Today’s Qs for O’s WH – 5/5/2009

May 5, 2009 2:58pm

TAPPER:  To follow-up on a couple of issues; one, regarding the Pennsylvania primary, President Obama has said he will commit to Senator Arlen Specter. Today Congressman Sestak of Pennsylvania said he’s "inclined" to challenge Specter in the primary. Given the fact that Specter, his very first vote as a Democrat was against the president’s budget, is there anything that Specter could do that would — that, in terms of voting against the president, that would change the president…campaigning for him, against a Democrat who is more in line with the president’s priorities?

GIBBS:  You know, I think the president was pretty clear on this. Senator Specter has his full support and he’ll do what — what’s necessary to see him reelected.  I think Senator Specter said it the day he made his announcement that he’s going to make decisions on individual bills, but I think him switching to the Democratic Party was a belief that that’s the party that could best serve his constituents. We don’t get 100 — we don’t generally get 100 percent of any party voting for us, but we’ll continue to try.

TAPPER:  OK.  And then following up on the president’s announcement yesterday about tax havens, the president’s trade representative, Ron Kirk, has said that the administration is pushing for a trade agreement with Panama.  Panama is one of the tax havens that’s been cited by various organizations that look at countries that have these tax havens. And as part of the trade agreement, according to Public Citizen, there would be a lift on the amount of money that can be wired from the U.S. to Panama.  Is the Obama administration going to be pushing for the elimination of Panama as a tax haven as part of this anti-tax haven effort?
GIBBS:  Let me check with USTR and folks here on what’s in the trade agreement and some of the statements that have been made.  I don’t have any of that with me, but I’ll check on it.*

– jpt

* UPDATE: Carol Guthrie, a spokeswoman for US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, tells ABC News that "Ambassador Kirk has been always been very clear that it will be necessary to address outstanding issues on labor and tax policies, and we continue to work on those tax issues.  Our refusal to tolerate tax havens is precisely why we’re working with the Panamanian government to address concerns regarding its international tax policies.  We can work to improve international tax practices and open markets for entrepreneurs and workers at the same time."

Guthrie adds that the free trade agreement "actually does specifically include exceptions that would allow us to restrict or limit capital transfers in various circumstances, including to protect against tax evasion and money laundering."

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