White House Press Gaggle by Jay Carney Aboard Air Force One, October 17, 2011

En Route Asheville, North Carolina–(ENEWSPF)–October 17, 2011 – 10:16 A.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Well, good morning, everyone.  Thanks for joining us.  I know you are as excited as I am about launching the bus tour the President will embark on through smaller communities in North Carolina and Virginia.  For the same reason we were excited about the bus tour through the upper Midwest — Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois — we are excited about this because it enables the President to get out into smaller communities that are hard to get access to normally and to meet with Americans, different communities bringing different perspectives to the challenges they face — in this case, the economic challenges they face.

The President, as you know, will be focusing this trip on the American Jobs Act, the need for Congress to take action on the individual components of the jobs act.  We expect the Senate to take up the first measure from within the jobs act very soon. Hopefully, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will address that and make an announcement on that relatively soon. 

And we will, as promised, continue to press day in and day out Congress to act on these common-sense solutions to the problems we face right now economically, the need to get growth going, the need to get jobs creation moving.  It is unfortunate but true that so far the Republicans, while they have put forward plans, economic plans, have not put forward a plan that in any way would have a positive impact or measurably positive impact on economic growth or job creation in the next 12 to 18 months.  That’s simply a fact.  It’s been assessed that way by outside economic analysts and many other observers, including journalists.

So with that, I will take your questions.

Q    You mentioned Senator Reid bringing up some announcement on the jobs plan.  Is this something you —

MR. CARNEY:  I said he would bring up part of the jobs act.

Q    Yes, the bill.  So is that something that the President knows he’s going to make an announcement on this week?  Could you give us any more details?

MR. CARNEY:  We obviously have been in conversations with Senator Reid, as well as other Senate leaders, about the plans to move forward with the American Jobs Act, addressing it in pieces as opposed to a whole, since the Republicans blocked passage of the entire jobs act.  And, yes, we are confident that Senator Reid will be able to say something about the scheduling of a vote in the relatively near future.

Q    Would it happen today?

MR. CARNEY:  I’ll leave it up to the Majority Leader to make that announcement.

Q    Can you give us any guidance on which part is likely to come up first?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, again, I want to let the Senate Majority Leader make that announcement because it’s his prerogative to schedule it and to decide what initiative will come first.  It really doesn’t matter to us, because they’re all important, they’re all of equal value — whether it’s the assistance to states and localities to put laid-off teachers back to work and support up to 400,000 jobs in the education field; whether it’s the infrastructure money which will put construction workers to work in helping rebuild our infrastructure. 

The first event the President does today will focus on that component of the jobs act.  And then, of course, there are the tax provisions — the extension and expansion of the payroll tax credit for individuals, which would go to 160 million Americans. 
All these things would have a positive impact on growth and job creation.  That’s the essence of the American Jobs Act.  There are other items, there are other economic policy proposals that the President, obviously, has put forward and others that he supports, some of which the Republicans have talked about.  And as economists have said, there may be some merit — there may be merit in some of the proposals that the Republicans have put forward either from the House or the McCain-Paul proposal.  But there is no doubt, no question, that they do not address the urgent need for near-term economic growth and job creation.

Q    So the proposals that you just ticked through, would those have the most measurable impact on job creation over the next 12 to 18 months?

MR. CARNEY:  I would urge you to ask economists about that, including outside analysts who have looked at this.  But the whole package is put together with the need for urgent, early action in mind.  And economists will tell you that the payroll tax cut has that effect for individuals, that the employer-side payroll tax cut for small businesses has that.  Direct assistance to state and localities that directly and literally put people — teachers, educators, firefighters, policemen and women back to work has that impact.

So these are all provisions that do that.  I wouldn’t know which is better than the other.  I think they’re all very effective.

Q    The President did say in the Saturday radio address, and I think Josh also said yesterday in the briefing, in the teleconference, that they were going first for the aid to states and local governments for protecting teachers’ jobs and the like. Is that the —

MR. CARNEY:  — gets the award for actually paying attention to the things that we say, including what the President says.  So that is our expectation that the first measure will be teachers, yes.  I didn’t want to get ahead of Senator Reid.  But, again, it is up to Senator Reid, and I want to make that clear.  We have been in consultation with him, but it’s his prerogative and we’re very pleased that he will be taking it up.

Q    So they are taking — so that’s what Senator Reid wants to —

MR. CARNEY:  Our understanding is that teachers would be the first — the aid to states and localities — which is teachers and first responders.

Q    So like $35 million, right?

MR. CARNEY:  I think that’s right.  Yes, I’ve got the figures here.  Yes. 

Anybody else?

Q    Will members of Congress be traveling with the President today whose district he’s going to?  And were they invited?

MR. CARNEY:  I’ll have to look into the — get answers to you on both those questions.  I don’t know.

Q    How explicitly do you expect the President to embrace or echo some of the rhetoric of the Occupy Wall Street protest?  We heard Josh yesterday actually use the phrase, “the 99 percent of Americans.”  Might we expect to see the President move in that direction?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I want you to listen carefully to what the President does say, so I won’t preview his remarks in any detail.  But I think we have expressed, and the President has expressed, an understanding of the frustration that the demonstrations manifest and represent.  There is a link between two things:  One, the frustrations that regular folks — middle-class Americans feel about the state of the economy, the need for growth to improve, and certainly the need for job creation to improve.  And there is a related frustration that a lot of Americans feel about the idea that Wall Street in the past played by different rules than Main Street*, and now we have a situation where — and yet was, for good reasons, was assisted by the federal government to prevent the financial sector from collapsing.

Following on that, there is frustration now I believe with the efforts by some to roll back the protections the President fought so hard to put into place through the Wall Street reform act that was passed and signed into law.  It is — I don’t have to imply or insinuate that it is the objective of the Republicans, including contenders for president, to roll back those reforms because they say so themselves.  And it’s just inconceivable to us that an economic plan for the future would contain within it the elimination of reforms that would prevent the kind of financial protector collapse that we saw that created the greatest recession since the Great Depression.  Just doesn’t make sense to us.  Doesn’t make sense to the President.

Q    Will the President use that anger against Wall Street to kind of leverage his jobs bill?

MR. CARNEY:  The President is focused on passing his jobs plan.  What has been true since the first day we announced it and has been true every time we’ve talked about it, and is true when I’m asked and others are asked about why he’s going out into the country to sell his jobs plan, is that it matters what he says, but it matters even more what the American people are saying — the constituents to the senators and congressmen are saying about what their priorities are.  And we feel very strongly that the priorities are an insistence that’s independent and bipartisan that Washington needs to act, needs to do something positive for the economy, positive for job creation.

We do not believe that there is a broad consensus among the American public that we need to roll back Wall Street reforms and we need to adopt the kind of economic policies that led to the worst recession since the Great Depression.  We’re pretty confident about that.

Thanks, guys.

Q    Thanks, Jay.

10:27 A.M. EDT