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Barack Obama: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
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Barack Obama
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
September 29, 2009
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James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:11 P.M. EDT

MR. GIBBS: Mr. Elliott, take us away.

Q: Thanks, Robert. On the principals' meeting today, what's the actual goal, what does the President want to come away with in this discussion on Afghanistan? I know we're not at a point where we're making decisions. What are we making in this meeting?

MR. GIBBS: Well, the meeting the President will be in actually has been rescheduled until tomorrow. The principals will meet to get ready -- continue to get ready for that meeting. As I understand it, General Petraeus and General McChrystal will participate in the meeting that's had this afternoon.

Q: Is this the first conversation the President had with McChrystal since receiving his report?

MR. GIBBS: I don't believe that they've spoken since the report has been given. Understanding for a little context, the President receives a memo every week from General McChrystal, as he does from General Odierno, on -- an update on how things are going in either Afghanistan or Iraq, respectively. Inputs also come from the diplomatic side. As well as each of those memos, the President meets, as he is today, regularly with the chain of command, including the two top people on that chain of command, Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral Mullen, both of whom will be a the White House today.

Q: So what's he looking for from this meeting?

MR. GIBBS: Well, again, this is the beginning of a reassessing of where we are. I think this will be -- as we've said, this will take place over the course of several meetings and a number of weeks, as we look at where we are, what's happened in the intervening months since the President made a decision in March. And I think as you heard the Secretary General of NATO, a key ally obviously in our mission, is to evaluate this from a strategic perspective and then have a discussion later about resources, which is what the President intends to do.

Q: Are the principals offering him options to consider?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I don't think we're at that point yet. I think we're going to go through the McChrystal assessment and go through additional ideas, and go from there.

Q: Now, Iran is saying that they will not discuss this new nuclear plant tomorrow.

MR. GIBBS: They may not, but we will.

Q: That was -- I was going to ask -- you're going to bring it up. What do you think about this approach that they're taking?

MR. GIBBS: Well, what is undeniable is that a plant is in -- a plant was constructed in violation of their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, something they've signed with the IAEA, as well as U.N. Security Council resolutions. We will demand that IAEA inspectors have unfettered access to the facility, to personnel, to documents surrounding the facility. There's no doubt this is in violation of their own obligations to which they're a party.

I think it will show the world, and I think the onus is on the Iranians to show the world, that the program that they have is for -- is a peaceful program to create energy, rather than a secret program for nuclear weapons. I think if you're -- if the Iranians are unwilling to discuss something that should have been reported to the IAEA years ago, I think that's quite telling. But again, I don't want to prejudge. I'll let them do their own talking.

Yes, sir.

Q: The President today in the Oval Office with NATO Secretary General said that he defined the mission in Afghanistan as dismantling, disrupting, destroying the al Qaeda network, and effectively working with the Afghan government to provide the security necessary for that country. What -- how would you define "effectively working with the Afghan government to provide the security necessary for their country"? Can you explain more what he means by that?

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think you've got -- I think, as you've seen in places around the world, we've -- while we can help the security environment in the short term, there has to be a training mission for police and security forces that that country can use to secure their own territory, because we cannot stay there forever. Eventually the functions of security and the functions of policing are going to have to be assumed by the Afghans. So obviously some robust training mission has to happen.

Q: That's what you mean by -- just kind of open-ended concept of --

MR. GIBBS: Yes.

Q: -- they need to be able to arm themselves and protect themselves?

MR. GIBBS: They have to be able to secure their own physical territory.

Q: But that's obviously not the case right now.

MR. GIBBS: And that's why -- that's part of what the President talked about in March and part of what is in -- obviously in the assessment from General McChrystal.

Q: One other question is that retired General Gration is quoted in The Washington Post today, making comments about U.S. policy towards Sudan that include suggestions that his goal is to normalize relations with Sudan, and there were a lot of other comments that have alarmed groups whose existence is to object to the genocide in Darfur. Did you guys have a reaction to that comment?

MR. GIBBS: Well, just -- my reaction is more to the story. The policy is being worked on. There are no announcements of a new policy. Obviously, our policy would not include that unless there were significant change on the ground in Khartoum.

Yes, sir.

Q: Isn't there a danger for the President that he may be perceived as weak or indecisive as this policy or strategy review session drags on, fueled by the perception that many in his own party are against increasing the numbers of troops in the war?

MR. GIBBS: When you say "drags on" -- I mean, Secretary Gates said this weekend it took three months in the previous White House to discuss a policy on a surge of troops in Iraq. Did anybody -- was there a suggestion by those then that the President was dragging this assessment on?

Q: You all have made a point of saying that there is no time limit on this.

MR. GIBBS: Right, because the President wants to get the policy right. If the policy takes time to get right, then that's what the President intends to do. I think he owes that to the men and women in uniform that are there; he owes that to the men and women in uniform that could go; and he owes that to each and every American.

Q: Sure, but meanwhile, there's probably what you could describe accurately as a rising tide of sentiment against further engagement in Afghanistan, and much of it is on his own party.

MR. GIBBS: The President isn't going to make a political decision. The President is going to make the decision that he feels is in the best interest of the United States' national security. The President is happy to hear the back-and-forth from both sides on this, but is going to take his time to decide what is right for the American people.

Yes, sir.

Q: When you talk about the President wants to hear the back-and-forth, where does it stand now? Does the President -- is it the sense that the President does not want to send in more troops, but he needs to see the evidence and want to be convinced that there really is a need for that?

MR. GIBBS: The President is in the process of doing exactly what he said he would do after the elections, and that is assess where we are.

Again, you heard Secretary Gates this weekend discuss that General McChrystal, who's been there for a couple of months, saw through his assessment on the ground a situation that had deteriorated more rapidly than people had expected. You have the ambiguity of the Afghan election -- all of which has to be taken into account. The President is simply taking this into account and demonstrating, again, as I said, what he would do in March in assessing this policy.

Q: And as he does that, what are his concerns about sending in more troops?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I have not heard him talk specifically, and I wouldn't get into if I had, what his concerns are right now. I think obviously the President wants to ensure that we have a well-defined mission, that we all understand that we can't be there forever. As Jake mentioned, the President reiterated that the strategy -- we have to have a strategy that dismantles, disrupts, and destroys al Qaeda and its extremist allies; builds up the security and policing forces of the Afghans; and doesn't allow safe havens in Afghanistan where terrorists can plot again to blow up buildings or planes in this country.

Q: Does the United States believe Iran was trying -- is trying to acquire a nuclear weapon?

MR. GIBBS: I think that there is -- their reticence now for a second time to live up to its international obligations put the onus on the Iranians to tell the world and to demonstrate visibly for the world that their program -- that their -- that they have a peaceful nuclear program designed for power and energy, rather than a secret program to develop a nuclear weapon. That is a question that only the Iranians can answer to the satisfactory nature of the world community.

Q: The U.S. government isn't prepared to say that they know the Iranians are --

MR. GIBBS: Well, I'm not going to get into --

Q: -- that there seems to be some dispute between intelligence agencies around the world.

MR. GIBBS: And I'm not going to get into discussing intelligence here.

Q: On the IAEA, does the U.S. government believe they've gotten enough information that they need from them about what they've done in Iran previously? Have they gotten a full -- have they gotten full cooperation from the IAEA -- the U.S. government -- in getting everything they need?

MR. GIBBS: I'd have to check with somebody as to the exact nature. Again, the onus is on the Iranians to provide full, unfettered access to Qom, to documents, to live up to the international obligations that they've signed. This facility should have been reported to the IAEA at a point in which a decision was made to begin constructing. That has long since passed. The Iranians are going to get a chance to account for the world and be transparent about their program and its intent.

Q: On the hikers, the news -- the news that the Swiss government is going to -- or the Iranians are going to give the Swiss government some access to the hikers, do you guys see this as some sort of -- is it viewed within the talks are going to take place in Geneva, some sort of attempt by them --

MR. GIBBS: Our government has always viewed that the hikers should be released and we don't conflate the two issues.

Q: Do you believe there should be no connection?

MR. GIBBS: There isn't any connection and there shouldn't be. The hikers should be released.

Yes, sir.

Q: Robert, was Rasmussen speaking for the President when he said today in the Oval Office, "We will stay in Afghanistan as long as it takes"?

MR. GIBBS: Obviously, I'm not going to get into parsing the words of --

Q: It's pretty straightforward.

MR. GIBBS: I understand, I just don't currently hold the position of his spokesperson.

Q: Well, does the President agree with that?

MR. GIBBS: I think the President believes that we have to do -- we have to, as I said earlier, disrupt, dismantle and destroy al Qaeda, prevent it from having a safe haven that would allow it to plan the type of activities that we saw happen in September of 2001 in this country.

Q: And that is the objective for which the U.S. will stay in Afghanistan, as long as it takes?

MR. GIBBS: That is the objective of our U.S. policy toward Afghanistan.

Q: Back to Iran, in terms of sanctions, there's been some reporting on insurance and targeting insurance and reinsurance. What else is the administration considering?

MR. GIBBS: I'm not going to get into what happens a few steps down the road, except I think you've heard the President be very forceful about what the Iranians could face in the event that they don't live up to their obligations. Our focus right now, though, is on Thursday's meeting and hoping that they will live up to those obligations and tell the world.

Q: The administration is considering sanctions? I mean, you guys are working on this, this isn't all just premature talk?

MR. GIBBS: No, we're working on it. It's just me talking about it is premature.

Q: Could you talk a little more generally then about the need for targeted sanctions as opposed to --

MR. GIBBS: Look, without -- I hate to get into conjecture. Obviously I think what is most important in any step that is taken next in the event that the Iranians don't live up to their obligations is that we do this with the entire international community working together. I think we're at a point through the President's policy of engagement where we're not having a debate about whether or not we should be confronting the Iranians face to face, but instead we've put the onus on the Iranians to discuss their intentions and their program with the world. And we brought our allies, particularly in the P5-plus-1, I think up to a point in which that's all possible.

Yes, sir.

Q: Russia's deputy foreign minister says Iran's missile tests shouldn't be used to generate international support for sanctions. Do you agree with that?

MR. GIBBS: Well, Wendell, as I just said yesterday, obviously though the exercises by the Iranians were part of preplanned military activities, I don't think anybody thought that that was a helpful thing heading into serious talks where the onus and responsibility is on them.

Q: Senator Kyl also has criticized the decision to go forward with the talks. He says --

MR. GIBBS: We tried that. (Laughter.) We had that policy for six years. It resulted in a whole lot of nothing. The President, through engagement, is at a point in which we are about to confront face-to-face on behalf of the world the intention of the Iranians and their nuclear program. And we'll give them the opportunity to state for the world and to demonstrate through its actions, not just its words, its responsibilities. I think we could go back to what we had for six years, which I think amounted to exceedingly little progress in dealing with the Iranians after it was -- almost seven years after it was known that they had built a massive uranium enrichment plant in the Natanz.

Yes, sir.

Q: When is the ongoing Sudan review likely to be completed? And will you announce --

MR. GIBBS: Yes, we -- I know there's a principal committee's meeting today that many will be at. I assume they'll come to some series of recommendations that will be presented ultimately to the President.

Q: It's a different meeting than the Afghan meeting?

MR. GIBBS: Yes.

Q: Will Bono be by? Will Bono be by? Serious question.

MR. GIBBS: I don't think he's participating in the principals committee meeting.

Q: Will he be consulted on this?

MR. GIBBS: Not that I'm aware of, no.

Q: -- The Edge?

Q: Will he be cleared into the White House compound today at all?

MR. GIBBS: Not that I'm aware of. I now see we've veered from Iran to U2.

Q: Larry Mullen? (Laughter.)

Q: Can we go back to Sudan?

MR. GIBBS: One more. Just go ahead, get it all out. Come on. (Laughter.) Let's go ahead.

Q: Got to leave them wanting more.

MR. GIBBS: All right.

Q: So you were saying?

MR. GIBBS: I'm sorry. Before I was so rudely interrupted with tonight's playlist -- look, the principals committee will meet; they'll eventually have recommendations for the President as part of an ongoing review of our Sudan policy. And when we have a policy to announce, we'll do that.

Q: Any kind of approximation of how long this could take?

MR. GIBBS: Not that I've been given. But I can double-check.

Q: And on tomorrow's Afghanistan meeting, who all will be in the meeting with the President?

MR. GIBBS: Let me see if I can do some of this off the top of my head. I'll try to get it -- we'll certainly get you a more complete list for those that actually attend the meeting. I know that the Vice President will be there, the Secretary of State will be there, the Secretary of Defense will be there, the Chair of the Joint Chiefs will be there, Ambassador Holbrooke will be there, General Petraeus and General McChrystal --

Q: McChrystal will personally be there?

MR. GIBBS: No, I think -- what I was going to say is, I'm not sure if one or both of those is by teleconference. But we'll certainly get that. I'm trying to think if I've left anybody out.

Q: Lute?

Q: Jones?

MR. GIBBS: I'm sorry, of course General Jones will be there and General Lute will be there as well.

Q: What was the last name?

MR. GIBBS: General Lute.

Q: Sit Room?

MR. GIBBS: Yes. Yes. No pool. (Laughter.)

Q: You mentioned the memos that the President gets every week from General McChrystal and General Odierno. Is there a reason why the President hasn't actually spoken with President -- with General McChrystal, except for the one time, since June? President Bush obviously spoke with his commanders every week. Is there a reason why this President --

MR. GIBBS: I think the President has -- receives tremendous input from the commanders on the ground; receives input from regional commanders like General Petraeus at Central; talks and meets weekly with, as I said, the Chair of the Joint Chiefs, or the Vice Chair if Admiral Mullen is traveling; and meets weekly with the head of that chain of command, Secretary Gates, often.

Q: How does the President view General McChrystal at this point? Arguably the General put him in a political box. Is there a feeling that --

MR. GIBBS: No, the President is intent on getting the decision that has to be made right, focusing our effort and our resources on ensuring that we have the best strategy possible. Understand, Peter, that the President signed off on putting General McChrystal where he is.

Q: Does he regret it?

MR. GIBBS: No, not at all.

Q: Robert, going on to health care, with the Finance Committee meeting today, and just kind of a "where we are" question. They're going to be having votes today and obviously through the week. Are you expecting -- A, are you expecting a finished product soon in the next few days? And is that going to be the key that unlocks things?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think obviously whether it is the end of this week or whether this bleeds into next week, I can't say for sure. I know the Finance Committee is making progress going through a series of amendments. But I expect in the new few days that the Finance Committee will finish its work. I think at that point you'll have five different committees that will have -- all of whom have some series of jurisdiction over -- purview over health care. Obviously both sides will then have to reconcile different proposals before they go to the floor fairly quickly.

Q: But I guess what I'm getting at is you've been putting a lot of emphasis on the Finance Committee in the last few weeks. Is that going to be the definitive version of the legislation? Is that going to be the thing that unlocks things?

MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I think -- just on the Senate side, obviously there's a process of the Finance Committee that will then have to be reconciled with the HELP Committee bill that passed out earlier this summer. That process will merge that legislation together just as the committees in the House will merge their bill together, and then it will go through.

Q: But it's really just incremental, then. I mean, you spoke of it yesterday as being in a better place, which sounded fairly definitive.

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the Finance Committee is in a better place. I think they're going through and -- I mean, I was asked this question in relation to what the President said about the Olympics several weeks ago. At that point, we didn't have a chairman's mark, we didn't have a committee that was meeting, we didn't have amendments that were being debated, we didn't have votes taking place. Obviously all of that happening with the last committee of jurisdiction means we're making progress on health care.

Q: Robert, can I follow on that?

MR. GIBBS: Yes.

Q: Last week everybody from Rahm, the Vice President, they all said they anticipate a bill before the Thanksgiving recess. Is that still operative? And what do they mean? Do they mean out of the House and Senate, or out of conference?

MR. GIBBS: I'd have to check. Because we were on the road so much last week, I have not talked with Rahm or Peter exactly on their statements. But I think it's our hope that this is a process that can be wrapped up by then.

Margaret.

Q: Thank you. On Iran, from a technical standpoint, can you talk a little bit more about what the U.S. vision is, going into Geneva? Are we going to be on our own, or in conjunction with any of our allies, presenting on paper some sort of specific demands or proposals for Iran? Or will it be more of a verbal thing? How long is the U.S. prepared to let the talks go on if one meeting doesn't cut it?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I would hesitate to prejudge the second question.

In terms of the first, I think this is a lot less about what we and the P5-plus-1 have to do; this is a lot more about what the Iranians have to do. I think there's a -- even before Friday's acknowledgment by the Iranians several years belatedly that they had a facility at Qom, there's a pending question about their nuclear program. That program -- that question only got more important with Friday's disclosure. And the onus and the responsibility are clearly on them.

Q: From a standpoint of leverage or strategery -- (laughter) -- how do you prod them into that place --

MR. GIBBS: I love how like a "Saturday Night Live" word was just entered into the lexicon of our -- (laughter.) I'm going to curse in a minute, if that's cool. (Laughter.)

Q: So the onus is on Iran, but how does the U.S. approach that? Again, can you answer specifically, will there be something on paper that's given to the Iranians, and will the U.S. demands be joint with other countries or --

MR. GIBBS: Let me check on the protocol of whether something is going to be -- I know that Bill Burns, who has worked on this issue for quite some time and was part of the meeting I think it was last June or July -- that occurred in the previous administration in the P5-plus-1 with Iran will be in charge of it for the United States.

Peter.

Q: Robert, on the Olympics, the President is going to be meeting privately, I guess, with some IOC members in Copenhagen. What will his message be? Will he be making the case for Chicago or asking them to vote for Chicago?

MR. GIBBS: Absolutely. I think the President, again, sees the opportunity to push strongly on the international stage America's bid for the Olympics. He will obviously have a part in the Chicago presentation, but I think believes that it's important for him to talk directly with voting members of the IOC and make the strong case for the American side.

Q: Your response to Chairman Steele's criticism about the President going to Copenhagen?

MR. GIBBS: Who's he rooting for? (Laughter.) Is he hoping to hop a plane to Brazil and catch the Olympics in Rio? (Laughter.) Maybe it's Madrid.

Q: Why is the President leaving before the decision is announced? Why isn't he going to stick around for a couple hours?

MR. GIBBS: To get back to do more work.

Q: Robert, just on Iran, how important, if sanctions are required, would cooperation of the Russians and Chinese be? And can you talk about what your level of confidence is that they'll be with the United States on this?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I wouldn't get, in all honestly, a lot more ahead of what you heard, for instance, President Medvedev say last week after meeting with the President, that we certainly hope that Iran fulfills its obligation and its responsibility. If it doesn't, we'll then look at next steps. And I think what he said is timely.

April.

Q: Robert, two questions. One, on Iran, how does gasoline factor into these conversations?

MR. GIBBS: I'm not going to get -- just like I did with Hans, I'm not going to get ahead of getting into -- surmised specifics about sanctions.

Q: But is gasoline something that this administration -- could it be part of -- could it be one of the options on the table?

MR. GIBBS: See previous answer.

Q: Okay.

Q: Ask Tommy on Saturday. (Laughter.)

MR. GIBBS: Right. Or call Tommy.

Q: Next question. The U.S. Census Bureau came out with a new study saying household income declined across all groups, but at sharper percentages for middle-income and the poor. Middle-income America is the group that really is affecting these polls, the President's approval ratings. Could you talk to me about how this White House sees that?

MR. GIBBS: Talk about how we see --

Q: The report -- how the White House sees the report as middle-income Americans are the ones who really affect the approval ratings of the President, up or down?

MR. GIBBS: I've got to tell you, April, there's not a lot of time spent correlating Census Bureau income data with approval rating polling data. We're focused on getting a policy right to turn the economy around. Obviously the President -- we saw a little more than a year ago an economic catastrophe that had been building for quite some time, with millions of jobs lost. That obviously has affected household income. It's not something we spend a lot of time, though, on --

Q: But some pollsters say that it is directly linked -- the middle-income pocketbook is directly linked and that your approval ratings will go up or down if they see their savings --

MR. GIBBS: I'll let pollsters smarter than me address that.

Yes, sir.

Q: Robert, when you talk about Afghanistan, the one thing that I don't hear in the strategy is defeat of the Taliban. Is defeat of the Taliban something that we must do there?

MR. GIBBS: Obviously when I talk about al Qaeda and its extremist allies, that's what we're talking about.

Q: Defeating the Taliban as well?

MR. GIBBS: Yes.

Yes, ma'am.

Q: As far as the middle class issue, it's been recently recorded that more and more middle-income people are reverting to public health clinics because they've lost their jobs, they've lost their insurance. The House bill has recommended an additional $38 billion. I just wondered does the administration in any way see this as another option to a public option? I mean, you've got clinic staff that are on salary. They don't really practice defensive medicine.

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think what you're pointing out, with the drop of income, we've seen an increase in the number of uninsured based on where the economy is going -- the best way to deal with that problem is bring the cost of health care down and provide an accessible and affordable route for those that don't currently have health care or have lost their health care to purchase something more stable, so that they don't, like millions of Americans, go bankrupt if they get sick. I think that's what underpins the President's entire push for comprehensive health care reform.

Yes, ma'am.

Q: With the focus on Iran this week and the G20 and the U.N. last week, is the White House losing control of its health care message? There hasn't been anything about health care?

MR. GIBBS: No.

David.

Q: Let me ask another health care question. Progressive policy advocates are complaining that the White House is not working with them to develop what would be a strong trigger. They see Olympia Snowe's idea of a trigger and her plan as being rather weak. And they're complaining that there's nothing coming from the White House on an alternative trigger that would be stronger, robust, that might be a compromise position with House Democrats. Your response?

MR. GIBBS: David, I have to admit I haven't seen that. I will go ask Nancy-Ann and others about that. Obviously, I think you've heard the President on any number of occasions discuss the strong need for choice and competition robustly to be in this bill; that without it we're not going to have what needs to happen to bring down health care costs and provide accessibility. I haven't seen the direct criticism. I'll check.

Yes.

Q: With the White House already weighing in on local elections, state elections in Colorado, Virginia and New York, is there going to be a lot more of this as 2010 gets closer? Is this going to be a standard procedure for the White House to get involved in local races?

MR. GIBBS: Well, when you say "local races" you mean --

Q: Well, I mean congressional and gubernatorial.

MR. GIBBS: Right. I think the President will be an active participant in the elections in 2010. I don't think there's any doubt about that.

Q: Well, how significant is the White House role going to be in these elections?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think we have a significant interest in how they turn out. I think the President will put -- we've got a long way before that -- put our best case forward in 2010, and support candidates that share his vision for long-term sustainable economic growth.

Yes, ma'am.

Q: Over the weekend former President Clinton came out for support of same-sex marriage, and he called his previous position against it "untenable." What does the President think about that?

MR. GIBBS: I have not talked to him and -- I did not see President Clinton's comments and I haven't talked directly to him about it.

Yes, ma'am.

Q: On Afghanistan and on Iran, there's a question that's been floating around really since the Vietnam War. If a significant majority of the American people continuously say they are opposed to build up involvement in Afghanistan, is the President obligated to listen to the American people or go on his own?

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I've talked about this a little in the past. I think the President clearly is going to make a decision that he believes is in the best interest of the national security of this country. At a point in which the final decision gets made, he'll explain directly to the American people what that decision is and why he thinks it's the best one.

Q: Will public opinion polls play any role in his --

Q: At this point, is there --

Q: -- that strong statement you made, we're about to confront on behalf of the world, do you include military confrontation?

MR. GIBBS: I think the President and Secretary Gates both said that it would be a mistake to take any option off the table.

Sam.

Q: Yes, sorry if I'm late to the game on this, but is the White House concerned at all about the scaling back of the proposed consumer financial protection agency away from what it envisioned when it was introduced? And what kind of steps is the administration willing to take to make sure it's kept intact?

MR. GIBBS: This is a big concern of the President's and a big concern of the administration. I think we have seen what happens, whether it's credit card companies, mortgage companies; we now see it more in stories covering the charges for bank overdrafts and the amount of money that that costs of the American people each year; that the American people deserve an advocate on their behalf dealing with these entities. The President believes that strongly and believes that at the end of the day, we'll have a strong consumer finance protection agency working on behalf of the American people --

Q: Is he willing not to sign a bill if he thinks it's too weak?

MR. GIBBS: The President would not sign any bill that he thought was too weak.

Yes.

Q: On the defense spending bill now before the Senate, do you feel like that's free enough of earmarks to avoid a veto?

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I know that some of the most egregious spending on behalf of the administration was and is addressed. We've talked in here about the F-22. We've talked about the alternative engine program for the F-35. We've talked about a series of presidential helicopters that the President did not believe was necessary. And we want to see that most of all addressed in this bill. I have not talked specifically with Legislative Affairs about the other stuff.

Q: Is that a veto threat, then, if the consumer financial protection agency --

MR. GIBBS: The President will fight for and fight against anybody in the special interests who don't see it as an important part of financial regulatory reform.

Q: Will he veto a bill without that included?

MR. GIBBS: I'm sorry?

Q: Will he veto a bill that doesn't include it?

MR. GIBBS: We're confident that it will be in a final bill that he's able to sign.

Q: And what about a veto threat on the defense authorization? If you guys see too many earmarks in this, will you veto that?

MR. GIBBS: I'll ask Legislative Affairs. Again, I think the largest earmarks that we wanted to be addressed -- the presidential helicopter and the two airplanes -- are first and foremost on our mind.

Thanks, guys.

END 1:47 P.M. EDT



Citation: Barack Obama: "Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs," September 29, 2009. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=86699.
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