Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs aboard Air Force One en route Cleveland, Ohio
1:12 P.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: All right, fire away.
Q Mr. Boehner has come out with a proposal that would freeze taxes at their current level and put spending at 2008 levels. What’s the administration’s response? Is that something you can at least work with?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I want to be clear. I’ve heard Congressman Boehner on many, many occasions talk about making the tax cuts for the upper end, for the wealthy, permanent. That’s his plan, and I think that continues to be his plan. You’re going to hear the President talk about the fact that giving a $100,000 tax break to a millionaire, at a cost of $700 million for 10 years, that’s not getting our fiscal house in order. We can’t afford that. That’s what the President will talk about today.
And again, I continue -- I saw part of what Congressman Boehner said on TV. My question, I guess, for him is, are they abandoning the permanent or are they going to -- are they just doing a two-year proposal? I’ve seen him say permanent so many times I tend to believe that’s what he’s working off of.
Q Is the President willing to compromise at all on the tax cuts? There seems to be some question. On the upper-income tax cuts, would he --
MR. GIBBS: You know, look, I’ve been with the President since he ran for the Senate in 2004 and we were asked if we supported the middle-class cuts in 2004, and the President said yes. Our position has been -- and we’ve talked about this for many months -- and that is keep the tax cuts for the middle class who are struggling in this economy and, quite frankly, were struggling before the economy collapsed in September of 2008. Their wages had gone down; their hours had gone up for many, many years. The President will discuss that today.
But we are facing a budget deficit that is not going to be fixed by handing out $700 billion to the wealthy. That’s what the President -- that’s the President’s position on this and that’s what he’ll talk about today.
Q That is -- what?
MR. GIBBS: Our position is tax cuts for the middle class. Theirs is tax cuts for millionaires.
Q But is there any talk of maybe moving that upper limit up from $250,000? People have thrown out $500,000. Is that something you guys are even discussing?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I’m aware of, no.
Q -- some Hill Democrats who are advocating spending -- making that --
MR. GIBBS: Look, I don’t know if anybody is -- I don’t know if anybody at the White House has talked to anybody up on the Hill today. I mean, again, the President’s position on this has been clear.
Q Is there any reaction from the White House to the BP report? It seems like they’re trying to put a lot of the blame for the spill on a lot of other companies.
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, obviously we’re looking at the report and there’s an active, ongoing investigation as to what went wrong that day in April. Our focus is on finding out -- and again, I talked about this yesterday -- we’ve got -- the blowout preventer is now -- we have the ability to look at it, add that to part of the investigation. And our job is to find out what went wrong and hold those responsible accountable for the damage that’s been done, and that’s what the administration will do.
Q Rahm for mayor?
MR. GIBBS: Are you signing up? (Laughter.) You know, I think many of you saw what David said on the morning shows. Look, obviously, something like that doesn’t come around a lot. Mayor Daley has been there since 1989. And I presume that Rahm will take some time and make a decision about that. It’s no surprise that he was -- that’s a job he’s been interested in.
I will say a couple of things. One, it’s understandable -- I’m not from Chicago, but having spent a lot of time there over the past seven or eight years, it’s a city you can fall in love with very quickly. But secondly I would say, our day ends with and begins with a meeting in Rahm’s office. We had that meeting yesterday and we were focused on a series of things that lie in front of us, and started it at 7:30 a.m. this morning with the same meeting.
So I think Rahm right now is focused on the enormous number of tasks that we have in front of us as an administration. I have no doubt that he’ll take some time to think about what he wants to do with his future, but I think his focus right now is on his job as chief of staff.
Q Do you know if he’s talked to the President about it, or to you about it?
MR. GIBBS: I have not talked to him about it. I have not -- I don't know the answer to the second --
Q Robert, do you expect -- Rahm may leave, the midterm elections are coming up, people are exhausted, it might be a natural time for some staff turnover. Should we expect that after the midterms?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I mean, look, I don’t have any news for you on that. I would say -- look, I think -- I do not think it is surprising that that is a time in which people who have given two years of service return to things that they were doing beforehand. I don’t doubt that that will happen in -- it will happen in this administration like it has in many of the previous.
I will say, too, for those that were on the campaign, this is sort of the end of year four, not necessarily the end of year two. So I think there’s no doubt that there will be people that return to their lives and their families and -- but we’ve got a while before that. We’ve got at least two months before this election -- or about two months before this election before we get to a lot of those decisions.
Q Senator Bennet of Colorado is quoted in The Hill as opposing the $50 billion infrastructure measure that the President rolled out a couple days ago. Any thoughts on that, and do you have any concern about holding Democrats together on that portion of the package?
MR. GIBBS: I honestly did not see the article. I don’t know what his reasoning was. Look, the President’s proposal for an increase in infrastructure investment has to do with the fact that 20 percent of those that are unemployed used to be employed -- they’re skilled labor and used to be employed in the construction industry. But because of the housing boom, the demand for new houses is not nearly as great, and you find a lot of these people who -- a lot of these workers who can’t find the skilled labor that they’re used to doing.
So it’s a long-term proposal. It’s about investing in not just skilled labor but investing in rebuilding America. And I think we’ll have -- I think if you look at the number of people that over the course of the past two years have said they support more infrastructure spending, I think you’d find the vast majority of Congress. The question is whether or not we can get things done because people are willing to move forward rather than play games.
All right, guys? Get buckled up.
Q Thanks, Robert.
MR. GIBBS: Thanks, guys.
1:19 P.M. EDT