tv U.S. House of Representatives Legislative Business CSPAN April 28, 2016 6:00pm-7:01pm EDT
against a syrian civil defense province. the it's believed that five members of the civil defense have been killed and many more innocent people were injured. . this attack fits the assad regime's abhorrent pattern of striking first responders. more than 100 have been killed in action. and many are killed in what are often referred to as double tap strikes. this is where, after a strike has been carried out on a location, forces, including airplanes, will sometimes return to that location after first responders have arrived to try to treat the injured, and another strike is carried out. that results in first responders themselves being victims.
it's these tactics that are abhorrent, they're immoral, but unfortunately they're entirely consistent with the actions that we've seen from the assad regime for quite some time. this does place even more pressure on an already fragile cessation of hostilities. and it's the continued violation of that cessation of hostilities by the assad regime in supporting -- and supporting forces that is also having a negative impact on the political talks. the other concern that the united states and the international community continues to have is how the violations of the cessation of hostilities are affecting the ability of the international community to provide much-needed humanitarian
assistance to innocent syrians who are caught in the crossfire there. when we initially brokered the cessation of hostilities a couple of months ago, we discussed how one of the of ntial important benefits implementing the cessation of hostilities was creating the space for humanitarian relief and supplies to be delivered to these communities. that have been under so much pressure for years now. so, our concerns remain significant. and you'll recall that president obama had an opportunity to speak with president putin i guess a couple of weeks ago now to einforce our view that the russian president should use his influence with the assad regime to encourage them to live up to the commitments that they made in the context of the cessation of hostilities. we certainly believe there's
more the russians can do to affect that result. reporter: you're saying consistent with what the regime has done. so this attack was likely the regime? mr. earnest: again, this is an attack that just occurred overnight. so i don't -- i can't offer up a full assessment. but it certainly is consistent with the kinds of tactics we've seen the assad regime use all across the country. reporter: and the u.n. has said , if talks deteriorate that president putin and obama should intervene. is there any move toward them talking yet about that? any arnest: i don't have upcoming conversations to tell but at this point. obviously the united states is deeply engaged in encouraging all parties to the cessation of
hostilities, to return to the negotiating table. and president obama talked about this at some length with the g.c.c. partners, g.c.c. countries that the president met with last week in saudi arabia. and the united states continues to use our influence to encourage the parties to participate in the talks constructively and we believe there's more that the russians can do to use their influence to convince the assad regime to abide by the cessation of hostilities and to facilitate constructive political negotiations. reporter: just on the trump speech yesterday, you don't have to watch the whole thing determine that allies are coming a little bit less with criticism of trump. is this a worry to the administration? as he becomes more likely to
become the nominee, our allies are becoming less politically -- less vocal in criticizing him. mr. earnest: i don't know that there are many allies that have spent a lot of time weighing in on the u.s. presidential race. i think they understand that certainly their opinion matters, but ultimately the opinion that matters the most is that of the voters. as i mentioned before, the voters across the country will consider the actions and policies and priorities of all of the candidates as they decide who they want to support to succeed president obama. but ultimately that will be a decision for the american people to make. reporter: while the president was traveling, i mean, just on the same subject, so he's in britain delivering his incredibly lengthy, detailed opinion on a referendum that the british people will undertake. but when cameron was asked directly about donald trump, and then later merkel was
asked, they wouldn't say anything. this is kind of in the spirit of let's all share our opinions with our allies. is the administration disappointed that they would say nothing to weigh in on the election in that way? mr. earnest: no, not at all. i think the president answered this pretty directly when he noted that when he was the ing to london, supporters of the campaign were describing all sorts of views to the u.s. government -- ascribing all sorts of viewses to the u.s. government about how -- views to the u.s. government about how we would react to the u.k. leaving the e.u. the president thought it was appropriate, since the critics up their view of what the united states should do, it's only appropriate that the president of the united states, while he's in the u.k., explain what the united states would do and how we would react to that particular situation. i think that is what gives the
president important credibility in explaining to the british people as they consider this important decision, exactly how the united states would be affected. and the president did not somehow suggest that the british people should decide based on the u.s. view. in fact, the president made clear that this is a decision that british voters should make based on their own calculations, about what's in the best interests of their country. and that obvious acknowledgment or the acknowledgement of the obvious sovereignty of the british government and the british people is something that the president pointed out on a number of occasions. reporter: when world leaders weigh in on the american election, is that helpful, harmful or neither? r. earnest: i think ultimately it's up to them to decide what views they want to share and what impacts they expect those
views will have. i think ultimately the american people will carefully consider the options they have before em and express the preference. reporter: in the spirit of sharing our opinions, if they had taken that opportunity to slam donald trump, which was obviously kind of the point of the question, would you have seen that as helpful? would you have preferred they -- mr. earnest: i think it would have depended entirely on what they had chosen to say. reporter: and his interview with the "new york times," the president said he regretted not promoting better the country's economic recovery. if it had been promoted better, what exactly would that have looked like, in what ways would that have happened? is the administration doing that now and in what way? mr. earnest: i think what the president's referring to is something that he's observed before. which is that in the earliest days of his presidency, the country was facing historically
dire economic environment. there were a variety of crises that were coming to a head all at the same time. you didn't just have the financial markets spiraling out of control, you had the u.s. housing market poised to fall off a cliff. some communities i think it probably did, it could be described as having fallen off a cliff. you had the u.s. auto industry on the verge of bankruptcy. potentially costing a million jobs. and a variety of other measures related to job creation and economic growth were all moving rapidly in the wrong direction. the president and his team were rapidly responding to these crises. and making difficult policy decisions that ultimately, here seven years later, have yielded
tremendous progress. at the time, there frankly wasn't the time and space to spend a whole lot of time selling publicly the wisdom of those policies. the president instead, rather than being focused and press ed about the coverage 24 hours after the policy was announced, was much more focused on the economic impact of those policies over the next several years. and by that measure there's no denying the tremendous success of this administration in esponding to the largest economic crisis in america in several generations. reporter: is that selling of it happening now, as we lead up to an election? mr. earnest: i don't think i
would describe it as selling, no. i think that there is a desire on the part of the president and the rest of the administration to help the american people understand exactly what's happened over the last six or seven years. and the reason for that is simply, we've seen what works. we understand that an economic approach that focuses on expanding economic opportunity for the middle class is the best way to strengthen our economy. and to ensure the strength of our economy for future generations. and the president does want to make a powerful case to the american people that the strategy and approach that he took is the right one. and frankly is the strategy hat future presidents should follow. or at least should be the basis of their approach as well. the reason i say that is, look, the economy's a dynamic thing. it's always going to change.
it means that different presidents are going to face different economic challenges. but anapproach that's rooted in growing our economy from the middle out, focused on making investments in our work force, and not focused on retreating from the international mmunity, looking for ways to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, reduce the deficit, but also invest in infrastructure and in clean energy, that's a smart approach and one that has laid the groundwork for a strong recovery. and it's important for people to understand the linkage between those policies and our recovery, because that's the best way for people to understand how future presidents should approach these issues. reporter: very quickly, on the aleppo bombing, is it too early
to rule out that a u.s. plane was in the vicinity yesterday, as russia is saying, or can you rule that out? mr. earnest: i'd encourage you to check with the department of defense on that. they can give you some updated information. i have not heard anything to lend any credibility to that kind of a statement. buchek with the d.o.d. reporter: former speaker boehner is saying that ted cruz is lose ferre in the flesh. [laughter] -- lucifer in the flesh. [laughter] is that helpful, harmful, does the president agree with that quote? what's your reaction to that? mr. earnest: obviously speaker boehner was speaking based on his own experience. [laughter] i'm not sure that he was trying to do -- i don't know that he was looking to be helpful or harmful. i think he was just looking to be hobbest about his own view -- honest about his own view. reporter: when words like that are used and phrases and descriptions are thrown out there as they have been in this
election, do you consider that crossing a line? mr. earnest: look, i think -- if you're looking for somebody to come to the defense of one republican who's being attacked by another, you should probably ask somebody else. reporter: a couple for you. one is, it was reported that -- tomorrow night. has the president been briefed on the new report? has it altered his understanding half happened in that incident? mr. earnest: there has been a long-running investigation that was conducted by the department of defense. i believe that is central command, to investigate this terrible tragedy. i don't know at this point whether or not the president has been recently updated on that ongoing investigation. but it obviously has been going on for some time now. when the results are made
available, they'll be made available to the public by the department of defense. and i'm confident that the president will at least be briefed on the findings, if not actually read the report himself. reporter: and then the second one is, back in 2013, the national defense university, the president talked about refining and ultimately repealing the 2001 aumf. i'm wondering, under what circumstances could that actually happen now in the remaining months that he has in office? what series of steps do you see as necessary in order to be able to do that? mr. earnest: this was part of the strategy that we laid out, i guess this was at the beginning of last year, for congressional passage of a new authorization to use military force against isil. what we had suggested that congress should do is pass a new authorization to use military force, that would cover our actions against isil.
that would allow congress to then take the step of repealing he 2002 aumf and further refine the 2001 aumf. in a way that would more narrowly tailor the authorization that had been given to the executive branch. that's the approach that we took. we actually sent up legislative language that would have affected all of these changes. but the president also asked senior members of his national security team to travel up to capitol hill and testify under oath on camera before congress to encourage them to take these steps. but unfortunately, like so many other things we think that congress should so obviously do , republicans have failed to act. reporter: to be clear, unless there's a new isil aumf, you can't do away with 2001, right? that's your current understanding?
mr. earnest: what we have said is that the actions that the president has already ordered against isil, these are the actions that were taken in both iraq and syria, i believe even some of the actions we've taken in other places, including libya, are covered by the 2001 aumf. the 2001 aumf does refer to al qaeda and there still are places around the world where there are al qaeda networks, where the united states is taking action to limit their threat to the united states. we do believe that we still need to have the authority to degrade and ultimately destroy isil. and, where necessary, continue to apply pressure to al qaeda affiliates around the globe. so we do believe that authorization is necessary. we believe that authorization could be given in a way that's much more narrowly tailored than it currently is under the
2001 authorization to use military force. reporter: the south carolina governor was on capitol hill is morning -- [inaudible] -- gainst bringing guantanamo inmates to south carolina. it would make south carolina a target for terrorists. also in colorado there was a bill defeated that would have gone on record opposing any inmates going there. but even some democrats there don't want inmates transferred, so what are the chances that the president can follow through on his plan to close that prison? mr. earnest: we're going to continue to make a forceful se to congress that the most effective way to deal with the ison at guantanamo bay is to seek to transfer those individuals who can be safely transferred onto the right security constraints to other
countries. and bring the remaining number of inmates to a secure facility in the united states where they can be prevented from harming the american people and where, in many cases, they can be brought to justice. the truth is, there are dozens of dangerous, convicted terrorists who are on american soil, in american prisons, right now. that doesn't pose an undue threat to the american people. it doesn't make any state a target. what it does demonstrate is that the united states of america can live up to our values that we seek to advance all around the world, even as we protect the american homeland. and that consistency is powerful.
what's also powerful is the inconsistency of the situation of the prison at guantanamo bay right now. we know that there are extremist organizations that use the continued operation of the prison at guantanamo bay as a recruiting tool. we also know that continuing to operate the prison at guantanamo bay is a waste of money. we could detain those individuals in a much more cost-effective, efficient fashion in the united states than we currently do at guantanamo bay. so both for reasons represented to taxpayer dollars -- related to taxpayer dollars and to national security, it's not just the president who is making this argument, it's his predecessor, a republican president made this argument, the foreign policy experts on both sides of the aisle have made this argument, retired military leaders who devoted a significant portion of their career to keeping the american
people safe agree with this argument. we're going to continue to make our case to congress. and we're still pressing ahead because this is a top priority. reporter: given the fact that congress has banned transferring prisoners back here, does the president believe he has an executive authority to somehow move them to a military base? mr. earnest: what we're focused on right now is pursuing an option that would -- doesn't really require a whole lot of congressional approval or coordination, it just requires congress to get out of the way. congress has erected barriers that have prevented the administration from taking commonsense steps that would achieve this goal and we're just asking congress to take them away. reporter: can i take that a step farther? what would happen then, were you successful in emptying the
prison, to the facility there, the land there? mr. earnest: i think at that point you'd have to talk to the department of defense about how to most effectively make use of that facility. we would not transfer prisoners or detainees there. but this is military land that's controlled by the united states. reporter: there would be no interest in ceding it back to the cuban government? mr. earnest: no. we've ruled that out. reporter: i want to ask you about home ownership rates. they're down near 48-year lows. does the president view that in a positive light, in so much as there's more stabilization, there's less risk perhaps in the marketplace, or is it a negative that fewer americans are participating in the so-called american dream of home ownership? mr. earnest: i haven't seen those latest statistics. i can tell that you obviously we have seen home prices rise significantly over the last few years. that has obviously enhanced the wealth of a lot of americans who have their household wealth
tied up in the value of their home. reporter: or in some cases replenished the wealth they lost. mr. earnest: that's true. in some cases there were homeowners who saw the value of their home plunge underwater women. is to say that the value of their home was --@underwater. which is to say that the value of their home was -- underwater. which is to say that the value of their home was less than their mortgage. that's good for the local economy, precisely because there's so many middle class families who have their wealth tied up in their homes. reporter: does the president think lower home ownership rates in general is a good thing? or not a good thing? mr. earnest: obviously families themselves have to make these decisions. i just can't give you a specific analysis of the numbers because i haven't seen them. reporter: ok, cool. puerto rico, i want to ask you super he so-called ilout, super chapter nine, whatever the latest thing is. what is the president's plan to
advance the football on this? because the clock is ticking. mr. earnest: i think this is going to be a good opportunity to make clear, the not a bailout. so people who -- it's not a bailout, so people who say that that is the case are wrong. and i suspect in many cases they have an alterior financial motive that is not consistent with the best interests of the united states. the fact of the matter is the administration put forward a very specific plan back on october 21 of last year, 190 days ago, laying out exactly what we believe should be done to address the situation in puerto rico. again, it was not a proposed bailout. it actually was a proposal to give the puerto rican government exactly the same kind of restructuring authority that local cities across the country have. what it also would do is it would also bring some accountability to ensure that the puerto rican government was also implementing the kinds of
fiscal reforms that would be taken in the context of this kind of restructuring. there are other things that would improve the economic situation on puerto rico that we have proposed that would have a corresponding positive impact on their fiscal situation. we've also suggested we should reform puerto rico's medicaid program and that we should give puerto rico access to the earned income tax credit. that of course is something that many republicans have acknowledged can be effective in stimulating economic growth and fighting poverty. sounds like a pretty good recipe for addressing the tough situation in puerto rico. we're talking about three million americans that live in puerto rico. and right now you've got republicans who have essentially turned a blind eye to their plight. the longer that republicans put ff findsing this solution, the more likely it becomes that they'll have to resort to a bailout.
those are just the facts. that's why the administration continues to make a strong case that congress should act now. in fact, they should have acted months ago. to address this situation, so that puerto rico could get their finances under control, so that we could make sure that the situation in puerto rico doesn't deteriorate even further. here's one other thing we know, even to make this more complicated, we know that there are a lot of americans who travel regularly to puerto rico because they have family there, or they're going to vacation there, and we know that the is in puerto rico. and because of the fiscal challenges that the government is having there, it's having a negative impact on the public health system in puerto rico. we need to address -- there are a variety of reasons that we need to address this situation. and the problem only gets worse
as republicans in congress drag their feet. reporter: does the president in conversation with speaker ryan -- is the president in conversation with speaker ryan, for example, on this? mr. earnest: i don't have any recent conversations to tell you about. but the white house has been in touch with, on a regular basis over the last 190 days, with members of congress in both parties to try to advance a solution here. reporter: just a couple more. on the vice president's trip to iraq, this follows the visits by defense secretary, secretary of state as well. i think there might be some who would look at that and say, it must be pretty bad if all these high level people are going over there. how concerned is the president at the deterioration of iraq? or am i overreading it? mr. earnest: you heard the president in riyadh talk about his concern about the tough political situation inside of iraq right now. the good news is just in the last 24, 36 hours, we did see the iraqi parliament move to confirm a majority of
appointees that the prime minister had made to his cabinet. that's good news. and that is sort of a welcome -- that's welcome fro pro-gress when it comes to -- welcome progress when it comes to pursuing critical political reforms. what's also true is we've also seen some important progress over the last several months in rolling back isil. -- isil from territory in iraq that they previously controlled. that progress was the result of intensive coordination between iraqi forces and a could he -- and coalition forces. the president has rolled out some ideas in just the last couple of weeks about how to further intensify that coordination and that cooperation. and the president is hopeful that iraqi forces will continue to make progress in laying the groundwork to eventually drive isil out of the second largest city in iraq. reporter: last one. what does the president believe about this idea of the bison
becoming the de facto mammal of the united states of america? [laughter] mr. earnest: i've seen some of the reporting op this -- on this. man.ter: i'm a buffalo this is important to me. mr. earnest: i can imagine that would be the case. i haven't heard the president weigh in with a view. maybe someone will have the opportunity to ask him at some point. all right, -- all right. reporter: [inaudible] -- an amendment that would require women to register for selective service. does the commander in chief believe he would sign that legislation if it reaches his dessk? mr. earnest: that's a good question. obviously -- desk? mr. earnest: that's a good question. obviously this is an issue that will garner a lot of attention. there's not much i can say about it however because this is a subject of some ongoing litigation. you've seen recent announcements from the secretary of defense, ash carter, that would give more omen who are in the military
the opportunity to defend their country in more roles and the president obviously has elcomed that progress. he certainly believes that makes our fighting forces even stronger. and the other thing that we know to be true is that men and men have served in our all-volunteer force in both iraq and in afghanistan with distinction and with courage and with bravery. and it's because of their service and their sacrifice, both men and women, that we're safer. and that we enjoy so many of the freedoms that are easy to take for granted. the president certainly does not take them for granted. and the president's often talked about how serving as the commander in chief of the
united states military is the greatest honor and that certainly is true because of the service and sacrifice that have an men and women made in our military. reporter: -- [inaudible] -- perhaps his daughters -- [inaudible] mr. earnest: again, at this point i can't weigh in on the specific proposal just because it is the subject of litigation. reporter: [inaudible] -- pretty much every year in congress, they've called to reinconstitute the draft. does the president support that? -- reinstitute the draft? -- draft. does the president support that? mr. earnest: i haven't heard the president talk of support for that. we do have a system. the military functions at a high level. even though it isn't an all-volunteer force -- is an all-volunteer force. like i said, the president is quite proud of the service and bravery and professionalism of our all-volunteer force.
even in some very difficult situations, men and women of the united states military have demonstrated their metal. but at this point i have not heard the president express support for that proposal. reporter: a small follow-up on the 2001 aumf. talked about the authority to fight al qaeda wherever they may be, libya, iraq, afghanistan. mr. earnest: yemen. reporter: what about bangladesh? claimed e] -- al qaeda responsibility for that. does the president feel he's got the authority to go there and maybe approve an air strike or something? mr. earnest: i'm not going to talk about any operations that may be contemplated by the president and his national security team. he takes very seriously the responsibility he has to order the united states military to take action and protect the american people. the president has not hesitated to do that. there are a variety of
circumstances in a variety of countries where he's asked our men and women to go into harm's way to protect us. we're coming up on the fifth anniversary of the president ordering the operation to take saddam hussein off the battlefield -- osama bin laden off the battlefield. obviously that mission was successful. because of the courage and bravery and enormous skill of ur men and women in uniform. the president won't hesitate. i think that's as clear an example as you could ask for. of the president not hesitating to take the steps that he believes are necessary as commander in chief, to protect the american people. reporter: i have a question about aleppo. we talked about the what -- about what the russians can be doing or should be doing. n the past -- [inaudible] -- i'm wondering what message the u.s. is sending to russia in terms of the bombings and what should be done.
mr. earnest: the message that we're sending to the russians is pretty -- is a direct one. and that is that they need to abide by the cessation of hostilities that they signed on to. and they need to use their influence with the assad regime to do the same. the united states has certainly fulfilled our commitment to doing that. both in terms of our own actions, but also in terms of using our leverage with other parties to abide by the cessation of hostilities. the reason we have done that is because it is critical for these political talks to progress. one of the goals of the cessation of hostilities was to reduce the violence so that the political conversations could move forward. we have seen the political talks waiver because of has ion of hostilities
been increasingly fragile. we continue to be quite concerned about the situation and we continue to impress upon the russians the priority that we believe they should place on the successful implementation of the cessation of hostilities. let me also say that we acknowledge that the situation on the ground in syria is chaotic. it's complicated. and there are situations where there are forces like nusra who are not part of the cessation of hostilities, where their forces get co-mingled with forces that are part of the cessation of hostilities. so that is what is going to prevent the clean implementation of the cessation of hostilities. we acknowledge that there are going to be some complications. and even in the runup to the implementation of the cessation of hostilities, we acknowledge that there would be some bumps in the road.
we acknowledged there would likely be violations and ambiguity. the cessation includes a evaluating to try to remove the ambiguity of the situation and get to the bottom of what is happening. as with everything in syria, it's complicated. but what's not >> i cated is the way to -- what is not complicated is the way the united states is prioritized, the cessation of hostilities, and what's not complicated is the message that we have delivered to the russians, that they should use their influence with the assad regime and communicate the same message. looks like you have some help today. reporter: i do. it's take your reporter to work day. your child reporter to work. she has a burning question for you about equal pay in soccer, by the way. [laughter] mr. earnest: i think the president spoke pretty powerfully about that. reporter: he did.
sounded like he was outraged on behalf of the women. a quick follow-up on the draft. you said the president hasn't expressed support but has he ruled it out you? sound a little more open to it. mr. earnest: i just meant to convey that i haven't had -- i haven't heard him weigh in publicly on this. and so i think -- i was just trying to answer the question in the spirit with which john offered it, which is does the president support it and haven't heard him say he supports it. i'm not trying to signal any new openness to a proposal like that. reporter: on the accidental bombing at the hospital in afghanistan, would the president be satisfied to learn that that had resulted only in one suspension and few rerp manned by letter? does that send a strong enough meaning about how seriously the u.s. takes this instance? earn i'm not going to prejudge the out-- mr. earnest: i'm not going to prejudge the outcome at this point. there's an independent investigation that's been conducted.
over the last several months that this investigation has been conducted, we've gone to great length to try to protect the independence of the investigation. i'm reluctant to comment on it until the results have been produced. but the president was direct in the immediate aftermath of this incident that accountability is important. and that's something that was communicated to the military leadership and they have undertaken this independent investigation because they recognize that accountability is important as well. i'm not going to prejudge the outcome of the investigation at this point. reporter: international aid organizations have specifically asked that criminal charges be seriously considered. do you know if the president specifically asked the pentagon to look at that? mr. earnest: the president has also respected the independent nature of the investigation and has not insisted upon one course or the other when it comes to conducting the
investigation. reporter: but the president hasn't been informed of an outcome, is that right? mr. earnest: that's my understanding. i'm not aware that he has been at this point. reporter: [inaudible] -- when that happened they alleged it was war crimes. is that going to be addressed, do you think? mr. earnest: i don't know what will be included in the findings of the report. once the report's been issued, i know that the department of defense is planning to make as much of that publicly -- make as much of that report public as they can. so we'll all have an opportunity to evaluate what they consider. reporter: do you know specifically if the issue of a war crime was communicated to the military by the president or anybody else as a smatter -- as a matter of investigation? was it -- i guess the question, was it taken that seriously by the pentagon, whether or not a war crime was committed? mr. earnest: oh, well, what i know is that this is an investigation that the department of defense did take very seriously.
and i know the president is interested in understanding the results of the investigation. but in terms of how the investigation was conducted, i'd refer you to the department of defense and i suspect it will be a little easier for them to have that conversation with you once they report -- once a report has been issued. reporter: tomorrow there's a smart fund technology issue, a proposal, what exactly is happening tomorrow? mr. earnest: obviously we'll have more we can talk about tomorrow. the president announced early this year a whole set of executive actions to try to make our communities safer from gun violence. under discussion was exploring what kind of technology could be effectively used to make guns safer. this is something that a
variety of federal agencies have reviewed and they'll have some findings to share. reporter: this is going to be a report that -- a finding, not ecessarily an administrative requirement to do something or an order? mr. earnest: once we've made an announcement we can evaluate what the request is. reporter: is there anything else on the gun, smart, commonsense, as you call it, gun control front that we can expect any time soon? mr. earnest: nothing that i have to give you a heads up on right now. reporter: congress is about to take a week recess and there's been little progress on the zika funding supplemental. is there a particular timeline you have to have a certain amount of funding by a certain time? mr. earnest: the thing that we know is that as we get closer to the summer, the risk from the zika virus only increases. and it's a shame that
republicans in congress have refused to move the ball forward in giving our public health profession alleges the resources that they -- professionals the resources that they need to protect themselves from zika. thgs a public health emergency. that's what our public health experts have told us. they don't have a political agenda. they're just trying to keep people safe and healthy. for some reason that doesn't appear to be high on the agenda of congressional republicans. if it were, this is the kind of supplemental funding package that should be able to as it -- to pass pretty quickly. there's a relevant example that i would cite for you. in 2009 there was significant h1n1 flu out an pandemic having a significant impact on the united states. when democrats were in charge of the congress, they acted rather quickly. to appropriate more than $7 billion to ensure that the
country could prepare for that kind of pandemic. i would point out that this was something that is referred to as a no-year spending request that we put it forward -- put forward. there were not constraints about which fiscal year it would apply to. this is just the latest excuse that we've heard from republicans about why they haven't acted. they've suggested that they need more -- a more detailed breakdown of which fiscal year the funding would be used. the truth is, we can't fund the fight against zika a few months at a time. in order to effectively, for example, develop and test and manufacture a vaccine that can be used to protect more than 300 million american citizens,
that's a multiyear effort that we're talking about. and that's an undertaking that the private sector will have to commit to. so if we're going to ask the private sector to commit to a multiyear effort to develop a vaccine, then congress needs to make a commitment to a multiyear effort to fund it. that's the way that we're going to protect the american people. and there's no reason that this should get bogged down in the kind of political gamesmanship that republicans for some reason seem to delight in even in the face of a public health emergency. reporter: i wondered if there was a deadline or -- mr. earnest: i think in many ways could you say that the deadline for this funding has passed. because you had the director of the national institute of health standing at this podium three weeks ago saying that he didn't have all of the resources that he felt like he needed to do everything possible to protect the american people from the zika virus. so i think by that standard, which is an entirely reasonable
one, republicans missed the deadline. and that puts the american people at risk. and i don't know how they're going to explain it when they o on recess next week. reporter: yesterday the governor of tennessee signed into law a bill that would allow therapists to deny in ces based on beliefs religious freedom. you spoke out against measures like this before. do you have a reaction to this one? mr. earnest: i haven't seen the details of this particular piece of legislation. i can just it tells you a a general matter, as you've heard me say on a number of occasions, the administration believes strongly in fairness and equality and justice. we believe in bills that promote fairness, equality and justice. and we are strongly opposed to any legislative effort to for any protections
american. and i will acknowledge i'm not familiar with the intricacies of this particular legislation. but that principle is one that the president believes strongly in. and it's not just the way he evaluates federal measures but when we choose to weigh in on state and local matters, that's an important criteria. reporter: coming off of the president's trip overseas last do these laws, have they undermined u.s. efforts -- u.s. advocacy for lgbt and human rights overseas in places like saudi arabia? mr. earnest: not when it comes to the president. the president continues to be a forceful advocate for human rights everywhere he goes. he views that as part of the job description. he also has his own personal
conviction about a lot of these issues. and he's eager to use the platform of the presidency of the united states to try to influence other countries and to persuade them that respect for basic universal human rights should be a priority. and he certainly did make that case when he was in saudi arabia. not for the first time. i would point out. reporter: i bring that up because during the news conference from london the president was asked to address advisory -- he [inaudible] -- in addition to that news conference, did this come up privately at all with discussions with leaders overseas? mr. earnest: not that i'm aware of. reporter: finally, are having these laws in place undermining the efforts, at the domestic level, at the federal level, to further advance lgbt rights, such as the lifting the ban on trans in military service? mr. earnest: no.
i'm not aware of any impact these state laws have had on hose policies. reporter: you're not aware of any -- [inaudible] -- to allow them in military service? mr. earnest: that's right. there's this ongoing process. i'm not aware that any state law that's been passed had any mpact on it. reporter: the white house correspondence dinner this weekend. it's the president's last year. mr. earnest: so i've heard. reporter: so you've heard. it's amazing how many people are in town all of a sudden. it's the president's last one. last year at the dinner, he came up with a buchter list. i was wondering how you think that the president is doing on that buchter list and if you'd like i can remind you of things that were on it. but also what he might plan to add to that in his final year. mr. earnest: the president has certainly enjoyed ticking things off his buchter list.
i'm not aware of any recent additions to that list. but we're always open to suggestions. so if you have any suggestions, send them my way. i'll make sure that they get into the proper hands. the president's looking forward to the dinner. he always enjoys the opportunity to spend some time delivering a light-hearted speech for a change. i know he's looking forward to saturday. reporter: can you give us a preview? mr. earnest: not at this point, that would spoil the surprise. [laughter] reporter: on the aleppo situation. hospital bombing, the latest atrocity committed by the -- apparently by the assad regime, killed the last pediatrician or one of the last pediatricians in aleppo. sort of raises the question once again, under what circumstances would the administration respond against
the assad regime for civilian casualties, serious civilian casualties? this is not like the u.s. bombing of the hospital in kabul in that there's a long history of the assad regime not only being, you know, disregarding civilian safety but directly targeting civilians. it's not like this might be a one-time accident. under what circumstances would the u.s. consider making some rt of military response to a civilian atrocity committed by the assad regime? are you developing options along those lines? mr. earnest: i'm not aware of consideration of any military response at this point as a result of this particular incident. i do think it underscores what you are noting. which is that the assad regime, tragically, has a long history of using that country's military might to attack innocent civilians.
it's why we've made a strong case that president assad has lost the legitimacy to lead that country. how could you possibly lead and unite a country whose citizens you penalty is the better part of five years attacking? this actually reflects the failure of president assad's political leadership because he's had to resort to using the military might of the country to attack his own constituents. that's why we've made a strong case that president assad needs to go, and syrian leadership that actually reflects the will of the syrian people, with the capacity to actually unite the country, to face down the threat that they -- that is posed by isil, that's what's required. and that's what we are trying to bring about. but the process has been difficult. in part because we have seen countries like russia that have made a tragic decision to prop
them up. that has prolonged this conflict. we have -- that's why we've continued to urge the russians to pursue a different approach and to try to persuade the assad regime to, first of all, live up to the cessation of hostilities and stop targeting innocent people, but second, engage in the kind of political talks that are necessary to resolve the political turmoil inside of syria. that's the only way we're going to be able to get at the root of all that plagues syria and all of the consequences that it has yielded. reporter: [inaudible] mr. earnest: it's hard to entertain a hypothetical like that. but our profound concern about the humanitarian situation inside of syria is well documented. that's why the united states has been the largest bilateral donor of humanitarian assistance, because of the assistance provided by the
united states, some humanitarian relief has been provided so people in syria who need it. it's why the united states has been a strong advocate of the u.n. facilitated political talks, to try to bring about the kind of political solution that would bring an end to the violence inside of syria. it's why we have regularly been in touch with the russians, to encourage them to use their influence with the assad regime. to live up to the cessation of hostilities and engage in the political talks. so the united states has been at the forefront of this effort to bring an end to the violence and, you know, for years, but what's happening in syria is a genuine tragedy. millions of lives have been affected. the united states is well aware of that. and is playing a leading role in trying to resolve the situation. last one. reporter: two quick ones. let me go back -- [inaudible] -- so much has been going on between the two countries, u.s.
and india. including the prime minister of india met -- [inaudible] -- and also yesterday foreign secretary of india met with the national security advisorer. [inaudible] mr. earnest: we have been in discussions with our indian counterparts about a potential visit of the prime minister to washington. those discussions continue. i don't have any updates on them at this point. but obviously the president values the working relationship he has with the prime minister and i wouldn't rule out a potential visit. he's supposed to visit, the people are still waiting for his visit. if he's going to take the first family -- [inaudible] -- because of the saudi king's death. mr. earnest: the president was quite disappointed to not have
an opportunity to visit the taj mahal in his last visit to india. that had originally been part of the itinerary. but the president had to cut short his visit to india because of the untimely death of the king of saudi arabia. the president traveled to saudi arabia to pay his respects at that point. i wish i could promise, i think the president wishes that i could promise he would have an opportunity to visit the taj mahal before the end of his presidency. but i'm not sure that will happen. reporter: last week at the council of foreign affairs, hey had a summit on diversity. my question is here, they had all these questions, how president obama will put this diversity, because this is the most diverse administration and diverse president, after he leaves, what is the future of
diversity in america? mr. earnest: i will just say that one of the priorities that the president has identified for staffing the u.s. government is to do more to make sure that we have a government that reflects the diversity of our country. and by and large the administration's been quite successful in that effort. the president's proud of that record. both because of the way it reflects the diversity of our country right now, but in some ways it's even more important talent pipeline for has also been now diversified. so often as people get promoted or considered for higher level openings, there's careful consideration of their experience. that's certainly an understandable thing for an employer to do. now you have a much more diversified work force that has much more -- has a much more
diversified set of experiences. that's a good thing. that means that our government has been diverse over the last eight years, but it means that our government is more likely to be diverse at higher levels for the next generation because of those steps. the president would certainly be pleased if part of his legacy is that the higher levels of the u.s. government are more diverse 10, 15, 20 years from now because of important early hiring decisions that were made during his presidency. reporter: [inaudible] mr. earnest: the president certainly welcomes that affection. thanks, everybody. we'll see you tomorrow. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016]
>> here's a look at our primetime schedule on the c-span networks. starting at k 378 eastern here on see -- >> c-span's "washington journal" live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up friday morning, our student cam grand prize winner will join us remotely from oklahoma to discuss her grand prize winning documentary. she'll also talk about what she learned producing the documentary. then pennsylvania republican
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>> andre cote is the executive cher here at the washington hilton. you have 2,600 plus people coming over for dinner, what's it like to prepare that? it's an honor, first and foremost, but it's also a lot of fun. it's an opportunity for us to really prepare unusual foods. for a large amount of people. >> when you say unusual, what do you mean? andre: we can't go over this year's menu but once we do a taste test, the decision is usually made that evening. then our work begins for the following year.