...guns, energy, CPAC and more
From today's in-flight gaggle from Deputy Press Sec. Josh Earnest:
He started off by saying that Vice President will be leading a delegation to the Vatican to attend Pope Francis' inaugural mass next week. That delegation will include House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, New Mexico Gov. Susannaa Martinez and Georgetown University President Jack DeJoia (please check spellings).
He also gave an overview about today's event at Argonne National Laboratory outside of Chicago. The president will be discussing one of his priorities laid out in his SOTU address regarding investing in American energy – an energy security trust – use some of the revenue that we attain in the form of royalties from offshore oil and gas production and invest it research dedicated to alternative forms of energy.
“It makes our economy s little less dependent on the fluctuation in global prices of oil and it makes our government less dependent on energy from some volatile places in the world” he said.
Argonne lab is conducting a great deal of research on energy alternatives … such as advance batteries and electric cars and advanced vehicles run on biofuels.
He took a question on gun control issues percolating at CPAC this week, and whether the president is going to get more involved in getting more support on Capitol Hill for gun control.
Earnest said the White House is moving forward on a range of executive actions – 23 of which he announced back in January to reduce gun violence across the country. He also is working with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to move legislative proposals...and he said they have a long strong support on Cap Hill because they have strong support around the country. He mentioned specifically the effort to close loopholes in background checks, supported he said by 90 percent of the American public.
President said repeatedly that he believes in the 2nd amendment … and there is nothing in what the president proposed that would take a firearm away from a law-abiding citizen.
He was asked about McConnell's statement at CPAC that Organizing for Action proves that the Republican party is not just the only party of millionaires and billionaires.
Earnest made the point that the OFA's founder's summit this week was held at the St. Regis hotel, not at the White House. He then said the Republicans are the ones trying to protect millionaires and billionaires from seeing a tax increase over “a balanced solution” and have repeatedly tried to protect them throughout the debate about deficit-reduction.
--More to come--
more from gaggle:
Asked about Portman change on gay marriage. Earnest said he had not spoken to POTUS about this, then added, "We are witnessing a pretty significant sociological shift in this country... in a way that says a lot about this country."
Earnest did not bite on another question about small knives on planes, and TSA regs.
Asked about Israeli coalition government, and the settlement issues. Earnest did not comment on new government. "Unilateral actions like settlement building are not constructive to the peace process. That's also true of unilateral actions that are taken by the Palestinians." He said POTUS will talk with leaders about both sides about what kinds of serious commitments they are willing to make to further the peace process.
Earnest confirmed that there is a possibility that POTUS and VPOTUS will both be out of the country at the same time next week, a first in this administration. "But the fact remains that President Obama is President of the United States everywhere he goes." There is no reason both men being out of the country at the same time would "in any way impact the day to day running of the country," he said.
Earnest talked about expediting the permit process for oil and gas to generate greater royalties to help pay for the Energy Security Trust, which Obama is announcing today.
Asked about proposal on Capitol Hill about reducing the number of family visas. Earnest did not comment specifically on any proposal. But said there is a lot of support in private sector for keeping up family visa option to recruit foreign employees, who want to bring their families with them as well.