Lobbying Democrats, Voting Against Raising the Debt Ceiling, and Slashing Vs Cutting: Today’s Q’s for O’s WH – 7/7/2011

Jul 7, 2011 3:29pm

TAPPER:  The White House — White House officials have repeatedly said that this cannot pass the House with just Republican votes:  You need Democratic votes as well.  What outreach has President Obama done? What conversations has he had with Democratic leaders in terms of trying to get their rank and file on board with whatever –

CARNEY:  Well, as you know, he met with the Democratic caucus in the House, the Democratic caucus in the Senate.  He has had regular conversations with the leaders of both houses in the Democratic Party, and those continue.

TAPPER:  But what has he told them — I mean, in terms of assurances, in terms of their concern about being reelected if they vote for a plan that cuts benefits for –

CARNEY:  Well, he has told them exactly what he's told you and the American people about the need — the greater good here that needs to be reached for, which is a significant agreement on deficit reduction created by an opportunity that does not come very often and has not come in Washington since the mid-90s, and that that is good for America, it's good for Democrats and it's good for Republicans, and that we ought to do it.  I mean, it really — the message is not very complicated.  The issues here have been substantive and not political because this is really a case where good policy is good politics.

TAPPER:  Also, I'm wondering if you have any response to the fact that one of the leading Republican presidential candidates, Michele Bachmann, who is a member of Congress and will vote on this, who — has said that she will not vote to raise the debt ceiling. That is –

CARNEY:  Well, I — there may be other members who feel that way.  We obviously disagree strongly, and think that it's a – it would be a mistake not to do that, because we are talking here about the United States of America defaulting on its obligations for the first time in its history.  The consequences of that, as Ronald Reagan believed, as President Obama believes, would be significant and unpredictable and in no way positive.  They would definitely be negative, the question is just how seriously negative.  And I think there's ample evidence to suggest that it would be quite serious.


(The following exchange followed Carney saying that  the president seeks to preserve and enhance Social Security’s “long-term solvency in ways that do not — that preserve the integrity of the program and doesn't slash benefits.”)

TAPPER:  What does "slash" mean?

CARNEY:  Haven't you got like a dictionary up on your iPhone?

TAPPER:  It's a word that you use instead of "cut."

CARNEY:  "Slash" is, I think, quite clear.  It's a – you know, it's a — it's slash – (motioning with his arm like a karate chop) it's like that.  (Laughter.)  It's a significant whack. So –

TAPPER:  But you have done that before –

CARNEY:  I'm not going to put a numerical figure on it.

TAPPER:  So it means a significant cut?

CARNEY:  I think slashing is, you know, a pretty sharp, direct –

TAPPER:  It's not the same thing — the point is, it's not the same thing as a cut.

CARNEY:  It's — it's slash.  (Laughter.)  And I don't mean the guitarist, you know.  (Laughter.)

TAPPER:  A pledge — a pledge to not slash benefits is not the same thing as a pledge to not cut benefits.

CARNEY:  You know, I'm not — again, we're talking about a policy enunciated by the president back in January, and that is — that is –

TAPPER: It’s the diction you guys have chosen.

CARNEY:  No, no, I get that.  And we did choose it and the president used it.  But I'm not — I'm not here to, like, negotiate the semantics of –

TAPPER:  Just so — just so everybody understands, when you say "slash," you don't mean "cut"?

CARNEY:  We've said that we — you know, that to address the long-term solvency of the problem — of the program, because this is not an issue that drives short- or medium-term deficits, that we would look — you know, the president is interested in looking at ways to strengthen the program and enhance its long-term solvency that protects the integrity of the program and doesn't slash benefits.

TAPPER:  Which is not the same thing as not cutting benefits. 

-Jake Tapper

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