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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 1, 2005

Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

Play Video  Video (Real)

12:11 P.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everyone. I have three announcements to begin with. First, at 1:30 p.m. this afternoon, we will have a conference call with our Biological Defense Policy Director, Dr. Rajeev Venkayya. He is a member of our Homeland Security Council here at the White House, and he will be doing a briefing on safeguarding America against pandemic influenza, and talking more about the strategy that the President outlined today. We'll email out the call information here shortly.

Secondly, the Department of Homeland Security is moving forward on an announcement related to our ongoing recovery and rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of the hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast region. I think that they will be putting out that announcement around 12:30 p.m. And then at 12:45 p.m. Secretary Chertoff will be meeting with the President to talk further about it. And we will have, I think, still photogs for that meeting, as well. So we'll coordinate that with you all.

And then, finally, the President -- well, as you all know, the President announced his Supreme Court nominee yesterday. I'm pleased to announce our White House confirmation team for Judge Alito. The sherpas who will provide advice to Judge Alito and attend senatorial courtesy visits with him are Senator Dan Coates and Ed Gillespie. Steve Schmidt will head the confirmation efforts within the White House and oversee the overall strategy related to that.

And with that, I am glad to go straight to your questions today. John, go ahead.

Q Scott, the President cited liability reform as a necessary aspect of his whole program to get access to more virus. But isn't it also true to say that while lawsuits may have removed some companies from the markets, that lack of profitability was an even bigger driving factor, that many of these vaccine companies would have millions of doses left over at the end of the year that they would lose money on, they faced enormous regulatory hurdles which were very expensive. And what does the President plan to do in this plan to try to give vaccine companies more financial incentive to stay in the market?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, a couple of things, One, there's going to be a briefing here shortly, so we'll be able to talk more about that. But liability protection is an important aspect of this national strategy. And that's why the President said we're going to move forward with Congress to provide some liability protection from the flood of lawsuits that have driven manufacturers out of the business. That is a significant aspect that we do need to look at. I'm not saying there are not other issues involved, as well. But that's one part of it, and it's an important part of it. That's why -- remember, back with the BioShield initiative, too, we had moved forward on liability protection.

This is about protecting the American people, and we all have responsibilities to do our part -- not only the government at the federal level, but at the state and local, the private sector, the medical community, and individual Americans. And so we're going to move forward with Congress to address this issue, and we think this will help address that, because right now you look at the number of manufacturers that have left the market over the last three decades, and it's a significant number.

Q But isn't it true that profitability is also a huge part of that, and what could the President do --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'll let those -- you can talk to the people in the private sector about what other issues there might be. Liability protection is a high one.

Q Scott, when the President said that he was going to ask Congress for $1.2 billion --

MR. McCLELLAN: And remember, the President met with some leading manufacturers not long ago, and this was one of the issues that was touched on in a very general matter.

Q Did they also touch on profitability though?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't recall that.

Q The President said he was going to ask for $1.2 billion for 20 million vaccine doses. Who would get those 20 million vaccine doses, and -- I mean, obviously, the population is far greater than that. Why is it limited now to 20 million?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, keep in mind what the President said. You're only looking at one particular aspect of this. One of the cornerstones of our strategy is to move forward in an accelerated way on developing cell culture technology, which would allow us, then, to protect all Americans very quickly in the event of an outbreak. That is something that's very important that we need to look at. We need to move forward quickly to develop that technology, so that we can have the search capacity in place to be able to mass produce that in a quick amount of time, and then all Americans will be protected.

One aspect of our short-term efforts of moving ahead right now, is to move forward on accelerating the number of antiviral that are available. And the President talked about that, too. But we're -- we also have a vaccine that has been developed and is in clinical trials for the current virus strain: H5N1. We don't know if that strain would ultimately lead to a pandemic outbreak. And that's why it's so important that we not only have the manufacturing capacity in place, but that we also move forward on developing the technology to where we can mass produce a vaccine in a short amount of time.

Q All right, but he's the one who raised the 20 million vaccine figure, and soon he's going to ask Congress for 20 million doses.

MR. McCLELLAN: Right, that's one part. And I think our expert will be talking -- be able to talk more about this in the conference call. We'll be able -- he'll be able to talk more about this in the conference call that we're doing here shortly that I just announced.

Q Is that like first responders, or --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think they would be part of that. But again, our expert is going to be briefing on this here shortly on a conference call, and you can raise that question.

Q Scott, a question about the leak case: The President has made various statements about he would handle anyone who was involved in this, so what standard is the President using for whether he would dismiss any member of his staff for involvement in this affair?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that question has already come up, and I think, again, that I would go back to what I said yesterday. The expectations of everybody here in the White House are well known. We all understand what the expectations are of each of us as individuals. We are all part of a team to help the President advance his agenda and to focus on the American people's business.

We also have an expectation on behalf of the President and the American people to adhere to the highest ethical standards.

Q And everyone who is currently working here has done that in this affair, is that the President's position?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the nature of the investigation is that is it ongoing, and there is a legal proceeding that is ongoing as part of that investigation. And as part of that ongoing legal proceeding, we're just not having any further comment on it from this podium.

Q Everyone who is working at the White House currently, in the President's mind, has acted appropriately in this matter. Is that --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you're asking about this matter. This matter is ongoing.

Q Wait, wait, wait a second. Right, it's ongoing, but that's not the point. The legal aspect of this is now outside the White House, as you've made abundantly clear.

MR. McCLELLAN: The legal proceeding, but there's also an -- there's also an investigation that the special counsel indicated was continuing. So it's two parts. There's an investigation he said that continues, and there's also a legal proceeding that is moving forward on one individual. And under our system of the law, people are presumed innocent unless otherwise proven.

Q But whether or not it was a crime, does the President feel that Karl Rove acted appropriately in this matter, given what he knows about his involvement?

MR. McCLELLAN: See, you're asking that context -- asking that question in the context of an ongoing investigation and an ongoing legal proceeding. And as I indicated to you all on Friday, our Counsel's Office has directed us not to discuss any issues related to that, whether they're factual circumstances or legal issues relating to the investigation. That's the policy that's been in place for some time, and that's the policy that we're following.

Q Let me get -- on one other -- on one other topic, on the Alito nomination. There are conservatives who are -- who relish now the ideological battle that appears to be ahead. And I wonder if you can articulate from the President's perspective the importance of that ideological battle, because there is the likelihood with Judge Alito on the Court that there would be an ideological shift on the Court --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't see any reason why there should be, if you look back at past precedent and past confirmation hearings. All you have to do is go back and look at the most recent confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justices. Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg and Supreme Court Justice Breyer were people that represented the judicial philosophy of the President that nominated them to the bench. Yet, they had civil and dignified hearings; they were well qualified, they were highly respected and they were confirmed.

Judge Roberts was -- or Chief Justice Roberts, I should say now -- Chief Justice Roberts was someone who had a civil and dignified confirmation process -- in large part, at least it was civil and dignified.

So you bring up a question about potential ideological battle or fight, that's up to members of the United States Senate whether or not that would happen. We certainly hope it won't be the case. This is an individual, Judge Alito, who has been unanimously confirmed to the court previously. He was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate back in 1990, to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

Q Scott, you repeatedly say that he was confirmed unanimously -- that was 15 years ago, before 15 years of decisions that have allowed people to know more of what he thinks. And even Republican senators have said that this is a man who will spark an apocalyptic showdown in the Senate, that it's going to be a battle. So by pretending that this should be all fine and good you're ignoring the reality of what even members of the Senate of your own party have said -- that it's going to be a tough fight.

Does the President feel any obligation or any sense of concern that he's contributed to the atmosphere of divisiveness here in Washington?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that that's an absolutely wrong way to characterize things, because it ignores history. You're ignoring history and you're ignoring recent history. As I pointed out -- remember, Justice Ginsburg replaced Justice White. Now, they were largely perceived as a conservative justice being replaced by a more liberal justice. So if you look at that, the standard has always been based on qualifications and experience. And that's what it should be in this case.

Now, some people may want to change that standard. And we certainly hope that's not the case, but you have heard from people who know Judge Alito that he is someone who is highly respected -- both by Democrats and Republicans -- who know him. He is someone who has shown that he is extremely well-qualified to serve on our nation's court.

There's no question about his qualifications and experience. And then you go and look at judicial temperament. He is someone that, if you look at the totality of his record, has shown that he is committed to strictly interpreting our Constitution and our laws and not trying to make laws from the bench. He is committed to respect for the rule of law. He is someone who has looked to Supreme Court precedent in making his decisions. So he's someone who is very methodical, carefully looks at the facts, and then applies the law. That's the kind of judge that the American people want on our nation's highest court. And that's why the President nominated him to the bench.

Go ahead.

Q Scott, do you think that Karl Rove can adequately carry out his White House duties with the cloud of investigation hanging --

MR. McCLELLAN: He is.

Q -- over him?

MR. McCLELLAN: He is.

Q But it must be somewhat of a distraction -- it doesn't seem like a distraction that's going to go away any time soon?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, if you're asking me to comment on an ongoing investigation, I'm just not going to do that. If you have questions that you need to direct to someone's personal attorneys, you're welcome to do that. But we're not going to be talking about it unless we're directed by the Special Counsel or in consultation with the White House Counsel's Office.

Q During this period has he ever offered to resign?

MR. McCLELLAN: Karl Rove continues to do his duties. He is Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to the President.

Go ahead.

Q Given all the tantalizing questions that were left in the wake of the Special Prosecutor's news conference, et cetera, about Vice President Cheney, does the White House feel that the Vice President should, or does the White House plan to have the Vice President explain his role in all of this any time soon?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've already answered that question. I answered that question on Friday. Just to step back and again reiterate what I said, this is an ongoing investigation and a continuing legal proceeding. And while that matter is ongoing, we are not going to be talking further about it unless directed to do so by the special counsel or in consultation with the White House's Counsel's Office.

Q But what about those who believe that taking that position -- in taking that position, you shirk -- "you" being the White House in general -- shirk your responsibility to the public accountability?

MR. McCLELLAN: We have a responsibility to make sure that the investigation goes forward and comes to a successful conclusion, hopefully, and that the legal proceeding moves forward in a way that the individual can receive a fair and impartial hearing.

Q But do you not also have a responsibility to keep the people who are your constituents, the people of the United States informed?

MR. McCLELLAN: We have a responsibility to continue to cooperate with the special counsel, and that's what we're doing. And we believe the best way to do that is not to get into commenting on it from here, because we could prejudice the opportunity for there to be a fair and impartial trial.

Now, I fully understand that you all are looking for more information and want to get ahead of this matter, but we cannot from our position. We need to do our part to cooperate with the special counsel. That's what we --

Q Don't you end up with a credibility problem --

MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on. That's what we've done, and that's what we will continue to do.

Q But don't you end up -- don't you end up with a credibility problem?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I've already addressed that issue.

Q Well, can you address it again? Again, the unanswered question --

MR. McCLELLAN: What's the question?

Q Unanswered questions about Vice President Cheney. This is the man who --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we hope people aren't trying to politicize an ongoing investigation. People need to let the investigation continue. Some might try to politicize the investigation, and that's their business. But what we're going to do is not comment on it further from this podium in order to help the investigation move forward and to allow for there to be a fair and impartial hearing.

Q But do you feel that it is necessarily politicizing an -- politicizing an investigation to seek -- seek clarification about the actions of the top levels of this White House?

MR. McCLELLAN: I've already indicated, one, that we'll be glad to talk more about the matter once it's come to a conclusion.

Q Scott?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, April.

Q Scott, on influenza, first, what is going on, as far as the administration back-and-forth with DOD as it relates to policing and quarantining those who could possibly be affected by any kind of influenza that comes into this country?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, what are we --

Q The back-and-forth, because we understand that the military is saying that they are not supposed to police; even with Katrina, that they almost crossed the line in this policing and trying to keep people together in certain areas as they were trying to leave -- that situation --

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay. And so your question is, what are we doing?

Q Yes. How are you fixing the situation to find out who is to police, to quarantine, or what have you, anyone affected with influenza?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, two things, because you brought up Hurricane Katrina, and the President said that we should be looking at whether or not when he might need additional authority to be able to use the military to help stabilize the situation in the event of an ultra catastrophe or a major disease outbreak. And one thing that we're doing is we're moving forward on a lessons-learned review. Fran Townsend, our Homeland Security Advisor, briefed just recently on this issue and said that the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security and other agencies are looking at this issue and providing input as part of that lessons-learned review. So this is something that we're looking at very closely.

Now, as part of the national strategy that was released just a short time ago, the military has been directed to look at ways that they can support the state and local communities in the event of a pandemic flu outbreak. And so that's one of the things that they've been directed to do as part of this comprehensive national strategy that the President outlined today.

Q So they will not be as hands-on as they were with Katrina?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, I didn't say that at all. I don't know where you got that from.

Q No, you're saying that they're putting together ideas and what they could work together with the local --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm saying they're looking at ways they can support the state and local communities in the event of a pandemic flu outbreak.

Q So you're saying the military will -- they will be involved directly, then, in some type of quarantine situation?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that in each situation it depends on the circumstances and the characteristics of the outbreak that might occur, in terms of what role the military would play. So I think you have -- that's why you have to look at all these issues, and that's what we're doing.

Q Scott, what is the White House's view of what a successful outcome of the special prosecutor's investigation will now be?

MR. McCLELLAN: What is the view?

Q You referred to "we're looking forward to a successful outcome." What is a "successful outcome" in the White House's view?

MR. McCLELLAN: That he's able to conclude his investigation and bring it to a conclusion and, you know -- he said that a substantial part of it has already been concluded. I think everybody would like to know what the facts are.

Q Scott, two questions. One, the biggest holiday in India -- is brought off by the Islamic bombings, the same bombings that they did just a week killed dozens of worshipers in Kashmir. My question is now that India is still opening more and more borders in Pakistan because that's where the country -- people in the country say that opening the borders with Pakistan is just bringing more terrorists into the country. What President thinks about this India and Pakistan relations now and the bombings in India, and whether he has spoken with anybody --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I spoke out over the weekend about the terrorist attacks that took place in New Delhi. They are heinous terrorist attacks and our thoughts are with the families of the victims. There are a number of people that were killed, there are a number of people that were wounded in those attacks. And we always stand committed to doing everything we can to help bring people to justice for carrying out such attacks.

And in terms of the border issues and relations with neighboring countries, we encourage dialogue between India and Pakistan. We encourage them to have an ongoing dialogue and to work in consultation and cooperation, and I think that's what both leaders have been committed to doing recently. There is certainly a lot to still be addressed, and everybody has a responsibility to do their part to crack down on terrorism. And we can all do more in that regard.

Q Second question is on -- I've heard Osama bin Laden is-- he is saying that he is dead. His experts is telling him that Osama bin Laden is dead. Now, second report is that now Osama bin Laden, as we've been reporting before, that he was in Pakistan and now, because of the earthquake, that ISI Pakistani authorities or military may be trying to put him into the Kashmir area so nobody can find him in that earthquake area. So what is the real story, whether he's dead, according to the White House, or he's still alive, or whether he's --

MR. McCLELLAN: He's someone that we continue to pursue and to bring to justice for the crimes against humanity that he has committed, and the crimes he has committed against the American people. He is -- we have brought to justice in one way or another some three-quarters of the more senior al Qaeda leadership and associates, and we continue to pursue individuals. We have made great progress in disrupting and dismantling the al Qaeda terrorist network.

But there is much that remains to be done. We remain engaged in a ideological struggle with radical Islamists who seek to spread their hateful ideology throughout the broader Middle East. And we will prevail in this war on terrorism. We're working closely with many nations in that, but we continue to pursue those individuals and they will be brought to justice for the terrorist attacks that they are responsible for and the killing of thousands of innocent civilians.

Q Michael Powell reported --

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me keep going. Go ahead.

Q Scott, I have a question on the existing personnel policy at the White House as it relates to employee retention. I would like to know, first of all, if it's based on work performance? And, secondly, if you know, when the Department of Homeland Security was established, one of the personnel changes that the administration wanted to do was to have employee actions based on work performance so in case there were an employee that conducted himself in a way that was a national security risk, personnel action could be taken immediately. So I'd like to know if within the Executive Office of the President their retention policy is performance based?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll be glad to get you our retention policies. I'll be glad to provide that information to you.

Q And if I could -- if you could clarify this for me, because I don't quite understand --

MR. McCLELLAN: Or at last our personnel policies.

Q Okay. Is it accurate to say, then, that anyone working within the Executive Office of the President is welcome to stay aboard if, one, they're not arrested, as was the case with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy Director; and, secondly, if they're not indicted, as was the case of the Chief of Staff of the Vice President; or, thirdly, if they're not convicted, even --

MR. McCLELLAN: Paula, you are asking this in the context of an ongoing investigation, and it's very clear what you --

Q No, I'm asking --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, it's very clear what you're asking. It's in the context of an ongoing investigation, so I want to make that clear, first of all. That is exactly what you're asking in the context of, and you want me to comment on this in the context of that investigation and I'm not going to do that. What I will say is that it's the President's prerogative, in terms of who works here at the White House.

Q All right, then, may I ask one more question? When the President signed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act he said that even though there's no binding agreement, the White House would hold to the corporate governance rules, which, as you know, would hold accountable not only an employee who acts in an unethical manner, but also those that have authority over them, including up to the chief executive officer. And I'd like to know if that's what you mean when you say that every employee should be held to the highest ethical standard?

MR. McCLELLAN: I mean what I said.

Q Isn't it a contradiction for the White House to say things are stabilizing in Iraq, while the number of U.S. troops are being killed at a higher rate now than at any time since --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know who you're referring to. I don't know who you're referring to.

Q The recent -- October was one of the most deadly months for U.S. troops killed in Iraq and --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, you said "stabilizing"? I mean, there's great progress being made, but there are those who continue to carry out violent attacks against innocent civilians. That's the stakes that we're up against in Iraq. And --

Q Would you say that Iraq is not stabilizing then?

MR. McCLELLAN: The terrorists recognize how high the stakes are; we recognize how high the stakes are. There's tremendous progress that is being made, yet, there are those who want to prevent democracy from moving forward in Iraq. They have failed every step of the way. The Iraqi people have shown that they are determined to build a lasting democracy and that they want to live in freedom and peace. And we're there supporting the Iraqi people and their aspirations for a better future.

Q How would you characterize the state of Iraq right now, sir?

MR. McCLELLAN: There's great progress being made on the political front; there's great progress being made on the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces. But there are difficulties that remain. The terrorists recognize how high the stakes are. We saw that in the letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi. The nature of the enemy that we're up against is clearly spelled out in that letter. This is an enemy that thinks that they can break our will. They cannot break our will. We are there, and we are going to complete this mission.

Our men and women in uniform understand what their mission is, and they understand the importance of the work that they're carrying out. We are forever grateful for their service and sacrifice. And they are doing a tremendous job, and they have made tremendous sacrifices, as have families of members of the military, and we will forever be grateful to them.

Q Why has Zarqawi not been caught yet?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you might want to talk to military commanders on the ground, but we have brought to justice some of his top lieutenants. We have gone after people that are very closely connected to the Zarqawi network, and he is someone that we remain in pursuit of, and we continue to work with Iraqi security forces and coalition partners in Iraq to find them and to bring them to justice.

Q Still failed, though. You can't get him yet.

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.

Q Thank you, Scott. On Friday, when the President spoke in Norfolk, there were numerous published reports about how Jerry Kilgore, the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, was elsewhere in the state and did not come to appear with him. And some have interpreted this as a sign that with recent events, the President does not pack the political wallop that he did. Four years ago, the Republican candidate for governor rearranged his whole schedule to appear with the President when he came to Virginia in the penultimate days of the campaign. Does this bother you at all?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that you're characterization is wrong because, first of all, this was an official event. It was not a political event. And as with official events, we don't invite candidates to those events. And in terms of Jerry Kilgore, the President strongly supports his candidacy. That's why he has helped support him by appearing at events for him and helping to raise the necessary resources to be able to wage his campaign.

Q Thank you.

Q Scott, wait a minute.

Q No, wait a minute.

MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you.

Q Scott, come on.

Q Tax simplification.

MR. McCLELLAN: Tax simplification.

Q I have to ask about Prince Charles' visit.

MR. McCLELLAN: All right. We'll go real quick. We'll go real quick. We'll go real quick.

Q Which one?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Connie.

Q Thank you.

MR. McCLELLAN: CBS gets two today. Three if Peter wants to -- (Laughter.)

Q Scott, some of our British friends take this very seriously. And Prince Charles has signaled that he wants to talk to the President preferably tomorrow about climate warm -- climate change, and about treatment toward moderate Muslims? Does President Bush want to discuss these topics with Prince Charles?

MR. McCLELLAN: He looks forward to the visit. He's glad to talk about whatever issues Prince Charles may want to bring up. This is a social visit. The President and Mrs. Bush are looking forward to hosting their Royal Highnesses at a social lunch tomorrow. Following that event, the President and Mrs. Bush and -- actually, I should say, following that event, first of all, Mrs. Bush and their Royal Highnesses will go to Anacostia to tour the SEED School, which is an urban school that provides innovative educational opportunities to prepare under-served students for college. Then the President and Mrs. Bush tomorrow night will host their Royal Highnesses at an official black-tie dinner on Wednesday evening. And details of all these events are going to be put out later -- I think tomorrow, actually, by Mrs. Bush's press office. So for further details, you ought to contact them. But the purpose of this visit is a social one to the White House.

Q But even though it's social, he can talk about these serious topics?

MR. McCLELLAN: They can talk about whatever topics the two want to engage in, and they have in the past. I'm sure they will again at this visit.

Q Thank you.

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.

Q Scott, I have a question about the flu. The more we're hearing about it, the more powerless and helpless Americans are feeling. What are we supposed to do? We know that the government is doing a great deal and governments around the world are. What are we supposed to do?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President touched on some of it today, and one thing that we're doing is we launched this morning a website, pandemicflu.gov, so the American people can go to that website and find out more information about pandemic flu and find out more information about things that can be done.

And health experts are out there publicly talking about what Americans can do, and I would encourage you to look at those comments, as well.

Bill.

Q Okay, both the tax simplification plans advanced by the President's panel today eliminate state and local tax deductions, they would cap mortgage deductions. They're somewhat -- they could be somewhat controversial. Has the White House embraced these? Are you going to push them before the Ways and Means Committee?

MR. McCLELLAN: Tax reform is a top priority for the President. Many Americans share the President's view that our tax code is a complicated mess. The President is committed to making our tax code simpler, fairer, and more conducive to economic growth. He outlined some very clear principles. We commend the bipartisan panel for all the work that they did. They worked very hard and looked at these issues very carefully.

Now, they are sending their report to the Treasury Secretary. The Treasury Secretary is going to carefully look at the recommendations that they made in their report, and then he will be forwarding to the President his own recommendations. The President will then consider those, and we look forward to moving forward on initiatives that the President will outline later with members of Congress.

Q The President himself will adopt a program that he wants passed?

MR. McCLELLAN: Will adopt -- I'm sorry?

Q The President himself will get behind some form of that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President is going to be outlining more about how we can move forward to reform the tax code and make it simpler and fairer. We've taken some steps to do that already. It's an important part of making sure that we continue to build upon the strong economic growth that we're seeing --

Q Scott, just as a matter of economic principle, would a reduction in the mortgage interest deduction fly in the face of the President's request that any tax reform encourage charitable giving and home ownership?

MR. McCLELLAN: An important principle that the President has outlined is that our tax code should encourage home ownership and should encourage charitable giving, and I'm not going to speculate about what the President may or may not do because there's still some steps that need to be taken before it comes to the President.

Q I'm just asking, would a reduction in the mortgage interest deduction fly in the face of that principle?

MR. McCLELLAN: One, I'm just telling you that the Treasury Secretary will be looking at all these recommendations, and then he'll be making recommendations to the President. And if you ask me to comment on specific aspects of it, then I'm commenting on something that the President has yet to review and decide on.

Q It's just -- it's a proposal that's out there. Would that fly in the face of his principles?

MR. McCLELLAN: It is a simple question, and I'm not going to prejudge what the President may or may not do.

Q If it were raining inside the White House would that somehow affect your ability to carry on the briefing? I know it's a hypothetical, but come on.

MR. McCLELLAN: Come on, John. The point is that this process was set up by the President. He appointed a bipartisan advisory panel. Maybe you can't understand that, but they were set out to look at all these issues, and to make their recommendations. We appreciate greatly their work. And what we're going to do is let those go to the Treasury Secretary as it was laid out to you all a long time ago. Maybe you want to jump ahead of that process. But I'm not going to do it from here. The President is going to make the decisions in due course. But that's after the Treasury Secretary sends him recommendations. And that's the way we're going to proceed.

I'm not going to try -- I'm not going to try to limit the President's options or predict what he may or may not propose. We will do that in due course.

Thank you.

END 12:41 P.M. EST