En Route Andrews Air Force Base–(ENEWSPF)–April 20, 2010 – 12:45 P.M. EDT
MR. BURTON: Hey, guys, we good? Thank you all for joining us on the return flight home. Fire away.
Q Goldman Sachs posted a near doubling in first-quarter earnings just days after the SEC launched its — said it was launching its investigation. Does the White House think this is going to fuel voter anger towards Wall Street and give more momentum to the President’s push to reform financial practices?
MR. BURTON: The SEC’s enforcement action is something that they’ve undertaken on an independent basis, as they do all their enforcement actions. I’m not going to comment on the merits of the case, but I will say that we are in a situation where Wall Street is in desperate need of reform and that’s why the President has been talking for years now about getting new rules of the road in place so that we don’t find ourselves in the same situation where Wall Street is brought to its knees as a result of some irresponsible activity.
Q Do you have any specific response to their earnings that they’ve posted? Because —
MR. BURTON: No.
Q — they’re very high.
MR. BURTON: No.
Q Following up on the Goldman question, do you have any additional reaction to Greg Craig taking the Goldman job, given what’s come out in the news — the SEC lawsuit? It’s kind of a hot-button issue right now.
MR. BURTON: When the President came to office he was serious about making sure there was no revolving door for lobbyists coming in and out of the White House. And as a result, he put in place some of the toughest rules the executive branch has ever seen in the history of our country to make sure that that sort of activity couldn’t happen. So the bottom line is that if you work at the White House you can’t lobby for two years after you leave the White House. And I assume that people who leave the administration know those rules and are following those rules.
So the President thinks that he does have tough rules in place and he’s going to continue to make sure that people abide by that rule.
Q Are you surprised at all that he’s taking the job?
MR. BURTON: Well, in the sense that we weren’t consulted about the particular position, but that’s not something that we would have a heads-up on necessarily.
Q Is it disappointing at all to the President that Mr. Craig would choose to take that position?
MR. BURTON: I’m not going to characterize the White House’s feelings on jobs that members of the administration take after they’ve left the administration.
Q Can you say anything about the speech on Thursday, the President’s message? How is it going to differ from what we’ve been hearing from him already on —
MR. BURTON: We’ll have more information that we release on this as we go forward, but as I was saying earlier, this is an issue that’s been important to the President for years now. He gave a speech on Wall Street in 2007. He gave another speech in New York in 2008 at Cooper Union, which I encourage you all to read. This is an issue that’s been important to the President before it was politically popular for it to be an important issue. And the President is going to talk in clear terms about the need for quick action on putting new rules of the road in place to make sure that Wall Street has regulations to act responsibly and make sure that we don’t find ourselves in the kind of crisis that we did in September 2008.
Q On “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the President last night told the protesters we’re going to do that, we’re going to repeal the policy. But some of the activists point out he didn’t say this year, which some of them were looking for. Does he plan to do that this year?
MR. BURTON: I would point out that we’ve made a tremendous amount of progress on this. This is a policy that’s been in place for quite a long time, and as we’ve seen on other issues change is hard. But that said, what we’ve seen is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense both come out in support of this change, and we’re moving with as much speed as possible to see that it’s done.
Q On immigration, he also reiterated his promise to see through a comprehensive immigration bill. But some of the immigrants — immigrant rights groups are saying that there are steps he can be taking now even without Congress such as stopping raids and deportations, and some of them warn that Hispanic voters aren’t going to turn out in force for Democrats if he doesn’t take some of those steps. So why hasn’t the President kind of reined that in — deportations and raids, taken some of the steps that he can do without Congress?
MR. BURTON: Well, on specific immigration enforcement I’d point you over to the Department of Homeland Security. But in terms of comprehensive immigration reform, this is an issue that is very important to the President. It’s something that I know that the Senate Majority Leader has said is going to see action this year. And we’re obviously in consultation with both Republicans and Democrats to find a bipartisan solution to what is a very large problem and one that we think will be addressed very soon.
Q One other question. Is he disappointed at all — Majority Leader Hoyer said today that they’ve decided not to move forward on the D.C. voting rights bill, and some critics have said the President really didn’t — he could have done more to help try and muscle that through. Is he disappointed? And what would you say to people who said he could have done more to help advocate for that?
MR. BURTON: Well, I think the President has been very clear on his feelings about voting rights for D.C. and that folks who live in D.C. should have voting rights. It’s something that he consulted with members of Congress on; it’s something that his staff has worked hard on. I saw the reports about what Congressman Hoyer had to say today. Maybe when we get on the ground we’ll have a little bit more. I think that just broke right before we took off.
Q I know if Mark Plotkin were here he would ask about the license plate, why that isn’t on yet. Any comment there?
MR. BURTON: I don’t have anything new to say about the license plate on the car, but in terms of issues that are pressing on the President’s agenda, I don’t know that that’s towards the top of the list.
Q Did the White House — or why did the White House not notify Mayor Bloomberg about the President planning to come?
MR. BURTON: The mayor and his staff of course were notified. I don’t know if — the exact chronology of when it happened between of when reporters first found out about it. As you know, sometimes reporters find out about things before all the notification calls are made on certain issues. But obviously this is an issue that’s been important to Mayor Bloomberg. He’s been invited to attend the event. I don’t know if he’s going to be able to make it, but we’re always happy to be a guest of his in New York City and he can count on us coming back.
Q He said he read about it on blogs, that’s how he heard that it was happening. I mean, why would that be the case?
MR. BURTON: Well, like I said, sometimes reporters find out about things before every notification call is made. I know he’s a very plugged-in mayor and reads a lot of blogs, so he’s obviously on top of things.
Q Do you have any reaction to Susan Collins saying she’ll filibuster this regulatory reform, she’ll go along with the GOP and filibuster? And also the $50 billion fund, are you guys willing to — there have been reports that the White House is willing to drop that.
MR. BURTON: I think that there’s been conflicting things coming out of the Republican side of the Senate and I do think that there are folks who do sincerely want to make progress on financial regulatory reform and we’re confident that we’re going to be able to have a bill that has some bipartisan support. So we’ve been speaking with Senator Collins, we’ve been speaking with other Republican senators and will continue to. But there’s a wide range of issues besides just the $50 billion fund and some other things that we’re in discussions about.
But we think that Senator Dodd had a good bill. We think it’s a strong bill. We’ll continue to support it. And what the President will not do is water down the legislation just to be able to call it bipartisan.
Q Well, what about that $50 billion? Does he want that out of there? Is he willing to compromise?
MR. BURTON: That’s one of many issues that are being discussed with members in the Senate.
Q Is that yes or — I mean, it is something that you guys are willing to negotiate?
MR. BURTON: It’s just something that we’re in consultations with the Senate about.
Q Are there indications that dropping that fund would get a Republican vote or votes, and if it would not, would you, therefore, just want it left in?
MR. BURTON: I think there’s a lot of different calculus for what it will take to get some Republican support onto this bill, but like I said, that’s just one of many issues that we’re talking to them about.
Q Has the President spoken personally with Olympia Snowe on this issue?
MR. BURTON: I don’t know.
Q How about with Susan Collins?
MR. BURTON: Don’t know.
Q Scott Brown?
MR. BURTON: I’m not sure. The President and his staff have obviously been in close consultation with Republican members. But in terms of which ones he’s spoken to specifically I’m not sure. I’ll see if I can find out —
Q Any updates on Americans stranded in England from the volcano? Any efforts underway to help them get back?
MR. BURTON: This is an issue that obviously affects thousands and thousands of Americans who are stranded abroad — including some of your colleagues who I know are “stranded” in Paris and London. (Laughter.) But it is a serious issue for folks who are running low on their medications or any number of issues, so it’s something that our ambassadors around the world are working on. But obviously there’s nothing that we can do to blow the volcanic ash any faster. But we’re doing everything that we can.
Q Does the administration have any reaction to South Korea’s foreign minister saying that there are no indications that North Korea is going to test an atomic weapon anytime soon?
MR. BURTON: I don’t have anything on South Korea’s intelligence on that or any other matters. But I’ll let you know if there’s any —
Q But does it make North Korea less of a threat having heard that, or is it still a top concern?
MR. BURTON: — this is — like I said, I don’t have any visibility on South Korea’s intelligence on this.
Q Any totals on the campaign — money from last night, how much was brought in?
MR. BURTON: I’d just point you to DNC for that.
Okay, thank you all for coming.
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Q What is your reaction to Rahm running for mayor?
MR. BURTON: Look, we all serve at the pleasure of the President, and Rahm very much enjoys the work that he does as Chief of Staff. He was talking about a scenario where if Mayor Daley doesn’t run for reelection, but we all know that Mayor Daley is running for reelection. It’s something that many kids in Chicago dream of growing up to be a mayor, so it’s one of the great jobs in American politics. But it’s just an ambition — when I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut. Gibbs probably wants to ride in the Tour de France. That doesn’t mean we’re all leaving the White House to go and do —
Q Does the President think that Rahm Emanuel would be a good mayor of Chicago?
MR. BURTON: I think the President thinks that Rahm Emanuel is a great chief of staff and enjoys having him in that job right now. Maybe “enjoy” is the wrong word. (Laughter.)
12:57 P.M. EDT