Both President Barack Obama and the GOP looked past the government shutdown to upcoming battles in their respective weekly addresses released Saturday morning, Oct. 19, 2013. President Obama continued and reiterated the agenda he laid out in a speech about the government reopening on Thursday, Oct. 17, pressing for a 2014 budget, immigration reform and a renewed farm bill before the end of the year. While Virginia state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli delivered the Republican weekly address with a familiar topic; criticizing the unrolling of Obamacare, the President's landmark health care law.
President Obama's weekly address entitled "Working Together on Behalf of the American People" was essentially an abbreviated version of his post-shutdown speech delivered, Thursday, Oct. 17. The President briefly discussed the bipartisan deal that ended the government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling limit, acknowledging "Democrats and responsible Republicans came together, the government was reopened, and the threat of default was removed from our economy."
Although Obama stated; "There's been a lot of discussion lately of the politics of this shutdown. But the truth is, there were no winners in this." Obama still acted very much the winner preaching about his victory, besides including some more subtle and thinly veiled references blaming the GOP for the two crises, Obama's address was far less confrontational towards Congressional Republicans than his rhetoric has been in over a month since the threat of a government shutdown, and debt default seemed a real possibility.
President Obama discussed how the shutdown and threat of default has affected the economy for average Americans and businesses, stating; "At a time when our economy needs more growth and more jobs, the manufactured crises of these last few weeks actually harmed jobs and growth."
The President again referred to recent polls demonstrating American discontent and disapproval for Congress at all time highs, especially for Congressional Republicans who are taking the brunt of the blame for the two crises. Obama said; "And it's understandable that your frustration with what goes on in Washington has never been higher." He again emphasized that the method of governing in Washington has to change; "The way business is done in Washington has to change. Now that these clouds of crisis and uncertainty have lifted, we need to focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do."
The President laid out his agenda, then urged Congressional Democrats and Republicans to pass these three items before the end of the year; a budget for 2014, immigration reform and a farm bill.
Speaking of a budget for the remaining time in the 2014 fiscal year, Obama stated; "First, we should sit down and pursue a balanced approach to a responsible budget, one that grows our economy faster and shrinks our long-term deficits further." The Republican House and Democratic Senate have to create conference committees to negotiate the terms for the budget, and dealing with the next set of sequester cuts set to begin on Jan. 15, 2014. Both houses have to come to an agreement by Dec. 13, 2013, a difficult task since Congress and the President have not agreed on a budget for the last four years.
Obama urged the House to pass the Senate's immigration reform bill passed this past summer before the year ends, saying; "Second, we should finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system."
The last item on the President's agenda was for Congress to pass a farm bill, the current bill expired Sept. 30. Obama urged; "Third, we should pass a farm bill - one that America's farmers and ranchers can depend on." The House passed a farm bill in July that excluded funding for food stamps, the President made it clear he wants that element included in any farm bill passed this year, saying a farm bill "protects vulnerable children and adults in times of need."
Obama concluded by asking Congress to try to work together for the good of the American public, rising above their differences, to find common ground, and to pass legislation even though differences remain between both parties. He wants to avoid the partisan pettiness that is prevalent in Congress, saying; "not just listen just because we don't think it's good politics, or just because the extremes in our parties don't like compromise." Referring to the government shutdown, and partisan made crises, he said; "There's no good reason why we can't govern responsibly, without lurching from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis."
Concluding President Obama stated; "We come from different parties, but we're Americans first. And our obligations to you must compel all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to cooperate, and compromise, and act in the best interests of this country we love."
Attorney General Cuccinelli, who delivered the GOP address, is also running for governor in Virginia, he is behind in the polls with only a week left in the campaign. Cuccinelli was given the high profile task of delivering the GOP weekly address to help boost his chances at winning the governorship as Hillary Clinton endorsed his challenger Terry McAuliffe Saturday afternoon, who also had President Obama campaign and fundraise for him. Although referring and criticizing the healthcare law on a national scale, Cuccinelli's address was infused with regional specific examples.
The Republicans were defeated by President Obama in the budget showdown, when they had to give in to the President's demand for clean bills, and drop all their demands and provisions regarding Obamacare for the short-term spending bills. The Republicans not to appear entirely defeated are continuing their battle against the law.
Speaker of the House John Boehner still vowed to continue fighting to curb the health care law, stating on Wednesday, Oct. 16 after the Senate already had a deal in place to end the crises, saying; "Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president's health care law will continue." Cuccinelli's address is the GOP's follow through of this promise.
It is also an attempt to again unite the Republicans heading into the 2014 midterm elections behind their favorite singular cause, despite the fact the GOP became fractured over the healthcare law as the shutdown and debt crisis went on.
The Attorney General boasted of bringing the law in front of the Supreme Court, saying; "It's why I stood up and said ObamaCare is not right for Virginia. It's why I fought alongside 27 other state attorneys general and said ObamaCare is not right for America." He still called it "unconstitutional" even though the court gave the law a majority declaring it did not violate the Constitution.
Attorney General Cuccinelli spent most of his address criticizing the health care law, which he called a "grave threat to the future prosperity," disparaging its implementation, and the ramifications, which he stated the President did not inform Americans about in his sales pitch, calling it "downright dishonest."
Cuccinelli stated; "Everywhere you look, there's more evidence that ObamaCare was fundamentally broken even before it started." Continuing he said; "President Obama's ideas are deeply flawed and the implementation of this law has been a national embarrassment. Let me be plain, the law that carries the President's name is the hallmark of a reckless federal government that has lost its way"
Cuccinelli introduced some alternative solutions to reform America's health care, all of which are "free of government control;" primarily allowing "flexibility and choice" for the public to choose their own insurance companies and doctors, lowering the costs of premiums by reversing "the perverse incentives," and needs to be "transparent at all levels."
The Virginia Attorney General also called for ending the "exemptions" for businesses and the "preferential treatment" for Congress that Obamacare created. Cuccinelli believes there should be no exceptions or subsidies for Congress, saying; "If the politicians who gave us this train wreck expect us to live by this law, then the same law without special exemptions should apply to Congress. Is that really too much to ask?"
Despite a showdown between both parties that led to a 16-day government shutdown with the country sitting on the brink of a default with only hours left before the deadline, both parties have not learned their lesson, intent on sticking to their positions no matter what.
President Obama acting the victor after this round of the battle, still blamed the GOP and the Tea Party in his rhetoric, all the while asking Congress to work together, compromise, and be bipartisan. However, the President's actions through the crises were rift full of partisanship, and lack of negotiations and compromise. The President can act conciliatory now, but he was far from it, and unless the Republicans heed to demands for his fall agenda, he will again revert to his partisan tone, enter campaign mode and cast blame on the Republicans.
The Republicans on the flip side went down in a flaming defeat in their attempt to defund and delay Obamacare. Yet days after losing and conceding to the President giving him the clean bills he demanded, they are back again fighting against the law. Unless both parties and the President truly compromise the government will remain at a standstill, and no legislation will ever be passed, with only the American public left to suffer.
- President Barack Obama's Weekly Address: Working Together on Behalf of the American People, Oct. 19, 2013 -- Download mp4 | Download mp3
- GOP Weekly Address on Obamacare delivered by Virginia state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Oct, 19, 2013
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & Israeli politics.