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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  February 18, 2016 6:00pm-8:01pm EST

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$7 billion a year, billion with a b. part of thery small $3 trillion of mandatory spending. majority of the mandatory spending is going toward social security, medicare and part of the veterans benefits and services i talked about earlier. those are the real drivers. now, that's not set in stone. that is set in law. can be changed. ongress is typically reluctant to make changes to this program. to make changes you're talking benefits for current beneficiaries. many of te retirees so you are talking about changing what they get in the social security check or what they get in terms of andcare benefits politically, it tends to be a nonstarter.
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ok.: up next, we have peter from valley college new york. caller: valley cottage, new york. mr. harrison, i have read over the years that the biggest is that ath the dod lot of the money appropriated to is department of defense used for bureaucracy. from what i heard from the generals on television is that the bureaucracy has grown so big that it isars sucking up most of the money and not as much money as should be going into actual defense. that is a big problem that needs to be addressed. if you could talk about that, thank you. part of the difficulty in discussing this is, what do you define as a bureaucracy? there is about 1.4 million in
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the uniform active military and about 750,000 dod civilians and then separately, we do not have a good count on the number of contractors that support the department of defense, but it is probably close to the number of dod civilians. that is the workforce we are talking about. most of those civilian workers work outside of washington dc area, i think about 85% of them are spread all over the country, various military installations. they do a variety of jobs. many of them do blue-collar jobs. baseare doing things like maintenance, depot maintenance of equipment. large, government run depots that do overhaul of some of our major he admit. there are a lot of civilians doing things like that.
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there are still a fair number doing more administrative tasks. and there are many contractors also doing more administrative tasks. talk about the bureaucracy growing, with they are generally referring to are the headquarters staffs. the headquarters of each of the services, of each of the combat and commands around the globe that cover the various geographic areas. and the staff right here in the pentagon that works in the office of secretary of defense. if you look at the numbers, they have grown significantly over the years. still are a very small percentage of the overall dod workforce. in terms of a driver of the budget, the benefits and pay for those people are not really a budget driver because the numbers are in the tens of thousands and not the 100s of thousands of people. it still is a big issue and
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folks in congress are picking up on this now. in recent legislation, they mandated reductions and the size of those headquarters staffs. , that hast mandate not taken effect yet. dealare working on how to with that. it is already in the works. they are also looking this year reform,ming, nichols which refers to the goldwater nichols act that passed 30 years ago. they are looking at doing a similar restructuring this year. things they are talking about our maybe combining headquarters. do some delay airing, take out layers of bureaucracy and headquarters, change some of the roles within the department. at all ofs looking these things this year and a department of defense itself has
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started a group looking at the changes. we may see legislative activity on that later this year. continuing our discussion of the defense budget, we know said marlon from maryland on the democratic line. you are on. my question pertains to how the budget is actually audited, particularly such a huge portion of it. i was wondering because i heard contractorsthat bill the government high prices. my friend told me he billed the government $500 to install a toilet seat in an aircraft or something like that. i was wondering if the people writing the checks have any sort of oversight or you could get more official insight into what that is like.
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there was a project on government oversight report that came out in the 1980's a while back that exposed excessive overbilling and the department of defense. . $500 toilet seat the truth is, you can still find small examples like that in the military. terms of an audit, the defense department has not yet passed an audit. they are working on it and it is long overdue. a lot of the problem with auditing the pentagon is you are dealing with financial management to stones, databases, if you will, that are very old that do not talk to each other very well in do not meet modern accounting standards. it is in many ways an i.t. problem that the pentagon is trying to solve. what an audit will do is not andssarily uncover fraud
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waste. it will provide better transparency and accountability when congress appropriates money all the way down and make sure that it was all spent according to how congress appropriated the funds. oversight is already happening at lower levels within the military down at the base level and the unit level. thele are responsible for oversight right now. you sometimes hear about failing when people have not done proper oversight and have not scrutinized contracts adequately, but that tends to be the exception, i think. fraud, waste, and abuse is a crime. that does get prosecuted. you do see people go to jail from time to time because of that. while the pentagon needs to pass an audit and the sooner the better, in terms of public account and transparency, i
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would not count on that coming up with a lot of savings in the budget. there is not a simple line in the budget somewhere for rate -- four waste that you could eliminate. say, ity frank used to is not like fat on the peas of a stake where you could just trim it off the edge. if that is marbled in the meat and it is hard to get it after it happens. low level in a lot of different places. he requires good discipline, management, and oversight from the top all the way down to the lowest levels. host: can we talk about major procurement programs that are eliminated under the budget? not really cut any major programs under this budget. the big programs you see continuing like the f 35 joint strike fighter, that did see some reductions. the f 30 model, they actually areback on what they
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planning to buy over the next five years. they reduced the by by 45 over the next five years. that is a slight reduction corpsred by the marine upping what they will -- is the program just getting started is the next generation bomber, a stealthy bomber that stands for a long-range strike bomber. that program is just getting underway. there have been some delays and they slipped the schedule a bit and slipped the funding for that in this budget. it is a reduction of $3.5 billion over the next five years. it is not that the money is saved. the money will be spent later. a lot of the programs are continuing as planned. that is why i think the budget is a punt to the administration.
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i do not think it is realistic that all these programs cannot continue as planned. host: ok. .e are talking to todd harrison alan asked caller is sandra from columbus, georgia. independent lines. you are on. old army bratn you are my father served in world war ii in korea. he did quattro tour is in vietnam in which he was killed on the fourth tour. i have brothers and friends that are baby boomers like me. we have got a better v.a. system here in the southeast than in most areas of the country, but the vets here that need medical care, they have to drive at least 100 miles to the nearest , which ato get care lot of them after they get up to a certain point and are children
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do not live close to them, they do not have access to get to these hospitals. i live right outside georgia, one of the largest army basis -- bases that this country has. it is not clear to me why this large a population of retired veterans,wounded probably a couple 100,000, at and theetired veterans, kids coming back from afghanistan and iraq that live in the area, they cannot get the becausecare they need they have to go so far to get it. it is not explainable to me and i am one of these people that i love my country and every american in this country ought to be hanging their heads in shame with what the veterans
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administration has done. host: all right. let's give todd a chance to talk about that a little bit. the caller is exactly right and highlights a major issue here. this is part of the veterans affairs budget and not the dod budget. of the $160 billion i talked about, the veteran's benefits and services, a little over $50 billion of it goes to veterans health care and that has grown substantially because they are trying to do with the problem they have got. they have got so many people seeking a medical care and the veterans health care system. the system is just not designed to supported and they are not providing adequate care for folks and there are a lot of youons out there for what can do one option is, let's just give veterans and insurance card
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where they can go out to private sector in -- providers and get health care. is likely going to increase cost because more people will actually get the health care they need so the budget will go up. that is why i say this is a major issue in the federal budget and this is a cost we will have to pay. it is something we promised our veterans. we will have to pay the bill and find offsets in the federal budget, whether cutting spending in other areas or increasing revenues to cover this for running a higher deficit. another issue is how people from the dod military health care system to the veterans health care system. when you are in the active duty, you're covered in the military health care system. you leave before retirement age and have qualifying conditions, then you can go in the veterans health care system,
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a different health care system, both run by the government. you would think they would talk to each other but now, they have trouble transferring people's medical records. it is something they're working on, coming up with an electronic health care medical record system that could be more easily transported from the military to the v.a.. that would be a big step in the right direction once they get that problem under control. host: let's talk about a little bit about the ranches in the military base in the budget. we have $148 billion for the army. it is a $1.1 billion increase. got $167 billion. which branch run -- one in the budget? guest: if you just look at whether the numbers went up or down, the air force went up by a little over 3% in the budget.
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the navy went down and the army basically stayed flat. the marine corps is included in the department of the nagy -- navy's budget. the navy marine corps went down. the air force up. armie, basically even. that is not a surprise. that was printed in last year's budget request. in future years, they were already showing the air force was supposed to go up in the future. part of that is because the air where theyaling with have got all of these programs to replacew weapons the legacy weapons they have in their inventory today. to climb therting wave in the budget request. let's go to our next caller, sarah from new hampshire. sarah, you are on. caller: thank you for taking my call. is there any effort to keep down
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costs when we have outside contractors getting no-bid , andacts in war zones their employees make 20 times what an enlisted person makes, there seems to be no accountability or ethics involved. also, a couple days before 9/11, donald rumsfeld said there was true -- $2 trillion missing from the defense budget, and in the days afterwards, we know the pentagon was bombed and there has been no monument lace for the people supposedly on an airplane that went into it. there seems to be really a lot of unethical behavior on the part of our leadership in the past and i do not see anything being remedied currently.
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work, ite there is a is started by politically and corporately connected people and their kids do not going to the war zone. our kids get sent into harms way. my family has fought in every war since the french and indian war. into the current worse. i did not see dick cheney's kids go into iraq. let's give todd a chance to respond. ofst: there are a couple first posits. one is reform in changing the way the pentagon buys weapons and services. to be more efficient. there have been numerous efforts to acquisition reform. it is a perennial topic in washington. everyone recognizes we could do the way our military buys weapons and services, they keep trying and it is a
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difficult problem to solve and i do not think anyone has come up with a good solution yet. made incremental progress in some areas. there has been an initiative in the pentagon called better buying power. they try to make sure the pentagon is getting a good price for its weapons and for the services it contracts for. still shortcomings in that and it will actually take many years before we could see the effects of that to see if what they are doing now is being more efficient. it is something congress has in taking up and i know the senate and house armed services committee's past acquisition reform legislation last year and made some changes to the system. they will probably come back this year and passmore changes. there is always more that could done but it is a difficult problem when you have got such a large and massive organization buying so many different things and often the military is buying products that nobody else makes, nobody else buys.
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it is unique to the military. it is hard to even get a good of what amate it -- nuclear aircraft carrier should cost. we do not have comparisons. what should the new ballmer -- --it has been 20 or 30 years bomber cost? since we built this. new bomberuld this cost? it has been 20 or 30 years since we built this. the budget has come down significantly since we largely pulled out forces from iraq and afghanistan. in iraq and afghanistan, we typically had a ratio of about theater foror in every uniformed servicemen were in theater. about a one to one ratio. this is a new thing for the u.s. military because these are the
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first major protracted wars we have ever fought in our history with an all volunteer force. we did not use the draft. previous wars like the amount in korea and the world worse, we used the draft. the draft allowed you to pull and a lot of people and pay them pennies on the dollar, friendly. the pay was very low because they did not have a choice. we now have a volunteer force where they do have a choice. you have to pay them competitive wages. do that, personnel costs are higher and it does not now make sense to bring someone in and give them good pay and thatits to do a job contracts out for a lower price. some contingency contractors are used for things like security , where they required specialized skills and we ended up paying them in some cases more than the military. security related contractors, only about 10% of contractors.
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the vast majority of contractors weree on the battlefield for more mundane activities like food preparation, laundry, cleaning up phases and vase maintenance activities. the majority of the contractors we use for those services were third-party nationals, not u.s. ends of the host country. but the third country. the contractors were actually paying them at a competitive wage in their home market, a lot less than you have to pay a u.s. citizen to come work there. we actually did save a lot of money by doing that. i think the reality is whether we like the use of contractors in the battlefield or not, it is that financially, it is going to make sense. tong contractors allows you have a contracting surge and
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purge. you can hire people rapidly and when you do not need people bowl , you can get rid of them and do not have to keep them on the payroll in future years. it is a change in the way the military operates. up next, on the democratic line, we have richard from missouri. i was listening to the different things we're talking about. back when i was doing my service time, everybody was drafted and they went in did two years for active and reserve time. it seemed to work out real well. this professional army, we call them mercenaries in the old times. somebody would do your killing for you. when idy was patriotic went in the army. you did your time for your country and come home and got an education or whatever they give you in benefits. as far as hospitalization, medicare for all with take care of all of that. give health care to all of god's
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people. host: did you have a question? caller: this thing we have setting up, we spend a billion dollars on it and now you are going to build a new one? guest: i did not catch the last part. caller: i will let you go. host: thank you so much for the call. thank you to todd on c-span two book tv programming with authors and history and tvpan3 it's american history archiving coverage.
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road to ght c-span's the white house continues with a hillary clinton rally in nevada. she'll be at the labors las national union in east vegas on c-span 11:30 eastern time. c-span's coverage of the presidential candidates continues this week with events in south atlanta. and on saturday february 20th. our live coverage of the results 7:30 p.m. saturday at eastern with the candidates speeches and your reaction to c-span, c-span radio and c-span.org. c-span's washington journal live every day with news and policy issues. coming up tomorrow morning new
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america vice president and international security program director will join us to talk book. his be sure to watch c-span's journal beginning ive at 7:00 a.m. eastern tomorrow. join c-span tomorrow at 9:15 in ern for the ceremony honor of justin scalia. and michelle a obama and supreme court justices nd members of congress are connected to be among those attending. justice scalia will lie in repose and the great hall will be open to the public. on c-span and c-span.org. arlier today deputy national ecurity advisor briefs about cuba.ent's trip to press secretary also answered
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supreme court e justice nomination process. this is an hour and a half. as many of you know and covered ben was instrumental in president's the vision on advancing cuban policy announcementstoric today. next month president obama and will be traveling to cuba. ben is here to talk about what hope to accomplish and stay and take as many questions as about that trip. i should also point out that pictures and catchers are to spring training in
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arizona so i know there a lot of circled because they're squaring off against ben new york mets in kansas city. ben, you want to do a little and then we'll take questions. point out that yoenis c├ęspedes will be reporting to he mets for spring training keeping with the cuban theme here. okay, so, i'll just make few opening comments. you saw the announcement that he president will be going to cuba with the first lady on march 21 and 22. this is the first president to visit cuba since calvin coolidge. as we noted calvin coolidge a battleship on so it will be different from the go. i wanted to step back and put this in a little bit of context. in has been a sea change
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terms of u.s. policy towards uba and u.s./cuban relations over the last year and a half ince they announced on december 17, 2014, that we would normalizing of relations. to date since we made that have been a there number of steps forward. irst of all, we intensively negotiated over several months, re-establishment of relations. what we have seen is enormous interest from the cuban people and from opening
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people in the united states and we have had businesses travel own to cuba, state and local governments and academic significant increase to cuba and a 54% increase in the number of visiting cuba since announcement. it holds out real promise to improve the lives of the cuban people. judgment was that the embargo that was in place was achieve its to stated aims of bringing about a political change in cuba. castro government under fidel and raul castro had been decades and many hurting the cuban people because they were cut by the in many ways and the world and not benefiting from u.s. policy and we're that dynamic.erse we've made a number of increase changes to
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travel and commerce to cuba. they have had some benefits. in remittances to cuba that benefits uban families and the increase travel benefits the private sector. they benefit the cuban people increasingly as businesses have gone down and have had discussions with the cuban we are finding out ways to establish a presence and earlier this week they announced it's going to start to operate he first u.s. owned factory in cuba that will provide tractors for small farmers. commerce and e, travel is going to benefit u.s. companies that are very in operating cuba, but ultimately it will benefit the cuban people. a potential to
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significantly increase those travel lengths with the announcement that was made week that we will be restoring direct flights between the united states and cuba for the first time in decades. that will allow up to 110 flights to cuba every day and that's more people to people engagement and more opening between our two countries. have raised a number of issues with the cuban government could s of steps they take to improve conditions on he island economically and human rights. we have seen some progress with respect to internet access in additional wireless nternet hot spots and efforts to link neighborhoods to broadband connections, but we'd see more in that space so we continue to indicate to government that internet connectivity is the tial to connect with global economy and again it to accessheir ability
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information. we have also been supportive of reforms that have created private e with the sector. self-employed cu self-employ cubans -- this is an area where we can increase economic engagement. to raise directly with them. they took some steps in political prisoners and hosting the head of the international committee of the we'd like to see more respect for the basic rights of the cuban people, freedom of assembly and speech. considered whether to go this year to cuba, the that ent's judgment was number one, going to cuba was an in rtant step forward
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signalling this beginning between our two countries and eoples and also importantly, that going to cuba could help benefitshis space that the cuban people and increases ties between our countries. going earlier this year would allow us to try to around his e both visit and the days and months that follow. focusing on with respect to the visit is how can e take the changes we made in our policies and regulations and ry to connect them to changes and reforms that the cube bans are making so that there's more and more of tivity an opening for u.s. businesses cubans importantly for to benefit from that activity and be able to access more and again achieve a better life. how can we expect our people to people ties? there's increased travel but also increased cooperation number of areas and we have
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had a good cooperation, for issues , discussions on related to medical cooperation, vaccines and other areas where we can expand our people to people engagement. are we supporting and encouraging efforts around, as i to the creased access internet and telecommunications cuba? how is cuba, again, investing in sector there and of course how are we engaging not the cuban government but the society and speaking out for supportn rights that we around the world. certainly on this trip, the president will have the to engage not just the government but society and entrepreneurs and life.rent walks of
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which taken taking we believe will be enormously people al to the cuban a interests. the president will be travelling to argentina. the cuban opening also has to be seen as an effort by the united states. had long region that rejected our cuba policy. isolated thecy had united states more than cuba in the hemisphere. a country until recently had a president who had relations oblematic to the united states. the new president there has his interest in and ning and restoring
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renewing u.s./argentina relations. that will be the business of that trip. how 'll be able to discuss to increase our diplomatic, other forms of cooperation. close by saying that we've been engaging the cuban overnment leading up to today between -- but we've also been engaging the cuban american follows thee issues very closely and will continue to do so. e've been engaging with our business opportunity, with human rights advocates and continue to and the trip.now we believe that at the end of cubaay, part of what makes issue so unique is the interest and passion that cuban americans it. about we want to make sure we're hearing their voices as we will be a truly historic occasion. and take there
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questions. he'll be meeting with dissidents with members of civil ociety including those who certainly oppose the cuban government's policies just as to panama and met met with o, he also critics of the cuban government in his civil society round table. the point we make to the cuban government is that we engage society in countries around the world this is part of business esident does hen he travels in different regions he meets with a broad ange of actors and cuba is no
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different. i wouldn't expect him to meet fidel castro. raul castro is the president of him.n and he'll meet with colombian t to the eace process, we had good response. we have worked together as they are pursuing a peace agreement. certainly be a subject that we discuss with the cuban government that the with ent discusses president castro. day, we're f the
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willing to support that anyway can. >> back when the opening -- the tart of normalization was announced, you guys mentioned cuban ings that the government to do including the release of the prisoners. head of a presidential trip to cuba, were there any conditions or anything specific that you before them to meet this happened? >> yeah. i think and there are different steps that we have to take. on the u.s. side we have eviewing and changing our regulations to allow for more ravel and commerce and we'll continue to do so in weeks
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leading up to the trip. are we like to see they of ways we do s things. it's not as specific as the vatican e had with the but we do want there to be that creates ess momentum for normalization that emonstrates normalization benefits the cuban people and the american people and that make the n help changes that we're pursuing irversable going forward. there is a range of steps that government could take
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and we'll continuing to discuss in the coming weeks. sort ce you announced the of normalization process, there's been a dramatic spike in of cubans fleeing for the u.s. sustainable bers and is that wet foot dry foot policy that the u.s. will address. >> we've seen an up tick in the umber of cubans, particularly cubans travelling to central america as part of an effort to to the ir way united states. i think that's tied to perhaps policy ions around our changes, but also greater freedom of movement for cube to travel from cuba and
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rankly in some cases increased resources from some changes in ur policies and other countries. very closely with our central america partners. we'll be addressing the migration issue. on how n, our focus is can conditions improve in cuba there's more ime economic opportunity and less of need for cubans to have to pursue opportunity elsewhere. >> will you be bringing a of numbers with you
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sinyou. >> we'll want to incorporate members of congress into the trip.ent's there are a number of members -- add.th parties i should has is an issue that bipartisan support. we'll make sure they're incorporated into what they're doing. >> are you satisfied on what the done on human rights. >> i don't think we'll be satisfied. i don't think we've been date and frankly i think we're always going have to differences with this government because they have a different political system. with those time even fundamental differences about how they organize their stems, we think there re steps that they can take to improve and be part of the evolution that is taking place on the island. seen these inch contract mental steps with access and nternet
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connectivity and engagement with the international community on these issues. mentioned the head of the icrc. more.'d like to see we believe that not going and to ating cuba doesn't serve advance those issues that we ill be in a better position to support human rights and support a better life for the cuban eople by engaging them and raising these issues directly and whether that's individual uman rights cases we're concerned about and whether that's the types of reforms that opportunity for the cuban people or whether how do we directly engage uban society so we're speaking out for the values we support. again, in our judgment engagement is a more more means of addressing those issues. concern are you that all of this is very reversible, is it not? wants to make should
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policy change irreversible. means that we want the links between cubans and the businesses and the engagement between our momentum to gain such en inevitability. have an cific we embassy opened in cuba. t allows us to travel more widely across the region. it wouldn't make a lot of sense down the embassy we have open. ou have increase in americans travelling to cuba and that will get higher as we institute direct flights. lot of sense ke a to tell americans their government says that they can't be allowed to travel to cuba. have a lot of interest from the business community and the chamber of commerce. make a lot of entence to tell businesses to
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shut our products in cuba. our objective to do as much as an o to make this irreversible policy and i think american people support that. guantanamo bay how do you anticipate it going about the will there be and reparation.on about cubans lost millions and assets. of dollars in will that be part of the discussion? >> i'm sure that will be part of discussion. i know that because i've had that discussion many times with counterparts. they are insistent our presence and the not legitimate facility be returned to them. but again, that is not on the part of our discussions. we're focused on the range of discussed but i'm
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sure that they'll raise it and ontinues to be an issue of concern to them. with respect to the claims issue, that will certainly be on agenda as well. we have initiated under the leadership a nt's dialogue with the cube bans on the issue of claims. there are many claimants in the nited states and engaging many of them to try to determine the that ay forward to see their concerns are satisfied. cubans also have a substantial number of complaints against us as well. formal dialogue of claims. >> on the prison, that is not to be part of this. there is no way the government will give that back and not oing to be a provision to give that back. that is not a part of this trip. trip,t's not part of this no. >> who determines which the president will
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meet with. and at already negotiated already been discussed? we determine who we meet with in different countries. and we've certainly indicated to the cubans this is something that the president will be doing does on others he trips. could s hoping why you flush out why now? ou talked previously about using the trip as a carrot to get the concrete progress you are hoping to see. said that you would go when there was enough progress. wrote you're going because there is insufficient progress. what's changed there? well, you know, the fact is there's a little bit of both in we want is at what to take all this activity and -- the last ve seen over year, all this interest from businesses and local governments and start to make
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it concrete. tart to show outcomes and results. you're beginning to see that take hold. direct flights agreement that was reached, you businesses beginning to be able to operate in cuba. but we've also been having with the cubans about all these issues, what more can we do so that becomes beginning of something and not a trickle but leads to a significant flow of activity. so, we are confident that at both the case s progress in made normalization and dealt with the number of important issues that had to be addressed at the beginning of the process but now we want to see that connectivity come online in terms of again, in terms ofctivity, many of the issues that we've een discussing with the cuban government and frankly given the choice between going in december when frankly would it would be a
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or going own to cuba now and get some business done, we believe we should get as much done on this trip and create as much momentum to carry that forward throughout the year. don't think you lost leverage? >> i don't think so. all, this has been an on going process with discussion with the cube bans. the president is going to cuba and what he says and how that as you all know from depends on y trips whether we're making progress. the interest that both countries productive this be a and successful visit continues to create the conditions where to get an incentive things done. >> will president obama get a to address the cuban people? >> you know, we have not schedule, mark.
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think he'll want to look for that. i don't want to suggest we have venue in mind, but you know, again, i think he sees where an opportunity he's meeting the cuban government but he's also going o want to be engaging with the cuban people. >> you're looking to arrange that?hing like >> something but it's preliminary and we haven't begun it out. reciprocalu expect a invitation to be extended to president castro. it one visit at a time. e were able to meet president castro in new york but our focus is on this visit what specific policies are you hoping that they'll announce after the visit nd do you expect that you'll
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lift the travel ban. turks are ey, the syrian the u.s. backed kurds of yesterday. your response to that and,two, have you seen any evidence that the claims are true. >> we have not determined responsibility. we obviously condemn in the the attack that's took place in turkey. we as a government have not upon an assignment of responsibility but we'll be with the turks on this. we made clear to the turks and engagements with the ypg and other kurdish elements that we make clear to them the with ance of our alliance turkey and the importance of engaging in efforts to undermine what should be our ocus which is the sheer theft
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of isil. e'll be talking about this directly to turkey and we'll their make sure that security concerns are taken very makeusly and we'll want to sure that the different actors that we're working with in syria their attention where it should be which is on isil effort. been steadily making regulatory change. process will continue of the as we have additional to make we'llnges afounds them. i don't want to preview what because that's an on going process and involves our efforts to ensure that not only we acting consistent with the laws on the books, even if embargo if we he
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could but focused on the right issues and areas. what we have aimed to do is promote additional travel, economic activity that, again, we believe benefits the cuban people. the cuban steps government can take, i don't ant to be overly prescriptive from here. i would say that we talked to our business community. there are a number of things hat cuba could do that could make it easier for businesses to operate in cuba and operate in benefit the cuban people. presence and engage cuban workers, again, there's this ly a delegation here week from cuba including the inister of trade and we're discussing what are the practical steps to be taken that changes ur regulatory
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with their economic reform efforts. issues that we regularly and consistently have internet i mentioned access has been one of those. ur support for again their private sector as part of the economic reform agenda has been rights i'mn on human sure we'll have a number of specific issues that will be continuing to raise between now trip.he we'll want to make clear that in focused on ll be those issues because the american people care about them about president cares them. so, again, i think between now nd the trip and on the trip itself we'll want to have steps taken by both the united states nd cuba that show how this is moving forward and then there will be areas of bilateral pursuing n that we're with cuba, where we'll be exploring what can get done trip.d the >> did you talk to folks on the hill particularly our critics of and business trip?
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>> uhm, we've been doing outreach to the hill. number of oke to a members. those.t like to read i definitely spoke to people of points, people who are critical of what we're very and people who are supportive. our judgment of what takes place ncreases for this policy on capitol hill. you see that with the number of people who are supporting the travel ban on congress and the initial efforts to lift the embargo you and see something that crosses party lines. you have senators who are supporting what we are doing. bipartisan support for
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this policy and we want to push forward. >> i was wondering if you could talk a little bit, i think have pointed to the and dissidence in cuba. but there's been a regression on human rights issues. i'm wondering, you guys see this a positive or has this issue kind of been -- vershadowed and some of the gains that had been made if cially economically and there is progress being made cuba fugitives that are in argentina do they see and er they can be an ally what type of presence do you think they'll get especially onsidering what president bush
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got. >> first of all, we see as being we're doing the e net positive for lives and human rights of the cuban people. i'd say a number of thing. first of all, the economic are connected to the human rights issues of the it gets at are the cuban benefit from the human being but we're also of the the expectations cuban people have gone up for the future. and that's a good thing. e want the cuban people to be hopeful for the future and see possibilities for them to pursue a better life. hat we see with the government is they have continued in particular a practice of the that are detentions deeply concerning. he number of long term
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political prisoners along the lines of a number of the people around released december 17th, those types of detentions have gone down over and months but what we see is this practice of short m did he sessions and arassment of people who are seeking to speak about human rights. a an people see this as hopeful time and moment of opportunity and it's important cuban government recognize that those aspirations going to eople are ultimately be to the benefit of people and not something to be put down. so, it will be on agenda, but as this, it's important tried it one way for 50 years. e had an embargo and democracy funding and you did not have promotion of human rights on the island. this is a much
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better way to ultimately support the cuban people. a better hem achieve life. i'll give you just one example. you know, the united states phones to some individual cubans. when i allow all cubans to have access to total indications? that is a better way to advance the things we're talking about. weh respect to argentina, definitely anticipate it will be a close partner on a range of issues. in fact, the president has been a strong supporter of human rights in latin america. signaled he would like to have close collaborations with the united states. we believe this is the beginning of a new era with our relationship with argentina.
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itre is much more receptive to working with the united states. i imagine the reception will be very positive and it speaks to the goodwill throughout the hemisphere for president obama. >> you talked about the embargo and try to get lifted. earlier this week he described do,k the white house could without lifting the embargo. have those things been considered as too soon, when would be appropriate to consider them? mr. rhodes: we have been considering those issues, and essentially -- look, our judgment is that the embargo should be lifted. short of that we want to look at what the areas are that we could open up space that would promote the greatest travel and commercial activity that
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ultimately benefits the cuban people. we are looking at those issues and, as i said to carol, on a regular basis we are rolling out these regulatory changes. we think that is in our own interest. we think that helps advance the interests of americans went to travel. also, frankly, in helping ordinary cubans. >> what will be the technical process of doing that? mr. rhodes: it is a very technical process and what involves is agencies of u.s. government, in particular in how it -- um, because he oversees the office and it is important work. reviewing our regulations and deciding what type of licenses to issue him a what type of
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policy issues that can be made, and of course everything we do has to be reviewed by an office of legal counsel. and onepecific question broad question. could you talk about what her participation means and whether obama's daughters are going, he does it doesn't say the first family is going. and more broadly, could you talk about how the demonstration will work with firma. where you see parallels and where you see differences. mr. rhodes: the first lady will be coming. we have an answer with respect to the children at this point. but the first lady will definitely be accompanying the president. she has taken a
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greater interest in issues relating to girls education internationally. again, that is beyond the united has been theat substantive focus she has had. but don't think she looks for -- but she looks for appropriate opportunities that have to do with their schedules aligning, also with focusing on regions where i think she can help us advance our efforts. if you look at this type of trip, what the first lady is singularly good at is that she is an enormously popular figure in different countries around the world. goodwill, andt of is a very able messenger for america and its values. so, going to a place like cuba , and havingt time
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this historic opening for the cuban people, i think it is very important that she is here -- is there. region is one that she is interested in engaging, so he very much welcome her. burma, there are some parallels and obviously a lot of differences. the court parallel is we believe the policy of not engaging burma and cuba was not working in either case. when we came in office and burma, you had a military that ruled with an iron fist for many years. you had many people in prison. you had an economy that was closed off from the rest of the world here we felt that simply using sanctions was not resolving that situation. so the president engaged. we engaged broadly and burma. asengaged the government
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well as civil society. we also saw to promote economic ties to show what could benefit the committee. and we have a cnet have an enormous effect -- and we have seen it have an enormous effect in just a few years. ultimately, in a very successful election that took place last year. the president traveled to burma questionsn when those were still very much in play. our judgment is you don't wait until the story is over to show up and find out what happened. that just puts us on the sidelines. burma,g to a place like he was able to advance the things we care about. he was able to raise the hopes of the people there and he was able to restore relationship to been deeplyat had
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estranged from the united states. you but is different in terms of the issues in play, in terms of politics, i think the common thread is that we can accomplish more through engagement. that engagement should be with the government but also the people of the country, and we believe that greater connectivity to the united states, diplomatically, economically, ultimately will be to the benefit of the cuban people. >> would you say it is harder to do this and cuba because you don't have this kind of mobilized opposition that you happen burma? well, there was, you know, an opposition figure of enormous renowned. renowned -- reknown. opposition,ments of
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but it is not analogous to the prominence in burma, including their running and winning an election in the 80's. so, the political circumstances are certainly different. >> the united states government has done a lot to relax our restrictions to cuba. they haven't done nearly as much on their and, and even imports were down substantially from last year. resistanceress this that you are getting from some of the opponents of the policy? from this regime that is still very much i guess american against american values. mr. rhodes: first of all, we do
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have enormous restrictions still in place. we have an embargo still in place. think,ans themselves, i know,ow, certainly, you continue to point at all those restrictions as a restraint. the fact of the matter is we do believe that they could do some things, thatical could make it easier for businesses to operate in cuba, to establish a presence in cuba, to engage cuban workers directly , to interact with their private sector. so, there is a range of issues we have been discussing with them and we have been able to find in some cases direct solutions. airbnb can get and because they are directly dealing with cuban people.
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to establish a farm. cubans takeee the steps to allow for an opening of u.s. businesses because we believe ultimately, if our businesses are there it will be to the benefit of the people. ,gain, a degree of progress of the cuban government, whether it is internet access or specific arrangements, and that leads to the core point which is we believe the best way to push this forward is to the president to go. been asentially has whole range of activity. part of what we have been able to do is look under the hood of regulations over the
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course of the last year. this is not a country that was, in many ways, designed or prepared to immediately engage the u.s. private sector. but i think we now have that understanding, so i think there is an opening for us to push a much greater degree of activity through. and the point we would make two to carry this way policy forward is to keep leaning forward and to keep engaging more. keep pressing for greater activity and to the cubans to take steps to open space between our countries. pulling back would only make it harder to achieve those things, but a presidential visit is a forcing mechanism and i think it has the potential benefit of making our government and the cuban government into as much as we can to make normalization move forward. >> the want to see more changes in exchange for this trip? mr. rhodes: again, it sounded
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quick for a quote but i think we would like the trip to show the concrete progress and normalization, and if it is an opportunity to demonstrate results, and frankly, insofar as the cuban government wants to meet the expectations of their help improve the livelihoods of the cuban people. that engagement will serve those objectives. we feel very strongly that engagement is a far preferable way of pursuing the things that america cares about. thenhave a couple for you, -- ben. any time that cuba will let american businesses hire from the cuban labor pool?
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mr. rhodes: we have continually raised that with them. we would like there to be increasing opportunities or american businesses to hire cubans. and foreign businesses to hire cubans. sometimes that is very easy, if airbnb contracts with a cuban home, that is one thing. but if it is a u.s. company hiring workers, that is another issue. and emanating an ambassador to cuba? mr. rhodes: that is something we are still working through. why we hadreasons been comfortable where we are is because we have been excellent chief down there. very well thought of in cuba and the united states. we are comfortable with jeff, but we will certainly be
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addressing the question in a couple months. u.s., vietnam relations were normalized, we heard a lot about how the previous approach had failed and this would lead to greater openness. you read report now and it is just ghastly. -- say twoy to critics who say you are in effect putting american businesses in the service of an authoritarian regime and will prop itself up that way? vietnam is not 90 miles from florida. that, you know, -- americann risk businesses can bring is greater opportunity for cubans, greater , yes, if it improves there'll be far more
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good things for the cuban people. that american business is a net-positive for the cuban people and that over time will bring about real benefits and improvements in their lives. there are certain sectors, obviously, where we can make a critical difference. would say isg i that part of what is different is we have a cuban-american community that is deeply invested in the future of cuba. i think what we have heard from many of them is they see that cuba is changing. there is an evolution taking place in cuba and we can either be a part of that or not. if we keep ourselves out of it and the europeans and others are there helping to shape these
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changes taking place, that does not make a lot of sense, and that is why i think you have cuban americans coming to this recognition that this is the time to engage. this is a government that was very comfortable for over five decades with the embargo in place and with the united states as a source of legitimacy that they built upon. we haven't seen raul castro begin to initiate a set of reforms in cuba. they obviously are not at pace and scale that the united states would suggest. but there is an evolution taking place, and we want to be a part of that evolution. >> thank you so much. so, the embargo is a big
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obstacle. the cubans want it lifted because it is a big hurdle to normalize relations. ted cruzarco rubio and are said these are justifiable concessions. that, president concerned should a republican win the white house, all of this will be reverted? can you elaborate more on the timing of the trip? it has been two decades, as you said before. what specific message is the president bringing? mr. rhodes: we wanted to go early in this administration. giving that he expressed interests in renewing our relationship. we want to sit down with him early in his term to chart the way forward. but also to demonstrate that a cornerstone of the president's
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involves making sure we are leaving strong relations with important countries like argentina. i think it is fitting to go on the back end of the cuba trip for that reason. with respect to your first question, you know, first of all, again, the long-standing approach that those senators have supported has failed to produce any results. the cuban government is still in place. it is not as if one more year of the embargo will bring transformational change. this is a policy we have pursued for decades. we have a basis to make an assessment it is not working. but beyond that, it is not helping the cuban people. the cuban people were suffering because of the embargo and these restrictive policies.
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effect of the matter is the thing that we should all agree on is that we want a better life for the cuban people. they support these changes. they overwhelmingly support engagement with the united states. so why would we, in service of our objective of helping the cuban people, ignore their voices? told him they have to live cut off from the rest of the world? let's listen to the cuban people . they are invested in this. think that do not the right way to think about the changes we have made is not in our own interest. it is not a concession to have an embassy. that makes no sense. it allows us to better engage civil society, to better speak up for the things we care about. it is not a concession to allow americans to travel to cuba.
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americans would very much like to travel to cuba. so to explain to them that it is some concession doesn't make a lot of sense either. it is not a concession to allow american businesses to pursue opportunities in cuba. that is in our own interest, that is the opposite of what a concession is. question, theur reason we think this will be irreversible is because the logic of it is so clear. what we were doing was not working. this has a better chance of a successful outcome for our interests. if businesses are starting to operate, they will not want to be told to shut down. there, it an embassy will not make sense to shut it down. if we have new opportunities in the americas because we have this anchor, it
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doesn't make much sense to immediately anger and alienate the western hemisphere about reversing this policy. that is why we believe you see a stakeholders to many people in the cuban-american committee, to communities like the catholic church all supporting this change in policy. >> would either bernie sanders or hillary clinton continue this policy? mr. rhodes: without commenting on certain candidates, i think the positions they have taken clearly indicate support for our policy and certainly we believe they understand that the old approach didn't work and this is a better way of pursuing it. mr. earnest: as you can tell there is obviously a lot a
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passion here in the white house and this ministration for this change in policy. we are looking forward to the trip next month and hopefully many of you will be able to join us. so, we have artie been out here for about an hour or so. i can take a few more questions. kevin, do you want to go first? i have a lot of favorite topics. >> pope francis says anyone who wants to build a boardwalk is a christian am a so what does the white house make of the pope's comments and could this come at the extent of millions of americans as well? mr. earnest: the pope as a spokesperson, so you can speak to that individual for a greater understanding of what the pope was saying. i can just say in a general manner that president obama had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to address the national prayer breakfast, where he talked about his own personal faith.
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view of the values and priorities that he has chosen to champion in the white house. and we have noted, on a number of locations, that many of those by mr.are not valued trump. i will extend it to mr. trump the courtesy that he has not extended to the president and not use this opportunity to call into question the kind of personal conversations he is having with his god. about one thing you'd like to see from this trip, and i asked if there were any conditions he wanted to seat met before that. he was a little bit vague. there was a range of issues that would continue to be discussed. can you clarify, when he says concrete steps, do you want to
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see certain things before the president gets there? mr. earnest: over the course of the last 14-15 months, we have seen a number of concrete steps taken by the cuban government to normalize between our two countries. announced this policy because he believed this change would be good for the cuban people, but most importantly it would be good for the u.s. and the american people and the american economy. that has manifested itself in a variety of ways, whether the opening of an embassy or reestablishing commercial flights, or even greater opportunities for american businesses inside of cuba. you can certainly indicate that the lead up to the strip, during the trip, and certainly after, we will seek certain concrete steps that benefit the united states. >> isn't anything you want to
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see before he lands? mr. earnest: we want to see continued progress in the direction of work normal relations between our two countries. that would serve the interests of not just the cuban people, but people of the united states. obama is planning to meet with president raul castro, the leader of the country. the president will have essentially a two-day visit to cuba, and we will have limited time. the details are still being worked out but at this point i would not anticipate a meeting with the former president. >> why does the president want to attend scalia's funeral? the president and first lady lady tomorrow will be traveling to the supreme court linked to a their respects to
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justice scalia, whose body will be lying at the supreme court. the supreme court has organized this opportunity for the american public to travel to the supreme court on friday and pay tribute to justice scalia. what thexactly president and first lady will be doing tomorrow. like thousands of americans, not all of whom agreed with justice scalia's view of the law. they do agree that his service to the country and want to an institution that is critical to our democracy, warrants special attention. president will pay his respects to justice scalia and by service to the country traveling to the supreme court tomorrow. >> why wouldn't he just of the funeral? mr. earnest: as i mentioned yesterday, vice president biden will be presenting the
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administration at the funeral. obviously, when he travels someplace, the security footprint is a little lighter. relationshipsonal with the family and given the president's desire to find a respectable way to pay tribute to justice scalia's service to the country, we believe we have settled on an appropriate and respectful arrangement. i think all of this should be viewed in the context of the comments that the president offered in person on saturday afterg, just a few hours receiving the news of justice scalia's death. , paying of his remarks tribute to justice scalia and his life. when asked about justice scalia on tuesday, the president once again took the opportunity to speak at length for his respect
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for justice scalia's intellect and commitment to the rule of law and his service to the country. i think all of that taken together reflects the kind of approach that i think that most americans are looking for from their leaders in washington dc. there is so much rancor and politics that we allow ourselves to get drawn into different corners to the extent that some people want to use the funeral of a supreme court justice as some sort of political cudgel. the president does not think that is appropriate. what he thinks is appropriate is to respectfully a tribute to high-profile adriatic citizens patriotic citizens even if you do not agree with them. and that is what he's going to do. theou talked earlier about progress of human rights. -- e was a time when
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wondering how bad roads and the other officials are making sure that people do not get rearrested and possible unintended consequences? mr. earnest: i would research at the state department -- refer to the state department or the conditions of those conversations. a regular part of our engagement with the cuban government has been focused on ensuring that the cuban people are empowered and have their human rights protected. that there is a lot more than the cuban government needs to do to do that. that is a consistent part of our engagement with them. i do not have an update on that at this point, there is no misunderstanding about that.
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that is why the president has thought to deepen the engagement between our two countries, so we can be more effective for advocating of the human rights of the cuban people. >> can you give us a sense of when the process for president will roll out his choice for scalia's successor? let me answer that in a couple different ways. that as thect president contemplates this very important decision, that he will consult with a wide variety of people, with a wide variety of viewpoints. some of those conversations will eventually become public. many of them probably will not be. but the president and his team certainly take this particular -- they take this
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constitutional responsibility quite seriously. has already begun to have conversations with senior members of his team about this process. we are at the beginning of this process, but it is one that the president and his team continue to carry out expeditiously. be mindful of the fact that the insident has another year office, so there is ample time for the united states senate to act. what is also true is that, at least in recent history, we have not had a supreme court vacancy that has spanned two supreme court terms eared so the president -- terms. so the president certainly wants to move promptly so the president can do the same. the vice president today given interview today and talked
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a little bit about how the president is looking at his pick. he said the president won't pick the most liberal jurist in the nation. is that, is the president moving towards a consensus pick as opposed to what end of the spectrum or another? obviously vice president biden has a unique perspective on this situation. presidedeone who has over the hearings of, i believe, for different supreme court justices. he has his own unique insight into the kind of criteria that a president can and should use when choosing a supreme court justice. president obama has drawn on that expertise and experience
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from vice president biden in announcing his nomination of the elena kagan to the supreme court, and i am confident that president obama will be drawing on vice president biden's knowledge in making this decision as well. what president obama is focused personchoosing the best and the united states of america to fill this job. again, i'm not going to get ahead of the process. i do not know if the the p has expressed interest in this job -- the vp has expressed interest in this job. but he has pointed out that there is a number of senior level judges, judges that serve on the appellate courts, who have actually gotten strong bipartisan support in the senate. there is a track record that the president has of appointing people whose qualifications are
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beyond question, and i would expect that the president would nominate someone to the supreme credentials that could be similarly described. >> just one question about gitmo. can you give me an update as to is going tou.s. submit a plan to congress about closing gitmo? mr. earnest: we are certainly asdful of that deadline, but soon as we have a plan to present to congress we will present it to them and i will make sure you get a copy of that as well. >> is it your suspicion that that will happen? mr. earnest: back in the summer, i was asked to predict the timing of when this report would be presented to congress, and i was off by several months. so i have learned my lesson and i will not be making future
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predictions about the timing of when this report will be presented. i know that in that intervening time, the department of defense has been working very diligently with other components of the president's national security team to put together a thoughtful, workable, sensible plan that reflects the national securityinstruments -- interest of the united states. i do not have an update for the plan. i know you have made progress over the last few months. shown toit is congress, i will make sure it is made public. if you do not make the deadline, will you put through something never -- narrower? if every 23rd comes around and we have not presented -- plan,
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>> i wanted to ask why the administration did not turn over the fightonday for against isis? mr. earnest: i would into a spate is something the department of defense -- anticipate that is something to department of defense will finish shortly. what is true here is that given the number of senior officials a -- ue testified under nder oath, i do not anticipate there are a lot of people in congress who will learn a whole lot new about that when -- that plan. sheet wasn't able to serve as
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acting director after she became nominated. statement, but a there was a federal court case recently that did not agree with you and said she was not an assistant to the agency. she was no longer eligible to serve as acting director. concerned that her actions could be, as acting director, deemed illegal? mr. earnest: i'm aware of the situation. i have not gotten the full legal analysis of why our lawyers believe it is entirely appropriate for her to continue to do the important work she is
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doing at opm. we could try to provide you with a greater understanding of our interpretation of the law, but we certainly say with a lot of confidence, that, not just that she has cleared the legal bar to perform that work that she is doing an excellent job. very difficult situation and she has gone to work, growing up her sleeves, drawing on her private sector leader expertise, to implement significant reforms at opm. democrats and republicans alike have been impressed with the pace at which she has been able to make important progress with really difficult issues. this is an enormous amount of work that needs to be done, and we are hopeful that congress can put this to rest and confirm her
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keyhe opm job full time so -- so she can continue to do her job without distraction. >> a couple of weeks ago you were saying if the republicans did not ask things about the president's agenda, that is something voters should have in their minds when they go to the polls. with the supreme court nomination, if the republicans do not have hearings, is that something voters should make their decision on? mr. earnest: going back to the argument i made a couple weeks ago, the point i was trying to make is that there was a lot of discussion about hair -- about how there were a lot of republicans who work critical of legitimately bipartisan proposals we put forward. my observation was that that left republicans in a situation
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where that is not clear at all, exactly what they are going to do over the course of this year. knowing that we have republicans in charge of the congress and democrats in the white house, you have to act in a bipartisan way to get anything done. if they shoot down anything be puts forward, it puts republicans and an uncomfortable situation of having spent years of purging the people to give them responsibility, and essentially spending a year doing nothing. what i think it's also true, and i think this is also true in the minds of the american people as well, the supreme court nominations are different. a lifetimegnize that appointment to the highest court in the land entails a special responsibility, and the other
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legislative agenda items we have put forward are critically important to the country. reforming our justice system would make a difference in the lives of thousands of americans and could potentially do something really important. rate, andthe crime help our economy. bipartisanship is the kind of thing that would even further strengthen the strongest and most herbal economy in the world, and re-energize the united states relationship with asia. look, when it comes to the supreme court, the senate has a constitutional responsibility. attempt, as i an observed yesterday, i people on all sides, to try and politicize
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these hearings and to politicize the process. tot we are trying to do is focus squarely on the president's constitutional responsibility and the senate's responsibility. if that is what we do, i am legislativeat a process that is so often looking bywn -- broken down dysfunction, will actually perform in a way the american people expect. i'm confident we will have differences of opinion. we had a spirited hearing? yes, i bet that we do. will some people complain? that will happen too. but the suggestion is not that we shouldn't have a debate, the
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question is whether the senate is going to fulfill their basic constitutional responsibility. people,the american including those who are going to cast a vote in 2016, will be watching. a senator says that there shouldn't be hearings as opposed to a process -- is that something that should be in the minds of the voters in that senators state in november? mr. earnest: at this point i will not be able to predict with a lot of specificity exactly what a specific voter will have in mind when they go to the voting both -- booth. i think it is certainly something that is legitimate, and i think this issue is, again, given the stakes, is something that will get a lot of attention here it that is a good
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-- a lot attention. this is a good thing. day, thed of the president has a constitutional duty and so does the united states senate. >> i'm curious why president obama was so thrilled to have received a parking pass today. should we expect the president to be driving himself around chicago, looking for a parking space? [laughter] mr. earnest: that's a good question, i wouldn't rule it out. the president certainly does miss the opportunity to drive himself around. he spent some time driving around the south lawn with jerry seinfeld last year, and he certainly enjoyed that. i can tell you in his post-presidency life, i think the president is eagerly anticipating spending some winter nights at the united center watching both the bowls
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and the blackhawks. we will see. maybe he will have a self driving car and he will be able to ride along without putting his hands on the wheel. >> who did he had dinner with last night? mr. earnest: the president did make an outing last night. he went to a blt restaurant just across the street here. i'm sure it was just serendipitous that a handful of "new york times" reporter's would be at a bar at 6:00 p.m. on a wednesday night. lest i did and they saw the president walk in. the president had dinner with some friends, many of whom are assisting the outside work of the foundation as a gets up and running. so there were friends, some of you tweeted about them.
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but they work former white house officials, and some others who were there. they had been meeting over the course of the day to talk about planning for the foundation, and when the president heard they were in town he wanted to go over and see them. i spoke to the president about it this morning, anticipating you might ask me about this. he told me it was almost entirely social. >> was martin freeman at the table? mr. earnest: i wasn't there. i was told other people saw him, so that may be accurate. but i have not seen a full list of who joined the president for dinner. clearly, cuba is a good example of the kind direct engagement. korea, comes to north the administration has not shown that kind of attitude, despite the fact that north korea has
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developed nuclear weapons. are they ready to take on north korea it with that kind of deep and a direct engagement? not,arnest: toshi, we are and that is because north korea has continued to engage in repeated provocation that grossly violate their international engagements. they conducted nuclear tests earlier this year that violated a variety of u.n. security resolutions. they tested missile technology earlier this month. those actions were roundly condemned by the international community. tonorth korea is prepared put an end to those kinds of provocative acts, come into
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compliance, and make clear they are committed to the goal of the nuclear rising -- de-nuc learising, -- they know precisely detect -- precisely the past they can take -- path they can take. it will give them an opportunity to reengage with the world. it would certainly improve the economy, improve their relationship with south korea, improve their relationship with other countries in the region russia and china and even japan. that has been our approach, and fortunately for the united states, the international community agrees with us, but those are the steps that north korea needs to take, and they will continue to work with us to apply pressure to north korea, to further isolate them and to
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compel them to take the kind of steps to take compliance with the international committee's expectations. we are supposed to be a part where the u.s. and russia will discuss a way forward. the question very simply is why is it ok to do that there, but not in a bilateral way with russia? we have a knowledge for a number of months now that there is an opportunity for the russians. if they are prepared to sign on to the goals of the international counter-isil
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coalition, that their contribution to that effort would be welcome. that is something the russians have resisted. , weuse of that resistance have engaged with the russian military to the extent necessary to deacons let -- de-conflict. but we had been disappointed actions -- ssians they had not been focuses -- isil, which has resulted in more widespread bloodshed and suffering, and only serves to undermine the goals of the russian government. that is a contradiction that the
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russian government has been and it is whyess that, even as russia gets deeper and deeper into this conflict, they are not actually advancing their longer-term interests in the region. in the short-term, they may be able to help the a shot regime asserts power. but over the long-term, russia is being forced to dedicate more and more resources to try to hold on to the only military installation that they have outside of the former soviet union. >> given that approach, what do you expect from the geneva meeting? mr. earnest: what we expect is that the painstaking flow and difficult and complicated diplomacy will take the next step there. secretary kerry has been
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tenacious and trying to move this process forward. look, even if this process moves forward slowly, lives are being lost and lives are being scarred because you see innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. you see more and more people forced to flee their homes due to violence. unfortunately, russia's actions are only perpetuating that situation and did not actually coordinating with the international community to rectify it. this will be part of the multilateral discussions planned for tomorrow. >> i wanted to ask something that been mentioned -- ben mentioned. the question basically is, does partnercuba a potential
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, and are there any other partners like that? therernest: we know that -- that the cuban government has invested a lot and medical technology. if our improved engagement with the cubans would allow medical experts from the united states to deepen their engagement with medical researchers in positions in cuba, the net would be a really good thing. it will be a good thing for the cuban people to my certainly a good thing for the united states, and a good thing for the world in terms of trying to capitalize what could be important gains that cuba has made. we can certainly leverage those gains to advance the interest of the scientific committee and trying to cure diseases like cancer. >> how confident is the white
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house that you will achieve something? that they will achieve a breakthrough, or meaningful results by the end of the year? a very small window there. we want to lay the groundwork so we can turbocharge the progress that has been made so far and try to shorten the distance between the progress we are making now and the ultimate goal of curing cancer, and i do not anticipate that will happen before the end of the year but i do anticipate that i better focusing our attention on this goal, we can more effectively use our resources, more effectively share knowledge government and the variety of private sector entities. in we can lay the groundwork for
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a kind of breakthrough that would have a tangible impact on millions of lies. -- millions of lives. that you are already on the brink of a major discovery, and are just waiting for it to be announced. mr. earnest: the reason we have used that terminology is two things. -- as expressed there is no denying that when president kennedy made this announcement, it was widely used .s a very broad, audacious move but it was one that was achieved. the second thing is, when president kennedy made this announcement, the goal was not realized during his presidency. it was not until 1969 that this goal was eventually realized. so what we are hoping to do is to lay the groundwork in the presidency of barack obama so that some future president could
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make a proud announcement of a medical breakthrough that could lead to a cure for cancer. just wanting. -- just one thing. that senatoruggest schumer's thoughts on the iran -- can you clarify what you said about schumer in relation to this cut? mr. earnest: there is no relationship at all. this administration has made a substantial investment in homeland security, not just for new york city. that obviously has some unique challenges, but for the unique -- but for the whole country.
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when you look at the resources that have been provided over the last several years, the amount that has been unspent and remains, and the new commitment we have made in the context of this recent budget, i think our commitment to homeland security is quite clear. so, the concerns i raced --terday were entirely raised yesterday were entirely concerned with -- if you look at the facts, a lineup precisely with the priority this president has faced on homeland security. everyone has the resources they need to protect their communities. we canam saying is -- walk into the numbers because it is complicated. there is about $600 million in
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funds that have been divided by the federal government. that has been provided in previous years, that is still in the accounts maintained by the city and state of new york. those funds continue to be available for them. there was a suggestion that somehow there were unmet needs. the fact is there are substantial resources that continue to be available. and in the context of this budget, the administration is proposing to add another $255 million on top of that. again, this is a substantial sum of money that would be dedicated to things like homeland security, resilience, and other that are critical to the well-being and safety to the people in new york. the reason the number is significant, if you take a look at the last two years and the
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way these funds have been spent, combined they have spent about $150 million. it is not just that there are ,ignificant funds in reserve but what is being provided in this proposal far exceeds expenditures. that is the point we are making. have had our differences with senator schumer over national security and those has -- those have been well chronicled. we are focused on is making sure people understand the facts about the way we had backed up our commitment. thank everybody, we will see you tomorrow.
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announcer: a debate on the u.s. use of drone warfare. road to the white house coverage continues with john kasich holding a town hall in clemson, south carolina. and jeb bush talking to voters in the columbia city. and live from las vegas, with a campaign event from hillary clinton. the chicago council on global affairs hosted a debate on the military use of drones as part of u.s. counterterrorism strategy. professor university mary

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