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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 15, 2007
Press Gaggle by Tony Fratto
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Bentonville, Arkansas
8:57 A.M. CDT
MR. FRATTO: Good morning, everyone. So we will, shortly, be on our way to Rogers, Arkansas, after the short weather delay. The President, as you know, will be visiting Stribling Packaging, Inc. It's a packaging company, and they've got in some new, innovative products also that have helped them grow their business over the years. The President will do a tour of the factory, and then a lunch with business leaders. After the lunch --
Q Have lunch there?
MR. FRATTO: Lunch there at Stribling.* And then afterwards he'll go to the Convention Center where he'll do remarks, and we expect to take questions.
Congressman John Boozman will meet the President at the airport and will be with us during our time in Rogers. And then from there we'll go to Memphis for Lamar Alexander's fundraiser.
The President will be -- his message today will be to encourage Congress to do the work they need to do to send him the spending bills that they promised they would send him, to send them on time and in regular order. I should note that Congress right now is working on some of their appropriations bills. Some of those bills are coming in above the budget that the President requested. The President has veto threats on a number of these bills because it's -- the only way we're going to be able to meet our deficit targets and to get this federal budget back to surplus is by keeping spending in check and to prevent tax increases.
And so that's what the President is going to be focused on today. He'll remind you, the House has passed I think nearly all of their appropriations bills. The Senate has passed four or five of their appropriations bills. And yet the House of Representatives today has not appointed conferees for a single one of these appropriations bills. Some of these appropriations bills have been sitting out since late summer, some have been passed more recently, but not a single conferee has been named to sit down with the Senate and resolve differences on the appropriations bills. And so that's going to be a message on this, that -- the House and the Senate's commitment to get these spending bills done on time and under budget.
It's crucially important for our economy that we get the budget back into balance and prevent tax increases. The economy has performed remarkably well, despite the blows it took early in this administration, to the point where we now have 49 consecutive months of job growth, which is a -- since they've kept keeping records, that's a record.
Q What's the message going to be from the President about S-CHIP in today's comments? And do you expect it to be any different or there be any more overtures about working with Democrats?
MR. FRATTO: He may mention S-CHIP. The focus is on the budget and the appropriations bills and keeping spending under control.
Q Do you think -- the White House sent out a "Setting the Record Straight" yesterday about Speaker Pelosi's comments on S-CHIP. Does the President have the kind of relationship with Speaker Pelosi that they can actually come together on these issues of budgetary matters, and particularly on S-CHIP?
MR. FRATTO: Yes, they talk on a fairly regular basis. Of course, you know when the bipartisan-bicameral leadership comes to the White House for meetings, they talk about a range of issues. We will see what happens with the vote this week. I know House leaders are confident that they have the votes to sustain the President's veto, and then hopefully we can move from there to find common ground on the best way to move forward with S-CHIP.
Q On the Armenian genocide resolution, yesterday Speaker Pelosi said she has not heard -- has not received a telephone call from the President. Will he be calling her?
MR. FRATTO: I don't have -- I don't know anything about plans for a phone call. But there should be no question of the President's views on this issue and the damage that this resolution can do to our U.S. foreign policy interests. This isn't just a view that's expressed by the administration; this is a view that's been expressed by at least, I believe eight former Secretaries of State on a bipartisan basis, a number of former Defense Secretaries, by our Turkish allies, by independent experts, that this is an important time for U.S.-Turkish relations, and we would strongly encourage the Speaker not to bring this to a vote, and should it come to a vote, we will strongly encourage members not to support it.
This is not the best way to deal with this issue. It is, admittedly, a tragic historical event, which has been well documented, but there are better ways to deal with this issue than -- the most important outcome that I think everyone would like to see are improved Turkish and Armenian relations. And so we encourage the Turks and Armenian authorities to resolve this issue between themselves, and not for the U.S. House of Representatives to insert itself and make this -- make the prospects for resolving the issue more difficult. We should be trying to make it less difficult.
Q Do you think you can win the vote?
MR. FRATTO: I don't have a sense of how the votes will be, but I think we'll -- like I said, we will strongly encourage members not to vote for the resolution should it come to a vote. We would prefer to see it not come to a vote.
Q Back on S-CHIP. Speaker Pelosi said that she is waiting for an overture from the President before any talks would begin. Is the President --
MR. FRATTO: Well, the President made an overture. He made an offer to sit down and find common ground. And what the reaction of the Senate leadership was, were certain -- a certain negative reaction from Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi, delaying the veto override vote for time to pressure lawmakers. So I think at that point it became clear that at least until the veto is sustained, it was going to delay opportunities to have discussions with the House and the Senate as they try to override the President's veto.
Now, once the veto is sustained and I think that becomes a reality for Congress that that's the position of the administration and a significant number of members of the House, that maybe we can sit down and try to find areas where we can agree and extend and reauthorize the program.
Q She's saying that she won't accept any proposal that doesn't cover the 10 million children that the Democrats want to be covered.
MR. FRATTO: Well, we're not going to negotiate through the media on this and lay down markers like that. I think the goal has to be to get the policy right, what are the principles behind the policy, and then to see what the numbers are. There are different ways to cover all the -- and, frankly, not just the children, but the adults I think is a responsible way to think about how we deal with health care going forward.
So it's a -- there are lots of variables. We definitely do want to sit down with members of the House and Senate and try to find ways to reauthorize the program in a way that puts the poorest children first in line, makes sure they're covered. We should not have to remind people -- I wonder sometimes where is -- we hear about the outrage of why we're not expanding the program into higher income brackets -- I wonder where the outrage is about the children in states today who are not being covered by this program and ought to be covered by the program. And that's one of the President's principles. Children who are in families earning below 200 percent of poverty line -- as many as 500,000 or so -- are not being covered by the program today and they ought to be. So we want to see a better-run program also.
Q Any comment on the alleged assassination plot against Putin in Iran?
MR. FRATTO: No. I'll leave that to Russian authorities.
Q I'm sorry, what did you say?
MR. FRATTO: I'll leave that to Russian authorities to -- I have nothing on that.
Okay. Thank you.
END 9:07 A.M. CST
*The Lunch will take place at a to be announced location in Rogers, Arkansas.