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For Immediate Release
April 5, 2005

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Parkersburg, West Virginia

9:42 A.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN: All right, good morning. First of all, the President's day -- let me begin with the President's day. He had his usual briefing this morning. When we get to West Virginia, we'll tour the Bureau of Public Debt. There will be pool coverage of that. And then we'll go to West Virginia University, Parkersburg, where the President will make remarks.

And then he -- when we get back, the President has his Cabinet meeting this afternoon. And at the Cabinet meeting, he'll receive updates from various Cabinet Secretaries, like the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of Homeland Security, as well as the Director of OMB. And I expect that one of the messages that he'll emphasize in the Cabinet meeting is the importance of fiscal discipline.

As you all are aware, the House and Senate have passed budget resolutions and now they're working to come to an agreement on a budget resolution, and it's important that we move forward in a way that meets our nation's highest priorities while holding the line on spending elsewhere in the budget. And the President will talk about spending our taxpayer dollars wisely, I suspect. So the message is really one of fiscal discipline today.

In terms of the tour today, that's one of the things that the President is going to highlight in his remarks at West Virginia University. He's going to talk about the Social Security trust fund and how there really is not a trust fund. I think most people think of a -- when they think of Social Security having a trust fund, that their money is being set aside in the Social Security -- the system is holding it for them for when they retire. But that's not the case.

And as you'll see today, what's happening is that their future is being stored away in filing cabinets at the Bureau of Public Debt in West Virginia. It's in the form of paper IOUs. And that's -- one of the points the President will make is that we need to strengthen the Social Security system and make it permanently sound so that it is there for our children and grandchildren. And so that's some of what he'll talk about in his remarks. And I expect that language will be pretty high up in his remarks today when he begins.

Let's see, on other matters, I don't have an update on the delegation at this point. We're still finalizing that, for the delegation for the funeral. And we are finalizing all the details for Thursday meetings, as well. But we -- I fully expect we'll have that later -- I fully expect we'll have that later today, and we're just trying to finalize up those details. Then we'll get it out to you as soon as that happens.

Q Do we know what the hold up on the delegation -- I mean, is it that somebody has not confirmed that they're coming or not?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that -- I don't know that I'd look at it as a "hold up." First of all, it's a small delegation. We have five slots available for the delegation. Yes, the President and Mrs. Bush are leading the delegation, and they're going to be two of those --

Q Is it five plus them?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, they'll be two of those five.

Q So there's three more.

MR. McCLELLAN: And so there are calls being made, as well -- courtesy calls, as well. And we're just finalizing up the details and making sure that the other three are all able to participate.

Q Scott, is it at all related to President Clinton's health?

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll have more to say on the delegation once it's final.

Q Are you going to put it out in a paper statement, or are you going to just come around and tell us?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll try to do both. I mean, yes, we will have a paper announcement, as well, as soon as it's ready. It's just being finalized right now.

Q Is this -- today's message about the trust fund, is that going to become sort of a recurring theme in the --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's something he's touched on in the past, but he's really focusing on that today. So I suspect he will continue to talk about it as we move forward. You know, more and more Americans are recognizing that there are serious problems facing Social Security, and that's been part of the focus of our outreach efforts to the American people, is to highlight the problems facing Social Security and to talk about how now is the time to act to make it permanently sound for future generations. And that's one of the key messages today.

Q Can you tell us any of the bilats or have any of them been set up yet?

MR. McCLELLAN: Just finalizing those details. I know you all are wanting them as soon as possible, and I'm trying to get it to you as soon as possible.

Q -- Novak column yesterday and then some other reports about Republicans wavering on Social Security. In the Novak report, he quoted a senior member of Congress, saying, you know, congressional relations with this White House are the worst they've ever been. And another -- a number of other Republicans agreed. And I wonder, what does that do to the fate of your Social Security bill, especially when you have someone like Speaker Hastert coming out and saying, this is not something -- who sort of doubt whether it will happen this year?

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, I think we have very good relations with congressional leaders. The President has reached out throughout his first term and going into his second term to members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. The President believes it's important that we work together to get things done for the American people. That's why he's focusing on big priorities and the big challenges that we face.

In terms of the Social Security discussion, I think members of Congress have been spending more time back in their district and they're hearing from people that -- from more and more people that they recognize there are problems that we need to fix in the Social Security system. Social Security system -- the Social Security system has worked well for some 70 years now, but it's headed on a path that is unsustainable and it's making -- and another thing the President will talk about, I suspect, in his remarks, that it's making promises to our children and grandchildren that it cannot keep. That's why we need to fix it. And that's one of the things he'll be emphasizing in his remarks today.

And congressional leaders that we've been working with, like Speaker Hastert and Senator Grassley and Leader Frist and others, recognize that -- Chairman Thomas, for instance -- recognize that now is the time to act to fix the system. And Senator Grassley has talked about how he's going to be moving forward in his committee on legislation.

And so I think it's time for Democrats to start -- and let me back up. Another thing, you're seeing that more and more Americans are recognizing there's a problem, and you're also seeing that now Social Security has risen to the top priority among -- on the domestic side among the American people. And so progress is being made in that sense.

And now it's the time for people to start coming forward with ideas for finding a bipartisan solution. It's easy to stand up and say, we're against this, or, we oppose this. But the American people expect better of their elected officials. They expect their elected officials to put forward ideas for solving problems, and that's why we've opened up the door and said, let's put all ideas on the table and come up with a bipartisan solution.

Q Are there any indications that any Democrats are coming up with --

MR. McCLELLAN: We continue to reach out to Democrats. We are in regular contact with a number of Democrats that we think recognize the importance of fixing the Social Security system. And we're hopeful that Democratic leaders, instead of simply trying to say what they're against, will start talking about what they're for and how we can work together to find a solution.

Okay, thanks.

END 9:52 A.M. EDT

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