Tsongas Recaps Obama Presidency
Jan 25, 2017 12:36PM ● Published by Theresa Gilman
(Editor's Note: the following information was submitted by the office of Congresswoman Niki Tsongas.)When President Barack Obama entered the White House he immediately faced a staggering slate of national challenges. Throughout the ensuing eight years, the Obama Administration did not shrink from those challenges but instead, rose to meet them. Today, as President Obama has left the office, one central theme of his Administration stands out: thoughtful and concerted action is what moves America forward.
President Obama was able to enact significant policy changes and spark societal shifts that will continue to impact Americans for generations to come.
In 2008, America was enduring the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The unemployment rate was on the rise, the deficit was growing daily and families were losing their homes to bank foreclosures. The health care system was burdening families across the country and we recognized more and more the damaging signs of an ever changing global climate.
Thanks to historic legislation and initiatives championed by the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress, the slide was halted and our economy started back on an upward trajectory. Today, the deficit is down by a trillion dollars; businesses have added 15.6 million private-sector jobs in the past 81 months for the longest streak of job growth in our nation’s history; the auto-industry has rebounded; much needed Wall Street reform through Dodd-Frank has brought security and protections to consumers across the nation; and the unemployment rate is at 4.6%, a nine year low.
With the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, we made essential reforms to our healthcare system that has slowed the growth of health care costs and brought health coverage to 20 million previously uninsured Americans. But the ACA also benefits and reassures us all, not just those 20 million previously uninsured people. Young people can remain on a parent’s health insurance until the age of 26 and individuals cannot be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions.
Fully reforming the health care system was and remains a monumental task, which is why I have always believed targeted, common sense modifications should be made to the ACA. But the GOP’s plan to repeal the legislation without a viable alternative will leave millions of Americans in health care limbo, while stripping away critical protections we all rely on. Because of President Obama’s commitment to reforming health care, there is a solid foundation on which to build, and tossing it all aside would not only be unwise but irresponsible.
During his tenure, President Obama embraced our generational responsibility to act on climate change. As he repeatedly emphasized, climate change is a very real crisis that requires American leadership. And lead he did. The Obama Administration decreased our reliance on foreign oil and doubled our production of clean energy. His Clean Power Plan showcased how green initiatives support our environmental and economic future and during his tenure more than 200 nations came together around a climate agreement that could save this planet for our children. And as the Top Democrat on the Federal Lands Subcommittee, I saw firsthand how the President and his Administration fought tirelessly for some of our country’s most important conservation tools. I was honored to have the President’s Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visit the Third District to help me champion the crucial Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was ultimately reauthorized last year.
An unrelenting defender of equality, President Obama demonstrated a clear and unwavering commitment to equal rights and human dignity. The first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, restoring basic protections against pay discrimination for women. He doubled the number of women appointed to the Supreme Court and opened all military jobs, including combat roles, to women, enabling female soldiers to pursue the same opportunities and benefits as their male counterparts.
Under the Obama Administration we saw historic progress on LGBT rights and marriage equality. In 2010, he signed into law the legislation that officially ended the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, a proud moment in particular for the district I represent. His Administration refused to support the Defense of Marriage Act, which was ruled unconstitutional in 2013 by the Supreme Court, paving the way for marriage equality and a reaffirmation of basic American rights and freedoms.
President Obama secured lasting achievements but we still have more work to do toprotect the economic and national security of our people; reduce our deficit; safeguard our planet; reform our tax code; fix our immigration system; keep our communities safe; fight for equality for all; maintain the solvency of Medicare and Social Security; expand access to affordable health care and more.
President Obama moved America forward by taking action on some of the most pressing challenges facing our nation. He and his family leave the White House with a legacy of dignity, persistence and significant progress – and leave America on a path lined with extraordinary potential.
On behalf of the Third District of Massachusetts, I thank the President for his service to America and wish the Obama family well in their future endeavors.