Press Briefing

October 01, 2013 | 1:14:04 | Public Domain

White House Press Briefings are conducted most weekdays from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the West Wing.

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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 10/1/2013

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:02 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Thank you for being here.  I hope you had a chance to hear the President’s remarks in the Rose Garden about this historic day, the first day that Americans across the country, millions of Americans, are taking advantage of the opportunity to shop for affordable health insurance that they could not attain before now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, and also to hear what he had to say about the fact that the Republicans in Congress chose to shut down the government last night.

Before I take your questions, I had a couple of announcements.  First, the President, earlier today, received an update from Alyssa Mastromonaco, the Deputy Chief of Staff; Sylvia Burwell, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget; and Jack Lew, the Secretary of the Treasury, on the shutdown and, with regards to Secretary Lew, obviously the fact, as previously announced, that in just a few weeks the Treasury runs out of the measures it can take to continue to pay our bills and thus the prospect of default becomes more real if Republicans in the Congress, pursuing the strategy they pursued when it comes to funding our government, decide to adopt that strategy to threaten default for the first time in our country’s history.  We certainly hope that is not the strategy they choose.  

With that, I will take your questions.

Q    Thanks, Jay.  As the debt ceiling closes in, I wonder whether the President will encourage or allow Congress to combine both a CR and debt ceiling measures, working in parallel tracks.  And will he now negotiate some aspect of a budget deal on the CR that would give Republicans the ability to say that they’ve gotten something for this?

MR. CARNEY:  Republicans have twisted themselves into pretzels in this effort to try to attach partisan demands to their simple responsibility to fund the government, keep it open, and their simple responsibility to make sure that the United States does not default, that the United States pays its bills.

The President has been abundantly clear that he will not negotiate over Congress’s responsibility to pay its bills.  He has been clear all year long that he is willing to negotiate with serious-minded Republicans in Congress about our budget priorities and how we should fund them, and what ways we should invest in our middle class and in our economy, and how we can continue to reduce the deficit -- continue the progress we've made reducing the deficit.

But he won't do that under threat of shutdown.  And he won't do that under threat of default.  This is irresponsible, reckless behavior.  As the President just said, Congress ought to open the government, return people to work, and without drama and delay fulfill its responsibility to make sure the United States pays its bills.

We've never defaulted in our history, and the mere threat of default, as we saw in 2011, had terrible impacts on our economy and on our middle class.  People didn’t get jobs because of the threat of default that was put forth by Republicans in 2011.  The economy slowed down.  Markets went down.  This was the low point of our recovery from the worst recession since the Great Depression.  And that only happened with the threat of default.

And unfortunately, now you see Republicans embracing a strategy where they say, I couldn’t get -- we couldn’t get what we wanted through the congressional process -- so the Affordable Care Act passed the House, passed the Senate, was signed into law, was upheld by the Supreme Court, was validated in a national election -- so we couldn’t get it that way, so we’re going to attach it to our responsibility to make sure the United States pays its bills.  It’s wildly irresponsible, and it’s dangerous.

Q    Isn’t a shutdown itself a pivot point where, as you say, the public might have been blaming Republicans going into it, that now the public might be looking at the President for leadership to get out of it and --

MR. CARNEY:  Here is what the President is offering Republicans.  He’s offering them no conditions attached to reopening the government; no conditions attached to raising the debt ceiling.  If he were to play the Republican game, he might say, you know what, I won’t sign a bill that funds the government unless you pass legislation that 90 percent of the American people support, which is to expand background checks on gun purchases.  But he won’t do that.  He believes that kind of thing should be done through the legislative process, the normal legislative process, and we had that fight.  And he continues to press for Congress to pass an expansion of background checks, but he would not do that.  He would not attach an unrelated priority to this and threaten a shutdown or threaten default.

Congress has the responsibility to keep the government open.  Congress has the responsibility to pay the United States’ bills.  That’s enshrined in law.  It’s enshrined in the Constitution.  And the President is not making any demands associated with it.  Only the Republicans are.  And what they’re trying to do, as the President said today, is deprive those folks that the President had with him today, and millions more like them, of the opportunity to get affordable health insurance for the first time in their lives, or for the first time in a long time, or else they’ll continue to have the government shut down and maybe they’ll default.  And that’s irresponsible.

Q    Tomorrow the President is -- go ahead.  I’ll let you read it.

Q    This just in.

MR. CARNEY:  Oh, thank you.  Let me get this.  There is an announcement I missed which is, on Thursday, the President will visit M. Luis Construction, a local construction company, to discuss the need for Congress to act to pass a budget and pay the bills it has racked up.  M. Luis Construction is a local small business that has grown in recent years thanks to increased access to capital through President Obama’s efforts to help small businesses.  The President will highlight the impacts that a shutdown and default would have on our economy and our nation’s small businesses.  If Congress fails to pay its bills and default for the first time in our nation’s history, it would significantly hurt the economy, meaning fewer customers for small businesses, likely higher borrowing costs for everyone, making it harder for businesses like these to get a loan.

The President will urge Congress to do its job and do the things -- rather, the kinds of things that invest in our small businesses, increase jobs, and grow the economy, instead of setting it back. 

So that visit will obviously be an opportunity for the President to speak about the issues that we’re discussing today.

Q    Is that in D.C.?

Q    Yes, where is it?


Q    Do you still expect the shutdown continuing on Thursday?

MR. CARNEY:  The House Republicans have the opportunity to reopen the government five minutes from now if they wanted to take that action.  We hope they do.

Q    And where is the -- what’s the location?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, the District of Columbia.  Local.

Q    All right.  Tomorrow, the President is meeting with members of the Financial Services Forum, which is top Wall Street CEOs.  In the context of the shutdown and the looming default, what does the President want these CEOs to do on behalf of that effort?  And does the White House, does the President believe that they still have influence with Republicans like they once may have?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, you’re correct that he will meet with members of the Financial Services Forum here at the White House tomorrow while they are in town for their annual meeting.  And the meeting will be on a broad array of economic issues, but among them will be the disastrous impact that Congress’s failure to raise the debt ceiling, without drama or delay, would have on their businesses and on the nation’s and world’s economy. 

I think these business leaders know very well what the consequences were of the mere flirtation with default that Republicans engaged in, in 2011.  That was a setback to our recovery.  It was a setback to all kinds of businesses, and it was a setback to middle-class families.

Doing it over again, and going even further and actually defaulting if that's what the Republicans decide to do would have even more catastrophic consequences.  And I’m sure that would be of great concern to business leaders around the country as it is, and would to average folks around the country, who would see interest rates rise dramatically, would see credit dry up potentially for their small businesses.  And in many ways, the consequences of default are unknowable with any specificity because we’ve never defaulted before.  What we do know is they would be catastrophic for the economy, and it would cast into question the bedrock foundation of the global economic system, which is the United States economy and the United States currency and the faith and credit of this nation.

Q    Does the President think the views of these CEOs matter?

MR. CARNEY:  I think lawmakers of both parties understand that -- at least should understand that when business leaders like these say that default would be terrible for business, would be terrible for the economy, would be terrible for the American people, they know what they're talking about.  And we certainly hope that members of Congress, especially Republicans, would heed that warning.

Q    Asia trip still on?

MR. CARNEY:  We have no changes to announce to the President’s schedule.


Q    Jay, there’s a proposal being floated right now on the Hill to pass a series of small funding bills that would reopen certain agencies or programs.  Would the President sign that?

MR. CARNEY:  Daily now, hourly, we’re asked to respond to floated proposals, some of which never come to fruition because of opposition either within the Republican Party or rejection by the Senate.  So I’m not going to do that. 

What I can say is even that proposal shows the utter lack of seriousness that we’re seeing from Republicans.  If they want to open the government, they should open the government, and then we can negotiate about how we fund our budget priorities in the future.  A piecemeal approach to funding the government is not a serious approach any more than it would be a serious way to try to deal with the consequences of default and the absolute necessity to maintain the full faith and credit of the United States.

Again, Republican lawmakers, because they are responding to one faction of one party of one house of one branch of government and being driven by them, are twisting themselves into pretzels.  They're contortionists now in terms of all the ways, the different ways that they have tried to avoid their fundamental responsibility which is to keep the government functioning and to negotiate in a serious way.

Remember, the President put forward a compromise budget early this year and had many discussions with Republican lawmakers about the need to find common ground, and urged them to make similar proposals that replicated his demonstrated willingness to make tough choices.  And we have not seen that all year.  But hopefully we will.

Q    You have said and the President has said he’s willing to make changes to the Affordable Care Act.  Is that something that could be part of a deal to break through this logjam?  Or is the White House offering that as a --

MR. CARNEY:  We’re not negotiating --

Q    But for later, is that something that you're offering to the Republicans?

MR. CARNEY:  The President made clear in his interview with NPR that he's willing to have a conversation with anyone who's serious about measures that might strengthen or improve the Affordable Care Act, make it better, make it more efficient in achieving its goal, which is providing insurance coverage, affordable insurance coverage to millions of Americans who don’t have it. 

But we're not going to negotiate under threat of shutdown or under shutdown in order for the Republicans to achieve their partisan agenda goals here. 

Look, we get it.  They don’t like the Affordable Care Act.  They don’t like Obamacare.  They have tried again and again and again to repeal it, defund it, delay it, undermine it.  And they are obviously entitled to and welcome to continue to try to do that through the normal legislative means.  But what they should not do, because it's irresponsible, is shut down the government over that partisan pursuit, nor should they allow the United States to default in order to achieve what they could not achieve through normal means. 

And the consequences -- and I think really -- well, one theory that seems reasonable to me about why there is such an obsession now among Republicans with pursuing this avenue, despite the cries of protest from members of their own party in the Senate and also in the House, but outside, about what a terrible thing it is to do to the economy and to do to the party, is because they know that beginning today, the fundamental portion of the Affordable Care Act becomes real.  And instead of it just being President Obama's signature piece of legislation that they oppose and want to get rid of, it is the program that is providing and will provide benefits to millions of Americans.

And I'll tell you, if you're a mom or a dad with a modest income and a couple of kids, and you're self-employed and you haven't been able to get affordable insurance, and you're worried to death about your kid’s asthma condition or your wife's fear of getting breast cancer or some other -- maybe your own preexisting condition -- you may have voted Republican, you may have voted against President Obama, you may support the idea of repealing Obamacare, but when you go on the website available in your state and look at the options that you have now to provide insurance for your family for the first time, and you see that they're affordable, and you see that if you don’t make a lot of money there are subsidies to make it affordable, you're going to do the right thing by your family.  You're going to add that -- you're going to want that security for your family.

And I think Republicans are worried that beginning today, it's not about opposing President Obama when it comes to this fight over the Affordable Care Act, it's about opposing the millions of Americans who are benefiting from it.

Q    Is the White House worried that this government shutdown could last a long time?

MR. CARNEY:  We are obviously concerned about the impacts of the shutdown -- the hundreds of thousands of hardworking Americans who couldn't show up at work today and aren't being paid, and the hundreds of thousands more who aren't being paid even though they’re working, and the effect that has on our economy and our middle class.

So we hope that the House Republicans listen to the suggestions of members of their own party as well as the President and others, and simply open the government, pay the bills of the United States, do the responsible thing, and then continue to engage in serious debate and discussion about how we move forward as a nation with our economic priorities.


Q    Jay, the President out in the Rose Garden noted that some conservatives ran, or at least told their constituents that they were in Washington to repeal or shut down the government or in some way protest Obamacare.  And he noted that that, for them, was a victory.  You have indicated a sort of a ramped-up tone here about debt ceiling.  Are you concerned that doing this and succeeding has wetted their appetite instead of persuading them that this is the wrong direction?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I don't want to read their minds.  What I think we're all concerned by, and anybody who has a concern about the American economy worries about, is that the same faction of one party in one house of one branch of government that seems to be driving the train up there in the House of Representatives, and therefore preventing Congress from doing the simple and right thing, which is opening the government and raising the debt ceiling, will employ the same tactic when it comes to raising the debt ceiling that they’ve used so far with the simple proposition that the government should be funded and remain open.

And the shutdown has its negative consequences and they’re real and they’re concrete for a lot of people.  And as the President said today, as time passes, those consequences will grow more severe.  Default is exponentially worse.  And it is irresponsible in the extreme to even suggest that if you don't get what you want, you don't get your political scalp, that you're going to allow the nation to default for the first time.

And, look, that's a genuine concern.  And it’s a concern because we've been there before and we know that the only time in history that any party in Congress has ever flirted with actual default was in 2011, and we saw what happened.  The United States was downgraded for the first time.  And job creation slowed, economic growth slowed.  And what that meant, of course, was that fewer Americans got jobs and fewer businesses opened.  Real consequences.  And that was just with the flirtation with default.   

Q    So just to add on, other than the CEOs, are there any other powerful voices that the White House wants to enlist between now and 16 days from now to ramp up the pressure, to bring home the message that you just delivered?

MR. CARNEY:  I don't have any events or conversations or efforts to preview for you.  We're very concerned about it.  I'm sure American business leaders are very concerned about it.  I think a lot of Republicans in Congress, in the Senate and also in the House are concerned about it as a proposition and as a strategy. 

And so I think hopefully that combination of voices will succeed in prevailing upon House Republicans, and especially the leaders of the House Republican conference to do the right thing. 

Look, I think it’s been pointed out by Republican congressmen that there is a significant majority in the House of Representatives to pass a clean CR today.  All Speaker Boehner has to do is put it on the floor.  According to some GOP members of the House, he’d actually get a lot of Republicans to vote for it.  That's pretty good, right?  It’s not -- we’re not talking about 10 or 12 or 15.  According to, again, Republican predictions, it would be significantly more than that to do the right thing.

So what we know is the government shut down even though a majority of the Senate and a majority of the House, including a significant bipartisan majority in the House, opposes that approach.  So there’s a pretty easy option available to the Speaker, which is to reopen the government, and then there will be a fairly simple and responsible option available to Congress, including the Speaker, and that is to raise the debt ceiling without drama or delay -- even the flirtations with default.

Q    How long is the President willing to wait for House Republicans to pass a clean CR?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not sure what that means, because that suggests that the President could take over the House and pass one himself, and he can't.  He cannot order or force, call out the National Guard to get the Speaker of the House to put a clean CR on the floor.  He’s hoping that the Speaker and the other leaders in the House will do the right thing sooner rather than later.

Q    That suggests no movement on his part then towards their position.

MR. CARNEY:  Again, his position is that he is asking nothing from Republicans, no concessions to doing their job, which is funding government, and that they should go about the business of doing that.  He won’t interfere.  And then they should go about the business responsibly -- without drama, without delay -- of raising the debt ceiling and making sure that we continue to pay our bills, as we have as a nation since the birth of the nation.

And then we can proceed with the very serious, substantive negotiations about our budget priorities that the President has been trying to engage with Republicans on all year long, and around which the President has actually put on the table concrete proposals.  Republicans were very insistent upon some of the things that the President included in his budget proposals when it came to entitlement reforms.  That used to be what animated them.

And now, apparently, what really matters most to them is not deficit reduction, or responsible -- getting control of our entitlement spending, it’s simply doing away with a law that provides affordable health insurance to millions of Americans.

Having been here at the time and having thought about it a little bit of late, I remember in the disputes between the Republican Congress and the Democratic President in the mid-1990s that led to a shutdown, you can argue whether or not that was the smart political play or substantive play by Republicans then, but at least there was a coherence to it.  It was around spending and deficits.

The problem Republicans have I think now is that they're making this about whatever animates them politically, and most notably it's the Affordable Care Act.  But we saw earlier when they were attaching things, more and more conditions to what they would demand in return for doing their jobs, it was preventing women from getting contraceptive care unless their bosses said it was okay, it was other types of items that are on their partisan wish list.  And that’s -- there's not a logical coherence to this, and it's not -- it's certainly not expressive of what had been the goals of the Republican Party in the past, when it came to at least the stated goals, even if they didn’t actually practice it, which was to drive down deficits and debt.

And maybe that’s because in part, under this President, deficits have dropped 50 percent, and he's put on the table the only serious compromise proposal that would reduce them further and would address our medium-term debt challenges.

Q    And in the Rose Garden, he used the brand "Republican shutdown" a couple of times.  Is it fair to use that label when he hasn't even really been in contact with Republicans for over a week?  He called them last night --

MR. CARNEY:  He spoke to the Speaker yesterday.

Q    That was it for only -- for about a week.  I mean, doesn’t he have to take some ownership of this shutdown when you don’t talk to the other side for a week?

MR. CARNEY:  The President has had multiple intense conversations with the Republican lawmakers about our budget priorities all year long.  He has spent -- this goes to Ed's question yesterday -- hour upon hour with Speaker Boehner over the years, since John Boehner became Speaker, to discuss our and try to negotiate a compromise on our budget priorities.  And again, he spoke with him last night.

But what he can't do is force the House to do the simple thing, which is to keep the government open.  That is what the House has to vote on in the Senate.  And he will sign it when they do.

But again, his position is, I'm making no demands, I'm attaching no wish list items to clean legislation that would simply keep the government open.  And he's suggesting that the responsible thing to do on the other side is to take the same approach -- a clean CR and a bill to raise the debt ceiling without drama or delay.

Q    The Speaker said he called last night and said, I'm not negotiating, I will not negotiate, even -- I’m trying to impersonate President's voice.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we heard him say that in January and February.  Look, the President will not negotiate over Congress's responsibility to raise the debt ceiling.

Q    But couldn’t the President say to the Speaker, okay, let's work this out, and then I pledge to you after we get through this, you and me, we're going to sit down, we're going to talk about the budget?

MR. CARNEY:  The President did say that.  He has said that.  He is willing and eager to sit --

Q    He said that last night?

MR. CARNEY:  He said it on NPR.  I don’t have the transcript of his phone conversation with Speaker Boehner, but Speaker Boehner knows that.  Speaker Boehner knows that the President met with Republican lawmakers repeatedly earlier this year, as did senior members of his staff, to talk about how we could move forward on our budget priorities.

What he won't do is negotiate under the threat of shutdown or under actual shutdown.  They should just do their jobs, open the government.  The President is not asking for increased spending.  He's saying he'll go along with the continuing resolution that keeps spending levels at what they were, and then move forward to try to negotiate a bigger budget agreement that invests where we need to, protects the middle class, and reduces our deficit in a responsible, balanced way.


Q    I know you have no scheduling announcements.  Just as a practical --

MR. CARNEY:  I have -- well, I did make one for tomorrow. 

Q    Okay, thank you, and beyond that.  But as a --

Q    Thursday. 

Q    Thursday.

MR. CARNEY:  That, too.

Q    As a practical matter, is it possible for the President to travel internationally if the government is shut down?  I mean, have you looked into that?  Do you have the personnel to do it?

MR. CARNEY:  I would -- we are currently scheduled to travel.  We certainly hope that in the time between now and the President’s scheduled departure, that the Speaker does the right thing, puts on the floor of the House a bill that will overwhelmingly pass, according to Republican congressmen -- a clean CR -- and reopen the government. 

The logistics of that I think are best addressed to the agencies involved and to OMB.  But right now, the trip is scheduled, and we’re hoping -- it’s only Tuesday -- that the government will open because the Speaker will respond to the majority of the House over which he has dominion and to the wishes of the American people, to get about the business of responsible governance.

Q    But you don’t see that a shutdown would prevent the trip?  You know of nothing right now that would make that possible?

MR. CARNEY:  I mean, I have no new information to provide on that. 

Q    Does the President bear any responsibility whatsoever for what’s going on, for this mess?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I’m not sure what you mean.  I mean, the President --

Q    Does he bear any -- does he have any blame for the government shutdown?  Any at all?

MR. CARNEY:  Look, the President is President of the United States and it is his responsibility to try to work with Congress in a --

Q    And that hasn’t --

MR. CARNEY:  -- spirit of compromise.  Well, he’s -- look, has he or has he not put forward a compromise budget proposal?  The answer is yes.

Q    But does he bear any responsibility?  It’s a simple question.  Does he bear any responsibility for this mess?

MR. CARNEY:  He certainly did not vote to shut the government down.  And if that’s what you’re asking, no, he did not vote to shut the government down.  The Republicans did.

Q    No, I’m asking if he bears any responsibility.

MR. CARNEY:  Jon, he did not -- Republicans in Congress chose to shut the government down.  The option to keep it open was available to them.  It’s an option that a majority of the House of Representatives supports, a bipartisan majority.

Q    But hasn’t the President failed to create an environment where this stuff doesn’t happen?

MR. CARNEY:  Really?  By having multiple meetings and dinner --

Q    I mean, I’m asking.

MR. CARNEY:  No.  He’s had multiple meetings and dinner --

Q    So he’s done nothing wrong in all of this?  This is all the Republicans’ doing on their own that the President --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, Jon, you can do an essay or decide for yourself and make those judgments.  What I’m telling you is that this year, the President, in a very public way, reported on by all of you, reached out to Republicans and offered to find common ground on budget issues -- and didn’t just talk about it; put --

Q    But --

MR. CARNEY:  -- hold on -- put those ideas in a concrete budget, causing a lot of consternation in his own party, because some of the choices he made and some of the decisions he was willing to embrace were not popular among all Democrats, or Democrat support groups.  But he was willing to do it because he knew that that’s what it would take to reach a compromise with Republicans who are also willing to compromise.  And he had very good conversations with a number of Republican senators and members of Congress.  He had Paul Ryan in here at one point during that process. 

What we haven’t seen, unfortunately, is a commensurate willingness by the Republicans to put on paper a proposal that represents a compromise, that moves off their insistence that -- represented by the Ryan budget.  But the President is open to doing that.  He’s open to having those conversations. 

But when it comes down to here’s the President’s position:  He’s not asking for anything in return; the government should remain open.  Congress has the power to fund the government.  He’s asking for nothing in return for Congress fulfilling its responsibility to raise the debt ceiling.  And he’s asking that they do not do anything else.

Q    But Jay, what I’m asking --

MR. CARNEY:  Jon, I think I --

Q    Look, nobody doubts that the Republicans have a lot of responsibility in what’s going on here.  What I’m asking is, looking back -- I mean, the President is not happy with where he is right now.  So looking back over this whole process, is there anything he looks back and says, “Gosh, if I had done this, or tried to do this, or tried to build this relationship or that relationship” -- 

MR. CARNEY:  The President has --

Q    Is there nothing that he did or didn’t do that he --

MR. CARNEY:  Jon, the President has tried in serious ways to find compromise with Republicans, and he looks forward to doing it again once the Republicans in the House do the responsible thing and open the government and stop threatening to default on our obligations for the first time in history.

Q    Jay?

MR. CARNEY:  Yes, Major.

Q    Would you give us an evaluation of the first day of the health care exchanges?  The consumer experience on the websites -- some have had glitches, some have been slow, as the President mentioned.  Is that entirely a product of over-expected use, or are there some internal mechanistic things you have to fix because they’re not quite ready?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I’m not an expert on web design, so I can’t guarantee that there aren’t glitches that are just technical in nature.  And I’m sure there are, as we said there would be, as with any large-scale rollout of a policy like this.  It was true of Social Security, Medicare, Medicare Part D under the Bush administration. 

But what is unquestionably the case is that there has been an enormous amount of interest, as we’ve seen by the number of people who have visited the website.  And it’s kind of like people trying to get tickets to the first Pirates home playoff game, right?  I mean, you know when you go on the site and it’s hard to load the page that it’s because a lot of people like you want to find out if tickets are available, and the great news about this is it’s not one game, it’s not one night; the seats are unlimited and the availability will be there for every American family that wants affordable health insurance.

So we take this, as Bill Clinton used to say, as a high-class problem.  It’s an indication of the absolute interest out there around the country in exploring these options, because a lot of families out there -- and we’re talking about the 15 percent out there who are uninsured and those who don’t have insurance through their employer -- who want the opportunity to purchase affordable health insurance and have that security. 

And you heard from the President about this today:  It’s a life-changing event.  An amazing statistic, which he cited, that if you have health insurance and you're diagnosed with cancer, you are 70 percent more likely to live five years than if you don't have health insurance.  That is a direct correlation between being insured and living.  That's a big deal.

Q    I know you have some general projections about how many people are likely to sign up, and talked to some of your health care experts on that.  But I want to ask you on the record here, for the next six months, as this enrollment period is open, what is the main metric for the White House measuring its success?  I’ve heard some people in the White House talk about it’s not just a number, but it’s a ratio -- meaning the higher and a greater ratio you have of younger, healthier Americans without insurance getting in the system, the more successful you will view that.  Is that an accurate representation?

MR. CARNEY:  There is no question that --

Q    That you need to get younger, healthiers into the system.

MR. CARNEY:  There is no question that it is important to the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act and to having it work in a way that allows for those with preexisting conditions never to be denied coverage, that younger, healthier Americans have insurance.  And that is why the Affordable Care Act is written in a way that allows for subsidies for younger people who may have low incomes but may not qualify for Medicaid. 

And the purpose is to give them the option of affordable health insurance, an option that may not have been available to them in the past.  And by doing that, you expand the pool significantly, you add millions of people to the ranks of the insured, and you make the whole system more affordable.

The President talked about all of the dire predictions that we heard from Republicans back when we were debating.  I saw one senator say we never debated Obamacare, which is a rather remarkable statement given the months and months of debate over Obamacare when it was moving through Congress.  But there were a lot of dire predictions, including exploding health care costs, that have not turned out to be true; in fact, when it comes to the growth in health care costs, the opposite is true.  The last three years have been -- have represented the slowest pace of growth in our health care costs in half a century.

So since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, the opposite of what the critics predicted has happened.  Meanwhile, millions of Americans are -- they don’t even know, necessarily, it's from Obamacare, but they're enjoying the fact that their kids can stay on their insurance policies until they're 26.  They're enjoying the subsidies for prescription drug costs that the Affordable Care Act provides.  They're enjoying the rebates that the Affordable Care Act demands insurance companies pay their customers when they spend too much on overhead and CEO pay, and not enough directly on health care.

And then, beginning today, the other big component of the Affordable Care Act becomes reality.  And day after day, from now until January 1st when insurance kicks in and from that day ever after, millions of Americans who did not have insurance and did not have access to affordable insurance will have it.

Q    And as they look at their choices, young Americans who don’t have coverage will see a variety of plans, but many of them will come with high deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses that will be one of the reasons that their premiums are generally affordable, because that’s one of the tradeoffs in insurance for everyone -- it will be a tradeoff for young Americans who don’t have coverage.  Since it's important for this to succeed, to have that ratio of younger Americans sign up, how nervous are you about the central tension that they will see on these websites that if you're going to get coverage, you're going to have a lot of out-of-pocket expenses, and many of them may say, you know what, even with the subsidies, it's still not worth it?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, these are great questions, and I think the answer to that question is one of the reasons why we've been encouraged by the premium rates that have been established going into this enrollment day, and by the fact that the options available to everyone in every state is looking at plan availability are many and varied, and that everybody can make the choice for himself or herself about what kind of coverage they can afford, and what fits best for their security and for their family, or for themselves, if they're an individual. 

And remember, the alternative here is not some -- we had this discussion, Ed and I did, before -- not some mythical insurance that’s available now for less, because that insurance --

Q    No, I understand that.  I’m just saying they may have made -- might make a decision not to do it.

MR. CARNEY:  Even if it were available, though, if you're a kid, a young person -- 27 now, because you can't -- you wouldn’t be able to be on your parents' insurance anymore -- making a very modest income, but maybe you have available to you insurance on an individual market.  But the fine print tells you that you can have yearly caps, you have lifetime caps, you have huge deductibles, you can be banned from coverage if you have a preexisting condition -- all of these things that will no longer be true because of the Affordable Care Act.

So I think that the -- what we’re counting on is that Americans out there will review this, look at their options and decide that this is a good deal.  And it makes sense that having health insurance adds to their security and to their quality of life, and that the option of rushing to the emergency room when something happens is hardly superior to the option of having insurance, quality affordable insurance.

Q    And how do you pry those who are up to 26, say 20 to 26, who are on their parents’ plan out of there and get them into the exchanges?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, again, I think that -- this is an effort.  And this is a good point, that today makes not the end but the beginning of an effort to provide Americans with a huge amount of information about the options available to them and the benefits that the Affordable Care Act provides.  And obviously we’ll see.  But we’re very confident about how it’s going thus far and what’s available to the American people that has never been available before.

Q    Jay.


Q    On Iran, the foreign minister -- you may have seen --went on Twitter last night and had started attacking the President and suggesting -- it seemed like he was not happy with the President’s comments in the meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday.  He accused the U.S. of “illegal threats and sanctions that are disrespectful of a nation,” “macho and wrong.”  He accused the President of flip-flopping.  I won’t read every last detail.  But how do you react to that, number one?  And what does that mean about the state of these talks?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think we’ve said all along that the important measuring stick when it comes to pursuing this diplomatic opening with Iran is action -- what actions are being taken by Iran to demonstrate that they are interested in fulfilling their obligations to the international community.  And the President was clear in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly:  There will surely be important obstacles to moving forward and success is by no means guaranteed.  But he believes we can reach a comprehensive solution.

And there is no question that we have heard and seen from the new government in Iran a different approach and a new approach.  And as we’ve been saying all along, it is absolutely worth exploring -- because the window of opportunity remains open -- a diplomatic resolution to this problem, to the problem that the whole international community is organized around, which is the need to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. 

And we are united with our allies and partners on this issue, and we are united in the idea that we should pursue this opportunity.  And we welcome all the indications that we've seen from the new Iranian government that they’re serious about pursuing it.  But this will be something we can measure through the P5-plus-1 process.

Q    Positive indications, but then when there are rants like this, does that not make the point that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been making at the U.N. today and yesterday here at the White House and elsewhere that -- I think one of the things he said today is that Iran is really a wolf in sheep’s clothing and that they’re saying some positive things and the next day they say something really negative.  I hear you reacting to the positive things they’ve said, but then they were slamming the President last night --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, look, again, I think we have been consistent, the President has been consistent.  He took office in January 2009, making clear his willingness to have bilateral discussions with Tehran, if Tehran was willing to address seriously the international community’s concerns about its nuclear program. 

Because of the position he took, it became clear at the time that the United States was not the issue here, it was the behavior of Iran.  And that clarity allowed for the building of the most comprehensive set of sanctions that the world has ever seen, and the implementation of those sanctions, which, in turn, has led in part to where we find ourselves today, which is with a new government in Iran that has indicated willingness to negotiate a solution to this problem, diplomatically.

Ultimately, though, as the President made clear, words here are meaningful, but actions are most meaningful.  And it is only through verifiable, transparent resolution of this challenge where the international community can be confident that Iran has given up its nuclear weapons ambitions that we can get a resolution.  And the President will be very firm on that.

Q    Two quick points on the budget.  You talked earlier about Boehner and saying that the President can't send the National Guard to get him to pass this bill.  Didn’t Ronald Reagan find a way to work with Tip O’Neill?  Didn’t Bill Clinton?  Newt Gingrich was extremely difficult.  Personally, they sometimes had a tense relationship, Gingrich would go on his ideological efforts as well, and yet they somehow came together in the end.  So is it really fair to just say, we can't send the National Guard after this guy?  Why can't the President sit down with him the way Reagan did with O’Neill, the way Clinton did with Gingrich?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, Ed, the President has sat down with and met with and talked to John Boehner extensively over the time that Speaker Boehner has held that office.

Q    Recently?

MR. CARNEY:  He talked to him yesterday.  He’s talked to him many times this year.  I think you know as well as I that the Speaker indicated earlier this year that he would never negotiate with the President again.  That wasn’t a position the President held; that was a position articulated by the Speaker.  It seemed like a little irrational to us, but that's what he told reporters.

The fact of the matter is, Tip O'Neill never threatened to default.  Tip O'Neill never allowed the most radical elements of his caucus dictate what Democrats in the House would do.  And we need a willingness by the leadership in the House to listen to the majority of lawmakers in the House, including a significant and sizeable portion of Republicans in the House as well as in the Senate, as well as Republicans outside of Congress, and simply open the government no strings attached, no partisan strings attached.  That’s all. 

Going back to Jon's question, we're not attaching any partisan baubles to this tree here.  Just do your job, and then we can have the serious negotiations that the President has been engaged in and willing to engage in all year long.

Q    Last one.  I think Jim asked you yesterday about calling the Republicans "terrorists" -- not you personally -- "arsonists."  You used the word "extortion" yesterday, which is obviously a pretty serious charge.  My question is -- a few moments ago, you were saying that it's time for the Republicans to get serious about the budget; you used the worst "serious" a few times.  How does it help you get serious, how does it help you get a deal if you're calling Republicans "extortionists" and "terrorists?"  How does it help?

MR. CARNEY:  I think they are attempting to extort the American people in many ways, and the economy, in order to get their partisan objectives.  And I can only echo a Republican House member who accused his colleagues of being "suicidal lemmings."  I mean, that was what he said.

Q    But the name-calling from here -- (laughter) -- the changing the tone -- let them call whatever they want to call themselves.

MR. CARNEY:  I think we can all establish that some of the harshest criticism of Republicans happening in Washington right now is coming from Republicans. 

Q    So let them shoot each other.  My question is, what about changing the tone from here?  No, really.  Why can't you rise above that?

MR. CARNEY:  Because this is a -- look, we are --

Q    So it's serious, yes.

MR. CARNEY:  We are not -- again, we're not asking anything from Republicans in Congress in return for them fulfilling their fundamental responsibilities, raising the debt ceiling without drama or delay, not threatening default, opening the government, and continuing to fund it at, again, levels that hardly represent the demands or wishes of the President or the Democratic Party.

So that’s a simple proposition.  And if you're suggesting, by your question, that they've shut down the government because their feelings are hurt -- I think a lot of Americans would be shocked and dismayed. 

Yes, Kristen.

Q    Jay, thanks.  I unfortunately have the live shots, so I’m going to make it fast.

MR. CARNEY:  No, please.

Q    But Robert Gibbs said today on MSNBC, "I think if you're the White House you just sit back and watch."  Is that an accurate way to describe the thinking moving forward?

MR. CARNEY:  I think that Robert was on MSNBC as a commentator expressing his advice, or what he would do.  But I think it does reflect the fact that we don’t have control here over what the House leadership does, even though we wish we did. 

So it's up to the House leadership to do the right thing, pass a clean CR, open the government, do the right thing, pass without drama or delay a bill that would raise the debt ceiling and ensure that we do not even think about default.

So I think that just represents a reality here, which is that it would be irresponsible to negotiate under partisan threat the full faith and credit of the United States.  That would set a precedent for Presidents of any party in the future, dealing with Congresses of any party in the future that would be enormously damaging to the economic strength of the United States and the economic security of the middle class.  So that is a long-term bad idea, so the President won’t engage in it, and he’s right to take that position.

Q    So we can expect him to go out and hold these events like he did today at the Rose Garden, but not necessarily --

MR. CARNEY:  The President said the other day he would be talking with leaders of Congress with some regularity.  He spoke with them yesterday.  We’ll update you when he has conversations or meetings again.

But again, he can't -- as much as he probably wishes he could, he can't simply appoint himself Speaker for the day and bring a bill to the floor.  He wishes that this could happen so the Republicans and Democrats in a substantial and sizeable vote in the House could vote to reopen the government.

Q    And then just quickly, of the million people who you cited who logged on to today, do you have a sense of how many of those actually were able to go through with it given the glitches that were reported?

MR. CARNEY:  I don't.  I would refer you to HHS for details.  Again, this is day one.  As we’ve said in the run-up to day one, we expect in the early period of enrollment that, as with anything like this, there would be a lot of window-shopping, a lot of plan comparisons, and that as people gathered more information about their options, more and more people would choose to enroll.  And we see that unfolding as the days and weeks continue over the six-month enrollment period.

Remember, whether you enroll today or in December, your insurance takes effect on January 1st, and then after, the middle of December I think, it begins commensurate with when you enroll. 

So we will I’m sure have some data on that periodically available.  But on day one, all we know is that there have been many, many visitors to the site, and we think that is evidence of a great deal of interest in the possibility of purchasing affordable health insurance for Americans around the country.

Mr. Nakamura. 

Q    Jay, part of the reason the President was going to go to Asia or is going to go to Asia is part of this administration’s pivot to Asia and the shift to Asia to try to show that region of the world, and countries especially in southeast Asia, that emerging democracies and American values is the right way to go, especially compared to other systems, maybe like China and others.  I'm just curious whether the President, as he prepares to go on this trip, is concerned that what's happening in Washington this week undermines that argument.

MR. CARNEY:  No.  I think that the President has made clear through his travels and his policies that he believes it's essential for us to rebalance our approach to foreign affairs, and that that pivot towards Asia has been in the process of being carried out since he took office, and continues. 

Look, this is an enormous opportunity for the United States economically and for the American people, and he will continue to pursue it.  He does believe that it is part of his job as Commander-in-Chief and President to travel to Asia and elsewhere to help create more economic opportunity for the American people, and also to create more national security opportunity for the United States.  And so he -- that’s why he makes trips like these, and --

Q    He's also trying to show off the American values and American system to folks over there or countries over there.  Let me ask it another way.  If he goes on this trip at a time the government is shut down, would he have a sense of embarrassment about Washington and what's happening right now -- on the world stage?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, we're certainly hoping that Republican leaders make the right decision in the coming days to reopen the government, extend funding at current levels so that we can get about the business of having serious negotiations about longer-term budget deals.

So that’s my way of saying I'm not going to accept the predicate there.  But I will say that, certainly, dysfunction in Washington is an unfortunate thing.  But we also live in a democracy, and democracies can be messy. 

Q    It's been messy for a while, and this seems like a larger step in the mess.  

MR. CARNEY:  Well, again, it depends on what you're talking about.

Q    First time in 17 years the government has been shut down.

MR. CARNEY:  When it comes to shutdown, the impacts are serious and they're consequential, and they're not good.  Default is a whole other proposition.  And what is disturbing about what we are seeing unfold on Capitol Hill with those Republicans who are most fervent and seem to be leading all the other Republicans in the House, is their willingness to engage with the proposition of default in order to achieve their partisan aims. 

A lot of them ran, promising to repeal Obamacare.  And keeping with their promises, they have voted many times to repeal or defund or undermine Obamacare.  And you may argue whether that was a sensible use of their time -- because it wasn't successful -- but that’s certainly fine in terms of what their responsibilities are fulfilling the promises they made on the campaign trail.  But I doubt that any of them seriously said, I am going to repeal Obamacare or else I'll send the world economy into global recession and middle-class families around the country will suffer because of it.  I don’t think I heard that on the campaign trail.

Carol, and then Mara, and then Mark.

Q    Does the White House have any direct reaction to Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech at the U.N. today?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have a direct reaction.  I actually saw it on my screen but I was in a meeting, and so I haven't heard that much about it. 

Q    So do you --

MR. CARNEY:  Sorry.  You have to ask me a more specific question.  I didn’t catch all of it.

Q    Well, it was pretty aggressive towards Iran.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we've said all along, as the President has said, we understand, and it is entirely justifiable, that Israel is skeptical about Iran and Iran's intentions.  After all, this is a country whose leadership, until recently, was pledging to annihilate Israel. 

So their security concerns are understandable.  Their skepticism is understandable.  And we share with Israel and with Prime Minister Netanyahu the same goal and the same firm policy, which is, Iran cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.  And yesterday's meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama represented just the latest in a series of meetings and conversations that the President has had -- the two leaders have had in which this issue has been a topic of conversation, in which information has been shared and perspectives have been shared.  And the fact that the two leaders and the two countries agree on this challenge and agree on the policy objective has been shared.

So again, I didn’t -- I wasn't able to listen to the Prime Minister's speech with any detail.  But as the President has said, it's understandable why Israel has concerns about Iran's nuclear weapons program.  We share those concerns.  And in Israel, obviously, the concerns are more intense because of the neighborhood they live in and because of the threats that previous leaders of Iran have made towards Israel.

Q    But do you share the skepticism?  Are you saying we share Israel's skepticism, or just the --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we have said all along that --

Q    Netanyahu said that this is a ruse, that the opening is a ruse.  Do you agree with that?

MR. CARNEY:  We believe that the Iranian leadership has, very publicly -- and everyone here has reported on it -- changed their approach to resolving this issue with the international community.  We will not know if they're serious about it until we test the proposition, until we see, through the P5-plus-1 negotiations, how willing they are to reach an agreement with the international community in which they meet all their obligations, and demonstrate in a convincing, verifiable, transparent way that they are not pursuing a nuclear weapon.

So this is about actions.  It's not about words.  What we have said -- again, what we have said -- you guys keep asking me to respond to a speech that I haven't -- I wasn't able to hear, but I understand the basic sentiment.  And what we have said is that there is a window of opportunity to resolve this diplomatically.  Resolving it diplomatically is preferable, as a general matter, but obviously because it's the best way to assure that Iran cannot pursue a nuclear weapon and does not have a nuclear weapon. 

And as long as that window is open -- and now we have a government in Iran, apparently with the sanction of the Supreme Leader that is engaging with the international community in a more serious way than we've seen in recent years -- we ought to pursue that.  And that’s what the President is doing.

Q    Can you just -- as one more follow on that -- is Israel's aggressiveness on this and Netanyahu's rhetoric, does that undermine what you guys are trying to do diplomatically, given the closeness of Israel and the U.S?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, we have an extremely close relationship with Israel.  We have an absolute commitment to Israel’s security and we share Israel’s commitment to making sure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.

We believe -- and the President and the Prime Minister discussed this yesterday -- that we ought to pursue this diplomatic opening because the window of opportunity remains open.  We’ve said all along that it won’t remain open forever, but this opportunity is here.  It’s here in part because of the policy positions the President took that allowed for the implementation of the most comprehensive set of sanctions in history, which, in turn, has had an obvious and serious effect on the Iranian economy.  And it is understandable why Iran would want relief from those sanctions.  And we will have discussions with -- through the P5-plus-1 -- Iran and see whether or not Iran is serious about, in a verifiable way, giving up their nuclear weapons ambitions and demonstrating --

Q    Is that a yes or a no? 

MR. CARNEY:  It was better than both.  

Yes, Mara. 

Q    Thank you.

Q    I thought I was next.

MR. CARNEY:  I think I said Mara then Mark.  There’s a similarity.

Q    There is.

MR. CARNEY:  Mara, Mark, Anita.

Q    My question, just to go back to the clean appropriations bills that they're talking about doing, D.C., veterans and parks, is that a good sign?  Does that mean the fever is breaking?  How do you evaluate that?

MR. CARNEY:  I would simply say that the increasing number of voices on the Republican side calling for the leadership in the House to do the sensible thing and pass a clean CR is a good sign, if it has an effect.  But we’ll find out whether or not the leadership is serious about opening the government when they do it.  So it’s hard for me to know.

Q    So you don't think the partial --

MR. CARNEY:  Again, it doesn't -- it’s a particularly serious way to address this.  If they want to open the government, they ought to open the government.  There’s a simple way to do it.

Again, we’re not asking -- nobody is asking -- Democrats aren’t asking, the White House isn’t asking for any partisan objectives to be attached to a bill that would extend funding for the government, and neither should the Republicans.  And we should just reopen it, make sure that those hundreds of thousands of Americans can go back to work and be paid so that they can meet their obligations, and then, even more significantly, that Congress ought to very deliberately, without drama, without delay, pass an increase in the debt ceiling so that we can remove from the table any thought or fear that the United States might default.

Q    Senator Durbin said that he thought that negotiations separate from a shutdown and a default, but negotiations on the budget that had the repeal of the medical device tax might be a way to solve this, provide some kind of fig leaf for Republicans.  Are you pursuing that in any way?  I’m not talking about negotiating on the shutdown.  I’m talking about a separate track.

MR. CARNEY:  We’re not negotiating with anybody to reopen the government.  We’re not negotiating with anybody for the Congress to pass the bill that would reopen the government on any partisan condition.

What the President has said, as he said yesterday to Steve Inskeep, is that he’s always been willing to have conversations with lawmakers of both parties who have ideas about how to make the Affordable Care Act better, more efficient and more effective for millions of American families. 

I mean, one of the ironies of this -- again, of the spaghetti that's been thrown on the wall here by Republicans -- one of the ironies of this proposal is that it would increase the deficit significantly if it were passed. 

Q    You would have to offset it somewhere else, but --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, have you heard Republicans --

Q    Are those negotiations underway?


Q    They are not?

MR. CARNEY:  Look, Congress has a responsibility to fund the government, so they should open the government.  Congress has a responsibility to pay the bills of the United States.  Raising the debt ceiling doesn’t add a dime to the deficit, has nothing to do with even a nickel of new spending.  It’s about paying that bill you get every month after you’ve bought things with your credit card.  Congress made these purchases.  The bill is now due, or will be, and they ought to pay the bills -- because the United States has always paid its bills.

Separate from that, we've always been willing to have serious conversations about finding compromise on our budget challenges. 


Q    Jay, is it fair when you say that raising the debt limit is just about paying bills?  It’s about authorizing more government borrowing, which leads to more government spending and an expansion of the national debt.

MR. CARNEY:  No, it doesn’t --

Q    It doesn’t?


Q    The debt limit talks about authorizing more borrowing.

MR. CARNEY:  To pay bills that have already been charged.  So we've already -- you, Mark, bought a car last month, put it on your credit card.  You’ve been driving that car.  You’ve been receiving the benefits of that car.  And now, since you put it on a credit card, the credit card says you got to pay the bill.  So this is not about buying a new car.  It’s not even about putting gas in the car, or adding a spoiler.  It’s about -- (laughter)  -- which maybe you would.  (Laughter.) 

Q    But it’s about going to you and saying, my good friend, Jay, will you lend me money to pay for my car.

MR. CARNEY:  No, it’s about telling --

Q    It’s about borrowing.

MR. CARNEY:  No, it is about borrowing money to pay the bills that Congress has already charged.

Q    And Treasury can't pay any bills unless it borrows more money.

MR. CARNEY:  Correct, and we go into default.  But these are old bills.  This is not --

Q    They only go into default if you don't borrow the money to pay the bills.

MR. CARNEY:  No, if we don't pay the bills we go into default. 

Q    Right, but if you get -- if the debt limit increase is authorized, then you can borrow more to pay the bills.

MR. CARNEY:  Correct.  But here’s the problem.  You do not, by refusing to raise the debt ceiling -- I mean, in addition to causing global economic calamity, you don't reduce the deficit.  You don't eliminate new spending.  You do that by having serious, compromise-oriented negotiations in Congress.  And that's what the President has done throughout his presidency, resulting, by the way, in a halving of the deficit on his watch. 

Remember, he took office -- economic crisis, financial crisis, massive recession, huge job loss, talks about the banks being nationalized, talk about 25 percent unemployment, and the new President inherited the largest deficits in history in this country.  Spin forward nearly five years, and the deficit has now been halved on his watch, we are reducing our deficits at the fastest pace since demobilization in the wake of World War II.  And the President is eager in a responsible and balanced way to do more, as we ensure that we continue to invest where necessary so that the middle class gets a fair deal.

But imagine if the shoe were on the other foot.  Imagine if this President or any Democratic President was saying, I will shut down the government, or I will default on our obligations if you don’t raise corporate taxes -- and then flip it around --  what’s next from the Republicans?  Well, if they get what they want in order to reopen the government or not default for a few months or a few weeks, next they’ll say, okay, undo the increase in tax rates for the wealthiest of Americans, for millionaires and billionaires.  If you don’t give a tax break to millionaires and billionaires, we’ll go into default.  That could be next.  Or it could be contraception, or it could be something else.

No President --

Q    No, I understand what you’re saying on that point, but when you say that raising the debt limit is just about paying bills, it’s not.  It’s about the government borrowing more money and increasing the national debt. 

MR. CARNEY:  It’s about paying bills that --

Q    That have already been incurred.

MR. CARNEY:  Right, Mark, I don’t think we’re disagreeing at all.

Q    But you’re borrowing more money to do so, right?

MR. CARNEY:  You have to borrow money to --

Q    And you always skip that point.

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t mean to.  (Laughter.) 

Q    Then that’s fine.

MR. CARNEY:  Let’s be clear.  When Congress votes, as it has more than 40 times since Ronald Reagan took office, without drama or delay, until 2011 --

Q    To authorize borrowing more money.

MR. CARNEY: -- they authorized the Treasury --

Q    To borrow --

MR. CARNEY:  -- to borrow money to pay bills.

Q    Understood.

MR. CARNEY:  Because we, the United States, have never defaulted.  We pay our bills.  And the option on the table is that if the Republicans don’t get to undermine Obamacare -- in other words, if they don’t get to take insurance away from the families that were out there in the Rose Garden today, they’re going to default for the first time in history. I mean, some Republicans have called that crazy, Ed.  Just crazy.

Q    Thanks, Jay. 

Q    But one last thing.  But to avoid default, you need to borrow more money.  That’s what this raising the debt limit is all about.

MR. CARNEY:  Yes.  To pay the bills that the United States has incurred, that Congress has incurred, we have to raise the debt ceiling.

Q    To borrow more money.

MR. CARNEY:  Mark, we agree.

Q    Okay.

Q    Two quick things I want to clarify.  You’re telling us that you’re going to tell us in these coming days when the President speaks to the Speaker and the leaders.  So he has not spoken to them --

MR. CARNEY:  Sometimes the Speaker and the leaders beat us to the punch, but we’ll see.  Not always, though.  I think it’s worth noting that over the years, there have been numerous conversations and meetings between the President and the Speaker that haven’t always been announced by the leaders in Congress.

Q    He has not spoken to any of the four of them since midnight, since the shutdown?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I’ve been out here for a little while, but I have no conversations to read out to you at this time. 

Q    Okay.  And second, I’m a little confused about one thing:  Senator Reid said yesterday that he didn’t want -- the Senate was rejecting conferees because they want to have a clean CR for whatever period of time that was, one or two weeks first, before they would sit down and negotiate on the big issue.  You’re saying you’re not going to -- that the President doesn’t want to negotiate; he wants the clean CR just to keep the government -- or reopen the government.  So is he not negotiating now, he’s not calling them over because he’s waiting for a clean CR first before he goes into those other issues?  Because you say he won’t negotiate on those broader issues.

MR. CARNEY:  I think I get where you’re heading.  The President will not negotiate with Republicans over the responsibility to keep the government open at current funding levels under threat of shutdown or under threat of continuing the shutdown.  That’s reckless and irresponsible behavior by Republicans and I think many Republicans have called it worse.  So, one. 

Two, I think that this particular proposal that you mention demonstrates the utter lack of seriousness -- tweeting out photos that we’re seeing.  I mean, all year long -- when it comes to the conferencing, right?  All year long -- I mean, prior to the budget deal at the end of the year, on January 1st, the Republican mantra was the Senate won’t pass a budget, the Democrats in the Senate won’t pass a budget; we need to return to regular order; we, House Republicans, have responsibly passed a budget every year and the Senate Democrats haven’t; we demand, as part of this deal, that the Senate pass a budget and that we return to regular order, and that means House budget, Senate budget, conferees are appointed by the leaders of each, and they work out a compromise. 

So the President said, okay.  Senator Reid and Senator Murray said, okay.  They passed a budget, acceding to the demands of the Republicans in the House.  Paul Ryan demanded it. John Boehner demanded it.  Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, they all said they have to do this.  So they did it, and what have the Republicans refused to do ever since?  Appoint conferees.  They’ve refused to sit at the table to negotiate and reach a compromise over the differences between the Senate budget and the House budget.  They’ve refused to engage in regular order.  They’ve refused to do what they said must be done. 

And I think, again, that represents a lack of seriousness in their approach, you might say.

Q    Jay, can I ask one more? 

MR. CARNEY:  A Hill report -- Steve.  Go.

Q    On the debt ceiling, we’re a couple of weeks away.  The President in the past and Jack Lew in the past have talked about the possibility of Social Security payments being delayed.  Should folks out there who rely on those Social Security payments be worried that given the inability of Congress to just keep the government open, that they’re also not going to be able to hit that debt ceiling, and that those checks might not be in the mail at the end of the month?

MR. CARNEY:  I won’t make any specific predictions about the consequences of default -- others are better able to do that -- except to say that the consequences of default would, I think, as universally recognized by credible economists and men and women in the business community, be devastating.  But I don’t want to say this will happen or that will happen.

Q    Some Republicans have talked about passing legislation to make sure that Social Security is walled off in the same way that troop pay was.  I’m wondering if that’s something the President would sign.

MR. CARNEY:  I think, relying on my memory from past experience, is that what we’re talking about here is the full faith and credit of the United States.  “Faith” is an important word there.  Faith is the assurance that investors around the world have that the United States will always pay its bills.  And that's why our economy is so strong.  That's why it is relied upon.  That's why our currency is so important to the functioning of the global economic and financial system.

And so I think the idea that you pay some of your bills but not others would not reward that faith particularly well.  The issue here is there should be no diversion from what has been true throughout our history, which is that the United States, in many ways unique among nations, is always good to its word, that it pays its bills.  It is the safest investment in the world.  And that is an important place to occupy.

Q    Can you say whether the White House, given we are a couple weeks away and given there is no clear path to passing a debt limit increase --

MR. CARNEY:  Yes, there is.

Q    No, but there’s no --

MR. CARNEY:  There’s the clearest of paths.  The simplest of paths.

Q    Yes, I understand -- doing what you want.  But --

MR. CARNEY:  No, it’s not what I want.  That's what the President said.  It’s not about what he wants.

Q    I understand.  I understand.  But given that --

MR. CARNEY:  But you said it.

Q    Given that we could be going over this cliff, has there been any -- with Mr. Lew this morning, with other people -- any team in the administration sort of planning what would happen on October 18th?

MR. CARNEY:  I would refer you to the Treasury Department on that one. 

Thanks very much.

3:16 P.M. EDT

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