tv White House Briefing CSPAN January 4, 2017 3:48pm-4:16pm EST
ok, everybody. ou can stand here. all right. inaudible] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] >> josh ernest briefed reporters. most of the questions focused on president obama's meeting on capitol hill with democrats. and we'll show you as much as we can until the house gavels in. we expect at about 4:15 eastern. mr. earnest: good afternoon, everybody. nice to see you all. i do not have any comments to start so we can go straight to questions. darlene, would you like to start? reporter: would you give us a
brief readout of the president's meeting on the hill today? with congressional democrats? it was 90 minutes. maust have had a lot to say. mr. earnest: did he have a lot to say. you heard about his comments from some of the democratic leaders who attended the meeting. the president began his remarks y expressing his gratitude and pride for all of the progress that's been made over the last eight years. that gratitude was rooted not just in the political success that democrats have had in advancing that agenda, but rooted in the tangible positive difference that their efforts have made in the lives of millions of americans in communities large and small cross the country.
much of that work would not have been possible had the president not been able to work effectively with democrats in congress to get so much of that done, given the unreasonable and unprecedented obstruction that was erected by congressional republicans. the president continued saying that that should fuel their efforts moving forward. even though democrats in congress will not have the kind of cooperative partner that they've enjoyed for the last eight years in the white house, they still have a set of values and priorities that are worth fighting for. and the good news is that those are values and priorities that most americans agree with and strongly support. those are values and priorities that lead to policies that make people's lives better and make our country stronger.
nd the president expressed his -- the word that he used was envy, for the opportunity that they have to keep up that fight . the president expressed his confidence in their ability not just to wage those fights with passion, but he expressed confidence in their ability to succeed. gain, both because the majority of the american people agree with them, whether it's investing in the kinds of policies that expand economic opportunity for middle class families, whether it is expanding access to health care for every american, making it not just a privilege but a right, making sure that there are consumer protections in place so every american can't be discriminated against because they have a pre-existing condition, and that they can't be subject to lifetime capps that allow them
to no longer benefit from insurance coverage if they are or someone in their family gets sick. these are the kinds of values and priorities that democrats have long fought for. these are the values and priorities that most americans agree with. that was essentially the president's opening statement and he took questions from a substantial number of house and senate democrats and most of he questions centered on the fight on capitol hill which is the republican attempt to repeal the affordable care act. but the president had an opportunity to touch on some other areas as well. the president really enjoyed the opportunity to go up there and was warmly received, which he has been every time by democrats on capitol hill, even when he's gone up there to address differences that they have. but i have to tell you, in this case, the president has -- in the past, you all have covered times when the president has traveled to capitol hill to try
to bridge differences with democrats on capitol hill. that wasn't the case this time. this time the president was there to affirm his support for the agenda that democrats in congress are fighting for. that that will be a source of strength for democrats in the years ahead. and the president encouraged them to draw on it as they continue to fight for the values that they've been fighting for, for the not just the last eight years but for most of the people in that room their entire career in public service. reporter: can you mention other issues that they talked about besides health care? mr. earnest: there were a range of legislative issues that i think would you expect. criminal justice reform, immigration reform, infrastructure. some of the other issues that democrats are likely to be working on over the next couple of years. reporter: to go back to the question of what he wants
democrats to do when it comes to -- [inaudible] -- once the law is repealed, would he like democrats to negotiate with republicans to come up with a replacement or would he like them to refuse to negotiate and just leave republicans to be the ones to come up with the replacement on their own so they didn't vote for it in the fist place and they're anxious to repeal it? mr. earnest: let me start out by answering your question by making a little news and saying that i agree with congressman rand paul, or senator rand paul, i just gave him a demotion, senator rand paul. he wrote an op ned which he indicated -- ed in which he indicated that the people who repeal the affordable care act are going to assume the blame for the chaos that ensues. that's true. and that's not a direct quote from his op-ed but i think that is a faithful representation of what he wrote.
do i think that's an illustration of something you've heard the president talk about quite bantamweight since november 9 -- quite a bit since november 9 and that is that there's a difference between livering a poll-tested sound bite-packaged promise on the campaign trail and actually delivering on that promise once you assume the responsibility to govern the greatest country of the world. there is no better example than the republicans who -- and i'm not just talking about the president-elect here, i'm talking about republicans in states all across the country who have spent years ex coreating the affordable care act and vowing to do everything they possibly can to repeal it. the time has now come. for them to consider how they're going to make good on that promise. republicans are in charge of the house of representatives. republicans are in charge of
the united states senate. starting on january 20, republicans will be in charge of the white house. and they're going to have to decide how they make good on that promise. to repeal and replace. the challenge is is that there are a lot of people in the great state, the commonwealth of kentucky, who are strong upporters of senator rand paul whose livelihood and in some ases life depends on the health care they receive from obamacare. whether that's expanded medicaid or insurance that they've purchased in the marketplace run by the commonwealth of kentucky. so you can understand why rand ul would have some anxiety about this plan. about this strategy that's put forward by republicans. the anxiety is palpable.
one of the most articulate republicans on capitol hill is the speaker of the house. he did a news conference today where he was unable to explain why republicans have not put forward their replacement plan. he's a smart guy. he spent years thinking about this. he's smart when it comes to politics, he's smart when it comes to policy. we have profound differences. he's got a different point of view. but there's nobody that questions his intellect. even he can't articulate exactly why they can't -- why they aren't putting forward a replacement plan. that does not bode well for republicans making good on this promise. but we'll see. one other reason, and this is something that the president did discuss with democrats on capitol hill, and one of the reasons that this is particularly hard for republicans, including republicans who represent states like west virginia and kentucky, tennessee, not
typically states that you consider as bastians of obama supporters, but these are states that have many communitieses that have been avaged by the opioid epidemic. expanded medicaid and health insurance that people purchase through obamacare marketplaces offers support and service and treatment to people who are being ravaged or to people who are addicted to opioids and are trying to beat that addiction. and we know that this is an issue that republicans care about. republicans at the end of last year were brag being a piece of government spending that they had passed to increase support for treatment for people who are fighting opioid addiction. the worst way to fight the opioid crisis is to strip away
health care from millions of whop rely on it -- who rely on it. a similar argument could be made for cancer research. that was also included in the package that republicans were bragging about passing at the end of last year. what good is it to invest billions of dollars in cancer research if you're going to prevent millions of americans from being able to get a check-up once a year? we don't need to do a bunch of intensive academic research in cancer to understand what kinds of screenings are important and how important those screenings are, particularly for people of a certain age, a certain demographic and a certain medical condition. so, these are the kinds of complexities that republicans are now responsible for, because they're responsible for governing a country of 300
so to go ople and back to your more direct question, and i think this is the other element of the answer that the president offered to democrats, is something that you've heard him say before. in fact, since the day that he signed the affordable care act into law. which is, the president believes that the country would benefit from democrats and republicans on capitol hill actually having a conversation about ideas for strengthening and improving the affordable care act the president has never made the argument that the affordable care act is perfect, has done a whole lot of good for people, it saved lives, but it could be improved. that has never been the offer that republicans have put forward. the president himself put forward ideas to strengthen the program but never a willingness
on the part of republicans. if they change their tune recognizing these complexities , say, all right, democrats we acknowledge that tearing this thing down is not good for the country, but you have to admit there are things that we can do to improve this proposal. that's a conversation of entirely different color and that is the conversation that the president asked democrats to engage republicans on. but that would require a different approach on the part of republicans but it's a change in approach that president obama would welcome and ask democrats to their reaction and they would say it depends. if it says it depends, it means that they're open to it. reporter: you talk about going back to the health care meeting,
talk about the importance of democrats sticking together, at least one senator didn't attend the meeting and although he also criticized vice president-elect pence for having his meeting but having president obama it would be a poison pill and hurt bipartisanship. at this point, is there any consideration that having the president come out so forcefully saying the democrats need to do this or do that regarding health care, that it makes it a more partisan issue and then also when you are stalking about strategies, if the republicans are unwilling to work with the democrats, what exactly does the president envision them doing? should they take some of the republicans and like shutting down government or things like that to get these issues to stop
obamacare? what can they do that the republicans don't want to work with them? mr. earnest: i think a presidential critic would have to engage in remarkable rhetorical contortions to make the case that the president is the one who made health care a partisan issue when you consider the president hosted a meeting at the blair house with democratic and republican leaders in congress trying to get them together around some basic principles of health care reform and when you consider the essence of the affordable care act was cooked up by the heritage foundation and implemented successfully by a republican governor in massachusetts who happened to be the republican nominee for president in 2012, that's been the approach the president has taken. the republicans have voted 50 times to try to repeal the bill. it's hard for anybody to suggest
seriously at least that another president has made this a partisan issue. in fact, i just indicated the president's continuing not just willingness but desires to have republicans and democrats to strengthen the bill. ,ith regard to democratic unity i can speak to senator manchin's schedule, but i have heard him speak about why repealing obamacare would be a terrible idea for hundreds of thousands of people in the state that he represents in the united states senate. he agrees with the democrats and the president and showing the same concern that rand paul are showing about the impact of repealing the bill. -- i will ave to ask
put it this way, i welcome the standard of democratic unity being the standard of whether or not senator manchin agrees on repealing the affordable care act. i think he would say what the president has said, which is that it can be improved. democrats and republicans should work together to improve it. but the idea of repealing it would be bad for the state and would have bad consequences for people all across the country. >> when it comes to specific strategies, would the president support democrats shutting things down or what specific strategies could they take? mr. earnest: the president acknowledged in his meeting with legislators he isn't the expert in legislative mechanics and didn't have any specific tactical advice but the president believes that are
principles worth fighting for. that health care is not a privilege. access to quality affordable health care, it's a right that the policies that limit the growth in health care costs for workers, for families, for business owners and for the united states government is a good thing and something that should be protected, that people shouldn't be diss krim that ited against because they have pre-existing conditions or women should be charged more by insurance companies because they are women and people shouldn't have to worry about declaring bankruptcy because someone in their family gets sick. those are principles worth fighting for and there are a locality of nodding heads when the president made that point. reporter: when you were asked when democrats should work with republicans and require different tactics, if the tactic remains repeal that democrats
should not work on negotiating? mr. earnest: repealing the affordable care act would have devastating consequences for people all across the country and not something that democrats should support and nor should obvious because of the tangible direct consequences that will have on the libes of millions of people across the country. 22 million people are going to lose their health insurance if the affordable care act is repealed. going to rip a hole in the budget and the deficit will go up if the affordable care act is repealed. that's not just my conclusion. you can ask the c.b.o. about that. the implementation of the affordable care act strengthened the medicare trust fund and extended the life of the trust fund by 11 years. repealing the affordable care act would roll back that progress. and we have seen the affordable care act went into effect, the
slowest growth of health care in our history. if republicans want to go back to a day in which health care costs for everybody are skyrocketing, they can do that, but that will be bad for the economy and create the kind of chaos that the american people will hold them accountable. reporter: democrats would be willing to work with republicans to improve but not repealing? mr. earnest: repealing is not an improvement. looking for ways to design and increase in subsidies so that working families can get even more affordable access to health care that's available for purchase in the marketplace, the president thinks that a pretty good idea. and that is -- subsidies is another word for tax cuts. you would think that they would be able to support, enthused
about supporting, but that's not the reaction. that is just one idea the president has put forward, but it's the kind of idea that's rooted in trying to find compromise that the president committed to since the day that he signed the affordable care act into law. reporter: republicans say they are going to repeal and be accountable for what comes next. steve scalise said the president made promises that if you like your health care, you could keep it and the president should be apologizing, what is your response? mr. earnest: the president's record on the affordable care act speaks for itself. and you know -- when the president-elect put forward his nominee to be the secretary of health and human services, congressman tom price, i predicted that at some point in his tenure as the secretary of
health and human services, he will stand at this podium and put the plan forward that he believes is the right one for the country. i said it should be measured against the progress that president obama has made in reforming our health care system and i feel strongly about that and whether that's expanding health care so 20 million americans have access to health care, reducing the uninsured rate, limiting the growth in health care costs, preventing people from having to declare bankruptcy, preventing women from being charged by their insurance company because they get sick, extending the life of the medicare trust fund, reducing the deficit by $3 trillion over 20 years, that's the standard that president obama has set. that is the way that the american people can and should judge the president's record
when it comes to health care reform. and it's a record that the president is enormously proud of, not just because of the politics but because of the impact it has had on the lives of millions of people all across the country. that's what he campaigned on in 2008 when he was going across the country, taking on the kinds of tough challenges that washington has been ignoring for too long and democratic and republican presidents for a 100 years had considered trying to take on the notion of health care reform. president obama took it on and has succeeded in getting it done and he is enormously proud of it. reporter: they say democrats should adopt things that tea party did. can you expand on that? what do you think that would accomplish and does the president intend to keep working
on this even after he leaves office? mr. earnest: the president was making the point that democrats need to place a priority of telling the story of people who benefited from the law. and there are lots of those stories to tell. not just the 20 million americans who got health insurance because of the affordable care act who didn't have it before but millions of more americans who are not being discriminated against because of pre-existing condition or keeping their children on until age 26, these are the kinds of stories that we can tell and the expansion of medicaid has saved countless lives across the country. and the president does believe it would be an effective tactic as this debate is waged inside the halls of congress to communicate with the american public about the stakes of this debate and the president feels
strongly -- this is a debate that democrats can win. because of the impact that this -- that repealing the law as republicans are vowing to do would have on the lives of people all across the country. and that shouldn't just steel the spine of democratic members -- asgress, it's going to i think is evident from senator paul's op ed, will leave republicans quite easy. the president has been clear about his post-white house plans. he is going to take a vacation and he expects to be in a position that he can observe and follow the tradition that previous presidents have shown which is the country deserves
incoming president with an opportunity to go and lead the country in a direction he believes is right. and but this is a debate that will continue and the president also feels strongly that he has been on the national stage for more than eight years, if you consider his national campaign to win the oval office. it's time for some fresh blood and time for the next generation of democrats and even some republicans who shared his values to speak up and speak out and time for them to get the spotlight and it's time for them to have the opportunity to make that argument. and the president believes that's important for the country and ends up being important for the democratic party to ensure that the next generation of democrats is ready to take up the mantle. jordan. reporter: congressman cummings
said that as a private citizen, the president will lend his voice to that fight. and will he speak out about this health care issue? mr. earnest: the president made clear his solidarity with congressional democrats and no doubt about that among anybody in the room. but yes, being a citizen is different being president of the united states or elected member of congress. and being a former president does necessarily give you a larger platform, but the president is hopeful that he will be able to observe the kinds of standards that previous presidents have in giving the next president the opportunity to succeed. and -- look, the president has been blunt about his approach here. he has talked a lot. -- >> allf