MR. EARNEST: Good morning, everybody. Welcome aboard Air
Force One as we wing our way to the Sunshine State. I have
some brief opening remarks, and then we'll open it up
In Orlando this afternoon, the President will speak to
NALEO about his efforts to help America's middle-class
families and America's economy recover from the worst
recession since the Great Depression. He'll note that
we've made progress but we have a long way to go, and
he's continuing to push Congress to act on legislation
that will support our economy, support responsible
homeowners, and put construction workers, first responders
and teachers back to work.
I'll note some statistics recently cited by the
Republican Party of Florida that bear out the progress that
we've made and the work that remains to be done.
Specifically, the Florida Republicans note that the
unemployment rate in Florida has declined for 11
consecutive months and that more than 99,000 private sector
jobs have been created in Florida alone over the last year
and a half.
Yet the President is not satisfied. And unfortunately for
our economy, Republicans in Congress won't act on
legislation submitted by the President that would put by
our estimates -- or by some estimates, I should say --
these are actually outside estimates -- 1 million people
back to work. This stalemate isn't good for our
economy, but it reflects the choice in this election.
The President believes we need economic policies, tax
policies, and, yes, even immigration policies, that
prioritizes the interests of middle-class families and
where everyone in this country gets a fair shot and
everyone plays by the same set of rules. Republicans merely
want to double down on the economic policies like large tax
cuts for the wealthy that led to the economic downturn in
the first place.
So you can anticipate hearing more about those issues
today, both in Orlando and in Tampa.
Q Do you anticipate the President laying out his vision for
immigration reform beyond what he's already announced
MR. EARNEST: Well, I'll let the President's remarks
speak for themselves, but you can certainly anticipate that
the President will talk broadly about his efforts to
strengthen middle-class families all across the country in
terms of Wall Street reform that will protect the interests
of middle-class families including Hispanic families;
health care reform that has lowered health care costs and
ensured access to health care for middle-class families all
across the country, including many Hispanic families; and
he'll also talk about immigration reform as well.
I think somebody's tape recorder may be playing instead
of recording. I heard a little feedback. Sorry about that.
Q So no more specifics then on immigration reform going
MR. EARNEST: Tune in.
Q Josh, four years ago the President spoke to NALEO and
that's when he said that immigration reform was going
to be his priority from day one. And here we are four years
later; what you have is just what the President did last
Friday. What more can he -- will he make that pledge again
to NALEO today that immigration reform will be his top
priority starting in the new administration?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I don't want to say anything further
to preview the President's remarks. But I will say that
the President's record of prioritizing comprehensive
immigration reform speaks for itself. Unfortunately, that's
a priority that's been blocked time and time again by
Republicans in Congress.
Republicans, over the last three years, have repeatedly
blocked efforts to pass the DREAM Act specifically. But
there are other efforts related to comprehensive
immigration reform that have historically been supported by
Republicans. John McCain has typically voiced support for
those kinds of efforts in the past. Former President Bush,
when he was in office, spent some time advocating for
comprehensive immigration reform. These are the kinds of
things where we should be able to build bipartisan support.
But since the President took office, while he's continued
to make it a priority, Republicans have made it a priority
to block those efforts at every turn.
Q The President is speaking about two hours after Marco
Rubio speaks to NALEO. Has he reached out to Senator Rubio
at all given the similarity between the Senator's proposal
and what the President did?
MR. EARNEST: I don't know of any calls at this point. I can
check on that for you, though.
Q The last time the Democrats tried to pass anything on
immigration was in December 2010, right -- the DREAM Act.
What do you say to people wondering why the President
didn't move faster on this new deportation policy and save
a lot of people a lot of grief in the past year and a half
-- some young kids, anyway?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I'd refer you to my colleagues at DHS
who can give you the background. There have been a series
of policy decisions that have been made at DHS to
streamline our immigration enforcement policies, to ensure
that they align cleanly with our values, but also to ensure
that we have an immigration enforcement system that
operates effectively and efficiently.
And the directive that was issued by the Secretary of
Homeland Security last week clarifies that dedicating
significant resources to enforcing those policies against
people who were brought to this nation as a child and who
are currently -- who don't currently pose a threat to their
communities, haven't -- aren't wanted for -- well, I should
say don't pose a threat to their communities, that's not an
efficient use or an effective use of our immigration
So that's the reason that the Secretary issued the
directive that she did. And that builds on a record of
policy-making that they have at the Department of Homeland
Security about how best to use the enforcement -- the
immigration enforcement resources that they have.
So the President was obviously pleased with that
announcement and spoke about it at the Rose Garden ceremony
last week. But the President said on Friday, and has said
consistently, that that directive related to the
enforcement of immigration policies does not -- is not a
substitute for congressional action; it's not a substitute
for a permanent solution to our broken immigration system.
Q Change of subjects. Can you update us on Holder and the
MR. EARNEST: Well, in terms of a specific update I would
refer you to my colleagues at the Department of Justice who
have been working on this issue for some time. As you know,
this is something that they've been working on with
congressional Republicans for 14 months. There have been
nearly a dozen hearings with the Attorney General or other
Department of Justice officials. They have turned over
7,600 pages of documents. So this is an ongoing process.
It's also apparent that Republicans are succeeding in a
strategy that they laid out for all of you at the beginning
of last year, where they vowed to use their investigative
powers to score political points against the administration
and to further obstruct the President's legislative agenda.
It's unfortunate that they've chosen to use their
authorities in this way to promote this stalemate. But
despite that, despite that calculated strategy on their
part, we remain committed to trying to find a constructive
Q Are you aware of the last time the President spoke to the
Attorney General, last night or this morning? Do you know
the last time they spoke? And then, secondly, actress Jane
Lynch was spotted at the White House this morning. Do you
have any more on that?
MR. EARNEST: I don't have any information about the
last time the President spoke to the Attorney General. I
know that they're in touch regularly on a whole range of
issues and responsibilities that the Attorney General has.
I don't know the last time that they had a
In terms of Jane Lynch, I wasn't at the -- I was actually
already onboard Air Force One when she was at the White
House. So one of my colleagues at the White House should be
able to fill you in on why she was there.
Q Josh, are there any negotiations going on either today or
planned throughout the weekend before the vote on contempt?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I'd refer you to the Department of
Justice on that. But I --
Q Do you know --
MR. EARNEST: I don't know of anything specific, but the
Department of Justice is handling that matter, as they
Q Is the President confident that he can avoid a House vote
on contempt, or is that inevitable?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I don't know if it's inevitable.
There's a Republican majority in the House of
Representatives, and they seem hell-bent on using their
investigative powers to promote a political stalemate and
obstruct the President's agenda and score political points.
That's unfortunate, but that's a strategy that they
laid out for all of you at the beginning of last year. So
it's unfortunate, but not particularly surprising.
Q Josh, the Post reported today that while he was the head
of Bain Capital, Mitt Romney and the company invested in
other companies that would outsource jobs overseas to China
and India. Does the White House believe that that undercuts
Romney's sort of core -- sort of credentials for the --
that he's been touting for the job? And will you press him
harder on that? Will the President be talking about this
specifically as he goes forward on both the campaign and
other events that he does?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I understand that my colleagues at the
campaign are going to have a little more to say about this
this morning. What I will say for you, though, is I do
think that it is an apt illustration of the differing
approaches advocated in this election for strengthening our
The President -- you just laid out for us the story that
appeared in the Post that laid out the approach that Mr.
Romney took when he was in the private sector. The
President has been advocating an approach that is 100
degrees -- 180 degrees different from that, which is the
President believes that we need to realign our tax policies
so that we no longer provide incentives to companies who
ship jobs overseas, and in fact we should implement tax
policies that encourage companies to invest in America, to
invest in facilities here, and to create jobs in America.
So there's a pretty -- there's no question
there's a pretty stark difference between the values
and approaches of the two candidates on that issue
Q Will the White House be doing stuff to -- will the
campaign be doing stuff to sort of highlight that even more
MR. EARNEST: You should check with them on that.
Q Will the President talk about this today?
MR. EARNEST: I don't have anything to preview for you
at this point.
Q Oh, go ahead. (Laughter.)
MR. EARNEST: If I'm able to later today, I will, but I
don't know if I'll be able to give you any heads-up on
Q Josh, do you have any more on the Wall Street Journal
report that claimed that there might have been some ethical
-- a bad ethical situation between David Axelrod's firm and
health care as the negotiations were going on? There were
new emails that were released. I know you guys have said it
was an old issue that was brought up, but the emails newly
released kind of bring light to it. Were there any ethical
problems there, as the report --
MR. EARNEST: I saw the report that you're referring to, and
there's -- I disagree with your contention that
there's anything new there. This was reported
extensively two years ago that Mr. Axelrod was not involved
in any way in the contract between AKDP and PhRMA on the
issue of health care reform. And there's nothing new that
was reported in the Wall Street Journal or anywhere else
that sheds anything -- that sheds any new light on that.
Q Josh, do you have any response to Moody's downgrades of a
number of banks today? I mean, how big of a deal do you see
MR. EARNEST: Well, I saw those reports this morning as
well. As you know, we don't typically comment on the
individual decisions of a specific ratings agency. What I
can say is that the American banking system today is
stronger and more stable as a result of the President's
efforts to push for strong reforms in the Dodd-Frank
legislation. But the kinds of reforms, including things
like higher capital requirements for banks, makes it less
likely that taxpayers would be on the hook as a result of a
bank failure, but adds strength to the system more
generally because of those reforms.
But in terms of the individual action taken today, I don't
have a specific comment on it.
Q Josh, there's been a couple new books in the works that I
think are close to being published; they're excerpted both
in The New York Times and The Washington Post. One was
about Michelle Obama's ancestry and family history, and the
other about the President and his youth. And I'm wondering
if the White House is -- I can be more specific if you need
-- but I'm wondering if the White House knows if the
President has read those books and -- or the excerpts of
those books, I should say, and what his reaction is. And
Michelle Obama, if she's read it -- the same question.
MR. EARNEST: I don't know if they've -- to be honest with
you, I don't know if they've seen those excerpts or not.
Q Does the White House generally have a response about the
books? I mean, they both raise some interesting questions,
both about racial issues, but also about -- in particular,
the book about the President, about his -- sort of his own
biography, Dreams of My Father, and some of the anecdotes
he brought up. It sort of raises some questions about sort
of the accuracy of some of those, even beyond maybe what
the President acknowledged at the foreword of that book,
about some of the composite characters.
MR. EARNEST: Well, I'm not sure about that last part. I
mean, the President was pretty candid in the foreward of
the book, as you point out, that he was using a narrative
to try to tell a story that did reflect his life. But he
was very candid and upfront, literally -- actually, in this
case, by writing it in the foreward -- about how the story
And I think Mr. Marannis himself, in fact, talked about
that, and talked about the differing approaches that the
two took to telling the story, and that both have been
candid about the approach that they've taken in that
regard. But in terms of -- I would refer you to the
specific language in the foreward of the book, because the
President really is pretty -- was explicit at the time that
he wrote the book about the kind of techniques that he used
to tell that story.
Q And you have no comment -- no knowledge or comment about
whether they've seen the book? You don't know --
MR. EARNEST: I haven't talked to him about that.
Q Josh, there's a story in the AP today about frustration
among military and intelligence officials about attacks by
militants on U.S. troops in Afghanistan who then flee to
Pakistan. How firm is the President about not using U.S.
troops on the ground to chase those militants into
MR. EARNEST: Well, I'm not in a position to comment on
the specifics that were included in that AP report today.
But our concern about militants using Pakistan as a safe
haven from which to launch attacks against our forces are
well known. That's something that we raise both
publicly and privately with the Pakistani government.
We'll take steps necessary to mitigate that threat. We
value our relationship with Pakistan and we'll continue
to find ways to work together to combat those terrorist
groups that pose a threat both to the United States forces,
but also to innocent Pakistani civilians.
Q When you say you'll take steps to mitigate that
threat, does that mean that you could potentially send U.S.
soldiers across the border to chase down those militants?
MR. EARNEST: I won't preview the kinds of things that
are being discussed, and frankly, whether or not
they're even being discussed by the administration. But
I can tell you that this is something -- this threat is
something that we have talked about quite extensively both
publicly and privately. It's something that we have
raised with the Pakistanis and we remain committed to
finding ways to work with them to combat the threat that
these groups pose both to U.S. forces, but also to innocent
Q -- if the President read or watched any of Romney's
speech yesterday to NALEO, to the same group? Did he watch
that? And then also, did he watch the basketball game last
night, and any reaction to the outcome?
MR. EARNEST: I don't know if the President watched all
of Mr. Romney's speech. Frankly, I doubt that he did.
But I'm sure that he's seen news reports of it this
morning. And I don't know about the basketball game,
actually. I will circle back with you guys on whether or
not he watched the basketball game or whether he had a
specific reaction to the game.
Q -- speak to NALEO today, and it comes on his reports that
he's looking to scrub the voter roles. Some Democrats
are suggesting that that's an attempt to get rid of
Hispanic voters. Does the President have that concern,
specifically in Florida, but also in other states --
MR. EARNEST: Well, I can tell you as a general matter, not
specifically related to the Florida activities, that the
President does believe strongly in protecting the right of
citizens to vote and cast a ballot in an election,
particularly in an election that's as important as
I know that the Department of Justice has been working with
the state of Florida on this -- I know that they've
actually raised some serious concerns about this as well.
And I'd refer you to them for the specifics of those
Q Can they sue them?
MR. EARNEST: I don't know exactly where they stand in
terms of -- on that process, but I know that serious and
specific concerns have been made. But for more details,
like where they stand in the legal proceedings, I'd
refer you to my colleagues at the Department of Justice.
Okay? All right, thanks, everybody. Enjoy the ride.