Hi, all. Today’s report features:
• Ambassador Holbrooke: President's statement on his passing.
• Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act: President and First Lady visit Harriet Tubman Elementary School, where he signs the Act into law.
• First Question & press briefing: Q&A on Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, health care ruling and other issues.
• The President on Senate's cloture vote: President commends Senate for moving forward on the tax cuts and calls on House to act quickly.
• Commerce Secretary on DREAM Act: Secretary Locke urges Act passage.
• The President & the L.A. Lakers at THEARC: Visiting Boys and Girls Club; sending care packages to servicemembers.
• A visit from the First Lady: Children's National Medical Center welcomes Mrs. Obama.
• Diplomatic Corps holiday reception: President thanks State Department employees for their work and greets representatives of other countries.
• Christmas in Washington: President's remarks at a benefit for the Children's National Medical Center.
• PRESIDENT'S STATEMENT ON THE PASSING OF AMBASSADOR RICHARD C. HOLBROOKE •
Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 13, 2010:
Michelle and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Richard Holbrooke, a true giant of American foreign policy who has made America stronger, safer, and more respected. He was a truly unique figure who will be remembered for his tireless diplomacy, love of country, and pursuit of peace.
For nearly 50 years, Richard served the country he loved with honor and distinction. He worked as a young foreign service officer during the Vietnam War and then supported the Paris peace talks which ended that war. As a young Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, he helped normalize relations with China. As U.S. Ambassador to Germany, he helped Europe emerge from a long Cold War and encouraged NATO to welcome new members.
As Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs, he was the tireless chief architect of the Dayton Accords that ended the war in Bosnia 15 years ago this week, saving countless lives. As Ambassador to the United Nations, Richard helped break a political impasse and strengthen our nation’s relationship with the UN and elevated the cause of AIDS and Africa on the international agenda. And throughout his life, as a child of refugees, he devoted himself to the plight of people displaced around the world.
When I became President, I was grateful that Richard agreed to serve as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The progress that we have made in Afghanistan and Pakistan is due in no small measure to Richard’s relentless focus on America’s national interest, and pursuit of peace and security. He understood, in his life and his work, that our interests encompassed the values that we hold so dear. And as usual, amidst his extraordinary duties, he also mentored young people who will serve our country for decades to come. One of his friends and admirers once said that, "If you’re not on the team and you’re in his way, God help you." Like so many Presidents before me, I am grateful that Richard Holbrooke was on my team, as are the American people.
Earlier this evening at the State Department, I met with Richard’s wife Kati and their family, David, Anthony, Lizzie, Christopher and Sarah, and I spoke to Kati after Richard’s passing. I expressed to them the gratitude of the American people for his lifetime of service. They are in our thoughts and prayers tonight. Tonight, there are millions of people around the world whose lives have been saved and enriched by his work. As I said earlier this evening, the United States is safer and the world is more secure because of the half century of patriotic service of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.
• HEALTHY, HUNGER-FREE KIDS ACT •
White House, Dec. 13, 2010:
Signing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visit Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Washington, DC where the President signs into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, legislation that will help provide all children with healthy food in schools.
Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 13:
.... It is worth noting that this bill passed with bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. That hasn’t happened as often as we’d like over the last couple of years, but I think it says something about our politics. It reminds us that no matter what people may hear about how divided things are in Washington, we can still come together and agree on issues that matter for our children’s future and for our future as a nation....
At a very basic level, this act is about doing what’s right for our children. Right now, across the country, too many kids don’t have access to school meals. And often, the food that’s being offered isn’t as healthy or as nutritious as it should be. That’s part of the reason why one in three children in America today are either overweight or obese....
And this bill is also about doing what’s right for our country, because we feel the strains that treating obesity-related health conditions puts on our economy. We’ve seen the connection between what our kids eat and how well they perform in school. And we know that the countries that succeed in the 21st century will be the ones that have the best-prepared, best-educated workforce around....
This legislation will help 115,000 children gain access to school meal programs. And wherever we can, we’re doing away with bureaucracy and red tape, so that families don’t have to fill out mountains of paperwork to get their kids the nutrition they need.
We’re improving the quality of those meals by reimbursing schools an additional six cents per lunch to help them provide with healthier options –- the first real increase, by the way, in over 30 years. Because when our kids walk into the lunchroom, we want to be sure that they’re getting balanced, nutritious meals that they need to succeed in the classroom.
We’re empowering parents by making information more available about the quality of school meals –- helping families understand what their kids are eating during the day.
And to support our schools’ efforts to serve fresh fruits and vegetables, we’re connecting them with local farmers.
We’re also improving food safety in schools, and boosting the quality of commodities like cheese that schools get from the Department of Agriculture and use in their lunch and breakfast programs.
It’s also important to note that while this bill is fully paid for, it won’t add a dime to the deficit, some of the funding comes from rolling back a temporary increase in food stamp benefits –- or SNAP as it’s now called -– starting in the fall of 2013. I know a number of members of Congress have expressed concerns about this offset being included in the bill, and I’m committed to working with them to restore these funds in the future.
We know that every day across this country, parents are working as hard as they can to make healthy choices for their kids. Schools are doing everything possible to provide the nutritious food they need to thrive. Communities are coming together to help our young people lead healthier lives right from the beginning. And it’s time that we made that work a little bit easier.
So these folks are fulfilling their responsibilities to our kids. This legislation helps ensure that we fulfill our responsibilities as well.
Shortly after signing the first law establishing school lunches, Harry Truman said that "Nothing is more important in our national life than the welfare of our children, and proper nourishment comes first in attaining this welfare."
So today, I’m very proud to sign this bill that continues that legacy. Not only am I very proud of the bill, but had I not been able to get this passed, I would be sleeping on the couch. (Laughter and applause.)
So now I am -- now I am very proud to introduce somebody who’s done so much to shine a light on these critical issues related to childhood nutrition and obesity and exercise: America’s First Lady, my First Lady, Michelle Obama. (Applause.)
.... And thank you, Mr. President -- (laughter) -- for that very kind introduction. And all kidding aside, my husband worked very hard to make sure that this bill was a priority in this session. And I am grateful to you.
THE PRESIDENT: Because I would have been sleeping on the couch. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: But I am thrilled to be here -- we won’t go into that. (Laughter.) Let’s just say it got done, so we don’t have to go down that road. (Laughter.)
But I am thrilled to be here with all of you today as my husband signs the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law.
Now, usually, we hold these bill signings in the White House. But we felt it was important to do this one right here at Tubman Elementary because we wanted to share this moment with our partners -- with the students, the parents, the teachers, the community leaders, like all of you here, who have been so instrumental....
So with everything that all of you are doing to give these children a healthy start in life, you are fulfilling the mission of this legislation every single day. That’s why we’re here. So I want to thank you all, all of our partners, for what you’ve done, not just in hosting us here today but in making sure that we’re doing the right thing by our kids.
I also want to echo my husband’s thanks to leaders and members of Congress, many of whom are on the stage, many of whom are not and are down here, and you all have done just a tremendous thing in making this day possible. As he said, this was truly a bipartisan effort, with passionate supporters from both parties putting in late nights and long weekends, working around the clock to make sure that this bill got passed, because while we may sometimes have our differences, we can all agree that in the United States of America, no child should go to school hungry.
We can all agree -- (applause) -- we can all agree that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, all children should have the basic nutrition they need to learn and grow and to pursue their dreams, because in the end, nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children. Nothing. And our hopes for their future should drive every single decision that we make.
These are the basic values that we all share, regardless of race, party, religion. This is what we share. These are the values that this bill embodies. And that’s why we’ve seen such a groundswell of support for these efforts –- not just from members of Congress here in Washington, but from folks in every corner of the country. It’s been beautiful to see.
From educators working to provide healthier school meals, because they know the connection between proper nutrition and academic performance.
From doctors and nurses who know that unhealthy kids grow into unhealthy adults –- at risk for obesity-related diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer.
From business and labor leaders who know that we spend nearly $150 billion a year to treat these diseases and who worry about the impact on our economy.
From advocates and faith leaders who know that school meals are vital for combating hunger, feeding more than 31 million children a day.
And from military leaders who tell us that when more than one in four young people are unqualified for military service because of their weight, they tell us that childhood obesity isn’t just a public health issue; they tell us that it is not just an economic threat -- it is a national security threat as well.
Now, these folks come at this issue from all different angles. But they’ve come together to support this bill because they know it’s the right thing to do for our kids. And they know that in the long run, it won’t just save money, but it’s going to save lives.
And let’s be clear: These folks don’t just support this bill as leaders and as professionals, but as parents as well. And we know that ensuring that kids eat right and stay active is ultimately the responsibility of parents more than anyone else....
But when our kids spend so much of their time each day in school, and when many children get up to half their daily calories from school meals, it’s clear that we as a nation have a responsibility to meet as well. We can’t just leave it up to the parents. I think that parents have a right to expect that their efforts at home won’t be undone each day in the school cafeteria or in the vending machine in the hallway. I think that our parents have a right to expect that their kids will be served fresh, healthy food that meets high nutritional standards.
And particularly in these tough economic times, when so many families are struggling, when school meals sometimes are the main source of nourishment for so many kids, we have an obligation to make sure that those meals are as nutritious as possible.
But by improving the quality of school meals -- and making sure that more children have access to them -- that is precisely what the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is going to do. Because while it might seem counterintuitive, child hunger and child obesity are really just two sides of the same coin. Both rob our children of the energy, the strength and the stamina they need to succeed in school and in life. And that, in turn, robs our country of so much of their promise.
Both, though, can be solved when we come together to provide our children with the nutritious food that they need and deserve. That’s why for well over half a century, we’ve made child nutrition a national priority....
That is our obligation, not just as parents who love our kids but as citizens who love this country. That’s the mission of this legislation –- to give all of our children the bright futures that they deserve. And that is why I am so proud to be here. I am so proud to have worked on this bill with all of you, and now I am pleased to stop talking and turn this over to my husband so that he can get to work signing that bill.
THE PRESIDENT: Let’s go sign this bill.
MRS. OBAMA: Let’s go do it. (Applause.)
(The bill is signed.)
Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 13, 2010:
First Lady Michelle Obama, Administration Officials and Let’s Move! Advocates Reaffirm Commitment to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids
".... As we continue to focus on the twin issues of childhood obesity and hunger, we will increase access to good, quality meals in school cafeterias so the nutritional needs of our youngsters are better met. The President and First Lady have advocated strongly for passing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, and, this bill, along with the resources and the powers provided under it, are going to allow USDA to be much more effective and aggressive in responding to obesity and hunger challenges for America’s kids."
- U.S. Secretary Of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
".... Thanks to the dedication of this Congress and First Lady Michelle Obama, more kids will have access to healthy, balanced, nutritious school lunches. By increasing the number of students eligible to enroll in school meal programs and improving the quality of food served, this legislation simultaneously tackles both hunger and the obesity levels currently affecting too many communities across this nation."
-U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius
"The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act makes the most significant investment in the National School Lunch program in more than 30 years. I look forward to continuing to work with the First Lady and Secretary Vilsack to combat our national childhood obesity epidemic and increase students’ access to the nutritional food they need to help them learn."
- U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
".... This bi-partisan legislation will significantly enhance the quality of food for our children for generations to come and is a dramatic step forward in reducing childhood obesity.... With 36.5% of our children in Tennessee being overweight, this act goes a long way in ensuring that kids in Tennessee and around the country will have the healthy nutrition they deserve."
- U.S. Senator Bill Frist (R-TN)
".... the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act will help end this epidemic (of obesity) by improving the quality of food served to our children in schools across the nation.... I applaud First Lady Michelle Obama’s commitment to the children of our city and across the country."
- Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark, New Jersey
"On behalf of Mission: Readiness and over 100 retired generals and admirals who support child nutrition legislation as a matter of national security, we are very pleased that the nation has taken this important step in addressing the nation’s obesity epidemic. Being overweight or obese is the No. 1 medical reason why young men and women are unable to join the military. Research shows that up to 40 percent of what children consume every day takes place during school hours and that 80 percent of children who were overweight between the ages of 10 to 15 were obese by age 25.... We must act, as we did after World War II, to ensure that our children can one day defend our country, if need be."
-Retired Army Generals John M. Shalikashvili and Hugh Shelton, Former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
"Congratulations to First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and to the bi-partisan support in the Congress to pass the Healthy, Hunger Free Children Act. By passing a bill that addresses the nutritional quality of school lunches, an important step is being taken to give children choices that will make them healthier and more productive."
-Mike Huckabee, Governor of Arkansas 1996-2007
"The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act makes significant progress toward ending child hunger and obesity by expanding access to federal child nutrition programs and improving the nutritional value they provide...."
- O. Marion Burton, MD, FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics
".... With the implementation of this law, our nation's kids will be less likely to grow up with early risk factors for heart disease and stroke."
-Nancy Brown, Chief Executive Officer, American Heart Association
".... By giving the USDA the authority to update standards for all foods and beverages in schools, this new law says unhealthy foods have no place in our nation’s schools. And schools finally will have more resources to serve nutritious and appealing meals."
- Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., President and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
".... (This bill is) the result of the hard work of many, but would not have passed without this Administration. The President's leadership and First Lady's tireless advocacy brought the child nutrition bill back to life a number of times as it made its way through Congress."
-Margo G. Wootan, Director of Nutrition Policy, Center for Science in the Public Interest
"The School Nutrition Association joins families nationwide in thanking President Obama, the First Lady and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for their sustained efforts to pass child nutrition reauthorization and expand children’s access to healthy school meals...."
- Nancy Rice, M.Ed., RD, LD, SNS, President, School Nutrition Association (SNA)
".... New USDA meal patterns and professional standards will assure improved quality child nutrition programs for our children which in turn will support student academic performance in the classroom."
-Dora Rivas, MS, RD, SNS, Executive Director, Food & Child Nutrition Services, Dallas Independent School District
".... I would like to thank the President and First Lady for making Child Nutrition a top priority. Through their leadership and commitment we now have the first significant change in school meals in thirty years. This legislation is historic and will allow me to continue to offer more real foods to the kids in our schools."
- Timothy Cipriano, Executive Director of Food Services, New Haven Public Schools
".... The First Lady’s persistence made all the difference between this legislation’s good intentions and its becoming the law of the land."
-Bill Shore, Founder and Executive Director, Share Our Strength
"This bill is an acknowledgement that in a nation as bountiful as ours, no child should worry about when their next meal will be. We are grateful for the hard work of our coalition partners, the White House, and Congress."
-Rabbi Steve Gutow, President, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Co-Chair Fighting Poverty with Faith
"This bill is an exciting victory for hungry children. After a largely gridlocked year, passage of this bill is a positive sign that Congress can work together in the best interests of Americans."
-Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
".... The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is an essential step in helping the 43.6 million American families who struggle every day to feed their children."
- Father Larry Snyder, President, Catholic Charities USA, Co-chair Fighting Poverty with Faith
"Today's signing of the Healthy, Hung
er-Free Kids Act is something to celebrate, whether you are one of the 31 million schoolchildren who stand to benefit from it, or their parents, or America’s farmers....The bill also recognizes the value of linking farms directly to schools as a way to get the freshest, tastiest vegetables and fruits into the cafeteria—a boon to both children and local farmers...."
–Michael Pollan, Author and Journalism Professor
".... With the First Lady’s leadership, parents, teachers, child advocates and chefs all helped to pass a bill that will provide a children with what should be a fundamental right: the right to be fed in a healthy way...."
- José Andrés, Principal, Think Food Group
"From the First Lady’s Chefs Move to Schools initiative to the President’s Childhood Nutrition bill, the Obama Administration has instigated a much-needed attitude change towards proper nutrition...."
-Cat Cora, Founder, "Chefs for Humanity" and UNICEF spokesperson
"I am pleased to support President and Mrs. Obama and the efforts of their Administration in securing healthier nutrition for this nation's children. We still have much work to do to guarantee that all Americans have access to adequate, high-quality food, but the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is an important first step in that direction."
-Tom Colicchio, Chef/Restaurateur and Host of Top Chef
• FIRST QUESTION & PRESS BRIEFING •
White House, Dec. 13:
First Question with Robert Gibbs - December 13, 2010
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs takes first questions before his press briefing from the online audience on the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and what's next on the agenda after tax cuts and unemployment insurance.
White House, Dec. 13, 2010:
12/13/10: White House Press Briefing
White House Press Briefings are conducted most weekdays from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the West Wing.
Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 13, 2010:
On Monday’s health care ruling.
....Q: .... Doesn’t this vindicate or validate a central argument of skeptics, which is that despite your intentions you can't require people to participate in a law like this?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think a couple of important things for perspective, Ben. First and foremost, obviously the administration argued on the other side of this case and disagrees with the ruling. I do think it is important to keep some perspective about the fact that there are now 20 or so cases making their way through federal courts. This was the Eastern District of Virginia; 115 miles away, the Western District Court of Virginia ruled November 30th to uphold the same provision that the Eastern District and its judge had ruled against. So I think the other court -- the Eastern District of Michigan on October 7th ruled in favor of the law as it was passed.
So, again, we disagree with the ruling. Obviously the individual responsibility portions of the Affordable Care Act are the basis and the foundation for examining and doing away with insurance company discrimination on behalf of preexisting conditions. Obviously, without an individual responsibility portion in the law, you could not find yourself dealing with preexisting conditions because the only people that would likely get involved in purchasing health care would be the very sick. And obviously, that would be enormously expensive....
I think it is safe to say that because there are several other cases in the pipeline and because of -- again, you’ve got disparate court rulings 115 miles away -- that the bill will continue to have its day in court.
I do think it is important that even this judge ruled that the bill continues to move forward in terms of its implementation. And obviously, the individual responsibility aspects of this legislation weren’t to go into effect until 2014 so there’s some time to work this through....
Well, again, this is the third federal court that’s rendered a decision on this portion of the Affordable Care Act. And two of those courts have upheld it. So I think we are confident that the Affordable Care Act will be upheld....
I think -- our belief is that the health care act is -- will go forward and that it is constitutional; that it improves people’s lives, and particularly this is the basis, as I've said, of the provision that allows us to finally address the lingering discrimination against those who have a preexisting condition.
It also, by the way -- your health care, my health care, everybody who has health care in this room pays the uncompensated -- the cost for the uncompensated care when somebody doesn’t have health insurance, gets into a car accident, becomes sick and ends up going to the doctor through the emergency room or because of the seriousness of their illness and not having regular checkups or primary care. All of that is -- that's paid for by you and me. We seek to address that in the Affordable Care Act. That's why I think the progress that we've made in offering tax credits for those to afford to be able to have a minimum set of health care -- a minimum standard of health care that allows us not to pay for their health care in that sense, and to get the health care that they need....
On START and DADT.
Q: I don't think this has been asked -- START, where do we stand on START? And is it still the President’s position that he’s going to stay here until it’s done?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, to the second question. I think -- quite frankly, I think it’s probably one of the next couple of pieces of business that the Senate will move to, not long after the procedural vote and then -- obviously it’s unclear yet the number of hours of debate after the procedural vote today before the Senate takes up for final passage of the tax agreement. But I think fairly soon after, the Senate will move to the debate on START ratification.
Our belief is, as you’ve seen a number of Republican senators come out, that this is a treaty that has the votes to pass the Senate and I believe will pass the Senate before Congress goes home for the holidays....
I think the President is hopeful to spend a little time with family and friends in Hawaii, but if Congress is here the President will be here....
Q: And would he also stay until "don't ask, don't tell" is --
MR. GIBBS: I'll say this. I think the President will be in Washington and in the White House for as long as Congress is in session....
On the middle-class tax cut agreement.
Q: On the tax deal, there was a poll this morning from the Pew Center that found that there was support for the tax compromise fairly evenly distributed with Democrats just as likely as Republicans to support that. Do you think that that --
MR. GIBBS: I think I tried to make that point last week.
Q: Do you think that that's a sign, and does the White House believe that the rancor that we've heard from liberal Democrats in Washington is not reflective of how the country as a whole, how Democrats in the country feel about it?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I think -- look, I think whether you -- we sent out the statements from a number of people across the country that represent Democrats, Republicans, and independents -- mayors, governors, governors-elect. You heard from in this room former President Bill Clinton. I think the notion that the view of some in Congress is monolithic to the viewpoint of every person in the party -- I didn’t think that then. I'm not surprised by the polling that shows that a vast majority of people don't want to see their taxes go up at the end of the year....
I understand that people are frustrated that, as a result of a whole series of things, we find ourselves having to make an agreement that contains things that the President finds less than satisfactory. That's the nature of how this place works. But again, I didn’t think last week that it was the monolithic viewpoint of every person in the party or every person even in the progressive wing of the party....
And I said this a lot last week and I should start this week by saying it again, and that is if you look at the individual components of this agreement, they make sense economically. We are -- by preserving the rate for middle-class taxpayers, we're providing them certainty in not having their taxes go up at the end of the year. We're taking the politics out of unemployment insurance for the 2 million people that would stand to lose those benefits this year and the millions more next year that could see those benefits threatened.
The payroll tax cut is important for middle-class families. It’s obviously a tax that -- you pay taxes on Social Security up to $106,800 of your income. By reducing the amount that an employee is required to pay into that, that's money that's going to come into -- that money will be in the pockets of those middle-class families.
This makes sense for the economy. It contains things that the President doesn’t like, but it contains much more of what we think is necessary and what we like than there is to dislike....
Q: I'd like to shift to the Afghan review. That's coming up I believe this week. What’s the outline, what’s the plan? Is there like a final NSC meeting that the President attends -- and will we hear from him?
MR. GIBBS: The President’s regular monthly AfPak review meeting will be Tuesday, tomorrow morning at 11 a.m., as it’s scheduled now, in the Situation Room. That will have the people that you are used to seeing at that meeting. The President will make a statement on Thursday and we will have -- there will be a public release for the December review. That will happen on Thursday –
Q: Of the document?
MR. GIBBS: Of the document. And I think it’s our hope that after that we'll have in here, schedule permitting, Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton and others to take some questions on the review....
More on pending legislation and the tax cut.
Q: Thanks, Robert. As you look at what’s achievable in the rest of the lame duck session, where does the DREAM Act and "don’t ask, don’t tell" sort of come into play? How is the President going to prioritize those?
MR. GIBBS: Peter, there’s not a list of one, two, three, four; there’s a series of things that I think the President believes are important and can be done this year. I think the Senate is likely to move not long after taxes to the START -- ratification of the START treaty. "Don’t ask, don’t tell" and DREAM, along with government funding, are all in a basket of issues that are likely to come after that.
Q: Very much alive?
MR. GIBBS: Absolutely....
Q: Can I follow up on that? New litigation was filed in courts today challenging the constitutionality of "don’t ask, don’t tell." What does the President have to say to opponents of that law who feel like they need to pursue litigation to get that off the books?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the President would say the same thing that I’ve said and the same thing that Secretary Gates has said, that one of the two entities, either Congress or the courts, is going to repeal or do away with "don’t ask, don’t tell." The best way to do it would be to do it through Congress. And the House has passed that legislation. And it is clear that a -- well more than a majority of -- well above a majority of U.S. senators believes that’s the case as well. And I think that -- I think we’re closer than we’ve ever been to making repeal a reality.
Q: A slightly different take on the question -- the President has pledged to stay in town himself until START is done. Would he pledge to stay in town until "don’t ask, don’t tell" is done?
MR. GIBBS: Let me be clear, the President isn’t -- if START gets done, the President and Congress is here, the President is not leaving. I said earlier that the President will be here as long as the Congress is here.
Q: I thought he pledged specifically, though, to stay in town until START was done.
MR. GIBBS: No, I think that we always envisioned it that if the Congress was here, the President would be here. There’s a whole host of important things beyond the tax agreement and START -- "don’t ask, don’t tell" being one of them -- that the President believes can be dealt with before Congress leaves town....
Q: .... last week during his special comment, Keith Olbermann compared the President’s tax compromise to Nazi appeasement...
MR. GIBBS: .... And I would say this to Democrats or Republicans. I think whenever you compare anything to what the Nazis did, if you ever get to that point in your speech, stop, because nothing does. And hopefully, God willing, nothing ever will....
• THE PRESIDENT ON THE SENATE'S CLOTURE VOTE •
White House, Dec. 13, 2010:
President Obama on Senate's Tax Cut Framework Vote
President Obama commends the Senate for moving forward on a package of tax cuts with bipartisan support and calls on the House to move swiftly to pass the legislation.
Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 13, 2010:
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. I am pleased to announce at this hour the United States Senate is moving forward on a package of tax cuts that has strong bipartisan support. This proves that both parties can in fact work together to grow our economy and look out for the American people.
Once the Senate completes action on this bill, it will move over to the House of Representative for its consideration. I’ve been talking with several members of that body. I recognize that folks on both sides of the political spectrum are unhappy with certain parts of the package, and I understand those concerns. I share some of them. But that's the nature of compromise -- sacrificing something that each of us cares about to move forward on what matters to all of us. Right now, that's growing the economy and creating jobs. And nearly every economist agrees that that is what this package will do.
Taken as a whole, the bill that the Senate will allow to proceed does some very good things for America’s economy and the American people.
First and foremost, it is a substantial victory for middle-class families across the country who would no longer have to worry about a massive tax hike come January 1st. It would offer hope to millions of Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own by making sure that they won’t suddenly find themselves out in the cold without the unemployment insurance benefits that they were counting on.
And it would offer real tax relief for Americans who are paying for college, parents raising their children, and business owners looking to invest in their businesses and propel our economy forward.
So I urge the House of Representatives to act quickly on this important matter. Because if there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s the urgent work of protecting middle-class families, removing uncertainty for America’s businesses, and giving our economy a boost as we head into the new year.
Thanks very much, everybody.
• SECRETARY OF COMMERCE ON THE DREAM ACT •
White House Blog, Dec. 13, 2010:
Posted by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke
Every day, hundreds of thousands of Americans get up and go to work at blue chip companies like Pfizer, DuPont, Google, Procter and Gamble and Intel.
These are very different companies operating in different industries – but they’ve got at least one thing in common.
All of them were started by immigrants.
It’s no coincidence. The constant influx of new cultures, new ideas and new ways of looking at old problems is a big part of the reason why America has been the most dynamic economy in the world for well over a century.
But immigrants, for all their contributions, don’t do it on their own. The U.S. tries to provide immigrants who grow up here with a world-class education and imbue them with the can-do attitude that has long defined American innovation.
Unfortunately, America has failed to reap the full rewards on her investment. Every year, some 65,000 high school students -- many of them star students and leaders in their communities -- are unable to go to college or get a good job because they have no legal status.
These young people, who were brought to America by their parents when they were children, can be our future scientists, doctors, military leaders, and entrepreneurs. America’s economic future depends on giving these children an opportunity to advance and succeed. Last week, eight Republicans voted together with Democrats in the House of Representatives and approved the DREAM Act. Today, I am calling on the Senate to act in a similar bipartisan manner and pass the DREAM Act.
Consider the fact that over the past 15 years, twenty-five percent of venture capital backed companies that eventually went public were started by immigrants. Imagine if we were to unleash the full force of the over 700,000 young people who are stuck in this citizenship limbo. What else could we invent, create, or start-up?
Even for those immigrants who don't become the next Sergey Brin or Andy Grove, the contributions they can make to our economy are immeasurable.
Giving these kids a shot to go to college or join the military would allow them to earn higher wages and move into higher-paying occupations – generating more tax revenue to pay for schools, parks and roads in the communities where they live. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the DREAM Act would generate $1.7 billion in government revenues and reduce the deficit by $2.2 billion over the next decade.
Many of these immigrants have spent years going to publicly funded American elementary and secondary schools, and if Congress doesn’t pass the DREAM Act, we will lose that investment as some of our most talented students are forced to leave the country or take jobs that don’t allow them to fulfill their full potential.
For generations, people have come to U.S. shores to seek opportunity. It’s what my grandfather did a century ago, when he came to Seattle, and worked as a houseboy just one mile from the Washington State governor’s mansion that I was privileged to inhabit for eight years.
Passage of the DREAM Act would give these deserving kids the opportunity to pursue their dreams and to make a real difference in their communities. I urge the Senate to pass the bill immediately.
• THE PRESIDENT AND THE L.A. LAKERS VISIT THEARC•
White House, Dec. 13, 2010:
President Obama Honors the Los Angeles Lakers
The President congratulates the Los Angeles Lakers on their 2010 NBA Championship in a ceremony at the Boys and Girls Club at THEARC in Washington, DC.
Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 13, 2010:
Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus, Washington, D.C.
.... We teamed up with NBA Cares to come here to THEARC and spend a little time with the unbelievable young people who are here, as well as the terrific staff. And I was just walking around watching these players work with students -- assembling care packages for our wounded warriors, putting together some toiletry kits for the homeless here in Washington, D.C., and trying to keep up with the kids on the "Big Brain Academy Challenge," which I didn’t even try because it was moving way too fast for me.
But that’s the beauty of service -- anybody can do it. The Lakers have a proud tradition of performing community service in the L.A. community, and I’m glad that they took the time to help us during the holiday season here in Washington, D.C. We celebrate that spirit of service off the court -- because it’s very hard to do what these guys do on the court, but everybody can serve off the court.
Now, on the court, there aren’t too many folks who can do what the Los Angeles Lakers do. This year, they won their second title in a row, and their sixteenth championship overall. That’s one behind the Boston Celtics for the most of all-time. The Boston Celtics, of course, they beat in this year’s finals....
But especially I just want to thank you for being so generous with your time with these kids. These young people here are working hard. They’re doing well in school. They were really helping me out as I was going through that line packing those care boxes, making sure I didn’t screw up. We are incredibly proud of them.
But every once in a while they need a little encouragement and they need to know that no dream is beyond their reach. And so when they see people like the Los Angeles Lakers who are willing to spend time with them, that sends a message to them that they’re special. And you guys can’t give a better gift than that during the holiday season....
White House, Dec. 13, 2010:
The President and the Lakers at a Boys and Girls Club
The President and members of the Los Angeles Lakers work with children at a Boys and Girls Club in Washington, DC to send holiday greetings and care packages to service men and women.
• A VISIT FROM THE FIRST LADY •
White House, Dec. 13, 2010:
First Lady Michelle Obama Visits The Children's National Medical Center
Continuing a tradition dating back to Bess Truman, First Lady Michelle Obama visited the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and read "The Night Before Christmas" with patients and staff.
Office of the First Lady, Dec. 13, 2010:
.... MRS. OBAMA: .... But the (White House decorating) theme this year is "Simple Gifts" because what we’re trying to remember is that Christmas can be celebrated with some of the most basic things. You don't need a lot of money. You don't always have to have toys and lights and glitter. You can have ribbons and hay and paper and recycled materials, and you can make them look beautiful.
So a lot of the ornaments are made out of fresh dried fruits, and there are newspapers that are folded in really interesting ways that look beautiful, and they’re spray-painted; a lot of things that you can do at home with your moms....
.... What do you think I should get the President?
CHILD: When you’re nice.
MRS. OBAMA: Only if he’s nice. Let’s assume he’s been nice. (Laughter.)....
CHILD: A President bell.
MRS. OBAMA: A President bell? (Laughter.) How would that work?
CHILD: Well, first you put it on the rooftop.
MRS. OBAMA: A rooftop President’s bell. (Laughter.) All right, we’ll think that through. (Laughter.)....
CHILD: You should get him a new suit. (Laughter.)....
CHILD: What did you ask Santa for this year?
MRS. OBAMA: You know, I didn’t ask for anything in particular. One of the biggest gifts I got this year was -- we got it this morning. We signed an important law that helps make the school lunches more healthy. (Applause.) Yay. (Applause.) And that was my big Christmas wish....
CHILD: What's your favorite thing to eat for breakfast on Christmas morning?
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, wow, that's a good question.
CHILD: I usually eat Honey Nut Cheerios. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: Okay, we’re not going to do any advertisements. (Laughter.) But that is a healthy breakfast, it is.
CHILD: You should eat some cookies....
CHILD: How is it living in the White House?
MRS. OBAMA: How is it living in the White -- it’s nice, it’s very cool....
But the most fun thing about living in the White House -- and we say this all the time -- it’s the People’s House. And we live in a house that's like a museum. There's a part of the house that's a home, and it doesn’t feel like a museum, but the rest of it is open to anybody in the world who wants to come and see. And there's so much history.
Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States. That means that 43 other families have lived there and created memories, and they’ve created history. And all that stuff is all on the walls, from the furniture to the pictures, to the carpets. And you can learn about that when you go.
So I hope that each of you guys at some point in your lives, in your young lives, you come and visit the White House. It’s particularly fun at Christmas because it’s all decorated. There are 19 trees. But even when it’s not Christmas, there's always a special place to visit....
First Lady Michelle Obama visited patients and staff at Children’s National Medical Center today, an annual tradition dating back to First Lady Bess Truman. Mrs. Obama was accompanied by the family dog Bo.
Mrs. Obama toured the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), where she met patients and families, as well as doctors, nurses and other support staff. While on the tour, Mrs. Obama met with members of the Division of Psychiatry, including patients, doctors, and nurses.
Following her tour, Mrs. Obama arrived in the Atrium, where she was greeted by many patients, families, board members, and staff. In the Atrium, Mrs. Obama read the classic The Night Before Christmas. Once she finished, children asked the First Lady questions about her holiday traditions. Vocalists 97 Acts, DJ Natty Boom and dancers from Studio Boomboxx provided musical entertainment.
Throughout her visit, Mrs. Obama was escorted by two long-time patients, Gabriel Gomez, 7, and Cheyenne Florio, 4. Gabriel receives treatment for sickle cell disease and asthma, while Cheyenne, who was born prematurely, has cerebral palsy and other special needs.
"It’s been a longstanding tradition for First Ladies to visit the nation’s children’s hospital and we’re pleased that Mrs. Obama has continued to bring joy to our patients and staff," said Jacqueline D. Bowens, Executive Vice President and Chief Government and External Affairs Officer at Children’s National.
The Senior Vice President for Hospital-Based Specialties, David Wessel, MD, greeted the First Lady in the PICU. He noted: "In our critical care units, we care for some of the sickest children, so it was a real treat to have such a special visitor, especially during the holidays. We appreciate Mrs. Obama taking time out of her schedule to meet with our patients, families, and staff."
Children’s National Medical Center is located less than 4 miles from the White House and is the only exclusive provider of pediatric care in the Washington Metropolitan area. The PICU is a 32-bed unit, four of which are for neurology, and received the prestigious Beacon Award for excellence in critical care. It serves as a regional referral center and is a designated Level I Trauma Center for comprehensive care to pediatric patients and their families. Children’s National also serves a regional referral center for extracorporeal life support (ECMO).
• DIPLOMATIC CORPS HOLIDAY RECEPTION •
White House, Dec. 13, 2010:
Diplomatic Corps Holiday Reception
President Obama speaks at a reception for the foreign diplomatic corps and honors Richard Holbrooke at the United States Department of State. (Recorded before Ambassador Holbrooke's passing.)
Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 13, 2010:
.... First, I want to thank our extraordinary State Department employees for the tireless work that you do. You are the backbone of American foreign policy -- especially those of you who are serving far away from home during the holidays.
Day in, day out, you strengthen our alliances. You forge new partnerships. You prevent conflicts and the spread of deadly weapons. You promote global prosperity and global health. You stand up for human rights and you stand up for universal values. In other words, you -- you show the world the very best of America. And on behalf of the American people, I want to say thank you. You are doing an extraordinary job. (Applause.)
The other reason I wanted to be here was to say how much the United States values the partnerships and friendships of the nations that are represented here. As you know, my administration has pursued a new era of engagement around the world —- an engagement that’s grounded in mutual interest and mutual respect. It depends on trust. It depends on candor. That’s the essence of our diplomacy and the essence of our partnerships....
And our jobs, both as political leaders and as diplomats, is to make sure that those bonds are strengthened and broadened; that they penetrate into our respective nations; that each of us is able to stand in the other person’s shoes and see through the other person’s eyes; that people are no longer simply "the other," or simply foreigners, but are in fact our brothers and sisters.
And if we're insistent enough about the capacity to understand each other, then that translates concretely into some war that doesn’t happen, some village that isn’t destroyed, some child that gets something to eat, some disaster that is averted....
And so, to Secretary Clinton, to the State Department, thank you for doing so much extraordinary work over the past year -- much of it to little notice and little acclaim. I know what you do and I know how important you are....
• CHRISTMAS IN WASHINGTON •
White House, Dec. 13, 2010:
Christmas in Washington
President Obama speaks during the "Christmas in Washington" celebration at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. December 12, 2010.
Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 13, 2010:
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody. Please, please have a seat.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everybody. I want to thank our wonderful host, Ellen DeGeneres, for being here tonight. And of course, a special thanks to all of tonight’s extraordinary performers: Mariah Carey, Andrea Bocelli, Miranda Cosgrove, Annie Lennox, Maxwell, Matthew Morrison, the Washington Youth Choir, the American Family Choir, and the United States Army Band Herald Trumpets. Please give them a huge round of applause. (Applause.)
What a wonderful show here at the National Building Museum -- and we’re grateful that the Children’s National Medical Center is the beneficiary of tonight’s performance. Day in and day out, the folks there are saving lives and bringing healing and comfort to our children.
This season reminds us that more than 2,000 years ago, a child born in a stable brought our world a redeeming gift of peace and salvation. It’s a story with a message that speaks to us to this day -- that we are called to love each other as we love ourselves, that we are our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper, and our destinies are linked.
It’s a message that guides my Christian faith and it focuses us as we think about all those whose holidays may be a bit tougher this year. We pray for our troops serving far away from the warmth of family and homespun traditions. We remember those who are out of work, or struggling just to get by. We hold in our hearts all those who’ve fallen on hard times this holiday season.
Because while Christmas is a time to celebrate, a time to sing chorals and exchange gifts, it’s also something more. It’s a time to rediscover the meaning of words like "charity" and "compassion" and "goodwill"; to do our part for our neighbors; to serve God through serving others. So from our family to yours, happy holidays, everybody. Merry Christmas, and God bless you all. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)