President Barack Obama held his first solo press conference since March today.
Obama went on the offensive, criticising Congress for using “scare tactics” during the ongoing debate over raising the debt ceiling.
He also defending U.S. military involvement in Libya and his strategy for pulling troops out of Afghanistan.
Obama praised New York State’s passage of a same-sex marriage bill, but deflected questions about his personal views on the issue.
Our live blog from the press conference is below.
12:48: Brian Williams asks if Obama is channeling his inner Truman?
(Truman nicknamed the 80th Congress the “Do Nothing Congress” if you missed the reference)
12:47: And he’s done.
12:46: Obama: “If the leadership here in Washington keeps them in mind… then we will solve this debt limit issue, put in steps like a payroll tax cuts and infrastructure development… These are solvable problems. They require putting aside the selfish approach that sometimes politics brings.”
12:45: Obama: “These folks are counting on us. They desperately want to believe their leadership is thinking of them and is not playing games.”
12:44: Obama: “We know what to do. We know that if we are educating our kids well we will be more competitive. We know if we invest in infrastructure it will pay off.”
12:42: President ending on an emotional note. References the letters he gets “everyday” from Americans having financial difficulties.
12:39: Obama criticises the congressional schedule and says they need to get the job done: “They’re in one week they’re out one week. You need to be here, I’m here. You stay here. Let’s get it done.”
12:37: Obama says his daughters do their homework early, not the night before. Advises Congress not to pull an all-nighter.
12:36: Obama makes a concerted attempt to position himself outside of politics: “I’m the President of the United States, I try not to engage in scare tactics…I don’t want people to get spooked.”
12:35: Obama: “[Congress] took the vacation, they bought the car, and now they are saying maybe we aren’t going to pay, or maybe we are not going to pay as fast as we said we would.”
12:34: Obama on Republican proposal to only pay interest on the debt to avoid default: “Are we really going to start paying interest to Chinese and not pay people their Social Security checks?”
12:33: Obama on debt limit brinkmanship: We don’t know how capital markets will react — but if capital markets decide, the U.S. doesn’t pay its bill and starts pulling their money out and the Treasury has to raise interest rates, that means higher interest rates for businesses and higher interest rates for consumers.
12:32: Obama on the possibility of default: “This is a jobs issue, this is not an abstraction.”
12:31: Obama lays down the law on the debt ceiling: “By August 2 we run out of tools to make sure all our debts are paid – it is a hard deadline”
12:30: Obama congratulates CNN’s Jessica Yellin on becoming the network’s new White House correspondent. She asks if the Treasury Department’s August 2 deadline is the real default date.
12:29: Obama calls once again on Congress to pass the “DREAM Act.”
12:27: Asked about Operation Fast and Furious, the controversial ATF gun-running investigation, Obama says the investigation is “still pending.” “I’ve made clear my views: That is not an appropriate action by the ATF and we need to find out how that happened.”
12:25: Obama on Qaddafi potentially using rape as a weapon of war — Obama seems determined that Libya will not be his Rwanda/Srebrenica.
12:23: Obama says “I won’t make news on that today,” when asked about his personal views on same-sex marriage. “Nice try” he added.
12:22: Obama on Qaddafi: “He needs to step down. He needs to go.”
12:21: Obama says he “knows something you don’t” about Libya, says International Criminal Court has collected evidence that Qaddafi troops are “using rape as an instrument of war.”
12:20: Obama: When you have former presidential candidates John McCain (R-AZ) and John Kerry (D-MA) coming together on Libya, that should tell the American people something about the legitimacy of the mission there.
12:18: Another Libya question. ABC’s Jim Sciutto as how long Americans will put up with continued U.S. involvement. “Is there any definition of success other than Qaddafi being removed from power.”
“Kabul is much safer than it was,” a day after deadly terrorist attack and standoff at one of the most secure hotels in the city.
12:15: Addressing the question, Obama says “I didn’t use ‘victory’ in my West Point speech. I said we would be successful.”
12:14: Obama highlighting progress in Afghanistan, and the way forward. He says it is “not in America’s interest” to have Taliban take over the country again.
12:12: Obama’s comments on the NLRB suit appear to be a veiled criticism of the Washington labour union whose strike tactics drove Boeing to South Carolina. It seems to us that Obama is sending a warning to labour to stop getting in the way of job creation and American manufacturing.
12:11: Obama says “there are times where military commissions will be appropriate” to try suspected terrorists. A major policy shift from the beginning of his administration.
12:10: First national security question from Obama on Guantanamo / terrorist prosecutions.
12:09: Obama: “What defies common sense is the notion that we would be shutting down a plant because workers and management can’t come to an agreement.”
“We can’t have labour and management fighting all the time” — wants to make sure U.S. keeps its advantage in airline industry
12:09: Obama on Boeing/NLRB case: “Companies need the freedom to relocate, and they also need to follow the law.”
12:08: Obama addresses the Boeing/NLRB case. He says the NLRB is an independent agency and that the outcome is “up to a judge to decide.”
12:06: Obama says “I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can focus on jobs at the same time we are focused on debt and deficit reduction.”
12:04: First a deficit and debt reduction answer: “Deficit reduction, debt reduction should be part of an overall package for job growth in the long-term – it’s not the only part but it’s the only part.”
12:03: Obama gets a question on the Boeing/NLRB lawsuit.
12:02: The use of “civil marriages” is sure to turn eyebrows.
12:02: Obama on gay marriage: “Ultimately, [New York] made a decision to recognise “civil marriages” — each state is going to need to work through these issues.”
12:00: Obama says same-sex couples should have equal rights, and highlights his administration’s work ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and not defending the defence of Marriage Act. He hasn’t addressed the question of whether or not he supports gay marriage.
11:58: Obama chides Republicans for making Libya their “cause celebre”: “We should be sending a unified message to [Qaddafi] to tell him to get out.”
11:57: Obama says the War Powers Act was meant to prevent another Vietnam — which Libya is not, he says — sidestepping the constitutional question.
11:56: On Libya, Obama says U.S. the operation “is limited in time and scope” and that throughout, his administration has consulted with Congress. Many Democrats and Republicans would beg to disagree.
“We have consulted with Congress — we’ve had 10 hearings on it, we’ve sent reams of information, I’ve had members of Congress over to talk about it so a lot of this fuss is politics.”
11:54: NBC’s Chuck Todd asks Obama a convoluted question about whether he believes the War Powers Act and Debt Limit are constitutional. He also asked about gay marriage somewhere in there. Obama calls it a “hodgepodge question” drawing a few laughs.
11:53: “My expectation is that [Republicans] will do the responsible things.”
11:53: Obama: “If we do not have revenues, that means that there are a bunch of kids out there that aren’t getting college scholarships.”
Other things that might be compromised: the national weather service, food inspection, medical research
“We are going to keep on having these conversations, my belief is that — hopefully sooner rather than later — the Republican leadership in Congress will come to the conclusion that they need to get off their maximalist position.”
11:50: Obama says he, and many “out-of-office Republicans” believe that raising taxes is the only way to reduce the deficit sufficiently. “You can’t reduce the deficit to levels that need to be reduced without revenue in the mix,” he said.
11:49: Obama says “we are going to have to look at entitlements” to “see where we can reduce the costs of Medicare and Medicaid.” He takes aim at the Coburn-Lieberman plan announced yesterday: “I’ve been willing to say we need to see where we can reduce the cost of healthcare spending and medicare and medicaid, not by shifting the cost to the elderly.”
11:48: “My expectation is that leaders are going to lead,” Obama says of congressional Republicans on tax increases.
11:47: AP’s Ben Feller asks Obama if he insists a debt ceiling deal includes tax increases — something GOP leaders say they will not pass.
11:47: Obama opens it up for questions. As always, The Associated Press gets the first one.
11:46: Obama says he thinks both parties can agree on a debt ceiling and deficit deal.
11:45: Obama: “I spent the last two years cutting taxes for ordinary Americans….The tax cuts I am suggesting are for millionaires and billionaires, for oil companies and hedge fund managers and corporate jet owners.”
11:43: “Yes, we have to tackle spending in our tax code,” Obama says, calling once again for cutting subsidies for oil and gas companies.
11:42: Obama says we have to examine defence spending and “tackle entitlements” to close the deficit
11:41: Obama is criticising Congress for not acting on several bills that “can create jobs right now.”
11:39: Obama starts off with a prepared statement on the economy.
11:39: And here is the President.
11:33: Obama is running at least a few minutes late. The news conference was scheduled to start at 11:30.
11:29: We’re expecting Obama to take the podium any minute now. In the meantime, Speaker of the House John Boehner’s office has released a list of seven questions for the President, including one on the Boeing/NLRB lawsuit. The full list is here
11:15: Here are some questions Obama might be asked during this morning’s press conference:
- How firm is Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s August 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling? [House Speaker John Boehner told Fox News yesterday that the deadline is “artificial”]
- Is the debt ceiling unconstitutional? Some Democratic lawmakers are trying to make this claim.
- What are the consequences if no agreement is reached on the debt limit increase? Could Social Security payments be delayed?
- He will also likely take questions on the Senate’s Libya resolution and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
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