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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 3, 2005
Press Gaggle by Trent Duffy
Aboard Air Force One
En route Jackson, Mississippi
MR. DUFFY: All right. Let's see, the President's schedule. He had his normal intelligence briefings this morning, and we are currently traveling to Canton, Mississippi, where he will have a conversation on Social Security with the workers of a Nissan plant. There will be approximately 2,200 people in the audience, mostly workers and some other guests of local officials.
Traveling with us on Air Force One is Senator Cochran, Congressman Wicker and Congressman Pickering. I also have one -- that's all I have for the public schedule.
On the personnel announcement. The President intends to nominate Bob Kimmitt to be Deputy Treasury Secretary. And we will put out some paper upon our landing. That's what I have.
Q What was his title?
MR. DUFFY: Deputy Treasury Secretary.
Q What is he now? Is he in the Treasury?
MR. DUFFY: I don't know what his background is.
Q You said it's Bob?
MR. DUFFY: Bob Kimmitt.
Q Trent, what do you -- how does the White House react to statements from Joint Chiefs Chairman General Myers that says that our -- with our troop allocations in Iraq, that our ability to function in the rest of the world is limited at this point, if there's another military need.
MR. DUFFY: I think that the General also said that our U.S. military is fully capable of meeting any threat posed in the world today. The President is confident of that. And that's why the President has sought the biggest military build-up in a generation. President Bush has pushed for a 41 percent increase in military spending since being sworn into office. He's approved four-straight pay raises for our men and women in uniform. We've increased spending on training, housing, quality-of-life initiatives, as well as technology. And I would mention the missile defense capability as something President Bush is pushing for right at this very minute, to make sure that we have all the capabilities that we need to protect the American people.
We are at war, and that level of operations does have some impact on troops. But the President continues to be confident, as well as his military commanders, that we can meet any threat decisively.
Q Trent, some Republican senators have expressed reservations openly in the last few days about the indexing plan that Bush announced on Thursday. You have Allen, and you also have Brownback, and some of the centrist Republicans, through aides, are also saying that their bosses are not inclined to support it. Given the narrow divide in the Senate, how can you push it through if you don't even have full support of all the Republicans in the Senate?
MR. DUFFY: Well, the Senate Finance Committee is just getting started. And the President proposed his plan, which he believes is the best way to go about protecting lowest-income workers, and making sure that we are dealing with the solvency in Social Security. But he welcomes the discussion. It's the exact kind of reaction that the President sought to spark when he provided his proposal. And so he welcomes other ideas from both Republicans and Democrats, and we look forward to action in the Senate Finance Committee.
Q Does that mean he's open to other ideas to replace the indexing proposal he just made on Thursday?
MR. DUFFY: The President is open to all ideas, as he said. He has put out his proposal on a way to protect the lowest-income workers, but that in the context of the legislative process, he'll welcome other ideas for solutions, and would welcome other ideas to perfect or to make the best system. That's what the President is most interested in, is providing the best solution.
Q So the final approach that's approved by Congress does not need to include this indexing proposal?
MR. DUFFY: Well, the President has put out his proposal; the Senate Finance Committee is just getting started. And we welcome an active debate in that committee about how best to address a solution.
Q He said that personal accounts should be part of any solution. Does he feel the same way about progressive indexing, or was that further down on the totem poll?
MR. DUFFY: I'm going to decline to rank them. The President said quite clearly on Thursday that he believes that as we go forward, we need to protect the lowest-income workers, and give them an opportunity, through the personal account, to benefit for the first time from long-term investments. So this is the President, once again, providing leadership on what he believes needs to be the contours of a solution. But we fully want to work with the Congress on addressing it.
Q Where do we stand on the 60-day campaign? Is that over now? What comes from now? What's the next step?
MR. DUFFY: The next phase is what you're seeing right now, the legislative process. Obviously, the Senate is out this week, but Chairman Thomas and Chairman McCrery Friday said that they wanted to get hearings started in the House Ways and Means Committee, and have a summertime time table. So what you're seeing now is the legislative process, a reaction to the first phase, which is getting the American people to realize there is a problem.
Q So is he going to stop going around the country and talking about it? Is that phase over?
MR. DUFFY: Well, I think our presence on Air Force One, traveling to Mississippi as we speak, is evidence that the President will continue talking with the American people about not only the challenges in the Social Security program, but his ideas. Today he's going to be talking about preserving the social safety net and low-income workers. So it will be a blend. Obviously, as the legislative process picks up speed, that will engender a different kind of discussion, but the President will continue to do both, talking about his plans and continuing to educate the American people.
Q Was there a strategy shift? Thomas is now going to try and get out ahead, and get something out to the House floor by June. Previously it was Grassley that was going to take the first move, but not until July. Was there a coordinated effort to get the House moving, to give it some momentum?
MR. DUFFY: Those legislative, tactical calls are going to be decided by the members of Congress. And, obviously, the White House and the President wants to work in a collective effort with them on the best way to move forward, but we support activity on both the House and the Senate side, and leave it to the tacticians up there to decide how best to move it forward. But the bottom line is, it is moving forward in both houses, and that's exactly the kind of momentum that the President wanted to build. And we're pleased to see the progress.
Q And Mississippi is the 26th state?
MR. DUFFY: I believe. Let me double-check on that.*
Q Virginia was 25, and the previous --
MR. DUFFY: Do we know, Ms. Godfrey, what state Mississippi is?
MS. GODFREY: I'll have to check.
MR. DUFFY: We'll provide an asterisk at the end of the gaggle.
Q This plant that we're going to, is this a union-represented plant, and do we know if they have any type of pension plan or system there at this plant?
MR. DUFFY: I'm not familiar with the makeup of the workforce here, as to whether it's union or not. The President is going to talk to the workers. I suspect we'll get some more information about the plant and the pension when we get there. The President is just going to speak to the workers about why it's important to preserve the social safety net, give workers the opportunity to have a voluntary personal account, and the need to move forward on this.
Q One other auto question. The President has been at a BMW plant in South Carolina. Now he's going to a Nissan plant. He's never been, as far as I know, to GM or Ford. Is there any significance there?
MR. DUFFY: I'll check on what plants he's visited or hasn't visited, but he was invited by this plant to attend.** I know that he's been working with Senator Lott on coming down and visiting. So it's sort of as Scott described it yesterday.
All good? All right, thanks.
END 11:19 A.M. EDT
* Including Mississippi, the President has visited 25 states and the District of Columbia to talk about Social Security.
** The President has hosted domestic automakers on the South Lawn of the White House to promote his hydrogen car initiative, as well as other fuel-efficient vehicles.