Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney
Aboard Air Force One
1:32 P.M. CDT
MR. CARNEY: Welcome aboard, ladies and gentlemen, as we make our way to Costa Rica. I have no announcements to make at the top. As you know, there was a jobs report today that the CEA Chair addressed this morning in Washington. But beyond that, I’ll just take your questions.
Q Jay, the jobs report was obviously better than expected -- pretty good news for the economy. Do you guys see this as a sign that the economy can actually withstand the sequester cuts, or just that it’s too soon to be able to see the impact of those cuts in something like the monthly jobs report?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the jobs report demonstrated that we’re continuing to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression. And while it was better than expectations, it also demonstrated that we have more work to do and that the last thing we need is for Washington to unnecessarily throw up obstacles to economic growth or inflict wounds on the economy. And that is exactly what sequestration does.
What we know as a general principle going forward is that every time we get data, no matter what it says, we will know that it would have been better if it weren’t for sequester, because as CBO and others have estimated, sequester, if fully implemented, will cost the economy three-quarters of a million jobs and roughly half a point of economic growth -- percentage point of economic growth.
And we are still progressing away from the worst downturn of our lifetimes. And we as a country cannot afford to have Congress, in this case, negligently throw up obstacles to economic growth and job creation. It’s pretty nonsensical. The report demonstrates that I think now for 68 straight months we’ve been creating private-sector jobs, now a total of roughly 6.8 million private sector jobs since the job loss was reversed. But we still have some ways to go.
Q In that same vain, Speaker Boehner has said that actually the growth would be stronger if only you would reverse the Affordable Care Act, if only you would build the Keystone Pipeline --
MR. CARNEY: I understand that Speaker Boehner would like to reinstate the policies that were in place that led to the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. The President disagrees. Tax cuts for the wealthy, unpaid-for initiatives and the like, which Speaker Boehner supported with glee in the previous administration, are not the approach to stronger economic growth, and more to the point, not the approach to strengthening and expanding the middle class.
Again, we have seen now 68 straight months of private sector job creation. We’ve seen quarter after quarter of positive economic growth. But it is not enough, and we need to grow more. And what we do know, based on independent studies, is that allowing sequester to take effect -- while it may have been viewed by Speaker Boehner and others as a political victory or a tea party victory -- is doing harm to our economy and will continue to do harm to our economy, will be a drag on our economy until Congress does what it said it was going to do to begin with, which was prevent the sequester from becoming law; eliminate the sequester and replace it with sensible, balanced deficit reduction.
Q The President and the Mexican President talked about security during his visit and the President said that it would be up to Mexico to determine its own security policy. Did you -- obviously, it’s in President Obama’s interest and the Mexican interest to veer the vision of Mexico away from one where there’s widespread violence. But optics aside, did you get any concrete reassurances that Mexico would, in fact, continue to stem drug violence; that it would reorient its policies in a way that the United States could continue to productively help it do that?
MR. CARNEY: Broadly speaking, I think the answer is yes. We obviously had a very strong cooperative relationship with President Calderón when it came to dealing with these security issues, and President Pena Nieto will, I’m sure, build on that progress and success.
As the President said, we’re not going to dictate to the Mexican government how it structures its response to the violence that threatens Mexican security, but we will continue to work in every way we can with Mexico on these important issues. But it is not optics to suggest that our relationship is bigger than our security partnership. That’s a fact. And it’s a fact that a lot of Americans don’t know. Our economic cooperation with Mexico is enormous and it needs to continue to grow, because that benefits the economies of both countries and benefits the security of both countries.
So I think the President feels strongly that this was a very positive visit that allowed the leaders of both countries to talk about the variety of ways that we are cooperating as countries and to focus specifically on how we can continue to develop economic cooperation in a way that helps the American economy grow and create jobs. It helps the Mexican economy grow and create jobs.
Q Is he going to have the same message of autonomy to the Central American countries? Obviously the crackdown in Mexico, a lot of the drug trade has been driven down there, and those countries don’t have the same resources that Mexico has. So will he be offering more help with their security issue?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any policy initiatives to speak about, but I can tell you that security will obviously be an important topic of conversation in San Jose and it’s certainly correct that security matters are of great concern to the countries in Central America, as they are to the United States. And we will -- the President will be discussing those issues with the gathered leaders in San Jose.
But he will also be discussing economic and other areas. So security continues to be a pressing problem in the region, but there are other topics on the agenda as well.
Q Jay, the President himself brought up guns yesterday, and I just wondered if you guys had any reaction -- there’s a report that Vice President Biden spoke to some law enforcement officials and sort of previewed that he might have a new gun initiative traveling around the country but hadn’t sort of discussed everything with the President yet. Anything new on -- any new gun push that’s happening and the Vice President leading it?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think your question reflects something very important, which is the President went out of his way, when not asked, to address this issue yesterday because he feels so passionately about it and he is committed to pressing for action to reduce gun violence. And that includes pressing Congress to take action to reduce gun violence.
It also includes exploring every executive action he might be able to take. There were 23 of them, as you know, in the President’s overall proposal and action is being taken on all of those. But we are going to press ahead. The President made clear that sometimes these efforts don’t succeed initially, but especially when you have 85 to 90 percent of the American people supporting, in the case of background checks being expanded, a legislative proposal, this is going to get done.
And I think we’ve seen in the public reaction to the failure of the Senate to listen to the American people the fact that Americans are raising their voices, as the President hoped they will and hopes they will. And participation by average Americans out there in this conversation is essential, because in the end senators who voted against the will -- the overwhelming will of their constituents -- may reconsider if they hear from those same constituents and hear how important these common-sense measures are to them.
The Vice President is a key player in this effort. The President, as you know, in the wake of Newtown, asked the Vice President, because of his vast experience on these issues, to lead the effort to put together the comprehensive proposal that the President presented to you and to the American public. And the Vice President continues to play a leading role in that effort at the President’s direction.
This is something that -- as you know from the public schedules, the President and Vice President meet together virtually every day that they’re both in Washington, sometimes multiple times a day. They have a regular lunch. And this is something they talk about frequently, both what the status of efforts to reduce gun violence are, and what new paths we can take to promote these very important measures.
So as the President said yesterday, the loss of the background checks measure was round one. And we’re going to continue this effort, and we need to continue to hear from American citizens across the country who feel passionately that the Senate let them down and did not hear their voices, and heard, instead, the voices of the minority. And hopefully that will bring about a change.
Q On the security issue, the President had said before the trip that he would withhold judgment on changes that Mexico was making until he spoke with Mexican leaders. Could you tell us any of the specifics that he heard yesterday that made him feel like this new approach would not cut off access for U.S. law enforcement agencies?
MR. CARNEY: I think you heard the President address this in his press conference yesterday after his meeting -- his bilateral meeting with the Mexican President. I don’t really have any more details to add to that. We will continue a cooperative relationship with the Mexican government in dealing with these matters. And we will also address the responsibilities we have to help reduce the violence in Mexico. There are responsibilities that have to do with the trafficking of guns south of the U.S. border and obviously the demand for narcotics north of the U.S. border.
So this is a broad-based effort, and it includes a lot of cooperation with the U.S. and Mexican governments, and as the President has said, we will work in any way that we can with the Mexicans to help address this challenge.
1:44 P.M. CDT