TAPPER: Two questions. One is, why would the decision be made, or how is the decision made that troops, who you say will continue to be fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, would not receive paychecks while Social Security checks –
DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR MANAGEMENT AT THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET JEFF ZIENTS: That’s actually — that’s actually not a decision. That comes from what is their funding source. And if we have no money in the annual appropriations we can’t pay the troops. So they will continue to earn their money, but they will not receive paychecks.
TAPPER: Just because it’s a different source than Social Security.
TAPPER: And then the other question I have is it sounds like it would — based on what you’re saying it would be a good idea for President Obama to sign the short-term funding bill that the House Republicans are putting out that we just got a veto threat about. Would it not be better for the country?
CARNEY: Jake, I think, as you mentioned, we have issued a veto threat on that measure, and the reasoning behind that is precisely because the President has signed several short-term extensions to allow for time to continue negotiations. Those negotiations have gone on for quite a while now. They, at the highest level, begin again in a few minutes. And he remains confident that if all sides are reasonable, all sides are willing to give, all sides are willing to accept that they cannot get 100 percent of what they want, that we should get this done.
He has said also that he willing to sign a short-term CR that is essentially clean, that allows for time to get an agreement that might be reached — time for that agreement to work its way through the Congress because of the rules and procedures in the Congress. But he does not believe that we should sign another short-term measure that carries within it a lot of policy implications in order to kick this can down the road and pay the tollbooth any longer. It is simply no way to do business.
We are at a point now, as you know, where the President and Democrats have demonstrated their willingness to come more than halfway, if you — towards the Republicans. If you start here with zero and here with 100, 73 is quite a distance. If you start here with zero and here with 61, 33 is significantly more than halfway. And in these negotiations, what has to happen is a closing of the gap, not a furthering of the gap. That’s our position.
And we also believe, as the President said last night — for those of you who stayed late — and has said previously, that this is not the vehicle, this is not the appropriate vehicle to have ideological or political agenda items debated and voted on. They can be done elsewhere. This work needs to be completed. The funding of the government, the substantial spending cuts that are included in these measures and that the President and Democrats are very willing to support, that needs to be done. And it can be done very quickly if all sides are reasonable and reach an agreement.
TAPPER: And the veto threat, I didn’t see — other than the idea that it serves as a distraction, I didn’t see enumerated the policy implications that you’re talking about. Can you explain what is in this short-term CR that the President finds objectionable?
CARNEY: The point is, is that the President and the Democrats, we have been negotiating in good faith and we have closed the gap. As the President said last night in the meeting he had, a long meeting with the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader, that it clarified some of the issues that remained, it narrowed the number of issues that remain, and staff worked literally through the night on those issues, and that we have already demonstrated how we can get to substantial spending cuts — the largest in history, larger as a percentage of the GDP since 1982 in Ronald Reagan’s first term.
That is the President’s position. It is the Democrats’ position. We do not need another short-term measure with $12 billion of additional spending cuts separate from these negotiations because we are now at a point where we can get the deal done. The people expect us to get the deal done. It is simply small ball compared to the big issues that we face, and it is enormously frustrating I think for most Americans to see politics or other issues separate — create a situation, a stalemate situation, that could lead to a shutdown of government that creates the kind of problems that Jeff just enumerated. That’s why the President called the meeting today; that’s why he called it last night; that’s why he is so focused on it right now, so we can get this done.
TAPPER: While the President was working with congressional leaders throughout 2010, does he wish that he had asked them to pass a budget for fiscal year 2011?
CARNEY: Look, I think the President was very hopeful at the end of last year that funding for the full year could have been achieved. It was obviously a time with a lot on the table. And there was, as you remember, an unexpected by most, I think, observers and very significant bipartisan agreement on a tax cut compromise and further measures to help advance the recovery that was taking hold last year.
So he — he obviously fully supports and has always supported the idea that Congress would get its work done and move forward. But these are complicated issues — or they can be. What is the case on this, is that we have been focused on this portion of the fiscal year now for many, many weeks. We have — the President has signed into law already several extensions, continuing resolutions with significant spending cuts contained within them in order to allow more time to get — to reach a compromise.
It is — we are well past time for that to take place. It is — the issues that confront us here at the White House and on Capitol Hill are too large to continue to linger over this negotiation, because we should just get a deal and move on.
TAPPER: I interviewed a number of people who will be hurt by a government shutdown; President Obama cited one of them last night. I don’t really sense that they care much about whether or not the President is fed up with the number of continuing resolutions. I think they just want to be able to get their tax refunds and their military pay.
CARNEY: And my guess is that they’re fed up with the noise they hear from Washington when they find out that they’re — in the scope of the size of the economy and the distance of their differences, that Washington can’t simply get this done and be reasonable. And, again, we simply say — and obviously we rely on those who hear us speak and write about our positions — we believe we have been, the President has been very reasonable and demonstrated a significant willingness to find common ground. So what I would say –
TAPPER: Can I finish my question?
CARNEY: Let me just — let me finish my answer, then you can finish your question. But the — he entirely sympathizes, and I think that’s why he cited the gentleman that you referenced, with the uncertainty this creates. It should not be this way. It does not need to be this way. And passing a continuing resolution for another week so we can kick the can down the field a little further without focusing on what we can get done now does not add to the certainty that the economy needs or that individuals need.
TAPPER: Right, but my point would be I think that they –
CARNEY: This is a question, not a debate, right?
TAPPER: Yes. What I want to know is, what would the President say if somebody says, wait a second, you mean you actually — the Republicans are offering another short-term resolution so I will get paid next week, but you just don’t want to sign it because you’re fed up with the -
CARNEY: Well, the President supports a clean — an essentially — a simple continuing resolution that would allow that to happen –
TAPPER: So it isn’t –
CARNEY: — to allow — includes $12 billion in additional spending cuts which then — there are already $73 billion in the proposal on the table from the President and the Democrats — and muddies the issue, again, when we are on the verge of a potential compromise. So we are focused on the work at hand today and we believe that it can get done. We believe the American people want it done. We take the leaders of Congress at their word that they want it done. And that’s why he’s in there now.