Press Briefing

December 09, 2011 | 40:59 | Public Domain

White House Press Briefings are conducted most weekdays from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the West Wing.

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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 12/9/2011

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:56 P.M. EST

MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon. Welcome to the White House. Thanks for coming to your daily briefing. Before I get started, I just wanted to mention that I saw a report this morning that caught my attention for a couple reasons. Throughout this payroll tax cut debate, and through the debate over the American Jobs Act, one of the consistent points that Republicans have made -- in fact, their number-one talking point about why they refuse to go along with asking millionaires and billionaires, the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more in order to put Americans back to work, get a tax cut for 160 million working Americans -- is because they don’t want to hurt job creators. That’s their phrase; it’s what they go to every time they’re asked about it.

And it’s what you all write in your stories when you say, the President and Democrats support this surtax, or this way of paying for job-creating measures or tax cuts; Republicans say no because it will hurt small business. Well, one news organization decided to ask the leadership offices of the Republicans on the Hill whether or not -- or just to give them an example of the small businesses that would be affected. And for three days they got nothing. And there’s a reason for that. Because, as the Treasury Department has done in its study, the simple fact of the matter is, is that less than 1 percent of all small businesses would be affected by this kind of request that millionaires and billionaires pay a little bit more. That’s just a fact.

So next time you write a story, or produce a spot that cites that opposition, I think a second sentence might be worth adding, which is that it’s bogus.

With that, I’ll take your questions. (Laughter.)

Q Just saying. Just saying.

MR. CARNEY: Just had something I had to get off my chest today. (Laughter.)

Q Copy editor Jay Carney. (Laughter.)

MR. CARNEY: Ben Feller.

Q Thank you. Two topics. On the National Labor Relations Board decision on Boeing -- to drop that case -- I’m wondering if the President’s fingerprints are on that at all. In any way, did he directly or indirectly influence that decision?

MR. CARNEY: Well, Ben, as you know, the NLRB is an independent board. And as he has said previously, the President thinks labor and management should find ways to work together to preserve and create jobs, and we are -- he is -- glad they have reached a resolution here. But this was not something the President was involved in.

Q So the White House is glad the resolution was reached. But what about the substance of the case? Is it something that the White House is supportive of, the pulling back on the case and letting it go forward?

MR. CARNEY: Well, this was the action of an independent enforcement agency, and our comment on it today is the same as it was before in terms of the case itself. What I will say is what I just did, which is the President believes that, in general, labor and management ought to find ways to work together to preserve and create jobs, and in this case we’re glad there’s a resolution.

Q The President is also lobbying senators on the defense bill as it relates to the detainment of terrorism suspects. Obviously there’s a veto threat out there. But can you tell us how his personal efforts are going, and what’s his message on that?

MR. CARNEY: With regard to the defense authorization bill, our position is the same as it has been. We’re continuing to discuss this with members of Congress. But our position has not changed.

I mean, it’s very important that our counterterrorism folks have flexibility in dealing with and doing their jobs effectively. And there’s a whole range of people in this field from previous administrations, Democratic and Republican, as well as, obviously, current, who believe that that flexibility must be maintained.

Q So can you give us any update, as we’re quickly running out of time here on how that effort is going to try to win over some minds on that?

MR. CARNEY: Just that we’re continuing in the effort.


Q Jay, what’s the President’s reaction to the agreement by most European leaders in Brussels today?

MR. CARNEY: I knew if I called on Reuters that you’d ask me about Europe. (Laughter.)

Yes. Sorry.

Q That’s all right. What’s your reaction? And what does the President think?

MR. CARNEY: Look, we think that signs of progress are good, that this is a sign of progress, but work still needs to be done, obviously. Our position hasn’t changed. We are offering our advice and counsel. We have a great deal of experience in this kind of situation. Secretary Geithner has been very engaged in this; the President himself has been engaged with his counterparts.

But in the end, it is a European problem that needs a European solution, and we believe that they need to act conclusively and decisively to resolve it. But there has been some progress, and that’s a good thing.

Q Does the President have any sympathy for David Cameron, who was the one EU leader out of 27 who did not agree to --

MR. CARNEY: I haven’t talked about that with him, so I’m not going to comment on that at that level of specificity about it beyond what I’ve said in terms of the progress that has been made and the need to keep it up and deal with remaining issues, including ensuring that a firewall is built that is adequate to the task.

Q Will the President hold any calls with any of those leaders in the coming days about this?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I can safely predict that the President will be talking to European leaders, including Chancellor Merkel, President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron, because he does all the time. But when those calls might happen, I don’t have that information for you at this time.


Q House Republican leaders have introduced a payroll extension with the Keystone pipeline project in it. Would the President veto that bill?

MR. CARNEY: I’m glad you asked about the House GOP payroll tax cut plan because I have a statement here that I’ll read to you:

“With only 22 days before taxes go up an average of $1,000 for 160 million hardworking Americans, Republican leaders in Congress are still playing politics at the expense of middle-class families. Their proposal breaks the bipartisan agreement on spending cuts that we reached just a few months ago, and makes harmful cuts to things like education that strengthen middle-class security.

“Their plan seeks to put the burden on working families while giving a free pass to the wealthiest and big corporations by protecting their loopholes and subsidies. Instead of working together to find a balanced approach that will actually pass, Republican leaders in Congress are instead choosing to re-fight old political battles over health care, and introduce ideological issues into what should be a simple debate about cutting taxes for the middle class.

“As one leading Republican said -- you probably saw this in the newspaper -- quote, ‘Frankly, the fact that the President doesn’t like it makes me like it even more.’ That is precisely why Americans are fed up with Congress.

“This shouldn’t be about scoring political points against the President -- it’s not about him. This should be about cutting taxes for the middle class. It’s time for Congress to keep its word and do its job.”

Q What about the payroll -- (laughter) --

Q Anything in there that the President could work with --

MR. CARNEY: Well, there are pieces of it, as I understand it -- this fairly recently put forward proposal -- that are things that we have supported in the past. But the proposal in its entirety is objectionable for the reasons I just explained.

I mean, it’s what people hate about Congress. Oh, they work all summer, they get to this deal, everybody says fine, we got a deal, it’s a compromise; it wasn’t entirely what we should have gotten or could have gotten, it wasn’t the grand bargain, but Budget Control Act, sign it into law. And ever since, all we’ve heard from some folks in Congress is, gee, we ought to break that agreement; we didn’t mean it. Let’s go back on our word. And no wonder people give Congress 10 percent approval ratings, right?

So that’s a problem. And asking people -- asking middle-class Americans, who need assistance with education or who benefit from key investments, to bear the burden of this deal is punishing the people you’re trying to help with the middle-class tax cut to begin with. That’s not how we should do it. And reopening old political fights -- I think everybody’s organization here that does polling will tell you that Americans really don’t like reopening old -- like, let’s go refight the health care battle, let’s go -- when we have 22 days before their taxes go up. That’s the battle that some in Congress want to have right now.

Or they want to have fights over an oil pipeline that has nothing to do with whether or not Americans, on average, ought to see their taxes go up $1,000 in 2012. That’s what gives Washington a bad name.

Q So what happens now?
MR. CARNEY: We keep working towards finding a solution. What the President has said is that -- and what I have said on his behalf -- is that we are open to looking at other ways to pay for this, but they have to be economically responsible and fair. So we’ll continue to do that. The President has put forward a way to pay for it; Senate Democrats have now put forward two different proposals for paying for it -- in all cases, broadly supported by the American people. There are avenues here that are available to reaching an agreement. And for the sake of the American people, we certainly hope that that agreement is reached.

And this President, as he said yesterday and last week, will insist that Congress stay here -- and he will stay here -- through Christmas, if necessary, to get it done. Because it is not fair to raise taxes on the American people at this time in our economic recovery.

So we hope that reasonableness prevails here and we get this done.


Q The unemployment insurance extension is abbreviated under the plan. Are you open to that?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not going to negotiate the elements of what a final compromise might look like. The fact is that this proposal is objectionable. And again, why is it that unemployment insurance, which is a good example of something that economists everywhere agree is highly beneficial to economic growth in a time like this because that assistance to people who desperately need it goes right back into the economy and results in job growth and job -- economic growth and job creation -- everybody agrees on that.

So why ask them -- shortchange those Americans who need that assistance, reduce that assistance that most helps the economy just so we can protect corporations and their loopholes and subsidies, just so we can not have to ask millionaires and billionaires -- not small businesses -- to pay a little bit extra. I think that’s just wrong-headed. I’m not going to negotiate the details of a provision or take single provisions out of this proposal and say this one’s acceptable, that one’s not. But I think the principles here that are guiding the President are important to enumerate and repeat, and I think, again, this is about helping the economy and helping the American people.

Q But you’re not saying absolutely not, it has to be 99 weeks. I mean, is that an indication that you might --

MR. CARNEY: I know you want --

Q -- there might be wiggle room?

MR. CARNEY: I know you want me to negotiate the elements. I think that the package altogether that we have that’s a worthwhile compromise --

Q I’m just wondering if it’s a nonstarter to be shorter than 99 weeks.

MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to negotiate the individual elements. But it is important that the overall package meet the standards the President has set, and those standards are simply about making sure that what we do here actually has the maximum amount of benefit possible to the American people, to middle-class Americans, to working Americans, folks who need a tax cut, and should not be laden -- larded up with measures that are either totally extraneous or designed to refight old ideological battles or actually harm the people that the tax cut is supposed to help. That doesn’t seem unreasonable to have a position like that.

Q On Russia real quick?


Q Prime Minister Putin said that Secretary Clinton -- he essentially said that she incited unrest in Russia. He said that “gave a signal.” What did the President think of that and sort of in the context of resetting relations with Russia?

MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know -- or you may know, I think you were here, I addressed this question yesterday, and our position hasn’t changed. Secretary Clinton spoke to this. I spoke to it. The United States and Russia have many common interests. That’s why the President -- it was the result of the President pursuing the reset that we were able to get a significant amount of things done with Russia over these past three years and our relations have improved. And that’s important, and we continue to seek opportunities for cooperation with Russia based on mutual respect and our common interest.

Now, it is also true that we have sought to deepen our engagement with Russian civil society and with -- and organizations that promote universal values. We support democracy, and so speaking out in support of democracy should not surprise -- the fact that we do that should not surprise anyone around the world because that’s a hard and fast position of this administration and of this country.

So we are encouraged by President Medvedev’s commitment to have the Central Election Commission investigate all election violations and we welcome his acknowledgment that the demonstrations in Moscow and in other cities are part of the democratic process.

Cecilia. Welcome, Cecilia. How are you?

Q Fine, thanks. Yesterday you said that, on Plan B, communication between the White House and agencies in decision-making processes like this, that there is communication. Can you elaborate on that? What communication was had and between whom? And also, what do you say now to these women’s groups who were strong supporters of the President in 2008 who say now they may sit this election out because of this decision?

MR. CARNEY: Well, let me go to your first question, or the first part of your question, which is, broadly, in these kinds of decisions there is communication between -- or there usually is communication between the White House and an agency.

I don’t have a list of communications between folks at the White House and HHS on this, but it stands to reason that there were or might have been. What the President said, and I think what is essential here, is that he did not intervene. He did not get involved in this decision. This was a decision made by Secretary Sebelius. It’s also a decision that he supports. And I think that’s just -- that’s the answer to the second part of your question, too, is that some decisions that we make at this level of government, and especially that secretaries of agencies make and certainly decisions a President has to make, while this was not one of them, the President -- the decisions that a President does have to make, none of them are easy. There are always arguments on all sides. That’s why they end up on a Secretary’s desk or a President’s desk.

But in this case, the Secretary made a decision. The President supports it.


Q Let me ask you about this videotape from the former FBI agent Robert Levinson that his family released. They received it a while ago and have just released it. What was the -- how has the White House been involved?

MR. CARNEY: Well, the administration obviously monitors these things. The government continues, the U.S. government, to work to find Robert Levinson and to safely bring him home. We have worked on his case since he disappeared and will continue to do so until he is reunited with his family.

As you probably recall, Secretary Clinton said in March of this year that we have received indications that Mr. Levinson is being held in Southwest Asia, and anyone with information that might lead to Mr. Levinson’s safe return should contact the FBI or his family, which has a website at But this is an ongoing investigation, and that’s really all I can say about it.

Q Can I follow on --

Q As long as you come back to me, I’ll let --

MR. CARNEY: Okay, you wanted to follow, Connie?

Q On the two other American hostages, too, is the U.S. now negotiating with terrorists, with hostage-takers? What kind of work --

MR. CARNEY: I’m not sure what the basis of that question is, but I don’t have anything beyond what I said on Bob Levinson.

Q The one in Cuba and the one in Pakistan?

MR. CARNEY: We put out a statement and I addressed the questions about Mr. Gross, and again with Mr. Levinson, that’s all I can say.

Q Can I return to the payroll tax cut extension? You mentioned we’re looking at ways to pay for it. So the President -- I know we’ve gone over this before but the President would be willing to sign an extension that does not include a tax increase on millionaires, correct?

MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I’m not going to negotiate either/ors or what provisions have to be in or what have to be out. There are some principles here that need to be observed. One is it makes no sense to pass into law a payroll tax cut for working and middle-class Americans and have it paid for in a way that hurts working and middle-class Americans. That’s just bad policy and the President would not support that.

Q You mentioned principles at stake and I’m just curious now, I mean, the President was willing to sign a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts, which benefit the wealthiest Americans. You’re now sort of -- you continue to push the door open -- wider open to allowing a pay-for that does not include taxing millionaires. If the President is willing to give up on that, what principle are you holding fast and firm on?

MR. CARNEY: Give up on what? Here’s the thing, it bears remembering that last year the President and Congress reached an agreement that included extension of the Bush tax cuts, because the only deal that was available to the President included extending all of the Bush tax cuts, including the ones for the wealthy.

He was for extending the ones for the middle class and he was not willing to see middle-class Americans, as we were in a very fragile period economically, have their taxes raised substantially. That’s a principle he’s applying in this case, too, to not wanting 160 million Americans to see their taxes go up by on average $1,000 next year.

Q But the President is making a big show of his principles. I mean, he gave a big speech -- as you well know -- about fairness, asking the wealthier to pay more. What actions has he taken that show that he is standing on that principle if he’s going to sign a payroll tax cut extension that the Republicans will not include increasing taxes on millionaires?

MR. CARNEY: First of all, you’re projecting into the future something that I have not said. All I have said is I’m not going to negotiate the particulars of a potential agreement except to say that --

Q Why won’t you say the President would veto --

MR. CARNEY: -- to make clear the proposal that the House Republicans put forward is objectionable, not acceptable for a variety of reasons, including that it violates the very budget agreement that we reached in October -- in August rather, which, by the way, brings us down to the lowest level of non-defense discretionary spending since Eisenhower was President, substantial discretionary spending cuts, and that he’s not going to accept a deal that puts all the onus -- or puts the onus on the very middle-class and working Americans who we’re trying to help with this tax cut and only would do that because Republicans refuse to ask corporations to give up their subsidies or their loopholes or the wealthiest to pay a little bit extra.

So these are very important principles that go right to the heart of why we are even talking about cutting taxes for middle-class America.

Q If it’s such an important principle, why doesn’t the President issue a veto threat that he will not sign a payroll tax cut extension that does not include a tax on millionaires?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I understand that you want to maybe get this wrapped up quickly so we can all go on vacation or that there are a lot of unknowns here in terms of how this endgame will play out. The President has enunciated his principles very clearly. He’s made clear what he will not sign and what he will reject.

Senator Reid has made clear that this thing has no chance of getting through the Senate. It’s very important that the Congress get down to serious business to ensure that they don’t go home having to explain why they just raised everybody’s taxes. So the President is going to make -- going to adhere to his principles and ensure that this gets done.

Q And then, on the small businesses, the 1 percent of small businesses that would be affected by the increased tax on millionaires, would the President then be willing to support Senator Claire McCaskill’s provision that would exempt that 1 percent of small businesses who would be taxed additionally?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I think, again, rather than me negotiate individual elements of a compromise that does not at this point exist, I would go back to what I said about how thin a reed that is as a reason to oppose what the American people broadly support. And the irony of the 1 percent of -- the less than 1 percent of small businesses who might be affected by asking millionaires and billionaires to pay a little bit more is that that’s including a broad definition of small businesses, which means law partnerships or hedge fund managers or things like that who file business income as personal income. So these are not mom-and-pop businesses we’re talking about.

On Main Street --

Q There are law firms that are filing as sub-chapter S’s?

MR. CARNEY: Partnerships as sub-chapter something, yes. (Laughter.) I didn’t take the accounting class.

Q When the President said yesterday kind of dismissively, “Ask Osama and the 22 of 30 al Qaeda leaders who I’ve taken off the playing field” in response to a question, was that game on? Was that the beginning of the campaign?

MR. CARNEY: He was answering a question about a charge that he had somehow acted as an appeaser in the conduct of his foreign policy, and I think it was an appropriate response. And let us know if you get an answer from those gentlemen. (Laughter.)


Q Jay, I wasn’t here yesterday, so I’m sorry if you covered this, but as Commander-in-Chief has the President issued any directive to deal with the situation at Dover Air Force Base?

MR. CARNEY: I’ll have to take that question. Not that I’m aware of.

Q But, I mean, you know what I’m talking about? The remains that were incinerated --

MR. CARNEY: Yes, I know that -- I’ve seen the news reports. I haven’t discussed it with him. I don’t know that the White House is taking action. I certainly think the Department of Defense is probably taking questions on this matter.


Q Thank you, Jay. On the European situation, European leaders expressed their intention to contribute -- lend 200 billion euro or $270 billion to the IMF. Is the United States open to a similar kind of contribution to the IMF beyond giving advice or beyond a common commitment, which was agreed on --

MR. CARNEY: Our position hasn’t changed, which is that the IMF has substantial resources and that American taxpayers are not going to have to make any more commitments to the IMF.

Ken, and then Wendell.

Q Jay, on China, Congressman Frank Wolf and Chris Smith have written to the President asking him or urging him to make a public statement pressing for the immediate release of Liu Xiaobo and for the Chinese government to release his wife from house arrest and stop harassing her. Will the President make such a statement?

MR. CARNEY: I’ll have to take that question. I have not seen that report.

Wendell, and then Chris.

Q A couple of questions. First of all, the President has made clear he doesn’t like the idea of attaching the Keystone XL pipeline to the payroll tax cut. So I’m interested to know why you won’t just issue a veto threat on that.

MR. CARNEY: The President said -- I think the President’s language was pretty clear about what he would accept and what he would reject. And this just goes right back to adding extraneous, ideological elements --

Q Can we just take that as a veto threat, then?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I personally don’t issue veto threats, I don’t have a statement of administration policy, but I would point you to the President’s words. And I would make -- the broader point here is, why do Republicans think they’re doing President Obama a favor by going along with the payroll tax cut? Why do they think it is the right move for their constituents to try to exact a political price by adding extraneous things to what should be a very simple matter? Do you want Americans’ taxes to go up next year or would you like to reduce them?

They used to be for tax cuts. Ohio Representative Jim Jordan says, “Frankly, the fact that the President doesn’t like it makes me like it even more” -- which suggest that maybe President Obama should come out and say, “I’m against investment in education, I’m against investment in infrastructure, I’m not for the payroll tax cut” -- because then maybe Republicans would support those things.

Q Have him do that. On U.S.-Russia relations, you and Andrei discussed yesterday aid that Putin calls “meddling” in his country’s internal affairs -- aid for democratic elections. What does our $9 million buy us?

MR. CARNEY: I haven’t examined the particular programs here. I know that, broadly, the United States, through the State Department, supports efforts to help democratic organizations and democracy around the world, as we should, as administrations of both parties have. And I would -- going back to that point, I will say quite affirmatively that the number here that the State Department has put forward is the correct number, in terms of money spent. And again, no one should be surprised that we speak out for and work for democracy around the world. We think it’s the right thing. We think that --

Q Does that mean providing aid to opposition groups in Russia?

MR. CARNEY: Again, I would refer you to the State Department for the specifics of the programs here. All we’re about here -- and this -- I mean, look at the Middle East, look at other parts of the world -- is support for democracy and holding those who participate in the democratic process around the world to standards of action as opposed to rhetoric, which is that they have to support the democratic process, renounce violence, vow to protect minority rights, and then participate in elections, because we believe that democracy is a good thing.


Q Thanks, Jay. Going back to China for a moment -- some financial analysts have said that there are fresh signs that China might halt the appreciation of its currency. Given that President Obama recently met with the President of China and urged him not to manipulate -- or officials there not to manipulate the Chinese currency, is there a concern that his words may have fallen on deaf ears?

MR. CARNEY: I don’t have anything new to say about that. We obviously have made clear our position on this issue. And while there has been some modest progress, it has not been enough. And that continues to be our position, and it’s something that we raise with Chinese officials every time we meet with them, including recent meetings that the President had with Chinese leaders on his recent trip.

So, beyond that, I don’t have anything new for you on it.

Q In light of these reports, will the administration take any actions in the days, weeks --

MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t have anything new for you on it, Kristen.

Q And also, Jay, the U.S. trade deficit narrowed in October to its lowest point of the year. What do you make of that figure and recent figures that we’ve seen -- the unemployment rate that’s dropped to 8.6 percent?

MR. CARNEY: We don’t overreact to good news or bad news; we work on the things we can control. There have been some signs of progress, and there is no question that over nine straight quarters now the economy has been growing; over 21 straight months it’s been creating private sector jobs -- now nearly 3 million private sector jobs. And there are other signs of progress. But we are a long way from where we need to be. And that’s why the President is so focused on the provisions of the American Jobs Act, why he’s so focused on getting the payroll tax cut extended to ensure that Americans don’t have their taxes go up on January 1st, and why he will continue to fight for the programs within the American Jobs Act that have not succeeded thus far, including investments in infrastructure that would put construction workers back to work, and assistance to states to put teachers back in the classroom.

It’s why he will continue to push for and will urge Republicans to take up his plan for sensible, balanced medium- and long-term deficit and debt reduction, because it’s the right thing to do for our economy and will put this economy on solid ground for the future.

But we have a lot of work to do. Modest signs of progress notwithstanding, we have a lot of work to do.


Q In the past week, Rick Perry has taken it upon himself to attack the President for his LGBT advocacy over the course of his first term. After the administration unveiled its new strategy on Tuesday to combat anti-gay abuses overseas, Perry issued a statement saying, “It’s an example of the President being at war with people of faith.” And there’s a widely spread TV ad circulating on the web in which Perry says, “There’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”

Does the President object to these accusations that his LGBT advocacy is inconsistent with principles of faith?

MR. CARNEY: I’m fairly certain the President is not even aware of those accusations. And I think that I’ll limit my comment on the struggling state of some presidential campaigns.

I will say that the President is a man of faith, as you all know, and I will also say that our record on LGBT issues is one that we’re very proud of.


Q Back to Europe for a second. The President yesterday acknowledged the progress that Europeans are making toward a fiscal compact, but he made a point of saying there’s a shorter-term crisis in the markets that needs to be addressed. In the meantime, the European Central Bank seems to have signaled that it’s not yet willing to step in in a decisive way, in terms of shoring up the firewall you alluded to.

So I’m just wondering -- the President sounded frustrated with that. Is he frustrated? Does he think the Europeans need to step up, not so much on the longer-term issue but on the immediate issue of restoring market confidence?

MR. CARNEY: Well, we’ve made clear, and he’s made clear, that he believes the Europeans need to act decisively and conclusively on -- putting aside issues of the markets -- but on a plan to resolve this debt crisis. And that includes ensuring that a firewall that is up to the task in constructed.

Having said that, the President understands that these are hard issues. He should know. And he knows that there are difficult decisions that European leaders have to make as they work through these issues and deal with the problem conclusively and decisively.

He does not imagine that any of this is easy. Leadership is not easy. Leadership in difficult economic times, with daunting economic challenges, is not easy. And the decisions that leaders make in those circumstances are often not very popular. He gets that; he knows it from experience.

But it needs to be done. And that’s why he has offered his advice and counsel, that’s why he is in regular contact with his European counterparts, that’s why Secretary Geithner has been in Europe this week and many times in the recent past, and is in regular consultation with his counterparts, as well as other officials across our government. And we’ll continue to work on this with our European allies and friends as they move towards a conclusive and decisive solution to this.

Q Has he seen evidence -- as he said yesterday, the question is whether they’ll muster the political will to confront it. Has he seen evidence that they’re mustering political will?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I would simply say that we have seen European leaders take, over the course of the last weeks and months, some important steps. Progress has been made, and we continue to consult with them and advise them -- or offer our advice, rather -- and urge them to take the continued steps that are necessary to finish the job.

Yes, and then Mark.

Q Thank you, Jay. If you can clear something up from last week: When you talk about the Defense Authorization Act, you keep pointing to the November 17th, I believe, statement of administration policy, but neither that nor the Feinstein compromise amendment that allowed it to pass the Senate answers a fundamental, constitutional question, which is: Does the President believe or think that the military or the Commander-in-Chief should have the authority to be able to imprison U.S. citizens arrested on American soil for an indefinite period of time without trial?

MR. CARNEY: I feel like we have addressed this issue, but I don’t have anything for you right now. I know it’s not in the SAP, but this is a broader discussion that this administration has had, I think, and this President engaged in in the campaign, and certainly had in the first two years, prior to my assuming the role here.

Q If Congress is considering this issue right now in legislation, he has to --

MR. CARNEY: Well, and our objection to the legislation is well established, especially as regards the limits on the flexibility of our professionals in dealing -- in carrying out their job. But I’m not going to get more broad than where we’ve been on this specific piece of legislation.

Q But it seems like one of the most fundamental, constitutional questions that any President would ever have to face -- whether a U.S. citizen can be arrested on American soil and detained without trial --

MR. CARNEY: And what I’m telling you is that this question has been addressed broadly. I don’t have anything to say to you from this podium about it right now. I’ve been looking at the legislation and the statement of administration policy with regards to it, things that we’ve said about it. But our broader position on these issues is pretty well known.


Q Just to follow up on Wendell’s question, when the President said the other day that he would reject efforts to tie the Keystone pipeline to the payroll tax cut, can we -- does “reject” mean “veto”? Some of our colleagues said it did, and it’s not clear to me.

MR. CARNEY: “Reject” means reject.

Q Does it mean veto?

MR. CARNEY: He thinks it’s rejection-worthy.

Q Of a veto?

MR. CARNEY: Look, it’s not going to -- Senator Reid has said this thing has no chance in the Senate, so it’s not -- there’s not a viable bill here over which to issue a veto threat. But his position on adding that kind of thing in that way, and in the manner -- remember, the way we were talking about it at the time was efforts to jam through a decision that should be part of a process that’s enshrined in many decades of precedent over at the State Department, the proper reviews that are necessary to make sure that all the criteria are evaluated and all the impacts are taken into consideration -- and that’s important.

Q Thanks, Jay.

Q Week ahead?

MR. CARNEY: Yes, the week ahead. What a week it will be. (Laughter.) Here we go. This is the schedule for the week of December 12, 2011:

On Monday, the President looks forward to welcoming Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to the White House. The two leaders will hold talks on the removal of U.S. military forces from Iraq, and our efforts to start a new chapter in the comprehensive strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq. The President honors the sacrifices and achievements of all those who have served in Iraq, and of the Iraqi people, to reach this moment full of promise for an enduring U.S.-Iraq friendship, as we end America’s war in Iraq.

On Tuesday, the President will conduct interviews with local television anchors from across the country about the end of the war in Iraq, and the importance of ensuring that taxes do not go up on middle-class families next year.

On Wednesday, the President and the First Lady will travel to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where they will deliver remarks to troops.

Q Both of them?

MR. CARNEY: Yes, the President and the First Lady. As we definitively end America’s war in Iraq this month, the President wanted to speak directly to the troops at Fort Bragg, and to members of the armed forces and their families everywhere. The President will speak about the enormous sacrifices and achievements of the brave Americans who served in the Iraq war, and he will speak about the extraordinary milestone of bringing the war in Iraq to an end. Like many other military installations across this nation, during the war in Iraq, service members from Fort Bragg and their families have provided remarkable service to our country through their deployments to Iraq.

On Thursday, the President will attend meetings here at the White House.

And on Friday, the President will deliver remarks at the biennial convention of the Union for Reform Judaism.

That’s your week ahead.

Q Jay, just to follow up on Monday, are they going to Arlington? I heard that they might lay a wreath at Arlington.

MR. CARNEY: I have nothing beyond what I shared with you just now in my reading -- my mellifluous reading of the week ahead.

Q Thank you.

MR. CARNEY: Thanks, guys.

Q And next Saturday, departure for Honolulu?

MR. CARNEY: Are you asking for odds?

Q I am asking.

MR. CARNEY: We’ll see. It’s up to Congress, isn’t it?

Q Thanks, Jay.

2:36 P.M. EST

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