White House Press Gaggle by Jay Carney aboard Air Force One, April 6, 2011

En route Philadelphia, PA–(ENEWSPF)–April 6, 2011 – 1:06 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  So, here we are flying to Philadelphia.  I’m here to gaggle.  And I just wanted to quickly brief you on phone calls the President made this morning to Senator Reid and to Speaker Boehner.  He had good conversations with both leaders, got an update on negotiations over funding for fiscal year 2011, and will monitor progress as the day progresses — as the day continues, and will — he’ll call another meeting at the White House if he believes that that’s required. But for now, he was just getting an update.

Q    Can you provide an update on the thinking from the White House now on a short-term CR just until they can finalize these negotiations?

MR. CARNEY:  What the President said yesterday is what his position is today, which is that he would entertain a essentially clean, very short-term CR if there were an agreement entrain and all that was necessary was a few more days to essentially file the paperwork and get it through the process on Capitol Hill.

Q    Jay, the President said yesterday that he would call another meeting today if there wasn’t an agreement yesterday, and then the next day if there wasn’t an agreement —

MR. CARNEY:  No, he said if there wasn’t progress.  And we all — you all have reported that there has been some progress in these conversations, in these meetings.  And that’s good, obviously — not an agreement, but progress.  And he will monitor the progress or lack thereof on the Hill and will call a meeting if he thinks it’s necessary.

Q    With that said —

Q    — his speech to come back for the meeting?

MR. CARNEY:  He’ll call a meeting at whatever hour of the day is necessary if he believes that progress is not being made, because we are very close to a situation that would bring about a shutdown in government.  And he thinks it would be the — highly unnecessary and the height of irresponsibility to not get an agreement when agreement is so clearly within reach.

We are, as we talked about yesterday, the Democrats and the President have shown — demonstrated a willingness to move more than halfway towards the Republicans, willingness to accept the largest domestic discretionary spending cuts in history, discretionary spending cuts that represent the largest cuts as a percentage of GDP since 1982, cuts in programs that in an ideal world he would not want to have to make.

So he’s — but also he’s laid out his priorities and the choices that he thinks face us now as we are in these final stages of negotiations.

Q    Will the President still go to New York even if he needs to call a meeting?

MR. CARNEY:  We have no — well, that’s an “if, if” question, a speculative question.  We have no plans to change our schedule.  As I said, if a meeting needed to be called — and as of now, there are reports of progress on the Hill.  So I’m not saying — I’m not saying a meeting will happen or not happen today.  It may happen tomorrow if necessary.  Or as he said, if he needs to meet tomorrow, he’ll meet tomorrow.  If he needs to meet today, he’ll meet today, Thursday, Friday, as the President said yesterday.

Q    Is he going to talk about that in either appearance today, about the budget negotiations?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t want to anticipate what he’ll say.  The trip to Philadelphia, he’ll have a town hall meeting to talk about things that Americans really care about as opposed to bickering in Washington over very small — small ball.

Q    Right, but they care about whether the government will shut down or not, right?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, they care about gas prices and they care about how energy prices affect their livelihoods and they care deeply about an energy policy that would reduce our dependence on foreign oil in the long term so that we don’t have these kind of situations, the shock that people get when prices go up at the gas pump like they have.

So I think that most Americans would — you would find are much more worried about that than they are about CR FY2011 budget negotiations.

Q    Can I just ask one more — on the wire, it said, right before we took off, that “U.S. official says Qaddafi appeals to Obama in a letter to halt NATO campaign.”  Can you — do you have anything on that, Jay?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we can confirm that there was a letter, but obviously not the first.  And the issue of a ceasefire is, as the President made clear when he announced his decision a number of weeks ago, is that it’s not a question of the conditions to — the conditions the President laid out were clear, which is action, not words — cessation of violence, withdrawal from the cities and the menacing sort of positions that the Qaddafi forces had taken.  And I would just leave it at that, that words are different from actions.

Q    Did he talk to President Karzai this morning about the Koran burning?

MR. CARNEY:  He did have a SVTC with President Karzai, but I don’t have a readout on the meeting.

Q    Will there be a readout later, do you think?

MR. CARNEY:  I’ll have to check.  I don’t know.

Q    Just real quickly back to the budget, would Democrats and the White House accept a $40 billion tax cut package if it did include the riders?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not going to negotiate the elements of an agreement.  What I would say is $40 billion is $80 billion; 33 is 73 — $73 billion, which the President and the Democrats have shown that they are willing to accept, is a great deal more than halfway towards the Republicans.  It is also the very amount of spending cuts that the Speaker of the House, the leader of the Republican Party in the House, and the chairman of the House Republican Appropriations Committee identified initially as their target, their goal — $73 billion, largest cuts in history.

So that’s our position and we believe that what separates us here is not a question about who is for spending cuts and who is not, but an issue over choices made that are — need to be made in terms of what the composition of those cuts are and choices that we think are — need to be made based on priorities like funding for education, funding for medical research, funding for Head Start, and not, as I’ve said before, funding for highway earmarks or military spending that the Pentagon has already said it does not want and does not need.

So those are the choices we believe are on the table.

Q    Thank you.

MR. CARNEY:  Thanks, guys.

1:13 P.M. EDT