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 Home > News & Policies > March 2001

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 23, 2001

Remarks by the President in Q&A with the Travel Pool
Salvation Army Senior Center
Portland, Maine

11:10 A.M. EST

Q In response to the fact that the Russians responded in kind --

THE PRESIDENT: They can make whatever decisions they deem necessary. Our country took the right course of action.

Q What message does it send, though, do you think?

THE PRESIDENT: It says that we will be firm and consistent in our foreign policy.

* * * * *

Q One more question, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Same subject?

Q No, on tax cuts. Even if, with retroactivity, the size of the package were to get bigger than $1.6 trillion, is it worth while, if it provides more money for people up front during this slowing economy?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think we can accelerate tax relief, we should accelerate tax relief, and keep the size of the tax relief package at the same level. I'm confident we can do both. And I've told those who think it ought to be smaller and those who think it ought to be bigger that it ought to be $1.6 trillion.

The key thing is to make sure that we have tax relief that's meaningful, and to get as much money in the people's pockets as quickly as possible to provide a stimulus package.

Q But how do you do both?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's what we're going to work with the Congress on, is to make sure that we come with a size of the package that fits into the budget and at the same time, get money into people's pockets as quickly as possible. There are ways to do that. You could delay one aspect of the total tax relief package for one year, for example. I mean, there are ways to get it done. The key thing is that good people are coming together to try to effect good sound fiscal policy and to stimulate the economy.

Q So, Mr. President, if something like what Senator Domenici has proposed happened there would be some give elsewhere to keep it within the $1.6 trillion?

THE PRESIDENT: I think we ought to work to keep it within the $1.6 trillion. I've sent that message. I hear members of Congress saying, now we have the opportunity to load up the tax relief package for different projects, and my message is, keep it at $1.6 trillion. There are others who, of course, want to diminish it as well. And my answer to them is, let's keep it at $1.6 trillion.

Q Would you oppose anything like a rebate that brought it above $1.6 trillion?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we're working with the Congress to keep it within the bounds of $1.6 trillion. I saw what Senator Domenici said -- he was talking about accelerating by about $40 billion. Well, that's a rounding number when you're talking in terms of trillions.

Q If campaign financial legislation that banned soft money from individuals and that did not include paycheck protection in labor unions reach your desk, would you veto it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm watching the debate very carefully. My message is I would like a bill to sign and I want all parties involved in the debate to know that I'm anxious to sign a bill, I look forward to a bill, and am confident that they will be able to come up with a bill that I can sign.

Q -- any one position?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me put it to you this way. I would -- I believe they can come up with a reform that will meet the parameters that I've laid out that I can sign.

Q Mr. President, are you worried about this tit-for-tat with the Russians and that it could get out of hand and hurt U.S.-Russian relations?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I believe we can have good, strong relations with the Russians. They'll just understand my administration is one that takes firm positions when we think we're right. That doesn't preclude the ability for Mr. Putin and me, for example, to meet at some point in time and have a good, honest discussion about common interests, areas where we can work together, and be able to discuss our disagreements in an open and honest way.

Q Are you unalterably opposed to the idea of some kind of midterm review? I know you don't like the word, trigger, but anything that takes a look to see whether surpluses really materialize?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it depends on what it is. There's a lot of ideas now being floated out in the Congress and I'm open-minded to any good idea. And I'll listen to what different members have to say. The key thing is that we have meaningful, real tax relief, where everybody who pays taxes gets relief, and where, to the best extent possible, accelerate the tax relief to get money in people's pockets to serve as a stimulus to the economy.

Q So a trigger is not out of the question?

THE PRESIDENT: Again, any suggestion that people give I'm willing to listen to. Obviously, one of my concerns is that a tax relief package be undone because Congress wasn't fiscally responsible in its spending. I won't support a measure that says to Congress, spend all the money you want and, therefore, diminish the tax relief plan that we've gotten passed for the people. Because one way is to make sure that the surpluses don't exist is if Congress isn't fiscally responsible with the people's money.

Q -- speak to President Putin before you have a face-to-face meeting in June?

THE PRESIDENT: Maybe. I'm not sure yet.

Q Maine's education -- worried that your plan for a national testing --

THE PRESIDENT: I'm going to address that today. I appreciate you asking that question. The Governor is here somewhere -- the Governor and I talked about that. Maine has got a very strong accountability system. And it has enabled the public elected officials to address problems. When I talk about accountability systems, I talk about those developed by states and local jurisdictions. And Maine is a perfect example.

One of the reasons I've come to this state is, not only is it a special spot in my heart because of an address down the road here, but this is a state where accountability in education go hand in hand. And in no way, shape, or form, would I want federal policy to undermine the good work that Governor King and others in Maine have done.

So when I talk about local accountability and a willingness to set standards, I think of places like Texas and a place like Maine.

GOVERNOR KING: We've been doing testing in the 4th, 8th and 11th grade in Maine since 1986. We published the results on the Internet by school, by school district, and it's accountability with a capital A.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I know there's -- I'm aware that there was some consternation about proposals that I'm working with both Republican and Democrats on in the Congress. People have got to remember I was a governor and I wasn't particularly happy when the federal government began to tell us what to do, particularly when it came to educating our children. And consistent in the plans that I'm working with the Congress on is that philosophy that we trust the local people. And the people of Maine have been very fortunate to have a Governor of this caliber to look after the public education system here.

And as the Governor will tell you, the whole basis of reform is strong accountability, because you don't know whether --unless you measure. You don't know whether children are learning. And, anyway, I'd better save some of the remarks for the speech. That way you'll pay attention.

GOVERNOR KING: I've got a motto for you, Mr. President: Does it work, and how do you know?

THE PRESIDENT: There you go. I may copy it.

Anybody hungry? You look like a man who could use a meal. (Laughter.)