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 Home > News & Policies > March 2001

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

Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer Aboard Air Force One En Route Portland, Maine

9:55 A.M. EST

     MR. FLEISCHER:  -- so I will go over what he's doing, to celebrate Greek Independence Day.  That's press pool coverage at 3:50 p.m. in the Indian Treaty Room.  He'll be joined by several elected officials and leaders of the Greek Community.

     Tax family.  To do something different, we'll have a tax family join us today.  The Hanington Family:  Willard Hanington, Jr.  He's a small business owner, in a family-owned logging business named Willard S. Hanington and Sons.  His wife, whose named Karlene, Karlene Hanington. She's a part-time bookkeeper at Willard Hanington and Sons.  They have three children:  daughter Kayla, 14 years old; daughter, Laci, two-and-a-half years old; and the son's name -- anyone want to take any guesses on the son's name?

     Q    Willard.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  No.

     Q    Ari?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Logan.  He's 10 years old.  They are from Wytopitlock, Maine.  They met in high school, been married for 13 years.  They're from Northern Maine.  They currently have a joint income of $54,000.  They currently pay $2,850 in federal income taxes.  Under the President's plan, they would pay $700 in federal income taxes, or a 75 percent tax cut. That's resulted from the 10 percent tax bracket, doubling the child credit and from the the President's marriage --

     Q    What is the total savings?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The total savings is $2,150, a 75 percent tax cut for the Hanington family of Wytopitlock, Maine.

     Q    What's their total income?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I think it's $54,000.

     Q    How long did you say they've been married?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  They're high school sweethearts, Frank.  They've been married for 13 years, thank you for asking.

     Q    One of their daughters is 14.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I think that's a question you should ask the Haningtons.

     Q    So I did hear correctly?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  That's what the information says.

     Q    Okay.

     Q    Would you say that their marriage is strong after 13 years? (Laughter.)

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President believes that Mr. Hanington is a good man.

     Q    Is he a solid man?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Any other questions from you PGs when we have assembled?

     Q    Ari -- Russian expulsions -- the White House --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President took the action he believes is appropriate to the national interests.  We're aware of what Russia has said, and what they said they will do.  The President considers the matter closed.

     Q    Does he not have any reaction to the fact that Russia reciprocated?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President considers the matter closed.

     Q    What does that mean?  That's not an answer.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  That's the President's view.

     Q    So he has no reaction to what Russia did?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The Russians have taken the action they did.  The President considers the matter closed.

     Q    What should Americans conclude from all of this?  That it's, you know, a sort of Cold War redux?  I mean, he considers it closed, but don't people need to understand?  What interpretation should they have from all of this?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  That even in the post-Cold War era intelligence-gathering goes on.  That's no surprise to anybody.  But when something -- a violation as serious as took place in the Hanssen incident occurs, President Bush will take appropriate action.  And by that, he expelled four Russian diplomats as PNGs.

     Q    Has the President made any calls?  Has he called President Putin or any other world leaders since yesterday?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I told you about the call to the -- Emir to talk about Qatar yesterday morning.  No calls this morning.

     Q    Ari, how would this $60-billion plan that Domenici is working on in the Senate, how would that affect the phase-in and then total amount in $1.6-trillion package?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  It all depends on the details, how they do it, when they do it.  As far as the President is concerned, this is one more indication of Congress joining with him, hopefully in a bipartisan way -- activity.

     Q    He sounded really concerned that this ultimately makes the size of the tax package larger than $1.6 trillion.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  No, he still believes it should be limited to $1.6 trillion.

     Q    I know what he believes, but if they do this, unless other adjustments are made, the package gets bigger, necessarily.  Is he okay with that?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  No, he's going to keep it to $1.6 trillion.  He'll keep working with Congress.

     Q    -- (inaudible.) --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  It's too soon to say.

     Q    But something has to give in the later years, right, if you put it all to the --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  It's the beginning of the process.  We have to see exactly what the Senate does, go to the conference with the House, and add it up.  And the President wants to limit it to $1.6 trillion.  But he also, as he said, wanted retroactivity, so he's pleased with what the Senate is doing.  The House did something similar.  The Senate is taking a look at doing something on retroactivity; the President called for it, so he's pleased to do it.

     Q    (Inaudible.)

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Senator Snowe is on board; Senator Collins is on board; Congressman Allen is on board. Jock McKernan is on board.  The whole delegation was invited.  The President enjoys reaching out and talking to members of Congress about his priorities, and he's visiting their state, so it's nice they're on board -- it's a twofer -- he gets to invite them to travel back to their state, and he gets to make his case for his budget priorities.

     Q    Who is playing good cop and who is playing bad cop? Karl, Andy, the President?  How do they work?  Give us a fill.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  One is a very good cop.  The other is Karl. (Laughter.)

     Q    -- named in the magazines.  (Laughter.)

     Q    The Rumsfeld story in The Post today -- will his review include cutting back on large Navy aircraft and spending more on long-range bombers?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  No, I didn't see it.

     Q    How true is the story?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Much too soon to say.  Much too soon.  No recommendations have been made.  It's still early in the review process.

     All right.

     Q    Does the President have a reaction to Senator Nickles's indication that he would welcome a compromise on campaign finance reform?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  It was a different question.  On that question, a compromise on campaign finance reform, the President is pleased that it looks like this year we may be able -- Congress may be able to make progress and find common agreement because it's eluded the Congress and the President for the last many years.  So --

     Q    Is this the kind of compromise you think he could accept?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  He's not going to comment specifically amendment by amendment, but he wants to create an environment where compromises can be made so that a campaign finance reform bill that is as close as possible to his principles can land on his desk and be signed.

     Q    -- changed his view that he won't sign a campaign finance bill that does not include paycheck protection?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  He's never said that.  He's always said that he believes we should have paycheck protection.  That was part of his principles, but he's never said what he won't sign.  In fact, he said the opposite.  He said this year, we can get a good bill signed into law, and he'll do so.

     Q    So it's possible that he could?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  He made it clear yesterday in the meeting with Republican whips that people -- Democrats shouldn't look for him to veto this bill as their way of getting off of it; Republicans, too.  That he is going to keep building common ground and keep working in a way by not criticizing, by not painting people into corners so that people can indeed come together in a toned-down way to get this thing ready for a presidential signature.

     All right, all you PGs.  See you later.

     Q    I didn't hear you very well over the noise.  I want to -- tax family names?

     Q    Ari, I could not hear something so well, and Scott's comment to me yesterday was a little ambiguous, so help me out.  He -- if they did something like an immediate rebate or whatever, he wants to keep it at $1.6 trillion, so there would have to be an adjustment in another place?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, obviously, the President is going to keep it at $1.6 trillion.

     Q    Period?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  He called for retroactivity. So the day he called for retroactivity, it indicated that the size would be somewhat in excess of $1.6 trillion, depending on the decisions they made in the House of $6 billion.  So we'll have to see whether it starts to end up as it gets closer to conference, and in conference, and has a lot of moving pieces, and the President has set out two specific goals:  One, he wants it retroactive; two, he wants to keep it at $1.6 trillion.

     Q    I'm still confused.  You said when he said he wanted retroactivity, you just said, that indicated the size would be in excess of $1.6 trillion.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  And he wants to keep it to $1.6 trillion.  That's why either --

     Q    So how can the size be in excess of $1.6 trillion and be kept at $1.6 trillion?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Because if you're looking at the various components until -- until an agreement is reached.

     Q    So if the two things together added up to more than $1.6 trillion, that might be okay?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  No, the President wants to keep it at $1.6 trillion.

     Q    Is he averse to changing the estate tax to keep it at $1.6 trillion?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I'm not speculating about any of the other moving pieces, but he wants to keep it at $1.6 trillion.

     Q    If there is retroactivity beyond what he's laid out, something else would have to give.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  It also depends on the final agreements that they reach. It depends on the number.  For example, the House was $6 billion. You're dealing in the area of rounding.  So it all depends on exactly what the numbers come out to in the end.

     Q    So, it does have to be $1.6.00000 is what you're saying?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, it -- the House is pretty close to that, so we have to see exactly what the numbers are.  It's the beginning of the process, we'll see what passes in the Senate, go to a conference, and then the President will work to resolve $1.6 trillion retroactivity.

     Q    As he sees it, there's room within his own personal math to have the $1.6-trillion plan he laid out, and a little retroactivity that basically doesn't really bust that figure?  Is that what you're saying?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  No, he's going to keep it at $1.6 trillion and have retroactivity.  Okay.  Thank you, PGs.

     Q    PG's?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Nobody's asking what a PG is.

     Q    Do we want to know?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  PGs -- persona gratas.

END       10:05 A.M. EST