toward the day when he can serve his country 
again.
  ``My recovery has not been easy,'' he says. ``Nothing in life that's 
worth anything is easy.''
  Cory is here tonight; and like the Army he loves, like the America he 
serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does 
not quit.
  My fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America 
has never come easy. Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy. 
Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or 
discouraged. But for more than 200 years, we have put those things 
aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress--to 
create and build and expand the possibilities of individual 
achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote 
justice and fairness and equality under the law, so that the words set 
to paper by our Founders are made real for every citizen. The America 
we want for our kids--a rising America where honest work is plentiful 
and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and 
opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take 
us--none of it is easy.
  But if we work together, if we summon what is best in us, the way 
Cory summoned what was best in him, with our feet planted firmly in 
today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow, I know it is within our 
reach.
  Believe it.
  God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
  (Applause, the Members rising.)
  At 10 o'clock and 20 minutes p.m., the President of the United 
States, accompanied by the committee of escort, retired from the Hall 
of the House of Representatives.
  The Assistant to the Sergeant at Arms escorted the invited guests 
from the Chamber in the following order:
  The members of the President's Cabinet; the Chief Justice of the 
United States and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court; the 
Acting Dean of the Diplomatic Corps.
  The SPEAKER. The Chair declares the joint session of the two Houses 
now dissolved.
  Accordingly, at 10 o'clock and 27 minutes p.m., the joint session of 
the two Houses was dissolved.
  The Members of the Senate retired to their Chamber.

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