By Alicia M. Cohn - 08/24/11 05:38 PM EDT
The White House said President Obama has no plans to change his schedule in Martha’s Vineyard this week, despite the aftermath of an earthquake, the onset of a hurricane, the anemic economy and the developing situation in Libya.
Obama continues to get regular updates on Libya, the work of his economic team and the natural disasters threatening the East Coast, according to deputy White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
Obama held a conference call at 2:50 p.m. on Tuesday with members of his administration who briefed him on the effects of the earthquake and the response. The White House has not released details about the call or where it took place, but Earnest confirmed Wednesday that the president did not change location from Oak Bluffs in order to take the call.
Participants in the call included Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, White House Chief of Staff William Daley, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate, Senior Science Adviser for Earthquake and Geologic Hazards with the Department of Interior David Applegate, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko, Deputy Homeland Security Adviser Heidi Avery, and Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough.
According to Earnest, the president also spoke briefly with FEMA's Fugate about preparations for Hurricane Irene, which is expected to make landfall in Virginia and North Carolina this weekend. Obama was informed that FEMA has pre-deployed incident response teams to both states and he is reportedly happy with the preparations FEMA has taken so far.
Obama is also keeping in close contact with his economic team regarding details of the jobs speech he plans to deliver sometime in September, following his vacation and the Labor Day holiday.
Obama announced the speech during his bus tour of the Midwest last week. The details of the speech, which will include “reasonable ideas that can have tangible impact” on economic growth and job creation, are still under discussion by the White House economic team. “The president is in the loop on those discussions,” according to Earnest.
Although Earnest said that the proposal would include ideas drawn from previous deficit negotiations, he added that there would be “new ideas” included in the speech.
The speech will include suggestions of ideas that the new congressional supercommittee can use to go beyond the $1.5 trillion mandate for spending cuts in the deficit-reduction deal, Earnest said.
Current White House discussions do not include any Republicans. “I wouldn’t rule out future conversations” between the president and Republicans over jobs, Earnest said, but the president “spent a good part of the summer” having those conversations during protracted debt-ceiling negotiations, and has not had any recently.
“[Obama is] hopeful that there will be members of Congress, who after a few weeks back in their districts, will come back to Washington with a greater willingness to put their country ahead of their politics,” Earnest said, reiterating pointed remarks Obama made against Congress on his bus tour.
The exact date of the speech has yet to be set.
Earnest also said the administration is keeping a close eye on news reports coming out of Libya as rebels appeared to take control of the government. Obama gave a speech in Martha’s Vineyard on Tuesday addressing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s fall from power following a conference call with senior administration officials.
The White House has not committed further resources to Libya in the wake of Gadhafi’s fall from power, but the U.S. has “a strong commitment to the people of Libya,” Earnest said.
Earnest sidestepped questions about the length of the U.S. commitment.
“None of the significant changes that have been wrought over the past six months have taken place with American forces on the ground,” Earnest noted, emphasizing a difference between U.S. action in Libya and Iraq.