Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, 9/30/2010
1:05 P.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: Good afternoon. Any questions today? (Laughter.) Cool. (Laughter.)
Mr. Feller, take us away.
Q Thank you, sir. Can you talk about what kind of loss it will be for the White House when Rahm leaves and how you plan to deal with it?
MR. GIBBS: Resisting the temptation to comment on --
Q I got a little caught in the rain.
MR. GIBBS: -- Jake’s wet T-shirt contest impersonation.
But let me say this, Ben. I know there’s --
Q Always keeping it classy.
MR. GIBBS: I know there’s -- I know there’s a lot of stuff out there. I will say this -- I’ve got no personnel announcements today, but I will say that the President will have a personnel announcement tomorrow at 11:05 a.m. from the East Room. We will save the specifics for then, and we’ll be happy to get into a long conversation about that. I don’t have any news on that to make --
Q But why the charade? I mean, everyone knows what this is about. Why can’t you just tell us?
MR. GIBBS: Lynn, I read your paper. I’ve read a number of papers. I’m here to tell you the President will have a personnel announcement tomorrow, and at that point he will deliver that news.
Q Has the chief of staff told the President that he’s leaving?
MR. GIBBS: I’m not going to get into that.
Q Why is this raising to the level -- sometimes you make personnel announcements just by paper, you make a release. Why is this announcement rising to the level of a personal announcement by the President?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I -- without getting into what the announcement will be --
Q When people listen to this, this will sound like a game since we’re talking about Rahm Emanuel’s departure to run for the mayor of Chicago.
MR. GIBBS: Lynn, come up here. (Laughter.) You should brief, and we can -- look, guys --
Q I’m just trying to move the ball along here.
MR. GIBBS: We all have deadlines; I understand that. I’m happy to talk about a whole host of subjects today. I am not going to move a whole lot on what I’ve already said.
Q So the news report is accurate that he is leaving to run for mayor of Chicago.
MR. GIBBS: I am not running for mayor --
Q I’m talking about Rahm.
MR. GIBBS: Ms. Compton.
Q Will he also possibly have two announcements -- somebody coming, somebody going?
MR. GIBBS: I would be -- would bet on having two announcements, yes.
Q Will we hear from the personnel?
MR. GIBBS: Some of them, yes.
Q Can you answer Ben’s question, though? If he were to leave, what effect would that have on the White House?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t do hypotheticals, Chip.
Q More broadly, a lot of people are leaving -- Orszag left, Romer left, Larry’s leaving, Rahm is leaving. There are reports about General Jones; Secretary Gates has said 2011 is a good time for him to leave. There are a lot of people -- key members of the national security team, key members of the economic team. Could you just comment on that?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, and I’ve said this a number of times. Look, I think two years in, if you look back historically, is a time in which people have come into government service at the beginning of an administration and leave to go back to academia, or business, or to retire, or go into other pursuits. And I think it is in many ways the normal rhythm of an administration to do.
We have -- I think I’ve said this to a number of you all. Folks that have worked in here for the last two years have managed to pack four or six or eight or 10 years’ worth of work into those two. The economic team has dealt with the type of -- a series of crises, from housing to financial stability to the Recovery Act to unemployment -- I would point out -- done so in a way -- if you look at the news today on AIG, we are -- if the common stock that the American government holds in AIG were sold today, that investment would net the federal government $20 billion.
As probably as late as a year ago, most people presumed that AIG would be a $180 billion loss, and the financial sector would cost the government a great deal of money. The financial sector, as a portion of TARP, is likely to provide a profit for the government in terms of its investment.
So I think, Jake, in many ways it is the natural course of the way this town works and that administrations work. People have given of their time and of their lives. They’ve been away from their loved ones, their families -- a number of people that you mentioned. I know Larry moved here while his family stayed in Massachusetts, and I think, in many ways, again, it’s the normal cycle and course of doing business.
Q Is it abnormal to stay longer than two years?
MR. GIBBS: No -- look, I mean, everybody has -- look, in Larry’s case, there were -- there are tenure issues, which is not something that can just be waived. So I think in many ways, look, some people will stay longer, some people will leave. Again, I think it’s largely -- I think it is much more of the normal course and the rhythm -- you look at NEC directors -- you look at somebody like -- you mentioned Secretary Gates who has -- who served the last part, I think it was the last two years of the previous administration. And I hope Secretary Gates doesn’t get mad at me for telling this story, but I remember being backstage during the transition when President-elect Obama saw Mrs. Gates and shook his new Defense Secretary’s hand and looked at his wife and said, “I’m sorry.” (Laughter.)
So, look, there’s a sacrifice that is borne by people like that that is -- that just comes to fruition.
Q What about press secretaries?
MR. GIBBS: They have an amazing stamina. (Laughter.) No announcements on that, either.
Q Can you just tell us -- I think it will help everybody out -- what Pete Rouse means to his role that he’s played, and tell us little about --
MR. GIBBS: Well, I will talk broadly about Pete. Look, Pete is -- don’t roll your eyes, Ms. Sweet.
Q So you’re willing to talk about Pete, who is in line for what? So Pete will -- I mean, this is part of what I’m saying, can we cut through the --
MR. GIBBS: He is -- I’m going to be oblique, I’m sorry, Ms. Sweet. I’m sure you -- because you are so intricately connected to sources throughout this White House, I feel like I am encumbering you very little in the reporting of your information. (Laughter.)
Right? The snickers are because what I just said was very true.
Q I wish.
MR. GIBBS: No, it’s not.
Q Oh, I wish.
MR. GIBBS: Look, Pete has been with Senator-elect, Senator, President-elect, and now President Obama. There’s a complete loyalty and trust with somebody like Pete. There is -- Pete’s strategic sense has played a big part of the direction of virtually every big decision that’s made inside of this White House. So I think the type of trust that the President and others throughout this administration have in Pete is enormous.
Q Robert, the norm is normally after the midterm elections. When you talking historically in the norm -- people leave during this two-year period -- it’s normally after the midterm elections. So this is not necessarily the norm or the natural process.
MR. GIBBS: April, I disagree. Well, in the event that the chief of staff were to leave, I assume it would be because of, say, fairly extraordinary circumstances --
Q Like running for mayor --
MR. GIBBS: -- like if the mayoral race in one of the largest cities in the country were to happen to be an open seat. So, look, but I think if you look at people like Dr. Summers and others are not -- they’re here through the end of the year. The notion somehow that Larry is not up there right now doing work is just not true.
Q Robert, does the President see these departures as an opportunity to bring in some sort of fresh blood that might have a better relationship with Republicans?
MR. GIBBS: I will say we -- I don’t have any -- obviously there’s a process to pick a new replacement for Larry. Obviously we filled the directorship at the CEA and --
Q But is that a consideration, looking -- during a time when the city is so divided?
MR. GIBBS: I think what the President wants most from his economic team is the best economic advice that a President can get. I think there’s a policy process that has to be run and there’s a whole host of things that have to be taken into account along with that.
Q Robert, will the President’s personnel announcement tomorrow include an endorsement?
MR. GIBBS: That I don’t know.
Q Okay, and a couple of questions non-staff-related. Would the President sign the House currency bill that landed on his desk?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know the degree to which inside of here that legislation has been evaluated. Obviously it has at least another step -- well, at least one more step to go in the Senate. I think you heard the President discuss yesterday his concern, as he has in the past. You’ve heard Secretary Geithner express it. I think lawmakers on Capitol Hill share the same serious concern that the President and Secretary Geithner have. It is -- we have said for quite some time that the currency is undervalued and that reforms need to be undertaken. And I think -- again, I think there’s -- in a, as Dan said, in a divided town, I think there is a seriousness of concern about this issue.
Q But does that mean -- the President has said frequently that he’s concerned about China’s currency. Would he sign this particular bill?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t have any clarity on that.
Q And just the last follow-up, on AIG, did I hear correctly -- did you say you’re expecting to make a profit on the AIG investment?
MR. GIBBS: Well, no, what I said was if -- where the value of the -- they’re converting preferred to common. It obviously is going to take some time to register to get into the system and ultimately to be sold. That’s not a process that happens, given the volume, overnight.
If you took what we owned and what we possessed in common, and sold it at this morning’s price, that represent -- that would have represented a profit on the full amount of $180 billion invested in AIG that represent a $20 billion profit.
The President, at his economic daily briefing today, got some -- got an update both on AIG and as -- the waning hours of the TARP program. But, again, it was talked about how, you know, I think the estimate -- the mid-session review estimate for TARP was a deficit cost of $349 billion. I think right now the briefing that the President got had that number at under $50 billion. And I think that number is likely only to improve as -- with money from auto companies. The financial sector itself will produce a profit. And again, the AIG money, if the common were sold today, would represent a profit of about $20 billion.
Q David Axelrod said something that the President has been saying for a long time, which is that Republicans are holding the middle-class tax cuts hostage. As I understand it, Democrats haven’t introduced a bill in the Senate and the Republicans have. Wouldn’t there have to be a bill that Republicans are threatening to block or blocking before anything is being held hostage?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know what bills have been introduced in the Senate. Obviously, I think the posture of -- I don’t think the bill would have to be the existence of -- I think the rhetoric alone from Senator McConnell and others have been that the price of -- there’s a $700 billion price tag on moving forward on the tax cuts for the middle class. That’s the tax cuts for the wealthy.
Q So the posture is enough, it doesn’t have to be actual --
MR. GIBBS: Absolutely. And look -- we’ve -- I said this -- it’s now been a couple of weeks, obviously, but we agree on the middle-class part of this or so they say. Their price tag for the middle class was the $700 billion. We could have passed the middle class alone, provided some much needed certainty to the economy and to middle-class families and had -- still had plenty of time to debate the $700 billion price tag for the other cuts.
Q Why not do that? Why not introduce the bill --
Q Why not get Republicans on the record?
Q -- and force Republicans to filibuster it?
MR. GIBBS: They were unwilling to do that. They were unwilling to --
Q But you can introduce a bill is the point. You can introduce the bill.
MR. GIBBS: Guys, my original answer was I don’t think the bill is the existence of the fight. It is that -- look, John Boehner said --
Q You’re not even -- you’re not even fighting with them.
MR. GIBBS: But John Boehner said quite clearly on Sunday that he would go along with the middle-class stuff, right? Then fury rained down, and quickly we crawfished back over to, wait, wait, wait, middle class -- the price for doing middle class is tax cuts for the wealthy. And we could have done middle class.
Q Isn’t the real problem the fact that there are Democrats who agree with Republicans on the issue? There are 47 --
MR. GIBBS: I think we could have done middle class, but the Republicans weren’t interested.
Q You don’t need the support of the Republicans in the House to pass anything.
MR. GIBBS: No, but to play along with your -- if a bill has to become -- you got to pass them in both houses, and you are not going to get 60 votes to go and just do middle-class tax cuts, were you?
Q No, but I guess my question is, why not try? If you actually think that this is a winning campaign issue --
MR. GIBBS: Because the Republicans were -- Republicans said they weren’t going to do it.
Q You don’t know unless you --
MR. GIBBS: No, you -- come on, Chuck. (Laughter.)
Q No, but, I mean --
MR. GIBBS: You were under the impression there were like six Republicans that were going to break?
Q No, but there were Republicans --
Q You have to have a bill --
Q -- there were Republicans who have walked back on unemployment extension.
Q -- in order to get them -- why not introduce the bill?
MR. GIBBS: The existence of the bill isn’t the -- isn’t some great starting line for this debate. We’ve been debating tax cuts without -- I mean, a bill you could write on the back of a napkin. We could -- that’s not -- the notion that you didn’t have a vehicle to do this is --
Q Do you think it’s responsible to wait until the lame-duck session to do this?
MR. GIBBS: Do I think it’s responsible to wait for the lame-duck session to pass middle-class tax cuts? No. I thought the Republicans were irresponsible and held the middle-class tax cuts hostage.
Q Should Democrats stay -- should the recess be canceled at this point, postponed?
MR. GIBBS: I think we’re --
Q The point is you’ve pushed through --
MR. GIBBS: This wasn’t -- Chuck, when you guys are on your show debating tax cuts, you didn’t preclude -- you didn’t not have that debate because there wasn’t a bill in Congress. Let’s not, like, get wrung around the pole on bill introduction semantics.
Q But the point is there certainly have been -- there has been legislation in the past that the President firmly believed in and he pushed the House to vote on it even though he didn’t know whether he would be able to get the votes in the Senate. You go one step at a time. If you believe in it that strongly, you tell the House, let’s push this through. Let’s vote on this --
MR. GIBBS: Chip, Chip, there wasn’t --
Q -- let’s get on the record. Why not get on the record?
MR. GIBBS: There was -- we can’t -- Chip, look at the statements from the Senate Republicans. This wasn’t going anywhere. They had decided to stop middle-class tax cuts.
Q Neither was cap and trade, but you pushed for the House to get on the record on it.
Q So all they need to do is issue a press release and you guys will back off any fight?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t understand your question.
Q All they have to do is say the Republican caucus is not going to support this and Democrats will just say, oh, okay, well, then we’re not even going to try?
MR. GIBBS: No, again, Jake, you’re making the existence of one piece of legislation the beginning or the end of this entire fight. I think that’s kind of a silly concept.
Q You’re talking about a bill being held hostage -- it hasn’t even been written as far as anybody knows.
MR. GIBBS: Okay, the concept of tax relief for the middle class -- does that make it any less of a hostage because I didn’t say it as a bill?
Q Yes, it does make it less of a hostage because there isn’t an actual piece of legislation that anybody is trying to push.
Q But you’re saying because it can’t get through the Senate the Democrats -- the House shouldn’t vote on it?
MR. GIBBS: It wasn’t going anywhere, Chip.
Q Do you feel that you underestimated the difficulty of getting Democrats to vote for your tax cut proposal, which is middle class but not the rich?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t think so, no.
Q So you weren’t surprised that 47 Democrats said they wouldn’t do it unless --
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know how many Democrats support what. I know, Mara --
Q Well, you know how many in the Senate.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I know that -- all you need to know in the Senate was you needed 60 votes to get to a bill and there’s 41 Republicans who said they’re not going anywhere. Now, I’m not great in math, but 100 minus 41 does not get you to the number, bill or not, in --
Q But that argument applies to the lame-duck session, too.
Q Just to follow up on that, just to follow up on that --
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think we’re --
Q You’re not going to bring it up in lame duck?
Q Hold on for a second --
MR. GIBBS: No, I think -- Chip, I assume it’s going to get brought up in the lame duck largely because we have until the 31st to make some big decisions on this.
Q Do you feel -- you’re sending Democrats home without the opportunity for them to have said, I voted to extend the middle-class tax cuts. You didn’t give them a chance to do that and this is --
MR. GIBBS: Mara, I don’t --
Q -- the season when you’re trying to draw a contrast with the Republicans. Why not draw a contrast?
MR. GIBBS: Because, Mara, having worked on probably eight U.S. Senate campaigns, I don’t think a candidate needs a vote to necessarily say what they support. I think candidates are going to go home and say they support extending only the middle-class tax cuts. I wish the Republicans would agree. I don’t think we should spend $700 billion, giving $100,000 tax cuts to millionaires at a time in which we have a budget deficit like it is. I think that’s a pretty --
Q You don’t think you’re putting them at a disadvantage?
MR. GIBBS: No, I think that’s a pretty clear statement.
Q Just one last question on this, in terms of the timing -- and there’s been so much talk about uncertainty for businesses, they don’t know how to plan, they don’t know what the tax code is going to be like. These tax cuts have been set to expire for a very long time. Why wait -- why did you wait so long to try to resolve them? You could have had a vote on extending them any time you wanted.
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I don’t -- that’s a better question for somebody up on Capitol Hill. Mara, I think -- again, I think -- the President’s position on extending the tax cuts, he has had the same position on supporting middle-class tax cuts, the middle-class portion of the Bush tax cuts, since I worked for him in 2004. So his position has been very well known on this.
Q Did he ever encourage the leaders on the Hill to take it up earlier?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I’m aware of.
Q Yes, Robert, isn’t it an indictment of Democratic control of Congress that not a single spending bill got passed this year?
MR. GIBBS: Well, Mark, I think there -- we’ve got judges that have sat around for 240 days that passed out of a committee unanimously. There is a system up there that is really broken. There aren’t spending bills that are going to make it through the process unless you have 60 votes. That’s just the way it is.
Even if the bill hasn’t been introduced, that’s just the way it is. It’s not the way that place should run. It’s not what the American people want to see, but it’s the way Republicans have acted on Capitol Hill for the entirety of the President’s time here in Washington.
This was very clear, right from the very beginning: We’re going to say no. We’re going to require 60 votes to pass your nominee for head of the GSA. We’re going to let judges languish for two-thirds of a year, despite the fact that they’ve made it through committee on a unanimous vote. That’s the way this place works now -- 60 is the new 50. And I don’t mean age.
Q So the Democratic leaders who are in charge of those two bodies have no responsibility?
MR. GIBBS: Look, you can’t -- we all -- the Senate is -- understand you can’t get a spending bill through the process unless or until it goes through the Senate. And when it takes 60 votes just to get on a bill, and there are 41 people that say no, again, you don’t have to be a mathematician to subtract 41 from 100 and come up with the fact that nothing’s happening.
Q Can I also ask you about Congressman Boehner’s proposal that henceforth if you propose a new program, you have to cut a program?
MR. GIBBS: Well, back to the tax debate, I’m happy to look at the $700 billion in spending that --
Q But they would say that’s taxing, not spending.
MR. GIBBS: Well -- how does that work on the deficit?
Q But on the question of --
MR. GIBBS: No, no, no, no, let’s not -- no, no, but please, Mark, let’s not oversimplify. We are a trillion dollars --
Q I have to ask --
MR. GIBBS: No, you do. But there’s -- we’re a trillion dollars in debt -- or in deficit. We’re way past $10 trillion in debt. Let’s not oversimplify. Look, the President has supported a pay-as-you-go-program. The President supported a three-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending. The President has -- not because he got help from Capitol Hill on setting up a deficit commission, but had to set one -- hold on, had to set one up. Why? Because the very same people that proposed a deficit commission then filibustered the deficit commission.
Q I understand what you’re saying. Do you support or oppose Congressman Boehner’s --
MR. GIBBS: We would be happy to support -- as I think many people would -- paying for what you’re going to do. Now, that’s going to include the $700 billion tax cut, which if you read through the pledge, I think they came up with $16 billion to pay for a $700 billion program. Again, you don’t have to be much of a math whiz to figure out that’s just cute rhetoric.
Q You talked about the extension of the tax cuts. What is the President telling the congressional leaders what else he wants in the lame-duck session? How ambitious?
MR. GIBBS: I will get a readout of what they’re going to -- what they discussed afterwards and we’ll send that around.
Q Well, but talk a little bit about the lame-duck session that you’re --
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think there’s -- I mean, obviously there’s some important business that I think the President thought we were close to finishing. There are obviously some judicial nominations that the President is keenly aware of and interested in. There’s a host of appointments that need to be acted on. Obviously the child nutrition reauthorization is an important thing, and obviously the tax cut legislation. That’s not to --
Q The deficit commission --
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know what the date is of when they’re going to come in. Obviously that’s going to be a big part of the conversation. That’s not an exhaustive list. And I’ll get anything else that they may have talked about.
MR. GIBBS: Yes, sir.
Q Interior Department came out with new offshore drilling rules today. Does that move us closer to lifting the moratorium?
MR. GIBBS: I think in many ways it likely does. We have -- there are a series of technological and safety reforms that this administration is very serious about implementing that need to be implemented and secured prior to the lifting of that moratorium. Secretary Salazar received Mr. Bromwich’s report, and that is a big step forward in getting this process back online.
The President has -- the President does not oppose the offshore exploration for oil. We understand that in the energy environment that we’re in, that we -- that no single source is going to light our homes and power our cars and power our businesses. So a whole host of different sources are going to be needed, and one of those sources is going to be offshore oil.
But the President just believes, after what we witnessed with BP, that we need to do this in a way that is technologically safe, technologically proven; that we are fully convinced that safety plans and worst-case scenario plans do mean exactly that; that we don’t find ourselves facing and dealing with the situation that we spent a whole long time in the summer dealing with.
Q I have a follow-up on that. Mary Landrieu has got the hold on Jack Lew over this issue. First, what is the President doing to get her to lift her hold on Jack Lew? And --
MR. GIBBS: Well, I will say this --
Q And what kind of problems is it causing in preparing a fiscal 2012 budget?
MR. GIBBS: The budget planning process is underway and should be underway with a director with the type of bipartisan support that Jack has gotten through two committees. I think it is a sad day when somebody is held up with such bipartisan support with the type of experience that’s necessary, in an environment where we have to improve our fiscal picture, that that person is held up for something that is completely unrelated to them.
I think it is sad, and I think it’s outrageous. The President -- well, Secretary Salazar met with Senator Landrieu to update her on where we are on this situation. But I want to be clear, Roger --
Q When was that?
MR. GIBBS: Yesterday.
Q Tuesday -- he did Tuesday.
MR. GIBBS: I think yesterday -- let me make sure. It was either -- I don’t know whether they -- I know they met on Tuesday. Maybe it was Tuesday and not Wednesday. But they’ve met in the last couple days to get an update on where we are. But, Roger, we’re not bargaining the safety of oil drilling away for an appointment that shouldn’t be the cause of the type of gridlock that we’re used to seeing in Washington.
And I would think people who are concerned about our fiscal picture, who are concerned about where we’re heading in this deficit at a time of crisis would not do the type of things that Senator Landrieu is doing.
Q Just following up on that, is Jack Lew on the job in some acting capacity? And would the President consider a recess appointment?
MR. GIBBS: Well, two things, as far as I know, Jack is still at the State Department. Obviously there’s a limit to what -- after a nomination but without confirmation, there’s a very strict limit to the amount of work he can do.
And as I understand it, the Senate has adjourned but are in some pro forma sessions that might make recess appointments difficult to impossible.
Q Robert, is the Black Farmer issue over?
MR. GIBBS: No, because it hasn’t been resolved.
Q But -- and this is a concern -- they’re saying that the window is over now because congressional leaders are going back to their districts and starting campaigning for voting, and then once we come back, it’s not going to -- if Republicans gain the seats that they believe they’re going to gain, Black Farmers are not going to get --
MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously, this is -- on a whole host of things that this administration and many on Capitol Hill think need to be resolved and should be resolved, and now that they’ve left for recess, will be left for after the election.
Q I asked the President at the last press conference about assurances that there would -- Cobell and the Black Farmer Pigford settlement will be funded, and he didn’t give assurances. He said he supports it.
MR. GIBBS: You should call Mitch McConnell.
Q Robert, just two questions.
Q Wait a minute, but I wasn’t finished.
Q Rather than -- rather than 15.
Q I was not finished, please.
Q I’m sorry. I thought you were finished.
MR. GIBBS: Hold on, hold on, hold on.
Q You will come back --
MR. GIBBS: It’s okay -- just in through the nose, out through the mouth. Yes, sir.
Q Thank you.
MR. GIBBS: Yes, ma’am, I’m sorry. Go ahead. Yes, I interrupted you.
Q Okay, okay. Also on another issue on the NAACP, they’re having this big protest for jobs, justice and education this weekend. What does this White House say about that, especially as the President has been working with the NAACP and other civil rights organizations in talking about promoting jobs and making conditions right for jobs? And they are going to have at least 80,000 out here on the weekend protesting. What does the White House say about that?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, April obviously, this administration, as I’ve said before, the issue that this President and this administration spend the most time on is the economic recovery -- financial stability, ensuring that small businesses have access to capital so that they can expand and hire new people, creating jobs, ensuring that the Recovery Act, as we end the fiscal year, is doing what it needs to do. That’s been the focus of this administration from the first moments of walking in this door, and it continues to be because even as we look at data on a day-by-day basis, like GDP and unemployment claims, obviously there is a recovery that while we’re headed in the right direction, as you’ve heard the President say, is not strong enough and not fast enough. He’s frustrated by that, and the President will continue to work through that.
Q Robert, Robert --
Q There’s a report out today that the health care reform law was going to force McDonald’s to drop coverage for thousands of workers. It’s been denied by the company, but it does --
MR. GIBBS: I would say that’s -- I will say, Wendell, I don’t know what the rest of your question is, but let me interrupt you at that point. If a story is based on the actions of a company that have been denied by the company, I would -- I think that the statement that they I think put out last evening I think is pretty clear, walks that story back to the point of not being accurate.
Q The company said it would be seeking a waiver from a piece of the --
Q Exactly, and --
MR. GIBBS: There were discussions -- look, Jonathan --
Q And that’s what I want to get to.
MR. GIBBS: Taking up the mantle of the editor of The Wall Street Journal, let’s understand this -- I just want to be clear. Read the company’s statement -- discussions with Health and Human Services that happen all the time about different regulations that are involved in the offering of benefits to companies -- again, that happens all the time.
But let’s be clear, the statement from McDonald’s last night makes the notion that they’re about to drop health care for 30,000 people not true.
Q And that’s not what I’m asking. What I’m asking is if you’re concerned that the law has the unintended effect of raising costs by making the -- by raising the minimum standards for health care, which is what McDonald’s is concerned about.
MR. GIBBS: Yes, again --
Q And if you’re not concerned about that, tell me why.
MR. GIBBS: Well, Wendell, I’m not concerned that this story is true, because, A, the company said it wasn’t, and B, the company is working with HHS as companies do --
Q The company said it was not going to drop coverage for these people, but it may have to incur additional cost to raise the minimum standards of health coverage.
MR. GIBBS: But, Wendell, I think -- right, but I think what is important to understand is discussions like that with regulators happen all the time. The crux of that story was whether or not that coverage was going to be dropped, and McDonald’s said that that just simply wasn’t true.
Q Robert, in the same oblique that you just talked about Pete Rouse without discussing what he might be doing, say, tomorrow or Saturday or beyond that, can you characterize the tenure of Rahm Emanuel in this White House?
MR. GIBBS: Look, obviously Rahm starts his day -- the President starts his day with a meeting with Rahm and ends it with a meeting with Rahm, just as we do as staff. I think his leadership, his energy has helped us accomplish so much in helping our economy recover, in passing landmark Wall Street reform, health care reform, credit card reform, student loan reform -- all of the things that -- there’s not an important thing that has happened in this administration that we’ve been able to accomplish for the American people that has not involved heavily his signature.
Q Could you also just --
Q Since you brought these -- Robert, since you brought this back -- wait a minute, everybody --
Q But wait, wait, wait --
MR. GIBBS: Let me go to Lynn, let me go to Lynn, let me go to Lynn. I don’t want to get in the middle of this Chicago thing.
Q And then will you come back to me?
Q We’re going to have a little follow-up here.
MR. GIBBS: I’m standing somewhere on the bridge over the river. (Laughter.) Go ahead, sorry.
Q Now we’re back into Rahm and you’re talking about him. How would you -- I know you just --
MR. GIBBS: In fairness, the question was “talk obliquely.”
MR. GIBBS: Just go ahead, I’m sorry.
Q Yes, I know. How -- and you just gave some issues, you just described what I think are things that you would describe as his legacy as the first chief of staff. How would you describe his relationship, in some other terms, and his management style?
MR. GIBBS: Not necessarily buying into the legacy part of your question. In terms of -- no, look -- look, I will say this. Rahm has an incredible amount of energy every day. He is -- you go into a meeting, he has a list of what he wants to get done, he’s focused on getting those things done, he always has ideas, policy ideas. We were in the economic daily briefing today and he was very actively involved in discussions around the issues that we discussed in terms of the Recovery Act and TARP. There is -- you know, look, he is -- he has been the leader of -- I mean, the title “chief of staff” in many ways says it all. He has been the energetic, inspirational leader of us, taking the President’s promises and agenda and enacting them into law.
Q The East Room is very often the site of visits of dignitaries and heads of state and important visitors. Why is this event in the East Room tomorrow?
MR. GIBBS: Because I saw animals pairing up in the Rose Garden, based on all the rain.
Q But the Rose Garden --
Q Give her a serious answer.
Q But wait, wait --
MR. GIBBS: No, no, I mean, the serious answer is --
Q -- wait, the Rose Garden is also an important venue. Why the Rose Garden or the East Room?
MR. GIBBS: Let’s just say this. The personnel announcement tomorrow will be of a significant enough stature to warrant it.
Q Robert, The Washington Post -- Robert, The Washington Post --
Q Why this dance? This is just so odd. Don’t you find it odd, Robert?
MR. GIBBS: I do find it odd. (Laughter.) This is the oddest thing I do every day. But hold on, but hold on, but hold on, but hold on. Let’s just be clear.
Q What was the strategy behind this? Leave the glory for the President tomorrow?
MR. GIBBS: Let’s just be clear for all the viewing audience. I’ve gotten emails from you, from you, from you, from you, from you, and from you all asking me to confirm other anonymous sources, right?
Q We broke it on Monday.
MR. GIBBS: Oh. Uh-oh. (Laughter.)
Q Just for the record.
MR. GIBBS: I’ll let you guys play journalism review after I leave.
Q Lynn says she said it last week.
MR. GIBBS: Okay. See that? Let me take a couple more questions, and let you guys --
Q Wait, wait, Robert -- no, continue, can you finish the thought? I mean, what was the strategy -- to just leave the glory for the President?
MR. GIBBS: That I’m not going to send emails back to you, to you, to you, to you, or to you today --
Q No, but the East Room --
Q What was behind this? Was it to leave the glory for the President tomorrow? I mean, this is sort of an odd dance that you’re going through today.
MR. GIBBS: No, Dan. I don’t think it’s an odd dance that the President here makes decisions.
Q Without confirming it, we all know it’s happening tomorrow.
MR. GIBBS: And the President makes decisions, the President makes announcements. I’m going to wait for the President to make that announcement.
Q Robert, The Washington Post reported that 4 percent of Capitol Hill staffers owe $9 million in back taxes, but White House staff tax delinquencies are nearly twice as high as on Capitol Hill. Does the White House believe the Post is inaccurate?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t have any information. I don’t have any information on that.
Q All right. What is the White House reaction to the Human Events report that in the first 19 months of the Obama administration, the national debt increased by $2.5 trillion, or more than during all Presidents, from George Washington to Ronald Reagan?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think that seems to have missed a few Presidents that have accumulated a lot of debt because we -- because programs that were enacted weren’t paid for -- wars, benefits on Medicare, tax cuts, which while isn’t a program for program is something that affects our fiscal situation, which is why --
Q -- pushing tax cuts won’t be paid for, the $3 trillion --
MR. GIBBS: And believes that we can’t afford the other $700 billion.
Q But why not try to pay for them if it’s important for the President to pay for things?
MR. GIBBS: Because in a time of economic uncertainty, we believe that they should be extended.
Q Staying on tax cuts, if you can’t -- if 60 is the new 50, what does that say for you all’s legislative agenda next year when the numbers are even worse for you?
MR. GIBBS: Well, we’ll have all next year to talk about that.
1:45 P.M. EDT
March 26, 2014
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