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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  December 20, 2013 8:00pm-9:01pm EST

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decades, we produce more oil at home then we buy from the rest of the world. and our all of the above strategy for new american energy means lower energy costs. the affordable care act has helped keep cap -- keep health care costs growing at their slowest rate in 50 years. that means bigger paychecks and bigger savings for businesses. and for all the challenges we have had and all the challenges that we have been working on diligently in dealing with both the aca and the website these past couple months, more than half a million americans have enrolled through healthcare.gov in the first three weeks of december alone. in california, a state operating its own marketplace, more than 15,000 americans are enrolling every single day. and in the federal website, tens of thousands are enrolling every single day. since october 1, more than one million americans have selected
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new health insurance plans through the federal and state marketplaces. all told, millions of americans, despite the problems with the website, are now poised to be covered by quality affordable health care insurance come new year's day. this holiday season, there are mothers, fathers, entrepreneurs, and workers who have something new to celebrate, the security of knowing that when the unexpected or misfortune strikes, hardship no longer has to. you add that all up, and it means we head into next year with an economy that is stronger than it was when we started the year. more americans are finding work and experiencing a positive paycheck. we are positioned for new growth and new jobs. i firmly believe that 2014 can be a breakthrough year for america. as i outlined in detail earlier this month, we know there is a
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lot more we are going to have to do to restore opportunity and broad-based both for everyone in america. that is going to require some action. earlier this week, the first time in years, both parties in both houses of congress came together to pass a budget that unwinds some of the damaging sequester cuts that have created headwinds for our economy. it clears the path for businesses and for investments that we need to strengthen our middle class, like education and scientific research. it means the american people will not be exposed to the threat of another reckless shutdown every few months. that is a good thing. it is probably too early to declare an outbreak of bipartisanship, but it is also fair to say we are not committed to endless gridlock. there are areas where we can work together. i believe work should begin with something republicans in congress should have done before leaving town this week, and that
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is restoring the temporary insurance that helps folks when they are looking for a job. because congress did not act, more than one million of their constituents will lose a vital economic lifeline at christmas time, leaving a lot of job seekers without any source of income at all. i think we are a better come -- a better country than that. we do not abandon each other when times are tough. keep in mind unemployment insurance only goes to folks who are actively looking for work -- a mom who needs help feeding her kids when she sends out her resumes, or a dad who needs help dainty rent while working part- time and learning the skills he needs for that new job. when congress comes back to work, their first order of business should be making this right. i know a bipartisan group is working on a three-month extension of this insurance. they should pass it. i will sign it right away. let me repeat. i think 2014 needs to be a year
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of action. we have work to do to help more americans are in the skills and education they need to do these jobs, and to make sure those jobs offer wages and benefits that let families build a little bit of financial security. we still have the task of finishing the fix on our broken and the grayson system. we have got to build on the progress we have been staking the made over these last five years with respect to our economy, and offer the middle- class and those looking to join the middle class a better opportunity. and that is going to be where i focus all of my efforts in the year ahead. let me conclude by saying just as we are strengthening our position here at home, we are also standing up for our interests around the world. this year, we have demonstrated that with clear right, principled diplomacy, we can pursue new paths to a world that is more secure, a future where
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iran does not build a nuclear weapon, where serious chemical weapons stockpiles are destroyed. but the end of next year, the war in afghanistan will be over, just as we ended our war in iraq. we will continue to bring our troops home. as always, we will remain vigilant to protect our homeland and our personnel overseas from terrorist attacks. a lot of our men and women in uniform are still overseas. a lot are spending their christmas far away from their families and friends, still in harms way. for them and their families back home, we want to thank you. your country stands united in supporting you and being grateful for your service and your sacrifice. we will keep you in our thoughts and in our prayers during this season of hope. before i wish a merry christmas to all and to all a good night, i will take some questions.
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jay prepared a list of who is naughty and nice, so we will see who made it. julie must be nice. >> thank you, mr. president. despite all the data points you cited in your opening statement, when you look back this year, very little of the domestic agenda you outlined in your inaugural address has been achieved. health-care rollout obviously had problems, and your ratings with the public are near historic lows for you. has this been the worst year of your presidency? >> i have to tell you, julie, that is not how i think about it. i have now been in office close to five years. i was running for president for two years before that. for those of you who covered me during that time, we have had ups and downs. i think this room has probably reported at least 15 near death experiences.
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and what i have been focused on each and every day is, are we moving the ball in helping the american people, families, have more opportunity, have more security to feel as if, if they work hard, they can get ahead? and if i look at this past year, there are areas where there have obviously been frustrations, where i wish congress had moved more aggressively. not passing background checks in the aftermath of newtown was something i continue to believe is a mistake. but because of the debate that occurred, work has been done at state levels to ensure we do not see tragedies like that happen again.
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there is a lot of focus on legislative activity at the congressional level. even when congress does not move on things they should move on, there are a whole bunch of things we are still doing. we do not always get attention. but the connect program we announced, initiating wireless in every classroom in america. it will make a huge difference for kids across this country, and for teachers. a manufacturing hub that we set up in youngstown, something i talked about during the state of the union, is going to create innovation and connect universities, manufacturers, job training, to build on the renaissance we are seeing in manufacturing. when it comes to energy, this year is going to be the first
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year in a very long time we are producing more oil and natural gas here in this country then we are importing. that is a big deal. i understand the point you are getting at, which is that a lot of our legislative initiatives have not moved forward as quickly as we might like. i understand that. which means i am going to keep at it. if you look at immigration reform, probably the biggest thing i wanted to get done this year, we saw progress. it passed the senate with a strong bipartisan vote. there are indications in the house that even though it did not get completed this year, that there is a commitment on the part of the speaker to try to move forward legislation early next year. the fact that it is not hit the timeline that i prefer is
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obviously frustrating, but it is not something i end up brooding a lot about. >> it's not just your legislative agenda. when you talk to americans, they seem to have lost confidence in you, trust in you, your credibility has taken a hit, the health care law was a big part of that. do you understand that those -- the public has changed in some way their view of you? >> julie, i guess what i'm saying is if you're measuring this by polls, my polls have gone up and down a lot through the course of my career. if i was interested in polling, i won't have run for president. i was polling at 70% when i was in the u.s. senate. i took this job to deliver for the american people, and i knew and will continue to know that there are going to be ups and downs. you're right, the health care website problems were a source of great frustration in the last press conference that i adequately discussed my
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frustrations on those. on the other hand, since that time i now have a couple million people, maybe more, who are going to have health care on january 1. and that is a big deal. that's why i ran for this office. as long as i've got an opportunity every single day to make sure that in ways large and small i'm creating greater opportunity for people, more kids are able to go to school, get the education he they need, more families are able to stabilize their finances, the housing market is continuing to improve, people feel like their wages maybe are inching up a little bit. if those things are happening, i'll take it. i said before, i have run my last political race. at this point my goal every single day is just to make sure that i can look back and say we
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are delivering something. not everything, because this is a long haul. >> thank you, mr. president. one of the most significant events of this year was the revelation of the surveillance of the national security agency. as you review how to rein in the national security agency, a federal judge said for example the government has failed to site a single instance where the n.s.a. -- are you convinced the collection of that data is useful to the national security to continue? a i'll talk more broadly then talk specifically about the program you're referring to. as you know the independent panel that i put together came back with a series of recommendations, 46 in total, i had an extensive meeting with
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them down in the situation room to review all the recommendations that they have made. i want to thank them publicly because i think they did an excellent job and took my charge very seriously. i told them i want you to look from top to bottom at what we're doing and evaluate whether or not the current structures that we have and the current programs that we have are properly addressing both our continuing need to keep ourself secure and prevent terrorist attacks or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or other threats to the homeland, and are we also making sure that we are taking seriously the rule of law and our concerns about privacy and civil liberties. what we are doing now is evaluating all the recommendations that have been made. over the next several weeks i'm
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going to assess based on conversations not just with the intelligence community but others in government and outside of government how we might apply and incorporate their recommendations. and i'm going to make a pretty defenive statement about all of this in january where i'll be able to say here are the recommendations that we think makes sense. here are ones that we think are promising but still need to be refined further. here's how it relates to the work we are doing not just internally but also in partnership with other countries. and -- i'm taking this very seriously because i think, as i have said before, this needed to be had. one specific program, the 215 program, is the bulk collection of phone numbers and exchanges that have taken place.
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that has probably gotten the most attention, at least with respect to domestic audiences. what i have said in the past continues to be the case, which is that the n.s.a. in executing this program believed based on experience from 9/11 that it was important for us to be able to track if there was a phone number of a known terrorist outside of the united states calling into the united states where that call might have gone. and that having that data in one place and retained for a certain period of time allowed them to be confident in pursuing various investigations of terrorist threats. and i think it's important to note that in all the he reviews of this program that have been done, in fact there have not
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been actual instances where it's been alleged that the n.s.a. in some ways acted inappropriately in the use of this data, but what is also clear is from the public debate people are concerned about the prospect, the possibility of abuse. that's what the judge in the district court suggested. and although his opinion obviously differs from rulings on the fisa court, we are taking those into account. the question we are going to have to ask is, can we accomplish the same goals that this program is intended to accomplish in ways that give the public more confidence that, in fact, the n.s.a. is doing what it's supposed to be doing? i have confidence in the fact that the n.s.a. is not engaging in domestic surveillance or snooping around, but i also recognize that as technologies change, people can start running algorithms and programs that map
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out all the information in our telephones and computers we may have to refine further to give people more confidence. i'll work very hard on doing that. we have to provide more confidence to the international community. in some ways what has been more challenging is the fact that we do have a lot of laws and checks and balances and safeguards and audits when it comes to making sure that the n.s.a. and other intelligence agencies are not spying on americans. we have had less legal constraint in terms of what we are doing internationally, but i think part of what's been interesting about this whole exercise is recognizing that in a virtual world some of these boundaries don't matter anymore. and just because we can do something doesn't mean we necessarily should, and the values that we've got as
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americans are one that is we have to be willing to apply beyond our borders i think perhaps more systematically than we have done in the past. ed henry. >> thank you, mr. president. i want to follow-up on that because -- merry christmas, by the way. >> merry christmas. >> when edward snowden first started leaking the information, you told the american people you already reformed them. my team evaluated them. we scrubbed them. we expanded some of the oversight. you also said we may have to he rebalance some. there may be changes. you concluded, you can complain about big brother and how this potential program run amuck, when you look at the actual details, i think we have struck the right balance. that was six months ago. the judge is saying no. your own panel is saying no. even your own panel. the changes have to be made. my question is, were you wrong
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then because you were not fully read in not just on these programs but on other programs, outside of the ones you just talked about, where we were potentially listening in on the german leaders, brazilian leaders, and others that suggest there were abuses, number one? and number two, if you weren't fully read in on these programs, is it enough for example, what julie was getting at, was this question of credibility with the american people, just like health care, you like your plan you can keep it. on surveillance you looked the american people in the eye six months ago and said we've got the right balance. six months later you're saying maybe not. >> hold on a second. i think it's important to note that when it comes to the right balance on surveillance, these are a series of judgment calls we are making every single day because we have a whole bunch of folks whose job it is to make sure that the american people are protected. and that's a hard job. because if something slips then the question that's coming from you the next day at the press conference, mr. president, why
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didn't you catch that? why the intelligence people allow that to slip? isn't there a we could have found out -- >> strike the right balance. >> the point is not that my assessment of the 215 program has changed in terms of technically how it works, what is absolutely clear to me is that given the public debate that's taken place and disclosure that's taken place over the last several months, that this is only going to work if the american people have confidence and trust. now, part of the challenge is is that because of the manner in which these disclosures took place in dribs and drabs, oftentimes shaded in a particular way, and because some of the constraints that we have had in terms of declassifying information and getting it out there, that that trust in how many safeguards exist and how
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these programs are run, has been diminished. so what's going to be important is to build that back up. and i take that into account in weighing how we structure these programs. let me be very specific on the 215 program. it is possible, for example, that some of the same information that the intelligence community feels is required to keep people safe can be obtained by having the private phone companies keep these records longer and to create some mechanism where he they can be accessed in an effective fashion. that might cost more. there might need to be different checks on how those requests are made. there may be technological solutions that have to be found to do that. and the question that we are
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asking ourselves now is, does that make sense not only because of the fact that there are concerns about potential abuse down the road with the data being kept by government rather than private companies, but also does it make sense to do it because people right now are concerned that maybe their phone calls are being listened to, even if they're not? we have to factor that in. my point is is that the environment has changed in ways that i think require us to take that into account. but the analysis that i have been doing throughout has always been periodically looking at what we are doing and asking ourselves, are we doing this in the right way? are we making sure that we are keeping the american people safe, number one.
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are we also being true to our civil liberties and privacy and values? >> i understand. it's a tough job. god forbid there is another terror attack. every one of us will be second- guessing you and it's extremely difficult to be in the oval office. you put it on your back. my question is, do you have any personal regrets. you're not addressing the fact the public statement you made, your director of national intelligence, got a question from a democrat, not a are republican, about whether some of this was going on. he he denied t doesn't that undermine the public trust? >> you're conflating first of all me and mr. clapper -- >> is he doing the job? >> what i'm saying is this is that yes, these are tough problems. that i am glad to have the privilege of tackling. your initial question was whether the statement that i made six months ago are ones that i don't stand by. what i'm saying is is that the statements i made then are
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entirely consistent with the statements that i make now, which is that we believed that we had scrubbed these programs and struck an appropriate balance. and there had not been evidence and there continues not to be evidence that the particular program had been abused in how it was used. it was a useful tool working with other tools of the intelligence community to ensure that if we have a thread on a potential terrorist threat that that can be followed effectively. what i have also said, though, is in light of the disclosures that have taken place, it is clear that whatever benefits the configuration of this particular program may have, may be outweighed by the concerns that people have on its potential abuse. if that's the case, there may be another way of skinning the cat. so we just keep on going at this
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stuff and saying can we do this better, can we do this more effectively? i think the panel's recommendations are consistent with that. so if you had a chance to read the overall recommendations, what they were very clear about is, we need this intelligence. we can't unilaterally disarm. there are ways we can do it potentially that gives people greater assurance that there are checks and balances, there is sufficient oversight, sufficient transparency, programs like 215 could be redesigned in way that is give you the same information when you need it without creating these potentials for abuse, and that's exactly what he we should be doing is to evaluate all these things in a very clear, specific way. and moving forward on changes. that's what i intend to do. >> you have no regrets. >> john croft. >> thank you, mr. president. it's been a tough year. you may not want to call it the
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worst year of your presidency, but it's clearly been a tough year. the polls have gone up and down but they are on a low point right now. what i'm asking you, you acknowledged the difficulties with the health care rollout. when you look back and you look at the decisions that you have made and what you did, what you didn't do for you personally what do you think has been your biggest mistake? >> with respect to health care specifically or just general? >> the whole thing. >> well, there's no doubt that when it came to the health care rollout even though i was meeting every other week or every three weeks with folks and emphasizing how important it was that consumers had a good experience, an easy experience in getting the information they need and knowing what the choices and options were for
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them, to be able to get high quality, affordable health care. the fact is it didn't happen in the first month. first six weeks in a way that was at all acceptable. since i'm in charge obviously we screwed it up. part of it as i have said before had to do with how i.t. procurement generally is done and almost predates this year. part of it obviously has to do with the fact that there were not clear enough lines of authority in terms of who was in charge of technology and cracking the whip on the whole bunch of contractors. so there were a whole bunch of things that we have been taking a look at and i'm going to be making appropriate adjustments once we get through this year and we have gotten through the initial surge of people who have been signing up. but having said all that, the bottom line also is that we've
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got several million people are going to have health care that works. it's not that i don't engage in a lot of self-reflection here, i promise i beat myself up even worse than you or ed henry does, on any given day, but i've also got to wake up in the morning and make sure that i do better the next day. and that we keep moving forward. and when i look at the landscape for next year, what i say to myself is, we're poised to do really good things. the economy is stronger than it has been in a very long time. our next challenge is to make sure everybody benefits from that, not just a few folks. and there's still too many people who haven't seen a raise and are still feeling financially insecure.
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we can get immigration reform done. we've got a concept that has bipartisan support. let's see if we can break through the politics on this. i think that hopefully folks have learned their lesson in terms of brinksmanship coming out of the government shutdown. there have been times where i thought about were there other ways i could have prevented those three, four weeks that hampered the economy and hurt individual families who were not getting a paycheck during that time? absolutely, but i also think that in some ways given the pattern that we have been going through with house republicans for a while, we might have needed just a little bit of a bracing sort of recognition that this is not what the american people think is acceptable. they want us to try to solve problems. and be practical even if we
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can't get everything done. the end of the year is always a good time to reflect and see what you can do better next year. that's how i intend to approach it. i'm sure that i will have even better ideas after a couple of days of sleep and sun. >> thank you, mr. president. on the debt ceiling your treasury secretary has estimated that the u.s. government will lose its ability to pay its bills come late february or early march. house budget committee chairman, paul ryan, said the republicans are going to decide what it is they can accomplish on this debt limit fight. willing to negotiate with house republicans on the debt ceiling. >> you know the answer to this question. we are not going to negotiate for congress to pay bills that it's accrued. i want to emphasize the positive as we enter into this holiday
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season. i think congressman ryan and senator murray did a good job in trying to narrow the differences and actually pass a budget that i can sign. it's not everything that i would like, obviously. it buys back part of these across-the-board cuts, the so- called sequester, but not all of them, we are still underfunding research, we are still underfunding education, we are still underfunding transportation and other initiatives that would create jobs right now, but it was an honest conversation. they operated in good faith. and given how far apart the parties have been on fiscal issues, they should take pride in what they did. i actually called them after they struck the deal and i said congratulations and i hope that creates a good pattern for next year. where we work on at least the
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things we agree to even if we agree to disagree on some of the other big-ticket items. i think immigration potentially falls in that category where let's -- here's an area where we've got bipartisan agreement. there are a few differences here and there, but the truth of the matter is that the senate bill has the main components of comprehensive immigration reform that would boost our economy, give us an opportunity to attract more investment and high-skilled workers who are doing great things in places like silicon valley and around the country. so let's go and get that done. now, i can't imagine that having seen this possible daylight breaking when it comes to cooperation in congress that folks are thinking actually about plunging us back into the
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kinds of brinksmanship and governance by crisis that has done us so much harm over the past few years. to repeat, the debt ceiling is raised simply to pay bills that we have already accrued. it is not something that is a negotiating tool. it's not leveraged the responsibility of congress. it's part of doing their job. i expect them to do their job, although i'm happy to talk to them about any of the issues they actually want to get done. if congressman ryan's interested in tax reform, let's go. i've got some proposals on it. if he's interested in any issue out there, i'm willing to have a constructive conversation of the sort that he we just had in resolving the budget issues, but i've got to assume folks aren't crazy enough to start that thing all over again.
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>> quickly on a more personal note, what is your new year's resolution? >> my new year's resolution is to be nicer to the white house press corps. absolutely. >> thank you. greg leggett, the head of the n.s.a. task force on edward snowden, he told "60 minutes" quote we are having a conversation about granting edward snowden leniency. to what degree were you pleased he floated this trial balloon. what do you say to americans, sir, after possibly being alerted to john leon's decision earlier this week reading the panel recommendations, believe edward snowden set in motion something that is proper and just in this country about the scope of surveillance and should not be considered by this
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government a criminal? >> i've got to be careful here, major, because mr. snowden is under indictment. he's been charged with crimes, and that's the province of the attorney general and ultimately a judge and jury. i can't weigh in specifically on this case at this point. i'll make -- i'll try to see if i can get at the spirit of the question even if i can't talk about the specifics. i said before and i believe that this is an important conversation that we needed to have. i have also said before that the way in which these disclosures happened have been damaging to the united states and damaging to our intelligence capabilities. and i think that there was a way for us to have this conversation
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without that damage. i'll give you just one specific example. the fact of the matter is that the united states for all our warts is a country that abides by rule of law, that cares deeply about prifecy, that cares about civil liberties, that cares about our constitution, and we have country who actually do the things that mr. snowden said he's worried about very explicitly, engaging in surveillance of their own citizens, targeting political dissidents, targeting and suppressing the press. who somehow are able to sit on the sidelines and act as if it's the united states that has
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problems when it comes to surveillance and intelligence operations. and that's a pretty distorted view of what's going on out there. so i think that as important and as necessary as this debate has been, it is also important to keep in mind that this has done unnecessary damage to u.s. intelligence capabilities and u.s. diplomacy. but i will leave it up to the courts and the attorney general to weigh in publicly on the specifics of mr. snoweden's case. >> if i could follow up, mr. leggitt is setting in motion -- if there was ever to be a conversation on amnesty or plea- bargain. >> i think that's true, major. i guess what i'm saying is --
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>> you would never consider it? >> what i'm saying is there is a difference between mr. leggitt saying something and the president of the united states saying something. >> thank you, mr. president. merry christmas and happy new year. you talk about the issues of health care and the website rollout, but there have been other issues, misinformation about people keeping their policies, extended deadlines, postponements, we have a new waiver that h.h.s. announced last night. how do you expect americans to have confidence and certainty in this law if you keep changing it? this one here, this new waiver last night, you could argue you might as well have delayed the mandate. >> that's not true because what we are talking about is a very specific population that received cancellation notices from insurance companies. the majority of them are either keeping their old plan because the grandfather clause has been extended further, or they are
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finding a better deal in the marketplace with better insurance for cheaper costs, but there may still be a subset, a significantly smaller subset than some of the numbers that have been advertised, that are still looking for options or still concerned about what they are going to be doing next year. and we just wanted to make sure that the hardship provision that was already existing in the law would also potentially apply to somebody who had problems during this transition period. so that's the specifics of this latest change. you are making a broader point that i think is fair. and that is that in a big project like this, what we are constantly doing is looking -- is this working the way it is supposed to?
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and if there are adjustments that could be made to smooth out the transition, we should make them. but they do not go to the core of the law. the core of the law is that for 85% of the population, all they have been getting is free preventive care, better consumer protections, the ability to keep their kids on their insurance plan until they are 26, a $1000 or $500 discount on prescription drugs for seniors on medicare. 85% of the population, whether they know it or not, over the last three years have benefited from a whole set of the provisions of the law. either way, if it were to be repealed, you would be taking away all those benefits from folks who already are enjoying them. you have this sub portion of the population, 15%, who either do not have health insurance or are buying it on the individual market.
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that is still millions of people. what we are doing is creating a marketplace where they can buy insurance and we can provide them tax credits to help them afford it. the basic structure of that law is working, despite all the problems, despite the website problems, the messaging problems despite all that, it is working. again, you do not have to take my word for it. we have got a couple million people who are going to have health insurance just in the first three months, despite the fact that the first month and a half was lost because of problems with the website, and about as bad a bunch of publicity as you could imagine. and yet, you still got 2 million people who signed up. or more. so what that means is that the demand is there. and as i said before, the product is good. in putting something like this
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together, there are going to be all kinds of problems that crop up, some of which may have been unanticipated. what we are trying to do is respond to them in a commonsense way. and we are going to continue to try to do that. but that does not negate the fact that, you know, a year from now or two years from now, when we look at, we are going to be able to say that even more people have health insurance, and that is not a bad thing. that is a good thing. that is part of the reason i pushed so hard to get this law done in the first place. and, you know, i have said before this is a messy process. i think sometimes when i say that, people say, it is real messy. and b, isn't the fact it has been so messy some indication there are more fundamental
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problems with the law? i guess what i would say to that, chuck, is, when you try to do something this big, affecting this many people, it is going to be hard. and every instance, whether it is social security, medicare, the prescription drug plan under president bush -- there has not been an instance where you tried to really have an impact on the american people's lives and well-being, particularly in the health care arena, where you do not end up having some of these challenges. the question is going to be, ultimately, do we make good decisions trying to help as many people as possible in as efficient a way as possible? and i think that is what we are doing. >> 72 hours ago, you made this change, where people are buying a junk-type policy you are trying to get people away from.
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>> keep in mind, first of all, that the majority of folks are going to have different options. this is essentially a additional net in case folks may have slipped through the cracks. we expect it is going to be a relatively small number. these are folks who want insurance, and the vast majority of them have good options. in a state like north carolina, the overwhelming majority have kept their own plans. the ones they had previously. but we thought, and continue to think, it makes sense that as we are transitioning to a system in which insurance standards are higher, people do not have unpleasant surprises because they thought they had insurance until they hit a limit, and next thing you know, they owe $300,000 for a hospital visit, that as we transition to higher
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standards, better insurance, that we also address folks who get caught in that transition and the unintended consequences. i will be honest -- that was the original intent of the grandfather clause in the law. obviously, the problem was it did not catch enough people. and we learned from that, and we are trying not to repeat those mistakes. >> and the enforcement, going forward. >> bill mattingly? >> what was the message you were trying to send with not only your decision not to attend the sochi games, but with the people you named to the delegation? >> first of all, i have not attended olympics in the past. i suspect that me attending the olympics, particularly at a time when we have all the other stuff people have been talking about is going to be tough, although i
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would love to do it. i will be going to a lot of olympic games post-presidency. the delegation speaks for itself, outstanding americans, outstanding athletes, people who will represent us extraordinarily well. and the fact that we have got folks like billie jean king or brian boitano, world class athletes everyone acknowledges for their excellence and their character, who also happen to be members of the lgbt community -- you should take that for what it is worth. when it comes to the olympics and athletic performers, we do not make distinctions on the basis of sexual orientation. we judge people on how they perform, both on the court and
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off the court, on the field and off the field. and that is a value that i think is at the heart of not just america, but american sports. i am going to just roll down these last few real quickly. ari shapiro, last day at the white house. he deserves a question. >> senator max baucus was widely seen as the best hope for a large-scale deal to overhaul the tax code. what does your decision to nominate him as ambassador for china say to your hopes for a major tax overhaul? >> it says max baucus will be an outstanding ambassador to china, and i would like a swift confirmation. the expectation and hope is that if both senate democrats, or if democrats and republicans in the house and the senate, are serious about tax reform, it is not going to depend on one guy.
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it is going to depend on all of us working together. and my office is ready, willing, and eager to engage both parties in a conversation about how we can simplify the tax code, make it fairer, make it work to create more jobs and do right by middle-class americans. jackie combs? >> thank you, mr. president. how do you say it in hawaii? >> mele kalikimaka. >> i would like to ask you what your reaction was to the nonpartisan truth telling group politifact when it said the lie of the year was your statement that if you like your health care plan you can keep it? related to the health care problems we have seen over the past year, the fallout from that seems to be making democrats particularly in the senate a little rambunctious and independent of you, evidenced most clearly in the debate over
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iran sanctions. it looks like senate majority leader harry reid has expedited consideration of iran sanctions bill for january, even as your administration and you have been trying to get them to lay off sanctions? >> you are stringing a bunch of things along. let us see if we can have a question? >> that is a lot less than henry had. [laughter] >> i thought we were trying to get along. [laughter] >> how about i separate out the iran question from the health care question? on the health care question, i think i have answered several times -- this is a new iteration of it. bottom line is that we are going to continue to work every single day to make sure that implementation of the health
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care law and the website and all elements of it, including the grandfather clause, work better, every single day. as i have said in previous press conferences, we are going to make mistakes. and we are going to have problems. but my intentions have been clear throughout. i just want to help as many people as possible feel secure, and make sure they do not go broke when they get sick. we are going to keep on doing that. on iran, there is the possibility of a resolution to a problem that has been a challenge for american national security for over a decade. and that is getting iran to, in a verifiable fashion, not pursue
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a nuclear weapon. already, even with the interim deal that we struck in geneva, we have the first halt, and in some cases some rollback of iran's nuclear capabilities. the first time we have seen that in almost a decade. and we now have a structure in which we can have a very serious conversation to see, is it possible for iran to get right with the international community in a verifiable fashion, to give us all confidence that any peaceful nuclear program that they have is not going to be weapon eyes in a way that threatens us or allies in the region, including israel? as i have said before and i will
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repeat, it is very important for us to test whether that is possible, not because it is guaranteed, but because the alternative is possibly us having to engage in some sort of conflict to resolve the problem, with all kinds of unintended consequences. i have been clear from the start i mean what i say. it is my goal to prevent iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. i sure would rather do it diplomatically. i am keeping all options on the table. i would think that would be the preference of everybody on capitol hill, because that sure is the preference of the american people. and we lose nothing during this negotiation, precisely because there are verification provisions in place. we will have more insight into
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iran's nuclear program over the next six months than we have previously. we will know if they are violating the terms of the agreement. they are not allowed to accelerate their stockpile of enriched uranium. in fact, they have to reduce their stockpile of highly enriched uranium. ironically, if we did not have this six months in which we are testing whether we can get a comprehensive solution to this problem, they would be advancing even further on their nuclear program. it might of all that, what i have said to democrats and republicans is, there is no need for sanctions legislation. not yet. if iran comes back and says we cannot give you a assurances we are not going to weaponize, if they are not willing to address
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some of their capabilities that we know could end up resulting in them having breakout capacity, it is not going to be hard for us to turn the dials back, strengthened sanctions even further. i will work with members of congress to put even more pressure on iraq. that there is no reason to do it right now. i am not surprised that there has been some talk from some members of congress about new sanctions. i think the politics of trying to look tough on iran are often good when you are running for office. or if you are in office. but as president of the united states right now, who has been responsible over the last four years, with the help of congress, in putting together a
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comprehensive sanctions regime specifically designed to put pressure on them and bring them to the table to negotiate, what i am saying to them, what i have said to the international community, what i have said to the american people, is, let's test it. it is the time to try to see if we can get this thing done. i have heard some logic that says, well, mr. president, we are supportive of the negotiations, but we think it is useful to have this club hanging over iran's head. we still have existing sanctions in place that are resulting in iran losing billions of dollars every month in lost oil sales. we already have banking and financial sanctions that are still being applied, even as the negotiations are taking place. it is not as if we are letting up on that. i have heard arguments that this way we can be assured, and the
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iranians will know, that if negotiations fail, even new and harsher sanctions will be put into place. i do not think the iranians have any doubt that congress would be more than happy to pass more sanctions legislation. we can do that in a day. on a dime. but if we are serious about negotiations, we have to create an atmosphere in which iran is \an atmosphere in which iran is willing to move in ways that are uncomfortable for them, and contrary to their ideology and rhetoric, and their instincts and their suspicions of us. and we do not help get them to a position where we can actually resolve this by engaging in this kind of action. all right? ok, everybody. i think i am going to take one more question. colleen mccain nelson, and that
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is it. >> thank you, mr. president. a lot of longtime advisers are leaving the white house. new advisors are coming in, or taking on new roles. as you reshape your team, how does that impact what you think you can accomplish, going forward? >> i just had lunch with pete, who is leaving the. that is tough. not right now, at least. i love that guy. that will be a significant loss, although he will still be in town, and hopefully i will be able to consult with him on an ongoing basis. i think jonathan, coming in, will be terrific. he may deny it, but i have been trying to get in him -- in here for some time. he ran my transition office. at that time, i think he was still feeling he wanted to develop other organizations. john is a great strategist. he is as good as anybody on
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domestic policy. and i think he will be a huge boost to us and give us more bandwidth to deal with more issues. i suspect we may have additional announcements in the new year. there is a natural turnover that takes place. people get tired. people get worn out. sometimes you need fresh legs. but what i can tell you is that the team i have now is tireless, and shares my values, and believes the thing i think i have repeated four or five times in this press conference, which is, we get this incredible privilege for a short time, to do as much as we can for as many people as we can, to help them
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live better lives. and that is what drives them. that is the sacrifice they make, being away from families, soccer games, and birthdays. some of them will end up working over christmas on issues like iran. the fact that they make those kinds of sacrifices -- i am always grateful for them. if they say to me after making those sacrifices for 3, 4, i've years, i need a break, then i completely understand. all right? have a great holiday, everybody. appreciate you. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013]
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>> tonight on c-span, and encore presentation of our series on first ladies continues with a look at the life and times of grace coolidge. followed by a press secretary --. >> grace coolidge was enormously popular as first lady and influenced the tastes of american women by becoming a style icon. married to a man known as silent cal, she never spoke to the press, but she did use her office to bring attention to issues she cared about. good evening and welcome to the c-span series "first ladies: influence and image." tonight we will be telling you the story of first lady grace coolidge. she came into office with her husband the president in 1923 after the sudden death of president

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