En Route Miami, Florida–(ENEWSPF)–May 27, 2015 – 2:14 P.M. EDT
MR. SCHULTZ: Welcome aboard Air Force One en route to Miami, where tomorrow, the President will visit the National Hurricane Center to receive the annual hurricane briefing and tour the center. The meeting will showcase mapping tools developed by federal agencies that better inform and involve the public in preparedness and response activities.
The President will also take the opportunity to speak on how climate change will mean more intense hurricanes, and rising sea levels will result in more flooding and damage from the storms. He will also address how he is committed to combatting climate change both here at home and leading abroad, and assisting our communities in preparing for these storms.
With that, I will take your questions.
Q On the clean water rules that were finalized and announced today, the House has already passed a bill to block those rules from taking effect and the Senate is considering doing the same thing. Would the President veto that if it cleared Congress?
MR. SCHULTZ: Darlene, I’m not going to speculate on legislation that it’s not entirely clear that it will pass. What I can say is that we believe the rule today is a win-win, both for the economy and for public health. This is a rule that will protect streams and wetlands that form the foundation of our nation’s water resources. They feed the rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters that our health and economy depend on.
I think, as many of you have reported, protection for about 60 percent of the nation’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands has been confusing and complex as a result of several recent Supreme Court decisions. And so the rule we announced today protects the streams and wetlands that are scientifically shown to have the greatest impact on downstream water quality and form the foundation of our nation’s water resources.
Q A lot of farmers and others, businesses and others are complaining about the cost that would be imposed on them by this. What cost estimates does the administration have for the financial cost that they would bear?
MR. SCHULTZ: Zero. It’s important to note that this rule has no direct cost to a community, business or individual. It only applies if someone is going to pollute or destroy a body of water and needs a permit. So money and time will actually be saved by all involved because we will not have to deal with long, drawn-out, case-by-case basis for those determinations. Any cost would come from applying for permits and complying with the rule.
Q Eric, yesterday’s immigration ruling — we got the White House reaction to it, but can you give us a sense of what your plans are now going forward based on that decision?
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, Jeff, as I think many of you have noted, there’s an important hearing scheduled for July 6th at which the Department of Justice is preparing its arguments on the legal merits of the executive actions that the President announced last fall. The Department of Justice remains focused on that argument, and that hearing is proceeding on an expedited basis.
In terms of the ruling from yesterday, I can tell you that Department of Justice lawyers continue to review that ruling, as do lawyers here at the White House. But I don’t have any next steps to announce for you at this time.
Q On a totally separate issue, can you give us your reaction to the Attorney General’s action today on FIFA or the Soccer Federation?
MR. SCHULTZ: I don’t really have much of a reaction from the White House for you on that. Obviously, those decisions are made by career prosecutors at the Department of Justice. Clearly, this has been an investigation that’s been in the works for some time. I know that the Attorney General answered a host of questions earlier today on this, but I don’t have anything to add from the White House on this.
Q The President is a big sports fan. Have you talked to him about it? What does he think about it?
MR. SCHULTZ: He is a big sports fan, but I have not had a chance to ask him about it.
Q Was the White House looped in at all on this investigation before it was announced?
MR. SCHULTZ: I’m not sure. I know that sometimes we do get a heads-up on high-profile cases like this, but I don’t know if that happened this time or not.
Q Monday is the deadline for when the travel restrictions are lifted on the five Taliban detainees that were exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl. Does the administration have concerns that they will again be able to travel freely? And what are you doing to address them?
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, we do remain in close contact with our partners to mitigate the threat that might be posed by former detainees. That’s a general rule that we operate by. But I can tell you that I don’t have specific conversations to read out to you in regards to the folks that you’re referencing, but I can tell you that it’s fair to say that we and our partners remain vigilant and in close contact.
Q Just to follow up on FIFA, did the President know about the investigation? Was he briefed on the investigation by Loretta Lynch?
MR. SCHULTZ: I don’t know that he was.
Q Eric, can I ask you about the fundraisers today? Is this trip primarily a fundraising trip, or what is the primary reason for actually going down to Miami and actually getting the hurricane briefing in person? Is that just sort of tacked on to what looks like more of a fundraising event?
MR. SCHULTZ: Toluse, you are so cynical. The hurricane briefing is actually an annual briefing that the President gets
— has gotten every year in office. We thought that this year it would be appropriate to go down to the Hurricane Center in person, take a look at a lot of the new technologies they’ve been employing, both that’s available to them but also that has been released to the public in terms of the new data sets, new levels — new sets of transparency that we’ve put in place down there.
I also think it’s important to note that a lot of communities are already feeling the effects of climate change, and the President tomorrow is going to be talking about the steps that both the federal government and local communities have taken to prepare. For example, over the next five years, Miami Beach will spend over $400 million to complete neighborhood drainage projects that will alleviate chronic street-level flooding and reduce public property flooding concerns. So there’s a lot happening both at the local level and also at the national level to address these concerns.
Q And this is going to be the fifth and sixth fundraising event of the month after doing none in April and only a couple earlier in the year. Is the President ramping up his fundraising, and should we expect to see many more fundraisers in the next couple of months?
MR. SCHULTZ: Toluse, I think that’s a pace to me that sounds consistent with past years. As you know, the President is also head of the Democratic Party. He takes that responsibility seriously to make sure that candidates and campaigns have the resources they need to wage effective campaigns.
Q Can I ask you about Greece? With the G7 coming up, how big of an issue in terms of potential drag on the U.S. economy is the situation in Greece, and what is the White House planning to do about that?
MR. SCHULTZ: Toluse, this is a situation that we do watch very closely. Principally, the Treasury Secretary is our point person within the administration who watches this and engages on it. So I don’t have anything new to read out to you on that.
Q Has the President made any specific calls, or has he engaged personally? Or is it mostly Secretary Lew that’s doing the work?
MR. SCHULTZ: The President is absolutely kept up to date. I don’t have any international calls to read out to you, but you might want to check with the Treasury Department on their latest.
Q Were you able to get any more of a readout from yesterday’s meeting between the President and the NATO Secretary General?
MR. SCHULTZ: I don’t, Jeff — I don’t have anything to add to what we were able to release yesterday in terms of what the two of them discussed.
Q Which was minimal.
MR. SCHULTZ: If that’s your take, then yes.
Q To go back to the Hurricane Center tomorrow for a second — will this be his first visit there to the National Hurricane Center?
MR. SCHULTZ: Yes.
Q And so all of his other briefings have been in Washington or the White House?
MR. SCHULTZ: Yes. And, Darlene, the Hurricane Center is located on the Florida International Campus, a university that is part of the Florida Climate Institute. This institute is a multi-disciplinary network of all the major research universities in Florida — international research and public organizations, scientists, and individuals concerned with achieving a better understanding of climate variability and change. So it seems very worthwhile for the President to travel down there.
Q Tomorrow, there’s a hearing on the House lawsuit dealing with the White House’s actions on the Affordable Care Act. Is the White House watching this lawsuit at all, have any concerns about this lawsuit?
MR. SCHULTZ: There’s a House hearing, or a court hearing?
Q Court hearing.
MR. SCHULTZ: Look, we have made very clear that we believe the — let me start again. One of the President’s main pledges when running as a candidate in 2007 and 2008 was to expand health care for all Americans, and to make sure that affordable, quality health care was affordable for all Americans. That process of building that legislation was not always a pretty one, but it’s one that ended up with a piece of legislation that the President is very proud of.
Over 16 million people now have health care. Women are no longer discriminated against. There’s no longer discrimination for preexisting conditions. Young adults can stay on their parents’ plan. So we are very proud of the Affordable Care Act, notwithstanding Republican partisan attempts to dismantle it.
Q On the USA Freedom Act, is there any movement on that? Has there been any interactions between the White House and Capitol Hill leaders to fix what the President has said is a national security threat?
MR. SCHULTZ: You’re right, the President did have a chance yesterday to share with you his sense of urgency around this issue. Clearly the path forward is for the Senate to go ahead and pass the USA Freedom Act. This was a piece of legislation, mind you, that garnered 338 votes in the House of Representatives from both Republicans and Democrats. As students of Washington, I think you’ll agree with me that not a lot of things get 338 votes across bipartisan lines in the House of Representatives. So we feel strongly this is something that the Senate should take up very quickly and pass.
Q I just have one question quickly on Ramadi. There was news about continued suicide attacks, as well as the news about the Iraqi counteroffensive. Do you have an update on sort of where the battle stands there?
MR. SCHULTZ: For any detailed assessment of what’s going on on the ground, I would refer you to the Department of Defense. I can say that we are encouraged by Iraqi forces mobilizing at the order of the Prime Minister and are now beginning to push back to retake parts of Anbar Province in coordination with the Popular Mobilization Forces and local Sunni fighters. As you know, the Iraqis have suffered setbacks before but were able to retake territory from ISIL such as in Baghdadi and in Western Anbar last February.
So we have said all along that there will be ebbs and flows on the battlefield. And while we understand the serious nature of what happened in Ramadi, setbacks like this will occur.
Q Since we are going to Florida, is there any update on negotiations between the administration and Governor Rick Scott over expanding Medicaid?
MR. SCHULTZ: I don’t have an update for you on that, Darlene. I would check with the Department of Health and Human Services. But I do think it’s worth reminding all of us of Governor Scott’s original position which was when he supported Medicaid expansion which would have allowed over 700,000 more Floridians to gain health coverage.
We once again urge him to follow the lead of both Republican and Democratic governors in urging Medicaid expansion. As you know, 28 states and Washington D.C. have decided to expand Medicaid to date. As a result of this, millions have gained coverage, and millions more would gain coverage if the remaining states like Florida follow suit.
2:26 P.M. EDT