Passing the Jobs Bill: Today’s Q’s for O’s WH 10/3/2011

TAPPER: You asked about infrastructure and the Republicans. And what they are saying in this memo that was referenced earlier is that the administration should negotiate with Republicans on a — on a multiyear transportation authorization bill that fixes problems such as 10 percent of the transportation funds going to things like transportation museums, and the fact that 18 percent of the highway funds provided under stimulus are still unexpended because – their view — it’s an overly complicated and bureaucratic approval process. And so they’re talking about fixing the transportation spending system. Is that something the president could support?

CARNEY: Well, he certainly would support the idea that we can improve and make more efficient the system by which we fund infrastructure projects, and there’s a portion of the jobs act that essentially fast-tracks money to make sure that we do move projects forward more efficiently. And other ideas that the Republicans have that were contained in that letter, which I think — I might I have said at the time, but if I didn’t, you know, there were some – there were some conciliatory aspects to that that are welcome.

And we’re absolutely — not just willing, but looking forward to engaging with members of Congress on ways that we can improve the process and make it more efficient, and make it lead to both the kind of infrastructure building that is so essential for our long-term economic growth but also puts construction workers back to work sooner rather than later.

TAPPER: Is there anyone in this building, whether it’s Bill Daley or Rob Nabors or whomever, who is dealing with the Republicans in the House, and the Democrats in the Senate, and others on this bill? Or is it just, we send it up and we expect them to pass it? Is there any negotiations going on? Is there any give-and-take along the lines of what you just were talking about?

CARNEY: Well, there are always discussions between the White House, the administration and the Hill — both houses, both parties. And those continue. And since this is our number-one priority, you can be sure that this is something that is discussed.

I don’t have a — the two senior officials that you named are certainly involved in that process. There’s no one point person who’s dealing with Republicans on the Hill on this particular measure, but there are conversations regularly about our legislative priorities, including, most importantly, the American Jobs Act.

TAPPER: I guess just what’s underlying my question is, I understand and I believe the president wants this bill to pass, but it’s also a political weapon, in a sense. The president’s talking about this needs to be passed, and if Republicans don’t pass it, what are they for? And I’m trying to figure out how seriously the White House is about engaging with congressional leaders to actually get this thing passed, as opposed to talking about it on the stump.

CARNEY: Well, we’re very serious. But what we’re not — what we don’t see the need to do is to negotiate away aspects of the bill that are not controversy — controversial, are broadly supported by the American public, broadly supported by Democrats and Republicans, before there’s a chance to vote on the entire bill.

And so we look forward to the Senate taking it up, as the Senate majority leader has said it will, and as the president referred to earlier today. And then we hope that Congress as a whole, the House as well, will begin to act on it.

If, as we discussed earlier, action is taken on component parts of the bill as well as on the whole, then we will see what passes and what arrives on the president’s desk. And he’ll sign it, again, if those aspects — if they meet, you know, standards of fairness and reasonableness in terms of how they’re paid for that are very important.

But there’s no reason to — I mean, there is a political side to making this about meetings and negotiations as opposed to dealing with the content of legislation that has been prepared and packaged, ready to be taken up by Congress by this White House.

So, you know, we encourage Congress to take it up. We will continue in conversations with leadership and rank-and-file members about how to proceed. And if in fact we get to a point where Congress wants to break it up and send us portions of it, then we’ll approach it and negotiate accordingly.

But we’re not going to start off by saying, well, let’s negotiate this first piece, when in fact we’ve written the legislation, it’s self-contained, it’s totally paid for, and every provision in it is very mainstream and reasonable. And there’s no — there’s no broad objection to anything within it, so why not act on it in its entirety?

-Jake Tapper

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