12/3/12: White House Press Briefing

Uploaded by whitehouse on 03.12.2012

Mr. Carney: Good afternoon, everyone.
Thanks for being here.
It's Monday, so there's that.
But it's also practically 70 degrees outside in December.
The Press: -- psyched golfers.
Mr. Carney: Exactly.
The Press: Can we have the briefing outside?
Mr. Carney: Everybody agree?
TV, you're okay with that?
Unfortunately not today.
Maybe one day.
Perhaps my last day.
The Press: Personnel announcement?
Mr. Carney: Might be four years from now.
Before I take your questions, I wanted to let you know that in
the past week, over 300,000 Americans from across the
country have tweeted and emailed to tell us what extending income
tax for middle-class families means to them.
President Obama just sent a tweet announcing that he will
answer questions on Twitter about extending middle-class
tax cuts today at 2:00 p.m. People can ask the President
questions on Twitter with the hashtag "My2K."
You can all follow that chat at twitter.com/whitehouse.
I can also, just to stick with the schedule, remind you that
after that, this afternoon the President has a bilateral
meeting with the Prime Minister of Bulgaria,
Prime Minister Borisov.
Bulgaria is an important NATO partner, and we have
a very important bilateral relationship with Bulgaria.
Later this afternoon still, at about 4:00 p.m., the President
will deliver a speech at the National Defense University
commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Cooperative
Threat Reduction Program, which as you know was authored by
Senators Nunn and Lugar.
That cooperation, bipartisan cooperation between those two
men has resulted in a regime that allows us to achieve one
of the President's highest priorities -- or to try to
achieve -- and that is to secure loose nuclear materials and
weapons around the world.
And it's an important time to remember that when it comes to
these kinds of objectives, Democrats and Republicans
can come together and achieve very important things, and the
President looks forward to the fact that both Senators Nunn and
Lugar will be there today.
Later this evening, you know he has the Congressional Ball.
And then at about 8:30 p.m., I know many of you will, like me,
be tuning in to see RGIII and the Redskins take on
the New York Giants.
With that, I will take -- oh, wait, I have one more thing I
wanted to mention, and that is that on behalf of everyone here
in the White House, beginning with the President and the First
Lady, we extend our congratulations to the
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the welcome news this morning
out of London that they are expecting their first child.
The Press: Does the President personally have any advice for them
as parents?
Mr. Carney: I haven't had that conversation with them, but I know they both
feel that having a child is one of the most wonderful parts of
their lives.
So I'm sure that will be the same for the Duke and Duchess
of Cambridge.
On a note about a commoner here at the White House, I also want
to congratulate Brian Deese of the NEC, and his wife on the
birth of their child, Adeline Sutton Deese, over the weekend.
And with that I will take your questions.
The Press: Thank you.
The United Nations is moving staff out of Syria.
Does the U.S. consider the security situation in Syria
to be deteriorating further?
And how does that impact U.S. concerns about the security
of chemical weapons?
Mr. Carney: Let me address a few points here.
We closely monitor and we continue to closely monitor
Syria's proliferation-sensitive materials and facilities.
As the opposition makes strategic advances and
grows in the strength, the Assad regime has been unable to halt
the opposition's progress through conventional means,
and we are concerned that an increasingly beleaguered regime,
having found its escalation of violence through conventional
means inadequate, might be considering the use of chemical
weapons against the Syria people.
And as the President has said, any use or proliferation of
chemical weapons by the Syrian regime would cross a red line
for the United States.
The Assad regime must know that the world is watching and that
they will be held accountable by the United States and the
international community if they use chemical weapons, or fail to
meet their obligations to secure them.
We continue to consult actively with Syria's neighbors, our
friends in the international community and with the
opposition to underscore our common concern about the
security of these weapons and the Syrian government's absolute
obligation to secure them.
The Press: What does the U.S. deem the security of those chemicals
weapons at this point?
Mr. Carney: Well, I can't get into intelligence assessments.
We believe they are -- remain in the possession of the Syria
regime, the Assad regime.
But as the regime has lost all legitimacy to lead Syria,
and the opposition grows in strength, our concern about the
regime's intentions regarding its chemical weapons stockpiles
has increased.
The Press: And just to go back to the red line, I just want to clarify
where the red line is for the President.
Obviously, use of chemical weapons is a red line.
But in terms of the movement of that, there obviously are
reports that the weapons are being moved or have been moved.
Is the type of movement that we're seeing right now, does
that cross the red line?
Mr. Carney: Well, I think the President made clear that the use of
weapons was a red line.
We are monitoring the situation in Syria closely, and we are
monitoring the regime's chemical weapons stockpiles.
I'm not going to get into intelligence matters,
but as I said, we believe that with the regime's grip on power
loosening, with its failure to put down the opposition through
conventional means, we have an increased concern about the
possibility of the regime taking the desperate act of using its
chemical weapons.
The Press: But at this point, you can't say for sure that what we're seeing
right now does not cross the President's red line?
Mr. Carney: Well, again, I think we're talking about the use of
chemical weapons.
The Press: But he also talked about the movement of chemical weapons
in his press conference in August.
Mr. Carney: Well, I understand that.
The Press: So does it change the equation if it was being moved?
Mr. Carney: Well, I think that you're hearing from me about our
increased concern.
You're hearing from me the fact that we are consulting with our
allies and international partners, as well as the
opposition about this, and there is no doubt that we have an
increased concern about this.
But beyond that I'm not going to get into matters of intelligence
except to say that we do have an increased concern.
Yes, Reuters.
The Press: And what action would the U.S. take if Syria were to cross that
red line and use chemical weapons?
Mr. Carney: Well, I wouldn't want to speculate, but we think it
is important to prepare for all scenarios.
Contingency planning is the responsible thing to do,
and we are also actively consulting with friends,
allies and the opposition.
But I wouldn't want to speculate about what action we might take.
The Press: Could that include military action?
Mr. Carney: Well, again, I think the contingency planning of
all kinds is the responsible thing to do.
The Press: Israel's settlement-building plan has provoked some pretty
strong reactions, especially in Europe where several countries
have summoned Israeli ambassadors to hear protests.
But Israel is sticking to that plan.
Is the U.S. taking any further steps beyond criticizing the
settlement expansion plan as counterproductive to
the peace process?
Mr. Carney: Well, I can tell you that we reiterate our longstanding
opposition to Israeli settlement activity and
East Jerusalem construction.
We oppose all unilateral actions, including settlement
activity and housing construction, as they
complicate efforts to resume direct bilateral negotiations
and risk prejudging the outcome of those negotiations.
And this includes building in the so-called E1 area.
We have made clear to the Israeli government that such
action is contrary to U.S. policy, opposing unilateral
action including settlement activity
and housing construction in East Jerusalem.
And we in the international community expect all parties
to play a constructive role in efforts to achieve peace.
We urge Israeli leaders to reconsider these unilateral
decisions and exercise restraint as these actions
are counterproductive and make it harder to resume
direct negotiations to achieve a two-state solution.
The Press: Jay, thanks.
Over the weekend, House Speaker John Boehner said on FOX News
Sunday, "Right now I would say we're nowhere, period,
in terms of the fiscal cliff negotiations."
Does the President agree with that assessment?
Mr. Carney: No, he doesn't.
I think you saw Secretary Geithner over the weekend
on other Sunday shows very clearly express the President's
position, talk about the proposals the President
has put forward, and express our belief that there has been
progress and that we can achieve a bipartisan agreement.
The obstacle remains at this point the refusal to acknowledge
by Republican leaders that there is no deal that achieves the
kind of balance that is necessary without raising
rates on the top 2% wealthiest Americans.
The math simply does not add up.
And we look forward to presentation by Republican
leaders -- their ideas for how to achieve the kind of revenue
targets that are necessary, or their ideas for spending cuts.
As you know, and Secretary Geithner spoke quite clearly
about, we have put forward a proposal that includes
$600 billion in detailed spending cuts in health care
and other entitlement programs, including the farm subsidy
program, and that comes on top of over a trillion dollars in
spending cuts, both defense and non-defense, that the President
signed into law as part of the Budget Control Act, and is
companioned with our proposals for how to achieve the kinds of
revenue from the wealthiest Americans that we believe is
necessary to help the economy grow and achieve the sort of
deficit reduction that puts us in -- puts us on a path towards
a better economy.
The Press: Republicans have said, though, that the President's initial
offer is "not a serious one" -- that's another quote.
What will he do at this moment to try to move these
negotiations forward?
Mr. Carney: Well, I would simply redirect that question to Republican
leaders who to this day have not put forward any proposal on how
they would achieve revenues, how they would address the
issue that rates have to rise on the top 2%.
There's no other way to do it.
There is no mathematically sound way to do it.
And making vague promises about achieving revenue through
capping deductions or closing loopholes simply doesn't add
up to a serious proposal.
We haven't heard which deductions they would cap
or which loopholes they would close.
And what is true is that other proposals that have been put
forward that include attempts to do it, to raise revenue only
through closing loopholes and limiting deductions, can only
achieve the necessary revenue if the middle class gets stuck
with the bill.
And that's simply not -- or if you have a proposal, it's wildly
politically unfeasible because it suggests that we would wipe
out charitable deductions or other measures that might add
up on paper, but simply aren't plausible when it
comes to getting something through Congress.
The Press: Jay, also, on one other topic, today marks the three-year
anniversary of the arrest of American contractor Alan
Gross in Cuba.
Cuba has offered to sit down with the U.S. to talk about
issues of mutual interest, including Gross.
Given that the campaign is over, the President beginning his
second term, is this something that the administration is open
to and is considering right now?
Mr. Carney: Well, the President has followed Mr. Gross's case with concern,
and he urges Mr. Gross's release.
The Cuban government should release Alan Gross and return
him to his family where he belongs.
Tomorrow, Alan Gross will begin his fourth year of unjustified
imprisonment in Cuba.
He was arrested on December 3, 2009, and later given a 15-year
prison sentence by Cuban authorities for simply
facilitating communications between Cuba's Jewish community
and the rest of the world.
Mr. Gross is a 63-year-old husband, father, and dedicated
professional, with a long history of providing
assistance and support to underserved communities in
more than 50 countries.
Since his arrest, Mr. Gross has lost more than 100 pounds and
suffers from severe degenerative arthritis that affects his
mobility and other health problems.
His family is anxious, understandably, to evaluate
whether he is receiving appropriate medical treatment,
something that can be best determined by having a doctor
of his own choosing examine him.
We continue to ask for the Cuban government to grant Alan Gross's
request to travel to the United States to visit his 90-year-old
mother, Evelyn Gross, who is gravely ill.
This is a humanitarian issue.
The Press: His family believes that he's been abandoned by
the U.S. government.
His wife was quoted as saying, he feels like a soldier who's
been left to die.
What specifically is the President going to do to
try to get his release beyond asking the Cuban government
to release him?
Mr. Carney: Well, we continue to press the Cuban government to release him
for the reasons that I just enumerated.
This is a humanitarian issue.
There is -- it is essential that he released for his own health
reasons, and it is -- would be incredible appropriate to allow
him to visit his gravely-ill mother.
The Press: Jay, on the fiscal cliff, you were just laying out about
$1.6 trillion of spending cuts, $600 billion new ones you say on
top of a trillion from 2011.
But then the Republicans point out you've put about
$1.6 trillion in new tax increases or revenue increases
on the table in some new spending, question being
that's roughly one to one.
I thought during the campaign a balanced approach was $2.50
in spending cuts per $1 in tax increases.
That's roughly what both Bill Clinton and I think President
Obama said on the trail, at the convention.
So my question is, sort of the latest balanced approach,
what is that split for this White House?
Mr. Carney: Ed, it is absolutely the case that the President's proposal
that he put forward to the super committee and that is repeated
in his budget achieves roughly the ratio that
you're talking about.
And it achieves the target of $4 trillion in deficit reduction
that was put forward by the Simpson-Bowles commission,
for example, as the kind of deficit reduction that's
necessary over 10 years to put us on a sustainable path,
get our fiscal house in order.
It is also the case, and the President talked about this
repeatedly during the campaign, that we need to make the kinds
of investments in key sectors of our economy that will help
our economy grow faster and help it create jobs.
I think Republicans have likely heard what the President has
heard from business leaders, which is they are adamant about
the need to take action to improve our infrastructure,
to put people to work building our -- rebuilding our roads and
bridges and highways, ports and airports, because that is
essential to long-term economic growth.
So what the President has put forward in terms of measures
that would put Americans back to work are the kinds of things
that help us grow in the long term.
They're paid for and they're vital for that balance that
we've talked about all along.
Again, what we have not seen from Republicans --
we understand that they don't agree with everything the
President has put on the table, but we haven't seen alternatives
from them.
They have spoken about the need for revenue, and that
acknowledgment is welcome.
But thus far, Republican leaders have been adamant that they
don't believe rates ought to go up on the top 2% of
wealthiest Americans.
Well, the American people overwhelmingly
disagree -- overwhelmingly.
And what the President believes is that you cannot
mathematically achieve the kinds of revenue that are necessary
for that balanced approach through any other means.
So rates have to rise.
And the Republicans need to acknowledge that,
that that's the only way to get from here to there.
The Press: You say rates need to rise, so there's one scenario floating
out there that the Republicans may say, okay, we'll -- they say
they'll extend the middle-class tax rates that the President has
been demanding, Bush tax rates, so that --
Mr. Carney: That would be welcome.
The Press: That would suggest that the Bush -- taxes for the rich would go
up, as you're asking for.
But my question is, they then suggest, the Republicans, that
they would leave the debt ceiling, all this other
stuff until at least January.
Is that acceptable?
They essentially do what you want on the middle-class tax
cuts and then go home and deal with the rest of this
in January?
Mr. Carney: I'll say two things.
One is I'm not going to negotiate the specifics
of an end-of-the-year deal from here.
But I will reiterate and echo what Secretary Geithner said
over the weekend, which is that it is entirely unacceptable to
have a repeat performance of what the American people watched
with horror in the summer of 2011, which was a willingness
by a minority of the overall assemblage of lawmakers on
Capitol Hill to hold the American economy hostage,
to threaten default on the American economy, and therefore
default on the savings and investments of the American
people, in the name of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
It's just not acceptable.
And it's bad policy.
What the President put forward, what the President believes we
ought to do, as Secretary Geithner spelled out over the
weekend, is adopt the proposal that was enacted into law in the
Budget Control Act that was put forward by Senator McConnell,
nobody's idea of a liberal, a man with solid conservative
credentials, the Republican Leader in the Senate put forward
a proposal that enables the debt ceiling to be raised
appropriately so the United States pays its bills.
It allows Congress to voice its opinion, but it makes sure that
we do not have the threat of default hanging over us
periodically as if we were not the greatest and strongest
economy in the world.
It's just not the right way to do business.
The Press: And the last thing, there have been reports suggesting that the
Defense and State Department picks could come as soon as
this week.
Is that possible?
Mr. Carney: Anything is possible, Ed, but I would urge you to accept the
notion -- and I mean you, plural -- that the President will make
personnel announcements after he has made personnel decisions,
and when he believes it's appropriate.
There's a great deal of speculation about
the timing of that.
I can promise you that no decisions have been made by
the President, and you will hear from him when he believes he's
ready to make any such announcements.
The Press: Does the President believe that he has a mandate to push for the
increases on taxes on the top 2% because he campaigned on
it and because of polls -- is that a correct assessment?
Mr. Carney: He believes -- and I think most people would acknowledge -- that
the American people support that.
He also believes that it's the right thing to do as a matter of
policy, as a matter of economic policy.
We know from independent economists that tax cuts for
middle-class Americans -- and in the case of the legislation that
he wants to see pass, tax cuts for 98% of American
taxpayers -- are vastly more beneficial to the economy and
economic growth than giving tax cuts to the wealthiest 2%
-- so as economic policy.
We also cannot afford tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%.
That's $950 billion over 10 years that we should not be
spending in order to provide tax cuts to folks who have enjoyed
enormous tax cuts over the last 10 years as the middle class has
been squeezed.
So when it comes to balance, the President believes that, yes,
it's the right economic policy to let rates rise; it's the only
mathematically sound way to achieve balance in a deficit
reduction package; and it is supported
by the American people.
The Press: And as a political matter, the President campaigned
on it repeatedly.
Mr. Carney: Well, I think the point I've been trying to make is that he
was very clear about this, so it should not be a surprise to
Republican leaders, and it's certainly not a surprise to
the American people.
The Press: So my question is, in this offer that the President made to House
Republicans and Senate Republicans, he's pushing
for more than that, though.
It's not just the ones -- the tax increases that he campaigned
on, it's other ones as well.
Mr. Carney: The President spoke repeatedly during the year about his
proposal that is enshrined in the 70-odd-page document that
I had with me at the podium last week, that was presented for the
super committee's consideration.
The $1.6 trillion target of deficit reduction through
revenues has long been his position.
It has been explicitly his position.
We talked about it prior to the election.
We talked about it in the immediate aftermath
of the election.
This is not -- he did not -- to suggest that he somehow
added to his proposal is to pretend that --
The Press: I'm not saying he added to his proposal, but what I'm saying
is he didn't campaign on, for instance, limiting the mortgage
deduction for wealthier Americans, or limiting the
charity deduction for wealthier Americans.
Those are not items that he talked about
on the campaign trail.
Mr. Carney: He talked explicitly and broadly about his approach on this
issue, which included letting rates return to Clinton-era
levels for the top 2% and included broadly $1.6 trillion
in revenues from the wealthiest.
And if you look at his proposals -- and we were very explicit
about this both here in Washington when we were engaged
in legislative negotiations with Congress, and broadly throughout
the year -- those proposals included -- I mean, I talked
numerous times last year and the year before about capping
deductions at 28% for the wealthiest --
The Press: That's not the President on the campaign trail.
I didn't hear him really talk about that.
Mr. Carney: Well, he did, Jake, and he would certainly when engaged
with reporters in discussions about his detailed plan,
he would talk about this.
This is something that --
The Press: Limiting deductions?
Mr. Carney: Absolutely. For the top 2%, absolutely.
And it is something that he has been explicit about for
more than a year now, since September of 2011, when he put
forward that proposal to the super committee.
The Press: Is one of the reasons that the stimulus is in this proposal
because it's intended to offset the economic damage caused by
any of the tax increases?
Mr. Carney: I would say that one of the reasons for measures that would
put Americans back to work is that we need to continue
to grow the economy.
And he has always believed that you don't achieve -- deficit
reduction is not a goal unto itself, that we need to achieve
deficit reduction in a way that doesn't halt progress we've made
or throw us backwards.
One of the reasons why people are so concerned about the
prospect of the fiscal cliff is that the combination of
tax increases and spending cuts across the board would have a
negative impact on economic growth and on hiring.
So we need to do it in a smart way.
And the President has longed believed and been very explicit
about that even as we find savings and enact cuts in
programs where they can be found and can be enacted, we need to
make targeted investments in infrastructure, research and
development, or education and the like that help our economy
grow in the long term.
The Press: So the answer is, no, it's not there to offset any economic
harm to job growth that might result because of the tax
increases on wealthy Americans?
Mr. Carney: It's not.
It is part of -- I mean, in the sense that it's not specifically
designed for that.
It is part of the President's broader approach to this,
which is you need to be very discriminating in
how you approach it.
You need to achieve savings where you can, significant
savings -- a trillion-plus in the original Budget Control Act
in discretionary non-defense and defense savings; additional $600
billion in savings put forward as part of his proposal and in
revenues from the wealthiest 2%.
Coupled with that, you need to make targeted investments that
help the economy grow, because the balance in the package is
essential for the broader goal, which is stronger growth,
job creation.
He also believes that as a principle, deficit reduction
done well, done right, is positive for the economy.
So there aren't pieces -- they all go together in his mind.
The Press: One last question, on the subject of Israel,
in the last few weeks, when it comes to U.S.
lobbying against the declaration of statehood or whatever for the
Palestinians, the very successful results of the
Iron Dome and the U.S. support for Israeli military activities
in Gaza, the U.S. has been very steadfastly standing by Israel.
I'm wondering, in light of that, other than you expressing
displeasure in any paper statements that have gone out
on the matter, what the Obama administration or the President
has done, or any of his emissaries, to express
displeasure with what the Israelis are doing right now
in terms of settlements and other what can be described as
punitive actions against the Palestinians.
Mr. Carney: Well, I would refer you to the State Department
for communications that may be taking place, as they do on a
daily basis, with the Israelis.
The Press: (inaudible)
Mr. Carney: I don't have any conversation with the President to read out.
But I want to be clear -- we oppose unilateral actions that
make a return to bilateral negotiations harder.
We oppose, as we long have, Israeli settlement activity
and construction in East Jerusalem because they are
counterproductive to what we believe is the goal here, and
should be the goal, which is Israel and a Palestinian state
side by side living in security and freedom.
The Press: Did we know -- did the U.S. know about this before the Netanyahu
government announced it?
Mr. Carney: I would refer you to the State Department for those
kinds of communications.
I can just tell you that --
The Press: In the past, they've done it without notifying -- in fact,
I believe there was one time when it was -- when Netanyahu
was arriving here and the announcement was made.
Mr. Carney: I don't have information to give --
The Press: When you worked for the Vice President -- you must remember
-- when the Vice President arrived in Israel one time,
there was an announcement.
That must have been fun.
Mr. Carney: I can just tell you, Jake, that I don't have any specific
information about those communications between the
Israeli government and this administration.
I don't think we could be clearer about our position
that we oppose unilateral actions that make the return
to bilateral negotiations harder.
We oppose Israeli settlement activity and the construction
in East Jerusalem.
And we're obviously communicating that.
The Press: But there's no consequences, they'll do whatever and
you'll --
Mr. Carney: I don't have anything additional to provide to you on that.
Major and then Jessica.
The Press: Jay, what's the degree of the President's awareness of and
concern about and appetite for intervening in the dock strike
in Los Angeles and Long Beach?
Mr. Carney: Concern about, appetite for -- lot of verbs and prepositions
there that I will have to appropriately digest.
The Press: -- all at once.
Mr. Carney: I can just tell you that we -- and that includes the President
-- continue to monitor the situation in Los Angeles closely
and urge the parties to continue their work at the negotiating
table to get a deal done as quickly as possible.
The Press: Does he have any appetite to intervene?
Mr. Carney: I don't have any additional insights about the President
on this to provide to you except that we're monitoring
the situation and we urge each side -- all parties
to continue negotiations.
The Press: -- look at the situation and say has real-time economic
consequences not only in that immediate region, but possibly
throughout the entire U.S. economy, and they would say
the President is only concerned?
Mr. Carney: Well, he is concerned, and that is -- and we at the White House
and broadly in the administration are concerned,
which is why we're urging parties to continue their
work at the negotiating table to reach a deal as quickly as
possible for the reasons that you just mentioned.
The Press: A follow-up on Ed's question.
Isn't it true that when Secretary Geithner went up to
the Hill and described broadly his and the administration's
approach, there were far more things put on the table as asks
or requests -- unemployment insurance payroll tax, at least
conceptualized, and dealing with Medicare premium reimbursement
issue -- there are lots of other issues beside the one singular
issue that you are focusing on as far as the top 2%.
Isn't it true that you are seeking something that is
much broader than that?
Mr. Carney: No, it's not true.
And what is remarkable -- and I was stunned by this even on the
Sunday shows -- is to this day, in December of 2012, how few
people are aware of what was a highly detailed, specific
proposal that the President put out in September of 2011.
And these issues were all in there.
We have long been on the record for extension of unemployment
insurance, for example -- at a time when the unemployment rate,
while it has come down, is still higher at this time than it was
when George W. Bush extended unemployment insurance.
The Press: -- these particular conversations --
Mr. Carney: But the conversations weren't just about the
revenue component.
Included in that was the $600 billion in spending cuts that
the President has proposed through, again, in detail
and with specificity in a way that we have yet to see from
our Republican friends.
So, no.
And again, I know you know because you covered it that
we talked explicitly about, and have since we introduced the
American Jobs Act, the need to invest in infrastructure, put
people back to work building our roads and bridges and highways.
This is not -- there is nothing -- there is, literally, nothing
that should come as a surprise in terms of what the President's
positions are and what he believes, in his view,
are the right actions to take.
Now, he has also said that he is not wedded to every detail of
his plan, that he is willing to compromise, and he looks forward
to concrete proposals from Republicans that address the
question of revenue, for example.
They're open to revenue.
They say at this point that they don't want to raise tax rates on
the wealthiest Americans.
It is mathematically impossible to achieve the kind of revenue
targets that are necessary for balance in a way that only
closes loopholes and caps deductions, both economically --
The Press: -- I think it's mathematically possible;
it's not politically possible.
That's been your earlier point.
Mr. Carney: Well, it's both, depending on the proposal that you're
talking about.
It's either possible to do it if you stick it to the middle class
and raise taxes on the middle class so that you protect the
wealthiest Americans from having to contribute more in revenue,
or you would do it in a way that would go after things like the
charitable deduction or the home mortgage plan in a way that is
not either economically sound or politically feasible
on Capitol Hill.
So what we hope for is some specificity from Republicans.
We can't -- if they need something different, if their
ideas are different from ours, we can't guess what they are.
They need to tell us.
And we look forward to the time when they are specific
with ideas in the way that we have been.
We understand that they don't like our plan in its entirety.
The President has understood and made clear that he won't
get everything that he wants.
He brings to this very specific principles about balance.
He's made very clear that he will not under any circumstances
sign an extension of tax cuts for the top 2%.
He's made very clear that he would sign tomorrow if just
a few dozen or so House Republicans -- well, first,
if the leaders of the Republican Party in the House said, let's
vote on that Senate bill to extend cuts for 98% of
the American people and then however many Republicans it
takes -- probably not that many, because I know every Democrat
wants to extend tax cuts for the middle-class Americans --
let that pass.
That addresses a good portion of the fiscal cliff and it says to
the American people, we can actually take action on things
that we agree on: tax cuts for the middle class.
It's good for everybody.
It's good for the economy.
It's good for the fiscal cliff.
And it would I think set a tone here in Washington that we can
get something done when we work together cooperatively.
So we've been explicit and specific.
We look forward to specificity from the Republicans.
The Press: One last question on this, the sequencing.
There are now countdown clocks around the country predicated
on December 31st.
For those of us who have been lucky enough to cover the
legislative body once or twice in our career, we have
a practical understanding of how things have to go.
And there are more and more lawmakers, Republican and
Democrat, who look at the calendar and say, it's not
December 31st, it's December 15th, really, if you're going to
have an agreement and have the time necessary for it to be
read, digested, debated, and gotten to the President in a
practical matter before Christmas.
Does the President share that time horizon?
Do you look at this actually as not December 31st, but
something, as a practical matter, much earlier than that,
and does that in any way create a greater sense of urgency?
Mr. Carney: Well, the President certainly believes that the sooner the
better; that we receive specificity from Republicans
about what it is they would do on revenues, for example;
what it is they want on spending cuts, for example, we will be
able to move forward, and we look forward to doing that.
In terms of the congressional clock, I, too, enjoyed covering
Congress when I had the opportunity and I know
what you're talking about.
But we're not going to dictate to congressional leaders their
calendar, but it is certainly the case that we hope and expect
that Republicans will be more specific about what it is beyond
not liking the President's proposals; what is it they would
do alternatively to achieve the kind of deficit reduction and a
resolution of the fiscal cliff that the President's
plan would do.
The Press: Perhaps the President will stay in Washington
until this is resolved?
Mr. Carney: Well, again, I believe -- as Secretary Geithner expressed
over the weekend -- that we can accomplish this.
I really believe that if Republicans were to acknowledge
and do so with some specificity that rates are going up on the
wealthiest Americans --
The Press: (inaudible)
Mr. Carney: Well, I'm talking about getting to -- no, no, I'm not talking
about an endgame here.
I'm talking about getting -- moving the ball forward here
in terms of progress and reaching a deal.
That that's a principle -- that's an obstacle that, once
overcome, would allow us to I think move more quickly towards
the kind of compromise that -- remember, what was new in what
Secretary Geithner spoke about and what he and Rob Nabors
brought to their meetings on Capitol Hill was a framework for
-- our proposed framework for how to achieve, if you will,
a two-stage process towards a resolution.
So there's a means to get there.
What we need from the Republicans, what we need
to hear and see from the Republicans is pretty clear.
As of now, the only party to these negotiations who has put
forward anything specific when it comes to broad-based deficit
reduction is the President.
The Press: Jay, you just said that the administration laid out a highly
detailed, specific proposal, including on spending cuts.
Mr. Carney: Yes.
The Press: Did the administration's proposal also detail how you'd
get to $400 billion on Medicare and other entitlement savings?
Mr. Carney: I think you heard Secretary Geithner say over the weekend
he talked about -- when you talk about the broader spending cuts,
including a $600 billion, they include reform of our farm
subsidy program, but he also spoke about asking high-wage
earners, high earners who are Medicare beneficiaries to pay
more in premiums, a little bit more in premiums, and he talked
about some other specifics.
But I would refer you, again, to a document that's been available
to everyone for 14 or 15 months now and we've been specific
about what the President believes is the right course
of action and we look forward to Republicans doing the same.
The Press: Is the administration committing to that as its proposal for
bringing down entitlement spending, or is the
administration outlining a framework -- $400 billion in
proposed cuts -- to be resolved down the line?
Mr. Carney: Well, I would refer you to what -- I think Secretary Geithner
spoke in detail about this.
But we have -- we do have specific proposals.
The Press: When it came to entitlements, he said there were principles,
but he did not commit --
Mr. Carney: There are specifics in the proposals, far more than
we've seen from the other side.
Remember, in the House Republican budget, we saw
nothing like the specificity -- we saw undocumented savings,
unspecified savings over 10 years, after which Medicare
would end as we know it, and there would be additional
savings that would help pay for tax cuts.
The President has been much more specific.
His proposed savings in health care entitlements in the first
10 years exceed the savings put forward by the Bowles-Simpson
commission, the North Star, if you will, of this process.
And, again, I'd refer you to the document for more details.
We have been specific.
We understand that Republicans won't -- maybe they want
different kinds of cuts.
Maybe they want additional cuts.
The President has made clear he will entertain others' ideas.
He looks forward to hearing them.
But we need to see what they are.
We can't guess on their behalf what Republicans want out of
this process.
They need to put forward their ideas as we have
put forward ours.
The Press: One of their frustrations is that they feel the
administration has been less than specific about entitlement
changes, but is being very specific about what's needed
for tax reform and that this amounts to overreach.
It amounts to bullying -- you've heard what they've said.
Mr. Carney: Well, I understand what you're saying, but instead of just
quoting what they've said, look at the proposals we've
put on the table, they are specific.
We understand that they may want different ones.
Senator McConnell has talked about different ones.
Others have talked about different ones
or additional ones.
But let's be specific about the fact that we've put forward
substantial savings in health care entitlements, as well as
other entitlement programs.
The Republicans have not.
The Press: Secretary Geithner seemed to reject what over the weekend --
Secretary Geithner seemed to reject what McConnell said in
the op-ed in the Wall Street Journal interview.
Mr. Carney: Well, I don't know that he rejected it.
We know what our position is.
What I would note is that the ideas that Senator McConnell
talked about don't even amount to half of the savings that are
documented in the President's proposal.
So the President's willing to entertain others' ideas.
But we haven't seen anything yet from Republicans that is
credible and specific.
On the revenue side, we've seen nothing at all.
Because sometimes when we get into this debate and the
crossfire about who has a plan and who doesn't, and who's
showing you theirs and who's not, they say, well,
we passed a budget.
But let's remember, the Ryan budget -- the House Republican
budget contains zero in revenues.
So that's not a plausible alternative.
Republicans have acknowledged that we need revenues and that
revenues have to come from those who can afford them.
Now we need to move that acknowledgement further
along down the road to include specificity about how -- what
loopholes, what deductions and what they envision in
terms of rates.
We've been very clear about what we propose: Rates should
rise to the Clinton era.
And we've been very specific about capping deductions for
wealthy earners and closing loopholes.
So what do the Republicans have to show us on that score?
The Press: So Speaker Boehner is supposed to be attending this holiday
reception here tonight.
Does the President plan to have a pull-aside with him to discuss
some of these issues?
Mr. Carney: I don't have a schedule for you of the President's conversations.
He looks forward to the event tonight, but I don't have
anything specific for you.
But it is true that every member of Congress has been invited and
he looks forward to the event.
The Press: Did President Clinton have any advice or suggestions
for President Obama yesterday during their golf game on the
fiscal cliff?
Might there have been some discussion about the fiscal
cliff when he played golf?
Mr. Carney: For reasons that would be apparent to anybody who has seen
me swing a golf club, I was not there and therefore do not know.
The Press: No readout on the golf game?
Mr. Carney: I know that President Obama enjoyed the session.
But beyond that, I don't have anything else for you.
The Press: Who won?
Mr. Carney: Doesn't the sitting President always win?
The Press: Tomorrow, the President is meeting with governors about
the fiscal cliff.
Can you give us more detail about who will be here and
how many, and what he hopes governors can add to the
dialogue that isn't already part of the conversation?
Mr. Carney: Well, broadly speaking, governors can have a lot
to add to the dialogue.
And the President looks forward to the meeting.
I think we'll have details on that later this evening.
I don't have a list for you.
The Press: Can you just, in concept, talk about what experience governors
have, what he's hoping to hear from them, what he wants to say
to them that differs from what we've been hearing every day?
Mr. Carney: I think that governors have a lot at stake in this process.
They have an interest in seeing Washington get its
fiscal house in order.
They have an interest in seeing Washington take action to ensure
that the economy continues to grow.
I think governors, broadly speaking, have a keen interest
in, for example, Washington making wise investments in
rebuilding our infrastructure.
They obviously have a stake in our health care entitlement
programs, including, of course, Medicaid.
And what governors have in common with the President of
the United States is that they're chief executives.
They understand -- they run things and they're very
practical and pragmatic about it, by and large.
That's sometimes a distinction between governors and lawmakers
on Capitol Hill.
I think governors -- I can't speak for every single one of
them -- tend to want pragmatic, practical solutions to these
kinds of fiscal challenges.
So the President looks forward to having a conversation with
those governors that he'll meet with.
The Press: A question on Puerto Rico.
The Press: Actually following up on Ari's question about the governors,
since some of the states have not yet completed or met all the
deadlines with regard to the health care exchanges, health
insurance exchanges, will that be on the table as part
of the fiscal cliff discussions tomorrow?
Mr. Carney: I suppose it could be discussed.
I don't have an agenda beyond what we've talked about to read
out to you.
The Press: And then, one more question on a different topic.
The President has a honorary degree, Jay, a law degree from
the University of Notre Dame.
Will he be rooting for his honorary alma mater in the BCS
title game on January 7th?
Mr. Carney: I don't know and I will have to ask him.
But that was a heck of a game between Alabama and Georgia?
Anybody catch it?
Yes, Puerto Rico question.
The Press: Thank you.
As you know, this last time around, 61% of Puerto
Ricans voted for statehood.
Is the President going to be helping us or trying to make
it easier or trying to make it faster?
What is he going to do for us?
Mr. Carney: Well, I think the outcome was a little less clear than that,
because of the process itself.
And what I can tell you is the people of Puerto Rico have made
it clear that they want a resolution to the issue of
the island's political status.
And consistent with the recommendations of the task
force report, Congress should now study the results closely
and provide the people of Puerto Rico with a clear path forward
that lays out the means by which Puerto Ricans themselves can
determine their own status.
This administration, as you know, is committed to the
principle that the question of political status is a matter of
self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico.
And the task force on Puerto Rico's status will work with
Congress to address this important issue.
In addition to the question of status, the task force continues
to work with Congress, the people of Puerto Rico and its
leaders to address the concerns of the 4 million
U.S. citizens who call Puerto Rico home by implementing their
2011 report's recommendations to promote job creation and
economic development, education, health care, clean energy and to
improve security.
The Press: Jay, what are your thoughts about Congressman Elijah
Cummings, who happens to be very good friends with the President,
saying that no deal is better than a bad deal on the issue
of the fiscal cliff?
What say you about that, that statement?
Mr. Carney: Well, I didn't see those specific comments.
The President certainly has principles here that he intends
to stick to, which is that he will not sign an extension of
the Bush-era tax cuts for the top 2% -- full stop.
He will not sign a bill that extends those tax rates for
the top 2%.
We can't afford it.
It is not a wise economic policy.
It's not a wise fiscal policy.
And it would defeat the principle of balance that
he has embraced so clearly throughout these negotiations.
He is fully committed to extending tax cuts for the vast
majority of the American people -- 98%.
And he wishes that the House of Representatives would pass that
bill tomorrow, and he would sign it right away.
That is a principle that he takes into this.
So I don't want to forecast in a pessimistic way, because I
believe, and the President believes, and Secretary Geithner
believes that we can achieve a compromise here.
And how that -- what that compromise looks like and how we
get there are both pretty clear.
We just hope that Republicans will acknowledge that the ball
is in their court, that the President has put forward a
specific proposal.
They know where he stands.
He has put forward a framework that would achieve a process by
which we could reach an agreement.
And obviously the Republicans don't agree with every detail
of that, so we look forward to their specific proposals
on rates and revenues and on spending cuts, as opposed to
just saying that they don't like the President's proposal.
We look forward to seeing something from
them that's specific.
The Press: But with the belief that there is deal -- could it
become a reality that December 31st comes and there is no deal
because there could be bad options on the table?
Mr. Carney: Well, I remain optimistic that that won't come to pass.
But the obstacle here continues to be Republicans who hold out
hope that we can somehow go through this process
and still deliver tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires.
And that's just not going to happen.
It cannot happen mathematically.
It's bad policy.
And it certainly is the case that this is an issue that was
broadly discussed and debated in the past year,
during the campaign.
So the President's position on this is absolutely clear.
It is supported by the majority of the American people.
And he will abide by that principle.
But there has been progress, as Secretary Geithner said,
and we hope that there will be more progress.
We need to do this on behalf of the American people and on
behalf of the American economy.
The Press: Thanks, Jay.
Mr. Carney: Steve. Last one.
The Press: Back to the speech.
Earlier this year, the Russians said that they didn't want to
extend Nunn-Lugar, after 20 years.
Was the President disappointed by this given his interest in
this area and his friendship with Senator Lugar?
And is he going to ask the Putin government to reconsider?
Mr. Carney: Well, I don't want to get ahead of the President's remarks,
which are on an issue that he considers one
of his highest priorities.
He is committed to continued action to secure loose nuclear
materials and weapons, and he has made it a priority of his
international agenda.
It's something that he always raises with our international
partners, and will continue to do so.
But beyond that, I think I'll ask you to wait for
the President's remarks.
Thanks, everybody.