Tuesday, October 30, 2012

President Obama Cancels Wednesday Campaign Events To Monitor Storm Response - UPDATE

First Lady Remains in Chicago until Wednesday...
*Update at bottom
With just one week until Election Day, President Obama has scrubbed campaign events scheduled for Wednesday in the crucial state of Ohio in order to monitor the response to Hurricane Sandy, the White House announced this morning.  The President had no public events scheduled for Tuesday, and in the morning he had a video teleconference meeting with key federal disaster coordinators. Vice President Joe Biden also participated in the video conference, which included Cabinet Secretaries and FEMA chief Craig Fugate. (Above, a photo of the teleconference released by the White House)

"During the briefing the President expressed his concern for those impacted by the storm, as well as the heroic first responders who are selflessly putting themselves in harm’s way to protect members of their communities. He also noted his sadness over the loss of life associated with the storm so far," the White House said. 

Overnight, at the request of Governors, the President approved major disaster declarations for New York and New Jersey, the states hardest hit by the storm.  The action allows for federal emergency aid for individuals and businesses in specified counties impacted by the storm to apply for grants and low-interest loans.

First Lady Michelle Obama will remain overnight in her hometown of Chicago, the White House announced this morning.  Mrs. Obama traveled to the city on Sunday in order to beat the storm and to be able to attend two campaign events in Iowa on Monday.  The events in Iowa City and Sioux City went off without a hitch.  The First Lady has no public events scheduled today in Chicago, and she is scheduled to return to Washington, DC on Wednesday.

The President and Mrs. Obama were previously scheduled to welcome thousands of local children to the White House on Wednesday for the annual Halloween trick-or-treating under the North Portico, but there has been no word on whether the festivities will take place.  The invited children come from Maryland, the District and Virginia, all impacted by the storm.

*Update:   The White House announced today that the President will travel to New Jersey on Wednesday.  He "will join Governor Chris Christie in viewing the storm damage, talking with citizens who are recovering from the storm and thanking first responders who put their lives at risk to protect their communities."

Christie, a Republican who has endorsed Mitt Romney, sang the President's praises during TV appearances on Tuesday morning, lauding the quick response of the federal government. President Obama on Wednesday afternoon also visited the local Red Cross headquarters in Washington, DC.

The White House readout of the President's Sandy briefing:

"This morning, the President convened a video-teleconference in the White House Situation Room with his team to receive the latest update on Hurricane Sandy, and federal efforts underway to support response activities in several states. Overnight, at the requests of the Governors, the President approved major disaster declarations for the states of New Jersey and New York, making additional federal support for state and local efforts available, as well as direct federal assistance to affected individuals in declared counties. On the video-teleconference the President was joined by Vice President Biden, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, FEMA Administrator Fugate, Secretary of Energy Chu, Transportation Secretary Lahood, Defense Secretary Panetta, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Winnefeld, USNORTHCOM Commander General Jacoby, Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius, and National Hurricane Center Director Dr. Knabb. Treasury Secretary Geithner joined the briefing by phone. The President was joined in the Situation Room by Chief of Staff Jack Lew, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security John Brennan, Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security Richard Reed, White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs David Agnew, National Security Advisor to the Vice President Tony Blinken, and other senior members of the President's team.

During the briefing the President expressed his concern for those impacted by the storm, as well as the heroic first responders who are selflessly putting themselves in harm’s way to protect members of their communities. He also noted his sadness over the loss of life associated with the storm so far.  The President was updated on Sandy’s track and impacts, and heard from Administrator Fugate on the federal coordination and resources being brought to bear to support state and local responders, including the extensive deployment of resources, such as generators that were pre-staged ahead of the storm, as well as National Guard units which have been activated in a number of states. Through FEMA, the federal government is leveraging assets from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Health and Human Services. The President also received an update from Secretary Geithner on conditions in financial markets and the operations of the financial system.

The President told his team that their top priority is to make sure all available resources are being provided to state and local responders as quickly as possible and directed them to identify and resolve any potential bottlenecks or shortfalls should they arise. The President made clear that beyond the immediate lifesaving and life sustaining activities, which remain the primary focus, he wanted his team to continue to focus on what they can do to support state, local, and private sector efforts to restore power and asked the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy to continue to work in support of FEMA towards this goal.  The President made clear that he expects his team to remain focused as the immediate impacts of Hurricane Sandy continue and lean forward in their response. The President urges Americans to continue to follow the direction and advice of local officials, Governors, and Mayors, many of whom the President will speak with later today."

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*In photo at top: Pictured, from left, are: John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; Tony Blinken, National Security Advisor to the Vice President; David Agnew, Director for Intergovernmental Affairs; Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations; and Chief of Staff Jack Lew.  Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.