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Obama's First Term
Obama’s First Term
During the 2008 Presidential Campaign, Barack Obama received significant support from prominent Republicans, including former governors, members of congress and other high-ranking officials. On November 4, 2008, Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States, capturing 53% of the popular vote, including 9% of Republicans and 20% of self-described Conservatives.
President Obama’s cabinet has included both Republicans and conservatives, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Army Secretary John McHugh, and Jon Huntsman, the former Governor of Utah, who was chosen to be the U.S.’s Ambassador to China.
In February, 2009, Obama signed the American Recovery and Investment Act, which included $288 billion in tax cuts, arguably the largest tax cuts in American history. These cuts included a payroll tax credit of $400 per worker and $800 per married couple in 2009 and 2010, and an extension of revisions in the Alternative Minimum Tax, which saved middle-class Americans $70 billion. Additionally, the legislation included over $30 billion in tax cuts for American businesses.
In December, 2010, President Obama signed a $858 tax cut bill into law, after almost equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans voted in support of the legislation. The package extended tax cuts signed by President Bush, cut payroll taxes by 2% for a year, and extended unemployment benefits for 13 months. Of the tax cuts, Obama stated, “I know there are different aspects of this plan to which members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, object. That's the nature of compromise. But we worked hard to negotiate an agreement that's a win for middle-class families and a win for our economy."
Bipartisan Budget Commission
In February, 2010, President Obama signed an executive order creating the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The Commission’s purpose was to identify "…policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run.” The Commission included both Republicans and Democrats, including former Republican Senator Alan Simpson, current Republican Senators Judd Gregg, Tom Coburn and Mike Crapo, and current Republican members of the house, including the Chair of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan.
After meeting for several months, the Commission released its final recommendations in December 2010.
Health Care Reform
Throughout the health care reform debates of 2009 and 2010, President Obama refused to commit to either a single-payer health care system, favored by liberal Democrats, or a government-sponsored public option-- the favored choice among other Democrats. Instead, the President focused on enacting legislation that would cover the vast majority of Americans and lower health care costs, even if it was not the first choice of liberal activists.
On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the law will cut the federal deficit by $138 billion over 10 years.
The Affordable Care Act has been compared to the health care law Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney enacted four years earlier when he served as the Governor of Massachusetts. Romney’s law created exchanges designed to increase competition in the purchase of health insurance and included a requirement that every individual purchase health insurance.
Early in Obama's first term, Mitt Romney urged the President to enact healthcare legislation similar to that which he signed into law in Massachusetts.
The Affordable Care Act has been compared to health care legislation co-sponsored by 19 Republican Senators in 1993, including current Republican Senators Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch and Richard Lugar. Mitt Romney supported this legislation.
The 1993 Republican bill called for government subsidies to low-income individuals and families to help them purchase their own health coverage, and included a requirement for individuals to purchase health insurance. Both of these provisions are supported by 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich.
Said former Republican Senator from Minnesota David Durenberger soon after the Affordable Care Act passed, “the legislation which President Obama signed is the best we can do as a nation… right now. It is historic. The commitment to universal access to health care through universal insurance coverage is the law of the land.”
In the words of Norman Ornstein, of the conservative think tank The American Enterprise Institute (AEI):
“The Democrats' health-reform plan includes no public option and relies on managed competition through exchanges set up much like those for federal employees. The individual mandate in the plan sprang from a Heritage Foundation idea that was endorsed years ago by a range of conservatives and provided the backbone of the Massachusetts plan that was crafted and, until recently, heartily defended by Mitt Romney. It would be fair to describe the new act as Romneycare crossed with the managed-competition bill proposed in 1994 by Republican Sens. John Chafee, David Durenberger, Charles Grassley and Bob Dole -- in other words, as a moderate Republican plan.”
Included the in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 are provisions which:
- Eliminate lifetime limits on insurance coverage
- Prevent health insurance companies from denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition
- Allow young adults to remain on parents' insurance until age 26.
- Provide subsidies for individuals and families and are not covered by an employer to purchase their own insurance.
- Creates healthcare exchanges for uninsured people to purchase coverage at competitive rates.
- Gives people on Medicare new access to free preventive services such as screenings for cancer and diabetes.
- Closes the "doughnut hole" gap in Medicare Part-D by 2020.
- Slows spending increases for Medicare beneficiaries to 2% per year, from the current rate of 4% a year.
In June, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
Other Domestic Policy Achievements
In January, 2010, President Obama accepted an invitation to speak at the GOP House Issues Conference in Baltimore, answering questions from the GOP leadership and offering to work across the aisle to help solve the nation’s most pressing problems.
In February, 2010, President Obama signed the “Pay-Go” rule into law, restoring a requirement that the federal government spend only what it can afford. That June, the President directed federal agencies to develop plans for disposing of unneeded real estate and eliminate unnecessary or non-economical lands and properties.
President Obama has called for the repeal of the capital gains tax for small businesses, has proposed a three-year freeze on federal discretionary spending beginning in 2011 and is in the process of cutting 120 federal programs identified as either wasteful or unnecessary.
In his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama called for investments in the nation’s infrastructure, a call that was applauded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
During the first three years of the Obama Presidency, the number of government employees dropped 2.6%-- a record reduction, and a larger decrease than that overseen by President Reagan during his first three years in office.
In January of this year, President Barack Obama proposed consolidating six trade and commerce agencies within the federal government, a measure that would further reduce the number of federal employees and cut costs.
Under President Obama, the private sector has added jobs every month since April, 2010.
Despite repeated claims by his Republican opponents, growth in federal spending under President Obama is slower than that under Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II. In fiscal 2013 — the final budget of Obama’s term — spending is scheduled to fall 1.3%, to $3.58 trillion.
Iraq, Afghanistan and North Africa
President Obama has ended the American military presence in Iraq, as he pledged during the 2008 campaign.
In a December 2009 address, President Obama committed 30,000 more U.S. troops to help fight the growing insurgency in Afghanistan. The surge was accompanied by a change in strategy, including a sixfold increase in the number of Special Operations raids, which has disrupted the operations of the Taliban and Taliban-linked groups.
In March 2011 testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, General David Petraeus, Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, announced that much of the Taliban’s momentum since 2005 had been halted and reversed in a number of important areas.
Since the surge, Afghans have slowly assumed more responsibility for their own security. By early 2011, Afghan National Security Forces had grown to more than 270,000-- a 42% expansion-- and the Afghan National Army had grown to more than 152,000-- a 57% increase.
On May 1, 2011, President Obama ordered a military strike inside of Pakistan targeting Osama bin Laden. Later that evening, the President announced that the al-Qaida leader was killed during the operation.
Other Foreign Policy Achievements
During his first term, President Obama signed the New Start nuclear arms treaty with Russia, an extension of President Reagan’s START treaty of the 1980’s. The Obama agreement commits the U.S. and Russia to reduce their number of strategic nuclear warheads, long-range missiles and bombers over the next seven years.
Before the 2012 election, President Obama was endorsed by many prominent Republicans and former Republicans, including Colin Powell, Michael Bloomberg, Charlie Crist, Larry Pressler and Susan Eisenhower.