Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz en route Joint Base Andrews, 7/30/14
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Joint Base Andrews
1:47 P.M. CDT
MR. SCHULTZ: Welcome aboard. I have no announcements, so I’m happy to take your questions.
Q We saw the statement condemning the attack on the school, the U.N. school. Can you say whether the White House feels like Israel is doing enough to prevent civilian casualties?
MR. SCHULTZ: Thank you, Nedra. As you know, the United States does condemn the shelling of a U.N. school in Gaza which reportedly killed and injured innocent Palestinians, including children and U.N. humanitarian workers.
We are extremely concerned that the thousands of internally displaced Palestinians, who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes, are not safe in these U.N.-designated shelters in Gaza. We also condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in the United Nations facilities in Gaza. All of these actions violate the international understanding of the U.N.’s neutrality.
As you know, we first and foremost believe in Israel’s government -- in the Israeli government’s right to and obligation to defend their citizens. They’ve chosen to take military action to provide for that protection. But as you also note, we’ve been very clear that Israel needs to do more to live up to its own standards to limit the civilian casualties.
Q Eric, has there been any response from Israel? Have they taken responsibility for it? Have they expressed regret?
MR. SCHULTZ: I understand, Roger, that the U.N. has put out a statement on its views. But from our vantage point, we just want to underscore the importance of a full, prompt and thorough investigation.
Q If the Israelis ask for any sort of ammunition to resupply, would the President be willing to authorize any sort of ammunition that we have available for Israelis in Israel?
MR. SCHULTZ: I don’t have anything for you on that. I do know that we -- part of our commitment to working with the state of Israel is the significant resources we’ve done on the Iron Dome to help Israel protect its citizens. Obviously, there’s an additional request pending in front of Congress, and we hope they move on that.
Q Eric, on another subject -- on Russia. It said its Central Bank today would help Russian banks counter the effect of the targeted sanctions imposed by the U.S. and EU. Is there any concern out of the White House that it would have that effect? That is to say, reduce the impact?
MR. SCHULTZ: I think our focus right now is on the major significant sanctions regime that was announced yesterday by both the Europeans and the United States. We’ve already seen a significant impact on the Russian economy, on the sanctions that had been in place heretofore. And I think we are just going to let the announcements from yesterday sink in, see what impact they have, and see if they cause President Putin to rethink his strategy.
Q Well, if the Central Bank is going to help them out and subsidize them, that would have some effect, wouldn’t it?
MR. SCHULTZ: Roger, I’m a lot of things; an economist is not one of them. So I’m going to let others assess that.
Q On Russia -- Russia has said that the complaint that -- the U.S. complaint that it violated the INF Treaty was unfounded and said that it believes that the U.S. production of armed drones are, in fact, violating that treaty. I’m wondering what the White House response is to that, to both those points that Russia has made.
MR. SCHULTZ: Sure. I don’t have anything to add to what my colleague so eloquently and articulately, Josh Earnest, explained a few days ago on this. I’m just not -- because of the nature of the circumstances, I’m not in a public position to respond.
Q What about a specific complaint that the production of armed drones are violating the treaty? Can you knock that down, or respond to that in any way?
MR. SCHULTZ: I haven’t seen that report, but I’m not sure that’s going to withstand scrutiny.
Q Eric, the President attacked Republicans today for using taxpayer dollars to launch a political attack on him. How is that different from him using taxpayer dollars to fly here to Missouri and to attack the Republicans?
MR. SCHULTZ: Sure. Well, let’s talk about what the President did here in Missouri. And I appreciate that opportunity. As you know, last night he met with four letter writers who have written him letters. He receives 10 letters a night -- that’s out of the thousands that the White House receives from average folks around the country who share with him the economic -- well, who share with him lots of things, amongst them the challenges that they face.
The President got an opportunity to speak yesterday with folks about the economic challenges that they face every day, the opportunities that they see before him. And that is really what drives the President when he’s back in Washington every single day. And so that is why I think you see him working to raise the minimum wage, help alleviate the burden of college tuition these days, close the gender pay gap, and really do everything possible to create and expand economic opportunity and create jobs.
That’s what the President did here in Kansas City. It is also worth noting the contrast with what Republicans are doing back in Washington. They’re actually not doing anything to raise the minimum wage. They’re not doing anything to close the gender pay gap. They’re not doing anything to make college more affordable. They’re not doing anything to cut carbon pollution. What they’re doing right now is suing the President for doing his job and exercising his executive authority.
They’re not only suing him for doing his job, they are doing it on behalf of the taxpayers. Previous lawsuits against the President have cost upwards of millions of dollars. And I think that’s the contrast the President was trying to make here in Kansas City.
Q Just one other small question related to his comments today. He suggested some dissatisfaction with the level of commitment to women on U.S. currency. Will he be actually doing anything tangible to think about ways to promote women on currency?
MR. SCHULTZ: I did hear those comments, Zack. I don’t have anything to report to you on the faces on our currency right now.
Q The President also talked about the agenda items that Congress has left to do in this next, like, 36 hours while they’re in town. Is the administration actively working with Democrats and Republicans in Congress to try to get this transportation bill done, other things -- the border bill?
MR. SCHULTZ: Yes. The short answer is yes. These are major priorities for the President both on the Highway Transportation Trust Fund. As you know, we’ve talked a lot about infrastructure and long-term funding. Obviously, there’s a patch that needs get through, needs to get approved. We need -- Congress should be fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities to do that in the next few days along with the supplemental on the border spending and along with the VA accountability improvements.
Q Which I think is supposed to pass at three. So something will happen today.
MR. SCHULTZ: We are very optimistic.
Q But on the border supplemental, the House has proposed something that’s approximately, like -- I don’t do math -- but very short of what the White House is asking for with the things that I think the White House didn’t want. How does the President feel about that? Where does that go from here? Or does it hit a dead end in the next 36 hours?
MR. SCHULTZ: You might not be good at math, but we can assure you that this bill would make the problem worse, and there’s a couple of reasons for that. If this bill were to become law, young children who cannot defend themselves could be deported without adequate due process. The bill would undercut public safety by creating a backlog that will ultimately require a shift in resources away from deporting known criminals.
The situation on the border is a reminder that our immigration system is broken. And after blocking a bipartisan bill to comprehensively fix our broken immigration system for over a year, House Republicans have once again shown zero interest in being part of the solution. All the while, they’ve booked themselves on cable television talking about the urgency of the situation.
Q So you’re saying that the President would not sign that if it ever made it to him?
MR. SCHULTZ: I’m telling you that, again, as my colleague Josh Earnest so eloquently articulated yesterday, we have serious objections with that bill.
Q Eric, a housekeeping question. The President is going to HUD tomorrow for remarks. What’s that about?
MR. SCHULTZ: Sure. I think -- I don’t have any news to preview on that at this time. I can tell you that we are pleased that the Senate confirmed the President’s HUD nominee. I know that Secretary Castro is looking forward to getting to work and that there’s a lot of business to be done on that front.
Q Is that what the remarks are about tomorrow?
MR. SCHULTZ: I don’t have remarks to preview for you right now.
Q Will there be news tomorrow at HUD on that?
MR. SCHULTZ: Again, I don’t have anything to preview for you right now.
Q Eric, did the President’s frustration that he was expressing with Congress today, I mean, does that extend to the Democratic-controlled Senate as well as the House? For instance, the Senate hasn’t really run with his tax inversion idea. Is he frustrated with the Democratic-controlled Senate?
MR. SCHULTZ: Nedra, I think there has been some movement on the inversions piece, both in the Senate and in the House. We encourage that process. We want them to move on that faster. I know the Senate has taken action on a supplemental that would do a lot more to address the problem at the border. So we actually do see some progress on that front.
Q Is the President being briefed on the Ebola outbreak in Africa? And will it be addressed at the Africa summit and/or alter the Africa summit in any way?
MR. SCHULTZ: Yes, we continue -- well, no, it will not alter the summit, but we do continue to monitor the outbreak of the Ebola virus in Guinea, in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria closely. The President is indeed receiving regular updates, including speaking with his Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor Lisa Monaco as early as yesterday before departing Washington.
The U.S. government, including the Departments of State, Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control, USAID and the Department of Defense, continue to provide a range of support and assistance to those countries and multinational organizations responding to the outbreak.
This includes the provision of personal protective equipment and other essential supplies, public health messaging and technical expertise. We’ve actually been engaged in this outbreak since March. Obviously, our response has been ratcheted up in the past few weeks.
Q Is he aware of the two Americans who have contracted the disease?
MR. SCHULTZ: Yes. And as the CDC has said, this is not a risk to the United States at this time.
Q I want to ask about that. Is the White House at all worried, though? I mean, the U.K. expressed today concern about the spread of the disease. How worried is the White House and the administration that the virus could make its way to the United States?
MR. SCHULTZ: Roberta, as I said, we are aware of the reports that U.S. citizens have been diagnosed with the virus. We have no higher priority than the protection of U.S. citizens overseas. But again, as the CDC has stated, there’s no significant risk to the United States.
In terms of the summit, I would tell you that we’re working closely with regional governments to stem the spread of the virus. We have no plans to change any elements of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, as we believe all air travel continues to be safe here.
Q Do you know if all the leaders are still going to come? Or will some of them be forced to stay back because of the severity of the situation?
MR. SCHULTZ: Again, I’m responsible for a lot of things; the travel of African leaders is not one of them. So I’d encourage you to check in with them.
Q Any response to the 4 percent growth in the GDP, but in the surprising upward tick in the numbers?
MR. SCHULTZ: Sure. We believe that this is the latest indication of a strengthening economy. Today’s report found that GDP increased 4 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter of 2014. This strong growth is consistent with the recent further improvements in the labor market and other indicators.
As the President said today, though, there’s a lot more work to be doing. That's why we find it unfortunate that the House of Representatives is not focused on creating jobs or growing the economy, but rather on a taxpayer-funded lawsuit aimed at the President for doing his job.
Q House Republicans today announced a new slate of measures that they say are targeted at women and families and the economy. Does the President have any -- have you guys seen anything about that or have any reaction? It was happening during the speech.
MR. SCHULTZ: Yes, I haven’t seen those reports. I’m happy to take a look at them.
Thank you, guys.
2:01 P.M. CDT