Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton aboard Air Force One en route Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, 3/8/10
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Willow Grove, Pennsylvania
10:25 A.M. EST
MR. BURTON: Thank you all for coming. I know you were up late watching the Oscars. A couple of facts about the event when we hit the ground -- everybody up rolling? A couple details about the event: 1,800 folks will be in attendance. The event was free and open to the public, but tickets were required. They were mostly handed out by the school, and then also a small number to local groups and officials.
The President will be introduced by a woman named Leslie Banks, who wrote the President recently about issues that she's been having with health care, specifically rate increases. And then after the event, we will head back to Washington, D.C. And with that --
Q Will he take questions at the event?
MR. BURTON: No, he won't take questions. We're just going to get back on the plane and come back to Washington.
Q Can you talk about what he hopes to accomplish in these trips that he's taking today and on Wednesday? There's so little time before he goes on his trip overseas and he wants to get a bill by then. What does he hope to accomplish in this short time?
MR. BURTON: Well, the President is trying to make the stakes of this issue very clear to the American people. In Washington, the event -- the issues are all about who's up, who's down, what impact is this going to have on the elections, what is it going to do to help people politically or not. But out in the country, like in Philadelphia, as you'll hear today, people are being punished by these rising health care costs. It's hurting businesses; it's hurting our government.
So the President is going to talk about the urgency of getting something done right now and hopefully get across what a lot of us have known for a long time, which is that health insurance companies have made the decision that even with rising health care costs and pricing people out of health care, they can still make more money by increasing their rates than they can by keeping people on the rolls.
So it's an unfortunate situation and brings real urgency to the situation with this.
Q Bill, is there any strategic significance or political significance to choosing Pennsylvania or Missouri? In other words, is he going to specific congressional House districts to make a point or encourage grassroots support for the bill?
MR. BURTON: I wouldn't say that this is about any specific targeting in that sense. I mean, if you look at where we're going, it doesn't really have an impact on a particular member. But Philadelphia is a place where they are seeing these rising costs really crush their -- crush families and businesses and local government. So that's really why the President is going to Pennsylvania and Missouri.
Q Just to follow, can you talk to us a bit about the President's meeting later today in the Oval Office with Senator Schumer and Graham on immigration?
MR. BURTON: It's as simple as getting an update from them on efforts to create bipartisan immigration legislation.
Q In their meeting tomorrow, what will Obama tell the Greek Prime Minister the U.S. can do to help, and how concerned is the U.S. about the spreading, about problems in Greece spreading to other countries?
MR. BURTON: Let me get back to you on that. I don't want to get ahead of what the President is going to say to the Prime Minister.
Q Okay. And any update on Federal Reserve appointees to the board?
MR. BURTON: No new update. As we've said, the goal is to make sure that there is an appointment before June and we're confident that we're going to be able to meet that deadline. But no decisions have been made.
Q Any idea of when an announcement will be made?
MR. BURTON: Before June.
Q On Pakistan, what has the President been updated on in terms of this American that's been detained there?
MR. BURTON: Well, we haven't confirmed any detainments, and I would refer you to the Pakistani government for information about individuals that they've detained.
Q Has he been getting updates, though, on these reports that it could have been Gadahn and now they've backed off that?
MR. BURTON: I assure you that the President gets regular updates about what intelligence there is about people who are detained and what's happening in the fight against extremists all over the world.
Q And then back to health care quickly. Is this tour going to continue next week? Should we expect more stops around the country on health care?
MR. BURTON: Stay tuned.
Q Just a follow-up on the Fed. The goal is to get a nominee before Kohn leaves. Is that --
MR. BURTON: Yes.
Q Okay. And then on health care, he's been talking a lot about the premiums. Is that the main focus now, is how it affects people and their premiums? Or is he going to move to a different topic on Wednesday, a different aspect of this?
MR. BURTON: You'll see the President talk about a lot of the different aspects of this issue. It's a problem for Americans for a variety of issues -- from the rising cost of premiums, to the fact that people are getting priced out of health care, to the insurance reforms that are so desperately needed because people with preexisting conditions can't get health insurance, people who get sick are getting kicked off their health insurance. So you'll see the President talk about some of the different elements.
This Goldman report obviously brings a real illustration of the kinds of business decisions that are being made that are really hurting the American people.
Q Can you say anything about this meeting tomorrow with the Greek Prime Minister? I mean, why is he coming; what are they going to talk about -- just any background.
MR. BURTON: We will have more on this later today. You know, it is Greek Independence Day this week. Obviously this is a key ally. We share a lot of issues of mutual concern and we have a long history with the Greek people, and obviously there's a lot to talk about.
Q Is there concern that the economy, I mean, particularly in Greece? That's got to be the major --
MR. BURTON: Well, I mean, of course, economic issues will be an important part of the discussion, but I'm not going to get ahead of their conversation.
Q Bill, really quick, does the White House thinks it's appropriate for the RNC to use images of the President as a Joker from Batman to raise money?
MR. BURTON: Well, look, I understand that the individual who put this presentation together is under a lot of pressure to raise a lot of money. I mean, he has raise half a million dollars just to make his own payroll. So I think that you see things happening in the political season all the time. But whether or not Michael Steele and the rest of Republican leadership thinks it's appropriate is a question for them.
I saw that Mitch McConnell distanced himself from it yesterday and I think we may have really found an issue where the President and Mitch McConnell agree.
Q Do you think the RNC needs to come out a little -- more strongly in terms of what it -- whether they think it's appropriate?
MR. BURTON: I mean, what Michael Steele decides to do with that individual and what the members of the RNC decide to do is really up to them.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURTON: Thanks.
10:31 A.M. EST