Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney aboard Air Force One en Route Cincinnati, Ohio
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Cincinnati, Ohio
**Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader McConnell, like Congressman Yarmuth and Senator Paul, were invited to join the President during his trip to Cincinnati today.
1:46 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon. Thanks for joining us today. It's a testosterone-heavy crowd today. Anyway, thanks for coming with us today. As you know, we're headed to the Brent Spence Bridge, which is a bridge that connects Ohio and Kentucky. It's an important bridge that has been declared "functionally obsolete," and is in need of repair -- which makes it, sadly, very common in the United States. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of bridges and roads that are desperately in need of repair, which this President believes should be repaired as part of our effort both to put Americans back to work and to upgrade our infrastructure so that we can compete in the 21st century.
He is visiting this bridge in particular because it is symbolic of the overall need, the overall crumbling nature of our infrastructure, and it does span the two states, which are represented by the Speaker of the House and the Senator Minority Leader. And the President is calling on Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, to put people back to work, to put Americans back to work, and to get this economy growing.
And he is calling on both the Speaker and the Senate majority leader to join him -- Senate Minority Leader, rather -- to join him in getting this bill through Congress so that the benefits of the American Jobs Act can be felt as soon as possible by the American people.
And with that, I will take your questions.
Q I want to ask you about a story that the AP is reporting today about the New York Police Department targeting certain Muslim communities for surveillance. This is something that began with CIA cooperation. Does the President have any concern about what appears to be some kind of profiling scheme that’s going on here?
MR. CARNEY: Jim, I appreciate your question, and I have seen the story, but I don't have -- I haven’t had a chance to talk to the President about it, so I don't have a response. I can try to get back to you.
Q Can you get back to me?
MR. CARNEY: Yes, I may not talk to him about it today, but I’ll get someone back to you on it.
Q On another issue then -- this bridge is actually on schedule to be replaced in 2015. It's going to create jobs in 2015. Is the President suggesting, by being there, that somehow the Speaker and the Minority Leader aren’t supportive of the bridge?
MR. CARNEY: Let me make clear that the bridge is symbolic and representative of crumbling infrastructure across the country. There are identified in the American Jobs Act -- the American Jobs Act includes a $50 billion immediate investment in construction jobs, rebuilding America’s roadway, railways, transit systems and airports. It will put people to work upgrading 150,000 miles of road, laying and maintaining 4,000 miles of train tracks, restoring 150 miles of runways, and putting in place the next generation aircraft control system that will reduce travel time and delays.
There are just numerous, numerous projects. This one is symbolic. The fact is that if the American Jobs Act were passed, we could speed up the process of environmental and other approvals on this specific bridge. But the overall point is -- the reason why we’re going to this bridge is we need Congress to pass the American Jobs Act. And it is not a coincidence that we are going to a bridge that links the two states that are represented by the Speaker of the House and the Senate Minority Leader, who have it within their power to block passage of the American Jobs Act. And they -- and we call on them instead to work with the President to get this Congress to pass the jobs act and put Americans back to work.
Outside economists, as you know, independent of the administration, have said that the American Jobs Act would add up to 2 percent to the GDP of this country by next year and would add up to 1.9 million jobs. Again, those are outside estimates. The point being it is irrefutable that the various components of the jobs act would give an incredibly important boost to the economy and an incredible boost to employment in this country. And they are all the kinds of provisions that have been supported in the past by Republicans and Democrats in Congress, including the infrastructure provisions -- the kind of infrastructure programs that are outlined in the American Jobs Act are the kind that have traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support in the past, and we certainly hope they will in the future -- because this is the number-one priority that the President has and that the American people have. They want Washington to help get the economy going again.
Q Do you have any reaction to the remarks by Iranian President Ahmadinejad in the United Nations General Assembly criticizing U.S. policy -- I believe he called it "colonial."
MR. CARNEY: Our views on Iran’s behavior and its vile mistreatment of its own citizens are well known. I find it rich that the Iranian President would have such criticism. Our position on that regime’s treatment of its own people is well known.
Q And following up, do you have any reaction to the vote in the House on the CR? And is the President concerned there might be a government shutdown?
MR. CARNEY: We’re pleased to see the House reject attempts to put politics ahead of the need to help those who've been so severely affected by numerous significant disasters that beset the country. And we look forward to Congress working -- coming together to ensure that the needs of those affected by disasters is taken of -- are taken care of.
**Q Jay, is this the way to win the cooperation or support from Republican leaders, though, like McConnell and Boehner? Wouldn’t it be better to bring them along on a trip like this, invite them on Air Force One, consult with them? Could this be interpreted as showing them up, in a sense, appearing in their districts without them?
MR. CARNEY: I think the members of Congress, both parties -- the Republican Party, the Republican leadership, as well as rank and file members -- know exactly where the President stands. And he is calling on them to support the provisions of the American Jobs Act, as they have in the past -- whether it's extending the payroll -- extending and expanding the payroll tax cuts that put $1,500 in the pockets of the average American family next year; giving the -- cutting in half the employer side of the payroll tax cut that would get small businesses growing and hiring; the incentives in the American Jobs Act to get small businesses hiring -- either increasing wages or making new hires, or hiring veterans; and then the infrastructure programs that we are talking about today.
I don’t think it’s -- the issue here is not one of persuasion. It’s one of -- in terms of negotiations between leaders or rank and file members. It's making clear the urgent demand that the American people have that Washington, instead of getting in the way of the things that can help our economy, take action to help our economy and create jobs.
Q You’ve seen the markets the last -- yesterday and today also. They're down about 6 percent so far. There’s concern central banks are really running out of tools to head off a recession. Any comment?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’re obviously monitoring these things. I’m not going to comment specifically on markets. But as you know, the President had bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Cameron and President Sarkozy yesterday in New York at the United Nations. He also spoke on Monday with Chancellor Merkel. And in all of his conversations with European leaders, as well as the conversations that Secretary Geithner has had with his counterparts in Europe, he has reiterated that he believes that the Europeans have the capacity and the wherewithal to deal with the issues that confront them. And he has encouraged them to take forceful and decisive actions to do just that.
Q Is the President happy with the pace at which the Senate has taken up the American Jobs Act -- or not taking it up?
MR. CARNEY: The fact is the Senate has been dealing with issues that go directly to the urgent need that we face, which is ensuring that Americans are either put back to work or not thrown out of work; whether it’s the extension of the FAA bill, or the highway transportation -- surface transportation bill, other measures that obviously the Congress has to deal with in terms of a continuing resolution ensuring that government functions and operates.
We are comfortable and confident that the Congress will take up the American Jobs Act and hopefully pass it in its entirety as soon as possible.
Q Jay, does the President have any reaction -- does the White House have any reaction -- to the letter that the Speaker and the Minority Leader sent to Ben Bernanke in advance of the actions that they took to help the economy?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any comment on that.
Q Mr. Schumer is introducing a bill today to force the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator. Are you guys okay with --
MR. CARNEY: I don't have anything for you on that.
Q Jay, on the bridge -- is this specific bridge getting funding through the jobs act? You said that if it's passed it could speed up environmental regulation, but is it actually getting funding?
MR. CARNEY: The process by which specific projects get funded through infrastructure measures is not predetermined. The point of going to this -- as I understand it, the point of going to this bridge is to draw attention to the urgent need that we have in this country to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, and by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, we can put people back to work.
There are thousands upon thousands of potential projects out there -- projects out there that the American Jobs Act would fund through the three different provisions that relate to agriculture in the American Jobs Act, and this bridge is representative of the kinds of problems that our infrastructure faces and the dramatic needs that are out there.
And the fact is that there are out-of-work construction workers around the country who are ready to go to work on these projects, and we have the opportunity here -- Congress does, if it passes the American Jobs Act -- to put those Americans to work.
Q You would agree that this project wouldn't get going even if the jobs act passed until 2013?
MR. CARNEY: It is my understanding that -- in terms of where it is in the pipeline, that's the case. But we have never suggested that this project would be -- that ground would be broken on this project immediately. It is symbolic. We’re being -- we’re very transparent about why we’re going to this bridge. We’re going to this bridge because it spans a river that divides the two states which are represented by the Speaker of the House and the Senate Minority Leader. We need their -- the President is calling on them, the leaders in Congress of both parties, to work with him so that Congress passes the American Jobs Act, puts Americans back to work and grows this economy.
Thank you very much.
Q Thank you.
1:58 P.M. EDT