Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:07 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Welcome to the White House. Thanks for being here, as ever. Before I go to questions, I have two things to note.
First, the President had a good discussion with Senators Schumer and McCain about the importance of common-sense immigration reform. It's clear that there is a broad coalition to support common-sense immigration reform and we are pleased the House recognizes that inaction is not an option. There is support from CEOs and labor leaders, from faith leaders and law enforcement leaders, from Democrats and from Republicans.
We're pleased also that they are, in the House, moving forward and we stand willing to work with all parties to make sure that common-sense immigration reform becomes a reality as soon as possible. We talked yesterday about the enormous economic benefit that passage and implementation of comprehensive immigration reform would bring to the country -- increase in GDP, productivity, significant reduction in the deficit. And the counter to that is that the cost of inaction is very high.
So we want to thank Senators Schumer and McCain for coming today.
Separately, I want to note for you, on your behalf, that your ballots are due by 4 p.m. -- (laughter) -- in the White House Correspondents Association election. So exercise your right: Cast a vote.
Q: -- elections.
MR. CARNEY: I can't vote. I don't have that right. Would that I could. I'm making no endorsements. I think that anybody who actually -- I remember from being here as a reporter covering the White House and obviously now, seeing it from the other side, it's a pretty demanding and in many ways thankless responsibility. So I think everyone should at the very least offer their appreciation to those of your colleagues who make the effort, run for these slots, and then actually fulfill the responsibilities, because there's not a lot of glory in it.
Q: Speaker Boehner said today that the vast majority of House Republicans believe that they need to tackle immigration reform but that border security has to come first. And the White House has said all along that the border is as secure as it's ever been. It seems like, on that particular issue, it's sort of going toward a stalemate -- House Repubs on this side, the White House on that side. How does the White House move that from stalemate to resolution so you can get movement on so many parts of immigration reform?
MR. CARNEY: There is no question that we've made enormous progress in the past five years on border security, and there are a variety of ways to measure that that demonstrate that that progress has taken place. But on the issue of whether or not we need to further improve our border security, I think Republicans in the House and the President agree, as do Democrats. That's why the President has long made it one of the criteria that he insists upon in comprehensive immigration reform, that it include improvements to our border security. And as you know, in the process that led to the bill that cleared the Senate with a bipartisan majority, an amendment was passed that dedicates significant resources, new resources, to enhancing our border security.
And as Senator McCain has said in the past, anybody who says that the Senate bill does not contain significant border security measures is not really serious about border security, because it is an absolute fact that that Senate process created -- led to a result that provides significant resources towards border security and reflects the President's commitment to enhancing our border security.
So our view of where we are now is that we continue to move forward; that it is a good sign that House leaders believe that inaction is not an option; that the cost of inaction is high, in our view, both economically, morally, politically; and that, therefore, we will continue to work with members of both parties in both houses to move this process forward and to see immigration reform passed and signed into the law as soon as possible.
Q: At the stakeout after the meeting, Senator McCain said that President Obama should address immigration, he should speak out on it. McCain said that he and Schumer would also be traveling the country to talk about it and promote it, et cetera, et cetera. Will the President also travel and talk up the issue now that it's moved from the Senate to House?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President has on numerous occasions spoken about the need to enact comprehensive immigration reform and his views on comprehensive immigration reform, and he will continue to do so. And he has used all the tools in his toolbox to help bring us to the point where we have a bipartisan bill that cleared the Senate and progress in the House.
So we will make our decisions about what the President does, who he talks to, how he addresses the issue, in accordance with what we think will help move this ball down the field. And that's what we've done in the past and that's what we'll do moving forward. And I think that Senator McCain -- and we appreciate that -- recognized that the President has played and will play an important role in this process.
But as I said yesterday, this is obviously much bigger than him. By definition, when you have the kind of consensus we've seen among labor leaders and business leaders and faith leaders and law enforcement leaders, Democrats and Republicans, this is an issue that transcends any individual, even the President. And I think his commitment to working with Congress and being willing to compromise in order to get something significant done demonstrates his commitment to the issue, as opposed to the politics behind the issue.
Q: Just one more quickly on Egypt. Is there any comment from the White House on the bill that Senator Paul introduced today to cut off aid to Egypt?
MR. CARNEY: It is our view that we should not immediately suspend or change our assistance program to Egypt. We are reviewing our obligations under the law, and reviewing them with an eye towards our national security interests and with an eye towards our objective here, which is to do everything we can to assist the Egyptian people in their transition to democracy and their transition, we hope, to a democratically elected civilian government.
So that's our view. I don't have a specific response to any proposed legislation. But we believe that precipitous action here is not the right action. We will review our obligations; we will review what took place. We are mindful of the fact that, while we are concerned about the events that led to the removal of President Morsi from office, the fact is that millions of Egyptians do not see what happened as a coup, and they believe that and they amply demonstrated their belief that there should be a change in government.
So for all the reasons that we've talked about all week, we are going to be very deliberate and cautious as we assess this and as we review our assistance programs. And the President has asked that all the agencies involved in assistance to Egypt, including, of course, the Defense Department, review those assistance programs as we make these evaluations.
Q: Just to draw you out further on immigration, Senator McCain was saying it's important for the President to be respectful of the process, not be too heavy handed while he's trying to influence the discussion. Is the President doing that? Does he plan to do that?
MR. CARNEY: To be heavy handed?
Q: No, no -- to strike a balance?
MR. CARNEY: Yes. I think you've seen in the way that the President has approached this issue his desire to have -- when the process was in the Senate, have the Senate demonstrate its ability to forge a bipartisan compromise. He and others at the White House obviously worked together with Senate leaders and staff of both parties as that process moved forward, and we continue to work with other lawmakers in the House and the Senate as this issue continues to develop.
As I said earlier to Darlene, we will engage, as we have all along, and the President will engage, as he has all along, and he will make clear his support for and his insistence upon comprehensive immigration reform because it's the right thing for our economy and it's the right thing for our people. How that manifests itself, what events he may hold, we'll have to see, because we're going to make those judgments as this issue ripens over the next weeks and months.
Q: The signal we're hearing from the Hill is that this probably won't get done by the August recess. Is that your understanding as well? Does that worry you at all?
MR. CARNEY: We have said all along that the Congress should address this deliberately but quickly. There has been obviously a great amount of time spent over the years, certainly since the middle of the last decade, on this issue. A lot of work has been done. A lot of work was done to produce the bipartisan Senate bill, and now work is being done in the House. So we believe that the House can and should act quickly. We don't control the House so we obviously have to work with the House, as the Senate does, as they move through this issue.
We were encouraged, as Senators McCain and Schumer said they were encouraged, by the statements from leaders in the House that they recognize the need to act on this issue. And so we will continue to work with Congress, both houses, leaders in both parties, as well as rank-and-file members, as well as all the stakeholders out there in this issue as we move forward.
Q: But, Jay, to follow up on that, the House Republican leadership put out a statement yesterday and they reiterated today that they are not going to take up the Senate bill, that they would prefer a more step-by-step approach. And there are several members in the House that have advocated a piecemeal approach to immigration reform. Would the President reject that if it were to come out of the House and Senate after they go to conference, particularly if it doesn't include a path to citizenship for the undocumented?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President has always made clear that the right way to do this is comprehensively and that the criteria he laid out are essential to successful comprehensive immigration reform. And among those criteria were improved border security and a clear pathway to citizenship, a mechanism to improve legal immigration, and also, of course, to ensure that everybody was playing by the same rules, including all businesses in their hiring. And those elements are reflected in the Senate bill that passed with a bipartisan majority, a significant bipartisan majority.
Our takeaway from the readouts of the meeting in the House is that there is a recognition that action has to be taken here. And we consider that a good sign that progress is possible. We're not going to game out how that progress is going to play out. Obviously, there are leaders in the House and others who will decide what happens. But we believe that we need to act on comprehensive immigration reform. We believe that, as we demonstrated yesterday, the benefits of comprehensive immigration reform are enormous for the country. I mean we're talking about $850 billion in deficit reduction.
Now, a good portion of the two and a half years that I've been at this podium has been dedicated to discussions between you and me about how we go about reducing our deficit and the differing ideas that the President has and the Republicans have, Democrats as well as the President, on how to do this, and the Republican insistence that deficit reduction is perhaps their top priority. Well, here is an excellent way to achieve that as you go about achieving a significant and important goal that goes beyond deficit reduction.
So we're going to continue to work with members of both parties in both houses to get this done. We think it's absolutely essential that we do get it done.
Q: The President is going to insist on a path to citizenship?
MR. CARNEY: He has always said that a path to citizenship is essential to immigration reform. That was one of the central elements that he put forward. Obviously, there's opposition to certain parts of what the President proposed, what the Senate passed. Not everything in the Senate bill is as the President would have written it. In fact, not everything in the Senate bill is as it would have been written by individual members of the Gang of Eight. But that's what compromise is about. And we're going to be part of this process that we hope will forge a compromise and a consensus and a bill that has broad support in both houses of Congress and can be signed by the President of the United States.
Q: I wanted to ask you about an item in The Washington Post that's up on their website right now that is noting that the international flights going from Moscow to Havana seem to be taking a different flight path and that they're not going over U.S. soil. And I'm just curious -- would an international flight carrying Mr. Snowden be welcome if it were flying over U.S. soil, or would the U.S. prefer that it not take that path?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would refer you to the agencies that handle flight paths. (Laughter.) I'm not aware of the story, but I'm also not aware that you would need to fly over U.S. soil to get to Havana from Moscow. But, again, I'm not an aviation expert. But let me say that our position on Mr. Snowden is what it was, which is that we believe that, and have communicated this to numerous countries, that he should be returned to the United States, where he faces felony charges and is accused of serious crimes. And we believe that there is significant legal justification for him to be expelled from Russia and to engage in only the international travel necessary to be returned to the United States.
Q: The only reason why I ask is there are international flights that are taken over land as much as possible in the event of an emergency, and these flights seem to be going over water.
MR. CARNEY: I know. I'm just not familiar with those flight paths.
Q: One other thing, on the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman trial that's happening now. The President once said that if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin. Is the President watching this trial, and does he have any concerns as to what the response might be once it's come to its conclusion?
MR. CARNEY: Look, I think that -- well, the President, as you know, does not spend a lot of time watching television during the day, but his comments on that are what they were. But we're not going to say anything from here in the midst of a trial of that nature.
Q: Can I follow up on the Travyon Martin case?
MR. CARNEY: Okay, April, and then Major.
Q: Okay, really fast. Is the Justice Department watching for the outcome on this Trayvon Martin case on civil rights matters? Because we understand while before the trial, all the investigations, there was an investigation into civil rights violations and things like that. Is the Justice Department watching the outcome, and will they be reporting back to the President once this trial is over to talk about possibilities?
MR. CARNEY: I don't know the answer to that. I would ask the Justice Department.
Q: And also, airspace -- what about American airspace from Russia?
MR. CARNEY: Again, that's just not something I'm familiar with, so I would refer you to the Pentagon or elsewhere. Our position on this and what we've done regarding it is the same as it was yesterday and for many previous days.
Q: Jay, the President has commented from this podium a couple of times that on certain issues his voice can be an irritant to House Republicans. It can make things more difficult because if he lobbies too aggressively, House Republicans reflexively oppose him. He's talked about that in the context of the fiscal cliff. Does he have any anxieties about this as far as immigration reform, and is he going to calibrate his public advocacy because of that?
MR. CARNEY: The President will take the steps that he believes can help this process reach a positive conclusion. You have seen us do that in the process thus far, and that has included speaking about the matter, both before large audiences and small. It has included giving interviews where he's discussed the need for comprehensive immigration reform and the criteria that he thinks are essential to comprehensive immigration reform.
So I think that we will approach this as we have in the past, with a mind --
Q: Does he share the same concerns about immigration that he's expressed about fiscal matters, where he has become an irritant in the House Republican context?
MR. CARNEY: I would say that he has a fairly sophisticated and nuanced appreciation for how the politics of all of the issues that we're dealing with right now play out, and he will engage in a way that he thinks can be most effective. And I think that, as Senators McCain and Schumer said today and others have noted, his role in this is important.
He's the President. He is, in many ways, a central reason why we are where we are. Because, as we know, in the hard-fought election last year for President, there were two very opposing views on this issue, and had President Obama not been reelected, it is safe to assume that the position of the President and of the Republican Party would be what the position was of the Republican nominee, which is the way to deal with our immigration challenge and the fact that the system is broken is through self-deportation, which is not a position that obviously reflects where we are today or where numerous Republican leaders are today.
So his role in this has been significant. But as I said yesterday, this is bigger than the President. It's not about who wins on this issue at a political level. It's about doing something extremely important for our country. The system, as President George W. Bush said yesterday, is -- the system that governs our immigration is broken. We need to fix it. And there is an opportunity here to do that in a bipartisan way that would bequeath enormous benefits to our economy going forward.
Q: I understand your desire to accentuate the positive, but aren't there some frustrating aspects as well from this White House's point of view about what came out of that Republican meeting yesterday? They're not going to act before the break. This issue, then, necessarily becomes involved in a lot of other complicated legislative maneuvering around the debt ceiling, about continuing resolutions if one is necessary, the appropriations cycle. Wouldn't you have been happier and isn't there a degree of frustration with just a very slender commitment that something needs to be done, but it's going to be piecemeal, not comprehensive, it won't be timely, and it's going to get involved necessarily in a lot of these other issues that are equally politically charged, if not more so?
MR. CARNEY: The President has known all along that this would be a challenge, like so many of these issues that haven't been accomplished because it's hard, and that requires --
Q: That was true yesterday. I'm talking about specific things that you now know to be true -- scheduling thing that you didn't know about.
MR. CARNEY: There's nothing that we know today that is different from what we knew yesterday about how challenging this would be to bring to conclusion, successful conclusion. But there is an enormous amount of consensus here. There is a bill that emerged from the Senate that represents what bipartisan cooperation can look like on a big issue like immigration reform. And there is recognition in the House by Republican leaders that there's an urgency to do something, to act on this, because the consequences of inaction are significant and severe. So that's progress.
And when you're moving forward, the momentum builds -- and we're moving forward. And so we'll acknowledge that there are a lot of obstacles between where we are today and where we want to be, but that has long been the case. And we're hopeful that in the end, the Congress will act on the will of the American people, on the will of the business community, on the will of labor leaders, of faith leaders, of law enforcement leaders, of Republican and Democratic leaders across the country, and get this important piece of business done.
Q: One more before I let you go. There's a very detailed story in the Wall Street Journal today that essentially says Chuck Hagel, the Defense Secretary, is the principal interlocutor with this transitional Egyptian government and that the State Department and the White House are funneling most, if not all, communications with General al-Sisi through Chuck Hagel. Is that a fair characterization? And is the conduit of information flow back and forth that narrow right now between this government and the transitional --
MR. CARNEY: No, it's not that narrow. Secretary Hagel is playing a very important role in this, as you would expect from the Secretary of Defense, and he is in constant contact with his counterparts -- and counterpart, in particular, General al-Sisi -- but Secretary Kerry is engaged daily in conversations with Egyptian counterparts, and others are also engaged, including obviously the Ambassador. So this is an issue that is occupying the time of all of the President's national security leaders.
Q: But when those other conversations occur they're not happening with the person who seems to be at the head of this transitional government. That would seem to put this particular --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would suggest that you don't -- that's like saying that the only conversation you can have with the U.S. government is with the President. There are governing authorities that --
Q: But you would concede this transitional Egyptian government is a little less formed than the current U.S. government --
MR. CARNEY: Well, certainly, but it has been formed and we are dealing with a number of leaders in the transitional government, making the point to every one of them that the military must show, in our view, maximum restraint, that all parties ought to refrain from violence, and that it is incumbent upon this transitional government to ensure, if it hopes to carry out the plan that they laid forward, to ensure the participation of all groups and all parties and all individuals in that process, because the only way this is going to work successfully for the Egyptian people is if all parties are encouraged and allowed to participate.
And that's why we've made clear that arbitrary arrests are not anything that -- that we could not support those. Because if you're arresting individuals from one group or one party, you're working against yourself if your effort is to be inclusive as you make this transition back to a civilian, democratically elected government.
Q: The Treasury Department's actions regarding the Affordable Care Act, does that delay the employer mandate, or just the reporting requirement?
MR. CARNEY: I would ask you to address that question to the Treasury. I mean, I think that the Treasury Department put out very clear language yesterday in a letter that they -- or they provided a letter to the Hill that I think has been put out now about the authority that exists to allow for this delay in the implementation of a provision of the Affordable Care Act. But the specificity behind it you would have to ask the Treasury Department about.
Q: The reason I ask is because Pelosi says it's just the reporting requirement and that the mandate itself remains. I'm not sure how that's possible.
MR. CARNEY: Again, I think the implementation of the mandate has been postponed a year -- the deadline -- but the law is the law. It hasn't been expunged, as much as I'm sure some members of Congress wish it were.
Q: What's the cost to the government of doing this?
MR. CARNEY: You'd have to ask the Treasury Department, Wendell. I don't know what costs are associated with it, if any. The Treasury Department would have the answer to that. They are the authority that executes on this.
Q: Jay, the Republican conference yesterday expressed a lack of trust in the President and this administration when they were referring to the immigration reform bill, but specifically they were making reference to the Affordable Care Act as well. There was some commentary from some Republicans today on the Hill who said, "One of the issues is, what would stop the President from not enforcing this law" -- in reference to the immigration reform bill that's passed through the Senate. So I just want to get a sense, if the employer mandate was delayed a year, Republicans insist, then why wouldn't the President, if pressured by big business, perhaps delay or not enforce something like an employment verification system that he's not been heavily in favor of? What do you say to those people who doubt that?
MR. CARNEY: That it's just -- again, I got this exact question almost word for word yesterday, which I know is the sort of Republican talking point. But it is preposterous to suggest that a delay in the implementation of a provision within a law is anything unusual. I have several examples here I could provide to you, and numerous more could be provided to you, and they happened under previous administrations and this one.
Q: Which is to say the same thing could happen to immigration reform, though, correct?
MR. CARNEY: But that's like saying that the way that government works is unsatisfying to some members of Congress who are part of government. So this is not unusual. This is a political effort to undermine a law that was passed by Congress, a law that was upheld by the Supreme Court, a law that bequeaths significant benefits to millions and millions of Americans. And this is about an attempt to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.
Believe me -- and I think you understand this -- the House Republicans who are driving this narrative are not concerned about a delay in the implementation of a law that they oppose. They want to kill the bill -- I mean, they want to kill the law. They want to undermine the law. They've made that clear. They're proud of it. And that's a fine position to take, but it's the law, and it's been upheld by the Supreme Court.
And the position that they hold -- and this is interesting when you saw some of the members who support repeal and oppose the implementation not just of the employer mandate, but the individual responsibility provision -- they have no answer to what would happen if repeal were to take place.
One out of two Americans -- half the people in this room -- have a preexisting condition. The Republican answer to that: Tough luck. You're protected under the Affordable Care Act, half of you, but you wouldn't be if it were repealed. And if you have kids in their early 20s who are on the insurance policy that you hold today, tough luck. And it would be one thing if Republicans had an alternative, but even a faint attempt at providing an alternative, proposing an alternative which the Majority Leader in the House briefly took up was shot down by the ultraconservatives in the House of Representatives.
So the Affordable Care Act is being implemented. It's being implemented responsibly. When it came to the delay in the provision that affects 4 percent of businesses with more than 50 employers, we listened to the concerns of business because we want to get this right and it's the right thing to do.
Q: I want to ask you on Syria, very quickly -- and acknowledging that the White House won't have any comments on whatever divisions may exist at the Capitol, as you referenced in conversations with us yesterday -- what is the status of the distribution of lethal aid to the opposition groups, to the rebel groups within Syria right now? Yes or no -- has aid already arrived at its destination?
MR. CARNEY: We're in the process of working with Congress on this. I don't have any updates from what I gave earlier in terms of the provision of specific aid. The Defense Department may have more specifics, but as I understand it, we're still working with Congress on this issue.
Q: Are you satisfied by the pace then, given the fact that the reports of aid has yet to reach --
MR. CARNEY: We think it's important that we continue to step up the provision of aid, as the President made clear was his policy, and that we believe is essential to strengthening the opposition, which is under significant assault by Bashar al-Assad, coupled with the support that Assad has been getting from Hezbollah and Iran. So we believe that it is important to continue to increase the support that we provide to the Syrian opposition and we'll work with Congress to make that happen.
Q: And finally, Camp Leatherneck in southwest Afghanistan, they call it the big white elephant that nobody wants -- this is a 64,000-square-foot U.S. military headquarter that I think the construction or the plans began in 2009 -- $34 million was the cost. The Inspector General came out with a report about this specifically, and then on camera said that he was "outraged." Republicans, or at least opponents of this administration, would suggest this just outlines a waste of money by this administration. Is the President outraged by this spending?
MR. CARNEY: I would have to take the question. I haven't seen the report. But we're obviously outraged by wasteful spending in general. Again, I'm not aware of this report or any specifics about the base that you describe. But this President's commitment to reducing wasteful spending is strong and has been demonstrated through the numerous actions he's taken to reduce waste.
Peter. Peter two.
Q: What can the White House do to sustain the momentum on immigration coming from the -- this strong vote that you got out of the Senate and keep House members focused on this issue if it goes into the fall?
MR. CARNEY: What can we do in general, or if it goes into the fall? We're just going to keep pressing for the consensus that has already built up around comprehensive immigration reform to continue to grow, and for House members to acknowledge what others have said is the urgency of the need to act now, that inaction is not an option.
As I said earlier, in answer to earlier questions, we're going to engage in the ways that we have, mindful of what produces the best outcome here. And we have been very engaged thus far and will continue to be very engaged in this process. Again, we wouldn't be where we are today if it weren't for the positions the President took and the positions he took to the American people in the fall of 2012.
So we remain hopeful and optimistic that the Congress will eventually act on this, and we believe they should act soon because the consensus is there. Business supports it. Labor supports it. Faith leaders support it. Law enforcement supports it. The bill that passed the Senate provides a huge amount of resources for increased border security. The bill fulfills the criteria that all the leaders on this issue said need to be part of comprehensive immigration reform. And there is a continually building consensus here behind this effort, and we're going to work with everybody involved -- Republicans, Democrats, stakeholders around the country -- to make the case for this important piece of business.
Q: Jay, today you told us that you're pleased that the House recognizes that inaction is not an option, and yesterday you said that you felt that a lot of the Republicans were acting out of fear of a challenge from the right --
MR. CARNEY: I think I said that it would be a shame if this important piece of legislation that would provide so many benefits to our economy and our businesses and the middle class would be blocked because of concerns by some House members in the Republican Party about primary challenges from the far right. That would seem to me not a great justification for blocking legislation that has such enormous bipartisan support and enormous support across the country from communities that don't always agree -- business and labor, Republicans and Democrats, and the like.
Q: So, following the outcome of their meeting, how much do you feel that that's still in play?
MR. CARNEY: That what is still in play?
Q: What you're saying about a fear by some of them that they're going to face a challenge --
MR. CARNEY: No, I have no doubt. Again, I wasn't in the meeting. There was a time when I used to hang out outside the room and get quotes from participants in those meetings. But based on the reporting that your colleagues did and I suppose some of you did, there's obviously -- there are a range of opinions within the House conference. But what we believe is significant is that there's a recognition at the leadership level, as well as the rank-and-file level, among some members that inaction is not an option, because the consequences of inaction are significant both economically and, based on the reporting I've seen, politically.
Q: Thank you. One of the governors of the Federal Reserve Board, Elizabeth Duke, submitted her resignation to the President today, effective August 31st. Is the machinery underway to find a replacement? And does the President have any comment?
MR. CARNEY: I think our own Amy Brundage tweeted about the President's appreciation for her service. And I don't have personnel announcements or any announcements about machinery being underway. But obviously, we appreciate her service.
Q: Would there be any effort to try to a get a nomination before the August recess?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any personnel scheduling announcements to make.
Q: Jay, is congressional opposition or hesitation the holdup to stepped-up military aid to the opposition in Syria?
MR. CARNEY: I think that we're working with Congress to address the concerns that some members may have and information that some members desire. And we're making it clear our view and the President's view that we need to take this step to enhance the provision of assistance to the Syrian opposition.
Does that work for you? (Laughter.) Probably not.
Q: My question was, is that what's holding up the aid?
MR. CARNEY: I've seen reports of that nature, but we're working Congress to get this done.
Q: Jay, a couple more questions. On the Senate nomination fight, does the President support Senator Reid's threat to use the nuclear option to get the President's nominees confirmed?
MR. CARNEY: We believe that, as we've stated many times, that the President's nominees are highly qualified and ought to be confirmed, and they should not be held up. The posts that Senator Reid spoke about today, the nominees for those posts, have extraordinary credentials and they have bipartisan support. And some of them -- several of them have been waiting over 100 days for a vote; Gina McCarthy, Tom Perez have waited over 100 days for a vote.
The fact is -- and, again, the evidence that the charts are sort of eye-popping in the way that they demonstrate this -- Senate Republicans have brought obstructionism to new heights, and it is a problem. Blocking and delaying nominees who are unquestionably qualified is a problem. And unfortunately, Republicans are choosing and have chosen to play political games instead of fulfilling their constitutional responsibility to confirm executive branch appointments.
We've voiced that frustration many times -- I have, the President has, and others have. And in terms of Senate procedure, that is something that we generally defer to the Senate leadership, and so we defer to Senator Reid on the steps that he may or may not take. But we certainly share and have been vocal about sharing the frustration that he expressed today about the obstructionism, the historic obstructionism that we've seen from Senate Republicans.
Q: On a different issue, the President many times has talked about saving Detroit from bankruptcy. And he was talking about the car companies, but the city is in dire straits. In fact, it's near bankruptcy. And I'm wondering, is the President looking at doing anything to save the city of Detroit from bankruptcy?
MR. CARNEY: I know that the President is aware of the situation in Detroit and that administration officials have been in contact with leaders in Detroit. But I'm not aware of any plans or proposals that the President has, but we're certainly aware of the circumstances.
Q: Jay, student loans -- since the Senate measure that would call for a one-year extension failed the other day, is there any attempt to break this impasse? Is the White House involved in these talks? Are they making any progress?
MR. CARNEY: The answer is yes, yes, and yes. There is no question that there is a compromise available on this important issue and that the sides have not been that far apart and we just need to get it done. And we're encouraged that there seems to be progress on that front.
We've been in close contact with senators from both parties to get this done. I think it's been reported that Denis McDonough, in addition to his food delivery responsibilities, has been -- I hope everybody got some doughnuts today -- but that he has been meeting with senators of both parties on this issue.
And as I have said previously, one of the ways that we've been discussing moving forward here has been offering the addition of a cap to a long-term proposal like the President's. So there's progress on this issue. We believe that it can be done, and we're working with the Senate to see if we can get it done.
Q: What do you say to the Republican leaders who have said the problem here is not so much on their side as it is divisions among the Democrats, in the Senate especially?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I'd say a couple things. One is we're working with the Senate, with members of both parties. We're working with leaders in the House as well on this issue to get this done. The House bill asks students to fund deficit reduction, and we have long opposed that approach.
But there is, as others have noted, an obvious -- or at least the potential for compromise. And we have been working with lawmakers to make that compromise happen. We think it's really important. We think that we need to make sure that students don't see their rates double, that we implement a bill here that will be retroactive so that the deadline that passed on July 1st is not a problem for students as they secure loans for the coming year.
And we need to act on it quickly, because families are planning right now for how they are going to pay for college. And it's an issue that's very important to the President. He believes that college affordability is a huge challenge for this nation and a huge challenge for middle-class families, and we should be not taking action in Washington that makes it more difficult for those families and for those students.
Q: We saw Senators McCain and Schumer here today, and I just wondered if you had anything you could tell us about House members -- the President's interaction with House leadership. I know the last time they were here it was more about foreign than domestic issues. Is he phoning House members? Has he talked to the Speaker? Have you --
MR. CARNEY: I have no other meetings or conversations of the President to read out. We don't read out every meeting and conversation the President has. As I've been saying --
Q: We want you to.
MR. CARNEY: I know you do. (Laughter.)
And by that, I'm simply saying that the President has been and will continue to be engaged. He met with Senators Schumer and McCain today. That was a good meeting. I think as you mentioned, you heard from the two senators after that meeting.
The President and his team are working on this issue every day. It is obviously a priority of the President's that we get comprehensive immigration reform passed and signed into law. It would produce enormous benefits for the economy. It would be good for the middle class. It would ensure that employers across the country all play by the same set of rules. It would ensure that our border security is improved and enhanced, building on the improvements and enhancements that we've made already over the past five years. So this is a very high priority of the President's.
And he is working with Congress in a variety of ways to help bring this about. But as I said I think in answer to somebody's question or numerous questions from the front row, there are obstacles here, and we need to navigate around them and over them and sometimes through them to get this done.
But the good news is we have a lot of help. We have the support of business. We have the support of labor. We have the support of faith communities. We have the support of the law enforcement community. We have the support of Democrats and Republicans across the country as well as here in Washington. There's a consensus here, and there's a compelling case to be made on a number of fronts.
And the fact is, doing nothing comes with a very high cost. It's not -- the status quo is bad for the country, and the alternative -- which is passing comprehensive immigration reform -- is to see a reduction in our deficit that's significant, an increase in productivity that' significant, an increase in wages that's significant -- huge benefits that come from harnessing the talent and entrepreneurial imagination of immigrants who disproportionately start businesses and create jobs here in the United States. And we need to get about the business of taking advantage of those opportunities and passing this important piece of legislation.
Q: Jay, related to the immigration -- some people say that one of the challenges the President faces in the House is that he doesn't have a point people on each side of the aisle -- or to be able to invite like a Schumer and a McCain to the White House to talk about immigration from the House. Who does the White House consider to be the point people in the House on immigration reform right now?
MR. CARNEY: First of all, we have engaged with members and leaders in the House on this issue for some time. There is a process -- the Gang of Seven, now, that's been underway, and we obviously have been working with the House on that and with leaders. And we'll continue to do that.
As has been noted in some of the exchanges we've had earlier in this briefing, there are a variety of ways and means that we can employ here to help this process move forward. And we -- as we move along, we're examining all options in terms of what the President can do, what the White House can do, what the administration can do, what we can do working with supporters of comprehensive immigration reform outside of government and around the country. And we're doing all of it, because this is important.
But it is bigger than the President and it's bigger than the three gentlemen who met in the Oval Office earlier today, and is bigger than any grouping of Democrats and Republicans that might have a meeting with the President. This is an issue with broad national support from business and labor, and faith and law enforcement communities. And we're going to keep pressing to work their will through a bipartisan process in Congress.
Q: Quick change, Jay, of subject. Tomorrow I believe is the deadline that the President set for the Attorney General to present him with ideas, recommendations for changes related to investigations that involve reporters. Do you know whether the Attorney General is going to be able to meet that deadline tomorrow, and whether the President will be prepared to respond?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I have no reason to believe that the deadline won't be met. I don't know about a presidential response. But I would refer you to the Department of Justice in terms of meeting the deadline.
Q: Thanks, Jay. Vice President Biden has been meeting with Chinese officials, and he's spoken fairly bluntly about the cybersecurity issue. What kind of response has he received, and is the administration satisfied with the response it's received so far?
MR. CARNEY: We've been clear with the Chinese about our concerns with respect to cybersecurity, and have made it a key point of discussion with China at all levels, and that includes the Vice President and the President on down.
On Monday, at the first meeting of the U.S.-China cyber working group, we raised directly our concerns with respect to the theft of intellectual property, trade secrets, and confidential business information for economic gain. And we stressed the need to address these concerns, including through the working group, and are continuing to discuss these issues at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
So I don't have a readout of a specific conversation that the Vice President may have had, but this is certainly an issue that we are addressing with the Chinese, among many issues that we are addressing with the Chinese during this dialogue.
Q: Is this issue becoming easier or more difficult to negotiate?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have a way to qualify it. I think that this is an issue that we consistently raise with the Chinese, we express our concerns, and we urge that the steps be taken that I just laid out. And we'll continue to engage with them, as we engage with them on a number of issues. As you know from the reporting on and the information provided about the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, this is a meeting and a series of meetings that encompasses a number of issues, not just cybersecurity. But cybersecurity is one of them.
MR. CARNEY: April.
Q: On the steps taken on the farm bill, could you talk about that? And CBC is protesting on the floor about that.
MR. CARNEY: We obviously have been concerned about the failure of Congress to act on the farm bill the President put forward, a long-term proposal here that -- and the Senate passed, I believe -- and we want progress to be made on the farm bill. I don't have any specific reaction at this time to that.
Q: But SNAP is a nutrition assistance program --
MR. CARNEY: I understand, and we obviously support SNAP. But the President believes that Congress needs to act, and he has put forward a proposal that is long term, and he supports the Senate measure -- is that correct? And we want to see action on this.*
I've got to go. I think time was called a long time ago.
Q: A quick one on the event in the Bronx today. Derek Jeter is donning the pinstripes. Your personal thoughts? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Well, as a Red Sox fan --
Q: That's why I ask.
MR. CARNEY: -- as well as a Nationals fan, I can say that I have enormous regard for Derek Jeter. He's a true professional and a class act. And I hope he does well -- just not well enough for the Yankees to catch up to the Red Sox.
Q: Thanks, Jay.
END 1:59 P.M. EDT
* The Administration released a Statement of Administration Policy last night indicating that if the President were presented with H.R. 2642, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.
Jay Carney, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/304711