(WASHINGTON) — President Obama vowed Saturday that he would “keep marching” on the hot button issues of his presidency in the face of a defiant Republican opposition.
Speaking at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s yearly gala dinner, the president, accompanied by the first lady, railed against the GOP in Congress for risking a government shutdown and credit default unless his signature healthcare legislation was disassembled.
“This is an interesting thing to ponder,” he said of his detractors. “That your top agenda is making sure that 20 million people don’t have health insurance and you’d be willing to shut down the government and potentially default — for the time in United States history — because it bothers you so much.”
He told the audience of minority leaders that the Republican party, particularly in the House of Representatives, had been taken over by an “extreme faction” and that he would “not negotiate” over the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s time for these folks to stop governing by crisis and start focusing on what really matters: Creating new jobs, growing our economy, expanding opportunity for ourselves, looking after our children, doing something about the violence out there,” he continued.
During his remarks the president also lamented the difficulty he has faced trying to strengthen gun control measures through the legislative process in light of the “unspeakable grief” of recent mass shootings.
“Just two days ago, in my hometown of Chicago, 13 people were shot during a pickup basketball game, including a 3-year-old girl,” he said. “Tomorrow night I’ll be meeting and mourning with families in this city who now know the same unspeakable grief of families in Newtown, and Aurora, and Tucson, and Chicago, and New Orleans, and all across the country — people whose loved ones were torn from them without headlines sometimes, or public outcry.”
“As long as there are those who make it as easy as possible for dangerous people to get their hands on guns then we’ve got to work as hard as possible for the sake of our children,” he concluded.
Perceived voter suppression laws and the imbalance of minorities in the criminal justice system were also hit in the roughly 20-minute speech. He also drew a particular focus on the recent decision by House Republicans to nix a large portion of the federal budget for food stamps.
The president was the keynote speaker at a gala dinner capping four days of the CBC’s 43rd Annual Legislative Conference, whose attendees comprised of a mixture of minority leaders, lawmakers, and veterans of the civil rights era — some titles blended into others — and Obama said he drew his inspiration from those in the audience.
“We have to keep marching,” he said. “And I’m proud that I’ll be, at least for the next three and a half years years here in Washington, and a whole lot of years after that, I’ll be marching with you,” he said.
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation is the non-profit counterpart to its Capitol Hill delegation, although officially it does not endorse any lawmaker or contribute monetarily to election campaigns. Obama has been the keynote speaker at the yearly black tie event three times since assuming office, missing only 2012’s dinner, in which he was replaced by first lady Michelle Obama.
As with each year, tonight also saw three honorees given recognition with the CBC’s “Phoenix Award” for contributions to minority empowerment. Tonight’s winners were former President Bill Clinton, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Elaine Jones, former head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
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