Read all posts from June 2010

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (69MB) | mp3 (7MB)

    Earlier today President Obama met with BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg and other BP in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.  They discussed the ongoing efforts to stop the oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico and BP’s responsibility not only to pay for the cost of the cleanup of the oil spill, but also to compensate residents and businesses that have suffered financially as a result of the oil spill. 

    In his remarks after the meeting, the President announced that BP has agreed to set aside $20 billion to pay economic damage claims to people and businesses that have been affected by the oil spill:

    This $20 billion will provide substantial assurance that the claims people and businesses have will be honored.  It’s also important to emphasize this is not a cap.  The people of the Gulf have my commitment that BP will meet its obligations to them.  BP has publicly pledged to make good on the claims that it owes to the people in the Gulf, and so the agreement we reached sets up a financial and legal framework to do it. 

    Another important element is that this $20 billion fund will not be controlled by either BP or by the government.  It will be put in a escrow account, administered by an impartial, independent third party.  So if you or your business has suffered an economic loss as a result of this spill, you’ll be eligible to file a claim for part of this $20 billion.  This fund does not supersede either individuals’ rights or states’ rights to present claims in court.  BP will also continue to be liable for the environmental disaster it has caused, and we’re going to continue to work to make sure that they address it.

    BP and the Administration agreed to appoint Ken Feinberg, who administered the claims process for victims of 9/11, to run the independent claims process. 

    Calling this agreement "an important step towards making the people of the Gulf Coast whole again," the President reiterated the importance of keeping the families and businesses of the Gulf Coast, many of whom are still recovering from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, at the forefront of the oil spill recovery process.

    During a private conversation with Chairman Svanberg I emphasized to him that for the families that I met with down in the Gulf, for the small business owners, for the fishermen, for the shrimpers, this is not just a matter of dollars and cents; that a lot of these folks don’t have a cushion.  They were coming off Rita and Katrina; coming off the worst economy that this country has seen since the Great Depression, and this season was going to be the season where they were going to be bouncing back.  Not only that, but this happened, from their perspective, at the worst possible time, because they’re making their entire income for the year in the three or four months during which folks can take their boats out, people are coming down for tourism. 

    And so I emphasized to the chairman that when he’s talking to shareholders, when he is in meetings in his boardroom, to keep in mind those individuals; that they are desperate; that some of them, if they don’t get relief quickly, may lose businesses that have been in their families for two or three generations.  And the chairman assured me that he would keep them in mind.

    That’s going to be the standard by which I measure BP’s responsiveness.  I think today was a good start, and it should provide some assurance to some of the small business owners and individuals down in the Gulf who I was visiting with that BP is going to meet its responsibilities.  But I indicated to the chairman that, throughout this process, as we work to make sure that the Gulf is made whole once again, that the standard I’m going to be applying is whether or not those individuals I met with, their family members, those communities that are vulnerable, whether they are uppermost in the minds of all concerned.  That’s who we’re doing this work for.

    Learn more about the claims process and escrow account here.  

    President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with BP executives in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, June 16, 2010, to discuss the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Pictured, from left, are BP CEO Tony Hayward, BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP General Counsel Rupert Bondy, BP Managing Director Robert Dudley, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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  • In the Citizens United decision this January, the Supreme Court overturned decades of law that had barred corporations from using their financial clout to directly interfere with U.S. elections.  The decision was a major victory for special interests in Washington because it opened the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest expenditures to drown out the voices of ordinary Americans.  The President has consistently criticized this decision, and has asked Congress to take swift action on the DISCLOSE Act, the strong, bipartisan legislation that would establish the toughest-ever requirements for election-related spending by big oil corporations, Wall Street and other special interests.

    Just yesterday, the DISCLOSE Act received a strong endorsement from five groups who champion transparency and accountability in government:  the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, and Public Citizen. They support this bill because they know that it’s an important step toward restoring our government to its rightful owners: the American people.   The DISCLOSE Act will prevent corporations and special interests from hiding behind phony names like “Citizens for a Better Future” by ensuring that the American people can see who is actually trying to buy influence in our elections.  As the President has said, in this country every organization has a right to make its voice heard -- but the problem comes when “Citizens for a Better Future” is actually funded entirely by “Corporations for Weaker Oversight.”  The American people deserve to know exactly who is spending that money trying to influence their vote.  The bill will also combat spending by foreign-owned interests in our elections, fight pay-for-play practices by government contractors and otherwise enact strong measures to protect the public interest. 

    Inaction on the DISCLOSE Act is simply not an option.  This bill will ensure that corporations who participate in American elections are held accountable to the American people.  President Obama is wholly committed to accountability and transparency in government; he has taken unprecedented steps to curb the influence of lobbyists by closing the revolving door and imposing tough lobbyist disclosure rules on Recovery Act funding.  He has made the White House visitor records public so that everyone can see who comes to the White House to do business.  He has imposed tougher ethics standards on this Administration than any in history.  The DISCLOSE Act is another crucial step toward ensuring that the American government works for the American people, and it is critical that Congress pass this legislation.

    Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director

  • Immediately following President Obama’s address in the Oval Office, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs took questions from the American people about the BP Oil Spill. Questions were submitted throughout the day on YouTube.com/WhiteHouse in one of four categories, and Robert Gibbs answered some of the most popular questions from each category.

    Download Video: mp4 (730MB) | mp3 (24MB)
     

    There were thousands of questions submitted yesterday via YouTube.com/WhiteHouse, and unfortunately we couldn’t get to them all during the chat.  We’ll be answering more of your questions throughout the week right here on the White House blog so be sure to check back. 
     

  • I'm excited to announce that on Tuesday, June 22, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) will release the nation’s first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness titled "Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness". The Council is an independent agency composed of 19 Cabinet Secretaries and agency heads that coordinates the federal response to homelessness. "Opening Doors" will serve as a roadmap for joint action by Council agencies to guide the development of programs and budget proposals towards a set of measurable targets.

    Each night, 640,000 men, women, and children in the United States are without housing. The HEARTH Act , signed into law by President Obama in May 2009, mandated that USICH produce a “national strategic plan” to end homelessness to Congress.  Beginning in January 2010, USICH held regional stakeholder meetings, organized federal working groups focused on specific populations, solicited public comment through an interactive website, and engaged experts from across the country to develop an action plan to solve homelessness for veterans, adults, families, youth, and children.

    We will be announcing the historic plan at the White House at 9:00 AM EDT with four Cabinet Secretaries: HUD Secretary and USICH Chair Shaun Donovan, Labor Secretary and USICH Vice Chair Hilda Solis, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. We welcome the country to join us during the announcement, by watching it live on WhiteHouse.gov/live. "Opening Doors" will be available at www.usich.gov and www.hud.gov.

    USICH is eager to share "Opening Doors" with communities across the country. After we release the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, the real challenge will be implementation. While by name it is a federal plan, the federal role is meant to be collaborative. USICH and its 19 member agencies looks forward to working together with Congress, mayors, legislatures, advocates, providers, nonprofits, faith-based and community organizations, and business and philanthropic leaders to achieve the vision of Opening Doors: “No one should experience homelessness -- no one should be without a safe, stable place to call home.”

    Barbara Poppe is Executive Director of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness

  • Ed. Note: Moments after the speech concluded, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs took questions submitted and voted on by the American public, see the full video of that  broken down by question as well.

    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (477MB) | mp3 (16MB)

    Having just returned from his fourth trip to the Gulf Region, the President addressed the American people for the first time from the Oval Office.  He focused on the government's ongoing all-out response to the immediate crisis, the steps being taken to make sure such a crisis does not happen again, and the longer term crisis of America’s reliance on fossil fuels.   And for the Gulf Region in particular, which has gone through the toughest of times in recent years, he announced that he has tasked Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy and a former governor of Mississippi, with developing a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan as soon as possible in conjunction with states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists, and other Gulf residents.