The White House
For Immediate Release
January 31, 2013
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 1/31/2013
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
Please see below for a correction (marked with an asterisk) to the transcript.
1:30 P.M. EST
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome back to the briefing room for your daily briefing. I do not have any announcements to make at the top, so I will go straight to Darlene.
Q Thank you. Jay, the Jobs Council expired today and it’s not being renewed. Can you explain why that is, why it’s not being renewed?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, when the President took office he created the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, affectionately known as PERAB. That was an advisory group led by Paul Volcker, comprised of business leaders, economists and labor leaders who provided outside advice to the President and his economic team at the very height of the financial crisis. When PERAB’s two-year charter expired, the administration created the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, also an outside advisory board whose mission was to bring new ideas to the table from the private sector on how best to support growth and job creation. Like PERAB before it, the Jobs Council was always intended to have a two-year charter, and as you noted, that charter expires today.
The work of the Jobs Council was very valuable. While the President didn’t agree with all of its recommendations, he agreed with many of them and acted on a number of them. The Jobs Council, for example, recommended a new initiative to focus on retrofitting government and commercial buildings for energy efficiency. This administration acted on this idea to create new construction jobs through the Better Buildings Challenge.
The Jobs Council also recommended new ideas to support entrepreneurship and small business investment, like creating a one-stop shop for businesses to make accessing information, support, and application for SBA funding and other services more forward. The administration acted on that idea, launched BusinessUSA to create this one-stop shop. There are many others.
The policy -- rather, the progress made by the Jobs Council on a number of specific policy issues has helped determine the next phase of our engagement with the business community and other outside groups on growth, jobs, and competitiveness. And today, we are announcing that the White House will begin a new, expanded effort to work with the business community and other outside groups to advance specific policy priorities promoted by the Jobs Council, including expanded new skills and talent initiatives, promoting entrepreneurship and small businesses, expediting permitting for infrastructure projects across the country, and continuing progress on fiscal issues and tax reform.
I think you’ve seen this President engage with, repeatedly, the business community through his Jobs Council and on issue-specific matters. In the last several months, as you know, we’ve engaged directly with business leaders on the need to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, actively engaged on multiple occasions. And their views on that issue were extremely helpful in bringing about the resolution that we were able to bring about.
Right now, we’re appreciative of the engagement the business community is offering on the issue of immigration reform, and that engagement will continue. On Wednesday, just this week, senior members of the President’s team held a call on immigration reform with over a dozen leading business leaders, including Steve Case, Greg Brown of Motorola, Dan Akerson of GM, and Joe Echevarria from Deloitte. The President will continue this engagement with outside groups next week.
Pretty good answer.
Q Wait, what’s the -- is it a new council? Like, is this an effort --
MR. CARNEY: No, we will continue -- yes, we will engage in a new effort to -- we will launch a new effort to engage with business leaders and other leaders -- remember, the Jobs Council -- the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness was not business leaders alone -- on these specific areas that I discussed. I have no body to announce.
Q There’s no formal thing? Yes.
MR. CARNEY: But as I think you’ve seen from the President’s and the White House’s and the administration’s rather intense engagement with the business community, we want to -- we are going to continue that on a variety of fronts.
Q But, Jay, this group --
MR. CARNEY: Can I go to Reuters? Thanks.
Q Yes. We actually had gotten a lot of that information earlier. How can you not paint this as a failure of the Jobs Council given the economic news we had just a few days ago?
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry -- it was created for two years, like PERAB, and its charter expires. And the work that the Jobs Council did was very helpful. A number of its ideas were acted on by this administration as part of the President’s overall commitment to job creation and economic growth. When we hear some of the somewhat ridiculous criticisms about this, they come from people who have -- on Capitol Hill who have consistently opposed every growth initiative and job creation initiative the President has put forward, including in the American Jobs Act, including in the proposals the President put forward to Speaker John Boehner as recently as December.
When economists, independent economists look at the budget proposals that Republicans claim have been job creators, the facts are clear that they have not been job creators in the near term. The proposals the President has put forward, some of them, after consultation with his Jobs Council and other business leaders, would put construction workers back to work building our infrastructure, would put cops back on the beat, would put teachers back in the school. And time after time, Republicans have opposed those measures, preferring instead a policy that expands or continues tax breaks for wealthy Americans while asking senior citizens and others to foot the bill for deficit reduction solely.
So it’s a little ironic to hear from those who with great fervor embraced the policies that helped create the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, who resisted the policies that have helped lead us out of that crisis and into a period of growth and job creation, be critical on this.
Q But isn’t it also, Jay, a little ironic to say, in the context of the economy having contracted, that the Jobs Council was a success?
MR. CARNEY: We have had sustained economic growth now for three years. We have had 54 months 34 months, I believe it is, of job creation; 2 million jobs in the last year alone.* We have a lot of work to do. But if the comparison -- and I encourage it, those who are inclined, to go back and look at the history of the policies supported by the critics and what they resulted in compared to the policies pushed by this President when it comes to job growth and broader economic growth. The comparison does not favor the critics, I think it’s fair to say.
What is absolutely true is that if the Republicans want -- those who are criticizing on this because they feel like it’s sort of a save/get key for them -- if they want to embrace infrastructure investment, if they want to embrace measures that would put teachers back to work or cops on the job, if they want to embrace some of the proposals the President put forward for investment in new industries and new technologies, we would welcome that. But unfortunately, by and large, we’ve faced resistance on that.
Part of the fiscal cliff deal was the renewal of the production tax credit that, as you know, with some exceptions -- notable exceptions -- Republicans opposed. What we now know, because there was a report out today, is that we had historic expansion in the wind sector last year, and the production tax credit was very much a part of that.
Q Let me ask you just one question on another issue, please. The Syrian government said today, or warned of a possible surprise response to Israel’s attack. Are you concerned that this will happen and that this situation will escalate?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I would refer you to the Israeli government on matters like that.
Q Jay, on the Jobs Council --
MR. CARNEY: Sorry, go ahead, Jessica.
Q Okay. Can I follow up first on Syria? In light of the Israeli strike there, how concerned is the U.S. that Hezbollah is getting weapons transferred?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m not going to -- I don’t have anything for you on questions about those reports. I would refer you to the Israeli government.
Q A U.S. official is quoted talking about this. You can’t give us anything?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t have anything for you on it.
Q Okay. In the hearing on Capitol Hill going on right now, Senator Hagel has been taking some tough questions. With regard to something he said, does the President believe the government of Iran is legitimate and elected?
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry, say that again.
Q Does the President believe the government of Iran is legitimate and elected?
MR. CARNEY: I think our views on the last presidential election were clearly expressed, the President’s views on that matter and our views on the behavior of the regime in Tehran are expressed again and again and again. The fact is we judge Iran by its behavior -- not by its words, but by its actions -- and they are consistently in violation of their United Nations obligations, their international obligations. And because of that, they are enduring the most intense sanctions regime in history that has had a dramatic impact on their economy as well as on their politics. And that pressure will continue and it will increase as long as Tehran refuses to live up to its international obligations with regards to its nuclear program.
Q And on -- he’s also endured some tough questioning from Republicans about the position he’s taken on nuclear disarmament. Is the President at all concerned that he’s changed his position to satisfy concerns of senators? And does the President believe -- what’s the President’s view on --
MR. CARNEY: The position that Senator Hagel has taken on nuclear weapons is the same position that President Kennedy took. It is the same position that President Ronald Reagan took. It is the same position that Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn have taken. And it is the same position that the President -- this President expressed in his speech in Prague.
The world would be a better place if we could rid it of nuclear weapons. Until that time comes about, we maintain the most serious and credible nuclear deterrent, as we should. That is a -- Senator Hagel’s views on this matter are very much in the mainstream of both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party and broader public opinion. What’s out of the mainstream are those who are suggesting otherwise.
Q First, on Hagel -- Hagel has suggested that the military option against Iran really is not an option. I just want to be clear --
MR. CARNEY: I believe he said, as the President has said, that he takes no options off the table and every option remains on the table. That’s the President’s position and it’s a position that Senator Hagel supports.
Q Okay. On the Jobs Council, why did it only meet four times? I mean, if this was such an important tool for the administration to get input from the business community --
MR. CARNEY: The Jobs Council provided a series of ideas, many of which the President acted on. It did not require a formal meeting for those ideas to be generated or worked on by either the Jobs Council or the administration. And again, this President’s engagement with the business community I think has been amply demonstrated just in recent months and will continue. And this President’s commitment, as a matter of policy, to job creation and economic growth is judged, I think fairly, by outside economists very favorably compared to alternatives put forward by Republicans in Congress whose policies nobody judges, like the Ryan budget and others, would do anything for near-term job creation.
The President has insisted all along that as we address the need to reduce our deficit, we do it in a way that -- he insists that we continue to invest in areas that allow our economy to grow, because otherwise deficit reduction is a Pyrrhic victory; it is not a worthwhile pursuit unto itself if it causes economic contraction or causes job loss, or doesn’t allow for the economy to grow or position itself for the 21st century.
Again and again in the debates that you’ve covered over these past several years with Republicans about how we move forward on economic policy, the President’s position has been one to include as part of our deficit reduction goals, job creation initiatives, economic growth initiatives. And that’s a position that is on the table with the proposal that the Republicans could take tomorrow, the proposal the President put forward in December.
Q Jay, I’m not talking about the Republicans. I mean, he hasn’t met with the Jobs Council in over a year. Isn’t that problematic?
MR. CARNEY: Why? It’s a group he created that did very effective work on behalf of the country and this administration and this President for two years. It was a two-year charter, and the charter has expired. And we will continue to engage with the business community. I mean, this fixation on an entity that the President himself created conveniently ignores all the work that the President has done towards creating jobs and fostering economic growth -- work that has frequently, if not always, been resisted by those who heavily promoted the policies that helped create the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes.
Q You keep talking about a two-year charter, but if he hasn’t met with it for a year, I mean --
MR. CARNEY: I think I’ve answered your question.
Q No, but when -- go back to --
MR. CARNEY: I appreciate the fact that you are more concerned with meetings than progress. And there is no creation -- there is no dispute over the fact that when this President took office, the economy was cratering. The economy shrank in the quarter before he was sworn into office, in the fourth quarter of 2008, by nearly 9 percent. That is catastrophic, okay? Jobs were lost at a rate of 750,000 per month when he took office.
There is no disputing economic, cold, hard facts that because of the policies that this President pursued, that kind of economic decline was reversed. And that’s the measure of your commitment to job creation and economic growth. And the President greatly appreciates the work that the Jobs Council has done, the ideas that they’ve put forward, many of which the administration adopted. And he looks forward to his engagement with the business community going forward on a variety of issues, many of which I just enumerated.
Q The Vice President is going to meet with Syria’s opposition leader, also with the Russian Foreign Minister when he arrives in Germany. We’ve heard varying accounts as to whether these meetings are separate or whether the three of them will meet together. Can you straighten that out?
MR. CARNEY: I would have to refer you to the Vice President’s Office. I don't -- I haven’t looked into details on the schedule for his trip.
Q Would it be a good idea to have the Syrian opposition leader sit down with the Vice President and the Russian Foreign Minister?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I would refer you to the Vice President’s office. I just haven’t looked into his schedule.
Q I’d like to also ask about Iran’s announcement that it’s upgrading its centrifuges. What do you have on that?
MR. CARNEY: We have seen reports that Iran has announced its intention to install advanced centrifuges and a production unit at Natanz. There is no indication of how many such centrifuges Iran plans to install or its timeline for doing so. But this does not come as a surprise given the IAEA’s regular reports on Iran’s development of advanced centrifuges.
However, the installation of new advanced centrifuges is a further escalation and a continuing violation, as I was speaking about moments ago, of Iran’s obligations under relevant United Nations Security Council and IAEA board resolutions. It would mark yet another provocative step by Iran and will only invite further isolation by the international community.
We continue to believe that there is time and space for diplomacy to work, but actions like this undercut the efforts of the international community to resolve its concerns over Iran’s nuclear weapons.
Q Jay, the President’s Recovery Advisory Board arguably succeeded in stopping the recession, if you will.
MR. CARNEY: But the President -- the PERAB was an advisory board. The success was the administration’s and Congress that helped vote for the recovery -- that voted for the Recovery Act, that voted for measures to save the automobile industry, that voted for measures to stem the crisis in the financial sector.
There is no question that advice from PERAB, from an outside council, was valuable, but the actions were taken by those empowered to take those actions -- the President and the Congress.
Q I’ll accept that. But since the Jobs Council --
MR. CARNEY: I’m glad you do. (Laughter.)
Q Since the Jobs Council was created, unemployment has fallen only 1.1 percent. Where do you see success in that?
MR. CARNEY: Again, the President repeatedly talks about the need for us to do more, that we are not where we want to be when it comes to economic growth and job creation. There is no question that more people would be employed had the Republicans not refused to pass the American Jobs Act. It is a simple mathematical fact that there would be more teachers in the classroom and more policemen on the beat. There would be more construction workers on the job building roads, bridges, schools -- infrastructure that will help our economy grow even more in the 21st century.
Unfortunately, Republicans adamantly refused to do that, citing the need to extend tax cuts for hedge fund managers, among others. So there’s no question that we have a dispute here about how best to grow our economy and create jobs. But the fact is that compared, especially to the record and the situation that the President inherited, we have seen economic growth and job creation, including 2 million jobs in the last calendar year.
Q I’m curious what the message will be from this White House when the Vice President goes to visit with the Syrian opposition leader in Germany in the next several days?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we have worked with our international partners in support of the Syrian opposition. We have also continued our role as the single-largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people who are suffering so mightily under the wrath of Bashar al-Assad. And we will continue to work with the Syrian opposition to help it organize itself and to help prepare -- help it in its work to prepare for a post-Assad Syria, for a Syria in which the aspirations and the rights of the Syrian people are respected, which stands in stark contrast to the butchery of the Assad regime.
Q The Syrian opposition leader has expressed for the first time a willingness to meet with representatives of Assad’s government. Does the White House support a meeting of that sort?
MR. CARNEY: I saw those reports. I don't have any update on our views on this. What is absolutely the case is that Syria’s future will not and cannot include Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian people have decided that. He has long since given up any opportunity he might have had to participate in Syria’s future. His hands are drenched in blood, the blood of his own people.
Now, I’m sure that in our conversations and the conversations of our international partners with the Syrian opposition, various approaches will be discussed. But what is unquestionable I think for the Syrian opposition, for the Syrian people is that Assad has to go.
Q So given that, is there any value in meeting? Is there any value --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don't have a particular response to that report, but our views on Assad’s future have not changed.
Q And then one other final question. There have been reports regarding Senator Bob Menendez. I’m curious if the President has full faith and confidence in the Senator?
MR. CARNEY: I’ve seen those reports. I don't have anything for you on it.
Q Does he have full faith and confidence --
MR. CARNEY: I just don't have anything.
Q -- because he plays a significant role in immigration and obviously --
MR. CARNEY: Again, Peter, I just haven’t -- I don't have anything for you on those reports.
Q I have a question about tomatoes. Today a trade agreement with Mexico that sets a minimum price for Mexican tomatoes expires. What happens now?
MR. CARNEY: I understand that discussions between the Department of Commerce and the Mexican tomato growers under the current suspension agreement are ongoing. You might be able to tell I didn't write this. (Laughter.)
I know Commerce is looking to find -- I know the Department of Commerce is looking to find a mutually acceptable outcome for everyone involved. But again, those discussions are ongoing, and I don't have an update for you.
Q So it’s still in effect as long as the discussions --
MR. CARNEY: I would have to refer you to Commerce. They may have more specificity on it. But the discussions between Commerce and Mexican tomato growers are ongoing.
Q Thanks. You mentioned at the top the telephone conversations between the administration yesterday and CEOs on immigration, I think it was. Can you go into a little bit more about who was on the call? Maybe release a list of the CEOs that was on the call? And just exactly what was the administration’s pitch to them?
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, I think you’ve seen across the board very broad support in the business community for comprehensive immigration reform, and that support is welcome. And I think it’s reflective of the growing consensus across the country on the need to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform. It’s a matter of benefit to the economy. It’s a matter of fairness to the middle class. When it comes to the business sector, there are obvious interests that high- technology companies have, for example, as well as other companies.
And that's why the President has for so long promoted a comprehensive approach that ensures that we move forward on all of these issues at once because that allows us to build this consensus that we have seen, and it’s been very welcome developing with some increased intensity in the last several weeks. We’re working with Congress. We look forward to the Senate moving forward in an expeditious way to produce legislation.
As the President has said, he wants to see the Senate move forward. He hopes that they produce a bill that would gain substantial bipartisan support in the Senate that could then be passed by the House and that he could sign.
If progress stalls in the Senate or breaks down, the President is prepared to submit his own bill and ask the Senate to vote on it. This is an issue that he discussed frequently during the campaign. It’s an issue that his views have been clear on for some time.
Q What were they asked to do?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have a more detailed readout of the call to you. It wasn’t a matter so much of asking anyone to do anything. I mean, these kinds of conversations are an exchange of ideas. And there is no question that businesses -- generally speaking, the business sector is supportive of comprehensive immigration reform, as are so many other sector of our society.
Q Jay, going back to the earlier question about Hagel’s comment about the Iranian government being elected and legitimate, you may recall that at the time of the last election, Vice President Biden said that there were doubts about the legitimacy of the election. So I’d like to give you a chance to put a finer point on it. Is this government elected and legitimate?
MR. CARNEY: The government that we’re dealing with is a government that has continued the unacceptable behavior that we’ve seen from Tehran for some time, its refusal to abide by its international obligations. And the President’s view on the protests in reaction to the election are very clear and remain the same.
The issue with Iran is we have pursued a policy that has imposed upon that country the most severe sanctions regime in history with significant economic consequences. We have worked with our international partners to bring about a consensus on Iran’s behavior that never existed in the past, and that, too, has increased the isolation that Tehran feels.
And the President has also made clear that when it comes to Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, that all options remain on the table. The window for diplomacy remains open, but it will not be open indefinitely.
Q So yes or no, is it legitimate?
MR. CARNEY: Look, it’s the government that we deal with, and it is the government that continues to flout its international obligations, and that behavior is illegitimate.
Q Two quick questions. One, has the White House picked a date yet for the release of the President’s budget?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have one to announce today.
Q Okay. And also, the Acting OMB Director, Jeff Zients, had to actually give up the acting designation last year because of the time involved. Is the President going to appoint someone soon, nominate someone soon for OMB Director?
MR. CARNEY: I have no personnel announcements to make today. I wish I did. (Laughter.)
Q Jay, has the President watched any of the Hagel hearings this morning?
MR. CARNEY: I was with him for some time earlier today, not around a television, so I can't -- I can say that during that period, he did not. But I can't say that definitively that he hasn’t seen any of it. As you know, he doesn't spend a lot of time watching TV. But --
Q Do you know if he’s pleased with some of the reports that he’s heard yet?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don't know. I didn't discuss the hearings with him. I know the President believes very strongly that Senator Hagel will make an excellent Secretary of Defense. And he will effectively implement the President’s policies.
If I can say, just this process is very important -- the confirmation process -- and it’s highly appropriate. And senators ask tough questions of nominees, and nominees answer those questions.
What we have also seen is some of the usual kind of political posturing in these hearings, at least the portion that I saw and debates about the wisdom of invading Iraq, which are interesting to have, but I think shed more light on the past than they do on the future.
The President is absolutely confident that Senator Hagel will, as I said, make an excellent Secretary of Defense.
Q Jay, I know we discussed the sequester a lot yesterday. I don't want to beat a dead horse here. But can I be clear that are you suggesting that anybody who wants to just replace the sequester with other, smarter spending cuts, the President opposes that? He is insisting on having additional revenues as part of the mix?
MR. CARNEY: The President insists on balance when it comes to dealing with our deficit reduction. The task assigned by Congress to the super committee at the time of the Budget Control Act was that it find $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. It wasn’t find $1.2 trillion only in spending cuts. It wasn’t find $1.2 trillion extracted from Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries. It was find $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. And the President’s proposals have, reflecting the Simpson-Bowles commission, reflecting the Rivlin-Domenici commission, always established the principle of balance. That’s what he’s brought forward in every negotiation he’s put forward, and yes, he insists on balance.
Q Forgive me for, again, belaboring this. The proposals you’re referencing were proposals for the big deal, the full thing that he would like to achieve. You acknowledged yesterday, you’ve acknowledged before that the way things are going, he’s not going to get the big deal, at least not all in one package right away.
MR. CARNEY: Well, because a portion of the big deal has already been accomplished -- a not insignificant portion. What remains is roughly another $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. And the President has put forward a proposal that meets the Republicans halfway that would achieve that. And if the Republicans want to take it up, the President would be delighted.
Q But what I’m asking is if the next step here is a subset of whatever else remains to be done, even that subset has to have some revenues as well as spending cuts?
MR. CARNEY: I mean, the basic answer to that question is yes, in that we have to have balance as we move forward in deficit reduction.
Q Jay, you’ve said several times that the Jobs Council was extremely valuable and effective, so why let the charter expire?
MR. CARNEY: It was meant to -- we don’t let it expire; it was set for two years. It expired.
Q Can the President choose whether or not to let it continue?
MR. CARNEY: Again, did the Jobs Council exist before the President created it?
MR. CARNEY: Did you ask why?
Q Why? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Did you ask his predecessor why? The point is --
Q I was still in college. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Which explains a lot. (Laughter.) Actually, I take that back. I thought you’re wiser than your years.
But the point is the President created both PERAB and the Jobs Council because they were effective and at the time that he created them for the work that was being done. The President will continue to engage the business community in the ways that I talked about -- very specific ways that I talked about, and will rely on both the business community and other groups; there were labor leaders part of the Jobs and Competitiveness Council for advice about ideas for how we develop the skills we need for a 21st century economy; how we encourage more small businesses to be created and to grow and thrive.
These are things that are very much a focus of the President’s attention. They’re reflected in the proposals that he has put forward, as I said, not always enjoying the support of those who claim to care deeply about job creation. But he will continue to press forward with those ideas and he will continue to seek the council of business leaders and others for their ideas and how to move forward.
Q Does he just think his new -- a new approach that you all are announcing today is a more effective way to do it than having a whole council?
MR. CARNEY: No, he just believes that the Jobs Council -- Jobs and Competitiveness Council was effective in providing ideas to his administration, many of which the administration took up and acted on, and those that -- there are other ideas that we have taken up and have proposed but have yet to enjoy congressional cooperation on. And he looks forward to more ideas coming from business leaders and other leaders as we continue to take measures to help this economy grow and help it create jobs.
Q When you said next week he’s going to continue his outreach to outside groups, did you mean specifically to business groups?
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q Any more details?
MR. CARNEY: No.
Q Thank you. What is it about Minnesota that prompted the President to choose that for his visit on gun violence next Monday?
MR. CARNEY: Let me see. Well, it has been announced that we’re going to Minneapolis for this. I think that this is a problem that affects the whole country, and the President looks forward to -- I think I was asked yesterday if not the day before, when is the President going to travel on this, and we now have announced this. And I think it demonstrates the President’s commitment to this priority and to having, as I’ve said when it comes to immigration reform, to having this conversation out in the country and not just here in Washington.
He believes that that is the right approach to take, that it reflects the interest and engagement of the American people in the debates that we’re having here. That interest is clear when it comes to the measures we need to take to reduce gun violence in America. It’s clear on the measures we need to take to enhance job creation and economic growth, and also on immigration reform and other issues.
So there’s no -- just as with Nevada for the speech the other day, there’s no one single perfect choice of a place to travel. He will be having this conversation around the country.
Q Well, but there was a mass shooting there at a workplace. The sheriff was sitting next to the President on Monday of this week. Is there something specific about Minnesota -- what they’re doing or what they haven’t done?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll find out more for you on the choice of the location. I think that the fact that that state and communities there have experienced the horror of a mass shooting is certainly reflective of why we are where we are and why we need to take action.
But, again, this is a conversation that, as the President said, needs to be had around the country and not just in the obvious places, and he looks forward to participating in that conversation.
Q Jay, back to Senator Menendez. The Associated Press reported earlier this month that immigration officials had been prepared to arrest an intern of his on immigration violations, possibly deport him, but was ordered not to “by Washington.” Was the White House aware of this at all?
MR. CARNEY: Aware of the anonymous report? I think I would refer you to DHS.
Q No, no nothing involved with that. In an earlier incident in which ICE was going to deport one of his interns.
MR. CARNEY: Right. Again, you’re citing an AP report. I don’t have anything for you on that. I would refer you to immigration authorities and DHS.
Q It’s the second time, though, that ICE has been sort of accused of waiting in a sensitive deportation case until after an election. Is there any --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t know anything about it beyond the AP report that you cited, so you may want to go to ICE or DHS.
Q Thanks, Jay. Two questions -- first, on the immigration bill. Marco Rubio has said that he would want to prohibit those who are on a pathway to some type of legal status from being eligible for the Affordable Care Act. Is that something the President would consider as part of his?
MR. CARNEY: I think we’ve been very clear that legal status does not confer benefits through the Affordable Care Act. So I’m not sure -- that sounds like a point of agreement, not disagreement.
Q Okay. And secondly, this week it’s been reported that there may be an agreement coming between DOJ and the Oversight Committee regarding some of the Fast and Furious documents. On the whole Fast and Furious case, does the White House still at this point have any objection to former White House staffer, Kevin O’Reilly, cooperating with the committee in any way?
MR. CARNEY: I would have to take the question.
Q Hi, Jay. Two questions. First, do you have any more details about the shooting of the girl in Chicago who had come to the inauguration and whether the President has reached out to her family?
MR. CARNEY: I think I spoke about this yesterday. Christi was here and asked me about it but I don’t have anything new for you on it. I mean, obviously, the President and the First Lady offer their condolences and prayers for the family. And this is, as I said yesterday, another tragic death from gun violence of a young person in America and another indication of why we need to address this problem.
Q And a second question -- you had mentioned that Republicans had opposed the Jobs Act and other proposals that create jobs. The President has been very out there with guns and immigration. Do you expect him to take a similar public stance in the coming weeks on proposals that create jobs or address the economy?
MR. CARNEY: Zach, I know you’re kind of new to the beat, but this President has been focused on this issue more than any other, and that is job creation and economic growth. And that will not change. Everything that he does when it comes to policy is focused on the need to create an economy that is better, stronger, and is producing more jobs. And you can be sure that he will continue to talk about those issues.
I mean, for a presidency that has been, you might say, consumed by the need to pull us out of the worst recession since the Great Depression, that has been engaged in drawn-out negotiations with Congress about how best to move forward on economic policy, to ensure that we both deal with our deficits but don’t do anything that reverses the positive economic growth that we need to have, reverses the job creation that we need to have, that has been the principle and primary focus of his domestic policy and will continue to be.
April and then Goyal.
Q Jay, within the month, the next big event the President will have is the State of the Union. We’re less than a month away. What are some of the themes? We’re seeing that he’s talking about -- campaigning, somewhat a campaign style on guns, immigration. What else should we expect from the State of the Union address?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t want to ruin it for you by giving it all away. But I think --
Q You won’t ruin it. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Well, what I think is fair to say is that we view the State of the Union address as part of a package that the first component of which was the President’s inaugural address. And I think in keeping with pretty longstanding practice, you can expect a State of the Union address to be a little more policy-specific in terms of details and things like that. But it will build on what the President talked about in his inaugural speech.
Q Are you expecting him to make major announcements via new policy, or just keep on with some of the same themes that he’s been going on?
MR. CARNEY: I think it’s generally a good practice not to steal from the President the opportunity to make announcements himself.
Q But you create more thunder by giving us more information. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Your assessment of my powers is appreciated, but I think I would have to argue with that.
Q Thanks, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: I did promise Goyal a question.
Q Thank you. Two questions.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I promised a question. (Laughter.)
Q Stick with one. Stick with one.
Q Okay, thank you. First of all, as far as the President’s second term is concerned, India and the Indian American community played a big role here, and we are thanking him for his support in every way he was with them. My question is here now, what is the future of Indian American community and the India-U.S. relations as far as the President’s second term is concerned?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President’s views have not changed, both on the importance and value of the Indian American community and the importance and value of the bilateral relationship that we have developed with India. India is an incredibly important country in the world, not just in the region, and the President looks forward to continuing to enhance the depth of our relationship to work together on common goals in the region and around the world. And I think you can expect in his second term that he will consider it a success if at the end of his second term that bilateral relationship is stronger even than it is today.
Q Do you have more appointments?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t anything more.
Q Jay, real quick, is he going to the D.C. Auto Show that starts tomorrow?
MR. CARNEY: I have no scheduling announcements.
Q Is he looking for a new car maybe? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: He would love one.
2:14 P.M. EST