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Today on CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley, White House chief of staff Jacob Lew spoke about the controversy surrounding the administration’s contraception policy, payroll tax cut negotiations, the budget, unemployment numbers and Americans detained in Egypt. Highlighted excerpts are below, and a full transcript is after the jump.
On the White House contraception policy
LEW: You know, I have to tell you, as somebody who's done budgets for a lot of years, usually when people say to me that something doesn't cost money, I ask them, how could that be? This is the exception to the rule. If you priced two insurance plans, one of them with contraception and other without, the plan without contraception costs more than the one with it. So this will not cost the insurance companies money. It will not put religious institutions in a position (ph) where they have to violate their principles.
CROWLEY: Why won't it? Why - why is that?
LEW: Because the total cost of care for persons is higher without than it is with contraception…
… CROWLEY: As far as the White House is concerned, is this done?
LEW: ... put out a pretty solid plan.
CROWLEY: So no more compromising?
LEW: We've put out the plan that reflects where the president intended to go.
CROWLEY: So that means there is room for compromising or is not?
LEW: No. This is our plan.
On payroll tax cut negotiations
LEW: I believe it should get solved. And I know there are people working hard even this weekend trying to solve it.
On American hostages in Egypt
CROWLEY: What are you doing - I mean, as far as the administration is concerned, is it all right for the Egyptian government to be holding these Americans inside the country?
LEW: Well, let's be clear. The situation in Egypt is quite serious. We have made clear we're having conversations - General Dempsey is there this weekend - that it's important to resolve this country to country. But to compare this to the Iranian hostage crisis really does a disservice to those Americans in Iran who truly were held hostage. This is a situation that can be resolved. There's time to resolve it. And our government is working very hard.
CROWLEY: Are you close to getting them out of the country?
LEW: I don't want to speak to where things are going, but all efforts are being made.
On the budget
LEW: Unless Republicans are willing to work with Democrats in the Senate, Harry Reid is not going to be able to get a budget passed. And I think he was reflecting the reality that that could be a challenge. But let's be clear. There's time and the desire to work together. You know, we've put a lot of things out there, ranging from authority to reorganize the government so that we have a government that's the 21st century, not the 19th and the 20th century, home financing proposals so that Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike, can refinance homes that are underwater. There's a lot that we can and should do together on a bipartisan basis this year
CROWLEY: What's the economy going to look like in September? What will the unemployment rate be?
LEW: You know, we've been very heartened by the economic news of the last two, three months…. I can't predict that each month will be as good as the last few, but we're certainly headed in the right direction. What we need to make sure is that we don't do anything to get in the way. Washington needs to get its work done. That's why the payroll tax needs to be extended on time without a lot of drama. It's why we need to do our business in a way that doesn't create the kind of uncertainty that did harm to the economy over the summer.Lew defends new contraception policy