White House Press Gaggle by Jay Carney Aboard Air Force One, October 4, 2011

En Route Dallas, Texas–(ENEWSPF)–October 4, 2011 – 11:28 A.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Okay.  We ready?  Before I take your questions, I would like to read to you an excerpt from the President’s speech that he will deliver today in Texas.  This is just an excerpt:

“Yesterday, the Republican Majority Leader in Congress, Eric Cantor, said that right now he won’t even let the jobs bill have a vote in the House of Representatives.  He won’t even give it a vote.  Well, I’d like Mr. Cantor to come down here to Dallas and explain what in this jobs bill he doesn’t believe in.  Does he not believe in rebuilding America’s roads and bridges?  Does he not believe in tax breaks for small businesses or efforts to help veterans?  Mr. Cantor should come down to Dallas, look Kim Russell in the eye, and tell her why she doesn’t deserve to get a paycheck again.  Come tell her students why they don’t deserve to have their teacher back.

Come tell Dallas construction workers why they should be sitting home instead of fixing our bridges and our schools.  Come tell the small business owners and workers in this community why you’d rather defend tax breaks for millionaires than tax cuts for the middle class.

And if you won’t do that, at least put this jobs bill up for a vote so that the entire country knows exactly where every member of Congress stands.”

So that’s from the President’s remarks today where he will focus on teacher layoffs and what the American Jobs Act does to put up to 280,000 teachers who have been laid off back to work and up to 400,000 total teachers to work.

Q    So Cantor said that he didn’t think the entire bill would go up for a vote on the floor, but he did say that he thought individual components would go up for a vote.  And the Republicans have put out lists of things in the bill that they do support.  So isn’t it disingenuous for the President to keep saying that they haven’t told him what they support when they have?

MR. CARNEY:  That’s not what he’s saying here.  First of all, what is Mr. Cantor afraid of?  Why not put it up for a vote and show where he stands and where other members of Congress stand?  If he doesn’t support — as apparently he does not — if he does not support putting teachers back to work, demonstrate that through your — through his vote.  If he doesn’t support putting construction workers back to work, show the American people that fact.

As I have said repeatedly — and the President himself has said — if Congress, having voted on the entire American Jobs Act, then sends him portions of it or sections of it piece by piece, he will sign those if they are paid for in a way that’s responsible and balanced, and then ask where the rest is.

So we’re not — the criticism that this is all or nothing is disingenuous.  It’s a red herring.  It’s false.  Every section of this American Jobs Act is worthy and has this President’s full support.  All of it is worthy.  And the point the President is making is simply that if Congressman Cantor or others in Congress, Republicans, don’t believe that we should be doing something now to put teachers back to work, that we should be doing something now to put construction workers back to work, that we should be doing something now to incentivize small businesses to hire veterans — say so.  Vote — vote accordingly.  But don’t hide behind letters you send to the President.  Just tell us where you are.  Tell us where you stand on those issues.

And if there are things that they are supportive of that are in the jobs act, well, good, let’s get those done.  But first of all, the Senate and the House should vote on the entire bill and explain why, if they oppose it, why they oppose it.

Q    China says that the Senate currency bill violates WTO and risks a trade war.  Do you have any comment on that?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have anything new on that beyond what I said yesterday, which is we’re obviously reviewing the bill that’s moved through the Senate or moving through the Senate.  We’re always in discussions with Congress about matters like this.

We share the concern of members about the valuation of the Chinese currency and the need to appreciate the value of the Chinese currency.  We also are concerned that any action that might be taken would be effective and consistent with our international obligations.

Q    Will there be a statement of administration policy before the Senate vote?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have anything to report to you on that.

Q    Are you going to take a position?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I don’t have anything.  You’re restating the same question.  I don’t have anything on that.  The position I’ve taken — we’ve taken is the one I just gave you.

Q    In the discussions that are taking place with senators about the bill, is it a question of tweaking a bill, or walking away from the bill, or is it –

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have anything more than what I just told you about our position on this issue.

Q    Jay, can you say anything about how Kim Russell came to the attention of the White House?

MR. CARNEY:  I’d have to get that for you.  I don’t know.

Q    And also, why did you select this particular congressional district?  It seems the President is visiting Republican leaders in their home turf.  Is that part of the strategy here?

MR. CARNEY:  I honestly don’t know whose district it is.  I mean, I know we’re in Texas, but — the irony being that I thought the question was going to be why we’re visiting a state that has a governor running for President. 

We’re going — he’s going all over the country.  And when we’re in states that are blue states, we get asked, why are we going to blue states.  When they’re identified as swing states, we’re asked why we’re going to swing states.  Now we’re going to a state that I guess most folks would say is a red state, why are we going there?  He’s going all over the country taking this message to the American people.

Q    Do you feel that Governor Perry has adequately addressed the issue of the racial slur on the hunting lease?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have anything to add to what I said yesterday, which is that obviously the word is offensive.  And my understanding is that Governor Perry has said, or thinks, the same thing.

Q    Jay, does the President regret at all in the interview with Stephanopoulos yesterday saying that the American people aren’t better off now than they were four years ago, given that for a lot of people that’s a pretty standard way that they look at elections?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, let’s review the facts.  Four years ago was 2007 — prior to the point where the policies of the previous administration plunged us into the greatest recession since the Great Depression.  This President ran to restore America from what turned out to be the very low depths created by the worst recession since the Great Depression. 

So it would be wrong to somehow suggest that the hole created by that recession was not very deep, and that it will not — that it did not take — did not happen overnight, the situation that it left us in, and it will — somehow it will emerge from it overnight.  Most Americans understand.  In fact, those who don’t think they do are vastly underestimating the American people.  Most Americans understand that the recession that this President was confronted with when he took office was devastatingly serious and had, as we know now, the economy contracting at 9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, had the economy shedding over 750,000 jobs the month that he was taking office. 

So it is simply a statement of fact that the economy that was — that existed when this President took office was the worst that this country has experienced since the Great Depression.  And it got worse before this President’s policies began to take effect and began making it better.  And I think that anybody who writes about this, or broadcasts about this, has a responsibility — if they’re going to use mischaracterizations of what the President said should explain the facts along with it.

Q    What is the significance of Eastfield College as the site for his visit?  Like every other public institution of higher learning in Texas, it has illegal immigrants who are getting in-state tuition discounts — more than 500 of them.  Is this part of an effort to embarrass Governor Perry?

MR. CARNEY:  No, and I don’t have anything specific on the location and stuff.  I can get that for you.

Q    What does the President make of the fact that so many people in the Republican primary don’t think very highly of this in-state tuition policy, which he supports through the DREAM Act.

MR. CARNEY:  I haven’t talked to him about it.  Again, I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about intra-Republican politics and the Republican primary.

Q    Has he made any calls to EU leaders on the debt crisis over there?

MR. CARNEY:  Today?  Not that I’m aware of.

Q    Yesterday at all?

MR. CARNEY:  Not that I’m aware of, no.

Q    Any calls to congressional leaders?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, not that I’m aware of.  He may have talked to — I can check.  Not since I’ve been with him today.

Q    Can I ask you quickly, on this story that we have out today about the President, in his recommendations to the super committee, having this proposal in there that would give debt collectors greater access to people’s cell phones, to make calls to get them to pay student loans or other federal debts that they’re in default on.  Why would he include that in a bill at a time when he’s openly acknowledged that so many people have been out of work for so long?

MR. CARNEY:  I think it’s just an acknowledgment of the fact that a lot of people have abandoned landlines and only have cell phones, and as a matter of practicality, if they need to be contacted with regard to their debt, that they — there has to be a way to contact them.

Q    Four fundraisers today — it’s kind of an unusually high number.  What does that signify about how much time is being devoted to campaigning?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, as you know, in August the President — we had to cancel a number of campaign events.  And the fact is that we’ll do those at a certain pace that’s appropriate, and that’s really — as we did last week — and it will ebb and flow depending on the period.

Q    What’s the policy on a trip like this, where you do have fundraisers?  Does the DNC –

MR. CARNEY:  I’ll have to — I mean –

Q    — take up some portion of the — or the campaign pick up some portion –

MR. CARNEY:  Everything is done entirely by the book, and there are people who manage that, and I’ll refer them to you.  I can take that for somebody else in the White House or the DNC.

Q    Is the President going to say anything about Governor Perry at all?

MR. CARNEY:  The only preview I have for you is what I read to you about his remarks.

Q    And what about certain Democratic elected officials in Missouri who may or may not be in proximity to the President?

MR. CARNEY:  You guys are obsessing with the minutiae today.  I mean, the President is carrying a message around the country about the need — look, the stuff that American people actually care about, which is the sluggish economy:  the need for the economy to create jobs; the need to put teachers back to work in the case of — which will be the focus of his remarks in Dallas — the need to put construction workers back to work; the need to put money in people’s pockets which an extension and expansion of the payroll tax cut would do; the need to help small businesses, which are the engine of economic growth, which a payroll tax cut on the employer side would do.  So that’s what he’s focused on, and we’re pretty confident that’s what the American people care about.

Q    Do you have any comment about the special election in West Virginia today at all?  There’s some people talking about these special elections as referendums on the presidency.  What do you think?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t.  I honestly haven’t read about it, I haven’t seen the poll.  I don’t know, but I would point you to the comments I made, however it comes out, that special elections are special, and they’re often not indicative of any greater trend.  And I think a good example of that is the fact that the Democrats won — I think swept the special elections leading up to the 2010 midterms, so — which is not to say — it’s not to say that when — if Democrats lose, like they did in the New York race, that somehow that means anything about — it just doesn’t mean anything either way.  It tends not to mean anything either way.  It can be very specific to the state or district, and the fact that turnout is extremely low, and all the factors that you all know well.

Q    Thank you.

Q    Thanks.

MR. CARNEY:  All right.

Q    Appreciate it.

MR. CARNEY:  Thanks a lot.

Q    Minutiae.  (Laughter.)

Q    Was it something you forgot, or what?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I just — it’s just a brief add, and you can ask me about it if you want.  You ready?

Q    Yes.

Mr. CARNEY:  I just — I wasn’t asked about this, but I wanted to note, because it’s related to what we talked about at the top about Congressman Cantor’s view of the American Jobs Act and the suggestion that he is so against certain provisions within it that he wouldn’t even bother to bring it up for a vote.  Congressman Cantor’s proposals and the House Republicans’ proposals for what — their supposed job-creating proposals is focused largely on cutting regulation.  And I would commend to you — anyone who has a moment — an article by Bruce Bartlett, who was a senior policy — had senior policy roles in both the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations, where he decimates the argument that somehow regulation is the problem facing our economy right now, facing — that’s causing businesses not to hire.  It decimates the argument that the kind of deregulatory approach that the Republicans are pushing would have any measurable impact, positive impact, on economic growth or job creation.  It’s just a fallacy.

It also happens to be a recipe that we’ve tried before, and led to the historically bad economy that this President was confronted with when he took office.  So let’s get serious about the American people’s demand for Washington to take action that affects the economy and jobs now, not proposals that reward special interests, that reward donors, but do little or nothing to affect jobs, certainly in the near term and probably in the long term.

Any questions?  Thank you.

Q    Thanks.

11:45 A.M. EDT