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

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 18, 2002

Press Gaggle by Ari Fleischer
Aboard Air Force One
En route Springfield, Missouri

9:30 A.M. EDT

MR. FLEISCHER: Good morning. All right. The President began his day with an intelligence briefing before he left the White House. He also signed into law the continuing resolution funding the government through November 24th -- I want to return to that topic in -- through November 22nd, I want to return to that topic in a second.

The President will campaign today on behalf of Jim Talent's race for the Senate, and Dan Clemens race for the State Senate, which is an important race in Missouri, which could determine control of the State Senate. He will speak in Springfield.

And in his speech, both in Springfield and in Minnesota I anticipate that you will hear a new element to the President's remarks, where he is now going to start to bring home the message on a state-by-state specific basis about what tax relief has meant to the people of Missouri, of Minnesota. Specifically, he'll talk about how much money has been saved by families in Missouri, in Minnesota, as a result of the child tax credit, as a result of the income tax cut, as the result of the death tax relief, marriage penalty relief, child credit relief. So it's a way of bringing home to people in the states what tax relief means to them.

The President will leave Missouri, where he will then head to Rochester, Minnesota, where he will campaign on behalf of Norm Coleman, as well as Tim Pawlenty, candidate for governor.

Before I take your questions, I want to just advise you about a couple things. One, the President this morning signed the continuing resolution into law. For the first time in probably a decade, Congress has left town before an election without going on a spending spree using taxpayer's money. Typically, when Congress leaves, they pay an exit fee, where spending is increased above and beyond what the Congressional budget authorized, and the taxpayers are always the victims.

This year, the chain was broken. There's a new sheriff in town, and he's dedicated to fiscal discipline. And Congress for the first time in a decade has listened to the new sheriff.

Also -- and on that we have a fact sheet we can distribute that shows the spending patterns of recent years compared to this year. We'll get that for you, but Claire Buchan has it.

The President today will also tape a message for the people of Australia, to note the tragedy that took place in the terrorist attack in Bali. It will be a message of sympathy and solidarity with the people of Australia. We'll distribute to you the remarks that the President will make.

And, finally, in the radio address that you will get tonight, it will be a news-making radio address. The radio address is going to focus on pension protections for Americans. The President is going to focus and take action on the domestic economy. The President will talk about the importance of strengthening the retirement security of America's workers. More than 40 million Americans saved for their retirement through 401(k) accounts. These are an integral part part of how the American people plan for their future.

The President will announce action that is going to be taking place on Monday, by his administration, to protect people's pensions. And so through the regular rule making process of the federal government, action will be taken. The action will be announced on Monday by the Department of Labor. The President will get into the specifics of it tonight in his radio address. So I want to highlight that for you.

Q The State Senator that he's campaigning for is Dan Clemens. Can you spell "Dan" and "Clemens"?

MR. FLEISCHER: Dan, d-a-n, as in Dan Bartlett, but it's not Dan Bartlett, it's Dan Clemens, but it's as if Dan Bartlett --

Q C-l-e-m-m-o-n-s?

MR. FLEISCHER: C-l-e-m-e-n-s. It's Dan as in Dan Bartlett, it's Clemens, as in Roger Clemens -- not to be confused with Roger Bartlett.

Q Are you guys close to a deal on the U.N., and will we see the U.S. resolution soon?

MR. FLEISCHER: The talks with the United Nations and our allies are going well. The talks are ongoing. There's more work to do. But talks are going well.

Q Are we going to see the proposal soon, though? I mean, by next week, do you think?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to make any predictions as far as the day. The U.N. is always hard to predict. It remains a diplomatic effort. There remain discussions that are taking place -- and they're important discussions. There's no telling what their final outcome will be. We are hopeful the outcome will be a good one.

Q Do you have any evidence that shows that Pakistan provided intelligence regarding nuclear -- making a nuclear weapon to North Korea?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to comment specifically about that report. But let me give you this information to be helpful. Since September 11th, we've developed a very different relationship with many of the countries on whom North Korea traditionally relies for technology, economic and diplomatic support. These countries want good and improved relations with the United States, and they have no interest in a nuclearized North Korea.

We also have close allies to whom North Korea is turning in desperation for economic health. These nations also want a good relationship with the United States. They, too, don't have an interest in a nuclearized peninsula. We have alliances that we will work with, through, to talk about these issues and about how to deal with any threats to the region. North Korea depends on outside help to sustain its collapsing economic system and to feed its people. North Korea has an interest to make certain that the regional neighbors don't view North Korean actions with alarm.

So taken together, we have an opportunity to begin to address this problem with an international coalition and we're going to work with our allies and friends and partners on it.

Hearing no --

Q You were speaking of the continuing resolution as something of a victory. Now, earlier you were saying how it was a disastrous situation that they weren't passing the spending bills. Is that a difference there?

MR. FLEISCHER: I don't remember anybody saying it was disastrous that they weren't spending -- passing the spending bills --

Q You were calling on them to pass them --

MR. FLEISCHER: -- compared to previous congresses they weren't getting their work done, which is a fact. They haven't passed the appropriation bills --

Q -- the result?

MR. FLEISCHER: Here's where it stands. It is a clear break from the recent pattern. It's notable. It is a change in how Washington has done its business. For years, particularly in the '90s, Congress would leave town under great pressure from the President to break the budget and spend more money. Congress would call paying an exit fee in order to get out of town. And Congress would violate its own budget and bid up spending, taking money from the taxpayers on all kinds of government programs, in return for being able to leave town.

Since President Bush insisted on fiscal discipline, Congress so far has not busted the budget. That's the --

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm getting there. The good news is, typically the most pressure to spend comes before an election. Because of the President's leadership on fiscal discipline, Congress resisted the urge to spend more taxpayer money before the election. That's the good news.

The bad news is, we're not out of the woods yet. Congress is going to return for an unusual lame duck session, and there's no telling how that will turn out. But the trend has been broken. The greatest pressure comes immediately before an election. And it's worth noting. The President campaigned on changing the tone in Washington and changing Washington's big spending ways is an important way to change the tone.

And the numbers are dramatic. The average amount of spending the Congress has done, above and beyond what they promised in their own budget for the last decade is $29 billion a year. This year, they held the line prior to the election. And the taxpayers are the beneficiaries. The only reason it has happened is because President Bush put his foot down and said, Congress you need to exercise fiscal discipline.

You make a valid point: we are not out of the woods yet. A lame duck is looming, let's see what happens. But there's good news so far.

Q But, essentially, the numbers are low also because they've only done two appropriations bills?

MR. FLEISCHER: Absolutely. Yes. But the continuing resolutions were clean. And in the past Congress jammed through those appropriation bills knowing they could get more money attached to them. One of the reasons they didn't jam them through is because the President was protecting the taxpayers. And that's why it's an unfinished story -- there's no doubt about it. But the trend has been the Congress busts its own budget prior to the election. That trend is broken.

Q Also when you talk about Bush put his foot down and there's a new sheriff in town and they're listening to the sheriff, there are several other issues on which they, you know, completely blew him off. He asked for terrorism insurance, you know, two Fridays ago. He asked for a defense appropriations bill, you know, first and foremost. They thumbed his nose at him.

So how can you claim that, you know, he's put his foot down and Congress has followed along, when there are all these other failures at which they said, take a hike, we're going to do what we want to do?

MR. FLEISCHER: My remarks were directed at the appropriation process. I had began it by saying the President signed a C.R. this morning and the issue is domestic spending. Of course, there are other issues where the Congress has not done everything the President asked. But it is a verifiable fact that, on the appropriations, where taxpayers' dollars are spent, the trend has been broken, the spending streak has been snapped prior to an election.

Now, on defense appropriations, they passed it and the President will sign it. He's looking forward to signing it. The President said it's important for Congress to pass defense appropriations first, Congress listened to the President. I believe the same is true on military construction. I'll have to verify that.

So they did listen to the President on the appropriations process. Terrorism insurance, we're still working it. We'll see if we are able to, even now as Congress is in somewhat of a stage of adjournment, subject to the call of the Chair, whether terrorism insurance can cross the finish line. That remains an open question even this morning.

Now there are other issues, homeland security, where, of course, there still remain differences between the President and the Congress. No one is saying that the Congress has agreed to everything the President has asked for, they haven't. But you have to measure change where change occurs. And on spending, change has occurred.

Q Back on North Korea, were the countries that provided assistance I realize you're not naming them that provided assistance to North Korea, do they risk being cut off from U.S. assistance?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, yes, since September 11th, many things that people may have done years before September 11th or some time before September 11th, have changed. September 11th changed the world and it changed many nations' behaviors along with it. And don't read that to be any type of acknowledgment of what may or may not be true. But September 11th did change the world.

Q So are you willing to sort of forgive and forget, given that things are different now?

MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think that's a fair way to describe things. The United States is committed to anti-proliferation and we're going to work hard to make that the case in all regions of the world.

Q Are you offering any more particulars on the radio address? Is that all we're going to hear today?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, because this gaggle is on the record and it's immediately usable. So I cannot get into the substance of what the President will announce. But I do want to bring reporters' attention to the fact it will be a newsworthy radio address.

Q And now Carnahan supported the tax cut, I think, right?

MR. FLEISCHER: I don't recall.

Q I'm just wondering how that how that will work with sort of rolling out the the advantages of the tax cut today? So that is that being done in the context of the Talent campaign or

MR. FLEISCHER: -- going to state the economic facts, and that is that the tax cut has benefitted the people of all 50 states and he'll have specific information for the people of Missouri and Minnesota.

Q Is the threat alert status going to stay the same today?

MR. FLEISCHER: We look at it every day and if there's a change, we'll let you know.

Q Do you anticipate a change today?

MR. FLEISCHER: Dick, I can't go beyond that. It's always looked at and if there's anything there, I'll let you know. If there's anything there, you'll be advised.

Q If you have something to announce, will you announce it?

MR. FLEISCHER: If we have something to announce, we will announce it. Anything else?

Q Do you have any numbers for how much we're going to be raising here at these two fundraisers?

MR. FLEISCHER: They're not fundraisers.

Q Are we done with fundraisers? Will there be any others?

MR. FLEISCHER: Right now it looks like we have one more party fundraiser, but clearly that phase is, if not over, almost over. One party fundraiser remains. And now it's really, get out the vote, support the candidates.

Q Is the President pleased with his fundraising success, record breaking --

MR. FLEISCHER: The President is pleased by the amount of support the American people have shown for the candidates, his agenda that he supports, yes.

Q Ari, have you been following the Doonsbury strip this week?

MR. FLEISCHER: I like to look at each of my days beginning with a cartoon, indeed. I have. I am a strong supporter of increased per diems worldwide for all working people. (Laughter.)

Q Thanks a lot.

MR. FLEISCHER: Are we done? It's hilarious. (Laughter.)

Q Can you give us some background on the --

MR. FLEISCHER: Let me --

Q In addition to his pension proposal that's already in --

MR. FLEISCHER: What I want to -- I'm going to walk through a little more detail on the radio address to help people, but understanding the information, on a substantive level, will not come out until tonight, in its usual embargoed farm.

Q Is this on or off the record?

MR. FLEISCHER: This is on the record.

Earlier this year the President made five proposals to help protect retirement savings for America's workers. The Congress took action on two. It has failed to take action on three. The President urges the Congress to finish its work, so people can have fully protected pensions. But the government is moving forward, and will take action on the areas where Congress has already passed laws. We want to move forward aggressively, to be helpful and to protect people's pensions.

Also, the President will use his administrative authorities to take action on the domestic front. And you will hear that in the radio address tonight.

Q I don't understand.

MR. FLEISCHER: The domestic agenda is always important. The President will act on it. This involves rule making, I said.

Q So he's acting on the two that they've passed, as you say?

MR. FLEISCHER: -- I said it earlier. This involves the Department of Labor and its rule making authority on Monday.

Q On the two that Congress has already acted on, you said.


Q Why not do something on the three that they haven't?

MR. FLEISCHER: Laws have to be passed in order for action to be taken. Congress must act. Congress' failure to act -- and in this case, the House acted, the Senate did not. The Senate has failed to move on the domestic agenda.

Q Can you help us out with which two Congress has acted on or which three they haven't, those of us that don't remember what his pension security --

MR. FLEISCHER: That will be part of the radio address tonight.

Q Why is rule making such a -- why is that news making? You have to make rules anyway to implement the law. So --

MR. FLEISCHER: Because without the rules, the pensions aren't protected. Congressional action alone doesn't protect a pension, but congressional action gives authority to the executive branch to take the steps necessary to protect people's pensions.

Q So it's standard operating procedure that you then go make rules, it's just you're going to make also news at the same time by --

MR. FLEISCHER: Rule making is essential to getting the job done.

Thanks, everybody.

* * * * *

MR. DECKARD: All right. This afternoon the President will head to Camp David, where he will spend the rest of the weekend. Monday morning the President will sign the Sudan Peace Act in the Roosevelt Room.

Q Sorry?

MR. DECKARD: Monday morning the President will sign the Sudan Peace Act in the Roosevelt Room. That afternoon the President will meet with the NATO Secretary General in the Oval Office.

Tuesday the President will travel to Downingtown, Pennsylvania and Bangor, B-a-n-g-o-r, Maine, where he will make remarks at welcome rallies before returning to Washington, D.C.

Wednesday the President will participate in a roundtable and make remarks on child exploitation at the White House. Thursday the President will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, and Auburn, Alabama, to make remarks at welcome rallies, before heading to his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Q Can you do that one again?

MR. DECKARD: Yes, ma'am. Thursday, the President will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina and Auburn, Alabama, to make remarks at welcome rallies before heading to his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Friday, the President and Mrs. Bush will host the President of China and Mrs. Wang at Prairie Chapel Ranch. The two Presidents will have a private meeting, and then their wives will join them for a social lunch.

Saturday morning the President will depart for Los Cabos, Mexico, for the 10th APEC leaders meeting.

Q Well said.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 9:53 A.M. EDT

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