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CBS' Bob Schieffer presses Jack Lew on Bill Daley White House departure

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MR. SCHIEFFER: And joining us now, in his first appearance on "Face the Nation," the new White House chief of staff, Jack Lew.

Mr. Lew, let me just put this to you directly. Bill Daley, your predecessor, warned the president about getting into a fight with the Catholic Church if he went forward with the policy of forcing Catholic institutions to buy this birth control coverage for their employees.

The vice president warned him against that. He went ahead with that policy.

Is that the reason that Bill Daley left and you're here sitting in this chair today?

WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF JACOB "JACK" LEW: No. You know, Bob, good to be with you this morning.

The president has two very strong principles that have been at work throughout. One is --

MR. SCHIEFFER: No, no. The question was is that why Bill Daley left?

MR. LEW: No. He announced a policy that was going to take some time to implement. He speeded up the process. He's now implemented it. The president has not changed his position. His position was, is and has been that women have a right to full range of preventative health, including contraception. And we have to do it in a way that's respectful of religious differences.

We have implemented the policy. So I think the president has stuck to his position throughout.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Two questions. Let me go back to my question. Is that why Bill Daley left?

MR. LEW: I think --

MR. SCHIEFFER: Yes or no?

MR. LEW: I think that the president and Bill Daley made clear that, after a very difficult year, Bill submitted his resignation. The president reluctantly accepted it. He asked me to take his place.

So I think that we're -- you know, we're now in a period of -- you know, the economy is growing. We've got an awful lot of things going on in the world, and it's time to move forward.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, second question. Are you saying that the president came out Friday and did not change his policy?

MR. LEW: I think what the president did on Friday was he provided the detail. The detail was always going to come. It was an important principle. It is an important principle that women have a right to get all forms of preventive health, including contraceptives.

The president has always been sensitive to the concerns of institutions that have religious objections. The solution that the president announced on Friday is one that puts -- no institution that claims, you know, religious objection because it's related to the church -- whether it's a Catholic hospital or a Catholic university -- in the position where they either have to pay for or provide benefits that they find objectionable.

But women will have the right to get them. It's reconciles two very important principles.

MR. SCHIEFFER: But you're saying the president went on national television just to announce some details? He didn't change anything in his plan? Why were the Catholics objecting?

MR. LEW: Well, it's clear --

MR. SCHIEFFER: Why did some of them, after that, say, OK, that's a step in the right direction?

MR. LEW: Look, it's clear that the policy that was announced at end of January generated quite a lot of attention. It's also clear, on Friday, when the president made his announcement, that the Catholic Health Association, which understands both health care reform and the health care system very well, the Catholic Charities, they embraced what the president announced because it did, successfully, bring together these two principles.

There are some who want to divide and say that there's no way to come to an agreement that bridges the difference. The president, I think, accomplished what he set out to do, which was bring these two principles together.

MR. SCHIEFFER: With all due respect, the Catholic bishops didn't agree. They didn't embrace it. They said we're now going to push for something even stronger.

MR. LEW: We never expected that there would be universal acceptance of what the president was proposing. So I can't speak to one or another group that objects to it.

We have broad consensus -- not universal consensus -- that this is an approach that's right. We're going to go ahead and implement it, and women have going to have access. And institutions like Catholic universities and Catholic hospitals will not be in the position that they had feared.

I think that's a good resolution. It draws on the best in the American tradition.

MR. SCHIEFFER: If the Congress, in some ways, tried to abridge this -- we're already seeing Senator Blunt saying that he will introduce an amendment now that will allow any organization that has a moral objection, religious or otherwise, to be able to -- you know, that they won't have to do it.

MR. LEW: Well, you know, we don't --

MR. SCHIEFFER: The president, I take it, would veto something like that.

MR. LEW: I'm not going to address hypotheticals. The president is going to go ahead and implement the Affordable Care Act. We've made every effort since its enactment to implement it. We will continue to.

I think that it's not -- it's not going to come to pass.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. Lew, we want to thank you very much for coming and being with us this morning.

MR. LEW: Good to be with you, Bob.


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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 12, 2012 4:16 PM.

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