Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, 2/9/2017, #11
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:53 P.M. EST
MR. SPICER: Here we go. Good afternoon, everyone. As you just saw, the President was honored to host the swearing-in of Attorney General Sessions in the Oval Office just a short time ago.
Under Attorney General Sessions, the Justice Department will return to its original, core mission: to uphold the rule of law to ensure that justice is administered and enforced fairly and impartially for all Americans. Attorney General Sessions is a world-class legal mind and experienced prosecutor, and the President is pleased to have him finally in place as our nation’s top law enforcement officer.
After the Attorney General’s swearing-in, the President signed three executive orders dedicated to standing behind the police officers who risk their lives every day to protect us and our communities, reducing crime, and stopping cartel violence.
The first executive order directs the newly installed Attorney General to develop a strategy for more effectively prosecuting people who commit violence against members of law enforcement. We must better protect those who protect us. Our men and women in blue need to know that we're with them 100 percent as they patrol our streets.
Unfortunately, this has not always been the case. Law enforcement officials have been vocal about the lack of support they received under the past administration. This lack of support demoralized many officers and, in some cases, led to their discouraging their engagement with local communities, only causing further harm and deterioration.
It's imperative that federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies better coordinate and share information across jurisdictions to better serve and protect our communities. This order will start the important work of doing just that, instituting a holistic approach that involves the whole of government. It also directs the Department of Justice to work with other federal agencies to come up with ways to further reduce violence against law enforcement, and orders a hard look at how the Department of Justice and other agencies use their law enforcement grants.
The second order establishes a task force, led by the new Attorney General, to reduce crime and restore public safety in communities across America. Together, the members of this task force are going to come up with specific recommendations -- how we can change existing federal law to better prevent crime and improve public safety, and develop stronger working relationships with our state and local partners. The President is confident that this task force will develop a systematic strategy to help further protect the American people.
Communities across our nation have been devastated by a surge in violent-crime rates, particularly in our major cities. Over the last eight years, we've experienced declining focus on law and order. Crime reduction will clearly be a priority for this White House.
The last executive order re-focuses the energy and resources of the federal government to dismantle transnational criminal organizations, such as drug cartels. It's important to emphasize that we cannot reduce crime in the United States without additionally addressing illegal immigration and illegal drugs. Through this executive order, the President instructs the Attorney General to form a comprehensive and decisive approach to destroying transnational crime organizations and drug cartels.
These cartels represent a clear and present danger to our nation. They bring dangerous criminals, drugs, and violence to once-peaceful neighborhoods both here at home and in other parts of the world. They have fueled addiction and overdose deaths, and they can no longer be allowed to operate with impunity in our country or our hemisphere.
This order pulls together the experience and resources of federal agencies to work towards emphasizing specific goals in this regard. Number one, to upgrade our information-gathering about these transnational organizations and cartels. Without accurate information about these threats, and the ability and willingness to share this information, we're not going to be able to tackle this problem.
It's important to note that, prior to this administration, if you had called the Department of Justice to ask for these statistics, they never kept them. So knowing what we're facing is a big part of addressing the problem.
Number two, improving the speed and efficiency of removing criminal aliens, cartel members, and people who help cartels from our nation. Unlike during the last eight years, these criminals are finally going to go home.
Three, shift whatever resources we can to tackling these organizations and prevent them from disrupting our society any further.
Now, on to the President’s schedule. This morning, the President held a breakfast and listening session with key stakeholders in the airline industry. We've got a participant list if you're interested. The President thanked the attendees for the 10 million jobs and $1 trillion in annual economic activity they contribute to our economy, and praised them for moving approximately 2 million passengers per day in spite of the outdated infrastructure and equipment that they have in terms of air traffic control and other infrastructure measures.
The President asked the aviation leaders what the government can do to help their industry grow and create more well-paying jobs for Americans. The leaders commented that they had never been given the opportunity to truly work alongside the President in such an open and constructive way. And they were unanimous in asking for the President to offer relief from the duplicative and burdensome regulations that are stifling job creation, which he assured them he'd do.
The President also reaffirmed his commitment to foregoing -- to forging, rather, public-private partnerships that will rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure. He pledged to work closely with the airline industry to modernize the technology systems that keep our nation’s airports running, and to expedite the approval process for future airline infrastructure projects. It's the President’s goal to make sure the United States has the most advanced airline system in the world, and this meeting was an important first step in achieving that.
After the executive order signing, the President spoke with the President of Afghanistan and the Emir of Qatar. My understanding is that we should have readouts shortly on both of those calls.
Just concluding, a few moments ago the President held a Supreme Court and legislative listening session and lunch with Democratic and Republican senators. In attendance were Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa; Senator Heitkamp of North Dakota; Senator Tester of Montana; Senator Donnelly of Indiana; Senator Manchin of West Virginia; Senator Moore Capito, also of West Virginia; Senator Cornyn of Texas; Senator Alexander Of Tennessee; Senator Coons of Delaware, and Senator Bennet of Colorado.
The President expressed his hope that these senators and their colleagues will give Judge Gorsuch a fair consideration and vote based on his qualifications to serve on the Supreme Court. With over 100 federal judicial nominations potentially happening during this administration, it's critical for us to have open dialogue and work towards bipartisan agreement so that our justice system returns to its important work on behalf of the American people.
Later today, the President will speak with the Emir of Kuwait and the Prime Minister of Iraq. He will provide readouts -- or we will provide readouts of those calls moving towards the conclusion of them.
We also anticipate that the Senate will hold a vote to confirm Secretary-designate Price this evening or into the early hours of Friday to be the next Secretary of Health and Human Services.
The President was glad to see that the Army Corps of Engineers announced last night the final easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline. With this final federal authorization completed, and the President working to reduce further unnecessary delays, this infrastructure project can finally continue to move forward. The construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline was one of the President’s campaign promises and the subject of one of his first executive orders. The administration is pleased that Americans will be going to work building this pipeline, and building it with American steel whenever possible.
Now, looking to the upcoming schedule. Tomorrow, the President will welcome Prime Minister Abe of Japan. The President and the Prime Minister will hold a press conference at 1:00 p.m. in the East Room. They will depart Washington around 3:00 tomorrow afternoon for Mar-A-Lago, where the President is honored to host the Prime Minister at the Winter White House.
As we recently announced just earlier today, Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada will visit the White House on Monday. The President looks forward to a constructive conversation and strengthening the deep relationship that exists between the United States and Canada. The President will also host Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel next Wednesday. We’ll have further guidance on the press availability potentials for either one of those.
One last thing before I take your questions, amid surging levels of CEO confidence and in the wake of the incredible jobs announcement made at the White House yesterday by Intel, there's also new numbers released today by the Department of Labor showing that unemployment claims are at near historic lows.
The President knows better than anyone what businesses need to create jobs, and the market is responding to his policy improvements. This administration will continue to roll back burdensome regulations and lower the overall tax burden on Americans so they can hire even more people and create even more innovative projects.
With that, I’ll take your questions. Kaitlan Collins.
Q Thank you. Hundreds of bureaucrats at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau make more than members of Congress. Forty of them make more than Vice President Mike Pence. Does the President have plans to revamp this agency? And if so, does he feel that he should be able to fire the head of the agency at his will?
MR. SPICER: I think I've addressed this before, but we have no updates right now on the head of CFPB. If we do, I’ll let you know.
With respect to the first part of that question, I think one of the things that you’re going to continue to see from this President is a respects for taxpayers’ dollars, the money they spend, and how they’re spent. We are going to continue to review all aspects of government. I think you’ll see further announcements as far as how he’s going to look at -- how he’s going to approach and innovate and update government.
The bottom line is that we should be paying people a fair wage for their service to this country, but that we should doing it in the most effective and efficient manner. And I think that’s what the President has already shown towards his commitment towards helping reduce the cost of several programs through the government and bringing back jobs. But there’s going to be a respect for taxpayers in this administration, so that whether it's salaries or actual positions or programs, he’s going to have a very, very tough look at how we’re operating government, how many positions they're in, what people are getting paid.
But the President understands that most Americans are out there working night and day trying to get by, and that Washington truly needs to respect the money that they spend, and that we should be doing it in a way that shows that -- with a level of respect in terms of how many people are hiring, what they’re paid, what programs we’re looking at, whether or not that program is duplicative. But it’s not just about one department or one agency. It’s really about looking at how government as a whole operates.
Q Sean, questions have been raised after Kellyanne Conway did an interview, I believe it was with Fox News this morning, where she appeared to, from the confines of the Brady Briefing room, promote the products of Ivanka Trump. Do you believe that she crossed an ethical line?
MR. SPICER: Kellyanne has been counseled and that’s all we’re going to go with. She’s been counseled on that subject, and that’s it.
Q And could I ask a question. Reuters has a story out that includes a partial transcript of the President’s call with Vladimir Putin, in which he appears to express doubts about the New START Treaty. Does he indeed have doubts about the New START Treaty? Would he like to see that renegotiated?
MR. SPICER: The President’s conversation with President Putin is a private call between the two of them, and I’m going to leave it at that. We put a readout on the call, and we have nothing further beyond that.
Q Thank you, Sean. One question today.
MR. SPICER: Wow.
Q (Laughter.) On February 2nd, Vladimir Kara-Murza, who is a well-known filmmaker in Russia and was a close associate of the late Boris Nemtsov, the dissident, found himself in critical condition. His wife has since said she believes this is poisoning, very much like the conditions that almost took his life two years ago. And does the administration have any comment about that, or the frustration of Mr. Navalny, the opponent of President Putin to get on the ballot as a candidate?
MR. SPICER: I think our State Department is aware of the situation, we’re monitoring it, and I’ll leave it at that.
Q Sean, the President said today in the airlines representative meeting that he hopes to have an announcement within the next two to three weeks about lowering the burden of taxes for businesses. At the Super Bowl interview, he was asked, can Americans expect a tax break in 2017, and he said, "I think so, yes. I would like to say yes." It sounds like he’s a little bit more confident for the businesses than individual tax breaks for Americans. Is the business component at this point ahead of the individual component?
MR. SPICER: No, it’s a comprehensive -- yeah -- thanks for asking. I think we’re looking at, in the next few weeks, rolling out the outline of a comprehensive tax plan that we’ll be working with Congress on that will address both the business side of the tax ledger as well as the individual rates. But it’s going to be a comprehensive plan, something that we haven’t seen since 1986.
But I think when you look at the segueing of that, we’ve got two opportunities for reconciliation this year. One is using the FY17 budget, which you can easily get Obamacare repeal and replace done, and then you can use the FY18 budget to utilize the second opportunity at reconciliation to do comprehensive reform. But we recognize the need. I mean, it’s been since 1986 that something like this, of this scale and magnitude, had happened.
The President recognizes that middle-class Americans need tax relief, and that’s going to be part of that. But we also recognize -- and you saw that in all of these businesses meetings, whether it’s inversions or other means in which people are shipping jobs overseas or reestablishing themselves or the profits that are kept over there -- we need fundamental, comprehensive tax reform that addresses both sides of that income stream.
Q Can you say if this is going to be a mix between what he had put out there on the campaign and what House Republicans had put out there before? Because there’s some similarities but clearly some differences as well.
MR. SPICER: I’m just going to say that you're going to have to wait a couple weeks before we put out that outline. But I can tell you that it’s something that is going to spur economic growth. It’s going to recognize the need to give so many working Americans the relief that they need.
But more importantly, I think part of the issue that we continue to see over and over again with businesses is that we're facing competition from abroad because of our tax code. It favors companies from not wanting to stay, and the President recognizes that. And what he wants to do is create a tax climate that not only keeps jobs here but makes it -- incentivizes companies to want to come here, to grow here, to create jobs here, to bring their profits back here.
So I think -- I don't want to get any further ahead of it, but I will tell you that it is going to be the first time that this nation has seen a full comprehensive tax reform in a long, long time.
Q Yes, the President this morning tweeted that our country is “bogged down in conflict all over the place.” Where are we bogged down?
MR. SPICER: I think there are several places that we've been --
Q What does he mean by that?
MR. SPICER: I think that if you look at ISIS in particular and the hotspots around the country, the places that we have to monitor, there's a lot of countries through the Middle East in particular -- Northern Africa -- that we are having to address and deal with and monitor because of the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.
There's no question that the spread of it has gone -- in the last eight years has proliferated. And I think that the resources that we have to spend -- this isn’t a traditional war where you're just looking at the other enemy with a uniform and saying, here’s the country we're fighting. The proliferation of ISIS throughout this country has made it so that we have to focus a lot more in a lot more places and expend a lot more resources because it’s more of a disparate approach that we have to employ, as opposed to having one country that you're facing at one time.
Q But “bogged down” suggests it’s something we can't get out of?
MR. SPICER: I just answered the question. I understand.
Q Thank you, Sean. And happy Lantern Festival to you.
MR. SPICER: Happy Lantern Festival to you.
Q Thank you. Regarding the very nice letter that President Trump sent to President Xi Jinping last night, I’m curious about the timing. And also in the letter, President Trump said he’s looking forward to the event of constructive relationship with China. So could you elaborate the importance of this bilateral relationship to the U.S.?
MR. SPICER: Well, I think it’s obviously important to us. And the President understands that. I think he’s spoken fairly often about China, and he understands both the national and economic interests that we have, the desire for our companies to access the Chinese market, but also the national security interests that we have. And so he obviously wants to do what he can to have a fruitful and constructive relationship with China, and he looks forward to developing that as we go forward.
Q Sean, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said today that they could use a few thousand more troops in Afghanistan to help the coalition efforts there. Going off Mike’s question, if we're trying to get out of conflicts like that, does the administration plan to send those additional forces to Afghanistan?
MR. SPICER: I think the President will heed the advice of the generals and Secretary Mattis. That conversation has yet to happen -- and if we have any further announcements. But I think that's right now a Department of Defense issue that you should raise with.
Q Sean, two questions for you. I want to get to one on immigration. But first on the comments from Judge Gorsuch that have been reported out, I just have a two-parter. But does the President still stand by his nomination?
MR. SPICER: Absolutely.
Q Given where Gorsuch stands --
MR. SPICER: That's number one?
Q No, the second part of a two-part.
MR. SPICER: Oh. (Laughter.)
Q Given where --
MR. SPICER: I’m not calling on you anymore.
Q Given Judge Gorsuch’s position on the President’s attitude toward the judiciary, and given that the President has praised Neil Gorsuch for his intellect and for his integrity, does the President have any regrets about the comments that he’s made about federal judges?
MR. SPICER: I think the President’s comments speak for -- no, he has no regrets. But he’s very proud of the selection that he’s made, and he’s going to make a great associate justice to the Supreme Court.
Q Now about the selection, but about the comments that he said, for example, about Judge --
MR. SPICER: I understand that, I just -- he has no regrets. Thank you.
Q On immigration, Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos --
MR. SPICER: Look what you started, April Ryan.
Q Why are you calling me out? I didn’t do anything. (Laughter.)
Q I know the White House, I'm sure, has been following the situation of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos. And so I want to know, does the President believe she should have been deported? And what message does he have to others in her position?
MR. SPICER: Yeah, I’m going to refer you back to ICE on that. That’s an ICE matter.
Q The President has no comment?
MR. SPICER: The issue is developing in Arizona right now, and I would refer you back to ICE.
Q She’s in Mexico right now, though.
MR. SPICER: I’d refer you back to ICE.
Q Sean, in that lunch meeting, the President said that -- he basically said Senator Blumenthal’s comments were taken out of context, and that --
MR. SPICER: Well, no, Judge Gorsuch’s comments were -- yeah.
Q Judge Gorsuch, right. And that his relaying of Judge Gorsuch’s comments were taken out of context. However, Senator Ayotte, who is working with the White House to help shepherd Judge Gorsuch through the Hill, released a statement confirming those same remarks, “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”
MR. SPICER: Right, so here’s what --
Q Is the President aware of that? Because she was in that meeting.
MR. SPICER: No, no, of course he’s aware. This is what Senator Ayotte said: "Judge Gorsuch has made it very clear in all of his discussions with senators, including Senator Blumenthal, that he could not comment on [any] specific cases, and that judicial ethics prevent him from commenting on political matters. He has also emphasized the importance of an independent judiciary, and while he made clear that he was not referencing* [referring to] any specific case, he said that he finds any criticism of a judge’s integrity and independence disheartening and demoralizing.”
So there is a big difference between commenting on the specific comments that had been made in the tweet and his general philosophy about the judiciary and his respect for his fellow judges. And I think the senator’s comments were very clear about how those are two distinct issues.
Q Right. And the judge’s comments as relayed through others were also in that context of the President’s attacks on the judiciary, which is what the senator you just read out was also talking about there.
MR. SPICER: Right.
Q Was the President aware of that? Because Senator Ayotte was sitting right across from him when he said that those comments were inaccurately reported or conveyed.
MR. SPICER: No, the way that Senator Blumenthal characterized them, he was talking about the tweets and saying that he was disheartened. That’s not what the judge said. He was making two very complete, distinct arguments about how he views the comments that he should not be commenting on a political matter or on specific things.
But as a whole, he doesn’t like attacks in general on the judiciary. It was a very distinct argument that he was making. And I think that that’s where I think we’ve got to be clear, and that’s what Senator Ayotte was saying this morning. Very, very different.
Q Is he to take that on board? I mean --
MR. SPICER: Is he what?
Q Is he taking that on board? I mean, you just said he doesn’t regret his past attacks on the judiciary.
MR. SPICER: Right.
Q But now you have these confirmed remarks, which you were saying were exactly what the judge was talking about.
MR. SPICER: No, no --
Q And that’s not changing the President’s own --
MR. SPICER: But hold on -- but, again, I think it’s important to understand that the judge was very clear that he was not commenting on any specific matter, right? And then the he was asked about his general philosophy. So you can’t then take that -- equate it back to the specific. He literally went out of his way to say, I’m not commenting on a specific instance. So to take what he said about a generalization and apply it to a specific is exactly what he was intending not to do.
Q In other words, the President will continue to speak like this.
MR. SPICER: Of course he will. The President is going to speak his mind. It goes back to Thomas Jefferson, that Presidents have commented on judicial nominees. I mean, the idea of one branch talking about or commenting on another branch is as old as our republic.
So I don’t know why -- and I find it interesting when President Obama criticized the Supreme Court for its Citizens United comments in the State of the Union, there wasn’t a similar concern about that. The idea that this is --
Q Well, I guess the "so-called judge" portion of it, the personal attack.
MR. SPICER: But at some point it seems like there is clearly a double standard when it’s -- how this is applied. When President Obama did it, there was no concern from this briefing room. When he does it, it’s a ton of outrage.
So I just -- with all due respect, I think the President has made very clear that he was concerned about how that executive order in particular, which is what we’re talking about, was applied. And I think we’ve addressed it from this briefing room over and over and over again that the U.S. code gives the President very clear authority to make this happen.
Q I want to make sure I understand what you’re saying. Are you saying that “demoralizing” and “disheartening” was not specifically about the President’s comments and what he said? And if so, how does the President know that? Has he spoken to the Judge?
MR. SPICER: No, I think the Judge literally made it very clear in his comments.
Q But three senators have come out and said that they corroborate that statement, and said that --
MR. SPICER: I understand that. Senator Ayotte, who was there, made it very clear that he was commenting in general about attacks on the judiciary. That was it. Plain and simple.
Q But three other senators have said, and the spokesman and for the Judge, on the record.
MR. SPICER: I understand that, Cecilia. I can tell you that Senator Ayotte, who has been with him on every single thing, was very clear about that. There’s no -- so I understand that. And that is -- she has made it very clear over and over again.
Q Sean, your answer about the context doesn't make sense when you think about what Senator Ben Sasse said today and this morning on TV. He said that he asked Judge Gorsuch specifically about the President’s “so-called judge” tweet. And in response --
MR. SPICER: Phil, this is like the fourth time I’ve asked and answered.
Q No, but this is a different context, Sean.
MR. SPICER: I understand that. Phil, I have asked --
Q This is directly about the President's tweet.
MR. SPICER: I understand that. And I’ve said exactly what Senator Ayotte said about it. I don't know how many times you guys --
Q But her comment was only about Blumenthal.
MR. SPICER: I understand, thank you.
Q Sean, I'm going to continue on this line, despite what was just happening there. Why isn’t the White House, why isn’t the President concerned about the influence or the appearance of the influence on the independent judiciary?
MR. SPICER: Why isn’t he -- I mean, he is free to speak his mind. Where has this outrage been for the last hundred years? There has been --
Q I'm not asking about the Obama administration or any previous administration, I’m talking about this President and this White House.
MR. SPICER: I understand that. And the President has -- part of the reason the President got elected is because he speaks his mind. He doesn't hold it back. He’s authentic. And he’s not going to sit back, I think, when he feels very passionately about something as much as the executive order.
He was doing it to make sure Americans were safe. The order -- the U.S. code is crystal-clear on this. I think I’ve read it for like three days in a row. And it can't be any clearer how much authority it gives the President to do what he can to keep us safe. He’s concerned that he’s doing what he can to keep this country safe, and there has been a lot of activity to stand in the way.
So I’m not sure how many more times I can read the code to you. But 8 U.S. Code, 1182 --
Q Yes, but you and me talking about it is not how the judicial process works.
MR. SPICER: Thank you. You've asked the question now eight times.
Q One more I’d like to ask you. One more about a different set of comments.
MR. SPICER: You've got -- hold on. I understand.
Thank you, go ahead.
Q About a different set of comments that have been made, Sean, also from Kellyanne Conway earlier this week.
Q Let him go. Let him go.
Q Earlier this week. You say the -- this is in context of Nordstrom and not about what she was counseled about, but about something she said to CNN earlier this week, is that the President doesn't comment on everything. And so I want to contrast the President’s repeated statements about Nordstrom with the lack of comments about some other things, including, for example, the attack on a Quebec mosque and other similar environments. Why is the President -- when he chooses to --
MR. SPICER: Do you -- hold on -- because you just brought that up. I literally stand at this podium and opened a briefing a couple days ago about the President expressing his condolences. I literally opened the briefing about it. So for you to sit there and say --
Q I was here.
MR. SPICER: I know. So why are you asking why he didn't do it when I literally stood here and did it?
Q The President’s statement --
MR. SPICER: I don't understand what you're asking.
Q Kellyanne’s comments were about that the President doesn't have time to tweet about everything.
MR. SPICER: Right.
Q He’s tweeting about this.
MR. SPICER: Right.
Q He’s not tweeting about something else.
MR. SPICER: I came out here and actually spoke about it and said the President spoke --
Q I'm talking about the President’s time.
MR. SPICER: What are you -- you're equating me addressing the nation here and a tweet? I don't -- that's the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.
Q I’m talking about an attack on Nordstrom on --
MR. SPICER: Okay, I’m done. This is silly. Okay, next.
Q -- and an attack on people, and you're equating --
MR. SPICER: Thank you. You've asked your question. Thank you.
Q Does that not diminish the language that you're using?
MR. SPICER: Thank you. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Sean. One of the criticisms leveled at President Trump’s predecessor, President Obama, by Republicans was his excessive use of executive orders. The President signed three more executive orders today. Why isn’t that criticism applicable to President Trump in the same manner that President Obama --
MR. SPICER: I think when you look at the context of what they -- yes, what those executive orders did, and there’s things that are within the bounds of trying to protect this country and ordering police officers -- nothing that I think even Democrats would complain, with the exception of the one that we've had conversations on. Most of them have been widely praised by both parties to keep this country safe, to get jobs creation back. Most of them have widely applauded.
I think the difference with what President Obama did was stretch the executive order to take actions that had largely been within the realm of Congress, and to do things that didn't allow for prior input. The stuff that the President is doing is almost entirely highly applauded by both sides of the aisle and won tremendous praise. There's a big difference in the context in which those two administrations operated.
Q One of the criticisms in addition to that was that President Obama in using those EOs was governing by executive fiat, he wasn’t working with Congress. Does the President plan to use --
MR. SPICER: Right. But again, I think --
Q -- Congress in a legislative manner?
MR. SPICER: Absolutely. And I just mentioned both tax reform and repealing and replacing Obamacare -- immigration. There are so many areas where the President -- he literally just -- we held up this briefing a little so that eight United States senators could walk out and talk about -- and again, that meeting, while it was focused on the judiciary, they talked about infrastructure. They talked about other priorities that they have.
He has shown a commitment to work across the aisle to bring folks in, to listen, to hear their thoughts, to get ideas on a legislative agenda that they can move together with. So I think there is a big difference between the last administration that sort of shunned Congress’s role, and this administration where the President is actively seeking their input and ideas, and helping them craft an agenda to move the country forward.
Q Can I follow up on the tax question?
MR. SPICER: Sure.
Q Because there are revenue elements of the Affordable Care Act, if it is repealed and replaced -- there has been discussion on the Hill about what would be the appropriate track to get that into tax legislation or how to treat the tax legislation. If the President is interested in unveiling a tax package that is as comprehensive as you just described, would the revenue elements of the Affordable Care Act be on a separate track? Or is he talking about folding them into one reconciliation package?
MR. SPICER: So right now, as I mentioned at the outset, I think we're primarily looking at two reconciliation tracks -- one utilizing the 2017 budget. So you could put your Obamacare repeal and replace in the 2017 reconciliation package, and then you could potentially do tax reform -- comprehensive tax reform in the 2018 budget.
But I also want to say -- just so we're clear, these aren't prescriptive. I think we continue to work towards Congress on a range of options and ideas to accomplish both of those and other goals. Those seem primarily the two most opportune ways to get this thing done. But I wouldn’t want to rule in or anything out.
I think both Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell are going to weigh in on what best vehicles can be utilized to make this thing happen. So I don't want to be prescriptive.
Q You talked about the President’s tax reform plan in coming weeks. Is that something he’s talked about with leaders in both houses of Congress? And are they prepared for this?
MR. SPICER: Absolutely. I mean, as I mentioned, he has met with -- just wrapped up a meeting with Republicans and Democratic senators. But this is something that the legislative affairs team, as well as the President himself has engaged with members of Congress to talk about this both privately and in bigger groups. But there is a very large conversation going on to achieve bipartisan support for a package of this nature.
Q Does the President believe that it’s possible to balance the budget without major entitlement reform? Any sort of House --
MR. SPICER: I think one of the things that the President has looked at is not just the cutting side, but the revenue stream. One area in particular -- natural resources regulation and tax reform, how we can grow the economy and bring in additional revenues to the government on the revenue side. So there is a balance to how the President is looking at bringing down the deficit.
And I think before I get -- he’s going to -- we’ll have a budget out in a few weeks. I think that will answer a lot. But again, when it comes to deficit reduction, which is something that he is very interested in, that is not a one-side-of-the-ledger option; that a lot of what he is trying to talk about in these meetings and with business executives is how we can expand the economy. And that expanded economy, that job creation, those explorations of natural resources and additional new jobs also bring additional tax revenue in.
So there's a way to do this. If we start bringing businesses back, creating more things, creating more jobs, that creates a revenue stream that has a significant impact on the deficit -- on being able to drive down the deficit and balancing the budget.
So I think it’s not something I want to get in too much detail now, but I will tell you that I think the President has been very, very keen on trying to make sure that we look at the revenue side as much as we're looking at the spending side.
When it comes to the spending side, again, you're looking at a whole-of-government approach at how we look at every department, every agency, every job, the spending -- or the hiring freeze being one of them. How do we make sure that we're looking at are these positions necessary? Are they duplicative? Are we using taxpayer money in the best possible way?
Those are the whole -- it isn’t a single -- like, look at those particular programs and try to figure out what we can do. He’s looking at everything and figuring out if we can make it more effective and efficient.
Q Yes, Sean, Monday, the House Oversight Committee is going to mark up Congressman Chaffetz’s bill to strike down the District of Columbia's Death with Dignity Act, the assisted suicide law. It could soon come to the White House. Has the President articulated any thoughts on that or the other bills to strike down D.C.’s gun laws, marijuana, funding for federal -- for abortions in the District? Any thoughts on all these things that are coming your way?
MR. SPICER: As they come our way and they get passed by both houses and come this way, we will issue statements of administration policy. At this time, they are not at that position.
So thank you, guys, very much. We’ll see you tomorrow with the Prime Minister. Take care.
Q On Mar-a-Lago --
Q One question.
Q Come back.
MR. SPICER: Sorry, one quick one. On Mar-a-Lago, someone asked about it yesterday, so a quick follow-up. The President has offered as a gift to the Prime Minister, he will be his guest at Mar-a-Lago. No one else will be staying there, as far as I know, from the Japanese delegation. They will stay out in town with the rest of the staff. But that is a gift that the President is extending to the Prime Minister.
Thank you, guys.
2:26 P.M. EST