Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 8/2/2011
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:35 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Okay. Thank you all for being here. Before I take your questions, I have an announcement.
On September 11, 2011, the President and Mrs. Obama will join with the rest of the American people in marking the 10th anniversary of a day that we will never forget. The President will participate in commemorations at each of the three locations where we lost so many loved ones: in lower Manhattan, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon in Northern Virginia.
Throughout the day, he will pay tribute to those we lost, honor the Americans who responded on that day and who served in harm’s way over the last decade. He will underscore the strength, resilience and unity of the American people.
Further details about the President’s schedule will be announced in the coming weeks.
On September 10th, the day prior, the Vice President will attend the dedication of the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Further details about the Vice President’s plans will also be announced in coming weeks.
And with that I will take your questions.
Ben Feller of the Associated Press.
Q Thank you, Jay. On the debt legislation, when does the President plan to sign it? I assume as soon as possible. And how do you plan to let us know?
MR. CARNEY: You don’t think you should just wait for a few days?
MR. CARNEY: Yes, as soon as possible. I’m sure we will let you know. There’s a process by which legislation, having passed both houses, makes its way down here, down Pennsylvania Avenue, and lands on his desk. And we will let you know when it’s signed.
Q By hand or autopen?
THE PRESIDENT: I believe it will be by hand.
Q We heard the President talk quite extensively out there about the need for balance, the need for tax increases on wealthier Americans and why. I’m wondering, though, for anybody who’s been following the debate, why they should have faith that that’s going to happen in this next round. I don’t want to get into the whole debate about the trigger, but I’m just saying that that argument we’ve heard for weeks, and it didn’t happen in the first round. Why would people have faith it’s going to happen next time?
MR. CARNEY: Well, it’s an excellent question, and there are a lot of reasons why Americans may have lost a little bit of faith in the process here in Washington as they watched what for much of the time seemed like a circus that wasn’t producing anything but stalemate.
In the end, however, as the President noted, Republicans and Democrats and the President came together and reached a compromise that averted a crisis and will do some good things in terms of reducing our deficit that will be positive for our economy.
As to the next step, the second stage, the need to move beyond just cuts in discretionary spending to go at some of the issues that really drive our debt -- entitlements and tax revenues or spending through the tax code -- you’re right, these are hard issues, and we didn’t get there in the grand compromise that the President was negotiating in good faith with the Speaker of the House.
A reason perhaps for some optimism is that while in the end we were not able to achieve that, there were great strides made in terms of making the case for why balance is so essential and why, if you really want to get ahold of our deficits and do something about our long-term debt, you have to deal with revenues as well as entitlements.
Now, I would note that after the Gang of Six released its framework, its proposal, that nearly 20 Republican senators endorsed that approach in addition to obviously the many Democrats who did. I would note that the Speaker of the House, by his own account, put revenues on the table in his negotiations with the President of the United States.
There are many other voices in the Congress and certainly outside of the Congress that recognize -- on the Republican side -- that recognize the need to take a balanced approach. I noticed in a statement that Senator Graham made just today, probably in the last hour or two, where he said that he certainly thinks we can close loopholes and deal with things like itemized deductions in the name of reducing the deficit.
So it doesn’t mean it will be easy, but we do have a mechanism in place, through the super committee, the so-called super committee, special committee that will be set up by this legislation, and through the incentive placed on Congress by the so-called trigger to hopefully reach a situation whether Congress will recognize that the best way to tackle this problem, really the only fair way to tackle this problem, is by approaching it with balance.
Q One quick follow on that.
Q Can I follow on Ben’s question?
MR. CARNEY: I’m going to move along the line here.
Q One quick follow on that committee you just mentioned. We’re already hearing some rumblings from Republicans that they won’t pick members who are inclined to go for tax increases. My question is, does the President indirectly, in your view, have any say over who gets picked for those committees? Will he try to have some say?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the authority is vested, if you will, in the leaders of Congress to appoint these members -- bicameral, bipartisan membership of the committee. The President will obviously -- has made his opinion known and will make his opinion known that the -- it’s important to take this seriously and to appoint members who will try to get to a product that can emerge from the committee and get a “yes” vote from Congress. And balance is required to achieve that.
And this is not -- to decide otherwise, to stack the membership with folks who don’t want to get anything done you might think is a fine political tactic if there is no consequence to that. But there is, obviously, which is the very onerous actions that would be forced on the Congress by the sequestration -- forgive me for using that word -- by the trigger.
So we hope and believe that there will be pressure on Congress to take this seriously, on the leaders to appoint members who take it seriously, and who respond not just to what we say, but what the American people are saying, what some of the very Republicans that I just mentioned are saying, which is that we are -- if we are serious, as many people claim they are, about getting our deficits under control and doing more than just cutting discretionary spending, then we have to approach these big, thorny issues: entitlements and revenues. And the way to do that is through the committee.
Q Jay, you mentioned yesterday extending the payroll tax, and the President alluded to that in his statement today as well. How do you expect to do that with this Congress?
MR. CARNEY: How do I expect to get this Congress -- how do we expect to get this Congress to pass a tax code?
Q How do you expect to get this through the Congress?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t have a legislative strategy to lay out to you -- that Congress obviously acted to extend the payroll tax cut last December for this year. That decision has resulted in a thousand extra dollars in the pockets of every American -- typical, average American family. That’s obviously a very positive thing for those families as they deal with making ends meet, and for the economy, because that money that they spend, that extra money that ends up in their paychecks by and large gets spent and put back into the economy, which helps generate jobs and business, and that’s very important.
So I think the same arguments that made it compelling last year will make it compelling this fall, when the President takes up that case again.
Q But do you see bipartisan support for doing that?
MR. CARNEY: I think there -- we expect there will be bipartisan support for doing that, yes.
Q The President mentioned in his comments just now that he’d be speaking about more measures to help businesses hire and expand. Can you give us a clue?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’ll let him do that. I think he will certainly be talking a great deal about the need to grow our economy and increase hiring, create more jobs, and that will be something you hear a lot about from him in these coming weeks and months.
Q But if you had more measures, wouldn’t we have seen them by now? Are there big, new measures that you have planned?
MR. CARNEY: Well, that suggests that everything -- every idea you have, you have on day one and you implement on day two. And obviously that’s not the case, and we have a dynamic, changing situation, both in the economy and in our politics. And so you’re constantly thinking about and putting forward new ideas to address this number one priority, which is growing the economy and creating jobs. So, no, I think the answer to that is no. And we will have more ideas to put forward.
He also mentioned very clearly about the things that are already up on Capitol Hill that can be acted upon immediately, in terms of the trade deals that have already been negotiated that will support or create something like 70,000 American jobs; the need to get patent reform through to allow -- to free up -- cut some red tape and free up innovation. And then obviously a measure that we believe will have bipartisan support to create an infrastructure bank to leverage the public loans to private sector companies that want to help us rebuild our bridges and highways and airports.
So these are things that Congress can act on, either right away or very quickly after they return from recess, and we look forward to them doing that.
Q It just seems like after this big bipartisan struggle we’ve seen over the last weeks and months that trying to get Congress to pass an extension of unemployment benefits -- which Republicans will probably call more stimulus and possibly the payroll tax cut as well -- is going to be a hard sell.
MR. CARNEY: I don’t think there’s anything that we assume is an easy sell in Washington because these are tough issues. But we believe there will be bipartisan support for doing the absolutely right thing, which in this case is extending a tax cut for working Americans that will help them deal with high energy prices, but will also give them more money to spend, which in turn spurs economic activity, allows businesses to make decisions to hire more people and has a very positive effect overall on the economy.
So we need to do everything we can in Washington to make sure that we’re taking measures that help the economy and help Americans and help them find work.
Now, as the President said, it should not take a crisis to get us to come together to do the things that we need to do to help the economy. And he looks forward to further bipartisan cooperation in the coming weeks and months.
Q I couldn’t help but notice the President’s tone in his remarks; he seemed a little disgusted with Washington, D.C. And -- no, you don’t think that’s fair?
MR. CARNEY: I think that the American people rightfully were appalled by some of what they saw -- the willingness to even hint at the possibility of allowing the United States to default for the first time in its history in order to advance specific agenda items that had already been rejected by a majority in Congress and certainly a majority in the American public.
Now, the fact is that in the end, as we calmly predicted would be the case, cooler heads prevailed and compromise was achieved. The frustration that we all have is that it shouldn’t take something this dramatic to force that kind of compromise, because in the end everyone is here for the same reason, which is to make Washington work in a way that is good from the country and good for the American people.
Q Okay, I revise my remarks to “frustrated,” instead of “disgusted.”
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not sure that I -- go ahead and ask your question.
Q You don’t take issue with disgusted?
MR. CARNEY: No, I do. I do. I think we’ve expressed our frustration with this process -- he has, and others have, on numerous occasions.
Q Anyway, my question: Is the President -- has he learned any lessons from this experience that will help him deal with this Congress perhaps any better? And does he accept any responsibility for the “circus” that we’ve seen in the last month?
MR. CARNEY: Jake, I think that this President from very early on in this process made abundantly clear his willingness to compromise, his willingness to accept the fact that he would not in this environment, in this divided government, get everything that he wanted; that whatever the end product would be would not be the ideal legislation that he, as President, would have written, or that Democrats would have written in the Congress. So I certainly don’t think -- and I think this view is shared by a majority of the American people -- don’t think that he was unyielding or unwilling to compromise. Now --
Q The last poll I saw showed that a majority of Americans thought the President needed to compromise more, but more thought that Republicans needed to compromise more.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that reflects a general view of his approach and why people thought that he was certainly more willing and demonstrated his willingness to compromise.
So beyond that -- there’s a lot of time for after-action reports and evaluations on this process. We, through every stage, including the talks led by the Vice President, including the negotiations conducted by the President with the Speaker of the House, approached them in good faith and with a willingness to compromise. And we think that that good faith and willingness helped, in the end, allow for everyone the come together and achieve a result that, while not ideal, did avert a crisis and did allow us to make a significant down payment on the need to reduce the deficit.
Q So no responsibility and no lessons yet?
MR. CARNEY: You can characterize it however you want, but I answered the question.
Q There was a lot of bitter language on Capitol Hill yesterday, especially by some liberal Democrats who said things like they felt pick-pocketed by Republicans in this deal, and that the nation was being held hostage. Harry Reid -- Senator Reid just said on the floor before the vote, “The Tea Party direction of this Congress in the last few months has been very, very disconcerting.” Does the President agree with that view?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that the process that created a situation where -- I mean, we’ve been through -- I mean, in some ways re-living it is something I don’t particularly want to do. But if you remember, when we encountered this situation where the House, in particular, was passing measures that did not have any chance of getting through the Senate, that did not have the support of the American people, that did not have any chance of being signed into law by this President, in the end -- doing it once to make a point is pretty standard operating procedure in Washington. Doing it again and again with a deadline looming before us that could have resulted in economic catastrophe seemed to us unhelpful.
So in that sense we would share the -- without labeling the members or categorizing them -- simply that there needed to be, and eventually there was, a recognition by a majority of both Republicans and Democrats that the only way out of this -- or the only way to avert this crisis was to reach a compromise, which by definition, would require each side to give.
Q Is it the so-called Tea Party direction of Congress that made this deal more challenging than past deals, in the White House’s view?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think there was certainly a sentiment held by some members of Congress, especially in the House, that -- I mean, there was certainly some slice of membership in the House who thought that default wasn’t -- that it wouldn’t matter, that they wouldn’t vote to raise the debt ceiling regardless, that we should never raise the debt ceiling. I mean, imagine -- of course, if you actually understand what the debt ceiling is and what it -- raising it is about, which is paying the bills we have already rung up, I mean, that position is untenable and nonsensical.
So, again, without categorizing or labeling those members who had that -- who held those views that were not helpful to reaching an agreement that was good for the country, it was clearly an impediment to getting to compromise sooner than a day before the deadline.
Q Does the President sign this begrudgingly?
MR. CARNEY: No, the President believes, as he said and others have said, that this was in the end a compromise that’s good for the economy, that averted a catastrophe, that allows us to reduce -- cut the deficit by guaranteed more than $2 trillion, that does it in a way that protects our vital investments in education and research and other areas that will -- that are the foundation, really, for future job creation, and sets up a process whereby hopefully we can come together again and enact the second stage of serious deficit reduction.
So while not perfect, it’s less -- it’s a lot more than nothing, and it’s a lot more than just averting the catastrophe.
Q Did he thank any members of Congress for their votes?
MR. CARNEY: I think he, throughout this process, was appreciative to a number of members of Congress for the role they played, for their constructive ideas, for their willingness to accept less than 100 percent, but I don’t know that he’s called any members specifically post-vote to thank them, no.
Q Did he -- I didn’t notice that he thanked them in his remarks today.
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry?
Q I didn’t -- he did not -- I noticed he thanked the American people, but I notice that he didn’t -- he didn’t thank Congress or congratulate Congress on their work.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think the President’s -- I mean, there are a lot of things that aren’t in speeches. I mean, he didn’t talk about the weather either. But the fact is --
Q I asked about whether he signs it begrudgingly.
MR. CARNEY: I think I answered that question that, no, he believes that it was a suitable compromise, not what we could have done. He, as you’ve heard him say, is disappointed that we were not able to achieve something bigger. And he fought throughout this process -- cajoled, argued, tried to persuade leaders in Congress to go for something big because, remember, he made the point, and he was correct, that anything less than big would be just as hard as big. And we saw that, didn’t we? I mean, we saw how hard getting this done was. And I really think, the President thinks, that a bigger measure that addressed all of these issues at once would have been no more difficult than this ended up being, if there had been the will to put it before the Congress.
Q And just finally, does the President share the view of Senator Lamar Alexander that these spending cuts included in this do almost nothing to restructure Medicare or Social Security, which are the long-term deficit drivers?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that that is self-evident in the initial tranche of cuts, because they are limited to discretionary spending, non-defense and defense. The second stage -- I mean, it remains to be seen. The second stage will, as the special committee gets set up and begins to take on the task of putting forward a proposal -- we obviously believe that -- and I think most people believe that the issues that remain to be addressed here are entitlement reform and tax reform. So the answer is, we certainly agree with that as an obvious assessment of the initial round of cuts that are embedded in here.
And it simply makes the point that the President made today and that he’s made all along, that if you’re serious about consequential deficit reduction, the kind that affects the structural out-year fiscal outlook for the country, you need to go beyond discretionary spending. It’s simply not a substantial enough part of our budget to -- unless you’re willing to eliminate programs that are absolutely necessary and very popular. And I don’t think members of Congress want to go that route.
So you have to do it in a balanced way, because if you don’t -- I mean, if you rule out defense and you rule out revenues, as the House Republican budget did, you have to do drastic things to Medicare, Medicaid, potentially Social Security, and that’s not the right approach, we think, for the American people.
Q There were a lot of people inspired by Congresswoman Gabby Giffords showing up for the vote last night. The President had a chance to talk to her by phone; do you think she’ll be here at the White House with her husband today?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any scheduling announcements, and I don’t believe he has spoken to her by phone, but I can take that.
Q Okay. After she was shot in January, there were a lot of people in both parties, especially the President when he went to Tucson, who said enough with these ridiculous analogies and harmful metaphors and whatnot. And yesterday the Vice President was in a meeting on Capitol Hill where it sounds like some Democrats, maybe even the Vice President, used the word “terrorist” to describe some Tea Party folks affiliated with the Republican Party -- Republican lawmakers affiliated with the Tea Party. Does the President think that’s appropriate discourse?
MR. CARNEY: No he doesn’t, and neither does the Vice President. And I think the Vice President spoke to this and made clear that he didn’t say those words, and I think the congressman in question has said that he regrets using them. A number -- I think it was a product of an emotional discussion, very passionately held positions in this debate. But that does not mean that it’s appropriate, and it’s not -- the Vice President doesn’t think so; the President doesn’t think so. Any kind of comments like that are simply not conducive to the kind of political discourse that we hope to have.
Q Last thing on -- when you were talking to Jeff about various economic policies that may or may not come up, the President came to office with the philosophy of spending some money to try to get out of the recession; no need to relitigate the stimulus. You were a big part of that in the Vice President’s office. There are some who think it worked, some who thinks it doesn’t -- it did not.
But doesn’t this debt deal signal that the federal coffers are basically empty and the President is going to have a really hard time for the rest of his term really coming up with anything dramatic to make this recovery more robust. So what’s his message to the American people? Do they just have to kind of ride this out for --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think you heard some of it from the President today, and that it is simply a fact that in a time when we’re tightening our belts you have to be very careful and focused in how you invest federal money. And the President approaches it that way, and that’s why in this process he was so committed to ensuring that key investments that help create jobs, build a foundation through education or innovation, were protected. And that’s the approach he’ll take going forward.
And it’s important to remember we are all responsible -- or certainly the elected members in Washington of both parties are responsible for making decisions and choices to ensure that the economy grows and jobs are created. And it is simply not the case, by anyone’s serious economic analysis, that slicing discretionary spending is going to, by itself, ensure that we continue to grow and create jobs.
It can be helpful if it’s done carefully and if it’s done -- if things are phased in a way that it’s not harmful to growth. It can certainly, broadly, if you take those big steps, send the signal to investors that the United States government has its fiscal house in order, and that can have a very positive impact.
But there are other measures that the government can and should take, including ensuring that the regulations we pursue appropriately protect Americans -- their food and water and air -- but do not unnecessarily impinge on businesses, and things like the payroll tax cut that the President talked about today.
There are certainly -- we should not sit on our hands and say there’s nothing we can do. In fact, that would be irresponsible. And there are many things this President believes that we can continue to do to ensure that the economy grows.
Q Going back to --
MR. CARNEY: Oh, let me just say, if I could, the note that Jamie just handed me is that -- to let you know that the President has signed the bill and --
Q That was fast.
MR. CARNEY: -- turned it into law.
Q Thank you. Going back to Gabby Giffords, what was the President’s reaction when she appeared on the House floor last night?
MR. CARNEY: You know, I wasn’t with him when that happened, so I couldn’t say. But I am quite sure that he was as moved by it as anyone who was watching it was. I mean, it was a powerful moment and a wonderful moment, obviously, because of her courage, her bravery, her unbelievable perseverance and through her recovery, her commitment to service. But also it was a testament to the -- how something like that can bring everyone together after such a contentious debate. And I think it was a great moment.
As you know, the President met with Congresswoman Giffords down in Florida when he went to witness the launch of her husband’s space shuttle that, unfortunately, was scrubbed on that occasion. But I think we were all powerfully moved by that.
Q In the end, more Republicans voted -- House Republicans voted for this bill than Democrats -- 269 to 161. Does the President now have a problem with his own party?
MR. CARNEY: No. I think that we have said from the very beginning that the only way to get compromise legislation through the Congress is to accept the fact that it has to be bipartisan and that in order to be bipartisan and therefore get votes from both Democrats and Republicans you’ll likely lose votes from Democrats and Republicans on any particular measure. And he’s completely understanding on why some members might not vote for it. It’s not perfect. But he is gratified by the fact that I think half the House Democratic caucus and substantially more than half of the Senate Democratic caucus thought that this was a significantly positive compromise and an essential one, because we needed to avert this catastrophe and we needed to get some deficit reduction.
Q One of their chief concerns, obviously, is that there are no new revenues. What --
MR. CARNEY: Well, we can redebate that --
Q Without redebating it, but what was the President’s level of frustration that that wasn’t part of the final deal? Because that was --
MR. CARNEY: I think I answered this question a little bit, but the President believed that this was an opportunity to get something truly significant in the $3 to $4 trillion range of savings, deficit reduction over the course of 10 to 12 years. That would only be achievable plausibly if you did in a balanced way.
And that was the approach he took. That was the approach that he argued to leaders of Congress that should be taken. It was certainly the approach he took in his negotiations with the Speaker of the House.
He would certainly prefer if that were the legislation he had just signed today. But we don’t live in the perfect world that allows for the things that we hope to happen to happen all the time. And when it became clear that there wasn’t the necessary political will or commitment to trying to get that through, we absolutely still had to deal with this issue.
And the President then became committed to getting -- to ensuring that the compromise we did reach achieved as significant as possible amounts of deficit reduction and did it in a way that retained the need for balance, as they addressed the bigger issues and moved beyond the initial round of cuts that both sides had long previously agreed upon.
Q And just turning briefly to Somalia, I know we’re going to get some information about that today, but can you speak briefly about what the United States is going to do in Somalia?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, the United States is I think the largest donor. Yesterday the United Nations issued a warning that the famine is spreading and the situation is getting worse.
The U.N. has updated the number of people affected throughout the Horn of Africa from 11 million people to 12.4 million as conditions spread.
The United States remains absolutely committed to assisting the people of Somalia during this time. In the fact of the extreme humanitarian needs, coupled with an unpredictable situation on the ground, the U.S. government has issued new guidance to allow more flexibility to provide a wider range of aid to a larger number of areas in need. This new guidance should help clarify that aid workers who are partnering with the U.S. government to help save lives under difficult and dangerous conditions are not in conflict with U.S. laws and regulations.
nd I think you understand why that is because al-Shabaab controls so much of the territory, and allowing for this flexibility gives the assurance to these aid workers that they can get that aid to the people who need it and not worry that they’re operating in conflict with U.S. laws and regulations.
MR. CARNEY: Yes, Carol.
Q Does the President think that this debate and what it exposed about the U.S.’s governing system has done any damage to the U.S.’s reputation abroad, either with ambassadors or other foreign leaders? And does he feel there’s a need to reach out or do any repairing in that regard?
MR. CARNEY: Well, not that I have heard him express. I think that most folks around the world who were watching this expected Washington to resolve this because it would have been so unthinkable had we not. And while we certainly saw some negative impact caused by this, by the doubt about whether or not the United States would deal with this and avert economic catastrophe by allowing us to default, in the end, the specter of that happening compelled the leaders in Washington to come together and achieve a compromise and to send the signal that Washington will not let the unthinkable happen, and that we will continue to pay our obligations and honor our debt. That’s very important.
So I think nobody believes it was a good idea to wait until the very end to make it clear that that would happen. We remained optimistic throughout that it would happen. The leaders of Congress of both parties I think helpfully reiterated that they believed in the end we would absolutely do this; we would not let our borrowing authority expire and risk default. But there’s no question it was a messy process, and the messiness of the process was not particularly helpful.
Q Can I follow up, Jay?
MR. CARNEY: Let me get Carol, and then, yes.
Q So -- I mean, I ask because you guys had said all along this can’t go to the last minute, we can’t have debt countdown clocks, and we’ve had all that now.
MR. CARNEY: We did have a number of debt countdown clocks, yes.
Q We’ve still --
MR. CARNEY: They’ve got to be off the air now, right?
Q So I guess does he feel the need to offer some reassurance to U.S. allies and people that --
MR. CARNEY: Look, I think that we can say now with great authority that the United States honors its obligations and pays its bills. We remain the safest of safe harbors, and we -- and the action taken by Congress yesterday and today, signed into law by the President moments ago, that extends our debt ceiling through 2012, demonstrates that we will continue to pay our -- meet our obligations and pay our bills, and that that is a very good thing.
Q Just one more really quickly. As he moves to the next phase of the deficit reduction battle, talking about jobs, will we see the President employ the calling of members of Congress, the tweeting, and all the things he did in the last week in the debt ceiling to really push his agenda?
MR. CARNEY: I can’t really say what tactics he or we will employ to try to persuade Congress to act on different measures going forward. I mean, I think that it’s important to -- you need to make your case. And he will continue to do that in all the ways that he has in the past. And predicting precisely how that will play out is hard to do.
Q That’s what you guys felt was successful?
MR. CARNEY: Well, it was successful. It absolutely was successful. But it was successful in part because the American public was concerned and paying very close attention to what was happening here. And the data was overwhelming that they were frustrated by the process and wanted Washington to function and to compromise.
Q Do you think -- my colleague was referring to sort of a dysfunction here. Do you think that dysfunction will, in a sense, give U.S. global competitors an edge in the financial marketplace from now on?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t, but my opinion on that is probably worth what you pay for it. But the -- look, I think that this -- the United States of America is still the most powerful economy in the world. It is an incredible engine for creativity and innovation. And it has the most -- smartest, most effective workforce in the world. So we have a lot going for us, in spite of the fractiousness of our politics.
Q Jay, when the President speaks about the government living within its means, does he mean budgets were zero deficits?
MR. CARNEY: No, clearly he doesn’t. He means that you have to get your deficit and debt under control. We can get very technical about deficit and debt ratios to GDP and why those are so important, particularly when you talk about debt-to-GDP ratios and getting that trajectory in the right place for the long term. And that’s why the only way to do that -- to go back to some of these other questions -- is to tackle entitlement reform and to tackle tax reform.
Q And when the balanced budget amendments come up in each chamber in the fall, can we expect the President to argue against passage?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President’s position on balanced budget amendments is very clear and I do not anticipate it will change, no.
Michael. And then Margaret.
Q Two things. Is the President going to propose a way to pay for these things he talked about just now in the Rose Garden -- unemployment extension, payroll tax continuation, R&D tax credits, things like that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t think he -- I mean, I don’t want to -- it’s hard to know how that legislation would be created, what it might be attached to, so it’s difficult to anticipate. I think it’s important to note, as was certainly the case last year, that this is a one-year payout; it is not a significant contributor to the deficit because it’s a one-year deal.
Q But he doesn’t feel like he has to find --
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I don’t want to -- I don’t know yet, we don’t know yet how that will play out. But he does believe it’s very important that we do extend the payroll tax cut to give Americans more money in their paychecks next year, the same as they had it this year.
Q The second question is, does the President believe there’s enough time between now and the end of November for the special committee to craft a full tax reform proposal that would deal with the Bush tax cuts, that would set new rates, that would take care of this whole --
MR. CARNEY: Well, as we learned through the negotiating process, there’s a variety of ways to skin that cat and ways that you can enact tax reform and entitlement reform, whether broadly through setting targets -- the way it was envisioned in one negotiated proposal was that Congress would be tasked with creating tax reform, or else revenues would be generated through the expiration, for example, of the high-income -- high-end Bush tax cuts.
So there are different ways of doing this. The answer is absolutely yes, in part because the blueprints are there -- whether you look at the Gang of Six’s proposal, or the Simpson-Bowles commission, or the work that was done by the President and the Speaker of the House -- there aren’t an infinite number of ways to do this, especially when you narrow it down to the remaining issues -- the entitlement reform and the tax reform -- there are only so many ways to go at this. And most of those ways have already been explored.
So there will be a full menu and complete menu of options for the special committee to consider.
Margaret, you’re next, sorry.
Q We have a story -- Bloomberg has a story out that says that former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine’s firm plans to sell bonds with interest rates that rise if Corzine gets --
MR. CARNEY: I’m just wondering where this could be going and how I could possibly answer it. (Laughter.)
Q -- interest rates that could rise if Corzine gets an appointment by President Obama. So my question is, is Governor Corzine being considered or vetted for any White House jobs, and do you have any reaction to the bond --
MR. CARNEY: I have no knowledge of anything like that. And the story is new to me, so I can’t really --
Q -- you were announcing it --
MR. CARNEY: -- yes, I’m not even sure it makes any sense. But -- I mean, not to me yet, because I haven’t read it. So I would have to take a look at that. But I’m not aware of any impending appointments.
Q Can I take another question?
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q August, month of town hall meetings and a lot of stuff. What is the President planning on doing to use the month of August --
MR. CARNEY: When we have scheduling announcements to make, we’ll make them.
Q It’s August.
MR. CARNEY: Barely. We’ve been busy. But we’ll have some scheduling announcements to make for you.
Q You guys can walk and chew gum at the same time.
MR. CARNEY: Yes, we can -- but we had to chew some other gum.
Q Will you be on the road? Will you be --
MR. CARNEY: I’m sure we’ll have some announcements to make for you and I think you can anticipate that, just generally speaking, the President will be on the road more than he has been in recent weeks.
Q That’s a good segue to my question, which is, I was not looking for scheduling announcements, but I was wondering if the White House or the President thinks it’s important to go out and talk about this legislation, or whether we’ll see him just go more to the jobs message as he did in the Rose Garden. Is there an obligation -- does he -- will the White House try to sell what he just did, or is it just about jobs?
MR. CARNEY: I think averting a crisis is an important accomplishment, but it is not enough. And that’s what you heard him talk about today. He will certainly talk about the need for this second stage to be serious and to take the kind of measures that are so essential to significantly deeper deficit reduction. But he will primarily focus, as he always does, on growing the economy and creating jobs.
Q So it will be more about the message in there, which is, at this next stage it’s the chance to do this balanced approach you’ve been talking about -- raise the pressure and make the case for that? It sounds like that’s the distinction in terms of how he talks about deficit reduction.
MR. CARNEY: I guess that’s a fair assessment of it. I mean, I think you heard in what he said today the balance between those two things going forward. Both remain vitally important, and they’re linked: Going about deficit reduction in the right way will be -- is conducive to solid economic growth and laying the foundation for a better and bigger economy in the future and more jobs. So there -- but he will -- he looks forward to spending even more time now focusing on -- specifically on things we can do to grow the economy and create jobs in the near term.
Q Thanks, Jay. I had two questions. On revenue, section 402, subsection C of the -- (laughter) -- the budget --
MR. CARNEY: Wait, I don’t have that here.
Q Well, the section -- subsection C talks about the expedited procedure in the Senate, but there’s a provision in there that says “Revenue Measure: This subsection shall only apply to the House of Representatives if the joint committee bill received from the Senate is a revenue measure” -- “shall not apply.” So doesn’t that make it significantly harder for there -- for a revenue component to emerge from that super committee?
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t read that subsection, but the -- I can assure you that there are no restrictions --
Q A magic bullet.
MR. CARNEY: -- created in the legislation that limit, in any way, what the joint committee can take up.
Q So, I mean, there’s no specific targeting of revenue?
MR. CARNEY: There’s no -- it is left up to the committee to decide how it will approach what measures it will recommend to achieve the $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction.
Q Can I email this to you after the briefing to --
MR. CARNEY: Sure. And I will email it to somebody with an advanced degree. (Laughter.)
Q And my second question was -- I guess I don’t understand the difference -- I’m not saying either is inappropriate, but why is “terrorists” inappropriate but “hostage-taker” is not inappropriate? You said that they were going to --
MR. CARNEY: I just think that it’s --
Q I mean, they were going to blow themselves up, too. So --
MR. CARNEY: I’m just not going to even engage in -- I think that, in general, what’s important is that, even in the midst of debates that we all feel very passionate about because the issues are so important, that it is not helpful to the kind of productive political discourse that we need to achieve compromise, to use those kind of analogies, even if they’re --
MR. CARNEY: -- I mean, even if they’re understandable and descriptive. So -- but I’m not going to -- this is not the seven words that you have to ban, like these words are okay and these aren’t. I just think lowering the temperature in general is a good thing.
Q Don’t you think “hostage-taker” was --
MR. CARNEY: I think I’ve said everything I can about that.
All the way -- Joe. Sorry, go ahead.
Q Jay, yesterday you were talking about how the President is going to have a role in the super committee, as we’re calling it now. If it’s a bipartisan, bicameral thing, and the President retaking the bully pulpit today, what’s the President’s role going to be? How is he going to affect that -- the committee?
MR. CARNEY: Well, he is the, as I think Senator McConnell said at some point in the last few days, the one person out of 300-plus million in America who -- the only one who can sign bills and make them laws, so he obviously has a crucial role in this process. And he has a crucial role in persuading both members and the public about what he believes is the right path to take. And you’ve seen him play that role in recent weeks and months, and I’m sure he will going forward.
Now, the authority to name the members obviously rests with the leaders, but as I said, I think, in answer to an earlier question, there is ample product to provide to that committee once it is formed. And the President is the author of one such product, and he thinks that it’s a real framework for how you go about a balanced approach to dealing with issues like entitlements and revenues.
Q Is there any concern --
MR. CARNEY: Last one, go ahead.
Q Is there any concern that he -- without specific roles outlined, that there might be some kind of limitation, or he might be effective then?
MR. CARNEY: I think he’s President of the United States and I think he will have a substantial role to play, as he has these past weeks and months, in shaping the debate, negotiating. I mean, in the end -- in the beginning, middle and end, this process moved forward because of the President’s leadership. The talks that he -- in the immediate wake of his speech to George Washington University, he created the negotiating arrangement that was led by the Vice President. He engaged in detailed and specific and ongoing -- twice, two rounds of the negotiations with the Speaker of the House, and he obviously was intimately involved in assuring that the compromise that was reached and signed into law today came to pass.
Thank you, guys.
Q Jay, can you just comment on reports out of Israel that Binyamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister, is willing to negotiate along the 1967 borders if the Palestinian Authority drops --
MR. CARNEY: I hadn’t seen those reports, so I -- I mean, I have seen those reports, but I don’t have any -- I don’t have any special knowledge of them, and I would just refer you to his office and the government of Israel’s office. Our position on that was obviously clearly articulated by the President in his speech.
Thanks very much.
Q Thanks, Jay.
Q May I just say, at last, happy birthday to the President?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll let him know. Thanks.
END 2:21 P.M. EDT
October 20, 2016
October 19, 2016
President Obama and the First Lady Attend the State Dinner with Prime Minister Renzi and Mrs. Landini
October 19, 2016
October 18, 2016
October 18, 2016
October 18, 2016
October 18, 2016
October 17, 2016