White House Press Gaggle by Jay Carney Aboard Air Force One, October 25, 2011

En Route San Francisco, California–(ENEWSPF)–October 25, 2011 – 12:23 P.M. PDT

MR. CARNEY:  Good day, everyone.  Welcome aboard Air Force One as we make our way north to Northern California, San Francisco, before we go to Denver.

I have no lengthy announcement.  I just want to take note, which I’m sure you all have already, of the initiative that we announced this morning, another initiative to help put veterans back to work, veterans fighting valiantly and bravely for us overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, returning home to find a very difficult job market, and deserve the assistance that we can provide to help them get back to work.

This is part of a broad initiative that includes the efforts through the jobs act, the tax incentives through the jobs act that would encourage businesses to hire veterans, includes the initiative announced last week by the First Lady and the President during the President’s bus tour that is a program with I think 270 businesses that have committed to hiring veterans.  And today we have an announcement that would — challenges community health centers to hire up to 8,000 — to hire 8,000 veterans within the next three years.

Q    Is it required, or it’s just a challenge?

MR. CARNEY:  It’s a challenge.  There are other reforms that we’re taking to prioritize in terms of physician assistant — prioritize grants to universities and colleges that train physician assistants, for those that train returning veterans.  That’s another part of the reform.

I’m sure we have paper on this, and that pretty much exhausted my knowledge of details.  But I just — making the point that the President’s commitment here to ensuring that our very deserving returning veterans find jobs is paramount for him.

Q    Jay, House Republicans say that they have a substantive veterans measure that passed with bipartisan support in the House, waiting for action in the Senate, and they’re wondering why the White House wouldn’t work with them in a bipartisan fashion to get something that perhaps was even — would reach more people, more veterans, and provide greater assistance.

MR. CARNEY:  Look, we are glad to work with, as we have shown in the past, Republicans on measures that put Americans back to work and grow the economy — all Americans, including veterans.

There is simply — it is simply indisputable that no matter what the Republicans say or tweet, the proposals they have generally put forward do not add to economic growth or employment in the near term, in the next couple of years.  I won’t bore you by reading the analysis of Macroeconomic Advisers that came out yesterday on the latest Republican jobs plan.

Having said that, there are individual measures that we agree with them on.  For example, the free trade agreements, which have passed and the President signed, including — as well as Trade Adjustment Assistance.  The patent reform bill — we obviously support the repeal of the 3 percent withholding rule, which, by the way, was passed in 2006, signed into law by President Bush, and was voted for by Representatives Boehner and Cantor.  So we support working with them to get that done, and we believe we can.  The current pay-for in the House version is something we can support.

So we’re looking for areas where we can work with Republicans, because this is an all-front struggle to grow the economy and create jobs.  That is the urgent priority of the American people.

What we still have not seen from the Republicans is a willingness to do the kinds of things that will substantially add to economic growth and job creation in the near term.  The President’s proposal, the American Jobs Act, as you know, has been judged by outside economists, if passed, to add up to 1.9 million jobs next year and increase economic growth by 2 percent.  It is simply a fact — and the Republicans don’t argue otherwise because they cannot — that their proposals do not do the same thing.  In fact, at best, they do not materially affect economic growth or job creation that in the next — before the end of 2012, and at worst they would actually cost millions of dollars.

So, again, individual provisions, happy to work with them on.  But we continue to urge Republicans in Congress to vote on the provisions of the American Jobs Act as they come up now in the Senate, because they are measures that Republicans have supported in the past.  And is it really adding — for example, I believe it was 0.7 percent additional tax for millionaires and billionaires that they voted against 100 percent — by Republicans — and if that bill had passed and become law, 400,000 teachers and first responders would be going back to work.

Q    Do you think that these actions that the administration is taking unilaterally will substantially increase economic growth or job creation?

MR. CARNEY:  I think it is absolutely the right thing to do for this President to take every action he can — including executive action — to help grow the economy and create jobs.

The actions that we’ve announced, both in the past and yesterday and today, and will be announcing going forward, are not a substitute for legislative action.  They do not — being able to do these things that the President can do because he’s President and has executive authority unfortunately does not make up for the fact that Congress — Republicans in Congress — are refusing to act on the jobs bill.

But he will do them anyway, even as he continues to urge Republicans to act decisively to put people back to work and create economic growth.

Q    Can you confirm this student loan proposal that’s already out there that’s been reported?  And can you also talk a little bit about why, if the economy is such a big concern — and this has been asked several times — why not take up the pieces of the jobs bill that there is bipartisan support for, the payroll tax cut?  I mean, these are things you can get done now.

MR. CARNEY:  On the first part, I can confirm that we will be continuing to announce executive actions, including on giving assistance to students to consolidate or otherwise assist them with their debt obligations.  I don’t have any more details for you on that.  I can confirm that there have been — there’s been some reporting on that and we’ll see if it bears to be — if it turns out to be accurate in all its details.  However, this President is committed to taking measures that he can, through executive action, to help students with their student loans.

As for the second point, I mean, I’ll just go back to what I said:  Every provision within the American Jobs Act is the kind of thing that Republicans have supported in the past.  The pay-for in the American Jobs Act is broadly supported — overwhelming supported — by the American people — Democrats, independents, Republicans. 

So Republicans — isn’t the question to Republicans, why don’t you support things that you supported in the past?  And why don’t you support paying for those things in a way that is supported overwhelmingly by the American people?  I’d like to hear the answer myself. 

We will be taking it up — or the Senate is committed to taking up, Majority Leader Reid has said, each provision of the American Jobs Act.  That includes, of course, the extension and expansion of the payroll tax cut on the employee side; the new payroll tax cut on the employer side.  We certainly hope that Republicans will support those tax cuts.  They tend to claim that they support tax cuts in general.

Some Republicans have come out and said they’re not for extending the payroll tax cut.  For some reason they think that raising taxes on the middle class is the answer to our economic problems in 2012.  We think the American people — certainly middle-class Americans — would disagree.

Q    Can you give a few examples of what other areas the President could take executive action in? 

MR. CARNEY:  But that would ruin the suspense. 

Q    Yes, sorry.

Q    Not going to comment? 

Q    On the China currency — on the China —

Q    I don’t want to let that go completely.  I mean, obviously you said repeatedly you need Congress to get some things done.  But what areas can a White House do things like this on without congressional approval?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think there are, as we’ve demonstrated already — whether it’s in education, or through getting veterans hired, or saving hospitals and providers millions and millions of dollars through changes in regulations — I mean, there are a variety of things you can do — and we have done — that have a positive impact on growth and job creation. 

And he will continue to do them.  And we — he has tasked him team to continue to look for ways that he can take action as President — take executive action — on the number-one priority that the American people have made clear they want action on.  That’s jobs and growth.

Q    But couldn’t you have done all these things over the last several months if there were options that were available to you?

MR. CARNEY:  Look, there — we had a debt ceiling crisis.  The President put forward his jobs act — an American Jobs Act that, again, was deliberately constructed with elements that have traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support because he hoped — and continues to hope — that Congress will act on it accordingly.

So he’s doing everything in his power, and he will continue to do everything in his power as President to take actions that help the economy grow and create jobs. 

Q    Jay, I couldn’t hear Jeff’s question, so I’m sorry if I’m repeating it.  But haven’t you guys been doing this sort of all along, looking for executive actions you could take?  Is there anything new about what you’re doing other than how you’re packaging it?

MR. CARNEY:  Yes, every single idea is new. 

Q    I mean, in philosophy, in terms of —

MR. CARNEY:  I think it’s incredibly cynical to say it’s about packaging.  Ask the 8,000 veterans who would get jobs whether that’s packaging —

Q    Jay, you misunderstood me.  That’s not what I was saying.
MR. CARNEY:  — or the folks who are going to be able to refinance their loans at a lower rate, their mortgages at a lower rate.  I mean, that is a new thing to reduce — to lift the cap on the amount that your mortgage can be underwater. 

So the answer to your question is, did we not have and implement every good idea in the universe on the first day that we came into office?  No, we did not.  But we continue to — the President continues to task his team both at the White House and broadly in the administration to look for ways that the administration can act through executive authority to help create jobs and grow the economy.

Q    I’m sorry, I think you misunderstood my question or maybe I misstated it.  What I was trying to say was you have all along been doing exactly what you’re talking about.  Each one has its own set of implications and import.  I’m not saying any of these are insignificant.  I’m just saying the idea that you’re going to act alone to try to make a difference in various areas, is that new or hasn’t the administration been doing that certainly for many months?

MR. CARNEY:  The administration — the President has certainly been taking executive action where he believes it’s appropriate in a variety of ways, both to address economic growth and job creation and to address other issues of importance.  And he’ll continue to do that.
The measures that we’ve announced today and yesterday, and that we’ll continue to press forward on, all go to this issue of job creation and economic growth.  And they — we believe, coming as we are right now in a situation where Congress refuses thus far to act, Republicans in Congress refuse thus far to act on common-sense solutions to the problems of economic growth and job creation that are entirely paid for, that the President has to redouble his efforts to find ways through executive authority to take action. 

Again, it’s not a substitute.  He is hoping that as Americans see him taking action through executive authority that they support, that members of Congress — members of the Senate — will see that and Republicans who thus far have refused to support common-sense solutions for the challenges facing us will perhaps change their mind and support, for example, the vote in the Senate next week on $50 billion in infrastructure as well as the $10 billion infrastructure bank.  These are, again, ideas with a long, long Republican pedigree — a long, long history of Republican support.  We certainly hope we’ll see that next week.


Q    Hand in hand with the subject of gridlock, the Republicans continue to call into question the President’s leadership, especially on the issue of the China currency.  What’s going to happen?  Your Under Secretary of Treasury today said that you’re going to push that at the upcoming summits in November, but — push the China currency issue with regard to labeling the currency, the revaluing of the currency.

MR. CARNEY:  We have throughout, from the beginning of this administration, made clear to the Chinese that they need to take steps to deal with the fact that their currency is undervalued.  Some progress has been made, but not nearly enough.  We’ve made that clear and we’ve had those conversations with the Chinese.  We’ll continue to have those conversations.

We’ve stated our views about the legislation that was in the Senate on China currency.  And we obviously — leaders in Congress have also stated their views.  But we continue to consider it an important issue that we’re working with the Chinese on.

Q    Can I go back to Kate’s question?  The administration continues to push for these measures that you say have bipartisan support, but the way of paying for them is not.  I mean, raising taxes on millionaires does not have —

MR. CARNEY:  But it has broad bipartisan support everywhere except for in the Congress. 

Q    I understand.  But is it —

MR. CARNEY:  You’ve seen the polls. 

Q    I’ve written about the polls —

MR. CARNEY:  Republican majorities support asking millionaires and billionaires to pay a little bit more so that Americans can go — other Americans can go back to work.

Q    I know, but the point is that aren’t these the kind of political votes that the President himself has decried in the past?  You’re putting people on the record simply to bring it back up during a campaign when you can go straight for —

MR. CARNEY:  No, no.  When Republicans complain about him doing this, we invite them to end their misery, pass the American Jobs Act and prevent — deprive the President of the capacity of running against Congress as a do-nothing Congress.  He would like nothing more than to be deprived of that opportunity, because the number-one priority he has is the economy. 

I mean, look, even if, as reporters tend to want to – understandably — you want to look at this in purely political terms.  Americans overwhelmingly — Democrats, independents, Republicans — think that the number-one issue right now is growing the economy and creating jobs.  They’re right.  The President agrees with them.  It’s obviously in his interest, both because he’s the President of the United States and wants to do everything he can to help the economy grow, but also in his political interest for — to take actions that help the economy grow and put people back to work.

So the Republicans have been offered the invitation, if they think this is about politics, to deprive him of the opportunity by voting on and passing provisions, again, that are paid for entirely and paid for in a way that their own constituents support.

Q    You touched on the student loan announcement, but do you have any information on what it is?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have any specific details for you.  I believe that there will be more details forthcoming later today, is my understanding.

Q    And will the President lay out the details tomorrow in Denver?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t know — yes, he’ll be talking about it tomorrow.

Q    He will?


Q    How do you think Jay Leno went?

MR. CARNEY:  I thought it was great.  It was a lot of fun.  What was striking about it — obviously it’s embargoed, but it was a pretty serious interview and discussion, especially at the top, that I think was illuminating.  I enjoyed it.  How about you guys?

Q    I did as well.  I’m just — is it possible for you to —

MR. CARNEY:  But I’m not going to go through a Q&A, break the embargo because that wouldn’t be fair.

Q    Something that was surprising to you that came up?

MR. CARNEY:  I’d just encourage — I encourage everyone to watch.  I think it was a —

Q    Do you think it was — let me just ask this —

MR. CARNEY:  It was both a serious interview and a very funny interview.

Q    It was — not even talking about the substance of it, but it was on serious subjects.  Do you think that it was an opportunity that — I mean, do you think most Americans normally hear him talking about those kinds of serious subjects in the way that he was today?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, he spends a lot of time talking about serious subjects.  I’d say he doesn’t get enough opportunities to be able to be lighthearted in the way you can be with somebody like Jay Leno.  And I know he enjoys that.  But I think it’s — the fact is Americans are busy, and they get their news and information in a variety of ways, through a variety of media.  And we’re interested in reaching folks where they are, and that includes through new media.  It includes shows like Jay Leno’s.  It includes, obviously, traditional mainstream media institutions like the ones represented here.  So there’s no — gone are the days where all you had to do was give a speech and assume everybody watched or listened or read about it.

Q    Will he go on Conan?

Q    Has the President appeared on Letterman?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we’ll see. 

Q    Has he been on Letterman?

MR. CARNEY:  I think he has.  I’m not sure as President, but I have to check.

Q    Letterman is a fan of his.  Letterman is a fan of the President.

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I don’t want to make any announcements about future interviews or appearances.  Anything else?

Q    Thank you.

Q    Thank you, Jay.

MR. CARNEY:  All right, see you guys in — at our next stop.

12:42 P.M. PDT