En route Fort Drum, NY–(ENEWSPF)–June 23, 2011 – 2:13 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry, I didn’t realize we weren’t on a long flight. I’ll just start with this. Just to let you know, on June 28th, the President will visit Alcoa Davenport Works factory in Bettendorf, Iowa, to tour the facility and discuss the critical role that the manufacturing sector plays in the American economy. Manufacturing serves as the backbone of communities across the country, and the continued revitalization of the manufacturing sector is critical to our nation’s success as we compete in a 21st century global economy.
With that, I’ll take your questions.
Q So Cantor pulled out of the debt talks. Kyl is not going today. Is there any way that this can be read as anything else but an impasse?
MR. CARNEY: Well, what we’ve said from the beginning is — and both sides have said this — these talks were designed to find areas of common ground. A lot of progress has been made. Congressman Cantor made that point even as — in his statement today. And we also believe that’s the case — a lot of progress has been made.
Obviously part of the design of this was to find areas of agreement and common ground, and identify areas of disagreement, which could then be referred to the leaders in Congress — the leaders, obviously to the President — who would then try to work out some of the areas of disagreement. So these talks are in abeyance, but we expect going forward that we will continue to address these issues in search of a compromise.
And I would point out that the President supports a balanced approach. He does not support an approach that provides for a $200,000 tax cut for millionaires and billionaires paid for by a $6,000-a-year hike in expenses and costs for seniors. And he believes the American people support him in that — that we need to seriously cut spending, seriously reduce spending and our deficit, but we need to do it in a balanced way. And that means everything has got to be on the table: spending cuts in non-defense discretionary spending, cuts in defense spending, and cuts in our tax expenditures.
Q Will he play a bigger role in the talks now, as they’re asking?
MR. CARNEY: It is always been the case that these talks would proceed to a point where the remaining areas of disagreement would be addressed by leaders and the President and obviously the Vice President and others. I mean, there’s no — I don’t have any announcement about what happens next, but this process has — is sort of proceeding as envisioned.
Q This marks the next phase, then, where the President and Boehner —
MR. CARNEY: I think that’s fair to say. Well, I don’t want to say the next phase like that there’s a meeting scheduled with the President and Boehner. The Vice President spoke with Congressman Cantor and Senator Kyl today. Obviously there are a lot of conversations going on. But we believe that the American people expect us to find an agreement to substantially reduce our deficits, cut spending, while doing it in a balanced way so that we don’t reverse the progress we’ve made. They also expect, as I said, a balanced approach that shares the burden and does not heap the burden for reducing spending — reducing our deficits on only some segments of society.
Q Just to clarify, though, so are you saying that the Biden talks are no longer existing and now it’s going to the President and Boehner?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, let me be clear. I’m not making announcements about specific talks. I’m just saying that these talks are essentially in abeyance for now. They may or may not resume in different forms. But obviously, as I said at a briefing earlier this week, it is not as though this negotiating group could simply declare into law what they agreed on. So the process was always going to have to then proceed out of the negotiating room and move forward with the engagement of the Speaker, Senate leaders, House Minority Leader, the President, et cetera.
Q At the Gay and Lesbian fundraiser tonight, is the President going to address the pending vote in the New York State Senate on gay marriage?
MR. CARNEY: I’m sure he will mention it and I think make the point that, as he always has, that he believes that this is something that states should be able to decide. And that’s one of the reasons, because of the — that the President believes that we should withdraw from our participation in DOMA cases, because he believed it was unconstitutional.
Q Is he going to endorse the bill, the New York bill?
MR. CARNEY: He’s not going to make any new declarations of a position. He’s simply going to address it.
Q Could you discuss the timing of the SPR announcement? It seems that oil prices were already coming down. Why now?
MR. CARNEY: This has been — we have been in discussions about this with oil-producing states for sometime now, as I’ve been saying from the podium. This is a move by the IEA, which is a 28-member organization, in a coordinated way to address a sustained, significant disruption in our oil supply caused by the events in Libya — more than 140 million barrels of oil. And that’s what it’s aimed at. That disruption is as real today as it was several weeks ago.
Q Do you expect any market or price impact from —
MR. CARNEY: We don’t anticipate or predict prices. What we are addressing is an impact caused by a supply disruption. And at this time it’s necessary to do it because we’re about to enter into the season when demand is at its highest.
Q On Afghanistan, can you address that nobody seems to be happy? There Democrats who are complaining, Republicans who are complaining. Some military officials are unhappy with the decision. Is the President surprised by that? What is his reaction to that?
MR. CARNEY: I think we’re very pleased with the reaction because we think the reaction has generally been very positive, because the President made a decision that is fulfilling the commitment he made 18 months ago when he laid out his strategy. This is about implementing a strategy and taking another step, as he committed to, that demonstrates the ongoing success in the strategy and the progress we’ve made. So, no, we’ve been very satisfied with the response.
Q He talked about nation building last night. What can we expect? How much money is being freed up, and can you give a timeline —
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have dollar figures, and it’s not — again, this is about a long vision strategy that the President put into place in December of ’09, and at the heart of that strategy is defeat, disrupt, dismantle al Qaeda, contain the momentum, roll back the momentum of the Taliban, and give the Afghan government the space it needs to build up its security forces with our help, obviously with our training. And all of that has preceded apace.
An essential element of this is the transition of security lead over to the Afghans, and obviously that is what allows us to gradually draw down our forces.
Q What’s the domestic side of this, the domestic needs he’s talked about, refocusing on the U.S.? What is he talking about?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I mean, I think I can’t improve on what the President said last night, that we need to get about the business and continue with the business of nation building at home, and that we have spent obviously more than a trillion dollars at war over the past decade and that’s been a significant sacrifice that the American people have made.
We are now in a position — hold on, everybody — a position of strength as we begin this transition, the drawdown. And that’s how you would want it to be, that you implement a strategy and you make progress in achieving your goals, and you proceed to the next step. And this is the next step.
Q There’s a new ICE memo that gives new guidelines for who officials can’t deport. Some are saying that it’s similar provisions to the DREAM Act and that it’s a backdoor way to get the DREAM Act in. Any reaction to that?
MR. CARNEY: You know, I don’t have any on that. I can check. I don’t have anything on that.
Q Did the President reach out to Boehner or McConnell about the end of the debt talks?
MR. CARNEY: No, he did not. I mean, he has not had a conversation that I know of — and I was just talking to him — today. I will note, only because it’s been confirmed and been made public, that the President did meet with Speaker Boehner last night as part of his — just to discuss a variety of issues, following up on conversations they had on the golf course on Saturday.
Q He met with him or —
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q At the White House?
Q Before or after the speech?
MR. CARNEY: Before.
Q So did he already know that this was going to happen?
MR. CARNEY: We were — we obviously have been aware, because we’re participants in the conversations, in the negotiations, of where things stood. And, I mean, I’m not going to get into anything about the content of the conversation between the Speaker and the President. It was about a lot of issues and it was really following up on conversations they had on Saturday.
Congressman Cantor called the Vice President earlier today prior to his statement about the talks.
All right, thanks.
END 2:22 P.M. EDT