Wednesday, June 27, 2012

First lady in Chicago for fundraisers, military families

First lady Michelle Obama returned to Chicago on Tuesday for a pair of campaign fundraisers, squeezing in an appearance with Gov. Pat Quinn as he signed a measure that will make it easier for military spouses to get professional licenses when they move to Illinois.

The new law will allow regulators to issue temporary licenses for military family members who are licensed in another state to practice everything from nursing to plumbing. By doing so, they are able to search for jobs and start working without delay as the state checks out their credentials — a process that can take months.
The measure is aimed at making the transition from state to state smoother for military families, an issue Michelle Obama has made a priority in her effort to support military families and highlight the role they play as their loved ones serve the country.

"They're folks who are giving their heart and soul to this country every single day. Every time our country asks them to pick up their families and move across the country at a moment's notice, they do it and they do it with pride," she said during her remarks at the Illinois National Guard Armory in the South Loop. "So we owe it to these individuals to get this licensing issue right."

Earlier in the day, the first lady spoke at a "Women for Obama" fundraiser at the Standard Club, where she was introduced by "Glee" actress Jane Lynch, who's from Dolton. About 500 people attended, with tickets starting at $250, according to a campaign official.

The first lady pointed to friends in the crowd, telling audience members to sit down when they rose to their feet.

"Don't act like you don't know me," she said. "It's wonderful to be home with so many familiar faces."

The first lady offered a sales pitch on behalf of President Barack Obama, who is being challenged by Republican Mitt Romney on Nov. 6. "Will we allow everything we've fought for… to just slip away? Is that what we're going to do?" she asked.

Donors shouted "no" in response.

The second fundraiser skewed toward a younger crowd, with tickets starting at $44 and reaching $2,500 for a group photo opportunity. About 375 people packed into a hip meeting space on the city's Near West Side, where Michelle Obama spoke about the need for Congress to move quickly to keep interest rates on student loans from rising, saying the president "knows what it's like to be drowning in student debt."

Acknowledging that the next few months will be hard-fought, she encouraged attendees in the president's hometown to "pack a bag and spend some time in a battleground state."

"There's only 130-something days left, but it is going to be long," she said. "And it is going to be hard."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Romney revives attacks on Obama’s health-care plan

Mitt Romney pledged to replace the U.S. health-care overhaul with a plan relying on private markets to provide “access to good health care” for every American, as he revived attacks on President Barack Obama’s signature achievement that the U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to rule on.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee told small- business owners in Orlando, Florida, that he would implement policies, including tax breaks, aimed at helping the private market care for the uninsured and those with preexisting medical conditions.

“Free enterprise is the way America works,” Romney told the group gathered in the warehouse of Con Air Industries, which makes air filters. “We need to apply that to health care.”

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision on the Affordable Care Act by the end of the month, ruling on a law that would expand insurance to at least 30 million people and transform an industry that accounts for 18 percent of the U.S. economy.

Romney, 65, said if the justices fail to overturn the law completely, he would repeal the remaining pieces on his first day as president by granting waivers for every state to opt out of the restrictions.

“Regardless of what they do, it’s going to be after the next president to either repeal and replace or replace Obamacare,” Romney said. “And I intend to do both.”

Reducing Benefits
Democrats charged Romney with trying to roll back the benefits of the law for young people, women, and the uninsured.

“For too long, American families have faced a choice between going bankrupt to afford the care they need or going without that care at all, and Mitt Romney wants to take us back to that time,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement.

As Democrats attack Romney’s health-care policies, Obama said his opponent is promoting economic plans focused on cutting funding for national priorities in education, transportation and research.

“You’ll never see a sharper contrast between the two parties in the vision that they have for where this country needs to go,” Obama told a crowd of Democrats at a private home in Owings Mills, Maryland.
Obama was raising more than $3 million yesterday in Maryland and the battleground state of Pennsylvania, seeking to maintain a cash advantage over Romney. He’s holding six fundraisers, three in each state, bringing to 160 the number of events to solicit cash for his campaign since he declared his candidacy for re-election on April 4, 2011.

Republican Rhetoric
He dismissed Republican rhetoric on the economy by saying it could be boiled down to fewer than the 140 characters allowed in a post on Twitter.

“You can pretty much put their campaign on a tweet and have characters to spare,” he said.

Standing in front of a banner reading “Repeal & Replace Obamacare,” Romney said caring for the uninsured is his top priority. He would put that responsibility on the states and not require people to obtain insurance or face financial penalties, as the federal law does. To provide the care, Romney would divert money from Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor, and other funding to local governments.

He also vowed to maintain coverage for people with preexisting conditions, though only those who risk losing their benefits when they change jobs or get laid off.

Romney’s proposal is a more limited version of a provision included in Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which requires insurance companies to cover all people with preexisting conditions -- even first-time buyers.
Between 36 million and 122 million adults, or from 20 percent to 66 percent of the U.S. adult population, reported having medical conditions that could result in health insurance coverage restrictions, according to a March 27 report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s auditing arm.

It’s unclear how insurance companies could cover those with preexisting conditions without the individual mandate for everyone to buy insurance -- part of the law Romney has said he would repeal if it isn’t struck down by the Supreme Court.

Romney also didn’t mention the provision in the current law, which Obama signed in March 2010, that lets children stay on their parents’ plan until the age of 26.

Health Insurance
UnitedHealth Group Inc., Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. said this week they would save some of the law’s provisions, including letting young adults stay on parents’ plans, regardless of how the court rules.
Without the law, parents would have to pay for their child’s coverage with after-tax dollars, resulting in a higher tax bill.

Though Romney first laid out his health-care plans in a May 2011 speech in Michigan, he largely avoided the issue in the Republican primaries while his rivals sought to use it against him.

During his 2003-2007 term as governor of Massachusetts, Romney helped craft health-care legislation that included the insurance mandate for all state residents. Aspects of the federal law are similar to the Massachusetts measure, including the provision that adults must buy insurance or face a financial penalty.

Santorum Criticism
Romney, while not retreating from his support of the Massachusetts law, has said he doesn’t back imposing its provisions nationwide. His chief rival in the Republican race, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, argued Romney’s record meant he couldn’t provide an effective contrast to Obama on the health-care issue.
Having locked down his party’s nomination, Romney is seeking to depict the Affordable Care Act as another example of how Obama is out of touch with the economic anxieties of many Americans.

Romney seized on a statement the president made about the law in an interview yesterday. When a television reporter in Iowa asked Obama about a small business that blamed its closing on the health-care law, Obama replied, “That’s going to be hard to explain.”

Obama continued: “The only folks that have been impacted in terms of the health-care bill are insurance companies who are required to make sure that they’re providing preventive care, or they’re not dropping your coverage when you get sick. So this particular company probably wouldn’t have been impacted by that.”

Romney yesterday called the response “something else that shows just how out of touch” Obama is.
“It was like: really? Have you not been out talking to small businesses and hearing what they have to say,” he told Florida donors gathered for a fundraiser this afternoon at the Isleworth country club, a gated community that is home to many professional golfers.