Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs en route Grand Rapids, Michigan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Grand Rapids, Michigan
12:24 P.M. EDT
Q Did you talk to the President about last night’s meeting with House Democratic leaders?
MR. GIBBS: I talked to him briefly about it. He said the meeting was quite productive -- I think that was the readout as well from the Speaker and the House leadership in helping to coordinate the agenda that the Democrats would pursue going forward.
Look, I think we’ve got an important vote in the Senate today on financial reform. We’ve got some upcoming battles in the next few days on extending unemployment benefits to those who desperately need them. And there will be a whole host of issues that we deal with as well economically when we come back from the August break, and they spent a lot of time talking about all that.
Q The meeting wasn’t contentious at all?
MR. GIBBS: That was --- I think that was described by both parties as not being contentious.
Q Does the President feel like any of the criticism that some of the House Dems had about his engagement was warranted?
MR. GIBBS: Guys, we’ve spent a lot of time on this subject this week. I think they had a productive meeting, and I think we’ve probably talked a lot about it.
I will say this. As I said yesterday, the House and the Senate have done a lot of work over the past two years in advancing an agenda that they can be proud of and that the American people can be proud will pay dividends in our economic recovery.
Q Did he lay out anything specific, though, in terms of how he’s going to be more engaged going forward?
MR. GIBBS: I'm not going to -- I think I passed on that a minute ago. But I appreciate it.
Q Can I ask a question switching topics? In his meeting with Cameron next week, will he seek to clarify exactly what role BP played in the release of the Lockerbie bomber?
MR. GIBBS: Let me check on that with NSC. I saw some stuff on that, but let me get a better or longer answer on that.
Q And then another quick question --
MR. GIBBS: Let me just say quickly on BP, I know that overnight there were problems with leaking oil out of the choke line and the sealing cap. That was remedied this morning, and the pressurization tests that we signed off on beginning -- will begin in the next few hours. They may have begun while we were on this plane.
They will last about six hours in duration and take about a 48 -- be testing over about a 48-hour period of time in order to pass the, as I described yesterday, the integrity of the well through that pressurization.
I think it’s important to underscore that even as -- this testing will help determine what possible steps this blowout preventer and well -- how we can use this blowout preventer and well for what essentially is a top kill procedure and its ability to assist in the relief well through that closure.
But at the same time, none of this testing affects the containment architecture that we have on there now that will over the course of the next few days ramp up to a containment capacity of 60,000 to 80,000 barrels of oil a day. And I think that’s an important point to make.
Q Sorry, my only other question was whether you had any response to this Iranian scientist’s claims that the U.S. paid him $50 million to stay?
MR. GIBBS: I’m not going to get into intelligence matters.
Q Are we going to hear anything from the President on financial reg after the vote today?
MR. GIBBS: That is very likely when we get back to the White House if the vote goes off as is planned. We will -- I will have an update for you guys on that hopefully before we depart back in Grand Rapids.
Q Is he going to renew his push for $5 billion in tax credits?
MR. GIBBS: Today?
MR. GIBBS: Well, through the 48C program, I know that Capitol Hill is working on an extension of clean energy tax credits. Today I think the President will focus on what we’ve talked about a bunch in the past couple days, and that is the investments in the Recovery Act that have created the type of battery-manufacturing facilities that the President is here to break ground on.
Significant -- this is a location that was already scheduled to build battery packs for the Chevy Volt. And a couple of days ago, Ford announced that its electric Ford Focus, the batteries will also be produced here. So you can see there’s an increase in the demand for this type of battery technology as more and more auto manufacturers plan for and roll out models that will need this type of technology.
Q Do you have any quick comment to the fact that the Senate appears to have voted to overcome this procedural hold?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, obviously, in this era, something has to pass cloture before it can pass the Senate -- in somewhat of a departure in how the place normally works. But such as it is, I think the vote demonstrates -- first of all, I would say the President is appreciative of Democrats and Republicans that have stood together to put in place the strongest rules in the road that will -- going forward to prevent the type of financial calamity that we had just two years ago.
We look forward to the Senate taking the next step later today to pass financial reform. And I know the President looks forward to signing that bill as soon as possible. It is a big step forward, and it is part of the President’s financial -- I’m sorry, economic recovery plan. We talked about this at the very beginning of the administration. We cannot continue to operate using the same rules that got us into this mess. And I think this will be a vote that Democrats will talk about through November as a way of highlighting the choice that people will get to make in 2010.
Q What about the signing ceremony? Do you have any plans at this point for that?
MR. GIBBS: We were talking a little bit about that just briefly before we left, but we will -- I’ll try to get an update on that before we go.
Q Early in the week? Is that --
MR. GIBBS: My sense is with Cameron and such in town on Tuesday, it’s -- if it’s next week, it would probably be a little bit later in the week. But I will check on whether there’s any clarity on that before we lift off. Like I said, I’ll get some information on timing for a statement when we get back.
12:32 P.M. EDT