the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 2/10/2014

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:39 P.M. EST

MR. CARNEY:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  I hope you had a terrific weekend, and I welcome you here back at the White House. 

Before I take your questions, I wanted to highlight something that’s happening in the House of Representatives, where instead of ensuring that our bills are paid and obligations met and that we do not default, and instead of helping achieve opportunity for all Americans by extending emergency unemployment insurance or by raising the minimum wage, creating new jobs and promoting growth, this week, House Republicans are trying to move a bill that would weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and hurt consumers who finally have a watchdog looking out for them.

THE CFPB’s sole mission is to protect consumers from the abuses of the past and to help people not get cheated on their finances, on their credit cards, on their student loans, and on their car loans.  Since its creation, the CFPB has put in place safer national mortgage standards to protect borrowers; begun to implement protections governing non-mortgage products; improved disclosure requirements so that consumers are better informed; created a national consumer complaint center that has handled nearly 270,000 consumer complaints to date; secured more than $3 billion in relief for nearly 10 million consumers through enforcement actions against bad actors who violated the law; and established federal oversight of important financial industries for the first time, including non-bank mortgage lenders, payday lenders, debt collectors, and credit-reporting agencies.

Now, what we’re seeing in the House is part of an ongoing tired and partisan Republican agenda to unwind the protections that were put in place to protect our economy and consumers from another economic crisis.  And of course, if the President were to see this bill come to his desk, he would veto it. 

We should be working together to continue the progress that we’ve made.  Right now, we could be working together to help create more good manufacturing jobs.  We could be working together to help our economy by passing patent reform, by passing housing finance reform –- not by engaging in the same old tired debates that do nothing to build on that progress.  The CFPB was and is an extremely important piece of the Wall Street reform agenda the President pressed hard for against some very powerful vested interests, and it is vital that Republicans in Congress keep in mind the consumers out there who need what the CFPB provides, which is protection.

With that, I take your questions.

Julie.

Q    Thanks, Jay.  A couple different topics.  U.S. officials have told the AP that the administration is at least considering using a drone strike to take out an American al Qaeda operative overseas.  Has the President been involved in these discussions?  And what would the legal rationale for taking that action be?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, Julie, as you know, I would not comment on something like that -- an alleged specific operation.  And I would not discuss particular targets that may or may not be under consideration.  I would, of course, be able to point you to what the President said about the issue of the government taking lethal action against an American citizen in his speech in May of 2013 at NDU. 

In that speech, he said that he does not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen without due process, nor should any President deploy armed drones over U.S. soil.  But he also said that when a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against the United States, and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens, and when neither the United States nor our partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot, his citizenship should not serve as a shield.

But beyond that I’m not going to comment on alleged specific plans or operations.

Q    Can you say whether he has been involved in the discussions?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, that would be commenting on an alleged specific plan or operation.

Q    On a separate topic, Michael Sam, who is an all-American college football player, announced over the weekend that he’s gay.  The First Lady and the Vice President I think have both commented on Twitter.  Does the President have any response?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I have nothing specifically from the President at this time except to say that he shares the sentiments expressed by the First Lady and the Vice President and so many others in marveling at his courage and congratulating him on the decision he made, on the support he’s had from his team, and wishing him well in the future, including in professional football.

Q    There’s been a lot of discussion that this could affect his standing in the NFL draft, which is coming up in the next couple of months.  I don't know if you’ve talked to the President about this, but do you know if he would think that this announcement should affect his standing in the draft and how NFL teams might look at him?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, without having this be a reflection of a conversation with the President, I can tell you that in general that it is his view that it should not have an effect.  I mean, any athlete’s abilities should be measured by what -- in the traditional way, in terms of how he or she performs in the sport and on the field, in this case.  And in this case, his performance has been exceptional.  So I think that would be the President’s view, but I haven’t talked to him about it.

Q    Thanks, Jay.  The Republicans are meeting to talk about how to proceed on the debt ceiling.  Apparently one of the plans is to link raising the debt ceiling to restoration of retired military personnel benefits that were cut.  How does the President feel about that?  Would he sign such an increase?

MR. CARNEY:  Our position on the responsibility of Congress to ensure that our debts are paid, that the bills that Congress racked up are paid has not changed.  We’re not going to pay a ransom of any kind in return for Congress doing its job. 

So we’ll take Republican leaders at their word when they say that they won't let the United States default, and they will not play the kind of brinksmanship that led to a shutdown last fall and to doubts about whether or not we might default.  That did great harm to the economy, to the middle class, and to the Republican Party.  So we’re confident that Republicans will be true to their word here and simply take care of their business, do the right thing and ensure that that ceiling is lifted.

Q    But does that mean that he would not sign a bill --

MR. CARNEY:  You're speculating -- I’m not going to get into a “what if this were the bill or that were the bill.”  Our position has not changed.  It hasn’t changed for a long, long time.  We’re not negotiating over Congress’s responsibility to pay its bills.

Q    On immigration, Senator Schumer said over the weekend, or suggested that perhaps one way to get the bill done would be to put off the affected implementation date of any immigration reform until after the 2016 election.  Would that be acceptable to the President?

MR. CARNEY:  We’ve put out our principles.  The President has strongly supported a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate that reflects those principles.  We’re now at a stage of waiting to see what the House can produce.

There’s been significant progress.  Amid a lot of other discussion and debate, the fact is House Republicans and House Republican leaders have made progress on this issue.  They’ve put forward standards and principles of their own, and those principles contrast pretty significantly with the de facto position held by Republicans as recently of last year, which was self-deportation.

So we will wait to see what the House produces.  The need for comprehensive immigration reform is stronger every day.  The benefit that it would provide to our economy, to our middle class, to the security of our borders, and to our capacity to be a magnet for innovative entrepreneurs is as great today -- and greater today -- as it has ever been.

So we believe the consensus here is significant and growing that the House will act and do the right thing, not because the President says it should, but because so many voices out there are joined in unison calling on Congress to act.  If there’s anything that the American people want and agree on when it comes to Washington it’s action as opposed to obstruction or inertia.  And here’s an opportunity for a bipartisan effort that by every outside economic analysis would do enormous good to our economy, for our middle class and for our businesses, as well as our security.  So there are solid reasons for Republicans as well as Democrats to move forward on this, and we look forward to that happening.

Q    If I could ask one last question on Cuba.  The European Union has apparently agreed to launch negotiations with Cuba to increase trade, investment, and dialogue on human rights.  How does the United States feel about this warming of ties?  Has the United States consulted with the E.U., or vice versa, on this matter?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not aware of that report.  I would refer you to the State Department.

Move around -- yes, ma’am.

Q    Thank you, Jay.  I have a few questions.  Does the President have any schedule to visit South Korea on his upcoming trip to Asia in April?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have any scheduling announcements to make today beyond those that we’ve already made for upcoming travel.

Q    One more question.  Last week at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama mentioned about that he was working on the release of Kenneth Bae from North Korea.  Do you have any specific plan to do?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I can tell you that we are deeply disappointed by the DPRK decision for a second time to rescind its invitation for Ambassador King to travel to Pyongyang to discuss Kenneth Bae’s release.  The DPRK announced publicly in May of 2013 that it would not use the fate of Kenneth Bae as a political bargaining chip.  We remind the DPRK that the U.S.-ROK military exercises are transparent, regularly scheduled and defense-oriented.  These exercises are in no way linked to Mr. Bae’s case, and we believe they know that.

We, again, call on the DPRK to grant Mr. Bae special amnesty and immediate release as a humanitarian gesture so that he may reunite with his family and seek medical care.  We will continue to work actively to secure Mr. Bae’s release.  Per our longstanding offer, we remain prepared to send Ambassador King to North Korea in support of that effort.

Q    Yesterday, North Korean government announced that they cancelled the Robert King visit to North Korea.  How did you respond to that?

MR. CARNEY:  Yes, I just said that we are deeply disappointed by that decision and would point to what the DPRK said in May of 2013 that it would not use the fate of Kenneth Bae as a political bargaining chip.  And we are very disappointed by the cancellation of the invitation to Ambassador King on this issue and we stand ready per our longstanding offer to dispatch Ambassador King to North Korea to help secure Kenneth Bae’s release.

Ann.

Q    Thank you very much.  Following on Julie’s question on the drones, the President clearly feels very deeply about the drone policy.  Is this the kind of decision that would need to rise to the level of his desk?

MR. CARNEY:  I appreciate the effort to ask the same question about a specific particular alleged reported action, but I’m not going to be able to discuss that kind of activity.  I can point you to what the President said and I think he spoke quite forthrightly about these issues in May of 2013 at NDU.

Q    At the University of Arkansas, archives have opened up records of a good friend, close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s –- Diane Blair.  And it talks a lot about her personal notes, considerable notes about her discussions and friendship with them, and what they said during the times they were in the White House.  I don’t know that you’ve discussed that with the President, some of the interesting comments.

MR. CARNEY:  No, I have not.

Q    But at the time that those documents –- the information was not accessible was during the 2008 campaign.  And Senator Obama held Hillary Clinton to account, saying that the very time she was using those records as a basis to demonstrate her own experience for office that they weren’t accessible, and he said, and “I think, Hillary, that’s a problem.”  Does the President have a different perspective now that perhaps now that he’s been in office that private records and rememberances for a political figure, especially a candidate, ought to be kept private?

MR. CARNEY:  That’s a long windup to a question I’m not sure I understand.  You’re saying, does the President have a view on Diane Blair’s personal reminiscences?  I have not discussed that with him or how it would apply to him.  But I’m sure that I would point you to what he’s said in the past.

Q    Have you seen the information that --

MR. CARNEY:  I have not, no.

Major.

Q    Jay, I know you can’t and don’t want to talk about the AP story on an operational basis or even to confirm it.  But is there a protocol established since the President’s speech that establishes a due process review within the various agencies involved –- Defense, CIA, the White House, NSC –- on cases like this where there’s an ongoing war on terrorism or effort to deal with a potential terrorist threat that does involve an American? And how does that process –- can you give us any idea about how that process works and how it changed after the marker the President laid down in that National Defense University speech?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, what I can tell you is the President laid out in pretty explicit detail his approach to these issues at that speech.  I can tell you that the targeting of any American raises constitutional issues that are not present in other strikes.  But the high threshold that we have set for taking lethal action applies to all potential terrorist targets, regardless of whether or not they are American citizens.

And I would remind you that we take extraordinary care to make sure that our counterterrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable domestic and international law, and that they are consistent with U.S. values and policy.  Of particular note, before we take any counterterrorism strike outside areas of active hostilities there must be near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured -- the highest standard we can set.

So, again, I can't talk about specific alleged or possible operations.  I can point you to what the President said in, I think, fairly deep granularity back in May of 2013 about the approach he takes and the administration takes and the changes that he’s made in policy.

Q    On immigration, I want to give you a chance to respond to something that is becoming a bit more thematic for Republicans in the House as they approach this issue and as they deal with their own internal divisions about it, this question of trust.  The Speaker said on Friday that, if the President uses executive orders that could be a deterrent for House Republicans to press forward in the sense that this administration to the minds of House Republicans enforces law in a bit of an arbitrary fashion. I want you to address that, take that head on, and respond to that in the context not of how this administration views its actions, but whether or not it should be linked in any way to this immigration debate.  And does it pressurize the President to change behavior?

MR. CARNEY:  Major, I appreciate the question and I am glad to answer it.  First of all, the struggles the Republican Party has with this issue have nothing to do with the President. 

This is a tough issue for Republicans, as Republicans themselves acknowledge on the record all the time.  It’s certainly -- those troubles -- I don't think it stands up to scrutiny to suggest that the troubles Republicans have on this issue are the President’s fault, nor could they be attributed to a lack of trust.  After all, when comprehensive immigration reform came up as an issue in 2006, when President George W. Bush was in office, Republicans killed it because of their internal divisions.  Do you know how we know that?  Because John Boehner said so on the record.

So, again, we understand and are even sympathetic to the fact that this is a tough issue for Republicans.  But nobody buys that Republican reluctance to deal with and pass comprehensive immigration reform has to do with the issues that you lay out.  It wasn’t the case in 2006; it’s not the case now.

The reason -- we need to get this done legislatively in a bipartisan way because of all the benefits that passing comprehensive immigration reform would provide to our economy, to our border security and to our businesses.  And as I said earlier, we’re confident this is going to happen.  We remain optimistic that 2014 is the year that it will happen, but not because I’m saying it should happen or the President says it should happen, but because there are so many voices in this coalition and in this consensus that are making clear that it’s the right thing to do, and including voices that not just Democrats but Republicans tend to listen to.

Q    So what does it tell this White House when Charles Schumer, who is an ally of this White House, who works very hard on this issue, has had negotiations with House Republicans behind the scenes, wants to get this done, suggests a way to take open this pressure valve would be not to implement some of it until after this President has left office?  What does that tell you?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not going to speak for any individual lawmaker.  I think that the issue itself --

Q    Does that say that a Democrat who wants this to happen sees this as a problem also?

MR. CARNEY:  No, I think that that discussion highlights the fact that that excuse is bogus and that the issues here have to do with longstanding tension within the Republican Party about the need for immigration reform -- tensions that predate this President’s arrival in office by quite some time.

Brianna.

Q    Thanks, Jay.  On the debt ceiling, if House Republicans were to wrap the increase in with some other measures that both Democrats and Republicans are amenable to, is there really a problem with that from the White House’s perspective?

MR. CARNEY:  That’s a whole bunch of “ifs.”  Our position has not changed --

Q    Is that an issue, though, if it’s kind of squished together with things that the White House doesn’t oppose?

MR. CARNEY:  I would suggest that you look at previous instances that the debt ceiling has been raised where there hasn’t been brinksmanship or the threat of default, and note that Republicans were able to do it in the past and they should be able to do it this time.  Republican leaders have said they will do it.

So I’m not going to speculate about how that process works except to say that we’re not going to pay ransom on behalf of the American people to Republicans in Congress so that Republicans in Congress fulfill their constitutional responsibilities.  This one is easy because our position is clear and it has not and will not change.  And it is simply not necessarily a pleasant responsibility but one that Congress has to own, and that Republicans in Congress have to accept.  They appropriate, they pass bills that require funding, they need to pay those bills.  And that’s what raising the debt ceiling is about.  It’s not about new spending; it’s about the money you put on a credit card and the bill that comes every month.  And this is basic stuff.

Q    If I can ask you about something that some are saying should be discussed by President Obama and President Hollande -- there’s a rail company that is owned primarily by the French government owned -- its parent company SNCF.  It’s bidding on the Purple Line project in Maryland, huge transportation contract with the state.  And historians say that SNCF carried Jews and other Nazi prisoners to the French-German border on the way to concentration camps, and now there’s critics -- Democrats and Republicans in Congress in the state of Maryland as well who say that the rail company under this company -- I know it’s somewhat convoluted -- should be paying restitution to the victims if it’s going to be allowed to bid on a contract because it’s U.S. taxpayer money.  Is this something that President Obama will address with President Hollande?

MR. CARNEY:  I’ll have to take the question.  Generally, and when it comes to the specific question about what they’re going to discuss, I would wait for both Presidents to read out their discussions to you.  So I don’t have a preview.  Obviously, we have a broad and deep relationship with our oldest ally, and there will be many issues that the two leaders will discuss.

On the broader question, it sounds like maybe Department of Transportation and others may be of more help to you, but I’ll have to look into it.

Q    I mean, it’s actually a state issue, but now --

MR. CARNEY:  I just -- Brianna, I just confess I’m not familiar with the details of it so I would hesitate to provide an answer, and I’ll take the question.

Ed.

Q    Jay, in the op-ed today the two Presidents start off by talking about Iran and they hail success in what they call rolling back elements of Iran’s nuclear program.  But today there are reports about Iranian warships moving closer to U.S. borders. There’s also reports where Iran is claiming that they successfully tested two missiles.  I wonder if you could react to those reports and answer whether or not that casts more doubt on Iran’s intentions in these talks.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, first of all, there was an Iranian announcement that they are moving ships close to the United States and we have no evidence that Iran is, in fact, sending ships close to the U.S. border. 

On the second issue, I don’t have anything specific on that, but I can tell you that we have been clear that even as we work with the P5-plus-1 to test the hypothesis that Iran is ready to meet its obligations to the international community with regards to its nuclear program, that we are at odds with Iran on a number of issues and we continue to press hard both directly as the United States and with our international partners on those issues.  And that includes matters regarding missiles.  But I don’t have a specific response to that.  Maybe State does.

Q    But you don’t have any -- you’re raising doubt about whether they’re moving warships closer to the U.S.  Do you have any reason to believe --

MR. CARNEY:  Is FOX reporting that they’re moving warships closer to the U.S.?

Q    It was reported over the weekend that, as you say, they claim that.  They also claimed today –- and it’s reported by AFP and many other wires -- that they say they successfully tested missiles.  Do you believe them or do you --

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I don’t have a specific answer to that report.  I’m sure we can get it to you and I’m sure State has it. What I can tell you is that we continue to have major disagreements with Iran and we press very hard -- whether it’s their support for international terrorism, for Hezbollah, or whether it’s enforcement of existing sanctions, we are not letting up on Iran on a wide variety of issues where we are profoundly in disagreement with them, and have rallied an international consensus around that fact.

Q    Can you also comment on -– you spoke earlier about Michael Sam’s announcement.  Eric Holder, the Attorney General, made a substantive policy announcement over the weekend about making sure all employees of the Justice Department, anyone representing the U.S. government in court, other arenas, are making sure that same-sex marriage benefits go to as many people as possible.  How far-reaching do you think this will be?

MR. CARNEY:  I would refer you to the Department of Justice for specifics about the Attorney General.

Q    I mean, well, sorry, I don’t want to get into every count of it, but it would seem to be this is a pretty important policy pronouncement from the President’s administration, beyond just what Justice is technically going to do.  I guess I’m trying to get at how important is this to the President.

MR. CARNEY:  That American citizens enjoy equal rights?  Pretty important; profoundly so.

Chuck.

Q    Jay, going back to this AP drone story, I guess the part I’m confused about is the President laid out that he wanted to shift the decision-making process from the CIA to the Defense Department.  In the budget agreement that the House and Senate came up -- it specifically blocked money from being used to do just that.  What is the status of the drone?  Can you at least say who’s running America’s drone wars?  Is it the CIA or is it the Defense Department?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I think I would point you to what the President actually said, and repeat what I said earlier about the President’s views on how we reach near certainty when it comes to civilian casualties not occurring in targeted strikes, and his views and our views on matters surrounding American citizens who may have taken up arms against the United States and who pose a direct threat to U.S. citizens. 

On the issues that you raise I would refer you to the content of the speech.  I don’t have anything more for you.

Q    Well, I know the content of the speech said that, but then there was what Congress passed in the budget bill, which was, among other things, also had Gitmo not being allowed any --does this mean the change happened or didn’t happen?

MR. CARNEY:  I just don’t have anything more for you on it, Chuck.

Q    Second, Senator Menendez is being investigated about whether he has intervened on behalf of these fugitive brothers from Ecuador, the Isaias brothers.  He told a colleague of mine on Friday that because the White House –- because the Obama administration has not pursued extradition of these brothers back to Ecuador that it means the Obama administration agrees with Senator Menendez and that the White House agrees with Senator Menendez that they should not be extradited.  Do you have any way that you can characterize this?

MR. CARNEY:  No.  (Laughter.)  Does anyone else?  No, I mean, on issues of extradition I would refer you to State and Justice, but I don’t have any –

Q    Do you have any specific information on the Isaias brothers?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t.  I do not.

Q    Speaking of Attorney General Holder, he told The New Yorker today he is going to step down sometime this year.  What’s the President’s reaction to that?

MR. CARNEY:  I haven’t spoken to the President about that report.

Q    Does the White House or the administration have a position on whether it was rebels or Syrian government that was behind the attacks this week on U.N. envoys?

MR. CARNEY:  That's a good question.  What I can tell you is that we’re following developments and reports from Homs extremely closely.  And we are aware of the conflicting reporting, but we’re not -- in terms of who is responsible, we’re not in a position to confirm or corroborate these reports at this time.  We are looking for further clarity and additional information as well.

However, it does appear that whoever targeted the humanitarian aid convoys deliberately did not want the food and other assistance to get into Homs.  What does that tell you?  Based off of past words and actions, we all know which side in this conflict was in the past opposed to getting aid into Homs. 

So, again, we’re investigating conflicting reports, so we cannot confirm one way or the other at this time, but there is some past practice here and past rhetoric here that suggests who might be responsible.

Q    And there’s some discussion of a potential U.N. resolution to make sure the aid does get into Homs.  Is that something the U.S. would support?

MR. CARNEY:  We support a humanitarian resolution in principle, as do other U.N. Security Council member states.  The Security Council must actively support the principle that all barriers preventing humanitarian access to all parts of the country and all civilians be removed immediately.  The United States has worked with our partners on the U.N. Security Council to develop a draft resolution that we feel includes provisions that go beyond the October 2nd Security Council presidential statement to address the need for greater humanitarian access.  So we’re continuing to work with Security Council member states on this issue.

Q    Thanks.

MR. CARNEY:  Leslie.

Q    Jay, going back to Eric Holder -- a public advocacy group today filed a lawsuit in D.C. seeking to block the agreement between Justice and JPMorgan Chase, saying that it was an overreach of executive power.  Given the President was a constitutional scholar, would he agree that this case didn't go before a court or a judge --

MR. CARNEY:  I think I would refer you to the Justice Department for that kind of ruling.

Andrei.

Q    Thank you, Jay.  Obviously the Olympics -- what can you tell us about the President following the Olympics or not following the Olympics?  Did he watch the opening ceremony?  What did he think?  Any other highlights you want to share?  (Laughter.)

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I can tell you that the President is very excited by the fact that the games are underway.  And there’s been some terrific competition already, some amazing performances including by some American snowboarders.  But I have not gotten a detailed readout from the President yet as to which events he was able to catch and which he has just caught up on.  But I think everyone here is thrilled that the games are underway and that the competition has been exciting thus far.

Q    Thank you.  And on the other issue, the history -- May was before Snowden came out, right?  And basically my question is if Snowden is an American citizen free from the threat of physical harm from his government?

MR. CARNEY:  The position of the administration is that Mr. Snowden has been charged with felony offenses and ought to be returned to the United States where he will be accorded the full rights and benefits and due process of those who are accused in our system of justice.

Chris.

Q    Thanks, Jay.  Three topics, one question each.  You’ve said before, the White House expects --

MR. CARNEY:  At least he’s honest about it, right? (Laughter.) 

Q    You said before the White House expects Russia to conduct the Olympics in a way that welcomes everyone.  According to The New York Times over the weekend, at least 61 protestors were arrested nationwide, some over LGBT rights.  Is that in line with the President’s view for welcoming --

MR. CARNEY:  I think broadly speaking, in terms of the matter of LGBT rights in Russia, the President has been very clear, and I think he was clear in his interview with Bob Costas of NBC on the evening of the opening ceremonies. 

So we strongly express our views when it comes to any crackdown on those who are expressing their opinions peacefully. But I don’t have anything specific with regards to the games themselves on these matters.  But our views on them haven’t changed.

Q    And on Michael Sam, I gather from what you said that the President hasn’t reached out to him in the wake of his announcement last night.

MR. CARNEY:  I just don’t have any updates for you on the President.

Q    I’m just wondering because Jason Collins -- he called Jason Collins when he came out last year.  I’m just wondering why he didn’t do the same thing for Michael.

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I don’t have anything on the President’s schedule right now.

Q    Also, Eric Holder’s announcement over the weekend regarding the extension of same-sex rights -- there was a lot of media attention and sort of reaction to that over the weekend for an announcement that basically amounted to complying with a court order so that a spouse wouldn’t be forced to testify against their spouse in federal court.  I’m just wondering if you were surprised by the reaction about that over the weekend.

MR. CARNEY:  I mean, I don’t have a characterization to make about the coverage or the reaction except to say that the President believes every American ought to be afforded equal rights.  And he certainly supports that instance of his view -- or actions taken that reflect his view in this case. 

Q    As you know, the second round of the Geneva talks started today.  The expectation is pretty low.  How do you expect it to be different from the first round?  And also, it was reported over the weekend that Iran has been supporting ISIS-al Qaeda in northern Syria, and they give some details of names and operatives and some kind of evidence.  Can you share some information with us on that?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m going to ask you to repeat the second question in a minute.  I can tell you that the second round of discussions did begin today in Geneva and Joint Special Representative Brahimi met with the two sides separately to discuss the agenda of the second round.  And we are pleased that these talks will continue, but there is obviously a lot of work ahead.  We recognize that this will be a long and difficult process.

I don’t have any more detail about the agenda.  We obviously are pressing, together with our partners on this issue, for a negotiated political settlement to the conflict.  It’s the only way to end this conflict.  And it is certainly a good thing that the two sides are sitting down together in Geneva.

And the second question?

Q    First on the first one -- so the success to you is basically both sides are staying in the same room and negotiating? 

MR. CARNEY:  I didn’t say that.  I said progress.  It is important that they are sitting down and together, but there is a long way to go.  There is no alternative to a negotiated political settlement in this case.  And that is what the Geneva process is all about, is trying to reach that negotiated political settlement on behalf of the Syrian people.

Q    Second question is, there were reports that Iran has been supporting ISIS in northern Syria and al Qaeda and they have some detailed information about operatives’ names, et cetera.  Can you shed some information, how does this affect the relationship with Iran and the nuclear five, or even separately?

MR. CARNEY:  What I can tell you is that on all the broader issues that we have with Iran we maintain the exact posture that we did in the past, and that includes Iran’s support for its destabilizing efforts in the region, its support for Hezbollah and terrorism and terrorist organizations in general, and it also includes the enforcement of existing sanctions when it comes to its nuclear program.  So we’re very clear-eyed about Iranian behavior.

We are also working with our international partners, the so-called P5-plus-1, to see whether or not we can resolve this major challenge to the international community and to the safety and security of the people in the region and the world, and that's Iran’s nuclear weapons program, through peaceful diplomacy because it is in everyone’s interests to see whether or not it can be resolved through diplomacy.  But we’re very clear-eyed about that process and certainly about the broader issues we have with Iran’s conduct around the region and the world.

Q    My question is if there is clear evidence that actually they are supporting al Qaeda and ISIS, would there be consequences for it?  I'm not talking about --

MR. CARNEY:  First of all, you’re saying “if, if.”  What I can say is that our support for a very tough approach to Iran when it supports terrorist organizations will not and has not changed.  And separately, we are pursuing with our P5-plus-1 partners the potential for a negotiated resolution to the issue and the challenges posed by Iran’s nuclear program, a verifiable resolution that would reassure the international community that Iran does not and will not obtain -- does not have and will not obtain a nuclear weapon.

Q    Jay.

MR. CARNEY:  Yes, Goyal.

Q    Thanks very much.  Two questions.  One, India is going through major national elections in the next few months, and the ruling party may not be very favorable in the future, but the major candidate is Mr. Narenda Modi, who is a very famous from the BJP party.  But his visa has been a problem for the U.S.  He is not getting a visa to visit the U.S., even though he’s president and other party leaders --

MR. CARNEY:  Do you have a question, Goyal?

Q    My question is that, the President has been briefed on this because since he may be the next Prime Minister of India?

MR. CARNEY:  I would refer questions about visas to the State Department.

Q    Second, as far as immigration is concerned, millions of people are living -- are underpaid and living under sweatshops and all that, and they are paying taxes.  And they're asking if they are eligible for the Obama -- this health care program.  And also what message the President has for those people who have been paying taxes and living really under the sweatshops and so forth?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m sorry?  Are you speaking about the United States?

Q    Here, yes, in the U.S. -- illegal immigrants.  They're paying taxes and also --

MR. CARNEY:  The Affordable Care Act does not extend benefits to non-U.S. citizens undocumented immigrants.

Q    So what they're asking really that they’ve been hoping that the President will come out and support this immigration issue, and they're relying on him for the last five plus years.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, the President believes strongly that working with Democrats and Republicans in Congress, we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  But the Affordable Care Act is very clear on this issue.

Q    Thanks, Jay.

MR. CARNEY:  Thanks, everybody.

END
2:21 P.M. EST