AMES, Iowa (CBSDC/AP) — Vice President Biden told an audience at Iowa State University that the Obama administration “screwed up” its first version of the birth control mandate for religious institutions.
“What is happening now is that we have been able to provide what was hard to set up — got screwed up in the first iteration — is that any hospital, no matter where it is, no matter who runs it, profit or non-profit, religious based or otherwise, has to provide insurance to their employees like everybody else does in the country or pay a penalty for not providing insurance for employees. That comes out of the Affordable Healthcare Act,” Biden said Thursday.
The White House faced backlash from Republicans, the Catholic church and even some Democrats after announcing last month that religious-based institutions were required to provide contraception to employees. The president has backed off the original mandate, saying they will shift the coverage from employers to health insurers themselves.
The vice president was at Iowa State Thursday touring a high-tech engineering facility at Iowa State. He then told more than 500 students and faculty that by focusing on education and innovation, the U.S. economy would create jobs. Such efforts already are paying off, he said, arguing that he has met recently with business leaders who once looked to employ people overseas but now want to hire skilled and productive U.S. workers.
“They are not coming home for patriotic reasons, they are coming home for sound business reasons because we have the most skilled and productive engineers and workers in the world,” Biden said.
To speed up such trends, Biden called for tax breaks for research and development and reduced taxes for companies that bring operations from other countries to the United States.
Before the speech, Biden toured a research lab to see student projects, including one by student Tom Naert.
Naert has worked with an Ames business to develop an agriculture sprayer that can apply precise amounts of fertilizer and other chemicals, reducing the amount applied to the land.
Biden was clearly impressed.
“It improves the environment, improves productivity and at a lower cost,” he said.
Later in his speech, Biden said such research can be translated into jobs and is worth the investment.
The vice president was upbeat throughout his talk, saying the United States was uniquely positioned to prosper in the future. He said there is an increasing need for schools to work directly with employers, but that only the U.S. is adept at making such connections.
“There’s a synergy in all of this that’s missing in other parts of the world,” Biden said.
The research at Iowa State and other universities is leading directly to jobs, he said. “And these are good-paying jobs,” he said.
The Republican National Committee responded to Biden’s visit with a statement from its spokesman, Ryan Mahoney.
“Instead of more promises and empty rhetoric to Iowans they won’t deliver on, Vice President Biden should have come prepared with a plan to control soaring gas prices and boost the sluggish Obama-economy that’s weighing heavily on Iowans,” Mahoney said.
Biden was accompanied by U.S. Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former two-term Iowa governor.
Vilsack said farmers have led the way in integrating high technology into their work. That’s one reason farm income and productivity have soared, he said.
“We need to continue to invest in research because that is the key to innovation,” he said. “When you make and create, you create an economy that puts people to work.”
Although Biden’s talk was largely free of politics, his visit makes clear Iowa’s status as a likely battleground state in the general election this November. The vice president came to Ames about six weeks after President Barack Obama’s last visit to Iowa.
During that trip, Obama gave a speech about manufacturing jobs and the economy at a Cedar Rapids company.
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)