Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Live Press Briefing At The White House
Aired October 16, 2013 - 12:55 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Three deputies.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. Hi.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.
CARNEY: This is pretty much the entirety of the press office staff today. There's a smile.
Welcome, everyone. Thanks for being here, as ever.
We can go right to questions because I have no announcements to make, although I'm sure I know what you're going to ask.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Would you please give us the White House reaction to the Senate deal that was struck today.
CARNEY: The president believes that the bipartisan agreement announced by the leaders of the United States Senate will reopen the government and remove the threat of economic brinksmanship that has already harmed middle class families, American businesses, and our country's economic standing in the world. The president applauds Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell for working together to forge this compromise and encourages the Congress to act swiftly to end this shutdown and protect the full faith and credit of the United States of America.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I assume that means that he supports the provisions that are included in that, including the two dates for opening the government and raising the debt ceiling?
CARNEY: Well, he does. He believes that this agreement achieves what's necessary in terms of reopening the government and removing the threat of default and the kind of brinksmanship that we've seen, and he, again, we haven't seen legislation move through either House at this point, but -- so we're not issuing an official statement of administration policy -- but he looks forward to Congress acting so that he can sign legislation that will reopen the government and remove this threat from our economy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he confident that both the Senate and the House will be able to vote on this measure today? CARNEY: We leave parliamentary procedures to the Congress. We obviously hope that each House will be able to act swiftly because we're already on day 16, I think, correct me if I'm wrong, of a wholly unnecessary shutdown of government with real consequences for real people. And we are obviously, you know, very close to the point beyond which the United States Treasury no longer has the authority to borrow new money to meet our obligations. So as soon as possible is essentially the recommendation we would have from here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Since we are so close to that deadline, are there any operations or procedures that are going in place today to prepare for the possibility that Congress cannot pass this measure today?
CARNEY: The Treasury is the place that would answer questions like that. What I can tell you is what Secretary Lew has made clear in his testimony and in his letter to Congress, and that is that the Treasury Department will exhaust borrowing authority at the end of the day tomorrow, Thursday, October 17th. And that -- beyond that point, the Treasury would have only cash on hand. It would not be able to borrow new money to meet obligations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jay, how confident is the White House that the House will pass this deal?
CARNEY: We are not putting odds on anything. We're simply applauding the leaders of the Senate for reaching the agreement that they've reached and calling on both houses of Congress to act swiftly to take action to ensure that the government reopens and the threat of default is removed and that the continuing harm that these two situations have caused to our economy can stop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president has said from the beginning that he would not negotiate on this. Now that it looks like there is a deal, do you feel like he fulfilled that pledge?
CARNEY: What the president made clear was his position is that he would not allow a situation to develop where he paid ransom to any party in Congress that was trying to extract unilateral political concessions in return for Congress fulfilling its fundamental responsibilities. And he believes that's the right position for him to take, that it was the right position, it is the right position, and it's the right position for presidents of the future to take because our economy is extremely dependent on the faith and credit that is invested in it by investors around the world. In other words, there is a real, even if intangible, value to the safeness of investing in the United States.
And as we've discussed many times over the past days and weeks, threatening that has real -- does real harm. And obviously default would have even -- would cause even more harm. But we've already -- there is already a price that has been paid as we saw in October -- I mean in 2011 and we've seen again now in the various ways that the flirtation with crossing that line and flirting with default has brought about consequences. So, he felt and feels that it's the right position to take and, again, applauds the leaders of the Senate for coming together and working out a bipartisan solution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any concern even with this deal being made that a downgrade from some of the credit rate -- credit rating agencies can still be pending?
CARNEY: Well, I would refer to you Treasury for those kinds of assessments. I think that we focus on the things we can control which is calling on Congress to quickly act on this compromise agreement and ensure that the government reopens and that the threat of default is removed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And lastly, this is leading to additional budget talks later this year. Once those talks are underway, will the White House, will the president insist that revenue continue to be on the table?
CARNEY: The president has insisted that in these budget negotiations that he's been calling for all year, everything has to be on the table. And that will be his position going forward. What he believes is a fair approach to resolving our budget challenges is reflected in the budget he submitted. He knows that even though that was a compromise proposition from the beginning and reflected the offer he made to speaker Boehner at the end of last year that he will not get, in a budget negotiation, everything he wants and neither will Democrats and neither will Republicans. And that's the nature of compromise.
But he firmly believes that balance, when it comes to further reducing our deficits and building on the work that has been done over these past four years where -- in which we have reduced our deficits by half, we need to continue to take a balanced approach so that no sector of society unfairly has to bear the brunt of that the project. That's always been his position and it will be his position moving forward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Jay. Can you give us a little color how the president was informed of the deal, who told him, what his reaction was?
CARNEY: Right now, Brianna, I think we're looking to Capitol Hill for action to be taken. The president, as you know, has been in contact with leaders in Congress as have members of his team. And we are encouraged by the progress that we've seen. And hope that it is fulfilled through votes in both the Senate and the House.
KEILAR: Can you give us any more about how he was involved in the process? CARNEY: Well, as I've said, he's been -- and as you know, he's had meetings with leaders of Congress. He's had phone calls with leaders of Congress. He invited all members of both Houses to the White House. And it is also the case that we don't inform you of every phone call that he makes either to members of Congress or to others. So, he's been engaged in this process. His team has been engaged in this process.
Ultimately, our position has been consistent and clear and, therefore, not that the complicated to communicate either to you or the public or to Congress. We have simply urged all sides to, you know, put down sort of -- or put aside, you know, the efforts to achieve partisan advantage and leverage and instead, to move forward with an agreement that opens the government and raises the debt ceiling so that the threat of default does not hang over us at the time -- you know, at this time.
KEILAR: The president said yesterday -- basically once this whole mess was resolved, he said, once that's done, you know, the day after, I'm going to be pushing to say call a vote on immigration reform.
KEILAR: Does he really think that a recipe for success on immigration reform one divisive issue is to deal with it right after another divisive issue?
CARNEY: The president believes that one of the consequences of these manufactured crises is that time is taken away from the pursuit of other goals that we have as a nation. And that includes economic goals that go to the heart of his agenda to build a better -- building a better bargain for the middle class. And it goes also to the project of bringing about legislation that he can sign that comprehensively reforms our immigration system in this country. Now, that legislation passed the Senate with a significant bipartisan majority. And he absolutely believes that the House ought to take up that legislation and pass it.
And as we've discussed in recent days, that's not a partisan pursuit. It's the opposite of a partisan pursuit, one, because it requires votes from both parties and it --
KEILAR: So, does he think -- does he think pushing it right away --
CARNEY: -- also would benefit both parties.
KEILAR: -- does he think pushing it right away increases the chances of yielding a result that he might (INAUDIBLE)?
CARNEY: I think the president was simply reflecting that unfortunately -- even though we've been pushing for comprehensive immigration reform all year long and it's been a major priority, there is no question that the decision by the House to shut the government down and to flirt with default has forced him and everyone in Congress to pay attention to those problems and to those crises rather than the many other things that we could and should be working on and immigration reform is one of them. And I don't think -- again, there are many, many proponents of comprehensive immigration reform in the Republican Party and within the broader Republican universe.
So, this is not a -- he's not saying that he's going to -- wants to come out and push some Democratic agenda item. He wants to continue the effort that has been underway all year to try to pass a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation that would strengthen the economy, help our middle class, reduce the deficit, and make us more competitive in the future. So, that is one of the many priorities that he will be pushing and he hopes members of Congress will be pushing once we can move past these unfortunate --
KEILAR: He thinks he has a better shot --
CARNEY: -- and unnecessary crises.
KEILAR: -- he thinks he has a better shot to do that right now though?
CARNEY: Well, again, I don't -- I don't think that I can sort of place, you know, quantitative odds on the prospects of any of this. The Congress is a difficult institution to make predictions about. So, our view is simply that it's the right thing to do and we're going to push for it. And we think there's a strong argument to be made on a whole array of areas when it comes to immigration reform. It's the economically right thing to do. It's the -- it's the right thing to do when it comes to deficit reduction. It's the right thing to do when it comes to ensuring that the best and the brightest from around the world who come here and get an education stay here and start businesses. It's the right thing to do when it comes to further strengthening our border security. So, there's something in that bill for everyone and -- which is why it's the right thing for America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just one I got to try on phone conversations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When was the last time the president spoke to the speaker of the House?
CARNEY: I don't have any new conversations to read out to you but as I've noted many times, so don't read anything specific into this, the president has conversations with members of Congress that we do not read out in all cases. So, at this time, I have no readouts to provide.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president have an assurance from the speaker of the House that the House will vote on this?
CARNEY: I would refer to you the House in terms of actions that the House may or may not take be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president expect the speaker to bring this up for a vote? CARNEY: The president hopes that both Houses will act swiftly on this agreement in order to reopen the government and remove the threat of default and this continued brinksmanship from, you know, the harm it's causing to this economy. I'm not sure that was a great sentence. But I -- I apologize.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got you.
CARNEY: Do you understand what I'm trying to say?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I totally understand. Does this agreement represent --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE.)
CARNEY: I can't even -- it's not even -- the Red Sox game wasn't even late so I can't blame that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does this agreement --
CARNEY: But since I'm speaking about the Red Sox, how about John lackey, huh? Pretty good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Moving on.
CARNEY: Moving on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does this -- does this agreement represent a complete win for the White House?
CARNEY: There are no winners here. We said that from the beginning and we're going to say it right up to the end because it's true. The American people have paid a price for this. And nobody who is sent here to Washington by the American people can call themselves a winner if the American people have paid a price for what's happened. And the economy has suffered because of it. And it was wholly unnecessary. And let's just remind ourselves that we're not even out of it yet. This is not done. We need action to be taken so that the government can reopen and the threat of default can be removed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President -- or in this agreement, is there a little bit of ransom paid? I mean, there is a provision in here that requires verification for recipients of subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.
CARNEY: The income verification provision to which you refer was negotiated by Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans and is a modest adjustment to the existing Affordable Care Act law. We have always said we are willing to make improvements and adjustments to the law. Ransom would be a wholly different thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's a little bit of ransom.
CARNEY: No, no, not if --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it was something that was done with the gun --
CARNEY: -- not if --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- on the table and --
CARNEY: -- not if --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- (INAUDIBLE) --
CARNEY: both sides agree to it and we support it. We're fine with it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And very quick to just factual things on the Affordable Care Act. Can you give us some updated figures on Web traffic? You were very free with this in the first few days so where are we now?
CARNEY: Here's what I can tell you. Today, we are two weeks into the implementation of the Affordable Care Act's health insurance marketplace where Americans, regardless of their income, job status or age or health status can be access quality affordable health coverage they can rely on. Health care reform is more than a Web site. Across the country, people are getting health insurance.
Although the glitches are unacceptable, so is the idea of leaving millions of Americans on their own, including families across the country who now have access to health care they did not have the two weeks ago. I noted that on one network today that there was a suggestion that that network could not find a single story of someone enrolling which was ironic because they're all over the rest of the media including in Delaware. A small business owner found a plan that costs her $150 less than the cost of her previous plan.
Again, these are other media reports. Not information we're collecting or disseminating. The Kaiser Health News refers to a college student who will pay $70 a month after federal subsidies, the same amount he is currently paying but for much broader coverage. And he says, I'm thrilled to get something this good at that price. It was a complete surprise. In New Mexico, a business owner signed up his employees and got quoted a policy that will save $1,000 per month. This is the owner of a law firm in New Mexico. And I had mentioned some other stories.
And these are just stories that reflect despite the glitches that we acknowledge and that absolutely must be fixed, people are getting on and enrolling. They are finding an enormous array of options available to them that weren't available to them in the past. And we are focused on consumers here and consumers are just regular Americans out there who want the option of being able to be buy affordable health insurance. And what we're seeing from the anecdotes that have been reported are that people are finding those options available to them and are excited about them and the volume that we've seen reflects the fact that the interest is extremely high.
And, you know, that volume continues. I don't have it in front of me but maybe I can find it for you. It continues to be extremely high. We have 560,000 calls have been made to the marketplace call center. And I'm sure -- I just have a lot of material here. I know that the numbers of people coming to the Web site remain extremely high.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll get the updated numbers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have even an estimate for me now? We -- we're two weeks into this. How many people have a --
CARNEY: We've said repeatedly, John, that we will release enrollment figures monthly. So, I would expect the first figures to come out in mid-November.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand what you are saying about there's no winners. But, clearly, the White House wanted to establish a new norm, no reopening the government with what you consider to be partisan legislative attachments avoiding default with the same approach.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has that strategy been vindicated and do you believe 16 days of shutdown was worth that effort to achieve that --
CARNEY: The shutdown was wholly unnecessary. And this was a manufactured crisis. The president's position from the beginning was that Congress ought to pass a continuing resolution at existing funding levels. He made no requests associated with that.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That Congress ought to pass a continuing resolution at existing funding levels. He made no requests associated with that, demanded no concessions in return for signing of legislation that would extend government funding to allow for broader budget negotiations. So --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he did want to push back on the idea that you could use either one of these pieces of - these deadlines as leverage? Is that (INAUDIBLE) --
CARNEY: The president believes that it is the right position to take and it remains the right position to take that especially when it comes to the full faith and credit of the United States that neither he nor any of his successors can allow a dynamic to take root where raising the debt ceiling is used as leverage, or the refusal to raise the debt ceiling is used as leverage, to try to achieve some partisan policy objective.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe this now settles that question?
CARNEY: Again, we don't have a bill to sign. So I -- we're not in a position here to even say that the government has been reopened or the debt ceiling has been lifted. So I think hopefully when we do, we can have a fuller discussion about what comes next. So I don't want to get ahead of where we are today.
We are pleased with the progress made in the Senate and the agreement announced by Leaders Reid and McConnell today, and very much appreciate the bipartisan effort underway in the Senate that reflects, we believe, a model for how we can move forward. And, after all, this has only been about basic stuff, funding the government, making sure the United States pays its bills.
We will have, hopefully, serious, substantive negotiations around a broader budget agreement. And in that process hopefully there will be a willingness to compromise by both sides. And if - and if that is the case, then perhaps we can reach a broader budget agreement that will settle some of these disputes in a way where nobody gets everything he or she wants, but the American people win because there is increased certainty and necessary investments to help our economy grow and protect and expand the middle class. And, you know, that's what we seek here. And we think that that's -- those are goals that really have been and can be shared by members of both parties.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those negotiations in a second. Can the country anticipate hearing from the president when this process finishes itself on Capitol Hill?
CARNEY: You know, I don't have any scheduling announcements to make when it comes to the president. Obviously, he's been very much engaged in this and has spoken publicly about it rather frequently. So we'll have to see once we have a resolution as to, you know, what format his first comments about it will take.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Logistically, is it important, once the legislation is completed, when it is completed, that it get over here right away to avoid this scenario that the Treasury secretary has laid out, or do you think there's some time, 24, 48 hours, it's not an urgent matter that the legislation get here?
CARNEY: I think that the uncertainty that has already been created has caused harm to our economy and I'm just citing the financial press in saying that. This is not some inside information. We know it based on what's been reported. So, the sooner - you know, as soon as possible is the approach -- is the ask that we're making of Congress, act swiftly.
You know, the problem with reaching the debt ceiling, the problem with reaching that date where beyond which the United States no longer has the authority to borrow new money, is that it is uncharted territory. And -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) to avoid that (INAUDIBLE) -
CARNEY: You know, I would - I would point you to what Secretary Lew and others have said about this and simply urge Congress to act swiftly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the negotiations, once they occur, is it the highest priority of the White House to undo or redraw sequestration?
CARNEY: The president has many priorities reflected in his budget.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
CARNEY: I think the president believes we ought to set budget policy in a way that makes wise choices about how we invest and sequester definitely does not fit the bill -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president -
CARNEY: In that because it was sort of mindless across the board cuts that - I mean, by design, that took away from lawmakers and policymakers the ability to make wise choices about how we fund our government and what investments we make so that the economy can grow and what are the - what programs provide the best bang for the taxpayer dollar when it comes to growth and job creation. So we certainly - we certainly --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) from August about, you know, we need to invest and we're not going to be so obsessed with deficit reduction. It's important, but we're going to try to deal with other investments. You take those speeches all throughout August, this agreement, push it up to January 15th when the next layer of sequestration cuts really begin to bite in a new and fundamentally different way, it would be fair to deduce that that's the number one priority to redraw those numbers.
CARNEY: Well, again, I don't think it's all about sequester. The president's budget has savings that completely eliminate the sequester and then exceed it when it comes to deficit reduction. So it is clearly his belief, as a belief shared by many Republicans, that the cuts created by sequester are done with an ax instead of a scalpel -- or a clear instead of a scalpel, and they thereby do harm unnecessarily to various aspects of our government and our economy. And we ought to do better. We ought to come together and negotiate a broader budget agreement in which everybody can agree on where to cut, how to reduce the deficit, where to invest and plus up some programs because they're good for the economy and good for the middle class, good for educating our children and investing in our future. And from that, we can, you know, strengthen the foundation that we've built already for economic growth in the future.
Ed (ph). UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jay, on the -- following on Major's question about the strategy of not negotiating over fault and whether or not that's been vindicated, during the campaign the president also talked about if he won the election, he would break this Republican fever he thought was there to sort of not work with him. With this deal, do you think he's made any progress in breaking that fever or have Ted Cruz and other Republicans kind of driven both sides further apart?
CARNEY: It's a great question and I think it's fair to say that, you know, the experience that we've all had demonstrates that the kind of hyper partisanship that was a problem in the past, especially in one house, has, you know, continues to be a challenge. And that when pursued, at the expense of good governance and the American people, it does harm to our economy and just causes dysfunction here in Washington.
You know, it's a way of asking, a good way, but a way of asking the same question that was asked before, which is, you know, how do we -- what odds do we set on cooperation and bipartisan compromise in the future? And I don't think we would put odds on that. We would simply hope that this experience, if and when it's over, would remind all of us here that these kinds of crises only create harm to the American people and to the American economy.
There are costs that have already been incurred because of shutdown, because of the flirtation with default, and they're not retrievable. So we ought to instead focus on making progress instead of, you know, creating all this unnecessary conflict. So -- but whether or not, you know, this experience has -- will lead to different choices in the future is really a question for members of Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But on the last part of Ted Cruz, I know you guys don't like to comment on him directly, but him and whoever supports him, have they been -- do you think they've driven people apart? Do you think that there's any room for compromise that you talked about moving forward from this?
CARNEY: Well, that again, I -- completely legitimate questions. I think that, you know, these are - these are questions that can be best answered by Republicans in both houses. The -- what we know is that the strategy that was pursued shut the government down, caused harm to the economy and to the American people, kept people out of -- a lot of people out of, has kept a lot of people out of work -- I should very much refrain from using the past tense here - and, you know, has brought us already to the brink of breaching the debt ceiling. So -- and it certainly doesn't seem, based on my armchair analysis, to have won any of the adherence to that approach anything substantive.
So I would simply say that -- but I think it's important to note that the voices calling for a reasonable approach and for compromise have been both Democratic and Republican. There is a, I think, large constituency of conservative Republicans who, you know, believe that it's not right for the American people and the American economy to take an all or nothing approach. And we've heard those voices. And some of the Republicans who have expressed that opinion are the ones who have been very helpful in the Senate in helping, you know, bring about the agreement that was announced today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for trying to answer the Republican side, even though I didn't (ph) ask you too (ph).
CARNEY: No, I didn't really, but -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, but - well, you tried. But let me ask you - take a final crack at it from the president's perspective. In one of the interviews he did yesterday with WABC in New York, he said the problem is that Speaker Boehner gets weakened every time he negotiates with the president. These are the president's words. He gets an agreement with him. Then Boehner goes back and, quote, "can't control his caucus."
So if we accept that premise, I suspect the Boehner people might push back, but let's accept the president's premise, question very simple, what is the solution? Does the president want a new speaker? Does the president think there's something he can add a solution, some new approach he can bring? You said the American people paid a price from this debate. Has the president, with three years ago, have the Republican leaders, have they paid a price? What the solution -
CARNEY: I think, again, everyone pays a price for, you know, the failure to function here in Washington. So on that question, the answer I think is pretty clear.
On -- I think what the president was saying in that interview is reflected by what we've all seen over these past several years and many of you have reported, which is that even when there has been a sincere willingness in our view by Republican leaders to try to find a compromise on some of these broader budget issues, there has not been the support for leadership to consummate those potential agreements. And I think that is a bland statement of the obvious. So -- and that has played out a number of times.
I think, as I've said many times, the president has a good relationship with Speaker Boehner and I'm not trying to harm him by saying that because - you know, and believes that Speaker Boehner has, in their negotiations over the years, sincerely wanted to or tried to find a compromise. And when it comes to, you know, moving forward, the president is going to take the same approach with the same open mindedness about compromise that he has in the past and he hopes that there will be leaders and rank and file members of the Republican Party willing to meet him halfway and reach a deal that does good for our economy and for our people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president recently, from that podium, Jay, apologized to the American people for having to put up with government by crisis. I think you've addressed this in some form. But why today, given the fact that this is such a short-term deal, should Americans have any faith that any broader deal can be achieved by this president and this Congress within 90 days?
CARNEY: Well, that's a fair question. I think that, again, there seems to be an openness, not just by Democrats but by Republicans, to -- trying to forge a compromise on our broader budget issues. Whether, you know, how big that agreement would be will depend on how the negotiations go. But the president has sought that kind of broader compromise and certainly Democrats have sought it and there have been Republicans and are Republicans who seek it. So perhaps this will create an opportunity to finally reach a broader agreement that invests in areas of the economy that need to be invested in and that makes smart and balanced choices about further reducing our deficit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president have any regrets about anything relating to his management of these simultaneous crises or any crises that preceded these that may have created this situation we're presently in? What would be his number one regret from his position?
CARNEY: I think the president's position has been pretty clear. So in - in this -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
CARNEY: Well, there -- well, I was going to -- let me get -- in this - in this -- these twos manufactured crises that we've been dealing with in the last several weeks. The president made clear what his view was, made clear that he was asking for nothing in return for Congress doing its job, no concessions demanded on his part and made clear that he believed that shutting the government down and threatening default would only do harm to the American people and the American economy. And that, I think, he believes that that was the right position to take and continues to be the right position to take and he is very optimistic or hopeful that the agreement announced today can be moved through Congress so that we can get beyond these crises.
I think it's fair to say, as the president has said, that what happened in 2011 was -- you know, created the precedent here that that was so important to avoid in 2013 and that the willingness at the time to try to link the debt ceiling issue, the absolutely need for Congress to ensure that America pays its bills, around policy demands by the Republicans did real harm. And those, I think, are lessons we all learned. Because there's no question, as we debated in the past, in previous years, you know, legislation to increase the debt ceiling has been attached to different bills and discussed within the context of budget and other policy negotiations, but the concrete willingness to default and threaten default is not something we had ever seen until 2011, and the economy paid a price as a result. I think we all, including the president, learned lessons from that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Already some businesses are reaching out to their employees, contract employees and others in preparing them to come back to work as early as tomorrow. Has the White House done anything proactively to have its entire staff back in position as early as tomorrow?
CARNEY: Not that I'm aware of. But we'll take the question.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When asked if you are confident the House will pass this agreement you said you're not going to put odds on anything. Given that you seem a little skeptical about it, is there anything that the president is doing today to try and move this forward either on the House or Senate side?
CARNEY: Again, the president has been in regular communication with congressional leaders. I don't have any specific conversations to read out. His team has been in regular communication with congressional leaders and their staffs.
And I'm not expressing skepticism. I'm simply not saying this is done, because it's not done. And we call on Congress to act quickly to pass legislation that the president can sign so that we can reopen the government and remove the threat of default that has been looming over us for so many days now.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So investors are holding $120 billion in treasury bills coming due tomorrow. Should they still be --
CARNEY: You get the sense that Bloomberg is asking a question?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Should they still be worried that they're not going to be paid?
CARNEY: I would refer you to treasury. I would simply say that the borrowing authority of the United States, the treasury has, under current law, is exhausted at the end of the day tomorrow, as the treasury secretary has made clear repeatedly. Beyond that, if there's not a resolution to this, and the debt ceiling isn't lifted, then we have a cash-on-hand situation when it comes to meeting our obligations. For more on that, I refer to you the building down the street.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And given that the agreement only extends the debt ceiling to February 7th, why should investors not anticipate that they'll be in this economically precarious position four months from now?
CARNEY: I'd say a couple of things. One, the agreement includes retaining the abilities of the treasury secretary to exercise extraordinary measures, which is important because we need to have that cushion against the prospect of a potential unwillingness by Congress to raise the debt ceiling. Two, I imagine those were authorities that has always existed during this process but there was some discussion at various stages of this debate about removing those authorities. But that should not give anybody any false security. I would simply say that it is important that those authorities be retained.
Secondly, going to questions I got from the front row, we can only hope that this experience and the experience from 2011 is informative to members of Congress when it comes to the absolute necessity to ensure that the United States can always pay its bills on time without drama or delay because --
(ENDED IN PROGRESS)