Subject: WH Travel Pool 8/22 #2b: Gaggle
Here are gaggle highlights, with
thanks to co-pooler Michael Shear of NYT. Please consult transcript for fuller remarks.
Secretary Duncan kicked off the gaggle with some points on the higher ed policies POTUS is set to announce.
Duncan said the administration will take its time developing the new rating system. “You worry about preverse incentives, doing the wrong thing. So we’ll take our time on it.” Focus is on bringing down costs, seeing grad rates go up and see students with access to good jobs. “We need much greater transparency for the public” in choosing institutions of higher ed with greatest value. “We want to see good actors be rewarded. We want to see them get more resources. … And when we’re not seeing that kind of commitment we want to challenge that status quo.”
Duncan said the admin doesn’t need congressional approval to create the rating system but would seek their input. Said it should be a non-partisan issue, pointing to what he said was a broad bipartisan vote on the student loan overhaul. He later said that other proposals that would need congressional approval could be part of the upcoming 5-year higher ed reauthorization but may also be on a separate track.
Duncan rejected the idea that the administration was overstating the increase in college costs, pointing to a trillion dollars in student debt, on avg $26K per student. Said something “radically wrong” with the idea that polls show Americans think college is now something available only to the wealthy.
Referred to experiences in Chicago where students with identical records in high school had vastly different outcomes depending on which colleges they went to, and how they would steer students toward schools where they would be better poised to succeed.
Said same standards will be applied to for-profit colleges.
Briefly answered no when asked if he had any thoughts of stepping down as secretary anytime soon.
On Egypt: Earnest said he had “no additional meetings” to readout.
Said aid is still under review but “no change” to announce.
On Mubarak: “The revolution from 2011 in Egypt is still fresh in the
minds of the Egyptian people. There is little desire evident on part
of the Egyptian people that they want to turn back the clock to the
On Syria and optics of a bus tour: The US is “appalled” by reports of
widespread killings in Syria. Images are “nothing short of
horrifying.” Cited the UN chemical weapon team and urged Syrian
government to let them access to the site of suspected chemical weapon usage.
Earnest said the bus tour and “seeking a better bargain for the middle class is a top priority of the president.” The bus tour is an
“indication that the president has his priorities straight” even as he
continues to monitor the situation abroad.
On GOP linking debt ceiling to obamacare: “Disappointing but hardly surprising.” He said it’s “just wrong.” “The full faith and credit of
the United States is not a bargaining chip.”
Earnest also said VP Biden still skedded to join POTUS in Scranton Friday.
Tribune Washington Bureau