Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay CarneyBy USGOV
Monday, October 3, 2011
1:18 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Let me just start, if I may, to note that October — as anyone, who didn’t know prior to that, noticed yesterday, watching NFL games — October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This afternoon, Dr. Jill Biden, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Jennifer Aniston will tour the NOVA Breast Care Center in Alexandria, Virginia, and then participate in a discussion with breast cancer patients, clinicians, survivors and family members.
Later this evening, Dr. Biden will deliver brief remarks at the Washington, D.C. screening of the Lifetime movie, "Five," which explores the stories of families whose lives have been impacted by breast cancer. Finally, this evening, both the White House and the Naval Observatory will be lit pink to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
That's what I have on that, and I'll go to your questions. Erica.
Q Eric Cantor said today that he would give his word to the President that the House would pass portions of the jobs bill this month, but that the entire bill as a whole would not get a vote. What is the White House reaction to that?
MR. CARNEY: Erica, as we have said all along, we believe that the entire American Jobs Act ought to be considered, voted on and passed by the Congress — both houses. We have also been aware of the fact that some members don't support all measures within it, although they're very unclear about why. For example, why, if you support tax cuts for individual working Americans — 150 million Americans, for example, would be affected and have more money in their pockets because of the payroll tax cut — do you also support — why don't you, if you don't support tax cuts for small businesses, or money to put construction workers back to work rebuilding highways or schools, bridges, or money to put laid-off teachers back to work?
So recognizing that some members of Congress, despite the overwhelming public support for every aspect of the American Jobs Act, seem not to support every measure, we acknowledge that it's certainly possible that portions of it, as opposed to the whole, might arrive on the President's desk for his signature. And because he supports all of it, as well as the individual component parts, he would sign those portions individually, provided that they're paid for in an acceptable and fair way.
Then he would turn around and demand the rest of the bill, those provisions that haven't been passed by Congress, and will continue to shine a spotlight on the need to take action, the need to put people back to work and grow the economy, throughout the rest of this year, and will continue to put pressure on Congress to act.
Q And the President repeated today — or said today that Republicans should detail what aspects of the bill they don’t like, what they’re prepared to move forward. The House leadership released a memo September 16th in considerable detail, doing just that. So what is it that the President needs to see additionally from them?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think what we saw from — again, some members of Congress, some in leadership, some of the — loosely speaking, some of the provisions that they support, but they — there also needs to be an explanation for why they don’t support, if they don’t, the other provisions, including infrastructure spending, which historically has earned broad bipartisan support, or money to put teachers back to work and first responders back to work — why not? Especially if it’s paid for.
We need to take action to grow the economy and help it create jobs right now, and these are areas that have enjoyed broad Republican and Democratic support in the past. So if you oppose a component of this, explain why. And explain it not just privately, but publicly to your constituents. Because we’re very confident that Americans across the country — in every state, in every district — support the measures of the American Jobs Act. And there is no greater priority that the American people have right now than the desire to see Washington function and do things that actually help the economy instead of hurt it.
Q On a different topic, on July 7th, which was the six-month anniversary of the Gabby Giffords shooting, you said that you would have some specific announcements “in the near future” regarding gun safety measures. That obviously hasn’t happened, so what is the holdup?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll have to take the question. I don’t, obviously, have any announcements to make today. I know that process is continuing, and we’ll try to get some more information for you after the briefing.
Q Thank you.
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q I wanted to ask what the Chinese currency bill in the Senate — whether the Obama administration — whether you are anticipating weighing in on it, and if so, when? And at the moment, if you could speak to anything that concerns you about the bill — its structure or content?
MR. CARNEY: As I said last week, we are reviewing the bill. We’re still in the process of reviewing it. We share the goal that it represents, which is to achieve further appreciation of China’s currency. We’ve seen some appreciation since last summer, which has been useful and good, but not enough. The fact is that the currency remains substantially undervalued, and that has an economic impact and we need to see continued progress.
It’s important that as we pursue that goal we do so in a way that is consistent with — that is both effective and consistent without international obligations. And I think that goes to the second part of your question — we need to make sure that if we are pursuing this goal, a goal that we share with members of Congress, we need to do it in a way that’s consistent with our international obligations and is effective.
Q The President said that he would be sending the trade deals to Congress in the next day or so, or two. Given the fact that the administration has talked extensively about what these trade deals would mean to creating jobs, what has been the holdup? Why did it take so long?
MR. CARNEY: Well, this administration, as you know, made sure that the trade deals that you’re referring to were balanced and fair and would both increase our trade opportunities, but do it in a way that protected American workers and made sure that our obligations, broadly speaking, were upheld. So that’s been part of it.
And then, as you know, there has been a component piece here regarding TAA that has also had — referring to things that have had broad bipartisan support in the past — has always enjoyed bipartisan support and has it this time, too. So there has been an issue of working with Congress, which we have done, to make sure that the whole process here takes place in a way that ensures that all four measures — the three free trade agreements and the TAA — are acted on. And we’re confident that that will happen.
Q Over the weekend, I’m sure you were watching CNN and you saw former Vice President Cheney weighing in on the effort to go after al-Awlaki last week. He had some good things to say about the administration, but he also suggested that the President owed the Bush administration an apology for some criticism of their handling of suspected terrorists. Just wanted to get your reaction to that.
MR. CARNEY: Well, we certainly don’t owe an apology for the fact that under this administration’s policy, this President’s policy, the United States of America does not torture, does not engage in torture. It’s simply a flat-out position of this President that that’s unacceptable. And I would simply make the point that that was one of the first things this President did when he was — when he took office, and I don’t think anyone can dispute that this President, this administration, has been very successful in going after the sworn enemies of the United States, the terrorists who have been plotting to attack the United States, attack American citizens, and attack our allies. And you can do both. There is no reason to sacrifice our values when it comes to interrogation and torture — because we don’t need to. We can win this battle without those kinds of measures.
Q You asked about infrastructure, and the Republicans and what they are saying in this memo that was referenced earlier is that the administration should negotiate with Republicans on a multiyear transportation authorization bill that fixes problems such as 10 percent of the transportation funds going to things like transportation museums, and the fact that 18 percent of the highway funds provided under stimulus is still unexpended because in their view it’s an overly complicated and bureaucratic approval process. And so they’re talking about fixing the transportation spending system. Is that something the President could support?
MR. CARNEY: Well, he certainly would support the idea that we can improve and make more efficient the system by which we fund infrastructure projects. And there is a portion of the jobs act that essentially fast-tracks money to make sure that we do move projects forward more efficiently, and other ideas that the Republicans have that were contained in that letter, which I think I might have said at the time, but if I didn't, there were some conciliatory aspects of that that are welcome.
And we’re absolutely not just willing, but looking forward to, engaging with members of Congress on ways that we can improve the process and make it more efficient, and make it lead to both the kind of infrastructure building that is so essential for our long-term economic growth, but also puts construction workers back to work sooner rather than later.
Q Is there anyone in this building, whether it’s Bill Daley or Rob Nabors, whomever, who is dealing with the Republicans in the House and the Democrats in the Senate and others on this bill, or is it just, we sent it up and we expect them to pass it? Is there any negotiations going on? Is there any give-and-take along the lines of what you just were talking about?
MR. CARNEY: Well, there are always discussions between the White House, the administration and the Hill — both houses, both parties. And those continue. And since this is our number-one priority, you can be sure that this is something that is discussed. I don't have a — the two senior officials that you named are certainly involved in that process. There is no one point person who is dealing with Republicans on the Hill on this particular measure, but there are conversations regularly about our legislative priorities, including, most importantly, the American Jobs Act.
Q I guess, just — what underlying my question is I understand and I believe the President wants this bill to pass, but it’s also a political weapon in a sense. The President is talking about, this needs to be passed, and if Republicans don't pass it, what are they for? And I’m trying to figure out how seriously the White House is about engaging with congressional leaders to actually get this thing passed, as opposed to talking about it on the stump.
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’re very serious. But what we are not — what we don't see a need to do is to negotiate away aspects of the bill that are not controversial, are broadly supported by the American public, broadly supported by Democrats and Republicans, before it has a chance to vote on the entire bill.
And so we look forward to the Senate taking it up, as Senator Majority Leader said it will and as the President referred to earlier today, and then we hope that Congress as a whole — the House as well — will begin to act on it. If, as we discussed earlier, action is taken on component parts of the bill, as well as on the whole, then we will see what passes and what arrives on the President's desk. And he'll sign it, again — those aspects — if they meet the standards of fairness and reasonableness in terms of how they're paid for that are very important.
But there's no reason to — there's a political side to making this about meetings and negotiations as opposed to dealing with the content of legislation that has been prepared and packaged ready to be taken up by Congress by this White House. So we encourage Congress to take it up. We will continue in conversations with leadership and rank-and-file members about how to proceed. And if, in fact, we get to a point where Congress wants to break it up and send us portions of it, then we'll approach it and negotiate accordingly. But we're not going to start off by saying, well, let's negotiate this first piece, when, in fact, we've written the legislation, it's self-contained, it's totally paid for, and every provision in it is very mainstream and reasonable. And there's no broad objection to anything within it. So why not act on it in its entirety?
Q Jay, so to be clear, the President wants a full up or down vote on the whole bill?
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q When the President announced before a joint session several weeks ago, and he has on the road talked about the urgency of the situation, why now, then, just today did he say he was going to call the leadership in Congress?
MR. CARNEY: I understand that there's a — we can go back and forth here that this is all about leadership negotiations, which I think the American people understand full well are not necessarily the way to get things done quickly and effectively in Washington, especially if there's not a desire on both sides to get them done in a way that's productive and functional for the American people.
So what we have been doing, what the President has been doing, is taking his message out to the American people, the people who hired their legislators and sent them to Washington to get things done. And we're being very transparent about our strategy, if you will, which is to have Americans lift their voices and join the President in asking Congress, asking Washington to act on a very simple priority: Act on the economy. Act on jobs.
That's what Americans want their leaders in Washington to do. Here is a proposal to do just that. Here's a proposal that outside economists have judged very clearly would boost economic growth and would lead to greater job creation. Let's act on it. Let's do it.
It's not a matter of making phone calls in private to congressional leaders. It's very clear what the elements of the package are. And as I was saying to Jake, Congress can take it up, act, vote on it. If, then, there is a desire to separate it out and act on component parts of it, portions of it, but not all of it at once, we would accept that, although we would not be satisfied by it. We would not be — that would not be sufficient.
And the President would make that clear; if a portion of it came up and he signed it into law, the next thing he would say is, where's the rest of it? What about teachers and construction workers? What about small businesses who could use that incentive to hire more people or increase their wages, or the incentive to hire veterans who are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with tremendous skills and experience but aren’t getting jobs? He'll just keep pushing and making the case. And, yes, we are making an outside case here.
Q When the President put his health care reform bill before Congress, did he just send it up there, or did he personally lobby members of Congress to get it done?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don't think we need to revisit in great detail that period, except — I wasn’t at this podium during that period. I was working for the Vice President. But I think everything — every legislative approach doesn’t have to be the same. And I'm not even — I'm not making a comparison here. That was obviously quite a different kind of thing. One of the beauties of the American Jobs Act is its simplicity. It is not a complicated piece of legislation. It has very clear sections and portions, very clear what it does and who benefits and how it will help the economy, and very clear measures to pay for it.
Congress can debate it, act on it, and we can move forward.
That's what the American people want. What they don’t want is posturing and to say, well, nobody has called me, or we haven’t had a meeting yet, so we’re just not going to do anything. I don’t think Americans at home in these states and districts are going to be like, oh, that’s a good reason not to take action.
Q As was referenced, the Republicans, several weeks ago, outlined areas of compromise. Is the President talking or listening to Republicans? Or is he just interested in appealing to the public instead?
MR. CARNEY: I think I answered this question a couple of times already today and numerous times in the past, that the President has relations with leaders of both parties in both houses on Capitol Hill; he has conversations with them on a regular basis, and looks forward to having conversations with Senator McConnell, Speaker Boehner, Leader Pelosi and Leader Reid in the future on the American Jobs Act. And I think that he’s doing both.
And there’s a lot of cynicism here — like somehow going out to the American people and saying, here’s what I’m doing, here’s what we need to do, if you agree with me, raise your voices, let your members of Congress know — that that’s somehow objectionable or political. I think that’s how the system should work. And the President is doing that. And obviously he will work with Congress and congressional leaders as well to get these measures passed, because there is no higher priority for the people.
Q Jay, the suspicion among Republicans is that you want to vote on the whole bill so that then you can take the component parts that Republicans vote against and use it against them politically: This Republican voted against more jobs for teachers; this Republicans voted against more jobs for construction workers. How do you respond to that?
MR. CARNEY: Let me be absolutely clear. I can allay those suspicions. To avoid anything like that, they could simply pass all of it. I mean, what’s the — what is it? I’ve actually been explicit here. Yes, if Congress sends to the President less than all of the American Jobs Act, he’s going to come out and we’re going to come out and say, thank you, that’s great, this is important, it’s going to help the economy, it’s going to help job creation, but there’s more to be done. And that’s not — I mean, and if then more gets done, well, that’s great. That’s exactly the way the system should work.
But if you’re saying that we have differences and the President believes strongly that we should take all of the action that is embodied within the American Jobs Act, and others, perhaps Republicans on the Hill, think otherwise, then, sure, we should explain ourselves, they should explain themselves. We’re being quite transparent about this.
Q And the idea that you relish the idea of –
MR. CARNEY: No, no, let me be clear. We would much rather — much rather — see the entire thing passed, because it would be good for the economy and good for the American people. I promise you. And that is 100 percent the case, both as I say it here from the podium and as it is discussed internally, in the Oval Office and the Roosevelt Room and elsewhere. That is the highest priority. We would like to see all of it passed. And if it’s not, we will argue that the rest of it be passed, those portions that haven’t been passed already.
Q Speaker Boehner sent the President a letter — it said government regulations dealing with cement makers and boilers could potentially cost hundreds of thousands of jobs; said they unnecessarily increase costs for consumers and small businesses and make it harder for the economy to create jobs.
MR. CARNEY: Two things. First of all, we got the letter. The President’s commitment to making sure that we don’t have overly burdensome regulation I think has been demonstrated quite clearly in recent weeks and months, and that is a position that he continues to maintain. Secondly, if Congress is really serious about creating jobs it would — and creating jobs now, it would pass the American Jobs Act, in whole or in part.
As for this President’s commitment to the Clean Air Act and to ensuring that sensible regulations are in place to save, in the case of this particular measure, up to 6,500 deaths per year, leading to health benefits of up to $54 billion each year — yes, when you balance your priorities as President, the health of our children, how clean our air is, how clean our water is, those are very important priorities.
So this President does not believe that the only way we can compete in the 21st century is to dismantle our clean air regulations or dismantle our clean water regulations — basically, be in a race to the bottom for the worst environmental standards. That’s not how we’re going to compete. That’s not how we’ve won in the past, and it’s not how we can win in the future.
Q And on Dan’s question, Vice President Cheney specifically said the President owes former President Bush and the entire administration an apology for saying the U.S. overreacted to the 9/11 attacks.
MR. CARNEY: I think I made clear that if, specifically, he's saying that there's an apology called for because of measures that were taken that this President absolutely does not believe is the right way to go, he’s not going to apologize. Torture was not the right way to go. He does not believe that the United States of America should torture. And, I think as has been amply demonstrated, this administration, this President, have been able, quite effectively, to wage — take the fight to al Qaeda, keep the pressure on al Qaeda, remove leaders of al Qaeda from the battlefield, and be very effective about it without having to resort to measures that we don't think are the right way to go.
So we just disagree on that point.
Q Has the White House changed its strategy in dealing with Congress in trying to pass the bill? Because you had designated people that dealt with Congress in order to get the CR passed, Jack Lew, Vice President Biden to deal with the debt ceiling. You had Nancy-Ann DeParle to deal with — you say there’s no point person to try to get something done on the jobs act with Congress, then that’s a change in how the White House –
MR. CARNEY: I think that’s a little –
Q — dealt with major legislation in the past.
MR. CARNEY: I think you’re dealing in the minutiae here of process in a way that can be interesting to a small number of people. But the fact is this entire administration — including people who deal more regularly with Congress, like Bill Daley, like Rob Nabors, like the Vice President — are all focused on the American Jobs Act. And that includes conversations with members of Congress and leaders in Congress.
What we’ve been sort of discussing for a number of weeks now is this notion that we should be huddled with the — the President should be huddled up in the Cabinet room having meetings again with the congressional leadership over this. This is not –
Q Nobody is asking about the President. What people are just asking about –
MR. CARNEY: Or Rob Nabors and Bill Daley –
Q Should they not be negotiating with –
MR. CARNEY: I didn't say that. I’m just saying that there’s not a single point person. We’re not negotiating a piece of legislation here. We have a piece of legislation, and we have presented it to Congress. It will be moved in the Senate this month, voted on, and hopefully then taken up by the House and voted on, and we’ll see where we end up. But we will continue to press Congress to take action.
Q You said that you’re not negotiating?
MR. CARNEY: No, I said that there’s not a single person in charge –
Q — sounded like you're not negotiating a piece of legislation.
MR. CARNEY: But we’re not — the debt ceiling process, as you know, was quite different and for reasons that I think everyone knows here, did not, largely, have to do with us. There were very private discussions about trying to reach a grand bargain. And there was — the idea was that the only way to get that done in a way that could garner bipartisan support is that a deal would have to be reached behind closed doors, and then both sides would walk out, hand in hand, and suffer some of the political slings and arrows from each side that would surely come, but the power of a grand bargain reached by the Speaker and the President would have won the day.
This is very different. We’re not negotiating a final product with Congress before we even take it to Congress. We have sent Congress a bill that has — that is not controversial at all but that does, by any measure — if passed, would help the economy grow, help it create jobs. And we expect Congress to act on it.
And look, we’re talking to Congress. And we will talk with Congress. And as the process moves forward, I’m sure that we will have more specific conversations that I can read out to you. But believe me, we are pushing hard to get this acted on.
Q The Obama campaign put out a memo today talking about how Mitt Romney and Rick Perry are on the wrong side of public opinion, specifically when it comes to taxes on the wealthy. Is this a reflection on the President? If his views are the most popular in dealing with debt and deficits, then why can’t he get Congress to take his side on that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think his views — I mean, again, depending on –
Q Is it a reflection on his leadership?
MR. CARNEY: I think what we have seen this year is a situation where a minority of one party that controls one house of Congress has been essentially dictating outcomes for that party in Congress. And that makes it very hard for any President of either party who’s in power to get things done that represent the will, the sort of grand middle here, the bipartisan will of the country.
And you make a very good point. The President’s position on deficit reduction, on long-term deficit and debt reduction is one that is shared broadly by the American people; one that includes balance, an approach that includes revenues, that ensures that no single segment of society bears a disproportionate share of the burden. And not only is it shared by the vast majority of the American people, but by Democrats and Republicans and independents, and even a lot of Republican voices out there who happen tonot be in the House of Representatives.
The reason why we weren’t able to achieve a grand bargain, ultimately, was because that minority of that party would not go there. And that’s unfortunate. And I think that, again, we have to point that out and keep pressure on Congress as a whole to take action that’s beneficial for all of the country.
And one thing that is going to be abundantly — well, more and more clear I think for members of Congress is that, come 2012, every member of the House will be up for reelection, and they will have to answer the question: In a time of economic duress, what did you do, and what did you prevent from happening? And I think a lot — a number of members are going to have to decide whether they want to be on the side of the vast majority of the American people and the majority of the members of their district, the constituents in their district, in supporting the kind of bipartisan measures that grow the economy and create jobs.
Q But if you are saying this about the minority of one party in one house of Congress, you certainly had some struggles getting all of the Democrats in the United States Senate on the same page, for instance, in even agreeing to how they would pay for this, which includes some –
MR. CARNEY: But there’s no question that –
Q — tax hikes on upper-income.
MR. CARNEY: — we don’t always get 100 percent of the Democrats, but 96, 97 percent is not bad, or 95 percent is not bad. What we have is a situation where we’ve seen, even in measures independently, as they’ve operated within their own universe in the House, where the leadership can’t get its proposals passed because of a rebellion among their ranks that is pushing them further and further away from the mainstream.
Our hope is that, again, coming out of the summer recess, perhaps going into other recesses, that these members will begin to hear more and more, not just from the loudest voices among their constituents, not the most active politically, but from average Americans out there who just want Washington to function, who just want it to get things done that are sensible and middle-of-the-road.
And that’s what this President has put forward, and he believes there is a constituency there — a majority constituency there in both houses to getting those things done, as long as the process is not dictated by a minority.
Q Do you have any comment on how Rick Perry handled the name of the grounds — the hunting grounds that his family leased?
MR. CARNEY: I mean, all I would say is that it’s — the name is clearly offensive, and from what I’ve read — and I have no inside knowledge beyond what I’ve read — the Governor shares that opinion.
Q So you don’t think it’s something that should reflect poorly on him as a candidate?
MR. CARNEY: I mean, I really don’t know that much about it except from what I’ve read, and that’s all I can say about it.
Q And on the China currency bill, do you expect the review to be complete before the voting begins?
MR. CARNEY: I would just say that we’re reviewing it, and I’m sure we’ll have more to say about it as the process moves forward.
Q — that this review is with an intention to say something publicly before the vote happens? Or is it possibly a review that just might go on beyond the time when it’s before the Senate?
MR. CARNEY: That’s a hypothetical that I’m not going to address. I mean, we’re just — we obviously talk with members of Congress about this, we’re reviewing the bill. Our position on the underlying challenge has been very clear, and the issues that are raised here about the need to take effective action, as well as action that is consistent with our international obligations, we’ve been quite clear about as well.
Q Jay, when you mentioned torture a moment ago, was that a reference to enhanced interrogation techniques of the previous administration?
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q Is there a chance that — or has a decision been made that the President will release or authorize release of the Office of Legal Counsel memo on targeting of individual Americans abroad?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have anything to say in response to that question.
Q Today or ever?
MR. CARNEY: Today, anyway.
Q And what have you got on tomorrow’s speech in Mesquite?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, we’re going out to various parts of the country and taking the message to the American people that we need to act on the American Jobs Act and the Congress needs to move, Congress needs to take its primary responsibility seriously. And that will be the message again tomorrow. And we have — the President has in his travels highlighted different sections of the American Jobs Act, and you’ll see him do that again tomorrow.
Q Thanks. Two questions. First, quickly, is the President going to use tomorrow’s speech also to announce progress on the trade deals? Or will we just get paper with that, and that won’t be part of tomorrow?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any more of a preview of his remarks than I just gave.
Q So my second question is: A Bloomberg story is out that reported that Koch Industries — that’s with a “K” — had found ways to make improper payments to win business in Africa, India, the Middle East, and to sell petrochemical equipment in Iran. And I’m wondering how the White House feels about that and do you think current laws are tough enough to prevent abuses going forward?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a comment specifically on that story. I saw it, but I haven’t spoken with anybody about it. I think some of the issues involved there are matters that Treasury or State might have more comment on.
Q In general, is –
MR. CARNEY: I just haven’t had a discussion about it in terms of the regulatory regime or the legal regime.
Q In terms of tomorrow’s — and by coincidence, once again he’s in the state of one of his potential rivals — is he going to mention anything about Perry? He has in his recent remarks.
MR. CARNEY: Again, beyond what we just talked about in terms of the President’s remarks, I don’t have a preview for it. I mean, it’s a big country, there are a lot of states. You can draw connections or there can be coincidences between –
Q Well, he went to Ohio because there was this infrastructure thing that he could illustrate with the bridge. Is there something –
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think — I’m not sure how much — there will be a specific aspect of the jobs act that he will highlight tomorrow.
Q You don't know what it is?
MR. CARNEY: I do, but I don't think we’ve put it out. So stay tuned.
Q You can tell us now.
MR. CARNEY: No.
Q Jay, I'd like some clarification on some things the President said on Saturday during his speech before an LGBT audience at the Human Rights Campaign dinner. When he was talking about the American Jobs Act, the President said, “You’re also folks who are worried about the economy and whether or not your partner or husband or wife will be able to find a job.” Later on, when talking about progress, he said, “It happens when a father realizes he doesn't just love his daughter, but also her wife.” Should I interpret those remarks to mean the President now supports same-sex marriage?
MR. CARNEY: I would say that you’re over-interpreting the remarks, and I would just leave them to you to analyze. The President’s position on gay marriage is well known. The comments he made late last year about his views on it are well known. And there’s no updates for you and I wouldn’t read into the language there any change.
Q But isn't it disingenuous for the President to speak reverentially about these people’s spouses when he doesn't support same-sex marriage?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I'll let the President address that question. And I think this President’s record on LGBT issues, his commitment to the rights of all Americans, was evident on Saturday night, both in his remarks and the response he got from the audience there. So I'll leave it at that.
Q We’re approaching the one-year anniversary of when the President first said that he could evolve on same-sex marriage. He said that late in October of 2010, in an interview with progressive bloggers. Is that evolution — has that evolution been shelved, or is that still on the table?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I think I just answered that question, that I don't have an update for you on his position. The remarks he made last year stand, and I just don't have anything new to add to that.
Q When will this evolution come to an end?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don't have anything new to add to that.
Q Jay, for all the talk here and by the President of the House Republicans’ need to "pass that bill" on the jobs act, one way you could ratchet up pressure greatly on the House would be if the Senate — Democratic-controlled Senate passed the bill. What is the President doing to make that happen? Is he personally engaging Senate Democrats? Is he reaching out to some Senate Republicans? What?
MR. CARNEY: The President does have conversations with Senate Democratic leaders, as well as rank-and-file members. He does have conversations with members of the other party in the Senate, as he always has. To answer your question, he’s engaged in the process of moving it forward, as are senior members of his team.
The Senate Majority Leader has made clear that the Senate will take up that measure. I think it’s important to note that, unfortunately, because of the way the Senate has functioned, especially of late, it requires 60 votes to move anything now in the Senate, which is far more than a majority and far more, obviously, than there are Democrats in the Senate — which is why we hope that Republicans in the Senate will recognize and see within the American Jobs Act provisions that they have supported for many years now, and they will, therefore, see it as the right thing to do — to vote yes — so that we can grow the economy and put Americans back to work, and that that happy outcome would then encourage the House to follow suit.
Q So what are they telling you in terms of the prospects? It’s not likely to come up in a single bill, so –
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that we hope that and anticipate that it will come up in a single bill and we hope that it will pass. The hurdles to passage in the Senate are well known, but we do hope the Senate will take it up in whole.
And if, again, as I’ve discussed already, if we get to a situation where portions of it are sent — as the President said early on, he’s obviously not going to veto a measure that he supports simply because it’s a part of an overall package that he sent up. As long as the pay-for is consistent with his principles, he’ll sign it and then he’ll ask for the rest. And he’ll say, okay, well this is good but it’s not enough. And the American people don't think it’s enough, and what is it that you don't support about putting teachers back to work? What is it that you don't like about rebuilding highways, or bridges, or renovating schools? What is it you don't like about giving a tax incentive to small businesses — or businesses anywhere — to hire veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s the case we’ll continue to make.
Going back to Wendell's question, it would be ideal if the whole thing passed both houses in its entirety and we could sign it into law, the President could, and it could have its effect on the economy right away. Short of that, we’ll keep the pressure up for Congress to act on all of it broken into pieces, if that’s what comes to pass.
Q Isn’t it somewhat misleading for the President to be going to these audiences repeatedly, and getting them to — "fired up and ready to go" — chanting “pass that bill,” when he knows himself that in the chamber that his party controls they’re not doing that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I think I’ve discussed that there were some urgent matters the Senate had to take up that had to be acted on before the end of the fiscal year that overwhelmingly had to do with ensuring that either people weren’t thrown out of work or, in the case of disaster aid, that Americans who had suffered greatly because of natural disasters were getting the assistance that they needed. We’re working with the Senate. We’re confident that the Senate will act. And we’re hopeful that the whole Congress will act accordingly.
And no, it is not disingenuous. And to sit here and say, well, it’s going to be really hard and a lot of armchair analysts say it’s not possible, and even some members of Congress say it can’t happen, well, I would simply say tell that to the St. Louis Cardinals or the Tampa Bay Rays. You cannot sit there and accept that hard things are too hard to even try.
The American people want action on the economy and jobs. They do not want political posturing. They do not want a jobs agenda that means — that has nothing — that says nothing to them; that says, you know what we need to do, we just need to deregulate the industries that, in some cases, helped create the mess that we’re in; we need to give more taxes to the most affluent Americans who, even during hard times, have seen their income grow significantly as the middle class has stagnated and suffered, and do nothing to grow the economy and create jobs now. I don’t think that’s an agenda that the American people support, and the more that we highlight that fact, and we highlight the fact that we have a positive agenda that the American people do support, we might actually get some action out of Congress.
Ann. No? Yes, sir.
Q Oh, yes, thanks, Jay. This is actually a little bit related to a previous question, but Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, recently wrote a letter on September 20th to the President in which he said that for the administration and the Justice Department to equate support for DOMA with unconstitutional discrimination would — quoting from the letter — “precipitate a national conflict between church and state.” Does the President support fully the DOJ and HHS policies that some Catholic leaders have some issues with?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not sure what policies — I mean, he supports the policies of his administration. He supports the policies — the position that we’ve taken on not defending DOMA. So I’m not sure — I think that’s pretty clear.
Q In this particular case, the archbishop was referring to the case — brief that the DOJ filed in the Golinski/OPM case.
MR. CARNEY: I’m afraid I’m not familiar with the details of that. You might want to go to Justice. But he does support the policies of his administration.
Q Well, in this case, the Justice Department said that it would — the policy, the DOMA law, was actually discriminatory.
MR. CARNEY: Again, I hesitate to — since I haven’t reviewed it, I don’t have an answer for that.
Q Jay, another question on rules of sanctity. Given the discussion about the primaries, does this White House, as a principle, whether the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve should be free of this political maneuvering because they are a nation which calls itself a Christian nation — should this time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, it should be free of caucuses, primaries and so on?
MR. CARNEY: I have not thought about that, so I don’t really have an opinion on it. You’re talking about scheduling of primaries and caucuses for the — we’re obviously pleased that the President will not have to worry about primary contests in this cycle. So I just don’t have a — I don’t have a position to enunciate on that.
Let me go all the way in the back, white shirt, yes.
Q Thank you, Jay. Have the "Occupy Wall Street" protests reached a level of the President’s engaged awareness? Is he sympathizing with the protestors? Is he concerned about the protests at all?
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t discussed it with him. I’m sure he’s aware of it because he follows the news. I would simply say that, to the extent that people are frustrated with the economic situation, we understand. And that’s why we’re so urgently trying to focus Congress’s attention on the need to take action on the economy and job creation.
And as regards Wall Street, I mean, one of the things that this President is very proud of is the consumer protections that were put into place through legislation that Republicans are now eager to try to dismantle. We think that’s a bad idea. And we think one way that we could demonstrate — and Congress could join us in demonstrating — a commitment to the kind of protections that are provided within that legislation is to take up the nomination and clear it of Richard Cordray to head that agency.
Because these are common-sense consumer protections that would prevent the kind of abuse that credit card companies engaged in against credit card holders, that would protect against some of the actions that were taken that led to, or contributed to, the financial crisis that we saw in 2008. These were measures that the President felt were very important, and there’s a clear effort within the Congress to prevent the full implementation of legislation by holding up this nomination. We think that’s cynical and a bad idea.
Q How about the treatment of the protesters by law enforcement, though? Is he concerned at all about the level –
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t discussed that with him, and I haven’t followed it that closely.
Q Thanks, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: Last one. Kristen.
Q Thanks, Jay. Today Eric Cantor is criticizing the President for saying last week in an interview that America has gotten a little soft. Does the President stand by those comments, and if so, why? What did he mean by them?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think if you read them — it’s easy to express outrage about a quote if you mischaracterize it or totally misrepresent it. We see that happen a lot. We certainly saw it happen with regards to this on some websites.
The President made clear — I mean, this is why he ran for President — that the previous administration, and in some ways even prior to that, actions hadn’t been taken to make sure that this economy and this country is in the strongest possible position in the 21st century — economically, and in terms of our national security.
And he has acted every day since he’s taken office to build the kind of foundations that we need to build to ensure that we are economically competitive; that we are investing in the things that we need to invest in to ensure economic growth, like education and infrastructure and innovation so that we can out-build and out-educate and out-innovate the rest of the world; and to take the kind of measures that ensure our national security.
He came in with a commitment to wind down the war in Iraq. And we talk about priorities of different administrations — I mean, one of the simple facts of the race in 2008 and what’s happened since is that this President promised to end the war in Iraq and to do it in a responsible way, and doing so has allowed us to focus on taking the fight to al Qaeda, for example. And I think that’s been very effective, and I think others agree.
So what he was expressing was a restatement of why he ran and why we need to take every measure we can to ensure that America remains the strongest, most powerful country around the world.
Q Is he not opening himself up for criticism by using a term like “soft,” which implicitly seems to be criticizing this country?
MR. CARNEY: He was talking about leaders in Washington and actions that we had taken and not taken — that leaders in Washington had taken and not taken that prevented the United States from positioning itself as effectively as it could to win the 21st century. And he has taken measures in the two and a half years since he’s been in office to make sure that we are doing the right things, that we are building the foundation that we need to build economically, and that we are positioning ourselves in terms of our international diplomacy and national security and military and intelligence capacity to make America as strong as it can be around the globe in the 21st century.
END 2:05 P.M. EDT
Tags: Office of the Press Secretary, Press Briefings, United States, Whitehouse