Political Brinksmanship & Terrorist Detention — Today’s Q’s for O’s WH — 12/13/11

TAPPER: First of all, congratulations on the 3 Pinocchios from The Washington Post fact check.

CARNEY: We obviously disagree with that. Thank you.

TAPPER: So how is this reluctance to bring up these spending bills -how is that any different from the brinksmanship that the president and the White House have decried in the past? The president wants an objective, and he's holding back another piece of legislation in order to achieve his objective.

CARNEY: Jake, as I just said, what's at stake here is potentially a $1,000, on average, tax hike for every American family, or 160 million Americans -

TAPPER: But Republicans have done similar things for different tax cuts that were about to expire, and the White House has decried them -

CARNEY: Let's be clear that Republicans uniformly have supported tax cuts. Republicans now say they are for the payroll tax cut extension. All they have to do is pass a payroll tax cut extension and unemployment insurance extension, and then move on to the spending bill.

And they could do it all - heck, they could leave a day early - have a month and a day vacation. There's ample time to do this. But what we simply cannot allow is the Republicans to take care of the spending bill and leave town, because the absolute effect of that will be a tax hike for middle-class Americans. That's just not acceptable.

TAPPER: Right.

CARNEY: And I think if they were to do that, they would test the proposition that Congress' job approval rating cannot go below 9 percent, because I think that in - my expectation is that it would go lower if Congress walked out of town refusing to extend this payroll tax cut for middle-class Americans.

TAPPER: I don't know. There's - they're down to immediate friends and family now. But the question is, is it not the same -

CARNEY: Exactly.

TAPPER: - is it not the same kind of ploy? Republicans and Democratic staffers with whom I've spoken have said this was actually, like, a really bipartisan achievement; there was a handshake from the Senate Democratic chief of staff and the House Republican chief of staff. And -

CARNEY: Jake, sure -

TAPPER: - this was a bipartisan accomplishment. And now the president is standing in its way because he wants something else. And it's the same kind of brinksmanship you guys - I'm not sure if you were at this podium at the time or not, but there was a lot of talk of holding things hostage. Republicans were holding legislation hostage. I guess you were here. And I'm wondering, is that not exactly the same thing that you're doing?

CARNEY: Look, I - the comparative - I could spend a lot of time on why what you're talking about is distinct, say, from the way that some members of one party held the country hostage and threatened to allow the full faith and credit of the United States to be cast in doubt.

TAPPER: Right, you're just -

CARNEY: That's a -

TAPPER: - threatening a government shutdown.

CARNEY: - that's a significant difference, OK? And we're not -

TAPPER: But there was a government shutdown threat before that -

CARNEY: Let me - let me go back to the spending bill. It is absolutely the case that there has been good progress made and that they are getting closer to a resolution.

But it is also absolutely a fact that there's not even been a bill filed, that the language of the so-called agreement that you reference hasn't been shared.

So to say that work is done is not accurate, and we know for a fact that there are very important issues that remain to be resolved. We're very confident they can be resolved. They will be resolved. And we're also confident that Congress will not leave town without extending the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans because the president is going to insist that they stay here until they get it done.

TAPPER: OK, and just a follow-up on the question about the defense bill. Human rights have looked at the language - the new language, and they say it still mandates the detention, the military detention of members of al-Qaida or affiliated groups and still allows indefinite detention. And I'm wondering if you could be more precise with the veto threat.

CARNEY: Mmm hmm.

TAPPER: If the legislation contains either of those provisions, allowing indefinite and mandating detention of a subset terrorist groups or accused terrorist members, would the president veto it if that provision still allows that or mandates that?

CARNEY: I'm going to disappoint you by saying that we're reviewing the language. I don't want to make an assessment of what may be in there.

TAPPER: But I'm asking you… the principle, if that -

CARNEY: Well, the principle that elicited -

TAPPER: - or it's not.

CARNEY: - that elicited the language I quoted from our statement of policy that, as written… that the president's senior advisers would recommend a veto - that stands. But I don't want to make an assessment without having seen it myself or without others having reviewed it about whether or not the changes in the language are adequate and resolve those issues that we have with the bill at this point. I'm sure we will be doing that. But at this point, I don't want to get ahead of that process.

- Jake Tapper

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