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 Home > News & Policies > April 2003

Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, April 29, 2003 (Full Transcript)

QUESTION: Ari, Senator Grassley, the Chairman of the Finance Committee, is warning Republicans not, when pushing other Republicans, the moderate Republicans on the tax cut, not to push too hard, or else what happened with Jim Jeffords two years ago might happen again. Is the White House taking heed to that? Is the White House trying not to --

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think you can also see in some of the subsequent interviews he's done, that's now quite what he has said. He's explained it a little bit beyond that. I think he was asked, are you aware of anybody who is looking to do that, and he said, no. So the President is going to stand on principle, and he's going to stand on the principle that we need to help Americans find jobs. And of course, he will fight for that. That's what the President believes in. And we ask all to engage in this debate in the spirit of open-mindedness and fairness. And that's how the debate will be engaged, and we expect that's how the debate will be received.

QUESTION: To follow up, separate from Senator Grassley, his comments, people like Senator Snowe, Senator Voinovich, if they don't in the end, end up going along with the White House, are you going to be careful not to have any kind of overt or covert retribution, much like --

MR. FLEISCHER: Oh, of course.

QUESTION: -- Senator Jeffords said that he saw after he didn't go along with the White House initially?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, we disputed that notion then and there's nothing to that. Of course, the President recognizes different people will vote different ways, and we will work -- the President will work very hard to build a majority to support jobs for the American people

QUESTION: On the tax cut, what is the administration's position on the idea of offsets, either revenue raisers or spending cuts, in order to get up the total of the potential tax cut, especially on the Senate side?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President's budget that was submitted to the Congress earlier this year contained, for example, $11 billion of offsets over a 10-year period. And so the question of offsets is, indeed, a question that belongs on the table. As with any policy, it's a matter of exactly what specific program are people talking about. And each program or each proposal will be analyzed on its own merits to make certain that it is a legitimate loophole-closer or offset.

QUESTION: Eleven billion dollars wouldn't do much to boost the size of the tax cut as its currently envisioned in the Senate. There are those who are talking about a far larger list of offsets. Does the administration have any position on that? Does it intend to express its preference to members of Congress today, for instance?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it depends on they are. That's why I've said each one of these will get examined on its merits. I can tell you that in the late 1990s, the Republican Congress enacted many offsets into law at that time. The more that you enact, the fewer are left that are legitimate offsets. But it depends. Each one will be analyzed on the merits. And as members of Congress step forward with their ideas of an offset, we look forward to hearing their explanations.

QUESTION: And also, following Dana's question. Something caused Grassley to say what he did say. Does the White House feel that it has been pressuring Republican senators too hard on the tax cut?

MR. FLEISCHER: No. I think, again, you can talk to Senator Grassley about it. I think you might find some people who wish we could push a little harder.

QUESTION: And there's no regret about going to Ohio, Voinovich's state, to campaign for the tax cut?

MR. FLEISCHER: Of course not. The President looks forward to going to other states, as well.

QUESTION: With four weeks to go in this particular session with Congress, is that enough time for the tax cut, and is the President going to set some sort of deadline like he did with the budget, for April 11th? And secondly, to follow up on Dana's question, you said that Grassley had said that he hadn't -- wasn't aware of any Republicans who are now going to change their mind. But as you know, no one was aware of Senator Jeffords, either. So is he worried at all about this possibility?

MR. FLEISCHER: No. With all due respect, I think you're fishing off a dock that doesn't exist. (Laughter.) I think if you're aware of something, you'll bring it to me, but until that point, I really think this is -- I enjoy fishing, but I think it's akin to that.

QUESTION: What about the deadline?

MR. FLEISCHER: On the deadline, if you take a look at what Congress has done, actually, they're moving rather early on the process. They passed the budget resolution early. Typically the Congress never even gets to it by this time of year. And so the four weeks that are between now and the Memorial Day recess the Congress takes are a perfect opportunity for Congress to come together on the tax and growth plan.

QUESTION: If it's not done by then, is it too late, though?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President wants it done as soon as possible, because if you're unemployed, you want it done now. And that's who the President is focused on, is the needs of the unemployed.