Fiscal Cliff Negotiations and Drones - Today's Q's for O's WH - 12/12/12

TAPPER: A White House official told me that in his counteroffer yesterday, Speaker Boehner asked for - one of - part of his proposal was a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts for the top-two brackets - for all the Bush tax cuts, but including the top-two brackets. The House speaker's office disputes that; I was hoping that you could shed some light on the - on what exactly John Boehner in his counterproposal suggested should happen?

CARNEY: I'm not going to get into the details of the proposals that have gone back and forth. But I can say that - because it has been public in the positions that the speaker has put forward, that, you know, we do not accept the position that was outlined in the letter that the speaker sent previously that Bush tax cuts for the top earners can be extended.

The president has made clear: He will not support legislation that hands another tax cut to the wealthiest 2 percent of American earners. We can't afford it. It is bad economic policy. And the result of pursuing that policy would mean added burdens to the middle class, added burdens to seniors, added burdens to families with children who have disabilities. That's unacceptable to the president.

He is willing to make tough choices, and he has made clear and specified the spending cuts that he is willing to make. And he has said that he is willing to go further as part of a broader deficit reduction plan. But he will not extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. And it is not a plausible position, as Jason Furman from the National Economic Council made clear in his presentation to you last week, to say that we can somehow magically achieve significant revenue on the order that we need for that balanced deficit reduction package simply by closing loopholes that they will not name or capping deductions what they - that they will not specify sometime in the future.

That is - you know, those magic beans are just beans, and that fairy dust is just dust. It is not serious. And the president will not sign an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest.

TAPPER: Just to clarify, I'm telling you that a White House official told me that that was what Speaker Boehner -

CARNEY: I understand. I'm not disputing the characterization. I'm just simply saying that we know what - I mean, you know - I'm not going to talk about internal discussions that have been taking place or proposals that are changing hands. It is, I think, explicitly - and in a letter that the speaker put forward and made public -

TAPPER: Right, but that was - that was two weeks ago.

CARNEY: And I don't believe that we've heard anything from the leadership that suggests they have moved off their position. We certainly haven't heard it publicly, anything from the leadership that suggests they have changed their position, which is they want an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest and that they hold out some vague promise that they can achieve significant avenue through closing loopholes and capping deductions - again, zero specificity on how that would happen. And it's just not a position the president shares. He will not accept an extension of those tax cuts.

And remember that the letter the speaker put forward said that through that magical tax reform, they would lower rates. So even a further additional tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, it's just not plausible economic policy. And when Jason Furman stood up here and showed you why propositions suggesting that you can achieve levels of revenue that are necessary here don't hold water, you know, he did it in a fact-based way, not in a single sentence or two that promises action in the future that everyone knows isn't plausible.

TAPPER: I wasn't here when The New York Times published this report. I mean, I was off for a couple of weeks, for their report about the Obama administration drafting policy for drones in the weeks leading up to elections just in case the Obama administration was not going to be in charge for the next four years. Given the administration's desire to be - stated desire to be more open about its drone policy, as exemplified by John Brennan's speech a few months ago, is there anything more you can tell us about that policy? Is there anything more we can expect in terms of transparency and discussion about the drone policy?

CARNEY: There is nothing more that I can add to that discussion beyond what John Brennan said in his speech that you refer to. And you know, obviously the broader focus of the president on taking the actions that are necessary to keep America safe will continue.

But I don't - I don't have any more details about that issue in terms of moving forward.

TAPPER: Those actions that are done in Yemen and Pakistan and elsewhere sometimes result in civilian deaths. And yet because this program is so - is not discussed very often, certainly not from that podium but also not by the Pentagon in press releases, we don't know what is being done in the name of national security that is resulting in not just bad guys being killed but also sometimes women and children who are either related to the bad guys or just happen to be in the wrong place at the - at the wrong time. Is there no desire for greater transparency at all when it comes to this? I mean, would that not live up to the president's desire for transparency, as repeatedly stated?

CARNEY: Without discussing classified matters or other intelligence matters, I would point you to the remarks that John Brennan made, which I think demonstrate our position on these issues and the broader issue you talk about in terms of transparency. I just don't have anything new to say or to add to that conversation today.

-Jake Tapper