The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 4, 2002

Remarks by Counselor to the President Karen Hughes to the Press Pool
The State Capitol
Austin, Texas

10:50 A.M. CST

MS. HUGHES:  Well, how is everybody?

Q    Cold.  (Laughter.)

MS. HUGHES:  Well, I hope that -- it appears that Senator Daschle went home over the holidays and listened to the American people, and perhaps did some studying of the President's package.  Because many of the elements that he is talking about now are things the President has been talking about for months.

For example, he apparently is acknowledging energy security is an important part of economic recovery.  As you know, President Bush laid out his -- his security package last year and the House voted on it.  The Senate has not.  He's talking about apparently trade being an important part of economic recovery.   The House has voted for trade promotion authority for the President; the Senate has not.

So I'm hoping that this is an acknowledgement by Senator Daschle that his posture at the end of the year in obstructing some of this important legislation was wrong, and that there is finally an acknowledgement that it's time for action.

As the President said today, it's interesting to be in this building because we're all reminded of this place where Republicans and Democrats worked together to get results for people.  And that's certainly the spirit that President Bush is going to be taking back to Washington with him.  And we hope that it is returned in kind.

Q    But he's also saying that the tax cuts the Republicans envisioned are wrong for the economy, that fiscal responsibility should be the driving force in any economic plan, and taking issue with the Republican approach on that.

MS. HUGHES:  Well, we agree that fiscal responsibility is extremely important.  And that's why President Bush worked with Congress to hold the line on fiscal decisions when many members of Senator Daschle's party wanted to increase spending beyond levels that the President thought was appropriate.  And that's why we worked so hard to make sure that we all stuck with the budget that we had agreed on earlier in the year.

Now, obviously, we've had the terrorist attacks that have required Congress to spend what it takes to wage and win a war on terrorism.  And President Bush will do that.  And to protect our homeland.  And those will be his priorities going into the next year.  He'll be focused on the war on terrorism, continuing to wage and win the war against terrorism and on the recession here at home.

Senator Daschle seems to be implying that tax increases might be necessary and nothing would be worse for workers who want to keep their jobs than to increase taxes at a time when our economy, we hope, is just beginning to recover.  So we feel that the bipartisan agreement, which President Bush worked with Republicans and Democrats to accomplish right before the end of the year, is the proper prescription for economic security and for jobs for Americans.

And we hope that that's what Senator Daschle heard over the Christmas holidays, because I think the American people -- what I've heard, I've been out in Texas, people understand there's a need for action and they want Congress to put partisanship behind them and to work together, to take action, to help laid-off workers and to stimulate economic growth.

Q    Karen, does the President also think that these numbers indicate that, in fact, the economy has recovered?  You said, "we hope."

MS. HUGHES:  Well, there are some good indications and there are some still mixed indications.  So we hope that, as you know, David, we felt that the impact of the -- when the President took office, you recall Vice President Cheney warned that a recession was imminent.  And, unfortunately, that turned out to be the case.  The recession that had -- the slow-down that had begun during the year 2000 became a recession in March, just after -- shortly after the President took office.  And we feel -- as you know, he made tax relief package his top priority, to try to begin an economic recovery.

And we feel that was just beginning to take effect and that there were some good signs that the economy was just beginning to turn around when the attacks of September 11th, of course, dealt a terrible blow, not only to our country in terms of the horrible loss of life, but also to our economy.

And so we hope that four months later, that we are beginning to show some signs of recovery.  But I would defer to the economists.  I understand from what I read that at this point it's still somewhat mixed; although, there is some indication of good news.

Q    Karen, the President in his speech talked about putting politics aside in favor of --

MS. HUGHES:  Let me just add onto that, David.  Obviously, with the unemployment numbers -- good news is good news, but for those who have lost jobs, the only good news is that they have an opportunity to find another job, to find more work.

Q    Where I was going, Karen --

MS. HUGHES:  No, I just wanted to say -- obviously, we still feel there is a need to help those who have lost jobs.

Q    If you do believe a recovery is underway, though, or might be underway, then that would suggest that the interest rate cuts and last year's tax cut are kicking in.  By the time any additional stimulus kicked in, the recovery would either have happened or not happened.  So I'm wondering if it plays to Daschle's case, you've got to let all of these other factors begin to, you know, have their full effects, since we know there's a lag --

MR. McCLELLAN:  -- since the President introduced his economic security plan, 800,000-plus people have already lost their jobs.  And people are hurting.  And a number of people are worried about their current job.

MS. HUGHES:  And there are continuing concerns about lay-offs and about further unemployment.  So we feel that we need to act to make sure that we are going to recover quickly.

Q    I was just going to ask about the issue of politics and partisanship.  Are you confident that there is no element in the sort of what's happened in the last few weeks of what I would call the blame-Tom-Daschle-for-the-impasse strategy?  There's no political element to that strategy to try to blunt any political aspirations Senator Daschle may have, say, in 2004 or more generally?

MS. HUGHES:  Well, what we're trying to do is get results.  And when we've got a House that's passed a package of help for laid-off workers and relief for low-income and moderate-income American families; and we've got a Senate that we think has a majority that would vote for such a package, yet, we can't get a vote scheduled, then we can't get results.

And so what we're focused on is results at a critical time for our economy.  We feel that --

Q    So there's no element of trying to beat up Senator Daschle for a political advantage?

MS. HUGHES:  You heard the President out here.  The President is someone throughout his -- since I've worked for him, for more than seven years, now, his focus is on getting results.  And he had a job to do and he wants to get it done.

END                              11:00 A.M. CST

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