The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 4/12/2011
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:43 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon. How’s everybody today? Good, glad to hear it. I will not -- I don’t have an opening announcement or statement to make, so I will head straight to questions.
Associated Press, Mr. Feller.
Q Thank you, Jay. Do you plan to answer any of our questions today about the speech? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Of course I do.
Q You do?
MR. CARNEY: What I won’t do with any specificity is preview or detail the elements of the President’s speech that he gives tomorrow afternoon at George Washington University, where he will provide the American people his vision for long-term deficit reduction and dealing with our long-term debt. And I know you guys will cover that with interest.
And I’d actually just explain that we -- that there’s a purpose behind this. This is his vision, and rather than give a little here, give a little there, we’d like the entirety of his vision to carry the day tomorrow when he gives his speech.
Q Senator Chambliss said down in Atlanta yesterday that the White House threw the Gang of Six, obviously the bipartisan working group there, a curveball by talking about long-term debt reform on Wednesday. Do you fear that the President might jeopardize those sensitive negotiations? Is that a concern of the White House at all?
MR. CARNEY: Ben, the President has very carefully thought through his engagement in this issue, when he would give this speech, the building blocks to reaching this point. Along the way he has said very clearly that he supports the efforts of the so-called Gang of Six and others who are addressing these obstacles, these challenges, in a very serious way and in a bipartisan way. That’s a healthy and good thing. And it is reflective of the environment that was created by the President’s fiscal commission after it reported last year.
He wants and hopes that the discussion will continue. He has talked very clearly about the need to get this done through a conversation where everyone sits at the table and discusses a balanced way to address our long-term deficit and debt. And he will provide his vision tomorrow and looks forward to working with leaders of Congress, going forward from there.
Q You said “his vision” a couple times. Is that what we should expect -- that this is the President’s vision as opposed to aligning himself with the bipartisan commission he tasked or the work on the Hill?
MR. CARNEY: Well, what I would say, again, without previewing the President’s speech in any detail, is that -- and I know it’s frustrating. I’ve been on your side of this podium and I know it can be frustrating when we’re not previewing or giving a lot of details -- and there were a lot of stories this morning that were contradictory. Some had the President embracing one plan; another had the President embracing another. And all were written with great authority. Some of them can’t be true.
So what the President will do tomorrow -- (laughter) --
Q If you could clarify. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: I will clarify. The President tomorrow will give his vision of what -- of how we should approach long-term deficit reduction. And it will be his. He obviously has engaged in this issue very deeply and is aware of a variety of ideas and approaches that have been put out there from a number of sources. But the vision that he lays out for the American people tomorrow will be his own.
Q And one last one. What’s the relationship between the speech and the debt ceiling vote?
MR. CARNEY: The speech and the debt ceiling? We don’t believe there is a relationship between the two, and we don’t believe, going back to questions I had yesterday, that there should be a link between efforts to address our long-term deficit problem and debt problem and the imperative of raising the debt ceiling, which the President and all the leaders of Congress have said has to be done.
It will happen, because everyone recognizes the consequences of not doing it, which would be to throw the global economy into chaos, to halt on a dime the economic recovery that we’ve been experiencing and fought so hard to help foster. This is not an alternative. And we are confident that the Congress will vote accordingly.
In the meantime, as the President will amply demonstrate tomorrow, he wants to have this conversation about how we can get our fiscal house in order and how we can take a balanced approach towards reducing our deficit in the long term while protecting the investments which will enable us to grow in the 21st century, which in turn will help us reduce our deficit and debt.
Q Thanks, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: Tricia.
Q Senator Lieberman, and even some Democrats, have said that they won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling unless the President gives them some concrete plans for debt reduction. Is he going to offer that tomorrow? And is he going to offer a specific number for the amount of debt he wants to see?
MR. CARNEY: Tricia, I will wait for the President to lay out the specifics of his vision tomorrow, but I will simply say that we believe Congress needs to vote to raise the debt ceiling to avoid an economic -- a global economic calamity. The President will tomorrow, once again, demonstrate his sincere commitment to reducing the deficit, to cutting spending, to getting our fiscal house in order; the commitment that he demonstrated through dealing with one of the main drivers of our long-term deficits and debt -- health care costs, which, as you know, through the Affordable Care Act will be reduced by $200 billion in 10 years and over a trillion in 20. Serious deficit reduction. Addressing one of the main drivers of the problem, which he also demonstrated again just on Friday in the agreement he reached with Speaker Boehner to finance the rest of the fiscal year with the largest nominal discretionary cut in spending in history.
Q Will he demonstrate that commitment by giving the kind of concrete numbers that people seem to be hoping to hear?
MR. CARNEY: He will demonstrate that commitment clearly and vividly.
Q Is he going to talk about taxes at all?
MR. CARNEY: I will not preview the President’s speech, but I will say that the President believes there has to be a balanced approach, that there is no practical way --
Q Does that mean tax -- raising revenues as well as cutting spending?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to say more than that. I will not say more than that. But he believes that there has to be a balanced approach, and he demonstrated in his 2012 budget proposal that we need to consider all three legs of the stool when we’re dealing with the deficit. And that’s entitlements, tax expenditures, and defense spending. Those are the -- and, well, of course, with interest, which gets reduced if we reduce the other three.
So we need to -- the only way to get there in a balanced way, in a way that spreads the burden, that makes sure that it’s fair and protects the economy so that it can continue to grow and create jobs is to look at all of that as we’re going forward. And that’s what he did, again, in his 2012 budget. So this is not news that he believes that these -- that you have to look at it this way. The details I’ll save for him.
Q What’s the White House’s response to critics who say that because of his role in the cover-up of how Pat Tillman actually died and the pain he caused the family of Pat Tillman, that General McChrystal should not be on any sort of advisory committee having to do with military families?
MR. CARNEY: Jake, the President feels strongly that General McChrystal is the right person to help lead this advisory committee on this vital issue on -- that this administration, this President, this First Lady, Dr. Biden, all believe, and of course the Vice President, all believe is vitally important, because we have now been in a situation where we have been -- we have had our men and women overseas in wars for a decade.
And it’s important to do everything we can to remind Americans who aren’t directly affected, who don’t have a loved one in theater, that there is a need to support those families who do; that this is an effort that should involve all of us. And that’s what the initiative is about, and General McChrystal is an excellent choice to help oversee that effort.
Q Is the President aware of the role that General McChrystal played in the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s death?
MR. CARNEY: Jake, he is aware of -- very aware, having worked closely with General McChrystal for some time, of the General’s resume.
Q Can you talk to us a little bit about the relationship between the CIA and the ISI and the U.S. and Pakistan, given --
MR. CARNEY: You want me to talk about the CIA and -- okay. Let’s see if I can get fired.
Q You don’t have –- (laughter) -- are there strains between the United States and Pakistan’s government right now that are inhibiting counterterrorism efforts?
MR. CARNEY: Jake, what I’ll say is that the relationship between Pakistan and the United States is very important. The cooperation between our two countries and governments is -- continues, has been important, and continues to this day. We are engaged in a shared goal of defeating insurgents and terrorist groups. And that cooperation continues to this day.
You know, obviously, that I can’t discuss specifics about intelligence operations, but I can tell you that the cooperation between our two countries is important and continues.
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q Before, when you were talking about the budget, you said that the White House does not see a link between the debt ceiling and a deficit reduction plan. How can you say that when one leads to the other? The deficit leads to the need to raise the debt ceiling. So how can the two not be linked?
MR. CARNEY: Well, that’s like saying that every spending bill is linked to the -- I mean, that every bill Congress passes that spends money should somehow be linked to the --
Q When we’re in deficit, every dollar we spend adds to that, right?
MR. CARNEY: Right. But that would be true of every bill that goes through Congress every week. And my point, as you know, I know, is that the -- raising the ceiling, the debt ceiling, is so important because it involves the faith and credit of the United States government as the most powerful economy in the world -- the economy to which the whole world looks for stability. And if Congress were not to do that, the impact would be immediate and severe, as our Treasury Secretary has described and as a plethora of outside economists described. So --
Q We know that part. But if it’s not linked to a serious deficit reduction plan, won’t the whole world be looking and saying, they’re just borrowing more money? It’s like a family taking out another credit card to borrow more money.
MR. CARNEY: The point, Ed, is that the commitment shown by this Congress and this President to address the deficit was demonstrated just a few days ago. The President will again demonstrate his commitment to it tomorrow. And the demonstration just a few days ago wasn’t just words, it’s actions. It was a signed piece of --
Q It was $38 billion in cuts and a $14 trillion debt ceiling.
MR. CARNEY: But you’re talking about a demonstration of commitment and what the world looks at when they see the commitment of this President and this Congress to work together to address this important issue. That will be amplified by the President’s speech tomorrow.
What is not appropriate, given the consequences and the stakes, is to hold a positive vote on raising the debt ceiling hostage to something else, because the -- a game of chicken with our economy is a hugely risky affair that will not just be a game of who wins and who loses in the political sweepstakes here in Washington, but will have a catastrophic and direct impact on economies around the world and on Americans here, on their savings, on their interest rates, on their jobs, and on their prospects. So this is simply not something we can mess around with.
Q The last thing, you mentioned the deficit -- the spending cuts from late last week. How confident is the White House that this is actually a done deal? There are some people on the Hill saying, well, it’s not complete yet, don’t celebrate yet. And the mayor of D.C., as part of your answer, was arrested yesterday, Vincent Gray, and he said, “I’m not sure what the White House did in all this, to tell you the truth. It looks like the District of Columbia was essentially thrown under the bus in order to get a political deal.” So can you react to him, and also --
MR. CARNEY: Well, those are several different questions. The deal -- the agreement was reached, the deal, as I understand it, is moving through Congress and will be signed by the President. And it will result in the largest discretionary spending cut in history, nominal terms.
The fact is that the compromise that was reached involved a lot of tough choices, as we’ve discussed and as the President has discussed. Not everyone got what he or she wanted. The President did not get everything he wanted. He would not have supported this, does not support the provision that concerns the mayor. And he is a firm supporter of D.C. home rule.
But in a negotiation, you have to make tough choices, and he fought hard to -- and succeeded in preventing a strenuous effort by the Republicans to de-fund Planned Parenthood, to de-fund access to women’s health providers around the country, and felt that that was vitally important and made sure that that was preserved.
But tough choices were made, and that was one of them.
Q Thanks, Jay. On the budget deal, is the President asking or encouraging or expecting Democrats to vote for this thing? Is he --
MR. CARNEY: Yes, he is -- he believes that it’s the right thing to do. He believes that it involves tough choices. It is not -- as I just described, it is not a deal that appeals in all its aspects to him or that he expects will appeal in all its aspects to other Democrats --
Q Some Democrats have said that --
MR. CARNEY: -- just as it does not appeal in all its particulars to Republicans. That’s the nature of compromise. What we could not do was allow the government to shut down, and the President made sure that the deal he reached with the Speaker of the House and other leaders protected the vital investments that are his priorities and priorities of a lot of others who believe that investments in education, research and development, innovation, are key to the future, the economic future of this country.
So not an ideal world, but that’s not the world we live in. So it involved tough choices, and he has made his case and will continue to make his case for why he thinks it was the right thing to do.
Q And without going into any details, of course, will the President directly or indirectly go after Paul Ryan’s plan, and how will he do that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not going to preview the President’s speech. Let’s leave it at that.
Q You’re not going to say anything about -- how about Paul Ryan’s plan independently?
MR. CARNEY: Well, what I have said and others have said is that the House Republican plan demonstrates a shared goal with the President, which is that we need to take serious action to address our long-term deficit and debt issues. What it doesn’t demonstrate is the kind of balance that this President believes we have to employ as we address those long-term needs.
As I described before, there are three legs to this stool in terms of the drivers of our long-term deficits and debt: entitlement spending, largely health care spending; tax expenditures; and defense spending. The fourth leg, if you will, of the stool is interest payments on the debt, which you address by addressing the other three.
So there are three legs, and it is where we believe, where the President believes the House Republican plan fails starkly, is that it is imbalanced; it places all the burden on the middle class, on seniors, on the disabled, on people in nursing homes, through its rather drastic reform of Medicare and Medicaid -- reform which in many ways is an elimination of the established entitlements that they represent. So that’s not the approach the President believes is the right way to go.
And I would just say that when I -- again, it’s important that -- it was a demonstration -- it was a recognition of the seriousness of the problem and of the fact that there is a shared goal here. And there are a lot of different proposals out there, not just that one, and the President looks forward to having a conversation at the table with people who are serious about addressing this issue and serious in the way that he believes people demonstrated seriousness last week in addressing the CR for fiscal year 2011, which is you have to accept that you’re not going to get everything you want, that a compromise is by definition a coming together on common ground where there’s a consensus around the approach to take.
So the last word on this, I would say, is that it is -- well, I’ll leave it at that. But the -- the point is, is that balance is essential; that the burden has to be shared by everyone. And what is not acceptable, in the President’s view -- and, we believe, in the American people’s view -- is a plan that achieves serious deficit reduction only by asking for sacrifice from the middle class, seniors, the disabled, and the poor, while providing substantial tax cuts to the very well off. That’s not -- it’s not balanced. It’s also not particularly efficient and effective, because you cannot get there from here in a way that is stable for most Americans without addressing the three legs of the stool.
Q If the President is going to make that case tomorrow, could you smile? (Laughter.)
Q Jay, I think a lot of people are wondering the level of detail we’ll get from the President tomorrow. Like the Ryan plan or not, it did have a lot of numbers. Should we expect a lot of numbers from the President tomorrow?
MR. CARNEY: I will go back to what I said before, which is the President will lay out a vision, and that vision will be clear and vivid tomorrow, and will make clear his priorities in this important conversation.
Q Target number for what he’s hoping to cut?
MR. CARNEY: I encourage you to attend or watch the speech.
Q All right, let me shift gears a little bit.
Q Don’t give up. (Laughter.)
Q An Indonesian by the name --
Q He’s about to give us everything. (Laughter.)
Q He’s close to breaking.
Q Just one more question.
Q If you just ask him three times. Isn’t that the way that --
MR. CARNEY: Yes, that is the magic.
Q An Indonesian named Umar Patek was apparently captured in Pakistan. My understanding, he’s arguably the highest-level detainee or capture since the President took office. Any guidance on where he is and if the U.S. is questioning him at this point?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have anything for you on that, Mike. Sorry.
Q But if it’s a high-value target, you would know of the plan, I would assume?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have anything to say in response to that from here. Thanks.
Q So, Jay, is there any chance you can preview the President’s speech? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: For you, Chuck, in a few minutes.
Q In all fairness, is this a -- you keep saying “vision.” Is it going to be a plan?
MR. CARNEY: Tomorrow at 1:30 p.m., the President will be giving a speech.
Q Do you hate yourself at all when -- (laughter) --
MR. CARNEY: And when -- no. When he does, his ideas, his concept, his approach, his vision for how we need to address our long-term deficit and debt issues will be clear to you and to the American people.
Q Concept, approach, vision.
Q No “P” word.
Q No plan. I mean, why are you avoiding -- what’s wrong with saying “plan”? Is there something wrong with it?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that you can describe a vision as a plan. I mean, yes, a plan lays out --
Q So that’s fair. We can describe --
MR. CARNEY: -- but I will not -- I will not then go from there to get into specifics about what that vision/plan/concept will include.
Q Do you plan on briefing congressional leaders before the speech?
MR. CARNEY: We have a practice of consulting with members of Congress, and I’m sure they will be kept very up to date on what the President’s vision is for long-term deficit reduction --
Q Are they being invited down here to get a briefing --
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any schedule updates for you.
MR. CARNEY: Carol.
Q Where does Social Security fit into this vision that we’re talking about?
MR. CARNEY: This goes back to the variety of stories we saw this morning about what will or will not be in the speech tomorrow.
What the President has said, Carol, and it’s a fair question, is that he shares the opinion that has been expressed by a number of folks that Social Security is not the primary culprit or a culprit in our near- or mid-term deficit creation problems. He does believe, as he said in his State of the Union and elsewhere, that he believes that it’s a -- it would be a good thing to take measures to strengthen Social Security. But again, I encourage you to be patient with me and accept that I’m not going to get into what will or will not be in the speech tomorrow.
Q Can we expect that it will be at least mentioned tomorrow?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m not going to play that. I can’t.
Q So let’s look forward then. Is he going to -- is the President going to get out on the road or -- here or in some shape or form sell this plan or vision to the American people?
MR. CARNEY: I will say without -- I don’t have scheduling announcements, but he will -- this is the beginning of a process by which he intends to engage this conversation. It’s an important issue and it goes beyond giving one speech. He recognizes that it is -- it’s a big deal. We’re talking about major issues that have gone unconfronted and unsolved for a long time for a reason. And therefore it requires his engagement and the engagement of other serious leaders here in Washington to address the obstacles, address the challenges, and come to some common ground on how to deliver a product to the American people that achieves the goal of reducing our deficit in a stable way that’s balanced, strengthens our economy, does not harm our recovery or our job creation, and positions us well competitively for the 21st century.
Q But as of right now there’s nothing on the schedule to sort of --
MR. CARNEY: I have nothing -- I have no scheduling announcements to make about that. But I will say that the moment does not end with the speech.
Q 2012, will the President say now that he will not sign a CR at the end of September? He had tried not to sign short CRs during the last couple of months. Does he want Congress on notice now that for the next five months, he really does expect them to come up with a 2012 budget?
MR. CARNEY: Well, he certainly does believe, as he proposed his own budget several months ago, does believe that it is a far better way to do business to pass a full fiscal year budget, and he does certainly encourage and insist that Congress do that. I’m not going to -- to predict where we’ll be in terms of 2012 budget negotiations for just that fiscal year in six, eight months is a risky business.
Q Any surprises in the $38.5 billion as it’s now been spelled out in the actual legislation? What does the President think the vote will be? Does he -- is he confident that this compromise will pass?
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t heard him project vote tallies, so I couldn’t tell you.
Q But is he confident it will pass?
MR. CARNEY: Yes. Abby and then Jackie.
Q Going back to the debt ceiling vote, Republicans have made it pretty clear that they are not interested in a clean bill. So my question is: What is being done at the moment to prevent the kind of nail-biting that we saw last week with the very last-minute deal being brokered on the debt ceiling, given the magnitude, as you described it, of not raising it? So what’s being done to kind of make -- to bring that process along before it’s too late?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, the Secretary of the Treasury has been in consultation with Congress; sent a letter to Congress about the imperative back in January of addressing the debt ceiling. We are urging this -- that this be taken up and addressed in a timely fashion, because, as you say, it is risky business to play chicken with the economy. And playing chicken would include going up to the last minute, which creates a lot of uncertainty for the global economy, on a scale that makes last week look like something very small and local.
So in terms of the negotiations we’re having, I don’t have any details for you on that, except that I would, again, point you to the fact that every single leader in Congress of both parties has made clear that this will pass and that not pass it would be sheer folly. We take them at their word.
Q So are negotiations ongoing? Is that what you’re saying?
MR. CARNEY: I would just say that the conversation with Congress began a number of months ago about the need to do this, and has continued since.
MR. CARNEY: Jackie.
Q How does the President feel about all this punditry and writing that he doesn’t lead? And will tomorrow’s speech solve that?
MR. CARNEY: The -- I thought a little bit about this, and I think that one of the unique privileges of this job is having been where you are and looking for threads and narratives. And now, standing where I am, what I have seen is an extremely deliberate approach to this question and to leadership, which is you -- the President believes very firmly in results and having an idea, a vision, about where we should go, how we should get there, and then it comes back from there.
You figure out where you want to go -- he does -- what the results should be in terms of policy and outcomes, and then you decide what are the best things I can do -- I, being the -- what the best things the President can do to make that happen. And what that means is that -- sometimes that means not saying anything at all, publicly. Sometimes it means having very discreet conversation by phone or discreet meetings in the White House. Sometimes it means standing here or in the East Room or giving a speech and laying out your principles, but refraining -- despite a chorus of encouragement -- refraining from flaming the opposition, because you don’t believe that that’s helpful to your ultimate goal. And you may win the day, but you won’t get done what you think is important for the American people.
And I am -- I have seen this in my time in this job, and I see now it helps explain to me, in more vivid terms, the whole process that we’ve seen this President go through from the beginning when he took office, which is decisions that are hard, controversial, even unpopular, that you could -- he could have stood up and engaged in the political back-and-forth on the day and gone after his opponents and his critics. But he didn’t do that at that time because he believed that it would make it harder for him to get the accomplishment that he hoped to get. And I think if you look at the management of the TARP program, the bailout -- so-called bailout of the auto industry, the Recovery Act, his approach -- and I will leave out a bunch because I’m looking at you and not at a list -- the approach to the START treaty; the approach to the relationship with Russia; the approach to dealing with Iran; the approach to Egypt and the rest of the Middle East has been very much driven by that principle of leadership. And we believe, obviously, that that approach has paid dividends for the American people.
Q Even though the President doesn’t agree with all the elements of the Republican congressional budget plan, does he think that Paul Ryan has provided leadership on the issue?
MR. CARNEY: Julianna, I think it’s a fair question. I think that what Congressman Ryan has done is laid out his and the House Republicans’ priorities and how they approach this consequential debate. He believes that the plan itself fails the test of balance, and that balance is essential. But he does --
Q Does Ryan meet the test of leadership?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think -- again, I haven’t had this specific discussion with him, so I don’t want to put words in his mouth -- but I will say that leadership, courage -- that there’s been a lot written about that. And I think that one of the -- one measure of -- I mean, there are different -- there are levels of leadership, levels of political courage. But one measure, certainly, is your willingness to take on the sacred cows in your own party.
And what strikes me about the House Republican budget proposal is that it puts the burden on seniors, on the middle class, on the disabled. It does not ask or put the burden on wealthier Americans. And that, in some ways, fails that other test, too, in terms of your willingness to take on the sacred cows in your own party. I mean, I think that you need to, in any negotiation, be willing to take some heat.
Q But isn’t Ryan taking --
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I would just note on those principles about the balance you find and what I think -- when we looked at the Simpson -- I mean, if you look at the President’s fiscal commission, and while the President has made clear and others have made clear, not every line in it is something that he could support. What it did establish in an important way was that all those three things have to be looked at if we’re serious about getting from here to there in terms of long-term deficit and debt.
MR. CARNEY: Stephen.
Q The French and the British seem to be complaining that they’re being asked to shoulder too much of the burden on Libya. Does this call into question the idea that NATO could do something like this without the U.S. in the driving seat?
MR. CARNEY: We have full confidence in NATO’s capacities. NATO is fully capable of and is achieving the goals set out for it and prescribed by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. And of course I would remind you that the -- that that resolution makes clear what the goals of the military action are and what they are not. And the President and this administration believes that NATO and the coalition, of which we remain a partner, is capable of fulfilling that mission -- of enforcing the no-fly zone, enforcing the arms embargo, and providing civilian protection.
Q Would you like to see NATO members other than the British, the French, and the U.S. do more?
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to NATO for operational details about how NATO should run this mission. We are no longer in the lead. NATO is the lead and is fully capable of executing the mission.
Q May I follow up on Steve’s question?
MR. CARNEY: Sure.
Q Today we learned that Moussa Koussa, former Libyan foreign minister who was alleged to have been involved in the Lockerbie bombing, has left London to attend a meeting in Qatar, in Doha, and this meeting is being chaired by Foreign Secretary William Hague. What is the administration’s view on the British government allowing Moussa Koussa to travel so freely to attend these meetings?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have -- I don’t have anything for you on that. I would point you to the statements that I made before about the actions that we and our allies took to put pressure on those around Muammar Qaddafi to abandon him, and also to the fact that the United Kingdom has made very clear that he is -- he was not given any kind of immunity in return for leaving the country.
Q Would this administration be averse --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m not going to “would, could, if.” I don’t have a comment on that specific development.
Let me move around a little bit. April.
Q Thank you.
MR. CARNEY: Sorry, Scott was blocking me. (Laughter.)
Q You picked up a bad habit from the last press secretary.
MR. CARNEY: What’s that? (Laughter.)
Q Anyway, my height has nothing to do with anything around here. Anyway, following up on Ed, what Ed had to say about -- the question Ed asked about Vince Gray, apparently council members and the mayor of Washington, D.C., wanted to make their feelings known about how they were portrayed in the budget -- in the budget that was -- President Obama allowing the cuts to happen in D.C. Has President Obama reached out to Vince Gray and some of the council members? Because they are very concerned. This is the host city of the White House, of -- 80 percent of the government -- well, Washington -- 80 percent, I believe, of Washington, D.C., is federal land, federal buildings. So why not talk to Vince Gray if the President hasn’t?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t know that he hasn’t or that he won’t. My point still stands that this was a tough decision. The President is a firm supporter of D.C. home rule and continues to be that. And the choices that had to be made in this negotiation were not easy ones, and he’s made that clear, I’ve made that clear. But again, he supports D.C. home rule and understands the importance of it to the residents of the District of Columbia.
Q But many people are not taking this arrest lightly. I mean, the mayor of Washington, D.C., and council members were arrested because of what they felt. Is the White House listening to what they have to say?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I know that everyone here is aware of it. I don’t -- I simply don’t know what communications or conversations may have happened or are planned right now, April. But you can certainly check back with me.
Q Thanks, Jay. I have two questions. The first is, how does the President feel about the idea of instituting statutory budget controls with some kind of automatic enforcement mechanism to control debt? Maybe that’s something that would kick in after the next election. Has he taken a firm stance on it? Do you know where he stands? Is it something you’re considering?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I will -- since that’s related to the area of long-term deficit and debt reduction, which is the area the President will be addressing in his speech, I will not preview it from here.
Q So that might actually be something he’d discuss in tomorrow’s speech, but you wouldn’t you say? (Laughter.) And then my other -- I just want to --
Q Can you count to 10 before we hang up the phone? (Laughter.)
Q So my other question is, some of the Republicans that I talked to say that they think that the best chance to get the Medicare reform started is precisely the debate over the debt ceiling. And I guess I’m wondering, if that could help to reach a bipartisan agreement, what’s wrong with talking about it as part of the debate? I understand when push comes to shove you don’t want the nation to default. But if you’re trying to bring together liberals who are mad at President Obama for being too nice to Republicans, and Republicans who are proposing stuff you think is, like, off the deep end, then isn’t any mechanism a good mechanism to get this done? Or if that’s what it’s going to come down to, would you rather just debate it throughout an election year and then deal with it next year?
MR. CARNEY: What we would rather do is have the conversation and have it now. The President is giving a major speech tomorrow that will outline his vision for long-term deficit reduction.
What is not acceptable, what will not make sense is linking somehow or holding hostage a vote on the debt ceiling by trying to link it to a provision -- you mentioned the Medicare reform I assume that’s in the House Republican budget proposal, which is a non-starter. It’s not supported by the majority in the Congress; it’s not supported by the American people in any recognizable numbers. It’s not -- and it’s not something this President could sign. So -- I mean, that’s --
Q I didn’t mean --
MR. CARNEY: But he wants -- the conversation is important to have and he looks forward to having it.
Q Thanks. Can you explain why, months after signing the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the White House didn’t allow representatives of gay military families to attend today’s event? I mean, isn’t that a missed opportunity for the President to reaffirm his commitment to see through the repeal of the policy?
MR. CARNEY: I actually don’t have anything for you on that. I will take that question -- I’m not aware of it at all.
Q Okay. Well, I mean, the First Lady’s office put out a statement confirming it. They said that it’s still the law of the land. But I’m just wondering why -- how that’s not a missed opportunity for you guys to --
MR. CARNEY: Well, wait. If you want, I can take this question, but I think you’re conflating here a couple of things. But why don’t I take that and get back to you.
Q Jay, as you know, some Democrats on the Hill are not happy with the Friday deal. And I talked to one of them who said the impression that they get is if the Republicans dig in their heels enough and hold off long enough, the President will fold -- on the tax deal and now on this budget deal. Why are they wrong?
MR. CARNEY: Because the President held out and protected his priorities. He negotiated firmly and made sure that investments in education, investments in research and development, investments in infrastructure, the keys to our economic future, were protected, and prevented the passage of unacceptable so-called riders that would have attempted to de-fund the Affordable Care Act, de-fund family planning and women’s health clinics, and numerous other unacceptable measures.
So the reality is, is that a negotiation involves a compromise, and a compromise -- especially when you have a divided government like we have, and there is no question if the point that either Republicans on this side or Democrats on that side want to make is they didn’t get everything they wanted, we concede the point.
Q But they got 80 percent of what they wanted. They got $80 billion. That’s more than --
MR. CARNEY: That is a fallacy, Bill. That’s a fallacy because it assumes that every dollar in spending cuts is a victory for Republicans and a loss for Democrats, and that’s actually wholly inaccurate, as you know -- you’ve been around long enough to know. Balanced budgets -- as have I. (Laughter.) Balanced budgets in this town -- the last time, as I recall since I covered it, that the budget was balanced in this town through a bipartisan compromise, there was a Democrat in the White House, okay? And this President has demonstrated very clearly that he believes we need to address our spending and our debt and our deficits. And he would have done this regardless because he believes -- not the deal itself, because in an ideal world I made clear that there were tough choices he would not otherwise want to have to make.
But in terms of addressing the deficit and debt, he intended to do it and intends to it, and that’s not a Democratic priority or a Republican priority; it’s an American priority. It’s important for our economic health, and it’s important for the future of our children and grandchildren and our continued capacity to lead the world.
But what is also important is that you do it in a way that is balanced, that protects key investments, that protects children in Head Start, that protects Pell Grants, that protects research and development that will lead to the creation or help lead to the creation of industries in this country which will create jobs at home and enable us to lead in the industries that will dominate the 21st century around the globe.
He is very much in favor of reducing our spending in a reasonable way, so I go back to the point -- the 80 percent suggestion is a fallacy.
Q Thanks, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: I’ll take one more. David.
Q Thanks. I don’t go -- I haven’t been around as long as Bill. (Laughter.) Let me ask -- two quick questions. Does the President feel that the Ryan plan is fundamentally unfair?
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q The second question, regarding the budget deal, what is his response to the criticism that it’s bad for job creation, that it will be a net loss of jobs? That this doesn’t lead to --
MR. CARNEY: That article I believe has --
Q Well, a few -- more than one person has suggested this.
MR. CARNEY: In the conversations I’ve heard about this is simply -- is not based on sound economics because the -- while the level of cuts was high in annual -- in terms of annual -- $38.5 billion is substantial, highest nominal reduction in domestic discretionary spending in history. However, it does not have a substantial -- it does not have a negative impact on our economy, and I think a lot of economists would disagree with that.
In fact, because it protects the investments that I’ve referred to several times now, we believe that it finds an appropriate balance between reducing our spending and protecting the investments we need to continue to grow.
The highest principle the President took into this negotiation was that we must not do anything that harms our recovery, that harms our capacity to create jobs because we’ve clawed and scratched our way out of the deepest recession since the Great Depression, and we should not do anything that harms our ability to continue to climb out of that hole, grow the economy, and create jobs.
Q Thank you.
2:30 P.M. EDT