the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney Aboard Air Force One en route Columbus, OH

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Columbus, Ohio

12:55 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Thanks for coming to Columbus, Ohio, with us today, ladies.  (Laughter.)  And let me just read to you -- that's the background on the event we’re doing, but make a couple of announcements.

On Friday, the President will attend an event in the Washington, D.C. area and sign the America Invents Act.  The America Invents Act was passed with the President’s strong leadership after nearly a decade of effort to reform our outdated patent laws.  It also reflects strong bipartisan cooperation.  And Congress is working together on behalf of American innovation -- that might be a run-on sentence, for which I apologize.

In addition, President Obama will announce new steps the administration is taking that will help convert the ideas from America’s universities and research labs into new products, expanding our economy and creating new jobs.

Also the Vice President tomorrow will convene the first Cabinet’s waste-cutting meeting, as part of the administration’s campaign to cut waste.  At the meeting, Secretary Solis and Sebelius will announce new initiatives to fight waste and fraud, and the Vice President will call on each Cabinet Secretary to undertake additional efforts to target unnecessary, wasteful and inefficient federal spending.

With that, I will take your questions.

Q    Has there been a White House statement on the attacks in Afghanistan?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t believe the White House has put out a statement.  Secretary Clinton has addressed it.  I believe the Pentagon has addressed it.  I’m happy to say that, as far as we know, there are no U.S. casualties at this point.  There are some Afghan wounded.

It’s important to make clear that this will in no way deter our commitment to the mission, which is to provide for security in the country, as we work to transition a security lead to the Afghan national security forces.  That mission has had important success and we continue on it as we move towards drawing down surge forces, and further training up and increasing the capacity of the Afghan national security forces.

Q    On the jobs package, Eric Cantor says that the Republicans will probably split off the tax portion.  How is the White House planning to navigate that?  What does it do to the effectiveness of the jobs package?  And as a third point, what assurances do you have that even Democrats like Mary Landrieu or Chuck Schumer would sign to some of the hedge fund stuff?

MR. CARNEY:  Look, we believe that all the measures in the jobs act -- we don’t just believe, we know it -- are the kinds of measures that have had bipartisan support in the past.  I can provide you, if you haven’t already, ample evidence of that.

To your question about the majority leader, the President submitted the American Jobs Act.  It is a package of proposals, which outside economists believes would, if enacted in full, have a significant impact on economic growth and job creation in America -- significant.

We believe that Congress should act on the American Jobs Act right away.  We believe that if Congress were to send a portion of the American Jobs Act, the President would, of course, not veto it.  He would sign it, and then he would return to press the Congress to get the rest of the job done -- because there is simply an urgent need in this country to grow the economy and put Americans back to work.

Congress will have a lot of explaining to do if, come the end of the year, they have done nothing to address Americans’ number-one priority, which is the need for the economy to get going and the need to put Americans back to work.  They will still have a significant amount to explain if they only took some of the measures they could have taken, but not all of the ones.

Q    Do you think it would have any positive effect on the economy even if not as much as you wanted?  Or do you think below a certain threshold, no bump?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, again, I don’t know which specific provisions you’re talking about.  Each of them, economists I think have broken out and measured in terms of what their potential economic impact would be.  So we think all of the measures are good.  But if you’re saying, if Congress sent us the portion that would ensure that teachers went back to work, yes, the President would sign it.  And then he would press for the other provisions.  If they sent us the payroll tax cut, we would sign it, and press for the other provisions.  Because they are all vital, they’ve all enjoyed bipartisan support in the past.

Q    Aren’t you worried that by saying that you guys are willing to sign stuff if they pick off --

MR. CARNEY:  I know you’ve done this a long time in Washington; you know how Congress works.  Bills get submitted to Congress, and Congress then obviously has the authority to act on them.  Our preference is for Congress -- because of the urgent need -- to take up the American Jobs Act, as the Senate is doing, and we hope the House will as well, and pass it in its entirety, unchanged, if you will.  But we understand how Congress works.  And we look forward to Congress moving quickly, not because we tell them to or the President tells them to, but because the American people are demanding that they act.

Q    Can you talk about the President’s decision to try to pay for this package with tax hikes that Republicans have already rejected, and Boehner’s spokesman said yesterday that he didn’t think this was happening in a spirit of bipartisanship?

MR. CARNEY:  What I can tell you is that we live in a time where we have to make choices.  And if Republicans are saying that we can’t put teachers back to work so that we -- because we insist that oil and gas companies maintain special preferences in the tax code that other industries don’t have, I think that’s a terrible argument.  I think the American people will think it’s a terrible argument, and it just won’t hold.  And I think that’s true as you go through those provisions -- I mean, as you go through the American Jobs Act.

To be specific about the pay-fors -- and I think you’ve had a briefing on this -- we put forward some discreet measures, revenue measures, that will pay for all the provisions in the American Jobs Act in their entirety, if the American Jobs Act were to pass in its entirety right away.

As you know, there was a link between those provisions and  -- the pay-for provisions and what will be in the President’s broader proposal for long-term deficit and debt reductions.  They will be in that.  So the committee obviously could -- if the committee decided -- super committee decided to find other offsets, it would render the pay-fors in the American Jobs act void, because it would be paid for in an alternative measure.  The purpose of having to pay -- having the measures that we have in there to pay for it is that we want Congress to act now.  If Congress passes the American Jobs Act, it’s a guaranteed pay-for, as is.

I know that sounds complicated, but it’s basically ensuring that whether -- however Congress acts, the provisions the President put forward in the Jobs Act will be paid for.

Q    So why propose tax increases that won’t pass and that you know won’t pass?  Isn’t that just political?

MR. CARNEY:  No, it’s not.  Here’s the thing.  As I think it’s important to remember, when they say things like that, that it won’t fly, that the Speaker of the House said on the House floor that he put revenues on the table as part of the negotiations with the President.  There is ample evidence that I can cite to you of Republican members of Congress saying, we need to close some of these loopholes -- supporting, for example, payroll tax cuts -- payroll tax cut for employees and employers, supporting all the provisions in the plan.

If the argument is, should we eliminate tax preferences and loopholes and exceptions in order to pay for these things, we believe firmly that the American people overwhelmingly support that position, which is the President’s position.  And that’s the argument we’re going to be making, the President is going to be making everywhere he goes, week after week after week here, including today in Columbus, Ohio.

Q    Can I ask you about the situation in Europe?  I’m wondering if Secretary Geithner is going to the eurozone financial ministers meeting in Poland with a certain goal, or a mission to accomplish there.

MR. CARNEY:  As you know, I think he was just at the G7 with his counterparts.  The Secretary is in constant communication both at a distance and in person with his counterparts in Europe. And there was no specific goal to this meeting as I understand it, but simply part of his regular communication, consultation and meetings with his European counterparts as Europe deals with a difficult situation.

Q    Jay, out of curiosity, why did you guys decide to do this first visit to a school that's been newly renovated rather than one that's in need of renovation?

MR. CARNEY:  My understanding is to demonstrate the benefit that comes from renovating, modernizing, rebuilding schools.  It has a direct impact not only on the people who were hired to do the work but on the kids in the school, on those who teach there and work there.  So it's an example of what we need to do around the country.  And it’s why the President has put that important provision in the American Jobs Act.

Q    What does the President see as the greater need -- that schools are crumbling, or -- and are unsafe environments, or that they don't have Internet access?

MR. CARNEY:  Look, I think he thinks it’s all important, because, obviously, it’s unacceptable if kids are trying to learn in a school that's crumbling, or in some way unsafe, or needs serious maintenance.  It’s also vitally important for the future of this country and our ability to compete globally that we have kids who are learning about science and technology as they go through the school system and head to university.

Q    Any more info on the patent signing on Friday?

MR. CARNEY:  What I read you is all I have.

Q    Any update on the Palestinian-Saudi-U.N. -- talks?

MR. CARNEY:  I have no update on that.

Q    Speaking of unsafe, we’re landing.  (Laughter.)

Q    Anyone else aboard on the trip that we didn't see?

MR. CARNEY:  Melody Barnes is here also -- I think she was on the plane ahead of us --

Q    Lawmakers, advocacy folks, anything like that?  Is Arne Duncan on --

MR. CARNEY:  He is.  He was on Marine One with us, yes.  All right.

Q    Thank you.

1:06 P.M. EDT