Read all posts from May 2010

  • Ed. Note: For more information on federal response resources, volunteer opportunities, and assistance for those in affected areas visit WhiteHouse.gov/Deepwater-BP-Oil-Spill.

    Below is the latest in the ongoing Administration-wide response provided by the Joint Information Center.  

    Heidi Avery is White House Deputy Homeland Security Advisor

  • The President was able to lay a wreath at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois before it started raining.  But he was forced to take the stage only to announce to the crowd that his Memorial Day address had to be cancelled.  The crowd was spared standing around in the rain, and the President attempted to make it up to some of them by talking with them on the buses they rode to dryness.

    President Obama Lays a Wreath at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery

    President Barack Obama after laying a wreath at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois, on Memorial Day, May 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    President Obama Takes Stage on Memorial Day During Rain

    President Barack Obama takes the stage amidst a downpour at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois, on Memorial Day. He announced that the event was being canceled because of the severe weather, May 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    President Obama Talks with Audience Members on a Bus on Memorial Day

    President Barack Obama boards buses to speak to people who were attending the ceremony at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery after the Memorial Day event he was supposed to speak at was canceled because of severe weather in Elwood, Illinois, May 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Vice President Biden Speaks in Arlington

    Vice President Joe Biden delivers Memorial Day remarks in the Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater in Arlington, May 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    In what he called "the greatest honor of my public life," this morning the Vice President took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns and spoke at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.  His opening remarks and photos below: 

    Collectively, the generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have served and sacrificed for us are the heart and soul, and I would say, spine of this nation.  And as a nation, we pause today to remember them.  They gave their lives fulfilling their oath to this nation and to us.  And in so doing, they imparted a responsibility on us to recognize, to respect, to honor and to care for those who risked their lives so that we can live ours.

    Moments ago, I had the distinct honor and high privilege of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  This morning, I welcomed to the White House the Gold Star families, who know all too well the price of their loved ones’ patriotism.  I met Ruth Stonesifer, the current President of the Gold Star Mothers, who lost her son Kristofor on the first night of major operations in Afghanistan on October of 2001; and Emogene Cupp, the mother who played a pivotal role in the early stages of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and unveiled the first panel; to Terry Davis, a remarkable champion of Gold Star families.  Terry, God love her, is a Gold Star sister, a Gold Star wife, and a Gold Star mother -- none should be asked to sacrifice that much. 

    And I met the parents, the brother, and the beautiful widow of John Hallet.  I had the privilege of meeting this family when I attended the memorial service at Fort Lewis in Washington State.  John served in a Stryker Brigade that was among the hardest hit in Afghanistan.  He left behind a wife, two young sons, and an infant daughter who he never got to meet -- but who I hope will grow up with the pride in her father filling part of the void that’s left by his loss. 

    Each of the Gold Star families embodies, in the words of John Milton, “Those also serve who only stand and wait.”  Many of you in this amphitheater here today have stood and waited, relieved -- as Jill and I were -- at the return of a loved one, in our case our son from a year in Iraq.  Many of you are now waiting, with family members still overseas, many in harm’s way.  And some of you have stood and waited for a loved one that did not return and live now with the knowledge that your will one day be reunited with him, with our heavenly Father.

    To those who have lost a loved one in the service of our nation, I recall a famous headstone in Ireland.  And the headstone reads as follows, “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal.  Love leaves a memory no one can steal.”  No one can steal the memory from you.  I can tell you from my own personal experience that eventually the pain and heartache you now feel will eventually, God-willing, be replaced by the joyful memory of the son or daughter or husband and wife or father or mother that you loved so dearly and lost.  Jill and my prayer for you is that that day will come sooner rather than later.  But it will come, I promise you.    

    Vice President Biden Lays a Wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington

    Vice President Joe Biden lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, May 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden Visit with Families in Arlington

    Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden visit with families in section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, May 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Vice President Biden Speaks with a Child in Arlington

    Vice President Joe Biden talks to a family in section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, May 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Vice President Biden Greets Gold Star Families at Breakfast in the White House

    Vice President Joe Biden greets Gold Star Families during a breakfast in the State Dining room at the White House, May 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

  • Ahead of Memorial Day, the President asks all Americans to join him in remembering and honoring our men and women in uniform who have died in service to the country. 

  • Ed. Note: For more information on federal response resources, volunteer opportunities, and assistance for those in affected areas visit WhiteHouse.gov/Deepwater-BP-Oil-Spill.

    Below is the latest in the ongoing Administration-wide response provided by the Joint Information Center.  

    Heidi Avery is White House Deputy Homeland Security Advisor

  • In September 2009, the President announced that – for the first time in history – the White House would routinely release visitor records. Today, the White House releases visitor records that were created in February 2010. Today’s release also includes several visitor records created prior to September 16, 2009 that were requested by members of the public during April 2010 pursuant to the White House voluntary disclosure policy. This release brings the grand total of records that this White House has released to well over 350,000 records. You can view them all in our Disclosures section.

    Norm Eisen is Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform

  • Vice President Biden Speaks at Naval Academy Commencement

    Vice President Joe Biden delivers the commencement address at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, May 28, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    This afternoon the Vice President gave the commencement address at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, and spoke with awe of the tradition the graduates in the audience were becoming a part of:

    You all possess traits that Secretary Bancroft knew were necessary when he set up this Academy 165 years ago.  But you all also possess skills, talents, and capacity that are beyond -- far beyond anything -- anything Secretary Bancroft could have thought of 165 years ago.

    But notwithstanding that, you are part of a long continuum.  You're writing a new chapter in a long history of a strong tradition of this great Naval Academy.  You’re all going to be part of a fraternity that goes back 165 years and binds you together like little I have seen in my experience.  No matter how long you serve in uniform, even when you’re out of uniform, you will come across fellow Annapolis graduates, share sea stories, discuss those “Four years by the Bay” -- and know -- and know like few others in the nation can know that wherever you go there is somebody who will have your back, even though they don't know you personally.

    That’s an awesome sense of pride and patriotism.  And it’s an awesome sense of pride and patriotism that comes over you all when you sing “Navy Blue and Gold.”  It’s a feeling that few have a right to share like all of you.  This place is special, even to those of us who didn’t attend it.  This place is special.  And you’ve had a special experience that has given you a bond that’s going to last you a lifetime.  You will be amazed how tight that bond is and how long it will last.

    Vice President Biden Shakes Hands at Naval Academy Commencement

    Vice President Joe Biden greets newly commissioned Second Lieutenant Huy Truong who he mentioned during his commencement address at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, May 28, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    To be clear though, he made clear that he was in awe of the graduates on their own merits as well:

    You know, for four long years now, you’ve looked forward to this moment -- they’ve looked forward to it, as well -- to watch you walk across this stage:  Marines, aviators, SWOs, SEALs, E.O.D., submariners -- and there may be just a special bit of pride for the families of the 11 -- the 11 who will be the first Naval Academy women to serve on submarines. 

    Ladies and gentlemen, for all of you, the breadth of the assignments you’ve taken on is matched only by the depth of the skill you’ll leave this field with.  You’ve been trained by the very best.  And you leave here with an astounding capacity to lead.

    Naval Academy Graduates Take the Oath of Office

    Newly commissioned Ensigns take the Oath of Office after Vice President Joe Biden delivered the commencement address at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, May 28, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

  • Following up on his press conference discussing the BP oil spill, the President travelled to the Gulf Coast to get another first-hand look at the progress and to be briefed by those on the ground.  At the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Grande Isle, Louisiana, the President spoke to the frustration those in the local community and across America feel watching the BP oil leak:

    Understandably, the feelings of frustration and anger, the sense that any response is inadequate -- we expect that frustration and anger to continue until we actually solve this problem.  But in the meantime, we’ve got to make sure that everybody is working in concert, that everybody is moving in the same direction.  And I want everybody to know that everybody here -- at every level -- is working night and day to end this crisis. We’re considering every single idea out there, especially from folks who know these communities best.

    The President commended those in the area who have “rolled up their sleeves” to help with the clean up, saying that “we’re in this together.”  He warned that as frustrating as it is now, the clean-up will be a monumental and lengthy process, but he pledged to ensure that BP compensates those whose livelihoods have suffered and directed small business owners and others in need of help to the resources here at WhiteHouse.gov.

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    He spoke extensively of what he saw touring the tragedy this morning:

  • Today we were honored to welcome the United States Men’s Soccer Team as they finish their final preparations for the FIFA World Cup next month in South Africa. 

    After 18 games and nearly two years of work to qualify for the most watched sporting event on earth, the team was relaxed and at ease as they made their way through the White House to meet some of their biggest fans.

    The visit was part of the team’s “Send-Off Series,” which will culminate on Saturday with a match against Turkey in Philadelphia, PA.

    President Obama, President Clinton, Vice President Biden and the US World Cup Team

    President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden greet the U.S. World Cup Soccer team and former President Bill Clinton on the North Portico of the White House, May 27, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    After touring the White House, the team met the President, the Vice President, and President Clinton for a photo on the North Portico. 

    As U.S. Coach Bob Bradley said, the guys were pretty fired up: “It was a great honor for our team to visit the White House and meet President Obama, Vice President Biden and President Clinton. We are proud to be representing our country in South Africa, and there is no greater way to reinforce that message than to hear it directly from the President of the United States.”

    Vice President Biden will be representing the United States at the World Cup, including the Opening Ceremonies on June 11th and the USA’s first game against England on June 12th. The United States is also bidding to become the host country for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup, and President Clinton is the chair of the US Bid Committee.

    We have high hopes for this team, as they have already proven they can compete and win at the highest levels of international competition, most notably in last years’ Confederations Cup.  As the President said, “Everybody is going to be rooting for you. Although sometimes we don’t remember here in the United States, this is going to be the biggest world (stage) and you’re going to be representing all of us. We are incredibly proud of what you’ve done already.”

    President Obama and President Clinton Shake Hands with the US World Cup Team

    President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton greet the U.S. World Cup Soccer team on the North Portico of the White House, May 27, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Landon Donovan, the all-time leading goal scorer for the U.S., summed up the feelings of the team: “We feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend time with three of the most powerful people in the world. Their interest in the sport of soccer and, specifically, our team was inspiring. It is something I will never forget.”

    Michael Strautmanis is Chief of Staff to the Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Engagement

  • Earlier today, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner sent this email to the White House email list:

    Today I am travelling to Louisiana with President Obama to review the efforts currently underway to respond to the massive oil spill and to lend support to the region. The Administration's efforts have been relentless from Day 1, and I know the President is eager to return to the region to check up on the progress and meet with those most directly affected by this tragedy.

    Yesterday, the President briefed the press and the American people on this disaster. You can watch the video of his press conference here:

    President Obama Press Breifing on BP Oil Spill

    To give you a sense of where we are today: We have about 20,000 people in the region who are working around the clock to contain and clean up this oil, approximately 1,300 vessels are responding on site, over 11 million gallons of oil-water mix have been recovered, and over 3 million feet of boom have been deployed to the Gulf region.

    Earlier this week, the Federal Government gave BP the approval to attempt a "top kill" procedure – plugging the well with densely packed mud to prevent oil from escaping. It's too soon to tell whether this approach will be successful at reducing or eliminating the flow of oil, so we are exploring every reasonable strategy to try to stop this leak before the relief wells are finished.

    For people living in the Gulf Coast region, for Americans across the country, and for the Obama Administration, the only thing that really matters is stopping the leak, cleaning up the mess, and restoring the Gulf Coast's environment and the livelihoods of the people who live there. We will not rest until we've done just that.

    Those who are responsible will be held accountable. That includes not only the obligations BP and other responsible parties have, but also the commitment we have, as public servants, to build an effective framework for regulation that protects the American people and guards this country's natural splendor.

    In case you don't have time to watch the video from yesterday's press conference, I want to reiterate a key point the President made, because while stopping the leak remains priority #1 at the White House, it's also important to recognize the need for longer-term solutions. He said:

    Let me make one final point. More than anything else, this economic and environmental tragedy – and it's a tragedy – underscores the urgent need for this nation to develop clean, renewable sources of energy. Doing so will not only reduce threats to our environment, it will create a new, homegrown, American industry that can lead to countless new businesses and new jobs.

    Here are two important resources to keep track of the situation:

    The first is the website of the coalition of groups, led by the National Incident Commander for the BP oil spill, Admiral Thad Allen of the Coast Guard. It has a number of links to assistance for those affected by the spill and many other resources:

    http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com/

    In order to keep the Nation aware of everything its government is doing to in response to the spill, the White House has also created a web page that includes a daily report of the ongoing Administration-wide response to the Deepwater BP Oil Spill:

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/deepwater-bp-oil-spill/

    As the President also said, we are going to make sure this leak is stopped -- but our work doesn't end there. This Administration will use everything in its power to protect the safety and livelihoods of our fellow Americans in the Gulf Coast.

    Sincerely,

    Carol Browner
    Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change
     

    If you didn't get today's email from Carol Browner, you can sign up for the White House email list here.

  • Thanks for checking out the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. This week, walk step by step with the President as he signs a memorandum on fuel efficiency, meets with his economic team and Congressional leaders about Wall Street reform, delivers the commencement address at West Point, hosts the leaders of Lebanon and Liberia, plays basketball with Russian students, holds a reception for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, celebrates National Small Business Week, holds discussions with Senate, Republicans, travels to California, checks out some solar panels, talks economics with workers, welcomes NCAA Men’s Basketball Champs the Duke Blue Devils and the US World Cup Soccer Team,  gives a press conference on the BP oil spill and much more.

    Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.

     

    Friday, May 21st

    Saturday, May 22nd

    Monday, May 24th

    Tuesday, May 25th

    Wednesday, May 26th

    Thursday, May 27th

    Arun Chaudhary is the official White House videographer

  • Ed. Note: For more information on federal response resources, volunteer opportunities, and assistance for those in affected areas visit WhiteHouse.gov/Deepwater-BP-Oil-Spill.

    Below is the latest in the ongoing Administration-wide response provided by the Joint Information Center.  

    Heidi Avery is White House Deputy Homeland Security Advisor

  • Today, an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal misstates many provisions of the Affordable Care Act and fails to mention the many ways the new law will improve our health care system for small business owners and their employees. Here are the facts:

    Bringing Down Costs, Reducing the Deficit
    Without reform, health care costs will continue to crush business and government budgets. The Affordable Care Act reverses this trend. Americans buying comparable coverage to what they have today in the individual market would see premiums fall by 14 to 20 percent.  The total cost of care provided to Americans who get their insurance through the workplace could fall by as much as $3,000 a person and lower costs will make it easier for businesses to provide quality benefits to their employees. And the Congressional Budget Office has also confirmed that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the deficit by more than $100 billion by the end of the decade and lead to even greater deficit reduction in the next decade.

    Cost Reduction and Tax Credits for Small Business
    An estimated 4 million small businesses nationwide could qualify for a small business tax credit this year, which will provide a total of $40 billion in relief for small firms over the next 10 years. These tax credits are specifically targeted to the small firms that find it hardest to provide insurance to their workers. Qualifying for the credits isn’t difficult, nor does it require small business owners to fill out a long series of new forms. You can learn more about the tax credits here.

    But tax credits aren’t the only way small businesses will benefit from the Affordable Care Act. A number of reforms in the new law will bring down premiums and health care costs for all Americans. Those reforms include rewarding providers for providing high-quality care and fighting waste, fraud and abuse. The new law also gives small businesses access to Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Exchanges. Currently, small businesses pay 18 percent more in premiums and higher administrative costs than large businesses. SHOP exchanges will expand the purchasing power of small businesses and the Congressional Budget Office has confirmed that they will help drive premiums down.

    Requiring Insurance Companies to Pay Their Fair Share
    Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies will have access to millions of new customers, many of whom will receive support from the federal government to purchase private insurance. With insurance companies reaping such a substantial benefit, it’s only right for them to pay their fair share and do their part to reform and improve our health care system.  An analysis of the impact of reform legislation on insurance premiums by the Congressional Budget Office found that the impact of insurance industry fees on small firms would be “modest,” and that even after accounting for these fees, small group plans will face lower premiums to purchase health insurance coverage.

    Reporting Requirements
    Beginning in 2013, the new law includes provisions requiring new information reporting on the purchase of certain goods. Some in the business community have expressed concerns with this provision and the IRS is looking for every way to minimize any burden on businesses and avoid duplicative reporting. For example, the IRS has already indicated that transactions done with a credit or debit card will be exempt from this provision, so whenever a business uses a credit card for a purchase, there will be no reporting requirement under the new law. The IRS is working diligently to answer questions on this provision and will consider alternate approaches and continue to seek out input and comments from small businesses in the weeks and months ahead.

    The Bottom Line
    The Affordable Care Act will bring down costs and improve health care for all Americans – including small business owners and their employees. You can learn more about the benefits of the new law for small businesses by clicking here.

    Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President for Special Projects

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    Download Video: mp4 (260MB) | mp3 (26MB)

    Yesterday Mrs. Obama took the White House youth leadership and mentoring efforts on the road to Detroit, Michigan. The First Lady’s visit, in partnership with Michigan’s First Gentleman Daniel Mulhern, was designed to engage, encourage, and inspire the city’s young people. Leaders from across the country came along to encourage kids to dream big – mentors included: Governor Granholm; Cathie Black, CEO of Hearst Magazines; Susan Taylor, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, Essence Magazine and Founder, National CARES Mentoring Movement; Spike Lee, Actor and Director; and Magic Johnson, Basketball Player, to name a few.

    In her remarks at Wayne State University, Mrs. Obama discussed the potential of the city's youth:

    So our next chapter –- Detroit’s next chapter, Michigan’s next chapter, America’s next chapter –- is waiting to be written.

    And it will be written by each and every one of you, because your future, your city’s future, this country’s future will look exactly like what each of you wants it to look like. And that’s what I believe. And that’s why I am here. Young people, I am asking you to embrace that responsibility to be our future.

    Students listen to First Lady Michelle Obama during a mentoring luncheon in Detroit, Mich.

    Students listen to First Lady Michelle Obama during a mentoring luncheon at the Detroit Institute of Art in Detroit, Mich. May 26, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

    Later that day, at a mentoring luncheon, the First Lady emphasized the importance of hardwork and support:

    What we all know in our lives and through our experiences is that there’s no magic dust that is sprinkled on us that gives us success. There’s no magic to this. There are no shortcuts, there are no quick fixes. None of us was born with the knowledge that we have today, the skills or the talents that we have today. Some, maybe. You’ve got your special people that were just born crazy talented or crazy smart, but it wasn’t me, or the President, for that matter. All these folks here developed those things through hard work.

    Governor Granholm wasn’t born knowing how to run a state; probably never thought she’d be doing it. Magic Johnson didn’t know how to always -- did you always know how to dribble? (Laughter.) Maybe you did. Maybe you were one of the ones. But you didn’t always know how to run your own business, right? So, Susan Taylor’s magazine didn’t just publish itself -- Essence, one of my favorites. These achievements took effort and struggle, late nights and long hours. And all these folks practiced and practiced, and then practiced a little more, to get those promotions, to win those elections, and to hit those notes just right.

    When people doubted them, or told them they couldn’t do something, they worked a little harder. When they were scared or worried -- and let me tell you, we all have been worried that we just wouldn’t measure up -- they all found a way to keep going. When they fell short or failed -- and failure is a part of success, it’s a necessary part of success -- they didn’t let that defeat them. They let it teach them.

    And all along, they found people in their lives to guide them: parents, and grandparents, teachers, coaches, friends who believed in them, who encouraged them and refused to give up on them even when they wanted to give up on themselves.

    To have a more concrete impact on local students, the First Lady launched the White House leadership and mentoring initiative in the fall and visited Denver, Colorado in an effort to take the message nationwide. The idea isn’t just to create a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for just a few, but to encourage more adults to step up, volunteer their time, and make mentoring a lifelong habit.

  • Today marks only six days until the start of hurricane season. FEMA is working across the administration and with our state and local officials to be ready and earlier today I joined Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, NOAA Administrator Dr. Lubchenco, Bill Read of the National Hurricane Center and five FEMA regional administrators to brief President Obama about our continuing efforts.

    FEMA has been in regular contact with Governors, congressional delegations, and emergency managers in coastal states to ensure they have the tools and resources they need to prepare for, respond to, and recover from any potential hurricane impacts.

    FEMA, the states, and local governments all have important roles, but the bottom line is - we can only be as prepared as the public is prepared. The fact is FEMA is only part of the team. State, tribal and local offices, the private sector, faith-based groups, non-profits, and most importantly, the general public, all have a role to play as well.

    Families and business in coastal communities all need to take steps now to prepare for hurricane season – but because no one is immune from emergencies, you should take these steps to increase your preparedness whether you live in a hurricane-prone area or not.

    They include putting together a communications plan, getting an emergency kit, and staying informed and following the instructions of local officials. Ready.gov is a valuable source of information on preparedness, with links for business and children as well.

    FEMA also recently launched a mobile version of our website, which can be found at m.fema.gov, to give people quick access to the disaster information and tools on their smart phones.

    This season there has also been a lot of questions on the BP oil spill. Our planning has certainly involved consideration of the effects that the BP oil spill could have on the response capabilities and recovery scenarios. But, the existence of the spill does not change FEMA’s initial priority during a response, which is to support the states and do everything possible to protect lives and property. And my message to the public is – whether or not we have an oil spill, if you have a major hurricane coming, you have to listen to the advice of your state and local officials, and if they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate.

    Hurricane season officially starts June 1st. So now’s the time to get ready – get a family communications plan, put together an emergency kit, and pay attention to announcements and instructions from local officials. Being prepared will go a long way toward keeping your family safe this summer.

    For more information on how to how your family can become better prepared, visit www.ready.gov.

    Craig Fugate is the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency

  • Ed. Note: For more information on Federal response resources, volunteer opportunities, and assistance for those in affected areas, visit WhiteHouse.gov/Deepwater-BP-Oil-Spill.

    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (604MB) | mp3 (58MB)

    Watch the full video of the President’s press conference above or jump directly to the following sections by clicking the links below (questions are paraphrased):

    Earlier today, the President took questions from the press at the White House on the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  During his opening remarks, the President updated the American people on the “top kill” procedure that was approved yesterday.  This procedure attempts to plug the well with densely packed mud to reduce or stop the flow of oil.  It’s still too soon to tell if the procedure will work.

    The President also clarified the role the Federal Government has played in the response since Day 1: 

    The American people should know that from the moment this disaster began, the federal government has been in charge of the response effort.  As far as I’m concerned, BP is responsible for this horrific disaster, and we will hold them fully accountable on behalf of the United States as well as the people and communities victimized by this tragedy.  We will demand that they pay every dime they owe for the damage they’ve done and the painful losses that they’ve caused.  And we will continue to take full advantage of the unique technology and expertise they have to help stop this leak. 

    But make no mistake:  BP is operating at our direction.  Every key decision and action they take must be approved by us in advance.  I’ve designated Admiral Thad Allen – who has nearly four decades of experience responding to such disasters – as the National Incident Commander, and if he orders BP to do something to respond to this disaster, they are legally bound to do it.  So, for example, when they said they would drill one relief well to stem this leak we demanded a backup and ordered them to drill two.  And they are in the process of drilling two. 

    The President emphasized that the government would do everything in it’s power to stop the leak and clean up the mess and was employing the best and brightest minds from around the country to solve this problem.  In addition to cleaning up the oil, the Administration is also focused on restoring the livelihoods of families who rely on the Gulf to make a living

    We’re also doing whatever it takes to help the men and women whose livelihoods have been disrupted and even destroyed by this spill -– everyone from fishermen to restaurant and hotel owners. So far the Small Business Administration has approved loans and allowed many small businesses to defer existing loan payments.  At our insistence, BP is paying economic injury claims, and we’ll make sure that when all is said and done, the victims of this disaster will get the relief that they are owed.  We’re not going to abandon our fellow citizens.  We’ll help them recover and we will help them rebuild. 

    The President Takes a Question on the BP Oil Spill Response

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks and takes questions from the press in the East Room of the White House, May 27, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    To ensure that a spill of this magnitude never happens again, President Obama outlined immediate steps the Department of the Interior will take to reform the Minerals Management Service, which is responsible for issuing drilling leases and regulating oil facilities:

    Additionally, after reading the report’s recommendations with Secretary Salazar and other members of my administration, we’re going to be ordering the following actions:  First, we will suspend the planned exploration of two locations off the coast of Alaska.  Second, we will cancel the pending lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico and the proposed lease sale off the coast of Virginia.  Third, we will continue the existing moratorium and suspend the issuance of new permits to drill new deepwater wells for six months.  And four, we will suspend action on 33 deepwater exploratory wells currently being drilled in the Gulf of Mexico.

    The President also made the broader point that this tragedy should serve as a “wake-up call” for Americans that our dependence on oil is not sustainable.  Focusing our resources on renewable energy will not only protect our environment, but “it will it will create a new, homegrown, American industry that can lead to countless new businesses and new jobs.”

    President Obama is scheduled to make his second trip to the Gulf Coast region tomorrow.  

    The President Takes Questions on the BP Oil Spill, Backstage View

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks and takes questions from the press in the East Room of the White House, May 27, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

     

     

  • Yesterday, Vice President Biden held a Middle Class Task Force roundtable with small business employers and employees who are participating in highly successful jobs programs around the country.  These state programs, funded through part of the Recovery Act, give employers a strong incentive to hire by paying for part of a new employee’s wages.  These jobs programs are now up and running in 31 different states, and according to the most recent study, the programs will have placed 186,000 workers in jobs by the end of September.

    We heard today about just how effective these subsidies have been.  We had small business owners from Florida and New York telling us about how they have grown their businesses by bringing on new workers and training them.  And we heard from some of those workers, who told us about the difference these programs have made in their lives by ending tough spells of unemployment and putting their careers back on track.

    We’ve heard stories like these from all over the country.  As the economy has started turning around, small business owners are starting to think about expanding, but often they’re not sure they can afford the cost of training new workers.  By helping cover the cost of new employees in those crucial first months, these subsidized jobs programs are allowing businesses to finally start putting unemployed workers back on the job.

    Unfortunately, the funding for these jobs programs will expire at the end of September unless Congress passes an extension, which is under debate right now.  This Administration is continuing to push Congress to extend these programs, but stories like the ones the Vice President heard today really demonstrate the importance of that extension.  These programs are creating jobs that are making a real difference in the lives of workers – both unemployed workers who are struggling not to fall out of the middle class, and those who aspire to work their way into the middle class for the first time. 

    To learn more about these subsidized jobs programs, including all the jobs they’re creating right now and why it’s so important that Congress continues them for another year, take a look at this Middle Class Task Force white paper (pdf).

    Tobin Marcus is the Deputy Economic Policy Advisor in the Office of the Vice President

  • Download Video: mp4 (243MB) | mp3 (23MB)

    As we continue to tackle our nation’s great challenges, we know that many of the best, most lasting solutions are already being developed in communities across the country.  Local answers to our national challenges originate everywhere.
     
    The best solutions are often driven by everyday Americans who are having an impact but need capital to improve their results, grow, and replicate their solutions so that they can serve more communities.  Solutions like, for example, the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC).  LAYC has grown from a small grassroots recreation center to a nationally recognized organization serving low-income youth and families across the District of Columbia and in Maryland.   Every day LAYC works with vulnerable young people and their families to improve academic achievement and build stronger, healthier lives.    We know that government must partner with philanthropists and the private sector to support – not supplant – solutions like LAYC and others that are being developed in communities across the nation. 

    One year ago, at the Time 100 Awards, the First Lady announced the creation of a new $50 million Social Innovation Fund (SIF), which is part of the President’s commitment to invest in results-oriented solutions around the country.  On June 30th, 2009, at an event at the White House, the President also called on our nation's foundations to partner with the Administration to invest in solutions that have the potential to grow and address the needs of more communities across the country.

    Today, we highlighted the initial round of commitments from philanthropists to match the Social Innovation Fund and make other investments in innovative community solutions.  In addition, an independent coalition of more than 20 of the nation’s leading national and regional funders have created the “Scaling What Works” initiative, a complementary set of investments led by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) to extend the reach and impact of the Social Innovation Fund and similar efforts to help high-impact nonprofits succeed. The Council on Foundations also released a letter signed by more than 130 heads of community foundations from across the country that signaled their support for the Social Innovation Fund and the Administration’s agenda to investment in community solutions.
       
    Today’s event shows how the government is doing business differently: finding solutions outside of Washington, DC; investing in innovations that can have a big impact and have the potential to grow; and partnering with the private, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors to address the toughest problems we face. 

    These efforts are just the beginning of how we seek to turn community solutions into national solutions.

    First Lady at Social Innovation Event

    First Lady Michelle Obama and Corporation for National and Community Service CEO Patrick Corvington announce the initial phase of philanthropic commitments to match Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grants at an event in the South Court Auditorium of the White House, May 27, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

    Melody Barnes is Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council

     

  • The President’s highest priority is always to keep the American people safe. Today the Administration is releasing the National Security Strategy that lays out a strategic approach for advancing American interests, including the security of the American people, a growing U.S. economy, support for our values, and an international order that can address 21st century challenges.

    The National Security Strategy is guided by a clear understanding of our increasingly interconnected world where the free flow of information, people and goods continues to accelerate at an unprecedented pace promising new opportunities while simultaneously posing challenges that no longer recognize borders: global networks of terrorists and criminals, threats in space and cyberspace, a degrading climate, and technologies with tremendous destructive power. The response systems and international architecture of the 20th century, designed for another time, are buckling under the weight of these new threats. Currently, these realities describe the world as it is.

    Throughout American history, we have risen to such moments of transition and faced new challenges head on to help shape a world of greater security and prosperity. The National Security Strategy is a blueprint for pursuing the world that we seek by outlining a strategy to rebuild our foundations, promote a just and sustainable international order, strengthen and integrate national capabilities, all while advancing American interests, security, prosperities, and universal values.

    From ensuring strong alliances, which are the foundation of U.S., regional and global security, to leveraging American leadership to encourage sustained international cooperation to address global issues, America has the tools to face the national security challenges of the 21st century while holding true to the universal values our nation has stood for since its founding.

    Join Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication, for a live online video discussion about the National Security Strategy today at 3:00 PM EDT via Facebook.

  • Ed. Note: For more information on federal response resources, volunteer opportunities, and assistance for those in affected areas visit WhiteHouse.gov/Deepwater-BP-Oil-Spill.

    Below is the latest in the ongoing Administration-wide response provided by the Joint Information Center.  

    Heidi Avery is White House Deputy Homeland Security Advisor

    ****************
    The Ongoing Administration-Wide Response to the Deepwater BP Oil Spill
    Prepared by the Joint Information Center
    UPDATED May 26, 2010 7 PM
     

    In the Past 24 Hours

    Admiral Landry Approves BP’s “Top Kill” Technique; Procedure Begins
    Federal On-Scene Coordinator Rear Admiral Mary Landry, acting on the validation of government scientists and in consultation with the National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen, has granted approval for BP to begin proceeding with their attempt to cap the well using the technique known as the “top kill.”

    This expedited step provides the final authorization necessary to begin the procedure. BP began the procedure in the early afternoon.

    Research Vessel Expands its Response Mission
    The NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter, currently conducting sampling in the Gulf, will expand its mission to use its sophisticated sonar equipment and other scientific instruments to help define the plume near the Deepwater BP oil spill site and adjacent area. The mission is a collaborative project among NOAA, academia and the private sector.
               
    Previously conducting plankton sampling in the south Gulf important to establish baseline conditions related to the oil spill, Gordon Gunter will begin additional work using its multibeam sonar than can scan subsurface features. Also aboard is a graduated net used for sampling at different depths. The 224-foot Gordon Gunter will conduct observations for fisheries, water, and acoustics sampling in the oil spill area and to the south.

    Scientists Collaborate to Assess Unprecedented Usage of Dispersants
    Interagency response partners are working with the Coastal Response Research Center, a partnership between NOAA and the University of New Hampshire, to bring leading scientists, practitioners, and representatives from federal and state governmental agencies and nongovernmental organizations together to address key questions arising from the unprecedented use of chemical dispersants in response to the BP oil spill.

    Health Impact Surveillance Continues
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conducting surveillance in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Florida to detect any potential health effects related to the oil spill using established national surveillance systems, including the National Poison Data System (NPDS) and BioSense to track respiratory, vascular, and dermal issues.

    CDC is also coordinating and clarifying procedures and case definitions for FDA and states to use with surveillance systems in detecting illnesses associated with consumption of oil contaminated products.

    NIEHS Provides Support to Oil Spill Response Worker Training Efforts
    The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Worker Education Training Program Emergency Support Activation Plan is augmenting the instructor resource pool with additional hazardous material trainers from the NIEHS network. NIEHS continues to work with BP’s training contractors to provide continuous improvement to developed curricula to support the protection of workers.

    Successful Controlled Burn
    Favorable weather conditions allowed responders to conduct a successful controlled burn operation. As part of a coordinated response that combines tactics deployed above water, below water, offshore, and close to coastal areas, controlled burns efficiently remove oil from the open water in an effort to protect shoreline and wildlife.

    By the Numbers to Date:

    • Personnel were quickly deployed and more than 20,000 are currently responding to protect the shoreline and wildlife.
    • Approximately 1,300 vessels are responding on site, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels to assist in containment and cleanup efforts—in addition to dozens of aircraft, remotely operated vehicles, and multiple mobile offshore drilling units.
    • More than 1.85 million feet of containment boom and 1.25 million feet of sorbent boom have been deployed to contain the spill—and approximately 300,000 feet of containment boom and 1 million feet of sorbent boom are available.
    • Approximately 11 million gallons of an oil-water mix have been recovered.
    • Approximately 840,000 gallons of total dispersant have been deployed—700,000 on the surface and 140,000 subsea. More than 380,000 gallons are available.
    • 17 staging areas are in place and ready to protect sensitive shorelines, including: Dauphin Island, Ala., Orange Beach, Ala., Theodore, Ala., Panama City, Fla., Pensacola, Fla.,  Port St. Joe, Fla., St. Marks, Fla.,  Amelia, La., Cocodrie, La., Grand Isle, La., Shell Beach, La., Slidell, La., St. Mary, La.; Venice, La., Biloxi, Miss., Pascagoula, Miss., and Pass Christian, Miss.

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