Aboard Air Force One
En route Boston, Massachusetts
10:33 A.M. EDT
MR. BURTON: Good morning. Thank you for joining us on our trip to Massachusetts and Connecticut. I have a week ahead for you all.
The President will spend this weekend in Washington, he has no scheduled public events. On Monday afternoon the President will travel to Jacksonville, Florida, to meet with U.S. servicemen and women and to deliver remarks at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. Later he will travel to Miami, where he will deliver remarks at a DSCC/DCCC fundraiser. The President will spend the night in Miami. On Tuesday the President goes to Southwest Florida. He will then travel to Norfolk, Virginia, where he will deliver remarks at a rally for Creigh Deeds at Old Dominion University. He will return to the White House that night.
On Wednesday the President will deliver remarks at the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. On Thursday the President will meet with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore at the White House. And on Friday the President will attend meetings at the White House.
With that, let's open it up.
Q: Should we read anything into the fact that he's talking to military members on Monday? Is an Afghanistan decision in the offing?
MR. BURTON: As the President has said, he will -- he will make his decision on Afghanistan at the right time. I wouldn't over-read anything into the remarks that he's delivering on Monday, other than he wants to thank the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces for the hard and courageous work that they do.
Q: Home sales jumped to 9.4 percent. What's the administration's view, and if you could talk about the extending of the first-time homebuyers tax credit?
MR. BURTON: Well, I will say that, you know, there are some indicators that show that the economy is, in places, doing better. But the President still thinks there is a lot more work to do. He's going to continue to work to make sure that we are putting Americans back to work and getting this economy back on track. But other than that I don't have anything specific for you on the extension of the homebuyers' tax credit.
Q: Can you talk about the opt-in versus opt-out public option? It seems like there's apparently a vote being taken as you and I speak this moment in a caucus in the House on all of this. Do you -- does the President believe that some sort of public option will be in both bills when they pass the floors? And does he favor some particular approach to the public option that he thinks is the most likely to pass?
MR. BURTON: This may surprise you, but the President didn't send his number two spokesperson to the back of the plane to roll out a new position on the public option today. (Laughter.) The President thinks that the public option is the best way to achieve choice and competition and bring down health care costs for the American people. And he will continue to ensure that it is achieved in the final health care reform legislation.
Q: Can you give us an update on the latest from Iran?
MR. BURTON: Iran. The President, just like everyone else, is waiting to hear from ElBaradei on what the final word is. And we'll have more for you when we hear.
Boy, the moment when you lift off you really feel it, don't you? (Laughter.)
Q: Can you tell us what the President's message was to the congressional leaders that came to the White House last night? There wasn't much by way of a readout last night.
MR. BURTON: The President and leadership from the Senate had a very productive conversation about the way forward as it relates to health care reform, and they're going to continue to work day and night to make sure that it gets done.
Q: Did he communicate what he and Pelosi talked about during their lunch?
MR. BURTON: I don't know at that level of granularity whether or not he talked about another conversation in that conversation that was in the Oval Office. But they all talked about health care reform and how we achieve it.
Q: So it was productive but not robust?
MR. BURTON: I'm sorry, it was productive and robust. Thank you.
Q: What's going on with the vote counts? Valerie took a shot at Mike Allen this morning on MS saying that he probably -- she doesn't know if he can count votes. The White House obviously can count votes. Are there the votes there in the House for the public option?
MR. BURTON: Far be it from me to question Valerie's assessment of Mike Allen's vote counting. However, I will say that the President continues to think that the public option is the best way to achieve choice and competition, and that's what he's working towards.
Q: But are the votes there?
MR. BURTON: We're working on getting health care reform done, and in order to do that, obviously you're going to need some votes in the United States Senate to move it forward, and that's what we're working on.
Q: Do you have any thoughts on this plane that apparently had the pilots fall asleep over Minneapolis?
MR. BURTON: I'm not going to speculate on any of that. I will just point you towards the FAA and the TSA.
Q: You're sure you don't have any thoughts?
MR. BURTON: I'm pretty sure I don't have any thoughts.
Q: Bill, what's the main energy message today?
MR. BURTON: The President is going to talk about the importance of investing in innovative energy technology, how it can create jobs and help this economy grow in the 21st century.
Q: Sounds like the same message that's been out there for a while.
MR. BURTON: It's an important message, and the President is going to continue to talk about things that can help grow the economy, because there are few things in this administration that are more important than creating jobs and getting this economy on track.
Q: But on the energy thing specifically, will he use this as an opportunity to specifically talk about the need to push forward on energy legislation, climate change legislation, pending in the House and Senate?
MR. BURTON: This event is more about jobs and the economy, and specifically some of the investments that we've made than it is about that.
Q: On exec comp, three employees will make -- will have salaries more than $1 million; a total of 66 will have their total compensation above $1 million. How does that mesh with the administration's overall compensation plan?
MR. BURTON: The President put Ken Feinberg in place so that he could make an independent assessment of the best way to make sure that the American taxpayers were protected and that their tax dollars were used wisely and prudently, considering the economic situation that we're in.
There's been a lot of criticism from folks who think that the administration has been too hard on executives. There's been criticism from folks who think that it's been far too lenient. The President thinks that the independent assessment that Ken Feinberg undertook was appropriate and is glad that he's been the fierce advocate for American taxpayers that he put him in place to be.
Q: So the President thinks it's appropriate that 66 of these executives from bailed-out firms are going to have compensation packages over $1 million?
MR. BURTON: I'm not going to get into the specifics of every decision that he made. Ken Feinberg took a comprehensive look at all the different firms and the compensation packages and made an assessment.
Q: Do you expect to make a statement on Iran later today, Bill?
MR. BURTON: We're waiting like everybody else.
Q: Well, what exactly are you waiting for? State television in Iran pretty much said this was a non-starter.
MR. BURTON: The word is that ElBaradei has not received official word yet, so we're waiting until that happens.
Q: Thank you, Bill.
Q: Oh, one more question. Is the President wearing a pink tie for Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
MR. BURTON: Yes.
Q: And are you too?
MR. BURTON: Yes.
Q: So this is a coordinating strategy.
MR. BURTON: It is a comprehensive effort.
Q: We didn't get the memo.
MR. BURTON: Clearly. I see a lot of green and blue here in the press corps.
Q: I wore mine yesterday.
MR. BURTON: Okay. Different people make different choices.
Q: What's Plouffe doing on board?
MR. BURTON: He's here as a guest of the President. He's about to go on a book tour, and this is one of the last opportunities he'll have to spend time with the President before he does that.
Q: Has he been on Air Force One before?
MR. BURTON: Yes. All right. Thanks, guys.
Q: Has the President read the book?
MR. BURTON: Oh, I don't know the answer to that.
Q: Could you check and find out?
MR. BURTON: Maybe.
Q: Thanks, Bill.
* * * * *
MR. BURTON: I just read the remarks more closely. The President will, indeed, address comprehensive legislation that helps to make renewable energy a profitable kind of energy in America. He'll talk about it how can create millions of jobs, combat global warming by -- and decrease our dependence on foreign (inaudible). He'll thank Congressman Markey for the work he did on getting legislation through in the House, and Senator John Kerry for some of the work that he's doing in the Senate to get it done.
I also didn't mention earlier that Senator Kerry is on the plane -- which you may or may not have known.
Q: And so after initially refusing to talk about the energy legislation, he's (inaudible)? I'm kidding. Kidding. (Laughter.)
Q: This means that the speech is largely a push for the climate change legislation --
MR. BURTON: No, no, I wouldn't say that. It talks about the importance of investments in order to create jobs in this field of, you know, innovation and finding ways to make clean, renewable energy. But definitely gets into comprehensive energy legislation (inaudible).
Q: Exhorting the Senate.
MR. BURTON: Say that again?
Q: Exhorting the Senate.
MR. BURTON: He talks about its importance and he's urging all of us to work hard to get it done.
END 10:46 A.M. EDT