For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 29, 2008
Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
9:45 A.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Good morning. Okay, the President had his normal briefings, of course. At 10:30 a.m. he and Mrs. Bush will participate in the signing of two bills: The Renewal of Import Restrictions on Burma and the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE, which is Junta's Anti-Democratic Efforts Act. That will be in the [Oval] Office and pool coverage.
At 10:45 a.m. he will sign the Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Act of 2008; also in the Oval, with stills. And Emily can get you specifics on that if you need it. At 3:20 p.m. he will be in Ohio. We're going to leave here at 1:25 p.m., I think. He will tour Lincoln Electric Company and then give remarks there to people from the company who will be assembled. And at 5:45 p.m. he will attend a congressional trust reception.
I have two other things. One, we wanted to note that tomorrow, after 32 years on the job, NBC cameraman Wolfie Fraser will serve his last day here at the White House. (Applause.) He's really worked tirelessly; we've gotten to know him over the years. He's traveled the world with many Presidents; he's been through all of our years. And we wish you all the best and your family all the best as you start your next chapter.
MR. FRASER: Thank you.
MS. PERINO: Also at the end of this week, Congress is expected to go on their August recess, and at that same time many families across America are making tough decisions about whether or not they can go on their summer vacations, due to the high gasoline prices. That's just one of many reasons why the Democratically controlled Congress shouldn't keep putting off our future energy needs by systematically and, we would say, un-democratically blocking votes on real measures to address the root causes of the problem of high energy prices.
There are proposals in Congress which include the provisions the President has called for, including opening up our energy resources in the Outer Continental Shelf, ANWR, and allowing development of oil shell resources in the west, as well as streamlining the permitting process for refineries. The Democratic leaders in Congress shouldn't delay this vote; they should listen to the cause of the American people and allow a vote before leaving on yet another month of recess and politics.
We believe that the American people send their elected leaders to Washington to represent them. They are clamoring for an answer on this, and we believe that the Republicans, and many Democrats, should be allowed to at least have a vote on this before they leave on this next recess. You will hear the President talk about this today in his remarks.
Q On the attack in Iraq, there seems to be -- at least anecdotally -- an uptick in some of these high profile types of attacks that we hadn't seen as much of in the past few months. What's the President hearing from commanders and others in Iraq about whether there is some kind of trend, or whether these are anomalies? What's he being told?
MS. PERINO: It's too early to say whether it's a trend or not. And the trend that we have seen is that violence has gone down dramatically, especially since the surge that got underway -- well, announced in January 2007, and then full troops there I think the end of June 2007. So a year later, we have seen a trend of a lot less violence. But there is still violence nonetheless, and I think that's one of the reasons we continue to talk about the need for flexibility, and to be looking to commanders on the ground for their assessments of whether or not troop -- whether or not we should bring more troops home now based on success, whether or not we need to have more there, changing strategies. At the same time, we're building up the Iraqi security forces, and their economy is improving, as well as their political reconciliation.
So all those things are good, but at the same time you have a very determined enemy. I'm not sure exactly who claimed responsibility yesterday, and I think I'd have to refer you to MNFI right now to make sure. But these types of high-profile attacks that are using female suicide bombers are deplorable and have killed scores of innocent people. And I think that innocent civilians are tired of this type of violence, and they have risen up against it. We've seen that, but there's a long way to go. And that's why we've said that we need to take all of that into consideration as we make decisions about our future posture there.
Q Dana, are you getting any better handle on when the President will be signing the housing rescue bill?
MS. PERINO: It's not us that has had a problem with getting a handle on it. It's the Congress, and they send us the bill, and as soon as we get it, we'll sign it. So that question should be, I think, appropriately put to Speaker Pelosi's office as to when they're going to send it to us.
Q You're not getting signals on that happening today or tomorrow?
MS. PERINO: I haven't had an update -- I don't think we -- we would assume it's soon. I mean, at some point it's going to become irresponsible that they don't send it down, because Secretary -- the Secretary of the Treasury has said in a -- I think it was almost two weeks ago now, or maybe even longer, that he needed those authorities that are in the bill in order to help stabilize the market and provide confidence to the market. And the President dropped his veto threat on the provision that he didn't like so that we could speed up this process. So as soon as they have the bill ready, they should send it to us, but that question is appropriately put to Speaker Pelosi.
Q Do you think they're delaying sending it over deliberately?
MS. PERINO: I don't have reason to believe that. I know that they're just now back in town again after their long weekend of a recess, but I don't think -- you know, sometimes it does take a while to send bills to the White House for signing, but at some point you have to wonder why are they holding it back.
Q Dana, is the President concerned about the steepest decline ever in home prices that just occurred in May -- 15.8 percent? And is he going to mention that at all in his remarks today?
MS. PERINO: Well, the remarks today are mainly focused on energy issues. But clearly housing has been the other part of the headwinds that we have faced over the last year. And there's no question that it still is having an effect on the housing market. We can't put a timetable on when the housing market will be able to start to rebound, but we're doing everything we can, one, to help people stay in their homes in the meantime, while they go through this correction; and then to help us pull out of it sooner than later.
Q Will the President, then, in his remarks at all echo what you were saying about getting Congress to send that bill to him soon? Is he going to try --
MS. PERINO: I don't --
Q I mean, I know you said energy, but that's sort of part of the big picture of the economy, as well.
MS. PERINO: His remarks that he's going to give today are on energy.
Q Will the White House, or the President sign the CPSC reform bill when it gets here?
MS. PERINO: We did -- let's see, I have a point on that. We do think that we'll get a bill -- we hope that we'll be able to get a bill that the President could sign -- I don't think I brought my notes with me, sorry. We'll get back to you, Paula, I'm sorry -- hold on, I might have it here, because I had a couple of points on it. Yes, here we go, just to remind me.
We're waiting -- we understand they made an agreement last night. We're waiting to see the final language. We do think that the bill moved in a direction that we might be able to sign it; we would like to be able to sign a bill. We want to ensure Americans that their products that they are buying and using are safe. And we want to make sure that the regulating agencies have the resources that they need in order to do their job.
So let us get a hold of that final language, take a look at it and then we'll circle back with you.
Q The Cabinet meeting tomorrow and then statement afterwards -- what's the nature of the statement?
MS. PERINO: Energy, the most important priority facing America right now.
Q A repeat of what he will say later today or --
MS. PERINO: Well, it's some pretty basic issues -- and I think that you'll hear him call again for the Democratically led Congress to allow the representatives of the American people to at least have a vote on this before they leave for their recess.
Q Thank you, Dana. Can you say whether U.S. intelligence, military intelligence overseas assisted the government of Serbia in the apprehension of Radovan Karadzic and the current pursuit of General Mladic.
MS. PERINO: I know that we have over the years been supportive of efforts, and that's pretty much all I can say right now. But we're very pleased that he was finally caught. We wish it would have happened sooner.
Q Is the President pleased that Americans are driving less, to the tune of maybe $10 billion -- 10 billion fewer miles a month? Does he think that's a positive development? Is it conservation? And is he worried about the Highway Trust Fund?
MS. PERINO: I think President Bush is pleased to see that what he believes to be true is working out, which is that markets work, and that the laws of supply and demand are still reigning supreme when it comes to high prices, which means a tighter supply and higher demand. So if you reduce your demand, you have more supply. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't aggressively look for ways to bring down prices even more. Driving less might be the solution for some families, but for others it might really put a crimp in their day-to-day lives, or the work that they try to do, especially if you're a small business who has a van or -- like a delivery van or something like that, you are going to have to be out there driving.
So we think that we should also address the root causes, as well as people taking steps to conserve. But I think the bottom line is that markets work.
Go ahead, Paula.
Q What is the position of the White House on a national speed limit? Because it's been argued that if you go above a certain mile per hour, you're saving gasoline --
MS. PERINO: I think the President thinks that consumers can make that decision on your own.
And you asked me, I'm sorry, Ann, about the Highway Trust Fund and if we're concerned. In our budget last February, we noted concern about the issue. And then -- it's not as high as some people have said, in terms of the deficit, but I think this again goes to the issue of, there's just contradictions in some people's policies -- which is, some people, I think especially those from the Democratic side, want people to drive less to help improve the environment. But when you do that, you have less taxes. So then their answer is, well, let's maybe try to raise taxes, which we don't think is a good answer either.
Q So you don't anticipate any initiative from the President in his final months in office to address the Highway Trust Fund?
MS. PERINO: We had in our budget a way for them to address it, a way for Congress to address it -- so we think that Congress actually needs to do its work on the appropriations side of the equation to address it. And we don't think that raising taxes is necessary.
Q Thank you, Dana. Do you think that sanctions are having any impact at all on the Burmese regime?
MS. PERINO: I haven't had an update on it in a while, but we do know that sanctions can work, which is why we work both unilaterally and multilaterally to impose them, to help squeeze the regime. Our goal is to squeeze the people who are actually repressing the people, and not hurt the people. And that's why you see we are very generous in humanitarian aid with some of these countries, but at the same time we work to address the leaders and the cronies of these regimes -- such as in Zimbabwe, with what we did with President Mugabe's sanctions last week.
Last one, Savannah.
Q If people are continuing to drive less, does that make you look conceptually at how we fund infrastructure and transportation -- it's based on gas taxes, it's based on consumption of the road. Would that make -- the decision -- reconsider that whole way we fund --
MS. PERINO: Well, again, we think that -- we believe that there is a way for Congress to address the Highway Trust Fund. We don't think that raising taxes on the American people, one, would ultimately solve the problems of a host of issues. And it's possible that a wholesale revamp of the Highway Trust Fund would be considered by members of Congress. There could be projects where you would privatize the efforts. There's a range of issues, but I don't think that you're going to see a brand new revamp from us at the moment.
I'll refer you to the Department of Transportation, because Secretary Peters has been, one, member of the state government in Arizona in which they dealt with these issues, both in the good times and the bad when it comes to funding. And she's got some ideas, especially in terms of congestion pricing, that could maybe help, or possibly addressing the issue of whether or not an interstate -- a state could impose tolls on an interstate. These are issues that they're taking public comment on, and I think that the bottom line is Congress needs to do its work to address the Highway Trust Fund, and we gave them a road map to do it in our budget.
END 9:58 A.M. EDT