Today’s Q for O’s WH – 3/10/2009

Mar 10, 2009 4:20pm

TAPPER:  There was a provision in the omnibus spending bill that helped — that tied up the bill from passing or from reaching 60 votes having to do with Cuba and restrictions on Cuba, dealing with the financing of food and medicine shipments and travel.  Secretary Geithner wrote a letter to some of these senators who were concerned about it –

(Door creaked for extensive time)

TAPPER: we need some oil. (LAUGHTER) Secretary Geithner…
GIBBS:  That’s in the stimulus.  We’re going to get to that.
TAPPER:  … wrote a…
MARK KNOLLER, CBS RADIO:  It’s an earmark.
TAPPER:  … wrote a letter to — to some of these senators, basically seeming — well, the way it’s being described by one of the Democrats’ offices, it’s that Secretary Geithner is basically reassuring him that some of these provisions are not going to be enacted as the people who drafted the legislation intended.  Could you clear this up a little?
GIBBS:  Yes.  And I — I think that somebody here has — has letters that we can share.  I think that what — and I would also point you to Treasury, that — obviously, as you said, the author of the letters. Some concern about the interpretation of what provisions meant in terms of the ability to travel to Cuba for the purposes primarily of — of selling and for business, that the Treasury Department deemed didn’t — in the bill, didn’t fully equate to what some of the sponsors said or thought it might do in terms of legislative intent. What the president talked about, obviously, throughout the campaign is a little different than — than this.  The president talked about increasing travel to visit family.  Right now, you know, there’s a — a restriction relating to being able to go only a certain amount, usually surrounding a loved one becoming sick or — or ill or dying, and — and also provisions relating to sending money back. But I would point to Treasury to get the exact language in some of those letters that are involved.
TAPPER:  Because the reason I ask is because it seems to — and maybe I’m misunderstanding — but it seems like the law as it’s written would lift restrictions on financing the previously required cash-in-advance payment, but Geithner is saying basically that cash in advance will remain the law, which seems to be kind of like a signing statement, except it’s not being done by the president at a podium, it’s — it’s being done by the Secretary of Treasury.
GIBBS:  Well, I mean, obviously, as you know, there’s interpretations — interpretations of what different provisions in each bill mean and — and those interpretations, obviously, are active.  It’s like a presidential signing statement, except it’s not the president and it’s not a signing statement. But I — I would — I would go back to Treasury in terms of — of that letter and ask intent there.

– jpt

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