Fiscal Cliff Negotiations, Plan B, and Violence in Michigan - Today's Q's for O's WH - 12/13/2012

TAPPER: Is this - was the offer that Speaker Boehner made on Tuesday different from the offer that he had made previously?

CARNEY: Again, I'm not going to get into -

TAPPER: I'm not asking for specifics.

CARNEY: Well, that is a specific difference. What I can say is we have yet to see -

TAPPER: Well, it's the - you say that the president's not going to negotiate with himself -

CARNEY: Here's what I will tell -

TAPPER: - - which suggests that Speaker Boehner -

CARNEY: Right.

TAPPER: - wasn't offering something different.

CARNEY: So - fair enough. Here's what I will say, is that on the fundamental obstacle, the answer is no. We have not seen in any of our conversations or in offers any difference in the stated position by the speaker of the House when it comes to revenues.

And you know, the irony of even the proposal that was in the speaker's letter and that has been, you know, put forward as the speaker's - you know, the Republican position - they call - promises 800 billion (dollars) in revenue, which is not enough to create the balanced plan that's necessary for our broad-based deficit reduction goals. But even that 800 billion (dollars) has totally - been totally unspecified, beyond their insistence that lower tax rates be extended for the wealthiest Americans. So you know, that's where it stands.

TAPPER: Maybe the 800 billion (dollars) is part of the 1.2 trillion (dollars) that the president said would be in tax deductions and limiting - closing loopholes last year.

CARNEY: If - again, we've seen no specificity, and what Jason Furman got up here and described to you in great detail - using solid facts and analysis by independent economists, not reports commissioned by industry in support of a political agenda - makes it very clear that we cannot achieve the kind of revenue necessary through - simply through cutting deductions or capping deductions and closing loopholes, limited to the wealthy or to those making more than $250,000, in any economically sensible or politically feasible way. It's just not possible. So again, you can - you can write that -

TAPPER: There are other - there are other contentious issues -

CARNEY: Sure.

TAPPER: - for instance, House Republicans think that the degree to which spending will be reduced or cut is a big contentious issue. Is the speaker's second proposal not - was it not different a little bit, at least, on from its first proposal - (inaudible) - spending cuts?

CARNEY: It - we have not seen any specificity when it comes to spending cuts. We know that Republicans want greater spending cuts, but we don't know how they would achieve them, what their proposals are. You know, if it - if it is - if the answer, which we haven't heard, but if the answer is, well, go look at the Ryan budget, we - you know, we know that, A, that lacks specificity too, always did, and B, that it contains the voucherization of Medicare, which is not happening.

So that doesn't mean that there are not serious and credible ways to further reduce spending that this president would entertain and be able to come to an agreement on with Republicans. We believe there are. And this president's made clear that he understands that this - that this is not easy, that he will not get everything that he wants, that his plan as written will not be what's passed and signed into law, and he is willing to make tough choices. But there are some clear, you know, red lines when it comes to how we build a broader deficit reduction package. And one red line is, he will not sign into law an extension of tax cuts for the top 2 percent. We can't afford it, and it's bad economic policy.

TAPPER: Is there any sort of Plan B being discussed, whether with the Speaker or on some sort of separate track, so that if there isn't a deal cut, there is at least some way to pass the 98 percent - extending the tax cuts for 98 percent and paying down some of the sequestered spending cuts, at least for a few months until something can be worked out? Is there any effort being made by Mr. Nabors or anybody in the White House to at least have that ready, so we don't entirely go over the cliff on January 1st?

CARNEY: It's a good question. We still believe that a big deal is possible. We believe the parameters are there, and we remain confident that if Republicans agree with the basic idea that rates have to go up for the wealthiest while we extend tax cuts for everyone else, that we can reach a deal fairly quickly.

You know, one - yes, I mean, one aspect of a - of a way to deal with this at the very least, would be to pass the tax cuts for 98 percent of the American people. That would deal with a chunk of the so-called fiscal cliff. And - you know, I am sure that there are others who have - as part of putting together a bigger proposal, but also, you know, independent from that, I'm sure there are ways to address issues of the fiscal cliff.

The president believes that this is an opportune time to think bigger than that, to do more than that, to try to pass a broad package that, you know, combined with the spending cuts already signed into law, achieves the kind of significant deficit reduction that puts us on a fiscally sustainable path for a decade. And he doesn't want to pass up that opportunity.

TAPPER: Got it.

CARNEY: So I'm saying that there are -

TAPPER: But is there any sort of "in case of emergency, break glass"? Is there some sort of Plan B?

CARNEY: In case - you know, in case of emergency, the House should break the glass, the House speaker ought to allow the Republicans to vote on extending tax cuts for 98 percent of the American people. That would deal with a chunk of the so-called fiscal cliff.

And I - you know, I will refrain from reading the quotations from congressman after congressman of the Republican Party, as well as senators, who said that we should - we should do that at the very least. And, you know, I'm hoping that and the president hopes that those voices are heard and that action is taken because, you know, the dysfunction that appears to continue to exist in Washington should not result in punishment for the middle class. That's unfair, and it's bad for our economy.

TAPPER: One last question. The president went to Michigan, and he weighed into the local controversy there involving right to work. There has - there was violence at some of the demonstrations with the union activists being involved. I was wondering if the president was aware of any of this violence, if he had any response to it.

CARNEY: I haven't discussed reports like that with him, but - so I'm not sure if he's aware of it. But we would deplore violence in any case. And the president feels very strongly - as he said on his visit to Michigan the other day, right-to-work laws are really, you know, right-to-be-paid-less laws and that, you know, they reflect a political agenda, not an economic agenda, and he opposes them. You know, we should not make it harder for workers to organize, and that's his position. But certainly, we do not support violence.

-Jake Tapper

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