Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–March 2, 2011 – 1:15 P.M. EST
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Before we get started on taking your questions on other subjects, I have with me today Jeff Zients, the Federal Chief Performance Officer, as many of you know, and the Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget. He is here today to brief you on our legislative proposal to change the way we manage federal properties so that we can save taxpayers billions of dollars. Jeff will give a short presentation on this proposal and then he is here to take your questions on it.
If you could reserve your questions on other issues so that he can address this particular one, and then we can let him go. I will remain and take your questions on other issues.
With that, I will give you Jeff Zients.
MR. ZIENTS: Thanks, Jay. And thank you all for being here. Good afternoon. As the President said in the State of the Union, we can’t win the future with a government of the past. We’re here today to talk about a major reform initiative that will modernize how the government manages its real estate. We will cut through red tape and sell property the federal government no longer needs, returning at least $15 billion in taxpayer dollars. Before I give you the specifics on the proposal, let me put it into context. From the beginning of the administration we’ve been executing on President Obama’s mandate to transform how government works and deliver a government that’s smarter, more effective, and more efficient. This is our Accountable Government Initiative.
Over the past two years, the Accountable Government Initiative has saved taxpayer dollars by cutting waste and increasing the efficiency of government operations. For example, we have curbed uncontrolled growth in contract spending. Last year we actually decreased contract spending by $15 billion. This is the first year-over-year decrease in contracting in 13 years.
Likewise, we’ve saved billions of dollars by improving how government buys and utilizes information technology. We’ve scaled back and terminated poorly performing IT projects. We’ve also deployed state-of-the-art fraud detection tools to crack down on waste. Last year alone we avoided $4 billion in improper payments.
To build on these results, the President’s 2012 budget proposed more than 200 program terminations and other reductions. In total, this will save $33 billion. We are targeting areas where programs are duplicative, outdated, or simply ineffective. For example, the budget consolidates 38 K-12 education programs into 11 new programs that use competition and performance to allocate the funds. The budget also calls for reduction, a 40 percent reduction, in the more than 2,000 data centers maintained by federal agencies.
These kinds of measure are necessary and important.
Yesterday, the GAO issued a report highlighting opportunities for the government to save money with specific recommendations for eliminating duplication and increasing efficiencies. We’re on the same page with GAO. There’s a tremendous overlap between GAO’s recommendations and what we’re doing — things like reducing improper payments, reforming contracting, saving money on information technology, and consolidating and eliminating programs.
The President recently took another important step in streamlining government. At his direction, I’m leading an effort to take a hard look at how federal programs and functions are organized and to make recommendations at how we might reorganize to improve our global competitiveness.
With that background, let me return to real estate. The federal government is far and away the largest property owner in the country — 1.2 million individual properties. These properties cost over $20 billion a year to operate and maintain. The government doesn’t need all these properties. In fact, 14,000 of these properties have already been designated by agencies as excess. You can see them here on this map.
There are unneeded properties throughout the country, from downtown city centers to suburban shopping districts to rural locations. When you go property by property, you see the properties range from empty warehouses to underutilized office buildings.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples: Brooklyn, New York. This is a million-square-foot warehouse and a parking lot on six acres in Brooklyn, New York. It’s been sitting empty for the past 10 years, costing the federal government hundreds of thousands of dollars in upkeep. We expect to sell it in the next few months, using an electronic auction to get the highest return for taxpayers.
Fort Worth, Texas — five buildings on 75 acres. The National Archives has been using it for record storage for the last 25 years. But the buildings had been increasingly underutilized, and today all five are sitting vacant. We expect to sell this property and return millions of dollars to taxpayers.
There are a lot more properties like these around the country, and we should be selling them as soon as possible. There are also properties that have little or no market value, things like surplus supply sheds and outdated FAA towers. We need to get rid of these properties, too, so we can stop wasting taxpayer dollars on maintenance and upkeep.
So why does the federal government continue to own and pay for properties it just doesn’t need? Three main reasons. First: red tape. There are over 20 requirements to sell or get rid of a federal property, each with its own rules, guidelines and bureaucratic processes. It’s all well intentioned and, in some cases, it probably makes sense. But it doesn’t make sense to use the same procedure when you’re selling a small warehouse and when you’re selling a downtown office building.
Second reason: financial barriers. Ironically, agencies often don’t have the money they need to sell a property. They can’t cover the short-term costs, things like moving expenses and transaction costs. This often prevents agencies from capturing the obvious ongoing savings from getting rid of a property they no longer need.
Third reason: political interests. While local politicians and leaders love to reside over ribbon-cutting ceremonies, getting rid of property can be a much less rewarding experience. Not surprisingly, these same leaders are hard-pressed to support the elimination of federal properties in their local areas. Too often these political interests slow down or sometimes, in some cases, completely stop the effort to get rid of unnecessary property.
So red tape, financial barriers, political interests — that’s why the government owns thousands of properties it doesn’t need and is wasting taxpayer dollars.
Beyond clearing out this backlog of properties the government doesn’t need, there are opportunities to make the federal government’s real estate footprint smaller. Companies in the private sector have made significant changes in how they manage their real estate portfolios, using strategies like telework and co-location, and leveraging the Internet and other technologies. For the most part, government agencies haven’t kept up and still manage their real estate portfolios the way they did in the pre-Internet era.
Last year, the President ordered agency leaders to take aggressive action to reduce their real estate footprint and save money. Agencies are making good progress. The legislative proposal we’re talking about today will significantly expand these efforts. The President’s proposal to Congress will establish an independent board of experts that will expedite disposal of unneeded properties and identify opportunities to consolidate agency offices. The board will present to Congress recommendations on bundles of properties to be voted on in an up or down manner.
This is a proven approach. DOD’s Base Realignment and Closure Commission — known as BRAC — proves that having an independent board of experts can push through political gridlock and help government realize savings for taxpayers. The proposed civilian property realignment board will do the same thing and will save at least $15 billion.
We look forward to working with Congress to make this common-sense reform a reality. The proposed civilian property realignment board will finally bring 21st century management practices to federal real estate and will change the way Washington works by cutting red tape, getting rid of waste, and saving billions of dollars.
Q Thank you. You said that 14,000 properties have already been designated by agencies. Can you explain why the board is necessary if they’ve already been — these properties have already been identified —
MR. ZIENTS: Identification is just the first step in the process. As I mentioned, there’s red tape — the 20 procedures that agencies have to work through; the lack of financial capabilities to actually sell properties; and then those political obstacles. So the identification is a good first step, but it’s just the first step. And the board will expedite actually getting rid of these properties.
Q So what is the timeline that we’re looking at before you can start realizing some of these savings? And secondly, so you’ve identified these properties — is the hunt continuing to find additional properties as well?
MR. ZIENTS: Good question. As you saw the two examples, we’re doing this right now. So even though we have the red tape and the other challenges, we’re plowing forward and selling properties. Those two properties both will be sold in the next few months.
There are another 55,000 properties, beyond the 14,000, that have already been identified as excess, meaning that — or, sorry, underutilized, as opposed to excess — meaning there’s potential to consolidate those or sell those as well. So there are tens of thousands of properties that have already been identified. Agencies, working with the board, will continue to identify properties and, most importantly, sell them or consolidate them in rational ways.
Q I just had a quick one. Do you need congressional approval for any of this?
MR. ZIENTS: Yes.
Q You do?
MR. ZIENTS: Yes. So this is a proposal that the President is making to Congress and we’re hoping that Congress will pass this legislation quickly so we can start implementing on the board.
Q For the board?
MR. ZIENTS: For the board.
Q Which would then be empowered to make these decisions?
MR. ZIENTS: The board enables us to cut through the red tape, to cut through the political obstacles, and sell the properties much more quickly and save money much more rapidly. While we’re waiting for Congress to pass the legislation we’re continuing to sell properties and consolidate our real estate.
Q Are there any efforts underway to prevent the government from buying any new buildings? Is there any freeze on buying new properties?
MR. ZIENTS: The folks at GSA are very carefully looking at any requests for additional space to see if there’s a way to either not renew a lease or certainly not to build a new building. So the case has to be very compelling and it has to be made in the context of the inventory that we already have.
Q With your oversight — with OMB’s oversight?
MR. ZIENTS: OMB works very closely with GSA.
Q Isn’t this a bad time in the economy to be selling buildings?
Q Isn’t this a bad time in the economy to be selling buildings?
MR. ZIENTS: You know, the amount of property that we have and that we’ll be disposing of is significant in terms of $15 billion, potential, across three years. At the same time, I don’t think this really moves the needle in any individual market. And furthermore, I don’t think we’re market timers, and we need to get rid of this real estate, stop paying for unnecessary upkeep, and bring the money back to the taxpayers.
Q How do you make sure you get the best price?
MR. ZIENTS: I mentioned one of the properties is being sold through an electronic auction the same way you might sell something on eBay. That’s been found to create a very efficient market and maximize dollars.
Q You may have just answered — the $15 billion is over three years?
MR. ZIENTS: Yes.
Q And does that include both the profits from — expected profits from the sale as well as the savings?
MR. ZIENTS: Yes, exactly. That $15 billion would be made up of money that we get from sales, avoided upkeep and other maintenance, and other savings by consolidating the footprint. Energy savings are significant, too.
Q I hate to be the cynic, but isn’t this a typical government response to streamlining government, creating another government agency?
MR. ZIENTS: There’s no agency here. This is a —
Q What about another board?
MR. ZIENTS: The board — the whole purpose of the board here is to streamline the process. So the same way BRAC has worked to create an up or down vote and tens of billions of dollars of savings, we envision this process breaking through political barriers and red tape and actually streamlining the process.
Q So the agencies cannot do it? The federal government today is incapable of doing this itself without a board —
MR. ZIENTS: It’s a very painful, slow process and oftentimes is actually blocked by political considerations. So this is a way to streamline that process and hopefully have very quick, rapid savings.
Q Any way we’ll be able to see a full list of the 14,000 properties besides the two examples —
MR. ZIENTS: We’re going to make that public across the next month or so.
Q You mentioned briefly that you’re also working on a plan to reorganize the government. When is that proposal going to be ready?
MR. ZIENTS: We are at work now and across the next couple of weeks we’ll have an update on that process.
Q Thanks. I haven’t done my homework on this, but you said that a lot of times local officials oppose closing these buildings. Do you expect that you’ll have trouble in Congress because local folks will lobby against this? Or do you think this is something Congress will do for you?
MR. ZIENTS: I think by bundling the properties and going above the local interests, we’ll have a much better success rate on getting these properties to market.
MR. CARNEY: Yes, sir.
Q Thank you, Jay, and thank you, Mr. Director. Following up on Savannah’s question about legislative approval, as I understand it, the House government reform committee has oversight over public buildings. Have you reached out to Chairman Darrell Issa on this so far about the legislative proposal?
MR. ZIENTS: This proposal is actually in the President’s fiscal ’12 budget, which went up a few weeks ago and we are now starting to work with the Hill to get bipartisan support. I think there is — this is a bipartisan issue. Everybody agrees that we shouldn’t have real estate that we don’t have the need for and that we can save energy and return taxpayer dollars. So we anticipate working closely with both Democrats and Republicans to get this legislation done quickly.
Q And that includes Chairman Issa?
MR. ZIENTS: Sure.
(The President enters.)
MR. CARNEY: — an honored guest.
THE PRESIDENT: Jeff is doing outstanding work and I hope you guys were taking extensive notes. (Laughter.)
I want to take a brief moment just to say a few words about a tragic event that took place earlier today in Frankfurt, Germany. I’m saddened and I am outraged by this attack that took the lives of two Americans and wounded two others. I think the American people are united in expressing our gratitude for the service of those who were lost. Michelle and I have their family and their friends in our thoughts and prayers, and we are praying for a speedy recovery for those who were injured.
I want everybody to understand that we will spare no effort in learning how this outrageous act took place. And I’m working with German authorities to ensure that all of the perpetrators are brought to justice. And we don’t have all the information yet and you’ll be fully briefed as we get more information. But this is a stark reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our men and women in uniform are making all around the world to keep us safe, and the dangers that they face all around the globe.
So I think it’s fair to say that on behalf of the American people we want to extend our deepest condolences to these families. And we will give you further updates as we get more information about it.
Q Anything on Libya?
Q A question on Libya, sir?
Q Fear of terrorism, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: I will have a chance to take some questions tomorrow. President Calderón from Mexico will be here, and so I’ll give you guys a chance to ask a couple of questions on some of these other pressing topics.
All right? Thank you.
(The President departs.)
MR. CARNEY: Well, you have your lead. (Laughter.) Does anyone have any more questions for Jeff?
Q Is this something that you’re going to be seeking to fold into whatever budget agreement you have on the continuing resolution or budget for the remainder of the year, part of the administration’s idea of where the cost savings should come from?
MR. ZIENTS: I think that —
Q I think Jay might be better —
MR. CARNEY: You can defer to me on —
MR. ZIENTS: Yes, why don’t I defer to Jay on the CR.
MR. CARNEY: On that stuff, I’ll take that. But if you have anything specifically for Jeff.
MR. ZIENTS: Sure.
Q Just a quick one. Commercial real estate brokers say that one thing sort of hindering deals now is lack of financing. As you put all this inventory on the market, will the government assist in financing and helping people kind of grease these deals?
MR. ZIENTS: I don’t believe we’ll be providing financing. But again, while $15 billion of real estate is a lot of money to return to taxpayers, it’s not a significant amount of money in the context of the overall commercial real estate market.
Q What’s to prevent Congress from blocking an entire bundle over opposition to one or two properties within that bundle? Is that any concern that —
MR. ZIENTS: This all has to be done in a fast period of time. It’s 45 days from when the board submits via OMB its recommendation, so the time is limited. If the Congress doesn’t act, then the board’s recommendations are considered done. So the bundle I think is proven in BRAC to be a process — a process of an up or down vote — that is an effective process.
Q So if Congress doesn’t act, that consideration goes away?
MR. ZIENTS: Within 45 days, then it’s considered done.
MR. CARNEY: I think we should let Jeff get back. Is that okay? One more, yes, and then —
Q The two properties that you showed us, and you said you have many more — is that putting people out and unemployed?
MR. ZIENTS: No, both those buildings are vacant.
Q They are vacant?
MR. ZIENTS: Those are vacant buildings. And one of them has been vacant for over 10 years.
Q Oh, I see.
Q What about the underutilized? Do you have any estimates on —
MR. ZIENTS: When we have under-utilized space we’ll consolidate offices across the federal government. Too often in the federal government we think bureau or program or agency as opposed to the federal government, so if we have space in one agency, let’s combine that with space in another agency and save you the rental expense or be able to sell the building.
Q Do you have any specifically estimates on job losses?
MR. ZIENTS: There would be no job losses, in that what we’re doing here is consolidating space, the same way it’s happened in the private sector. Companies that employ lots of people actually have less space now than they had when they employed fewer people because they’re using telework and hoteling and just doing a more efficient job of using their space. Maintaining real estate is very expensive.
MR. CARNEY: Okay, one more.
Q Do you have properties overseas for sell?
MR. ZIENTS: Yes, in the inventory that we’ve describe we have identified overseas properties. In fact, of the 14,000, a couple thousand of those are overseas.
Q Do you know which countries?
MR. ZIENTS: We can follow up with the specific data.
Q Do you have the address of the Brooklyn property? (Laughter.)
MR. ZIENTS: We can get that for you. (Laughter.) If you’re — you’re going to have to participate in an electronic auction. (Laughter.)
Thanks. Appreciate it.
MR. CARNEY: You can’t say we don’t keep it interesting here.
Q Did you expect that?
MR. CARNEY: I did.
Q Is that in response to Ruth Marcus’s column?
MR. CARNEY: So I will take questions on — I can continue talking about the billions of dollars we will save from the sale of under-utilized or unused federal properties, or I can take questions on other issues, if you like.
Let me start. Yes, Matt.
Q Moving on to something different, first one on Libya, and another on spending bills. Now that Qaddafi is stepping up air strikes in the eastern part of the country, is the U.S. and its allies, are they getting any closer to a decision on whether to establish a no-fly zone? The African Union — sorry, the Arab League has said that it, in coordination with the African Union, could impose a no-fly zone. Would the U.S. support that as an option?
MR. CARNEY: Well, Matt, I would say what we’ve been saying, which is that the no-fly zone is an option that is being actively considered — as are other options. We have acted very rapidly to implement an unprecedented series of sanctions at the unilateral level and the multilateral level. We are also, as part of the — or related to the effort — or rather, the move by the United Nations to refer what’s happening in Libya to the ICC, we are closely using all of our resources to monitor what is happening in Libya to make sure that perpetrators of human rights abuses and atrocities against peaceful civilians are held accountable for their actions. Going forward, other options remain on the table.
And I don’t have a response to the specific idea that you mentioned, except that we continue to examine the possibility of a no-fly zone, as we do other options.
Q The President welcomed the stopgap spending bill, and he said that he wants an agreement that would cut spending and reduce deficits without damaging economic growth. Where does the administration see the potential for common ground that he is urging? And are there any specific cuts that the administration would be willing to contemplate?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I appreciate your question. I think that what’s important to remember as we start this new process that the President referenced in his statement, that we have demonstrated, the President has demonstrated his seriousness about reducing spending and his desire to find common ground.
If you take the approximately $100 billion in cuts that H.R. 1, the House proposal for the full fiscal year — or the remainder of the fiscal year, we have come almost halfway already. We have met them halfway, which in many ways is a perfect definition of an attempt to compromise, when you combine the cuts that existed plus the $4 billion we agreed to in the CR that passed the Senate today — and the $4 billion I think I mentioned yesterday that we have already identified as additional cuts that we could support.
We can do more and we will look to these negotiations to find the common ground that we believe exists. And we expect that those who are participating in the negotiations in Congress will also demonstrate a willingness to find common ground by, again, moving towards the middle.
Q The oil prices and how they’ve been skyrocketing up — what is the administration’s response to Bernanke’s comments yesterday about concern that if they stay up there it could significantly damage the economy? What is the administration doing about it and who is the point person in the White House for the administration on this issue?
MR. CARNEY: We, as you know, are closely monitoring the situation. We are — the President is extremely aware of the impact that a spike in oil prices can have on gasoline prices and therefore on the wallets and pocketbooks of average Americans, and we are monitoring that closely. I have talked about the fact that we remain confident that the global system has the capacity to deal with major disruptions in oil supply. And we are obviously discussing — having conversations with international organizations, the IEA, as well as oil-producing states about options related to that capacity.
In terms of who’s in charge of this issue, clearly, our NEC director, Gene Sperling, focuses on this very closely. So does the Treasury Secretary and others. It’s something that, again, we are monitoring very closely.
Q Can you just explain what some of those options might be? In the past we’ve seen Presidents raise the issue of possibly opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserves as a way of trying to exert some leverage over OPEC countries to bring the prices down. We haven’t heard anything like that from this administration. What exactly are you doing other than monitoring and discussing options? What options?
MR. CARNEY: Well, there are a variety of possibilities and options that are available to — not just at the national level, the level of the Unites States, but globally — to deal with disruptions in oil supplies. I’m not going to get into an analysis of the individual options that are being looked at, except to say that we are monitoring the situation closely and evaluating the options that we have.
Q One last question. The governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, recently — I think it was today even — said that he thinks that this administration wants prices to go up because it will discourage energy consumption. And he pointed to a quote from your Secretary of Energy in which he talked about — I realize this is before he was the Secretary of Energy — but Steven Chu in 2008, I believe, talked about how the United States needed to have Europe-like gas prices. Is there anything to that? Is there anything to the administration thinking that it is a long-term good for the administration — I mean, for the country if prices are high?
MR. CARNEY: Jake, you made the point that that statement was made by Secretary Chu before this administration was ever in office.
Q It still represents his philosophy.
MR. CARNEY: And — no, in fact, if you look at some of his testimony, I believe he’s addressed this and renounced the notion that you put forward that somehow what Governor Barbour said is accurate.
This President, this administration, is keenly aware of the impact of high gasoline prices on average Americans, especially in a still recovering economy. And we are monitoring gas prices, and we are also, as you have seen over the past two-plus years, very focused on the need precisely to develop other energy sources so that we are not as dependent on foreign oil as we have been in the past. That is right for economic reasons and right for national security reasons.
So beyond that, I would just say that those comments were clearly made in the context of 2012 presidential politics, so you have to take them, I think, understanding that.
Q Jay, can I follow up on the no-fly zone? You’ve repeatedly — and Ambassador Rice, the day before yesterday — spoke about active consideration being given to the no-fly zone. Secretary Gates has just been on the Hill saying there’s an awful lot of loose talk about the no-fly zone, and make no mistake, a no-fly means an attack on Libya. Are we actively considering an attack on Libya?
MR. CARNEY: We are actively considering a variety of options. We have not ruled any options out. We selected a number of very tough options that include the sanctions I mentioned earlier, and the actions we’ve taken in concert with out international partners. Other options remain on the table. The fact that the no-fly zone idea is complex does not mean it’s not on the table. So there is not a contradiction between what Secretary Clinton said and Secretary Gates said.
Q Let me ask the question in the — is the Secretary, are some of the folks, the Joint Chiefs, elsewhere, giving you some pushback on this concept?
MR. CARNEY: Not at all. I think that what we have said is that we are actively considering it. We as an administration are actively considering options. We, with our international partners, are actively considering other options in — with regards with to how we deal with the situation in Libya, and we will continue to do so.
Q A question — related question, actually. The no-fly zone would require attacking air defenses. Some of the opposition in Libya have asked for direct air strikes against Libya, against other targets in Libya. Is that something that the administration is actively considering?
MR. CARNEY: I would just repeat what I said before, that we are looking at different options. We haven’t ruled anything out, but I have no announcements for options we may or may not take in the future.
Q Jay, there are reports that one of those options is formally cutting diplomatic ties to Libya. Is that something that’s being considered?
MR. CARNEY: Without getting into specifics, we have not removed any option from the table.
Q Jay, as dangerous as the situation is in Libya, some people believe the situation in Yemen is even more so. Today you had the powerful cleric al-Zindani say that he wants to see the country move toward become — wants to see the country become an Islamic state. Is the administration concerned that Yemen is moving in that direction? It’s really the one country in that region that is really in danger of moving toward being an Islamist state in the relatively near future. Is that at the top of the list, even though Libya is getting all the attention now?
MR. CARNEY: Chip, I would say that the demonstrations we’ve seen in Yemen have largely reflected the same kind of demands by the people of that country for more political participation, and they have not — I will say that they have been about the legitimate demands for political and economic change in that country.
We have urged President Saleh to address the concerns of his people, and we have noted I believe that he has taken some significant steps in doing that. Beyond that, I don’t have comment on the particular —
Q What about al-Zindani’s claim today — or his demand today that it become an Islamic state? Aren’t we moving into a new phase in Yemen where it’s not just about freedom?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the fact that one — again, Chip, that one man has called for the kind of change that he is calling for is not necessarily reflective of the change that Yemenis more broadly are demanding. And obviously, there are a lot of voices out there. But what has been true by and large in these demonstrations in a variety of countries in the region is that they have been broad-based and secular and focused on the kind of democratic reforms that we support.
Q Can I ask you just one question on the budget? Today, the President said that those budget negotiations will be led by Vice President Biden. But on Capitol Hill, John Boehner was asked again and again, will you commit to sitting down with Vice President Biden, and he would not do it. He said that, I’m waiting for the Senate to come up with a proposal here. Is it your understanding that he’s refusing to sit down with the Vice President until the Democrats have a proposal?
MR. CARNEY: Well, all I will say is that the President made clear that he has called on Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress to begin meeting as soon as possible with the Vice President, the Chief of Staff — his Chief of Staff, and the Budget Director — his Budget Director. So that call is out there. We believe and hope that a meeting — an initial meeting will take place very soon, and I have no further information on precisely when that will happen, but we believe it will take place soon.
Q On President Calderón?
MR. CARNEY: Hold on one second. Yes, Mike.
Q Jay, Senator Reid talked about the President using the bully pulpit to talk about spending in terms of this year, the way forward this year. Do we expect the President to actually weigh in on this? Or is he allowing the Vice President to be his point man on this?
MR. CARNEY: Well, Mike, I would simply say that standing here at this podium yesterday, I announced the President had called Speaker Boehner. His engagement was evident in that and it’s been evident in the way that he has spoken with and had his senior staff and Cabinet Secretaries speak with members in Congress, leaders in Congress, to move this process along and to find the common ground that we think exists so that we can cut spending in a responsible and reasonable way that reduces the deficit, compels the federal government to live within its means, even as we continue to invest in the critical areas that allow us to out-innovate, out-build and out-educate the rest of the world and grow our economy and create jobs.
So will he address this again in the future publicly? I’m sure he will. But I don’t have an announcement on when that will be.
Q If the Republicans say, we’ve offered our plan, is a veto threat still out there on what the Republicans have offered?
MR. CARNEY: The President’s statement of administration policy regarding H.R. 1 stands. We cannot accept a proposal that does harm to our capacity to grow the economy and create jobs — precisely the things that we and leaders of both parties in Congress say that we need to do — nor can we accept a proposal that potentially undermines our national security.
So there is room for compromise. As I said at the top of these questions, we have already demonstrated, the President has already demonstrated his seriousness about spending cuts. We have — if you combined the different proposals we have put out there that are on the table and the $4 billion that I mentioned yesterday that we have identified in additional cuts, we have met them halfway already.
So we look forward to negotiations on a long-term deal, through the end of the fiscal year, so that we can do the country’s business efficiently and effectively — because it is no way to run a business or a government to examine — to wonder every two weeks if we’re going to be able to keep in operation the following week.
So the President very much looks forward to these negotiations beginning to take place towards a long-term deal and he believes that common ground can be found.
Q Real quick, on the negotiations, is that just on the CR, or will they include things like this property proposal, taxes, anything — other things?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I believe that Jeff Zients said that the proposal was part of the 2012 budget proposal. But beyond that, I would simply say that the focus of these negotiations — the President has called on Democratic and Republican leaders to meet with his Vice President, his Chief of Staff, and his Budget Director to address specifically the issue of finding common ground so that we can pass funding for the government with substantial spending cuts that bring us through the end of this fiscal year.
That, of course, does not preclude that when these leaders get together in a room that other topics won’t come up. But the focus of the negotiations obviously has to be on the CR.
I’ll take one more. Yes, sir, in the back.
Q In Pakistan a federal minister was shot down today. And in view of the Salman Taseer case, can you give us an assessment of what the President thinks about the situation in Pakistan? And are you receiving cooperation from Pakistan —
MR. CARNEY: In answer to the last part of your question, yes, we continue to work with the Pakistani government to deal with the issue of terrorism and insurgents. But the President feels very strongly that the assassination is a terrible thing and this minister represented the kind of values that we think are vital — the belief in free speech and freedom of religion. And we express our condolences to his family and our great regret at that tragedy.
Thank you very much.
1:57 P.M. EST