9/30/10: White House Press Briefing

Uploaded by whitehouse on 30.09.2010

Mr. Gibbs: Good afternoon. Any questions today?
Mr. Feller, take us away.
The Press: Thank you, sir.
Can you talk about what kind of loss it will be for the
White House when Rahm leaves and how you plan to deal with it?
Mr. Gibbs: Resisting the temptation to comment on --
The Press: I got a little caught in the rain.
Mr. Gibbs: -- Jake's wet T-shirt contest impersonation.
But let me say this, Ben.
I know there's --
The Press: Always keeping it classy.
Mr. Gibbs: I know there's -- I know there's a lot of stuff out there.
I will say this -- I've got no personnel announcements today,
but I will say that the President will have a
personnel announcement tomorrow at 11:05 a.m. from the East Room.
We will save the specifics for then, and we'll be happy
to get into a long conversation about that.
I don't have any news on that to make --
The Press: But why the charade?
I mean, everyone knows what this is about.
Why can't you just tell us?
Mr. Gibbs: Lynn, I read your paper.
I've read a number of papers.
I'm here to tell you the President will have a personnel
announcement tomorrow, and at that point he will
deliver that news.
The Press: Has the chief of staff told the President that he's leaving?
Mr. Gibbs: I'm not going to get into that.
The Press: Why is this raising to the level -- sometimes you make personnel
announcements just by paper, you make a release.
Why is this announcement rising to the level of a personal
announcement by the President?
Mr. Gibbs: Well, I -- without getting into what the announcement will be --
The Press: When people listen to this, this will sound like a game
since we're talking about Rahm Emanuel's departure to run for
the mayor of Chicago.
Mr. Gibbs: Lynn, come up here.
You should brief, and we can -- look, guys --
The Press: I'm just trying to move the ball along here.
Mr. Gibbs: We all have deadlines; I understand that.
I'm happy to talk about a whole host of subjects today.
I am not going to move a whole lot on what I've already said.
The Press: So the news report is accurate that he is leaving
to run for mayor of Chicago.
Mr. Gibbs: I am not running for mayor --
The Press: I'm talking about Rahm.
Mr. Gibbs: Ms. Compton.
The Press: Will he also possibly have two announcements --
somebody coming, somebody going?
Mr. Gibbs: I would be -- would bet on having two announcements, yes.
The Press: Will we hear from the personnel?
Mr. Gibbs: Some of them, yes.
The Press: Can you answer Ben's question, though?
If he were to leave, what effect would that have on
the White House?
Mr. Gibbs: I don't do hypotheticals, Chip.
The Press: More broadly, a lot of people are leaving -- Orszag left,
Romer left, Larry's leaving, Rahm is leaving.
There are reports about General Jones; Secretary Gates has said
2011 is a good time for him to leave.
There are a lot of people -- key members of the national security
team, key members of the economic team.
Could you just comment on that?
Mr. Gibbs: Yes, and I've said this a number of times.
Look, I think two years in, if you look back historically,
is a time in which people have come into government
service at the beginning of an administration and leave to go
back to academia, or business, or to retire,
or go into other pursuits.
And I think it is in many ways the normal rhythm of
an administration to do.
We have -- I think I've said this to a number of you all.
Folks that have worked in here for the last two years have
managed to pack four or six or eight or 10 years' worth
of work into those two.
The economic team has dealt with the type of -- a series
of crises, from housing to financial stability to the
Recovery Act to unemployment -- I would point out -- done so in
a way -- if you look at the news today on AIG, we are -- if the
common stock that the American government holds in AIG were
sold today, that investment would net
the federal government $20 billion.
As probably as late as a year ago, most people presumed that
AIG would be a $180 billion loss, and the financial sector
would cost the government a great deal of money.
The financial sector, as a portion of TARP, is likely
to provide a profit for the government in terms
of its investment.
So I think, Jake, in many ways it is the natural course of the
way this town works and that administrations work.
People have given of their time and of their lives.
They've been away from their loved ones, their families --
a number of people that you mentioned.
I know Larry moved here while his family stayed in
Massachusetts, and I think, in many ways, again,
it's the normal cycle and course of doing business.
The Press: Is it abnormal to stay longer than two years?
Mr. Gibbs: No -- look, I mean, everybody has -- look,
in Larry's case, there were -- there are tenure issues,
which is not something that can just be waived.
So I think in many ways, look, some people will stay longer,
some people will leave.
Again, I think it's largely -- I think it is much more of the
normal course and the rhythm -- you look at NEC directors -- you
look at somebody like -- you mentioned Secretary Gates who
has -- who served the last part, I think it was the
last two years of the previous administration.
And I hope Secretary Gates doesn't get mad at me for
telling this story, but I remember being backstage
during the transition when President-elect Obama saw
Mrs. Gates and shook his new Defense Secretary's hand and
looked at his wife and said, "I'm sorry."
So, look, there's a sacrifice that is borne by people like
that that is -- that just comes to fruition.
The Press: What about press secretaries?
Mr. Gibbs: They have an amazing stamina.
No announcements on that, either.
The Press: Can you just tell us -- I think it will help everybody out --
what Pete Rouse means to his role that he's played,
and tell us little about --
Mr. Gibbs: Well, I will talk broadly about Pete.
Look, Pete is -- don't roll your eyes, Ms. Sweet.
The Press: So you're willing to talk about Pete, who is in line for what?
So Pete will -- I mean, this is part of what I'm saying, can we
cut through the --
Mr. Gibbs: He is -- I'm going to be oblique, I'm sorry, Ms. Sweet.
I'm sure you -- because you are so intricately connected
to sources throughout this White House, I feel like I
am encumbering you very little in the reporting of your information.
Right? The snickers are because what I just said was very true.
The Press: I wish.
Mr. Gibbs: No, it's not.
The Press: Oh, I wish.
Mr. Gibbs: Look, Pete has been with Senator-elect, Senator,
President-elect, and now President Obama.
There's a complete loyalty and trust with somebody like Pete.
There is -- Pete's strategic sense has played a big part of
the direction of virtually every big decision that's made inside
of this White House.
So I think the type of trust that the President and others
throughout this administration have in Pete is enormous.
The Press: Robert, the norm is normally after the midterm elections.
When you talking historically in the norm -- people leave during
this two-year period -- it's normally after
the midterm elections.
So this is not necessarily the norm or the natural process.
Mr. Gibbs: April, I disagree.
Well, in the event that the chief of staff were to leave,
I assume it would be because of, say, fairly extraordinary circumstances --
The Press: Like running for mayor --
Mr. Gibbs: -- like if the mayoral race in one of the largest cities
in the country were to happen to be an open seat.
So, look, but I think if you look at people like Dr. Summers
and others are not -- they're here through
the end of the year.
The notion somehow that Larry is not up there right now doing
work is just not true.
The Press: Robert, does the President see these departures
as an opportunity to bring in some sort of fresh blood
that might have a better relationship with Republicans?
Mr. Gibbs: I will say we -- I don't have any -- obviously
there's a process to pick a new replacement for Larry.
Obviously we filled the directorship at the CEA and --
The Press: But is that a consideration, looking -- during a time when
the city is so divided?
Mr. Gibbs: I think what the President wants most from his economic
team is the best economic advice that a President can get.
I think there's a policy process that has to be run and there's a
whole host of things that have to be taken into
account along with that.
The Press: Robert, will the President's personnel announcement tomorrow
include an endorsement?
Mr. Gibbs: That I don't know.
The Press: Okay, and a couple of questions non-staff-related.
Would the President sign the House currency bill that landed
on his desk?
Mr. Gibbs: I don't know the degree to which inside of here that legislation
has been evaluated.
Obviously it has at least another step -- well,
at least one more step to go in the Senate.
I think you heard the President discuss yesterday his concern,
as he has in the past.
You've heard Secretary Geithner express it.
I think lawmakers on Capitol Hill share the same serious
concern that the President and Secretary Geithner have.
It is -- we have said for quite some time that the currency is
undervalued and that reforms need to be undertaken.
And I think -- again, I think there's -- in a, as Dan said,
in a divided town, I think there is a seriousness of
concern about this issue.
The Press: But does that mean -- the President has said
frequently that he's concerned about China's currency.
Would he sign this particular bill?
Mr. Gibbs: I don't have any clarity on that.
The Press: And just the last follow-up, on AIG, did I hear correctly --
did you say you're expecting to make a profit on the AIG investment?
Mr. Gibbs: Well, no, what I said was if -- where the value of the
-- they're converting preferred to common.
It obviously is going to take some time to register to get
into the system and ultimately to be sold.
That's not a process that happens,
given the volume, overnight.
If you took what we owned and what we possessed in common, and
sold it at this morning's price, that represent -- that would
have represented a profit on the full amount of $180 billion
invested in AIG that represent a $20 billion profit.
The President, at his economic daily briefing today, got some
-- got an update both on AIG and as -- the waning hours of
the TARP program.
But, again, it was talked about how, you know, I think the
estimate -- the mid-session review estimate for TARP was
a deficit cost of $349 billion.
I think right now the briefing that the President got had that
number at under $50 billion.
And I think that number is likely only to improve as --
with money from auto companies.
The financial sector itself will produce a profit.
And again, the AIG money, if the common were sold today,
would represent a profit of about $20 billion.
Yes, sir.
The Press: David Axelrod said something that the President has been
saying for a long time, which is that Republicans are holding
the middle-class tax cuts hostage.
As I understand it, Democrats haven't introduced a bill in the
Senate and the Republicans have.
Wouldn't there have to be a bill that Republicans are threatening
to block or blocking before anything is being held hostage?
Mr. Gibbs: I don't know what bills have been introduced in the Senate.
Obviously, I think the posture of -- I don't think the bill
would have to be the existence of -- I think the rhetoric alone
from Senator McConnell and others have been that the price
of -- there's a $700 billion price tag on moving forward
on the tax cuts for the middle class.
That's the tax cuts for the wealthy.
The Press: So the posture is enough, it doesn't have to be actual --
Mr. Gibbs: Absolutely.
And look -- we've -- I said this -- it's now been a couple of
weeks, obviously, but we agree on the middle-class part of
this or so they say.
Their price tag for the middle class was the $700 billion.
We could have passed the middle class alone, provided some much
needed certainty to the economy and to middle-class families and
had -- still had plenty of time to debate the $700 billion price
tag for the other cuts.
The Press: Why not do that? Why not introduce the bill --
The Press: Why not get Republicans on the record?
The Press: -- and force Republicans to filibuster it?
Mr. Gibbs: They were unwilling to do that.
They were unwilling to --
The Press: But you can introduce a bill is the point.
You can introduce the bill.
Mr. Gibbs: Guys, my original answer was I don't think the bill
is the existence of the fight.
It is that -- look, John Boehner said --
The Press: You're not even -- you're not even fighting with them.
Mr. Gibbs: But John Boehner said quite clearly on Sunday that he
would go along with the middle-class stuff, right?
Then fury rained down, and quickly we crawfished back over
to, wait, wait, wait, middle class -- the price for doing
middle class is tax cuts for the wealthy.
And we could have done middle class.
The Press: Isn't the real problem the fact that there are Democrats
who agree with Republicans on the issue? There are 47 --
Mr. Gibbs: I think we could have done middle-class,
but the Republicans weren't interested.
The Press: You don't need the support of the Republicans in the
House to pass anything.
Mr. Gibbs: No, but to play along with your -- if a bill has to
become -- you got to pass them in both houses, and you are not
going to get 60 votes to go and just do middle-class tax cuts,
were you?
The Press: No, but I guess my question is, why not try?
If you actually think that this is a winning campaign issue --
Mr. Gibbs: Because the Republicans were -- Republicans said
they weren't going to do it.
The Press: You don't know unless you --
Mr. Gibbs: No, you -- come on, Chuck.
The Press: No, but, I mean --
Mr. Gibbs: You were under the impression there were like six Republicans
that were going to break?
The Press: No, but there were Republicans --
The Press: You have to have a bill --
The Press: -- there were Republicans who have walked back on
unemployment extension.
The Press: -- in order to get them -- why not introduce the bill?
Mr. Gibbs: The existence of the bill isn't the -- isn't some
great starting line for this debate.
We've been debating tax cuts without -- I mean, a bill you
could write on the back of a napkin.
We could -- that's not -- the notion that you didn't have a
vehicle to do this is --
The Press: Do you think it's responsible to wait until the lame-duck
session to do this?
Mr. Gibbs: Do I think it's responsible to wait for the lame-duck
session to pass middle-class tax cuts?
I thought the Republicans were irresponsible and held the
middle-class tax cuts hostage.
The Press: Should Democrats stay -- should the recess be canceled at this
point, postponed?
Mr. Gibbs: I think we're --
The Press: The point is you've pushed through --
Mr. Gibbs: This wasn't -- Chuck, when you guys are on your show debating
tax cuts, you didn't preclude -- you didn't not have that debate
because there wasn't a bill in Congress.
Let's not, like, get wrung around the pole on bill
introduction semantics.
The Press: But the point is there certainly have been --
there has been legislation in the past that the President
firmly believed in and he pushed the House to vote on it even
though he didn't know whether he would be able to get the
votes in the Senate.
You go one step at a time.
If you believe in it that strongly, you tell the House,
let's push this through.
Let's vote on this --
Mr. Gibbs: Chip, Chip, there wasn't --
The Press: -- let's get on the record. Why not get on the record?
Mr. Gibbs: There was -- we can't -- Chip, look at the statements from the
Senate Republicans.
This wasn't going anywhere.
They had decided to stop middle-class tax cuts.
The Press: Neither was cap and trade, but you pushed for the House
to get on the record on it.
The Press: So all they need to do is issue a press release and
you guys will back off any fight?
Mr. Gibbs: I don't understand your question.
The Press: All they have to do is say the Republican caucus is not
going to support this and Democrats will just say, oh,
okay, well, then we're not even going to try?
Mr. Gibbs: No, again, Jake, you're making the existence of
one piece of legislation the beginning or the end
of this entire fight.
I think that's kind of a silly concept.
The Press: You're talking about a bill being held hostage -- it hasn't
even been written as far as anybody knows.
Mr. Gibbs: Okay, the concept of tax relief for the middle class
-- does that make it any less of a hostage because I didn't say
it as a bill?
The Press: Yes, it does make it less of a hostage because there
isn't an actual piece of legislation that anybody
is trying to push.
The Press: But you're saying because it can't get through the
Senate the Democrats -- the House shouldn't vote on it?
Mr. Gibbs: It wasn't going anywhere, Chip.
The Press: Do you feel that you underestimated the difficulty
of getting Democrats to vote for your tax cut proposal, which is
middle class but not the rich?
Mr. Gibbs: I don't think so, no.
The Press: So you weren't surprised that 47 Democrats said they wouldn't
do it unless --
Mr. Gibbs: I don't know how many Democrats support what.
I know, Mara --
The Press: Well, you know how many in the Senate.
Mr. Gibbs: Well, I know that -- all you need to know in the Senate was
you needed 60 votes to get to a bill and there's 41 Republicans
who said they're not going anywhere.
Now, I'm not great in math, but 100 minus 41 does not get you to
the number, bill or not, in --
The Press: But that argument applies to the lame-duck session, too.
The Press: Just to follow up on that, just to follow up on that --
Mr. Gibbs: Well, I think we're --
The Press: You're not going to bring it up in lame duck?
The Press: Hold on for a second --
Mr. Gibbs: No, I think -- Chip, I assume it's going to get brought up in
the lame duck largely because we have until the 31st to make some
big decisions on this.
The Press: Do you feel -- you're sending Democrats home without the
opportunity for them to have said, I voted to extend the
middle-class tax cuts.
You didn't give them a chance to do that and this is --
Mr. Gibbs: Mara, I don't --
The Press: -- the season when you're trying to draw a contrast
with the Republicans.
Why not draw a contrast?
Mr. Gibbs: Because, Mara, having worked on probably eight U.S. Senate campaigns,
I don't think a candidate needs a vote to necessarily
say what they support.
I think candidates are going to go home and say they support
extending only the middle-class tax cuts.
I wish the Republicans would agree.
I don't think we should spend $700 billion, giving $100,000
tax cuts to millionaires at a time in which we have a budget
deficit like it is.
I think that's a pretty --
The Press: You don't think you're putting them at a disadvantage?
Mr. Gibbs: No, I think that's a pretty clear statement.
The Press: Just one last question on this, in terms of the
timing -- and there's been so much talk about uncertainty
for businesses, they don't know how to plan, they don't know
what the tax code is going to be like.
These tax cuts have been set to expire for a very long time.
Why wait -- why did you wait so long to try to resolve them?
You could have had a vote on extending them
any time you wanted.
Mr. Gibbs: Well, look, I don't -- that's a better question for somebody up
on Capitol Hill.
Mara, I think -- again, I think -- the President's position on
extending the tax cuts, he has had the same position on
supporting middle-class tax cuts, the middle-class portion
of the Bush tax cuts, since I worked for him in 2004.
So his position has been very well known on this.
The Press: Did he ever encourage the leaders on the Hill to take
it up earlier?
Mr. Gibbs: Not that I'm aware of. Mark.
The Press: Yes, Robert, isn't it an indictment of Democratic
control of Congress that not a single spending bill got
passed this year?
Mr. Gibbs: Well, Mark, I think there -- we've got judges that have sat
around for 240 days that passed out of a committee unanimously.
There is a system up there that is really broken.
There aren't spending bills that are going to make it through the
process unless you have 60 votes.
That's just the way it is.
Even if the bill hasn't been introduced,
that's just the way it is.
It's not the way that place should run.
It's not what the American people want to see, but it's
the way Republicans have acted on Capitol Hill for the entirety of
the President's time here in Washington.
This was very clear, right from the very beginning:
We're going to say no.
We're going to require 60 votes to pass your nominee
for head of the GSA.
We're going to let judges languish for two-thirds of
a year, despite the fact that they've made it through
committee on a unanimous vote.
That's the way this place works now -- 60 is the new 50.
And I don't mean age.
The Press: So the Democratic leaders who are in charge of those
two bodies have no responsibility?
Mr. Gibbs: Look, you can't -- we all -- the Senate is -- understand you
can't get a spending bill through the process unless
or until it goes through the Senate.
And when it takes 60 votes just to get on a bill, and there are
41 people that say no, again, you don't have to be a
mathematician to subtract 41 from 100 and come up with the
fact that nothing's happening.
The Press: Can I also ask you about Congressman Boehner's proposal
that henceforth if you propose a new program,
you have to cut a program?
Mr. Gibbs: Well, back to the tax debate, I'm happy to look at the
$700 billion in spending that --
The Press: But they would say that's taxing, not spending.
Mr. Gibbs: Well -- how does that work on the deficit?
The Press: But on the question of --
Mr. Gibbs: No, no, no, no, let's not -- no, no, but please, Mark,
let's not oversimplify.
We are a trillion dollars --
The Press: I have to ask --
Mr. Gibbs: No, you do. But there's -- we're a trillion dollars
in debt -- or in deficit.
We're way past $10 trillion in debt.
Let's not oversimplify.
Look, the President has supported a
The President supported a three-year freeze on
non-security discretionary spending.
The President has -- not because he got help from Capitol Hill on
setting up a deficit commission, but had to set one -- hold on,
had to set one up. Why?
Because the very same people that proposed a deficit
commission then filibustered the deficit commission.
The Press: I understand what you're saying.
Do you support or oppose Congressman Boehner's --
Mr. Gibbs: We would be happy to support -- as I think many people would --
paying for what you're going to do.
Now, that's going to include the $700 billion tax cut,
which if you read through the pledge, I think they came up
with $16 billion to pay for a $700 billion program.
Again, you don't have to be much of a math whiz to figure out
that's just cute rhetoric.
The Press: You talked about the extension of the tax cuts.
What is the President telling the congressional leaders what
else he wants in the lame-duck session?
How ambitious?
Mr. Gibbs: I will get a readout of what they're going to -- what they
discussed afterwards and we'll send that around.
The Press: Well, but talk a little bit about the lame-duck
session that you're --
Mr. Gibbs: Well, look, I think there's -- I mean, obviously there's some
important business that I think the President thought we were
close to finishing.
There are obviously some judicial nominations that
the President is keenly aware of and interested in.
There's a host of appointments that need to be acted on.
Obviously the child nutrition reauthorization is an important
thing, and obviously the tax cut legislation.
That's not to --
The Press: The deficit commission --
Mr. Gibbs: I don't know what the date is of when they're going to come in.
Obviously that's going to be a big part of the conversation.
That's not an exhaustive list.
And I'll get anything else that they may have talked about.
The Press: Robert?
Mr. Gibbs: Yes, sir.
The Press: Interior Department came out with new
offshore drilling rules today.
Does that move us closer to lifting the moratorium?
Mr. Gibbs: I think in many ways it likely does.
We have -- there are a series of technological and safety reforms
that this administration is very serious about implementing that
need to be implemented and secured prior to the lifting
of that moratorium.
Secretary Salazar received Mr. Bromwich's report, and that
is a big step forward in getting this process back online.
The President has -- the President does not oppose
the offshore exploration for oil.
We understand that in the energy environment that we're in, that
we -- that no single source is going to light our homes and
power our cars and power our businesses.
So a whole host of different sources are going to be needed,
and one of those sources is going to be offshore oil.
But the President just believes, after what we witnessed with BP,
that we need to do this in a way that is technologically safe,
technologically proven; that we are fully convinced that safety
plans and worst-case scenario plans do mean exactly that; that
we don't find ourselves facing and dealing with the situation
that we spent a whole long time in the summer dealing with.
The Press: I have a follow-up on that.
Mary Landrieu has got the hold on Jack Lew over this issue.
First, what is the President doing to get her to lift her
hold on Jack Lew? And --
Mr. Gibbs: Well, I will say this --
The Press: And what kind of problems is it causing in preparing
a fiscal 2012 budget?
Mr. Gibbs: The budget planning process is underway and should be underway
with a director with the type of bipartisan support
that Jack has gotten through two committees.
I think it is a sad day when somebody is held up with such
bipartisan support with the type of experience that's necessary,
in an environment where we have to improve our fiscal picture,
that that person is held up for something that is
completely unrelated to them.
I think it is sad, and I think it's outrageous.
The President -- well, Secretary Salazar met with Senator
Landrieu to update her on where we are on this situation.
But I want to be clear, Roger --
The Press: When was that?
Mr. Gibbs: Yesterday.
The Press: Tuesday -- he did Tuesday.
Mr. Gibbs: I think yesterday -- let me make sure.
It was either -- I don't know whether they -- I know they
met on Tuesday.
Maybe it was Tuesday and not Wednesday.
But they've met in the last couple days to get an update
on where we are.
But, Roger, we're not bargaining the safety of oil drilling away
for an appointment that shouldn't be the cause of
the type of gridlock that we're used to seeing in Washington.
And I would think people who are concerned about our fiscal
picture, who are concerned about where we're heading in this
deficit at a time of crisis would not do the type of things
that Senator Landrieu is doing.
The Press: Just following up on that, is Jack Lew on the job in
some acting capacity?
And would the President consider a recess appointment?
Mr. Gibbs: Well, two things, as far as I know, Jack is still
at the State Department.
Obviously there's a limit to what -- after a nomination but
without confirmation, there's a very strict limit to the amount
of work he can do.
And as I understand it, the Senate has adjourned but are in
some pro forma sessions that might make recess appointments
difficult to impossible.
The Press: Robert, is the Black Farmer issue over?
Mr. Gibbs: No, because it hasn't been resolved.
The Press: But -- and this is a concern -- they're saying that the window
is over now because congressional leaders
are going back to their districts and starting
campaigning for voting, and then once we come back,
it's not going to -- if Republicans gain the seats
that they believe they're going to gain, Black Farmers are not
going to get --
Mr. Gibbs: Well, obviously, this is -- on a whole host of things that this
administration and many on Capitol Hill think need to
be resolved and should be resolved,
and now that they've left for recess, will be left
for after the election.
The Press: I asked the President at the last press conference
about assurances that there would -- Cobell
and the Black Farmer Pigford settlement will be funded,
and he didn't give assurances.
He said he supports it.
Mr. Gibbs: You should call Mitch McConnell.
The Press: Robert, just two questions.
The Press: Wait a minute, but I wasn't finished.
The Press: Rather than -- rather than 15.
The Press: I was not finished, please.
The Press: I'm sorry. I thought you were finished.
Mr. Gibbs: Hold on, hold on, hold on.
The Press: You will come back --
Mr. Gibbs: It's okay -- just in through the nose, out through the mouth.
Yes, sir.
The Press: Thank you.
Mr. Gibbs: Yes, ma'am, I'm sorry. Go ahead.
Yes, I interrupted you.
The Press: Okay, okay.
Also on another issue on the NAACP, they're having this big
protest for jobs, justice and education this weekend.
What does this White House say about that, especially as the
President has been working with the NAACP and other civil rights
organizations in talking about promoting jobs and making
conditions right for jobs?
And they are going to have at least 80,000 out here on
the weekend protesting.
What does the White House say about that?
Mr. Gibbs: Well, look, April obviously, this administration,
as I've said before, the issue that this President and this
administration spend the most time on is the economic recovery
-- financial stability, ensuring that small businesses have
access to capital so that they can expand and hire new people,
creating jobs, ensuring that the Recovery Act,
as we end the fiscal year, is doing what it needs to do.
That's been the focus of this administration from the first
moments of walking in this door, and it continues to be because
even as we look at data on a day-by-day basis, like GDP and
unemployment claims, obviously there is a recovery that while
we're headed in the right direction, as you've heard the
President say, is not strong enough and not fast enough.
He's frustrated by that, and the President will continue
to work through that.
The Press: Robert, Robert --
The Press: There's a report out today that the health care reform law was
going to force McDonald's to drop coverage for thousands of workers.
It's been denied by the company, but it does --
Mr. Gibbs: I would say that's -- I will say, Wendell, I don't know what
the rest of your question is, but let me interrupt
you at that point.
If a story is based on the actions of a company that have
been denied by the company, I would -- I think that the
statement that they I think put out last evening I think is
pretty clear, walks that story back to the point
of not being accurate.
The Press: The company said it would be seeking a waiver from a
piece of the --
The Press: Exactly, and --
Mr. Gibbs: There were discussions -- look, Jonathan --
The Press: And that's what I want to get to.
Mr. Gibbs: Taking up the mantle of the editor of The Wall Street
Journal, let's understand this -- I just want to be clear.
Read the company's statement -- discussions with Health
and Human Services that happen all the time about different
regulations that are involved in the offering of benefits
to companies -- again, that happens all the time.
But let's be clear, the statement from McDonald's
last night makes the notion that they're about to drop health
care for 30,000 people not true.
The Press: And that's not what I'm asking.
What I'm asking is if you're concerned that the law has the
unintended effect of raising costs by making the -- by
raising the minimum standards for health care, which is what
McDonald's is concerned about.
Mr. Gibbs: Yes, again --
The Press: And if you're not concerned about that, tell me why.
Mr. Gibbs: Well, Wendell, I'm not concerned that this story is true,
because, A, the company said it wasn't, and B, the
company is working with HHS as companies do --
The Press: The Company said it was not going to drop coverage for
these people, but it may have to incur additional cost to raise
the minimum standards of health coverage.
Mr. Gibbs: But, Wendell, I think -- right, but I think what
is important to understand is discussions like that with
regulators happen all the time.
The crux of that story was whether or not that coverage
was going to be dropped, and McDonald's said that that
just simply wasn't true.
The Press: Robert, in the same oblique that you just talked about
Pete Rouse without discussing what he might be doing, say,
tomorrow or Saturday or beyond that, can you
characterize the tenure of Rahm Emanuel in this White House?
Mr. Gibbs: Look, obviously Rahm starts his day -- the President starts his
day with a meeting with Rahm and ends it with a
meeting with Rahm, just as we do as staff.
I think his leadership, his energy has helped us accomplish
so much in helping our economy recover, in passing landmark
Wall Street reform, health care reform, credit card reform,
student loan reform -- all of the things that -- there's not
an important thing that has happened in this administration
that we've been able to accomplish for the American
people that has not involved heavily his signature.
The Press: Could you also just --
The Press: Since you brought these -- Robert, since you brought
this back -- wait a minute, everybody --
The Press: But wait, wait, wait --
Mr. Gibbs: Let me go to Lynn, let me go to Lynn, let me go to Lynn.
I don't want to get in the middle of this Chicago thing.
The Press: And then will you come back to me?
The Press: We're going to have a little follow-up here.
Mr. Gibbs: I'm standing somewhere on the bridge over the river.
Go ahead, sorry.
The Press: Now we're back into Rahm and you're talking about him.
How would you -- I know you just --
Mr. Gibbs: In fairness, the question was "talk obliquely."
The Press: Pardon?
Mr. Gibbs: Just go ahead, I'm sorry.
The Press: Yes, I know.
How -- and you just gave some issues, you just described what
I think are things that you would describe as his legacy
as the first chief of staff.
How would you describe his relationship, in some other
terms, and his management style?
Mr. Gibbs: Not necessarily buying into the legacy part
of your question.
In terms of -- no, look -- look, I will say this.
Rahm has an incredible amount of energy every day.
He is -- you go into a meeting, he has a list of what he wants
to get done, he's focused on getting those things done, he
always has ideas, policy ideas.
We were in the economic daily briefing today and he was very
actively involved in discussions around the issues that we
discussed in terms of the Recovery Act and TARP.
There is -- you know, look, he is -- he has been the leader of
-- I mean, the title "chief of staff" in many ways says it all.
He has been the energetic, inspirational leader of us,
taking the President's promises and agenda and
enacting them into law. Christi.
The Press: The East Room is very often the site of visits
of dignitaries and heads of state and important visitors.
Why is this event in the East Room tomorrow?
Mr. Gibbs: Because I saw animals pairing up in the Rose Garden,
based on all the rain.
The Press: But the Rose Garden --
The Press: Give her a serious answer.
The Press: But wait, wait --
Mr. Gibbs: No, no, I mean, the serious answer is --
The Press: -- wait, the Rose Garden is also an important venue.
Why the Rose Garden or the East Room?
Mr. Gibbs: Let's just say this.
The personnel announcement tomorrow will be of a
significant enough stature to warrant it.
The Press: Robert, The Washington Post -- Robert,
The Washington Post --
The Press: Why this dance? This is just so odd.
Don't you find it odd, Robert?
Mr. Gibbs: I do find it odd.
This is the oddest thing I do every day.
But hold on, but hold on, but hold on, but hold on.
Let's just be clear.
The Press: What was the strategy behind this?
Leave the glory for the President tomorrow?
Mr. Gibbs: Let's just be clear for all the viewing audience.
I've gotten emails from you, from you, from you, from you,
from you, and from you all asking me to confirm other
anonymous sources, right?
The Press: We broke it on Monday.
Mr. Gibbs: Oh. Uh-oh.
The Press: Just for the record.
Mr. Gibbs: I'll let you guys play journalism review after I leave.
The Press: Lynn says she said it last week.
Mr. Gibbs: Okay. See that?
Let me take a couple more questions, and let you guys --
The Press: Wait, wait, Robert -- no, continue,
can you finish the thought?
I mean, what was the strategy -- to just leave the glory
for the President?
Mr. Gibbs: That I'm not going to send emails back to you, to you,
to you, to you, or to you today --
The Press: No, but the East Room --
The Press: What was behind this?
Was it to leave the glory for the President tomorrow?
I mean, this is sort of an odd dance that you're
going through today.
Mr. Gibbs: No, Dan. I don't think it's an odd dance that
the President here makes decisions.
The Press: Without confirming it, we all know it's happening tomorrow.
Mr. Gibbs: And the President makes decisions, the President
makes announcements.
I'm going to wait for the President to make
that announcement.
The Press: Robert, The Washington Post reported that 4 percent of
Capitol Hill staffers owe $9 million in back taxes,
but White House staff tax delinquencies are nearly twice
as high as on Capitol Hill.
Does the White House believe the Post is inaccurate?
Mr. Gibbs: I don't have any information.
I don't have any information on that.
The Press: All right. What is the White House reaction to the Human
Events report that in the first 19 months of
the Obama administration, the national debt increased by
$2.5 trillion, or more than during all Presidents,
from George Washington to Ronald Reagan?
Mr. Gibbs: Well, I think that seems to have missed a few Presidents
that have accumulated a lot of debt because we --
because programs that were enacted weren't paid for --
wars, benefits on Medicare, tax cuts, which while isn't a
program for program is something that affects
our fiscal situation, which is why --
The Press: -- pushing tax cuts won't be paid for, the $3 trillion --
Mr. Gibbs: And believes that we can't afford the other $700 billion.
The Press: But why not try to pay for them if it's important
for the President to pay for things?
Mr. Gibbs: Because in a time of economic uncertainty, we believe that
they should be extended.
The Press: Staying on tax cuts, if you can't -- if 60 is the new 50,
what does that say for you all's legislative agenda
next year when the numbers are even worse for you?
Mr. Gibbs: Well, we'll have all next year to talk about that.
Thanks, guys.