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Obama COS Rahm Emanuel says "get a FEMA that is operable" Pool Report

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Christina Bellantoni
White House Correspondent
Washington Times
Pool report - Emanuel gaggle on plane from Philly to Chicago

Here is a transcript. Nothing to put in the pool report other than that he spoke to us, was in good spirits. He and POTUS-elect spoke during the flight. We landed at 1:05 p.m. central time.

Dec. 2, 2008

Chief-of-staff designate Rahm Emanuel gaggle aboard Obama charter plane from Philadelphia to Chicago.

Readout of the private portions of POTUS-elect's meeting with National Governors Association.

This is verbate. Only ellipsis are from when he repeated words or stumbled through a sentence. Thanks to Jamie Farnsworth from CBS who did half the transcribing.


There was a consensus [among] Democratic and Republican governors about the need, given their economic situations, not just in their budgets but their economy, about the need for investments in infrastructure.

Some talked about roads, bridges, sewer systems, new schools. Some talked about what I would call the infrastructure for a 21st century economy: Medical IT, broadband. A lot of the infrastructure was around green technology, some on ... high speed rail, mass transit, that stuff. Consensus around that.


After awhile there was also a discussion about getting the economy moving again and ... not lose sight of our overall fiscal picture.

(He referred to Obama comments Orszag as OMB presser, saying that's the idea.)

Also talked about doing all this infrastructure but with reforms associated with them. ...

Governor Schwarzenegger brought up the fact that when they had situations in California some people said it would take two years to rebuild bridges etc. [but] they were able to do it in a shorter period time because they cut through what he described as generically 'red tape.'

The criticism about investment in infrastructure is, 'Can it move fast enough.'

There's a general sense if you put a lot of reforms in, you can move resources that are critical in a fast way if you cut through the normal periods of times and studies, etc.

All of them agreed that they had projects today on the books pre-approved, ready to go whether that was the physical infrastructure of schools, roads, bridges, water systems, as well as other things that I would call 21st century infrastructure, medical IT, broadband ... all of them had kind of a green technology, green infrastructure direction.

There was Democrat, Republican consensus about that.

Q: Jeff Mason: Consensus about what? That the federal government should fund that?

No, no. They didn't say anything about themselves not participating, as you all know all these investments are state and federal partnerships, but that the need for doing that in an Economic Recovery Act that Congress brings up and that it can't be done quick enough for them.
They need those resources, we need those resources. It's good for the economy, it produces jobs immediately.

I think Governor Kaine said - I don't want to just cherry pick - but Governor Kaine said we've spent a lot of time in last couple of years investing in roads and bridges and schools in Iraq but denying those same investments here at home.

We need to rebuild America, we need to build those critical areas today to do it and an Economic Recovery Act has to do that.

If Congress, the 111th comes back, and they are already focused on this, but a recovery act that's focused on infrastructure you have Democratic and Republican governors who see that as essential to own economic recovery in their states, and we see it as essential to the economic recovery for the country.

There are some projects that are there, ready and have been pre-approved but never have gotten the resources to do it.

In addition to that, a number of governors also noted that FEMA was not in good shape.

Governor Bobby Jindal said a lot of stuff has been still from Katrina the money is appropriated but the papers are still not being processed to get the resources out.

He couldn't have been blunter that FEMA is not working.

There was also a bipartisan sense ... that one of the more important things you can do is get a FEMA that is operable and helps states process what needed to be processed to get a recovery, when you are hit with a natural catastrophe, up and running.

Q: Bellantoni: Did Napolitano weigh in?

You all know FEMA is under the Department of Homeland Security so you have somebody who's close at hand and somebody you all know and there was an applause done for her at that time.

Q: So it was indicated to the governors that FEMA would remain under Homeland Security?
A: Well it was indicated was the Department of Homeland Security Sec- Janet Napolitano. I didn't we did not, nobody got into that subject -(interjection- "of whether or not it would")- but it was no, that particular subject was not brought up. It was the general sense that FEMA was not responsive. And that it could do a better job and that was where it was set.

Q: Is there anything that was brought up in the stimulus package that hadn't been considered yet?

A: I mean there were I mean there were other pieces like on the F-MAP (family medical assistance program) as it relates to helping states dealing with health care, how to do it in the different way. Those were good ideas. There was also discussion of the issue of mortgages, foreclosure, how to help states who have a pretty good. Uh Governor Corzine--I don't want to read in, by naming names I'm also, other people had ideas so I'm not trying to shortchange them ok? Uh he had an idea about some (inaudible) it's a lot of their states also help people in the kind of moderate to low income housing. They have the home bondage, they are very good at how maybe Freddie and Fannie help to buy that so they can continue to keep the housing market growing and get back to growing. So that was one idea. I got um an idea from Governor Gibbons of Nevada who wrote something down and I have yet to look at it, it's in my bag he just gave it to me. So the mortgages were discussed the state budgets were discussed. The healthcare, I don't want to call if F-MAP the state and federal, children's healthcare was discussed and the need to move on that. The first half of the discussion was all about what I would call the infrastructure, green infrastructure, physical infrastructure, 21st century infrastructure in that area and then those were things that were related to the economy.

Q: Is the figure 136 Billion acceptable to you? You know that they named, as a figure they want for infrastructure, is that in the ballpark?

A: I think what they said and I have to go back and look at my notes. The number that Schwarzenegger had was the number of pre-approved, ready-to-go projects that's what it was limited to but they got stuff that if given they could get going today they wouldn't have to go through studies. You know that's 136 billion dollars (press: billion or million?) Billion. Did I say million? B-i-l-l-i-o-n. I was going to say a joke but I'm going to leave it right there. (Inaudible crosstalk) No, it was 136 billion--the reason I'm a little leery is I think Schwarzenegger said 128. I want to go back and look at my notes. Lets just take it in that ballpark of stuff that's ready to go today, doesn't require any more analysis. If you've got the resources people would be begin to work in short order of time.

Folo: Is that a figure that you think will be funded in this recovery package?

A: You can see through all the stuff that's out there that I have seen etcetera. The top priority is to invest in these areas. There is a you know if you look at it over a long (inaudible) what used to be discussed as you had to make investments in the rebuilding of America I'll just call it that. A lot of people say you know 'it doesn't happen, it takes too long.' There's now a consensus that we've for a long time had deny our investments in our critical needs of road of moving our goods and services be that uh refurbished schools, our water treatment facilities, our roads, our bridges, our mass-transit system, our 21st century infrastructure, universal broadband, medical ID, that if we did that we would be a more productive economy. And that was shared by governors of both parties.

Q: What about the 40 Billion in Medicaid they're seeking?

A: Well that was one of the things they talked about but that figure did not come up in the latter half of the discussion. The need for reforms but also of meeting the critical needs given that the economy is now in a recession, of more people that would be coming out of the states.

Folo: Is that what they want for the current year? Is that something you all would be willing to do?

A: I mean we're going to review all of that, I mean that's we've got to talk and consultation and all the members of the House and Senate are gonna be you know hearing from their governors. One of the things he did say I mean, let me back up a little. Is they were all very clear they were going to be talking to their delegations, not just Congressional but Senate about the need to move quickly to the 111th.

As Emanuel left the press section, reporters asked about immigration, Sarah Palin, but he gave no more answers.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on December 2, 2008 2:04 PM.

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