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 Home > News & Policies > March 2001

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 27, 2001

Briefing of the Travel Pool by Ari Fleischer
Aboard Air Force One
En Route to Kalamazoo, Michigan

12:05 P.M. EST


     MR. FLEISCHER:  For the day, the President will address the Southwest Michigan First Coalition and Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce -- it's a joint event -- at 1:45 p.m.  He will depart at 2:25 p.m. from the event, arrive back into Washington, to the White House, at 4:45 p.m.  He has no other public events on his schedule.

     In Michigan, he'll be joined by several members of Congress.  Both senators were invited.  I'm not certain whether the senators will be there or not.  I do not believe they will be able to be there.  Congressman Nick Smith, Congressman Fred Upton, Congressman Vern Ehlers, Congressman Mike Rogers, Congressman Pete Hoekstra, Congressman Joe Knollenberg will be with us.

     Q    Which ones of those are Democrats?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I don't have any breakdown here.  As I indicated, he's invited both senators.  Both senators are Democrats.  That's our action for the day.  You know what the speech is about today, so I won't go back into that.

     Q    How is he preparing for the speech on this flight?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  He's up in the cabin going over his remarks, making last-minute edits.  He was working on it extensively yesterday, as well.

     Q    What does he hope to achieve with this speech?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, he wants to build support for his tax and budget plans, limit spending, cut taxes, stimulate the economy.  And he's going to tie together several important actions:  free trade, education, spending restraint, tax cuts and educational improvement, as a way to maintain long-term economic growth and productivity.

     Q    There's been some speculation that he's concerned that people are talking about him talking down the economy, and he wants to make the point that --

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Frankly, the White House looks at that as an opportunity to show who's in touch with the concerns people have. Michigan's unemployment rate is climbing at a rate higher than almost every other state, if it's not the highest rate of increase.  People in Michigan are no strangers to the problems unemployment creates.  And they're worried about not only their jobs, but their neighbors' jobs.  If their neighbor loses a job, they're worried they could be next, is what I mean.

     So the President knows that this is an issue in which he is in touch with the American people.  And I think those who criticize him risk being seen as out of touch with people going through difficult economic moments.

     Q    Was the President surprised that consumer confidence rose last month?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  There was a good report out this morning, and that underscores what the President will talk about today, that there are trends in the economy and weaknesses in the economy, and he has a plan to diminish the weaknesses and increase the strengths.

     Q    Is he going to take a position on the proposal for a $60 billion stimulus for fiscal 2001?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Keep in mind, the President is already leading the charge.  It's the President who called for retroactivity, signalled that he would change his plan to support retroactivity.  The House passed a version of retroactivity; now the Senate is looking at retroactivity.  So he's very pleased that Congress is working in a bipartisan fashion to follow through on what he called for.  And he'll talk about retroactivity today.  I'll let you -- the President's remarks will speak for themselves on that.

     Q    Is there going to be a dollar figure?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I'm not going to preview it.  The President's remarks will -- the President will address it.

     Q    Ari, we do seem to have a spate of other options floating around out there.  Lieberman comes out with his thing yesterday, a one-time rebate.  You've got the Domenici thing.  There seem to be other things that affect Baucus. and others are interested in and like and could go to, rather than what the President is saying.

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President views that as very healthy.  The President is pleased that we have people who didn't used to talk about tax cuts talk about tax cuts.  It's another example of what White House leadership can do.  But the President will address today the need for a stimulus, not only short-term, but permanent and ongoing, long-term.

     There remains a risk that if the only action you take is temporary, the politicians will find a way to spend all that money, if you don't cut the taxes.  So the President is pleased to hear additional talk of retroactivity and stimulus.  It will be very hard to support anything that doesn't -- and he will not support anything that does not permanently cut taxes, because that's an excuse for the politicians to spend more money.

     Q    Can you look back on Montana for a second?  That was a very good event yesterday.  Does that, do you think, put pressure on Baucus to get on board?  What's the effect of it?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, as the President said, a senior senator from Montana can make a big difference, if he agrees with what the President is saying.  And if the people of Montana agree with the President is saying, the funny thing about our system is, the word gets through.

     Q    But, I mean, there are people who think that's counterproductive. Do you think that the event actually had an effect on Baucus?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  I think any time you have 10,000, 12,000 of your constituents calling on you to do something, it's healthy and productive.

     Anything else?

     Q    Are you considering postponing the implementation of eliminating the estate tax, so as to be able to pay for some of the stimulus, as Mr. Lindsey said in the USA Today this morning?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  Well, I think what happened was in the course of an interview where Mr. Lindsey was also asked, are you suggesting a delay, or, are you suggesting a slower phase-in, he said, no.  So Mr. Lindsey was very clear in the interview, saying he's not advocating such a position.  He was discussing, as any good economist would, a whole variety of permutations.

     Q    -- is that something that you are considering?

     MR. FLEISCHER:  The President believes the Congress should pass his plan as presented.

     Okay, thanks everybody.

                              END               12:12 P.M. EST