NOTE: The president appeared at the top of the briefing to gingerly endorse the ideas behind a new deficit reduction outline being offered by a bipartisan group of senators nicknamed the “Gang of Six.”
TAPPER: When would you announce whether you support the Gang of Six plan? Would that be in the next day?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I — as I said, I think what you're going to be seeing is an evaluation of that plan versus the things that we've been looking at. I think what you're going to see is some significant overlap. But obviously, just because we might agree in principle with a range of issues with six senators, or seven senators, that doesn't get us out of the House of Representatives, that doesn't get us out of the Senate. There's going to have to be a broader agreement on the part of all the leadership that we're going to get this done in a serious way. And we've got a tight deadline to do it.
TAPPER: Do you think it's a fair criticism at all of the president and the White House that there has not been a plan presented from him on paper to the American people that they can judge for themselves? The House has voted on a plan. I understand you don't like it, but it is a plan. It's on paper. People can judge it.
CARNEY: Jake, the president put forward a budget. The president put forward a framework. The president has made clear in his negotiations with congressional leadership exactly and in great detail what a grand bargain, if you will, would look like and the — and the steps he'd be willing to take and the measures he'd be willing to support to make that happen. And the suggestion –
TAPPER: Your budget didn’t address deficit reduction, though. I mean, that was –
CARNEY: The suggestion he also came to an agreement with Congress for funding fiscal year 9/11 — I mean, fiscal year — sorry, 2011, that represented substantial historic cuts in spending.
The fact is that any assertion that the president has not been specific and that the members of Congress who have been in the room don't know what this administration, this president's willing to do -
TAPPER: That’s not what I asked about.
CARNEY: — are — but it stems from the calls by Republicans for some plan to put — be put forward. Our argument is what we're willing to do is clear. He has spoken about it as recently as last week, late last week with you in general terms about what we're discussing. You know, the parameters of what this looks like are not very complicated. And calls for plans and symbolic votes and that sort of thing are efforts to slow the process at a point where we don't have a lot of time. It's gorilla dust. As I've said in the past, this is not — you know, we — there is no mystery here about what we need to do and what a bipartisan, balanced approach would look like.
And what it would require of all parties — there are now substantial plans that mirror that bipartisan, balanced approach that are on the table in great detail. And again, there is the president's framework and the conversations he's had with leaders.
TAPPER: What you have is you have the House –
CARNEY: That's a very long way of saying, no, I don't agree with that criticism.
TAPPER: OK. The House is passing something that many observers feel would never pass the Senate and the president has said he would veto. The Senate is passing — the McConnell-Reid plan, it's not clear that that could pass the House. The Gang of Seven plan, it's not clear that that could pass the House. Would this not be an opportune time for a president to lead and say, this –
CARNEY: Leadership is not proposing a plan for the sake of having it voted up or down, and likely voted down because it is — look, you know how this town works and how Congress works. If an individual, whether Democrat or Republican leader, steps forward and says, this is my plan and solely my plan, it makes it a lot harder for that plan to be the basis for a bipartisan compromise. The way to reach a bipartisan compromise is in bipartisan negotiations where a plan emerges that is the product of that negotiation and is supported by Republicans and Democrats and then presented. Otherwise, your chances of actually achieving something diminish greatly. And I think there is certainly plenty of history to support that idea, and that's the approach.
And this is what the president and others have talked about. Bob Dole, Senator — former Senator Dole talked about it, the way these things work. So you — you have to get in the boat together so the boat doesn't tip over. That's the approach the president's taken, not because he wants to win political points but because he wants to get a deal that the American people can support.
TAPPER: Every time there have been specifics on the table, the president has not gotten in the boat. With his own deficit commission, he didn't get in that boat.
CARNEY: Jake, we can — we can argue about this, or we could — you could have me on and we can talk about this. The president's been very clear about what he's willing to do. And the way the president has approached these negotiations has been designed precisely to achieve a result, and not to achieve political points.
TAPPER: How's that working out for you?
CARNEY: We're closer now than we've ever been.