From: Fritze, John [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, February 22, 2016 1:01 PM
To: Velz, Peter T. EOP/WHO ; Allen, Jessica L. EOP/WHO
Subject: Pool report # 1 // Govs
Obama entered the State Dining Room at 11:28 a.m., running a little behind schedule for the remarks/ Q&A session with governors. He spoke for 10 minutes, focusing on security but also addressing the Michigan shootings. He said he had called the mayor of Kalamazoo as well as local law enforcement on the ground before joining the governors for the event.
"On Saturday another one of our communities was terrorized by gun violence," Obama said.
"Their local officials and first responders did an outstanding job in apprehending the individual very quickly," Obama said. "But you've got families that are shattered today."
Obama -- in suit, blue shirt, blue tie -- touched on the Zika virus, noting his call for emergency federal funding and saying: "We're going to be fighting this disease at every level, with every tool at our disposal."
On homeland security, Obama touted what he described as an improved relationship between the federal government and states in communicating to prevent terrorism, and to respond to attacks such as San Bernardino. "We've got to stay united as one American family, working with communities to hep prevent loved ones from becoming radicalized," Obama said. "This is a shared mission."
Obama's prepared remarks wrapped at 11:38 a.m., and then questions started.
Gov. Herbert led off, praising the communication he said states have generally enjoyed with the Obama administration. He asked what state leaders should do to improve that communication even more. Obama called the NGA a "terrific partner," and tossed the question back to the governors, encouraging them to consider what the feds should be doing to better to improve communication.
Next question went to Gov. McAuliffe, who asked about the status of trade negotiations and TPP. Obama offered a defense of TPP.
"If we allowed them [China] to set trade rules out there, American businesses and American workers were going to be cut out....It is, I believe, indisputable that once we have TPP in place, we, American companies, American workers will be better off than the existing trade regime that we have right now."
Obama acknowledged that "emotions around trade are still strong" and that labor is "not happy with me on this." Obama said he remains "cautiously optimistic that we can still get it done."
Gov. Mead went next, and asked about federal R&D funding for energy.
"Climate change is real," Obama began. "We can't debate the science."
"There is such a thing as being too late on this," he said. "And the effects will be profound."
Obama pointed to market factors -- specifically, natural gas -- to explain plummeting energy prices that have hurt private-sector companies, specifically coal. But, he added: "I continue to believe that there are areas of research and development that have to be done because we will continue to use fossil fuels for our lifetime."
Next question went to Gov. Dayton, who asked about trade enforcement and subsidized imports from China.
"I don't think it's any secret that China, in the past, has not always operated fairly," said Obama, who vowed tough trade enforcement. "We've been pushing them very hard on that."
Next question went to Gov. Hogan, who thanked the president for reaching out to him while he was undergoing cancer treatment. Hogan asked whether the administration would commit to working with governors on regulatory reform.
"Absolutely," Obama said. The president said he's assigned Cabinet members to study the issue, and said that effort has already led to some change. "We have eliminated tons of paperwork...we have streamlined a whole lot of processes. And we're interested in doing more."
Next question went to Gov. Shumlin, who asked about oxycontin, and whether there should be a more "rational approach" to prescribing prescription drugs.
"The stories you hear are heartbreaking," Obama said. "The good news is that there is strong bipartisan support to address this issue." Obama said "we have to make a big push" for increased treatment, and mental health services generally, and then have a specific approach (with state buy-in) to working with health providers on over-prescribing.
"This is an area where I can an agreement from Bernie Sanders and Mitch McConnell -- that doesn't happen that often."
Next question to Gov. Bevin, who asked about debt, and what the Obama administration intends to do about that issue in its remaining months. Obama pointed to reduced budget deficits, but also offered an explanation of mandatory spending and an aging population.
"What we're going to have to tackle, long term, is health care spending," Obama said. The president acknowledged that the politics around the ACA had complicated efforts to have that conversation.
"My hope is that we get into a serious conversation," Obama said. "Maybe it'll have to happen once I'm gone."
Next governor, I believe, was Gov. Markell (hard to see from my vantage), who asked about criminal justice reform. Obama pointed to broad support from liberals, conservatives, businesses, etc., on that issue.
Last question went to Gov. Walker, who praised Obama for his visit to Alaska last year and gently prodded on oil production without asking a specific question.
"To those of you who are not term-limited, good luck," Obama concluded.
The Q&A session wrapped at 12:52 p.m.
As the pool entered the room, governors were mingling near round tables -- about eight seats to a table -- decorated with gold linen and ceramic bowls filled with apples. Pool spotted Sec. Vilsack, Shaun Donovan, Cecilia Munoz, Jerry Abramson.
Obama was introduced by Gov. Herbert, who said that "we do have a lot more in common" as Democrats and Republicans. "We need to emphasize the similarities," he said.
Confirmed governors in attendance, per WH:
Gov. Baker, MA
Gov. Bentley, AL
Gov. Bevin, KY
Gov. Brown, OR
Gov. Bullock, MT
Gov. Dalrymple, III, ND
Gov. Daugaard, SD
Gov. Dayton, MN
Gov. Ducey, AZ
Gov. Edwards, LA
Gov. Fallin, OK
Gov. Garcia Padilla, PR
Gov. Haslam, TN
Gov. Hassan, NH
Gov. Herbert, UT
Gov. Hickenlooper, CO
Gov. Hogan, MD
Gov. Hutchinson, AR
Gov. Ige, HI
Gov. Malloy, CT
Gov. Mapp, US Virgin Islands
Gov. Markell, DE
Gov. Martinez, NM
Gov. McAuliffe, VA
Gov. McCrory, NC
Gov. Mead, WY
Gov. Moliga, Territory of American Samoa
Gov. Nixon, MO
Gov. Pence, IN
Gov. Sandoval, NV
Gov. Tomblin, WV
Gov. Torres, Northern Mariana Islands
Gov. Walker, AK
Gov. Walker, WI
Gov. Wolf, PA
The Baltimore Sun