News from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.: Obama at Specter reception, AFL-CIO Convention, press gaggle
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much, everybody. Please, have a seat. Thank you. It was, first of all, wonderful to meet all of you as we were taking pictures. And I want to say that I am so pleased to be here not only because of Arlen’s outstanding track record, but because, like me, he married up in life. (Laughter.) We are both lawyers. We both appreciate the Constitution. We’re both fighters, and sometimes people count us out.
So although we come from different parts of the country, we have this bond, this thread. And as Arlen I think has mentioned, one of the most important bonds is we’re basically a couple of Kansas kids who somehow got displaced — (laughter) — him in Philadelphia and me in Honolulu. (Applause.)
I want to make sure that I give a word of thanks to Bob Casey, who is one of the finest people I know, has just been a great friend to me — and his entire family, obviously, is just legendary here in Pennsylvania. So please give Bob Casey a big round of applause. (Applause.)
And I want to thank David Cohen for being such a great supporter of mine, a great supporter of Arlen’s. And I suspect that David is in the middle of just about every civic activity that takes place in Philadelphia, and he does it with just a lot of class and always a smile on his face. So, thank you, David, for all your help. (Applause.)
You know, if you’d think back to where we were eight months ago, it’s hard to imagine. When I was sworn into office, we were in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, and a lot of economists — both left and right — thought that we might be plunging into a Great Depression. We were shedding 700,000 jobs a month. Credit was almost entirely frozen. Not only could you not get a bank loan or a student loan or a home loan, but banks weren’t lending money to each other.
And at that point I think there was a sense that in the absence of effective government action, we could end up being in a real disaster. So we determined that we had to move boldly and swiftly to turn this around. And we put together — after consulting with the best economists in the country from all walks of life and all parties, we decided that we needed to put together a recovery package that would have a variety of elements. It would provide tax cuts to businesses and individuals. It would provide support for states that were seeing their budgets plummet. It would provide help to individuals who were being laid off. And it would start building the kind of infrastructure that would move America into the 21st century.
And there’s been a little bit of a selective memory about — a little historical revisionism about the situation that we were in. But even then, even as scared as people were, there were some in Washington who decided that this is a political opportunity, this is ideological, that we should fight this and perpetuate the kind of gridlock that has caused us so many problems in the past.
I’m pleased that I had a partner in Arlen Specter in getting that recovery package done, because it displayed all the traits that I think makes him such an exceptional senator: Obviously the first, independence; he is somebody who has always fought for the people who sent him to Washington and not just party. A terrific intellect, being able to follow all the arguments about how to structure a plan that had the best chance of being effective. Toughness, being able to put up with an awful lot of grief in the midst of what was a eventually pretty acrimonious debate. And integrity, willingness to stand for what he believed in.
Because of Arlen, we were able to get that recovery package passed. We are now seeing that this economy has pulled itself back from the brink. The financial markets are working again. The stock market has recovered a lot of its value, which means people’s 401(k)s have recovered a lot of their value. Banks aren’t lending as much as we’d like, but at least things are functioning. We saw this month, for the first time in three years, manufacturing actually ticking up, consumer confidence is up. We are not out of the woods, but we’ve pulled back from the abyss.
Now, the challenge for us is figuring out how do we create an economy that doesn’t go through these wild boom and bust cycles. How can we create sustained growth? How can we make sure that we’ve laid the foundations for a competitive America in the 21st century, just like the foundation was laid for the American Century, the 20th century.
And in that process there are going to be some critical decisions that we’re going to have to make. Are we willing to invest in the education of our young people so that we can develop the science and engineering and technology and mathematical skills that keep us at the cutting edge? We’re not going to get that free; it’s not just going to be a matter of money, it’s also going to be a matter of reform. But we’ve got to have a sense of urgency about how we pick up the pace in our schools. We’re going to have to have an entirely new approach to energy — not just because of climate change and the environment, not just because of our addiction to foreign oil that ends up having us send billions of dollars overseas, but also because it is putting us at a huge competitive disadvantage.
We’re going to have to fix our health care system. We’re in the midst of a major debate about health care. And if you are a liberal, then you’re concerned about making sure that 30 million American citizens get coverage. If you’re a moderate and not all that interested in politics, you should still be concerned about the fact that your health care is less secure and less stable than it has ever been. And if you’re a conservative, then you should know that the only thing that is going to allow us to close the structural deficit that we have that is piling on debt for our children and our grandchildren is if we are able to bend the cost curve and reduce the cost of health care inflation over the next 20, 30 years. If we don’t do that, there’s no way for us to balance our budget. There’s so much at stake in fixing our health care system.
Now, this is before we start getting into foreign policy and the decisions we’re going to have to make in terms of how we project our power effectively: How do we balance diplomacy and our military might in an intelligent way so that we’re serving the national security interests of the American people? How do we make sure that we preserve our civil liberties even in the midst of going aggressively after those who would try to do us harm? How do we affirm our constitutional values at a time when the country is becoming more diverse? That can lead to incredible dynamism. That’s always been a source of strength for America, but it can also lead to contentiousness and conflict and strife.
On each and every one of these questions, the presidency can only take you so far. I’ve got a clear sense of where we need to go and I’m absolutely convinced that if we make the right decisions right now and we battle through some difficult choices and we’re willing to make some sacrifices, that we are going to be able to lay that foundation for the next generation.
But the President can’t do it alone. Every single issue that I just mentioned, I’ve got to have effective, tough partners with integrity and vision, who feel accountable not to special interests in Washington but feel accountable to the folks who sent him there. That’s the kind of senator you’ve got in Bob Casey. That’s the kind of senator that you have had for many years and you need to continue to have in Arlen Specter.
And that’s why I’m here today. I’m here today because I’m going to need all of you to redouble your efforts in the months to come to fight for Arlen, because he’s fighting for you and he’s fighting for what’s right. And it’s not going to be easy. It’s not easy because we live in a polarized environment and politics has become sport and it’s hard to sustain complex arguments about why we have to make choices that don’t always seem real attractive on the surface. And so that creates political vulnerabilities for all of us. And all of you who know better, who know why it’s so important for us to make these tough decisions, you’ve got to make sure that you support somebody who’s got the savvy and intelligence and the tenacity to actually get things done.
That’s who Arlen Specter is. I’m proud to call him a friend. I am glad that he is in the Senate. And I’m going to keep on needing him in the Senate in the years to come. So I hope that all of you work as hard as you can — if you do, then I’m absolutely confident that we’re going to get through these tough times and brighter days are going to be ahead not just for Pennsylvania, but for the United States of America.
So thank you so much for being here, everybody. God bless you. Thank you. (Applause.)
Remarks by President Obama at AFL-CIO Convention
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, AFL-CIO. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you so much. Please, everybody have a seat. Thank you. Thank you, guys. Thank you very much, everybody. All right, you guys are making me blush. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Obama! Obama! Obama! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much, everybody. You know, I tell you what, the White House is pretty nice, but there’s nothing like being back in the House of Labor. (Applause.) Let me begin by recognizing a man who came to Washington to fight for the working men and women of Pennsylvania and who has a distinguished record of doing just that, Arlen Specter. (Applause.)
I want to give my thanks and the thanks of our nation to one of the great labor leaders of our time, a man whose entire life has been devoted to working people, who brought new life to a movement, who worked tirelessly on behalf of organized workers, and who will be stepping down tomorrow, your President, John Sweeney. (Applause.) John, I know that Maureen is looking forward to seeing a little more of you, and your granddaughter Kennedy is about to get a whole lot more spoiled by her grandpa. But we are so proud of the work that you’ve done, and grateful for your lifetime of service.
I know it’s bad luck to congratulate somebody before they are officially elected, but I’m going to go ahead and take my chances and congratulate the man who will pick up John’s mantle, the son and grandson of Pennsylvania coal miners, a man who worked his way through college to lead the United Mine Workers, my friend, a fiery advocate for America’s ideals, Rich Trumka. (Applause.) I also want to congratulate the officers coming in with Rich: Arlene, who will be continuing her service; and Liz, who will be making history as the first woman elected secretary-treasurer. I am looking forward to working with every single one of you. (Applause.)
Now, being here with all of you is a reminder of what we’re trying to do in Washington and why I’m there in the first place — because one of the fundamental reasons I ran for President was to stand up for hardworking families; to ease the struggles, to lift the hopes, and make possible the dreams of middle-class Americans.
Your stories are what drive me each and every day in the White House. Stories I read about in letters, or I hear about in town hall meetings, or somebody grabs me in a rope line and starts telling me something, stories I remember from the campaign trail. Stories like one told by Steve Skvara, a proud member of the United Steelworkers in Indiana. Steve spent 34 years at LTV Steel, until a car accident left him with a disability and forced him to retire. When the company went broke a couple years later, Steve lost his pension, and his family lost their health care.
So rising to ask a question at the CFL — the AFL-CIO debate during the campaign, Steve said — and I’m quoting him now — “Every day of my life, I sit at the kitchen table across from the woman who devoted 36 years of her life to my family, and I can’t afford to pay for her health care.” And as he said it, he got choked up, and his voice started to crack.
Brothers and sisters, this isn’t just about Steve — this is about all of us. Because when hardworking Americans like Steve succeed — that’s when organized labor succeeds. And when organized labor succeeds — that’s when our middle class succeeds. And when our middle class succeeds — that’s when the United States of America succeeds. That’s what we’re fighting for. (Applause.)
For over half a century, the success of America has been built on the success of our middle class. It was the creation of the middle class that lifted this nation up in the wake of a Great Depression. It was the expansion of the middle class that opened the doors of opportunity to millions more. It was a strong middle class that powered American industries and propelled America’s economy and made the 20th century the American century.
And the fundamental test of this century, of our time, is whether we will heed this lesson; whether we will let America become a nation of the very rich and the very poor, of the haves and the have-nots; or whether we will remain true to the promise of this country and build a future where the success of all of us is built on the success of each of us. (Applause.)
That’s the future I want to build. That’s the future the AFL-CIO wants to build. That’s the future the American people want to build. That’s the future that I’ve been working to build from the moment I took office. (Applause.)
Now, we’ve been hearing a lot of stuff from folks who aren’t that friendly to me — (laughter) — or the union movement. So let’s just take a stroll down memory lane. See, so let’s just remember where we were when I took the oath of office a little over eight months ago.
At the time, folks were fearing the complete collapse of our entire financial system. Our economy was shedding about 700,000 jobs a month. Our credit markets were frozen, folks couldn’t get a home loan, they couldn’t get a car loan, they couldn’t get a student loan if they needed it. What was a deep recession threatened to become a Great Depression. You remember that, right?
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. That’s why we acted boldly and swiftly to pass an unprecedented economic Recovery Act. A plan that didn’t include any of the usual Washington earmarks or pork-barrel spending, but what it did include was a guarantee to uphold Davis-Bacon and pay prevailing wages. (Applause.)
Because of the Recovery Act, we’re keeping a promise I made to give all of you — 95 percent of working Americans — a tax cut — a tax cut that will benefit nearly 5 million families in Pennsylvania. We increased and extended unemployment insurance to 12 million Americans — including hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians. We made sure that they could get health insurance if they were looking for a job, because COBRA was too expensive; reduced the cost of it by 65 percent. So a lot of families out there were able to hang onto their health care even during the downturn.
We’re putting Americans to work across this country rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges and waterways with the largest investment in our infrastructure since Eisenhower created the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s. (Applause.) All in all, many middle-class families will see their incomes go up by about $3,000 because of the Recovery Act, helping them get back much of what they’ve lost due to this recession.
So I know times are still tough for working people. I know too many people are still looking for work or worried they’ll be the next ones let go. But the Recovery Act is making a difference. We’ve stopped our economic freefall. That’s something everybody can agree on.
But here’s the problem. Even before this last financial crisis, the economy had problems. Just last week, a Census report came out showing that in 2008, before the downturn, family income fell to its lowest point in over a decade, and more families slid into poverty. Folks at the top 1 percent did pretty good. Everybody else saw their wages and income flat. That’s unacceptable. And I refuse to let America go back to the culture of irresponsibility and greed that made it possible — (applause) — back to an economy with soaring CEO salaries and shrinking middle class incomes; back to the days when banks made reckless decisions that hurt Wall Street and Main Street alike. (Applause.) We’re not going to go back to those days. It would be bad for unions, bad for the middle class, and bad for the United States of America. We’re not turning back. We’re moving forward. (Applause.)
We’re not turning back. We’re moving forward. And that’s why we need to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity by creating the jobs of the future; by reforming our health care system; by laying down tough rules of the road to protect consumers from abuse, let the markets function fairly and freely, and ensure that we never experience another crisis like this again.
That’s how we’ll build an economy that works for working Americans. That’s how we’ll help our children climb higher than we did. That’s how we’ll grow our great American middle class.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you!
THE PRESIDENT: I love you too, sister. (Laughter and applause.) Although it sounds like you’ve been hollering too much; your throat was all — (laughter.)
We’re going to grow our middle class with policies that benefit you, the American worker. And as John Sweeney noted, I’ve set up a Middle Class Task Force to do just that, run by my outstanding Vice President, that scrappy kid from Scranton, Pennsylvania, Joe Biden. (Applause.)
We’ll grow our middle class by building a stronger labor movement. That’s why I named Hilda Solis, daughter of a union member, as our new Labor Secretary. (Applause.) Hilda and I know that whether we’re in economic — good economic times or bad economic times, labor is not the problem — labor is part of the solution. (Applause.)
That’s why we’ve begun reversing and replacing old anti-labor executive orders, policies with ones that protect your benefits, and protect your safety, and protect your rights to organize and collectively bargain. (Applause.) That’s why the very first bill I signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Act to uphold the basic principle of equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) And that’s why I stand behind the Employee Free Choice Act — (applause) — because if a majority of workers want a union, they should get a union. (Applause.)
We’ll grow — we’ll grow our middle class by creating jobs for Americans who want one — not just any jobs, but jobs with good wages and good benefits. Jobs that give a person the satisfaction of knowing they’ll meet their responsibilities to their families. Jobs that aren’t just a source of income, but a source of pride and self-respect. Every American deserves that much.
Earlier today, I visited a GM plant in Youngstown, Ohio, that is — (applause) — Youngstown, here in the house. This plant is rehiring about a thousand workers to make the cars of tomorrow. That’s a sign of life in our auto industry, and I’m pleased to see it. (Applause.) But you know what? I don’t want to just see jobs returning to our auto industry, I want to see them being created across this country in every industry. That’s why we’re investing in a clean energy economy that will free America from the grip of foreign oil and create millions of new green jobs that can’t be outsourced. That’s why I’ve named a new point person to jumpstart American manufacturing so that we can make “Made in America” not just a slogan, we want to make it a reality. (Applause.)
We’ll grow our middle class by doing a better job educating our sons and daughters. It was the GI Bill that helped strengthen the middle class in the 20th century, and our generation deserves the same kind of commitment. And that’s why we’ve begun improving standards, holding ourselves more accountable, making college and advanced training more affordable, and offering students a complete and competitive education, from the cradle to the classroom, from college through a career. That’s how we’ll prepare every child in America — not just some children, but every child in America to out-compete any worker in the world. (Applause.)
And, yes, we’ll grow our middle class by finally providing quality, affordable health insurance in this country. Health care can’t wait. (Applause.) It can’t wait. Few have fought — few have fought for this cause harder, few have championed it longer than you, our brothers and sisters in organized labor. You’re making phone calls, knocking on doors, showing up at rallies — because you know why this is so important. You know this isn’t just about the millions of Americans who don’t have health insurance, it’s about the hundreds of millions more who do; Americans who worry that they’ll lose their insurance if they lose their job; who fear their coverage will be denied because of a preexisting condition; who know that one accident or illness could mean financial ruin.
In fact, a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation was released today showing that family premiums rose more than 130 percent over the last 10 years — three times faster than wages. They now average over $13,000 a year, the highest amount on record, which is why when you go in to negotiate, you can’t even think about negotiating for a salary — a wage increase because the whole negotiation is about trying to keep the benefits you already have. (Applause.)
That’s not just the fault of the employer, it’s the fault of a broken health care system that’s sucking up all the money. When are we going to stop it? (Applause.) When are we going to say enough is enough? How many more workers have to lose their coverage? How many more families have to go into the red for a sick loved one? (Applause.) How much longer are we going to have to wait? It can’t wait. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: We can’t wait! We can’t wait! We can’t wait!
THE PRESIDENT: We can’t wait. My friends, we have talked — we have talked this issue to death, year after year, decade after decade. That’s why I said last week before a joint session of Congress, I said, the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to deliver on health insurance reform. (Applause.)
The plan I announced will offer more security and more stability to Americans who have insurance. It will offer insurance to Americans who don’t. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.
If you already have health insurance through your job — and because many of you are members of unions, you do — nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change your coverage or your doctor. Let me repeat: Nothing in this plan will require you to change your coverage or your doctor.
What this plan will do is make your insurance work better for you. It’ll be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a preexisting condition. (Applause.) It will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick, or water it down when you need it the most. (Applause.) They won’t be able to place some arbitrary cap on how much coverage you can receive in a given year or a given lifetime. (Applause.) We’ll place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses — because in the United States of America, nobody should go broke just because they got sick. (Applause.)
Insurance companies will be required to cover, at no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care like mammograms and colonoscopies — because there’s no reason we shouldn’t be catching diseases like breast cancer or colon cancer before they get worse. It makes sense, it saves money, and it will save lives.
So that’s what we’re offering to people who already have health insurance — more stability and security. For the tens of millions of Americans who don’t have health insurance, the second part of this plan will finally offer them — offer you affordable choice. We’ll do this with a new insurance exchange — a marketplace where individuals and small businesses, they can shop for affordable health insurance plans that works for them.
And because there will be one big group, these uninsured Americans, they have leverage and they can drive down the cost of care and get a better deal than they’re getting right now. That’s how large companies and government employees get affordable insurance. It’s how everybody in Congress — including those who are always critical of government — get their insurance. (Applause.) It’s time to give every opportunity to Americans that members of Congress give to themselves. (Applause.)
I’ve also said that one of the options in this exchange should be a public option. (Applause.) Now, let me be clear. Let me be clear, because there’s been a lot of misinformation out here about this. This would just be an option. Nobody would be forced to choose it. No one with insurance would be affected. But what it would do is offer Americans more choices, and promote real competition, and put pressure on private insurers to make their policies affordable and treat their customers better. (Applause.)
Now, when you’re talking with some of your friends and neighbors, they might say, well, that all sounds pretty good, but how are you going to pay for it? And that’s a legitimate question, because I inherited the $1.3 trillion deficit when I came into office. That’s the other thing people have been a little selective about — they don’t seem to remember how we got into this mess. (Laughter.) But it’s a legitimate question: How are we going to dig ourselves out of this big financial hole we’re in? So let me try and answer it.
The plan I’m proposing is going to cost $900 billion over 10 years. That’s real money — although that’s less than we’ve spent on Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It’s less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed during the previous administration — wars and tax cuts that were not paid for and ballooned our deficits to record levels, and didn’t help America’s working families. (Applause.)
We won’t make that mistake again. We will not pay for health insurance reform by adding to our deficits. I will not sign a bill that adds a dime to our deficits, either now or in the future.
What we will do is pay for it by eliminating hundreds of billions of dollars in fraud and waste and abuse, including billions of dollars in subsidies for insurance companies that pad their profits but aren’t improving care. (Applause.) We’ll also set up a commission of doctors and medical experts to encourage the adoption of common sense best practices that can further reduce costs and raise quality in the years ahead. That’s how we’ll pay for most of this plan — by using money that’s already being spent in the health care system, but spent badly.
So don’t pay attention to those scary stories about how Medicare benefits will be cut. That will never happen on my watch. We will protect Medicare, so it’s a safety net for our seniors that they can count on today, tomorrow, forever. (Applause.) Not a dollar from the Medicare Trust Fund will be used to pay for this plan, not a single dollar. (Applause.)
These are the reforms I’m proposing. These are the reforms labor has been championing. These are the reforms the American people need. These are reforms I intend to sign into law: quality, affordable health insurance; a world-class education; good jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced; a strong labor movement. That’s how we’ll lift up hardworking families. That’s how we’ll grow our middle class. That’s how we’ll put opportunity within reach in the United States of America. (Applause.)
The battle for opportunity has always been fought in places like Pittsburgh, places like Pennsylvania. It was here that Pittsburgh railroad workers rose up in a great strike. It was here that Homestead steelworkers took on Pinkerton guards at Carnegie mills. (Applause.) It was here that something happened in a town called Aliquippa.
It was a tough place for workers in the 1930s — “a benevolent dictatorship,” said the local steel boss. Labor had no rights. The foreman’s whim ruled the day. And the company hired workers from different lands and different races — the better to keep them divided, it was thought at the time.
But despite threats and harassment, despite seeing organizers fired and driven out of town, these steelworkers came together — Serb and Croat, Italian and Pole, and Irish, and Greek, and kin of Alabama slaves and sons of Pennsylvania coal miners. And they took their case all the way to the Supreme Court, securing the right to organize up and down the Ohio River Valley and all across America. (Applause.)
And I know that if America can come together like Aliquippa and rise above barriers of faith and race, and region, and party — then we will not only make life better for steelworkers like Steve in Indiana, not only make life better for members of the AFL-CIO, but will make possible the dreams of middle-class families and make real the promise of the United States of America for everybody. (Applause.) That’s what we’re fighting for. That’s what this White House is committed to. That’s what the AFL-CIO is committed to. (Applause.) And arm in arm, we are going to get this done. (Applause.)
I got a question for you: Are you fired up?
THE PRESIDENT: Are you ready to go?
THE PRESIDENT: Are you fired up?
THE PRESIDENT: Are you ready to go?
THE PRESIDENT: Let’s go get this done. Thank you, everybody. God bless you. (Applause.)
Press gaggle with Sen. Sherrod Brown and Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton
MR. BURTON: Hey, there, Senator. How’s it going?
Q Would you like to join us?
MR. BURTON: We’re just talking about Ohio — Bill Burton, good to see you.
SENATOR BROWN: Love your mother-in-law, by the way. (Laughter.) And I love your wife. (Laughter.)
MR. BURTON: Thank you very much.
So, Senator, if there’s anything you want to say about our trip to Ohio, just to start us off.
SENATOR BROWN: I think it shows what’s happening in Lordstown is what the recovery is all about. We’ve got a long way to go in the state. Clearly we’re not even close to out of the woods, but there’s some good news. We’re seeing the auto industry show some signs of life, in part because of the Cash to Clunkers, in part because of the stimulus package. You can drive almost — you can drive almost anywhere in the state and you can see Recovery Act signs up on road projects. My wife and I were going to a state park the other day and had to take a detour because of one of them, and we’re seeing them everywhere, and I think that’s a good sign.
Q How’s the traffic?
SENATOR BROWN: How’s what?
Q How’s the traffic?
SENATOR BROWN: How’s the traffic, meaning —
Q Because of all that construction.
SENATOR BROWN: They’re mostly — a lot of them are in country roads. I mean, they’re out of the way places that are sort of connecting small towns. I mean, they really are everywhere. There is a big project in Cincinnati on a main interstate, and there are some small towns everywhere, the same thing.
Q But for Lordstown, how long is that second shift going to stay employed?
SENATOR BROWN: Well, I think that we — I mean, if we — if the stimulus continues to kick in and we see demand created throughout the economy, then this is the beginning of something, it’s not just an upward blip. And that’s what I’m both hopeful of and think is likely that we’re going to see that. I think once we move on past health care, I think that there’s going to be more confidence, then that helps build confidence in the economy for people. And I think much of this is about consumer confidence.
So the Cash for Clunkers was a great success — not just a success, a great success, because of what it’s done particularly in a state like Ohio, for confidence, I think.
Q Senator Brown, what did you think of the Chinese response to the steel — the tariffs? Tire tariffs?
SENATOR BROWN: The Chinese always respond that way. You can expect it. The President showed courage. The President did the right thing. The Chinese are always going to complain. Exports are such a more important part of their economy to us than the other way around. That’s why the Chinese have too much at stake to launch any kind of a trade war. It’s not going to happen.
Q Thanks, Senator.
MR. BURTON: Thanks, Senator. Anything before we hit the ground here?
Q Bloomberg reported that Citigroup is in talks with Treasury to sell the one-third stake that the government has. Can you talk about what’s going on with that?
MR. BURTON: I’ve seen that report, but I’d refer you to Treasury for questions about it.
Q How about — any thoughts on what the possibility of a — China came out overnight and said that tire sales to the United States were actually down in the first half of the year, and they said that — to add to their argument that charges that they were dumping don’t make any sense. And what does that mean, especially since we’re going to GM, in terms of U.S. carmakers’ desire to sell more vehicles in China?
MR. BURTON: Look, our — the President is confident in his decision and believes that — you know, from time to time, there are disputes as it relates to trade. But if — there are rules on the books; they should be followed and they should be enforced. You need that for credibility with the American people when you’re asking them to move forward with a trade deal and you need that with your global partners — brace yourself for hitting the ground here — you need that for your global partners when it comes to new trade agreements.
So, you know, there have been disputes like this over the course of our relationships with China, the European countries, countries all over the world. But with China, there’s obviously a bunch of issues of mutual concern, like North Korea, for example, and their nuclear ambitions. And we’ll continue to work with them on that and other issues as we move forward here.
Q Is the President upset about this off-the-record comment about Kanye West being reported?
MR. BURTON: Look, I’m not going to get into what the President had to say in an off-the-record conversation. But you should see what Rahm said about it.
Q What did Rahm say about it? (Laughter.)
Q Can you tell — what kind of gesture might the President make toward free trade ahead of the G20, now that the tariffs have been imposed?
MR. BURTON: Well, I’m not going to get ahead of anything that the President is going to do or announce around the G20, since that would be his news to make.
Q Will GM get Department of Energy money to retool its plants, like, you know, Ford got these no-interest loans?
MR. BURTON: I saw a question on that and I’m going to have to point you towards the Department of Energy, who can help explain exactly how they’re disbursing those grant monies.
Q So no big announcement today on —
MR. BURTON: No.
Q Will the President apologize to Kanye West? (Laughter.)
MR. BURTON: Like I said —
Q What about — (laughter.)
Q Actually, Bill, do you have a comment on the resolution on Joe Wilson — now on the floor today?
MR. BURTON: I don’t. That’s House business. The President has already — Congressman Wilson called the White House to apologize. The President accepted his apology. And this is something that the House is doing.
All right. We’ll see you guys in there. Sorry it was so short. If there’s a bunch of follow up I’ll come back on the second leg here.