Press Briefing by Dana Perino
James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:00 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Good afternoon. Happy Friday. I have nothing to begin with; go ahead. Kelly.
Q: When the President spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to her, she offered prayers that the President would not veto the S-CHIP, State Children's Health Insurance Program. Has the President changed his view?
MS. PERINO: I didn't -- I wasn't there for the conversation. I know that they did speak. The President was happy to take a phone call from the Speaker, as he always is. They had a conversation in which Speaker Pelosi asked the President not to veto the bill. The President has been very clear for months that if the bill came to him in its current form, that he would veto it. That is his intention. And I don't see any changing of the minds there.
But what he did say is that, I'm going to veto this bill and after that let's see if we can sit down and come to a compromise. The President's position and the principle that he will stick to is that the neediest children should be served first, and that's the one he's going to stand by.
Q: What did God tell him, from prayers?
MS. PERINO: Well, you know, just one thing about that -- I think that the rhetoric in Washington can get so heated sometimes. I think it is preposterous for people to suggest that the President of the United States doesn't care about children, that he wants children to suffer. There are things I've been reading about feelings that the President -- that there's -- ascribing feelings that the President has about children that are absolutely not his view. You don't see the President suggesting that no one cares about children.
The President's principle on this program, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, is that the neediest children should be taken care of first. The bill that they signed -- that they passed last night specifically eliminated the requirement that states enroll 90 percent of children in households under 200 percent of the federal poverty level. And that's the reason the President is going to veto this bill.
The President cares just as much as anyone else about the children of the United States.
Q: Do you mean he rules out --
MS. PERINO: It eliminated --
Q: -- that lower level?
MS. PERINO: -- it eliminated that requirement from the bill.
Q: The requirement; but it doesn't rule the kids out of the program, does it?
MS. PERINO: No, but it rules out the requirement, and the point is that the President believes that the requirement is important for the neediest children to be taken care of first.
There is a policy difference here. It's not about who cares about children more than the other. It's a policy difference. And the President is saying, let's take care of the neediest children first, let's not put scarce federal dollars towards a program that was meant for the poorest children and let it creep up to middle income families with incomes up to $83,000 a year.
Q: Doesn't he think the neediest -- does he think they are not --
MS. PERINO: And on that point, the President consistently since his -- since he has been President has tried to address the root causes of our health care problems. If you go back to this year's State of the Union, he wants to provide Americans, all Americans, with access to affordable health care. And he has proposed ways to do that through our tax system and making it more fair for people to be able to buy insurance on their own; on portability, meaning allowing people who are changing jobs to be able to take their health care with them; to be able to work with the states in order to provide more money.
Q: What's he afraid of? What's he afraid of -- really providing more health care?
MS. PERINO: And another point on S-CHIP -- the other thing on S-CHIP is that the states are welcome to spend as much additional money as they would like on their program in their state. This is about a federal match program. And so the President is going to veto the bill, and then we will get about the business of talking about how to move forward.
Another point to make, just so that you all know, there is an extension of this program in the continuing resolution. So no one is going to lose their coverage because of this veto. There will be an extension and then we'll move forward.
Q: Does it strike the President that 18 senators -- Republican senators voted for this bill? Did that make him have any second thoughts about his plan to veto?
MS. PERINO: The President does not have second thoughts. We have continued to reach out to members of Congress to let them know what the President's position is and why he feels that way. And he recognizes that there are some on Capitol Hill who disagree. As the President, he has the power to veto a bill, and that's what he intends to do.
Q: Is he going to explore with any of these Republican senators their thinking and --
MS. PERINO: Well, certainly we want -- when the President says to Nancy Pelosi that he would like to make sure that we all sit down and have a conversation, that will include the -- members of the President's own party. I don't have any updates for you in terms of scheduling on that. We don't know when we will get the bill to veto it.
Q: Will there be coverage?
MS. PERINO: Of the veto? Stay tuned. I would assume so.
Q: So is he assuming that the House would not overturn his veto? Because it appears that the Senate would.
MS. PERINO: Well, we'll have to see. I'm not a vote-counter. But right now it looks like the House would not be able to override the President's veto.
Q: Dana, on a related thing, the Senate passed the CR last night, 94-1. What's the plans for the signing of that? Does he have to do that by Sunday night?
MS. PERINO: Just by Sunday night. So we'll keep you updated. He will sign it before then, to make sure that everything -- all the trains continue to run on time.
Q: But he will be signing it?
MS. PERINO: He will sign it.
Q: Does he have it?
MS. PERINO: I don't know.
Q: So what are you doing to keep the House Republicans in line on this to prevent an override? You said you think that --
MS. PERINO: I think that the House Republicans are able to make up their own mind and to look at a policy and make a decision. No doubt that it's difficult, especially politically and in a communications -- it's a communications challenge when there are advertisements running in your district saying that you don't care about children, which is preposterous. But if you stand on principle, you ultimately will win on the end because you have good policy. And that's what the President --
Q: We have lots of kids without health care.
Q: So what's the political advice from here to Republicans who are in the swing districts and close races and so forth who are finding themselves targets of that and are getting pressure from a number of quarters on this?
MS. PERINO: Sure, there's a lot of pressure from all different sides, and we're going to have an increasing number of spending bill fights going into the fall. As you know, the Congress hasn't passed any of its appropriations bills yet, and we're going to have a continuing resolution. The President would prefer to have some bills so that we can actually make sure that we're spending taxpayer dollars wisely.
And advice that the President would give, I think, is that they have to think about the principle here. What the President wants to do is cover the neediest children first. And that is a really good principle to stand on.
Q: Another principle the President made in his State of the Union, like you said, was to increase access. He's also indicated he's flexible -- maybe a refundable tax credit. I guess my question is, first of all, the CR only extends through November 16th, so you only have a negotiating period up until then. But Grassley indicated earlier in the week that he believes from previous discussions that the real issue here is leveraging CHIP to try to get some of these other proposals, to try to get a larger package of health care through. Is the White House open to doing that, whether linking it, or, you know, using --
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to comment on what future discussions are going to be. It could be a range of things that they talk about. But I can tell you this: In the State of the Union the President announced his health care policies, and we did lots of outreach on that. And we would hope that the Congress would try to take those up. And that was in the President's budget. At the same time -- and in the same budget -- was the President's proposal to increase the S-CHIP funding by 20 percent for the next five years. And so those two things have been going on a parallel track -- we didn't link them, meaning that you could only have one without the other. They were both in the budget.
Q: I know you didn't link them then, but now you're facing a real showdown. Has the White House been insistent that you only want to do this as a stand-alone bill or --
MS. PERINO: As I told you earlier -- probably in my office -- there's going to be lots of discussions moving forward and we'll keep you updated as we can.
Q: Dana, explain why you think the neediest wouldn't be helped first. Even though this expands the poverty level, or goes above a certain percentage, why do you think the other --
MS. PERINO: Well, the fact is that --
Q: -- children would be jumped over? Just explain --
MS. PERINO: Sure. Well the fact is that there are -- I don't know which report it is, there's lot of reports out on this -- but that there are many children in the states who would qualify for S-CHIP who are not signed up. They are not enrolled. And over the years the states have signed up children of higher incomes that wouldn't necessarily fit under that 200 percent of poverty level or under. We would like to have more aggressive searching for these other children who could be on this program and take care of them first. And the other thing we don't want to do is have people move off of private insurance onto government-run health care. We don't think that's the right policy here.
Q: Okay, but your -- your theory is that they should put more effort into searching for these kids who aren't on it. That's what the --
MS. PERINO: We should sign them up.
Q: -- emphasis should be before other children who others believe -- I mean why not get as many on --
MS. PERINO: We don't think that we should move --
Q: -- as possible, if they're not signing on, why not bring the others in?
MS. PERINO: Well, because we don't think that we should move children who are already able to be covered under private health care insurance should be simply moved off of that and put on to a government program. If they have private health insurance, that is a better system for the children as well.
Q: And that's just their incentive. You think that people who are on private health care will just suddenly move to the --
MS. PERINO: That has been happening. That has been happening.
Q: Dana, two quick questions. One: At the United Nations, that was really one of best speeches President ever had in the U.N. He had a great -- he had a strong warning for Burma, and Burma is still burning. There is the bloodshed in yesterday's Washington Post editorial, (inaudible) save Burma. But how can we save Burma? And what authority do you think President had from the United Nations Security Council and international community, especially China and Russia?
MS. PERINO: Well, we are very pleased that U.N. Envoy Mr. Gambari is going to be going to Burma; he will be there tomorrow. We have called on the Burmese to allow him to be able to meet with anyone he wants to meet -- military leaders, religious leaders, and Aung San Suu Kyi. And we will have more information as we get it out of that meeting. It could take a little bit of time over the weekend to get that. In addition to that, yesterday Treasury Department tightened sanctions on many individuals, and the State Department has just announced additional people who are placed on their travel ban.
Q: Also, in New York also, the President of Iran sounds like Hitler of the 1940's and he said that as far as the nuclear issue is concerned his country -- it is a closed issue.
MS. PERINO: Oh. Well, the President of Iran said a lot of things in the United Nations but I think the one thing that he accomplished was to remind the United Nations Security Council why they should remain tough, hang together, and make sure that Iran never has a nuclear weapon.
Q: Has any other nation --
MS. PERINO: Go ahead, Toby.
Q: When the President met with the Chinese Foreign Minister yesterday, did he receive any assurances at all that China will step in on this Myanmar?
MS. PERINO: I wasn't there for their private discussion. I know that the President was pleased that -- I think that the Chinese were helpful in allowing to make sure the U.N. Special Envoy was allowed to get there, to Burma.
Q: The question is, you know, the United States has had sanctions on Myanmar for years and years, and it hasn't really done anything. So why would you think that these additional sanctions will accomplish anything more?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that they've had impact in other places around the world when we've used them. It's a good tool. And by tightening them on the individuals we announced yesterday, in addition to this travel ban -- we can do that from our end, but the President also spoke to Prime Minister Gordon Brown today, in order to continue to have conversations with our international partners to keep the pressure on, to make sure that we are supportive of the Burmese people so that they can return to a free society.
Q: Dana, to go back to S-CHIP. I just want to clear this up. The assertion that the neediest or some of the neediest children are not being served rests on the belief that they haven't been found, and that is --
MS. PERINO: Well, that's part of the problem --
Q: -- the entire reason for asserting?
MS. PERINO: Well, we've had lots of statements of administration policy on this. It is an issue that is very complicated. But one of the things that has happened over the past several years is that children who would be over 200 percent of poverty in their household have been added to the S-CHIP rolls over time. And some states have started putting adults on that program, as well.
The President thinks that we should return to the original intent of the program, which is children under 200 percent of poverty should be covered first, before others are added to the program.
Q: Your rationale for believing that they aren't already covered is what?
MS. PERINO: I believe it's well documented. I can't remember the study, though. I don't think that anyone is actually disabusing us of that notion. The states -- one of the things that Hillary Clinton and Senator Schumer put into their -- one of the bills was an allowance for people to go up to -- that that state to go up to 400 percent of the poverty level.
Q: Sure, but how do we know that the neediest kids are not being covered?
MS. PERINO: I'll get it for you. I'll get it for you.
Q: And why is that, and is that, the only rationale you have for saying that you can't --
MS. PERINO: No, the other point that we have is there is a -- the policy difference; the policy difference of not wanting to have additional government-run health care, socialized-type medicine, for this problem. One of the things here is that we have a problem where we need to address the root causes of it. And there are differences of opinion. Democrats tend to want to address things with bigger government programs; Republicans don't, and this President falls in that category.
Q: Dana, just --
Q: Dana, on the climate change speech the President gave today --
MS. PERINO: Let me go to Martha and then I'll go to Wendell.
Q: Just one -- just one little bit from yesterday. Do you know the percentages -- you said, for instance, that there are children who had private health insurance.
MS. PERINO: That have been moved off.
Q: That have been moved off. Do you know the percentages of those who actually had it --
MS. PERINO: Let me see if I can get them for you.
Q: -- who were moved off?
MS. PERINO: I'll see if I can get them for you.
Q: On the climate change speech the President gave today, he said once again that goals for greenhouse gas emissions is sufficient; better than mandatory limits. Isn't it inherent in the President's argument that mandatory limits would hurt economies; that the goals would not be as aggressive as the mandatory limits?
MS. PERINO: Not necessarily. I think -- yes, the President believes that the mandatory limits that Kyoto would have placed on the United States would have been very harmful. And apparently, so did 98 other senators who voted against Kyoto back in the Clinton administration.
Q: I believe I'm talking about Kyoto at this point. I'm talking about setting --
MS. PERINO: I'm making a point.
MS. PERINO: The President has set a goal in 2001 for the -- I'm sorry, 2002 -- for the United States to reduce greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent by 2012. That was a goal. And we measure it every year. And we are held to account on that goal. And we, because of lots of different actions in several different sectors across the economy, we are on track to meet that goal. Countries that place -- that have goals strive to meet them. That is the point.
But mandatory cuts on carbon emissions, the President believes, would not be the right thing for the economy because, one reason -- the technology does not exist today to be able to do that. On the other hand, if you look at the Montreal Protocol, which reduced CFCs -- it's the substance that helps eat away the ozone layer -- that technology existed. And so when governments were putting money into those technologies, they were seeing an immediate return on investment.
The only way right now, today, in order to stop carbon emissions coming out of coal-fired power plants -- of which 54 percent of our energy is derived -- is to turn them off. And that's why the President thinks that we should move forward on several different parallel tracks: alternative energy, new technologies that are cleaner-burning, and also some mandatory measures. We have a renewable fuel standard that we want, 35 billion gallons by -- let's see -- 20-in-10, so it's 2017. So we have lots of different ways that we can move forward.
But one of the things the President wanted to do today is to get beyond the fights about Kyoto and to get to the post-Kyoto discussions that the U.N. is going to be having, and bring together all the major economies. Because in Kyoto the developing countries weren't a part of it. Now, what the President did today is have all the major emitting countries, all the major economies come together and decide, how can we establish a goal long-term. And everyone is going to have to report what their midterm goals are, as well.
Each state is different, each state has a different fuel mix: some use a lot of coal; some use a lot of wind; some have natural gas. It's going to depend on individual countries. Instead of a cram-down, the President wants to see some bottom-up action.
Q: You seem to be telling me that mandatory caps would have to be the Kyoto caps; goals would be something else. My question is, isn't it inherent in the idea of setting a goal, rather than mandatory caps, the goal is not going to be as aggressive? Why would the caps have to be --
MS. PERINO: That's not necessarily true. A goal can be just as aggressive. If you look at -- many countries that signed up to Kyoto, they weren't able to meet those targets.
Q: Let me try one more time.
MS. PERINO: Okay.
Q: If your mandatory cap is not as stringent as Kyoto required -- I mean, you're telling me the technology does not exist to meet the Kyoto caps. I'll agree with that. If you set a cap that is less aggressive, what is the problem with that?
MS. PERINO: Let me take a step back. Whether you have a mandatory cap or a goal, there are some countries that didn't meet their mandatory cap anyway. So I think the President's point of establishing a goal that the entire world can get behind is a better approach than having just a few countries, and not including the developing world.
Look, the developing world is going to have to not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also figure out a way to keep their economies going. Some of these countries, people live in terrible poverty and they need energy in order to have jobs and heat their homes and light their homes and their schools, and they need to have clean-burning technologies in order to be able to do that.
One exciting thing that the President announced today is this international global technology fund, which people could put money into, we could pool resources, pool ideas and ingenuity so we can come up with the new technologies. But then these other countries that are developing, like China, India, Mexico, and South Africa, can take advantage of what they have -- an ability to grow their economy without harming the environment at the same time.
Q: Dana, on S-CHIP, on the requirement that 90 percent of the children be enrolled, 90 percent is a very high number, and it's quite difficult --
MS. PERINO: It's 95 percent.
Q: -- 95 percent, well, it's even higher. It's quite difficult to reach that number of children. Would the President be willing to compromise and to go down, perhaps, to 85 percent?
MS. PERINO: We'll see what happens in the discussions after the -- after he vetoes the bill. I don't know.
Q: It almost seems as though the number has been set so high as to make it unattainable.
MS. PERINO: Look, as a society we have a responsibility to help the neediest people first, and that's what the President wants to do.
Paula, I'm going to go up here, since you've had a few. Elaine.
Q: Dana, do you have anything more on this SVTS this morning with the President and the Prime Minister? Were there any kind of agreements made or additional steps that they might take on Burma?
MS. PERINO: On which, on Burma?
MS. PERINO: They had a very good discussion, the Prime Minister and Gordon -- and President Bush this morning. It lasted about a half an hour. There was a discussion on Burma. It lasted about a half an hour. They covered several topics. On Burma they agreed to continue to work cooperatively. The EU is currently looking at sanctions, as well, and that would be coupled with the ones that we've done, including -- and possibly others around the world. So there was a commitment also to follow up after the Mr. Gambari visit.
Q: And then I have another question, unrelated to this. Apparently this week Rush Limbaugh used the phrase "phony soldiers" to describe American troops who oppose the Iraq war. Given that the President has commented last week on the MoveOn ad of General Petraeus, and called it disgusting, is this something that the President would feel compelled to comment on?
MS. PERINO: It's the first I've heard of that comment. I'm taking that it is accurate; I have not heard it myself. The President believes that if you are serving in the military that you have the right that every American has, which is you are free to express yourself in any way that you want to. And there are some that oppose the war, and that's okay.
Q: And the use of the phrase "phony soldiers" to describe these --
MS. PERINO: It's not one that the President would have used, no.
Q: Back on climate, Dana. The President talked about his approach bringing -- as a way to find consensus. But his approach is very different from the Europeans. So isn't that sort of -- the consensus will only be reached if Europeans --
MS. PERINO: I actually think that we're closer -- I think that a lot of Europeans support this meeting that we've had today. And if you look at -- I know that there have been some comments out there, with some people saying they wanted to have it the old way. The old way didn't work, and it didn't include the developing nations. And this is a way to get everybody talking on the same page, so that as you go into the 2012 -- post-2012 U.N. discussions and negotiations in a post-Kyoto world, you have all those major emitting countries on the same page, working together.
Q: Do you see that attitude expressed by Europeans, that the old way didn't work?
MS. PERINO: Certainly. I think that if you talk to any of your colleagues who were there at the State Department meetings, you'll see that there's a lot of support for what the President is doing. And we didn't do it on our own, we had a lot of help. And we're looking forward to the Bali meetings in December, and then additional actions over the year.
MS. PERINO: Yes, Les.
Q: Thank you very much. Two questions. The Washington Post quotes Irena Briganti of FOX News as saying, "National Public Radio's lack of news judgment is astonishing and their treatment of a respected journalist like Juan Williams is appalling." And my question: Could you tell us how the President feels about this tax-exempt and tax-supported network so discriminating against an undeniably qualified reporter who he invited to interview him?
MS. PERINO: That's a question for NPR to answer, for the decision that they made --
Q: No, no, I want to know what the President thinks.
MS. PERINO: I've never spoken to the President about what he thinks about any particular organization. We enjoy working with them here at the White House. They have really good correspondents that we like working with.
Q: All right. The President does not believe that the First Amendment prohibits him from speaking out against the Miller Brewing Company's widely reported financing of an obscene parody of "Jesus Christ's Last Supper" in San Francisco, does he?
MS. PERINO: Well, you're clearing the room, Les. I'm going to decline to comment.
Q: Thank you.
END 12:24 P.M. EDT
Dana Perino, Press Briefing by Dana Perino Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/276693