Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, May 20, 2003 (Full Transcript)QUESTION: If I can turn, for a moment, to the tax cut. Yesterday the President told the congressional tax writers that he would like to have them get a bill to him by this weekend, by Memorial Day.
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
QUESTION: A few hours before he did that, the Treasury Secretary sent a letter to the Hill saying that he absolutely needs in the next week an increase in the debt limit of roughly $1 billion. How does the President square pushing through a tax cut now with an increase in the debt that, after all, amounts to a tax on future generations who are going to have to pay it back?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, clearly, if there is no tax cut, the debt will still need to be increased as a result of conditions in the economy that predated the pending tax cut. And those conditions were led by, principally, the recession, the large spending increases that related from the attacks on our country, and then, of course, the expenditures on the war.
The debt, even at times of surplus, interestingly, has to be increased. It is, in many ways the way that the government calculates what's called long-term debt, which principally is the payments that are made in future outlays for Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries. That still is a long-term debt that is considered on the books that impacts the debt that has to be increased, the debt subject to the limit, even in times of growing surpluses. That's how it works. The recession, the expenditures, the war, all moved up that date, but it still would have to be done even in times of surplus, as the way the federal government calculates debt.
QUESTION: But would the tax cut accelerate it -- because, otherwise, you'd have higher levels of revenue?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think, again, what accelerated the path the most is the recession. It was the recession's depletion of revenues that came into the Treasury -- that, more than anything else. And that began, of course, even before the President took his term in January of 2001, and then extended for nine months, and then the terrorist attacks. In the President's judgment, still, the tax cuts remain the best way to boost the economy to help create growth and jobs.
QUESTION: Last week, the Kyl-Cornyn amendment was stripped from the jobs and growth package. The measure that may be reintroduced as a stand-alone bill would force trial lawyers who received $9 billion in excessive fees in the tobacco settlement, to give that money to their plaintiffs, the states. Would the administration support a bill like that?
MR. FLEISCHER: I've not taken a look at that provision, specifically, so I really don't have anything for you on it.