The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 7/10/2013

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:58 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Welcome to the White House and to your daily briefing.  Before I take your questions, I had a couple of things I wanted to draw to your attention. 

First, today, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is making an important announcement about the funds and sites, and people who will help the 2 in 10 Americans who will be able to get insurance through the health insurance marketplaces starting on October 1st.

Community health centers are a critical and local resource for Americans, and HHS is ensuring that they will have a key role in the process of enrollment.  1,159 health centers across the nation will receive $150 million in grant awards to help enroll uninsured Americans in new health coverage options made available by the Affordable Care Act.  These centers have committed to hiring an additional 2,900 outreach and eligibility assistance workers.  This means that in every state in the nation there will be people at community health centers available to help -- community health centers, rather, available to help.

Here are a few examples of what this means in communities.  In Florida, a health center is hosting learning sessions at local libraries, churches, and civil organizations.  In Washington State, health centers are coordinating with local schools and libraries to let families know that they may be eligible for new insurance options.  A health center in Michigan is coordinating with a coalition of over 30 African American churches to get the word out and help sign people out.  In New Mexico and South Dakota -- this is my favorite -- health centers will be reaching individuals at summer and fall county fairs and rodeos to make sure they know about and sign up for the opportunities available to them in the new marketplaces.

Secondly -- and I think I have a visual aid here to make this even more exciting -- here we go.  As you may have read about or received directly, this morning the White House released a report, “The Economic Benefits of Fixing our Broken Immigration System,” detailing the key benefits to the U.S. economy that would result from signing the Senate bill into law. 

The economic costs of inaction are simply too high to delay.  Common-sense immigration reform would reduce the deficit, grow the economy, increase wages and increase productivity.  It’s time for the House to act.

And with that, I go to the Associated Press.  Josh.

Q    Thanks, Jay.  To start with Egypt, a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood appears to be growing, with prosecutors ordering the arrest of their Supreme Leader and other officials.  Do you feel that the U.S.’s call for a refrain from arbitrary arrests and a move towards reconciliation is essentially being ignored?

MR. CARNEY:  We are in regular communication with the authorities in Egypt at a variety of levels.  We are working with our allies in the region to reinforce the message that we have been sending to those in Egypt about the need for Egypt to get off a path of polarization and move forward on a path of reconciliation.  Reconciliation means -- and a process, a democratic process or transition means that for it to work all groups and parties need to be at the table.  We have made clear that we oppose arbitrary arrests, and we continue to make that clear.

But as I’ve been saying all week, this is an extremely difficult and complicated situation.  There is a crisis in Egypt, and the way to move Egypt beyond crisis and towards a better future is for the authorities to embrace a process that is inclusive, that leads to a transition back to a civilian, democratically elected government, and that responds to the hopes and aspirations of the Egyptian people, of all the Egyptian people.

Q    So how’s that working out?  Do you see any indications that those -- (laughter). 

MR. CARNEY:  I think that it is apparent to any observer of the situation in Egypt that it is complex, it is difficult, and it is challenging not least, and perhaps most, for the Egyptian people themselves.

We are under no illusions about the complexity of this challenge, nor are we under any illusions about the importance of this challenge, which is why we are making clear with our partners and allies, and directly, our views about the path that we believe Egypt needs to take moving forward so that it can return to a democratically elected civilian government.

The alternative is chaos.  The alternative is a failure of Egypt to reach its potential, its enormous potential.  The alternative is sustained disappointment among the Egyptian people about the limitations placed on their own futures. 

So we are working with our partners and directly to make our views known; to provide assistance and guidance where we can; to make clear that we do not support any individual or any party or any group, we support a process that is inclusive and democratic; to make clear that we oppose all violence; to make clear that we call on the military to exercise maximum restraint; to make clear that it is unacceptable in our view, and certainly unhelpful, for any group or any party to incite violence.  And we are doing all this amidst an obviously very fluid situation and one that puts Egypt‘s future at stake.

Q    And you’ve been clear that our determination about whether to call this a coup and some of the implications for aid will be dependent in part on how things work out going forward and what we see on the ground there.  So does the ongoing violence and these latest arrests move us closer to a determination that this was a coup d’état?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we are evaluating how the authorities are responding to and handling the current situation.  We will take our time and the time necessary to make the determinations regarding what happened last week and the change in leadership, the removal of President Morsi from power.  And we remain deeply concerned about the removal of President Morsi from power. 

But what I've said yesterday and I said the day before that remains true today, which is that we do not believe it is in the best interest of the United States to make immediate changes to our assistance programs, and there are consequences that come from the way that -- the manner in which we designate the events that happen in Egypt.  And we are evaluating both what happened and our responsibilities under the law as we consult with Congress about next steps.

Q    And briefly on immigration, with the House Republicans trying to figure out how they're going to move forward on this, will the President be stepping up his effort to urge Congress to -- the House to take up the Senate bill?  Or will he take kind of a more low-profile approach the way he did as the Senate bipartisan group was working their deal out?

MR. CARNEY:  The President is keenly interested in seeing bipartisan legislation emerge from Congress that meets the standards that he laid forth two years ago, standards that are reflected in the bipartisan bill that was passed by the Senate, arrive on his desk for his signature.  And he is directly engaged in the effort to move that process forward and will continue to be.

The release we put out today I think reflects the manner in which we are making clear the enormous benefits and the absolute need for comprehensive immigration reform.  You have a coalition now of support behind us, a consensus of support behind comprehensive immigration reform reflected in the Senate bill that includes business leaders.  It includes faith leaders.  It includes law enforcement leaders, Democrats, Republicans. 

We have demonstrated in today’s report the clear economic benefits of immigration reform, including the fact that the Senate bill would grow the economy by 5.4 percent -- this is all in the document that was over my shoulder and that you have access to -- would grow the economy by 5.4 percent over the next two decades due to a larger labor force, higher productivity, and more investments -- 5.4 percent.

Productivity of labor and capital would increase by 1 percent over the next two decades.  Wages -- largely as a result of higher productivity -- real wages would rise by .5 percent in 2033, relative to current law, the equivalent of about an annual $250 increase today for a median household.

Over the next 20 years -- and this is an issue that should be resonant with conservative Republicans who say they are very concerned about the deficit.  Over the next 20 years, federal deficits would be reduced by nearly $850 billion, just through comprehensive immigration reform -- not through a grand bargain; not through other means by which we are attempting to reduce the deficit, but through comprehensive immigration reform. 

The federal debt would fall by 3 percentage points as a share of the economy by 2023, compared to current law.  And the solvency -- again, an issue that at least they claim, Republicans claim is important to them -- the solvency of the Social Security trust fund would be extended by two years, and the 75-year shortfall would be reduced by nearly half a trillion dollars. 

The benefits are clear.  The fact that there is a broad bipartisan consensus behind this is clear.  It cannot be acceptable broadly and in the long term that immigration reform would be blocked because some minority of House Republicans is concerned about a primary challenge from the far right.  That’s not a good argument.  It's not a good argument politically, it's certainly not a good argument economically.

Q    It seemed like an uphill battle in the House, Jay. 

MR. CARNEY:  It's always been an uphill battle.  Hard things are hard.  This is coming to pass now because there is finally a consensus that has been built around it.  We are now at a point that would have been impossible, frankly, if President Obama hadn't been reelected.  The position held officially by the leader of the Republican Party in 2012 was that the answer to immigration reform was self-deportation.

We've seen enormous progress since then.  We've seen a change in views across the board.  But the work remains.  We've said all along that getting legislation through both houses of Congress would be very difficult.  The road ahead is littered with obstacles, and we have to navigate our way through them and around them and over them -- but we will.

Q    How do you persuade Speaker Boehner to take it up?  How long do you have to do it?  And does this issue instead simply become something for the midterms?

MR. CARNEY:  Look, we believe that there is an enormous amount of momentum behind and consensus behind comprehensive immigration reform.  We are doing everything we can to engage in persuasion, making the arguments.  Stakeholders are making the argument, including stakeholders with very close ties to Republican leaders and Republican rank-and-file members.  The business community has made clear its views on the need for comprehensive immigration reform.  The law enforcement community has made clear its views on the need for comprehensive immigration reform, and those efforts will continue.

But in the end, we can't prevent lawmakers from making bad choices.  We can simply be part of a broad, comprehensive effort of persuasion that makes a case for why passing comprehensive immigration reform is the right thing to do for the economy, for our businesses, for the middle class.  It's the moral thing to do, and we'll keep at it and we'll get it done.

Q    We know the President has been working behind the scenes.  Is he going to launch some high-profile effort, similar to like the health care overhaul, for instance, to try to drum up support?

MR. CARNEY:  The thing about strategy is that it would be strategically foolish to announce it in advance.  So we are on this every day.  We're very much engaged in a process that -- led by the Gang of Eight, that resulted in the successful bipartisan passage of comprehensive immigration reform -- an effort that saw compromise.  It is not a bill that is written word for word the way the President would write it, or probably the way any individual member of the Gang of Eight would have written it.

It contains substantial increases in resources for border enforcement.  As Senator McCain said and I paraphrase, anyone who claims that the reason to vote against this bill now is because it's not strong enough in border enforcement is not serious about border security, because there has never been legislation this strong on border security.  And it comes at a time when we've never -- we haven't made strides as significant as we've made in the last five years in border security. 

You know the statistics -- the doubling of Border Patrol agents.  All the metrics that measure our progress on border security demonstrate the improvements that we've seen.  But the President always made clear that one of the key criteria that he would insist upon when it came to passage of immigration reform would be enhanced and increased border security.  And that is present in abundance in the Senate bill.

So we're just going to keep at this, Steve.  And we believe that there is an overwhelming case for why this is the right thing to do.

Because last time I think we did almost 45 minutes on the front row, I'm going to move it around a little bit.  Yes, Alexis.

Q    Jay, just to follow up on what Steve was asking you, there are House Republicans who say that it annoys them to a great extent when the President goes out and campaigns for immigration reform or some other element of his agenda.  They call it "campaigning," right?

MR. CARNEY:  As opposed to when they go out and advocate for their policy positions.  I know that it annoys them that he is in office.  Let's just accept that and posit that.  But this isn't about him.  The reason why we have the progress that we've seen is in no small measure because of the support the President has put behind comprehensive immigration reform, in no small measure because of the advocacy he engaged in throughout the campaign and throughout his first term. 

But it is not about him.  We wouldn't be where we are with the kind of bill that emerged from the Senate if it weren't for the support of business leaders and law enforcement leaders and faith leaders and Republicans both in office and in the political profession who understand that this is the right thing to do economically, morally and politically.

Q    So just to finish my question --

MR. CARNEY:  Yes.  (Laughter.)  I’m fired up today, Alexis.

Q    So because part of the Senate strategy was -- and members of the President's own party suggested that he stand back and let it proceed on its own, are there limits to the President's bully pulpit on this issue?  Has he discovered that that is the case on this particular issue, both in the Senate and the House?

MR. CARNEY:  No, I think every issue is different.  And, of course, there are limits to the powers of the bully pulpit on every issue.  This is a methodical effort, using all the tools available to us and to him, using all the tools available to advocates and lawmakers who support immigration reform to get this done.  And he is an important part of it, but it's bigger than he is.  And it's the right thing to do for the country.

I mean, this is the irony -- and I hung up my spurs as a political analyst a while ago, but I've seen what, broadly speaking, you have written, you and the press and others about the political stakes here.  And the President's interest is in getting comprehensive immigration reform that a lot of Republicans seem to think is the right thing to do for the future of the Republican Party.  But he is not in it for political reasons.  He’s in it because it's the right thing to do.

And Democrats are supporting this effort because it's the right thing to do.  And, increasingly, we've seen Republicans back this effort, as Senator McCain long has, as former President George W. Bush long has, and the Republican members of the Gang of Eight -- Marco Rubio and Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham and McCain -- long have, because it's the right thing to do.

Q    Can I ask one quick ACA question?

MR. CARNEY:  Sure. 

Q    To clarify what you were describing earlier about HHS's initiative with community health centers, if I remember correctly there was reporting recently about trying to pull back on the funding to community health centers to find the resources to help do the rollout and implementation.  And I just want to clarify, the $150 million that you're talking about, is that new money or is that just a new task given to the community health centers?

MR. CARNEY:  My guess is that the details on this would best be answered at the Department of HHS.  But this is part of an effort to inform the public about the benefits and opportunities available to them through a law that was passed, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court.

Now, there is a nihilistic effort going on to undermine a law, the law of the land, that is embodied in the near 40 efforts to repeal it -- futile efforts to repeal it in the House of Representatives.  But it’s the law and it’s going to be implemented.  And those who oppose it, those who try to undermine it at every step need to be made aware of the fact that what they are saying is that the benefits that have already been enjoyed, are already being enjoyed by the American people, they want to take away.  The opportunities and benefits that will become available to millions of Americans, they want to take away in the name of partisan political victory.

But this has been -- they can present legislation to amend it and see how it fares; they can present legislation of their own for health care reform.  But instead, we just see efforts to undermine it.  And that would be one thing if it existed only in a political vacuum, but there are consequences to this.  And those who suffer the consequences are the American people who are being told by opponents that they’re going to lose their benefits if the opponents get there way, that they would rather have insurance companies dictating whether they can take you off your insurance policy, kick you off, or say, I won't give you insurance because you have a preexisting condition.  That's the way the world existed before the Affordable Care Act was passed.

Q    Can I follow on that, Jay?

MR. CARNEY:  You can when I get to you. 

Q    Okay.

Q    Jay, this morning we saw the Senate Health Committee advance the Employment Non-Discrimination Act with the votes of three Republican senators -- Senator Murkowski, Kirk, and Hatch.  I wonder if you could talk a little bit about what role the White House plans to play in the coming weeks and months to help build the --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I appreciate the question, and I think I put out a statement about this not long before the briefing.  We welcome the passage by the committee of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the bipartisan support that it saw, the Republican senators who voted for it -- Senator Kirk, who was a leader in the effort.  This reflects the strategy the President has long believed is the right one when it comes to these matters, and we'll continue to press for broader support in the Senate and then in the House on this issue, as my statement said.

Q    When you refer to strategy, do you still believe -- do you think that the executive order for federal contractors would help or hinder that effort?

MR. CARNEY:  Our position on the executive order hasn’t changed and our position on the executive order has been coupled with our belief that the best way to do this is to pursue legislation that's broad and comprehensive.  And that's what ENDA is.  And we are -- I mean, today is a good day in this narrative.  It’s a good day because the committee passed it, and it passed it with Republican support.  So that's -- we’ll take that and we’ll move forward and hope we can get more progress.

Jon -- I’m sorry, Dan, then Jon.

Q    Back on Egypt.  If the White House ultimately decides to call what happened there a military coup, does that automatically guarantee that the aid, the $1.5 billion in aid will be cut off?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, what I would say is that we are reviewing a legal framework here.  It is certainly an issue that has been noted in questions here and written much about and discussed on television about.  So when I talked yesterday about the elephant in the room, there are serious consequences here to our evaluation of and ultimate decision about the designation we’ll make.

And they go beyond the dollar figure associated with our aid to Egypt because of our longstanding partnership with Egypt, our longstanding support for the Egyptian people, and the role that we play and can play in the region when it comes to offering advice and counsel on a democratic transition.  So all of these matters go into our thought process as we evaluate the legal framework here, our legal obligations, as well as we make our consultations with Congress on this matter.

Q    So the label itself doesn’t necessarily mean that --

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not a lawyer, and I’ve seen others who are opine about the “if this happens, then this happens” aspect of the way the law and rules are written, but I would refer you to them for that.  We’re obviously treating this very cautiously because we believe that's in the best interest of our national security and our support for Egypt’s transition.

Q    Because of the critical role that Egypt has played in the region, strategically, militarily, is there a concern that the longer that there’s instability there, that this is something that could spill over and impact the region as a whole?

MR. CARNEY:  I think as a general matter the answer to that question is, yes.  That has been true with the unrest in general, especially the violent unrest that we’ve seen in different parts of the Middle East during this period of upheaval.

And there are no positive outcomes to a continued violent crisis in Egypt.  That's why we call so strongly for a cessation of violence, why we call so strongly for an inclusive process that is peaceful, and where reconciliation is the goal and compromise is the means to achieving the goal.  That's what we believe is necessary in Egypt.  We believe that the Egyptian people, broadly speaking, support that process. 

And in all the ways that we can, we are trying to impart that message and to be of assistance in the process, understanding all along that this is a process that will be designed and determined and decided by the Egyptian people, including the outcome of that process -- who the leaders are, what the constitution says, what parties are represented. 

But the best way to getting from here to there for the sake of Egypt’s future and the sake of the millions of young Egyptians in that country is one that is inclusive and that allows for participation by all individuals and all parties.

Q    On the Snowden case, any recent effort to put additional pressure on Russia to prevent him from going to Venezuela?

MR. CARNEY:  We have, as I said the other day, engaged with all the countries that might be transit points or endpoints, including Russia, where we believe Mr. Snowden currently remains, about our view that he should not be allowed to engage in further international travel with the exception of the travel necessary to be returned here to the United States where he faces serious felony charges. 

And I have nothing new to report in our communications -- about our communications with Russia.  They are as they were, which is our shared belief that we don't want this issue to disrupt our important and broad relationship with Russia, but that we believe that there is firm legal justification through cooperation along the usual law enforcement channels for his expulsion from Russia and return to the United States.

Q    Are you still communicating with Russia?

MR. CARNEY:  Yes, we communicate with Russia all the time.

Q    About this?

MR. CARNEY:  About this and other -- many other topics.  Yes.

Q    So, Jay, on Egypt you said you were evaluating whether or not this was a coup, and you don't know how long it's going to take.  But help me understand the process here.  At the end of this evaluation, are you going to come out here and say, yes, it was a coup; no, it wasn't a coup?  How is this going to work?

MR. CARNEY:  I think what's happening in Egypt is so serious and compelling in the sense that it is -- it merits extreme attention right now, that jumping ahead to what a process like this will look like when it is decided skips ahead of some very serious days and steps that we can take as a matter of policy, and also that we will see unfold in Egypt as each day passes.  And we can evaluate whether or not the Egyptian authorities are making progress towards a transition to democracy, progress that includes not just asserting that there will be elections or constitutional amendments, but a process that demonstrably reflects an effort to engage all parties and one that reflects an effort to resist violence and instead engage in negotiation.

So I don’t have a timeline for you.  I'm not going to paint a picture of what that looks like, because frankly, we don't know yet what the result of that process will look like.  I think a far more significant development will be what happens actually in Egypt, which will, in part, inform how we make our determinations.

Q    But you will make a determination specifically on that question -- coup or not a coup?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I expect that, as I've said, that we will take the time necessary to make that evaluation.  And I'm sure there will be an endpoint, but I don't have a timeline for you. 

Q    Okay.  And then on the health care, the issue of the employer mandate being delayed a year, under what authority did the White House decide to implement that law a year later than the law itself calls for?  I mean, it's been a law passed by the Congress. 

MR. CARNEY:  Jon, there are experts a plenty who can provide the specifics for you on this, both inside and outside the government.

Q    Because the Democratic chairman of the Senate Health Committee said you have no authority.

MR. CARNEY:  I highly recommend picking up any issue of the Federal Register and finding in it examples of rules and waivers and that sort of thing.  This is not an unusual process.  And this reflects an effort that the hue and cry, the calamitous hollering that you hear is reflective of a political and partisan effort to undermine --

Q    I’m talking about Tom Harkin.  Are you saying that he’s --

MR. CARNEY:  No, you’re not talking about Tom Harkin.  You're talking about the Republican effort to --

Q    Tom Harkin said you had no authority to do this.

MR. CARNEY:  -- to complain about the -- listening to business -- to postpone a deadline that affects 4 percent of businesses with 50 or more employees, when they’ve done everything they can to undermine the law from day one.  They don't want to see it implemented.  They’ve made that clear. 

So we're listening -- we're being --

Q    Tom Harkin wants this implemented, but on --

MR. CARNEY:  Jon, you can pretend this is about Tom Harkin, but you know it’s not.  And the fact is this is -- we have demonstrated, since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, that we will make improvements where those improvements make sense; we will be flexible in its implementation where being flexible makes sense. 

I mean, everybody recently, to their credit, who’s written about this has noted the comparison here to the passage of Medicare Part D, which was an initiative, a top priority of President George W. Bush when it came to domestic policy.  And it passed, and a lot of Democrats opposed it, but it passed.  And Democrats did not, once it passed, engage in efforts to undermine it every step of the way.  Instead they, once it became law, engaged in an effort to make sure that the American people, the people they represented, enjoyed the benefits of the law.

And I expect that most constituents who potentially would get insurance for the first time in their lives, or the first time in a long time -- if they are made aware of the possibility of enrolling in these marketplaces -- would expect that their representatives, their senators, whether they’re Democratic or Republican, would help them in that process, rather than doing everything they can to prevent their constituents from enjoying the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.

Q    But what do you say to Republicans that say on the issue of immigration that if the White House can simply decide to delay implementation of certain aspects of bills that passed, that you won’t delay implementation of the border security?

MR. CARNEY:  People who suggest that there’s anything unusual about the delaying of a deadline in the implementation of a complex and comprehensive law are deliberately sticking their heads in the sand, or are just willfully ignorant about past precedent.  It’s just not -- it’s not serious. 

And we are going about the business of implementing this law, and we're going about the business of implementing it in a way that maximizes the benefits available to the American people, that minimizes the difficulties in the implementation process for business as well as individuals.  And we're going to keep at it.

Q    You reeled off earlier in this lengthy briefing a long list of things that the Egyptians need to do --

MR. CARNEY:  It’s not lengthy yet.

Q    -- yet there’s no indication that they’re doing them.  And it seems the only leverage that the United States has is the aid.  So are you going to wait for them to do these things before you decide to pull the aid?  Never mind the issue of the coup.

MR. CARNEY:  I understand the sort of --

Q    Never mind the issue of the coup.  How long is it going to take? 

MR. CARNEY:  I commend you for waiting five days until we've declared the end of a process that will be long, indeed, and has been long since this historic transformation began in Egypt, and it has not been, as we've seen recently, without enormous challenges and setbacks and loss of life. 

This is not a matter for political back-and-forth or five-day deadlines alone.  It is a matter for serious and cautious implementation of policy that's in the best interest of the United States and the best interest of the American people, and -- because that is our policy objective -- in the best interest long term of the Egyptian people.

So we're not going to rush to make determinations that could have serious consequences and impacts in our ability to help bring about a positive result here in a very difficult and challenging situation.

Q    You'll just keep telling them what they ought to do?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, Bill, in your view, we either have influence or we don't.  And we are using the influence that we have and the advice that we can offer, and the collaboration with allies and partners that we can bring about, to help the Egyptian people and the Egyptian authorities proceed along a path towards democracy and the restoration of democratically elected civilian government. 

We'll see how that process works out.  But our focus is on reaching a desired result that's in the interest of the United States and in the interest of the Egyptian people.

Q    You also spoke earlier in this briefing about the change in views, the change in momentum on the immigration issue.  And yet, if you look at the Republican caucus, the percentage of Hispanics in those districts is about 10 percent on average, and most of them have at least three-quarters of the population of their voters as white people.  I mean, where are you going to make progress there?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I certainly -- I assume you're not suggesting that Anglos or that white people don't support immigration reform.  There’s ample evidence to the contrary, A.

Q    I'm suggesting that there is no price to pay for most of those members --

MR. CARNEY:  I'm going to leave the political analysis to others, you, but also to Republican political professionals who have made the analysis about the potential highly negative long-term effect of opposing immigration reform on the Republican Party. 

I think that if you talk to the business community and the law enforcement community and the faith community about immigration reform, communities that have strong relationships with Republican leaders and Republican rank-and-file members in the Republican Party, you will hear support for immigration reform on the merits, the substantive policy merits, as well as when it comes to the political implications. 
 
And that's what I said earlier.  I mean, if, as I've seen, the issue here is whether a handful of Republicans in certain districts are worried about getting challenged from the far right and that that’s going to be the reason why Republicans block comprehensive immigration reform, with all its benefits to the economy, with all its benefits to our businesses and all its benefits to our people across the country, that will be a choice they make.  But we don't believe in the end that that's the choice that will be made.  We believe that comprehensive immigration reform can and will become law.

Wendell, it’s your turn.

Q    What do you make of Senator Harkin’s assertion that the President does not have the authority to delay implementation?

MR. CARNEY:  My understanding is that's obviously not the case.  I would refer --

Q    What is obviously not the case?

MR. CARNEY:  The ability to postpone the deadline is clear and --

Q    Did the President ask for a ruling from counsel -- the White House Counsel?

MR. CARNEY:  Wendell, again, I invite you to read the Federal Register and all the examples of -- I know that would be a lot to ask, but the --

Q    -- to ask of me.

MR. CARNEY:  Yes, exactly.  (Laughter.)  No, but the fact of the matter is this is not unusual, and it is done -- it is evidence of the kind of flexibility and deference to the concerns and interests of, in this case, a small percentage of American businesses with more than 50 employees that you would think Republicans would support.  Because you know and I know that their concern is not that we delay the implementation of an aspect of this law, one provision of it -- it’s that they want to try everything they can to undermine the implementation of this law and the reception by the American people of the benefits that they would gain from this law -- even though it has been passed by both houses of Congress, it has been signed into law by the President, and has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

So the issue here is the ongoing political efforts reflected in the roughly 40 votes to repeal that we've seen in the House of Representatives, as if there were no other issues that they could be working on.  And it’s just not -- it’s not serious and it doesn’t reflect -- what you don't hear from Republicans is, you know what, this is what we should be doing to reform our health care system, to provide security to the American people who worry about getting kicked off their insurance, security to young Americans who want the ability, as the Affordable Care Act affords them, to stay on their parents’ insurance policy.  You don't hear that from Republicans.  All they say is do away with Obamacare because it’s Obamacare.

Q    But I’m asking you about a Democrat who says you cannot delay that provision of the law.

MR. CARNEY:  I know you and Jon are pretending that this is about a Democrat.  I don't -- I have not --

Q    You don’t take Tom Harkin seriously?

MR. CARNEY:  We absolutely do, but I’m -- what I’m saying we --

Q    He expressed concern --

MR. CARNEY:  I’m sure we will have conversations with Senator Harkin, but the fact of the matter is we are confident that the ability to postpone a deadline is available to and clear in the implementation of this law.  And I’m sure we will have conversations with senators who are seriously interested in the implementation of the law.

What we do not take seriously is the ongoing nihilistic efforts by Republicans to undermine a law that has been signed and upheld by the Supreme Court, an effort that has the result of -- if it were to be successful -- of depriving millions and millions of Americans of access to insurance and the benefits that are available to them through the Affordable Care Act. 

Q    Yes, Jay, on the question of trust, a lot of House Republicans are telling us -- Eric Cantor has been talking about this, Tom Cole and others -- that there’s a trust problem.  They do not trust this President to implement border security for a pathway to citizenship.  They want something more concrete.  And they're worried about this health mandate decision, basically saying that why wouldn’t he just suspend the eVerify mandate, for example.  What can you do to -- what can the President do to get that trust gap closed?

MR. CARNEY:  Okay, this is coming from people who have voted 40 times to repeal the entire law, so let’s be clear about that.  There is not an interest in implementing Obamacare among House Republican leaders.  You don't have to take it from me, just listen to what they’ve said, right?  So this is not a serious concern of theirs.  They are trying to make some -- trying to gain some political traction out of the simple deferment of a deadline for one aspect of the Affordable Care Act in response to the concerns of business as we implement the rest of the law.

Q    Well, these Republicans are talking about immigration --

MR. CARNEY:  And you used health care as an example in the broad issue of trust.

Q    They are using it --

MR. CARNEY:  When it comes to immigration reform, true or untrue:  Has by every metric reasonably put forward by experts on this issue border security improved under President Obama?  The answer is true.  Yes, it has.

So the President has demonstrated through deed, not just words, his commitment to enhanced border security.  It’s happened.  And he has demonstrated by his support for the enormous increase in resources for even greater enhancement of border security placed into the Senate immigration reform bill that he supports even further improvements in our border security.  I mean, that's just a fact.  I mean, you can pretend that it’s not because you want to find a way to do the wrong thing, or you can acknowledge the progress that's been made on border security as Senator McCain has said.  Senator McCain has said anybody who is out there claiming that there is not enough border security in the Senate bill is not really concerned about border security because it’s just not true.

Q    Can you ensure that Republicans who are worried about this, who are bringing up the health mandate, that the President would enforce on time the new eVerify mandate, other border security measures?

MR. CARNEY:  The President supports the Senate immigration bill.  He supports -- the bill represents the priorities that he put forward two years ago.  And one of the top four priorities that he insisted be in any comprehensive immigration reform bill was enhanced border security.  So, absolutely, he would do everything he can, as he has for the first four and a half years of his presidency, to enhance our border security.  And he’s got the record to prove it.

Q    Well, they’re also worried about an immigration where he’s not enforcing the law with regard to young immigrants.

MR. CARNEY:  I mean, they either are for immigration reform or they're not.  They're either for it or they're not.  The bipartisan group in the Senate worked extremely hard on this effort through a process of compromise and collaboration.  And what we saw was a piece of legislation, in an environment that is very difficult when it comes to political polarization, clear the Senate with a substantial bipartisan majority.  That doesn't happen every day on these big issues, as you know.  And if they believe that Marco Rubio isn’t serious about border enforcement, and John McCain and Jeff Flake and all the other Republicans who worked on this and voted for it in the Senate, then they ought to say so. 

This is a serious bill that represents bipartisan compromise, the kind of bipartisan compromise that the American people say they want out of Washington.  And it has the backing of business, it has the backing of the faith communities, it has the backing of law enforcement.  It provides enormous economic benefits to the American people, and it’s the right thing to do.

I think I said Anita.  Yes.

Q    I have two issues.  First I wanted to ask you about the insider threat program, which the administration -- which would stem from an executive order in 2011.

MR. CARNEY:  This is one of your things where you ask me, like, it’s a stump the Press Secretary question?  Go ahead.

Q    No.  I mean, it’s been written about.  I asked you about it a couple of weeks ago.  You were unfamiliar.  I assumed that you would familiarize yourself with it.

MR. CARNEY:  I went to Africa, but go ahead.

Q    I went to Africa, too.  (Laughter.)  I wondered if the President would be -- I have a second question.  But on the first, I just wondered if the President believes that having federal workers spy on each other will prevent national security leaks, as this program calls for, particularly when --

MR. CARNEY:  Anita, I confess that I did not go read the McClatchy story.  I promise I will do that and I’ll have some sort of response to you.

Q    It’s not just us.  Others have written --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I’m sure there is.  I haven’t read those stories.  I just don’t have --

Q    And it doesn’t matter about the story.  Okay, that’s fine.  Skip the story.

MR. CARNEY:  But again, you’re asking me a question based on a program that I haven’t --

Q    I’m asking about --

MR. CARNEY:  But hold on, you’re asking me to respond to -- to comment on a program that I just haven’t spent a lot of time reading about.

Q    But forget the story.  I’m asking you to comment on a program that’s an administration program.

MR. CARNEY:  Right, and I confess, even though you and I both went to Africa, that I haven’t educated myself on it.  So I would rather not respond.

Q    Okay.

Q    She stumped you.

MR. CARNEY:  She stumped me.  She got me.

Q    I stumped you.  Well, now I’m going to ask you a second question. 

Q    Dinner for two.

MR. CARNEY:  Is that what the price is?  (Laughter.)

Q    Usually. 

MR. CARNEY:  All right, I’m going to answer.

Q    I assume I get another question since you didn’t answer that one.

MR. CARNEY:  Okay.  (Laughter.)  I did answer it honestly, which is I don’t have an answer for you right now.  (Laughter.)

Q    Switching gears to immigration, when the President saw President Bush in Africa, I know that they didn’t speak publicly.  But as you know, President Bush spoke today about immigration -- obviously, you probably were in favor of those comments.  He’s now spoken twice in the last week.  I wondered if they had talked about that or if they -- in his interview?  I wondered if they’d spoken about that, or if that was something that they both sort of talked about he might do that.

MR. CARNEY:  President Obama and President Bush did speak before they appeared at the -- for the moment of silence at the embassy in Tanzania.  I don’t have a readout of the contents of that conversation, but they did have a conversation prior to that public appearance. 

Q    Did you know that they were -- he was going to speak about immigration?

MR. CARNEY:  I read about it in the press, so -- yes.

Q    Thanks, Jay. 

Q    Wait a minute.

Q    Jay, just following up quickly on that, does the President think that former President Bush’s comments today may have helped move the needle forward to pressure House Republicans to act on immigration reform?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, President Bush speaks for himself, and his comments today reflect his long support, I believe, for immigration reform done well.  I think he said that the system doesn’t work, the system is broken, and it needs to be fixed.  Well, that’s a position he has long held, to his credit, and that he pushed for as President.  And we’ve long noted in our effort for immigration reform that two of the most prominent Republicans out there -- the former President and the former nominee for President, John McCain and George W. Bush -- are high-profile advocates, and have been, for comprehensive immigration reform. 

So what impact anybody’s comments about it and about the merit of immigration reform will have, I think, remains to be seen or can be evaluated by you and your colleagues.  But we certainly welcome everyone’s comments in support of it.

Q    And I want to go back to ENDA for a moment.  The President is working on immigration reform, the student loan bill.  Where does getting ENDA passed fall on his list of legislative priorities?  How much urgency will he bring to it?

MR. CARNEY:  We have long supported past -- well, I mean, we have long supported comprehensive nondiscrimination legislation that is reflected in what the bill that passed the Senate committee today.  And I think our support is helpful to that process, and we’ll continue to push it forward.

Q    Will we see the type of public statements that we saw, for example, today on immigration reform?  What will he do specifically to get this -- to the Senate?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I don’t -- again, as I said earlier, if you talk about your strategy in advance, you’re not a very good strategist.  So we have supported it.  We have made our support clear for it.  We’ll continue to work with Congress in the effort to translate that support into law, to work to build on the bipartisan passage out of committee of ENDA legislation, and hopefully that process will result in a law that the President can sign.

Q    And if the President believes in this, why not sign the executive order and put more pressure on Republicans to act?

MR. CARNEY:  We believe, and I’ve said this all along, that the President believes and we believe that as we’ve looked at this, that the best path forward was through comprehensive -- more comprehensive legislation, and that is the path we’ve been on and which we believe has helped achieve the passage with bipartisan support through a committee today.

Q    The people who support the executive order and this legislation would say that in the meantime, while this is going through Congress --

MR. CARNEY:  I understand, and I’ve --

Q    -- members of the LGBT community are being discriminated against.  So --

MR. CARNEY:  Kristen, I know you’ve been here when I’ve answered the question at least a half dozen or a dozen times. 

I mean, we understand that and we have had the position we’ve had.  And that position -- some criticism of that has been, well, there’s not going to be progress on ENDA, but in fact we did see progress today, and we welcome that.  We’re a long way from the end here, but we welcome the progress we’ve seen today.

April, I did say -- yes.

Q    Yes, Jay, the President yesterday and today is basically meeting with his base.  He’s somewhat singing to the choir on immigration reform with the CBC and CHC.  But what is he asking them to do when it comes to this?  Because it seems like the efforts before have not, I guess, garnished any types of passages yet.  What is he asking them to do?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think that the -- I think two things.  The contents of the conversations he had yesterday and today are not limited to immigration reform.  But every voice that supports this that’s expressed out there helps the cause.  And he welcomes the efforts of lawmakers in the House who actively support immigration reform and want to see the House act on it and act on it soon.  So that -- I think that reflects what he was asking House members in these meetings to do. 

But I think you’re right, for those who support it, he is preaching to the choir here.  There’s been a lot of helpful advocacy by Democratic House members, and we think that is useful to the cause of getting this done.

Q    So since you said that the meetings were not limited to immigration and you announced the stakeout with the CHC folks, what happened in the CHC meeting?  What was said?

MR. CARNEY:  I was not in the meeting.  I know that this was one of the topics that they discussed.  I’m sure they talked about other issues.  I know yesterday with the CBC they talked about minimum wage and ways to move forward on jobs and the economy, in addition to immigration reform and some other issues.  This was -- these meetings are not limited to one legislative agenda item. 

Q    Well, with the internal readout -- I know some of your people were in the meeting -- did they say that, like the CBC, was it --

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I don't know that we put out an internal readout yet.  But when we do, we'll try to include all the topics that they discussed. 

Q    Well, I just wanted to find out --

MR. CARNEY:  But I wasn't in the meeting.  So I just haven’t gotten -- before I came in here, I didn't get a readout.  Although I'm going to go out on a limb and say that immigration reform was discussed. 

Q    Wow.  (Laughter.)

MR. CARNEY:  Pretty good, right?  Did you -- all right, I'll do the last one. 

Q    Tremendous apprehension in Israel, obviously -- in Israel, over the Egyptian situation.  We've seen the President's conversations with Qatar, with UAE.  We've seen no conversation with Netanyahu.  Can we expect a conversation, high level?

MR. CARNEY:  Look, we have an enormously close and cooperative and collaborative relationship with Israel, both with regards to our bilateral relationship, but we are in constant communication with the Israelis about all the events in the broader region.  And you can be sure that those contacts and those discussions are ongoing.  I don't have a presidential-level communication to preview for you.  But as I think I've said in the past, there is no leader with whom he has met or spoken more often with than Prime Minister Netanyahu since President Obama has been in office.  I certainly expect those conversations to continue. 

Q    Two quick questions if you'd indulge me.

MR. CARNEY:  Yes, last two. 

Q    The first one is the Egyptian Ambassador, the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, has become something of a lightning rod there.  Does she still enjoy the President's full confidence?  Does he believe that she is still an effective advocate for U.S. interests in Egypt?

MR. CARNEY:  Absolutely, yes.  She is an excellent career diplomat, has served admirably in a variety of posts prior to Egypt and Pakistan.  She is doing a great job.  And I think that what some of -- the suggestion that an ambassador to a country by engaging with the government is somehow picking sides misunderstands the function that ambassadors serve.  Of course, Ambassador Patterson engaged with the Egyptian government that was led by President Morsi.  That's part of her job.

And she is engaging with the authorities in power now.  And she'll engage with the authorities in power now.  And she'll engage with what we hope will be the next democratically elected civilian government when that government is in place.  She is an expert in the area and a supremely skilled diplomat. 

Q    And then also on Egypt, you've made the administration’s position on aid very clear.  However, reports are that there are four F-16s that are due to be delivered in the near future to Egypt.  Does the administration believe that you should move ahead with the schedules as they were planned before this upheaval happened, or would you massage schedules at least until you know what kind of government is going to be flying those jets?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, on the broader question of aid, you're correct that it's our view that we should not hastily change our aid programs.  I'm not aware of the schedule for delivery of certain assistance.  I certainly haven't heard of any changes, but I would also ask the Defense Department.  But our general position is that as we evaluate the very fluid situation in Egypt and as we impress upon the Egyptian authorities our belief that they need to make progress towards a transition back to a civilian, democratically elected government, and that they need to do so in an inclusive way that allows for participation by all parties and individuals, we will evaluate those circumstances as we look at designations and their impact on our assistance programs.  But on the specific delivery of specific items, I would ask the Defense Department. 

Q    Have I stumped you on this?  Do I get dinner for two as well?

MR. CARNEY:  Oh, dinner for everyone. 

Q    Thank you, Jay.

MR. CARNEY:  At McDonald's.  (Laughter.)  Take care.

END
1:53 P.M. EDT

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