Whitehouse Press Articles
In his meeting earlier today with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, President Obama underscored the strategic nature of the bilateral relationship, and the two leaders discussed the broad range of bilateral, regional, and global issues that bind the United States and Mexico and touch the daily lives of citizens of both countries. The Presidents discussed ways to deepen the economic and commercial relationship and reaffirmed their commitment to conclude a high-standard Trans-Pacific Partnership this year. President Obama noted the importance of people-to-people connections, including greater educational exchange as part of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Initiative.
President Obama reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to work in partnership with Mexico on the security challenges facing both countries. President Obama pledged to continue to use Merida Initiative resources to support efforts to reduce violence in Mexico and ensure respect for human rights. In particular, the two leaders discussed the importance of working together to strike at the financial underpinnings of criminal enterprises that operate in both countries, while ensuring the integrity of our financial systems for legitimate trade and commerce. President Obama also expressed support for Mexico’s transition to an accusatory system of justice. The leaders affirmed their commitment to work together to promote a secure and efficient border.
High Level Economic Dialogue. To further elevate and strengthen the U.S.-Mexico bilateral commercial and economic relationship, President Obama and President Peña Nieto agreed to establish a High Level Economic Dialogue (HLED). The HLED, which will be led at the cabinet level, is envisioned as a flexible platform intended to advance strategic economic and commercial priorities central to promoting mutual economic growth, job creation, and competitiveness. It is expected to meet annually, starting this fall, to facilitate dialogue and joint initiatives and to promote shared approaches to regional and global economic leadership. It will build on, but not duplicate, a range of existing successful bilateral dialogues and working groups.
Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation, and Research. Building on a long history of educational collaboration between the United States and Mexico, President Obama and President Peña Nieto announced the formation of a Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation, and Research. The Forum is intended to expand economic opportunities for citizens of both countries, develop a shared vision on educational cooperation, and share best practices in higher education and innovation.
Renewed Commitment to the 21st Century Border Management Initiative. The two Presidents underscored their commitment to a secure and efficient shared border and reaffirmed the importance of the 21st Century Border Management Initiative, noting the recently concluded first meeting under President Peña Nieto’s tenure of the Initiative’s Executive Steering Committee. During that meeting, both governments agreed to support key projects and initiatives that improve infrastructure, facilitate the secure flow of legitimate commerce and travel, and enhance law enforcement cooperation along the border. Parallel cabinet-level discussions have focused on the need to enhance joint security efforts on both sides of the border and further integrate our response to natural disasters.
USAID-AMEXCID Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Third Countries. As part of an increased commitment to cooperate on common goals in Central America and elsewhere in the world, the two Presidents welcomed a recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Mexican Foreign Secretariat’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID) on international cooperation. The MOU facilitates U.S.-Mexico cooperation in third countries in areas such as economic growth, environment and climate change, disaster management, governance and rule of law, and science, technology, and innovation.
U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement. President Obama welcomed positive steps the U.S. Congress has taken recently toward implementing the Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement, which is designed to enhance energy security in North America and support our shared duty to exercise responsible stewardship of the Gulf of Mexico. The Agreement establishes a cooperative process for managing the development of oil and gas reservoirs that cross the international maritime boundary between the two countries in the Gulf of Mexico.
USPTO-IMPI Memorandum of Understanding on IPR Cooperation. Recognizing the importance of protecting intellectual property to our broader goals of economic growth and innovation, President Obama welcomed the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and its counterpart, the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI). The MOU will deepen cooperation between the two entities in a range of areas, including: public awareness of the importance of intellectual property; expert exchanges; and sharing best practices on intellectual property office administration.
At the invitation of President Enrique Peña Nieto, President Barack Obama travelled to Mexico City on May 2-3 to discuss the broad range of bilateral, regional, and global issues that bind the United States and Mexico and touch the daily lives of citizens of both countries. Building on their positive initial meeting in Washington, D.C. last November, the two Presidents renewed their commitment to the United States-Mexico relationship.
Looking ahead to the next 4 years during which their presidencies will overlap, the two leaders noted the importance of taking advantage of opportunities and harnessing the enthusiasm and optimism that a new stage in bilateral relations brings. The Presidents underscored the strategic importance of the bilateral relationship and expressed a desire for even greater cooperation between their two nations. Specifically, the Presidents focused on: 1) economic competitiveness; 2) people-to-people connections; 3) leadership on regional and global issues; and 4) citizen security.
Underpinning our successful United States-Mexico economic relationship are trade and investment flows that support jobs in both countries. Bilateral trade was almost half a trillion dollars in 2012.
The two Presidents agreed on the need to continue forging a close and productive economic relationship to enhance their nations’ competitiveness and to create more trade and investment opportunities. With this purpose, they decided to establish a High Level Economic Dialogue, which will be chaired at the cabinet level and focus on promoting competitiveness, productivity and connectivity, fostering economic growth and innovation, and partnering for global leadership. The leaders intend for the first meeting of the Dialogue to take place later this year, include representatives from relevant agencies and departments from both governments, and engage with relevant stakeholders, notably the private sector.
The two leaders also discussed the importance of the United States and Mexico working together, and with their Canadian partners, to make North America the most dynamic and competitive region in the world. They agreed to seek a successful conclusion to a high-standard Trans-Pacific Partnership this year that includes 21st century provisions that significantly strengthen the North American Free Trade Agreement. They also reiterated their commitment to the resolution of specific trade issues between their countries, and their interest in maintaining close coordination with regards to other relevant trade negotiations.
The Presidents also underscored the importance to both countries of a secure and efficient shared border. They noted the recent meeting of the 21st Century Border Management Executive Steering Committee, the first under President Peña Nieto’s tenure, and agreed to support key projects and initiatives that improve infrastructure, support the efforts of local communities, facilitate the secure flow of legitimate trade and travel, and enhance law enforcement cooperation along the border.
President Obama and President Peña Nieto welcomed the positive steps the U.S. Congress is taking to implement the Transboundary Hydrocarbon Agreement, which will enhance energy security in North America and bolster the two countries’ responsible stewardship of the Gulf of Mexico. They look forward to full implementation of the Agreement.
The two leaders underscored the broad and deep connections that exist between the peoples of both countries, and their importance to the prosperity and culture of both societies.
The Presidents agreed to establish a Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation, and Research. It should start meeting this year and bring together government, academia, and civil society to develop a shared vision on educational cooperation and propose concrete short-term and mid-term initiatives to promote bilateral collaboration and policy coordination.
Both Presidents expressed support for the U.S. government’s “100,000 Strong in the Americas Initiative” as a way of enhancing academic mobility between Mexico and the United States.
President Obama noted that the bipartisan immigration bill recently introduced in the U.S. Senate was largely consistent with the principles he has repeatedly laid out. He reiterated his commitment to commonsense immigration reform that would institute a fair and effective immigration system that lives up to the United States’ heritage as a nation of laws and recognizes the extraordinary contributions of immigrants, including generations of immigrants from Mexico, to make the United States a strong and vibrant Nation. President Peña Nieto recognized President Obama’s efforts to advance this issue, and reaffirmed the Government of Mexico’s commitment to supporting the wellbeing of Mexicans living abroad.
Global and Regional Leadership
The Presidents underscored the importance of their countries’ cooperation on regional and international issues. These include job creation through sustained economic growth, the protection of human rights, gender equality, democratic governance, and addressing the challenges of climate change. They emphasized the importance of the Equal Futures Partnership, which Mexico will formally join, as a multilateral effort to expand women’s economic empowerment and political participation.
As part of a commitment to working together in Central American and the hemisphere, the two Leaders noted a recently concluded Memorandum of Understanding for International Cooperation between the Secretariat of Foreign Relation’s Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that will promote joint activities concerning development and cooperation with third countries. The two Presidents also reaffirmed their support to increased interconnection of electricity grids in the Americas, for example through the Connecting the Americas 2022 initiative launched at the Sixth Summit of the Americas.
The Presidents reaffirmed their commitment to act as co-responsible partners through a renewed collaborative approach to citizen security. President Peña Nieto discussed the importance of ensuring a peaceful Mexico, as one of the five main pillars of his government’s strategy, and of preventing crime by addressing the conditions that contribute to its occurrence, and strengthening institutions and the rule of law.
President Obama reiterated U.S. support for Mexico’s efforts, and in particular for the transition to an accusatory system of justice that is transparent, effective, and efficient. The Presidents also emphasized the importance of continued actions against transnational organized crime, enhanced counter-illicit finance and arms trafficking efforts, and measures to reduce drug use and its consequences.
Presidents Obama and Peña Nieto will remain in close consultation on these and other issues of mutual interest, in order to further advance the partnership between their nations.
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Mexico City, Mexico
11:29 A.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Welcome aboard Air Force One as we make our way to Mexico, the first stop on our two-country tour through the region. The President is looking forward to the trip. I think you were thoroughly briefed yesterday by two of our colleagues, but if you have more questions on that trip I will take them. And I will take questions on other issues if you have them.
Q The North Koreans have sentenced an American man to 15 years hard labor. Does the U.S. see this as an attempt by the North Koreans to get some kind of high-profile visit or start any kind of talks with the U.S.?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we've seen those reports, Julie, and we're working with our protecting power, the Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang, to confirm them. We don’t have any further information to share with you.
Separate from that issue, the issue of talks -- we have made clear that there is a path open to the North Koreans that would allow for negotiations, but it is dependent upon the North Koreans demonstrating a willingness to live up to their international obligations in keeping with the 2005 -- September 2005 joint statement of the six-party talks. And if they choose that path, then we and other members of that -- of the six-party talks are absolutely willing to have discussions with the North Koreans.
But thus far, as you know, they have flouted their obligations, engaged in provocative actions and rhetoric that brings them no closer to a situation where they can improve the lot of the North Korean people or reenter the community of nations.
Q One of the three people arrested in connection to the Boston Marathon bombings was allowed to reenter the U.S. despite having a lapsed visa. Are you concerned -- or is the President concerned that this is a sign that sort of the information sharing set up after 9/11 isn't working? And the fact that these men helped in some way even after the fact that, does that call into question his belief earlier that these guys were self-radicalized?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as I said yesterday, these arrests are related to an ongoing investigation. And I don’t have specific comments on the alleged role of these individuals.
When it comes to the question of information sharing between agencies, that is a specific subject of the review that Director Clapper announced the other day -- to look specifically at the question of information sharing as regards to the Tsarnaev brothers, in particular Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and general matters regarding what we knew as a government about the Tsarnaevs before the bombing in Boston.
And I think that, more broadly, that’s the kind of review that the President considers standard operating procedure whenever we have this kind of development. He expects that we will always examine situations like this to look at ways that we can improve our systems.
Q But this wasn't just the Tsarnaevs. This was --
MR. CARNEY: No, I understand. I think that the broader -- I mean, I don’t have a -- I would refer you to Director Clapper's office for whether this will fall under his -- under the review that he announced with the inspectors general. But the question of information sharing between our agencies is specifically one of the subjects that will be in that review.
Q Is it an indication, though, that the plot for these bombings was wider than the President and the government initially suspected?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I appreciate the question, but I think that the investigation needs to take place. And it's -- I think it's tempting but not the right way to go to comment on ongoing revelations about what we're learning from the investigation as it unfolds. We want to leave it to the investigators to find out everything they can and then build a case.
Q Have you had a chance to talk to the President yet about his feelings on the morning-after pill? The Justice Department appealed the judge's decision last night.
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t spoken with him directly about that issue. I’d refer you to the Department of Justice for their appeal of the court’s decision, with regards to the FDA’s original decision.
What I said yesterday, and what I can repeat today, is that the President supported, as you know, because he addressed this himself, Secretary Sebelius’s decision to overrule the FDA’s initial ruling because she felt there was not sufficient data available about the safety and effectiveness and appropriateness of use of this medication by younger girls of reproductive age. The new ruling by the FDA in response to an amended application by the manufacturer would make the medicine available to teens 15 and older. And it's my understanding -- I would refer you to HHS for more details -- but that there is sufficient data available for teens 15 and older.
Q And he's comfortable with -- he was very clear on his views a year ago when Secretary Sebelius made her decision. He's comfortable with where the FDA has decided on the issue for now?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I haven't spoken with him. But I think HHS has obviously spoken to this new ruling by the FDA in response to the applications. And I don’t have any further comment from the President at this time.
Q Is there any chance you could speak to him at some point about this so we could get his --
MR. CARNEY: Well, you guys will be speaking to him. You certainly can ask him this question if you like. But this is -- FDA is an independent agency, made this ruling. Secretary Sebelius and HHS has commented on it, and I have attempted to put it within the context given the President’s previous statements about the previous ruling.
Q Jay, the President talked to Latino groups I think earlier this week and apparently told them that the Gang of Eight immigration bill is as good as it's going to get from their point of view, and that he would sign it if it passed. Is that accurate? And is that what he's also going to tell leaders as he’s going down? Is that the message, that this is as good as they can get?
MR. CARNEY: I’d say two things. One, I won’t read out private conversations the President may or may not have had. But we have been very clear that the legislation produced by the Gang of Eight represents enormous progress, and the authors of it are to be commended for that progress. And significant in our view is the fact that the legislation is in keeping with the President's principles, which he laid out to the public quite a long time ago now.
It's useful to stand back and remember that eight months ago, the official position of the Republican Party on immigration reform was self-deportation. There was not a single leading Republican who was advocating for comprehensive immigration reform. Quite a lot has changed since then, and the President campaigned hard on this issue. He made clear that it would be a priority in his second term if he were to be reelected, and he has kept that promise and kept the focus on this issue.
He made clear early on that he believed that the best path to take would be through the work of the Gang of Eight and the efforts to craft bipartisan legislation. That has borne fruit. And the President hopes that progress will continue and we will see a bill emerge from committee and then from the Senate that has broad bipartisan support, and then, eventually, emerges from Congress in a form that he can sign. And that would be a major accomplishment. But obviously, there are hurdles to clear.
Q Is the President concerned about the potential effect of including an LGBT provision in the Gang of Eight's immigration bill, and that it could be detrimental to the progress of the overall bill? And has he communicated that to Senator Leahy?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we're in contact with all of the major players in this effort on a regular basis on Capitol Hill. I don't have a specific conversation between the President and any lawmaker on this to read out to you, but we are in contact with all the major players, first of all.
Second of all, as the President made clear the other day and I and others have said, the legislation crafted by the Gang of Eight broadly reflects the principles that the President has laid out, but it is not word for word in keeping with all of what he would do if he were to write it himself. And we have said that we support that provision, but we also think it's very important to recognize that the overall bill here accomplishes what the President believes needs to be accomplished and is in keeping with his principles.
As this process moves forward, we'll be working with the Senate every step of the way. But the bill as written is a sign of significant progress.
Q No, I have a question about Venezuela. There's a lot of bloody protests in Venezuela, a lot of unrest there. Is the President concerned about the state of affairs there, and does he have a message for the Venezuelan people as he heads on this trip?
MR. CARNEY: I'll have to take the question. I haven't had that conversation with him.
11:40 A.M. EDT
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CONTINUATION OF THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY WITH RESPECT TO BURMA
On May 20, 1997, the President issued Executive Order 13047, certifying to the Congress under section 570(b) of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 1997 (Public Law 104-208), that the Government of Burma had committed large-scale repression of the democratic opposition in Burma after September 30, 1996, thereby invoking the prohibition on new investment in Burma by United States persons contained in that section. The President also declared a national emergency pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 U.S.C. 1701-1706, to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the actions and policies of the Government of Burma.
The actions and policies of the Government of Burma continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. For this reason, the national emergency declared on May 20, 1997, and the measures adopted to deal with that emergency in Executive Orders 13047 of May 20, 1997; 13310 of July 28, 2003; 13448 of October 18, 2007; 13464 of April 30, 2008; and 13619 of July 11, 2012, must continue in effect beyond May 20, 2013.
Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to Burma declared in Executive Order 13047. This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)
Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)) provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, within 90 days prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date. In accordance with this provision, I have sent to the Federal Register for publication the enclosed notice stating that the national emergency with respect to Burma that was declared on May 20, 1997, is to continue in effect beyond May 20, 2013.
The Government of Burma has made significant progress in a number of critical areas, including releasing hundreds of political prisoners, achieving cease-fire talks with the 11 armed ethnic groups, taking significant steps toward eliminating press censorship, and enabling the participation of opposition parties in the country's political system.
Despite great strides that Burma has made in its reform effort, the situation in the country continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. The political opening is nascent, and concerns persist regarding remaining political prisoners, ongoing conflict and human rights abuses in ethnic minority areas, and the country's continued military relationship with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The United States is committed to supporting and strengthening Burma's reform efforts to ensure that the democratic transition becomes irreversible. For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency with respect to Burma.
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:01 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for being here. Sorry I am late. I apologize. I will go straight to your questions. Julie.
Q Thank you. Is there anything you can say at this point about these three other people that have been arrested in Boston, who they are or what they’re going to be charged with?
MR. CARNEY: I have seen reports about arrests, but I don't have any information for you at this time from here, so I have to refer you to the FBI and to local law enforcement.
Q Has the President been briefed about these latest arrests?
MR. CARNEY: I don't know that he has, although I expect that if -- again, I'm just seeing reports, we've just seen reports and I can't confirm anything or get into charges that are written about in these reports. I can simply say that the President is regularly updated on developments in the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings. But I haven't had a specific conversation about these reports with him.
Q I also wanted to ask about the FDA decision yesterday on the Plan B pill. Is this something that the President sees as a compromise decision?
MR. CARNEY: Well, two things. First of all, this is a decision that the FDA made and that is appropriate because it’s an independent agency. The President, the White House did not weigh in on this decision and I have not had a discussion with the President about that issue. What I can say is, as you saw in the past when there was a decision that was more sweeping, Secretary Sebelius made a decision to modify that or change it based on her views about the inadequacy of the data available for younger girls and teens of reproductive age that the President supported. But this is a different decision and I haven't got any presidential input for you on it.
Q So you can't say whether he supports this decision or not?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think when you heard the President address Secretary Sebelius’s decision in the past, he was echoing her concern about the lack of data available that examined the appropriateness and effect of this medication on younger girls and teens. And this decision, as I understand it, is about -- in reaction to an amended application from the manufacturer is in response to that application and makes available or would make available this medication for teens 15 and older.
Q But that's still a young girl, a young teenager, is it not?
MR. CARNEY: Well, it’s a 15-year-old and older. I think that -- again, I would refer you to Secretary Sebelius for the rationale behind the decision she made in the past that the President supported. But I think when you heard the President speak about this, and Secretary Sebelius, they were speaking about younger girls.
Q And just quickly, when is the President going to sign the FAA bill?
MR. CARNEY: I'm not sure, I believe it may be here or on its way, and he’ll sign it soon. As with all bill signings, we'll put out a statement when he has signed it.
Q On Guantanamo, the President said yesterday he was thinking about revisiting that issue. What options are you considering? What plans does he have to move that issue forward? It sounded like you’ve been thinking about it.
MR. CARNEY: Well, it is an issue that he feels strong about, as he made clear yesterday at this podium. He’s determined and this administration is determined to see the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility closed. Keeping it open is not efficient, effective, or in the interest of our national security. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It is something that hurts our ability to cooperate with other nations and their agencies of government. It is extremely expensive. It is just not the way we need to go about handling these kinds of individuals. And as he said yesterday, our system of justice has proven itself fully capable of dealing with terrorists.
Unfortunately, Congress has thrown up obstacles to the achievement of that goal, as you know. And that has made it, to date, impossible to close that facility. We have made progress in moving detainees to third countries. And we are continuing to evaluate detainees and look at ways to continue that process going forward.
So there are things that the President can do administratively, but this will also require congressional agreement. And we will work with Congress to try to persuade them of the overriding national security interests as well as economic interests in closing Guantanamo Bay.
Don’t forget, this is something that is supported by the last two -- well, actually not the last two, but the 2008 nominee for President of the Republican Party, John McCain; the last Republican President, George W. Bush; senior military leaders. And the President agrees with all of them that this is something we should do.
Q I wanted to ask you, on Mexico, the President was asked yesterday as well about the statements by Mexican officials sort of restricting access to their agencies on stemming drug trafficking. Is there a concern that the new government will be less open to U.S. help and that that will be a less positive direction to go in?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we have an important relationship -- security relationship with Mexico, and we will continue to work with the Mexican government on that relationship. Our relationship with Mexico is broader than that. We have deep economic, cultural, and familial ties with Mexico as well as other countries in the region. And that will also be part of the trip. So dealing with trafficking, narcotics, and those security issues is one piece of the relationship with Mexico, but it is not by any means the only piece, and we are looking to make progress on all fronts, including our trade relationship, economic relationship, cultural relationship and other areas.
So the President looks forward to his meetings. We'll have a briefing for you before the President leaves on the trip that will lay out in more detail what to expect and what topics of discussion the leaders will engage in. But, again, I just want to make the point that this is one piece of a broad relationship.
Q Finally, the President, talking about fiscal issues yesterday, said he hoped to create a permission structure to get cooperation from congressional Republicans. What does he mean by that?
MR. CARNEY: The President has for a long time now demonstrated his willingness to compromise in order to achieve a so-called grand bargain, in order to achieve a bigger deficit reduction deal, and he's proven his willingness to make some tough choices as long as there is a commensurate willingness by Republicans to do the same -- to, in the current situation, go along with the idea that there should be balance in our deficit reduction plan; that we should not ask seniors and middle-class families to be the only ones who shoulder the burden; that we should produce savings from reforming our entitlement programs as well as savings by reforming our tax system by closing loopholes and capping deductions for the wealthy and well-connected, and combine that in a way that reduces our deficit and helps strengthen our economy.
And what he is exploring in his conversations with Republican senators is whether or not that space exists. And we have had -- he has had and others have had good discussions with Republican lawmakers, some of whom have been explicit in suggesting that they are willing to explore common ground. The next step is finding out what that means concretely in terms of policy, because thus far, it's the President who is out there with a highly detailed, specific proposal that demonstrates his willingness to compromise. It's his budget, and within that budget, his deficit reduction, the offer he made to Speaker Boehner at the end of last year.
So we are continuing to explore whether or not there is a way for Republicans to join us in this balanced approach to deficit reduction. And we certainly hope there should be, because that's what the public wants. And ultimately on all of these issues, as the President said, it’s not just that he can urge them to do the right thing, in this case, to reach a compromise, it’s that the public, the constituents that lawmakers represent can and should urge their senators and congressmen to compromise and achieve objectives that help the economy grow and help create jobs, reduce our deficit in a balanced way.
We had a lot of conflict over this issue in the last few years, and yet, the President has signed into law over $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction. And because of the fiscal cliff deal, that has included balanced deficit reduction. And that has resulted in a situation where our deficits are coming down at a faster pace than at any time since demobilization after World War II. So that's no small feat. But the work is not done, and the President is exploring whether or not there is a willingness to get that work done, to achieve balance.
Q Yesterday, the President suggested that the Tsarnaev brothers were self-radicalized. Given these new arrests today, is he confident that there was not a wider network responsible for what happened in Boston?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to address the reports about the arrests that Julie mentioned. There’s obviously been a lot of information provided thus far in some of the reporting that's been done. As the President said on Saturday night -- some of the excellent reporting that has been done -- but this is an ongoing investigation, and part of the responsibility of investigators is to explore all possible associations or connections even if we posit that it may seem at this point based on the information that's been gathered and produced and reported on that it looks as though these might have been self-radicalized individuals.
That's a supposition that has to be proven through investigation. And investigations need to follow all paths. And I know that the President expects that’s what the FBI, which is the lead agency in this investigation, is making sure is what’s happening in this investigation. So I don't want to make any characterizations about the developments today at this stage or say conclusively one way or the other beyond sort of the basis of what we know so far.
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q Yesterday, Kelly Ayotte had a confrontation at a town hall meeting with a relative of a victim of the Sandy Hook massacre. Jeff Flake, Senator from Arizona, posted on his Facebook page because of his gun control vote that his popularity is roughly the same level as that of pond scum. Do these statements give the White House any confidence that you may be able to go back and pass some kind of gun control legislation in the coming days, weeks, months?
MR. CARNEY: I think what we have seen is that Americans out there who engage on an issue, who feel passionately about an issue and feel like it’s the right, common-sense thing to do don’t appreciate it when their representatives disagree with them. And when I say “them,” I mean 85 percent of the American people, and vast majorities of the constituents of Arizona or New Hampshire -- virtually every state in the country.
What the President made clear in the Rose Garden after the background checks vote went down is that Americans who are disappointed by that action, by that failure of the Senate to listen to the people they represent, need to speak up -- because in the end, change comes from the bottom up. Congress acts when the people they represent insist on it. And when there are entrenched interests that oppose action, it’s all the more important that average citizens make their voices heard, that they speak up, that they hold their leaders accountable.
And I wouldn’t want to predict at this point whether that means we’ll get this done sooner rather than later, but we will get it done, because it is the right and sensible and common-sense thing to do, and the American people overwhelmingly support it.
Q This administration will get it done?
MR. CARNEY: I think that is absolutely what we’re going to try to do. This President made clear that we are in round one, and we are going to push -- and we’re pushing now to get it done. Somebody asked me the other day, well, won’t you wait until after the next elections? And the answer is no. We’re going to keep pushing. And it will get done because the American people demand that it get done. But it requires the voices and the participation and the engagement of average Americans, especially in a situation on an issue like this where we’re dealing with entrenched interests that don’t represent the majority but have powerful sway in Congress.
Q Jay, as I understand it, the administration is now considering providing arms to the rebels in Syria. I’m wondering what has changed in the President’s view since he rejected this idea last year. What has changed to make him open to this idea now?
MR. CARNEY: As you know, Jon, we have been stepping up our assistance to the opposition significantly, and we are constantly reviewing our assistance programs and what kinds of assistance we will provide. It is our policy that we have not and are not providing weapons to the Syrian opposition. But we are continuing to review our options. And in this period that we have stepped up our assistance, including direct assistance for the first time to the Syrian Military Council, we have also been engaged with our allies and partners in an effort to prop up the opposition -- to help stand it up, rather, and to get to know it better and understand the elements of it, and to associate ourselves with and provide aid to those elements that we have confidence in and confidence in their support for a more democratic Syria, and confidence that they do not oppose United States interests, U.S. interests. And that is a process that’s ongoing.
So we have learned more about the opposition. We have worked more closely with the opposition. We have stepped up our aid and assistance to the opposition, and these evaluations are ongoing. But I have no announcement to make of any new developments on the assistance front. As of now, we have provided various forms of assistance, but no weapons.
Q So as I understand it, one of the President’s concerns at that earlier time was that weapons to the opposition could fall into the wrong hands. There are extremist elements in the opposition groups. Does he feel more comfortable now that assistance given to the rebel fighters will not get into the hands of extremists?
MR. CARNEY: Well, these are evaluations that we have been making all along as we engage with the opposition, and that is what I was trying to explain in my other answer about in our dealings with the opposition, making evaluations about what their intentions are for Syria, what their interests are when it comes to the United States and our allies. And for example, the Supreme Military Council that we deal with -- the leaders of that council have made very clear statements about their positions that reflect positions that we can support.
So we are engaging with the opposition. We are getting to know the opposition better and we’re evaluating just the very questions that you ask.
Q And the aid here, and all of this aid, the aid that’s happening now and the aid that may come later is to bring the downfall of the Assad regime?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the aim has always been to bring about a transition in Syria that results in the departure from power of Bashar al Assad. There’s no question Syria’s future cannot include Assad. His hands are bathed in blood, the blood of his own people, and his actions have continually reinforced the fact that he has no place in Syria’s future and no support from the Syrian people. So the transition that we seek and that so many seek, including the Syrian people themselves, is a transition from Assad to a better future for Syria.
Q Is it correct to say then that you are preparing to send lethal weaponry to the Syrian people?
MR. CARNEY: That’s the phrasing from a story that I think later on, a few paragraphs later said no final decision had been made. So I think the language here is important. We’re evaluating all decisions -- I mean all options. The President made clear just yesterday that all options are on the table when it comes to his policy actions with regard to Syria. But I have no policy change to announce today with regards to our assistance programs.
Q But when you say that you’re continuing to review all the options --
MR. CARNEY: Something I have said for weeks if not months now.
Q -- that you are making evaluations, are you backing the door open, suggesting that down the road this could happen, that there could be arms?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’ve said all along -- I’ve never ruled it out and I’ve said all along that all options remain on the table, and that is an option, obviously. It has been our position that we do not provide arms. But we have -- if you set arms aside here, we have stepped up significantly our assistance to the opposition, including to the Supreme Military Council.
Q Stipulated. It’s the arms that we’re all caring about. I mean, are you opening the door to sending arms?
MR. CARNEY: Bill, my position on this and what I’m saying about it is no different now than it was before. So if the answer to that question is the door remains open, it has remained open in the sense that those options have always been available to the President. And we are reviewing those options today just as we have been reviewing them in recent weeks and months.
Our position is what it is, but we are constantly evaluating our posture and our assistance programs. We have stepped them up over time. So our assistance program is bigger and greater and more comprehensive, including direct aid to the Military Council, which is qualitatively different from what it was three or four weeks ago, or two months ago. And we will see what developments there are and what decisions are made in the future. What I can tell you as of now is what our program is and what it isn’t. But I can also tell you that we are evaluating different options.
Q Sure, but I mean you’re laying this out as a continuing escalation, and it would be logical then to assume, wouldn’t it, that at some point that could include arms?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not ruling that out. I’m just not ruling it in either. I’m not here to announce a change in policy, I’m saying that these options are always under -- have been under review and continue to be under review.
Q Is it closer than it was?
MR. CARNEY: I’m just not in a position to make that assessment from here. I’m simply saying that we have obviously escalated our assistance and broadened the type of assistance that we’ve been providing. And I think that represents a deeper engagement with the opposition, including the military opposition. And I won’t foreshadow what decisions or actions may be taken in the coming days and weeks and months except to say that we will evaluate all possible options. We’ve been very clear that we haven’t ruled out any option even as we’ve chosen to exercise the ones that we’ve exercised.
Q Are you aware of a letter from General Idriss yesterday asking -- pleading, really, for help countering chemical weapons?
MR. CARNEY: I am aware of that letter. And as you heard the President say yesterday and make clear again, the clear use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime would cross the red line. And that is why we are so assiduously engaged in the process of gathering evidence to build on this --
Q Are we going to send him help? He's asking for help.
MR. CARNEY: We are sending him help.
Q To specifically counter chemical weapons.
MR. CARNEY: We are providing assistance to the opposition. The different types of assistance that don’t have to do with weapons I think you can get details on from the State Department and Defense Department. But we will continue to evaluate the kinds of assistance we provide, working very closely with General Idriss and others in the opposition.
Q On Guantanamo, you said a moment ago that there are things the President can do administratively. What are they and is he doing them, or is he going to do them?
MR. CARNEY: The answer is there are a number of things that we can do. One of the options available to us that we're examining is reappointing a senior official at the State Department to renew our focus again on repatriating or transferring detainees that we determine can be returned to their home countries or third countries. And we will also work to fully implement the periodic review board process, which has not moved forward quickly enough, and we're going to continue to work to get that implemented so that it is up and standing.
And those are some of the things that we can do. We have obstacles that were thrown up by Congress that prevent us from -- well, they refuse to provide the funding that would allow us to transfer detainees to incarceration facilities here in the United States. And they have circumscribed our ability to take action on this front in other ways. So we have to work with Congress and try to convince members of Congress that the overriding interest here in terms of our national security as well as our budget is to close Guantanamo Bay.
Q But will he be talking to Congress about this specifically?
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any conversations to preview with you, but I think you heard from the President yesterday that he feels very strongly about this.
Q Jay, can I follow on the morning-after pill questions from Julie? Because I was just curious -- when the previous decision you were talking about was made I believe in December of 2011, the President was in this room and spoke pretty emotionally -- I think he mentioned his own daughters -- and he said that a 10-year old or an 11-year old should not be able to go to a grocery store and buy this alongside “bubblegum or batteries." So are you saying the President is comfortable now with a 15-year old buying this pill next to bubblegum or batteries?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as I mentioned earlier, I haven’t spoken about this with the President, and this is not a decision that the White House or the President --
Q Why not? I mean, he was pretty direct about it --
MR. CARNEY: It was just announced. So I think --
Q Oh, we’ve known about it all -- it was announced late yesterday.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I didn’t talk about this particular issue with him. But let’s be clear. When the President was asked about this and made the statement that you quoted, he was speaking in support of a decision by Secretary Sebelius with regards to the proposition that this medication could be made available over the counter to anyone, of any age. And the President supported Secretary Sebelius’s decision and her view that not enough data was available to make her comfortable with the decision that younger girls of reproductive age could use this medicine in an appropriate and safe and effective manner.
The FDA has made a decision based on an amended application by a manufacturer that stipulates that it would be made available to teens 15 and older. And as you cited, the President referred to younger girls, and I believe so did Secretary Sebelius. But in terms of the assessments made about this decision, I think you could go to HHS to get the Secretary’s views, because, again, the President was speaking in support of a decision that Secretary Sebelius had made at the time.
Q I want to ask you about two other personnel moves the President is going to announce this afternoon. I think it’s pretty widely known -- FCC and the Housing Finance job. My question is -- I’ll give you a chance to talk about their attributes and whatnot. But in 2008, during the campaign, the President specifically said lobbyists are not going to be part of my team. He said that -- John McCain -- you can’t just take the same people who have been in Washington a long time and move them to different chairs and expect different results, as I recall him saying. And now you’ve got a congressman who’s been around some 20 years -- good record, but around a long time -- and a cable industry lobbyist taking a job. How does that square with the talk about change?
Q Well, I appreciate the question. I would say two things. First of all, with regards to Tom Wheeler, the nominee for the chair of the FCC, he’s an experienced telecommunications leader who shares the President’s commitment to protecting consumers, promoting innovation, enhancing competition and encouraging investment.
Now, with regards to his past career, he has not worked for the wireless industry in a decade -- nearly a decade, and his representation for the cable industry is nearly three decades old. So he has extensive experience in business, extensive experience in the field. He is a promoter of consumers and innovation and competition. And when he worked for the -- it’s important to know that when he worked for the wireless industry -- and this is how much the world has changed -- he represented smaller companies that thrived on innovation and competition.
So the President thinks that Mr. Wheeler is an excellent candidate for this position, that he brings broad experience and has already, as I think you’ve seen, received positive reviews from a number of quarters.
With regards to Congressman Watt, he has spent 20 years on the House Financial Services and Judiciary Committees, and he’s got a proven track record of fighting to rein in deceptive mortgage lenders, protect consumers from abusive financial practices, and expand affordable housing. And he has been an advocate essentially for the little guy in that position. And I think that you would find in him, as representing the FHFA, somebody with vast experience, great knowledge from his time on these committees of the financial marketplace and of the mortgage lending business, and that he would bring his experience to bear in a positive way representing this organization.
Q So experience in Washington is not such a bad thing anymore?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think the President looks for people who are experienced in a broad variety of ways. I think that there are a number of ways to look at a nominee, for example, like Congressman Watt. I mean, he comes from his experience on these committees and his efforts to, again, fight against deceptive mortgage lending practices and to protect consumers. And those are the kinds of -- that’s the kind of experience the President wants in this position.
Q Last thing, on Benghazi. Since the President spoke yesterday briefly about that, the Defense Department and the State Department both have written letters, as I understand it, to Republican Darrell Issa, saying that they’re not aware of anyone coming to them asking for security clearances for their counsel or anything to come forward. First, is that your understanding? And second, if someone were to come forward, if they just haven’t technically told their superior or something, if they were to come forward, is the White House willing to let them testify?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I mean, that’s a hypothetical. But let’s be clear. Benghazi happened a long time ago. We are unaware of any agency blocking an employee who would like to appear before Congress to provide information related to Benghazi. The Accountability Review Board which investigated this matter -- and I think in no one’s estimation sugarcoated what happened there or pulled any punches when it came to holding accountable individuals that they felt had not successfully executed their responsibilities -- heard from everyone and invited everyone. So there was a clear indication there that everyone who had something to say was welcome to provide information to the Accountability Review Board.
But again, with regards to these stories, to our knowledge, we’re not aware of any agency that has blocked an employee who would like to appear before Congress. And as you noted, both the State Department and Department of Defense have made clear that they are not aware of any requests for a security clearance for a private attorney having been made in connection with the Benghazi investigation. So what you have is an attorney saying she represents somebody, claiming that she’s not getting this security clearance, and yet the agencies involved have no information about that at all, which falls into the broader
story here, which this is these allegations are part of an unfortunate pattern of spreading misinformation and politicizing this issue.
Just last week, Republicans accused Secretary Clinton of authoring a cable that went out under her automatic signature, pursuant to standard protocol that State has followed across administrations of both parties. Secretary Clinton -- and this, of course, was left out of the Republican charge -- had previously testified under oath that she had never seen the cable. It was simply put out under automatic signature as thousands and thousands of emails are, according to protocol. So the politicization of this issue is unfortunate, and it continues unabated.
We have had numerous hearings, numerous -- I mean vast numbers of documents, vast numbers of individuals who have testified before Congress, and anybody who wants to be heard by Congress is welcome to be heard by Congress, in our view. And that has been our approach, our cooperative approach to this matter and to this investigation from the beginning.
Q Jay, I want to go back to the idea of the permission structure. I know you defined it, but how specifically does the President plan to create a permission structure? What does that look like? What steps is he going to take?
MR. CARNEY: What the President is seeking in his conversations with Republican lawmakers is common ground, basically a willingness by Republicans to agree to the principle that some of them supported explicitly not that long ago that we could both achieve savings through entitlement reforms and achieve savings through tax reform by closing loopholes and capping deductions.
And the permission structure, if you will, is basically a broad proposal that allows Republicans, like Democrats, to go along with some things that they do not love, would not be top of their list in terms of legislation, in order to achieve the broader objective here, which is broad, deep deficit reduction that would bring us past the $4 trillion mark over 10 years.
Q Permission from voters? Permission from their constituents?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that this is a phrase that is in common usage here. I think he’s basically looking for a way to find enough Republicans who are comfortable with a proposal that would achieve some of their long-stated goals, including significant deficit reduction, including entitlement reform and savings from entitlement reform, and including tax reform.
The President’s proposition is that we should use some of the savings from tax reform produced by closing loopholes and capping deductions for the wealthy and well-connected, and apply them to deficit reduction, not as existing Republican proposals would do, apply them to tax cuts for the wealthy, which makes no sense as far as this President is concerned. One of the significant achievements of the last six months was his ability to, against great resistance -- despite great resistance -- to achieve a stated goal, which was to make permanent tax cuts for the middle class and to raise rates on the wealthiest Americans back to where they were under Bill Clinton, when this economy thrived quite handsomely
Q Jay, on immigration, Marco Rubio said in a radio interview, “The bill, the immigration bill that's in place right now probably can't pass the House.” Does the President agree with that assessment? Is he concerned that that message is moving forward?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I haven’t heard that assessment. I think that as the President and others have made clear, we are still in our early stages here. We have a comprehensive immigration reform bill that was authored by Republicans and Democrats in the Senate that has significant bipartisan support, but that process is still moving forward.
And it is clearly something that everyone in Washington who supports broad, comprehensive immigration reform is going to have to work on because there are a few steps in the process here. We need to move that bill through committee. We need to see it voted on by the full Senate. We need broad, bipartisan support. That is something the President has always believed is necessary.
And then obviously there’s activity in the House that we have to monitor and we have to see what the House will support.
So like everything that's significant and big when it comes to progress and change, this is not necessarily easy. But there has been significant progress, as the President said yesterday. And we remain optimistic that this is going to get done.
Q Does this type of language set the process back at all?
MR. CARNEY: No, no. I think that language like that, comments like that acknowledge the fact that, as I was just saying, this is not going to be easy. I think it’s -- we have sometimes a phenomenon here in Washington that everybody sometimes participates in or gets caught up in where signs of progress are immediately deduced to mean success -- final success. And there’s a lot of work to be done between today and final passage of comprehensive immigration reform.
MR. CARNEY: Peter.
Q Thank you, Jay. General Dempsey was on Capitol Hill last month and talked a bit about what he called the confusing situation on the ground in Syria. He said it’s difficult to identify rebels who could be entrusted with arms -- quote here that “It’s actually more confusing on the opposition side today than it was six months ago.” Given that, why would arming the rebels be on the table? Why would the administration consider it?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we have made clear in the past that this has been an issue that we have evaluated consistently. As I was saying earlier to Jon, we have spent a lot of time working with the opposition, becoming more familiar with the opposition, evaluating the various groups within the opposition. And that has given us the confidence that has allowed us to step up the assistance that we have already provided or agreed to provide. And we'll continue to evaluate this situation and our options. But the General's comments are certainly correct that this is one of the reasons why we need to make very careful evaluations about the opposition.
Let me -- Donovan, yes. And then Zach.
Q Thanks, Jay. Quick question on Guantanamo. The ACLU says there's two things the President can do today without Congress. One of them is appointing a senior person and taking over the closure policy from the Pentagon, and the other thing is ordering the Secretary of Defense to begin certifying detainees for transfer. And I was wondering, will he do these things?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think I mentioned a couple of things that we are looking at doing and could do administratively. I'm sure other suggestions -- one of these sounds somewhat similar to what I was talking about. We are certainly going to look at other possibilities. And as the President made clear yesterday from here, he will look at every potential use of his authority to move towards the eventual closure of Guantanamo Bay. But unfortunately, achieving that ultimate goal requires cooperation from Congress.
Q Right, but these are moves that he could take -- so are you saying --
MR. CARNEY: Well, somebody is saying that we could take them -- I'm sure that we would have to evaluate those suggestions and see whether they make sense in terms of policy and whether, in fact, they are things that we can do.
Q Okay. And then just one other quick one, on the nominee for the FHFA. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is asking the President to remove Mr. DeMarco immediately because he is against principal write-downs for struggling homeowners. A couple of questions. Is the President open to that? And separately, does the President believe that Congressman Watt will back principal write-downs and does that factor into his selection of him?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll say a couple of things. First of all, the President has nominated someone for this job and hopes that Congress will act swiftly to confirm him, and that’s our focus at the moment.
When it comes to the policies the President supports and that he thinks ought to be acted on, he has clearly selected nominees for this area and others -- for this position and others that have, as a general principle, shared visions of how we can move forward. So on specific actions that the potential director of an agency might take, I’m not going to predict. But the President believes strongly that Congressman Watt would be an excellent director and would take action to protect consumers and rein in deceptive mortgage lenders and to do the kinds of things that he would hope the FHFA would do.
Peter, did you have a question?
Q No, it was asked.
MR. CARNEY: Yes, and then Zach.
Q Me? Okay. A quick question. I understand the furlough notices at the White House are supposed to go out today. How many people were furloughed and what impact will it have on White House operations?
MR. CARNEY: I believe that process is already underway and has been. So we can get you the numbers. But it affects -- I’m not sure if I have this information today, but I can get it to you. As I’ve said in the past, it affects everyone in the White House Office. And non-commissioned officers have to take a furlough day and non-commissioned officers have a reduction in pay in the pay period that there are furlough days for non-commissioned officers.
Q A more general follow-up question to Ed and my colleague’s question -- with these appointments today of Watt and Wheeler, what’s the message that the President wants to send to these industries?
MR. CARNEY: That we need strong and effective oversight, and that we need strong and effective heads of these agencies that are very important to sections of our economy and that have a huge impact on people’s lives, especially in the case of FHFA. So he’s looking for strength and wisdom.
Q I also have a few questions about the FHFA and Congressman Watt. So if he’s confirmed, it will be the first time the President’s choice will be in that job. It’s been Bush administration and career officers left over. Does the President see this as an -- and unlike the FDC, FHFA, mainly oversees Fannie and Freddie, which are taxpayer owned and federally run, et cetera. Does the President see this as a moment where he’s saying it’s time we should take a look at the ownership of those companies and begin to reform them -- the leftovers from the financial crisis?
MR. CARNEY: I think that you’re attaching -- the President’s views on what we need to do in terms of housing and Fannie and Freddie have not changed and are well-known. He is certainly looking for someone in his nominee to head up that agency to be an effective advocate and an effective administrator and director.
Again, I’m not going to predict or schedule in advance actions that might be taken once this nominee is confirmed, as we hope he is. But the President, as you know, has throughout his time in office put in place policies to address our housing crisis, to address the drag that it has produced on growth and the effect it’s had on homeowners.
And he continues to urge Congress to take action to allow responsible homeowners to take advantage of historically low rates to refinance their homes. That would be both good for those families and the bottom lines that these families have, and their budgets. It would also be enormously helpful to our economy because it would inject, in each case, cash directly into our economy. The money saved by refinancing would allow -- would put money in the pockets of all these families. And like most middle-class families, a lot of that money is going to be spent and injected back into the economy, and that would be a very helpful thing when it comes to growth and job creation.
Q Just one other question on that. Senator Corker is out with a very critical statement, saying he’s disappointed in the choice, saying that Mr. Watt sort of represented the point of view that protected housing policies that led to the original crisis, and it’s really a danger putting someone like that in charge of the biggest housing companies in the country. Do you have a response to --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I am not aware of that particular statement. I would simply say that Congressman Watt has worked tirelessly to expand economic opportunity for the middle class and those striving to get into the middle class. And he’s brought together consumer advocates and industry leaders to enact common-sense reforms that promote economic growth and protect consumers from fraud. Most recently -- and I think this goes to the question about whose interests are being advocated for -- Congressman Watt played a critical role in passing the Wall Street reform bill, the Dodd-Frank Act, and spearheaded legislation to eliminate predatory lending practices in the real estate market.
So, again, this President fought hard for Wall Street reform, and he fought hard with advocates like Congressman Watt on his side. And he fought hard against, in large measure, the Wall Street bankers and their lobbyists here and those who endorse the interests of those bankers and their lobbyists. And he continues to fight rearguard actions by Republicans on Capitol Hill to water down Dodd-Frank, to empower banks at the expense of consumers. There’s still an effort to undermine the Consumer Financial Protection Board, which is doing enormously beneficial work on behalf of consumers.
So this is a big accomplishment of the President’s and Congress -- Wall Street reform -- and we need to continue to implement it in a way that does right by America’s consumers and ensures that we have the regulations in place and the laws in place to prevent the kind of unraveling in our financial industry that we saw in 2007, 2008.
Q Jay, quickly on Benghazi, because in the last hour or so, a colleague in New York passes on that the FBI there is out today with three new surveillance photos of men who they say were on the grounds of the compound when it was attacked. Do you have any more insight you can share from the podium? And is the President any more hopeful today that the perpetrators will be caught and prosecuted?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t have any information with regards to that specific report. What I can say is that it has been the focus of the President and of his team to both investigate through the Accountability Review Board what happened in Benghazi and why, and to take action to ensure it doesn’t happen again, and to investigate the act itself and to bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of Americans in Benghazi. And that work is not done. And he is very focused on ensuring that it is accomplished.
Q Quickly, just a follow-up on last week, because I’m not sure that you were asked this directly or whether there’s anything you’d like to add on the public safety exception. Is the President satisfied that the FBI got all it needed to know out of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev before he was read his rights?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’re not going to comment on the specific case. What we will say, as the President and others have said, is that our system has proven effective when it comes to detaining, incarcerating, and prosecuting and bringing to justice terrorists. There has been a great deal -- there is now a great deal of precedent to successful interrogations of terrorists arrested and brought through the American system of justice, cooperation from those who have been arrested that has provided substantial information. I think the President addressed that to some degree yesterday.
So the President feels that the FBI has handled this case from the moment of the bombings through the successful capture of the individuals believed responsible and through today, very well. But I’m not going to comment on specific actions taken. It is important to note that there is the public safety exception to Miranda, and that is in place precisely because it allows investigators to gather information that could prevent an imminent attack and could help them find potential collaborators in an attack. And that exemption is very important, but I’m not going to get into the specifics of this case.
Q Thanks. What’s the reason that the administration has not sought to use the national security waiver in the Defense Authorization Act that would allow it to get around some of the restrictions that Congress has placed on transferring Guantanamo detainees?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a specific response to that question. I can tell you that Congress has repeatedly, through the NDAA, thrown up obstacles to the policy goal that the President has made clear he supports and that others, including President George W. Bush and Senator McCain and others, support. And he’s going to work with Congress to try to eliminate those obstacles, and he made that clear yesterday.
Q Will the review include a look at whether the administration will change its position that right now it's not feasible to return Yemeni detainees who have been cleared for at least Yemen because of the security situation?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we have a moratorium on the transfer of Yemeni detainees to Yemen -- 50 percent, roughly, I think, of those detainees still at Guantanamo are Yemeni, so that is a significant bloc and it is one reason why there are the number of detainees at Guantanamo who remain there. But that moratorium is in place because, as you know, there was a transfer of detainees that resulted in their release, and it was the judgment that we made that it was no longer the right thing to do to transfer detainees when we had agreements from the host government to keep them incarcerated.
So we're obviously evaluating this and other aspects of the situation in Guantanamo, but that is our policy. The moratorium remains in place.
1:55 P.M. EDT
State Dining Room
2:27 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. Please have a seat. Thank you so much.
Well, good afternoon, everybody. And today I’m proud to put forward two outstanding individuals who are going to help us grow our economy, but are also going to be looking out for the middle class.
Seven years after the housing bubble burst, triggering the worst financial crisis of our lifetimes and costing Americans millions of jobs, and, in some cases, their homes, our housing market is finally beginning to heal. Construction is expanding; housing starts are up nearly 50 percent. Just yesterday we learned that home prices in many cities are rising at the fastest rate since 2006.
So we’re starting to see some bright spots in one of the most important parts of our economy. But I think everybody understands we’ve still got more work to do. We’ve got more folks to help. We've got responsible homeowners who have never missed a payment, but aren’t allowed to refinance. We've got working families who are doing everything right, but still owe more on their homes than they’re worth. We've got young people who are trying to start a family and get into the housing market, and have seen difficulties in terms of financing.
So there are a lot of areas where we can make significant improvement. That’s why I’ve called on Congress to give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s historically low rates. That’s $3,000 -- it's like a tax cut for every family who refinances. And families who would be interested in refinancing should ask their Representatives why they wouldn’t we act on that, why don’t we get moving on that. I'm ready to sign that bill, and I know that we're talking to members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who recognize this is something that needs to get done.
In the meantime, I’ll keep taking whatever steps I can administratively on my own. And one of the best things I can do is to nominate Mel Watt to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Mel was raised by a single mom, who is here today. It's wonderful to see you. You look just great. And Michelle does say hi. (Applause.) Like many people I meet, when I first met Mel's mom, the first thing she says is, I want to see Michelle. (Laughter.) That’s kind of how things go for me. (Laughter.)
Anyway, Mel's mom raised Mel and his brothers in Charlotte, North Carolina, just outside -- grew up in a house where you could see the stars through the roof and the ground through the floor. But Evelyn Watt sacrificed and worked hard to give her boys a fighting chance. As Mel says, “[She] never, ever let us know we were poor or couldn’t do anything that anybody else could do.”
And that love and support eventually led Mel to Congress, where he’s represented the people of North Carolina for 20 years –- every one of them as a member of the committee that oversees housing policy. And in that capacity, Mel has led efforts to rein in unscrupulous mortgage lenders. He’s helped protect consumers from the kind of reckless risk-taking that led to the financial crisis in the first place. And he’s fought to give more Americans in low-income neighborhoods access to affordable housing.
So Mel understands as well as anybody what caused the housing crisis. He knows what it’s going to take to help responsible homeowners fully recover. And he’s committed to helping folks just like his mom -- Americans who work really hard, play by the rules day in and day out to provide for their families. So, Mel, thank you so much for agreeing to accept this nomination. Thank you. (Applause.)
You can tell he’s a good congressman because some of his staff is choking up. (Laughter.)
My second nominee will have a very different job, but one that’s equally important to the future of America’s economy.
When the Federal Communications Commission was founded almost 80 years ago, it was in charge of overseeing a few hundred radio stations and a few million phone lines. And today, the FCC sits at the center of a communications universe that is growing and changing faster than you can tweet. And that’s why Julius Genachowski, who is an old buddy from law school, and had so much success in the private sector as well as previously serving in the FCC -- that's why Julius has had one of the toughest jobs in Washington.
Four years ago, Julius set two priorities as chairman of the FCC: Making high-speed Internet available everywhere, and keeping it open to everyone. And thanks to his hard work and his leadership, the FCC has made extraordinary progress on both fronts. We’re helping millions more Americans connect to high-speed Internet. We’re unleashing the airwaves to support the latest in mobile technology. We’re protecting the Internet as an open platform for innovation and free speech. And we’re poised to do even more, thanks to Julius’ efforts.
So he has been an extraordinary FCC chairman, but Julius has decided to move on to new challenges in the digital frontier. And so today, it is my great pleasure to nominate Tom Wheeler to take his place. Give Tom a big round of applause. (Applause.)
Now, if anybody is wondering about Tom’s qualifications, Tom is the only member of both the cable television and the wireless industry hall of fame. So he’s like the Jim Brown of telecom, or the Bo Jackson of telecom. (Laughter.) And that’s because for more than 30 years, Tom has been at the forefront of some of the very dramatic changes that we’ve seen in the way we communicate and how we live our lives.
He was one of the leaders of a company that helped create thousands of good, high-tech jobs. He’s in charge of the group that advises the FCC on the latest technology issues. He’s helped give American consumers more choices and better products. So Tom knows this stuff inside and out. And I think Julius will attest to that because Julius has benefitted frequently from Tom’s input and advice.
I also want to thank Mignon Clyburn -- where is Mignon? There she is right there -- who has been an incredible asset to the FCC for the last few years. (Applause.) And so Mignon is going to be Acting Chair until Tom is confirmed. And together, they’ve got a very important mission -- giving businesses and workers the tools they need to compete in the 21st century economy, and making sure we’re staying at the cutting edge of an industry that again and again we’ve revolutionized here in America.
And as technology continues to shape the way that we do business and communicate and transform the world, we want to make sure that it’s American ingenuity, American innovation, and that we’re setting up legal structures and regulatory structures that facilitate this continued growth and expansion that can create good jobs and continue to grow our economy.
So I just want to thank Julius and his family, his wonderful wife, Rachel, and the entire family for their extraordinary service. I want to thank Mel, I want to thank Tom and their families for agreeing to step into these new and challenging roles. And I’m going to go ahead and thank the Senate now for what I’m sure -- (laughter) -- will be a speedy confirmation process so these two gentlemen can get to work right away.
Thank you very much, everybody.
2:36 P.M. EDT
On Wednesday, May 1, 2013, the President signed into law:
H.R. 1246, the "District of Columbia Chief Financial Officer Vacancy Act," which provides that certain individuals may serve in an acting capacity if there is a vacancy in the Office of Chief Financial Officer of the District of Columbia; and
H.R. 1765, the "Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013," which provides the Secretary of Transportation with the flexibility to transfer certain funds to prevent reduced operations and staffing of the Federal Aviation Administration.
NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER, 2013
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Americans have long turned to prayer both in times of joy and times of sorrow. On their voyage to the New World, the earliest settlers prayed that they would "rejoice together, mourn together, labor, and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work." From that day forward, Americans have prayed as a means of uniting, guiding, and healing. In times of hardship and tragedy, and in periods of peace and prosperity, prayer has provided reassurance, sustenance, and affirmation of common purpose.
Prayer brings communities together and can be a wellspring of strength and support. In the aftermath of senseless acts of violence, the prayers of countless Americans signal to grieving families and a suffering community that they are not alone. Their pain is a shared pain, and their hope a shared hope. Regardless of religion or creed, Americans reflect on the sacredness of life and express their sympathy for the wounded, offering comfort and holding up a light in an hour of darkness.
All of us have the freedom to pray and exercise our faiths openly. Our laws protect these God-given liberties, and rightly so. Today and every day, prayers will be offered in houses of worship, at community gatherings, in our homes, and in neighborhoods all across our country. Let us give thanks for the freedom to practice our faith as we see fit, whether individually or in fellowship.
On this day, let us remember in our thoughts and prayers all those affected by recent events, such as the Boston Marathon bombings, the Newtown, Connecticut shootings, and the explosion in West, Texas. Let us pray for the police officers, firefighters, and other first responders who put themselves in harm's way to protect their fellow Americans. Let us also pray for the safety of our brave men and women in uniform and their families who serve and sacrifice for our country. Let us come together to pray for peace and goodwill today and in the days ahead as we work to meet the great challenges of our time.
The Congress, by Public Law 100-307, as amended, has called on the President to issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a "National Day of Prayer."
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2, 2013, as a National Day of Prayer. I join the citizens of our Nation in giving thanks, in accordance with our own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and in asking for God's continued guidance, mercy, and protection.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.
Remarks by the President, The Vice President, The First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, and Petty Officer David Padilla at Joining Forces Employment Event
NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH, 2013
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Today, tens of millions of Americans are living with the burden of a mental health problem. They shoulder conditions like depression and anxiety, post-traumatic stress and bipolar disorder -- debilitating illnesses that can strain every part of a person's life. And even though help is out there, less than half of children and adults with diagnosable mental health problems receive treatment. During National Mental Health Awareness Month, we shine a light on these issues, stand with men and women in need, and redouble our efforts to address mental health problems in America.
For many, getting help starts with a conversation. People who believe they may be suffering from a mental health condition should talk about it with someone they trust and consult a health care provider. As a Nation, it is up to all of us to know the signs of mental health issues and lend a hand to those who are struggling. Shame and stigma too often leave people feeling like there is no place to turn. We need to make sure they know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness -- it is a sign of strength. To find treatment services nearby, call 1-800-662-HELP. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers immediate assistance for all Americans, including service members and veterans, at 1-800-273-TALK.
Our commitment cannot end there. We must ensure people have access to the care they need -- which is why the Affordable Care Act will expand mental health and substance use disorder benefits and Federal parity protections for 62 million Americans. For the first time, the health care law will prevent insurers from denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition. The Act already requires new health plans to cover recommended preventive services like depression screening and behavioral assessments for children at no extra cost to patients.
My Administration will keep building on those achievements. Earlier this year, I was proud to launch the BRAIN Initiative -- a new partnership between government, scientists, and leaders in the private sector to invest in research that could unlock new treatments for mental illness and drive growth throughout our economy. We have made unprecedented commitments to improving mental health care for veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. And we have proposed new funding for mental health programs that will help teachers and other adults recognize the signs of mental illness in children, improve mental health outcomes for young people, and train 5,000 more mental health professionals to serve our youth.
Mental health problems remain a serious public health concern, but together, our Nation is making progress. This month, I encourage all Americans to advance this important work by raising awareness about mental health and lending strength to all who need it.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2013 as National Mental Health Awareness Month. I call upon citizens, government agencies, organizations, health care providers, and research institutions to raise mental health awareness and continue helping Americans live longer, healthier lives.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.
NATIONAL PHYSICAL FITNESS AND SPORTS MONTH, 2013
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Over the past 3 years, communities all across America have joined First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative, which aims to help parents make healthy choices and give our children a strong start. Today, families have more of the tools and know-how they need to embrace a healthy lifestyle. Kids and adults are finding new ways to bring exercise into their daily lives. And by getting active, our youngest generation is not only improving their health, but also their ability to learn and be successful later in life. During National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, we celebrate that progress and keep striving for more.
To help more kids and families get moving and make exercise a lifelong habit, we are working to create more opportunities for physical activity -- whether on the playground, in the classroom, or at work. Through Let's Move! and the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, we continue to advance that mission by collaborating with partners in every corner of our country -- public and private, large and small, national and neighborhood. Together, we are helping cities, towns, and counties raise a healthier generation of kids. And earlier this year, we built on that work by launching a new program to bring physical activity back to our schools. To learn more and join in, visit www.LetsMove.gov and www.Fitness.gov.
With simple steps, all of us can make physical activity a way of life. This month, we recognize Americans who are choosing that future for themselves and inspiring others to do the same. We also take this opportunity to renew the call to action. I encourage business, faith, and community leaders to uphold physical activity as an important way to enrich our neighborhoods. I call on schools to make good health and exercise part of a good education. And alongside our friends and family, let each of us recommit to leading a healthy, active lifestyle, and setting our children on the path to a bright future.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2013 as National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. I call upon the people of the United States to make daily physical activity, sports participation, and good nutrition a priority in their lives.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.
LOYALTY DAY, 2013
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
In the centuries since America broke from an empire and claimed independence, our people have come together again and again to meet the challenges of a changing world. We have reinvented our cities with advances in science and reformed our markets with new understanding of the forces that guide them. We have fought for freedom in the theater of war and expanded its reach during times of peace. We have revamped and recovered and remade ourselves anew, mindful that when times change, so must we. But with every step forward, we have reaffirmed our faith in the ideals that inspired our founding. We have held fast to the principles at our country's core: service and citizenship; courage and the common good; liberty, equality, and justice for all.
This is our Nation's heritage, and it is what we remember on Loyalty Day. It is an occasion that asks something of us as a people: to rediscover those ageless truths our Founders held to be self-evident, and to renew them in our own time. We look back to Americans who did the same, from generation to generation -- citizens who strengthened our democracy, organizers who made it broader, service members who gave everything to protect it. These patriots and pioneers remind us that while our path to a more perfect Union is unending, with hope and hard work, we can move forward together.
Today, we rededicate ourselves to that enduring task. We do so knowing our journey is not complete until the promises of our founding documents are made real for every American, regardless of their station in life or the circumstances of their birth. Progress may come slow; the road may be long. But as loyal citizens of these United States, we have the power to set our country's course. Let us mark this day by pressing on in the march toward lasting freedom and true equality, grateful for the precious rights and responsibilities entrusted to each of us by our forebears.
In order to recognize the American spirit of loyalty and the sacrifices that so many have made for our Nation, the Congress, by Public Law 85-529 as amended, has designated May 1 of each year as "Loyalty Day." On this day, let us reaffirm our allegiance to the United States of America, our Constitution, and our founding values.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 1, 2013, as Loyalty Day. This Loyalty Day, I call upon all the people of the United States to join in support of this national observance, whether by displaying the flag of the United States or pledging allegiance to the Republic for which it stands.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.
LAW DAY, U.S.A., 2013
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
As a Nation, we are bound together not by the colors of our skin, the tenets of our faith, or the origins of our names. What unites us as Americans is our allegiance to an idea articulated more than two centuries ago: that "all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." In the years since that declaration, we not only forged a Republic of, by, and for the people; we also set ourselves to the task of perfecting it, and bridging the meaning of those words with the realities of our time.
This Law Day, we look back on our long journey toward equality for all. We reflect on the Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago to mend a Nation half-slave and half-free under the unifying promise of liberty. We remember when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stood in Lincoln's shadow a century later and gave voice to a dream, sounding the call for an America that truly lives out the meaning of its founding creed. We honor the courageous men and women who fought to bring those ageless ideals of freedom and fairness into the rule of law -- from the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act to Title IX and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Even now, that work is not yet finished. Opportunity remains painfully unequal for too many among us; justice too often goes undone. Law Day is a chance to reaffirm the critical role our courts have always played in addressing those wrongs and aligning our Nation with its first principles. Let us mark this occasion by celebrating that history, upholding the right to due process, and honoring all who have sustained our proud legal tradition.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, in accordance with Public Law 87-20, as amended, do hereby proclaim May 1, 2013, as Law Day, U.S.A. I call upon all Americans to acknowledge the importance of our Nation's legal and judicial systems with appropriate ceremonies and activities, and to display the flag of the United States in support of this national observance.
NATIONAL FOSTER CARE MONTH, 2013
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
As a Nation, we have no task more important than ensuring our children grow up healthy and safe. It is a promise we owe to the hundreds of thousands of youth in foster care -- boys and girls who too often go without the love, protection, and stability of a permanent family. This month, we recommit to giving them that critical support, and we recognize the foster parents and professionals who work every day to lift up the children in their care toward a bright, productive future.
Thanks to those efforts, the number of young people in foster care is falling and fewer children are waiting for adoption. But even now, more than 400,000 kids are looking for permanency with caring parents. Many are struggling to find the meaningful, long-term relationships that will help them transition into adulthood. Some young men and women are aging out of the system without a permanent home, making it harder for them to get a good education, find a job, and build a better life.
To give foster youth the support they need, Americans in every community are stepping up to serve. They are mentors, teachers, faith leaders, caseworkers, advocates, family members -- individuals dedicated to making a difference. As they lend their strength to our most vulnerable children, my Administration will continue to invest in services that strengthen the foster care system and encourage adoption. We will keep working to ensure every qualified caregiver has the chance to be an adoptive or foster parent. And we will support programs that help increase permanency, reduce rates of re-entry into foster care, and address the issues that bring young people in the child welfare system in the first place.
Whether as a friend, a role model, or a guardian, any of us can be a supportive adult for a child in need. As we honor the countless Americans who are answering that call to action, let us mark this month by showing children and youth in foster care the best our country has to offer.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2013 as National Foster Care Month. I call upon all Americans to observe this month by taking time to help youth in foster care and recognizing the commitment of all who touch their lives at a most challenging time.
ASIAN AMERICAN AND PACIFIC ISLANDER HERITAGE MONTH, 2013
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Each May, our Nation comes together to recount the ways Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) helped forge our country. We remember a time 170 years ago, when Japanese immigrants first set foot on American shores and opened a path for millions more. We remember 1869, when Chinese workers laid the final ties of the transcontinental railroad after years of backbreaking labor. And we remember Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have made our country bigger and brighter again and again, from Native Hawaiians to the generations of striving immigrants who shaped our history -- reaching and sweating and scraping to give their children something more. Their story is the American story, and this month, we honor them all.
For many in the AAPI community, that story is one also marked by lasting inequality and bitter wrongs. Immigrants seeking a better life were often excluded, subject to quotas, or denied citizenship because of their race. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders endured decades of persecution and broken promises. Japanese Americans suffered profoundly under internment during World War II, even as their loved ones fought bravely abroad. And in the last decade, South Asian Americans -- particularly those who are Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh -- have too often faced senseless violence and suspicion due only to the color of their skin or the tenets of their faith.
This year, we recognize the 25th anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and the 70th anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act's repeal -- milestones that helped mend deep wounds of systemic discrimination. And with irrepressible determination and optimism, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have prevailed over adversity and risen to the top of their fields -- from medicine to business to the bench. But even now, too many hardworking AAPI families face disparities in health care, education, and employment that keep them from getting ahead.
My Administration remains committed to addressing those disparities. Through the White House Initiative on AAPIs, we are working to ensure equal access to Federal programs that meet the diverse needs of AAPI communities. We are standing up for civil rights, economic opportunity, and better outcomes in health and education. We are fighting for commonsense immigration reform so America can continue to be a magnet for the best and brightest from all around the world, including Asia and the Pacific.
Meeting those challenges will not be easy. But the history of the AAPI community shows us how with hope and resolve, we can overcome the problems we face. We can reaffirm our legacy as a Nation where all things are possible for all people. So this month, as we recognize Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who are fulfilling that promise in every corner of our country, let us recommit to giving our children and grandchildren the same opportunity in the years ahead.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2013 as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to visit www.WhiteHouse.gov/AAPI and www.AsianPacificHeritage.gov to learn more about the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities.
OLDER AMERICANS MONTH, 2013
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
For half a century, communities in every corner of our country have come together to honor older Americans in a special way during the month of May. We carry that tradition forward again this year by recognizing their accomplishments, sharing their stories, and showing support and appreciation for our elders.
With groundbreaking advances in medicine and health care, Americans are living longer and achieving more. Many seniors are using a lifetime of experience to serve those around them. Even after decades of hard work, men and women are taking on new roles after retirement -- organizing, educating, innovating, and making sure they leave the next generation with the same opportunities they had. It is a commitment that shines brightly in programs like Senior Corps, which connects more than half a million people to service opportunities from coast to coast.
As older Americans strive to lift up their neighborhoods, my Administration is working to make sure they get the tools they need to make a difference. We are helping more seniors get involved in volunteer service and give back to those around them. We are also finding new ways to make sure seniors live with dignity as full members of their communities -- from improving access to health care to broadening employment opportunities. And to ensure older Americans have resources they can count on, my Administration will continue to protect and strengthen Medicare and Social Security not just for this generation, but also for those to come.
Our seniors deserve the best our country has to offer. This month, we pay tribute to the men and women who raised us, and we pledge anew to show them the fullest care, support, and respect of a grateful Nation.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2013 as Older Americans Month. I call upon all Americans of all ages to acknowledge the contributions of older Americans during this month and throughout the year.
JEWISH AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH, 2013
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
In his second year in office, President George Washington wrote a letter to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island -- one of our Nation's first Jewish houses of worship -- and reaffirmed our country's commitment to religious freedom. He noted that the Government of the United States would give "to bigotry no sanction [and] to persecution no assistance," and that all Americans are entitled to "liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship." Those words ring as true today as they did then, and they speak to a principle as old as America itself: that no matter who you are, where you come from, or what faith you practice, all of us have an equal share in America's promise.
It was such a belief that drew generations of Jewish immigrants to our shores. It is what brought Jewish families westward when pogroms and persecution cast a shadow over Europe in the last century. It is what led Holocaust survivors and Jews trapped behind the Iron Curtain to rebuild their lives across the Atlantic. And with every group that arrived here, the Jewish American community grew stronger. Our Nation grew stronger. Jewish immigrants from all over the world wove new threads into our cultural fabric with rich traditions and indomitable faith, and their descendants pioneered incredible advances in science and the arts. Teachings from the Torah lit the way toward a more perfect Union, from women's rights to workers' rights to the end of segregation.
That story is still unfolding today. Jewish Americans continue to guide our country's progress as scientists and teachers, public servants and private citizens, wise leaders and loving parents. We see their accomplishments in every neighborhood, and we see them abroad in our unbreakable bond with Israel that Jewish Americans helped forge. More than 350 years have passed since Jewish refugees first made landfall on American shores. We take this month to celebrate the progress that followed, and the bright future that lies ahead.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2013 as Jewish American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to visit www.JewishHeritageMonth.gov to learn more about the heritage and contributions of Jewish Americans and to observe this month with appropriate programs, activities, and ceremonies.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of April, in the year two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.
NATIONAL BUILDING SAFETY MONTH, 2013
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
When natural disasters and other hazards put American lives at risk, robust codes and standards for our buildings play an important role in keeping us safe. They ensure our homes and businesses are resilient to the challenges of our time -- not just by making them structurally sound, but also by boosting their energy efficiency. This month, as we pay tribute to professionals who design, construct, and secure our infrastructure, let us raise awareness about building safety and rededicate ourselves to improving it in the days to come.
Protecting our communities from harm requires commitment from all of us. Alongside partners in government and industry, my Administration is encouraging stakeholders across our country to adopt disaster-resistant building codes and standards. We are collaborating with experts to issue modern guidance on construction and retrofitting techniques. And we are supporting cities and towns from coast to coast as they pursue disaster preparedness, mitigation, and redevelopment. To get involved, visit www.Ready.gov.
Time and again, devastating natural disasters have tested the strength of our communities and the resilience of our people. Our capacity to withstand these threats depends on what we do to prepare today -- from reinforcing critical infrastructure to making sure our buildings adhere to local codes and standards. This month, we take up those tasks once more and recommit to safety in the year ahead.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2013 as National Building Safety Month. I encourage citizens, government agencies, businesses, nonprofits, and other interested groups to join in activities that raise awareness about building safety. I also call on all Americans to learn more about how they can contribute to building safety at home and in their communities.