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Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, May 15, 2003 (Full Transcript)


One other item on the legislative agenda today, the Senate is moving forward on the President's jobs and growth tax act -- or on the jobs and growth tax act, I should say that the President has outlined a number of initiatives that, all of which elements are contained in this plan. We are pleased that they are working quickly to get it passed, so that it can get to the conference committee and differences can be resolved quickly.

I think we have seen over the last few months a greater urgency on the need to enact the President's plan for creating jobs and economic growth, and we hope Congress will continue to act as quickly as possible to pass as robust a plan as possible, so that we can create as many jobs as possible.

And with that, I will be happy to take your questions. Helen.

QUESTION: Is that the tax cut you're talking about?

MR. MCCLELLAN: Yes, this is about --

QUESTION: -- you called it jobs and growth?

MR. MCCLELLAN: It's about job creation and economic growth. That's what this is about.

QUESTION: Oh, not about a tax cut? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCLELLAN: As the President has noted, Helen -- (laughter) -- that by the end of next year, under his plan, more than a million jobs will be created.

QUESTION: Does he have any figures that show that tax cuts really do promote growth?

MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, I think our last tax relief package came at just at the right time, when we were in the middle of a recession that he inherited. And those tax cuts came just at the right time to get our economy growing again. It's not growing as fast as we want and the President is not satisfied because there are too many people out of work. And that's all the more reason people need to act on what he outlined. He outlined a specific plan to create more jobs and get our economy growing. And Congress is moving quickly and we hope they will continue to do so.

QUESTION: Scott, it looks like in the debate on the tax plan on Capitol Hill that the only way to get -- that in order to get more benefits on the dividend tax cut side, they may have to shave benefits for married couples and businesses. There are a number of other trade-offs, as well, including some tax increases. What is the White House telling its allies on Capitol Hill about its preferences when it comes to necessary trade-offs here?

MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, marriage penalty relief, the President believes we ought to be encouraging marriage. And I've personally heeded that message. (Laughter.) In terms of specifics about action in Congress, right now the Senate is debating the economic growth and jobs act that they have put forward. It contains many elements -- it contains all the elements of what the President outlined. But we are continuing to push for what the President outlined, which is the complete elimination of dividends. And we will continue to push that. It's an unfair double-taxation and it needs to be eliminated. As you mentioned, we are also pursuing the rate reductions and marriage penalty relief and increase in the child tax credit.

QUESTION: Yes, but the White House has long since given up on the whole package. The President has already said $550 billion -- at least $550 billion. But clearly, the biggest plan you're going to get is $550 billion. There's not a chance in the world you're going to get more than that. So obviously, you're going to have to give up something. And in the Senate today, push is coming to shove on what you have to give up, where they're only going for $350 billion. So are you willing, for instance, to accept tax increases on workers overseas if that's what it takes to get more benefits on the dividend tax cut?

MR. MCCLELLAN: Yes, that's getting into questions of offsets that are being proposed in the Senate. Again, I'm not going to stand up here and negotiate from the podium. The President's budget had some offsets of $11 billion in it, as well, that was focused on closing some tax loopholes --

QUESTION: So you're not --

MR. MCCLELLAN: But what we're going to do is continue to

fight for as robust a plan as possible, because it means as many jobs as possible that can be created. And that's what we're going to continue to fight for. We're fighting for the plan that the President outlined. We're working closely with Congress. Obviously, there is give-and-take during the process. This is going to be headed -- this will be headed to conference committee soon. There will be some competing plans. And we hope that those differences will be resolved quickly, and that they pass as robust a plan as possible, and pass all elements of the President's plan for tax relief, because it means more jobs.

QUESTION: So the White House has no preference whatsoever on the outcome of the Senate, which is obviously engaged in trade-offs?

MR. MCCLELLAN: We want as robust a plan as possible. And we are working closely with the Senate on all these issues, as it's moving through the process. Then it's going to move to conference committee and we'll continue to work closely with members of Congress to pass as robust a plan as possible.

QUESTION: But the most robust plan the Senate has been able to come up has in it a proposal for a tax increase on workers overseas. The White House is neutral on a tax increase on workers overseas in order to give a dividend tax cut here at home?

MR. MCCLELLAN: Again, that's getting into questions -- that's offsets, so you can reduce taxes. That's something that is typically brought up when you're talking about cutting taxes. There are offsets that are pushed and there are offsets being pushed. But I'm not going to stand up here and get into all the legislative minutia that's going on on the Hill right now. We're working closely with them and we're fighting for the plan that the President outlined.

QUESTION: Just two quick ones. Legislation now in Congress to index the gas tax to inflation would essentially raise gas prices over five cents a gallon. Does the White House have a position on this?

MR. MCCLELLAN: To -- what's the piece of legislation?

QUESTION: The legislation is to index the gas tax to inflation, which would raise the price of gas by over five cents a gallon.

MR. MCCLELLAN: Let me take a look at it. I'll see if we can post something on it.

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