For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 15, 2004
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Des Moines, Iowa
12:30 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: All right. Good morning. The President spoke with -- called Prime Minister Oddsson of Iceland today, earlier this morning. The Prime Minister is in New York. The President called to welcome the Prime Minister to the United States. The President thanked Prime Minister Oddsson for his strong support in Iraq and for his strong support in the war on terrorism.
Q How do you spell his name?
MR. McCLELLAN: Oddsson. Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment and determination to support the Iraqi people in their efforts to move from tyranny to freedom. Then the President had his usual briefings. He met with the Secretary of State. The Freedom Corps greeter upon arrival is Sarah Sindlinger, who is a 16-year-old. And for the past three years, she's volunteered with I-CARE, a program set up by the West Des Moines Community School System. And she volunteered 150 hours in service last year.
Following that, the President will make remarks on his tax relief and the economy, and the importance of making this tax relief permanent. He's going to be delivering remarks at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines' "Capitalizing on Rural America" symposium, which is a symposium to discuss the economic future of rural America. And the host for this two-day symposium are Senators Grassley and Senator Harkin.
And in his remarks I expect the President will talk about how the tax relief that we worked to pass is working. And on this being tax day, I think he'll highlight how families and small-business owners and all tax payers are benefitting from the tax relief we passed. And you all have the fact sheet, which has some important statistics in there. I would just note a couple of them: one, that 109 million American tax payers will see their taxes decline, by an average of more than $1,500. And a family of four earning $40,000 will receive tax relief of more than $1,900. Nearly five million individuals and families will see their income tax liabilities completely eliminated, and 42 million families with children will receive an average tax cut of more than $2,000.
And if Congress did not act to make these tax cuts permanent this year that are set to expire, tax payers would face an average increase of more than $500. And you would see the child credit be increased, the additional marriage penalty relief would be taken away, and the expanded 10 percent bracket will shrink, as well.
Q You didn't blink an eye.
MR. McCLELLAN: And I also expect the President will talk about his six-point plan to strengthen the economy even more, and talk about the changing economy we are in and the need to make sure workers are prepared with the skills they need to fill the jobs of the 21st century.
A couple of announcements. By the way, he'll meet with some tax -- one tax family, a small-business owner and a farmer prior to his remarks, and he will touch on those tax payers in his remarks, and the benefits there --
Q What kind of coverage is there of that?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's just a brief meeting before his remarks. It's not open.
Then on -- a couple of announcements. On Monday, April 19th, the President will make remarks on the Patriot Act in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and then attend a Specter for Senate reelection event in Pittsburgh.
Q In Hershey?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Is it in Hershey.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, the reelection event is in Pittsburgh. The first event is in Hershey.
Q Whose reelection event?
MR. McCLELLAN: Senator Specter.
Q April 19th, you said.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. And then on Tuesday, he'll participate in a conversation on the Patriot Act in Buffalo, New York, and then he will go to New York to attend a Victory 2004 reception.
Q For whom?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's the Victory, RNC.
MR. McCLELLAN: Tuesday. And with that, I'm here for your questions.
Q Will he talk at all about Iraq during his remarks today, do you expect?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I expect he will. He tends to talk about Iraq in his remarks, and I expect that he will.
Q Scott, you don't have to give the full name again of that conference he's going to, but essentially it's a banking conference for farmers?
MR. McCLELLAN: For rural America, a symposium for rural America.
Q You said it was run -- it was a banking thing?
MR. McCLELLAN: The Federal Home Bank Loan is the one putting it on, and the hosts are Senators Harkin and Grassley.
Q Scott, a family of four with two children, who get $1,900 in tax relief, how much is in the form of child tax credits?
MR. McCLELLAN: I mean, I can see if we can break it down for you. You've got the fact sheet there with some of the averages, and Treasury Department certainly can probably help you with some of those numbers, as well. I don't have that particular statistic on me right this second.
Q Scott, do you have word yet on the authenticity of that new tape that's been attributed to Osama bin Laden?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think our intelligence community -- while we have been in the air, our intelligence community has publicly confirmed that it is likely his voice on the tape. And I think it is a clear reminder that we are still at war on terrorism. I think that it's a clear reminder that terrorists will use any excuse to carry out their evil acts on innocent human beings.
Q Scott, on the tape, if it is bin Laden, he spoke -- he gives, I think, a three month window to America's European allies to pull out of Iraq --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's more than just Iraq, Jeff. I think if you look at the audio tape and the remarks he made, again, terrorists will use any excuse to carry out attacks on innocent men, women, and children. And I think he talked about -- talked about it more broadly than just Iraq.
Q But will the President have any message, in light of this tape, to our European allies who are helping in Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well --
Q Urging them not to --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that the coalition in Iraq has shown their commitment to following through on what we are working to help the Iraqi people realize, and that is a free and peaceful future, a future where they will no longer be under the oppression and brutality of the former regime.
Q Scott, yesterday, the senior administration officials who briefed us on the Middle East plan suggested that the early reaction, adverse reactions, from the Palestinians were based on the fact that they hadn't seen the plan and that they were responding to three weeks worth of media reports about the plan.
Now, presumably, they have had a chance to see the letters, the exchange of letters. They're still reacting adversely. What is the administration doing to assuage the Palestinians that this deal actually is in their interest?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, we have remained in consultation with all parties. I don't have any update on any consultation since yesterday, but we are going to, as the President pointed out, continue to consult with the Quartet, continue to consult with Arab nations, and continue to consult with all parties. The President said that this represents a real opportunity to move forward toward a viable, democratic state for the Palestinian -- viable and democratic state for the Palestinian people.
Q Then why are they so opposed?
MR. McCLELLAN: And we will -- we will continue to consult with all parties, including --
Q Why are they opposed?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- including the Quartet, and make it known that the President's views -- the President remains committed to the two-state vision that he outlined and remains committed to the road map as the best way to achieve that two-state vision. And the Quartet has talked about that, as well. And Prime Minister Sharon reiterated his commitment to the two-state vision the President outlined.
This is -- it is historic step that Israel will be withdrawing from Gaza, and withdrawing from parts of the West Bank. And that represents an opportunity to, as the President called it, it opens the door for progress toward a -- toward a Palestinian state.
Q But the Palestinians don't seem to think so.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we'll continue -- we'll continue to talk with all parties in the region and make it clear that any issues involving final status negotiations are to be worked out between the parties.
Q Does the President have any reaction, Scott, to Brahimi's recommendations that the Iraqi Governing Council be replaced by some sort of interim cabinet?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that, one -- and I spoke to it a little bit yesterday, and I think that Ambassador Bremer spoke to it, as well -- we welcome the efforts of the United Nations and Mr. Brahimi to help the Iraqi people move forward on the transfer of sovereignty by June 30th. And so we welcome those recommendations. Ambassador Bremer pointed out that we will be talking further with the U.N. mission about those recommendations. And this is part of our efforts to work with Iraqi leaders and the United Nations, who we believe should continue to play a vital role, on moving forward on a brighter future for the Iraqi people.
Q So the specific recommendations are okay with the President?
MR. McCLELLAN: I said, he welcomes -- we welcome the recommendations and we'll be talking further with the United Nations and Iraqi leaders about -- about those recommendations. This is part of our helping to move forward on our strategy for transferring sovereignty by June 30th, and we welcome his commitment to helping us make that timetable.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thanks.
END 12:40 P.M. EDT