Tags: Earnest | budget | deal | Republicans

White House Briefs on Budget Deal

By    |   Wednesday, 03 December 2014 07:51 AM

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest held forth for three-quarters of an hour on Dec. 2 about the status of negotiations between the White House and Congress on legislation that would result in one of the following: 1) a deal to fund the government through most or all of 2015; 2) a short-term "continuing resolution" that would require another deal in just a few weeks or months; or 3) a temporary shutdown of the government that would leave the government in the awkward position of having to curtail services serially to important constituencies in an atmosphere where the sides would trade acrimonious charges as to who is to blame.

The overall tone of the session was relatively positive. Earnest sparred good-naturedly with the press corps and while expressing the administration positions forcefully, seemed open to negotiations that would produce a deal by Dec. 11.

The administration is calling on Congress to "do its job" and produce a yearlong deal. House Republicans have blamed Senate Democrats for chronic failure to enact a budget. A cynic would say that a variation of option 3 would be for the sides to agree on a deal just long enough for the Republicans to take charge, but the GOP might be able to work out something with their new best friend, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who hopes to show that he can lead the Senate two years hence.

At the outset, Earnest declared that the nation's economy would benefit from a yearlong deal, and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as well as his putative successor Schumer would agree with that. With the help of the press, Earnest got a chance to opine on the various components of a deal:
  • Anti-Ebola funding. This is not an economic issue, but the White House has given it prominence, demanding that a deal include funding for an aggressive effort to ensure that the current epidemic is halted in West Africa before it can spread to the U.S.
  • Immigration reform. Earnest invoked business support for an immigration program that would provide a path to citizenship, and some Republicans have supported this principle. At this particular session the White House seemed to back away from taking credit for using its executive authority to re-write the law. The updated spin is that the administration is acting within existing authority. The administration would almost certainly veto any bill that would propose to roll back the White House action. The task may be defined as finding a way to agree to move forward within the legislative package, so that both sides can save face.
  • Tax extenders. Roughly a hundred benefits for assorted constituencies are expiring, and Earnest insisted that any package must benefit middle-class workers as well as the corporate sector. On the surface this would allow plenty of scope for a deal.
  • Defense budget. Earnest expressed hope that a bipartisan process would have the sides agree on provisions that would fund assistance to Syrian opposition, strengthen protection from sexual assault, finally close the prison at Guantanamo and enact long-pending reforms of Department of Defense budget procedures to address charges by bipartisan critics that the defense budget is bloated but fails to deliver a defense establishment that can protect this country and support its allies.
In sum, Earnest expressed the hope that the negotiations will produce a balanced agreement. On the surface he set a constructive tone that holds out hope that all sides can get the new year off to a positive start and avoid blame for the dysfunctional government that voters rejected last month.

In a lighthearted sideshow, reporters probed to see if they could get Earnest to give up information as to the status of the appointment of Ashton Carter as the next defense secretary.

Earnest playfully responded that Carter has all of the requisites and confirmed that Carter is on the "short list," but he revealed no information as to how close the White House might be to an announcement. Informed that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has supported the appointment of Carter, Earnest dismissed this as insignificant, given that when Carter was confirmed as Deputy Secretary of Defense, every Senator supported him.

(Archived video can be found here.)

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White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest held forth for three-quarters of an hour on Dec. 2 about the status of negotiations between the White House and Congress on passing a budget.
Earnest, budget, deal, Republicans
Wednesday, 03 December 2014 07:51 AM
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