Read all posts from January 2009

  • In the weekly address, President Barack Obama addressed the latest economic news and urged the passing of an America Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.
    He also announced that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is preparing a new strategy for reviving our financial system -- which will not only ensure that CEOs aren't abusing taxpayer dollars, but also get credit flowing and lower mortgage costs.
    Watch the address and read the full text below.
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    ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT
    TO THE NATION
    January 31, 2009
    This morning I'd like to talk about some good news and some bad news as we confront our economic crisis.
    The bad news is well known to Americans across our country as we continue to struggle through unprecedented economic turmoil. Yesterday we learned that our economy shrank by nearly 4 percent from October through December. That decline was the largest in over a quarter century, and it underscores the seriousness of the economic crisis that my administration found when we took office.
    Already the slowdown has cost us tens of thousands of jobs in January alone. And the picture is likely to get worse before it gets better.
    Make no mistake, these are not just numbers. Behind every statistic there's a story. Many Americans have seen their lives turned upside down. Families have been forced to make painful choices. Parents are struggling to pay the bills. Patients can't afford care. Students can't keep pace with tuition. And workers don't know whether their retirement will be dignified and secure.
    The good news is that we are moving forward with a sense of urgency equal to the challenge. This week the House passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, which will save or create more than 3 million jobs over the next few years. It puts a tax cut into the pockets of working families, and places a down payment on America's future by investing in energy independence and education, affordable health care, and American infrastructure.
    Now this recovery plan moves to the Senate. I will continue working with both parties so that the strongest possible bill gets to my desk. With the stakes so high we simply cannot afford the same old gridlock and partisan posturing in Washington. It's time to move in a new direction.
    Americans know that our economic recovery will take years -- not months. But they will have little patience if we allow politics to get in the way of action, and our economy continues to slide. That's why I am calling on the Senate to pass this plan, so that we can put people back to work and begin the long, hard work of lifting our economy out of this crisis. No one bill, no matter how comprehensive, can cure what ails our economy. So just as we jumpstart job creation, we must also ensure that markets are stable, credit is flowing, and families can stay in their homes.
    Last year Congress passed a plan to rescue the financial system. While the package helped avoid a financial collapse, many are frustrated by the results -- and rightfully so. Too often taxpayer dollars have been spent without transparency or accountability. Banks have been extended a hand, but homeowners, students, and small businesses that need loans have been left to fend on their own.
    And adding to this outrage, we learned this week that even as they petitioned for taxpayer assistance, Wall Street firms shamefully paid out nearly $20 billion in bonuses for 2008. While I'm committed to doing what it takes to maintain the flow of credit, the American people will not excuse or tolerate such arrogance and greed. The road to recovery demands that we all act responsibly, from Main Street to Washington to Wall Street.
    Soon my Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, will announce a new strategy for reviving our financial system that gets credit flowing to businesses and families. We'll help lower mortgage costs and extend loans to small businesses so they can create jobs. We'll ensure that CEOs are not draining funds that should be advancing our recovery. And we will insist on unprecedented transparency, rigorous oversight, and clear accountability -- so taxpayers know how their money is being spent and whether it is achieving results.
    Rarely in history has our country faced economic problems as devastating as this crisis. But the strength of the American people compels us to come together. The road ahead will be long, but I promise you that every day that I go to work in the Oval Office I carry with me your stories, and my administration is dedicated to alleviating your struggles and advancing your dreams. You are calling for action. Now is the time for those of us in Washington to live up to our responsibilities.

  • The mortgage crisis. Wall Street. The loss of millions of jobs. In this economic crisis, the middle class is getting hit from all angles.
    That’s why the President created a Middle Class Task Force and asked his right hand man, Vice President Joe Biden, to lead it.
    The Vice President lays out the goals of the Task Force in an op-ed appearing this morning in USA Today, which you can find on the Task Force’s new site.
    Even though the middle class has been pummeled by this crisis, there are steps we can take to make sure the recovery doesn’t just benefit the wealthy, like past expansions. This time around, we’re going to grow the middle class, improve quality of life, and expand the American dream to millions of people who have shouldered the costs of our economy but not reaped its gains.
    So take a look at the new website of the White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families to learn more, and be sure to leave your comments and ideas.

  • In a step towards providing health care to millions of children around the country, the Senate this morning passed the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP.
    "As the worsening economy causes families to lose their jobs and health insurance, it is vital that we redouble our efforts to ensure that every child in America has access to affordable health care," President Obama said in a statement. "Providing health care to more than ten million children through the Children's Health Insurance Program will serve as a down payment on my commitment to ensure that every American has access to quality, affordable health care."
    It's a happy note alongside yet another piece of ugly economic news. The Commerce Department reported this morning that in the last three months of 2008, the economy shrank faster than it has at any time in the past quarter century -- an annual rate of nearly 4%.

  • $18 billion.
    That’s what Wall Street bankers pulled down in bonuses over the past two months, according to a report from the New York State comptroller -- even as many of these institutions received billions in taxpayer dollars.
    "That is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful," President Obama said today, following a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and the rest of the economic team.
    Read the President’s full remarks below.

     
    REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
    AFTER MEETING WITH THE VICE PRESIDENT
    AND THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
    The White House, Oval Office
    January 29, 2009
    THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's good to see you guys. I just had a terrific conversation with my Secretary of the Treasury, the Vice President, as well as the rest of our economic team, about the steps that we need to move forward on -- not only on the economic recovery and reinvestment package, but also on making sure that we begin the process of regulating Wall Street so that we can improve the flow of credit, banks start lending again, so that businesses can reopen, and that we can create more jobs -- but also to make sure that we never find ourselves in the kind of crisis that we're in again, that we've seen over the last several months.
    And Secretary Geithner is hard at work on this process. We expect that even as the reinvestment and recovery package moves forward -- as I said, that's only one leg of the stool, and that these other legs of the stool will be rolled out systematically in the coming weeks so that the American people will have a clear sense of a comprehensive strategy designed to put people back to work, reopen businesses and credit flowing again.
    One point I want to make is that all of us are going to have responsibilities to get this economy moving again. And when I saw an article today indicating that Wall Street bankers had given themselves $20 billion worth of bonuses -- the same amount of bonuses as they gave themselves in 2004 -- at a time when most of these institutions were teetering on collapse and they are asking for taxpayers to help sustain them, and when taxpayers find themselves in the difficult position that if they don't provide help that the entire system could come down on top of our heads -- that is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful.
    And part of what we're going to need is for folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint and show some discipline and show some sense of responsibility. The American people understand that we've got a big hole that we've got to dig ourselves out of -- but they don't like the idea that people are digging a bigger hole even as they're being asked to fill it up.
    And so we're going to be having conversations as this process moves forward directly with these folks on Wall Street to underscore that they have to start acting in a more responsible fashion if we are to together get this economy rolling again. There will be time for them to make profits, and there will be time for them to get bonuses -- now is not that time. And that's a message that I intend to send directly to them, I expect Secretary Geithner to send to them -- and Secretary Geithner already had to pull back one institution that had gone forward with a multimillion dollar jet plane purchase at the same time as they're receiving TARP money. We shouldn't have to do that because they should know better. And we will continue to send that message loud and clear.
    Having said that, I am confident that with the recovery package moving through the House and through the Senate, with the excellent work that's already been done by Secretary Geithner in consultation with Larry Summers and Paul Volcker and other individuals, that we are going to be able to set up a regulatory framework that rights the ship and that gets us moving again. And I know the American people are eager to get moving again -- they want to work. They are serious about their responsibilities; I am, too, in this White House and I hope that the folks on Wall Street are going to be thinking in the same way.

  • It's about justice. It's about who we are. And on this "wonderful day," we're getting a step closer to both of those things.
    That was President Obama's message as he signed his first piece of legislation, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which will make it easier for people to get the pay they deserve -- regardless of their gender, race, or age.
    "Ultimately, equal pay isn't just an economic issue for millions of Americans and their families, it's a question of who we are -- and whether we're truly living up to our fundamental ideals," President Obama said. "Whether we'll do our part, as generations before us, to ensure those words put on paper some 200 years ago really mean something -- to breathe new life into them with a more enlightened understanding that is appropriate for our time.
    Surrounded by leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and with the new law's namesake, Lilly Ledbetter, at his side, President Obama signed into law a powerful tool to fight discrimination.
    The law is now up on our website, where you can review its full text and and submit your thoughts, comments, and ideas.
    We asked Mrs. Ledbetter to speak a bit about what the new law means to her. Watch the video below -- or scroll down for the text of remarks by the President, the First Lady, and Mrs. Ledbetter.
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    White House photo by Pete Souza

    REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
    UPON SIGNING THE LILLY LEDBETTER BILL
    East Room
    January 29, 2009
    10:20 A.M. EST

     
    THE PRESIDENT: All right. Everybody please have a seat. Well, this is a wonderful day. (Applause.) First of all, it is fitting that the very first bill that I sign -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act -- (applause) -- that it is upholding one of this nation's founding principles: that we are all created equal, and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness.
    It's also fitting that we're joined today by the woman after whom this bill is named -- someone who Michelle and I have had the privilege to get to know ourselves. And it is fitting that we are joined this morning by the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. (Applause.) It's appropriate that this is the first bill we do together. We could not have done it without her. Madam Speaker, thank you for your extraordinary work. And to all the sponsors and members of Congress and leadership who helped to make this day possible.
    Lilly Ledbetter did not set out to be a trailblazer or a household name. She was just a good hard worker who did her job -- and she did it well -- for nearly two decades before discovering that for years, she was paid less than her male colleagues for doing the very same work. Over the course of her career, she lost more than $200,000 in salary, and even more in pension and Social Security benefits -- losses that she still feels today.
    Now, Lilly could have accepted her lot and moved on. She could have decided that it wasn't worth the hassle and the harassment that would inevitably come with speaking up for what she deserved. But instead, she decided that there was a principle at stake, something worth fighting for. So she set out on a journey that would take more than ten years, take her all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, and lead to this day and this bill which will help others get the justice that she was denied.
    Because while this bill bears her name, Lilly knows that this story isn't just about her. It's the story of women across this country still earning just 78 cents for every dollar men earn -- women of color even less -- which means that today, in the year 2009, countless women are still losing thousands of dollars in salary, income and retirement savings over the course of a lifetime.
    Equal pay is by no means just a women's issue -- it's a family issue. It's about parents who find themselves with less money for tuition and child care; couples who wind up with less to retire on; households where one breadwinner is paid less than she deserves; that's the difference between affording the mortgage -- or not; between keeping the heat on, or paying the doctor bills -- or not. And in this economy, when so many folks are already working harder for less and struggling to get by, the last thing they can afford is losing part of each month's paycheck to simple and plain discrimination.
    So signing this bill today is to send a clear message: that making our economy work means making sure it works for everybody; that there are no second-class citizens in our workplaces; and that it's not just unfair and illegal, it's bad for business to pay somebody less because of their gender or their age or their race or their ethnicity, religion or disability; and that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory, or footnote in a casebook. It's about how our laws affect the daily lives and the daily realities of people: their ability to make a living and care for their families and achieve their goals.
    Ultimately, equal pay isn't just an economic issue for millions of Americans and their families, it's a question of who we are -- and whether we're truly living up to our fundamental ideals; whether we'll do our part, as generations before us, to ensure those words put on paper some 200 years ago really mean something -- to breathe new life into them with a more enlightened understanding that is appropriate for our time.
    That is what Lilly Ledbetter challenged us to do. And today, I sign this bill not just in her honor, but in the honor of those who came before -- women like my grandmother, who worked in a bank all her life, and even after she hit that glass ceiling, kept getting up and giving her best every day, without complaint, because she wanted something better for me and my sister.
    And I sign this bill for my daughters, and all those who will come after us, because I want them to grow up in a nation that values their contributions, where there are no limits to their dreams and they have opportunities their mothers and grandmothers never could have imagined.
    In the end, that's why Lilly stayed the course. She knew it was too late for her -- that this bill wouldn't undo the years of injustice she faced or restore the earnings she was denied. But this grandmother from Alabama kept on fighting, because she was thinking about the next generation. It's what we've always done in America -- set our sights high for ourselves, but even higher for our children and our grandchildren.
    And now it's up to us to continue this work. This bill is an important step -- a simple fix to ensure fundamental fairness for American workers -- and I want to thank this remarkable and bipartisan group of legislators who worked so hard to get it passed. And I want to thank all the advocates who are in the audience who worked so hard to get it passed. This is only the beginning. I know that if we stay focused, as Lilly did -- and keep standing for what's right, as Lilly did -- we will close that pay gap and we will make sure that our daughters have the same rights, the same chances, and the same freedoms to pursue their dreams as our sons.
    So thank you, Lilly Ledbetter. (Applause.)
    (The bill is signed.) (Applause.)

    REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
    AND MRS. LILLY LEDBETTER
    AT RECEPTION AFTER BILL SIGNING
    State Dining Room, The White House
    January 29, 2009

     
    MRS. OBAMA: So thank you for joining us today for this important event, and welcome to the White House. (Applause.) As I told guests, feel free, walk around, touch some stuff. (Laughter.) Just don't break anything. (Laughter.) It's what I try to tell my kids. (Laughter.)
    I had the opportunity to meet Lilly during the campaign and to hear her story. First of all, she is one of my favorite people in the whole wide world. Anyone who meets Lilly can't help but be impressed by her commitment, her dedication, her focus. She knew unfairness when she saw it, and was willing to do something about it because it was the right thing to do -- plain and simple.
    In traveling across the country over the past two years, Lilly's story and the broader issue of equal pay was a concern voiced over and over and over again. It was a top and critical priority for women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds -- older women, younger women, women with disabilities, and their families. This legislation is an important step forward, particularly at a time when so many families are facing economic insecurity and instability. It's also one cornerstone of a broader commitment to address the needs of working women who are looking to us to not only ensure that they're treated fairly, but also to ensure that there are policies in place that help women and men balance their work and family obligations without putting their jobs or their economic stability at risk.
    And it is my honor to introduce this extraordinary woman whose hard work has brought us here today for this very special occasion, and who has been an inspiration to women and men all across this country. Ladies and gentlemen, Lilly Ledbetter. (Applause.)
    MRS. LEDBETTER: Thank you. And thank you, Mrs. Obama.
    I fell in love with those people campaigning with them. I have to tell you that. And that's not on my prepared speech -- (laughter) -- but I have to tell you I love she and the President. And I just believe in them and their work so very much.
    But thank you very much. Words cannot begin to describe how honored and humbled I feel today. When I filed my claim against Goodyear with the EEOC 10 years ago, never -- never -- did I imagine the path that it would lead me down. I have spent the past two years since the Supreme Court's decision in my case fighting for equal pay for this day. But to watch you sign a bill that bears my name, the bill that will help women and others fight pay discrimination in the workplace, is truly overwhelming.
    Goodyear will never have to pay me what it cheated me out of. In fact, I will never see a cent from my case. But with the passage and President's signature today, I have an even richer reward. (Applause.) I know that my daughter and granddaughters, and your daughters and your granddaughters, will have a better deal. That's what makes this fight worth fighting. That's what made this fight one we had to win. And now with this win we will make a big difference in the real world.
    On behalf of all the women in this country who will once again be able to fight pay discrimination, thank you. Thank you to all the senators and House members who fought for and supported this bill. Thank you to the many organizations and broad coalition that worked tirelessly for its passage. And thank you to the countless women around the country who rallied behind this legislation. It would never have happened without you.
    With this bill in place, we now can move forward to where we all hope to be -- improving the law, not just restoring it. President Obama, I want him to know that we're very grateful for his support. And you can count on my continued commitment to fighting to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act -- (applause) -- and to make sure that women have equal pay for equal work, because that's what this country is all about.
    And thank you very much. (Applause.)

  • Last night, President Obama declared federal emergencies caused by winter storms in two states, answering requests for aid from Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe and Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear.
    President Obama signs emergency measures for Arkansas and Kentucky
     
    President Barack Obama signs an Emergency Declaration for the State of Arkansas Wednesday evening, Jan. 28, 2008 in the Oval Office, and also signed a declaration for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. (White House photo by Pete Souza).
    Download high-resolution.
    ARKANSAS
    The President declared an emergency exists in the State of Arkansas and ordered Federal aid to supplement State and local response efforts in the area struck by a severe winter storm beginning on January 26, 2009, and continuing.
    The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the counties of Baxter, Benton, Boone, Carroll, Clay, Cleburne, Conway, Craighead, Crawford, Crittenden, Cross, Faulkner, Franklin, Fulton, Garland, Greene, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Johnson, Lawrence, Logan, Lonoke, Madison, Marion, Mississippi, Monroe, Montgomery, Newton, Perry, Poinsett, Polk, Pope, Prairie, Pulaski, Randolph, St. Francis, Saline, Scott, Searcy, Sebastian, Sharp, Stone, Van Buren, Washington, White, Woodruff, and Yell.
    Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures, limited to direct Federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent Federal funding.
    Nancy Ward, Acting Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named W. Michael Moore as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area.
    KENTUCKY
    The President also declared an emergency exists in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and ordered Federal aid to supplement Commonwealth and local response efforts in the area struck by a severe winter storm beginning on January 27, 2009, and continuing.
    The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the counties of Allen, Anderson, Barren, Bath, Boyd, Boyle, Breathitt, Breckinridge, Butler, Caldwell, Calloway, Carlisle, Clark, Crittenden, Daviess, Edmonson, Elliott, Estill, Fayette, Floyd, Fulton, Garrard, Graves, Grayson, Hardin, Harrison, Hart, Hickman, Hopkins, Jackson, Jessamine, Johnson, Larue, Lincoln, Logan, Lyon, Madison, Magoffin, Marion, Marshall, Mason, McCracken, Meade, Mercer, Metcalfe, Morgan, Muhlenberg, Nelson, Nicholas, Ohio, Owsley, Perry, Powell, Shelby, Todd, Trigg, Union, Washington, Webster, Wolfe, and Woodford.
    Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures, limited to direct Federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent Federal funding.
    Nancy Ward, Acting Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Kim R. Kadesch as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area.

  • Interior Secretary Ken Salazar kicked off the daily press briefing today with his plans for cleaning out a department that has become famous for scandal.
    "Over the last eight years, the Department of Interior has been tarnished by ethical lapses, of criminal behavior that has extended to the very highest levels of government," he said.
    He’s taking over a Department plagued by Jack Abramoff-related scandals and another involving sex and drug use by Interior employees, and promised to clean house.
    "We will work to reform the Department of the Interior, to restore the public's trust and confidence in the highest levels of ethics and accountability that the American people deserve," he said.
    He then took a couple of questions, before handing the podium over to Press Secretary Gibbs. Highlights below – you can read the full remarks below.

    On off-shore drilling:

    Salazar: With respect to the Outer Continental Shelf, as President Obama made very clear during the campaign, we will look at the OCS in connection with a comprehensive energy program for the nation.  One of the signature issues that President Obama will work on very hard, has worked on very hard, and will continue to work on very hard is the development of a comprehensive energy strategy.  We need to address the economic opportunity here at home, the environmental insecurity that comes from global warming, and also the national security issues. And so, as we move forward with the development of our oil and gas resources, both onshore and offshore, it has to be a part of a set of a comprehensive energy program.

    On oil and gas exploration on federal lands:

    Salazar: There are a number of different regulations and actions that were taken by the Bush administration, some of them in the midnight hour as their term expired here, and we have all of those on the table and we're taking a look at them.  There are some which are bad and which need a new direction.  There are probably some which will be kept in place.  [Regarding] the approach to oil and gas development -- it has to be done in the context of a comprehensive energy plan.  And it also has to be done with the right kind of balance.  There are places where it is appropriate to explore and to develop oil and gas resources, and there are places that are not appropriate. 

    On President Obama’s meeting today with Pentagon officials:

    Gibbs: With the status of forces agreement that puts an end date on our involvement there -- we're no longer involved in a debate about whether, but how and when. That's a process the President wants to take seriously; wants to ensure the safety of our troops as we remove our combat brigades; wants to, as I've said repeatedly, provide the responsibility and the opportunity for the Iraqis to do more in governing their own country; and as I said, to do this in a way that seeks the consultation of all those leaders….Everyone understands that our force structure there will change, but that we have to do so in a way that protects the troops that we have there now.

    On specific elements of the economic stimulus package (which several hours later the House approved):

    Gibbs: Let's focus on the larger picture...As we get focused on this number and that number and 2/100ths of 1 percent and all this kind of stuff, understand what we've seen in just the last 48 hours: 70,000 people since Monday have gotten pink slips from the companies that they work for, right? The unemployment figures that came out just yesterday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found every state in the country's -- every state in the country saw job loss....We think if members focus on this bill they'll see that it moves the economy forward; that money will be spent in this economy, 75 percent of it in the first 18 months; that jobs will be created, jobs will be saved, money will get put back into people's pockets. This, along with a financial stability package, reregulation, and a plan to deal with home foreclosures, will push this economy forward and put people back to work. And hopefully one day we can come up here and I won't have to answer a question based on the fact that another company has decided to lay off 2,000 or 10,000 or 20,000 people.

    On Secretary Gates' comments yesterday that, "We need to be very careful about the nature of our goals we set for ourselves in Afghanistan":

    Gibbs: [Yes], it's going to take quite some time and we have to be realistic about both that timeline and those goals. The President said that Afghanistan and the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan represent the central front on the war on terror; that today in those places, terrorists likely plot their next steps both against governments in that region, as well as against us. And the safety and the security of the American people are utmost on the President's agenda. Through that comprehensive review, we'll adjust whatever we need to, to meet goals and time lines as it relates to Afghanistan.

    On the rate of spending of the stimulus plan:

    Gibbs: The reason that some of this money isn't completely spent out in '09 and 2010 is ... I don't think we're going to wake up on January 1, 2011, you know, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, and we're going to go from black and white to color. We're still going to have a lot of battles to face and economic hardship to move the economy to a better place. So that the investment and the stimulus that happen as a result of this legislation don't drop off like a cliff, some of that money bleeds into 2011. The CBO I think talked in its report about the fact that that money would then -- would create jobs in 2011. I don't want to get hung up on sort of these rigid times and not understand that we're going to wake up the beginning of 2011 and want people to be employed, families to be borrowing money to buy the things that they want to, like cars or loans for their kids to go to school, and to have healthy small businesses that are creating jobs.  All that stuff has got to happen; it's not just going to all happen overnight.

    On the President's upcoming trip to Canada:

    Gibbs: I think it is safe to say that the health of each economy and the health of the global economy will be a large part of that agenda. And I strongly anticipate, as was the case when the then President-elect met with the leader of Mexico, that trade will be a part of that docket.

     
    PRESS BRIEFING
    BY PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS
    AND SECRETARY OF INTERIOR KEN SALAZAR
    January 28, 2009
    James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
    MR. GIBBS: Good afternoon, guys. Before we get started, I wanted to introduce Secretary Salazar, who is going to make his second trip as our Secretary of the Interior tomorrow -- he's going to go out West. And I've invited him here to talk a little bit about the reform agenda that he's going to take with him on that trip, and answer a few questions. And then we'll get back to our regularly scheduled programming. So, Secretary.
    SECRETARY SALAZAR: Thank you, Robert.
    President Obama has immediately set high ethical standards for all of government as part of his reform agenda. As part of that commitment and implementing the reform agenda, I intend to do my part in the Department of Interior to make sure that scandals that have occurred in the past are properly dealt with, and that the problems that we uncover are fixed so that they don't occur again.
    President Obama immediately made clear that the type of ethical transgressions, the blatant conflicts of interest, waste and abuses that we have seen over the last eight years will no longer be tolerated. Nowhere is President Obama's commitment to reform and to cleaning up the waste, fraud and abuse of the past more important than at the Department of Interior, which I now lead on his behalf.
    Over the last eight years, the Department of Interior has been tarnished by ethical lapses, of criminal behavior that has extended to the very highest levels of government. The former deputy secretary of the department under the Bush administration, Steven Griles, was sent to prison. It is a department that the American people associate with Jack Abramoff. And it is a department that was tarnished by a scandal involving sex, drugs and inappropriate gifts from the oil and gas companies that the employees were in charge of overseeing.
    The Lakewood, Colorado, office of the Minerals Management Service is taxed with making sure that taxpayers, the American taxpayers, collect their fair share from oil and gas development on their public lands. Last year that office collected $23 billion. That's $23 billion on behalf of the American people. Yet during the last administration, some of the employees of that office violated the public trust by accepting gifts and employment contracts from the very oil and gas companies that they were supposed to be holding accountable.
    Some employees engaged in blatant and criminal conflicts of interest and self-dealing. It is one of the worst examples of corruption, abuse and of government putting special interests before the public interest.
    Tomorrow I will be traveling to the Lakewood MMS office to meet with the employees. I there will be announcing our own review of what happened, what has been done to address it, and what additional steps need to be taken.
    It will be clear that we will no longer tolerate those types of lapses at any level of government, from political appointees or career employees. This is only the first step of our long-term effort to enact comprehensive top-to-bottom reforms within the Department of Interior. The American people should be proud of their government, all of their government. Those who work for the government should be proud of their service to the American people. We will work to reform the Department of the Interior, to restore the public's trust and confidence in the highest levels of ethics and accountability that the American people deserve.
    And with that, I'd be happy to take a few questions from the audience.
    Q Secretary, what about -- can you clarify where the administration is right now on whether you're going to overturn the Bush policy on exploring offshore oil and gas drilling, et cetera?
    SECRETARY SALAZAR: With respect to the Outer Continental Shelf, as President Obama made very clear during the campaign, we will look at the OCS in connection with a comprehensive energy program for the nation. One of the signature issues that President Obama will work on very hard, has worked on very hard, and will continue to work on very hard is the development of a comprehensive energy strategy. We need to address the economic opportunity here at home, the environmental insecurity that comes from global warming, and also the national security issues.
    And so, as we move forward with the development of our oil and gas resources, both onshore and offshore, it has to be a part of a set of a comprehensive energy program.
    Q So do you believe there should be more?
    Q Does that mean it's on hold? It means there will be no drilling under this order until you've done this review; is that what that means?
    SECRETARY SALAZAR: No, not at all. The current status of the OCS --
    Q I mean, no expansion -- obviously there is some now -- but expansion -- are you saying that expansion is on hold pending this comprehensive energy policy?
    SECRETARY SALAZAR: The status of the OCS right now is that the five-year plan of the Department of Interior that governs the OCS has been opened up, okay? And so it is now a plan that is being formulated. And as that plan gets formulated it is going to have to fit in with a comprehensive energy plan that President Obama wants for the nation, which is a signature issue and one in which the Department of Interior will be intimately involved in supporting the President's goals to get America to a point of energy independence for all the reasons that I articulated earlier.
    Q Mr. Secretary, during the transition, the co-chair of the transition for President Obama, John Podesta, said that the President would be overturning some of the executive orders and presidential orders President Bush had put into place about oil and gas exploration on federal lands. We have not seen any executive orders or presidential orders overturning them, and I'm wondering if they're pending, and if you think it's wise to limit where the United States is able to explore for energy during this time of energy crisis, where we're getting all our oil from abroad.
    SECRETARY SALAZAR: The answer to that question is that there are a number of different regulations and actions that were taken by the Bush administration, some of them in the midnight hour as their term expired here, and we have all of those on the table and we're taking a look at them. There are some which are bad and which need a new direction. There are probably some which will be kept in place. And so we are now in the process, having now been in the Department of Interior's position, really, for only about a week, at taking a look at all of these regulations.
    On the more fundamental issue which I think you are addressing, which is the approach to oil and gas development -- it has to be done in the context of a comprehensive energy plan. And it also has to be done with the right kind of balance. There are places where it is appropriate to explore and to develop oil and gas resources, and there are places that are not appropriate. And so that's part of what we'll move forward with in the agenda at the Department of Interior.
    Q Of the incidents that you cited in your opening statement, were most of those political appointees? Were some career? And in the week in which you've been in office, have any ongoing ethics violations been brought to your attention?
    SECRETARY SALAZAR: The report the Inspector General referred to -- there are actually three investigations that were conducted by the Inspector General -- some of them had to do with very high-level employees within the Department of Interior and engaging in self-dealing and other kinds of inappropriate relations with outside interests. Some of the -- two of the investigations dealt with gifts and sex and drugs actually taking place in transactions in the very government buildings where MMS has its responsibilities. So we're taking a look at that, and tomorrow we'll have some additional announcements on where we want to take all those issues.
    Q But are they political appointees, or are they career people who are still working for you?
    SECRETARY SALAZAR: They're both. They're both.
    Thank you.
    MR. GIBBS: Thank you.
    SECRETARY SALAZAR: Now you get the hot seat.
    MR. GIBBS: Exactly. (Laughter.)
    SECRETARY SALAZAR: Can I sit up here and watch you -- (sits in Helen Thomas's seat.) (Laughter.)
    MR. GIBBS: He wants to sit -- there you go. (Laughter.)
    Q Don't block my view. (Laughter.)
    MR. GIBBS: Under one condition, that I don't get any hard questions from you in the middle of that -- in the middle of that chair. I might have --
    Q -- questions to ask him.
    MR. GIBBS: I might have spoken far too soon.
    Q Ask him something we don't know about -- (laughter.)
    MR. GIBBS: Yes. And definitely no talking to those guys on either side of you who -- I'm going to get asked about some acreage leasing on --
    Q The first time we have a Secretary in the first row.
    MR. GIBBS: He's -- well, I want to say this was helpfully provided to my by CBS News so that I would -- (laughter) -- this is day nine of the Obama presidency -- a service of CBS News. So I thought I would -- got a kick out of that. I thought that was pretty good.
    Let me make a few announcements before we entertain everyone but Secretary Salazar's questions. The President has made a call to President Motlanthe of South Africa. And we'll have a readout on that at the conclusion of this. The President met -- had his economic daily briefing this morning in the Oval Office. In addition to Secretary Geithner and Dr. Summers, he was joined by Paul Volcker, who, as you know, is in charge of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board. And the main topic of discussion was financial reregulation, a topic that the President spoke about yesterday on Capitol Hill, and you'll hear certainly more of as we move forward.
    Lastly, as you all know, the President intends to make his first foreign trip as President to Canada. He will make that trip on February the 19th. Canada is a vitally important ally, and the President looks forward to the opportunity to speak with Prime Minister Harper and visit our neighbor to the north. So please add that to your appropriate planning schedules.
    And lastly, the President looks forward to the House's action this evening on a recovery and reinvestment plan that he believes tonight is likely to take an important first step in getting our economy back on track and saving -- plan to save or create 3 or 4 million jobs, as I said, begin to get our economy moving again. The President looks forward to that vote, and we'll have some comments on that later. I think, again, tonight starts the beginning of what we know is going to be a long process as it relates to that, but I think tonight will be a very important first step.
    With that -- Jennifer.
    Q Thanks. I want to talk about the meeting he's having at the Pentagon this afternoon. You talked, and Secretary Gates has talked about a process that's underway. There was the meeting last week, there's the meeting today, there's going to be one specifically on Afghanistan next week, there will be others. But can you talk a little bit more about how long you guys expect this process to take, how it works? I mean, you said yesterday that he has to go through all this in order to make decisions on the troop posture. And there are several different options, different formulations being put together at the Pentagon, being presented to him of how he can do what it is he wants to do. So can you just explain more about how this is going to work?
    MR. GIBBS: Yes. Well, I think the most important thing -- and the President spoke about this, as many of you heard, throughout the campaign, and both during the transition and now as President of the United States -- that -- and as I said yesterday, the Secretary of Defense was very clear on this -- that he wanted to put everybody that was involved in these decisions in front of the President so the President could hear all of their advice.
    The President committed, as a part of this process, to speak with commanders both on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as region-wide commanders, to get their perspective as he laid out a new mission for Iraq. I think everybody understands that the developments over the past few months in Iraq, with the status of forces agreement that puts an end date on our involvement there -- we're no longer involved in a debate about whether, but how and when. That's a process the President wants to take seriously; wants to ensure the safety of our troops as we remove our combat brigades; wants to, as I've said repeatedly, provide the responsibility and the opportunity for the Iraqis to do more in governing their own country; and as I said, to do this in a way that seeks the consultation of all those leaders.
    The process began on the 21st, as you guys know, in the Situation Room, continues today at the Pentagon. I think there will be at least one more meeting that will involve General McKiernan to discuss specifically Afghanistan.
    I don't anticipate the process will take an inordinate amount of time. I think one of the things the President expects to hear today, and one of the -- what we all heard yesterday in the testimony from Secretary Gates is how important improving our position in Afghanistan is, and secondly, how we are at a point now where many of our forces are stretched very, very thin, and the burden that we put on not just the soldiers every day, but on the many family members that stay here and pray for their loved ones and care for their children.
    So I think we've got a deliberate process that the President will be able to receive that information and make some key determinations as we change that mission in Iraq.
    Q So can you be more specific about when we might hear from him?
    MR. GIBBS: I think it will be relatively soon. I don't want to set an exact date, though I think it will be relatively shortly. I think the President and -- the President has received a lot of information; the Pentagon has been planning for quite some time -- partly because of the new agreements. They understand -- everyone understands that our force structure there will change, but that we have to do so in a way that protects the troops that we have there now.
    Q Robert, can you talk about the policy toward Afghanistan? Specifically, the New York Times article today said that there was going to be a shift in the policy, more emphasis on fighting insurgents, less emphasis on development. Can you talk about that?
    MR. GIBBS: Yes, let me -- I guess before I get into some of the back-and-forth, let me try to clarify some of I think what we believed was erroneous reporting overnight.
    As I just said, there is a review of our policy in Afghanistan. That policy review continues in order to ensure our success in that region, but that that policy review is not yet completed. Secondly, we support the democratically elected President of Afghanistan. And lastly, the President has emphasized in the campaign and in the transition and emphasizes now the importance of long-term development both in Afghanistan and in the region.
    I mean, I think one of the interesting things when we were involved in the meeting on Iraq was you didn't just have, sitting around that table or on the video conference, you didn't just have members of the military or the military planning. You had Ambassador Crocker, who was providing a very important political update on upcoming elections and the political environment in Iraq, as well as at that meeting the State Department was represented by former Ambassador Burns.
    The President has long believed that whether it's in Iraq or in Afghanistan, that there -- though it's the central front on the war on terror in Afghanistan, or whether it relates to Afghanistan or Iraq, that there's not simply a military solution to that problem; that only through long-term and sustainable development can we ever hope to turn around what's going on there.
    So I would caution you -- I know the importance of getting stories out into newspapers; they may not altogether be finished by the time they get printed.
    Q But he's talked about the Europeans may be focusing more on the development, so the development wouldn't be forgotten about, but the Americans would focus on fighting insurgency. Is that part of it realistic --
    MR. GIBBS: Well, I think that the -- and I think the President certainly has talked about this; you all heard him talk about it particularly on his trip overseas during the campaign and in his speech in Berlin, and in his discussions recently with leaders in Europe, he's talked to them not only about increased troop commitments, but also on that development piece that's so crucial.
    But again, before we read too much into what was in that report, I think it's important to understand that the review -- the comprehensive review that this administration has undertaken about our policy in Afghanistan is not yet complete. So I caution you to say that a lot of decisions have thus been made based on an incomplete report.
    Q Okay. Also, his relationship with Karzai -- he met with Karzai last July -- the article suggests that he's no longer going to be doing the video conferences that President Bush did.
    MR. GIBBS: That's -- well, again, that's part of the policy review, and when that's completed, we'll have a better sense of what that is. Again, we support the democratically elected President of Afghanistan, and look forward to working with him and with others to ensure peace and stability and safety in the region.
    Q Robert, building on the eloquent comments of Secretary Salazar about ethics and accountability in government, is the President bothered at all that Secretary Geithner has picked as his chief of staff a former lobbyist for Goldman Sachs who has obviously -- that company has benefitted from government bailouts. Doesn't that punch a hole in what the President signed just last week in terms of preventing lobbyists like that from serving in his administration?
    MR. GIBBS: No, the President -- well, let's -- again, let's step back and talk about the broader issue of ethics and transparency in this administration. As I've said from this podium, and as you all read in papers throughout the country, that the ethics and transparency executive orders that the President signed the first day institute a policy that covers this administration unlike any policy we've seen in any previous administration in the history of our country. The President spoke about this during the campaign, but he also spoke about the notion that no policy was going to be perfect. The President, in his election campaign, didn't take money from lobbyists or from PACs -- again, not a perfect policy, but a step in the right direction of changing the way Washington works.
    We've talked about the fact that there are people that are good public servants who wish to serve their government again, who are -- through some stringent ethics requirements and recusals, they will be able to participate in helping this government. But we have, again, the strongest ethics and transparency policy that govern the executive branch and the workings of this White House that we've seen in the history of our country.
    Q But if it's a strong -- even if it's a strong policy, does it mean anything if people are getting waivers to go around it?
    MR. GIBBS: Well, again, you know, let's caution ourselves as to the number of people that are going to work both in this building and in the executive branch and how many waivers we have. Again, I think if the people that follow this issue most closely, whether it's political analysts or think tanks throughout this city who have seen the way this city works, have seen the revolving door and watched how administrations conduct their business, have rendered the conclusion that the policy that we have is the strongest that any administration in the history of our country has had, I think that speaks for itself.
    Those very same people that labeled that policy the strongest of any administration in history also said they thought it made sense for a limited number of waivers to ensure that people could continue to serve the public.
    Q Senator Mitchell, in fact, right now is in the Mideast, and Bloomberg has reported that the firm that he chaired -- they have all kinds of lobbying clients in the Mideast, for example. So how can he go to the Mideast when his -- the firm --
    MR. GIBBS: Let's not take a lot of things and misconstrue, right? You know, let's not take --
    Q Which part is misconstrued?
    MR. GIBBS: Well, has Senator Mitchell lobbied?
    Q He is not registered lobbyist, but he is chair --
    MR. GIBBS: Okay. So let's not --
    Q -- business, so isn't that another way to get around it?
    MR. GIBBS: I assume that maybe media organizations are owned by different businesses that conduct different things that might not altogether represent the interests of the media interest in general. But let's not take a group and an example and try to squish it into something that it's not.
    Q He's been the head of a firm that has all kinds of lobbyists with business in the Mideast and all around the world --
    MR. GIBBS: But you asked me about --
    Q -- website says they have all these contacts in the Mideast. And so, even if he's technically not lobbying, this firm is making money off of his --
    MR. GIBBS: I hate to be ticky-tack about it, but technically he's not lobbying.
    Q He's not a registered lobbyist, but you know how --
    MR. GIBBS: But, Ed, to lobby the federal government you have to be registered. I mean, I hate to -- I understand the semantic hurdles that you're setting forward for the policy, but let's understand, he wasn't a lobbyist, he wasn't registered to lobby, and if you're not registered to lobby you can't be a lobbyist. That's why people have rendered the policy to be the strongest that it's been for any administration.
    Q But, Robert, the broader point is what's the point of having the strongest policy if you're going to have waivers, especially at key posts that are some of the most high-profile and most important --
    MR. GIBBS: Let me -- we will distribute to you the quotes from the people that rendered the decision that we have the strongest lobbying and transparency proposals, but also spoke out for a limited number of waivers to ensure that highly qualified people can serve in the public interest.
    But again, we have a policy that governs this White House and this administration unlike anything that has been covered from this room or has been seen in this city. That's the bottom line, and that's irrefutable.
    Jake.
    Q Robert, on the stimulus package, the President yesterday told a closed-door meeting of House Republicans that there was spending in the bill that he didn't like. And obviously he took action, calling Congressman Waxman to remove the part having to do with birth control. Now, there is a $335 million provision for education for sexually transmitted diseases. There still is in the bill $50 million funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. And that's the House. And I understand your emphasis in the Senate, but in the Senate there are earmarked projects, as well: $70 million for a supercomputer for NOAA, $75 million for education for smoking cessation. President Obama can tell these Democratic senators and members of the House, take the stuff out of the bill. He obviously did so with Congressman Waxman. Why doesn't he do it for all these earmarks?
    MR. GIBBS: Well, let me talk a little bit about what he said yesterday at these meetings, because he said that there's no doubt this will produce a process whereby every person does not like 100 percent of every part of the bill, but that would be true whether Democrats were writing the bill, or Republicans were writing the bill. And he said that to two rooms full of Republicans, of which I think there was pretty broad agreement.
    This is a process based on a series of principles and framework that our economic team and the President sent to Capitol Hill to create a plan that we believe will move this economy along. I know there is a tendency, and there always will be, to focus on, as I mentioned yesterday, 2/100ths of 1 percent of a piece of legislation. I have a hard time believing that the 98/100ths of the other 99 percent aren't the large focus of members of Congress that are going to vote both today and over the course of the next few weeks.
    Q President Obama had that problem, calling Chairman Waxman and telling him to remove 2/100ths of 1 percent from the bill when he saw that it was a hurdle.
    MR. GIBBS: But again, let's focus on the larger picture. Let's focus on the fact that we have $275 billion in tax cuts to put money directly into the pockets of hardworking Americans that will spend that money and get our economy moving again. Let's focus on the fact that there is $550 billion in spending that will put people back to work.
    But as we get focused on this number and that number and 2/100ths of 1 percent and all this kind of stuff, understand what we've seen in just the last 48 hours, Jake: 70,000 people since Monday have gotten pink slips from the companies that they work for, right? The unemployment figures that came out just yesterday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found every state in the country's -- every state in the country saw job loss. Every state in the country. The layoffs continue today, with Boeing announcing an additional 10,000 jobs that will be shed over the course of the year.
    Q That's precisely my point. Wouldn't it be better to take that $75 million, instead of sending it to a smoking cessation program, to send it to these people that are out of work?
    MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the vast majority, the great bulk of that bill, does exactly that. We hope that Republicans and Democrats alike look at not just whatever page you're focusing on but whatever other pages they've decided not to focus on, and understand that the program that is being crafted -- and it will change -- there's a great tendency, and we've done this over the last few days in this room, to try to figure out what the score of the baseball game is after the third inning, okay? My team would probably be great if we stopped doing that. This is a long process that we hope is concluded by President's Day recess, because -- and the President heard this from CEOs today -- we can't afford to wait. We have to act.
    Tonight the House, we believe, will take an important step. We think if members focus on this bill they'll see that it moves the economy forward; that money will be spent in this economy, 75 percent of it in the first 18 months; that jobs will be created, jobs will be saved, money will get put back into people's pockets. This, along with a financial stability package, reregulation, and a plan to deal with home foreclosures, will push this economy forward and put people back to work. And hopefully one day we can come up here and I won't have to answer a question based on the fact that another company has decided to lay off 2,000 or 10,000 or 20,000 people.
    Q The President was incredibly well received yesterday by Republicans. They called him everything from sincere, to nice, to brilliant. One said he talks more like a Republican than a Democrat. I mean, they obviously like him and they think he's very serious about this. Yet it appears he has had no effect on the vote -- perhaps a handful or a couple of votes. Is it frustrating or disappointing to him to go up there, to be so well received and have no effect on the vote?
    MR. GIBBS: No, again, this is a many-vote, many-day process. There will be a vote tonight, there will be a vote next week, there will be votes the weeks after that, until we eventually have what we think will be a bipartisan proposal to get this economy moving again. Again, I hesitate to call the game after the third inning. I hate to declare the winner. I hate to declare that -- I know we'll have analysis to write, but let's not stop after the third inning and tell us who won in the ninth. It's a long process --
    Q But don't --
    MR. GIBBS: Hold on -- look, I don't -- the President, as I said from this podium yesterday, believes that the three or so hours he spent on Capitol Hill were well spent yesterday. We're having bipartisan leaders come down to the White House tonight. Congress Wamp of Tennessee said that what he saw from the President yesterday was not a PR stunt, that it was sincere, as the quotes that you read suggest. The President is very serious about this. Whether it all happens overnight in terms of votes, we'll wait and see. But my sense is that over the long run, listening to both parties, changing the way this town works and listens to each other is important not just as we focus on this piece of legislation, but as we focus on the many ideas and the many pieces of legislation that are going to have to be undertaken in order to move the economy forward.
    Q Can I, Robert, follow up -- and I'd like to give it to Secretary Salazar, if I could -- no. I want to ask about --
    MR. GIBBS: He's going to ask me a softball --
    Q -- the cocktail party tonight. What was the genesis of that idea? And it's evenly divided, six and six, I believe, from the House, and five and five, party-wise from the Senate --
    MR. GIBBS: That's so the basketball games are easier. (Laughter.)
    Q Is that going to be the way it is around here? Is he going to have just as many Republicans visiting him here as Democrats? And is he going to see the Republicans just as often on the Hill as the Democrats? Is it going to be that bipartisan?
    MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the second part -- as I said yesterday, I don't -- the offer was made; he accepted that offer to come to Capitol Hill yesterday. Congressman Pence invited him back and said the door was always open. And I said I thought the President would likely take him up on that opportunity. He's serious about that.
    I don't know the particular ratios of tonight. I think it's -- we have an equal number of leaders on both sides of the aisle and in both the House and the Senate that the President looks forward to getting to know better, to being able to establish a strong working relationship with, to move the priorities of the American people forward.
    At the end of the day, the President understands that both he and Congress will be judged by what we can all do for the American people. And I think that is a step in this process toward being able to work together and provide some hope and hopefully some better times for the American people.
    Q Robert, the head of the CBO went up to the Senate Budget Committee today and said that the TARP, the financial bailout, hundreds of billions of dollars short. Do you guys concur with that assessment from the CBO?
    MR. GIBBS: I have -- I did not see that report before I came out here. I know that, as I've said, the economic team continues to work on a series of proposals for the President to look at. Again, during the economic daily briefing the President had today, he had Mr. Volcker in to talk about financial reregulation. What we talked about yesterday on Capitol Hill was not one thing or one aspect that will solve our economic crisis, but instead, how an economic recovery and reinvestment plan, a financial stability package, and a reregulation package all together can help move the economy forward.
    The one thing I did see -- now that you've mentioned our good friends at the CBO -- the CBO says that without stimulus, "the shortfall in the nation's output relative to its potential would be the largest -- in terms of both length and depth -- since the Great Depression." I think those are clear words from the Congressional Budget Office in understanding if anyone needed any more numbers to understand how very important it is that the House take these important steps tonight and that the Senate soon follow, and ultimately we get to the President's desk a recovery and reinvestment plan.
    Q It's my understand that the conversation with Senate Republicans with the President had to do a lot with the bigger picture --
    MR. GIBBS: It did.
    Q -- of the economic environment. Did he get suggestions of how -- because if this CBO report is true, and it sounds like you believe -- you like to quote from the CBO, so you must believe that they --
    MR. GIBBS: There are occasions in which I have read the CBO.
    Q -- this is accurate reporting -- did they give you suggestions of how you can sell the American people on this idea that you're going to have to get billions of more dollars in taxpayer money?
    MR. GIBBS: I think the main message -- and I struggle every day just to be the spokesperson for one individual in this town, so I very much hesitate to speak for an entire group --
    Q But you were in the room.
    MR. GIBBS: I was in the room, so let me give you my impression, which was, the main message that I heard -- and I heard it again on cable this morning from members -- Republican members of the Senate -- was that -- and this is a concept the President agrees quite strongly with -- and that is that one aspect of this alone isn't going to solve our problems and isn't going to fully or adequately address the economic crisis; that only by addressing each of the legs of this stool will we create something that can stand on its own.
    I don't think they got -- I don't recall, at least, getting into specific numbers. You know, they -- I think both the President and Senate Republicans understand the urgency of the next set of funds being used differently, more transparently, with a far greater eye to actual lending of money. We've all been reminded in the last couple days how entities can get money from the American taxpayers and seek to use it poorly. And thankfully, that, I think because of the outrage of Capitol Hill and some phone calls, got stopped. But the focus was more on the notion that many things had to happen in order for our economy to get moving again. I think Senate Republicans and I think the President are heartened that there is agreement that tackling one won't solve it; we are going to have to work together and on parallel tracks to address many of these problems over the course of --
    Q Is it fair to characterize it that he wasn't just lobbying for a stimulus, he was lobbying for all three legs of the stool --
    MR. GIBBS: I think he was agreeing with the discussion that each of these aspects is extremely important if we are to see the economy recover and Americans get put back to work.
    Q Robert, all of these pages that you see as being selectively picked apart when questions are raised about they add up to a lot of money in tight times -- to what extent do you see any further paring of those kinds of programs before this thing comes out of conference and goes to a final vote?
    MR. GIBBS: I think this largely proves my somewhat maybe possibly weak baseball analogy that, again, this is a -- if the vote is happening in the third inning, we've still got six more innings to go. So you can look at each one of these things each and every day; I think it's more important to see where we end up.
    Q They keep score each inning.
    MR. GIBBS: They do. They do. But they don't declare winners -- you get up and stretch at one point during the game and there's a man that says you can't buy beer after a certain time. But the umpire doesn't declare the game over except for one point in the game. (Laughter.) So I guess I would stress that even if you get up to stretch and buy beer, they only call one winner. So let's hope that that one winner is the American people because both teams have worked together.
    Q Oooh!
    Q Wow!
    MR. GIBBS: I'll take two. I'll -- (laughter.) Yes, sir.
    Q To follow up on that, the President today and previously has talked about skepticism. Aren't these the very kinds of programs that engender skepticism? Smoking cessation programs and these kinds of things?
    MR. GIBBS: Well, again, here's my point, is let's write a story on the money that's going to go to rebuild schools that the President visited, like the ones in South Carolina that haven't been refurbished or redone since I think it was 1899. Right? I think there's a lot more money that goes to something like that, that will put people back to work in South Carolina, which has seen its unemployment rate grow to 9.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics just yesterday. Or let's focus on building roads and bridges in a place like Michigan, that's watched its unemployment rate increased to 10.6 percent as of yesterday, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Or any other investments in jobs, or health care, or energy in a place like California that watched 80,000 jobs be shed just last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    I think we can get focused on a lot of different things. I think it is important to understand and to look at the long view of this, to understand that there are committee processes, there's votes, there's the Rules Committee, there's the floor, there's amendments, there's final passage -- there's all these fancy legislative terms. But let's look at the final product that we get, and understand that the President hopes, sincerely hopes, that each person looks at the totality of the package and what it will do to get the economy moving again.
    Q Robert, a logistical question -- can we expect to hear from him after the House vote?
    MR. GIBBS: We will have something for you after that vote. I'm not entirely sure what form it will take.
    Q Robert, I'd like to go back to the oil drilling, OCS. Is it the goal, or once this review is completed, will there be more oil drilling? Or will there be little change?
    MR. GIBBS: Let me get some legislative advice on this as it relates to where we are in the policy. I know that Congress did not renew the ban on offshore oil drilling. The President, as the Secretary said, supports some new drilling as it relates to a larger and more comprehensive energy independence plan. I think you heard the President say throughout the campaign, much like the financial crisis that we face, that it's not one thing that's likely to -- that we're likely to do on any given day and wake up and be far less dependent on foreign oil. It's not going to just be drilling offshore, just like it's not just going to be wind or solar energy, or just going to be biofuels. It's going to be all of those things taken together. I think that's what the President hopes to do. I think a down payment on that larger investment to getting ourselves to energy independence is contained within the recovery and reinvestment plan that he thinks and hopes will move forward.
    Q I understand that. But he shifted his position when the gas was about 4 bucks a gallon.
    MR. GIBBS: I think both candidates shifted their position. Amazing how politicians can do that as it relates to the whims of their constituents.
    Q But what I'm getting at is will there likely be more drilling once this review --
    MR. GIBBS: I think that, as I said yesterday, the President supports increased exploration, domestically, for more energy, just as the President also believes that that will only make a difference if we take a whole series of steps to both reduce the demand, as well as increase an energy supply to make ourselves truly energy independent.
    Q Robert, I want to start with Afghanistan. And if you'd be kind enough, I want to ask a follow-up on the economic stimulus. Yesterday, Secretary Gates said the following: "We need to be very careful about the nature of our goals we set for ourselves in Afghanistan." He also said, "The civilian casualties are doing U.S. and NATO forces enormous harm." As the review goes forward, can you tell the American people what are the specific goals for this new policy in Afghanistan, and how will the implementation of that policy confront this issue of civilian casualties?
    And also on Afghanistan, Secretary Gates said he believes NATO nations are now more prepared than they were under President Bush to offer more forces in Afghanistan. Since you've given us written readouts on the President's calls with NATO leaders on Afghanistan, is Secretary Gates right in making this assertion?
    MR. GIBBS: Well, I'm certainly not going to question Secretary Gates' assertion. I think those are backed up by discussions that both the President has had as well as the Secretary has had. I think honestly the best answer to what our goals are in Afghanistan, as well as the path that we have to take to ensure that we meet those goals, is best contained in what Secretary Gates said yesterday, that it's going to take quite some time and that we have to be realistic about both that timeline and those goals.
    The President said that -- and as I restated earlier -- that Afghanistan and the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan represent the central front on the war on terror; that today in those places, terrorists likely plot their next steps both against governments in that region, as well as against us. And the safety and the security of the American people are utmost on the President's agenda. Through that comprehensive review, we'll adjust whatever we need to, to meet goals and time lines as it relates to Afghanistan.
    Go ahead.
    Q That's it on Afghanistan? Okay. On the economic stimulus, Alice Rivlin -- Democrat, supporter of this President -- has looked at spending to create jobs both from a congressional perspective and from the Office of Management and Budget -- said yesterday that she's concerned that, structurally, the stimulus plan doesn't focus all of its attention on immediate job creation; that there's programmatic things -- some of them have been raised here in the briefing today -- that while it may be preferable and maybe should be done, shouldn't be in a stimulus plan; that the stimulus plan should focus 100 percent of its spending and legislative intensity on immediate job creation. Is the structural debate over what's going to be in this bill over as far as the White House is concerned, and it's a just a matter of the overall dollars? How do you evaluate that, I would probably say, from her point of view, helpful criticism of the way this bill is currently structured?
    MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think there are probably opinions on either side of this debate. The President believes that the rough outlines of the plan as they are now, both in tax cuts and in direct spending, present the best way forward in helping the health of our economy. Obviously, as I said yesterday and as the -- the President will meet with Republicans today, or see Republicans today -- he's listening to ideas. I think the structure of what that might ultimately -- that ultimate structure is certainly something that will be -- that will move around and be debated not just this afternoon and tonight on the floor of the House, but later on in the Senate and in committees. And the President is ready, willing, and able to listen to good ideas, as I said yesterday. The President believes ultimately we have to get a good plan quickly to the American people.
    There are, I think, some disagreements, and I would disagree with some of the characterizations of -- I've seen -- again, I've seen people say that hiring cops isn't a stimulus program. As I said yesterday, if you're about to fire cops, hiring cops is a stimulus program; it creates jobs.
    I think increasing Pell grants and letting kids go to college without having to borrow tens of thousands of dollars helps our economy grow. The President is committed to ensuring that 75 percent of the money in this plan is spent out in 18 months to create jobs, but also to lay the groundwork for long-term investments and long-term economic growth. We are not going to be out of the woods after only a certain period of time. There are obviously going to be time periods after that where we're going to have to continue to do -- we're going to have to continue to make investments in order to continue that economic growth and that job growth.
    This isn't a one-time deal. We are going to have to work actively, not just this year, not just next year, but likely the year after that. The stimulus program isn't going to, in and of itself, solve every problem. We've got a lot of work to do, and it's going to take a long time to get that done.
    Q Robert.
    MR. GIBBS: Yes.
    Q To follow up on Major, by your own definition, only 75 percent of this is short-term stimulus, or 65 percent, according to CBO. What was the reason for not taking that extra whatever it is, 25 or 35 percent -- which is a lot of money -- $900 billion -- since it's not short-term stimulus, however worthy an investment it might be, and actually paying for it, instead of just adding it to the deficit, since by your definition it's not short-term stimulus?
    MR. GIBBS: Let's understand -- let's take the larger question for a second, because the President has said -- and they talked about this yesterday, particularly in the House, and I forget whether this came up a lot in the Senate -- but if we don't take steps right now to grow our economy, a $1.2 trillion deficit that this President inherited from his predecessor is not going to get any better. We're not going to grow the economy, we're not going to see a lessening of those deficits if unemployment hits 10 percent, or if nobody can borrow money because banks can't lend it and people don't have jobs to do it.
    So the first thing we have to do -- we have to take actions necessary in the short-term to ensure economic growth that will ultimately reduce that deficit once the economy begins to grow again.
    The reason that some of this money isn't completely spent out in '09 and 2010 is precisely what I just talked to Major about. I don't think we're going to wake up on January 1, 2011, you know, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, and we're going to go from black and white to color. We're still going to have a lot of battles to face and economic hardship to move the economy to a better place.
    So that the investment and the stimulus that happen as a result of this legislation don't drop off like a cliff, some of that money bleeds into 2011. The CBO I think talked in its report about the fact that that money would then -- would create jobs in 2011. I don't want to get hung up on sort of these rigid times and not understand that we're going to wake up the beginning of 2011 and want people to be employed, families to be borrowing money to buy the things that they want to, like cars or loans for their kids to go to school, and to have healthy small businesses that are creating jobs. All that stuff has got to happen; it's not just going to all happen overnight.
    Q One other thing. I don't want to nitpick, but yesterday you were very eloquent in your defense of re-sodding the Mall, which is no longer in the plan.
    MR. GIBBS: I almost made it out of here without -- (laughter.)
    Q So have you changed your mind on that now that it seems like Congress has decided that that wasn't as stimulative as you very convincingly presented yesterday? (Laughter.)
    MR. GIBBS: I should make you a committee chair. I think it demonstrates the perils of playing umpire in the third inning. (Laughter.)
    Goyal, I said I would call on you, so I will call on you now.
    Q Thank you, Mr. Gibbs. Two questions, please, quick ones. Before my question I first want to really bring my best wishes and congratulations to President Obama and the First Lady from the Indian American community and 1 billion-plus people in India.
    MR. GIBBS: I will pass that along.
    Q And my question is that, many people around the globe are expecting too much from the President because of the change is coming --
    MR. GIBBS: You mean people in this room? (Laughter.)
    Q No, people around the -- in the region of South Asia, let's say, and India. What change are we expecting as far as U.S.-India relations are concerned, and especially the terrorism in the region that President has been talking about, and including you?
    MR. GIBBS: Well, without getting into a lot of specifics, Goyal, I think that the President believes that obviously the U.S. and India are natural friends and natural allies. The President looks forward over the course of this term to deepen the partnership that's been built between the two countries over these past many years, to strengthen those ties. He will have more to say about that in the future.
    And I think the President -- the President would like to certainly express and extend his best wishes to the Prime Minister as he recovers from surgery, and looks forward to talking to him soon. And I can come give you guys a readout on that.
    Q And second, as far as -- I met a lady at the 15th and K Street on a wheelchair, very old lady and disabled, of course, and I asked her that -- she said, you go to the White House. I said, yes. "Can I -- can you pass on my message to the President Obama." I said, what do you want from him? And she said, tell him, please, increase in the disability payments.
    MR. GIBBS: Increase the disability payments?
    Q Yes.
    MR. GIBBS: I will pass that along to both the President and his advisors.
    Q And on the trip to Canada -- what will the President's message to Canada be regarding the economic crisis given that Canada is the U.S.'s largest trading partner?
    MR. GIBBS: Well, I think -- without getting into what a bilateral agenda might be for that trip, I think it is safe to say that the health of each economy and the health of the global economy will be a large part of that agenda. And I strongly anticipate, as was the case when the President met -- then President-elect met with the leader of Mexico, that trade will be a part of that docket.
    Q When might he meet with McKiernan?
    MR. GIBBS: I will try to see if that -- I don't know that it's been slated in the schedule yet, but I know that it has --
    Q Days? Weeks?
    MR. GIBBS: Let me try to see if I can get a little bit better guidance on that.
    END 2:29 P.M. EST

  • Iconic American companies like IBM, Jet Blue, and Honeywell sent their leadership to meet with the President this morning to discuss how they can get the economy moving again.
    And the President made clear that the majority of money in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan will go out quickly, and most of it will go to create jobs in the private sector.
    "The businesses that are shedding jobs to stay afloat -- they can't afford inaction or delay. The workers who are returning home to tell their husbands and wives and children that they no longer have a job, and all those who live in fear that their job will be next on the cutting blocks -- they need help now," President Obama said after the meeting. "They are looking to Washington for action, bold and swift. And that is why I hope to sign an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan into law in the next few weeks."
    Read the President's full remarks below.

     
    REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE ECONOMY
    AFTER MEETING WITH BUSINESS LEADERS
    White House East Room
    January 28, 2009
    THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I want to thank Sam and David for their outstanding words. I want to thank all of you for being here today.
    A few moments ago, I met with some of the leading business executives in the country. And it was a sober meeting, because these companies and the workers they employ are going through times more trying than any that we've seen in a long, long while. Just the other day, seven of our largest corporations announced they were making major job cuts. Some of the business leaders in this room have had to do the same. And yet, even as we discussed the seriousness of this challenge, we left our meeting confident that we can turn our economy around.
    But each of us, as Dave indicated, are going to have to do our share. Part of what led our economy to this perilous moment was a sense of irresponsibility that prevailed in Wall Street and in Washington. And that's why I called for a new era of responsibility in my inaugural address last week, an era where each of us chips in so that we can climb our way out of this crisis -- executives and factory floor workers, educators and engineers, health care professionals and elected officials.
    As we discussed in our meeting a few minutes ago, corporate America will have to accept its own responsibilities to its workers and the American public. But these executives also understand that without wise leadership in Washington, even the best-run businesses can't do as well as they might. They understand that what makes an idea sound is not whether it's Democrat or Republican, but whether it makes good economic sense for their workers and companies. And they understand that when it comes to rebuilding our economy, we don't have a moment to spare.
    The businesses that are shedding jobs to stay afloat -- they can't afford inaction or delay. The workers who are returning home to tell their husbands and wives and children that they no longer have a job, and all those who live in fear that their job will be next on the cutting blocks -- they need help now. They are looking to Washington for action, bold and swift. And that is why I hope to sign an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan into law in the next few weeks.
    And most of the money that we're investing as part of this plan will get out the door immediately and go directly to job creation, generating or saving 3 to 4 million new jobs. And the vast majority of these jobs will be created in the private sector, because, as these CEOs well know, business, not government, is the engine of growth in this country.
    But even as this plan puts Americans back to work it will also make the critical investments in alternative energy, in safer roads, better health care and modern schools that will lay the foundation for long-term growth and prosperity. And it will invest in broadband and emerging technologies, like the ones imagined and introduced to the world by people like Sam and so many of the CEOs here today, because that's how America will retain and regain its competitive edge in the 21st century.
    I know that there are some who are skeptical of the size and scale of this recovery plan. And I understand that skepticism, given some of the things that have happened in this town in the past. That's why this recovery plan will include unprecedented measures that will allow the American people to hold my administration accountable. Instead of just throwing money at our problems, we'll try something new in Washington -- we will invest in what works. Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made public on the Internet, and will be informed by independent experts whenever possible.
    We will launch a sweeping effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government, and every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars by going to a new website called recovery.gov -- because I firmly believe what Justice Louis Brandeis once said, that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I know that restoring transparency is not only the surest way to achieve results, but also to earn back the trust in government without which we cannot deliver the changes the American people sent us here to make.
    In the end, the answer to our economic troubles rests less in my hands, or in the hands of our legislators, than it does with America's workers and the businesses that employ them. They are the ones whose efforts and ideas will determine our economic destiny, just as they always have. For in the end, it's businesses -- large and small -- that generate the jobs, provide the salaries, and serve as the foundation on which the American people's lives and dreams depend. All we can do, those of us here in Washington, is help create a favorable climate in which workers can prosper, businesses can thrive, and our economy can grow. And that is exactly what the recovery plan I've proposed is intended to do. And that's exactly what I intend to achieve soon.
    Thank you very much for being here.

  • In one of his first acts as Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner today announced new rules that will make it harder for banks to lobby for a share of money set aside by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act.
    The new rules restrict the contact that bank lobbyists can have with Treasury officials, as well as what members of Congress can do to secure money on behalf of banks in their home districts.
    "American taxpayers deserve to know that their money is spent in the most effective way to stabilize the financial system," Secretary Geithner said. "Today's actions reaffirm our commitment toward that goal."
    Introducing him last night before he was sworn in, President Barack Obama spoke to the challenges Secretary Geithner faces, with a nod to the news that seven major American corporations -- including Caterpillar, Sprint/Nextel, and Home Depot -- announced they were cutting tens of thousands of jobs.
    "It will take a Secretary of the Treasury who understands those challenges in all their complexities to help lead us forward," President Obama said. "You've got your work cut out for you, as I think everybody knows. But you also have my full confidence, my deepest trust, and my unyeilding belief that you can achieve what is required of us at this moment."
    Vice President Biden administered the oath of office to Geithner, who had been confirmed that afternoon.
    "We are at a moment of maximum challenge for our economy and our country," Secretary Geithner said in his remarks. "And our agenda, Mr. President, is to move quickly to help you do what the country asked you to do: to launch the programs that will bring economic recovery sooner; to make our economy more productive and more just in the opportunities it provides our citizens; to restore trust in our financial system with fundamental reform; to make our tax system better at rewarding work and investment; to restore confidence in America's economic leadership around the world. I pledge all of my ability to help you meet that challenge, and to restore to all Americans the promise of a better future."
    As Secretary Geithner thanked his family for their support, he remarked that he was inspired to enter public service by childhood travels with his family.
    "My parents gave me, among many wonderful things, they gave me the important gift of showing me the world as a child," he said. "They took us to live in Zambia and Rhodesia, and then to India and to Thailand. And from those places, I saw America through the eyes of others. And it was that experience seeing the extraordinary influence of America on the world that led me to work in government."
    Read last night’s remarks from the President and Secretary Geithner below.

     
    REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
    AT SWEARING IN OF TREASURY SECRETARY TIMOTHY GEITHNER
    U.S. Department of Treasury
    Washington, D.C.
    January 26, 2009
    THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, please have a seat. A short time ago, the United States Senate voted to confirm Timothy Geithner as our next Secretary of the Treasury. That deserves some applause. (Applause.) I want to thank Democratic and Republican senators for their show of confidence in Tim, and I want to thank Tim -- and Carole -- for their willingness to serve their country at a time when that service is desperately needed.
    I came here tonight because, at this moment of challenge and crisis, Tim's work and the work of the entire Treasury Department must begin at once. We cannot lose a day, because every day the economic picture is darkening -- here and across the globe. Just today we learned that seven major corporations will be laying off thousands more workers. This comes on top of the 2.5 million jobs we lost last year. And it will take a Secretary of the Treasury who understands this challenge and all its complexities to help lead us forward.
    When Alexander Hamilton was sworn in as our first Treasury Secretary, his task was to weave together the disparate debts and economies of various states into one American system of credit and capital markets. More than two centuries later, that system is now in serious jeopardy. It has been badly weakened by an era of irresponsibility; a series of imprudent and dangerous decisions on Wall Street; and an unrelenting quest for profit with too little regard for risk, too little regulatory scrutiny, and too little accountability. The result has been a devastating loss of trust and confidence in our economy, our financial markets, and our government. That era must end right now, and I believe it can.
    The very fact that this crisis is largely of our own making means that it is not beyond our ability to solve. Our problems are rooted in past mistakes, not our capacity for future greatness. It will take time, perhaps many years, but we can rebuild that lost trust and confidence. We can restore opportunity and prosperity. And I'm confident that Tim, along with Larry Summers and Peter Orszag and the rest of our economic team, can help us get there.
    In the coming weeks and months, we will work together to stabilize our financial system and restart the flow of credit that families and businesses depend on to get a loan, make a payroll, or buy a home. But we'll do it in a way that protects the American taxpayer and includes the highest level of transparency and oversight so that the American people can hold us accountable for results.
    Together, with both parties in Congress, we will launch a recovery and reinvestment plan that saves or creates more than 3 million jobs while investing in priorities like health care, education, and energy that will make us strong in the future. And I will be working with the entire economic team and Tim to reform and modernize our outdated financial regulations so that a crisis like this cannot happen again. We'll put in place new common-sense rules of the road and we will be vigilant in ensuring they are not bent or broken any longer.
    So, congratulations, Tim. You've got your work cut out for you, as I think everybody knows, but you also have my full confidence, my deepest trust, my unyielding belief that we can rise to achieve what is required of us at this moment. Our work will not be easy and it will not be quick, but we will embrace it so that we can carry on the legacy of boundless opportunity and unmatched prosperity that has defined this nation since our earlier days.
    And before I step aside from the podium, to all the wonderful staff at Treasury, who have been laboring long and hard over the last several months and years -- but particularly the last several months -- I want to thank you for your dedication and your service. You've been doing yeoman's work at a time when the country needs it, and I hope with Tim at the helm, that that work will result in jobs and businesses reopening and the kind of economic opportunity that the American people deserve.
    So, with that, let's get Tim sworn in.

     
    REMARKS BY TREASURY SECRETARY TIMOTHY GEITHNER
    U.S. Department of Treasury
    Washington, D.C.
    January 26, 2009
    SECRETARY GEITHNER: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mr. Vice President. And thanks to my many friends and colleagues for being here tonight. My wife Carole stood beside me as I took this oath of office as she has twice before in this building. I want to thank her for her extraordinary grace and support. She has this remarkable capacity for calm wisdom and empathy.
    Our children, Elise and Benjamin, are back at school in New York studying for their midterm exams -- I hope they're studying. (Laughter.) I miss them very much and I'm very proud of them.
    My terrific family is represented here tonight by my father, Peter Geithner, and my brother, David. My parents gave me, among many wonderful things, they gave me the important gift of showing me the world as a child. They took us to live in Zambia and Rhodesia, and then to India and to Thailand. And from those places, I saw America through the eyes of others. And it was that experience seeing the extraordinary influence of America on the world that led me to work in government.
    I first walked into this building about 20 years ago. And I had at Treasury the wonderful experience of working with smart and dedicated people serving their country with the shared goal of making government more effective, in an environment where our obligation was to debate the merits, to do what was right, not what was easy or expedient, drawing on the best ideas and expertise in the nation.
    Treasury's tradition is to defend the integrity of policy, to respect the constraints imposed by limited resources, and to limit government intervention to where it is essential to protect our financial system and to improve the lives of the American people. That tradition is critically important today because it is the source of the credibility that makes it possible for governments to do what is necessary to resolve a crisis.
    In the world we confront today, Treasury has to be, and Treasury will be, a source of bold initiative. We are at a moment of maximum challenge for our economy and for our country. And our agenda, Mr. President, is to move quickly to help you do what the country asked you to do: to launch the programs that will bring economic recovery sooner; to make our economy more productive and more just in the opportunities it provides our citizens; to restore trust in our financial system with fundamental reform; to make our tax system better at rewarding work and investment; to restore confidence in America's economic leadership around the world. I pledge all of my ability to help you meet that challenge, and to restore to all Americans the promise of a better future.
    I want to thank Larry Summers, who has taught me so much about economic policy, a little bit about math, even some things about people. I am fortunate he is willing to work alongside me as we confront the nation's challenges.
    Mr. President, I am deeply grateful for your trust and confidence. We will work our hearts out for you. Thank you for giving me this great privilege of working for you. I am eager to get to work.
    Thank you. (Applause.)

  • President Obama is on Capitol Hill today to hear out Republican ideas for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.
    Upon finishing his meeting with House GOP leaders, he gave the brief remarks below..
    He’s on his way to see Senate Republicans at 2:30 PM.

     
    REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AFTER MEETING WITH HOUSE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS
    Ohio Clock Corridor, U.S. Capitol
    January 27, 2009, 1:41 P.M. EST
    THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  We had a very constructive meeting with the House members, members of the Republican Caucus.  I'm a little bit late for my Senate colleagues -- former Senate colleagues.
    And the main message I have is that the statistics every day underscore the urgency of the economic situation.  The American people expect action.  They want us to put together a recovery package that puts people back to work, that creates investments that assure our long-term energy independence, an effective health care system, an education system that works; they want our infrastructure rebuilt, and they want it done wisely, so that we're not wasting taxpayer money.
    As I explained to the Republican House Caucus, and I'll explain to my former Senate colleagues, the recovery package that we have proposed and is moving its way through Congress is just one leg in a multi-legged stool.  We're still going to have to have much better financial regulation, we've got to get credit flowing again, we're going to have to deal with the troubled assets that many banks are still carrying and that make the -- that have locked up the credit system.  We're going to have to coordinate with other countries, because we now have a global problem.
    I am absolutely confident that we can deal with these issues, but the key right now is to make sure that we keep politics to a minimum.  There are some legitimate philosophical differences with parts of my plan that the Republicans have, and I respect that.  In some cases they may just not be as familiar with what's in the package as I would like.  I don't expect a hundred percent agreement from my Republican colleagues, but I do hope that we can all put politics aside and do the American people's business right now.  All right.

  • In his first interview with an Arab television station, President Barack Obama offered a bold change to America's relations with the Muslim world.
    "My job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives," President Obama told Al Arabiya. "My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy."
    In the interview, conducted in the White House map room, President Obama also expressed his commitment to tackling the Middle East peace process immediately.
    "Sending George Mitchell to the Middle East is fulfilling my campaign promise that we're not going to wait until the end of my administration to deal with Palestinian and Israeli peace, we're going to start now," he said. "It may take a long time to do, but we're going to do it now."
    The interview is part of the President’s broader outreach to the Muslim world, which includes a promise to make a major address from the capital of a Muslim nation.
    Al Arabiya is a 24-hour Arabic-language news channel based out of Dubai.

  • Timothy Geithner is now officially the 75th Secretary of the United States Treasury.
    The Senate confirmed him late this afternoon by a vote of 60-34, and just a few moments ago, following an introduction by President Obama, Vice President Biden administered the oath of office.
    Tomorrow, we'll take a closer look at the challenges Secretary Geithner faces in his new role leading the Treasury Department.

  • This afternoon, in his second press briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs fielded questions on energy independence, the stimulus package, and the auto industry. Here are some selected responses from the press conference.
    On the remaining bailout funds:
    "I do think what is incredibly important for you and for the American people to understand is the President believes that -- and outlined this to Congress before they voted -- we have to use the second $350 billion far differently than we used the first $350 billion to address the foreclosure crisis, to do so in a way that's transparent, so the American people will know where the money is going. There was a report today in the Wall Street Journal that many of the banks that had gotten money are actually lending less now that they have that money. That clearly has to change. The point of that money was to go to banks to free up lending, free up credit, capital…. We're going to change the way that money works to ensure that money that is injected into banks is used to provide small businesses with loans, to provide families with college or auto loans.  We have to do so in a way that's transparent. And we have to make sure that there's some change in executive compensation as it relates to entities that participate in that program or get the money."
    On how today's memoranda regarding environmental policy might impact the nation's struggling auto industry:
    "The particular action that the President took today was to take legislation that Congress approved in December of 2007, and President Bush signed, and in January of 2009 implement changed CAFE standards for model year 2011. So I don't think it comes as any surprise to automakers or consumers that a change in our fuel mileage standards was on the horizon. In fact, between December of 2007 and October of 2010 -- which is when manufacturers begin the next model year -- we believe, and I've seen testimony from the auto companies, that changing those fuel mileage standards is certainly doable. The President wants to work with the auto industry to ensure that the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow are produced and built here in America for Americans to buy. And I think that government working with the auto industry can ensure that we have a sustainable path toward the production or more fuel-efficient autos, that those fuel-efficient autos will be more appealing to American consumers, and that that can be a win-win for both. The actions that the President took today put us on the path when we realize a fuel efficiency standard of 35 miles to the gallon -- it's 27.5 now -- 35 miles to the gallon will constitute a savings of 2 million barrels of oil a day, which is roughly comparable to the amount of oil that we import each day from the Persian Gulf."
    And later, in response to a similar question:
    "I think what ultimately we'll come up with is something that moves along the twin goals of ensuring a strong manufacturing sector while at the same time ensuring that we take the necessary steps to reduce our dependence on foreign oil."
    In response to the question, What is a green job, anyway?, Gibbs replied:
    "Each year, at least at the end of last year, you had tax credits for wind energy jobs -- there's a one-year tax credit, right. And so the -- every year in August or September, there's a huge scurry to make sure that next year's tax credit is available. Well, if you're going to build a windmill [sector] the size of which is going to produce energy to lower the power costs of millions of Americans, there's some lead time that's involved. So in instituting a renewed tax credit in this economic stimulus bill to give the producers of wind energy some understanding of what's available for them to use in creating these jobs and to give them some economic certainty is important. That's just one example….You've got biofuel jobs.  You've got solar projects.  I think there's any number of clean energy jobs that can drive not only our path towards energy independence, but also a path towards creating jobs."
    There were also a lot of questions about the President's plans for bipartisanship. Gibbs said that President Obama will hear out Congressional Republicans in two meetings on Capitol Hill tomorrow -- first with the House GOP, then the Senate GOP.
    "The President is very serious about this….[T]he job announcements today underscore the necessity that Washington not respond to the latest crisis simply by doing what Washington always does best and does more frequently, and that is get into too much of a back and forth and have important issues that the American people are concerned about become a political football. That's why the President is willing and eager to go first to have Republican leaders and Democratic leaders here, and now to go talk only with Republican leaders tomorrow to seek their input. And we hope that this is a process that will continue until the bill goes through Congress and the President has something that he can sign.
    "The goal is to seek their input.  He wants to hear their ideas.  If there are good ideas -- and I think he assumes there will be -- that we will look at those ideas; that those ideas will go through a process in Congress; they'll be debated and voted on….And I think because of that bipartisan dialogue we'll create a better economic plan for the American people when all is said and done."

  • "This moment of peril must be turned to one of progress," President Barack Obama said this morning, as he signed two Presidential Memoranda aimed at getting us on the path to energy independence.
    In what he called "a down payment on a broader and sustained effort to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," President Obama directed the Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish higher fuel efficiency standards for carmakers' 2011 model year. The standard, known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE), was established in 1975 in the wake of the Arab Oil Embargo.
    The second memo paves the way for California and more than a dozen other states to raise emissions standards above and beyond the national standard. They'd asked to do so before, but the Bush administration had denied the request.
    "Instead of serving as a partner, Washington stood in their way," President Obama said. "The days of Washington dragging its heels are over."
    Before he opened his remarks, President Obama took a moment to address the new raft of bad economic news of the past few days -- including job cuts at Microsoft, The Home Depot, and Sprint/Nextel.
    Read the President's full remarks below.

     
    Remarks by the President
    on Jobs, Energy Independence, and Climate Change
    East Room of the White House
    January 26, 2009
    Good morning.  Before I begin today's announcement, I want to say a few words about the deepening economic crisis that we've inherited and the need for urgent action.
    Over the last few days we've learned that Microsoft, Intel, United Airlines, Home Depot, Sprint Nextel, and Caterpillar are each cutting thousands of jobs.  These are not just numbers on a page.  As with the millions of jobs lost in 2008, these are working men and women whose families have been disrupted and whose dreams have been put on hold.
    We owe it to each of them and to every, single American to act with a sense of urgency and common purpose.  We can't afford distractions and we cannot afford delays.  And that is why I look forward to signing an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that will put millions of Americans to work and lay the foundation for stable growth that our economy needs and that our people demand.  These are extraordinary times and it calls for swift and extraordinary action.
    At a time of such great challenge for America, no single issue is as fundamental to our future as energy.  America's dependence on oil is one of the most serious threats that our nation has faced.  It bankrolls dictators, pays for nuclear proliferation, and funds both sides of our struggle against terrorism.  It puts the American people at the mercy of shifting gas prices, stifles innovation and sets back our ability to compete.
    These urgent dangers to our national and economic security are compounded by the long-term threat of climate change, which if left unchecked could result in violent conflict, terrible storms, shrinking coastlines and irreversible catastrophe.  These are the facts and they are well known to the American people -- after all, there is nothing new about these warnings.  Presidents have been sounding the alarm about energy dependence for decades.  President Nixon promised to make our energy -- our nation energy independent by the end of the 1970s.  When he spoke, we imported about a third of our oil; we now import more than half.
    Year after year, decade after decade, we've chosen delay over decisive action.  Rigid ideology has overruled sound science.  Special interests have overshadowed common sense.  Rhetoric has not led to the hard work needed to achieve results.  Our leaders raise their voices each time there's a spike in gas prices, only to grow quiet when the price falls at the pump.
    Now America has arrived at a crossroads.  Embedded in American soil and the wind and the sun, we have the resources to change.  Our scientists, businesses and workers have the capacity to move us forward.  It falls on us to choose whether to risk the peril that comes with our current course or to seize the promise of energy independence.  For the sake of our security, our economy and our planet, we must have the courage and commitment to change.
    It will be the policy of my administration to reverse our dependence on foreign oil, while building a new energy economy that will create millions of jobs.  We hold no illusion about the task that lies ahead.  I cannot promise a quick fix; no single technology or set of regulations will get the job done.  But we will commit ourselves to steady, focused, pragmatic pursuit of an America that is free from our energy dependence and empowered by a new energy economy that puts millions of our citizens to work.
    Today, I'm announcing the first steps on our journey toward energy independence, as we develop new energy, set new fuel efficiency standards, and address greenhouse gas emissions.  Each step begins to move us in a new direction, while giving us the tools that we need to change.
    First, we must take bold action to create a new American energy economy that creates millions of jobs for our people.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan before Congress places a down payment on this economy.  It will put 460,000 Americans to work, with clean energy investments and double the capacity to generate alternative energy over the next three years.  It will lay down 3,000 miles of transmission lines to deliver this energy to every corner of our country.  It will save taxpayers $2 billion a year by making 75 percent of federal buildings more efficient.  And it will save working families hundreds of dollars on their energy bills by weatherizing 2 million homes.
    This is the boost that our economy needs, and the new beginning that our future demands.  By passing the bill, Congress can act where Washington has failed to act over and over again for 30 years.  We need more than the same old empty promises.  We need to show that this time it will be different.  This is the time that Americans must come together on behalf of our common prosperity and security.
    Second, we must ensure that the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow are built right here in the United States of America.  Increasing fuel efficiency in our cars and trucks is one of the most important steps that we can take to break our cycle of dependence on foreign oil.  It will also help spark the innovation needed to ensure that our auto industry keeps pace with competitors around the world.
    We will start by implementing new standards for model year 2011 so that we use less oil and families have access to cleaner, more efficient cars and trucks.  This rule will be a down payment on a broader and sustained effort to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  Congress has passed legislation to increase standards to at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020.  That 40 percent increase in fuel efficiency for our cars and trucks could save over 2 million barrels of oil every day -- nearly the entire amount of oil that we import from the Persian Gulf.
    Going forward, my administration will work on a bipartisan basis in Washington and with industry partners across the country to forge a comprehensive approach that makes our economy stronger and our nation more secure.
    Third, the federal government must work with, not against, states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  California has shown bold and bipartisan leadership through its effort to forge 21st century standards, and over a dozen states have followed its lead.  But instead of serving as a partner, Washington stood in their way.  This refusal to lead risks the creation of a confusing and patchwork set of standards that hurts the environment and the auto industry.
    The days of Washington dragging its heels are over.  My administration will not deny facts, we will be guided by them.  We cannot afford to pass the buck or push the burden onto the states.  And that's why I'm directing the Environmental Protection Agency to immediately review the denial of the California waiver request and determine the best way forward.  This will help us create incentives to develop new energy that will make us less dependent on oil that endangers our security, our economy, and our planet.
    As we move forward, we will fully take into account the unique challenges facing the American auto industry and the taxpayer dollars that now support it.  And let me be clear:  Our goal is not to further burden an already struggling industry.  It is to help America's automakers prepare for the future.  This commitment must extend beyond the short-term assistance for businesses and workers.  We must help them thrive by building the cars of tomorrow, and galvanizing a dynamic and viable industry for decades to come.
    Finally, we will make it clear to the world that America is ready to lead.  To protect our climate and our collective security, we must call together a truly global coalition.  I've made it clear that we will act, but so too must the world.  That's how we will deny leverage to dictators and dollars to terrorists.  And that's how we will ensure that nations like China and India are doing their part, just as we are now willing to do ours.
    It's time for America to lead, because this moment of peril must be turned into one of progress.  If we take action, we can create new industries and revive old ones; we can open new factories and power new farms; we can lower costs and revive our economy.  We can do that, and we must do that.  There's much work to be done.  There is much further for us to go.
    But I want to be clear from the beginning of this administration that we have made our choice.  America will not be held hostage to dwindling resources, hostile regimes, and a warming planet.  We will not be put off from action because action is hard.  Now is the time to make the tough choices.  Now is the time to meet the challenge at this crossroad of history by choosing a future that is safer for our country, prosperous for our planet, and sustainable.
    Those are my priorities, and they're reflected in the executive orders that I'm about to sign.  Thank you so much for being here.

  • Today marks the beginning of the Year of the Ox, the second symbol in the Chinese Zodiac.
    President Barack Obama released a statement to commemorate the new year:
    "I send my warmest wishes to people across Asia, in America, and indeed around the world who are celebrating the Lunar New Year and welcoming the Year of the Ox. As they gather with their families and celebrate over meals, they welcome new beginnings and honor the enduring wisdom of their ancestors.
    "From the lion dances in San Francisco to festivals in Atlanta and parades in New York City and Washington, D.C., Americans of Asian descent carry on the vibrant traditions of their forefathers and enrich America's cultural diversity. I wish all those celebrating the New Year to be blessed with peace, prosperity, and good health."

  • Today is India Republic Day, the 58th anniversary of India's independence and the adoption of its Constitution.
    Yesterday, President Barack Obama released a statement commemorating the holiday. He also sent well wishes to India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, who is recovering from heart surgery.
    President Obama's Statement:
     
    "As the people of India and people of Indian origin in America and around the world celebrate Republic Day on January 26, I send the warmest greetings of the American people to the people of India. Together, we celebrate our shared belief in democracy, liberty, pluralism, and religious tolerance.
    "Our nations have built broad and vibrant partnerships in every field of human endeavor. Our rapidly growing and deepening friendship with India offers benefits to all the world's citizens as our scientists solve environmental challenges together, our doctors discover new medicines, our engineers advance our societies, our entrepreneurs generate prosperity, our educators lay the foundation for our future generations, and our governments work together to advance peace, prosperity, and stability around the globe
    "It is our shared values that form the bedrock of a robust relationship across peoples and governments. Those values and ideals provide the strength that enables us to meet any challenge, particularly from those who use violence to try to undermine our free and open societies. As the Indian people celebrate Republic Day all across India, they should know that they have no better friend and partner than the people of the United States. It is in that spirit, that I also wish Prime Minister Singh a quick recovery."

  • For incoming White House staff, the past few days have been a singularly thrilling -- and learning -- experience. Wide-eyed staffers roam the halls of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with thick stacks of HR paperwork in hand, new phone numbers are being memorized -- and the line for coffee and club sandwiches is starting to grow as word spreads about the White House Mess. It's safe to say that working at the White House isn't something anyone can prepare for, but the career staff continue to work tirelessly to make the first few days as smooth as possible.
    The new media team is coming online as well and our first priority is digging into this new website: improving some of the basic press office functions (like the timely posting of press releases, executive orders, etc.), developing content from other parts of the Administration to share with you and mapping out a plan for technology development. Thanks to heroic supporting roles by the Office of Administration's web and IT team (career government employees who span administrations), we were able to launch the new website. Now we begin the task of moving it forward.
    Congress isn't waiting for the dust to settle though -- and neither is the President. Next week the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is due to be passed by Congress and sent to the President. The language within the Senate's version (S.181 [check it out on THOMAS, a service provided by the Library of Congress]) is likely to be the version that arrives on the President's desk for signature, and includes this summary:
    A bill to amend title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and to modify the operation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to clarify that a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice that is unlawful under such Acts occurs each time compensation is paid pursuant to the discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, and for other purposes.
    The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act will restore the law to where it was before the Supreme Court's decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Justice Ginsberg's dissent summarizes the facts of Ledbetter's complaint:
    Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor at Goodyear Tire and Rubber’s plant in Gadsden, Alabama, from 1979 until her retirement in 1998. For most of those years, she worked as an area manager, a position largely occupied by men. Initially, Ledbetter’s salary was in line with the salaries of men performing substantially similar work. Over time, however, her pay slipped in comparison to the pay of male area managers with equal or less seniority. By the end of 1997, Ledbetter was the only woman working as an area manager and the pay discrepancy between Ledbetter and her 15 male counterparts was stark: Ledbetter was paid $3,727 per month; the lowest paid male area manager received $4,286 per month, the highest paid, $5,236.
    The Court ruled that employees subject to pay discrimination like Lilly Ledbetter must file a claim within 180 days of the employer's original decision to pay them less -- even if the employee continued to receive reduced paychecks and even if the employee did not discover the discriminatory reduction in pay until much later (check out Justice Alito's arguments in the Court's opinion). Restoring these rules means that complaints can be filed 180 days after any discriminatory paycheck.
    President Obama has long championed this bill and Lilly Ledbetter's cause, and by signing it into law, he will ensure that women like Ms. Ledbetter and other victims of pay discrimination can effectively challenge unequal pay.

  • Yesterday, President Obama rescinded the "Mexico City Policy" and released the following statement:
    It is clear that the provisions of the Mexico City Policy are unnecessarily broad and unwarranted under current law, and for the past eight years, they have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning in developing countries.  For these reasons, it is right for us to rescind this policy and restore critical efforts to protect and empower women and promote global economic development.
    For too long, international family planning assistance has been used as a political wedge issue, the subject of a back and forth debate that has served only to divide us.  I have no desire to continue this stale and fruitless debate.
    It is time that we end the politicization of this issue.  In the coming weeks, my Administration will initiate a fresh conversation on family planning, working to find areas of common ground to best meet the needs of women and families at home and around the world.
    I have directed my staff to reach out to those on all sides of this issue to achieve the goal of reducing unintended pregnancies.  They will also work to promote safe motherhood, reduce maternal and infant mortality rates and increase educational and economic opportunities for women and girls.
    In addition, I look forward to working with Congress to restore U.S. financial support for the U.N. Population Fund.  By resuming funding to UNFPA, the U.S. will be joining 180 other donor nations working collaboratively to reduce poverty, improve the health of women and children, prevent HIV/AIDS and provide family planning assistance to women in 154 countries.

  • In his first weekly address since being sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, President Barack Obama discusses how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan will jump-start the economy.
    "This is not just a short-term program to boost employment," he said. "It’s one that will invest in our most important priorities like energy and education; health care and a new infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century."
    The Administration is still working with Congress to refine the plan, but in the address, President Obama lays out the key priorities. He goes into detail, noting that the plan will update our electric grid by laying more than 3,000 miles of transmission lines; weatherize 2.5 million homes; protect health insurance for more than 8 million Americans in danger of losing their coverage; secure 90 major ports; renovate 10,000 schools; and triple the number of science fellowships.
    Watch the President's weekly address and read the full remarks below.
    Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.

    Remarks of President Barack Obama
    Weekly Address
    Saturday, January 24th, 2009
    We begin this year and this Administration in the midst of an unprecedented crisis that calls for unprecedented action. Just this week, we saw more people file for unemployment than at any time in the last twenty-six years, and experts agree that if nothing is done, the unemployment rate could reach double digits. Our economy could fall $1 trillion short of its full capacity, which translates into more than $12,000 in lost income for a family of four. And we could lose a generation of potential, as more young Americans are forced to forgo college dreams or the chance to train for the jobs of the future.
    In short, if we do not act boldly and swiftly, a bad situation could become dramatically worse.
    That is why I have proposed an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan to immediately jumpstart job creation as well as long-term economic growth. I am pleased to say that both parties in Congress are already hard at work on this plan, and I hope to sign it into law in less than a month.
    It’s a plan that will save or create three to four million jobs over the next few years, and one that recognizes both the paradox and the promise of this moment - the fact that there are millions of Americans trying to find work even as, all around the country, there’s so much work to be done. That’s why this is not just a short-term program to boost employment. It’s one that will invest in our most important priorities like energy and education; health care and a new infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century.
    Today I’d like to talk specifically about the progress we expect to make in each of these areas.
    To accelerate the creation of a clean energy economy, we will double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy like wind, solar, and biofuels over the next three years. We’ll begin to build a new electricity grid that lay down more than 3,000 miles of transmission lines to convey this new energy from coast to coast. We’ll save taxpayers $2 billion a year by making 75% of federal buildings more energy efficient, and save the average working family $350 on their energy bills by weatherizing 2.5 million homes.
    To lower health care cost, cut medical errors, and improve care, we’ll computerize the nation’s health record in five years, saving billions of dollars in health care costs and countless lives. And we’ll protect health insurance for more than 8 million Americans who are in danger of losing their coverage during this economic downturn.
    To ensure our children can compete and succeed in this new economy, we’ll renovate and modernize 10,000 schools, building state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries, and labs to improve learning for over five million students. We’ll invest more in Pell Grants to make college affordable for seven million more students, provide a $2,500 college tax credit to four million students, and triple the number of fellowships in science to help spur the next generation of innovation.
    Finally, we will rebuild and retrofit America to meet the demands of the 21st century. That means repairing and modernizing thousands of miles of America’s roadways and providing new mass transit options for millions of Americans. It means protecting America by securing 90 major ports and creating a better communications network for local law enforcement and public safety officials in the event of an emergency. And it means expanding broadband access to millions of Americans, so business can compete on a level-playing field, wherever they’re located.
    I know that some are skeptical about the size and scale of this recovery plan. I understand that skepticism, which is why this recovery plan must and will include unprecedented measures that will allow the American people to hold my Administration accountable for these results. We won’t just throw money at our problems - we’ll invest in what works. Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made public, and informed by independent experts whenever possible. We’ll launch an unprecedented effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government, and every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars by going to a new website called recovery.gov.
    No one policy or program will solve the challenges we face right now, nor will this crisis recede in a short period of time. But if we act now and act boldly; if we start rewarding hard work and responsibility once more; if we act as citizens and not partisans and begin again the work of remaking America, then I have faith that we will emerge from this trying time even stronger and more prosperous than we were before. Thanks for listening.

  • This afternoon, New York Governor David Paterson announced his selection of Kirsten Gillibrand to fill Secretary Clinton's seat in the United States Senate.
    Here's what the President said about the announcement:
    Governor Paterson made a wonderful choice in appointing Kirsten Gillibrand to fill Secretary Clinton's seat in the United States Senate. I am confident that she will continue Secretary Clinton's distinguished service to the people of New York and to our country.
    During her career, Kirsten has been a strong voice for transparency and reform in government and shares the belief that government should be open, accessible and work for all of our citizens.  In Congress and as special counsel for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, she worked to strengthen public and private partnerships to invest in infrastructure and New York's economy.
    At this time of great challenge, I know that Kirsten has the integrity, character, and dedication to public service to help us achieve our greatest goals.

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