Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 7/8/2011
11:39 A.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good morning, everyone. Thanks for coming to an earlier than usual briefing on this Friday.
I have no opening announcements to make, so I’ll go straight to questions.
Q Can you talk about how the jobs numbers affect the negotiations on the debt and deficit?
MR. CARNEY: I think the -- today’s disappointing jobs report is a reminder and a call to action. I think, as the President just said in the Rose Garden, one of the reasons why we need to come together in a bipartisan way to do something significant on deficit reduction and dealing with our long-term debt issues is because we need to put our economy on a sounder footing in the 21st century so we can continue to grow and create jobs.
One of the reasons why we need to do that in the absolute near term is because there has been some uncertainty created by the doubt around whether or not we would in fact fulfill our obligations, we would in fact raise the debt ceiling.
So I think it just adds to the urgency of the moment that the President talked about yesterday and earlier this week about how we need to work hard, work diligently, come together, put our absolutist positions aside, and compromise to do something for the American people.
Q What evidence do you have that there’s a direct connection between uncertainty and a failure to hire more?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that there is -- there are a lot of -- there’s a lot of economic analysis out there, not just coming from the administration, but in fact disproportionately from outside, that suggests that this is one of -- one cause. And we’re not overstating it at all. The President cited a number of issues that have had an impact on growth and job creation, including the situation in Europe, including things completely out of our control like natural disasters -- the tsunami and earthquake in Japan that disrupted supply chains -- and other issues.
So one thing we can do something about immediately, clearly -- and we are with great intensity and urgency -- is to move these negotiations forward and to reach an agreement.
Q And does it create an argument for including more stimulative measures in the deal like those that the President talked about today?
MR. CARNEY: Well, what the President spoke about today were things that Congress can do right now, separately and independently from a deal. Or people have talked about what elements could be included in a deal.
I mean, some -- let me just start with some of the things that the President said that we could do right now that aren’t being discussed as potential elements of a grand bargain, if you will.
Q Should they be discussed as elements of --
MR. CARNEY: Well, patent reform is already there. It’s ready to be acted on and could be signed into law. Infrastructure bank -- enabling and incentivizing private business to help build, rebuild our bridges and highways and airports and sewage systems to put some of these construction workers back to work, that is something that Congress could take action on separately.
Obviously the free trade agreements, the three free trade agreements that collectively can create or support 70,000 American jobs could be acted on right now. Those things can be done. The payroll tax cut that the President talked about and that he supports extending, so that Americans continue to have more money in their pocket next year and have the certainty of knowing that that payroll tax cut will continue into next year could be acted on, or it could be part of some -- of a bigger agreement.
I think these things are worth doing, whether they are part of an agreement or not, and in particular the payroll tax cut, which is the only of those three which really makes sense as part of an agreement as far as I understand it.
Q I wonder if you could talk about Sunday’s talks, whether you expect them to be brief, lengthy, whether it’s likely a draft agreement might come from them?
MR. CARNEY: We will get to you more information about the timing, anticipation of the duration, location in terms of rooms -- I mean, information I understand that you want as it becomes available. And I will -- in terms of what we anticipate at this time will happen is, as the President said yesterday, that having allowed some time since the first meeting for staffs and lawmakers and members of the administration to continue to have discussions and negotiations and to dive into more detail, that come Sunday we should be able to have, from the participants, a clearer sense of bottom lines. And those participants should expect to then engage in some pretty hard bargaining so that we can move the ball forward, we can come closer to reaching an agreement.
I’m not prepared to say that we’ll produce something Sunday. I think I wouldn’t anticipate that, necessarily, in terms of the final product at all. I would simply say that we do expect progress to be made, as it is being made in between these two meetings.
Q Is there a concrete goal for Sunday, or is there something that you could look at as success for Sunday’s --
MR. CARNEY: I think there is a concrete goal in the sense that we will have a much clearer sense of whether or not the significant deal that the President talked about and the President made clear he supports is possible. And that comes with a sort of -- getting a clearer picture about what participants are willing to do, the kind of compromises they’re willing to make on behalf of the American people; their willingness to put sort of more narrow political or ideological considerations aside and to embrace the idea that a larger compromise, one that is balanced, delivers a positive that outweighs the pain associated with making compromise that you don’t necessarily want to make, whether it’s Democrats on spending reductions that could be painful, or Republicans taking on the issue of revenues.
Q The items that the President outlined today that Congress could do right now, he’s been talking about a number of them -- patent reform, trade deals and infrastructure bank -- for a long time. This is not --
MR. CARNEY: Well, for several weeks, some of them, but yes.
Q Some of them for several months, right? So the trade deals -- in any case --
MR. CARNEY: Well, the trade deals have not been in front of Congress for that long. We’re saying that they are there now and they should be acted on right now.
Q Okay. What has been the holdup? He’s the leader of the free world, he’s not some guy on the street. What has been the holdup? Why has this not happened, despite his declared wishes?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you point out, he is the President of the United States. He’s the chief executive. He is not a leader or a member of Congress. And Congress -- these are actions that Congress -- in terms of the free trade agreements, we have negotiated the agreements, re-negotiated them, brought them to Congress as a package, with a compromise on TAA that was worked out in a bipartisan way with the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee -- or Ways and Means Committee, rather -- and that is now in Congress’s court. So it could be acted on. Patent reform is working its way through Congress. It needs to be acted on.
And what I think the point is, is that there’s no silver bullet. There’s no single piece of legislation that will somehow address all of our economic concerns. We just need to act continually to take the actions that we can take that will have a positive impact on our economy and job creation, and those -- the four he mentioned are ones that he thinks and that have bipartisan support and therefore could pass and become law relatively easily compared to all the other things that we have to do that are so hard to negotiate.
Q Right, but when the President wants something to pass Congress and he really wants it -- whether it’s Wall Street reform or the health care bill or whatever -- he has a way of pushing it, of having it happen. What is the White House going to do today to have any of these items acted upon?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President is going to go out to the Rose Garden and call on Congress to act on them. One of the things that the President has that’s unique is a rather substantial bully pulpit. And he utilized that today, as he has in the past, to press Congress to act on these measures.
Now, we acknowledge, in part because we have called on Congress to make this happen, that Congress is now engaged -- and the Senate having canceled its recess, the House canceling a coming recess -- in the process of working assiduously to get a bipartisan compromise on deficit reduction and debt reduction.
However, Congress, like the President, can walk and chew gum at the same time. And so we call on them to take the actions that we can take that are there for the taking because they have bipartisan support and to do the things that they can to help grow the economy and create jobs.
Q Okay. And lastly, comments by senior advisor David Plouffe were criticized today -- earlier this week. He said, “The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers. People won’t vote based on the unemployment rate. They’re going to vote based on how do I feel about my own situation. Do I believe the President makes decisions based on me and my family?” And Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney said that those comments were -- he suggested they were out of touch. And he said that if Plouffe worked for him, he would fire him.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I understand that we’re engaged in a -- or rather the Republicans are engaged in a primary campaign trying to get some media attention. I don’t know where the voters that some other folks might be talking to -- but most people do not sit around their kitchen table and analyze GDP and unemployment numbers. They talk about how they feel their own economic situation is, and they measure it by whether they have a job, whether they have job security; whether their house -- whether they’re meeting their house payments, whether their mortgage is underwater; whether they have the money to pay for their children’s education or they don’t; whether they’re dealing with a sick parent and can afford that or whether they can’t.
They do not sit around analyzing the Wall Street Journal or other -- or Bloomberg to look at the -- analyze the numbers. Now, maybe some folks do, but not most Americans. I think that’s the point David Plouffe was making. That’s the point the President was making just moments ago in his statement in the Rose Garden.
Q Jay, the President said today that -- he talked about ups and downs on the way to a recovery. In light of these jobs numbers, does that mean that he sees this as more than just a bump in the road, as it’s been put before?
MR. CARNEY: I think that we -- when the President was sworn into office, the United States was in economic freefall. The economy was contracting dramatically. The economy was shedding jobs at the rate of more than 700,000 per month.
The actions that the President and the Congress took arrested that decline and began to reverse it. We have seen economic growth. We have seen private sector job growth -- more than 2 million jobs over 16 months. The problem is that the path, as we’ve climbed out of the hole, has not always been a direct trajectory. There’s been months -- I mean, you’ve heard us when we’ve had jobs reports that have been very positive and we have not sought to over-interpret them as signs that happy days are here again.
We have gone month by month and always said, no matter what the jobs reports are, that more work needs to be done; that this President will not be satisfied until every American who’s out there looking for a job can get one. And because of the slowing economic growth -- we’ve had positive growth, but because it has slowed, that has a direct impact on job creation, as Austan Goolsbee, the President’s chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers said this morning.
That’s why we need to do the things we can do to spur growth and, therefore, spur job creation and keep our nose to the grindstone and keep doing the things collectively -- both the administration and Congress -- that we can to help the private sector take measures to hire more people and put them back to work. And that’s a daily process. And it doesn’t just -- it’s not something we think about on the monthly -- the day that the monthly jobs report numbers come out or when the housing numbers come out. It’s something we do daily. And it doesn’t really change. It doesn’t change at all based on the numbers.
Q Pointing, though, to the 2 million jobs -- and we heard the President do that as well -- I mean, isn’t that like someone who’s sick right now saying, but I was healthier a few months ago? I mean, isn’t it irrelevant if you’re quite -- if you’re sick right now?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President made the point that if you -- you base your own sense of your economic security on your own such situation. Do you have a job? Do you fear -- do you have insecurity in the fact that -- the job that you do have that you might lose?
And the point is -- the point he was making is that the terrible recession that this country went through, worst recession since the Great Depression, caused the economy to shed 8 million jobs. That is the economy that confronted this administration and the Congress that came in in January of 2009. And it was a situation that was continuing to hurdle downwards.
So the President acted, the Congress acted, and took measures to halt and reverse the direction that we were headed in. But if you’re going down like this and you’ve begun to come up, we still have a long way to go, and the President has said that. He said it earlier this year when we were creating jobs at a clip of 200,000-plus per month and he said it today when the numbers were disappointing. And he’ll say it, I’m sure, every month that he’s in office. As long as there are Americans out there looking for work but not finding it, that will be his approach.
Q Did he watch the shuttle launch?
MR. CARNEY: You know, I left him after the statement. I don’t know if -- sometimes there are TVs on in the outer Oval. He may have seen some of it, but I just don’t know.
Q Thanks, Jay. Speaker Boehner’s office says that the economy now has stalled. Do you agree? Does the White House agree with him?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the economy --
Q Recovery -- the recovery has stalled.
MR. CARNEY: The recovery is fragile. Growth is weak.
Q Has it stalled?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not an economist. The fact is that there was net positive job creation and 50,000-plus private sector job creation -- far too little. So -- but has it slowed? No question.
Q Not stalled?
MR. CARNEY: Stalled means stopped. And I’m not an economist, but the report we saw today showed positive job creation, just disappointingly little positive job creation.
Q Is there anything you can tell us about the staff -- the staff work that’s going on now? Is this at the chief of staff level or is more at the green eye shade level? And are they putting together really specific numbers? Are they putting together a $4 trillion plan and a $2.5 trillion plan, and who is involved? What details can you give us? Without getting into the substance, of course.
MR. CARNEY: Sure. All the players in this administration are involved. That includes the Vice President, the chief of staff, Jack Lew, Gene Sperling, Bruce Reed. They are having conversations with members and staff members on Capitol Hill and sharing information and trading ideas and trying to put together -- trying to work out what an agreement might look like. And without going into details about what kinds of information they’re trading back and forth, that is what is happening and what the President asked to happen when -- after the last meeting of the leaders ended. And that will continue right up, I’m sure, through Sunday when they all gather again here in the White House.
Q And while that’s going on, is the President continuing to confer with leaders on the Hill?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the House Minority Leader was just here, as you know, so the answer is yes. And I don’t want to leave out a very important player in all this -- is Rob Nabors as well.
Q And is he continuing to confer with the Republicans -- Boehner and other Republicans -- while this goes on?
MR. CARNEY: No, I will not answer that with any specifics, except that the President made clear yesterday that he would be engaging in conversations. The House Minority Leader was here. I’m sure he will have other conversations, but I don’t have any to read out to you or to preview for you.
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q Democrats and Republicans each seem to be using the jobs figures today to advance their own positions on dealing with the debt and deficit. Republicans say the figures show it’s not the time to raise taxes. Tell me why they’re wrong.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that what you see is obviously lawmakers from both parties have their preferred positions, and what the President has said is that we all need to set aside our absolutist preferred positions and come together and reach a compromise, because that’s what the American people expect.
I would simply say that there are certainly folks on the other side -- and many economists -- who would say that you have to be very careful about significantly reducing spending at a time of a fragile economic recovery.
And this is precisely why the President believes it’s so important to do this in a balanced way, because if it’s an imbalanced approach, you risk doing harm to this recovery. You risk slowing down further economic growth. You risk slowing down further job creation. So the President seeks a balanced approach not for ideological reasons, but because he believes that it would be the best for our economy. And he believes that it would be the most fair, because no segment of society -- not seniors, not disabled kids and their parents -- should bear the brunt of the sacrifice that is required to achieve the kind of deficit reduction we all believe is necessary, the significant deficit reduction that we think, done correctly and done in a balanced way, will actually be positive for the economy.
Q Speaker Boehner today rejected the idea of tying Trade Adjustment Authority to the free trade agreements. He says four separate bills. Do you want it attached because you feel it can’t pass on its own?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the agreement that was presented was worked out in a bipartisan way. Trade Adjustment Authority has been supported by members of both parties for years. And we believe it is very important to provide that kind of assistance to workers who have been displaced by free trade agreements. And that has been a notion supported, again, by members of both parties for a long time.
Q But not on its own, apparently.
MR. CARNEY: I mean, again, the arrangement that has been put forward before Congress was reached in a bipartisan way. So we think that it merits bipartisan support in the whole of Congress.
Q The President’s comment about putting out-of-work construction workers back to work rebuilding the infrastructure sounds like another stimulus package. Is it?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’re talking about an idea that has a lot of bipartisan support, which is an infrastructure bank, which is basically a means of incentivizing private business to build the roads and highways and sewer systems and repair the airports and things. So that is the approach that the President thinks is best. And it happens to be the approach that has significant bipartisan support, in theory at least. Obviously it takes action by Congress to make it happen.
Q If I can ask one more, tell me why the meeting Sunday is apparently so late -- 6:00 p.m. we’re hearing. Is that to put it after --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t have a time to give you precisely. I mean, maybe you’re hearing something about time frames that are being bandied about.
Q I mean, just tell me why it’s so late.
MR. CARNEY: I’m not prepared to acknowledge that it’s so late. I think that a time will be set based on what works in terms of people’s schedules and what makes sense in terms of the process that has been ongoing since the last meeting. I want to make sure that you guys get as much of your Sunday as possible.
Q I’ll be here, just for the record. Over the course of the last several days, private economists have been upgrading -- or towards the optimistic side on the jobs numbers. And today’s numbers were not only a disappointment, but a surprise. Was the President surprised?
MR. CARNEY: I didn’t get that sense. I think that we are very realistic about what we can forecast and what we can know in advance. The President is very focused on -- we were all aware here that economic growth had slowed. That’s been evident in the GDP numbers. We’ve been aware of all the economic data that’s been out there.
And it’s true that there have been some more positive signs in recent weeks than we had seen in the previous weeks. But this is an imprecise science. So we don’t get too excited about predictions that are positive or too distraught about predictions that are negative. We deal with the world as it is and take action accordingly.
Q Yesterday, Leader Pelosi left very little doubt in comments to reporters in the Capitol that Social Security, Medicare, entitlements should not be on this table. They should be on another table, she said. Did she succeed in talking the President into taking them off this table in their meeting today?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the point we have made all along -- and this goes back a ways with the President -- is that we need to get savings out of entitlement programs. He made that clear when he gave his address at George Washington University and put forward his framework. That is our position. And we think it is absolutely necessary.
But let’s make clear some of the distinctions here. We believe in -- that we can find savings in Medicaid and Medicare out of the cost of health care, not by transferring all of the burden onto seniors. We certainly don’t think in order to pay for tax cuts or to balance the budget that we need to essentially end Medicare as we know it and voucherize it and shift costs of up to $6,000 per senior per year to pay for it. That’s not the approach we support, and the President has made that clear since his GW -- so we think that we -- absolutely, the President has made clear that entitlement savings have to be part of a balanced approach, and they will be.
Q So the political pain that the President speaks of, that’s the pain that House Democrats are going to be feeling, because they’re very upset --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think -- the short answer to that is yes, that there is no question that for -- that these programs matter a lot to Democrats, as they should, because they matter a lot to the American people, and Democrats deserve a lot of credit for having helped create them and having protected them and strengthen them over the years.
And we continue to take that approach. The approach that the President suggests, even as we need to find savings in these programs, is to do it in a way that strengthens the core commitments that the programs make, and ensures their integrity farther into the future rather than ending them in order to pay for tax cuts or deficit reduction.
But absolutely there are tough choices here that in a different world we may not make. And we expect Republicans to do the same -- to make tough choices that in their perfect world they would not have to make. But we’re not in anybody’s perfect world.
Q And finally, I probably won’t be the only one here on Sunday, so -- both sides seem to be de-emphasizing, or lowering expectations, for the outcome of this meeting on Sunday. The Speaker, after telling in his conference yesterday that it was a 50/50 chance that something would be done in the next few days, today says nothing is imminent. Today you say you’ll have a much clearer sense that a deal is possible. Is there a deal possible by Sunday?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’ve said all along that the parameters of what a deal looks like are pretty clear. There are a lot of pieces to it that have to be worked out, and a lot of disagreements yet to be resolved. And if those disagreements can’t be bridged, then a significant deal won’t be achieved.
The President has made clear that he thinks it’s absolutely vital that we do everything we can to try to do that -- to try to bridge those disagreements, to accept pain, to accept compromise, and to do it because that’s what the American people believe that we should do.
So I don’t -- look, we have been pretty steady, optimistic, while recognizing that a lot of differences have to be bridged. Our position -- our cautious optimism hasn’t changed in the last 24 hours.
Q So this isn’t a make-or-break weekend.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t think we have any time to waste. August 2nd looms large, and the fact of that deadline is immutable and, as we discussed yesterday, that you have to work back from that deadline to deal with the actions that Congress needs to take in putting together a package and getting it through Congress. So there’s not much cushion.
So this weekend is vital to the prospects of achieving an agreement, but that doesn’t mean that even if we are to get one that the t’s will be crossed and the i’s will be dotted on Sunday.
Q Jay, just to get a better sense of how things might play out on Sunday, the President has said he wants people to arrive with their bottom-line proposals, and then the hard bargaining can start. So will the hard bargaining start on Sunday, or is this going to be a forum to talk about bottom-line proposals, and the hard bargaining will start in future days?
MR. CARNEY: I think we should accept what the President said -- we need to know what people’s bottom lines are, and we need to then begin to do the hard bargaining at the leadership level to try to achieve a compromise, but I think --
Q On Sunday?
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q And I’m wondering if -- what are some examples of absolutist or maximist ideas, since you use those terms so often?
MR. CARNEY: I think we all know what they are, and that’s when you say no way, no how, never going to happen on any particular issue that is obviously essential to a balanced approach -- no way, no how, nothing on entitlements; no way, no how, nothing on revenues; no way, no how, nothing on defense spending; no way, no how, nothing on non-defense discretionary.
There’s a constituency for no way, no how on all those groups. And what you get out of all that is nothing.
So clearly that cannot hold. And any balanced approach that takes all of those elements, as it must, to put together a compromise that achieves significant deficit reduction, requires enough people who might hold a no way, no how position on one segment of that to accept some compromise that you can build basically a coalition of people willing to come together and pass something into law.
Q Thanks. Does the President believe that raising the debt ceiling will reduce the unemployment rate?
MR. CARNEY: The President believes that we need to give certainty to the American people and to the global marketplace about the fact that the United States of America will, as it always has since its creation, honor its obligations and pay its bills. We also need to give certainty that we are getting our fiscal house in order, and that out of that double-layered certainty, confidence will be created that will help spur economic growth and create jobs.
Q So, indirectly --
MR. CARNEY: It is -- yes, indirect. It is not this dollar figure of raising the debt ceiling will create a certain number of jobs, obviously. There are other measures we can take, like extending the payroll tax cut, which economists can -- are more able to measure potential impacts on the economy directly like job creation and economic growth.
Q And I wanted to ask you that also. Does the President believe that extending the payroll tax cut will create jobs?
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q The President spoke the other day at the Twitter town hall about how early underestimating -- I almost said misunderestimating -- underestimating the sort of impact and longevity of the housing crisis. So as part of the negotiations on Sunday or going forward, is he interested in doing something housing-specific as part of this broader package, even though it wouldn’t have any direct tie on deficit reduction? Is that now in the mix?
MR. CARNEY: There has not been, to my knowledge, discussion of housing as part of this. But it is important to caveat that by saying that there’s a lot of jigsaw puzzle pieces on the table, then maybe one will fit that has to do with housing. But, again, I have not heard that.
I think it’s important -- I’m sure some of you reported on, and if not, read or saw reports about the measures we took yesterday on unemployment, special forbearance to allow people who are unemployed, extend the period, amount of time that they get forbearance in paying off their mortgage. And this is a measure that we were able to take to deal with the problem the President identified in the Twitter town hall.
Again, we should do the things we can do -- big and small -- that can help the economy grow, help jobs be created, and help alleviate some of the problems we see in the housing market, help people keep their houses.
Q If you would indulge me, I have one very quick last one. Is, in fact, as some reports have said, the goal of all of this negotiation in part to put tax reforms in place starting early next year? And if so, what? It wouldn’t be the payroll tax -- you’re looking to extend that. Can you give me a timing on the tax reform piece of ideally what you’d like to see?
MR. CARNEY: Who said that tax reform was part of this? You read that somewhere?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any further elucidation on that point. And so there’s nothing really to say about that, because I think it’s speculation about what is or isn’t in a package, and whether it includes that element or includes housing or includes other things, because what might have been talked about yesterday may not be talked about tomorrow.
Q Thanks, Jay. The President says everybody in the room agrees that it is essential that the U.S. not default on its debts. It also seems as though everyone agrees that there is something less than 100 percent chance of a big deal being struck -- Boehner says 50/50. So what are the possible safety valves or alternatives, if the deal is not struck, to prevent the U.S. from defaulting on its debts?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think the Speaker actually even today made clear that it would be a terrible situation if we did not -- if we failed to raise the debt ceiling and allowed the United States to fulfill its obligations. And we obviously agree with that statement.
We are aiming high. We’re trying to get a big, significant agreement here that significantly reduces the deficit, deals with and addresses our long-term debt issues. And that’s the focus that we have right now. When I’ve been asked in the past about smaller deals -- well, two things. One, the President has -- as he did the other day -- clearly ruled out any sort of short-term solution here.
But there are gradations. And the fact that other things could happen does not mean that they should happen, that they are as much as we can do. And what the President is trying to convey -- both in the room and when he comes out and speaks to you and the American people -- is that we have a moment here where we can do something big and we should seize it.
Q But given that everyone agrees there is something less than a 100 percent chance of that happening --
MR. CARNEY: I acknowledge that it’s --
Q -- is there some parallel plan?
MR. CARNEY: I would say it’s probably significantly less than 100 percent. But it’s there and it’s possible. And we would be letting the American people down if we didn’t try to make it happen.
Q But is there some parallel plan to prepare for the possibility of it not happening?
MR. CARNEY: Parallel plan in what sense? I mean, there are --
Q Is somebody preparing a document, negotiating an agreement --
MR. CARNEY: There are elements of a deal that obviously would shrink it in size and perhaps make it easier to achieve, although we would argue that in many ways a bigger deal is more politically palatable because of the -- you know, I got into the pain and reward analogy yesterday, that everybody -- if we are able to achieve something big, everyone -- Democrat and Republican -- go out and say, no, I didn’t get everything I wanted, and yes, I had to accept things that I didn’t want, but look what we did. We achieved something that is really hard to do, significant deficit reduction in the trillions of dollars. We took measures that will have long-term positive effects on our debt-to-GDP ratio that will put America on much more solid economic footing in the 21st century, and that that -- being able to take credit for that will outweigh the political pain that might be created by the necessity to accept something less than what you wanted.
Q Thank you.
MR. CARNEY: We missed you yesterday.
Q Yes, I heard, I heard. (Laughter.) I’m here now if you need to raise any concerns.
MR. CARNEY: No, no, I feel much better. (Laughter.)
Q Okay, good. Given the House position on the TAA and something that’s had Republican support in the past, Congress not moving quickly to make permanent the payroll tax, and something else that would presumably have Republican support, how concerned is the President that the Republicans heading into a reelection year would rather see the President fail on these issues than have the economy improve?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think -- and data would support me on this -- we’re all responsible in Washington for the economy and for taking action to deal with it. And I think that elected officials who are running for office next year will have to answer the question: What did they do to make things better?
So we would argue that it is in everyone’s political interest to reach a compromise that improves our economic outlook, that puts us on more solid fiscal footing, and allows for greater job creation, and that there is a reward on Earth as well as in heaven for doing that. (Laughter.)
Q Jay, does the administration believe that projections of reduced expenditures, because of the withdrawal from Iraq and the anticipated withdrawal from Afghanistan, should be included in -- for purposes of calculating a deficit reduction package? Because if you do put those numbers in, it makes some of these very large topline figures look even larger.
MR. CARNEY: Right. I know the issue that you’re talking about, and those numbers are large and it is important to recognize that this President has withdrawn more than 100,000 troops from Iraq and he is beginning this month a drawdown of the surge troops in Afghanistan, and there are economic impacts associated with that.
The question about how that fits in in budgeteering is one that I’m not prepared to answer, and I’m sure that that’s a discussion that those who are involved in the negotiations might be having. But I don’t have an answer to your question from the podium.
Q Sorry, I know we’ve talked about the issue of timing before, but has -- you spoke of the necessary lead time in terms of August 2nd and getting a deal at least on its way to Congress. As the President begins the hard bargaining phase, if you will, on Sunday, have he and the others agreed on a date, a drop-dead date, whereby they figure they absolutely have to get it done?
MR. CARNEY: No. I think that the urgency is felt by all, but I don’t -- I’m not aware of a specific date by which they all just walk away and say we failed. No. I think that the -- we’re meeting -- we’re working essentially around the clock, and we’re meeting regularly to try to move this thing forward and get it done.
Q Given the recent history, doesn’t the lack of that kind of a drop-dead date --
MR. CARNEY: Well, there is a drop-dead date -- August 2nd. And then people have to be aware of the fact that some time has to be allowed for Congress to write legislation and pass it.
Q With this Atlantis shuttle launch about an hour ago, basically the manned space program at NASA is over when this lands. Does the President have any kind of sentimental regrets that this era of space travel is over? What about the arguments of some of the astronauts who were interviewed this morning saying they wish that at least the shuttle had kept going until a new launch vehicle was available? Is it just about money?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think the President honors the shuttle program and the service of everybody who has worked on it over the years. And as you know, he had hoped to see this previous launch, but it was scrubbed while we were down there.
The fact is, the President has laid out an ambitious agenda, an ambitious vision for human space life that will take American astronauts beyond where we’ve been ever before, with the ultimate goal being a human mission to Mars.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think if we knew that, there wouldn’t be the challenge, would it? I mean, the fact is, is that we need to dedicate our resources to answering that question. And the President’s vision, negotiated with bipartisan support from Congress, allows NASA to focus its resources on exploration and innovation, while leveraging private sector resources to continue taking Americans to the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit, whose mission has been extended until at least 2020 -- that’s the space station.
This new strategy means more jobs for the country, more American astronauts in space over the next decade, and more investments in innovation relative to the prior administration’s plan.
So contrary to the suggestion that -- simply by ending the space shuttle program does not -- I mean, our vision for human space flight is quite expansive.
Q Even though it will be a decade or so before there are any new launches by the United States?
MR. CARNEY: Well, it’s hard for me, so far from being either an astronaut or a scientist, to estimate a guess for how long that would take. But it’s precisely because, as they did in the ‘50s and ‘60s, they had big visions and didn’t know how they were -- they had a vision of where they wanted to go but had not idea how to get there yet. We need to have --
Q But JFK did pretty well setting a date.
MR. CARNEY: Well, the fact of the matter is, he didn’t know how he was going to get there and whether it was possible, I mean, if you read the histories. And the point is, is that with the resources we have, we should be focusing on trying to achieve that goal, and that’s what the President believes.
Q No tinge of sentimentality by the President?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I haven’t talked to him. I know he, again, has enormous regard for and respect for the program and the participants, and would have liked to have seen it; he was down there with his family in the previous launch. And we obviously wish the current mission all the success.
Q Thank you, Jay. Several members of Congress on the Republican side in the House --
MR. CARNEY: You don’t have a question from the Democratic side? (Laughter.)
Q Not yet. But the follow-up -- they have wondered: Has the President absolutely ruled out a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution as something? Because they say that --
MR. CARNEY: The President believes very strongly, as a vast majority of right-thinking economists believe, that Congress needs to act and we need to act to take the measures necessary to deal with our budget deficits and to deal with our long-term debt -- not get -- this is not a constitutional issue.
And the fact is, is that the balanced budget amendment would be -- is basically an admission by Congress that they can’t do anything, right? And that’s not true, as these discussions that we’re engaged in right now. And it should not be true, and it’s a shame if people actually believe that. So, no, we don’t support it.
Q So you’re saying you’re putting that in the category you referred to, “no way, no how”?
MR. CARNEY: What I’m saying is that it’s not good for the economy, it doesn’t answer the problem, and that we need to act -- because we are capable of doing the work that the American people sent us here to do.
Q So if the members bring it up --
MR. CARNEY: I think we’ve covered the balanced budget amendment.
Q Thank you.
MR. CARNEY: This is the last one, Abby. Yes.
Q Thank you. I was just wondering -- do the job numbers this month and the previous month change anything about what the President perceives the economy can handle in terms of spending cuts that might be necessary to balance the long-term --
MR. CARNEY: Well, that’s an excellent question. I think that the President has, from the beginning of this process, made clear that we need to take action in reducing spending in a careful way, that we should not cut spending that is vital to our economic development -- education, innovation, infrastructure -- precisely because of, as many economists will tell you, that there is a risk of contraction if you cut in the wrong way or cut too deeply. And this is another reason why we have to -- why it is so important to achieve balance in the approach that we take, so that we don’t do exactly what I think you’re talking about.
Q So does he believe that this is a little bit different from what it was two months ago --
MR. CARNEY: No, I think the overall picture is the same, and that is why we need a balanced approach.
Q Week ahead?
MR. CARNEY: Oh, I’m sorry. I do this every week. Let me read the week ahead.
On Monday, the President of the United States will attend meetings at the White House.
On Tuesday, the President will award Sergeant First Class Leroy Arthur Petry, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.
Sergeant First Class Petry will receive the Medal of Honor for courageous actions during combat operations against an armed enemy in Paktya, Afghanistan, in May 2008. He will be the second living active-duty service member to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The Vice President and the First Lady will also attend.
On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, the President will attend meetings at the White House.
Q You skipped Sunday. (Laughter.)
Q What time is that meeting on Sunday?
MR. CARNEY: We’ll get back to you on that. Thanks, a lot.
END 12:25 P.M. EDT