Tonight’s Q for President Obama

By Jaketapper

Mar 24, 2009 10:17pm

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Jake?

TAPPER: Thank you, Mr. President. Right now on Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats are writing a budget, and according to press accounts and their own statements, they’re not including the middle-class tax cut that you include in the stimulus. They’re talking about phasing that out. They’re not including the cap-and-trade that you have in your budget, and they’re not including other measures.  I know when you outlined your four priorities over the weekend, a number of these things were not in there. Will you sign a budget if it does not contain a middle-class tax cut, does not contain cap-and- trade?*

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I’ve emphasized repeatedly what I expect out of this budget. I expect that there’s serious efforts at health care reform, and that we are driving down costs for families and businesses, and ultimately for the federal and state governments that are going to be broke if we continue on the current path. I’ve said that we’ve got to have a serious energy policy that frees ourselves from dependence on foreign oil and makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy. We’ve got to invest in education, K through 12 and beyond, to upgrade the skills of the American worker so we can compete in — in the international economy. And I’ve said that we’ve got to start driving our deficit numbers down.

Now, we never expected, when we printed out our budget, that they would simply Xerox it and vote on it. We assume that it has to go through the legislative process. I have not yet seen the final product coming out of the Senate or the House, and we’re in constant conversations with them. I am confident that the budget we put forward will have those principles in place.

When it comes to the middle-class tax cut, we already had that in the recovery. We know that that’s going to be in place for at least the next two years. We had identified a specific way to pay for it. If Congress has better ideas in terms of how to pay for it, then we’re happy to listen.

When it comes to cap-and-trade, the broader principle is that we’ve got to move to a new energy era. And that means moving away from polluting energy sources towards cleaner energy sources.

That is a potential engine for economic growth.  I think cap-and-trade is the best way, from my perspective, to achieve some of those gains, because what it does is it starts pricing the pollution that’s being sent into the atmosphere. The way it’s structured, it has to take into account regional differences. It has to protect consumers from huge spikes in electricity prices. So there are a — a lot of technical issues that are going to have to be sorted through.

Our point in the budget is, let’s get started now. We can’t wait. And my expectation is that the energy committees, or other relevant committees in both the House and the Senate, are going to be moving forward a strong energy package. It’ll be authorized. We’ll get it done. And I will sign it. Okay?

TAPPER: So is that a yes, sir? You’re willing to sign a budget that doesn’t have those two provisions?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No; I — what I said was — is I haven’t seen yet what provisions are in there. The bottom line is — is that I want to see health care, energy, education and serious efforts to reduce our budget deficit.  And there are going to be a lot of details that are still being worked out. But I have confidence that we’re going to be able to get a budget done that’s reflective of what needs to happen in order to make sure that America grows.

(* One note: I may have been overly colloquial in my question — presidents don’t literally "sign" budget resolutions, which is what Congress is currently debating, though they do sign budget reconciliations. I meant would he be willing to sign off, support, get behind a budget resolution that doesn’t include those provisions since what Congress passes in the form of a resolution will likely say much about the budget reconciliation he ultimately signs. The larger issue of course, is that presidents have to make choices, which is what he seems to be signaling he’s willing to do here.)

- jpt

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