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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  May 17, 2016 12:30pm-2:16pm EDT

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quorum call:
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mr. burr: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mr. burr: mr. president i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. burr: i ask unanimous consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. burr: mr. president, i rise today to speak on the importance of fighting the zika virus and the urgency of being prepared for the full range of threats we may face, whether naturally occurring like zika or manmade. this may look to some like a grasshopper. that's actually a mosquito.
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the question is prepared for all hazards? we still do not have answers to all the questions surrounding zika but we do know this. zika is a very serious public health threat and we need to act. that's why i support the blunt-murray amendment to bolster our nation's response to it. the c.d.c. has indicated the mosquitoes responsible for spreading the virus could be found in a significant portion of the united states, including my state of north carolina. what makes this virus particularly troubling is that -- is its potential to cause tragic birth defects in babies born to mothers infected with zika. the virus has alsoen linked with serious -- also been linked with serious neurologic conditions. the sad reported cases of microcephaly is an urgent call that this virus poses a very serious threat to pregnant women and their unborn children and we need to take action to help these women deliver healthy
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babies and to stop the spread of the virus. it's concerning that we do not have drugs to prevent or treat zika, and we will likely not have them until after the summer when mosquitoes are present in many of the communities back home. zika underscores the importance of supporting a flexible all hazards approach and sponsoring work on the pandemic and all hazards preparedness act legislation i authored almost a decade ago to ensure our nation would be better prepared for the range of serious public health threats that we might face like zika. it also underscores that mother nature always has the potential to throw us a curveball this time in the form of a virus with the potential for devastating birth defects transmitted through a simple mosquito bite. this mosquito-borne virus also highlights why we must be prepared with the appropriate tools to protect the health of
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america from situations in which infectious diseases are moving from animals to humans. thankfully because of the pandemic and all hazards preparedness act we have a much better -- are much better prepared to respond to zika and other recent threats but this work is never done and we must always remain vigilant when it comes to medical and public health preparedness and response. the next threat may be naturally occurring or it may be the result of a deliberate attack. we need to be prepared for all of them. after 9/11 congress established the bioshields special reserve fund to encourage the development of countermeasures that meet specific requirements for use against chemical, biologic radiological and nuclear agents that the department of homeland security has determined posed a material threat against the united states population sufficient to affect
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our national security. these are threats like anthrax ebola and smallpox. like zika the american people expect us to be ready to respond to these threats. unfortunately i'm not going to be able to support the amendment offered by my colleagues from florida because it would gut bioshield. the president's fiscal year 2017 budget proposed decreasing bioshield by $160 million and then weeks later with zika's emergence, the administration proposed raiding the bioshield fund. these actions do not instill confidence that the federal government is prepared to handle these threats and will be a committed partner in these public-private partnerships. partnerships are crucial for defeating zika. i want to work with the administration to improve our nation's biodefense preparedness and response, especially with regard to emerging infectious
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diseases but gutting bioshield is not the answer. i also want to take a moment and talk about the biomedical advance research and development authority or barta as -- barda as i call it. barda is currently helping navigate -- by supporting advance research and development of medical counter measures and spurring innovation like platform technologies to ensure that we're as nimble as possible when confronting the serious public health threats. barda is on the front line of combating zika because it's a linchpin in advanced medical countermeasures. it's also critical that we support barda in fulfilling its mission. the blue ribbon study panel on biodefense recently issued a report that found that there are serious gaps and inadequacies that continue to leave the nation vulnerable to threats from nature and terrorists
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alike. we cannot lose our focus on preparing for the threats we have identified. by strengthening our work in this area, we will be better prepared for the next naturally occurring threat, regardless of the threat we know the american people expect us to protect them from it and to be prepared to combat it. today this threat is zika. two years ago the threat was ebola. the years before that it was a novel flu strain. we've been here before. we don't know what the next threat will be or how it will arise but by staying focused on identified threats and being vigilant to finish what we start, we'll be better prepared for the next threat whether naturally occurring or the result of a deliberate attack. i strongly support the blunt-murray zika amendment because it will help protect women, babies, families threatened by zika in north
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carolina and across the united states. it will also ensure that we continue to make progress against a full range of threats we may face in the future. i believe we must confront the threat of zika with the resources this tragic virus demands and the compassion -- and the compassion that women and children deserve. the blunt-murray amendment does both. and i look forward to supporting it and continuing to fight to ensure that americans are protected from zika and all other threats we might face. and i might add, mr. president while you and the chairman are here america is the world's response. we're the ones that funded and initiated the cure for ebola. we're the ones that took the seasonal flu variations and modified them to reflect the greatest threat, and america will be the ones that for the
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world addresses a cure or a vaccine or a countermeasure for zika. the good news is that as a congress, over ten years ago we set up the architecture to be able to be ahead of things like zika and ebola. quite frankly in different administrations under different control, we failed to fund the things that we recognized we needed to do. so as we have this crisis and we respond to it, let's also reassure the american people that we're going to invest in that architecture, that we're going to be ahead of novel diseases. i call it novel. we've known about zika for over 40 years. and the fact is that technology now allows us to address these in a different way. let's invest in those platform technologies. let's make sure that we've got an architecture that allows
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advanced development for the vaccines or the countermeasures. let's not let down the american people on the next disease or the next threat that we might face. i thank the presiding officer and the chairman. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order the senate stands in recess till
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it's my hope that my testimony will help provide some heart to the head knowledge that you hear so frequently in these conversations. sadly, my wife, family and i tragically know all too well the devastating impact of synthetic drugs. in july 2014, our 19-year-old son kyle was a bright, vibrant young man with a full life ahead of him. it was what most have considered the all-american young boy. he had a great job, was preparing to go back to college. he loved music, surfing, the outdoors . he had lots of friends and of course he was deeply loved by his family , his sisters, his mother and of course me, his father. this first photo was a family shot taken july 5 of 2014. it was the last time we'd be together like this as a family.
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eight days later, connor was with a new friend. he made the seemingly innocent decision . he agreed to try something called spice, synthetic poison and the result was a second photo there. after many days in the hospital with our son in a coma , he was ultimately declared brain-dead. hunter died july 16, 2014 . after one smoke of an illegal high purchased at a local store. at the time , we were unaware of nps when we made the decision to share our story publicly. it would be painfully transparent and naked with our tragedy with a watching
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world in the simple hopes that it might perhaps change one persons life. it might spur them and their family the horrific circumstances we were facing and that we now live with each day. since the death of our son, 671 days ago, we've met far too many parents who have also lost a children to synthetic drugs like spice and through our outreach and education efforts over the last 371 days we communicated with literally hundreds of thousands of people through the united states and around the world. we've lost loved ones or had their lives tragically destroyed by synthetic drugs. unfortunately, what happened to connor is not unique. far too many people have suffered irreparable harm including death as a result of trying or using these poisons. however, what is unique about his story is how it is received an overwhelming global response to what we shared publicly through social media and these interviews and radio broadcasts around the world.
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this story has through the racial, social economic, geographic and religious barriers typically encountered. we know that nps's are affecting everyone everywhere. we are not just one voice. connor is not just one face or some statistic. we represent the voice and the face of many others just like us. we had the opportunity to reach millions of people on this subject. we've been interviewed by most of the major news and media outlets around the world and globally and with leveraged social media. we had individual unique facebook posts that have reached millions anytime with one reaching 37 million people globally. we've had the opportunity to speak in many studies and spoken to senators, legislators, law enforcement officials and many in government. we have met from the lord in the house of lords at in the uk as we were there on this subject. we've worked with numerous organizations in an effort to educate and increase awareness on the dangers of
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synthetic drugs and report to change laws and remove from our streets, stores and communities but more must be done. the problem is getting worse. hundreds of new synthetic drugs compounds have appeared around the world in the last few years, sometimes writing for weeks. and we are allowing these to come into our country. illicit drug manufacturers are constantly working and changing the formulas developed in new chemical derivatives in order to evade the laws and frankly, they are working faster than we are. the issue of nps is needs to be addressed and needs to be done now. when this congressional gathering is ended, you return home. you will return to your families, your children , those you love and care for. when we return home, we return to a family that's been forever changed. because of the death of our loved son as a result of synthetic drugs. and as long as the people around the world are pushing these poisons into our communities know there are
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little to no consequences for their actions and they do know this, we will continue to see the spread of synthetic drugs and the harm they are bringing to our families, youth and communities. you have the power to do something about this. your positions of influence and leadership and we are pleading with you to please take action. don't just talk about it and evade the issues. bring about change that will give these substances out of our communities and deal appropriately with those behind the manufacturing and distribution of nps is locally. thank you for your time and consideration on this. that's a portion. you can see all of eckardt's testimony from today's hearing online at c-span.org. kentucky and oregon hold their democratic primaries today and we sent her bernie sanders will hold his , actually make comments on the results of those primaries during his campaign rally in carson tonight. california's primaries are tuesday, june 7 . bernie sanders rally is like night on c-span two. it starts at 11 pm eastern.
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>> book tv has 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors every weekend and here are some of the programs to watch for. this saturday morning at 10:00, we are live or the basis for the festival. authors include ej dionne wife with his why the right went wrong. conservatism from cold water to the tea party and beyond. and gordon reed and peter onus on their book most less of the patriarchs. thomas jefferson and the empire of imagination. long williams with his book we the people: the modern-day
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figures who have reshaped and offer the founding fathers vision of america. james rising on his book pay any price: greed, power and endless war. kristin greene and her book something must be done about prince edward county: a family, a virginia town, civil rights batter. joann with her book lover, love or not. the hillary paradox. john noris on his book mary mcquarrie: the first queen of journalism and marlene pressman talking about her book fair labor lawyer: the remarkable life of new deal attorney and supreme court advocate bessie marlin. on sunday night at nine on afterwards . >> for me, the worst thing i ever done was committed an act of murder in 1991. because the mayor's death and it was one of the worst things you can do and you know, i made that unfortunate decision at the age of 19 and devastated a family , took somebody's husband , a son, brother, father and family and it's one of those things that stays with you to this day and the reason that i do some of the work that i do in the city because i've never want another child to grow up with that type of burden because it's one of those burdens that never goes away . >> shop sar, honor of writing my rant discusses his 20
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years in prison and life after. go to booktv.org for the complete weekend schedule. >> us senators in recess right now so lawmakers may attend their weekly party meetings. they've been debating the next in a series of appropriations bills since the combined transportation housing military va ending bill. lawmakers also took time to focus on the zika amendments that are part of the debate. >> mister president, as a mother and grandmother i know that one of the most frightening questions and expecting parent has to ask their doctor is , is my baby safe? too many parents are asking that question right now because of the zika virus. there are now more than 1200 reported cases of zika in the united states and its territories. more than 100 of these are pregnant women.
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and on friday, puerto rico announced its first case of zika related microcephaly. unfortunately, those numbers are only expected to grow in the coming months so this really is an emergency and public health experts have repeatedly made it clear that as we get closer to the summer and mosquito season, we cannot afford to delay. we need to better control mosquitoes that carry the zika virus. we need to raise awareness to make sure families are informed about this disease. and we need to expand access to family planning services and accelerate the development of a vaccine. the president laid out a strong emergency funding proposal to accomplish each of those goals in february. i support that plan and i was very disappointed that
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instead of acting on it as quickly as possible, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle simply refused to even consider it. instead, they found reason after reason to delay. they said the administration should just take funds from the ongoing evil in response to combat zika. then they said they needed more information about the president's proposal even though zika has been discussed in the five congressional hearings. even after briefings by n officials and even though the administrations 25 page proposal had been available or months for anyone to see. and now house republicans have released a proposal that would provide a very meager $622 million third of what is needed for this emergency without any funding for preventative ou health care or outreach to those you are at risk of zika and they are still insisting in the house that funding for p this public health emergency be fully offset .
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in the face of all that partisanship and inaction and with public health experts making it clearer every day how much we need to ask before mosquito season is in full effect, i was encouraged that chairman blunt and others on the appropriations committee were willing to work with democrats on a first step to respond to this emergency. the agreements we have reached would have put a down payment on the president's proposal into the hands of our first responders and researchers right away. it would provide much-needed relief or puerto rico where nearly 100 million in essential public health funding the administration had been forced to reprogram, invest in prevention and support services for pregnant women and families at home and abroad and could research dollars into developing a vaccine.
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i believe, mister president, the republicans should do what we have urged them to do for months and join democrats in supporting the president's full emergency funding request but if they continue to refuse, then at the very least they should be willing to support a bipartisan first step toward protecting families from this virus. and democrats will continue pushing for every necessary resource going forward. families across the country are looking to congress for action on zika. . they do not have time for lengthy debate about often sets or more time to wait so i hope that we can move quickly to get this emergency funding package through the senate and the house and on to the president's desk. if we act now, we can help protect our families across the country from the truly tragic consequences of this disease and there is no reason to delay. thank you very much and i er yield the floor.
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>> mister president senator from massachusetts. he >> mister president, for months democrats have asked the republicans who control the senate to let act. while the zika virus has spread across south america, central america and several us territories. for months, we've asked the republicans who control the senate to let us act while more and more american travelers are back in the us after contracting the zika virus. for months, we've asked the republicans who control the senate to let us act while health experts at world health organization national institutes of health and centers for disease control have begged congress for the resources to fight this disease. for months, we've asked republicans who control the senate to let us act while more people infected by zika have developed a fatal condition that damages the nervous system. for months, we have asked the
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republicans who control the senate to let us act while more mothers infected by zika had given birth to babies with severe brain defects . and for months , we've asked the republicans who control the senate to let us act while the president has been forced to diver emergency funds from other critical areas including the emergency people a response. today, months after president obama first requested nearly $2 billion to fight the zika virus in the united states, the republicans who control the senate will finally , finally let us vote on options for funding the zika response. now today, the senate will consider three proposals. the first proposal would completely fund the president's response plan. it offers our best hope to fully protect americans and i will vote for that proposal. i plead with every senator to do the same because that's what our nations experts have said it will cost to limit the sickness, death and deformity caused by the zika
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virus. i know that some republicans understand this point. senator rubio whose state of florida is at grave risk for local transmission of zika recently said this. i believe in limited government but i do believe that one of the obligations of a limited federal government is to protect from people from dangers. whether they be foreign enemies or the risk of disease outbreak.i don't think we want to be halfway through the summer and wake up to the news that hundreds and hundreds of americans in multiple states have been infected and we did nothing. senator rubio still supports fully funding the president's response plan . i hope it passes the senate. if it doesn't, it will be because the majority of senate republicans vote against it. and if that happens, we will be forced to consider another proposal.the second proposal would give the president half of what is
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needed to fight the outbreaks. i will support this proposal if that's the last resort as well many democrats because this is a health emergency. if your ship is sinking and you need 12 lifeboats but you can only get six, you take the six . we will take whatever the republicans who control the senate are willing to give to protect the american people. cutting the zika funding request in half might give republicans a chance to tell people how tough they are on spending and that maybe how republican politics works. but boy, it's sure not how science works. it is not possible to delay a response to a health emergency for month after month without consequences . it is not possible to nickel and dime our response to a health emergency without consequences. sure, the republicans have to measure is better than
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nothing but an estimated 4 million people are facing the prospect of zika infection by the end of this year . and i have to response is not good enough. now, the final republican proposal is even dumber. it would not only give the president about half of what is needed but it would cover the cost by gutting the prevention and public health fund which provides significant support to local public health departments all across the country. you heard that right. some senate republicans think the best way to fund america's emergency response to the zika virus is to rob from america's frontline responders who help identify and track infectious as diseases. like the zika virus. on the other side of congress, house republicans are kicking around an even
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more bizarre idea. funding only about a third of y the president's plan to fight zika and doing it by cutting hundreds of millions of dollars out of our evil low response. g, with the evil epidemic just passed and still no fda approved vaccine or treatment for ebola, what could possibly go wrong with that plan? i simply do not understand the republicans. the responsible thing to do, the rational thing to do is to invest the resources needed to stop the zika right in its tracks and to invest in more science and public t health infrastructure so that we are ready when the next crisis comes. a congressional republican embrace this irrational anti-spending ideology, this country is in greater and greater danger .
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instead of investing in research so that we can develop effective treatments, instead of supporting careful planning and we are ready for the next health challenge and instead of fully funding emergency response infrastructure so that we are prepared to respond to new threats, these republicans govern by launching from crisis to crisis . we are in this mess with zika, a message about to get a lot worse because of stupid decisions made here in congress. keep in mind that zika, like ebola, is a disease we have known about for years. but our ability to do the necessary research to eradicate these threats has been undercut by republicans desire to make more and more and more budget cuts , even when they put the health of americans in danger. this country scientific research capacity has been
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decimated . over the last decade, the budget of the national institute of allergy and infectious diseases has lost about 20 percent of its purchasing power . 20 percent. the prevention and public health funds that help build the infrastructure needed to present people from getting sick and to shut down outbreaks like the guy has been on the republican chopping block year after year after year. in the bottom line, our doctors find us and health officials need our complete support in fighting this virus. it tells us how much money they need to do that. the less money congress gives them, the more people will be hurt by the zika virus. more babies with heartbreaking deformities, more adults with devastating illnesses. the zika virus does not care what politicians in washington decide is
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politically expedient. the virus is coming and if republicans block congress from protecting the people of this country, then republicans must accept responsibility for the devastating consequences. thank you mister president. i yield the floor. >> t thank you mister president. let me begin by saying how av encouraged i am that we are finally seeing action in congress dealing with the zika virus. e. today we have not one but three separate proposals you with this that will come up for a vote. i support fully funding the request made, people say the president's request. fine. it came from the white house but it's really the scientists request, the doctors request. the public health actors request for how to address this issue.
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the point that i make is too full. number one is, we can pay for it. $1.9 billion, we can find it and always come back later and find it too although i know that's hard to see happening in washington but this is a public health emergency that cannot wait for this extended debate on this issue, especially when you talk about an $18 trillion debt. zika funding is not the reason why we have a debt, it's not the national driver of our debt. that's why dealing with the long-term security of medicare and social security is so critical. but we can pay for $1.9 trillion and we should. but it is public health experts that have set the amount we need is 1.9 billion dollars. and i continue to urge my colleagues to take this with a sense of urgency that the public health experts have. the people i've met with, the people i've interacted with, people i've been talking to are not political people. i've been talking to people in the white house political office . i've been meeting with people that worked at the centers
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for disease control. i've been meeting with people that work in the florida department of health. i've been talking to department of health officials in puerto rico. i've been talking about doctors in the front line of dealing with microcephaly and what it means long term for the people that have been impacted by it. that's who i've been talking to. and then outline the kind of things we need to be doing but more importantly what the outline is so much we still don't know about zika. for example, we don't know what the long-term consequences are of a mother was infected with zika while pregnant. and the child was born without microcephaly, we don't know what happens and six, nine months, a year, five years down the road but i do know many medical experts believe there will be further manifestations of the disease and its impact on central nervous system and many of these children years no after this debate in congress is finished, i know puerto rico is being ravaged by this. puerto rico is a territory of the united states. these are american citizens that have been infected with zika. they don't have a senator from puerto rico although i'm more than honored and grateful for the opportunity
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to speak on their behalf on these issues but what people y have to understand is , and this is not way to approach it but even if your approach is with puerto rico, it's not the mainland of the united states . i invite you to go to the airport in orlando and miami and you can see the flights and flow of people back and forth. we also look at the fact that the summer months are coming. this is a mosquito borne infection and we know mosquito season is here and it is coming fast. we know that the zika virus becomes more potent as temperatures get warmer. guess what, it's about to get warm not just in florida through the gulf coast state and throughout the country. we know places like brazil have been deeply impacted by the zika virus. guess what? tens of thousands of people are about to travel through the united states to and from brazil for the summer olympics.
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we know that major league baseball cancel the game in puerto rico. because they believe it was a serious enough risk not to put their players at risk, not to mention the crowd. we see something that's percolating that we don't know that much about. we know enough about it to know it's a serious problem. we do not know how hard this is going to go and as a result, we see the people of this country facing a public health threat and our response should be, let's deal with this in a way that medical experts are saying we need to deal with it. put language in the proposal. that says if you don't end up spending the full 1.9 billion, if you don't need all that money, all that money automatically goes back to treasury within a year or two if you haven't spent it but why take the chance? why take the chance that at some point this summer, we could have a significant and serious outbreak in the united states of america and everybody here is going to be back in their home state oc doing their campaign stop or whatever you're doing this summer and you're going to have to come back here and either deal with it and s explain with people why when doctors and medical experts were warning us that this was a significant risk , we decided to lowball it. we decided to spend less than what's being called for. i by no means mean this as a
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criticism of senators murray and blunt. i thank them for their work. they try to come up with a bipartisan proposal that can pass and as i said earlier, while i am proud of the efforts that i am alongside op of my colleagues from florida senator nelson are proposing here today and hope $1.9 billion amount passes, it won't reluctantly with the vote on the blackberry amendment, i think it's better than nothing and i will support it but why are we taking this chance ? it makes no sense. i would also say that while i am happy that today hopefully the senate is about to take action on this issue, i'm concerned about what i hear coming from the house. i'm glad this has finally gotten some movement and some things happening but i'm really concerned about the direction our funding measure is going.they are funding measure is not even 1.1 billion, it's $622 million. quite frankly, that's not going to cut it and if we don't spend more than that on the front end, i think were
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going to spend a lot more later on. the problem is not going to go away and not going to go eq away with 622 million to combat it. this is concerning because even if we managed to pass the one point $9 billion request, i'm afraid long-term even that may not be enough. the issue here seems to be holding us back is the desire to offset spending and as i said, i support that 100 percent. i believe we can find $1.9 billion and transfer it from some other part of our budget to ensure that is not deficit spending.i'm in favor of doing that. om but that's not going to keep me from trying to do something about it. in times of public health emergencies just like in times of natural disasters, i don't think we should be delaying action while we try to figure out these budgetary moods and trying to agree on what we are going to cut from other parts of the budget. i still believe we should do ks it but we cannot hold back . for another few weeks while we get to that point. the administration has already diverted half $1 billion that was intended for the fight against evil about
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the house would rate even more of the ebola funds for the zika response. it's easy to say look, ebola is not in headlines anymore. we're not reading about it that much. ebola still exists . we haven't eradicated from the united states or the world. it's just not a percolating crisis right now.nothing goes to say this itself pop up again. and by the way, these sorts of pandemics are going to become more common as people now are able to travel and extensively travel all over the world and we are at the crossroads of a lot of that traffic. bo so i don't think i'm prepared to walk away, although i don't think, maybe they don't need a half-million dollars but i think it would be shortsighted to say evil is finished, we don't have to worry about it anymore. there's nothing you money available in case that comes up again because it could . i believe the house can and should do better than what is proposed . provide offsets to the spending. provide $1.9 billion offset.
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>> we take in life to the white house now, that vote on the research funding coming up about 2:30 in the senate. the white house has announced a threat against the veto version of that coming. live coverage getting underway on c-span two.
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this is a question of government philosophy. this is a question about whether you are committed to ensuring we are doing everything possible to protect pregnant women and babies in the united states of america , getting a debilitating disease. or at least a virus that has a debilitating consequences for the neurological development of babies. so we are quite disappointed that house is so late in acting and what they put together is so woefully insufficient. it's not just our public health officials who expressed those concerns. i would note that on certain republican senator from florida is on the floor of the united states senate today expressing those
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concerns so i think it does raise a question for the 17 republican health members from the state of florida about what their view is. the republican senator from the state of florida has indicated that the congress should act expeditiously to pass $1.9 billion funding proposal that our public health experts say is needed . i think it would be interesting to understand exactly what position the 17 other republicans from florida who represent that state in the congress think of this. i think it's certainly a relevant question. it underscores the point i was making before that there's no reason this should be a partisan issue. this is a basic matter of public health and well-being of the american people. >> the senate fortunately is ,
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appears to be making more progress. they will also include a vote today on the $1.9 billion proposal we put forward back in february. we strongly encourage democrats and republicans to come together around that bill . that's what our public health professionals say is needed to do everything possible to protect the american people from zika and this would be an emergency appropriation that would be available to state and local officials and federal government scientists immediately. we believe that is the preferred , we believe that the best way to protect the american people from the zika virus. [inaudible question] what i'm saying is, that's what our public health professionals say we need so we are looking
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for congress to act on that request and that's what we would like to see move forward. the other concern we have with the house bill isn't just that the amount of resources committed is much smaller. the funding would be offset by taking away resources that are currently being used to protect the american people from ebola. and traditionally, when congress has been faced with a public health emergency, they haven't wasted a lot of time looking for funding offsets. and that's a pretty dangerous exercise because it delays the needed funding but it also risks gutting other critical priorities. let's talk about a little bit
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about how that evil of funding is being used. right now, that funding is being used by the cdc to work with the health ministries in both guinea and liberia to investigate the rapidly changing situation related to new e bullet cases there but right now the cdc is assisting those governments in tracing nearly 1000 contacts . these are individuals who are at heightened risk of potentially spreading evil lot. so the cdc has 100 staff there deployed and that staff is helping to process 10,000 samples per month in liberia, sierra leone and guinea. so it's pretty clear that what's happening, work the cdc is doing in west africa was very helpful in the fall of 2014 in stopping the spread of that terrible disease but it requires vigilance. and the lesson that we should have learned in 2014 is that
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the united states and american people benefit from the enhanced capacity of public health officials in other countries to stopping the spread of a dangerous virus in another country makes the american people safer. and when that was an academic, hypothetical exercise there was some skepticism that some people expressed about that notion but there weren't many people expressing skepticism about that notion in the fall of 2014 when there was concern about the evil of virus. in the united states so it is a bad idea for republicans to move forward with a proposal that would got our efforts to follow through in the fight against ebola and it's a bad idea for republicans to further delay the emergency funding necessary to protect the american people from the zika virus. kim?
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>> baghdad, several bombings today. the deadliest wave of the year involving threats probably and on saturday the prime minister said that he's afraid the political crisis there can bring to bear on the islamic state. with the administration care to share that concern? >> the united states wrongly condemns the barbaric attacks by iselle. it's targeted innocent civilians. we extend our deepest condolences to the victims and their families. the spring of attacks by isil is the latest reminder of the danger that this group poses to all iraqis and the importance of iraqi leaders from all communities working together against the common enemy. but can you recall back in 2014 when the president made the offer of us military
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assistance to iraq contingent upon iraq's central government more effectively uniting that country to confront isil. so that should be an indication to you that a unified , effectively governed iraq is critical to our success against isil. it has been a central part of our strategy from the very first day. and we've been encouraged over the last year and a half of the efforts that prime minister abadi has undertaken to unify the country and pursue the kind of inclusive governor and agenda that can inspire the confidence of iraq's diverse population that the central government in baghdad is looking out for their best interest.
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we believe that will have a corresponding impact on the effectiveness and resilience of iraqi security forces. and that's largely proved to be true. iraqi security forces backed by coalition military airpower and the advice and assistance of coalition military from around the world has been effective in driving isil out of territory they previously controlled. we know isil has been driven out of about 40 percent of the previously , of the populated areas that isil previously controlled in iraq. that's tangible progress. and our coalition is committed to trying to keep up that momentum in continue to pressure isil while also providing the iraqi central government necessary resources to rebuild those areas that isil had taken over. we know that in places like rahmani, isil didn't just
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occupy the community. they essentially destroyed it. and rebuilding that infrastructure and rebuilding those communities so people feel confident in moving back home, it's going to be critical to our longer-term success of bringing stability to that region of the world so the important financial contributions that have been made by countries around the world are also an important part of our strategy but they are all predicated on the iraqi people and the international community having confidence in the effectiveness and the effectiveness of the iraqi central government. >> how abadi seems to be concerned about the government , already saying that troops coming in, the us troops coming in are going to help them deal with that. [inaudible question] >> know. the us troops that are in
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iraq are there for a specific reason which is to degrade and ultimately destroy isil and they are focused on missions that involve protecting the embassy, carrying out military air operations against isil targets and in some cases providing , trading and advice and assistance to iraqi security forces. there are a small number of special operators that have been organized into these expeditionary forces that can carry out raids against senior isil figures. we've been very clear about the mission that us forces in iraq are pursuing. >> . [inaudible question] >> there are , there is extensive reporting and plenty of that indicates that
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too often , the assad regime for forces operating under control of the assad regime are making a concerted effort to prevent the kind of humanitarian access that's needed for syrian populations that are caught in the crossfire of the conflict and we've expressed our concerns on a variety of occasions about the tendency of the assad regime forces to either prevent convoys of humanitarian goods from moving into needed areas , in some cases there actually are reports of syrian forces essentially raiding those convoys for the supplies they would like to have or at least prevent those supplies from reaching the intended audience. so that is a source of significant concern and one of the reasons that the administration has worked aggressively to hold the
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assad regime accountable for living up to the commitments they made in the cessation of hostilities is to make it easier for those kind of humanitarians supplies to get to those areas that badly need it. so humanitarian access for humanitarian relief workers and for humanitarian assistance continues to be a critical concern not only for the united states but the rest of the international community and that includes the assad regime following through on the commitment they made to abide by the cessation of hostilities and create conditions where it's much easier for humanitarian aid workers to get access to communities that have spent years caught in the crossfire. okay? justin? >>
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.. >> but this is a rule that continues to be under consideration through the process. it has been for some time, and i would expect an announcement about a decision soon, but i don't have any information about the conclusions that have been reached at this point. once they've made an announcement, then we can engage in a discussion about why they've reached the decision that they have.
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>> senator warren in a letter to the administration earlier this month urged you guys, or warned that too often the voices of workers are buried beneath a lot of comments from lobbyists and lawyers. if there'sen erosion here, it would leave hundreds of thousands of people without that benefit, wouldn't that be a sign that lobbyists and lawyers ended up winning out in this administration? >> no, i think there's been a strong record with this administration that the rulemaking process represents the interests of middle class families. and that is true when it comes to establishing the consumer financial protection bureau, an agency that was established specifically to hook out for the interests of consumers -- to look out for the interests of consumers that aren't as well represented in washington and in the rulemaking process as much larger financial institutions that can afford highly-paid lobbyists. whether it's implementation of rules related to wall street reform or the implementation of
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rules related to health care reform or the implementation of rules related to fighting carbon pollution, the administration's track record of protecting the interests of middle class families is rock solid. >> the 9/11 bill obviously, got a pass -- not passed through the house, but senator schumer said he believes, or that he would vote to override the president's slow toe, and he thinks that -- veto, and he thinks that he could have the votes to do that. is that a legitimate concern, or are you guys going to start working against a veto override in the senate? >> well, before we get to the question of the veto override, there's a question about whether or not this legislation will pass the house. so as i noted to darlene, you know, there are democrats and republicans in the house of representatives that have raised concerns about the bill in the same way that the administration has. so we'll engage in a conversation with the house of representatives, and we'll take it from there.
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>> last one on gitmo. you guys -- [inaudible] against ndaa yesterday, and in it you said specifically that the restrictions preventing you from coming up with an alternative site for guantanamo bay was potentially unconstitutional. that's also the reason that you cited back a few months ago when presenting the plan to congress for why you couldn't say which site would be picked. your hands were tied because of in the restriction in the law. so if you believe that it's unconstitutional, i guess the question is why not either defy the law is and let the courts decide or challenge the law in the courts to allow you to do this work that you say is necessary for -- [inaudible] >> well, justin, we have made clear that closing the prison at guantanamo bay is a top priority because taxpayer funds could be much more effectively spent in
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housing those individuals in facilities that have already been built here in the united states. and we could do that. and in doing so, we could save millions of dollars in taxpayer funds. you know, we've also been, expressed a concern that is shared by national security experts in both parties that extremist organizations use the continued operation of the prison at guantanamo bay as a recruiting tool. and the president believes that the american people would be safer if we took that recruiting tool, that propaganda tool away from extremist organizations. this is all important particularly when you consider that we've demonstrated in this country that we can effectively detain convicted terrorists on american soil in a way that doesn't pose an enhanced security threat to the american
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people. we've also demonstrated that we can bring terrorists to justice on american soil. using the american criminal justice system to hold them accountable for their crimes. that would give the united states the benefit of being able to say we're going to protect the american people, ask we're going to do it in a way that's entirely consistent with our values. even if our adversaries and our enemies aren't willing to subscribe to those values. that's a pretty powerful argument and statement and something that makes the american people safer. so that's our motivation. and, frankly, what we would like to see, justin, is we'd jutte like to see -- just like to see congress get out of the way. in some ways it's not even a situation -- you know, so often let's take zika, for example. to fight zika and protect the american people, we need congress' affirmative cooperation to do that. and right now republicans, particularly in the house of representatives, are falling
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down on the job and putting the american people at greater risk because they aren't working effectively with the administration to fight the zika virus because they won't appropriate the emergency funding. when it comes to gitmo, the standard is much lower. we just need congress to get out of the way. they have time and time again included all these restrictions that have prevented the administration from doing what is necessary to protect the american people. so we just need congress to remove those obstacles so that we can move forward effectively in closing the prison at guantanamo bay and doing it in a way that will enhance the national security of the american people. >> yeah. but i think my question was if you believe that the restriction is unconstitutional and for all the reasons that you just outlined, strongly believe the prison should be closed, why have you not either mounted a legal challenge or just defied what you see as an unconstitutional -- >> yeah. well, i can't speak to our legal strategy. i think the most direct route is not one that winds through the federal courts for years, but rather --
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>> well, nothing about -- i mean, we're on year eight, right? so -- [laughter] i mean, you might as well try something, right? >> i actually think that's sort of my point, which is we are in year eight. so niche tating a years -- initiating a years-long legal process is certainly anings option. i'm not going to take it off the table. but given the priority that the president has established here we'd like to just see congress take the steps that are necessary to remove those obstacles so that we can get this important business done. that's the most direct route to accomplishing a national security goal that has been advocated by both democrats and republicans, including republican president george w. bush. okay? olivier. >> thanks, josh. -- [inaudible] appeared to reopen the door to take -- [inaudible] in article iii courts and be transferred to -- [inaudible] is that something you guys supported, and by how much do you think that would reduce the population? >> well, olivier, i haven't
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considered every single proposal in the ndaa, so let me consult with our policy staff in terms of the way that proposal's written and get back to you with a position on it. >> and then on the talks about syria, john kerry today said if assad, quote, has reached a conclusion that there is no plan b, he has done so without any foundation whatsoever, and it's very dangerous. dangerous for whom? >> well, i think the concern that secretary kerry is expressing there is that the longer that president assad remains in power in syria, the more chaos and violence and division plagues that country. and and that's why the united states and most of the rest of the international community is strongly in favor of executing a political transition inside of syria as soon as possible.
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he has lost legitimacy to lead that country. he continues to order the syrian military to carry out attacks against innocent, unarmed civilians. and by doing so, he has lost any claim within the realm of reason to being able to govern the country of syria. just as a practical matter, it's hard to imagine that syrian citizens who are on the receiving end of barrel bombs would at all be open to president assad continuing the lead the country. so the longer that he is there the more dangerous and violent that country becomes. and that's dangerous for the united states because we know that extremist organizations like isil -- and they're not the only one -- try to capitalize on that chaos and that violencing to establish a safe haven and plot and carry out attacks
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against targets outside of syria including areas, including locations that are important to the united states and including on the soil of close american allies. okay? chris. >> josh, on the ndaa the statement of administration policy objects to a provision in the bill that would undermine president obama's federal certificate of order prohibiting anti-discrimination among federal contractors. would that provision alone be enough for the president to veto the house version of the ndaa? >> well, you know, chris, the way that it's detailed in the statement of administration position that you've clearly reviewed quite closely, there's a long list of concerns that we have with the proposal that republicans have put forward. so at this point i don't think i can single out any one as being
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sufficient to garner a presidential veto. and the reason for that is just that there are a whole lot of reasons why the bill is bad and why the president strongly opposes it. so i think what i can say as a general matter is that the president has been forceful in using his executive authority to prevent discrimination, and the executive order that that you've cited is a good example of that. and the president has, on a number of occasions, protected his ability to use that executive authority in his negotiations with congress because we know that there are some in congress who, for reasons that seem rather perverse to me, believe that the president shouldn't be taking actions to prevent discrimination. so i'll leave it to them to explain why that's an appropriate position for them to take. it's one that seems hard
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difficult to justify, in my opinion. but the president has worked hard to protect his executive authority that can be used to prevent discrimination. and it's something that we take quite seriously. >> how confident are you that the republican-controlled congress will present the president a version of the defense authorization bill that will omit this provision against his executive order. >> >> well, again, i think it's very difficult to predict exactly what this congress will do. but what is true is that there are a long list of reasons why we have strong concerns about the way that the ndaa legislation's currently written, and we're hopeful that republicans will begin to make some changes. after all, this is their responsibility, right? republicans have a strong majority in the house of representatives, republicans have a strong majority in the united states senate. so, ultimately, it's republicans who need to carry the weight of figuring out how to insure that our national security professionals and our men and women in uniform have the
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authority and funding that they need to protect the country. so this is a basic function of the united states congress. it's unfortunate that it is being larded up with a bunch of proposals like the one you just cited that aren't related to our national security, that are intended to be divisive. and, you know, we hope that at some point republicans in congress will act responsibly to put forward a funding authorization proposal that is consistent with our national security interests. okay? leslie. >> thanks, josh, appreciate it. wanted to ask you, going back to the directive on friday on the bathrooms, there's an impression that the administration has been particularly aggressive on transgender issues, more so than it was on gay marriage before the president's evolution in 2012. i'm just wondering if that's you see that reflecting society
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or if that's an administrative decision. >> well, i don't think i would describe our position that way for a variety of reasons. i think the first is, this is a confrontation that republicans have sought out rather cynically because they are seeking a political advantage. to it's the republicans -- so it's the republicans in the north carolina legislature, for example, that convened a one-day special session to ram through h.b. 2, the now-infamous h.b. 2 in north carolina, so that it could be quickly passed in both houses of the legislature and then signed into law by the governor of that state. they have since walked back some aspects of that bill in the face of significant criticism particularly from the business community, and it's clear that it's had a negative be --
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negative impact on the economic climate in north carolina. so the comments that we've seen from republicans in other places, i think, makes clear that they're not really interested in helping schools across the country confront what is a difficult policy challenge. they'd rather just cynically try to appeal to people's fears in order to try and gin up political support for their campaigns. and that's not the approach that the administration has taken. and, in fact, i think this was evident from the guidance that was issued by the department of education on friday, that in response to specific requests from school administrators across the country, the department of education put forward best practices and good ideas with regard to how schools can implement this policy in a way that will protect the dignity and safety of every student at the school. and these weren't just ideas that were developed by administrators in washington d.c., these are actually ideas
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that were developed by school administrators across the country. good, sound, workable solutions that could be successfully applied in their schools and sharing those ideas with school administrators across the country is a tangible, constructive offer of assistance that i think the majority of school administrators appreciated. and that's not the kind of constructoff contribution that we've seen -- constructive contribution that we've seen from conservatives. from conservatives you basically have seen the suggestion that they don't really have a way of -- they haven't really put forward a specific suggestion for how they believe that the rules should be applied. the best that they seem to have come up with is suggesting that birth certificates should be examined before anybody can enter a public bathroom. so that doesn't make sense. that certainly is an indication that they are much more interested in politics than they are in actually trying to solve the problem.
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>> you said the directive was not necessarily brought about by the north carolina law, so i'm wondering if the administration has made a concerted effort, i mean, "the wall street journal" called it an effort to start a culture war to drive voter turnout in november. they've made a decision to be more aggressive on these measures. >> yeah. i don't make a habit of reading the editorial page of "the wall street journal," i think for obvious reasons, but i did happen to look at it today. they also noted that somehow democrats appeared to be, you know, obsessed with sex. that was a rather amusing observation on their part, because it's republicans who have, for example, passed this h.b. 2 law in north carolina. it's republicans in the congress that have created a special congressional committee to take a look at planned parenthood. it's republicans who have sued the administration over the implementation of the affordable
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care act including as it relates to women being able to get access to their birth control. so it's a curious observation by "the wall street journal" that i don't think stands up to a lot of scrutiny. >> getting back to the president, is he making more of a decision to be more, you know, forceful on these issues than he had been back in 2012 when he was criticized for being sort of slow on gay marriage? >> yeah. no, i don't think so. again, i think at every stage, you know, this administration that fought for and successfully ended don't ask, don't tell. it's this administration that declined to continue defending the defense of marriage act as litigation contesting that law wound it way through the courts. so again, i think as it relates to issue, it is clear that it's republicans who are seeking a political advantage and an administration that is seeking
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to offer tangible, practical advice to school administrators who are seeking to protect the dignity and safety of every student at their school, okay? julie. >> thanks, josh. the treasury department, you're going to be listing a variety of -- [inaudible] tomorrow but the president did say that the national emergency is going to continue and called -- [inaudible] i wonder if you could tell us whether the president feels like the human rights situation in myanmar warrants this action and whether he might like to see some more progress on that front before additional sanctions would come off. >> well, let's start by saying that the u.s. government announced steps to support burma's new democratic government including the recalibration of sanctions on burma to demonstrate support for the new government's democratic reforms and to promote broad-based, inclusive economic development. there's no denying the important political process that has been made many burma -- in burma, and
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the united states has been strongly supportive of the burmese people and the burmese government as they pursued these reforms. you know, one high profile piece of evidence about that progress is that, was the election that was conducted just in the last few months that allowed if the peaceful democratic transfer of power. so an important development in that country's history and is indicative of the important progress they're making in pursuing a long overdue political reform. at the same time, the united states wants to continue to further incentivize democratic reforms and continue to pressure targeted individuals and entities including the military so that the work of reforming that government continues. there obviously is more work that needs to be done, and the
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sanctions that remain in place do serve to pressure those entities that may be advocating for rolling back some of those reforms. so the government's made important progress. we want them to build on that momentum. and that's why the recalibrated sanctions announcement will move forward. but there still are entity that is are obstacles to needed reform -- that are obstacles to needed reform, and we continue to apply pressure against those entities so that we can, hopefully, nurture the continued progress that burma has made. >> you still think that there are concerns as it relates to human rights or the military's control of the government and essentially rolling back the progress they've a made, wouldn't it be wiser to see more of that progress before you go lifting sanctions?
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>> i think that's why we've described it a as recalibrating sanctions rather than lifting them -- >> [inaudible] >> well, again, for discussions of specific entities and what impact they may have had on political reforms, i'd refer you to the treasury department. they can sort of walk you through our policy towards specific entities. but most of the remaining sanctions are primarily intended to discourage economic activity with certain individuals and entities, particularly those who undermine or obstruct political reform in burma, commit human rights abuses in burma or propagate military trade with north korea. those are the entities that are targeted. and i think for those reasons continuing to apply those sanctions makes sense. at the same time, it's also important to recognize the progress that burma has made. and by lifting or by recalibrating the sanctions and easing the sanctions against some entities in burma, we acknowledge the important further incentivize additional
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reforms. so that's the recalibration strategy that's been applied in this case. okay. michelle. >> okay. so the white house has now issued several strongly-worded warnings about the 9/11 bill to member of congress. i mean, you've come out publicly and said these exact same things before. but today when this bill passed on a voice vote, there was no opposition. so doesn't that tell you that there's just as strong a feeling even from the president's own party that this is a legitimate concern and that the needs of these families to at least bring their claims to a court are more important than some indeterminate risk that some other country could do something similar to the u.s.? >> well, look, the administration is strongly committed to assisting the 9/11 families. and there are a variety of ways in which this administration has
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gone to bat for 9/11 families and those who did such important work around ground zero to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. i have in mind, of course, the legislation that for, on a number of occasions, got bottled up in the congress to insure that those who performed so heroically at ground zero were able to the get access to health care. so the administration's commitment to our nation's national security and to those who lost the most on 9/11 is steadfast. and our commitment to those principles will not change. finish but we have to acknowledge the significant unintended consequences of moving forward with a piece of legislation like this. and this is a concern that's not
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just expressed by the democratic administration. there are republicans in congress who have also expressed concerns about this in the past. so this is a sensitive issue and i would acknowledge that the politics are tough. but focusing on the substance we need to make sure that this is, that we don't overlook the potential unintended consequences of a bill that could put the united states at risk around the world. that's a, that is a dangerous proposition and one that the commander in chief, i think, is rightly concerned about. >> so it just seems hike democrats in the -- like democrats in the senate, by there being zero opposition voiced on this bill, it seems like they're sending a message to the white house that, you know, the concerns of the white house aren't as important. i mean, what's your response to that -- >> look, i'll let them explain their position, and i'll let them explain why they did not object to a proposal that has
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significant -- though admittedly unintended consequences. but, look, the accusation here is not that somebody in congress by voting for this legislation is seeking to intentionally inflict harm against the united states. our concern is that that is an unintended consequence of this particular piece of legislation. and it's the possibility of the president of the united states and the commander in chief to look out for the interests of the united states and our service members and diplomats around the world. the concern that we have is that other countries could use the passage of this bill as an excuse to initiate their own proceedings in their own courts that puts the united states uniquely at risk. >> are you disappointed that democrats in the senate didn't voice the same concerns or oppose this bill that the white house -- [inaudible]
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>> well, look, we oppose the bill, so obviously we're not pleased to see it move forward in the senate. but we're going to engage with the bipartisan members in fact house of representatives who have expressed similar concerns and see if we can insure that they are addressed as this legislative process moves forward. >> and in the past you've urged members of congress not to proceed because this could have ramifications. so the fact that it has now passed the senate, are there ramifications finish. finish -- alone in terms of the relationship with saudi arabia or anything else? >> well, listen, i think as we've discussed when the president travel today saudi arabia a few weeks ago, the president had a long, bilateral meeting with the king of saudi arabia, and this issue, the issue of this legislation was not raised. and, you know, i think it is an indication of the fact that right now at least in this legislation is not interfering with our ability to coordinate
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with the saudi arabian government on a range of issues of mutual concern. but, you know, our broader concern is about the potential unintended consequence that the passage of this legislation would bring about. and that is, basically, giving other countries an excuse to subject the united states of america to what could just be kangaroo courts in other countries. and it puts the united states in a situation where we spend a lot of time and energy and resources going and defending the united states in foreign courts. that's not a good use of our time. it's also certainly not a good use of our diplomatic capital. these kinds of cases would just serve as an additional irritant in our relations with countries around the world. so again, we believe that these kinds of concerns are the kinds of concerns that should be taken
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into account by every member of congress as they consider their position on this bill. >> the families put out a statement saying, well, you know, the big difference here -- they're sort of dissecting arguments that the white house has made. the u.s. doesn't support terrorist organizations that target civilians. so if this bill is so narrowly tailored to involve just terror attacks on u.s. soil and you look at the argument that those families are making, is that really such a huge risk that somebody would do something similar? if you're just looking at that specific instance of targeting civilians on our soil in this case. and, obviously, democrats in the senate agree that that risk is you know -- >> well, i do understand what you're saying and, look, i think that the concern is about potential unintended consequences. there are, there are a number of countries around the world that do, falsely, accuse the united states of engaging in acts of
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terrorism that result in the death of innocent civilians. there are other countries that publicly make that accusation on a regular basis. and if they now have a precedent for establishing their own method of bringing the united states into court and putting at risk u.s. assets that are held overseas even as they prosecute those falsely accused in a kangaroo court, that's not a path that we want to go down. the other concern, michelle, is exactly how that system could work. you can imagine a scenario where, you know, somebody who's injured or wounded overseas is brought back to the united states for medical treatment and then they die. that could potentially open up the united states or other countries, including our allies, to claims in an american court because that individual died on american soil. and this is the thing, i mean,
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our court system is such that you don't have to be an american citizen in order to file suit in an american court. so the -- i recognize these are hypotheticals, but they are potential unintended consequences that are quite serious. and that's the basis of our concern about this bill, the potential unintended consequences that have and could have a very negative effect on u.s. national security, could put at risk the united states, our assets and our personnel in countries all around the world. okay? ron. >> so is this just a closed matter again, the whole issue of 9/11? obviously, you're concerned about unintended consequences, the families are concerned about finally trying to figure out exactly what happened. and you've said before i think saudi arabia the investigation showed there was no saudi connection. the 28 pages, there's -- others
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have said that this is not significant information just like the furor about it. so do you say to the families essentially that -- oh, and also you seemed to say that there are some changes to the legislation that congress didn't consider that might have made it more palette able to the -- palatable to the administration. is there some way to reconcile this whole concern about sovereign immunity and the families' concern, or is this really just the end of it as far as the administration is concerned? >> well, it's certainly not the end of it. let's -- there's a lot to unpack there. let's start by it's not -- there was, there was a commission, an outside government commission of experts established outside the government to examine the attacks of 9/11, to take a look at what conditions led up to the attacks, what exactly transpired on that fateful day and what sort of reforms could be
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implemented to insure something like that never happens again. it's that outside group, the 9/11 commission, that carefully examined all of the available evidence and concluded that there's no evidence to indicate that the saudi government as an institution supported the 9/11 plotters. so those are, that's not some sort of government conspiracy. this is an outside organization staffed by experts that took a close look at this. and those, the leaders of that commission themselves reviewed the 28 pages. they have acknowledged that 28 pages included preliminary investigatory materials that they had an opportunity to pursue and that as a result of reading those 28 pages, they conducted interviews not just in the united states, but in other countries around the world to follow up on those potential leads. and despite having read those 28 pages and despite having acted on them by pursuing investigations that that information could point to, they
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still concluded that the saudi government as an institutioning didn't support the -- institution didn't support the 9/11 plotters. i think there is no denying that that part of it has been exhaustively investigated. i'm not saying this this, to suggest that somehow that's going to ease the pain of somebody who lost a loved one or several loved ones on 9/11. our heartbreaks for those people -- heart breaks for those people. these are thousands of americans who walk around every day with a hole in their heart because they lost a loved one on that tragic day. and trying to make sense of that and trying to move on with your, with one's life is something that many of them have been challenged to do. and they've demonstrated tremendous patriotism and heroism as they've moved on with their lives. and in some cases we're talking about parents who have had to raise kids on their own. in some cases we're talking
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about first responders whoever continued -- who have continued to fight fires and respond to emergencies even with the memory of their partner in the back of their mind. so there's no denying the heroism of the 9/11 families and there's no denying the courage that they have shown every single day since 9/11. but what we're focused on here -- and i think what the families are genuinely focused on as well -- is the national security of the united states. and making sure that the united states of america continues to preserve the ability to protect our interests around the globe. they understand that our capacity to do that is critical to preventing terrorist attacks on american soil. so that's what -- so the president's priority is not different than the priority that's been identified by the 9/11 families when it comes to protecting the united states of america and protecting our men and women in uniform and our diplomats as they serve our cup around the world. >> did i hear you correctly that there were some changes that
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could have made, that could have reconciled this whole concern about sovereign immunity, or is this just not a reconcilable situation? >> well, i think the reason that we are going to talk to democrats and republicans in congress is to figure out if there is a way to address the serious concerns that are raised by these potential unintended consequences. i don't know if that's possible at this point, but we certainly are willing to engage in a bipartisan conversation to make that happen if it's possible. >> another subject, the tsa. there's been a lot written lately about long lines in airports -- >> there has been. >> people being really inconvenienced. the morale in homeland security is the lowest ever, and while that's an inconvenience to travelers and all that, how much of a security risk is there now? is it greater? is there a concern of the administration that because of this tension on the system, to
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put it mildly, that there is now a greater concern about security lapses, perhaps, in airports around country? >> well, you probably should talk to somebody at the tsa to draw a definitive conclusion about that. i think what i would just state is the, the significant challenge that tsa officers face which is they don't want to inconvenience people. they know people are just trying to get on their flight and do their business or go home to see their family or go on vacation whatever it is that they're doing. but they want to make sure that people can engage in that travel safely. and so there's always going to be a little tension in making sure that we're doing thorough checks and making sure that we are protecting the integrity of the aviation system while also at the same time giving people the freedom to use that aviation system without a whole lot of hassle and inconvenience. and resolving that tension is challenging. and there are a number of creative things that the tsa has tried to do.
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the establishment of precheck which allows some individuals to go and, essentially, go through a background check that's conducted by the government so they could then go i through an expedited security line. that's one example. we know that the tsa has been working closely with airports to see if airports can actually commit to using airport personnel to expedite the process. so, you know, ron, you've -- as a reporter, you've had to travel through a lot of airports. it's not uncommon for tsa officers to help people navigate the screening process by, you know, loading materials into trays and getting into the right line -- >> [inaudible] >> that's not necessarily a core security function. what you could do, is the tsa could coordinate with airport staff so that when lines get long or volumes are expected to be high, that it's airport personnel that don't have a security function that can help people manage the security process so that all of the security-trained people can be involved in the actual screening. my point is that there's always going to be a little tension here in the basic function of the tsa.
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and the tsa, to their credit has worked hard to try to be creative about developing solutions that would make this process more efficient and not inconvenience travelers as greatly while also adhering to the high security standards that i think we all would demand. >> right. but, again, the long lines have revealed that there are, seems to be staffing problems. high turnover rate, this is low morale. and the question is to what extent is all that potentially compromising safety at the airports. is there a concern of the administration, has there been some focus on trying to make sure -- [inaudible] >> yeah. >> given where we are in the last months or so of this particular phenomenon of these long lines, has there been some targeted effort focused to make sure that this is not causing security problems? beyond the inconvenience? >> yeah. even in the face of these significant challenges, the professionals at the tsa are
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committed to the safety and is the security of the american traveling public. and they maintain these very high standards because they're concerned about safety. you're right, that this is something they are reviewing safety and security standards regularly, daily to insure that those high standards are being met. and they're doing all of that even though, on average, the tsa is now screening about 125,000 more passengers per day. and there has been an effort by the tsa to expedite the processing of the newest class of tsa officers. there has been an effort on the part of tsa to get congress to approve funds that could be reallocated so that additional overtime pay can be paid out to tsa officers so that they can be paid for working longer hours and, therefore, try to shorten lines. so, again, there's a lot of work that's going into trying to be creative about how to not inconvenience travelers unduly
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while also maintaining the strict safety and security standards that the american people would expect. okay? byron. >> thanks, josh. has the president or the white house been tracking what's happening or what happened in nevada at the democratic state convention there? sanders' supporters reportedly making death threats against the state party chair. however, the state party actually filed a complaint with the dnc. obviously, there's a lot of emotion around this primary process still. is it time for the president to sort of step in and calm the waters and help unify the party moving into the final stage? >> well, as it relates to the delegate selection process for individual states, i would refer you to the dnc. they have a very well-established process whereby they review the plans that are put forward by individual states for choosing their delegates to the convention, and every state does it differently. that makes the process a little cumbersome, but it's the way that each state retains control over the process for selecting
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delegates to the democratic convention. but i think at the same time you have heard the president on a number of occasions talk about how political disputes can never justify an act of violence. and, you know, the president talked about in -- this in a speech at rutgers commencement ceremony on sunday, focusing on facts and evidence and how the establishment of our political system was intended to resolve disputes among our citizens to prevent violence from occurring in the first place. and i think what is true is that expectation the president has is that there will be a strong commitment to that principle of nonviolence. and the way that candidates in both parties address this
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question publicly is important. and i'm confident it's something that people all across the country will carefully watch. >> is the white house disturbed by the behavior of members of its own party, making death threats against the party chair over what is, essentially, characterize9 as a political dispute? >> i haven't looked at the individual claims that have been made, but i think the president on a number of occasions has spoken out against violence and has certainly said that, you know, a political dispute like this, you know, can never be justified, used to justify an act of violence or even a threat of violence. and that is a principle that he has championed for a long time and his expectation would be that politicians in both parties -- whether they're involved in an election or not -- would express their support for that principle. >> one more on the president's
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legacy on special interests. roll call yesterday reported that republican lobbyist is trying to organize or lobbyists on the behalf of hillary clinton. she's had -- [inaudible] whereas donald trump has hired some ex-lobbyists in his campaign. prevent lobbyists from donating to his campaign in the dnc. no current campaign has embraced that, and bernie sanders made this a key issue. is the president worried that his legacy on this issue is being eroded? >> byron, i think the authenticity of the change that president obama brought to washington has been confirmed in what you've just relayed. and it's an indication of how difficult it is to change our political system particularly when it comes to confronting entrenched special interests. and the president's quite proud of his record of doing that. and the truth is, it's going to be up to the next president to determine exactly how to build on that progress.
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and so presumably there are a variety of ways to do that, and i think that will be part of the debate not just through the summer, but also into the fall. but these are the, these principles of insuring that citizens retain a voice in their government is something that's that the president has made a high priority, okay? john. >> over the past week you've had some pointed words from the podium about -- >> we'll leave this briefing as the senate's about to gavel back in to debate the transportation housing military construction v.a. spending bill, votes coming up at 2:30. subcommittee's ranking member and the co-mearpg of this bill. -- and the comanager of this bill. the presiding officer: the senator rhode island. mr. reed: thank you mr. president. i ris

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