The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 7/30/2013

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Chattanooga, Tennessee

11:46 A.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Welcome aboard Air Force One as we make our way to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  As you know, the President will speak at the Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga today, where he’ll talk about one of the cornerstones of his economic agenda, all of which is focused on an economy that helps increase the size and security of the middle class.  And today he’ll focus on how jobs are an essential component of that agenda.

I wanted to note that while at the Amazon fulfillment center today, President Obama will sit down for an interview with Amazon Kindle Singles editor, David Blum.  This Kindle Singles interview, which will focus on the issues of jobs and the economy, will be available for free on Wednesday on Kindle and Kindle free reading apps.  Kindle Singles launched in January 2011.  Each Kindle Single represents a compelling idea -- well researched, well argued, and well illustrated -- expressed at its natural length.  So that interview will take place today.

Q    Do you have that app?

MR. CARNEY:  I have a Kindle.  I’m not trying to be -- but since you asked, I’m on my second Kindle, in fact.

Q    That readout sounds like an ad.

MR. CARNEY:  For the interview the President is giving, for sure.

Q    That each Kindle Single is a well-researched, valuable, et cetera, et cetera.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think for those who see this transcript or otherwise inform themselves with their gaggle, who may not be aware of Kindle Singles, it’s a useful description.

With that, I will take your questions.

Q    Can you tell us anything about the President’s meeting this morning with the peace negotiators?

MR. CARNEY:  I can.  As I think you’ve been made aware, the President this morning did meet with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators at the White House.  The meeting was relatively brief, but they discussed the formal resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. 

The Israeli negotiating team was represented by Justice Minister, Tzipi Livni, and Yitzhak Molcho.  And the Palestinian negotiating team was represented by chief negotiators, Saeb Erekat and Mohammad Shtayyeh.  The President was joined by Vice President Biden, Secretary Kerry, National Security Advisor Rice, Special Envoy Martin Indyk, and White House Coordinator for the Middle East Phil Gordon.

The President used this opportunity to convey his appreciation to both sides for the leadership and courage they have shown in coming to the table, and to directly express his personal support for final status negotiations towards the goal of achieving two states living side by side in peace and security.

He underscored that while the parties have much work to do in the days and months ahead, the United States stands ready to support them in their efforts to achieve peace.

Q    How long was he in there for?

MR. CARNEY:  I think the meeting was a little under a half hour.

Q    Jay, did the President put down on the table some of the ideas he’s raised in the past, like using 1967 borders as a basis for the territorial negotiations?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, this is a brief meeting Mark, and I think that my readout reflects the content of the meeting in terms of the President’s participation.  But I’ll also say, as Secretary Kerry and others have made clear, all sides agree that it would be most conducive to this process not to read out details of readings or negotiations.  So we’re going to abide by that. 

I do believe that Secretary Kerry and Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are having a press availability late morning today, and will be able to add some detail.  But, in general, the process -- the opportunity for success here is enhanced, we believe, as all sides believe, by confidentiality.

Q    Do you have a sense when direct negotiations could begin?

MR. CARNEY:  I will leave that to the statements that I believe Secretary Kerry and the others are making today.

Q    What does the President see as his role in this process?

MR. CARNEY:  As I think others have said, this process has arrived at the point where we have Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Washington meeting because of an effort begun by the President with his visit to the Middle East earlier this year.  The President tasked Secretary Kerry with following through with the parties on that effort, and there has been a lot of work put in by all sides and a lot of leadership encouraged -- shown by both sides, the Israeli and Palestinian sides, to get us to this point.

But this is a step in a process, and there's a great deal of work to be done.  And we're not going to predict outcomes here, we're simply going to do everything we can to help facilitate a process.

Q    If not outcomes, what does he plan to have in terms of involvement?  Will he be involved in these negotiations at times, or does he want to stay mostly hands off?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I'd say a couple of things about that.  One is I'm not going to predict the future here in terms of meetings and participation in those meetings.  Two, the President is engaged in this process.  It was really sparked by his visit to the Middle East earlier this year, and then followed by the President's decision to task Secretary Kerry to follow up on those meetings that the President had to see if we could move the process forward. 

The President met with negotiators today, this morning.  And, as you know, he's engaged in conversations with leaders of both the Israelis and the Palestinians as well as leaders in the region with some regularity.  But in terms of manifests and conversation -- manifests of meetings and conversations in the future, I just don’t think it makes sense to get into that, even if we could predict it. 

Q    Jay, the Republicans are complaining that the President's proposal today is not revenue-neutral.  What do you say to them?

MR. CARNEY:  The fact of the matter is the President is proposing today a grand bargain for the middle class, a grand bargain for middle-class jobs.  And he is suggesting to everyone in Washington that we can achieve corporate tax reform that closes loopholes, that lowers rates, and then ensures that everybody is playing by the same set of rules, and use the essentially one-time revenue generated by that reform to invest in the future, to invest in manufacturing or community colleges or infrastructure building as a way of helping create good-paying, secure jobs for the middle class.

I think everyone who's examined this issue acknowledges that in the reform process of our business tax code, one-time revenues would be generated.  The overall effect of the reform would be revenue-neutral in the long term -- in other words, the revenues created initially will not be forthcoming in the future.  They're a one-time proposition, but they would be significant enough to allow for investment -- significant investment in middle-class jobs.  And that’s what the -- I mean, this is -- this should be something, as the President sees it, that all sides should embrace. 

Republicans have long called for business tax reform.  The President has said he’s for that.  In the past, he’s said he’s for that only as part of a broader fiscal package that included asking the wealthier to pay more through individual tax reform.  And he’s willing to make this proposal today to couple corporate tax reform with -- or business tax reform with initiatives and significant investment in job creation.  Because he believes, as you heard him say in Galesburg last week, this ought to be our fundamental focus right now in Washington -- how do we create a rising, thriving middle class?  Because that is the foundation for our economic future.

Q    One last thing.  How much would be in this one-time revenue fund?

MR. CARNEY:  I think I’ll leave the details of that to those who will hammer it out.  There are a variety of ways to approach this, and I think that will depend on the progress we make in negotiating this out with Congress.

Q    How should we see today’s proposal in context of the speeches over the next several weeks?  Is this all going to lead up to some grander, economic package?  Or is this sort of the crux of what the President is going to be pushing for and fighting for going forward?

MR. CARNEY:  That's a good question.  As I think we tried to lay out -- and I know that there’s a lot of parts here -- but we tried to lay out last week, the President gave an overall speech -- agenda-setting speech in Galesburg, followed up by two that amplified those themes last week.

Today is the first of the cornerstone speeches that he’ll give where he talks about one of the five essential cornerstones to growing the middle class and creating secure middle-class jobs -- and that's jobs, while an element of all of this is the focus of today’s speech.  The other elements are, of course, education and retirement security, clean energy and the like.

So today will focus on this component of it.  It will feature the grand bargain -- or the new grand bargain that we’ve discussed already, and then he will move on to give other speeches on other cornerstones.

Q    I guess I’m just trying to get a sense of to what degree he’s going to be throwing his weight behind this proposal, how much he’s going to be trying to sell this one component.

MR. CARNEY:  I think he’ll be very much throwing his weight behind it, using the bully pulpit, as you’ll hear today, and making the case that this makes eminent sense.  That even as we remain committed, as the President has demonstrated, to a bigger, balanced package that would reduce our deficit in the long term and deal with our -- address our debt challenges in the long term, while investing in our economy, we can move forward with this.  Because of the stalemate we face in that effort thus far, we can move forward with this business tax reform, coupling it with investments in the middle class and investments in job creation, and demonstrate that we’re focused on the thing that matters most here in his eyes and in the eyes of most Americans across the country.

So I’m sure you’ll hear more from him about it, as he addresses the other cornerstones of his economic vision.

Q    And also, officials have said that this is an issue that comes up during meetings with the business community.  Was the business -- or business leaders consulted?  Were they briefed on this before today?  Or was Jeff Bezos even briefed on it, the CEO of Amazon?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, on the end of that, the President has spoken with Mr. Bezos in advance of this visit, so the answer to that is, yes.  And, in general, we did make --

Q    So he did tell him that this is what he was going to be proposing?

MR. CARNEY:  I believe that's right, in broad terms.  Members of the administration, the senior team of the administration have been in contact with leaders on the Hill and key players on the Hill, as well as with business leaders and other leaders about this idea in the last 18 hours or so -- 12 hours -- 18 hours or so to notify them about the President’s proposal.

Q    Republicans say they’ve always supported business tax code reform in conjunction with the individual tax code reform, and that proposing one without the other is a nonstarter.  So given that the White House has known that that's the Republican position for a long time, why propose changing the business tax code without talking about the individual tax code?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, what’s been a nonstarter is a Republican proposal to give massive tax cuts to the wealthy as part of their individual tax reform.  What the President has always said in the past is that we would have to address tax reform in a way that, in addition to reforming in a revenue-neutral way our business tax code, that we would have to make our income -- our individual tax code more fair, not less fair, which has traditionally been the approach that Republicans have taken.  And that has been a nonstarter with the President and with the American people.

What the President is proposing is taking business tax reform -- something Republicans say they want, businesses say they want -- and coupling it with investments in things that Republicans also have traditionally said they want, which is investments in infrastructure, investments in manufacturing, investments in education, because those investments are key to creating jobs now and in the future for the middle class.

The bargain here should be a bargain for the middle class, not a bargain for a party or a faction on Capitol Hill, but what can we do that most benefits the middle class now and in the near future.  And that's what the President is proposing.

Q    So who did he talk to on the Hill before rolling this out?

MR. CARNEY:  The President's team spoke to a number of members and staff on Capitol Hill, as well as, as I mentioned, some business leaders and other leaders who have an interest and stake in this.

Q    Any names you want to throw out?

MR. CARNEY:  I'm not -- I haven't gotten the question.  But I will note that the White House did reach out to Speaker Boehner's office and as of about a half an hour ago had not yet heard back.  And we reached out yesterday. 

Q    You did reach out to them yesterday?

MR. CARNEY:  To Speaker Boehner's office.

Q    You never heard back?

MR. CARNEY:  Never heard back.

Q    They're saying the first word they got of this was through the media.  But miscommunication, I guess?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, again, an effort was made to reach Mr. Boehner's staff yesterday.  And as of about a half an hour ago we had not heard back from them.

Q    Does he not return calls frequently to the White House?

MR. CARNEY:  I'll just say that that call has not been returned.

Q    Who reached out to Boehner's office?

MR. CARNEY:  A senior member of the White House staff.

Q    Who?

MR. CARNEY:  Miguel Rodriguez, legislative director.

Q    Can we ask about the nature of the facility he is visiting?  There's been obviously some discussion of both the wage level of the new jobs that Amazon is talking about, the nature of the work being particularly exhausting.  And then, lastly and sort of I guess separately, that independent booksellers point out that Amazon has gone a long way toward putting them out of business.  How would you sort of react to those three issues?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, what the President is doing by visiting this facility is highlighting a company that's part of a broader effort here that is bringing about the creation of jobs in the United States.  And there have been a lot of jobs created by Amazon, and that's obviously a good thing.

Q    They're low-wage jobs though.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, again, the President supports raising the minimum wage.  And that is a cornerstone of his economic proposals that you've heard from him in the past and you'll hear in the future.  What the fact is, is that our minimum wage in this country is at its lowest level in real terms since Ronald Reagan was President, and we ought to address that.  And the President will speak about that frequently in the coming weeks and months, because it's an essential part of his economic vision.

Q    And the sellers?

MR. CARNEY:  I just don't know enough about the marketplace there.  What the President is focused on is creating jobs here in America for Americans.  And he very much looks forward to his visit.

Q    Do you know of any plans by the intelligence community to declassify more information this week?

MR. CARNEY:  I have no updates for you on that process that you refer to.

12:04 P.M. EDT

White House Shareables