Full Text Obama Presidency October 7, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at FEMA Headquarters about the Government Shutdown

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at FEMA Headquarters

Source: WH, 10-7-13

President Obama Delivers Remarks at FEMA Headquarters

President Obama Delivers Remarks at FEMA Headquarters

FEMA Headquarters
Washington, D.C.

12:30 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m here at FEMA for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I want to thank Craig Fugate and his entire team, and the incredible workers who are here at FEMA.  They are having to, under less than optimal situations, still respond to Mother Nature, which doesn’t stop just because the government has shut down.

I wanted to get initially a briefing on what had happened with Hurricane Karen, became Tropical Karen, and then fortunately dissipated, so we dodged a bullet there.  In the meantime, we’re on tornado watch here in the Mid-Atlantic states because of severe weather patterns.  And we’ve got blizzards up north, we’ve got some weather patterns in the middle of the country that we’re still monitoring.  And so I just want to say thank you to all of you for the incredible work that you’re doing.

I think it’s important to understand that the people here at FEMA have been doing everything they can to respond to potential events.  Here at FEMA, they’re in touch with their state and local partners in case resources are needed.  FEMA remains prepared for natural disasters year around, with supplies pre-positioned in distribution centers across the country.

But their job has been made more difficult.  Thanks to the folks at FEMA, we were prepared for what might have happened down in Florida.  Nevertheless, the government is still shut down, services are still interrupted, and hundreds of thousands of hardworking public servants, including many FEMA professionals, are still furloughed without pay, or they’re not allowed to work at all.

So Craig was just explaining to me here at FEMA — about 86 percent of the FEMA workforce is furloughed.  In response to the potential event that might have happened down in Florida and along the coasts, Craig called back 200 of those workers.  Keep in mind, calling them back doesn’t mean they were getting paid, it just means they had the privilege of working without pay to make sure that they were doing everything they can to respond to the potential needs of their fellow citizens.

Now that this particular storm has dissipated, Craig is going to have to re-furlough at least 100 of those folks who were called back.  So think about that.  Here you are, somebody who’s a FEMA professional dedicated to doing your job; at a moment’s notice you’re willing to show up here in case people got in trouble and respond to them, even though you’re not getting paid, even though you don’t have certainty.  And now you’re being put back on furlough because the government is shut down.  That’s no way of doing business.

That, by the way, just speaks to the day-to-day emergencies that may come up and that is FEMA’s job to respond to.  Craig was also explaining the fact that when it comes to training first responders, for example, we have on a weekly basis already scheduled training for first responders that now have to be rescheduled.  It will probably end up ultimately costing the government more money for us to put those things back together again.  And so not only is this shutdown hurting FEMA workers, not only is it making it more difficult for us to respond to potential natural disasters, but it may actually end up costing taxpayers more than it should.

Right now, Congress should do what’s in the best interest of the economy and the American people, and that’s move beyond this manufactured crisis and work together to focus on growth, jobs, and providing the vital services that Americans all across the country depend on, including the services that FEMA provides.

I heard a lot of talk over the weekend that the real problem is, is that the President will not negotiate.  Well, let me tell you something — I have said from the start of the year that I’m happy to talk to Republicans about anything related to the budget.  There’s not a subject that I am not willing to engage in, work on, negotiate, and come up with common-sense compromises on.

What I’ve said is that I cannot do that under the threat that if Republicans don’t get 100 percent of their way, they’re going to either shut down the government or they are going to default on America’s debt so that America for the first time in history does not pay its bills.  That is not something I will do.  We’re not going to establish that pattern.

We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of further harm to our economy and middle-class families.  We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of a prolonged shutdown until Republicans get 100 percent of what they want.  We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of economic catastrophe that economists and CEOs increasingly warn would result if Congress chose to default on America’s obligations.

Now, the other thing I heard over the weekend was this notion that Congress doesn’t have the capacity to end this shutdown.  The truth of the matter is there are enough Republican and Democratic votes in the House of Representatives right now to end this shutdown immediately, with no partisan strings attached.  The House should hold that vote today.  If Republicans and Speaker Boehner are saying there are not enough votes, then they should prove it.  Let the bill go to the floor and let’s see what happens.  Just vote.  Let every member of Congress vote their conscience and they can determine whether or not they want to shut the government down.

My suspicion is — my very strong suspicion is that there are enough votes there.  And the reason that Speaker Boehner hasn’t called a vote on it is because he doesn’t, apparently, want to see the government shutdown end at the moment unless he’s able to extract concessions that don’t have anything to do with the budget.  Well, I think the American people simply want government to work.  And there’s no reason that there has to be a shutdown in order for the kinds of negotiations Speaker Boehner says he wants to proceed.  Hold a vote.  Call a vote right now, and let’s see what happens.

The second thing Congress needs to do is to raise the debt ceiling next week so the Treasury can pay the bills that Congress has already spent.  That’s what most Americans do if they buy something — if they buy a car or if they buy a house, if they put something on a credit card, they understand they’ve got to pay the bills.

This is something routine.  It’s been done more than 40 times since Ronald Reagan was President.  It has never before been used in the kind of ways that the Republicans are talking about using it right now.  We can’t threat an economic catastrophe in the midst of budget negotiations.

So authorize the Treasury to pay America’s bill.  Pass a budget, end the government shutdown, pay our bills, and prevent an economic shutdown.

And as soon as that happens, I am eager and ready to sit down and negotiate with Republicans on a whole range of issues:  How do we create more jobs?  How do we grow the economy?  How do we boost manufacturing?  How do we make sure our kids are getting a first-class education?  All those things will be on the table.  I’m happy to talk about health care; happy to talk about energy policy; how do we deal with our long-term fiscal situation.

All those things I’ve been eager and anxious to talk to Republicans about for the last seven months, and I’ve put out a budget that specifically lays out my vision for how we’re going to grow this economy.  And I expect the Republicans should do the same, and we can negotiate it.  But we shouldn’t hurt a whole bunch of people in order for one side to think that they’re going to have a little more leverage in those negotiations.

Last point I’m going to make:  The bill that is being presented to end the government shutdown reflects Republican priorities.  It’s the Republican budget.  The funding levels of this short-term funding bill, called the CR, is far lower than what Democrats think it should be.  Nevertheless, Democrats are prepared to put the majority of votes on to reopen the government.  So when you hear this notion that Democrats aren’t compromising — we’re compromising so much we’re willing to reopen the government at funding levels that reflect Republican wishes, don’t at all reflect our wishes.

For example, here at FEMA, they’re still subject to the sequester, so even before the shutdown they were having trouble making sure that everybody was staying on the job and fulfilling all of their various functions.  We need to get that sequester lifted that’s been hanging over the head of the economy and federal agencies during the course of this entire year.

This short-term legislation to reopen the government doesn’t even address that.  That has to be done in a broader budget framework.

So Democrats have said we are willing to pass a bill that reflects the Republicans’ priorities in terms of funding levels.  That’s a pretty significant compromise.  What we’re not willing to do is to create a permanent pattern in which unless you get your way the government is shut down or America defaults.  That’s not how we do business in this country, and we’re not going to start now.

So, again, I want to thank everybody at FEMA here for the extraordinary work that you’re doing.  You show each and every day that you take your responsibilities seriously.  You do your jobs with consummate professionalism.  And hopefully you’re setting a good example for members of Congress.  They need to be doing the same thing.  And if they do, then there’s no reason why we all can’t move forward and make sure that we’re taking care of America’s business.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END
12:41 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency October 30, 2012: Readout of the President Barack Obama’s Briefing on Hurricane Sandy

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Readout of the President’s Briefing on Hurricane Sandy

Source: WH, 10-30-12

This morning, the President convened a video-teleconference in the White House Situation Room with his team to receive the latest update on Hurricane Sandy, and federal efforts underway to support response activities in several states. Overnight, at the requests of the Governors, the President approved major disaster declarations for the states of New Jersey and New York, making additional federal support for state and local efforts available, as well as direct federal assistance to affected individuals in declared counties. On the video-teleconference the President was joined by Vice President Biden, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, FEMA Administrator Fugate, Secretary of Energy Chu, Transportation Secretary Lahood, Defense Secretary Panetta, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Winnefeld, USNORTHCOM Commander General Jacoby, Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius, and National Hurricane Center Director Dr. Knabb. Treasury Secretary Geithner joined the briefing by phone. The President was joined in the Situation Room by Chief of Staff Jack Lew, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security John Brennan, Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security Richard Reed, White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs David Agnew, National Security Advisor to the Vice President Tony Blinken, and other senior members of the President’s team.

During the briefing the President expressed his concern for those impacted by the storm, as well as the heroic first responders who are selflessly putting themselves in harm’s way to protect members of their communities. He also noted his sadness over the loss of life associated with the storm so far.  The President was updated on Sandy’s track and impacts, and heard from Administrator Fugate on the federal coordination and resources being brought to bear to support state and local responders, including the extensive deployment of resources, such as generators that were pre-staged ahead of the storm, as well as National Guard units which have been activated in a number of states. Through FEMA, the federal government is leveraging assets from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Health and Human Services. The President also received an update from Secretary Geithner on conditions in financial markets and the operations of the financial system.

The President told his team that their top priority is to make sure all available resources are being provided to state and local responders as quickly as possible and directed them to identify and resolve any potential bottlenecks or shortfalls should they arise. The President made clear that beyond the immediate lifesaving and life sustaining activities, which remain the primary focus, he wanted his team to continue to focus on what they can do to support state, local, and private sector efforts to restore power and asked the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy to continue to work in support of FEMA towards this goal.  The President made clear that he expects his team to remain focused as the immediate impacts of Hurricane Sandy continue and lean forward in their response. The President urges Americans to continue to follow the direction and advice of local officials, Governors, and Mayors, many of whom the President will speak with later today.

Political Headlines October 29, 2012: President Barack Obama Vows to Respond ‘Big’ and ‘Fast’ to Hurricane Sandy

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Vows to Respond ‘Big’ and ‘Fast’ to Hurricane Sandy

Source: ABC News Radio, 10-29-12

Edward Linsmier/Getty Images

As East Coast residents brace for Hurricane Sandy, President Obama visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s headquarters Sunday afternoon to receive a briefing on the latest preparations for the storm, expected to make landfall late Monday evening.

“This is a serious and big storm,” the president said in a brief statement to reporters.  “You need to take this very seriously and follow the instructions of your state and local officials, because they are going to be providing you with the best advice in terms of how to deal with this storm over the coming days.”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 28, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech / Remarks on Hurricane Sandy at FEMA Headquarters Washington D.C.

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Hurricane Sandy

President Obama receives an update on the ongoing response to Hurricane Sandy President Barack Obama receives an update on the ongoing response to Hurricane Sandy at the National Response Coordination Center at FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, right, and Richard Serino, FEMA Deputy Administrator, are seated next to the President. October 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Federal emergency teams are coordinating with state and local officials to prepare communities for the storm and respond to its impact.

Remarks By The President on Hurricane Sandy

Source: WH, 10-28-12

FEMA Headquarters

Washington, D.C.

1:55 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, good afternoon, everybody.  Obviously, all of us across the country are concerned about the potential impact of Hurricane Sandy.  This is a serious and big storm.  And my first message is to all the people across the Eastern seaboard, Mid-Atlantic, going north, that you need to take this very seriously and follow the instructions of your state and local officials, because they are going to be providing you with the best advice in terms of how to deal with this storm over the coming days.

We just had an excellent meeting with the FEMA team here, the various agencies that are in charge, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and others that are going to need to respond very quickly.

Under Craig Fugate’s leadership here at FEMA we’ve had a chance to talk to the regional officials as well.  And I just had a phone call with the governors of the potentially impacted states, as well as some of the major cities in the region.

At this stage, everybody is confident that the staging process, the prepositioning of resources, commodities, equipment that are going to be needed to respond to this storm are in place.  But as Craig has emphasized, this hasn’t hit landfall yet, so we don’t yet know where it’s going to hit, where we’re going to see the biggest impacts.  And that’s exactly why it’s so important for us to respond big and respond fast as local information starts coming in.

I want to thank all the members of the team for the outstanding work that they’re doing.  But the other thing that makes this storm unique is we anticipate that it is going to be slow moving.  That means that it may take a long time not only to clear, but also to get, for example, the power companies back in to clear trees and to put things back in place so that folks can start moving back home.

So my main message to everybody involved is that we have to take this seriously.  The federal government is working effectively with the state and local governments.  It’s going to be very important that populations in all the impacted states take this seriously, listen to your state and local elected officials.

My message to the governors, as well as to the mayors, is anything they need, we will be there.  And we’re going to cut through red tape.  We’re not going to get bogged down with a lot of rules.  We want to make sure that we are anticipating and leaning forward into making sure that we’ve got the best possible response to what is going to be a big and messy system.

So again, thank you, everybody.  Craig, would you like add to something?

MR. FUGATE:  Again, as the President says, it’s going to really come down to the public heeding those evacuation orders, taking protective measures.  If they haven’t gotten ready, they can go to Ready.gov.  Get information on how to protect them and their families, but also check on your neighbors.  This is going to be a big storm.  We need to be there for each other.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Let me emphasize that again — Ready.gov — for the general public.  If you need to know how to respond, that’s where you can get centralized information.

But I think Craig’s point is exactly right.  In times like this, one of the things that Americans do is we pull together and we help out one another.  And so, there may be elderly populations in your area.  Check on your neighbor, check on your friend.  Make sure that they are prepared.  If we do, then we’re going to get through this storm just fine.  But we’re going to have to make sure that we are vigilant, and vigilant for a couple of days.  Don’t anticipate that just because the immediate storm has passed that we’re not going to have some potential problems in a lot of these communities going forward through the week.

All right.  Thank you very much, everybody.

Full Text August 28, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Statement to the Nation on Hurricane Irene & Statements by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Hurricane Irene: President Obama on Response and Recovery Efforts

Source: WH, 8-28-11
President Obama on Hurricane Irene Recovery

President Barack Obama makes statement on Hurricane Irene with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and Bill Daley in the Rose Garden of the White House, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

With Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate at his side, President Obama today gave the American people a brief update on the ongoing response efforts to Hurricane Irene, the deadly storm that devastated swaths of the East Coast this weekend. The President also expressed concern for those who were impacted:

Our thoughts and prayers are with those who’ve lost loved ones and those whose lives have been affected by the storm. You need to know that America will be with you in your hour of need.

While the storm has weakened as it moves north, it remains a dangerous storm that continues to produce heavy rains. One of our chief concerns before Irene made landfall was the possibility of significant flooding and widespread power outages. And we’ve been getting reports of just that from our state and local partners. Many Americans are still at serious risk of power outages and flooding, which could get worse in the coming days as rivers swell past their banks.

So I want people to understand that this is not over. Response and recovery efforts will be an ongoing operation, and I urge Americans in affected areas to continue to listen for the guidance and direction of their state and local officials.

The President thanked the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, state and local officials and the many volunteer organizations who worked tirelessly over the past several days, noting that the advance planning has saved lives and property. Moving forward, he said that FEMA will be working with state and local responders to assess damage and assist in the recovery.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Text of statements by President Barack Obama, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate on Hurricane Irene, as provided by the White House:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon, everybody. I’m joined today by my Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, and Administrator of FEMA, Craig Fugate, to provide a brief update on our ongoing response efforts to Hurricane Irene.

First, let me say that this is a storm that has claimed lives. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who’ve lost loved ones and those whose lives have been affected by the storm. You need to know that America will be with you in your hour of need.

While the storm has weakened as it moves north, it remains a dangerous storm that continues to produce heavy rains. One of our chief concerns before Irene made landfall was the possibility of significant flooding and widespread power outages. And we’ve been getting reports of just that from our state and local partners. Many Americans are still at serious risk of power outages and flooding, which could get worse in the coming days as rivers swell past their banks.

So I want people to understand that this is not over. Response and recovery efforts will be an ongoing operation, and I urge Americans in affected areas to continue to listen for the guidance and direction of their state and local officials.

Before the storm made landfall, the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA worked very closely with our state and local partners, as well as volunteer organizations, to pre-position supplies and teams of first responders along the hurricane’s projected track. And the American Red Cross opened shelters in communities across the region. I want to thank those Americans for their work over the past several days, which has saved lives and property up and down the East Coast.

We continue to have search and rescue personnel on alert, as well as water, food and other needed resources. And moving forward, FEMA is working with state and local responders to assess damage and assist in the recovery.

I do want to underscore that the impacts of this storm will be felt for some time, and the recovery effort will last for weeks or longer. Power may be out for days in some areas, and we will support our state and local partners in every way that we can as they work to restore power in those areas.

So I’m going to make sure that DHS and FEMA and other federal agencies are doing everything in their power to help folks on the ground. I continue to meet regularly with Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Fugate and the other members of my team to assess our response and ensure that we have what we need in place.

As I’ve told governors and mayors from across the affected area, if they need something, I want to know about it. We’re going to make sure that we respond as quickly and effectively as possible. And we’re going to keep it up as long as hurricane season continues.

Finally, while we’re not out of the woods yet, I want to thank everybody at the federal, state and local levels who have worked so hard to respond to this storm. This has been an exemplary effort of how good government at every level should be responsive to people’s needs, work to keep them safe, and protect and promote the nation’s prosperity.

I want to thank scientists who provide the information necessary for governors and mayors to make sound decisions, disaster response experts who made sure we were as prepared as possible, to National Guard members and first responders who risked their lives to ensure their fellow citizens’ safety—all ordinary Americans who love their country and volunteered to do their part.

Above all, the past few days have been a shining example of how Americans open our homes and our hearts to those in need and pull together in tough times to help our fellow citizens prepare for and respond to, as well as recover from, extraordinary challenges, whether natural disasters or economic difficulties. That’s what makes the United States of America a strong and resilient nation, a strong and resilient people. And I want to thank all who have been involved very much.

Now I’d like to ask Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Fugate to say a few words. Janet.

———

NAPOLITANO: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. And I’d like to echo the President’s comments about the ongoing threat from Hurricane Irene. We will be dealing with the impacts of this storm over the coming days, and I urge all Americans to take prudent steps to stay safe.

Now, dealing with a storm like this requires a three-phase approach: preparation, response and recovery. Some states and communities are still currently responding, while others are beginning to assess their damages and plan for recovery.

As response assets are freed up in states already impacted by the storm, we will begin moving them to help with ongoing response, and we will be working with all other states throughout the recovery period.

I’d also like to thank the entire team that is working so hard to respond to Irene. And that team includes the American people. Thanks to all of you who prepared, especially those who followed local evacuation orders. Your actions helped protect not only your families and minimize loss of life, but also freed up local first responders to help those who needed help the most.

Now, the Department of Homeland Security will continue working to coordinate the federal response through FEMA, making sure that the entire federal family is working as one to support the affected states. So, with that, I’d like to personally thank Craig Fugate, who is my director of FEMA, and the entire FEMA team, who have been leading this effort. So, Craig.

———

FUGATE: Well, thank you, Mr. President and Secretary. When you look at these disasters, a lot of times you try to find a place of damage that tells everybody the story about what’s happened. But in this hurricane that’s hard to do because I’m pretty sure most of you forgot Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands were first impacted, and we had people who lost their homes and are currently dealing with recovery in Puerto Rico. And now we repeat that process in North Carolina, Virginia and up the coast as flooding is still ongoing.

When a disaster comes off the news and nobody is paying attention, we still don’t go home. We’re still working hard across this country, from tornadoes and floods that have already struck this country as well as to new damages. And that’s part of the mission we have at FEMA, to work with our state and local partners, to work with the private sector, volunteer and faith-based community, but most of all, as the Secretary and President said, the American people who we work for. We’re there for the survivors. We’ll be there through the length of these disasters. And, again, we’re not going home just because it won’t be on the news. We’ve now got a lot of work ahead of us and we’re going to be there to support local communities and states as they begin the recovery.

Thank you.

———

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Okay. Thank you very much, everybody. Craig and Janet will continue to keep everybody posted throughout the week. As we have already said, there are a lot of communities that are still being affected. We are particularly concerned about flooding because the continuing rains can end up having an impact well beyond the immediate center of the storm.

And so we’re going to continue to monitor that carefully. Assessments are already being done in North Carolina and Virginia. There are still search and rescue teams that are operating throughout the region. And we will continue to keep the American people posted throughout our efforts not only with respect to response but also with respect to recovery.

So thanks very much, everybody.

 

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