From: Annie Karni
Date: September 7, 2017 at 8:29:11 PM EDT
Subject: VPOtUS Pool Report #1 of 1-- Texas Thank You
Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday evening hosted the 38-person Texas congressional delegation at his residence, the U.S. Naval Observatory, for a “thank you” cocktails and casual dinner, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Also in attendance at a casual drinks-and-finger foods gathering in the foyer of the residence: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a proud Texan. An aide said there was a casual dinner to follow.
Some spottings in the foyer: O’Rourke, Gonzalez, Sessions (Pete, not Jeff), Thornberry, Hurd, Cornyn, Olsen.
The Pences took the podium together at 7:30 p.m. after some light mingling.
A tearful Karen Pence kicked things off, speaking softly to the small group. “This is certainly a bigger delegation than Indiana, that’s for sure,” she said. “When we went down to Texas, our hearts were breaking.” That’s when she teared up.
“Our hearts were so encouraged by people’s stories and attitudes and their enthusiasm to help each other. I mean, we went to one place where people were helping to serve food and bag up food and give people things and we knew that the people from the town it was victoria, were wearing blue shirts, those were the locals. The gray shirts were the people from out of town, and it was mostly blue shirts….
“Our hearts are breaking with yours, we’re standing with you. You are inspiring us. You are the leaders in all of these communities. We’ve just been so touched by the stories. We’re praying for Irma to take a turn to the right, back out into the ocean…. We are with you, we’re so glad you are with you tonight, we can kind of put our arms around all of you.”
Then VPOTUS spoke, basically repeating his thank you to the delegation and giving two separate shout-outs to Cornyn.
Remarks, in almost full: “We are honored to have so many Republicans and Democrats here. We are honored by your presence. Tonight is really about saying thank you. Thank you to the efforts that you’ve made on behalf of your constituents, and thank you for the progress we are making now that the rescue effort is through we’re all the way into recovery and rebuilding...we’re truly grateful...Sen. Cornyn is with us tonight, he has already made it possible to make it first step for families and businesses in Texas to rebuild.
“We are with you, the American people are with you. We are going to stay with you all the way until we see Texas rebuild bigger and better than ever before. Tonight, we gather as another hurricane prepares to continue to make landfall. Hurricane Irma. Our prayers are not only with your constituents and the people of Texas -- I know all of your prayers are with all of those who have already been affected.
“As the president did for Texas, President Trump signed emergency declarations prior to landfall….I can assure all of you the president has deployed the full resources of the federal government -- DHS, FEMA Coast Guard -- to the islands affected.” He said “over 7K meals, 1 million liters of water and thousands of personnel” have been deployed.
“I will tell you that at FEMA today I received a report on the progress of the storm and our preparations...the Governor of the US Virgin Islands, someone who I presume has spent a lifetime in that part of the world, told me he’d never seen a storm like Hurricane Irma. He urged us, as I urge all of you to...communicate to people, particularly from your experience you just endured in Texas. Do all that you can. Many of you have great voices in the national debate. …[tell people to] take heed of state and local officials.
“But as I said at the outset, tonight is about all of you. The president wanted us to invite you over, maybe as a brief respite to what we know has been a great ordeal, for your families and for your constituents... It’s our way of saying thanks. Thank you for your leadership. Earlier today, the U.S. Senate followed the House of Representatives in taking the important first step to providing resources necessary for recovery and rebuilding in Texas.
“We’re grateful for the bipartisan support that’s come behind this legislation. $15.5 billion dollars, Sen. Cornyn you were instrumental. President Trump is anxious to sign the legislation. We do recognize that this is short-term emergency funding, it’s the first, not the last, step. Each of us need to do all that we can to continue to support efforts for Texas…. Under President Trump’s leadership, We’re anxious to sign this legislation ...we’re anxious ...to know about the unique needs in your communities. I urge you as many of you have done, to reach out to myself, reach out directly to members of the administration, reach out to fellow Texan, our secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who is with us here tonight.
Tillerson, standing stage right, said: “Good to be here with my fellow Texans.”
Someone shouted out: “We don’t have to have an interpreter."
Pence continued: “You’re the eyes and ears. President Trump wants us to be responding in real time in real ways.
“Let me also take a moment to commend not only all of you for what you’ve done to make public resources available...but also we really want to commend the state and local leadership in Texas as well. I speak for President Trump when I say Greg Abbott has done an extraordinary job leading the rescue efforts, the recovery efforts. We particularly want to commend the skill, the courage...of our first responders.
"I’m pleased to report ...that i learned that at this point some 620,000 Texans have registered to receive federal assistance. The federal government has distributed nearly $200 million….6 million meals have been distributed and nearly 20,000 Texans whose homes have been destroyed have been able to find accommodations…. The focus now as the waters recede, I was told today, is to make sure we move as quickly as possible on issues that will make it possible for people...to return to some normalcy in their lives. We’ll make that a priority, working with each and everyone of you. Tonight is really just about saying thank you, on behalf of President Trump, the first family, on behalf of our little family, just thank you for the example you’ve set. With your leadership and support, with President Trump’s leadership and support, we will be with Texas every step of the way....
“From my heart, God Bless Texas.”
We were ushered out just before 8 p.m.
White House Reporter