A day after the White House and Congress announced a late night compromise to avert the United States going into default, Vice President Joe Biden headed to the Hill to win over Democratic votes. Press Secretary Jay Carney fielded questions at Monday’s White House briefing:
Question: [What is the message] for liberal Democrats who are saying...that the president gave up too much in this agreement?
"...the deal negotiated with leaders of Congress is a victory for the American people. This agreement ensures that the debt ceiling will be extended through 2012, removing that cloud of uncertainty from the economy.
[T]he agreement ensures that there is an initial round of spending cuts that protect vital investments, that will ensure that the economy can continue to grow, protect vital things like Pell Grants, that are a high priority for the president, and, significantly, ensure that there's a fire wall in the discretionary spending cuts between defense and non-defense spending which, again, is a kind of protection we haven't seen in a long time that is essential to making this a fair and balanced deal.
[T]here is a committee set up... that will be bicameral and bipartisan, with equal representation between Republicans and Democrats. And that committee will be charged with finding ways to ensure - finding ways to reduce the deficit even further - $1.5 trillion further.
And everything is on the table for that committee, everything including both entitlement reform and tax reform."
Question: [W]hat's the message to Democrats who see this as a capitulation, who see it as a bill that reflects more of the Republican priorities than the Democratic priorities?
"It is not a perfect agreement. It is not the one that the president or Democrats would have crafted if only they controlled all levers of government themselves, obviously. But it does accomplish some significant things..."
Question: [T]his debate was so contentious and it was so partisan, what can the American people realistically expect Washington to be able to do, particularly on jobs, between now and the election?
"[T]here's no doubt that the process we have seen in the past several weeks and months was kind of a mess...There is no question. It was a circus at times. We unnecessarily sent the message around the country and the globe that the United States might, in fact, default on its obligations for the first time in its history. But in the end, compromise won out and an agreement that we believe strongly is in the interests of the American people was achieved.
So looking forward, we hope to be able to build on that....we then move on to the work of the committee and to all the other initiatives that we need to get going that will help create jobs and drive the economy. And we believe fundamentally that there is broad consensus in Washington that we need to focus on growth and job creation.”
Question: Doesn't this deal in essence kick the can down the road? I mean, it's not really dealing with any of the hot-button issues now.
“There is no question that the president preferred a grand bargain up front that would have deal with all of these issues, all at once.
Once that was not going to happen, what we needed to do was ensure, A, that the debt ceiling was lifted for an extended period of time, so the cloud of uncertainty would be removed from our economy; and, B, that we got significant - we, nevertheless, got significant deficit reduction that was balanced.
And we believe that this compromise, while not perfect, achieves that, and that, while on the issue of tax reform and entitlement reform, the can is kicked a little bit down the road. The fact is that the legislation forces action on this very soon. The committee must report out by Thanksgiving; Congress must give an up-or-down vote by Christmas.
In terms of the way Congress normally rolls, that's pretty darn fast.”
Question: What's the strategy at this point on getting a payroll tax extension, which wasn't included in this measure? Is the president still committed to doing that, and how do you do it?
"The president is committed to doing that...There is no question that he will continue to push for this. And he will make the argument that it is absolutely essential to continue to put extra money in Americans' pockets as they deal with high energy prices and high food prices next year..."