Obama offers condolences for Malaysia Airlines victims

President Obama visited the Embassy of the Netherlands Tuesday to sign a condolence book for the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Of the 298 people on board, 193 were Dutch citizens.

"We were all heartbroken by what's happened," he told reporters. "This is an opportunity for me to extend on behalf of all the American people our deepest condolences over the loss of family and friends, to express our solidarity with the people of the Netherlands, with whom we've been friends and had the deepest ties for centuries, and to assure the Dutch people that we will work with them to make sure that loved ones are recovered, that a proper investigation is conducted and that ultimately justice is done."

The president's brief remarks echoed the message he wrote in the condolence book, which included the line, "No words can adequately express the sorrow the world feels over this loss."

With international outrage still high over the attack on the passenger jet, Mr. Obama has spoken out forcefully against Russia for its role in backing the separatists in eastern Ukraine who are believed to have fired the missile that brought the plane down.

On Monday, he said Russian President Vladimir Putin that he must convince the rebels to allow international investigators full and unimpeded access to the site of the wreckage and condemned the separatists for removing bodies and evidence from the scene.

"All of this begs the question: what exactly are they trying to hide?" Mr. Obama said.

Despite the ongoing international challenges, however, he is set to leave Tuesday for a three-day trip to the West Coast where he will attend at least five fundraising events in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles to help embattled Democrats as they try to retain control of the Senate.

Before leaving on the fundraising trip, he will sign a bill improve job training programs that is one of the only bipartisan measures to make it out of Congress this summer.

"It turns out compromise sometimes is OK," Mr. Obama said at the bill signing. "This is not a win for Democrats or Republicans, it is a win for American workers. its a win for the middle class. and its a win for everybody who's fighting to earn their way into the middle class."

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act - which consolidates some federal job training programs, provides more flexibility in the programs at the local level, and reforms the job training system for young people with disabilities - passed in the House and Senate earlier this month. It was such a rare event that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., came together for a self-congratulatory photo-op afterward.

A senior White House official said the bill will give federal agencies specific job-driven criteria to ensure the $17 billion in federal training funds are used more effectively, according to Reuters. The administration will work with elected officials and local leaders from businesses, unions and academia to recreate the programs that are most successful.

The small measure of bipartisanship belies the huge amount of work confronting Congress in the eight remaining work days before both chambers leave town for a five-week recess. Among the most significant unfinished projects are: the president's request for more funding to address the influx of minors coming across the southern border, a bill to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent that has passed the House but not the Senate, and merging separate House and Senate bills to address long wait times and cover ups at many of the nation's Veterans Affairs hospitals.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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