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White House

Liveblogging President Obama's News Conference

1:17 p.m. We've got Ron Fournier on the class-warfare rhetoric of Obama's remarks.

And with that, we'll close the blog down. Thanks everyone.

 

12:56 p.m. That's it for the news conference. We'll post some analysis here as soon as its ready.

12:51 p.m. Wrapping up the press conference, Obama softens and talks about the burdens of the presidency and returns to the idea of why he got into politics.

“You know, every day I got letters from folks all around the country who show incredible resilience, incredible determination, but they are having a very, very tough time. They're losing their homes. Some have lost their businesses. Some have lost work and have not been able to find jobs for months, maybe a year. Maybe a year and a half. And they feel some desperation. Some folks who are working just are having a tough time paying the bills because they haven't seen their wages or incomes go up in ten years. And the cost of everything else has gone up,” he says. “And every day that weighs on me. Every minute of every day that weighs on me. Because I ran for president precisely to make sure that we righted this ship and we start, once again, creating a situation where middle-class families and people who aspire to be in the middle class if they're working hard, then they're living a better life.”

 

12:49 p.m. Caren Bohan of Reuters asks if Obama is worried that by adding a discussion of short-term measures on the economy in these discussions about long-term deficit reductions – like increasing the payroll tax for a year - that it could complicate the conversation and make it harder to pass a debt limit.

He points to the importance of job growth, saying, “If we just increase the growth rate by one percentage point that would drastically bring down the long-term projections of the deficit because people are paying more into the coffers and fewer people are drawing unemployment insurance and it makes a big difference.”

12:44 p.m. Ouch. Obama more or less tells Congress they can’t even function as well as his daughters. “You know, Malia and Sasha, generally, finish their homework a day ahead of time. Malia is 13. Sasha is 10. It is impressive. They don't wait until the night before. They're not pulling all-nighters. They're 13 and 10. You know, Congress can do the same thing. If you know you have to do something, just do it.”

And then we get a bit of rant, unusual for him:

 

“I've got to say, I'm very amused when I start hearing comments about -- well, the president needs to show more leadership on this. Let me tell you something. Right after we finished dealing with the government shutdown, averting a government shutdown, I called the leaders here together and said, we've got to get this done. And I put Vice President Biden in charge of a process that, by the way has made real progress. But these guys have met and worked through all the issues. I met with every single caucus for an hour to a hour and a half each. Republican senators, Democratic senators. Republican House, Democratic House. I've met with the leaders multiple times. At a certain point, they need to do their job. You know?...And if by the end of the week, we have not seen substantial progress, then I think members of Congress need to understand, we're going to, you know, start having to cancel things and stay here until we get it done. You know? They're in one week. They're out one week. And then they're saying, Obama’s got to step in. You need to be here. I've been here. I've been doing Afghanistan and bin Laden and the Greek crisis and -- you stay here. Let's get it done.”

12:40 p.m. So is August 2 a yellow or a red light, Obama is asked.

“I'm the president of the United States and I want to make sure that I am not engaging in scare tactics. And I've tried to be responsible and somewhat restrained so that folks don't get spooked. August 2nd is a very important date. And there's no reason why we can't get this done now.”

12:38 p.m. Obama addresses the idea that's been floating in some Republican circles of only paying interest on the debt and letting the August 2 deadline pass. "This is the equivalent of me saying -- you know what, I will choose to pay my mortgage but I'm not going to pay my car note. Or I'm going to pay my car note but I'm not going to pay my student loan. Now, a lot of people in really tough situations are having to make those tough decisions. For government to start picking and choosing like that, will not inspire a lot of confidence. Moreover, which bills are we going to decide to pay?"

12:34 p.m. Next - and probably last - question goes to Jessica Yellin, CNN's new Chief White House Correspondent. Obama congratulates her. She asks about the deadlines that have been given for when the U.S. will hit the debt ceiling - saying the administration has given four dates, three have passed and there's been no financial calamity yet. Obama says there haven't been four dates given out, but that August 2 is a "hard deadline." Failing to raise the debt ceiling by that time would be catastrophic, he says. Even though the U.S. doesn't know how the capital markets will react, failing to meet the deadline will stall economic growth.

12:30 p.m. Obama fields a question about the investigation into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives over alleged gun running into Mexico. He declines to comment because it is pending.

On the other part of the question, about immigration, he says this: “We need comprehensive immigration reform. I've said it before. I will say it again. I will say it next week and I'll say it six months from now. We’ve got to have a system that makes sure that we uphold our tradition as a nation of laws. And that we also uphold our nation of laws as immigrants. That means tough border security. Going after employers that are illegally hiring and exploiting workers. Making sure that we also have a pathway for legal status for those who are living in the shadows right now. We may not be able to get everything that I would like to see in a package, but we have to have a balanced package.”

Obama also used the immigration question to call for perfection of the E-Verify system and push for passage of the DREAM Act.

12:28 p.m. Meckler also asks about whether the president would like to see tax breaks aimed at stimulating the economy even if they were to widen the deficit. Obama says he thinks those proposals are worth considering and floats the idea of extending the payroll tax cut first passed during the lame-duck session for another year.

12:26 p.m. Laura Meckler of the Wall Street Journal tries to get a straight answer from Obama about whether he supports gay marriage. "I'm not going to make any news on that today. Good try, though."

12:24 p.m. Obama reiterates calls for Qaddafi to go when asked if he would accept a political settlement in which the Libyan leader were a part: "I would accept him stepping down so that he is not directing armed forces against the Libyan people. He needs to step down. He needs to go."

12:22 p.m. Obama takes issue with a question about his promise to only continue the operation in Libya for days or weeks: "What I told the American people was that the initial phase where Americans were in the lead would take days. Perhaps, weeks. That's exactly what happened. Right? I mean, after around two weeks, a little less than two weeks, we had transitioned where NATO had taken full control of the operation. So promise made, promise kept."

12:19 p.m. Obama is asked about the attacks on a Kabul hotel last night, asking if that is a sign that the troop drawdown is coming too soon. Obama points out the drawdown hasn't begun yet, and that Afghanistan, like Iraq, where there still are occasional attacks, is still a dangerous place.

“They're dangerous places so they're not going to be perfectly safe even if we were there but we can improve the chances for the Afghan people to defend themselves,” he said.

12:16 p.m. Mike Emanuel of Fox asks Obama to define "victory" in the war in Afghanistan - a word he did not use in his speech last week. Obama declines to use it now - talking more about mission success. Part of his answer: "To make sure that al-Qaida can't attack the United States of America or allies or our interests overseas. And to make sure that we have an Afghan government and an Afghan people that can provide for their own security. We are being successful in those missions.”

12:14 p.m. Obama fields a question from Mark Landler of the New York Times about testimony from Adm. Raven about the the confusion among servicemembers about what to do if they captured a terrorist alive abroad.

"Their mission is to make sure they apprehend the individual. They do so safely. With minimum risk to American lives. And that's always going to be the priority, just carrying out the mission. That message is sent consistently to our men and women in uniform any time they start carrying out one of these missions. But I think that it's important to understand and the American people need to understand -- be assured that any time we initiate a mission like this, our top priorities are making sure this person is not able to carry out attacks against the United States. And that we're able to obtain actionable intelligence from those individuals. So that mitigates against this danger that you're suggesting, that our main goal is going to be to kill these individuals, as opposed to potentially capturing them," Obama says.

12:13 p.m. Obama uses the debt and deficit question to talk about how that’s important, but so is the need to pass legislation like his trade deals with Panama, Colombia and South Korea, currently pending before Congress. On business complaints about overregulation, he says, “Keep in mind, the business community is always complaining about regulations. When employment is at 3 percent and they are making record profits they'll still complain about regulations because, frankly, they want to be able to do whatever they think will maximize their profits,”  -- but says he has an obligation to make sure there are regulations to protect air and water and food. He touts the fact that he has called for a major regulatory review, an “unprecedented” move, in his opinion.

Obama dodges the Boeing question, declining to comment because the NLRB is an independent agency and the case is before a judge. Smart move – nobody gets offended by a “no comment.” But he does say that, “as a general proposition, companies need to have the freedom to relocate. They have to follow the law, but that's part of our system. And if they're choosing to relocate here in the United States that's a good thing. And...I think defies common sense would be the notion that we would be shutting down a plant or laying off workers because labor and management can't come to a sensible agreement.” He asks for some kumbaya time between the two so the United States can compete abroad.

12:06 p.m. Next question goes to Julianna Goldman of Bloomberg. She asks if the debate over debt and deficits is preventing Obama from taking a more "balanced" approach to creating jobs. She also asked whether the complaint against Boeing from the National Labor Relations Board - over the company's decision to build a plant in South Carolina, a more union-unfriendly state than their home state of Washington - represents a suffocating regulation for companies.

The Boeing question is a tough one for Obama. He's trying to woo businesses, but can't lose the support of the labor community, a strong and financially powerful backer.

12:05 p.m. Tough follow up from Chuck Todd: isn't that what people said about segregation? It's a state issue? Again, we see a bit of a dodge: "I think what you're saying is a profound recognition on the part of the American people, that gays and lesbians and transgender persons are brothers, sisters, children, cousins, friends, co-workers. And that they've got to be treated like every other American. And I think that principle will win out. It's not going to be perfectly smooth and it turns out the president, I've discovered since I've been in the office, can't dictate precisely how this process moves.”

12:01 p.m. Obama brushes by the debt limit question (whether having a debt limit is constitutional). "I'm saying I don't have to reach it."

On gay marriage, he says that his administration has done more than the previous 43 to give rights to gay couples. But he dodges the question of constitutionality of gay marriage by portraying it as a states rights issue, lauding the fact that the state of New York was able to come to its own conclusions to legalize civil marriages.

11:59 a.m. He finally addresses the constitutional question, but sets it up by talking about the roots of the War Powers Act in the Vietnam War, which was a completely different scale of conflict. Of Libya, he says: “Do I think that our actions in any way violate the War Powers Resolution? The answer is, no. I don't have to get to the constitutional question. There may be a time in which there will be a serious question as to whether or not the war powers resolution act was constitutional. I don't have to get to the question. We have engaged in a limited operation to help a lot of people against one of the worst tyrants in the world, somebody who nobody should want to defend. We should be sending out a unified message to this guy that he should step down and give his people a fair chance to live their lives without fear. And this suddenly becomes the cause celebrity for folks in Congress? Come on!”

11:57 a.m. Obama tackles Libya first, but talks about the reasons he thinks the mission has been successful rather than the constitutionality of it. Of the complaints from Congress about whether he's violating the WPA: "A lot of this fuss is politics."

11:55 a.m. Next up, NBC's Chuck Todd, who asks three questions in one by framing them as constitutional issues: "Do you believe the War Powers Act is constitutional, do you believe that the debt limit is constitutional, and do you believe that marriage is a civil right?"

That's a hodgepodge Chuck, Obama says back. He also says he won't put on his constitutional lawyer hat, though that's something we know he would be comfortable doing.

11:54 a.m. Obama will push Republicans to take it to the people, confident that he can win the argument to raise revenues on the wealthy - if the debate is framed the way he sees it, of course: "I've said to some of the Republican leaders. You talk to your constituents, the Republican constituents and ask them if they're willing to compromise their kids' safety so that some corporate jet owner continues to get a tax break. And I'm pretty sure what the answer would be. So we're going to keep on having these conversations. And my belief is that the Republican leadership in Congress will hopefully, sooner rather than later, come to the conclusion that they need to make the right decisions for the country. That everybody else has been willing to move off of their maximum position."

11:51 a.m. Still answering Feller's question (Obama tends to get a bit professorial at the podium), the president tries to portray the Democrats as reasonable and the Republicans as unreasonable and sacrificing the middle class at the expense of protecting the tax breaks of the wealthy.

11:47 a.m. First question is from Ben Feller of the Associated Press: will Obama insist that a deal include those tax increases he talked about?

Obama answers that he thinks there's some partisan posturing going on for the cable networks, but that behind the curtains that may not be the case. "Call me naive, but my expectation is that the leaders are going to lead."

11:45 a.m. He plays at the heartstrings: "If we choose to keep those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, a tax break for corporate jet owners, if we choose to keep tax breaks for oil and gas companies making hundreds of billions of dollars, then that means we have got to cut some kids off from getting a college scholarship. That means we have got to stop funding certain grants for medical research. That means that food safety may be compromised. This means that Medicare has to bear a greater part of the burden. Those are the choices we have to make." And that's a public warning shot to Republicans: if you don't let me raise some revenues, I'll blame you for cutting these programs.

11:43 a.m. Obama insists that a deal will have to "tackle spending in the tax code," which is code for closing loopholes and exemptions. He goes after the wealthy, calling on the negotiators to end tax breaks for corporate jet owners and oil and gas companies.

11:41 a.m. Here's looking at you, Congress. Obama ticks off a few pending bills he would like them to pass:

"Right now, Congress can send me a bill that would make it easier for entrepreneurs to patent a new idea or product because we can't give innovators in other countries a big leg up when it comes to opening new businesses and creating new jobs. That's something Congress could do right now. Right now, Congress could send my bill that puts construction workers back on the job rebuilding roads and bridges, not by having government fund and pick every project but by providing loans to private companies and states and local governments on the basis of merit and not politics. That's pending in Congress right now. Right now, Congress can advance a set of trade agreements that would allow American businesses to sell more of their goods and services to countries in Asia and South America. Agreements that would support tens of thousands of American jobs while helping them adversely affected by trade. That's pending before Congress right now. And right now, we could give middle class families the security of knowing that the tax cut I signed in December will be there for one more year."

11:40 a.m. Opening remarks are about the economy. Obama is talking about efforts to boost job growth: reviewing government regulations, partnerships with businesses and community colleges, financing for small businesses and start-ups.

11:39 a.m. And we're off.

11:24 a.m. While the press will be eager to pick the president's brain on the negotiations, they have a whole host of questions for him. This is Obama's first official news conference since March. He's faced a few questions in press conferences with foreign leaders, but the press is eager to probe on a number of issues that have developed since then: the troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, his views on the applicability to the War Powers Act in Libya, the economy, his re-election campaign, his thoughts on the Republican field, and more.

11:23 a.m. We're not expecting a whole lot of groundbreaking news at this conference, more the chance for Obama to once again stake out the White House position in deficit talks. You'll hear him talk about the importance of "balance" in a deal -- that means including some taxes increases (or at least closing of loopholes) and possibly some stimulus measures as well as major spending cuts.

11:20 a.m. Good morning! I'll be bringing you minute-by-minute updates from President Obama's news conference, scheduled for 11:30 a.m. After the press conference is over, we'll bring you some analysis from the National Journal White House team.

Don't have a TV? Watch a livestream of the press conference on our site at www.nationaljournal.com/video.

 

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