Aboard Air Force One
En Route North Carolina
11:30 A.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: I have no announcements to make at the top except to welcome you on Air Force One today as we make our way to North Carolina for our first stop on a two-day, three-stop college tour, where the President will -- on which the President will discuss the vital importance that Congress follow his lead and decide to not allow interest rates to double for student loans, as they will for 7.4 million young Americans on July 1st.
With that, I'll take your questions.
Q Jay, I have two quick questions on the student loans. It seems the debate on the Hill is more about how to pay to extend these than actually whether to extend the rates. So who is the President trying to convince?
MR. CARNEY: Well, there's a couple of things here. First of all, we welcome any support that is out there for the idea that we need to take action to make sure that these interest rates do not double. It is certainly welcome, although ironic, that those who fervently support the Ryan budget, which would double interest rates for student loans, some of whom now say they want to not have that happen.
Obviously how we pay for it is important. We absolutely believe it ought to be paid for. There are a number of alternatives for pay-fors that exist in the President's budget proposal. And I know that that's being discussed on the Hill and we are discussing it with the Hill.
The fact of the matter is this needs to get done. As we've said all year long, when there are opportunities for bipartisan action on things that will help the economy or help, in this case, students prepare themselves to enter the economy, we are glad to see it. And we continue to believe that there are opportunities like this out there despite the fact that it's an election year.
Q Do you think that Romney's support for this extension influences the debate at all?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we welcome, again, anyone's support, any Republican support for this proposal. This is something that has to move through Congress. And I would simply note that overwhelmingly Republicans in Congress support the Ryan budget, the Republican budget, that has become essentially the governing doctrine of the Republican Party, and not only does it not include within it any provision to prevent student loan rates from doubling, but it slashes Pell grants and other programs that are essential to ensuring that young Americans get the education they need to compete in the 21st century economy.
Not only that, it cuts programs that help -- that invest in the very industries that we need young Americans to be entering in the 21st century economy.
Q Jay, one of the pay-fors that the Senate Democrats are looking at and they've been talking to the White House about is this closing of the loophole for the S corporations. Is that something that the President would support?
MR. CARNEY: We've certainly been in discussions with senators about that. That is certainly an option that is a good potential option. It meets the standard that we set that we can't pay for it in a way that would harm students and it would also meet the standard that it wouldn't raise taxes on anybody making under $250,000.
Q And to that point, the fact that you guys are not doing something like the Buffett Rule as a pay-for, is this an effort -- do you think that that leaves more of an opening to get Republican support? And in addition to the President going out and trying to gin up support among Americans and students, is he also trying to get support among Republicans on the Hill? Is he talking to those folks? Does he feel like it's time to reach out to try and reach some sort of an agreement?
MR. CARNEY: We want Congress to act and do the right thing here. We are obviously in contact with Congress on this --
MR. CARNEY: This is not -- there's no mystery here about how to get this done. There are a variety of options for paying for it. We're not wedded to one. We're wedded to principles that govern the decision-making here that -- the red lines that we have about where we can't go to pay for things like this and where we can go. The provision that you mentioned is one that we could support. Certainly there are other alternatives.
Q Jay, Republicans -- Senator McConnell and the chairman of the Republican North Carolina state party are saying today that the events about student loans are really kind of beside the point because there's not enough jobs out there for people graduating from college, and therefore the President's policies are failing young people. Do you want to respond to that?
MR. CARNEY: I find it highly ironic that a United States Senator, who enthusiastically, with great gusto and energy, supported the policies of the previous administration that contributed mightily to the worst recession since the Great Depression, comes forward with a statement like that, even though he opposed all the policies that have led to 25 straight months of private sector job creation and 10 quarters of positive economic growth as we emerge from the worst recession since the Great Depression -- the policies -- and he supported the policies that led to it.
Q Jay, Senator Grassley is asking for some details of the White House Counsel's inquiry into what the staff was up to in Cartagena. Is that something the White House is ready to provide?
MR. CARNEY: I haven't seen -- I know that there's a letter. I haven't seen it, so I don't have any specific response to that. I would just point you to the fact that there is no credible, specific allegation of any misconduct by anybody on the White House advance team or White House staff. Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution and with due diligence, the White House Counsel oversaw a review of the personnel on the White House advance team, and there’s no indication of any misconduct.
As I said yesterday, if there were an indication, we would obviously look at, but there isn’t. So there you go.
Q So there shouldn’t be any problem with the White House answering Grassley’s letter then?
MR. CARNEY: I didn't say that. I said I haven’t seen the letter. I have no response to that letter. What I can say is that the White House Counsel’s Office conducted a review; there has been no credible, specific allegation of any misconduct by anybody on the White House advance team, White House staff, and that review produced no indication that there was misconduct.
Q Any comments on the Sudan versus South Sudan developments today? And also, will the White House at any point talk to us in more detail about the President being briefed on Bo Xilai and that incident?
MR. CARNEY: We strongly condemn Sudan’s military incursion into South Sudan. Sudan must immediately halt the aerial and artillery bombardment in South Sudan by the Sudan armed forces. Both governments must agree to an immediate, unconditional cessation of hostilities and recommit to negotiations.
As the President said in his message to the people of Sudan and South Sudan, “All those who are fighting must recognize that there is no military solution. The only way to achieve real and lasting security is to resolve your differences through negotiation.”
You're asking me whether -- I’m sure the President is aware of and has been briefed on this matter, but what --
Q Any details? Because it's been -- just wondering if at any point you would have any details.
Q -- when he was first briefed on this?
MR. CARNEY: On what? Bo Xilai? I would have to ask. I assume -- well, I would just -- I’ll check.
Q Jay, anything on -- North Korea seems to be close to another missile -- preparing for another missile launch. Any update on that?
MR. CARNEY: We strongly suggest that the North Koreans refrain from engaging in any other -- any more hostile or provocative actions. They do nothing to advance the cause of peace on the nuclear -- on the North Korean -- or rather the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia. And they certainly do nothing to help the North Korean people, many of whom are starving because of the predilection of the North Korean regime to spend the money it has on weapons systems rather than food and economic development.
Q That's very graceful.
Q Thank you.
MR. CARNEY: by all of us -- by all of us. I’m really sorry -- I thought the flight was longer. I mean, I can take a few more if you’ll --
Q While we’re here in North Carolina, is the President going to say anything about the issue on the ballot next week on civil unions?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t anticipate that. The campaign put out a statement about his position on it, but I don’t anticipate he’ll be addressing --
Q When is he doing the college journal roundtable conference call?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll have to get back to you on that. I’m not sure.
Q Do you guys have any comment on this report on Social Security -- I know you talked about Medicare yesterday -- but the report that shows it’s going to --
MR. CARNEY: I do. I think I addressed it yesterday, but since the questioner on that issue got many of the facts wrong in his questions, I will say that Social Security and Medicare trustees report makes clear that the Affordable Care Act extended the life of the Medicare trust fund and that Social Security will continue to pay benefits for decades to come.
But it’s also clear that we must do more to secure these programs for future generations. That’s why the President has proposed additional reforms to strengthen Medicare and called for bipartisan work to strengthen Social Security.
I will again point out that without the Affordable Care Act, the Medicare trust fund would be bankrupt in 2016. Health care reform has extended the life of the trust fund by an additional eight years.
MR. CARNEY: I appreciate your indulgence. Thank you.
11:39 A.M. EDT