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Monday, July 19, 2010

Press Secretary Tackles Pressing Issues

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Taking Questions From The Media. Photo/CD Brown.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs answers questions from Washington's press pool ranging from topics like extending unemployment benefits to millions of unemployed Americans, to the recent release of the Lockerbie Bomber.

Here's what he had to say today on the issues:

On Having Enough Votes To Extend Unemployment Benefits:  "...We’re obviously hopeful that we have the votes. Obviously, with the appointment of a senator -- a new senator from West Virginia, that’s certainly important. We have the support of Senator Collins and Senator Snowe from Maine. But I don't think you would take -- we certainly don't take anything for granted given the fact that this will be the fourth vote on extending unemployment benefits, when if you look, I think, at the past this has tended not to be a confrontational -- or controversial thing to do.

We have hundreds of thousands of Americans each week that exhaust whatever stage of their unemployment benefits they're in. For many of them -- and you heard the President tell some stories today -- these are people that are having to make decisions not just this month, but next month, on how to pay the bills and how to pay the mortgage. We don't take any of that for granted in trying to ensure that we have in place the type of emergency benefits that are necessary.
It’s important to the President; it’s important to the 2.5 million Americans who have already seen their benefits disappear. That number would grow to 2.8 million by the end of the week... This piece of legislation, if the Senate passes it tomorrow, goes back to the House. We hope to get it back to the President’s desk as quickly as possible so that we don't see that number of 2.5 million Americans go to 2.8 million.

On the BP Oil Spill Being Contained: "We had some concerns, I think as you heard, over the past 24 hours about commitments that BP had made that we did not feel that they were adequately living up to in terms of that monitoring. That was dealt with last night on a call that lasted late into the evening where we believe that we’re getting the type of overall monitoring, particularly the seismic and the monitoring with the remotely operated vehicle, so that we can look at each of these different steps.

The original intention of this test was, engaging that pressure you could make a few different determinations, first and foremost, in bad weather, which we’ve seen more of earlier than we have in recent memory. Could you temporarily cap the well? Would the pressure sustain itself to temporarily cap the well in the event that boats had to be moved out for a hurricane? To what degree is the structure and the integrity of the well -- how can that -- can that sustain either assisting with a kill operation as it relates to the relief well, or can you try a separate kill operation using this cap and this blowout preventer?

That monitoring continues. And we will continue that each day. About 1:00 p.m., there is a conference call with the scientists -- I don't know if it’s still going on -- where they will determine whether or not, based on the pressure readings that they're seeing, are we okay to move to an additional 24 hours of testing -- again, to make these determinations -- all the while monitoring to ensure, as I said last week, that we do not do any harm to the well itself. 

The good news is we have a containment architecture that we believe is likely to contain all of what could come out of that well."

On Whether the Topic of the Lockerbie Bomber Will Surface When the President Meets With PM Cameron Tomorrow:  "Let me say this: Our viewpoint on this case last year was well known, and that was we opposed the release of the Lockerbie bomber. We made that opinion known. I think the government that will visit from -- Prime Minister Cameron’s government also opposed that release. I anticipate that in some form, yes, this will probably come up tomorrow."

On Whether BP Had A Role In The Release of the Lockerbie Bomber: "I think in many ways that will be up to the British government to determine. I know that whatever -- I do not know the role that BP played. It certainly -- we were unaware of any role that they played in rendering an opinion. If they did, we certainly didn't agree with the opinion that he should be released, and that's what we enunciated to the government."

On If The U.S. Is Winning In Afghanistan: "I think he [President Obama] would tell you that we are in a better -- in better shape than we were, that we have -- and we are constantly evaluating the resources that we've added. As you know, there will be a White House-led review in December on where we are on the strategy. I don't think anybody in this building or anybody in the Pentagon or anybody in this town that is aware of the decisions that we've had to make, that anybody that thought this was going to be quick, anybody that thought this wasn’t going to be a tough slog each and every bit of the way -- and I think it’s proved to be that.

Click here for full briefing.

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