FW: White House in-town pool report #1, 5/20/16 -- POTUS pleads for Congress to fund Zika response

From: Davis, Julie [mailto:xxx@email.com]
Sent: Friday, May 20, 2016 12:35 PM
To: Velz, Peter T. EOP/WHO ; Allen, Jessica L. EOP/WHO ; Gabriel, Brian A. EOP/WHO
Subject: White House in-town pool report #1, 5/20/16 -- POTUS pleads for Congress to fund Zika response

White House In-town Pool Report #1, 5/20/16 – POTUS pleads for Congress to fund Zika response

Oval Office

Pool entered the Oval Office at 12:02 p.m. at the end of President Obama’s Zika briefing with senior White House and public health officials. Obama spoke for about 10 minutes, giving an update on the spread of the virus and then making a plea to members of the public to tell their members of Congress to support the $1.9 billion in funding the administration has requested.

Key quotes, please check against the transcript:

“This is something that is solvable. It is not something that we have to panic about, but it is something that we need to take seriously. … We’ve got to get moving … The bottom line is, Congress needs to get me a bill. It needs to get me a bill that has sufficient funds to do the job. They should not be going off on recess before this is done. … To the extent that we’re not handling this thing on the front end, we’re going to have bigger problems on the back end.”

To the public: “Tell your members of Congress to get on the job on this.”

More highlights:

“What we do know is if you contract Zika, even if you don’t appear to have significant symptoms, it is possible for Zika to cause significant birth defects, including microcephaly. … We don’t know all of the potential effects. We do know they’re serious.”

He outlined all the steps the administration is taking to combat the spread of the virus and develop a vaccine and diagnostic tests, then said, “All of this work costs money.” The $1.9 billion figure was not “from the top of our heads, this was based on public health assessments of all the work that needs to be done,” he said. The Senate has provided about half, he said, and the House only a third that must be offset, he said, so, “effectively there’s no new money there. All that the House has said is, ‘You can rob Peter to pay Paul.’ ”

Color in the room.

POTUS sat in a chair with his back to the fireplace and Vice President Biden in a chair to his right. On the couch to his right: OMB Director Shaun Donovan and Amy Pope, deputy homeland security advisor. On couch to his left: Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden; and Tony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health.

Pool was led out at 12:13.

A note on further presidential movements today: As the pool assembled in the Rose Garden for this spray, we saw several black vans and other motorcade vehicles gathering on the South Lawn driveway, and we have just been asked to gather at 12:40 for an as-yet-undisclosed movement that does not appear on the public schedule. Stay tuned to see what Friday afternoon has in store for President Obama.

Julie Hirschfeld Davis

White House Correspondent

The New York Times

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