Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 12/18/2013
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:43 P.M. EST
MR. CARNEY: Before I take your questions, I want to welcome you here to the briefing room for your daily briefing.
And first, I’d like to say that today we are highlighting how the Affordable Care Act helps young adults. As you know, at approximately 2:00 p.m. Eastern, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will meet with a group of moms in the Oval Office. They will be joined by White House senior advisor and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, Valerie Jarrett.
Moms have a unique role to play in helping young adults gain health care coverage. Thanks to the health care law, over 3 million young adults gained insurance because they can now stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26. Before the health care law, many insurance companies would kick young adults off of their parents’ health plans on their 19th birthday, or when they stopped being a full-time student.
For a lot of young adults, that’s the exact time when they need the stability of being able to stay on their parents’ plans because they are transitioning in and out of school or jobs. Now families have the security of knowing that their children can stay on their parents’ plans until their 26th birthday.
The Affordable Care Act also provides new coverage for young adults -- new coverage options for young adults who may not have access to health coverage through their parents, their school, or through their employer. Nearly half of eligible single young adults who are uninsured may be able to get coverage for $50 or less per month in the health insurance marketplaces in 2014. And nearly 7 in 10 single young adults who are uninsured may be able to pay $100 or less. In addition, many young adults will be newly eligible for Medicaid, which, in a growing number of states led by both Democrats and Republicans, is expanding under the Affordable Care Act.
If opponents of reform had their way, if they repealed the health care law, millions of young adults who have gained health insurance through their parents’ health plans would have that right taken away, while others would lose access to Medicaid or to tax credits, raising costs for millions of middle-class families.
And now to your questions. Julie Pace.
Q Thanks, Jay. Can you give us any kind of readout on the President’s meeting with his intel review board today? And was this a meeting for the review group to present their recommendations to the President? Did he call them in because he had questions about those recommendations?
MR. CARNEY: The review board -- the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies finished their report, as you know. And this morning, the President met with the members of the review group to discuss that report, which they submitted last Friday. We will have a readout of that meeting for you later today.
For now, I’d just note that the President is grateful to the group -- Richard Clarke, Michael Morell, Geoffrey Stone, Cass Sunstein, and Peter Swire -- for devoting themselves to this effort over the past several months in providing input -- thoughtful input for the administration to consider as we conclude the ongoing interagency review of signals intelligence collection being led by the White House.
Now, over the next several weeks, we will be reviewing the review group’s report and its 46 recommendations as we consider the path forward, including sorting through which recommendations we will implement, which might require further study, and which we will choose not to pursue. It's a substantive, lengthy report, and it merits serious review and assessment. When we finish the internal review, the overall internal review in January, the President will deliver remarks to outline the outcomes of our work.
Anticipating this question, I'll go right to the answer: While we had intended to release the review group's full report in January, as I said earlier, given inaccurate and incomplete reports in the press about the report's content, we felt it was important to allow people to see the full report to draw their own conclusions. And for that reason, we will be doing that this afternoon, releasing the full report.
Q You're releasing the full report.
MR. CARNEY: Correct.
Q And is the President going to speak on that at all today, or will he just --
MR. CARNEY: I wouldn’t expect that. I don’t have any scheduling announcements to make of that nature, and I can tell you that he -- not to expect that he would speak, because as I was saying earlier, this is a serious document for which the President is greatly appreciative. A lot of work went into it. It is long. It contains a number of recommendations -- more than 40; 46 I believe is the total. And he wants to and his team wants to take time to assess it, to review it. And that is why in January, when the overall internal review is completed, the President will make remarks about the work that he has undertaken and the outcomes of his review.
Q Let me just ask you one question about Congress. Two of the things that have actually managed to get done over the past couple of weeks in Congress, one was the nuclear option to allow some of your nominees to get through more quickly; that really seemed to kind of speak to the dysfunction in Washington. And then the second is this budget deal which looks like it will pass today and give some hope that some of this dysfunction may be able to be put behind everyone. I'm wondering how the White House views both of those moves together and how you see it positioning both the White House and Capitol Hill for 2014.
MR. CARNEY: Both reflect -- or have produced important progress; have helped loosen the logjam in Washington. You’re correct that the decision made by the Majority Leader in the Senate was in reaction to the unprecedented level of obstruction that Senate Republicans were setting up to block nominees of the President’s. And the problem with that is that it prevented the normal functioning of government here in Washington. There are positions that need to be filled, and the President nominates highly qualified individuals to fill them.
And as we discussed many times, often nominees were held up, were filibustered not because there was any substantive opposition to his or her résumé or qualifications for the job, but for partisan political reasons purely. And that had reached a point where it was having a dramatic effect or a significant effect on the ability of the agencies and the government to function. It is the President’s constitutional responsibility to nominate people to the bench.
Q But given the fact that you had gotten this through and now you have this budget deal that could follow it, where do you think that positions the White House and the Hill for 2014?
MR. CARNEY: So this is the -- do we see glimmers of hope? I think I mentioned yesterday that we do in the sense that there is certainly the potential that the bipartisan cooperation we saw in the reaching of an agreement on the budget and the bipartisan votes that we’ve seen in the House and in cloture in the Senate could be positive augurs for the future. But we’re not getting overexcited because we’re not naïve about the obstructionism that continues to exist and the partisanship that tends more often than not to paralyze Washington and Congress.
But it is our hope that Republicans in the House in particular will see the wisdom in getting things done that the American people would like to see done, getting things done that, like the budget agreement, help the economy grow, help the middle class. I mean, there’s no dispute among outside analysts that this budget agreement, which is not viewed as a perfect document by either side, will result in more growth and more job creation and additional, albeit modest, deficit reduction. Doesn’t that seem like a good thing? Doesn’t that seem like something you can take to your constituents and argue on behalf of? And there are so many other areas of potential cooperation that we do hope the budget agreement portends a better future.
But as the President has long said, he will keep focused on his priorities, the priorities that he believes the American people want those of us in Washington focused on -- on the economy, and expanding the middle class and making it more secure; in addressing the issue of rising inequality and the need to create ladders of opportunity for those who would aspire to the middle class. And he will work with Congress, and hopefully Congress will want to work with him. And where Congress will not, he will look for ways to advance that agenda administratively using his executive authority.
If we’re really lucky -- we, the country -- then he’ll have the opportunity to do both. We’ll be able to advance a positive, moderate agenda that helps grow the economy, helps the middle class, continues the work to restore our manufacturing base.
I was struck yesterday after the briefing, and I was looking at some of the back pages of The New York Times, and I found on page B3 a story of the enormous investment being made by American automobile companies, investments that will here in the United States create more jobs because demand is strong, they’re building good cars, and people are going to work building those cars. That’s huge news, no matter where it appears in the newspaper. And we want to continue that progress. We want to keep building that better future and that stronger economy.
Q Thanks. Can you provide a little more detail about what happens between the release of the report today and the President’s speech? Does he have all the information he needs? Will he consult with others to make his decisions? Will he take this with him on vacation as he goes for his holiday and think about narrowing down the recommendations? And will he give the speech, or his presentation on this, before or after the State of the Union?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll start at the back. I don’t have a date for when he will address the review that has been ongoing, of which this is a part and not the entirety. Because the State of the Union address is on January 28th, I think the odds favor it happening before that, but I wouldn’t go to Vegas with that.
I think you’re not wrong in assuming that he’ll take the report with him and study it and work on it. The President will no doubt consult with members of his team, as he has been all along on this issue. And I think it’s important to recall what this is about and has been about. The review is looking across the board at our intelligence gathering to ensure that we, as we gather intelligence, we are properly accounting for both the security of our citizens and our allies and the privacy concerns shared by Americans and citizens around the world.
We need to ensure that our intelligence resources are most effectively supporting our foreign policy and national security objectives, that we are more effectively weighing the risks and rewards of our activities. And that includes ensuring that we are above all focused on the threats to the American people.
The President has been clear that even as we review our efforts and make some changes in how we do things, we will not harm our ability to face those threats. That is his number-one obligation as Commander-in-Chief: to take the steps necessary to protect the United States and protect the American people. But as I said yesterday and the President said, we need to make sure that we’re not gathering intelligence solely because we can but because we must, because we need it in order to achieve the objective of protecting the United States, protecting the American people, protecting our allies.
So we’ve mentioned in the past some of the areas that this overall internal review will look at. And I know that, and you can be sure that, the President will be very deliberate in assessing the recommendations produced by the review board, as well as the work done by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. So this is a fairly broad assessment that’s being done, and the President will take his time because it is absolutely necessary to do that in his review. And come January, he’ll have concluded that work and make a presentation on it.
Q When will it come out?
MR. CARNEY: This afternoon. Sometime this afternoon. I don’t have an hour for you.
Q On a different topic, Senator McConnell said yesterday that he wouldn’t envision an increase in the debt ceiling without -- or a clean bill without some kind of additional issue attached. Others in the House have said the same thing. Can you comment on that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, Senator McConnell has in the past made clear that he felt the strategy pursued by Republicans in October was not a winning strategy; that the brinksmanship, the threat of default, as well as the insistence on shutting down the government did not work well in advancing Republican Party priorities. I think that was in the end a fairly consensus view here in Washington and around the country. And around the country, the view was not just that it wasn’t great for the Republican Party, it wasn’t great for the country. It was terrible for the country and wholly unnecessary.
So, as I said yesterday, the President’s position is unchanged. He will not negotiate over Congress’s responsibility to pay the bills that Congress has racked up. So we’ve seen comments from a Republican leader in the House. We’ve now seen comments from the Republican Leader in the Senate suggesting that they may want to travel down this road again. But they will encounter the same position from the President that he held in October. This is not something to be trifled with. It is not something to be horse-traded over. It’s the full faith and credit of the United States.
We are moving forward in our economy. We are creating jobs, we are growing. We need to create more and we need to grow faster and stronger. And the last thing the American people want, the last thing our economy needs is that kind of brinksmanship again, that kind of threat over the American and global economy in return for some partisan objective that couldn't be achieved elsewhere -- perhaps repeal of the Affordable Care Act. We could replay the whole movie.
I don't think that will happen. I said yesterday that we don't think that will happen. But let me be clear that the President’s position will not be any different next year than it was this year.
Q Can I ask also about the Indian diplomat in New York? Can you give us any further information about whether she’s been transferred to the Indian mission, and if that transfer would give her immunity from prosecution?
MR. CARNEY: Those are not details that I have for you. I want to say that the United States and India enjoy a broad and deep friendship, and this isolated episode is not indicative of the close and mutually respectful ties that we share.
We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India, and we are looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest to ensure that all standard procedures were followed and that every opportunity for courtesy was extended.
I would refer you to the Justice Department for details about the arrest, and you can look at the website for the Department of Justice, which has extensive information laid out by the U.S. Attorney in the southern district of New York regarding the visa fraud and false document charges made against the deputy consul general of India in New York. But I don't have any, in terms of her disposition or how this is being handled, any more details than Justice can provide.
Q There is a big concern about the security of the U.S. missions in Delhi and other places. They have removed the barricades. Are you in touch with them? And has the President been informed about it? Is he up to date on this?
MR. CARNEY: He has been briefed on this issue, and I can tell you that the safety and security of our diplomats and consular officials in the field is a top priority. We continue to work with India to ensure that all of our diplomats and consular officials are being afforded full rights and protections under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
We have conveyed at high levels to the government of India our expectation that India will continue to fulfill all of its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. For more details about the embassy and consulates, I would refer you to the State Department.
Q How should the Russians view anything -- the U.S. delegation’s announcement by the White House as anything other than a snub by the President of Vladimir Putin's Olympics?
MR. CARNEY: The President --
Q Why shouldn’t they view it as a snub?
MR. CARNEY: You mean because the President --
Q The President, first time in seven Olympics that there's no President, no member of the First Family, no Vice President, no former President leading the U.S. delegation.
MR. CARNEY: Well, Chuck, the President is extremely proud of our athletes and looks forward to cheering them on from Washington as they compete in the best traditions of the Olympic spirit. He knows they will showcase to the world the best of America -- diversity, determination and team work.
Now, the President's schedule does not allow him to travel to Sochi, but in his stead, he has asked a high-level delegation led by former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, and featuring former Olympian Brian Boitano and former Olympic coach Billie Jean King to represent the United States at the opening ceremonies, to represent the government. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and former Olympians Caitlin Cahow, Eric Heiden and Bonnie Blair will represent the U.S. at the closing ceremonies.
Now, this delegation represents the diversity that is the United States. All our delegation members are distinguished by their accomplishments in government service, in civic activism and in sports. And we are proud of each and every one of them and think they will serve as great ambassadors of the United States to the Olympic Games.
Q Is there a message that you're trying to send on gay rights in particular?
MR. CARNEY: I think that this delegation represents the diversity that is the United States. Every member of that delegation is extremely accomplished, either in government service or in civic activism or, most especially, in sports. So he's very proud of the delegation and the diversity it represents, and he looks forward, as every American does, to the competition and to the effort that American athletes will demonstrate when they compete in Sochi.
Q I understand that, but would you wave off the interpretation that clearly the United States and the Obama administration wants to send a message about Russia's questionable treatment of gay --
MR. CARNEY: I don’t think we need to -- I would simply say that that’s not a message we would wait to send through this manner. We have been very clear, the President has been very clear that he finds it offensive, the anti-LGBT legislation in Russia, for example. And we take very clear and strong stands on that issue, as well as the curtailment of civil society in Russia, as well as the harassment caused to those who protest corruption in Russia. And the issues we have with Russia we are very upfront about, and that includes --
Q You want this allegation to bring some attention to these issues.
MR. CARNEY: Look, I think that this delegation brings attention to the remarkable diversity of the United States as well as the success that the United States has had in sports, both at the Olympics and beyond. It is also a demonstration of high-level success and civic activism as well as in government service. And the President is proud to have this delegation both to the opening and to the closing ceremonies represent our nation and our government at a games that will obviously, as they also do, have the attention of the world.
Q And let me ask you about the comments that John Podesta made in an article a couple of months ago. Obviously they were made before he joined the administration, do you think John Podesta owes -- since he’s coming in as a very senior advisor, I mean, is this the type of relationship this White House hopes to strike up with the House Republicans?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think you began to say does he owe an apology, and he clearly thought he did since he issued one very quickly. And I think -- I don’t have the language exactly before me -- he said it was a case of his snark getting ahead of his judgment, and he expressed his longstanding admiration for the Speaker of the House and apologized to him. So I think that reflects Mr. Podesta’s view. And I think the speed with which he apologized --
Q So there’s clearly concern that this could poison --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think John reflected his concern that it not reflect the approach he has taken in his past or will take when he arrives here at the White House.
Q Just quickly following up on the Olympics -- I mean, you’re not suggesting that there was not a message sent here with this delegation, are you?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m suggesting that in the selection of this delegation we are sending the message that the United States is a diverse place and this delegation represents that diversity not because of the issues on which we disagree with Russia alone, but because of the remarkable accomplishments of every individual in that delegation.
Q But when the highest-ranking government official in this delegation is a deputy chief of staff --
MR. CARNEY: Well, there is a former Cabinet Secretary, the Homeland Security Cabinet Secretary, who is also now in a very big job as head of I think the largest --
Q -- the Vice President, the First Lady -- I mean, you had to be thinking about -- were you thinking of the so-called gay propaganda law when the White House was putting together this delegation?
MR. CARNEY: Look, I think that we, as I said earlier, have made no bones about the fact that we strongly oppose and are offended by the anti-LGBT legislation in Russia. We’ve made very clear -- have not pulled any punches in talking about the fact that we expect Russia to conduct Olympic Games in Sochi that demonstrate full respect and regard for the participants in those games from all over the world and from all walks of life. And I think that the purpose of any delegation to the games is to showcase the strengths of the country sending the delegation, and that’s what this delegation does.
Q Would the President encourage members of this delegation to publicly express their disapproval of Russia’s anti-gay policies at the opening ceremonies?
MR. CARNEY: The President has publicly expressed his disapproval of those policies. I don't expect that this delegation will comport itself any differently than previous delegations have or that delegations are expected to comport themselves.
The selection reflects the diversity of this country, the strength of this country, the brilliance and success of our athletes, as well as the nature of our civic activism and government service. So the President is very proud to have the two delegations, both the one to the opening ceremonies and the one to the closing ceremonies to represent the United States government in Sochi.
Q And just a quick question on the event with the moms in the Oval Office. You said, because moms play a unique -- moms have a unique role to play. I mean, are you -- is there a little gender stereo --
MR. CARNEY: Do you do what your mom tells you to do?
MR. CARNEY: I do, mostly.
Q What about the dads? I mean, you're a dad. Do you have a role to play here?
MR. CARNEY: I wish I had that kind of power and influence over my children, but I don't. (Laughter.) Now, I apologize to my father in saying that. But I think this is a recognition of the role that moms play in their families. And they, I think, bear truths to their children. And one of the truths that we hope moms around the country will convey is that it is very important to get covered, to be insured, to protect themselves against the potential of falling ill with a debilitating disease or breaking a leg, or any kind of thing that can befall young people who might otherwise feel invincible.
And with the Affordable Care Act, there is a unique opportunity now that did not exist before for young adults to take advantage of the accessibility of quality, affordable health care. So many of these young adults will be able to get insurance for $50 a month or less, or $100 a month or less. And, of course, those under 26 can avail themselves of the opportunity created by the Affordable Care Act to stay on their parents' health plans, something that wasn’t impossible before this law passed and has been possible since it's passed. It's not something that's just kicking in January 1st, as you know.
That's a remarkably useful benefit for families, middle-class families around the country. When you’re 19, let’s say you don’t go to college or you’re not getting insurance through college, prior to this you could be in a tough spot. You may be between jobs, between schools. You may be employed somewhere where there’s not employer-provided insurance. And having that opportunity at that early stage in your life to stay on your parents’ plan is extremely valuable. And it’s good for the individuals, it’s good for the families, it’s good for the overall health of the nation, it’s good for the bottom line. And in conveying all those messages, I think moms speak clearly and best, in many cases, to their children.
Yes, sorry -- Wendell and then Athena.
Q The President’s decision to release the report from this intelligence review board, was that swayed by something he heard from the tech company CEOs yesterday?
MR. CARNEY: No, no. It was -- because of what I mentioned, we talked about, I talked about the likelihood that this would be released in January when the overall internal review would be completed and the President would be speaking to the results of that review and that work done by the various individuals involved in assessing our intelligence-gathering activities, especially signals intelligence.
What we’ve seen in the last days since Friday is there’s been a lot of reporting -- and I guess we should have expected that -- a lot of good reporters out there trying to get at this. And in the interest of making sure that they’re reporting about what’s in the review, or the review board’s report, is accurate, we’ve decided that it’s perfectly appropriate to put that out now.
Q Has it been scrubbed?
MR. CARNEY: Yes. And not since we’ve made that decision. It was always going to be publicly released, or at least for some time now.
Q There is some redaction to that.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t know if there’s redaction. I think it has been completed in a way that allows it to be released publicly is my understanding. We can get more detail on how that process worked for you. But it will be released publicly in a way that is safe to be done.
Q So how much information are we actually going to get?
MR. CARNEY: A lot.
Q How long of the report are we actually going to get?
MR. CARNEY: A lot. It’s long. And I insist that everybody read the entire thing before they report on it, or maybe I should get your mom to call you and tell you to do that.
Q You’ve seen -- you, as has every White House press secretary, talked about polls going up, polls going down. The President’s polls have been going down of late. But I want to ask you about a particular poll that speaks to his honesty and trustworthy; that’s gone down. Is that a different thing for the President to see that go down than to see job approval rating or something like that go down, something you can blame on the economy?
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, I think all of these numbers that we’re seeing reflect the dissatisfaction across the country that Americans have with dysfunction in Washington. As the President said the other day, just since fall began they’ve seen the government shut down, they’ve seen default threatened, they’ve seen a terrible rollout of a very important domestic policy initiative and the website. And they understandably might wonder what's going on here -- why can't Washington function in a way that works for the American people, that produces positive results for the American people. And I think that you've seen poll numbers for everyone -- Republicans and Democrats, including the President -- reflect that unhappiness and dissatisfaction. I would not be surprised by that, I am not surprised by that; I don’t think anyone here is surprised by that. What we have seen --
Q But the trustworthiness question would seem to speak directly to the President's promise: If you like your health care --
MR. CARNEY: Look, I think the President addressed this head on, addressed why it was important to him to take action to mitigate that problem, and spent a lot of time talking to the colleague to your left there about that very issue. And I don’t -- I can't speak to what specific poll result is related to what event in Washington or what perception of the President or others here. What I am very confident of is that a lot of Americans are fed up with how Washington has been functioning, or dysfunctioning.
And the good news, as we approach Christmas and the holiday season here, is that we have seen of late an improvement. Now, the bar is very low here when it comes to Congress working. But Congress worked in the last several weeks -- Chairman Ryan, Senator Murray -- Chairman Murray came together and worked out, hammered out a budget compromise that is not the grand bargain and is not a solution to all our ills, but it is a significant bipartisan achievement. And it will directly result in stronger growth and job creation, and the certainty it creates will produce added economic benefits, added security to the American people and the middle class in particular.
That’s good. And both sides deserve credit for that. Obviously not huge majorities of Republicans voted for it, but enough Republicans did that it's passed the House and it's going to pass the Senate. That’s a good thing. And Chairman Ryan deserves credit, Speaker Boehner and others deserve credit for that. And the President is happy to see it and he looks forward to signing it. And we hope, as I said earlier, that it will maybe create a little momentum behind efforts to tackle other challenges in a bipartisan way. Comprehensive immigration reform is screaming out for the House of Representatives to follow the Senate's lead and pass it, and reap the benefits of passing it, economically; the benefits to our security; the benefits to the middle class and to our businesses. That would be a good thing. And the President is eager to share credit for that.
So maybe, if that happens and if Congress comes together and produces bipartisan compromises on other issues, maybe those numbers for everyone will go up, including -- rarely mentioned in these conversations -- are the abysmally low, historically low numbers for Congress. Well, it’s all part of the same -- when you're out in the country and you don't live and breathe this stuff every day, there’s a tendency to just think the whole place is to blame for the dysfunction and failures and you don't single out individuals or parties, necessarily. You think they’re all failing you. You think that your representatives in Washington were sent here to help you, and instead they’re focusing on their own political ambition, their own primary, their own leadership race -- whatever it is -- instead of -- or listening to constituents who have the loudest voices here in Washington instead of the folks in their communities.
Maybe that will change. And we should, at the very least, not exaggerate what we've seen in the last few weeks, but we should acknowledge it and hope that it is a sign of more cooperation to come.
Q Jay, on health care?
MR. CARNEY: Yes, ma’am.
Q Today, with the event -- the moms event in the Oval Office and then the radio interviews this afternoon, the First Lady is playing a bigger role in this health care push. What is it that the White House feels that she brings to the table that's particularly powerful or persuasive?
MR. CARNEY: Well, she’s a mom, so in this event I think -- although her children are not old enough now to avail themselves to staying on their parents’ insurance or purchase it on their own -- I think two things. One, she’s just a great messenger. And while she didn’t develop the Affordable Care Act or wasn’t involved in the policy process, she believes deeply in the need to deliver affordable, quality health insurance to the American people, and in this case to make sure that young people, young Americans understand the value of being covered, whether it’s on their parents’ plans or on plans that they can get themselves, affordably.
So we think it’s a very helpful assistance, piece of assistance that she’s providing here by getting this message out with the President, that moms around the country can play a big role in getting this message out to their kids and to other members of their family.
Q Does this reflect any concern that the numbers are low when it comes to young and healthy people signing up?
MR. CARNEY: As I think I said the other day, this has always been an issue. I think that the mix of the population that enrolls in the exchanges is something that experts look at. We, broadly speaking, remain very pleased with the significant increase in both traffic and enrollment on healthcare.gov, and we will, when we get the data, be able to make more assessments about how those populations break down. But I think it’s always been the case that reaching all Americans and including and, perhaps, in particular, young Americans has been part of the plan, and that's what we're doing.
There are a lot of young Americans out there who, because they believe they can't get sick, don't feel like they need to make the expense -- or bear the expense, even if it’s modest -- $50 or less, $100 or less per month -- to purchase insurance. And part of this effort is to explain why it is the right thing to do and the safe and wise thing to do, and the healthy thing to do to get covered.
Q And one more to get your reaction. AHIP announced today that anyone who pays their first month's premium by January 10th will have coverage, health insurance coverage, retroactive to January 1st. Can I get your reaction?
MR. CARNEY: I haven't seen that report. We've been working with all stakeholders to make this transition as smooth as possible. We created a lot of problems with the poor performance of the website at the launch. And we've been catching up, as we've made improvements to the website and made other adjustments to help smooth the transition. So again, I don't have that specific report so I don't want to speak for that organization.
But, clearly, we have been working with issuers, insurers to work with the states and within the marketplaces to try to make this transition as smooth as possible so that those who enrolled in order to get insurance coverage on January 1st are able to do so. And that's part of a broader effort.
As I noted this week and last, it's the number-one priority at CMS is to focus on those backend issues, which is the forms that are sent to the carrier. Once you select a plan and you fill out the information, that information is sent to the carrier of the plan to make sure they're accurate, to make sure that all the information that's necessary to have that policy kick in is taken care of. And that includes making sure that those who have enrolled, individuals are in communication with their carriers about when premiums are due, first payments are due so that coverage kicks in.
Bill. I'll get Bill, then Mark and Peter.
Q I just wondered, will the President have any kind of reaction to the release of this report today?
MR. CARNEY: We will have a readout of the meeting. I do not expect that you'll see the President speaking to this today. But we'll have a readout.
Q No, but I mean, even if you're repeating his words, is he going to say something about the fact of this report and about what its release portends?
MR. CARNEY: I would not expect that, because as I noted, it is a long report, and we want the time to assess it.
MR. CARNEY: Well, he met with the board this morning.
Q We'd like to know what he thinks.
MR. CARNEY: He is not going to make snap judgments. He is going to look at it and assess it. And, as I said, the overall internal review won’t be completed until January. After that, the President will have more to say about it and more to say about the outcomes of that work. So I wouldn't anticipate those kind of remarks or judgment being made today or this week.
Q Is he even happy that there came to be a report?
MR. CARNEY: Absolutely. He is the instigator for the review board and for the product it created, and is extremely grateful, absolutely.
Q But only because of the leaks?
MR. CARNEY: I think there's no question that the disclosures have created a lot of intensity and focus on this issue. But the President I think has been very proactive and aggressive in making sure that this internal review is being done and that not just here but at PCLOB, and in making clear that he has made changes and will make changes based on these assessments -- changes that will be important even as we make clear that the work that’s done by the NSA and other parts of the intelligence community is vital to the security of the United States and the American people and our allies, and that we will not compromise the work that we do on behalf of the security of the United States, but that it is necessary to review what we do and to make sure that we’re not just -- because of the technology we have and the capacity we have, we’re not just collecting intelligence because we can but that it’s focused and we’re doing it because we should and must in order to achieve those goals.
Q Right, but without the leaks there would have been no review.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think if you go back -- we’ve had this discussion -- go back to the President’s speech earlier in the year before the disclosures, I think he spoke about the overall need to assess our posture in the aftermath of 10 years of war. And I think that it’s clear from what he said then that these issues -- intelligence and not just military operations -- were very much on his mind. And I wouldn’t argue with you that this has heightened focus both here in the White House and, more broadly, within the administration as well as of course around the United States and the globe.
But he is very grateful to those he asked to perform this review and to the members of PCLOB and others who have been doing some very important work on these issues so that he can make some decisions about which recommendations he’ll act on, which he won’t, which he’ll make adjustments to and then act on. It’s an extremely dense and substantive exercise, which is why, in response to a 300-plus page report and 46 recommendations, we’re not going to come out with an assessment five minutes later.
Q Jay, as you saw again yesterday there is still a great risk to U.S. military people in Afghanistan. What’s the current read here on the deadline for Karzai to sign onto the security agreement? Is it still December 31st?
MR. CARNEY: We have made clear that we believe the bilateral security agreement ought to be signed right away, as soon as possible. We welcome the loya jirga’s overwhelming endorsement of the BSA and continued partnership with the United States, and we are prepared to sign the agreement -- which is an opportunity to strengthen and sustain the partnership between the U.S. and Afghanistan, to support Afghans in achieving lasting peace, security, and development.
The negotiation is over, and if we cannot conclude a BSA promptly then we will be forced to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no U.S. or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan. And that’s not a future that we want and it is not in Afghanistan's interest, but that is what we will plan for without prompt conclusion of the BSA.
Q What is promptly? And does Susan Rice's warning to Karzai still stand that no deal by the end of the year would force the U.S. to --
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a date to place on it except that we need it promptly. There is not time here. We cannot, as has been suggested, wait for further developments in Afghanistan. This was negotiated in good faith; the negotiation is over. There are no changes that are going to be made to that agreement. It can either be signed or not signed, and we believe the message is clear, emanating from Washington and from our representatives in Kabul, that it's time to sign this agreement.
Q Again, she told Karzai that if there's no deal by the end of the year it would force the U.S. to plan to pull out.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that reflects what I just said. Again, I don’t have a date specific on it, but there's not --
Q That is a date, though. You said prompt, and she said end of the year.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I wouldn’t -- I'd refer you to what the National Security Advisor has said. What I'm saying and I think others have said is this has to happen quickly. It is not -- the assessments that NATO has to make in early 2014 are going to happen, and there is no time for waiting for this to be further considered in Afghanistan. It's been endorsed overwhelmingly by the loya jirga, and it was negotiated in good faith for quite a long time. So we want to see a signature as soon as possible.
Q Can I follow on that, Jay?
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q Is it truly in America's best security interest to keep U.S. troops there at all? Why are we doing this?
MR. CARNEY: We've made very clear, Connie, that -- the President has made clear that whatever remaining troops presence there might be would be focused solely on counterterrorism and on the training and support of Afghan forces. The President is committed to winding down this war and America's direct engagement in this war. But it is in U.S. interests to maintain that, in our view, counterterrorism presence and that presence that assists in the training and support of Afghan forces.
The President, when he reviewed our policy towards Afghanistan I think -- and we're going way back now, when we came here and I was working for the Vice President -- it was noted that when you went to Afghanistan and talked to our representatives there, both military and civilian, and asked them what our policy was, you got different answers from everybody. And that was what we inherited.
And what the President instituted was a very clear-eyed, deliberate review of our policy and our objectives, and produced a policy that was very clear: We are there because we were attacked, and we are there to go after those who attacked us, al Qaeda, and to take steps necessary so that Afghanistan can and the government there can maintain stability so that Afghanistan does not become, again, a harbor for al Qaeda or other terrorists who have the objective of attacking the United States or American citizens.
And we have, because of the remarkable skill and bravery of our troops as well as those not in uniform who have worked on this effort, made enormous progress in going after al Qaeda core in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. That was our number-one objective. And when the President’s policy emerged and began to be implemented, the clarity of that policy I think has served U.S. interests very clearly. And those same interests are the reason why we have taken the approach in the bilateral security agreement that we’ve taken. But we will not be able to maintain a troop presence there if this document is not signed.
Q Could you clarify why the report is being released this afternoon? You said to Wendell that it was to sort of head off -- to make sure that reports about it were accurate. And earlier you had said because it was a response to the reporting that had been inaccurate. Have there been inaccuracies?
MR. CARNEY: My understanding is there have been some inaccuracies. And what we think is the right and appropriate thing to do, given that and given that we wouldn’t expect reporting on this to stop even if we asked for that, that it’s perfectly appropriate to release it now, and those who are reporting on it can report on the document instead of second-hand of third-hand conversations about the document.
Q Will you here, or this afternoon perhaps, spell out what the inaccuracies were?
MR. CARNEY: No, I think we’ll just point to the document because the document will be accurate, because it will be the document. And you guys, the media critics, can decide which reports were reflective of what’s in the document.
Q On some other reports, is the White House doing anything at all to speed the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s year-old report now on the interrogation practices of the CIA?
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t been briefed on that in a while so I’ll have to take the question and get back to you.
Q Did the review board initiate or request that the report be made public, or was that something you all decided kind of unilaterally, if that makes sense?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know the chicken-or-the-egg question here. I think that we’re in ongoing discussions. There was always -- or it had for a long time been the view that it would be released publicly. And I think the assessment was made jointly that it be released.
Q And I know Jackie asked this but -- and not to devolve into self-loathing, but the press gets things wrong sometimes, and you all generally don’t respond or release a report just because we’ve got something wrong. So why now? Is it something so -- is it just because this deals with national security, because of the severity?
MR. CARNEY: Honestly, I don’t think this is a big issue or question here. I think it was just a decision that it could be released now. We had originally planned to release it in concert with the conclusion of the overall internal review, because this is just one piece of it. But given the reporting on it and the recognition that a release of the actual document would allow those with interest in it to report accurately about it, that it might as well be released early.
Q Is Congress getting copies of the report as well, or are they being briefed separately?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have an answer to that. I think once it’s released, I’m sure everybody who wants one will be able to get one.
Q But they’re not getting anything earlier or --
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have an answer to that. I’m not sure. Early, I don’t think so, but again, let me be clear, I don’t know the answer to that.
Q Did the President share the report with the tech executives yesterday?
MR. CARNEY: No, I don’t believe he did. They had a long conversation about overall issues regarding the disclosures and concerns that the executives have expressed and expressed about the disclosures, and that was a very constructive conversation in the President’s view. But I do not believe that the report was shared.
Q Will you be doing any briefings for the press with the report, or are you just going to drop it?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have -- I don’t know the answer to that. Again, I think that our view is that, both internally and externally, it merits a substantive assessment. But we may -- I mean, if we have more on that, we’ll let you know.
Q A couple for you. First, on the Olympics. Does the President want to speak with or invite the delegation to the White House before they go to Sochi?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know the answer to that. He obviously has a very close relationship with his former Homeland Security Secretary. I don’t know when the last time they spoke was. But in terms of the whole delegation, if there’s going to be a visit I’m sure we’ll let you know.
Q And on the NSA review, in the first statement after the report landed, it seemed like you guys ruled out dividing NSA from Cyber Command, which also means that NSA won’t get a civilian leader. Was that ever on the table or was that something that was ruled out very quickly in this process?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know the process, but I know that it was considered, that there was a discussion about suggestions along those lines, and a decision was made that I think has been announced or revealed to maintain the unitary command and therefore a military command. But I don’t know how long that question was on the table. I believe it was deliberated.
Q In your statement, you said this is an isolated incident, but India is not taking it that way. It has taken serious steps which will derail the strengthening of relations that this administration has been taking for the past five years. Do you believe the same way, it is affecting the relationship between the two countries? And does the President believe that diplomats should be treated the way she was treated in New York?
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry, say the last part again.
Q Does the President believe that the diplomats will be treated the way he was treated in New York?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think we said that we are looking into the intake procedures, which is, I guess, a bureaucratic term for the procedures by which people are arrested in these circumstances. And we want to ensure that all standard procedures were followed and that every opportunity for courtesy was extended. Now, thus far, all indications are that standard procedures were followed, but because we recognize that this is a very sensitive issue in India, we are continuing to review exactly what happened in this case.
To your first question, I think that it merits -- it’s worth repeating what I said in answer earlier, which is that the United States and India enjoy a broad and deep friendship, and this isolated incident is not, in our view, indicative of the close and mutually respectful ties that we share, and we look forward to continuing to work on that relationship and make it stronger. We are, again, reviewing what happened in this case. I would refer you to the Department of Justice and to the southern district of New York, the U.S. Attorney’s office there for more details about the charges and the arrest itself. But again, we view it as an isolated incident even as we assess what exactly happened in the intake procedure.
Q But isn’t the White House concerned the impact this incident would have on India-U.S. bilateral relations, especially after the successful visit of Prime Minister --
MR. CARNEY: Well, we would express that concern by making clear that we view this as an isolated incident that does not reflect on our relationship. And we will obviously consult with our counterparts in India about it and we will also obviously discuss with them the vital need to maintain the security of U.S. diplomatic and consular officials in India because that is a top priority.
Q Just a clarification on something before you go, on the NSA?
MR. CARNEY: Sure.
Q When the story came out about the metadata collection program at the NSA -- all the compiling of all those phone records -- the President of course defended the program and said that it had saved lives. I'm just wondering, is there any change in that position? Does the President still see that as a central, essential program that saves American lives?
MR. CARNEY: The President does believe that the programs that have been legislated by Congress and reviewed by the FISA Court are necessary for our security. And I would point you to what he has said as well as many others have said about it. And I hasten to emphasize, again, that in this review, our priority remains, his priority remains the safety and security of the American people. And it is not an objective of this review to in any way compromise our security, and he will not do that.
But he does believe that we can take steps to refine our practices and make sure that we are collecting intelligence, gathering intelligence in a way that serves our security needs in a focused way and not just because we can because we have the capacity to do so. But, first and foremost, the security of the United States, the security of the American people are the President's priorities.
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March 28, 2015
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