White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest offered advice to Republican presidential candidates advocating more focus on mental health to stop gun crimes: Embrace Obamacare.
"If they say that they want to work with the administration on mental health care, and if that's the real way that we're going to stop ... these heinous acts of gun violence, then I've got some good ideas about how they can do it," Earnest told reporters at the daily briefing. "Many of them talk about the need for better mental health treatment and better mental health care for those individuals who need it," Earnest said of the current crop of presidential candidates. "One particular program that has been particularly effective in expanding access to mental health care across the country is the Affordable Care Act. So voting more than 50 times to repeal a piece of legislation that has done more to expand mental health care across the country is certainly not keeping with their commitment to want to actually address this significant problem."
Earnest said expanding Medicaid under the ACA in states where Republicans have blocked it "would actually expand substantially mental health care coverage to millions of Americans."
"So for those who say that they want to work with the administration in at least one area when it comes to limiting acts of gun violence, we would welcome their contribution and their support for implementing the Affordable Care Act and expanding Medicaid," he continued.
Earnest acknowledged he won't hold his breath waiting for that to happen.
In the meantime, Earnest said officials inside the White House have continued to look at possible executive actions Obama could take on his own.
"There are a variety of figures here at the White House that are involved. The president made a reference to — you know, the — scrutinizing the laws, and I think that would be an indication to you that the — that there are lawyers involved, here at the White House, in this matter, as well.
"There are a variety of people who are leading this effort," Earnest said. "But, you know, we've been quite forthright in acknowledging that the progress that we've made in terms of implementing executive actions is not as important as the progress that could be made if Congress were to take some of the common sense steps that they could take."
And Earnest lauded Clinton for making new proposals, although he didn't specifically endorse them.
"We would welcome the contribution of somebody ... with a voice that prominent in the debate trying to advance this effort," he said.
As for the president, Obama will head to Roseburg, Ore., to meet with victims' families Friday, but is not expected to make a public appearance, Earnest said.
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