Political Headlines December 26, 2012: Fiscal Cliff Deal in Harry Reid’s Court?

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Fiscal Cliff Deal in Harry Reid’s Court?

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-26-12

Alex Wong/Getty Images

With President Obama and the Senate headed back to Washington, the impetus is on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to come up with a new plan to avoid the fiscal cliff on Jan. 1, when a set of automatic budget cuts and tax increases will take hold if Democrats and Republicans fail to  come together on a deal.

Reid’s plan would serve as a Democratic counterpart to House Speaker John Boehner’s plan B, which failed to gain enough support for a vote last week. Boehner left the ball in the Senate’s court after withdrawing his plan Thursday….READ MORE 

The House has acted on two bills which collectively would avert the entire fiscal cliff if enacted.  Those bills await action by the Senate.  If the Senate will not approve and send them to the president to be signed into law in their current form, they must be amended and returned to the House.  Once this has occurred, the House will then consider whether to accept the bills as amended, or to send them back to the Senate with additional amendments.  The House will take this action on whatever the Senate can pass, but the Senate first must act.  The lines of communication remain open, and we will continue to work with our colleagues to avert the largest tax hike in American history, and to address the underlying problem, which is spending.

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Political Headlines December 28, 2012: Congressional Leaders Invited to Oval Office for Fiscal Cliff Meeting

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Congressional Leaders Invited to Oval Office for Fiscal Cliff Meeting

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-28-12

Washington hasn’t taken much action lately to avoid the looming fiscal cliff, but lawmakers have been doing a lot of talking about it.  And more talk is scheduled for Friday.

President Obama has invited Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to the White House Friday afternoon for a meeting in the Oval Office to discuss the issue.

A spokesman for Boehner says the speaker will stress at the meeting that “the House has already passed legislation to avert the entire fiscal cliff and now the Senate must act.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines December 27, 2012: White House Says It Has No New Fiscal Cliff Plan

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White House Says It Has No New Fiscal Cliff Plan

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-27-12

Edward Linsmier/Getty Images

The White House said on Friday it has no plans to offer new proposals to avoid the fiscal cliff which looms over the country’s economy just days away from now, but will meet Friday with Congressional leaders in a last ditch effort to forge a deal.

Republicans and Democrats made no conciliatory gestures in public on Thursday, despite the urgency.

The White House said President Obama would meet Friday with Democratic and Republican leaders. But a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said the Republican, “will continue to stress that the House has already passed legislation to avert the entire fiscal cliff and now the Senate must act.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines December 27, 2012: Harry Reid Goes After John Boehner at Fiscal Cliff’s Edge

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Reid Goes After Boehner at Cliff’s Edge

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-27-12

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

UPDATE: The House will return for legislative business on Sunday evening.

With only five days left before the federal government goes over the fiscal cliff, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shattered any pretense of cooperation with Republicans in a scathing speech that targeted House Republicans and particularly Speaker John Boehner.

Reid, D-Nev., spoke on the floor of the Senate as President Obama returned to Washington early from an Hawaiian vacation in what appears to be a dwindling hope for a deal on taxes and spending cuts before the Jan. 1 deadline that will trigger tax increases and sharp spending cuts.

Boehner, however, has not returned to Washington from a Christmas break and has not called the House back into session….READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines December 22, 2012: GOP Weekly Address: Speaker John Boehner on Averting the Fiscal Cliff

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Weekly Republican Address: Speaker Boehner on Averting the Fiscal Cliff

Source: Speaker.gov, 12-21-12

Posted by Speaker Boehner Press Office
December 21, 2012
Press Release

Delivering the Weekly Republican Address, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) notes that the House has acted to avert the entire fiscal cliff, and President Obama and his Democratic-controlled Senate now must do the same.  “We will continue to work with our colleagues in the Congress and the White House on a plan that protects families and small businesses,” Boehner says, before wishing all Americans a Merry Christmas.

NOTE: The Weekly Republican Address: The audio is available here, and video of the address will be available here to view and here to download.   A full transcript follows.

Download Audio | YouTube | Download Video

“As you know, unless President Obama and Congress take action, tax rates will go up on every American on January 1st.

“The day after that, a mandatory ‘sequester’ will go into effect that will implement harmful cuts to our national defense.  That is currently the law of the land.

“The House has done its part to avert this entire fiscal cliff.  On the 10th of May and again on Thursday, we passed legislation that would replace the ‘sequester’ with responsible spending cuts.  We also passed a bill to stop all of the January 1 tax hikes.  The events of the past week make it clearer than ever that these measures reflect the will of the House.

“The American people re-elected President Obama on Election Day.  They also re-elected a Republican majority in the House.  In doing so, they gave us all a mandate.  It was not a mandate to raise tax rates on families and small businesses.  It was a mandate for us to work together to begin solving the massive debt that threatens our country’s future.

“Unfortunately, the president and Senate Democrats have vowed to reject and veto all of our proposals while failing to offer a responsible solution of their own.

“What the president has offered so far simply won’t do anything to solve our spending problem and begin to address our nation’s crippling debt.  Instead, he wants more spending and more tax hikes that will hurt our economy.  And he refuses to challenge the members of his party to deal honestly with entitlement reform and the big issues facing our nation.  That is why we find ourselves here today.

“I’ve challenged the members of our party to grapple with these issues, to make tough choices.  And we’re willing to – because Washington has a serious spending problem.  This was the year the size of our debt – all 16 trillion dollars of it – surpassed the size of our entire economy.  It’s a grim milestone, one of many we’ll have to bear if we don’t come to grips with it.

“The president’s solution of raising tax rates would still leave red ink as far as the eye can see.  And it would hurt jobs, at a time when far too many of our citizens are struggling to find them.

“I used to run a small business.  I’ve seen the damage higher taxes can do to jobs and families.  I don’t want tax rates to go up.  Republicans don’t want tax rates to go up.  The best way to address our crippling debt is to make significant spending cuts and fix our tax code to pave the way for long-term growth and opportunity.  This is an approach most Americans support, and it remains Republicans’ highest priority.   But we only run the House.  Democrats run Washington.

“Of course, hope springs eternal, and I know we have it in us to come together and do the right thing.  We will continue to work with our colleagues in the Congress and the White House on a plan that protects families and small businesses.

“For now, I wish all the American people a blessed and merry Christmas.”

Political Headlines December 22, 2012: GOP Weekly Address: House Speaker Boehner on Working to Avoid Fiscal Cliff

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GOP Weekly Address: House Speaker Boehner on Working to Avoid Fiscal Cliff

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-22-12

Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker Boehner, having removed the proposed “Plan B” as an option in fiscal cliff talks, delivered this week’s Republican address about the will of the House to avert the fiscal deadline.

Boehner, R- Ohio, noted that Americans re-elected President Obama and a Republican House majority as mandate “for us to work together to begin solving the massive debt that threatens our country’s future.”

“Unfortunately,” the Speaker says, “the president and Senate Democrats have vowed to reject and veto all of our proposals while failing to offer a responsible solution of their own.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines December 21, 2012: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: A Sassy Merry Christmas ‘I’m Stuck Here in Washington’

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A Sassy Merry Christmas from Mitch McConnell: ‘I’m Stuck Here in Washington’

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-21-12

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

It’s a Christmas greeting with a few digs reflecting the frustration over the fiscal cliff stalemate from Senate Minority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

In a video just posted to his You Tube page, the Minority Leader, sitting in front of a fireplace and Christmas tree says, “Hello I’m Senator Mitch McConnell. I’m stuck here in Washington trying to prevent my fellow Kentuckians having to shell out more money to Uncle Sam next year, but I wanted to take just a minute to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.”

McConnell then instructs Americans to drink eggnog, sing carols and enjoy their time together – because Washington has all the arguing covered already.

“So pour some eggnog, turn up the Christmas music and enjoy your family. No need to argue with your family, there is plenty of arguing in Washington to go around. Merry Christmas everyone.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines December 21, 2012: Congress in Recess, President Barack Obama Still ‘Optimist’ On Fiscal Cliff Deal

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Congress in Recess, Obama Still ‘Optimist’ On Fiscal Cliff Deal

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-21-12

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Ten days remain before the mandatory spending cuts and tax increases known as the “fiscal cliff” take effect, but President Obama says that he is still a “hopeless optimist” that a federal budget deal can be reached before the year-end deadline that economists agree would plunge the country back into recession.

“Even though Democrats and Republicans are arguing about whether those rates should go up for the wealthiest individuals, all of us — every single one of us — agrees that tax rates shouldn’t go up for the other 98 percent of Americans, which includes 97 percent of small businesses,” he said, adding there was “no reason” not to move forward on that aspect of theoretical legislation, and that it was “within our capacity” to resolve.

The question of whether to raise taxes on incomes over $250,000 remains at an impasse, but is only one aspect of nuanced legislative wrangling that has left the parties at odds….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 21, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech Discusses the Fiscal Cliff & Urges Congress to Reconsider Minimal Deal — Calls for Stopgap Tax Bill

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President Obama Discusses the Fiscal Cliff

Source: WH, 12-21-12

President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the press in the Brady Press Briefing Room (December 21, 2012)President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the press in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Dec. 21, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

After a week of negotiation and debate around the fiscal cliff, President Obama took to the James S. Brady Briefing Room in the White House to talk about where we are in the fight to keep middle-class taxes from going up.

“I just spoke to Speaker Boehner and I also met with Senator Reid,” he said. “In the next few days, I’ve asked leaders of Congress to work towards a package that prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for 2 million Americans, and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction. That’s an achievable goal. That can get done in 10 days. Once this legislation is agreed to, I expect Democrats and Republicans to get back to Washington and have it pass both chambers. And I will immediately sign that legislation into law, before January 1st of next year. It’s that simple.”

He urged lawmakers to use the Christmas holiday to give the issue due consideration, and return to Washington ready to work on a solution.

“Everybody can cool off; everybody can drink some eggnog, have some Christmas cookies, sing some Christmas carols, enjoy the company of loved ones,” said President Obama. “And then I’d ask every member of Congress while they’re back home to think about that. Think about the obligations we have to the people who sent us here.”

Read the full remarks here.

Statement by the President on the Fiscal Cliff

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

5:34 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Over the last few weeks I’ve been working with leaders of both parties on a proposal to get our deficit under control, avoid tax cuts — or avoid tax hikes on the middle class, and to make sure that we can spur jobs and economic growth — a balanced proposal that cuts spending but also asks the wealthiest Americans to pay more; a proposal that will strengthen the middle class over the long haul and grow our economy over the long haul.

During the course of these negotiations, I offered to compromise with Republicans in Congress.  I met them halfway on taxes, and I met them more than halfway on spending.  And in terms of actual dollar amounts, we’re not that far apart.

As of today, I am still ready and willing to get a comprehensive package done.  I still believe that reducing our deficit is the right thing to do for the long-term health of our economy and the confidence of our businesses.  I remain committed to working towards that goal, whether it happens all at once or whether it happens in several different steps.

But in 10 days, we face a deadline.  In 10 days, under current law, tax rates are scheduled to rise on most Americans.  And even though Democrats and Republicans are arguing about whether those rates should go up for the wealthiest individuals, all of us — every single one of us — agrees that tax rates shouldn’t go up for the other 98 percent of Americans, which includes 97 percent of small businesses.  Every member of Congress believes that.  Every Democrat, every Republican.  So there is absolutely no reason — none — not to protect these Americans from a tax hike.  At the very least, let’s agree right now on what we already agree on.  Let’s get that done.

I just spoke to Speaker Boehner and I also met with Senator Reid.  In the next few days, I’ve asked leaders of Congress to work towards a package that prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for 2 million Americans, and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction.  That’s an achievable goal.  That can get done in 10 days.

Once this legislation is agreed to, I expect Democrats and Republicans to get back to Washington and have it pass both chambers.  And I will immediately sign that legislation into law, before January 1st of next year.  It’s that simple.

Averting this middle-class tax hike is not a Democratic responsibility or a Republican responsibility.  With their votes, the American people have determined that governing is a shared responsibility between both parties.  In this Congress, laws can only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans.  And that means nobody gets 100 percent of what they want.  Everybody has got to give a little bit, in a sensible way.  We move forward together, or we don’t move forward at all.

So, as we leave town for a few days to be with our families for the holidays, I hope it gives everybody some perspective.  Everybody can cool off; everybody can drink some eggnog, have some Christmas cookies, sing some Christmas carols, enjoy the company of loved ones.  And then I’d ask every member of Congress while they’re back home to think about that.  Think about the obligations we have to the people who sent us here.  Think about the hardship that so many Americans will endure if Congress does nothing at all.

Just as our economy is really starting to recover and we’re starting to see optimistic signs, and we’ve seen actually some upside statistics from a whole range of areas including housing, now is not the time for more self-inflicted wounds — certainly not those coming from Washington.  And there’s so much more work to be done in this country — on jobs and on incomes, education and energy.  We’re a week away from one of the worst tragedies in memory, so we’ve got work to do on gun safety, a host of other issues.  These are all challenges that we can meet.  They’re all challenges that we have to meet if we want our kids to grow up in an America that’s full of opportunity and possibility, as much opportunity and possibility as the America that our parents and our grandparents left for us.

But we’re only going to be able to do it together.  We’re going to have to find some common ground.  And the challenge that we’ve got right now is that the American people are a lot more sensible and a lot more thoughtful and much more willing to compromise, and give, and sacrifice, and act responsibly than their elected representatives are.  And that’s a problem.

There’s a mismatch right now between how everybody else is thinking about these problems– Democrats and Republicans outside of this town — and how folks are operating here.  And we’ve just got to get that aligned.  But we’ve only got 10 days to do it.

So I hope that every member of Congress is thinking about that.  Nobody can get 100 percent of what they want.  And this is not simply a contest between parties in terms of who looks good and who doesn’t.  There are real-world consequences to what we do here.

And I want next year to be a year of strong economic growth. I want next year to be a year in which more jobs are created, and more businesses are started, and we’re making progress on all the challenges that we have out there — some of which, by the way, we don’t have as much control over as we have in terms of just shaping a sensible budget.

This is something within our capacity to solve.  It doesn’t take that much work.  We just have to do the right thing.  So call me a hopeless optimist, but I actually still think we can get it done.

And with that, I want to wish every American a merry Christmas.  And because we didn’t get this done, I will see you next week.

END

5:43 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Headlines December 21, 2012: Speaker John Boehner & Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s Press Conference on Fiscal Cliff: House Has Passed Bills to Avert Entire Fiscal Cliff; Now President Obama & His Senate Must Take Action

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Speaker Boehner: House Has Passed Bills to Avert Entire Fiscal Cliff; Now President Obama & His Senate Must Take Action

Source: Speaker Boehner Press Office, 12-21-12

At a press conference today with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) underscored the need for President Obama and his Democratic-controlled Senate to take action to avert the massive tax hikes and replace the defense sequester scheduled to take effect in just 10 days.  As Speaker Boehner noted, the House has already passed legislation to avert the entire fiscal cliff, and it is now up to the Democrats who run Washington to get serious about the spending cuts and entitlement reforms needed to address our debt and resolve the fiscal cliff. Following are Speaker Boehner’s remarks:

“As you know, the House did not take up the tax bill last night because we didn’t have the votes to pass it.  It’s not the outcome that I wanted, but that was the will of the House.

“So, unless the President and Congress take action, tax rates will go up on every American taxpayer and devastating defense cuts will go into effect in ten days.

“The House has already passed bills addressing the fiscal cliff.  We passed a bill replacing the president’s sequester with responsible spending cuts and did it last May.  We passed a bill to stop all the tax hikes on the American people scheduled to take effect January 1, and we did that on August 1.  And we’ve proposed plans over and over again that Democrats used to support, but now they won’t.

“I don’t want taxes to go up. Republicans don’t want taxes to go up.  But we only run the House, the Democrats continue to run Washington.

“What the president has proposed so far simply won’t do anything to solve our spending problem.  He wants more spending and more tax hikes that will hurt our economy.  And he simply won’t deal honestly with entitlement reform and the big issues that are facing our country. 

“We need significant spending cuts and real tax reform to address our long-term debt problem and pave the way for long-term growth and real growth in jobs in our country.

We’ll continue to work with our colleagues in the House and the Senate on a plan that protects families and small businesses from the fiscal cliff.”

Political Headlines December 20, 2012: Speaker John Boehner Cancels House Vote on Plan B Option as Fiscal Cliff Talks Fall into Disarray

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Boehner Pulls Plan B Option as Fiscal Cliff Talks Fall into Disarray

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-21-12

TOBY JORRIN/AFP/Getty Images

In a surprise development late Thursday night, House Speaker John Boehner pulled his so-called “Plan B option” — an extension of current tax rates for Americans making up to $1 million a year — from the House floor, admitting that it did not have the support necessary to pass and leaving a resolution to the fiscal cliff in question.

“The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass. Now it is up to the president to work with [Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff,” Boehner, R-Ohio, wrote in a statement. “The House has already passed legislation to stop all of the Jan. 1 tax rate increases and replace the sequester with responsible spending cuts that will begin to address our nation’s crippling debt. The Senate must now act.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines December 20, 2012: Speaker John Boehner on Fiscal Cliff Impasse: ‘I Did My Part, They’ve Done Nothing’

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Boehner on Fiscal Cliff Impasse: ‘I Did My Part, They’ve Done Nothing’

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-20-12

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that the House’s Plan B option on the fiscal cliff is dead-on-arrival in the upper chamber, House Speaker John Boehner said he is “not convinced at all that when the bill passes the House today that it will die in the Senate.”

“Rather than tell us what they can’t do, maybe they should tell us what they can do,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “If Senate Democrats and the White House refuse to act, they’ll be responsible for the largest tax hike in American history.”

The speaker also called on Reid “to make sure that we have a vote” to address the fiscal cliff “before the Senate adjourns.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines December 20, 2012: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Confident in Fiscal Cliff Plan B’s Passage as House Readies Vote

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Cantor Confident in Plan B’s Passage as House Readies Vote

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-20-12

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says Republicans will move forward with a vote Thursday evening to pass Speaker of the House John Boehner’s so-called “Plan B” option — a permanent extension of the current tax rates for taxpayers making up to $1 million, while also replacing the first year of cuts in the sequester set to take effect on Jan. 2.

While Republicans voted months ago to replace the sequester and extend all of the current tax rates, Cantor, R-Va., said the votes Thursday will show Republicans are “taking concrete action to avoid the fiscal cliff.”

“Our members understand that the nation faces the largest tax increase in its history come January 1, 2013,” he said. “We protect 99.81 percent of American taxpayers from a tax increase in these very difficult economic times. We hope that the Senate will take this bill up along with the Spending Reduction Act and get the job done in lieu of or absent any kind of agreement coming from the White House.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines December 19, 2012: Speaker John Boehner: House of Representatives Moving Forward on Fiscal Cliff’s Plan B

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Boehner: House Moving Forward on Plan B

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-19-12

TOBY JORRIN/AFP/Getty Images

House Speaker John Boehner announced Wednesday afternoon that the House will move forward on his Plan B option to make the current tax rates permanent for people earning less than $1 million a year.

“Tomorrow, the House will pass legislation to make permanent tax relief for nearly every American — 99.81 percent of the American people. Then the president will have a decision to make,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “He can call on Senate Democrats to pass that bill or he could be responsible for the largest tax increase in American history.”….READ MORE

Political Headlines December 19, 2012: President Barack Obama at Press Conference Urges GOP to ‘Take The Deal’ & Avoid Fiscal Cliff

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Obama Urges GOP to ‘Take The Deal’

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-19-12

Alex Wong/Getty Images

With just 12 days until tax increases and steep spending cuts kick in, President Obama on Wednesday urged Republicans to “peel off the partisan war paint” and compromise on a deal to avoid going over the “fiscal cliff.”

Speaking at a White House news conference, Obama told House Republicans to “take the deal” and said it was puzzling that they have not accepted what he described as a “fair” offer.

“They will be able to claim that they have worked with me over the last two years to reduce the deficit more than any other deficit reduction package, that we will have stabilized it for 10 years. That is a significant achievement for them. They should be proud of it. But they keep on finding ways to say no, as opposed to finding ways to say yes,” he said….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 19, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Press Conference on Gun Control & Fiscal Cliff — Transcript

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President Obama: “Words Need to Lead to Action” on Gun Violence

Source: WH, 12-19-12

President Obama, with Vice President Biden, delivers a statement about the Administration’s gun policy process, Dec. 19, 2012.  President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden, delivers a statement and takes questions about the Administration’s gun policy process in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Dec. 19, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Five days after the tragic shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama said that he is committed to reducing the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country every single day.

At a press conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, the President announced that Vice President Joe Biden will lead a new initiative that has been tasked with identifying concrete proposals for real reform by January. The Vice President, who wrote the 1994 Crime Bill that helped law enforcement bring down the rate of violent crime and included the assault weapons ban, will work with members of the Cabinet and outside organizations on this effort, and President Obama urged the new Congress to hold votes on the proposals early next year:

The good news is there’s already a growing consensus for us to build from.  A majority of Americans support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons.  A majority of Americans support banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips.  A majority of Americans support laws requiring background checks before all gun purchases, so that criminals can’t take advantage of legal loopholes to buy a gun from somebody who won’t take the responsibility of doing a background check at all.

The President made clear that this is a complex issue, and that solutions must be wide-ranging and include everything from access to mental health services to confronting a culture that at times glorifies violence. But he also made clear that the price of doing nothing is much too high for our country to bear:

Since Friday morning, a police officer was gunned down in Memphis, leaving four children without their mother.  Two officers were killed outside a grocery store in Topeka.  A woman was shot and killed inside a Las Vegas casino.  Three people were shot inside an Alabama hospital.  A four-year-old was caught in a drive-by in Missouri, and taken off life support just yesterday. Each one of these Americans was a victim of the everyday gun violence that takes the lives of more than 10,000 Americans every year — violence that we cannot accept as routine.

So I will use all the powers of this office to help advance efforts aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.  We won’t prevent them all — but that can’t be an excuse not to try.  It won’t be easy — but that can’t be an excuse not to try.

You can read the President’s full remarks or watch the press conference on video.

Remarks by the President in a Press Conference

Source: WH, 12-19-12

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:02 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. It’s now been five days since the heartbreaking tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut; three days since we gathered as a nation to pray for the victims. And today, a few more of the 20 small children and six educators who were taken from us will be laid to rest.

We may never know all the reasons why this tragedy happened. We do know that every day since, more Americans have died of gun violence. We know such violence has terrible consequences for our society. And if there is even one thing that we can do to prevent any of these events, we have a deep obligation — all of us — to try.

Over these past five days, a discussion has reemerged as to what we might do not only to deter mass shootings in the future, but to reduce the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country every single day. And it’s encouraging that people of all different backgrounds and beliefs and political persuasions have been willing to challenge some old assumptions and change longstanding positions.

That conversation has to continue. But this time, the words need to lead to action.

We know this is a complex issue that stirs deeply held passions and political divides. And as I said on Sunday night, there’s no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. We’re going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun. We’re going to need to look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence. And any actions we must take must begin inside the home and inside our hearts.

But the fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing. The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean we can’t steadily reduce the violence, and prevent the very worst violence.

That’s why I’ve asked the Vice President to lead an effort that includes members of my Cabinet and outside organizations to come up with a set of concrete proposals no later than January — proposals that I then intend to push without delay. This is not some Washington commission. This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside. This is a team that has a very specific task, to pull together real reforms right now. I asked Joe to lead this effort in part because he wrote the 1994 Crime Bill that helped law enforcement bring down the rate of violent crime in this country. That plan — that bill also included the assault weapons ban that was publicly supported at the time by former Presidents including Ronald Reagan.

The good news is there’s already a growing consensus for us to build from. A majority of Americans support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons. A majority of Americans support banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips. A majority of Americans support laws requiring background checks before all gun purchases, so that criminals can’t take advantage of legal loopholes to buy a gun from somebody who won’t take the responsibility of doing a background check at all.

I urge the new Congress to hold votes on these measures next year in a timely manner. And considering Congress hasn’t confirmed a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in six years — the agency that works most closely with state and local law enforcement to keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals — I’d suggest that they make this a priority early in the year.

Look, like the majority of Americans, I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. This country has a strong tradition of gun ownership that’s been handed down from generation to generation. Obviously across the country there are regional differences. There are differences between how people feel in urban areas and rural areas. And the fact is the vast majority of gun owners in America are responsible — they buy their guns legally and they use them safely, whether for hunting or sport shooting, collection or protection.

But you know what, I am also betting that the majority — the vast majority — of responsible, law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war. I’m willing to bet that they don’t think that using a gun and using common sense are incompatible ideas — that an unbalanced man shouldn’t be able to get his hands on a military-style assault rifle so easily; that in this age of technology, we should be able to check someone’s criminal records before he or she can check out at a gun show; that if we work harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one in Newtown — or any of the lesser-known tragedies that visit small towns and big cities all across America every day.

Since Friday morning, a police officer was gunned down in Memphis, leaving four children without their mother. Two officers were killed outside a grocery store in Topeka. A woman was shot and killed inside a Las Vegas casino. Three people were shot inside an Alabama hospital. A four-year-old was caught in a drive-by in Missouri, and taken off life support just yesterday. Each one of these Americans was a victim of the everyday gun violence that takes the lives of more than 10,000 Americans every year — violence that we cannot accept as routine.

So I will use all the powers of this office to help advance efforts aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. We won’t prevent them all — but that can’t be an excuse not to try. It won’t be easy — but that can’t be an excuse not to try.

And I’m not going to be able to do it by myself. Ultimately if this effort is to succeed it’s going to require the help of the American people — it’s going to require all of you. If we’re going to change things, it’s going to take a wave of Americans — mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, pastors, law enforcement, mental health professionals — and, yes, gun owners — standing up and saying “enough” on behalf of our kids.

It will take commitment and compromise, and most of all, it will take courage. But if those of us who were sent here to serve the public trust can summon even one tiny iota of the courage those teachers, that principal in Newtown summoned on Friday — if cooperation and common sense prevail — then I’m convinced we can make a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place for our children to learn and to grow.

Thank you. And now I’m going to let the Vice President go and I’m going to take a few questions. And I will start with Ben Feller.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I’d like to ask you about the other serious issue consuming this town right now, the fiscal cliff.

THE PRESIDENT: Right.

Q Haven’t you betrayed some of the voters who supported you in the election by changing your positions on who should get a tax increase and by including Social Security benefits now in this mix? And more broadly, there seems to be a deepening sense that negotiations aren’t going very well right now. Can you give us a candid update? Are we likely to go over the cliff?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, there’s no reason why we should. Remember what I said during the campaign. I thought that it was important for us to reduce our deficit in a balanced and responsible way. I said it was important for us to make sure that millionaires and billionaires paid their fair share. I said that we were going to have to make some tough cuts, some tough decisions on the spending side, but what I wouldn’t do was hurt vulnerable families only to pay for a tax cut for somebody like me. And what I said was that the ultimate package would involve a balance of spending cuts and tax increases.

That’s exactly what I’ve put forward. What I’ve said is, is that in order to arrive at a compromise, I am prepared to do some very tough things — some things that some Democrats don’t want to see and probably there are a few Republicans who don’t want to see either. But the only way that we’re going to be able to stabilize the economy, make sure we’ve got a platform for long-term economic growth, that we get our deficits under control and we make sure that middle-class families are protected is if we come up with something that members of both parties in Congress can support.

And that’s the plan that I’ve put forward. I have gone at least halfway in meeting some of the Republicans’ concerns, recognizing that even though we campaigned on these issues, even though the majority of Americans agree with me that we should be raising taxes on the wealthiest few as a means of reducing the deficit, I have also said that I’m willing to identify some spending cuts that make sense.

And, frankly, up until about a couple of days ago, if you looked at it, the Republicans in the House and Speaker Boehner I think were in a position to say, we’ve gotten a fair deal. The fact that they haven’t taken it yet is puzzling and I think a question that you’re going to have to address to them.

I remain optimistic, though, because if you look at what the Speaker has proposed, he’s conceded that income tax rates should go up — except right now he only wants to have them go up for millionaires. If you’re making $900,000, somehow he thinks that you can’t afford to pay a little more in taxes. But the principle that rates are going to need to go up he’s conceded.

I’ve said I’m willing to make some cuts. What separates us is probably a few hundred billion dollars. The idea that we would put our economy at risk because you can’t bridge that gap doesn’t make a lot of sense.

So I’m going to continue to talk to the Speaker and the other leaders up in Congress. But, ultimately, they’ve got to do their job. Right now their job is to make sure that middle-class taxes do not go up and that we have a balanced, responsible package of deficit reduction.

It is there for all to see. It is a deal that can get done. But it is not going to be — it cannot be done if every side wants 100 percent. And part of what voters were looking for is some compromise up here. That’s what folks want. They understand that they’re not going to get 100 percent of what they want. And for some reason, that message has not yet taken up on Capitol Hill.

And when you think about what we’ve gone through over the last couple of months — a devastating hurricane, and now one of the worst tragedies in our memory — the country deserves folks to be willing to compromise on behalf of the greater good, and not tangle themselves up in a whole bunch of ideological positions that don’t make much sense.

So I remain not only open to conversations, but I remain eager to get something done. I’d like to get it done before Christmas. There’s been a lot of posturing up on Capitol Hill, instead of just going ahead and getting stuff done. And we’ve been wasting a lot of time. It is the right thing to do. I’m prepared to get it done. But they’re going to have to go ahead and make some adjustments.

And I’ll just give you one other example. The Speaker now is proposing what he calls plan B. So he says, well, this would raise taxes only on folks making a million dollars or more. What that means is an average of a $50,000 tax break for every millionaire out there, at the same time as we’re not providing unemployment insurance for 2 million people who are still out there looking for work. It actually means a tax increase for millions of working families across the country at the same time as folks like me would be getting a tax break. That violates the core principles that were debated during the course of this election and that the American people determined was the wrong way to go.

And so my hope is, is that the Speaker and his caucus, in conjunction with the other legislative leaders up there, can find a way to make sure that middle-class families don’t see their taxes go up on January 1st; that we make sure that those things that middle-class families count on like tax credits for college, or making sure that they’re getting some help when it comes to raising their kids through things like the child tax credit, that that gets done; and that we have a balanced package for deficit reduction, which is exactly what I’ve put forward.

Q Will you give more ground if you need to, or are you done?

THE PRESIDENT: If you look at the package that I put forward, it is a balanced package by any definition. We have put forward real cuts in spending that are hard to do, in every category. And by any measure, by any traditional calculation, by the measures that Republicans themselves have used in the past, this would be as large a piece of deficit reduction as we’ve seen in the last 20 years. And if you combine that with the increased revenue from the wealthy paying a little bit more, then you actually have something that would stabilize our deficit and debt for a decade — for 10 years.

Now, the notion that we would not do that, but instead the Speaker would run a play that keeps tax cuts for folks making $500,000 or $700,000 or $800,000 or $900,000 a year, and gives more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, and raises taxes on middle-class families, and then has no cuts in it — which is what he says he wants — doesn’t make much sense.

I mean, let’s just think about the logic for a second. They’re thinking about voting for raising taxes at least on folks over a million, which they say they don’t want to do, but they’re going to reject spending cuts that they say they do want to do. That defies logic. There’s no explanation for that.

I think that any objective person out there looking would say that we’ve put forward a very balanced plan and it’s time for us to go ahead and get it done. That’s what the country needs right now. Because I think folks have been through some wrenching times, we’re still recovering from a very tough recession, and what they’re hoping for is a sense of stability, focus, compromise, common sense over the next couple of years. And I think we can provide it. But this is a good test for them.

Carol Lee.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Just to follow on Ben’s question, what is your next move? Are we in a position now where you’re just waiting for the Speaker to make a move?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m going to reach out to all the leaders involved over the next couple of days and find out what is it that’s holding this thing up. What is holding it up? If the argument from Republicans is we haven’t done enough spending cuts, that argument is not going to fly because we’ve got close to a trillion dollars of spending cuts. And when you add interest, then it’s more than a trillion dollars in spending cuts.

If the argument is that they can’t do — they can’t increase tax rates on folks making $700,000 or $800,000 a year, that’s not a persuasive argument to me and it’s certainly not a persuasive argument to the American people.

It may be that members of their caucus haven’t looked at exactly what we’ve proposed. It may be that if we provide more information or there’s greater specificity or we work through some of their concerns, that we can get some movement then.

But the fact of the matter is, is that what would violate my commitment to voters is if I ended up agreeing to a plan that put more of the burden on middle-class families and less of a burden on the wealthy in an effort to reduce our deficit. That’s not something I’m going to do. What would violate my commitment to voters would be to put forward a plan that makes it harder for young people to go to college, that makes it harder for a family with a disabled kid to care for that kid.

And there’s a threshold that you reach where the balance tips, even in making compromises that are required to get something done in this town, where you are hurting people in order to give another advantage to folks who don’t need help. And we had an extensive debate about this for a year. And not only does the majority of the American people agree with me, about half of Republican voters agree with me on this.

So at some point, there’s got to be I think a recognition on the part of my Republican friends that — take the deal. They will be able to claim that they have worked with me over the last two years to reduce the deficit more than any other deficit reduction package; that we will have stabilized it for 10 years. That is a significant achievement for them. They should be proud of it. But they keep on finding ways to say no, as opposed to finding ways to say yes.

And I don’t know how much of that just has to do with — it is very hard for them to say yes to me. But at some point, they’ve got to take me out of it and think about their voters, and think about what’s best for the country. And if they do that — if they’re not worried about who’s winning and who’s losing, did they score a point on the President, did they extract that last little concession, did they force him to do something he really doesn’t want to do just for the heck of it, and they focus on actually what’s good for the country, I actually think we can get this done.

Q You mentioned the $700,000 and $800,000. Are you willing to move on income level and are there specific things that you would do —

THE PRESIDENT: I’m not going to get into specific negotiations here. My point is simple, Carol, that if you look at Speaker Boehner’s proposal and you look at my proposal, they’re actually pretty close. They keep on saying that somehow we haven’t put forward real spending cuts. Actually, there was I think a graph in The New York Times today that showed — they’re the same categories, right? There’s a little bit of tweaks here and there; there are a few differences, but we’re right there.

And on the revenue side, there’s a difference in terms of them wanting to preserve tax breaks for folks between $250,000 and a million that we just can’t afford. I mean, keep in mind I’m in that income category; I’d love to not pay as much in taxes. But I also think it’s the right thing to do for us to make sure that people who have less — people who are working, people who are striving, people who are hoping for their kids — that they have opportunity. That’s what we campaigned about. That’s what we talked about.

And this is not a situation where I’m unwilling to compromise. This is not a situation where I’m trying to rub their face in anything. I think anybody who looks at this objectively would say that coming off my election, I have met them at least halfway in order to get something done for the country.

And so I noticed that there were a couple of headlines out there saying, oh, we’re now in the land of political posturing, and it’s the usual he said-he said atmosphere. But look at the facts. Look at where we started; look at where they started. My proposal is right there in the middle.

We should be able to get this done. Let’s get it done. We don’t have a lot of time.

Carrie. Where’s — there you are.

Q Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q What is your level of confidence that if you are able to reach a comprehensive deal with the Speaker, that he will be able to bring his members onboard and get it passed? Essentially, do you still trust Speaker Boehner in this process?

THE PRESIDENT: There is no doubt that the Speaker has challenges in his caucus, and I recognize that. I’m often reminded when I speak to the Republican leadership that the majority of their caucus’s membership come from districts that I lost. And so sometimes they may not see an incentive in cooperating with me, in part because they’re more concerned about challenges from a tea party candidate, or challenges from the right, and cooperating with me may make them vulnerable. I recognize that.

But, goodness, if this past week has done anything, it should just give us some perspective. If there’s one thing we should have after this week, it should be a sense of perspective about what’s important. And I would like to think that members of that caucus would say to themselves: You know what, we disagree with the President on a whole bunch of things. We wish the other guy had won. We’re going to fight him on a whole range of issues over the next four years. We think his philosophy is all screwed up. But right now, what the country needs is for us to compromise, get a deficit reduction deal in place; make sure middle class taxes don’t go up; make sure that we’re laying the foundations for growth; give certainty to businesses large and small; not put ourselves through some sort of self-inflicted crisis every six months; allow ourselves time to focus on things like preventing the tragedy in Newtown from happening again; focus on issues like energy and immigration reform and all the things that will really make a determination as to whether our country grows over the next four years, 10 years, 40 years.

And if you just pull back from the immediate political battles, if you kind of peel off the partisan war paint, then we should be able to get something done.

And I think the Speaker would like to get that done. I think an environment needs to be created within not just the House Republican caucus, but also among Senate Republicans that say, the campaign is over and let’s see if we can do what’s right for the country — at least for the next month. And then we can reengage in all the other battles that they’ll want to fight.

Q If you don’t get it done, Republicans have said they’ll try to use the debt limit as a next pressure point. Would you negotiate with them in that context?

THE PRESIDENT: No. And I’ve been very clear about this. This is the United States of America, the greatest country on Earth, the world’s economic superpower. And the idea that we lurch from crisis to crisis, and every six months, or every nine months, that we threaten not to pay our bills on stuff we’ve already bought, and default, and ruin the full faith and credit of the United States of America — that’s not how you run a great country.

So I’ve put forward a very clear principle: I will not negotiate around the debt ceiling. We’re not going to play the same game that we saw happen in 2011 — which was hugely destructive; hurt our economy; provided more uncertainty to the business community than anything else that happened.

And I’m not alone in this. If you go to Wall Street, including talking to a whole bunch of folks who spent a lot of money trying to beat me, they would say it would be disastrous for us to use the debt ceiling as a cudgel to try to win political points on Capitol Hill.

So we’re not going to do that — which is why I think that part of what I hope over the next couple of days we see is a recognition that there is a way to go ahead and get what it is that you’ve been fighting for. These guys have been fighting for spending cuts. They can get some very meaningful spending cuts. This would amount to $2 trillion — $2 trillion — in spending cuts over the last couple of years. And in exchange, they’re getting a little over a trillion dollars in revenue. And that meets the pledge that I made during the campaign, which was $2 to $2.50 of spending cuts for every revenue increase. And that’s an approach that I think most Americans think is appropriate.

But I will not negotiate around the debt ceiling. We’re not going to do that again.

Q Sir, may I ask a question about Newtown, please?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I’ve got David Jackson.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Getting back to the gun issue, you alluded to the fact that Washington commissions don’t have the greatest reputation in the world. What makes you think this one is going to be different given the passage of time and the political power of gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, this is not going to be a commission. Joe is going to gather up some key Cabinet members who have an interest in this issue. We’re going to reach out to a bunch of stakeholders. We’re going to be reaching out to members of Congress who have an interest in this issue. It’s not as if we have to start from scratch. There are a whole bunch of proposals that have been thought about, debated, but hopefully also some new ideas in terms of how we deal with this issue.

Their task is going to be to sift through every good idea that’s out there, and even take a look at some bad ideas before disposing of them, and come up with a concrete set of recommendations in about a month. And I would hope that our memories aren’t so short that what we saw in Newtown isn’t lingering with us, that we don’t remain passionate about it only a month later.

And as soon as we get those recommendations, I will be putting forward very specific proposals. I will be talking about them in my State of The Union and we will be working with interested members of Congress to try to get some of them done.

And the idea that we would say this is terrible, this is a tragedy, never again, and we don’t have the sustained attention span to be able to get this done over the next several months doesn’t make sense. I have more confidence in the American people than that. I have more confidence in the parents, the mothers and fathers that I’ve been meeting over the last several days all across the country from all political persuasions, including a lot of gun owners, who say, you know what, this time we’ve got to do things differently.

Q What about the NRA?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the NRA is an organization that has members who are mothers and fathers. And I would expect that they’ve been impacted by this as well. And hopefully they’ll do some self-reflection.

And here’s what we know — that any single gun law can’t solve all these problems. We’re going to have to look at mental health issues. We’re going to have to look at schools. There are going to be a whole range of things that Joe’s group looks at. We know that issues of gun safety will be an element of it. And what we’ve seen over the last 20 years, 15 years, is the sense that anything related to guns is somehow an encroachment on the Second Amendment. What we’re looking for here is a thoughtful approach that says we can preserve our Second Amendment, we can make sure that responsible gun owners are able to carry out their activities, but that we’re going to actually be serious about the safety side of this; that we’re going to be serious about making sure that something like Newtown or Aurora doesn’t happen again.

And there is a big chunk of space between what the Second Amendment means and having no rules at all. And that space is what Joe is going to be working on to try to identify where we can find some common ground.

So I’ve got — I’m going to take one last question.

Go ahead, Jake.

Q It seems to a lot of observers that you made the political calculation in 2008 in your first term and in 2012 not to talk about gun violence. You had your position on renewing the ban on semiautomatic rifles that then-Senator Biden put into place, but you didn’t do much about it. This is not the first issue — the first incident of horrific gun violence of your four years. Where have you been?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, here’s where I’ve been, Jake. I’ve been President of the United States dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, an auto industry on the verge of collapse, two wars. I don’t think I’ve been on vacation.

And so I think all of us have to do some reflection on how we prioritize what we do here in Washington. And as I said on Sunday, this should be a wake-up call for all of us to say that if we are not getting right the need to keep our children safe, then nothing else matters. And it’s my commitment to make sure that we do everything we can to keep our children safe.

A lot of things go in — are involved in that, Jake. So making sure they’ve got decent health care and making sure they’ve got a good education, making sure that their parents have jobs — those are all relevant as well. Those aren’t just sort of side issues. But there’s no doubt that this has to be a central issue. And that’s exactly why I’m confident that Joe is going to take this so seriously over the next couple months.

All right. Thank you, everybody.
END
12:47 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency December 18, 2012: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney on Possible Fiscal Cliff Deal Between President Barack Obama & Speaker John Boehner & Gun-Control Legislation

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 12/18/2012

Source: WH, 12-18-12

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:48 P.M. EST

MR. CARNEY:  Okay.  Welcome to the White House.  I have no announcements.  I am here to answer your questions.

Mr. Feller.

Q    Thanks, Jay.  A lot to cover on the fiscal cliff.  I just want to focus on the tax rates portion.  During the election, repeatedly, and then after the election in his first extended comments the President underscored again his central promise to the American people that tax rates have to go up on households making over $250,000.  In the East Room he said, I’m not going to ask students and seniors and middle-class families to pay down the deficit while people like me making over $200,000 aren’t asked to pay a dime more in taxes.  Now the White House proposal is in fact to let people making up to $400,000 go without a tax increase.  How do you justify that broken promise?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I certainly wouldn’t put it that way.  I would say that the President, demonstrating —

Q    You wouldn’t call it a broken promise?

MR. CARNEY:  — his desire — no, I would not.  I would say that the President, demonstrating his belief that a balanced, large deficit reduction package is a worthwhile goal, has shown evident willingness to meet the Republicans halfway.

If you think about where he started, his initial proposal from his plan that he put forward to the so-called super committee was to achieve a goal of $1.6 trillion in revenue.  He has now come down to $1.2 trillion, as you know.  The Republicans started at $800 trillion and have moved up to $1 trillion.  The President has come halfway.  He hopes that the Republicans will do the same.  That is the essence of compromise, coming halfway.

On revenue, the President has come more than halfway in an effort to try to reach an agreement with the Republicans in the House and broadly in Congress because it’s the right thing to do. But he will not accept a deal that, in order to protect some of the wealthiest Americans from having their taxes go up, shifts the burden unduly onto seniors and the middle class.

So the fact that he’s willing to compromise and have rates go up on those making $400,000 and above, as opposed to $250,000 and above, demonstrates his good-faith effort here to reach a compromise and still have a package that is balanced and asks the wealthiest to pay more, enacts significant spending cuts, and puts us on a fiscally sustainable path.

I mean, the alternative here, if you think about it and the so-called plan B makes no sense.  There is an historic opportunity here to do something that has been set as a goal for a long time in Washington, which is reach a bipartisan compromise on significant deficit reduction on the order of $4 trillion when you take all the pieces of it and put them together.

We are very close to being able to achieve that, and the President has demonstrated an obvious willingness to compromise and to move more than halfway towards the Republicans.  To leave that offer on the table, including the trillion — the $1.22 trillion in spending cuts that the President has put forward because you don’t want to ask someone making $950,000 a year to pay more in taxes would be a shame and it would be bad policy.

So the President believes that the opportunity is there, the parameters of a deal are clear, the path to a compromise is clear, and he hopes that the Republicans will meet him on that path and do something that would be very good for the American people, for the middle class, and for our economy.

Q    Jay, there’s another alternative here, and we’re hearing some of the members of the President’s party say today, which is that for the entire campaign he talked about raising taxes on the top 2 percent.  He said that was the central theme and it was adjudicated in the election.  And you talked about it standing here yesterday, the top 2 percent.  If you go to $400,000, you’re not the top 2 percent, you’re not even the top 1 percent.  It’s less than that.  So isn’t the alternative for him to craft a deal in which he stands by his principle and sticks by his promise?

MR. CARNEY:  The President does have — did have a proposal that we have put forward that achieves that, and in an effort to meet the Republicans halfway he has put forward a proposal that still asks the wealthiest Americans, those, in this case, making over $400,000, to pay more in income taxes.  His overall proposal, by the way, includes other pieces, elements to it to achieve the revenue goal of $1.2 trillion, that includes asking the wealthiest to pay more through cap deductions and other reforms.

But the point I’m making I think is consistent with your question, which is, yes, he has demonstrated a willingness to move towards the Republicans in order to achieve a deal, but do so in a way that maintains his principles.  And the alternative, the fallback, so-called plan B that’s been put out there achieves nothing like what a bigger deal would do and it would — you would lose, by just cutting taxes — by just extending current law for those making under a million dollars, you would lose hundreds of billions of dollars of revenue relative to the decoupling the President has proposed.

And most of that money, or a significant portion of that money if not most, would go to millionaires, because everybody gets — when you extend tax cuts for those making under $250,000 or those making under $400,000, everybody who makes more than that benefits from those tax cuts, right?  If you only extend — if you extend the tax cuts for everybody making up to a million dollars, that means everybody making more than that gets a significant tax cut on their first million dollars in earning.  So millionaires, billionaires, everybody makes a lot of money out of this proposal.

So the proposal essentially is to give another big tax cut to the wealthiest Americans at a time when we cannot afford it.  And that, as you saw in my statement, would not pass the Senate. You saw Leader Pelosi say that Democrats would not vote for it.  It’s not a credible alternative.  If we’re not going to do a grand bargain, a bigger deal, the one that the President seeks, then there’s an option to deal with the tax portion of this that has already passed the Senate that the House ought to take up.  And he would certainly support that as he has said all along.

Q    Last one on this and I’ll let somebody else have a run at this.  You keep making it sound like the choice is between what the President proposed and plan B that Speaker did, but I keep going back to what he said before he was elected and he called the central promise, which was never $250,000 until I win, and then we’ll see what they offer and move the number up.  It was $250,000 —

MR. CARNEY:  But, Ben, I don’t — if you’re making the point that he has —

Q    My point is, can’t — is it the President’s view that he can’t get a big deal unless he goes up?

MR. CARNEY:  I think that’s clear that the Republicans — that this requires compromise, and that’s why we have moved and reduced our revenue target and moved from $250,000 to $400,000.

The point that the President had always made is that it is not his preferred option, but he knew that he would have to compromise in order to reach an agreement without sacrificing the principles that are clear, and that is that we have to have balance.  It has to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay more so that the burden isn’t unduly placed on seniors and students and families who have children with disabilities and others.  And that’s what his current proposal maintains are those principles.
And all told, as you know, the proposal still, with its one-to-one — within this proposal, one-to-one ration of revenues to spending cuts, achieves, combined with the $1.1 trillion that he signed into law in discretionary spending cuts last year, close to $4 trillion in deficit reduction.

And if I could go back to the first point here — Republicans say their goal is to reduce the deficit and to reduce spending.  There is an opportunity on the table here to achieve $1.2 trillion in additional spending cuts.  It seems like folly to walk away from that opportunity because you don’t want to ask somebody making $995,000 a year to pay a dime more in income taxes.  It seems like terrible folly.  And I don’t think the American people would support that.  Certainly the President doesn’t believe that.

Did you have something?

Q    I did.

MR. CARNEY:  It seemed like all your questions had been answered.

Q    They haven’t.

MR. CARNEY:  Okay.

Q    My first question is, are negotiations still active?

MR. CARNEY:  Lines of communication remain open.  The President continues to hope that a compromise can be reached, as I said at the top.  The parameters of a deal are clear.  When you look at the offers, proposals and the counterproposals, a path to an agreement is clear.  And he hopes that the Republicans will join him on that path and achieve this — take advantage of this opportunity and lock in a plan that would achieve significant deficit reduction, would protect the middle class, and would help our economy.  So the answer is lines of communication remain open and we hope that this opportunity is not wasted.

Q    You used that phrase a lot last week.

MR. CARNEY:  And it was always true.

Q    Right, but does that mean you’re talking and negotiations —

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have any specific conversations or meetings to read out to you.  But as was the case in the past, it is the case today that lines of communication remain open and there is an opportunity here.  And you’ve clearly seen the President put forward an offer that represents him moving halfway towards the Republicans on revenue and moving more than halfway to the Republicans on spending cuts as part of a balanced package that still adheres to his principles.  And that’s very important. And we hope that the Republicans understand that it would be a terrible waste to walk away from this opportunity.

Q    We’ve seen some, obviously, progress since yesterday’s briefing; I’d just like to ask the question again:  Has the shooting in Connecticut affected the tone at all, and has it affected the ability for both sides to negotiate?

MR. CARNEY:  These are excellent questions and there’s been some good reporting on this, but it’s obviously hard to know what the impact of an event like that is on the way that lawmakers and others in Washington approach other issues.  As the President said in Newtown, a tragedy as unfathomable, unimaginable as what happened in Newtown reminds us of what really matters.  And he certainly believes that it is his responsibility — and the responsibility of everyone here in Washington — to work together to try to do important things for the American people and the American economy.  And that’s on issues related to gun violence and it’s on issues related to the economy and to people’s livelihoods.

So to the extent that an event like that, as tragic as it is, brings us a little closer together both in the nation and in Washington, that would be a good thing.  But it’s hard to measure an impact like that.

Q    Jay, as an Illinois state legislator, the President supported quite restrictive gun measures, but as President he’s only signed into law legislation that allows guns in National Parks and on Amtrak trains as checked luggage.  Is he reassessing his more recent record on gun control?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, the President’s positions have been beyond what you cited — I’m sure that was an oversight — but including his support for reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, his support —

Q    But actions versus words —

MR. CARNEY:  — his support for closing the so-called gun show loophole, which allows people to buy weapons without going through the background checks that are standard when you purchase from a retail —

Q    But I’m talking about what was actually done —

MR. CARNEY:  Let me — could I finish?

Q    — not just what he has said he supports.

MR. CARNEY:  Could I finish?  Could I finish, Brianna?  I appreciate it.  Thanks.

It’s clear that as a nation we haven’t done enough to address the scourge of gun violence in this country.  It’s a complex problem that requires more than one solution.  It calls for not only reexamining our gun laws and how well we enforce them, but also for engaging mental health professionals, law enforcement officials, educators, parents and communities to find those solutions.

And while, as I said, there’s no one answer to this problem, it is clear that we cannot once again retreat to our separate corners and to our stale talking points, because that inevitably leads to an impasse.  That’s why, as I think you saw reported, the President yesterday afternoon had discussions with members of his Cabinet, members of his senior staff and the Vice President to begin looking for ways — or at ways that the country can move forward and respond to the tragedy in Newtown.  And I think that if you look at the Cabinet members the President met with — Secretary Duncan, Attorney General Holder and Secretary Sebelius — they underscore — their participation underscores the comprehensive way in which the President views this problem.

So he will, as he said in Newtown on Sunday night, two nights ago, in coming weeks, engage with the American people; engage with lawmakers, with members of his administration, with mental health professionals, with law enforcement officials, with parents, communities, to try to find answers to this problem.  And that includes his support for legislation that, like the assault weapons ban, that addresses issues of access to guns.  It will include other issues that he thinks are part of the scourge of gun violence.

Q    But is he right now actively considering measures, be it gun laws or mental health measures — right now?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, he is actively supportive of, for example, Senator Feinstein’s stated intent to revive a piece of legislation that would reinstate the assault weapons ban.  He supports, and would support, legislation that addresses the problem of the so-called gun show loophole.  And there are other elements of gun law — gun legislation that he could support.  People have talked about high-capacity gun — ammunition clips, for example, and that is something certainly that he would be interested in looking at.  My point is that it goes beyond that.

He is heartened, I should mention, by what we have all heard from some members of Congress who have been long-time opponents of gun control measures, common-sense gun control measures like the assault weapons ban and the like.  He, in fact, not long before I came out here was on the phone with Senator Manchin discussing just this issue.

Q    So this sounds like very much a shift from yesterday.  I mean, there were really no specifics yesterday, and today you’re talking about his support for Senator Feinstein’s reinstatement.  You were —

MR. CARNEY:  Brianna, I think I said yesterday that he supported —

Q    Yesterday you were talking about his support for the ban, but you wouldn’t actually say whether he would support Senator Feinstein’s effort.  And today it sounds like you’re saying that he will.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, let me be clear that, again, we are less than 48 hours from the President’s participation in the vigil.

Q    But he supports her legislation initiatives?

MR. CARNEY:  And the President is moving forward, as he said he would, in having discussions here at the White House with members of his team, having discussions moments ago with Senator Manchin and others who have introduced important ideas about how we can move forward and whose decision to break from past positions and — in how they look at this is heartening, and perhaps harbors an opportunity to move forward in a constructive way.  But we are still early in a process.

And I just want to be clear that, in addition to his support for a renewal of the assault weapons ban, which has long been stated and if it does take form in legislation that Senator Feinstein introduces, then that would obviously be something that would win his support, but it goes beyond that.  His view is that we need to address this in a way that, as I said yesterday, acknowledges that no single piece of legislation, no single restriction on access to a certain type of weapon will solve this problem and that we need to address it more broadly.

Q    Sure, but why the change?  Because — I mean, he hadn’t even said “gun” in his public comments.  And then you have, for instance, Republicans like Steve LaTourette talking about a majority of Republicans — this is what he told us today — being open to discussing gun control.  Did the President feel like he was behind on this?

MR. CARNEY:  I think you’re trying to turn this into, like, a political theater thing.  That’s not how the President views it.  He went to Newtown in his role as President and met with family members of victims.  He met with first responders and with others in that community, and then he spoke to that community, and tried to convey the grief and the pain that the American people are feeling and share with those who are suffering so deeply in Connecticut.

And at that time he spoke about the fact that we cannot tolerate these kinds of tragedies and that we have to act, and it would be unforgivable not to try to take steps that address the problem, that address our fundamental responsibility to take care of our children in the first instance.  And he is, as he said and true to his word, moving forward on that process.  And the conversation he had — the meeting he had yesterday, the conversation I just mentioned with the Senator from West Virginia and other conversations he will have going forward will reflect the approach that he’s taking.

He does want to move.  As he said on Sunday night, he wants to move in the coming weeks, which is a fairly short period of time.  And while he supports, and strongly, renewal of the assault weapons ban, and strongly other measures, he wants to expand the conversation beyond those specific areas of legislation to look at other ways we can address this problem.

Let me move in the back.  Sam.

Q    Yes, Jay, a lot of top Democrats on the Hill, and I think President Obama, spent the campaign season saying, let’s not touch Social Security — it doesn’t add to the deficit; we can resolve this issue without going to that entitlement program. What is the President’s message to those lawmakers who promised constituents that Social Security would not be touched after the President now has put chain CPI on the table for Republicans?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, let’s be clear about one thing:  The President didn’t put it on the table.  This is something that Republicans want.  And it is —

Q    But the Republicans —

MR. CARNEY:  — part of his — if I could please answer Sam’s question, I’d appreciate it.  And the President did include it in his counterproposal, his counteroffer, as part of this process, as part of the negotiation process.  I would note that this is a technical change — would be if instated — to the way that economists calculate inflation, and it would affect every program that has — that uses the CPI in its calculations.  And so it’s not directed at one particular program; it would affect every program that uses CPI.  There are also — as part of the President’s proposals, he would make sure that the most vulnerable were exempted out from this change.

But let’s be clear, this is something that the Republicans have asked for, and as part of an effort to find common ground with the Republicans, the President has agreed to put this in his proposal — agreed to have this as part of a broad deficit reduction package that includes asking the wealthiest to pay more so that we can achieve the kind of revenue targets that are necessary for a balanced approach to deficit reduction.

Q    Right, but there’s a lot — again, my question was there’s a lot of people who voted for these lawmakers on a promise that —

MR. CARNEY:  You heard the President say every time he talked about this —

Q    Can I finish my question?

MR. CARNEY:  Sure, yes.

Q    A lot of people — I’ll let you answer — a lot of people voted for these lawmakers for reelection not too long ago on a promise that Social Security wouldn’t be touched, and if it was touched, it would be done separately from these fiscal cliff negotiations.  What do those people — what are these people now supposed to believe about the promises that their lawmakers made, including the President?

MR. CARNEY:  Let me again make clear two things.  One, the President has always said as part of this process when we’re talking about the spending cuts side of this that it would require tough choices by both sides.  And that is certainly the case if you want to reach an agreement.

Secondly, this is a technical adjustment that supporters of it and economists — outside economists say is meant to make the government’s estimates of inflation more accurate.  Thirdly, as part of the President’s proposal, there is a clause that would protect vulnerable communities including the very elderly when it comes to Social Security recipients.

So there’s no question that it represents an effort to compromise, but it is also not — this is a technical adjustment that economists believe is about getting the proper measure of inflation, and it is one sought by Republicans.

So, again, we’re not going to get everything we want.  We knew that the President’s proposal that he put forward to the super committee that we put forward in the beginning of these negotiations would not pass unchanged.  But I think your question demonstrates the absolute fact that the President has shown enormous good faith in trying to reach a compromise here.  And it would be shocking if Republicans passed up this opportunity for what they say they seek, which is significant deficit reduction, significant spending cuts, simply to protect those just shy of being millionaires from having to pay a dime extra in income taxes.

Chuck.

Q    Do you acknowledge the Speaker’s criticism of the counterproposal yesterday that it really isn’t one to one —

MR. CARNEY:  I do not.

Q    — because the saved interest payment is not a spending cut?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I find that an interesting charge because every budget proposal that’s been made since we’ve been here includes interest payments as spending cuts when they’re reduced. The Bowles-Simpson proposal included it.

Q    Well, nobody disputes that it’s part of deficit reduction, but this idea of one to one on tax hikes to a spending cut —

MR. CARNEY:  Again, when they — in the Budget Control Act and their assertions that they wanted one to one, it was only achievable — only achievable — because they counted saved interest as spending cut.  So a practice that they participated in regularly up until this moment to abandon now, to say that it doesn’t represent one-to-one spending cuts for revenue, is just  — doesn’t pass the plausibility test.

The fact is that spending on interest payments is one of the big problems that we face when it comes to our budget deficits, and reducing those payments is a significant achievement when it comes to reducing spending.  So including those reductions as part of the overall reductions in spending is in keeping with past practice by both Republicans and Democrats, including the Speaker of the House, including House Republican leadership, past practice as represented in the Simpson-Bowles proposal and other proposals that have been out there.

So I do reject that charge that somehow that this is a novelty that doesn’t represent actual savings, because that has always been the practice, including by the Republicans who are now complaining about it.

Q    So at 10 o’clock this morning, 9 o’clock this morning, the markets open; they all see the different proposals the President has given on the CPI and Social Security, Boehner’s given on tax rates over a million dollars.  And the public up on Wall Street and the business community sees — oh, look, they’re about to come to a deal.  Boehner puts out his plan B, and you guys decide to publicly go after it.  Why?  Why antagonize the situation?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, what the Speaker —

Q    I’m just curious.  You guys — on one hand, you don’t want to negotiate through the press; this clearly is a decision to negotiate through the press.

MR. CARNEY:  No.  The Speaker also made clear that he has not abandoned hope for a bigger deal, and that we see as a good thing.  And we certainly have not either.  And I think our objections to plan B is simply to point that it is such a far cry from what’s possible here — and not only that, it wouldn’t pass the Senate, it wouldn’t get any Democratic votes in the House, might not pass the House.

Q    But you seem to be intent on sending that message when that’s a way of antagonizing the situation, isn’t it?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I’m certainly not trying to antagonize the —

Q    Are you trying to disrupt talks?  Make it harder?

MR. CARNEY:  Absolutely not.  Absolutely not.  I think that we would — we, as I said at the beginning — and let me make clear, that I’m — the President hopes that Speaker Boehner and others remain open to what is a clear path to achieve a bipartisan compromise here.  And in the details that have come out about the President’s proposal, I think it is clear that he has demonstrated good faith and a willingness to meet Speaker Boehner and the Republicans halfway in an effort to achieve what would be a very significant agreement that would be of benefit both to the middle class and to the economy.

Q    — move further.  It was pretty clear from talking to some Democrats that that wasn’t your final offer.

MR. CARNEY:  Look, I think that a path to a legitimate, balanced compromise is clear.  But the room for movement here is not large, because the President’s principles are what they are and the President has already moved exactly halfway on revenue and more than halfway on spending cuts.  So that is by definition what compromise is about — I’ll meet you halfway.  The President is here.  Republicans are here.  The President has come halfway, maybe a little bit more.  Republicans have come about this far.  So we’re close.

The President has demonstrated his reasonableness.  And his principles here are ones that are broadly supported by the American public.  So he hopes that we can get this deal.

My point about plan B is that it’s not a great alternative. It’s not a great fallback.

Q    Your plan B?  Do you think your plan is a good alternative?

MR. CARNEY:  We would prefer a bigger —

Q    — good alternative, your plan B, the $250,000 —

MR. CARNEY:  One, it’s already passed the Senate.  So if we —

Q    Why are you so sure the other one doesn’t pass the Senate?  Has Harry Reid assured you he just won’t put it on the floor?

MR. CARNEY:  I think Senator Reid has said that it wouldn’t pass the Senate.  The point is —

Q    Would he put the —

MR. CARNEY:  Again, you should speak with Senator Reid about Senate procedure and upcoming actions.  But the point is neither of these options is preferable to a balanced, broad deficit reduction package, which would be healthy, good for the economy, good for the American people, would protect the middle class as we move forward.

The President has said now for months that at the very least the House ought to follow the Senate’s action and pass tax cuts for 98 percent of the American people.  That bill is there.  It could be passed tomorrow.  We have always sought more than that. We have always sought the opportunity to achieve significant deficit reduction, because it’s good for the economy if it’s done well and right, and in a way that’s fair and balanced.

Let me move around.  Yes, Leslie.

Q    Jay, can you comment at all on the Pentagon? Investigators have concluded that a senior defense official has  leaked restricted information to the makers of the bin Laden film.  Peter King’s office is out and says they’re quite troubled by it.

MR. CARNEY:  I have seen those reports, but I can only refer you to the Pentagon.  I don’t have anything on it from here.

Q    But the fact that it went beyond and into a criminal investigation seems to suggest that it’s a little bit worse than you had led us to believe.  I think King’s office said that it’s an indication that our security was placed at risk by people who wanted to help Hollywood make a movie.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, first of all, I think that that’s not — your memory of the discussions that we had from here had to do with charges by that Congressman and others about White House — what the White House’s role in informing people who are doing stories on or other things on the bin Laden raid was.  Again, on this particular matter, I would refer you to the Pentagon.  I just don’t have anything for you on it.

Ed.

Q    If Speaker Boehner’s idea of just taxing people making a million dollars or more is so bad and unbalanced, why did the President propose that in September of 2011 — he had the millionaire’s tax, when he came out in the Rose Garden?

MR. CARNEY:  First of all, that’s an entirely different proposal.  The President has always supported expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for those making more than $250,000.  That is a position he has held since the time he took office.

There have been other proposals including the so-called Buffett Rule that would address the problem of millionaires and billionaires not paying, for example — and this goes to other — this goes beyond issues of income tax, because one of the reasons why the Buffett Rule, for example, was something the President supports — supported and supports — is because we have the issue of carried interests, which enables billionaires to pay a lower tax rate if they’re hedge fund managers or private equity investors, to pay at a much lower rate than probably you and I pay.

Q    The New York Times at the time said, “his idea” — the President’s idea — “of a millionaire’s minimum tax would be prominent in the broad plan for long-term deficit reduction that he will outline at the White House.”  So the President thought that a millionaire’s tax was —

MR. CARNEY:  You’re really confusing policies here.  The fact that you support a minimum tax for millionaires tax rate does not alter the fact that you also support returning tax rates for those making under a million dollars to what they were prior to the Bush-era tax cuts.  I think that has been established many times.

Q    Senator Schumer brought that up for a vote in 2010 —

MR. CARNEY:  It was actually a different — you really need to check your —

Q    There’s a lot of different versions of it —

MR. CARNEY:  Well, no, but —

Q    It was a million-dollar threshold is the point.

MR. CARNEY:  On the tax rates.  Again, you’re confusing a lot of different tax proposals.  And our position then is what it is now, which is that we support expiration of the tax cuts for the top 2 percent.  In his proposal for a bigger package with the Republicans, he has agreed to move that threshold from $250,000 to $400,000.

What we do know, instead of talking about things that got votes two years ago in the Senate, is that two months ago the Senate passed a bill that extends tax cuts for 98 percent of the American people — tax cuts that everyone in Washington, Republicans and Democrats alike say they support, and that the House, if it fails to do anything else, has the opportunity to pass that legislation to ensure that most Americans out there don’t have their taxes go up next year.  The only thing preventing them from that when you look at the proposals here is their insistence thus far on the idea that people making $995,000 should not have their income tax rates go up.

Q    Quick question on another subject.  There’s this 27-year-old former Marine who, as you know, is in a Mexican prison. His family is urging the administration to do something about it. We don’t know all the facts of the case and what he did, what he didn’t do, but his family is asking the White House to look into it.  Is there anything going on to ascertain the facts to see whether he’s innocent or not?  Because again we don’t know what really happened.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I’ll have to take the question because I don’t know the facts myself on that, so I’ll have to take the question.

Jake.

Q    The President’s close friend and advisor, David Axelrod, on Sunday evening, after watching the President’s speech was watching a football game, and an ad came on for a violent video game, and he tweeted, shouldn’t we quit — he tweeted an expression of support for banning certain kinds of weapons or regulating certain kinds of weapons, but then he said shouldn’t we also quit marketing murder as a game.  And this touches on the cultural aspect that you seem to be alluding to also being part of the solution.  And I’m wondering if the President has any views on it, because we haven’t really heard him talk that much about these cultural issues in his time as President.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I was asked about this — well, I have seen reports on it, and I don’t have any proposals to tell you that the President thinks or we think should be moved on.  I think that there are cultural issues — and every expert on this issue would, I think, agree with that — that there are cultural issues that contribute to the broader problem with gun violence.

One of the reasons why the President wants to expand the net beyond considerations of gun laws is because he recognizes that and agrees with it that we need to look broadly at all of the potential contributors to the scourge of gun violence in this country.

So on that particular area of inquiry, I don’t have a specific proposal to tell you about, or even that there will be one.  But it’s certainly — he wants to have these conversations with people who have worked on this issue and people who are affected by it to explore all the possibilities, to move forward with a broad approach that addresses gun violence, that includes sensible legislation to deal with things like assault weapons and gun show loopholes, magazine capacity, potentially, as well as other issues — mental health issues, education issues, and perhaps cultural issues.

Q    Speaking of mental health issues, the National Alliance for Mental Illness — or of Mental Illness reports that during the recession states trimming their budgets cut almost $2 billion from mental health services.  This seems to be an area where the President could take immediate action, working with Congress to help fill the gap of the — for those states.  Has the President — is he aware of this statistic?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not sure if he’s aware of this statistic.  The issue of mental health is something that both the President and others in this administration who have broadly addressed health care issues, including Secretary Sibelius, believes is very important.  And that is why the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, contains within it assurances that those who will gain coverage that they have not had in the past will gain medical health services, including a set of services that will be available without copays or deductibles.  Because mental health issues are health issues, and the President believes that firmly.

Again, in terms of potential areas that could be addressed through action at the federal level or at the state level, he wants to hear about proposals that might help address this problem.  It is, as he said, an issue that the mental health aspect of this is an important aspect.

Q    According to the book by Daniel Klaidman, from Newsweek, the Daily Beast, about the Obama administration, in the first year of the Obama administration, Attorney General Holder was going to take action regulating guns, and the President’s Chief of Staff told him to shut up — he actually added a couple of words in there — about guns.  The issue being the fact that there were a number of Democrats in vulnerable districts where gun rights were popular that would — politically it was not wise.  Does the President know about this?  Does the President regret that that took place?  Has Attorney General Holder been told since Aurora or Fort Hood or Sikh Temple or Newtown or any of the other many, many shootings that have taken place while Mr. Obama has been President, has Mr. Holder been told to resume what he was planning on doing before the White House Chief of Staff told him to stop?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, that’s an anecdote that I’m not familiar with.

Q    It was reported —

MR. CARNEY:  — I know the author.  I confess from the podium that I didn’t read his book.  But the —

Q    Does that mean it didn’t happen?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t know, so I certainly haven’t had a discussion with the President about it.  I can tell you that the President believes, as he, I think, made very clear on Sunday night, and as I reiterated both yesterday and today, that we have not done enough as a country to address this problem and we need to do more, and that what happened in Newtown hopefully will catalyze the process of doing more.  And he will use the power of his office to move that along.  And that has begun already with the conversations he’s had here internally with — a conversation that he had today with one senator, I’m sure he’ll have with other lawmakers.

And as I think we’ve heard from a number of people both in Washington and elsewhere, the enormity of what happened on Friday I think has caused everyone — or many people to reassess where we are when it comes to the ways that we address this problem, and hopefully that that reassessment will lead to action.

Q    But, Jay, why are these conversations not taking place on a national level?  Why are —

MR. CARNEY:  Jake, can I just remind you that the shooting happened four days ago.

Q    This one did, Jay.  But there have been a lot that have taken place over the last four years.  It’s not as though gun violence became a problem on Friday.

MR. CARNEY:  I completely agree with that.  And I can only  —

Q    But it’s as though you’re completely oblivious to the fact that there have been shootings for years.

MR. CARNEY:  That’s not true.  I mean, the President — it is a fact that we have taken action — and the Department of Justice can fill you in on this — to enhance background checks. And background checks — when we talk about the fundamental issue of making sure that those who should not have weapons do not acquire them or cannot acquire them, enhancing our background check system is an important step that addresses specifically the problem.

So it is the case that we have taken action in this President’s first term.  And he made clear on Sunday evening that he believes we need to take more action.  And he looks forward to working with Congress and working with communities beyond Washington to help bring that about.

Peter.

Q    Jay, the President said and you’ve repeated that the nation has not done enough.  It sounds like what — previous Presidents used the formulation “mistakes were made,” sort of a passive construction.  Is he saying that he thinks that he has not done enough as President, personally?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think he made clear on Sunday that we as a nation, and he as a member and leader of this nation need to do more; that we cannot tolerate these kinds of tragic incidents. And he committed himself in the coming weeks to taking steps that use the power of his office to help try to bring about changes that will address this problem, recognizing the complexity of the problem and the obstacles to potential solutions to the problem.

He also said — and it’s important to remember that he said this — if whatever action we take saves one child’s life, we should take it, because what would we say to ourselves if we haven’t.  And then I think that recognizes, again, that this is a problem that cannot be solved by a single action or necessarily even a series of actions, but it should be and can be addressed.
Q    Big part of the question is, does he regret — it’s one thing to regret that Congress hasn’t done what he thinks they ought to do.  But does he regret that he hasn’t done something that he wishes now, in light of Friday, that he had done prior to that?

MR. CARNEY:  I haven’t heard him say it in terms other than the way he said it on Sunday night.  And I think you heard from him in a very passionate way what his reaction is to Newtown, and his reaction to Newtown as part of a series of events and incidents like it that have occurred since he’s been President, and that on too many occasions he has been in the situation that he was in in Newtown of consoling family members who have lost innocent loved ones in events like this.  So I think he spoke very passionately about his views on this and the fact that we need to take action.

Q    And one quick question.  If this compromise were to go forward that the President’s proposed, the $400,000 be the cutoff — would that be it?  Or would the President still, at some point at a later date as part of some future negotiations and future legislative initiative, try again at $250,000?  Is this the end of it from his perspective, or just one —

MR. CARNEY:  Well, he seeks, as part of this process, to make permanent tax cuts for those making below the threshold.  It is also in his proposal to fast-track processes for both corporate and individual tax reform.  But the revenue achieved through a potential compromise here, at least the one that he put forward, would be locked in, and then the reform would be essentially revenue-neutral.

How that plays out in terms of tax rates would obviously be up to those who negotiate it and worked on the tax reform in that fast track process, both on the Hill and working with administration officials.

Q    So he’s not closing off the possibility of raising rates at some later date —

MR. CARNEY:  Well, again, he’s not — his proposal here is to achieve the revenue that would be gained from extending tax cuts permanently for those making under $400,000, allowing rates to rise to their Clinton-era levels for those making above $400,000.  There are a series of other pieces of his revenue proposal that deal with some reform measures, like capping deductions and other issues, and then there would be a separate or additional tax reform process that is something that both sides have sought in a so-called two-stage deal.

But the revenue achieved — the $1.2 trillion in revenue part of this proposal would be achieved at the outset.  Then the reform process could go forward.

Major, and then Roger.

Q    You may accuse me of being unduly mathematical.  I’m  not trying to be unduly mathematical.

MR. CARNEY:  I want to be wowed by your numbers.

Q    No, no, it has nothing to do with numbers, but I asked you yesterday if there was any task force work.  Obviously, there was a meeting yesterday on this subject post-Newtown.  So if it’s possible to convey to the nation after that meeting and in the intervening days since, proportionally, does the President view this as mostly a gun-control issue, or a 50-50 gun control, mental health, personal responsibility?  And can you give the nation a sense that whatever he proposes, whenever he proposes it, will be inclusive of all of those things?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think that’s a good question and I appreciate it.  The President believes that there are multiple elements that need to be addressed that are part of the problem of gun violence.  And as any expert on this subject I think would tell you gun laws would not alone solve this problem and he recognizes that.  He would, however, support and has supported some gun control legislation like the assault weapons ban, like closure of the gun show loophole.

What the proportion is, is hard to say, but I think you break it down to issues of law enforcement, issues of — and then law enforcement can mean not just gun legislation, but other issues of law enforcement, obviously, like background checks and the like.  Then there’s mental health and broader health care issues.  There’s education issues.  I think those are three pockets; whether that’s 33, 33, 33 is hard to say.

But it is simply a fact that legislation that addresses access to certain types of weapons or magazines or how we perform background checks, while they have merit and the President supports the ones that I’ve mentioned, would not alone address this problem.  What I can’t tell you — to go to the second part of your question — is what the rollout of the President’s ideas, what form that will take, whether it will be things of — pieces of legislation that exist that he supports and has made that clear, I have also, or other things that might come up that he supports.

I think at some point you’ll hear from him more broadly on this issue, but I don’t have a timeframe for you on that.  So this is a process that has just begun and includes the meeting he had yesterday.  But beyond that, I just don’t have more for you.

Q    All right, more mathematics.  Based on briefings here and reaction from the Hill, there are some differences, but the revenue differences, which heretofore have been a significant impediment, are down to $1.2 trillion versus $1 trillion.  And there are a lot of other issues, I acknowledge that.  My question to you is, does this bill, and does the President believe there is an intrinsic, larger value to resolving this during this week as the country mourns a larger national tragedy in providing some evidence that all the rhetoric about the future of the children and everything else has actual meaning as related to our fiscal future?

MR. CARNEY:  I hesitate to make grand pronouncements about the connection that some of you have made between what happened in Connecticut and other work that is taking place here.  I do think that the President —

Q    But you know and I know —

MR. CARNEY:  No, I understand —

Q    — here that it reverberates.

MR. CARNEY:  It certainly does.  And I think that at its core, tragedies like that at their core bring us as Americans together in our grief, and in our resolve, and in our neighborliness.  They remind us of all that we share as opposed to the differences that we have.

And out of the ashes of a tragedy like that, as the President I think spoke to in Newtown, we should take heart from that — from the spirit of the community there, the spirit of communities that have been affected elsewhere.  When first responders rush into a situation like that to try to save lives, nobody is thinking about political differences.  So I think that any reminder of what binds us together is helpful and useful as we try to do the country’s business here.  I think the President —

Q    Would you acknowledge it has catalyzed the process?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I just don’t know because I can’t speak to everyone’s motivations.  I think that —

Q    Does the President think it’s catalyzed the process?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, he has been committed to this process for a long time.  He has been committed to seeking a broad deficit-reduction deal, one that protects the middle class, one that achieves balance and is good for our economy.

It is certainly — I think the events in Connecticut are a reminder to him, as he spoke about in Newtown, of what’s most important in our lives, what our greatest responsibilities are.  And if to the extent that that is a motivation to do more and do better for all of us, I think, then that’s worth recognizing.

Roger, I think I said I’d call on you.

Q    In the Biden meeting yesterday on guns, did the President give the Vice President a specific due date for this report or recommendations?

MR. CARNEY:  No.  And I don’t have a further readout of the meeting that included not just the Vice President, but the secretaries — Cabinet Secretaries that I mentioned and some senior staff here at the White House.  It’s the beginning of a process where they’re looking for — we will look for ways to address this problem in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown.

Q    And one other quick follow-up on chained CPI.  You said the most vulnerable would be exempted out.  What do you mean by that?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I don’t have the technical details for you.  But this is something that can be and has been done before in an effort to make sure that — one example, the oldest of Social Security recipients would be potentially protected from the impact of a change like this.  But I don’t have more details for you on that.

Q    Jay, to be determined, in other words?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, there are processes that this has been done in the past and can be done.

Q    I guess what threw me was when you said “exempted out.”  It means they would be taken off —

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I appreciate the question, because it gives me the opportunity to refine my language — because I think what I meant to say is that there would be protections for most vulnerable populations and perhaps “exempted out” is not the proper way to describe it.

Q    Jay, does the President have concerns about the dramatic increase, the upsurge in weapons sales just obviously based on the specter of the prospect of new gun control laws?

MR. CARNEY:  I haven’t asked him about that.  I think that’s a phenomenon we’ve seen in the past.  But I haven’t got a response from him for you.

Q    Would he like to see retailers — as one, at least one already has — voluntarily stop selling the type of weapon that was used in Newtown?

MR. CARNEY:  I haven’t had that discussion with him either.  I know that he supports some legislation that we’ve already talked about and is certainly interested in hearing about other ideas and other possible proposals, mindful of the fact that gun control legislation alone will not sufficiently address this problem.

Thanks very much.

END
1:42 P.M. EST

Political Headlines December 18, 2012: Speaker John Boehner Suggests ‘Plan B’ to Avert Fiscal Cliff to House Republicans

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Boehner Suggests ‘Plan B’ to House Republicans

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-18-12

ABC/ Fred Watkins

House Speaker John Boehner told House Republicans Tuesday morning that even as he tries to strike a deal with the president to avert the fiscal cliff, he is also moving on a Plan B.

Boehner’s Plan B is essentially what ABC reported as the “Doomsday Plan” a couple weeks ago — the House would pass an extension of the Bush Tax cuts for everybody except the very rich.  In this case, Boehner’s proposal would allow the tax cuts to expire on everybody making more than $1 million. The White House would get nothing else — no debt ceiling increase, no unemployment extension.

This does not mean that Boehner is breaking off talks with Obama on a larger deal, but it is a fallback plan and a way to put some added pressure on the White House as Boehner seeks more concessions from Democrats on taxes and spending….READ MORE

White House press secretary Jay Carney released the following statement:

The President has put a balanced, reasonable proposal on the table that achieves significant deficit reduction and reflects real compromise by meeting the Republicans halfway on revenue and more than halfway on spending from where each side started.  That is the essence of compromise.  The parameters of a deal are clear, and the President is willing to continue to work with Republicans to reach a bipartisan solution that averts the fiscal cliff, protects the middle class, helps the economy, and puts our nation on a fiscally sustainable path.  But he is not willing to accept a deal that doesn’t ask enough of the very wealthiest in taxes and instead shifts the burden to the middle class and seniors.  The Speaker’s “Plan B” approach doesn’t meet this test because it can’t pass the Senate and therefore will not protect middle class families, and does little to address our fiscal challenges with zero spending cuts. The President is hopeful that both sides can work out remaining differences and reach a solution so we don’t miss the opportunity in front of us today.

Political Headlines December 17, 2012: President Barack Obama, White House Make New Offer to Speaker John Boehner in Talks To Avoid Fiscal Cliff — Deal Close

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

White House Makes New Offer in Talks To Avoid Fiscal Cliff

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-17-12

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

They are getting closer.

The White House presented a new offer to Speaker of the House John Boehner Monday that makes some important concessions in the talks to work out a deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, a mixture of tax rate hikes and spending cuts that go into effect in January if a deficit reduction agreement is not reached. This White House package comes in response to the offer Boehner made to allow tax rates rise on those making $1 million.

The new offer from the White House includes fewer tax increases and more limits on the entitlement spending — including limits on cost of living adjustments for Social Security recipients — than the President’s previous offers.

Speaker of the House John Boehner will present this latest White House offer to House Republicans Tuesday morning. Here are some of the key concessions….READ MORE

Political Headlines December 17, 2012: President Barack Obama & Speaker John Boehner Meet Again, Seek End to Fiscal Cliff Stalemate

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama and Boehner Meet Again, Seek End to Fiscal Cliff Stalemate

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-17-12

File photo. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met again at the White House Monday to continue their discussion about avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff.

The meeting lasted approximately 45 minutes, the White House said. Upon returning to the Capitol, Boehner kept quiet as he made his way through a small scrum of reporters, ignoring all questions….READ MORE

Political Headlines December 16, 2012: In Fiscal Cliff Talks, Speaker John Boehner Gives on Some Higher Rates in Exchange for Entitlement Cuts

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

In Fiscal Cliff Talks, Boehner Gives on Some Higher Rates in Exchange for Entitlement Cuts

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-16-12

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Imags

Sources familiar with negotiations say that in a phone call on Friday afternoon House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, offered President Obama a deal including letting tax rates expire for those who make over $1 million a year, contingent upon significant entitlement spending cuts and reforms.

One specific example would be savings achieved by slowing the growth of Social Security.

Essentially Boehner offered $1 trillion in revenue over ten years, and somewhere between $1 trillion and $1.2 trillion in spending cuts….READ MORE

Political Headlines December 13, 2012: Speaker John Boehner & President Barack Obama Meet at White House; No ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Deal Yet

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Boehner, Obama Meet at White House; No ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Deal Yet

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-14-12

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

House Speaker John Boehner was invited to the White House Thursday afternoon for another meeting with President Obama on ways to avoid the looming “fiscal cliff.”

The 50-minute face-to-face meeting was described as a frank and candid exchange of views.  There has been no indication that any decision or agreement has been reached….READ MORE

Political Headlines December 13, 2012: President Barack Obama & Speaker John Boehner Impasse on ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Threatens Holiday, Sandy Relief

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama, Boehner Impasse on ‘Cliff’ Threatens Holiday, Sandy Relief

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-13-12

President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner just can’t seem to break through an impasse in their “fiscal cliff” talks, increasing pessimism about a deal by Christmas and now threatening to sidetrack billions in federal aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy.

After weeks of public posturing and private negotiations, both sides remain firmly dug in with their opposing positions on tax hikes and spending cuts for deficit reduction….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 10, 2012: President Barack Obama Speech on the Fiscal Cliff, Economy and Middle-Class Tax Cuts at the Daimler Detroit Diesel Plant, Redford, Michigan

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Talks About “the Idea that Built America”

Source: WH, 12-10-12

President Obama Tours the Detroit Diesel Facility, Dec. 10, 2012.President Barack Obama watches as workers explain the process of assembling connecting rods and pistons during a tour of the Detroit Diesel Facility in Redford, Mich., Dec. 10, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama was in Detroit today to talk about the economy — how companies are reinvesting in American workers and why it’s so important to extend tax cuts for middle class families.

“I believe America only succeeds and thrives when we’ve got a strong and growing middle class,” he said to the crowd at the Daimler Detroit Diesel Plant. “I believe we’re at our best when everybody who works hard has a chance to get ahead; that they can get a job that pays the bills; that they’ve got health care that they can count on; that they can retire with dignity and respect, maybe take a vacation once in a while — nothing fancy, just being able to pack up the kids and go someplace and enjoy time with people that you love; make sure that your kids can go to a good school; make sure they can aspire to whatever they want to be. That idea is what built America.”

Remarks by the President at the Daimler Detroit Diesel Plant, Redford, MI

President Obama Speaks on the Economy and Middle-Class Tax Cuts

President Obama Speaks on the Economy and Middle-Class Tax Cuts

Daimler Detroit Diesel Plant
Redford, Michigan

2:29 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Redford!  (Applause.)  It is good to be back in Michigan.  (Applause.)  How is everybody doing today? (Applause.)

Now, let me just start off by saying we have something in common — both our teams lost yesterday.  (Laughter.)  I mean, I would like to come here and talk a little smack about the Bears, but we didn’t quite get it done.  But it is wonderful to be back. It is good to see everybody in the great state of Michigan.  (Applause.)

A few people I want to acknowledge — first of all, the Mayor of Detroit here — Dave Bing is in the house.  (Applause.) We’ve got the Redford Supervisor — Tracey Schultz Kobylarz.  (Applause.)  We’ve got some outstanding members of Congress who are here — please give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

I want to thank Martin for hosting us.  I want to thank Jeff and Gibby for giving me a great tour of the factory.  (Applause.) I’ve got to say I love coming to factories.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you.  (Applause.)

So in addition to seeing the best workers in the world — (applause) — you’ve also got all this cool equipment.  (Laughter.)  I wanted to try out some of the equipment, but Secret Service wouldn’t let me.  (Laughter.)  They said, you’re going to drop something on your head, hurt yourself.  (Laughter.) They were worried I’d mess something up.  And Jeff and Gibby may not admit it, but I think they were pretty happy the Secret Service wouldn’t let me touch the equipment.  (Laughter.)

Now, it’s been a little over a month since the election came to an end.  (Applause.)  So it’s now safe for you to turn your televisions back on.  (Laughter.)  All those scary political ads are off the air.  You can answer your phone again — nobody is calling you in the middle of dinner asking for your support.  But, look, I have to admit there’s one part of the campaign that I miss, and that is it is a great excuse for me to get out of Washington and come to towns like this and talk to the people who work so hard every day and are looking out for their families and are in their communities, and just having a conversation about what kind of country do we want to be; what kind of country do we want to leave behind for our kids.  Because ultimately, that’s what this is about.

And I believe — and I’ve been saying this not just for the last six months or the last year, but ever since I got into public office — I believe America only succeeds and thrives when we’ve got a strong and growing middle class.  (Applause.)  That’s what I believe.  I believe we’re at our best when everybody who works hard has a chance to get ahead; that they can get a job that pays the bills; that they’ve got health care that they can count on; that they can retire with dignity and respect, maybe take a vacation once in a while — nothing fancy, just being able to pack up the kids and go someplace and enjoy time with people that you love; make sure that your kids can go to a good school; make sure they can aspire to whatever they want to be.

That idea is what built America.  That’s the idea that built Michigan.  That’s the idea that’s at the heart of the economic plan I’ve been talking about all year long on the campaign trail. I want to give more Americans the chance to earn the skills that businesses are looking for right now, and give our kids the kind of education they need to succeed in the 21st century.  I want to make sure America leads the world in research and technology and clean energy.  I want to put people back to work rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our schools.  (Applause.)  That’s how we grow an economy.

I want us to bring down our deficits, but I want to do it in a balanced, responsible way.  And I want to reward — I want a tax code that rewards businesses and manufacturers like Detroit Diesel right here, creating jobs right here in Redford, right here in Michigan, right here in the United States of America.  (Applause.)  That’s where we need to go.  That’s the country we need to build.  And when it comes to bringing manufacturing back to America — that’s why I’m here today.

Since 1938, Detroit Diesel has been turning out some of the best engines in the world.  (Applause.)  Over all those years, generations of Redford workers have walked through these doors.  Not just to punch a clock.  Not just to pick up a paycheck.  Not just to build an engine.  But to build a middle-class life for their families; to earn a shot at the American Dream.

For seven and a half decades, through good times and bad,  through revolutions in technology that sent a lot of good jobs — manufacturing jobs — overseas, men and women like you, your parents, maybe even your grandparents, have done your part to build up America’s manufacturing strength.  That’s something you can all be proud of.  And now you’re writing a new proud chapter to that history.  Eight years ago, you started building axles here alongside the engines.  That meant more work.  That meant more jobs.  (Applause.)  So you started seeing products — more products stamped with those three proud words:  Made in America.
Today, Daimler is announcing a new $120 million investment into this plant, creating 115 good, new union jobs building transmissions and turbochargers right here in Redford — (applause) — 115 good new jobs right here in this plant, making things happen.  That is great for the plant.  It’s great for this community.  But it’s also good for American manufacturing.  Soon, you guys will be building all the key parts that go into powering a heavy-duty truck, all at the same facility.  Nobody else in America is doing that.  Nobody else in North America is doing that.

And by putting everything together in one place, under one roof, Daimler engineers can design each part so it works better with the others.  That means greater fuel efficiency for your trucks.  It means greater savings for your customers.  That’s a big deal.  And it’s just the latest example of Daimler’s leadership on this issue.

Last year, I was proud to have your support when we announced the first-ever national fuel-efficiency standards for commercial trucks, which is going to help save consumers money and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  That’s good news.  (Applause.)

But here’s the other reason why what you guys are doing, what Daimler is doing, is so important.  For a long time, companies, they weren’t always making those kinds of investments here in the United States.  They weren’t always investing in American workers.  They certainly weren’t willing to make them in the U.S. auto industry.

Remember, it was just a few years ago that our auto industry was on the verge of collapse.  GM, Chrysler were all on the brink of failure.  And if they failed, the suppliers and distributors that get their business from those companies, they would have died off, too.  Even Ford could have gone down — production halted.  Factories shuttered.  Once proud companies chopped up and sold off for scraps.  And all of you — the men and women who built these companies with your own hands  — would have been hung out to dry.  And everybody in this community that depends on you — restaurant owners, storekeepers, bartenders — (laughter and applause) — their livelihoods would have been at stake, too.

So I wasn’t about to let that happen.  I placed my bet on American workers.  We bet on American ingenuity.  I’d make that same bet any day of the week.  (Applause.)  Three and a half years later, that bet is paying off.  This industry has added over a quarter of a million new jobs.  Assembly lines are humming again.  The American auto industry is back.

And companies like Daimler know you’re still a smart bet.  They could have made their investment somewhere else, but they didn’t.  And if you ask them whether it was a tough call, they’ll tell you it wasn’t even close.  So the word is going out all around the world:  If you want to find the best workers in the world, if you want to find the best factories in the world, if you want to build the best cars or trucks or any other product in the world, you should invest in the United States of America.  This is the place to be.  (Applause.)

See, you’re starting to see the competitive balance is tipping a little bit.  Over the past few years, it’s become more expensive to do business in countries like China.  Our workers have become even more productive.  Our energy costs are starting to go down here in the United States.  And we still have the largest market.  So when you factor in everything, it makes sense to invest here, in America.

And that’s one of the reasons why American manufacturing is growing at the fastest pace since the 1990s.  And thanks in part to that boost in manufacturing, four years after the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, our economy is growing again. Our businesses have created more than 5.5 million new jobs over the past 33 months.  So we’re making progress.  (Applause.)  We’re moving in the right direction.  We’re going forward.

So what we need to do is simple.  We need to keep going.  We need to keep going forward.  We should do everything we can to keep creating good middle-class jobs that help folks rebuild security for their families.  (Applause.)  And we should do everything we can to encourage companies like Daimler to keep investing in American workers.

And by the way, what we shouldn’t do — I just got to say this — what we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions.  (Applause.)  We shouldn’t be doing that.  (Applause.)  These so-called “right to work” laws, they don’t have to do with economics; they have everything to do with politics.  (Applause.) What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.  (Applause.)

You only have to look to Michigan — where workers were instrumental in reviving the auto industry — to see how unions have helped build not just a stronger middle class but a stronger America.  (Applause.)  So folks from our state’s capital, all the way to the nation’s capital, they should be focused on the same thing.  They should be working to make sure companies like this manufacturer is able to make more great products.  That’s what they should be focused on.  (Applause.)  We don’t want a race to the bottom.  We want a race to the top.  (Applause.)

America is not going to compete based on low-skill, low-wage, no workers’ rights.  That’s not our competitive advantage. There’s always going to be some other country that can treat its workers even worse.  Right?

AUDIENCE:  Right!

THE PRESIDENT:  What’s going to make us succeed is we got the best workers — well trained, reliable, productive, low turnover, healthy.  That’s what makes us strong.  And it also is what allows our workers then to buy the products that we make because they got enough money in their pockets.  (Applause.)

So we’ve got to get past this whole situation where we manufacture crises because of politics.  That actually leads to less certainty, more conflict, and we can’t all focus on coming together to grow.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  That’s right!

THE PRESIDENT:  And the same thing — we’re seeing the same thing in Washington.  I’m sure you’ve all heard the talk recently about some big deadlines we’re facing in a few weeks when it comes to decisions on jobs and investment and taxes.  And that debate is going to have a big impact on all of you.  Some of you may know this:  If Congress doesn’t act soon, meaning in the next few weeks, starting on January 1st, everybody is going to see their income taxes go up.

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s true.  You all don’t like that.

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  Typical, middle-class family of four will see an income tax hike of around $2,200.  How many of you can afford to pay another $2,200 in taxes?  Not you?

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  I didn’t think so.  You can’t afford to lose that money.  That’s a hit you can’t afford to take.  And, by the way, that’s not a good hit for businesses, either — because if Congress lets middle-class taxes go up, economists will tell you that means people will spend nearly $200 billion less than they otherwise would spend.  Consumer spending is going to go down.  That means you’ve got less customers.  Businesses get fewer profits.  They hire fewer workers.  You go in a downward spiral. Wrong idea.

Here is the good news:  We can solve this problem.  All Congress needs to do is pass a law that would prevent a tax hike on the first $250,000 of everybody’s income — everybody.  (Applause.)  That means 98 percent of Americans — and probably 100 percent of you — (laughter) — 97 percent of small businesses wouldn’t see their income taxes go up a single dime.  Even the wealthiest Americans would still get a tax cut on the first $250,000 of their income.  But when they start making a million, or $10 million, or $20 million you can afford to pay a little bit more.  (Applause.)  You’re not too strapped.

So Congress can do that right now.  Everybody says they agree with it.  Let’s get it done.  (Applause.)

So that’s the bare minimum.  That’s the bare minimum we should be doing in order to the grow the economy.  But we can do more.  We can do more than just extend middle-class tax cuts.  I’ve said I will work with Republicans on a plan for economic growth, job creation, and reducing our deficits.  And that has some compromise between Democrats and Republicans.  I understand people have a lot of different views.  I’m willing to compromise a little bit.

But if we’re serious about reducing our deficit, we’ve also got to be serious about investing in the things that help us grow and make the middle class strong, like education, and research and development, and making sure kids can go to college, and rebuilding our roads and our infrastructure.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to do that.

So when you put it all together, what you need is a package that keeps taxes where they are for middle-class families; we make some tough spending cuts on things that we don’t need; and then we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a slightly higher tax rate.  And that’s a principle I won’t compromise on, because I’m not going to have a situation where the wealthiest among us, including folks like me, get to keep all our tax breaks, and then we’re asking students to pay higher student loans.  Or suddenly, a school doesn’t have schoolbooks because the school district couldn’t afford it.  Or some family that has a disabled kid isn’t getting the help that they need through Medicaid.

We’re not going to do that.  We’re not going to make that tradeoff.  That’s not going to help us to grow.  Our economic success has never come from the top down; it comes from the middle out.  It comes from the bottom up.  (Applause.)  It comes from folks like you working hard, and if you’re working hard and you’re successful, then you become customers and everybody does well.

Our success as a country in this new century will be defined by how well we educate our kids, how well we train our workers, how well we invent, how well we innovate, how well we build things like cars and engines — all the things that helped create the greatest middle class the world has ever known.  That’s how you bring new jobs back to Detroit.  That’s how you bring good jobs back to America.  That’s what I’m focused on.  That’s what I will stay relentlessly focused on going forward.  (Applause.)

Because when we focus on these things –- when we stay true to ourselves and our history, there’s nothing we can’t do.  (Applause.)  And if you don’t believe me, you need to come down to this plant and see all these outstanding workers.

In fact, as I was coming over here, I was hearing about a guy named Willie.  (Applause.)  Where’s Willie?  There’s Willie right here.  There’s Willie.  (Applause.)  Now, in case you haven’t heard of him, they actually call him “Pretty Willie.”  (Laughter.)  Now, I got to say you got to be pretty tough to have a nickname like “Pretty Willie.”  (Laughter.)  He’s tough.

On Wednesday, Willie will celebrate 60 years working at Detroit Diesel — 60 years.  (Applause.)  Willie started back on December 12, 1952.  I was not born yet.  (Laughter.)  Wasn’t even close to being born.  He made $1.40 an hour.  The only time he spent away from this plant was when he was serving our country in the Korean War.  (Applause.)  So three generations of Willie’s family have passed through Detroit Diesel.  One of his daughters works here with him right now — is that right?  There she is.  (Applause.)

In all his years, Willie has been late to work only once.  It was back in 1977.  (Laughter.)  It’s been so long he can’t remember why he was late — (laughter and applause) — but we’re willing to give him a pass.

So Willie believes in hard work.  You don’t keep a job for 60 years if you don’t work hard.  Sooner or later, someone is going to fire you if you don’t work hard.  He takes pride in being part of something bigger than himself.  He’s committed to family; he’s committed to community; he’s committed to country. That’s how Willie lives his life.  That’s how all of you live your lives.

And that makes me hopeful about the future, because you’re out there fighting every day for a better future for your family and your country.  And when you do that, that means you’re creating value all across this economy.  You’re inspiring people. You’re being a good example for your kids.  That’s what makes America great.  That’s what we have to stay focused on.

And as long as I’ve got the privilege of serving as your President, I’m going to keep fighting for you.  I’m going to keep fighting for your kids.  I’m going to keep fighting for an America where anybody, no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, you can make it if you try here in America.  (Applause.)

Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  (Applause.)

END
2:51 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency December 6, 2012: President Barack Obama Speech on the Fiscal Cliff Crisis & Preventing an Income Tax Increase on the Middle Class

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Preventing an Income Tax Increase on the Middle Class

Source: WH, 12-6-12

Private Residence
Northern Virginia

2:40 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I want to, first of all, just thank Tiffany and Richard, Jimmie and Velma for opening up their beautiful home to us.  The reason that we’re here is because Tiffany is one of the people who responded to My2K.

As many of you know, we asked folks all across the country to talk a little bit about what would it mean if their income taxes went up in 2013, and Tiffany, who is a high school teacher, responded.  Her husband, Richard, works at a Toyota dealership.  They actually live with Tiffany’s parents, both of whom are still working.  And so what Tiffany pointed out was that an increase of $2,000 or so for her and her husband in this household would actually mean $4,000 that was lost.  And a couple of thousand dollars means a couple months’ rent for this family.

And the story they tell about working hard, my understanding is they’re interested in starting a business as well as the work that they currently do.  They’ve got dreams and ambitions.  They’ve got a beautiful 6-year-old son, Noah, who’s back with great-grandma.  And they’re keeping it together, they’re working hard, they’re meeting their responsibilities.

For them to be burdened unnecessarily because Democrats and Republicans aren’t coming together to solve this problem gives you a sense of the costs involved in very personal terms.  Obviously, it would also have an impact on our economy, because if this family has a couple of thousand dollars less to spend, that translates into $200 billion of less consumer spending next year.  And that’s bad for businesses large and small.  It’s bad for our economy.  It means less folks are being hired, and we can be back in a downward spiral instead of the kind of virtuous cycle that we want to see.

So the message that I got from Tiffany and the message that I think we all want to send to members of Congress is this is a solvable problem.  The Senate has already passed a bill that would make sure that middle-class taxes do not go up next year by a single dime.  Ninety-eight percent of Americans whose incomes are $250,000 a year or less would not see any increases.  Ninety-seven percent of small businesses would not see any increases in their income taxes.  And even folks who make more than $250,000 would still have a tax break for their incomes up to $250,000.  So 100 percent of Americans actually would be keeping a portion of their tax cuts, and 98 percent of them would not be seeing any increase in their income tax.

That’s the right thing to do for our economy.  It’s the right thing to do for families like Tiffany’s and Richard’s.  And it’s very important that we get this done now, that we don’t wait.  We’re in the midst of the Christmas season; I think the American people are counting on this getting solved.  The closer it gets to the brink, the more stressed they’re going to be.  Businesses are making decisions right now about investment and hiring, and if they don’t have confidence that we can get this thing done, then they’re going to start pulling back and we could have a rocky time in our economy over the next several months, or even next year.

So I’m encouraged to see that there’s been some discussion on the part of Republicans acknowledging the need for additional revenue.  As I’ve indicated, the only way to get the kind of revenue for a balanced deficit reduction plan is to make sure that we’re also modestly increasing rates for people who can afford it — folks like me.  For folks who are in the top 2 percent, we can afford to have a modest rate increase.  That allows us to not only reduce our deficit in a balanced, responsible way, it also allows us to make investments in education, in making college affordable, in putting folks back to work, and investing in basic research that’s important for our economy.

And I think we all recognize that there are some smart cuts we’ve got to make in government.  We’re going to have to strengthen our entitlement programs so that they’re there for future generations.  Everybody is going to have to share in some sacrifice, but it starts with folks who are in the best position to sacrifice, who are in the best position to do a little bit more to step up.  And that’s what my plan does.

So just to be clear, I’m not going to sign any package that somehow prevents the top rate from going up for folks at the top 2 percent.  But I do remain optimistic that we can get something done that is good for families like this one’s and that is good for the American economy.

All right.  Thank you very much, everybody.

END
2:45 P.M. EST

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