Daily Press Briefing by the Press Secretary, 3/12/14
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:09 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being here. I wanted to let you know that we have a special guest today, and she is -- I don’t have my paper -- but it is Betsey Stevenson, a member of the Council of Economic Advisers. As you know, we have today -- the President has later this afternoon a meeting with members of Congress who focus on issues of women and the economy, and the need to expand opportunity for all Americans by a variety of methods, including raising the minimum wage. As you know, women are disproportionately affected by that policy.
We have also announced a summit that Betsey can talk about for later in the spring. What I’d like to do is have her talk to you about some of the issues that are going to be discussed today and later in the spring, and then for you to address questions on those subject areas to her; she can answer them. Then we’ll let her get back to work and I’ll take questions on other subjects.
With that, I give you Betsey Stevenson.
MS. STEVENSON: Thank you, Jay. So today, the President is announcing the date of the Working Families Summit -- June 23rd. And this Working Families Summit is designed so that between now and June 23rd we’re going to be convening business leaders, educators, researchers, advocates, Congress members, state and local government -- everyone who wants to participate -- to talk about how we can make sure the economy is working as well as it can for American families. And doing this is important, and we are doing this to ensure that we’re making the best use of American talent to ensure competitiveness in the U.S. economy as we are going deeper into the 21st century.
So what I am here to do today is to talk to you about where we’ve made progress with women in the labor force, where we need to do more, and to emphasize why it’s important.
So you’ve all been I think given a set of these slides that are going to show up behind me -- so we can switch to the next slide. I’m going to show you graphs -- I’m the nerdy economist here -- just to present data after data after data.
So the first thing is to point out that women are now nearly half of our labor force, and their labor force participation rose sharply in the 1970s and 1980s. And, in fact, many of you heard I’m sure plenty of times before, is that that participation rate stalled out as we got to the late ‘90s. And you can see it here divided by ages, that for prime age working women 25-54 we saw sort of a flattening of labor force participation at around 75 percent in the late ‘90s.
Now, some of you may notice that there’s been a pretty big decline among 16- to 24-year-old women. But don’t be alarmed -- this is because these women are investing in education like never before. In fact, these women have not only caught up with their male contemporaries, but they’ve surpassed them. And in the next slide you can see how much women’s educational attainment, college graduate rates have risen -- both, as I said, catching up with men and surpassing them -- so that young women today, those 25-34, are about a little more than 20 percent more likely than young men to actually hold a college degree.
They’ve also gone on to graduate school, which you can see on the next slide, and basically are attending graduate school at nearly equal rates with men these days.
What this illustrates is how important women are for our economy as young women today represent the majority of our young highly skilled talent. And they’ve also -- as the next slide will show -- are increasingly going into male occupations. So this highlights just how important they are for our labor force, for our economy in terms of utilizing that talent.
What they’re also important for is their families. Women’s earnings have continued to grow as a share of family earnings. And on the next slide you’ll see that, today, employed, married women contribute nearly 45 percent of the earnings in their household. Now, of course, it’s still 45 percent, and that partially reflects that fact that we know that there is still a gender wage gap, and that gender wage gap is seen very persistently across the income distribution. We see it within occupations and we see it across occupations, and we even see it when women and men are working side by side doing identical work.
So we’ve tried to take a look at some of the contributors to that gender wage gap. And on the next slide what I want to show you is the fact that when you look at men and women with professional degrees, in their twenties these young people are earning roughly similar wages. But what happens is men get the greater share of the promotions, of the raises, and by the time we get to the late thirties, early forties, women are quite behind their male colleagues, even when we’re looking at a rarefied group -- those with professional degrees.
Now, this isn’t the only aspect, obviously, of gender wage gap. And the next thing I want to talk about is sort of the other end of the income distribution. So if you change to the next slide, please. Here you can take a look at what is happening with minimum wage workers. Even though raising the minimum wage would benefit all minimum wage workers -- both men and women -- because women are more likely to be working at the minimum wage, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would contribute to shrinking the gender wage gap. And our estimates are that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would shrink the gender wage gap by about 5 percent.
So, finally, let me conclude with the last slide, which I think really highlights that there is more to do to encourage women to participate in the labor force, to make sure that they’re able to make the most of their talent and that our labor force is able to get the most out of their talent. And what you can see is that while the U.S. has seen female labor force participation stall, other countries have continued to make progress in bringing women’s labor force participation up to equality with men’s.
So there’s much for us to learn and do. And the events and work leading us to the summit will hopefully inform the key policy goals and best practices that we can use to make greater progress on this really important issue.
MR. CARNEY: So with that, I’ll call on folks. Jim.
Q Betsey, you mentioned that professional women not getting promotions, for example, are getting similar wages early on and then there’s that disparity. And I’m wondering how much of a gap, the gap in wages, in general, is a result of unequal pay for -- or unequal pay for equal work and how much of it is just a denial of opportunity. Have you been able to measure that?
MS. STEVENSON: That’s a great question, and I can’t give you a metric on that. I think that the right way to think about it is there are lots of things that contribute to the gender wage gap, and we don’t want to spend all our time trying to parse it and figure out how much each aspect is contributing to it, but actually look at where we have the greatest leverage to effect change. So making sure that whether it’s the opportunities employers are extending, whether it’s even the choices that women feel that they need to make given the needs of their family, that we’re able to make sure that we release constraints wherever we can.
Q So in terms of the federal government and as a policymaker, where does that leverage exist for you guys?
MS. STEVENSON: Well, it’s certainly some of the things that we’re going to be exploring. Obviously, there are steps that we can take to promote equal pay. There are steps we can promote to -- we can take to support paid leave efforts. But I think the important thing to recognize is that this administration, the President doesn’t think this is something that government can do on its own. This is something that we need to be bringing everyone together so that businesses understand the importance. We’re moving into a labor force where, as I said at the beginning, the skilled labor is increasingly female skilled labor, and we’re not actually doing the best we can to maximize GDP growth if we’re not letting women reach the fullest of their potential.
So it’s really an issue that we think businesses are going to have to take a lead on, state and local governments are going to have to take a lead on. And then there’s obviously places for the federal government to play a role in, and that’s part of what we’re going to be sorting out.
Q Could I ask you a little bit about the overtime proposal that the President is going to talk about tomorrow? I’m curious, you’re not setting a threshold number, I take it, that would increase salary for when overtime would be considered, the current number being I think for $455 a week. You’re not proposing a specific number?
MS. STEVENSON: Well, what we know right now is the threshold has been eroded by inflation. And there are 3.1 million people who, if the threshold had kept up just with inflation, would automatically be covered by overtime provisions. What we’re going to be doing is in the weeks and months to come looking deeply at this problem and making sure that the overtime provisions are working as well as they should in today’s economy. We don’t know for sure what that’s going to lead us to. We’ve got to do the work. We’ve got to dig into it and make sure that we’re getting feedback from all key stakeholders and figuring out what’s going to be the best way to modernize this rule.
Q And you want it pegged -- one of the things would be having to peg for inflation?
MS. STEVENSON: Again, we’re going to be looking at all possible angles and trying to figure out what’s the best possible way to make this rule work for the current economy.
MR. CARNEY: Jon.
Q On the labor participation rate, on one chart you had Canada, Germany and Sweden quite a bit higher. Do we have a theory as to why those countries have a higher labor participation rate for women? And is there an ideal rate? Is there a target that you want to hit?
MS. STEVENSON: What I want is for everyone to feel that they can participate to their fullest extent to make the most of their talent and to not feel artificially constrained. What research shows us is that countries that provide more support to working families, more flexible work arrangements, greater access to paid leave, greater access to child care, greater access to early childhood education -- all of those things actually do facilitate women participating to a greater extent in the labor force.
MR. CARNEY: Major.
Q Do you have estimates on if you were to -- so, inflation adjust overtime, for example, how that would affect women in the workplace?
MS. STEVENSON: You mean, if we were --
Q How would that move address this other issue that you’re raising, combining the two?
MS. STEVENSON: That is a great question, and I think it’s something, again, that we’re going to be looking into as we study this problem, is that who is most affected by the fact that the thresholds have been eroded by inflation and by the fact that the way that duties test currently work. So we are going to be studying this problem from a bunch of different angles. But right now, we’ve announced that it’s important to modernize the rule, but not how we’re going to do it or who would be impacted.
Q Is it safe to say that the administration is inclined at least to get it up to its inflation-adjusted value? Other states have gone higher than that. Certainly, some economists that used to work in this building have publicly recommended even a higher threshold than that. If you go back to 1975, that inflation adjustment would take it almost to $1,000. I mean, can you give us some idea what kind of range you’re in and if at least the inflation adjustment would be the beginning point of debate?
MS. STEVENSON: What I can say is that this President believes in a labor market that’s fair for people, and that when you work hard that you’re rewarded with fair pay. And what we know is that without overtime and minimum wage protections, there are many people who aren’t able to get that basic promise, which is that when you work hard, you get a fair wage. And what he’s going to do is make sure that we modernize this rule so that people are able to get treated fairly in the labor force and that they’re rewarded for a hard day’s work with fair pay.
MR. CARNEY: Chuck.
Q On the education attainment graph that you were just showing, do you have the stats? Is this like -- because this has been a gap for a while -- women college graduates ahead of male college graduates in general. Has it moved the needle on this? Has it gotten better? Do you have the stats? And is this something that it’s clear in 10 years that that’s because of the -- that it will go away? Is it moving that way? Could you make that argument?
MS. STEVENSON: So those are great questions. So, first of all, you’ll notice that married women’s contribution to household earnings has continued to rise -- employed married women’s contribution to household earnings has continued to rise even though labor force participation itself has stalled out. Why is that? Well, because women are increasingly -- they’re more likely today to be more highly educated than their husbands. They’re more likely to be the more highly skilled person inside their family.
So there’s certainly a role for women getting greater skills, becoming more educated in terms of their contribution to household earnings, and in terms of changing the overall gender-wage gap. But I certainly hope that we continue to encourage men to go to school as well, and to continue to get skills. So I wouldn’t call it a solution.
Q I guess that’s what I mean, though. But is it -- statistically it’s behind if this were -- if you took out gender as a factor, it’s behind women with the same college education? I guess it goes to Jim’s question a little bit.
MS. STEVENSON: That’s great. And I didn’t show this data because it’s a little bit more complex, but we can actually follow the same people over time after they’ve graduated from school, and what you see is that same pattern -- that I showed you just by showing you age -- by years out of school. So if I did it by same person, how many years out of graduate school are they, you see the same thing.
What you see is that women, as they get into that point where there’s a lot of family burdens, they’ve got young kids at home, they’re making trade-offs, they’re put in positions that end up resulting in a larger gender-wage gap. And what we want to do is make sure that we’ve done as much as we can, that businesses are doing as much as they can to not lose women at those critical moments when they’re having children, when they have young children at home. And I think that aspect of the gender-wage gap, that you see it expand as women age, is something that’s not going away by increasing college attainment or increasing graduate school.
MR. CARNEY: Alexis.
Q Betsey, because there might be some people who are listening to the emphasis on women and suggesting, based on our experience coming from past administrations, that this is an election year effort to appeal to a core demographic for candidates -- Democratic candidates this year -- can you describe how the President would respond to that charge, that this is kind of an eleventh-hour to appeal to women as a core demographic group? And also, because the President has always been very results-oriented about talk-a-thons and summits and that, can you describe what kind of deliverables he would hope to get out of that summit in June?
MS. STEVENSON: So, first of all, let me say I think I’ve hopefully made the case to you that this is an important issue for our economy. It is something that is going to continue to grow in importance for our economy in the years to come. And let me just say that I've studied this issue my whole career and the President recruited me to the Council of Economic Advisers, so this isn’t a new thing. Certainly people have been thinking about this.
This is an important issue; it’s an important issue for the economy. And as the labor force has started to recover, it's important for us now to think about how to make sure that the labor force is working as well as it can for everyone. So I think it's not a coincidence that you hear the President saying, are our overtime rules protecting American workers and offering them the kind of fairness and protection they need, at the same time that he’s saying is our labor market working for American families the way it’s supposed to.
So as a policy person, I can only comment on the policy, but I can tell you that it's certainly good policy, it's the right policy, and it's something we really need to embrace.
Q And the summit?
MS. STEVENSON: Oh, so the summit -- the goal is to bring people together and to develop both a set of best practices that we hope will inform how businesses make decisions, sharing examples of things that businesses have learned -- ways in which they can actually make changes that improve the situation for women and working families, but also improve their bottom line. So we want to convene people to make sure that everybody has shared these best practices. We're also hoping to get some ideas for what would be ideal policy and what should be the policies that leaders should be pursuing coming forward.
This is an attempt to bring people together to create and articulate a vision for the changes we need to make to the labor market to support working families better.
Q Whether voluntarily or legislative?
MS. STEVENSON: Exactly.
MR. CARNEY: Roberta.
Q What analysis have you done, if any, on the overtime rule on how it would affect hiring and the number of jobs overall, what interplay that has?
MS. STEVENSON: So obviously that is something that we think a lot about, and there is a lot of research on how it can affect hiring. What we're really focused on is the fact that when somebody is -- this is looking at people who are working over 40 hours a week and are they getting paid for that. The President believes that if you're making $25,000 a year and you're working 60 hours a week, you should be getting paid for the extra hours you work. And that's what this is about.
There is research that suggests that you could see employment increase as a result of modernizing the overtime rules, but that certainly wouldn't be a primary focus right now. What we're trying to take a look at is how we can make the labor force as fair as possible for all workers and that people get rewarded for a hard day’s work with fair wages.
Q Betsey, if you were to combine those overtime rules being revamped with an increase in the minimum wage, isn’t it fairly obvious that there would be a burden on businesses if the administration were to get everything that it wanted with respect to those two items?
MS. STEVENSON: We think these two items are very different, but obviously they do feed into the same thing, which is people should be rewarded for fair work. But again, realize we're not talking about people who -- what you're paying workers who are working 30 or 40 hours a week. This is, do you have an obligation to pay the minimum wage to someone -- to pay the minimum wage or overtime to someone who is on a fixed salary and maybe working 60, 70, 80 hours a week.
The President believes that unless you're truly in one of these white-collar jobs, that employers should be paying attention to whether they’re actually meeting the duties of paying you the minimum wage and that they should be required to pay you for the hours you work. It's a pretty simple idea: Employers should pay people for the hours they work.
Q Just following up on the Reuter’s question, it's been suggested to me what you could see is that employers will cut off overtime -- they may hire more people, which would be good, but wages overall would stay stagnant or even decline. Are you worried about that as an unintended consequence of this?
MS. STEVENSON: Well, I will tell you that that was actually an intended consequence of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which set out the 40-hour work week as an ideal. Again, we're going to be studying this in the weeks and months to come and we're going to be looking at all the different ways in which we think employers might respond. This rule is something that definitely needs to be modernized, that we need to ensure that workers have the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Those protections have been eroded over time. This threshold, as was pointed out earlier, in 1975 was nearly $1,000 in today’s dollars; today it's $455. So we're at a very different place and we are, you might say, in a very different labor market. And that's why we're going to be taking a look at the labor market, taking a look at workers, and figuring out how we can make this rule work best for businesses, and to think about how we can simplify it for businesses so that it can work best for businesses and for workers in ensuring that basic principle of fairness.
MR. CARNEY: Ed.
Q Betsey, on the equity issue, the President has said many times that his first bill he signed into law was Lilly Ledbetter to make sure that women would be paid fairly. Are there gaps in that law? Are businesses ignoring it? I know there are broader issues you're talking about, but on the equity issue, that was signed into law in 2009. So what’s happened? Why is there still this inequity?
MS. STEVENSON: Well, one of the challenges is the fact that employers can enforce pay non-disclosure agreements, and as a result, even though the Lilly Ledbetter Act passed, one of her problems was that she didn’t know how much her colleagues made. She didn’t know that her male colleagues were earning so much more than her. And what we need to make sure is that women do have and are able to actually find out what their male colleagues earn and are able to learn about situations of pay discrimination so that when you're someone like Lilly Ledbetter who, working side by side with men, doing the exact same work, you know if you're being paid equally or not.
MR. CARNEY: Anyone else? Jared.
Q You mentioned that the minimum wage, if enacted into law, would reduce the gap between men and women by 5 percent. Do you have any data on how much the President’s executive order from last month that would work for federal contractors, starting in 2015, how much of a dent that would make?
MS. STEVENSON: I don't. We've spent a lot of time trying to look at the federal contractors and who would be affected, but I have to tell you we do not have the data to get into the granularity of the gender of the employees of federal contractors earning minimum wage. It's just not a level of granularity we have.
MR. CARNEY: In the back. Fred.
Q Would this have a bigger impact on heads of households than -- the overtime rule -- would that have a much bigger impact on heads of household earners than the minimum wage law?
MS. STEVENSON: Again, I know I keep giving the same answer, but we really have to study the effects of the overtime rule to figure out how we would change it; and then how we would change it obviously impacts who would be affected. So I couldn’t answer that question unless I were able to know exactly how we were going to change the rule.
Q Disabilities? I’m wondering about women -- oftentimes in families where there’s a disabled child, the burden often falls on the woman, and often also there’s higher percentage of divorce in those families. So I’m just wondering if there might be some way that we could include some safeguards for those single families where there are some additional challenges.
MS. STEVENSON: Yes, I’m really glad you mentioned that because the Working Families Summit is definitely going to be focusing on all the different aspects of caregiving that people need to do. I’ve been remiss in not mentioning care of aging parents, which is a very important issue and will grow in its importance as the baby boomers continue to age.
So looking at special needs that people have in caregiving roles, whether it’s for dealing with children with disabilities, disabled spouses, returning veterans with disabilities -- I mean, there are a number of these issues -- and we’re going to be making sure that this summit is very inclusive of all of that, and that is why it’s a summit on working families, because we want to understand how to make the labor market work better for all families.
MR. CARNEY: Let me wrap it up there. I want to thank Betsey for taking -- making the presentation and taking the questions. As someone whose spouse is more highly educated, skilled, and compensated, I can say that -- (laughter) -- and who wrote a book with somebody in this room about the power of women in the marketplace, and the fact that especially at higher income levels and higher attainment levels they contribute directly and positively to the bottom line, what Betsey said about the fact that this is not just a government action but one where we’re looking for partners for best practices in the private sector is very important.
With that, I will take your questions. Jim.
Q Thanks, Jay. On the CIA, one of the issues that Senator Feinstein raised yesterday was this complaint that the CIA General Counsel took to DOJ regarding -- against SSCI staffers, committee staffers. And I’m wondering, was the White House notified of this action beforehand, or did it learn about it after? Can you fill us in on it?
MR. CARNEY: The CIA Director and General Counsel informed the White House that they were making a referral to the Department of Justice. They also said they would be informing the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. And as you would expect in this matter and as appropriate, we did not weigh in on that, but we were simply given a heads up about the referral.
Q How much into –
MR. CARNEY: I believe right before, shortly before.
Q Shortly before -- like a day? Hours?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a specific time lapse for you, but it was a heads up, and we were informed -- the Counsel was informed that the committee would also be informed, is my understanding -- because this was an inter-branch of government matter -- as a heads up. But there was no weighing in or comment on it -- simply a heads up.
Q And did the Counsel then notify the President? Was the President made aware of that?
MR. CARNEY: The President has been aware in general about the protocols and the discussions and occasional disputes about the protocols involved in the provision of an unprecedented number of documents from the CIA to the committee -- millions of documents -- which has been a part of the investigation that the President himself, very clearly early on, in May of 2009, endorsed.
And the President’s number one focus in all of this has been to ensure that the committee is able to do its investigation, to complete its investigation, and upon completion of that investigation to submit it for declassification, for the findings to be declassified. And the President urges the committee to finish its work and submit it for declassification. He believes that that’s an important part a process that allows the American people to be informed about what happened, and also for us to bring this chapter to a close.
So that view is one that he has expressed to the committee and to the agency -- that he believes that we need to see this process come to a conclusion. The committee issued a -- or produced a draft report, I think as has been reported, but it has not yet completed its report. We’re waiting for its completion; we’re waiting for the request for declassification. The President wants the findings declassified appropriately, as quickly as possible, and for those findings to be made public.
Q If what the -- if the White House, if the Counsel or other top officials believe that what the CIA Counsel was doing was egregious, would you have attempted to stop the complaint, or would you have weighed in in any fashion at all?
MR. CARNEY: It’s not -- this is about a referral by an agency that we would not and did not weigh in on. It was a heads up because of the nature of the inter-branch aspect, and that is my understanding of why the CIA also informed the committee about it.
But the questions about the matters under review that have to do with process and whether protocols were followed properly, I mean, those are details that I’m not going to get into because they’re under review both by the independent inspector general and by the Department of Justice. So setting aside those matters, the President’s focus and the White House’s focus is on ensuring that the committee is able to complete its work and that it does so expeditiously; that it submits that report for declassification, a request for declassification, which has not been made yet; and that following that, the findings are declassified appropriately.
Because as the President has made clear, this is all about activity and so-called enhanced interrogation techniques that the President profoundly disagreed with; made clear that he believed very strongly were not consistent with our values as a nation; promised to end when he was a candidate for President -- and did end, I believe on his second day or second full day in office -- through an executive order.
Now it’s time to see the findings of this report declassified appropriately, in the President’s view, and for everyone’s views about it -- not just the majority’s views, but the minority’s views and the agency’s views -- to be made public in an appropriate manner through declassification, so that the public is aware of the full story and is able to close that chapter, as the President sees it.
Q But the White House at no point deemed this complaint, intimidation of committee staff, as –
MR. CARNEY: Again, there was no comment, there was no weighing in, there was no judgment. This was a heads up about a decision made by, as I understand it, the General Counsel of the CIA and the Director, about a referral. And that, as I understand it, was also conveyed to the committee
Q Jay, the timing of today’s announcement that there will be some oil released from reserves, is that just a coincidence that it’s happening today? Or is this an effort to send a signal to Russia that the U.S. is willing to use the reserves to pressure oil prices and put pressure on the ruble?
MR. CARNEY: As the Department of Energy said this morning, they are required by law to conduct continual evaluation of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and its system’s drawdown and sales procedures. Due to the recent dramatic increase in domestic crude oil production, significant changes in the system have occurred, including pipeline expansion, construction of new infrastructure, reversed flow of existing pipelines, and increased use of domestic crude oil terminals. So in order to appropriately assess the system’s capabilities in the event of a disruption, today the DOE authorized a test drawdown and sale of up to 5 million barrels of sour crude oil.
Now, they have the details, but in answer specifically to your question, yes, this action was taken consistent with the requirements by law of the DOE to evaluate the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and its drawdown capacity. So it’s a test for operational reasons.
Q So today’s announcement is purely for operational reasons?
MR. CARNEY: Correct.
Q But stepping back for a second, is the United States willing to use the SPR more generally as a tool for price modulation to put pressure on oil prices and pressure on the ruble? Some sort of sanction?
MR. CARNEY: I want to separate the issues here. First of all, we don’t talk about and I don’t discuss potential releases of the SPR. This is a test, so I would refer you to the DOE about this test.
On the general matter of Ukraine and actions that the United States can take in concert with our European and other partners, we have an executive order in hand, signed by the President, that creates authorities for the Secretary of Treasury in consultation with the Secretary of State to take action with regards to sanctions. And that authority is flexible and it is broad, and we are continuing to evaluate the use of that authority via sanctions to hold accountable individuals and entities for the actions that Russia has already taken when it comes to the violations of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, its violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty.
And obviously we have that tool available to us as we move forward, and as we assess whether or not Russia will step back from its actions, will return its military personnel to bases in Crimea, whether it will cease the kinds of actions that are a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and its sovereignty, or whether it will move forward and continue to take these kinds of actions. And we have a tool available to us now, again, working with our European partners and our other partners, in order to sanction individuals and entities as necessary.
Q So using the SPR is not a tool in your Ukraine toolbox?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not associating the SPR with anything I just said about the general authorities that we have through the executive order signed by the President. What I’m saying is that we have the capacity to level sanctions on individuals and entities, and we have authorities and capacities that are broad and flexible to take action accordingly because there have been costs and there will be costs to Russia for its clear violation of international law, for its clear violation of treaties and memoranda that it is party to, for its violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Q It doesn’t sound like there’s much you can do to stop this referendum from happening in Crimea on Sunday, but there have been some reports of maybe a potential wrinkle that could maybe perhaps offer an off-ramp in all of this in that the referendum could happen but Russia could say that they’re not going to recognize it, they’re not going to annex Crimea as a result of that referendum, whatever the Crimeans decide to do. Is that potentially a solution in the mix here?
MR. CARNEY: Well, any referendum on Crimea and on the status of Crimea and its territory must be conducted consistent with Ukrainian law. And it is our understanding, as I’ve said in the past, that the Ukrainian constitution requires an all-Ukrainian referendum to alter the territorial boundaries of Ukraine. And that is obviously what is being contemplated through this action, which is inconsistent with and in violation of the Ukrainian constitution.
So Ukraine, most importantly, would not recognize the legality or legitimacy of this referendum, but neither would the United States nor would the world, save perhaps a few nations. How Russia might view it if it comes to pass is an important question. It’s clearly not legal under the Ukrainian constitution. It is clearly something that if carried out, would be done -- would be carried out in a way that’s not consistent with the rules laid out under Ukrainian law, and it violates the fundamental principle that, I think in this century and for a long time now, changes to a sovereign nation’s border should not be made by a foreign nation, a foreign government or over the heads of democratically elected officials. And that’s what this would represent.
Q And do you think that or does the President think that Vladimir Putin needs a face-saving move here? The steps that you outlined as a part of the potential off-ramp don’t really offer Putin any kind of face-saving, in terms of an end result.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I wouldn’t characterize it that way necessarily, but I disagree that the so-called off-ramp on offer here from the international community doesn’t provide the leadership of Russia with a means by which to pursue and protect Russia’s legitimate interests in Ukraine, and that includes its naval base in Crimea, a naval base established by law in agreement between the Ukrainian and Russian governments, and the protection of the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine. We’ve recognized that those are real interests. We’ve recognized that the two countries have deep historical and cultural ties that will not end and should not end.
So there’s an opportunity here for Russia to maintain the arrangement it has with Ukraine when it comes to its naval base there in keeping with treaties and agreements that it has signed with Ukraine and with the international community, and to ensure through the presence of international monitors and observers that the rights of ethnic Russians are protected. So I think that’s a substantive off-ramp, if you will, an opportunity provided by the international community to Russia to make sure that its legitimate concerns are addressed without resorting to -- or without seeing Russia resort to a violation of an independent state’s territorial integrity.
Q And very quickly on Malaysia, does the President feel like Americans are getting enough information about what happened to that aircraft?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the Malaysian government of course has the lead in this investigation. U.S. air safety officials are in Kuala Lumpur working closely with the Malaysian government on the investigation. The Malaysian government is investigating a number of possible scenarios for what happened to the flight. Conclusions cannot be drawn at this time, in our view, and we continue to participate actively in the search as well as assist the Malaysian government in the investigation.
I can remind you if you need to know of the assets that we’ve sent to the region, including aircraft and helicopters and two destroyers that are a part of the effort of the search underway. But when it comes to conclusions from that investigation, it’s too early to draw any, in our view.
Q Jay, so Secretary Kerry is going to meet again with Foreign Minister Lavrov. The State Department said earlier this week that there would be no such meeting unless there were, in the words of Jen Psaki, “concrete evidence” that Russia is prepared to engage in these proposals and these discussions in a serious way. So I’m wondering, have we seen concrete evidence that Russia is now going to seriously engage on this?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’ve made clear to the Russians that we’re open to further dialogue and that we want to see concrete evidence. We view this as an opportunity, again, for Secretary Kerry to meet with Foreign Minister Lavrov, his counterpart, to discuss the situation in Ukraine, discuss the situation in Crimea, make clear that there is a way out of this diplomatically and peacefully that Russia can avail itself of, and to continue that discussion.
It’s certainly worth doing, in our view, because there are already costs associated with Russia’s decisions here, its violations, and there will be greater costs, inevitably, if Russia continues down this path. And those will be assessed -- those costs will be assessed by obviously the United States and our allies and our partners, but also by the impact on Russia’s economy that these kinds of actions that flout international law and send signals to potential investors around the world that Russia doesn’t abide by law -- international law -- that has a dramatic impact on Russia’s economy and on Russia’s status in the world. If you want to participate in the international economy and do so responsibly, you need to demonstrate the kind of responsible behavior that does not include arbitrary violations of a neighboring nation’s territory.
Q But my question was, have we seen any concrete evidence that Russia is softening its position on this or is willing to engage in a way that they have not until now? I mean, is that why we’re seeing Kerry go over there? Because, again, they were saying there wasn’t going to be another --
MR. CARNEY: No, I understand the question and all I would simply say is that we view it as appropriate for Secretary Kerry to meet again with Foreign Minister Lavrov to discuss again the situation, to make the case again for why a far better choice here would be to deescalate and for Russia to pursue its interests through the means available to it that are legal and have the endorsement of the international community. Because as we’ve made clear, any further escalatory steps would make pursuing the diplomatic path more difficult, would raise the cost to Russia.
And as you know, the President is meeting with the Prime Minister of Ukraine today and that meeting will, by itself, I think demonstrate the fact that we strongly support the Ukrainian people; we strongly support Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; we strongly support and urge the effort underway in Congress to pass legislation that would provide bilateral assistance to Ukraine. And that’s a stance taken not just by the United States but by countries throughout the region and the world.
Q One quick question about the Florida special election. So this is a district obviously that the President carried twice. It’s a race you guys all thought you were going to win as recently as yesterday. Taking a loss like this with a candidate you were very enthusiastic about, Democrats were enthusiastic about, and thought was going to win, does this mean you should be bracing for a tough fall?
MR. CARNEY: Well, let me say a couple of things. First of all, this is a seat that was held by Republicans for 58 years -- longer than you and I by a lot have been alive. (Laughter.)
Q Not as long as we’d like.
MR. CARNEY: Not as long as we’d like. I mean, this was a safe Republican seat for decades, A. B, I am not --
Q You thought you were going to win. I mean, Democrats were confident this was --
MR. CARNEY: We thought it was going to be close. And the fact that it was going to be close I think demonstrates a number of things, including what the winner himself said upon winning when he was asked why he didn’t mention the Affordable Care Act, which, of course, has been the focus of the analysis about the meaning and impact of this special election. And he said, “The national media and the pundits, they’ll draw from the race what they want. This was a clearly run race, we know that. I don’t take a mandate from this. I think what the national pundits think is they’ve got some messaging homework to do maybe based on this race. This was always a local race for me. I haven’t wavered from that from the beginning.”
Q Do you agree with that? Do you agree that the Affordable Care Act was not a factor in the Democratic loss in this race?
MR. CARNEY: Look, let me say a couple things. Tempting as it is, given my background, I am not going to delve too deep into election analysis. But I will note that any fair assessment of the role that the debate about the Affordable Care Act played reaches the conclusion that, at best for the Republicans it was a draw. And I think that’s evidenced by the fact that the Republican candidate himself didn’t even mention it in his victory speech.
Q It’s mentioned a lot on his ads in his campaign.
Q Wait, wait, can you explain -- you said, at best it was a draw?
MR. CARNEY: On the Affordable Care Act. The effect of the Affordable Care Act, the debate that was, as Mara points out, a part of this election campaign for this special election in Florida, that the views on it at best from the Republican point of view created a draw; that it was not a negative or a positive, it was not the decisive factor for an outcome to a race -- which, by the way, resulted in a less than 2 percent victory in a special election -- again, we’re talking about a demographic here -- a special election, not a November election.
So the electorate I think, as anybody here who understands these things would acknowledge does not favor Democrats -- and that’s a starting point -- was extremely close in a seat that had been held by Republicans for nearly 60 years.
Here’s another thing I’ll say. In 2006, Democrats lost every competitive special election and went on to pick up 31 seats in November. In 2010, when House Democrats would go on to lose 63 seats and control of the chamber in the fall, they won every single competitive special election.
Q So this is a good sign. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: No. I think it’s a single race. It’s a single race, and it’s a race that had a lot of peculiarities to it because it’s a special -- as any special does, it’s a race where, again, Republicans held the seat for 58 years, where they routinely won that seat by 30 or more points, and last night, they won by less than two points. So it is what it is.
Q Can you clarify your remarks on Ukraine? You say you’re supporting the actions of Congress on loan guarantees. But what about -- where are sanctions now? I mean, you said you wanted to isolate the Russian economy and really hurt Russia. And now you’re talking about if these steps continue -- I mean, where are you?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, there were actions already taken by the State Department when it comes to visa bans.
Q But you haven’t actually --
MR. CARNEY: We never name individuals because that is not allowed under the rules when it comes to visas. But that has taken effect. And I believe the Europeans have announced that they’ve done similar things. The executive order created the authorities to impose sanctions on individuals and entities. And I can assure you that those individuals whose job it is to focus specifically on developing sanctions and identifying targets of those sanctions are hard at work and that there will be consequences for the actions Russia has already taken to violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
The question moving forward -- so it’s a both/and proposition. There are costs that Russia has paid and will pay because of what it’s already done, but there is also going to be further costs incurred -- if they fail to deescalate and they continue forward on the path they’ve adopted, they try to annex Crimea illegally, there would be greater costs. And that would come through sanctions and actions by our European partners and allies in addition to actions by the United States, as we take the steps that we are working with Congress to take to provide bilateral support, as we hopefully take steps with Congress to ensure that IMF quota reforms are passed so that the IMF is able to provide the maximum level of assistance to Ukraine and to the Ukrainian government at this very difficult time.
So the impact of all of this I think will be clear. Russia has an opportunity to avoid further costs by deescalating, returning its military personnel to their bases, making sure that the levels are below -- at or below the maximum levels agreed to between the Ukrainian and Russian governments in Crimea, and to engage in a dialogue facilitated by international partners with the Ukrainian government on steps to move forward as the country moves towards elections in May.
Q But will you say when you -- even if you can’t name the specific people whose visas were banned, are you going to say when they’ve actually started?
MR. CARNEY: The visa bans are in effect. So you’re separating -- there are two separate actions. When we announced the executive order last week, we also announced -- the State Department did -- that they had taken action on visa bans. But as I understand it, they’re not allowed to identify individuals publicly in that process, but that has happened. Separate from that –
Q Some people have had their visa banned?
MR. CARNEY: Correct.
Q And assets frozen also?
MR. CARNEY: These are visa bans.
Q Oh, okay.
MR. CARNEY: So the sanctions have to do with the authorities created by or authorized by the executive order. And that process is underway and it is a very broad and flexible tool that we have available to us.
Q Thanks -- a couple on Ukraine. On the issue of the loan guarantees, kind of to get into the nitty-gritty -- the Senate wants to attach the IMF reforms to it; the House doesn’t want to. I know the White House would probably prefer to get some IMF stuff done, too, but have you made a strategic decision on whether you're really willing to go to the mat on this? Are you going to take the fight to the House to try to get both done, or are you going to step back?
MR. CARNEY: Here’s the thing about this: We all support -- Democrats and Republicans -- providing substantial assistance to Ukraine during this difficult time, to the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian government. The support that we can provide through the loan guarantee program bilaterally is substantial, and Congress needs to take action to make sure that happens. But all along, our view has been -- and I think this is shared by Democrats and Republicans on the Hill -- that whatever bilateral assistance the United States is able to provide should serve as a complement to the substantial assistance the International Monetary Fund can and should provide.
So if lawmakers view it that way, as I understand they do, then it is absolutely in Congress’s interest and the United States’ interest as well as in Ukraine’s interest that these quota reforms from 2010 are passed, which would enable the IMF to provide broader and deeper assistance to Ukraine.
So there’s no cost associated in terms of additional funding from the United States for that to happen, but we strongly support the passage of IMF quota reforms because, in general, it's the right thing to do and, specifically, when it comes to providing assistance to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people at this difficult time, it's the right thing to do.
Q -- okay, it's important, it's the right thing to do. Do you think -- so do you think they’re swayable or --
MR. CARNEY: Again, we're working with Congress in both -- and members in both houses and leaders in both houses to move this forward. And we are making the arguments that I just made to you about why it's important for Ukraine’s sake that the assistance package and the quota reform pass.
Q Also on Ukraine, everything is still on for this afternoon here, right? The Prime Minister had cancelled a press conference. So no changes to his schedule you're aware of?
MR. CARNEY: I'm not aware of anything.
Q In that meeting, do you expect the President, beyond the support that we all know he'll talk about publicly probably in the spray, do you expect him to get into some nitty-gritty details about, starting on Sunday, assuming that this referendum passes, about what the U.S. will do in concert with Ukraine? Some of that, like, what happens next stuff?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think I'll point you to the President, who will have the opportunity to talk to the pool at the end of the meeting that he has for a summary of what the discussion was. But I think it's fair to say that they’re going to discuss all of the above when it comes to the situation that Ukraine is currently experiencing.
Q And would you be willing to preview for us that the U.S. at least has decided if the referendum goes the way everyone thinks it's going to go what you will do next? I mean, it would be great if you want to announce it here, but if not, has the President reached a decision on what he does Sunday?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’d say two things. One, Secretary Kerry is going to London to meet with Foreign Minister Lavrov on Friday and we certainly hope that Russia makes a decision to follow a different path to deescalate and to pursue the diplomatic avenue open to it for resolving this conflict. So I’m not going to start speculating about what actions we would take except to assure you that the international community would surely take actions if Ukraine -- rather, Russia continues down this path.
Q Last one -- so what he’s asking is -- when you say to take a different path, not yank the referendum, but just not to take the ball and run with it? Is that the path? It’s following up on Jen’s question from earlier.
MR. CARNEY: No, we’ve been very clear that what Russia needs to do is return its forces back to their bases, make sure that the level of Russian military personnel in Crimea is consistent with the agreements between the Ukrainian government and the Russian government, engage in a dialogue with the help of the international community and international partners with the Ukrainian government about the issues that have arisen here towards free and fair elections in May that have been called for by the Ukrainian government when there’s an opportunity for the Ukrainian people to choose their President in a democratic way and where all voices in Ukraine are heard and represented at the polling stations.
Q Jay, the goal of the Kerry-Lavrov meeting is not to see that the referendum doesn’t happen -- that’s not something that’s on the table you think as an option?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think the referendum -- which, if held, would not be recognized, its results would not be recognized, is not legal under the Ukrainian consititution -- is a part of the puzzle here. What we have called on Russia to do is to take action that it’s directly responsible for, which is the movement of its military and its actions consistent with its agreements with the Ukrainians.
Q But this meeting is not about seeking the scrubbing of the referendum?
MR. CARNEY: Again, since we don’t recognize it, we don’t think it’s -- and neither does the Ukrainain government; most importantly, it’s certainly not helpful when it comes to reducing tensions or deescalating the situation.
Q Is the referendum itself, to use your words earlier, an “escalating step” in this crisis?
MR. CARNEY: No question.
Q Okay. And then if there was a subsequent -- as the Russians have indicated there will be -- parliamentary action to annex, that would clearly fall into that category as well?
MR. CARNEY: That would qualify as escalatory, which is a word I had not known existed before this morning.
Q But you used it so I wanted to give you another chance.
MR. CARNEY: Hey, I’m not sure what word -- a lawyer I think wrote this.
Q I just want to clear up a couple things from Betsey’s briefing. She implied -- I just want to make sure -- that the administration had looked at this issue about overtime but didn’t think the labor force could withstand it earlier and closer to the Great Recession and now is a more opportune time economically to do that. Is that a fair interpretation?
MR. CARNEY: Didn’t she say that? I mean, she’s the economist.
Q I just want to make sure that's --
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to what she said. I think that it is fair to say the economy is much stronger now than it was in during its period of free fall.
Q It would have been harmful earlier. It’s potentially less harmful now.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t want to make that economic assessment. I think it is fair for a layman to say that the economy, having added the millions of jobs it’s added, having grown as steadily as it’s grown, is in a much stronger position today than it was in 2008 or 2009 when it was in free fall. I think the points that Betsey made about the fundamental fairness of ensuring that this rule is modernized are pretty unassailable. I mean, if the rule was right in 1975 and the level set in 1975 is consistent with $1,000 a week today or whatever it was, and is half that now, then why is what was fair then not fair now?
Q My only question is, why didn’t you do it sooner, and the answer is the labor market wasn’t capable of withstanding --
MR. CARNEY: I think she addressed that. I think that we’re looking constantly for ways to expand opportunity, reward hard work, and reward those who take responsibility for themselves and their families, and this is another way to do that that’s consistent with past practice, that ensures that folks who are working 60 hours a week and whose incomes surpasses a certain threshold aren’t being deprived of overtime because of the way their labor is categorized. So that just seems I think -- you test that principle around the country you’ll find that it is overwhelmingly supported.
Q Back to the CIA situation. You said earlier that you wanted -- the administration wanted the declassification of the Senate report, but then you also said all other relevant reports. Does that mean the Panetta review you want declassified and the CIA responses to the -- because I asked that yesterday and you weren’t sure. I just want to make sure if you’re saying all those things should be declassified.
MR. CARNEY: I think the so-called Panetta review is a series -- as I understand it, a series of documents that’s not really a collected review, so to speak, but it’s part of the -- it is related to the protocol that has resulted in the provision of millions of pages of documents, unprecedented number of documents to the committee as part of its investigation. There have been, as I talked about yesterday and earlier today, disputes about the process around that protocol and some of those disputes are being reviewed by the Inspector General and by the Department of Justice.
But when it comes to the steps that the President wants to see, he wants a completion of this report; he wants the committee to submit a request for declassification so that we can move with dispatch to declassify its findings appropriately. And my point was simply that all views on this certainly should be --
Q -- the CIA also to go through a declassification process of its work product. And I’m just curious if that’s the President’s position on --
MR. CARNEY: Without getting into too many -- I think it’s a -- my understanding is we’re talking about a series of drafts and papers and things like that that are just part of the overall millions of pages of documents. And what the select committee assigned itself to do and what the administration has been providing or the agency has been providing documents for to do is investigate the practices, the enhanced interrogation techniques that were employed under the previous administration that Senator Obama strenuously objected to, promised to end, and ended on his second full day in office. And I think that, again, as I mentioned yesterday --
Q There’s a difference between the CIA criticizing itself and the Senate Select Committee criticizing the CIA. And those two things are different -- they are in different sort of inboxes, if you will. And both can be declassified. And one of them is the President’s decision.
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to get into a discussion about documents I haven’t seen or a review that’s underway -- excellent point. And what I’m saying is this President wants you to be able to see declassified findings from the Senate Select Committee’s report as soon as possible. And if the CIA has produced or wants to produce its own assessment of that report, we would want to see that declassified appropriately for public consumption.
And the reason why I mentioned this is you obviously have the majority and the minority in the committee -- if separate reports, separate findings, the President would like to see those appropriately declassified and made public as well. Because the President’s view in this has been consistent all along that the practices were not consistent with our values as a nation, they never should have happened. He ended them immediately upon taking office, and he endorsed an investigation that has now been going on for roughly five years that he hopes to see conclude quickly so that the public can be made aware of its findings.
Q Jay, this focus today -- women in the economy, minimum wage, overtime, pay increases as well -- all important policy areas as was discussed at the top. But will you also acknowledge these are also issues that test pretty well in an election year and that are a lot better to focus on than, say, the health care numbers from yesterday?
MR. CARNEY: Ed, are you saying that we should have done this in 2012 because our margin with women wasn’t big enough?
Q Your margin was pretty strong, so that might help you again in the midterms.
MR. CARNEY: These are the right things to do for the economy. No, Ed.
Q So this has nothing to do with the midterms?
MR. CARNEY: You know what, I think every woman in here ought to be offended by that. I’m offended by it on behalf of my wife and my daughter. It’s crazy.
Q Major asked about the over -- I thought when Major asked about the overtime issue and if you increased can you show that that will help women, and Betsey said, well, we’re studying that. Is there a specific tie-in?
MR. CARNEY: The overtime -- altering and modernizing the rules regarding overtime is the right thing to do for the whole economy. And she was asked if that disproportionately affects women in the way that raising the minimum wage does.
Q -- numbers on it.
MR. CARNEY: What’s that?
Q Just that they run numbers on it --
MR. CARNEY: And I don’t think that assessment has been done. It’s certainly the right thing to do regardless. The assessments that have been done related to the minimum wage is that women would be affected more than men because women tend to have minimum wage jobs, as I understand it, not an economist, in greater number than men do.
But here’s the point -- and I mentioned my wife’s book on this -- I mean, there is a macroeconomic benefit to making sure --
Q What book?
MR. CARNEY: “Womenomics.”
Q What’s the title of it?
MR. CARNEY: “Womenomics.” (Laughter.)
Q Is it available on Amazon?
MR. CARNEY: Amazon. It came out in 2009. It might have been on the New York Times Bestseller list.
No, but I’m only saying this because I happen to know, because of that, a little bit about this subject -- that there are bottom line benefits to making sure that the private and the public sector make sure that the rules of the road, if you will, when it comes to our economy, work for women because doing that is not just the right thing to do, it’s economically beneficial. It helps the bottom line. It helps the country’s bottom line and it helps the private sector bottom line.
So, again, I didn’t mean to jump on you. But this is not about -- this is good for the economy.
MR. CARNEY: Well, maybe. Well, it’s good for the economy, I promise you.
Q And your wife is wonderful, a very nice person. Health care, a quick one -- I know we’re short on time.
MR. CARNEY: I’ve got all day. (Laughter.)
Q I know you can say you’ve made progress. Millions of people are signing up. You can clearly cite progress. But you can’t possibly be happy that at the beginning you said, based on CBO projections, that you needed 38 percent of the people signing up to be 18- to 34-year-olds and the percentage now is 25 percent. Can you tell me that -- are you really happy with that?
And then, also, we’ve seen that Lance Bass apparently showed up at the White House a short time ago, and said he is meeting with the President on health care. Will we see the President do something with ‘N Sync or anyone -- anything like that? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think what you can be assured of, as I think we demonstrated yesterday, that we’re looking at every way possible to make sure that communities across the country are getting the information they need to make the choices available to them. And sometimes that means using non-traditional means to reach folks, because they don’t all get their news or their information from the same sources that we do.
But on the question of the numbers, it’s March 12th. And we have only a few more weeks until the end of the open enrollment period. And what I guess I’ll say is, we’ll see where we are at the end. Some of the targets that you talk about are related to CBO figures, that when it comes to the demographics had more to do with the percentage of young adults who made up -- within the population of the uninsured. I think as we’ve seen from the Massachusetts experience, the figures that we’ve achieved thus far are consistent with where Massachusetts was roughly. But we’ll see.
There’s no question we got off to a really bad start, and that was on us. And a lot of effort was put into making sure that the website and the problems with it were fixed. Once that happened, we’ve seen the American people’s interest in the product not waver at all, despite all the obstacles to obtaining it that were put in front of them. And we’ve seen a consistent growth in enrollments and including youth enrollments. But we’ll see what comes on April 1st.
Q I just want to clear up a couple things. One, I’ve noticed, I think this is the second or third time you guys put out a statement that says “G7 Nations.” I mean, is there an announcement? Is there no more G8? Like, how do --
MR. CARNEY: I actually covered a G7 once. That’s how long I’ve been around.
Q Is it -- are they out? Is it now this is going to be the way -- the new norm? I mean, I know it’s semantics.
MR. CARNEY: Well, no, this is a fair question. We and the other G7 nations have suspended preparations for the G8 meeting in Sochi, because it is inconceivable to us that we can move forward with those preparations given the actions taken by Russia in Ukraine. And it is hard to see how that would change if Russia does not deescalate and choose a different course.
We are consulting regularly with our G7 partners, and we put out the statement that you mentioned this morning. I'm not going to project into the future here, because Russia has an opportunity to make some decisions that allow Russia to pursue and protect its interests. But --
Q So you’ve suspended them from the G8 but not kicked them out yet? Is that fair to say?
MR. CARNEY: We've suspended preparations on the next meeting of the G8, which happens to be --
Q The fact that you speak as the G7 almost, right? I mean, is that the equivalent of Russia suspended and --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think in this case, one member of the G8, Russia, has taken actions that made it necessary for the G7 to speak as the G7.
Q On the CIA story, are you pledging that the President also wants to make public the Panetta report that was done --
MR. CARNEY: I think what Major said -- it’s important --
Q -- is it that report, too, that will get declassified?
MR. CARNEY: Major, what I can tell you is that the discussions and disputes -- did I just call you Major?
Q You did.
MR. CARNEY: Okay. (Laughter.)
Q The worse insult Chuck has ever gotten. (Laughter.)
Q I take it as a compliment. (Laughter.) You have a title in your name -- I mean, that's pretty good. (Laughter.)
And it’s like, his first name is Colonel. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Chuck, what I can tell you is that the discussions and disputes about the protocol that was in place, that has been in place since early 2009, that governs the provision of obviously sensitive documents from the CIA to the committee and that has been the subject of disputes, involves a variety of documents, as has been reported and as I understand it.
I'm not going to get into the disposition of individual documents. What I can tell you is that it is the President’s strongly held view and strongly expressed view to the relevant parties here that the committee ought to finish its work, submit the final product for declassification so that it can be declassified -- the findings can be -- appropriately, as quickly as possible, so that we can make it public. And when it comes to alternative views and assessments, whether they’re the minority’s views or the agency’s views, that would -- it is our view that all of these assessments ought to be --
Q There’s a subtle allegation that Brennan is somehow changing the report that Panetta’s team did.
MR. CARNEY: Chuck, all I can tell you is I'm not going to wade into the details of this. My understanding is that the so-called report -- and I'm basing this on press reports -- is not a report per se, but that we are talking about millions of documents here of which there are some that fall under that label, and that the disputes around some of the provision of some of those documents and how they’ve been handled are being looked at and reviewed appropriately by the Inspector General and by the Department of Justice.
Q Senator Udall has a hold on the President’s nomination to be General Counsel at the CIA. Part of the reason is he does not believe that her -- he doesn’t want to see her confirmed because of her belief that she believes that legal memos that govern the CIA activities on interrogations and drone strikes should not be made available to Congress. Where is the President on this issue?
MR. CARNEY: Well, you know that we took action early on to release the OLA memo --
Q But this is about new memos going forward.
MR. CARNEY: I don't have a statement of our views and policies on this. What I know is that our nominee -- his nominee to that position is highly qualified and we certainly, as is the case with all nominees, hope and expect the Senate will act expeditiously.
Q If you make this change, though, would the President agree to say despite her personal opinion, he believes that these memos should be made available to Congress?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I can't adjudicate hypothetical memos and whether or not -- especially ones on highly sensitive matters that have to do with intelligence collection -- whether or not they ought to be disseminated. What I can say is this President has taken unprecedented --
Q Just made available to Congress.
Q Nobody is talking about disseminating public --
MR. CARNEY: Fair enough. I'm just saying I don't have a view to express on that. What I do have a view on is that the President’s nominee ought to be confirmed.
Q On the Ukraine aid bill, I’m wondering -- it doesn't seem like it’s going to move through the Senate this week before people leave for recess. Is that something that's concerning to you guys? And how much disappointment is there, especially since the President said last week he wanted to see --
MR. CARNEY: We want to see Congress act on it quickly. We think that a lot of members have publicly stated their views on the transgression we’ve seen from Russia, on the plight of Ukraine. In this circumstance, it’s absolutely appropriate for members to channel those observations and feelings into action, and that action is in the form of legislation that would provide loan guarantees to the government of Ukraine. So we want to see that happen as quickly as possible.
In terms of the makeup of that legislative package -- we’ve talked about that a couple of times today -- it’s our view that as part of the effort to make sure that Ukraine is getting as much assistance as possible from the international community, that the quota reforms ought to be passed.
Q You don't see it as important to get it done before the meeting on Friday, or the referendum --
MR. CARNEY: I’m not putting -- I think it’s important to get it done, absolutely, as soon as possible.
Q Jay, two quick questions. One on Ukraine. Do you know whether the U.S. or Russia initiated Friday’s meeting?
MR. CARNEY: That I would refer you to the State Department. I think Secretary Kerry announced the fact that he was going to London today when he was up on the Hill, and I’m not sure who initiated it. We’ve made clear that we want to continue diplomatic discussions with Russia and to see concrete action taken by Russia to deescalate the situation. But I don't know who called whom.
Q And then separately on immigration, House Republicans have introduced a couple of proposals this week that would challenge the President’s authority to enforce immigration laws. I know you’ve put out two statements on the restriction policies saying the President would veto them. But what does it say about the momentum, if there was any before, for overhauling the immigration system?
MR. CARNEY: It’s a great question because there’s obviously a lot of discussion about the path forward for comprehensive immigration reform. We saw an enormous amount of energy and effort in the Senate that resulted in a bipartisan compromise that received a substantial majority vote in the Senate -- Democrats and Republicans passed -- and that bill, while not word-for-word what the President would have written, is consistent with the President’s principles and consistent with the idea that we have to do this comprehensively so that we solve all of these problems associated with our broken immigration system.
We were encouraged when we saw leaders in the House put forward their standards, their principles for comprehensive immigration reform. That was a positive step, and it suggested that the House might be ready to move forward and that we could be making progress when it comes to seeing comprehensive immigration reform pass the Congress and get to the President’s desk so he could sign it.
So it is, in my view, in our view, pretty amazing that today House Republicans went in the opposite direction by passing legislation targeting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that removed the threat of deportation for young people brought to this country as children, known as DREAMers.
The House Judiciary Committee made clear that both the ENFORCE Act, that you mention, and the Faithful Execution of the Law Act were promoted in part by that policy and opposition to it. Unfortunately, this is the second time House Republicans have targeted DREAMers during this Congress, following up on the amendment sponsored by Representative Steve King last year.
And let’s think about that: This runs contrary to our most deeply held values as Americans, and asks law enforcement officials to treat these DREAMers the same way as they would treat those with criminal records, those with violent criminal records.
We urge House Republicans to focus on actually fixing our broken immigration system to provide opportunity for all, instead of legislation designed to deny opportunity to those who are Americans in every way -- in their hearts, in their minds, in their experiences -- in very way but on paper.
So you hear a lot of talk about where people are on this issue. It doesn't require much to look at what House Republicans are doing today to question whether or not they're serious about moving forward on comprehensive immigration reform.
2:36 P.M. EDT