Obama Dares GOP for Mental Health Reforms
By Sarah Ferris The Hill 01/05/16 02:13 PM EST
President Obama is pressuring congressional Republicans to make good on their promise to fix the nation’s broken mental health system, which the GOP has frequently blamed for gun violence.
As part of his wide-reaching efforts to rein in gun violence, Obama on Tuesday called for a half-billion dollars in new mental health spending, taunting the GOP on their failure to pass a mental health reform bill since pledging to do so in 2013.
“For those in Congress who so often rush to blame mental illness for mass shootings as a way of avoiding action on guns, here’s your chance to support these efforts. Put your money where your mouth is,” Obama said during an emotional speech at the White House.
Unlike his other proposals, which will be made through executive actions, the $500 million allocation must come from Congress — something that Obama said Republicans should be feel obligated to support.
In a briefing after the speech, White House spokesman Josh Earnest reiterated that he doesn’t expect the GOP to support the funding request because the party is unwilling to support the president’s health efforts generally.
“It’s hard to take seriously [Republican] claims that they’re actually interested in ensuring that people have access to mental healthcare,” Earnest said.
“If they are actually willing to work seriously with the administration to invest $500 million in expanding access to mental healthcare, I’m happy to be proved wrong,” he said.
The remarks intend to push congressional Republicans who have pledged to strengthen the mental health system as an alternative to new restrictions on guns, but have been unable to coalesce around a plan.
GOP leaders first pledged to bolster the mental health system in 2013, shortly after the shooting in Newtown, Conn. Since then, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) has struggled to gain widespread support for his mental health bill, though it has gained momentum in recent months.
Murphy’s office did not immediately provide a reaction to Obama’s proposal.