Today’s Qs for O’s WH

Feb 12, 2010 2:19pm

TAPPER:  Last month I asked you if the president had an opinion on some of the discussions in changing the Senate rules so that the Republicans — or the minority whomever in the future — wouldn't be able to demand cloture, 60 votes as often. You said you'd check with leg affairs. My understanding is that one of the president's close allies in the Senate, Dick Durbin, is throwing his support behind the bill from — Tom Harkin brought up that would introduce a sliding scale so the 60- vote thing wouldn't be required as often. Have you guys discussed it with Senator Durbin?  Do you have a (inaudible) on this?
  
GIBBS:  Let me check again on — on whether Senator Durbin — whether we've had conversations with Senator Durbin.  Look, I know there's been great frustration on either side of — either on this side or on Capitol Hill about the sheer amount of times in which cloture has needed to be invoked. The — we've certainly discussed the frustrations of, particularly as it relates to non-controversial legislation or non- controversial nominees.  We went through the — you heard the president discuss, you know, GSA director that had been stalled for nine months, had to seek cloture.  Cloture wasn't a close vote, and then she was approved 96 to nothing.  I think at that point you realize that this is the — this is a rule that is being — that is being abused.  I — I will check with — whether any conversations have been had with Senator Durbin about Senator Harkin's legislation.
  
TAPPER:  OK.  And then just to follow up on — on Ben's* question about the bipartisan jobs bill that Schumer, Hatch, Grassley and Baucus have been working on.  The reason that was given, it's my understanding, by — by Majority Leader Reid for scrapping that effort, much to the dismay of the senators who have been working on it, is that there were protests from some of the more liberal or progressive members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate.  Isn't this kind of bipartisan move that those four senators, bipartisan senators, had been working on exactly what the president has been talking about?  And isn't Harry Reid's move to scrap it, regardless of what comes out of the Senate eventually, isn't that contrary to what the president's been talking about?
  
GIBBS:  No, again — I — I — I think what — again…
  
TAPPER:  You guys put your support behind the bipartisan effort.
  
GIBBS:  And — and we certainly support working in a bipartisan way to get these things done.  Whether the vehicle goes — Jake, whether the vehicle is the four items that Senator Reid has now; whether that includes unemployment and COBRA extensions now; whether that includes extension for SBA lending; whether it includes tax extenders; whether it includes disaster relief — those are discussions that they'll have. Again, I — I believe that — I — I believe that many of these — many of these will be implemented and voted on and approved with strong bipartisan — bipartisan majorities.
  
TAPPER:  Right, but you guys obviously have lent your support to the bipartisan effort.  These four senators have been working hard on this bipartisan effort.  And then Senator Reid, because of apparent concerns from liberal Democrats, scrapped it.  That had to have been disappointing to the president and antithetical to his calls for bipartisanship.
  
GIBBS:  Well, what I was saying is — I — I don't — I do not think that — I do not think that taking — first of all, the — the main part of the piece of legislation that Senator Reid will have the Senate vote on is the Schumer-Hatch jobs tax credit. So I think there — what legislative vehicle many of these bipartisan ideas, whatever it moves on I think is — is in some ways not quite as important as demonstrating that we can work together. Putting as the centerpiece of a bill that's going to move when the Senate comes back from recess a bipartisan jobs tax credit I think sends the inappropriate message to small businesses around the country that Washington can work together to create an environment that incentivizes the additional hiring of workers at small businesses.  I think that's what the president has talked about.
  
TAPPER:  But to paraphrase the president, bipartisanship can't just be adopting one person's set of ideas.  I understand Hatch and Schumer were working on that tax credit together, but that was something that was the president's proposal, it was a Democratic idea ultimately.  I mean, the president…
  
GIBBS:  Well, I don't know that — well…
  
TAPPER:  The hiring tax credit?  I mean…
  
(CROSSTALK)
  
GIBBS:  … I think the hiring tax credit was — is a proposal that the president offered — I'm not sure you would consider Senator Hatch to be somehow overly sympathetic to the White House's view on these issues.  I think it demonstrates…
  
(CROSSTALK)
  
TAPPER:  … part of a larger package.  That's my point.
  
(CROSSTALK)
  
GIBBS:  … a messier — my messier way of saying, I think if you look at  both what's in this legislation, and I think if you look at what isn't in this legislation but will ultimately move, I can't imagine a scenario in which extending unemployment benefits for those that have been out of work and having those benefits expire isn't going to garner bipartisan support.  Extending health care…
  
(CROSSTALK)
  
TAPPER:  It just looks like a jobs version of when the president was asked about, the other day when he was here, and he was asked about Mitch McConnell talking about how they could support — Republicans could support nuclear energy or…
  
GIBBS:  But you're…
  
(CROSSTALK)
  
TAPPER:  … or clean coal technology…
  
GIBBS:  … what you're assuming…
  
TAPPER:  … and the president's response was — the president's response was, well, of course, they like — I mean, I'm paraphrasing — but of course they like that, those are Republican ideas that we're offering in the name of bipartisanship.  And so what's going on here is the reverse, Harry Reid…
  
GIBBS:  No, no, no, no…
  
TAPPER:  … taking out the one Democratic idea.
  
GIBBS:  Do you think helping small businesses grow by allowing them to  write off part of their expenditures is just something that's a Democratic idea?  Do think extending the Highway — the Highway Trust Fund extension is somehow a uniquely Democratic idea? I think if you were to break the four components of that bill out individually, each of those would garner strong bipartisan support. So I — look, I think we are in some ways over-reading some of this because, again, I think — personally believe that the four components of this bill, several components that were in the bipartisan bill but aren't in the Reid bill will still be bipartisan.  I think — I don't think any of the ideas that I've listed here today are uniquely De
mocratic ideas that have dispensed with Republican ideas in their stead.

*Ben Feller of the Associated Press

-jpt

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