For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 4, 2001
Remarks by the President
And Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott
During Photo Opportunity
the Oval Office
1:40 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I'm honored to
welcome my friend Senator Lott to the Oval Office. He is
just back from an active month. I'm meeting with him and I'm
meeting with Senator Daschle a little later on today. I look
forward to talking about our need to work together to accomplish some
Two goals I'd like to talk about with both
Senators. One is to make sure we get an education bill on my
desk quickly. Many children are starting school
today. Some have started prior to Labor Day. We
need to get a bill. And Senator Lott worked with me very
closely. And we got a good bill out of the
Senate. I'm confident that the conferees can reconcile their
differences, and get a bill to my desk quickly.
And secondly, we're going to talk about
the budget. There's been a lot of noise about the
budget. I hope the budget -- the appropriations process
discards the old-style politics of trying to scare
seniors. Our seniors have got to know that every Social
Security promise will be fulfilled, and Social Security checks will
arrive on time and that there's not much difference in the overall
numbers than what we proposed, what some others have
proposed. I'm confident we can come together and get a good
budget together, one that will reflect the priorities of the nation,
which will be education and defense.
There's been a lot of talk over August
about the tax relief plan. Half the rebate checks have gone
out. There are still more checks to go out. And I
believe it's going to provide good stimulus for our economy, when the
plan is fully implemented, and then of course come January, there will
be an overall rate reduction, another rate reduction, which will be a
part of the fiscal stimulus package that we all worked on.
Some are arguing that maybe we ought to
roll back the taxes. I guess they're saying
that. They're now against tax relief, and if you're against
tax relief, it must mean you're for maybe rolling it back. I
think that would be terrible for the economy. Most Americans
understand that as well.
At any rate, I've had a good chance to
recharge my batteries in Crawford. I'm glad to see my old
friend. I look forward to working with him.
SENATOR LOTT: Mr. President,
it's my pleasure to be with you. As you have been doing all
year, you're starting off by making a point of meeting with the leaders
of the Senate and the House this week. And it's going to be
a very busy week, with our visiting President from Mexico, President
Fox. We look forward to seeing him.
I think it's appropriate that we had these
discussions, talk about the fall schedule, about getting the
appropriations bills done and the non-appropriations issues that we
want to be sure to address, including trade promotion authority, an
energy package, in addition to completing work on the education bill
that's already in conference and the patients' bill of rights.
So we've got a full agenda, but one that
I'm sure that we can get accomplished, and hopefully we can do it in
the most cooperative way.
Q Mr. President,
speaking of stimulating the economy, do you agree with Republican
lawmakers, including your guest here, that a capital gains tax cut
would stimulate the economy, injecting revenue into a very tight
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think --
I agree with the assessment that a capital gains tax relief would pile
up some revenues early in the process. As I mentioned, only half of
our rebate checks have gone out, and the stimulus package that we all
worked on prior to the recess is not fully in place yet.
What I'd like us to do is take a look-see
to make sure that the stimulus package that we've now -- are
implementing works. And I'm open-minded. I look
forward to speaking to the Senator about it, and to Speaker Hastert
about it as well.
Q Mr. President,
you can't say for certain whether the tax cut will stimulate the
economy the way you think it needs to. Even Alan Greenspan
supported the idea of a trigger on the tax cut, if surpluses didn't
materialize the way everybody thought they would. Why not
consider that, given the fact that, in fact, the surpluses have
THE PRESIDENT: We've got the
second largest surplus in the nation's history. And
according to CBO, we'll have even a bigger surplus next year. We've
got ample money to meet our nation's needs. What we need is
fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C. We need to make sure
we have -- prioritize the spending, and not overspend. No
question tax relief was the right thing to do at this point in our
And I repeat, I reckon some of them up
here want to roll it back. But they're going to meet strong
opposition, I know, from the White House and I know from Senator Lott
Q Mr. President, do
you agree with President Fox's assessment that immigration reform would
take four to six years? And are you going to -- why won't
you have a guest worker deal at the summit this week?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I look
forward to talking with my friend again about this
subject. Immigration reform is a very complex
subject. It's one that obviously entails dealings with
Mexico, but there are other immigrants in the nation -- other folks
from countries other than Mexico.
I have explained to the President that
there's no appetite for blanket amnesty in Congress. I've
also told him our desire is to make it easier for an employer looking
for somebody who wants to work and somebody who wants to work to come
together. But that in itself is a complex process. And so
this is a complex issue. This is going to take a while to
bring all the different interests to the table.
But we've made good progress so
far. And I'll tell him that this administration -- I know
many members of Congress are committed to treating Mexicans with
respect when they come to our country. We want them to be
treated like you'd want any neighbor to be treated.
Secondly, that we've got to do a better
job of making our borders more safe. Thirdly, that we'll
look at a guest worker program that will benefit America as well as
benefit the Mexicans. But there's a lot of work to be
done. But we're making good progress. You're
going to find that this is a -- two administrations that are
cooperating more closely than other administrations in the past
have. And it's a -- we've got a great
relationship. You just happened to mention one issue that's
SENATOR LOTT: If I could just
comment briefly on that, this is the first joint session of Congress
that we've had in quite some time, certainly the first one this
year. And I think that is a show of respect for the visiting
President you are having here for an official state visit. And I think
it is important that the Congress also hear directly from him, as we
are going to hear from you, about the plans you're working
on. And I think this is a very positive development.
THE PRESIDENT: The other thing
we will confirm is that there is a need to stay focused on the long
term as well. Trade with Mexico benefits American workers;
it also benefits Mexican workers. The best way to take
pressure off our border is for Mexico to grow a middle
class. And the avenue for Mexico to grow a middle class is
And that's why -- and not only do we need
trade with Mexico, I need trade promotion authority. And I
look forward to working with the Senator on that. I hope
Senator Daschle will move a bill as quickly as possible. There seems
to be a consensus forming amongst Republicans and Democrats for the
need for free trade as a part of an economic stimulus package as well.
And I look forward to working with members of Congress.
Q A quick question
on timing. For some time, economists said the second half of
this year the economy would be coming back. Here we are
about to -- we're moving into the final quarter of the
year. When do you think -- barring any other changes by
Congress, when do you think Americans will see the economy improve to
the point where they can feel it?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, this
economy has been slow now for a year. The economic slowdown started
last summer, right in the middle of our campaign. And growth
is anemic. It's been about one percent for the year, and
that's very disappointing.
We looked at that fact, and worked with
Congress to pass a package of tax relief that hopefully will stimulate
the economy as quickly as possible. I guess if I knew the
answer, I'd be an economist, not the President. But I will
tell you that we made the right decision.
And of course, there will be
second-guessers here in Washington. And I suspect those who
are second-guessing really are saying, we'd like to get rid of that tax
relief, we'd like to roll back the tax relief. And I'm going
to resist that mightily, and I call upon the leadership on both sides
of the aisle not to fall prey to a false set of economic assumptions
that say if you raise taxes it'll help the economy. It will
hurt the economy.
But Ann, to answer your question, I hope
soon. But I'm not a forecaster, and evidently there are not
many good forecasters around.
Q What kind of
growth rate, sir, do we need to see to get Washington out of the fiscal
straitjacket that it is in now?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know,
it's interesting -- the question was what kind of growth rate we
need. I would put it this way: we need a new attitude, that
in order to earn the confidence of the American people, Congress must
set good priorities. And I know the Senator and I share the
priorities of national defense and education. Those are our
priorities, and we ought to meet those priorities.
There is a new attitude in Washington,
D.C. It used to be, let's see how much we can
spend. Now it's going to be, let's show the American
taxpayer we can be smart with taxpayers' money. And Congress
is just going to have to adjust their appetites, and realize they can't
spend their way out of town. And I'm willing to work with
them on that.
But we've got ample money to meet our
priorities. Interestingly enough, if you'll look at the CBO
revenue forecast, and OMB's revenue forecasts, we're off by $1 billion
for the year 2002. There's only $1 billion difference.
There's a lot of money coming into the
Treasury of the United States -- $2.135 trillion is what we project;
$2.134 trillion is what CBO projects. Now, surely we can fit
our desires and our appetites within those numbers without affecting
the Social Security checks that go to the American people.
And I understand how politics works up
here. There's always that scare tactic, trying to tell the
American people that the budget process is going to lead them to not
get their Social Security check. That's just
ridiculous. It's just not right.
Q Can you say
definitively that you will veto any appropriations bill that taps into
the Social Security surplus?
THE PRESIDENT: I can say
definitively every Social Security recipient is going to get their
check. And that's what the American people need to
understand. And I can also say definitively, we've got ample
money to meet our needs.
And I can thirdly say, tax relief was the
absolute right thing to do to make sure our economy
grows. What we ought to be thinking about is how do we grow
the economy of the United States? And the Senator is going
to have some ideas, and I'm interested in listening to them.
But we took action. This
economy started slowing down 12 months ago. And this administration
saw a problem, and we worked with our friends and allies on the Hill,
and we addressed it. And one half of the stimulus package is
out the door for this year, and then, of course, there will be another
part of the stimulus package kicking in in January of next year.
Q -- address that
THE PRESIDENT: I addressed your
Q Will you veto or
will you not?
Q You're not
changing policy there, though, are you? Would you veto a
bill that dips into Social Security?
THE PRESIDENT: I answered your
END 1:54 P.M. EDT