Aboard Air Force One
En Route Cedar Rapids, Iowa
11:24 A.M. EST
MR. CARNEY: Good morning, everyone. How are you? Welcome to the first leg of the President's three-day trip following his State of the Union address.
As you know, I believe, President Obama will visit Conveyor Engineering and Manufacturing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to discuss the American manufacturing pillar he laid out in last night's State of the Union address.
Conveyor Engineering and Manufacturing specializes in handcrafted custom machinery for large-scale processing of raw agricultural products used in the ethanol, food service, and related industries. The family-owned business employs approximately 65 workers, and began as a small shop in 1977. Three years ago, Conveyor moved into a new custom-built facility that more than doubled the size of its manufacturing space.
Under the new manufacturing policies the President proposed in the State of the Union, Conveyor would receive an increased manufacturing tax credit.
At the company, the President will tour the factory floor and deliver remarks to an audience of several hundred, including employees and invited guests.
During the three-stop tour, led by President Graig Cone, and operations manager Jeff Baxter, the President will see custom machinery that will be shipped to clients across the country. Prior to his remarks, the President will be introduced by Mr. Baxter, the operations manager.
I can also give you a little readout on the next stop, if that would be helpful.
MR. CARNEY: The President will visit Intel's Ocotillo campus in Chandler, Arizona, to deliver remarks on American manufacturing. The Ocotillo campus is the site of a new chip manufacturing facility called Fab 42, whose groundbreaking Intel announced when President Obama visited the company's Oregon facility last February.
Intel is making a $5 billion investment to build the new Fab 42 facility, bringing thousands of construction and permanent manufacturing jobs to Arizona. When completed in 2013, Fab 42 will be the most advanced high-volume semiconductor manufacturing plant in the world. Intel would benefit from a number of the policies President Obama laid out in the State of the Union address, including tax breaks for high-tech manufacturers and companies that choose to stay or bring jobs back to America.
The President will deliver remarks to an audience of several thousand people including Intel employees and guests in front of the Fab 42 construction site. He will be introduced by Preston McDaniel, the senior program manager responsible for all aspects of Intel's Fab 42 factory construction.
That is my readout of the upcoming events, at the beginning of this fantastic trip. Questions, please.
Q Can you tell us about the Somali pirate operation and what led the President to make those remarks to Leon Panetta last night?
MR. CARNEY: Well, it is true that the President, when he saw the Secretary of Defense, as well as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was congratulating them on a successful mission because he had been informed at, I believe, 6:43 p.m. of the success of the mission to rescue the American hostage as well as the Danish hostage.
What led to it was the President was apprised of the fact that Jessica Buchanan had been taken hostage back on, I believe it was October 25th -- he was apprised of it the next day, of the kidnapping, and was updated on it regularly.
I think the Department of Defense has more details on this, but the decision to go ahead with this rescue mission was made because there was information concerning the deteriorating health of Ms. Buchanan, as well as a window of opportunity to try to execute this mission. The President made the decision about 9:00 p.m. on -- let me make sure I get this right -- 9:00 p.m. on Monday night -- that's right -- when his counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, briefed the President in the residence at approximately 9:00 p.m. on Monday night. And the President authorized the operation to proceed.
Throughout the day yesterday, the President received updates from Mr. Brennan and was told at 6:43 p.m. that Ms. Buchanan and Mr. Thisted were safe and in U.S. hands.
Q Jay, did the President speak to the SEAL team or the SEAL team commander today expressing his --
MR. CARNEY: I have no calls to report. He did call -- upon return from finishing the State of the Union address, he called Ms. Buchanan's father at 10:32 p.m. -- John Buchanan -- and informed him of the successful mission.
Q Was there any concurrent Situation Room monitoring of this whole thing, like the situation that went on during the bin Laden operation?
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to the Department of Defense for that kind of information. The mission was, as you would expect, monitored very closely throughout --
Q I mean, in the White House Situation Room --
MR. CARNEY: I think I just said that John Brennan was briefing the President regularly in his offices in the White House.
Q How does the President feel today about how the State of the Union went last night, the reaction to it?
MR. CARNEY: He feels very positive. He feels -- he felt good about the speech. He felt very satisfied with the way the speech came together and the message about laying out a Blueprint for an America Built to Last was both -- was well received both in the hall and outside, across the country.
So he understands that while many millions of Americans watched the speech last night, that part of his responsibility as President to try to move this agenda forward is to get out and talk about it around the country, which is why he's embarked on this trip today.
Q Jay, the President has been talking about "we can’t wait," but yesterday he talked a lot about initiatives that would require congressional action, some of which have failed in the past -- oil subsidies -- cutting oil subsidies, fee on big banks, those sorts of things. What kind of expectation does he honestly have that these things will happen, or are they merely kind of leverage points in order to get other things from them?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll make two points, Jim -- I appreciate the question. As we’ve said all along, the President is using every tool in his toolbox to try to advance his economic and jobs agenda. That includes working with Congress on things that require legislative action, but it also includes doing everything he can through executive action. And that was reflected in the State of the Union address last night. That has always been the case, and again, it was reflected last night.
He’s not naïve about the kind of resistance that he’s faced from Republican members of Congress and the obstructionist approach that many Republicans have taken to what is by any clear-eyed definition a very common-sense, centrist agenda. But he’s also optimistic that there will be opportunities this year to move important pieces of business through Congress, not because suddenly Republicans will relent out of charity or goodwill, but because they will be under pressure from their constituents to show that they’re doing something constructive to grow the economy and create jobs.
As I’ve said before, every single member of the House of Representatives who’s not retiring is up for reelection this fall, not just the President. A third of the Senate is up for reelection. And each of those elected representatives will have to explain to his or her constituents what they did in this Congress that helped the United States of America, helped the economy, helped create jobs. And if the answer is, I just opposed everything that President Obama put forward because President Obama put it forward, even though a lot of his ideas reflected input from Republicans or had their genesis in bipartisan proposals of the past, I think that’s a hard message to sell.
So we’re hopeful that on a broad array of issues, whether it’s helping ensure that Americans -- that every American can refinance, every responsible homeowner can refinance his or her home mortgage loan, or extending the payroll tax cut, or taking the action that the President will talk about today to enhance American manufacturing, make changes that are deficit-neutral to enhance American manufacturing -- is it really the position -- would it be the position of any member of Congress that they're against building the American manufacturing sector in this country, increasing the number of jobs that are available to Americans from that sector of the economy? Again, I’d like to hear the argument for that one.
Q On the Buffett Rule, how did the President ultimately settle on 30 percent? And what have you guys thought about to put in place to prevent it from hitting small businesses?
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, I’m not going to give you a schedule of how broad individual tax reform would break down and what impact it would have on capital gains or dividends or -- the principle the President laid out would guide, he believes very strongly should guide, tax reform. The 30 percent makes a lot of sense and it’s not surprising because Warren Buffett, on this issue, himself has made a lot of sense, and it was the figure I believe Mr. Buffett also put forward.
Again, it’s a principle, and there’s a lot of data to back it up, that there are a lot of very fortunate Americans, millionaires and billionaires, who pay taxes at a substantially lower rate than many, many millions of Americans of more modest means. The President simply believes that as a matter of principle, that unfairness ought to be changed. And not because it’s class warfare, but because we have important priorities that need to be addressed in this country -- our national security, our investments in education and infrastructure, our commitments to our seniors -- and we are in a situation where we have to be very mindful of our fiscal health.
So those are choices that have to be made, because if you don’t insist that the tax code be fairer, that everyone does their fair share, then somebody else has to get stuck with the bill: seniors, middle-class Americans, kids with disabilities.
It’s just -- it’s a choice that -- or you just load up on the deficit and the debt. And the President is opposed to that. We’ve heard of a lot of tax plans lately that, among other things, would do the reverse of the Buffett Rule. They would lower taxes for millionaires and billionaires who are paying at a much lower rate than a lot of Americans with moderate incomes or eliminate them entirely. That’s not the right approach. And in addition to doing that -- or as a result of doing that, they would further add to our deficit and debt. The President believes that’s the wrong approach.
Q Jay, he had a fairly pointed tone against the lack of bipartisanship in Washington yesterday. Are we going to see that tone continue in these next five stops?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that as we move through these three days. The President feels very strongly that outside of the Beltway, the nation is not nearly as divided as it is in Washington, and that the partisanship for partisanship’s sake is excessive and frustrating for most Americans. They just want to see Washington work on the problems that they face every day.
So I think, broadly speaking, the tone that the President adopted last night will be reflected going forward, but it was also a very positive and optimistic tone. He is -- he rejects the idea that there are challenges out there that we can't solve. He rejects the idea that America is somehow in decline. In fact, he feels just the opposite.
And the remarkable progress that has been made in the last couple of years since the worst recession since the Great Depression only reinforces his opinion that we’re going to emerge stronger and better and with an economy that's built to last, as opposed to one that's built on ephemeral bubbles like the housing bubble or the Internet bubble or the financial sector bubble.
Q The President had some stern words for China last night on its trade practices. Are we going to hear more of that on this trip as he visits factories?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, today he’s focusing on what I described before about his -- the manufacturing pillar. Now, there’s an element here to that that has to do with enforcement on trade, as he talked about last night.
When the President discussed this during his Asia trip, that everybody has got to play by the same set of rules, and that's important because he knows that when American manufacturers are put on a level playing field, they're the best there are, and they can compete. So obviously that's an important part of his agenda. But I don't want to quantify how much that will be a focal point in today’s events, for example, but it is an important aspect of what he discussed last night.
Q How would that proposal on education work, Jay, where the President said that schools -- colleges or universities that raise tuition would see a decrease in federal funding?
Q And does that need legislative approval?
MR. CARNEY: The President will be discussing that specific proposal on Friday at Ann Arbor, so I’m going to let him give you more details. But the general principle is that if universities and colleges are not doing a good job of keeping costs down, or costs keep going up, then their support from the federal government will go down.
He believes that's very important because American -- higher education cannot become an unaffordable luxury for regular Americans because if it does, the impact on our long-term economic prospects will be very negative. So he’s committed to making sure that higher education -- quality higher education remains accessible to Americans of all economic backgrounds.
Q But where would the teeth be? I mean, how would you enact --
MR. CARNEY: I would let -- I would ask you to wait for the President to provide more details, and we’ll provide more details on Friday. Today’s focus is manufacturing.
Q Will he specify the manufacturing rate that he wants to see?
MR. CARNEY: Yes, he will specify -- he will give specifics today, and we’ll provide you more details today about actions that Congress could take right away in a deficit-neutral way to enhance American manufacturing.
Q Did he talk to you about seeing Gabby Giffords on the floor yesterday?
MR. CARNEY: He just said it was wonderful to see her -- briefly when we were on the plane earlier talking about it. And you could tell I thought, personally, when you watched it. But that's all he said -- it was wonderful to see her.
Q Jay, back to the 30 percent tax rate. Does the White House believe that Mitt Romney’s recently disclosed taxes and the effective rate of 14-15 percent that he pays provides a foundation for making the argument?
MR. CARNEY: The President’s approach on this issue long predates recent developments in the other party’s primary campaign. As you know, he’s been talking about the Buffett Rule for a number of months now. And the President’s ideas are not focused on any individual. They're focused on a general principle that millionaires and billionaires, folks who have had the good fortune of succeeding, thanks to all that this country has to offer, need to do their fair share; that they should not be paying taxes at a lower rate because of loopholes or irregularities in the tax system than average Americans.
Q But as you know events propel ideas, so is this an event that propels your idea?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, the idea well predates the event that you’re describing, and again, it’s not targeted towards an individual. If this is a purely sort of campaign question about the President versus a potential Republican nominee, I’d refer you to Chicago.
Everybody good? Good. Anything else?
Q How are you doing?
MR. CARNEY: I'm great. I’m a little tired, but pretty pumped up. It was a great night last night, for a variety of reasons, the speech and the mission.
11:44 A.M. EST