1:42 P.M. EST
MR. CARNEY: I’ll never tell.
Q Can you see?
MR. CARNEY: No. (Laughter.) Who’s that asking? (Laughter.) I was going to try to go for a run today, which is when I put in my contacts, but I had meetings scheduled instead, so here we go.
With that bit of irrelevant information, I will go straight to questions. I have no announcements to make.
Q Thank you, Jay. The administration yesterday condemned the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist unequivocally, and I’m wondering if the White House can say just as unequivocally that Israel had nothing to do with it.
MR. CARNEY: Well, obviously we don’t speak for any other country, Ben. We had nothing to do with it. This has been expressed by officials at a variety of levels of the U.S. government. And we condemn the violence in Iran, but we’re not going to -- you should not take from this anything except that we’re not speaking for any other country when we make statements like that.
Q But the condemnation -- I’m correct in saying the condemnation from the White House extends to anybody behind it, any party, any country?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the condemnation is pretty clear. It is condemnation in and of itself of the act of violence in Iran. But again, our statement about -- in response to accusations that there was American involvement is categorical.
Q Okay. So you can’t say either way whether --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I won’t speak for any other country.
Q Did the President address the incident in his conversation with the Prime Minister?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think we provided a readout to you -- has that gone out? Yes -- of the President’s call with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Part of their regular communications on bilateral and regional issues.
The subjects were many, including the Middle East peace process, developments in the region, including in Iran. But I won’t get more specific than that.
(Cell phone rings.)
MR. CARNEY: I was going to welcome Jake back. (Laughter.)
Q What song is that?
Q That’s Snoop Dogg, yes.
MR. CARNEY: Fantastic.
Q Sorry, out of practice of putting it on silent.
MR. CARNEY: Actually, I kind of liked it. But yes.
Q Sorry, but I wanted to ask you about the video -- allegedly of Marines desecrating the bodies of the Taliban fighters. Can you tell us whether the President has seen that video and whether there’s a concern in the White House that this incident will give the military a black eye?
MR. CARNEY: Well, you’ve heard the I think quite strong statements or seen the strong statements from Secretary Panetta. We find this -- we’ve seen the video and what it depicts is -- or what it apparently depicts is deplorable, reprehensible and unacceptable. The alleged action is obviously under investigation. And as you know, Secretary Panetta spoke with President Karzai about it. But I don’t know whether or not the President has actually seen the video. He is certainly aware of it and shares in the sentiment expressed by Secretary Panetta.
MR. CARNEY: Jake, welcome back.
Q Thank you.
MR. CARNEY: Do you have a question for me?
Q I do. I’d love to ask about the talks with the Taliban. I understand it’s probably restricted what you can talk about. But apparently the administration later last evening became a little bit more willing to talk about what’s going on. I thought in light of that you could maybe share what is the goal here. How do talks with the Taliban jive with the continuing military effort against the Taliban? And what would the overall message be to soldiers who, or families of soldiers, who -- I understand that you make peace with your enemies, not with your friends. But what would the message be about that such reconciliation?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think those are all very good questions. As you know, the administration’s position has been for a long time that we would support and participate in Afghan-led reconciliation initiatives as one key part of our overall strategy. As you say, you have to have a political solution at some point. And a political settlement is essential here. But it coexists with our military campaign. It is in fact our military campaign that has set the conditions for initial reconciliation discussions that we hope will begin taking place.
But to be clear, we will continue to energetically prosecute the military campaign as we pursue this political effort. And our role in this is to build confidence-building measures, to bring about a set of confidence-building measures that would allow both Afghan parties, the government and the Taliban, to demonstrate their seriousness in pursuing the process and eventually begin negotiating.
But the reconciliation process has to be between the Afghan government and the Taliban. We are helping facilitate that, but we are supporting an Afghan-led process.
Q And the message to the families or the troops that have served there?
MR. CARNEY: The service that our men and women in uniform as well as our civilians have provided in Afghanistan has been exemplary and the sacrifice has been enormous. And the whole point of the President’s strategy is to disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat al Qaeda, al Qaeda being the reason why we sent forces to Afghanistan in the first place and to create breathing room, if you will, space for the Afghan government to be able to build up Afghan forces so that Afghan forces can take the security lead, which as enunciated in Lisbon will happen by the end of 2014, and ultimately, for that country to succeed in the process of reconciliation that allows for peace in that very troubled land.
But reconciliation, as you know, is contingent upon some very important criteria, including laying down arms, renouncing al Qaeda, abiding by the Afghan constitution, including its provisions for minority rights and women’s rights. So this is not -- it is not without conditions that this reconciliation process would take place.
Q And lastly -- I’m sorry -- but the U.S. possible confidence -- the role that the U.S. might play in confidence-building measures may be the release of five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo. I know that no decision has been made, but it’s certainly a possibility. What can you tell the American people about these five Taliban and why the U.S. feels it’s okay -- hypothetically, because it is being discussed -- why it might be acceptable to release them to the Afghan government or to release them to the Taliban?
MR. CARNEY: Well, a couple of points. One, as you point out, we have not decided to transfer any Taliban officials from Guantanamo Bay. Two, we’re not in a position to discuss ongoing deliberations or individual detainees. But our goal of closing Guantanamo is well established and widely understood. In general, any decision to transfer a detainee from Guantanamo would be undertaken in accordance with U.S. law and in consultation with Congress.
The process of transferring detainees out of Guantanamo Bay has been ongoing -- this is broadly and not specific to your question -- but has been ongoing for a long time and obviously predates this administration. And each transfer is done, again, undertaken in accordance with U.S. law and in consultation with the Congress.
Q Thank you.
MR. CARNEY: Let me go up and back here. Cheryl.
Q Jay, this morning the U.S. Chamber had a big event where leaders spoke about their policy positions, calling on the administration to pass Keystone as quickly as possible to create as many jobs as possible. Where is the President on that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, it is a State Department-led process, as you know, Cheryl. The fact of the matter is, as you know, the provision that extended the payroll tax cut put this artificial 60-day deadline, if you will, on the decision-making process, and State Department -- the State Department has been very clear that that does not allow for the kinds of reviews that are necessary.
To underscore that point, I think it’s important to note that not only has no route been identified by the company, but the state of Nebraska, which will now do their own assessment of whatever the proposed alternate route is, has made clear in recent reports that their own environmental assessment would take six to nine months.
And the point I’m trying to make here is that there is a reason why this process has within it the duration required to properly review all the different aspects of a project like this and to weigh all the important criteria. And to try to circumvent that process is, as we said at the time, counterproductive, we believe, to even the goals stated by those who insisted on trying to do that.
Having said that, I have no new information and I’d refer you to the State Department about that process.
Q As you may know, Mitt Romney said to CBS in an interview yesterday that the attacks on Bain Capital and his business are a lot like -- are unfair given what the President has done in his effort to save General Motors and Chrysler. He said, “In the general election, I’ll be pointing out that the President took the reins at General Motors and Chrysler, closed factories, closed dealerships, laid off thousands and thousands of workers as he tried to save the business.” Does the White House agree that in the case of the auto industry, it was necessary for some people to lose their jobs in order to save these businesses?
MR. CARNEY: The fact of the matter is, Jessica, as you know, is that the automobile industry in this country was heading over a cliff and would likely not have survived were it not for -- certainly not at its size and competitiveness -- were it not for the decision this President made, a decision which I believe certainly the candidate you’re referring to, but I believe all the candidates, for the Republican nomination, opposed.
So, I mean, I’d be delighted to recite to you, as I did the other day, the very impressive statistics about the revival of the American automobile industry, including the two major companies that this President acted to save, and in doing so insisted on the kinds of changes in those companies that would lead them to be more competitive and to have the kind of success that they’ve been having of late.
And I think the discussions you’re talking about are going on within the Republican primary process, which I’m not going to wade into from here.
Q Does the White House agree that it was necessary for some people to lose jobs in order to save the industry?
MR. CARNEY: I think what our action was designed to do and did do was prevent the elimination of up to a million jobs in the automobile industry and create a situation where that industry is now creating jobs again. So I think that’s an important story to tell.
Q And is that similar to what Mitt Romney did at Bain Capital?
MR. CARNEY: You know, I just -- I don’t have a comparative to give to you on that. I know that Governor Romney and all of the candidates for -- as far as I know, pretty sure of this -- all the candidates for the Republican nomination opposed the President’s decision to do what he did to save the automobile industry in this country, and that is certainly something that the President expects to debate when the time comes in the general election.
Q Finally, in his speech the other night, Mitt Romney accused the President of playing the “politics of envy.” Do you have any response to that or want to address it in any way?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not sure what that means. This President is focused on providing opportunity and security to the middle class, a middle class that has been under great stress for years now, that saw its incomes stagnate or decline in the previous 10 years, even as those at the highest income levels saw their incomes grow substantially and their share of wealth in this country grow substantially.
And he is eager for everyone to succeed, and he wants to help build an economy that rewards hard work, rewards responsibility, that holds people accountable, and that insists that folks on -- in all the different parts of our economy and on all levels of the economic ladder play by the same rules. That’s why Wall Street reform was so important. That’s why appointing and installing Richard Cordray as our consumer watchdog was so important, because Wall Street needs to play by the same rules as Main Street. And then the opportunity for everyone to succeed becomes far greater, and that’s his approach.
Q Jay, I want to go back a week or so ago to the Defense Authorization Act. When the President signed it he issued a very strong statement saying he would never carry out the provisions that would allow him to -- allow any President to detain an American indefinitely without a trial. My question is, does the President intend to challenge that in any way and try to get that off the books, or leave that for some future President to exercise?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think I would refer you to statements I made and others made about that at the time, when the President signed the bill into law. And our concerns about that provision within the defense authorization bill were well known as it was being developed in our consultations with the authors.
Some of those concerns were addressed, and addressed to the point where the President felt he could sign the bill because of its importance overall. And then, as you state, our approach to this has been further clarified and illuminated, but I don’t think I can improve upon what was said in the signing statement or --
Q But it does mean that the power will continue, the potential for that will continue for whoever the next President is.
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President, as you know, is focused on making sure that the law is implemented in a way that maintains the flexibility that our forces need to do their jobs and protect this country and protect American citizens -- and he’s committed to that.
I don’t have anything to say about future actions we might take legislatively or otherwise. I would just to point you to what he has said and I have said and what others have said about implementation of this law.
Q Hi, Jay. This is the two-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. What tangible results has this administration seen since giving funding for that country that’s still devastated?
MR. CARNEY: It is, as you note, the two-year anniversary, and the earthquake and the damage that was done was indeed devastating. What I can tell you is that there are signs of progress and promise in Haiti.
The significant portion of the rubble has been cleared. A large portion or majority of the folks who were living in tents and similar-type housing have been located into better places.
And I think -- I can give you more detail about the actions that this administration took, that this President took immediately, including establishing the -- I believe it was the Clinton-Bush Fund in reaction to Haiti. And we remain committed to Haiti and to its recovery from that terrible earthquake.
Q Since you say this administration remains committed, before the earthquake Haiti was considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. And many people have had guesstimates saying that it would take more than a decade, decades even, to make it -- just to come back to where it was. Where is the guesstimate now? I mean, those guesstimates were right outside of the earthquake. What are the guesstimates now? How long does this --
MR. CARNEY: That’s an excellent question and I simply don’t have an answer. I can research it for you, or perhaps State might have -- the State Department might have more details. But the -- I mean, that country’s very difficult history obviously predates the terrible earthquake, and the earthquake did that country no favors. And the hardship there is well known and extraordinary. And we’ve been working very hard to assist Haitians in this very difficult time over the last two years. And again, progress has been made but circumstances there remain very challenging.
Q Jay, in your comments on the Marine video, did you intend to suggest that it may not be what it appears to be?
MR. CARNEY: As a legal matter, I don’t pass pronouncements. I think that the activity is alleged and what’s seen in the video is apparent. But I’m not going to from here go beyond that. It’s certainly -- what is apparently occurring in that video is deplorable and does not live up to the very high standards set for the United States Marines or broadly the United States military.
Q But you don’t have any suggestion that it’s not genuine?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not saying that. I’m simply saying it’s a matter under investigation and I’m not going to pass judgment, a legal judgment from here except to say that the apparent activity -- the activity that’s apparent in that video is truly regrettable and deplorable.
Q And on Cheryl’s question about Keystone, are you saying the President might be moving toward a statement where he blocks Keystone under the law, which he has to do by February 21st?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, the process for Keystone, as I’ve said on so many occasions from here, is conducted at the State Department on behalf of the federal government. And the State Department has been clear about the time necessary to assess any alternate route. That route hasn’t even been identified yet, as I said.
But the company and the state of Nebraska has said it needs six to nine months for the environmental assessment to be done after that route is identified. So I cite those facts because it goes straight to the point about the very political and arbitrary action taken by some folks in Congress, by Republicans in Congress, to try to play political games with the payroll tax cut. We said it was a bad idea at the time. It’s a bad idea for a bunch of reasons, including the ones I just laid out. But I don’t have any announcement to make about action that the State Department might take or the President might take.
Q But he’ll take action by the deadline in the bill that he signed?
MR. CARNEY: He signed a bill into law, so I would refer you to the State Department about how that will be taken under consideration.
Q To keep you rolling on Keystone, some Republicans in Congress are working on a plan for legislation they say would force the issuing of a permit for Keystone, effectively bypassing the President or overruling the President if he fails to take action by February 21st. Does the administration see this is as a legitimate course of action?
MR. CARNEY: Well, there’s several layers of speculation about legislation that may or may not be written, that may or may not be submitted, that may or may not be voted on. I’m going to deal with the facts as we know them, which is that this is a process that long predates this administration that has a review like this conducted out of the State Department.
The timeframe for something like this is well established based on the kinds of procedures that need to be considered, the criteria that need to be weighed in a decision-making process like this. The decision to seek an alternate route necessitated a delay of the decision-making process so that route could be identified and then assessed. And the State Department is overseeing that process now.
Q Jay, two subjects -- one, on the insourcing event yesterday, the President was obviously very critical of outsourcing. Why then does he have Jeff Immelt of GE, who has been accused of a lot of outsourcing, as the head of his Jobs Council?
MR. CARNEY: The President had that event yesterday because there is a mighty important trend underway globally that greatly affects the American economy and American workers. And it is a very welcome trend and it is one that this President believes we need to enhance to ensure that the trend continues, which is American businesses making judgments about where to best invest and to hire workers are increasingly deciding that that place is here in the United States of America -- not abroad, not in China. The statistics are pretty overwhelming and very impressive.
And your viewers, everyone here has -- the audiences that you reach have been reading and seeing and hearing reports about outsourcing of American jobs for a very long time. And that’s because that process did happen and has happened. And it’s a very important reversal of that trend that’s underway here. And that’s why the President had the event that he had.
Now, we have global companies that are American. We have companies that do business around the world, and that’s a good thing, too. Now we want to focus attention on and increase the likelihood that American businesses will choose to invest here, but we also want our businesses to compete globally. So they do not cancel each other out.
Q On the Taliban, what did the Vice President mean a few weeks ago when he told Newsweek that the Taliban per se is not our enemy? Was that a way to try to get the Taliban to the table by saying you’re no longer the enemy?
MR. CARNEY: I appreciate the question, which I remember answering at the time very clearly, which is the United States of America did not send military forces under George W. Bush to Afghanistan because the Taliban was in power. The Taliban had been in power. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan because attacks were launched against the United States by al Qaeda, located in Afghanistan, and that’s why we went in. His point is that there is not -- our number-one objective, as I just stated, in the President’s Afghanistan policy is to disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat al Qaeda. I think the President’s focus on that goal has been clear to the American people now for quite some time both in the approach he’s taken in Afghanistan specifically and in the approach he’s taken in terms of taking the fight to al Qaeda, most memorably by the decision he made to remove Osama bin Laden from the battlefield.
What remains true, as I was saying earlier in answer to Jake’s questions, is that peace in Afghanistan will come through reconciliation. There has to be a political settlement. That has been the policy for a long time. Reconciliation of the Taliban is conditional and it would require any Taliban soldier or official to renounce the use of violence, promise allegiance to the Afghan constitution, disavow al Qaeda. But there needs to be a political settlement for all the reasons that I’ve said.
In the meantime, our military action -- the heroics of our military forces -- have helped create the conditions that allow for the possibility of negotiations to begin and we will not let up in that effort. So I think that is a fuller explanation of what the Vice President was talking about.
Welcome back. Everybody is back now. Did something happen? Is there a lull in the action or something?
Q I’m going to follow up on Iran. What is the stated U.S. policy when it comes to Iran’s attempt to gain this nuclear technology?
MR. CARNEY: The administration is committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Q So it’s fair to say that covert action would be on the table?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not going to discuss those kinds of things from here. But we have a policy that’s focused on working with our international partners collectively and then, obviously, unilaterally to put pressure on Iran to abide by its international obligations, to come clean about its nuclear ambitions. We have provided numerous opportunities for the Iranian government to act on the international community’s invitation to get right by their obligations. And we will continue to take action to add pressure, increase their isolation until they make the right call.
Q But you can say definitively that it wouldn’t be the policy of the United States to covertly assassinate people?
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, I -
Q Or be involved in some sort of attempt like that.
MR. CARNEY: What we’ve said is that we deplore the violence, deplore the action --
Q This violence? Or the violence of all of the assassinations --
MR. CARNEY: Well, it is -- it’s a matter of U.S. policy in terms of the kind of action that you talk about, so I’m not about to revise that from here. This comes up in relation to a specific incident that we have made clear that we had nothing to do with. We’ve rejected those accusations. We are engaged in an effort to try to pressure Iran to live up to its obligations, to give up its nuclear ambitions -- nuclear weapons ambitions. And we will continue to engage in that effort.
Q How concerned are you about retaliation? Is the U.S. government concerned about retaliation?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think we’ve been categorical and clear about the fact that we were not involved in the death of this individual. Our concern about Iranian behavior is ever present. And we are very vigilant and mindful of various threats that can be -- that are made, whether they involve the Straits of Hormuz or other areas or issues. So -- but I don’t have a specific level of concern to convey to you.
Q If Iran decides to retaliate on Israel in a military way, U.S. response would be what?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we are absolutely committed to Israel’s security, as we made clear again today in our readout of the President’s phone conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu. But I’m not going to speculate about what we might do if some action were taken by another country.
Q Was there any concern, by the way, of making that readout public, because it might feed the conspiracy theorists in Iran?
MR. CARNEY: Look, I don’t think there’s any secret to the fact that we have an important and ongoing relationship with Israel. We have many important issues to discuss with the Israeli government. The President has many important matters to raise with Prime Minister Netanyahu and vice versa. So that’s -- those conversations are regular and ongoing.
Q And just one final question. Any reason why you kept cameras away from the President visiting his campaign reelection headquarters?
MR. CARNEY: It was an OTR. I think it was a brief -- a brief drop-by.
Q You guys love when we cover OTRs at delis, at barbeque restaurants.
MR. CARNEY: I think this was --
Q Campaign reelection headquarters, that’s not --
MR. CARNEY: -- on the fly and brief. The President was very gratified to have the opportunity. I think it underscores the point I’ve been trying to make from here in answer to questions about the President’s reelection campaign, which is that he is here in Washington focused on doing his job as President. He is --
Q So you weren’t concerned that pictures of this would make it look otherwise?
MR. CARNEY: Well, no. I mean, look, he obviously had campaign events last night in Chicago that you all covered. I mean, we’re not hiding the fact that he is engaged in some campaign activities. But as a --
Q A little bit. You try to minimize it.
MR. CARNEY: Mark, I try and tell you -- give you the facts, which is, the fact is, the President’s reelection campaign isn’t across the river in Rosslyn, isn’t in Washington. It’s in Chicago, halfway across the country. And that reflects the President --
Q And Chuck’s point is that if he makes a rare visit to his campaign headquarters --
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, we can debate campaign access. We made clear that he went there. We made clear that he -- you guys come into his -- pools come into his -- when he speaks at these campaign events and will continue to do so.
We release, the campaign releases information about its campaign goals. And we’re not -- we’re obviously -- there is a robust effort underway, based in Chicago, to ensure that this President is reelected so that he can continue to take action to help the American economy grow, to help it create jobs, to protect the middle class and protect the country as a matter of national security. So we’re not at all shy about that.
Q Can I follow up on Chuck’s question?
MR. CARNEY: Let me move around. Julia.
Q Yes, thanks, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: Up and back, as I do a lot. Yes.
Q I saw the Department of Justice memo that they okayed the appointment during recess of Richard Cordray, but the date was January 6th, it looks like it came to the White House. Cordray was appointed on the 4th, so then does that mean that the decision was made without the approval of the Department of Justice?
MR. CARNEY: No. The fact is the opinion was rendered verbally prior to the date of the opinion itself. The opinion was based on the advice provided by OLC, and it is very standard for -- especially a long -- as you’ve seen in the lengthy opinion that was put out, for those things to be developed over a period of time. And this is -- the timeframe for this is very similar to, in my understanding, to previous occasion.
So the decision was -- the opinion was rendered before the --
MR. CARNEY: -- decision made by the President.
MR. CARNEY: That’s my understanding.
Q Thank you.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I wasn’t talking to Roger. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you. A couple of questions. Apparently there’s military exercises underway between Israel and the United States. Do you have any details? Is that part of a warning to Iran?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not aware of that. I’d refer you to the Department of Defense.
Q All right. And what’s the situation with the American who’s under arrest and accused of spying in Iran? Anything new on his --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’ve spoken to this a few times earlier this week with regard to the absolutely invalid accusations and sentence levied against him. So it’s -- we call on him to be released immediately.
Q Finally, on talks with the Taliban, are you pressing the Taliban to change their attitude toward women?
MR. CARNEY: I think, Connie, I’ve made clear today and on many occasions that reconciliation is contingent upon members of the Taliban laying down their arms, renouncing allegiance to al Qaeda, and abiding by the Afghan constitution, which includes provisions protecting the rights of women.
Q Jay, can I follow up on that?
MR. CARNEY: Let me get to Roger, then you, John. Yes.
Q Thank you. I was wondering if you had an update on when the debt ceiling request is going to the Hill.
MR. CARNEY: Days, not weeks. (Laughter.) That was true a couple of days ago, and it remains true. I don’t have anything more specific for you.
Q It’s imminent?
MR. CARNEY: Well, in that it’s not weeks, it’s imminent. But when we have something more specific we’ll give it to you.
Q Thanks. There are a number of Asian leaders who are going to be visiting the Gulf region -- Saudi Arabia, China’s Premier going there, and South Korean Prime Minister going as well to the region. Is the President satisfied with the progress that Geithner has made in terms of trying to get the oil issue resolved in Beijing? I mean, there’s been some progress with Japan apparently, but what about the Chinese position at this point?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’ve been pleased with the progress that has been made. You noted Japan; I think it’s also worth noting Europe. And we are continuing to have discussions with other partners and allies around the world about the need to continue to put pressure on Iran so that it ceases its -- to behave outside of its international obligations. That process is ongoing.
Q Will he be meeting with Geithner?
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry?
Q Will he be meeting with Geithner? How soon will they talk about what was accomplished on that --
MR. CARNEY: “He,” being the President? I’m not sure when Tim returns, but Secretary Geithner is in these hallways quite frequently and sees the President quite often. But I don’t have a specific meeting to announce.
MR. CARNEY: Yes, sir.
Q Regarding the reconciliation process. Has this administration been in contact or discussions with its allies, including Great Britain, regarding this process?
MR. CARNEY: I am sure that we are in consultation with all the ISAF countries and with all our allies on this matter. I don’t have anything specific to impart to you about that, but you can be sure, since this effort is an international effort, that we are consulting with and engaging with our allies.
Q Thank you.
MR. CARNEY: Kristen, I didn’t see you back there. How are you?
Q Good, thanks. Jay, can you confirm that the President plans to reprise his deficit reduction plans, which he first mapped out in September as a part of his 2013 budget proposal?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t want to get ahead of the President’s budget proposal, nor do I want to get ahead of the President’s State of the Union address, but it is certainly fair to say that the approach the President laid out in September, a balanced approach to comprehensive deficit reduction, reflects how he believes we need to move going forward. So I don’t -- without getting into specifics about the budget, that approach is the one he still believes needs to be taken, and he would very happily endorse a decision by Congress to take up that approach.
The process that was put in place by the Budget Control Act that created the super committee that created the sequestration remains in place, minus the super committee. In other words, the sequester is designed not to happen. It is designed to be a forcing mechanism to force Congress to take action.
And it is simply incontrovertible that the only viable approach to comprehensive deficit reduction, viable both economically and certainly politically, is a balanced approach. That’s the approach that has been endorsed by bipartisan commissions. It’s the approach that at least some Republicans have said they support, and it’s certainly the approach that this President and the overwhelming majority of the American people support.
So we would greatly endorse a decision by congressional leaders, in particular Republicans, to take this approach.
Q But why consider reprising a plan that’s already been rejected?
MR. CARNEY: Well, no, that’s not how this works, though. I mean, you put forward -- first of all, I’m not getting into the specifics about what’s going to be in the budget. But that’s -- there is no other alternative here than a balanced approach to bipartisan deficit reduction.
Obviously, the specifics of how that were to work if Congress, in its wisdom, were to take it up and Republican leaders were to allow it to proceed, then the details would be negotiated.
But balance is essential so that no sector of American society has to bear the burden by itself, or unduly, of reducing our deficit and getting our fiscal house in order for the long term. So that’s the approach that has to be taken. Hopefully it will be taken.
Q And Jay, going back to the insourcing event quickly, the President announced that he plans to put forward new tax proposals to reward companies that choose to invest or bring back jobs to the United States. Can you talk a little bit about what those proposals might look like, and will they be a part of the budget?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I don’t want to get ahead of anything we might be announcing in the future. I think that what the President was expressing is his overall goal and intention of doing what he can to make sure this trend continues and to strengthen it, to bring -- to make it even more worthwhile for companies to invest in the United States and to hire here in the United States and build our economy and build jobs.
Because there are some fascinating facts about what’s happening out there and the assessments that are being made by companies about not just the labor cost, but the overall cost and efficiency comparisons that are being made about whether or not to locate a factory, if you will, overseas in China or somewhere else, versus locating it here in the United States.
And increasingly, businesses are making the judgment that the over -- and these are clear-eyed, bottom-line-minded businessmen and businesswomen who are making the judgment that it is a good time to locate those factories and jobs here in the United States. And that’s a good thing, and it’s a trend the President wants to strengthen and encourage.
Q Can I just follow up?
MR. CARNEY: Last one, Mike.
Q Thanks, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: And then Paula. I’m sorry, you had it up. So I’ll go Mike, Paula, and then I’ll get out of here.
Q I just want to get back to the DOJ memo. And in it they acknowledged that this was a novel area and that it possibly could lead to some litigation. And one of the reasons for the appointment that was given by the White House was that there was concern without a director in place the bureau would never be able to exercise all of its authorities. But why aren’t you concerned that this litigation might not hamper all of its efforts if they end up in court?
MR. CARNEY: Well, because we believe our legal argument is very strong, will absolutely pass muster. And the fact that, hypothetically, there might be a legal challenge to it doesn’t mitigate against the fact that Richard Cordray is the consumer watchdog; he is in place making sure that Americans are protected from payday lenders and non-bank financial institutions and student loan brokers and others, from the abuses that they were not protected against prior to him being installed by the President and recess appointed by the President.
So the absolute necessity of doing this remains as clear today as it was when he did it and prior to him doing it. And I think that the American people by and large -- in fact overwhelmingly -- support the existence of somebody here in Washington looking out for them; making sure that the institutions that have very well-paid lobbyists, armies of them here looking out for their interests, have somebody else to deal with here in Washington looking out for the interests of regular Americans in their financial dealings.
Q And is the administration ready for those fights when they do come?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would just refer you to the OLC memo.
Q Jay, the law says -- sorry, the memo says that the President has appointed him, but the memo does not address the underlying question of whether a recess appointment is the same as a confirmation. Because the 2010 law that established the bureau said the new powers come to an appointee who is confirmed. Is the President saying his recess appointment is legally the same as a confirmation by the Senate?
MR. CARNEY: The President is saying that in recess appointing Richard Cordray, Richard Cordray has absolutely the powers he needs to fulfill his responsibilities in that job. And there have been a number of rather enlightening instances in the past 24 hours of confirmation by unusual sources of the fact that the House and Senate are indeed in recess. In the very press release put out by a Republican congresswoman arguing against the recess appointment, she acknowledged that the Senate was in recess. I believe on the House Majority Leader’s website today it said the House was not in recess -- I mean, not in session.
So look, anybody who doubts this, any American who doubts that this is a recess appointment, should, through you, take a look at what’s happening on Capitol Hill and argue to -- and have Congress argue that they’re in session, they’re doing their jobs on Capitol Hill, when in fact they’re not even around.
Q The insourcing tax proposals, is it possible that this could be coming out as part of the overall corporate tax reform?
MR. CARNEY: I want you to repeat that so I make sure I get it right. Say that again.
Q The insourcing proposals that are to be coming out, is it possible that they may be coming out as part of the overall reform of the corporate tax system?
MR. CARNEY: I have no announcements to make about that kind of issue. Urge you to stay very focused on what we’re doing here -- State of the Union address is coming up, the release of the budget is coming up. Lots of really interesting things to cover.
Q What is the state of the union? It’s good? Strong? Very strong?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’re getting stronger.
Q Is that the wording that’s in the draft already?
MR. CARNEY: No! Thank you all very much.
END 2:26 P.M. EST