President Obama held a news conference on Thursday in the East Room. His opening remarks covered a now familiar topic: his jobs bill. In his opening remarks he called on the Senate to pass his bill. Here's a look at what the president said on the issues during the question period of the news conference:
Obama acknowledged that economic growth in the United States was weaker and risked tumbling further if the European sovereign debt crisis escalates. Europe, in fact, is one of the biggest challenges the U.S. has faced since the 2008 financial crisis, he said, adding that he believed European officials would reach a solution due to the huge implications of a full-blown euro-zone crisis.
Obama stressed two issues back in the United States: congressional passage of the American Jobs Act, which he repeatedly urged, and Republicans’ desire to roll back financial-sector reforms designed to protect consumers and prevent another economic meltdown.
The president said he expected his $447 billion jobs bill to find broad support in Congress because it contains proposals that have been historically supported by Democrats and Republicans. He challenged members of Congress who oppose the bill to come up with their own proposal and to subject it to analysis by independent economists. But, he said, it would be “very hard to argue against” the economic benefits of the proposals in the bill.
'OCCUPY WALL STREET PROTESTS'
The current Occupy Wall Street movement reflects a “broad-based frustration” with the way the U.S. financial system functions, Obama said. To fix that broken system, the Dodd-Frank financial reforms need to be upheld, he said, adding that Republicans are wrong to oppose the watchdog Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Richard Cordray, who was nominated to head the CFPB, won approval from the Senate Banking Committee just minutes before Obama began speaking, but hurdles in the form of Senate Republicans remain before he can assume the post.
BANKS AND BANKING
"The American people realize that not everybody has been following the rules. … these days a lot of the folks who are doing the right thing aren't rewarded and a lot of the people who are not doing the right thing are being rewarded. … That's going to express itself in 2012 and beyond."
On bank-card fees, the president said companies have been using financial regulation as an excuse to charge more. "It's not necessarily fair to consumers," he said.
'FAST AND FURIOUS' AND SOLYNDRA
Obama said he's been clear that he was not aware about what was going on with the so-called "Fast and Furious" scandal. "I have complete confidence in Attorney General Eric Holder," he said.
Obama blasted a senior House Republican for ceding the clean-energy race to China and defended his administration’s decision approving a $535-million loan guarantee to Solyndra, the bankrupt solar manufacturer at the heart of a FBI investigation.
“There's been a GOP member of Congress who has been overseeing this--he said we can't compete against China. I don't buy that,” Obama said, without naming Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee who is leading Washington’s probe into Solyndra, who made those comments earlier this week. “I’m not going to surrender to other countries the technological leads that could end up determining whether or not we’re building a strong middle class in this country.”
He also defended the Energy Department’s decision to approve the loan guarantee.
“The process by which the decision was made, it was made on the merits, it was straightforward,” Obama said. “And of course there is going to be debate internally when you’re dealing with something as complicated as this. I have confidence decisions were made based on what would be good for the American economy and the American people.”
He also reiterated that the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program is inherently risky but that overall, it’s succeeding in creating jobs and helping the renewable-energy industry grow.
“There were going to be some companies that did not work tout. Solyndra was one of them,” Obama said.
Obama accused China of manipulating its currency to boost its exports and weaken America’s ability to sell its own goods to the rapidly growing nation, setting out a hardline position on the largest of the issues dividing Washington and Beijing.
Foreign policy took a clear backseat at the press conference, which was largely devoted to questions about the economy and issues as minute as Bank of America’s new policy of instituting new $5 a month fees on debit cards.
Still, Obama took questions on China and Pakistan, talking tough on the former and largely dodging serious discussion of the latter.
In response to a question about China, Obama accused Beijing of being “very aggressive in gaming the trading system to its advantage and to the disadvantage of other countries, particularly the United States.” The president explicitly noted that “currency manipulation is one example of it,” but also accused Beijing of turning a blind eye to Chinese firms’ widespread stealing of American intellectual property like new smartphone and computer technology.
Obama said that his administration had been tougher on China than any of its predecessors, pointing to a recent World Trade Organization ruling upholding the tariffs of as much 35% that the White House imposed on imported Chinese tires.
“Trade is great as long as everyone’s playing by the same rules,” he said, referring to China.
On Pakistan, Obama pointedly refused to say whether he agreed that the Haqqani network, the main U.S. foe in Afghanistan,” is a “veritable arm” of the Pakistani intelligence services. The comment had been made late last month by Adm. Mike Mullen, the departing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the White House has been distancing itself from Mullen’s remarks ever since.
Instead, Obama limited himself to repeating long-standing U.S. accusations that Pakistan “was hedging its bets” by “having interactions with some of the unsavory characters that they think might end up regaining power in Afghanistan.” The president added that he had “no doubt” that the Pakistani military and intelligence services were working “with some individuals that we find troubling.”
Still, while Obama said the administration would continue to “constantly evaluate our relationship with Pakistan,” he refused to say whether his administration would cut or delay any of its multi-billion dollar per year aid to Islamabad or take other diplomatic or military steps against Pakistan.