Today, I want to start by addressing three issues, and then I’ll take your questions.
First, I’d like to say a few words about the situation in Iran. The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.
I have made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not at all interfering in Iran’s affairs. But we must also bear witness to the courage and dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.
The Iranian people are trying to have a debate about their future. Some in the Iranian government are trying to avoid that debate by accusing the United States and others outside of Iran of instigating protests over the elections. These accusations are patently false and absurd. They are an obvious attempt to distract people from what is truly taking place within Iran’s borders. This tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries won’t work anymore in Iran. This is not about the United States and the West; this is about the people of Iran, and the future that they – and only they – will choose.
The Iranian people can speak for themselves. That is precisely what has happened these last few days. In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to the peaceful pursuit of justice. Despite the Iranian government’s efforts to expel journalists and isolate itself, powerful images and poignant words have made their way to us through cell phones and computers, and so we have watched what the Iranian people are doing.
This is what we have witnessed. We have seen the timeless dignity of tens of thousands Iranians marching in silence. We have seen people of all ages risk everything to insist that their votes are counted and their voices heard. Above all, we have seen courageous women stand up to brutality and threats, and we have experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets. While this loss is raw and painful, we also know this: those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.
As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights, and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent, not coercion. That is what Iran’s own people are calling for, and the Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government.
The second issue I want to address is our ongoing effort to build a clean energy economy.
This week, the House of Representatives is moving ahead on historic legislation that will transform the way we produce and use energy in America. It is legislation that will finally spark a clean energy transformation that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and confront the carbon pollution that threatens our planet.
This energy bill will create a set of incentives that will spur the development of new sources of energy, including wind, solar, and geothermal power. It will also spur new energy savings, like efficient windows and other materials that reduce heating costs in the winter and cooling costs in the summer.
These incentives will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy. And that will lead to the development of new technologies that lead to new industries that could create millions of new jobs in America – jobs that cannot be shipped overseas.
At a time of great fiscal challenges, this legislation is paid for by the polluters who currently emit the dangerous carbon emissions that contaminate the water we drink and pollute the air we breathe. It also provides assistance to businesses and communities as they make the gradual transition to clean energy technologies.
This legislation is extraordinarily important for our country, and has taken a great effort on the part of many over the course of months. I want to thank the Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Henry Waxman; his colleagues on that committee, Congressmen John Dingell, Ed Markey, and Rick Boucher. I also want to thank Charlie Rangel, the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, and Collin Peterson, the Chair of the Agriculture Committee, for their many and ongoing contributions to this process. I also want to express my appreciation to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
We all know why this is so important. The nation that leads in the creation of a clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the 21stcentury global economy. That is what this legislation seeks to achieve – it is a bill that will open the door to a better future for this nation. And that is why I urge members of the House to come together and pass it.
The last issue I’d like to address is health care.
Right now, Congress is debating various health care reform proposals. This is obviously a complicated issue, but I am very optimistic about the progress they’re making.
Like energy, this is legislation that will be paid for. It will not add to our deficits over the next decade. We will find the money through savings and efficiencies within the health care system – some of which we’ve already announced.
We will also ensure that the reform we pass brings down the crushing cost of health care. We simply cannot have a system where we throw good money after bad habits. We must control the skyrocketing costs that are driving families, businesses, and our government into greater and greater debt.
There is no doubt that we must preserve what is best about our health care system, and that means allowing Americans who like their doctors and their health care plans to keep them. But unless we fix what is broken in our current system, everyone’s health care will be in jeopardy. Unless we act, premiums will climb higher, benefits will erode further, and the rolls of uninsured will swell to include millions more Americans. Unless we act, one out of every five dollars we earn will be spent on health care within a decade. And the amount our government spends on Medicare and Medicaid will eventually grow larger than what our government spends on anything else today.
When it comes to health care, the status quo is unsustainable. Reform is not a luxury, it is a necessity. And so I hope that Congress will continue to make significant progress on this issue in the weeks ahead.
And now, I’d be happy to take your questions.