Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney aboard Air Force One en route Bettendorf, Iowa
11:30 A.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: How is everyone today, good? Happy to be here? Awesome. Okay. Just a quick bit of background on the President’s trip to the Alcoa Davenport Works Factory in Bettendorf, Iowa.
Today President Obama will travel to the Alcoa Davenport Works Factory in Bettendorf, Iowa to highlight how the continued growth and advancement of the American manufacturing sector is critical to competing in the 21st century global economy. He will also build on last Friday’s event at Carnegie Mellon University with the announcement that Alcoa is joining the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, a national effort to bring together industry, universities, and federal government to invest in the emerging technologies that will create high-quality manufacturing jobs and enhance our global competitiveness.
Alcoa, the world’s leading aluminum producer, is at the forefront of American innovation. In the 125 years since the company was founded Alcoa innovations have opened up entire markets, industries and products from the beverage can to the space shuttle to the iPod. The company’s Davenport Works Factory is the manufacturing hub of its $3 billion aerospace business, producing advanced products for all major aircraft, including Air Force One.
In addition to aerospace, the Davenport Works plant also produces armor products for the U.S. military and automotive solutions that are enabling lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles. The Davenport Works Factory currently employs 2,200 people, having rehired all the employees that were laid off during the economic crisis and adding 240 new jobs since December 2010. The plant has been continually reinvented since its opening in 1948, with $200 million of investment over the past 10 years alone.
While at Davenport Works, President Obama will see two of the plant’s aerospace machines and an exhibit of Alcoa products. Following the tour he will deliver remarks to 350 Alcoa employees and guests.
Q Yesterday you kindly enumerated some of the President’s priorities in the budget talks. I was wondering if we’d get a similar list or an addition to that list today.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t have any new priorities to enunciate for you. What they were yesterday they remain today. We believe that there is the opportunity here for substantial compromise on a significant deficit reduction agreement that is done in a way that’s balanced and allows for the economy to continue to grow and create jobs even as we get our fiscal house in order.
The President, as you know, had two meetings yesterday with the leaders in the Senate and obviously looks forward to continuing discussions going forward.
Q Can you give any sense of how the meeting with Senator McConnell went last night?
MR. CARNEY: Well, importantly, they agreed to continue talking. It was a useful meeting and consultations will continue with the President and with other -- with the Vice President and with others on our team and with leaders of Congress, and members of the negotiating team and Congress.
Q Was there any specific progress made in the McConnell meeting other than the agreement to continue meeting?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not prepared to read out.
Q But there was; you’re just not prepared to read it out?
MR. CARNEY: I’m just not giving any more details. We’re not going to do detailed readouts of these meetings. So that’s the most I’m going to say about it.
Q When will the President be involved next?
MR. CARNEY: I believe -- I can say that he is having a meeting tomorrow with Senate Democratic leaders at the White House. It was actually a meeting scheduled last week for this week, but he will have one tomorrow.
Q What has been decided in terms of process? When the Biden talks collapsed, there’s a need to regroup with the President leading the talks. How often are they going to meet? Is there a structure that they agreed to?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a structure to provide to you. I don’t think I would agree that the Biden talks collapsed. I think the Biden talks made significant progress. It was always the case that all the issues would not be resolved in those negotiations. They found a significant amount of -- significant areas of compromise, and those negotiations were conducted in good faith and we believe made a lot of progress.
We are continuing to consult with congressional leaders and moving forward towards what we believe can be the achievement of a significant deficit reduction deal.
Q Any meetings planned this week with Republicans?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any other meetings to announce today.
Q With the recesses coming up and everything, the schedule is going to be difficult. When are you going to get to the period where they’re having marathon talks?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I don’t want to foreshadow or predict a schedule that I’m not prepared to announce of any kind of talks, whether marathon or sprint talks. But we will continue to have conversations and meetings, without much elaboration about the details of what’s being discussed there simply because we believe that enhances the prospects of reaching an agreement.
Q So with McConnell, they agreed to keep talking but they didn’t agree on a next date, or you’re just not prepared to tell us when the next date --
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any announcements to make about a further meeting or conversation beyond the one tomorrow with Senate Democrats.
Q What’s the President’s reaction to Governor Blagojevich’s conviction?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a reaction from him on that. I haven’t heard one.
Q Have you heard him say anything about it?
MR. CARNEY: Not a word.
Q Is he aware of it?
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t asked him. I think he probably reads the newspapers and watches television and checks the Bloomberg wire.
Q Jay, to what extent is this trip aimed at pushing back on the Republican criticism of the President’s economic record? They’ve been descending on the state and emphasizing their --
MR. CARNEY: It has absolutely nothing to do with that. Again, I just read to you a little preview of what the President is doing here in visiting Alcoa’s Davenport Works. This is completely tied to the President’s visit last week to Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh because we believe that the economic future of this country depends so significantly on advanced manufacturing. So this is designed to highlight a company and a site that is doing good work, that’s hiring new employees and engaged in the kind of innovation that would propel the economy forward in the 21st century.
Q What role will they play in the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I just announced that they’re joining. I’m not sure specifically what role they’ll play.
Q On the IMF, what was the decision behind endorsing the European candidate as opposed to a developing nation candidate as some would have --
MR. CARNEY: As you know, Secretary Geithner put out a statement about our support for Christine Lagarde. And as we said all along, we supported a process that was laid out by the IMF for choosing someone new and finding the best possible candidate. And we endorse Ms. Lagarde for that reason. I would note that Russia and China, two emerging economies, support Christine Lagarde and we think she’s an excellent choice.
Q Does this clear the path for Whitman then?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any other endorsements or statements or comments to make about other potential appointees.
Q Is it the administration’s view that they should get to decide who the number two at the IMF is? Has that changed?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any updates on our view about how the IMF should be structured.
Q What is the source on the -- you said Alcoa is hiring 240 workers this summer. I’ve seen 80 in like local press.
MR. CARNEY: I believe the source is Alcoa. You should check with Alcoa.
Q Since December of last year, right?
MR. CARNEY: I forget what I said.
Q Do you think this is a big success story or a modest one? I mean, he’s traveling to Iowa. I mean, there are --
MR. CARNEY: We travel all over the country --
Q I mean in terms of Alcoa.
MR. CARNEY: It’s a significant success. Look, it’s about the fact that it’s rehired all its workers that were laid off during the recession. It’s expanding, hiring new workers. And most importantly, it’s engaged in the kind of advanced manufacturing that is so important for driving this economy forward. The President firmly believes -- so far the recovery that we have had has been propelled in significant part by a rebound in manufacturing in the United States. And the President feels very strongly that advanced manufacturing of the like that you’re seeing at Alcoa Davenport Works site is an integral part of the future for America’s economy in the 21st century.
Q How important is it when the President visits a factory like this -- he gets a lot of eco data from capable advisors. How important is it for him to kind of get his finger on the pulse this way? Does it help inform and shape his views?
MR. CARNEY: Well, it does. I mean, there’s no substitute for getting out and talking to people outside of Washington. It’s not to disparage Washington but simply an acknowledgement of the fact that whether it’s at a business or in someone’s backyard or the kind of events he does all over the country, you can get a direct sense from the people that you talk to -- that he talks to -- about what their concerns are, what their hopes are, how they’re building their local economy and what their ideas are. And the President presses us all the time to get out there as much as possible, as much as the schedule allows.
Q So with that kind of direct contact, will that include where Alcoa is going in terms of their earnings?
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry?
Q Where Alcoa is going in terms of their second quarter earnings, which I’m sure you know they are the first to report.
MR. CARNEY: I didn’t know that. It’s specialized information -- and I don’t know whether that will be part of his discussion.
Q How detailed does it get? When he’s talking to CEOs at these events, how --
MR. CARNEY: I think it depends on -- I mean, I can’t predict in this case, but I think the President likes to dive deep and is very interested in -- particularly in advanced manufacturing. So I know from his conversations last week in Pittsburgh that he likes to gather a lot of information and hear what’s going on on the ground.
Q Do you know the President’s reaction to what happened in New York over the weekend -- the New York gay marriage proposal passing? What was the President’s reaction to that?
MR. CARNEY: We put out a statement. I don’t have any more of a reaction from him. I mean, he spoke, as you know, on Thursday night in New York on the eve of the passage of that piece of legislation. So I don’t have anything else beyond that.
Q The way you previewed the speech, it sounds very upbeat about the manufacturing sector and it has been a source of strength for the economy. But with other economies around the world such as China slowing, there’s a real fear among economists that the manufacturing sector is going to slow, too. Is the President -- are his remarks going to be tempered at all by some of the weak data that we’ve seen lately?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t want to preview with any specificity what his remarks will be. But I think that we are so focused on the economy precisely because the President is very aware of the fact that we’re not fully recovered, that we have a long way to go, that we need to continue to grow, we need to continue to create jobs. And we need to make sure that we’re doing things in Washington that enhance those goals, enhance the prospect of achieving those goals, and do not in any way diminish them.
So that’s why his approach to deficit reduction, for example, is to craft it in a way that’s significant so that we can demonstrate to the American people and to global markets that we’re getting our fiscal house in order, but do it in a way that does not reverse the economic progress that we have seen and that does not unfairly burden any segment of society or sector of business.
Q You said that they rehired -- it was hard to hear -- that they rehired some folks that they had to lay off. Could you repeat that again?
MR. CARNEY: They have rehired all the employees that were laid off during the recent economic crisis and have added 240 new jobs since December of last year.
Q So 240 new jobs on top of that?
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q Does Alcoa make the metal for the 757 as well as the 747?
MR. CARNEY: That’s a good question. As you know, Air Force One is a designation. It’s usually the other plane. I can find that out for you.
That’s it, guys? All right, thank you. And look, we’re still up in the air. We haven’t landed.
END 11:43 A.M.