Major Asks Gibbs

Below is a transcript of Senior White House Correspondent Major Garrett's questions at Tuesday's briefing with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:

Major: A couple on the freeze and then a couple on security questions.  During the campaign, specifically on October 7th, when John McCain during one of the debates suggested to then-candidate Obama, "Why don't we -- why don't we hold harmless nonsecurity spending and entitlements and have a domestic discretionary freeze?" candidate Obama said that would be punting responsibility, it would be using a hatchet instead of a scalpel.  Is he changed his position on that?

Gibbs: What the president has proposed, as I said to others, is a process by which every family in America has to make budgetary decisions: what they have to spend money on versus what they'd like to spend money on but they can't afford in tough times.

Major: So why didn't he use the scalpel last year when he was looking at appropriations bills that raised spending by 12 percent?

Gibbs: Well, obviously, the Recovery Act put money into the economy in order to get...No, I understand. But, again, we proposed a series of cuts not dissimilar to this...and got 60 percent of them, right.

Major: Would the president be satisfied with a 60 percent solution on this freeze?

Gibbs:  No.

Major: OK. Will any of the spending associated withthe jobs bills, in the House, probably $80 billion in the Senate, is that in any way covered by any of this?

Gibbs: No, because what --again, I think a question you may have asked yesterday. I hate to do this but...

Major: I didn't ask that yesterday.

Gibbs: Is that belied by my facial expression? The budget goes into effect for fiscal year 2011 -- obviously, the budget tends to be ahead of the calendar...

-- on October 1st, 2010, and governs spending for fiscal years '11, '12 and '13. The accumulated savings of $250 billion over a 10-year period of time.

Efforts to get our economy moving again would be done before -- the president would want to see that money go into the economy before the beginning of -- of the fiscal year budget.

Major: OK. There's a bipartisan commission report on weapons of mass destruction and the administration's ability to cope with that. It deals particularly on biological weapons, the administration gets an F. If it's on (inaudible) generally.

What's your response? And how, specifically, will the president address this issue tomorrow night?

I know, considering your -- I don't want to get ahead of the president, but we've been led to believe there's going to be some discussion of this tomorrow night.

Gibbs: Well, look, I mean, again, the administration rolled out a strategy for countering biothreats in December -- or, I'm sorry, in November -- to take significant steps to enhance our capabilities to deal with that.

On December 30th, the president signed an executive order to establish a more rapid federal capability to dispense -- to provide medical countermeasures in the event of a bio-attack.

And part of what the president will announce tomorrow of that review that led to the executive order is to launch an initiative aimed at responding faster and more effectively to those public health threats.

All of that -- I -- the administration's proud of the efforts that we've undertaken to put our nation on a far firmer footing in dealing with these.

And understand this, when -- when it comes to dealing with weapons of mass destruction writ large, particularly nuclear capabilities, going back to the president's time in the Senate, quite frankly, going back to a relationship that started with Senator Lugar from Indiana prior to being sworn in, an effort to expand off of the successful Nunn-Lugar program to dispose of nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union to create a program to similarly destroy weapons on the conventional side.

And as you know, the president has outlined a plan to -- to get all loose nuclear material contained over a four-year period of time. And in April, we'll host 43 nations in a nuclear security summit in order to make sure that those promises are made real.

Gibbs: A cyber-security question: Senators Lieberman, Collins, Webb, Lincoln and McCain all  have asked the A.G. to reverse -- not reconsider -- reverse the decision to have the 9/11 suspects tried in New York. Is there any thought being given to revisiting that decision?

Gibbs: You know, I would -- I have not seen the letter, and I'd point you over to Matt at Justice.