Excerpts from Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, September 24, 2002 (Full transcript)
QUESTION: On the economy, consumer confidence numbers dropped again last month. And the President said this morning he has confidence in American productivity. But does he have any specific plans or new initiatives on helping the economy?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think one reason that consumer confidence may be dropping, in addition to the economic data in there, is that people want to see action in Washington. And there can't be action in Washington if the Congress does not finished its business and send to the President legislation that holds the line on spending. Overspending and busting the budget is a pure threat -- a clear threat to economic growth. And that can drive consumer confidence down. Hard-hats are waiting, construction workers are waiting for Congress to pass terrorism insurance, knowing that it will create jobs.
So there are many things that happen when Congress and the President are able to get things done for the country that boost the country's optimism and sense of confidence. The President is optimistic, but it remains to be seen whether the Congress will be able, in the short time left, to get some of these things done. There are several pending economic matters up in the Congress, and I just cited two of them. The President is going to continue to work with Congress in the short time that they have left before they go home to try and get that done.
It always happens. Every time Congress and the President join together in the passage of significant legislation, it's a good boost of confidence for the country to see in a bipartisan way people in Washington working together. That's what the President is trying to create.
QUESTION: House Republicans haven't passed an appropriations bill since, I think, the 24th of July. So I'm just wondering what the President wants appropriators to do now? Does he think that they can pass a number of these spending bills, or should they do a continuing resolution into next year, or come back after the election and take
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there's no question that this has been one of the slowest years on record. And the pace of Congress definitely needs to pick up.
There is an important difference, though, between the House and the Senate, because the House at least passed a budget, and the funding level for domestic discretionary programs in that budget is $759 billion. And therefore, the House, when they take up continuing resolutions, will spend at last year's level, but as they work toward next year's levels at least they have a ceiling in mind. There is no such ceiling in the Senate. In the Senate, the sky is the limit, because there is no budget. And when the sky is the limit, the taxpayers are the losers. And that's why the President wants to work so hard, to protect the taxpayers. And it's important for Congress to exercise fiscal discipline and pass the appropriation bills.