(House of Representatives - January 20, 2015)

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[Congressional Record Volume 161, Number 9 (Tuesday, January 20, 2015)]
[Pages H419-H424]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                              {time}  2035

  The recess having expired, the House was called to order by the 
Speaker at 8 o'clock and 35 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 California (Mr. McCarthy);
  The gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Scalise);
  The gentlewoman from Washington (Mrs. McMorris Rodgers);
  The gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Walden);
  The gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Messer);
  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 gentlewoman from Connecticut (Ms. DeLauro);
  The gentlewoman from Maryland (Ms. Edwards); and
  The gentleman from Hawaii (Mr. Takai).
  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 Kentucky (Mr. McConnell);
  The Senator from Texas (Mr. Cornyn);
  The Senator from Utah (Mr. Hatch);
  The Senator from South Dakota (Mr. Thune);
  The Senator from Wyoming (Mr. Barrasso);
  The Senator from Missouri (Mr. Blunt);
  The Senator from Mississippi (Mr. Wicker);
  The Senator from Illinois (Mr. Durbin);
  The Senator from New York (Mr. Schumer);
  The Senator from Washington (Mrs. Murray);
  The Senator from Vermont (Mr. Leahy);
  The Senator from Montana (Mr. Tester);
  The Senator from Michigan (Ms. Stabenow); and
  The Senator from Minnesota (Ms. Klobuchar).
  The Assistant to the Sergeant at Arms announced the Dean of the 
Diplomatic Corps, His Excellency Roble Olhaye, Ambassador from the 
Republic of Djibouti.
  The 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 5 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 
  (Applause, the Members rising.)
  The PRESIDENT. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, 
my fellow Americans:
  We are 15 years into this new century--15 years that dawned with 
terror touching our shores, that unfolded with a new generation 
fighting two long and costly wars, that saw a vicious recession spread 
across our Nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time 
for many.
  But, tonight, we turn the page.
  Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is 
growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our 
unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. 
More of our kids are graduating than ever before. More of our people 
are insured than ever before. And we are as free from the grip of 
foreign oil as we have been in almost 30 years.

[[Page H420]]

  Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in 
Afghanistan is over. Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops 
served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain.
  And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in 
this 9/11 generation who has served to keep us safe. We are humbled and 
grateful for your service.
  America, for all that we have endured, for all the grit and hard work 
required to come back, for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this: the 
shadow of crisis has passed, and the state of the Union is strong.
  At this moment, with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling 
industry, and booming energy production, we have risen from recession 
freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It is now 
up to us to choose who we want to be over the next 15 years and for 
decades to come.
  Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly 
well, or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising 
incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?
  Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly 
conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing, or will 
we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats 
and protect our planet?
  Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against 
one another, or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has 
always propelled America forward?
  In 2 weeks, I will send this Congress a budget filled with ideas that 
are practical, not partisan; and in the months ahead, I will crisscross 
the country, making a case for those ideas. So, tonight, I want to 
focus less on a checklist of proposals and focus more on the values at 
stake in the choices before us.
  It begins with our economy.
  Seven years ago, Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis were newlyweds. 
She waited tables. He worked construction. Their first child, Jack, was 
on the way. They were young and in love in America, and it doesn't get 
much better than that.
  ``If only we had known,'' Rebekah wrote to me last spring, ``what was 
about to happen to the housing and construction market.''
  As the crisis worsened, Ben's business dried up, so he took what jobs 
he could find even if they kept him on the road for long stretches of 
time. Rebekah took out student loans, enrolled in community college, 
and retrained for a new career. They sacrificed for each other, and, 
slowly, it paid off. They bought their first home. They had a second 
son, Henry. Rebekah got a better job and then a raise. Ben is back in 
construction and home for dinner every night.
  ``It is amazing,'' Rebekah wrote, ``what you can bounce back from 
when you have to . . . we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made 
it through some very, very hard times.''
  We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, 
very hard times.
  America, Rebekah and Ben's story is our story. They represent the 
millions who have worked hard and scrimped and sacrificed and retooled. 
You are the reason that I ran for this office. You are the people I was 
thinking of 6 years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis, 
when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and promised we would rebuild 
our economy on a new foundation; and it has been your resilience--your 
effort--that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger.
  We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing and draw new 
jobs to our shores, and over the past 5 years, our businesses have 
created more than 11 million new jobs.
  We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect 
our planet, and, today, America is number one in oil and gas. America 
is number one in wind power. Every 3 weeks, we bring online as much 
solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices 
and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save 
about $750 at the pump.
  We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world, 
and, today, our younger students have earned the highest math and 
reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an 
all-time high, and more Americans finish college than ever before.
  We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, 
shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition. Today, we 
have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts and a new consumer 
watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card 
practices, and in the past year alone, about 10 million uninsured 
Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.
  At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too 
ambitious, that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we 
have seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits 
cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care 
inflation at its lowest rate in 50 years. This is good news, people.
  So the verdict is clear. Middle class economics works, expanding 
opportunity works, and these policies will continue to work, as long as 
politics don't get in the way. We can't slow down businesses or put our 
economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns.
  We can't put the security of families at risk by taking away their 
health insurance or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street or 
refighting past battles on immigration when we have got to fix a broken 
system. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these 
things, I will veto it. It will earn my veto.
  Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and 
more lives. Wages are finally starting to rise again. We know that more 
small business owners plan to raise their employees' pay than at any 
time since 2007.
  But here is the thing. Those of us here tonight, we need to set our 
sights higher than just making sure government doesn't screw things up 
and halt the progress we are making. We need to do more than just do no 
harm. Tonight, together, let's do more to restore the link between hard 
work and growing opportunity for every American because families like 
Rebekah's still need our help.
  She and Ben are working as hard as ever but have to forego vacations 
and a new car so that they can pay off student loans and save for 
retirement. Friday-night pizza, that is a big splurge.
  Basic childcare for Jack and Henry costs more than their mortgage and 
almost as much as a year at the University of Minnesota. Like millions 
of hardworking Americans, Rebekah isn't asking for a handout, but she 
is asking that we look for more ways to help families get ahead.
  In fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, 
this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances and to 
make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections, 
Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the 
harshest adversity. We gave our citizens schools and colleges, 
infrastructure and the Internet--tools they needed to go as far as 
their efforts and their dreams will take them.
  That is what middle class economics is: the idea that this country 
does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair 
share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. We don't just want 
everyone to share in America's success; we want everyone to contribute 
to our success.
  So what does middle class economics require in our time?
  First, middle class economics means helping working families feel 
more secure in a world of constant change. That means helping folks 
afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement; and my 
budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working 
families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each 
  Here is one example. During World War II, when men like my 
grandfather went off to war, having women like my grandmother in the 
workforce was a national security priority, so this country provided 
universal childcare.
  In today's economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an 
economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality 
childcare more than ever. It is not a nice-to-have; it is a must-have.
  It is time we stop treating childcare as a side issue or a women's 
issue and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for 
all of us, and that is

[[Page H421]]

why my plan will make quality childcare more available and more 
affordable for every middle class and low-income family with young 
children in America--by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to 
$3,000 per child, per year.
  Here is another example. Today, we are the only advanced country on 
Earth that doesn't guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to 
our workers. Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave. 
Forty-three million. Think about that. And that forces too many parents 
to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at 
home. So I will be taking new action to help States adopt paid leave 
laws of their own.
  And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last 
November, let's put it to a vote right here in Washington. Send me a 
bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn 7 days 
of paid sick leave. It is the right thing to do.
  Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. 
That is why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a 
woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It is 
2015. It is time.
  We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they have 
earned. And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the 
minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full time 
and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it. If not, vote 
to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.
  Now, these ideas won't make everybody rich, won't relieve every 
hardship. That is not the job of government. To give working families a 
fair shot, we still need more employers to see beyond next quarter's 
earnings and recognize that investing in their workforce is in their 
company's long-term interest. We still need laws that strengthen, 
rather than weaken, unions and give American workers a voice.
  But, you know, things like child care and sick leave and equal pay, 
things like lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage, these 
ideas will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of 
families. That is a fact. And that is what all of us, Republicans and 
Democrats alike, were sent here to do.
  Now, second, to make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the 
road, we have to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills.
  America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, 
sent a generation of GIs to college, trained the best workforce in the 
world. We were ahead of the curve. But other countries caught on, and 
in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we 
need to up our game. We need to do more.
  By the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require 
some higher education, two in three. And yet, we still live in a 
country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the 
education they need. It is not fair to them, and it is sure not smart 
for our future.
  That is why I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the 
cost of community college to zero.
  Keep in mind, 40 percent of our college students choose community 
college. Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking 
for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to 
transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your 
chance to graduate ready for the new economy without a load of debt.
  Understand, you have got to earn it. You have got to keep your grades 
up and graduate on time. Tennessee, a State with Republican leadership, 
and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free 
community college is possible. I want to spread that idea all across 
America, that 2 years of college becomes as free and universal in 
America as high school is today.
  Let's stay ahead of the curve. And I want to work with this Congress 
to make sure those already burdened with student loans can reduce their 
monthly payments so that student debt doesn't derail anyone's dreams.
  Thanks to Vice President Biden's great work to update our job 
training system, we are connecting community colleges with local 
employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding and 
nursing and robotics. Tonight I am also asking more businesses to 
follow the lead of companies like CVS and UPS and offer more 
educational benefits and paid apprenticeships, opportunities that give 
workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don't have a 
higher education.
  And as a new generation of veterans comes home, we owe them every 
opportunity to live the American Dream they helped defend.
  Already, we have made strides towards ensuring that every veteran has 
access to the highest-quality care. We are slashing the backlog that 
had too many veterans waiting years to get the benefits they need, and 
we are making it easier for vets to translate their training and 
experience into civilian jobs. And Joining Forces, the national 
campaign launched by Michelle and Jill Biden--thank you, Michelle; 
thank you, Jill--has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military 
spouses get a new job.
  So to every CEO in America, let me repeat: If you want somebody who 
is going to get the job done and done right, hire a veteran.
  Finally, as we better train our workers, we need the new economy to 
keep churning out high-wage jobs for our workers to fill.
  Since 2010, America has put more people back to work than Europe, 
Japan, and all advanced economies combined. Our manufacturers have 
added almost 800,000 new jobs. Some of our bedrock sectors, like our 
auto industry, are booming. But there are also millions of Americans 
who work jobs that didn't even exist 10 or 20 years ago, jobs at 
companies like Google and eBay and Tesla.
  So no one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs 
of the future. But we do know we want them here in America. We know 
that. And that is why the third part of middle class economics is all 
about building the most competitive economy anywhere, the place where 
businesses want to locate and hire.
  Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure, 
modern ports and stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest 
Internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let's set 
our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let's pass a bipartisan 
infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs 
per year and make this country stronger for decades to come. Let's do 
it. Let's get it done. Let's get it done.
  Twenty-first century businesses, including small businesses, need to 
sell more American products overseas. Today, our businesses export more 
than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. But as 
we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world's fastest-
growing region. That would put our workers and our businesses at a 
disadvantage. Why would we let that happen?
  We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That 
is why I am asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to 
protect American workers with strong new trade deals from Asia to 
Europe that aren't just free but are also fair. It is the right thing 
to do.
  Look, I am the first one to admit that past trade deals haven't 
always lived up to the hype, and that is why we have gone after 
countries that break the rules at our expense. But 95 percent of the 
world's customers live outside our borders. We can't close ourselves 
off from those opportunities. More than half of manufacturing 
executives have said they are actively looking to bring jobs back from 
China. Let's give them one more reason to get it done.
  Twenty-first century businesses will rely on American science and 
technology, research and development. I want the country that 
eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of 
medicine, one that delivers the right treatment at the right time. In 
some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a 
disease once thought unstoppable. So tonight, I am launching a new 
Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases 
like cancer and diabetes, and to give all of us access to the 
personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families 
healthier. We can do this.
  I intend to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to 

[[Page H422]]

classroom and every community, and help folks build the fastest 
networks so that the next generation of digital innovators and 
entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.
  I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that 
unleash new jobs: converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating 
revolutionary prosthetics so that a veteran who gave his arms for his 
country can play catch with his kids again; pushing out into the solar 
system not just to visit, but to stay.
  Now, last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a 
reenergized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars; 
and in 2 months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will 
begin a year-long stay in space.
  So good luck, Captain. Make sure to Instagram it. We are proud of 
  Now, the truth is, when it comes to issues like infrastructure and 
basic research, I know there is bipartisan support in this Chamber. 
Members of both parties have told me so. Where we too often run onto 
the rocks is how to pay for these investments.
  As Americans, we don't mind paying our fair share of taxes as long as 
everybody else does too. But for far too long, lobbyists have rigged 
the Tax Code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing 
while others pay full freight. They have riddled it with giveaways that 
the superrich don't need while denying a break to middle class families 
who do.
  This year, we have an opportunity to change that. Let's close 
loopholes so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad and 
reward those that invest here in America. Let's use those savings to 
rebuild our infrastructure and to make it more attractive for companies 
to bring jobs home. Let's simplify the system and let a small business 
owner file based on her actual bank statement instead of the number of 
accountants she can afford. And let's close the loopholes that lead to 
inequality, by allowing the top 1 percent to avoid paying taxes on 
their accumulated wealth. We can use that money to help more families 
pay for child care and send their kids to college.
  We need a Tax Code that truly helps working Americans try to get a 
leg up in the new economy. And we can achieve that together. We can 
achieve it together.
  Helping hardworking families make ends meet, giving them the tools 
they need for good-paying jobs in this new economy, and maintaining the 
conditions of growth and competitiveness, this is where America needs 
to go. I believe it is where the American people want to go. It will 
make our economy stronger a year from now, 15 years from now, and deep 
into the century ahead.
  Of course, if there is one thing this new century has taught us, it 
is that we cannot separate our work here at home from challenges beyond 
our shores.
  My first duty as Commander in Chief is to defend the United States of 
America. In doing so, the question is not whether America leads in the 
world, but how. When we make rash decisions--reacting to the headlines 
instead of using our heads--when the first response to a challenge is 
to send in our military, then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary 
conflicts and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more 
prosperous world. That is what our enemies want us to do.
  I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership. We lead best when 
we combine military power with strong diplomacy, when we leverage our 
power with coalition building, when we don't let our fears blind us to 
the opportunities that this new century presents. That is exactly what 
we are doing right now, and around the globe, it is making a 
  First, we stand united with people around the world who have been 
targeted by terrorists, from a school in Pakistan to the streets of 
Paris. We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their 
networks; and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we have done 
relentlessly since I took office, to take out terrorists who pose a 
direct threat to us and our allies.
  At the same time, we have learned some costly lessons over the last 
13 years.
  Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we have 
trained their security forces, who have now taken the lead; and we have 
honored our troops' sacrifice by supporting that country's first 
democratic transition.
  Instead of sending large ground forces overseas, we are partnering 
with nations from south Asia to north Africa to deny safe haven to 
terrorists who threaten America. In Iraq and Syria, American 
leadership, including our military power, is stopping ISIL's advance.
  Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle 
East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to 
degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group. We are also 
supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this 
effort and are assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt 
ideology of violent extremism.
  Now, this effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will 
succeed. And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we 
are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use 
of force against ISIL. We need that authority.
  Second, we are demonstrating the power of American strength and 
diplomacy. We are upholding the principle that bigger nations can't 
bully the small, by opposing Russian aggression and supporting 
Ukraine's democracy and reassuring our NATO allies.
  Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions, 
along with our allies, as we were reinforcing our presence with the 
frontline States, Mr. Putin's aggression, it was suggested, was a 
masterful display of strategy and strength. That is what I heard from 
some folks. Well, today it is America that stands strong and united 
with our allies, while Russia is isolated with its economy in tatters.
  That is how America leads--not with bluster but with persistent, 
steady resolve.
  In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration 
date. When what you are doing doesn't work for 50 years, it is time to 
try something new. Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a 
legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere. It removes a phony excuse for 
restrictions in Cuba, stands up for democratic values, and extends the 
hand of friendship to the Cuban people.
  And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo. 
As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of 
``small steps.'' These small steps have added up to new hope for the 
future in Cuba.
  And after years in prison, we are overjoyed that Alan Gross is back 
home where he belongs.
  Welcome home, Alan. We are glad you are here.
  Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran where, for the first 
time in a decade, we have halted the progress of its nuclear program 
and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material. Between now and this 
spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that 
prevents a nuclear-armed Iran, secures America and our allies--
including Israel--while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict
  There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep 
all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran. But new sanctions 
passed by this Congress at this moment in time will all but guarantee 
that diplomacy fails--alienating America from its allies, making it 
harder to maintain sanctions, and ensuring that Iran starts up its 
nuclear program again.
  It doesn't make sense, and that is why I will veto any new sanctions 
bill that threatens to undo this progress. The American people expect 
us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to 
that wisdom.
  Third, we are looking beyond the issues that have consumed us in the 
past to shape the coming century. No foreign nation and no hacker 
should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or 
invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. So we are 
making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber 
threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism.
  Tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need 
to better meet the evolving threat of cyber attacks, combat identity 
theft, and protect our children's information. That should be a 
bipartisan effort.
  If we don't act, we will leave our Nation and our economy vulnerable. 
If we

[[Page H423]]

do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed 
untold opportunities for people around the globe.
  In west Africa, our troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses, 
and our health care workers are rolling back Ebola, saving countless 
lives and stopping the spread of disease. I could not be prouder of 
them, and I thank this Congress for your bipartisan support of their 
  But the job is not yet done, and the world needs to use this lesson 
to build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future 
pandemics, invest in smart development, and eradicate extreme poverty.
  In the Asia Pacific, we are modernizing alliances while making sure 
that other nations play by the rules in how they trade, how they 
resolve maritime disputes, and how they participate in meeting common 
international challenges like nonproliferation and disaster relief; and 
no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate 
  2014 was the planet's warmest year on record. Now, 1 year doesn't 
make a trend, but this does: 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have 
all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.
  I have heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they are 
not scientists and that we don't have enough information to act. Well, 
I am not a scientist either, but you know what, I know a lot of really 
good scientists at NASA, at NOAA, and at our major universities.
  The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our 
activities are changing the climate, and if we don't act forcefully, we 
will continue to see rising oceans; longer, hotter heat waves; 
dangerous droughts and floods; and massive disruptions that can trigger 
greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe.
  The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our 
national security. We should act like it. That is why, over the past 6 
years, we have done more than ever to combat climate change, from the 
way we produce energy to the way we use it; that is why we have set 
aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history; 
and that is why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our 
children by turning back the clock on our efforts.
  I am determined to make sure that American leadership drives 
international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement. The 
United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, 
and China committed for the first time to limiting their emissions.
  Because the world's two largest economies came together, other 
nations are now stepping up and offering hope that, this year, the 
world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we have 
  There is one last pillar of our leadership, and that is the example 
of our values. As Americans, we respect human dignity even when we are 
threatened, which is why I have prohibited torture and worked to make 
sure our use of new technology, like drones, is properly constrained.
  It is why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has 
resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It is why we continue to 
reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims, the vast majority of whom 
share our commitment to peace.
  That is why we defend free speech; advocate for political prisoners; 
and condemn the persecution of women or religious minorities or people 
who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not 
only because they are the right thing to do, but because, ultimately, 
they will make us safer.
  As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice, so it makes 
no sense to spend $3 million per prisoner to keep open a prison that 
the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit. Since I have been 
President, we have worked responsibly to cut the population of GTMO in 
half. Now, it is time to finish the job, and I will not relent in my 
determination to shut it down. It is not who we are. It is time to 
close GTMO.
  As Americans, we cherish our civil liberties, and we need to uphold 
that commitment if we want maximum cooperation from other countries and 
industry in our fight against terrorist networks. So while some have 
moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I have not.
  As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard with the 
recommendations of privacy advocates to increase transparency and build 
more safeguards against potential abuse. Next month, we will issue a 
report on how we are keeping our promise to keep our country safe while 
strengthening privacy.
  Looking to the future instead of the past, making sure we match our 
power with diplomacy and use force wisely, building coalitions to meet 
new challenges and opportunities, and leading always with the example 
of our values, that is what makes us exceptional. That is what keeps us 
strong. That is why we have to keep striving to hold ourselves to the 
highest of standards: our own.
  Just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said that 
there wasn't a liberal America or a conservative America, or a Black 
America or a White America, but a United States of America.
  I said this because I had seen it in my own life in a nation that 
gave someone like me a chance; because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting 
pot of races and customs; because I made Illinois my home, a State of 
small towns, rich farmlands, and one of the world's great cities, a 
microcosm of the country where Democrats, Republicans, and 
Independents--good people of every ethnicity and every faith--share 
certain bedrock values.
  Over the past 6 years the pundits have pointed out more than once 
that my Presidency hasn't delivered on this vision. How ironic, they 
say, that our politics seem more divided than ever. It is held up as 
proof not just of my own flaws--of which there are many--but also as 
proof that the vision itself is misguided, naive; that there are too 
many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and 
gridlock for us to ever do anything about it.
  I know how tempting such cynicism may be, but I still think the 
cynics are wrong.
  I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together 
we can do great things, even when the odds are long. I believe this 
because over and over, in my 6 years in office, I have seen America at 
its best. I have seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New 
York to California and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, 
Colorado Springs, and New London. I have mourned with grieving families 
in Tucson and Newtown; in Boston; in West, Texas; and West Virginia.
  I have watched Americans beat back adversity from the gulf coast to 
the Great Plains, from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic 
seaboard. I have seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue 
used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a 
civil right now legal in States that seven in 10 Americans call home.
  So I know the good and optimistic and big-hearted generosity of the 
American people, who every day live the idea that we are our brother's 
keeper and our sister's keeper, and I know they expect those of us who 
serve here to set a better example.
  So the question for those of us here tonight is how we--all of us--
can better reflect America's hopes.
  I have served in Congress with many of you. I know many of you well. 
There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And 
many of you have told me that this isn't what you signed up for--
arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, 
always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every 
  Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we 
did something different.
  Understand--a better politics isn't one where Democrats abandon their 
agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.
  A better politics is one where we appeal to each other's basic 
decency instead of our basest fears. A better politics is one where we 
debate without demonizing each other, where we talk issues and values 
and principles and facts rather than gotcha moments or trivial gaffes 
or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people's daily 
  A better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark

[[Page H424]]

money for ads that pull us into the gutter and spend more time lifting 
young people up with a sense of purpose and possibility, asking them to 
join in the great mission of building America. If we are going to have 
arguments, let's have arguments, but let's make them debates worthy of 
this body and worthy of this country.
  We still may not agree on a woman's right to choose, but surely we 
can agree it is a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are 
nearing all-time lows and that every woman should have access to the 
health care that she needs.
  Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see 
something of ourselves in the striving young student and agree that no 
one benefits when a hardworking mom is snatched from her child, and 
that it is possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a 
nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. I have talked to Republicans 
and Democrats about that. That is something that we can share.
  We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the 
right to vote is sacred, that it is being denied to too many, and that 
on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery 
and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, 
Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single 
  We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York, 
but surely we can understand a father who fears his son can't walk home 
without being harassed, and surely we can understand the wife who won't 
rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door 
at the end of his shift, and surely we can agree that it is a good 
thing that for the first time in 40 years the crime rate and the 
incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting 
point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law 
enforcement, to reform America's criminal justice system so that it 
protects and serves all of us.
  That is a better politics. That is how we start rebuilding trust. 
That is how we move this country forward. That is what the American 
people want. That is what they deserve.
  I have no more campaigns to run. I know, because I won both of them.
  My only agenda for the next 2 years is the same as the one I have had 
since the day I swore an oath on the steps of this Capitol--to do what 
I believe is best for America.
  If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, I ask you to join 
me in the work at hand. If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you 
will at least work with me where you do agree. And I commit to every 
Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I 
will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.
  Because I want this Chamber, I want this city to reflect the truth--
that for all our blind spots and shortcomings, we are a people with the 
strength and generosity of spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common 
effort, and to help our neighbors, whether down the street or on the 
other side of the world.
  I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood: Your 
life matters, and we are committed to improving your life chances, as 
committed as we are to working on behalf of our own kids.
  I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our 
differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity 
and worth of every citizen--man and woman, young and old, Black and 
White, Latino, Asian, immigrant, Native American, gay, straight, 
Americans with mental illness or physical disability. Everybody 
matters. I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what 
we still know to be true: that we are still more than a collection of 
red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.
  I want them to grow up in a country where a young mom can sit down 
and write a letter to her President with a story that sums up these 
past 6 years: ``It is amazing what you can bounce back from when you 
have to . . . we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it 
through some very, very hard times.''
  My fellow Americans, we, too, are a strong, tight-knit family. We, 
too, have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new 
century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun 
again the work of remaking America. We have laid a new foundation. A 
brighter future is ours to write. Let's begin this new chapter--
together--and let's start the work right now.
  Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.
  (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 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 21 minutes p.m., the joint session of 
the two Houses was dissolved.
  The Members of the Senate retired to their Chamber.