The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton aboard Air Force One en route Manchester, New Hampshire, 2/2/10

12:22 P.M. EST

MR. BURTON:  Special guest, Karen Mills, administrator of the Small Business Administration.  All right, so, just for starters, when we -- is everybody ready to go?  Okay.  So, New Hampshire -- well, first of all, aboard Air Force One, we have, of course, Administrator Mills here, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen is on board.  When we hit the ground, Governor John Lynch and Mayor Theodore Gatsas of Manchester will greet us.  Then we'll go on to a tour of ARC Energy.

Q    ARC?

MR. BURTON:  ARC.  What they do there is they're pioneering a new manufacturing process for ultra-efficient LED lights at affordable prices.  Then on to the town hall at Nashua High School North.  There's about 1,600 folks who will be in the audience.  Six hundred tickets were given to the school and local officials to hand out; 1,000 tickets were made available online, first come, first serve.  Representatives Hodes and Shea-Porter will be there, along with Mayor Donnalee Lozeau of Nashau; the State Treasurer Catherine Provencher will be there; State Attorney General Michael Delaney.  The President will be introduced by Tim Dining, the President and CEO of Greenerd Press and Manufacturing, which is a small business that designs and builds hydraulic presses.

The President will talk a little bit about what he's doing to take on the urgent economic and jobs crisis that we're in.  He'll, of course, talk a little bit about the small business proposal.  And on bipartisanship, citing the retreat last week, the President will point out that there are plenty of places where the two parties agree, and a little bit about the responsibility of both parties to work together to solve some of the urgent problems that we've got facing us.

Q    He's taking Q and A?

MR. BURTON:  He sure is.  He sure is.  And with that, I just want to hand it over to Karen Mills here, who is going to talk a little bit about the proposal.  Step right up here.

ADMINISTRATOR MILLS:  Nice to see you guys.  How are you?

Q    Good to see you.

Q    So what's it going to take for some of this money to actually get into people's hands?  It's a proposal now -- a while, I assume.

ADMINISTRATOR MILLS:  Right.  As you know, small businesses are really the focus that we're taking in terms of job growth.  And one of the issues is how we get more capital, more lending, into the hands of small business.  We know there's a small business lending gap.  We've made a lot of strides at the SBA.  We've got $19 billion out with the Recovery Act, and the question is how to close the rest of the gap.

Today you're going to hear about one of the major pieces of that plan.  When you look at what's causing the problem, the problem is that small community banks might lack capital.  And how are we going to get them to get more money out to small businesses?  Well, this $30 billion, which will be in a separate lending facility, will be available to small banks to increase their amount of capital.  When you put in $30 billion of capital you usually get out more than a multiplier of that in loans.

So some banks don't have enough capital, and the small business will come up to them and say, you know, "I'm a good business, you've always lent to me, I need a loan."  And they'll say, "Can't do it right now."  So this will enable banks to have the capital to make those loans.

Other banks say, "I have capital, I just don't want to take the risk," and that's where the 90 percent guarantee and the continued Recovery Act programs at the SBA come in.  We have been able to say to banks, "You've got a good customer here.  We will help you with this guarantee with higher loan limits, the $5 million loan limits, so that you can then reach out and close that part of the gap." 

So it's a two-part strategy, hand in glove.

Q    Are there going to be restrictions that come with the $30 billion to the banks?

ADMINISTRATOR MILLS:  In this proposal we have recognized that small banks are not interested in borrowing from TARP.  They are uncomfortable with the TARP stigmas or the TARP restrictions, and we have proposed here to Congress that we create a separate lending facility that is not affiliated with TARP and does not carry any of those issues that have prevented small banks from making -- taking that availability and lending it out.  We got to get them capitalized so that they can get the businesses the capital they need.

Q    What's the process?  Is this a separate bill?  Is it ready to go?  Have you talked to people on the Hill about this?

ADMINISTRATOR MILLS:  There is a lot of interest on the Hill in solving this problem, and quite a deep understanding that part of the problem is lack of availability to community banks.  People view community banks as integral to this.  You know, there's about 8,000 banks out there, and most of them are those banks on Main Street that have the connections to the small business.  So there's a lot of support for helping community banks, and a lot of understanding that capital is part of the issue.

MR. BURTON:  All right, thanks a lot, Karen.  Is there anything else for Karen before she --

Q    Thank you.

ADMINISTRATOR MILLS:  Good, thank you.

Q    Bill, China had some tough warnings about the President possibly meeting with the Dalai Lama.  Does the President intend to meet?  Is there a time, date set for that?

MR. BURTON:  The President told China leaders -- China's leaders during his trip last year that he would meet with the Dalai Lama, and he intends to do so.  The Dalai Lama is an internationally respected religious and cultural leader, and the President will meet with him in that capacity. 

To be clear, the U.S. considers Tibet to be a part of China.  We have human rights concerns about the treatment of Tibetans.  We urge the government of China to protect the unique cultural and religious traditions of Tibet. 

As the President has expressed, we expect that our relationship with China is mature enough where we can work on issues of mutual concern, such as climate, the global economy, and nonproliferation, and discuss frankly and candidly those issues where we disagree.  The President is committed to building a positive, comprehensive, and cooperative relationship with China.

Q    A date?

MR. BURTON:  We'll announce a date as it comes closer.

Q    Thanks for dropping by.

MR. BURTON:  Well, thank you so much for your time.  (Laughter.) 

Q    NGA meeting -- what's the President's goals in speaking to the governors later this week, maybe tomorrow?

MR. BURTON:  The President will talk about the economy and energy issues and we'll have more for you on that later today.

Q    Bill, any response to -- Politico has a story out about the CIA moonlighting for corporations.  Any response from the President on that?

MR. BURTON:  Well, with the salary freeze that the President put in place, I've actually been moonlighting as a bartender at Cap Lounge.  No, I -- this is something that the CIA is very particular about and I would refer specific questions to them.  But, no, it's not something that the President is concerned about.

Q    The thousand tickets that were available online, how were those distributed?  Is it first come, first serve?

MR. BURTON:  Yes.

Q    Do you guys -- I mean, everyone was interested in the GOP town hall and that exchange and the parry with the President.  Any sense that we're going to see that today, or any hopes that we'd kind of see that engagement today with the audience?

MR. BURTON:  Well, I think -- for folks who have seen the President at town halls and in all the sort of public venues where he's taking questions, he works hard to be as candid as possible about the urgent challenges that we face and about what he's doing to take them on.  He's very transparent about his decision-making process, why he chooses one thing and why he doesn't choose another.  And this is an opportunity to talk directly with folks in New Hampshire and all over the country about some of these key issues.

So I can't promise that people will be as engaged in this around the country as they were in the GOP caucus meeting last Friday, but I -- there's always a lot of chance when you're in a town hall with 1,600 people.

Q    Is there any update on when he's going to create the deficit reduction commission, the executive order, issue the executive order?

MR. BURTON:  This is something that we're of course working with members of the House and Senate of both parties on Capitol Hill on.  I don't have an update on the timeline for you, but this is something that people of both parties support and something that we hope to make some progress on very soon.

Q    Thanks, Bill.

Q    All right.  Thanks, guys.

END
12:31 P.M. EST

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