The White House
February 17, 2009
Press Gaggle By Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release February 17, 2009
12:38 P.M. EST
MR. GIBBS: What's going on, guys?
Q Any opening statement at all?
MR. GIBBS: I have no announcements.
Q Can you confirm that the administration has decided to give GM another $4 billion?
MR. GIBBS: I will double-check, but I believe that that is the case. But let me emphasize that that was part of the original -- I believe that was part of the original agreement that was made at the end of last year.
We anticipate that later today the administration will receive the reports that Congress requires detailing restructuring plans for both of Chrysler and GM. And obviously the administration looks forward to analyzing them, understanding that the auto companies represent a huge part of our manufacturing base, and to have a strong and viable auto industry is tremendously important for the future.
Q On the foreclosure plan, you probably don't want to give out too many details before tomorrow, but in putting together the plan, how did the President balance the need to address the problem of foreclosures without bailing out speculators or people who were irresponsible with how they access loans?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, without getting into proposal details which we'll have for you guys tomorrow, obviously, as the President spoke about throughout the campaign, bailing out speculators or those that were trying to game the system is not what this plan is going to try to do. Instead it's to stem the rising tide of foreclosures, as well as people that are at risk for foreclosure based on the fact that their housing value has dropped as a result of this economy.
Ten thousand people face foreclosure every day in this country. And it's a problem that not only affects the individual homeowner and their family, but oftentimes has a direct impact to home values in the neighborhood that that house or homes are on. This is a tremendously important part of what the President believes has to be done next in order to move our economy forward.
I think today will represent a big step forward for a recovery -- for the Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, which will be signed into law, in beginning to move aid to families and states, and in long-term investments that will create jobs and put people back to work immediately.
Q Robert, going back to the automakers, can the obviously enormous amount of restructuring that's going to be required take place without them going into bankruptcy?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me not prejudge plans that have yet to be turned into the administration as required by actions that were taken at the end of last year. Obviously there are different paths that can be chosen and we're anxious to see what type of restructuring details each of the automakers themselves have put together in conjunction with their bond holders, their employees.
Again, I just want to reiterate that it is tremendously important for our economy to have a strong and viable auto industry and that the cars of tomorrow are built in America for Americans. So let me not prejudge their plans until we have a chance to look at them.
Q Their plans aside, you -- the administration has not closed the door to a government-backed bankruptcy, though?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I wouldn't close the door -- I wouldn't preclude policy choices, particularly since we haven't seen details on what they think is ultimately going to be most helpful for them. Obviously we've had teams of people working on this through the beginning of the transition and I think they're anxious and eager to see what type of details the companies will put forward today.
Q Would the President want to see an auto industry bankruptcy on his watch, though?
MR. GIBBS: The President of the United States wants to see a strong and vibrant auto industry that's employing tens of thousands of hardworking Americans, and building the cars of tomorrow for Americans right now. That's what this President wants to see.
Q Robert, what are the prospects for another economic stimulus package following this one? I mean, have you guys ruled out that you would do something of this -- another step of this significance?
MR. GIBBS: I don't -- I think we believe that the steps contained in this piece of legislation that the President will sign in a few hours will be the beginning of getting our economy back on track. Whether it is creating jobs, creating -- or investing in our infrastructure, putting money directly into people's pockets, ensuring that states and localities don't have to lay off firefighters and teachers, represents a strong start toward economic viability.
And investments that are contained in this piece of legislation, some of which we'll showcase today in Denver, provide the foundation for sustained, long-term economic growth through investments that we've neglected, quite frankly, over the past many years.
So I think we're anxious and eager to implement the plan that the President has called for, ensure that the money is given out in a transparent and accountable way, and that it creates and saves the jobs that we believe it will before we go any further on an additional stimulus bill.
Obviously the President has spoken many times about the need for many other things to happen in this economy. Obviously we're working on a financial stability plan to increase lending to small businesses and families. The home foreclosure aspect is something the President will detail tomorrow. And then, most importantly -- and you'll hear him talk about all these things today -- or not most importantly, but as important is a plan to enforce the rules of the road so we don't find ourselves in this economic dead-end again.
Q It seems like you're almost taking a wait-and-see kind of approach to this, but not closing the door to another step. Would I be incorrect in interpreting it that way?
MR. GIBBS: Well, without -- let me give you two answers. One, the President is going to do whatever he thinks is necessary to get our economy moving again. I think if you look back at the -- well, in just four weeks since -- four weeks since the President was sworn into office, we're going to sign the largest economic recovery package in this country's history that will do many of the things that I've enumerated -- most importantly, we think, save and create 3.5 million jobs. That's our focus, and I think there's obviously a lot of work to be done in ensuring that this money gets out quickly and gets into the hands that -- and in the hands of people that need it the most.
So I think the President is going to do what's necessary to grow this economy. But there are no particular plans at this point for a second stimulus package at the moment. I wouldn't foreclose it, but I wouldn't say, at the same time, there's -- we're readily making plans to do so.
Q Robert, though, is it a fair read to say that if your economics team has any concern about this bill at all, it is that it is, in fact, too small, not a big enough pot to really stimulate the economy the way the President originally envisioned?
MR. GIBBS: Well, the President originally envisioned a $675 billion to $775 billion plan, in meeting with his economic team in December, and I think today we're signing a $787.2-billion plan. A little bit --
Q And $90 billion in tax cuts.
MR. GIBBS: Right. Well, tax cuts that will put money into people's pockets that we believe they'll spend on goods and services that will stimulate this economy. I think the President believes that the framework of this bill is -- was done in a way that will stimulate economic growth, and that we've landed on a size that will create jobs and get people back to work.
Q Why did he want to do this announcement in Denver?
MR. GIBBS: Denver is lovely this time of year. No, I think partly what you'll see today is we want to highlight -- we want to highlight specific things that are in the bill, particularly I think you'll see a company today that's likely to, under provisions in this bill, be able to expand its operation in clean energy jobs, not lay off people but instead hire people, and go many steps further in reducing our dependence on foreign oil at a time in which we have to desperately do so.
I think today's event will encapsulate many of the things that we hope to get out of this recovery plan, which is incentives that will put people directly back to work, create and save jobs immediately, but also lay the path for sustained economic growth through important investments that will help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I think that's -- I think that's a plan that the American people wanted; I think that's a plan that the President will sign into law today.
Q Robert, the President initially had some concerns about the appointment of Roland Burris by Rod Blagojevich. I wonder if he has any reaction to the disclosure over the weekend that there were actually more extensive contacts than Burris initially let be known.
MR. GIBBS: I haven't talked to him about it. And I don't know whether we have or he has seen anything related to the affidavit.
Q So, Robert, Harold Ford's name has been bandied about for possible Commerce Secretary. Is he under consideration?
MR. GIBBS: I think you guys know that with the existence of this many microphones, I'm very reticent to play the name game. (Laughter.)
Q Can you give us any sense, without playing the game, of how close you are to filling these key jobs, especially the Health and Human Services Secretary? You've got the budget coming up; health care reform is important to the President. What's your time frame?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me -- obviously we're in the process of reviewing candidates for both of -- both very important jobs. But let me say something as it relates to health care. I think the steps that we're going to take today in signing this bill, in moving forward the very important provisions on medical technology that will sharply reduce paperwork that doctors have to produce, will speed up a system that otherwise is notoriously slow, and save people money in the process, is a great down payment on the type of reform that the President talked about throughout the campaign, and represents one of the biggest steps forward in reforming our health care system that this country has seen in quite some time.
So, as we seek to fill these important jobs, the President is taking steps in ensuring that reform of the health care system is moving forward.
Q When are you sending the budget up to Congress?
MR. GIBBS: If I'm not mistaken, I think it goes up later next week. I think -- I want to say the 26th, but I'll double-check on that. I think that's correct. I think it's the Thursday -- oh, look at that. Five points for me. Thursday after --
Q Do you want to go for 10?
MR. GIBBS: No, I don't want to -- I'm not going to risk my winnings on double jeopardy on --
Q So it's the financial conference, the joint speech to Congress, and then the budget?
MR. GIBBS: Right. And I anticipate, honestly, that the joint session of Congress will focus heavily on a series of -- a series of things related to the economy. Obviously he'll talk about the Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. He'll talk about the system to stabilize our financial system. He'll talk about reregulation and ensuring we have concrete rules of the road going forward. We'll talk about a budget, and this will be on the heels of a fiscal responsibility summit -- because as we move forward, our budget deficits, most people recognize, are unsustainable. So I think a series of those things, including home foreclosures, are what will dominate that address.
Q Can you talk a little bit about that fiscal summit that you're having? When is that, and what's the theme of that thing? Is that --
MR. GIBBS: Let me pull some more information on that. If I'm not mistaken, that is Monday, the 23rd. I don't know if that's at the White House or it's at Blair House. Let me pull some specific info on that.
Q The news in Pakistan, the concessions announced in the Swat Valley -- is the administration concerned that this is a beginning of a broader push into other parts of Pakistan?
MR. GIBBS: I don't have anything particular on that except to say that we've seen those reports and we're in contact with the Pakistani government.
Q Robert, can you just summarize for us, to the extent that you can, what the program he's announcing tomorrow is supposed to accomplish?
MR. GIBBS: Reducing home foreclosures.
Q Is the President --
MR. GIBBS: Since I got 63 million votes less than the President of the United States, I'll wait 24 hours and let him do it.
Q Has the President had a chance to review the Leahy truth commission proposal since his press conference?
MR. GIBBS: I don't think I -- I don't have anything to add to what he said last week.
Q Another on the joint address. How much of it will be foreign policy?
MR. GIBBS: I think there will be -- I mean, I think you'd have a hard time talking about our economy without talking about our commitments around the world, the health of our force structure, and obviously what is going on in both Iraq and Afghanistan. So obviously that will be a part of the address.
Q Is the Afghanistan decision ready yet?
MR. GIBBS: Soon.
Q There are reports that President Obama is going to keep all 93 U.S. attorneys; he's not going to fire any of them. Can you comment on that at all?
MR. GIBBS: Let me check on that report. I don't remember if that's quite right, so before I get out there I will -- I'll check when we land.
Q Robert, did the President invite any members of Congress to fly with him today?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know -- I don't think there are any members of Congress on this flight.
Q Right, I just wondered -- usually -- I know he promised change from President Bush, but President Bush would often bring members of Congress with him aboard the plane to their own districts. And I wondered --
MR. GIBBS: Let me check and see if anybody is on board from Colorado. I know Ken Salazar -- Secretary Salazar is on board. I think part of that was -- part of members of Congress might have been dealt with largely because a lot of them are out of Washington and out of town and have left on recess.
All right? Thanks, guys.
Q Thank you.
END 12:55 P.M. EST