White House Press Gaggle by Josh Earnest Aboard Air Force One, Jan. 14, 2015

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–January 14, 2015 – 1:34 P.M. EST

MR. EARNEST:  A couple of quick things before we get started.  The first is, yesterday evening the President had the opportunity to telephone head Coach Urban Meyer from the National Champion Ohio State University football team.  He called just to congratulate the coach on their big victory, the first ever college football playoff.  He invited them to come to the White House, and I know that Coach Meyer said that he was looking forward to bringing the team.  So we’ll have a scheduling update on that once that date gets locked in.

The second thing is, as you obviously know, the President is traveling to the Cedar Valley area of Iowa — Cedar Falls, to be specific — where he will talk about what one community in this country has done to improve broadband access to their community. The impact of this change to their community has had obvious quality of life benefits, but it’s also been good for the local economy.  And the President believes that the federal government should do more to give more communities across the country the opportunity to do something similar.

Cedar Falls has access to some of the fastest Internet service in the country.  They’re actually — the broadband access in this community is 100 times faster than the average broadband access that’s enjoyed by other cities.  So it’s much faster than the broadband access that we even have in D.C. or in New York or even in a place like San Francisco.  So they’re doing something really interesting.  And the President wants to bring all of you and national attention to what they’ve done in this community and make it clear that he’s going to use his own executive authority, to the extent that he can, to try to help other communities do the same kind of thing.

I want to mention one other thing that’s happening back in Washington before I take your questions.  Earlier today, House Republicans voted in protest over the President’s executive action to reform our broken immigrations system. 

The President’s reform plan would bring accountability to our broken immigration system.  It would give those with strong ties to this country the chance to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, submit to a background check, and pay taxes. The President’s plan would also focus law enforcement resources on felons and others who pose a threat to public safety. 

If Republicans were to get their way, these individuals, including DREAMers who came to America through no fault of their own, would either be pushed back into the shadows, free of any accountability, or deported at great expense to taxpayers and at the expense of a concentrated effort to deport criminals.  This vote is bad policy.  It’s essentially a vote for amnesty.  It’s also bad politics. 

And that’s why this must pass — the Homeland Security bill is, according to most educated observers, highly unlikely to pass the United States Senate.  So this means that House Republicans, just to prove a point — a point that at least one other Republican called mean-spirited — are mucking around with DHS funding legislation just weeks before the funding deadline.  Now, as I mentioned earlier this week, there’s never a good time to muck around with the funding of the Department of Homeland Security.  But given the events of the last week, this seems like a particularly bad time to do so.

So now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I will take your questions.

Q    Josh, on this initiative on broadband, one of the things that the President wants to do is write a letter to the FCC, encouraging them to act on — to deal with states that have legislation or laws that prevent competition.  The National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures opposes that move by the FCC.  Why should the President weigh in on an issue that seems to be about states’ rights?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, this is an opportunity for the President to weigh in, in support of giving communities across the country access to more choices.  Ultimately what we’re talking about here is competition.  This is a free market principle that Republicans themselves often say is embedded in good policy.  After all, what the President is suggesting is that communities, particularly those communities that are served by essentially a cable monopoly or an Internet service monopoly, to work together to introduce an additional option.

In the case of the folks in the Cedar Valley, they cobbled together essentially a public utility to provide broadband access to come in and compete with the local Internet service provider in a way that that competition introduced pressure to lower costs, improve service, improve customer service, and modernize the broadband access that’s enjoyed by the people in that community.

So the President — you’re right — is weighing in on a decision that will be made by the FCC.  By “weighing in” I mean publicly expressing his opinion.  But ultimately, this is a decision that needs to be made by independent regulators.  But the President is being pretty clear today about which side he falls down on. 

Q    This is the second time that he’s done that on an issue like this with the FCC.  The other one being, of course, net neutrality.  And in both cases, he’s kind of lining himself up against the cable industry, telephone companies.  What’s going on?  Why are those lines of separation becoming clearer?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think if you look over the course of the President’s career in public service, and certainly during his six years in office in the White House, the President has time and again come down on the side of customers, consumers, and middle-class families and small business owners.  Those are the people that stand to benefit the most from introducing greater competition for broadband access.  And that does, at least in the mind of some companies, come at the expense of profits that are made by Internet service providers.

And the President believes that the market principle of a healthy competition, particularly in this case, is a good thing for consumers, it’s a good thing for the market.  And again, this is a principle that has been championed by Republicans on many occasions.  So, again, it seems like the kind of thing where we should be able to build some bipartisan support, that Republicans should be able to come down in support of a principle related to competition and the benefits of competition.  And the President certainly has repeatedly looked for opportunities where he can be a voice for consumers and small business owners, and this is a good opportunity for him to do so.

Q    But it’s not exactly a free market when it’s competition that’s being taxpayer-financed.  These are government-owned broadband networks that are competing with the private sector.

MR. EARNEST:  Again, these will be government-funded entities that would be established by local communities.  It’s not a federal mandate and they would be competing on a level playing field with private industry.  And, again, I’m sure that these companies would be happy to make the case to you and to others that the service that they provide is superior to the service that would be provided by a government entity.  Well, let’s them prove it.  And if they are able to prove it, then the benefits will be enjoyed not just by the companies themselves but by their customers.  And that’s what the President is focused on.

Q    On net neutrality, Republicans have come out strongly against what the President’s suggestion has been on that.  And today, two Republicans from the House and Senate committees said that they’re going to work on an alternative, on alternative legislation.  What does the White House think of that idea?  Has the White House been talking to Republicans about what might transpire?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it certainly — as I mentioned before, this certainly wouldn’t be the first time that we see House Republicans come down on the side of big business at the expense of middle-class families and small business owners.  The President does believe that a free and open Internet is good for innovation; it’s good for customers; it’s good for small businesses.  And the kind of innovation that we’ve seen in the technology sector over the last couple of decades has benefited tremendously from a free and open Internet.  And the President wants to preserve that so that our economy and our country cam continue to reap those benefits.

There is a significant concern about some steps that some companies could take if those kinds of protections are stripped that would stifle innovation in a way that’s not good for the economy and in a way that’s not good for consumers. 

So, again, this is a decision that should be made and will be made by the independent regulators at the FCC.  But the President has been pretty clear about what his view is, and again, in this situation he comes down clearly on the side of consumers and middle-class families.

Q    So you don’t think that Republicans should create some legislation that would accomplish maybe some of the same goals but through a different root than the President has suggested?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know enough about their legislative proposal to know whether or not that’s exactly what they’re proposing to do.  But let me just say it this way — if there are Republicans who share the President’s goal of preserving a free and open net, then we would, of course, work with them in pursuit of that goal.   

Q    The FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, has already said pretty positive things about the petition that he has in front of him to override some of these state laws, like in Chattanooga and Wilson, North Carolina.  Why does the President feel like it’s important for him to weigh in when it looks like the FCC is headed in his direction anyway?  And is there anything you can do beyond — we heard yesterday some White House officials describe these task forces and other things that will be formed around this initiative.  Is there anything else the President can do or plans to do that will break down some of these roadblocks to municipal broadband providers being able to provide these services?  Is there anything short of legislation that we should look for?

MR. EARNEST:  At this point, I don’t know if there’s more that can be done, but that’s certainly something that we’re carefully considering, and that is the purpose of some of these task forces and other advisory committees that have been established to look at this issue.

The reason that the President is weighing in on this is because there are significant economic benefits associated with giving local consumers more choices in this area.  One way to think about this is to think about broadband access as infrastructure, that when you’re a business, even if you’re a small business, you’re thinking about where to locate your business, you’re going to look for opportunities to — you want a modern airport nearby.  You want to make sure that the transportation infrastructure nearby is sufficient to handle any sort of traffic that would be associated with your business.  That could be something as simple as streetlights out in front of your ice cream shop, or it could be a highway system that’s sufficient to handle truck traffic if you are a manufacturing facility.

Well, the same thing could be said of high-speed broadband access — that if you are a small business looking to sell your goods not just around the country but around the world, having high-speed, reliable access to the Internet is critical to the success of your business.  And that’s the reason that you may choose a community like Cedar Falls over a community somewhere else that doesn’t have as reliable or as high-speed of broadband access.  And that, of course, means that you’re going to be expanding economic growth and creating jobs in a small community like Cedar Falls over some other communities. 

So the President believes this is an economic issue and it is the way for us to try to strengthen our economy by taking what he thinks are some pretty common-sense steps to introduce some competition to the market.

And, look, let me reiterate this.  The President isn’t mandating a government solution here.  The President is suggesting that by introducing competition to the market we’re going to force private sector companies to up their game.  And if they can improve their service, lower their costs, then that’s going to be good for those companies.  Most importantly, though, it’s going to be good for their customers, middle-class families, and for small business owners.

Q    Josh, I believe this is the President’s last domestic road trip before the State of the Union to highlight issues, so we’ve got the Internet, housing, college education, auto — cars, whatever.  Is that basically the sum total of the new policy proposals on the domestic side that he’ll be rolling out?  Do we now know kind of what his game plan for 2015 is?  Or is there sort of substantially more to come that hasn’t been previewed yet?

MR. EARNEST:  More to come.

Q    Okay.  Can you give us any hints?

MR. EARNEST:  Not yet.

Q    Can you talk a little bit about the process?  Is he working on the speech right now on the plane?  Who else is he talking to other than speechwriters and aides about the ideas and how to present them?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I can tell you that the President has started doing some work on the State of the Union address.  As I think many of you know, when the President traveled to Hawaii to spend some time with his family for the holidays, the President’s chief speechwriter, Cody Keenan, also traveled to Hawaii and started working on an initial draft of his State of the Union based on an early conversation he had with the President the end of last year.  And so they’ve been making some progress on the State of the Union.  But there’s obviously a lot more work to do.

We will have some additional policy announcements in advance of the speech to give you a better sense of some of the other kinds of things you can expect the President to discuss in the State of the Union. 

The President — you’re right — has been talking to people outside of just the administration and outside of White House officials about the speech.  Let me give you one example.  Prior to leaving the White House today the President met with a couple of leaders of the organized labor movement to talk about some of the ideas that he’ll include in the State of the Union address.
He visited with Rich Trumka of the AFL-CIO, and Dennis Williams from the UAW. 

And so the President has had multiple opportunities to talk to people both inside government and outside the government about some of the ideas that he will include in his State of the Union. And I can tell you that because so much of the State of the Union will be focused on what we can do to put in place policies that benefit middle-class families, it makes a lot of sense that he’s going to go and visit with a couple of the representatives of organizations that are fighting pretty hard for middle-class families.

So we’ll have a lot more to say about this in the next few days.

Q    Let me ask about the methane emissions regulations that were put forth today by the White House at the EPA.  You talked yesterday about how Republicans are putting forth this Keystone pipeline legislation even though they know the President opposes it.  So why, then, would the White House put these regulations out now when you know how Republicans on Capitol Hill feel about it?

MR. EARNEST:  My point is I think it’s perfectly fine for Republicans to pass legislation that the President doesn’t support.  They obviously can make their views known on a variety of policy areas.  What we should not do, however, is allow our well-known opposition or at least differences of opinion on some areas to prevent us from cooperating on others. 

So the suggestion in the context of the briefing yesterday was, what evidence do we have that the President is willing to work with Republicans if he’s just going to veto all these bills? The point is they’re passing those bills because the President — they know that the President is opposed to them.  They’re passing them anyway.  That’s fine.  We just can’t allow that to prevent us from cooperating on areas where we there might be some common ground, on infrastructure, or making our tax system a little bit more fair and a little bit more easier — little easier to understand. 

As it relates to the regulations that were put forward by the EPA today, this is an important step that the President has outlined in his Climate Action Plan.  It will be an important part of meeting the commitment that the United States made in the context of the announcement that we made in China last fall that would ensure that the United States reduces our level of carbon pollution by 28 percent by 2025. 

The reason that this particular rule is important is that methane actually does more to contribute to carbon pollution than even carbon dioxide emissions do.  So making a relatively small adjustment to reducing methane emissions will have an outsized impact on our success in reducing carbon pollution.  And so that’s why this step that the President announced today is — or at least that the EPA announced today is an important one.

Q    How much of a fight are you expecting with Republicans on Capitol Hill over both the methane and other parts of the Climate Action Plan?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I anticipate that Republicans will — they’ve registered their serious objection to this in the past.  I anticipate that they’ll do the same thing here.  The President believes, however, that this is a critically important issue not just for the country but for the planet.  And methane is actually a pretty good example of how we can put in place these regulations in a way that are still consistent with some broader economic incentives.

So, for example, businesses already do have an incentive in place to capture some of the methane that is emitted in drilling and the transportation of hydrocarbons.  And so these incentives — these regulations would essentially increase those incentives for them to capture methane, which does actually have some legitimate uses in the economy.

So there are a whole host of reasons for companies in this area to take these steps, and these regulations will certainly factor into all of that.  But again, there’s a way for us to take steps that are both good for the planet and good for the economy, and that’s what the President is focused on.

Q    Josh, can you talk about the terror attack in Paris now, with al Qaeda claiming responsibility?  Has the President been made aware?  Was he briefed?  And does this change the calculus at all about moving forward?

MR. EARNEST:  Kristen, that’s a good question.  The video — there was a video that was released earlier today by AQAP claiming credit for the attacks in Paris.  That video is under review by the intelligence community.  I can tell you that early indications are that the video appears to be authentic.  It is another clear indication of the wanton brutality of that organization. 

This is an appropriate time for me to remind you that the majority of the victims of the terrible attacks that have been launched by AQAP have been Muslims.  On the day of the terribly tragic terror attacks in Paris, one week ago today, AQAP also carried out an attack in Yemen that killed 30 Yemenis who were essentially recruits to the Yemeni security services.  Last month, we saw AQAP carry out an attack that targeted school children in Yemen, and targeted a family that was celebrating over the religious holiday.  We’ve also seen AQAP release video footage of an attack on a hospital in Sanaa where there were doctors, nurses and even patients who were slaughtered. 

That is an indication of the warped ideology of this organization.  And it is why this administration has worked closely with the international community to mitigate the threat that this organization poses.  We have employed a strategy in Yemen that means that we’re trying to work closely with the Yemeni government and with Yemeni security forces to take the fight to AQAP.

I can tell you that the leadership of AQAP continues to feel the pressure that the international community is putting them under.  And the reason for that effort and the reason that this administration is so vigilant about the importance of keeping the pressure on AQAP is laid bare in this video that was released today.

Q    When you say that it appears to be authentic, you mean that the video appears to be from AQAP?

MR. EARNEST:  That’s correct.

Q    But has the administration or the government determined yet whether or not, in fact, it should be taking credit for coordinating or providing cash or anything, or whether it’s just convenient to take credit after the fact for PR?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, for obvious reasons, the French have the lead in this investigation to determine who else may have been involved and how that support to the terrorists may have been rendered in carrying out the attacks that we saw last week.  The United States is cooperating closely with the French investigators, but the question you have raised is one that has drawn careful scrutiny by French investigators and we’re going to continue to help them try and figure that out. 

Q    Would you indulge me in a political question about Paris?

MR. EARNEST:  I can try.

Q    Les Gelb writes today in this editorial column that the decision not to recommend that the President or Biden go to Paris is such a red flag about the President’s national security team that he should turn over a whole bunch of people and bring in a whole lot of new people.  And obviously, I mean, you’re not poised to do that, but I am wondering whether the President takes sort of any counsel from that suggestion.  Does he think that there does need to be more bipartisan expertise on the NSC staff as that editorial suggests, or at least independents who have served Republican administrations?  Are you looking at bringing in additional people as part of this ongoing effort to kind of freshen your supply of experts and aides?  People are tired; it’s six years in.

MR. EARNEST:  No, not that I know of.  I mean, many people  — I didn’t see the column from Mr. Gelb, but what seems most relevant to me in this whole equation is the reaction of the French people.  After all, what was so powerful about that public display on Sunday was the unity that was demonstrated by the French people in support of those who were killed — both the cartoonists who had the satirical magazine that was attacked last Wednesday and the shoppers at a kosher grocery store in Paris on Friday who were also killed in the terror attacks last week.

And what you saw, is you saw the French people, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, come together in a pretty clear show of solidarity.  And what we have seen from — what we have heard from the French ambassador to the United States and from the spokesman for the French President is that the French people have been overwhelmed by the kind of support and solidarity that the American people have shown to them and that they have felt from the President of the United States. 

So as I mentioned before, I understand the criticism that has come from some quarters about the U.S. participation in the march, but I think at this point the message that we’re listening most closely to is the message that we’re seeing and hearing from the people of France.  It’s a powerful one.

Q    Specifically on the Trumka meeting, Richard Trumka said last week and probably it was no surprise to the President that he wants to block Trade Promotion Authority.  He’s very much opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Do you know whether they talked about trade at this meeting?  Can you update us at all on the President outreach on this to try to build support for what is going to be a really heavy lift?  And should we expect to hear a formal request for Trade Promotion Authority in the State of the Union?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have a formal readout of the meeting that the President conducted with union leaders.  I know that it was the President intent to talk to them about some of the ideas for policies that he’s going to highlight in the State of the Union address that will benefit middle-class families. 

The President is prepared and he’s well aware of the opposition in some quarters of the Democratic Party to some trade policies.  The President has been pretty steadfast in assuring the American people and those who may have a preliminary objection to, or at least have a skepticism about the wisdom of these kinds of trade policies, but the President is not going to sign a trade agreement that isn’t clearly in the best interest of American businesses and American workers.  The President I think has built up a lot of credibility about having a good sense about what policies are in the best interest of American workers and American businesses.  So that should carry some weight. 

And the President is willing to do the work that’s necessary to build support both among Republicans and Democrats for what he believes is an economic policy that will open up American goods and services to more overseas markets.  He believes that if American goods and services — or American businesses and American workers have the opportunity to compete on a level playing field in other countries that that is only going to be good for the American economy and for American workers. 
 
Q    Will he call for that Trade Promotion Authority?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have anything — I’m not prepared at this point to say what exactly is going to be included in the State of the Union and what won’t.  But I think that whether or not it’s included in the State of the Union, I think that you can describe the President’s support for this policy is consistent with the kinds of policies that I’m confident he will mention in the State of the Union that will benefit middle-class families and be good for the economy.

Q    Was that the main reason why Trumka and the UAW chief were invited?

MR. EARNEST:  No, the main reason was to have a discussion about some of the policies the President will highlight at the State of the Union that he believes will benefit working families.

Q    (Inaudible.)

MR. EARNEST:  Well, we’ll have more to say about that soon.

Q    Were Tom Perez and Valerie Jarrett also in that meeting?

MR. EARNEST:  They were.  They were.  Either you have very good eyesight or you got a readout of this meeting from somebody else.

Q    Prime Minister Cameron is coming, and I’m just wondering if you can give us a sense of what he and President Obama will talk about, what’s on the agenda, how much will be taken up by terrorism in light of what happened in Paris, and if we can expect any new announcements or partnerships between the two countries?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have any announcements to preview at this point that are associated with the Prime Minister’s visit to the White House.  As you know, the United States has a special relationship with the United Kingdom and the President is looking forward to welcoming the Prime Minister to the White House on Thursday evening.  They’ll have a working dinner tomorrow night at the White House and then they’ll have a whole set of formal meetings on Wednesday. [sic]  And all of you will have — or at least a couple of you will have the opportunity to ask the two leaders questions about what they discussed.

I can tell you that the President is looking forward to discussing with them a wide range of issues, some of them related to national security.  And I’m confident that the close counterterrorism partnership that we have with the United Kingdom will be discussed.  I’m confident that they will discuss the ongoing campaign against ISIL.  The British military has made significant commitments to that effort.  We’re deeply appreciative of them.  And I’m confident that the two leaders will have an opportunity to discuss that. 

I’m confident there will also be discussions of economic issues as well.  But we’ll have some more details on that meeting tomorrow.

Q    When is the meeting?

MR. EARNEST:  On Friday.  So, again, traditionally the President, when he meets with a world leader at the White House, they’ll do an abbreviated news conference, and that’s what I anticipate on Friday.

Q    Senator McConnell’s office, yesterday after the meeting, said that they’re expecting an AUMF from the White House.  What can you tell us about that?  And is that a change? Because I thought that you had said previously that you didn’t need an AUMF.

MR. EARNEST:  There’s a lot there so indulge me for a minute.  It is true that we do not need an AUMF.  The President has the legal authority — Congress has already given him the legal authority that he needs to take the necessary steps to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.  What the President has said is that he would like Congress to pass a right-sized, modernized AUMF that recognizes that threat that we currently face and the military operations that are currently underway. 

There was a discussion of this in the meeting that took place yesterday.  The discussion sort of focused on two things.  There is the preference among many members of Congress, including many leaders who were at the meeting, for the administration to send to Congress proposed AUMF language, legislative language that would be included in an AUMF.  That is something that we have indicated in the past that we’re open to doing. 

What was also conveyed in the meeting by some leaders was an interest in having some input on that legislation prior to the administration sending it up, and that’s something that we agreed to do.  And the reason for that is that we believe one of the benefits of an authorization to use military force is that bipartisan passage of an AUMF would send a very clear signal to the American people, to our allies, and to our enemies, that the United States is united behind the President’s strategy for degrading and ultimately destroying ISIL.

So we do want a bipartisan AUMF out of this process.  And so we will submit language after we’ve had an opportunity to consult with members of Congress to maximize the likelihood that we’ll be able to get both Democratic and Republican support for the bill.

Q    These were Republican leaders who wanted input?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m going to do my best to try to protect some of the discretion associated with a private conversation.

Q    Bipartisan request?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m just going to — I’m going to just characterize it as more than one leader expressed this view, though I’m not going to get into which leaders.

Q    Is there a timeline for this upfront collaboration?

MR. EARNEST:  No, we — well, you guys have already reported and I think that we’ve previously confirmed that a number of conversations had already taken place.  I would anticipate that additional consultations will be necessary for us arrive at a place where we feel like we have some bipartisan agreement about what kind of legislative language should be sent to the Hill.

Q    Before summer?

MR. EARNEST:  I wouldn’t put a timeline on it now.

Q    — expect it in the next two, three, four weeks?  Is that “irrational exuberance”?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it might be.  We’ll see.  We’ll see.

Q    In addition to the leaders themselves, would the consultations include chairmen of committees and ranking members, including John McCain?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I will say that we would stand ready to have a conversation with anybody that’s interested in this issue. So I think that’s where I’d leave it.  We’ve already done that.  There have already been a number of conversations that have taken place among leaders, among the chairs and rankings of relevant committees, and with members of Congress that do have an intellectual interest in this issue.

Q    And just to review, Josh, so you say that you don’t need a new AUMF because you have — because of the existing one. But in drafting a new one, what would be the significant differences between what already exists and what would be more specifically delineated or less specifically delineated in this one?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t want to get ahead of the consultations that are currently underway, so at this point I’m not going to wade into that.  I wouldn’t rule out, however, that in the future we may be able to have a more specific conversation about the kinds of things that could be included in a right-sized, modernized AUMF.  But I don’t want to say anything now that might interfere with our ability to reach — to broker a bipartisan agreement on this.  But I’m confident that once we’ve sent up the language that we’ll be in a position to talk about sort of the pros and cons of the way that that AUMF is working.

Q    Has John Podesta given the President a firm date now for his departure?  And are you planning to replace him with somebody?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t — if he’s put forward a firm date, I don’t know what that is.  We have said for some time that his initial plan was just to serve at the White House through the end of last year.  He agreed near the end of last year to stay on through the State of Union.  But I would not anticipate that he’ll stay on for too long after the State of Union.  But I don’t know of the specific date.

I don’t know of any specific plans to replace him.  I guess the first thing I would say in response to that question is that John Podesta is irreplaceable, and I think each of my colleagues at the White House would agree with that sentiment.  He has contributed I think immeasurably to the kind of policy decisions that are made at the White House in a wide range of areas — everything from some of the difficult foreign policy decisions that this President has grappled with, to obviously climate change and steps that we have taken to reduce carbon pollution, to some of the questions around technology and big data.  Each of these are exceedingly complicated policy areas both for the policy implications they have for our society, but also for the political implications that they have in Washington.

So John has demonstrated a willingness to take those issues head on and to provide extremely good advice to the President and to other members of the President’s team for confronting those issues.  And we’re going to miss him.  But, fortunately, he’s around for at least a few more weeks, and we’re going to make the most of it.  We’re going to make sure that he works really hard to make up for the lost time.

All right.  Thanks, everybody.

Q    Sorry, real quick.  On the Boehner drama, 22 or whatever today, how do you see this actually playing out now?  Do you think that Republicans can block your funding for this immigration initiative?  I know you think they’re monkeying around and don’t like it, but, I mean, play out the string for us.  How does it end?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think — I alluded to this at the very beginning.  Most observers of Congress who know more about Congress than I do don’t think that this legislation, precisely because of this ideological rider, that it’s not going to pass the Senate. 

Again, this rider is bad policy.  It’s bad politics.  And, yes, we’ve made clear that if it were to reach the President’s desk that the President would veto it.  But Republicans have a majority in the Senate, and it’s not likely to pass the Senate.  There were more than two dozen House Republicans who opposed this measure today.  So I think the way that this plays out is that Republicans in the House are going to be back at square one in figuring out how they’re going to fund the critically important operations of the Department of Homeland Security.  And now seems like a particularly bad time to be mucking around with them.

Thanks, everybody.

END
2:15 P.M. EST

Source: whitehouse.gov