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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 6, 2001

Press Briefing to the Pool by Ari Fleischer
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Toledo, Ohio

  1. Budget talks with Congressional leaders
  2. Raising taxes
  3. Capital gains tax cut
  4. Immigration
  5. Mexican delegation
  6. Travel to Ohio

1:41 P.M. EDT

MR. FLEISCHER: As you know, the President met earlier today with congressional leaders. And during the meeting they focused very strongly on proposals that will promote growth and they all agreed to resist any attempts by Democrats in Congress to raise taxes.

The President said, "We have plenty of money to meet our budget." And he also said, "I like our position on a number of fronts." Those are quotes from the President.

Q "We have plenty of money to meet our budget"?

MR. FLEISCHER: "To meet our budget." That's basically what he said on the lawn. And then the second quote was, "I like our position on a number of fronts."

And then they had a very broad discussion about taxes, about energy, about education, about spending, about appointments, nominations. They covered a wide variety of topics. But the focus of the meeting was that they have agreed and put a plan in place that will promote economic growth. The President believes the plan is working and it's very important for all members to resist the Democrat attempts to raise taxes.

Q Can you repeat that, please?

MR. FLEISCHER: The meeting focused on, especially the beginning of it, that the President had faith in the economic plan that had been put into place, that is now making its way through the economy, that promotes growth. And they all agreed on the need to resist any attempt by Democrats to raise taxes.

Q Who's attempting to raise taxes? What's going on?

MR. FLEISCHER: As the President said at the news conference, he's aware of people saying that, criticizing the tax cut, as the Democrats say, for causing any budget surplus issues. Well, if you criticize something, implicit in that is that you oppose it. Well, the question then becomes, what's your proposal; do you have a growth proposal of your own, or, implicit in your criticism is, if you could, you'd do something about it, since you're criticizing it.

Q -- implicit. I mean, you're drawing conclusions from Democratic -

MR. FLEISCHER: Some Democrats have already talked about raising revenue.

Q Who?

MR. FLEISCHER: Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. He said that about a month ago, raise revenue. The Democrats can't have it both ways. They can't criticize the tax cut and say, but, we're not going to do anything about it.

Q -- the revoking of the already scheduled tax cut as, you know, the phase-in rates, or changing the phase-in rates, as a tax increase; is that right?

MR. FLEISCHER: It is a tax increase. Otherwise, how does it raise revenue? I don't know, you tell me.

Q But, I mean, it hasn't taken place yet. The tax increase, or decrease, isn't in anybody's pocket.

MR. FLEISCHER: It's scored by CBO and OMB as a tax increase, because it's already anticipated - this is the Democrat complaint, that it's anticipated it will take money away from Washington, because it has already been adjusted for by CBO and OMB. So if you prevent it from going into place, you're raising money, it's a tax hike. If you raise money it's called a tax hike.

Q Well, not to split hairs, but you -- I mean, the President himself called the capital gains tax cut a revenue raiser. It would, "pile up a lot of revenue." So, is it really fair for you to say anybody who talks about raising revenues is talking about raising taxes?

MR. FLEISCHER: It's a scoring issue. There's no question about it that if you tell somebody, you're slated to get an income tax rate cut, you are slated to get more money in your paycheck beginning January 1st, and you tell them, we're from the government, we didn't mean it, we're taking it away, the American people are going to feel it like a tax hike.

The capital gains tax cut has always felt like a tax reduction, regardless of its revenue effect. They really are different issues, Sondra.

Q Did they discuss a game plan for a capital gains tax cut?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President reiterated that he has an open mind on the question of capital gains.

Q So, politically, you've got -- you feel like you've got the Democrats over a barrel, any squawking they do about the tax cut turns into an argument for a --

MR. FLEISCHER: It's hard to know what the Democrats seek. They criticize, yet they don't offer any growth package of their own. They don't like the tax cut, but they seem to be fearful of doing anything about it because they don't want to be labeled tax raisers. So the President is going to continue to work with Democrats and Republicans alike -- keeping in mind how many Democrats joined him and split from their leadership and supported tax relief to help the economy. But it's hard to know what the Democrats really are seeking or doing, other than criticizing.

Q Ari, on immigration, since the President opposes blanket amnesty, does he support the deportation of at least some illegal Mexican immigrants?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as you know, the INS has a job to do and the INS works hard at enforcing the nation's laws. Despite best efforts we still are a nation that has many -- several million illegal immigrants in our country. The complexity of the issue from the President's point comes in when you try to devise a plan that honors and respects the work that immigrants have done in our country from which Americans benefit. Not only do Americans benefit from the jobs that others do in our nation, but Americans benefit because many of these people pay taxes, even if their status is not legal.

Q He sounds like he's trying to find a way to make this happen for some portion of them, but he seems very adamant that it won't be blanket amnesty, which logically would suggest that some of them would have to go back. Does he support sending some people back?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President is working on a plan that's going to be enforceable, that's going to be respected not only on the books, but in practice. And obviously, we have people who are in this country illegally, and the INS is working hard to enforce the laws. But obviously, it continues to be an issue.

Q Does that involve like a time line, if they've been here so long, they may be eligible to stay; and if they've only been here a short time, they can be sent back?

MR. FLEISCHER: Those are all the plans that they're working on. But the focus is more on how to create a new program that works, less on any type of punitive actions such as that.

Q Ari, the President today spoke about jobs for Mexicans who are willing to do work that others here aren't willing to do. Is he talking also, though, about skilled labor, or is he focusing on unskilled, entry-level type work?

MR. FLEISCHER: They're all under consideration.

Q Can you give some of the color of this flight here -- how many of the Mexican delegation are on board; where do find seats for them? Are the Presidents eating turkey sandwiches --

MR. FLEISCHER: The Presidents are having lunch up front. The Mexican -- the same thing we're eating. I think it's -- what's our lunch? Turkey sandwiches.

Q And where are they? What cabin?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President's cabin, the President's cabin up front.

Q Are they sort of more --

MR. FLEISCHER: I didn't poke my head in. I'll poke in. I'm sure it's the office, but I'll poke in. Unless you hear otherwise, it's the office.

Q Any chance we'll get any pictures of that?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, I'm afraid not.

Q Who else is with the delegation?

MR. FLEISCHER: Several of the Mexican officials, their seats for the most part, are in the conference room. They're seated around the conference room table. Secretary Martinez is on the flight, as well. And several congressmen, congresswomen, are on the flight.

Q How many from the Mexican delegation are on board?

MR. FLEISCHER: Reed can get you that. We have it on the manifest --

Q So they're seated in the conference room?

MR. FLEISCHER: There are a couple conference room holds, and so there are several others seated in one of the staff sections.

Q Not necessarily paired off with their U.S. counterpart?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, we've been mixing and mingling. I stayed up in the conference room at the beginning of the flight and was talking to my counterpart. Joe Hagin brought back some people to introduce them to all the Mexican counterparts. I'm sorry, Ambassador Ensenat brought back Joe Hagin to introduce Joe to the counterparts.

Q The ambassadors are both here?

MR. FLEISCHER: Ambassador Ensenat is head of protocol. His title is ambassador. But I believe the Mexican ambassador of the United States is on board. You know, it's wonderful, because you see people's eyes are open wide, there's this sense of amazement that all first-time visitors have for Air Force One. On the helicopter ride over, photos were snapping, they were taking pictures of each other, taking pictures out the back of the helicopter.

Q Did you give them a tour on the helicopter, or did you make a beeline for Andrews?

MR. FLEISCHER: I wasn't on the President's helicopter, but I saw, he looked like he was taking a tour. From my vantage point on the ground it looked like he was giving them a tour of the White House area and the Capitol. You know, he had to do what they call -- what's it called when they pass? -- an interchange. They had to do an interchange. So the President's helicopter ride lasted 20 minutes, while the staff helicopter ride lasted 10, because the President's helicopter takes off first and the staff helicopters all have to be on the ground first. So they did the interchange. The President took that time to give President Fox a bird's eye view of Washington.

Q When's the last time there were two Presidents on board Air Force One, do you have any idea?

MR. FLEISCHER: We're trying to find out, domestically, and it's been a long time, domestically, best we can tell. I know that President Clinton was on board with, I believe -- don't remember which leader of a Mideastern country at one point.

Q President Fox has taken a lot of trips to the United States since he took office. Is President Bush encouraging him to do that, to travel into other parts of the United States and the Capital?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President thinks it's very constructive for U.S.-Mexico relations for President Fox to talk to the American people and to take his message to our country. He welcomes it and it's good for America to hear what President Fox has to say. It really is a testimony to the strength of this relationship.

Nothing else? Time for lunch.

Q Thanks a lot.

Q If you could just go through again what we did on the tarmac -- then what's his message here today, the leaders? What are they expected to say and why are they doing this trip?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President's message is twofold. One, that relations between the United States and Mexico have never been stronger. And two, the President thinks it's fitting for a community in America that has a very growing Hispanic-Mexican population to be visited by the American President and the President of Mexico. The Mexican culture and the Hispanic culture play a very vital role in American culture, and this visit is meant to honor that tradition.

Q I thought of another question. When they're together like this, do they mostly speak English between the two of them, or does Bush use some Spanish?

MR. FLEISCHER: It's mostly English, but they go back and forth.

Q Just phrases, or does President Bush actually --

MR. FLEISCHER: The President will speak Spanish, but it's mostly English.

Okay. If there's anything different about where they're eating, I'll advise you. But otherwise, it's the President's office.

END 1:53 P.M. EDT

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