Fw: Travel pool 2/Land in Miami/Gaggle

From: Nakamura, David [mailto:xxx@email.com]
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 02:46 PM
To: Velz, Peter
Subject: Travel pool 2/Land in Miami/Gaggle

AF1 landed at 2:40 p.m. in Sunny Miami after a smooth flight. Josh Earnest gaggled on board. Please check against transcript. Pooler thanks co-poolers Christi Parsons of Tribune and Julie Davis of NYT

Miami Town Hall: said Obama is going to south Florida specifically to talk about immigration reform

On funding DHS: “That seems like a pretty basic responsibility … We’re hopeful that common sense will prevail.”

On Netanyahu and Iran talks: “The prime minister has articulated his concern . . . but the president continues to believe that those negotiations are the best way for us to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon.”

Effect on US-Israeli relations of current feud:  Those relations have always been bigger than the relationship “between two political parties” … and bigger than relations between the GOP and Likud … said the admin’s hope is that the country-to-country relationshpi “not be dragged down by party politics.”

Said that what Susan Rice said about Netanyahu’s acceptance of the invitation to speak is “consistent” with what the president has said before … Letting party politics come into play “does weaken the relationship” … But the president doesn’t think it’s his role to tell the prime minister not to speak to Congress or to make any suggestions about setting his schedule

(why not ask Netanyahu to cancel speech?) “Because ultimately Prime Minister Netanyahu needs to make these decisions for himself. He’s the prime minister of Israel; he’s the person who should be setting his own schedule, and he’s the person who needs to make the decisions about what would be in his country’s best interest. … The president believes setting his scheduled and not including a meeting with the prime minister on this trip is consistent with the best interests of American national security. .. Ultimately this is a decision Prime Minister Netanyahu will have to make for himself. But I think that what the national security adviser said about that decision is consistent with what the president has said.”

(did Obama coordinate messages with Rice for the Charlie Rose interview?) Earnest noted Rice was involved in parts of Potus meeting with the emir of Qatar so she did see the president, but doesn’t know if they talked about the interview on CR show later that day.

Asked about the House bill on the 529 savings plans, Earnest said “our highest priorities should be to expand, improve and simplify tax benefits to the middle class.” He said Obama’s budget would do that. “The proposal before congress would not achieve these goals and focus exclusively on education savings plans that focus on less than 3 percent of American families.” Though he said the WH does not oppose the House bill, “we do look forward to working with Congress on more ambitious, fiscally responsible education policies.”

(on reports that Boehner and McConnell have not spoken recently and now Potus is out of town. Is ther enough coordination between Washington party leaders?) “The principle dispute right now appears to be between Republicans in Congress… There seems to be a majority in both houses who are for funding the Department of Homeland Security, so ultimately it is up to the Speaker and the Majority Leader to get together to figure it out. So even if they haven’t spoken in the last couple weeks, hopefully they’ll speak today because the deadline is on Friday.”

(Cuban arrests of political dissidents) “We continue to be deeply concerned about the Cuban government’s treatment of their own people.” Referring to past instances of political arrests, he said, “We have made clear our concerns about this on a number of previous occasions.”

Earnest said of Obama’s Cuba policy, “The president was very clear in his first statement this is not going to solve every problem overnight.”

Earnest rejected the idea that recent arrests in Cuba would undermine the president’s message with the Cuban Americans he will be talking to in Miami today, saying Obama thought it was “time for a new strategy” in Cuba and has said from the beginning that it would not be perfect.

“We did not anticipate that this would solve every problem overnight, but what we do anticipate is that over time, by redoubling our efforts to engage the Cuban government and the Cuban people, that we can empower the Cuban people to speak with a greater voices and to ultimately have the kind of political leadership that reflects their will and reflects their ambition,” Earnest said.

On the court challenge to the executive action, Earnest said even though the Texas judge appears not to have acceded to the administration’s request to rule on its petition for an emergency stay by today, the Justice Department does not plan to go to the 5th Circuit to seek the stay.

“At this point, we’re going to continue to see it through at the district court level,” he said, noting that the administration is still considering appealing the merits of the decision to 5th Circuit.

Asked about a news report that the White House rejected a request by Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo, who was invited to today’s town hall meeting, to ride to Miami with Obama on Air Force One, Earnest offered no explanation.

He noted that the White House has recently started inviting more members of Congress from both parties to ride on the plane with the president. “In this case, we were unable to accommodate the congressman’s request, but we typically try to do so when we can,” he said, adding when asked why specifically:  “I’m not sure exactly of the issue.”

-30-

David Nakamura

Washington Post Staff Writer

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